Tag Archives: Interrailing

245  Day 3: Initial impressions

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Today’s guide is

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Hermann who weaves us through the city’s history as

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Expertly as Hans navigates the  very low bridges:

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Heads down, thumbs up.

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Also, much Art –

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Girl with a pearl, etc.

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Up we climb to our third floor apartment on a staircase designed by

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Escher.

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242. Day 1.  And in the morning, I’ll be making waffles…

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Well, actually eating,  not making, courtesy of the lovely Pieter and Ziggy – the first hosts of this year’s Grand Tour.  On which basis this is, so far, our favourite watering hole.

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241. Day -1: Ignition, sequence, start …

So much to do tomorrow…  really must sleep now… all my bags are packed, I’m ready to go; standing here outside your door… no, no, no – go to sleep… all my bags are packed, I’m ready to go… must print out the map… need to check the tension on that knitting, or I might take the wrong needles… standing here outside your door … can you buy knitting needles in Denmark?… must be able to – all those jumpers – or is that Sweden?  All my bags are packed, I’m ready to go…

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214. Abroad thoughts from Home…

“Supposing a tree fell down, Pooh, when we were underneath it?”
“Supposing it didn’t,” said Pooh after careful thought.
Piglet was comforted by this.

I was pretty confident about our Grand Tour in every aspect; apart from the travel, that is, and the accommodation.   Oh, and the food.

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213. Journey home…

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I couldn’t decide what to get you.
Sachertorte or Wiener Schnitzel were
Unlikely to survive the journey.

Lederhosen was a possibility
But I don’t know your size
I couldn’t decide what to get you.

Salzburg had a nice line in pastries
Or possibly some chocolate Mozart balls:
Unlikely to survive the journey.

In the end, I emptied out my suitcase
And decided on a present for myself as
I couldn’t decide what to get you.

Into my case I’ve put the entire
German transport system, the French being
Unlikely to survive the journey.

Trams long and light, fast and frequent, cheap and convenient,
And bicycles everywhere with baskets and baby-seats, bells and child carriers
I couldn’t decide what to get you, but this
Is guaranteed to survive the journey.

212. Day 16: It’s a small, small world…

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He was a bully, our History teacher; a sarcastic, nasty piece of work. If you were lucky, he’d throw chalk at you but he was just as likely to throw the blackboard rubber. “Do you need an extra chair?” he’d sneer at Michael, who was on the stout side. “Will you be in class tomorrow or are you taking the day off to celebrate Jewish Christmas?” he’d say to Rachel. And I probably didn’t see the worst of him; I suspect that was saved for when he took boys’ games.

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209. Day 13: Lucky for us…

I was honestly unsure what to expect from Germany.  Having grown up in the Sixties, my image of Germans came from war films, prisoner of war stories and comedy stereotypes.  As an adult, intellectually I learnt the difference between contemporary Germany and the Nazi party but until I saw it for myself, I’d not taken on board the incredible journey the German people have made.
This trip – and Nuremberg in particular – have been a real education.

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The cottage on the left is where we are staying as guests of the lovely Fabien: a young man who works as a property developer.  The building and the yellow house you can see to the right are more than five hundred years old.  Inside, he’s done a smashing job on restoring a mad jumble of beams and levels.

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All the other houses in the street are post-war.

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On the night of 2nd of January 1945, over ninety per cent of Nuremberg was destroyed in bombing.  All of the churches, the town-hall, more than two thousand preserved medieval houses as well as the residential area surrounding the centre were hit.

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The restaurant where we ate last night had photos of how it looked before and then immediately after the bombing.  Practically nowhere was intact.

This afternoon we went on a guided tour around the city and were able to see what a superb job the people of Nuremberg have done in its restoration.  They really have recreated a beautiful place from the rubble and are justly proud of their home.

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Yet again we were extremely lucky with our guide.  Anya was knowledgeable and enthusiastic.  She took us right through the history of the city from when it was part of Charlemagne’s  Holy Roman Empire to becoming a Protestant Centre after Martin Luther.  Luther himself visited the city twice and stayed in this car-park; only in those days it was a monastery.

Car park on right.

Car park on right.

We learnt about the little bays which became a fashionable adornment to houses.  Apparently, the city leaders wanted these forbidden on the grounds that a plain facade was more in keeping with the Protestant ideal.  The householders responded by saying that these spaces were simply to give them more room to focus on prayer.  Oh, that’s OK then,     said the council.  Go ahead.

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These became known as Ladies Windows as ladies liked to sit there and watch what was going on outside.  In between praying, of course.

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Albrecht Dürer spent much of his life in Nuremburg, so there’s a statue of him, and a museum about him, and a house (above) which belonged to him and an airport named after him, and this statue which is quite recent but was inspired by one of his wood-prints.

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Anya talked about the impact that the Nazi period had on the town.  There is an archive and visitors’ centre documenting the history of that time; as in Heidleberg, we were aware that there is a determination to acknowledge what happened and learn from it.

The stones from the Nazi parade ground have been reclaimed to restore the floor of this old peoples' home.

The stones from the Nazi parade ground have been reclaimed to restore the floor of this old peoples’ home.

There were many places left in ruins after 1945, of course.  But I’d never really appreciated how the German people after the War and then – for some – the Soviet occupation, had not just to reconstruct their buildings but also to completely rebuild their society from the ground up.  What a task!

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We’ve loved our time here: the places we have visited all seem clean and cared-for; all the Germans we have met have been helpful and friendly.  Their transport system works like a dream: the mix of modern trams and bikes must be a major reason why the cities are so clean and pleasant.  It’s been a brilliant country to visit and I’ve learnt so much.  Tomorrow, we head for France but we’re both keen to come back to Germany next time we go travelling.

Now, we’re going to back into the city for an evening stroll before packing up for the morning.

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208. Day 12: A night at the Opera…

 

Concert tickets bought on a whim – cheapest available – from a street vendor dressed in C18th garb (think Amadeus) – are never going to be the best seats in the house. Before setting off in our glad rags, however, I do check online to discover with some relief that the opera house does indeed exist, that we have paid the going price and, moreover, the concert is almost a sell- out. Continue reading →

205.  Day 9: wherever I lay my hat…

For about two hours today I really, really wanted to come home.

We’ve stayed in six different places so far on our tour: all booked through AirBnB (which should really be called just AirB, as there’s no breakfast involved, but I guess it doesn’t roll off the tongue so well.) There’s been a complete range, from the young couple in Cologne who sleep on their sofa so they can put up guests in their bedroom to the Salzberg apartment we left this morning, where we basically had our own Alpine cottage.

Without exception, we’ve been made to feel very welcome.  When the owner lives in the rest of the house, they’ve greeted us warmly, chatted about the city and their jobs, recommended places to go and restaurants and then left us alone unless we asked for help.  In the couple of cases where the owners have not been at home, they’ve arranged for some one to let us in and there have been notes waiting for us.  We’ve been left maps, guide-books, useful information.  In the case of our lovely Alpine cottage, Beate had also left two small bottles of prosecco in the fridge and chocolates on our pillows!  Every new place has felt like a treat.

Until today.

Vienna is by far the biggest place on our Grand Tour and perhaps people are by nature not so friendly.  We have an apartment booked for three nights.  The owner had sent a message to say she’d be at work when we arrived and she’d arranged for someone to let us in and give us the key.  She gave us directions from the station and we found the place easily  enough: no tethered goats or triumphal arches to confuse us.

The apartment is in a functional gated block.  We rang the intercom and Aforesaid Friend came down to let us in. Perhaps he’s always a low-key kind of cove; perhaps he was having a bad day.  We trailed  behind him to the flat – well, basically a bedsit room.  He vaguely showed us around then, as he left, said that if any of the neighbours spoke to us, not to mention AirBnB.

So, either the owner is not supposed to sublet, or there have been issues in the past with tenants or – well, who knows? But the effect was to make us feel unwanted, uneasy, uncomfortable.  There are no  welcoming notes, helpful hints or personal touches. Perhaps we’ve just been spoilt up to now.

The apartment is clean enough but felt musty and stale.  And then I really, really wanted to go home. Who needs Vienna? It means nothing to me.

Anyway, we walked around the neighbourhood a while, bought some flowers and a scented candle to make the room feel more cheerful.

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We discovered a wool shop and a book shop: not that I need either but good to know they are there in an emergency. And there are some rather dashing buildings round the corner.

We came back to the room,  had a cup of tea and watched Bake Off.  All well and tomorrow we explore Vienna.  Now going to practise some waltzes.

204. Day 8: Are you sitting comfortably?

Glory be, I’m tired! Today we did Salzburg: 16,959 steps on the pedometer if you are counting. So I fear you’ll need to make do with the highlights before I go completely onto standby. ActorLaddie is already knocking out the zeds as I type this.

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