Thursday, June 30, 2005

Bye bye to Germany

Well we spent three days poodling around Germany before going to Denmark because we knew that Denmark would be expensive. We checked out one of the castles near Munster- it was OK - quite neat on the outside but very museumy on the inside. We had picked up a Europcar in Munster and they told us that the best place to drop it back near Denmark - there are huge costs to taking a car between couontries - would be Kiel. So we went to Lubeck for a night because someone had told Nick that it was really nice, and then off to Kiel. Only problem was that we didn't have a booking in Kiel and it was the first night of the week long Kiel festival. So we ended up at a very expensive hotel. And then we found out that to get to Denmark by train we had to go back to Lubeck!! But the festival opening was fun - lots of food and beer tents all around the harbour and rides etc - a real festival atmoosphere with loads of drunk teens... Then back on the train and back through Lubeck, on the ferry and up to Roskilde where the Viking ship museum is.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Amsterdam

Well we have just left Amsterdam and are floating around Munster where we're going to check out another german castle tomorrow and then head northwards. I apologise for not writing while in Amsterdam but we got pretty busy. Amsterdam was great. OK the weather was very changeable - we got out of the Reichsmuseum on Sunday to find it pouring of rain and had to take shelter in a pub which served good bier and pancakes - life is tough. Then we got a bit lost in the downpour and eventually flagged down a cycle-taxi which I think was peddled by and extra from and Indiana Jones movie. The museum was OK - great if you're into 17th C masters and all that but very very expensive if you're not. We found the Amsterdam Historical museum much better value as it covers all of Amsterdam's history. Of course only about 10% of the Reichsmuseum is available at the moment. On Tuesday we went to a castle just outside of Amsterdam - Muiderslot. Another enforced guided tour and we only saw perhaps a third of the castle interior but a pretty nice castle anyway. Dutch castles are all brick, unlike the german Rhineland castles which are now stone but used to be plastered to stop ice from forming in the stone and splitting it. I wonder what tomorrow's will be like? We have written our second CD of 700+ photos. It was great re-meeting the family in Amsterdam. We had a lovely family dinner on Wednesday evening with Uncle Pieter's family - my cousins and their kids. Pieter's partner Josie, who I hadn't met before, and Pieter were very generous and took us to the castle on Tuesday and really looked after us which was great. My cousin Marieka showed us where my father was born and Pieter had his old passport and lots of photos for me to take with me which is great. Oh and the de Maar family coat of arms! Apparently an ancestor was mayor of Groeningen at some point.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

German loos

I can´t leave without a a quick word about the loos. I have used a loo that completely washes itself on the inside after you use it and has automatic hand-washers - in Stuttgart, toilets with ashtrays (everyone smokes here - all the time), and a truly extraordainary loo at castle Reinfels which had a handpump for the basin water and a dial that you turned to get the hand dryer air to start. Mostly very clean with some notable exceptions.

Whistle-stop castle tour

Hi everyone, well we´re in Aarchen now so I can report on the Rhine Castle situation. In a word its a bit dodgy. Our first castle, on Wednesdaz, was Marksburg. Marksburg is the big tourist castle. It was never taken and is the only castle on the Rhine complete from the middle ages. Its probablz better than Meersburg... except that you can onlz see it with a guide... who goes a mile a minute and only in German. (bze the waz if there are zs and ys mixed up that´s because this keyboard looks normal but is actually German layout so I have to guess at the keys a bit) Anyway we were very lucky to get to Marksburg before it opened at 10 because when we├Ąd finished out tour with two other couples there were about 50 kids ready to go for the next one - not ideal. One of the problems with these castles is that most were razed either by Napoleon or during WW2 (or both) and also looted bz the Americans so there is not a lot left. Most are either Victorian neo-gothic restorations on old foundations OR still in ruins. Also many have been converted to hotels or still in private ownership - so not available to view inside - which would be OK if anz of the guides actually told zou that. As it is its a verz pot-luck game. The other highlight on the Rhine is Reinfels - a ruin but one that still has enormous power as a building. It is huge and because it hasn´t been reconstructed zou can realz see the huge size that it must have been. Apart from those we have seen about 8 castles in varying states - had a couple of disappointing experiences but mostly good. Its not as geared up for tourists as I had expected. Ooh I nearly forgot Pzalsgrafinstein (don´t asked me to say that). Thats the toll tower standing in the middle of the river. Its under extensive renovation at the moment and was never a residential castle but was very cool. Its in the Eyewitness Castles book if you´re interested.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Germany - first days

Nick met me at the airport and after the normal pleasantries we attempted to get back to the hotel by train. This should have been straight forward, and we were very nearly there when the driver made an announcement and everyone got off - only we didn't notice because we were catching up. Then we ended up somewhere we weren't supposed to be... twice. But we got there eventually and then Nick introduced me to the local pub where he and the others had already become `regulars´. I met all the other regulars and had a wonderful greek salad as this was a Greek-German pub - ouzo came after dinner but I had vodka instead. There was a big greek wedding dinner in the main room and we spent the evening chatting to an english speaking german about various things, plus a beer or two of course. The next morning we picked up a car. A few things had changed since Nick had arranged for the car the previous day. It had turned from a Polo into a A150 A series mercedes, which we thought would be good but which Nick constantly complains about... AND it had gone from being free to drop off anywhere in Europe to costing an extra 400´euro. Anyway it has gotten us around - first we went to Ulm where we climbed the Dom - over 700 steps and the highest steeple anywhere. We stayed in Ulm with a friend Chris who then took us to a great beer garden where we had wonderful pork with little noodles and more beer. On Sunday we went to the Lake of Constance and our first German castle (and the best) - Meersburg (?). Lots and lots of photos of that one. Its in a gorgeous little town on the lake and we took bread, cheese and meats and had a wee picnic which is becoming our standard way of doing lunch.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Germany in 10 minutes

Well here I am - in Koblenz. Germany is rather different than I expected. No one takes credit cards, things DON´T run on time (the train that Nick picked me up on changed designation and route midway to our hotel - twice!!) and internet is as rare as hens teeth. Having said that we´ve seen some magnificent castles and the country is very beautiful and I´ve taken many photos. My feet still hurt... We have one more full day here and then we have to drop the rental car in Aachen early Saturday morning before getting the train to Amsterdam so we have only one full day - and maybe a bit to see both Cologne and Aachen. But we´ll manage.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

No photos

In case you were wondering, I haven't been able to post any photos because these internet terminals don't allow access to the usb drives so I can't get them off the cards.

Galleries and sore feet

Crap - I had this post almost done and the terminal timed-out and reset - but didn't as I still have 14 minutes - weird. Anyway - again... Yesterday I went to the British Museum, Portrait Gallery and National Gallery and my feet are aching. But on the up side I didn't get rained on - much. I have finally worked out the tube system and now have a 3 day pass so I don't have to worry about working out how much to pay each time. I've decided just to go to the bits of things that interest me. So at the BM I went through all the post-Roman to 1600 stuff and skipped all of the prehistoric, Egyptian etc. Which was good. I took heaps of photos there - unfortunately you're not allowed to take any at the art galleries but I've also been taking notes about things. One thing that I noticed is that lots of things are bigger, or smaller than I had expected. Crowds haven't been too bad - the only time that I have had to wait was in front of the Arnolfini wedding portrait where some tour guide was going on - and I couldn't even listen in as he was speaking in Dutch (I think?). Anyway - my time is ticking on and the noise in here is getting extreme TV plus people trying to talk over it... the only working interenet terminals are in the smoking lounge which also has the TV - so I haven't been watching TV apart from the first night.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Tuesday

Sorry my last post was so short - this one will be a bit better. So yesterday (Monday) was spent mostly at the V&A museum. I got there in time for opening despite getting on a train going in the wrong direction and stayed until about 4.30. Like every other museum in Europe, apparently, its under a bit of work at the moment so there were sme things missing but still plenty to enjoy. Lots of stuff that I'd seen pictures of but just so much more. Just about when I was wanting lunch I found the textile archive room... so that took me about an hour and half. So much stuff - all behind glass in heavy frames - but you can pull them out and you're allowed to photograph anything you like. Aside re: batteries. The fast charge batteries that Nick got are magnificant - Its the end of Tuesday and I'm still on the first pair so I don't expect that I'll ahve to recharge any of them. I got back to the hostel kind of hungry... food is SO expensive here. At the V&A I paid £1.50 for a bottle of coke that in NZ would be $1.95. I've found a great little coffee shop for breakfasts though - they do great espresso and this morning (Tuesday) I had breakfast there too: greek yougurt with runny honey and museli on the top. The combination of the tart yogurt and the sweet honey is amazing. Tuesday - went this morning to the Tower. That was cool - probably even cooler if you know nothing... the gloss has kind of gone off trying on maille and armour. But the buildings themsleves are amazing. Heaps of people of course - actually London seems to be mostly full of Americans. I didn't bother with the jewels - the line was too long and they're not a big deal for me. Then I wandered around for a bit - over the bridge - and discovered a Fashion and Textile museum which had a fabulous exhibition. Finally I got another train to Piccadily and mistakenly went to a movie. Don't ever do this... movie tickets here are $11.50 - thats around $40 - for a movie. It was good tho' - Kingdom of Heaven. Anyway I'm back at the hostel now - paying through the nose for internet access. Buting I'm getting used to the idea of paying heaps for everything. I love walking up to the hostel - the laundry window is right on the street and so it smells of drying towels - you know that warm scent - yummy. anyway - Min over and out for today.