Thursday, May 28, 2009

Travel Tidbits, or vignettes from the road.

We are now back from Germany having spent a rather wonderful short week renewing an old friendship and gathering in a last few pretty great pens, as it turned out. All the time enjoying the great weather and fine sights of Nürnberg.

On arriving in England Tuesday, we set off from Heathrow mid-afternoon and got into Bedford in the evening. Wednesday brought us to York, and today, Thursday, we set out to explore the city, which we last visited in the 1970s.

To be honest, for a number of reasons the trip back found me grumpy, but not so much so that I did not enjoy perhaps the best response to pens since the institution of current security procedures, bearing in mind that I fly an average of five or six times a year, often more, with a significant number of pens in my carry-on luggage.

At Schiphol (Amsterdam) you go through security at the gate (often for a second time, if your flight originates elsewhere, as ours did), a really efficient manner of dealing with the problem. So we go through, off comes my belt and I empty my pockets, including the Tighe M800 set that are generally my travel pens, into my backpack. Out comes the laptop, and we go through. At this point one of two things usually happens, either the pens and I go through without comment or the backpack gets searched.

So, I was not too surprised when the head of security came over bearing my bag and asked if the pack was mine. “Yes,” I answered. “I have to make a note," he replied. "Would you happen to have a pen?” My bad mood broken I replied, “I may have.” We both grinned widely and he walked off.

Having stayed the night just beyond London at the Bedford Swan Hotel, we set out Wednesday along back roads headed for York. Along the way we made two stops, one in Fotheringhay village, based on nothing more than a whim, and the other born of my desire to visit Peterborough, the scene of the infamous Peterloo massacre of 1819, the last truly revolutionary moment in modern British history. Well, one for two ain’t bad. We struck out, totally, in Peterborough, a thoroughly modern city that, honestly, we were too fatigued to cope with, but Fotheringhay turned out a treat.

The village is the birthplace of Richard III, a crossroads in the War of the Roses, the site of the execution of Mary Queen of Scots and is little changed since then with its simple early Gothic church.

From there we continued north without stop after the abortive detour to Petersborough. On the way, though, we did notice in one village perhaps the best name for a fish and chips shop we have seen, Frying Nemo.
We got to York mid-afternoon, settled into our B&B, Sharon got some work done and then we headed out for a bit of dinner at a local restaurant the owner of the guest house had mentioned as being good and close. Score!! Melton’s offered us one of the best meals we have had in quite a while. If you are in York, don’t miss it, especially as the prices are quite reasonable for the UK.

Fotheringhay church. A simple late Romanesque/early Gothic parish church the villagers struggle to maintain it. I emptied my change pocket (about £5) and should have left more.

The village.

The farmhouse, understandably, is more modern.
Today, we explore York. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Nürnberg and Franconia

Nürnberg exists within, though it was not historically part of, Franconia.

On Sunday and Monday, Ekke and Gudrun gave us a taste of Franconia when we visited Bad Staffelstein, Lichtenfels, the Convent of Viertzenheiligen and the Kloster (cloister) Banz. Taken all together, these sites make up a major regional cultural and recreation area and are a place that Ekke and Gudrun visit on a weekly basis to take the waters as is common German practice. We accompanied them and in the course of the afternoon got a nice taste of regional history through the two religious sites which featured two lushly baroque/rococo churches as well as the baths.

On Monday Ekke had an appointment in Erlangen, but before going there detoured us to visit Bamberg, a wonderfully intact city that showcases several centuries of southern German architecture and culture. A castle on the site is first mentioned in the early 10th century, though the city rose to prominence with the election of Heinrich II and his queen Kunnigunde to rule Bavaria as part of the Holy Roman Empire in 1007.

On Tuesday, our last day here, we rambled the altstadt of Nürnberg, following the Pegnitz river which bisects the city. Even though Nürnberg was badly bombed in the waning days of World War II, much of its architectural heritage either survives or has been rebuilt, as is often the case in Germany.

Throughout, as is apparent, I had tons of fun with my camera:

The approach to the Vierzehnheiligen (fourteen saints)
This was Sharon's and my first recent taste of the baroque/rococo. Gudrun noted that the style is not to her taste, but that this was a spectacular example. We had to agree.

The valley between the two religious structures. You can just see the twin spires of the fourteen saints convent in the hills. Kloster Banz prohibited photography.

The slopes of Kloster Banz are used on Sundays by hang gliders

On Monday we visited Bamberg

Sharon and Ekke at the entrance of the cathedral in Bamberg.

The Domplatz looks out onto the New Residenz of the city's rulers and a civic rose garden

While the roses were not fully out yet, the garden was lovely and offered some great prospects of the city.

After a brief bus tour, which took us to the altenburg, the old castle, we rambled the streets, headed toward the bahnhof.

These fisherman's houses date back more than two hundred years

We enjoyed a lovely day in Bamberg, surrounded by historic architecture.
On Tuesday, Ekke took us for a through the old city of Nürnberg. With the Pegnitz flowing through the city centre, Nürnberg is a city of bridges, lovely to photograph.

For a few hundred years these buildings have provided public housing

Could not resist taking a picture of this Gogomobil, one of many tiny cars built during Germany's early postwar recovery. The proud owner gave me a thumbs up for my appreciation of his car.
This 1984 fountain depicts relationships. I was drawn to the family in the pelikan, of course.
From here, we embark on the last two stages of this remarkable journey, the English walled city of York, and a final stay with our friends Sylvia and Ray Atkinson outside London.