July 2016

Silchester Roman City Walls – July 31

Delicious fry bread was waiting for me when I joined everyone downstairs. Pretty awesome way to start a Sunday!

Overall another low key day. In the afternoon we did take a trip over to the Silchester Roman Walls and took a walk around. I always enjoy visiting sites with old ruins. I like trying to imagine what life was like then, how many thousands of people have walked those walls, and the effort it took to build structures that have withstood the test of time.

We walked one of the outer walls then back up the middle. It wasn’t until we were back to the car I realized there was an amphitheater as well. Maybe next time!

Little London Adventure – July 30

Ah Saturday! I took my time getting out of bed. I made my way downstairs for coffee and a little breakfast. My plans for the day were discussed and I thought I had none. Mary and Chris had asked if I’d be interested in going to the Natural History Museum in London since they had an extra pass. Shortly after agreeing to that I got a message from my co-worker Wladimir. I had completely forgotten we had made plans to explore a bit of London that afternoon.

Mary was kind enough to drop me at the train station and I made my way to Paddington station where we agreed to meet. Poor Wladimir learned first had how much trouble I can have trying to navigate the system when we tried to meet up in June. I was happy to have the extra help.

We exited the Vauxhall station and made our way toward Newtown Gallery. Along the way I noticed some boat-like structures covering some benches so I stopped to take a look. There was also a nice little view of the Parliament building from our side of the Thames.

Once at the gallery we wandered through Jeff Koons exhibit. I was pretty fascinated by his fascination with inflatable toys. The artwork is really interesting stainless steel pieces that look strikingly similar to their plastic inflatable counterparts.

There were various other pieces that were equally interesting, I always just feel a little awkward about taking pictures of artwork. If you want more information about the pieces you should check out the site (note the exhibit is only on display until Oct 2016).

From there we walked back towards the underground station and stopped at the Rose Pub. I ordered a Pimms which came with a delightful amount of fruit. It was like a boozy fruit salad. Who can be mad about that?

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We hopped a train to the Brixton neighborhood. We took a look through the market and stopped at a busy little Caribbean spot and got jerk chicken. It was so delicious.

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Street art at Brixton Market

 

Our conversation turned to David Bowie and the amount of time he apparently spent in this neighborhood. We did a little google search and discovered there was a big memorial mural nearby so we made our way there.

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From there we hit the underground and changed trains a few times on the way back to Paddington station.

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Random subway station view

 

I arrived in Reading late enough to bus to Chris and Mary’s was only running once an hour so I wandered through the little shops at the station. I was a little disoriented when I got off the bus since it was dark but I found my way to their apartment and slipped in like a teenager arriving after curfew since everyone was already in bed.

Racing against time – July 28

In the short time I was in Germany there were 4 different attacks so I was pretty eager to move on.

Around this same time a friends uncle in the UK had passed away. I had the pleasure of meeting him in 2002 when I traveled to England with Lesley. I felt compelled to attend the funeral and pay my respects since I was already in Europe. Since Chris was returning to London on the day of the funeral I decided the timing might work, but it was going to be tight.

We landed a little late, had to navigate to another terminal, get through passport control, then get to the train station. I had barely missed the train that would get me to Poole with a comfortable amount of time to get to the funeral. The woman at the ticket counter found me another route but it left no room for error.

First train down and I’m at the station waiting for the connection. The print out showed the destination but didn’t mention the train number or route for the next train. Ugh! Desperately checking the display hoping it will show me the stops before the train I need comes and goes. I eventually take a guess based on names of places I’ve heard mentioned before. I go to that platform and the display confirms Poole is a stop. Whew!

Exited the train in Poole and rushed to the parking lot. Lesley’s brother-in-law had offered to pick me up as long. Found Terry as he was locking his car. We rushed off to the Crematorium and arrived with just minutes to spare.

You know how sometimes you feel really compelled to do something but you don’t understand why? This was one of those moments for me. I’d only spent the one day with this man, but his niece and other members of his family mean the world to me. I thought if nothing else I could act as Lesley’s proxy at the funeral. I had no idea what it meant to her until I talked to her on the phone later that day and she broke down into tears. I was so thankful I was able to make it work.

I stayed with Terry and Jackie that evening. We had Chinese food (I ordered a really terrible orange chicken) and watched London Has Fallen while I worked. It was a hectic day but worth every ounce of effort.

Taking it easy in Munich – July 27

We were back in Munich with not much of a plan for the day. My goal was to get the rental car returned rather than paying 30 Euro to park it another night. While I took the car back Chris took himself down to Marienplatz to check things out.

On my way back into the city on the train I hopped off at Marienplatz thinking Chris would probably still be hanging around somewhere. He messaged that he was back at the hotel. Since it was raining and I’d spent plenty of time in the square I hopped back on the train.

I hadn’t planned on these extra few days off for our road trip and decided if we weren’t really going to be out doing things I may as well work.

I broke away for a bit to go downstairs to the Münchner Stubn to get dinner. We returned from dinner and found my “hotel boyfriend” working at the front desk. I felt a unique bond with this man since he was the first hotel staff member I interacted with after the panic of the Munich shooting. He had let us into the back room of the hotel and escorted us to the fitness center that evening. The next morning he was still there. He remembered me and asked if I had slept ok. I saw him every day in Munich and we always had a nice little chat. At the risk of making things awkward I asked if I could have a picture of him. He graciously agreed but only if I was in the picture too.

Back in the hotel room I watched another storm roll in and got a pretty nice shot of the stormy sunset and train station from the hotel window.

Autobahn and Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Rothenburg ob der Tauber was the target for day 2 of our Bavarian road trip. This time it was my turn to take on the Autobahn. Anyone who has ridden in a car with me knows I’ve got a pretty heavy foot. On the high end I had that little Fiat going 160 km/h. How I wished I had a car with some power! It was a thrill. It wasn’t just my speed but the other cars speed too. I was stunned as people blew past me like I was standing still. Or how quickly they come up on me when I was overtaking another car. You definitely don’t move into the left lane without taking several looks and moving with intention.

We made our way into the city, found a parking space, and walked through the wall surrounding the city. It is a very charming city with the typical Bavarian buildings and city center featuring a clock tower.

We wandered through a few shops and made our way to the square close to the top of the hour. The tower clock, built in 1683, has a mechanical scene that portrays mayor Nusch’s legendary drinking of over three liters of wine without stopping to save the town in 1631. It wasn’t the Munich Glockenspiel, but still impressive.

 

Slowly we made our way down the winding street to the Medieval Crime and Punishment Museum. Chris had memories of it from a trip he’d taken as a teenager and wanted to have another look. It was interesting. Kind of sickening what humans have done to each other. I’d like to say just in medieval times but horrifying things continue to be done.

Then we visited a couple of local churches.


Then made our way to the Reichsstadtmuseum which houses eight centuries Rothenberg’s collections (ceramics, guns, swords, etc) in a old convent. I enjoyed it more than I expected but have no pictures since you have to pay 3 Euros when you enter to take pictures.

We made our way back to the car and set off for Munich. Back to the autobahn and the GPS was not happy. Near every exit it instructed us to exit and go a different way. We came to the conclusion it just really did not want us on the autobahn. Eventually I gave in and took the scenic route. I almost instantly regretted my decision as we got stuck behind a big truck. For miles and miles we were stuck behind one truck or another. Good Lord, get me back to the autobahn. Eventually we did find our way back to the fast lane and into Munich. For a while the navigation was shut off. I was sick of it trying to ruin my fun!

We got checked in to the hotel then decided to get dinner at the Hofbrauhaus. The Ompah band was playing and the crowd was loud but we found a seat and got food ordered. The food was good, beer was excellent, and service a bit lacking. I wasn’t really sure why such a big deal is made out of this place but I guess its got a lot of history.

 

Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau Castles – July 25

I was a bit disappointed when I woke up to clouds. I’d been looking forward to this portion of my trip for some time and I hoped the weather would cooperate.

We took our time getting out the door since I wasn’t keen on the idea of navigating Munich rush hour. According to Google our journey should only take 1.5 hours so we had plenty of time.

I’d had sense enough to get a GPS with the rental car so we plugged in the address and set off into the countryside. It was beautiful. The farms, rolling green hills, and half-timbered houses were exactly what I’d expected in the Bavarian countryside. What we didn’t realize is the navigation was taking us a different route than we’d gotten from Google. What should have been a 1.5 hour journey took closer to 3. It was mid-afternoon before we made it to Schwangau. The good news, the clouds were clearing up.

Tickets to see Neuschwanstein were sold out until 6pm. Not being terribly inclined to tour the actual castle (seeing the outside was sufficient for me) I didn’t know that I wanted to wait 3+ hours for the next available tour. We asked the woman at the ticket counter for her opinion and she suggested Hohenschwangau castle was more interesting since the family had actually lived there. We took her advice and got tickets for the next available tour.

While we waited for our tour we decided to get a closer look at Neuschwanstein. The trail to what I presume is the best viewpoint was closed so we rode the bus up the hill as close as we could get. The bus was packed and the road quite curvy which made for a wild ride. You exit the bus and realize you have to walk down, then back up, quite a steep hill to the bus stop. Alternatively you can walk all the way back to the village, I think the map indicated it would be a 45 minute walk. With not a lot of time to spend before our tour we opted to walk down the hill a ways anticipating a break in the trees that would afford a nice view of the castle. We did find a decent view of the castle. We took a few minutes to enjoy the view of the valley and castle below then hiked back up the hill to the bus.

Back in the village we began another hike to get to Hohenschwangau castle. By this time I was feeling pretty over the stairs and steep inclines. We got a brief break while we waited for the tour. I was dreading the stairs that would be necessary to tour the castle but in the end it wasn’t bad at all. The guide was great, the tour fairly short which easily kept my attention, and it provided more great views of the surrounding area. One day I will go back and get to the door of Neuschwanstein.

Our destination for the next day was Rothenburg ob der Tauber so we found an airbnb near there to stay for the evening. Back on the road and again the journey was taking longer than it should. We did spend a little time on the autobahn but as we started to make quick progress we found ourselves in a heavy downpour.

Off the freeway and into the village we were wound through alley ways to our destination. It was close to 9 and we were hungry. Unfortunately all the restaurants had already closed. All that was left was the gas station and McDonalds. Ugh, McDonalds! We made a quick run to the gas station where Chris picked up some snacks. I pouted and opted for nothing. Returned to the room and watched Top Gun dubbed over in German. It was quite amusing.