End Times II

Time to wrap up the travelogue.

I had a number of completely incorrect preconceptions about Strasbourg.  One that it was on the Rhine, it’s on the river L’Ill. (That looks totally weird in this font, it’s capital “I”, two small “l”s)   Another, that it was a typical, rather boring middle sized city.  Actually it is quite fabulous, surrounded by the river and canal, with probably the most impressive cathedral I’ve seen and many sixteenth century, half timbered buildings.

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Glimpse of the Cathedral

The stained glass is very impressive too.   Here are a couple of Carolingian kings,

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Lothar and Ludwig

one of them claiming to be Roman Emperor.

Collette has some things to do in town, so we are just walking around and admiring all the fine buildings and sights in the centre and around the river and we will meet her later.

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Place Kleber

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On the river, Eglise St Paul in the background

After a traditional Tarte flambee, like a thin crust pizza, we continue on to the area known as Petite France, a series of canals and locks, with a medieval covered bridge.

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Petite France

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View from the bridge gallery

There are many chateaux along the line of the Vosges, most of them in ruins, but there is one which has been restored, Haut Koenigsberg, about 50 minutes from Strasbourg, was first built in the 12th century, fell into disrepair, was restored in the 14th century and againn ruined, but was substantially rebuilt in the 1880’s after the Franco-Prussian war.  It was really a great propaganda statement, by Kaiser Wilhelm after Alsace and Lorraine were annexed by the German empire.

It is difficult to get an overall idea of the chateau, so I’ve included this photograph of a model outside the entrance.

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The chateau is quite a rabbit warren with many halls, courtyards, barracks and private rooms.

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Inner Courtyard

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Luxury room with ensuite

There are also defensive positions opposite the steep and narrow approach ridge.

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Defensive position

The weather was misty, but on a clear day you can see well into Germany, across the Rhine.  This next shot is a bit blurry but gives some idea of the height.

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View from the Chateau

That rounds off our trip to Eastern Europe, generously defined, and the next day we were back to Frankfurt (am Main) without further incident and on our way home.

Thanks to all who have read my ramblings, I will keep on posting, though perhaps not so frequently, about art and this and that.  I’m also going to start a new page on “What I’m Reading”, so I hope some of you will look in from time to time.

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End Times

No, not that kind of End Times, but the denouement of our East European trip.

As I mentioned before, we are staying with our friend Colette in Alsace and so royally were we treated, we were in danger of staying for ever.  In the three days that remained we have visited three vastly different areas.  First a walk around Wasselonne (W=V)

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Eva and Colette in Wasselonne

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Building dated 1610

The medieval town of Wagen  was almost too pretty, as if were the set for a Disney princess movie.

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Flowery chariot

Nevertheless it is a real functioning  town and though it has a tourist season, the foundation of its viability is wine, and being autumn the grapes have been harvested and the town was totally quiet when we visited.

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A back street of Wangen

Walking through the town into the country roads makes this evident.

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Vinyards stretch into the distance

This mini-tractor with hydraulic forks, removes old vines in about 10 seconds!

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Removing old grape vines

The countryside is extremely beautiful, especially in autumn colours.  The land is gently rolling, vines cover the south facing slopes and mixed broardleaf forest on the ridges.  Further west, valleys intrude into the foothills of the Vosges mountains, often with picturesque villages like Andlau, below.

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Andlau

This post is getting to be a bit bigger than  anticipated, so I’ll break it into three.  Next time Strasbourg.

Jetlagged

Well, we are home, in one piece, no! two pieces.  I promise this will not degenerate into a “Nobody expects the Spanish inquisition” gag.

It’s funny about jetlag, one moment you feel fine the next you have fallen asleep.  Actually I’m not doing too bad, one wierd symptom is that I feel constantly hungry, even when I’ve just eaten, though it might also have to do with the fact I’ve lost about two kilos during the trip.

The theme of our flights: Nessun Dorma.

We had a pretty ghastly trip home.  On the first leg to shanghai we were in the very last row of the plane, next to the toilets, which were well patronised, the whooshing noise was enough to keep us awake.  The second leg was even worse, seated behind a family with a toddler, who was very evidently awake all the way.  I’ve heard of “Little Emperor” syndrome but hadn’t experienced it until now.  The parents were evidently clueless how to manage a toddler, pandering to his every whim.  They let him watch all the video he could manage, hyped him up with video games, then arbitrarily turned it off.  His affronted screams were even louder than his full throated yelps of delight had been before.  This went on for eleven hours and as I predicted only ceased when we were about to land.

Enough of the horror stories.  We have actually been flat out with catchup things, 2530 emails, other mail unpacking, finding things the house-sitters put in places you’d never believe.  Fun.

In a day or so I’ll post a summary of the final days of the trip and consider the future of the blog.   Thank you for all views and visits (record for one day 44), though I’m not sure what the difference is, I hope some of you will keep visiting as I move onto other things.

Aurevoir.

Strasbourg

We have been having a really fine and relaxing time with Colette.  We have walked around the town and visited another medieval village where we also walked out into the countryside around.

Today we have been into Strasbourg, which is a very beautiful city, and is the home of the European Parliament.  I have been taking lots of photos on my steam camera which I will post later, probably when we get home.

Travel Tribulations

You’d think that an airport called Frankfurt would be pretty close to Frankfurt, wouldn’t you. Wouldn’t you? Well you’d be dead wrong. Our flight from Budapest to Frankfurt turned out to be to Frankfurt (Hahn), wherever that may be, about two hours bus ride from Frankfurt airport anyway, the real Frankfurt.

The first intimation should have been the cost, 15 euro each, for what – we imagined a 15 minute max journey. As we travelled further into open countryside it soon became obvious that we were going some distance. But how far? It soon became obvious that we were going to miss our train connection from the airport to Strasbourg as signs for “Frankfurt, 68 kilometres” appeared. In a few minutes the situation went from dire to hilarious. What to do? Would we have to stay overnight? When we reached the airport we decided that we should carry on to Frankfurt main station (the fare was the same) and sort it out there.

Lucky we did because it turned out we had bought an open ticket, so we can travel on any train today. Being accustomed to the paucity of passenger train in New Zealand we could hardly believe that there would be another train to Strasbourg not the same day. The next train with connection to Strasbourg was leaving in half an hour, and actually is scheduled to arrive earlier than our original booking.

It’s now 6:08 and I’m writing this on the train, which is packed. Not Enough seats for everyone, and some are reserved for sections of the trip. Each station results in a kind of desperate musical chairs, as some get off and others swarm on.

We managed to get a little seat time before we change at Offenberg. There is only 7 minutes to make the connection, so we run down the platform, down the stairs, and up to the next platform. We are onboard for Strasbourg with a couple of minutes to spare, and fortunately there are plenty of seats. We do arrive 30 minutes before our original schedule, most of which we need because the station is quite large and we have to find the main hall, to meet our friend Colette.

I’m finishing this at Colette’s place in Waselonne, but we can’t get me connected to the wifi, hence the delay in posting.

Two days later. We have found free wifi in IKEA. Yay

Winding Down

This is our last day in Budapest, and we seem to be getting up later and later in the morning!  We are going to be completely lazy today, so we have leisurly European style breakfast and a lovely cup of coffee.

A  last stroll around the neighbourhood, and to the information booth to check out the process for reaching the airport. And a little shopping.

There probably won’t be a post tomorrow as we will be travelling all day.  Next stop is Strassbourg, where we will chill out with our friend for three days, then, oh my gosh, the carnival is over and we head back to NZ.

City Park

The weather is better today, overcast but not raining, so we are going to venture out of the centre to what is known as the City Park.  Walking up Andrassy avenue you are struck by two different things, there are many beautiful buildings, but also many sad ruins.  A distressing number of building facades are crumbling, and many are surrounded by wooden braces, with a kind of veranda, to catch any bits of falling masonry.

One last comment about my phone, then I’ll give it away.  There was a witness to the event, a young British man selling tours, and we ran into him again today.  He said he thought the guy who took my phone was just some random crazy person, and he had discussed it with the other tour sellers and they could recall any similar incident in the last four years. So I feel somewhat better about it.

Before the park is Heros square, which strikes me as a bit stark.  There are some pretty monumental statuary.

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The square itself, is rather bleak, and was apparently used for rallies in the communist times.  Also the National gallery, on one side, is closed for three years and the Art house, on the other is also not used currently.  There is a display on the history of the park on one side of the square, it is being extensively renovated.

Within the park is the Vajdahunyad Castle, which makes a great reflection in the, currently unfrozen, ice skating rink.

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The ice rink was formerly used for several international events, but is looking rather run down at the moment.

There is a fair or market in the grounds which gives an air of medieval activity to the castle.

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Hungarian barbecue

I probably need to dispel the idea that Budapest is all beautiful ruins.  This building is a stunning example of the best modern architecture.

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