Bremen re-visited

Hello All

Monday 23 April 2018

After a quick breakfast,

‘Yes mum they are bread rolls … goodness can’t take her anywhere…’

– during which I managed to get locked out of the dining room (does this kind of stuff just happen to me?) and had to do an “Ooh La La” farce type run (who am I kidding, more of a trot..) round to a side door – we set off for a leisurely stroll around historic Bremen.

If you are a regular reader of this jumble of words and photos you may remember that I visited Bremen last October. It was great to share it with No 1 Daughter.

The town square now in daylight.

St Peter’s Cathedral, and that statue

Which this time I had ‘a child’ to photograph stroking the donkey’s nose.

Re-tracing my October footsteps I led No 1 Daughter to the Lilliputian streets of Schnoor. Thankfully she loved it as much as I had. Hard not to.

What I hadn’t noticed before was how many tea shops there are in Bremen. It would have been wrong not to stop for a cuppa and … hallelujah… vegan apple cake.

Delicious.

I know visiting Schnoor is like taking a step back in time but who is this dude behind me? As more folk in traditional medieval costume appeared the mystery was solved. This is the door to Schnoor Museum and these are the work clothes. Fabulous.

Schnoor was the perfect place for last stop shopping after which we headed off to the amazing Ratskeller which has been serving wine since 1405!

Situated in the undercroft of Bremen Town Hall the Ratskeller was the council wine cellar – now I have worked in local government for a number of years but have yet to locate a wine cellar under County Offices Kendal!

The Ratskeller is also a traditional tavern which also houses a restaurant. It holds huge ornate wine barrels

And the vaults stretch a distance underground.

There are also ‘cabins’ along one wall which have doors that can be closed for added privacy ….

You can just about see the cabins behind me and my soup…oh how I had missed German soups.

It was a lovely touristy way to end our day in Bremen.

Until next we meet

Moke xxx

Bremen here we come … again

Hello All

Sunday 22 April 2018

Another day of train travel. Five trains to get us from gorgeous Copenhagen to lovely Bremen… and get us there they did. Only one observation: German train stations are REALLY busy on Sunday. When I inter-railed last autumn I avoided travelling on Sundays ‘cos I thought everything would be quiet and closed…how wrong can you be?!

But with connections easily made and trains on time – we even managed to make time as our train from Fredericia to Flensburg was in early so we caught an earlier connection to Neumunster – we were in Bremen while the sun still shone and there was time for an evening stroll.

I loved that we walked to an area new to me, outside the old town in Ostertor. It was buzzing with cafes and bars and cool (how hip am I? … not at all?! Mon Deiu!) graffiti.

Close to the hotel we had a fabulous supper of tapas style sides and salad.

No 1 Daughter like me thoroughly enjoyed it. By the by those little pepper things (Pimientos de padro) were a real treat.

After a long day it was then time for bed.

Night night Bremen.

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

Will we make it?

Hello All

Tuesday 17 April 2018 – travel to Copenhagen

Today was either going to be a train travellers dream or a lost in Europe nightmare. We were planning to travel from Amsterdam through Germany to Denmark and the Nordic haven of Copenhagen in one day….yes one day….

I love timetables (sad isn’t it?) but even for me tying together connections and timings (allowing enough time for me to wobble from one platform to another), reserving seats on several trains and finding contingencies should it all go ‘orribly wrong was something of a feat. Oh, alright I thoroughly enjoyed this planning exercise but it is one thing drawing up schedules (it was a work of list-art at an advanced level for which you will have to take my word as I can’t find a way to insert it here…) to having a heavy rucksack on your back knowing you will spend the next twelve hours train hopping across a large chunk of Europe….

We set off via No 2 tram enthusiastically.

Would this last?

Unbelievably (or possibly not as the trains were great on the continent) it did last … almost. Amsterdam to Osnabruck … easy-peasy …. tick. Seventeen minutes to change at Osnabruck for Hamburg … tick. Good grief only 9 minutes at Hamburg to board next train to Fredericia (Denmark) … tick.

Here’s one tip I discovered on the Hamburg to Fredericia train: learn the German for ‘this train is back to front’. Not knowing this useful phrase meant we got on at the wrong end of our train and felt like we were walking to Denmark as we spent the next 25 minutes wobbling our way to our seats. I am afraid I got a hopeless case of the giggles and was almost hysterical with laughter having become attached to a young man’s seat by the corner of my coat and could only be released by his having to unthread said coat from his chair. Perhaps you had to be there but I am chortling ever so slightly now as I re-live the embarrassment.

Luckily I did have (just) enough German to explain to the man who thought we were in his seats – good grief we earned those seats! – that he was in the wrong Wagon (carriage). Phew, it was a relief to have a rest. At the next stop we only had 8 minutes to change train….gulp…..

Oh dear no tick at Fredericia. After a long stop at the border between Germany and Denmark – the only place that our passports were checked – our train was running late. Despite a polite run (the Danes are very polite and there was no pushing, shoving, expletives nor shouty-ness … thank goodness) we missed the Copenhagen connection.

Everyone calmly awaited the next train (only about twenty minutes) and fellow passengers made sure that No 1 Daughter and I knew what was happening. Infact this little mishap was a wonderful introduction to Danish (and German) courtesy. We even made a friend. Hi JR if you are reading this!

We arrived only a little later than planned in Copenhagen but after four trains and over 12 hours traveling we were glad to find the hotel – only a few minutes from the station – and take off our backpacks.

(Taken in sunlight next day).

Copenhagen we made it!

Until next we meet

Moke xxx

Spuds

Hello All

Since my return from inter-railing around Germany last autumn I have been craving the delicious potato pancakes that my cousin RP made. Perfect fodder for these cold days. Mouth already watering I quickly checked out the recipe. And away I went.

I confess the thought of hand grating numerous potatoes was off putting but modern technology came to the aid of this lazy cook.

Whizz…whizz and hey presto grated potatoes!

Egg, breadcrumbs and seasoning added, frying pan of delight do your stuff.

After several singed efforts and working in a smoke filled room while wafting the smoke alarm the pancakes were rewardingly delicious. I have not managed to replicate the wonderfulness of RPs latkes but with lashings of maple syrup they were pretty good and perfect pancake day practice. I will be re-visiting these little beauties for sure.

Until next we meet.

Moke xxx

Going out with a bang

Hello All

How are you? Well I hope. I am now home again in snuggly little Kendal all safe and sound. Back to being a country mouse.

But yowzerrs did I save the best to last! Cologne was fabulous and being able to enjoy it with my cousin R’i and her family made it extra super.

One of the downsides of travelling solo is evening meals so it has been lovely when visiting both Prenzlau and Cologne to have cousins who have gone out with me and taken me to places for dinner. Vielen Danke!

On Friday night in Cologne R’i and W’g took me to a beautiful riverside restaurant for an al fresco supper. Just the sort of place I love where you can people watch and chat. Afterwards full with a hearty German meal – needless to say I have loved the food here – and a glass of Kolsch we tootled off for a floodlit walk of Cologne. Amazingly beautiful.

But then … I was diverted into another world….a Jazz Cafe! Flippin’ Heck it was hilarious and brilliant and I don’t think I stopped laughing all the time we were in there.

Into the tiniest space was crammed a good proportion of Cologne (or so it seemed), wedged on balconies, squidging around the bar, packed up to the minuscule stage. Atmosphere in heaps and then to crown it all was a live band playing traditional Orleans jazz and blues. All this and another glass of Kolsch. What more could a girl (erm mature lady) want? Absolutely nothing.

Photos cannot fully convey the sweaty loud joyfulness of it all. These are the best I could do.

That’s what I call a Friday night. A good time definitely had by all.

Jump change!

Saturday saw me polishing up my halo and re-asserting my blue-stocking credentials. Cologne Cathedral (Kölner Dom) and Romisch-Germanisches Museum here I come.

Cologne Cathedral has such significance to residents and visitors alike. As the trains coming into Cologne station pass right beneath its towering spires travellers crowd the windows to get that first glimpse of her and when they do they know they are home. It is difficult to find suitable adjectives but Cologne Cathedral surpasses anything I have seen. It is also certainly a triumph of Long Now thinking as it was begun in the mid 1200s, worked on until the late 1400s and then completed to the original design in the 1800s.

And amidst the grandeur are the small details created with love and pride.

It was magnificent and I needed to have frequent little sit-downs just to absorb as much of it as possible. And before you ask I did not go up the 533 steps into one of the spires! I did that in my twenties so no need to do it again…that’s my excuse I am sticking to it.

From Gothic to Roman in a couple of steps (if you have extremely long legs) as the Roman Museum is right next door to the Cathedral. The museum is built on the site of a Roman villa and was designed around it’s famous centre-piece the Dionysus Mosaic. In addition to the mosaic it has fabulous displays of Roman glassware:

And these superbly exhibited ‘Guardians of the Tombs’

I was in my Roman seventh heaven.

A happy but sad to go family afternoon and evening completed my fabulous stay in Cologne. Time for bed and the final train journey from Cologne to Amsterdam to catch the ferry home.

After bobbing about on the choppy waters of the North Sea I arrived safely in Blighty. I have had the most marvellous few weeks in Germany. It has fulfilled and exceeded expectations.

I hope you have enjoyed travelling along with me.

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

Advantages of being older

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One of the most famous things about this city is the Grimm’s fairy tale of the Bremen Musicians: a donkey, a dog, a cat and a cockerel.

Don’t you love that the donkey’s nose has been rubbed shiney? I digress, back to the fairytale the gist of which is that these fellows were in danger of being starved, shot, put out on the streets or put in a soup because they were old!!!! Brutal. But by joining forces and using their combined wisdom in their quest to become Bremen musicians they had the last laugh. Not only did they become a crime fighting quadruple (?) but they also found their forever home. Aaaah I love a happy ending. I am sure there is a lesson in there. Ideas in comments please.

I think there is another story waiting to be told about the lions guarding one of the entrances to Bremen’s cathedral.

Doesn’t it look like they are having a chat? Perhaps they have just eaten the last occupants of the two empty chairs.

‘What you having for pudding Leo?’

‘Same old same old, Lowis. Sugar dusted cardinal. You?’

‘Not quite sure but you know me I’ll eat anything dipped in mead.’

Inside St. Peter’s still boasts wonderfully painted stonework and vaulted ceilings.

For the first time I was in one of these amazing devotional buildings when there was a short service. I belong to no denomination but I was pleased to see the cathedral used for it’s primary purpose and it was something special to be part of. Amazing how the Lord’s Prayer never quite leaves you. I recognised it even in German.

Bremen has to be the most beautiful city I have visited on my interrail tour of Germany. If you ever come here be sure to visit the Schnoor area. I will let the sign do the talking:

The oldest part of Bremen and the cutest! It was like walking around a film set:

Infact that is doing Schnoor an injustice. It is Lilliputian medieval heaven. Of course I stayed for lunch.

The food – like all the meals I have had in Germany – was anything but small. It was also delicious.

But not everything I find bonny hails from the Middle Ages. Böttcherstraße was designed in the 1920’s.

Ok, ok that is not stupendously new and it was designed using the original foundations but for me this is progress. In any event it is very distinguished.

Now my friends I am going to have to love you and leave you. Tomorrow I travel to Cologne and hope to meet my cousin R’i. After that I am on the ferry where as you may recall getting a signal was nigh impossible.

Normal service will be resumed when I get home.

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

P.S. Mr T will have to be torn away from the mini-bar …. again!

P.P.S. I leave you with something suitably woolly, the Schnoor sheep.

Mx

Evening stroll or should that be another evening stroll …

Hello All

Having arrived in the pretty town of Bremen an evening stroll seemed in order. I left the hotel turned right and whoa! walked straight into a medieval market.

A magical surprise. Gluhwein, wurst, gingerbread, stall holders in medieval costume. Everything you dream of in a German market. All that and a fun fair. Not bad for a Wednesday night!

It was very picturesque and I happily strolled about the stalls selling food and nik-naks. So many gorgeous things. Sadly limited by a rucksack I had to stick to ‘window shopping’. Sorry folks back home.

I took myself off to one of the many Cafes with street seating for a bustle free supper. Satisfying food and a peaceful evening ready for a busy day of sightseeing tomorrow.

A quiet spot but with enough passers-by to engage in that favourite hobby, people watching.

Early night ready for much walking tomorrow.

Gute Nacht.

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

What can follow that?

Hello All

Double dose tonight. It is impossible to follow the wonderfulness that was visiting Prenzlau and my father’s village. So apologies to Lubeck – where I now sit – as I arrived yesterday in a huff. I was hungry (long train journey), tired (long train journey) and really wished I was still in Prenzlau (long train journey away). But some food and a good sleep put me right and today I was determined to use public transport and get a bus into the old town.

Glad to say mission accomplished. I even helped out a young German couple with the bus timetable. Together we all found ourselves in the medieval heart of Lubeck. I think it is … you know …. a World Heritage Site…. and deservedly so it is a hub of architectural eye-candy. Get those peepers ready, here goes:

Even getting in is superbly marked by several humongous ‘gates’ this is the Burgtor.

I really wish I had brought my digital pencil. Please excuse my finger-scrawl but you get the gist. However I was distracted by (Hark! Choirs of angels):

A celebration of the humble spud. Stuff of dreams.

Of course someone let it go to his head! Enough of this frivolity there are important buildings to admire.

This jolly duo to listen to.

And a lion named Heinrich.

Well that is what this numpty thought. Turns out Heinrich the Lion was a twelfth Century Prince who founded both Munich and Lubeck, married the daughter of our very own Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine and ruled a whole chunk of Germany. In a spare moment he also laid the foundation stone of Lubeck Cathedral in 1173.

Oh look there is Heinrich again,

A truly beautiful city but a fleeting visit. However I do not leave empty handed, Lubeck orange is ready to join in the creation of the Thingy.

.

More about the Prenzlau wool later ….

Time to say Auf Wiedersehen Lubeck thank you for putting up with huffy me.

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

Heimat

Hello All

Back in the room after a fabulous few days getting acquainted with a family I had never before met. I would like to whole-heartedly thank all my German cousins (1st and 2nd!) for their help in making my stay in my father’s homeland truly special. BIG thanks to cousin K-D who made it possible to find key places in my father’s life which I would never have found alone, for making me feel at home and also for the mercy dash to pick up my connecting train when the first was delayed. Phew! And none of this would have happened without the Cologne and Bavarian cousins doing a lot of emailing and phoning. Well done C and R. You are all stars.

I still need to digest my emotions but to give you a flavour of what I found here are some highlights.

The building in Prenzlau where my father was born was once a Dominican Monastery and is now a museum. I found this very satisfying as not only do I love museums (you may have noticed) but it also means that should No1 Son and No1 Daughter ever follow in my footsteps it will still be here. What a lovely museum, we spent a little while pootling around (think I may have brought the English concept of a pootle with me) looking at the history of Prenzlau. Especially pleasing was the model of Prenzlau in 1935, this would have been just how my father would have known it.

Prenzlau is in a beautiful location on the shores of the Uckersee. Coming from the English Lake District this felt like familiar territory.

After a lunch in the Autumn sunshine enjoying this wonderful view we travelled the few miles to the village where my father learnt his trade as a blacksmith and his family lived.

Sadly the forge is derelict now, like so many old buildings in what was the DDR left empty to fall in to disrepair.

But there are beautiful houses and lovely homes in the village and K-D had arranged for me to meet some family from my Oma’s side who still live in Klein Sperrenwalde along with their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Sharing coffee and cake with them was very special (oh to have proper cheesecake…delicious). Despite having no common language – Russian was the second language taught in schools until re-unification – we had a good laugh.

An early evening stroll round the village was magical. The stories about the buildings and people being thankfully translated by RW K-Ds son who had joined us. A gem!

What a thoroughly lovely bunch. I have a lot of tales and photos to share with my children when I get to my Heimat.

I will take away with me two powerful things: the kindness and thoughtfulness of my father’s family; and the staggering beauty of this landscape. I couldn’t capture the breadth of the horizons. This is a poor attempt.

It is a huge land where trees abound, herds if deer graze the fringes of that woodland and flocks of cranes fly from the fields as trains pass. It’s people and it’s countryside are amazing. Leaving was difficult.

Now before I come over all emotional I will leave you with this crazy character from the cloisters at the monastery to make you smile.

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

Winding Up

Hello All

Feeling a little touristed out I promised myself a woolly time today. Afterall I needed my Berlin ball of wool for the scarf-shawl-thingy didn’t I? The thingy is growing and the Leipzig mixed twist is rather splendid:

(Good grief hope Mr T isn’t ordering room service….) but I think it is ready for a calming influence. Where to go? A shufty on the Internet produced several candidates but from the pictures and website Wollen Berlin called to me. I was right to follow my instincts as near Ostkreuz S-Bahn at Gartnerstrasse 32, 10245 Berlin I found a haven of wooliness set in a lovely part of the city.

The assistant (who on checking the shop website was Caro) could not have been more helpful. She guided me to some German wool by ‘Hey Mama Wolf’. Looking at the Leipzig mixed twist we were both drawn to the same colour, not the most striking hue but spot on to stop the thingy being overwhelmed by a craziness of mixed yarns … the less is more.

Now while Hey Mama Wolf may call this Meadowsweet I have it in my mind as Berlin Senf (ignore my misspelling on the label, I couldn’t spell check while drinking tea at Hackescher Markt) as it reminds me of the colour of delicious German mustard.

Berlin Senf is created from German Merino sheep – not as soft as the Australian Merino but wonderful in it’s own Germanic way – and hand dyed. Like the Amsterdam yellow it is a bit finer than double knit so I asked if the 100g skein could be wound into two 50g balls so I could double up the strands. This was no problem and Caro was soon putting the yarn on the winder ready to make two neat balls of wool. While she set up I got busy snapping photos of the drool-worthy shelves of yarns. Note all the knitted and crocheted examples for customers to see how the worked wools look.

Skeins can be like life sometimes they get in a bit of a tangle and are then trickier to unravel. While I had been taking photos my skein had begun to misbehave.

Strange though this may be I like sorting out knots and tangles so I happily offered to hand wind my wool. What a pleasure to sit untangling the yarn and talk wool and sheep. Don’t you love woolly folk? It doesn’t take much to keep us happy. I managed to become happier still, not only did I finish my winding for the Thingy but I also got ….

Icelandic wool…I can barely contain myself ….. warm mittens…..ooooh yes…..you know you want some ….

With a halo that was now beyond wonky it was time for a church. Negotiating the S-Bahn (overground) I made may way to the biggest church available, Berlin Dom (Cathedral).

It’s interior was stunning

However I was distracted from my usual interest in the organ by the contents of the crypt. Berliner Dom crypt contains a macabre collection of sarcophagi containing the earthly remains of the Prussian royal family some dating back to the 1660s. I found it all a bit peculiar. Even though morbid curiosity overtook me – turns out my halo completely slipped – I couldn’t help but wonder if these aristocrats realised they were to become exhibits. It didn’t strike me as resting in peace. Bizarre.

Outside with a little sigh of relief I was on the island of museums. You can rest assured Berlin’s sizo-meter did not fail.

In my turn I made a sizeable decision. I would not visit them as I knew I would find it frustrating to rush around for a few hours and not completely enjoy the pleasure of taking time to view the artefacts. Oh well … I will just have to come back and spend a week in the Altes Museum alone!

Time to hop on a bus (love that German bus stops have digital updates of the arrival times of the buses and they are FREQUENT!!!!) and wend my way along my favourite route back to the hotel. Blimey they are breeding like ….

He was certainly not there last night.

Tomorrow I am off to Prenzlau. So for a while I must bid you adieu as I am having a little time out to meet family …. and I am likely to be without Wifi.

Auf Wiedersehen Berlin city of a big heart and mind blowing architecture.

Until next we meet

Moke xxx