Michael's Europe 2000 Tour - Week 3


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    Mon, 14-Aug-2000

Woke up early today, because today I'm off to Nuernberg, one of Germany's older cities, and roughly 500km south from Koeln. Iris and a friend of hers, Marion, is going there to visit some people, and she offered to take me along so I could take a look at it.

By 8:30 I was finished, breakfast and all, having packed the night before, and true to her word, Iris showed up a few minutes later. Now I got my first real taste for the German Autobahn as Iris forced her poor little car along at speeds hitting 180km/h, and this in moderate traffic. But despite this we managed to get to Nuernberg safely and in good time.

First stop was at Marion's parents to say hi and drop off some things, and we got invited in for lunch. Over the next few days I was to see more of their hospitality, they are great people.

Quick stop at the apartment where we were to be staying for the next few days, and then it's on to meet Ralf & Kristina, with whom we're going to a small lake just outside of town.

The lake itself is nestled in hilly forest not far outside, but it's a bit of a walk from the parking spot to the actual lakeside. We even walked halfway around to the far side before we settled down for a nice spot, as the shore was relatively crowded with people for a Monday, but as everyone said, it's still school-holidays here. Everyone but me ended up going swimming - I hadn't brought swimmers, and besides, the water was too cold for my tastes.. but it was still a nice lazy afternoon on the lakeside.

Later on we went back to Ralf & Kristina's place for a BBQ dinner and a game of cards which went past midnight. All up a very nice afternoon and relaxing evening.

    Tue, 15-Aug-2000

I woke up at 8ish despite the late night, beating the girls to the shower, and then sat down on the balcony enjoying the early morning and reading my book until life awoke.

Once everybody was ready we went downstairs, did a little breakfast shopping and then went back to Ralf & Kristina's place for a slow lazy breakfast. Marion and Kristina had to go to the dentist at lunchtime, and Iris and Ralf took me in to Nuernberg itself to show me the old city.

Our first stop was the Kaiserburg, one of the most famous castles in all of Germany where most of the Emperors where crowned, even though none had their permanent seat there - it was purely for state ceremonies. In medieval times Nuernberg was one of the most important cities in Germany, being on the crossroads of large trading routes. Inside the castle also is the most famous double-chapel of Germany. I took a tour of the castle while Ralf and Iris waited outside, as they had seen it all before anyways, and Ralf couldn't bring the dog inside.

Afterwards we met Marion and Kristina, and weathered out a rain squall in a small ice cream parlor. From there we headed to the old Town Hall in which replicas of the crown jewels are on display, the real ones being kept in Wien (Vienna) these days, and we also got hold of some brochures about Nuernberg and things to do and see. I was keen to see the old catacombs under the city, and went on a tour of those while the rest of the group waited in a coffee shop.

The catacombs are really old cellars which people had dug into the sandstone of the area, primarily to store beer and wine, but also to collect drinking water. The water of the only river through Nuernberg, the P....?, was and is undrinkable, so water had to either be brought in from surrounding springs or wells had to be sunk.
During more recent times the catacombs have been extended and built out to provide air-raid shelters and to house the treasures from churches and museums of the area during the wars.

By the time I emerged shivering (the air underground is a fairly constant 10C) and blinking in the sunlight it was getting quite late in the afternoon. Ralf and Kristina headed off back home while Iris and Marion walked me through the old city, where I took a bunch of photos of the old houses and churches and fountains. Walking around it's hard to believe over 90% of Nuernberg was destroyed during the wars, and it's very commendable that so much effort has gone into keeping the old look of that part of the city during the rebuilding.

Finally it's time to head back to be at Marion's parents place in time for dinner, and afterwards we went to a nice little pub on the edge of a lake for drinks and chats with the whole crew.

    Wed, 16-Aug-2000

Got up early again, beating the girls, which gave me time to have a shower in peace and get dressed and packed before settling down to read on the balcony for a while until they got up.

For breakfast we went to Marion's parents again, and stayed there for most of the morning, chatting and whatnot before heading off to Koeln again. The weather was nice and hot, and I got the back-seat this time, so very little in the way of air, but that was ok too as I could lay back and doze, and thus ignore hurtling down busy highways at over 180km/h at times...

Iris dropped me off at Helmut & Barbara's again, and I settled down in the backyard waiting for someone to get home, keeping reading. Not long after Simon came home, so I could go and take a much-needed shower after the long drive down from Nuernberg.

Time to catch up on writing my diary, even if I can't get it online, at least there's a computer here I can jot things down on before I forget them. Tomorrow's quest will be to find an internet terminal where I can upload files from, if such a thing exists around here. Germany really is still quite backward in it's overall adoption of computers and the internet.

    Thu, 17-Aug-2000

Didn't have much to do today, so I started the day slowly with breakfast, packed something to drink, and headed in to Koeln with the train.

Once in Koeln, I firstly headed around the Cathedral, taking pictures from several sides and the inside, but I left the guided tours for later.

I then walked throughout the inner city, looking in various shops and just taking in the sights and taking more pictures. For lunch I had a fish roll, which was quite nice.

I tried to find an internet cafe which allowed me to upload my diary, but that ended in failure. I did finally check my email at one internet place.

On the way back to the trainstation I bought myself a nice swiss army pocket knife to replace the one I lost at home, as they are much cheaper in Europe.

I didn't have much more to do and was feeling tired from walking around all afternoon, so I headed back home. There I did some reading, ate dinner, chatted a bit with Helmut and Barbara, and started some packing for tomorrow.

    Fri, 18-Aug-2000

Woke up late today, and had a nice long hot shower. When I finished, the house-cleaner had arrived, so I hid in the bedroom, finishing the packing for the England trip, and reading more of my book.

When the cleaner was finished with the kitchen and hallway I snuck downstairs and had breakfast. I also made myself sandwhiches to take on the train to England, as there is no food provided as part of the train ticket.

I then lazed away the morning, as I wasn't due to catch the train until the afternoon. This gave me a perfect chance to recuperate from my holiday so far for the next week, and I took it gladly. Finally it was time to sling on my backpacks and head off to the station.

Once at Koeln Central, I bought some postage stamps and sent off a few postcards while waiting for the train to Brussels. This train took me through quite picturesque scenery of Germany, France, and Belgium. Once in Brussels I had to change over to the Eurostar which would take me through the Channel Tunnel to England. For some reason, I also had to go through customs and whatnot - on the European mainland they didn't seem to care much about that.

The trip on the Eurostar was cool as well - fast, up to 300km/hr, and smoother than a plane for most of it. Once through the tunnel, I caught my first glimpses of the English landscape, but not for long as it was getting late in the afternoon and the light started to fail. So I started reading again until we got in to London.

I met Richard at the train station, and we caught a bus back to his apartment where Melissa, her sister, and a friend were waiting. Once there I first had a shower to freshen up, and then we headed out to a nice italian restaurant for dinner.

After dinner, Richard and I did our packing for our weekend in Ireland, and headed to bed.

    Sat, 19-Aug-2000

We got up earlyish to finish our packing and take in an early breakfast before we caught a cab out to London City airport, the nearest to where Richard lives, and quite a pokey small one considering the size of London. But then again, there's several around London.

After a bit of a wait we boarded the Air Lingus plane, and soon enough we were winging our way towards Ireland. It seemed that no sooner had the plane reached cruising altitude that it started the descent, giving us barely enough time to drink our cup of tea.

From the airport we caught a bus into Dublin city to get to our hotel, which Richard had booked over the internet some weeks previously. But when we got there they didn't know anything about the booking - luckily they still had a room free nevertheless, so we checked in and then hit the town.

Dublin is quite interesting to wander through, boasting quite a few older buildings and stuff, but we were more interested in finding a bit of nash! Since Richard had set his sights on a Guiness Pie, this was no mean feat - apparently this Irish dish doesn't get served in Ireland, and on our second round of all the pubs we finally chose one which lost our first order, and when we did finally get the food, it was not the best we'd had... ah well. Unfortunately this also meant we had by now lost most of the afternoon, so after wandering the streets for a bit more and taking some piccies we settled for a cuppa and a cake in the 'Queen of Tarts' coffee shop. This proved to be a lot more successful than the pub with quite nice cakes on offer.

When we got back out into the streets after a brief siesta they were quite packed with people. We moseyed about looking for a place to have dinner before hitting the clubs (hmm, finding food is starting to become a commonplace problem here, isn't it?), and finally settled on the 'Thunderroad Cafe', an American theme bar/restaurant about motorbikes and stuff. We had to wait nearly an hour for a table, but that wasn't a problem as there was excellent music and atmosphere at the bar, and we had time for a few drinks. Finally we got a table and ordered our dinner. While we were waiting for it a waitress grabbed us and the rest of the restaurant and everybody danced along to a couple of songs like YMCA (hi DvoId, wish you had been here! Muah!), the Macarena, and one or two others, and we were tipsy enough to go along with it. Quite different for a restaurant, but heaps of fun.

After dinner we headed out to the Fireworks nightclub, which had been recommended to us by a waitress. The club itself was really cool, built into an old firestation on 4 levels, and we had a lot of fun dancing and stuff. Unfortunately they kept playing the same kind of music over and over, and I finally tired of it, so we headed out to try to find another place. But despite the size of Dublin and the fact that about 50% of the population is under the age of 31, pubs close around 11pm, and clubs seemed to be closed around 2am as well. Looks like the Irish don't know how to party! Well, maybe just as well as it's an early morning tomorrow.

    Sun, 20-Aug-2000

We had alarms set to get up by 8am to give us time to shower and have breakfast in time to meet the tour bus. Breakfast was quite nice, but I think I'll skip the black pudding in future - no wonder it's so dangerous in D&D!!

The morning of the bus trip covered Dublin city, the tour guide showing us lots about the various episodes of the city. Dublin was originally founded by the Vikings, and has had quite a history since then. The name Dublin came from Dubhlin (pronounced Duv-lin) and meaning Black Pool. The tour included visiting St. Patricks cathedral, the largest in Dublin.

The afternoon tour I found a lot more interesting, driving through some very beautiful countryside to Powerscourt Estate, which is set in the largest and most ornate gardens in all of Ireland. True to Irish luck, the rain stopped and the sun broke through the clouds just as we were disembarking from the coach. Richard and I walked all around the estate, finding the Pet Cemetery particularly amusing, especially Modger, much to the raised eyebrows of other tourists.

After Powerscourt we kept going to Glendalough, an ancient monastery believed to have been first established in the 6th century BC. The site contains a lot of ruins as well as the most famous Round Tower in Ireland. I was quite impressed and wandered about for quite a while.

After Powerscourt it was time to return to Dublin, and most of the ride was spent snoozing and looking at the countryside, as the guide had stopped talking. We accumulated quite a string of cars behind the coach on the narrow roads.

For dinner we nearly went back to the Thunderroad Cafe, but we wanted to have more variety. We went to the Stag's Head pub on suggestion from Richard's little travellers guid book and found it closed. A bit more wandering brought us to another pub, where we had to wait for a table again. Hmm, looks like booking at these places might be an idea in future... Waiting this time was a bit more of a chore until the Irish band stopped tuning up their instruments and started playing. Dinner itself was pretty good.

After dinner we wandered the streets for a little while, half wanting to find an open club, but since both of us were pretty tired from the long day, we ended up just heading back to the hotel for a semi-early night.

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Last updated: 22-Aug-2000