On the up

Hello All

Here I sit at another lovely breakfast table.

This is it. Apologies for the no-show last night but I was plum tuckered out and took to my bed early. Embracing tourism sure tires you out.

Yesterday guess who was looking dapper and ready for the day (someone is building his part!):

I had booked myself on a coach tour confident in the knowledge that as it was a German and English commentary I would be amongst other English speakers. Not so. I was the lone English speaker. This was painfully apparent from the go get when the lovely tour guide asked if anyone needed the English tour. Up went my hand thinking it would be part of a forest or maybe a small woodland of hands but when all eyes turned to me I realised it was a lone twig.

To everyone’s credit the guide flowed seamlessly from German to English and no one seemed to mind me chuckling at the jokes out of sync. I even got a laugh when I solo clapped the driver for his superb driving about 5 minutes after everyone else. The bends and the climb up the berg are serious stuff he deserved that extra pitifully thin reward.

So off we set around Heidelberg. My feet were soooo pleased. We learnt about the connection of Bunsen, Mark Twain, Brahms and many others to the town. We were even treated to seeing a group of Fraternity members all dressed up in their finery, long black boots and duelling swords the lot (corrrrr!). Apparently this is a rare sight so we were lucky. Even the guide seemed in a bit of a flutter.

With heroic duelling scenes in our heads we set off for the Schloss on top of that STEEP mountain. You can of course walk it but you know me that was never going to happen. This holiday has – you have no doubt realised – revealed I have a certain abhorrence to heights. I wasn’t even aware of it’s extent. Afterall I live in a place famous for its steep crags. But here? Mein Gott! the drops. I was dreading the funicular down from the go get.

‘Come on woman you are made of sterner stuff than this’ my Tourist self said but my inner head whimpered ‘It is a long way down! And I have to go on a funicular….’. Never fear friends I strode forth and thoroughly enjoyed my tour around the magical Heidelberg Castle.

It was really nice to be guided and be looked after (‘ Where is my English lady?’) while hearing tales about this patchwork of a palace. Of naughty drunkard king Frederick who stands today with his tipsy lion probably still wondering how he got to bed:

And the clock by the big barrel – big? It is enormous – designed to make ladies jump and reveal their shoes … whatever turns you on!

The barrel itself was so big I couldn’t get a good shot of it without a crowd of visitors in front of it. Suffice to say it was used for the collection of wine in taxes and has stairs on either side zig zagging to a platform on top where revellers could carous and dance the night away. Apparently an orchestra of diminutive size was once placed inside for the amusement of those dancing on top. Ermmm.

Feet seemed something of a theme. ‘Where is my English Lady?’ (stop thinking about that funicular!) heralded a story about this footprint in the paving:

Possibly left by a feeling philanderer (the other story of running from a fire is much less interesting) the story goes that any man whose foot fits is supposedly a great lover …. will they dare try it out?! They did and apparently he is.

Having said goodbye to our excellent tour guide this English lady wandered off to look around and take a few pictures. (Don’t think about the funicular…). As you can tell like most of Heidelberg the place is thronged with visitors and I gave up trying to avoid people in the shot.

But if you like people watching here are some folk with a fantastic backdrop:

Not at all putting off plummeting to earth I spent some time in the Apothecary Museum which has several old pharmacies set up and hundreds of samples of things likely to go into the medicines of yore. Least said.

Despite the remedies of a by (thankfully) gone age hunger pangs were beginning to get the better of me. Good grief does this mean THE FUNICULAR?!

Well it did and what an anti-climax. I was down at the bottom before I finished a text to my nearest and dearest saying ‘Help!’ And I couldn’t see a thing cos of the crowds on board (my claustrophobia has definitely gone) and the fact that it travels down a tunnel. Feeling a wuss and heroic in equal measure I headed straight to the veggie cafe I’d spotted on arrival and tucked into their potato waffles with mushrooms and sour cream

Delicious. At that point with a brain filled with more information than it’s pea size can cope with I went and lay down in a darkened room fell into a deep dreamless sleep (what no long leather boots…) and re-emerged this morning.

Wool and museums are now on my agenda. But I may take it slowly today and definitely no heights.

Until next we meet.

Love

Moke xxx

Around and About

Hello All

Isn’t it lovely how woolly crafts can be an instant icebreaker? I was back on the trains today and happily working on the scarf-shawl-thingy when a lady sitting next to me in the waiting area at Trier station asked what I was making. What followed from that enquiry was a lovely companionable journey.

Like me the curious crochet observer and her friend had been visiting Trier and we shared experiences and thoughts about life in general. I especially loved their observation that they had visited so many churches they should now be wearing halos!

As we chatted and chortled the crochet like the train moved on and I will soon be ready for Trier Burgundy.

With a little sigh I waved off my happy acquaintances at Neustadt and carried on alone to Heidelberg. By 3pm I was sitting in a new hotel – Goldener Falke – my home for the next few days and thanking my lucky stars to be staying right in the middle of the old town.

To illustrate this I went outside and took photos in front of the hotel just by turning around. Got dizzy and looked a bit of a twerp but it was very satisfying:

I didn’t notice the unusual spelling of Restaurant until I was checking through my gallery. But perhaps the elision of Restaurant and Restoration is just right. The hotel building dates back to the late 1600s and it has been an hotel and restaurant since at least 1805. Over the hundreds of years it has occupied this site it has undergone many a restoration and thankfully for me up in my third floor garret these included the inclusion of a lift. Yeah!

Sorry but I digress. Now turning to my left:

Here is the City Hall (Rathaus). Left turn again:

Quaint eh? And just look you veggies and vegans …

Could be zoning in tomorrow lunchtime. Oops yes one more turn left (easily distracted by food):

The Heiliggeistkirche which began life early in the 15th Century. I love all the little shops and stalls nestled around the church, part of the fabric of the building.

Now not strictly a left turn but just around the corner from the hotel is this gob-smacking photo opportunity:

Stunning.

Heidelberg is chocolate box top Germany and is consequently thronged by tourists. I am going to embrace this status and tomorrow I am off for a couple of hours on a coach tour. Expect many Schloss shots! And don’t be surprised if I come home in a dirndl.

A step too far?

Until next we meet

Moke xxx

P.S. Terence has been with me all day but until he gets a scarf is refusing to come out of my bag! Such a diva…. Mx

Wolle und Stoffe* (so near Wool ‘n’ Stuff but not quite …)

Hello All

Last day in wonderful Trier and yes I have done it. I have bought my Trier ball of wool. I found another fine wool shop, Kaethe Faber with another lovely lady able to help me select my yarn and (thankfully) the next colour. Here it is:

A thing of beauty is it not? This yarn is an international affair. Peruvian Alpaca yarn spun in Italy for a German company, Lana Grossa. It is just the right thickness and weight and I know Trier Burgundy will work well with the Newcastle Blue and Amsterdam Yellow. Better get on with the scarf-shawl-thingy as I am looking forward to adding this snuggly yarn. Today there was a nip in the air and I will soon be needing a warm wrap.

I was going to be all medieval and Romanesque today but those darn Romans got the better of me. Or could it be that someone missed out on my Roman excursions and threw a huff?!

Well done Terence spotters you noticed he wasn’t about yesterday so I thought he had better get back on the road today. Good job too as he reminded me to visit the Barbara Baths.

A large Roman site just a minute from the hotel which can be accessed by walkways over the excavations and is free. Wunderbar! As I said you are tripping over antiquities in Trier. This large excavation will never reveal the full extent of the baths:

If easily offended avert your gaze but this gives you an idea of how the baths were used:

Cheeky.

Enough of this silliness time to waddle (again had a fantastic meal last night, waddling is all I can manage today) into the centre and visit some of the newer builds.

So here I am at the Cathedral of St Peter (Dom):

Again it is hard to escape the Romans (even Boudicca found that out!) as the square core of the Dom was constructed c.340 AD and still forms part of the Cathedral today.

Despite damage caused by marauding Germanic tribespeople (400s) and Vikings (882) the Cathedral remained and successive generations re-built and enlarged it and in the 1600s a new chapel was built to house Trier’s Holy Robe. The Holy Robe being, according to tradition, the seamless robe of Christ brought to Trier by the Emperor Constantine’s mother, Helena. Mention of this robe first appears in the 11th Century. The facade of the shrine is at the top of the pilgrim stairs in the middle of the picture.

Alarming to me was again the poor organist’s home – I never knew it was such a risky physical occupation until this trip – which looked to me like an ornate wasps’ nest suspended from the ceiling.

Amazing yet chilling in equal measure.

These enormous churches are certainly testament to the faith and skill of those that spent lifetimes working on them. Looking up to the ceilings I wonder at the dangers these craftspeople faced.

Oh dear …

I hope he is not still under there.

As is often the case my favourite place in these great buildings is the Lady Chapel and Trier Cathedral’s did not disappoint. It’s simplicity leant it a tranquil atmosphere. It was pleasant to sit and be still.

Apologies for the gloom but it was downstairs and a little subterranean. Very atmospheric.

You won’t by now be surprised to learn that the Dom is another part of Trier’s UNESCO World Heritage Site as is it’s sister building next door, The Church of Our Lady.

The Liebfrauenkircher is the earliest German Gothic church and was begun sometime around 1230. What makes it unusual is that it has a round Cruciform floor plan which echoes the 12 petalled rose (Rosa Mystica) symbolising the Virgin Mary. Now you know! Thank goodness for Wikipedia.

Coincidently I had just been reading a review in this month’s Cumbria Life (I am not on commission) of a book about Pre-Raphaelite stained glass. It reminded me how explosive these windows can be, alive with colour amplified by the changing light illuminating the detail. Trier’s Church of our Lady has an abundance of this wonderful art-form.

Of the two buildings this was my favourite I think the shape pleased me. I love circles: no beginning and no end. Mesmerically there was eerily beautiful choral music playing. And if that weren’t enough the Cathedral bells tolled for three. It felt positively medieval.

Time to lift myself out of this enchantment with some jolly snaps of colourful buildings and a multitude of fountains.

That was the gorgeousness that was my Trier. I hope you have enjoyed sharing it with me and if you visit you return the favour.

Tomorrow …. Heidleberg.

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

* Stoffe means fabric and not ‘stuff’ which I had rather hoped for.

P.S. For those that expressed concern about his welfare don’t worry I will be making Terence a scarf.

P.P.S. In my eco-guest bag today was …..

Gut, ja?! Mx

Let’s go Roman

Hello All

Trier is an historian’s dream. Everywhere you turn you are tripping over antiquities and glorious architecture. I even look out of my window at building works where thousands have been spent on conserving the roman artefacts found there. So much on offer to feed my heritage addiction, where to start?

I went with chronology. Love a timeline. Let’s go Roman. First place to aim for: Porta Nigra a Unesco World Heritage (see we are all at it) Site.

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Built in the 2nd Century AD it is the best preserved and largest Roman city gate North of the Alps. It is MASSIVE…

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Confession: I found the stairs quite scary. Not that good with heights me.

Looking up was enough to make me dizzy. As to it’s name Porta Nigra blame those medieval wags who had noticed that the stone had turned black…. I bet it had a much grander Imperial name sadly that has been lost in the mists of time.

It had to be done. My little old legs cried out ‘Please, please’ so I went all touristy and boarded …

… for a tour around the ancient sites of Trier. Stop laughing you lot! Well this ancient site (you should have seen my hair this morning!) found it really handy to get a ‘floor plan’ of the city and it was easier for me to toddle to the places on my must visit list. Stopping only for Kaffee und Kuchen – who wouldn’t?! – I made my way back to the Basillica of Constantine which was ENORMOUS.

Another UNESCO World Heritage Site – I am racking these up today – it is the largest hall from antiquity still surviving. The Emperor Constantine I – he who converted to Christianity – commissioned the building in around 310 AD. It formed part of a larger (!!!!) palace complex.

Bombed during the war the reconstruction left the walls bare without their nineteenth century embellishments and to my mind this creates a very powerful space, awe inspiring. I was sitting musing on this and getting all philosophical when I clapped eyes on the mighty organ pipes covering most of the entrance wall, my gaze then wandered to the organist’s eerie reached by a rather spindly looking spiral staircase. Hope they have a good head for heights.

As photography is not allowed inside the Basilica I thought I would make a small jotting for you dear readers. Now this seemed to attract attention and a couple of people came over to peek at my artwork. Strangely they took one look and scuttled away without comment…can’t think why….

Michaelangelo I ain’t. But you get the idea.

To regain my artistic nonchalant air I wandered through the beautiful ornamental gardens behind the Basilica to the Roman Archaeological Museum. Once again I was left open mouthed at the SIZE of the museum’s interiors. Here are some of my highlights:

It was wonderful to look through the galleries, it was very quiet with hardly any visitors. It felt very special.

I love the way this smiley bear is covering the eyes of the wild boar, ‘Don’t look she can’t draw for toffee!’:

Hoodies are definitely nothing new:

As this figure of a Celtic Trevari confirms.

I may have eaten rather well on this trip but really…

Today has been a day of grandeur and magnificence. There were moments when I felt like a wee Cumbrian Brigante tribeswoman brought before the might that was Rome. I loved it.

Now dinner beckons and tonight I am translating the menu before making my selection. Thank goodness for translation apps! Yesterday’s meal was a vegetarian’s serendipitous delight (whoever said the German’s don’t do food for veggies? They blinking do) but tonight it will be nice to show that I appreciate the chef’s menu by making considered choices rather than just stabbing a finger at unfamiliar words hopeful of a tasty result.

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

P.S. I hope I am not raising expectations too much as I may not be able to write a post everyday but I will try my best Wifi and other commitments allowing.

P.P.S. Want to see my reward for being an Eco-friendly guest?

Good isn’t it?

P.P.S. The quest for wool. Just as I thought I would never see a wool shop I saw two in one street so will be checking them out tomorrow. The ripple scarf-shawl-thingy must go on.

Mx

Val-deri, Val-dera … my knapsack on my back

Hello All

Interrailing has begun. I started my train travels today on the International train ICE123 from Amsterdam to Trier via Cologne (Koln).

I stumbled a bit at the first hurdle as couldn’t find my reserved seat! However I was sitting on the right train, in the right carriage in what I thought was an unreserved seat so I was congratulating myself on being correct on two out of three until there was a tap on my shoulder and a gentleman pointed out that I was in his seat! Colour me beetroot red.

Apparently ‘freigeben’ doesn’t mean the seat is free rather it means that you should give up your seat if asked…. oh the shame….. To be fair the numbering of the seats was very odd. I had reserved seat number 12 but when I walked up the carriage I realised that there were not enough seats to go down to number 12 however once evicted from my seat (did I mention the shame?!) closer inspection revealed that the numbers jumped from the 20’s to 12 with nothing in between and nothing after. I obviously get my number dyslexia from my father’s side!

Still it was rather funny and pushed me stumbling through my basic German to the amusement of the other passengers (‘What did that woman say? “The cats eat the beetles?!”‘). Baptism of fire? Yes. But it was the best way to get going with a new language. Now anyone that cares to listen is getting blasts of Moke-German. Poor souls. My sympathy goes out particularly to the taxi driver who had my full range of conversation about the weather and the lack of rain.

Back in my comfort zone I have finished the Newcastle wool and while on the train to Trier I got started with the Amsterdam yellow. Doubled up to match the weight of the Newcastle yarn it is vibrant and crocheting beautiful. It’s like sunshine on a blue-sky day.

The journey from Koln to Trier was beautiful. It does I suppose fall in the Rhineland renowned for its wonderfulness. As it got further from Koln the little regional train – no reservation nightmares here (can’t get past the shame) as no reservations! – wound its way along rivers and through pretty towns and villages. Woodlands clothed the hills that rose on either side. The colours of Autumn embellished and amber-blazed the trees. Oh it was soooo restful. Infact soooo restful I struggled to keep my peepers open as I gazed at the passing countryside.

Soporific isn’t it? Appears I was not alone.

Now I am in Trier and excited about visiting the many Roman and Medieval sites/sights tomorrow. Will also need to look out for a good wool shop. Any ideas about shops in Trier or what colour to get next?

Before I sign off. I love this idea … wonder what I will get in my goody bag?

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

All at sea

Hello All

What I will turn my hand to for the sake of my blog post is nobody’s business! I sat drafting this post in the Observation Deck (front) of the DFDS Ferry taking me from Newcastle to Amsterdam staring out at the great expanse of the North Sea (looking deep and cold) as I was told that this was the only place that I may get a wifi connection … time will tell I thought.

Force 7 winds were expected and it did get a wee bit bumpy especially in the early hours. Still as you crafters know there is nothing like a craft project to keep you busy and your mind off things like the stack of sick bags behind the cabin door ready for use. As I described on Saturday I am trying to make a crochet ripple scarf-shawl-thingy and am already working with ball of wool number one purchased in Newcastle.

I always find the hardest row to get right in ripple patterns is row 1. And if that goes array the subsequent pattern row will be out of kilter. Pulling back is ultimately the kindest thing to do both for the crochet and your frazzled nerves.

This first row so confidently crocheted as I sat over lunch in the wonderful Great North Museum (GO THERE!!!!) had to be pulled back twice as in transcribing the pattern to my note book I completely missed out not one but two crucial sections of the pattern…. what a dope!

But once you crack it! Whoopee-do the rows start flying.

Sadly time did tell and my little iPad and me could not muster a Wifi connection from Neptune while we bobbed about the sea … this post had to await dry land.

Now safely ashore in Amsterdam I am able to access Wifi and even add to the above post as since landing in this fair harbour (No 1 Daughter’s favourite city … so far) I have managed to find a wonderful wool shop a fabulous dine-ery and another museum!

First my crafty friends to the wool shop. Having fruitlessly tried to find my hostel for the night (the directions were not good!) I did find right opposite the Nieumarkt Metro the first Amsterdam wool shop on my list: Stephen and Penelope.

The shop’s assistant was so helpful. Definitely going above and beyond. She helped me find the right wool for my project (I wanted something from Amsterdam), she wound the skein into a ball for me, directed me correctly to the hostel and also recommended a restaurant nearby. I could ask no more. She was brilliant.

I was desperate to get yarn produced locally (sorry Newcastle but you were a little disappointing in that department). I was captivated by the range of colours in the Undercover Otter range.

These are all dyed in Amsterdam and although a thinner ply than the double knit I started with I couldn’t resist the bright yellow on the top row. I can always double it if I want it to more closely match the thickness of the double knit I started with. I was a little ashamed of the tatty plastic back I was carrying my crochet around in but problem solved as I added a small cotton project bag to my purchases.

Undercover Otter normally sells only on line but Stephen and Penelope stock a large selection too they are definitely worth a look.

Before I get back to the scarf-shawl-thingy here’s a few other things I did on my day in Amsterdam:

1. Find my StayOkay hostel. It is in a lovely location and very central.

2. Start walking to No1 Daughter’s favourite Coffee and Coconut but find a lovely cafe of my own en route, Le Pain Quotidien.

With seating inside and out this cafe exuded a chic yet boho ambience. More importantly its extensive menu with tasty veggie options and cakes was drool worthy. What more could I ask? A pudding! I finished with an Apple-Cinnamon Tart. Delicious.

And yes that’s me drinking my Earl Grey out of a bowl….

3. Find a museum. I found the Amsterdam Museum. Using the site of an old orphanage the Amsterdam Museum gave a great overview of the history of this vibrant multi-cultural city. The assistants were very helpful and although they offered me the audio guide I demurred as I like to look at the exhibits without an information overload. As you can see it is quite a grand building with a history of it’s own. The plaques in the first picture are like adverts to anyone selling their services.

But to state the obvious tomorrow is another day and I need to be in fine fettle for the start of my interrailing. Tuesday so it must be it be Amsterdam to Trier. I will keep you posted on progress but for now I am ready for my bed.

Until next we meet

Moke xxx

The Great Escape and an Ode to Tea

Hello All

Bags are again packed and I am off on a small adventure:

I am going Interrailing to visit (find!) my father’s home village in Germany, Klein Sperrenwalde. Thank you to my friends who waved me off both physically and virtually.

But this is me and I like to begin with baby steps. Clever little bods them babies. So I have started with a couple of days in Newcastle. Dodging a swarm of beer swilling blokes who appeared confused navigating the ticket barriers I walked through the big and beautiful concourse to see Newcastle Upon Tyne for the first time. And I was a woman on a mission.

My goal was to find a wool shop in which to purchase the first ball of wool for my European trip. I was looking for Woolly Minded and bingo found it really easily. I am used to cosy little wool shops with quaint and often quirky signage Woolly Minded is a large shop with a very modern frontage impossible to miss.

Despite the helpful assistants I sadly couldn’t find anything really local but instead I settled for King Cole DK. They are based in Skipton and that’s the North!

In case you are wondering my plan is to crochet a shawl or scarf using a ball of wool from each town or city I stay in. This seemed like a good idea when I was cooking it up in my head as it means I will not have to carry all the wool for the project but only a ball each time I stop, hopefully having already worked the previous yarn into an ever growing shawl-scarf-thingy. As the weather is turning chilly I also hope that I will have something warm and snuggly to use when I return. Let the crocheting commence!

On walking a wee bit further into the centre of Newcastle and reaching The Monument a tall …. erm … monument to Earl Grey – local politician and possibly the father to my favourite tipple Earl Grey tea – I took a brave ‘pill’. That being a metaphorical pill you understand no pharmaceuticals nor mind-altering substances were taken. Suffice to say I embraced the Newcastle Metro system.

My hotel the Best Western New Kent in Jesmond was only a few stops down the line and I was thankful to reach its welcoming reception staff.

While someone quickly made himself comfortable. Cheeky! I was just glad to put down my rucksack. Backpacks seemed lighter when I was 18….

But after a good night’s sleep- refreshed and fuelled by a veggie English Breakfast – I was ready this morning to visit Arbeia Roman Fort in South Shields. A short hop – well 16 stops but by now I am such an old hand I am not even counting – on the wonderful Newcastle Metro service.

It was easy to see when I was getting near to Arbeia.

When I arrived I really hit it lucky as today is the last day of the season at the Fort and I managed to earwig a fascinating impromptu tour which included a description of the famous Regina tombstone (its the one on the right as you look at the photograph):

It was commissioned in the 2nd century by the late lamented Regina’s husband. Fascinatingly Regina was from a southern British tribe the Catuvellauni and had been sold as a slave to Palmyrian (Syrian) trader Barates who freed her and then married her. What I love is that she is clutching her distaff and spindle rather like any of us would hold our knitting of an evening at home in a comfy chair while poignantly at her feet is her stash of wool ready for projects she never got to finish.

Sniffle! Pulling myself together I took a turn about the site and was thrilled to have the reconstructed gatehouse all to myself;

From the top I got a good view of the majority of the archaeological remains together with the reconstructed barracks and Commanding Officer’s house:

Let’s look through the keyhole (no doors let alone keyholes but bear with me). Who lives in a house/barrack like this?

A Centurian! Rather bijou.

Being the last day of the season there were also re-enactors from the Cohors Quinto Gallorum – an auxiliary unit garrisoned to the fort in the 3rd Century – showing visitors ceremonies, food and the equipment of infantry soldiers. These are brave men. I mean it. Some of those children turned quite vicious when hurling spears at them!

A short walk around the herb garden,

And I was ready for a stroll back towards the Metro.

One of the nice things about tootling and having no particular timetable is that you come upon unexpected pleasures. Today mine was the Victorian Pantry at South Shields Museum and Art Gallery on Ocean Road.

I had a lovely light lunch (I managed to resist a High Tea…goodness knows how!) served by waitresses complete with white pinnies.

The poem by an unknown author on the front of the menu sums up life for me:

When the world is all at odds,

And the mind is all at sea,

Then cease the useless tedium,

And brew a cup of tea.

There is magic in its taste,

The laden moments vanish

Somewhere into space.

And the world becomes a lovely thing!

There’s beauty as you see.

All because you briefly stopped

To have a cup of tea.

About time I was brewing up!

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

P.S. Those of you playing spot the Meerkat (Terence to his friends), it will get harder!

P.P.S. Apologies to anyone who caught a quick glimpse of an earlier post announcing the start of my travels. It was a draft which I prematurely published! Sorry for any confusion caused. Mx