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

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

We are the people

Hello All

On the face of it Leipzig is one more big city with lots of shops but there is much more to it. Take last night for instance. I went out to find the nearest veggie cafe and walked straight into a demonstration. I hasten to add it was VERY PEACEFUL I mean one of the placards even said ‘I am just here to say Hello’. Nonetheless it reminded me that Leipzig has a strong history of challenging wrongs and played a significant role in the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe.

I was curious about this demo and discovered it formed part of the history of the Monday Demonstrations. The initial demonstrations began in Autumn 1989 in Leipzig after the weekly prayer for peace in St. Nicholas Church and demanded the right to travel and to elect a democratic government. Yesterday’s demo was to mark the anniversary of the most famous Monday Demonstration held on 9 October 1989 when the protesters swelled in numbers to more than 70,000 all united in peaceful opposition to the regime.

I am glad a little piece of serendipity let me see this peaceful gathering and remember that “Wir Sind das Volk!’ (We are the people) who together can accomplish amazing things. To see where all this started I went today to see St Nicholas Church.

To understand how brave this movement was I also went to visit the Stasi Museum (Museum in der Runden Ecke),

Housed in the old Leipzig Stasi headquarters the museum is an uncomfortable and unsettling example of the few short steps it takes for a state to move from having a legitimate police force to having a Stasi. Not only was there the terrifying prospect of ‘vanishing’ but the Stasi also employed much more insidious psychological methods to destroy lives and careers. Only now by accessing the records held by the secret police can people understand how their lives were undermined by subtle Stasi tactics. State bullying of people for the merest form of dissent was commonplace.

You were allowed to take photographs in the museum however (unusually) nobody was and it felt wrong to do so. I took this shot of the entrance lobby.

And stopped when I passed through the door that you could enter but not exit. Free entry to the museum was I suspect to ensure that no one profits from suffering.

I needed an antidote to the evil manipulation of people and sought solace in music at the Bach Museum.

Located in the house of the Bose family who were friends and neighbours of the Bachs this fresh and modern museum celebrates the 200 years that this musical powerhouse of a family (oh for those genes) dominated the German music scene.

Special to me – cos I seem to have developed a love for organ music – was this beautiful instrument:

And the journey it has been on.

Other highlights were the tubular bells

Gently swing them around and hey presto! You are playing Bach. Get me the musical genius.

Mustn’t forget Bach’s orchestra, the original artworks and manuscripts and OH YES all the opportunities listen to beautiful music composed by various members of the Bach dynasty…particularly Johann Sebastian. I could have sat there all day just to hear the music.

But my musical sojourn had not ended. I trotted across the road from the museum and to St Thomas’ Church famous for its choir and choir school.

I walked in and was taking this snap when ….

…. the organ started playing. WOW! It was mind-blowing it’s phenomality (don’t think that is even a word) no doubt augmented by the surprise. It was a lesson for a young organist (don’t play in Constantine’s Basilica, save yourself!) and wonderful to hear.

Now to matters domestic. Himself has made a nest in my crochet.

He believes I may have been defeated in my wool challenge. I confess it was looking bleak in Leipzig. No dedicated wool shop (well not in walking distance) where to turn…?

The local shopping centre! And this beauty had something for every crafter under the sun, including stones for those interested in rock carving. My bag is heavy enough I stuck to buying a ball of wool.

Coming in it’s own colourful bag welcome Leipzig mixed twist wool. Move over Mr T there’s a new wool on the block…I mean in the bag.

That was my flying visit to Leipzig. A city where old and ultra new come together:

So ultra modern is Leipzig that I still haven’t figured out how to switch on the loo light and as to the lift I spent about 20 minutes trying to get it to stop at my floor. Mind you I made a lot of friends as I travelled up and down.

Auf Wiedersehen Leipzig exciting city of contrasts and old ladies trapped in lifts. Tomorrow I am off to Berlin.

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

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

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