Lincolnshire Peasant

Exploring places from a peasant perspective.

Month: April, 2012

On the Rhine

Its been a rainy, rather uninteresting week. So I have decided to dig out some of last years travel photos and reminisce till the weather significantly improves. Here are a few photographs from last summer, when I went to Mainz in Germany and spent a few days exploring the Rhine by bicycle and ferry.

Our bicycles parked in the shade during a break for lunch on the side of the Rhine.

The Citrus Bar in Mainz, which was originally a 17th century bastion, and later a railway building.

 An old warehouse on the river bank, near Florsheim, where I will be staying for a few days next summer.

An Ersatz Colosseum

Before I recount this I must speak in our defence, it had been a long day and we were all rather bleary eyed from making hostel reservations.

A few days ago, we were flitting around Europe on Google Earth, locating our hostels and generally trying to get an idea of each cities layout. All was well until we decided to whet our wanderlust a little and scout out the sights we would be visiting in Rome. In true tourist fashion, we quickly found the Colosseum and zoomed in. Unfortunately, the sight that greeted us was less than impressive.

At once we burst into outcry. We expected a great, impressive arena of stone! But here was a rather dinghy looking thing, that appeared to have been constructed from corrugated iron and concrete. However, this disappointing lack of charm from above was dwarfed by our outrage with the evildoing of the Italian Government. How dare they desecrate such a prestigious ancient ruin by surrounding it with a rail yard? And hideous grey warehouses too! We spent several minutes energetically cursing such barbaric vandalism, until realisation  slowly began to creep over us. And then it became all too apparent.

We were not looking at the Colosseum at all, but rather the turntable of a large railway depot, about three kilometre east of the real thing.

Making Money

Travelling is great. One of the main drawbacks is the expense, unless you sneak aboard a tea clipper bound for Singapore, or go to Skegness. Certainly it is easy enough to amass the money to go abroad if you are a thirty something engineer and have no mortgage: you simply stop feeding the children. But what if, like me, you have no job and have to spend most of your available time studying? Here are a few ideas that I came up with to finance my trip to Europe:

  • Sell a sibling. Generally they are a nuisance with no real talents, and you could make a tidy profit by selling them to a coal mine or local aristocrat. This has the added bonus of reducing food expenditure!
  • Set up a dictatorship. By declaring your house or town a sovereign nation, you are free to print your own currency. Try it! I’ll leave it to your respective governments to explain any little niggles and flaws with this plan afterwards.
  • Become an industrialist. By buying up any natural resources in the area and building a workforce of unwanted siblings, you too can become a successful capitalist!
  • Sell something you don’t actually own. This is a particularly easy way to get cash quick, so long as you can then evade any irate purchasers. Things you might want to consider selling include famous landmarks, large buildings, and neighbours houses.

The Europe Expedition

At last, with summer fast approaching, we have set in stone the itinerary for our train-voyage across Europe. We locked ourselves in a darkened room with an atlas, a few laptops and some guide books. Eight hours later we emerged, bleary eyed and vowing never to look at a train timetable again. However, our self-incarceration was productive, for we have now booked the hostels and planned the train routes. With the logistics arranged, we can finally focus on exactly what we will be doing in each city. I will definitely be able to scratch a few items off my To Do list along the way.

We will set out from London and roam for more than three weeks before returning home; feet sore, wallets empty, wanderlust satisfied.

In the first week we shall journey up Germany, visiting places such as Mainz, Wolfsburg and Berlin. Then comes Eastern Europe and the cities of Prague, Vienna and Budapest. Once we have had our fill of the former Habsburg Empire we shall catch a southbound train to the sunnier Mediterranean to explore Venice and Rome and relax a little. Next is the most dreaded section of the journey; a marathon 18 hour train journey from Rome to Paris, twisting and turning through the Alps. We shall spend the last few days limping about Paris, before returning to England for a well earned rest.

If you have any advice or would like to recommend a place to visit, please leave a comment!

Image courtesy of www.welove2ski.com 

Cousins from Hell

A terrible thing is currently happening.

In my life, I have faced a great many perils. Pirates in pedaloes in the Dominican Republic, an irate Scotsmen in Glasgow. But non are comparable with what I am currently facing, getting ever worse and with no hope of escape.

For it is Easter, and so we are visiting The Cousins. Baby twins and a stubborn toddler is not exactly my idea of good company; little children are just so uncivilized. But there is no chance of keeping them at bay, for the elders insist that we ‘socialise’ with them. It usually takes about fifteen minutes before shell shock from the constant wails and shrieks sets in. Drinks are knocked over and a bead kit scattered across the floor. One of them crawls up and begins to chew on my leg, while the eldest mounts an attack upon some crisps, sticking them down its throat like a rabid creature. I think my hair is turning grey. At my side- my mother; looking pale and equally dazed. Our house is usually quiet and orderly, this place bears more resemblance to a lion pit at feeding time.

Even more sickening are the rose tinted glasses of their parents; perhaps it would be more bearable if they saw their beloved monsters for the mucus filled parasites that they are. I don’t hate little children or anything, most of them are fine. But The Cousins are different.

Extreme Glacial Geocache

Nowadays it seems every man and his dog knows about geocaching. Its a great pastime; it gets families outdoors and exploring, and adds a twist for people that already do a lot of walking. But while this is all very jovial and pleasant, there are a few caches out there that are rather different.

In the winter of 2010 I went skiing on the border between Switzerland and Italy, at Cervinia, a ski resort at the foot of the Matterhorn. While I was there, I searched for nearby caches, and stumbled upon a rather different one. Planted just a few months before was a cache of legendary difficulty. To this day, it has only been found 32 times, and I hope to one day reach it myself.

The geocache is located at N 45° 57.406 E 007° 40.881, in an abandoned cableway station know as the Furggenbahn, 3,478 metres up the Matterhorn; a notoriously treacherous summit. Upon closer inspection, it becomes obvious as to why it was deserted. It is a seven hour trek from the nearest operating cable station, and crampons and an ice axe are required to scale several vertical sections of rock, and 50 metres of rope for the descent. The final section is a steep slope of snow and ice, over the remnants of an ancient glacier. It is a bleak and desolate environment, and the highlight of the trek is said to be the overnight stay in the Furggenbahn, towering above the clouds.

One day, a long way off yet, I will go back to Cervinia with the experience and equipment necessary to reach this geocache. And when I do, I will be sure to blog about it!

Image courtesy of www.geocaching.com

A Local Ramble

The warm weather had continued, and I couldn’t face another moment of Biology revision, so this morning I decided to trek to a nearby valley, a kilometre or two from my house. I had barely begun when I encountered a small herd of extremely curious cows, which had blockaded the footbridge. They did not flee when I advanced, but rather wandered a little closer, with an unusually intelligent, rather unnerving glint in their eyes.

I did not want to be eaten by what could potentially be a new breed of super intellectual bovine, and so I decided to find a new way around. There were a few barbed wire fences, and I almost lost my shoe in a marsh, but eventually I stumbled back onto a track and got my bearings; around the corner was a lake which I recognized. The mutt immediately saw an opportunity for mischief and swandived into it, scattering a family of mallard. He certainly has an impressive, albeit agitating, knack for shattering idyllic vistas.

There were no further obstacles, and I eventually found my way back home to bring word to the town about the cow menace to the south. Non of them took heed of my warning, though. Foolish peasants.

Traitor to Wanderlust

Today, while reading a travel article online, I saw this comment:

“I have never been abroad for a holiday and I never will. There’s no need when this country has so much to offer. I certainly wouldn’t want my children and grandchildren exposed to disgusting foreign food and at least in this country people speak English.”

This is surely tantamount to blasphemy against the principal of wanderlust. While it is true that England is a beautiful and varied place, it is only a tiny part of this world, and I cannot imagine being confined here. It also strikes me as odd that anybody can have such a definite opinion on foreign food, and yet never have been abroad.

It is people like this we must pity, who are blinded by ignorance or xenophobia, so that they view the world beyond their homeland as a threat to avoid, rather than a paradise to explore. Lets spend a moment mourning for their children and grandchildren, who will probably be forced to visit Scunthorpe rather than Paris.

Image courtesy of www.scaffmag.com

Consulting Czech Guy

A location we all hope to visit on our travels in Europe is Prague, and so who better to ask than a native? One such person sprung to mind; Alexis, the British Council’s Comenius Programme assistant, who currently resides at my school.

 Sophisticated, cultured, and Czech, he is extremely friendly, and was delighted when we expressed an interest in visiting his homeland. And so he arranged an incognito rendezvous in a shady recess of the language department, where he poured unto us his knowledge of Prague, recommending all sorts of fascinating places, like Kampa Park and the Cafe Mlejn. All went well except for some cretons coming and sticking their uncultured noses into our meeting, as though it was a god given right to converse with the Czech Guy. Evidently we will not be able to keep our travel plans secret  from them for much longer.

One place that particularly piqued my intrest was Alexis’ tale of the old Jewish quarter of Prague, and a story of the Golem, a man crafted from clay and animated by the rabbi and magician Judah Loew ben Bezalel, to protect the city. Deep within my soul a voice whispers that something potent awaits me in the dark and narrow streets of that place. Something, perhaps, that would make my Jew coin from Marrakech pale in comparison, if it were possible for such a dark magick to be paled. Alternatively, it might just be the wanderlust getting to me again.

Spring Stroll

This morning the dreary weather of the past few days had cleared up and the sun was starting to peak through the clouds, so I decided to take my camera out into the meadows not far from my house. There was nobody else around despite the good weather, so I was free to meander along taking shots of this and that without odd looks from the locals. I tried to get some shots of the songbirds, which were particularly lively, but I was saddled with the family mutt for the day. He insisted on charging around and generally disturbing the peace, so I was unable to capture anything worthy of merit on the wildlife front. One small wren led me on a merry chase through a hedge and under a fence, and I had it in my lens when the aforementioned mutt decided to crash through the undergrowth and cause it to take flight.

The town itself was relatively deserted too, with nobody but a few aimlessly wandering elderly to enjoy the spring sunshine. One or two of them even paused to murmur greetings and pat mutt on its unkempt head. He is asleep now, with a smug expression on his snout.