A Travellerspoint blog

England’s Green and Pleasant Land

sunny 13 °C

To cap off our London visit we went to the Royal Albert Hall and joined the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the regimental band of the Royal Scots Guards, together with 80 voices of the Royal Choral Society and three tenors, in a regal programme packed with some of the world’s best known and loved classical pieces. And finally, to raise the roof, Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture with canons, muskets, fireworks, bells and organ – absolutely unforgettable...
large_1-P1110741.jpg
However, perhaps the most emotional spectacle was when us, and several thousand Brits, stood to wave Union Jacks while singing Land of Hope and Glory and Jerusalem a la Last Night of the Proms. It’s enough to make you believe that Britain still rules the world…
large_1-P1110751.jpg

After a few days soaking up the many wonderful sights in the heart of London we slipped off to the gently rolling Cotswold hills in the western part of England….
1-P1110800.jpg
This part of the country is known for its centuries old limestone cottages and legions of elegant manor houses and stately homes. This is quintessential England: chocolate box cottages; bucolic pastures; spreading oaks; and a myriad of babbling brooks misting the air in the frosty autumn sunshine...
large_1-P1110767.jpg
Many of the picturesque towns have changed little since the 15th century. This is the much photographed riverside village of Bourton-on-the-water…
1-P1110796.jpg
…and these almshouses were built for Burford’s poor parishioners in 1457…
large_1-P1110805.jpg
While many of the buildings in this part of the country are at least 500 years old there are numerous that have been around far longer. The City of Bath is world renowned for its Roman architecture and two thousand year old baths, and there are many Saxon churches dating from the 8th century. The spire of this church in Burford was erected by the Normans in 1175…
large_1-P1110807.jpg
Burford church was nearly 500 years old when the English beheaded Charles 1st and England briefly became a republic under Oliver Cromwell and his Roundheads. Not everyone was happy with the way that Ollie was running things and in May of 1649 a thousand of his troops mutinied in Burford. The insurrection was started by men called Levellers who believed that once the king had lost his head everyone would have a share of the crown jewels – Yeh. Right! (as we Canadians say). ..
1-P1110815.jpg
The ringleaders were quickly rounded up by the Roundheads and executed in the churchyard – and that was nearly 400 years ago when our hotel, the Slaughters Inn in nearby Lower Slaughter, was newly built...
1-P1110761.jpg
Winter is upon us and we are now heading home for Christmas. A huge thank you to all the people who helped us as we made our way around the world in the past 72 days. Now we are taking a short break but will be blogging again early next year when we cross the line to explore the rich cultures of South America. In the meantime we wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
P.S. Copies of our inspirational travel guide, Slow Train to China, are still available and might make an ideal Christmas gift for someone looking for a little adventure. Just contact us and we will pop a copy in the mail.

Posted by Hawkson 10:17 Archived in England Comments (2)

Munich – We’re Not Here for the Beer

rain 12 °C

Although Munich is renowned today for its annual vomiting contest, (generally known as Oktoberfest), it is equally famous as the home of many of the world’s most successful manufacturers like BMW, Audi, Adidas, Puma, Grundig and Siemens. Munich is also home to some spectacular historic architecture including the enormous gothic city hall which is at the centre of the city’s Christmas Market…
1-P1110642.jpg
Bavaria was ruled by members of the Wittelsbach family from 1180 - 1918, although by the time that the flambouyant Ludwig II took the crown in 1864 the real power was in parliamentarian’s hands. However, despite the fact that Ludwig broke the royal bank with his madcap buildings, the family kept a firm hand on their crown jewels and chief among them was their colossal palace, The Residenz, in the centre of Munich. Building began in 1385 and continued for centuries. The palace simply grew and grew as subsequent monarchs added big lumps to suit the times and their tastes – sometimes a little OTT...
1-P1110626.jpg
The palace eventually had 130 major rooms around 10 courtyards with hundreds of ancillary chambers and staff quarters. Fortunately for our knees only 90 of the rooms are currently open to the public – although some of the halls are a route march in themselves. This banquet hall – the Antiquarian built in 1385 – is more than 200 feet long…
large_1-P1110595.jpg
Allied bombing in WWII destroyed many of the buildings in the Residenz complex but it has been faithfully restored. However, while the Allies were flattening Munich in the 1940s, the Nazis were knocking big holes in London. It too survived and has been restored to its former glory – and what a glory it is. We often enthuse about all the amazing historic buildings we see around the world, but none compare with the architectural magnificence of London. This is The Royal Albert Hall…
1-P1110670.jpg
Along with numerous royal palaces, the thousand year old fortress of the Tower of London and the capital’s iconic parliament buildings, there are hundreds of truly breathtaking buildings in this historic city. There are vast museums like the Victoria & Albert, the Science and the Natural History…
large_1-P1110673-001.jpg
However, entry to all the national museums and art galleries in London is always free so there are crowds – everyone loves ‘free’ - but with museums like the Victoria & Albert having more than ten miles of exhibition galleries it’s always possible to find a quiet spot…
1-P1110655.jpg
London has street after street of Georgian and Victorian masterpieces dating from the mid 1700s…
1-P1110698.jpg
Regent Street, a mecca for the world’s wealthiest shopaholics, was built in the early 1800s and rebuilt a hundred years later. If you have to ask the price here you definitely can’t afford it. But it costs nothing to wander up and down and gaze in awe at the spectacular Christmas lights...

large_1-P1110688.jpg
There is much more to England than London so now we are heading off to the country - to the beautiful Cotswolds. Hope to see you there in a few days.

Posted by Hawkson 01:20 Archived in Germany Comments (7)

Eine Kleine Popmusik in Salzburg

sunny 14 °C

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is everywhere in Salzburg, which is not surprising because, in some ways he was the Justin Bieber figure of his day. It has often been said that Mozart was created just to make the rest of us look stupid, (whereas Bieber manages to make us all look brilliant), however there are similarities. Both started very young.
Mozart was composing and performing at the age of five and touring Europe at the age of six, although he didn’t really top the bill in Salzburg until he was appointed Court Musician to the Prince Archbishop when he was seventeen. His holiness lived in gilded digs atop Salzburg’s massive medieval fortress - Hohensalzburg…
large_1-P1110552.jpg
This is a part of his gold studded bedroom ceiling…
1-P1110510.jpg
…and he had a cathedral the size of St. Paul’s in the city below…
large_1-P1110485.jpg
But the Arch-skinflint, Count Hieronymus Franz Josef von Colloredo-Mannsfeld, didn’t see why he should pay a tin-pot piano player more than a pittance for entertaining his guests in the court theatre and his regal concert hall in his fortress…
1-P1110498.jpg
So, after four years living on peanuts, Mozart became a bad boy. He fell out with the Archbishop and was forced to hit the road. He ended up in Vienna beating out dance numbers for the fashionistas of the day, but he wanted to be taken seriously so he spent most of his spare time writing operas. He soon became a hit and the big bucks started rolling, but it went to his head and he blew all the cash and died penniless at 36. Now if Mozart were around today he, and his agent, would be raking in a fortune in franchise and copyright fees. There are entire stores filled with his brand-name liqueurs, chocolates and perfumes …
1-P1110455.jpg
Half of the café’s, restaurants and bars in Salzburg have worked his name into their menus and logos...
1-P1110448.jpg
This is the Mozart dessert at the Panorama Restaurant in the fortress…
1-P1110472.jpg
And, on any given day, there are more Mozart concerts in Salzburg than a conductor can shake his baton at. But Salzburg has much more to offer than Mozart. In addition to the fortress that dates back a thousand years, (the largest in Europe), there are many splendid buildings more than 400 years old. This is the enormous Mirabell Palace, built in 1606, where the Mozart family performed and where much of the movie version of “The Sound of Music” was filmed…
large_1-P1110407.jpg

The pedestrian friendly streets of Old Salzburg have been walked by thousands of history’s most famous and infamous figures. Kings, queens, princes and emperors have passed this way – and with good reason. Salzburg is a beautiful city that is full of life; of history; and of Mozart.

Posted by Hawkson 01:22 Archived in Austria Comments (6)

If it’s Saturday it Must Be Austria

semi-overcast 13 °C

We started the week in Switzerland and passed through Austria enroute to Munich in Germany. We then stayed in Bavaria, just a five minute stroll across this typical Tyrolean landscape back into Austria…
large_1-P1110198.jpg
Mid-week we took a short train ride to the Austrian city of Innsbruck and viewed its impressive 16th and 17th century architecture…
1-P1110331.jpg
Christmas is coming and Innsbruck, like many European cities, is getting spruced up for its ChristkindlMarkt.
large_1-P1110364.jpg
The streets are being decorated with grotesque effigies denoting historic figures, (the one on the right is James)...
1-P1110380.jpg
Many of Innsbruck’s buildings have murals that date to a time when knights in armour jousted on horseback and this part of Europe was under threat from the Ottoman Empire in the east. This is an original 1566 mural in one of the narrow lanes within the old city walls…
large_1-P1110327.jpg
Innsbruck has a number of ancient colonnaded shopping streets which have changed little in five centuries – although most of the goods in the stores would be largely unrecognisable by the knights and their ladies who strolled here in the middle ages…
large_1-P1110341.jpg
The landscape of Europe has been shaped by wars since the days of early civilizations and many of the great fortresses and walled cities of the medieval period still stand today. This is the 16th century city hall and clock tower...
large_1-P1110373.jpg
But, since the formation of the European Union, the fences and border posts have disappeared entirely and we are now back in Austria for the fourth time in a week without once showing a passport. This time we are in Salzburg for a Mozart concert in the city’s ancient fortress. But trans-European travel wasn’t always this easy and it is difficult to comprehend that a mere 70 years ago foreigners like us were being shot by the parents and grandparents of the many wonderful people who have welcomed us so warmly and treated us so well.

Posted by Hawkson 01:26 Archived in Austria Comments (6)

Mittenwald – A Town for All Seasons

semi-overcast 15 °C

Many of the world’s tourist centres have eye-popping landscapes while others feature beautiful buildings; some offer easy access to historical sights and some are great for outdoorsy folks; some provide succour to the religiously inclined while others are happy to cater to sun worshippers. But, few places in the world have as much to offer as tiny Mittenwald perched on the border between Austria and Germany in the Bavarian Alps.
How about this for a view of the town centre, famous for its violin makers…
1-P1110128.jpg
Or these beautifully decorated buildings near the main street, the Obermarkt...
large_1-P1110313.jpg

Mittenwald is surrounded by the sort of bucolic Tyrolean landscape familiar to lovers of “The Sound of Music.” Cattle, sheep and deer graze in the lush lowland pastures while beech, birch and fir trees carpet the lower mountain slopes and the early snows blanket the higher peaks. With its ski-lifts and cross-country trails Mittenwald is an alpine playground in winter, and its many lakes, rivers and flower-strewn alpine walks make it a sun lover’s paradise in spring and summer. But now it is mid-November and, although the midday thermometer still hits the high teens, the leaves are turning copper and gold and the town is taking a welcome breather after a hectic summer.

Soon the skiers and snowboarders will come. Soon too, the Christmas vacationers will fill the hotels and bars with rowdy revelry. It is the start of Advent and the shop windows are gearing up for the festive season…
1-P1110263-001.jpg
This part of Germany still has very strong links to the Catholic faith and, while Mittenwald has its own elaborately decorated church, it is surrounded by some of the most extensive and flambouyant religious structures to be found outside of Rome. This is Mittenwald’s ornate church tower…
large_1-P1110314.jpg
However, when it comes to interior decorations, few church ceilings can rival this one in the Benedictine monastery at Ettal…
1-P1110206-001.jpglarge_1-P1110213-001.jpg
…apart from the Wieskirche (The Pilgrimage Church of the Scourged Saviour) in Steingaden…
1-P1110278.jpg
But, when it comes to true religious zeal, few communities have the passion of the inhabitants of nearby Oberammagau who, since 1634, have decennially performed a spectacular re-enactment of Christ’s crucifixion in thanks for being spared the bubonic plague that was rampant at that time. The next production is in 2020 when some 2,000 people, (half the population), will be involved in the 120 performances. Tickets go fast, so book soon – and if you do, please stay in Mittenwald. We know you will love it.

Posted by Hawkson 12:23 Archived in Germany Comments (3)

(Entries 1 - 5 of 363) Page [1] 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 .. »