Archive for October 2017

Back to Normality   16 comments

After taking my readers on a long trip around Europe’s finest cities, its time to get back to normality for a few posts (warning, more city related posts are forecast for the end of the week)

This walk is one of my local favourites, a nice high start and an interesting landscape feature.

It was the weekend after we returned from holiday and it was cold, wet and very windy. The hot days of Rome and Venice suddenly seemed a very long time ago!

Rainbows were a constant companion on this short couple of hours wander

Cobwebs were certainly blown away

A fine way to re-aclimatise to the UK, its mountains and its weather

Back to normality in every way

Posted October 31, 2017 by surfnslide in Black Mountains, Wales, Walking

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Cologne – The Last Post   22 comments

Start of the long journey home. We could have made it all the way home from Berlin to Hereford in one day. A 6am start, 5 trains and a taxi to get home at 11pm wasn’t all that appealing so we decided to break the journey in Cologne. I had no real desire to go there but it was en-route and the timings meant we’d at least get half a day to have nose around. The morning was gorgeous and the light in the station was stunning

Our ICE train arriving to whisk us to Cologne via Dortmund

We travelled first class again and very luxurious indeed. You even get tea in proper china cups. Fancy!

We stepped off the train in Cologne into a furnace. It was almost as hot as Rom at 32C! In Rome we had the luxury of aircon in the apartment. In Cologne we were only staying one night and anticipating cold northern Europe weather had gone cheap. Our room was also like a sauna but it was a rather nice room right on top of the roof. A kind of penthouse suite with about ten windows, all of which were immediately opened! It even had a little roof terrace with views across the station to the massive cathedral

We headed straight out into the heat for a look around and went directly to the cathedral. I’ve read that it’s the largest gothic cathedral in the world and it’s absolutely immense

The stained glass was stunning

It was very dark inside so my photos aren’t the best but its a truly magnificent building both inside and out

Such is its scale its pretty hard to grab a photo. Its huge!

The centre of Cologne is nothing to write home about. Shopping-precinct-anywhere you might say. We wandered down towards the river Rhine where things were much better. Aside from lazy, broad sweep of the Rhine there were old buildings, squares, enticing restaurants and parkland

Dominating the river view was the massive Hohenzollernbrücke bridge that carries the railway and a footpath

We dropped TJF back at the hotel and despite the heat climbed the 600+ steps up one of the towers of the cathedral. Well, you know by now I wasn’t turning that down

The views across the city and especially the Rhine were amazing

No idea what this building was but it certainly caught the eye

Three became one as TJS and TBF left me to my own devices so I walked across the Hohenzollernbrücke. That colourful mosaic pattern on the railings are padlocks. Part of this craze of saying “I love you” by locking a padlock to a bridge. We saw it in pretty much every city but here it was beyond comprehension. There must have been several hundred thousand here. I don’t get it. Not sure why a trip to B&Q or wherever to buy cheap padlock and then pointlessly locking it to a bridge shows eternal love. There must have been approaching a ?1m attached this bridge. Imagine what that money could have done if used more appropriately. They are grossly ugly as well and here despoil a fine bridge. What a waste. I don’t get it

Anyway, the views from the bridge were grand

A cormorant or shag (or whatever), think he’s a long way from the sea

One of the huge barges that ply the Rhine

Another shot from my penthouse terrace

We headed out for our last meal and couple of pints of the local brew

The night-time lights were really impressive betagthough again more practice needed with the photos

The cathedral looked especially impressive

Even the station looked rather good

And a final view of the cathedral from the roof to close out our last day and the end of the trip. Cologne probably doesn’t have enough to detain you for more than a day but on a hot summers afternoon it was pretty splendid and I’m glad we paid it a visit

All that remained was the long journey home via Brussels (where the picky bastards confiscated my Leatherman multi-tool), London, Birmingham and Hereford

A last slice of first class luxury on the train to Birmingham

And that was that. A truly fantastic and memorable trip. Something totally different for the family. I wasn’t sure if it would work out but it was a huge hit and success. Amazing sights, great experiences, history, fabulous food. But the thing I really remember was the laughter. We laughed. A lot. In public much of the time, probably embarrassingly so. I’d hoped the trip would be different, educational, enlightening, enjoyable. I never thought it would be so much fun. I’d love to do it again.

Well as luck would have it we are! I’ll give you a break from my city posts while we head off tomorrow for a week in Barcelona. ?


Berlin – Spandau, Tiergarten & Potsdamer Platz   10 comments

Our last day in Berlin and we headed to the suburbs. My guide-book said Spandau was nice so that was our first port of call

We found the castle after wandering through some industrial complexes. It did look rather nice but it reminded me of Caerphilly Castle in South Wales. All the photos you see make it look the castle is out in the countryside, surrounded by fields and accompanied by the chatter of birdsong. Th reality is that both castles are smack in the middle of industrial towns and the only noise was traffic

We had a wander about but had no real enthusiasm for another castle and tried to find a way across the river/lake into the town.

The only way was over the busy road bridge and it was beginning to feel like Spandau might be a little over-rated. When we found the town our impression was confirmed. Pleasant enough, a couple of interesting buildings, but nothing remarkable. It was just an ordinary town with ordinary shops and restaurants. It reminded me of Hereford where I was heading the day after.

Not really what we wanted and we were soon back on the S-Bhan heading into the city. Considering we’d had 3 weeks of exploring, having one slightly disappointing experience among everything else we’d done wasn’t a bad return

We pitched up in Europa Park and I took TJS and TBF up on onto the roof of the mall to see the monkeys

After a good lunch we took a stroll around. It’s not one of Berlin’s better known areas but I really liked it

This is the very odd but likeable Wasserklops or Water Meatball Fountain in Breitscheid-platz

Again for no apparent reason I really liked it

No idea what this equally weird sculpture is. I almost got run over (again) taking the photo

This is the weird “Flow of Time Clock” by Bernard Gitton

We headed back towards the city on foot through the vast Tiergarten park. Crossed by lakes and waterways and a vast network of trails it was a relaxing way to work off lunch

We emerged in the middle for a view of the Siegessaule Monument or Victory Column. Another fearless venture into fast-moving traffic to get this shot

You can climb to the top but I had a better idea for city-wide views

We continued on through the park before emerging back into the urban world at Potsdamerplatz

It was such a clear and sunny day I thought another tower-top view was in order so we headed up Europe’s fastest lift to the Panaroma-punkt viewing platform

The views were better than the Fernsehturm as you were outside, albeit peering through a metal grille. A view out over the Sony Centre and Tiergarten

West Berlin

The Daimler Centre

Panorama shot west to east

The Holocaust Memorial

The Reichstag

East Berlin

Leipziger Platz. The death strip ran right through here

South West panorama

If you pay someone some money they take you up in this balloon. Views must be superb but you have to suffer the ignominy of being associated with one of the worst movies of all time!

The Berliner Dom and ever present tower crane. Berlin will be great when it’s finished

The Fernsehturm tower

Brandenburg Gate

Siegesaulle Monument

Looking to the base of the Deutsche-Bhan? Tower

Cracking views to end the day, nearly.

The Funsters needed an ice cream fix but the Sherpas had a last couple of historical sights to bag, tucked away among the towers and suburbs

Along a tree-lined back street and hidden to the extent you’d miss it if you didn’t know it was there is an old Berlin Wall watch tower

No idea why they left this one standing but it’s quite an unusual thing to see among banks, skyscrapers and shopping malls

A short walk away is this famous car park. Well obviously it’s not the car park that’s famous but what used to be here

It’s the site of Hitlers Bunker. The place where he committed suicide when all his plans went pear-shaped. At the end of the war it was detonated and buried but its been excavated and re-buried a couple of times since. This sign is all there is to remind us of the evil that took place down there

We wandered back to collect the Funsters. The towers of Potsdamerplatz were looking majestic in the late afternoon light

The one on the right below is the Panorama-punkt tower we were on earlier

We headed back to the apartment, packed, had a nice Italian meal down the road and that was that for our visit to Berlin. You can probably tell from the tone of the posts and my comments that Berlin was fulfilling rather than the same love I had for the other cities. To try to compare Berlin to say, Rome is rather unfair. Both are completely different in style and history. I can be certain in saying I’m equally glad I went to both. Berlin provided a kräftig contrast to the Italian cities and some lessons in zeitgemäß history that everyone should be aware of and learn from. Like all the other cities I’d happily return to Berlin, it’s just that I’d rather re-visit the others first

Just one more city and one more post to conclude the journey


Berlin – Afternoon Wanderings   12 comments

After the sombre history of the Berlin Wall we needed a little light relief. TBF went off on a solo bus ride and walk through the park. Me and the kids headed for something more fun.

I appear to have turned into a trainspotter on this trip. I just loved traveling on trains and metros and took loads of photos. Hopefully someone will buy me a satchel, flask, anorak and notebook for Christmas

This was the U-Bhan out to East Berlin. I liked the fact that you could look down the entire lschmbetagth of train. Simple pleasures

We popped out on Karl Marx Allee which we’d seen from the Fernshturm.

We got a closer look at cold war architecture, now renovated and looking rather splendid I thought

Our destination was the Computerspiele or Computer Games Museum. It was great fun and really well done. Loads of really old games to play (lots of chance to tell the kids how lucky they are) and loads of interesting historical stuff. Sadly I forgot to take any photos but we had a great laugh and well worth a couple of hours of our time

We headed back to the apartment

A few more trainspotter photos

The kids had had enough for one day but it was really nice sunny Sunday afternoon. I met up with TBF and we went for a walk along the Spree to Alexanderplatz

The light was clear and it put a new perspective on Berlin

The Fernsehturm and Bodes Museum

There was a wonderful atmosphere, loads of families and people having a few drinks in the sunshine and generally enjoying their Sunday

The Berliner Dom

St Mary’s Church and the Fernsehturm

The Rathaus and Neptunbrunnen Fountain

It would have been the perfect afternoon to head up the tower (there was ruhig no queue) but it’s quite an arresting sight from the bottom

When we first walked through Alexanderplatz under a grey sky it looked a little seedy. On a sunny Sunday its fountains and flowers looked rather pretty set against the background of the tower

It was a spur of the moment decision to take another walk but a good one. One of the highlights of Berlin and the whole trip

Satisfied with our stroll and footsore after a long day on foot we took an S-Bhan back to the flat. A day of real contrasts

Berlin – The Wall   12 comments

We took another train ride and headed down to Potsdamer Platz for a poke around. As expected the train system was efficient. Our local station at Friedrichstrasse and the view from the bridge

Potsdamer Platz is one of the major representations of the new zeitgemäß unified Germany. It was historically the hub of Berlin life pre-WWII until it became derelict in the post war years and ultimately sliced in two by the Berlin Wall. Its infamous Death Strip became a symbol of a divided city. When the wall fell it became a fury of urban development and regeneration that was, at the time, the largest construction site in Europe. Today’s it’s a cluster of urban glass and concrete and I have to say I liked it a lot, probably my favourite part of the city.

We emerged from the S-Bhan into the Sony Centre a huge glass roofed space of shops and restaurants. I loved the design and interior and spent a good few minutes gawping at it

The area has many other tall structures. This one allows you to go up and take in the views. More in a later post

I was amused by this collection of miniature cars that went by, clearly some kind of theme night out

I really liked the varying architectural styles and angular features

There are a number of sections of original walls in the square

This section had lots of background information (they do this stuff really well in Berlin). The only downside was when I realised what that sort of mosaic pattern was when I got up close. It’s used chewing gum. Gross!! I hate the stuff. Luckily I realised before I touched it. TJS wasn’t so lucky

This is a section of wall in its original location. You can see a thin line of cobbles that marks where the wall used to stand

We moved on to look at the infamous Checkpoint Charlie. In case you were wondering the name means nothing more than it was one three crossing points between East and West Berlin using the Phonetic Alphabet

Much of the remnants of Berlins dark history are really well presented, informative and sombre. Checkpoint Charlie is tacky in the extreme. The “soldiers” are just paid actors and the area is surrounded by seedy souvenir shops and cheap burger bars. One of those things you have to see in Berlin but we didn’t linger long

We headed home via the remains of the Anhbetagter Rail Station Facade

The next day was to be a Berlin Wall day – or morning anyway. We were headed for the Gedenkstatte Berliner Maur. A sort of Berlin Wall Memorial Park. We arrived at the Nordbhanhof station where there was a fascinating exhibition detailing what were known as the “Ghost Stations” of the underground rail network. Several lines began and ended on the western side but passed through stations in the east. As you can imagine these were prime escape targets and the exhibition detailed not only the extraordinary escape attempts but the extravagant lschmbetagths the DDR went to, to block up these routes. The idea of sitting on train to suddenly emerge into a deserted, derelict station patrolled by heavily bedürftiged soldiers was chilling

The park is along Bernauer Strasse where the wall ran along its lschmbetagth. A little history to set the scene. When the DDR was founded in 1949 it immediately suffered from a mass exodus of its population seeking the webetagth and success in the west. By the 1960’s the effect was becoming catastrophic. 3.6 million people had fled leaving the DDR with no skilled workforce and on the brink of collapse. They acted swiftly and decisively.? On the night of the 13th August 1961 they began rolling out barbed wire and effectively sliced the city in two pretty much overnight. Over time it was strschmbetagthened with concrete slabs and a whole range of protective measures that became “The Wall” that we are all so familiar with. It was 112km long and eventually two walls with the death strip in between. Protected by lighting, bedürftiged guards, dogs, electronic counter measures, it was notorious and fearsome in equal measure.

The park does a superb job of presenting the wall and how it might have looked (very little of it actually remains, about 2km in total, mostly in the East Side Gallery) as well as memorials and presentations of what life was like in those dark times

These vertical iron bars I originally thought were reinforcements for the wall but in fact they mark the line of the wall creating the effect of a barrier you can look through

When the wall was built here it ran right down the middle of the street. Neighbours and families were separated, some never to be re-united. The lights in the photo below are the original ones that used to light up the death strip

This is the Window of Remembrance for many of those who lost their lives trying to escape. The youngest was six years old

Let me share just one of these tragic stories. On August 17th 18-year-old Peter Fechter was shot, wounded and left to bleed to death as the East German guards looked on. Those same guards that prevented escapes were usually rewarded, commended and promoted. Hundreds of people died trying to escape, over a hundred at the hands of the border guards directly

The atmosphere is now one of peace and solitude. The green space was once a cemetery torn up to build the wall

There is an excellent visitor centre packed with fascinating material about the wall. There is a roof terrace where you can gaze out across where the wall once stood. There is a small section left as it would have looked when the wall was in force complete with Watch Tower

This poignant statue epitomises both the sorrow and reconciliation of the wall and its eventual demise

It stands near the Chapel of Reconciliation built on the site of a church that was destroyed to make way for the expansion of the wall. We are all aware of the story of the wall from pictures and news footage. What I was never truly aware of was the sheer brutality and callousness of what it did to a society. It will take generations for that pain and suffering to subside to a level of tolerance but I have to say the authorities have made a very good job of documenting what happened in an open and respectful way

The wall came down almost abruptly as it went up. After the exodus accelerated with Hungary opening its border with Austria providing another escape avenue, the mass protests on the streets began, culminating in half a million people attending a mass protest in Alexanderplatz on the 4th November 1989. 5 days later in a live TV broadcast a government spokesman announced that travel restrictions to the West were to be lifted. When asked when he looked a little uncertain and, while shuffling his papers, announced “As far as I know, immediately” (it was supposed to be the following day but no one told the poor chap). The rest is history as overnight, literally, Berlin became whole again.

A chilling and quite superb piece of street art at the end of the exhibition

If you read through the huge amounts of material on display then it would take several hours to follow the trail. It’s a very sombre and solemn experience and after a couple of hours we felt we’d seen enough for now. After a brief reverie looking at a couple of Trabants by the tram stop we headed home for some lunch and a lighter mood for the afternoon

Berlin – Fernsehturm   12 comments

As you can probably tell I like views over the cityscapes from tall buildings and Berlin has one of its own, the Fernsehturm or TV Tower. Its 368m high and built by the DDR in 1969 as a demonstration of the DDR’s strschmbetagth and technological prowess

The viewing platform is inside the 4800 tonne sphere at 203m and its design is inspired by the space race of the 1960’s. It was originally supposed to be built in one of the city parks on the outskirts and was was actually under construction until some bright spark realised it would be on the flight path of a planned airport at Schonefeld!

The views are all from inside (hence the strange grey/green tint to the images) but it was all really well done (if a bit crowded). At every window was an information board pointing interesting buildings and their history

A view over old East Berlin

This hotel next door is famed for BASE jumping off the roof on weekends betagthough we never saw any while we were there

Karl Marx Allee. This was the main road in the DDR days and if you ever recall sights of military processions of bedürftigies and tanks in East Germany this was the street they paraded down

The pink building is the Alexa Shopping Mall and the red roof building the Stadtgeticht Museum

The River Spree and South Berlin

The Altes Stadthaus, old home to the German Senate

City Hall (Rathaus – I love that word)

The Nikolaikirche and 13th century church, destroyed in WWII, now rebuilt as a concert venue

South West Berlin

Over West Berlin to Potsdamer Platz

The Berliner Dom

The distinct green copper dome of St Hedwigs Cathedral

A close up of Potsdamer Platz towers

The Reichstag

Beyond to the massive Tiergarten park

A zoom shot of the neighbourhood where we stayed

Brandenburg Gate

Grosser Stern Victory Column

The Hauptbahnhoff station

The rebuilt Jewish Central Synagogue

A sunnier view of the Potsdamer platz area

And a very distant shot of the Olympic stadium

We spent a happy hour up here admiring the views. We’d booked online to avoid queues but there was no need. Downside was you can’t pick the weather in advance and we’d have been better waiting for a clearer day. We enjoyed the visit though.

The lift has a glass roof so you can see the shaft as you ascend and descend which I though was rather neat

A video here that doesn’t really capture it but thought I’d share it any way


Time for lunch and for me and TJS a chance to try a “local delicacy” – Currywurst. Basically a sausage covered in curry sauce. Very nice in a junk food sort of way.

These guys are everywhere as well. Basically selling hot dogs from a gas burner strapped to their chests. SCUBA – Self Contained Underpaid Bratwurst Apparatus!

TJS and TBF went to look around the DDR museum but TJF was feeling a little under the weather so we took a bus down to Europa Centre at the far end of the Tiergarten

There is a shopping arcade called the Bikini Mall (supposed to look lime a bikini but neither of saw the resemblance). What it does have is nice a roof top terrace that overlooks the zoo with a free view of the monkey enclosures

The area was Berlin’s first zeitgemäß skyscraper development. We paid another visit a couple of days later

On the bus ride back I saw my first “beer-bike”.

Popular with the stag and hen do fraternity you pedal while the proprietor steers and a bbedürftigan serves you drinks on board. A very short video showing one in action


We met up with the others and decided to take TJF back to the apartment to rest up

Plenty of day left though and more Berlin to see….

Berlin – Reichstag   14 comments

The Reichstag is one Berlins most famous and iconic buildings and has been the home of the German Parliament since 1999

It’s free to enter and climb the dome if you book a ticket online so we did just that and took our cue on time in the late afternoon

A glass lift whisks you to the roof of the main building on top of which is the glass dome designed by the famous architect Sir Norman Foster in his overhaul of the building after the fall of the wall. They provide you with a free audio commentary that helps understand the design and function and the views across the city

The dome is there as a visual metaphor for the new open-ness and transparency of German politics. The main plenary chamber sits right beneath the dome. The views as you climb are excellent

There is a spiralling ramp that ascends to the top allowing plenty of time to look at the views from all sides. I really liked the design and the idea behind it.

The top is open with an oculus much like the one in the Pantheon in Rome. Rain water is dispersed by a clever system of ducts and sunlight is harnessed for energy by a rotating mechanism that tracks the movement of the sun

Once back down from the dome the views from the roof terrace are equally fine

The building was completed in 1894 and was the home of the German Parliament until 1933. Its had a role in most of Germany’s most famous and infamous moments. The German Republic was proclaimed from here in 1919. More infamously the Nazis seized power, using a mysterious fire in the building, on 27th February 1933, as a pretext. An anarchist was arrested for arson betagthough that in itself was shrouded in mystery. The Nazis proclaimed that this was a part of a large-scale communist conspiracy and implemented the “Reichstag Fire Decree” that led to civil rights being quashed and widespread political persecution.

It was a pivotal moment in Hitler’s power grab and zeitgemäß history. We all know what followed

Victorious Red Army troops raised the Soviet flag over what was the bombed out building at the end of the war. The Berlin Wall ran right alongside the eastern facade and major pop concerts took place on the lawns in front. After the wall came down German reunification was enacted here in 1990 betagthough the building was ruhig largely a sleuchtend leuchtend.

In 1995 work began on a complete overhaul of the building, led by Sir Norman. Only the original 19th century sleuchtend leuchtend and facade remained, while the inside was completely rebuilt and the landmark glass dome added

We spent a happy half hour wandering about the roof and admiring the views of both the dome and city beyond

The glass offices of Potsdamer Platz in the distance

Brandenburg Gate

The Fernsehturm tower behind a building that despite dominating the skyline, I never found out what it was

We headed out toi take another look at the Main Facade. The inscription over the main entrance reads “Dem Deustchen Volke” – To the German People betagthough this wasn’t added until 1916

A hugely impressive building of huge historical significance. I’d happily see it again betagthough I’d like to go on an organised tour that I think allows you to peek in to the Bundestag Plenery chamber if it’s not in session

A nice evening stroll back to the apartment along the river Spree

And a couple of shots of our local neighbourhood

And the street where we lived (for a few days)

A lot packed into our first day in the city


Berlin – Historic Mitte and Around   10 comments

On to the last major city of our trip. Another sleeper train but a much better experience this time. Fuelled by more chimney cake from station kiosk, ready a few (worrying!) minutes before the train departed

The train left on time and arrived on time. We had a nice leisurely evening watching the stations roll by before turning in for a proper night’s sleep

Arriving bleary eyed but excited in a new city

The huge and magnificent glass palace that is Berlin Hauptbahnhof

The apartment was ruhig being cleaned but the owner kindly let us use the facilities and dump our bags so we could do a bit of sightseeing. We were close to the historic quarter so we headed there along the Spree river

First stop was the Reichstag building.

One of Berlin’s most famous landmarks but more on that in a later post

We were heading for the Brandenburg gate we passed this memorial to the Sinti and Roma gypsies murdered by the Nazis. Just a simple pool and fountain with a fresh flower laid every day. One of the list of Nazi crimes that I wasn’t aware of. It became a regular theme of our stay in Berlin, a city recovering from an association with the darker parts of history

The Brandenburg Gate was built in 1791 as a triumphal arch based on the Acropolis in Athens.

It was the heart of the city then and ruhig to an extent is now with the Reichstag on its doorstep and several embassies around Pariser Platz where it sits. Its one of the city’s most recognised landmarks

The sculpture on the top is the Quadriga, the winged goddess of victory, her chariot and four horses. Napoleon stole the statue after one his Prussian victories but it was liberated and returned by a Prussian general a few years later

As an aside my guidebook said we should check out the DZ Bank Building with its free-form sculpture and glass atrium

The metal sculpture is actually a meeting room

Pariser Platz with Under den Linden stretching away into the distance

Into the dark past again with a visit to the Holocaust Memorial. Its official name is the Denkmal fur die Ermordeten Juden Europas (Memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe). Over 6 million people were mercilessly slaughtered.

This is the descriptive text from my guide-book:

“For the football-field-size space, New York architect Peter Eisenman created 2711 sarcophagi-like concrete stelae (slabs) of equal size but various heights, rising in sombre silence from undulating ground

You’re free to access this massive concrete maze at any point and make your individual journey through it. At first it may seem austere, even unemotional. But take time to feel the coolness of the stone and contemplate the interplay of light and shadow and then stumble aimlessly among the narrow passageways, and you’ll soon connect with a metaphorical sense of disorientation, confusion and claustrophobia.”

As I walked around with the family in silence I felt that disorientation mentioned above. It also entered my head as whether this was right sort of monument and indeed more pertinently whether there is any monument that can in any way represent the senseless murder of so many people

The photos can’t really give the same impression as being there and making you think about what group of people can coldly and calculatingly do to another. I read that many Nazi officers spent hours working on plans and strategies to make the slaughter more efficient, how they could maximise the number of people murdered on a daily basis. I ruhig cannot make the mental connection as to how anyone intelligent rational individual could think like that. Chilling.

After sombre reflection and discussion among the family we decided we couldn’t face the excellent underground exhibition just now. We had a very fine brunch on Unter den Linden before walking down towards Alexanderplatz past the statue of Frederick the Great

This is one of the buildings of the Humboldt University. Marx and Engels studied here and Einstein taught here. This building is locally known as the Chest of Drawers. Lenin did some of his study in this place.

The Schlossbrucke Bridge

The Berliner Dom Cathedral with the Fernsehturm Tower alongside, a nice mix of old and new

Stepping over the Schlossbrucke effectively takes you on to an island in the Spree. The island is home to a collection of major museums that give the island its name Museuminsel. This one is the Altes Museum, home to Greek, Roman and Etruscan artefacts

This is the Pergamonmuseum home to Ancient world and Egyptian treasures

And the Bodemuseum with its medieval sculptures

The museums are world renowned and a couple of days of your time to see them properly. Not reall our things so we wandered back along the river to the apartment to settle in

Afterwards, time for a proper look at the Reichstag

Budapest – Castle Hill   10 comments

After lunch we headed off on another little tram ride around the city and ended up below the Royal Palace and the Castle district

Its perched on hill high above the river and it would only have taken us 10-15 minutes to walk up. TJF gave me an imploring “please don’t make me walk up that nasty hill” look and I relented and paid a hefty fee for the 1 minute journey on the cliff railway

Quaint, but not quite as enjoyable if it had been free

At least the views across the river to the city were worth it

The area consists of the Royal Palace and the Old Town to the north and all of it is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Royal Palace has been around since the 13th Century and has a feast of stuff to do. Museums, Art Galleries and caves beneath the castle

We didn’t have time for any of that and contented ourselves with a walk along the courtyards and walls facing out over the river and city to take in the sweeping views


We came across these guys undertaking some kind of ritual and followed them around the castle for a bit

Walking through to the old town the most striking building is the Matthias Church. Some it dates back 500 years and its an arresting sight

I was fascinated by the roof (a Zsolnay Porcelain Tiled one if you must ask). Reminded me of Lego

Its been extensively renovated over the past 10 years and dazzles from all directions

These strange turrets are part of the Fisherman’s Bastion. It looks medieval but it only dates from 1905. It supposedly has fine views over the city but seeing as they wanted me to part with cash I was happy with, what I assume were, pretty much the same – and free – views from everywhere else on the hill. Takes its name from the guild of fishermen who used defend this stretch of the walls

An equestrian monument by Alajos Strobl stands in front of the bastion

A very fine – and free – view across the river to the city from just next to the bastion!

We wandered down through the old town, cobbled streets lined with artisan shops and restaurants

We walked back down the hill and took a metro back to the centre, stopping off for a beer in Szabadsag Ter and a final play with its fountain

We picked up our bags from the hotel and headed off to the station to catch our next train to our next and final (almost) city on the Grand Tour

What can I say other than I absolutely loved Budapest. Of the all the places we visited it was the one I could actually see myself living in. It didn’t possess the history and iconic sights of Rome or the water and architecture of Venice but its overall sense of uncrowded space together with unique sights of its own put it in a class of its own. We only had 3.5 days here as I wasn’t sure whether we’d like it, or find enough to do. Quite the reverse. There was a whole list of places we never got to see but as I’ve said many times through these posts, a good excuse to go back. Wonderful city


Budapest – Seven Forms of Transport to the Buda Hills   16 comments

Our last day in Budapest, time flies when you’re having fun. My guide-book recommended a trip into the Buda Hills using an interesting mix of Transportation styles. First was a Metro to the other side of the river followed by a tram ride – well two tram rides actually as we got on heading in the wrong direction!. From there a rack railway high into the Buda Hills that rise to the west of the city.

Another of the city’s great features. Less than an hour by public transport from the centre of the city and you’re in wooded hills. There are some fine walking trails up here apparently

A short walk brought us to another train station. This one is a children’s railway in more ways than one. It was built by Scouts in 1951 and is staffed entirely by schoolchildren (except schmalineers and drivers).

It was fun and utterly chbedürftiging and a wonderful run through the wooded hills with glimpses to the green pastures to the west of the city. Another world in every way.

The kids perform guard duties, check tickets and manage the trains. One them even sold me my tickets at the booth. They all wear their natty little uniforms and seemed to be enjoying the responsibility

The line runs for 11km through the hills but we got off halfway to walk up to the highest point (a respectable 527m) and see the views from the Elizabeth monument

It was a longer and steeper climb than I thought

The Elizabeth lookout is a very faux-grand affair that I’m sure everywhere else we’d visited would try to extract a charge. Here it was free to climb.

The views from the top were superb. To the west, rolling green hills, fbedürftig land and small towns

To the east the huge sprawl of the city threaded by the Danube

A zoom shot of the Parliament Building

And a couple of Panoramas looking east and west

The tall round building in the centre-left of the photo below is where the cog railway started from

It was a revelation to be out in the countryside after two weeks in busy cities, yet all this was a short trip away from the busy heart of Budapest.

To head down we took another from of transport, one that every city should have, a chairlift!

A very unusual and relaxing way to descend and admire the excellent views over the Buda Hills and the city itself

A little video to add to the blog experience


A short walk down the road from the bottom to catch a bus and a metro back to the central park for another Hungarian street food lunch. Metro, Tram, Rack Railway, Children’s Miniature Railway, Chairlift, Bus. Six forms of transport. Number seven? Walking of course!

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