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Tuesday, 28 July 2015

345: 12 degrees

I'm in Golspie on the North East coast of Scotland, in the county of  Sutherland. It is 12 degrees Celsius, despite being the middle of Summer. What can I say, apart from Brrrr!
On the way here I stopped off in Yorkshire for a mini-holiday entitled "Yorkshire by Steam".  I first visited Yorkshire in 1967 and stayed there for two years at the Army Apprentices College at Penny Pot Lane, just outside Harrogate. In my formative years! Yorkshire is one of the larger English counties and is, or at least was, divided into three administrative regions called Ridings (West, North and East). I stayed in the Old Swan hotel in Harrogate. Its claim to fame, apart from now having hosted Des Buckley, was that Agatha Christie stayed (hid) there for 10 days in 1926.
The holiday included visits to York, to Whitby, and to the Bronte sisters' family home in Haworth. Here are a few photographs taken to mark the occasion.

Flowers at Harrogate railway station. A well-kept station.

Our tour guide holding forth on the history of York.
He also introduced us to the word "snickelway"
York minster. A minster is not the same thing as a cathedral, although York Minster is a cathedral as well as a minster. A minster is a church that was established during Anglo-Saxon times as a missionary teaching church, or a church attached to a monastery. A cathedral is the seat of a bishop (his seat, or throne, is called a cathedra). Maintenance and restoration of the minster is a never-ending task. It is built from a magnesian limestone and this type of stone only lasts a few hundred years before it has to be replaced. There was a static display with stone masons working on replacements. They are all hand-crafted.
A form of medieval punishment. The guilty person had their hands and head locked in position through the holes and the public was invited to throw rotting fruit and veg at them. This apparatus is called a pillory. Stocks are similar but are used for fastening the feet.
Whitby and its abbey
fishing nets or creels
I'm reminded of the pier at Sopot 2 weeks ago, although admission to this one is free!

The "raging" sea, off Whitby on Saturday

Halfway through the last century steam trains began to die out as faster, and cheaper, diesel trains came on-line (pun intended). Now however steam trains are enjoying a revival and there are many small branch lines in UK where enthusiastic volunteers have repaired/rebuilt/re-engineered steam locomotives and rolling stock. These non-British Rail lines are known as heritage railways and are hugely popular with holidaymakers - including me.

Two video clips to finish. One, a reading of the night mail train, a poem by W H Auden, and the other a song called "Young Girl" from Gary Pucket and the Union Gap. It was playing in night clubs in Harrogate in the late 60s and I remember it fondly.

Monday, 13 July 2015

344: I've been to Hel and back.

And a very enjoyable time I had there! Not quite as warm as I had been led to expect but still very pleasant.
Hel, as you will see from the pictures, is a small town at the end of a long spit of land 33 km from the Polish mainland, not too far from Gdansk. Interestingly, Kaliningrad is also on the map. Many of my readers will know that Kaliningrad is a Russian enclave and not far from Kaliningrad itself is the small town of Baltiysk, a naval base of the Russian Baltic fleet. I was there in two thousand something or other to act as an interpreter when a Royal Navy ship docked there on a friendly visit.

I'd been planning for a while to go to Gdansk and when I realised that the hotel wasn't conveniently located for public transport, and being too tight to pay for a taxi, I decided to hire a car and get more exploring done. The hotel was right on the sea front and, strangely, most of the conversation with the staff was in German. Luckily I could remember the key phrase "ein bier bitte." 

I went to Gdansk by train, on the Pendolino, the Polish equivalent of the French TGV. Very comfortable, a very smooth ride. I came back on an ordinary Inter-City train and that journey was more like you expect a train ride to be. Both journeys took roughly 3 hours. 
Gdansk, the place where opposition against the mighty Soviet Union started in the form of the Solidarity trade union, is very close to the cities of Gdynia and Sopot. These three cities are known collectively as Tricity.
On Friday evening I visited the old town in Gdansk. There was some rain but I managed to hide from it in a convenient restaurant. I ordered fish and it took forever to come – I think they had to go and catch it first.

Saturday saw an improvement in the weather. I drove to nearby Sopot and had a walk along the pier. I approached the pier by walking along the beach and then climbing onto it only later realising that I should have paid to get access to the pier. Whoops, breaking the law again!

And then the long road to Hel, via coffee and cake in Gdynia. The journey seemed to take forever, but I was determined to get there come hell or high water. On arrival it was time to sample that great Polish delicacy - pierogi. Then a wander around the town before setting off for the journey back to the hotel and "noch ein bier, bitte" using almost all my German words in one go.

Allow me to finish with, of course, Meatloaf singing Bat out of Hell.