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Monday, 11 January 2016

361: Berlin

My friends Fred & Judith have the following quote on all their emails:

"I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move"  Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894)

I endorse this entirely and last weekend, on a whim, I decided to visit Berlin. Just under 6 hours, each way, on a train and you arrive at the throbbing heart of Germany. The train journeys were fine, much better than on the previous Saturday travelling from Scotland to England courtesy of that nice Mr Branson and sitting on the floor for part of the journey. It's lucky I had a first-class ticket otherwise I could imagine myself travelling on the roof.

Berlin is an old stamping-ground for me, having lived there for two years in the mid-eighties. In those days there was West Berlin and East Berlin and the contrast between them was stark. Arriving by train on Saturday evening and travelling East to West I was struck how much Alexander Platz had changed in the years since the wall came down. A different world. A different me too. Cold War Warrior no longer. No more checking out through Checkpoint Charlie and checking in again when I went back to the decadent West. Now there is a mock-up Checkpoint Charlie with 2 guys dressed as American soldiers and offering to part you with some money in exchange for having your photo taken with them. There's Capitalism for you.
On Sunday I went to the Brandenburg Gate and walked from there to the site of the old Checkpoint  Charlie. On the way I walked past the Trabi museum and a place where tours of Berlin by Trabi are organised.  A convoy of them was just leaving as I passed and the smell of cheap petrol was heavy in the air.

Finally, sad to read of the death of David Bowie. This song takes me back to the late 60s.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

360: Epiphany

Today in Poland it is a national holiday to celebrate the religious festival of Epiphany. The Feast of the Epiphany marks the end of the 12 Days of Christmas and is a Christian celebration of the revelation of the birth of Jesus and the visit of the three wise men.
There is a light sprinkling of snow here in Warsaw, rather like icing sugar on a cake. I am pleased I don't need to go out today. I was out yesterday and the temperature was -13 degrees Celsius. I'd almost forgotten what real cold was and yesterday was a salutary reminder.
I was in Golspie, in the North East of Scotland, over Christmas and New Year and it was cold there too. Because it is a small island the UK has a different kind of cold. It is damper and feels as if it is getting into the bones. In mainland Europe it is a cleaner, crisper, kind of cold. Still causes fatalities though. 21 people died in Poland over the weekend during this current cold snap, including 6 who slipped and fell to their death in the Tatra mountains.
Here are some pictures taken when I was in Golspie: 3 from the hills looking out to the sea and 3 from the sea looking in to the village.

Before flying back to Warsaw on Monday I spent some time in London on Sunday with my 'children'. We had decided to take part in a hidden city 'game/quiz/competition/hunt'. I'm not sure how best to describe it but it was fun anyway. Having paid the entrance fee you text 'start' on your phone and receive the first clue by return. This directs you to somewhere reasonably close and gives a cryptic clue as to what to look for. Text the answer to the question and receive the next clue. After a 'couple' of hours including a welcome break for lunch the 'hunt' is over and your knowledge of London's 'nooks and crannies' much improved. Can't wait to do it again. Perhaps next time without the rain!
I had the opportunity to take many photos along the way but contented myself with only one. It goes some way to explaining the Royal Air Force's penchant for staying in hotels while the Army is roughing it under canvas. :)