Thursday, October 29, 2009


Good morning all
I left Erlangen at 8 this morning and arrived in Heidelberg at 12:30. What a great decision! This is a marvellous town with a whole lot going for it. Basically, the town seems to be the castle (tourism) and the university. The numbers of bikes is immense and some people don´t lock them. I saw two stolen in 5 minutes! No doubt they were just borrowing. It is a Sunday, after all. There were also the usual ones clearly abandoned, one with ivy trailed through the spokes.
I took a bus to the castle station. The buses share the tram lines including the super stops. It worked just fine and as there were cars in the way only occasionally, the buses are able to keep their timetables well. A finicula railcar winds its way up the mountain with a stop for those going to the castle. 3€ to go up, 5€ the return. The castle is in various stages of disrepair because of war action, lightning, and other fires. The ruling families rebuilt bits until the 19th c when it was decided the ruins were more important. At various times the families here were important on a European scale. Much was made of the marriage of the Stuart princess (grandaughter of Mary Q of S) to the heir. Though arranged, this was a love match which delivered 13 kids in 18 years. The artillery park became her private garden, and her husband demolished the top of the main tower to build a hall with large windows for concerts and plays. Their wedding was in London and Shakespeare wrote a play for the wedding feast and acted in it. Then followed a fireworks display which pleased the prince so much he organised one such on their return, the first display in Heidelberg. It is re-celebrated annually.
The daughter of one ruler produced the boy who later became Elector of Hanover before George I of England. It really was a fascinating tour. Then I walked through the old city looking at the churches and houses.
There was an organ concert in a Lutheran church at 5, a piano and cello concert in a hall at 7:30, and a Mozart Mass etc for John´s Day (how suitable is this pour moi?) which I attendfed at 8. It was very good with a choir of about 45, an orchestra of less than 20, 4 soloists, and a small organ. It began with an introit in Gregorian chant, about as good as I´ve ever heard. They pronounced the Latin very closely (I think exactly) to how we do it it at Christ Church, which made a big contrast to the Spanish manner where some letters are giving two syllables, x being sung eck - ess, for example. For the rest, it was excellent, my only criticism being that the tempi were sometimes too fast, or the volume too great. Much of the detail was lost in the reverberant acoustic.
This Jesuit church is said to be baroque but is the most restrained baroque I´ve yet seen. It´s the same rectangular floor plan as a romanesque church with a rounded apse as the sanctuary. The side aisles are separated from the nave by squarish pillars and the whole interior is painted white. The capitals of the columns are composite - mixtures of styles - with the details picked out in gold or green. The main organ is a relatively small one, and though it is not old they are raising money for another.
My train leaves in less than 2 hours so I´ll leave this and walk to the station.
Counting the days to home!
God bless you all.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

47 (?)

Some random thoughts from abroad.
Tattoos are fashionable in Germany, especially with young women.
The young dropouts of society, who apparently have decided the best way to spend one's days is with a German Shepherd and begging are likely to have so chopped and died their hair (startlingly purply pink is popular) they are unemployable except at places where hair is chopped and died purply pink.
Young men can be as unattractive, boorish, and aggressive as young Aussie men.
The train and bus systems (and sometimes tram) in Spain, France, Switzerland and Germany work very well with quality interchanges assisting in the transfer of passengers.
(Jenny, Quelle is still operating, though I have seen only one store.)
Fewer Germans smoke than Fr and Sp. Advertising is still allowed. However the companies know the squeeze is on so the latest is for them to advertise something else, but using their logo. For example, Camel advertise matches and talk about light and vision. Another mob is advertising their pack with comfortable edges (I kid you not) and have generously reduced the number of cigs in a pack to 19, for only 3.60€.
Twice today I have used the Internet in a Gaming House like a Pokies in Oz. Peple are just as brainless and zombified here. There is an attractive mid-thirties woman near me who for a while was playing two machines at once but is now just rivetted on the one. She is placing a bet every couple of seconds.
Billabong remains the most obvious Aussie label here for anything. I saw a young man struggling to carry a Fosters can today. Actually it was a keg decorated as a Fosters can. I felt such National Pride. Not only a powerful drink, you need to be powerful to carry it.
Herr Ohm who gave us that Omega symbol for the electrical concept (ohms, watts and volts are the three - but don't ask me to describe them) was born in Erlangen. Siemens began here and it is the largest employer by far. A whole street is lined with their buildings.
The new fashion colours for summer here include white, a pinky red, and limish green. (I know you are busting to thank me for this.)
Gambling woman has just won some hundreds of €. She is now working the other machine. Her expression altered not a whit at her great good fortune.
It's 9:50 and time I went.
God bless you all.

Monday, October 19, 2009

47 - no2

Hello all
Last night's concert was excellent. It was a Vespers for St John's Day and the music was all JS Bach. It started with a few words from a Lutheran pastor, then a prelude on the organ. We sang a chorale. The congregational singing was amazingly good, just well focussed and positioned, and everyone giving voice. There were between 140 and 200 people at a guess. Then there were responsorial readings, again from the Lutheran. The bass was young and had a wonderfully produced voice and an amazing range with nothing forced. Alto quite good. The sermon from an RC priest went on and on. Then the young and beautiful Soprano had a recitative and solo. She produced wonderful notes but they were not as well strung together as could be. Poor old tenor had only a recitative so it was hard to get a really good judgement, but he seemed to be good. We had another chorale, and then the four clergy present had a bit to say. The whole closed with the fugue of the first prelude. The organist/director was outstanding, controlling well the disparate forces, and delivering a most satisfying stylish performance.
This was in St Sebald's church which had been greatly damaged in WWII. Most valuable stuff had been removed and stored in rock-cut cellars but the organ was not and ruined. The new organ is very large but not so large as St Lorenz'. They have a reliquary of some founding saint and in the 15th C it was encased in a tall cast brass or bronze gothicky case like a chantry. As it was far too heavy to move it was encased in a concrete box and thus escaped unharmed when the roof fell in directly above it.
I took tram and bus home and made it by 10:30 so went to bed. Temp was still over 30 degrees. During the night there was a cool change and wind made the chimes in my room ring at 4:30am so I'm a bit weary.
Manfred suggested I was going to visit the ENEMY in coming to Germany but people have been wonderfully helpful and friendly. That is said before I mention the sole exception. I wandered into a bakeshop and asked the young assistant what was in a slice. The older person then made a disparaging remark about the English which caused consternation and shame on the Y.A.'s face. I walked out, turned around at the window and looking at the smirking woman carefully placed cap on head and walked to a street stall where I was served, as usual, courteously, helpfully, and efficiently. One exception does not disprove a rule.
Our German tour guide yesterday several times talked about Nürnberg being liberated by the 8th(?) Army and Patton. I think it is a hard thing for a national to consider they are being liberated by foreign troops, even if they disliked or hated the guy at the top. (Iraq springs to mind. I wonder if in the future they will feel they were liberated by the Coalition of the Willing?)
Today after a sumptuous breakfast with Petra we came to Bamberg. The cathedral is big and old, and the Bishop's Palace interesting. The bishop was also a prince and one of them had even been an Elector, one of the group that chose the Holy Roman Emperor. There is a large, formal rose garden with a restaurant tucked in behind but it is open to the public and well patronised. Then I went to the city museum and after a while left because they were understaffed and the dragons kept following me. It made me feel most uncomfortable and not trusted, so I wrote that in the visitor's book, together with my e-mail address. It will be interesting to see if they reply.
After, I thought I'd walk to the station (Petra is at work) but by that time the shops and Information had shut and there was only a map with a "you are here" arrow. This was almost entirely useless as the map is not oriented to the direction it is facing. Fortunately a young couple helped me out and I'm just pausing on the route before catching the train.
This morning Petra and I booked my tomorrow's ticket. I leave before 8am and get to Heidelberg at 12:23pm, having changed in Stuttgart. That will allow some time to look around before the 23:44 train to Paris which arrives at 7:01. With the plane not due to leave Paris until after 12 there should be plenty of time to get to the airport.
Time to go
God bless you all

Thursday, October 15, 2009


Hello speed readers! (or the not-another-flaming-email-from-watson club) Day two in Swiss, Manfred and I went to Zurich and went up and down and in an out, saw churches and shops and houses and the lake and the river and the roman fort (look over this precipitous wall, John). It was great if tiring. Lots of the houses have their date or the date of a major redevelopment above the door and many were from the 1500s.
Manfred picked up that a guy who lived in a street centuries ago has nearly the same name as a guy Manfred knows who lives just a few doors down hill. This is not proof, but it is entirely possible that they are related. It will be a while before that is possible in Australia!
Zürich was a centre of the Reformation so several churches changed allegiances. Another RC church declared its independence from Rome in the late 1800s. It had a lovely "prayed in" feel. Both here and in Nürnberg the reformers did not trash the pictured and statues, which is interesting.
Manfred had a Latin lesson (yes, it's true. M is not satisfied with a love of five languages and their literature) and after I found that the museum was shut, I bought a book and read it until he arrived. We got home late but the chef delayed the evening meal with a good grace.
On day three we all took a train to the shore of Lake Zürich, walked across it (on a bridge, actually), and on to Einsiedeln, a Benedictine monastery with 90 monks. We climbed 600m and walked somewhere between 15 and 20km. It's good to know it's still possible, and not an aberration. The baroque church of the monastery is weighed down with its stucco and frescos. Unbelievable.
The train journey home was a little delayed but we found out the next day that the entire Swiss rail network ground to a halt with power failure about and a hour later. Whew.
With great difficulty, yesterday I pulled myself away from Manfred and Luciana's wonderful hospitality and travelled to Erlangen, beyond Nürnberg. The last section was on a high speed train but the conductor was slow making his rounds so I did not have to pay an excess.
Petra borrowed a car from her dad so she could drive us around (she normally uses a bike) and we drove into the countryside to have our evening meal at a small schloss or castle. It was a good time. She has an LCD TV and cable so I spent an hour watching CNN and then a German language program on the beginning of the 3rd Reich. There were some wartime images I had not seen, so that was good.
Petra is an intensive care nurse and is on arvo/evening duty for the next three days which is a pity. Still, this morning she drove me into Nürnberg and we went to an old cememtery. Very interesting! We found a 16th c pilgrim's grave, and that of Albrecht Dürer. Next year the world cup ends in Nürnberg, and the advertising is based on some of his images - a hare (covered in turf) and Adam and Eve. Eve actually looks like Steve with long hair. Make of that what you will.
I paid for a walking tour of N and at the end found that there is a concert in the form of a mass tonight at 7:30. It is to be recorded so presumably the standard will be exemplary. It is part of N's organ festival, and is free, unlike the 30€ for tomorrow night's Coronation of George II (Handel and others).
Bamberg is quite close to Erlangen so I may go there tomorrow. I'm thinking of leaving here early Sunday for Heidelberg before taking an overnight to Paris for Monday's flight. We'll see.
God bless youse all.

Monday, October 12, 2009


Dear All
One of the joys of the Food and Wine Festival in Bordeaux was the Italian icecream tent. The one I tried was a yoghurt softserve in a very wide and substantial wafer cone. It came with a serviette and tiny spoon and was really most pleasant. The first evening was Kiwi fruit and the second strawberry. The second evening I had a four seasons pizza with a very thin and crisp base and a variety of toppings. It was quite good, and I did not have the diarrhoea which I enjoyed following the Indian meal of the previous evening.

During this last day I made good use of the tram service which, by the way, is run by Connex, the Melbourne tram operator. Here can be seen the benefits of the changes they have been introducing to Australia - super stops, dedicated lanes, grass growing between the tracks. It seeems to be very popular and is well patronised.
The train sleeper carriages had 6 bunks per small room but the airconditioning was quite efficient. No-one snored though few slept as there were frequent stops and people embarking and disembarking. Why one would choose a sleeper for a couple of hours is beyond me. There is never enough room for the bags, and two of us had really large ones but they fitted OK behind the ladder, a substantial affair with wide rungs. I slept badly as I did not wish to miss my stop, the first of two in Lyon, but all was well.

There was not enough time to walk anywhere into Lyon so I did not bother. Soon the train for Geneva came and we were away. The land forms soon changed with an increasing number of large but tree-covered mountains. These were steep and with exposed patches where the covering earth and vegetation had slipped away in the past. On arrival there were the police and customs checks. With almost an hour in Geneva I walked a little around the outside of the station where pots filled with flowers and the tables and chairs of many cafes greeted us. I remembered to draw out some Swiss Franks but had no idea of the value of the currency so just had a stab at the number I may need.

Then the train for Zurich came. I was a bit concerned in that my Eurail pass was for France, yet I had been issued a ticket in France for this section of the journey on a Swiss train. The conductor came, glanced at eveything, punched the card, and that was it. Apparently I had just saved about 80 Euros. Not complaining!

Manfred arrived wearing a Santiago shell in case I couldn't recognise him(!) and we hurried to the next platform to take the train to the town nearest their village. They live in Illnau, a village with completely made streets, proper drainage and standard suburban Aussie-type housing of one house per block. The farms where they buy fresh produce are within easy walking distance and look more like parks and gardens. Beyond the farms are mature pine plantations with beyond those and off to the left, some snow-covered mountains. Looking through the study window now I can see a house roof, a copse of trees in a low lying area, four farms with about 20 cows each, Romanian girls picking strawberries, some farm buildings, a made road, and the plantations. The sun is shining, and there are some wispy clouds and condensation trails in a pale blue sky.

Manfred and Luciana's house is set on an almost square 900sqm block, sloping down from street to street. Luciana loves the garden which is a thing of beauty with lawns, plantings of shrubs, lots of flowers, and a vegetable garden with onions, peas, lettuce, potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, and herbs as perfectly ordered as the rest of the country. A low box hedge separates the vegetables from the rest. Living here is hard to take!

Manfred and I go to Zurich today for sightseeing and who knows what.

God bless you all

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Hello everyone
An hour ago I was typing an email when I checked the tickets and they zere for the wrong day, so a trip to the station, all is well, and I'm writing again.
Three TGVs within 1/2 hour to Paris all booked out! So an alternative route. I go to Lyon on the sleeper tonight, then go to Geneva and on to Zürich tomorrow. Bordeaux was very quiet this morning and the weather was overcqst which kept the temperature down. Humidity has been high all day, and the sun has now been shining for an hour (it's 6.30pm).
Of course it's Sunday, the traditional family day. I orgqnised the tickets this morning, then bought lunch to have in a park. It's called Jardin Public and is part natural museum, part botanical garden, part trees and lawns. It was very pleasant with walkers, joggers, and cyclists making the rounds. There were families and parents with kids as well as the young and not so young lovers. The sparrozs and pigeons feasted on my leftovers and I strolled around. Then I looked over two museums, Musée Arts Decoratif and Musée Aquitaine. In both I claimed the Tarif réduit. Half price.
The first is in an old very grand house and covers household goods - furniture, pianos, ironwork, locks, pottery and crockery, curtains, pictures and so on. They have a first rate selection of portrait miniatures. As I went higher the building got hotter until in the servants' quarters under the roof it was dreadful. The girl in charge up there sensibly stayed downstairs until she had a customer.
The other I chose to just see the permanent collection which starts with old stone age but after the middle ages I'd had enough and scarpered. The quantity and quality of the stuff was very high, and a lot was the best I'd seen. A copy of Eleanor of Aquitaine's effigy was there but I've forgotten where she was buried. In some covent or monastery, I think.
That's about it. I'll have an early meal and get back to the station in plenty of time to get the luggage (gosh, it's heavy) and to the right platform.
God bless you all

Saturday, October 3, 2009

From Kate

Hi all
I just wanted to acknowledge that it is six months today since Dad died.
I find myself looking for glimpses of him and treasure the little things: a note scribbled on an envelope, a picture he gave me, the Geelong footy jumper he gave my daughter...
It is the searching that makes this blog so special for me. I can hear his voice in the emails, sharing his journey of life during his pilgrimage that meant so much to him.
Kate :)

By Fra Giovanni Giocondo

Life is so full of meaning and purpose,
so full of beauty beneath its covering,
that you will find earth but cloaks your heaven.
Courage then to claim it; that is all!
But courage you have, and the knowledge
that we are pilgrims together,
wending through unknown country home.

And so, at this time, I greet you,
not quite as the world sends greetings,
but with profound esteem and with the prayer
that for you, now and forever,
the day breaks and shadows flee away.


Good morning all!
I know I should not be amazed when everything turns out OK. As you know, I do not believe in coincidences as they happen to me too often to be that (those). Today in Bayonne I saw a Japanese girl reading an English version of the Lonely Planet guide. NATURALLY I introduced myself and it turns out she is resident in Oz with an Oz boyfriend. Well, we sort of hung out together waiting for the train. Then when she realised she had no food and the shops could be shut before ze qrrived she went to the SM while I guarded the luggage. She made it back just in time. The train was a TGV and I had to pay 1.5€ to book, much less than I feared. I wrote down info from her book and after the journey we sought each other again. At the Information office they gave us a map but said there was no accommodation available because of the wine expo. We went to ring anyway. First number had a single room with everything for only 75€. Gasp. Second place had one room but Japanese girl (don't know her name!) had decided to get back on the train anyway. My room! Without her, I would have had to depend on the Tourism expert.
It's 10pm, the temp is well over 30 and sweat is dripping off me. I have just had a mild Indian meal in a street lined with temporary eating places and am typing this in a tent. This morning's email cost 4.5€; this will be less than 2€.
The population of Bordeaux is around 800 000 and despite the poor I see around the station, begging in the street and outside the churches, walking and on the tram it is clearly a wealthy town. It has expensive shops everywhere including 2 Bang and Olufsens. There is only one of these in the whole of Melbourne. Fancy cars abound and there are flash boats in the river. Steets are wide and the trams are new. (They have at least three routes which meet at various points, one of them starting at the station. Apart from one short section, they have no overhead wires but there are 2 extra "rails" in between the standard rails. How they get the electricity without there being a risk to pedestrians and drunk teenagers is beyond me. Certainly the appearance is a great improvement.)
I went to the 12th c cathedral this evening and the place was open for a mass in a side chapel. It is the place where Eleanor of Aquitaine married Louis of France. (Later she realised he was a wimp and after divorce married the future Henry II of England, though his accession to the throne was by no means assured at the time. And of course, this was the foundation for the 100 years war in the 14th and 15th centuries: on Eleanor's death, Aquitaine, the richest, most cultured, and largest part of France passed to her heir, the King of England. I believe that both she and H II are buried in Bordeaux but not in the cathedral. And R Lionheart with his wife is here somewhere.
My room is a miracle of miniaturisation. It has a bed, shelves, wardrobe sort of, large windows, a small bore heater, toilet, handbasin, and shower in a space little bigger than four single beds. The shower is cylindrical and made of steel. Magnets in the hem of the shower curtain hold it in place! The handbasin is partly over the toilet, and the shower is so close to the toilet the user has to sit sideways. The heater is so close to the window that it can barely be opened. Right now I'm not so anxious to return to it as it is airless. Still, at 18€, who's complaining? It is much cheaper than any other place I've found in France, and I have a bed!
Anyway, I'll head off somewhere tomorrow, and then go to Zurich on Monday, which I'm really looking forward to.
God bless you all