27 August 2008

The Dark Peak

It was a long weekend! We shoved doonas, a box full of food and some camping gear into Luke and Trang's car and headed for the hills.

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The Peak District hills, to be precise. The Peak District is an area about three hours north of London and is quite famous for its beauty. Our flatmates were heading up there to go rock climbing so we all drove up together. Lauch and I spent three days wandering the hills, squidging through mud and talking to cute mountain sheep.

My uncle warned us that there are two general areas in the Peak District: The White Peak and the DARK PEAK. He said the Dark Peak could get quite muddy.

It did.


In fact, there was sometimes more mud than path. Lauchlin liked to take the direct route through the mud. I preferred to hop from grass clod to grass clod.

DSC_0066 Campground
Drystone Wall Lauch on the Peak

The views were spectacular and the walking was generally easy. My walking boots have now begun to leave the skin ON the heels of my feet and now I'm feeling ready to get into training for hiking in Tibet.

DSC_0101 Peak District
Blackpool Blackpool

On the way back to London, we stopped over in the kooky town of Blackpool. Blackpool seems to be a very small town with a sandy beach and its entire beachfront is covered with the most insanely tacky, yet also fascinating, fairground rides and amusements. Its residents speak with a different accent and describe "Between the hours of nine and ten" as "ninewellten." As in, "Breakfast will be serrrved at ninewellten."

View of Peak District

Take one last look at the view! I start a new job on Monday, so no more gallumphing through the muddy countryside for me. No more sleeping in, either... I have to be at work at "eightwellnine".

21 August 2008

Just Here to Catch the Train

Train Station, Cologne

We had to catch the train from Cologne to get to Europe and then again to get back to England. It became a necessary place, a place we stayed in just because we had to catch the train.

It rained both times we were there. We spent our time bagging out the dodgy hostel we stayed in and drinking tea in a shop at the end of a cobbled street. Tea from bone china so fine it was almost transparent, in a shop where the shelves were lined with tins of tea and the proprietor slouched behind the counter watching us with satisfaction. She spoke only German and had a bright red lipsticked mouth and a stripy tshirt. It is suprising how much you can understand when you try.


Front View of Schloss Nymphenburg, Munich

Welcome to Munich, home of Schloss Nymphenburg, palace of Kings. Probably. I didn't pay that much attention to the real history of this palace - I was too taken by the amazing decorations.

The palace in the photo above is the entrance. Then out the back is a huge garden filled with other buildings that are all amazing in their own right. There is a chapel whose walls and ceilings are covered in sea shells. There is a stables area with the most ridiculous, I mean fancy, carriages I have ever seen.

Amalienburg, Schloss Nymphenburg, Munich Inside Amalienburg, Schloss Nymphenburg, Munich
Amalienburg, Schloss Nymphenburg, Munich Amalienburg, Schloss Nymphenburg, Munich

The pictures above are all from the Amalienburg building, a hunting lodge that was decorated in Rococco style and also in Chinoiserie (Chinese-inspired) style. I wanted to move in. Except that the dusting would have been a bit much.

Gravestone Near Frauenkirche, Munich Karlstor (that's the arch) and Fountain, Munich
View From Frauen Kirche Tower, Munich Free Tibet Protest, Munich

The photos above are taken around the centre of Munich. Clockwise from the left, there is a gravestone along the side of the Frauenkirche, the Karlstor which is one of the original gates to the city, the view from the Frauenkirche dome and a random Free Tibet protest we happened to wander by.

One day in a place is not enough to really know it or to know much about it. But one day in Munich was pretty nice anyway.

Where Have All the Venetians Gone?

Gondolas, Venice


There is the feeling that you exist solely for us, the tourists, and that deep in your watery heart you are sleeping and dreaming of your former days of grandeur.

I didn't find you spooky, like others have. The sun was so bright, there was so much noise and heat and voices, even in the churches, which are normally always always the quietest most solemn and musty of places.

Inside of Basilica di San Marco, Venice Campanile and Clock Tower, Venice
Piazza San Marco, Venice View from Basilica di San Marco, Venice
From top left: inside the Basilica di San Marco; the queue outside the clock tower; the Piazza San Marco; view from the Basilica.

Who are you, Venice? Where are your people? All I can see (and smell) is tourists, for miles and miles. Getting lost down your alleys and lugging bags of purchases from your glitzy glass, lace, antique and paper shops. Tourists with deep, deep tans, long legs, gigantic sunglasses. Looking for places to sit. Devouring gelato with something almost like desperation. Clicking photos with little silver digital cameras, angles that can never be original.

Restoration Workers, Venice Gondoliers, Venice
Gondolier Waiting, Venice Moving Stuff, Venice
From top left: Restoration workers; gondoliers arguing; gondolier waiting; the only way of transporting goods - no cars here.

It cannot be that your people are only here to serve the tourists. But however hard I looked, all I could see were people wedging gelato into cones, pushing carts to carry boxes through narrow alleys, paddling gondolas, sanding away at old buildings only to put on layers of preservative to keep them precisely in their crumbling state.

Shoe Sign, Venice

I get the feeling, Venice, that you keep your real heart hidden. The real Venetians are hiding away somewhere inside and all we tourists can hear is the sound of their televisions humming and the scrape of forks on plates.

15 August 2008


This is the first photo I took in Venice. We'd just got off the overnight train from Munich, arrived in all bleary-eyed. Stepped out of the station and onto this bridge somewhere near 7am. Aha! Just like it is in all the photos. Venice is one of those places that is, in real life, incredible.
I have more to say about it but am still thinking over all the places we visited before I try to put it into words.

13 August 2008

I Was Here

Maybe this has happened to you.
You're on holiday, and it's that one day you decided to wake up at 5am because you suspect that if you get up earlier than everyone else the city will be secretly more beautiful, and reveal its beauty only to you.

But getting up at 5am, it's hard, and you're grumpy and you argue with your boyfriend because it's 5am and humans aren't really meant to wake up before the sun.

The sun, which while you're busy being crotchety, is rising quietly over the tops of the buildings and poking yellow rays into dark shadowy corners.

So you take a few photos and forget all about it. And a few weeks later, you're back home. You have to go shopping for milk and it's raining on the washing and your boyfriend is sitting on the couch talking to your flatmates about flexinodes and content types.

You open up your photos on the computer and there's that photo of the Old Town Square in Prague, that morning you got up really early.
God, that's beautiful! Didn't I notice that? Was I ever really there?

1 August 2008

From Venice

Buon giorno. I am in Venice! Its fascinating, exactly as I had imagined and intriguing in a lot of ways. Pigeons take off vertically from alleyways, just like helicopters. People are deeply, deeply tanned. Gondoliers really do wear boater hats, black trousers and blue and white stripy tshirts. It is just like all the postcards. And no, it doesnt smell particularly, nothing beyond the normal watery smell and the odd waft of sewerage that appears in every city Ive ever been in. I will write more when Im back in London... after Vienna, Prague and Berlin. Ciao!