Confuzzledom

Just a place for me to gather my thoughts


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Look Up, Look Down – Großes Walsertal

I haven’t taken part in Look Up, Look Down for a while, and today seemed as good a day as any to join in again.
This is an old photo, from when I still lived in Austria. It was taken from up in the mountains of the Großes Walsertal (a Tal is a valley, so technically the Großes Walsertal is somewhere at the bottom, but I couldn’t tell you the name of the mountain!). Is anyone else reminded of The Land Before Time when looking at this scenery?

Großes Walsertal

This photo was taken at the end of May, and it was actually quite sunny down in the valley (although some stubborn bits of snow were still hanging on). It was freezing up in the mountains, though!

To take part in the Look Up, Look Down challenge and see all the other entires, check out Travel With Intent’s blog post.


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A trip to Colmar

Before Jan went to Turkey, he said that when he came back he would hire a car and we could go somewhere for a day trip.  I chose Colmar in Alsace because even after more than 7 years in Germany I still get excited about being able to just pop to France for the day. Colmar, in the Alsace region, is about an hour and 45 minute’s drive from Karlsruhe – perfect for a day trip!

The very first thing we saw when we entered Colmar was a giant Statue of Liberty. The creator of the original statue, Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, was born in Colmar and the city put up a huge copy for his 100th birthday. I don’t have a photo, unfortunately – it was standing on a roundabout at the entrance to town and my photography skills aren’t up to taking decent shots from a moving car!

Colmar

Being in Alsace, Colmar has switched hands between Germany and France several times, and the German influence is very much evident in its architecture… half-timbered buildings are everywhere! There were also lots of buildings with wooden shutters – like the one above. Wooden shutters always remind me of Austria. If I ever have a house of my own, I want some of those wooden shutters with little hearts cut out of them!

Here’s the outside of the cathedral. We had a quick look inside, but it wasn’t that impressive and it was very dark, so no photos of the interior. Check out how green the little roof is though!

A canal runs through the entire town, albeit underground for most of the time. There’s one part of town where it flows freely though, and that area is known as Petit Venise, or Little Venice. According to a sign we read, it was christened Little Venice because of the street below, where the entrances to the buildings can only be reached by boat:

Little Venice

Little Venice was my favourite part of Colmar, mostly because of the water. Here are some photos of the Little Venice area:

Walking back from the Little Venice area towards the main part of the old town, we spotted a traditional style carousel. I was half tempted to have a go on it, but didn’t. I did take a photo though.

Carousel

On the way back, we stopped at the Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg. The castle was closed (it was evening by now), but the view was nice. Here’s a photo of I have no idea what… Hills mostly, and possibly Strasbourg(?) in the background.

Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg

After that stop, it was time to head home as we both had work the next day. Back in Karlsruhe, we stopped at a petrol station for Jan to fill the car up and I popped into the shop for some frozen pizzas… not having to cook was the perfect end to a lovely day out.


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Travel Theme: Ancient

Ailsa’s travel theme for this week is Ancient, and what could be more ancient than basically all of Rome? Here’s the Forum:

Foro Romano

Foro Romano

From Ancient Rome to Ancient Roman… here’s one of my absolute favourite Roman sites in the UK, Vindolanda.

Vindolanda

Just south of Hadrian’s Wall, Vindolanda Roman fort is best known for the discovery of the Vindolanda tablets – the oldest surviving handwritten documents in Britain. Excavations are still going on at Vindolanda, so if you go there at the right time of year you might get to see some real archaeologists at work!

Staying in the UK,  here are the ruins of Mitford Castle in Northumberland, which dates from the end of the 11th century. Jan actually took this photo and I love it. It could easily be a professional postcard!

Mitford Castle

You can’t actually go up to Mitford Castle any more (the above photo was taken from a car window) because it’s considered dangerous. The ruins aren’t exactly stable! Apparantly the farms have no problem letting their sheep roam around in there though…

To finish with, here’s Kells Priory,  one of the largest and most impressive medieval monuments in Ireland. It’s featured on the blog before, but I love it so I need to include it again for those who missed it previously!

Kells Priory 1

Got any ancient photos you want to share? The travel theme is still open until the end of tomorrow! Check out Ailsa’s blog post for more details, and to see the other entries… there are lots of way better photographers than me out there!


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Look Up, Look Down – Signs

This morning, my train was full of people dressed as monsters and snake charmers and ladybirds, all drinking beer and wine at 7:30 a.m. I assume they were all on their way to Cologne for schmutziger Donnerstag (Wikipedia tells me it’s actually schmotziger Donnerstag, but in my region it’s schmutzig!), aka Fat Thursday – not to be confused with Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras). It’s the last Thursday before lent and part of the Fastnacht/Fasching/Carnival season. I’m not actually sure what schmutziger Donnerstag is for… apart from yet another excuse to wear costumes and get drunk. I would have tried to get some sneaky photos for you, but I fed to the quiet carriage with all the other commuters. The Fasching celebraters all had beer, wine and – most annoyingly – bells! Not what you want to put up with on the way to work. So instead, here’s my entry for the weekly Look Up – Look Down photo challenge with Travel With Intent.

When out and about, I often take photos of interesting signs and random features that I spot high up on the walls of buildings. All of the photos below were taken in Weil der Stadt.

Do you ever find yourself taking photos of random interesting signs? Which of the above is your favourite?


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A spontaneous trip to Bruchsal

I woke up early on Saturday and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I decided to take a spontaneous trip somewhere. I arrived at Karlsruhe train station with no real plan in mind, checked the board and decided to jump on a train to Bruchsal that was about to leave. Technically, I’ve been to Bruchsal before, but only to the castle so I had no idea what the town itself was like. I knew it wasn’t that big though, so I thought it would be the perfect place for wandering around by myself. In a proper city, I would only go and get myself lost! At Bruchsal train station, I had a quick look at a map, made a note of the general direction of the town centre then was on my way. Here are a few photos:

After about 45 minutes of walking around, I found myself at the castle. As I said earlier, I’ve been there before, so I didn’t go inside. There are some pretty interesting exhibits in there though – including the Deutsches Musikautomaten-Museum (German Museum of Mechanical Musical Instruments) and an exhibition showing the history of Bruchsal from the Stone Age until now . I had a quick wander around the grounds, took some photos, then headed back to the station where a train was conveniently waiting for me to jump straight on!

In terms of tourism, Bruchsal isn’t actually all that interesting. There are some nice looking streets and a few parks, but the main attraction really is the castle. Once you’ve seen that, there isn’t actually a great deal to do. I definitely wouldn’t come from further afield specifically to visit Bruchsal! It was good enough for my purposes though – not too far from Karlsruhe and it got me out of the house for a few hours. I didn’t want to stay out for too long in case there was any word from England, so this gave me the perfect opportunity to explore a place that I didn’t really know without going too far away from home. If you’re ever in the area with an hour or so to spare, I would certainly recommend visiting the castle.


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Travel Theme: Yellow

It’s been a while since I took part in one of Ailsa’s travel themes, so I thought it was about time I did another one. This time, the theme is yellow, so I thought I would start with some cheerful daffodils – one of my favourite flowers (along with poppies, but they’re not yellow).

daffodils

ObviouslyI had to get a lantern picture in somehow. ;-) This one was taken in Berlin.

Berlin lantern

I spotted this hot air balloon hovering over Karlsruhe a few years ago, and I just had to take a photo. Smile, everyone! (Coincidentally, the building it’s next to looks pretty yellow as well!)

balloon

Finally, a photo I’m particularly proud of… a night shot of Salzburg. I love the yellow (and red and blue and green) reflections of the lights in the water!

Salzburg by night

You only have today to get your entries in for the yellow theme – a new travel theme will be up tomorrow (Friday). But you should check out Ailsa’s yellow post anyway, if only for her seriously amazing photo of a goldfinch. And, of course, stop by her blog tomorrow to find out what the next travel theme is.


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Wine tasting at Blandy’s and Madeira miscellany

This is my final post about Madeira, so I’ll start off by telling you about Blandy’s Wine Lodge and then finish with some miscellaneous stuff about Madeira that hasn’t been covered in any previous posts…

Old Blandy’s Wine Lodge is located in the centre of Funchal. Acquired in 1840 by Charles Ridpath Blandy, the old wine lodge remains an integral part of the process, and until relatively recently some wine was actually still produced there (they do the actual crushing of the grapes part up in the mountains nowadays, or so our guide told us). These days, it’s mainly used as a place for barrels of wine to mature and age, before being transferred to giant barrels for storage before bottling. These means that, while you don’t actually get to see Madeira wine being made, the premises are not there purely for tourism purposes… as evidenced by the wonderful smell of Madeira wine in the rooms where the barrels are being matured!

There are several tours available, and we chose the Premium one, which cost €5.50 per person and included a tasting at the end. I have to admit, I preferred this tour to the one we took of the Old Jameson’s Distillery in Dublin, which really was purely for tourists and seemed to be more of a marketing exercise than a tour that was actually designed to give any information! Naturally our tour guide in Madeira wouldn’t have told us that any wine other than Blandy’s is the best ;-) but at least the entire tour wasn’t a huge advertisement for Blandy’s! We were actually given some quite interesting information about grape types and the different temperatures and barrels that are needed to produce the different types of Madeira wine. It’s just a shame I barely remember any of it! At the end of the tour, we were given some time to look around the mini museum section before heading on to the most important bit… wine tasting! We were given two Madeira wines to taste… one was Malmsey, a sweet Madeira wine made from Malvasia grapes. If I remmeber correctly, Malvasia grapes are the only one of the four grape varieties used to produce Madeira wine that are actually native to the island. Sadly, I don’t remember what the other wine we tried was, but it was a dry variety. Both were very tasty, though.

Madeira Miscellany

A few more observations from our trip to Madeira that didn’t seem to fit in anywhere else. :-)

There are dogs EVERYWHERE! I never did manage to decide whether they were all strays or some actually belonged to people. We saw at least 15 dogs just running around loose, with no owners to be seen… including two that hung around outside our hotel! We discovered at some point that one of them was called Bobby, but I have no idea whether they belonged to the hotel or had just been hanging around so long that the staff decided to name them. Either way, I’m assuming that if they were dangerous the hotel staff wouldn’t tolerate them? I still didn’t want to touch them though, and when one of them decided to follow me while I was carrying food, I did feel a bit nervous! He didn’t do anything though, and eventually seemed to realise I wasn’t going to give him anything. In the time we were there, I spotted three dogs wandering around with collars on (two in Funchal and one in Santana) – so presumably they belonged to someone – but said owners were nowhere to be seen. We also spied three dogs being walked with actual leads! Here are some of the (presumably stray) dogs we saw – the first and last photos are of the hotel dogs, while the middle one shows a dog in Monte.

On the first day, after looking around Funchal, we drove up to Cabo Girão. The most unusual thing about this cliff is that, looking down, you can see cultivated land at the foot of it. Until relatively recently, the only way for farmers to reach this land was by boat… a cable car was installed in 2003 to provide an easier way for them to reach their crops. Brochures and the Madeira website claim that Cabo Girão is the highest cliff in Europe (and second highest in the world), but Wikipedia says it’s not. Regardless, it provides a nice view – especially with the glass viewing platform that juts out over the water! If you’re scared of heights, I wouldn’t recommend  looking down…

I haven’t mentioned much about what we ate in Madeira (other than the bread and soup in Funchal on the first day) because Jan tends to tease me if I take too many photos of food, but I need to tell you about the Espetada… or meat on a skewer! This traditional Madeiran kebab-type dish is delicious! The meat is marinated, then cooked in an open fire. Traditionally the meat was threaded onto a bayleaf stick, but we had to make do with plain old metal skewers :-P

Also, have another picture of some of the garlic bread. I love how this photo turned out! If I had a food blog, this would so be my cover photo!

Yum, yum!

Yum, yum!

Finally, I want to finish my Madeira series with a photo taken from the aeroplane shortly after take off. This was shortly before the evil turbulence got hold of us (so bad that I actually felt like we might be blown out of the sky, and the pilots changed their plans slightly and got permission to fly at a lower altitude than originally intended!). The sheer beauty of the sunrise above the clouds made for a fitting end to a wonderful holiday.

Leaving Madeira... very early in the morning!

Leaving Madeira… very early in the morning!

And that’s it… the end of our trip. Now I believe it’s about time I started thinking about where to go next! Any suggestions?

~ I am counting Madeira as my January 2014 trip in the Take 12 Trips challenge, even though we started the holiday in December ~


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Monte, Madeira

Monte is a suburb of Funchal, located in the mountains up above it. During our holiday, we actually went up there twice… once by car up the incredibly steep hills! I’m talkig so steep that I actually found myself wondering whether the car was actually going to make it… visions of us sliding back down the hill definitely entered my mind once our twice! The second time, we went up by cable car and back down in a wicker toboggan…

The view from the cable car station in Monte

The view from the cable car station in Monte

Monte houses two main attractions, the Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Monte church, where Emperor Charles I of Austria, the last rule of the Austro-Hungarian empire is buried, and the tropical garden. Obviosuly I took lots of pictures of plants in the tropical garden, but I shall try not to bore you with too many of them ;-)

From the tropical gardens, we could see people going down the mountain the famous Monte wicker toboggans. Of course we wanted a go, too even though it’s really expensive! Here’s what they look like… and yes, that is an actual road with actual cars on it! I actually bought our official photo (they had a guy taking photos halfway down), which I know is a total tourist con, but it’s not like I could take a photo of us myself and I wanted the souvenir! I would show you the photo, but Jan wouldn’t like me plastering his photo all over the Internet…

I've blurred out the tourists' faces to avoid getting in trouble...

I’ve blurred out the tourists’ faces to avoid getting in trouble…

The toboggan takes you down 2km, to the suburb of Livramento. Once there, you can either take a taxi the rest of the way down (there are loads hanging around), or walk as we did. If you choose to walk, you get to go down a street with some beautiful flowers! Literally everyone was stopping to take photos there…

Our ticket to the tropical gardens also included a free taster glass of Madeira wine at the cafe, and Jan also decided to sample some Madeira honey cake (I had an icecream to cool down, but I did try his cake and can confirm that it was delicious). This set us up nicely for our next stop… after wicker tobogganing it down, we had a tour of Blandy’s Wine Lodge complete with Madeira wine tasting booked… but you’ll have to come back tomorrow to hear a bit about that. This post is long enough!

Madeira wine


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Touring the west of Madeira

I’ve already told you about the final day of our holiday, when we drove to the easternmost point of Madeira, and about Funchal, which we visited on the first day and again on subsequent days.

On the second day of the holiday, we decided to drive West.
Our first stop was the bay at Câmara de Lobos, which is on the south-central coast of the island, but it’s west of Funchal anyway ;-)

Here are a few photos. I loved the boat with fish drying on it, but I’m not sure whether I would like to eat the fish! I imagine it would be incredibly salty.

Next, we stopped at the Sao Vicente Caves & Volcanism Centre. I’ve been to caves before, of course, but always ones that were formed by water. These ones were volcanic caves… the result of lava flowing through the earth after the volcanic eruption that caused Madeira to be formed. Our guide told us that you won’t find stalagmites or stalactites in those caves because there isn’t any limescale.

Continuing our drive, we stopped at a few view points along the way. I don’t remember exactly where any of these photos were taken, but I like them all, so onto the blog they go.

Our next proper stop was at Porto Moniz, in the northwestern corner of the island, to see the volcanic rock pools. They form a natural outdoor swimming pool, and we did see a couple of people in the water. We didn’t swim though. There are also little black fish in there. I loved the pools and took far too many photos! Here are a few of them:

After leaving the pools, we went for a drive among the mountains in the west of Madeira. Paúl da Serra is located at 1,300 – 1,500 metres above sea level. At the top, we just had to stop to take more photos… if I hadn’t known better, I could have sworn we were in Scotland! Just look at this landscape:

After a very brief stop in Calheta, where we found a supermarket and purchased some small bottles of sparkling wine, it was off back to Funchal for a meal followed by New Year’s fireworks. And thus concludes our tour of the west of Madeira. Next up in the Madeira series: Monte, and the experience of sliding down a mountain in a wicker toboggan.

~I am counting Madeira for January in the Take 12 Trips challenge, although part of the holiday was in December~


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35 Before 35: Madeira New Year’s Fireworks

Number 16 on my 35 Before 35 list is to spend New Year in Madeira and watch the fireworks display (which got the Guniess World Record for world’s biggest in 2006). Since I did, in fact, spend New Year 2013/14 in Madeira, it’s probably fairly obvious that I also saw the fireworks ;-) But I thought I’d provide some evidence anyway…

You probably can’t really tell from those photos, but we actually managed to get an excellent spot! There was much less of a crowd than we had expected, and we were able to find a space next to the harbour wall right in front of one of the places where the fireworks were being set off from! (They were being ignited at three or four places simultaneously).  It was flippin’ loud down there, I can tell you! These next photos will hopefully make it a bit clearer how close we actually were:

They’re a bit blurry, but hopefully you can see that we had a clear view of the fireworks actually emerging from the explosive thingies!
It wasn’t the longest display we’ve seen (the one in Brussels takes that title – I actually thought those ones would never stop!), but a lot of fireworks were set off in a short time. One member of staff at the hotel told us 17 tonnes of fireworks were set off in 8 minutes! I don’t even have words for a number that big…

So, that’s another item crossed off the list and I’m pleased to say it was 100% worth it! If you’re ever given the opportunity to spend New Year in Madeira, my advice would be to take it (as long as you’re not afraid of fireworks, of course…). And for any of you who’ve ever spent New Year in a German-speaking country, I’m sure you’ll be very pleased to know that no fireworks were thrown! A few people had their own to set off, but they sensibly pointed them up at the sky, where they belong :-)

Madeira fireworks

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