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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Things I HAVE done before 30 – Part 1: Travel

Venice from the air
Venice from the air

I said I was going to have a think about the things I have managed to achieve in life before hitting the dreaded 30, and since I currently have nothing else worth saying, now seems as good a time as any to start blogging about what I’ve come up with. I thought I would start with some of the travel-related things that I’ve done. Here they are…

Been to Rome – twice!
I have been to lots of places, actually. But Rome seems to be one that’s always mentioned when people talk about places  they would like to go, or think that everyone should really have been to.

The first time I went to Rome it was an 18th birthday present from my uncle. I went with him, his partner and my sister for a long weekend. I mostly remember delicious pasta, my uncle walking off in his own little bubble – crossing roads like the traffic wasn’t even there while the rest of us struggled to keep up, queueing for absolutely ages at the colloseum, but finding it was worth it once we got in, deciding Trevi fountain was my absolute favourite place on Earth, falling asleep under a tree in a park and drinking cocktails in an Irish bar. It was a good weekend.

My second trip to Rome was with Jan, my mum and step dad, my sister (again) and her boyfriend and my brother. I wrote a little about that trip here. My main memories of my second visit to The Eternal City include walking until I got blisters on my feet, finidng Trevi fountain to be just as beautiful as I remembered but much more crowded (I’m sure it must have been just as bad the first time and I’d just erased it from my memory), feeling like I was going to pass out from the heat at the Roman Forum (it’s impressive but there’s literally no shade!), creepy monk bones in the Capucin crypt (which you can read all about in the post I linked to) and queuing for ages to get into St. Peter’s Basilica.

Foro Romano: Impressive but severely lacking in shade!
Foro Romano: Impressive but severely lacking in shade!

Travelled first class
In Germany, it often works out cheaper to get the first class savings price than the regular price for second class (once the savers price for second class has run out). Jan and I did this on the way back from Hamburg, among other trips. I was also once allowed to take a seat in first class when the car where I had reserved a seat was not actually part of the train (this happens quite a lot in Germany… why?!). First class seats have more room, but other than that travelling first class on a train isn’t all that amazing.

I have also flown business class. The day we went to Rome was my 18th birthday. My uncle, at the time, was working at the airport – as was his flatmate. The flatmate was on duty that day, so he took our tickets and passports to wherever those in charge hide out when they’re not telling you what to do and had them upgrade us as a birthday treat for me. We also got free champagne on the flight. And before take off the co-pilot came to me and said he’d heard it was my 18th birthday and would I like to come in the cockpit for the landing? I was too stunned to reply, but luckily my sister said yes on my behalf – so when we landed in Rome I was in the cockpit of the plane! There’s an experience I doubt many people have had.

Lived in four different countries
Specifically England, Northern Ireland, Austria and Germany. Critics may say that, because we lived on an army base, we were technically in England, not Northern Ireland “proper”. I say that’s silly – of course we were living in Northern Ireland! And if anybody tries to tell me that England and Northern Ireland are not, in fact, countries but mere regions of the “country” that is the United Kingdom I may have to track you down and hurt you!

Feldkirch, Austria, where I lived for 10 months
Feldkirch, Austria, where I lived for 10 months

Been to the USA
Yes, I’m aware that it’s a big country, but going to the US is our equivalent of the Americans’ “go to Europe”. Where we go isn’t necessarily important, but everyone should (apparantly) have at least set foot on American soil.
Going to America had never been a particular ambition of mine, but Jan was there and I hadn’t seen him for 6 months, so when my dad offered me flights for Christmas I obviously leapt at the chance. I enjoyed my time there – my favourite of the places I saw was Philadelphia – but I have to admit I like Europe better. There’s just so much more history here! It was fun to visit a place called New Castle though – named after England’s very own Newcastle Upon Tyne! (Sorry, no photo. I have absolutely no idea where mine are!)

Seen Stonehenge
And Hadrian’s Wall, the Eiffel Tower, the Colloseum in Rome and the Statue of Liberty (from the ferry rather than up close, but still seen!).

Stonehenge on a cloudy day
Stonehenge on a cloudy day

Spent New Year in various places
Specifically New York (USA), Vienna (Austria), Prague (Czech Republic), Paris (France), Brussels (Belgium), Padua (Italy), Edinburgh (Scotland), Salzburg (Austria) and Luxembourg City (Luxembourg) – in that order. Next will hopefully be Madeira (Portugal).

The city of Brussels knows how to do fireworks! New Year 2008/09
The city of Brussels knows how to do fireworks! New Year 2008/09

Spent the night on a train
Once in the Liegewagen (couchette car) – the non-private, uncomfortable sleeping compartment where you get to smell complete strangers’ feet all night – and once in a proper sleeping compartment, which has more comfortable beds (with something resembling mattresses) and is for two people only. There’s also a wash basin in there (and the posh ones even have a shower!). The sleeping car I would recommend, the couchette not so much!

Been to all four countries of the United Kingdom
England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales. Admittedly, I remember very little of Northern Ireland (I lived there for two years, but we left when I was 7), but I’ve still been!

Loch Lomond, Scotland
Loch Lomond, Scotland

Visited 30 German towns
At least that’s the plan. Hopefully by the time I reach 30 I’ll have completed this challenge! You can read all about my German travels on this very blog (check out the page on the right).

Travelled to numerous other places in Europe
The Channel Islands, Greece (Rhodes  – I would love to go the mainland), Spain, Portugal, Malta, France (not only Paris), Switzerland, Liechtenstein… I wonder if I’ve missed any?

A "living statue" on La Ramblas, Barcelona
A “living statue” on La Ramblas, Barcelona

If you’ve got this far, thanks for reading! Part two will look at some of the experiences I’ve had – such as trying different foods. Watch this space!

Two things to see in Rome

I don’t want to talk too much about the obvious sights of Rome. Yes, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Colleseum and the Pantheon are impressive but I don’t think you need me to tell you you should visit them (and in case you do, consider yourself told!). Instead I’m going to write about two other things that I think are worth a visit when in Rome.

The Knights of Malta Keyhole
Keyhole Up at the top of the Aventine Hill, at the end of of Via di Santa Sabina there is a square – Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta, the Square of the Knights of Malta. At first glance the square doesn’t look very interesting. There’s a basilica behind it which is quite pretty and the building to one side has guards standing in front of it but that seems to be all. Oh, and the building with the guards has a big green wooden door in it. That is the door to the gardens of the Knights of Malta and in that door there is a hole, the Knights of Malta Keyhole. Actually, it’s not even a keyhole as such – it’s perfectly round and I doubt very much there is a key that fits in it. But take a look through and you will see, perfectly framed by the trees in the garden, an excellent view of St. Peter’s Basilica. This photo is pretty good but it really doesn’t do it justice – in real life it’s even more spectacular. Well worth the trip up the hill to see, in my opinion.

The Cappuccin Crypt
Cappuccin Church The Cappuccin Crypt is located beneath the Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini (Our Lady of the Conception of Capuchins) church, also known as Santa Maria della Immocolata (Our Lady the Immaculate). Friars that belonged to the Cappuccin community at the church were buried down there in soil that had been brought from Jurusalem, but they only had a limited amount of soil and so, when they ran out of space, the monks who had originally been buried in the soil were dug up to make room. Then, rather than placing the dug up remains in a tomb or something, the Cappuccin monks chose to do something a little bit… strange. Of the 6 chapels in the crypt, 5 of them are decorated using the bones of more than 4,000 disinterred monks. Some of them have been left whole and can be seen lying or standing around dressed in their monks robes. Others were taken apart and used to make display units for the whole ones or turned into light fittings, wall decorations and even an image of the Grim Reaper on the ceiling of one chapel. It’s fascinating stuff but very, very creepy. Definitely not for the faint hearted! Unfortunately, no cameras were allowed, which is why I took a photo of the outside of the chuch instead, but if you’re interested in seeing what it looks like just ask Google. It’s much more spooky in real life though… an absolute must-see when in Rome.

The wanderer returns

I am back in Germany.
The holiday was brilliant. I managed to survive the heat, had a great time looking at old things and really enjoyed seeing my family again.
Now I am back in my lovely, lovely flat and as fabulous as the holiday was it’s good to be home (although I may change my mind about that tomorrow when it’s time to get back to job hunting).
I am now very, very tired so I shall wait until tomorrow to tell you more about Roma. Right now I need to curl up in bed with the boyfriend and watch a few episodes of Season 2 of ER which my sister kindly picked up from my dad’s place for me.

Ciao for now!

Back after the break

We go to Rome tomorrow. Tonight I shall have to stay at the boyfriend’s place so we can pack our stuff (somehow both of our bags have ended up there!) As always when it comes to going away anywhere I have a tonne of stuff that needs doing first… and me being me I haven’t even managed half of it yet, despite the fact that it’s now 3:45 pm. I did manage to put away most of the clean laundry. Only Jan’s socks left to do now. I hate those. For one thing they all look almost the same, so I spend ages staring at a heap of almost identical socks trying to figure out which ones make a pair. And then he complains that I roll them up wrong(?!) so I have to unroll and reroll them about 3 times to accomplish something that vaguely resembles they way they look when he does them. Takes ages. Grrr! Usually I make him do them but he won’t be coming here again now so it’s up to me.

Other than that I have spent most of the day procrastnating. I read some blogs, played around on Facebook and finished my book. Then I decided to relearn how to make friendship bracelets. This was partly to prove to myself that I can do something vaguely creative, even if it is something a 10 year old could do (and waaay better than me!) and partly as an excuse to avoid a) the dishes (from last night!) and b) going next door to give them my spare key. This is necessary because the man is coming to read the heating metres on Saturday and obviously I won’t be here so I need the neighbours to let him in. Trouble is, the idea of actually going over there and asking them makes me want to cry. From what I’ve seen of them they’re very nice and I’m sure they’ll be perfectly happy to take the key for me, but they’re people and asking favours of people I don’t know (well) scares me. Don’t worry, it doesn’t make sense to me either. So rather than go and face the scary people I learned how to do the basic knot for friendship bracelets. Here’s what I created:
bracelet Yes, I know, it’s stupidly small. And can you tell I used the leftover thread from a new baby cross stitch I made for a friend? Thought so…
Anyway, now that I’ve made my pathetic excuse for a friendship bracelet I have no idea what I’m going to do with it. It’s certainly not long enough to fit round anyone’s wrist and also I’m slightly too old to be giving out friendship bracelets so I’m at a bit of a loss. Ideas anyone?

Well, I probably won’t have the time or the opportunity to blog from Rome so this will be my last post until I get back. Umm, how about some music to entertain you while I’m away? This is by the wonderful Poets of the Fall, a Finnish band who I think I may be in actual love with. Here is a song called King of Fools for you. Just listen to the lyrics ok. That first verse… it’s me. Seriously.

And now to face the scary people from next door…

Apparantly it’s the end of the weekend…

I’m having a little trouble distinguishing between weekdays and weekends lately. When you’re home all day anyway the days tend to blend into each other, and when you have a boyfriend who goes into work on Saturdays anyway (although he did stay home for the holiday on Thursday) it gets really confusing. I knew today was Sunday though, because everything was closed.

So yesterday the boyfriend gave me 30 euros to buy a pair of shoes for Rome. I had to throw out my old flip-flops cos the straw bit at the bottom was coming unweaved and bits of it were stabbing the bottoms of my feet. Ouch! I also bought myself a new sun hat becuse I still had money left over and it was on sale for only €2.75. Bargain! Last night the two of us stayed at his place so we could stick some clothes in his washing machine this morning. Now everything I need for Rome is clean and by tomorrow it should be dry as well. Excellent.
On the way back to mine this evening we kept running into people from my ex student residence. First someone who used to live on 5th floor… he’s just started working and is now living close to where Jan lives. Next came a couple who used to live on my floor. They had their baby daughter with them. She’s almost seven months old now and getting so big… she’s even grown since I last saw her, in May. And she still has the most beautiful blue eyes I’ve ever seen. Then, while we were talking to those two, another girl from my floor came along. She’s still living in the residence and wanted to know if we would be at Parkplatzfest, the big outdoor residence party at the end of this month. We will be back from Rome by then so I told her we probably would. And apparantly before we ran into anyone Jan saw someone from 6th floor sitting outside a Cafe. All those student residence people in one little street. Clearly there are just too many of us!

So, that was my weekend. Tell me about yours 🙂

How about some good news for a change?

The essay I did for Text Linguistics last month has been returned to me.
I got 67%… subject to the approval of the exam board. A pass at Master’s level is 50%, and I can’t see the exam board reducing it by more than 17% even if they do change it. So I never have to do Text Linguistics again. Woo hoo! I would say this calls for a celebration but as I’m trying very hard not to spend any money I don’t actually have anything to celebrate with.

My other piece of news is that I’m going to Rome. My mum is taking my brother as a treat for finishing his A-Levels and she asked us to go along so we could have one last family holiday before little bro goes off to uni (my sister and her boyfriend are going too). It was all arranged over the weekend… all that remained was for me to ask about time off then we were going to book it. Then, on the day that I was supposed to ask for time off, I lost my job instead. This left me with lots of time on my hands… but made spending money on a holiday seem a little bit wrong. So I told my mum we couldn’t go. Then the boyfriend decided that he still does want to go… and offered to pay for me as well. So we booked it… and I am now torn between feeling excited and incredibly guilty. Also, next time I’m at the employment agency (which will be whenever I get the forms back from my boss) I’ll have to inform them that I plan to leave the country and get their permission. Yes, you read that right. People who are on unemployment benefit in Germany are allowed to leave their place of residence for a certain of number of days each year but have to ask the permission of the employment agency in advance. I’m hoping they’ll let me off if I tell them it was all booked before I knew I was going to be unemployed and cancelling it would only cost more. Keep your fingers crossed for me, ok.