Archive for June, 2017
Many thanks for bearing with me on this and the fact I had to take a break due to being busy and also the Tour of Pembrokeshire. Well, some, if not all of you will be glad to know that once this post is done and dusted, no longer will I be harking on about Germany or the fascinating places it holds and the volcanic history of the places I went. In fact, I shall be moving back to the UK and onto things you may more readily recognise…
Due to some feedback, I shall be condensing the last few visits I made around and Cologne and Koblenz and my trip to the Nurburgring to frighten myself silly. In fact, it’s no bother, I took way too may pictures anyway and, technically you aren’t allowed to film or take images near the circuit, so I didn’t, bar a few favourite cars I saw. Not that anyone takes any notice of that, as you can see from all the videos posted on YouTube. Anyhoo, more on that in turn with the other pictures (a few more this time).
Firstly, there was a trip to Cologne (Koln) Cathedral. Now, this is an impressive building. I live near a cathedral in Wales and that, sorry, doesn’t hold a candle to this building. When you walk into a building that is adorned with items such as the ones below, you know there is some real history there….
It is a renowned monument of Catholicism and Gothic architecture and was added to World Heritage site list in 1996. Sadly, it was also in 2004 placed on the “World Heritage in Danger” list, as the only Western site in danger, due to plans to construct a high-rise building nearby, which would have visually impacted the site. The cathedral was removed from the List of In Danger Sites in 2006, following the authorities’ decision to limit the heights of buildings constructed near and around the cathedral. As an aside, it is the most visited landmark in Germany, attracting an average of 20,000 people a day! It also holds a record of being the tallest twin-spired church at 157 m (515 ft) tall and its two huge spires give the cathedral the largest façade of any church in the world.
Some of you may also know that the recent history of this building is quite violent, the cathedral suffered fourteen hits by bombs during World War 2. Badly damaged, it nevertheless remained standing in an otherwise completely flattened city, but in an unfortunate twist of fate, the twin spires were then an easily recognisable navigational landmark for Allied aircraft bombing.
Repairs were completed in 1956 but maintenance work is constantly being carried out in one or another section of the building, which is rarely completely free of scaffolding, as wind, rain, and pollution slowly eat away at the stones. The Dombauhütte, established to build the cathedral and keep it in repair, is said to employ the best stonemasons of the Rhineland.
Whilst I was visiting, I couldn’t help notice that visitors can climb 533 stone steps of the spiral staircase to a viewing platform about 100 m (330 ft) above the ground. I love a good view, me…..
I felt a bit short changed though, as there was still a good few feet above me!!
Onward, well, downwards back to my usual haunts over in the Eifel. This time, I had some proper driving in mind, but the route I took took me through some of the richest vineyards in the region so I had to stop and look around for a while. If any of you are wondering, yes, I did have a grape or two. They were disgustingly sour. I’m no wine aficionado, so I don’t know if the process of wine-making sweetens things up and the grapes are always that sour, but I’d only use them as vinegar if it was given to me in that form!
I was in a rush to get to the circuit for a certain time (the tourists are only allowed on the track certain days and times) so I thought to myself that I’d return at a point in the future for a few more relaxed shots, plus this was obviously a popular route on coach trips judging by the traffic (not seen here, thank god)…
Anyway, I arrived for my slot at the track. I was very nervous. So nervous that I decided a while earlier that my little turbo hot hatch was going to be staying well and truly parked. I had toyed with the idea of taking my own car onto the track as I had figured that I had safety in power, but reason won the argument. That and the horror stories from fellow guest at hotels that I regularly shared beers with. Most will know that I am VERY protective of my cars, even going so far as to park significant distances away (to be measured in hundreds of yards or large fractions of miles) from destinations, mainly due to the fact that all the other people arriving won’t, so thereby reducing the risk of door dents and such. In this instance, not only was the risk of damage high and the insurance I held would be invalid, there was a very real risk that my inexperience could hurt me or someone else. Yes, I driven on tracks, but short tracks where people have similar cars. This was The Green Hell where cars vary from Ford Transits to hyper-cars capable of 200 mph and 2 people die or are seriously injured per week.
So, what did I opt to drive on this horror of tracks? That’s right, a Suzuki Swift Sport. In hindsight, not the best choice. However, it was all I could afford to pay the insurance excess on should I crash or be involved in an incident. I think it wasn’t cheap even then, something like 6000 Euros. So, my dreams of flooring it in a fast beauty like these faded away…
However, it was a blast. I felt like I was standing still when I was near 100 mph on the straights but it was still a great laugh. In all I did 4 laps in my little hatch but the effort was immense. I literally had to peel myself out of the seat afterwards. Strangely, I was not satisfied with my extended near death experience, so I decided to spend a little more money on the Ring Taxi, which was in my case a BMW M3 driven by a slightly unhinged man with no idea of what the word slow meant. Whilst I held on for dear life (to the point my hands sweated so much they went wrinkly) and we hurtled along at near 300 kmh, he calmly noted that it was beginning to rain!
As we arrived back at the gate with (and I’m not joking here) smoke pouring from the brakes, I considered that my time as a racing driver should be restricted to the odd track day in a small car or a kart….
On to more sensible pursuits, my last trips out before my holiday came to an end. I decided that it would be interesting to go a little further afield and ended up at a large fort and the confluence of two rivers in Koblenz. It started rainy, but cleared to a beautiful day in the end, which assisted me in find the place finally as it was truly hidden away, strangely enough for a fort. Set in wonderfully landscaped parkland, my first issue arose as I rounded the corner to park the car only to be met by a ticket operated barrier. Think about it. That’s right, I was the wrong side. However, the German people are helpful and a young lad saw my issue and ran over, took my ticket, popped it in the machine and I was through. Bless him, I stopped and shook his hand and he told me in pretty good English that he had raised this issue before with the staff and he was sorry. What a nice bloke!
Here we were, Ehrenbreitstein Fortress, backbone of the Prussian defences in the 1800s located on the eastern bank of the Rhine, overlooking the confluence of the Mosel and the Rhine. It is the northernmost point of the World Heritage Site I have mentioned before.
It seems that I had arrived on a day of festivities, as there were ladies and gents in all sort of uniform as through there was a general re-enactment theme going on. Pretty cool. However, I wanted to get as many images of them as possible but there was always something modern in the background, so I got precious few pictures like that….
During its years of active service, the fortress had never been attacked. It escaped being dismantled after the end of World War 1 as a result of its perceived historical and artistic value. The American General Henry Allen, convinced of its historical value as a premier 19th century fortress, prevented its intended destruction in 1922. It was occupied after 1919 by the US Army as their headquarters during the occupation of this area and then after January 1923 it was occupied by the French. During World War 2 the fortress served as a place of safekeeping for archives and cultural objects. After this, it was used first by the French Army before it was handed over to the State when it served as a refugee camp and then, in the period of insufficient housing in the early 1950s, as residential housing into the 1960s. I bet it was blooming cold surrounded by all that concrete! Today, the fortress is fully open to visitors. It is connected to the town of Koblenz across the Rhine by a cable car which I had to take…..
At the bottom of the cable car is Deutsches Eck (“German Corner”) where the Mosel river joins the Rhine, plus it is also home to a monumental statue of William I, the first German Emperor. In typical British understatement, it’s a pretty big statue.
I can’t really post a picture of scale, but the pictures above show the size of the statue in comparison to the headland, as well as showing the confluence of the two rivers quite clearly. You are looking for the point of the headland where the darker water meets the lighter water, that is the merging of two great rivers. Quite subtle, unless you were looking for it! Believe me, once you went up to the water, apart from a little disturbance on the surface, it isn’t all that obvious. As well as that, most people come for the monument, so weren’t even looking at the water.
I had a quick wander around, picked up something to eat before they day was getting a little old, so it was time to pop back on the cable car back up to the fort and head off home. As I left, I was looking for my saviour yet again but, bless his cottons, he must have said something to the staff as there was a guy from the cafe actually waiting at the barrier on my side so I could hand him my ticket and get out! See, there are nice people in the world.
On the way home, I decided to take a detour via the vineyards again where I remembered that there was a picturesque ford in a lovely green valley, so, here endeth the German road trip…I thought this would be a nice picture to send you all off with.
As of the next time I post, there will be more home grown posts, I promise. Maybe I shouldn’t take so many pictures on holiday? Not sure. But, if you are still reading, thanks a lot. I appreciate you sticking with it and hope to see you here in July. Good Lord. Where has the year gone?
Ta-ta for now!