Posts Tagged history

Eifel National Forest roadtrip – Part 2


Welcome back to the continuing saga that is my blog. It’s been a bit busy of late, many many things have been going doooown. I shan’t go into details, but bear with me if there are delays in my unofficial resolution of posting monthly!

Anyway, here I am. Ready to embark on the Eifel roadtrip, part deux. As I said last time, I will try to limit the posts to a couple of days at a time unless there’s something pretty awesome to share and, bear in mind, for the one picture you see, I’ve been through tens! Ah, the memories.

So, moving on from settling in Adenau, I decided that day trips were in order and I was spoilt for choice as to where to go, so I opted for the “buy a five euro map and see where it takes me” option. In essence, this next few images takes us through some lovely forest and architecture around the towns of Bad Münstereifel, a historical spa town (“bad” translates to “baths” in German), situated in the far south of the North Rhine-Westphalia. It was lovely and quiet when I went. Also featured is Mayen, often called ‘The Gateway to the Eifel’.

However, in the interests of my ridiculously nerdy car interests, I must post an arty shot of my ride for the holiday, my (since traded in, sadly) Ford Fiesta ST-2….


Look at her. What a beauty. I know some will roll their eyes when I say this, but I still pine after that car. It was quick, fun, sounded awesome on turbo whistle and pop when you got things right and was surprisingly economical. In the drive over, cruising with cars double or treble the power at near 90/100 mph (legally) I returned over 40 mpg. Really impressive. However, reality then comes back to haunt me. Although the seats were super comfortable, if you were on a road of low quality or a traffic calmed area, you could wave goodbye to your fillings and lumbar health as the suspension was harder than Chuck Norris. It also hated being driven slowly. In fact, to maintain the engine, it had to be driven quite vigorously to stop carbon build up. This is a fact, check Google. So, I’m afraid it had to go, as I have a very short commute. But let us not go on, back to the pictures.

I arrived at Bad Münstereifel on an off day. The weather up until this point had been pretty good, but this day was an exception. I sat in the car for a while to wait for the rain to stop! When it did, or at least it stopped for a period of time, I found it was quite a quirky place…


I’m sorry? A telephone box in Germany? Strange. I never did get to the bottom of this. All I know is that I saw a news item recently that said the going rate for one of these is £12,000 so if they paid that, I’d show it off too! The other buildings around the markt (market) were gorgeous old churches such as this one near the walls of the town (seen off to the left)…


Also you could see original buildings made of wood, as you could in many other towns I visited, vividly and lovingly painted by the owners. Shame that a good portion of them were now lawyers or some business. Apparently, this town has a speciality in training the legal profession. Well, we all have our bad points, don’t we?!


After copious use of my terrible German resulting in a double order of a pastry I didn’t actually want, I thought it best to stop sheltering from the showers and get a move on to somewhere else…after all, the cafe staff were look at me funny. Again, another fortuitous turn on to a fabulous road. I think I actually turned around and drove this a few times, it was so good, plus I had it all to myself.


Not only did I find a nice road, but I stumbled upon, of all things a hydroelectric plant. What else? As I rumbled along, I suddenly realised I was on a dam and had to double take, as it wasn’t marked on the map…but then again, why would you? Not all tourists are nerds. Oh. Just me then. No stopping or turning on the dam, so a few quick maneuvers later I found a car park for a local holiday park and went to investigate. Unfortunately, I find that, on this occasion, I have omitted to make any note of the name of this dam like I usually do when I visit places, or it may not have even had one so apologies for that….


Quite picturesque, don’t you think? I thought so. Now, I’m no engineer, but I am impressed by engineering. Think of me as Jeremy Clarkson without the pot belly and terrible fashion sense, he also loves cars and engineering but couldn’t build a dam, I’m sure. Wandering around, I stumbled upon a pretty big hole in the dam and took a peek inside…


Good Lord. Now that is a hole and a half. I wonder what the heck you would put in there. Oh yes, I think I see what goes in there now….


A turbine and a valve for the water the size of a truck, that’s what goes in there. I know that some people are left pretty cold by stuff like this, but think about the materials and thought that goes into stuff like this. Even just the valve at the front being made of the right metal to withstand so much pressure, not break and to regulate the flow reliably so we get the right amount of power. Pretty awe inspiring. I shan’t dwell though, so onward to Mayen, ‘The Gateway to the Eifel’.

In Roman times, Mayen, was an important economic centre. From the 3rd century  until the Middle Ages, potteries operated here and their products were traded and sold across Central Europe. In much earlier times (I refer to these as “the grunting years”), nearby quarries were the sources of basalt to make millstones and tuff used to make grave goods. Sadly, during the Second World War, in late 1944 and early 1945, approximately 90% of the town was destroyed. After the war and following a special referendum which addressed costs of rebuilding, the people voted to rebuild the town. This is why there are so few buildings of note standing and they look so new…


However, I thought that those were standing were lovely examples of the local tall and towering architecture, especially this gate to the town that had been rebuilt from a few feet that was left standing after the bombing…


So concludes this round of the Eifel tour for now. If you want to see more impressive buildings, keep this frequency clear, as I managed to find a nice picture perfect “schloss” or castle with some fantastic gardens for you. Think of the type you see on brochures and postcards hanging over the Rhine Valley and you aren’t far wrong!

See you soon and again, thanks for dropping by

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Eifel National Forest roadtrip – Part 1

Happy New Year!

Welcome to 2017. Seems pretty much like 2016 to me so far but, there we are. I went for the first bike ride of the year today and whilst getting some exercise managed to freeze my feet so solid I had to stand on the central heating hot air vents at home! Mind you, it was a gorgeous day and if you weren’t outside, more fool you. Anyway, let me step back in time with you for my next few posts…

A while back, I verbalised a wish I had harboured for a while of visiting the Nurburgring in Germany. If you know nothing of this place, you can read of it here. Essentially, it is a 20 or so kilometre endurance race circuit in the Eifel National Forest that petrolheads from around the world (although mainly Europe) flock to to test their mettle as a driver. However, more of this later in other posts because I found, through research, that the track was located in the historically interesting and visually impressive Eifel National Park. Before you all say Eifel has too few “L”s in it, this is correct. The tower in Paris is not related in any way :).

Anyway, I set my mind to going and off I popped on the t’interweb making bookings in my bestest pigeon German (which I have a GCSE in, thank you very much for asking) and before I knew it, I had a hotel and the Eurotunnel booked. I don’t do flying. Anyway, what kind of car lover turns up at a race track in a taxi from the airport? But, never fear, these posts won’t be full of cars and discussions over torque figures as I found plenty besides in the local area to keep me amused, but I can’t promise 100% freedom from cars…

But, let’s start at the beginning. How was I going to get there? Where would I stop? I had planned this very well, even for me so there were only two legs to the entire journey where I was driving but they were pretty long. Essentially, I would drive along the M4 to Folkestone from Pembrokeshire, stay overnight, then get up ridiculously early to load my beloved Fiesta ST180 on the train, then scoot through northern france (avoiding the gendarmerie) to Germany. Easy. First hurdle to be greeted was the weather. Now, we shouldn’t complain about decent weather but it was HOT. It doesn’t get too hot in South Wales so, the closer I drove to the south-east to get to the hotel, the warmer it got, until we were pushing high 20’s in celsius on the display. As I say, not warm in most respects but warm enough when you have leather seats and minimal supermini air conditioning. Having fought my way around the madness that was the great London Orbital Car Park (otherwise known as the M25, renowned for awful drivers and delays) I arrived at my first stop, Folkestone, or more specifically, the Portland Hotel, Folkestone. Not having visited the area before, I was pleasantly surprised and the views evoked a Summery feel….


The seafront was buzzing in the afternoon and it was very nice to stroll in the warm of the evening as the weather cooled off a little. I even had my dinner “al fresco”! Once it got dark, things got interesting. Due to the heat, some storms had formed in the English Channel and that night was the flashiest, bangiest, rainiest evening I recall in a long while. Unfortunately, I couldn’t catch the drama on my camera as I don’t have the proper bits and bobs, but, take my word for it, people instinctively retreated to cover to watch rather than be soaked!

Next morning, freshly rinsed car, it was sunny again so off I zipped to the train, making sure not to damage my expensive alloy wheels on the low sills in the carriages…nerve wracking stuff. However, the continent awaits! I cannot recommend Eurotunnel enough if you are up for a driving holiday to France or even that you wish to be a foot passenger in one of the cities they service. I have used it twice for big holidays I have taken and had no issues. Bear in mind too that I do not get commission, it really is good. Less than an hour later I was in northern France and the motorway speed limit was 80mph so, understandably being a Brit, I did at least 90mph on most occasions. Well, after all, you are bound to get away with a few mph if they try to clock you and you may as well get a decent fine for speeding….

A few hours further on from this and after a very scary circuit of the Brussels ring-road later (less said the better, blooming truck drivers), I was entering Germany and heading towards Cologne where I would then head south from the more industrial part and into the Eifel region. The warm weather continued and the roads were kind, well made, smooth and relatively empty so progress was easy, bar the odd coffee stop. I wasn’t too far from the end of my journey when I took this picture illustrating the lovely open tree-lined routes I was plying…


As the train was very early morning, I arrived in good time to be able to explore a teeny bit before dinner and then have a rest in my final stop of Adenau. What a find. Shows you what a bit of research can do. Such a charming and historic place near an extinct volcano of all things! My hotel was quiet, I had my own parking spot (as things were not all that busy) and a supermarket spitting distance way for snacks and lunch supplies. Result.


The following day, I decided just to peruse the local roads, to get my bearings in a way. The roads…awesome. It’s no wonder people came here, there were hairpins and smooth curved 100 kmh limit roads that were great fun to drive and that you ended up with views like this from….


However, enough driving talk. I came here for the whole region, not just the track. On my early explore, I came across a car park in the middle of nowhere that seemed quite popular, so I decided to go in and see what the fuss was about. I didn’t see any signs that I could easily translate but saw that there was a path heading off so I just followed it…..


Eventually saw signage relating to “Hohe Acht”. This meant not a great deal to me, other than my very literal GCSE translation of “high eight”. Judging by the constant upward incline of the path I was following, the former part of this translation seemed correct. But eight? Eight what? This muse kept me thinking as I trudged up the path further and further. Bear in mind that the weather was only just cooling down, so I’m not sure this was a wise decision at points, but I was committed now. Eventually I did get to the top to be greeted by….


This I did not expect. The roads that you travel underneath the tower, so to speak, mean that you can’t see it apart from when you are a fair distance away. But, this was Hohe Acht, the summit of the eight highest tertiary volcano (at 747 metres) in the Eifel region, topped by the Emperor William Tower (Kaiser-Wilhelm-Turm), built in 1908…this will be where all the eights came from then! The tower was constructed for the silver wedding of Emperor William 2. The nationally protected tower is over 50 feet high and the walls are one metre thick at ground level (although if you go there you will be impressed by just the thickness of the doors alone which must have used a ridiculous amount of wood). The views from the top are pretty sweet….


When you are atop the tower, you realise why the racing drivers call the track “The Green Hell”, due to all of the trees surrounding it. Even though this is high up on a volcano over a race track, I challenge any of you to see the tarmac. No? That’s possibly some of the most supreme camouflage on the planet, I think you will agree.


To finish the day, I wandered back down the path and decided to zip off-piste with my trusty camera to take a few pictures. It seems that, even though the day was bright and warm, the Eifel is quite a damp place overall (as I would discover later) as the forest walks were bristling with some of the most spectacular examples of fungi I have ever seen..


I have spared you many of the other pictures I took for these two, as I think you would have got very bored with all the permeations. I couldn’t let this one go past though, look at that chesnut colour! Spectacular.


Moving on, it wasn’t long until I managed to get out of the forest path that I had entered….at completely the wrong end. I spent the next few minutes using my best cub scout tricks to try to guess which way I should be going and managed to find a path that looked familiar at last. Close run thing though, someone nearly had a free car! However, as you know me, I just took the opportunity to take some more pictures of different scenes….


Eventually, I was reunited with my steed and headed off in a loop of the forest path I’d just taken past the viewpoint I posted earlier and down to a small shopping centre outside Adenau. Not very exciting I hear you say, but I noticed on my way in that there was a gorgeous little church perched halfway up a cliff on the river the opposite side, so I decided to stop and take a stroll over after a coffee at the bakery. You must try hard to imagine the struggles I had in ordering simple things like drinks and cake, having not used my GCSE for a good 20 years! It got a good giggle now and again, but I think they appreciated me trying and it was worth it for images like this…


Unbelievably, this is only the end of the first day or two of my trip. I think in all it was ten days but I shall be condensing it as much as possible and I have a few videos to pass the time for you that I posted on my YouTube channel a while back. However, as ever, I shall be injecting a bit of history and now some petrolhead thoughts along the way, but I will try to keep this to a minimum. Maybe.

It’s been a hefty one for the first of the New Year but, thanks for reading it. I am going to try my best to post monthly, if not more often. Not exactly a New Years resolution, but more of a promise to myself to get off my bum and do more on here and with saved pictures, as well as getting more new ones! So, keep this frequency clear, I shall return for part two where we venture off to surrounding towns and villages and more gorgeous scenery.

Bye for now!

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Oh, the cobbles!

Hello All,

Welcome to my second post of wandering the streets of Bruges. For those who are wondering just how many pictures of a mild architectural theme I am going to post, I will be posting a further wander out by the city gates, then onward to Brussels and the splendid city sights there. In the next few weeks, I will also be posting some very historically relevant images as, when I was in this area, I thought it only right to visit the First World War battlefields of this area; that might be a big post to be honest, the scale of some of the places we went in our little minibus is truly staggering.

However, in the meantime, I continue to explore Bruges. I was thinking back and essentially, I think I approached my daily jaunt in a grid fashion. I recall that the map of the old city area was quite rectangular, so these images are from the top of there, but just short of the old city gates, which will feature soon with their gorgeous windmills and canals.

It’s interesting to look up when you walk around a new place isn’t it? This is especially valid in a modern city, but there is the odd surprise when you walk around medieval cities too! Just glancing up as I walked towards the large park at the end of the map, I saw this chimney. It also gave me a rest from looking at cobbles. I sure I get a nervous twitch when I see them now….

Is the rod pushing it out or pulling it in?

Is the rod pushing it out or pulling it in?

Just along from here, there was a highlighted street on the map referring to the poor houses of Bruges. These were scattered around the city but there was a concentration of them here. I think what the map meant was what in the UK we would refer to as “almshouses” (building donated by churches to the poor, elderly and distressed in the medieval period) as they certainly didn’t look like work houses or anything like that. In fact, they were extremely handsome buildings I wouldn’t have an issue with having to live in myself.

As far as I could gather, these were still occupied, well looked after and I dare say the residents were sick to the back teeth of tourists like me walking into their front garden!

Almshouses in Bruges; very small, very white, not very private

Almshouses in Bruges; very small, very white, not very private

Moving not so far away from here, this charming bridge lead to a monastery which is still in use today also. it was quite strange to see monks driving around in modern cars to be honest but they wouldn’t let people take pictures so I can’t share the joke with you I’m afraid. However, the fact that this sign was in about a dozen languages and had a very obvious image on it requesting no pictures didn’t stop some people. How very rude. Gets my goat that does. As you can see, the canal is getting wider, mainly as this seemed to be a turning area for the boat rides.

A view along the end of the canal to a working monastery

A view along the end of the canal to a working monastery

Close to the gates was this building. If anyone can tell me what it is, please do. I am 100% sure that it was used for storage and the hooded doors halfway up on the right hand side suggest this is the case, as there would be a rope on a pulley to lift the products up to the main body of the building. If there is an explanatory plaque somewhere I usually take a picture but on this occasion I obviously forgot. It may have been because the shot took me an age to take as I had to wait for tens people to move through the frame! I seem to recall that it may have been connected to the windmills but apologies for the woolly explanation!

However, even though I can’t remember what it was, this was quickly one of my fave places to come and eat a baguette or bring a coffee. The building, the bridge and the tree were easy on the eye and on occasion the ducks and swans from down the way popped in for crumbs. Yes, I am that easily pleased.

A very impressive cylindrical corn store (I think)

A very impressive cylindrical corn store (I think)

Back to the city, I decided to do a little more looking up and, not so far from the square and the canal junction, I found this gorgeous facade of an old chapel. Now, I am not a religious man, but that it pretty awesome isn’t it? I stood and wondered if that was real gold leaf. Due to wind rain and all that, I suspect not now but in the flesh it was very impressive, less so by the medium of digital photograph, but still. Wow.

On entering the door below, I was disappointed to find that it was no longer chapel with an atmosphere full of reverence and silence. It was a beer and chocolate shop. Sigh.

This rates as the most impressive shop front I have ever seen.....

This rates as the most impressive shop front I have ever seen…..

I promised night pictures didn’t I? I seem to remember I did so here we are. Only a couple on this occasion as, on this walk I forgot my tripod and then it started to rain so I didn’t spend too much time out before going to my favourite restaurant (that, coincidentally sold 400 different type of beer). I took some better, more stable images later on, so I shall include those as well when I get to them.

These images are just in the main square (Markt) not so far from the hotel and the building in this, is the town hall that housed the large museum showing the history of the city.

The Markt at night

The Markt at night

Now this one I am quite proud of. Why? As I managed to take a time exposure of a car passing by….by hand. Indeed. Yes, well, I was leaning on a bench but it came out pretty well, so I shall congratulate myself, as it’s very painful tensing muscles to hold still for this long. Mental note to self and those who wish to embark on night photography, remember to take your tripod with you!

Wobble wobble, a handheld light trail in the Markt just as the rain came

Wobble wobble, a handheld light trail in the Markt just as the rain came

Well, that is the lot for this trip around Bruges. I am finding it quite hard to condense all the gorgeous building and sights into 5 or 6 images and a few posts, so apologies for that but bear with me. as I say, a few more of my (more stable) night shots, Brussels and the trip out to the Flanders war graves to come, so keep tuned and thanks to the recent new followers. Much appreciated.

See you all soon.

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The holiday wandering begins

Hello you lot,

Yes, I know. Where have I been? Well, I have been on hols in Devon for the last couple of weeks, but now I am back, full of a cold or something similar so every word I type is accompanied by a sniffle. Very annoying.

The weather whilst I was down was pretty good. There was more opportunities to be out than there were days stuck indoors. However, whilst I was there, we did get the tail end of a hurricane from The Colonies. The weather forecast told us to nail everything down and prepared to be drowned in ridiculous amounts of rain but, in the end, the malevolent weather was more a damp squib. I remember the extent of my clean up was kicking a few small branches across a car park on the way to my motor and then moving a plastic box in the road to save from running it over! Zombie apocalypse avoided. However, I don’t mean to belittle anyone else who may have had it worse, so please don’t misunderstand my jovial banter.

Anyway, to the matter in hand. Bruges and one of my first wanders around the city centre. Now, a good rule to follow when doing wanders such as mine is look where everyone is going, then walk the opposite direction. I don’t want the touristy attractions or prices, thank you. However, I can’t help that some of these first views are very touristy so apologies but the building were so pretty, shame about the weather 😦

Pretty sweet to be a government building eh? Beats mine hands down.

Pretty sweet to be a government building eh? Beats mine hands down.

Believe it or not, this building was the back of the local police station. Classy! I’d work there if I could speak Flemish. However, I can’t. In both images you can see the beginnings of the vastly reduced canal system as well with one of the expertly driven boats just coming into view in the image below….

Aview of the canal basin with a flypast from one tour boat and a view of one in the foreground

A view of the canal basin with a flypast from one tour boat and a view of one in the foreground

This is the kind of stuff I mean about wandering off the beaten track. I had more of a sense of smell than I have now and caught the distinct whiff of…sniff, sniff…fish. I’m a seafood lover me. Put prawns on it, I will eat it. Apart from avocado, as they are grim. I’m sure I went all around the houses to get here, but I eventually arrived at this local fish market. You could tell it was local as no-one spoke English. There appeared was a big pot of seafood broth boiling away whilst the fisherman/women (I guess) served the catch of the day. I missed out as I would have happily had a serving of the broth but couldn’t muster the linguistic skills to ask whether it was indeed for sale or whether it was even a broth! Hey ho, never mind.

Mmmmm, shellfish. I regret not trying to ask about the contents of the big silver pot now

Mmmmm, shellfish. I regret not trying to ask about the contents of the big silver pot now

Just behind me as I turned to go, there was a very swanky looking restaurant. It seems this square was well established for the selling of fish and I can only imagine that the market and the restaurant go hand in hand. I did go and look at the menu, but the prices were very high, so I decided to cut my cloth and look elsewhere!

Ways to spot a fancy eatery number has its own statue above the door.

Ways to spot a fancy eatery number 1…it has its own statue above the door.

Further round the corner I stumbled upon a small museum (you find small collections of art and the like all over) where there were a number of artifacts that hand been dredged from the canals. Pretty impressive stuff that showed where the traders who plied the waters all those years ago came from, or indeed where they had been before.

Hopefully the multilingual placard explains this enough :)

Hopefully the multilingual placard explains this enough 🙂

I have just popped a couple of images on here in this instance so as not to bore you to tears…

A small display showing quite a range of stuff beneath our feet

A small display showing quite a range of stuff beneath our feet

Onwards, forever onwards. One thing I did learn as I walked around is that the human ankle hates cobbles and the centre of Bruges is cobbled to death. Oh my god. After a day of walking, I found it necessary to sit and/or lie on my bed to wait for the throbbing to die down. I then realised why I saw so many bikes around. However, life of a bike wouldn’t be any more pleasant as I know from riding myself, as it tends to wobble bits you didn’t think were wobbly.

However, the payback for this was to see lovely buildings like this; this being the rear of one of the large churches in the city….

The rear courtyard for one of the large working cathedrals in Bruges

The rear courtyard for one of the large working cathedrals in Bruges

Lastly, a lovely wooden building right on the canal I found in the gardens that occupy the old city walls. I took many pictures of places like this and was hard to remember that pretty much all of these building are still occupied. Placing my nerdy DIY hat on, the maintenance is a World Heritage site must be quite difficult, so whilst it looks pretty, think of the cost and logistics of replacing those windows!

Confession to be made here, adjust the contrast on this to bring out the timber more. Lovely though isn't it?

Confession to be made here, adjust the contrast on this to bring out the timber more. Lovely though isn’t it?

More wanderings to come in the next week or so. I am deffo at home now so will have the opportunity to write an entry in the evening when things are dark and dingy. Seems the weather is on the turn here, we have rain moving in overnight that is going to drown us all or something.

On that note, I find it a bit pathetic that the Met Office feels the need to warn us of rain with a specific yellow/amber/red symbol on a weather map when giving a forecast; surely the forecast of said rain is enough?! Maybe they are worried about being sued when someone gets their hair do ruined as it’s heavier than expected?

Anyway, rant over, see you next time for more images of Bruges, will be posting some taken at night too. Exciting! Ta-ta for now.

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