Friday, February 29, 2008

Death 14th Century style

S took me to the City Hall, the old one on Thursday 21st Feb. It was raining in Nürnberg that day but we weren't daunted. Little schnu had been unwell for most of this past week but seemed reasonably able to cope with a morning out with her Mama and her Tante Mitch from Australia.

Besides, in the Rathaus, way upstairs worked her beloved Oma, so Schnu was also looking forward to be cuddled by her Grandmother too.

Below the Alter Rathaus, lie the creepy, low ceiling'ed Dungeons built to house criminals sentenced for trial (and inevitable execution) during the 14th Century.

It's dark down there. Very dark. The tour was all in German for me, but I received an english translation on a sheet of paper of the basics. S did as best as she could to translate what she could for me during the tour which goes for about 20+ minutes.

Imagine living in a hole in the ground where it is deathly dark. You are naked. You are given barely one meal of gruel and bread a day. If you are lucky and can bribe the guards, you can get coals to fill the tiny brazier in the centre of your cell, it gives you the eerie glow of warmth and light. Such a small cheer but totally worth the price you pay for it.

If you have been suspected of very serious crimes, you are taken to "The Chapel", which is a high vaulted room with a large round beam across the width of the room. On this beam are ropes. You are tied by your wrists to this beam and then winched upwards, the ropes winding around the beam above your head. You are left to hang there, maybe beaten, maybe managled around your neck and feet as well. You are possible poked with all manner of cruel implements in the freezing emptiness of this cavernous room.

If you didn't cave with that treatment and "confessed" to your sins, you were taken to tiny cells and squeezed in behind a low wall. You would sit as comfortably as you could with your hands firmly locked in front of you through the two small holes in the low wall in front of you. There was one hole in the centre of the floor through which you could defecate IF you were able to access it. It was hard if there were three of you side by side in that cramped space. The moaning and crying for mercy in the night still echoes throughout these sad chambers.

Grizzly, crude, impossibly inhumane by our standards today, these dungeons - all still in original and intact condition, remind me how cruel man is to mankind. What we don't understand, we persecute - viciously if allowed or sanctioned by our ignorance. Life for a 14th Century prisoner, be they guilty or innocent, was a tortourous experience in suffering.

While many today would suggest that perhaps we would have less crime if more punitive punishments were imposed on prisoners today, I don't believe them! If the kinds of hard punishments of the past could not prevent crime back then, they will not prevent crimes now.

Punishment that is violent and cruel makes people become even more violent and cruel. Yes! Society needs protection from those who have no social empathy or compassion or moral compass. However, our prisons today can be just as punitive in their approach to "rehabilitating" the criminal mind as they were back in the 14th Century on criminal bodies.

These days we seem to think that punishing a person through their mind and emotions is legitimate, just as 14th Century authorities assumed that beating a person with iron skewers and casting them naked into freezing blackness was legitimate.

Compassion begets least for most sane people.

The actual tour through the Lochgefängnisse was interesting even though I could not understand the words being spoken by the tour guide. The passage ways were very low in places and the steps down into the cells themselves, were steep and uneven - a result of being hand carved I guess.

Freezing cold air from the street above poured down into the cells through long deep open vents. It would have been a nightmare down here for sure.

After visiting the Dungeons, S and I went for a walk through the Nürnberg streets in the drizzly rain. Schnu's grandmother had commandeered her beloved wee Granddaughter, so we were free agents. We found a wonderful chocolate shop and I spent the equivalent of a third world country's GNP in chocolates! Alcoholic ones too no less. Bat and I would consume these watching DVD's over the course of the coming days.

After that, we met with Oma and Schu in a tiny little retaurant in the heart of town called the Bratwürsthausle. Modelled on 14th Century Nüremberg Bratwurst shops, this one is popular, unique and serves totally awesome traditional Franconian food on classic Nürnberg "zinn" (pewter) plates.

It was a good day. Even the rain could not dampen my spirits...not like "The Chapel" did anyway.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Remembering Nürnberg

Yes I realise its been over a week since I last posted from Germany.

I am now back in Australia. Time shifted all too quickly and I lost the impetus to keep posting regularly amidst all the flux and change of my final week in that most lovely of cities.

I shall now attempt over the course of a few posts in quick succession to recall and describe the last week of my journey. Forgive me if my memory has gaps and is a little fuzzy around the edges.

I also have to go back and correct a word in one of my previous blog posts which will make it turn up in peoples blog readers again no doubt...sorry about that! The word is Klöse least I hope it is. I thought I'd copied it correctly but apparently not. It is that potato dumpling so indicative of Franconian German cuisine. More research required.

My final week was a collection of very personal events with people I have come to love and appreciate very much. My "other" family overseas are dear to my heart and inspire me with their warmth, generosity and genuine care of me and my own family. I intend to visit them as often as time and circumstances allow...plane seats that lay flat would be useful but that is a story for later :)

My week started out on Monday with a trip out to stay with S and the kids in the wee apartment upstairs! I mean literally up stairs! I think they climb about 4 flights of 8 steps each to access their front door at least three or four times a day! It's a bloody nightmare on the knees but you certainly don't need a stair-stepper machine when you have free ones right outside your door! The washing machine is downstairs so laundry takes on a whole new perspective when you have those stairs to think about along with a tonne of washing to do too! ungh!

S and went for a wee jaunt through Nürnberg before we left of her home to see if we could find my mum a tatting shuttle and some books and patterns by Erika Rolfe. We got a few blank stares. Nevertheless, the resourceful and forthright S made inquiries to the point where we had a couple of basic tatting shuttles ordered at the very least. She may post these to me at a later date OR....I just go back and collect them *grin* *giggle*

Then we went to the Hauptbahnhof to purchase my ICE ticket for the following weekend. We used the automated ticketing system and after an initial glitch with me ordering merely a seat for EU$4 instead of the actual ticket, we successfully managed to get a fully booked seat and ticket on the 1528 train to Frankfurt Airport on the 23rd of Feb.

Then we hit the supermarkets to purchase ingredients for the cheesecake and lasagne we planned to make for supper that evening. I was suitably impressed to note that some larger car parking venues provide whole sections just for female drivers. These are close to the main doors and are well lit and have security cameras operating 24 hours a day. This keeps women safe. It's a sad indictment that in the name of equality, women must be singled out to be given this kind of privilege but I can totally see its merit. Not only that but the position of the parking also allows for mothers with young children with all the ensuing paraphenalia convenient and practical support for their shopping. Damned good business if you ask me!

I LOVED the huge organic/bio supermarket we went to later that afternoon. It was huge for a place dedicated to all things "Whole, Fresh and Chemical Free". I loved the smell of it. The cheese cabinet was a vision in gourmet excess and I drooled quite literally at the choice of products available. What a wonderful experience. I really "should" have taken photo's but of a supermarket? No one would get it I guess! This was a very special supermarket! Not one I get to see every day anyway.

We made it home to climb those nasty ubiquitous stairs. We rested from our frantic labours over hot tea and conversation and a late lunch of of bocconcini mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, olive oil and fresh basil spread on to the most delicious assortments of bread. My favourite is the same as S. Swedish Smød Brot. It looks a little like a salada biscuit but is chewy and has a somewhat sweet nutty flavour. It's awesome. I even had butter! *gasp* I know! After all this strange health diet stuff I'd been doing this past year...I finally weakened and enjoyed the delicious flavours of bread and butter. Oh my! What an awesome lunch that was.

Little Fizz was home from school and moaning vociferously about his homework as kids will do. He got there in the end with a lot of prodding and encouragement from his mum. We went out to collect Schnu from kinder. The gorgeous little one (my Goddaugher no less), was keen to show me around her wee "school" albeit it being closed. I didn't get to go inside but the exterior is cute and charming all the same.

Later, Sandra baked. She'd whipped up her amazing baked cheesecake in the time between lunch and picking-up-kidlets. I had been busy transcribing the recipe and doing the dishes. Then she set to baking the lasagna for the evening meal. She's a good cook. S is a Jill-of-all-trades really. Not only can she cook and wash clothes, bring up children and take care of her - slightly odd - husband in another town (I shall get totally killed by said husband for that line. I bet! *giggle*)... she is a deft hand with the drill and hammer too, having extended her kitchen work area herself by installing the extra bench space. I admire this woman and she has welcomed me into her life and family with all the grace and style of an Angel.

The lasagne was eaten late that evening after the children had been fed and sent to bed. Little schnu looked so cute curled up like a wee mouse on the foot end of her bed. Fizz took longer to get to bed given that he had been calculating the time it would take to save enough money to buy a certain kind of Lego Fizz counts everything in the price of the average Bionicle. An average Bionicle in Germany is around EU$9,00 so Fizz does mental maths in multiples of 9 Euro's. It's very cute and rather clever for a seven year old I think.

S and I talked late into the evening. It was well after midnight when we finally went to sleep. I dreamed strange dreams one of which I remembered as having lots of small dolls with blonde pigtails and enormous blue eyes. Surreal and strange dreams that no longer stay in my memory but are dark shadows of non-recollection.

The next morning I assisted with clean up and getting children off to school. After the house was quiet again, S and I spent a long few hours lingering over hot tea in the lounge room talking and imagining. S specializes and is trained in a unique type of meditative counselling called Personal Totem Pole Process. We talked about this for some time. S did a great job in trying to speak to me in English. Her English is very much better than my German but it still took time and patience for us to communicate. However, with the use of a good English/German dictionary we managed to make ourselves understood. Poor S was very tired though by the end of the two days having spoken more English than since her school days; the level of concentration she put into this was quite extraordinary and I'm deeply grateful to her for making the effort.

I missed out on getting photo's of the village of Lauf outside of Nbg. It's a sweet little village with all those tudor styled houses with their peaked roofs and cobbled streets. Next time I guess :)

The next few days I spent mostly walking around Nürnberg shopping and obtaining some souvenirs to take home to family. Bat and I went to the Thai Resturant near the cave and enjoyed a lovely meal over pleasant conversation. We hit the local Döner Kebab take away yet again. In fact I think we hit it twice this week! :)

We also took a trip into town and had a bit of a buy up of some DVD's. Bat's collection got a serious update with purchases such as "Love Actually", 300 and Sin City

Sin City is a total creep out, I'd not seen it before but while its artistically very good it was quite a difficult watch and one I won't be repeating in too much of a hurry. It was great to see 300 and Love Actually again though.

Next installment of my final week soon. The prison under the Rathaus.

Friday, February 15, 2008

The one about the St Valentines Day vortex of a thousand spiral staircases

Blimmin' stairs!

I have climbed and decended down so many steps today, my legs still feel like jelly!

I went early into town today and was hoping to go see the Handwerkerhof near the Hauptbahnhof but it's closed until March 14th! humpf!

So I walked right into the centre of town and climbed the steep hill from the Hauptmarkt towards the castle, Der Kaiserburg. On the way I asked a stranger to take my photo twirling the shiny brass ring on the main fountain in the Hauptmarkt - it's supposed to make your wish come true when you turn it three times! It's almost impossible to turn it precisely around three whole times - you more or less just tweak it - so I turned it a few times in the hope that a full three circles were completed and made my wish. I hope to all I wished for :)

On the way I decided to stop at Albrecht Dürer House which is now a monument and museum to the famous painter. It was very interesting there. I really enjoyed this place. The home of Albrecht and his wife is now over 500 years old. It has been painstakingly restored since having half its guts ripped out by a bomb explosion back in WWII. Most of it is still original though except for some of the furnishings of course. The audio tour in English was most helpful and entertaining. Unfortunately, not a lot of the original art of Albrecht Dürer remains in Nürnberg as it is now in fine galleries around the world. I bought a book of his life and work which showed some of the artworks still here and which I saw in his home.

I have yet to see the Hans Sachs sculpture of the Hare, a famous painting by Dürer. Might try to see that tomorrow or next week I think.

The house was 4 floors and all accessed by spiral staircases...most of which are original.

From there I walked around the back of the Kaiserberg Castle and then through one of the ancient tunnels to the main gate into the Castle itself. I purchased a single ticket for the museum and a tour of the well and the tower. The museume was rather interesting except that 99 percent of the descriptions of the equipment was in German without any English translations. That kind of made it a little tough but I am glad of my rudimentary German language lessons as it did help a lot with deciphering some of the artifact information cards.

It was a little surreal walking around the floors in this museum and noting all the old armour and weaponry from the late 15th century. I rather felt like I was sliding into a Age of Empires simulation - at least thats kind of what it felt like anyway.

Oh and btw... armour is small! Those images we have of big burly blokes on giant horses seems rather silly having seen the real thing. Most of todays blokes wouldn't have a hope of fitting inside this armour! Even bat would be hard pressed to comfortably fit inside it - and he is slightly built compared to a goodly proportion of the germanic male population! ;)

I did rather like how the stupidity of mankind attempts to lure beauty from the bloody instruments of war. The irony of a beautifully handcrafted and engraved blade which very well may have been thrust into many fleshy human sides of heretics and heathens! Who knows?

Again I seemed to encounter endless stairs in this building. Climbing up or down in circles was beginning to take its toll already and it was only 1pm!

The Kaiserberg in Nürnberg is on the highest point of the city and as such is rather steep. So not only does one have to negotiate lots of steps, one has to negotiate the slopes of cobblestones pathways outside.

I took the wee tour of the deep well which once supplied the castle and outer surrounds with fresh drinking water. The tour guide lady let down the candlelit chandelier into the heart of the murky depths. It took an age to descend. Then she poured some water from a jug and a full 5 seconds passed before we could hear the splosh in the water below. Amazing.

The tour up the tower we did ourselves. A couple from Portugal and myself. Once we were let in, the tourguide bid us "Bis Bald" and we entered the door to ascend the 138+ steps to the viewing platform at the top of the ancient castle tower.

Typically, with my luck being such that it is, the sky was heavily clouded and foggy today over Nürnberg. The bright rather warmish sunny days of the past week were well forgotten today with the air being very fresh indeed. There had even been a fine dusting of snow on the cars as I'd walked to the Shoppershof U-Bahn station that morning!

I took a lot of disappointing photos of the rooftops of Nbg from the tower ramparts. Disappointing only in that visibility was so much lower today than it had been thus far in my trip.

Next stop was Fembomuseum. I hadn't anticipated doing this tour but seeing as I had a ticket from Albrecht-Dürer that could be shared between a few of the main museums in the town, I took advantage and went on in. This amazing house from the very wealthy family Fembo has stood for about 500 years as well. It was large and ornate and you could feel the opulence and wealth present in the detailed ceiling paintings and stucco. Some of the info panels had English translations which also helped a lot with absorbing the history. I loved how the wooden floors creaked under my feet, original and still highly polished but ancient beyond belief really! :)

I was going to head back towards the main shopping precinct for my lunch when I stumbled by accident on the Spielzeugmuseum. My ticket from earlier in the day also covered this tour so I again took advantage. Nürnberg has become synonymous with the toy trade since the early years of the 20th century. It's reputation as a crafts and trading city has cemented it as a central place for all things toy related in recent years. The Spielzeugmuseum celebrates with colour, light and entertaining delight, the world of toys. Toys, ancient and new are displayed here for all ages to remember, to marvel at and enjoy.

I was pretty much in sensory overload by now though, so I'm hoping to go back with bat tomorrow and really absorb this museum properly once more. The history here is superb - from Teddy's to Meccano and everything in between! :)

Yet again, I was immersed in a world of vortex like spiral staircases. I think I've climbed somewhere in the vacinity of 1000 steps today, the majority of which were in circles! I am still dizzy!

I staggered rather than walked to the U-Bahn at Lorenzplatz and caught the train to Hauptbahnhof - grabbed the U2 to Shoppershof and breathed a prayer of thanks, I'd not gone shopping mad or I'd have been not only dead on my feet, but weighed down by purchases as well.

Its always best to travel light when one climbs spiral staircases all day.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

the pace thickens

I have every intention of writing heaps of stuff about what I'm doing here in Germany but the days are filling with so many details and things and stuff and inspiration and walks that I find blogging the day at the end of the day almost physically impossible.

Sunday saw us travelling some 200 + kms east to the "new" state of Thüringen to a small village called Lebensgrün to visit with Martin's papa, Volker Spernau, or "Opa-mä" and to pick up R. who had been holidaying there for the past week.

Opa lives in a very old house. He's been doing it up over the course of the years. The houses in this region are very long and narrow as the blocks were built to be only 12 metres wide. So while the house is over 35m long, it is "only" 6m wide. It has a cellar, which is constantly damp and floods a lot, and an attic, which is commandeered by various family members as a viable source of long-term storage.

The old stable area down on the ground floor has been turned into a sort of curiosity shop, where Opa sells knick-knacks and oddments. The middle floor is the main living area with bedrooms, kitchen and comfortable lounge.

We spent a lot of time looking around the farmlet, walking down the slightly sticky clay soil and grass towards the back of the property where Opa is constructing a sort of garden. He also keeps a small mob of shy, shaggy sheep who ran the moment I stepped towards them.

The village of Lebensgrün is about 600 years old and while I didn't really get a chance to go walking through it to take photo's of the unusual houses, it was quite the pleasure to be in a part of germany that is off the beaten tourist track.

We then went to a lovely quiet little restaurant and although almost too late for lunch were offered two meal choices. I chose the vennison.

Sliced and swimming in a salty gravy with a tiny garnish of a lettuce leaf and a tomato on the side. A bowl of Klöße arrived. This dish is a typical Frankonian dish of mashed potatoes shaped into large dumplings. The Klöße is cooked, mashed and when sort of dry is then mixed with a special kind of flour or finely grated potato. Then it is shaped into balls and boiled again in salty water. It is thick, gluggy, salty and moreish.

We also had Blaukraut, which is basically red cabbage boiled in a way to change its colour to either a deep purple/blue or red. It too was salty and vinegar-like but incredibly tasty and more'ish.

We had Lebkuchen for dessert. I had bought a Lebkuchen Herz (Lebkuchen Heart) at a stall in the heart of the city a couple of days before. So on our travels home, we broke into it and munched happily on the slightly spicy, chewy texture of the Lebkuchen. It was quite yummy.

Sandra has suggested that we spend a day in my final week here, when she has more time to teach me how to bake Lebkuchen for myself. I'm hoping that we will get that opportunity. Might be a new bakery line for the shop back home huh? hahahaha

The countryside is beautiful here. The fields are so small though in comparison to home. I'd love to learn more of the different farming practises here but I guess I can catch up on that info in future visits as I become more fluent in the language and getting around by myself. Yes! I do intend to return :)

So since Sunday, Bat has taken me for a jaunt around the Hauptbahnhof in the centre of town. He knows it quite well having spent many years commuting for work. There are some building works going on there too so there is a whole "new" floor he has yet to figure out how to get around :) I will be catching the ICE back to Frankfurt from here come the 23rd.

We found the Post office too today, so now I've posted some of my postcards. I have to get some more actually and get them sent off ASAP too or I shall be home before they are!

Sometime this coming week, I plan to do some gift buying for family and friends if possible (if finances allow) and maybe do a seamail post back home to keep my luggage allowance under control. It means we have to wait until around May to get our stuff, but that's okay. :) Patience is a virtue is it not? *smirk*

I have even booked myself a visit to a beautician here who has set up a store practically 10 steps from the door of the batcave! She can't speak English and I can't speak German but we've arranged to take off my gel nail-polish which is starting to look a bit tatty around the edges. That appointment is tomorrow at 1330 :)

I also hope to go back to the middle of town tomorrow afternoon and see the Kaiserberg and other sights that I've not yet had to chance to go see. There is a toy museum to see and other general Museums etc...Oh my! So much to do!!!!! It's great to visit with friends but its so easy to get caught up in conversations at home rather than getting out and about. Because bat is visually constrained, its much harder for him to show me stuff like others would be able to, so its really up to me to venture out and be proactive with the sight-seeing stuff.

If I don't stop eating soon, I shall have a mammoth task to get my weight back down when I get back to Australia too! The gym will need to become a high priority I think once home again. :)

Some days I want time to slow right down to the pace of a snail so I can fit in a life-time of experiences into this three week window. It's a bit frustrating having to sleep really but yeah...I am pretty much exhausted come 2100 in the evenings! Bat then makes me sit up to watch DVD's with him.... he is the night owl sort it seems!

Today, we are all off to see Flocke, the new Eisbär (polar bear) at the zoo. Then we plan to go out to a restaurant to eat schnitzel mit pommes :) I so love the food here! *sigh*

You can find my photo's of this trip here

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Even the doggies go shopping.

I got up late again today. The cave is very quiet and dark and the light doesn't really penetrate until it is well after 9am.

I always kick myself when I lose daylight time. There seems to be so much to do and see and yet I find my mornings sliding gently away with little tasks and pleasant conversation.

Rushing may not be in my best interests really. I hope to come back to Nürnberg so it's not like I'm going to miss seeing any of these things again. :)

I walked all the way into the heart of town today. Left bat - still snoozing - at around 12:30pm German time, packed light and easy. I wore a few more layers today thinking it might be quite chilly. By the time I'd walked 1km though, I'd removed the raincoat! hahaha The scarf remained firmly around my neck for most of the day though.

It's surprises me how compact everything is here. It's probably only a couple of kms into the centre of town. I enjoyed the atmosphere and the sights as always.

I enjoyed another Nürnberger for lunch and a Brezeln with salami. I also tried a small cone of hot chips called "Kartöffeln" with a curry ketchup sauce on them. Absolutely delicious. With this kind of food, I am sure to gain weight! Interestingly, I see very few grossly overweight Germans here. Most are of average weight for their height. Despite the heavy high carbohydrate foodstuffs available so readily, the people seem to be fit and least on the face of things.

I bought a few things but being on foot was conscious of weight so was careful to go small and light. The main shopping centre seemed to be rife with sales - my kids would be going mad with greedy delight in the shoes and clothes shopping that could have been done today! ;) I was so tempted to buy, buy, buy for the family back home but I was actually reasonably conservative for a change. The family gift buying spree will perhaps come later.

I had to smile at the dogs that were prevalent throughout the whole shopping precinct. People apparently like for their dogs to go on shopping trips with them. The doggies were on leashes of course and all were behaved and socialised. They were even allowed to enter stores with their owners! No tying up doggie to a pole outside like in my town! I never saw dogs inside food shops but I had the interesting experience of seeing one with its owner deep inside the confines of a busy clothing store, it enjoying being feted upon by the staff!

The street performers, clowns mostly, all seemed to have a dog a a side-kick. The dog seems to be a strong element of Nürnberg culture! Even bat talks a lot about getting a dog of his own.

We had visitors to the cave tonight. Dominic came to discuss a new "Ecliptic" plot with bat for their August 08 meeting. Ecliptic is the Live-Action-Role-Playing group that meet about three or four times a year. It's based on a Startrek theme and the group develop the story of the Starship Ecliptic, its crew, the adventures they undertake with all the fervour of Paramount Pictures!

We ate another common take-away food here called Döner Kebab. Just around the corner from the cave is this great Döner takeaway. We ordered the chicken ones. Dominic had something a bit different. A typical Döner is made of a roasted, marinated meat, shaved, served with mixed vegetable salads and a tasty mayonnaise. It's really messy but really yummy too! Later we ate our Eisbärdonuts, which were little bear face donuts, complete with a marshmallow nose and some gooey, chocolate fudgy stuff in the middle! I'm so getting fat! ungh! The food is just way too good!

The blokes are sitting over the way here deep in planning now. I am surrounded by the aural sounds of german conversation. My own german language training is getting a good deal of practise this past few days. I have even been congratulated for it by the lovely folks in stores, who learn of my foreigner status.

This place is really getting under my skin. I'm loving this city! I will miss the energy here. I feel very much at home in some ways but in others it's all strange and new. When I have better German it will be even easier to make my way around I think.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Wandering and Wasch

I got up quite early today. Spent some time chatting with folks back home over skype and generally just getting into the day. A light brekky and shower and then a short trip to the local laundromat just up around the corner.

I really struggled to figure out the machines there. To pay meant going to one corner of the building and actually putting in the number of the washing machine one was using and then paying the right amount into the vending machine. I chose the large machine as I decided to take quite a bit of bats washing as well. I figure I might as well pull my weight seeing as they're putting me up for three weeks.

That's the great thing about making friends over the net. You get the kudos of being able to go to far away places and not have to pay a lot for accomodations :) Still! It is polite to try and contribute something I opted to be washgirl.

The dryers took ages though. Every 12 mins I'd have to put in another 50cents Euro just to get them going again and you couldn't put in more than one coin at a time which was rather inefficient I thought!

I read a bit and sat on the big comfy couch they had there for patrons and also shouted myself a hot tea with lemon from the hot drinks dispenser! Marvellous really even if the tea was sweeter than I usually have.

The afternoon was the coldest I've experienced thus far. Bat and I went for a walk to the U-Bahn and he showed me how to get around using this form of public transport. Then we caught the train to the Hauptbahnhof and got off to walk the rest of the way through to the centre of town.

Nuremberg is a lovely place. There is so much that I find beautiful in terms of the architecture and the sculptures that litter the pedestrian ways here.

It doesn't feel "old" here. The town itself has this sort of freshness about it. maybe it's because its all so new for me. I don't get a sense of the ancient and wonderful history of this place quite yet but I do know its here. It's obvious in the church buildings and the streetscapes that the place is old but at the same time I feel a strange sense of newness about Nürnberg.

The town was almost flattened during World War II and has been meticulously rebuilt to reflect its historical significance and character so that may account for my feeling that it is "New" here rather than very very old.

The crowds were quite large. I thought the CBD in Melbourne was a crowded and busy place but that seems sparse in comparison to the density of humanity that roamed the cobbled streets in the heart of Nbg today. It will be interesting to see what it's like tomorrow when I venture out by myself to see the Haupmarkt that happens every Friday.

As long as I can find my way back home again on the U-Bahn, I intend to roam around the town again taking as many photo's as I can while the light is good. It gets quite dark around 4:30pm for taking good photo's.

I ate a ridgy-didge "Nürnberger" which is a small bratwurst sausage sandwich. Absolutely delicious! Then I bought a big "Brezeln" which is a kind of bread shaped like a pretzel. I got one with Camembert cheese and butter! Oh my giddy aunt!!!! YUMMY! I shall put on all the kg's I've lost at this rate!

I find I get tired very quickly in the afternoons. I'm not sure if its because I'm missing one of my medicines I normally take for asthma (I discovered the box was actually empty in Bangkok airport. Silly me for not checking all my meds were actually inside their packaging before leaving!), and I'm in a state of withdrawal; or if it is still a bit of jet lag or if indeed, it's just the higher than usual concentration required to understand where I am and what I am doing! It could be it's a combination of all three I guess.

The cold here isn't nearly as intense as I thought it would be. I have actually dressed a lot lighter than I did earlier in the week and find it a comfortable balance between indoors (which can be very dry and warm), to outdoors. Today was probably the coldest I've been so far.

Yesterday, when I had just completed some grocery shopping, I watched a hail storm come pelting down outside the exit door to the Supermarkt. I haven't seen a good solid hail storm for some time. It lasted for about 5 minutes but the hail stones were already beginning to melt within a few minutes of it ending. I've not yet seen snow here.

I'm about to fall asleep on the keyboard here. Cu tomorrow maybe.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

February 3rd 2008 was 36 hours long!

I have arrived!

Yes! I am late posting this as I really "lost" most of my Monday here to sleeping.

The trip to Germany was long, and exhausting. Many times I thought to myself, "Okay! I'm done now... can we turn around and go home please?" I spent most of the time in transit being absolutely terrified of what might/could/would/was going to happen.

Melbourne Airport was okay except the last shuttlebus from Ballarat to the airport arrived rather too early for checking in so I lugged my heavy suitcase and carry on luggage around the airport for a few hours. Once I found out the check in gates, I sat myself on a chair and just waited, reading and people watching.

Check in was a surprisingly easy affair and I had no problems going through getting tickets or going through customs with Preciousss! :)

I tried to sleep on the plane to Bangkok but it was so cramped in our seats on that plane, my hip ached a lot. I think I did doze but in a sort of awake kind of way... totally aware of everything happening around me, despite the earplugs and eyecover I was wearing :)

We arrived on time in Bangkok and I entered the stage of my journey I had been dreading the most. A 7 hour stopover in Suvarnabhumi Airport

I felt so lost and small there. The building appeared reminiscent of a gangly and spacious octopus with these tentacles that wandered out from a central core. Each tentacle was made almost entirely of glass and steel so that you could see outside. Outside was grey and overcast and the sky was heavy with the portent of rain.

Once I found the departures section, I wandered about there for an age in a hopelessly lost state. I could not see the connecting flight showing on the information boards and I was a bit panicky after a couple of hours that I may have perhaps had to move to a different airport to connect to my flight to Frankfurt.

I found someone who spoke reasonable English in the First Class lounge for Thai International Airways and she confirmed that a gate number had not yet been assigned to that flight so I would literally have to wait until it showed up. I was relieved to a point.

I went back upstairs to departures and found a cafe. I had purchased about 100 Baht in Australia thinking that that would be HEAPS of cash to spend. It cost me around AU$10.00 for that 100 Baht.

I bought one cup of tea! It cost me almost my entire 100 Baht!!! So now I couldn't even afford to buy water unless I went and did an exchange at vast expense! I opted for going thirsty! But I won't do that again in a time I will spend what ever it takes to get WATER. I got seriously dehydrated in the next 20 or so hours of travelling as a result of that decision.

The gate number appeared on the board and like a rocket I went straight for it and went through customs with my carry on luggage thinking that I could just wait in a comfortable lounge on the other side!

No so.

Embarrassingly, I was about 5 hours too early to wait for my flight and now I was stuck on the other side of customs in a large rather empty and forbidding hall with nothing much to do but sit and wait. I tried to read, I tried my computer with some small success at connecting to the internet, I tried to sleep. By the time other people started to arrive for the flight, I was in some kind of weird zone of not being able to think inside my head. I could only just note things and let them slip past me inside my mind without too much consideration. Exhaustion was setting in.

I did smile when it finally rained. The rain streamed down the outer shell of the clear tentacle I was inside and made the effect like that of being enveloped inside a blanket of water. The air temperature was already cool inside the airport but it dropped quite a lot after that rain.

Some lovely german people arrived and I spoke to them briefly in my halting German to confirm that I was indeed at the right gate for the connecting flight.

We waited and waited. Delay!

We boarded the plane about half an hour later than scheduled. The flight was full! At least it seemed like it was.

Oh to be wealthy enough to easily justify and afford first class travel! What I would have given in that next 12 hours to be able to stretch out and just relax into sleep. To no avail. Uncomfortable took on mammoth proportions! The plane was slightly more spacious than the one I travelled on between Melbourne and Bangkok but still, there was just no way I could find a zone for sleeping comfortably and effectively.

The hours drifted by nonetheless and I guess I just spent most of them in a kind of surreal zone of brain-dead survival. The coming three weeks had better be worth this pain and endurance! I am totally glad I have lost a lot of weight, I feel very sorry for larger than average sized people who have to travel on long haul flights like must be absolute torture on their bodies.

We arrived in Frankfurt only about 15 mins behind our sheduled arrival. I left the plane a bit apprehensive about the forthcoming "grilling" I had expected from German immigration! The guy just took one look at me, stamped my passport, waved me through and I just had to go find my luggage after that! I was stunned!

It took me an age and a lot of walking to find baggage claim! I basically just went to the carousel that had the largest number of people around it and looked for faces I recognised from my flight! :) I waited for my luggage with some trepidation hoping it had actually managed to get onto this second plane! It arrived! I think I squeaked "ES KOMMT!" in German when I saw it come out of the luggage chute! A bloke beside me went "Huh?" hahaha

I half expected to have to have all the plastic wrapping taken off it by some official and the contents perused, but as I went to go through an exit there was no one at the desk at all. I had nothing to declare but still, I was dubious about just walking out , but a lady passenger just said "Go through, it's okay".

So there I was. In Frankfurt Airport having somehow managed to circumnavigate a vast variety of apprehensions I had expected and dreaded.

Now I had to find bats wife who, with her best friend, was to pick me up from the airport. I found a german "Treffepunkt" ... a specially marked Meeting Place and sat. My mobile phone then rang which surprised me! It was bat saying "WHERE ARE YOU?"

I was "I have no idea!"

I stayed put and the next thing I saw S. and R. turn up. Hugs and tears (from me) ensued. I was so relieved.

They very kindly bundled me into the car and I was whisked out of the range of the airport. We stopped at a petrol station so I could go to the toilet and S. showed me the ticketing system they use for public toilets! We realised only slightly later we had entered the male toilets instead of the womens! *giggle* The cleaner guy was shaking his head at us and smiling at these strange women! hahaha

I think I actually slept in the car better than I had for the entire trip thus far. R. drove at the speed of light (about 210km an hour on the autobahn) but it felt so safe and okay. I just relaxed into the spirit of the occasion and felt totally at peace.

I met bat in the flesh for the first time. It was... well... it was very moving for me. Expectations met and assumptions unmet.

But I have been tired this past day or so. Totally jet-lagged so I really didn't do much my Monday except eat a bit and chat to my daughter in skype then go back to sleep.

Today, I felt energised and ready to explore this new world I am currently in. I walked the streets of Nuremberg a little today just soaking in the difference in the buildings and style of things I am not used to. I even went supermarket shopping by myself for the first time with everything kind of similar but oh so different too.

A lady in a bakery even congratulated me on my rather limited German which I managed to speak to her...effectively telling her I was from Australia and didn't know much German! :)

Today has been a good day. I made german scrambled eggs and bacon for my breakfast, bought bread and some stuff from the bakery, went grocery shopping up the street, window shopping down another street and have laughed and chatted with my dear friend (when he finally woke up that is)!

Tomorrow, I shall venture out a little further as I orientate myself to the streets and directions here. I hope to explore the Hauptmarkt by Friday ...and find a laundromat to do my laundry! :)

Cu tomorrow maybe.