Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Herrenhausen Garten - 25 May 2009

We had time for another wander around Goslar to see houses that were in shade last night, now bathed in the early morning sun. OrchidThe Kaiserpfalz was open so we had a look through as it is reportedly “the largest and most impressive Romanesque royal palace to have survived anywhere in Europe”. We left, somewhat under-whelmed and after a quick look at the Henry Moore sculpture hidden away behind the Kaiserpfalz we began our return journey.

The ParterreThe Parterre

Arriving in Hanover, we made our way to the Herrenhausen Garten, or the Royal Gardens of Herrenhausen. Gates to the OrangeryLaid out at the beginning of the 18thC it is a wonderful example of a Baroque formal garden with a huge parterre and, apparently, 27km of hedges to trim. The Herrenhausen Palace was destroyed in WWII and the interior of the grotto has been given a modern makeover that is absolutely stunning but, apart from that, the gardens are much the same as they were originally conceived.

Garden statuary, every home should have oneAcross the road are the botanical gardens, with one of the best orchid collections in the world and a lime avenue leading to the Royal House of Hanover mausoleum; final resting place of a number of English Kings and their descendants.

The main fountainThe main fountain, which plays for restricted periods of the day, is claimed in the guide books to be the tallest fountain in Europe at 82m, but the one in Lake Geneva is taller (140m), as is the 91m one at Stanway Gardens in England (but perhaps England is not in Europe?) Although we did not check the entire 27km of hedges, the garden is almost 1km x 0.5km so it takes a fair time to cover the various different sections.

Inside the grottoIt was no great hardship, then, to head off to the airport and sit for a while reflecting on a German weekend that had been “einfach wunderbar.” Unfortunately, once we were on the plane we sat for another 80 minutes waiting for a thunderstorm over the English Channel to move out of our way. (It was only a 60 minute flight!) As it was, we still flew out of our way to get around the southern edge of the storm.

Hann.-Munden & Goslar - 24 May 2009

Looking down on Hannoversch-Munden from the Tillyschanze
Hannoversch-MundenLeaving Hameln we followed the Wesser Renaissance trail along the Wesser River valley to Hannoversch-Munden passing through a number of attractive half-timbered towns.

The guide-book had tempted us to this area with a lovely double-page spread photo looking down on a beautiful old city centre; Goslarunfortunately the scene was not identified. On arriving at Hannoversch-Munden we saw a belvedere overlooking the town and discovered that it was very easy to access this, by car, if you knew how. [Head for the Hospital, then the follow the signs to the Parking Platze, drive to end and then walk along the trail that leads from the car park. Along the way follow the signs to Tillyschanze and after about 15 minutes you arrive at a cafe at the foot of the tower.] The cafe will open the door to the tower for €1.10 per person and the view is simply stunning. We had found the scene from the guide-book.
Siemenshaus, GoslarFrankenberger Kirche, Goslar
Guildhall, Goslar (now a Hotel)It was time to head back north and hour or so later we arrived at Goslar. This beautiful town comprises 1500 old houses (more than any other town in Germany) with 168 from before 1550. Kaiserpfalz, GoslarThe locals painted red crosses on the roofs during WWII an so escaped the Allied bombers. What a treasure trove this little town is with half-timbered houses interspersed with houses entirely clad in slate made into a myriad of decorative patterns.
Marktplatz, GoslarMarktplatz, Goslar
A fine example of Goslar slateworkGoslar was founded on the mineral wealth discovered in the hills around the town and at one time was known a the treasure chest of the Holy Roman Empire. Silver was the first metal discovered but other minerals contributed to the town's fortunes until the last mine closed in 1988. Now it is the tourists who are mined for their money.

Celle, Hildesheim & Hameln - 23 May 2009

CelleAn early morning start is the best way to leave London on a Bank Holiday weekend so we were in Hanover before 10am.

CelleJust to the north of Hanover is Celle. This beautiful small provincial town escaped the bombing in the War, and we were able to wander around some of its 500 original 16th century houses.

Rebuilt Guildhalls at Hildesheim
From here we travelled to Hildesheim, a very different scenario in the war. Synagogue Memorial HildesheimThis beautiful town suffered substantial bombing in the last month of the war. In the last 20 years, an amazing rebuilding programme has restored it to it's former beauty. The town square is particularly amazing, with reconstructed guildhalls; faithful replicas of the original buildings. St Michael's HildesheimThe tourist office gave us a booklet for the town trail, called the Rose Walk, this is most worthwhile and we really enjoyed the walk which included two churches which are now UNESCO World Heritage listed.

The reason for the town trail being called the Rose Walk is because it takes you past a 1000 year-old rose bush. Building detail, HamelnThere is a legend about a lost prince hanging a relic on a rose bush and upon return finding the relic frozen to the bush even though it was the middle of summer; so he built a chapel there. No one knows when the current rose was planted, maybe 1000 years ago? Building detail, HamelnThe rose was saved during the WWII bombing by the church walls collapsing over the roots, thus protecting it from the flames. A few months later, it bloomed again and is still going strong.

Ratcatcher's House, HamelnDriving south, we arrived in Hameln; the destination that prompted this trip away from London. Arriving late in the afternoon is seemed that the Piper had piped all the tourists into the Wesser leaving the town for us to explore.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Bressingham - 17 May 2009

Bressingham Steam Museum & Gardens
Bressingham Steam Museum & GardensThe Epping Area MG Owners Club arranged their annual outing to Bressingham Steam Museum & Gardens today. This involves a morning run from the Stansted services on the M11 with each car setting off at intervals, and following a set of instructions to reach the Steam Museum by noon.

Bressingham Steam Museum & GardensWe discovered some new (to us!) villages, and enjoyed the variety of architecture, and pastel colours so typical of Suffolk and Norfolk.

The Steam Museum itself, is a most enjoyable day out for anyone, particularly families. Bressingham Steam Museum & GardensThe entry price gave us unlimited rides on 3 narrow-gauge steam trains, 3 rides on a steam merry-go-round, as well as access to exhibitions and sheds full of trains. But an extra delightful surprise is the wonderful gardens. Even though it was still spring, the gardens were full of colour and promised to be amazing come summer. Bressingham Steam Museum & GardensThe highlight of the early summer was the fresh growth on the hundreds of conifers; all shapes, sizes and variations of green. It was the best and most extensive conifer collection we have seen, and each specimen was in perfect condition.

Blooming wonderful - 16 May 2009

Isabella Plantation
Isabella PlantationAnother London hidden gem we recently heard about is the Isabella Plantation in Richmond Park. Best mates in Richmond ParkThis is a glorious display of rhododendrons and azaleas. Sadly, they were probably at their best two weeks ago, but we managed to Mandarin Ducksee them before the end of their 2009 season. Richmond Park itself is so extensive, a car (or horse) is a good way to get around.

By way of contrast, we headed out to Buckinghamshire in the afternoon, to visit Nether Winchenden House. It was, started in the 13th century, Nether Winchenden Househad a fair bit of Tudor work, including some wonderful chimneys and then the “new” modifications, done late 18th century to modernise it, now have the interest of antiquity. The same family have lived in it for the last 400 years, and we were fortunate to be shown around by the current owner. This made it extra interesting, as he was able and willing to show off items of furniture, one usually wishes could be opened.
Nether Winchenden HouseNether Winchenden House
We detoured home via Long Crendon and Denham, to see some magnificent wisteria we had hoped to see when flowering; both were, like the morning's blooms, just a little past their prime.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Cotswold caper - 10 May 2009

The windows of WInchcombeThe Annual gathering of and Spring Run for MG Y Type cars was held this weekend and we intended to be there with 'Clara'. There had been a problem with rough runninng at speeds above 45 mph and after much deliberation it was decided that the issue was caused by the charging system not delivering enough amps when running off battery power alone. The regulator needed to be allowing the dynamo to charge the battery properly and it was not.
The glory of steamThe glory of steam
Finally, late on Friday night the garage told us the problem was fixed and so, after collecting 'Clara' we set off full of hope and enthusiasm. Just outside Oxford I noticed that the ammeter was indicating that charging had stopped and then the rough running returned.
Some buckets have sand, one holds Fire??Rural England from the train
Decision time: Did we carry on for another hour, expect to do a 1.5 hour run on Sunday and then travel 2.5 - 3 hours home with a faulty car; or did we limp home there and then and change vehicles? We chose the later.

So, instead of turning up in a 1950 MG Y Type, like all the others, we arrived in a 2009 MG TF, looking just a little out of place.
Sudeley CastleSudeley Castle
Nevertheless, we enjoyed the run through the Cotswolds, starting and ending at the GWR Steam Railway at Toddington. The run was a relaxed affair with time allowed for lunch at any one of the many pubs that the run passed. Three Y's men returning from the Spring RunWe, however, had enjoyed a large full-English cooked breakfast so felt no desire to stop for lunch and instead made a detour to re-visit Sudeley Castle.

We also had time to take the steam train to Cheltenham Race-course and back before setting off back to London.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Windmills that you find - 4 May 2009

KinderdijkAlthough we weren't quite in the neighbourhood, UNESCO dangled a World Heritage site 'carrot', and we decided we couldn't miss the Kinderdijk site and its 19 preserved windmills in a dual canal system, dating from the 14th century. The canals had been dug by hand and when they could not keep pace, the windmills were added from 1738 to 1740, and the windmills drained the surrounding countryside, into the nearby River Lek. It really is an impressive sight, a real piece of quintessential Dutch history.
After a pleasant stroll around, we set of to catch the ferry back from Calais. The guide book told us that Breda was a pleasant town, and we had enough time for one more stop before we left the Netherlands, so it was a great place for lunch. Breda could almost be said to be wall to wall cafes.BredaBreda As it was Monday and a working day, the town was relatively quiet, but we enjoyed a fabulous lunch in the sunshine, within sight of their magnificent gothic cathedral, said to be the best in the Netherlands. We decided that the Netherlands do the best bread of any place we've visited. Breda Cathedral ceilingEach morning the two B&B's we stayed in had superb fresh, soft, yet crusty bread, as did this cafe. We heartily recommend sampling bread when travelling in this part of the Netherlands.

It was then a bit of a mad dash across Europe, getting tangled in the Antwerp motorway ring road and on across Belgium and France to get back to Calais in time for our ferry sailing. We made it with time to spare, had a rest on the ferry then a dream run home on the M20/M25 which we were dreading as it was the end of a Bank Holiday weekend.