A tale of zwei schlossen

Some people write about two cities. We write about two castles.

For one of the privileges of living in Europe is the proximity one is to such numerous fortifications, some of which can just be around the corner from where one lives. Ok. So we exaggerate about these sights being “op de hoek” as the Dutch say.

Today we want to compare two sites.

Of the many that we’ve visited in Germany, we were not more struck by the contrast then these two. Both started out as fortifications, and served those purposes well. But one came to glamour while the other languished. What could have been the deciding factor that led to such different outcomes? Read all about the comparison here.

Which castle would you prefer?

Did you read the story? If you did, we hope you’d be inspired to be the castle that you wish to be, whatever the circumstances. Sometimes life does not deal the best set of cards to one. It’s how you play your hand over a period of time that ultimately determines if you can form a royal flush. But don’t be flushed just because you did not have a full house. Because having it straight is wonderful too as is having three of a kind. Of course if nothing else then two pairs could be consolation.

We could not even form two pairs when we first started.

Do you enjoy castle ‘collecting’? We do, and surely made the most of the opportunities afforded to us when we lived in Holland. And with that we conclude our series on Germany. Now we’d move over to Italy next, but as you know we’ve just come back two months ago from the land of the prophets. Time to share the journalogs next.

Look out for them soon!

The Schwarzwald

Not quite the Cotwolds but sounding a little similar, this refers to a forest. Where? Why in the southwestern corner of Germany! Today we are reminiscing our road trip to this verdant part of the country. One which we had sped all the way from Amsterdam in order to make the most time out of.

Black forest.

They have a cake named after it. But was it really black? Or perhaps a dark shade of green? Walking or hiking in the woods seem to be a very popular pastime for quite many German people. And here folks from around the world that share the same will find paradise. But it did not mean that for us non hiking folks there would be nothing to see and do.

For one thing, booking a stay in the forested mountains with its crisp cool and clean air was not only refreshing for the body, but also for the mind. Besides, some places offer you the chance to unwind and disconnect from the virtual world if only for a few days. Away from the humdrum of a busy city life, one can truly contemplate its true meaning. ommm… heheh.

For yourself that is, for to each their own. No two persons would be exactly the same no?

Yes it was a philosopical trip as much as it was a touristic journey. We went cuckoo for a few days. Wanna know why? Why not read about it here? Do you enjoy walking in the forests?

Is this a cool adventure – trekking the desert

How cool would it be to trek across the desert. Searching for unfound civilizations that may lay in the sands of time. Well, not quite though. It is tougher than one romanticizes for the desert is inhospitable. So when this article told of folks treking out in the Tengger desert, we were instantanously intrigued.

Ok so the article’s focus was on how folks in China become more adventurous with rising affluence. But you know our post is not about that. For it is not just the deserts of central Asia that exudes an exotic feeling of exploratory prowess. The Saharan experience would surely have concocted the same.

The unknown has always have a magnetic appeal to humans.

Like the galaxies, we imagine what is out there in an expanse that is seemingly lifeless or empty. Are there mysterious beings and civilizations that are hidden out there for us to discover? Are they benelovent or will they be aggressors? Can diplomacy work? Will we be like the crew of the starship Enterprise to ‘boldly go where no wo(man) has gone before’? Cue the music…

End the music!

We were recently in the deserts of the Wadi Rum. Ok so it was not exactly a hike in the desert as we viewed the world passing by from the back of an open Toyota pickup truck. But it was sure damn cool (being outside the car) while it ‘surfed’ the sands. In case you are wondering, those melons in the featured image were from the deserts of Dubai, not Jordan… and they are not edible too if you are curious.

Which deserts in the world have you visited?

Little towns of North Germany

If you were to read our story (here), some might find it a little controversial. Becasue the initial section of that story suggests a connection. Which might not be something some accept.

Got you to click on the link yet? No?

Ok, let us try again.

There was a time when we lived in the city of Amsterdam. And across the border was its larger cousin. They have wonderful roads called ‘autobahns’. No. Not barns where they kept cars instead of horses (yeah we know it’s a sick joke). We are sure you know these are the highways where the rule is : there are no rules! there is no speed limit. Along most stretches anyway.

Hence the actual motivation (for Mel at least) in visiting this lesss travelled area of Germany was the drive. For you see, as soon as we crossed over to Deutchland, it is open season as hunters call it. Put all your meetle on the peedal and let it fly baby! Of course that was limited by the fact that we drove an MPV, so topping out at ~230km/hr was about where we got before the steering got a little ‘light’. And we were considered slow. So we ate dust…

Anyhow.

There are actually places to go and sights to see in lower Saxony, niedersachsen as the locals call it fondly. In fact, the Romans were there! Not the modern day Italian tourists but the armour wearing ones we refer to as legionnaires. There were settlements here and one can still see vestiges of their once presence.

But the drive was still the biggest draw. What was the fastest speed you drove at? Find out where we ‘speed demons’ went here.

Living alone for 40 years!

This is one of the more interesting article that we’ve read from the Daily Mail’s travel section in a while. Incredible as it may sound, there is a person who’ve spent 40 years living alone. And not in a home in some neighborhood. But on an island off the remote eastern coast of Canada.

Well more like in the atlantic ocean since it is ~175km from Nova Scotia. Ok, so if you read the article it does say that there are teams rotating to the island. So she is not totally alone, though she does not have a companion with her. Especially when those crew members leave for the mainland.

In case you are really curious, here’s a map lifted from the article:Sable island map

Talk about a long journey! No, it is not in the middle of the Ocean, but it certainly far out and isolated enough! But today we are not assessing if Zoe is truly alone. We just want to point out how passion for something brings one to extremes of devotion and expertise. There is an old Chinese saying 行行出狀元, which in modern context means you can achieve success in your chosen path of expertise/line of work etc.

Unlike artists that seem to get a little more glamour for the devotion to their art, folks like Zoe take a backseat away from the limelight. Instead of basking in the warmth of appreciation, they humbly continue on their life’s work. Out in the middle of nowhere as we see it.

Do you have a passion for what you do? Where was the most isolated place on earth you’ve visited?

How we got to Russia

Not in a Lada.

You might recall that we finally touched Russia and added it to our handprint map two years ago. And in our journalogs (here and here) we shared the daily activities of the group tour. Fortunately we did not mis-goose step our way in Moscow and initially it was rainy… but we enjoyed it thoroughly.

Did you wonder why we chose a group over independent travel? As you might know, we try our best not to join group tours.

So what were the considerations for making our initial journey with a group? In our little essay, we recounted the events leading up to our final decision to be part of a chaperoned group rather than getting around by our own wits. Read here all about it. We have to say that despite all the reservations we had, we quite enjoyed that trip even if it felt a little ‘herded’. You know what we mean huh?

For an initial foray into a country with language completely different from anything we know, it was definitely a great introduction. Some day, we will plan a return journey getting a little off the beaten track. But not before we check off all the must sees first.

Have you been to Russia? What was your plan and journey to Russia like?