Friday, 19 July 2013


One of the pleasures of cycling off the beaten track is that you come across startling locations that you would never find if you just travelled by train. On a cycling trip from Seelow to the Oder-Neiße Radweg we came across one such gem, Neuhardenburg and its Schloß.

This was the residence of the Prussian statesman Prince Karl August von Hardenberg, who seems to have been quite an enlightened guy. The Schloss and church were designed by Schinkel, so naturally everything is beautifully proportioned and neo-classical, set in a landscaped park that Capability Brown would have been proud of.

During the Soviet regime the DDR Jagdfliegergeschwader 8 air-force squadron took over the Schloß and the village around it presented as a 'model village' of Soviet communalism. After Die Wende the Schloß was returned to the Hardenberg family, who sold it to the Deutscher Sparkassen- und Giroverband (German savings bank) who run it as a conference centre and up-market hotel. It is also used as a retreat by the Federal Government. The parks are open to the public.

From 1949-1991 Neuhardenberg was renamed Marxwalde.

The Seelow Heights

The Seelow Heights are about 90km East of Berlin and overlook the Oderbruch, the Western flood-plain of the river Oder that marks the border here between Germany and Poland. We planned to cycle some more along the Oder-Neiße Radweg and this historic location, which saw some of the heaviest fighting of World War II, was our starting point.

The Battle of The Seelow Heights was fought over three days, from 16–19 April 1945. Close to one million Soviet soldiers of the 1st Belorussian Front (including 78,556 soldiers of the Polish 1st Army), commanded by Marshal Georgi Zhukov, attacked the position known as the "Gates of Berlin". They were opposed by about 110,000 soldiers of the German 9th Army,[4] commanded by General Theodor Busse, as part of the Army Group Vistula.

Here are some photos of the memorial monument, graveyard, and museum that we visited there.

Friday, 12 July 2013


Brandenburg is rich in lakes and waterways, and the opportunities for messing about on the river are many-fold. One evening we travelled up the Heidekrautbahn to Zerpenschleuse, and from there cycled to the TiBo Kanu Verleih to hire a kayak for an hour or so on the canal.

Here are few piccies of swans we paddled amongst:

And this is where the Heidekrautbahn railway crosses the Finow canal:

Monday, 8 July 2013

A Journey to Hull and Back

A dull, grey day today, so I took myself off to Kingston Upon Hull, a port on the River Humber, to go around its numerous museums and art galleries. Entry to them all is FREE, unlike Berlin, and they are mostly really rather good.

The Maritime Museum on Queen Victoria Square in the centre of Hull is a good place to start. It tells the story of Hull's important links with the ocean and in particular its whaling industry. Whatever you think about the trade of chasing and hunting down gargantuan creatures across the oceans of the world (and I think it was and is a despicable thing to do), there is a romance in the tales of sailors from the tiny city of Hull travelling on small vessels across vast distances of stormy seas to frozen places I can barely imagine. Well, the Maritime Museum is the place to let your imagination wander with them.

Hull doesn't have a fishing industry any more, let alone a whaling industry, but you can see Hull's last surviving sidewinder trawler over in the Museum Quarter, moored desolately on the River Hull, behind the Streetlife Museum.

The Arctic Corsair, Hull
The trawler is named the Arctic Corsair. Built in 1960, she was in service until 1998. During that time she took part in the Cod Wars with Iceland, and in 1973 broke the world record for the landing of cod and haddock from the White Sea, way up on the Arctic North-West coast of Russia.
She is now a museum ship and not going anywhere, and sits there in an air of melancholy and the miasma from the River Hull at low tide.

Funnily enough, I have a friend from Hull called Holmes.
Hello dere Ian, if you are reading this!

And it definitely was low tide as well!

Tide's Out for the Summer!
I wonder where they were going?
The Streetlife Museum nearby is a bit more fun. It has certainly improved a lot since I was there last, many moons ago, when Hull's collection of vintage transport was housed in a large warehouse. The staff were friendly and helpful, though that might have been to do with the fact that I was about the only visitor there at the time. They asked me where I had come from, and when I said Berlin in perfect English, I could see them do a double-take. They then insisted that I have a good look at their German BMW bubble car, which I of course did.

A 60's BMW Bubble Car!
Precursor to Daimler Smart Cars no doubt. The Germans always were ahead of the curve in car design.
Looking at old transport might not be everybody's idea of fun, but I passed a pleasurable hour looking around.

The museum curators have gone to a lot of trouble creating imaginative scenarios with mannequins dressed in period costume and accompanied by a looped sound-track, like this:

A gorgeous dress, but I'd have thought not very practical for travelling in a Hackney Carriage
It is also the first and only time that I have experienced a stage-coach simulator! True! Okay, you sit in a small box whilst a machine jiggles it around and you listen to a recording of horses and the driver somewhere supposedly in front of you talking to them, but hey ho, it brought a smile to my face.

If vehicular transportation ain't the way you roll, then there are reconstructions of Victorian shops to tickle your fancy. The old pharmacy in particular took my interest:

Hmm, liquorice!

Nearby to the Streetlife Museum is Wilberforce House, birthplace of the famous slave trade abolition campaigner, philanthropist, liberal politician, and all-round good guy, William Wilberforce.

In a garden between the two is a nice little garden named after Nelson Mandela. For some reason, though I am sure it is a worthy one, there is a bust there to Mahatma Gandhi.

It's always hard to recreate spectacles in cast bronze
Outside Wilberforce House is a statue to the man himself:

William Wilberforce
And the only statue around here where the subject is fully dressed. Hmm.
Because this is a museum that includes a lot of information about Wilberforce's anti-slavery campaign, here there is a reproduction of the much reproduced poignant image 'Am I Not a Man and a Brother'

Of course, there wouldn't have been a slave trade to abolish if people like the rich merchants of Hull hadn't started it in the first place
I was surprised to also find in the museum an old poster for a Hull Rock Against Racism disco. Surprised, because I could well have gone to it back in the 80's!

Hull Rock Against Racism poster
Takes me back!
It was still grey outside, and even the golden statue of King William III was looking a bit dull.

King Billy
Or Golden Willy
The inscription on his plinth says it was erected in memory of 'Our Great Deliverer' rather than 'Dutch Conqueror of England and Scotland who Deposed Our Sovereign King', so I guess it was put up by protestants. Whatever, there are some rather curious grade II listed public toilets below it, where I was told as a kid they had goldfish in the glass water flush-cisterns. I have never been in so don't know if that was ever true, and today they seem to be closed down so I will never know.

I visited a few more museums and the Feren's Art Gallery. The latter is great if you are a lover of sentimental Victorian melodramas. I'm not, so I was soon back out again, and making my way back to Hull station.

But before returning to Brid, I had to visit The Land of Green Ginger, just so I could say that I had been there!

The Land of Green Ginger
A favourite of pub quizzes

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Sunny Scarborough

Sunday, and a run out on the bus with my Mum to meet her sister, my Auntie Brenda, who was coming by coach from her home in the North Yorkshire Dales.

Scarborough was packed to the gunnels with tourists. I thought Whitby was bad the other day, but this was worse. The noise and the number of bodies packed together reminded me of the seabird colony on Flamborough Head. Oh my, it was busy.

Anyway, we managed to fight our way onto an open-topped bus and took a short, but very slow, trip along the sea front.

Here is my Mum, and here is my Auntie Brenda!

Mum and Brenda
I think Brenda has her fingers in her ears because of the noise.
Either that, or she has changed her religion. 
Scarborough, it has to be said, is not my favourite Yorkshire seaside resort. It is Bridlington's brasher, coarser, down-market cousin. But I can enjoy it well enough in small measures, and it has some quieter corners like the castle and Peasholm Park where you still get a feel of its history and past elegance. It even has a rather striking vegan cafe mixed in with the fish & chip shops and burger and candy-floss bars.

C-A-L-F Vegan and Vegetarian Cafe
More typical though are the numerous drinking holes that I wouldn't dare go into.

The Golden Last, Loyalist Pub
But Scarborough IS fun! End of the pier, crude, bottom-denominator fun, but still a great place to lift the holiday spirits. What other town would you look up and expect to see a waxwork dummy of the queen staring down at you?

Long to Watch Over Us ...
To escape the crowds, we took to the seas! The 'cruise' was a bit different from the Yorkshire Belle a few days before. More people were crammed in, they served beer, let you eat chips on-board (how come I'm eating so much chips here?!), and played seventies' pop music over the P.A.

Still, very enjoyable, and a different perspective on Scarborough.

Scarborough Castle

North Scarborough town

The Grand Hotel, Scarborough
Not one of Brenda's favourite hotels after a rather bad Christmas experience staying there.
Then, it was time to catch our bus and coach back. It was great seeing Auntie Brenda again, that's for sure. And seeing Scarborough again? Well maybe if I come back here in another year's time then I might be ready for it!

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Whitby - Town of Dracula, Caedmon & Captain Cook

To Whitby, with my Mum and her friend Sue!

 I think Whitby is one of my favourite Yorkshire towns. Thousands of other visitors thought so too, and it was packed to bursting on a sunny Saturday in July. So, we headed away from the throng of tourists and climbed up the 199 steps to St.Mary's church.

Here's Caedmon's Cross, at the top of the Whitby steps. It commemorates the earliest English (Anglo-Saxon) poet who's name is known, and he was in charge of the animals kept by Whitby Abbey in the times of St. Hilda (614 - 680 AD).

Caedmon's Cross, Whitby
And here's the view of the town, past the gravestones of St. Mary's Church. Bram Stoker's Dracula first landed on British soil at Whitby, and many a film and TV series features this graveyard. The Dracula connection also ensures a lively and colourful (albeit, if the colours are shades of black and purple) Gothic Weekend twice a year in Whitby. Sadly, these gravestones are slowly tumbling over the edge of the cliff as the cliff erodes away, sometimes resulting in a cascade of bones mixed in with a landslip.

St. Mary's Graveyard
This is St. Mary's Church itself. It was founded in 1110. It's interior, which dates from the early 1700's, is a wonderful creation, and shows the ship-building tradition of the town with its marvellous timber-beamed roof like an upturned sailing ship.

The Church of St. Mary, Whitby
Other creatures than ourselves were surveying the town roof-tops:

A seagull surveys Whitby
Time to do a bit of posing ....
No, that's not Captain Cook! That's me, that is!
My Mum!
The glamorous Sue!
After the exertions of the 199 steps (there were 200, but the Devil stole one - the rascall!), I wonder if there is anywhere in Whitby we could get some chips and maybe an ice-cream? In Whitby? You must be joking!

Bubble ice-cream!
After a tray of chips and mushy peas sat on the harbour wall, we travelled up to the beautiful moorland above Whitby and to Goathland, used as a location by the long-running TV programme Heartbeat.

We left Mum in the bar of the Mallyan Spout Hotel, and climbed down into a wooded dale to find the Mallyan spout itself.

a Goathland stream
Mallyan Spout, Goathland

Mallyan Spout, Goathland
After refreshing ourselves further at the gorgeous Mallyan Spout Hotel, we returned to Bridlington across the wild North Yorkshire Moors.

North Yorkshire Moors
A great day out! T'wer reet champion!