The Continental Tripping Journal 2010 Holland/Germany   #2
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 This time I set off on The 2010 Continental Tripping all by myself.  Edinburger to Schiphol on a plane, just me, so I opted for an aisle seat for the first time ever.  With no The Husband to look out for me I reckoned I'd best be on an aisle seat to aid my own unassisted exit from the plane if need be.  I know, I know, unlikely that anyone would get out in an absolute emergency...but it made me feel better, I fooled myself.  Seriously, my fears are heights (and what greater height am I ever in than when on a plane), being trapped in small spaces (aeroplanes again) and depths (especially underground, in tight suffocating enclosed spaces under huge amounts of rock and the recent Chilean mine incident), large deep bodies of water far away from a coast or river bank (the plane could go down over water) and, last but not least, serial killers who torture rape and murder.  I've reasoned that it'll be OK if I'm on the aisle seat, especially when on my own with no The Husband to look out for me.  I will always opt for an aisle seat from now on. 

Leaving Scotland
 The Octogenarian Friend Tom did the driving and after checking-in we spent a pleasant half hour in Caffè Nero over a coffee and lemon drizzle cake for Tom and a Diet Coke for me.  On the plane with my aisle seat I found myself seated next to a Chinese woman and her 5 year old son on their way home after dropping the older son off to continue his education in a Scottish college.  She told me the dropped-off older son intends to go to a Scottish university after that.  I thought...uhhu.  And she told me how much better Scotland is when compared to China.  She told me that all the China clichés are true, it's all work work work, too crowded, too polluted, not relaxed enough.  I thought...uhhu, I can see where this is going.  She was very nice and the 5 year old was adorable, so we chatted as much as we could with the few English words they had at their disposal and the zero Chinese lingo I know.

During the flight I noticed the perfect cliché of a man air hostess, blatantly checking out the arses of men that squeezed past him in the aisle and rolling his eyes in disgust when he was called on by a customer to do anything at all.  I was half expecting him to slag off a passenger, grab a couple beers then exit via an inflatable shoot.  The female staff were much nicer with not a single drama queen tendency amongst them.
  Holland Gallery
 Arriving on The Continent
 The Husband was there for me at Schiphol and whisked me off in The Z4 to Emmen, but first I got some photies of The Wheel Of Energy in Dallaert Square at the main entrance of Schiphol Plaza.  Like a giant exercise wheel for hamsters, the charity project of Englishman Richard Bottram.  He sold his business when his girlfriend was diagnosed with cancer to concentrate on him and her.  When she died in 2005 he dedicated his life to raising funds in the fight against cancer setting up his charity foundation Marathon 365.  The wheel has a diameter of almost 7 meters and a width of nearly 3 meters, Dit maakt het mogelijk om 3 lopers tegelijk te laten hardlopen.allowing three runners to run simultaneously.  The plan is that from the 10th October volunteer runners will keep this human dynamo continuously generating positive electricity and monetary donations 24/7 for 365 days.  Dutch company Smulders Group BV in Helmond built the wheel, and it does look very nice, I hope Mr Bottram achieves his targets.  We returned to Schiphol the day after the Wheel Of Energy project kicked off and found one man and his dog doing their fund-raising duty.  Photies of the Wheel Of Energy before and after the project kicked off are on The Continental Tripping 2010 Gallery.
  Wheel Of Energy

This visit The Husband’s work accommodation was a Summer House at Landal Parc Sandur at Emmen.  Every one of the individual holiday homes have a water-front location thanks to a clever design with lots of small peninsulas off a large recreational lake.  There's loads of ducks and geese and boats.  The site has excellent facilities with a recreational centre containing indoor restaurant/bar with outdoor terrace seating/tables, swimming pool with a flume/slide which takes the flume-slider out the side of the building before they plunge into the pool, tourist info reception desk and a supermarket etc.  Our cabin was very nice inside, loads of all the necessaries AND BBC 1 and BBC 2 on the wide-screen-flat-screen TV...all they need to do is add the Jeremy Kyle and Judge Judy channel and my mornings would've been complete. 

 Holland fun stuff  

Batavia Yard - founded in 1967 the city of Lelystad in the province of Flevoland has two sights we wanted to see.  At approximately 5 metres (16 ft) below sea level, Lelystad is built on reclaimed land and named after Cornelis Lely, the guy who engineered the Afsluitdijk (major causway), making the reclamation possible.  And this is home to master-shipbuilder Willem Vos and his passion, the replica ship Batavia. 

  Here’s the history bit - in 1602 Dutch merchants trading in the East Indies joined together to form the VOC - the Dutch East Indies Company. It soon became the most powerful of Holland's trading houses and later became the world's largest company, in existence for over two hundred years. It built over 1600 ships called East Indiaman.  In 1628 the newest and largest of the East Indiaman, the original Batavia, set sail as flagship of a VOC fleet, on a 9 month journey from Amsterdam to the city of Batvia on Java.  The Batavia was wrecked off the Australian coast on 4th June 1629 (334 years, 3 months and 2 days before I was born)...then explored again for the first time on 4th June 1963 (3 months and 2 days before I was born).  
   The Batavia  
  On 4th October 1985  Mr Vos began his construction of the new Batavia, exact in every detail and made only of the same materials and using the same methods.  It’s a beautiful ship, sitting there on the water at Batavia Yard where the latest project is the reconstruction of battleship De 7 Provinciën (The Seven Provinces), built in 1664-1665 for the Admiralty of Rotterdam.  More than 600 underprivileged youngsters and long-term unemployed people have worked on the construction of the Batavia, over 85% of them have since moved on to paid employment or an education.  And now a new generation is involved in a second monumental shipbuilding project, that of De 7 Provinciën.  I'm wishing we lived in Lelystad so I could maybe get The Boy on a ship-building apprenticeship.  
  EXPOSURE - On the dike that connects Friesland and Flevoland, one kilometre across the water from The Batavia Yard, and just down from Houtrib Sluizen (sluice gates) is the reason I suggested a trip to Lelystad.  Angel Of The North artist Antony Gormleys’ EXPOSURE crouches on his honkers looking far out on the Ijsselmeer.  At 25 metres high and weighing 60 tonnes, Exposure is Mr Gormley’s largest and most complex sculpture.  It is made up of 5,000 unique pieces, 547 nodes and 14,000 bolts, was 3 and a half years in the making and built in Scotland by pylon manufacturers Had-Fab.  Not quite 'made in Scotland from girders' but close.  Exposure represents summit to do with the human body and the space it inhabits, summit like that.  I lurve it.  
  Shopping – Thursday is late shopping night in Emmen, with shops open till 8pm.  We took a stroll round the main town shopping area and having purchased a few things headed to Café Groothuis for dinner.  
  Dining and drinking – The Café Groothuis in Emmen got another couple visits, one time for their Sashimi and Sushi and another for their Vegetarian Tastery, it’s not a real word, but it’s apt.  By 'Tastery' they mean bits and pieces of several vegetarian foodstuffs including a stuffed tomato, a tiny soufflé and a melty goats cheese, accompanied by slithers of various veggies and a lovely sauce.  A couple nights we ate in, salad and fish, salad and pizza.  One evening we met with a work friend of The Husband at the pub D' Aole Kroeg in the centre of local town Schoonebeek.  Very friendly, traditional pub with a bunch of locals engaging in a Dutch Billiards tourni, free platters of hot tasty bar snacks with dips, and smoking, everyone was smoking, apart from...mein host.  We sat on high stools at the bar and were entertained by mein host, a jolly engaging man who’s recently given up smoking (two days before) on doctors orders.  

 Set Mr Izzard for Germany  
  When The Husband had done with business we took off to The Land of Sausages and Sauerkraut for some R&R.  Z4 top down we traversed that bit of The Continent from Emmen to Celle in Germany.  If I thought the French roads were scary...I hadn't been on an autobahn.
 The first obvious difference over the Dutch German border is of course the traffic.  The Z4 was in his native country and raring to show off, we didn’t have the right to refuse him, so it was tun-up down the autobahn to Celle.  Not all the way, we don't have a death wish, just a couple times when the roads were on the empty side.   
  Germany Gallery  
  This wonderful historic medieval royal German town in Lower Saxony with it's many half-timbered buildings from the 16th to 18th centuries was never bombed during WWII, The Husband says it's rumored that was cos of the English royals having German relations living there at the time, I don't know, but I'm richer in experience for the fact it remains intact.  We spent an afternoon ambling round the town centre with it's Saturday street market activity, the Café Müller motor train, the horse-drawn covered wagon.  We enjoyed gorgeous cakes in a stylish tea-room, ate them crispy golden Amsterdam chips with mayo from big paper cones and went site-seeing round all Celles' famous buildings including the oldest remaining Synagogue in Lower Saxony.  We visited Celle Schloss (castle), of course it's not a castle, it doesn't have castellations.  
  It's really the Ducal Palace and just before entering were approached by a German man and woman and their two dogs, offering us their tickets for the guided tour.  They seem to have purchased the tickets before realising dogs aren't allowed in and they were kindly giving us the tickets.  When it dawned on me that these two people were just being magnanimous, and not some sort of illegal ticket touts harassing me, I was totally taken aback at this kindness of strangers.  
  The Palace has a load of precious old stuff to see, but it's unique Renaissance chapel and the kitchen are held highest in esteem.  If you choose to wander round without the guided tour lady, just be aware that you won't get to see the chapel and kitchen.  
  Cos the guided tour is in German (though she does mention England a lot), we held back from the rest of the party and were always last to leave every room, all the better for the photie opportunities.  I was so tardy at one point that when I left the room everyone else had disappeared.  I found The Husband hanging back round a corner waiting for me then we got a row off the tour lady, if we didn't keep up we'd find ourselves banned from the chapel and kitchen.  We behaved from there on in, I did want to see the chapel.  When we finally arrived at the chapel we found they keep it behind Plexiglass, which is maybe a bit too careful, after all The Pope does let tourists into the Sistine Chapel and it's got Michelangelo's' ceiling.  
  Celle Schloss  
  At the end of our Celle site-seeing we headed back to the hotel with a stroll through The French Garden with the beautiful avenues of trees, lake and fountain, the giant pot-tree and a crazily askew and grand gatehouse built in 1611.   
   potted tree
  A small town with a big flower pot and a disproportionately large amount of attractions.
  Hotel Fürstenhof is without a doubt a 5 star experience.   Built as a baroque palace in 1680, today it's known for "tradition and private hospitality with an exceptionally unique ambience".  Absolutely private, apart from us...I'll tell you more.  
  Our room was fabulous with patio doors onto our private balcony over the central terrace/garden, twice daily maid service making the bed, plumping the pillows, leaving a slither of chocolate on both bedside cabinets, replacing the bathrobes and towels, providing a weather forecast for the next day.  All the staff were dressed in the most precisely perfect and entirely German hotel uniforms, as was our barman, slick and exact.  He struggled to unscrew the cap on the Pernod bottle and I suggested it was sticky.  Appalled at the very idea he retorted..." bottles are not sticky".  He was failing to open it so badly, I wanted to do it for him, I've never had problems opening a bottle of Pernod, it's easy, but maybe my biceps are bigger than his.  The next evening, at one point I'd went to his bar with all his non-sticky bottles and requested a repeat drinks order, which was the third for us that night...about 30 minutes later as we waited...we saw him leave his Teflon-coated non-stick bar and watched him set eyes on us...and ahhh...triggered his memory, he'd forgot.  He wasn't busy or otherwise engaged as we'd been thinking, we'd been making excuses for his tardy service, truth was...he'd simply forgot.  Looks the part, acts the part...but imperfect, just like the rest of us, jolly good.  
  In the main lounge that second evening, we saw a three generation family group celebrating, I'm guessing, the birthday of the eldest looking gent in the party.  They had a pianist performing much plonking staccato pieces of German music.  They all sat listening intently, giving their full attention throughout the performance and applauding politely after every piece, then taking photographs at the end.  It was all very atmospheric and lurverly for us to bear witness to, but from another viewpoint...entirely pompous and boring.  The Husband explained to me, because he knows bout these things...the pianist was serviceable.  He was playing in a perfunctory heavy handed manner, and what was missing was any special personal interpretation of the music.  He'd pass an exam but wouldn't be internationally hailed as particularly gifted.
  BUT...that wasn't the really interesting event of that night.  After the pianist did his turn and the family group adjourned to an upstairs function room for their dinner party The Husband and I watched an arms deal be sealed.  As I eluded to, the hotel guarantees private hospitality and we witnessed it in action.  There was a large group of Arab looking gentlemen in casual jeans and such like.  They didn't look like businessmen, they looked like the sons of some important guys back home out on a jolly.  Then two German businessmen arrived, in suits, carrying goody-bags with 'Rheinmetall Defence' written on each gift bag.  We watched a little later as the Arab looking guys made a presentation of a wrapped gift box to each of the Germans, they were taking photies, and we heard them tell the Germans, "this is from the government".  Shortly afterwards they all adjourned to the hotels' gourmet restaurant, where they sell a bit of fish for €50.  So there you go...big business in action and a top German hotel providing the "private hospitality" required in such instances.  No-one was watching but us and that barman.  Speaking of that barman, he told us, "my mother, she works at the concentration camp", that's something you don't hear every day.

Close to Celle is the harrowing site of the Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp.  We spent a morning walking where approximately 70,000  people died for racial, political, religious, social, biological and economic reasons during the five year period 1940 - 1945 .  It's such a huge number, but only a small fraction of the estimated 70 million total body-count of WWII, incomprehensible.

  Walking around Belsen there are many raised areas with plaques announcing 5,000, 2,000, 10,000 lie buried in that particular mass grave, those figures seem huge enough.  Of course it's a moving experience visiting a concentration camp, then in the museum with all it's facts, records, photos and exhibits, the proof of The Holocaust.  The Nazis kept meticulous records.  Such a sad place, the small stones and reminders placed on the memorial stones by visitors, a stone to mark the death of Anne Frank (16yrs) and her sister Margot (19yrs), the light-filled House of Silence with it's triangular alter covered in notes, trinkets, stones and candle tins and an Israeli flag and sunflowers.  
  Birds do fly overheard and chirrup and sing, I reckon the dead would wish it so.  
  mass grave Bergen-Belsen  

 Möhne Dam  
 Driving back to Holland on a beautiful October Germany day we went round by the Möhne Dam on the Ruhr River.  The Husband wished to show me a bit of the damage done by The Dambusters in Operation Chastise on the night of 16 – 17 May 1943.  Two whole years before The Allied Forces entered Bergen-Belsen.  I can't fathom near but yet so far for the prisoners there.  A huge hole 77 by 22 meters was blown into the dam that night.  The huge flood wave killed at least 1579 people, 1026 of them were foreign forced labourers held in camps downriver, and resulted in 11 factories being totally destroyed, another 114 were seriously damaged, 25 road and rail bridges were destroyed and throughout the region power, water and gas supplies were seriously disrupted.  The dam was fixed within five months, by forced labourers, but the fixed bit is evident, a reminder that can't be ignored.
  Today it's a recreational area attracting all sorts of people, German families and foreign tourists on days out enjoying the artificial lake and the restaurants, hotels and such like, and bikers, loads of motorbikes. 
 Meeting the in-laws  
 From there we drove the 45 km west to Dortmund, to meet up with The Sister-in-law at her family home.  There we were greeted with the warmest of receptions by herself, her lovely parents and her brother.  The Brother's wife is a German teacher, a teacher of German amongst other languages, but also a teacher that is German. 
 We were welcomed into their lovely home and shown around it's four floors (two normal floors, the under-eave roof area which holds a large airy and windowed recreational room and the basement which has three storage/utility rooms) before we settled down in the sunny garden to chat.  The Mum-in-law cooked us Eierkuchen, German pancakes which are really thick puffy crepes, accompanied by mushrooms, picked in local woods by The Dad-in-law, with delicious apple sauce.  Then there was thick slabs of Marmorkuchen, which is marble cake.  Mmmmmm.  Then we all adjourned to a computer screen so the in-laws could watch The Las Vegas Wedding with Elvis on Youtube.  After much laughter we all sat around in the sun again.  Was a lovely visit with lovely people.  The Mum-in-law wished to give us a wedding gift, but of course she had to find one in her house when she wasn't exactly pre-warned the situation would arise.  She gave me tea-towels and I was extremely happy to be so gifted, I was also mightily pleased to have met such warm friendly people and been offered the chance to experience real family life in Germany.

 Leaving Holland   
  And all too soon t'was time to head home to Starry Towers again.  Back to Schiphol and a look at The Wheel Of Energy in action, it began the day before.  While we were there it was being run by one man and his dog. 
  In the airport there was a luggage disaster for me to freak out over and The Husband to deal with.  The Camo Bag, which I'd previously adored so much, let me down, big time.  The stitching burst on the top rendering it useless.  Was too risky to put on a plane and had to be replaced by a new suitcase.  What a disappointment. 
  Back home in Scotland and The Dad was there to pick me up.  Wonder where we'll go next.
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mmmm    mmmm