Good day one and all and thank you so much for visiting my little site here.
For those that do not know me, I am to technology what a sumo wrestler is to synchronised diving i.e. I just cannot do it. I have just conjured up a mental image there that I really wish I hadn’t.
I have owned this site for about eight months now (as of December 2018) and have been working very hard trying to resurrect writings from long ago which were previously on other websites, one callously killed off by illegal corporate greed and the other by lack of interest by the owners.
Eventually I have worked out how to pin (I believe that is the techie term) this so it remains at the top of my front page. I have decided that the only way for me to make any vague semblance of sense here is to backdate the entries of my various trips to the relevant dates which may make them hard to find and so I am creating this page to assist you – hopefully! I shall keep you informed here of completed travelogues and those under construction.
Firstly, I did write for a while for a decent website called blogspot.com which I know is much used by travel bloggers. If you want a look at what was admittedly a very user friendly site and looks like not being killed off any time soon, then here is a link to my pages there. They deal mainly with my trip to the Philippines in 2012 but also with an earlier trip round SE Asia which happened to coincide with my 50th birthday shortly after I retired. There is also the beginnings of a piece on a month I spent in Malta but which I never really finished there and so it will be migrated here and a link posted in due course. Note that it is still under construction.
If you want to know about rather unusual trip which happened in 2017 when I went to meet a friend for four days (and had packed accordingly) in the Southern part of the Netherlands and flew home from Rome eight countries and over three months later then look here.
If you want to know about yet another trip that took rather longer than expected then have a look at my recent excursion back home to Northern Ireland which is detailed here. A week for a family reunion turned into two and a half months but that is the way I am.
As I mentioned above I started a blog on my trip to Malta in the blogspot site but I left there before it was finished so I propose to make that my next project here. Yes, the first few days will be unashamed cut and paste from the former site (I do not believe in wasting energy) but hopefully I can bring that to a conclusion here relatively quickly.
After that, I am very much in your hands. I have three extended trips to Canada to write up, three to Sri Lanka, another couple to Northern Ireland and a few to Scotland. I have a month on Madeira to write about and many other adventures besides. If you have anything you would like to read about, please tell me. It is all the same to me, it will all take time but this really is my last chance at writing online. If this one goes wrong then I am out of here.
Perhaps Burma, Lao or Cambodia are you your liking or maybe a great trip through a couple of the former Yogoslav Republics (Serbia and Macedonia) with some dear friends plus the briefest of side trips to Albania. Honestly, I was there for 15 hours, border to airport via Tirana. Imagine visiting a particularly secretive country where you never had a penny of the local currency in your pocket, did not speak a word of the local language and still got where you needed to be. That was Albania, proper “flying by the seat of my pants” travel and I loved it, I must go back some day. The Algarve in Portugal, Greece and Cyprus are all in the mix as well.
Please get in touch if there is anything you would particularly like to read about and I shall certainly prioritise it. As I say, if I live long enough it will all get done sooner or later and I do not really mind what order I do it in.
As for the image which heads up this page, it is not really very relevant to anything I have written here bar a passing reference to Burma. I just wanted to liven up the page with an image and this is one of my favourites to the extent I have it as a screensaver. It was taken from the grounds of the Shwedagon paya in Rangoon, Burma at sunset which is undoubtedly the best time to visit if you happen to be there. My dear Burmese friend Zin had very graciously given up her day off to show me round that fascinating city and we had had a great time. Not only do I find it aesthetically pleasing as it is one of my few half decent amateur efforts but it stands for the reason I travel, the reason I write about it and, ultimately, the reason this site exists at all.
Right, so much to do and time I got back to work so, as always, stay tuned and spread the word.
I have mentioned the “travel Gods” before on this blog which is unusual for an atheist like me and perhaps I am just lucky but I woke up on the morning of 27th March in what we call at home a “garret” room, the garret being basically the attic room where the serving girl lived. My first place away from home was a garret room with a great mate called Kevin (who incidentally taught me the rudiments of whatever culinary skill I may have, he having learnt it in the Merchant Navy) in a similar billet adjacent. I woke up this day with a slanted roof above my head, sunlight coming in the window and looked around to see a room that was certainly much better appointed than my 1979 version but I just got a feeling that the travel gods were on my side that day.
Without wishing to dwell on it I had been in a pretty bad way about travelling when I started this slightly odd trip but I was now rediscovering the joys and this was certainly a joy. Quick shower and downstairs to see so many artefacts that had been unlit the night before and I in no position to appreciate them. It really is a fantastic hotel and I have included a few images here.
I went to the desk and asked the same lady who had been there the night before (I believe she must be the owner and apparently never sleeps) for a cab. She was most apologetic as it might be half an hour. Was the bar open? Certainly and no problem for me to spend thirty minutes there. A breakfast beer duly purchased and outside for a smoke (it is a non-smoking hotel) and a look round what is effectively a very small but almost appallingly gorgeous village. I swear they take these places out of children’s books. I took a few images (again included here) and my beer was not even warm by the time I got back. What an utterly delightful place. Again, I had thought I was a bit screwed the night before because I could not stay in Kempten but I would never have found this tiny place otherwise. We are back to the travel Gods.
The taxi turned up well before time and I was slightly surprised to see that it was a lady driver as there are very few where I live. I approached her and gave my name to receive a “Ja” and asked her for “zwei minuten” to finish my beer which appeared to be no problem. In truth the finishing of the beer took about three seconds but I did want to go and thank the lady on reception which I did.
I looked at my tiny bag as I threw it into the boot of the very nice car and had a brief moment of introspection as I tend to, wondering how it had all become this crazy. I was nearly two months down the road now on four days kit and as happy as a pig in muck. To borrow from the final line of “Gone with the wind”, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” Isn’t that the truth? I was on the road, going meet some dear friends again, as happy as I am probably ever going to be. By this point I had given up any pretence of this being a normal little jaunt to Europe, I was on a mission. Unlike in the Forces, nobody had actually told me what the mission was but I was on it nonetheless.
In retrospect, I think the mission was to stop me going completely mad. I do apologise to people who are visiting this page hoping to read about a wonderful little Southern German village and, believe me, there will be plenty of that in due course but a look at the previous entries on this blog may assist in understanding.
In due course I was deposited back at the allotted meeting point in good time, yet again clutching my small bag but more than ready to go. This was going to be the last day of the last VT Euromeet (as I thought then) and there was certainly the potential for a very maudlin day out but not a bit of it.
As we set out for our day trip it seemed that there was a rather more defiant attitude regarding a website that has been prosecuted in at least four countries and is without any validity at all and which had removed the very raison d’etre of this lovely weekend purely to remove an infinitely better site after having stolen all our content. Just today, whilst preparing this piece for publication I was re-researching matters (is that a real word?) as I always do and came upon this from the New York Times which is hardly a “fly-by-night” sensationalist publication and an article I had somehow missed before. If you don’t want to check it, it reveals how posts from a woman detailing how she was raped by a security guard in a Mexican hotel were repeatedly deleted by Tr%padvi&or, presumably because they were paying for good reviews. When the report of this vile crime was eventually re-instated, it was re-posted chronologically to ensure it was so far down the list you would have to search for a week to find it. Again I must urge my very few readers not to ever go on that disgusting and immoral website as this is just one of so many examples of it’s disgusting record. Back to our day out.
We jumped on board another lovely coach (again, well done again Christian) and we were off again for another day of the joys of Southern Germany.
We were heading for Oberstdorf, the main event of the day. To be honest we could have just parked in a carpark by the autobahn with a few bottles of beer and a few more of the excellent local wine and had a brilliant time as it really was that kind of gig. There were a lot of very old friends (in all senses of the phrase) all together, having been made effectively homeless online and struggling to find out where to go.
So, this was the last ever VT trip months after our site had been murdered? I use the word “our” advisedly as it was always rather more a community based concept than a simple travel website. This day had every potential for being morose after what we had all communally contributed and subsequently lost. Morose? Not a chance, that’s obviously not what we are about although it did certainly surprise me. We took off on another delightful coach and into the delights (and they are indeed delights) of the Bayern (Bavarian) countryside. This place really does need to be confined to a children’s book somewhere, it is proper storybook scenery.
Whilst not the coach of the previous day it was similarly delightfully appointed. I don’t know if Christian had used two different firms or coaches brought in by the same firm but they were excellent.Yet again, his organisational skills are to be heartily applauded and I think everyone that was there will agree.
Off we headed in good time (nobody was late as I recall) and away on the relatively short journey to Oberstdorf, a village which is near enough as close as you can go South in Germany and still be in Germany! Arriving there in a very busy car park, Christian asked who wanted tickets to visit the gorge which is the main draw here. As I mentioned earlier it was a holiday weekend and half of Bayern seemed to be there.
Firstly, we went for a short and very pleasant walk past some of the most contented cows I have ever seen (then again, they always seem fairly contented) to view what was apparently an international standard ski slope although at this time of year with no snow it looked as though some giant had ripped up a long thin field and placed it at a most ridiculous angle up a very steep hill. For those of you who have not seen ski jumping for real, it beggars belief how humans can hurl themselves down this thing at vast speeds and effectively jump of the equivalent of a house after that. Those people must be absolutely mad as you have to actually stand next to that thing to appreciate just how huge it actually is.
After wondering at the potentially suicidal tendencies of some folk, i.e. those who throw themselves off tall structures at vast speeds with no means of braking, there were a couple of options available. You could either just walk a few hundred yards and see the gorge or there was a full walk right around the high perimeter which was designed to take about an hour. Some of the more intrepid members took the latter option and came back panting, sweating and generally looking the worse for wear. Readers of earlier submissions here will know that my trusty old walking boots had died back in Luxembourg and whilst I can hump up a hill with the best of them I was neither shod nor, frankly, in the mood for it.
In my way of noticing these things, I had instantly “clocked” there was a decent looking and very traditional Bavarian bierhaus / restaruant so that would do for me. A day off sightseeing would do no harm. I went to the bar and was yet again amazed that they would not serve me. I was told I had to go and sit at a table and a waitress would come to me. Why? I really do not understand. The place was busy as Hell and I thought that my going to the bar would just save everyone a lot of work. Not so apparently. Eventually a very pleasant young lady appeared and brought me up a very decent beer I could have been drinking five minutes earlier. Utter lunacy.
I was sitting outside (for the purposes of smoking) and it really was the most perfect experience. It was just one of those things of time and place, everything was just right. I live for days like this. Yes, a few very dear friends were coming and going before or after their various meanderings around the gorge. I regret that I do not have the vocabulary to describe the pleasure of this day properly but suffice it to say that I was subsequently in tears composing this piece. It really was that magical and poignant.
After that, it was back to the bus and into the village of Oberstdorf itself which was yet another delight (the ski jump and gorge are a little way out of town). Needless to say, I wandered round a few bars after having taken the obligatory few “snaps”. Yet another one for the “picture postcard” brigade. I know that some of my compatriots had a walk along the river which they declared to be beautiful and I am sure it was but again, I do not see it as wasted time. I met some lovely people, had a great afternoon chatting and getting to know about the local area and that was quite enough for me.
Eventually we embussed again and back to Kempten for the final “final” meal on a VT meet ever. Frankly, I was not looking forward to it for reasons as mentioned before. Also, I was still effectively homeless and had to get to my third hotel in three days. Hey, this is Fergy style travel. I got to my hotel, the Peterhof,was checked in quickly and efficiently and found an utterly gorgeous room that was probably stretching my budget a bit but was worth every penny.
More of that in due course and, suitably refreshed, it was off to the designated resto for the evening meal.
We had had some brilliant meals already but somehow I think Christian had definitely saved the best for last. From the selection offered I chose the pork shank which, as I have said before, is one of my favourite meats. In UK we have a bar snack called pork scratchings which is effectively deep fried pork fat and sold in small bags or foil packages to accompany your drink. I love them albeit that the are undoubtedly cholesterol laden and absolutely perilous to the teeth. I had never seen it “au naturel” as it were but this is how it was served. I have no clue how chef achieved it but it was undoubtedly one of the finest pieces of meat I have ever eaten and I have dined in some pretty decent places. Again accompanied by my perennial local favourites of red cabbage and dumpling it was a meal of utter gastronomic delight for which I thank chef and his / her brigade. I’ll let the images do the talking.
Whilst the meal was superb as Christian’s track record had suggested it would be, that was never going to be the problem. This really was the end of the end for something that we had all held dear for varying periods of time, in some cases up to 16 years and in mine 12. That is a long time. Most marriages don’t last that long! Again, it had every potential for being a very sad and even depressing occasion. My arse, if the ladies will pardon my French. It was a night of great fun, excellent food as mentioned, and with a not particularly subtle undercurrent of defiance that dictated that a very evil man in charge of a criminal website was not going to beat us down.
To an outsider I know this will sound completely overblown but that is how it felt. I know that the revolting and criminal site (look it up, Tr(pAd*isor have been successfully prosecuted in four countries for lying to my knowledge and there may well be more) are still illegally using our content but who has the money to take them on? It appears that might is right and certainly the American legal system works on the principle of “he with the biggest chequebook wins”. However, the evening had been a resounding success and not at all downbeat as I had feared. We are still here and not going away any time soon.
Incidentally, the guy in the slightly garish red jacket is Jon, who is married to a VT member called Regina who is a great friend of mine. He is by trade a professional magician and very good he is too so he kept the entire party amused with his sleight of hand antics. Even when I was standing right beside him I still don’t know how he did it, he was that good.
I had more or less got my bearings in Kempten by now so a 15 or so minute walk home and a quick beer from the hotel bar saw me to a very comfortable bed in fine order. So that was it? That was the end? Somehow I do not think so. We don’t lie down and die at the whim of a corrupt man in charge of a criminal operation. Thankfully, this was to prove to be the case with a 2018 meet taking place and another planned for 2019.
Well, that was the meet over so what to do next? If you want to know, stay tuned and spread the word.