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We did indeed spend the day driving. We're in a Campanile outisde Venlo, just across the Dutch border, and for 6e I can have 50 min WIFI access.
Today's report: rain, traffic jams, motorways.
I've read a book about how to write short stories for magazines, and learnt some new tricks and some mistakes to watch out for, and a diary of a farmer's wife from the 1790s, which was fascinating and hilarious in spots. Bits there I can borrow, too. Both of these were birthday presents from my mum, picked up from a second-hand book-stall in Cambridge.

Tomorrow we decline to pay for the breakfast buffet here, move out at around 8, and cross Belgium, aiming for Bruges. Ferry home is Thursday.... next book in the stack is one on writing novels.
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Bags packed, car loaded, and the plan for today is to aim the satnav at Belgium and then tell it to find the nearest Etap or equivalent when we've had enough. Notebooks, books, and crochet are all in easy reach...
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A split today - Dave and I got the 8:40 train to Brocken, at which point Team Piggott were still snoring. Saw a black redstart on the way to the station - I was rather pleased that I first identified it by the way it was flying, and only used the colour as confirmation.

Steam trains are fun.... Did the usual shots out of the window on bends, admired the hill-start, gradually put more layers of clothes on as we climbed. It was just above freezing at the top, and raining on and off. View varies between 50-odd miles and "what tower?". Coffee in the station café, then round a couple of exhibitions and viewing towers, then lunch. Chose the highest restaurant (paying extra) for the view, and are currently getting a great view of the inside of a cloud. Dave saw Team Piggott arrive from the observation tower, and used his zoom lens to good effect.
Train timetables look like we'll get an hour's stop at Drei Annen Hohne on the way down.

Language-geekery interlude. Yesterday I was working through a guidebook with a dictionary, and found that "geschichte" meant "history" as in "story". Add "-enerzahler", and you have "storyteller". Putting "ge" on the front of a German word usually means it's a modifier, so what does "schichte" mean? Drop the final e, and you have "layer", "class" or "level". That "zahler" part is "numerator". So a story is a layering, and a storyteller is one who counts the layers. Yes. Considering how many levels I put in my stories (even a 300-worder has at least 2), I like that.

Back at the plot, or rather, Drei Annen Hohne. A pretty little place with a friendly station café that produced coffee, Cola Light, apple cake and "soup of the day" - tomato, and while not as much of a taste explosion as the one in the hotel, still very good. "It's got something different," says Dave. Yes - bacon.

Having been watered ourselves, we've taken pictures of our engine getting similar treatment, and boarded. We'd given up our café seats, put the coats away and headed out into the sun just in time for it to start raining.

It's a shame that all the books about the mythology of the Harz are in German. I'd like to know more about the "Hexen" or witches. I did find one little story about three rocks in a guidebook to the geology of the area. Apparently they were thrown by three giants who were competing for the affections of a lady. She pointed out that the rocks were of different sizes, so the competition was void. I'm sure I could use that in Glorantha somehow...

Station newsagents for German crochet mags for Helen (I'll take a look through, too), then back to the hotel for tea, photo upload, and copying this little lot to the USB stick for upload later.

And now it's later.... it seems the gang got an earlier train back than we did, they more or less looked at the weather, turned round and got the next train back down.

Time to plan the trip home over dinner.
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Wandered into town, took the Noddy train up to the Schloss, admired the view. The café is plastic Disney-style Medieval castle, which for something inside a well-preserved medieval castle is odd. It was over-heated, and my alkoholfrei beer turned out to be weiss-beer. A slurp of Dave's full-fat one confirmed that this is not a good day for alcohol, so I left the gang to it and played with my camera for a bit. It might have been raining outside, but at least it was cool. Dave and I decided against the museum (guided tour round some silverware) but walked round the walls and admired the cannon before getting the train back down. Lunch, strolled round the town, coffee, shops.... Explored as far as the station ready for tomorrow.
We've eaten in the hotel both nights so far, and have booked our table for tomorrow night.
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Wed 16th ctd.

Evening meal back under the trees at the Reichs Kuchenmeister, though the wind got up and chased us indoors as soon as we'd finished our venison goulash. It seems the title means "Master Chefs of the Empire" or Magister Coquinae, and they were in charge of enforcing the law in Rothenburg. The family blazon involves a knights helmet surrounded by cooking utensils. I knew I approved of the place!

No photos at all today!

Thursday 17th
We escaped from Rothenburg. Down to Dinkelsbuhl, which is supposed to be similar but unspoilt. In fact it's just smaller. We had coffee, looked at the church and the big doors with huge silver hinges, took photos and carried on to Coberg.

Coberg was originally intended as a part-way stop on our way to the Harz mountains, but it also has a Castle. Not just a pretty little Schloss, but a serious Veste aka Fortress. It also had a free music festival starting today... by the time we'd found somewhere to stay (the Tulip) and got lost a few times, the Veste was closed. So we wandered back into town, looked round (not that much to see after a surfeit of half-timbered houses in Rothenburg), ate, then spent some time watching and listening to various interesting groups. Square dance, Irish dance, slack rope, quite a lot I couldn't identify, and some between-dances entertainment from a chap who appeared to be able to get a tune out of anything, including a sink plunger and a foot-pump. Then back to the hotel, where we found and used the pool table. Team Williams beat Team Piggott, mainly because Dave used to play snooker for the BAe team, and it shows.

Fri 18th
Up in the morning feeling absolutely shattered, and breakfast, even with coffee, made things worse rather than better. Internet access in the hotel was overpriced: the internet cafe next door was far cheaper, but didn't let Yahoo Mail send messages, and wouldn't read my USB stick. We drove up to the castle, and Shirley and I sat in the car with drinks from the cafe while the other three “did” the place. Full of swords and armour, apparently. I can't have been right, because I didn't care. I learnt a lot though. We sat there and compared notes on food intolerance and liver oddities. It looks as if I may have acquired a wheat intolerance – symptoms include exhaustion for no apparent reason, the liver problems match, and I've been eating more bread than usual and drinking weissbier. So for a bit, I'm going to try cutting out wheat, and see what happens. It helped Shirley, it may help me, and the trial can't hurt. No wheat, no milk, no cream, with German cuisine, will be interesting.

Anyway, this was only ever meant to be a stop-over, so on to the Harz, arriving (thanks to dawdling tractors) after 6 in the evening. We're in Wernigerode, in the Hotel Wernigerode, found by the means of “it's got three coaches parked outside, it must be a big hotel”. Apparently there's wireless access (hot-spot) in the lobby, but there's also a free Internet PC, and it's fully equipped. It will read my USB stick – shame Flickr is still so slow, and won't use the latest uploader. Only IE6. Having caught up with things, I'm writing this on the laptop and will transfer to US stick and take it downstairs tomorrow morning.

Now, back to writing the Duck Point Boat Race game. There's a printer downstairs, I may even print out what I've done so far for future scribbling in the car. Need to pick Team Piggott's collective brains on designing the boad-game part of it...

Sat am update: feeling great, stayed up late writing the game, still woke up early. So posting before breakfast. The no-wheat experiment will continue.
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Here's the post I wrote on the PDA and haven't been able to upload till now - we're now in the Harz mountains, with an Internet PC in the lobby and no silly restrictions.

Last night involved a pipe & drum duet in the marketplace (got pic and wav) then pizza, as some of the party are 'all sausaged out'.
Internet café was very hot and Flickr was very slow. I've got the Bacharach pics up, but the Rhine and onwards is still to come.
Yes, we're going to stay another day.

We separated for the morning and did the main town museum, in the old convent. No photos allowed :(
They've got a wonderful sword collection!
sword geekery under here, and some Gloranthan bits )

Lunch at the Swan, and the discovery that suckling pig doesn't taste any different to full-size pig. Then onwards to the Medieval Crime Museum. A fascinating insight into how the law worked, nothing like as brutal as the Hollywood version would have you believe. I now have a book on the subject, but impressions from the museum include:
Law geekery under here, and some RK bits )

Drinks and nibbles at the same place we met at for lunch yesterday. Then back to the room, picking up Coke and fruit on the way, for some dossing.

Still here

Jul. 18th, 2008 10:34 am
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"Here" is Coburg. Internet cafe next to the hotel. A properly written post is on a USB stick. The computer insists that I log in to.... something... to be able to read it. The login account must involve an email address that ends in .de, Hotmail or Yahoo are right out. Even if I understood what it was saying, this is not going to happen.

Rothenburg was good, and I'll go into more detail when I can get at that file. Coburg has a castle, and last night, had a music festival in the town square (that's why we're staying way outside). We'll visit that, then on to the Hartz (sp?) mountains. Slight drizzle...
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We're staying on the marketplace over the same bar as last time we were here. Small, friendly, not en-suite, and breakfast is at 8. Not between X and Y, at 8. Wifi? You have got to be kidding. Not even a sniff of another network.
Did a dawdle round the shops yesterday and met a small, elegant and beautiful penknife (among many other gorgeous knives). Stroked it while eating at the Red Hen, this having a huge and varied menu, and got reminded of the German interpretation of "small “ (there's still nearly a pound of meat on the plate, but they've removed the bone). Then a stroll round town, and back home for drinks and nibbles until the bar closed.

Kallyr is still messing around with probability as a gentle nag, though quite what she's nagging about I'm not sure. The town guided tour here is "with the night-watchman". No, I haven't been on it, though I've listened to the start. I've taken pictures of the Rothenburg town clock doing its thing, and on zooming into the clock and sundial detail, discovered that the town symbol up there involves a two-headed bird of prey. "Haggar," says Kallyr. I'm pretty sure she's wrong (further checking of signs suggests a black eagle), but I still, somehow, got a picture much sharper than this camera under those conditions should be capable of. When she plays with RL probabilities it's usually for my benefit, but it also means she's up to something.
We went down to the walls overlooking the park this morning and saw a black kite soaring over the valley. My little camera seems to have produced better pictures than Dave and Pete with their bridge cameras. Vision, and birds, again. What's she up to?

Dave and I went down to the Spital bastion, explored that (including the cannon!) then walked the walls back north to the Gallows Gate - the café we spotted for lunch already had the other three sitting outside, having walked the north part of the wall. They recommended the Leberkase mit spiegelei, and they were right. Nothing to do with liver or cheese, it's more like what Spam wants to be when it grows up. We've wandered around a few shops since, picked up some cardboard model castles and resisted swords, and are in the nice shady bier-garten of the Reichs Kuchenmeister with a Berliner Weisse and bits of tree falling on us.

More wandering, and we've found the gingerbread house we stayed in first time, and an Internet café that will charge us 1e for 20 min and takes a USB stick. We'll be back there later, after another cool drink and some yogurt icecream and a trip back to the laptop.

(and we are. Windows in German is fun....)
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Two nights at the Am Markt in Bacharach. Walked along the walls, took the car up to the castle and had drinks in the courtyard while watching what we suspect were hobbies (and trying to take pictures of them - very hard!). Boat up to St Goar and back. I got the piccies edited last night, we'll see how many I can upload in my hour of WIFI this morning. Today, Monday, we're off to Rothenburg - at least, that's the plan. Nothing booked from now on.
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It's odd, I've been here so many times for Tentacles, but it wasn't until this visit that I got a serious attack of Gloranthan symbolism. Dave and I are out for a really nice dinner (late birthday celebration) at a place on the town wall, covered, but looking out over the railing to the Rhine. Further along the wall-top garden is an ancient wooden statue, probably meant to be Janus. Two faces, anyway. The one facing me is smiling, and he's holding an eight-pointed star. I saw the other side when we were booking, even got photos. It's frowning, and holding a spear. The guardian of entrances and exits, gateways, Janus the watchman. Rigsdal.... If I was sitting up there, I'd have a view into town as well, along a road. The cover at that end is blue. Rigsdal, Rigsdal.... Kallyr would love it. What's more, just beyond is the herb garden, both culinary and medicinal. Ernaldesta would love it, too. But tonight I'm out with my husband, and I'm staying right where I am. The next bit of Gloranthan writing for me isn't even about Kallyr. She is just going to have to do without being the centre of attention for once. And the main course I've ordered is goat.
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Breakfast notes - rose-hip tea is nice.
Leaving Trier and trying to take pictures of the medieval cranes on the way out. Well, they're good enough to show people what they look like.
Up the Mosel valley. Shirley can't believe how steep the vineyards are, and we all try to take pictures to prove it. (Most get deleted that evening.)
Spot a Roman galley moored across the river! A few frantic long-range snaps, then Dave finds a bridge and a side-road and we go to find it. There's a complete weinship fest going on, and I learn about Roman wine-making, Roman cross-bows and that "bundle" I was discussing with Gregory. The crossbow had a ratchet mechanism that looks ridiculously modern. It was accurate to 100 - 150 yards, max. range about 300. Roman wine was regulated and illegal in this area until about 300AD (25 years before Constantine), then for 75 years there were lots of little wine factories up and down the valley, up till when the Romans left.
Onward up the valley, with a pause at a wine cellar. White Burgundy is nice...
And so to Berncastel, a lot of narrow cobbled streets and medieval buildings, far too many photos, and lunch (schnitzel, for me). Also a cake shop, and despite the low prices, I'll pass on the huge, sweet, sickly, cream-laden things.
And over the mountains to Bacharach, and the Am Markt.
Will try to upload piccies later and link them in - on slow paid-by-the minute WIFI here, and this was pre-written.
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Yes, the Trier hotel has internet access (in the foyer). I can reach the WIFI from my room (apparently I shouldn't be able to), but it isn't free.

Did photoediting on the baby laptop, transferred to USB stick, brought them down. First small batch, Flickr happily used the modern uploader (yes, nice fast connection), but now refuses to recognise Flash, and insists on using the basic uploader. Six at a time. Aargh.

We've got two nights here, after an overnight ferry and drive. Spent today on the Porta Nigra (just opposite the Mercure hotel!), a coach trip round the sites, and in the town museum. Yesterday about all we managed was a gentle stroll and a meal.

I'll edit in links back to Flickr eventually, the upload is taking forever.

Lunch involved "Schwartenmagen" at "Theo's", a place just opposite the Porta Nigra on the town side. And I'm exploring various LA beers. Pics can stay over on Flickr for them.

Museum full of good things including a model of the town as it would have been in medieval times, and on the top floor at the back of all the textiles... OMG they've got a Coptic Sock!!!!
sparing anyone who isn't a textile history geek )

Oh, and we met a new bear....
Konstanz
That doesn't really do justice to his fur colour, he's more honey coloured than that. I'll try to do better later.
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Last connection to the British phone network, from here on mobile Internet will be extortionate. We're on the ferry, Pete and Shirley have sung Happy Birthday to me (quietly). It's gone 2am, and as is usual for me, I'm now wide awake and feeling creative.
I dreamt the start of another Gloranthan story on the way down. A lot has vanished, but the core remains - the three little Sundomers and the big bad Orlanthi. I'll think about that one, notebook to hand. Sun-dried bricks. Blowing things down. There's myth there.
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Usually we book the ferry there and the ferry back, and wander at random in between. But this time, it's not just the two of us, it's the complete Strongoak Pirates team, plus junior member, and finding accomodation for five in July is harder than for 2 in May.

Read more... )

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