Tuesday, 26 June 2018

continental excursion

I must apologize for the lack of activity on my blog over the past month. For the first time, Paula travelled back to the UK with me, and the activities to keep us occupied have included a nine-day trip to Cologne, with a two-night stopover in Brussels, where we were due to change trains anyway, having travelled via Eurostar from London’s St Pancras Station, home of the former Midland Railway. During the trip, I took more than 700 photographs, and Paula took around 400, so once Paula has headed off back to Hong Kong next week, I shall be posting detailed accounts of some of the things we saw and did during our excursion.

In the meantime, here are a few photos to illustrate the various themes that I shall be focusing on. I’ll start with street art; the first photo was taken in Brussels, the second in Cologne and the third in Bonn (which we visited during a cruise on the Rhine).

These are by no means the most intriguing we found. The Bonn image appears to have some religious significance—there is a caption (‘Hl. Gertrudis von Nivelles Patronin der Bonner Altstadt’)—although I’m bound to ask: ‘Why the rats?’ Is there some connection here with the pied piper of Hamelin?

Another recurring theme is graffiti. I posted an account of graffiti that I’d seen in Hong Kong under the title Physical Graffiti a couple of years ago, but a quick comparison with the examples below reveals much greater sophistication in the European ‘tags’. The first photo was taken in Brussels, at the entrance to a skateboard park that had been heavily tagged, while the second was taken at the western end of the Hohenzollern Bridge, which carries the main railway line from Cologne to the east across the Rhine:

We were able to spend only two hours in Bonn, and we didn’t see much graffiti there, but the following example attracted my attention because for once I could read what had been written, even if it didn’t seem to make any sense. And it’s three times longer than a typical tag. However, does anyone know what FeTAGIZeMTRIXA actually means?

The third theme is churches. Our main reason for visiting Cologne was to see what many commentators consider the finest example of a Gothic cathedral in Europe, but we also visited many smaller churches in Brussels, Cologne and Bonn. It would have helped if I’d made a note of the name of each church, but I didn’t, and I’ve now forgotten them. However, here are examples from Brussels, Cologne and Bonn, respectively:

The church in Bonn is the most impressive example of a Baroque church that I’ve ever seen.

My final theme is the River Rhine. We’d pre-booked two days of what was billed as a ‘hop on, hop off’ service, but we discovered that were we to travel as far upstream as Linz, then we needed to stay on the boat for its return journey, because it was the only service each day between Linz and Cologne. No problem. There was a bar on board, and it was very pleasant to sit on deck, drinking good German beer, as an almost magical panorama passed slowly by.

The Rhine is an important transport artery carrying a lot of freight traffic. Much of this is bulk carriers, but tankers and barges carrying shipping containers are also common. The next photo is of two bulk carriers travelling in opposite directions. Our boat is in the process of overtaking the nearer of the two (note the car on the roof of the accommodation at the stern of the nearer vessel—this practice appears to be almost but not quite ubiquitous):

Before Paula returned to Hong Kong last weekend, she attended a conference at Manchester Metropolitan University, where she presented a paper on the use of virtual reality in education. While this was going on, I spent two days exploring the canals that pass through the city. I took around 400 photographs, but the one I’ve chosen to post here is of images painted on a derelict warehouse alongside the Ashton Canal. I couldn’t get any closer, because the warehouse is on the opposite side of the canal to the towpath:

Once I’ve finished with the themes I’ve listed above, I shall be posting a more detailed account of my canal odyssey in Manchester.


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