This blog is about my travels. At home in New Zealand, in other parts of Oceania, North, Central and South America and in Europe.
From New Castle I took the train up to Edinburgh. Edinburgh is a gorgeous city, full of history and atmosphere, and of course, the setting for a lot of Harry Potter. The cobbled streets and little shops are just the sort of places you would expect to buy a wand or ingredients for a potion. There are also plenty of Harry Potter fans around, dressed in Hogwarts uniforms (usually from Gryffindor)!
The weather was cold and misty, late Autumn type weather. Not that I minded, somehow it just added to the atmosphere!
Something I particularly liked was the Church of Saint Andrew's with it's kilt wearing angels, playing bagpipes!
I also visited the National Museum - my favourite are the pictish stone carvings. The meanings of some images are swathed in mystery but some think that they might be referring to star constellations. Others are mysterious half human half animal creatures, Edinburgh is definitely a magical place!
From Amsterdam, I traveled across to Newcastle in the UK. I liked Newcastle. My time there was caught up by a bit of a dilemma, the tramping boots that I had sent to be repaired hadn't been fixed in time, so I spent a chunk of my first day trying to sort it out. In the end I had to go the walk in my running shoes. While I had used them a lot for running they were far from ideal in the boggy early winter weather, nevertheless, they had to do.
Delayed by the fruitless hunt for my tramping boots my walk that day started later than I'd like. I wandered from Haddon-on-the-Wall through to the Robin Hood Inn at the wall houses. It was rainy and dark when I arrived and the owner was a warm lady who showed me to my incredibly cozy and warm room and made a vegan burger and chips for my dinner.
The next day I wandered off following the little acorn symbols that indicated where to go, through the hedgerows and past fields.
It was pretty cold and I was starting to look for a spot that wasn't too damp to sit and eat my sandwiches which were getting pretty soggy when I spotted a little coffee house. The prospect of being warm won me over and so I went to visit a lovely little coffee house and got warm soup and had the kindest customer service ever and heard the locals talking about the latest political scandal, giggling away with their geordie accents.
In the afternoon I passed through Heavenfield, the site of an ancient battle between pagans and Christians. A tiny little church stood on the site, and there was a very informative series of historical panels inside about the history of the site.
I finished that day in the dark as well. My accommodation for that night was a decent walk off the main path, which also meant extra walking time the next day. I was walking the path pretty fast and I had a big day ahead of me. I set my alarm for early the next day and fell asleep pretty fast!
The next morning I woke up to a gorgeous day! It was fine and clear and frosty.
As I walked I started to gain a bit more altitude and see more of the original wall. At the start and the end of the Hadrian's wall path a lot of the original wall has been removed. Over the centuries it was repurposed for farm fencing or for use in houses. But in the middle section the wall is the same as it was built nearly two thousand years ago.
Around lunchtime I stopped at an amazing site, it was a temple to Mithras, a god of soldiers. Exposed to the elements for the last two thousand years, I couldn't believe what good condition this little temple was in!
I hurried on as I had a lot of ground to cover that day. I saw so much of the fantastic wall, it was truly an amazing feat of Roman engineering. It was intended to keep out the fierce Pictish warriors from the north.
I finally finished that day in the dark. The stars on the way had been amazing and just before I got in, I'd met some local star gazers, gazing at the stars on this clear, fine night. I was sure glad to get in to my Inn at Greenhead. I'd been walking for 13 hours! My foot feet were pretty battered from the running shoes, but I strapped them up. Luckily the next day was a shorter one.
The next day was fine and very frosty as you can see from the photos!
I got to my accommodation just as the sun was setting, for once I hadn't arrived in the black dark! My destination for the next day was Carlisle, and from there I would catch the train back to Newcastle.
The next day I set off to Carlisle. There weren't views of the wall anymore, but I followed the pretty hedgerows through the countryside.
I kept walking until I got to Carlisle. I'd made it! The beautiful red bricks of Carlisle Castle were so impressive, and other buildings in the city are the same colour, built of the same bricks. From Carlisle I caught the train back to Newcastle. I'd walked across England!
The next day I visited the museum in New Castle which contained relics collected from the Hadrian's wall path.
From Berlin I traveled to the Netherlands. As someone who has worked on urban design related projects I have been interested in the town planning of the Netherlands, who made a conscious effort, decades ago, to provide infrastructure for bicycles (cycle lanes, plenty of cycle parking) instead of just building their city around cars. It's certainly paid off! There are bicycles everywhere, people choose to take this healthy, environmentally friendly way of getting around. The lovely old buildings look a bit like gingerbread houses and admire their reflections in the canals.
While I was in Amsterdam I made a beeline to see the Van Gogh museum. Vincent Van Gogh is among my favourite artists of all time. The museum tells the story of his life. He struggled so much with poverty, loneliness and bipolar disorder, despite of all this he created some of the greatest art works of all time. His brother and sister and law are also mentioned, and they both provided important emotional support to Vincent as well as financial support, despite the fact that they were not wealthy. You really have to admire the incredible passion that Van Gogh felt for his work. During his good periods he was extremely productive, producing a painting a day. As well as his brother and sister in law, his contemporaries recognized his talent, he did actually manage to sell one painting in his life time, to an avant garde collector who liked his work. If only he could have known how well loved his paintings are now!
From Prague I traveled to Berlin to meet an old friend. As fate would have it, I arrived at the same time as the 30th anniversary of the Berlin wall being taken down. There were all sorts of celebrations planned for this event. We roared around Berlin on our bicycles under the light of a full moon. One of the features of Berlin is that history is not swept over. To the credit of modern day Germans, dark parts of history are noted with historical plaques. I would like to see more countries acknowledge their history in this way, because some countries unfortunately sweep parts of their history under the carpet.
I felt very lucky to arrive at the same moment as the 30th anniversary celebrations for the fall of the Berlin wall! There were some fantastic artworks including a commemorative video projected on the side of a building, another was a series of wishes for the future from children, which swayed in the wind and were projected with blue light, like a strange underwater creature, it was a happy occasion.
From Krakow, I traveled next to the beautiful city of Prague. I made sure to see the famous astrological clock, although I happened to see it strike completely by accident!
The Kafka tour! Being a Franz Kafka fan, I signed up for a tour of Kafka's home town. I visited his birthplace, his workplace, his school, and even had a coffee at one of his favourite haunts.
Next I headed off to Prague Castle and Prague Cathedral. It was a gorgeous day and the views of the city were quite something!
The first stop was Prague castle. I couldn't take photos of most things, but here are some photos of what I could!
I really liked the old church which was part of the Castle complex.
And I visited the beautiful Prague Cathedral. It was a sunny day and the stained glass windows looked stunning.
From Slovensky Raj, I took an all night train ride to Krakow in Poland. It was a series of small train journeys, so I couldn't nod off, I just had to stay awake and pay close attention to when my stop (announced in Slovenian) was going to arrive. I arrived at my accommodation in Krakow at around 5am. I was on a tight schedule and didn't have time to sleep (although it was rather appealing by that point). I had a shower, a strong coffee, and set off on my day. I went to a concentration camp. It was difficult deciding to go such a sad place with such a terrible history. 1.1 million innocent people were killed there, just for being slightly different (Jewish, Romanian, ethnic poles, homosexual people, political opponents of the regime, disabled people). It was a devastating place to visit, deeply disturbing, but I feel like travel should be about education, and sometimes education involves turning our mind to the bad parts of life. How can we make our world a better place if we only turn our attention to good things? I believe it is good to encounter the bad as well and turn it into action to make our world better. It was a very sad place and I hope that we can work to end genocide forever. Afterwards I wandered around Krakow, a beautiful glistening city. Europe has some very sad history, but I'm glad that they are becoming more progressive as time goes on.
From Budapest, I caught a bus and then a series of trains to a tiny Slovakian mountain village on the border of the Slovak Paradise national park. I traveled through the night on a long series of trains. I arrived at the small town of Slovensky Raj on my final leg of the journey. It was a Sunday so the streets were almost empty. Soviet era statues looked down at me with guns in their arms. It was grey and swept by an icy wind and I was mighty hungry. I wandered the streets looking for a supermarket, or just any place where I could get food but everything was shut. In the end I found a tiny store that only sold vodka. Unwilling to drink vodka for breakfast, I kept looking and guided by my nose, finally found a warm pizza place, that happily made me a giant vegetarian pizza. The young people working there spoke pretty good English, something that I noticed the older folk didn't seem to as much in Slovakia*. Despite this, a very kindly elderly Slovakian gent had helped me on my train journey, despite not speaking a word of English. One thing that you learn when you travel is that kindness is everywhere.
* I should note that I also do not speak Slovakian!
I travelled to the small town of Spizzka Nova Ves and stayed at a little guest quarters run by a mother and son, the son spoke English and was surprised to see my New Zealand passport. I had difficulty finding food in Spizzka Nova Ves too, but I managed to find a place that sold pea soup. I was pretty delighted with my little room with its soft cozy bed after travelling all night.
The next day I visited the National Park. It was somewhat cold and rainy, but I had a raincoat. Unfortunately I had been having some battery issues with my camera and I was only able to take two photos of the forest.
The Slovakian forest was mossy and shrouded in mist, like something out of a fairy tale. It was so nice to be in the forest again after spending time in cities! Slovakia has quite a few national parks and they are much loved by the people of the country.
I am a traveller from New Zealand. My blog is to inform friends and family about my adventures. I hope you enjoy it!