Snapshots of Israel

Re Snapshots

October 2015

I am a passionate supporter of Israel and always will be. Like my other snapshots, this is not an article – just observations from my holidays – in this case, Israel in 1999. There are a lot of references to God and holy-type vibes because that is precisely why I went – to get a sense of the Holy Land and hopefully get some mystical ‘feedback’. Not entirely successfully as you’ll read.

Why didn’t I type them up at the time as I usually did for my Ma? Probably misplaced loyalties and the hyper-critical tone of said observations. Anyway, here they are, minimally edited – showing my many flaws and all. Meaning I really was grumpy and over-critical, so forewarned and all that!

23/8/1999 Renaissance Lobby Tel Aviv Monday

07:50am

Long journey but God was listening. The twitching woman sitting next to me moves and I have an empty seat next to me for the entire trip. A Medusa  however sits in front with his (yes) snakes overhanging the video screen. I am stroppy. He is polite and moves them.

The immigration/ passport control is appallingly crowded and as disorganised as Los Angeles. Try not to let intense heat bowl me over.

Outside, Unitours are wonderfully efficient and suddenly I begin to enjoy myself despite being caught in the rush hour. The hotel is right on the beach and splendidly cool – typical  four star business variety rather than ultra-special.

Israelis are really ‘in your face’. It’s just as well that I like them and understand otherwise the rudeness would be appalling. The Arabs on the other hand show enormous charm and concern – even if it is hypocritical.

Am still very sleepy and still have a slight headache with nausea. Could be due to the changing nature of the first few days: four different hotels in four days … till Jerusalem.

Trying to ‘think God’ to avoid negative influences but the crowding of personal space is making me narky. Like being vamped.

08:30am

He’s still picking up people from various hotels…will be seven tomorrow. So far two middle-aged Danish ladies, one Israeli(?) woman with man who seems ‘simple’. Pullman Tours. Mixed bag. This is the naff end (of the bus). Heavens knows who is this pickup but she’s got enough luggage. It’s a young girl. Hopefully we can now get a move on. No. A phone call first. Small change in the number of passengers.

So much for biblical Israel. It’s just like any other city so far. Wednesday in Tiberias is probably going to be the best stop (I hope). Still, it’s good to chill (?) out.

12 noon

Very very tired during drive to Caesaria, even with brief detours. Finally starting to perk up. The ‘friendly’ interrogation from the Danes and the bus driver probably also vamped a bit. Actually, the other couple are from the States. It is possible he has had a stroke though some of the behaviour is ‘childish’ as opposed to ‘child-like’.

Am avoiding the Danes now because the chief questioner is also a heavy smoker. The lass with the luggage is an Australian Greek who’s ‘doing the tour’. She’s a graphic designer, like Margaret.

7pm – IN BED!!!

Dan/Haifa

Yes, I’ve eaten, washed, written postcards and am now in bed! Although I am tired and a little sleepy, it’s also because there is little to see round the hotel and I didn’t fancy a tramp round yet more shops. I do enough shopping in the UK and there seems little that is ‘exotic’. In fact, during yesterday and today, everything ‘Israeli’ seemed Western materialistic with no history or depth. Even the restaurants are McDonald-ish. The best architecture seen so far has been Graeco-Roman (okay Roman) and Arabic.

I’m sure Tiberias and Jerusalem will be different. At least I hope so. Having been brought up with Jesus and the biblical perspective, it’s a large disappointment to have heat, sand and sea alone. That said, I did like Caesaria. Quite classy.

Also, I am not sure how I am going to enjoy nightlife on my own.

24/8/1999

07:30hrs pre-pick up

Israel is like one of my sisters: gruff and grumpy, attracting like, but with a deep core of love and charm. Today, I can feel my protective love for Israel returning. …

AA Explorer explained why practically nil art and architecture: because of God worship – meaning only God. Yet the Ashkenazim created such wondrous art and music – and therein lies God.

Slept till midnight then again till alarm – back very stiff still. Also roasting hot already!

14:00hrs  lunch en route to Safed

Rather a nice place though the company still palls despite valiant efforts on my part. I paid for the Australian girl’s lunch because I’m sure she is eating rice to fill up rather than for gastronomic reasons. A one-off act of generosity as she was still a miserable creature.

My morning love vibes soon wore off in the bus with the fellow travellers. They are not awful, just not life-enhancing and therefore more draining on the spirit.

The newcomers are Canadians. Loud ones. The simple bloke with the migraine is still simple despite getting over his headache, but his wife, young-ish and pretty, seems very in love, concerned and touching him all the time. He is not one of life’s beauties so they make an interesting couple.

17:10hrs

Safed was rather disappointing. Some good art but no sign of ancient mysticism. With its war-torn past, Israel is a bit hick(?) at tourism. The Golan Heights projected a sense of history but this stop off to chat with a callow youth from the UN Austrian  section is boring. The Canadians are gifted at asking dumb questions. It is very hot and dusty – which, for some reason, does evoke Jesus, up to a point.

My need for Jesus seems to have diminished as entheism rooted. Anyway, I’ve had enough for today and long to return home. Emmanuel (the bus driver who constantly stared at me and rather harassed me every day) keeps stopping for fag breaks (not because there was anything particularly worth seeing).

In all honesty, I haven’t felt any spiritual pull. The tour guide has not dwelt on anything remotely religious, as if to play down the ‘Holy Land’ and build up the ‘tourist’ trap. Imelda was right. I should have taken the pilgrimage tour, if only as a gesture of respect to Jesus as 2000 approaches. (2015 aside: yes, Jesus still seems real to me even in 2015.)

Emmanuel talks too much but says little of value. At least Tamer in Egypt studied archaeology and we learned something new each day. Emmanuel told me he wants Israel to be known for its progress and achievements and sun/sea/sand-type holidays rather than the religious bit – which rather defeats the purpose of it, for me at any rate.

We didn’t get back to our hotels till past seven by which time I was ready to drop. Too many detours and much pointless conversation.  A lesson here. NO MORE PACKAGE TOURS. EVER! They do not suit you. In fact, I am going to check out a bus ride to Meggido, or a taxi. On my own!

25/8/1999 Holiday Inn

07:45am in the lobby

For a four-star hotel, this one has been a nightmare. Everywhere is so unclean. The bedroom had the sofa bed made up. The lobby and dining room were filled with noisy kids and Arabs and the whole place resembled a souk. The view over the Sea of Galilee though was splendid. Stood on the tiny balcony watching dawn break over the Sea of Galilee hoping to get some good shots. Am surprised I am awake, alarm notwithstanding. There must have been a party or festival of some kind. ALL NIGHT LONG.

I took a taxi bus into the centre and found an Israeli restaurant where I had a delicious meal and got a marriage proposal. He thought I was 30. Not bad after a stressful day. Can you imagine being stressed on holiday? Actually, we all were on the Nile cruise too. We really need half-day tours with the rest of the time for exploring alone. Who wants to be with over-excited jolly holidaymakers day after day after day? (2015 aside: Yes, I can still feel my uber grump even in 2015!!)

I get stared at a lot by older men here. I mean they look, walk away, then come back and look again.

I’m very glad I never actually visited when I was Middle East Sales Manager. In business mode, I can be even more peremptory than I am now!

Postcards have gone – including one to myself.

Really rough bunch staying at or passing through this hotel. I do hope the next ones are more refined!

09:20

Peace of the boat trip with engines switched off ruined by competing ‘teams for God’. Absolutely diabolical racket with the Brazilians winning by a large margin with their diatribe and loud chanting. The Africans at least sound sweeter and mellower.

Oh good. The engines are back on. What a punishment! But at least the bus passengers are more pleasing company now. I am back in my corner seat and we are all conversing as opposed to ‘measuring-up-interrogation’ mode which I’ve never liked. I do hope we are nowhere near those ghastly Brazilians.

26/8/1999 Thursday Royal Wing Renaissance Jerusalem

06:00hrs

Snapshots of yesterday, post-boat

Very busy and more enjoyable especially Beit She’an and Jericho. The fellow travellers were definitely easier to be with although Emmanuel’s coarse comments were a bit much for me. There’s rude humour and plain vulgarity and this was the latter.

Beit She’an was splendidly impressive and atmospheric especially after Capernaum. Still no sense of Jesus anywhere though – which was the spiritual reason for the trip. So I bought a book about ‘his’ Galilee … and discovered he had visited Beit She’an en route to Jericho.

(2015 aside: Yes, yes, I know Jesus can be found within. It was more for the historical sense of Jesus… and it did happen, btw, much later.)

The Israelis (or perhaps just this tour company) haven’t quite got the hang of archaeological tourism, so Emmanuel has a tendency to witter while providing no specifics or historical details at all. Deprived myself of sensory enjoyment by hanging on politely to his every word.

It is now past 6am and I have been up for more than an hour. Possibly because the meal here made me feel very ill, very quickly. However, my alarm call still has not come! No wonder my inner mechanism woke me!

One alarm, one partial crap. (2015 aside: Sorry about the scatological asides. They feature a lot in my snapshots mostly because I think bowel movements seem spiritually so unevolved and also because they really do differentiate cultures and places. Well, to me at any rate.) Great timing.

Tudor Rose parking arrangements have thrown me fast forward. Late night arrival and palaver with car delivery. I shall not be using them again. I’ll have to dig out the details for the ones I used during the Nile cruise.

The Royal Wing of the Renaissance is very quiet away from the noise and bustle of the, by now, typical Israeli hotel. Children are remarkably badly behaved. And the surliness of the male staff specifically is breath-taking!

(2015 aside: I really must visit Israel again, in case things have changed or I just got a bum deal.)

Oh I forgot Nazareth. As ever, we were given double time of Emmanuel wittering and hardly any to explore alone. However, the visit to St Gabriel’s Church (ex of Annunciation) was uplifting – at last. The first moment of the trip, which then got better. I realise this tour is meant to be compressed but it is ridiculous how little time we are given to pootle around. Probably because of the amount of things we are doing in one day.

Beit She’an was probably enjoyable because we were let off the leash.

Today is Jerusalem. Not too sure where we are going but it’s a lot of walking.

My shirts yesterday were stained with yellow dust caught in perspiration. Gross. Had whole bath-tub of clothes soaking (not sure why I didn’t use concierge services). All need a good bleaching on return, but I don’t fancy travelling with really dirty things. (Aside: Emmanuel kept asking me why I wore white every day and a hat all the time.)

Happily, we have not seen too much poverty. In fact, only from a distance, the Bedouin encampment.

Not sure how I’m going to ‘do’ Meggido. It’s not near and the taxi won’t be cheap. Have to check out driver for a day.

10:30 Dome of the Rock

Skipped going into the mosque. Too many peasants. Tourists can be an ignorance and a nightmare. It’s not just a question of leaving shoes and belongings with the guide. The whole kaboodle makes me feel uncomfortable. Seconds into trying to re-align, some fat foreigners sat either side of me with barely a gap. I looked up to a swarm of them so, much to my disgust, I had to move!

27/8/1999 Friday

05:30am Yes, again!

Firstly, snapshot of yesterday – apart from Dome of the Rock. The morning was spent walking round Old Jerusalem: the Armenian, Jewish, Christian and Moslem quarters. Vicky, the Australian, is also Greek Orthodox, and was getting mightily peeved at spending too much time in any of little interest to her (faith). Emmanuel, with his usual telepathy, picked up and allowed us to spend more time at both the Holy Sepulchre and, later, in Bethlehem.

At the church, built representationally over Golgotha, I finally felt Jesus’ vibes again. For the rest of the day, as the day before in Nazareth, the tune in my head was Jesus Christ Superstar. But such crowds!

We lunched at one of the better kibbutzim and I had a healthy large salad.

Mary is the bus source of knowledge. She’s the Canadian married to Stan with a taste for Burger Kings. She said Elena and Manuel had had a bad car crash last year with serious head injuries resulting in the child-like behaviour and simple gait. He is talking a little more. She too is more New Jersey talkative and less shy Portuguese.

(2015 aside: Jesus clearly made me less horrid in my thoughts about them with each day!)

The nicest person on the trip is one of the Danish ladies. Her smoking companion is a bit feisty but she seems to be the appeaser.

We stopped off at a shop in Bethlehem and bought souvenirs for all family. I treated myself to two cheapish pairs of pretty earrings, then en route home found a black sapphire missing from my ‘job’ ring. Wasn’t overly bothered – I can always buy another. However, I did remove them all, just in case. After the Dead Sea Scrolls – in the Israel Museum – I got dropped off near the Yehuda Mall, which we noticed previously at Vicky’s drop off. The others, bar Elena and Manuel, went to the Old City. With shops shut at lunch time and all day Saturday, it was a good time to do a recce.

Unsurprisingly, I found myself gravitating towards jewellery shops – for a replacement ring pre-getting mine fixed. Then found myself not only getting it fixed – with a more blue-ish sapphire – the ruby broke(?) – but also buying another one and a pair of so-called golden topaz earrings. The price indicates more vitrine than golden topaz …

Had enjoyable meal, bought a book, then took a taxi back to the hotel. He has given me a price for Meggido on Sunday.

After a bit of a faff, post-shower et al, I went to sleep around 9:30pm. Not bad. Except I got another call mid-sleep. Didn’t understand a word and he rang off. I was furious.

28/8/1999 Saturday – though notes do not show day or date

This morning, consciousness regained, but lights still out, I noticed the orange light flashing on the ‘phone. Another (or same?) Middle Eastern voice asking me to meet him at the pool. He said I’d know who it was! I didn’t and don’t. But anyway, it was too late. Not that I would have gone.

So what’s on the cards today? We missed the Mount of Olives so have to fit that in then it’s the Chagall Windows, planting a tree, Yad Vashem… I just hope he keeps the wittering down to a bare minimum. Not so much walking, so I’m taking my guide book which makes good reading.

6pm

Been in bed for about two hours. Didn’t go with the troops after all. Got Emmanuel to drop me off at Yad Vashem and spent almost three hours walking around the entire site – and I mean entire.

One oldish chap said it was ‘some schlep’ either way (inner or outer perimeter) – and by gum it was.

(2015 aside: while there Emmanuel and troops arrived with Emmanuel glaring at me for doing my own thing.)

Then got taxi to Mount of Olives with intention of touring all the churches and spots of Gethsemane. But the top and just about every spot up and down it was covered with beige buildings and leery men, so I took the main road and walked – and walked – and walked.

Got to Gethsemane eventually, but it was rather disappointing. Again. Israel seems to have killed off all vestiges of spirituality in its sites, probably in order to make it more secular.

After Gethsemane, I found myself in a deserted part of Jerusalem, but strangely enough more attractive. Caves etched into the stone as well as Graeco-style pillars. Climbed yet more bleached & dusty steps onto ‘The Last Path’ and up into an upper perimeter road into the main city via the Kidron Valley (aka Valley of Jehoshaphat).

Flagged taxi, short of breath – well hot, really. (2015 aside: not very good at drinking fluids so mostly likely heat exhaustion.) Asked price and got him to stop and let me out when he said 50 shekels. Stormed off back down the road with the taxi now trailing me offering 35 shekels – so I got in.

Barely a couple of yards, he stopped for a relatively attractive guy who turned out to be English – a teacher of tourism. Who he also overcharged. But my sense of humour came back and I got a small laugh out of the situation.

Back at the hotel, washed and primped, I had lunch, bought plastic flip-flops and then watched the prehistoric television. The last time I saw something similar was about forty years ago. And this is supposed to be a four-star hotel!

Then I fell asleep.

I really don’t feel up to dressing and meeting the masses again. Still, it is meant to be a break, free from stress and right now I do feel calmed if rather alone. But that’s all to the good. Prep for company tomorrow.

6:50

(2015 aside: actually my notes have this still on the Saturday page  but not sure why I wrote 06:50. Anyway…)

How very appropriate. A film called Switch about God and the Devil, and letting a soul redeem itself from philandering male – but the joke is that ‘he’ wakes up a woman. The task being to find  woman who likes ‘him’ since he was a complete toerag, who ended up being murdered by three previous females.

(2015 aside: am about to detour to Google ‘Switch’ for more info – and even to see if I got this much correct!)

29/8/1999 Sunday moved to Mount Zion Hotel at some point

07:20am Lobby – Royal Wing

Am waiting for the taxi driver re Meggido trip. Is this blind optimism?

Woke up 5am – very truculent. Clawing at face of jeweller who had removed my ‘topaz’ stones (from a non-owned bracelet) and was sort of swindling me. I suppose that is how I feel about the citrines – the ‘poor man’s topaz’.

Anyway, for the next half hour, my mind was all over the place, and I am only now realigning. Now, no pent-up aggression.

Yesterday was a full and pleasurable one even though my discomfort with Emmanuel continued.

And yet, on Masada – an absolutely splendid site and sight – I felt very unlovable, as if everyone else’s view on me made me. Apart from the height fright, these personal – selfish – emotions seemed to dominate and take away from ‘sensing the stones’.

Perhaps it is only when there is a Roman influence that I feel a leap of recognition inside?

(2015 aside: have had past life regressions many years ago and am pondering trying again.)

13:35 Mount Tabor – waiting for the church to open

Before I could finish the above train of thought, the original taxi driver – Maier – turned up. At 07:30! He had been looking for me at the Mount Zion and had even got his wife to call the hotel. So I didn’t wait for Moshe. Couldn’t really since this chap had put so much effort into getting his £87! Yes, that is what I am paying even though Moshe would have been £20 cheaper.

Anyway, less trivialism and more of the morning. After dropping his American lift off at the airport, we drove on to Meggido. Emmanuel needs to study his guide books because it is substantially more than a ‘tel’.

Although I was only there for about forty minutes, it felt much longer. No adverse vibes on the top. In fact rather nice, light ones. Then, following the set path, I descended the 183 steps into the water silo and that was spooky. No-one else was there and it was very badly lit. If it hadn’t been so steep, I’d have raced out through there. As it was I OMM’ed out loud to re-harmonise and stop my imagination working overtime. That said, there was a truly awful energy, like dark shadows trying to cling on to me.

The only time the Holy Father has been to the Holy Land – apparently – was 1964 with Paul Vl, who met the Israeli President at Meggido. Anyway, despite the brevity – and spookiness – I  really enjoyed it. My legs, however, were shaking for some time after.

The church here at Mount Tabor doesn’t open till 14:00hrs but it’s certainly a magnificent view, and Maier doesn’t seem to mind waiting as he’s catching up on his missed sleep so I don’t feel too inconsiderate – and anyway he’s got a full day’s pay PLUS!

(2015 aside: I still remember him smelling though as he hadn’t showered pre picking me up.)

There’s a particularly gabby family sitting at the one and only table here and it’s a little run-down – or, rather, uncared for. The Christians in Israel don’t seem to have put much effort into the more religiously significant spots. I wonder why?

10 minutes to go … and since they are still gabbing onto my wavelength, I evidently haven’t been as transfigured (metaphorically-speaking) as I’d hoped!

I have a feeling I left Meggido sooner rather than later because I didn’t want to pick up any vibes that might haunt me later. That said, I am hoping to get some insights into this war and judgement stuff in the Bible.

Wandering alone, a couple pass and the man shouts at me ‘Gog and Magog, English Lady’. Yes, just that. Not sure what tipped him off that I was [a]English and [b]interested in Armageddon stuff. Well, apart from being at Megiddo, that is.

17:40 Mount Zion Bar – but when did I leave the Royal Wing?

I’d love to say the day was fantastic and it almost was until Maier dropped me off. In my generosity, I decided to round up the agreed £87 (ie 576 shekels!!!).Fool!

He said that was just for Meggido! Since we only stopped off at his choices, apart from the wait at Mount Tabor, that was too rich. I was choked and said that if he wanted to charge me more he should have said so. I also said that his daily rate was 420 shekels to Haifa and I was paying him way in excess of that. I stopped short of calling him a charlatan and stomped out of the car. No wonder he had been chasing around looking for me. Probably thought I was a sucker to tap.

He tried to say Gabriella’s rate was in dollars. Oh, yes?! Who the eff would pay that!!?

Anyway, enough of the bile. Leave to God. And my Guardian Being.

(2015 aside: I cannot for the life of me recall moving from the Royal Wing to the Mount Zion – actually I can’t really recall the Royal Wing even with my notes but still have strong memories of the Mount Zion. It is also 1.7km between them so I presume I must have had my reasons for moving though I do vaguely recall pre-booking ie from England.)

This place is FABULOUS. It’s in the Hinnom Valley aka Gehenna ie Hell – but it is anything but. It has great views and smiling personnel. And it’s walking distance from lots of great spots.

So what did I see?

Maier kept suggesting places which, frankly, bored me. Like Yardenit – where there are mass baptisms in the River Jordan. And seeing camels and so forth. However, for some reason, I though Wadi el Kelt (sp) was visible from the road and I was prepared to be bored by that too, but was totally  astounded (a) by the vertiginous drive and subsequent walk and (b) by its beauty. Fabulous.

(2015 aside: have to Google this as I cannot recall it at all… And Googled. Yes, it really does look fantastic – but sadly, I still cannot recall it. Looking at yet more Google images – since I apparently took no photos of it – I cannot think why this particular experience has been filed extra deeply. )

Undated so unsure what day this is poss 30/08/1999 Monday

10 to 1 – YES, that EARLY

My watch seemed to pack up at 5:40 last night and I lost all track of time. When I asked someone, it was 7:35 and I had a salad prior to the restaurant opening. It didn’t, so I had to go back to the bar and had a warming onion soup then retired to bed.

I thought it might have been around 10 that I feel asleep but it could have been earlier. Anyway, with great surprise I am sort of fully awake. No great revelations in my dreams. No strong emotions except a desire to be home.

If I’m not careful – which I haven’t been – I’m going to lose ‘spirit’. Apart from obligatory shopping, I must tune in and sense God again. I certainly don’t feel as fierce despite the ghastly Maier. But somehow I need to remember my divine truths and relate to them wherever. I was grateful he kept mentioning it – which is why I asked to stop there. BTW – we took a GHASTLY route to Meggido. All rotten,, un-scenic motorway. All I asked was for a more pleasant drive back. He got enough bucks out of it.

Undated but probably still 30/08/1999 Monday

Nearly 6pm

From the lush to the olfactory nightmare.

Awake with a 7am alarm, I breakfasted and then walked down to Jaffa Road to find the BA office. It’s closed but thanks to proximity to Zavalin, I swapped the citrines for God’s Eye earrings. Not worth the £66 it eventually cost me so I tried to think what the watch seller told me. That it is what you feel about things that you pay for. Well, I did like them – certainly more than the God’s Eyes but the experience has taught me that the jarring feeling tends to grow.

(2015 aside: I do not have said earrings anymore and don’t even recall them. On the other hand, I rarely part with my citrines so they must have been bad for me to swap them. I have given an *awful* lot of things away to charity so guess I must have with these too.)

Anyway, the important bits done, I decided to walk to the Jerusalem Mall via the King David Hotel. There, in pleasant comfort, I chilled out for a while. The waitresses (sic) talked me out of walking to the Mall. They told me it was good for shopping, so I still went but took a bus – a crowded, horribly smelly one. And then I was there a grand ten minutes.

Yes, a large collection of shops but absolutely nothing special. So I took a bus back but then got off too early. The top end of Jaffa Street is obviously the local end, beggars, crowds – more Moslem.

(2015 aside: I really *must* re-visit Israel as I clearly need to get better memories. Plus I Googled Jaffa Street – or is it Jaffa Road? – and it looks much swisher now.)

Finally made my way to a road off Ben Yehuda and had a Mexican for lunch – reading one of the two books bought this trip.

(2015 aside: I seem to have given both of the books away or boxed them in least favoured, so won’t name them.)

Actually, I’m a tad bored, having seen all I want to and really want to be back working. I’ll probably trail  round the Christian bit tomorrow and am doing a final check to make sure there are no special bits I’ve missed.

(2015 aside: brief mention in my notes of ‘the ignorant Israeli’ – meaning I got pushed off the pavement a lot and was even thumped in the back – all by young, attractive women. The aggression was palpable and not just to me – as per conversation with Japanese couple at the airport. It was also contagious as I had a massive desire to wipe her off the face of the earth. But then I had had similar for virtually every day of the holiday which tested my fervent supporter of Israel a lot. I understand the aggression, up to a point, but I will not make apologies for it and will not be trampled on either.)

31/8/1999 Tuesday

16:35 Mount Zion lobby – for rather dried out looking cake and coffee – but well-deserved!

BTW the hotel has gone down somewhat in my favour. No hairdryers. No restaurant for pm meals twice in a row. After hours of walking all I wanted to do was eat ‘chez moi’ and stick it on the bill. Fat chance.

Anyway…

Off to another relatively early start this morning into Zion Gate slowly around the Christian, Jewish and Armenian Quarters, through the Moslem Quarter, stopping for a pomegranate juice and out through the Damascus Gate. Round the perimeter to Gethsemane (tiny – not much to see) and, brain loosened, found myself in a very shabby Arab ‘township’. People came out to stare and I started to feel uncomfortable. They were, however, friendly, especially the young girls who laughed and waved with one coming right up to ‘salaam’. Thankfully there was no begging or invasive behaviour.

And all in the very, very, very, hot sun.

So much for short cuts!

I had to head back to the Church of the Nations and walk all the way back up the hill on the outer perimeter road and found the Churches of St Anne – a Crusader church – and St Peter in Gallicantu – where the cock crowed – and one DID! Three times!!!

The best view of the Jewish cemeteries is definitely from the Arab township but I didn’t dare stop and take my camera out – meaning they may have been friendly but there was still a feeling of trespassing. The photo I managed once on ‘safer’ ground.

Anyway, as my sense of the ridiculous returned, I started mentally writing my guide to Israel and Jerusalem:

1.If you want to lose 10lbs a day, go when it’s 90c every day.
2.Jesus wasn’t really a marathon walker; taxi drivers’ interests and early squatters increased the distances between locations considerably…
3…except the holiest Christian sites within the Old City which scrunch into each other with great unholiness.
4.Nothing is adequately signposted and finding things requires at least two tours…
5…more so if you have an inadequate guide with vested interests
6.Why is everything here uphill?
7.What makes Israelis so damn rude?
8.Okay, well not all, but FAR TOO MANY.
9.Am I the only person in the history of the Dead Sea who sank?
10.Beware friendly Israelis. They overcharge you. And still want more.
11.But not all. (2015 aside I was very cross. Clearly.)
12.Why do Arabs like living cheek by jowl?
13.The problem of Jerusalem could be resolved by making the Old City a sacred spot for all.
14.Meaning co-owned by all interested parties

(2015 aside: doubt now this is feasible – nor any of the other ‘brilliant ideas’ I had back then to solve the various problems over there so not including them here though they were part of this list!)

15.Go at a time when you can eat home-grown avocado or mango!
16.Avoid tours.
17.Up at the crack of dawn, spending nano-seconds at each site & hours on the tour bus.
18.Learn Hebrew. All the signs are in it.
19.Very little concession to the foreign visitor, especially in the Christian world.
20.You need a real leap of imagination to picture Jesus last seven days.

Some woman keeps walking up to the window to gawp out. Admittedly a great view, but first slurping a pear, next with mouth slack and open, ugh!

21.Except for a couple of places, the stones don’t really ‘talk’ any more.
22.In their keenness to be Israelis I think some of the historical magic has been lost.
23.Surprisingly obscure places seem to have retained the most spirituality.

Last night, having stomped out of the hotel as the restaurant was closed yet again, and for my hair still being wet, I went to a Moroccan restaurant three ‘doors’ down.

There, at peace, I thought of Kushner on connectedness. Any re-discovery of connection to others gives life meaning and purpose. A child’s chuckle drawing one in. I suppose the reason I have been feeling lost is because there has been no connection, or very little. The superficial ‘friendliness’ of fellow travellers or taxi drivers or vendors is not what I feel is true connectedness.

Connectedness to me is chakra-opening whether of the mind, heart or muladhara!

He (Kushner) also talks of God without the right or wrong being outside of God. That I also believe but it is a very dangerous subject. The paedophile, murderer, thief, rapist – all could justify their behaviour as God-flowing exactly as intended. Because there is a connection somewhere…

I am an awkward bugger. No two ways about it. Passion and powerful energy make me care but unfocused it can become wasted nit-picking on a grand scale.

Perhaps my destiny is to just be aware …  No, I am meant to express it somehow, though these last few days I seem to have been in a vacuum. A filled vacuum of sensory experiences, leaving no room for God to add that taste of honey. No wonder I feel lost. …

2015 PostScript

I either lost the rest of my notes or didn’t finish them. Yet the memories that remain the strongest are those not written down. Why?

Like the afternoon I was resting in my bedroom from the fierce heat and had a hugely vivid vision of crucifixions. What day? Can’t recall now.

It was at the hotel in the Hinnom Valley. My bedroom overlooked the swimming pool but in the vision, I was looking out the window at Hinnom Valley circa the time of Jesus during the Roman occupation.

It was not the crucifixion of Jesus but of several criminals and dissidents, nailed to crosses in the Hinnom Valley – and yes, I was one of them. A dissident in general rather than a follower of Jesus in this vision. All these years later, I can still see the man – looked more like a Viking than a typical Jew, but I was Jewish (in the vision).

Someone other-dimensional appeared to be talking to me. It was a slow and painful death but ‘I’ seemed to be very brave. Dying painfully for my principles.

Re the Dead Sea: that finally seemed like a holiday despite the brevity – meaning time for a quick float – or, in my case, a quick sink with painful salt in my eyes. Try as I might, I just could not float.

Anyway another thing not mentioned, if I have to remain painfully honest, was the quite horrendous Israeli aggression and my subsequent airport meltdown at the checkout.

I was in a queue with the Japanese, mentioned earlier, as well as other non-Israelis. But the female assistant allowed several Israelis to queue jump – which I was *not* going to put up with, unlike the other polite nationalities!!!

Unfortunately, I let rip about how much I had supported Jews since the year dot ie my schooldays and was a passionate supporter of Israel yadda yadda yadda and this is the crap behaviour I get in return? Oh and I shouted it so the entire ruddy airport could probably hear too!

Anyway, the next Israeli that the stupid assistant summoned to the front was a rabbi – but he refused, ushering me forward instead. Yes I can see him now after all these many years. A gracious man, not helped by stupid people. Not sure what happened to the other nationalities thereafter as I was still steaming.

I’d like to say all ended well, but it really was a sore point, so much so that I came back to England trying to make amends for my – actually wholly justified – meltdown, by contacting a synagogue in Hove re the Jewish equivalent of penance. He suggested sending a financial donation to the synagogue, which I did, but, truth be told, the financial element also did not sit well then – or now.

Be that as it may, I remain a passionate supporter of Israel and, though it may not sound like it, am strongly against anti-Semitism of any kind. Doesn’t mean I am a pushover for bad behaviour though.

So… when am I re-visiting Israel?

PS No mention of Masada (which I loved or Qumran – ditto – despite the guide. Ah well.)

Snapshots of Bavaria

Preamble – Childhood Memories

Therese NeumannChildhood memories can be notoriously unreliable.  Four small children sitting on a railway station in the very early hours, waiting for a connection to Konnersreuth. Kindly monks putting us up in their roomy monastery. First time under a duvet, which kept falling off. Easter Sunday with these lovely, gentle souls, who had made meringue lambs for us. And, of course, the main reason for visiting – for darling Ma to see Therese Neumann, the stigmatist.

We were living in RAF Pfalzdorf at the time, so that was a hefty rail trip with four little people, but I guess Dad probably liked the adventure too. He certainly made an impact on the trip, and a dear lifelong friend in Christiane Fuchs.

Luckily we were always well-behaved, observing with our big brown, slightly frightened, eyes. Maybe that charmed 1962 German people as they were certainly helpful and friendly to us.

Revisiting Bavaria has long been on my list of places to re-visit, though it ended up being a last minute decision with about three weeks’ notice. It was also a second trip on EasyJet so part of the plan was to travel extra light, relying on Ghost dresses, one pair of shorts, creams and potions decanted into teeny pots and one pair of flat glam sandals apart from Toms for walking duties to go with Gap black trousers, black bomber jacket and Rufus Roo substituting for a handbag. And, surprisingly, all that and more fitted into the reduced EasyJet cabin case of a ‘guaranteed 50x40x20cm’. Probably only possible in summer months though.

(If you get to the end of these snapshots you’ll see that EasyJet reneged on its guarantee.)

Another reason for travelling light, apart from not trusting EasyJet (with reason!!!) was chopping and changing hotels and spending a fair bit of time on trains.

En Route – Tues 05/08/14 – 4pm South Terminal

Retail therapy accomplished including the foolish purchase of a pair of rather pretty diamante flip flops… with massive soles. They took up a lot of the last remaining space in the teeny cabin case. Also foolish: putting my euros on a Moneycorp card. I ended up paying twice to get the money out of an ATM. (Back home, I am still not sure if there is anything left on the card and will have to go back to Gatwick to find out. God knows what I was thinking of.)

Having booked in online and got my boarding passes, I am unsure what to do now. I have tested my 50x40x20 and it fits easily into the bag checker. Phew! Now there’s all this time to kill.

After a late lunch, I finally felt (feel?) in a holiday mood. A small glass of wine might have done that, coupled with the expansive sight of an airport runway, and loads of excitable people.

However, having been woken (yet again) in the early hours (01:30hrs) by the screaming brats next door (40 minutes non-stop!!!), the screaming children in the airport threatened a serious downer. Thanks to those regular bad-tempered screams, I now almost cannot stand the sound of children at all. Yet once upon a time I used to be charmed even by temper tantrums. Never again.

Meanwhile: great time to remember I haven’t checked out how to get from the airport to the Ramada, and it’s too late to book a shared cab. Shall have to wing it.

The hotel’s website says to take the S8 to Daglfing and then take a bus. Can’t see me doing that late at night, and to make myself understood if no-one speaks English. But it’ll have to be something cheaper than a non-shared cab which is €60-70!

Map Planned VisitI rather wish I had planned this better as tomorrow I will also have to take the train from Munich to Nuremberg, which will also involve train travel of some sort. The Ramada is outside the city centre, in their business sector, right beside an exhibition complex. And, to make matters worse, I’ve also booked it for my final night. Changing it will mean losing my booking fee. Pox.

Still, I’m not that bothered about sightseeing in Munich as the grand plan is to get to Konnersreuth as well as see as much of Nuremberg as I can. Also on the wish list is the Krystallmuseum  in Riedenburg – dependent on time and finances. Meanwhile, am sitting in the wrong spot for wi-fi so no chance of using the app to check in.

Past midnight so technically 06/08/14

Supper = one packet of peanuts (restaurant closed) and a glass of Merlot Grenache (bar still open) (wine=delicious) courtesy of the Ramada Munchen Messe. Bathed and in bed. Scribbling notes.

Well it definitely was not the easiest of places to get to. The cab was indeed €65 so I got the S-Bahn…which took a kind lady to sort out.

Aside: the S-Bahn is like our local mainline; the U-Bahn is the equivalent of our underground; and the DB Deutsche Bahn is longer distance national rail travel. I think.

Anyway, surprisingly, very few people speak or even understand English – even those in tourist locations ie the airport!

Even TV programmes have only a few news channels in English while sitcoms/ dramas are available in French, Italian, Arabic and even Chinese. Yet I remember working here in the mid-90s when plenty of people spoke good English. What on earth has happened? And so much for the EU when a major partner cannot even be bothered to cater for our language yet every other TD&H one is. Harumph!

But, back to the U-Bahn information desk. A very kind lady could manage a bit of English and took me down to the ticket machine where we had to work out how many stops there were to Ostbahnhof, where it would then be easier for me to get a taxi, which wouldn’t cost an arm and a leg, to the Ramada.

Some strange looking ticket emerged, having paid €12.50 using the Moneycorp debit card with my €uros on. Apparently, when I start my journey, I have to shove it into a blue ticket punching thingy which marks it with date and time. Then no-one looks at it again. Well at least not at that time or on that route.

Seems I was not the only non-German totally perplexed by the how, where, what etc of getting a ticket on the U-Bahn. But I got on the right train – confirming with fellow travellers that I was on the right one – and, after about 30-40 minutes, I arrived at Ostbahnhof and looked lost, yet again.

Struggled, yet again, to find someone who understood enough English to point me in the right direction, but did, heading up the stairs hauling the 50x40x20 (another reason my gratitude for its small size kept increasing, as I did quite a lot of hauling it up non-moving stairs!).

There were two cops at the top of the stairs but even they could understand ‘Taxi, bitte?’

Sure enough, there were plenty of taxis and it ended up costing me around €20. I was a little worried that the guy had the meter running and had no idea where the Ramada was, but he said the equivalent of ‘don’t worry’ and turned off the meter while he studied the map I had brought. (Glad I printed all those off as they were sorely needed!)

And within about 10-15 minutes, I was in the hotel. A strange pokey reception but a very large restaurant area and plenty of seats bordering the main window. Practically all with seated Muslims – and one in the queue ahead of me.

When it was my turn to check in a smiling lady upgraded me as I was still a bit shell-shocked at the hotel being rather out of the way, and I could no longer get anything to eat. Hence the peanuts. The wine was gratis.

Oh I forgot to mention that all those teensy pots of melasma lotions and potions and a spray of hair conditioner and ‘fat hair’, got me stopped at airport security. I fully expected them to be confiscated (hence the teensy pots) but they waved me through after taking my word that they were what they actually were/are.

Everyone at the airport was incredibly kind and polite, even when I got grumpy with Moneycorp.

But, back in the Ramada – a fabulous shower unit. It had multiple options on the showerhead so felt nicely massaged as well as clean. Apart from totally drenching the outside floor from angling it incorrectly…

Don’t mind so much coming back to this hotel on last night.

On the S8 to Ostbahnhof from the airport, I did have a brief chat with a lady who understood a teensy bit of English. I told her about Konnersreuth and she said there was a joke about it but wouldn’t translate it. Said it wasn’t funny anyway. I bit my lip to stop responding re German sense of humour.

Aside: practically no-one tourism-related had heard of either Konnersreuth or Therese Neumann. By a total fluke, the man who sold me the Bayern Ticket to Marktredwitz in Nuremberg Bahnhof did and made a sign on his palms to signify the stigmata. He clearly was a very religious man and asked me to pray for him.

Having planned most of this trip to be on the go, I do feel slightly worried at the equally multiple options for train tickets and lack of English speakers. Am scribbling a rough plan for tomorrow (ie later today 6/8/14): walk to the U-Bahn at Messestadt West, take tube to Munchen Hauptbahnhof. Find a ticket office for the D-Bahn and get a return to Nuremberg.

Flicked through a million channels with only BBC World in the Queen’s English (as opposed to CNN and Bloomberg and some other American and Australian news channels). Lots of American sitcoms but all dubbed. Peter Florrick and Rufus Sewell speaking in German accents didn’t quite work for me, so I slept.

Day 2 Wed 6th August

Bahn Blues

Later the same morning (6/8/14), having checked out, I did indeed walk down to Messestadt West and needed yet another person to translate the ticket machine so I could get the right ticket (and remember to get it stamped), heading off to the Hauptbahnhof.

Bahn Tickets

Actually, typing up all these notes, I am surprised I got anywhere at all because I think German tickets are way more complicated than they need be. They must think so too given the printed paper directions including times, platform and other gumpf that accompanies the Bayern Tickets (like an all-day travel card but dependent on which zones – or something like that).

It was also cheaper to buy a Bayern Ticket to go to and return from Nuremberg.  If I had been cannier, I could have made better use of its flexibility, stopping off en route or whatever. Or maybe not, given I was carting along my 50x40x20 case and wearing the delightful (not) Roo.

So… I got out of the tube (U-Bahn) and carted the case up the escalator to the mainline ticket office and had the misfortune to get a Korean-looking Rosa Klebb. Boy, talk about unhelpful.

ICE – the fast train – is €110.  I paid for the ICE ticket only for her to demand a credit card with my name on as proof as the Moneycorp was simply an unmarked card holding my cash – not a credit card. All non-tube tickets apparently need your name on them. You have to write it on the paper ticket though I gather some of the tickets can be shared – hence including name/s. Or something like that.

Anyway, having paid, but not acceptably, for the ICE, she gestured for me to put the Moneycorp card back into the machine so she could give me my money back. (And all because they want proof of your names and date of birth before they’ll issue you with tickets – could you imagine the same in England getting a return to Birmingham from Victoria?)

I then got two separate slips which I didn’t understand and she didn’t explain but which someone else told me was one taking the money and the other refunding it. By gum, they use up a lot of paper and toner on all these print outs.

Then I went off the idea of dealing further with her. The unsmiling sourness of her face made me distrust her totally.

Wandered across the hall only to be told that those counters were just for local travel – again in German, btw. I guessed from what she was pointing at. So back I crossed but went to another counter. A bloke. Sat like he had a poker up his rear and spoke in much the same manner but he did tell me (in English) I could get a cheaper ticket on a non-ICE train (much cheaper – €50).

This too however required a pint of blood. Okay not quite, but date of birth and the equivalent of a pint of blood in questions so I paid cash and had a coffee and sandwich while waiting (ages) for the train which he said would take three hours and which I could not deviate from and I would have to wait two hours for it to arrive.

Except I didn’t wait ages, being an impatient critter, and an untrusting one. Went to another information booth (there are a lot of them) (all needed!) and discovered that there was not only an earlier train but that it was much faster than the 3 hours quoted by poker bloke.

Got on it – along with a zillion others. Trains are very popular in these here parts!

At last, I could start to relax.Nuremberg

There is something utterly timeless about the Bavarian countryside. Unlike cramped England, there was endless space and fields which looked as unchanged as they must have appeared in 1962 when we last travelled part of this route as a family. And chocolate box houses nestled among lots (and lots) of trees. All very calming.

Holiday Inn Nuremberg

No wonder my memory retained that trip to Konnersreuth from 1962. How my parents managed with four small children, speaking no German, and from much further away (RAF Pfalzdorf) is beyond me. But then both of my parents were extraordinarily determined human beings – and where there were challenges, they’d just ask God for help. Who invariably obliged through some sentient or other.

I want so much to go there but the hotel and various tourist information booths tell me it would involve taking two trains, two buses and that there are complications on the line, meaning delays. So, no sooner do I get there but I’d have to turn around and come back.

However my mind was fully convinced (about not bothering to go) when I popped into a Catholic Club here in Nuremberg Altstadt and even they had never heard of Therese Neumann – and barely of Konnersreuth.

First Proper Evening Meal

Red Light NurembergFound an Ayurvedic Ceylonese (sic) restaurant very close to the Holiday Inn AND I don’t have to pass the prostitutes and strip joints to get to it either. Phew!

Food is mostly stuff I can’t eat but had a delicious papaya salad and a few mouthfuls of red rice. The smells were all delicious and evocative of eating with relatives in South India.

I can recall what I ate during the day, just not which days. However, one thing – semi-vegetarian. Virtually everything is stodgy and fattening. I suppose the only reason I didn’t come back three times the size is because I walked so much.

Re the semi-vegetarian bit: since the car crash in 2002, I have had grilled fish of some description about 4-6 times a year. This is partly because so many vegetables are currently off my diet due to allergic reactions. No nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, aubergines, peppers, chillies). No spinach, and even broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage can bring me out in a painful rash if undercooked. No rice (though I do like to tempt providence from time to time). No soy at all. All a bit tedious really.

So, as all forms of nourishment are sentient life to me, I will now eat fresh fish from time to time to save from starving when eating out.

Day 3 Thurs 07/08/14

On Train To Marktredwitz

After yesterday’s defeatist attitude, I awoke with the bright idea of taking a direct train to Mitterteich (also a very strong memory) and getting a bus or taxi to Konnersreuth from there. Nope. That too involves multiple train changes. So I asked a woman at the information kiosk what the distance was from Marktredwitz to Konnersreuth. 14kms.

Do-able by bus or taxi. And it’s a fast-ish train from Nuremberg. Hence sitting in this carriage waiting for the off.

And, finally (as mentioned earlier), the guy who sold me the Bayern Ticket had actually heard of both Konnersreuth and Therese Neumann, making a gesture on his hand to indicate the stigmata. He wished me God speed, and to tell him about it when I returned. A good omen, I felt.

(Aside: I remembered but didn’t spot him.)

Meanwhile, I finally sussed what the Bayern Ticket was/is. A one-day travel card (Ed: yes I know I have mentioned this earlier.) throughout Bavaria – or at least this region of Bavaria.

There is Lower Franconia, Upper Franconia, Middle Franconia, Upper Pfalz, Lower Bavaria (oddly in the upper half of the map), Upper Bavaria (oddly in the lower half of the map) and Bavarian Schwabia or Swabia. Nuremberg is in Middle Franconia, as is Konnersreuth, and Munich is in Upper Bavaria. Well at least that is what one of my maps said, although a guy in one map shop said they were often changed.

By the by as I am now on a moving train to Marktredwitz.

Such gloriously unchanging hop fields – or at least that is what it seems like – until brought into foul modernity with an expanse of solar panels. Peace and tranquillity disturbed.

2pm On Train Back To Nuremberg

Meister Bar MarktredwitzMarktredwitz is completely unremarkable but in a pleasantly tranquil way. I had a spot of lunch at the Meister Bär Hotel while waiting for the taxi, organised by the lovely receptionist who also spoke rather good English. (Yes, a quiet backwater where someone speaks good English versus a metropolitan city where most appear not to.)

Sitting in the warm conservatory, nibbling a slice of salty, herby garlic bread and sipping a decent red, I felt all tension disappear. The taxi would be no more than €30 for the journey there and back with him waiting for me for about ten minutes. (It was circa €28 plus I gave him a reasonable tip as he waited considerably longer.)

I know realise we probably never visited Konnersreuth at all and certainly did not stay over. Easter Sunday mass was held in something akin to a cathedral – with Therese Neumann seated behind the altar. The monastery where we spent the night had huge rooms – or at least that’s what it felt like to a 10 year old.

Konnersreuth is small, clean, elegant and tranquil. But tiny. There is a church but it too is small. Definitely unlikely we ever came here at all.

The cemetery is also small.

Therese Neumann GraveBut I paid respects at Therese Neumann’s grave and then the taxi driver motioned that he wanted to take a photo (yup – no English and we ‘conversed’ with me using a dictionary!) Hence the photo to the left of this. I can assure you I was totally respectful and prayed for loved ones and those who asked for prayers.

Prayers for me included miracles re ‘you know who!!’

I think we stayed in either Mitterteich, since it resonates strongly still in my mind, or Waldsassen, though that name is less strong in my memory. I had neither time nor finances to hike around either to find the monastery or cathedral, so got him to take me back to the railway station.

Scataside: Spiritual Journey in German is Geistig Fahrt. Wise El pose015

Again feeling calmed by the spacious, uncluttered fields.

Apart from the solar panel farms. I could feel my mind expand with every mile of glorious Bavarian countryside.

Got back into a very hot Nuremberg (after a very chilly Marktredwitz) for late lunch. Had to get more euros from the ATM and pay a fee – again – feeling distinctly miffed. Never again. Plus there seemed to be no mechanism to check how much you have taken and how much is left. Never again!

Tomorrow is Third Reich Day and tonight is Piggy Night.

After some retail therapy, I headed back to the hotel, only to take the wrong route, going north-west of the old town. Very beautiful and very classy but way out of my way and, after going round in circles for a bit, I found the right track and got back.

After a long shower, I had my fully-justified piggy meal in the Holiday Inn restaurant. The food here was more than quite acceptable and meant I could use my credit card instead of the fast disappearing euros.

Piggy Night is the one night in the holiday week when I have more than normal to eat and drink, kicking off with some kind of exotic cocktail, a main meal of garlic omelette and green salad with red wine, finishing off with a massive fatty pudding. Probably not hugely piggy by some standards but a lot for me.

As it was still light and hot out, I went to walk off the pud. I did a quick tour and then, as I headed back, I saw a woman in the street near the hotel wearing the tiniest thong and even tinier top. Trying to avoid making eye contact, I looked straight ahead and went directly into the hotel.

The highlight of the day was definitely the kind woman in the Meister Bär and the taxi driver trying to add a little weight to the visit to Konnersreuth. A real lightness of being, despite being adjacent to a red light district.

Tomorrow there will be lot more walking…

Day 4 Fri 08/08/14 Third Reich Day

Documentation Centre

Documentation Centre NurembergIn Italian restaurant – inside – with a glass of Prosecco. It is roasting hot and I am still attempting to cool down after walking to the Documentation Centre and Zeppelinfeld – and back.

Aside: I am surprised at some defeatist attitudes here. First it was with trying to get to Konnersreuth and being told it was too difficult and to give up. Then deciding to walk to the Documentation Centre. Oh it’s too far many people kept telling me. Take Streetcar 9. Take the U-Bahn somewhere or other and change. Too far on ‘fuss’. (NB umlauts don’t seem to work here.) And so on.

Documentation Centre NurembergIt actually took me around forty minutes walking slowly – partially because of the exceptional heat and partly because I wanted to make a meditation of it.

It was, it must be admitted, a dull walk, mostly along the main road, but an extremely straightforward and easy walk. It was only because of its dullness that I planned to take the bus back but I actually discovered a better route walking back, and took it. I’m guessing it was about 2-3 miles each way, so not far by my usual Sunday constitutional.

Best of all, despite the scorching sun, I didn’t even work up a sweat… until I climbed the almost vertical steps to the Documentation Centre – with even more, going up ever higher, inside. And all the steps had gaps so you could see how high up you were. Didn’t do my height fright any good at all, but I kept going, praying I wouldn’t fall down or miss my footing.

All for not a lot really, as I didn’t learn anything that I didn’t already know. It was a bit dry, dull and emotionless – even the remains of the Congress Hall didn’t resonate with those massed voices and past powerful energies.

Wise El pose015Scataside: Not plagued by foreign travel smells. Plagued, however, with 3+ days constipation. I presume that comes from all the travelling and not wanting to use public conveniences.

Nuremberg Trials Court Room 600

Nuremberg TrialsAs I had to pass the hotel, I had a brief pitstop to clean up and then headed back out again to walk to the Nuremberg Trials Court Room. Again, they thought I was mad to walk even though Furtherstrasse was only a couple of miles from the hotel on the outskirts of the Altstadt.

Unfortunately, I ended up misreading the road signs and headed north where practically no-one seemed to know where either Furtherstrasse was or the Justice Palace, despite it being on or off a main road. In the end, a Jewish lady (she was wearing a Star of David) guided me back in the right direction.

Nuremberg TrialsA straight road almost from the hotel… so not entirely sure, even now, how I ended up going off the beaten track. Perhaps too much heat and, even more, too much walking. I was certainly exhausted by the time I found the ‘palace’ – where nothing looked open.

An older Australian guy leaning heavily on a walking cane was also looking for the entrance. Practically nothing was signposted but we eventually found it. Cue him taking the lift and me – tired feet notwithstanding – walking up three flights of stairs.

Just typing these notes is making me feel exhausted. I must have been nuts. Or trying to work off the stodgy food eaten.

The top floor had a lot of interesting information about the trials. To do justice to it, I would have had to spend considerably longer there but as I was feeling severe information overload, I did a rapid circuit then down to Courtroom 600.

Nuremberg Trials Courtroom 600Not a lot to say about Courtroom 600. It wasn’t very big. There was – again – no sense of history. Mark you, that could be down to there being a bus tour and a bunch of sweaty-smelling people. It is very difficult to tune in in such circumstances. So my visit there too was definitely in and out.

Seen on walk back: Noris Bikes Nuremberg

Day 5 Sat 09/08/14

Hallerwiese – Pegnitz Canal Walk

Dreadful night’s sleep due to all night-party outside my bedroom window. Second night of high jinks outside. Holidays are supposed to provide a mental hiatus from the usual stresses and strains, but I have not managed to switch off at all.

And yet Nuremberg really is a very attractive city in a chocolate box kind of way. Staying in the Altstadt has meant everything historical has been within walking distance, so no excuse for lazing in the hotel or worrying about cab fares.

Canal Walk CanalWalk (2) CanalWalk (3) CanalWalk (4) CanalWalk (5) CanalWalk (6)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That said, this morning, the romance of Nuremberg is fading as I decide to do a Pegnitz (canal) walk. A strong smell of pee invades my nostrils and the sun no longer hides a multitude of sins.

Walking beside the Pegnitz via a non-canal extension to Hallerwiese (park), the Hesperides Gardens and St Johannes Friedhof (historical cemetery), and back into and around the Altstadt feels autumnal, sadder, with diminished hope after the optimistic blazing sunshine of the last few days.

Following the Pegnitz wasn’t quite the river-hugging walk I had believed though. It cut through the old town – dividing the Sebald Quarter from the Lorenz Quarter (defined by their churches) – under and around the old city walls and involved walking back and forth across various bridges (there are lots of bridges), through tunnelled pathways, park areas and city buildings, and got me thinking that Nuremberg’s old town wouldn’t survive long if there was a serious flood.

(Typing up these notes, detoured to google ‘Nuremberg/floods’ … Seems World War 2 did have some benefits in flood defences being built along with all the other extensive post-war regeneration work.)

I did have a pitstop at 10am, desperate for the loo. Nothing was open till 11am despite it being a Saturday and despite it being holiday season. Still, a kind bloke, at a restaurant beside the Kaiserberg, let me use their toilet.

Next challenge: to find somewhere to have breakfast prior to resuming the canal walk.

My notes indicate being severely unimpressed with German waiter skills. I sat and sat and sat… then moved to another place partly because the menu was rubbish and there was a heavy smoker near me.  Then I sat and sat and sat (beside the rather manky looking river though the ducks seemed happy enough) despite the manager telling the girl to serve me. And it wasn’t even busy. So I moved again.

Service really is dire here though they are unfailingly polite and friendly. Just disorganised and slow. As for anyone asking ‘Are you ready to order/ Do you want anything’ …forget it. It just doesn’t seem to cross anyone’s mind, that little thing called ‘customer service’.

Wandered off again and spotted an Australian Bar and Kitchen – which also did breakfasts that vaguely resembled our own. The others didn’t, and I was going to have continental stodgy stodge of some description. In the end, I had something that passed for scrambled eggs and then it was back on the very long river walk.

Not sure where all my energy came from given the second night of interrupted sleep from partying outside the bedroom window, though partying is infinitely preferable to those screaming bad-tempered brats.

13:30hrs and back in the hotel after a brief pitstop for a beer (unfinished) and veggie sushi (picked at and half-eaten. Drinking red wine now to (a) get rid of the beer taste and (b) to help me have a pm snooze to make up for last night.

Post snooze plans: to do the sketches of river walk then go out again. Or maybe not. I’ve now gone past my holiday threshold, despite there still being plenty of things to do and places to visit. Perhaps if I come back, I’ll hire a car and be more nomadic…

Did I mention this is cyclists’ heaven? They even have over half the pavement marked out as theirs. Pedestrians have to scrunch into the remaining bit along with the overspill from shops.

16:15hrs – Had around an hour’s kip, didn’t do any sketches and went out again. As I walked towards the centre, barely five minutes from the hotel, I could hear loud massed shouting. Such loud group shouting so near to the Nuremberg Rallies was slightly disconcerting. I asked an old lady what the noise was and she said ‘fussball’ (umlaut not showing) and shrugged her shoulders.

It was actually a few hundred Yazidi protesters.

Yazidi Rally Nuremberg SAMSUNG DIGIMAX A503My first thought was it was an anti-Israel protest. I asked the head polizei (the only one wearing a different uniform and clearly in overall control) if it was anti-Jew or pro- or anti-Christian. Neither. He smiled widely and said ‘no, no, no’ and proceeded to launch into an explanation (in English) why they were protesting.

Mark you, I’m not exactly sure what I would have done if they were anti-Israel or anti-Jew. Knowing me, I would have waded in somehow. Just as well my brave foolhardiness was not needed.

Meanwhile, the sun came back out and I made the most of my last evening here. No more long walks – no more stodge, so no need of long walks either – says she quaffing an iced coffee which is mostly cream and ice-cream!

Altstadt NurembergThe Yazidi protestors came back. With Saturday shoppers still out in force, my wariness of crowds kicked in and I headed back to the hotel for supper by way of the Kaiserberg to work off the ice-cream.

Marriage Sculpture NurembergSupper was not so good this time, despite the usual prompt attention and friendliness. The ‘green salad’ came topped with tomatoes.  Although they changed it, I am sure they just hoicked the offending toms off as my skin did later erupt (and, more than a week later, it still has rashes and various food-related blights).

Day 6 Sun 10/08/14

Back to Ramada Munich-Messe

On train back to Munich. More drunken arguments outside the window last night so very tired indeed. I left the hotel early and walked to the Hauptbahnhof not knowing what train I would be catching.

It was not as sunny but still pleasant weather and I thought I’d do some sight-seeing in Munich. Not a lot as I was wearing the Roo and carting the 50x40x20.

(As at time of typing, 10 days after the event, this is all now like some alternative dimension. I can barely remember much at all, so just as well I made some notes. I can recall walking to the Hauptbahnhof from the Holiday Inn but have only a slight mental image of waiting for, then taking the train to Munich.

As usual, I do recall asking more than one person if I was on the right platform and then on the right train, but then I do that in England as well, so no change there!

I do also recall trying to find the U-Bahn the same way I came but instead going a different way. Anyway, my notes were scribbled at 21:30hrs in bed.)

21:30hrs in bed – A bit of a challenging day.

I mistakenly got off the tube (from Munich Hauptbahnhof) at Messestadt Ost instead of West (and this is despite the woman in the information booth telling me it was West and even underlining it on the map – but then I was very tired).

Instead of getting back on the wretched tube, I walked around – and around – the Halle (huge exhibition centre) in the blazing sun for about an hour before the Ramada hove into view.

Out of the five people asked only one man running with his girl-friend (who ignored me) told me to keep going and then turn right. Another man told me to go back on the tube as it was too far. Another said ‘nicht fichtstehen’ and seemed terrified of making eye contact. A Halle security guard told me to go down into the railway area and take a taxi.

Yet the actual distance from the tube was probably only two miles maximum. Obviously just a few hundred yards if I had got off the right blooming stop though.

I decided to walk slowly, enjoying the ‘scenery’ – well the road was straight, tree-lined and clean – and, when I walked into the hotel, I joked about my failing to follow instructions to the receptionist. Not a word did I mention about checking in.

Strewth! Got an unsmiling Teutonic bark about not being able to register till 3pm (it was around 12-ish) and could barely get a word in. Except I did. I was hot, I was sweaty, I needed the toilet and I was not going to let anyone – anyone! – talk to me like that.

In my best loud RP voice, I said if I was too early she should have told me to take a seat until I could register, that she was very rude and to please call the manager. Oh and that I wanted to use the toilet. NOW. She pointed me in the right direction and said I could leave the case with her. Absolutely not, I replied. Given that wretched welcome, it would not surprise me if she let someone walk off with it, I fumed.

When I came back upstairs again, the duty manager was waiting for me, all smiles and regrets. I explained that that was no way to talk to paying guests and that a simple explanation would have sufficed. Perhaps a spot of training might help, I added.

No rooms were ready as yet but to please wait (as indeed I had suggested) and they would bring me a glass of wine. I went to sit at an outside table and they did bring me a glass of wine which I was going to pay for but it was another gratis.

The Valkyrie also came out with my (upgraded) room details and was hugely apologetic. She gave me some sort of heart shaped magnet – but I hadn’t a clue what it meant even after some explanation about something or other or whether it was meant to be kept or used in some way or given to someone else. I ended up leaving it on the table.

I must admit, I was still grumpy but could see they wanted to make amends so smiled and tried to resurrect my usual good grace.

Drink finished, room assigned, I went up to take a long, very long, shower. Hunger pangs kicked in and I went to try and find somewhere to eat. Not in the main restaurant. Closed. The ‘brasserie’ didn’t serve omelettes or anything eggy, so I went to the H2, a sister hotel next door.

Peaceful Overgrown GardenGot some scrambled eggs and a Prosecco and sat in their very novel gardens. Meaning, as you can see from the photo, a real wilderness that makes my own look positively manicured by comparison!

That said, for the second time this holiday, I felt totally at peace and at one with the world. (The first time was in Marktredwitz in the MB Hotel.)

It was scorchingly hot, probably intensified by the four multiple-storeyed walls hemming in this patch of greenery. I was alone out here and there wasn’t even a hint of sea or swimming pools, yet the sense of holiday relaxation was immense. If only I could have bottled it!

Bavarian PancakeCame back to the Ramada ‘brasserie’ for coffee and pudding and decided to finish my holiday with a German pancake – yes, more stodge. Oh dear. Totally inedible. And I have never before seen a pancake look like large bullets of fried flour! (See photo.) Quite revolting but I paid as I had eaten the fruit that came with it and was pleased not to have added to holiday weight gain. (I don’t think I did because of all the walking…)

Went upstairs for another shower and hair wash and a strong desire to be back home. I half wished I had gone back into Munchen for that last minute sight-seeing but most of me was overfilled with seeing places and doing touristy things.

The day ended with yet another (eating) challenge.

Oh dear. I was so looking forward to a good meal to end an interesting visit to Bavaria. Instead I got something in tomato juice with lots of tomatoes and peppers, despite saying I was allergic to them. They assured me that they didn’t just hoick off the tomatoes and peppers but re-made the meal. Unfortunately, as I ate – very carefully – I spotted a huge hair on a piece of cucumber. Cue end of meal.

They didn’t charge me but, waiting for the bill (a long time!), it left a sour taste so I wasn’t minded to leave a tip despite intending to leave a hefty one. I got a horrible feeling as if I was to blame for everything from the unwelcome welcome to this – as if I was trying to pull a fast one. Me, who takes honesty to stupid degrees sometimes!

It wasn’t as if the place was crowded either, though I didn’t take it personally. I just think from my overall experiences – and observing them in general – that Germans have a different attitude to ‘waiting on tables’ to say the Italians or French. Even Brits at least pay you attention.

Wi-fi was even dodgier than the Wi-Fi in the Holiday Inn so I gave up trying at 21:13hrs and decided to try and sleep.

Aside: why were there so many large groups of burkha-clad women in the Ramada – and apparently also in the Munich Holiday Inn?

I just want to add here that the staff at Ramada Munich-Messe did try to make amends, and quite quickly. However, I have kept the notes as is in the interests of veracity.

Day 7 11/08/14 + End Notes

Munich – Dachau – Home

09:20hrs – Sitting in Henry’s in Munich – parallel to the Hauptbahnhof. An early night meant an early morning. Hence being here so early. For a Monday morning it is exceptionally quiet. And wet. No commuters. No cyclists. Just rain.

I decided against having breakfast at the Ramada and checked out. The previous evening’s guilt about being given a free meal – albeit unfinished on spotting the hair – remained. So I gave one of the girls €10 to give to the staff who served me last night. I presume they did.

It was raining as I walked to Messestadt West – the correct U-Bahn stop! All the previous days of scorching sun instantly became distant memories. But cooler damp weather was in fact a big benefit as I was now wearing my travelling clothes and carting the 50x40x20. Well perhaps not with canvas Toms – which ended up soaked.

I had previously bought a ticket for four hours travel anywhere which I thought would be enough to do a spot of sight-seeing in Munich. However, I was too cold, wet and more than a little fed up for that. I also was not enthralled with Munich either before or now.

Unfortunately, I also had HOURS to kill before the EasyJet flight back. So I went back to the information desk to find out what I could do hereabouts, bearing in mind that my ticket would have to take me wherever and then back on the s8 to the airport.

The nice lady told me to pay a euro more for an all-day ticket instead and then I could take the S-Bahn (S2) and a local bus to Dachau instead. So I did.

That S-Bahn plus local bus trip was not as wearisome as it sounds though I did stand on the wrong platform and found myself going in the opposite direction. Luckily, the S trains like the U trains come fairly frequently so it was a short wait for the train back and then a short hike up some stairs (still with 50x40x20 in tow) to the right platform and the right train.

Just in case, I did a double check and asked a friendly-looking woman, who was with her family. They were Americans, also visiting Dachau. Exiting Dachau station, there were suddenly hordes (well, a lot) all waiting to catch the local bus out to the concentration camp memorial.

DachauThe local bus was not just for tourists and stopped several times. But it was still relatively quick so I felt a little less tense about travelling times. I think the bus fare was just under €2 but you couldn’t buy a return.

On arrival at Dachau, I said goodbye to my American fellow travellers as I knew I would be heading back well before them (or any of the other tourists).

In fact I spent most of the time there in the gift shop, wanting to buy something Jewish or Israeli. Got a ‘hand’ with a Star of David on. Then followed a quick walk up to and partially round the camp – still dragging the 50x40x20…

11:45hrs Dachau bus stop – waiting for bus back to the station.

Having been to Auschwitz, Dachau with or without crowds doesn’t have the same – or really any – emotional impact. Even the words Arbeit Macht Frei are on a small gate that is barely noticeable.

13:10hrs – On S8 to airport. Yes, WAY too early but am so tired of crowds, lifting the 50x40x20 up endless steps and trying to fill time just to say I’ve been somewhere.

As I was about to descend into the S-Bahn, a major lard bucket reversed her bulk without looking where she was going, knocking my case and hitting my foot. Instead of saying the equivalent of ‘sorry’, the fat schweinhund kept saying ‘scheisse, scheisse, scheisse’. Needless to say I slammed straight back with ‘same to you’, mentally thinking ‘You great big fat brick shithouse.’ Obviously, discretion got the better of me and I kept that little retort inside my head.

As if to tell me my seven days of peace were finally coming to an end, this entire journey to the airport was discordantly accompanied by a bad-tempered child, whining and shrieking. The entire forty-odd minute journey. Oh joy. And something to look forward to (not) with the Ps next door. Double joy.

14:40hrs – In the terminal, pre-security, giving up on getting something I can actually eat without some reaction and ending up with a glass of wine and a cherry roulade cheesecake. (Note: a week later and my skin is still reacting with rashes and hives to all this food I don’t normally eat – cannot normally eat.)

Better to while the hours away here in the airport than traipsing the streets of Munich in the rain.

Cleaned up my feet in the loo and massaged them with a ginger and cardamom potion I bought in Müllers which made them tingle a bit more than was strictly comfortable.

Just as well I spent the money landside as Munich duty free is sparse – and more expensive than Gatwick.

Feeling mellow, at last. No longer concerned about home and other people. But decided to go through security and chill out on the other side.

No problems passing through customs but when they asked if I had any fluids the numbers on the lock wouldn’t align so I could open the case. They weren’t bothered and waved me through, but I made a bit of a fuss as I couldn’t open the damned thing for my own benefit.

One of the airport guys tried and couldn’t open it either, so yet another tried and eventually succeeded. I immediately took off the lock and left it in the case.

16:20hrs – parked near a runway, STILL hours to kill though there is free Wi-Fi here – you just have to provide your inside leg measurements first and if you are too slow, you have to re-register. I didn’t bother as I managed to access all I needed to bring me up to date before it wanted another pint.

I will however have to give in to eating stodge or more stodge as I am starving. Finally used up remaining euros on a bottle of water and a huge pretzel thing which almost gave me lockjaw. Gut-clogging, tasted revolting. Constipation is now guaranteed for the next three days. (Aside: my jaw is still sore over a week later!)

19:05hrs – and either Private Eye has suddenly become laugh out loud or I am losing it big time. But the time really has gone by quite quickly.

Bloke who was snoozing a table away from me has now woken up and is staring at me. Looks vaguely familiar. Like Rod Liddle. I went off to the loo and then he lumbered off somewhere so I’ll never know.

All those burka-clad women are now in the airport. Practically all the little girls are very pretty and very mischievous. The mothers swarm the loo and the shops en masse. Later, an air hostess looks about to have a nervous breakdown as the gates are closed (at least three times) while said women continue to saunter around. Twenty minutes later, they deign to go to the plane, still in no rush whatsoever. I presume they must be related to some Omani Croesus to be quite so arrogant.

Finally the gate is called and EasyJet reneges on its ‘guarantee’ to allow the 50x40x20 on as cabin luggage. The case fitted easy-peasy into the tester thingy in Gatwick but refuses to go into their minute checker here in Munich.

I am outraged and make sure every man, woman and dog knows. But the Spanish bat sticks a luggage label on which means I still have to haul it to the plane where it is then taken away from me to go in cargo. (As of typing this my ‘fume’ has started re-fuming…)

Not only was the plane was delayed a lengthy time, there was also a cockup as the bus took us to the plane. Flying EasyJet was altogether not an experience I ever want to repeat – even if the fares are much cheaper. The one and only time I have flown before – to Jersey – I went deaf in one ear for nearly three weeks.

On the plus side, I sat next to a chatty chap, an ex-prison officer, who told me all about his football away trip/s and his time in the prison service. He kept chatting all through the flight so the time passed quickly and, more to the point, my mind was distracted from worrying about my case and picking up my car.

Thanks to crap EasyJet, another day had been added to my car park fees.

Finally arrived at Gatwick and the hordes of hell. Where have all these people come from at this hour of night? However, by a stroke of luck, my case was waiting on the baggage carousel, so I headed straight out for the car park bus.

Also jam-packed.

Finally I’m at exactly the right spot where I parked my car only it has decided to be invisible despite trying the remote lock. Deep breaths. Walk up and down the gangway. And there it is. Not invisible anymore. And the remote lock works.

One last palaver: the pre-paid ticket is no longer accepted and there is a demand for £110. In a pig’s ear! I leave the car at the barrier and take another deep breath before telling the woman inside that the plane was delayed, the bus was delayed and the car park bus was also delayed hence nudging into another day. She didn’t say a word. Fiddled around with her computer screen… and then gave me an exit ticket without having to pay that huge extra.

As I was finally heading home, a guy who was on the car park bus said ‘You were right!’ as he too went to get his over-payment nullified. I wished him luck as the barrier rose, letting me out.

Uneventful but slow drive home, cul de sac filled with cars as expected, but I was home.

End Notes

If I am honest, I had to force myself to do those quick sketches, and even to take the not very good photos. Despite loving Nuremberg, Marktredwitz and Konnersreuth, it did not poke the creative muse at all. Well, that’s my excuse for the poor images!

And some other photos:

PS The camera was playing up so the dates and times on the photos are obviously incorrect. I travelled 5-11 August 2014.

Snapshots of Bavaria 2014 SAMSUNG DIGIMAX A503 SAMSUNG DIGIMAX A503 SAMSUNG DIGIMAX A503 SAMSUNG DIGIMAX A503 SAMSUNG DIGIMAX A503 SAMSUNG DIGIMAX A503 SAMSUNG DIGIMAX A503

Snapshots of Rome

2nd February to 6th February 2003

£79 for the flight 286 euros for the hotel plus spending money [euros and credit card] meant plastic bending par excellence! Plus airport parking totting up the bill… but I evidently needed to treat myself.

Booked flight a week before departure via special offer in Sunday Times then frantically surfed the internet for a reasonable hotel. Over concern with reports of muggings and pickpockets made me choose a quiet place near the Vatican. The Pope and Sts Peter and Paul could keep an eye on me I figured.

Sunday 2nd Feb
Arrived early at Gatwick Airport and went for Mass in North Terminal chapel. First time in ages. Beautiful spring sunshine for my birthday made me feel very optimistic and I felt like sharing it with God. Sunshine and lots of compliments re my age from women and men, definitely good start. One of the girls who thought I looked “wonderful” even gave me a gratis bottle of Opium as a gift. Thought counting and all that.

Even the plane being delayed didn’t faze me. Cosmopolitan Italians are very easy on the eye. The men especially seem to have a freshness and vigour which probably comes from all that curiosity towards attractive women.

On the flight over I was seated next to a lively and charming young man with very little English who wanted to chat despite the difficulties.

Arrived at Fiumicino late but the taxi driver was waiting patiently. He was immaculate, his car even more so. Didn’t get to see much of the drive though as it had got quite dark by now.

Hotel Amalia, via Germanico – ten minutes walk from the Vatican. An odd little hotel. It looked like a city apartment block with an old-fashioned three-door wire-box lift, and a “restaurant” that only opened for the two hours of breakfast. No chance of a swift verre of something pleasant in the bar. But it was clean and the staff were professional.

Pity fatties in the shower though – my size eight felt quite cramped in it!

Before I’d even taken my bags upstairs, the chap in reception had booked me on some tours with the 3rd Feb a free day to get my bearings and explore. And boy did I explore! My feet were killing me at the end of the day and I had a five o’clock alarm call to get on the tour to Naples and Pompei.

But still on day one, the 2nd, I was starving and with no restaurant, it meant I had to brave the streets in the dark for a meal. The hotel chap suggested Insalata Ricci on via Ottaviono. Translation came through a Bangladeshi waiter, but it triggered off curiosity from an old gentleman sitting on my left. He was an American professor of astronomy on a six month study tour or something like that. A pleasant enough way to round off the day and the meal was okay.

Monday 3rd Feb
Started early with peculiar breakfast and then walk down to Vatican. Sun sharp and bright although cold. Stood in St Peter’ Square saying hello to all the holy chaps etched against the blue sky. It felt so comfortable that I must have stood there for fifteen minutes before walking into the Vatican – firstly the wrong way and then having to walk all the way to the other side to be frisked before being allowed entry.

Had a few brief minutes of spiritual peace and “inner weeping with divine pleasure” before hordes of Japanese descended. It must be awful visiting the Vatican at the height of the tourist season if spiritual connection is what you seek.

Luckily I did manage to get to some places on my own – like the Museum Treasury. Highly recommended. Amazing amounts of gold, jewels, fantastically ornate candelabra with highly-decorated stems like those images on the sides of Indian temples, except not pornographic. Except of course the Bernini columns on the High Altar with Julia Farnese’s face in repose to orgasm and back and the Barbieri bees as her naughty bits. Peter whatever-his-name told us this when we went to Rome in the 70s. Then, the guards kept us away from the columns. This time, I could touch them unhindered if I wished. I didn’t.

Anyway more of the Museum Treasury – papal rings the size of my bracelets. God they must have been real porkers for those to fit. Massive crystals on equally massive crucifixes and yet more frippery. It probably all weighs a ton so no wonder it is all stored in a very darkened series of rooms. 5 euros entry by the way.

Didn’t do Sistine Chapel or other museums.

Really felt JP2’s vibes. Or God saying hello through him. I have never felt anything from Il Papa before even though I think he’s a lovely, kindly old chap and radiates goodness. Today, though, it was as if he was with me.

Eating in Rome is annoying. Even without the no-no of wheat and dairy, restuarants in that quarter at least didn’t open till 13:00 hours with only standing cafes or eating on the hoof available before. As my feet were sore even by lunchtime, I wanted to sit. Anyway the standing cafes only sold things like pizza. Finally found one after one o’clock that did “English Breakfast” which I had a vegeterian version of, but was so hungry I ate the toast and butter too. And suffered with bloat and poor bowel movements for the rest of the trip.

Explaining my fingers/hand, don’t like Italian word for broken. Sounds like rotten.

Took the Metro to Colosseo. Said never again to Roman tube travel. Filthy and cramped with graffiti everywhere.

The Colisseum – what a disappointment. Saw only one cat but the place had no atmosphere despite the maze of passageways below [which we couldn’t wander down into].

I like the stones to talk to me – Christian martyrs…. gladiatorial combat…. but nothing. Perhaps the spirits of all those lost souls had disappeared into the feral cats who in turn had pissed off somewhere more appetising to them. I was so disappointed, I left quite early despite paying my 8 euros to stay all day if I wished.

Walked up the via del Corso – freebie Rome – with stones that DID talk on both sides of the road. Remains of Imperial Rome with the Foro Imperiali, Foro Romano, Piazza Colonna, the Trevi [didn’t like that either].

Pitstop for aching feet at Cafe Canova [yes the 3 Graces chap]. Had a salad and a glass of wine. Moved on when young English couple came and sat next to me [in empty restaurant] and started talking v loudly and the woman ate even louder. Yes I glared but the dopey bird didn’t notice.

Those four small meals meant I skipped dinner and retired to bed with a packet of crisps and a bottle of water – and some half-cooked chestnuts.

Beggars here are more dramatic, kneeling in prayer, arms outstretched for alms. I prayed that God would give them drive and light for something a little more soul-enhancing.

Italian men have a wondrous curiosity towards females. It was pleasantly charming to see them stop mid-conversation and look, absorb the face with a smile and then simply move on. Nothing threatening. [BTW I wore the scar plaster on my nose the entire trip – so that might have had something to do with it!]

Sleepy now. Up at 5am for Naples.

8:30pm awake again. Don’t know how I slept so soundly last night as it was freezing and presumably as noisy as it is right now. Chattering voices, traffic and trams. The trams sound like Vesuvius rumbling. All loud. Very loud. And now I’m hungry-ish too. However, after affects of walking all day means I am not shifting from prone in this warm bed.

Surprised by total lack of vibes with Colosseum – especially after Gladiator. Lower corridors v impressive in detail but zero atmosphere. Said prayer for repose of souls of martyrs et al.

Amazing how many body parts can ache from several hours of walking. Think Inner God must be tired too as can’t feel any great spiritual stirrings.

Been thinking of T. and praying that the power of the Vatican’s energy will make me right…… Australia? Farmer?

Miss the Mother. Well ringing and haranguing her probably. Hope and pray she’s alright.

Difficult to work out what God’s Will is for me in a foreign place while in tourist mode.

Tuesday 4th Feb (writing en route)
7:15am on coach ready for Naples/Pompeii day trip. Horribly early start with alarm call at 5am. Irritation at no coffee facilities in room but nice man preparing the room made me one.

Perilous descent downstairs (the stairs were marble and rather steep and winding with no handrail).

Interim minibus takes us to Greenline where we change coaches and get two guides. Hordes of young Japanese girls but they are off to Capri, changing at Naples where we pick up another, local, guide.

Couple smoking heavily on coach south. Don’t fancy three hours of polluted atmosphere so ask Monika, the main guide, if they would kindly stop. They do and we speak a little later. They are Brazilians who have checked their daughter into university in Switzerland and are touring Europe before returning home. They are charming but total chain smokers so the coachtrips must be hell.

Still immensely tired in part because I haven’t eaten anything since 6pm last night. Three quarters of an hour till coffee break. Evidently breatharianism isn’t for me!

I’m also not cut out to be a travel writer! The scenery for the last gazillion hours has been mind-numbingly boring. Motorways spliced through not particularly life-enhancing scenery. Same the world over. And it’s pissing down with rain. Okay in the UK. Mark you these snapshots aren’t meant to be travel writing. Just a log of the holiday predominantly for Ma as she likes to know these things.

Monica – the coach guide – keeps telling us of all these special places as if we are about to be within spitting distance and invariably they are unviewable and hidden behind some particularly nasty looking industrial site. For example Caserta some large and famous palace. You’d need infrared specs and bionic vision to spot it on a sunny day let alone through storm clouds.

But then suddenly the rain eases and there is space. Lots of it. Piedmont to the right, snow-covered mountains. Olive trees. And SUN! And this space. Yet all these bods want to come to cramped, crowded England. South East England at that. So many of them are country workers anyway… Would I stay to try and rebuild a poverty-stricken England? I hope so. I believe so. Mark you the way this Government(?) is carrying on we may well have an imploded benefits system and then what would happen?

Nearly half way there. Middle of nowhere-ish and old fridges and tyres are littered by the roadside. I wish I had stuck to my teen ambition of being multi-lingual. Of course it’s not too late to learn but without regularity of conversation it would be difficult.

A very exotic garden centre. More bare olive trees looking like they are doing Imelda’s spider dance en masse. Capua 1km. Isn’t that some saint’s territory? Italy has so many works of art in the wild as opposed to being in a museum. I find that remarkably civilising.

Sleeping dragons on left as we approach Caserta. Largest palace next to Versailles and now a museum. No, I can’t see it. The Japanese guide, Yoshika, is giving me brain ache with her high-pitched and VERY fast gabbling.

Odd to have a big palace in such an ugly place. Looks like a mix of industrial estate, council housing and building works.

Pitstop. I have eaten (some unhealthy chocolate wafers), the sun is shining and the Brazilians are friendly. What is it with eating in non-UK places which creates such malodorous bowel movements? And their loos have such strange positioning you are practically sitting on your own stool. Gross.

A glimpse of the ancient Appian Way. Now that looks more like it. Rome to Capua and Brindisi. Just the words conjure up the apostles on their travels. Wonderful biblical resonance. She’s telling us now of Vesuvius, Etna and Stromboli. We can see Naples now. Nice vibes but not a pretty place. Stepped green hills a small bright spot under the original cluttered spaghetti junction and a half.

Italians like their fur coats. I’m wearing my best La Redoute fake fur.

Ah the nice vibes were because of the tropicality of the location. Must remind me of baby years in Ceylon or something. But it is all STILL ugly although even ugliness can be attractive. Masses and masses of apartment blocks and blocks is the operative word. She’s harping on about Vesuvius again so I think we are almost peeking into the crater but in all the time there I saw nothing at all.

Grey sea and photo stop for bay of Naples. Everyone hikes out to capture it on film but I’ve seen better at Littlehampton – alright not quite. This is on the hill and perhaps if it weren’t so grey it would look spectacular. Unfortunate for the bods who own the houses below. Not much privacy.

10:50am VERY out of breath local guide, Gennaro, arrives. Traffic accident held him up. He valiantly ploughs into his pitch, gasping for breath so we don’t miss his little tidbits. Such as they are.

We head into the flashier part of Napoli where Caruso used to hang out. “Egg” castle built by Normans. Palace in front, red, looks like Dartmoor prison.

New style me deciding to be relaxed and see what happens with the day. If I like Pompeii a lot I can always come back. Gennaro is locked into boring detail and I am fascinated with a motorcyclist watching his leather gloves blowing away in the wind and the carabinieri copping another motorcyclist. Gennaro still struggling to tell us anything interesting about Naples (“here is the oldest coffee shop” “here is a covered meeting place or arcade”, “next castle, beautiful marble arch of Alphonse of Aragon”). Maybe it’s him, or the route he is taking because my guide book is quite interesting.

I think if you really want to see or experience a place you have to do it by yourself. So far, it has been a drive by coach and a below par lunch with even less spectacular guiding. Actually Monica’s guiding skills stimulated the imagination. We just couldn’t actually SEE anything.

Wanted a glass of wine to lift the meal but it came by bottle. The American couple who had been asking me questions about Rome ordered one but did not even offer a taste. The Japanese girls were also asking me questions but were very sweet.

16:49 Nearly two and a half hours later and I am STILL soaked. Tunisia all over again. Cold winds and hailstones terminated the visit to Pompeii although I did manage to see what I wanted. It was peaceful and enjoyable, and definitely worth a trip in sunshine, but now I’m cold and starving and taking a long time to dry out. To make matters worse a creep has joined the trip back and keeps staring at me, but as I write this he has thankfully gone to sleep.

Although there were some delightful surprises at Pompeii like the groves and large private houses I felt antiqued-out after about an hour. Anyway the “spirits” were quiet. Obviously all at peace. Gennaro told me I was a romantic and an idealist because I didn’t want to follow the tour.

Before the hailstones crashed down, I spotted a coral shop where I wanted to buy something for Sarah and Richard. Coral is a symbol for a long and happy marriage. But it was enormously expensive. Even something practically invisible was nearly £30.

Hope Ostia tomorrow is dry – and not cold!

All I seem to think about is food. Unsurprisingly since it has been vile so far. Tonight I am planning to have a chinese.

Wednesday 5th Feb
9o/c in bed scrubbed clean but still aching from all that walking around. Unfortunately also very bloated from eating wrong things. Example: utterly delicious poached salmon with brandy sauce at lunch. I now look pregnant and feel constipated waiting for it to swim to pastures new. Despite thanking it (the salmon) for the oils and proteins it was giving to my hands!

Yesterday it was “see Naples and die” – and it very nearly took me off with boredom. Pompeii started well but finished with a wet battering from golfball sized hailstones. Even this morning my hat and coat were still wet.

I was so fed up with the poor guiding and horrible coach trip that I cancelled todays two trips to Ostia and the catacombs. I slept heavily and then decided to do my own tour of the catacombs despite Antonio in reception telling me I wouldn’t be able to.

Got on the nearest Metro to hotel but made mistake of getting off at Re di Roma and found neither buses nor taxis. Trambus guy said to get back on Metro and then off at Colli Albino(?) and take bus. But when I couldn’t get the ticket the Metro lady came out to help me and in best English said to get off at St Giovanni and then take the 218 bus direct to Sts Callisto and Domitilla. This was confirmed by another chap on the Metro who also spoke good English. They all seemed to think I was mad. But I found it. The 218 bus stop was opposite a rather splendid church – there are LOADS of them in Rome but they all seem rather wonderful with massive statues peering over the ramparts.

The only pressure point was that the ticket I bought worked for tube and bus WITHIN 75 minutes of purchase. So if the transport was anything like in the UK you’d be stuck.

The bus drive was more as I like it, traversing the Roman end of the via Appia Antico and once again it felt historical and biblical and transported me out of the 21st century. Actually I almost missed getting off.

Arrived at St Callisto to find it closed (on Wednesdays) and crossed my fingers as I walked half a mile up to road to St Domitilla’s. Thank God it was open. I skipped her house and went into the labyrinthe below – with a guide. Very spooky and moving. Even though it was unlikely that Christians sheltered there, there were fish mosaics and Christ symbols to be found. As one descended, there was a reasonably-sized chapel where Mass is held. Further into the catacombs were more altars where services apparently are held as well. I was lucky having the guide all to myself and we chatted about all sorts of things which gave me a fuller picture.

I would definitely recommend both the Vatican and the Catacombs as individual day trips to chill and absorb the atmosphere. I couldn’t get round to all the sights around the Appian Way like the Quo Vadis church because there just wasn’t the time.

Decided on a taxi back into the centre and fortuitously a taxi was just dropping off some chap. The route he took me back along was also wonderful and I was severely miffed with myself for the wet day in Pompeii when I could have explored so much more of Rome. Unfortunately the Catacombs is the complete opposite end from the Vatican. However should I go back I will probably stay in a hotel nearer to the via Appia Antico next time.

Taxi dropped me off at the Piazza di Spagna (Spanish Steps). Not at all sure what the charm is, and I exited almost as quickly as I arrived. Ditto Fontana di Trevi the other day. Yet leaving the Piazza, I walked past a most beautiful fountain set into a private courtyard – except I didn’t know and wandered in to admire it. The guards came out to warn me off but then changed their minds and said to please browse. I told them I thought it was very beautiful and – oh those Italians – he said I was the beautiful one.

I came out to Rome on the spur of the moment for a cultural and spiritual lift but have had the added benefit of feeling very attractive.

Pootled round shopping, leather gloves for my battered hand, mint tea in the Grand Plaza something or other, then that wonderful salmon lunch at a charming place in della Croce.

Then headed back over Cavour, along the Castel Sant’Angelo and back to the Vatican to say hello again. As I walked into St Peter’s Square, I tried to tune into the Pope to say sorry for missing his blessing that morning but that I took it anyway… and I swear to God I got an instant reply in my gut and in the immediate tears in my eyes as I said “Hello Pope-y”. I know it doesn’t sound dignified but evidently he or God flowing through him didn’t mind at all.

Went into the private prayer chapel for a quiet word or two and Benediction was starting half an hour later, so I waited and joined in. More Catholic ritual in three days than in the last 37 years! But enjoyable.

And that Motherkins is all I wrote of Rome.