The rest of the European adventure is to be found further down. Please scroll down to near the bottom of the page to resume the story of what happened in the rest of Germany, Netherlands, Scotland, England and on Kelly's return to Canada. Still lots of photos too!
The cows came home on a Cattle Drive April 7
Dateline April 6, 2016
Missy's foal has arrived!
There were very excited helpers and Winning Ways students who had been eagerly anticipating this event. The little fellow was cute and he knew it right from the start. He also had his mother's chestnut color as well as great deal of her attitude. You can see the attitude in the photos below and also just how tiny he really was.
Of course such a celebrity had to have a name worthy of the status of superstar so .... a "Name the Foal" contest followed the foaling. There were many really great submissions: Sea Biscuit, Zippy, Mister Big, Friartuck, Horatio, Mickey, Peanut, Fudgicle, Cinder, Spirit, Baggins, Elfin, Charly, Vegas, Wee One, Mr Miyagy, Fox, Tiny, Jolly Jumper, Rosco, Sven, Cinnamon. The list of names was posted and the Winning Ways friends and followers voted.
I think there was some ballot box stuffing and other irregularities in the vote for this little fellow's name!!! Mister Big won in a landslide especially with some last minute votes received by text message.
I thought Elf(in) and Red Fox were very good names and so did some others but there was a conspiracy to ensure that the entry that actually was the first one submitted became the name selected by the majority.
So Tara and Vawn (this was a joint submission) you are the ones with the best name ever for the little red colt!
Thanks to all who helped give the littlest equine addition a great name--Mister Big.
A GIGANTIC THANK YOU TO ALL MY FAMILY AND FRIENDS WHO MADE MY EUROPEAN TOUR A REALITY AND HELPED ME ALONG THE WAY!!
When I returned to Canada I found out about the horrific events that took place as I had travelled to the airport, March 22, early in the morning. When my friends heard about the bombings there were very much alarmed and worried whether I would be able to fly home. Other than the very intimidating looking, heavily armed soldiers that came through the Birmingham Airport and very diligent Security surveillance at all Airports, travelers continued to fly in-spite of the terrorists.
I was greeted by Vawn and my grandgirls and told that I didn’t look much different than when I left. We had supper together and then I ended the longest Tuesday I have yet experienced by going to bed at the same time as the grandgirls. The next day I returned to Winning Ways on a very empty road, on the right side of the road through a very white country-side. I did feel sorry that I probably won’t see green grass again for another 6-8 weeks. But there are signs of spring here in Saskatchewan.
I want to thank my many hosts and their families for making my trip through Europe and the UK a wonderful experience. I got to do so many things I had no idea about, never heard about, until someone asked me if I wanted to see or do something. I think that was the best part of my trip—I had no preconceived ideas about what I would see or do and so I could never be disappointed, only amazed at what a great time I had. I hope that I will be able to visit Europe & the UK again in the future and possibly share the experience with friends or family.
Thanks again to all who made Kelly’s adventure marvellous, wonderful, sensational, outstanding, superb, super, excellent, first-rate, out of this world!
Kelly's adventure continues.....
Camilla, Michael and I went to a near-by farm right after breakfast. This farmer has a 100 year lease from the Manor Lord who seems to own a great deal of real estate in the area. The farm we looked at was originally built on a Roman villa dating back to 400 AD. You can see the mosaic in the tiling that was found there and the original roman columns still stand albeit now to hold up the horse stable.
This farm has cropland as well as a stocker operation. The farmer’s wife is a dressage enthusiast and judges, that’s where she was that particular Saturday. The farmer buys calves privately from dairies and I suppose “sucklers”. He has about 20 head/pen and all the stockers are under a roof, but the shed is open at the ends. Some calves are only a day or two old when they arrive, I didn’t see any new ones except in his heiferette pen where he puts calving heifers. Most British farmers produce Black Angus because they receive an extra £ 100. The slaughter animals are frequently sold after 30 months of age because they are dairy steers and very big framed. The older animals are discounted because the spinal column must be removed but the extra weight makes extra time worthwhile.
The horse-yard was completely enclosed and had a dressage ring in the center (no roof though). There were some boxes around the perimeter as well as the ones graced by the Roman pillars. We only saw 2 or 3 horses, perhaps the others were turned out, went to a show or had been taken hacking. We encountered a large group of young ladies out on a ride on the road to the farm.
Camilla took me down the road to see Great Tew, the village associated with the large estate. Like Duns Tew it is also a picturesque village and in the summer festivals are held there. Apparently if you know the color schemes on the houses you can determine which houses belonged to the Manor Lord and which are privately owned.
The Express Car came round to collect me at the White Horse Inn and dropped me at Banbury Station where I caught the train to Birmingham. When I arrived I went looking for the Info. Point where Jenya suggested I would meet his mom. When I discovered there were several Info. Points I found myself a seat right in the center of the rotunda of the nice new Central Station and called Jenya. He was able to direct his mom, Tanya, to the correct area and she soon spotted me when she knew where to look.
Tanya and I went to the University where she teaches and walked around the campus. There were two very interesting outdoor photography presentations, one on deserts and the other on Birmingham during the 50’s and 60’s. At the entry of the University there is an archaeological diagram of a Roman fort that was built on the same hillock 2000 years ago. I keep being amazed at how many times I have encountered Roman architecture, roads or other historic artifacts.
March 20 It’s spring!
Jenya drove us downtown in his car and much to his surprise found a parking spot—it was Sunday after all. We walked through the main streets past Central Station, the Bullring (big shopping complex), the town hall (concert hall), the council hall (government building), and the new library (it looks like a cake). We went through the International Convention Centre to the canal system. We walked down to Gas Street Basin and then had tea in a moored canal boat. We took a canal cruise through the different canals to the University and back.
After that we walked to the ‘Thinktank’ at Millinium Point, which is a science museum—what a fantastic place for kids! We went to a show in the planetarium that showed the stars in the spring sky and then continued with the British astronaut, Tim Peake, showing us around the International Space Station, where he is now. We did a very quick once through on the different floors. We saw still functioning engines, pumps and lathes that had been used in Birmingham over the past couple hundred years, planes, unique cars, different aspects of the human body, archaeological and prehistoric animals, modern mounted animals, gemstones, robots, aliens—you name it—it was there! Much of it was very kid-friendly and there were many children having fun playing and learning at the different stations.
We walked back through some odd architecture, there are buildings built over the roads and many subways for both cars and pedestrians. A short drive and we were back at the house. Tanya prepared lamb for supper and afterwards we sat and visited. Tanya showed me a YouTube video of a virtuoso playing a Balalaika, which is a traditional Russian instrument. Tanya is a classical piano player and her friend plays the Balalaika.
Bright sunshine, singing birds—what a great way to start my final day in Britain! Jenya and I were off to Warwick Castle. We were greeted by brightly coloured peacocks who strutted around the formal gardens and made a great deal of noise. Our first activity was to discover the towers and ramparts, this consisted of climbing up and down over 500 stairs!! Then we seated ourselves on a bench and watched the siege engine demonstration, that was narrated by the archer we had seen practising his craft earlier. We had a look at the mews where they had several different types of birds of prey or vultures (they are scavengers). We sat on the grass along with many school children to watch the Wicked Warwick Stage Show which was enthralling because it was witty, quick and informative. The kids sat absolutely still and only spoke when called upon to do so.
Warwick has a Birds of Prey Experience and we hurried over to see that. They were fascinating—Archie, Sidney and Merlin were the Bald Eagles. Sidney, who turned out to be a she after 18 years as a “he”, and Archie produced Merlin, who was the first Bald Eagle to be hatched at the Falconry. There was also a black and white Sea Eagle who flew around the grounds, but because the wind was from the wrong direction the big birds found it difficult to get any lift and could not soar above the castle as they frequently do.
Jenya tried his hand at the archery station, where there were knowledgeable archers showing visitors how to draw a bow and fire an arrow into the target. I think Jenya even ended up with some worn through fingers to prove his experience. We had lunch in the Coach Room—literally a horse stall in the old stable area!! Jenya went to an Archery display while I tried to get INTO the Maze but for some reason I could only find my way through about half of it. We went down into the bowels of the castle and saw a Medieval preparation for the War of the Roses. There was even a bedroom, complete with biffy (covered seat and all). BTW: that’s what they used the moat around the castle for—sewage disposal!
When we emerged from the castle we got to watch several more BIG birds during their second show of the day. There was a Griffon vulture, who although he was not large, thought the air currents were so unpleasing he’d rather walk around and harass his handler than fly. I think he is generally the comedy act of the show. He sailed “over” the heads of the crowd, close enough to ruffle the hair on one young lady’s head as she sat in the front row just in front of me. There was also a 6 month old Eagle Owl who was just learning how to perform and didn’t always do as expected. The last bird was a HUGE Black Vulture with about an 8 foot wing span. He had to fly from the ramparts since he was way too heavy to get himself off the ground. Apparently these vultures usually feed on bones and when this bird was on one of his maiden flights he disappeared for several hours, when he did return he dropped (which is the way these birds break bigger bones) a large set of bicycle handle bars on the rocks near the mews where he was housed.
Jenya and I went back into the Castle and were given a synopsis of the great hall and main castle rooms by one of the tour guides. We saw the armour & a huge weapons collection that is world class, the bed where the Queen died, the chapel and many other rooms on the “public” side of the castle. Then we toured through the “family” side where the Greville family lived until 1978. We even got to go through the room where Daisy Greville held her séances. “The records of a walled-building in Warwick can be traced back to the Saxon fortification which Ethelfleda, daughter of Alfred the Great, used to defend against the invading Danes. The first castle to appear on the site was a wooden motte and bailey constructed in 1068 at the command of William the Conqueror. Throughout the middle ages, under successive Earls of Warwick, the Castle was gradually rebuilt in stone.”
Jenya still had energy so he went up and through one more tower while I sat and rested on a bench. Safely back at the house Jenya made us supper and Tanya joined us. After supper I got some more posted to the blog and then it was time to pack my bag. ‘Tomorrow I am going back to Canada! Where did the time go?’
I had cheesecake for breakfast! Jane’s mom had sent it home with me the evening before. I finished packing my luggage and put on clean jeans. Jane took me to the bus station in Carlops, now that little village is only 16 miles from Edinburgh (it should take about 30 mins to the outskirts of the city and possibly another 30 mins to go to the city center), and I caught the bus at 7:35 a.m. They say beware the Ides of March but I’d say beware March 16 instead. It took the bus until 10 a.m. to get me to the center of the city where the train station is located. Needless to say the 10 a.m. train was gone by the time I got inside the station, so I learned that buying your ticket ahead of time on the internet is definitely not always a way to save money! I had to purchase another ticket since that one was only good for the time it was purchased. I changed trains in Wolverhampton after we had traveled down along the west coast to the train for Banbury (there is a Banbury cross from the nursery rhyme, not on a church I was told, but to do with a crossroads). A nice young gentleman met me with a hire car (as opposed to a taxi) to take me to the White Horse Inn in Duns Tew. My cousin Michael met me at the door and welcomed me to the old English pub. The pub is 1700’s with big flat stones for flooring, a lovely hearth with a fire always going, and huge beams holding the building up. The stable has been redone to make the bar and part of the restaurant. There are 3 rooms upstairs that can be used for customers and I had a lovely one that looked out over the Inn’s sign (sometimes it creaked in the wind but not in a distracting manner). There are a further 8 guest rooms in an adjoining building. There is a patio at the back of the pub, flanked by the additional rooms and I noticed that there is even a very small patio just beside the door into the rooms above the pub. It is a fairly large complex for such a little village Inn.
It is such a small village, tractors pulling silage wagons and moving bales frequently go right by the front door of the Inn. Even ladies out for a hack ride right past the Inn. I took time in the afternoon to continue my writing, I felt it was my responsibility to keep my journal up-dated or I’d forget all the good stories I have to tell. About 8 p.m. I went down for supper and had prawns for a starter and chicken for the main course, no room I’m afraid for dessert. It was a good thing I was hungry because it was a great deal of food to enjoy. I like the slogan they have adopted: “eat well and give the house a good name.”
St. Patrick’s Day
A Day at the Cheltenham Festival Races
I traveled to Cheltenham with the same nice young gentleman who had picked me up the day before. Two other ladies from the village came as well, their men folk were already at the races and they were going to join them for the last two days of racing. Although there were times when the car only inched along through the race-bound traffic, we had started early and were there in plenty of time.
The Cheltenham Racecourse is enormous, not only the actual race track which consists of several loops so that different styles and lengths of races can be accommodated, but also the many buildings with huge halls, bars and seating for the track. There must be at least 6 gigantic screens set up outside so there is continuous digital output; every place inside has about three sports-bar screens playing three different angles or different events. The actual race track is miles of different routes so the horses can run 2-4 miles over different fences, either hurdles or chase races over solid fences. There are 2 huge grandstands and since it is a jumping course the last fence, is just before a bit of an uphill run to the finish. This makes for a great thriller at the end of the race, if the lead horse tires and another overtakes it.
The horses have to be extremely fit and tough! We think watching a half mile chuckwagon race is exciting, well quadruple the length at a minimum, and add either hurdles which can be knocked down or jumping over solid fences. If a rider or horse makes a miscalculation at one of the solid fences they can and do fall. To add to the degree of difficulty, they use a mass start—a herd/crowd of up to 24 horses “walks” up to the tape and if the starter thinks they are even enough and no horse is jogging ahead the tape is dropped. However if that plan fails then they must execute a standing start. They don’t have an outrider to hold those Thoroughbreds so you can imagine how easy that is to accomplish. In the first race one of the favourites bolted/leaped at the start and unseated his rider. That horse ran the whole race, he came up on the outside of the pack, jumped all the fences and cruised along beside the lead horse all the way to the finish.
I watched the first race from the area near the Parade Ring, where the horses are first brought out and then mounted by the jockeys. There was one of the huge screens over the far end of the Ring and we could watch the race very well. There is a camera-equipped van that travels with the horses as they go round the course. There are also cameras at relevant points along the course. You get a much better view of the races these days than when the races first started in 1815! As the race progressed and there were a couple of challengers as the horses came to the last few fences there was a great deal of excitement and the cheering as they neared the finish line was enormous.
The second race I watched near the finish line, believe me there was a roaring crowd but not as much as the first race because it was not as close. Then I decided I would bet as my cousin had instructed I should do. I put £4 “either way” on a horse, which meant that it could come either 1st or 2nd OR 2nd or 3rd and I would win! Now I can see how people can usually win—not much perhaps, but they’re smiling. The horse I bet on, came third, so I merely got my £4 returned.
Since it was St Paddy’s day there were many Irish there! I suspect many were just wannabes but the brogue I heard countless times told me which ones were the real McCoy. It doesn’t seem to matter if they are young or older, Irishmen love to sing and there were several quartets belting out good Irish songs. There were Irish with green on—several ladies had very eye catching dresses—they wore clover in their lapels, some were wearing green Guinness hats and most were drinking beer copiously.
In honour of the Irish, I bet on Irish horses. If I had followed my initial plan of betting on the 2nd rated horse in each race, I would have won more. There is a rating of all the horses in each race in the Race Card that is available at the track each day. I was just trying out the whole idea of betting and so after my initial win I either chose horses who led until near the finish or ones who stayed in the pack and never came to the front.
After the races I wandered up to the Hall of Fame that is in the main building and serves as a museum for the Racecourse. I went across the road to the pick-up point at the appointed time. However, the driver, who was from the same car hire but not the gentleman who had brought me in the morning, was sent to a different parking lot and had to wait for nearly an hour before the road was opened so he could get to the pick-up point. I was a bit late getting back to the Inn so I simply had a salad with some bread and cheese. A day at the races, most of the time standing or moving through the 67,000 race-goers, was tiring. I was definitely ready for bed.
This was a day of rest from travel, I didn’t have to be anywhere at a particular time! I worked on my correspondence and enjoyed the very effective internet connection the White Horse had to offer. Eventually, one of the staff came to check on me! Michael was concerned he hadn’t seen me as soon as he started cooking breakfast.
Just before suppertime Michael’s farmer friend Ben, who must be in his 70’s, showed up at the Inn and Michael asked him to show me his farm. Ben has about 20 cows with calves (sucklers as opposed to dairy cows) and some young stock. The cows are calving now and the next day he was going to ID tag the calves. British farmers must tag all calves in the first 24 days and the information, including sire and dam (their ID numbers), must be registered with the national authorities. All cattle have a passport that follows them from birth to death. I think the authorities inspect premises regularly checking that all animals are tagged and therefore passported.
Ben’s friend, who has about 1000 sheep and 400 cattle, dropped by and I got to chat with him as well. They told me land sells for £10,000/acre or more! The rich use land as an investment because there is no inheritance tax on farm land, hence it is a great tax shelter. Also the Arabs buy land and play in the Thoroughbred game. Horses are frequently sold for a £ M to these type of investors. Last year at the 2015 Cheltenham sale (the 2016 sale was going on while I wandered through the Racetrack’s Hall of Fame) a 5 year old gelding sold for over $300,000 as a jump prospect! (US$ are how prices were recorded) Ben has three 5-7 year old Thoroughbred mares that he will sell this year although not at that kind of price. The one would make a nice show horse, she is very well put together and pretty, the other two were plainer. Ben returned me to the Inn, where I had a “whale sized” fish and chips with peas (thank goodness they weren’t ‘mushy peas’). Very tasty fish, I certainly was....’eating well.’ I’ll give the house a good name!
In the morning I discovered that a British breakfast did indeed include baked beans, sausage, bacon and eggs; of course the continental breakfast was also available. I’m rather partial to a bit of both so I could mix n match at the buffet tables. As foot passengers we were warned to wait until those with vehicles had an opportunity to go down on the lower decks to their cars/trucks. As it was the were over 850 passengers on the ferry (I later learned that there was a very important rugby match between France and Scotland hence all the French I heard on the ferry.) As I waited in the interminable que to get off the ferry, pass through passport control and find a bus I became greatly concerned that 1.5 hours that I had scheduled for ferry to the train station would not be enough and I would not make my train. I informed the bus driver of my tight timetable and he said he would do his best to get me downtown to the station on time. I made the train station, looked around how to get into the departure area and once thru the turnstile, a train pulled in right in front of me, “Edinburgh” on the side, even the correct compartment was right in front of me!! I sat next to a Kurd on the trip and discussed world politics with him. He plans to return home and teach at a local University.
Jane located me at the door of Waverly station and we walked to the car, dropped my luggage, and proceeded to walk up and down the Royal Mile (the car was in the middle). First we headed to the Parliament Buildings and the Palace of Holyroodhouse where the Queen stays in Scotland. Along the way we stopped at “Onik” and had hog roast, haggis and applesauce on a bun. That seemed like a fairly good introduction to Scottish cuisine. At one corner I noticed a scroll posted to let all know that we were at “The World’s END”. As we strolled on the Mile we saw French Rugby fans all decked out in their national colors (some had kilts on though, so I was completely confused by the mix and match of cultures). There are many busking bagpipers on street corners, as the French went by, one played the French national anthem, once the French were by, he switched to the Scottish one.
We went up to the Edinburgh Castle where you can look out over the ramparts at the surrounding country-side and Jane took the tourist’s photos. We drove south toward the Pentland hills, through Carlops to Windy Gowl Farm. (That’s not misspelt! It’s Scottish. A gowl is a long gully in English.) Jane showed me around the farm—about 30 head of horses, 30 purebred Red Angus, 28 ewes to lamb with a total of 80 sheep, a flock of chickens and a couple of yard cleaning cockerels. I met Jill who owns the farm and her daughter Paula, a group of dogs, and Buffy, the cat who spent the night with me. After Jane had finished the evening chores, we drove up to the local pub, had supper and used the internet connection there. Jane gave me her room and she moved into the ‘office/reception’ area of the trailer where she lives. Although the cockerels did crow at odd hours, it was a peaceful night out on the farm.
Monday and Tuesday were Jane’s scheduled days off so we could go riding right away in the morning. I caught and groomed Marvin. I’ve never had to groom a Gypsy cob before and this one was fairly messy so it took me a long time to bring all his unruly locks into some semblance of order. I’m sorry but I didn’t even try to detangle the huge tail just plucked out the straw as my teachers taught me. I was given Paula’s comfortable dressage saddle with Icelandic stirrups and learned to set the saddle back much further than I would have thought. I also learned a new trick for bridling that I will try on our school horses at home. The farm used to do Pony Trekking with Icelandics in the hills along the Gowl, but now is a livery stable with some horses for sale. There is an indoor arena for schooling during winter or when it gets too wet. Paula trains the Icelandics for 4 or 5 gaits and Jane puts miles on them to turn them into safe livery horses or mounts for customers wishing to buy their own horse. Jane took the little piebald mare, Neft, who is 4 gaited and will shortly be for sale. Paula rode a little chestnut mare, bareback to encourage her to bend since she seems rather stiff, a difficulty of the pacers who are 5 gaited. We rode out to the sheep paddocks on the hills via the Roman Road, those conquerors seem to have left signs of their passing everywhere and the roadway was rocky, no wonder the horses all have shoes. These were hill sheep who live there year round without human intervention. The ewe’s of Jill’s flock come in every night since many of them are valuable purebreds. We crossed over some boggy HILLS—yes the top of the hills were boggy—it was explained to me that the soil has so much clay, it will not dry but holds the water. Down in the bottom of the gowl there was a water run which was not particularly marshy or even wet. It was a glorious day—the sun was shining, the sky was blue, it was warm and Jane kept marvelling at how great the weather was. Apparently this is one of the areas of the British Isles that had serious flooding earlier in January/February. The horses found it very warm between the sun raising the temperature, heavy coats and going up and down some fairly steep hills with less than ideal footing.
After we put up the horses and tack we went to Peebles, to Jane’s parents, for lunch. After a lovely lunch I went to have a massage with Jane’s massage therapist. That improved the mobility of my back, too many days sitting in planes, trains, & autos will stiffen one up! Jane took me to the park that she remembered playing in as she grew up. We went along the River Tweed to the Neidpath Castle which unfortunately was not open at this time of year. After I had an omelette with farm fresh eggs, I worked some more on my journal while Jane went for a swim in town at the pool. We wanted to get away early the next morning so it was early to bed again.
Over night the temperature dropped and the mist rolled in. The cat wanted in at 2:30 a.m., apparently she stayed with Jane for a while but then came round to my side. Jane appeared at 6:30 a.m. and said it was cold, damp and miserable outside! However, the weather forecast was still for sunshine to the west so we got ready and set out to find the sunshine. Our first stop was the Talle Reseivor which along with another reservoir supplies the country all the way to Edinburgh. We traveled along the water to the dam’s end and then climbed up some more hills to the Megget Reservoir and past it we came to St Mary’s Loch. Through the hills we went to the Grey Mare’s Tail which is a waterfall that has inspired some poetry. We walked across the Burn (creek) Tail and I stood with the waterfall in the background. We ventured into Moffat where we stopped for tea and a scone. On past Dumfries we headed for the sunshine and the village of Sandyhills. Later we learned that Jane’s mother used to go there on school outings. This is where the Solway Firth or mouth of the Solway River is located. There was a huge tidal plane where the tide had receded far into the distance. I told Jane I would like to dip my fingers into the Atlantic Ocean. We walked across the “beach” but while the ‘sand’ was fine where it was dry, it was very squishy and slippery where the water still lay. Eventually I lost my balance and not only my fingers but most of my right side got muddied in the ocean’s beach. Jane helped me back to my feet and we clambered back onto some less slippery ‘grassy’ footing. We walked on sea shells that were at least several inches thick and around the corner we could look out to the Ocean and another wind farm. Across on the other side of the bay we could see Cumberland in England. As we returned toward Tweedsmuir we stopped and looked at the Devil’s Beef Tub, which is a bowl like valley in which rustlers were said to have held cattle since the sides are too steep to climb out. Somewhere, way up there, we saw the start of the River Tweed.
As we continued back toward the Farm we drove into the mizzle (mist/drizzle), which the Scots have an expression for--“dreich and dreary”—it surely was!! Long before we reached it we could see the low hanging clouds even though we were still in sunshine. At the farm I wanted some photos of the cattle, so I stepped down into the pen with the big Red Angus cow (Jane was concerned about the bull but he was laying down) and although I probably could have scratched her, Jane seemed wary of all the cattle, so I just got my picture. Jill thinks this cow weighs close to a ton and I don’t doubt it. All of her cattle were large framed. BTW That night I heard some lowing and the characteristic ‘brand new baby calf’ sounds a cow makes and Jane told me the big old girl had a calf. We had to throw my very dirty jeans through the wash twice to get the ocean mud off them. The senior Melroses hosted us for supper, a shepherd’s pie—the real thing with lamb! In case you Canadians don’t know, finding a hot air dryer in Europe or the British Isles is highly unlikely so we hung the now clean jeans over the radiator and turned up the heat. Once more I was in bed early!
March 10-12, 2016
Robert prepared breakfast for me and took me to the train, even put my luggage up on the rack! The train traveled through an area of man-made lakes; the clay from this area is great for brick making. The whole area was ‘mined’ for its clay and there were many brick ovens producing bricks for Berlin when it was booming and building. The train stopped at many little villages picking up students and commuters for the city. I changed in Oranienburg to get to Berlin Hbf where I had to get on the Intercity train for Amsterdam. Since I did not leave the station I did not see many of Berlin’s 3.5+ M people. I enjoyed my First Class compartment which initially I had all to myself but later some businessmen joined me. When we crossed the border from Germany to Netherlands the train came to a full stop, the engine was changed and also the crew German to Dutch. In the Netherlands there are many neat, small places with more horses, cows and sheep out in the fields. We traveled through an area of forest (I didn’t know there was a forest in Netherlands!) where the soil is very sandy and fragile and only walking on trails is allowed. I acquired a new coach-mate at the end of the journey, older gentleman headed to the opera, who showed me to the entrance of Amsterdam Main Station. There in front of me was the Victoria Hotel, beyond which I was to walk and turn into the first alley to the right, then at the next intersection I could look left and see the “Flying Pig”. I got my card, took the elevator to my floor and found the room right beside the elevator—very handy. I was a bit shocked when I read that customers of the Flying Pig were welcome to bring their own weed and hash and could use it in the “pillow room” on the main floor!! I also found it alarming how many young people were smoking, but later was assured that most of the folks I saw in the downtown area were tourists and not Dutch at all. Youngsters (19 and 20 somethings) come to Amsterdam to PARTY! I was told that the Dutch moved out of Amsterdam to let the tourists in!
After breakfast in the buffet downstairs I packed my bags, stowed them in a locker and headed off on my first city exploration of my own (everywhere else I’d had a host guide me). I walked down the main thorough-fare away from the train station, heading for Vondel Park. As I walked, I passed many interesting sights including Anke’s statue, Madame Tussaud Museum, the palace on the dam, the “flower market” and many old buildings that were interesting in design and business (selling magic mushrooms, or the ‘sex museum’—“Egads where have I got myself now?”) After some twists and turns and instructions from locals I found my way into the Park. I followed the path and went round to Vondelstratt 140, where, as promised I entered the Menage! You would never know you were about to enter the Dutch Equestrian School Museum from the looks of the archway on the very uptown (expensive) street. I had a bit of lunch in the foyer and briefly watched a riding lesson from the foyer balcony. The foyer is classic 1800’s architecture and appointments. I walked through the barn, there are about 30 horses, some are in boxes but most are in tie stalls. There is no turn out area other than the riding hall and horses must be trailered away to ride out. The Vondel Park has become too overrun with humans and dogs to allow horses in it.
I went back through the Park to the Singelgracht Canal and onto a Blue Boat Cruise through the canals and harbour. The first canal was originally the moat around the old town, as the town grew, more canals were added in concentric circles around the old town. The River Amstel was dammed, hence the city’s name; the palace was built on the original dam. Many of the buildings fronting onto the canal had huge beams sticking out, up at the eves or higher. The beams had an eye for attaching a pulley to raise goods up higher than flood waters would come. Flooding was a perennial problem in the early days of the city. There were buildings with figures such as a “red hat” or “shoes” that represented the “address” as well as advertised the business within. I saw leaning buildings that were built that way—so they would match the surrounding architecture of buildings that had started to lean “naturally”. The cruise went through the harbour around Central Station and back into the canal system. We saw many varieties of house boats—yes people live ON the canals. One houseboat was for sale for > 850,000 Euros! It wasn’t even pretty or well kept just large. The boat passed under many bridges including the famous “Skinny Bridge” (only wide enough for 2 people to pass) where many wedding photos are taken. When we returned to the dock beside the Hard Rock Cafe, I headed to the nearest tram stop, hopped on and traveled back to the Central Station.
I met a young lady who plans to volunteer at Winning Ways in the summer, she wanted to talk with me on Skype, but I told her I could do one better I could meet her in Amsterdam! She and her aunt met me outside of the train station and we walked to a cafe that Emmy had suggested. However, the cafe turned out to be a pub that did not serve warm drinks so we moved next door where we could get warm. When Emmy joined us, she was able to give the new volunteer some travel tips and fill her in on Emmy’s 7 month stay at Winning Ways. The others headed back to the train station and Emmy and I went to her car and drove to Rotterdam. Emmy’s parents took us out for supper at a great little Chinese restaurant where they frequently go. Emmy’s apartment is only a few minutes from her parents and that is where I stayed for the night.
After breakfast in the morning we picked up her parents and went for a sight-seeing tour through Rotterdam (I got to see the cubic houses, the Euromast Tower and the Erasmus Bridge as well as several other bridges!) and on to the HUGE HUGE harbour. There were billions (I don’t think I’m exaggerating) of containers stacked for miles around the harbour. Huge refineries lined the highway as we drove along and everywhere train track, trucks and docks. Eventually we turned around and drove to The Hague where the madurodam is located. My goodness what a kids world—there is a whole range of 1:25 scale model replicas of famous Dutch landmarks, historical cities and large developments. The bonsai trees are kept at a maximum of 60 cm. I really chuckled at the tiny replicas of buildings I had seen the day before in Amsterdam. I tried a Dutch specialty for lunch—sorta gravy with shredded meat, covered with breading, formed into a sausage roll, served of course, with fries. I drew the line at eating fries with mayo though! I was really spoiled by having a chocolate covered cream puff for dessert.
We drove to IJmuden and the Fellison terminal where I boarded the big ferry that would take me across the North Sea. I thanked the Meijers for their hospitality and left the European continent! Passport control was again a pleasant affair with the gentleman wishing me well. I didn’t get ushered into any side office by official looking men as I saw happen to a couple of guys in front of me. Up the long gangway, climb the stairs on to the ferry, then take the ‘lift’ to Deck 8, find my cabin (or is it berth?) and survey a very small but comfortable little space all to myself. It is possible two people could share it but they would have to co-ordinate their movements! I wandered around the ship and walked, albeit close to the walls and not the railing, around the outside to see the harbour from the other side. Shortly after 5:30 p.m. we moved off and I watched for about an hour as we sailed northwesterly past some big ships and an off-shore wind turbine ‘farm’. I had some supper and afterwards couldn’t keep my eyes open so slept in my bunk with only the slightest bit of sea roll.
March 7-9, 2016
Robert took Teo to the sitter and then we went for a walk through Templin. This is the first city where the old city walls still stand all the way around the city center. Built in the 1300’s, they were not destroyed when the city was bombed in the war. Robert showed me some different monuments, some were built during GDR times, for example a monument for Russian soldiers lost in the WW II. There was a plaque that explained that there had been a few Jews in Templin, but they fled before the war. Only one Jewish woman was deported and she returned later when the war was over. We walked by the Youth Center in a nice old Villa, where Robert works and past the school that sends some students to the Center for a class in cooking that Robert teaches. We were just finishing our tea back at the apartment when Anja arrived.
Anja came to Templin to pick up her son, Johann, her friend Line and her daughter, Kathe as well as me!! We all fit in the hybrid truck/van made by VW. As we went along the back road we encountered a roll-over; Anja stopped to help and said that the driver was very lucky to walk away, the entire back of the car was crushed where it had hit a tree. While we sat at the accident seen, I saw the only log truck I have encountered in Europe. It was a B train but very short by our standards. (Sorry guys I didn’t think to whip out my camera.) We stopped at a large dairy, which has a store, feedlot, and a playground park for families. The little ones enjoyed watching the piglets nursing from a very large black sow. The dairy cows are Holstein but they also have Angus and there is a ‘mounted’ Black Angus bull in the store. We got some quark and sausage, since they sell both dairy and meat products. The sausage sells for as low as € 1.30/kg but the steak was €48/kg!!
Anja & her family live in a big old estate house that once belonged to the chief landowner. There are 5 families with 10 children in the building. Several of the children go to the same Kindergarten and the families car pool so that there is only one vehicle going per day. We had a great lunch of Polish perogies of different sorts—meat and potato fillings and then blueberry for dessert. Down at the stable I saw the portable milking parlour that they can take out to the pasture in the summer. There is a small flock of chickens for egg and meat production. We walked through their cow herd, which consists of Brown Cattle from Switzerland, Grey cattle from northern Alps of Austria and Red cattle from the Angler area which can include northern Germany to England. Emily is of the Grey cattle and the most valuable cow. It is hoped she will have a purebred baby very soon. They are keeping the old breeds alive—there are 14 breeds, mostly dual purpose, that are endangered. At the present they are only milking 13 cows, the parlour can hold 16 and they would like to grow their herd to 32 milking cows. Eventually they would like to keep the cows on pasture year round, only feeding hay if there is snow that prevents grazing.
In the morning Anja is up early to do the milking. Janusz is the evening milker, so he takes care of Johann and prepares him for the Kindergarten in the morning. Anja took me out to their pasture land along the River Oder. We stopped to see the ‘wild’ “Aur Ox” cattle (the original ones are extinct but they have ‘created’ the breed again) that are being used on the Nature Conservancy lands. The cattle are also known as Heck cattle after the people who reproduced the breed from other breeds. There are 2 herds of them—this one is relatively quiet, at least we did not get chased, although I kept my eye on the bull. There was also a herd of Dartmoor ponies and some “Konik” ponies (Polish): Dartmoors are dark bay with light noses and Koniks are grulla. Anja would like to tame one of the Konik ponies to make a saddle horse, but she needs more time in her day. We inspected the field where the Hof Stolze Kuh--Proud Cows from Anja’s herd will graze for the spring and summer. I gave her some suggestions for her University student’s projects for the coming years.
Again at lunch we had something that is typical of the region—a rolled piece of beef (home-grown) that usually has a sour pickle in the center with a cabbage broth, boiled for several hours—smelled and tasted delicious (mine was w/o pickle!). The potatoes and carrots that went with it were from the neighbour’s market garden. The carrots were especially sweet, no wonder everyone was walking around gnawing on a carrot like we would an apple; oh yes they had home-grown apples as well, very good too. There were many visitors throughout the afternoon, buying milk, arranging events and just stopping by. I think that Anja will have to work quickly on her office and store that she is redoing down at the stable. Later in the afternoon Anja made pancakes out of their own produce—milk, eggs and self-raised wheat, ground right there in the kitchen! They were fantastic with a smearing of home-made black currant jam!
Just before sunset, we went to a neighbouring town that has a big playground. While Line looked after the kids there, Anja and I took a look at a large 200 head dairy farm, stopped beside a ‘small’ windmill and looked at Parstein See. When I stepped out I could hear the windmill and now I know why folks DO NOT want one in their backyard. The little lake is where the family sometimes goes swimming and boating and the planted tree rows are an uncommon environmental protection from the wind.
On our way back to the apartment, we stopped at Matthais’ house which has still has a thatch roof and is around 200 years old—very typical of the farm houses in that area. It was fascinating to see the original walls made of clay and straw, even the ceiling was made that way. The front room was filled with “flint stones”, which come from Rugen Island and Matthais brought back one or two at a time over the years (“he’s a collector”, Anja’s description of his odd collection of stuff and things). Actually I think the rocks are made of limestone and have had the holes eroded in them by the sea. I felt like a little girl in an enchanted land, it all seemed so unusual!
Robert picked me up on Tuesday night after he finished work at the Youth Center. Wednesday morning after Teo went off to Day Care, we went to the Little King Ranch, Ribbeck owned by Shephan and Heike Karbe. Robert had worked there when they first moved to the area and he really liked the place. I met Stephan, one of his former stablehands, who now goes to Anja’s Alma Mater and knows her, as well as one of his clients, all of whom spoke English—what a treat! We talked about the cattle he raises, Simmentals, the programs that they hold at the ranch and some of what we do at Winning Ways. I got to see the arena and the covered round pen as well as many of the horses and ponies. We were invited to lunch at the huge kitchen table—there were 11 of us seated around the table. There are two guys who act as cooks and one of them had made a wonderful dessert of whipped cream and quark with fruit and chocolate. I was able to explain a bit about Equine First Aid and promised to send Stephan some info about the programs. I was so busy being an ambassador for Canada and Winning Ways that I forgot to be a photographer—it looked like a really nice place and I did get to look at the Western Saloon which I should have taken a photo of!
Back in Templin I visited with Eryca before we walked to the Day Care and picked up Teo. We went shopping, I wanted to buy a new shirt and we found a nice one on sale at one of the local clothiers. Eryca made us pizza and then dropped me off at the Villa so I could see where Robert worked. I visited with a Syrian refugee who is a Christian who fled Syria because he feared that he would be ‘abducted’ into the army because he no longer is in University. Apparently if you are attending school, you are issued a paper that ensures you will be left alone, but when you are no longer registered in a school, you are fair game for the army. Both he and his brother were in this predicament and so they choose to flee. They went through Lebanon to Turkey, Greece, Serbia, perhaps another Slavic country and hence into Germany. He has requested refugee status and hopes to get a 3 year visa. He even thinks he has found a job in Templin as a computer repair technician in a Computer Store. However, he must wait for the paperwork—typical immigrant story.
March 4-6 2016
While Melanie and Philipp left fairly early for work, I got to rest a bit longer but I tried to be very productive and sent off a number of emails. After lunch Melanie and I loaded our luggage and headed over to look at the new house. It looks very modern amongst many old houses. Philipp traveled later in a van he borrowed from a colleague to move some furniture for the new house. The furniture has been stored at his grandparents’ house in the north of Germany. I was surprised by the green fields and +10C temperature, actually this is what I thought I was coming to when I left Canada, but the snow in Munich had me confused, maybe it WAS still winter. We drove through forested lands that looked a great deal like home! Since we left early we avoided the traffic jams and also we steered clear of Berlin.
We arrived in Greifswald at Philipp’s mother’s house, where Timmy, the big grey cat that had been Melanie’s, greeted us. Karin returned from shopping and we had tea and great conversation. She has a very lovely house, but best of all she has a fireplace! I got into Timmy’s bad books when I took the chair closest to the fire and had a nap in it. He had to take a chair on the other side of the room when he found that I did not move when he walked over me. We had supper quite late because the ladies had hoped that Philipp would join us but he was late getting away. I really enjoyed the poached salmon with zucchini and egg-plant.
At noon Melanie & I left on our sight-seeing tour and Philipp & Karin went to her parents to help them and pick up the furniture with the van. We walked in the old town and looked at the “Hanse city” Gothic architecture. We took a look at the Harbour in Greifswald and saw the modern (just being built) sailing vessels and a tower built in the 1300’s (it was probably there earlier). We traveled to Stralsund where there is a huge tourist industry involving sailing. “Gorch Foch” is a huge sailing vessel that is now a museum, it is the oldest ship still intact in Germany. The Gorch Foch II is now used for training for the German Armed Forces. On Rugen Island (you go over the Baltic Sea on a bridge) there is a great deal of forest but also crop land. Agriculture and tourism (mostly) sustain the region which has very high unemployment. We parked the car and hiked through another UNESCO environmental heritage center. The Koingsstuhl is a forested region with huge beech and a few elder trees, but mostly it is noted for the White Cliffs of Rugen. Limestone (chalk) regularly slides down the cliff-face and deposits other shale rock with many embedded fossils on the beach. Yes I ventured down and then up the 412 steps to the beach—several stops both ways. At the parking lot which the tour bus returned us to, we enjoyed apple strudel and vanilla sauce.
Even though it was getting late Melanie was determined to show me one more point of interest—Kap Arkona—the farthest northern point of Germany. Because it was just at sunset we could easily see the lighthouse and walked down to a lookout point across the Baltic Sea. I think GPS guidance systems are great EXCEPT when they take you to a ferry landing (sign showed a car going over the cliff edge) when it is raining, dark and the ferry has already left!! We had to back-track and the whole time the guidance system wanted to send us back to the ferry landing. We found the right road and headed back to Greifswald. At Karin’s we discovered that Philipp was not well, so we had supper with only the ladies enjoying the meal. After supper we had good conversation and looked at some pictures of Canada
Since Philipp was still ill, Melanie & Karin moved the furniture that was to go back to Cottbus from Karin’s home. After they had the car loaded, we drove about in Karin’s car to see the area of the marina where Melanie & Philipp will be married. Then we went east to see the Island of Usedom where Karin had spent part of her younger years. We traveled to the summer home of the Kaiser and although this building fell into disrepair during GDR times, it has been refinished and looks very elegant as a clothing store. There is a long wharf out many meters, over the Sea and we walked out to the furthest end and watched the big ships that travel across the Baltic, using the Sea like a highway. We had lunch at a little restaurant along the beach and I got to try a Fish Bun, probably it was cod but it certainly tasted good.
When we returned to Karin’s, Melanie & I loaded our stuff into the van and set out for Templin. The guidance system in the van was even more demanding than the one in the car, it told the driver everything verbally and Melanie could not shut it off! We got to the correct corner but had to phone Robert to inquire which building, since it was too dark to read the house numbers. Robert and Teo came down to meet us in the parking lot. Inside, I met Eryca, a fellow Canadian, who is Robert’s wife. This apartment was wonderful too—it had a wood stove to which I could draw up a chair and enjoy the warmth. Since Eryca had to go to work in the morning we did not stay up very late visiting but it was fun to discuss Canadian politics!