Monday 15 November 2010

The final leg of a short journey

If you have too much money and feel like wanting to waste a bit of it, you should fly via Stuttgart airport and have a breakfast. We paid Euro 26.65 (£22.54) for

2 small luke-warm cappuccinos,
1 small bottle of water
5 buttered Brezels
1 croissant
1 smoothie

The Brezel however, although overpriced, was delicious and we don't regret having taken a few for home as well.

Now we are at the gate already and my computer decided to restart itself without letting me save. Grrr... and no… I am not grumpy, just a bit tired. That's the thing with those early bird flights - ours is at 6:40. Again, we wanted to play it safe and went to the airport hotel the night before and because they had it a bit reduced we decided to go for the name: Moevenpick has a reputation and it is just across the street from the airport, as opposed to the one we stayed on our way in. Turns out: This one is a bit of a weird place, too. Nothing is essentially wrong with it, but it doesn’t feel quite right either. The ambiance is not to my liking – oh, well that is fair enough, but they do everything to appear posh and I just find it pompous. And then we had the oddest of rooms so far. They may not do this for twin rooms, but our double had a glass wall to the bathroom, the loo had a frosted glass swing door with a hole instead a knob. I am not squeamish, but a girl sometimes needs a bit of privacy, don’t you think? ... and I don't know either why the rail for the towel is IN the shower, but that might be just me...

Additionally, it is somewhat interesting to see that apparently it is posh to have blue light in the bathroom. This time it was the loo cubicle that had it.

And of course they are charging a fortune for a small bottle of water which can’t be closed again and hence not be taken away.

We however figured that the whole effort of getting to the airport the night before an early flight was not needed. The airport is only a 25 minutes, very straight forward drive from Tuebingen. So next time we may just stay in our lovely Hotel Domizil for an additional night.

The flight was pleasant, as I slept through it... and at the airport we got picked up by our dear Paul from PBTravel, who since forever is our first choice for airport travel. After an exciting weekend and a short night sleep it is the perfect end to a trip when being chauffeured to the front door.

Then we found the cats happy, the cat sitter still in one piece, and all is good!

Saturday 13 November 2010

Tuebingen 2010 ... and still lovely!

Sitting at breakfast and having swans cruising in front of the window… how would that be for starters into a weekend off from home?

I have been in Tuebingen several times before but never in this style. Flight to Stuttgart, car at the airport – we took a detour via Lake Constance which cost us about four hours of driving – but one can estimate a drive of approximately 30 minutes and there you are.

We are staying at Hotel Domizil this time and, oh boy, is it lovely! Bang in the middle of town at the river Neckar – hence the swans – with beautifully decorated rooms of decent size, wifi – ask at front desk for login, nice bathroom, all very clean and absolutely silent. We didn’t hear a single thing all night. Brilliant! It comes with a parking garage (extra 10 Euros per day) a few foot down the street, although it now turned out that one doesn’t really need a car here, everything town is in walking distance. For this trip we had planned for this detour so the car made sense, but it is already decided that next time we just might hop onto the train from Stuttgart which needs an hour or so.

And there will be a next time, not only because our friends live here. This is just a very nice place to be, dropping the mind into holiday mode rather instantly. Detlef hadn’t been here in about 12 years and yesterday afternoon we got stuck in traffic jam on our journey, were tired from a horrible hotel night in Stuttgart and altogether a bit grumpy. So we decided to have a stroll through town to find one of those sweet little coffee places for a boost of caffeine and surely for the fantastic cakes. Once we entered those small uphill streets which lead to the church and market places, my rather technology minded husband couldn’t help but say: This town makes up for every traffic jam and fatigue, it’s just so worth it being here! Believe me, this means something.

I can highly recommend it as a destination for a long weekend! Lake Constance is two hours drive away – really worth a trip, Ulm and the most beautiful countryside of Swabia Alb and Black Forrest are just around the corner. Tuebingen is a university town, so it wonderfully combines old architecture, culture, a vibrant shop scenes and fantastic food. What else to wish for?

Chocolate! From 30th November to 5th December 2010, 70 stalls with chocolates will guide the visitor through a path of chocolate delights, or what about the Christmas market from 10th to 12th December?

I would love to hear your impressions from this – and other – German locations which you really fell in love with. Send me your stories!

Tuesday 9 November 2010

Tuebingen, lovely town in Germany

Tuebingen is the most gorgeous little town located in the South-West of Germany. It has a University since the 14th century - yep, learned that on a guided tour and even remember it - it is set in the beautiful landscape of the Swabian Alb and it never fails to surprise me.

View Map

My friends had organised a guided tour - the best one I ever had - the guy was very witty and knew the slang spoken in this area very well.

So we got to listen to a lot of little anecdotes arising from the social make-up of the old town.

On one hand there were the professors and wives, very sophisticated and well spoken and on the other the working people, either working for them or not really wanting to have anything to do with the upper classes and the attached snobbism.

A great way to learn more about the history of a town. And one still can see the differences in the kinds of houses today.

Of course Tuebingen has a modern part like any other town in Germany and England, but the old part is just wonderfully picturesque.

And like any good German town there is an Italian ice-cream maker.

Tuebingen is not the best of all wine areas - an old saying goes: 'The thirst makes it go down and the stinginess keeps it there!'

However in the meantime there are a few decent, fresh wines which go very well with a lunch meal.

And so we went for a wine tasting after the tour.

If you ever were in the region, ask where you can taste a 'Schiller'. It's the fresh cold orange one.

Red and white grapes are mixed right from the beginning and give the wine a very nice flavour. Although, the whole experience was almost a bit fatal for me. Not being used to alcohol and not having a lot to eat was not a perfect combination. Luckily my friend got hold of some 'Brezel', another speciality of the area.

People think that the best Brezel come from Bavaria, but that is not true. Tuebingen's bakeries are the best I have found so far, not just in regard to the bendy pastries.

After the joyful experience we strolled a bit more through town edging our way closer to the area of the river Neckar where my friends have a punt. Yes, like in Cambridge the Neckar allows for punting.

And here I proudly announce: I made the acid test. The river Neckar is split into two arms and before they merges back together there is a small gap connecting the two arms right before the column of a bridge.

From the streaming of the water the other side is very sandy and if the boat gets stuck one has to get into the water and lift it out. Well, what can I say: I passed with honours!

punting girls

The views are just stunning and the wildlife is manifold. We even saw a heron flying between all the boats.

To see more pictures please have a look at the gallery. Unfortunately I only can give you a hint of the beauty of this town. I promised myself to go back there for a photo trip. There are so many more things to discover.

Saturday 23 October 2010

... and a little appendix!

I just had a long telephone call with my mum to discuss all the material and to help her translate the material Jess had sent. Well, turns out: I do not own a single piece of clothing we are supposed to bring. That'll be fun!

Shopping cotton based materials never worked for my shape. During the last winter sale I drove a shop assistant bonkers because non of the 'oh so loose cut' outdoor trousers would want to accommodate my thighs. I think I need to find an army shop!

And then they are recommending to bring Leech socks! What the heck is that? Particularly long ones?

I'm just kidding. I am very much looking forward to it and it actually sounds like the adventure I have been hoping it would be. I don't mind the leeches, I have more of a problem with big insects... argh!

Sumatra: The Dream come True

This will be the page that keeps all the Sumatra posts together.

24th October 2010

I can't believe that about 10 month have passed until I now eventually have further news on my dream. Time went by so quickly, IL site has changed to IL project in the meantime and ... well, we all didn't get any younger.

So, what happened?

After I had discovered the trip I confessed my wish to hubby and although he initially had his concerns he made his peace with it eventually. Concerns in a worrying kind of way, with him not being in my proximity while wild animals and jungle would. The thought that he would not be able to come to the rescue should I turn into a damsel in distress made him somewhat reluctant to my plans.

He however came round to my point of view having to admit that on his various trips to Canada and Mexico he had encountered all those wildlife matters, and that no thought ever crossed his mind to not do it because I wouldn't be able to come to the rescue. Double standards... dear boy...

Now almost a year on hubby has confidence in my travelling skills, my mum is as excited as I am, her husband found his feet again as well ... and most importantly: The trip is booked and the deposit is paid.

4th - 15th July 2011

my mum and I will be travelling with
Raw Wildlife Encounters

Below I will be linking all the posts relating to the trip for you to find them all in one place. I hope you will enjoy reading about it as much as I will enjoy writing it:

How it began: Sumatra as an Eco Tourist

10th December 2009

Yes! I am determined to do this. So brace yourselves, in the future there will be quite a few updates on that matter.

Let's start at the beginning: Michelle tweeted a Tweet - 'I highly recommend this tour company: Raw Wildlife'

Innocently I clicked the link - as you do when you are on Twitter - expecting well, a link of a tour company but nothing utterly mind boggling, and then I got hit by something that felt like a hot iron in the neck.

OK, I admit: For a lot of you this might not be the holiday of your dreams, but I love big wild animals especially Elephants and Apes. Ever since I got the book from Jane Goodall about her life between chimps when I was about 15, I wanted to go into the jungle and observe animals. But then one gets married, settles down and is thinking: 'Well, there are nasty, big insects, and they bite, and it's hot and humid, probably it's not that nice anyway'. This is how dreams are getting forgotten.

Now that I was sitting in front of this screen my dream was streaming down my neck like a flow of something very hot, I had to take off my jumper. Reading on, the tension grew and all the thoughts I ever had about this subjects flooded my brain within a split second - between all those noises there was one voice shouting louder than all the others: I need to do this with my mum... alone with her... without hubby... sh... he will never approve, ... and started crying.

I know: Pathetic!

This trip seems to have it all, the environmental approach, the 'not just being a tourist' but being integrated as much as that is possible within the short period of 12 days, the animals - Elephants AND Apes, the jungle, and most importantly the soft approach. I have been looking at other trips, and usually one has to be a tough, well trained, weather proof, 20 something year old, '...Get me out of here' style. With me be being almost 50 while mum is hitting the 70 soon we are running out of time to make this dream come true - can it be that a thing like this is running in the genes? I know that my granny would instantly have joined us as well...

So I enquired about the price and tried to get a bit of background information, hoping for a 'nice' email to come back. I have this thing of writing to people and if the response is too business like I am becoming a rather cautious. Well, what can I say: I got the loveliest email!

Jessica, one of the tour directors explained how Michelle came to recommend the company: The two are friends and she is assisting the Nyaru Menteng project with an 'Enrichment Program' teaching the staff how to keep Orangutans interested and make them learn all the stuff they need to know if they want to behave like proper Orangutans, and to prepare the ones who are waiting for release back into the wild. So she will be going to Nyaru Menteng in January 2010 for 6 weeks - gosh how I envy her!

The tour is rather expensive though, I was told around A$4180 incl. VAT, excl. flight. I had a rough check about flights, the visa will cost extra, and of course it depends on the exchange rate - that makes an approximate £3000 for the two weeks. Please be aware that these are rough numbers and that the basic price can change as well. So if you are interested, always enquire details first.

So given that mum has an incredibly busy travel schedule and I have to smartly manage my annual leave and my expenses during the next year, we are aiming for the first quarter of 2011. I am determined to stop buying stuff now... in 15 month time I should have managed to save the one or the other quid towards this wonderful dream!

Can't wait...!