@jmdhh admiring the views…

at the beginning of june @jmdhh and i spent two fantastic weeks in the english lake district — one of our walks took us up on top of silver how. the photo below shows @jmdhh enjoying the wonderful landscape and views, all of them at once it seems.

[photonav height=400 animate=1 mode=drag url=’http://d2h.net/stuff/grasmere-400px.jpg’]

world’s first twitter wallfahrt!

9:10 — ms d and i arrive at einsiedeln railway station, all kitted out in our walking gear, ready to go. walking past the train we spot our fellow pilgrims. yep, pilgrims: we are on our way to the starting point of the world’s first twitter pilgrimage, the #twallfahrt1 from pfäffikon to einsiedeln. in the train we meet @decolores1, @konzertharfe, @sempreincorsaa also ready to go on the #twallfahrt. just before the train is about to depart at 9:13 we are joined at the last second by @abtmartin — good thing, too, as he is supposed to lead us on our pilgrimage 🙂

i’m looking forward to the first twitter pilgrimage which is at the same time my first pilgrimage on foot (last year’s pilgrimage was by bus, which somehow gives it a different twist, i think). @abtmartin is apparently still in the “geheimprojekt” stage of the #twallfahrt, as he is not really forthcoming with any information about what’s planned.

we get to pfäffikon on time, cross through the station tunnel and see the #twilgrims gathered — a bit short of the maximum number of 8000 mentioned on @pixelfreund‘s blog (about 7969 short, in fact) bit still a sizable group. as various #twilgrims let us know via twitter, that they are still on their way, it’s a bit past 10:00 that we start on our way from pfäffikon up to etzel pass (where we’ll have a lunch break) and then on to einsiedeln to the benedictine monastery there.

the weather, fortunately, is cool, a bit humid, but not too bad, and the hike up “1000 steps” to etzel pass is easy to walk. the clouds are just fantastic (as a subscribed member of the cloud appreciation society i find blue sky days boring) — just past the autobahn we stop for our first #twallfahrt station: @abtmartin tells us a bit about the area (and the history of the monastery of einsiedeln), but the main focus is on two short canons (both in twitter length) that we even manage to render in a half decent way (no trees falling down, no birds falling from the sky). up and up it goes with the next stations at restaurant luegeten and at the fork in the road where the road from schindeleggi-feusisberg joins. around noon we are (as planned) on the etzel pass where a #twallfahrt group pictures are taken, we have a our lunch break, the sf drs tv team does the interviews with @abtmartin and we relax in the sun.

at 13:00 the #twallfahrt re-commences and via teufelsbrück and galgenenhügel we get closer and closer to our destination: the monastery of einsiedeln (interrupted by a short break to give the sf drs tv team a better take on us walking down to einsiedeln). the last station on our pilgrimage is at the gangulf chapel where we meet up with those #twitterati that couldn’t make it for the whole #twallfahrt, practice our twitter-length canons once more and then fight our way through the chilbi crowds to the klosterplatz — where we are greeted by a flag bearer and a cross bearer who lead the way, with the bells of the monastery ringing for our #twallfahrt, through the main entrance into the monastery church!

as we are a bit behind schedule, we #enjoy an even more twitterish worship service than planned — the highlight certainly being the twitterific organ piece (which @boumi manage to capture)!

an apero in the southern court yard concludes this unique #twallfahrt pilgrimage!

all in all: a very interesting and stimulating experience, meeting very different folks and with a couple of good spiritual impulses.

would i participate again? yes, i guess, i would 🙂

if you are interested, here are some further links:

  1. from the german wallfahrt and twitter == twallfahrt 

in the lake district again…

after a long day on the train — starting with the 8:43 ICE International train from cologne to brussels, then the Eurostar to london st pancras, followed by the virgin pendolino from london euston (yep, a short walk from there) to oxenholme lake district, and, the last train for today, the First Penine 185 class service to windermere — we have finally arrived at the riverside hotel in ambleside.

the riverside is a small hotel run by david and brenda milne a bit outside ambleside, right next to the river rothay on the
quiet under loughrigg lane leading from ambleside to rydal. our first impression: a lovely, well-lead hotel in a quiet spot of ambleside. nice. also, we like our room right at the top of the house with a window towards the rothay river. unusual for a UK hotel: the shower really does work and is not just a trickling-when-i’m-grown-up-i’ll-be-a-real-shower which we’ve encountered so often elsewhere in the british isles. all very promising 🙂

dinner was at zeffirellis, a restaurant recommended by our friends p & w (as well as our host david) — a vegetarian italian restaurant with an interesting menu. the food is good, as are the drinks (red wine for mrs d, a theakston for me) and the waiters are really friendly.

so far, so good 🙂 let’s see how this all turns out…

good night.

a walk through pittoresque boyne valley, time travel, monasterboice, & the hill of slane

mrs d and i slept surprisingly well this night, given the fact that
one of the main thorough-fares passes the hotel just a couple of
meters away.[^1] breakfast is efficient and good and the waitresses
are actually quite friendly and even know about gluten-free food for
mrs j.[^2]

[^1]: perhaps we got lucky that our room is behind a wall shielding us
from the traffic noise.

[^2]: having translated for mrs j a number of times when she tried to
explain to the various waiters and waitresses what gluten-free
means, i’m slowly becoming an expert on that topic — well,
almost 🙂

the weather has become rather irish: it’s raining when we set off for
a walk in the boyne valley, and it’s treating us to several showers on
the otherwise rather _pittoresque_ walk. in contrast to the previous
walks we are to go by ourselves in silence and since we return to the
bus mrs d and i for once can walk as it pleases us instead of forming
the tail-end. rather quickly the whole group disperses over the length
of the path, and i rather enjoy the quietude and the breathtaking

[^3]: which reminds me in places of the [river beauly][] which [we
visited in 2003](http://50mm-traveller.net/2003/2003-05-21%20scotland/dscn1427-c.jpg.php)

[river beauly]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/River_Beauly

next stop is [newgrange][], or rather the [brú na bóinne visitor
centre][] and the [knowth][] neolithic passage grave. mrs dr, who has
so far been doing a fantastic job translating for our non-english
speaking co-pilgrims, unfortunately is under the weather today and mr
tambour inquires whether i could be of assistance. i agree on
condition that i can make things up if i loose the plot — to which
he laughingly agrees. so, to cut a long story short: i learn quite a
bit about knowth and its history through the milleniums — our group is
a bit surprised to learn that knowth and the other mounds nearby are
in fact modelled after what science assumes to be advanced flying
objects and probably served as intergalactic beacons similar to the
lighthouses of the 19th and 20th century…

…ok, ok, just kidding 😀 i try my best to translate everything[^4]
and seem to get the job done in a half-decent way.[^5] knowth is the
largest passage grave site in the area and even contains over one
third of all [megalithic art][] in all western europe! it’s also quite
special in that [several different cultures made use of it through the
milleniums.][knowth-history] fascinating stuff. as is the fact that
knowth predates the pyramids by about 500 years! i quite enjoy the
visit to knowth and the [brú na bóinne visitor centre][] and am quite
impressed by it.

[newgrange]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newgrange
[brú na bóinne visitor centre]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Br%C3%BA_na_B%C3%B3inne_Visitor_Centre
[knowth]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knowth
[knowth-history]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knowth#History
[megalithic art]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Megalithic_art

[^4]: but stumble over _horse shoe_ which i translate a bit too
literally as _pferdeschuh_, which mr tambour, enthusiastic
equestrian that he is, promptly corrects to _hufeisen_ — oh,
well, i never claimed to be an expert in horses… 🙂

[^5]: no tips, though. hmmm, guess i’ve to work on those skills a bit
then… 😀

after lunch at the visitor center we are on our way once more — the
weather is becoming increasingly more friendly — and, with a short
stop at the site of the [battle of the boyne][], visit [monasterboice][]
and [the hill of slane][].

[battle of the boyne]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Boyne
[monasterboice]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monasterboice
[the hill of slane]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slane#The_Hill_of_Slane

monasterboice is most famous for its [high crosses][] and has a couple
of rather well-preserved specimen. it’s also a “living” grave-yard:
“living” in the sense that it’s still in use today.

[high crosses]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_cross

the last stop today is [the hill of slane][] where [st patrick][]
supposedly lit the first easter fire. today it’s a ruined church with
a churchyard and no fire — but lots of rain all of a sudden gushing
down on us and we rather hastily beat a retreat to our waiting bus.

[st patrick]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Patrick

all in all a rather interesting day, knowth impressed me the most,
i’ve to say.[^6]

[^6]: a little voice in my head mumbles that i probably was so
impressed by it because for once i had to concentrate on what
was being said. hmph.
wir schlafen diese nacht erstaunlich gut angesichts der tatsache, dass
eine der hauptausfallsstrassen von navan nur ein paar meter von uns
entfernt am hotel vorbeirauscht.[^1] das frühstück ist sehr effizient
und recht gut, die bedienung ist überraschend freundlich und hat sogar
ahnung von gluten-freier nahrung für frau j.[^2]

[^1]: die so hässliche wand direkt vor unserem fenster hat dann doch
ihre guten seiten: der verkehrslärm geht so wohl doch zum
grössten teil an uns vorbei.

[^2]: während unserer pilgerfahrt hatte ich inzwischen schon mehrfach
das vergnügen, mrs j beim erklären von “gluten-frei” mit
übersetzungsdiensten helfen zu können; langsam werde ich experte
auf dem gebiet — naja, fast 🙂

das wetter ist “irisch” geworden: bei der abfahrt zu unserem ersten
tagesziel, dem boyne-tal, regnet es und auch während der bildschönen
wanderung kriegen wir die eine oder andere dusche ab. anders als bei
unseren vorherigen wanderungen ist unsere heutige wanderung eine
einzelwanderung im schweigen. da es eine rundwanderung ist brauchen
mrs d und ich heute fürs mal nicht den schluss zu machen und können
unser eigenes tempo gehen. innerhalb kurzer zeit hat sich die gruppe
mehr oder weniger über den ganzen wanderweg verteilt — und ich freue
mich an der stille und der atemberaubend schönen landschaft.[^3]

[^3]: die mich des öfteren an den [river beauly][] in schottland
erinnern, [wo wir 2003 waren.](http://50mm-traveller.net/2003/2003-05-21%20scotland/dscn1427-c.jpg.php)

[river beauly]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/River_Beauly

unser nächster halt ist [newgrange][] — das heisst, eigentlich das
[brú na bóinne visitor centre][] und das neolithische ganggrap
[knowth][]. frau dr, die bis anhin hervoragende dienste als
pilgerfahrt-übersetzerin für unsere nicht-englischsprachigen mitpilger
geleistet hat, ist heute leider nicht so gut zuwege und herr tambour
fragt an, ob ich einspringen könnte. unter der bedingung, dass ich
frei fabulieren kann, wenn ich etwas verpasse oder nicht mitkriege,
erkläre ich mich einverstanden — herr tambour stimmt der bedingung
lachend zu.

um es kurz zu machen: ich lerne einiges interessante über knowth,
und seine geschichte durch die jahrtausende — unsere gruppe ist
etwas überrascht, dass knowth und die anderen grabhügel in der nähe
keine ganggräber sind sondern, nach ansicht der wissenschaft, nach
unbekannten fliegenden objekten modelliert und wahrscheinlich als
intergalaktische leuchtfeuer gedient haben (ähnlich wie die
leuchttürme des 19. und 20. jahrhunderts…)

…ok, ok, nicht wirklich 😀 ich gebe mein bestes, um auch alles
mitzukriegen und einigermassen passabel zu übersetzen, was am ende
wohl auch einigermassen gelingt.[^5] knowth ist das grösste ganggrap
in der gegend und hat mehr als ein drittel aller westeuropäischen
[megalithischen kunst][megalithic art]! hinzukommt, dass die
[verschiedenen kulturen knowth für ihre zwecke angepasst und gebraucht
haben][knowth-history]. faszinierend! ebenso faszinierend ist die
tatsache, dass knowth 500 jahre _vor_ den pyramiden von gizeh
errichtet wurde! recht beeindruckend, knowth und das [brú na bóinne
visitor centre][]. auf alle fälle ein besuch wert!

[newgrange]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newgrange
[brú na bóinne visitor centre]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Br%C3%BA_na_B%C3%B3inne_Visitor_Centre
[knowth]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knowth
[knowth-history]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knowth#History
[megalithic art]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Megalithic_art

[^4]: allerdings stolpere ich über _horse shoe_ — meine übersetzung
verrät meine equestrinische ignoranz: _pferdeschuh_ 🙂 zum
glück korrigiert herr tambour, enthusiastischer pferdenarr, der
er ist, das gleich zu _hufeisen_ 🙂

[^5]: trinkgeld gibt es allerdings dann doch keines 😀

nach einem guten mittagessen im visitor centre geht es mit dem
pilgerbus weiter — das wetter wird netter und netter — und wir
besuchen (nach einem kurzen stop am ort der [schlacht vom
boyne][battle of boyne]) [monasterboice][] und [den hügel von
slane][hill of slane].

[battle of the boyne]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Boyne
[monasterboice]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monasterboice
[hill of slane]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slane#The_Hill_of_Slane

monasterboice zeichnet sich vor allem durch seine [keltischen
hochkreuze][high crosses] und hat einige recht gut erhaltene exemplare
davon. es ist aber auch ein “lebender” friedhof — “lebend” im sinne
von “heute noch in gebrauch”

[high crosses]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_cross

unser letzter halt heute is der [hügel von slane][hill of slane],
auf dem [st patrick][] der sage nach das erste osterfeuer
entzündete. heute ist es eine kirchenruine mit einem friedhof ohne
feuer — dafür aber einem überraschenden schwall von regen, der sich
recht plötzlich über uns ergiesst und wir daraufhin die flucht zurück
zum wartenden bus einschlagen..

[st patrick]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Patrick

alles in allem ein wirklich interessanter tag, am meisten hat mich
allerdings knowth beeindruckt.[^6]

[^6]: eine kleine stimme in meinem kopf murmelt, dass ich
wahrscheinlich nur deshalb so beeindruckt war, weil ich mich
fürs mal auf das gesagt konzentrieren musste… hmpf.

gap of dunloe & the lakes of killarney

breakfast today (we are still at the [_ballygarry house
hotel_](http://www.ballygarryhouse.com/)) works out a bit better than
yesterday: more coffee and tea available, no being told off for
sitting at the wrong table. 🙂

today’s program: by bus to the starting point of the pass up to the
gap of dunloe, walk from there over the [gap of
dunloe](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gap_of_dunloe) and down to
_brandon’s cottage_ for a cup of tea, followed by a boat trip across
the lakes of killarney to the town of killarney.

we are off at 9:00 on the dot and get to our starting point by
9:50. the pass road is restricted to horse-drawn coaches, walkers and
business and commercial access. horse-drawn coaches are about €30 per
coach each and apparently in high-demand at times as there are quite a
few of them along with the required horses around. as we start on our
walk we witness two coaches (gigs, really) taking off with the drivers
flogging the horses quite severely several times. guess they lost any
potential customers in our group.

the walk up to the gap of dunloe is what turner and company would call
_pittoresque_ — wild landscape rising up to each side, a succession
of little lakes, a winding road up to the pass. again, mrs d and i
bring up the rear of the pilgrim’s train and are joined today by mrs
c. the higher we get the stronger the wind blows up towards the pass
— fantastic! we are occasionally overtaken by a horse-drawn gig,
sometimes by cars[^1] and once or twice by folks on bikes, some more,
some less skilled in the art of cycling. the weather puts on a
dramatic show, but stays dry until we have passed the highest point,
the gap of dunloe. the pass down into the valley on the eastern side
reminds me of the eastern snowdown pass topology: the same
north–south valley formation almost.

after a lunch break just beyond the pass summit we are on our way down
to _brandon’s cottage_, a self-serve “restaurant” operated on behalf
of the national park. the scenery is still breathtakingly beautiful.

[^1]: interesting who all has a business or commercial interest here…

after a coke (me) and a cup of tea (mrs d) along with two slices of
apple pie with cream we enjoy the view until our boats across the
lakes of killarney depart.

the boats turn out to be, err, boats, wooden ones with a little
outboard motor. each boat seating up to 12 people. after a bit of
engine trouble we depart from _brandon’s cottage_ and are on our way
across the three lakes and two rivers.

_tranquil_ is the word that describes the first part of our ride —
_tranquil_ is not the word that i’d choose for the second part. where
the first part was just gliding along on the calm surface of the upper
lake and the connecting river leaving it, once we reach the
three-river-meeting point we first need to pass across a bit of
white-water (necessitating a re-balancing of the boat by having us all
shift forward). from the three-river-meeting point onwards we enjoy a
bit of smooth “sailing” which turns out to lull us into a false sense
of security: once we leave the third lake and enter the last one, the
largest of the three, we literally hit rough sea. the wind is blowing
and has been blowing long enough today to really cause quite a bit of
wave action. after a re-reshuffle (all move towards the back of the
boat) we tackle it stern-on. splash, splash, splash summarises the
next 15min as we crash through one wave crest after the other. fun 😀

unfortunately, about half-way down the lake we need to cross the lake
to get to ross castle — meaning we are now moving in parallel to the
waves, also meaning our little boat is rotating back and forth along
its longitudinal axis, fun…

we do make it to shore, and get together, with a cup of tea, to have one more
story told by our resident master story teller: this time it’s about a
blind bagpipe player, and the castle in the lake of killarney. again,
i’m fascinated by her story telling talent and enjoy the story

then it’s back to the hotel again — one photo-op stop to have one
final view across the lakes of killarney — to take a shower, change
into fresh clothes, and dinner at 18:30 today as we are going to visit
the [siamsa tíre theater][] here in tralee! looking forward to that one!

[siamsa tíre theater]: http://www.siamsatire.com/folk.html

the most scary walk ever…


i’m sitting in the saddle spot between mount zindelspitz (to the south) and mount rossalplispitz (to the north). half an hour ago, mrs d, i, and fredi, our friend and [outdoor guide from blue dimension][blued] got here after a climb up from lake wäggital, up through some frozen and snowed over patches — just my luck really: we hired fredi’s services as an outdoor guide to help me get over, past, beyond, and ultimately safely away from those exposed sections of today’s walk, and i had not really banked on having the additional challenge of _iced over_ slopes… anyhow, just getting to the saddle spot was already quite exciting for me — just a couple of meters to the east of where i’m now sitting is: _nothing!_ to be exact: about 1000m (about 3’200ft for you non-metricals) of nothingness, 1000m of straight down nothingness.



the path to zindelspitz is looking ghastly from the point of view of a confessed [acrophobic][] such as myself — that and the 1000m of nothingness right in front of me already had me politely but firmly excuse myself from the expedition to the peak of zindelspitz. so, mrs d and fredi have set off by themselves and i’m waiting for them to return.

having calmed down from my initial panic attack i spend the time trying out my new camera (got the body last monday from [digitec][] and the 28–300mm lense arrived on thursday from [adorama][]): i’m just blown away by the vibration compensation feature which allows me to shoot 300mm at 1/30s!

[digitec]: http://www.digitec.ch/
[adorama]: http://www.adorama.com/

after about 30min a young walker comes down from zindelspitz. watching him it seems to be so easy, so effortless, just like taking a stroll to the station in the morning. sigh. sometimes i wish i had that same non-concerned-ness about exposed places, sometimes i wish that i, too, could just ignore those gaping abysses of nothingness… eventually he passes me and continues up towards the peak of rossalplispitz — which i’m supposed to scale today as well. following his progress i begin to have second thoughts, and third thoughts, and fourth thoughts. in fact, i can’t stop thinking that i must have been bloody raving mad to have agreed to today’s experiment, ropes or no ropes. i briefly entertain the idea of returning back to the lake right away, the memory of the iced slopes and that bit of having to scramble put a stop to it, though. sigh.

after a while i can hear the voices of mrs d and fredi and then see them navigating the chain-secured part and coming back down to me. yet, before i can even voice my concerns i find myself on the ascend to rossalplispitz! gulp!

…and the first part is kind of ok, i manage to persuade myself that that tiny piece of void to my right is not really important. soon it gets steeper and steeper though and the scenery becomes breathtaking — literally so in my case. panic sets in. luckily we have fredi with us, experienced fredi and he helps me take a break, take a deep breath and calm down again, and we try the last 50m scrambling up to the peak. it would have been nice, could i report that it went all swimmingly, but it didn’t. half-way up i get another panic attack and it takes quite a bit of encouragement, patience and even the encouraging words of a young swiss-french lady overtaking me to get me going up again…


…and i make it! i really make it up to rossalplispitz! it’s an exhilarating experience! the views are fantastic — as is lunch out of the rucksack up here at over 2100m altitude! yes, sure am i concerned about the way down, but i also enjoy being up here and am grateful for fredi’s help and patience (and the encouraging words of that swiss-french lady).

[blued]: http://www.blue-dimension.ch/out/index.shtml
[acrophobic]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acrophobia


after about half an hour we get our kit together — fredi is very kindly going to secure me on my way down and so i’m being “put on a leash” as i call it. the descent of the scramble bit is every bit as frightful as i imagined it to be, but being secured via the rope i manage to get down to where the path is — and then have to manage the final “piece de resistance”, about 50m of narrow path with the aforementioned 1000m of nothingness to my right… with fredi’s help and securing i do manage it and it becomes much easier after that. phew.


we make our way through rocks, but nothing as scary as what i’ve just put past me. the landscape looks almost alien being slightly covered in snow dust.

at hochfläschen hut we break for a well-deserved coffee — and enjoy the view back (rather impressive 🙂 and chat with a young couple who had passed us on our way down.

a rather exciting walk. would i do it again? hmm…i guess that yes, but not alone 🙂


* [pictures](http://d2h.net/blog/v/dr_who/2008/2008-10-18-rossalplispitz)
* [slideshow](http://d2h.net/blog/v/dr_who/2008/2008-10-18-rossalplispitz/slideshowapplet.html)

look! there! up in the trees!

after a nice breakfast at _6 oakfield street_ where we meet our
co-guests as well (two americans, mother & daughter, on a two week
tour of the UK), we are off via earls court underground to kew
gardens! well, eventually we are off, as we at first board the wrong
train 🙁 but we manage to get that sorted and 20min later emerge at
sunny [kew gardens station][], have a coffee at the _starbucks_ right
on the route to kew gardens, and arrive shortly after 10:00 at the
_victoria gate_ of the [_royal botanical gardens, kew_][kew]

[kew]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Botanic_Gardens%2C_Kew
[kew gardens station]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kew_Gardens_station_(London)

the weather is gorgeous and we are really looking forward to a day at
kew: i just love the arboretum and the whole landscape. this year is
particularly interesting as kew has just opened the [rhizotron and
xstrata treetop walk][kew-tree], a 200m walk way some 18m above ground
winding its way through the tree tops of some very magnificent old

[kew-tree]: http://apps.kew.org/trees/

i’m a bit apprehensive: on one hand i dearly love to get up there and
have a walk-about in the tree tops, on the other hand i’m really
afraid of heights and exposed places… this is going to

first things first, we register for the special 12:00 [“champion trees
of kew” walk][kew-ct] — and then are off to have a go at the tree
top walk.

[kew-ct]: http://apps.kew.org/trees/?page_id=251

the whole structure looks fantastic — and breathtaking. 18m above
ground is quite a bit if you are not really a fan of exposed
places. the walkway itself is constructed from punched and streched
steel sheets, giving you plenty of the exposed stuff, enough to drown
yourself in 🙁 mrs d, true to form, just dances up the stairs and is
on her way around the tree tops. me? well, i make it half-way up and
then have to call it off 🙁 and retreat down to safer grounds, where
is stand with my head tilted back, longingly looking up, wishing i was
made of sterner stuff and not such a wuss when it comes to heights…

…well, after about 10min i had enough of that and decided to give it
another go: i must have been the slowest person ever to climb that
staircase, resting every so often to get used to the height, until i
finally was up on top of the first platform! wow! still scared i made
my way round — and it was worth every bit of courage i had to scrape
up: being up there in the tree tops was fantastic, the view across
london was great and just the fact that i had made it up there was
exhilarating! still scared but also enjoying it 🙂

the guide walk — _champion trees of kew_ — was really interesting:
champion trees are trees that are considered to be prime examples of
their species and kew has quite a few of them.

lunch was long and leisurely at the conservatory and we really enjoyed
it! most of the afternoon we spent walking through the arboretum,
reading (remember the new elisabeth george? ;-), and enjoying our last
vacation day in england.

a fantastic day.

first class to london, a bohemian b&b, a distributed fridge, visiting victoria and albert

it’s 9:45, our taxi which was supposed to have picked us up at 9:30 is
still not there, and our train is due to leave bangor station at
10:18, slowly but surely our adrenalin level is reaching new
heights. our landlord phones the taxi company once more and returns
with the good news that “she’s just seconds away” — which turns out
to be literally true. we hurriedly say our goodbyes to our landlord
and landlady of [marteg bed & breakfast][bb-llanberis] and get into
the taxi as quick as possible. the drive to bangor station is a bit a
race against time, particularly so when we hit a traffic jam just
0.5km from the station — luckily our taxi driver knows her way
around and does a u-turn and weaves her way through a couple of side
streets and we make it with a couple of minutes to spare! phew…

[bb-llanberis]: http://www.marteg-llanberis.co.uk/

the train from bangor is a direct, fast train to london euston and we
are travelling first class again today (which, thanks to our britrail
flexipasses, comes out cheaper than buying 2nd class tickets in
bangor) — complete with free drinks and coffee 🙂

the weather has turned wet — as forecast, but we are not really
concerned 😉 and as we move further south again the rain slowly
ceases and it’s sunny and rather warm when we arrive in london
euston on the dot at 13:40. we take the underground to [earl’s court
station][tube-ec] and then head south to [6 oakfield
street][bb-london] our b&b for the next two nights.

[tube-ec]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earl%27s_Court_tube_station
[bb-london]: http://athomeinnchelsea.com/

_6 oakfield street_ is a narrow, three floors victorian terrace house
in a side street of “little chelsea”. our [double
bedroom][bb-london-double] is to the front and on the top floor of the
house — nicely done, has a bit of a [changing rooms][cr] flair to
it, “oliver heath’s grey area”, as mrs d so aptly summarizes it 🙂 we
even spot the famous [MDF][]! a bit of a curiosity is the fridge,
which i at first mistook to be the b&b variant of a mini-bar but which
on closer inspection turned out to be the “overflow” fridge of the
family fridge containing vegetables, a cake, and other stuff.[^1] but,
in total, a very nice room 🙂

[bb-london-double]: http://athomeinnchelsea.com/images/large/beddouble.jpg
[cr]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Changing_Rooms
[MDF]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Changing_Rooms#MDF

[^1]: …explaining why all the rooms had no keys: otherwise it might
be a bit of a problem gaining access to the fridge when the double is

we unpack and then make our way to the _[victoria & albert museum][]_,
the v&a, which is “close by”. mrs d is interested in the fashion
exhibits, i’m looking forward to the [photography collection][v&a
photo]. we also intend to get a little walk through south kensington
in sideways to offset the hours of just sitting on the train…

[victoria & albert museum]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victoria_and_Albert_Museum
[v&a photo]: http://www.vam.ac.uk/collections/photography/index.html

it’s a bit past 16:00 when we arrive at the v&a, leaving us with just
about one and a half hour to spend at the museum. mrs d decides to
look at the fashion through the centuries exhibit, i make for the
[photo gallery][v&a photo gallery]…

[v&a photo gallery]: http://www.vam.ac.uk/collections/photography/galleries/38a/index.html

…which turns out to be rather small but also rather interesting,
motivating, and inspiring! if you are in the vicinity and have the
time, go pay a visit — it’s completely free but worth the effort.

we meet again at 17:00, stroll through the v&a shops (finally pick up
that birthday present for my sister-in-law, mrs a) and then go on that
mini-walk of south kensington.

before returning to earl’s court we stop for a look around at a nice
little independent bookshop. mrs d very kindly points out the
latest [elizabeth george, _careless in red_][eg-careless] — a grave
mistake as it turns out: once i get started on it i just have to keep
reading, reading, reading…

[eg-careless]: http://www.elizabethgeorgeonline.com/books/careless_in_red.htm

dinner is at a local restaurant, _[balans][]_, at the corner of [_old
brompton road_ and _redcliffe gardens_][balans-map]. nice food,
charming waiters (according to mrs d ;-).

[balans]: http://www.balans.co.uk/chelsea.html
[balans-map]: http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=239+old+brompton+road,+london,+sw5+9hp&sll=53.800651,-4.064941&sspn=12.605358,29.355469&ie=UTF8&ll=51.489467,-0.190673&spn=0.00648,0.014334&t=h&z=16&iwloc=addr

tomorrow it’s [_kew gardens_][kew] and, perhaps, if i dare, the [new tree top walk…][kew-treetopwalk]

[kew]: http://www.kew.org/
[kew-treetopwalk]: http://apps.kew.org/trees/

all in all: nice train trip. interesting exhibits at v&a. exciting new
book. nice dinner 🙂

a windy mountain pass, a fantastic vista, an underground walk

after [yesterday’s][] fantastic day out on mount snowdon we are eager
to see more of snowdonia. the recent _snowdon_ special issue of
[country walking][] — which we brought with us 🙂 — has a couple
of rather scary walks (scrambles, exposed ridges, and so forth,
nothing for me, though mrs d wouldn’t mind doing those…) but also
describes a walk around [beddgelert][] which sounds rather interesting. so,
the 10:16 S1 sherpa bus sees us again and we ride up to pen-y-pass
once more, this time to change to the sherpa bus to beddgelert.

[yesterday’s]: http://d2h.net/blog/2008/06/16/mount-snowdon
[country walking]: http://www.livefortheoutdoors.com/
[beddgelert]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beddgelert

whereas the scenery on our left and right up llanberis pass and for a
couple of kilometers past pen-y-pass was rather barren and conveyed an
almost alpine feeling[^1], it now morphs into a more tree-d one and
resembles the country side in the lower parts of the lake district at
times. the road to beddgelert winds its way along the valley, passing
the _llyn gwynant_ and _llyn dinas_ lakes before reaching a rather
nice little hamlet at the confluence of the _afon colwyn_ and the
_afon glaslyn_ rivers[^2], beddgelert.

[^1]: at 300 to 400m above sea level!

[^2]: the latter winning over the former and the two rivers continuing
onwards as _afon glaslyn_.

beddgelert is a bit smaller than llanberis but it becomes immediately
clear that tourist-wise you are better off in beddgelert: a couple of
decent looking restaurants and pubs, tea-rooms and nice surroundings
— if we are to return to snowdonia we’d probably “take lodgings”
here. after a tea at one of the tea-rooms (a bit too overstuffed with
“antique” nick-nacks and riff-raff for our taste, oh, and “prices are
not negotiable”) we start our (mini-)walk by walking along the _afon
colwyn_ to the confluence point and turn south after crossing over a
foot bridge. at first the walk is quite level and “suitable for all
ages” and abilities. a sign informs us that the former railway tunnel
unfortunately is now longer open as it was becoming too dangerous and
to expensive to maintain, and that the footpath now is diverted along
the river bed…

…as it turns out that really is not quite true: as we progress
towards the “former railway tracks” we quickly realise that those
tracks are anything but “former”! before us we are seeing brand new
tracks! way cool! and — that tunnel? it’s no longer closed but
instead has the new line passing through it again. the railway
enthusiast in me is very satisfied to see what once was thought lost
being restored.[^3]

[^3]: our landlady later tells us that the line has just 4.8km left to
porthmadog. even our relatively fresh ordnance survey map is clueless
about the new line which extends the _[welsh highland railway][]_ from

[welsh highland railway]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Welsh_Highland_Railway

once we have crossed the new old tracks we indeed are now following
the riverbed. at first wide and more or less flat the path then
becomes narrow and at one point circumnavigates a protruding rock
where we have to use iron grips anchored in the rock itself to avoid
having to introduce ourselves to the lovely river below. after about
30min we reach the pass and turn left into a valley which is at the
same time climbing up and narrowing. the path takes us past disused
mines and mining equipment. whereas the wind was initially just a
breeze, the funnel-like shape of the valley concentrates it and it
almost becomes a veritable storm when we reach the highest point, a
style taking us across from rather rocky terrain into a moorland of
sorts — and fantastic views towards snowdon but also towards the
irish sea!

the path soon takes us steeply downhill past a lake and back to and
along afon glaslyn in the direction of beddgelert again. about halfway
there we pass a sign for the _sygyn mine_ and mrs d suggests we pay a
visit. sceptical at first — it does look like one of the typical
british tourist traps — i join her…and we go on a walk on the
other side of the mountain that we’ve just crossed: the _inner side_
that is.

we enter the mine at the former base level and a long low tunnel (i’m
a tad on the tall side for this adventure and am in a constant crouch
state) takes us quite a bit into the mountain. this part of the mine
had to be dug out again when work started on it in the the 1980s to
turn it into a museum mine. finally, after what feels like an
eternity, we get to a series of caverns containing rather interesting
displays about the working conditions, the geology, and the everyday
lives of the ancient miners. also “on display”, so to speak, are
underground lakes entertaining hundreds of stalagmites and

the path then takes us up a series of stairs (183 in total) through
various work areas — the most impressive one explaining about the
actual mining process itself, complete with recreating the atmosphere
and a “real” underground explosion (at one point we are left in almost
complete darkness with just a couple of candles burning: the working
conditions of the original miners). very interesting!

we emerge about 100m above the base level and return to the visitor
centre to drop off our hard hats[^4] and to have a cup of tea before
tackling the last part of our walk to beddgelert.

[^4]: yep, you have to wear hard hats to get into the mine.

that last part is almost flat out tarmac road and we soon reach
beddgelert where we have a pint of beer each at one of the local pubs before
we board our bus back to pen-y-pass and onwards to llanberis.

all in all: breathtaking landscape, exciting riverside path,
satisfying rail development, a walk on the other side. would do it
again 🙂

shopping, culture, sunshine, cwtch

we get up late today, a rocking 30min later than the days before, and,
after breakfast, flip the tourist-bit to the _on_ position and make
our way into the city of st davids[^1]:

* fuelling stop at the local delicatessen (biscuits for the train ride
tomorrow, burned sugar likewise)
* three very nice scarves at the fashion shop in new street
* today’s _guardian_ at the post office
* some apples at _peter’s_ the grocer

[^1]: queen elizabeth II very kindly granted city rights to what
really is just a village to st davids in 1996.

next, we finally visit [st david’s cathedral.](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_David%27s_Cathedral)

st david’s cathedral is a bit unusual in that it’s the first cathedral
that i’ve visited whose floor is not level but instead slowly rises
from the main entrance up towards the choir. also, the main pillars
are slanted outwards. very interesting. also fascinating are the
different styles of ceilings each section of the cathedral has. really
impressive — and we do get an almost sub-sonic blast from them —
are the bass pipes of the organ: thick as trees and certainly as high.

the cathedral shop has the usual nick-nack and riff-raff on sale,
nothing really tempting — and nothing suitable as a birthday present
for our in-law, mrs a, meaning we’ll need to keep on looking.

after a nice lunch in the cathedral refactory we sit on the green and
spend the afternoon reading 🙂

our last dinner in pembrokeshire is a the excellent _[cwtch][]_ restaurant
again (nicely completing the symmetry of this week: our first dinner
last sunday evening was at _cwtch_ as well) — we managed to get a
reservation for 20:30, leaving enough time to pack our bags, watch the
latest _dr who_ on tv, and stroll back into town.

[cwtch]: http://cwtchrestaurant.co.uk/

not as energetic a day as the rest of the week, but rather pleasant as