Category Archives: World Heritage

On This Day – A Black Forest Festival

The festival of Fasnacht is a carnival in Alemannic folklore that takes place in the few days before Lent in Southern Germany, Switzerland and Alsace. The Alemanni were German tribes who lived in this part of Europe nearly two thousand years ago and this area remains characterised by a form of German with a distinct dialogue called Alemannic.

The celebration literally means ‘Fasting Eve’ as it originally referred to the day before the fasting season of Lent. The schools are all closed for this festival and all over the Black Forest there are six days of parties and making merry.

Read The Full Story Here…

Entrance Tickets – Wawel Royal Castle, Krakow

The Historic Centre of Kraków, located on the River Vistula in southern Poland, is formed by three urban ensembles: the medieval chartered City of Kraków, the Wawel Hill complex, and the town of Kazimierz. It is one of the most outstanding examples of European urban planning, characterised by the harmonious development and accumulation of features representing all architectural styles from the early Romanesque to the Modernist periods.” – UNESCO

The Wawel Royal Castle is located in central Kraków and among the first UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world. It was admitted to the list at the very first session in 1978 (there were only twelve from seven countries). It was one of two Polish sites, the other being the Wieliczka salt mine also in Krakow. It was the first European City to be added to the list. It played a blinder there, getting in before Paris, Rome, Madrid and London. The following year Poland got two more – Auschwitz Birkenau German Nazi Concentration Camp near Krakow and Białowieża Forest and in 1980 it added the city of Warsaw.

In many respects it seems a rather curious first list. To begin with it is rather like Noah’s Ark with sites going in two by two. Two for Canada – L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site and Nahanni National Park. Two for Ecuador – the city of Quito and the Galapagos Islands. Two also for Ethiopia – Simien National Park and Rock Hewn Churches, the USA with two National Parks, Messe Verde and Yellowstone and two for Poland. To complete the list only one for Senegal, the Island of Goree and one for Germany and the Cathedral at Aachan.

Italy had to wait until 1978 to get a listing, France until 1981 and United Kingdom until 1986. Australia had to wait even longer until 2003.

There are only two European countries without a UNESCO site – Monaco and Liechtenstein. I don’t hold out a lot of hope for Liechtenstein, I went there once and it went straight onto my list of most boring places I have ever visited, the capital Vaduz especially so.  I have never been to Monaco and don’t really expect to, it doesn’t look especially fascinating either.

Anyway, back to Krakow. At the ticket office we had a lot of difficulty working out the ticket options that were nearly as confusing as buying a lottery scratch card at the local Co-op.

The place has so many precious treasures that understandably visitors can’t just buy a ticket and go wandering about by themselves in case precious treasures go wandering about.

Our first choice of the Royal Palace was no longer available because the English speaking guides had all gone home already so instead we bought tickets for the State Rooms. The tickets were timed and there was clearly no leeway but fortunately we made our entry time by the skin of our teeth and made the tour of the impressive rooms and displays.

Of course Kim, who has a history of this sort of thing, had to let us down by touching an exhibit in the very first room and that bought a sharp rebuke from the attendant museum guard.

This was a very impressive place full of treasures that we can see today because at the outbreak of World War Two they were rapidly evacuated out of Poland to safe storage in Canada where they remained until 1961 to prevent the Soviet Union getting possession.  We especially liked the room with the heads in the ceiling and everywhere there were remarkable tapestries and medieval furniture and treasures exhibited with generous space in which to appreciate them.

I have no photographs of the interior because picture taking is predictably not permitted. These are the Polish Crown Jewels courtesy of Wikipedia.

The rooms were huge, each one as big as a modern four bedroom detached house and I bet they were a bugger to heat in the Winter.  The tour ended in the most impressive room of all, the Senators Hall, which was large and spacious with a balcony at one end, an interestingly slanting ceiling and an obsession with tapestries depicting Noah and his Ark.

After an hour or so the tour was over and we were back in the courtyard, it was beginning to get cold and dark so we walked the mile or so back to our hotel stopping off at the Crocodile Bar on the way.

Monday Washing Lines

 

Welcome to my latest theme. Monday Washing Lines.

This was spotted on a Gondola ride on the canals of Venice…

Good pegging out, all one colour which saves worrying about matching pegs to washing. Being slightly critical, I wouldn’t hang stripes next to spots and I would have hung the spotted pillow case next to the matching sheet, but that’s just me.

At water level there was a completely different perspective to the buildings and  here we could see the exposed brickwork and the crumbling pastel coloured stucco, sun blistered and frost picked and giving in to the constant assault of the waters of the lagoon as it gnaws and gouges its relentless way into the fabric of the buildings.

It is a challenge, do feel free to join in…

Better off at a Berni

A week or so ago I wrote a post about Black Forest Gateau.

Whilst preparing the post I was distracted for a short while as I remembered occasionally eating out in the 1970s at a Berni Inn.

Berni Inn was a national chain of pub-restaurants founded just one year after the end of war time rationing in 1955 by Italian brothers Frank and Aldo Berni  and  was based on the American concept of dining out. The production line model – cheap, clean, consistent and quick.

The Wimpy Bar restaurant chain opened in the UK at the same time but I have never been a fan I have to say. McDonalds and Burger King didn’t arrive until 1974.  Pizza Hut turned up in 1980.

After giving the matter great consideration and a sleepless night I genuinely cannot remember eating out until at least the mid 1970s.

We always ate at home mostly for two reasons, Mum and Dad were not especially well off and rather crucially there was nowhere to eat out even if they could. For twenty-five years after World War Two had ended there were very few restaurants in the UK available or affordable for family dining and children weren’t allowed in pubs anyway. I have seen the period described as the ‘lost generation of English restaurants’.

Frank and Aldo marketed the Berni Inns as somewhere to go for a reasonably priced and hearty meal with a reliable product in a mock Tudor decorated dining room that was suggested might be a better experience than eating at home.

I am fairly certain that if I suggested such a thing to Kim then I would get a Geordie Kiss  but lucky for him he seems to have got away with it!

In 1972 I went out for a meal with three pals to celebrate leaving school and going off to University but except for the odd pub chicken or scampi in a basket meal after that I really don’t think that I went to a restaurant again until after 1975 when I had left university, got a job and a car and a girlfriend and discovered the Berni Inn.

If you were out to impress this was the place to take a girlfriend on a first date, or later on, if the date worked out successfully, to any sort of subsequent celebration or anniversary.

If you of my generation and ever dined at a Berni Inn then for sure you will remember the most popular combination on the menu – Prawn Cocktail, Steak Garni and Black Forest Gateau possibly with a bottle of German Blue Nun white wine. This combination was voted the UK’s favourite meal option right through the 1970s and 80s.

So, why am I telling you all this?  Well having brought up the subject I shared memories with Kim who also has fond memories of the time and we decided to make a Berni Inn tribute meal for Valentine’s Day.

But we updated it just a bit. We started with the prawn cocktail but added the avocado to the dish. The avocado was introduced to the UK in 1968 but wasn’t immediately popular and it wasn’t a part of a Berni Inn prawn cocktail and I am fairly certain that they didn’t add a liberal sprinkle of cayenne pepper either.

We slightly reinterpreted the traditional main course as well and substituted fried onion rings for the garden peas. I was pleased about that because to be honest I am not much of a fan of frozen garden peas and never been very successful at eating them without scattering them all over the table.  We also had oven baked chips instead of frozen.

Frozen oven chips were introduced into the UK by the Canadian company McCain  in 1968 and very quickly they were supplying supermarkets and the catering industry across the country.  I am certain that they were used in a Berni Inn main course.  Most places served frozen oven chips in the 1970s.

The first McCain processing plant was in Scarborough which must have been a bit of a shock to the people of Yorkshire who make the finest ‘proper’ chips in the country, maybe even the World.

It remains their UK Head Office.

Even today If you eat a McDonald’s or a Burger King french fry then it will almost certainly have come from Scarborough and that is how Yorkshire keeps control of the chip.

Finally for dessert we passed on the chore of making a Black Forest Gateau because there was no way we could eat a full one between us and Kim presented a chocolate fudge brownie with raspberries as an alternative.

So now we will have to decide where to eat next weekend. Maybe a ‘Little Chef’ Olympic All Day Full English breakfast.

Postcards From France

More memories, this time from Family Holidays in Northern France (1978-2017)…


Memory Post – Barmeston Road, Catford, London

One day in 1995 I was at work and driving through London and on impulse took a detour to Catford and to Barmeston Road where my grandparents used to live to see the house that I used to visit with my parents when I was a boy.

It was having a bit of renovation work carried out to it at the time but although it seemed smaller (everything looks smaller as you grow older, especially chocolate biscuits) it looked however almost as I remembered it and the memories came flooding back.

Read The Full Story Here…

Gary Cooper and Lech Wałęsa 

I have visited three cities in Poland – Warsaw, Krakow and Wroclaw and I have stumbled across some interesting stories.  This one from Warsaw…

Read The Full Story Here…

On This Day – Entertaining Grandchildren

In February 2017 my Grandchildren came to stay for a few days at school half term holiday.

I took them to the Yorkshire seaside town of Hornsea.

I live close to the sea myself, near the resort town of Cleethorpes in Lincolnshire but although it is a popular holiday resort it has to be said that it is just a muddy estuary where the sea is barely visible for long periods of the day.

By contrast, Hornsea ia a real North Sea coast town with a raging sea, barnacled groynes, pounding surf, churning water and a pebble beach clattering away as it was constantly rearranged by the tidal surge.

Read The Full Story Here…

On This Day – Paris Of The East

On February 16th 2015 I was on the final day of a short break to Warsaw in Poland…

I woke early the next morning so made good use of the time before breakfast by reading the complimentary guide books supplied by the Tourist Information Office.

I shouldn’t really have been surprised by this because I have seen it so many times but there on the first page of the ‘Warsaw Top Ten’ guide was the description, Warsaw – Paris of the East.

After Venice it seems that it is the city that more than most other cities want to associate themselves. I have yet to come across a New York of the East, a Moscow of the West or a Melbourne of the North but, when it comes to Paris, even without leaving Europe we have:

Baku, Azerbaijan; Bucharest, Romania; Budapest, Hungary; Leipzig, Germany; Prague, Czech Republic; Riga, Latvia; Saint Petersburg, Russia.  As if to make doubly sure, in a belt and braces sort of way, Saint Petersburg doubles up in this respect by also calling itself the ‘Venice of the North’ even though it has competition for this particular title from Amsterdam, Bruges, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Hamburg, Manchester, Edinburgh (which good measure also calls itself the Athens of the North) and even Birmingham amongst others.

I am unable to find anywhere that calls itself the London of the East, or North, South or West for that matter but by way of compensation there are twenty-eight villages in England called Little London including one only two miles or so from where I live which is a hamlet with just a handful of farm cottages, a pub, a railway crossing, a caravan site and a farm shop but no Little London road sign.

Exciting isn’t it?  It suddenly reminded me of the small village of Twenty in South Lincolnshire.  Twenty has a road sign to identify it and a local wag had added the tag line “Twenty – Twinned with the Moon – No Atmosphere”.

By coincidence Twenty is just about five miles from the town of Spalding where I used to work and an area of the town called … wait for it… Little London.

Including Warsaw I have had the good fortune to visit five of these alternative Paris cities, Budapest, Saint Petersburg, Riga and Prague and I have to say that I can find very little similarity in any of these places with the real thing. Prague would have to come closest I would have to say but only on the basis that they have a sort of Eiffel Tower.

Beyond Europe there are a few more but the most bizarre of all surely has to be Beirut!  Paris itself if often called the City of Lovers or the City of Light but I have never heard of it calling itself the Beirut of the West and I am fairly certain that it is most unlikely ever to do so.

In addition to the French capital there are of course a number of places that are officially called Paris including nine in the United States – in Arkansas, Idaho, Maine, Kentucky, New York, Missouri, Tennessee, Virginia and one that was even the title of a film – Paris, Texas. There is one missing from this list however and the one that is most Paris like of all, the one at EPCOT World Showcase in Disney World Florida.  Three other U.S. cities have at some time been called the Paris of the West – Denver, Detroit and San Francisco but these all seem just as unlikely to me as Shanghai in China!

There is also a Paris in Ontario in Canada and the city of Montreal in French speaking Québec has unsurprisingly also been dubbed the Paris of the West.

Paris at Disneyworld in Florida…

On This Day – Valentine’s Day Blunder

So I continue to look back through the archives and am reminded that on Valentine’s Day in 2015 I was in the Polish City of Warsaw…

After a first look at the Old Town and completing a circuit just to get our bearings and identify some potential restaurants for later we found a bar with a vacant table and ordered our first Polish beers. The waiter tried to persuade us to eat but we said it was too early.

He was rather persistent and told us this would be a good time because later everywhere would be full. Kim wondered if we should book a table somewhere but I passed this off as opportunist salesmanship and persuaded her that there really was no need.

This was a decision that I was going to regret later!

Read The Full Story Here…