Remembering the fall of The WallWritten by Roger Holliday Claudia Fischer | | firstname.lastname@example.org
To mark the passing of another National Train Day, we’ll start with a quote coined by our UK correspondent, Keith Fletcher, that we found tacked up on his office door.
“The train you are waiting for is always late. The train you are running for is always on time!”
After commuting to London by train from his Hertfordshire home for the better part of 12 years, Keith probably knows what he’s talking about.
He also sent in a fascinating report of a trip he made recently to Kew Gardens — 300 acres of plants, trees and architectural delights — alongside the River Thames, just 10 miles west of central London.
While still primarily a scientific research center, the Royal Botanic Gardens (Kew’s official moniker) is also a major tourist attraction with more than 1 million visitors a year.
In fine weather, it makes for a perfect out-of-London day trip, especially if you follow Keith’s lead and take the river launch from Westminster Pier (next to the Houses of Parliament) for the 90-minue up-river ride to Kew.
“The weather was sunny. The clouds were high. And a nice breeze was blowing …” Keith said.
Kew is currently celebrating its 250th birthday. But sadly, when Keith and his wife arrived, they discovered that the queen had been there just the day before … to cut the birthday cake.
Despite this short-lived disappointment, they found “the plants and trees amazing, particularly some of the original ones from the mid-18th century which are acclaimed “champion trees,” being the largest and best specimens in the British Isles.
“Most impressive, however, was an exhibition near the main gate of giant sculptures of seeds illustrating the wide diversity of seed form. These sculptures were woven in willow by Tom Hare, who is running willow-weaving workshops at Kew this summer,” Keith said.
More information at www.myspace.com/tomharewillow. Kew’s Web site is www.kew.org
So if you have a botanical bent or just want to take a beautiful boat ride, this would certainly be the perfect time to:
“Go down to Kew in lilac time
(it isn’t far from London!)
And you shall wander hand in hand with love in summer’s
(Alfred Noyes 1880-1958)
n Our Black Forest-based correspondent, Stephen Dodds, advised us recently that the beautiful Austrian city of Linz is this year’s “European Capital of Culture” — and lots of appropriate activities and celebrations are being planned.
Nicely situated near Prague, Vienna and Munich, Linz makes a perfect base from which to explore these world-class cities.
n 2009 also marks the 20th anniversary of the end of the Cold War and German reunification. Stephen writes that there are all manners of events along the former border to commemorate the fall of the Berlin Wall on Nov. 8 and 9.
Most of these, he said, are centered on Leipzig and Berlin and include permanent exhibitions and tours highlighting private and political life in a divided city.
With the passing of time and the popularity of movies like “Goodbye Lenin” and “Sonnenallee,” Stephen said there’s been a growth in nostalgia for the former East Germany.
Christened “Ostalgie,” it has resulted in a new market for products formerly available only in the German Democratic Republic (GDR) and a yearning for a simpler life.
“So, if you’re visiting Berlin this year, want to get “nostalgic” and find out what it was like to live through those times, you can visit some of the museums depicting life in the GDR, take a ride in a Trabant, enjoy a tasty Vita Cola and munch of Spreewald pickles, but sadly not at 1989 prices.” he said.
The Web site: www.germany-tourism.de/ENG/culture_and_events/fall_of_the_ wall.htm
We had our own experiences of life in East Germany when we visited Erfurt, Weimar, Dresden and Berlin in December 1989. And it wasn’t a pretty sight.
The country was overhung by a thick smelly yellow fog caused by high sulfur coal, two-stroke Trabant engines and the burning of tires for heat.
Restaurants were few and far between. The service was dismal everywhere. And our hotels had to be preapproved and prebooked by a wretched woman in the East German Embassy in New York.
That said, the unique insights we got into life behind the Iron Curtain and the chance to attend that particular New Year’s celebration at the Brandenburg Gate, with millions of Germans on both sides of the still-intact wall, will never be forgotten.
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