Posts Tagged ‘Sherlock Holmes’

SOTM World Tour – Europe Part II

Saturday, November 2nd, 2013

 There was a time when I wasn’t particularly interested in visiting Germany.

That country just didn’t really appeal to me. I have a list of places I want to see, things I want to experience – Petra in Jordan, the Sahara desert, New Orleans, for example.

So I was always quite focused on getting to those places, and Germany just seemed a bit, well, easy. Familiar. It’s often said how similar the Germans are to the British, and most of them speak good English, so it seemed like a soft option when there are more challenging, yet rewarding, destinations.

Then, a few years ago, I went to Berlin. Loved it. Friendly place, interesting architecture, so much history, and everything is so clean and efficient. Gotta love that.

Since then I’ve returned a few times, exploring different parts of the country. Happily, I got to include a new slice of Germany on the SOTM World Tour – the charming town of Augsburg. The shot above is an art installation found in the town’s backstreets.

I was there because Adventurous Kate’s good friends Josh and Daniel, who had previously got married, were having a little party to celebrate the occasion now that members of both their families had managed to come over to Germany at the same time.

I was determined to make friends with them both – if you make friends with a girl’s best gays, then you’re in with the girl, I believe. Happily both chaps turned out to be quite charming and very welcoming to me.

Best of all, I got two cracking SOTMs out of them, with very interesting stories.

Here’s Josh’s – as ever, click on his image to learn more about his SOTM story.

And this is Daniel’s thought provoking story:

11072013And that wasn’t all. I also managed to get Josh’s mum, the gregarious Brenda, to share her hilarious SOTM:

11082013Incidentally, while we made our way to Augsburg on the train, I took probably my favourite photo of Kate so far. It captures her perfectly – wearing her “Love Your Blog” top, while on a train to a new destination, and with a map in hand. That’s my girl.

After that brief stop in Augsburg, we hopped on a train to Zug in deepest Switzerland, where my cousin Adriana awaited us.

She lived next door me when we were kids in Malta, and we spent many hours playing together. She used to insist we would get married one day, when were were about seven or eight I think, and I was too scared to say no.

However, she is now betrothed to the smashing Oliver and lives in Zug with him and their two gorgeous children.

They all welcomed us with open arms, and Adriana continued the fine tradition of extensive Maltese hospitality by giving us a place to stay, doing our laundry, feeding us to the gills, and even taking us out to a fancy restaurant (“it’s Friday night, I’m kid-free and I’m in heels,” she said while giving a toast).

Naturally I was delighted to get her SOTM, which came from the lips of her young son, Ben. He’s going to regret that one in about 14 years’ time…

19082013Now, part of the reason that I wanted to go around the world was to achieve a life-long dream. When I was a little boy in Malta I dreamed of exploring the world. I’d look at places in encyclopaedias – I recall looking in wonder at the Empire State building in a Guinness Book of Records back when it was the world’s tallest building – and imagine what it’d be like to actually go there.

Similarly, ever since I fell utterly in love with the Sherlock Holmes stories a few years ago, the Reichenbach Falls has been high on my list of places to visit. It’s the place where Sherlock fell to his death while locked in a battle with Professor Moriarty – initially, at least, until public pressure forced Arthur Conan Doyle to resurrect Holmes from his watery grave.

So it was a real thrill to learn that they were but a couple of trains away from Zug.

Kate and I borrowed some waterproof jackets from Adriana and Ollie and off we went. I wasn’t disappointed by what we found that magical day.

The falls are gorgeous, not the biggest but very picturesque and the gloomy forecast held off just long enough for us to look around without getting too drenched. The biggest soaking we got was from the falls themselves, as the spray near the bottom flies around in sheets and drenched both us and our cameras.

 Here’s a shot of the falls from further away.

While we were at the Falls, this happened. And I bloody loved it.

sherlockThe Falls themselves are just south of the lovely town of Meiringen, where Holmes and Watson stayed in a hotel – which is still there.

I’m pretty sure that after the story dealing with this incident, called The Final Problem, was published, all subsequent mayors of the town, owners of that hotel and the town’s shopkeepers too, have thanked Conan Doyle profusely for giving them a permanent attraction for tourists the world over.

There’s an excellent Sherlock Holmes museum there too, which was a real highlight of the trip. It contains a faithful recreation of the inside of 221b Baker Street, with authentic period furnishings!

The level of detail in the museum was breathtaking. In one story, Watson mentions he played rugby for Blackheath in London. The museum has a top which is the kit he would have used at that time in the club’s history. Very impressive.

And I even got to meet Sherlock himself. Kind of…

museumHere’s a quick fact – Conan Doyle never described Holmes as wearing a deerstalker by its actual name, but he did describe a hat that is like a deerstalker.

However, Holmes only wore it on the handful of occasions that he left London for the countryside. The majority of the time he wore headgear common to gentlemen in the Victorian era – top hats, etc.

But the illustrators of the original Sherlock Holmes novels and short stories chose to depict him most frequently in the deerstalker, and that’s the image which has endured.

After bidding the Bishop family a fond and reluctant farewell, and laden down with most of the contents of Adriana’s fridge, we took trains to Vienna.

This was my first time there, and I was very impressed. It’s apparently been frequently voted one of the best, if not the best, city in the world to live in and I’m not surprised. It has a bohemian vibe and its architecture is stunning. I couldn’t stop taking pictures of its grandeur, which casually pops up all over the city.

Like the stunning Schonbrunn Palace.

Here it is again.

Let’s not forget the Austrian parliament building.

The city’s parks are gorgeous too.

 And the city is, of course, famous for Mozart having lived and composed there, among other things.

While admiring all the architecture, I spotted this chap busting some BMX moves. I got a few shots of him, this being the last one.

And while in the city centre I spotted this Maltese church, which I didn’t know about and was delighted to stumble across.

Of course, I couldn’t leave town without nailing down a little SOTM action, so Kate and I attended a Couchsurfing meet up.

There I met the fascinating Rhys, who is a rocket scientist working in Vienna. His SOTM is one of my all-time favourites.

The next day I met Katharina at our hostel, just before we were departing for a flight to Malta. She and I had to dance in and out of the road to dodge the traffic, so as to capture this shot. Her story is worth checking out as she says these words had a big influence on her life.

I found this SOTM very moving, also. It details the breakdown in Emily’s family’s relationship with her brother, for reasons that apparently baffle them. I was, once again, flattered that someone shared a deeply personal story with me, a stranger with a camera and sketchbook.

That’s all for this time. Next, it’s off to Malta where Adventurous Kate and I had a Date With Destiny, and later we travelled to the wonderful Istanbul.