Friday, 29 July 2011

It really was a cold winter

It’s the very end of July. Eight months ago was the beginning of December (now there’s cutting edge fact for you!)

Last December was cold, it was very cold, in fact across Europe it was a freezing month, the fourth coldest ever in Germany and the coldest since the early 1930’s (Source)

And now, eight months down the line, it really is starting to show.

Because, when the snow cuts the power off, and it’s cold and dark…

I think Germany’s aging population statistics are about to take a significant spike.

What’s odd, is that the UK had an equally harsh winter, but there are far less heavily pregnant women walking around than there are in Germany.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

And I thought they were law abiding

I’m finding I’m having to reign in my natural instincts as a Londoner when it comes to crossing the road.

Usually, if I’m at a set of lights and there’s nothing coming I’ll cross. Yes, I’m fully aware that’s against the green cross code and I should wait for the green man, but who does.

Well, in Germany, the answer is everyone. As I’ve mentioned before they’ll wait even if there are no vehicles in any direction for miles, wait and wait until the little green man appears and only then will they cross.

Up until today I had assumed that this compliance with traffic signals was across the board. Certainly I’ve never seen a driver jump the lights or speed through on red.

But then three times in the space of an hour I witnessed cyclists jumping red lights.

This leads to an important question. Is it something about cycling that make people jump the lights?

Or given that cycling is not the world’s safest of transport modes does it automatically mean people cycling are more likely to take risks?

And let’s face it, there’s nothing worse than the look of utter disapproval from an elderly German lady when you have cross the completely empty street on a red man.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011


It’s an unfortunate condition, only suffered by a few places, but most have a severe case.

Unfortunately, Heidelberg is one of them

The symptoms of Bruggeitis are pretty clear, during the day your streets are awash with thousands of tourists clogging up the pavements, stopping en-mass at every notable sight in the town. Of an evening you return to a quiet existence with just a few people walking the streets.

Whilst Bruges has probably the worst case of this ailment, Heidelberg isn’t too far behind, and Wednesday’s would appear to be a particularly bad day with hundreds of tourists off of river cruises wandering around the town centre following their tour guides.

All I can say is they are missing the best bits. Of an evening, when the day trippers have gone places like Heidelberg and Bruges become much more interesting as you can see everything without falling over tourists.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

That’s the sound of A. J. P. Taylor spinning in his grave

OK, I’ll admit that I’m being a bit of a history snob about this. I’ll admit that there are a lot of complexities to the nationhood and status of the various islands and bits of islands that make up the British Isles. I’ll accept that the various royal families of England and Scotland can get a bit confusing.

However, it still doesn’t stop me grimacing when I hear other people making some quite interesting “factual” statements about, what we’ll generalise as, “British History”

The tour guide round the castle today was talking about the Elizabeth gate, erected overnight by the Prince Elector to impress his 19 year old bride Elizabeth Stuart. She was the Granddaughter of Mary Stuart (Mary, Queen of Scots).

The tour guide then went on about the part of the palace where Elizabeth lived and described it as “fitting her as it was in the English style”. And I know with that statement a small part of Alec Salmond dies. Technically it’s true, it is in what is called the English style, and with her Dad having been King of England as well as Scotland, she may well have felt more English than Scottish, it’s just deep down, this bit of the castle looks more like Linlithgow palace near Falkirk than anything I’ve seen in England, so I’d say it’s more in the Scottish style, fitting her ancestral roots (though trying to explain the difference between England, Scotland, Britain, the UK etc. would take several blog postings, so instead you could watch this short video)

The comment by another tourist that Mary Stuart (Queen of Scots) was married to Henry VIII had me wanting to hit my head against a brick wall. Not because it was wrong (which it is), but because it was backed up with the authority of – it was in a mini-series I watched last year. This same tourist then wondered how it was Henry kept managing to attract all the ladies given how fat an ugly he was.

Yes, I’m happy to take it as read that by the time he died Henry was a particularly unpleasant human specimen (look up Wikipedia for the full gory details), bloated, gouty and partly responsible for sowing the seeds of sectarianism in the UK. However, prior to the over indulgence he was, by most historical accounts one of the most eligible and handsome royal bachelors in all Europe. But again, because the mini-series had only portrayed him as this overweight tyrant (obviously married to Mary Queen of Scots at the time), this tourist felt it was perfectly acceptable to try and correct her friend when she queried it because – it was in a factual mini-series I watched last year, so it must be true.

If the walls of the castle at that point hadn’t been 21 feet thick and likely to cause lasting injury, I would have been tempted to bang my head against them until something broke.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Cover blown

I was doing so well, I was blending in, I was being mistaken for being German.

And then I fell to an elemental mistake…

I’d booked my tickets online in advance and printed them at home. The tickets were all in German so that wouldn’t be the give-away. All you have to do is present your identification, in this case the credit card they were booked on.

And that’s where my cover was blown. I’d forgotten across the front of my credit card, in very big, very obvious letters, even larger than the MasterCard logo is the name “”. Not “” not “” but quite clearly ein Engländer.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

But I did know then…

As I climed up the viewing tower in the Killesberg Park I remembered the last time I had assended it.

That was back in 2005 and a couple of days of increadibly hot and humid weather were just about to very spectacularly end.

I can remember getting about halfway up and watching the thunderstorm race across the sky.

At the time, in my diary I even wrote “With even my a basic understanding of science I realised that standing at the top of a large metal object in the middle of an open space during a thunder storm is not particularly cleaver, so I quickly descended”

Which in hindsight is actually a silly thing to have done.

True, I managed to make it to the café so I didn’t get absolutely soaked, but in terms of physics I actually put myself into a more dangerous position.

I would like to take this opportunity to point out that I am fully aware of Faraday Cages and standing inside a structure made entirely out of metal during a thunder storm is actually about the safest place to be as anything that does strike it is deflected away from you by the structure:

Wikipedia definition of a Faraday Cage

However, the fact that it’s completely open to the elements would have meant I would have gotten a soaking!

Saturday, 23 July 2011

They still haven't fixed it

A couple of years ago I took part in the proving trails for Heathrow's Terminal 5.

Shortly afterwards it proved that what I'd actually done was to waste a couple of days of my life on a pointless exercise that served no purpose.

On all the trials I took part in the feedback that I and everyone else gave was "lovely looking building, do you think you need some more seats".

At the time we were told that the seating wasn't a problem and everything would be fine.

Fast forward a couple of weeks to the now infamous failed opening of Terminal 5 and guess what - biggest complaint (after lack of information and why didn't you test the place out first) was the lack of seating.

So I would have thought that a couple of years down the line this would now have been addressed.

It appears I thought wrong.

Yes, today was the first weekend of the school summer holidays, so the airport was experiencing one of its busiest days, but everything was running pretty much to time. There were a couple of flights with 20 minute delays, but nothing major and certainly not plane loads of people stuck for hours waiting for a delayed flight that may or may not ever get them to their holiday.

Instead, it was a very busy, but not exceptional day. In other airports it would have meant people getting cosy, but everyone who had wanted to sit down would be able to.

Not so in Terminal 5, still there is insufficient seating, and still people have to sprawl out on the floor or sit up against shop fronts.

I don't know what the going rate for a day of your life is, but if they still haven't fixed it after all this time, I'm seriously considering asking BAA for a refund of two of mine.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Note to self

I must update my blog more often
I must update my blog more often
I must update my blog more often
I must update my blog more often
I must update my blog more often
I must update my blog more often

I'll update it whilst I'm in Germany. Apologies for the lack of updates for the last couple of months. It's been interesting times!