Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Into Holland

Sorry if this is all reading a bit disjointed... getting tired and also the keyboards are all different. Outside there is a ferocious thunderstorm and pouring rain. We are in just in Holland, in Coevorden. I might be a bit rude about it, but am very pleased we are inside and dry.

I am so glad we went back into Lubeck this morning... there was a nagging feeling we should set off to battle the distance and roadworks, but I wanted to see inside the Dom. In the event I had the wrong church: Lubeck has two ancient brick churches with twin copper-clad spires, and we went into both. They were both reduced to blazing rubble by the British in 1942, and rebuilt in astonishing detail since. Neither is entirely square (ie, the towers lean alarmingly) and both are made of brick. Both have awe-inspiring photos showing what they looked like smashed to pieces and with smoke and flames still rising. The Dom (Cathedral) is all white inside and Romanesque, and the Marienkirche is Gothic and with flamboyant coloured stripes... but each in its own way is completely dazzling. They also have treasures from the middle ages, miraculous rescued from the bombing, or carefully stowed away beforehand. One of the best things about Lubeck is discovering that Hitler didn't like the place. The city had refused to let him campaign there in 1932, and he never forgave them, removing their Hanseatic status, and incorporating the municipality into Prussia. The town is filled with treasures – buildings, passageways, stories, statues, shops, waterways and so much more, and we should all go there.

My reading, as you know, is Alan Bennett. He provides an interesting snippet about Hitler, who apparently only spoke 4 words which were not German: 'Vous etes mon prisonnier'.

Andrew's reading, he reminds me, is Sandi Toksvig who reveals this little item. If you take 111,111,111 and multiply it by 111,111,111 you get 12345678987654321... You will have to put the commas in for yourself, and in fact your domestic calculator may not be able to display the whole number. I did it on my iPhone and could only get it in by swivelling the screen sideways. Heh heh!

Back to today.... An unexpected bit of street theatre was provided in a square in the middle of Lubeck by a workgang laying big marble slabs in the pavement. The slabs were hoisted up like feathers on a little suction pad, which dangled from a generator on the arm of a standard digger.... The suction pad just lifts these huge blocks as if they weighed nothing. The man doing the actual laying just arranged the stones using a piece of string as a baseline, and then tamped them into place with a rubber gavel. Easy!

The drive out of Germany was dogged by prolonged roadworks on the main road, so we made slow progress, but had our picnic on a byway – lovely Danish dark bread, sliced cheese, some herring and beetroot salad, and some fresh Reine Claude greengage plums. Yummy.

We tried and failed to find any megaliths, despite following the wellsigned Megalithic culture route...

And we have ended up tonight in a rather grubby pubby place called the Marktzicht Restaurant in Coevorden, just in Holland. This is a very poor plittle town, reminiscent of Kings Lynn in the old days, with a grand past and a rather hopeless feel today. Maybe a local employer has closed down? There are nodding donkey oil wells nearby, and gasfields. But we feel it's maybe a place where nothing happens, a wasteland in a parallel universe. Our room has one central not very bright light. No loo, but a shower and a tv. Again we have been served an evening meal of huge proportions, but all v acceptable and only 11.5 euros. We decided to eat here because yet another huge black storm overtook us, with thunder and lightning and torrential rain. Again, thank god we are not in a tent. Also, we had walked round the town and seen the other eating options.... a (Jewish?) steak house, a couple of Indian-Chinese places, one or two very plastic fastfood places and everywhere else resolutely shut. It's the sort of place with tumbleweed rolling down the street. Yet it has a lovely old canal port, a beautifully restored Kasteel (now a v smart restaurant), and one or two fine buildings which survive from the middle ages. Downstairs the local billiards team have gathered to play, getting ready for the new season which starts in September. Three balls, no pockets, and some very impressive play even during the warm-up.

So we have left Germany, and Lubeck (the city of marzipan), and are now in pretty Holland. We have to decide our route tomorrow, whether to make for the coast and risk the winds, or stay inland and get down to Belgium that way.

I am really tired because last night, in the Lubeck Ibis, sleep was disturbed by various heavy goods deliviries behind the hotel right outside our window, culminating in a crane-lorry which left its engine running of course while the man went up to inspect the roof. This started at 6am and was still in progress at 8.30 when we went down to breakfast. Our quiet complaint resulted in an apology and a small refund (20 euros, which was the cost of breakfast). The work was being done by an outside contractor, and the hotel management had no control over his timing.....

So, an early night tonight.

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