I woke up early last Sunday morning and, inspired by the gorgeous September sun, decided to write about what I’ve been up to over the last couple of weeks. For some reason, there is a medieval theme that runs through this which I hope you will find interesting…
First of all there was the Night Watchman’s tour of Bonn. Arranged by a friend of ours, we joined about 15 others from the international community for a tour of the city that we have lived in for well over 5 years. I did not expect to learn much, but thought it would be nice to spend time with like-minded people. I was wrong. Not about it being nice to spend time with like-minded people, but wrong about not having anything to learn about Bonn! I have often traipsed around this city, laden with heavy shopping bags and a badly depleted wallet. I have enjoyed its festivals, bars and restaurants more often than I’ve had hot dinners. And yet, I never noticed that Sternstrasse’s narrow buildings had not only their original name plates but also the numbers which were introduced later by the French. Nor did I notice that the buildings inside the city walls were made of wood and an important role of the night watchman – ironically with his burning torch – was to prevent the spread of fire! How could I have not known about the spread of disease, partly caused by the rats that feasted on the waste thrown out by the butchers in Wenzelgasse. Well of course, there is very little left of these old buildings and whilst enjoying this vibrant, wealthy and quite modern city, it’s easy for its 2000 year history to pass you by. But dressed in medieval clothes, the night watchman, who on this occasion was a women, and her assistant who was holding the aforementioned torch, helped by the night sky and heavy rain, was able to take us back in time with her tales, myths, legends and facts about life in a very different Bonn to the one we know today. It was both fascinating and enjoyable, even if some of the stories were a little harrowing or hard to believe!
The following day, we decided to visit Burg Satzvey in the Eifel. It is, without doubt, very beautiful with its moat, courtyards and two large medieval buildings. The problem was that the full visit was quite expensive for the short time that we had planned on being there, so we just went in for the free visit with limited access. This meant that within twenty minutes, we had seen everything we were going to see, which was a little disappointing. Our own fault I guess, and as I now look at the picture below, I can’t help thinking that it would be worth another trip out there one day.
Then a few days later, I was back in the Eifel again, this time to play Swim golf with my colleagues. We played golf for a couple of hours on a course in the Brohl valley, overlooked by a castle on top of a steep hill. We then went into a delightful little restaurant at the top of the course with wonderful views of the valley. My colleague told me what it was like to grow up around these parts, which basically involved drinking contests and competing for the affections of the local girls – not that dissimilar to where I grew up! We ate a local speciality called Maarhofspießbraten, which is pork, stuffed with onions, rolled and cooked on a spit over a fire. It was a delicious local take on the better known spit roast.
A few days later, I brought my wife back to the Eifel to see the castle which I had been admiring from the golf course. I must write a blog post dedicated to the Eifel – it is quite possibly the most beautiful and interesting region that I have ever had the good fortune to live near. Characterised by a turbulent history of volcanic activities that lasted up until about 10,000 years ago and conflicts that took place until the middle of the last century, there is a dramatic landscape of hills, castles, extinct cone-shaped volcanoes and volcanic lakes. All volcanic activity is, according to the Vulkaneifel, now dormant, and there are “no current signs of danger.” There is even a cold water geyser which sprays water up into the air every 30 minutes or so. I had mistakenly thought this might be caused by volcanic activity, but when I read Curiosity.com, I realised it is simply caused by underground water that is rich in carbon dioxide.
The castle near where I had played golf was Burg Olbrück. Here we enjoyed an afternoon watching the medieval enactments, listening to the medieval music (which sounded rather Scottish to me), climbing the large tower, listening to stories about knights, earls, feuds, battles and how tough life was back then. Despite this, I found myself romanticising about the simplicity of medieval life. I looked at the men with their long hair and beards, dressed in their old costumes, camped out for the weekend, and thought perhaps I was not the only one who thought like this…
And that’s if for now, hopefully my next update will be from the 21st century! 🙂
© Chris Robinson 2014. All rights reserved.