bimo: (Terra_incognita)

I'm currently in the process of planning our summer holiday in the Scottish Highlands. Starting from Inverness, mostly by rail. Sometimes it's just weird which remote places you can discover simply by checking out every single stop along the train line (not that there are that many stops to begin with *g*).



Altnabreac (from Scottish Gaelic Allt nam Breac) is a tiny settlement within the former county of Caithness, in the north of Scotland, and now within the Highlandcouncil area. The settlement, notable for its remoteness, consists of Altnabreac railway station, the former Altnabreac School (converted into a house in 1986), and a couple of scattered dwellings. It can only be approached by train, or along unsurfaced roads from the nearest village, Westerdale, about 12 miles away.

Altnabreac, like Dounreay, was considered as a location for a final repository for the UK's nuclear waste. However, this idea was not pursued.

bimo: (Terra_incognita)
After ten truly fantastic and adventurous days [ profile] cavendish and I have safely returned from our tour of the Outer Hebrides.

What a holiday! While the weather was only so-so, we actually got a lot of walking done. Hill walks, beach walks... The landscape on these isles is so open and wide, so empty that it struck us as barely European. To quote from one of our guide books: The myriad of islands on the west coast of Scotland feature some of the most magnificent, diverse and expansive scenery and seascapes found anywhere in the world. I couldn't have phrased it better.

Though each island itself is quite distinct and rather different from its neighbours, there's a certain primeval flair to all of them, highlighted by an impressive amount of pre-historic sites such as the Callanish Stone Circles.

Travelling from island to island on a northbound course, Cavendish must have shot about a gazillion of photos. We've absolutely no idea how to reduce their number to a halfway reasonable (and postable) amount.

So far for us, at the moment. I hope you guys have been doing well during the last ten days and will try to catch up with LJ/DW sometime this evening! :-)
bimo: (Terra_incognita)
If the city of London were an artwork, I bet it would be a true Jackson Pollock. A huge, breathtaking canvass, filling space, filling time. Bustling with the energy captured, of one million paint sprays. Throwing the full force of motion, of colour, right into your face.

Orientation only comes from looking at traces and layers and axes. Find your fixed points yourself, navigate, rotate along your interests and passion. Regardless whatever excites you, tickles your brain or simply amuses, just follow along and enjoy, because on each street corner there’s plenty.

To pay full respect to all the places we went to, or to cover at least half of the amazing things we have seen, would take me hours.

So just this:

Weather was fine (mostly), and we walked quite a lot. There’s a nice little company offering guided tours. Themed walks, walks through various parts of the city. Altogether highly recommendable.

Yay for compulsive collectors, because they are the source of amazing museums!

Meeting with [ profile] kathyh at Sir John Soane's was priceless, and so was chatting with [ profile] vastan at Piccadilly Circus, out in the rain.

A much too short visit to the Tate Modern. The entrance hall completely blows me each time I’m there.

I had the most wonderful time, tracing the 18th century. Paintings, houses and street fronts. A harpsichord in action. Historically correct naval uniforms and port wine. The sunny meadows of Greenwich.

Movies and Theatre:

I’m Not There (Bob Dylan biopic, as fascinating as it is flawed)

Glengarry Glenn Ross (Which had mostly raised my curiosity, because I had seen the movie version of it some years ago. Also, the additional benefits of very fine actors live on stage, including Papa Swann as Shelley Levene. [ profile] cavendish, though, didn't nearly enjoy Mamet's play as much as I did)
bimo: (Fivey_Adric_Tardis)
What I almost forgot in the midst of Christmas and post-Christmas business:

[ profile] cavendish and I will be making a brief holiday trip to London from January 2 to January 6. So if any of you London-based folks would love to meet up with us while we are there, just yell ;-)
bimo: (Terra_incognita)
To shovel two brief, but intriguing PotC character vignettes from one corner of my f-list to the other:

Covenant by [ profile] fabu. A touching portrait of Weatherby Swann meeting his baby daughter for the very first time. Clearly one those rare universal stories that work regardless whether one knows the sequels. And if you think you can stomach a little AWE canon, there's also Sea-Change, a story by the same author, which gives the reader a marvellous glimpse of what goes on in Jack's head while he is trapped in Davy Jones' locker.

(One of the really strange things I've noticed about my complicated relationship with PotC: At World's End: My frustrations regarding the treatment of certain well-liked characters luckily don't stretch into fanfic)

Oh, and before I forget it:

In about a week, from July, 9th to July, 18th, [ profile] cavendish and I will be on a holiday trip to Scotland. And yay, apart from some very basic travel information, he still hasn't got the slightest clue as to where exactly we are going, because when I booked everything, I kept the locations secret as a surprise ;-)
bimo: (Terra_incognita)

Today we are having "Siebenschlaefer", which is basically the German equivalent to the North American Groundhog Day as far as traditional weather lores go.

The two main differences though: The whole affair isn't about the arrival of Spring, it's about Summer. And demonstrating to the world that we are being exactly the bunch of peevish, overly thorough and overly serious people which everyone wants us to be, Germans do not rely on the behavioural quirks of cute little animals for their weather predictions. Oh no! Apparently it's all about empirical evidence drawn from century long observation for us.

Just look out of the window, my newspaper says. And if you see rain, you'll see rain for the next seven weeks. Statistically proven accuracy of this: about 60-70% (which, of course, can be easily translated into "just slightly higher than 'The weather might be dreadful, or it might not be dreadful'" *g*)

But as this morning, in fact, was the sixth rainy morning in one row...

For everyone who is as sick of this weather as I am, or otherwise in need of some virtual sunshine )

bimo: (Default)
Thanks to [ profile] cavendish's friend R., a professed music nerd in every sense of the word, we got tickets to Robert Wilson's version of Madame Butterfly at the Amsterdam Opera House. What better opportunity to combine a marvellous cultural event with a grand day out. Being an interested lay person, I've seen quite a few operas over the last couple of years, but never one which was staged so artistically convincing. Both the minimalist stage setting with its background of subtly lighted silk as well as the singers' reduced, ritualized movements gave the whole performance the flair of a traditional Japanese painting. The singers' voices, especially the lead soprano and tenor were easily among the best I have ever heard. A whole different class than what I'm used to from the undoubtedly solid "Deutsche Oper am Rhein".

Amsterdam Picture Spam )
bimo: (Coop)
Even from a few days' distance I'm  not really sure what amazed me most about the short trip to London. The fact that I indeed managed to see a certain well-known ex-Jedi live on stage, or the sheer multitude of great experiences [ profile] cavendish and I tried to squeeze into what was probably a  too short period of time.

As a show Guys and Dolls is a definite winner. Charming plot, delightful tunes, breathtaking choreography, and above all an abolutely marvellous ensemble. Ham  House, the 17th century mansion we visited on our "day out" was equally impressive, though on a completely different level *g*

Oh, and let's not forget meeting up with [ profile] vashtan . I only wish  the last day and our visit at the National Portrait Gallery had been less chaotic. Well, we can always try again, can't we? If you are reading this, just drop me line when you know more details about your stay in Essen. 

But now off to the brief Doctor Who story which has been mentioned in this posting's headline

The 5th Doctor and Tegan, stranded... )
bimo: (Christian_Sean_guilty)

Yesterday evening, [ profile] cavendish and I celebrated the 10th anniversary of our first encounter (i.e. real encounter, not just walking past each other on campus or accidentally taking the same literature classes. Imagine two students on a university field trip to Portsmouth, a small local museum, and such an intriguing conversation about the displayed items that, by the time the two students had finally found their way to the exit, almost everybody else had already left...)

And guess what this generous, inventive and perfectly insane person organized as an anniversary present: A four day mini-vacation in London including two tickets for Guys and Dolls, a musical currently starring Ewan McGregor! While I normally refrain from using onomatopoetic expressions in this LJ: Squeee! Ten times squeee! A squee so excited and cheerful that it carries from here to the other side of the channel!

(A side note for the Londoners on my f-list: Our traveling dates are: October, 1st - October, 4th. If you'd like to meet with us during these days, just drop a quick note.We'd be delighted to see you!)

bimo: (Christian_Sean_guilty)

The last couple of weeks have been busy. Friends got married, I've been driving myself crazy over  a term paper which, while dealing with a historical subject, feels frighteningly relevant to the present.  However, I promised myself some mindless fun before [ profile] cavendish and I take off to a ten day holiday trip to Scotland tomorrow, and thus indulged in tinkering with a new LJ layout.

But I really should start packing now...

bimo: (Default)
Just reporting back in from my much too short holiday trip to the beautiful island Rügen.

Nine days were not nearly enough for [ profile] cavendish and me to explore Rügen's elegant if a bit "touristy" turn-of-the-century seaside resorts, the incredibly multi-faceted landscape and the old Hanseatic League town of Stralsund.
bimo: (Default)
From February 12th to February 16th, I was away on a short trip to Berlin; my first "real" visit, so I did what every good, culturally interested tourist does and spent most of my time rushing frantically from one location or museum to the next. A full, detailed account of my impressions would probably lead to the longest entry in the history of LiveJournal, so I'm restricting myself to the mere basics *g*

Trip organised by: Several members of my university's history department's film class.

Travelling Companions: Eleven fellow students (eight guys, three girls), a determined, somewhat chaotic history professor plus the suprisingly calm and well organised son of afore mentioned prof.

Accomodation: Haus Wichern, a medium sized hostel run by a Catholic youth organisation. Clean, freshly renovated rooms, friendly staff. However rather spartanic.

Museums visited: Jewish Museum (highly impressive, not only in its depiction of the Holocaust but also in its rendering of about 1700 years of Jewish life) Film Museum, Pergamon Museum (think British Museum with a strong focus on ancient Greece, Near East and Islamic art), Bauhaus Museum (design, art and architecture of the Bauhaus movement. Gropius, Kandinsky, Klee, Mies van der Rohe), Old National Gallery (large collection of 19th century art, ranging from Romanticism and Realism to the French Impressionists. Anselm Feuerbach,Caspar David Friedrich, Wilhelm Leibl, Renoir, Cezanne.

Locations visited: Reichstag, television tower at Alexander Square, Berlin Cathedral,
Aquarium section of the Berlin Zoo, Babelsberg Film Studios, various famous streets and squares

Movies watched: Was nützt die Liebe in Gedanken (my take at supporting the ever limping German film industry; the film, however, turned out to be an actually pretty atmospherical drama about teenage love and suicide in the "Roaring Twenties"). Taxi Driver (intense, brilliant, one of the cruelest movie endings I've ever seen. Watching the young, still mannerism-free Robert DeNiro was amazing).

Most impressive experiences: Standing at the television tower's top floor, looking down on the city's lights. Riding the Berlin Underground at night. Walking through a life-sized, about five mether high replica of the famous Babylonian Ishtar Gate at Pergamon museum.

Scariest experiences: Realizing the omnipresence of security checks and paranoia; the fear of terrorism manifests itself much more concretely in the capital than it does in the easy-going Rhineland. Standing on a small, wooden bridge at the Aquarium's reptile floor, just about 1,80 meters above the ancient killer eyes of a massive crocodile.

Books bought: Sonnenfinsternis, a translated version of John Banville's Eclipse. Wolf Schneider, Deutsch für Profis, a prominent journalist's attempt at pointing out examples of bad writing and language abuse in German news magazines and taking revenge on our renowned news magazine Der Spiegel.

Hours spent at the Starbucks at Potsdam Square, reading Sonnenfinsternis resting my poor, much abused feet and waiting for the beginning of Taxi Driver: Four.
bimo: (Default)
Safely returned from a highly enjoyable, much too short holiday trip to Britain's capital, the city of most astonishing museums, theatres and shopping possibilities, I believe the best words to describe my general impressions are liveliness and unexpected brightness of colour.

Most of my previous visits had taken place in early September. I remember houses and parks bleached and exhausted from August sun, the gerania (geranium?) baskets hanging down from our hotel porch worn out and tired. For some reason, I had expected London in January would not be that much different; only with wintry dullness replacing the summer's dust. Oh boy, was I ever mistaken...*g*

I realized the wrongness of convincing [ profile] cavendish to bring only a black&white film for his camera (he is more experienced and talented photographer, and also has got the way cooler equipment) as soon as we got out of the Underground. Even though it was just about 2.30 pm when we carried our suitcases from Marble Arch to our hotel, the Edward Lear, the weak, short-lived daylight made the neon signs of shops, restaurants and supermarkets appear all the brighter.

On my traditional "Welcome to London" footwalk, a freezing Cavendish bravely accompanied me all the way down to Covent Garden. After a short break at Pret A Manger to enjoy the first English sandwiches of the year, Oxford and Regent Street seemed like one humming, pop up invitation card for unscrupulous consumption. Despite the beginning of winter sales, most shops were still dressed in their best Christmas and New Year's outfit. Velvet ribbons, glimmering christmas tree balls and light chains, reaching from one side of the road to the other. The toystore Hamley's was overcrowded with parents in full search&buy mode and next to the entry employees in shiny, red uniforms blew soap bubbles into the air with soap bubble guns that looked like phasers.

We reached Covent Garden at dusk, and while the area looked as vivid and touristy as ever, most stands at Jubilee Market were already closing. Trying to find a seat in one of the nearby pubs to discuss our further plans for the evening turned out a rather futile activity, so we went back to Marble Arch to find sanctuary at a more quiet place; innocent and completely unaware that we were just about to face the beginnings of a trend which would predominate the entire holiday. The shameless abandonment of Culture for the sake of popular "feel good" entertainment *g*.

To cut a long story short, our cinema choice of the day was no black and white classic as Cavendish had hoped, but Love Actually. Good, solid fun, featuring a gorgeous Alan Rickman, some more or less convincing plotlines and a likeable Colin Firth. However, the best thing about the whole affair was not the movie itself, but the fact that the cinema was located only a stone's throw away from Passfield Hall, the very student hostel at which we both had stayed in earlier years. Whereas the place itself may look every inch as rotten as it used to be, our trip down Nostalgia Lane was well worth the effort.

Some Bloomsbury roads are incredibly quiet at night. The zebra crossings in front of the huge Waterstone's (formerly Dillon's) all empty and wide and spacious. For minutes, no other passer-by, just traffic noises blowing over from Tottenham Court, and the yellow-blinking rhapsody of the crossing's spherical traffic lights.

If I had to pick just one memory from the entire holiday, I guess, this would be the one.

To Be Continued...*g*


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