22 October 2011

Weißbier und Weißwurst (for breakfast)

I am in Munich; the Viktualienmarkt to be exact and I am on a mission
No - not here - Pfifferlinge - I know what these are.  Preiselbeeren? Hmm - look like Lingon - and following research - it turns out that they are
Cristina said "When you are in Munich - you must have Weißbier und Weißwurst in the Viktualienmarkt
...and you must eat them before 12 midday - Weißwurst must be fresh that day. With breakfast being amazingly expensive at the otherwise excellent Hilton Munich City Hotel and now as it is Saturday I am funding myself I walked into the city centre, nerved myself up and in atrocious German* ordered brunch.

So here I am with strong lager hitting an empty stomach (and rapidly bladder), already slightly dizzy with low blood sugar, been walking around for an hour or two and the air temperature is just below freezing...  I NEED A LOO!  These are in short supply - eventually I find a department store - but the loos are 7 floors up - ooh, ooh, ooh, ahhhhhhh....

*But you should hear the Munich accent - Pretzel is mangled as "brrrittzyl"

And here they are surfing in the Englischer Garten 
Each rider waits his turn and then tries to stay upright as long as possible - chilly water straight from the mountains.

A short Saturday morning walk through the garden reinforces my impression that Munich is very squarely right at the top of the First World - with the UK somewhere about 1.75

In the middle of the park is a Chinese Pagoda - where an oompah band was, fittingly, playing the "Eton Boating Song"  ("The Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton" - but we did have a bit of help from the Prussians)

We can't afford a tunnel to hide the A303 at Stonehenge - but in Munich they can do new tunnels even for parks

The Deutsches Museum - sure to be earnest and educational  "ah yes, it is the world's largest museum of technology and science" (it helps if you read that in the accent and intonation of a slightly tired and emotional Michael Schumacher).  It was very good but in some areas - especially the electrical it very much was a historical museum.

Yes indeed - a whole gallery dedicated to "Modern Casting" - here fathers and sons watched in reverent attitude the demonstration and explanatory lecture before proceeding to methodically assess every exhibit "See young Helmut - how lost wax investment casting gives way to the modern continuous mechanism"

I worked on the Concast plant in Redcar back in 1985 - its not that modern - and really just a rip-off from Spira
Now here is something you don't see that often now-a days

Iron lungs were used to get Polio sufferers through the acute stage

There were some impressive aviation galleries at the museum - strangely though the whole 1935 to 1945 period was pretty much missing - shame - but there is an annexe out in the country - perhaps that is where the rest of the collection is displayed.

Strange to be outside the terminal and Munich - the Birmingham flight had 16 people on it - that is why it was so cheap and I could have a day of tourism in Munich and still save the company money.

21 October 2011

A Certified Sanitarian?

Kraft Foods research centre in Munich.
I'm here to learn about Sanitation (its American for Cleaning stuff and things) and Sanitary Design (which is American for Hygienic Design) and to take the first step on the path to becoming a Certified Sanitarian (which is not the next stop on from Scientology nor anything to do with Dr Who - that is Sontaran).  Its a shame that in English-English sanitation and sanitary are forever associated with "poo", sewers and ladies' essentials.

An impressive building
For the record it was cheaper to get from Birmingham to Munich via Dublin - convenient for me as I needed to go to Coolock to crawl around in some equipment.  In fact is was cheaper to get from Dublin to Munich than from Birmingham to Dublin.

. We all stayed in the Hilton Munich City - to where I was whisked direct from MUC - on time and in comfort - so very efficient.  The hotel is parked right on top of the U-bahn station.  Strangely everyone is a foreigner - for my first evening in Munich - I heard no German at all.

13 October 2011

I love it when a plan comes together

I had spotted that the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain* are playing at Princes Hall, Aldershot - not 15 minutes drive from my god daughter's home and nicely close to Heathrow - where I was due to arrive back from Sicily the day before and then some ARDF on the Saturday, again in Aldershot and then a big drive up North for the CompassSportCup in the peak district - all a bit too much for me I am afraid - I was very slow.

*It seems that someone has put their entire back catalogue on YouTube - though if I had not seem then there I would never have gone to see the live - nor bought the CD.

Expressway all across the island

Castiglione di Sicilia - looking brilliant in the (very) early morning sun

Remains of a castle - like those on the Welsh Border at Clun and Kington etc. - controlling passage through the valley
Add caption
Car still fine - not tickets - I was worried but need not have - I was so tired when I parked up - on the go from 07:00 to 21:00 - including climbing Etna, driving for 8 hours and "the confluence from hell"

My Garmin would have had me head for the coast over twisty roads and a major mountain range - not keen on this, having driven part of the route the night before and with a plane to catch - I asked advice - and was told to drive back for Fiume Freddo and catch the autostrada - good advice - was about 2 hours quicker than the sat nav route/
There is Etna, still puffing away
Hertz were more together for the dropping off - but still the return compound was unmanned

Palermo Airport - It is Italy - of course the catering is good

Bye bye

Still puffing away
Somewhere over the Alps

The sinking feeling - you fly over Heathrow, turn and the keep on turning - I think we were stacked for 5 revolutions - surely it is better to kep us on the ground until there is space...

12 October 2011

A big day - a very big day indeed

This road goes no where - according to my Sat Nav it does go somewhere but in reality the road is just a legal right of way with no on the ground presence.  Someone got a nice grant to do solar powered lighting though.

Almond groves I think - fantastic drive

First sight of Etna

N37 E15... Exactly

Confused my Garmin - this road - all 50km of it are not on the 2010 version map!

Starting to climb now.  A little bit of smoke/steam - a couple of days earlier they were considering closing the airport at Catania - apparently there was some orienteering (etnanews.com) and coincidently Lester and Lyden from HOC were on the mountain.

Orienteering anyone?

Now on foot - they wanted so much extra for the bus to the viewing point - I walked - and I got their quicker as the buses don't go that frequently (I was on a tight time schedule if 38N 15E was going to get bagged)

A lot of little tourists on the skyline

here come the buses!

As far as you get - the bus park

Now I am on someone's skyline
Brilliant scree run down - I think it was up in 90 minutes and down in 25

Final bit by cable car

Still on a mission - not much time before sunset

Etna from the North - only 15km as the crow flies from the bus park - but 2.5 hours of fast driving

South of Etna are motorways, airports and big cities but now I felt like I was passing deep into the back country - fortified towns clinging on cliff-sides...

 ... and chestnut forests - driving on switchbacks for half an hour and seeing no other cars...

N37 E15 is down there somewhere - I could hear goats/sheep with bells and the shepherds calling in the flocks.  I have done my research - but the road I intended to drive is blocked off - do I have enough time?

Everyone remember where we parked

Give Blood - go confluence hunting

A very tricky confluence (described here) - not least because of the need to be very very careful as no one knew I was there and no one was going to pass through that bit of forest this side of the next decade

My reward - these are the Aeolian Islands

Running out of light - and I still have to get to my hotel

What a magic place

Tired, sweaty, scratched and acheing

Side effect from trudging through volcanic cinder - you should have seen my feet BEFORE the shower

Here I am at last in the Hotel Federico II safe after my driving travails (see later).  The hotel dates from about 1300 and is located right in the centre (and the top of) of Castiglione di Sicilia - an amazing hill top town.  I was so exhausted after my long day driving and walking and bushwhacking and then getting trapped in maze of city lanes and then parking a mile away and walking up the hill and still then getting lost as my GPS lost signal in the narrow alleys - but the hotel was wonderful and the receptionist offered to jog down the hill and drive my car up...

It is a family hotel and, as far is as practical, everything is sourced from family land or local producers

Anitpasti: Formaggio mandorie e miele (sounds much better than 'cheese with almonds and honey', it was)

Primi Piatti: Ravioli al Pistacchio - you can work that one out for yourselves

Beware - the restaurant is closed on Wednesdays - well that is what it says - but I was there on a Wednesday - check before you decide which day to visit

Secundi Piatti: I think this is meatballs grilled between lemon leaves - you can just see the biggest glass of wine I have ever been served (top left) - home made of course

This is the piazza where I should have parked

Looking the other way this is where my Sat Nav intended to take me through

And here- apparently this is a major street - thanks Mr Garmin.

This is where I failed - and I am glad that I did - so so tired and on the slippy tiles I just could not get the car round - one or other front wheel losing grip

I was rescued by the driver of this 4x4 - but even he took about 6 attempts and at times only three wheels on the ground - he came after me as I drove past "muy difficile!" - some folks did make it but only in three wheelers and tiny Italian cars.

I did get through here but was getting very nervous

And here - when I passed there was a parked truck and I had to put half a tyre over the step

If I had got round the hairpin - this is where my Sat Nav would have taken me...

...Right to my hotel

View from the top of the hill just a wee climb up some steps from the hotel  - I am planning to go back and visit the rest of the island (and visit lots of family run restaurants) - fantastic moonlit view of Etna - my photos don't do it justice though.