London in March

These are some of my favorite photos I took in London late March. Blue skies and sunshine galore! London is said to have more sunny days than Miami, FL.

End of Regents Park

Being German and not overly prolific in history, I had never heard of this British war hero, Guy Gibson before.

Guy Gibson was one of Bomber Command’s most famous officers during World War Two, and was awarded the Victoria Cross for leading the legendary Dambuster Raid of 1943 (Ruhr area).

Guy Gibson birthplace

Guy Gibson birthplace

The full English breakfast is a must-do-once on each visit to the U.K. We had this at a little corner store near out hotel. After some chatting with the Turkish owner, I asked him if he could make Menemen for us the next morning. Unfortunately, he was closed the following day. He also mentioned his forthcoming visit to Stuttgart to see one of his cousins. Wherever I go, there is always someone who has family in Stuttgart. ūüôā This must be a popular town.

Full English Breakfast

Full English Breakfast

We stopped at Borough Market, where my husband enjoyed four huge oysters for  GBP 7. Not my kind of snack right after breakfast, but I guess we only get the opportunity to do this while traveling.

Oyster guy

The Tube and its stations is not an easy place to work. Some of the underground walk ways are so drafty, it almost takes your breath away. On the other hand, I did not see a single hair salon in the three days of walking the streets.

Around the underground, people are always running. I did not see anyone in a wheelchair, nor with a cane, or with any kind of walking impediment. They’d get run over.

In 2015, 2091 accidents happened from running on the escalator. Riding the tube itself is pleasant, but getting there is like a race.

Message from the Mayor of London - March 2016

Message from the Mayor of London – March 2016

 

Of Churches, the George Cross, and WW II Bombs on Malta

Malta is home to more than 360 churches on just 122 square miles of land. We passed by quite a few churches and domes, too many to even list any names.

During World War II, Malta was heavily bombed, having been a strategic outpost for the Allies. The bombing was so extensive that by the end of the war, Malta was considered the most-bombed nation on the planet. Later on, this title went to Laos, because of its bombing during the Vietnam War.

Quoted from Wikipedia:

The George Cross was awarded to the island of Malta by King George VI of the United Kingdom in a letter dated 15 April 1942[1] to the island’s Governor Lieutenant-General Sir William Dobbie, so as to “bear witness to the heroism and devotion of its people”[2] during the great siege it underwent in the early parts of World War II. The George Cross is woven into the Flag of Malta and can be seen wherever the flag is flown.

Dome in Mosta, Malta

Dome in Mosta

The best way to travel around the main island is by tour bus. We took the North tour one day, and the South tour the following day by double-deck buses.

Malta by bus

Touring Valetta. We had head phones to listen to the recording, but sitting on the deck of the bus, made listening very difficult during traffic.

Valetta, Malta

We got off in Birgu to take a look around for half an hour. More churches.

Birgu church

Sign in Birgu

The next bus for Birgu was supposed to come by 30 minutes later, but some Maltese have a very different attitude towards time and timing, especially compared to us Germans. Be prepared that buses sometimes are late or do not even show up, which was the case in the town of Birgu.

The bus stops are usually located in very nice areas, so waiting another 30 minutes was no problem. We were waiting in the sunshine! We watched this man throw out his fishing rod for about 40 minutes. The fish were so quickly off with his bait, it looked like he had come to feed them.

In the end, he dumped the remainder of his bait straight into the water. It was fun watching him.

fisher & bait

Touring the island by bus is great. Hotels usually sell tickets, and you also find ticket sellers at the bus stop. They are working on commission, and we overheard a feisty female Irish ticker seller arguing over customers with an elderly male Maltese. Be prepared for entertainment.

North tour: 15 euro p.p.

South tour: 17 euro p.p.

Notes from Luxor, Assiyut, and the Dakhla Oasis in Egypt

Nobuko has been sharing her experience about travels to Cairo, Luxor, and now Assiyut and the Dakhla Oasis. See what she has to say.

Part 1: Getting from Cairo to Luxor

Getting from Cairo to Luxor was a breeze – but at $60 per bed, it is not cheap. The tourist sleeper train, which leaves from Giza station, was very comfortable with small 2-bed cabins that included clean sheets, a pillow and blanket, and a basin. Also included in the price were a pretty hearty dinner and breakfast which was served in your cabin. I shared the cabin with a Samoan woman who is a New Zealand citizen. She was also traveling alone for one year so we had much to talk about. The whole trip took 10 hours.

Part 2: Getting from Luxor to the Dakhla Oasis

Now, the transit from Luxor to the western Dakhla Oasis was an arduous one. It took me 16 hours to arrive there via Assiyut (more about that train route on TripAdvisor). I took a local train at 7:30am (cost less than 20 E pounds) which arrived in Assiyut at 1:30pm after enduring an incredibly dusty path. There was only one car for first class, but there aren’t any noticeable differences between first and second class.

I met a group of four female college students who kept me company by teaching me Arabic. I remember only one word from this lesson, which is magnun = crazy. After they got off, other women filled their seats. But these women made me feel uncomfortable by continious laughing at the sight of me. I think the laughter was not malicious, but I left to move to another seat.

Assiyut is a large city. But the bus station is only a five-minute walk to the left  from the train station. The direct bus to Dakhla did not leave til 6pm, so I decided to take the bus at 3pm to the Khagra Oasis which is located two hours before reaching Dakhla. My plan was to take another bus from Kharga to Dakhla. The ride to Kharga was hot but smooth, arriving at 6:30pm. But the onward bus from there did not leave til 8:30pm Рwhich meant I would not arrive in Dakhla til 11:30!  By this time I was simply exhausted, so when I learned this I was going to look for an accommodation in Kharga.

I do not speak Arabic. There were many instances where I really wished that I had studied some words. But there is always someone who speaks some English and offers me much needed help. A group of college girls got me in a taxi with them, and I was taken to a micro bus headed to Dakhla. During the travel, they fed me and gave me drinks. When we reached Dakhla, one of them gave me a ride to an accommodation in her boyfriend’s car. So I was in bed before 10:30pm.

The travel route I had taken I would not recommend to anyone. But unfortunately, there aren’t many other options unless one has $130 to spend on a five-hour taxi ride from Luxor to Dakhla.

Dakhla itself does not have any sites. 30km away from it, there is Al Qasr, an abandoned¬†medieval fort city made of mud and bricks which served as the capital for the area for a long time. It’s a surreal experience to walk through the maze of small streets in this ghost town. Some multi-storied houses are more than 1200 years old and still standing in good enough condition for us to walk in. The wood of Acacia trees was used for constructions and for city gates for its durability. To make it extra strong and preservable, it was soaked in salt water first. As a testament, none of the acacia trees were crumbling. Amazing!Acacia wood was also used for curving the prayer areas which decorate the doorway of the houses. These prayer boards record the dates when the house was built and the names of the artists who curved the boards.

The whole city was designed to remain cool in the hot desert climate by making narrow streets which created much shaded areas. The narrow and bending streets also served as a defense tactic to prevent invaders from marching into the city with  high velocity and momentum.

Aside from Al Qasr, the Dakhla Oasis was supposed to be famous for its hot springs. However, these are cemented structures with pumps that pour spring water into the pools. And due to the prolonged decline in tourism over the past few years, the pools had moss growing inside and some pumps were not operating. So my dream of getting into natural hot springs were miserably shattered.

The hotel staff were very nice people, but they did not speak English. This was a problem apart from getting breakfast and getting a wi-fi password. I could not get a map or contact information for the tourist office in town because they did not understand what I was asking for. I aimlessly wandered the streets looking for the tourist information office. Someone picked me up and drove me to the tourist police office. Probably they didn’t know what else to do with me. There finally I met the officer Mr. Mahmud, who spoke English. He gave me some tea and a snack, and called the tourist office on my behalf. With directions in my hand, I headed to the tourist office, but got lost within a few minutes.

Mr. Mahmud probably figured that I would get lost, so he came after me and drove me to my destination. There I met Mr. Omar Dahi who agreed to guide me to Al Qasr. But I admit, it was so much fun to ride in police cars! Now I understand why cops are one of the most popular attraction among the elementary school kids on  career day!

Dakhla Oasis, also spelt Dakhleh and translates to the inner oasis, is one of the seven oases of Egypt’s Western Desert. Dakhla Oasis lies in the New Valley Governorate, 350 km from the Nile and between the oases of Farafra and Kharga. (source: Wikipedia)

10 Random German Travel Facts

Two weeks from today I will be attending a Sri Lankan wedding in London at the Gherkin. Then the following months, I will be spending a few days in Nottingham with our son, our summer holidays will take us to the U.S.A for a family event, and in September I’m back to London for 24 hours for our daughter. Yes, we do travel a lot.

Here are the random facts I have gathered.

Air Traffic:

* In 2012, Germany’s air traffic carried 23.5 million passengers on domestic flights.

* Air traffic among Germany’s 27 biggest airports has gone up 19% since 2003.

* Air traffic for international flights has increased by 65% in ten years.

* The busiest airports are Munich, Berlin-Tegel, and Frankfurt.

 

Frankfurt Airport:

* Frankfurt Airport was awarded the Air Cargo Excellence Award 2013 for Europe.

 

Travel Spending:

* In 2011, Germans spent 60.7 billion euro on vacationing in foreign countries.

* In 2012, women spent 1.648 euro on traveling, while men spent 1.947 euro on average.

 

Accommodation in Germany:

* In 2012,  Germany registered  407 million lodgings. This is the first time ever for lodgings to have passed the 400 million mark.

 

Frankfurt Airport

Frankfurt Airport

Travel destinations:

* In 2012, the biggest increase in German tourism went to the Azores with 28.9%.

* In 2011, Germans took 40 million trips with most of them heading to Spain, Italy, and Turkey.

…Passenger to Frankfurt. (Masterpiece Edition) by Agatha Christie, available on Amazon.de

 

Notes from Bhuj Gjarat in India

My best Japanese friend, Nobuko, is at it once again – traveling around the world and sending updates. I have decided – with her permission – to put her updates on my blog to help fellow travelers navigate and learn from her experience.

21 June 2012  

I am in Bhuj, Gjarat (India) since this morning. I am doing fine. I have some interesting stories to tell you. Hope you will be entertained.

On my first day, in a queue line at a train station in Mumbai, I happen to run into a Brazilian guy and his wife I had met in 2009 when we did a meditation course in Rio!!  How crazy and a good omen is this. Small world.

By the way, a big train station is a very good place to practice what I would like to call patience with assertive flavor (if you can name it better, please let me know). They are not mutually exclusive. It can be done.

I had to change queue lines three times due to me not having a form filled out or being in a wrong line (local vs long distance, etc), each costing me about 20 – 30 minutes to get to the window. All the while, others are breaking into the lines or squeezing themselves in at the window when someone else, like myself, is being assisted. I learned quickly that I had to glue myself to the person in front of me to prevent people from getting in between – I am sure men enjoy such close encounters on their back. Or in the front, for that matter.

Anyhow, without me being shuffled around from one line to another, I would not had bumped into the Brazilian couple, so I guess everything has a reason.  I have a cell phone now because a 24-year-old, very nice young Indian man I met on a train gave me a SIM card as a present. Here, one needs a local residence proof to buy a SIM card. So without him giving me a SIM card, I would not have been able to have local cell number. Lucky me. 91 is the country code.

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