Notes from London on an April Day in 2020

This guest post is written by Thomas Shipley, who is riding out the time of COVID-19 in London.

A fog shrouds the world outside my window. There is no one outside and all is quiet except for the chirping of the birds. Inside, I find myself in a haze of unreality. I am not in a Stephen King novel. I am not in a Quentin Tarantino film. I am in the year 2020. Wildfires ravaged the Australian bush, Trump almost started World War III, and now humanity is facing a global pandemic. Worldwide shutdowns of travel and business. London is under lockdown. I am, though, allowed to leave the house to go grocery shopping.

I step outside into the cool British spring. As I breath uneasily under my face mask, the condensation causes my glasses to repeatedly fog up. I am in the heart of London – a city of millions – and it is eerily still except for the occasional passerby. I get to the local supermarket. I see a frail old woman in an aisle that was once was fully stocked with items such as laundry detergent. The store clerk sadly tells her there is none. Panic buying. We are scared, so we forage like squirrels do acorns in order to survive the winter. No toilet paper or hand sanitizer anywhere to be seen. Many basic necessities lacking. Is it selfishness? Perhaps. Yet, it is hard to undo thousands of years of human evolution. The pandemic eats away at the polite façade of our social order. I discover that crises such as this bring out the worst and best in people.

Staying inside for days on end, I lose my sense of place and time. I catch up with old friends that I haven’t spoken to in a long time. We have long conversations and we laugh. We talk about the virus. It infects our conversations. I wonder how long the pandemic’s grip on our daily lives will last. How long it will be until I am again able to hug my family and friends, dance, commute, and travel. I scroll through my social media feeds. Everyone is posting memes to relieve themselves of the anxieties that we feel in these unprecedented times. And yet – they are not so unprecedented. I remind myself that such plagues have regularly upended our sense of normality for thousands of years. The Antonine plague in ancient Rome killed many around the stoic emperor Marcus Aurelius, and yet he persevered. None of this is new. This too, shall pass.

I am grateful that I have the luxury to remain inside and isolate. Grateful, that I live in a developed country with a robust health system. Grateful for each day that I get to experience on this earth. I do not wish for easy times, but that I am strong enough to brave them. This pandemic has exposed our vulnerabilities. We had forgotten how fragile our existence is. We must learn from this and prevent it from happening again.

Sun setting in London on 03 April 2020

Best Wellness Hotel in Germany is Kisssalis-Therme

Based on a ranking by the online travel portal, Travelbook readers have chosen the wellness hotel Kisssalis in Bad Kissingen to be the best one in Germany.

Bad Kissingen, a spa town located in Franconia (northern Bavaria), can be reached from Frankfurt by car in 1 hr 40 Min (150km).

To find out more about the hotel, visit Kisssalis.

Sights to see around Kitakyushu, Japan

Some of you might know that I once lived in Japan for three years. That was in the early to mid-1990s. Besides having many fond memories and souvenirs of all kinds (including our son, who was born there), I also have some good friends there.

My friend, Yoshiko Harada, sent me these lovely photos today, and so the credits for the following photos go to her .

She attended the 6th Oktoberfest (held in April and May) in Kitakyushu earlier in the day. The timing for this month-long event is perfect: spring temperatures are very pleasant in Japan, and the rainy season is till a few weeks away.

Where: Fukuoka Prefecture, Kitakyushu City, Kokura Kita-ku, Jyonai, Katsuyama Park
When: 4th of April until the 8th of May
Opening times: 11:00am until 21:00pm

Prost! (German) Kampai! (Japanese)

Oktoberfest Kokura Kita-ku, Jyonai, Katsuyama Park

For more natural beauty around Kitakyushu, visit the Kawachi Wisteria Gardens (Wisteria is ‘Fuji’ in Japanese).
Tickets for the Fuji Garden can be bought at 7-Eleven or Family Mart stores.

Kawachi Fuji Gardens in Kitakyushu

Visit https://kawachi-fujien.com/ for more information.

Last, but not least, there is the Kokura Castle. I don’t think I have ever seen in such beautiful darkness.

Kokura Castle in Kitakyushu

Restaurant Pub and Spare Ribs at ‘Zum Adler’ in Oberursel

We have been regulars at this restaurant pub for the past 24 years. One of our friends took us there back in 1995, when we had just moved here from Japan. Back then, the Bratwurst (fried sausage in a bread roll) was still DM 2, which was about one Euro. We always liked their Biergarten, and the pub itself still has the same table, where the famous Red Baron used to have its sun downer – right here in Oberursel!

The photo shows the side entrance, which takes you directly into the Biergarten.

As our life changed over the years, we had not been back there for a while. Then it changed ownership a little while back, and we tried their new Greek cuisine (they also serve tradition German dishes), and it was good.

Yesterday, we decided to have spare ribs (another friend’s recommendation). This was really good, and so was the service. The only thing that surprised us was being the only customers in the Biergarten on a Saturday evening. We got there by about 6:30 and when we left at about 8:10, we were still the only customers there.

This type of restaurant pub is usually called in German:

1) Gaststätte, 2) Gasthof, or 3) Gasthaus. ‘Gast’ means guest, and these places usually had rooms to let upstairs. But the days of the Wandergesellen (journey men), who boarded there while traveling and looking for work, have long dwindled since then. All that remains for most of these Gasthäuser is the restaurant pub.

A Winter Day in Oberursel

In late January, I had the chance to visit the old part of town in snowy weather. My walk took me from the market square through the Strackgasse, and then back to the U-Bahn station.

Oberursel Market Square

At the market square, next to the restaurant Marktweib, you find one of the 40+ fountains of Oberursel.

This must be one of the most photographed views of Oberursel.

Oberursel and St. Ursula Church

The Strackgasse, leading from the market square back into the Vorstadt (commercial area), was rather quiet on that Wednesday morning around 10 o’clock.

Strackgasse in Oberursel

The half-timbered houses (German: das Fachwerkhaus) are maintained in very good condition.

Strackgasse in Oberursel

When we first arrived in Oberursel in 1995, we were meant to stay for two years… 24 years later, we are happy to stay longer.

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