Fundamental Fjords

There is almost nothing more inspiring than Norway’s towering mountains and jaw droppingly spectacular fjords.

Mountains near Molde in Møre og Romsdal County, Norway
Mountains near Molde in Møre og Romsdal County, Norway

Here are a few photos that might tempt you into visiting this rugged Nordic country with its staggeringly gorgeous scenery.

1)  Molde is the gateway to the Troll Mountains.  We travelled on the famous Rauma Railroad and saw incredible scenery.

Waterfall in Romsdalen Valley on the way to Troll Mountains.
Waterfall in Romsdalen Valley on the way to Troll Mountains.

 

Rauma Railway © NSB
Rauma Railway © NSB

 

2)      Lysefjord.  Taking a small craft, motor out from the historic town of Stavanger through Lysefjord, to view the Pulpit Rock (Preikestolen) from below.  The day I was there, mountain goats were clambering on the steep hillsides as well.

Pulpit Rock in Lysefjord.
Pulpit Rock in Lysefjord.

 

Mountain goats in Lysefjord.
Mountain goats in Lysefjord.

 

3)    Bergen.  One of the most called at cruise ports in Europe, old Bergen, with its fish market and ancient wooden buildings, is atmospheric and intriguing.  Definitely take the cable car to the top for spectacular views.

 

Bergen's Old Town
Bergen’s Old Town

 

Old styled Norwegian carriage, Bergen
Old styled Norwegian carriage, Bergen

 

View from Grieg's House, Bergen
View from Grieg’s House, Bergen

 

4)    Flåm.  This tiny harbour at the mouth of the Aurlandfjord fjord is most known for its world renowned railway.  This engineering marvel travels up to Myrdal station at the top of the mountain, passing Voss waterfall on the way, and, ultimately, connecting with Oslo.

View of Flåm from the railway.
View of Flåm from the railway.
Voss Waterfall, on railway from Myrdal Station
Voss Waterfall, on railway from Myrdal Station

5)      Stalheim Hotel for panorama views of Nærøydalen.  Over one hundred years old, the panoramic views from the Stalheim Hotel are spectacular.  Only a half hour drive from Flåm, the hairpin turns on the road from the hotel down to Nærøydalen valley below are death defying. 

View from Stalheim Hotel near Flam.
View from Stalheim Hotel near Flam.

 

6)      Tysfjord and Vestfjord and Lofoten Islands.  Every autumn the killer whales and herring swim up the Tysfjord and Vestfjord.  Nature safaris are organised to see this annual event. The Lofotr Viking Museum at Borg is not to be missed.  You can take a short cruise on an historic Viking long boat as well as seeing a recreation of a Viking longhouse.

 

Ancient church, Leknes.
Ancient church, Leknes.

 

 

Wooden carved figure, Viking Museum.
Wooden carved figure, Viking Museum.

 

 7)      Lofoten is known for the old fishermen’s cabins (rorbuer) that have been restored and turned into modern accommodation for travellers.

 

Rorbeur. Fishermen's cabins are now accommodation.
Rorbeur. Fishermen’s cabins are now accommodation.

 

8)      Nordkapp.  By cruise ship, you will call at Honnigsvej and then take a coach to the northern most tip of the European Land mass.  You will see reindeer and Sami up here.

 

Nordkapp.
Nordkapp.

 

8)      Kvaløya (the whale island) for VillmarkssenterTove Sørensen’s centre for huskies is a must visit.  There are about 300 dogs raised here exclusively for sledding. 

Huskie at Villmarkssenter
Huskie at Villmarkssenter

 

Sledding, Villmarkssenter
Sledding, Villmarkssenter

 

The Roaming Scribe’s trip to the Arctic Circle was sponsored by Fred. Olsen Cruise Line.

Head to Café Football for the World Cup

Bring on the grub! Café Football in Stratford's Westfield Mall.
Bring on the grub! Café Football in Stratford’s Westfield Mall.

Café Football opened last December in Stratford’s Westfield Shopping Mall and offers football terrace food – but with a difference.  Owners Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs have brought in chef and restaurateur, Michael Wignall, to turn football grub into gastro pub fare.

Menus at Café Football organise food into the shape of football formations, there is a display of Ryan Giggs’ boots and lots of kitsch football slogans thrown in for good measure.  Desserts include the pistachio-garnished Chocolate Turf, and Wignall’s Half Time Orange – which is citrus parfait, orange jelly and butterscotch sauce.

Main courses have equally kitschy names. The Wizard Burger is lamb with harissa sauce, while The Special One is a grilled chicken burger with goats cheese.  Side orders are suitably good including very flavoursome chunky chips.  For something more unusual try the Asian slaw,  while the green beans get a thumbs up from me.

Bruno, our waiter, is just one of the enthusiastic staff at Café Football.  Julia in the Sweet Shop is equally excited to explain all about her goodies.  I order a scrumptious caramel salted ice cream and a dark chocolate sorbet with a shot of plantation rum for hubby. Decadent!

Café Football wants to be known as a restaurant, not a sports bar.  And you might be fooled by the interior as there are so many TV screens inside.  But, none the less, it is a great night out and you can wash down your grub with beer or with a very decent bottle of California Viognier.

Wash down your grub with an excellent California Viognier.
Wash down your grub with an excellent California Viognier.

So get booking quick for the World Cup!  See you there.

Café  Football, The Street Westfield Stratford City London E20 1EN

Venue phone: 020 8702 2590

 

The Keys come up trumps

After eight days in the Florida Keys visiting Key Largo,  Islamorada and Key West, I took a few images to capture the mood and magic of this unique marine and island destination.

Tortuga Jack takes me on a backcountry mangrove kayaking tour.
Tortuga Jack takes me on a backcountry mangrove kayaking tour.

 

Deep Sea Fishing off of Islamorada. Beautiful fish caught include this Wrasse.
Deep Sea Fishing off of Islamorada. Beautiful fish caught include this Wrasse.
Ernest Hemingway's writing studio in Key West.
Ernest Hemingway’s writing studio in Key West.

 

 

The Whistle Bar and Bull Bar in Key West.
The Whistle Bar and Bull Bar in Key West.

 

The waterways of Key Largo
The waterways of Key Largo

 

Here comes the African Queen. The original vessel from the Oscar winning movie.
Here comes the African Queen. The original vessel from the Oscar winning movie.

 

On a sunset cruise in Key West
On a sunset cruise in Key West

 

Pelicans at Robbie's Marina, Islamorada.
Pelicans at Robbie’s Marina, Islamorada.

 

Birthplace of Pan-American Airways. First flights were to Havana, Cuba.
Birthplace of Pan-American Airways in Key West.  First flights were to Havana, Cuba.

 

Sunset on historic seafront, Key West.
Sunset on historic seafront, Key West.

 

Half Shell Raw Bar, great sports bar and restaurant on the historic Key West waterfront
Half Shell Raw Bar, great sports bar and restaurant on the historic Key West waterfront

 

Cypress House Hotel in Key West. An historic Bahamian Conch House.
Cypress House Hotel in Key West. An historic Bahamian Conch House.

 

Key West's Lighthouse
Key West’s Lighthouse

 

Robert the Doll on the Ghosts and Gravestones Frightseeing Tour.
Robert the Doll on the Ghosts and Gravestones Frightseeing Tour.

 

South Beach Miami’s Latin Food Scene

Bolivar Fusion Restaurant Cocinas & Tragos
Bolivar Fusion Restaurant Cocinas & Tragos

Ricky, originally from Panama and representing Miami Culinary Tours, took me and two couples out to experience some fantastic South American cuisine at his favourite haunts around town.

A little refreshment and Repajo.
A little refreshment and Repajo.

Stopping first at Bolivar Fusion Restaurant Cocinas & Tragos (661 Washington Avenue) we sipped a Colombian ‘Repajo’, a mix of soft drink and Aquila beer used as a hangover cure.  We then tried an exceptional cerviche, which uses lime to ‘cook’ the Sway (white fish).  I particularly enjoyed the delicious fried empanada accompaniment.  Leaving fusion behind, we popped into the corner patisserie for a wonderful, decadent churro.   Think doughnut, but the Latin version.

Cerviche and Fried Empanadas
Cerviche and Fried Empanadas

It was then onto the beach to try more culinary gems and enjoy walking along Ocean Drive right next to the sand.  South Beach was built during the 1930’s and many of the surviving Art Deco buildings have been preserved and are on the National Register of Historic Places.  The only change is that many of them have been painted in pastel colours called Tropical Deco.  South Beach was the ‘American Riviera’ during the 1950’s and Jackie Gleason kept interest in the town going with his weekly show broadcast from here, the ‘Sun and Fun Capital of the World’, a phrase he coined himself.  After that the area went into serious decline and it has taken many decades to bring it back to life.

Beach off of Ocean Drive
Beach off of Ocean Drive

Polo Norte Cuban Restaurant was our next stop where we tried strong Cuban coffee (Colada).  Similar to espresso but already sweetened, it is a big favourite among the locals.  We were served appetisers of Fried Plantains dressed in a Mojo Sauce.  This was before the main course which was baked plantains with shredded pork and Chimichurri Sauce.   I will come back to this restaurant for more of this lovely carnitas dish. 

Fried Plantains
Fried Plantains

We sniffed around the wonderful smelling family owned Charlotte Bakery which was started in Santiago, Chile in the 1960s by Gladys Jofre. It then moved to Venezuela and ended up in South Beach Miami in the 1990s much to the delight of the neighbourhood.  Everything here is handmade and freshly baked and their empanadas are one of the shop’s favourite items.

Pastries at Charlotte Bakery
Pastries at Charlotte Bakery

Across the street from Española Way is BLOCK Pizza which claims to use a sourdough that began 300 years ago in Sardinia.  The sourdough or Mother Dough comes from the Italian phrase ‘Pasta Madre’.  All of BLOCK Pizza’s dough is taken from the original dough that is fed every day.  The family who run BLOCK Pizza have carried on this tradition and took the oath to care for the dough and use it wisely.

Milani Gelateria
Milani Gelateria

The tour is topped off with real Italian gelato from Milani Gelateria on 436 Española Way. Lower in fat than ice cream and not frozen, it is a superior alternative to the dairy variety.

What a treat to have an insider’s view of the fabulous Latin culinary scene in South Beach.  I can’t wait to go again.

Culinary tour offered by Miami Culinary Tours.  Cost: £35.

For information about Miami’s Beaches visit:  http://www.miamiandbeaches.com/

The Cadet Hotel on James Street offers accommodation from $199 on a room only basis.

 

Made to Order – Key Largo

Florida Manatees © emol.com
Florida Manatees © emol.com

‘Watch out for Manatees’ says the sign next to the balcony  where I am having lunch.  I am eating at Made to Order and am perched on the edge of a canal network where folks are lazily paddle boarding and kayaking. To be surrounded by heat, palm trees, mangroves, water and boats is nothing short of awe inspiring, especially after coming from grey, rainy London.

Pelican's at Robbie's Marina, Islamorada, Florida Keys
Pelican’s at Robbie’s Marina, Islamorada, Florida Keys

The restaurant next to a non-descript Inn is in Tavernier, just south of Key Largo. The main highway running through all the Florida Keys is bordered by trees, often blocking views of the water.  But as soon as you are off the tarmac and going out toward the ocean or bay sides of this strip of road, you are rewarded with beautiful mangrove ‘swamps’ and intricate waterways.  It is simply breath-taking.

Highway US 1 over Indian Key Channel, Florida Keys
Highway US 1 over Indian Key Channel, Florida Keys

 

View from deck at Sundowners Restaurant
View from deck at Sundowners Restaurant, Key Largo

Have also had a fantastic evening meal featuring ‘Hemingway style’ Hogfish (cooked with Japanese breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese coating) and a terrific clam chowder at Sundowners  in Key Largo.  With a deck overhanging the bay, it is truly a stunning setting to watch the sunset.  Hence the name!  As I grab my camera to photograph the scene from my perch right on the edge of the water, I freely admit the card has been taken out to process other photos.  The picture above is from the Sundowners home page.

Garden of Bay Harbor Lodge
Garden of Bay Harbor Lodge

I guess because I grew up in a southerly part of the United States, California, my parents were never interested in taking us to another southerly place.  Perhaps because we had moved from Canada in the late 1950’s, the timing had something to do with it.  My mother, in particular, was horrified at reports of lynchings taking place in the South.  I still remember her talking about it.  That might be a big reason why we never visited Florida.

Its a shame because it is the perfect spot for a family holiday.  Incredibly safe (no one locks their doors) with many hotels that are peaceful and secluded.

Find out more about the Florida Keys and the Bay Harbor Lodge

 

 

Swamps, Snakes and Turtle (Soup)

Pearl River Swamp
Pearl River Swamp

Krrwaaack!  That must have hurt.  The alligator lurched forward trying to get the proffered marshmallow secured on the end of a long stick. Its body thwacked into our swamp boat and those on board shrieked with fear and delight.

Pearl River, St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana
Alligator!
Alligator flinging himself at our swamp boat
Alligator flinging himself at our swamp boat

Apparently, these puffy white round sweets look just like duck eggs to a gator and are a favoured snack.  That must be why these animals will do just about anything to get at them.

 

Snake sunning itself
Snake sunning itself

About 45 minutes outside of New Orleans and its famous French Quarter is the Pearl River in the St. Tammany Parish.  This is Louisiana Bayou country and  where the name ‘backwater’ must have come from.  It is full of wildlife and in a two hour tour we will see snakes, spiders, turtles, blue heron, alligators and even wild pigs.

Wild pigs in the swamp
Wild pigs in the swamp

I am staying in New Orleans to uncover some of the food stories that the French Quarter is famous for.  And in Cajun tradition, there are several dishes that feature wild animals.  One of these is turtle soup.  It is made with a rue (or gravy), turtle meat and then topped off with sherry.  A very flavourful and rich dish. I had a feeling that seeing turtles out in the swamp might make me think twice about eating turtle soup!

Captain Eric takes our assembled group out in a motor powered boat.  We quickly found out that it could reach some pretty decent speeds but also slow down and get us up close and personal with the indigenous animals.

A profusion of wild irises
A profusion of wild irises

The Cypress trees growing out here are incredibly resilient and the swamp is also full of wild irises, wild yellow roses and flowering lily ponds.  So it really is a remarkable sight in the spring.

 

At first we spot, of course, turtles resting on logs and protruding roots at the river’s edge.  But as we go deeper and deeper into the swamp and slow down our pace, we soon come across a variety of snakes.  None of them are the poisonous water moccasins, which were once a deadly force of nature out here, but it is eerie just the same. Perhaps our most interesting encounter was with wild pigs.

Mamma piggy
Mamma piggy

A mamma and her brood appeared when Capt. Eric shouted out to them.  I know that these creatures are very big but the others were shocked at their size. But when mamma came swimming out to us to get a snack, there was genuine shock amongst the guests that a wild pig could even swim. The piglets are adorable but they stay on shore waiting for their mamma.  One is white around its middle and has a black head and a black behind and has been nicknamed OREO.

I do love wild animals but I could certainly see how people could be put off by seeing, for instance, enormous deadly spiders crawling around in the undergrowth near the boat!

Livin' in the Bayou
Livin’ in the Bayou
Perfect for fishing!
Perfect for fishing!

What is also incredibly interesting is the fishing shacks right out in the middle of the swamp.  The local parish even get electricity out to these folks. We did notice that several of these properties are now perched on very high stilts.  Changes like this happened after historic storm Katrina came raging through here 10 years ago.

If you are ever out on Louisiana or New Orleans you would be missing out on something special if you didn’t take a tour to Bayou country.  It will be an unforgettable experience.

 

All images ©roamingscribe

To book a Cajun Encounter visit: www.cajunencounters.com/.         For more information on Louisiana visit: http://louisiana.gov/

 

 

Wow on the water; seeing the Shard from the Thames

© The View from The Shard
© The View from The Shard

Seeing the Shard from the river certainly has the ‘wow’ factor.  Particularly at night. 

I am gliding past the newly opened Shard on the Westminster, one of City Cruises sharp, little vessels.  The tallest building in Europe soars into the sky and is lit up like a proverbial Christmas tree.  I’m on the open deck with the wind blowing through my hair and the turbulent current of the Thames churning below me; the expression ‘ it’ll knock your socks off’ (to steal an American favourite) comes to mind.

City Cruises transport in excess of two million people a year on London’s world famous river.  And has recently reported its strongest year to date in 2013 with growth over the previous year of 22%.  Apparently, the 2012 London Summer Olympics have really put the city on the map as far as tourists are concerned.

And there really is something atmospheric about travelling up this historic waterway at night.  Seeing the Houses of Parliament,  palaces and bridges aglow is quite stirring.  The Tower of London, The Shard, Big Ben, Canary Wharf, The Globe Theatre and, perhaps most astonishing, St. Paul’s Cathedral are all visible from the river and within a short distance of each other.  And it is certainly relaxing taking in major tourist sights without having to jostle with other people for the privilege.

Replica of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre
Replica of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre

A great way to see these sites either day or night is on one of the City Cruises vessels that navigate the river at any time and in all weather.  OK.  It is mainly for tourists or for folks who would like a meal and entertainment thrown in with their sightseeing.  But, many people just  enjoy being on the water and find it a relaxing way to travel

.City Cruises river vessels

London Eye at Night
London Eye at Night

This year City Cruises will have a new Thames Circular Cruise, which is a bit like a hop on, hop off tour bus if I understand the idea.  The Circular Cruise will take passengers all the way to Greenwich to see the Cutty Sark and Maritime Greenwich, a UNESCO world heritage site.  And the cruise line have acquired another jet powered 315 horse-powered Rib named Blue Thunder,  available for booking from March.  This is entirely different experience; all speed, thrills, bumps and jumps. The great thing is that these boats run 7 days a week, 365 days a year.  So, anytime you fancy a spin down the Thames…

For more information and prices visit:  www.citycruises.com and http://www.theviewfromtheshard.com/en/

Having a 'whale' of a time in Iceland

Eyjafjallajökull erupted in Iceland in 2010
Eyjafjallajökull erupted in Iceland in 2010
Whale spotting - Iceland ©earthisland.org
Whale spotting – Iceland ©earthisland.org

Who could have guessed what a bit of ash can do? But then, it was more than just a ‘bit of ash’ when Icelandic volcano, Eyjafjallajökull, erupted in 2010. The eyes of the world were on the tiny frozen country when this volcanic eruption filled the skies with dust and debris.  The ensuing ash cloud managed to stop air traffic in our bit of the Northern Hemisphere for over a week.

The now infamous ash cloud has literally put Iceland on the map.  This is only the second year this young (geographically speaking) country has welcomed tourists during the winter.  The incoming numbers are extraordinary. Along with the desire to see the Northern Lights (it is a good year for this peculiar solar phenomenon), the other attractions high on visitor’s agendas are visiting the Golden Circle (Gullfoss, Geysir and Þingvellir) and going on sea-going expeditions.

Statue of fishermen at Reyjavik Harbour
Statue of fishermen at Reyjavik Harbour

The folks who work in this trade are grateful and can hardly believe their luck at this turn of fortune.  There are only 320,000 inhabitants in all of Iceland; 180,000 of them live in or around its capital and many of these depend on tourism to make a living.  Icelandic life is also very much influenced by the sea and always has been, with fishing being its largest industry.

Reykjavik Marina where whale watching expeditions are based
Reykjavik Marina where whale watching expeditions are based

 

 

So the other thing tourists are here to experience is the wild life and, particularly, sea life.  Whale watching is another extremely popular activity for visitors.

 

I am staying on the the harbour, at the Icelandair Hotel Reykjavik Marina.  There are multiple jetties just around the corner from my hotel and boats are ready to take sightseers out on Whale Watching Expeditions ad infinitum.

The juxtaposition of enormous whale watching adverts situated right across the road from converted fishing stations, now restaurants, is intriguing; because these restaurants offer Minke whale on their menus.  How can two such opposing ways of viewing one animal co-exist?  Live side by side?

View from Reykjavik Marina Hotel
View from Reykjavik Marina Hotel

A young man I met, by chance, at my hotel shared his thoughts on the subject with me.  He has grown up in Iceland but also spent time living in Central Europe.  He and other Icelanders find it shocking that they are judged for whaling and for eating whale.  In their view, Icelanders are very restrained in the number of animals slaughtered.  Of about 4,000 whales, a non-endangered species he pointed out, a mere 150 are killed each year.  He also explained that they see the whales as potentially destroying their economy and needing to be culled.  Iceland’s number one export and industry is fishing and whales eat tons of fish in any given day.  So they are in direct competition with Icelanders for resource.  I actually can see his point.  He then goes on to explain that Icelanders see whales as big dumb beasts, not beautiful animals.  This description makes me squirm.

I try to explain that Icelanders, perhaps unfairly, are being ‘tarred with the same brush’ as other countries that break the International Ban on Whaling.  That includes Japan and the Faroe Islands.

I have met and spoke with the Head of Public Diplomacy on a trip to the Faroe Islands about three years ago.  This person vehemently defended The Grind (the mass killing of entire pods of whales at one time).   A pod of whales is driven into a bay by small fishing boats and then harpooned by the fishermen in the boats and the people on shore.  “Our people have hunted like this for centuries”, he stated.  “How can the rest of the world criticise us when they have killed off their own indigenous animals?”

I understood his argument.  In the United States, buffalo herds that roamed the Great Plains in their hundreds of thousands were nearly hunted to extinction.  The same was true of the Pacific Coast’s Southern Sea Otters which have still not recovered, as a species, from intensive hunting.  In the 1920s, they were thought to be completely extinct.

ND11-031.JPG

But the bloody pictures of The Grind are hard to shake and hard to forget.  I can’t think of anyone that isn’t repulsed by the photographs that are circulated of an entire bay red with the blood of slaughtered wild animals.  It certainly gives pause for thought.

I said goodbye to my new friend, but not before we had a rousing discussion about economics.  Iceland has always been isolated, historically, and islanders’ attitudes develop without much influence from the outside world.  These people have always been self-sufficient.  The rest of the world did not come to their rescue in times of trouble.  Now the outside world is arriving en masse, they are finding it a bit difficult to understand our perspective on many issues, particularly whaling.

Perhaps with a bit more discussion and mutual understanding, we will each eventually come to appreciate each other’s viewpoints.

All images ©roamingscribe unless stated

For more information on Iceland click here.

 

First Impressions of Reykjavik

Gullfoss, convergence of two rivers
Gullfoss: A convergence of two rivers

A few photographs from Reykjavik and just outside the capital of Iceland.

Me and Polar Bear
Me and Polar Bear
Stukkor letting off steam
Stukkor letting off steam

 

Sunrise, the North Atlantic Ridge
Sunrise, the North Atlantic Ridge
Hubby and Wooden Man in Reykjavik Marina lobby.
Hubby and Wooden Man in Reykjavik Marina lobby.
Long, long scarf
Long, long scarf
Spectacular Gullfoss waterfall
Spectacular Gullfoss waterfall
Out for a walk
Out for a walk
Reykjavik Marina
Reykjavik Marina
When Will She Blow? Hvalfjördur, Iceland
When Will She Blow? Hvalfjördur, Iceland
Hot Dog Stand in Reykjavil
Hot Dogs at Dawn

Naked Mouse…

It is a crisp cold day and the sun is glistening off fields blanketed with fallen snow.   About an hour’s drive from Weimar, and after a sodden winter in the UK, it is magical traveling under piercing blue skies with stinging, fresh air hurting my lungs.  This pain is good.

Pony in field near Mittelpunkt - the centre of Germany
Pony in field near Mittelpunkt – the centre of Germany

We are on our way to an ancient Thüringen forest in Central Germany – between Mühlhausen, Bad Langensalza and the Wartburg city of Eisenach.  It was a Soviet military base in the not so distant past.  After WWII, Stalin’s Red Army gained control of Eastern Germany which became the German Democratic Republic.  This enormous beech tree forest, and its peripheries, were used for military exercises with barracks and administrative buildings scattered around its perimeter.

It was a ‘no-go zone’ for anyone other than the Russian army.

This 7,500 hectare forest is now the Hainich Nature Park.  It is probably as near to primeval forest as you can find in Europe and, when it became a nature park in 1996, had not been impacted by humans for fifty years.  This has allowed nature to return and flourish.

Middle spotted woodpecker ©nationalpark-hainich
Middle spotted woodpecker ©nationalpark-hainich

Not only is there dominant beech trees but also 30 other species of deciduous trees all competing for their place in the forest.  49 species of mammals including wild cats, middle spotted woodpeckers and 15 types of bats reside here.

Hainich Nature Park, Germany
Hainich Nature Park, Germany
Crystal encrusted tree with blue sky as backdrop
Crystal encrusted tree with blue sky as backdrop
Naked Mouse - food for the Wild Cats
Naked Mouse – Food for the Wild Cats
Wildcat at Wildcat Village, Hainich Nature Park
Wildcat, Hainich Nature Park

But the piece de resistance in Hainich Nature Park is the remarkable Canopy Walk.  The top of the Canopy Walk Tower is 42m high and the vista extends for miles and miles.  We are very lucky as the park’s director, Manfred Großmann and his team have opened the attraction for us to experience.  At every level, as you walk up, there are ‘arms’ of walkways that extend out into the forest.  In the winter, with the entire forest covered in snow and ice crystals, it is inspirational.  The views…stunning.

We also visited the Wild Cat Village in Hütscheroda which opened in April 2012.  This centre is so popular, particularly with domestic tourists, that there have been 55,000 visitors in 2 years. The information centre offers brochures, a cinema and also features exhibits.  It is also associated with an ambitious project to create ‘Green Corridors’ that connect forests in Germany and even other countries so wild creatures have more freedom to roam.

Wildcat exhibit at Wildcat Village Information Centre
Wildcat exhibit at Wildcat Village Information Centre

The enclosure for the captive wild cats (about 1/4 mile walk from the information centre) houses four males: Toco and Carlo from Germany and Franz and Tosca from Switzerland.  As these cats are being fed, they can never be returned to the wild.  The keeper skins the mice to make it easier for the cats to eat, thus coining the term ‘Naked Mouse’.

In the afternoon, I was thrilled to visit a very old medieval walled city.  Mühlhausen is famous for its two market squares, each with imposing churches – St. Blaise (Divi Blasii) and St. Mary’s.  Mühlhausen was also famous for being the epicentre of the Peasant Uprising of 1523 – 1525.  Supported by Martin Luther’s right hand man, Thomas Müntzer, a resident of Mühlhausen, many of the peasant’s demands were ideologically similar with changes coming about with respect of the Reformation.

Walled Medieval Town of Mühlhausen
Walled Medieval Town of Mühlhausen

Our group enjoyed an impromptu organ concert given by the organist of St. Blaise on an instrument inspired by the one played by J.S. Bach in this very church.  It was unfortunate that we each had to be given a blanket to cope with the perishing and bitter cold.  Even as the sun slipped away, and the temperature dropped, it was a fascinating place to visit.

It was a visit to the town’s City Hall, built circa 1300, that was quite breath-taking.  Steeped in history, there is a late Gothic mural depicting the town’s first council that is captivating.  The archives, in the basement of the building since 1615, have daily correspondence of the city starting from 1382.  The oldest book written in German, a law book from 1213, is housed here in the archives.

To organise an English speaking tour guide for Hainach Nature Park, email: np@Hainich@forest.thueringen.de or service@thueringen-tourismus.de

Visit www.visit-thuringia.com for general information.

All images ©The Roaming Scribe unless stated