About Me

I ramble about a number of things - but travel experiences, movies and music feature prominently. See my label cloud for a better idea. All comnments and opinions on this blog are my own, and do not in any way reflect the opinions/position of my employer (past/current/future).

26 October 2007


I have nothing against asking for directions ... except when it is the bus driver asking the passengers!

There are some road works taking place on the normal bus route. Thus, the buses have been taking a short detour. This evening, on my bus ride home, the bus driver actually stopped the bus at the last stop before the detour and asked whether if any of the passengers knew the detour. After everyone stopped laughing, two guys volunteered to direct her along.

Well at least she asked ... much better than not asking and getting lost!

22 October 2007

A Really Bad weekend for English Sport

After thrashing the English 36-0, their rugby team seemed to grow a spine, and led a truly remarkable recovery: beating the Aussies and then the French in the Semi Finals. And that brought upon the predictable hysteria. The already high final ticket prices (they were 700 Euros for the cheapest seat to about 2000 Euros for the really good seats at the start of the tournament) exploded, and CNN reported people paid over 8000 Euros for a ticket!

I met up with Lee who was guiding some South Africans on a VW Touareg experience through Germany, at an Irish Pub in Nuremberg, which had a whole lot of English, a few South Africans and some (confused) Germans. The atmosphere was electric, with the English singing all the way, but the game, while remaining tight, but out of their reach.

It was hardly a brilliant game, but it was an epic contest. And, it seems that 15 is the magic number for South Africa and Rugby World Cups.

Throughout the week, the British press had been talking up the weekend double: winning the Rugby World Cup followed by Lewis Hamilton winning the Formula 1 WDC. Hamilton, more or less shot himself in the foot at the start, when all his Schumaresque luck, seemed to have deserted him (although it can be argued that luck deserted him in the last race). His attempt at regaining the position he lost to Alonso at the start forced him off the track (in previous races, it was usually him forcing people off the track), leaving him at the lower end of the points paying positions. Later, a gear problem, threw him down to last place. Mika Hakinen (who was attending the race) must have been reminded of the similar incident he had in 1999, in a McLaren, in Brazil. To Lewis' credit, he fought back very well, eventually finishing in 7th place. But Kimi, who went from 3rd in the WDC to winner, drove a flawless race, and the Ferraris imparted the ultimate humiliation to Hamilton - lapping him halfway through the race. The McLarens were no match for the Ferraris, finishing over 30 seconds behind - but after such a scandal filled season, it is great the a McLaren driver did not win the WDC.

So it is great to be a South African, a Bok supporter, a Tifosi, and overall not English. To show how bad things really are - they lost 2-1 to Russia mid week, which means that there is a very real chance that they might not even qualify for Euro 2008 At least they won the cricket in Sri Lanka (but then they were expected to lose ... maybe that's their magic formula).


Würzberg is one of the popular tourist destinations in Bavaria, and to be fair it really needs a full day to go around everywhere. I did not spend too much time (about 3 hours in total), partly because I missed a train from Mainz (by a minute) and partly because the connecting train from Frankfurt was then 15 minutes late.

The main highlight of the town is Residenz - palatial residence of the town bishop, now another UNESCO world heritage site in Germany. Residenz is proof of both religious spending excess and the lavish artworks funded by the excesses.

As you enter the main hall, there is the "Grand Staircase" leading to the upper floors. The stairs are decorated with statues and the main dome features an amazing painting, remarkably unscathed in the war. It is brilliant for both its size and grandeur. The upper floors contain many restored rooms, used to entertain guests and some of these rooms easily rival the opulence of the Sanssouci palaces.

Unfortunately, I could not take pictures of the interior of the Residenz, but I could take pictures of the chapel on the southern wing. The lavishness of the chapel is a good indication of the lavish decorations of the rooms in the palace.

The rest of the town features the usual churches and impressive town halls. The university building is particularly impressive, although built much more recently. It also has a fort on the opposite banks of the Main river, but it was too late to attempt a visit there.


Mainz, about 50 kilometres from Frankfurt is yet another ancient town, dating back to the Romans. Mainz is really known for two things - and one of them changed the World.

Mainz is the birthplace of Johannes Gutenberg, who was once exiled, but came back and the first printing press, and the first printed works were produced in Mainz. The development of the printing press is quite fascinating, and the Gutenberg Museum has a number of old books, including a few of the original Gutenberg Bibles. The museum also has a section on the development of printing in other parts of the world, including China, where the movable type pre-dated Gutenberg, but was somehow did not have as great an impact.

The other attraction of Mainz is its massive cathedral, an UNESCO world heritage site. I was there at the end of the Sunday Mass, and had a chance to hear the organ playing - the acoustics is amazing! The cathedral is not as decorative, and in many ways, it is rather plain.

The Rhine Valley

I saw most of the Rhine Valley through the train - first the more high speed ICE Express to Koblenz, and later, the more sedate regional train on the way back.

The Rhine Valley is beautiful, and littered with old, small towns - many dating back to the Roman days. Due to the tight timeline, I did not have time to stop at any of the towns between Mainz and Koblenz.

Both sides of the river are lined with cycle paths, and I would really like to cycle from Mainz, to Koblenz and then through the Mossel River valley. Much of it is flat, and it is only about 200 Km in length ... easily doable really - especially if you stop often. But, I can't really do it this year ... it needs to be done in Summer :)


Koblenz is one of the oldest towns I have visited ... once a Roman settlement, it celebrated 2000 years of existence a few years back. But much of its Roman history has disappeared, and much of its tourist attractions are comparatively modern in nature.

Koblenz sits on a very strategic position: two major rivers - the Rhine and the Mossel - meet here, and the major attraction of Koblenz is Fort Ehrenbreitstein, built in the 1800's and is one of the largest defence instalments of its time. Apart from its strategic location (on a hill, overlooking the rivers, facing France/Luxembourg), it has some very interesting design facets, including false walls and multiple fail safes. However, despite two world wars, the theory has not been tested - even though the Nazi's had a massive base here. While the fort is no longer used, there are still German bases around Koblenz.

Fort Ehrenbreitstein was the location of the Virtual Goods conference dinner, and it was certainly the most impressive conference dinner location I have been to.

On the other side of the Rhine is Fort Konstantin, also from the 1800s but very much in ruins, but provides a n impressive view of the town. It is a much smaller complex, but a lot easier to get to, and only 15 minutes walk from the main train station.

The remains of the old town - mostly dating back to the mid 1500s - is still impressive. Like many older town centres, it features churches, cobbled stone streets, and lots of cafès. The most amusing attraction is the statue of a local boy outside the town hall, which periodically spits water at unsuspecting visitors.

But now, Koblenz is best known for Deutsches Eck - the symbol for united Germany. Initially, it was meant to represent German power, with the statue of Kaiser Wilhelm I charging towards France. But the statue was largely destroyed in WW 2, and then after reunification, it was rebuilt, and turned towards Germany.