Saturday, November 03, 2012

Recent travels: Germany & Scotland

I just spent four of the last five weeks in Europe on business. The bulk of my time was scattered across Scotland, but I also had side trips to London & Cambridge in the UK, and Dusseldorf & Cologne in Germany. Here's a few highlights (click on any picture for a larger view):

Dusseldorf's "World's Longest Bar" in the Altstadt.

I was pleasantly surprised by Dusseldorf and Cologne. I had been told that these two Rhine cities were very industrial and very impersonal. Instead, I found them both to be very livable cities. They don't have high tourist appeal (they'll never be mistaken for Las Vegas, and Berlin and Munich have many more tourist sights), but I think you would be very happy to live in either city. Both cities are oriented towards the Rhine river, with nice promenades surrounded by bars and restaurants.

Speaking of bars, Dusseldorf has a collection of bars, clubs, and restaurants that they bill as the "World's Longest Bar"in the Altstadt. I had the good fortune of passing through the Old City on a Friday night, and I can say that it really might be true to its' name. 
Cologne's cathedral and bridge

Cologne had the same buzz in two separate areas, one with a view of the Rhine, but the real appeal of Cologne is the combination of the Dom (cathedral) and Hohenzollern Bridge, located next to each other.
Padlocks on the Hohenzollern Bridge, with the Dom and train station in the background

One neat thing about the Hohenzollern Bridge is the local tradition of couples in love placing a padlock on the bridge as a sign of commitment. There are literally thousands of padlocks everywhere you look.
While in Scotland, I had a spare weekend which is decided to split between the town of Pitlochry - a gateway to the Highlands - and Loch Ness.
Queen's View of Loch Tummel in Pitlochry, Scotland

Loch Tummel at sunset
Pitlochry is visually stunning. I rented a bicycle for a day to take in some of the scenery, pedaling among Blair Atholl castle, the Queen's View, and Loch Tummel.
Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness
I generally try to avoid obvious tourist traps, and on the bus ride to Loch Ness I was really kicking myself for making the effort to visit such an obvious tourist trap.

Loch Ness panorama

But once the Loch came in view, you could tell that there was something special. For one, it's a beautiful setting. For another, there is something about the water that really makes you think with each ripple that you might have just seen Nessie. I didn't manage to see him (or her), but it was still a worthwhile visit.

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With my new friends on the Great Wall of China

With my new friends on the Great Wall of China
Click to go to my online photography

World sun clock

Uncommon Man's Creed

"I do not choose to be a common man. It is my right to be uncommon -- if I can. I seek opportunity -- not security. I do not wish to be a kept citizen, humbled and dulled by having the state look after me. I wish to take the calculated risk; to dream and to build, to fail and to succeed. I refuse to barter incentive for a dole, I prefer the challenges of life to the guaranteed existence; the thrill of fulfillment to the stale calm of utopia. I will not trade freedom for beneficence, nor my dignity for a handout. I will never cower before any master, nor bend to any threat. It is my heritage to stand erect, proud, and unafraid, to think and act for myself, to enjoy the benefit of my creations, and to face the world boldly and say, "this I have done." All this is what it means to be an American." -- Anonymous