Sunday, March 13, 2011

"Everything will be all right when we get to Tir Asleen!" - Part I

In the cult movie Willow, little person Willow Ufgood is accompanied by a vagabond swordsman named Madmartigan and together they embark on a journey of high adventure through a mystical land, pursued all the while by the army of the evil Queen Bavmorda. Why am I writing about this B -grade movie? Don't worry. It makes sense in three paragraphs time. Trust me, ok?

When Willow and Madmartigan are looking like being captured for the second time by General Kael, Bavmorda’s military commander, Willow encourages Madmartigan to continue running towards the destination he has in mind: the castle at Tir Asleen, where, according to Willow, there is a huge army that will crush General Kael and the forces if evil, if only they can get there in time.

(image from Lucasfilm)

Later, when they arrive at Tir Asleen and it is empty, cursed, and crawling with trolls, Madmartigan mocks Willow with the sarcastic mimicking phrase: “Everything will be all right when we get to Tir Asleen!”. For some reason the phrase has stuck with us and we now use it to mark our travel milestones. Any time anything seems to go not-exactly-perfectly on our adventure, Alix and I to say to each other, “Don’t worry honey, everything will be all right when we get to Tir Asleen!”

At one point in time our Tir Asleen was actually Tanzania. Even before the Egyptian Revolution put a serious spanner in the works of our travel plans, Egypt basically sucked as far as travel destinations are concerned. The monuments and ancient history sites were great, but overall it was a drag, and for most of the time we were there we were telling each other that when we got to Tanzania everything would come up roses: we would be scuba diving in Zanzibar, climbing Kilimanjaro, going on safari, and generally living the African tourism dream.

So, when we never made it to Tanzania and ended up in F-f-freezing F-F-Frankfurt, Germany, we were rather shocked by the misadventure. To be perfectly honest, we have not yet entirely come to grips with it, even a month later. When any minor daily challenges present themselves- you know, stuff like the train being late, or the palace we were supposed to visit undergoing restoration over winter, or our internet connection getting stolen by the undead spirit of Adolf Hitler, we frequently moan out loud, “I’m not even supposed to be here!” or “I’m supposed to be diving in Zanzibar right now!”

Despite the misadventure, our new Tir Asleen has become Istanbul, Turkey. So far we have made it roughly halfway there, having crossed through the German states of Franconia and Bavaria, into Austria and through the Alps into Slovenia.

Here is a brief overview of what we have been up to over the last month while we have been in Germany.

Walking the dogs in Heidelberg

We got the most awesome stroke of good fortune when we were invited to stay for as long as we liked at Alix’ Aunt Andrea’s house in the hamlet of Neckargemund, outside of Heidelberg. We discovered that Heidelberg is only about 100km from Frankfurt, so we got there easily by train. We slept late, ate heartily, and I drank loads of excellent German beer and pinched Andrea’s cigarettes and smoked them in clandestine late night reverie. We raided Andrea’s bookshelves, an amazing collection of what seems to be almost every significant work of fiction in the last two centuries or so.

Most memorable of all, we walked the dogs. Dog walking is like food for the soul for the long term traveller- it is the kind of activity only local people do, and to walk the dogs in the beautiful woods around Neckargemund was a surprisingly sublime experience that made us feel terrifically at home. Generally we had a wonderfully relaxing time in this picturesque part of the world.

From left to right: Akito, Alix, Nanna, Andrea, Luna

Alix and Felix

"Someone stole into Alix room and made off with her undies? And you're accusing me? How dare you!"

Lunch with the family for Cossima's birthday

Alix and Akito walking in the woods, Neckargemund in the background

View from the old bridge over the Neckar river up to Heidelberg castle

Heidelberg castle

View of Heidelberg from the castle

Lunch, German style

The Residence of the mighty Griffonclaw, Würzburg

Germany is filled with castles and palaces, and churches and Rathauses, palaces and more castles and palaces. Honestly, after your third or fourth castle and/or palace they all start to look pretty same-same, but the first palace we went to was the Würzburg Residenz, built by a string of Franconian prince-bishops, the most memorable of whom had a very cool name- Carl Philipp von Greifenklau. The name is so Sword and Sorcery that I have decided to create a Dungeons and Dragons character concept, complete with personal bardsong, using the name… Griffonclaw!

The court garden behind the Residenz. Big Residenz. Big Gardens.

Garden Statue

Alix being a Garden Statue

Residenz Centre front. The whole building is about three times as wide.

The Romantic Road

Travelling south from Würzburg, we stopped at several destinations along the touristy titled ‘Romantic Road’. We were travelling by train, rather than by road, but nevertheless the idea is that you pack the car with your favourite girlfriend or significant other and drive down this road at a leisurely pace, visiting some of the many palaces and castles and cutesy walled towns and you buy her chocolate coated balls of pastry and she has lots and lots of enthusiastic sex with you for being such a romantic guy. The highlight is the town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber.

At the western gate, Rothenburg ob der Tauber

The town of Rothenburg ob de Tauber is surrounded by an authentic medieval town wall, complete with towers and arrow slits

Chocolatey Schneeballen. Feed them to your women.

The rathaus at Rothenburg

Have at ye!

To the stocks with ye!

Possibly the best beer in Germany

Alix and Dom at the top of the clock tower.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber

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