Category Archives: Transport

A Train By Any Other Name

I recently had the privilege of going to the National Railway Museum in York. As you can probably tell, our family holiday featured several ‘family-friendly’ events. I had a great time reading unnecessary details about various engines and routes,  sharing a marvel much like you would when standing at the top of Niagara Falls. I felt no shame. I can geek out with family. That is the best thing about travelling with people who have changed my nappies, answered my silliest questions, taken me to the doctor for embarrassing problems and who have witnessed the best and worst moments of my life.

I entered the museum, counting the number of anoraks I could see. The number of little children almost equalled the number of older gentlemen. The kind I am certain stand in a huddle at the end of platforms, looking seriously at approaching trains and scribbling in their notebooks. This was exactly what I expected. A museum for enthusiasts and children, mostly boys. Having a healthy dose of skepticism is a good way to set yourself up for a museum or film. If you have low expectations, you can be pleasantly surprised when they are surpassed. If they are truly rubbish, then you don’t come away disappointed. Win win.

This museum far surpassed my expectations. I discovered a love for huge hunks of metal that cart us across land, through mountains, across rivers and under seas. It was incredible to see how much the railways have affected the development of Britain. It’s like the internet but with iron. My favourite part was the names given to different trains and I’m not talking Thomas the Tank Engine. It was remarkable that each train lived up to its name both in appearance and journey-history. If you’re a seasoned train-geek you might hear a railway story and say, “Ah, that sounds like something Valour would do.” A train by any other name just would not be the same.

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The Three-Pointed Star

ImageIf you ever happen to be in Stuttgart, go to the Mercedes-Benz Museum. It is so worth it. I was tagging along on a trip some friends organised for us, trying to hide a complete lack of interest and a fair amount of skepticism. The moment we pulled up outside the building however, all doubts vanished and I knew it was going to be great if only from an architectural point of view. How low were my expectations!

This museum oozes class, style and sheer brilliance. An audio tour walks you through a largely industrial space in an intuitive and organic way. It shows you how funny-looking, elaborate contraptions became the incredible engines that are housed in beautiful vehicles today. It relates every invention, complication and solution to events in history as you spiral down slowly from one level to another, guiding your eyes to yet another fascinating detail of this company’s legacy.

The three-pointed star signifying Daimler’s vision of motorisation “on land, on water and in the air” now symbolises luxury, class and design across the world. I had previously thought that Mercedes made cars and maybe a few articulated trucks but I was wrong. It is amazing how effectively this museum does some PR for the name in a variety of fields. Take music, for example. Mercedes-Benz have been compiling mixed tapes for a while now, introducing yours truly to some emerging artists over the years. For someone who doesn’t pay attention to the charts, this has been a massive cool-bonus.

If you cannot make it to Stuttgart to see their other services to mankind for yourself, watch this PR-video starring a strange lady and a British narrator. If your appetite is still not satisfied, you can read more about the drama behind the brand ‘Mercedes’ here.

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There are a few things to be said about Germany. Any country that has that many clocks, cars and cold meats is a curious one. I don’t know about anyone else but I can almost feel my cells lining up and the universe somehow ordering itself when I breathe German air. Maybe I’m exaggerating a little but if Germany was a person, Efficient would be his middle name.  Herr G. E. Wurst.

We recently stood in Frankfurt Airport, feeling a bit delirious from exhaustion and bought ourselves the most expensive train tickets possible to go to Trier.[Note to self: While Before you are in Germany, think like a German. Always book ‘short’ train journeys in advance.] I got bedazzled by the ceiling en route to our platform, lost my husband, roamed around for a while praying I wouldn’t be shot for not knowing where I was but soon the German hum of order reunited us.

Just when I was marvelling at the efficiency of the booking office and praising the public transport system, I noticed a sheepish announcement on all four digital displays in my line of vision. Our train was late. LATE! Oh how quickly the scales fell from my eyes. The world spun into chaos. We might miss our connection that was so perfectly timed!

I fail to mention that our train was really a superhero in disguise. It made up time like a child makes up stories. We bombed through the night at some ridiculous speed, not feeling a thing. The carriage had a digital speedometer in case the passengers needed to do some calculations, check their flux capacitors and sort out minor errors in time. Needless to say, we made our connection.

And guess what? Our train actually started its journey in Vienna, 15 minutes from our door. We probably could have saved ourselves the hassle of flying for a mere €158 each. That is, if we booked in advance.

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I have to apologise to all my regular readers about my recent silence in blog-dom. All three of you might forgive me if you knew what a crazy few days I’ve had. I was rushing to help grannies across the street during my lunch-breaks from pow-wow sessions with the movers and shakers of this nation and it all got a bit too much. Not really. I was busy applying for a ‘real job’ and calling up people everywhere and being charming. It has been paying off because I now have a teaching job and a few more prospectives a mere email away. This cyber-savvy granny sometimes gives me a few cents. “Keine sorge! Ok, danke.”

Changing my week’s plan around good things like interviews and classes on top of dealing with the heat has left me feeling so exhausted and the week’s not even over yet. I have to motor through. My motto for these summer-days is: Stand, don’t touch anything and wear enough not to be obscene. Being professional sometimes means sitting for a long time, therefore touching too much of a hot chair and wearing black over much of my body.

Some may say I should keep hydrated but really, what I need is a stylin’ car to take me places without other hot, smelly people. One where I can control the atmosphere and as a bonus, play some great tunes. It would be lovely to arrive at an interview all fresh and un-sweaty in something like this.

Too yellow I think. Let’s add that fetching shade of grey-white that every self-respecting pair of underpants aspires to.

Maybe you don’t see its potential. It might be a tin-oven at first sight but with a bit of customisation, it could be just the ticket.

Or I could blaze through town on something like this. I could even have a side-kick! Heroes with side-kicks are always cool.

I seem to have forgotten some things about big bikes.

The wind through my helmet? No thanks. Burning fuel tank melting my thighs? The leather that seems mandatory? Skip. I need something more skirt-friendly.

Too pink. I don’t sell cupcakes so really I would be riding one of these.

Further consideration however, brings back the chilling story of Isadora Duncan who met an untimely death. Long scarves and convertibles? Definite no. My hair wouldn’t survive either so we’re back to taking the tram. Great.

p.s. All photos above were taken by me on walks around this city I love. If you would like to use any of my photos in any way, please get in touch or link me. Thanks!

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