I hardly left the house today, and decided to do some chores to prepare for our vacation. One of those is to brush up on the mailing list: I tend to write long(ish) reports each day which I send to a special e-mail list. Every time, I mail everyone on the list to see if they are interested in the reports of the coming trip — don’t want to spam people who are not interested! (I don’t post those reports on a blog somewhere, because I want to feel free to discuss very personal things in those reports.)

Something we’re going to do for the first time this year is to send quick snaps and small updates through WhatsApp. I’ve hired a ‘Pocket Wifi’, a device that is connected to the cellular networks and offers a wifi signal. So we should be able to use data on our devices during our whole trip. This makes it viable to just pop off a quick snap in between, which should be fun. We’ve made a read-only group, so that only the both of us can post — don’t want to have it devolve in a lot of pointless chatter.

I also updated the Raspberry Pi that I use as a VPN server, and installed all the client software on all devices that we will be using. This way, when we use public wifi signal, we can tunnel to our own Raspberry Pi — so there will be no way to eavesdrop on our communications.

Small chores, indeed, but important to us.

We’ve started planning our vacation for 2019. At the end of March, we’ll be flying to Tokyo. After a few days there, we’ll rent a car and drive to the coast near Enoshima.

And after that, Hakone and then onwards to the Fuji Five Lakes area. With a bit of luck, we’ll make the most of the cherry blossom season…

The past two weeks, we went on a vacation to London. Here’s some crappy selfies I took, and my thoughts about the places and venues where these crappy selfies were taken.

Natural History Museum

Victoria & Albert Museum

Greenwich, Fan Museum & Tower Bridge

Buckingham Palace

British Museum

London Eye

Tate Modern

we’ve had a lovely time, but we were happy to be back home (and get the kitties back home too)!

(Also, this is the first post to have images included, so I’m wondering how that will crosspost to LJ. It’ll probably work out fine, because the full URL is in the image tags.)

Yesterday, we returned from our almost-three-week vacation to Bavaria to go see the many castles and forts in Bavaria, now a part of Germany. It used to be a part of the Holy Roman Empire and then was converted into a kingdom by Napoleon. At the end of WW1, it became a republic. But what is amazing is that essentially the same family, the Wittelsbachs, has ruled Bavaria from 1204 onwards — first as Duke, then as Electors, then as Kings. So there’s a lot of history there that’s been preserved because it’s simply part of the family history — there has never been a need to get rid of everything reminding people of the previous people in power.
So there is quite a large number of castles and fortifications from 1204 onwards that are still (relatively) intact today — which is interesting. But it didn’t end there. Maxmillian II built his summer castle, Hohenschwangau, as some sort of fairy tale castle. And his son, Ludwig II, inherited that trait — he went on to build several castles, of which Neuschwanstein is the best known. It is no mistake when the Bavarians call them their ‘fairy tale king’. But these buildings are relatively modern (construction of Neuschwanstein started in 1869!), so they are well preserved too.

All this inspired us to plan for a vacation to Bavaria, to go see some castles. (Earlier this year, we did a week-long vacation in the Loire valley to visit some castles as well, so why not keep the theme?) We hadn’t really planned an order or a list of things to see, but it all worked out. We spent five days in Bamberg (towards the north of Bavaria), six days in Ebersberg (near München, the capital of Bavaria and relatively central) and six days in Pfronten, which is towards the south-west, in the Bavarian Alps. Every single day, we visited a castle, palace or a fortification (sometimes well-preserved, sometimes a ruin). We haven’t seen everything (the three-hour one-way hiking trip to see the royal lodge in Schachen and then hiking back three hours didn’t really fit in our plans or our physical condition), but we’ve seen quite a lot — and all of the highlights.

I’ve been taking crappy selfies with the castles that we visited (often only of the exterior, because photography of any kind was not allowed inside), and I want to share with you the crappy selfies of my top three Bavarian Castles.

1: Linderhof Castle

2: The Hermitage at Bayreuth

3: Veste Coburg

Honorable mention: the Mรผnchen Residenz treasury

So yes, Neuschwanstein isn’t even in my top three… I mean, it’s nice and all, but these three are better. Go figure.
I was also pleasantly surprised by the prices for the admission tickets. Whereas you’d easily pay EUR 15 to get admitted into a castle in France, you’ll easily get admittance for two for that price in most castles! In some places, that also includes a guided tour — for instance, while you can visit most of the rooms of the Würzburg Residenz on your own, there are rooms that you can only visit under the supervision of a guide. Sometimes you book a specific tour (and there is often the choice between German and English), sometimes you just have to wait for a bit before the next tour starts off. Some castles you can only see as part of a tour. And unfortunately, on most of those guided visits, photography of any kind is not allowed. But that’s not too much of a problem, is it?

I can heartily recommend a visit to Bavaria and its many castles!

First part of our Danish vacation

On Monday, we returned from our vacation to Japan. On Thursday we went back to work, which wasn’t easy…
During our trip, I kept an eye out for pin badges of the places we’ve been to, as a souvenir. I got quite a haul this time!

Top left is a pin I got from a gashapon-machine outside the trailer-shop of Gundam Front Tokyo, just behind the ‘life-sized’ Gundam model at Diver City Odaiba in Tokyo. I got only one, and I got the rare pin: a gold-foil version of a design of some sort of transport platform. Below is the text ‘Gundam Front Tokyo’.
Left below that is a pin to show support for the candidacy of Tokyo for the 2020 Summer Olympics. I bought this on top of the Metropolitan Government Office. There’s another pin like this, but it’s rectangular — I saw lots of civil servants wearing that type, it didn’t seem to be for sale.
Next to that is a pin of the Metropolitan Government Office, with it’s cathedral-like two towers. I got this from a gashapon-machine on one of the observation decks on top of that building.
Under the Tokyo 2020 pin is a pin of the mascot of Studio Uamou, eating an icecream. I bought it from the designer herself.
Next to that is a pin of a sparrow, made by the Japanese bird protection society which I bought in Shinjuku Gyoen.
Under the Uamou pin is a pin I bought in the Lee Ufan museum on Naoshima, depicting one of the shaded forms painted on the walls of the meditation room in the museum. There were different colors available, but I chose the grey, just like it is on the walls. (Also: most expensive pin ever: 1000 yen!)
Next to that is a pin celebrating 400 years of the Tokugawa shrine in Nikko (deservedly a World Heritage site) in 2015. The ‘mon’ on the pin are the three hollyhock leaves of the Tokugawa clan.
Underneath that is a large pin of Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavillion in Kyoto.
The two pins underneath depict Nijo Castle, the shogun’s castle in Kyoto.

On the right, at the top, is a pin showing the floating torii of Miyajima. Curiously enough, it has a little bell attached to it — haven’t seen that in a pin before!
Underneath that, to the left, is a pin I got from a gashapon machine in Yufuin, depicting an oni (Japanese devil) at one of the more sulfuric hot springs of the area.
Next to that is Kumomon, the mascot of the Kumoto prefecture, which I bought in Aso which is in that prefecture. Kumomon was also on the packaging of the damp towels we got before dinner…
Underneath that, to the left, is a pin of the Nippon Maru, a sail ship of the Japanese merchant marine school. We saw this ship in Nagasaki, where it was for the Tall Ship Festival.
Next to that is a pin of the mascot of Nagasaki city, which I bought at Dejima. Unfortunately, there were no pins of Dejima itself.
Underneath that, to the left, is a pin of the Glover Gardens, a kind of theme park where all Western-style houses are gathered. The gardens are lovely, but the buildings themselves are being neglected, which is a pity. The pin was only sold as a set with a bookmark, too.
Next to that is a pin I got from a gashapon machine in Fukuoka. It depicts the pickled cod roe that Fukuoka is famous for. Luckily, I managed to avoid eating that. ๐Ÿ˜‰
Last is a pin of a Daruma doll which I bought on Fukuoka airport. I don’t know what it is, but I like Daruma dolls, so I couldn’t pass this one up.

I will need to make a new box to keep these pins in, as well!

Vacation folders

Saturday, we got the big envelope with our vacation papers from the post office. It had been sent by registered mail — and of course we both work so we had it delivered at the post office instead so we could get it at our leisure.
It’s mostly folders of the places we’ll be visiting. We’re really looking forward to it.

And we have been ‘infected’ by Japanese tourism: we’re already planning on what to eat when we get there. ๐Ÿ˜›


We’ve book another vacation to Japan — it’s been one-and-a-half years since we visited, so it was high time to go again. ๐Ÿ˜‰

We’re flying out on April 7th, back on April 29th. We’ll be staying in Tokyo, Nikko, Kyoto, Naoshima, Hiroshima, Yufuin, near Mt. Aso, Nagasaki and Fukuoka. So lots of travel, but with a good mix of places we’ve been before and new (to us) places. Especially looking forward to visiting Tokyo again, and seeing what Naoshima is all about.

We’re both very much looking forward to it. To get in the mood, we went to Amsterdam on Saturday, to see usmu and take him to the okonomiyaki place there. Lots of fun and good food was had by all.

London panoramas

Again, most of the photographs of our vacation were taken by klik. But again, I had the pocket camera with me, which has the panorama setting!

Cutty Sark — or at least the rebuilt version. This is at the Thames riverside, on the Greenwich side. On the left side of the photo you can see a little brick building with a domed roof: that’s the entrance to the tunnel under the Thames.

In front of the gates of the Royal Observatory in Greenwich. The prime meridian runs just behind the gate on the left (where you can only get to when you pay the admission — well worth it for the exhibitions IMO).
In the front, you can see the stands that were built for the Olympic Games: the equestrian competitions were in Greenwich Park. They were taking them down, but the complex is so big that it’s quite a bit of work.
To the right, you can see the O2 Arena in the distance. Straight in the middle, you can see the high buildings of Canary Wharf.

On the Thames Walk, which runs from Canary Wharf to the Tower, along the north side of the river. You can see it’s low tide here: the difference in water levels can be up to 9 meters.

Further along the Thames Walk.

We’re back from London. Some observations:

– Going by Eurostar train is comfortable, easy and quite cost-effective (if you book some time in advance). Yes, there is security screening, but it’s nothing like the screening for airplanes. We could take our lunch (including a liter of water) with us on the train. We could each take two suitcases with us, as well as a handbag. You do not have to relinquish control of your luggage to others. You arrive (and leave) right at London city center, with the underground mere steps away. Next time, we’ll take the train again.

– Booking an apartment instead of a hotel is totally worth it. Yes, it’s more expensive, but having a comfortable couch and a full kitchen makes it so much easier to ‘decompress’ when getting back to your home base. And the maid comes only once per week, so you don’t get bothered at all and can leave your stuff out just the way you want to. The added option of cooking your evening meals or even having them delivered to your apartment is nice too – though we didn’t use it.

– I’m very impressed with the free museums in London. We’ve visited both the Tate Modern and the Victoria & Albert Museum. Both are free, but ask a (voluntary) donation of GBP 3, which is a paltry sum for what you get. Sure, there are extra exhibitions that you might have to buy a ticket for, but the regular collection is big enough to keep you interested for the whole day.

– Somehow, it turned out to be impossible for us to see St. Paul’s.

– Greenwich is a lovely place to visit. There’s the park and the Royal Observatory, but the village itself is also nice with quirky stores and cafes.