Travels inspired by the Wombles

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Alderney ahoy

This week's adventure was a trip to Alderney, one of the lesser-known Channel Islands.

My only companion was Bungo - recently acquired from Wimbledon Common. Like Great Uncle Bulgaria on the recent journey to the eponymous country, Bungo got out and about a bit and seemed to enjoy the experience (pictured).

Among other things I learned how to get two window seats on the same flight; what happens halfway through film screenings in the Arts Centre in St Anne, the capital; and what is and isn't an Alderney cow.

On a more serious note, it was sobering to learn about the evacuation of the island in 1940 and its subsequent occupation for five years by the Germans. Some traces remain of the fortifications which the occupiers built - an ironic postscript to the forts which Britain built a century before, against possible invasion by the French. There is little or nothing to see of the three forced labour camps and the SS concentration camp which the Germans used until 1945. Even now, the memory is a raw wound for islanders.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

The road to Hell...

One of the highlights (or lowlights?) of our Bulgaria trip was to see the Devil's Throat. This is a cave near the village of Trigrad. It claims - like a few other places - to be the place where Orpheus entered the underworld to beg for the return of his dead wife Eurydice. Somehow he persuaded the gods to return her, on condition that he didn't look at her before they got into the open air. He turned round and looked, and she faded away.

Oscar Wilde was not completely right. The path to Hell may be paved with good intentions, but the start of it has two large piles of crates which were once full of Amstel beer and Coca-Cola. Once you get onto the path, there are steps down into the cave and then 288 more steps up to the exit. Hell hath no handrails, though, which is why I didn't make it down into the cave.

The whole health and safety thing seems to have passed some parts of Bulgaria by. Across the road from the cave, a flimsy zip wire was giving mugs, sorry the adventurous, the chance to fly across a gorge, through the air, with the greatest of ease. The operator's right wrist was heavily bandaged, which did not seem a good sign...

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Fasten your seatbelts...

The flight to Sofia wasn't packed - there were plenty of spare seats, and the woman next to me went to sit in Business Class. This left an opportunity to get Great Uncle Bulgaria out of my hand luggage and into a comfortable seat. He didn't get a chance to sample the airline food (a cheese roll), but he seemed to enjoy the flight.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Back from Bulgaria

Just back from a walking tour of the Rodopi mountains, near the border with Greece. Among other things, it confirmed:
  1. There are plenty of ways to get scared
  2. Age and experience will do better than youth and enthusiasm
  3. The road to Hell is either paved badly, or with Coca Cola - whatever Oscar Wilde thought

More on this when the jetlag wears off...