June 30, 2013

How we make Weather in Germany

Power plants fueled by brown coal produce a lot of steam which then turn into mountains of clouds, and clouds, well they carry the wet precipitation we dread so much. And thanks to this contribution this area gets a lot more rain than it would get without the power plant.
Close to those power plants lies the energy source which is collected through surface mining or better strip mining. The pit is named after the town Garzweiler, which has been eliminated through the exploitation process. The mine has eaten up 48 sqkm so far, and will spread out and be active for another thirty years.
Below is Excavacator 288, a mobile strip mining bucket wheel machine. Look at the small white car for comparison, this thing is the largest land vehicle in the world.
As much as it hurts to see the Earth scarred like this, this coal is one of the few conventional fossil resources that Germany doesn't have to import (there is no oil, and gas can be extracted through fracking only), and gives our country some illusion of independence from foreign sources.

June 29, 2013

Encore!

June 20: We got up early, grabbed a final excellent Scottish breakfast (with the veganized version for Sonja of course), and took off to catch one final highlight of our journey before our departure to Germany.
Tantallon Castle ruins: a 14th century stronghold set on top of steep cliffs overlooking the Firth of Forth (Firth, we have learned is yet another word for loch, inlet or sound).
The defense in its time was a so called massive curtain wall with high towers at either end, while the high cliffs would protect the castle from attacks from the ocean side.
 Entry
 The inner courtyard with a view on Bass Rock.
A view from the edge.
Unfortunately we got to leave this magic place way too soon, as we had to rush to the airport to return the rental car, and catch the plane to Germany, and where we were in for a surprise (Here is another view on this cosmic event.).

June 28, 2013

A Sunny Afternoon in an Acheronian City

June 19: With the B&B conveniently located at a nearby bus station we found out that three buses were headed from downtown. Not even ten minutes later we jumped on the bus, paid the (exact!) fare, and enjoyed the cheap ride without having to worry about traffic, parking or parking fees.
Edinburgh, Scotland's capital has a population of about half a million. This medieval city is rooting in the 10th century, and naturally comes with plenty of history, that we haven't even begun to digest.
We got off the bus on North Bridge Road, and started walking up 'The Royal Mile' towards Edinburgh Castle. Its buildings radiate a certain somberness that even the sun wasn't able to chase away, as if these dark bricks and rocks had seen too much gruesome in their time.
Maybe that's why the store fronts have an especially colourful design.
 A policebox (?) at Grassmarket reminds of Dr Who.
 Roland spotted some Bugatti eye candy.
 St. Giles Cathedral as backdrop for the Bugatti rally.
 A walk in the Park: Princes Street Garden.
View on Edinburgh Castle with Ross Fountain.
 The castle in close-up.
We checked our budget, and decided to spend the bucks (16GBP = 25USD, yes, per person!) entry fee, and it proved well worth it.
Not only were the vistas spectacular, the buildings on the premises were in fantastic shape, there were also plenty of exhibitions on Scottish history including a display of the Scottish crown jewels (No pics were allowed.), and while strolling up the cobble stone lane you could imagine how life in the middle ages might have been.
We wondered why the cannons were still directed towards the city.
 Mons Meg with its 20" caliber cannon balls - A more than 500 years old monster.
Sun and blue skies, we were really lucky with the weather today.

Later the day we found ourselves walking towards Calton Hill with its various monuments. On our way a weird tower caught our attention: A memorial for Sir Walter Scott, the Scottish poet and novelist of the 19th century (e.g. Ivanhoe, Rob Roy).
The hike up to Calton Hill was steep, hence we had to gather some strength upfront at a very nice Italian Restaurant. A pizza and some cocktails later we were ready for the road again. Sorry, no food porn, we were too hungry.

A view on the National Monument for fallen soldiers on the left and (Horatio) Nelson Monument on the right.
 Dugald Stuart Monument (Scottish Philosopher)
Completely overwhelmed by the impressions and vistas of the afternoon we returned to North Bridge Road, where a bus came around the corner right on cue to take us 'home'.

June 27, 2013

Collecting Filming Locations by Accident

Waiting for departure.
June 18: Although the B&B had a bit of an issue understanding the concept of vegetarian or vegan it was all good since Fort William had a Tesco, where we even found gluten free bread.
Again the plan of the day was: No plan. So we followed the train tracks of the Jacobite Train (a.k.a. Harry Potter Train) to Hogwards Mallaig (B).
Loch, Sound or Ocean?
Where's that darn train?
Lighthouse
Stranded
Are we lost again?
Looks like it!
Another quiet evening in Fort William

June 19: The end of our journey is near, and we would head eastwards again towards Edinburgh.
Skyfall Filming Location
The scenery around Glencoe was used as backdrop for the Bond movie Skyfall while the actual scenes where filmed at the studios.
We took the opportunity to stretch our legs and went for a hike. Scotland is definitely a land for hikers and mountaineers, too.
 
We tried to avoid the highway as much as we could until we got to Stirling (below: Stirling Castle) but as it became all stop-and-go through congested towns, or following country roads parallel to the highway we decided to burn some rubber (as much as one could with a speed limit of 70 mph) and hit the fast lane to Edinburgh.
The scenery was lovely, almost English.
Again we had pre-booked our stay the day before, this time we found lovely accommodation at Laurels Guesthouse, located in a quiet suburban neighborhood, and a twenty minute bus ride away from the city center. Again our advance notice of dietary requirements helped Sonja in getting settled for the day.
Coming up next: Edinburgh