Friday, October 10, 2008

The Romantic Road

So how would you like to travel the romantic road with me?
Sounds good, Baby! When do we start?
I've always regarded myself as the romantic type. She soon put me right, for she had something quite different in mind.

There is a well-known (and much-travelled) route in Germany which is called “Die romantische Straße” - the romantic road. In bare essentials it takes one from Fussen near the Alps in Southern Germany to the old town of Würzburg on the Main river in the centre of the country. This is just one of the designated tourist routes of Germany. My road atlas of Germany lists over one hundred, which are designed to suite all tastes. There is a variety of wine routes - actually a GREAT variety. Maybe a beer and castle route is more to your taste. Alternatively, you could have a castle route without the beer, but who would want that one! The fairytale route takes you through the Pied Piper's town of Hameln as well as other Grimm Brothers' favourites. And a clock route (Cuckoo, that is) and a shoe route (Shoe? Yes!) and a Nieblung/Siegfried route for those interested in German legends and/or Wagner (Is this a ring-road? You may well ask). And so the routes continue, crisscrossing the country.

But to get back on track. The romantic road takes in those aspects which remind of times medieval and of legends old – fairytale castles, fortresses, walled medieval towns, churches with tall steeples and all this set in picturesque landscape. It is the very quintessence of ...well, romantic Germany. So why not drive it from woe to go, high to low, south to north, from Mad Ludwig's Fairytale Castle, Neuschwanstein, (this was Walt Disney's inspiration for his Cinderella Castle and has
become the most recognisable castle in the world) to the Residence of a former Bishop in Würzburg, which someone called “the best parsonage in Europe”. Thanks to the extravagance of these two our “romantic” trip through Germany will be anchored by two outstanding bookends.

It not really a long way – some 350 kilometres. The sign-posts are in both German and Japanese, so you can't get lost unless you are neither German nor Japanese. And not even then, for then you can follow the pictorial symbols on the sign posts. This suits me just fine for I still look at the illustrations when I first open a book and am somewhat disappointed if the book contains no pictures.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Packed and ready to go

It's off again. Now comes the seemingly impossible: how to condense the pile of 'absolutely necessary' essentials into 20kg, and that into a suitcase of legal proportions. I know for a fact that packing for a trip uses up a lot of nervous energy and has the potential to disrupt proceedings more than any other aspect. We come from two completely different traditions, my wife and I. “Dad did all the packing in our house,” says my wife. “It was probably a carryover from his earlier job as a storeman and packer. He wouldn't allow Mum to lift a finger; which suited her just fine.” In my family, packing belonged to the area of procurement and care of clothing, which was in Mum's portfolio. Now in our united situation, it was obvious from the very beginning that some sort of compromise was called for. Only then could we be assured that a much-looked-forward-to trip would not get off on the wrong foot.

It seemed that with my wife's self-confessed lack of a spatial concept and my rather overstated (her word) possession of the same, the actual packing would fall to me. It did. Estimation of what might be needed (by her, forgetting that I too needed a change of underwear) and the selection of same would be her responsibility. This seemed fair in theory but in practice all sorts of ugly scenarios raised their petty heads.
“One never knows with Melbourne. They can experience four seasons in one day there. Everyone knows that.”
“True, but does that mean that you need to take your entire wardrobe for the weekend? What about all those shoes? When on earth will you find time to wear them all? And we're going to Launceston, not Melbourne.”
Imagine the vigorous pruning needed for a month's tour of Europe! In spring, when everyone does NOT know what the weather will be like. Add to this the effects of global warming and the unpredictability of weather patterns...... but that's another matter.

I recently visited a friend who was two weeks out from a fourteen-day tour of China. On the bed in her spare room were these neat little piles of various apparel. “I like to have everything organized well beforehand,” she told me. “That avoids all that desperate last minute running around and then leaving something important at home.” All this might be good in theory but not so easy in practice. This is made even more difficult when one's wardrobe consists of the bare necessities. Set aside six pair of socks from my stockpile and I am left with seven individuals of varying colours and a pair of footwarmers I saved from a previous overseas flight. Which airline was it that provided that extra touch some years ago? No, packing the day before seems to be my preferred option.

Another question which could denote some deep psychological significance is this: should there be a his case and a her case or rather a mixture of gear in both cases? In spite of our many trips together this has not been completely finalized. To me it seems to have resolved into a her case and a mixed case. The mathematician can quickly spot the flaw in this arrangement! The fashion consultant would see it as the result of a sort of natural selection. So I remain the chief suit-case packer, at times working under extreme weight and volume constrictions, but always managing to avoid excess weight penalties. Sure, I had to resort to questionable tactics at times to keep my record intact. One occasion comes to mind. We had arrived at our time-share resort in Laugharne (Sth. Wales) and Jill was planning to wear her good green frock to a welcoming dinner. “Have you seen my green suede shoes (shades of Elvis)? I swear I had them out to take.” Two weeks after arriving home the same green suede shoes were found under our bed where I must have inadvertently kicked them while packing.

I must admit that on our trips we have always found something to wear lying about our room after we have unpacked our cases. It is also a fact that some of the items taken with us around the world have not been required to contribute to our (especially her) sartorial splendour. (But very seldom. Normally I wear everything I take.)