There are many odds and ends when traveling Europe. This is what makes travel interesting. There is a joy in leaving the mundane, in discovering new perspectives, and finding there are other ways of doing what you were always used to doing.
I have left my Oswestry house sit and gone down the road 18 miles to the town of Shrewsbury. This is an old town, the county seat of Shropshire, and the chief market town in the area. The city center lies on a peninsula jutting into the River Severn. The layout of streets created in about 700 AD still remain as they were.
If you’ve ever read any of Ellis Peters’ Brother Cadfael mystery books, you will be familiar with her Abbey setting. This is the Shrewsbury Abbey. Another notable fact of this city is that was the birth place of Charles Darwin. The town’s indoor Market Hall has been voted Britain’s favorite.
I am in Shrewsbury for only four nights leaving me little time to explore, given that I’m here to take care of a dog. Therefore, my wanderings will have to be on the Internet, but I’ll spare you those. Instead, let me share (in no particular order) some of the odds and ends when traveling Europe that I’ve experienced.
By far, the best way to get about, as the English would say, is by trains. England’s trains are probably best known for their punctuality. The station platforms all have reader boards giving the exact time the train will arrive. If the train is going to be late by one or two minutes, an announcement lets you know. I’m amused that a delay of one or two minutes is announced. Surely this can’t be a major consequence to one’s ravel tplans.
The trains, old but mostly new, are a pleasure to ride. The seats are comfortable with plenty of leg room. The newer trains all provide an occasional table either side of two seats for working while traveling. There are internet and blue tooth connections at every seat. Many of the seats can be reserved in advance. This is a great feature for those trains which are busy with many passengers.
Why fly when you can so easily hop on a train and enjoy a peaceful ride? Another reason for me to ride the English trains is, that as an older person, I automatically get one-third off the price of the ticket. Everything happens electronically. England has embraced the future.
The German trains were not the equal of England’s. They are often late, are difficult providing this fact, and aren’t as helpful to get you on the right platform. I don’t recall if they offer electronic connections, as my trips were short enough that I didn’t seek to discover this feature.
I made use of other ways to get about, using Uber and taxis. It’s a privilege, except in Wales, to be able to use credit/debit cards to pay for your passage. In fact, England is predominantly a credit card country. I have somehow gathered a bunch of coins and am having difficulty using them; most of my purchases are more than my number of coins.
It is also possible to travel by bicycle. England has some bike lanes, but they are little used. Bicycling in England has not really caught on. The Germans win the use of bicycles hands down. Germany has extensive bike lanes and they are used by many riders. I wish this were true for more countries.
Duvets and Door Handles
An odd little fact that annoys me is that every hotel, hostel, and home that I have visited uses a duvet (comforter) on their beds. Certainly, it’s an easy way to make a bed: just throw the duvet over the sheet. I’m annoyed because these duvets are usually too heavy and I get over-heated at night. Sure, I can throw it off, but they I have no covering over me. I would much prefer to have a blanket or two to adjust my comfort.
Door handles. How can these be so different from American door handles? Well, they are. I found these in both Germany and the UK. Are they everywhere? Once I got the hang of them, they are great. You force the handle up which puts the lock in place. Then turn the key for added security. Leave the key in the lock at all times, which also prevents entry from the outside. Then, turn the key back and force the handle down and the door opens. I don’t know why I’m so taken with these handles, but I am.
English Christmas Markets
A really big feature in England during November-December is the Christmas Market. There are more than 15 major markets, often clustered around a cathedral. Other locations may be parks. Stalls are set up for vendors to sell the wares. There’s always plenty of food to savor, gifts to buy, maybe even a skating rink. Some cities have more than one of these markets (think London). I witnessed over 117 of these stalls when I was at Exeter Cathedral ahead of the season. Bath Cathedral has about 150 stalls.
Christmas Markets are also plentiful throughout Europe. The biggest of them all is Vienna. Some of the English markets are designed to imitate a German or Austrian market. Germany leads Europe in the proliferation of these markets, but the English markets are worth visiting. My current house-sitting assignment is a result of the hosts leaving for one of the markets.
Unfortunately, I will not be in a location to experience an English Christmas Market. There are many more odds and ends when traveling Europe, but space limits me today.
Fact: Just outside Shrewsbury stands the world’s first skyscraper with a whopping 5 stories, built in 1797
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