Kite Flying and Other Fun at Towyn Farm

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We were at home briefly after our trip to Germany and Holland, but no summer is complete for us without a trip to the Llyn Peninsula with our Camping Friends and so we were soon packing our trailer tent and driving down to Towyn Farm. All of the usual fun was had: barbecues, camp fires, mass games of cricket and kubb, and frequent trips to the beach. At the beginning of this visit, the sea was like the proverbial mill pond and we had, I think, the best snorkeling we have ever had there. There were so many fish to see, including Dogfish and, I think, a Plaice and lots of Wrasse. Later in the week, the winds picked up and so did the waves, which always makes the kids (large and small) very happy because of the opportunity for some body-boarding.

The winds also encouraged us to dig out TBH’s parafoil kite. She’s had it for years, from before we met, which is over 20 years ago, but it needed new lines and it has sat neglected in our garage.

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It’s a stunt kite and remarkably easy to crash. I blame the variable winds. A was the most successful of the kids at keeping it aloft. B’s reactions were hilarious, he got very excited and usually over-compensated for the movements of the kite.

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TBH demonstrates how it’s done. Perhaps.

I’ve always enjoyed flying kites. I once entertained the whimsical idea of flying a kite from the summit of all of the Munros. I think I managed about four. I’ve often carried a pocket kite on walks however. But I don’t have a pocket stunt kite….hmmmm.

Kite Flying and Other Fun at Towyn Farm

Haarlem

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With a little more time to spare, we decided to have a whistle-stop wander around Haarlem on our way to the ferry terminal.

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It was a brief visit, although we did find time for an ice-cream, but my initial impression is that with more time to see it properly, I would really like Haarlem.

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Then we were back on the ferry and bound for home.

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Haarlem

Medemblik

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The last day of our European odyssey. We’d spent the day before at one of those swimming pools where nobody actually swims because they’re too busy swooping down slides, messing about with inflatables, or waiting for the wave or current machines to perform their magic again. Not usually my cup of tea, but the kids enthusiasm was infectious and we all had a great time.

Now we’d had to leave our accommodation quite early, but didn’t need to board the ferry until late afternoon. Time to squeeze in a little more sight-seeing.

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We’d already visited Medemblik a few times, mainly for groceries. We’d also been for a meal – Trip Advisor had recommended a bar as the best place for vegan food locally. When we arrived it was to discover that the only vegan option was a Caesar salad. Without the chicken. Or the parmesan. Or the dressing, which contains anchovies. So – a bowl of lettuce. For sixteen Euros. Fortunately, the Italian restaurant next door was much more accommodating.

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As you can see, Medemblik has a castle.

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It also has a marina and a complex of harbours and lots and lots of boats, which made me very happy.

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Many of the boats were leaving the harbours for the IJsselmeer, which seemed like quite a complex process, requiring some careful manoeuvring and a plenty of consideration for other sailors.

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Frankly, I could have watched the boats going in and out all day.

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Holland really does seem to be absolutely criss-crossed by canals. Both of the properties we rented in the Netherlands neighboured small canals. It also felt as though almost everybody had a boat of some kind.

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This prevalence of waterways and passion for boats means that driving anywhere requires a fair deal of patience, as lifting bridges seem to be the norm, even on very major roads.

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I have a feeling that this rather odd building might have housed some sort of gallery or museum.

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A sculpture to honour the sailors and fishermen of Medemblik’s past.

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One last trip-advisor outbreak of muppetry to report: too tight-fisted to book breakfast on the ferry, we took a convoluted route through South Shields to a recommended vegan cafe to find that not only was it not vegan, but that it didn’t even exist. After another interminable drive, the second recommendation provided an excellent vegan breakfast, I’m told. At lunchtime. Better yet, the boys and I found a storming greasy spoon just around the corner without any online assistance.

That being said, not all online advice is bogus, and I can heartily recommend the area around Medemblik and Enkhuizen.

Medemblik

Zuiderzeemuseum

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Back in the 90s – I wish I could be more specific – I travelled to a cousin’s wedding in Ratzeburg. I was travelling with my Mum and Dad again, and making a very leisurely journey. They were in their Motorhome, at the other end of the scale from a mini, and I had my own car this time. We caught the ferry, to Dunkirk I think, and camped almost immediately, perhaps at Bray-Dunes. I remember we spent some time on the beach, but also that we visited some of the memorials around Ypres, including the wonderfully eccentric museum at Sanctuary Wood and the Canadian Memorial at Hill 62.

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When we moved on, we crossed into Holland and stopped on the fringes of a town called Enkhuizen on the shores of the IJsselmeer. Enkhuizen is home to the Zuiderzeemuseum, which I have remembered fondly ever since, and always wanted to return to.

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So we did. Alongside the museum’s usual attractions, there was a musical festival on in the grounds, with folk bands playing, some of them English.

The back room of this shop…

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…housed a collection of large wooden heads which used to act as shop signs apparently…

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It’s a very hands on museum and there are plenty of opportunities for visitors to get involved…

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Now, I love this kind of museum. Beamish in the north-east of England is terrific, for example.

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It wasn’t as big a hit with the rest of the family, but that was perhaps a bit much to ask.

The DBs did like this Archimedean Screw, which was there to demonstrate how windmills could be used to control the water levels in the dykes and canals.

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In fact there were quite a few games for them to play. And they liked the boating lake…

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Although the wind was still very strong and it was hard not to end up stranded on the seaward side of the shallow pond.

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We were staying, incidentally, in Opperdoes, near to another harbour town, Medemblik and I liked the area generally.

The wedding, by the way, was fantastic – a big family get together. The reason I had my own car with me was that, after the wedding, my parents headed off home, but I had other plans.

I drove south, for an appointment with a total eclipse. I did it in small hops, stopping for a few days whenever I found a campsite somewhere which took my fancy. I visited the Ardennes and the Vosges, watched the eclipse (it was fairly cloudy, sadly) from somewhere north of the Black Forest, and finally wended my way up through France, somehow finding my way to the coast of Picardy. I know that sounds a bit vague, but the memory is decidedly hazy. I probably have some photographs somewhere, I wonder how long this enforced isolation will last….

 

Zuiderzeemuseum

Afsluitdijk

More holiday snaps, but these are of a much greater vintage.

The day after our failed island-hopping exploits we drove across northern Germany and then crossed the Afsluitdijk the dam/causeway which turned the Zuiderzee, a huge bay, into the freshwater Ijsselmeer. It was an extremely windy day and one carriageway of the road was closed, with the wind whipping the Ijsselmeer into impressive waves. The Afsluitdijk is 20 miles long and it was quite odd driving along it, knowing that we were on a narrow strip of land with large expanses of apparently angry water on either side of us. It would have been nice to stop to have a look, but it really wasn’t the day for it.

I’ve been across the Afsluitdijk before. In the summer of 1968. When my parents heard that we were heading that way last summer, they sent me some photos from my previous crossing.

We were in a mini, my parents and my grandparents and me. I’m told it was a hot summer – it must have been fun with 5 of us in a such a tiny car; three smokers and one very car-sick toddler. Here’s a photo of the Afsluitdijk in 1968…

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…which I presume my dad took. The pale blue car with cases on the roof may well be our mini.

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And here are my grandparents, Sid and Flo, younger then than I am now, which seems quite odd, and my mum and me. I’m in the fetching baby-blue hoodie. I was almost as cute then as I am now.

Afsluitdijk

Locked Out: Riems and Koos

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Perhaps I should simply draw a veil over this day, our last in Northern Germany, since it wasn’t a huge success. Our maybe I should post a write up to serve as an object lesson for all cartophiles – incidentally, my spellchecker doesn’t think that’s a word, but I’m very gratified to find that the internet most assuredly disagrees – anyway, a cautionary tale with the moral: you can’t always plan a day out entirely on the basis of a road map.

The problem was that the house we’d booked, lovely though it was, didn’t have wifi, and, I confess, my research prior to our trip had been a bit slipshod and primarily centred around images of the white cliffs of Jasmund. Beyond that I hadn’t thought too far. But the map showed two small islands just down the coast from our holiday home, both joined to the mainland by a causeway, one of which was shown on the map as a nature reserve. What could go wrong?

So, we drove to Riems to find the island surrounded by tall security fences, locked gates and signs which made it clear that visitors weren’t welcome. It seemed as those the island was occupied by some sort of large factory complex.

Hence the rather shoddy, side-of-the-road picnic shown in the first photo. I seem to remember we were still pretty cheerful – we had the nature reserve still to come and we were entertained by the largest flock of Cormorants I have ever seen:

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It wasn’t far to our second non-event of the day, but the roads were narrow and a bit confusing and by the time we reached the tiny car park at the edge of reserve I think tempers may have been a bit frayed.

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As you can see, the quaint information board showed a path across the reserve to the island of Koos.

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I think that this is Cornflower, not something I’ve seen at home in Lancashire.

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A tern. Not sure which type.

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It was a fairly bleak landscape, but the island was clearly wooded and would surely prove to be charming?

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Riems. What a shame we couldn’t get in.

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We eventually reached the narrow strait separating Koos from the mainland. There were lots of hirundines nesting on the underside of the wooden bridge.

And the channel was teeming with fish…

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And a Moon Jellyfish – the same kind which the boys and I had swum with a couple of days before.

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They don’t sting humans apparently, although when I swam in the Baltic as a kid I was convinced I’d been stung, so it isn’t just B who has a vivid imagination. Jellyfish have no blood or brain or heart apparently. People never boast about swimming with jellyfish do they? Dolphins, definitely. Maybe seals? Jellyfish no. Speciesist.

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Anyway, just beyond the bridge – high fences and a padlocked gate. Insert your own expletives. We could at least see why this was a nature reserve, there were huge numbers of Greylag Geese, Swans and Cormorants about.

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And, I think, three Great White Egrets, judging by their size relative to the Grey Heron nearby.

It was a long trudge back to the car.

The next day we had a lengthy drive ahead, with a considerable detour to my Aunt’s house to collect the many possessions our kids had managed to leave behind. But we weren’t heading home yet…

Locked Out: Riems and Koos

Greifswald

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Another day, another picturesque Baltic coastal town to investigate.

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I’m not sure how I managed to take a photo of the market without managing to include a fish sandwich stall: they were legion. Clearly, the good burghers of Greifswald really like their fish sandwiches. Having tried one, with a plate of salads too, I can see why.

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Greifswald has several large churches, but this is the Dom St. Nikolai. As in other German towns we visited, because of other buildings nearby, it was difficult to take a photo showing the exterior of the cathedral.

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I assume the shabbiness of parts of this church are a consequence of its location in a part of the former Eastern Bloc.

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This…

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…is the corner of a slab in the cathedral. I assume that it’s a fossil of some sort. Always gratifying to sneak in a nature photo!

I’ve included this photo of a courtyard…

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…because it appears to be the only photo I took in the thoroughly underwhelming Caspar David Friedrich museum. I studied his paintings when I took an OU course years ago and was very pleased to discover that he was born in Greifswald (when it was part of Swedish Pomerania – who knew?). I think it’s fair to say that he’s a major artist, so I didn’t expect to see any of his famous paintings on display, but maybe some sketches or juvenilia? But – nothing. This was a museum with no content at all, just lots of information boards and a video. It did keep us out of the rain, but it seems a bit cheeky to charge for an empty museum.

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Greifswald

Stralsund Oceanarium

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Stralsund has two public aquariums. One features sea-life from around the globe, the other, the Oceanarium, concentrates on just the Baltic and North Seas.

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We chose to visit the latter.

Now, cards on the table, I really like a good aquarium and this one was superb. Probably even better than The Deep in Hull, which is high praise in my book.

If you’re thinking that this…

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…is a Pike, then you’d be right. I was a bit surprised to see it in an aquarium dedicated to sea creatures, but because the Baltic is relatively enclosed, and because several large rivers empty into it’s eastern waters, and because sand banks form just beyond the shoreline creating lagoons,  the waters of the Baltic are often brackish and support life ordinarily confined to fresh water.

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I took hundreds of photos of fish on my phone, mostly slightly blurred. At this remove, I can’t remember what species many of them show.

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This…

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…I’m reasonably sure is a Sturgeon. And I think the spotted fish swimming alongside are Salmon, although I wouldn’t swear to it.

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This…

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…is a Weever Fish, which I was fascinated to see, having read about them in a dire notice in the toilet block at Towyn Farm every summer for several years. They have toxic spines along their backs and stepping on one has excruciating consequences apparently. I think I stood on something like this in the Med when I was in my teens. Certainly, it was very, very painful and the vein running up my leg swelled quite dramatically – it put me out of action for an afternoon.

I think that this flatfish…

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…might be Plaice. I’m also reasonably sure that I saw the same species, Plaice if I’m right with my ID, whilst I was snorkelling off the Llyn peninsula a week or two later in the summer.

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These are Lumpfish. They were decidedly odd looking creatures but quite charming despite, or perhaps because of that fact. Perhaps for that reason, they have stuck in my mind ever since.

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The finale was a huge tank with, if I remember correctly, three sharks, of different species and a lot of other fish too.

A superb day out!

 

Stralsund Oceanarium

Stralsund

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We visited Stralsund several times. We drove through, for example, on the way to and from Rügen. It was also our go to choice for shopping. And we had a bit of a wander around a couple of times.

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Very charming it was too.

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Here Little S is giving an impromptu recital on a piano seemingly left out for just such an eventuality. He’s never had lessons and was probably playing chopsticks. A, who can actually play, refused to give us a rendition.

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The Dom and the Rathaus.

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This is part of the bridge over to Rügen. The pano below is my attempt to capture it all.

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I don’t have a photo of the tiny Turkish cafe where we ate a couple of times – kebabs and falafel at a fraction of the price we might have paid elsewhere and very tasty too.

When these photos were taken we were in town to visit one of Stralsund’s many attractions. More of which to follow.

Stralsund

Back to Rügen

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We returned to Rügen the following day because we were keen to climb this enormous tower in the beech woods.

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I’ve read that it’s 17m tall, which doesn’t sound all that high, but it certainly feels huge when you are on it.

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The views from the top were superb, although I don’t think any of my photos really do them justice. Rügen has several large lakes and also there are numerous other islands just nearby – from the tower you can look down on all of that.

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It was most enjoyable. There were various entertainments on the way up and down the tower, like this xylophone type instrument…

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And this…

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…sand sculpture by the car park.

Later, we drove to a long stretch of beach on a peninsula in the south-eastern corner of the island.

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The DBs were desperate for a swim. TBH and A were equally adamant that they wouldn’t join us. They read their books on the beach instead.

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They had their reasons: the sea here was teeming with jellyfish. It seems to always be the way with Baltic beaches. The DBs found it highly amusing. B said he could feel the jellyfish stinging him, but he must be more sensitive than me because I just felt them brushing against me. Eventually, we swam out a little further and there it began to feel like swimming not so much with jellyfish as in a jellyfish. Like a slimier version of one of those kids ball pools that ‘fun pubs’ have. I have to confess that I found that a little unnerving and even the DBs seemed to be a bit put off.

From there we drove to Thiessow at the tip of the peninsula for a wander along the beach. It was a quiet and very tranquil spot.

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The beach extended into a sandbar continuing out into the sea…

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We had a wander into the dunes behind the beach.

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There were signs warning walkers not to disturb the snakes whose habitat this was. Sadly, we didn’t spot any, but we did see loads of the these very large snails…

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I think that this might be Helix Pomatia, the Roman snail, perhaps better know as escargot. We don’t see them in the North of England, though they are found further south. Fortunately, I think that they are protected in Germany.

Back to Rügen