Tag Archives: UK

Remember, remember, the fifth of November

If you’ve been to Great Britain during the first few days of November, you might have noticed fireworks going off and maybe even come across a few bonfires in the evening hours.  Like me, you might have had trouble finding out what it’s all about. People don’t always know why or what they’re celebrating. They just go and join the fun. But I usually like to know the reason for these kinds of festivities.

Westminster Bon fire2

A guy named Fawkes

It all started with a guy. To be precise: with Guy Fawkes. This fellow was “caught in the act” when guarding barrels of powder that had been placed in a cellar beneath the Parliament in order to blow up King James I of England and replace him with a Catholic King. But let’s see how the story began.

Guy Fawkes had presumably been very easily influenced by others all his life. In May 1604, he and other conspirators agreed to join in the now so-called “gunpowder conspiracy”. Fawkes then assumed the name John Johnson, as a servant of Thomas Percy, one of the conspirators. In early December 1604, he started to supervise work in a mine to prepare the gunpowder barrels. In 1605, they hired a cellar beneath Parliament. Fawkes helped to fill the room with barrels of powder and, because of his munitions experience, he was given the task of setting light to the powder. One day before his capture authorities discovered him, but let him leave because they hadn’t seen the barrels yet. But on Tuesday, 5 November, when he once again returned to the cellar, he was arrested. A Westminster magistrate had previously found the gunpowder during a meticulous search. Fawkes was tortured and finally gave away the plan as well as the names of the other conspirators. On Friday, 31 January 1606 he and three others were hanged.

Gunpowder Treason Day

firstRhymeThe very first celebration of the failed gunpowder treason took place right after Guy Fawkes was arrested. The King’s Council had allowed the public to celebrate the King’s survival with bonfires. The following year Parliament passed the Observance of 5th November Act (also known as “Thanksgiving Act”) in order to remember the failed attempt to murder King James I of England. What the celebrations were like during the first years can only be speculated, though we know that at least in some communities music and artillery salutes were part of the festivities. The events were mainly for local dignitaries to start with, but were extended steadily.

While at first the celebrations demonstrated an anti-Catholic sentiment – very early on, effigies of hate-figures, e.g. the pope or the devil, were burnt -, it gradually changed to large organised events, centred on bonfires and extravagant firework displays.

Guy Fawkes Day
NurseryRhyme_Today, every kid knows the name. “Remember, remember…” is a nursery rhyme every kid in Great Britain is bound to hear at some point. Still, when you ask people about the reason for bonfires and firework – more often than not the question results in puzzled looks. People do have a vague idea, of course, but nowadays people seem to be more interested in partying than knowing what makes this date special in the first place.
Partly this might be because society and circumstances change over time. There still might be the odd resentment between Catholics and Protestants, but they’re mostly well concealed in history. What’s more, the name of the day changed in the late eighteenth century, which might have helped to keep the true reason for the celebration in the dark. Even though the story is kind of known, people are lost regarding the specifics. 

Maybe we should not only celebrate festivities, but also try and remember the story behind the party. Otherwise we might lose part of our culture and customs that we wouldn’t want to. After all, even the nursery rhyme says “Remember, remember, the fifth of November…”.

Text: Angie Czygann | Pictures: Manfred Czygann

 

Yorkshire

What did you think about the Twilight Franchise? Did you like it? Or was it too cheesy? As far as my vampirology knowledge goes, vampires are supposed to resemble demonic, sublime characters with a twisted romantic touch. But where does this misguided love theme in Coppola’s Dracula movie and the sinister notion of vampire films like Nosferatu come from? Well, it was the Irish author Bram Stoker who kicked it all off with his Gothic novel Dracula, in 1897. But where did he get his inspiration from?
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A northern English town called Whitby, located in Yorkshire, inspired Bram Stoker writing his novel Dracula. The weather conditions and the local dialect are worked into the novel and even the novel’s name itself – Dracula – derives from a book about Walachian and Moldavian history, which Stoker stumbled upon in Whitby.

Not only did Dracula put the town on the map internationally, but also well-known explorer Captain Cook acquired his early nautical skills in this Yorkshire town.

However, Yorkshire has more to offer than vampire-related trivia and nautical history. It was also home to the famous Brontë sisters, Emily, Charlotte and Anne. Emily’s novel Wuthering Heights, for instance, is regarded as an English masterpiece of the nineteenth century. The three lettered sisters lived in Haworth, which is one of many picturesque towns you can find all over Yorkshire. If you like cobblestone streets and dry-brick walls, you’ll get your money’s worth in the countryside of this northern English county.

Yorkshire_Dales_2

If you’re not too interested in vampires, sailors and classic literature,  don’t worry! Yorkshire has you covered. The county features three of the biggest cities in England, namely Leeds, Sheffield and Bradford. Leeds is considered to be among the top ten towns for live music and upcoming bands. Sheffield doesn’t make this list, however, even though both bands Pulp and Arctic Monkeys come from there, which tells you a bit about the quality we’re talking about.

If this doesn’t sound hot enough for you, visit Bradford, which was named “Curry Capital of Britain” for the sixth year in a row in  ????. Thanks to its many citizens of Indian descent, you can find the best and most original Curry in the UK here. Maybe spicy food isn’t your cup of tea, though; in this case you can always go for a hearty Yorkshire pudding – a traditional Sunday roast.

The historic town of York gives its name to the entire county, the already-mentioned pudding and it’s definitely worth a visit. Not only York, but also Leeds and Sheffield have tradition-steeped football and rugby clubs where you can experience authentic English passion. Luckily the football teams don’t compete in the Premier League at the moment, which makes buying a ticket more affordable and less mainstream.

And if none of these aspects intrigue you, you can still go for a hike and enjoy the beauty of the Yorkshire Dales.

 

Author & Pictures: Johann Beß

“A day without laughter is a day wasted”

Everybody knows Charlie Chaplin because of his fame as actor, filmmaker and composer of the silent era. But I bet you don’t know everything about him…

Let’s start with a short biography:

Charlie Chaplin was born in London in 1889. His birth name was Charles Spencer Chaplin, though he had many nicknames such as Charlie, Charlot and The Little Tramp. Charlie Chaplin went to the United States in 1910, at the age of 21, trying to become a professional actor. Two years later, Chaplin signed his very first contract and entered into the famous world of Hollywood. He grew to become one of the most popular and successful actors of that time. The moment that really kicked off his long career was in 1921 when he produced his first full length film called “The Kid”. From then on, most people all over the world knew Charlie Chaplin and loved his movies. He had a great career and life. He died in Switzerland in 1977, at the age of 88.

#1: Charlie Chaplin once won the third prize in a Charlie Chaplin look-charliechaplina-like contest

I know, you’re probably thinking, are you kidding?! This is a myth that has been around for a long time, but there is no direct record of it happening, and all of the claims are anecdotal. This anecdote, told by Lord Desborough, whoever he may have been, was quite widely reported in the British press at the time, so it was assumed that this is the source of an urban myth. However it may be true!

#2: Charlie Chaplin once confessed he had sexual relations with more than 2,000 women   

He had a fondness for young women. Chaplin was married four times and had eleven children. He was 29 and his first wife was 16 when they married. His second marriage was to Lita Grey, who was 16, when he was 35. His third and possibly fictional marriage to Paulette Goddard, occurred when he was 47 and she was 28. Chaplin married his last wife, Oona O’Neill, shortly after she turned 18 while he was 54.

#3: Charlie Chaplin’s corpse was stolen

Three months after Chaplin died on Christmas 1977, his body was stolen in an effort to extort money from his family. Chaplin’s body was recovered eleven weeks later after the grave robbers were captured. He is now buried under six feet of concrete to prevent further theft attempts.

#4: Charlie Chaplin has an asteroid named after him

3623 Chaplin (1981 TG2) is a main belt steroid between Mars and Jupiter, which was named after Charlie Chaplin. It was discovered on October 4, 1981 by Ms. Karachkina.

#5: Charlie Chaplin never became a U.S. citizen

He was exiled from the USA in 1953 because he refused to accept the American citizenship. That’s why he lived in Switzerland during his exile years and then died there.

#6: Charlie Chaplin’s imprints on the Hollywood Walk of Fame were removed

Because he was suspected of being a communist, his imprints were removed from the Hollywood Walk of Fame and were afterwards lost.

Author & Pictures: Deborah Ghezzi

One ticket – boundless fun

As the semester break is slowly approaching, it’s time to plan your activities, if you haven’t already. If you love backpacking, you should definitely try Interrail. It’s one ticket that allows you to travel by train across Europe. You can choose between one country (One Country Pass) or several (Global Pass, 30 countries). I did this two years ago and had lots of fun. Three weeks with the Global Pass gave me the chance to travel to three countries, the UK, Ireland and France in the summer.

A beach in Cornwall.
A beach in Cornwall

First stop: England

I took the plane from Memmingen to London, so I visited the UK capital first. However, other parts of England you don’t usually visit much were more interesting. So I travelled to Cornwall and was stunned by its natural beauty. St. Ives (Cornwall) is a really small town, but it’s as beautiful as the rest of this region. When visiting Land’s End, you feel like you’re in a different country, because it’s not how I had imagined England: blue sea, sunshine and very nice paths along the coast. Even beaches. The windy weather is dangerous for sunburn, as I experienced painfully.

Killarney National Park
Killarney National Park

Second stop: Ireland

A ferry to Ireland was next. The journey went by very fast and then Dublin was a blast. Street musicians, lovely people, cosy pubs, it has everything. Next stop was the small town of Killarney. With a national park in sight, I rented a bike and explored it. Everything is green and you feel really healthy.

So far so good – but trouble was brewing, unbeknown to me. I mixed up the dates at the end of July. I’d almost boarded the train to the port of Rosslare, when I noticed my blunder. The ferry was departing in a few hours that very day whereas I thought I had an extra day, which is why I booked an extra night in Ireland. Things then got very hectic. Will I ever get to France in time? When does the next ferry depart? Where do I stay till then? I contacted Irish Ferries, and thank God, they were very kind. The next ferry was departing in three days and they cancelled my reservation on the other one. And they got me a ticket for the next trip. I even found a nice hostel in Dublin until then.

seine
Seine sightseeing tour

Third stop: France

Paris was my first choice in France and I wasn’t disappointed. I can very much recommend a Seine sightseeing tour. There are boats leaving every 30 minutes at the Pont Neuf, and it’s a really different view from down on the river, especially at sunset. After only three hours aboard the TGV, I found myself on the Côte d’Azur in Marseille. Finally, 35°C and a beach to relax on. And the restaurants have delicious food, especially fish and vegetables from the region.

Go try it yourself!

In the end, it was a fantastic trip. You even get discounts on ferries, and as long as you’re under 28, the pass is cheaper. So don’t hold back – explore Europe!

Author & Pictures: Thomas Kienast

London on a student budget

If there is any vacation destination that I could call my home away from home it’s London. The British capital captured my heart from the first time I visited and has me coming back as often as I can. But frequent trips to London have one major drawback: this city is bloody expensive! So when my best friend asked me to spontaneously accompany her for just three days, I hesitated for a while, wondering if the expense was worth it for the limited time we had. In the end, I went with her, of course, and spent under €200, thanks to a couple of things I learned during my previous visits.

Museumslondon1

In 2001 all state-managed museums in London abolished admission charges, which means all of the major museums like the National Gallery or the Tate Modern are completely free. This allows you to basically museum-hop, which is what I like doing in the city more than anything else. If you want to visit the British Museum, just to look at the Rosetta Stone and admire the impressive architecture of its main hall – go for it! Tea at the Victoria & Albert and a quick detour through the dinosaur exhibit of the Natural History Museum? Lovely idea!

Churches

London makes up for the free museums with horrendous admission charges to its beautiful churches like Westminster Abbey or St.Paul’s. During a service, however, it’s completely free. I would especially recommend the choral evensong at Westminster Abbey; sit down to listen to the famous choir while taking in the gothic architecture and delicately carved décor.

West End showslondon3

No visit to London would be complete for me without seeing at least one West End show. Lots of theatres offer special daily tickets for a huge discount, but most of them are on a first-come-first- serve basis and require lots of queuing. So if you’re pressed for time or simply don’t want to research all the different deals, drop by the “tkts” booth in Leicester Square. They always have a lot of discounted tickets for evening performances on the same day, so you can go by and just pick what’s cheapest or sounds the most fun.

Food

You can find the best bang for your buck for a quick meal at “Wahaca”, a Mexican grill right beneath Waterloo Bridge. Their 6-pound pulled pork burritos are mouth-watering and satisfy even the biggest hunger. And if you want to make a little sightseeing trip out of it, cross Waterloo Bridge at night for a breathtaking view across the whole cityscape, get your burrito and wander along the Thames in the direction of the Tate Modern. Your path will take you through trees full of twinkling fairy lights and to Blackfriars Bridge, where you can check out “Doggets Coat & Badge” pub for a pint of cider or alelondon4.

Author & Pictures: Anna Reinbold

Who would you rather have a beer with? Winnie-The-Pooh or her Majesty the Queen?

Why am I asking such stupid questions? Well, 2016 is not only the Queen’s 90th birthday, but also the 90th anniversary of the first publication starring Winnie-The-Pooh.

It turns out that the two of them have a lot in common. They are both 90, very British and say clever things every now and then. Probably the Queen is even fond of honey like our beloved little bear. The Queen is said to have loved the Winnie-The-Pooh stories when she was a child. No wonder: since the first publication in 1926, the stories about the thoughtful bear and his friends by author A.A.Milne have found their way into children’s hearts all over the world. They have even been translated into Latin, for some reason.

winnie

In their adventures, Pooh and his friends Christopher Robin, Piglet, Tigger and Eeyore discover the true values of friendship while roaming around the “Hundred Acre Wood”. Winnie-The-Pooh, who was named after the author’s son’s teddy bear, is often thought to be a bit slow-witted but appears to be a fairly good poet. Most of the stories include a poem or a ‘hum’ about friendship or about honey, which he is very fond of.

As 2016 is Pooh’s and her Majesty the Queen’s 90th birthday, circumstances seem perfect for the two of them to meet. That’s why in a recently published short story, Pooh and his friends travel to Buckingham Palace to see the Queen. An audio-visual version of the new adventure, written by Jane Riordan, is available on youtube, but it can also be downloaded for free at WinnieThePooh.Disney.com. By the way: we asked some of our readers at the International Day in June who they would like to have a beer with. The answer: Winnie-The-Pooh. I guess he’s just so cute!

Pictures & Author: Melanie Pfanzelt