I've been very busy writing lately, and I was certainly ready for a break from the keyboard. For most of my writing life, I've had to fit the writing in around my legal career; now, it's very much the other way round, and over a spell of about four weeks I must have chalked up a higher word count than in any comparable period as a writer. But of course writing needs to remain fresh at all times, and I was glad of the chance to spend five nights in Germany from which I've just returned.
This was a trip around some medieval centres which I knew little or nothing about, other than Heidelberg, which has long been on my wish list. And the combination of great weather, charming locations, and a very good guide in Frank Pattinson (who was perhaps the best of the many tour guides I've come across over the years) proved, if not precisely restful, at least an excellent way of recharging the batteries.
The first destination was Wurzburg, a town which boasts plenty of sights along the riverside. There's a formidable fortress on top of a hill which commands spectacular views of the old town, including a charming and historic old bridge, which reminded me of the bridge in Prague. Other stops in the area included Rothenburg - delightful, with an old city wall - and Bamberg, with an amazing old town hall built on an island in the river.
Heidelberg, naturally, was a highlight, a fantastic university town which offers river trips on a solar-powered catamaran: an absolute must if, like me, you love boat trips. The massive and picturesque old castle, reached either by funicular train or (a lot of) steps proved equally memorable. Of course, it's a place with a dark history, as a former Nazi stronghold, and there are poignant reminders of past horrors supplied by "stumbling stones" which are placed in the pavements in memory of Jewish people who died at the hands of the Nazis.
There were plenty of other places to visit as well, including a very charming and attractive town called Wertheim, and Mannheim's impressive botanical gardens, complete with pelicans and flamingoes.
All in all, this is a part of the world which I can strongly recommend to anyone looking for somewhere a bit different. For once, I didn't come away with a new idea for a short story, but I did plenty of thinking about my works-in-progress and the challenge now is to get them down in black and white! Oh, and I had the chance to read a number of excellent crime novels which will feature before long as Forgotten Books.