Monday, 28 March 2016


23rd - 25th Mar 2016

Bran Castle
Customs formalities on the train out of Hungary and into Romania were fairly cursory. I expect they are a bit more thorough dealing with passengers travelling the other way nowadays. I nearly made a cock-up at this point because I had forgotten that the time zone goes forward an hour in Romania. Nobody mentioned it but something must have triggered my memory at the last moment before turning in...otherwise I would have set my alarm clock a bit late. As it happened, I woke up at 7am (local time) and anyway the carriage steward banged on my cabin door with a cheery greeting 30 mins before arrival (0920) at Brasov. My first peek out at the Romanian countryside was a bit of a revelation. I thought we had time-warped back to the middle ages. Tiny wooden, wattle or white plaster walled single storey houses, some in a state of considerable delapidation, with postage-stamp sized fields, often rather scruffy, were the norm. Old horse-drawn carts and piles of logs were scattered around them. Very rustic and poor looking. Not much sign of life either; so quite a change of scenery from Budapest and the West. OK, approaching Brasov a few roads and cars and garages etc. appeared to herald the arrival of the 20th century.  

Brasov, in southern Transylvania on the edge of the Carpathian mountains, is an ancient fortified Roman town with inner surrounding walls still in existence. It has an old, cobbled and very picturesque centre with outskirts fashioned in the grey, cheap, functional and gloomy Soviet style. Surrounded by wooded hills with one big one, Mt Tampa, prominent, it is in a most attractive setting. 
The railway station (left) is nothing to write home about but was clean and serviceable.

I couldn't help thinking that 'Brasov' suggests a most apt location for a Nudist Gathering, even if a bit chilly at this time of year.

My hotel, the Kronwell, was located only 50 yards from the station which, in turn, is about a mile from the town centre (a 10 Lei, £1.60p, taxi ride), and conveniently near to the bus station. The hotel was a revelation. I hadn't paid that much for it but it boasted amazing facilities; really hi-tech and comfortable. Considering the standard of the surrounding countryside, I was now well and truly back at the forfront of the 21st century. The bedroom had all mod-cons including a complimentary i-pad, a device that could connect my laptop to the large flat-sdreen HD TV (which I didn't understand), Western TV channels, extraordinary lighting and even a heated bathroom floor! Plus a really comfortable bed. Strangely, it had a clear glass-walled bathroom (just visible above) which, although I'm sure very trendy, resulted in me inadvertently and painfully smacking nose first into it on a couple of occasions.  The room lighting system was very sophisticated and I never really mastered it. However there were slightly luminescent light switches next to the bed. This is a very sensible idea as most hotels don't have them, so you wake up in the middle of the night, in a strange room, desperate for a pee and end up thrashing around knocking things off tables and generally trashing the place trying to switch a light on. I really can't think why this is not a more common feature. However it didn't stop me from piling into the clear glass bathroom walls. The hotel also boasted a very upmarket and popular spa, fitness centre and swimming pool which I investigated and merely mention. Great breakfast, bar and delightful Romanian staff, which made me feel quite at home. They haven't all gone to UK. Yet.  I was truly impressed.

Downtown by taxi and had a wander. It was a pretty place with cobbly streets and some smart shops. The main square housed a big church. There were several churches dotted around. I think the Romanians are keen church-goers. I was trying to recall what else Romanians are noted for, and I could only think of wrestlers and weight-lifters. 

Right: There was a very long queue lined up at the door of another church on the side of the square. When I returned after a long lunch it had vastly increased and now almost lapped the square. It had also started to drizzle so these queuers were pretty damned keen to get in for whatever reason, and it can't have been just to get out of the rain. I asked a young lady, about centre queue, what was going on. She told me, in reasonable English, that they were waiting to pay homage to a belt (or something), which had been worn by the Virgin Mary (a chastity belt?) and was on loan for a few days from some religious establishment in Greece. Unbelievable, I thought. I asked how long she reckoned she would queue for, "probably about 3 hours", she said. Well, whatever turns you on I suppose. I expect someone was making a bit of money out of it.

Left: A rustic Romanian snack wagon dispensing rustic Romanian snacks, and wine.

Right: ....and of course there had to be the ubiquitous 'Oirish Bear'. This one, Deane's Bar, on the main shopping street......

......which is quite homely inside and did actually have Guiness on tap, so I forced myself to have a pint of the stuff. Jolly music was being played and in the snug at the back were little cubicles in which student types were busy on their computers.

Right: The Oxford Street' of Brasov. Some high quality shops and, of course, unavoidably, a MacDonalds.   

There were several decent looking restaurants and I picked one for lunch recommended by my Lonely Planet guidebook, the 'Casa Romaneasca', which was in the south of the town. Yes, it was excellent ; of typical Romanian style with  very good nosh and service. I recommend it too if you happen to be passing by. The views from the town were most attractive. This one (left) taken from outside my lunchtime location.
A popular area for hiking, I was told.

One of the tourist draws to the area is the Gothic style Bran Castle (right). This is alleged, without any evidence, to be the inspiration for Bram Stoker's book Dracula. Bram Stoker never visited Transylvania and it is thought he got his inspiration from Whitby Castle, where he was living at the time, or Slains Castle in Aberdeenshire. They also make a big play on the fact that Vlad Tepes (Vlad the Impaler), or Vladislow Dracul to give him his real name, was active in this area when he was busy impaling people in the 15th Century. More recently, in the 19th Century, Queen Marie of Romania lived here. It is now owned by her great grandson, Dominic Habsburg, who lives in New York. It is a privately owned museum and of course makes great play on, and profit from, the Dracula story.

It was a 40 minute bus ride north-west to Bran. It was gently sleeting when I got there. On the approach to the castle there is a large bazaar selling 'Dracula' style tat and other clothing and nic-nacs. There were few visitors and the stall-holders spent much of there efforts just keeping their wares dry. I expect business improves with better weather.

Within the castle labyrinthine passageways led from room to room, some of them quite small, and nothing of enormous interest on display as far as I could see.

Left: Two security guards.

I think a lot of the stuff on display was left over from when Queen Marie was in residence including , inexplicably, some Dinky toys and a Monopoly board game (right). There were no explanations..........

.....and this eclectic collection of junk and toys (left) carefully laid out but with  no obvious provinence or purpose. Not very Dracula like, certainly.

Right: The occasional tunnel-like stairway led to a succession of other fairly nondescript rooms.......

.........such as this sparsely furnished drawing room (left) and others with framed and rather obscure family trees hanging on the walls..........

....and this one (right) contained inexplicably  odd items which might have been torture instruments, or conceptual art perhaps. It was not made clear. Lots of other rooms with things of little interest in, so I won't bother printing them.
Goodness knows who designed the layout of the castle interior, but it was very higgledy-piggeldy and, I would have thought, not very resident friendly.

Left: There is a pretty little central courtyard and, on your way out, a castle shop selling mostly Dracula trinkets and T-shirts, but also Chateau Bran wine. I might have bought some as a souvenir but at £20 equivalent a bottle it was rather expensive, and  would probably have broken in my suitcase at some point, so I didn't.


Back outside the castle, amongst all the stalls, their is a 'Haunted House' to walk through. I decided to give it a try; why not. Quite amusing I suppose with lots of skeletons and corpses leaping out at you, dark little passageways with cobwebs to tickle your face, rattling chains and banging door sound effects and, inevitably, the bit you step on which blows a jet of cold air up your trouser leg. I felt I was being followed, and indeed I was by some little chap wearing a Dracula mask and a monk's outfit. He rather spoilt the effect when I turned around to face him and he took his mask of and asked "where you from?".
On exit the sleet had turned to a mere fine drizzle and I went for something to eat in the nearby cafe and tucked into some Dracula soup accompanied by Dracula beer. I can't help feeling they are overdoing the Dracula bit slightly.
Back on the bus (they run evert 30 mins back to Brasov). Nothing to mention there except, perhaps, the ceiling of the bus which was festooned with no-smoking signs (right). It was interesting to note that the driver was smoking. Talking of which, I have noticed that in both Hungary and Romania, as members of the EU and therefore obliged to conform to EU rules and regulations to receive our taxpayers' money, they punctiliously display all the correct 'elf and safety warning signs. Actually to obey them is quite another matter. I also noted that the wearing of seat belts in cars (my taxis for example) and helmets on motor bikes, is a matter of personal choice. For some reason the anarchist within me rather approves of this 'finger' to authority.

At some point I was introduced to the local drink, Tuica, a plum brandy. This stuff fair takes your breath away as, being 60% proof, it has every right to do. It doesn't taste too bad, but is served and drunk from a 'traditional' vessel (left). This rather reminded me of something you normally only see when you go for your medicals and therefore somewhat off-putting.

Back to the hotel and that, basically, was all I did in Brasov. I rather enjoyed myself and was most impressed by the friendliness of the locals. 

Off, by train, for more Romanian hospitality in Bucharest tomorrow. Pip pip. 

Thursday, 24 March 2016


21st - 22nd Mar 2016

Hungarian Parliament Building. Budapest

Departed Munich at 1120 on a 'Railjet' train bound for Budapest. Not quite up to ICE standard, but not bad. The 7 hour journey passed through Salzburg, Linz, Vienna and subsequently a few Hungarian places with unpronounceable names before arriving at Budapest Keleti railway station in the East of the city (Pest). 

One useful feature on the train, displayed throughout all the carriages, was this screen (left) showing updated times of arrival at the various stations en-route and where you are in between them. I expect it is quite beyond the wit of any British rail company to do likewise.

A quick and efficient (10 minute) Underground/Metro ride from the station took me close to my hotel, The Art'Otel, on the West bank of the river (Buda side). I mention these hotel names because, so far, they have been excellent and maybe someone intending to visit the cities might like the reference.

As you may know, the city is divided East - West by the River Danube. The West side being Buda, and East side Pest. The East side, Pest, is flat and contains most of the commercial and smart shopping areas plus Government buildings (think London West-End). The West side (Buda) is hilly and contains the ancient castle complex, the Presidential Palace and more historic buildings.

I only had a day to wander around town, and I wasn't going to rush. I started with a touristy one hour open-topped 'hop-on hop-off' guided bus trip, which is a good way to get one's bearings. For the most part I was the only person on the bus (the tourist season has not got underway yet) and was regaled, in good English, with much detail by a most enthusiastic lady on the microphone.  She never stopped talking to draw breath the whole way.  Being the only member of her audience I thought she might just as well have sat down next to me and talked quietly. I expect she was practicing her technique for the season to come.
I learnt (or bits I have remembered anyway) a few quite interesting facts and figures from her deluge of information. For example, the Parliament building (pictured above and most impressive it is too) was completed in 1904, has 691 rooms and there are 199 MPs. The Budapest Metro was the first in the world to have electric underground trains (1896). The Hungarian language is not a Romanse language and is unlike any other in Europe, but eminates from the Magyar nation who migrated west from Siberia and then split in two. One lot going North West to Finland, and the rest to what is now Hungary ie. Finns and Hungarians speak similar tongues...although my guide told me that over the centuries the dialects have changed a bit and she wouldn't easily understand a Finn. Similar to me in Glasgow perhaps. Although Hungarian/Magyar is written in Roman script the pronounciation is baffling. I wanted to get to Battyanny Metro station. I kept asking the way to 'Batty Anny' but nobody understood. It is pronounced 'Buthyenny', or something similar.

We passed many impressive buildings, shops, hotels, restaurants, coffee houses etc. and both sides of the river look smart and prosperous. This building (right) is the main synagogue and, I think she said, the second largest synagogue in the world, after one in New York. There is a large Jewish community in Budapest who were given a very rough time by the Germans in WW2.

Lots of info concerning the history of the city and particularly the short 'Revolution' in 1956, to which there are several monuments and the 23rd October, when it began, is a national holiday. Hungary is famous (apparently) not only for it's wine, but honey and spicey sausages. Lots on sale around town.

Left. On the Pest bank, the old HQ of the once  notorious State Security Police (the AVH). Now put to some less controversial use. Probably the Inland Revenue offices or something similar.

Right: On the Buda bank, Budapest Technological University. The oldest functioning technological university in the world. Inaugurated 1782.

Statues are in abundance. I liked this one (left). It might have been entitled 'After a Good Night in the Mess', but I think it is something to do with the 1st World War.

Several of these 'Segway' type vehicles were in evidence. They are popular in many cities worldwide, and I think can be really useful with no danger to anyone. They are prohibited in public areas and streets in UK because as they don't fall into a convenient catagory of transport it is just easier to ban them.

There is a short funicular (left) to take you up the hill to the old castle complex, Buda side. Quite expensive at 1200 Florins (about £3) for 2 minute ride. I went anyway and the little cabin cars are rather quaint.

On top of the hill, majestically positioned to overlook the city,  is the Castle containing museums and galleries.

Right: The Castle, from the opposite side of the river. The Presidential Palace is on the right.

...and the front door of the Presidential Palace (left) guarded by sentries........

.....who did a bit of drill to amuse the somewhat scant crowd. Lots of twirling rifles which they exchanged between one another at the end. I wonder if they have to sign back in the one they signed out? Both wore large dark glasses which made them look a bit dodgy in my opinion. Suspect they have picked up that habit from the US servicemen who do the elaborate drill at Arlington Cemetery, Washington DC. Very naff.

Good views from the top. Left: Looking North up the river over the Széchenyl Bridge towards Margrit Island in the distance.

.....and to the South, over the Eszébit (Elizabeth) Bridge.

...and a statue on the hilltop of a lady waving her knickers at passing sailors.

Right: Another amusing statue up at the Castle of a hunting scene complete with a hole in the rock into which whatever the hounds are chasing has disappeared. The guy on the left is about to dig it out.

Left: A view down the funicular railway. I was slightly miffed to discover that the ticket I bought to get up was only one way. I had to pay again to get down. I suppose I was lucky that they didn't charge 10 times the price to go back. OK, I could have walked.

Next up was a riverboat trip up and around Margit Island. This was covered in the cost of the bus tour, but I had inadvertently lost/thrown away my bus tour ticket and had to pay again (8 Euros). Quite a full load of passengers. A one hour trip with a bar/cafe on board. 

There are lots of very pleasant cafes and bars along both sides of the river. I dropped into this one, the Piano Cafe, for a bite to eat. Delicious Hungarian Goulash. It did indeed have a piano in it. Played at nights, I was told.
The service you get in these places is exemplary. Very polite and helpful staff and they all seem to speak perfect English. I suppose you have to if nobody else in the world, other than a passing Finn, speaks Hungarian.

Right:......and on the landing downstairs outside the Gents loo was this dummy in Hussars uniform. You might be aware that King George ? so admired the Hungarian Hussars and their smart uniforms that he instigated Hussars Regiments in the British army. They still exist. Actually, come to think of it, Hussars wear a 'busby', a sort of smaller, shorter version of the Foot Guards bearskin, This guy is improperly dressed, or maybe he's not a Hussar after all.

Left: On my way back to the hotel I encountered this chap playing intricate classical music with sticks on water filled wine glasses. Incredibly impressive and very jolly. Such talent you find in the oddest of places.

So, without breaking into a sweat, that is what I did in 7 hours touristing around Budapest. I was impressed. A lovely city, what I saw of it. Very civilised.

Back to Keleti station for the night sleeper, departing 1910, to Brasov, Romania. Although still '2nd Class', I had a cabin to myself (right). The bed was comfortable and it had a little bathroom attached with loo, basin and even a shower. There were very few other passengers. I was alone having supper in the dining car. The food was not great, but cheap and edible. Maybe other passengers brought their own grub with them.

To be continued in Romania.....

Wednesday, 23 March 2016


21st Mar 2016

The idea was to get to Istanbul by train from London. Contrary to popular belief there is no longer such a thing as an 'Orient Express' which takes you there direct from Paris, or anywhere. The present 'Venice Simplon Orient Express' is a vastly expensive luxury trip from London (via ferry) to Venice and used to do one (mega-expensive) trip a year through to longer. Much research...and do place the emphasis, unlike the ghastly lingua BBC-Americana nowadays, on the second syllable, indicated that several changes of train need to be made on a selection of possible routes. They all end up at the bottom of Bulgaria where, from the border to Istanbul, the lines have been dug up under a 'modernisation' scheme for the past few years and there is no indication of a completion date. So it's bus for the Turkey end, and possibly even some 'bus replacements' in Bulgaria. Not only that but the iconic and beautiful Sirkeci main station in Istanbul has been shut down, permanently. Things ain't what they used to be.

Not to be deterred I set off a couple of days ago from London St. Pancras armed with some bookings and a very detailed European railway map. My chosen route is via Brussels, Frankfurt, Munich, Budapest, Brasov (for a couple of days), Bucharest, Kapikule (on the Bulgarian/Turkish border) to Istanbul.

A terrorist bomb went off in Istanbul the day before I left. I am a great believer in visiting places where a bomb has recently gone off (unless perhaps if it is the precursor to a Russian or American blitzkrieg) for two principle reasons. Firstly, security is tightened up and an immediate recurrence unlikely. Secondly, it deters the mass of tourists and things are easier to book, with discounts, and no queues. I planned a great trip to Bali on the back of this principle a few years ago......I had the place almost to myself at nearly half the price! Anyway, you're unlucky if a bomb has your name on it. It could happen anywhere nowadays with (metaphorically) lots of 'stable doors being shut after the horse has bolted' amid much gnashing of teeth.
In any case, my youthful experiences of living in an army junior officers' accommodation block in the early '70s where, especially if you were foolish enough to go to bed too early after a bibulous dinner, you were likely to be subjected to explosive devices lobbed into your room and then strafed by small-arms fire by your less than sober comrades, has rather inured me to  the occasional bomb threat.

Eurostar left St. Pancras, on time, at 1104 on the 20th. I find the vista of sad suburban grot with ever expanding rabbit hutch estates, scrap-yards, warehouses, industrial buildings and other eyesores which seem to go on far too long after leaving London very dispiriting, and even after that the countryside is flat and dull punctuated by unattractive looking farms, electricity pylons, motorways, wind turbines and the occasional glass and concrete monstrosity of indeterminate purpose, all the way down to Folkestone. It is a distinctly uninspiring landscape to bid farewell to, or welcome in, visitors to the UK. The view in the tunnel is a great improvement.

Arrived in Brussels on time, which was just as well because I only had 15 minutes to catch the connection to Frankfurt. As I was in the rear coach of 27 it took over 5 minutes to walk, fast, up the platform to the main concourse. Down lifts, up escalators and not knowing the layout I only just made it onto the DeutscheBahn ICE train in time. Gosh, these ICE trains are smart, and fast. I don't think most people in UK realise how second rate our rolling-stock is in comparison. They are more reliable and efficient, faster, quieter, with a much smoother ride (you can walk down the aisle without lurching), more space, plenty of luggage room, cleaner, brighter, excellent restaurant/buffet facilities and no silly unnecessary PA announcements (just those usefully to tell you when you are approaching a station) and, mile for mile, cheaper. I was distinctly impressed by the buffet car. The staff were charming and efficient and it had a good selection of properly cooked meals which you can order and a waiter will bring it to your seat (anywhere on the train) if you want, plus proper glasses and metal knives and forks! (and this is just the second class service). I may have been imagining it, but even the passengers seemed so much more relaxed, better behaved and even better dressed than the rabble squashed into our UK trains.
Only 10 minutes to connect with the train from Frankfurt to Munich, but it conveniently arrived on the adjacent platform. Another ICE machine, so on in comfort to Munich, arriving on time at 2116. Night spent in a very comfortable Bavarian style hotel, The Edenwolff, just across the road from the Hauptbahnhof. The restaurant was open until 2230 and had a delicious supper served by pretty girls in those fetching Bavarian dirdle dresses. So far so civilised.......... 

On to Budapest tomorrow. 

PS. Just heard that another bomb has gone off in Brussels.........! 

Sunday, 13 March 2016


12th Mar 2016

I have been inspired recently by an excellent book entitled 'Turkey: Thwarted Ambition'. This magisterial work was written by the renowned author and soldier Simon V Mayall (published by Diane Pub. Co, available from Amazon, ISBN 978-0788146695) and not to be confused with 'Turkeys: Not Just for Christmas' by the late Bernard Matthews. Anyway, it has enthused me to visit the place and I intend to travel by rail from London via Brussels, Munich, Budapest, Bucharest and on to Istanbul with a couple of days spent en-route somewhere in Romania. I hope to report on the journey and will offer my 'take' on the places I visit and perhaps fill in a few details of interest not covered by Simon V Mayall's erudite tome.

Departure date 20th stand-by for further revelations. 

Wednesday, 2 March 2016


21st Feb 2016

Well, you can forget the Iguazú Falls, pooh pooh the Nazca Lines, shun Ayer's Rock, scorn the Grand Canyon, turn your nose up at Ankor Wat, dismiss Machu Picchu, skip the Pyramids and all the rest of the insignificant sights of the world, when you have the snowdrops at Welford Park to take your breath away. 

Welford Park is an old Tudor house in Berkshire (left), originally a hunting lodge for King Henry V111 now the residence of the county's Lord Lieutenant. It is open to the public during February so that they (or is it 'it') can come and enjoy, delight in, indeed ecstasise at the sumptuous displays of snowdrops in the woods and surrounding gardens and parkland.  

Having little to do on a Sunday afternoon (the 6 Nations Rugby was off that day) I went along to have my senses titillated.

I counted over 400 cars in the car park when I got there. The place obviously attracts a big crowd. Marshalls in hi-vis jackets were in abundance to escort you out of the car park and across the road and along a rather muddy track to the ticket office. I rather regretted not having taken my wellies at this stage, but what's a little mud and wet feet to a seasoned traveller. Luckily not too big a queue and I duly paid my £6 to get in (map included). Wow! This must be the 'bizzo' I thought.

Following my map I found the track leading to the Snowdrop Woods (suitable for wheelchairs, it said, but probably only those with 4 wheel drive). The map indicated that I should pass, on my left, a display of Petasites (Butter Burr). Not knowing what Petasites are I failed, despite searching, to notice them, or if I did they must be very small things and well hidden.

The next highlight on the map was 'The Pond' (right). Gosh! I duly looked at it. No duck shooting butts so I wasn't quite sure what it's significance or purpose was.

Then on to the main feature, The Snowdrop Wood itself (left). Wowee! What a lot of snowdrops. All white. Just as well it hadn't been snowing I thought, pointlessly.

Several shelters had been thoughtfully built around the woodland track to provide resting places for over-excited  tourists in which to sit, eat their sandwiches, gather their wits, and gossip, about snowdrops probably. The bloke at the back might have been having a pee. 

Onwards, onwards...much more to see and I had only covered about 400yds on the map. Not even half way!

Next up and highlighted was the 'Swamp' (left). We were strictly instructed to 'keep to the paths', but my curiosity got the better of me. I wandered off-track into the swamp. Expecting to sink up to my knees, at least, (my feet were wet anyway), I was surprised to find that the Swamp was drier than the previous track. I might have just been lucky.
Anyway, once you've seen one swamp you've seen them all.

Then on to the Bamboo Forest (right), through which the track ran. Some of the bamboo was almost 8 feet tall! Crikey!  Jolly glad I didn't get lost in that!

The next featured spectacle was 'The Tallest Lime Trees in Berkshire' (left). Circa 1740 the map informed me. 
I could hardly contain myself.

The 'Lawn' is in the foreground. Very green, and no snowdrops. According to the map there should have been a display of Acconites around here. Again, not knowing what Acconites are, I didn't know what to look for. I didn't notice anything. Perhaps they are green and camouflaged by the Lawn.

Next down towards the main house and around the side to the 'Rose Garden'. I'm sure it looks lovely when the roses are out.

I did, however, notice a fine, if modest, display of crocuses.

Around the other side of the house, in the courtyard, were two tea-shops and there were queues to get in, so I didn't bother.

Of even more interest, there were two giraffe sculptures looking over the courtyard wall. I expect snowdrops were a novelty to them.

......and, of course there was the park 'shop' outside of which were serried ranks of snowdrops for sale. There were several species on parade with strange names such as Brenda Troyle (who was she I wonder?), Hippolyte, Woronuii and Lady Beatrix Stanley (a friend of Brenda Troyle?). To the untrained eye they all looked the same......snowdroppy and rather wilting. They cost between £6 and £8 each. Maybe that is a bargain for a snowdrop aficionado. I have a few in my garden. I am now thinking of getting a security fence put around them.

Inside the shop all sorts of things were for sale such as sausages (home farm produce), together with much snowdrop related paraphernalia such as snowdrop mugs.......

....and snowdrop post-cards, snowdrop paintings, snowdrop table mats and books on snowdrops amongst much other snowdrop merchandise. There must be quite a lot of snowdrop enthusiasts about.......

 indicated by the large number of people wielding sophisticated camera equipment to take photos of...the snowdrops.

They went to considerable lengths to get their photographs of snowdrops (and a few crocuses possibly). Hope he remembered to take the lens cap off.

Perhaps they were reporters from Snowdrop Fanciers Monthly? 

I have just learnt that snowdrops are of the genus 'Galanthus' and fanciers are called 'Galanthophiles'. There are indeed clubs and associations to accommodate their proclivities...with secret handshakes no doubt.

I have also just discovered (amazing how one gets carried away by these things) that there are over 250 varieties of Galanthus and recently a rare snowdrop bulb sold for £357! I really must check out the scraggy things growing in my garden. I could be sitting on a fortune. 

I believe I should read the popular book written by Matt Bishop entitled 'Snowdrops: A Monograph of Cultivated Gallanthus' published by Griffin Press. ISBN No. 9780954191603. 
I looked it up and Amazon advertise it selling for no less than £999.11p!!! (not joking, check for yourself). Unfortunately there were no copies in stock. There's obviously been a run on it.

Left: A very satisfied galanthophile.

I was going to conclude by saying 'if you've seen one snowdrop you've seen them all', but it appears that this is certainly not the case (even if you need a microscope to differentiate between them...and of course Mr Bishop's out of print reference book).

Well, I hope you are as fascinated as I am by discovering all this intriguing information about snowdrops. After my mind-blowing trip around the Welford park 'Snowdroperama' I expect you can't wait to visit the place yourself.

The only problem is that snowdrops only come to life in, roughly, February. So maybe you will get this a bit late. I expect you will already be making your plans to visit next year.

As a final gesture I show (right) my very own photo of some snowdrops, before I accidently stood on them.

Toot toot! I think I will be off to Istanbul, via Romania, later this month so stand by for more fascinating news and erudite comment without, I suspect, much reference to snowdrops.