Summer 2016

I didn't do any real vacation during summer, just a couple of short trips within Germany. None of them enough for a proper 'trip report'. So here's a summary of my estival activities instead.

I visited the plane museum in Großenhain. I knew that they like to call themselves a 'flying museum' and the take pride in the fact that quite a few of their historic planes are still capable of flying and not just 'museum pieces'.

Himmelslaus Buecker Jungmeister

Although the 'Himmelslaus' ('Flying Flea') on the left image looks a bit as if someone took a normal plane and just bolted on a second wing on the top. However, the plane was designed to have two wings. While built in 1969, it is based on a concept that came from the 1920's.

What I didn't know about the museum (as I it was a spontaneous trip) was that the weekend was one of the five 'flying weekends' they had that year and the some of the planes were outside and ready to fly or flying.


Something else that I didn't know was that they are taking passengers on 'flying weekends' - so it's not just a chance to see historic planes flying, but also a chance to be in one of those.

So I booked a thirty minute sightseeing flight in their Stampe SV4. It's always fun to be in a biplane and fly in an open cockpit. The only downside to the flight was that I wasn't allowed to take my camera with me. You're only allowed to do that if the camera is on a strap, but since I didn't know that, I hadn't brought one. So I just have a quick snapshot from just before the start.

Stampe SV4 at Grossenhain Me in Stampe SV4 at Grossenhain

Another activity from which I have fewer pictures than I'd like to have was a visit to the roof of the Olympic Stadium in Munich.

Olympic Stadium in Munich

The stadium has a distinctive tent-like roof construction and along the edges (and also leading up to some of the 'peaks' of the roof constructions) is a small metal walkway. It was intended to provide maintenance workers with easy access, but now they also offer sightseeing tours along the roof edge. (There's a safety line running along the walkway and you wear a harness during the tour.)

And they offer three options to get back to the meeting point. You can just complete the sightseeing tour and walk down again. You can abseil down the roof (about 35 meters down). Or you can zipline across from the roof across the arena and end up on the upper end of the viewing stands on the other side.

I went for the tour that ended with ziplining across the arena.
Note: There is a roof tour that includes ziplining and just the ziplining tour. I did the first one and can recommend the second. You do pretty much the same tour, but on the 'rooftop tour' you stand around more and listen to your guide telling you about the history of the place. (Although the 'walk up to a tent peak' is probably only on the rooftop tour.) Unless you like history lessons, it's better to save the extra 20 Euros and just do the zipline tour.

The stadium itself is not used much anymore. After the Olympic Games it was mostly used as a football stadium. But after a new football stadium was opened in 2005, the local teams moved there, leaving the Olympic Stadium without regular sport events.

Note: While I'm not much of a football fan, I did see one game at the Olympic Stadium, way back in 1978 or so (as far as I can tell, it was most likely the game on 22.April.78). We were on a school excursion in Munich and went to a match between FC Bayern München and Eintracht Frankfurt. (No reason for watching that specific game except that it happened to be the one on the weekend we were there.)

Bayern Muenchen vs Eintracht Frankfurt in 1978 Bayern Muenchen vs Eintracht Frankfurt in 1978 Bayern Muenchen vs Eintracht Frankfurt in 1978 Bayern Muenchen vs Eintracht Frankfurt in 1978

These days, the stadium is used for one-off events, like concerts or irregular gatherings. There's no longer grass (neither real nor artificial) in the arena - the floor is just concrete (still showing some track marking from a DTM car race from four years earlier).

The place is also used sometimes as a 'public viewing' area for sport events, where they set up a large viewing screen and show live football matches during European or World championships.

Which made things a bit awkward.

Unlike I did for the biplane trip in Großenhain, I checked the rules for taking cameras and found that you can take a camera on the roof (and the zipline) if it stays on a strap and the strap is secured to the climbing harness.

So I made sure I had a sturdy strap attached to the camera that was long enough to allow me to use the camera without unclipping it.

But when I got to the stadium for the tour I had booked, the weather was bad. Lots of wind and, even worse, a thunderstorm coming up. (And presumably, you don't want to be exposed on the roof or the zipline when lightning hits.)

Windy day in Munich

So the tour got cancelled.

I managed to get a free spot on a tour for the next day. Usually the tours run to the evening, but as there was a game of the German team in the European Championship on that day, the last tour (which I was on) was at 15:30, since the 'public viewing' would start at 18:00 and rooftop activities aren't allowed when the stadium is 'in use'.

So far - no problem.

But as the gates for the game spectators opened around 16:00 (while we would be still on the roof), an additional rule came into play: While groups of people move around freely in the stadium, nothing unchecked can be brought onto the roof. Including cameras, even when attached.

So we had to empty our pockets and lock away all our stuff, including our cameras, before the tour started.

As a result, there are no pictures from the roof or from the ziplining I did.

But as I was the first (after the guide) to zip over, I went straight to the locker, where my gear was stored. So at least I got a couple of pictures from 'the end of the line' and the others going along the cable.

The starting point of the zipline is next to one of the light masts.

Zipline from light mast

Here is someone on his way...

Olympic Stadium zipline

... and here are people arriving

Olympic Stadium zipline user Olympic Stadium zipline user

When we did the ziplining, the stadium was still quite empty. And those people who were in the stadium were all sitting under the roof, well out of the way of any stuff that might have fallen out of someone's pocket.

The whole 'nobody is allowed to carry anything onto the roof during events' rule might make sense for a rock concert, where attendees will run to the stage and there'll be a dense crowd in the arena early on. But for watching a football game on a big screen, most people won't arrive early anyway. And then they go for the good seats.

But as the company doing the ziplining is just a subcontractor, they just need to follow the rules, whether it's in a situation where the rules make sense or not.

In any case, the ziplining was fun.

It's a short ride (18 seconds of 'flight time'), but the environment is impressive.

Usually ziplines are somewhere 'out in nature'. Or they are in some industrial environment (like abandoned buildings or stone quarries. Having one in the middle of the city on a famous landmark with an unusual architecture is unusual. And worth visiting.

Two weeks later, I spent an unexpected amount of time to drive an unusual car.

Morgan company logo

Though this needs some background information.

My sister (Claudia) and her husband (Roberto) were celebrating their silver wedding anniversary.

And they decided to have a vacation and rent a cottage for a week or two.

They also like the retro look of Morgan cars.

Morgan Plus 4 back of car Morgan Plus 4 front of car

So they rented one for a weekend.

There aren't many companies that rent our Morgan cars (as far as I can tell, there is only one in Germany, although they have three locations. With only one rental car available at each of them.)

Another thing that comes into play here is that Claudia and Roberto own a dog.

And there's no place for two passengers and a dog in a Morgan. (Well, it turned out that, actually, there is. But it's difficult.)

To quote a review of the car: "Morgans have no boot. None whatsoever. ... If you need to bring a toothbrush go buy a BMW Z4."

This resulted in the following suggestion: "There is enough room in the cottage. So why don't you join us for a weekend, fly over to Düsseldorf, help us pick up the car, we all drive to the cottage and we all can drive around a bit with the Morgan. And on Monday you can return it to Düsseldorf and fly home."

Initially that sounded a lot to me like "We'll drive around the area in a nice classic car. While you can follow us with our car and bring the dog (and anything else we need) to wherever we're going".

So, basically, I'd be the dog's chauffeur.

But then again: Why not?

A long weekend in a nice cottage was a good thing in any case. And as nobody wanted to drive to Düsseldorf on Monday morning to bring the car back, at least that would be a bit where I'd probably be allowed to drive a bit in the Morgan.

In the end, we drove the car for about 550 km that weekend and I drove more than 500 of them.

So, essentially, to celebrate their silver wedding anniversary, they rented a classic car for me to drive around in.


Me in Morgan car Me in Morgan car Me in Morgan car

That is partly because I'm not allowed to drive their car.

One of the reasons is that don't trust my driving. And another reason is that there are insurance issues if someone else drives it and there's an accident. (Which overlaps significantly with the first reason...)

So it would be only one of them in the Morgan at any time anyway. (Unless they'd go for another option - send me out for a walk with the dog while they go joyriding in the Morgan. Which, happily, they didn't do.)

Which still left me mostly as a passenger in either car - I thought.

But things were different right from the start.

Only Roberto came to the airport to pick me up. (The dog is really unhappy with large crowds. So my sister decided to stay at the cottage with the dog rather than standing with the dog in a crowded airport during the holiday season. Which turned out to be a good choice, as my flight arrived about an hour late, so there would have been a lot of standing around with people rushing by.)

So when we picked up the Morgan, it was me who drove it to the cottage, about 150 km.

Next morning, my sister decided to have a go (with me as the passenger) and we drove to some place roughly 40 km away.

On the way back, Roberto was due to drive. But he drove less than a kilometer before getting out again.

The trouble is that there's not a lot of space for the driver and Roberto is tall.

So, even with the seat pushed back as far as possible, he still needed to bend his knees to fit in. But as the steering wheel is rather low, there's no upwards space. And there also isn't much space to the sides. So it's an uncomfortable car to sit in if you're taller than, let's say 185 cm. And Roberto was quickly complaining about cramps in his legs and getting out of the car.

And my sister didn't want to take over either.

She felt that having driven 40 km in the Morgan had given her enough of a feeling of what it's like and she was happy with that.

Driving any more would not add anything to that experience, so why do it?

And (as it's also not that comfortable in the passenger seat - and did I mention that they don't trust my driving?) she then decided to go with the other car, so I drove back to the cottage alone.

Next day was a rainy day, where it's no fun to drive in the Morgan. (It's more of a fine weather car - to be driven with the roof down.) So I ended up driving the Morgan again. (Except for a couple of kilometers in the rain with my sister and the dog, to get to the place where the other car was parked.)

Turned out nice in the evening, though.

And next day, it was already time to bring the car back to the rental company.

That was the best drive, as the weather was nice again and I could remove the side windows for driving, which makes the car even better looking. (The upper part of the door with the window and the little black plastic flap can be detached and stowed away.)

Leaving with the Morgan Leaving with the Morgan Leaving with the Morgan Leaving with the Morgan

Which is the main thing with the Morgan. It's a beautiful car.

If you had tons of money and wanted to put a car into your living room for some reason, that would be the car to put there.

It's a chic 'retro' design.

Maybe by now, it's even 'timeless'.

The first Morgan 4/4 was built 80 years ago and the look hasn't changed since then. (Obviously, there were a lot of changes under the hood since then.)

So it's less 'retro', but more 'ongoing'.

And the car still looks cool and unusual.

It's a really great object to take pictures of.

Morgan car, me and cottage Morgan car, me and cottage Morgan car, me and cottage

(If the weather would have been sunnier, we probably would have taken lots of pictures with nice scenery in the background, but whenever we stopped somewhere, the weather wasn't suitable for a quick photo session.)

The Morgan is just gorgeous to look at.

Where it has severe shortcomings is in being car.

There are the obvious things - it's not a modern car design. The car doesn't have power steering, it doesn't have ABS, the roof needs to be folded out and attached by hand, and the side mirrors are next to useless (small and on little rods that vibrate when driving). There's no suspension to speak of (you feel every bump in the road) and you can't operate the radio. (Surprisingly, the car does have a radio, but as there's no place on the dashboard for it, it is located somewhere around the knee area, where you can't reach it while driving. So unless you never switch stations or adjust the loudness anyway, it's better left off.)

But all of that is ok.

It is a classic roadster and if you look for comfort and convenience, you go elsewhere in any case.

I did rent a Caterham Seven a couple of years ago and that had even fewer features (not even a radio, for starters) and a much more spartan interior. And I didn't mind that at all.

At least the Morgan also looks nice on the inside, with nice leather trimmings and everything. (Even though the steering wheel looks a bit out of place - it should have had a wooden rim or at least the same leather covering).

Morgan interior Morgan interior

So while comfort and convenience aren't high on the list, what is?

What you're (presumably) going for in a classic roadster is individuality, noticeability, style and driving fun.

The Morgan scores big points on the first three.

It's an unusual and noticeable car that probably gathers more looks than a Ferrari.

And reactions are generally along the lines of 'how cute!'. It's not a car that causes envy or resentment..

It's a great car for arriving somewhere in style.

What it's not good for is driving.

Unlike other small roadsters (like the Caterham Seven) it's not really comfortable in curves.

So you won't zip around some serpentine road and feeling like being in a go-kart.

As a review had it "The Morgan doesn't handle so much as just steer vaguely. You point it into the middle of a bend and see what happens, making the necessary adjustments all the while.", "The Plus 4 rides with a surprising lack of consistency." and "Performance is merely sufficient."

Having driven on one, I agree on all these things.

The proper domain for the car is an empty, mostly straight country road on a summer day.

For that it's near perfect.

But that's a tiny niche market.

And for anything else, it's so far below average that you'd prefer someone else doing the driving.

So I can understand what my sister was doing. Driving around for an hour or so gives you a good idea what driving a Morgan is like and it's an experience worth having. But if you want to drive somewhere, you just hop into another car.

It's also difficult to get out of the car in any dignified way. The steering wheel is too low to move the leg under it, so you can't just slide out your legs sideward. And the leather seats are too good looking to just pull yourself up and step on them.

What works quite well is to open the door drop with your hands on the ground outside and then crawl out. But that looks a bit oddish when arriving at a restaurant.

You can also kind of get out by making a half turn, grabbing the back of the seat, pulling yourself up until your feet are at the edge of the seat and then swivel sideward. This pretty much makes you look like someone getting in or out of a wheelchair.

My sister did wonder at some point why people drive to their weddings with all kind of vehicles, but she never saw a wedding where the couple drove up in a Morgan (which would be a great car to pull up in front of some country church).

After getting out of the car, she realized that there would be no good way to get out of a Morgan in any kind of wedding dress.

So it's a perfect car to arrive somewhere, assumed you don't need to get out of the car.

It seems kind of undignified to drive up with a Morgan at some fast-food drive in.

What the car really needs would be some upscale restaurant at the end of a straight country lane that offers a drive-in service where they bring the food to tour car while you park it at some scenic place.

I got the feeling that not many of these exist.

But it is a beautiful looking car.


Besides driving around in the Morgan, I also spent some time hanging at (unused) railway underpasses, crossing a suspension bridge, visiting a small cave (the Feldhofhöhle) and posing with a large gold-ish egg.

Railway underpass Suspension bridge Feldhofhoehle Golden Egg sculpture

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