Inspite of my recent train ride from hell, I feel unspeakably lucky for why I took it – a spontaneous weekend trip to see Andrew in Nottingham. Although it had never been on my list, I at once got excited about going to the city that is mainly famous for Robin Hood. I don’t know England particularly well and any chance to change that fact was more than welcome.
Andrew has a whole program planned out for us, which is honestly something I have to get used to after such a long time of solotravel. I don’t just walk wherever I feel like going, but I follow Andrew around who has known this town for his entire life. I feel a bit like relinquishing control, and the die-hard solotraveller in me comes through as I think of a quote from my favourite sitcom, Friends: „‚Relinquish‘ is just a fancy word for ‚lose‘.“ But in the course of the weekend I will get used to that feeling and learn to enjoy being shown stuff as an alternative model to discovering everything on my own.
First on the list of Nottingham sights is Wollaton Hall. The city bus takes us through a quiet area of the city with the significantly British low-roofed houses. Most of them are made from red brick stone, my love for which I have mentioned numerous times. It is somewhat idyllic – not quite in the nostalgic, idealizing sense of the word, but it seems quiet and settled and in a calming way uneventful.
Wollaton Hall is a country house that starred as Wayne Manor in Christopher Nolan’s last Batman film The Dark Knight Rises. There is pleasantly little annoying advertisement that mentions that. I am guessing that the place could get more visitors if it played more on the „Home of Batman“ bonus, but I’m glad it doesn’t. The walk around the lake with the rhododendron in rich lilac blossom dipping into the water, families with excited children and scout groups, and all the while the view of the architectural marvel on the hill in its majestic beauty make for a wonderful introduction to Nottingham – although this is a different world from the bustling city center, an alternate space where time seems to have stood still for a hundred years.
After the peace and quiet of the immense manor park, the city center seems almost crowded, although it is still rather quiet for me, being used to Berlin. We walk around the Old Market Square and I try to feel myself into the place – it is difficult for some reason. Elements of the cityscape seem familiar, but in combination they make for something that feels more foreign than many places I have encountered in Eastern Europe. Again I muse how people think that Eastern Europe is a world away, when it’s not. I perceive Nottingham to be much more foreign to me than, say, Gdansk. It’s somehow – uncontinental. That is the only word I can come up with.
We walk uphill towards the castle and pass by the Robin Hood monument. Being a child of the 90s, his legend is familiar to me mainly from the Kevin Costner film, as I must only half bashfully admit. So I try to reenact the scene where Maid Marian distracts Robin from shooting his arrow straight by breathing a kiss on his wrist.
Nottingham Castle costs money to enter, but through the gates the flower beds and little paths up to the proud stone walls look so intriguing that I really want to go in. We stroll along and up to the castle building from which there is a beautiful view into the wide country. Andrew points out different places to me in the city and my orientation becomes a bit better.
The pretty church towers over in the city center call for me alluringly, and so finally we make our way back to close off the day by seeing them. After a quick stop to St Peter’s we walk over to St Mary’s. We enter the churchyard and approach the closed doors – and already I can hear that there is a choir rehearsing in there. I want to just press my ear on the mighty old door and listen to the saintliness of it. We find an open door on the other side, a small one, and I stand and peek through the door frame into the interior of the nave reaching up so high. Pure voices fill the space in unison, as they fill my soul.
On our way between Andrew’s home and the center, we have walked past a bus stop that advertises a Nottingham image campaign – it says: „A safe, clean, ambitious Nottingham. A city we’re all proud of!“ I’m amused at this loftiness that is so unintenionally funny, but looking around, I find that I quite like the city. I am not head over heels in love, it’s not heart-breakingly pretty and overwhelmingly charming. But it is one of those places that to me seem to be honest, that leave you knowing where you’re at with them. It is attractive rather than beautiful, real rather than unearthly. Nottingham hasn’t ravishingly encompassed me like other places – but it has touched my heart.
What do you think? Do you feel Nottingham is a place worth a visit? Have you been? Do you think it has a different style from continental European cities?