Saturday, 29 October 2011

blog test

Just testing features of the blog

Saturday, 15 October 2011

28/9 to 29/9 Brussels

Walking around yesterday and today, it almost appears that only 1 in 3 escalators in the train stations work.
I discovered today that I have lost my esperanto cap, sniff sob sob sniff sob. It is somewhere between Amsterdam and Brussels. I suspect that it slipped between the seats on the train. That is the 3rd hat i have lost on this trip. I am now using a red "Nitra city" cap that I won at the esperanto event "SES".
I did my washing in the morning. It felt good knowing that this would be the last time i would need to do the washing on this trip. While that was happening, I explored the local area. Needles to say, i found a church. It too, was big and unique, just like all the other churches throughout Europe. There was one difference with this church, it was also a school!
After my clothes were finished, I walked around the perimeter of the city, or half of it. I finished at the "European quarter". This is where most of the European union offices and Parliament buildings are located. Much like other public buildings, these ones were also big, modern, and boring.

I went on a bus tour of Flanders fields today. This was a pivotal battlefield during WW1. I got to see hill 60, Ipres (which was completely destroyed during WW1) as well as a few other sites. I was surprised to see the ridge around Ipres, which in stories sounded as if it was a huge obstacle, is only a gentle rise of the land.
Every wear, the locals have what is called "the iron harvest". This is where hundreds or thousands of tonnes of ordinances, such as exploded and unexploded shells, rise to the surface in the paddocks. The military do very regular runs to collect all such ordinances. Some of the unexploded shells still contain gas. The military now have so many shells with gas, it will take them at least 50 years to clear what they have, and there are many more still in the ground. Almost 100 years later, and aspects of the war still present a great danger.
After the tour, I stayed in Bruges for a few hours, on the recommendation of the bus driver. An amazing city. I wish i had more time to explore the place. Alas, I must return to Brussels

The church/school near the hostel in Brussels

Public gardens in Brussels

Me at the huge archways in the Museum area. There are four large museums here.

A famous grave in a war graveyard near Ipres

The remains of the crater on hill 60. Created when western powers exploded 22 mines along a ridge in one night.
There is no water in the crater, as the large network of tunnels underneath drain all the water.

Ipres today. The whole town was destroyed during WW1. The town was rebuilt to look like it use to be.
The buildings have a very modern interior.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

24/9 to 27/9 Amsterdam

I took a train from Bonn at 12pm, and after 4 trains, arrived in Amsterdam at 8pm
On the tram to the hostel, I saw a man dressed up in woman's clothes, with what was probably his boyfriend. His wig was in his hand. How very liberal!
Locals appear helpful and friendly. I was trying to find the hostel, when a local led me down the road to show me the street I needed.
The hostel has its own bar, and restaurant. The beer was good, but the food was only just edible, but cheap.

Walk through city, found  coffee shops and red light district. I had to have look at the "window girls". There are lots of signs saying "no photos". I was later told that they will come out screaming at you and smash your camera if they catch you taking a photo of them!
Headache started, probably from dehydration.
Bicycle tour of city at 4pm. The bikes that we were given were surprisingly easy and comfortable. I found out the city was named after a dam that was built in Amstel.
In the evening, I walk through a large park. I am told people can have sex here after sun set. I got followed my a man around the rose garden. I walked really quickly back to civilisation. Turns out, this is the spot for gay sex! I won't be returning here again.
Discovered I have a minor financial dilemma. The account with money, I can't remember the pin, the account I can remember the pin, has no money. It should be fixed by Wednesday. Until then, tight budget.

Woke up with killer headache, more panadol.
Country bike tour at 11pm. These tour guides must be the only ones in the world who can get paid to ride all day, drink beer and smoke a pipe!
Walked around city, not spending money.
Found a great kebab shop near the railway station.
Packed bag ready for tomorrow
Checked bank account, money has cleared. Phew, for a moment there, I thought I was about to walk to Brussels.

left book "animal farm" at hostel for the "book crossing" program. I picked it up in France at Kastelo Grésillon.
Dumped bag in train station locker, then went to the sex museum, then torture museum.
Trained to Brussels. I am staying at hello hostel
Found great food place around the corner; Snack Simonis.

Looking at the old city gate at night across the canal,
A very Amsterdam style gas mask,
Some erotic art, and the description for it.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

19/9 to 23/9 Rome

I got off to a good start today; I went to the correct air port! On the bus from the airport to the city, the woman behind me was talking on her phone for full 40 minute bus trip, and continued after she got off.
There is crazy traffic in Rome. Cars turning in front of bus, drivers in dreamland when changing lanes, scooters everywhere.
When I got to the hostel, the Mona Lisa, I went to bed.

Start 8:30, I had no breakfast (which proved to be a mistake) and rushed off to beat the crowds at the Pantheon. I can see why this building inspired so many over the centuries. I can just imagine it without all the religious stuff. I later found out the original bronze relief over the entrance was melted down and used in an oversized stage thingy in St Stephens Basilica.
afterwards, I rushed to the colosseum, where I stayed for 4 hours. Standing outside the colosseum feels like standing outside the MCG. It is amazing that it took another 1600 years before something like this was built again. I took a very ordinary tour of the place. I was starving by the time I had finished.
After an ordinary feed of tourist retail food, I investigated the Rome ruins, 4 hours. I would have loved to see this place in its hey day. Their society looks only a few hundred years old, not a few thousand. When I had finished, the other tourists had awoken, and were everywhere! The lines were ridiculously long.
I would like to point out here, the best decision of the modern Roman government; there is NO business or retail on the ruins site! This was a major relief, as there is a massive oversupply of corney tourist traps outside, and some of them were just plain annoying, such as the "roman soldier" asking, "would you like a photo" "NO"
Next, I walked around circus Massimo, the site of the chariot races. Only a small section of the original buildings remain, but they cleared the track of new buildings, so I could imagine the chariots. The massive remains of the old palace are still visible from the track, and look amazing.
I walked down the river, and found some official function in the street with a military band, so I stayed. I got to bed at around midnight.

Emergency vehicles with constant drone are everywhere they are seriously annoying.
I purchased the hop on, hop off, bus tour, and returned to the ruins to see the emperors house. Most of the decorations (freshcos?)  are still there.
Bus to Piazza Venezia, see white monument. The building appears to be a military museum thingy now.
Go to time elevator, watch 3 movies: escape from ______ manor; a fictional tale about a man who enters a haunted house, an ode to life; history of life on earth, time elevator; 2750 years of history of Rome.
I completed the bus tour back to start
before tea, I saw the Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica. It was just another church. I am getting a bit sick of them.
I returned to the Hostel for food, then watched a little Doctor who.

Vatican day
Buy guided tours
Go through dead pope chamber
First tour, St Peters Basilica. Huge! This included a walk around the top. By the time I had finished with the place, the tourists had woken up again and were everywhere. The place was packed.
I couldn't help but wonder how much it all cost. Isn't there a story in the bible about not worshipping expensive material objects? How did this become acceptable?
Buy lasagna for lunch. I recon I can do better. I think that restaurant is another tourist trap.
Tour through museum with tour, finishing with the sistean chapel. This museum requires at least 2 days to do it some justice. Why did the church mutilate so many genitals on the ancient Roman statues? Would god really approve of chopping off a part of male anatomy which he so passionately created in the first place? (wow, if I continue like this, I might actually sound religious!)
after, I went to the Leonardo da Vinci machines museum. Of all the amazing stuff there, I liked his bridge the best; timber poles, no rope and no nails. Might still be useful in the field!
I found the big, famous fountain, and couldn't believe the size, of the crowds!

I Finished the Dr who sub-series.
I Walked to park, then to train station
Found rich suburb.
Fly back to weeze airport in Germany
Bus and train back to Bonn
Bed at 2am

Italian food, the best I got there.
Leonado's bridge
The big fountain
The big crowd at the big fountain.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

7/9 8/9 9/9 Berlin

I started the day with a walking tour of city; always a good way to start a new city. I missed the first 5 minutes as I thaught it started at a different part of the city. I noticed there are lots of new buildings everywhere, and the buildings in the east side already need major restoration work as they were cheeply built. The city really does not look like other european citys. I guess a war and decades of devision will do that to a city.
I went to a curry sausage place for tea. This place was also recommended, but wasnt as good as the kababs.
I used "pasporta servo" (like coutch surfing in esperanto) to find a place to sleep for the next 2 nights. This place is amazing. He has the top level apartment, overlooking the city ......err........skyline......... which consists of the russian TV tower.

Please excuse the dot point statements here. I just want to go to bed.
Day start at 12:30
Start at brandenburg gate
See Russian war memorial
Walk down 17 street to charlottenburger gate
Tour around west Berlin city
Observe the different architecture and higher quality constructions.
Train up to the "berlin wall preserved border" and read everything.
Forgot that rain still occurs in Berlin. Needed my umbrella for the first time since London. I had forgotten that it still rains in northen europe
Return to base, take photo of the tv tower
Note lack of noticeable urban outline.
Dry cough today. illness keeps changing, but i think it is getting bettter

Out the door at 12:40
Returned to the Berlin wall memorial for day photos. I watched a video of a fly over of the berlin border in 1990, it was incredible.
Went to train station, destination Bonn. Surprised at cost of €97 one way. Searched for the cheapest option, €42. Now I have 6 trains and 11 hour journey, arriving in Bonn at 2:25 in the morning. i caught the first train with only 1 minute to spare.
I am sure that Germany's trains are designed to make it as difficult as possible to find a good position to sleep in. Didnt help that i only had 1 to 2 hours on each train. Never got much sleep
I managed to get off one station too early in Cologne. Fortunately, the next train started here anyway.
I am surprised how many people are on the train at 2 am. It is almost packed. Standing room only for many. I thought I would have it for myself.
I eventually found out that the german railways have a monopoly on public transport, and busses can not run when there is a train running.

Darth Vader protecting the Brandenburg gate

The site of Hitler's bunker. The floor and walls still exist, but are not accessable

The building where i stayed, yes, the very top.

The last complete section of the Berlin wall and border as it use to be.

Friday, 16 September 2011

6/7 trip to Berlin

I managed to catch the bus at 11:30 at night with 5 minutes to spare, although i did not like such a rediculously late start. Fortunately, i was armed with my self-inflating pillow, and got in some sleep. i tried to watch the movie, but i was tired, and the movie was in hungarian, so i went back to sleep

The bus stopped to the Czech capital from 6:30 to 8:00, so i decided to have a look around, and perhaps leave my mark. Nearby, the museum exterior was covered for repair. There was a giant a picture of a car on the wall, with a tv screen in the drivers seat on 3 sides of the museum. the car was from the company who is sponsering the repairs. A kiosk was on the ground. I took my photo with the kiosk and got my face in the drivers seat of the car on the museum, on 3 sides! My mark has been left in Prague.

On the way to Berlin, the bus was showing the movie "Australia" in Hungarian with English subtitles. That was interesting, and a bit weird. the movie was just as painful to watch though. i had noticed at one point that i appeared to be the only person watching the movie. I also wondered how many hungarians were on the bus. I recon it would have been more practical to have thee movie in english.

The bus arrived in Berlin at about 1:30 pm, right next to the exhibition centre. They had a technology exhibition running, so I went in. Over 4 hours, I covered about 1/4 of the place.
The hostel i stayed at is called "Grand Hostel Berlin". the place was nice. I was told of a place that is suppose to have the best kebabs in the world, according to an Australian, Called "Mustafa's Gemüse Kebap". Average wait time 40 minutes, sometimes up to 70 minutes. I had to try it. It appears half of berlin thaught the same thing, as it took me about 50 minnutes. Fortunately, It was really good.
At night, I showered and went to bed as my wog was draining me.

The museum in Prague

The car with me in it :D

The white building is the hostel in Berlin

Monday, 12 September 2011

2/9 to 5/9 Budapest

First night at Carpe Noctem Vitae Hostel. this is a under 40´s social and party hostel, but they dont party in the hostel, but go  out every night.turns out to be a good hostel
I started the day with personal admin: Finish a few blogs, organise some accomodation, change some bus trips etc. I discovered there is caving in budapest on monday, when i was suppose to be on a bus, so i changed the bus trip to 11:30 at night
In the afternoon, i trained to the airport to collect Kate whoi first met in northen ireland. We got to the hostel just in time for dinner/tea/evening meal whatever you want to call it. Turns out, she normally goes to hotels, so this is her first time in a hostel.. I hope she thinks it is good!
In the evening, we had a "booze cruise" with the people from the hostel.  This was a boat cruze down, up, then back down the Danube river, to a permanently docked ship that has been turned into a club. We got to bed at 4:30 am

i got up today and discovered one of the staff had cooked bakon and eggs. "Fantastic in a crossont" i thaught.  I got half of it down, but my slight morning sickness (ahem) prevented me from eating the rest. I decided the best way to overcome such a sickness was with a walk, So we did a walking tour of Budapest.
The afternoon we went into the house of terror. This place is not some amusment ride, but a place where prisoners were kept and torchred during the nazi and communist years. quite depressing to here some of the stories and what was happening at the time.
In the evening, we had food at Kiado Kocsma, which was recommended to us by the hostel. We all started with the beef goulash, which was very nice. the spicyness is aparantly very good for colds and runny noses.
Back at the hostel, we talked for a few hours with some other girls, then decided to go out to the clubs again. the first club must have had lady´s night, as the girls got in free, but we had to pay €5. we were amazed how many desperate middle age men in suits were there. we also noticed a few desperate females too.

The second club was an outdoor club with 4 or 5 venues happening concurrently, including the pool that i had heard about a few weeks earlier. 2 of the girls got totally drenched when another bloke starteed a water fight with them, then finished up by bombing the pool; an act i thaught quite dangerous as the pool is about 50cm deep. We got back to bed at 6:30am
The photo is the 3 girls and another bloke from the hostel with 3 of the blokes in the back who liked water fights, bombing the pool, and swimmming. 5 seconds after this photo was taken, anoter bloke bombed the pool and drenched the girls, especially the one on the right.

Up at 10, feeling much better as i drank very little the night before. i took a bus trip out to Monument park, where the old communist statues of budapest were sent after the fall of commmunism. Some of the statues were huge, others showed the "heroric russian soldier" with the small, defenceless, thankful hungarian. Some were of woman, with strong arms for hard work, wide hips for good breeding, and strong legs for excellent stability; all the good traits of a good communist. The photo is of a huge statue of a russian soldier liberating the hungarians.
I returned to the city. I had only been walking for 5 minutes when i ran into Kate and. Kelly in the street, so i walked with them around the city. 
We decided to go to the market, as it was a sunday. We were surprised to learn, the market opens every day except sunday. Instead, we stopped at a Pub for Hungarian stew and knoci. Afterwards, we walked up and down the main tourist street. half the shops were suiveneer shops, the other half were restraunts. then we walked to the top of "the citadel" on hill to watch sun set and the city lights turn on. 2 more girls joined us at the top of the hill. Then we returned to the hostel. The photo is Budapest at night from the hill.

Got a wog today. it has been going through the hostel, and now i have finally got it.
I had breakfast with Kate at a local cafe, returned to the hostel, then said goodby to Kate as she had to fly back to Ireland
I packed my bags, then stored them under the stair well. afterwards, i went to the market, feeling terrible. i purchased one gift, and what is possably th worst beef goulash in budaest. i couldnt even eat a quarter of it. I returned to the hostel, took some Panadol then Sleep 1 hour.
I woke up then, headed off for my caving adventure. on the way to the cave, this weird rain came from nowhere. we all looked up to try findthesource of the rain. it was an almost clear sunny day, except for one small cloud.
Caving lasted 2.5 hours underground. we got to a depth of about 45 metres. there were Tree roots at 30 metres. the temperature was around 12 degrees, but we didnt get cold, as we were crawling through small tunnles, over bulders, and sliding down dirt slides. good thing we had helmets on, as every one of us banged our head on the rocks at some point. at one stage, we turned our head lamps off, and remainned silent; it was eerily quiet, and pitch black. our guide told us of some of the stories of people dieing down in the tunnels, including 2 blokes who were found with no food and no light. their guide just left them there,in an act of murder. Lovely, i thaught.  Caving finished just as the panodol was wearing off.
I caught the bus for Berlin at 11:30 at night.

In the pool at the club

A huge statue of a russian soldier "liberating" hungrary

Budapest at night

Group photo 45m deep underground; the lowest we got.

Me getting reborn in a very tight tunnel