Monday 28 September 2009

The start of things in 2009 in Southend-on-Sea

Its been quite a while since I last wrote. We have been living in England for nearly 3 months now and things have certainly changed. I am now a working girl. Have been working for nearly the last month as a Biology lecturer at South East Essex College, which is a further education institution aka a polytech. I am predominantly teaching what we would call in NZ, fountain year at Uni. I have a wide range of classes and group ages my oldest student is 54.
We are now also all grown up and have a place of our own, in an apartment complex in Prittlewell, Southend-on-Sea, which is just 50 mins outta downtown London by train (which is faster than

commuting from Zone 4-6, for those that know London and the joys of metroing!!). We have a 2 bedroom apartment with an ensuite and spare bathroom, so its quite fancy, and a julliard balcony which is a silly thing that means you have a door instead of a window but it goes no where thanks to the "balcony"..

Yes I am bragging =). Also we have badgers in our "backyard". Which is very cool, they are about the size of a dog and like to fight.

The traveling has mostly come to a stand still due to lack of monies and working really limits things. But we have been to some fun events around London like the Nottinghill Festival (biggest one in London). Also caught up with quite a few friends that have been passing through london for various reasons which has been awesome.

Friday 19 June 2009

Trebic, Telc, Cesky Krumlov, Ceske Budejovice, and Kutna Hora

Our first stop was in Trebic. Here we walked around and saw the famous cathedral. The windows were quite nice but other than that it wasn't too impressive and was very cold compared to outside (gotta love stone churches). Also went to the Jewish cemetery here which was reminiscent of the packed one in Prague. Here however they used very old headstones to make walls which depressed me a bit. In Telc, the main square was a Unesco site, and I understand why. The buildings are all so individual and pretty, and the place is massive. The largest square I have been in CR to date. Also explored the chateau. A quick stop in Zirovnice to see the castle. Found a random cellar but couldn't venture too far as it was pitch black. Went to Jihlava afterward and explored the 2nd longest labyrinth in CR. Was nice. Then off to Zdar na Sazavou where there was a one of a kind in the world star shaped church. The place had a very "interesting" smell from the surrounding farmland but the view was nice and interesting design. Final stop for this trip was the castle at Pernstejn which was closed by the time we got there. But we could still see it and it was very impressive in size. 

This Easter weekend was a mass of traveling. Still quite tired from it all but so worthwhile. On Saturday I headed away with VUT uni to the Wallachian Kingdom, which is an outdoor museum showing early Czech lifestyles in the town of Rosnov pod Radhostem. And because it was Easter this  place was packed. There were traditional folk music bands, traditional foods and of course lots of things for sale. But the buildings that were there was also very impressive especially the wooden church and the "beehives". Afterwards we bussed up a massive hill in thto the national park where martins parents took me before but a completely opposite side (dont remember name) and had a wonderful Czech lunch and the famous Slivovice or plum brandy of Moravia (a province of CR).

The rest of the trips were with fellow couch surfers (e.g Mariusz who kindly lent us his car).
Sunday involved getting up very early and heading over to Cesky Krumlov. But first up we stopped in Tyn n Vltavou when the GPS got the town name wrong and said we were in Hluboka n Vltavou (our first destination). So had a coffee in a place beside the nice river. Good break from the driving anyway. Finally arrived in Hluboka and the white castle was awesome. Very modern looking though. And there were deer horns used all over the place for decoration. Then onto Ceske Budejovice where we explored the town square and enjoyed the famous "Budvar" beer. Apparently its 12 degrees (which is some way of understanding how good the beer is in taste) which is supposed to be good.
Onto Cesky Krumlov, the Unesco town. This place was beautiful. The castle was massive complex and the painted tower was great. The view from the castle bridge over the town was beautiful, its postcard perfect. After having our fill of Cesky Krumlov was headed onto Trebon and visited the chateau and gardens. Chateau wasn't anything too spectacular on the grand scheme but it was nice and the peacock in the gardens was cool. The last stop of the day was the castle at Jindrichuv Hradec. Nice place but it was a bit run down. The town buildings were nice however.
Monday was a day of bad luck. We stared out to Znojmo. Everything was closed, so just walked around for an hour. The views were nice especially from the church hill. Sadly the longest labyrinth was closed to 1 so after seeing the disapointing church we headed off to Laa an der Thaya, Austria. Here we were supposed to go to the sauna world at the therme, but the price on the website lied as it didn't mention that you still had to pay the spa entry as well even if you only wanted the sauan. So we didn't end up going as the price became insane. Carried onto Mistelbach, Austria. Here we had the famous coffee of the town at Cafe Harlekin. The $11 coffee was very interesting and quite alcoholic. I was more interested in my very yummy ice cream but tired the different coffees that were ordered. Very special they were. Went to Breclave castle (back in Czech Republic) which was crumbling away but repairs had started to save it. Was an interesting design, kind of a an L in shape. The final stop was Lednice where we went to the Unesco chateau. It was very pretty here. The gardens were quite extensive as well. Recommend this one.

Our final day of travels were awesome. Kutna Hora was fantastic. The old town and St Barbara's church were great, as where the views . But the real highlight of Kutna Hora was the bone church. The Sedlec Ossuary was such a popular burial place in Europe until the 14th century that during the rebuilding of it in 1870 (some wars in between and the church lost land hence no money, so a long time to rebuild), the excessive amount of bones from the cemetery were used in artwork and as a memorial to the people. For example there were 30000 people buried during 1 year of the plague, so you can imagine how many bones there could be. I was very happy even though its a bit morbid to see these displays. Was very interesting as some of the skulls and bones showed some facts of the people, one in particular was cool, obviously he had survived an axe going partially into his skull as the bone had healed but it was very obvious some sharp instrument had tried to cut his head. There were also several examples of people who had survived the medieval procedure of drilling into the skull to "let out demons". The holes were visibly healed as it was a different color to the remainder of the skull and generally in similar locals. Afterward headed to Chrudim to see the largest plague column in CR. Quite pretty. Then onto Litomysil. The chateau here had an interesting way of doing artwork which was to carve into the stone and expose a different under color to make a contrast. Final stop was in the Moravian karst region, sadly the places were all closing but we did get to see into the gorge.

Saturday 23 May 2009

A quick study of Vienna

Vienna is really nice. The whole town is lovely, clean, green and well organised. I have been here on two occassions now, and the below is a summary of both combined.

The Imperial palace was really good, very pretty. It has such a grand presence. The buildings there are very well looked after and very cool. The associated gardens are very well taken care of, although I find it a bit odd (even after all this time) that you are not allowed to sit on the grass and enjoy the gardens properly.
So hard to describe how weird it felt being in such place, surrounded by grandeur. The parliment building was so white and clean. There was clean gold statues everywhere.

A big highlight was going to the cemetary in Vienna where I visited Beethoven, Schubert, Struass, Brahms, and the memorial to Mozart. The cemetary should actually be on peoples must do list here, as the bascilica in the centre is actually extremely interesting, with the bold clashes of colour and is actually really good for singing in.
In the surrounding suburbs are a number of other smaller or summer homes that are now within Vienna borders. It is unfortunate that the palace zoo is too expensive to warrent the visit.

The permanent circus grounds are a must do attraction in Vienna. Went on a ferris wheel that showed the whole of Vienna from it. Had some lovely weiner schnitzel there and just goofing around on some of the rides. It is also right in the middle of an amazing park which I once went to a couchsurfing conference in. This area is amazing even in winter.

Monday 2 February 2009

A 2009 stopover

Onwards to England where my friend George, from Glasgow Uni, picked me up and we headed to
his place in Cambridge. Sadly this is the point when the jet lag caught up with me and I didn't do too much as I was exhausted. But I did manage to see Cambridge in its lovely wintery snow, as the day I arrived the worst snow in 18 years arrived in Britain and brought England to a virtual stand still. I also went down to London for 2 nights to catch up with Jess and Keiran, from Dunedin, in Greenwich. Had a lovely time there and saw the prettier side of London. Then back up to Cambridge for a night, after which Geroge kindly drove me down to Luton to fly out to Poland. Was gutted as in the end my flight was delayed 5.5 hours so I coulnd' t see Katowice or Krakow with Martin and his parents.

Friday 30 January 2009

Bandar Seri Begawan and surrounds

I had a  three day stop over in Brunei , which started badly in that I got food poisoning from the airplane food. Unforutnately this event saw the first day spent in bed.

Brunei is a lovely country. The water village is a highlight, as this is how Brunei actually started, and makes Venice look a bit bland really. On my tour of the city I saw the amazing mosques, and that night did another tour of different things as well as seeing the same sites at night.  There were two main mosques, the one right down town and the sultans mosque which is constructed using material from all over the globe. They are also very tolerant of other religions there, as there was a very nice Buddhist temple near my hotel. One of the must do things in this area is the night market. The smells are incredible and reminded me of my childhood in Indonesia.

On my final day there, in the morning I went on the Proboscis monkeys, actually saw qutie a few and a male, which was probably bigger than me with much longer arms. Also saw a croc, and a monta ray lizard. The only way to see these things is to do a tour or hire a boat to take up  the river and into the mangrove jungle. Going up river was amazing as the Mangrove forest is very interesting. Then in the afternoon I caught up with friends from New Plymouth (who I used to swim with) Rachael and Simon. They were awesome and we went to one of the mosques together (I was surprised we were allowed in without our hair covered, although we did have to wear a robe thing). And they were even nicer and shouted me another water boat tour this time of a different part of the water village. Was great fun catching up with them.