Thoughts of a geek

17 January 2016

Christmas and New Year

Filed under: Photos, Travel — Tags: , , , , — qwandor @ 5:13 pm

I spent Christmas in London this year, so it was pretty quiet. I still find Christmas in winter weird, it’s all cold and miserable, and I find London winters hard. The afternoon of Christmas Day I went over to my friend Matthew’s place for Christmas dinner, which was nice. His parents and some of his siblings were visiting from Paris (they are originally from NZ, more or less), and there were a few other kiwis too.

I took the 3 days between Christmas and New Year off, and the Monday after New Year, and went away for just over a week to Bratislava, Vienna and Brno. The main point of the trip was to go to the Vienna Folk Marathon, but the flights worked out cheaper (and I thought it would be interesting to visit a couple of new cities) to fly into Bratislava on the Monday morning, spend the afternoon exploring the city, and catch the bus to Vienna that night. In Vienna I stayed with Thi, a university friend from Wellington who now lives there with her boyfriend, which was nice as I hadn’t seen her in ages. After the Folk Marathon I caught a train to Brno on the Sunday afternoon and spent a day and a half sightseeing there (and touring the cafes as it was too cold outside, -7°C with snow and wind most of the time) before flying back to London on the Monday night. My flight back was delayed almost an hour for de-icing, which meant I finally arrived home at about 1:00 am Tuesday morning.

On the whole it was a good trip, but cold. I caught one cold just before Christmas, which I was just getting over as I arrived in Vienna, then caught a second cold towards the end of the Folk Marathon, which made everything less fun. The other annoying thing was that it is still legal to smoke in bars and so on in Austria, and although most of the venues were supposed to be smoke-free for our events, there were still people smoking in almost all of them, which several times forced me to leave. I’d like to go back to Brno sometime warmer, as there was more to see which I didn’t because I was too cold and couldn’t stay outside any longer.

For more, see the photos: Bratislava, Vienna and Brno.

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6 November 2011

Blog, blog, blog it all

Well, it has been ages since last I posted here! A lot has happened in that time, where to start… Well, since July I have had my cousin Philip visit (briefly, we just caught up in a café as he had plenty of other things to see and do, but it was still nice to see him after quite some time), taken a holiday to Austria, Liechtenstein (heh) and Switzerland with Charlotte, had two friends from NZ to stay at overlapping times (which was great!), went to Spain for a week, went to some of the Thames festival, had one of my flatmates turn 40, had some friends over to make and eat pizzas and pancakes (except not very many in the end), turned 24 fairly uneventfully, baked a few cakes, spent a weekend in Paris staying with Matthew Sinclair’s parents, spent a week travelling around Sweden and briefly Norway, bought a new bike (at last) and along the way did a bit of dancing.

Austria and Switzerland were both great. My friend Charlotte from NZ, who is presently studying on exchange in Uppsala, was travelling around Europe for several weeks before she started her studies for the semester, and I was fortunate to be able to join her for part of that. We met up in Vienna on Thursday 4th August and stayed a couple of nights in a youth hostel, during which time we got around a fair bit of the city. I particularly liked the areas around the various branches of the Donau (Danube) river, the park around Schloß Schönbrunn, and the large Prater park. As well as the park itself, which has lovely grassy and forested areas and some good playgrounds, Wiener Prater has a fairly substantial amusement park. We went on a rollercoaster where you lie forwards hanging down from the track with your feet sticking out rather than sitting down, which was cool.

Vienna: Schloß Schönbrunn

From there we travelled on to Salzburg, and stayed in a hostel where they play the Sound of Music every day. We did not watch it. Salzburg was nice though, with the Hohensalzburg fortress up on the hill, a nice old town, and Schloß Hellbrunn just a short bike ride out of town. We had one lovely sunny day where it was so hot we had to find somewhere to go swimming, and then one dreary and rainy day during which we ended up going round Schloß Hellbrunn and then biking back in the rain. Sunday night we spent in Feldkirch, mostly because it was on the way to Switzerland. There was not much to do by the time we got there fairly late, but we did get to explore a glowing green power station, which was pretty cool.

Feldkirch: The hostel where we stayed was quite an old building

The next morning we took the bus across to Liechtenstein, walked down the main street of Schaan and Vaduz, then continued on to our train to Romanshorn, Switzerland. In Romanshorn we were picked up by Charlotte’s friend Sarina, whose family very kindly had us to stay in their farmhouse near Arbon. Although we did not see as much as in some of the other places on the trip, the time there was definitely one of the highlights of the trip for me. Sarina took us biking through the beautiful Swiss countryside, through Arbon, and down to the lake Bodensee where we went swimming very briefly in the lake and then for a while longer in the nearby outdoor swimming pools, before it got too cold. And then we had a delicious homecooked dinner of raclette. The next day the three of us went to St. Gallen and had a bit of a look around before Charlotte and I caught our train to Lucerne. In particular we went into the library of the Abbey of St. Gallen, where there was an exhibition with a lot of old musical manuscripts and various texts. The room was also beautiful. Thanks Sarina!

Liechtenstein: The royal palace in Vaduz

Lucerne is a lovely little city around a lake. It has a nice old town, walls with towers around the outside (some of which we were able to climb to enjoy the view, and to walk along some of the wall), and some great mountains nearby. We stayed in a Korean hostel, which was a bit different. There was Korean fried rice for breakfast and lots of Kimchi in the fridge. We went on a paddleboat on the lake (which was rather slow) and I later walked around some of it and went for a quick swim, which was nice though a bit on the cool side. We also went up the nearby mountain Pilatus on the Wednesday, and took plenty of photos.

Lucerne: The view from one of the towers

We took the Silver Roundtrip up Pilatus. This meant catching a train to Alpnachstad, taking the cogwheel railway up Pilatus from there (the steepest in the world, apparently!), spending a fair while walking around some of the different tracks up the top of Pilatus to a few different peaks and eating out lunch, then taking three panoramic gondolas down to Kriens via Fräkmüntegg and Krienseregg. From Kriens we could then catch a bus back to Lucerne proper. It was lovely, though like everything in Switzerland rather expensive. Unfortunately our views were rather limited by the large amount of cloud all around us by the time we got to the top, but we did manage to see some things through brief gaps in it, as the photos show.

From Lucerne — Pilatus

After Lucerne we headed to Interlaken, so named because it sits between two lakes, with a river flowing through the town from one to the other. The river was an amazing translucent blue colour; I am not sure why. While there I found a couple of geocaches, and swapped a weta travel bug I picked up in London for a Swiss Army Knife one, which I later dropped off in a geocache back here. We biked out to one of the lakes for a swim, which was nice, but the highlight was surely going up Männlichen (via various small towns along the way) and admiring the view of all the different mountains around. As usual the photos tell this part of the story best.

Interlaken: See how blue the water was?

After a couple of nights in Interlaken we stayed just one night in Zürich, with a friend of Sarina’s. On the way we stopped in Berne for a few hours in the morning, and I am glad we did. It is a nice city to walk around, and we also happened to be well-timed for a tour of the Swiss parliament building there. Unfortunately the tour was in German as the English tour was at a different time of day, but they did have an English booklet for us so we could follow along with what the various rooms were.

Berne: Some shop doors at a different angle to that which I am accustomed

The night we were staying in Zürich happened to be the night of the annual street parade, which is a pretty big thing with lots of DJs on various stages around the city and then lots more DJs and bands going around on big trucks along the parade route. It was a bit crazy with so many people, and at one point we got stuck in the crowds and it took us quite some time to get back out again. But we did manage to find a nice and quieter spot to go for a swim in the lake, and also went up Üetliberg the next day to see the view of the city. Charlotte left shortly after that to continue on to Italy for the next part of her trip, while I had the afternoon to myself to enjoy a museum and walking along the lakefront promenade before catching my flight back to London.

Zürich: along the riverside

Well! I think I have written about enough for one post, so I will continue the story in another post shortly. I will get there yet! In the meantime, there are plenty of photos to look at.

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