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What am I not getting? August 28, 2006

Posted by Amanda in Travel Diary.
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I am confused by queuing in Eastern Europe. I can’t count the number of times in Slovakia I have been standing behind the person currently at the counter and someone else comes and stands in front of me! Even if there is a line on the floor where you are supposed to stand, people come and just stand at the side of the window!! It is very frustrating! I have to say that old ladies are the worst offenders.

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Salad is a garnish August 28, 2006

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Our diet seems to consist of bread and potatoes at the moment.  Occasionally there is some meat thrown in. Everywhere we eat out, we get the tiniest bit of salad but there are not really any vegetables on the menu.

If we stay in a hostel with a kitchen, we are able to cook pasta or stir fry and it seems like a banquet!

Slovakia August 28, 2006

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Quick update on our movements- we were in Slovakia this week and are now in Budapest. We head to Croatia on Tuesday.

We are ok. August 22, 2006

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Overconfidence is not a good thing when dealing with fast flowing water. Chris and I decided to go rafting again yesterday in Cesky Krumlov. This time we wanted to go over more weirs because last time they were fun and easy. So we walked up river a bit to hire a raft from the place with the most weirs between it and town. This time we had a smaller inflatable canoe for two people. All week we had been watching people go over the weir outside our hostel with no problems other than falling out of the canoe so we didn’t listen to the guy at the rafting place who said don’t go over that weir, carry the boat instead. What he failed to tell us was that the water was much higher than on previous days and flowing faster. Nevertheless we should have listened to his instructions.

When we got close to the weir I started to have some doubts but it was too late to do anything about it. So we paddled as hard as we could and went down the weir. Unfortunately Chris was thrown from the raft and under the boat. He surfaced quickly but with a look of sheer panic on his face because I was stuck on the raft in the white water where the water was coming over the weir. The boat was stuck against the wall and in the churning water I was trying to stay upright on the raft. I tried to dislodge the raft but that risked me falling out and getting stuck under the raft. After about five-ten minutes of this, Chris and two other guys managed to get up close to the weir and tried to pull the raft away from the wall but they couldn’t get a hold of it. I had to crawl carefully up to the other end of the raft (all the time thinking “This is like a Reader’s Digest true life drama”) and grab the rope and attempt to throw it to Chris or one of the other ‘rescuers’. That didn’t work so they put a paddle out for me to wrap the rope around and pull me out that way. I couldn’t get the rope to stay on the paddle without tipping the boat so I had to go further up to the end of the raft, which by this time was partially deflating, and grab the oar so they could pull me in this way. I slipped out of the boat but managed to keep a hold of the paddle and the boat and they tried to pull me in but I couldn’t keep a hold of the raft and had to let it go. I managed to get to the side and up onto a ledge but the raft was now fully submerged under the water that was crashing on top of it so Chris and the two wonderful Czech or Italian(?) guys again hooked it with the paddle and managed eventually to pull it out. It was quite an ordeal.

So the results were- Chris has some cuts on his feet and arms and he lost one of his kmart thongs. I have a badly bruised hand and leg, some cuts from the rocks and sore shoulders from being pulled up but other than that we are fine. We won’t be ignoring the guides anymore though!

The most beautiful town in Europe? August 19, 2006

Posted by Amanda in Travel Diary.
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For the last few days we have been in Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic. The town is about three hours south of Prague. It is a UNESCO World Heritage town and well worth that designation.

The town is on the Vlatva river and the old part is almost on an island with the land just connected to the other side by a thin strip. There is a castle on a hill in the middle and the streets are all cobbled and narrow. It is truly beautiful and we have been discussing with other travellers whether it is the most beautiful town in Europe.

The river is quite fast flowing and winds throughout the old town. There are a series of weirs as well and this makes it great fun for rafting. It is not white water by any stretch but it is fun. Yesterday we went rafting with an Australian couple for about 15kms down river. There were a number of makeshift bars along the way where we stopped for sausages and drinks and the scenery was pine forest and hills. It was extremely pleasant! Today Chris has hired a bike and has gone up into the hills.

We were in another hostel, but yesterday we moved to Hostel Skippy and it is fantastic. The rooms are covered with the art of previous guests and other interesting bits and pieces. We have a room to ourselves for $22AUD and the hostel has a verandah out over the river where you can watch the rafters going over the weir, falling out and generally having a great time. The hostel is just like staying in someone’s home which in fact is what we are doing. We may stay a couple of extra nights because this is such a great place!

If you are going to Europe include Cesky Krumlov!!

A room of one’s own. August 19, 2006

Posted by Amanda in Travel Diary.
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One of things you miss while travelling is having your own space, especially when staying in eight bed dorms! But actually the room I am referring to is the smallest room in the house.

What a luxury it is to have a toilet that belongs to you or at least your household. There are no worries about how long you spend in the toilet, whether there will be enough paper, about how many people are lining up outside, whether you have enough change to pay to go! There is a lot of tension when there are a couple of toilets for about 30 people.

This isn’t an issue that is going to stop me travelling, but it is something that I will appreciate when I get home!

Old v New August 19, 2006

Posted by Amanda in Architecture/Design, Travel Diary.
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I have been thinking about how often we travel to see old stuff, but not that often we go out of our way to see new stuff. I suppose this is especially true in Europe where there is a lot of history to see and you start to see old building after old building and one historical site after another. It makes me think about Alain de Botton’s comments about our tendency to always hark back to the past and not embrace the future in architecture. Then I think “do I do that?” with my love of all things retro and vintage including 50’s houses. But at the same time, Chris and I love new and interesting architecture and are always coming up with ideas of the type of house we would like to build.

There are some places that we travel to in order to see new things- the Guggenheim in Bilbao is one. I have heard that Bilbao wasn’t visited that much until it was built. We will go there in September and I will update you. We seem to be seeing more Frank Gehry than anything on this trip!

Book confessions August 19, 2006

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When I talked about starting this blog before we left Australia, I told some of you that I was going to try to read a book about each place that we were in and write about how that related to what we saw. I would still like to do that, but basically I am too cheap. I have found that it is just too expensive to buy the books I would like to be reading so I am reading whatever I can get my hands on.

Nevertheless, I have read some books that relate. I started off with Leviathan, which is about the history of Sydney. It was quite interesting but hard going in parts. Then I read two books about New York- Bergdorf Blondes and Lily Brett’s New York. The Lily Brett book was particularly good and there were quite a few things in there that did resonate when we were there- things like the Heimlich manouvre posters in restaurants.

When we got to England, I read Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood”- that was really good and I have since seen the Capote movie as well. I read Donna Tartt’s second book “The Little Friend while we were there as well. I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would after hearing some of the reviews.

While we were in Berlin, I did read Stasiland by Anna Funder which was very apt but not quite as enjoyable as I thought it might be.

Then I went back to my love of classics and read “Shirley” by Charlotte Bronte. Since then I have read “Lucky” by Alice Seabold- disturbing but I read it in about seven hours. And now I am reading “Brick Lane” by Monica Ali which is also hard to put down. Soon I will have to try and wrest the copy of Shantaram from Chris.

A book is a must have while travelling, especially for those long waits between trains or when there is a delay!

The black stuff August 19, 2006

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As most of you would know, I have quite a relationship with Coke. The Coca-Cola kind that is.

Since we have been in Eastern Europe, a lot of the Coke has been in glass. Because in Australia we don’t get Coke in glass bottles very often, I had forgotten how good it tastes! Yes, some of you will be saying that I must be addicted to be able to tell the difference. That is probably true but so is the fact that Coke tastes better in glass.

If I had to choose, I would have Coke out of a glass bottle first, then a can, then a plastic bottle and as a last resort, post-mix.

While I am on the subject, why is that in Europe they think it is ok to sell (and drink I suppose) warm Coke??? It is horrible. The only way to drink it is very cold. Otherwise it is way too syrupy.

Cubist Architecture August 16, 2006

Posted by Amanda in Architecture/Design, Travel Diary.
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A link to my photos of Cubist architecture in Prague.

The thing we are enjoying about this trip is having time to really look around. This is especially true in places we have been before because we have already seen all the main sights and have no pressure to rush around and not miss anything.

Today we had an architecture day. I discovered quite by accident that Prague is unique in having buildings that attempted to follow the Cubist art movement in architecture. We were going to go to the Cubist museum but it was closed so we went to a cafe in one of the buildings with furniture and fittings in the Cubist style.

Then we went to a little visited area of Prague to see some more Cubist buildings. They were really very interesting. We also saw the Frank Gehry ‘Fred and Ginger’ building which I missed last time. There are also some good examples of Art Nouveau around.

Along the way we found a great secondhand bookshop that had lots of prints, paintings and posters for sale. We bought some great things from the communist era including a poster celebrating 40 years of Communism in 1988 which is of course the year before it all came crashing down. The bonus of the shop was that there was a kitten and a cat that live in the shop so we got our fill of playing with and patting the furry things.