Hear Ye! Since 1998.

Archived Posts for January 2001

Please note: The posts on this page are at least 3 years old. Links may be broken, information may be out of date, and the views expressed in the posts may no longer be held.
27
Jan 01
Sat

Greetings from Nepal! Time is money, so this will be another brief post. We flew into Kathmandu two days ago and took a van up to Pokhara yesterday (and what an exciting journey that was…). Tomorrow we are starting on a 7-day long trek around the Annapurna region of the Himalayas. Should be fun! As expected, this country is a world of difference from 1st world Europe. If we have spare cash, I’ll be posting again, but if not, then our accounts about Nepal will have to wait until Malaysia! Nepal is already the most memorable country of this trip. (Especially, and I guess, unfortunately, since we are Australians, tourists, and comparatively very rich).

22
Jan 01
Mon

Our time in Europe draws to a close, as does the postcard count which stands at 60. Tomorrow, we leave Munich for Frankfurt where we spend one brief night before jetting off to Nepal. Between today and Nepal, we’ll be mainly resting and taking it easy. I chose to spend this afternoon doing some good old net surfing, trying in vain to catch up on over a month’s worth of IT news (the P4 is out already?).

All in all, Europe was a fantastic experience. One day I’d like to come back in the Summer and perhaps go around the Mediterranean. Another time, to visit Benelux and Scandinavia. What I’d like to do, and what actually happens, of course, are two different things. While Western Europe is a diverse part of the world, it still is the Western World, and has all the common traits first-world countries share (and we have just visited 5 out of 7 G7 countries, after all). Each country has its nationally famous monuments, its art galleries, Christian cathedrals and churches, palaces and castles…

Nepal should be a refreshing change. A third-world nation, it is virtually completely foreign to any other country I’ve been in. Religion, culture, language – all different. We haven’t worked out our exact itinerary there, but it will be divided between Kathmandu, Pokhara and a short trek through the Annapurna region (perhaps the Southern Circuit). This should allow us to briefly glimpse Nepal’s cities, villages and of course, its absolutely incredible landscape, being at the doorway to the Himalayas. We were impressed by the Alps, but I suspect the world’s highest mountain range will completely out-do them.

After Nepal, we jet over to Malaysia. I’ll be accompanying Kev and Em as they “relo-hop” down the peninsula to Johor Bahru where I’ll cross over the border into Singapore and begin leeching off my relos there. Enough of the historical sites, the museums and the monuments. Malaysia and Singapore will be a most relaxing time dominated solely by, heh, shopping, eating and sleeping.

This’ll most likely be my last post from Europe, so goodbye, au revoir, tschüß, adios and ciao. The next time I’ll be writing, I’ll be in Nepal, where the salutation changes to Namaste!

21
Jan 01
Sun

As you might have guessed, easyEv has become quite a central part of our stay at Munich! Yvonne’s job searching, Kev’s browsing for a place to eat tonight, Em’s catching up on news in the SMH and I’m doing this post. Today, we essentially did two things.

Twice a day in Winter, at Marienplatz, the Glockenspiel tower on top of the town hall will ring out with its famous tune, accompanied by small figurines prancing around underneath the clockface. We caught the 11 o’clock “show”. The tune played by the belltower upon striking 11 can be described as something no less than deranged. Emitting from the tower for 10 painful minutes was a cacophany of banging, dinging and clanging that had extremely little semblance to music. We stayed until the end, driven by the prospect of seeing the cuckoo pop out and do its thing. Unfortunately, the wooden bird was totally disinterested in its job, flopping out and giving three pathetic hoots before comfortably nesting itself into dormancy again. How bored (and tone-deaf) would one have to be to create such a torturous instrument? We left with one question that Kev, and only Kev, could have raised: Do pigeons try to mate with the cuckoo?

The remainder of the day was spent travelling through most of the 13km of corridors of the Deutsches Museum. 8 levels of exhibitions makes it the world’s largest science museum. I love my sciences over arts and after five weeks of art galleries, church frescoes, historical museums and cathedral crypts, I took to the prospect of spending a day immersed in science with eagerness. The Lonely Planet describes the Deutches Museum as a mix between the Smithsonian Institute and Disneyland. Unfortunately that was a bit of an overstatement. As large as the museum is, 8 gigantic levels must make for a real headache when it comes to upkeep. Many sections of the museum are, quite literally, gathering dust – and not obscure sections either. Chemistry, for instance, consisted of display case after display case of rudimentary chemical reactions that every Year 9 student does (eg: Acid into water gives off heat. Thrilling.) On the whole, however, the museum was jampacked with information (all in German and English, except for the older sections which are only in German) that one could not hope to digest all in one day. I ended up browsing through topics more interesting to me (computers, telecommunications, astronomy etc.) and skipping those that weren’t (textiles, mining, food tech, etc.). At only 5DM, the Museum was well worth it. I would be willing to pay more if they updated some of their older, crumbling, displays.

Plans for tomorrow… personally, I haven’t decided. Yvonne is going to Neuschwanstein and Emily wants to go to Nürnberg.

Hear Ye!

Might as well say this now, as Internet access in Nepal is by no means guaranteed (but it is available there, which may come as a surprise to some). Hear Ye!, my regular site, will be three years old in one week, on the 28th of January. That’s 1096 days of not-always-constant updating. On to the 4th year then!

20
Jan 01
Sat

Guten Tag

Now that we’ve arrived in another European city graced with an easyEverything store (this one sporting an insane 550 terminals), I can finally fill you all in on what’s happened in the last week or so. Apologies in advance for typos: German keyboards have switched the position of the ‘y’ and ‘z’ keys, which is particularlz annozing. See?

Moving from Austria and into Germany marks the final country in the European leg of our tour. The number of postcards sent in my mailouts so far has reached an expensive 55. Some people requesting postcards over the Net have already received theirs, whilst I still have not sent some theirs.

Anyhow, what has happened as of late? It goes without saying that unforeseen events will occur in a trip like ours necessitating a slight change of plans. For us, this was Emily falling ill on our arrival in Salzburg. After lengthy discussion, we decided that it would be best if everyone was fit as possible going in to Nepal. As a result, Berlin was unfortunately sacrificed for extra time for resting in Salzburg and Munich. Another contributing factor was the brilliant accommodation we had at Salzburg – a hostel that was twice as good as the 3-star hotel we stayed at in Bayswater, London. Salzburg was extended for three nights, and Munich by one (I think, there’s been so much chopping and changing that I’m still confused). Nonetheless, the extra time in Salzburg enabled me to visit Innsbruck.

Venice was an interesting city. Any city that you arrive in via a 4 kilometre rail “bridge” is. Venezia is a city comprised of over 100 small islands connected by a series of footbridges and canals filled with (in places) the most foul smelling water. There are no forms of motorised transport there asides from water vehicles. Water vehicle travel is expensive. Most of our travel was done on public ferries called vaporetti. Water taxis charge by the quarter minute, and the romantic gondola rides are not so romantic anymore when you realise they cost over $150 to hire for 50 minutes. Not bad money for someone standing on the back of a boat pushing a stick. Finding accommodation in Venice is easy, as it was in Rome and Florence. They come to you. In our case, soon after alighting the train, we were accosted by a John Cleese lookalike who offered a berth at the Hotel Adua.

Apart from the novelty of Venice’s city planning, Venice is famous for its venetian glasswares, and strolling through the streets will reveal multitudinous glass dealers flogging off the same wares at vastly varying prices (so shop around if you intend on buying something). Despite the Italian love of piazzas, Venice only has one proper piazza (the rest are called campo) which has a pigeon count rivalling that of Trafalgar Square. It is here where the Basilica di San Marco resides – the burial site of Saint Mark. Inside there is a large altar screen constructed from gold and is jewel encrusted, showing just how ghastily poor the Catholic church is. Naturally, we had to pay 3000 lire for the privilege of seeing this screen which looks very… Hindi, in style. But that might just be me.

An afternoon of shopping resulted in me almost losing my credit card. That same afternoon, however, resulted in us fortuitously bumping into Jamie (from Rome, remember?) at the Piazza. He and another friend, Anthony, were attempting to gain access to the actual crypt St Mark was buried in, but that is another story I will tell another time. We met up in the evening with Tom for dinner, before permanently parting ways in Europe. We were bound for Vienna next.

In stark contrast to Italian rail, our Austrian train pulled in half an hour early to Wien Ost-Bahnhof at the unearthly hour of 6.15am. Stumbling out of the train, we were met by blast of ice cold air which reminded us that the comparatively balmy Italian weather was no more. Waiting an hour in the station (conveniently unheated) for everything to open was not pleasant, but eventually we booked ourselves into a hostel.

Vienna looks like a capital city. It’s spacious, with roads lined with classic-style buildings and none of the hustle and bustle of Italy. A bit boring after a while, actually. Vienna was bloody cold. Freezing. -6 degrees Celsius to some (eg: Canadians) is not cold at all in Winter. But to Australians, used to weather 50 degrees Celsius hotter (and I’m not exaggerating, Sydney recorded some 45 degree C days this Summer) this time in the year, it is fricking torturous.

Experiences in the home of classical music involved attending an evening of chamber music, lunching at an Australian pub (yes… we had to look twice at that too to make sure it said “Australian” and not “Austrian”), walking between the entrails of the Habsburg royal family under St Stephan’s Cathedral, and so on. One event that deserves mention was bumping into Herr Lucas and the Trinity Grammar German tour, in the Sigmund Freud Museum, no less. The odds of the happening were quite ridiculous.

Salzburg was beautiful. One or two degrees warmer than Vienna, it, at least, was blanketed in snow. We stayed there for 6 days, basically, and enjoyed every moment of it. Well, almost every moment. On our first day there we had a particularly shocking time with public transport. Quick rundown of some of what we did:

Sound of Music Tour. Fulfilling the girls’ lifelong dreams, we took this 4 hour tour tracking the places where Sound of Music was filmed. This involved 4 hours of hopping in and out of a minivan, marked by periods of listening to the girls incessantly singing over the top of the Sound of Music soundtrack that our driver, Nabil, had put on (and thankfully later pulled off due to him experiencing the same distress I was in).

Die Festung Hohensalzburg. This thousand year old fortress towers over Salzburg and is visible from almost any point in the city. Climbing it resulted in a beautiful view and burning off the numerous calories accumulated from eating way too much.

Mozart Stuff. Mozart was born here. He lived here. He has many memorial sites dedicated to his memory. I think we visited all of them.

On one day Yvonne and I made a daytrip to Innsbruck, 200 kilometers distant. (Emily hadn’t seen enough of Salzburg’s AltStadt, and Kevin “couldn’t be bothered going”.) Innsbruck was awesome. Set in between two mountain ranges provides a 360 degree postcard view, everywhere (didn’t I say this about Lucerne?). We visited the Alpine zoo there, along with the Hofkirsche and a “Golden Roof” (Goldenes Dachl, I think the German for it is) sporting 2700+ gilded copper tiles. Free schnapps tasting and net access capped off the day.

And now we’re in Munich. That was a very brief rundown of what happened, but it’s now dark in Munich and we’re getting hungry. We’ll be back at easyEverything tomorrow, getting our much needed Net fix.

What Trinity is going through is truly, truly shocking. Read it all here. To think I went to that school… The allegations of “coverups” aren’t the least bit surprising though.

18
Jan 01
Thu

Very quick note – access to net has been very limited in Austria, will be spending a couple hours updating in Munich. Due to poor health of Emily, we have cancelled Berlin, unfortunately, from the itinerary and as a result are still in Salzburg (which is gorgeous). Until Munich, then!

9
Jan 01
Tue

Firenze

As the second major Italian city we’ve visited, it certainly hasn’t detracted from my initial impressions of Italy gained from Rome. Florence has been distinctively different from Rome, but no less enjoyable. Apart from excessively pigging out on ice-cream (I ate three cones yesterday), we visited Pisa and its famous leaning tower yesterday, and took a daytrip to medieval Siena today. Due to the fact that all museums in Florence are closed on Mondays, tomorrow is the day we are seeing Florence itself. Running short on money and net time. Ciao.

5
Jan 01
Fri

The Day Today

Although I like the people I’m travelling and all, naturally, spending a month together every day can start to grate. Yesterday, we met up with Tom and Jamie – two friends that went to high school with me (none of us are boarders, so for those aware of the bad press TGS has been getting back home, don’t get any ideas) – and also Pat, a fellow Aussie they met at the Roma Termini train station. The idea last night we had dinner. It appears that we were on the “wrong side of town” as we couldn’t find a pizzeria. In Rome. Anyhow, drenched from the rain hurtling down, we stumbled into a pizzeria that was empty. Instead of taking the hint and leaving immediately, we proceeded to order. The waiter returned with food that could only have been reheated microwaved supermarket pizzas. Not a good meal. Anyhow, we resolved to meet up the next day (that being today) and travel to the Vatican together.

The Vatican is essentially a country within a country. Inside high brick walls resides an independent “nation” with an area of 0.44 square kilometers of which Pope John Paul II is head of state. It’s official language is Latin. Our first stop was to grab a quick, overpriced breakfast, which we did standing up (eating food sitting incurrs being charged a higher price in Italy – there are signs warning that “purchasing food does not give you the right to sit at a seat”). We reached the Vatican Museum soon after. The Vatican Museum is both an impressive display of antiques and artworks, and an impressive display of the wealth of the Catholic church. There is far too much in that museum to digest in one day. The “complete tour” marked on the brochure is supposed to take 4 hours, but after traversing only 20% of the journey in 2 hours, that estimate was quite underestimated. Incidentally, should you ever find yourself in the Vatican Museum, purchase the audio guide. It is very comprehensive and, dare I say it, well worth the £10,000 (that’s 10,000 lira, not pounds) it costs. The highlight of the museum, of course, is the Sistine chapel which includes the vey well-known frescoes of Michaelangelo (creation of Man, the Final Judgement etc.) among other artists whose work grace the chapel’s walls.

After another overpriced meal in the cafeteria at the museum, we made our way over to St. Paul’s Basillica (I think it’s called that), the papal residency. It turns out that tomorrow is a national holiday for Rome due to the closing of the Jubilee gates. From what I heard, the Jubilee gates open only once every 1000 years, and for a period of one year. Last year the gates opened. Tomorrow is the day they close for another thousand years. The result, I can only speculate, was today there was a mass of people queued up outside the Basilica, awaiting entrance. It would not be unfair to say there were over 100,000 people lined up. As for the Jubilee Gates, I still do not know anything about them, where they are, or if that was why there were so many people there. Needless to say, we weren’t about to queue up for hours, so we left for gelato (I’m addicted, I would move to Rome for that stuff alone) followed by dinner at a Lonely Planet recommended pizzeria. Immediately after we made for easyEverything. I’m convinced the easyEverything here is running a scam. $3 for 3 hours the rate may be, but 50% of the terminals here are mysteriously non-functional. For dumb terminals which run on a netboot and pull down identical operating system images from the main server, there are certainly more problems than there should be. And the terminals never seem to get fixed either. Tomorrow we are attempting to visit Pompeii.

One more thing: hot off the press is that Australia has banned all beef imports due to problems with BSE. Needless to say, our aversion to beef (and also lamb, as two cases of BSE in Germany were attributed to sheep!) in Europe has been justified.

3
Jan 01
Wed

Roma rocks. After a rather sleepless night’s train ride in from Lucerne, we pulled into Rome at about 10am today. Our initial plan was to find the Lonely Planet mentioned hostel, ‘Fawlty Towers’ but within minutes of stepping off the train we were approached by an Asian woman asking if we were looking for accommodation. Unsure at the time if this was some scam or similar, we gingerly asked for further details. It later turned out that there were many people like her, waiting like vultures, to book incoming tourists into accommodation. She had been in Rome for over 10 years and spoke Mandarin, English and Italian (just as it is strange hearing Asians speak French, it’s the same with Italian. Strangely, we never saw any Spanish speaking Asians in Barcelona.). After spending about an hour going through a few different options, we settled upon “Kenzo Pensione”, a Japanese owned place about 3 minutes walk from the Rome train terminal. 40K lira a night per person with a TV and bathroom was fairly decent. Probably the best place we’ve been in so far, actually, being clean, neat and well aired.

After an afternoon nap, we took to the streets to get an overview of the city. Our first order of business, however, was to get to a Thai airways office to reschedule one of our flights. We will now be spending 2 days less in Nepal, extending the Malaysia leg of our journey instead. With this change comes the possibility of me dropping into Singapore. We bought a ticket at the easyEverything net café I’m now sitting in, although at that time the café had no free terminals. It is slightly smaller than the one in Barcelona, with “only” about 300 terminals. 3000 liras buys 3 hours, which, for a traveller is virtually an unlimited amount of time. As for the rest of the day, I’ll give a brief run down: we came across an ice creamery and bought some of the best tasting ice cream we’ve had on this trip yet. We visited the Spanish steps, and the fashion houses in the street leading up to it (Gucci, Armani, Bally etc.). We ate a mouthwatering dinner at a trattoria – prices were very affordable compared to Lucerne. Tomorrow, we’ll be properly visiting the old Roman monuments. This update was rushed – there aren’t any terminals free at this time, so I’ll be handing the computer over to Kev now.

One more thing, a note to mum, as I’m having trouble reaching her by phone: Happy 50th Birthday Mum! (for the 4th of Jan).

1
Jan 01
Mon

Welcome to 2001

They don’t seem to have exclamation marks on Swiss keyboards. Nonetheless, Happy New Year all. As Kev has provided an abridged account of last night’s events, I will not dwell on it other than say it was an interest New Year’s.

Switzerland has been a wonderful place. The scenery is incredible, especially to an Aussie who has seen so little snow in his lifetime. Everything is coated in a glimmering white. Lucerne (Luzern, as it is natively called) is surrounded by snow peaked mountains, providing a postcard view that extends 360 degrees from just about any point in the city. Additionally, there is a lake through the centre of the city that adds to this Winter Wonderland. Yesterday we took a trip up Mount Pilatus, named after Pontius Pilate who was supposedly buried there, and the dragons that supposedly inhabit the area (exclamation mark). The snow was powdery and soft, and we nicked off with a toboggan and went on a few suicidal runs down the mountain side, followed by the traditional snowball fights. We went through a lot of film whilst on that mountain.

Tag Heuers aren’t that much cheaper than can be found in Australia, but I’ve been told that they can be found even cheaper in Singapore, so it looks like I will have to wait until we are in South-East Asia before I look into actually taking the plunge and buying one. Tomorrow night we leave for Italy. We are changing our itinerary and are swapping the order of our visit, travelling to Rome before Florence. Good thing too, because despite the sunny weather and beautiful scenery, it is bloody cold here. So we welcome the more temperate climes of Italia… and will be on the lookout for an easyEverything net cafe :). Tschüss.



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