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Zurich or bust

European Route Signs

I was about write an update about our trip to Switzerland, but found that I had been beaten to it by Kate who has already summarised our weekend perfectly . . . here

What else?

Well, the trip there was interesting. We use a website called when driving around Europe as it gives you great directions. According to their calculations the trip was supposed to take us about 6.5 hours. We know from experience that the times they give are calculated for someone driving a Ferrari at the maximum speed limit, with no breaks and no traffic and who doesn’t get lost twice. As usual it took us a bit longer . . .

The German autobahns are a great idea in theory – beautiful roads, and you can drive as fast as you want. Sadly though on Friday, they didn’t work perfectly for us. We have a very nice, but quite old, Renault which is quite happy cruising at between 120 and 130 kph. (130 kph is the speed limit here in Czech). At speeds beyond that though it develops an unfortunate shake. So on Friday, from Nuremberg to Stuttgart, what should have been a smooth drive became problematic as we had to choose between the slow lane (which was full of trucks) doing 80kph and the fast lane full of Porsches doing 160kph. Trying to travel at 130 just didn’t fit.

Europe has a great system which allocates numbers to the main routes across Europe. These routes are signposted in most countries and so you can just follow the signs irrespective of which country you are in. It really is a brilliant system. We travelled to Zurich on Route 50 and then turned left onto Route 41.

There are only two European counties who refuse to cooperate with this system; The UK (of course – they never cooperate with anything European) and oddly enough Germany. They did occasionally stick a token E50 sign on some of their motorway signs, but never it seems at junctions. Very inefficient and unGerman. Which, to cut long story short, is why we got lost (twice)

More about our trip and some photos later.


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Boiling in Bangkok?

Ahoj Y'all

Life goes on in sunny Prague.  We have has some absolutely wonderful weather here, and for the last two months, the temperature has ranged between 25 – 38 centigrade.  On the hot days it feels just like Bangkok.  Hot,hazy, and no sign of a cooling sea breeze at all. Those days are not so nice, but luckily I spend most of my time either in air-conditioned offices or lying on my back in the park.  It's also fun looking at the world weather reports and noticing that it is 18 degrees n London (and I'm not even going to mention Auckland!)

I have been happily working away since my last update, saying goodbye to people who have left the country (welcome y'all to my distribution list) and managing to squeeze in the odd bit of travel out of the country.

Since the last update I have been away to Hradec Kralove here in the Czech Republic, Dresden in Germany and Krakow in Poland.  Krakow is another very beautiful medieval city, and it is also near the Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps (not so beautiful).  It is very sobering wandering around buildings where so many people had died, but also very unreal – a bit like visiting old Roman ruins.  You know a lot has happened in this place but it is impossible to imagine what it as really like. 

I can't really recommend Dresden.  The WWII firestorms really left very little of interest, (although there are one or two nice old buildings still standing), and it was absolutely horrifying having to pay Western European prices.  Now I'm getting paid in Czech Crowns, I now mentally convert everything back into that currency – which was a  frightening experience in Germany.

I have also brought myself some rollerblades in a effort to blend in with the local population (roller blading is very very popular here).  This has been occupying a lot of my free time and in fact was going pretty well until Friday when I managed to melt one of my wheels.  (I'm getting better but I'm still a bit wobbly)

We had a fun time here last weekend.  The Rolling Stones were playing in Letna (which is the Prague equivalent of Hyde Park / Central Park).  Rather than paying Kc 5,000 for tickets we thought it might be fun to set up base just on the other side of the fence (for free).  Despite a tropical downpour, we had a great night.  Actually we did better I think than those who paid as we actually had a tree to sit under.

Just to make a change from spending my days talking to boring bankers, I now have a class twice a week teaching a group of models.  It's a tough job I know, but someone has to do it :)

I'm still alive, still having a good time, I'm looking forward to seeing (most of you) soon, and no I'm not bored yet!



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Greetings from Suburban Bohemia

Ahoj All,

After heaps of snow last few weeks it has now turned very tropical and I am sitting here on my new balcony in my shorts admiring my fantastic new rural (yes, that's correct, rural) outlook.

I have finally found a more permanent place to live.  I am in a suburb that was obviously built in the 60s and 70s for the more “sucky” of the party faithful.  It's one of the nicest areas of Prague and I am also literally on the edge of town, with nothing out my window apart from a panoramic view of some paddocks and forest. 

The rent is 7,000 Czech Crowns (equivalent to NZD 440) per month, and it takes me about 20 mins to get into town by bus/metro.  That's if I don't get sidetracked by the fantastic Czech Beer garden at the end of my street.  I'll be living here at least until the end of August.

As well as getting more settled, I am managing to see a lot more of the the country, thanks to making friends with some nice Czech people (with cars).  Although hooning down the motorway at 160km in a 1970's era Škoda isn't everyone's idea of a relaxing weekend (I didn't know that they actually went that fast!).  “Hey – no need to wear a seatbelt – I'm a great driver”.  Coming home after everyone has had a few beers is actually more relaxing.

One of the other great things about living here is that it's not called Central Europe for nothing.

I had a fun trip to Berlin last week, hanging out in the backpackers hostel with a very interesting range of people.  I have attached a photo of a short stretch of the Berlin wall (at least some of which is still standing) which I thought y'all might enjoy. 

To be honest I probably won't rush back to Berlin.  There is a lot of “oral history” there, but because of WWII bombing and the strange attitude of the Germans (where they simply hide / cover up / ignore the history they don't like), there is very very little physical history.  A good example of this is Hitler's bunker which is fully intact but completely closed off and covered up by a carpark! 

Also, I didn't have a lot of time for the Germans.  They are a very strange people.  I mentioned to a some Czechs that I was going to Berlin and the reaction I received was consistently along the lines of “WHY on earth would you voluntarily want to go to Germany?!”.  Having been there and returned, I now think I understand why they'd say that (notwithstanding the fact that quite understandably the Czechs hate the Germans with a passion).  I get another compulsory trip to Germany next month when I go to Dresden for a few days on a Visa run, but this time around it was certainly great to get home. 

My travel destination for next week is a very beautiful town in the south called Cesky Krumlov (another high speed Skoda drive?) and my other short term target is Krakow in Poland.

I looks like I may (touch wood) have a contract from the beginning of May teaching the board of directors of one of the big banks here.  If I get it, then my travel options will be narrowed a bit as I will be limited to weekend travel only.

Other photos attached this week show the effect of acid rain on an otherwise very beautiful forest on the Polish border (that's actually a hotel in the background), and a chandelier made entirely from human bones from a monastery in a very pretty town to the north west of here called Kutna Hora.

So, I'm still alive, still having a great time, and no, I'm not bored yet!




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