Saturday, December 29, 2007

Respect for the Fallen

Istanbul was hilariously fun.

Not stop. It was difficult to decide what type of city it was, one minute modern, another minute it was clearly the gateway to the Middle East.

It also had the disturbing effect of draining our savings....

Our time in Istanbul was finished though. It was time to move on.

And the next place we ventured was the place all Australian travellers in Turkey go.

Gallipoli.

On a freezing day, we all set off for this defining place in Australian history.

Oliee and I stand here, cold and rained on in front of the Dardenelles.
This place holds such a significance for so many countries.
Once we were there, the weather took a turn for the worse.

The temperatures dropped and it started to hail.

It was an interesting experience standing there in the freezing cold. It gave us all a much keener appreciation of the suffering that must have been endured by soldiers on both sides.

ANZAC Cove shocked us all with its steep incline.
Lone Pine was a place that had a calm beauty. Standing there in the rain, it was hard to imagine the fighting that had occurred there in the past.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Deepest Blue

Immediately after walking away from Hagia Sofia, we all turned our attentions to the enormous mosque DIRECTLY OPPOSITE.

The Blue Mosque!

My brother had always told me that the Blue Mosque was the most beautiful building he had ever been in.

From the outside, I could definitely see the beauty of the building, but the most beautiful in the world? I was skeptical. I was also confused about the title "Blue".... it doesn't look very blue at all...
..... until you get inside!
My brother was right. It is stunning. The sheer intricacies of the designs and decorations cannot be compared to Hagia Sofia, the two are too different.
Inside, the lights made the Mosque glow.
After leaving, we wandered to a local coffee house for a refreshment. Drinks and a smoke!
Several days later, as I was walking passed the Blue Mosque at night, I was given another answer to the name. In the darkness, with the glow of the spotlights upon it, the Mosque truly is a startling blue colour.
I love Istanbul!

Astride two Continents

After Chris and I finished our whirlwing trip through Central and Eastern Europe, we were able to have a nice relaxing time in Brussels. It was nice, very nice in fact. Calm and comfortable.

This was the end of our trip, but merely the beginning of the next leg of an even bigger trip for more of us!

In London, our old friends Guy and Oliver were waiting for us.

After a bit of fun in London, we caught our British Airways flight towards something far more alien than what we had been experiencing in Europe.

TURKEY!!!

The four of us were travelling through the Middle East together, hugging the Mediterranean coast.

The first stop was Istanbul.

After a tiring night, we headed out bright and early the next morning.

Hagia Sofia.
Having stood in dozens of cathederals over the past two months, I was not expecting to be put in such awe.

The former Byzantine catherderal and now mosque is like nothing I have ever seen.
The colours and the sights took all of our breaths away.
Standing inside, it felt as though little had changed since the days of Justinian and Belisarius.
.... with the exception of a few new minurets that is.....

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Off to visit friends!

After living it up for a few days with Owen in Brussels, I realised that it was time to pop over to Antwerp.

The Cirque du Soleil show "Varekai" was touring in Antwerp so I wanted to go and visit Javier.
.... and I thought that Brussels was a rich city!
It was great to see Javier. He introduced me to the famous Belgium chips! Freshly fried and slathered in mayonnaise.
The wealth of Antwerp is apparent and everywhere. From the clothes to the cars on the streets.
Even the shopping centres glow with opulence.

Brussels

Well... the first part of the trip is essentially over.

The travels through Central and Eastern Europe had been fun, but there was now a need to get back to London.

However, first there was a matter of a brief respite in Brussels with Owen.

Owen's father is the Australian Ambassador to the EU... so our accomodation was a touch better than what we were normally accustomed to.
Brussels was also a major change from the cities we had been in.

Bright, modern and westernised.

The wealth of the city was also clearly palpable.
Owen didn't seem too impressed with his earphones in this photo!
One night, we went out to celebrate Owen's excellent university marks with his parents. We were treated by his father to a combination of Belgium beers and the famous "half and halfs".
Not a bad location for any of it!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The depths of humanity

After walking around Berlin for a few days, Chris and I decided to go and see some of the less savoury historical sights.

Our first stop was the Jewish History Museum.

Walking through the gardens in the dark and the silence was an eery feeling.
As we toured through the rest of the museum, all I could feel was a sense of overwhelming sadness.

Rather than seeing outright horrors and pains, I was presented with a very different picture, one of people merely trying to live as best they could.

It's near impossible to comprehend how it could have ever reached the stage that it did.

We left the museum in a very sombre mood.

The next day we travelled out of Berlin to the concentration camp at Oranieburg.

The terrors and suffering that occurred at this place were unimaginable.

Throughout the camp, there were small reminders of the pain that people were subjected to.
And yet, it was a surreal expierience. Surprisingly calm. A nice bright sunny day... it may have been very similar to any number of the days that was experienced by those who suffered.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Berlin

After the hilarity of Prague, I found myself in Berlin.

The enormous city of Berlin.

It was very impressive to be honest. A genuinely massive city that lacked the closed knit intimacy of the places that I had recently visited.

In this inocuous photo, I appear to be pointing to the pavement.

What I am really pointing to is the place above Hitler's bunker of all places!
Close by was a preserved part of the Berlin wall. This symbol of oppression and grief. However, as our guide told us... it's far smaller and more underwhelming than expected...
The famous Checkpoint Charlie!
The sites and sounds! So much to do, so much to see!

Czeching in with the Americans

Chrıs and I had met a couple of American exchange students in Budapest who were studying in Prague. So when we reached the beautiful old city, we went to catch up with them.

And what better way to catch up than over some absinthe?
Other Chris and Pete didn't have any objections.
And to be honest... neither did I.....
Afterwards, we left the absinthe bar and headed towards what was allegedly the 'largest club in Central Europe', the Karlove Lazne.
Not a bad walk to get there.

Probably the most picturesque bar crawl walk I have ever been on in fact!
Once we arrived at the club, we found Other Chris and Pete's exchange friends.
The club turned out to be a disappointment.
It was big, that was undeniable. However, it suffered the problem of being not very good. It was in effect a very large and very mediocre club.
Thankfully the company was good.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Czeching Out

With Vienna having provided Chris and I sites and sounds that simply left us in awe, we packed our bags and headed off to the Czech Republic.

Unfortunately for me, the trip didn't begin well as I left my calf-skin gloves on the metro in Vienna as we headed towards the bus station. The result was that it was a very grumpy me that boarded the bus.

However, by the next day I was in a much better mood!

I was particularly buoyed by the thought of the first meal I was to have that day....

GOULASH!
Tasty and filling. I tried my best to eat the thick stew and the dumplings provided... but sadly for me I was beaten with half a dumpling to spare....
Later that night, Chris and I started to walk into the old parts of the city in order to site see and to take in the atmosphere of the country.

We encountered amazingly cold temperatures and gusting winds. Even with my thick coat, thermals and head warmer, I still felt the cold.

Instead of getting out of the cold, we needed something to make us forget about it.

And so, whilst standing in front of the famous Charles Bridge, Chris and I bought and warmed ourselves up with some piping hot gluwine.

Who cares about the cold now???

The next day we continued our site seeing and wandered up into the old town. It was another beautiful (albeit cold) experience.

To be honest, even more beautiful than Vienna.
The Hofsburg and Schonbrunn may be breathtaking palaces, but on the whole I found Prague to be far more picturesque and lovely.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Schonbrunn

Schobrunn!!!!

The amazing Schonbrunn of Maria Teresa! Now this was one of the places that I had been hoping to go to since I was young.

As I began to approach the palace by foot, I began to feel the excitement growing!

Once I saw the palace in the distance, I could hardly contain the smile on my face.
Inside, the details of the palace were both intricate and awe inspiring. The wealth was apparent.
The gardens themselves were also beautiful. Unfortunately for me, I was there in the midst of winter, so I could only imagine what the gardens would look like in their full glory during the middle of Spring.

After I had finished wandering the grounds with Chris. We both headed towards the Royal Austian Bakery.
What could be better to finish off our walk than hot apple strudel?