That tastes schnitzel.

After a rather festive evening amongst the fleshpots of Vienna some serious sustenance was required the following lunchtime, even after a reasonable breakfast.

A quick coffee in the Vienna Opera House café was taken, where it was decided that as we were in Austria, we should eat Austrian, or something as close as we could find.

No more than 500 metres later we walked past this place. Plastic tables and chairs inside, but it said Vienna cuisine, so in we went.

12729124_10207528956997989_6066415293887850619_nI’m not sure who Mama was, as the girl working behind the counter couldn’t have been more than 20 and the male chef may have been Mama once I suppose, but it seemed unlikely. What is sure though is that the Viennese cuisine that was served up was muchos bon. Hot on a cold day, filling and very very tasty.

12744405_10207528957678006_5581757358674858576_nA simple veal schnitzel was excellently prepared and certainly copious. I finished it but it was a challenge, even with my ever expanding waistline.

12729246_10207528957237995_1438613497933061625_nAppel Strudel? Oh I just dont mind if I do. Again, simple but very well done.

The outside doesnt look too inviting, and smoking is still allowed inside which would have seen me turn straight back round if anyone had been smoking when I walked in, but the food was quite simply excellent. No frills, no airs and graces, wholesome hot local food, well prepared and very reasonably priced.

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The feeling is gone only you and I …

With apologies to all who were fortunate enough to not know that song.
Vienna, some may say, the cultural capital of Europe. I had just over 24 hours to find out. Obviously a day is nowhere near long enough to discover much, but I was determined to get as much into my time as possible, sleeping is for when I’m at work!! I’d been to Vienna once previously, in 2006 on a stopover coming home from Beirut. My 7 hours here were spent in a bar close to the airport. I was determined to see a little more this time.

We were staying in the Intercontinental Hotel, right in the centre of the city and were lucky enough to have been given an upgrade to the executive suite. Muchos posh. The views from the room on the 14th floor were fantastic.

DSC_0018Both day and night.

12745913_10207528961118092_9060067292450000830_nWhat to see? Well, the Opera House is surely a given? Stunning building, sadly on the day I was there it was closed for visits and I’m not enough of an opera fan to pay to watch a show over such a short visit.

DSC_0006St Stephens Cathedral, along with the Opera House, right in the centre of the city. Stunning pieces of architecture both of them.

DSC_0015The best pub in Vienna? I dont know, not all of them were visited, but this was the favourite of the ones that were. One thing to note though, in the vast majority of pubs and restaurants, smoking is still permitted inside, something I’d forgotten just how bad it was.

10983343_10207528958638030_4079606393425823155_nWe did also eat and visit other things, more of which to come.

There was also the oldest zoo still in existence and the palace of the Empress Sisi, of which more to follow.

Overall views of a short trip, really enjoyed the city, everything is local, the metro is excellent, the beer is cheap (therefore its a WIN), food is good and also cheap, stunning architecture and very friendly people. I doubt I’ll go back in the immediate future, but am certainly glad I went.

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One day …

One day, this beaten down strip of sand will eventually be a proper runway.

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When that day comes, my journey home will be less than 40 hours. Currently, if I fly from the temporary airstrip a few km’s from here on the same flight as a Columbian, he arrives home before I do. How can this be? Colombia? France? What?

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Today is brought to you by the letter “O.”

One for the Francophones really.

Today is the equivalent of pancake day in France.

I was writing to the Laydee of the house using this modern day electronic wizardry earlier and she informed me that she would send a photo of some crepes, as today is indeed the day.

When I left for warmer climes our chickens were laying very well indeed, three or four a day. With there being only her at home I asked a light hearted question as to whether she would have enough eggs.

She told me she had perhaps six in the kitchen with another one or two in the coop.

Somewhat surprised I asked if the chickens were laying.

To which she replied, no no, they’re very happy, not one of them has tried to commit suicide.

Who knew the difference between an “e” and an “o” could be so drastic.

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I then told her to arrange to book the dogs into a caterpiller overnight, instead of a kennel. Was one of those days.

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Memories of China

I saw some really fantastic signs when I was in China, but I think these two were among my favourites.

1606930_10203434544320231_8842223533293415712_nWise advice, to be given often.

10498478_10203447492603930_3372535854295205810_oYou know you’re in the best hotel when the water isn’t even cold.

 

 

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More bran needed I think.

I’m thinking one of my chooks isnt quite as, erm……. relaxed as the others.

1150451_828148090665392_5009724612543906988_o

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Vaison la Romaine

A rummage through my photos reminded me I hadn’t written about this wonderful little town in the Vaucluse that I came across last year.

The memorial to the fallen, as seen in almost all communes in France denotes the start of the old part of the town, the new part being constructed on the other side of the river. The Medieval part of the town is joined to the newer half over the river Ouveze (which I didnt manage to get a picture of) by a 1st century stone bridge (idem). It climbs up, at an alarming rate, leaving the lower, modern city a long way beneath it.

IMG_20150630_114457The town is generally famous for two things, a terrible flood in 1992, a flood so bad it featured on the Discovery Channel and its Roman ruins.

IMG_20150630_114928The Medieval city is, as you would imagine, full of narrow, windy, twisty turny pathways and archways, a very few shops and cafés, a cinema would you believe and, sadly, many houses for sale.

IMG_20150630_120040The staircases to climb to the ancient tower wouldnt normally have been a problem, even at my advancing years, but the previous day I’d exerted myself slightly on my trusty velocipede, so I did struggle climbing up, but it must be said, once I got there ..

IMG_20150630_120607The views made it all worthwhile. A good military commander knows that you if dominate the high ground, you generally win. Even back in the day they knew this.

IMG_20150630_121005The view from the top was quite spectacular, and the gentle cooling breeze was most welcome.

IMG_20150630_121035The reason my little legs were so tired is that very high peak you can see right in the distance. I’d popped up and down it a few times on the bike the day before, not really the recovery day I’d envisaged but was a lovely couple of hours.

I actually went on a Tuesday, which coincided with the locally famous open air market which takes place on the modern side. Again no photos but a very busy, bustling affair with lots of lavender and local produce for sale, as well as locally produced crafts.

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Not posted recently…

Because I went out for a run in this and have only just escaped.

 

IMG_0652 HHHHH

Yes, I’m now back in work, once again sampling the delights of the dark continent and generally being as miserable as always.

Updates to follow on a more regular basis, suffice to say I shan’t be going out for a run this afternoon.

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A family reunion.

I’m currently reading a book called “The girl with seven names” by Hyeonseo Lee, a North Korean defector, who later went back to the border with South Korea to help smuggle her mother and brother out of the country too.

Reading the book will never give anyone a true idea of just how things are in North Korea, but it certainly is an eye opener, one scene that stuck in my mind was how, when their house suffered a fire, Hyeonseo’s father ran back into the blazing house to save …. the pictures of Kim Jung Il. She relates in some detail how although she didnt feel any sense of sadness when The Great Leader died, she knew that she had to join in the national outcry of tears under fear of being suspected of being disloyal, even at her young age. Brainwashing of the most horrendous brutal kind imaginable.

IMG_20151020_175612

Today whilst perusing the world’s news on various sources on the interweb, I came across a piece about impending reunion meetings between families separated for 62 years by the civil war in Korea. Tens of thousands of South Koreans applied for the meetings, but finally only 100 were chosen, and since the list was announced ten of the chosen ones have died and one is in a critical condition in hospital. These meetings have taken place sporadically since an agreement was reached between the two countries (still technically at war, as hostilities were only stopped under an armistice) in 2000.

The families will meet in North Korea, in a mountain resort called Kumgang, there are programmed to be three days of meetings, six hours in total, some played out in front of cameras and some private. There are many incredibly sad stories to be told, and I’ve added a few quotes from the BBC news website, to explain far better than I ever could:

“Lee Taek-gu is 89 years old and he will meet his sister who is 20 years younger. He last saw her when she was a tiny girl and he a young man who got on a boat to flee south, thinking he would come back after the war.

Since then, he has been writing letters to his parents knowing he would never send them because there is no postal service between the two halves of Korea. He wrote them as therapy for his grief.

He told the BBC he would simply thank his sister for being alive.”

“Mr Choi will meet one of his daughters this week. She was two when he last saw her and is 64 now.

“I am not sure if I will even be able to recognise her”, he said. “I don’t even remember how she looked as a baby”.

“Another person who will meet long-lost family is 87-year-old Kim Wu-jong, who lives alone in a small, run-down home in Seoul. He is poor and partially paralysed.

But he is overjoyed at the prospect of seeing his younger sister whom he calls “the flower and princess of my family”. They have not seen met since the Korean War ended in 1953.”

It is incredibly difficult to pass comment on what happens inside North Korea, the few visitors that get to visit are so tightly monitored that they see only what the authorities allow them to, but I cant think of many things more inhumane than this particular facet of their society. I’m sure after 60 years families on both sides have accepted the fact they will never see each other again, but then, to have a fleeting glimpse of those they left behind and know that it will be the last time you will ever see them is just so painfully cruel.

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Miss Tiggywinkle

Was in the garden today and a little hedgehog stuck its nose out from under the chicken coop. I watched it for about 20 minutes before it finally headed back underneath, and I cursed myself for not having my camera with me.

IMG_20151016_200407This evening, I went out to close the coop and there were three of them, mum and two babies pootling around the chickens enclosure, and this time I had my camera.

IMG_20151016_200521I adore seeing hedgehogs, but very rarely see them around the place, I’ve always thought the dogs must scare them.

I was only about 2 feet away from this little one, pretty fearless, I didnt move towards it, but it was happy munching away on a slug or something.

Lovely.

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