Giants, elephants and a lonely seal

By now most of you have read my first blog entry and are probably wondering if I am still suffering from jet lag. As I had written about Hardey Park and the great discovery of birds and waterfowl without providing photos. Let me take you back to the night I posted the blog under the cover of darkness.  It has proven difficult to find cafes in the small towns of Australia that offer  internet access let own free access. Even the library makes you pay at a cost of $3.00 for a half. It so happened while grocery shopping with the family in the Mount Barker IGA Steve was on a re-con mission for internet. He discovered that he could access the internet coming from the municipal offices from the public parking area.Yes he was walking around with his laptop aiming it in different directions till he could lock on. Now picture me two nights later after a day of hiking sitting in the car with everyone, both Steve and my laptop glowing in the dark trying to post my blog and up load pictures. Convinced that at any moment a cop was going to come by with us trying very hard to explain to him that we were not Canadian spies trying to access secret town documents. Wanting to post things fast I missed uploading the park photos (they are now in the beginning of the slide show). If you ever read about two Canadians suspected of spying in Mount Baker you now know why.

The day we picked up Derek the sun was shining brightly not a cloud in the sky. This did not help Steve any as he was about to embark on the city roads driving on the other side with Katrina as navigator. A couple of times we almost rode the curbs, windshield wipers were running when signaling (remember everything is opposite)  and all the while dad and I were silently  steering the car with Steve.  We did get to Derek in one piece. We decide to do coffee at the King Park cafe to give Steve a chance to calm his nerves along with everyone else’s. Plus we had a 4-5 hour drive ahead of to Kendenup, Western Australia.

We arrived at our digs for the next 7 days Big Bird and Wolf Chalets at around 8:00 pm. As it is winter here we arrived in the pitch dark very tired and stiff legged as we had little room left in the car to even move our legs from all our bags etc. As with car rentals what they show you on the website and what you get can be two different things. The owner of the Chalet was kind of to await our somewhat late arrival. When we walked into our Chalet called Eagle’s Nest we did so with a smile. In the case what we saw on their website is exactly what we got. A wonderful clean and charming unit with a nice sized living room, huge well supplied kitchen, two large bedrooms and a shower that had plenty of hot water. The best part was the view Katrina and I woke up to bright early the next morning.  With our hot drinks in hand we watched the sunrise over Stirling Range it’s highest peak being 1,073 m high. After watching the wonderful sunrise we  enjoyed a morning breakfast of farm fresh eggs and bacon provided by the owners of the Chalet. One good thing about arriving here during the winter months is that we don’t have to worry about snakes. I am quite happy to worry about keeping warm.

Kendenup is definitely the land of sheep farming, wether  driving or walking in all directions you nothing but fields filled with sheep. This might a explain the lack of kangaroos as the farmers are not to keen to have them around as they destroy their fences when moving from one area to another making it possible for their livestock to escape. Sadly I have seen more road kill than live kangaroo.

Over the next few days we did day trips to Albany, Pemberton (Warren National Park) and Denmark/Walpole (Nornalup National Park. The whale migration season is in full steam here on the western side of Australia. The whales leave the cooler waters of the southern ocean and swim north for the warmer waters of the Indian Ocean. Thus one our trips was to the coastal waters of Albany in hopes of spotting one of these wonderful beast. Alas none were to be seen that day however a lovely scenic coastal walk along Marine Dr. where I  spotted a bit of wildlife. One being the bandicoot a small omnivorous marsupial and a tiny bird known as the New Holland Honey Eater. We also visited the war memorial on Mount Clarence here I learned that from the ports of Albany is where the Australian troops embarked to go to battle in World War I.

Our walk along Warren River in Warren National Park gave us a small clue to the magnificence of the Tingle Tree which we would experience the very next day at Nornalup National Park Tingle Forest. There we did the tree top walk among the valley of the giants and after a picnic lunch did the Ancient Empire walk. The valley of the giants are the Tingle trees which grow up to 75 meters and the measurement around can be as much as 20 meter. The most notable point about the Tingle tree is the hollow that develops through fire, fungal disease and insects. The hollow can be large enough for a person to walk through. What is unbelievable about this is that the tree remains alive and well for hundreds of years. This we discovered during our Ancient Empire walk there was one tree there known as Grandma Tingle. It is said she is over a 400 hundred years old and that she keeps a watchful eye on all who enter the forest.

After spending most of day in the Tingle forest we drove out to the coast once again in Denmark to see the Elephant Rocks. These huge boulders have the appearance of a herd  elephants gazing out to the Southern Ocean. I was mesmerized by the powers of the waves crashing against the rocks then later enjoying the sunset and being checked out by a seal.

Two days left in this lovely place and we still have a mountain to climb.Seems fitting that I end here with the coastal sunset.

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Always make a hard copy

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A little voice in my head said make a hard copy on the day I received my Aussie visa. Which was with in 10 minutes of the credit card payment having gone through. I was sent a message that my application was accepted and during the whole process no red flags came up. But that little voice just kept nagging me to print a copy. As I don’t really have great faith or trust in online services I did exactly that and printed a copy.

All was going well  in the ticket line everything checked out okay for Steve, Katrina and my father. Then came my turn as the ticket agent swiped my passport I watched with intrepedation as the startled looking agent said to me according to Australian immigration you are already in Australia. After I picked up my heart off the floor I showed her the email message I received saying that I have a visa. After a few minutes what the immigration message meant she decided to see if my boarding passes would print up. If they did it meant there really wasn’t a problem. They all printed out and we went on our merry way thinking all is well in the world.

Our six hour flight to London was uneventful not that I managed much sleep. Whatever position I slept in my back and shoulders muscles would scream at me to assume another position. Fortunately for all us Steve in his travel wisdom booked rooms for us at Heathrow airport in a Yotel as we had a very long lay over. What is a Yotel you may ask. Unlike a hotel it provides small sized accommodations with everything in it but the kitchen sink. Aside from my father we all managed to catch a few ZZ’s. Feeling somewhat rested we chowed down on a hearty breakfast ready to endure the next leg our flight  11 hours to Singapore.

Within a few minutes of checking in for boarding the agent comes around the corner and asks me if I have a VISA for Australia as it has come up not to allow me to board. My heart punched out of my chest and dropped to the floor once again with me barely getting out the word YES!! With my hard copy in hand the agent tried to sort things out for me by a having a three way conversation with a ticket agent in Australia who was conversing with someone from immigration at the same time. The problem was that when I visited Australia 8 years ago my departure was never registered hence the reason for the message in Toronto stating I was still in Australia. Now that little voice has turned into a nagging headache knowing our plane was about to depart in 20 minutes. Everyone in my family is telling me to breathe and stay calm but that all went out the window when I was handed the phone to speak with the Australia ticket agent. Her question do I know the exact date when I left Australia otherwise nothing can be done? Now I am ready to crawl through the phone and scream are you kidding me then puke on her feet as I was feeling nauseated by this point. Then my fairy godmother arrives the Supervisor on the London side of things. Once informed about my predicament she starts to work two phones at the same time and within a few minutes tells me Rick of the Immigration department in Canberra has over ridden the don’t allow me to board notice. With about 5 minutes to spare and my stomach starting to do a dance we walked on the plane. A couple of gravols later I am sprawled across Katrina and Steve  sleeping  on and off  during our 11 hour flight. While thanking my little voice that said I should print a hard copy.

In Zombie like fashion I entered the Singapore airport and immediately felt peace. Singapore airport is one of the best airports in the world. Which I can understand why as it’s design and purpose is to provide calm for hectic air travellers. They did so with style by having a beautiful butterfly garden to walk through and enjoy.  Even though I was feeling much better I still wanted to be at the gate well enough in advance to make sure I did not have to do the pick my heart of the floor dance again. Rick from Canberra had done his job, he will never know how indebted I am to him. I am also considering framing my hard copy.

The last leg of our trip was uneventful which was okay by me. Funny the smallest plane provided the best meals and a yummy chocolate fudge/chocolate covered ice cream for dessert. After what I had been through it seemed like a gift from the gods. We arrived in Perth a little before ll:30 pm. Picking up our luggage we still had a half our taxi ride before arriving at our rental which by that time was 1:00 am on July 28th. We all did a swan dive into bed and covered ourselves with lots of blankets as winter was upon us.

Thankfully I managed 8 hours of sleep, I woke up to find that Steve had bought provisions for breakfast. Even though it was cool outside the sun was shinning and the was a good enough invitation for to go for a walk. Luckily for us there was a beautiful park nearby called Hardey Park.  Hardey Park is one many beautiful city parks you find through out Australia. The aptly named Swan river flowed through the park where one can easily see downtown Perth. But to my surprise and delight the park is a haven for water fowl and birds alike within minutes I discovered these wonderful birds.

Perth also has the one of the world’s largest city parks King Park with a botanical which must be absolutely stunning in their spring and summer, have to keep reminding myself it’s winter here. However I did manage to see some flowering plants and shrubs. This is the one thing I do envy the Australians for is the wonderful plant life the can enjoy year round.

Tomorrow we pick Derek up at the bus station in downtown Perth, Steve gets to test out his Australian driving skills as we drive south to Kendenup, Western Australia.

G’day to all until next time.

Renee.

Into The Jungle We Go

The day before heading off to the jungle Derek, Katrina and myself decided we would go snorkelling. Puerto Morles has the 2nd largest coral reef in the world which is now a national park. Off we went for what was suppose to be 2 hours worth of snorkelling. We saw a great number of fish in all sizes and colours.  Our guide even lifted up a stingray from the ocean floor that was amazing. Unfortunately because the weather for the past week was cooler than normal we only lasted an hour in the water. We came out absolutely frozen with chattering blue lips. I never looked more forward to a hot cup of tea than I did that day. But what we saw was well worth the frozen limbs.

The next day we headed toward Akumal to our new place that we called home for the next 13 days Organic Yoga. In the Mayan jungle this ecological resort offered us solitude while enjoying wildlife outside and inside our huts (get to that later). You could attend  Yoga 3 times a week along with trails to explore, birds, bugs, butterflies and lizards to photograph. One definitely needed a machete for walking in the dense jungle.  As I was not equipped with one and was not keen on getting lost I stuck to the main roads and paths. Taking pictures in this area was a challenge the density made it difficult at times to get a perfectly clear shot of the birds. And they almost always seemed to be in areas that were impossible to get through. All I could do was listen and imagine what the birds looked like. While hoping luck would be on my side to get a shot or two of some of the wildlife.

Had to be very stealthy to even get this shot of  the elusive  Blue Crowned Mot Mot.

Our  main road into our jungle paradise Steve called the butterfly freeway. Like cars on a freeway they went zooming past you however did manage to catch a snap or two. My favourite ones were the ones I dubbed tree bark butterflies you really have to look carefully to spot them. The best thing about where we were staying is that nature came right to your front door step. Many mornings I would be sitting in our screened in porch and hear a flock birds rustling in the leaves on the ground and in the trees.  To my delight it would be the brightly orange coloured Altamira Oriole.

These guys could be just as elusive unless they found a gold mine of seeds.

Learned during our time in the bird filled jungle that even when just reading a book to bring the camera along just never know what bird might drop in for a small snack. Seems I am not the only one who likes papaya. Though this is not woody-woodpecker he sure is a close second.  This hungry fellow is a  Golden-fronted woodpecker.

Before you think I have completely gone bird crazy I did manage to get a couple of green things in my wanderings. This particular guy I thought was a Humming bird because when it flies (yes flies) you see red wings. Otherwise known as a Differential grasshopper quite the appropriate name.


Next we have straight from the Mexican jungle Mr. Green Jeans himself who didn’t mind being photographed.

Where we were located involved about a 5-10 minute walk to the main highway. Upon which you stood at the side of the road and waited for a colectivo to pick you up. Mexico was smart in developing this form of transportation. It is  geared towards moving the population around Mexico’s vast labyrinth of roads and highways. Usually the colectivo is a mini-van. There are no specific stops you just flag them down where ever you are standing and the driver will drop you off at any spot on his route. Now if Ontario would only use this system for our suburb and rural areas. Instead of waiting for a high volume of people requiring transportation before providing a bus route with their monster buses. Just have  several colectivos going up down the back roads and then you would have a transit system that provides for everyone plus inexpensive to start up.

The colectivos we used fairly often in order to get into Akumal to do grocery shopping and hit the beach. There were 3 beach sites we walked to from Akumal. From the town it involved about a 20 minute walk under palm trees. The first one was a haven for swimmers, snorklers and Egrets. This place was wonderful for all level of snorkelers a few strokes out and there was plenty to see.

The second location was Half Moon Bay here the water was very shallow which made snorkeling tricky at times. But if you want peace and quite this is the place. As well if you are lucky you get to spot a sea turtle (we did) and you can find plenty of shells and corals.

The only thing that disappointed me here was the amount of plastic bottle caps and other garbage I found while searching for shells. After seeing that I am convinced we should be banning plastic bottles or at the very least charging a deposit. The only way you would get deposit money back is if the bottle is returned with the cap still on it (that’s my rant). Plus there was alot of  washed up oil from ships that flushed out their tanks.  It really was a sad sight.

The third site was called Yal-ku Lagoon here you did not even have to snorkel plenty of fish could be seen just off the edges of the rocky shore line.

Our other outing was to the Muyil ruins about 25 km south of  Tulum.  These Mayan ruins are not big this meant less tourists which we preferred. But there are a few interesting buildings and most importantly they are looked after by their descendents the Mayan people themselves. The entrance fee went strictly to the people and conservation needs of the area.

Most of the buildings on the site date back to 1100-1200 AD.

The Castle  stands 17 meters high making it taller than any of the buildings in Tulum or elsewhere on the coast.

The buildings are not far from the Muyil lagoon.  A board walk was built for easier access to the lagoon and to the look out tower.

An interesting climb up for those who have a fear of heights but well worth the steep, steep stair climb.

During our walk back on the board walk where you are canopied by the trees.

I again was very stealthy and managed to get this shot of a Toucan to my delight.

Another wonderful find was a short walk away from our huts in the jungle. It is a cenote. There are no visible rivers in the Yucatan Peninsula and as the area is a porous limestone causing caverns and caves to form where water would collect. The water is crystal clear and if  you arrive at the right time you will see the turquoise color.

The water was a very pleasant temperature which Katrina, Cheree and I discovered when we decided to have an impromptu swim minus some clothing.

If you are ever in Mexico the cenotes of  Yucatan are a natural treasure that you should experience it is well worth taking your clothes off for.

As I said before in my previous post to truly experience and see Mexico. One should rent rooms, condos or huts and eat out a the local eateries. Resorts have you locked in their world  with little opportunity to walk down the road and make a few discoveries of your own like I did on several occasions. Plus enjoying Christmas Eve dinner under the stars in the jungle with my family is memory no resort can duplicate.

Ferruginous Pymy-Owl   Yucatan Jay  These last two bird photos are of a Red eyed vireo and a Roadside Hawk.

Oddly enough I was on a small road heading to the cenote when I came upon this hawk.

Good-bye from the jungles and beaches of  Mexico  I hope you will join me on my next adventure where ever that may be.

Oops almost forgot this was some of the wildlife that we would find in our huts especially if the nights were cold. This guy I discovered on the day we left for home in the wee hours of the morning. I could hardly focus on it as it was still pretty dark and my eyes were still half shut. Needless to say after taking this photo my eyes were wide open and I made sure I was not bringing any Scorpions to Ontario.

Renee

It Is A Green Christmas For Us!

It has been a couple of years since I last wrote but I felt doing a Blog about this trip was the right way to go.

Let me start by saying this is the last place I thought I would be spending Christmas with the family. However looking at it , it was most appropriate as Christmas is about giving and in our family we are trying very hard to give back to our mother earth. Which this trip did lend itself to.

Stephen was sponsored to go to Cancun in order  to report on the COP 16 summit as well do a workshop for aspiring young environmental journalists from South Africa. My son Derek along with his girlfriend Cheree we planning on travelling through South America starting in December. Thus I put forth the idea that we all meet in Mexico. Where we could meet other people from around the world and learn from their stories. While at the same time being able to have a family Christmas together. Everyone was on board, Katrina cracked open the Spanish books immediately.

Off we flew to Cancun and upon landing took a taxi to the lovely fishing village of Puerto Morelos.

The Original Lighthouse in Puerto Morelos was tilted over in 1967  by Hurricane Beulah. It has  survived Hurricanes Gilbert 1987 and Wilma in 2005. It has become the symbol for the this small fishing village. The new light house replacing the leaning Pisa is visible in the background.

Having experienced the Resorts of Cancun twice and now Puerto Morelos I truly believe  the way to experience Mexico is staying in small villages like Puerto Morelos. Guess what no food poisoning happened here. I am thinking the gastrointestinal problems are a resort issue. We  enjoyed many fine meals from the numerous food stands, restaurants and even from the back of a truck (that is another story) without having to rush to a doctor. Mind we did have to take Derek to a doctor as on our third day here he managed to step on a small Stingray and get stung. What a way to start our adventure by seeing how good the medical system is.

While Steve was off doing his workshop in Mexico City Derek, Katrina, Cheree and myself went to the Klimaforum 10 The People’s Climate Summit.

Here I heard the best comparison from a former British lawyer  Polly Higgins concerning Climate Change. She likened it to a mother who has a child which is constantly throwing up. Upon taking the child to the doctor she is told the child is allergic to milk. Whereupon the mother stops feeding it milk. The mother does not like in the case of  Corporations and Governments when dealing with CO2 emissions reduce the amount of milk she gives to the child and if the child throws up sweeps it under the rug.

Also managed to catch some cultural displays

while in Cancun to watch a documentary on the Inuit and the changes they see occuring to their landscape.

On December 7th there was a gathering of thousands to march on the main highway of Cancun leading to Moon Palace.

We also decided to add our voice to the Via Campesina (International Peasant Movement) protest march. 

The principal objective of La Via Campesina is to develop solidarity and unity among small farmers. In order to promote gender equality and social justice in fair economic relations. COP now a days seems very far removed in the concept of fair economic relations and social responsibility.

This creation aptly named The Hammer came all the way from Berlin which was created by Derek’s friend Jakub Simcik and artistic partner Artúr van Balen

Naturally Steve was busy interviewing people during the march. In this photo Steve is doing an interview with Tom Goldtooth Executive Director of the Indigenous Environmental Network.

In all it was an amazing experience seeing and hearing the voices of many peoples being a united voice of action.


Needless to say we never made it to Moon Palace as there were police barricades  well before the palace.

 

The day ended with a pleasant surprise after taking a bus back into Cancun to find something to eat. In behind the Town Hall the Mayan Tropical Forest People were providing a feast and all were welcome. This where the meal from the back of a truck comes in. The best piece of meat I ever tasted. The cops enjoyed it to. It always amazes me that those who have so little give so much.

It goes without saying I was in my element in discovering all the different wildlife here. I was shutter bugging away.This little guy we saw everyday in the garden of the apartment we stayed in. It is an Anole Lizard

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Cheree, Derek and Katrina were on the hunt for this guy.

Look what Derek and Cheree found!

A new species okay just kidding Katrina and Steve are just plain old beach bums not wanting to have their pictures taken. But here is the rest of my camera finds. Just click on the thumbnail image if  you want an enlarged photo to look at. P.S. you can do this with the other photos as well.

Butterflies are natures way of saying keep it simple.

The stories are in the eyes. This crab gives a whole new meaning to look in my eyes.

Another little    beach bum the Sand Piper

Of course what would a fishing village be without a Pelican.

The stunning  Needlenose fish which we had the fortune to see quite a few of. Their colours blew me away.

Christmas is not that far away and we are off to the jungles of Akumal. There will be no snow for us this Christmas but lots of interesting things to see and experience that I am certain of.  So good-bye from Puerto Morelos and Merry Christmas to all.

Oh yes and this guy says HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

Adios from Renee

Published in: on December 20, 2010 at 12:22 am  Leave a Comment  
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Saxony and the Swiss

This summer Derek’s Tour Company (Insider Tours) began running tours in Dresden. It involves a two hour bus ride from Berlin to the state of Saxony which Dresden is it’s capital city. During our two hour ride Derek and John (Hebrew speaking guide)  kept us well informed with historical facts. After sitting for that length of time (actually bus was very comfortable) walking was definitely needed and Derek made sure we did plenty of that.

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Historical Dresden is filled with titillating tales, religious discord, a long line of royalty that filled Dresden with culture and artistic splendor which later would be almost completely destroyed during a still controversial aerial bombing near the end of WW II.  The image below is the courtesy of  Dr. Torsten Henning who released it to the public domain. I thank him for this as it beautifully shows the Elbe river which splits Dresden into the “old city” and “new city”. Click on picture for full size.

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The death of his brother from smallpox given to who him by his mistress  enabled Frederick Augustus to become the Electorate (ruler) of Saxony in 1694. Augustus became known as Augustus the Strong for his physical strength and iron rule, somehow I think it had more to do with his sexual stamina. He had at least 10 or more mistresses and the exact number of illegitimate children will probably never be known, 365-382 has been suggested. Yet Augustus did leave behind a legacy of castles, Meissen porcelain and as mentioned before culture and arts.

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The most flamboyant of his castles was the Zwinger it’s open square   once lined with pavilions and arcade galleries that later would become exhibition galleries and library halls. After his death an Opera house was added to the square.  Much was destroyed during the aerial bombings or carpet bombing raids in 1945. Dresden’s dedication to restoring the Zwinger and the rest of it’s city is an amazing sight to behold.

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Like many times before from ashes and rubble  history waiting to unfold and perhaps turn into something beautiful.

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Does August 17th, 2002 mean anything to you? It does for the people of Dresden. It is the day flood waters from the Elbe river reached historic levels 9.39  meters or how about 31 feet.IMG_3090 Derek is standing underneath a bridge where a broze plaque  marks the level the waters reached forcing over 30,000 people from their homes. It seems Dresden will always have a history of rebuilding itself.

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Published in: on September 5, 2009 at 8:57 pm  Comments (1)  

Tropics and Royalty

The last time we toured Postdam Derek stripped off his shirt much to the delight of the young ladies, as the heat was unbelievable that day.  During that particular summer Berlin was having quiet the heat wave, however this summer is a different story we stepped the train in Postdam and walked into pouring rain. I guess the wetness was fitting as we were heading to the tropics. Out in the middle of nowhere stands this grass roofed concrete and glass building that would leave you to believe that not much was inside.  We discovered the exact opposite inside a tropical paradise filled with plants, lizards, birds, fish and butterflies.

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These guys were IMG_2895our first encounter in our walk along a corridor  that had a least 20 built in terrariums housing different lizards, snakes and insects. The only thing missing was the opportunity to get close and personal with some of these guys.  Naturally some insects particularly the Stick Insects, were playing the game  hide and seek.  Their camouflage was fantastic we had a challenging time finding them, it was sheer delight when we did discover them.

IMG_2896We rounded the corner and beheld this beautiful sight, a small example of what we would soon encounter. Before going to the tropics we entered Darwin’s library (reproduction) and we were given a brief history of his life. Next elevator ride going down , doors opened….IMG_2967

Awestruck is what we were when we stepped through the door, for few minutes we did not move. We were taking in the beautiful flora and fauna in the Potsdam Biosphere while coming to the realization that this breath taking scene was achieved with 20,000 plants. To make the experience complete  rain began to fall along with clap of thunder and the blitz of lightening.IMG_2912

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Coral reefs with all their splendor was our next visual delight.IMG_2942

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Graceful and enchanting creatures beyond our grasp.  In dreams that  land gently upon my hand.  I watch these winged angels of the sky secretly wishing I could fly.

IMG_2996IMG_3002 We were hard pressed to leave this tropical dome but there was still more to see that day. One the first things we saw as we left the biosphere was the sun. Making our next journey nice and dry.

Cecilienhof  was built for  Crown Prince Wilhelm Hohenzollern  and his wife Cecilia hence the castle’s name. It took about 3 years to build from 1914 to 1917 interesting is the architectural design used for this castle English Tudor.

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It’s historical significance is what happened inside this building, Churchill, Truman, Stalin during  June 17th to 2nd of August 1945 met in the  halls of Cecilia Court Palace for the Potsdam Conference.  These men decided the fate of Germany and her people by taking steps to ensure post-war order through peace treaties, reversing all Germany’s annexation of Europe,  partitioning of  Germany  and the prosecution of Nazi war criminals.

IMG_3019Glienicke Bridge connects Postdam to Berlin after WW II it was divided into east and west. It became know as the Bridge of Spies during the Cold War as the United States and the Soviet Union used to carry out their exchange of captured spies.

Crossing the bridge over to Berlin we headed to a beer garden for refreshments. Good thing unbeknownst to us (Steve and I) we still had a fair walk ahead of us. You would think the last our son the Tour Guide would want to do is alot of walking on his day off. Lets just say Steve and I slept extremely well that night.  All that walking was just a prelude as to what lay ahead and that is another story.

Published in: on August 27, 2009 at 12:18 pm  Leave a Comment  

History and Culture Abound

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Would you believe that this lovely iron work is part of a bridge structure? It is the wall or protective rail of the bridge, like Vienna there are many intricate things to see in Berlin and sometimes in very unusual places. Before I continue with our Berlin vacation, just thought I let you know we survived our train to Berlin. It was a good thing we packed snacks as the galley car was left behind has it had no electrical power. By the time we got off the train the only thing on our minds was food. Luckily where Derek lives there are plenty of restaurants to choose from. In fact having too many made our task more difficult in picking a place to eat. Finally decided on a Indian place and the food was great. The one thing we did not find was a typical German eatery. There are Indian, Chinese, Thai, Turkish and Italian eating places galore. The ethnicity around here amazes me. It is a far cry from what Hitler had planned for Germany.

IMG_2675To no ones’ surprise Steve and I naturally did a couple of Derek’s History of Berlin tours. I was intrigued and surprised by this statue, it is part of a larger monument/statue in on honour of Friedrich Schiller standing in front of the Schauspielhaus now known as the Konzerthaus.  Friedrich Schiller  was a philosopher, poet, historian and playwright. On all four corners of the monuments sits a woman, 3 are young contemplative as you see by the photo this one is not. In fact even her clothing is different from the other perhaps she wears the cloak knowledge  and awaits to impart the wisdom she has obtained from the past. (more…)

Published in: on August 17, 2009 at 12:34 am  Leave a Comment  

Prague-Longest Day Of The Year

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Our day started at 9:30 am with breakfast at our hotel, for the next 10 hours we walked, walked, breaked, walked, walked, dined, walked, walked and fell into bed around 9:30 pm. By the way we would highly recommend Hotel AbsolutIMG_2464 our room was spacious and clean as was the bathroom. Included in the cost was breakfast lots of bread,cheese, cold cuts, fruit, cereal and most importantly coffee. Location is great has it is only a four minute walk from the transit system which meant we were in the inner city in no time.

As our stay in Prague was short we decided to take a tour, picking a tour was not easy. It seems all the tour companies meet in the same area on mass. We arrived in The Old Town Square where about 15-20 sign waving, umbrella or bottle swinging as well as theatrical tour guides were trying to get the attention of the tourists. To say it was chaotic is an understatement it, took us about 15 minute to find a tour group we were aloud to join.

Unfortunately my son Derek did not talk to us for a few days as we informed him we took the Sandmann’s FREE tour (guides ask for tips later), which is the competition for the other tour companies around Europe where you pay for your tour. The free tour company was started by a young man who has an extremely rich father that financed all his tour companies. The idea being you have a free tour and then tip the guide whatever you want.

How does Sandmann make money you ask the tour guide has to pay the company 3 Euros per tourist that was in their group so you can imagine the guides want some big tips otherwise they could be left with making know money that day. Hence with the other companies guides get paid regularly and are not desperately begging for tips. Lesson when it is free there is always someone who has to pay.

Hoping before we leave we will be out of the dog house with Derek. (more…)

Published in: on July 29, 2009 at 9:10 am  Leave a Comment  

Guitar Hero and Gaudi Inspired

For the young music lovers of Vienna there is a spectacular event that happens in summer, Die Donau Insel Fest or The Danube Island (Open Air) Festival. It is a 3 day all day music event where bands from all over Austria, as well as some international ones perform live. With 21 stages there is music for everyone, heavy metal, folk, country, jazz, old rock, new rock, indy and my favourite blues band Wiener Linien Blues Band.IMG_2311

Now you may ask how do I come to have a favourite band from Austria? I am a bit bias as my (3rd) cousin plays for this band, he is their lead guitarist. Boy can he play and the band makes sure he does a few solos this would get everybody moving. They did play one of my favourites Mustang Sally  which made it a great night for me.IMG_2327

Steve and I did listen to another band a female string quartet, were they different. They would play traditional folk songs with a bit rock, jazz and other music genres mixed in. Their music style was something we had never heard before,  enjoyed it so much  that we bought their CD.

The amazing thing about all of this is that this great muscial entertainment is for free and they do this every summer. Steve and will be checking our calendar to make sure the next time we come to Vienna we are here for the Donau Insel Fest.IMG_2330

Now from music to architecture, a few times the name  Friedensreich Hundertwasser  was mentioned to us as one of Austria’s famous architects. (more…)

Published in: on July 23, 2009 at 9:04 am  Comments (1)  

A Wonderful Surprise

IMG_2395Before I write about the surprise let me tell you about Schloss Schönbrunn. It is one of the most important cultural monuments in Austria. Built as as a palace and summer residence for the Hapsburg family, construction started 1696 and completed 1749 with the final touches coming from Empress Maria Tersia. During her reign it was considered to be Austria’s “golden era”. The grounds holds an extensive park and a zoo that is the oldest of its kind in the world.

It was constructed in 1751 by order of Kaiser (Emperor) Franz I Maria Tersia’s husband. At the time it consisted of 12 enclosures inhabited by the appropriate sized animal.

About 20 years ago Steve and I along with our two little ones visited the zoo. We walked away feeling very sad for the animals especially the elephants (were chained). This experience left me wondering why the city of Vienna had not closed down the Zoo.

Fast forward 20 years Steve and I enjoy the surprise of our life. We had over the years heard that tremendous changes had occurred at the zoo and we should go see it. But our past memories kept haunting us, this time there was a hook. Artists had come into the zoo and constructed environmental messages within some of the enclosures.

(notice Canada tattoos on shoulder on ankle)

IMG_2396 Naturally we had to see what this was all about, we walked through the gates with apprehension only to receive a wonderful surprise especially when we saw the enclosure for the elephants.

OUTSIDE ( Hut with snow on message Should There Be Snow in Winter?)

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(Indoor enclosure for elephants it also as an viewing gallery from above, what a change!)

I recently checked the world ranking for the zoo, many sights have ranked it number one and not too far behind is the Berlin zoo ranked number 3. Looks like we maybe checking out another zoo.IMG_2401

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Lions, tigers and bears oh my.IMG_2445

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Trouble In ParadiseIMG_2452

Shy Pandas, photo the right is of the little baby panda that was born two years ago at the zoo, the mother is on the left.

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Steve’s favourite animal Rhino with it’s armor on.IMG_2457

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Going to the zoo, zoo how about you, you, you!

Published in: on July 11, 2009 at 10:58 am  Leave a Comment