Thursday, November 25, 2010
It’s pretty clear what the lowlight was: having my wallet stolen in Sumatra. I’ll never forget the sense of helplessness I felt that day. Also bad but not nearly so much, was having Dengue Fever while on the island of Ko Tao in Thailand. The hassles I had trying to get a visa into Russia from China were also terrible. Another lowlight is one that I forgot to write about on this blog: when Kristen and I almost got arrested after setting off fire-crackers in a park in Beijing. What started as fun quickly turned into sheer terror when we were swarmed by security guards, followed by great relief when we got away with it.
One of the best things about the trip has been the time spent with friends and family. My girlfriend Kristen came to visit while I was in Melbourne and we had great times traveling along the Trans-Mongolian and Trans-Siberian Railway routes from Beijing to Moscow. Friends and family I stayed with were my aunt Gerry and David in Montville, my aunt Ulli and cousin Conan in Sydney, Cynthia in Sydney, uncle Tony and Michelle in Canberra, cousin Evan and Jen in Tasmania, Mark and Ella in Adelaide, cousin Sarah and Peter in Saigon, Al in Shanghai, Sophie in Rotterdam, and now James and Mona, and Ethan in London. Then there are the friends I’ve made along the way. I’ve met so many great people, too many to list and some of whose names I’ve forgotten and whose contact details I’ve lost. But I’ll never forget Dewa who helped me in Bengkulu when I had my wallet stolen and whom I’m still in touch with.
I’ve seen enough temples, churches, museums, and galleries to last me for some while. I've had lots of dodgy food, but more great food.
I'm going to keep writing on this blog for a bit longer because I'm going to travel around England for while. Then in early December I'll be returning to New Zealand - but this time I'm flying!
Saturday, November 20, 2010
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Saturday, November 13, 2010
Thursday, November 11, 2010
I’ve just arrived here and will stay two nights. I’m feeling pretty excited at the thought that I’m almost at the end of my journey. After Rotterdam, I’ll go to a nearby town on the coast with the strange name of Hook of Holland from where there is a ferry over to Harwich in the UK. Upon arrival in Harwich - probably on November 12 - I will have completed my goal: NZ to UK without flying!* Keep reading the blog!
Finding a place to stay was an ordeal. There was an information centre at the railway station and they helpfully booked me into a place they said was ‘not really a hostel but something similar’ and then they showed me what bus to catch to get there. The bus dropped me off in a pretty remote street and finally I found the right place but I’m still not sure what it was. Part of it looked like a school, other parts like low-rent apartments, and other parts like a government institution. There was a sign saying guest house but there was no one there at reception. I found a man who worked in the place in some capacity - I don’t know what - and he phoned a few people for me but with no luck. So I had to catch the bus back into the main town and walk to Wolfsburg’s sole hostel, which is what I should’ve done at the start.
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Given that I was writing about communism in my last blog entry it seems fitting that I've now come to Berlin which was of course divided between the capitalist West and the Soviet East. I'm staying in a hostel that is two minutes' walk from where the Berlin Wall once was and about five minutes walk from Checkpoint Charlie which was the most famous gateway between the two sections of the city. Near the checkpoint there is a long section of display boards which give a pretty detailed history of the wall. It was put up by the (USSR-controlled) East German government in 1961 to stop its inhabitants from fleeing to the west - over two million had done so since the end of the Second World War when East Germany came under Soviet control. From then until its fall in 1989, several hundred people were shot trying to make the crossing, while many others managed to succeed.
Sunday, November 7, 2010
In coming to Prague, I’ve returned to former communist territory. In fact, Vienna was the first place I’d been to since leaving Thailand for Cambodia that haven’t had a communist past (except for my brief visit to Helsinki, although some might argue that Finland has a communist past and present too). Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Mongolia, Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic are all former communist countries. Perhaps I should say ‘former or current’ communist countries since China (and Vietnam) are still in theory communist, however China to me seemed so capitalist that it is more accurate to describe it as formerly but no longer communist. It’s been interesting traveling through the countries that had a go at the great social experiment of the twentieth century. Without exception the experiment was a failure and those countries today are trying to catch up with lost time. The only one that is really flourishing today seems to be China and that’s probably because it has gone for capitalism with more enthusiasm than the rest. As can be seen in the picture, the Czechs’ experience with communism is not looked back upon with any fondness. I didn’t actually visit the museum because I’ve had enough of seeing similar places in other countries.
In fact I’m getting a bit weary of historical museums, churches, and art galleries so I’m trying to find more unusual places to visit. In Vienna there was a Museum of Globes which included a globe from the 1500s - New Zealand was absent of course. In Prague I visited the Franz Kafka Museum one of the highlights of which was a windy corridor file cabinets and I also visited a Toy Museum. Below is a tin toy from the late nineteenth century which surprised me with its gruesome violence.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
It’s impossible to know for sure just which pathway the shot in The Third Man is filmed because there’s nothing very distinctive in it, but I’m pretty sure I found the right one. It’s changed quite a bit since 1948. The trees have been replaced with smaller ones and some buildings have been constructed on the right. My timing was pretty good: the shadows from the trees are similar to those in the film and the falling leaves in both the film and my photo show that they were both done in autumn.
I thought about trying to recreate the final shot but I didn’t have actors to play Holly and Anna. I considered asking some strangers to play the parts but thought better of it. I did, however, make a small movie that lasts the same length of time as the final shot of the movie. So just imagine Alida Valli and Joseph Cotton are there, some zither music on the soundtrack, and that it is in black and white and I’m sure you’ll agree it’s almost identical: