Sunday, July 25, 2010

Blog 23 - 26th July

We have recently visited Germany, Austria and Hungary. Germany was for my cousin's fairytale wedding and photos of Kaisersesch were posted last week. We also travelled through Munich and Vienna to Budapest where we attended the Julius Fabos Greenways conference. Damien presented a paper on the River Torrens Linear Park in Adelaide while I walked and went shopping. (Up to 30 kilometres a day! Those who know me will attest to my wonderful sense of direction, so many kilometres were not strictly necessary). Hooray! At last I could find shoes to fit my 39 size foot (in Korea I have to order shoes to fit) and clothes to fit too.

Can you spot me here in Marienplatz in Munich? Can you feel the festive and relaxed summertime evening? It was magical and after Seoul, a welcome change to see people who look a bit like us, to eat western food especially muesli, cheese and bread. We would highly recommend Kings Hotel close to the Railway Station and wonderful service and value.

Thanks to Monika, an ex-resident of Munich and our neighbour, for sending us a Google maps walking tour of Munich. The atmosphere was so relaxed and infectious as people sat outside drinking, eating and listening to music. Such style and fashion, such appreciation of beauty., such an unhurried pace. We even stumbled across an organ recital when we passed one of the cathedrals and enjoyed a free concert. In spite of our 10 hour flight from Seoul, we walked and wandered until it got dark at 10.00pm.

Among the many statues we came across was this unusual tribute to Michael Jackson whose anniversary occurred at this time. Flowers, candles, photos and messages adorned all four sides. of this monument. Amazing!!

Vienna saw us wandering again with our mouths open - partly to taste the excellent coffee and partly in wonderment. Vienna was like a giant museum with an overwhelming array of grand buildings with people in a diversity of poses standing aloft or holding up parapets. Here I am at the Museum of Natural History having a bit of fun.

Breakfast each morning was at Cafe Ritter, a favourite with locals where excellent coffee was served as always on a tray with water. When the Turks invaded eastern Europe, they got as far as Vienna and stopped. Hence the wonderful coffee in Vienna.

St Stephens is the main church in central Vienna close to the the Graben shopping street pictured below where we found a few bargains. (Seriously!)

The Austrian Parliament House is yet another example of over the top architecture constructed as a testament to the Holy Roman Empire period. Check out the Roman chariot on the roof . All those people must get very tired from standing around all day!!

The number, scale and diversity of sculpture and impressive buildings in Vienna went on and on...

Moving onto Budapest, we stayed for 5 days at the Gellert Hotel on the banks of the Danube - actually it was anything but blue!

One of the main reasons for selecting the Gellert was the access to the natural thermal spa in the hotel basement. After a day exploring in the hot Hungarian countryside and the city, we would jump into the water every evening.

We stumbled across this Hungarian gypsy wedding in a small county town exactly one week after the German wedding we attended. What a contrast! The bride and groom arrived and departed in a horse drawn carriage to the accompaniment of lots of tooting car horns and Michael Jackson style dancers, young girls from the village with their CD player. It was very funny and entertaining.

Damien was so happy to meet up again with Archana who was his PHD student in Singapore and now is successfully pursuing her academic career in the USA. Here we are at the conference dinner with Dave a research fellow from Vancouver.

Professor Julius Fabos escaped Hungary in 1956 and settled in the US. He lectured Damien in Landscape Architecture at Melbourne University in 1978-9. They had not met up for many years, however when Edith, Julius's wife saw Damien at the conference she remembered not only Damien but the osso bucco he had made when he invited them around to his student house in Carlton, a university suburb of Melbourne. I wonder if the meal was wonderful or terrible to be so memorable.
One memorable trip was to Pecs, which has been awarded the 2010 European Design city along with Essen in Germany and Istanbul in Turkey.

Our last evening was spent eating at a very good outdoor cafe on Androgyny, a world heritage street in Budapest and watching the World Cup soccer.

On our way back to Adelaide, we stopped over at Singapore and spent a wonderful afternoon and evening swimming, eating and catching up with my former work colleague, Laraine. Here we are sitting on the veranda of her new apartment having a cup of tea - just for something completely different! Thank you for such kind hospitality Laraine.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Blog 22 - 18th July

Apologies for the delay in postings, however, I have been on holidays from both work and Korea so computer accessibility has been limited. I will space the following blogs into sequence over time as we have visited Germany, Austria and Hungary. By a wonderful coincidence we had booked to go to a conference in Budapest and so were able to also attend the wedding of my cousin Marilou and Joern on the way. The wedding was in Kaisersesch, a small town of 3,034 located in the Mosel Valley near Koblenz. Of the 17 grandchildren on my Mum's side, I am the eldest and Marilou is the youngest so it was even more wonderful that Damien and I were able to represent the Australian contingent. The photo shows us eating and drinking and talking at the hotel where all the international guests stayed. It was a bit like Fawlty Towers, however as it Kaisersesch is so small, there was plenty of time to chat, relax, eat wonderful German food and drink wonderful German beer! It did not get dark until after 10.00pm and it was balmy and relaxing outside in the garden.

The wedding was nearby in Cocham Castle, which was first built in 1130, was destroyed in 1689 and rebuilt in 1868. The view overlooking the Mosel River was spectacular.

Marilou bought her dress from Paris and the rings were from Lebanon. Every detail was exquisitely planned including a cushion of plants for the rings.

Micheline, Marilou's sister and my cousin, came from Dubai with her husband Seba and children Theo, Gaya and Alex. Joern's brother Tobias was the best man and the best translator from German to English and vice verse.

The children distributed bubbles to everyone so we had great fun blowing bubbles as Marilou and Joern left the chapel.

Here is three generations - my Auntie Johnette, the mother of the bride, with her daughter, Micheline and gran-daughter Gaya. Those of you who know my Mum and sisters will see a strong family resemblance.

The additional males in this photo who have not been mentioned thus far are Christian, Marilou's brother who came with his Mum from Lebanon and Tomas, Melissa's son. Melissa is Marilou's sister who is expecting twins and was unable to make the trip from Beirut.

Joern' parents, Agnes and Manfred, were such generous hosts. What a busy weekend they had as Manfred was celebrating retirement with a luncheon the day before after 39 years teaching at the local school. e brought back a bottle of the local wine which was a gift from them.

The day after the night before!! More talking and more relaxing. Can you see the forest behind us? Such a peaceful and lush surroundings for leisurely walks and some people even had a picnic.

What a multicultural event this wedding was! Languages spoken included French, Arabic, English, Urdu, Spanish and German of course! Nationalities represented were Mexico, Pakistan, Australia, Germany and Lebanon.

Below is a photo of the hotel guests before we all went our separate ways. Manfred (Joern's Dad) made the wigwam lanterns which shone candlelight onto the garden the previous evening at the wedding.Thanks to everyone for the privilege of attending such a memorable and happy celebration.