Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Trip to UK

As my dad was 50 last year (while I was down under) and it's an age
that is worth to celebrate a lot, I decided to give him a special gift
(kinda backwards, but better later than never), and I paid for both us
a trip to London and Stonehenge over the Easter. As he's teaching english it's very unique for him as he has never been to UK before.

As I wanted the trip to be perfect, I arranged everything - bought us flight tickets, arranged accommodation and planned 3 days so that we see the most of London's attractions, see Stonehenge (my dad' favourite), see english premier league (EPL) live and try as many cultural stuff such as try english beer, food, have a ride on double-decker etc. Pretty much do everything that he is teaching about at his english lessons.

Start of the trip was pretty horrible, as my dad couldn't find a way out of Bratislava airport. He flew from Kosice - my hometown to Bratislava, but when the plane landed, he took it by mistake across the landing field instead of going to arrivals hall - what a crazy dude he is, isn't he? - and had to be taken out by the police. Fortunately since then everything went smoothly. The flight was ok. Maybe except the prices on-board, but hey what would you expect from a low-cost right?

Day 1

When we got to London, we met with Duncan. Duncan was a trainee through AIESEC in Kosice in 2001 and we're still in touch even after all those years. To my surprise he got married to a nice russian woman called Natasha and they have a lovely little baby called Kate. They all came to meet me and my dad and show us around the London.

I have to say that without them it would probably took us ages to go around all the attractions as London's downtown is pretty big. The tour we did was:

- Royal Courts of Justice
- St. Pauls Cathedral
- Somerset House
- National Gallery and Trafalgar Square with Nelson's Column
- Buckingham Palace
- Horse Guard Parade
- Big Ben and Parliament House
- Westminster Abbey
- London Eye
- Boat trip on River Thames with a view on Tower of London and Tower Bridge
- Greenwich

Seems like a lot stuff in a day, and it really was. We were really tired after the whole-day trip. Thanks to Duncan we had a lovely lunch (Shepherd's Pie) in one of the oldest pubs in London and then in the evening we went to a perfect french restaurant alongside the River Thames with the view on Tower Bridge. We ordered a seafood plate with lots of stuff that I have never eaten before. A lots of various shell-stuff, oysters, langustas, lobster etc. can't even remember the names.

Day 2

In the morning we went to places we've seen on previous day just from the boat. My dad was looking forward especially to Tower of London with a Crown Jewels of all the Kings and Queens of England. And he wasn't disappointed at all. Maybe just one little thing - No photos allowed :-).

From this place we took a tube to Fulham Broadway station, our place-to-be for the whole afernoon. Fulham Broadway is the nearest tube station to Stamford Bridge - a home ground of Chelsea FC. We had to pick up tickets at the box office 2 hours before the start of the game the latest, so we had enough time to look around the stadium and its surroundings. We both enjoyed Chelsea wall with players, and my dad was the lucky one to be probably the oldest kid that took a team photo :-)

The game itself was perfect. Chelsea was playing against Bolton, and it looked like the game is over in about 60 mins as Chelsea - Bolton was already 4:0, but then Bolton suddenly striked 3 times within 15 mins and it even seemed they will score 4th goal in the last minute. Quite a pressure on Chelsea. Anyway the game was great, lots of great actions, kicks, fan songs etc. The atmosphere can't be really described, pretty noisy in certain parts of the game. I was a bit afraid of possible fights as we've seen a few hooligans, but fortunately no conflict whatsoever.

More pics from our first 2 days in London can be seen here

Day 3

We spent the last day outside London. As my dad was very keen to see Stonehenge, I bought us a tour that involved Windsor Castle, Stonehenge and Bath. Unfortunately as it was Easter Sunday we couldn't visit Windsor Castle as Queen Elisabeth II. was there at the time and for security reasons the whole castle was obviously closed. We went to Hampton Court instead, a place where the infamous Henry the VIII. used to spend a lot of time. The highlight for my dad at Hampton Court was an option to borrow and wear the medieval clothes while having look around the place, which was actually pretty cool for me as well.

From this place we went onto a must-see-place for my dad - Stonehenge. As we were part of tour, we could jump in front of queue which was a thing I appreciate the most while being there. The Stonehenge itself was nice, and my dad enjoyed it as well, but honestly I would say we did expect a little bit more. Not sure what though. Anyway we've been there and we've seen it, so now we have another tick from the list.

The last stop from this long day was an old place built by Romans ages ago called Bath. It used to be baths place for Romans who tried to beat the England back in the old days. I would never say there can be a place like this in England. Very roman-like architecture. I had a feeling we're in Italy or somewhere, but not UK. Anyway the city itself was very beautiful and even those baths (main attraction) looked very nice, so it made us feel very relaxed at the end of the day, which was exactly what we needed. If anyone has a chance to stop by, I really recommend this place.

More pics from our last day can be seen here

Way back to Slovakia was a bit painful for me, as we had to catch a flight at 6am, that forced me to get up 3:30 am. I seriously don't like it too much. We haven't had any problems with the airport transfer or security, and as by chance I met an old-school friend at the airport that is now working as stewardess for Ryanair - a company we flew with - we had a priority check-in as well, which was a very nice thing especially as I wasn't really in a mood that early in the morning.

Since we got back home, my dad is talking about nothing but a London and Stonehenge etc. Seems like the gift was well-worthed and I'm actually quite happy about that. We're now planning to go to London again at the end of the May and we both are looking forward to it.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


Me interviewed by some aussie TV station during global village on AIESEC july national conference in Melbourne 2007. Pity they thought I'm latvian :-))))

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

My first non-white Xmas in Slovakia

I remember that one of the things that made me look forward to come over to Australia 2 years ago was that I will experience non-white Xmas. What I didn't expect at all is that I would actually experience it as well when I get back home to Slovakia. After 16 months down under I kinda felt I desperately need to see the snow. It all started quite well as we had the first snow in Slovakia already in October, but then it warmed up and snow melted down, so on 24th of december (Xmas day in Slovakia), there wasn't any snow. What a pity.

But hey, I had a great time anyway, so why should I complain right?

Xmas in Slovakia

I remember a funny story (at least for slovaks) from when I was in Australia. One day I was organising slovakian evening, and as a part of that we were watching czechoslovak movie called "Pelisky". There was a scene where one of the main characters sink his head into a bath and try to hold a breath for as long as he can, trying to beat his friend who was there visiting a family. Then suddenly camera shows a different view and the audience can see a carp swimming in a bath. All the aussies almost immediately said "What the hell? Why there is a fish in a bath?" And I said: " Well, you know, it's a tradition over there, we have a carp on Xmas eve as a Xmas dish, adn we keep it in a bath few days before Xmas". But they kept wondering "Jeez, that's weird".

Well it wasn't weird for me at all till then. And still it isn't. It comes from a christian traditions, as most of the christians should know that story of a jesus feeding the poor with the fish. Well yeah, that's why we eat fish on a day when jesus was born. So even though I explained that a little while being down under, didn't get much of a positive response.

Typical Xmas day of my family

For those who don't know yet, Xmas day in Slovakia is on 24th of December. I decided to explain quickly how a typical xmas day looks like in slovakia, especially in my family.

People in Slovakia (and my family as well) usually don't eat for the whole day (to remind us of the poor starving) until it's 6pm and then they have a cabbage soup and a fish with potato salad. My family usually decorates a Xmas tree that day (simply as there is no time to do that earlier) and then we usually read Xmas cards sent to us from our family friends. TV is on with some traditional fairytales and Xmas theme movies, but last few years I doubt anyone is actually watching it.

In the afternoon closer to 6pm each member of the family wrap up the gifts and shortly before 6 pm put them under the Xmas tree. Then there is a dinner at 6 and afterwards we all go to a room and start unpacking the gifts in a romantic atmosphere of candlelights and xmas carrols (usually played from CD, but no carrols this year for some reason). So the whole Xmas thing is done on the evening of 24th December, not a morning of 25th as it is in Australia.

The kids are told jesus brings gifts while they're eating dinner (one of the parents usually goes to check if he came already = means he'll put the gifts under the tree), but in the last few years I have a feeling some families are not following traditions that strictly and just say whatever they see on a TV, stuff like Santa Claus etc. which is I reckon very american.

This year's Xmas

Well I had a pretty good Xmas this year. Besides guitar I bought in Vienna with Petkan, I did receive a few more gifts. My parents and my sister gave me some money for me to buy a small home recording studio set (external soundcard for PC, mixing device, microphone, headphones, software for recording and editing sounds). As my dream is to record my own CD, this is actually a first step, where I can start to learn some recording techniques, and it kinda forces me to practice on guitar a lot more as well. So definitely a good deal.

I got also some nice stuff to wear and useful stuff like razor, etc. I actually got 2 razors for shaving, electric one and classic one, as my dad misunderstood my mom and they both bought pretty much the same stuff :-))) You should have seen them, one blamed another, pretty funny.

My dad also gave me a perfect DVD Rory Gallagher - Irish Tour '74 - an absolute classic of the good old blues-rock by one of the biggest irish guitar players ever. I simply love that stuff, even though it made me realize my guitar playing is total shit.

I shouldn't forget to mention that to my surprise, I received also gifts from Australia. I was so amazed by the fact someone was actually thinking of me on the other side of the world. For all those who sent me some nice gifts THANK YOU VERY MUCH. My most favourite one is a T-shirt that says Classic Aussie Brew full of labels of the old-school brands such as XXX. An absolute classic!!!

Company's Xmas party

I reckon this is the same here as well as down under. Companies do have their own Xmas parties. As I'm working for a very young and small company, all 4 of us just had a nice evening directly at the workplace - my office exactly. We also received a beautiful gift packages from the owner of the company and my boss, full of great stuff, like chocolates, coffee, wine and some other useful stuff for cooking. For the Xmas party itself we bought a carton of champagne, 2 bottles of red wine, 2 bottles of white wine, 1l bottle of Vodka and 1l bottle of Fernet (brownish 35% alcohol). Fortunately, we had to eat a lot as well, as we also had traditional cabbage soup and few more yummy nibbles - sandwiches, salty chips and similar kind of stuff.

You reckon it was too much alcohol? Nah - no way (I told to myself). But honestly, I don't recall being that drunk ever before. I don't remember second part of the party and how I got home (to my girlfriends place actually). And the worst of it all - it took me 2 days to recover from the most painful hangover ever. I swore to God about thousand times I'm not gonna drink again.

I'm not that hardcore in that decision now (about a month later), but still I reduced alcohol drinking a lot. But besides that fact, the party itself was awesome, I got to know my workmates much better and it was great to have a slightly deeper look into their personal lives. I kinda feel we're much closer after this party.

If you wanna check out some pics, click here

Monday, January 19, 2009

Trip to Vienna

There's no proper Xmas in Europe without Xmas markets. Xmas markets for europeans is pretty much a bunch of stalls with xmas souvenirs and gifts, then bunch of stalls with food (I love great sausages) and drinks (especially hot wine or hot punch). I bet a thousand bucks that most of aussies never tried hot alcoholic drink in their life before, so they might think it's weird, but trust me, once you come over to a cold country, you'll find out it's much better to have a hot wine rather than a cold beer (and you know that I'm a dedicated beer drinker).

Vienna Xmas markets

As I'm currently living and working in Bratislava, it's not far from Vienna (just an hour away), so me and Petkan decided to have a day trip to Vienna end of November to do a bit of sightseeing tour and then visit the famous Vienna Xmas markets. Train ticket (both ways) including public transport costs just 12 euros so it's definitely not an expensive trip. It's pretty much like going from Brissie to Gold Coast and back. We've seen all the most important sights in Vienna such as Belvedere with its gardens, Museum (2 same looking buildings - very unique), Parliament house, Hofburg (Habsburg's residence), Stephan's Dome (awesome gothic cathedral) and Mayor's House, where we ended up our trip as that was the main place - the biggest Xmas markets in Vienna. I have bought a lots of gifts, purse for my mom, beer looking candle for my dad, hat for myself (how selfish) and some good chocolates etc. It was pretty cold that day, so a cup of hot punch was one of the best choices of the day. I kept the ceramic cup with vienna theme as a souvenir from that trip. If you're interested to see some pictures from that trip check out here.

New guitar

While being in Vienna, we couldn't miss a place called Klangfarbe - a 3 levels building that sells musical instruments. As some of you know, I do play guitar and wanted to get myself acoustic, as I already have 2 electrics back home. Petkan wanted to start learning how to play guitar so it was a unique opportunity to get one guitar for both of us. Something like a common gift for Xmas. I decided to go for electric-acoustic then as it's a little easier to record. I must say I've never experienced such a service when buying musical instrument. The guys over there were very helpful, answered all the questions, let us try the guitars as long as we wanted and we even got a travelling discount as we came from another country. Isn't it great? I'm very happy with what we bought, it's Baton Rouge guitar (company focused mainly on acoustics), and we got it for a great price, just 370 euros (incl. stripe, capo and guitar case). We have that guitar for 2 months already and I must say it sounds great.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Blogging in english

As I got quite a writer-like success while blogging in slovak about my stay in Australia, I decided to run a blog in english now, mainly for my aussie mates, but also for other english speaking friends I have all around the world. The main aim is simple ... to keep up-to-date with what's going on with people who's willing to follow my life journey and find out how I'm doing and what I'm doing and why I'm doing etc. So hopefully this is gonna be a useful tool for most of you my friends.

Of course, any comments are more than welcome! Feel free to leave any points or start discussion on any topic.