Berlin, 1997, Part 2: To the East!

Sarah and I headed to the Pinocchio Bar in the former East Berlin with Richard from New Zealand  and Krista from Canada. Along with Paulo from Brazil and a Japanese guy, we had a representative from almost every continent in the world.  We were all staying in a hostel close to the Brandenburg Gate. After we chatted, we went to a more lively reggae bar to continue our first night of partying in Berlin.

Unter den Linden, the main street of the former East Berlin, had street stalls where we tucked into the local speciality of hash browns with cinnamon sugar the following day. We saw Berliner Dom and the contrasting architecture of the TV tower.

We visited Marienkirche- the oldest church in Germany. We walked through Alexanderplatz which was the scene of many protests and was currently filled with lots of student protesters who were on a four week strike. They seem very passionate about their beliefs here.

At the hostel we met Simone and Kate from Adelaide and headed out to a bar with them, Monica, Paulo and Krista. Monica and Paulo spoke Italian to each other, then switched to French when Krista joined the conversation, but we all spoke English together.

We went to the Tacheles artist’s house which had a club in the garden house behind Pinocchio Bar. All the buildings were painted on and were falling apart. There were art displays and graphitised walls in the house and the garden had a wrecked bus, a rocket sculpture and one of a tower.

Inside the garden house it was like a warehouse with bashed through walls. It was very run down and very cool. We stayed until the early hours of the morning. There is a real party atmosphere in Berlin- it is feels like everyone is still celebrating the fall of the Berlin Wall.

By day, we went to the cobblestoned Nikolaiviertel in the old area of town and saw the new modern synagogue which looked like a block of flats. The old synagogue was burnt by the Nazis on Kristallnacht and there is a plaque in memorial of this on the new synagogue. Some of the rooms were rebuilt in the old design, but there is a new dome.

Back at the hostel, we said ours goodbyes and boarded the night train to Amsterdam which was to be out last stop before heading back to England after completing a full circle of Europe.

Related posts: Berlin, 1997, Part 1: The West SideCzech Republic, 1997Austria, 1997Hungary, 1997Romania, 1997Bulgaria, 1997Turkey, 1997Greece, 1997Italy, 1997, Part 2: Bella ItaliaItaly, 1997, Part 1: From Rome to FlorenceSpain, 1997, Part 2: Beyond Barcelona,  Spain, 1997, Part 1: Barcelona,  France, 1997, Part 2: The South of France, France, 1997, Part 1: ParisBelgium, 1997Holland, 1997England, 1997I first started travellingBy special requestHome is where you make itI first started writing

What is News?

When I studied Journalism at university, we were taught that news is what was is newsworthy.

Well, duh! But what they meant is that news is an item that is interesting to you. It is what is new and close to you in location and interest- the closer proximity the better.

This explains all the investigative prime time television shows about the price of milk comparisons across supermarket chains in Sydney.

I remember reading “Gotcha”- a book about the rise of celebrity and how everyone is going to want their 15 minutes of fame. This was before the rise of reality television which made the theory a true.

It spoke about celebrities such as Madonna and Kylie Minogue and how their ability to constantly reinvent themselves would ensure them longevity in the media spotlight.

And now, it seems that the only kind of news is celebrity news. Most people seem more concerned about the size of Kris Kardashian’s divorce settlement than the number of people that died in the last drought in Somalia.

Perhaps people have so much negativity in their lives that they only want to see the happy news stories like the new baby giraffe in Belfast Zoo? Maybe your personal Facebook feed is of more interest to you than the UK’s BBC News?

Which reminds me, how are we ever supposed to get balanced journalism in a country where the media is essentially owned by only two entities?

I suppose it’s easy for me to criticise. I decided not to participate in the journalistic dialogue when I was told that I would have to write boring local stories that I wouldn’t want to write for the salary of less than a normal person needs to live.

But now, there is blogging, and I can write what I want, when I want- so here it is.

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Berlin, 1997, Part 1: The West Side

Sarah and I started our sight-seeing of the former West Berlin with Checkpoint Charlie. All that is left is a tiny concrete hut with a broken tower on top.

I spent the most time I have spent in a museum on this trip inside the Wall Museum. It has the history of the Berlin Wall from building to dismantling with photos and videos.

There was a very moving video of the wall being torn down. I could remember when it was dismantled in 1989 and it really seemed like such recent history.

The museum had footage of demonstrations and escape attempts- most of them successful. People sneaked through tunnels, in speaker boxes, hot air balloons, underwater, flying foxes, suitcases and squashed in cars. They would do anything to get out.

There was an art section with the wall theme, some of the pieces using part of the wall itself, and video of worldwide non-violent protests.

We walked a block away and saw part of the wall. There is not much of it left. We looked through a gap in the wall and I bought a postcard with a “part of wall” inset into it. The buildings near the wall had their windows bricked up.

I didn’t know Berlin was actually divided into four parts- the East suppressed communist part owned by the Soviet Union and the West free part owned by the allies was split into three parts owned by France, the UK and the USA. What a ridiculous way to divide up a city!

We saw the Kasier-Wilhelm Gedachtniskirche which was bombed during war, rebuilt, then bombed again and left with its gaping roof as a memorial.

Potsdammer Platz, as with most of the former West Berlin, was under construction and I counted 20 cranes in the area.

We walked through the heavily wooded Tiergarten to the Siegessaule Victory Column. We entered through a tunnel in the bottom and walked to the top to take in the view of the city, Brandenburg Gate and Spree River. The exhibition inside had a very scary photo of the column with swastika flags running down both sides.

There was a monument to the victims of Fascism and Militarism for all the German soldiers who died fighting the Soviets.

We walked down Strasse des 17 Juni where allied military parades were held and reached the Reichstag Building next to the Berlin Wall which has visible bullet holes from the Soviet army. Lots of fighting took place here and there are also lots of crosses as monuments to the people who died trying to get over the wall.

Related posts: Czech Republic, 1997Austria, 1997Hungary, 1997Romania, 1997Bulgaria, 1997Turkey, 1997Greece, 1997Italy, 1997, Part 2: Bella ItaliaItaly, 1997, Part 1: From Rome to FlorenceSpain, 1997, Part 2: Beyond Barcelona,  Spain, 1997, Part 1: Barcelona,  France, 1997, Part 2: The South of France, France, 1997, Part 1: ParisBelgium, 1997Holland, 1997England, 1997I first started travellingBy special requestHome is where you make itI first started writing

What came in best- the book or the movie?

After seeing Gone Girl on the long weekend, I got to thinking about movies based on books.

The general rule is that the book is always better than the movie. I think this is because your own imagination is better than anything they can produce in Hollywood. It is also a testament to the quality of writing that provides the back story and inner thoughts of the characters as the action unfolds.

In the case of Gone Girl, I think the movie was better in some ways. By not providing her back story, the lead character Amy seems even more terrifying. However, the media beat up about the ending being different was wrong – the last line was different, but the result was the same.

Also, as much as I love him, I don’t think Ben Affleck being cast as Nick was the right choice. He was just not slick enough and not how I imagined the character to be at all. Perhaps Matt Damon would have been a better choice? (ha ha!).

I had a similar problem with Twilight. In the book, the character was a strong female, but in the first movie Kristen Stewart was just whiny! The trilogy did improve as the confidence of the actors and special effects did, but the inner dialogue between the wolves was not the best- although it is a hard concept to communicate through film.

One Day stayed true to the book, but somehow still missed the mark in making the transition from good film to great film. Perhaps due to the casting?

He’s just not that into you was very well done- I liked the intersecting stories and the casting was brilliant. I think the movie was actually far better than the book as it fictionalised the non-fiction which made it more personal.

Both the Devil Wears Prada and Confessions of a Shopaholic were excellent as books and as movies. The light hearted content make them very adaptable. Kudos to fellow Aussie chick Isla Fisher for playing the kooky character Becky in the latter perfectly- one might say even better than in the book.

Bridget Jones’s Diary was a great movie which earned a bit of a cult following. The sequel, not so much. Both movies stayed true to the book, so I’m not really sure what happened there?!

The same thing happened with the Sex and the City movie. First film good, second one a flop. Perhaps sequels are never as good as the originals. I’m pretty sure that was a lesson we already learnt in the 80’s right?!

The first Lord of the Rings movie was nowhere near as good as the books and I stopped watching after the first one. As previously mentioned, my dad used to read the books to me as a child, so perhaps my memory will always be greater than the movies.

I thought Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet was a very clever adaption to bring Shakespeare’s play into the 20th Century. The racy music and well-timed action would have been easy to understand even for those without the knowledge of the playwright and ye olde English.

Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire didn’t have enough of Louis’s back story at the beginning, but made up for it in the greatly gothic rest of the film. The sequel, The Queen of the Damned, was a terrible adaptation of the book. Anne Rice was not involved in the screenplay (as she was in Interview with the Vampire), which is an essential ingredient in a successful book to movie shift.

So here you have it- my golden rules for a successful adaptation from book to movie:

  1. Stay true to the book content
  2. Appropriate character casting
  3. Get the author of the book involved in the movie screenplay
  4. Don’t bother with the sequel


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Czech Republic, 1997

On our first day in Prague, Sarah and I walked to the Vltava River dotted with islands and onto the Charles Bridge lined with statues. We headed to Stare Mesto and found the Church of Our Lady in front of Týn overlooking the old town square.

The square was in a festive mood with a Christmas tree, manger of animals and free gluhwein. We saw the astronomical clock strike the hour as little men came out of the clock windows. I loved the gothic feel of the city and couldn’t wait to explore more.

Back at the hostel which doubled as a tavern we tried the illegal 75% proof local speciality absinthe, which is also meant to have opium in it. I had one shot and had to stumble up the stairs to my loft bedroom to pass out.

We caught the one hour train to Kutna Hora the next day to visit the Kostnice Sedlec church which has the bones of 40,000 people inside. There are skull and cross bones everywhere and a chandelier made with every bone in the body. It really spun me out!

We crossed the Charles Bridge to Mala Strana with its green, gold and white buildings. We saw the imposing St Nicholas church and walked up to Prague Castle. A band was playing in the windows of the buildings surrounding Hradcanske Square and the palace guards were very friendly- so we stayed to watch the changing of guard.

Heading further into the castle, we saw the church of St George and St Vitus Cathedral and found the short houses on the golden lane where alchemists tried to turn lead into gold.

We headed down the hill to see the John Lennon wall- most of which was falling off.

On our last day in Prague, we went to Vysehrad Fortress. Of the fortress’s three entry gates, Leopold Gate was the nicest. We saw the cute little St Martin Rotunda and went to a lookout point with a view of Prague Castle. We found a tiny stage theatre and the Church of St Peter and Paul which dominates the fortress.

My favourite part of the fortress was Libuse’s Bath which is virtually hanging off the cliff over the Vltava River. I walked into Libuse’s Bath and thought that I could easily fall into river from here.

We headed back to the old town square in Prague and enjoyed the Christmas stalls before we boarded our train to Germany.

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The Fashion Files

As I have previously stated, I am not much of a consumer. I don’t keep up with fashion and prefer to wear the styles and colours that suit me. I detest the societal pressure to look model thin and the requisite downsizing of sizes that goes with it.

That being said, I am so excited about the new H&M store that is opening in Sydney’s Macquarie Centre this Thursday. I haven’t been this excited since…well, since the first Australian store opened in Melbourne and I went to that one- currently the biggest H&M in the world as the young helpful sales assistant informed me. My favourite section is the comfy casual Logg clothing that I recently found in the Orchard Rd store in Singapore.

I first discovered H&M when I travelled to England to visit my grandparents. I just found that the pants fitted me better in European clothing brand shops. I was also taken to Zara on Oxford St, purchased a black ruffled skirt and a love affair with Spanish clothing brands commenced. Every overseas trip since then has included a trip to Zara and H&M in Europe, Asia and the Americas wherever possible.

After purchasing a t-shirt with an underwater fish scene in Las Vegas, I found the sub-brand Trafaluc and it is now my favourite section in a Zara store. When Zara opened in Sydney I was ecstatic, but this enthusiasm quickly turned to disappointment as I realised that in the tradition of many fashion outlets in Australia, we were at least one year behind all the European fashion.

The same could be said of the Sydney Mango shop, which went one step further and held leftover stock from Europe as far as I could tell as I found the exact same pair of black high heels that I had bought the previous year in Belgium. They used to have a great shop on the Gold Coast, but have now closed this along with all their other shops except for the flagship store in Melbourne and now distribute through David Jones.

On a recent trip to Barcelona, I saw the Desigual label. Very pretty and colourful, but a little too young and hip for me!

Now if I could just take a mental picture of my wardrobe so that I don’t end up buying the EXACT same top twice that would be great.

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Austria, 1997

When we arrived in Vienna, Sarah and I headed to St Stephens Cathedral which dominates the main square. There were frogs on the pulpit handrail! Close by, we went into the mostly bare house of Mozart. Here, you can see his music scores and listen to them through headphones.

We wandered to another square where the normal buildings are works of art. There were Christmas decorations and lights everywhere. We found the outer courtyards of the Hofburg winter palace- Heldenplatz and Josefplatz- where the famous Lipizzaner Spanish horses train.

The next day, we visited the gorgeous Schönbrunn Palace- the summer palace. Our tour of the inside revealed white rooms with gold decorations in Victorian Rocco style. There are portraits of emperors, uncomfortable looking beds and a green hall in the middle of palace that has a three stage ceiling fresco.

The east wing has different rooms like the Porcelain room, one with black Chinese walling and the room where Mozart did his first performance. The Walnut room with its wood panelling was my favourite.

I was attracted to the story of Empress Elizabeth of Austria, nicknamed Sisi, who was liberal thinker. She was married at 16 and had 16 children, but refused to conform and travelled around Europe without her husband.

Outside, it was lightly snowing in the bare rose garden. The wooded botanical garden had squirrels running around and there were lots of ducks in the Rundbassin. The wooden Tyrolean huts are now restaurants and the spring where palace gets it’s name wasn’t running. The view of the palace and Vienna beyond from the Gloriette above the Neptunebrunnen was awesome.

Our metro ticket lasted all day as it was Advent- one of the four Saturdays before Christmas. So we travelled to the Strauss monument in the city park which is like no other statue I had ever seen – gold surrounded by marble. We saw the Anker clock on an arch between two buildings and Beethoven’s house. Vienna sure seems to honour their famous musicians!

We went to Volksprater- an amusement park which was deserted at this time of year- and took a ride on the famous Riesenrad Ferris Wheel. It had a proper compartment to enable views of the city at night sheltered from the wintery weather.

It was snowing in Vienna when left on the train to Prague.

Related posts: Hungary, 1997Romania, 1997Bulgaria, 1997Turkey, 1997Greece, 1997Italy, 1997, Part 2: Bella ItaliaItaly, 1997, Part 1: From Rome to FlorenceSpain, 1997, Part 2: Beyond Barcelona,  Spain, 1997, Part 1: Barcelona,  France, 1997, Part 2: The South of France, France, 1997, Part 1: ParisBelgium, 1997Holland, 1997England, 1997I first started travellingBy special requestHome is where you make itI first started writing

Random Public Holiday Ramblings

Today is public holiday Monday here in Oz, so I was going to take the day off from blogging too, but instead I thought I would just share some random ramblings for something a little bit different. So here we go- my first free style blog experiment…

Public holiday Monday used to equal a good excuse to drink lots and for an extra weekend day- now that I have a two year old- not so much!

What is the Labour Day holiday for anyway? According to Wikipedia it commemorates the achievements of the Australian labour movement. That is the eight hour day movement- which advocated eight hours for work, eight hours for recreation, and eight hours for rest.

Sounds pretty good to me! So- what movement advocates a four day working week? Cause we really should get on that. Not that I can complain as I only work part time these days anyway.

This weekend also marks the start of day light savings. This indicates the start of summer for pretty much everyone on this side of the world and it kicked off with a vengeance this year with a 33 degree celsius day.

And who do we have to thank for the brilliant innovation of daylight savings time? A New Zealander as always- George Vernon Hudson- who first thought of it in 1895. I wonder if Aussies try to take credit for this too along with Crowded House and Russell Crowe.

I totally picked the Amazing Race Australia winner and the runner up for The Bachelor Australia. Does this mean I watch too much reality TV? Perhaps.

I was particularly impressed with the Sydney Morning Herald reporting that Blake (the Bachelor), was 31 and 32 on the same day in separate articles. Fact checking much?

Apparently there is a big Bachelor scandal that is going to be discussed on The Project tonight and can be purchased in today’s Woman’s Day.

No- I haven’t rushed out to buy a copy because really- how scandalous can it be? More than likely it is all just a media beat up to distract from the fact that the show had poor ratings and an even poorer ending. And as they say- all publicity is good publicity.

The new Survivor has just started so I will have to predict the winner for that too. It is harder to predict, but hopefully I will get the trifecta.

And where are the now not so new US seasons of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette? We are almost a year behind now! And what about the new season of The Originals that is supposed to start tomorrow?What’s going on channel Go? And you wonder why people download shows instead.

At least Fox 8 has had the foresight to buy Vampire Diaries fast tracked from the US so that it aired on Friday. Very happy Jan.

I saw Gone Girl at the movies last night. I read the book this year when a friend gave it to me for my birthday. It was one I never would have thought of  even thought of buying as I usually avoid the best seller list, but it kept me guessing and was very dark and intriguing. And I must say that the movie was even scarier without all the internal monologue that you get in novels.

I’m currently enjoying reading The Time of Our Lives by Jane Costello as it is chick lit set in one of my favourite cities- Barcelona. The characters are staying in Barceloneta- a place I only recently pleasantly discovered on my trip last year on the recommendation of some local friends. Top spot.

I’m loving Twitter at the moment- Twitter is where it’s at! Good quality networking for bloggers and great content- if you are following the right people for your interests of course! Instagram also seems to be a good one for the more visually inclined- I’m more of a words person, but do love a good photo too.

This summer I am looking forward to more beach time and it looks like a lovely day out there- so it’s time to get off the virtual world and enjoy the sunshine in the real world. Have a good long weekend peoples!

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Hungary, 1997

When Sarah and I arrived in Budapest I felt like we had returned to civilisation. The buildings were new, the air was warm and I no longer feared for my personal safety.

We headed to the large winding Danube River and saw the oldest bridge in the city- the Szechenyi Bridge and the interesting Margaret Island which is connected by a bridge to the mainland. We also went to Varhegy Hill – a self-contained medieval town to see the Hungarian Crown Jewels in the Matthias church.

Crossing the river, we visited St Stephen’s Basilica where the church courtyard was under restoration. As we walked along the river, we saw the iconic red rooved parliament buildings, the green Szabadsag Bridge which reminded me of Lion’s Gate Bridge in Vancouver and the uplifting Liberation Monument of a bronze lady holding a palm leaf on Gellert Hill.

Walking down Andrassy Ut- Budapest’s most famous street- we saw the odd sphinx at the opera house, a real life brass band and Heroes Square at the end. We found Vajdahunyad Castle which is a beautiful island in the middle of the city park. The nearby lake was turned into an ice rink for winter and they were testing cars on it.

My favourite place in Budapest were the white washed patio’s and towers of the Fisherman’s Bastion with it’s gorgeous views over the city; and the restaurant where I devoured an entire plate of gnocchi- my first proper meal after two overnight trains through Eastern Europe.

Next stop- Vienna!

Related posts: Romania, 1997Bulgaria, 1997Turkey, 1997Greece, 1997Italy, 1997, Part 2: Bella ItaliaItaly, 1997, Part 1: From Rome to FlorenceSpain, 1997, Part 2: Beyond Barcelona,  Spain, 1997, Part 1: Barcelona,  France, 1997, Part 2: The South of France, France, 1997, Part 1: ParisBelgium, 1997Holland, 1997England, 1997I first started travellingBy special requestHome is where you make itI first started writing