Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Hanginaround

Just a short post. Spent the day in Salzburg, where I got on a bus and asked someone if it went to the city. She said yes, we got talking, and she took it upon herself to show me through the city for a good part of the afternoon. While we were there, it snowed for the first time since I arrived in Europe. I love it when things just work out like that. I've got a half-written post about Croatia in the works, a report about my Funcom ready to be sent for Ragnar's approval (Don't want to breach the non disclosure agreement), one with a bunch of links, and another in my head about Oslo, so expect at least one new post within a few days. =)

On an unrelated and totally puerile note, I'm ashamed to admit how much this made me laugh. Not too ashamed to share it though!


More here.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Cash Money

.............I just logged into my online banking, to find that my bank account has more than doubled, and there seems to be absolutely no reason behind it. There has been no money transfered into my account, but for some bizzare reason it looks like some of my Visa payments just...vanished. I can't say that for sure, and I can't see any that were there and now aren't, but that's the only reason I can think of. I definately paid my visa bill so my card had a balance of exactly $0.00, meaning I had no debt, and could spend up to $5000. For some reason, my Visa account now shows that I *somehow* have a significant balance in positive figures (which happens when you overpay the account or pay money onto the card deliberately). My transaction history now seems to say that I overpaid my account significantly, so vanishing payments are the only thing I can thing of. I'll wait till tomorrow to be more certain it isn't a bank error that will be corrected, but for now that means I have the means to extend my stay again, and I'm seriously considering it. I don't understand why everything just keeps falling into place and going smoothly for me on this trip, but I'm certainly not complaining!

Edit:
Immature as it is, I found this hilarious.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Around The Sun

I've decided to go to Slovakia tomorrow, Hungary on Wednesday, and Salzburg on Thursday. I love the fact that I can just get on a train for a few hours and end up in another country!

I'm working on a post about Croatia, my Funcom visit, Oslo, Norway, another on Vienna, and a post with a few links and stuff on it. Sorry it's taking so long. Think of it like those postcards you send, and they arrive weeks after you get home. It's like that.

Just a little news though: I met someone from Perth on a streetcar the other day, which was fantastic. It was really great to talk about Australian stuff, what it's like to be in Vienna as an Australian, and the differences, and just to meet with someone from back home. Her name is Natalia, and she's on exchange here, studying. We walked through Vienna, mostly the parts we didn't know so we could get totally lost, went to a pub, and finally went back to the student dorms where we sat and watched some Australian TV (Chaser's War, which I have on my iPod), and I was introduced to a group of other exchange students from America, Germany, and other parts of Austria. Talked till 5am, smoked a little pot (I didn't have much, makes me cough too much), and I ended up taking a nap before getting the streetcar home at about 6am.

Awesome.

Update: No longer going to Hungary due to cost, but did get to Slovakia.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

In This World

(Sorry this took so long to come out, it turned out longer than I expected.)

On to Slovenia!

Well, almost. The train was delayed for nearly 2 hours, so Bojan, Anja and I waited at a cafe for a while before going back to the station to see me off. According to the ticket guy, it's not a good idea to sleep on the train, as there are no police and often people's bags get stolen. Five minutes later, I'd managed to arrange it so one bag was under my legs, and the other was well hidden under the seat which could only be reached by opening the door, which one of my feet was touching. Again, my ability to sleep almost anywhere came to my rescue, and it didn't take me long to doze off.

After a reasonable sleep, though frequently interrupted by passport and ticket checks, I arrived in Ljubljana (the capital of Slovenia, pronounced something like 'looblana'). There I met Titus (aka CornDude), and had a quick look around Ljubljana. It's a fairly small city, with a number of rivers and parks, making it very pleasant to walk around. After a quick look around, we made our way towards Postojna, a massive cave a fair distance from Ljubljana. Fortunately, the speed limit on highways is 140, and we made it just in time for the guided tour (the only way you're allowed in). It's an incredible place, a bit like Lake Cave and Jewel Cave down below Perth.

Stalagmite

Some of the incredible rock formations

Probably the most fascinating thing in this cave however, was the 'human fish', or 'Olm' (according to wikipedia). It has no eyes, four legs, lungs, gills, is very pale, lives for 3 years without food (up to 10 in extreme cases), and is about 30cm long. They keep a few in an open tank in the cave, but the light made it very difficult to get reasonable photos of them (which is also why there aren't many cave photos here), so here's one I stole from Wikipedia.

'Human Fish'

Leaving Postojna, we headed back through the beautiful Slovenian countryside towards Poljane (Pol-yan-ay), the village where Titus lives. It was getting late, so we went out to the town of Skofjo Loko for a meal of...something. Again, I can't remember what it was called, but it was very good. We then wandered around the town, and up to the castle, and eventually decided to check out noises coming from a community centre.

Titus summed it up best when he walked in, looked around, and mumbled 'what the hell....?'. We'd walked into a room full of grown men and women dressed in Medieval clothing, wielding swords, eating, drinking, and dancing, all lead by a man who looked like Santa in disguise.

These kids saw through the ruse
I had to get a photo with these guys.
Titus is the guy on the right.

The following day, we drove across what looked like almost half of Slovenia on the map, to a national park I can't remember the name of. There were a few things there to see, namely Dante's Cave, Bear Head, and Dante's bridge, none of which Titus had seen, so neither of us knew what to expect. After a walk through a forest, and up a large hill, we found Dante's Caves. According to the tourist information, it's not explorable without proper caving equipment and a guide. I had neither, however I did have a phone with a built-in torch, and a strong desire to explore small dark places. When I say dark, I mean it. About 100 metres in, it was absolutely black without my torch. It was mostly uphill, and there was a trickle of water running down the middle and out the entrance, making it quite slippery going. The fact that it was less than 2 metres wide, and about one metre high so I was almost crawling for a lot of it didn't make it any easier either. I estimate I went about 400 metres in, before I came up against a wall about 2 metres high in a small cavern and I decided to go back for safety. I wanted to try and climb it, but it was slippery and a bit too risky without a backup plan or guide. According to the sign outside, it was about another kilometer further to the end.

Dante's cave

Just some of the amazing scenery
Pressing on through more forest, we found the bear's head. In itself it wasn't that spectacular, but the scenery of the general area was well worth the walk. The bear's head itself is a rock wedged into a crevasse over a river, shaped something like the head of a bear.

Dante's bridge
My attempt at an artistic photo

Heading back to Ljubljana, we walked up an enormous hill to the Ljubljana castle overlooking the city, before heading back towards the train station. A brief detour to a hotel and surrounding area entirely dedicated to alternative art was well worth it, and very interesting to walk through, before I got on the train to leave for Croatia.

The symbol of Ljubljana
Aforementioned art

And again

I'm not entirely sure what these are meant to be, but they were certainly eerie when lit like that

(Next: Croatia!)

Friday, November 24, 2006

Song 2

WOOOOOOOOOOHOOOOOOOOOOOO!

I don't know how to really write this coherently, so I'll just list it.

I am here in Europe staying with people I met on the internet.

I met these people on a forum dedicated to a PC game called The Longest Journey (TLJ), and later it's sequel, Dreamfall.

The company that made both games is called Funcom, and they are based in Oslo, Norway.

The genius behind the games, the writer and director, is Ragnar Tornquist.

I'm now half-running The Divide, after the unfortunate disaperarance of the former administrator.

As such, I have been in occasional contact with Ragnar to organize several interviews for the site.

I sent Ragnar an email telling him how TLJ had sent me on a tour of Europe to stay with people I met as a result of playing it, and asking if I could possibly get a tour of Funcom's offices. I didn't really expect anything would come from it, but it never hurts to ask.

He said yes.

I'm going to Norway.

That is all.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Beautiful World

Whew.

I've just arrived back 'home' in Vienna after a 16 hour train ride from Split, Croatia, it's about 5pm and I'm feeling surprisingly good. I've discovered that years of bizarre sleep patterns have enabled me to function quite normally on relatively small doses of pretty uncomfortable sleep. If it wasn't for that ability, I don't think I would have survived this past week. Not to say that I slept badly or uncomfortably while staying with people that is, but in the last week I've spent just under 50 hours in transit, mostly on trains but partially wandering strange cities after midnight while waiting for yet another train. Over the next few days, I'll try and make a post for every place I stayed, in order, so keep an eye out. Do yourself a favour and click the photos for the full-sized ones, it's worth it.

First off, Serbia. I left Vienna at about 10am last Thursday, for a fairly mild introduction to all the travel that was yet to come. For most of the morning, the train was in a dense fog, and I couldn't see much more than 50, maybe 100 metres out of the window. After midday, that cleared to reveal a beautiful countryside dotted with small towns and farms. I have to say, if you're going on a long journey, bring an mp3 player, and load it with a few audiobooks. They're great for starving off boredom, and have the added benefit of allowing you to look out the window while 'reading'. I've been listening to Terry Pratchett's Discworld series, they're very good, as well as being extremely well voiced. But I digress...

Went past this on the train, looked interesting.

Did I mention the sunset?

I was greeted at the train station by Bojan (pronounced a little like 'boy-an' - I think the letter J is pronounced like a Y in Serbian), someone I'd known only as 'Xenon' up until recently. We went back to his house, ate, and I was reassured there wouldn't be any raping =). I wasn't that tired, so I was shown around Belgrade. It's a really interesting city to visit, and if you're ever in the area I definately recommend stopping by for a few days. I was shown around an old fort used in the war which has since been converted into a park, as well as St Mark's Church and St Sava Temple, both very impressive buildings, especially when lit up at night.

St Mark's
Main Doors

St Sava Temple


The next morning we went back to the fort/park for a while, as I'd only seen a small part of it the previous night. After that, and walking along the river that runs through Belgrade (pity it was a foggy day, but it was still a nice area), I was introduced to Bojan's cousin Anja (Ahn-ya), and together we all went to St Mark's again, so I could see it from the inside. Back home for lunch, which consisted of some sausage-like things and something that was a bit like a pie with lots of very thin layers of pastry filled with egg, cheese, and something I couldn't work out how to pronounce, let alone spell. Either way, it was very good (if you're reading this Bojan, help me out =p). Oh, that reminds me - next time you're close to Eastern Europe, look for something called 'Burek' I had it for breakfast, and it's really good. I found out later that it's also really cheap and available from street-vendors all over the place. It looks like a flatish oval-shaped bready thing made of pastry, and it's filled with meat, cheese, or nothing, in a mesh of pastry inside. Sometimes, they also come in the form of a slice of pie.


Part of the Belgrade Fortress

After lunch we got in the car and picked up a friend of Bojan and Anja's - Ivan - and together we drove to New Belgrade, a newer part of the city that consists mostly of ugly identical buildings. There is a nice riverfront however, and we walked up a hill that overlooks the whole city. Unfortunately it was a bit foggy, but a good view nevertheless. I've used my camera to get footage of various areas I've been to, and when I get home (I don't want to mess around with it here) I'll try and put some of it up on YouTube. It was starting to get dark, so we finished up the day walking along the river - strangely, the area looked a lot like parts of the Swan River in Perth - before visiting a place called Pinnochio's (I think - it had paintings of him on the building) for what were quite possibly the most filling pancakes I've ever had. Next time any of you are in Serbia, look out for it =D.

House *on* the river
View from the hill

A typical Serbian streetlamp farm

Bojan & I in front of St Mark's

Thanks Bojan, for showing me around and letting me stay, it was a pleasure. Also thanks to Anja and Ivan for keeping us company and helping with the tourguide duties. =p

Soon: Slovenia

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Brief update:

Been through Belgrade, Serbia. Am now in a small village near Ljubljana, Slovenia, and tomorrow evening I'll leave for Croatia. All is good, I'll make a real post for each country with photos when I get back to Vienna.