Posted by Tom French |

Genesis

I had small group tonight and we were studying Genesis 2. We got distracted by the inconsistancies and scientific problems of Genesis. I'm not sure if the group was interested in the distraction, but I saw it as a good opportunity to go for a bit of digging and challenging of the status quo.

We spent a bit of time where we tried to reconcile the issues, but we never came to anything statisfactory. At least not for me. I sent us all off to discover what we could about the whole thing and how we could understand Genesis. How do we reconcile the fact that things in Genesis 1-3 (and I reckon up to 11 at least) don't really work with what we see in science and history? And how do we figure out why things in Genesis 1-2 just don't match up?

Whenever you talk about it everyone has a different theory. There are all sorts of ideas that people have, some of them are good, some of them seem to be just clutching at straws. What I love about the whole discussion within a teaching context is that it challenges us to keep the Bible as the Word of God, even when the it doesn't seem to be fitting in with our ideas about how infallible history should be written. I love the offensiveness that it just doesn't seem to work. The challenge to look deeper, keep questioning, because the answer isn't apparent at first reading. I love the mystery that we may never be able to answer the questions of creation, yet we still can come to the Bible with faith that it is God speaking. It creates a healthy distance between we who are seeking answers and He who gives them. It keeps us on our toes, it makes us stay alert, we can't just take it at face value. The truth comes to us but it doesn't come without our searching, asking and trusting. Genesis asks us to give up our need to have the exact answers to the beginning of man, but instead it shows us where man begins.

I guess I'm rambling. But as you may be able to see, I really like what Genesis does because it doesn't work the way we want it to, it works the way God wants it to.

Posted by Tom French |

Hungary

These are the Hungarian photos. This is the fruit of a free afternoon. I know there are a lot. I hope you can cope. I'll do Austria and England later. Maybe next week.

The Beast.jpg

The Car we traveled to Hungary and back in. The hottest car eva bro!

The Flats.jpg

Our flats in Budapest. Pretty swish. We were on the right-hand with the balcony but our windows were around the corner.

Stairwell.jpg

The stairwell in our units

Shoes.jpg

The memorial for the Jews who were shot into the Danube in World War 2

On the Bench.jpg

Jo, Valentina and Grandpa on a bench outside the Hungarian Parliament House

Budapest Building.jpg

A building Budapest. Lots of them were still like this, a bit decrepit and filled with bullet holes from WWII and the 1956 revolt.

Grandpa in Budapest.jpg

Grandpa

Dancing on Margrit.jpg

Dancing on Margrit Island

St Stephen.jpg

St Stephen the Angry

Staute and Blimp.jpg

At Statue Park where they keep all the old Communist statues.

Star.jpg

Who knew Communist Statues could make me look so good?

At Balaton.jpg

At Lake Balaton, Hungary's premiere holiday location!

From the Car.jpg

The view was always good in our car

Posted by Tom French |

Lag

The jet lag hasn't been too bad. It just tends to hit me every now and again and I fall asleep like a small bout of narcolepsy. But then I wake up and I'm all good for a bit.

Ryan and I bought a big sound system for our house yesterday. It's fun to have, but I haven't really got to fully love it yet. I guess when I to hang out at home with it I'll love it. Especially when we hook it up to the computer so we can play iTunes through it. That'll be spec.

We hooked up our computer at home to the sound system in 1998 and I remember that playing SimTower through the sound system was wonderful. I just loved the sound of those noisy elevators turned up loud!

Going back to work was fun. I liked seeing everyone again. People make my job good.

Now I should leave because I have early morning 21sts tomorrow. Actually just one so that's a rather fallacious pluralating "s". Sorry.

Posted by Tom French |

Russian Photos

These are the last of my Russian photos. Only Hungary and England to go. Sorry there's a lot. I hope you don't have dial up.

Church.jpg

This is a church in St Petersburg. It's built on a piece of ground where one of the Tzars got assasinated on his way to getting the new constitution signed. His carraige got blown up.

St Issacs.jpg

Inside St Issac's Catherdral

Hot Russian.jpg

Sexy Russian Attire

953pm.jpg

That's 9:53pm.

Peterhof.jpg

At Peterhof. Built by Peter the Great, the man who loved spurting water.

Baltic Sea.jpg

Summer fun in the Baltic Sea.

Peterhof Trees.jpg

Jo, Valentina and Tanya at Peterhof

Crossing Road.jpg

Waiting to cross the St Petersburgian road

Memorial.jpg

A grave at the burial place for the 1941-45 siege. There were fields and fields of mass graves like this. So sad.

Jos Bored.jpg

Jo's bored of planes

Posted by Tom French |

Pad Thai!

I'd been craving Pad Thai since I was in Budapest. And last night I had it for dinner. And this morning I had it for breakfast. Oh yes. It's good to be home, if only for the multi-national cusine. But that's not all. There are people here that I like. Lot's of people.

And there's my bed.

And there's my new t-shirts.

And there's cable internet.

So I'm pretty happy.

I didn't go to college this morning because I didn't want to. And found out from a letter that I opened before breakfast that I passed college last semester with a credit so I felt like going even less.

And the plane trip? Well it was long. I slept some, ate some dodgy food, and didn't get a window seat. We had a two middle seats all the way from Vienna to Sydney which was a different experience. The only advantage being is it's easier if you want to get up and go to the toilet or chat up a flight attendant.

There was a man sitting near me who looked like the music teacher in The Simpsons.

Posted by Tom French |

I'm Home

Ok so there were no airport blogs because everytime I got of a plain the next one was boarding so there wasn't much chance.

But in KL I did leave my angry airport authoritarian captors to find free internet, but the computer didn't work.

And now I'm here and I'm trying not to fall asleep. But I'll write more later. But not much more because there's not much to say about being stuck on a plane for 24 hours.

Posted by Tom French |

Leaving Soon

We're leaving here at 3:15am to drive out to Heathrow. We fly to Austria, then KL then Sydney at 3pm Wednesday. My brain's going to be wasted.

Anne has steep stairs in her house that make you feel like you're in the Ministry of Silly Walks if you take them two at a time.

She also has a shower head that falls off mid-shower and attempts to knock you unconsious. I shower with one eye on it the whole time just incase it leaps off the wall at me, sly bugger.

Since going away I haven't showered in one shower with a fixed shower head. They've all been these silly things that you can mount on the wall or hold in your hand and spray yourself that they have in retirement villages. I'm looking foward to showers that work normal and are screwed into the wall, and if you want to spray yourself you go get the grarden hose.

I'm off to keep reading. I'll probably see you all in Austria.

Posted by Tom French |

Billy Elliot and the International Air Guitar Star

It's been a long time since I blogged. I'm a bad person.

I realised the other day that I don't know who won the the State of Origin. What a bad Australian. I better go find out.

Oh it was Queensland. Shame.

So I think I have to talk about the weekend. I can do that.

Friday

Jo and I headed into London. We're getting very good at all this train business. We pay through our noses and get to sit on an uncomfortable train for a while. Yay!

Anyway, we went to visit the TATE Modern which wasn't too bad. I'm getting better at the whole art thing this trip. There's lots of art that doesn't really excited me, like cubism, I skipped through that room pretty darn quick. But other things I liked. I enjoyed the Pop Art a bit, and the photography. I always like the photography. I'm so cultured now. I do art galleries.

We were going to go to the British Museum but we were stick of walking around big buildings and staring at things so we decided to give up. I went to the movies because I was craving movies. I saw an piece at the TATE that was a montage on four big screens of lots of different little bits from movies of people making music. It was pretty cool but it made me crave the cinema. So I went. So sat in a park I think.

I went and saw Thank You for Smoking at the Odeon in Leichester. The cinema was cool. It was skinny 4 level building with 5 skinny little theatres stacked on top of each other.

The movie was a bit of fun. Politically incorrect satire. Just me stuff.

After the movie I met Jo and we wandered down...

(I'm starting to get bored now, so if you're not reading this, I understand)
...to the Victoria Palace to see Billy Elliot the Musical. Apparently it's the musical to see in this town. And we had tickets, we're so special.

And it was pretty damn good. The kid who played Billy was fantastic. He could dance the socks off a dancing sock. He was great. It was worth seeing the show just for him. And the other kids were good too. The kids made the show.

Other than that it wasn't great. The whole musical bit, like the songs (music and lyrics) were rather forgettable. But that's no worries. You didn't really notice that.

If Billy comes to Australia go see it.

Saturday

Anne and I went to a big old house called Knole. It was big and old and full of old things and old people who would tell you about the old things. But it was fun.

Then we came home and sat around for a while, had dinner, then watch Billy Elliot on TV. Hooray! BBC 2 was having some kinda dance fever thing going so Billy the movie was on. I'm pretty much all Billyed up now.

Sunday

Went to church with Anne in the morning we did. She goes to a little local church in a big church building, with about 25 old people who sit near the back. There are usually more people there, but I was told not many people came that morning because the preacher is boring.

After the service we met some older men (one of whom was the preacher) who wanted to tell Jo and I jokes about Australians, New Zealanders and Jews. They weren't very funny, but we were polite enough to smile painfully.

One of the men also got on his hobby horse to talk about how terrible he feels that the colonies (Australia, New Zealand and Canada) have been left out of the EU. I can't say I'm too cut up about it myself, but I think he wanted to be able to eat New Zealand lamb.

We met a very fun Nigerian family there too. They had an eleven-year old daughter who I told about my connections to people on Home and Away and she got so excited she started fanning herself and said "Wait till I tell my friends!"

In the afternoon we went to the birthday party of some funny distant cousins who gave me Diet Coke and Mineral Water to drink. They were, well English. All the women sat inside and talked about wall paper, caravans and Cornwall and exclaimed "Marvelous" and "Delightful" about everything. The male host sat outside got a little bit sloshed and as he did he regaled the gathered guests with the wonders he discovered in Australia when he came to visit, namely drive through bottle shops and Leagues Clubs. Definitely the pride of Australia.

Once we escaped the clutches of these blood relations, we headed off to Watford to visit Soul Survivor.

Once we got to the station we caught a cab. We made the cab drop us at the top of the street, because me in my insecurity didn't want to be seen getting out of a cab out the front of the church because I thought people might judge me and laugh at me. You can never tell when these Christians are going to turn on you and attack you. And they're especially thingy about people and taxis. Better to be safe than sorry I say.

Church was good. I got to shake hands with the fellow Sydney-ites that were there. And it was good to sing songs that I knew rather than have to try and mumble out strange hymns which I have been doing for the past month.

When we walked in Mike was up the front saying "Hello" and my heart sank a bit. For some reason I thought Mike was going to be away. But he wasn't. Don't get me wrong. I love Mike, I just had the feeling that if Mike knew I was at his Church he might do something to me. A chance to embarrass Donny Jaffa on home territory. And, well, he did.

He asked if there were any visitors from far away. And well funnily enough there were. There was a guy from Nobbijukistan or something and some Australians in the corner, and "Oh my..is it?...It can't be...It's Donny Jaffa! I didn't know you were going to be here, come up the front."

So I had to go up the front and talk about what I was doing there (Tour of distant relatives), why is bacon a vegetable (Because I live with 5 vegetarians and I'm asserting my meat eating nature - that got a cheer) and what I do for a living (I'm a youth minister).

Then he said "Now something about you is that you're famous for playing the guitar aren't you?"

And so Mike got the band up and made me do an impromptu air guitar performance in front of the whole church.

He's a mean man. I had to jump around the stage and play the air guitar with my teeth, and I didn't even have my Donny suit. It was a difficult experience.

Afterwards Mike asked me if I knew Layton Hewitt to which I said "We had a falling out. I stole his girlfriend" and some how I managed to tell the whole church that I engaged in adultery with Bec Cartright be cause has kids and I like kids. It was a bad moment of being put on the spot and not having planned a joke out.

Oh well. I survived. I think Mike won that one though.

The rest of the service was good. It was like going to Soul Survivor only a little smaller. I liked it. I did enjoy being at church that felt like home.

Monday

Today Jo and I are spending our last here in London. We went to the British Museum. I thought it would be fun because it's famous, but it turned out to be a big building full of really old things. It wasn't all that interesting. But I probably needed to know my history a bit better to appreciate it. Oh well. At least I can say I've done it. And I liked seeing the Rosetta stone because at least I know what that is.

Jo is now wandering around markets and I'm at a internet cafe. Tomorrow we fly out at 6:30am. Hoi! It's going to hurt. Oh well.

Farewell fair England. You've been good.

Posted by Tom French |

U2 are Coming! - Again!

November 10th and 11th (10th for me).

Yeehaa! Yeehaa! Yeehaa!

Finally all my dreams could come true (or at least all those dreams when I see U2 in concert and I've had plenty of them, truly)

You heard it first on Howie's blog folks.

Posted by Tom French |

Me too

"Don't believe me, when I say I've got it down" - John Mayer

Posted by Tom French |

We spent most of the day on trains again. But we managed to find where were going easily this time. I read a lot today. And we went to visit a wonderful old village where lots of the bulidings were built in the 13th century and crooked. I like crooked buildings. The house I live in is a little crooked. Which is fun, except it makes wheely chairs a lot of work because you keep sliding away from the computer desk.

My house wasn't built in the 13th century though, probably the 19th, so I'll check up on it again in 600 years to see how well a wheely chair works then!

Posted by Tom French |

Actually I lied.

Yesterday was only the hottest July day in 100 years. And the top temperature in England was 38 degrees.

Posted by Tom French |

Did you know...

Yesterday was the hottest July day on record in London?

We survived, it was like Sydney summer.

Posted by Tom French |

Trains the Way to Go

We made it to Sudbury Suffolk which, I'm still not sure where it is. Maybe North-East of London. I'm so disoriented here. I've been staring at maps all holiday and I think I've probably properly navigated with them 1 in ever 8 times I've used it. I feel quite dumb.

Anyway, James threw us on a bus in Oxford which took us into London. Victoria Station to be precise (unless Ben corrects me) and brought two return tickets to Sudbury. Because London has such accessible public transport it only cost us AUS $82.50 each. I reckon the equivalent ticket would be like going from Sydney to Newcastle which would cost you $24 at home. It really makes you want to get the most out of your experience.

Anyway, we caught a tube train to a station we needed to be at. Went and bought lunch, missed our train, had to catch a different train, then arrived somewhere other than Sudbury where our great Aunt Claire picked us up in the metallic green Volvo.

And that was pretty much the day.

In the evening we had dinner with Claire and John (My Grandpa's brother) their kids, Nick and Suzanne and their kids, Mac and Toby. Everyone was fun.

As soon as I arrived Mac (who's almost 3) met me and took me to play football in the backyard with him. He stuck me in goal, kicked the ball at me for 10 minutes, got bored and walked off.

We ate our dinner in the backyard till it started to rain. So we finished eating inside.

At some stage in the evening we went to bed, and I got put on the biggest bed I've ever slept in. It wasn't King sized it was King, Queen and their three kids sized. I only used a third of it and I felt a little lost. The should hand out maps when you get into the bed and stick emergency exit signs on the four corners.

Anyway, despite sleeping in a small continent of mattress, I survived, slept very comfortably and found my way out. They look after me well here.

I'm about to eat a beautifully laid out breakfast with Jo. All these folk over here give you wonderful breakfasts. It makes you feel special.

Posted by Tom French |

Doing the Toff

After an extended sleep-in we (Jo, James and I) went into Oxford to walk around and see if there was anything free we could go to. Alas, there wasn't much. There were lots of 16 year-old Americans on summer school but no free colleges to visit.

It was rather hot yesterday. Not like unbearable, but hot like a normal Sydney summers day. But the locals are getting worried. There are warnings on the radio to stay inside, take cold showers, drink lots of water and put sun-screen on your skin "in a thick buttery layer" and the newspapers are advertising tips to be there "100 degree heat wave" (which is 38 degrees Celsius if you're wondering). But I'm not sure it was 38 yesterday.

I heard one man earnestly tell another yesterday that he's "been trying hard to stay out of the sun".

Anyway, we wandered around the colleges, all these big, old spired buildings. It's a bit like a whole town of Hogwarts. Unfortunately I was wearing my Hogwarts t-shirt yesterday so I felt like a little silly. But I wasn't really thinking when I got dressed in the morning.

We picked up Bec in the arvo and retired to a little pub called The Mole Inn in Toot Baldon. That was cool just because we were in a place called Toot Baldon.

In the evening we ate some dinner at home and watched Goldfinger on TV. That was cool. I was just thinking that day "I want to watch James Bond again". The Lord provides.

Today we're leaving Oxford to visit some relos in Sudbury Suffolk, wherever that is.

Posted by Tom French |

I just ate a cereal called Cinnamon Grahams. I ate them because of their name. Who wouldn't want to eat a food called Graham. Unfortunately they were rather unpleasant.

Posted by Tom French |

James Makes my Life Look Good

This is James' photos and recap of yesterday's Cotcwolds shinannigans. He does good.

Posted by Tom French |

Fame

When I woke up this morning and I got a message on my phone that said:

"Tom please call Kate on [number] from Australia's Got Talent... new tv show for Channel 7... re air guitar...thanks kate"

I'm staying up late so I can call. I think they're going to ask me to audition, which doesn't really interest me, but I'm curious. I actually am not all that keen to be on TV. But where there could be a good story...

Posted by Tom French |

All About Towns

I'm wearing smelly socks in Oxford.

Yesterday Jo and I went off to London. Anne gave us splendid breakfast then packed us off with all our stuff to the city. Two trains and a little confusion later we were in London. Hooray!

We whacked our backs in some locker service thing then headed out to "do London". And did we do London. In the space of about two hours we saw, at least from the outside, Buckingham Palace, Piccadilly, Leichester Square, some gallery place, Westminster Cathedral, Trafalga Square, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliment, the Millennium Eye and Westminster Abbey. It was a rather whirl wind tour of the city seeing all this stuff that I've seen pictures of, and heard about, and then there is all was. It was lots of fun.

We also bought tickets to see the Billy Elliot musical for Friday night. We'll be back to see the city in a little more depth that day too.

That afternoon we jumped on a bus to Oxford. There were some French girls on the bus who thought my accent was very funny. They went into hysterics every time I answered the phone. The bus should have taken about 1 hour 40 minutes but took about three hours because they're building a new round-about just outside Oxford. Because of the round-about we missed church. Sad.

We were picked up at the bus stop by James in a little red Mini Cooper. Which, when we traveled in it with all our stuff was, cool on the outside, and rather resembling a vacuum sealed bag of people on the inside. When you take out a few people and all their luggage it's cool on the inside.

James is housesitting for his Uncle and Aunty in a little place just outside of Oxford. It's cool it used to be a pub and a Methodist chapel but it's been turned into a house. Very funky. We're staying here with him.

Hanging out with James and Bec (his girlfriend) has been cool. It's funny because I've only met James once before we arrived and I'd never met Bec but I feel like I know them quite well because of reading their blogs over the years. It's the power of blogs, new people seem like old friends. Although it probably has something to do with James and Bec being real friendly too. I remember once when I was 15 or something I went to the birthday party of a girl I knew only exclusively through ICQ. We got on well in ICQ but when we met we had nothing to say. It was rather sad.

Anyway, it is fun to be here with friendly people our age.

I'm staying in the room of a kid names Jono who is about 11 I think. It's weird because I don't know this kid at all but I'm sleeping in his room and staying in his bed. I'll probably never meet him, but I've lived in his stuff. I'm like Goldilocks.

Today Jo, James and I went for a walk out in the Cotswolds. It was very typical English country side. It was very cool. We wandered through fields, forests, over stone walls and into and out of tiny villages. We met friendly locals and got lost a little. We scaled 2 metre walls, almost got hit by cars so climbed back over again. We ate lunch as a quaint little pub and wandered back to where we started. It was most lovely.

Today was about 30° and England got a heat-wave warning. National Crisis! It's been a source of amusement for us hardened Aussies. But you should see us reaching for the jackets on these cold summer nights. Brrr. Gets cold here.

Anyway the sun was hotish and good.

We ate stir-fry for dinner.

Posted by Tom French |

I love Superman

Now Jo and I are staying with our Great Aunty Anne in Grays, Essex. It's odd to be here in Mother England. I saw a policewoman today and felt like I was in The Bill. Probably like when English people come to Australia and see beautiful, dumb suburban families and feel like they're in Ramsey St. I bags being Toadfish.

When we went up to Passport Control at Heathrow last night the man said to us "You here to work?"

We told him we were here to visit friends and relatives. Then he said "And you're here two weeks? Is that right?" (Or something like that)

So we replied "Ten days."

And then he stamped our passports. And as we were walking out with thought "We never told him how long we were staying in here. How did he know it was around two weeks."

Very odd.

Today we spent the day recovering from non-stop doing stuff. We lay about sleeping, reading, writing, praying, talking on the telephone, eating with Anne and her old school friend and trying to plan the next ten days. They are now semi-planned. At least, we know where we're sleeping most of the time.

It was a lovely relaxing day.

Tonight Anne went out to a dinner, so Jo and I went to the movies and saw Superman Returns. I was so excited. I was so upset when I realised I was leaving Australia the day before it came out. And all through Russia and Hungary I carried a longing, deep within, to be watching Superman. And tonight I got to see it.

I loved it. Yeah. It was really good. I love Superman, and Bryan Singer is a champ! I loved the way they used the original John Williams theme. And the original opening titles look. I loved the new costume. Kevin Spacy is a champ. It looked good, the action was good, the story was good. It was almost all good.

Superman is a little bit of a cad when it comes to love. He gets a little stalker-ish, doesn't mind cutting another man's grass. He should remember that possession is 9/10ths of the law. That's not a flaw in the film, except perhaps that the film seemed to endorse his behaviour.

Kate Bosworth was a little bit flaky. She was too nice, too immature. She didn't have the roughness of Margot Kidder, and she didn't have the grown-upness of Kidder's Lois would have had after losing the love of her life and having a kid. But you can forgive Bosworth because she looks good with Superman.

And I think I would have laid off the messianic referances a little. Some of the time I felt like the script was written by the Apostle John.

But these are little things. I had a lot of fun. I'm happy.

Tomorrow we're off to see London, and we'll probably end up in Oxford. We were going to visit Soul Survivor Watford, but we couldn't figure out how to make it all work. Oh well. Maybe the Sunday after. Hopefully, or I won't be able to show my face at church without much shame. It'd be like being a Muslim and going to Mecca but never making it to the Ka'bah.

Being here reminds me of Biggles. And everyone's accent makes me want to laugh.

Anyway chaps. I'm off to bed.

Posted by Tom French |

I'm in Vienna again with their crappy keyboards! Arrgh!

It's funny never been to Veinna in my life, now it's three times in three weeks!

They smoke a lot here. I think the whole of Europe will die of lung cancer soon and we can send all our boat people here. "Nauru sunk, but here, we'll lock you up in Paris."

Jo and I checked in at the airport this morning then caught the train to the city to "do Vienna". So far we've read and slept in a park, eaten lunch and come to an internet cafe. I reckon you could say that Vienna is now well and truly done.

Tonight we'll be flying again. I do love to fly.

Posted by Tom French |

Hunger Buster

I know that's a dodgy title but I need to go to bed. Spent the last two days driving around the Hungarian countryside in our ugly hire care. We went to visit lots of towns where Great-Grandparents lived and the like.

It was good to get more history, more stories. It was depressing to think of what horrid people we humans are. I have been affected again by my connection to the holocaust. We live in very different times, but I doubt we're very different people. What evil is in our hearts?

Hungary was real good. I'd love to go back one day. I love the sound of the language.

We're back in Vienna tonight and tomorrow, then it's off to England in the evening to the land of the other ancestors. Although I'm not sure how many stories there are to tell there. "This is where nothing happened." But we'll see. We're only spending about half the time with relos, so it'll be different.

I haven't yet taken a photo of the toilets here, so tomorrow ill probably be my last chance. I'll have the camera at the ready.

Grandpa and Valentina are tops. Tomorrow they go to Italy. I'm sure we'll sing traditional parting of ways songs in our national dresses tomorrow at the airport.

7/12/2006 09:00:00 pm

Greatest Hits

Posted by Tom French |

We're driving down route 6 and we've just left Budapest. I thought while we drive I could take this opportunity to finish my "Best of Budapest" perhaps as a little good bye ritual. I'm not sure if typing in the car makes me sick but I'm going to give it a go. You've gotta live life on the edge you know.

So let's get back to it.

Margrit Island

On Thursday we went out to Margrit Island which is an island in the middle of the supposedly blue Danube. We had to go and pick our tickets to the theatre the following night. So we arrived, didn't get the tickets, but Jo and I decided to stay and hang around and walk home. It was a lovely day.

So we bought an ice cream each so I could afford to go to the toilet (you have to pay to go to the toilet quite regularly here and in Russia it makes me rather sad.) Then we sat around the park in the sun, the sweet sun, for a while. The sun! The Sun! It's so exciting. Sydney is cold. We are hot. The sun actually does stuff here. Hooray!

What was I saying? Oh yes, the park. It was a big park. And mostly it was full of couples rolling about in the grass kissing and fondling each other. I think perhaps that is because there is so little grass for couples to roll and fondle on in Budapest that they have to come to the island. It's like Budapest's very own Temptation Island!

So apart from the discomfort of having to sit amongst people's intimate moments, it was a very nice place to be. When we were wandering back towards the bridge we found a fountain that danced and shot water up in time to music. The music was played very loudly and it was a little disconcerting, but it was nice to see dancing water. Then we wandered back through the city looking for dinner.

Dinner in the Square

And we found dinner! Oh did we find dinner. We ate at this restaurant which was on the square of St Stephen's Basilica (where the non-decomposed hand is) and well it was very nice. When the waiter arrived I said "G'day" it just slipped out. I try and avoid saying "G'day" when talking to non-Australians because it feels like I'm showing off how Aussie I am. The waiter replied with a "G'day mate" and I felt embarrassed. But this is all unimportant. The place was good. The food was nice and the waiters were friendly. Jo had a "Vegetarian Plate" which had ham on it. But the kitchen sent their apologies and gave us a discount. Hooray for ham induced discounts!

Fiddler on the Roof

On Friday night we went to see Fiddler on the Roof. It was back on Margrit Island at a big outdoor theatre. It was pretty cool. The whole production was in Hungarian, it was very strange. I remember listening to the soundtrack when we would go on family holidays as a kid. So seeing it all come to life but in the wrong language was like being in one of those feverish dreams where you can't make anything go right.

Speaking of dreams Jo and I have been having really vivid dreams lately. I dreamt in Russia that U2 announced that they would be coming to Australia on April 20 next year. The website told me that they will be announcing the dates this week so consider that a prophesy. And an important one too!

I've also kept dreaming that I'm in high school. It's a re-occurring holiday dream. Weird.

Anyway Fiddler was a little strange but it was good. Grandpa would translate for us and then it'd get passed down the line from Valentina, to me to Jo. It was like Chinese Whispers so I think Jo saw a completely different show to the one Valentina saw, but hey, we all enjoyed ourselves.

And from my limited knowledge of Hungarian I even got one joke all by myself. I'm amazing.

The Grill

The Grill was a restaurant near our flat that sold good food. We ate their twice. That's all.

Saturday Night

On Saturday Night Jo and I went out with Juli. Juli is a girl who read my Grandfather's book on the internet and sent him an email. So when we got Hungary she met us at the Relo bash.

Anyway being young and hip, she offered to take Jo and I out to do young people stuff. So on Saturday night she took us to a bar called Soda. In Budapest they have a few bars that have set themselves up in side old buildings. So that you wander in thinking that it's going to be a bit old and dodgy but they've hipified (that's "made hip", not "made hippy", that would be Hippyfied) the place. Like retrofied everything, and stuck big manga posters to the walls and retro furniture everywhere. It was cool.

We went to Soda first and had a beer. We were there to watch German and Portugal play, but the techos couldn't get their projector to work. So we had to leave. It was a bit sad. The poor place lost all it's business because they couldn't get the football happening.

We were met by Juli's flat mate, whose name I've forgotten but was a very friendly guy, and we wandered across town to a different, even cooler, hipified, retrofitted, bar. This one was even more run-down and well decorated. And it was packed. Their football screens were working.

So Germany won, and we sat around drinking for a while after, shooting the breeze, eating a fabulous local cuisine of fat on bread, talking about snow. And then we wandered home, Jo and I feeling like young people who do young people things. It was a fun night.

And that concludes my Best of Budapest. But just quickly...

Worst of Budapest

The Size of the Coke

I don't know if I've complained about it before, but even if I have it's worth complaining again. At almost every restaurant and cafe we went to you ask for a Coke and they give you a 200mL bottle. A measly little bottle, barely a gulp. It's horrible. You need to drink 3 to get the same size as a buddy! Oh how I love the Australian Buddys. Even the bottles you buy on the street are only 500mL. I'm used to 600mLs of Coke. That's the right size. Anything less and I'm feeling a little wanting. Give me 200mLs and it hasn't even begun to satisfy. If I lived here I'd be outside the Coke offices protesting till they only sold Coke in cans or bigger.

I hope the UK has bigger Coke.

Posted by Tom French |

I listened to Jamie Cullum today while I was blogging and it was great. I miss music a lot.

Posted by Tom French |

Salman

I finished reading The Satanic Verses today after many months of reading. It was good. I'm not quite sure what it was about. Maybe grace. Maybe forgiveness. Maybe that humans find their essential goodness in themselves not in their gods.

I'm not sure. Whatever it was, it was good. Salman writes good. He writes like a rich, warm drink, that warms your soul and takes you a long time to finish because you're enjoying it so much.

And in honour of finishing the book today I'll post a quote:

"Any new idea... is asked two questions. The first is asked when it is weak: WHAT KIND OF AN IDEA ARE YOU? Are you the kind that compromises, does deals, accomdates itself to society, aims to find a niche, to survive; or are you the cussed, bloody-minded, ramrod-backed type of damnfool notion that would rather break than sway with the breeze? - The kind that will almost certainly, nintey-nine times out of a hundred be smashed to bits; but, the hundredth time, will change the world.
'What's the second question?' Gibreel asked aloud.
Answer the first one first."

Posted by Tom French |

More Colouring In


Here are some more photos. I've gone photo crazy today. I do love photos. Anyway, enjoy.

Dont Walk.jpg

At the palace. Russians care for their grass.

Monument.jpg

At the memorial monument for the Siege of 1941-1945 in St Petersburg.

Tom and Lenin.jpg

I'll be a revolutionary yet. When my Grandpa saw this he said it was unoriginal because everyone does it. But when in St Petersburg...

Winter Palace.jpg

The Winter Palace

Gold Room.jpg

The Tzars were obviously more interested in caring for the poor and needy than in their worldly possessions.

Sunbaking.jpg

Poor old St Petersburgians don't have the most idyllic spots to sunbake in.

Posted by Tom French |

Busted

So today didn't have a lot happen. We caught the subway out to Hero Square where we looked at the statues of lots of kings. Managed to span 1000 years of history with only 12 heroes, not all of which were kings. Which probably means that Hungary was a bit light on for heroes in it's first 1000 years of history. That or they didn't know what they looked like so they couldn't make statues of them.

After that we wandered around the city a little, looked at some ornate pools and a park and ended up at Gundels Restaurant. Which I am told is the best Restaurant in the whole of Hungary. There we ate one of the best meals I had in ages, all served by posh waiters in posh style. It was cool. I think my Grandfather may have to take out a mortgage to pay off the bill, but it was very nice and very posh.

Then we came home.

Tonight Jo and I were maybe going to go out with our friend Juli (who will be mentioned in the "Best of Budapest Vol. 2") to the baths. But I forgot to pack my swimmers. Who comes on a summer holiday and forgets their swimmers? I do.

So Jo and I wandered around a bit. Much to my embarrassment Jo took me into a shop that sold almost exclusively women's underwear. In the back there was a little rack with boardies, but none my shop. After that I refused to go into any shops till Jo checked them out first. I know it's juvenile, but I thought all the women might have thought I was enjoying myself in their underwear shops, and that would be bad.

Anyway, we heard that just two stops away on he subway there was a mall which sold men's swimwear. So we tossed up whether or not to go, considered the likelihood that we would actually end up going to the baths, and if it was worth the effort, and decided we had nothing to loose. So we bought ourselves our Metro tickets and headed for our train.

At the top of the escalators they have validators that you have to stick your ticket in to get stamped. But everyone was walking through so Jo didn't see them and I thought everyone must know better and be doing it at some later stage. So we just headed for the platform. When we arrived on the platform there were no more validators. We couldn't get our ticket stamped. But we thought, "Oh well, we won't get caught and if we will, we're tourists and we can tell them we were just confused. Because we have paid." So knowing we weren't stealing train rides we caught the train.

Lo and behold, we get of the train and as soon as we get to the escalators I get stopped out of about 10 people and get asked for my ticket. I pull it out and the man looks at it and says "Wait." He then books a girl for traveling without a ticket then turns back to us. He shows us our tickets (because, though Jo wasn't asked she handed in her unvalidated ticket too, how honest we Frenches are) and says "No good. No good." We tried to say we were confused, but he kept saying "No good. Must go in machine."

And so we got fined, 5000 HUF (that's AUS $31.50) for the two of us. And right at the point we were being fined I got a message from Juli saying that the baths are closed tonight. So in fact we didn't need to ever catch the train in the first place.

We went and had a coffee after that, then caught the train home again with properly validated tickets. The good news is that we now have two spare unused tickets for the Metro. So if you know of anyone in Budapest who wants some...

Posted by Tom French |

For Ben

If you don't like long posts, here are some photos for you Ben. Sorry you can't colour them in.

First Photo.jpg

First photo of the trip at Sydney Airport waiting to Check-in

Burger King KL.jpg

Burger King at KL Airport 11:45pm. All Class.

Dawn.jpg

Dawn of the longest day of my life. The day that went all the way from somewhere over Europe, to Austria, to Russia and back again.

Window View.jpg

The view from our little room in St Petersburg. I really liked those units.

Catherine Palace.jpg

Catherine Palace. It was blue outside and gold inside.

That my friends is a start. I'll probably post more later. Unless I don't get around to it, and then I won't. Although I hope I do because these are the more boring ones.

Posted by Tom French |

Hit Parade

Alright so I’m going to give up the whole writing about each day thing for all those days that I missed. Now I’m just going to talk about the significant bits. Call it the Best of Budapest. Or don’t.

The Esterhazy Palace

It was the first stop in Hungary. It’s a place for a rich man called Esterhazy who loved himself. He built himself a palace to rival the best palaces in Europe. But visiting straight after having been in St Petersburg which has more palaces than they know what to do with, this wasn’t all that impressive. But it was perhaps symbolic of lots of what I’ve found in Hungary. That is, lots of things that are at best taking second place at best to something else in Europe. They’re like the little country who tried. If they were in Little Athletics they would have got the “For Consistent Effort” award. I got that award.

Our flat

When we first arrived in Budapest, after driving around the city getting lost for a while we got to our flat. It belongs to someone who knows someone who is related to someone who may be related to us. Or something like that.

It’s this big, high ceilinged, one bedroom flat right in the centre of the city. The building it’s in is this really old building with pointy bits on top. It’s got a grand, decrepit staircase when you first come in and a lift that is designed to hold one person who weighs no more than 56kgs. I’m not making that up.

Every unit has its front door that looks out onto a court yard, so you can stand on the inner balcony and look up and down and see every other door in the building. There a lots of hollow buildings like this in the city. It’s very cool.

I love this place.

Parliament House

Very lavish. The designer was given instructions that it had to be better than the one in London.

We went to visit on our first full day in Budapest. It was pretty funny. They made us all line up outside the gates so that we could be admitted into the grounds to the ticket office where we lined up to buy tickets. From there we had to leave the grounds again and line up in the line for people with tickets. Then we were allowed back into the grounds to line up at the metal detector. Finally, we made it into the building where we were whisked around by a tour guide and followed by two men with guns then whisked back outside again. It was a very special experience.

The Shoes

On the bank of the Danube River there is a monument to the Jews who were shot by Nazis and the Arrow Cross into the Danube in 1944. It is a collection of empty, cast iron shoes, to symbolise the people who were shot and killed there.

As we stood on the bank my Grandfather told us the stories of how these people were killed. And he told us how our relatives, his cousins, uncles and aunts, people who he knew and were friends with him, were killed there on that bank.

I find it difficult to comprehend the tragedy that has taken place in this city and the pain that my Grandfather has had to live with over these years. I cannot imagine what it would have been like to live through those times. To loose friends and relatives to easily, to see death so regularly.

I am truly blessed to be alive. I am blessed to live with the peace we have.

The Relo-Bash

On Friday afternoon we had a relo bash with a bunch of distant relations. Grandpa booked out a room at the Radisson Hotel and got it filled with cake, drink, tables and a waiter. Then over the next few hours we met lots of people who, after consulting the family tree, we discovered are at best 4th or 5th half cousins of ours. But even that might be a little to close. They were all lovely people. I was expecting them all to be old, but there were people from the age of 10 up to, well, very old. There was a man who I was told is the most famous Artificial Intelligence Engineer in Hungary (but it’s hard to check that claim. There was a journalist. A maths professor. A teacher. And other people. They were all interesting. I did enjoy myself and I like cake. I’m pretty sure though that I’ll never see these relatives again and we’ll all get on with our lives knowing that we once ate cake with some very distant relatives one hot Friday afternoon in Budapest.


St Stephen

St Stephen was the first king of Hungary. He used to be called Oooff (or something like that) and he was a tribal leader 1010 years ago. But then he wanted to rule all Hungary so he wrote to the Pope and said “Mr Pope, if you send me a crown I will give you a whole nation of Christians” so the Pope sent a crown, Christened Oooff Stephen and made him King of Hungary. King Oooff kept up his side of the bargain and said to Hungary, become a Christian or I’ll cut your head off. So they became Christians. Deal done.

When Oooff died his whole body decayed except his right hand. His hand remained well preserved and it has been counted as a miracle, so he became a Saint, Saint Stephen.

It’s a very inspiring story. His hand is still around today. They keep it in St Stephen’s Basilica which is just down the road from our flat. We tried to go and have a look this afternoon by the hand was no longer on display.

St Stephen is on the 10,000 forint note and he’s an angry looking man. I wouldn’t want to try and marry his daughter.


At that concludes the end of the Best of Budapets Volume 1 tune in for next time I have a free 45 minutes to write about all my other exciting tidbits of Magyar Magic.

Posted by Tom French |

Iron Men and Jolly Men

We got up real early today, at the crack of 7:30am to go on a road trip to the birthplace of my Great-Grandfather.

So we trotted off, visited my Grandfather's old Catholic school (which did terrible things for his relationship with the church) and drove of to get lost in the bowels and non-bowels (that’s a horrid image) of Budapest and beyond. Once we were on the road to Great-Grandfather town (I’ve forgotten its name) we made a stop in at a place called Statue Park. It’s a place where all the old communist statues from Hungary have gone to retire. It’s an odd place, full of dead grass and 6 metre tall iron men holding guns and waving flags. It wasn’t very inspiring. If was a Hindu I would try not to get reincarnated as a communist statue. I’m still having trouble actually making the communist thing seem like it was real. But I guess that’s a blessing for me.

We arrived in the town and were greeted at the local library by a jolly Hungarian man (as jolly men tend to be in Hungary) who proudly showed us his library. He then took us to the property where my Great Grandfather had his childhood and my Great-Great Grandmother had a bootleg liquor store. It was hard to imagine the house he lived in because the property is now owned by a German family and it has be quite thoroughly Deutchified.

The Jolly Hungarian took us to his house for biscuits and drinks with his family. It was very fun. The were a lovely family, welcoming and smiling, and I kissed every woman in the family, such is the Hungarian hospitality here. Not many of us spoke languages that the others could understand well so we spent a long time trying to understand each other. Except for my Grandfather who impressed them all with his native speaking comedy routine.

Then we drove home. After lunch we lay around the flat, went out for dinner and lay around the flat some more. I’ve been writing postcards and reading Salman, I’m almost done. I have very much enjoyed a night of lying around. It feels like holidays.

Posted by Tom French |

Finishing Up

Let me finish talking about the day I started.

So as soon as I'd finished posting this morning's post we headed out to lunch then to the Budapest Synagogue. It's the largest synagogue in Europe. I had to wear a little hat and we paid 600 forints (about $3) to get in.

We've visited a few churches this trip and you keep having to pay admission to get into the churches here. At least the nice ones. I don't really like it. I think church should be free. Even if it is just too look at the pretty walls and take happy snaps it should be free admission.

Anyway, we looked around the synagogue and it was about how I expected it to be. Like a cathedral with no Jesus. And a balcony for the women to sit in. Christians don't have dress circles. Except for when they stick the choir up there. Lucky choir.

After the synagogue it was off to the Holocaust Museum. That was a good building. Very nicely designed with lots of sand stone, glass, and big doors. I like big doors.

The Museum was very well done. It led you through the 8 stages of the Holocaust for Hungarian Jews and Gypsies as they were deprived of all their rights and eventually were killed. It's always sad to consider. And scary. While I know that if I lived in the time I would be one of the Jews, I identify more with the strong majority. The ones who just watched the atrocities happen. I wonder if I would have been brave enough to speak up. I wonder where I need to speak up now.

Humans, we can be so terrible. If only we learnt how to behave.

Once we got kicked out of the museum because it was closing time Grandpa took us to the place where he first saw a Russian as they liberated Budapest in 1945 (he describes the day here). It special to see the place for real. After our detailed explanation of events over lunch I was taken to the place. I stood where the Russians set up their field gun and looked down to where the German barricade was. I looked across the road to where the Russians had gathered and to the other side where the had played with a Voltswagon they had found. It was probably the place where I have connected with my Grandfather's experiences of World War 2 the most this trip (of course I haven't talked about all the rest yet, cause in the blog catch up I haven't even made it to Hungary. I'll get there.) I wasn't as moved as I have been other days, but today it lived in my imagination. And getting some idea of the past of my Grandfather is the whole reason I am here in Hungary.

After the visit to the Russian first sighting site and to see a block of flats Grandpa lived in during the war, we went to dinner at a little restaurant that Jo and I had eaten in a few nights before. I had Pork Cutlet "Good Woman" style. Don't ask me what "Good Woman" style is, I just ate it for its name. It wasn't too bad though.

After dinner we raced to the square across the street from our flat to watch the World Cup final on the big screen. We were an hour late. We thought the game started at 9pm, but it started 8pm. But no worries, we saw most of the game. It was so tense by the end. I really didn't want Italy to win, but I guess the Italians weren't interested in what I wanted, because they totally ignored my wishes and won anyway.

Oh well. It'll be Australia winning next time.

Posted by Tom French |

Italy Ruined My World Cup

Just watched the final on a big outdoor screen in the middle of Budapest with 500 noisy Italians and 12 noisy French.

How sad. I was happy for anyone to win the world cup but Italy. Oh well at least we got beaten by the winners.

Posted by Tom French |

Closing the Gap

Well I know that this whole trying to write massive amounts about absolutely everything is kinda getting away from me. I think that might be because I no longer have an internet connection in my room. So perhaps I’ll work in no particular order so that I will eventually reach my goal of writing way too much about everything. People reading my blog will be saying “I don’t car about the number plates in Austria, I don’t need a flippin’ essay on every little detail of your trip!” and then I will know that I have truly reached the proper status of international traveller in this electronic epoch.

So let’s go with:

This Morning

This morning we went to church. Jo and I trotted off to a little Anglican Church hidden in the basement of some building about 20 minutes walk from our place. It was nice little church although the service was a bit dull, we all tried to sing hymns but I’m not sure if anyone knew the tune and the minister preached on something or other, but it wasn’t particularly much of anything. Something about home.

The best bit (as is often the case I have found) was the tea and coffee afterwards where we chatted with people from everywhere in the world but Hungary. It was fun to meet Americans, Africans, English, Australians, Hong Kongians. All of us together united over tea, coffee, biscuits and our common non-Hungarian-ness.

I did think about going to a Hungarian Church, but figured an English speaking service I might be able to connect with more than one I didn’t understand at all. And that was the case.

And as usual when I go to Anglican Churches that I haven’t really connected with, I appreciated the Prayer Book and its ability to preach the gospel no matter what the preacher says. Thank God for the Prayer Book!

Transit Day

I think this was the day I got up to last blog, Tuesday 4th July.

We were woken and the ripe old time of 8:30am (I think it was a long time ago) to head off to St Petersburg airport.

We were picked up by a taxi who took us on a scenic tour of all of St Petersburg’s Power Plants on our way to the airport. I enjoyed that because while I had seen a lot of palaces in St Petersburg I didn’t get to see one Power Plant. So hooray for Mr Taxi Man.

We also had a quick stop at one of the grave yards for the 1941-1945 siege of St Petersburg. It was this huge area of mass graves, marked only my stone markers for big sections indicating in what year people died. It was so sad. 300,000 people. I can’t get my head around the amount of death, and in one city.

We looked in a museum and there was some pages from a note book where a little girl listed when each of the members of her family died, Mother, Father, Uncles, Brothers, until the last note said “Now there is just Tanya [the girl], everyone else is dead” and these notes were found on Tanya’s dead body. It was horrible to think about.

The siege is etched into the landscape of St Petersburg. All over the place there a little monuments saying “1941-1945” and people have places flowers and wreaths under them. It was more than 60 years ago and people are still remembering. It makes you realise what an impact something like that would have on you, and on your identity as a city. I can’t comprehend.

We arrived at the airport real early, and managed to make our plane. I read heaps of The Satanic Verses which I have been reading for months. Probably my biggest chunk ever. I feel so good about myself. Mr Rushdie is a good writer.

When we arrived in Austria we were met by Grandpa who after meeting us took us to the car park where he had lost our rental car. We spent our first 30 minutes in Austria wandering around a car park looking for missing automobile. I found it in the end in some far flung corner. It’s a Renault Kangoo. A big ugly grey thing with “SIXT Rent a Car” written on the side. We are very conspicuous.

That night we wandered around Vienna and I had a Vienna Snitchle for dinner, cause what else would you eat when in Vienna?

That night, after finding our Hotel Jo and I went out to posh a little Café to watch the football. It was good to watch the World Cup at least in the country next door. There were some noisy men there who “shooshed” Jo and I for talking before the half-time kick off, so I shooshed in case I got bashed by an Angry Austrian Football fan.

I slept good that night.

7/08/2006 04:54:00 pm

Late Night Logging

Posted by Tom French |

The following was written at about 2am last night till the computer died. So this is where I got up to.

I figured it's late, and my eyes hurt, but I can't put off blogging any longer or else I'll never do it. It's just one of those things you just have to do sometimes. Like save a child from a fire or stand up against injustice, so also sometimes one must blog.

Although the wireless internet that we've been sponging off here in our flat has just disappeared. I might have to ring up all the neighbours till I find the one that just switched off their router and tell them to turn it back on.

Oh well, I'll write offline for a bit.

The last time I blogged properly was after the Jazz concert. So on Monday, our last full day in St Petersburg we went to a Palace called Peterhof. This was built by Peter the Great. He was the guy who made St Petersburg. He built it on top of a swamp. God created the world out of nothing he created a city out of a swamp. Not bad for a dude with a last name like "the Great". It's probably Dutch.

Anyway, Peterhof had nice gardens and lots of fountains. Fountains everywhere. It's like Lake Burley Griffin gone wild. It's the Hornsby Water Clock on acid. I reckon Mr the Great was probably an aquamaniac (the pyros opposite). I've never seen so much water spurting into the air. I wonder if he was compensating for something? Maybe the boys at school used to tease him at the urinal for his lack of pressure. That's why I always used the cubicle. Regurgitator wrote a song about that.

Anyway, the fountains were cool. The whole place was cool.

At the end we caught the Hydorfoil back to the city and I slept the whole way. Blessed, blessed sleep.

That night it was off to the ballet for us. We saw Swan Lake and I managed to stay awake the whole time. Aren't I cultured? Those men in tights did real good. They're very talented, being able to spin and lift up girls. They were great. Imagine what they could do if they wore pants?

The girls were good too. It was fun. I liked the ballet. It was rather sad. I heard the story was inspired for Tchaikovsky by his own forbidden love, which made it all a bit more striking. And imagine falling in love with a swan? That would suck. It's like that guy who fell in love with a goat. They should make that into a ballet.

The next day we left St Petersburg. Goodbye Russia. It was fun. What a fascinating country. And I did love staying with valentine's family. They were the bomb! I liked them a lot.

Posted by Tom French |

You may be interested to know that after reading my previous post my Grandfather decided to give me a lesson in how to use the toilet. He did it while sitting at a table in a crowded outdoor dining area. It's been a long time since I've been taught how to use a toilet, but after 23 years you probably do need a refresher course, what with all this new technology.

Posted by Tom French |

My Brain Hurts

My brain hurts. I was already to write a real big blog post but my brain hurts too much. I should sleep.

No worries.

What I should say though is, why does no one talk about the toilets in Europe? They have a big ledge to put all your business on and then when you're finished you flush it down a little hole at the front. It's weird. I can't believe I wasn't told about this before I came.

Posted by Tom French |

Yo Ho Ho, I'm in Pest

That's the Pest half of Budapest. Buda is accross the river, rubbing its fat belly.

Running out of time in this little cafe of internet. Vennia is a real fun city, and Budpest is rather cool too. It's a bit like a cross between Vienna and St Petersburg but less grand than both. Nice people.

We watched the football on a big screen in the middle of the city tonight. It was way fun. Well done France.

I'm really enjoying the night time. It is wonderful. Night time has a cleansing quality to it. And after the night comes morning. His mercies are new every morning. I appreciate the grace of night now that I've had more daylight than you can poke a stick at.

Hungarian is a funny sounding language.

Posted by Tom French |

Airport Blog

Alright all those of you who think I'm some wet behind the ears international blogger. Here's you Airport blog! Now quit complaining!

I'm in St Petersburg airport. We got here 4 hours early so I've been writing masses of postcards. I'm never this friendly normally.

Posted by Tom French |

From Russia with Love

We're about to leave Russia to get to for Austria tonight, then Hungary tomorrow. And night time. I'm looking forward to seeing stars and darkness. Bring it on.

Gotta go, the taxi is coming. I just wanted to write that naff little title.

Posted by Tom French |

Twoday

I wonder if every Russian lives a life that is as full as Valentina’s? Everyday we spend 12-14 hours doing tourist stuff. You can fit a lot into 14 hours when you work at it and we’ve worked at it.

So I shall embark on a textual revisiting of the events. At least until I get bored of the whole affair.

Yesterday morning we got to sleep in to the ripe old time of 9am. We ate a bit of breakfast and headed off to the city to see the winder palace. Which is a rather grand old thing. Lots of gold and stautes who have lost, or are in the process of losing, their clothes. Russians these days have more luck keeping their clothes on.

Speaking of Russian fashion, I think that it’s mostly originating in the early nineties. It’s weird, I look at people and think, you need new clothes. But they’re probably looking at me thinking “You think that’s cool? Adidas tracksuit pants and oversized singlets, that’s cool.” And I haven’t seen so much leopard print clothing since leaving Brighton le Sands. I don’t actually know if there is a lot of leopard print clothing in Brighton le Sands, but if anywhere in Sydney was the leopard print centre, I reckon Brighton le Sands would be it. It’s got that smell too it.

Also of interest is the hair cuts. Mullets are in for guys and girls. The guys mullets aren’t the metro-mullet, these are the Westie mullets. Or the guys go for the shaved head or the shaved head with the fringe. I’ve decided to move here when I get so bald my only option is the number 1 all over too.

I’m not sure how Russian fashion got to be what it is. It could be that they’re still catching up from the nineties or that they’ve just been existing in a parallel fashion universe the rest of the world. Or Sydney at least, cause I’m not so up on fashion in Ghana say.

Gosh what was I saying? Winter Palace. Nice. Those Czars had way to much money though.

The Hermitage was next because that’s same building as the Winter Palace, or at least I think it is. They have two names but they seem to be the same place. The Hermitage has lots of paintings. Lots of paintings. The first thing I saw was “The Prodigal Son” by Rembrant which captivated me for about 10 minutes. I was enjoying the paintings for a while but by the time we discovered there was a second floor, I gave up. I went and fell asleep somewhere in a corner amongst the Picassos and the Matises. It was very restful, sleeping in a palace.

After the palace was a boat ride with another guide speaking in Russian again. I didn’t learn much but St Petersburg has nice rivers and buildings and strange sunbathing habits. They’ll sunbake anywhere where there’s water. There’s a murky pondish thing in an overgrown empty lot full of building refuse on the way to our unit from the Metro, and I saw people sunbaking there. Strange. I don’t like sunbaking let alone doing it in a tip.

Don’t let me seem like I don’t like the Russians. I think I just don’t quite get them yet.

Oh gosh I’m a long way in and I’m still stuck on a boat. I feel a little like Noah. No I don’t. That was a lie.

At night we went to see the Opera. It was in the World Famous Marinsky Theatre. A very nice theatre. We went to see Nabuco by Verdi. It was in Italian with Russian subtitles. I did enjoy the experience, but Opera’s not my thing. At least I can say I’ve been to the Marinsky now. I bet you’re all jealous.

Today was another bright and early almost 9am wake up. We were off to church this morning. We went to the only Anglican Church in St Petersburg, maybe even Russia. It’s in the Diocese of Europe. Which is rather large considering the church at home is in the Diocese of Sydney.

It was fun being in an Anglican Church, they all spoke English and used the prayer book. It was like a taste of home. I did enjoy the feeling of knowing what I was doing and what was going on for at least 2 hours. There was a visiting American Choir there who were great. I love Americans and they sang really good. The church we were in used to be a sports hall. We had church on a basketball court that used to a church, if that makes sense.

Today we went to a fort and saw a helicopter take off. I like helicopters, they’re loud, and make a lot of wind. Especially if you’re just 20 metres from it, which we were.

Tonight we went to see a jazz band, The Harlem Jazz and Blues Band. They were lots of fun. They were all old, black and full of good music. I love jazz.

Before the show I had my first Russian Vodka. They were giving out free. It’s like water perhaps. Although it doesn’t taste like water, nor does it have the same effect. And water doesn’t make you feel Russian.

So that’s two condensed days. I forgot to mention that we looked inside two massive cathedrals too. But you can’t talk about everything. I would like to sleep.

Posted by Tom French |

We saw a dancing bear today. Although it wasn't dancing, it was just getting its ears pulled. We didn't hang around to watch because we don't approve of dancing bears. Well I think bears that dance on their own are great, although I've never seen one. But bears that get their ears pulled and put on leashes, those bears should be stopped. Frauds! Stealing money from real, hardworking bears who actually dance.

What's this world coming too?

Can you tell it's late? 1:04am to be precise.

Posted by Tom French |

A Day Down the Mines

Hoi I’m tired. We spent the day in the city, Valentina, Tanya, Jo and I.

We caught a dinky little bus to the Metro station, then went on the underground. The escalators to the subway here are the longest escalators I’ve ever been on. It’s like the underground really is underground. Unlike Sydney where we just build buildings on top of our rail lines and call them underground, St Petersburg has it’s trains in mines. It’s like your own little Beaconsfield adventure every time you want to catch the train. So I’m most impressed by big escalators.

I’ve noticed that Soviet architecture seems to be stuck in the late 50s/early 60s. Like they got a guy in in 1956 to design their buildings and never let him leave the planning office or look at an architectural magazine again. Perhaps bad taste was a prerequisite for being a communist leader. Although the Chinese are going great guns with their buildings. If I ever become a communist I’m going to be a Chinese one.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes on the train.

We caught the train to the city and arrived near this massive Orthodox church. It was very impressive. One of the churches that St Petersburg should be well known for except that they have so many other grand churches. Actually the church might be famous and I’m just ignorant, so I won’t tell you what church it was in case I look bad. Valentina told me that during the Soviet era the church was turned into a Museum of Atheism. Other churches I learnt about today were turned into swimming pools and alcohol stores. They had a wacky sense of humour those communists. Bad architects but they knew how to crack a mean ironic gag when they needed to.

We didn’t get to look at the church because we had a bus to catch. We caught a tour bus out to Pushkin, the town named after that famous Russian poet, William Blake. Our tour guide spoke the whole tour in Russian which was kinda surreal, but it gave us a good excuse not to feel guilty falling asleep while she talked at us. I heard she was boring in Russian too, so Jo and I were probably the lucky few.

Pushkin held the Catherine Palace, which was large and palace like. Lots of statues, golden walls and painted ceilings. It was pretty cool but you had to be there. Elton John was once.

On the way back the bus dropped us off and we got to look at the big memorial to the 1941-44 siege of St Petersburg. The Nazis were ripping up Russia but were stopped dead at St Petersburg. So they hang around for 3 years. I thing something like 800,000 people died in the siege. That was about a third of the cities population. The siege left a massive mark on the city. One which it still seems to be carrying today. You can see little memorials to it everywhere or in the case of the memorial we saw, big ones too. It was really impressive. I liked going there, it was solemn and respectful and instilled a sense or reverence for those who were in the siege. I’m glad I got to go to that.

Down the road we saw a big statue of Lenin. I wanted to visit that because I recognised it from posters in the window of a pub in Glebe that has cheap vodka night on Tuesdays or something and has appropriated Lenin’s statue to sell more vodka. So we visited it and it satisfied me.

This evening we went to another palace to see a traditional Russian folk music and dance performance. It was pretty fun. One of the guys in the band had the biggest bass guitar I have ever seen. And the dancers were crazy. Like Breakthru’ Artz with more crazy spins and moustaches. Ok they weren’t like Breakthru, I just though the picture of Breakthru Artz with crazy spins and moustaches was funny, so I thought I’d plant the image in everyone else’s head.

Now I’m home and I think I might sleep. It’s 11:25pm it’s still light and there’s a man hanging half way down the units across the road installing an air conditioner. If that doesn’t say bed time, I don’t know what does.

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