Monday, May 26, 2008

Price of petrol in the real world

We have a lovely little, fuel efficient Prius back in the US. We would normally pay a little over $30 to fill the car, and get about 400 miles (650 km) out of a tank with regular driving, a bit more efficiency if we're doing a road trip.

We rented a Toyota Auris, which is a similar size to the Prius, to drive from Zurich to Prague. We had to change it over in Prague because the "Check Engine" and "Check Vehicle Stability Control" lights had come on and weren't going off, and the car kept beeping at us because of it.

We got a Audi A3 TDi in return, and were quite pleased because we'd put more petrol in the Toyota on the way, but it was only about half full, and we got a car with a full tank in return :-)

We managed to get the whole way to Zurich before needing to fill up. We drove about 700km (not much more than we get from the Prius), and paid a little over CHF100 (about USD$97) to fill the car with diesel.

In the US, we're paying about $4.20/gallon which is about the most expensive in the country, and has really only gone up recently, whereas in places like Zurich, they're paying $6.50/gallon! I think it won't be long until the US is up around those prices.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Next installment of photos - Prague and Deggendorf

Typical building in Prague - they're all so ornate!

Looking down from Karluv Most (Charles Bridge)

The fascinating astronomical clock which dates back to 1410. The astronomical dial, representing the position of the Sun and Moon in the sky and displaying various astronomical details; "The Walk of the Apostles", a clockwork hourly show of figures of the Twelve Apostles and other moving sculptures; and a calendar dial with medallions representing the months

The Old Town bridge tower is a world renowned example of Gothic architecture-style buildings. The bridge is decorated by a continuous alley of 30 statues and statuaries, most of them Baroque-style, erected around 1700.

Can you find Andrew?

Staroměstské náměstí (aka Old Town Square), which is where the astronomical clock is. This is Church of Our Lady in front of Týn, or Týn Cathedral which was built in the 14th century. Another example of the beautiful Gothic architecture.

Moving over to Vyšehrad Castle (short walk from the hotel), which was built in the 10th century, but abandoned as a royal home in he 14th Century as Prague Castle was established.

This is in Vyšehrad Cemetery, established in 1860 as a burial ground for famous Czechs, so is quite beautiful and well kept. This is a line of the bigger, more ornate memorials for the more famous/rich people.

Many famous people, including the composer, Antonin Dvořák

Walls of Vyšehrad Castle

Door to the Church of St. Peter and Paul, Vyšehrad Castle. It amazes how much blood, sweat and tears must go into making this sort of thing

And looking from near the hotel down towards the city with Prague Castle in the background

In Deggendorf, Germany

This is a beautiful Roman Catholic Church that dates back about 1000 years. Inside is breathtaking.

The remains of St Felix - they've made him more pretty by covering him with jewels

At the top of a hill, looking over the pretty city of Deggendorf with the Danube in the back, left side.

Made it to Zurich

And so it seems that "Anmelden" is "German" for Sign In according to Blogger. I now know: hello, goodbye, thank you, I speak no German, and Sign in :)

We finished our week in Prague (more photos to come), and we both really enjoyed it. Andrew got a lot out of the Ubuntu Developer Summit he was at, and got to see the main sights of Prague, and I got to have a good explore of everything I wanted to, as well as get my assignment sent off and get some study in.

Yesterday we drove to Deggendorf, Germany to see Christine and Tim and check out where they're living. They seem to have settled in really well, and Deggendorf is gorgeous! It was founded about 750, traces of settlements have been dated back to 6000BC, and a cemetery from the Bronze Age was dated back to 1500BC. It's a beautiful city with a lot of history.

We left Deggendorf late afternoon, and drove to Zurich. We went to the Google office to pick up the keys for the corporate apartment and WOW! The office is amazing! We only walked from where we parked to the front desk, but we went past a slippery slide that goes from the floor above the cafe down to the cafe, we saw "phone booths" for conducting interviews in the form of ski lifts, as well as igloo themed booths - they were very cute!

The corporate apartment is nice as well, it's 3 levels, 5 bedrooms, but not carpeted, and with 5 rooms of people, can be a little noisy. It's in a very pretty area, not far from a tram stop, and very "swiss-looking". :)

We had to return our hire car this morning, and caught public transport back to the apartment - it's all very civilised! Nice, fast trains, and regular running trams and buses that go all over the city - even on a Sunday! I love a city with good public transport.

We're just doing some washing, then will get out and do some more exploring. More to come later in the week!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

How surreal...

In the last couple of days here in our hotel in the Czech Republic, we've heard Ben Lee and John Butler Trio floating through the sound system in the hallways/lifts. How weird to hear such bands that I didn't think were very well known outside Australia, let alone the Czech Republic of all places.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Photographic overview of Prague so far *yes, photo heavy*

The outer castle walls (note the arrow holes along the bottom of the wall)

The arrow holes

The entrance to Prague Castle

The front of St Vitus' Cathedral

The side of St Vitus' Cathedral

Inside the Royal Palace (within Prague Castle)

Vladislav Hall - the Royal Court, which in its day was like a public market)

All Saints' Chapel, built in the 1300s, partially rebuilt after fires in 1541

All Saints' Chapel again

The "Diet" - medieval parliament, also the Throne Room

The New Land Rolls - these rooms were decorated with the crests of clerks who worked there

St George's Basilica, founded between 920 by Vratislaus I (Duke of Bohemia), and enlarged in 973, and rebuilt following a fire in 1142.

Inside St George's Basilica, this is where we saw the classical concert

Vratislaus I of Bohemia's tomb

I'm guessing they're not his bones, but it's still kinda creepy!

The ceiling of the tomb

The back corner of the basilica

Inside St Vitus' Cathedral

One of the many beautiful stained glass windows in the cathedral

Tomb of St John Nepomuk

Chapel of St John the Baptist

St Wenceslas Chapel. Also known as, Wenceslaus I, Duke of Bohemia, he was son of Vratislav who founded St George's Basilica. St Wenceslas is also known as "Good King Wenceslas" of the Christmas Carol.

More stained glass - the detail was amazing

At the top of the 287 step staircase to the top of the Bell Tower, was a gorgeous 360 degree view around Prague

From the top of St Vitus', looking down

Looking down Vltava River

One of the spires of St Vitus', looking north-west

For the rest of the photos, check out our photo website

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

In Prague, Czech Republic!

For reference, "Přihlásit se" means "sign in". The clever people at Google know I'm in the Czech Republic, so have changed all the Google sites into Czech for me (until I sign in, then it changes back to English).

We left the US on Friday, flew to London, then Zurich, and picked up a hire car in Zurich and drove to Prague. We had some delays, so we didn't get to our hotel in Prague until 1:30am, but that was ok. It was a really nice drive - nice, fast highways, gorgeous scenery - quaint little houses in Switzerland, snow capped mountains in Austria (wow, I typed Australia initially...) and green, pretty farmland in Germany.

Sunday we finally dragged ourselves out of bed after midday, went for a wander in the streets near the hotel, and weren't immediately impressed. It was shabby old rather than "historic old". We then found the Metro, and figured out how to get to Prague Castle. Once we stepped out of the Metro, we knew we'd found the historic Prague. Beautiful old churches, castle, palaces, cobblestones. Gorgeous. We were near closing time at the castle, so only got to wander around the grounds, but that was still impressive. We poked our heads into St Vitus Cathedral which took our breath away. It is located within Prague Castle itself, and is the biggest and most important church in the country as it contains the tombs of royalty.

The stained glass windows were beautiful, the architecture (Gothic style) was so incredibly intricate, and the church just felt sacred. There was a choir walking through the church when we arrived, and they were at the opposite end of the church to us initially, and the sound carried so well, and really set the atmosphere.

After that we were going to wander back toward the Metro, but we were stopped by people selling tickets to a "Castle Gala Concert". Members of the Prague Royal Orchestra were going to be playing Pachelbel, Mozart and Vivaldi in St George's Basilica. We figured why not?

St George's Basilica was a beautiful old building. It's a church within the castle grounds, and is long and narrow, with a raised platform at the front. The atmosphere was beautifully haunting, and of course the acoustics made the music even more lovely.

Monday was the first day of Andrew's conference, but I had to get an assignment finished, so I worked on that all day. In the evening we went for a walk toward where we heard was a nice restaurant. We're staying in Vyšehrad which turns out has a castle - aptly named Vyšehrad Castle. So we wandered through the grounds, found another beautiful old church as well as a gorgeous cemetery where the like of composer Antonín Dvořák are buried. The restaurant we found (Rio Vyšehrad) was also really nice - great quality, cheap food (as opposed to the hotel's ok, bloody expensive food).

Yesterday I worked some more on my assignment, then at lunchtime, made my way back to the castle to have another explore - this time taking photos. I got to have a good poke around in St George's Basilica and St. Vitus Cathedral (including walking up the 287 step tight, spiral staircase to get to the top of the clocktower) as well as explore some of the other buildings within the castle. It kind of blows your mind that some of these buildings are around 1000 years old.

Today's plan is to put the references into my assignment, then head back into the city to try and find a post office to post the assignment (that will be an adventure!). It's cold and wet today, so will try to find some indoor activities to do.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Made it to the pool!

And it was GORGEOUS! I made it to Mountain View Pool, and the water temperature was gorgeous, and the pool was nice and clean. I also managed to swim for 30 minutes straight which was nice. I'm slow, and I feel weak, but gee it was nice to get out there!

I have a spot in my chest (on the right side) which hurts occasionally, usually when I sneeze. It's quite a sharp pain when it hurts, sometimes it's a tightness across the whole top side of my chest. It's only things like hicupping, sneezing and coughing that makes it hurt, so I'm not too worried - the docs think it may be some damaged cartilage.

It felt a little tight while swimming tonight, so hopefully the swimming will help stretch things out, and maybe help the pain.