Wednesday, March 28, 2007

I'm on a plane, I can't complain

So said Kurt Cobain in 1991 - and how true. I was on a plane to Detroit from Europe - and I certainly was not complaining.
I'd never took photos from a plane before. ...

These are all over Quebec - it looks rugged!
Below is the final descent into Detroit Metro.

And a bumpy shaky turbulent descent it was. I was ever so slightly nervous - the plane was being bounced around like a trailer in a tornado. But, as is obvious by my posting this, the great staff of NWA managed to get us to the ground in total safety.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Stuttgart, Ludwigsburg, Amsterdam, DETROIT!!!!!

I didn't get much chance to take many photos on my return to ths Stuttgart area - it was off the plane, into a car - my colleague took responsibility for the car - a really nice 3-series beamer - and straight to work. And hotel (Nestor - see earlier post), food, work, food etc etc.

The above photo amused my little brain.

On my final night there, we all went to a really nice Italian restaurant in the Market Square in Ludswigburg. I had a salmon pizza - it was awesome. Never had a salmon pizza before. It's a pity I can;t remember the restaurants name.

Two random German Countryside pics - above mid-wee, below on the way to the airport.

And onto Stuttgart airport, my time in Europe was up. The whole check-in time took forever - I guess it's all part of travel these days.
Observing Germany, there are a few things that were evident to me even in the airport. You know, it's the little differences, as Samuel L said. Example: escalators. It's pretty hard to find one going down in Germany- plenty going up. Which to me makes sense You have gravity on your side - there were a few elevators to go down in, but why have constant down escalators? Also, the up escalators seemed to go into sleep mode when not in use - to be re-activated when triggered by an optical sensor at the bottom. Again, makes sense in an energy conservation way.

And from there to Amsterdam Schiphol- another 286-mile walk. And onto a plane and back to Detroit on time to the snow and rain - and the comfort of my home and family and dog and just general niceness - it felt great. Ahhhhh!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Graz, Austria - continued. A walk around the City.

The first post about Graz was getting messy - I wanted to keep the picture somewhat in order, but the limitations of Blogger and indeed my inexperience was leading to me not being able to do this as I wanted to. So I'm returning to posting photos centered only(except the one here - I think I can control him).
There were a lot of bronze statues all over the place - Not sure who they were but they looked impressive. From here, we found ourselves in front of a tunnel - to where we did not know.

See. More statues!
And a building with exposed brick which seemed to be eroding away.
Turns out the tunnel was to the foot of the hill on which Graz'z most recognizable building sits - the clock tower. The path up to is was very steep - seemed like a great place for a workout.Said clock tower
One of the views from clock tower level. It's a pity it was so foggy.Thank You Graz!
The ruins pictured above are on the spot of, or part of a structure that stood on the spot in 1265.

The above sign made me laugh. Flower bulbs feel pain too!
Graz does weird trees pretty well.

A view from the bottom. A lot of steps.
Now I'm not exactly sure what this is but it's old.
Below are the balconies.

For those who didn't feel like the steps or the slopes, there was a tram.

We seen this strange looking architectural monstrosity and were somewhat confused about what it was.On closer investigation, we found it to be an art museum, the Kunsthaus Graz

Graz is Tram-tastic!

Two views of the same street.

The "Rathaus", or city hall.

A regular Grazian street - notice all the tram lines and tracks.
Above is a man-made island which contains a restaurant. We didn't go in there.

Above and below, check out the designs on the building.Now I've not got much of an idea what the mural above is at all about. A beach? In Austria?

And from there, we wandered around a bit more - it's pretty hard to find a restaurant that is open during the day in Graz. So, being in Austria, what better place to have food could there be than the Irish bar, Flann O Brien's. Turns out they were able to show the Detroit Pistons game, so my friend was happy. And from there it was back to the hotel, pack, sleep, rise, eat, and head to the airport to catch a plane to Stuttgart.

Slan to Graz for now.

And onto Graz, Austria!

Note... Part 2 of this Austrian trip is here... Blogger formatting was killling me.

From Stuttgart, I flew to Graz. This was on a jangly little plane, on which I was on of about 12 passengers - plenty of space.

Got there and went to get my car - the Hertz car hire girl was really nice and pleasant - gave me turn-by-turn directions to my hotel, sketching it out on a map for me. I got a Citroen Picassa C4 - not the Alfa I had last place, but adequate none the less.

With the help of the well defined directions from Elizabet, I found my way to the hotel in the dark and rain – pleasant receptionist in a nice looking business hotel – the Mercure Messe.

I had food in the hotel – an apparent local specialty – pumpkin soup. Gotta say, it was really good. Then sleeeeeeeep.

Then work on Monday morning – work was painful as things were not in place but this ain’t the place to talk about work. That evening, the rest of my colleagues arrived, and we headed out to the town center to have some food. Graz is an old very European city, with a lot of old towering buildings, hills, and narrow cobble stone streets. We went to a relatively modern South American restaurant called Maredo – it was OK in that the food tasted good, the service was fast and friendly – just a little generic. If you know what I mean.

Tuesday was Mardi Gras, so we ate early, went to one of the town squares, joined in the revelling to the 80's sounds, then went to a pub called The Office – there was a pub quiz and a good pint of Guinness, so we had some fun. The place was packed and smoky .

Wednesday, went to some Italaian place and had some OK fish. We also checked out Molly Malones - an Irish pub(!) as there was an important Rugby match coming up on Saturday and I needed to secure some place to watch it. Was OK - nothing special. Food smelled really good.

Thursday - Pizza at a large place called Da Vinchi - I had a Diavolo pizza and it was really really good and spicy - as expected!

One thing in particular I liked about Austria was the pumpkin seed oil that they use as salad dressing – this stuff was great – I never seen nor tasted anything like it before. Looks all brown, but when diluted with cider vinegar (I think), it goes a green color and tastes all nutty and nice. Kubiskernol (or Kürbiskernöl, or even Kernöl) is what I think it’s called. Trust me, it’s great.

On Friday evening, we went to yet another Irish pub for fish n chips. Flann O Briens. A fairly big pub with lots of Irish stuff hanging on the walls, and from what I could see, all the barstaff were almost all Irish. Fish n chips were good. We stayed and took it easy, then back to the hotel.

Saturday involved work early in the morning, then off into the center to Flann’s again. See, Ireland were playing England in the 6 Nations Rugby. There was a good crowd, wilt a good chunk of Irish, a handful of Austrians, Germans, French, and a few English. Naturally everyone, apart from the English, was fully in support of Ireland. This was the historic game at Croke Park – that’s a separate story that can be read here. My American friend who accompanied me had never seen rugby before and was impressed, and there is no reason on the world why he shouldn’t be. Anyway, Ireland tore apart England with record scores, so I was happy.

From there we got taken to another bar by an Irishman who joined us; lots more fun. Grazians seem to know how to enjoy themselves.

Anyway, Sunday was a cloudy, misty day but it was our only chance to go sight seeing as, in this ever-changing trip, we had to head off to Stuttgart again (and back to the Nestor) on Monday. So Sunday was walking around Graz day.

My hotel room backed onto a couple of houses which in turn backed onto a cemetery; one of the houses had a dog who was quiet until he seen me…….

While waiting for the American to get himself together, I took a walk in the cemetery, and took some photos – I don’t know if taking photos is the right thing to do in a cemetery, but I did it anyway, as there were some interesting grave stones or markers.

I'm guessing the guy <-- liked to enjoy a glass of wine with his loved ones - so they continue to have one with him in the afterlife.

I found the World War I burial plots...

<---See how elaborate this one is -Friedrich August Lapp. The one below is also real detailed - Heinrick Kless is the name on the stone.I wonder if the head / statue is a likeness of how he looked way back at the tun of the century. I'm not sure what these graves are but they looked good

I noticed a strange looking tree.

We then ended up in what I think was a flea market with lots of junk; there were some WW2 pictures in frames for sale, a really old Italian knife, a bear skin and about 2 million other odds and ends. ...walking down a typical Grazian street, and then into the "old" city, inside the wall, up a hill and to the church.

This should be the hill on the way up to the church.. .

There was another WWI memorial on the side of the church.