Wednesday, 27 February 2008

World Famous in NZ (just like L&P)


Long time no update.
But I've been way too busy... and I need to do a big back date which is going to take some time. Eeek.

Anyway. Life is fantastic for me right now.

Bought the Mercedes car for my research (with Uni money of course)... a 2007 A-Class.... oooh... aaaah :-)

We had a conference last week related to my research, and somehow Campbell Live found out about it. They came along and found out about lil ol me.

So they did a story on me and my research :-) Exciting huh?!?!

You can see the story here:
Cars that drive themselves

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Home Safe and Sound

Hello everyone,

Just thought I'd give a quick note to everyone that I've made it back to NZ home safe and sound.

For anyone traveling, avoid LAX at all costs. It is a stupid airport which has increased my hatred towards the USA.
You think that if you are flying with an airline, on a connected flight, that everything will be sorted out with your check-in luggage and it will be a quick walk to the connecting terminal... however, in LAX, this is not the case.

They want you to go through customs (so you are actually leaving the airport) then get your bags, and re-check into your connecting flight.
On top of this, the boarder security are not very nice, no room for jokes.
Then you have to run to your other terminal... after missing your original flight... which is about 1km away!

I can't even be bothered explaining how crap this airport was. Just try to avoid it.

Other than my LAX experience, the rest of the trip went by smoothly. Debra was at the airport to collect me, which was great to see my first friend back in NZ :-)

Got home back to mums. Went to "We Will Rock You" in Auckland. And that is about it really.

Don't currently have a fixed abode, or a cell phone. So to contact me, email is the only way really.

See ya'll soon.

Friday, 9 November 2007

Alive and Well


Just a quick update to say that I am alive and well.

Contiki was great. Saw a lot and had a good amount of fun. Our group was pretty "tame" compared to other Contiki tales. Little to no hook-ups as there were a lot of couples / people with partners back home. Also, not much drunken madness... only a couple of nights :-)

Saw a shit load of sites though: Amsterdam, St. Goar, stayed up Mt. Pilatus, Litchenstein, Innsbruck, Venice, Rome (LOVED ROME!), Vatican City, Florence, Pisa, Nice, Monacco, Lyon, Avion and Paris.

Was pretty shattered yesterday so did SFA.

Oh and this morning, I tried using the "lovely" London public bus service to get to my flight. I used the website, which gave me exact directions. The bus drivers had no clue... which is strange, you think they'd know how to get to the connecting station for a major airport????

Anyway, long story short, they told me to get off at the wrong stop, then no bus driver knew where I was trying to get to, so I had to call Anna to come get me (god bless her). In the end I missed my flight back to Germany and had to rebook for tomorrow.

Oh well, it's only money... just pisses me off how crap the buses were. When in London... stick to the trains!

Tschau and see you all shortly.

Monday, 8 October 2007

Sorry for the lack of updates


Ok I have actually had the busiest time of my entire trip over the last two weeks.
- Full on week finishing my paper. For those of you brave enough, you can see it online at:
- Went to Lisbon and had a fantastic time.
- Went to Oktoberfest for a few full on days
- Went to Strasbourg (France) for a day trip... watched the AB's lose, bugger. The town went nuts though!
- Went to Volksfest (Oktoberfest in Stuttgart) for a day.

Now, do you want to know why I haven't updated you on these things?

In Munich, I was going up an escalator on my way to a Crowded House concert... and I got 2 of my fingers caught between the rubber rail and the metal. Don't worry, I came out ok. I only got two huge slices in my fingers... so went to hospital and it was only a couple of stitches, no broken bone and no damaged tendons.

But as a result, I can't really type... so I'll write the full updates at a later stage. In fact, I'm not going to get a chance to write anything up until I get back to NZ.

So once I'm back, you'll get some stories coming through, starting with Lisbon.
You may even hear the stories from me before reading them, hehe!

Really busy last week at work this week... then I'll be off to England via Barcelona.

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Last day in Turkey

Up at 9:30am (just woke up… I was running on adrenaline or something), had breakie with Sheena, then got ready to go. Ollie also decided to join us to go see the Topkapi Palace.

This palace was where the head of the Ottoman empire was located. It was really impressive. On of the main highlights was the crown-jewels. There was an 86 carrot diamond!!! It was the size of my palm. And also a crest with a ruby and two emeralds, each about 5cm in diameter. Soooo much wealth in there, if anyone knows any good thieves, that’s where they should be hunting.

The other highlight was the harem. This place has very nice designs on all the walls and some magnificent bedrooms. It also had a lot of boards with text explaining the whole thing. The sultan had a band of eunuchs (guys with their nuts chopped off) protecting his harem (bunch of chicks who “serviced” the sultan). From the harem, the sultan had 4-8 “favourites” whom he shared his bed, and 1 Queen Mother (main wife). The Queen Mother had the power to choose who the sultan could and couldn’t have, and also had lots of political power, sounds like a fair system.

Anyway, after 4 hours wandering around the palace, we were toured out. So we went somewhere for a traditional Turkish lunch… kebabs :-P
Ok, this was actually traditional. They give you the meat and all the veggies, and a plate of flat Turkish bread, then you make your own. It was really yummy, and quite cheap.

After lunch we all went our separate ways to do stuff. I went to the Grand Bazaar again to get a couple more things. After the Grand Bazaar, I was very sick of people harassing me to buy stuff… and people using their favourite phrase “My friend… where do you come from?”

Another thing that was very strange about Turkey was the traffic. It was so chaotic and pedestrians had no right to cross when they had a green walk symbol. You risked your life everytime you were near a road! Oh and they so desperately want to be part of the EU, they even have the EU number plate design, with the EU stars missing :-P

So I got back to the hostel: touristed out, shopped out and sick of crowds. I decided I wanted a simple evening, so found one of the three bars in Istanbul that was playing the NZ rugby game. It was good fun to watch (especially coz NZ kicked Scotland’s ass), and met a random Kiwi living in Denmark (Sam), and a German girl living in Munich (Bea). Ended up talking with them for a couple of hours after the game.

I got back to the hostel around 10pm and caught up with Sheena an Ollie again. We ended up heading down stairs to have a few drinks with the people in the hostel, including the bar-tender. It was so funny, we would ask for a drink and he would make jokes like “can’t you see me working hard here?” (while he was sitting at our table drinking beer with us).

It was a fun way to end the night, as at mid-night I got picked up by the shuttle. I slept all the way to the airport (1 hour). Then got through customs et al, and started chatting with a couple of random girls who I met in line waiting for customs. One was Polish and the other Latvian… both living/studying in Zurich. It was a good way to kill some time, then got on the plane and had a couple more hours sleep.

Train ride back to Stuttgart was interesting, the train broke down in the middle of the track for about an hour. I didn’t mind, I just dozed while they fixed it.

So got to work at 10am… nice and “fresh” with a few hours sleep.

Good weekend though. It was so different to everywhere I’ve been so far. Well, kind of a mix of China meets Europe, with a friendliness that is hard to describe.

Saturday, 22 September 2007

Day two in Turkei

I got up around 9:30 as I was meeting Tolga at 10:30am. I had another traditional Turkish breakfast (at the hostel) with Sheena (Canadian girl I met the night before). Chatted about all sorts and then I left to meet up with Tolga.

He was with his girlfriend and they wanted to show me more of the city. Also, the dinner was cancelled for some reason, so he wanted to come tell me in person. His girlfriend was training to be a tour guide of Istanbul… for Turkish tourism. She could speak English (but was shy about it) and some German.

We headed over to Taksim, which is the “really” European part of Istanbul. The tram took us to the bottom of the “hill”… then the metro took us to the top. This was a cool metro system, it was all up-hill, and they don’t use a motor in the metro. It is pulled up the hill by a big pulley system. As one is going up, the other is coming down… cool huh?

We wandered down the main shopping street of Taksim and had a look around. At the bottom of Taksim, there was a pedestrian underpass to get to the other side of the road… in here there was a gun market. Was really strange to see.

We wandered back along the bridge, and again through the Egyptian Bazaar. We walked around the city for a bit, then Tolga and his girlfriend went on their way. He was such a friendly guy and just couldn’t do enough to help me :-) He told me to ring him if I had any problems at all… it was a really kind gesture.

Anyway, after they left, I went straight to the Grand Bazaar. This place was absolutely packed to the brim! I spent about 4 hours wandering around, getting haggled and doing a bit of shopping. It reminded me much like China… except they could speak English here and were not as pushy. Ended up spending quite a bit, but getting some really cheap stuff: couple of casual jackets, socks, belt, t-shirt, jeans… all the essentials.

After my shopping, I went back to the hostel to unload. I met up with some Slovenians and a German guy in my room. The Slovenians were heading over to Taksim for a beer, so the German (Ollie) and I joined them. On the way out I bumped into Sheena again and made half a plan to go see the Topkapi palace the next morning.

It was a pretty casual night, wandered around the main shopping street, which was absolutely packed! And stopped in a bar for a few drinks… then eventually went back to the hostel. Once we got back, the Slovenians went off to bed, so Ollie and I went down stairs for a couple of beers and watched Oceans 13.

I was in bed around 4am… which was much later than I thought it was!

Friday, 21 September 2007

Big first day in Istanbul

Well… travelling there was a major journey. I left work at 7 to catch the train to Frankfurt (about 3 hours away). I managed to get a couple of hours work done on my paper during the journey. My flight was at 11 pm… arriving at 3am… eek :-P

It was ok, I got a couple hours sleep on the plane. Then a friend of a friend picked me up from the airport, named Tolga (friend of Ersin). It was really great… I got a ride to his home where his mum had prepared breakfast/dinner and a bed for me. So I ate breakfast/dinner at 4:30am, then had a couple of hours sleep. After freshening up, I was invited to Tolga’s sister’s house for breakfast. They just kept feeding me :-) It was traditional Turkish breakfast: tomatoes, olives and cucumbers from the garden, with different cheeses, eggs, sausage and Turkish bread.

Tolga’s mum took a real liking to me ( don’t even mention the yo mama jokes peoples :-P ), even though she couldn’t speak a word of English. They invited me to a big family gathering and dinner the next night, of course I accepted.

Tolga and I started our journey from Asia to Europe. Istanbul spans two contents, and he lived in a small city just outside Istanbul on the Asian side. It took an hour for us to get to Istanbul. During the train ride, people would jump on between stops and walk around the train selling stuff: pens, watches, all sorts. It was common practise in Istanbul, so sayith Tolga.

Istanbul is HUGEMUNGOUS! (I know that’s not a word). From 20 mins into the train journey… we were in the outskirts of Istanbul. Upon arrival we had a wander around the Asian part of Istanbul City. There were lots of souvenir shops and stuff. Tolga knew half the owners… but they didn’t have anything that tickled my fancy.

(Sultanahmet from the fairy)

After that we headed across the water to the European Istanbul via fairy. The views were cool and you could see a panoramic view of the city. Upon arrival, we quickly made our way to the hostel so I could check in and drop off my heavy pack (laptop adds a bit of weight). My hostel was in Sultanahmet, which is the main tourist part of Istanbul. It was a strange experience… anytime you even thought about reaching for your map, someone asked “Can I help you”. The Turks are extremely friendly and helpful… which is lucky because their streets don’t have road signs! So the map was pretty much useless except if you had view of a landmark.

After sorting myself out, Tolga guided me around Istanbul. It was the middle of Ramazan, a Muslim period where they can not eat or drink (nothing! Not even water) during sunlight. So everywhere you went, the restaurants were empty. Also, Tolga didn’t have much energy because of it… but he still showed me everything.

The first stop was walking around the outside of the Blue Mosque and Aya Sofia. They were spectacular, very very different to what I’ve seen so far, so they still had the wow factor on me ( unlike Catholic churches nowadays :-P ).

After that, we wandered through the gardens of Topkapi Palace. There wasn’t much there really… really quiet and not much beauty about it.

Next destination was the Egyptian Spice Bazaar. This place was a bustling Bazaar that sold gold, spices, sweets and honey. Every 5 steps you walked, people gave you free samples to try. It was great… if you’re a slight bit hungry, go here and you soon will be full!

We wandered through the city, then caught the train to the University near Sultanamet. This was a pretty cool looking uni… but it was guarded, and security would only let you in if you were a lecturer or a student of the uni. The Uni was also close to the Grand Bazaar, we just walked past and had a quick look. It was packed with people... sooo many people.

After this, Tolga had to leave, so I said good-bye and I would see him tomorrow.
Upon Tolga’s departure, I visited the Blue Mosque to see the inside. This was a cool experience. You have to take your shoes off when you go in… but it is great because the carpet is so soft that you sink into it. Inside was beautiful. Really different. I took my photos and sat around for a bit. Probably spent an hour there. It was free to enter as well… their religious buildings aren’t perverted by tourism yet, like some other places.

Nachste halt, Aya (Hagia/Saint) Sofia. This was a bit church built during the ….. and was converted to a Mosque during the Ottoman empire. It was now a museum. Going inside was really different. You think that when you convert a church you would completely change it to meet your religion… but here it was something special. There were still mosaics of Jesus and Gabriel on the walls, along with big Arabic inscriptions and shields. A mix of Catholism and Islam…. Really different.

I wandered around this place reading everything, learning the history and admiring this strange construction. Spent over two hours cruising this place. I then went back to the hostel to chill.

The next few hours consisted of writing my paper (I know I was supposed to be on “holiday”) , watching pirated movies on the massive screen at the hostel and chatting with randoms. Ok, it was more of the latter two, but I still did some work :-P

Oh did I mention how awesome this hostel was? It had its own bar, along with a massive plasma screen and surround sound system, with a bunch of pirated movies to watch. The staff were extremely friendly and one even joined us for drinks quite often :-) If people go to Istanbul… then stay here: “Istanbul Hostel” (I know it’s a hard name to remember).

I went out for a couple of hours in the evening to see the Blue Mosque and Aya Sofia by night. There were also thousands of people out on the streets, eating and having fun. Apparently it is always like this during Ramazan, everyone comes out to party in the evenings because they are allowed to eat!

It wasn’t too much of a late night, I was in bed by 1am.