Archive for August, 2012

CERN

Posted: August 22, 2012 in Switzerland

Today we went to CERN, which is about 9km out of Geneva, and it is where scientists from all over the world are studying results from the Hadron Collider tests.  This is an underground, 27km long loop that is used to send protons around at 99.9% of the speed of light in opposite directions then collide them simulating the events that took place just after the ‘Big Bang’.

The studies carried out there are looking to uncover the mystery of the creation of the universe and in particular to see if they can discover the ‘God Molecule’, which is, thought to be responsible for all creation.

The CERN museum.

The CERN research center is pushing technology to advance extremely quickly.  They have hugely powerful computers all over the world, which communicate using unbelievably quick data transfer rates.  The display there had examples of ‘super computers’ that are not even 10 years old yet something that is a 10th of the size these days is 3 times as powerful.

Although the Internet has been around for many years – the scientist who created the first ever web page and web server worked at CERN. His computer was there on display and although it was only in the late 80’s when he introduced the ‘world wide web’ to the world, the computer he used looks like an old piece of junk compared to today’s PC’s.

They are doing a lot of other research there especially for the medical world and it was very interesting to walk around and see what they are hoping to achieve.

After working with math’s and physics his whole career Neil was particularly interested in it all, but we were all pretty amazed at how hard they were pushing and developing new technology at the place.

A life size replacer of the tunnel and collider.

After we had finished looking around we made our way back to Geneva.  Tina didn’t come with us to CERN – instead finding a large water park and beach area just past the carnival area, so I went to find her.

Today the huge jet fountain was on!

The jet fountain.

We spent a couple of hours sitting in the sun and swimming before having dinner and going home for the night.

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Zurich to Geneva.

Posted: August 21, 2012 in Switzerland

The next few days we have planned are going to be a bit full on.  Making our way from Zurich to Lake Geneva via the panoramic train stopping at a couple of places along the way.

 

Waiting at another station.

Swiss countryside from the train.

More beautiful Swiss countryside.

The first place we planned to visit is the Schilthorn, this is a mountain in the Alps where a 007, James Bond film was made back in the late 60’s.  We left really early in the morning to catch a train to Interlaken from there we had to get a bus up to a place called Muller and from there a series of cable cars to the top of the Schilthorn.

Tina taking photos.

The whole area is really scenic, with snow capped mountains (even in summer) and waterfalls running into the rivers below.

A man playing a huge horn.

At the top is the world’s first ever revolving restaurant.  We got a table and sat down to enjoy lunch with a 360-degree view of the mountains around us.

 

The revolving restaurant.

After lunch we went for a walk around outside taking photos and admiring the scenery.  Once we had spent long enough up there we made our way back down to Interlaken where we were staying the night.  Our accommodation was at a place Tina had found called The Tent City.  When got there we found a really cool setup.  Just on the edge of town a series of tents and marquees setup.

 

The tent city.

We checked in and had a look around; it was a great little setup.  A main marquee had a bar and lounge area with toilets and showers off to the side, a communal fridge, tea and coffee area also.  The bar looked out past the tents to the mountains with a yard in front of it that had a swimming pool, hot tub, hammocks, tables and chairs.

There was a supermarket across the road so we went over to grab some food for dinner then sat down at the bar with the other guests to have a drink and a chat.  We met a few Aussies and some Kiwi’s, some of them were stopping overnight like us and others were staying there for a while paragliding and taking part in all the other mountain sports that happen there over the summer time when there is no snowboarding or skiing.  It was a great fun place to visit and the tents were a really great setup and very comfortable to stay in.

Another early start to get the train to Montruex on lake Geneva.  The panoramic train took us along some really great scenic paths; we could pull the windows down and take photos as we went, getting some great shots along the way.

Lake Geneva.

Once we got to Montreux we found our accommodation, which was in a great spot in a square right on the water.  It was a nice sunny day and fairly hot, so we went for a walk along the lakeside.  There were people everywhere enjoying the sun, eating at the little cafes that lined the foreshore or getting rides on the many floating restaurants and other boats on the lake.

Shaun enjoying the lake.

A large fork in the lake outside a food museum???

There were heaps of private boats and lots of water sports happening too, with swimming areas and parks on the waters edge.  We ended up hiring a little paddleboat and going for a cruise around on the lake for a while.

It was a really nice area – if we had more time it would have been nice to stay a few days here.  However we were moving around the lake to Geneva for a couple of days.

It took us about an hour in the morning by train to arrive in Geneva.  The place we were staying at was not on the lake like the last place but it was only a short tram ride to the water and we were given a free travel card that worked in the city zone.  We checked in then caught up on some overdue laundry before going for a look around.

We got a copy of the city map and headed straight for the water.  There is a huge jet fountain that shoots up to 140m in the air we wanted to see.  We followed the map to where it should be but couldn’t see it; Lea had seen it from the tram earlier as we were going to our accommodation however it was not working now.  We asked someone and they said it was on earlier however it goes off from time to time.

 

Scenery from the banks of lake Geneva.

We decided to walk along the waterfront for a while.  There was a music festival on and the whole foreshore was lined with carnies and food stalls.  It was pretty busy, lots of families around with the kids all jumping on the rides and playing.  There were quite a few street performers also and around towards the end of the carnival was a large swimming area and man made beach setup.

 

Cruising through the carnival before it got too busy.

We spent a while walking around and we came across a huge fireworks setup right in the middle of the main area.  It was all fenced off and the pyro’s were in there setting all the fuses etc.  Not sure when they were letting it all off but it looked like a big display.

Fireworks ready to set off.

This would be good to see.

After our last few days of early starts and non-stop moving, we decided to have an early one and catch up on some sleep.

Zurich

Posted: August 21, 2012 in Switzerland

Next stop on our adventure is Switzerland.  A train ride from Munich had us landed in Zurich.  When we were in Mexico earlier in the year we stayed at the Swiss Oasis Hotelito.  The owner, Manuela, had told us to get in contact with her good friend Conny, when we got to Switzerland.  We had made contact with Conny a bit earlier and she offered us to stay with her for a couple of days, so we caught the bus to a nearby stop and Conny was there waiting for us.

We went back to her house, which is just north of Zurich.  It is out of town a bit in some nice countryside; with the sun shinning it was fairly hot.  Conny and her boyfriend Philip had prepared an awesome BBQ for us and a fridge full of cold drinks.

 

All set for a BBQ Swiss style.

She has a large back yard setup nicely for entertaining, so we all sat outside in the sun for the afternoon chatting, eating, drinking and getting to know each other.

Conny told us she has been travelling all of her life, but her favorite place is Australia.  She has been there about 20 times and has probably seen more of our country than we have.

We talked about a lot of different things to do while in the area, however with only a couple of days here we had to narrow it down to a day trip to near by Luzern.

 

River front buildings in Luzern.

We got into Luzern about mid morning and it was still very hot and muggy, there were clouds around that looked as though it could rain.  We first of went to the information stand at the station to get a city map.  The map had a city walk outlined on it, which covered all the sights to see.

We decided to grab some lunch first before starting the walk.  Luckily we did because we had no longer sat down in a little café on the river (inside, undercover) when it began to rain.  Then thunder and heavier rain.  It went for about 10 minutes before easing off again.  It looked like it was clearing up, but had got a lot cooler so we just went for it anyway.

We started along the river then crossed an old timber bridge.  The bridge had a tower half way along it that was used as a guardhouse and there would be torture and other interrogation methods carried out on prisoners there years ago.

 

The timber bridge and tower crossing the river.

The bridge had actually partially burnt down a few years ago but was so popular with tourists visiting Luzern that they rebuilt it.

The walk then took us past the main chapel and through some of the old streets to a monument of a Lion.  Simply called the dying Lion monument – it commemorates the Swiss Guards who were massacred in 1792 during the French Revolution.  It is carved into the face of a huge cliff and is really impressive.

 

The chapel.

The dying lion.

Tina at the monument.

We continued to walk through the streets crossing the river a couple of time on other bridges.  We had done most of the city when it began raining again so we decided to finish up and go back to Conny’s house.

 

Some more buildings along the river at Luzern.

Conny had to go to Italy with some friends.  She offered us to stay at her house as long as we needed which was really nice of her.  She said she has been shown some great hospitality while in Australia so was only too happy to help us out in return.  We stayed the night then moved on in the morning.

Conny and Philip were great people and we will be sure to offer them a place to stay next time they are visiting Australia.

Munich Cont.

Posted: August 21, 2012 in Germany

Patricia and Geert had recommended a visit to the market, so for our last day in Munich we went to have a look.  We got there early so we could enjoy some nice German sausages for breakfast.  We ordered a variety then all tried each different one, they were great!

After breakfast we spent the next couple of hours looking around the market.  They had some great bread, cured meats, cheeses, wine, preservative, herbs, spices, all other kinds of fruit and veg plus heaps of other things.

 

A nice selection of meat.

A nice selection of cheese.

Lots of chills, olives and other goodies.

There was an open beer garden with a few bars and food outlets surrounding it.  The locals were getting an early start.  The beer was flowing and there were different entertainers getting everybody up dancing and having a great time.

 

Entertainment in the beer garden.

Like I have already said, the Germans really know how to eat and drink well and generally have a good time.  Tina and I will be back for sure one day to spend some more time looking around this great place.  It is a shame we could only fit in a quick visit to Munich on this trip.

After we have finished looking around the market we went back to the main town square where there is a really cool clock tower on the town hall.  Twice a day the clock fires up with little characters moving around as it rings.  It attracts many on lookers each time, so we went to have a look.  The clock was due to go off again at 5pm so we got a seat and a drink at about 4:30 waiting for it.  It went for about 10 minutes and there would have been about 1000+ people stopped to watch it.

 

The large clock tower with everybody waiting for it to fire up.

For our last night in Munich we knew we had to indulge in some more Bavarian food.  We went to Hofbrauhaus, which is another large beer garden at the HB brewery.  It is very touristy but a great atmosphere and great food.  We all ordered something different off the menu and did the sharing thing again – check out the following photos, another great feed

 

 

 

 

 

Munich

Posted: August 20, 2012 in Germany

We flew into Munich for a short stay with Patricia and Geert (relations of Tina) they had generously invited us to stay with them while we were in town.  Geert picked us from the airport and we went with him back to their apartment.  It is in a great spot, very close to the center of Munich and walking distance to the bus stop and underground train system.

The weather is great, actually quite hot.  Maltre, their son was home from university so he offered to take us on a walk around town and show us where to catch the trains and buses.  We went through a park area and along a river towards Nymphenburg Castle.

A river running through the park.

Large fish were swimming around everywhere.

Nymphenburg Castle is a large building that was built by one of the royals as a holiday house.  The river or canal ran right into the front garden and also through the rear garden.  We walked through the gardens enjoying the great weather then continued on again.

Nymphenburg Castle.

Front garden of the castle.

Rear garden at the castle.

Maltre had to go somewhere for the afternoon so he showed us to the station and where buses and trams ran to town and back.  He left us there to have a look around Munich for the rest of the afternoon.

Patricia and Geert took us out to a typical German beer garden that evening which was a great experience.  Some really good Bavarian food and of course beer by the liter.  The Germans really do know how to eat and drink well and generally have a great time.

Enjoying some great Bavarian food.

Tina and Neil.

The next day we went got a train to Dachau to have a look around the concentration camp memorial.  We knew this would be an uneasy experience, however it is part of our history and the memorial is setup to remember those who were murdered or perished in other ways at the camp before and during the 2nd world war.

The front gates that many prisoners never came back out of.

We walked around with our audio guides through the actual camp.  The old road and railway that would bring prisoners to the camp has only recently been uncovered and leads up to the main gates.  The first area inside is the roll call area where prisoners would have to line up twice a day in all weather conditions.  If the numbers did not match the roll call (maybe an escape or something) they would be made to stand at attention for hours or even days until it was rectified.

The main building that used to be like admin and where new prisoners would be checked in and stripped of all their possessions when arriving is now setup as a museum.  A walk through the museum gives an insight to what live would have been like in the camps.  There were a lot of photos and information about what went on inside especially through the war years.  It also described how Hitler got into power.

The main building and roll call area.

Outside again, there were 2 bunkers, which were setup as prisoner housing exactly as they would have been when the camp was in operation.  The rules for the sleeping quarters were unbelievable.  The beds must be made perfectly with square edges on the pillows and bed edges, all sheets must be folded exactly the same, the dishes could not have a single mark on them, the floors were to be kept spotless.  These standards were issued directly from Berlin and enforced by the SS with severe punishment if even the littlest detail was not correct.

The old bed frames inside the sleeping quarters.

Behind these 2 bunkers were the remains of the other bunkers.  Only the concrete footings remain today with a number in each one, they stretch the entire length of the remaining prison yard.  Dachau was expanded once the war began to accommodate around 6000 prisoners, however there was more than double that in it during the war years.

The remains of the other bunkers.

At the end behind the bunkers were religious monuments built by different groups from around the world to honor and remember the members of their religion who had died or spent time at Dachau.

Off to the side through another set of gates we found the crematorium.  This is when it hit home what the NAZI’s actually did here.  There was firstly a smaller crematorium which quickly became insufficient for the amount of bodies they were burning so another large one was built.

The small crematorium.

Inside this building was a series of rooms, firstly a set of ovens.  They had benches on rollers so the bodies could be pushed in.  The roof above was of timber construction with large exposed beams – from these they would hang the noose.  Prisoners would be marched in to stand in front of the oven they were about to be put in – then they would be hoisted up and left hanging until suffocated before being taken down and burnt.

2 ovens inside the building.

Along a bit further was a gas chamber disguised as a shower room.  Groups of prisoners would be taken to the room before it where they would be briefed on how to used the so called showers, then they would be ordered to strip off all items of clothing and sent in.  Once inside the door would be locked, all vents closed and poisonous gas tablets pushed into the room.   There were peepholes for the SS soldiers to watch through.

The gas chamber.

There were so many bodies put through the crematoriums that they had large holes and trenches dug to empty the ashes in when cleaning out the ovens.  These days there are gardens and religious monuments around these areas in memory of the prisoners who were murdered there.

There is no confirmation of mass extermination in the gas chambers at Dachau, however it has never been proven to not have happened either.  The NAZI’s tried to cover a lot of what happened up just before the U.S forces liberated the camp in 1945.  However it would seem that Dachau was basically a blue print for the much larger Auschwitz 1 & 2 in Poland where roughly 1.3 million people were exterminated.

An aerial shot from not long before the end of the war.

This was unbelievable to see the worst side of the human race, however it is good to educate people and remember those who died there to make sure nothing like this ever happens again.

We got back to Munich and were sitting outside having dinner not far from Patricia and Geert’s apartment – when all of a sudden huge hail stones started dropping from the sky then thunder and lightning, we jumped undercover just as it poured down with rain.  It went for about 5 minutes then backed off so we ran for it and made it home without getting too wet.

Paris Pt 4

Posted: August 10, 2012 in France

Our last full day in Paris.  Saving the best for last we planned to look around Montmartre for the day, visiting Sacre Coeur, Moulin Rouge and the grave sight of Jim Morrison on our way home.

Starting at the bottom we walked along Boulevard De Rochechouart to Moulin Rouge.  From there we just wandered up through the different streets checking out the little shops and street markets as we went.  There were some great cheese shops, crepes and pastry shops – you could just hang out all day eating if you wanted.

Moulin Rouge.

Street market with fresh sea food and snails.

It was really great getting off the tourist path a little and just having a good look around – you can’t really get lost because as long as you move up hill sooner or later you come across the Sacre Couer at the top.

The busy streets of Montmartre.

We made it up to the artist’s corner and this was really busy.  All the artists were all hustling the tourists to do a portrait or caricature.  There were cafes and bars around the outside and just people everywhere.

Browsing the artist’ work.

After having a browse at the different artists and their work we continued to the Sacre Couer.  Another really impressive building.  There were buskers and other entertainers out the front all attracting huge crowds and the views back over Paris were amazing.

Our first look at Sacre Couer.

Paris from Sacre Coure.

Looking up at Sacre Coure.

There is no photography allowed inside but it was an incredible building to see.  We walked through as a service was taking place, silently taking it all in.  We spent a while looking around here and then again in the artist’s corner before making our way back down to the station to catch a train back home.

Still needing to pack our bags before moving on to Germany the next day we unfortunately completely forgot to call past the cemetery where Jim Morrison’s grave is.  Oh well, I guess that gives us an excuse to come back one day.

Paris Pt 3

Posted: August 10, 2012 in France

This morning we split up and did a couple of different things.  Neil and Lea took off to the Catacombs, down past the Latin Quarter.  We went to St Regis for a look around before getting a bit of retail therapy for Tina.

St Regis Street.

The Catacombs sounded interesting.  Years ago they had a problem in Paris with getting rid of the bodies of the deceased, there were that many of them that it was causing outbreaks of disease and if it flooded after heavy rain human remains would wash into peoples houses.  So it was decided that the bodies would be put in the site of an old quarry that a lot of the rock used to build Paris had come out of.  There were thousands of bodies put in there and then forgotten about.  Years later during some construction work it was rediscovered.  Now you can go down under the city and walk about 2km and see all the bones stacked up and organized on display.

While they toured the Catacombs we walked through St Regis, which is a great little street on one of the islands around Notre Dame.  There were some nice cafes and plenty of shops to browse.  We had an early lunch at one of the cafes then headed off for an afternoon of shopping.

Shaun’s preserved duck – very, very good!

Tina’s French onion soup – very, very good!

Tina enjoying a day exploring Paris.

Shaun trying to figure out which way to go next.

Tina had done her research and of course we headed straight to the main fashion streets of Paris.  We toured through heaps of different shops and after seeing some of the price tags I’m so happy we are backpacking and can’t fit anymore items in our bags – although Tina has entertained the idea for sending things back to Aus……

Tina shopping…

 

 

 

At one point in our travels we came across a bridge that couples had put a pad lock on.  It was originally for newly married couples to clip a lock on and throw the key into the river, symbolising a long lasting relationship.  Now lots of couples and travellers put a lock on with a small message or their names.  There were thousands of locks – hardly any space left on the bridge at all.

 

 

Locks couples have put on a bridge.

Lots of locks.

During our shopping tour of Paris we caught back up with Neil and Lea in the afternoon.  We had once again all done a lot of walking so we ended up having an early dinner and calling it a day.