On the road, there's adventure waiting every day.

Category: Europe Trip of 2018 (Page 1 of 6)

In 2018 I took “Long Service Leave” from my employer in Australia and traveled Europe for 4 months.

New Life, New Plans.

With the decision made to leave, I switched into planning mode.  There was a lot of little details which had to be attended to, not least of all getting the garden back into shape after half a year of absence, and getting the house ready for sale.  I won’t bore you with the details, but most of October was actually spent renovating and fixing things up, while handing over my work to my team.

At the same time I got to make plans for a visit by my girlfriend, who was flying in to meet the family and attend my brothers wedding with me.  In our conversations we also decided to spend some time seeing the great barrier reef – in nearly 25 years in Australia I had never been to see it!

But before all that, I had to make sure that someone would continue the Halloween traditions: Luckily Stef and Johan were up to the challenge and hosted one hell of a themed party!

As you can see, it was a fantastic night and a great effort theming their whole house!

Meanwhile, Manja was nice enough to fly to Oz with Doris, who in turn upgraded them both to business class.  I’ve got to say, I was a liiiitle bit jealous, though I was really just happy to see her.  Flowers in hand I waited at the airport with the whole family.  Talk about jumping into the deep end – Manja was greeted by my Parents, my two grandmothers, my grandfather and my brother, after flying for 24 hours with Doris (my other other grandmother!) and taking care of her during the flight….  I think she might like me a bit, if she’s willing to go through all that!

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My parents make cute welcome signs

But she did really well, we even went to my parents place and had a little bit of a get-to-know-each-other catchup with my family before heading back to my place.

On her first day in Adelaide we explored the city a bit and got into the sun to help her overcome her Jetlag. So we headed to the best place to catch some sun: the beach!

Unbeknown to her she dressed as a lifesaver, with a bright yellow jumper and red shorts 😆

We were really really lucky though, and we saw a seal at Brighton jetty! Having the time of his life swimming happily around all the people trying to catch fish there.

We spent a fair while watching him, before grabbing some late lunch at E’nuff burgers at Brighton – Reasonably healthy and delicious!

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We spent the rest of the day seeing different beaches and even ended up watching the sunset on our first night together in Adelaide, before having dinner at the Thai Orchid at Henley beach.

The next few days she had a chance to recover while I finished my last week at work.

In the evenings we still visited family, having a particularly nice dinner and catchup with my grandparents where we took a lot of photos of the many impressive cacti they have for Manjas Grandparents.

On the work front, it was really bitter sweet finishing up…  I have a great new adventure ahead of me but I poured over ten years of my heart and soul into making rsp tick. On my last day the whole company got together to give me a surprise farewell, which was really nice.  I will miss the place, and I know they will continue well without me too.

Arriving in Adelaide and starting another Adventure

Back at home, I had a week off to recover from Jetlag and catch up with friends. I managed to catch up with someone every evening and it was good to share my new stories and hear what had been happening the last four months.

Then it was time to return to work.  Things had been functioning really well without me, which made me realise that this might be a good point to look for a new challenge. And so I decided to take the leap. After 13 years at Rising Sun, I would finish by the end of October 2018. But where to from here? After traveling for the past few months, I considered building some overseas experience.

My head was a swirl of different thoughts

It would mean packing up my life and starting a new one.

It would mean leaving behind not only family but friends I have known for decades.

It would mean selling off almost everything I own and starting anew.

… but if I don’t do it now, when?

Waiting years would only make it harder…  and if I don’t take this leap, I will probably regret it years later.

Even if it doesn’t work out, it’s another adventure, it’s living life to the fullest. Doing it would mean that I follow through on what I alway espouse – take the chance, live life to the fullest.

 It really was a tough choice for me, but I made it. I decided to move overseas.

With that decision made and some phone calls and interviews later, I landed on my feet with a great offer at another company…  in Berlin.

As I had been getting along surprisingly well with Manja, this really seemed to be a plus point for me. With my decision to move, what seemed like an impossible relationship quickly became very possible and real.

I had many emotional conversations, telling my family and my closest friends first.

It’s a testament to the many, many, awesome people who share my life that every interaction was one of surprise and support. I know that no matter how far apart we may be I have friends for life here.

Making my way home

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Bye Bye Berlin!

We all knew this terrible day would come.  The day that my leave was officially over and I had to head back home. Manja lives reasonably close by the airport, and I was able to spend the last night there and head to the airport with minimal stress.

The flight to Doha was uneventful, and I had a rather long layover to allow me to see a few sights in Doha, by taking a day trip tour which you can arrange at the airport.  It really is an interesting place, someday I might stay for a bit longer and see more of it.

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After the tour I hung about the airport before the long flight home, and caught some well needed sleep in one of the many “Quiet Rooms” made specifically for sleeping travellers.  Got to say, beats the pants of Dubai!

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Feeling slightly more rested, I grabbed some dinner and even updated my blog. I have to say I had a pleasant enough 10 hours at the Doha airport.  It’s not massive, but it has everything you need.

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Dinner!

13 hours and too many movies on a tiny screen later, I arrived safe, sound and exhausted in Adelaide.

My Long service leave adventure was over, but as it turns out another adventure was just around the corner.

Ye old church

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NomNomNom! Avocado Breakfast!

Today would be our last day in London, with a flight booked for the afternoon. We had a nice and slow start to the day and decided to spend the Morning at St. Pauls Cathedral, grabbing some breakfast at a nearby cafe…. which turned out to be a church community cafe who offered breakfast during weekdays called the wren coffee.

It really set the mood for a day of religious sightseeing, and the breakfast was awesome.

Well fed and coffee’d up, we headed over to St. Pauls Cathedral. Initially I assumed we’d spend a few minutes there and head off, but then we got an audio guide…  And it was all detailed looking, pointing and listening from there.  At one point there was even a high school choir performance in the crypt which we interrupted our tour for.  It was totally worth it, and the crypt was a surprisingly nice venue for a children’s choir!

After touring the remainder of the crypt and seeing the likes of Lord Nelson and Wellington, we decided to head upstairs….  All 365 feet and 528 stairs! But we were rewarded with excellent views, first of the inside of the dome called the “whispering gallery” where photos were forbidden. Basically, it means that you can whisper along the wall of the gallery… or you could if it wasn’t crowded with hundreds of tourists.

When we got to the first outside level we could take photos again, and so we did. But that wasn’t all. We kept going to the top for some more photos!

Eventually we headed back outside and everyone was pretty exhausted. Poor Amy did the whole climb while being sick too!

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We chilled out the front of the cathedral for a while, and I found this awesome little unicorn prancing around a pillar. I’ve no idea which royal had this emblem, but I’m pretty sure they were an avid role-player 😉

After the tour we walked around a little bit more before we had to head to the airport for our flight back.  Luckily this time it was a really simple and smooth flight, so we arrived back at Manjas place by about 8pm, just in time for me to pack for my flight back to Australia tomorrow.

Exploring London and Eating up the Skyline

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Breakfast Squirrel!

The next morning we all awoke, which didn’t feel like a given in our Haunted House. The shower was very pretty and had an old-school design where you could switch the water flow from the tap to the shower head.  We tried about 5 types of voodoo and eventually all managed to get the shower to work.  Amy had also been coming down with a cold (we hope it was a cold, and not an attack by an evil spirit), but she was soldering on and we collectively dragged ourselves to a cafe near the train station to get some breakfast.  Turns out that breakfast this morning came with a cute little squirrel putting on a show!

We decided to spend the morning apart, given that Amy and Drew had seen many of the sights before, and that I really wanted to tour the tower of London.  So while they checked out a few museums, we headed to the tower of London.  I nearly died of a heart attack at the entry fee (£26.80!), but it was totally worth it.  Through simple stupid luck we arrived just in time to take a Beefeater tour, which was REALLY well done.

After our tour we did tour the Crown Jewels, but you’re not allowed to take any photos in the exhibit at all….  So all we have there is memories of regalia from Monarchs long past and present.  Pretty pretty jewely stuff.  Most interesting to me was that you’re literally on a conveyer belt as you get transported past the actual Crown Jewels.

Seeing so many crowns and sceptres did make us hungry so we grabbed some lunch before continuing our tour, finding some art around the place, which included Monkeys and elephants made out of chicken wire and statues which just invited me to play with them….

As we were strolling around we even got to see a changing of the guards. These dudes take their walking seriously! Below is them going home, probably to grab a beer.

I really have to say that the entry price was totally worth it.  We ended up spending most the day there, returning to the Airbnb just in time to get ready for a fancy dinner we had booked at Fenchurch Skygarden Restaurant.  The food was amazing, and the view was pretty good too.  It was a strange design, the restaurant is pretty much a glass cube within the glass upper level of the building.  This meant that the view was great, but you actually got a more spectacular view from the viewing platform just below.  None the less, it was an incredible night!

While the service wasn’t exactly 5 star, Drew totally made that worth it by making our waitress to a friend and scoring a button of the parent organisation!

Feeling totally happy and full of delicious food, we wandered the town a bit, to see the London Eye and walk past some random Cathedral….  Where we wondered just why the dude was escaping out of the decorative corner piece.

A short train ride later, we were all exhausted enough to drop into bed and sleep, almost forgetting about our surroundings.

Here’s to friends in London!

Many, many months ago, back in the dark ages before I was going onto long service leave, Amy and Drew made plans to go to the motherland for a cousins wedding.  As Lady Luck would have it, this overlapped nicely with my return to OZ.  So we made plans, and schemed and decided that we’d meet for few days of letting loose in London-town.  Manja met them at Johan and Stefs wedding back in February (Can anyone say Coooldplay?!? Drew and Manja sure can!!) and couldn’t wait to catch up with them as well.

So we hopped on a plane mid week to arrive in London on a sunny autumn day.  Manja had been before, so she found us a bit of a walking route along the Themse.  After crossing the millennial bridge, we settled for some lunch under the London Bridge, because, why not?

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Entry to another world…  Well, to our Airbnb actually!

Feeling suitably strengthened, we hit the tube to meet up with Amy and Drew at our Airbnb. Amy had arranged an awesome looking Airbnb for us all…  Well, it looked awesome on the photos.  In reality it was a bit…  well, very…  Strange. Like Stranger Things strange, or like “I’ve lost my mind and decided to decorate my home like a serial killer” strange.  But seriously, out of ALL the accommodation I’ve EVER had, this was by FAR the most memorable…  And that includes some pretty interesting places in Nepal!

You still don’t believe me, right? Well thanks to Manjas skill with a camera, the following photos might give you a bit of a feel for the place!

Of course, I couldn’t help but mimic the monkey bookends with the decorative bowl…

After a short rest the four of us headed into town to see some sights and grab some food. At this point Amy was in charge of showing us her town, and we headed straight for Buckingham Palace.  I got to admit I was ready to not be impressed, but it’s a pretty spectacular sight. After I spent ages speculating about the whys and whatfores of the massive statues out the front (google calls it the Victoria Memorial), Amy took charge and took us down the Mall.  I should clarify, that’s the street, leading away from the Palace toward Trafalgar Square.  She didn’t take us shopping.

Regardless, along the way we walked under a few arches lining the road around Victorias Memorial, and found some Aussie ones! Go us, being all commonwealthy and stuff! We even sent some stone sheep!

We walked The Mall for a bit before turning off toward a dude standing on a big Column, overseeing us peasants.  Turns out that this was the Duke of York Column, which is quite impressive for its age.  We continued down to Leicester square where we had a nice bit of food and did do some shopping…  Well, visiting of shops, namely Lego and M&M….  But NOT before taking a happy snap of Simon being trampled by charging horses.  Luckily these were bronzed as part of being made into a statue!

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By this point of the night we were all exhausted enough to turn in and attempt to sleep in our freak show palace Airbnb.  After sleeping there the night, we can confirm that the place may or may not be haunted.

! September

So the remainder of September was the last month of my trip. There was a fair bit of time spent on that Family project again, so I can’t really write about that.  But there were a few nice other events, so here’s a whirlwind tour! 
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Breakfast!
I had been telling Manja about the Königliche Gartenakademie (The kings Garden Academy) which Klaus took me to for my birthday.  I might have said this before, but it’s basically a cafe inside a plant shop which is maintained by trainees from the Botanical gardens. Being an avid gardener Manja had been keen to go there, so we met up to check it out for a beautiful breakfast.  After WAAAAAY too much food, we strolled around the whole center – it took us about 2.5 hours to see it all! 
As we were getting ready to leave Manja mentioned that there was another cool place she’d been wanting to check out nearby – a public park which used to be a translation.  It’s now called the Naturpark Südegelände, and it’s pretty cool.  Basically an abandoned translation which has been taken over by nature, with walking paths and artwork put back around the place.  At night time it also doubles as a Venue for events, concerts and theatre.  
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Heidis Hugo!
The more avid readers of my families blogs may know that a few years back a lady called Heidi Hetzer came by and visited us on her trip around the world in an old-timer.  Well, she wrote a book about her travels and the book launch happened to be while I was there, and Gabi invited me. It would be a small affair, they said. When we got there, we found ourselves part of a approx 2000 people crowd, and Gabi let the moderator know that I’d come by as a bit of a ‘surprise guest’. Well, because of some miscommunication he thought I was a co-driver so I ended up getting pulled on stage and clarifying who I was in front of a massive crowd. Both funny and stressful! 21028749-a666-4b03-bd1f-e4d278ee7bb6On Wednesday night Manja and I caught up with Stefan. I met him on the trip to Remagen a few weeks ago, and he was in Berlin for business. We had a nice dinner and walked around town for a bit, and as he had some time the next day we arranged to do an escape room which he’d never done before. Turns out he quite enjoyed it and we managed to finish another awesome room at House of Tales. After that we had a drink at the river and strolled past the DDR museum, which I hadn’t been to in a few years. On a whim we decided to stop by, and I have to say that it’s quite a good museum! There’s lots of interactive exhibits to explore, including a DDR Trabi driving simulator. We both crashed that car plenty of times to our mutual amusement! When we finished there we went off to grab some food for dinner – which ended up making it a bit of a later night than originally planned, but it was a great night! The next Saturday Manja and I did a bit of a Simons history of Berlin tour – which was a lot of fun. We basically visited a bunch of the places I grew up in…  I could write a LOT about this, but it’s probably a bit boring for anyone else reading 😉  BUT! We did start the day at a fantastic little cafe – ABC – Allans Breakfast club – which was advertised as having “Australian Kitchen”.  I’m not sure about strictly Australian (though they did habe beetroot with most things!) but it was amazing food. Suddenly it was the second to last weekend in Berlin already. On Saturday night Manja had arranged a group of us to head down to the Mond Fest (Moon Festival) at the Gardens of the World. It was basically a celebration of Asian culture, and the whole park was lit up beautifully. It was a bit cold, so we did find some inside spaces to warm up every now and then.  The grand finale, which even had a dragon dance with a dragon run by adults and a dragon run by children, finished with a sight and sound extravaganza – basically lasers to Chinese music, with fireworks set off above the stage…. It was all good, until the fireworks on top of the stage set the roof on fire a bit!  Luckily it was reasonably cold and the roof was covered in grass, so the fire was easy to control. About 3-4 broke out throughout the show and the fire safety guy did a FANTASTIC job – he extinguished them with bursts of Co2 in time to the music, making it look like big clouds of smoke were planned at those points!  On the last weekend in Berlin, we met up with Manjas Mother, Brother and Nephew to do a tree-top adventure climb in the Spreewald. It was Amazing! Super simple clip and gear handling made it fun for everyone as we all tested our balance and climbing skills. The ride back was a bit colder, but we were lucky to be invited to some of Manjas friends, where we were greeted by a really fantastic home-cooked butter chicken and home-made lassie.  We spent the whole nights chatting and having really delicious food, it was a truly excellent night!  a5399fd8-a1d9-4427-84f8-2686a4e26e42 The next week it was already time to pack up the bike, and prepare for one last short trip to London. At this point the weather was really turning, and for the first time in my trip here I had to contend with riding the bike through rain and cold, dropping it back off to Freyas place and gently cleaning the last 4 months of dirt of it for a few hours. It’s amazing how quickly it accumulates, and how painful it is to get a bike properly clean.

Reciprocating a Birthday Event

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Weekend Convertible

By Friday it was the end of August, and the weekend of Manjas Birthday. As she’d taken such great care of me during my trip and especially on my Birthday, I arranged a few things for her, and even baked her a cake…
Benefit of friends on holidays I guess 😉

We met for Dinner on Friday afternoon, at a swanky place called “Restaurant Provocateur”, which was Asian-French fusion Restaurant. Odd but delicious food – and particularly fantastic desert. Following dinner I took her home in a convertible I had arranged for the weekend trip – she was VERY excited by that one 🙂

Saturday Morning we headed off to Rheinsberg, where I’d arranged for us to stay in a seaside spa/hotel. We arrived and Manja went off to a massage while I checked into the room. Nicely relaxed, we headed over to find some lunch in town – deciding on an excellent vegetarian burger place.

With food in our belly we decided to explore the palace grounds. The palace itself was nice enough, but the grounds were amazing to we walked around for a few hours.

On our way back we passed through the town and checked out some local craft shops, including the famous pottery.

Eventually it got a bit later and we headed to an ‘all-you-can-eat’ dinner buffet. It was pretty good food, especially for a buffet. We both ate a little bit (read: A LOT) too much, so we felt the need to move a bit. We headed down the pier and were rewarded with a really pretty sunset at the lake.

With darkness upon us we couldn’t do much else outside, so we headed into the spa area for a Swim and Sauna. We had thought about hitting the gym for a bit (not sure what possessed us!) but it was “unfortunately” closed…. Not locked, but you couldn’t turn on the lights. With that plan spoiled we went back to our room with a view and played a few games before dropping into bed.

Still loving that convertible!

Sunday was unfortunately already time to check-out.  I’d arranged a late check-out though, so we took it easy and spent a bunch of time sampling everything at the all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet. I also managed to squeeze in a massage to try and set my various muscles back into place – many were still hurting after the Italy trip almost a month ago. It was A-Mazing.

Feeling much better, we headed back into town for a short coffee and stroll along a different part of the lake, before starting the tour back to Berlin where Ilka had invited us to a birthday dinner in the garden. As always, it was excellent food with even better company and we chatted until way too late.

By the time we left it was too cold to drive with an open roof….  but we did anyway, because why the hell not?

The following weekdays were back onto a secret mission for the family, but Friday I helped Manja arrange a small birthday get-together at her place with friends. We were lucky with the weather – it was a bit drizzly but not too cold, so we spent most of the evening on the balcony. A really lovely night.

The following weekdays were back onto a secret mission for the family, but Friday I helped Manja arrange a small birthday get-together at her place with friends, even getting around to baking a nice plum-strudel!
We were lucky with the weather – it was a bit drizzly but not too cold, so we spent most of the evening on the balcony. A really lovely night.

Saturday night Manja and her brother shared a birthday get-together by meeting the whole family at the “Lübbener Museumsnacht”. We rode up by motorbike in the late afternoon and had dinner with her family before spending the evening exploring various parts of the old town-hall and museum. There was even a local blacksmith plying his trade, and at night the whole area was lit up! 

Exploring the town hall, we found a place passing out free mulled wine, in a old-school (like 1800’s) style underground bar, with a bit of a almost-horror-theme.  NO idea why, but it really was free!

It really is a pretty little township, and the museum may have had a photo-booth style dress-up option….

We also found this….  Which I somehow think is amusing to my Aussie readers, no?

Eventually we even managed to come along for a tour of the buildings, they’re really old and pretty inside!

We left around midnight, freezing all the way home on the motorbike. Turns out that riding a bike when the weather isn’t overwhelmingly warm isn’t so much fun, and based on how frozen Manja looked, even less fun for a pillion.

Winter, as they say, is coming.

Encapsulating a few weeks

The next few weeks will mostly fit into a single blog post.

On Monday I dropped off the Bike to a service, where it would be until Thursday. I used this opportunity to check out some museums – spending multiple days in the “Deutsches Historisches Museum” (German History Museum). It ‘s a pretty spectacular museum I have to say!