Monday, 30 May 2011

My number one rule for travel photography

As you may have gathered from previous blog posts, I like to take photos while I'm travelling. After all, how else am I going to document and remember my adventures?

I don't profess to be any great expert on photography. I only have a point-and-shoot camera (but would really really like an SLR), and, reading books, looking at websites etc, I know I have a long way to go before my photos are any good.

All that said, however, I was reminded of a very important consideration while I was away over the weekend. So important (to me), I'm declaring it my number one rule for travel photography:

Always check the charge on your spare camera battery before you go out exploring a new city.

Here's hoping I remember it next time I go away...

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Things I have learnt at the post office

In the last couple of years, I've spent a fair bit of time (and money) at the post office. I send home birthday and Christmas presents, as well as things I've purchased for my family while travelling. Listed below are just a few of the things I've learnt...

  • Know if the postal service has a maximum weight limit on parcels (the limit is less than 2kg over here....learnt that one the hard way)
  • Bubble wrap is invaluable
  • As are old newspapers (to fill gaps in boxes)
  • And your own duct tape is pretty handy too (for sealing up boxes once they're packed....if you ask the counter staff to put tape on them, they will use completely useless ordinary sticky tape)
  • Fill out your customs stickers/put airmail stickers on before you get to the counter to pay
  • If you use bubble wrap to protect fragile items, make sure you use sticky tape to secure said bubble wrap (also learnt this the hard way)
  • Use the smallest box/packaging you can get away with for what you are sending.....less space for things to move around in the box
  •  If you use boxes from the post office, read carefully what you can use them for - some can't be used for sending items overseas (learnt that the hard way too)
  • Allow plenty of time if you're trying to have things arrive by a certain day - I've posted parcels that have taken anywhere from 4 days to 4 weeks
and lastly....
  • If you go to the post office on a Saturday morning, there will be a queue. Apparently everyone else has the same idea as you...

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Story behind the photo - Amsterdam, Edam and Voledam

A photograph of a windmill in The Netherlands. One of those photos that, while somewhat cliche, you kind of have to take....right? Amsterdam (after a stop in the village of Edam, and a dinner in the village of Voledam), was the final destination of the tour, before returning to London. I think, by this stage of what had been a whistle-stop three week trip through Europe, I was feeling a mixture of emotions - sadness that the tour was nearly over, mixed with a sense relief that I would be settling in one place and not in the hectic mindset that day-after-day travel can bring.

This photo was taken on the drive to Amsterdam. If I remember rightly, there is actually not all that many windmills any more in The Netherlands - I think our bus driver and tour manager made a slight detour so we could hop out and take a photo. I count myself pretty lucky to have got off the bus quickly enough to get a photo without anyone in it......often easier said than done. A windmill is a pretty cool thing to see, and like I said, one of those iconic images you really want to capture (or at least I did)

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Things I have learnt while travelling

  • There will always sometimes be a delay when trying to get from point A to point B
  • Wearing a shirt with metal buttons is not a good idea when passing through airport security
  •  If you have to repack your luggage, it will never fit in quite as well as when you first packed
  • In airports where your final security screening is at the gate, it is a really bad idea to drink a lot of liquids before getting to said gate
  • There's nothing quite like the pizza in Italy
  • And the gelato, too.
  • I would not want to be driving a car in Italy
  • Or Turkey
  • If you're not a fan of big crowds, visiting the Vatican on the last Sunday of the month (when you get in free) is a really.bad.idea
  • If you're over a certain height, a good night's sleep on an overnight train is a very unlikely scenario
  • Embrace the unexpected...........after all, isn't that part of why you're travelling?
  • There's no such thing as too many photos
  • But it is occasionally a good idea to put away the camera and just soak in what you are looking at
  • When exploring a new city, be prepared to walk. A lot. (and for the inevitable blisters)
  • If a place says it is 500m from the nearest public transport stop, don't expect it to be immediately visible when you step off said public transport.
  • I never knew, but I apparently have a love of architecture. (especially visiting churches/cathedrals)
  • Why Disneyland is the 'happiest place on Earth.'
and lastly (for now)....
  • If I could work out how to afford it to do it, I would always be travelling.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Story behind the photo - St Goar

St where? Yep, kind of my initial thought, too. St Goar is a small town in Germany, located on the banks of the Rhine river. We had one night here, which was definitely enough. There was an included cruise on the Rhine, an optional wine-tasting, and not too much else to do. I do have to mention one of the shops we visited - a stein shop. If you don't know, steins are what they use in Germany for drinking beer. This particular shop had a huge range.....of which my favourite were the 'Berlin Wall' steins. These were steins made with a piece of the Berlin Wall on the lid. I had heard about them before leaving Australia, and was pretty sure I wanted to buy one, a decision which was made about 30 seconds after seeing them in the shop. And as an added bonus (which I was very grateful for) the shop will ship them anywhere in the world (for a fee), which I took advantage of.

Now, the photo. This was outside one of the shops in St Goar. The text on the sign hanging around the bear's neck says:

I am a brown bear and I come from Steiff the company who made the first teddy bear in the world! You may take a picture with me, but please do not touch me. Many beary thanks.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Two songs

that I probably shouldn't listen to when feeling a bit homesick.....

The Waifs are an Australian band, that I have been listening to for several years and love dearly. These two songs, however, just make me miss home just a little bit....

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Story behind the photo - Prague

Prague was the next stop on our whistle-stop tour of Europe. We had an afternoon, and then a full day here, to explore the city. And explore I did. I walked my feet off (yet again) the end of the day, a group of us walked back to the hotel, and I can remember it being really hard to make myself walk back. This photo is looking back towards the Prague Castle complex, I think it was taken from the Charles Bridge (one of the main tourist attractions in Prague). The main building you can see in the background of the photo is St Vitus' Cathedral.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

You're from Canada, right? Or how I (apparently) don't sound very Australian

As I think I've mentioned before, I was born in the UK, but grew up in Australia. I've lived the vast majority of my life in Australia, and so like to think I sound relatively Aussie. I know I don't sound like Crocodile Dundee or Steve Irwin (the fact that their accent is what many international people think all Australians sound like is another rant for another day), but I had thought my accent was relatively easy to pick.

In the nearly two years I've lived here, I've discovered that isn't always the case.

At various times, I have been asked if I am the following:

  • Australian
  • New Zealander/Kiwi
  • South African
  • Irish 
  • Canadian
  • American
I have also been told that I look Scottish.

The most bizarre attempt at picking my accent would have to been when I went with a work colleague (who is English) to see a client. The client said that I was English and that my colleague was Australian.......not sure how they reached that conclusion, let me tell you.

And, while I was in Turkey recently (on a group tour with a bunch of Aussies and Kiwis), I was told by some that I didn't have a very strong Australian accent. This has been a common comment I get from people who don't immediately pick my accent as Australian.

I don't mind particularly if people that I meet don't get my accent straight away - it provides me with a giggle and a bit of entertainment. I would, however, find it really interesting to hear myself how other people hear me - I think it could be an enlightening experience....

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Achieved: Gallipoli - ANZAC Day dawn service

It has been just over a week since I got back from Turkey - an amazing week, the highlight of which, for me, was attending the ANZAC Day dawn service in Gallipoli.

Most people I've met over here who aren't Aussie or Kiwi have never heard of ANZAC Day, or understand the significance it has to Australians and New Zealanders. It is difficult to try and explain, but I will do my best:

On 25 April 1915, Allied forces landed at the Gallipoli pennisula in Turkey. The intention was for the Allied forces to capture Constantinople (what is now Istanbul) and open up a sea route to Russia. However, both the landing and subsequent 8 month campaign were unsuccessful and there was high numbers of casualties on both sides. You can read more about the battle here and here

That doesn't really explain though why Australians and New Zealanders commemorate ANZAC Day. At the time of the landings (1915), both Australia and New Zealand were small, relatively young countries (Australia had only become a federated nation 14 years previously) and had very strong links to Britain. The Gallipoli landings were really the first chance both Australia and New Zealand had to 'stand on our own two feet', and it is felt that the soldiers at Gallipoli showed great courage, mateship, humour and larrikinism - what has come to be known as the 'ANZAC spirit.'

Today, on 25 April (ANZAC Day), Australians and New Zealanders remember not only those soldiers that served at Gallipoli, but all soldiers from all wars.

(just as an aside, the Gallipoli landings are also considered very significant to the Turkish people, and are remembered by them each year)

I don't think I've done a particularly good job of explaining it, but it is something that we just grow up with in Australia and New Zealand, and I can't really put it into words.....

Every year, dawn services are held on ANZAC day to remember all soldiers from all conflicts, including a service at Gallipoli. There are also services held at the Australian, Turkish and New Zealand memorial sites within the Gallipoli pennisula. I was fortunate enough to attend the dawn service, as well as the Australian and New Zealand memorial services. It was an incredibly moving experience, that I don't think I'll ever be able to express in words.

Some photos from the day:

memorial wall at Lone Pine (Australian memorial)

sunset over ANZAC cove, 24 April

sleeping out, night of 24 April, waiting for the Dawn Service (its all part of the experience)

looking up at the cliffs the ANZAC soldiers would have faced

wreaths laid at the Dawn Service

Lone Pine (Australian memorial site)

Lone Pine
Chunuk Bair (New Zealand memorial site, I couldn't get any closer than this)

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old,
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Lest we forget.