Friday, August 20, 2010


We went to Ulm over Easter break. Miriam used to live there and she very kindly offered to take us around the town. There is Ulm, and then there is Neu-Ulm. One in Baden-Württemberg, the other in Bayern, which is an interesting way of doing things. 

The highlight of the town is the Münster, or church. It has the highest steeple in the world (I think), with 768 steps. We walked up all of them. I remember this all too well, because I don't like stairs. Definitely not a place for people that don't like heights or enclosed spaces. 

 Ulmer Münster, picture thanks to Adrian.

As expected, if you go far enough up, the view improves. Ulm is an old town, on the Danube, very pretty. 

 Ulm from above.

The architecture is a little different too. There seems to be a lot of water around, running into the Danube. I guess there's no reason why you can't build a house over the water.

 Waterfront views, Ulm-style.

Ulm is also the home of a few important people, or at least, has links to these people. Einstein and Kepler among those. 
 Albert Einstein and Johannes Kepler.

So that was Ulm, definitely worth a visit if passing through from Munich to western Germany. 

Monday, April 12, 2010


Salzburg is every bit the clichéd town it is, but it's very pretty. If it's not the Sound of Music, then it's Mozart. Both seem to exist quite happily though, but the locals aren't fans of the movie. Apparently 20th Century Fox took many liberties with it. 

The Sound of Music
I went on The Sound of Music Tour, complete with big red bus and all. It was an English speaking tour, so I understood it, and ended up sitting next to an American who was also living in Heidelberg. Small world. 

We went past the houses that were used as the front and back of the house in the movie. It's always quite strange seeing these places in real life. I did almost expect Julie Andrews to pop out from somewhere. 

Apparently the producers built the gazebo and they liked it so much that Salzburg kept it. They moved it several times and it now sits in a little corner of Hellbrunn.

We drove all the way out to Mondsee, which is where the church scene was filmed. It was a nice drive out there, towards the lakes and mountains, just outside of Salzburg. We were lucky that the weather was good and there was just enough sunshine for it to be nice. 

On one side of the Donau, or Danube, is Mirabell Gardens. Very pretty and again, more parts of the Sound of Music were filmed here. It was a little strange to be standing on the same steps as those seen in the movie. 

The big white building towards the back of the last photo is the Fortress here in Salzburg. More about that later. But just to the right of that, is the abbey that was used. All of it much smaller than it appears to be. 

I think I'll leave the kitschy stuff there and move on to some more interesting things. Although it was interesting to see all these places in real life. 

Festung Hohensalzburg

The fortress overlooks the city and is a long way up. And up a very steep path. I know that, personally. Being a little overwhelmed by how far up the fortress was, I can't remember much about it, except for the fact that it is quite old and still has old cannons. The next picture was taken from one of the holes in the wall that a cannon was protruding from. Good view of Salzburg. I decided to take the funicular railway down, which was much faster and easier than walking down.  

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
The people that know me and my tastes in music know that I don't like Mozart. Still, I decided to take a few photos.

So that was Salzburg. Very much a tourist destination, but worth a visit. 

Monday, March 29, 2010

Alice im Wunderland

We went to see Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland in 3D today.The problem with movies in Deutschland is that they are apparently all dubbed, so a group of us wanted to go see it auf Englisch. It also meant that we needed to get to Mannheim, on the train. 

From what Germans tell me, they have the same people doing voiceovers for just about everything. So everyone sounds the same in movies. I can't deal with seeing someone say something and their mouth not moving properly, or even not moving at all! It seems as if just about everything is dubbed here, so TV is either German or nothing. 

We had a movie and pizza night in the lab last week. Bud Spencer and Terence Hill. Until last Friday, I had no idea who they were, so it was interesting to see the style of movie. And interesting again to sit through a movie in German, dubbed, and understand next to nothing. Still, it was entertaining.  

Thursday, March 18, 2010


I think it's about time I wrote about the food here in Germany. Important, really. 

Yes, there is a lot of chocolate. And no, it's not everywhere, but it's mostly very good. Milka parallels Cadbury back home, but Milka wins. The "Alpenmilch" thing works and it is tasty and more affordable than Cadbury. There is also Lindt here, but it's the same as it is back home. 

The "Student's Kiss" chocolate was invented (designed? made?) here in Heidelberg and is just a heart-shaped chocolate. Tasty enough. 

Breakfast cereal. There seems to be a chocolate variant of every type of breakfast cereal on offer. This includes muesli (müsli?) and so on. I can't imagine chocolate muesli, but it does exist. 

Cheese seems to be standard, it's everywhere, and I can find whatever it is that I want at the supermarket. Something that I've not seen anywhere else is is quark. It's a bit like cream cheese, but it's not. 

The bread here is fantastic. It's always fresh and the variety is something I've not seen before. There is the sweet stuff, the savoury stuff and the normal stuff. Pretzels are big too, with different seeds on top. In the pedestrian zone, I think there is a shop selling bread of some sort at least every 20 metres. Bit hard to go hungry around there. 

Still, supermarket bread is good and comes in smaller packages. That makes more sense. There is a lot of seed bread, as in, sunflower seed, pumpkin seed and so on, available. It's quite tasty, but a lot heavier than regular bread. Good for a change. 

Here in Germany, bottled water seems to be the thing. Most people drink bottled water. Most people drink carbonated bottled water. In short, it tastes a bit funny. Every so often, with food, I can take it. But not as my main source of water. And no, letting the bubbles escape doesn't make it taste any better. It just tastes funny. 

People buy bottled water in crates from the supermarket. It seems to be quite affordable and you get a refund when you bring the bottle back. Almost forced recycling. 

I guess one of the reasons for drinking bottled water is because the water is quite hard here. It seems to be especially hard here in Heidelberg and more so here, in Im Neuenheimer Feld, so I'm told. Without talking like a chemist too much, the precipitate in my kettle is quite off-putting. 

I think everyone knows about Germany's obsession with the sausage, or Wurst. There is every possible kind imaginable. There are normal sausages, spreadable sausages, Leberwurst, canned sausages, flavoured sausages and so on. I think that the variety of sausage in supermarkets is greater than the variety of breakfast cereal. 

Maybe I'm being picky, but Australian coffee is better. Or at least, Australian coffee from a place that cares about the coffee. Still, people seem to consume a lot of coffee here, mostly with cake. Filtered coffee seems to be the norm here, with boxes and boxes of filters everywhere. 

I'm sure there's plenty more to write, but this was just some of what stood out. More later!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Mannheim and Faschings

I went to Mannheim last weekend. From what I understood, Mannheim is the largest city around here, only 15 minutes on the train. And yes, there are plenty of shops. I've been told that the city was destroyed, which explains the lack of street names in the middle of the town. Each block has a letter and a number. It actually makes a lot of sense because D1 is right next to D2. Street names do not correlate with each other in any way, which makes getting around just a little harder. But if you're standing on P2, you know that P3 is the next block! 

Wasserturm in Mannheim. 

This past weekend was also the last weekend of Faschings. Or Carneval. Or Karneval. Or Carnival? I'm not sure. So in Mannheim, there were stalls (food, of course) lining the streets. Interesting mix of new shops and old things. Lots of Wurst, Crepes, more Wurst and so on.

Nutella Crepe! Doesn't look like much, but yummy when hot. 

I'm still not quite sure what this is all about, but it seems like a lot of fun. It all officially ends tomorrow, Ash Wednesday, and so things are seemingly closed tonight. I've seen lots of people in fancy dress, big hair, weird glasses, cool shoes and the like. 

Back Altstadt Heidelberg, there are lots of old churches. One in particular was advertising a Faschings Orgelkonzert, so off I went. 

Yes, the concert did actually start at two minutes past five. 

In hindsight, I don't think I was expecting anything in particular, which was probably a good thing. First thing I see when I walk inside is a guy wearing a clown suit, big clown feet, a wig and a funny nose. Inside a church. I then see the organists wearing blue and green wigs and funny ties. Definitely not anything resembling a church service. Once inside, I was handed a program of sorts, a sheet with questions (alles auf Deutsch), a pencil, a balloon and a toothpick. We were meant to answer questions in response to snippets of music. The only questions I did manage to answer were the Disney-themed ones. Yes, kid-at heart. 

The organists at Providenzkirche.

Oh and the balloon! We had to blow them up. Not easy, because they were tiny. And then pop it at the right time. It's quite difficult to get 50 balloons to pop at the same time. All a bit of fun. 

My balloon. And my (very blank) question sheet. 

Other things
I've settled into my room and into my fume hood now. I'm hoping Lady Luck extends to Germany and my fume hood, in particular. There will be a chemistry-centric (mythbusting) post at some point in the future, which will probably make a few eyes glaze over. But in short, everything I have here, I can get at home. Chemicals still behave the same way, Schlenk lines still work the same way and solvents still have the same polarity. All good.

So here's to you, my "We want more blog posts!"-friends. I know entries have been a long time coming. They will get there eventually! Quite probably in reverse order too...

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Heidelberg for real

So this is it! I'm in my new room (home!) and I finally have internet. So I think all is well. Almost. I'm living with three other people (2 Germans, 1 Italian) in a little apartment, which is new for me. I've just realised that I've never really lived with anyone else. Speaking of living with people, weekly chores have just come out and I'm in charge of one of the bathrooms this time. So yes, I have a room, in an apartment, which means I have a postal address...if anyone is interested. 

I'm only 5 minutes away from the lab, which means that I will be uber-productive once I figure out where everything is. I'm trying not to think about it now, but going home and getting used to having to travel an hour each way will be hard to get used to again. Then again, I don't have bench space or a fume hood in Sydney at the moment, so who knows where I'll end up.

Over the next few weeks (maybe months...) I will be writing more about the various places I've been and also putting up more photos. There are still so many stories and pictures. And so much snow! 

More soon.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


We've only had two or so days in Stockholm, but it was immediately obvious that it is a well-developed city. And like Vienna, expensive. I guess it's like being in Sydney, except that it is much colder, the people speak Swedish and that the public transport is much better.

Flying in to Stockholm, it was all trees and snow. Christmas trees! There were so many of them. It was also strangely dark. That is something I'm not sure I'd ever want to get used to, sunset by 4 pm or so. I like sunlight and blue sky. The sky ends up a dusty red colour, but still "dark". Conducive to staying inside.

Accommodation here was in a jail! An old, converted jail, that is. We had a 2-bed cell and it was fantastic. I should like to think that it will be one of the only times I'll be "in jail".

More detailed update with more pictures later.

Friday, January 22, 2010


Vienna is everything they said it would be. Pretty, fashionable, tasty. And expensive. I guess it is no more expensive than Sydney, but after visiting Prague, Krakow and Budapest, just about anything would be expensive.

Schloss Schönbrunn was amazing. This palace was the home of the ruling family of Austria, the Habsburgs, until they lost power. In particular, Franz Leopold and Elisabeth lived there. We only managed to see part of the palace, but it was obvious that the cost of things didn't really matter. Still pretty nonetheless.

We had Wiener schnitzel one evening, at a little place away from the city. The schnitzel (turkey and pork) was good, except that there was enough meat for a week on our two plates. Most people need to make use of the paper and bags to take the rest home, which is what we did.

Schloss Belvedere was a bit of an eye-opening experience. I thought it was going to be another palace, like Schönbrunn, and it was, in that it was a magnificent building. But this palace houses art. I don't know much (or anything?) about art, except that I'm not very good at it. Renoir, Monet and Manet live there, as well as Klimt. We only had time to look at a part of the palace, which was a shame.

More pictures soon!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Some more minor things about Budapest.

It is a city that is very much different to the previous cities we've visited. It seems a lot older, yet still has young bits. I had no idea, but Buda is on the west side of the Danube and Pest is on the east side of the Danube.

The transport systems are fantastic here. The trams, metro and buses link everything together. Like everything else, it takes a little getting used to, but it works.

Everyone seems to smoke here! It's hard to eat with people smoking, but that's the way it is.

We are spoiled in Australia, when it comes to fruit. The choice and quality is better than anything I've seen here.

Those delicious twist things we found in Krakow are apparently traditional Hungarian and not Polish! Here is one with walnuts.

If something is open 24 hours a day, it is open "0 - 24" or "non-stop".

The labyrinth in Buda is a bit of a scam. They claim to have human footprints from 40 million years ago, with shoe tread marks! Really? "Homo consumeres" apparently. That and rocks with imprints of mobile phones and computers.

More pictures when I have a proper computer.


Even quicker quickie than I thought. Limited interweb access here, so just a hello from Budapest.

We're heading to Vienna this morning, day time train! More from Wien.

Friday, January 8, 2010


Krakow is fantastic. It's quite different to Prague and other cities, more relaxed and modern. I'm definitely not going to be learning Polish any time soon; the language is a bit of a tongue twister. I'm having trouble saying hello, let alone other things. 

Wawel Cathedral
We arrived at about 6am and headed up to Wawel Cathedral shortly after. There is a lot of history here, as they seem to have been very much a religious country, with various cardinals and so on buried within the Cathedral. No photos of the inside, unfortunately, because it is ultimately, still a place of worship. 

The largest bell in Poland. Something about over 11 tonnes. 


Statue of Pope John Paul II outside the Cathedral.


Cathedral from the outside.

View of Krakow from the top of the hill.

There is apparently a dragon here at the top of the hill, in the dragon's den. And apparently, said dragon was killed by some smart people who made it eat a bag of hot sulfur. Apparently! Either way, we didn't get to see the dragon breathe fire, because he doesn't work if it gets below 0 C. And that is everyday here at this rate, so no dragon. Still, the dragon lives on in the city and plush green reincarnations are available. 

Wieliczka Salt Mine
The other main attraction here in Krakow is the salt mine, on the list of UNESCO's special places. Everything is made of salt. Except maybe the toilets, which are the toilets that are the furthest down on Earth at a depth of 120 metres below sea level. There are many salt statues in the mine, telling stories of what happened in the mine over 500 years ago. The mine was discovered by a princess who threw her engagement ring down a mine shaft in Hungary, only to have it dug up again in Poland, where the salt was found. I don't know how well jewelery travels underground, but that is a good way of doing things.

The outside of the mine. It's a little below zero outside, but about 14 C underneath.

The princess being reunited with her ring.


The gnomes hard at work.


Inside the mine, all the salt looks brown, but under a decent amount of light, it comes up white. Crystalline? 

We were lucky enough to visit on a day when a special Mass was held in the main chapel. The Cardinal of Poland (important guy?) was there to open a new tourist route through the mine. The mine has its own brass band (with token woodwind) and so they were playing, the Cardinal was talking and so on. There are plenty of little chapels throughout the mine, because the miners were often devoutly religious. The chandeliers are all made out of salt, with some crystals making me jealous that I can't make anything near that nice in the lab.

The Cardinal of Poland during Mass. Salt sculpture of the Last Supper in the middle, on the left.

More about Krakow later. We're heading to Budapest tonight on a sleeper train. They are quite useful, because you get transport and accommodation in one, but they do go rather slowly. We're traveling 250 km, requiring 11 hours. 



Tuesday, January 5, 2010


Prague Philharmonic Orchestra
Fiona and I arrived at our hostel at 3pm, to find that there was a New Year's Day concert given by the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra at 4pm, so we walked over to the Rudolfinum and managed to get relatively inexpensive last-minute tickets. Definitely well worth the effort. We were sitting up behind the orchestra, under the organ, which was an experience in itself as well. Mixture of Smetana, Dvorak, arias from Mozart and Puccini, and of course, Strauss.

 Fiona and Althea, sitting under the organ.

The view of the orchestra from behind.

One of my favourites, Anotonín Dvořák.

Markets in the Old Town Square

There are markets in the town square and we generally walk through this to get to other places in town. The Czech people have a doughnut-like pastry item that tastes like a doughnut with cinnamon sugar, but has the texture of bread. Very nice when still hot.

Christmas tree and one of the churches in the Old Town Square.

Althea usual.

Navigating the streets
Prague is confusing, because the streets curve in such a way that the maps we have make it a little difficult to go places. Still, we're managing. The streets are cobbled, which makes it interesting to walk on. All the street lights are yellow, which gives the whole city a warm glow to it at night. During the day, it can seem a little gloomy, but that's the way it is. 

           Prague in the morning, Prague in the night. 

Shopping and so on

The city centre of Prague is extremely touristy, so there are plenty of shops selling hats, bags, bohemian crystal, glass art, jewelery and so on. Not bad, but, it can get a bit tedious. If not, then there are department stores, with most big name international labels here in the city. I love going supermarket shopping, because of the sheer variety available under one roof, so we ended up at Billa. Supermarkets here sell plenty of alcohol, but no stationery. We needed sticky tape and ended up needing a department store for such a mundane item. Absinthe seems to be big here as well, with whole shops devoted to selling the stuff. 

Directory in the department store. You need to know that the ground floor is really floor 0 and that below 0, is -1.

Nice way of saying "please don't smoke" in a coffee shop.

More to come later!

Saturday, January 2, 2010


This post is going to be picture-free, because I'm not actually in Berlin right now. 

Berlin was yesterday. Catching the train from Heidelberg to Berlin was a little more painful than it should have been. In order to get from Heidelberg to Berlin, I needed to change at Mannheim, which would then take me straight to Berlin at a speed of 200 km/h on an ICE train. Lovely, in theory. Bad weather meant that my second train was stopped indefinitely at Frankfurt, which is not near Berlin. Another hour later and another train, I was finally on my way to Berlin. 

In short, Deutsche Bahn are great, but no-one, not even Germans, can overcome nature. 

Short stay in Berlin with Liam and Julia, where we joined them in having a traditional German dinner. We managed to do a little bit of sight-seeing, including Checkpoint Charlie, some part of the Wall and Brandenburger Tor. I also managed to work out the Berlin rail system, which uses a combination of S-Bahn and U-Bahn trains to move everyone around the city. And the snow! There is more than enough snow to make a snowman. I like the stuff...

While the trains in Berlin are quite efficient, they are also prone to CityRail-like impersonations, with delays and inconsistent arrival times. Again, German rail is good, but it's not completely foolproof. 

More about Berlin later. Prague for now.