Saturday, December 30, 2006

Baggage at Heathrow

Baggage at Heathrow Terminal 1. When we arrived back from Prague, Terminal 1 arrivals was full of baggage. Our baggage was a bit late, so we walked around looking at who had lost their bags for Christmas. Warsaw, Edinburgh, Paris - many people had missing presents and clothes. In a way it was funny, but you had to feel for the people. Most of the baggage was due to the fog delays of the previous days.

Fast-forward two days and we are back at Heathrow Terminal 4. Check-in is packed with people and the baggage check-in carousels have broken down. We have four large bags, the remainder of our life from London. We check-in, our bags are tagged... and dumped in a pile in the middle of the terminal. I think we both knew that our previous giggle had just come back to haunt us.

We all know what happens next. We arrive after 7.5 hours at JFK, minus our baggage! Not a single piece of baggage made it onto our flight, only 50% the flight before and none of the flight after. Our first US queue experience is for the British Airways baggage desk.

Here is the upside:

  • Storing our bags at JFK while we were in New York - not required!
  • Storing our bags at LAX while in LA - not required!
  • Collecting baggage at any airport - not required!
  • Clearing customs - not required!
  • Shopping in New York sales. With nothing but clothes on our back we hit the sales in New York to find something to wear!

We still don't have our baggage, and we don't know where it is. But we are arriving home on the 8th and hopefully we will get our baggage sometime after that.

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Leaving London

Packing up to leave London. It is with a twinge of sadness that we pack our three suitcases, two backpacks and two daypacks (!) with the remainder of our gear from London. We have had a great time living in London and being able to travel and see parts of Europe. There are things that we will certainly miss, and things that we won't. And, right on queue, it started drizzling as we left Dave and Karen's house and dragged our bags up to the Angel tube.

Yes, we did get some strange looks from people on the tube. Many wondered 'what the bloody hell are you doing?', others probably 'they will have to pay excess luggage for sure!'. A few even pitied us and helped us get the bags on and off the trains before they were crushed in the doors.

At least we had a plane to get onto. There were a few people in the terminal who had cancelled or delayed flights. The heavy skies that marked our departure from the UK helped add to the delays and chaos in the airport.
Once we had checked in there was nothing left to do but enjoy our flight to JFK. The bags were at the mercy of British Airways. We still have 9 days of holidays in the US before we have to worry about anything.

Walking down the gangway for our last departure from the UK... for the moment. It is a good feeling to be going home!

Thursday, December 28, 2006


Weary after two weeks on the road we hit Prague. It was relief to find our 4-star hotel (our Christmas treat) after all of the hostels and pensions on the way.

Christmas in Prague:

  • No snow just cold - but we did see the snow in Melbourne on the news
  • Christmas markets - we are market old hats at this stage and nothing could surprise us
  • Wandering around the town - town hall, bric-a-brac shops, cobbled streets, locals and the Jewish quarter
  • Christmas breakfast in the hotel and dinner with champagne desert
  • Prague Castle - a somewhat disappointing castle after all of the hype that it received. It has nice views of the city though
  • Charles Bridge - a very nice bridge to look at
  • Vysehrad gardens - peaceful gardens in the middle of the city with beautiful views up and down the river

Click on the photo to see more of Prague

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to everyone from Prague!

We are spending our Christmas Day in Prague, Czech Republic, just the two of us. Our white Christmas hasn't occured, but it is still below freezing. Quite different to Christmas in Brisbane and the rest of Australia, I'm sure.

We hope that everyone has a great day and enjoy your time with your family and friends.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Cesky Krumlov

Today we left Vienna and headed north west into the Czech Republic. We caught a train from Vienna to Gmund on the Austria-Czech border where we had to change trains. In Gmund there was a little coffee shop where we had some lunch and off-loaded what remaining Euros we could.

Arriving in Cesky Krumlov by train leaves you with a 20 minute walk down hill to the town centre. It is no problem though, just probably not the nicest walk in the dark. Cesky Krumlov is a medieval town in the south-west of Czech Republic. We had heard glowing reports about the town so decided to use it as a stop-over between Vienna and Prague to avoid a 6+ hour train journey.

Cesky Krumlov is really a beautiful town. It has a compact old town centre that is on a bend in the river and there is the second largest castle in Czech looming over it. We have traditional Czech dishes for dinner in the town and have a walk around after dark. The town has many little stores that sell original products. As the town is in the heart of Bohemia there are many stores selling glass and crystal. It is quite cheap, but with our suitcases already overflowing back in London there is no way we can get more stuff to take home. Next time I think we will have to come over with some very empty suitcases.

As the town is only a stop-over for us we catch the midday bus to Prague the next day. The bus driver is insane, driving in the middle of the road with a smoke and mobile phone in his hands. Never-the-less we see some great country side on the way to Prague and we get there without incident.

Click on the photo to see more of Cesky Krumlov


Retracing our path to Bratislava, we catch a train back to Vienna. Surprisingly the train ticket on the way back is 50% cheaper. We have booked two nights in Vienna, however we end up staying for a third. Three nights in Vienna:

  • The first night we arrive at the hostel at 7pm. There is a Christmas market and pub crawl advertised to start at 7, so we quickly drop the bags and join the crawl. On the crawl we have 3 Americans, 6 Aussies, 1 Italian and 1 Austrian, who organised it. It was a long night but we had a good time.
  • The second night we go to the Volksoper to see an opera of Hansel and Gretel. Volksoper is a nice opera hall and the opera is enjoyable. We booked 5 euro tickets at the back of the balcony boxes, which were really quite terrible seats. Fortunately the people who booked the seats at the front of the balcony didn't show up, so we sat in the good seats for the whole show!
  • We enjoyed our first opera in Vienna and decided to see a second one at the Staatsoper (State Opera). For this we lined up to get standing tickets which were only 3.50 euros and we had a really good view. The only downside is that you stand up for the whole 3.5 hour show. It is a more professional production and there are a lot more stage props.

During the days we walked around the city looking at the architecture and sights of Vienna. The Spanish Riding School is in the centre of the city and they have exercise sessions everyday. We snuck in to get a look at one of the exercise sessions. Vienna was a relaxing, laid-back couple of days for us.

Click on the photo to see more of Vienna

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


The train to Bratislava leaves from south Vienna and takes one hour to get to Petrzalka, where we catch a bus to Bratislava old town. After finding the B&B we hit the Christmas markets to find some quick and cheap dinner of chicken burgers and gluhwein. And boy was it cheap - our total dinner menu equates to around 3 euros.

Many of the things that can be bought in Bratislava are relatively cheap by EU standards. Slovakia and Czech Republics have both joined the EU and will be introducing the euro.

Around 9pm in the markets a group of four young fellows appeared with an accordian, violin and guitar and started singing traditional Slovakian songs in a tent of the markets. It was completely impromptu and soon a crowd formed with a Slovakian shin-dig ensuing. It was wonderful watching and listening to the music, even as the rain fell.

Something that has to be mentioned about our accommodation is the telephony and bathroom. The telephone has just slipped out of the 60s and the toilet door could not be shut completely if the toilet was to be used in either of the regular positions - sitting or standing.

The main interest points in Bratislava are the Old Town and the castle, which we walked around and through. There are not many tourist attractions in the city and that is not what drew us. It was the culture and people that were different from many of the other parts of Europe that we have seen. So far all of our European travel has been in EU affiliated countries. Slovakia has joined the EU but from what we saw they have not become EU-ised, which was quite refreshing.

We had some great meals in the city by just walking into a random restaurant. Once we got off the main town square the meals were cheap and the restaurants very homely.

For the quirky side of Bratislava you need to look for the statues that are dotted around the town square and surrounding streets. There is paparazzi, a helmeted peeper, a Frenchman and some other entertainer guy.

We had two nights in Bratislava and we really enjoyed our time there. By the end of the second day we had seen all of the sights, but most importantly we experienced the local culture. We both left hoping that the spread of the EU through countries like Slovakia would not destroy the uniqueness that they offer.

Click on the photo to see more of Bratislava