Monday, February 14, 2011


Hmmm, so this blog doesn't get updated very often. I'll still add travel stuff up when it happens, but in the meantime catch me on @lasonovich, yay twitter.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sans souci

Without a care in the world, my rough translation of sans souci. And, without a care in the world is how we spent our last day in Berlin. Well I guess technically Potsdam is a separate city, but really the 45 mins on the train from the centre of Berlin doesn't feel that far away. Its strangely reminiscent of Versailles, in that there is some obscenely large palaces, amazing grounds, stunning rooms filled with gold leaf, and all the stuff classical monarchs used to keep themselves amused.

We walked, we talked, we drank coffee and all in all it was a great day away from the hustle and bustle of a big city. The sans souci palace itself is well worth a look around, and the grounds are amazing. 270 hectares or something like that filled with other palaces, follies, trees, moats, killer dragons and celebrities. Well maybe not all that stuff, but in some ways its better than Versailles. The park is free, there are less mad tourists (although that could've been the sub-arctic temperatures) and best of all there are reasonably priced coffee shops in the middle. Sweet, the town of Potsdam is not all bad either. Some great german food was had for a very reasonable price in the dutch quarter and the hispanic quarter was filled with tequila bars, oh yeah.

Here are some random photos of the vicinty!

Potsdam town

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Ausstieg Links

Aaah, the trains in Berlin constantly remind me of a windswept Scottish golf course with their cries of ausstieg links. Sure it might mean exit left, but in reality its saying head back to the links, you know you want to.

The weather decided to be reminiscent of scotland so our day spent wandering around the western part of the city was more cold, rainy and windswept then it should've been. Sure we did see a movie being made, and went to a flea market filled with thousands of door handles from the 70s but our adventures were curtailed by the icelandic breeze coming in off them thar hills. Soooo off to the pergamon museum for some amazing artifacts from the middle eastern world. Sure the germans may have borrowed a lot of the artifacts and some of the countries might want them back, but that's no different to any colonial power. The british museum is getting a lot of pressure to return its egyptian collection too.

The next day dawned with the prospect of a visit to the stasi headquarters. Not because we'd been taken in for questioning but to practice our german with the entirely german displays. Luckily Malte provided a good translation service so we could understand all about the briefcases with guns hidden in them, watches with microphones and rocks with hidden transmitters. But it wasn't just technology, there was a collection of historical propaganda and articles that proved very interesting indeed.

A quick stop at a very local Berlin pub for some fine wheat beers was the perfect end to a very interesting day. Oh yeah, we had coffee with Jamie Lee-Curtis in an exclusive berlin cafe too, well we sat near her, and subtly mocked her accent anyway. Plus we may have been in the background of the movie been shot eating some fine kebabs, so all in all a pretty successful day.

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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Berlin, home of the superdome and trabants!

Yes, top of the Reichstag is a dome, and its a fancy glass dome made of mirrors and magic and dust. We queued for a couple of hours in the freezing cold before being allowed into the chamber. Comrades, what a view, Berlin stretches out below you like a schnitzel on a plate of sauerkraut. Plus it was free, which is always an added bonus when you are travelling on a budget. Nearby was the holocaust memorial which to my eye looked like thousands of coffins spread out across a field in a dull grey tone. It certainly made you think about the scale of the tragedy that had occurred.

Next we visited the wall, the real one, from the movies and the split of east and west. Encircling west berlin the remaining sections of the wall are few and far between as most was pulled down very quickly after reunification. The largest chunk is nearby to checkpoint charlie, where the american sector used to begin.

On our way around the wall there was a trabant for hire, then quickly we realised there was a whole yard full of trabants for hire! Their bonnets are made from resin, their engines make 20 bhp and they can do 6 hectares on a full tank of kerosene. Amazing little cars that were dolled out to the populace of the east for informing on other members of the community. Of course, I'm capitalist scum so was unable to fit very easily into a car clearly designed with comfort in mind (for midgets anyway).

We also took a tour of the checkpoint charlie museum, which is largely filled with amazing escape stories from east to west. People building their own planes, hiding in suitcases, cars, ships, canoes and all other kinds of transport. The museum appeared to have been largely undisturbed since the fall of the wall and seems to serve as a sort of interesting record of the events around the wall. Well worth a visit and the nearby Kruezburg district also provided some cheap beers and cocktails afterwards, sweet.

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Berlin, home of the berliner (not a sausage)

Sausages are available all over Berlin. Mostly bratwurst, or the local delicacy currywurst, which is bratwurst covered in curry and spicy sauce. They were pretty tasty, but in reality the best thing about Berlin was the beer. Mmmmmm wheat beer for only a few euros in every pub, it was the perfect partner for a breakfast, lunch or dinner.

So what kind of stuff happened while we were there. Well we met up with Malte, our fine german friend who had foolishly agreed to show us around the city. First day we headed into the Brandenburg gate which many people thought they would never walk through as it was in the forbidden area around the wall until 1989. We also wandered down the main drag to check out the collection of large museums and cool architecture that inhabited the eastern side of the city. As you head further east you begin to see some of the tower style blocks that dominated the eastern part of the city during the GDR days. Its almost like stepping back in time in places and although its only back to the 70s, its quite a strange feeling in a city that is so modern in many other ways. As we headed to Alexanderplatz we were distracted by some large supermarkets selling nothing but cans of sausages so we grabbed a few and enjoyed a fine tinned sausage. Also stacking the shelves were thousands of kilos of chocolate. The place is literally swimming in it, they don't call it the land of chocolate for nothing!

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Monday, August 24, 2009

Now its England's turn - plus includes London feature

How to review England, well bits of it that we've seen over the last few weeks anyway. Its like a whole other country from Scotland and also has a large banking crisis, kebab shops, pubs and claims to have invented haggis.

National gallery London

Its the big building behind Nelson's column. Often overlooked because too many people are out the front dancing in the fountains and harassing the staff at Lilywhites. Still an impressive collection of impressionism, really old art and paintings of giant horses awaited us inside. The cafe was pretty sweet though and a damned site tastier than the disappointing kebab on Edgware road the night before. Not as good as some, but still worth a gander. ***1/2 (3.5/5)

U2 Wembley 15 August 09

The giant claw was mighty impressive and the video screen inside moved and could unfold to become 8000 feet high. Plus the selection of songs was awesome, but the big let down for me was the crowd. Come on people, get with the program, you're at a concert not sitting about watching the sculling on the thames. So we were about 20 metres from the stage, standing at the front, but even then there was no craziness, just people standing around and clapping politely. Great music, but more action required. **** (4/5)

London Eye

Its really the millennium wheel, and they should've taken it down then. Nah, not really but its just a big ferris wheel. Plus its 17.50 quid a go, per person, per second. So its really, really expensive, first you queue a bit and then around you go. Great views, best done at dusk, and you really can see all of London. Houses of Parliament are especially amazing from the top. Considering walking up Eiffel Tower is 4 euro, it just ain't worth it. *** (3/5)

V&A museum

Its a huge museum filled mainly with artefacts including this amazing giant silver beer cooler which we took home for a fiver. Best bits included the jewellery collection, worst bits included nothing really. The whole place is amazing and filled with just heaps of stuff. Other museums take note, this is how it should be done. Plus the coffee was better than almost everywhere else. ***** (5/5)

Jamie Oliver's Fifteen Restaurant

I don't have a picture because I was too busy stuffing my face with the sublime food! Its like a dream menu made up of the greatest collection of interesting food stuffs all freshly prepared and at lunch time, not too much more expensive than many other places around. The collection of antipasti was unbelievable and the whole experience was intensely satisfying. I didn't like the decor, mish mash of modern and 70s chandeliers but overall pretty kick ass. ****1/2 (4.5/5)

The proms night 43, Ravel, Andriessen, Falla

The theatre is a sparkling mix of traditional decor and modern alien globes which are soon to hatch. The Ravel was stunning, the Andriessen a little weird and probably suitable for a b-grade horror movie and the Falla was like synchronised diving except in a theatre. All in all, a good night out, good value although I can't believe that people get the standing tickets for 2.5 hours on your feet at classical music. **** (4/5)

The lakes district and Keswick

Ha ha, fooled you, you thought it would all be London and fancy museums and restaurants, but no, a couple of weeks ago we were in England for the fun of the lakes district. Guess what its filled with lakes, quaint little villages, bad roads and terrible traffic. Cathedrals, coffee shops and cows also abound. Keswick is cool, with more stunning vistas, lots of waterfalls abound and it feels like a little holiday away from the real world. Carlisle isn't much of a town except for the cathedral and the seaside was pretty miserable when its pissing down. Worth a weekend away, but the scenery i better in Scotland. ***1/2 (3.5/5)

St Pauls

That's it, hiding away in amongst the blue neon and skyscrapers of the financial district. Its kick ass in a churchy kind of way. The 500 odd steps to the top are great, the inside is like a grand cathedral, which was exactly the way it should be. Its coming up on 400 years old and doesn't look at day over 200 and must've dominated the London skyline for so long that it become part of london. Well worth it, and probably better views than the eye! ***** (5/5)

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Scotland reviews of anything and anywhere

Ok first cab off the rank and these are in no particular order:

Edinburgh Castle

The #1 tourist attraction in Scotland in terms of visitors had a lot to live up to. Generally it felt kind of castly, with plenty of battlements, walls, cannons and stuff. Plus scottish crown jewels. Actually Stirling Castle is better and less busy so I dunno about this. Needs more swords and fake blood. ***1/2 (3.5/5)

Falkirk Wheel

Looks like a giant piece of machinery, which is exactly what it is. Boat rides are ridiculously expensive and not worth it, coffee was ok. Really not worth more than a five minute look, sure its a great engineering feat but not really exciting. Ok its smart, but not really a tourist attraction. ** (2/5)

Barrowland markets

The poor son of Camden markets, no let me correct that, the poor son of every single market in the whole world. Sure maybe it was the fact that half the shops were empty, that we were glassed three times within 5 minutes, or the fact that the tax free cigarettes didn't appeal to us but these markets were pretty damned crap. Don't go, unless you want to get stabbed. No stars (0/5)


Tiny town in the highlands with a small mill, number of pubs, golf course and stunning mountain scenery. A lot nicer than some of the other towns around as it wasn't filled with drunken teenagers looking for a fight. A relaxing way to spend a lazy afternoon. **** (4/5)

Dewar's world of whisky

Now a world of whisky better be filled with tonnes of whisky, and it better all be free. Well maybe not, but the world of whisky was filled with a cinema, a display of whisky and a whisky tour. The slightly surly staff who told us to rush through the display so we could go on the tour, but then made us wait 30 mins for the tour probably didn't help. Mmm whisky ***1/2 (3.5/5)

Castle Menzies

Some might say that not actually going into the castle means that I can't review it. Well dammit, I'm going to, looks like a castle, but is also a house. Plus this picture came out real weird. The five quid entry put us off, but as a castle house, it looks kind of castly. Nice from the outside, plus free blackberries in the grounds. **** (4/5)

Loch Tay

Yes, its just a lake, but nearby is a 5000 year old tree, and some incredible scenery. Its just like New Zealand but further, and also has sheep, pubs, cool windy roads for some nice driving action and stupendous views. Plus it was filled with celebrities, so its just like the French riveria except in Scotland and with no actual celebrities. Wow, scenery and shit. ***** (5/5)

Falls of Dochart

Surprisingly, there are falls all over this damned country. This one is just plain cool because its huge, not in terms of height but more in width, so like Anish but actually interesting. Plus loads of pubs to sit right on the falls, and no fancy safety barriers mean you can easily slip and fall on the rocks. Slippery but fun! **** (4/5)

Glen Alva

Hmmm, looking for a casual stroll up the Ochils, well look no further than Glen Alva. Its got a great walking track, filled with wildlife, rabid dogs and butterflies and some cool views over the local area. Plus another waterfall, in a cave, that you can climb into, neat. Could be tricky on anything but a sunny day though. ****1/2 (4.5/5)

Double rainbow

Yeah, take that again Scottish weather, it rains so much that you can get two rainbows. Well you know those guitars that are like double guitars, well it was just like that but in Rainbow format. You don't see that every day, plus I could see the end of the rainbow and went and claimed my pot of gold from the leprachaun. The top one needed more colour **** (4/5)


Largs is where they take all the midges from the rest of scotland, kill them and then reincarnate them as 10000000 more midges. And old people, and bad chip shops and some ocean. Plus its like an 80s throwback with a bad kiddies theme park, mini golf and nothing else. Seriously people if I retire anywhere in the world it'll never be Largs, its the place where souls go to die. No stars (0/5)

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Yo, peeps, after a couple of weeks without updates I'm back with some exciting reviews of things that we've been up to in the last few weeks.

First of all stuff from Edinburgh Fringe/Comedy/Jazz/Sport/Music/Theatre Festival.

Soweto Gospel Choir

Simply amazing voices and a really incredible show without any serious props. Deeply moving and filled with antics, songs, drumming and just outstanding music. All done with voices and banging stuff on tables. Incredible - ***** (5/5)

Adam Hills

A bit naughtier than his on tv comedy, he spent most of the time chatting to and paying out the audience. Amusing stuff, but in reality he probably only had about 15 minutes of material in the show. Still kept me laughing all night - **** (4/5)

Axis of Awesome

Oh yeah, the comedy music group was back for some exciting and hilarious musical comedy, 4 chord song was a huge highlight, production values were super low, but it just didn't matter. Simple comedy, simple fun and simply amazing ****1/2 (4.5/5)

Sword Swallower on Street

Yep, he swalled the sword but took about 15 minutes to do it. Big crowd had formed, but dunno if he really kept them that entertained. Still there's only a few people in the world who can do it. Sweet. *** (3/5)

Random magic guy on street

Yep, he made oranges appear out of nowhere, could produce golf balls from nowhere and his casual abrasive style was pretty good. Plus he made lots of jokes at the audience's expense so was pretty funny too. **** (4/5)

Guy with bed of nails (pictured)

Ok, so he got a fat guy to stand on a bed of nails that was on his chest. I think knowing the physics about beds of nails made it less impressive, but to be able to stand a super fat guy on you was mildly impressive. ***1/2 (3.5/5)

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Monday, August 10, 2009

Go Ape in Scotland

This is perhaps one of the worst photos of my brother seen, I mean the harness really doesn't do anyone any favours does it. Anyway, it didn't matter because we were about to go ape and trash some shite. Up in the hills near Aberfoyle is a fine place called go ape where you get to go round, climb stuff, jump into nets and eat copious amounts of bananas while scratching your balls.

First off is a 400m wire drop across some national park or something. Some people's landing tactic seemed to involve crashing into the ground and filling your pants up with tanbark for later scratching action. Still there were 6 stages around the course and the best were the last two. Course 5 is super high and involved some stirrup style footholds that were virtually impossible to get yourself over. Plus immediately after them were some extra sideways wobbling narrow planks, where Adam managed to fall off (into his harness) and cut up his hand good. Nice. Stage 6 involved climbing up a large tree and swinging across into a giant net which you then had to clamber out of to an even higher perch. 'Twas particularly amusing to see some locals teens having absolutely no upper body strength get stuck on the net and have to be helped up... Ha hahahha, losers.

Oh well, we made it that far and after a leisurely drive back to our chateau in the forest we spotted a supreme example of british motoring history. The three wheeled car done up in full racing colours kept me amused for hours!

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Arrrgh, Scotland land of surprises and scenery

So where better to start with a night time cruise around the streets of 'Burgh, well there was lots to see with Paul and Lisa including the botanic gardens home to a giant palm tree that will very soon break the roof. Well, they might need to extend the roof but they already did that a couple of times, so keep working at it trusty Scots. What followed, was some fine vegetarian food (yes, Scotland can do it occasionally) and a selection of late night pubs. One of which may or may not be missing a Groslch glass which is probably making itself much more useful at someone's house.

The next stop on the magical mystery tour is Dunfermline, home to a B grade football team, a collection of shops in a mall that are exactly the same as every other mall in the UK and an 11th century abbey. It was quite nifty and proved a fine afternoon out in some bog standard Scottish weather. The modern church only a few hundred years old, is pretty damned impressive and holds the remains of one Robert the Bruce, who appeared to be some type of king hero or something. All I know was that he had a giant sword and went around slaying Englishmen who accused him of drinking too much whisky.

Trying to remember all the names of the castles that we've visited has proved quite challenging and after a fine Dunfermline time, it was down to the coast to Aberdour castle and views out over the firth of forth to Edinburgh. Its another amazing castle and of course can be hired for weddings, parties, bah mitzvahs or whatever. Just tell em that Bruce sent you and they'll throw in an authentic Scottish recreation battle with cannons, knights, axes and laser weapons. Pretty sweet for $5.99 plus VAT.

So Scotland in summer is a surprising place, the best thing about it is the countryside, now I know people like Edinburgh for the castle and the bars and Glasgow for the knife fights and glasgow salads, but for me, escaping to the hills, mountains, castles, lochs etc, is far more exciting.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Cheese fest - Paris part 4

I mean how many sights can one city have, 3 maybe. Well the final day involved a wander through the incredible Notre Dame. The hunchback was in residence and the bells kept tolling to remind us that he was down there somewhere taking over the opera house. Hang on, maybe that was some crazy play. Anyway, incredible place filled with people and amazing stained glass windows.

So what better to spend the time in Paris doing but eating Cheese! We gathered a quick selection of giant babybel (I thought they'd just be called bel but I guess I was wrong), soft cheese, pastrami, chocolate, 5 euro bread, chess pieces and grapes and had ourselves a snoozy picnic with all the locals in Jardin de luxembourg. A quieter afternoon spent in cafes drinking strong coffees and paying out the 45 year old ladies who look 75 because they smoke 18 packs a day and drink nothing but champagne.

We also found the Marais, but at this point after seeing the Bastille as well we were just completely blown away by the place. Well, there's always the next trip to France to sample the other 85,000 boulangeries in central paris.

My parting thoughts were of amazement, crazyiness, inequity and of cheese. The trains are bodgy and the city has some dodgy dodgy areas, but overall its the number one tourist city in the world for a reason, and its not the 8 euro beers!

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I came, I versailles'd, I conquered - Paris part 3

So birthday's at Versailles, home of the sun king and a giant collection of gold! Gold chairs, gold wallpaper, gold statues and a large collection of gold records for his recording work as a french harmonica player. We stopped at the way at some wacky markets where everything was a bargain and the food was amazing. Then we braved the french train system on a sunday only to find that there was track work. So we took the bus and after a long period of time and a small stop a little cafe for coffee and some fine facilities we arrived at the end of a very long queue.

Versailles feels like a theme park, the palace is just unbelievable, the hall of mirrors was filled with mirrors and tourists. The decoration in the place is just unbelievable. If I recommend anywhere in the world as a completely over the top to visit its Versailles. I can't even begin to describe what kind of life the French royals must have had at the height of their power, everything must of been provided on a golden platter, literally.

The gardens were in some ways even more incredible. You know, just build your own giant park with canals, immaculate planned hedges, mazes and all kinds of things. We wandered around and soon found Marie Antoinette's palace which is a nice pale pink colour marble for the ladies. ooooh, pretty, and less filled with tourists than the main palace. Off with her head indeed! If i'd been a peasant and had seen the miraculous world that the royals lived in I would have been calling for her head too!

Anyway, here are a few more random pictures from around the palace and grounds. Insanity.

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