Saturday, September 29, 2007

What the hell are you doing here?

Right, so this week goes down in history as my "What the hell are you doing here?" week.

On Tuesday I had to drive to Düsseldorf to help a Customer with a problem they were having. I arrived at the site and fixed the problem within 1hr, but had to wait for some software licenses so that I could install them for the guy. While waiting we decided to get a coffee, but there was none on the floor we were on, so we went down to the foyer. While sitting there chatting to the Customer, my phone rang - it was my Sales Guy checking if the licenses had arrived or not. While talking to him I noticed a familiar looking person walking by and I yelled out to him. Turned out that it was one of the guys who used to work for my company in Australia, who is now working for this Customer in Düsseldorf.

Then I got up this morning and went in to Frankfurt to watch the AFL Grand Final (GO CATS!). I arrived early and got a table and ordered something to drink. After a while more people started turning up, and at one point I noticed a familiar looking face in the crowd. I thought to myself "nah, it can't be", so I didn't think much more about it for a few mins. During the first quarter I kept looking over at this guy thinking "it could be...". When I went to get some breakfast at the buffet, this guy saw me and was like "What the hell are you doing here?!?!". Turns out it was a guy that I went to uni with and did a few projects with...and it was who I thought it was. This guy's wife was also one of my managers at my Company in the past. They had moved to Germany a few years ago and are now living and working in Stuttgart. Not only that, but this guy works for a company that used the same relocation company as mine did when we moved to Germany. He and his wife actually had the same relocation agent at the company and B and I did...

Small world, huh? Any other of you guys hiding over here without telling me about it?


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

IAA - Internationale Automobil-Ausstellung

So, while Bel has been doing some study, visiting, and enjoying her time in Australia, I have had a bit of Boys' Time. :)

On the first weekend I decided to head to the IAA (Internationale Automobil-Ausstellung or International Car Show) in Frankfurt. This is the biggest car show in the world, filling 10 Exhibition halls (some multi-story), plus the Festhalle (Festival Hall containing Mercedes), plus a stand-alone building (contained BMW by itself), plus a bunch of external positions as well - this thing was in 2 words FREAKIN' MASSIVE! I personally buzzed through most of it in 4hours (had another Man-pointment to go to), but I know some people that took 9hours to go through the whole thing on the first public open day.

On the first weekend alone 385,000 people visited the IAA, and I reckon that most of them were in the hall with Ferrari, Maserati, Alfa, and some of the other big names. It was almost impossible to move in this hall, and the only way to move was to squeeze yourself into the stream of rubber-necked camera-carrying locals and internationals and just go with the flow.

That the halls with the big, expensive, and powerful cars were full to bursting point was not shocking, but must have disappointed the organisers a little. The main theme of this exhibition was supposed to focus on CO2 reduction and alternative fuels, in the name of the Environment. To that point though, there were a hell of a lot of hybrid cars there, and it really showed that a lot of car manufacturers are either taking it seriously or "tun als ob"...

Also, genug Quatscherei - here are the pics (click to enlarge)...

VIPER ATTACK! I love this car!

Feel sorry for this guy (and all the others) who permanently had to wipe finger prints and dust off the cars.

Model of a potential future Honda.

Even KIA came up with a pretty decent looking concept car.

This BMW reminds me of a shark.

Crazy arsed Citroen that must have been designed with the female market in mind.

This Hummer is "der Hammer"! I think this one was in the Transformers movie.

Toyota "mixin' things up" a little.

To remind Chis of the good times.

Outdoor off-road track. Queues were massive to get a "test drive" as passenger in these cars.

New McLaren Mercedes with wings (for comfort)

Schick oder?


Monday, September 24, 2007

Where will you be?

So, where will all you guys be when the siren sounds to start the AFL Grand Final on Saturday? I am sure that you will all be comfy at home, or somewhere else, enjoying the afternoon sunshine, having a few beers, etc...

Me? I plan to drag myself out of bed around 4:00am so that I can get into Frankfurt to see the game live at 6:00am at YOURS Australian Bar (same place I saw Australia down Croatia in the world cup last year).


Monday, September 17, 2007


So 2 weeks ago we had our first visitors for the year, with my Dad and Diane rocking in for 1 week before heading to London for a couple more. And just like when Susan, Screwsy, and my Mum came to visit, we had a great time showing them around some of the sites, and just generally hanging out.

On the day of their arrival, I got a call from Dad from Heathrow saying that he didn't think they would make their connecting flight to Frankfurt, because they had been put in a holding pattern over London, and then parked out in the boonies. I got another call a little later to say that they would just make their plane, but weren't sure if their bags would or not.
Skip forward to us waiting in the airport. After about 1hr of waiting, they finally came through the doors in the International Terminal (worst part of the airport). Turned out that 3/4 of their bags had made it, but the toilet bag hadn't. This was eventually delivered to us at 21:00 on the following day, without anyone actually calling to see if we were home - which luckily we were.
That same night (when the arrived) we took them to Café Klatsch in Friedrichsdorf for some Flammkuchen and a few bevvies - both of which went down a treat, with Diane requesting a second visit later in the week (I was only too happy to oblige).

The next day took us to Heidelberg, which is one of my favorite places to take people because of the beautiful old castle, and the killer view it offers of the town and river below. Not to mention that the town still has some nice "old town" feel to it, although it is fairly touristy now. That being said, we found a nice little place for lunch, and to hide from the rain, that offered basic german food, which went down well with the Aussies on Tour. We also managed to get ourselves interviewed for some German TV Show or Doco that we researching if people knew the song Ich hab' mein Herz in Heidelberg verloren (I lost my heart in Heidelberg). After I answered a few of their questions in German, they turned on Dad and Diane. After I told them that they came from Australia and didn't speak German, the guy switched to flawless English and asked what we sing in Australia. Next thing you know, Dad, Diane, and myself are singing "Waltzing Matilda" with Bel hiding somewhere in the background.

The following days took us for a walk around the top of Feldberg, where you can get a nice view of the surrounding area (and a nice drive up some windy roads for the petrol heads); to Braunfels (cute Castle where you need a group of 5 or more for a tour, but has a cool Alt-Stadt); Frankfurt (just for a look-see, shopping, and an excellent dinner at an Italian Restaurant where the waiter spoke no English); Herzogenaurach (more than just Adidas and Puma...there's Nike as well!); Saalburg (Roman Fort); Hessenpark (old buildings); and finally to the Wine Festival in Friedrichsdorf itself.

One of the best parts of the week was being reminded of the cool things that surround us that we take for granted. For instance - we planned to go to Nürnberg after Herzogenaurach, but the traffic heading to Nürnberg was crazy, so we bailed. D&D weren't phased at all, because they even found the views from the Autobahn amazing - views that we pay no attention to anymore, since we have been here basically 2 years, and that is "common day" kinda stuff now.

Anyway, thanks for coming and visiting guys. We loved having you here, and look forward to having the next group that come towards the end of the year.

Traditional Bindy-pose by the river in Heidelberg

And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon...

View from the Heidelberg Castle back down to the river

Dad and Diane at the Heidelberg Castle

B&B&D walking on Großer Feldberg

Crazy toothless busker dude that gave us a personal performance in Frankfurt (I ran in to buy a coffee...)

B&B&D near the Old Opera in Frankfurt before going to dinner

Make me clean my room, will you??!!?! Now it's payback time!

Show us your best TV Ad Flammkuchen pose, Diane!

The father, the beer, and the cheesy baked pasta thingy in Café Klatsch

'Brushy (Bj)

Friday, September 14, 2007

Ireland Part 4 - Doolin, Athenry, Dublin, and home...

After returning from our 4 days visiting Chis and Bec, we returned to the Shannon Airport, rented a car, and headed towards Doolin. We didn't know anything about Doolin, but Chis and Bec said that they had spent some time there and loved it, so we thought we should give it a shot...and we weren't disappointed. Different to the first week in Ireland, this time we basically spent the whole week in this beautiful part of Ireland, which is home to the Burren.

So, as we had previously done (or not done), we didn't have accomodation booked in Doolin, but thought that we would just rock into the town and see what we found. What we ended up finding was a B&B on top of a cliff overlooking the town and the ocean, with a ripper tower castle in the hills directly behind it.
We shared breakfast on the first morning with some lovely American ladies who were also touring Ireland. One of these ladies is involved in some movement against the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and she told us of the time that they were protesting in the OC in California. On this day, the cast and crew from The West Wing were there to film, and the noise of the cars supporting the protest was interrupting filming. The producers asked them if they could postpone the protest (which they hold every week) but the ladies said that they hold it all the time and never miss one, so they wouldn't postpone it. Anyway after the filming the cast came and joined them in the middle of the round-a-bout to lend their support to the protest. Pretty cool huh?
The second morning involved sharing breakfast with a lady who looked and ate like a horse, and her spoilt children. Stark contrast to the day before, and due to them we postponed one of our planned events for the day (which we did the following day) so that we wouldn't have to cope with them.

Castle above our B&B at sunset...pretty!

The Castle as seen from the road leading up from our B&B close to sunset

The first full day in Doolin took us south for a drive to the Cliffs of Moher, and the continuing further south to the Loop Head Peninsula.
The Cliffs of Moher were pretty impressive, although it was freezing cold. We bumped into our lovely Americans here again, and then marvelled at the sheer drop into the ocean that these cliffs offer. We also marvelled at 1 very bad busker, one very good busker, and many dumb tourists who apparently can't read signs, no matter how many languages it is written in.

From the worn tracks it would appear that these aren't the only illiterate tourists around

This chick was acutally very good at playing the harp and singing. She was the good busker...pity we already gave money to the crap one...

The Loop Head Peninsula is also very much worth the drive if you ever get over here. Along this coast line there are a lot of parts of the cliff that have broken away and formed islands, like when the London Bridge in Australia collapsed.

The next day took us for a drive through the Burren area, which is a rocky desolate landscape where all the top soil was removed due to receding ice many 100s or 1000s of years ago. One of the most well known structures here is the Poulnabrone Dolmen, which is/was a burial toom in ancient times.

Bel and the Burren

The Poulnabrone Dolmen

While driving through this area, we saw a guy hiking on the side of the road with a massive pack with a huge stuffed donkey strapped to the back of it. We stopped and asked him if he wanted a lift, but it turned out that this Aussie was walking the length of Ireland to raise money for Donkey Sanctuaries (was going to do the hike anyway and take the donkey for fun, and someone suggested he should raise money...). Two catches - he had to stop for a beer at every pub he passed on the way, and a stuffed donkey becomes very heavy when it rains for 2 weeks straight.

The next day, Bel and I did a tour through an underground cave that holds the 4 largest self-supporting Stalactite in the world. This was discovered by some cavers who saw a river flowing into the hills, and followed the rule that where a river flows into the hill, then you will find something cool...and they did. The tour was pretty cool for us too, as we were the only two on it, so we got to ask a lot of questions and spend as much time as we wanted looking at it in pure silence.

B&B with a big hanging thing and dopey looking hats

The big hangy thing by itself...the photo doesn't do the size of this thing justice

The next day took us from Doolin to Athenry where we got into some more castle action. But my favorite part of Athenry was walking into a Hurling training session across from our B&B and spending 1hr talking with a guy who played all his life, and getting the low down on all the equipment and how the game is played. These guys are freaking nuts. Speaking of - I found out that the goal keepers don't even wear a box for protection...

The County boys training hard, trying to get selected in the squad for their upcoming quarter final

On the streets of Athenry

Another one of the Castle during sunset

Picture at the Cliffs of Moher. Notice the layering due to different kinds of rock and soil

Anyway, even though we only saw the bottom half of the country, I would highly recommend Ireland to anyone who was thinking about a holiday in this region. Sure, the weather is crap, but you will still have a great time, and see heaps of interesting stuff (and take more photos than you could possibly blog in a lifetime).


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Ireland Part 3 - Kilkenny to Shannon Airport

After a relaxing night in Kilkenny, we got up and headed into town to buy a new camera and have a look around. After a bit of shopping back and forth, we picked up a camera at White's in the main street and then went on a tour of the castle. We didn't think that the camera battery would be charged, so we didn't take it out for the tour and therefore there are no pics. But let me say this - if you are ever in Kilkenny, you really should go on this tour. The castle is awesome, and it is one of the best castle tours we have ever been on. (I found this pic on the web...)

After the tour we walked back to the B&B and picked up our car (after a 30-45min conversation with the owner on the doorstep about everything and anything) and headed to the Rock of Cashel.
The Rock of Cashel has a history that spans back from the early kings in Ireland, through the Church, and to today as a ruin thanks in part to Cromwell and his army burning it (with thousands of town people taking refuge from them inside) and the elements. If you have the chance, you should really check this out as well. Luckily here I actually decided to check if the camera's battery had a charge or not, and it turned out that it did. :)

After the Rock it was on to Cork for the night.
Now, when we were in Dublin we saw something on the news about Ambulance drivers saying that Ireland needs postcodes, but we didn't really get what they were banging on about...until now. When we tried to put the address of the B&B in the Navi, we realised that we didn't actually have it. By that I mean that we had the name of the B&B, and we had the name of the Suburb, but we didn't have a postcode (and the suburb wasn't in the Navi by name), and we didn't have a street. So Bel rang the B&B again and asked them what the address was. They told us that the name of the B&B was the address, and that there was no street name, and there is no postcode. Apparently this is normal in Ireland... Anyway, we navigated our way to the suburb/village, and after a few laps of the center of the town we managed to find the B&B based on the picture in the B&B book we had.

The next morning we had planned to go to the Bantry House and Gardens in Bantry which has been in the White family since 1765. Unfortunately this was going to be too far for us to reach and still have time to get to our flight in Shannon. Therefore we gave up on that idea and headed to the Blarney Castle instead. :)

View of the Blarney Castle on the walk from the car park

View from another angle. The Blarney Stone is in the middle on the right hand side of the castle

View from the top of the Castle down to a couple of towers

Bel infront of one of the towers seen in the previous pic

From there it was on to the airport and off to Bath to visit Bec and Chis.