About Me

I ramble about a number of things - but travel experiences, movies and music feature prominently. See my label cloud for a better idea. All comnments and opinions on this blog are my own, and do not in any way reflect the opinions/position of my employer (past/current/future).

17 April 2014

Movie: Saving Mr Banks

A Disney produced movie telling the tale of the tense relationship between Walt Disney and author PL Travers, would obviously be favourable towards the founder of Disney. Mary Poppins is one of the most well known Disney movies, but the author, who based some of the characters on her own family; was not enamoured with either Walt Disney nor its production of Mary Poppins. It's a nice movie - but for me, it was more of a catalyst to learn more about PL Travers and the excellent New Yorker article is perhaps the best of the lot.

13 April 2014

Reading Greek

After years of science and maths studies, I have some familiarity with the Greek alphabet. However, it was not that easy converting that knowledge to reading words in Greek. It was partly because science and maths do not teach the whole alphabet; just selective letters an partly because it is one thing to know the letters; another to string them together phonetically. At the end of our stay in Greece, I was quite good - enough to read signs and names. It felt like an achievement!

07 April 2014

Neue Pinakotek

The Neue Punakotek was originally built by Bavarian King Ludwig I in 1853; but was destroyed in WW2. The current museum building has a great layout for viewing; allowing the visitor to slowly spiral through the building, viewing the works chronologically in 22 main rooms. Some of the original collection was damaged or perished in WW2, but most was saved - and the gallery has a fine collection of art from 18 and 19 centuries. 

Of the artists, I was only familiar with latter period French Impressionist artists Renoir, Gaugin, Manet, Monet and Van Gogh - but I enjoyed most of the 18th century more - perhaps because they were more realistic. 

It is a great collection of paintings and sculptures; and Sunday was especially good given the 1 Eur entry fee (not sure if it is a regular deal); and the audio guide is excellent. 

Nazi Era Events

In South Africa, the statement raised in many political discourses is that "it seems that no one supported Apartheid" - ie a sort of amnesia on the injustices that have been committed in the past. This is common everywhere that has similar cases such as slavery in the Americas or treatment of aboriginals in Australia. In Germany, Nazism is the skeleton in the closet.

Admittedly, the Nazism past is not exactly hidden - memorials such as the Holocaust memorials and other such museums are well maintained and highly effective. But, as you walk around Munich (and for that matter Berlin and other German cities), there often seems to be one sided memorials and commentary. 

Munich's Feldherrnhalle is a good example. Apart from being a monument dedicated to the 30 Year War and the war against Napoleon fought by Bavaria; it is also the scene of the Beer Hall Putsch; where Hitler and his supporters tried to being down the Weimar Republic; and failed. Both police who quelled the riot and supporters of the Nazi parties died that day - but the current plaque on the side commemorates only the fallen policemen; and makes no mention of the circumstances on what drove the Nazi party to its action. It is as if, the Nazi party was a small party - not a well supported nationwide movement. 

There is also a monument to the "shirkers" who protested silently by using a lane behind the Feldherrnhalle to avoid passing the Nazi era memorial plaque (which required a salute) to those who died in the Putsch. 

This is not to say that these memorials are not warranted - they are. But by providing one side of the story, it remains incomplete and seems sometimes like an exercise in collective amnesia.

06 April 2014


A highlight of the Munich Townhall (Rathaus) at Marienplatz is the Glockenspiel - a carillon comprising of a knights tournament (complete with jousting knights), and a second scene with a traditional dance. Although I have seen it play before, I have never seen the full 10 min show - can't think why not ...

05 April 2014

Schloss Hohenschangau

Last time I came to Neuschwanstein, I skipped the residence of the last Bavarian royalty, a short distance away. The castle was initially built in the 1300's but the original castle had been destroyed during the Napoleonic wars. King Maximilian 2 rebuilt the palace according to the original plans; and the last Bavarian royalty, including King Ludwig 2 stayed here. Most of the palace is in its original state - and the paintings on the wall retain their amazing colour without requiring restoration. It's a beautiful palace, and well worth the stop.


The Alp lake, provides a picturesque foreground to the still snow capped Alps, even with the overcast skies.

Neuschwanstein Revisited

It's amazing what a difference a guide makes. The guide for the trip this time around had a strong German accent, and a low voice - and the experience was far less engaging than my previous visit.

04 April 2014

High End Busking

Just behind Marienplatz (in Munich) I came across this group busking in the small garden. I have seen groups busking before, but never with a piano! 

St. Paul's Church

After the Ancient Greek temples, even the cavernous neo-gothic St. Paul Cathedral in Munich feels a bit ordinary. Located near the fields hosting Oktoberfest, it is currently undergoing restoration, so visitors are not allowed up its main tower. 

Unlike some other churches in Munich,the  inside is quite plain - but the large cavernous hall does have its appeal. The friezes on the walls and columns feel quite amateurish after Greece, lacking the feeling of motion and majesty. But it is quiet and peaceful - and somewhat outside the tourist path (outside Oktoberfest time).

03 April 2014

Thoughts on Athens

The ancient world of Rome, Greece and Egypt were (and I think still are) staples of history class in school. I was (and still am) interested in mythology, and Ancient Greece was particularly rich in Mythology - from Hercules, to the Trojan War to the Iliad and The Odyssey. 

When I set out on planning this trip, I had not meant to link all the places together - I wanted to go to Pergamon, but only after seeing the Altar in Berlin a few years ago; but I did not know the deep links the kings of Pergamon had with Athens. I wanted to go to Troy, because of the stories - but had forgotten of the links to Delphi. The trip has been amazing in linking all of these together; and although I did not complete the mythological world (for example, I couldn't fit in Crete) - I covered a great portion.

Of the ancient world, Athens has particular significance in being the root of the western civilized world; and it has lived up to its hype. Despite the economic crisis, Athens has endured - like it has endured countless other crisis before this one. And the Athenians it seems, have also endured. There are many shops that have closed down; but there are many more that remain open. Streets are busy, coffee shops and bars seem to be full in the evening, trains and busses are full - all the signs of a vibrant city.

But there is an economic crisis, and it does have its signs. There are more beggars here than any other European city I have visited. Occasional shops have crisis sales, indicating all is not well; and while things aren't as bad as Lesvos, it is clearly not all rosy. There were protests two evening before in front of the parliament; the police spent most of the day gearing up, and on TV it looked really angry. There was a small crowd there this morning, but apart from playing AC/DC on bad speakers, they weren't as noticeable.

But Athens does make a great, and cheap, holiday destination. The prices for meals and drinks are comparatively cheap to the rest of Europe. The hotels are equally cheap. It has great attractions, that are all within a small radius of the city centre. The people are very friendly, and willing to assist however they can. 

And most of all, the attractions are cheap - too cheap in my opinion! The Acropolis ticket gives you access to almost all the other archeological sites, over 4 days an cost on 12 Eur. For comparison, Berlin's Museum Island pass for one day is 18 Eur! The museums are equally affordable; and prices for students and under 18s is almost free. 

That said, the tourist experience can be better in some areas. Bus routes and times could be better marked; or perhaps provided online or on an app. Opening times for the museums and attractions are inconsistent - some are until 3pm others  until 8pm; but it's not easy to say which one is till when. And more places could take credit cards - not talking about the kiosks in each street corner; but places like the Acropolis and airport metro stations. 

There are things I would still like to see in Greece, so I would like to come back. And I hope Athens is as enjoyable then.

Public Art of Athens

Athens is full of graffiti and other street art; and some of this is probably commissioned by the shops or advertisers. Unlike Lesvos, I didn't see a lot of political protest art; which I found quite strange. The majority of the good art is around the Psyrri suburb; which also had a small Asian community (Bangladeshis and Chinese mainly it seems); but the art didn't seem to have any specific ethnic origin.