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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Michael Spiller's LiveJournal:

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Wednesday, July 28th, 2010
10:17 pm
Kiyv (day 1)
Apparently the locals prefer the Ukrainian spelling of the city Kiyv rather than the Russian Kiev that most people will be familiar with, hence the title of this post.
Read more...Collapse )
We flew here using the airline aerosvit & I'm afraid that at one point we were considering replacing the v with an h when referring to them.
We arrived in plenty of time, which was probably a mistake as it gave us far too long to contemplate our fate & got us out of bed too early. When we arrived the board said that the flight was "delayed 11 o'clock" however the corresponding flight in the other direction was estimated to arrive at the same time & as Jason & I were familiar with usual practice being that one plane flies out & then back with a turnaround time of 30 minutes (20 if you are ryanair) it seemed unlikely that we would fly any earlier than 11:30. Given that we had figured this out by 8:15 & shortly after checked the outbound status in Kiyv (showing it as 95 minutes late there & some way from setting off) we resigned ourselves to a long wait. Anyway the slim line Embraer (3 seats wide) was pleasant enough when we actually boarded it.
On arrival in Ukraine, passport control was intimidating & we had to fill in a visa form however we did not have a pen causing the official to be rather exasperated with me when I presented one in pencil. When I went back a second time the next official thought I must have come from Almaty in Kazakhstan for some reason. Eventually I was allowed in & got through customs to the taxi drivers who charged us £30. This was the first indication that Kiyv was going to be much more expensive than our previous two venues.
Once we had booked into hotel lybid we ventured out looking for food & chose the first place we found that seemed like a half decent restaurant. As a restaurant, it was fine, with coverage of the formula 1 race showing however the menu was solely in Ukrainian & we could not so much as hazard a guess as to what to order. So we picked at random, avoiding what we presumed were the starters & anything particularly expensive. I got a fish with lemon & Jason a grilled fish steak with some vegetables. Jason was quite relieved that his was edible, (I'll generally eat anything).Thus refreshed we set off & after a walk we got to St Vladimir's cathedral, the first of several beautiful orthodox churches. Our peregrinations next took us to the golden gate. This is one of the oldest structures in the Ukraine & the last remains of the ancient city walls, the gate where dignitaries were once received into the city. St Sofia's, the second cathedral is an UNESCO world heritage site, including the surrounding complex. Here we climbed up the bell tower giving us vistas over the city. Here I felt keenly the lack of a wrist-strap on my phone which I'm currently using as my main camera.
Third cathedral in a row was St Michael's monastery. Here a service was in progress & the haunting chants reverberated just the way they were meant to.
We then walked on past the closest we found to a triumphal arch in Kiyv, actually a ministry building, the curved archway was built into the façade but was actually all the more impressive for this. From here we descended Andrew's descent which started at the final cathedral of the day (St Andrew's which we could not enter) & went down a cobbled street. These cobbles were not like back home in Yorkshire, they were sharp & uneven. The street was lined with lots of vendors selling artwork from full paintings to Lenin t-shirts. By the time we were at the bottom we were tired & sweating, it was getting on for 7 in the evening & the vendors were packing up but the temperature was still in the high twenties & it was humid. We thus set off for a funicular railway to get back up the hill. Despite reading about it in the guide we couldn't see it on the map but given reasonable expectations of funicular railways we set off in what we reckoned would be the right direction. We had more or less given up & were assessing our options when, Lo & behold it was there in its art-deco glory. Taking us straight back to st Michael's monastery. From there we set off back towards our hotel. I attempted to navigate a more direct route back but got turned around in some smaller streets & eventually returned to the route we arrived on having actually gone further than simply retrain our steps, though we did see a few statues & a mural on the way. When we got back to St Vladimir's we gave up & hired a taxi for the equivalent of £5 when the journey would have cost maybe £3 in Bradford. Intimidated slightly by our ip-dip meal earlier we went to the hotel restaurant & once we saw it on the menu we could not resist chicken Kiyv. This turned out to be quite nouvelle cuisine. From there we then set off to find somewhere to watch the world cup final. This took much longer than we hoped but after a mile & a bit more we found a cafe we could squeeze into & watched the dutch rack up a record number of yellow cards.

Posted via LjBeetle
Monday, July 12th, 2010
3:35 pm
Chişinãu
We had arrived in Chişinãu late at night & we were surprised after reading the foreign office advice that street lighting was not top notch that while lights existed in the airport carpark, they were not switched on. We had a couple of cheap local beers in the hotel bar (about 75p) & retired to bed. not got the hang of how big these end up composing on the mobile ...Collapse )The next morning we went to Transnistria (see the relevant post) & on our return we retired to our room to recharge & avoid the rain. After a while we set off for refreshment. We ended up in a cafe that sold a wide variety of dishes but all from a buffet where you point at a dish & a server dishes up for you. All the labels were in cyrillic & I ended up with a liver based dish. We then tried a few bars before a post pub pizza & bed. In the morning Chişinãu was wet but being British this did not put us off. The lonely planet guide lists only a handful of sights, all very close to each other so we wandered in the right direction. We stopped at a cafe & I had a very nice hot chocolate that was so thick it was easier to spoon it out. Soon enough we found the central area with a grand orthodox church, a triumphal arch (such arches are very much the theme of this year's trek), a statue to Stefan the great & some dry fountains. We attempted to use the rain to our advantage & tried for arty reflection shots where possible. One young lady put us to shame however, while we sheltered from a heavy burst of rain under the entrance of the church she stood in the center of the courtyard in front, kicked off her shoes, put her bag down & danced while listening to her phone. She then went inside & we noticed her prostrated before one of the larger icons.
Having exhausted the lonely planet guide, after lunch (my enigma salad was quite nice) we set off exploring ourselves & found various interesting buildings. At around this point Jason suggested that we go to an old monastery maybe 20 miles outside the city. After looking at the logistics I reckoned this was impractical, it would be more of a day trip. We found a good looking religious complex but a guard turned us away.
We relaxed again back in our room for a while. When we set off for an evening meal the weather had finally improved & we got some nice evening shots of the central church. Nadia had mentioned seeing the football & after some texts we set off by taxi to meet Richard in a sports bar. We haggled a bit & walked away from a couple if taxi drivers before agreeing a price. The sports bar was concrete & functional but the beer was served in 2 or 3 litre dispensers to enable patrons to sit & watch the match without too much disruption. We may have consumed one too many but we got up to catch our plane, sore heads notwithstanding. Sadly on arrival at the airport we found that the plane was at least 2 hours late & I am composing this while waiting.

Posted via LjBeetle
Saturday, July 10th, 2010
5:37 pm
Tirasapol Transnistria
We set an alarm this morning as we had an early pickup to go to Transnistria (various spellings exist) we sampled the breakfast at hotel cosmos & waited for the pickup at the unearthly hour of 10 am. Richard our fixer did not accompany us but his young wife Nadia did, along with a licensed taxi driver.
We drove through the Moldavian countryside, it was largely arable with only the occasional farm animal but it was green & rolling. We stopped for fuel after a while (lpg notably) & the driver bought some cucumbers, which he picked fresh from the plants growing in the field by the petrol station. Hours later I still regret not eating one when offered though at the time my breakfast was still sat in my stomach.
After an hour or so we got to the border. This proved to be something of a trial. Our driver had to demonstrate the emptiness of his boot repeatedly & then complete some transaction at a booth. Then we all had to fill in a form & queue up for our visa. We queued for some while & one then another of the officials on duty went for a break, the queue mounting all the while. At one point a rather heated discussion broke out as to position in the queue involving our guides & another young lad who appeared to be pushing in. I felt unable to comment due to my lack of appropriate language skills & Jason had not realised that we were losing places (surely his legendary queue rage would kick in should he suspect such an infringement!) Actually I do Jason an injustice, I have seen no evidence of queue rage for years. Eventually we were issued visas & we could continue. Bendery, the border town, was small but it had a good looking church, a triumphal arch & a medieval fortress. The fortress is however currently occupied by the independent Transnistria forces who are strongly against their pictures being taken. We didn't stop in Bendery travelling on to Tiraspol. As an aside, I seem to be quite out of practice with taking pictures from moving cars. Having got reasonably accomplished during my Scandinavian trip this was a bit of a disappointment. Anyway, Tiraspol. We changed some money into the local roubles (definitely not widely accepted elsewhere) & bought some local "Kvint" brandy which was recommended by our guides as a local speciality. We saw the memorial to the fallen of the war for independence from Moldova in 1992 & the local church which has been constructed only recently but is beautiful. Nadia surprised me by a bit of god-fearing which is quite unusual these days in England. We also saw the local market & the satellite flea-market (which was unofficial, by the side of a path, selling old clothes & mechanical bits & pieces)
There are a couple of good statues, one to Lenin & one to the Russian generalissimo Alexander Suvarov who founded Tiraspol. We wandered along a bank of the Dinestre river in search of a bar. The first one we tried for was closed but we found another. As we walked we picked some ripe plums from some trees lining the path which we thoroughly enjoyed. Once we got to a bar we had some food, I ate a salted fish, lemon & olive dish which is apparently usually associated with heavy Russian drinking sessions. Nadia was quite sceptical that I would like it but it was quite nice.
We had expected poverty, communism & a military dictatorship. Certainly there were soldiers all around though several seemed to be off duty while still wearing fatigues. The cafe menu was in cyrillic with no concessions to other languages (while the waitresses t shirt proclaimed "most likely to steal your boyfriend" in glittery English). The flea market looked pretty poor but there were no beggars.
We then headed back. The border crossing was much easier in this direction. Sadly as we approached Chişinãu the rain caught up with us. Around Tiraspol we had had hot if slightly hazy weather.


Posted via LjBeetle
Thursday, July 8th, 2010
11:29 pm
Bucharest day 3
We had already ticked off most of the to-do list in the first two days so today was likely to be relaxed. I tried the breakfast this time which was quite continental with bread, sliced meat, cheese & cake.
We set off to tick some more off the to-see list. We were a bit more persistent this time in our efforts to see the patriarch's cathedral & a helpful cleric encouraged us on in the right direction when we were unsure. He did warn us to be careful though because we might find god... We did find a beautiful church & a huge patriarchal palace which if it did not share a city with the presidential palace would have seemed worthy of a great line of kings. Next we tried to catch a view of the city from atop through usirii shopping mall. The top floor foiled us but Jason was persistent enough to try the next floor which turned out to be an open plan arcade with an excellent view.
Next we found a lone Russian style church. There are many orthodox churches but they are Greek rather than Russian. Then we stopped for a coffee & snack. Jason ordered an English breakfast saying that he doesn't get enough of them in Qatar. Then we saw the communist ministry where Ceauşescu gave his last speech before he fled in a helicopter from its poor reception.
The last thing we saw was a dracula theme restaurant. Inevitably it was slightly tacky but the lighting was dim enough that it was quite effective. This left us with a bit of time to kill but we judged the money pretty well so I'm writing this in the airport before catching a flight to Chisenau in Moldova

Posted via LjBeetle
12:10 am
Bucharest day 2
I woke up much refreshed after a lie-in & we set off on the second day of our odessey, the full day in Bucharest.
Breakfast was an optional extra on the hotel deal & we had slept in past a reasonable breakfast hour so we looked for a brunch option nearby. We had cheese & bacon omelettes & thus fueled we set off. We got to the presidential palace again & noticed this time how the flats flanking boulevard unirii were 10 stories tall in their marble clad way, hiding older parts of the city. We sought out an older part, Ankin monastery which was impressive with beautiful murals & an orthodox church at it's centre which was decorated with mosaics on the outside.
Next was one of a series of orthodox churches that we photographed the outside of. Then we headed north to the piaţa revoĺuţie which commemorates the 1989 revolution. Then we had a drink in the trendy coffee bar in the basement of the building that housed the feared communist security service where we chatted to a waiter for a while about the revolution & the state of Romania today.
We pressed onwards but after a while we git to a point where there were a couple of sights a fair distance north & we were pretty warm so we tried the metro. After reference to our guidebook we successfully purchased tickets, boarded and got to the right destination. The metro was apparently built in 5 years flat. The mind boggles as to what the disruption was like during those years. It is a shallow cut & cover tube line, quite serviceable. I liked the way the connections between carriages was open to passengers moving down the train being only marginally restricted compared to the main carriages.
We found the Romanian version of the arc de triumph & headed back south towards the centre. The museum of the Romanian peasant was highly praised in our guidebook so we tried that. It was not really our thing but considering that was quite engaging. It has a house, a church & most of a couple of wind/water mills all inside the museum.
By this point we were hungry & caught the metro back south. We ate at a Lebanese cafe where we struggled to get by with English for the first time. We ate something nonetheless.
We headed back north to see the scene of the bloodiest fighting of the revolution. There were a couple of crosses but only one decrepit building still showed bullet holes that we could see. We stopped for a beer then caught the metro again heading back towards our hotel. This one challenged my navigational skills a bit as the metro station we used was not marked on any of the maps we have.
We freshened up & put our electronics on charge before heading out for an evening meal. We timed it wrong this time, heading out only 10 minutes before the second semi final started. Thus it took much wandering around before we found a cafe with a couple of seats left. Once we did however we had a very pleasant evening. Once the final whistle blew we headed back ready for the next day which will be mostly Bucharest with a flight to Chisenau in the evening.

Posted via LjBeetle
Wednesday, July 7th, 2010
7:45 pm
Bucharest day 1 part 2
I seem to be rambling. Oh well i'm afraid you may need to put up with it dear reader.
We explored Carol park which has been designed as a lead up to a huge monument & mausoleum for the fallen of ww1. Then we failed to find the entrance to the patriarch's cathedral & found a working atm on our third attempt.
With a slightly more reassuring amount of the local currency (romanian lei) in our pockets we set off exploring a bit further. We found the presidential palace next though in truth it is hard to miss, being the second largest building in the world. We relaxed with a beer which caught me out a bit by being quite strong at 7% then headed on. We got a bit further & felt hungry enough for tea. We ate at a pizzaria called d'eight which we can recommend & by the time we were about half way through the Netherlands Uruguay semi final came on so after eating we watched the rest of the match with a couple more beers. It finished after 11 local time so we headed back.

Posted via LjBeetle
12:52 am
Bucharest day 1
As mentioned in the previous post we got to Manchester with no serious incident. The flight to Heathrow was late to post a gate on the screen but that was barely worth mentioning. We found 30 minutes of free wi-fi as well. Heathrow posted a gate number early on but we failed to find free wi-fi & the flight set off half an hour late. Oh well, such is life.
Anyway we got to Romania no problem. The luggage took a while to turn up on the carousel so we were starting to think it was lost like Jason's from earlier in the week. But that was just us being nervous. Once we passed through customs the scrum of people waiting was quite impressive but we had organised a pickup & we headed off into Bucharest.
The driver seemed keen to get us to the hotel with a lots of pushy overtaking manoeuvres. Then near the end he started to feverishly make the sign of the cross. I'm not sure what prompted him to do that.
Our hotel has a strong red theme to its decor but seems pleasant enough. We checked in & git the code for the wi-fi then I had to ring 3 mobile on the old phone to get roaming activated on the new phone which was slightly annoying as there was no reference on the documentation or website indicating this was necessary or I would have rung up for free while I was back in the UK.
Then we went exploring.
Tuesday, July 6th, 2010
7:12 am
on our way
Well Jason & I are killing time in Manchester airport. I have got up at some unearthly hour after worrying all evening about what to take & getting about 3 hours sleep as I feel is traditional the night before a holiday. We are through the first of countless security checks. Next stop Heathrow's lounge.

Current Mood: anticipatory
Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010
12:10 am
gratuitous technology
I appear to have entered the world of 3g & can now post to my lj from wherever I happen to be. In this instance Halifax train station waiting for the last train home. I've had a good weekend away with Sarah & her family in the lakes. Signal has been intermittent at best so not really worked out how I'm going to work with my new HTC desire. Should be interesting finding out...

Current Mood: tired
Friday, May 29th, 2009
12:38 pm
Pristina
After last nights update we let the rain die down & braved the remnants of it to find an eatarie. After a pleasant pasta & a few beers we retired for the evening. This morning we had breakfast, a varied continental style breakfast notable for some portions of rose jam. The weather had turned almost British with rain being the predominant feature of the day. We sought out a couple of museums, first the Ethnographic museum which showed how Kosovans lived over recent centuries with traditional dress on display. It was noticeable how there were several different traditional dresses from different regions of the country. The other was the main Kosovo museum which had a relatively small number of exhibits but tastefully displayed & a big sign campaigning for several thousand artifacts which are currently in Belgrade to be returned to Kosovo. The exhibit with pride of place was a 6000 year old figurine the likeness of which can be seen in many places around the city, including on official Taxi signs. On the floor below there was an exhibition of photographic work by a group of deaf students which was of a very high standard. Next we went for some lunch. We asked for a hot-dog, the result was in my opinion better than a standard hot-dog with several "dogs" sliced up in a chunky sandwich with salad & sauce. Unfortunately Jason has an aversion to mayonnaise (& it's sibling salad cream) & could not face eating his. As it had only been a Euro we went to another eaterie where we specified no mayonnaise. The hot dog came back with what looked like mayonnaise on it. Jason was set to pay & leave with it uneaten but after some persuasion he complained & got a replacement, this time with cheese & tomoato sauce which he wolfed down (as is his wont). It was still damp out & we had run out of attractions to seek out so we went back 2 our hotel & it's wi-fi to kill a couple of hours before heading for the airport....
Thursday, May 28th, 2009
4:40 pm
Pristina
After last night's update, the long-forecast rain finally arrived & in style. It was thunder & lightning but we were unconcerned as we were recovering in our room when it reached us. We went to the bar downstairs & enjoyed a Skopsko beer as the worst hit. after a while it eased off & we were hungry so we headed out. Skopje was deserted, we found a few bars & had a good pizza then we wandered around & found we were almost forced to watch the champions league final. After which we were tired & headed back. Getting up in the morning to head out for Pristina in Kosovo. We got a taxi to the bus station which was swift & efficient & we bought a ticket then went to wait for the bus which arrived on time. We started talking to an American woman who had been working around the Balkans since January, I did not enquire as to the nature of her work but she was quite interesting.
The bus wound through Skopje picking up various people before heading off. It climbed some spectacular scenery before getting to the border crossing. Then we dropped off in a town that I did not catch the name off. As we were heading out of that town the bus (which had been struggling for gears on several occasions) seemed to run into trouble & started limping very slowly. We pulled in & the driver opened the engine hatch & was not looking happy. After a surprisingly short time we were told to get on another bus which pulled up behind us. I'm pretty sure it was another bus company (at least 3 run the route) so i was pleasantly surprised. The rest of the journey was uneventful. Arriving in Pristina we booked into the grandest of our hotels of the trip: the Hotel Grand. We promptly set off around the city. We saw several mosques, a statue to unity (surrounded by barbed wire). The Marter's cemetary with a good view down onto the city. A large Orthodox church which had been abandoned, part-finished. Another statue to mother Theresa, & another statue to Skanderbeg. 2 meter tall letters spelling out NEWBORN & a large billboard commemorating Bill Clinton on the boulevard named after him (which I could only compare with George W Bush Street in Tirana). We retired to our hotel ahead of what appeared to be an oncoming storm & hence I'm updating the blog :-)
Wednesday, May 27th, 2009
2:49 pm
Skopje
Breakfast was a bit unusaul, it included a cake. Elton & girlfriend turned up so I grabbed a picture of them which I had failed to do the previous day.
First we headed for the city museum, 2 guides both said that it was the smaller, less interesting rival to the museum of Macedonia across town but it has a clock which stopped when Skopje was hit by a major quake in '63 & one of the very earliest anthropomorphic figurines. It appeared to have improved a bit from the reports int guidebooks wit at least some of the items double-labelled in English (Macedonian being a language which uses Cyrillic characters. You can guess some words, if you can first trans-literate them into the latin alphabet (fortunately Jason can trans-literate slowly so we are not completley lost). Then we headed into the center of town & found the memorial house/church to Mother Theresa. She was an ethnic Albanian native of Skopje so both Skopje & Tirana feel that she was a local girl done good. This was the most beautiful modern church I can remember seeing. quite small & delightful.
Further into town we found some sculptures, & the central stone bridge. The original stone appears to have been covered over in the strengthening works carried out after the '63 quake. This took us into the Turkish Bazaar area & this was still largely original with pedestrianised twisty streets. This was worthy of a city with so much history. We went across from the Bazaar & came across a clock tower we asked if we could climb it & were given a guided tour by the Imam :-) it was quite a climb with a rickety handrail & low beams to clout your head on. When we got to the top we stepped onto the balcony & found a magnificent view. However the railing was no higher than knee height & the balcony was less than a foot wide. It was something of an adrenaline rush. I held on to some struts that protruded over our heads for reassurance. When we got down we needed to calm our nerves. After a brisk walk & a glass of sprite we had relaxed & sought out a 15th century Caravanasari. where we had a very pleasant lunch. Next was the museum of Macedonia the highlights of which included a couple of icons of Archangel Michael, a phallic-spouted jug & some intricately carved figures. The downside was that large sections were not labeled in English. So I think they were describing the ottoman period & how it ended. But I'm really not sure. Then we climbed up to the old fortress Kale. Which was interesting in its own right as well as providing a great view of the city. Next we were going to go round one of the many mosques but it was closed for renovation. We descended back into the city & saw the new post office. A strange round building executed in 70's concrete & brown glass. Then we saw a massive monument to the liberation of Skopje from the facists. This was a proper overblown communist style monument. After all that we went back 2 the hotel for a rest.
7:44 am
Macedonia Day 1
Woke up @ the ungodly hour of 8:00 (unreasonable 4 a holiday at least!) quickly showered, re-packed & had breakfast knowing that our taxi driver for the day was arriving @ 9:00. We had just about had breakfast, checked the weather & checked out when Elton (4 that is his name) turned up. Elton's car was smaller than I had imagined & he turned up with girlfriend in-tow but his English was flawless & we set off in good spirits. We had a break in Embasan where we had a drink in an old fortress & set off again. We passed through the Macedonian border with little incident & got to Ohrid on the shores of the lake of the same name. Once upon a time desperate Albanians would swim lake Ohrid 2 escape Albania but those days are gone. Indeed several indicators of poverty such as run-down shacks for housing would indicate that Macedonia currently is @ the wrong end of the economic argument.
The town of Ohrid is almost picture-box perfect, very much a tourist destination with delightful views & an unspoilt old-town. We only had 2 hours there & pushed ourselves too hard to squeeze a couple more sights in ending up almost bathed in sweat. Then we set off for Skopje.
The Skopje leg exposed some minor shortcomings in Elton, we took a scenic route which was not what he had originally planned & it took longer than he had planned & he became unsure of where he was going. We were not particularly concerned with no deadline to check in tonight but he was quite disappointed in himself. It added an hour to the journey arriving @ 20:00 instead of 19:00. We arrived in Skopje & again this was a bit out of Elton's bailiwick. We got into town & got to the bus station. Which was inevitably indicated on our city center maps by an arrow saying 400m this way off the edge. Elton chatted with a local who said he would show us where to go & led us right across the center of town to get us to our hotel. Once we got back to the center, knowing we were coming in from the side saying “station this way” meant that I could figure out where I was, so the time I spent navigating through Scandiwegia was not lost on me but I needn't have bothered as the local guided Elton all the way. We booked in, Elton & girlfriend also booked in & we chatted in the bar b4 leaving Elton & heading off into town to round off the day with trying a few local cafes & bars.
Monday, May 25th, 2009
10:12 pm
Albania EDITED sober :-)
Landed in Albania yesterday & was assaulted by warm mugginess. We changed some money in the airport (no UK option having Abanian Leks available) & collected our bags. We were met even before we passed customs control. We had arranged with our hotel to be picked up from the airport, missing the worst of the taxi scrum. We got to our hotel dropped our luggage off & went off exploring. It was dark by now & we found various cafes & had several beers.
We woke this morning, showered had breakfast, which was available until a very leisurely 10:30 & set off to explore the city. The National museum was closed on Mondays which was unfortunate as this seemed from other write-ups to be the most interesting museum. We climbed the clock-tower, explored the city market & found the Tanner's bridge. Next on our itinerary was the pyramid. Built in the 60's & 70's as a mausoleum to Enver Hoxa it is a huge edifice in marble & glass. it's shine however is somewhat muted recently as the current owners are no-longer hosting art shows & concerts (as it has previously been used) but now realising their assets by stripping the marble cladding & selling it. Next we eyeballed Hoxa's former residence then found Mother Theresa'a square. From there wee headed off into the park, at which point I was struck down by a severe attack of hay-fever. Having left my antihistamines at home I struggled on for some while. We headed east until we were stopped by the guards around the president's palace. & then foiled again by a barrier declaring it was the start of a military zone. We then headed in a different direction & found some impressive monuments to national heroes, not far removed from which was commonwealth war graves & a monument to the Germans that fell in Albania during WWII.
We had lunch in the park despite my continuing allergic reaction to the pollen. We left the park & attempted to find a pharmacy. We found one but it was having a siesta for the next 2 hours or so. Then we flagged down a taxi & headed off for a couple of attractions off the SE edge of our map. When the taxi got there we found we could not get in either. The taxi took us back into town but was obviously feeling guilty for the non-event & tried to show us some other tourist attractions. After some false starts he sought out a friend who spoke good English. Where we established that we had seen most stuff already. We wandered off & found a bizarre petrol station whose architecture has to be seen to be believed (picture to follow) & another pharmacy which this time was very helpful.
We then had a break in our hotel. After which we headed off to see sunset from the tallest skyscraper in Tirana. a few beers later we went to find some food. After some searching as it was getting late we found a chicken panini. Then we headed off for a bar where we met a random Austrian lady who had last visited Albania in 1988 & was having a great time. :-)
Friday, April 24th, 2009
6:59 pm
Jaunty Jackalope
I upgraded my main PC to Jaunty Jackalope (see below) last night after getting in from the pub. Perhaps not the ideal time to do it but earlier in the evening between getting home & going to the pub I had had a couple of semi unexpected visitors pop round. So I had not had time to install earlier.
I closed all my other applications, ran the installer & left it to it. After waiting a few minutes I retired for the night & checked again in the morning when there was a confirmation box for deleting the old packages & a reboot.
I get the impression that there has been some work on the bootup time. I'm afraid I never timed Intrepid Ibex on the current configuration but it seems a bit quicker on what was already a pretty quick boot time. I timed bootup this afternoon from the end of the BIOS screen & with me typing in my login & password & clicking on 5 applications (Pidgin, Firefox, Thunderbird, Banshee & Akregator) it took almost exactly 2 minutes to get booted up & all 5 applications loaded & running which seems pretty slick to me.
For those mystified as to what Jaunty Jackalope could be (& as I have directed those confused by my facebook status here there may be one or two). A breif explanation is in order. My computer does not run Windows as it's operating system, instead it runs a version of Linux called Ubuntu. Ubuntu released a new version of it's software on schedule yesterday & the versions have quite esoteric names, previous names have included: Dapper Drake, Easty Erts, Gutsy Gibbon, Hoary Hedghog & Intrepid Ibex.
Sunday, February 8th, 2009
10:47 pm
I don't think today fits into a Facebook Status micro-blog
Sorry LJ I have been very remiss not posting here recently (i.e. 6 months). Yes I must confess that I have largely used FB to chronicle my comings & goings. I thought I had recorded my recent broken bone here but obviously I have not.

Anyway, today.
Firstly I went to the local computer market & was saddened to see how far it has fallen. Gone are the days of a choice of 5 or more vendors offering all the components to construct your own PC. Today there were a few printing supplies vendors, a few selling blank CDs/DVDs & sleeves etc. One selling a range of what appeared to be bankrupt stock of motherboards, the obligatory seller of random stuff downloaded onto CDs one with a huge range of memory cards, USB sticks & some PC memory & one (1!) selling a range of mostly second hand laptops with some HDDs cables & several of the bits for a PC. Presumably it is a mixture of the credit crunch & people getting components delivered from the Internet.

Next was fixing a friend's PC. I had surveyed it last weekend, when I initially spoke to her in the pub I thought it was the graphics card & when I looked at it it was showing classic signs, it refused to deliver a signal to a monitor. The old PC which had been brought out of hibernation to provide Internet access in the main PCs absence was using the monitor & cable so they could be eliminated. So I swapped the graphics card for an AGP card I had lying around & it stubbornly refused to talk to the monitor. I later tried the AGP card in the PC I had intended it for in the first place & it worked. So the main suspect was now the motherboard but I had a nagging suspicion that it could be the memory or the CPU. I then looked on the net for a replacement MB presuming that I would have to source a MB & CPU. I was surprised to find that the board was still readily available so i ordered one. This morning I cycled across to hers & swapped the motherboard. I was very pleasantly surprised when the PC booted straight up once everything was installed :-) I had not told my friend my suspicions about the CPU & Memory. I had discussed it with my colleagues in the IT department @ work & they had mentioned that there are beeps for the various fundamental failures. I have used those beeps some years ago but not for a while & they had slipped my mind when I was surveying the PC (not that I can remember the code).

As I was finishing up at my friend's my brother rang me to see if I was close to meeting him at our parents. We both reckoned we were about 20 minutes away so I was off on the next part of the day which was skiing. I met my brother & we went up to Queensbury & went skiing / boarding on the local mountain boarding slope. It wasn't the alps & my ankle was not very happy about it but it was a pretty good little slope with quite a few little challenges & they do evening sessions as well.

A couple of other observations to leave you with: I was watching channel 4's Christianity: a history earlier & during it Anne Widdecombe interviewed Ian Paisley. I don't recall the last time I saw him so much on the back foot. Why does my cat largely ignore the toys you can buy in the shop but chase a piece of string for ages?

Current Mood: tired
Friday, July 18th, 2008
1:56 am
Scandinavian Odessey
Short version:
We drove to Newcastle, caught the ferry. Got off in Halstammer. Saw a glacier. Saw the remains of the heavy water plant in Telemark. Saw several picturesque lakes. Wandered round Oslo. Saw an incredible sculpture park & a museum to polar exploration. Drove into Sweden. saw more lakes & less mountains. Got to the car show & saw innumerable classic American cars. Were astounded by the Raggare. Eventually gave up & slept the last night at a more distant campsite. Saw Stockholm. Got rained on (until this point the weather had been glorious). Drove south. Saw a Dolmen grave. Saw the Oresund crossing in the far distance. Saw a castle. Crossed Oresund. Wandered around Copenhagen. Saw Christiania & a canal tour. Camped in a fort. Drove west. Crossed another bridge. Camped a a campsite with a permanent bouncy castle (with an 18 month old in tow that was an incredible plus point). Caught a ferry. Home.

Took over 2000 photos :-) even after corrupting a bunch :-(
I am even slightly browner than usual (not brown as such or even average but from a very white base, slightly browner than usual.)

Current Mood: accomplished
Wednesday, June 25th, 2008
9:09 pm
We're off...
EDIT: un-cut, on both my PCs it's just a link not a picture.

We're off to a car show in Sweden in the morning. I suppose I'd better get started on the packing.


View route

OH yes, apparently there will be some automobiles

Current Mood: bouncy
Monday, June 16th, 2008
1:13 am
Hayfever Log
Thought I'd log my hayfever symptoms, out of curiosity as to how long my hayfever season lasts. I've never previously taken notes...

Week 1: June 2-8
Itchy eyes on 2-3 days, didn't bother taking any tablets.

Week 2: June 9-15
Itchy eyes, repeated sneezing & rhinitis on Tuesday, (particularly after spending an hour outside commuting between home, work, opticians & work again), took tablet in morning & evening.
Sneezing & rhinitis after spending 2 hours or so gardening on Saturday (was at my cousins garden in wales & had failed to bring tablets).
Rhinitis after commuting (bike & train) between home & parents on Sunday, nicked a tablet off dad. Itchy eyes after cycling back.
Monday, June 2nd, 2008
5:20 pm
Jive Addiction Southport May 08 "Jiving you Crazy"
Right, been quite lax in posting so I'm going to try to write something substantial.

It is fairly large so I suppose I'd better use a cut. I really don't like them as they are a PITA on feed readers (which is what I use), anyway please read onCollapse )

Current Mood: sore
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