29 June, 2012

Day 11 - Prague Botanic Gardens

Today, it was all about visiting the Botanic Gardens in Prague... but the Gardens I visited, were the ones attached to the University of Prague, and had more of a science feel to it; not necessarily a bad thing either...

It was a small, eclectic Garden, long and narrow, and had both a working glasshouse for operational use, as well as another one for visiting public to enter.


Potted Palms


Potted Trees Prague Botanic Garden


Prague Botanic Garden Glasshouse

A lot of the trees were in pots, making them easier to 'bring in' when not the best weather in the winter. the lawns were sweeping in nature and generally a very pleasant little garden. However, it was doing the hayfever NO good what so ever, and after cutting short my visit after talking with some of the staff, I headed back to the city and to get some medication, and some lunch!


Lavender and Roses


Hydranger and Bee

After lunch, I headed up to the Prague Castle! It was by this stage, quite glary on the eyes, and it was warming up nicely as well... I caught the Metro to Malostranska, and then the tram to the top. When arriving, I walked past the Princesses Garden, which was a butiful garden! There was a 'Birds of Prey' corner, and they had some magnificant birds on display. You could have your photo taken with one of them, the larger the bird the more it cost, but I wasn't into getting my photo taken! They were also very much against YOU taking a photo of the birds, and as I din't have my long lens with me, I was unable to get a shot :(

After a quick walk around, it was time to enter the Castle itself, and more importantly, into the St Vitus Cathederal.


Prague Metro - Malostransk√°


Princesses Garden - Prague Castle


St Vitus Cathederal - Prague Castle

After the brief look inside, I walked down the long subtle staircasr towards Malostranska Metro station, and along the way, stopped to get some photos of the overview of the city.


Prague City Center


Castle Wall


Staircase Down...

I potted around the city for a good while whilst JP was at work. The plan was that when he finished at 7pm, we would catch up for dinner at the local pub where his spotters club have the get togethers! I caught the Metro up to where we were having dinner. Dinner was fantastic, and not that badly priced either!

After dinner, we strolled across some of the bridges in Prague, there was some buskers about, some great and some, well, they were there... It was getting late now, and whilst the sun was low, it was still quite light, but it was a great final night in Prague...

Hoo roo for now...
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28 June, 2012

Day 10 - Airside spotting at PRG!

Ok, this was a definitely a 'highlight' of the trip... It isn't every day you can get THIS close to the action!!

We arrived at the airport after having breakfast in the hotel, it was served down in the cellar, which was full of lovely lines and arches of old stone (propped up by new here and there...). We caught the Metro and then the bus that links the Metro to the Airport. But, we had to get out at T3, which is short and on the opposite (almost) side of the airport. It was the old terminal, and it is now used for FIFO and charters as well as General Aviation! We were met by the guide, and as it was just us, we were going out in a car as opposed to the bus, which had its pluses in that we could get to better locations and out for a longer period as well!

Soon enough, we were driving along what was the old runway, which is being used for GA parking. Low and behold, there was an Australian registered aircraft out there!!

Wristband


Prague Airport Spotting


VH-LAL a long way from home - Sitting on the old runway in Prague!

We then headed along to the cargo ramp, where an all white (boring) China Airlines Cargo B744F was being loaded. This will be good to get as it departs!!


JP and the China Airlines Cargo B744F


B-18722 China Airlines Cargo B744F - PRG

We then headed to a little spot, where we set up for a good couple of hours, and mainly spotting small (A320 and B737's) jets and the odd props (ATR's) taxiing past and or departing. It was fantastic as a lot of the airlines were all new to me! The lighting was being difficult, but hey, it was middle of the day and I wasn't going to complain, and I got some good results!


CSA Logo Jet departing PRague Airport


AeroSvit Ukrainian Airlines B735 UR-AAL - PRG


BMI Baby

We then moved (a little) so as we could get both the B744F and the Emirates B773 departing. After the EK taxied past, we had to get into the car, move, in order for the B744F to pass us, as this is an operational (and safety) requirement. It didn't take either of them to long to get to the end of the runway and soon departing!


EK B773 to DXB


China Airlines B744 Freighter departing PRG

The day was fantastic, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself, thanks JP!

We then headed back into town, and dropped of the camera gear and then a freshen up. We were meeting up with JP's dad for dinner, at a Mexican restaurant nearby! It was great to catch up with his dad again, as it was last December, in Rome, where I last caught up with him for dinner!

What a day, lots of great stuff done and lots of good company... Totally exhausted, especially as now my hayfever was ramping up... I am over the sneezing and constantly running nose and itchy eyes.
Hoo roo for now...
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27 June, 2012

Day 9 To Prague via Amsterdam

I woke up early today, as I was having breakfast with a colleague from Ireland (Dublin) and we were catching a cab together to the airport at 7am... Breakfast was nice, and during the breakfast, the new Chairperson from Greece, asked Alan if he could do the 'Field Days' next year!! YAY, a trip to Dublin next year is now on the cards, as well as Beijing!

Anyways, we got into the cab and then headed to the airport. The cab driver was quite a chatty chap, and we spoke about the economy and so on, and before to long we had arrived. It was quite a small airport, and I now understand as to why it was cheaper to fly into Oslo as opposed to Kristiansand! The facilities and terminal itself, were still stuck back in the 50's or 60's! I was having some small difficulties with my check-in, as I was on a flight into the Czech republic via Amsterdam. It ended up that the gate agent was trying to check me in via a new system, and it wasnt letting her! Eventually, I was checked-in (rather early) and she took carriage of my bag and I entered through the security check. To show just how small it was, I had met the agent at the check-in, security, at the gate and then she handed the inventory to the flight deck!! She was one busy lady!

Departure from Kristiansand was a very quick departure, the Captain spooled up to full power and then released the brakes and almost slingshotted us into the sky! The flight was pretty smooth and before long, we were arriving on Amsterdams furthest runway, the Polderbaan! I had read that at times, it takes longer to taxi to/from the runway, than what it does to actually fly across the channel to the UK! Today though, the Captain was in a hurry and we only took around 20 minutes,

Clearing security was a fairly easy process, as it is when travelling intra-Europe, and before long I was waiting for JP to arrive from Prague. His flight arrived and we cleared security together and went to the KLM shop where he purchased an Airforce ! model and then we went to the viewing deck; which is simply an amazing place!

It was soon 'time-to-fly' and needed to clear security, and this is where I came into grief... Security officer was far to busy chatting up a pair of blondes, to inform people, me, that they need to take out cameras... I had already taken out laptop, I know the 'drill' by now, and sent my bag through to be x-rayed. On the other side, I was asked if the bag was mine, and did I know what was inside it... Yeah I do, and at this point I would NOT have had an issue, but had a) the guy on the otherside mentioned it, I would've taken it out, and b) as the guys on this side were talking in Dutch, I asked they speak in English so as I know what is being said... It got a little heated as I wanted to see where my gear was going instead of asking silly questions by the security... Afterall, its c $10K of gear! After it was done, I grabbed my gear and we left for the flight...

Gear x-rayed AMS


CSA Wingtip
The flight to Prague itself was pretty good, a new airline for me, and a new destination! As JP was now living in Prague, I followed him to the bus, then Metro and to the hotel I had booked, which was right in the middle of the town and on the Metro station! It was late, and we had dinner and hit the beds...

Hoo roo for now...
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26 June, 2012

Day 7 & 8 Kristiansand...

Well, for the next two days, it was all about the conference. It was a very good conference in that the main theme, was all about Sustainablity. The actual presentations were great, informative and very well presented. I really enjoyed some more than others though...

On the afternoon session, we took a bus trip to Landvik, Bioforsk's turfgrass research facility. The bus trip was very pleasant, through some wonderful countryside, and we were told about how the Lupins along the roadside were an introduced weed species. its funny how what is seen as a plant is actually a weed elsewhere!

Soon enough though, we arrived, and we were greeted by a light shower... Refreshments were ready for all of the delegates, coffee, open sandwiches and strawberries - YUMM!

Shortly after, we were asked to take a manual of the site, which was to be a 'notebook' for the afternoons tour. On the cover of each notebook, was a coloured dot, which became your group. There was 5 groups that went about 7 stations.


Turf Trial Plots - Landvick


Turf Trial Plots - Landvick


Turf Trial Plots - Landvick
Now, luckily (for our group) we were to be at the second last station, which was the closest to the research facilities administration and where we met and had refreshments earlier. We were out in the middle of the field, when an almighty crack of lightening, followed almost immediately by the loudest crack of thunder. Some of the American guys in the group announced that they were heading in (from Tornado ally perhaps?) and after a few more cracks, the rest of our group was walking through the Strawberry and Asparagus field in the search of shelter... We just made it inside and then the heavens opened!


Turf Trial Plots - Landvick


Approaching Storm - Landvik


Asparagus Trials - Landvik
After the storm passed, we joined the buses and headed for the BBQ for the evening, where the food there was simply amazing...
Hoo roo for now...
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24 June, 2012

Day Six in Kristiansand

This morning, I woke semi early, I had set an alarm so as I could Skype home to a mates son's Baptism. Alas, it was not to be as the hotels internet was down, what ended up all day! This was ok, in that I had a bit of a headache, so I had breakfast, cereal, eggs, bacon, yoghurt and a fruit platter! It was yumm!

After a bit of a rest, and talking via Facebook, I got dressed (again) and headed into downtown Kristiansand - which was all closed! Apparently, the shops in Norway are all closed of a Sunday! Now, here is where I will make a confession... I wished I had bought with me my Swans Jacket! It is very cool here, and whilst my normal packing mode is to pack the night before I go, I do not count this as a 'forgotten' item! It is suppose to be summer here, but instead, it has been 10-14c tops, and wet!


Kristiansand Shops


Kristiansand Shops


Kristiansand Shops


Kristiansand Shops

Anyway, I walked around town, swapping sides of the street so as to stay under cover, and I have noticed a few stores selling ski jackets, that aren't too badly priced either, so tomorrow, I will go and purchase one, as we are on a field trip tomorrow afternoon!

I have just finished the registration and welcome reception. The girls on the reception desk were aghast and amazed that I have come such a long way for the conference! I outlined as to why I am here, and they smiled and gave me my bag of goodies before heading in for some champagne and something to eat.

It is an early morning, with the conference due to start at 8.15am SHARP!!

Hoo roo for now...
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23 June, 2012

Day Five in Oslo - Kristiansand

Today was my last day in Oslo, and whilst I had a bad experience yesterday, I am leaving with very fond memories, both of Oslo itself, but of also the friends I have made whilst here. I stayed in my apartment until the very last second of the very last minute of the very last hour, that is, 11am! I was going to make them PAY! I headed downtown, to the station where I would catch the train from later in the afternoon. I found I could leave my bag and camera bag in a locker for 40krones, so my back had a light day!

I hit the shopping strip, one of many, and I grabbed some stuff for friends at home. I also got to see some more of the shopping precinct, which is very pleasant! BUT, there were some weird people around town, dressed up in fancy dress in a sci-fi mood! Some were weirder than others I must say!

I went into a shopping center similar to a Westfield back home. There was a camera store there and I looked at a new lens I was thinking about. My primary lens, 18-55, is getting a little loose in the outer ring, and I don’t think it will last much longer. But, it will have to make it a little longer indeed now after seeing the prices! Even after getting the tax back, they’re cheaper back home!

I started to head back to the station, and stepping outside, it was now raining, a lot!! Oh well, I am leaving here now anyways! I got to the station, and went upstairs to the lounge and had something small to eat and a coffee. When I saw my train listing to ‘two lights’ I headed down, got my bags and went to my platform where my train is positioned ready and waiting for its departure in 30 minutes.


My ride to Kristiansand

As I type, we are winding our way through some lovely countryside, through valleys with some rivers along side. I only realized when it was too late, I should’ve gotten some pictures, but I was in such awe of the experience, I forgot! Had I know what to expect, I would’ve, so I am sorry for that… It would look spectacular in winter, with all the snow on the pine trees… Perhaps a visit in the winter is a maybe!?!?!

Hoo roo for now...
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22 June, 2012

Day Four in Oslo

Ok, today was yet another FULL on day. 

After getting ready, I headed into town to do the same thing that many tourists do in any major city in the world... The 'Hop On Hop Off' bus tour! It was a good tour, I got to see and hear of the heritage and culture of Oslo. At the conclusion of the tour, I was going to go around again but on the opposite side of the bus for more photos, but I heard a 'Marching Band' and remembered that the Changing of the Guard Ceremony was at 1.30pm... After looking at my phone, it was 1.15pm, so I jumped OFF at the first available spot, and with a brisk walk I managed to get some photos of the Guards marching past. I then followed up to the Kings Palace, and watched the more formal ceremony. Formal, yeah right, it was somewhat comical at some points, which I thought was brilliant! Sure, it had its formal parts, and these were simply fantastic, but at one point, when swinging their riffles around, one of the guards 'accidentally' drop his, the ceremony paused, whist a Chief Guard came down, handed him his riffle, mimicked a smack across the face (twice), and after this, he picked up the riffle on the ground glanced back, and marched away!! So you can see what I mean by its comical attributes! 

There was also some marching to the music, and I thought at one point there may've even been some Lady Gaga in there as well!! And, when they fired, well that woke up the crowd!!! 


Oslo Opera House


Changing of the Guard


You looking at me??

I then headed back to my apartment, and I was HORRIFIED to find that I could hear people in my apartment!! When I went back up stairs to the office, I was told that my belongings were safe (they'd better be) and I was being moved to another location. WELL, to say I was livid is an understatement, I made my thoughts VERY clear on the matter, and informed anyone coming in to 'watch out'! The acting manager wasn't at all pleased, but neither was I! I was taxied out, and when I was asked by the cab driver if I knew where to go, well my blood pressure went through the roof! BUT, the creme de la creme was when arriving at what he thought was the place, suggested I go over and see, and leaving my belongings in a cab, yeah, hell will freeze over before such an event like that happens! In the end, I called the acting manager, and confirmed it was the place. It was a slightly larger apartment, but the whole experience left me with a very bitter taste of Oslo! I wrote an email to both Agoda (booking agent) and the Manager, outlining what I thought of the whole affair, and it wasn't at all pretty!! 

After I was settled in, I had a call from Mr C asking if I would like to be take up to Holmenkollen, which is Oslo's Ski Jump. It was amazing to see JUST how big these things are! AND, whist I had always thought they ski jumpers were mad, after seeing this, it simply confirmed my beliefs they are!

Holmenkollen


Holmenkollen Ski Jump


Holmenkollen Ski Jump
We headed back into downtown Oslo, and whilst I am not going to say to much on this matter, last year an event in Oslo followed by a larger event nearby, changed the lives of many people. We visited the site of the bomb event, where many of the glass windows nearby are still boarded up, including in the nearby church... Is was sad yet humbling to be standing where I had seen on the news. RIP to those involved.

We then headed onto a cafe for some dinner - it was the LEAST I could do for all of the running around and hospitality from Mr C!


Mr C

Hoo roo for now...
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21 June, 2012

Day Three in Oslo

Today, was to be a visit to both the Botanical Gardens and to the Vigeland Sculpture Park. After my shower, Skype back home, I headed out to get some breakfast and to get a train ticket. Oslo have a great system, a 24 hour ticket gets you on ALL public transport, Train, Tram, Bus and Ferry! Something that Sydney can learn from really... AND, its cheap as chips as well!!

The Botanical Garden was simply quaint, it wasn't to large, yet the collection was stunning both in its large trees down to its colourful garden beds. I spoke with some of the staff there, and I got the impression that they loved what they were doing as well!


Boston Ivy over building


Glass House


Willow Tree

Peonies

I then headed back through the centre of town on the train through to the other end of town. IT is easily accessible without any problems! The short walk to the park, is easy, and passes some nice shops along the way.

Sculptures

Sculpture Park

Fountain

Sun Dial Spire

Daschund

 Once IN the park, the amount of sculptures was simply stunning! There was SO many bronze ones, stone ones, some young and some old (subjects). Also, scattered through the park, people enjoying the sun on a blanket or a towel, some wearing less than I would think would be allowed, but, still modest... I had such a great day, and after a long day, a Skype call to friends back home, I turned in for the night...

Hoo roo for now...
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