Countries I’ve visited
- Costa Rica
- Czech Republic 2017
- Dominican Republic
- England 2012
- Hong Kong 2013
- Hong Kong 2014
- Malaysia 2011
- Malaysia 2012
- New Zealand 2009
- North Macedonia
- Panama 2015
- Panama 2017
- South Korea
- Spain 2012-2013
- Spain 2016
- Tonga 2014
- USA and Canada 2015
- USA May-June 2017
Berlin is undoubtedly the beer drinking capital of the world. And in Summer, when it is hot, the consumption rate goes up.
Interestingly, there is a huge selection of ‘non-alcoholic’ beer, but it falls into two categories. 0.0% alcohol is just that – zero alcohol, but ‘non-alcoholic’ may actually contain up to 0.1% alcohol.
In both categories you will find all the popular varieties including pale ale, IPAs and stouts.
This was important when Andrea was pregnant and breast feeding, as we had to target the 0.0% version for her.
But what really amazed us was the number of people carrying a bottle of beer in the street – open and being consumed. There were plenty of convenience stores that stocked beer, so as you wander down the street or into a park or onto the U-bahn there will always be an opportunity to buy a bottle of beer.
But we were not impressed when we saw people leave their empty bottles on the street. That was until we realised they were left as a donation to one of the many homeless people who would collect the empties and sell them.
Only in Berlin.
One of the most iconic sights of Berlin is the Fernsehrturm or TV tower.
The TV tower, to broadcast GDR television, was originally planned to be built in the hills outside Berlin. But in the 1960s, the GDR government arranged to have an even larger TV Tower built in Alexanderplatz to demonstrate the strength and efficiency of the socialist system.
It was completed and opened on 3 October 1969, just before the 20th anniversary of the founding of the GDR. This year it celebrates its 50th birthday.
At the top of the tower is a large bulb to remind the people of the Soviet Sputnik satellite. At 368m the Berliner Fernsehturm is the tallest building in Berlin and is visible from nearly everwhere.
As you walk from the Brandenburg Gate up Unter den Linden to the Museum Island and into Alexanderplatz the tower is there to guide the way. From there, as we wandered all over the old East Berlin sector, the tower provided us with a point of reference. It became our focal point, our reminder of the amazing city of Berlin.
We treated ourselves to visiting the tower. We had the luxury of waiting for a clear day and going early in the day, before the tourists arrived. Visitors are limited to 380 at a time, with an extra 20 places allowed for staff.
The view was amazing, a great way to see Berlin.
When I wrote my last blog we were planning to book flights to Berlin in early September, and return after two months.
The plan was to meet our first grandchild, and mix spending time in Berlin with the newest family member with some travelling, perhaps even chase some family ghosts. We would watch our new grandchild’s development for the first two months, by which time she should be giggling and recognising faces. Yes, she – a little girl was on its way.
But that didn’t happen.
I got a phone call from Hayden in early July, to say that Andrea wasn’t well and had been admitted to hospital with preeclampsia. The baby would probably be delivered premature. Could we come to Berlin ASAP.
The doctors were not concerned about the baby, but Andrea’s extremely high blood pressure was causing concern for her well being.
So little Brianna entered the world on 8th July and we were on a flight on Saturday 13th July, to provide support.
And we spent two months in Berlin in glorious summer, a far cry from shivering through one of Melbourne’s coldest winters. In that time we learnt a lot about living in Berlin.
Our first experience was visiting the little family at the Vivantes Klinikum im Friedrichshain (Friedrichshain Hospital). To get there from our hotel we walked through the beautiful Volkspark Friedrichshain.
The park is a triangular shape with the hospital tucked into the south eastern edge. We entered through the apex on the western side into the beautiful Märchenbrunnen (fairy tale fountain in honour of the Brothers Grimm). We wandered past a huge field where families were picnicking, past the cafes and restaurants and the lake, up beside a stream where the little kids chilled, and into the number one gate to the hospital.
Sometimes we were anxious to get to the hospital for feeding time, other times we stopped by the cafe for a coffee or cool drink or just wandered and explored the park.
Inside the park are two hills. The Großer Bunkerberg (Big Bunker Hill) is in fact the Flakturm II G (flak tower) which the Red Army attempted to destroy. The Kleiner Bunkerberg (Little Bunker Hill) was a bunker.
The flak tower and bunker was subsequently covered with rubble from Berlin’s ruins to create artificial hills of 78m and 48m respectively. Volunteers, mostly women dubbed Trümmerfrauen or rubble women, cleared the debris from the bombed out buildings, cleaning bricks for reuse and carting unusable stuff to the parks.
Trees have now covered the two hills and they are popular spots to hang out.
The park has at least four playgrounds for children. Mums and dads bring their prams and let the children loose in the sand pits and on the play equipment. There are no helicopter parents here, children are taught to be independent, to brush themselves down if they fall over and to share their toys and games.
Berlin is full of young families. I think our little family will slot in nicely and enjoy the park as much as we did.
We keep saying how quickly time goes. But as we reach the halfway point of 2019, so much seems to have happened. We have had a busy time!
It all started on 5th January, when Hayden & Andrea suggested a phone call. They were announcing their pregnancy. Fantastic news!! Due date was early September.
Of course we had to keep mum about it – they didn’t want to tell everyone just yet. That was hard, in fact it was very hard.
Whilst Andrea was struggling with morning sickness, we were preparing to meet the family to celebrate my 70th birthday in Macedonia.
So many of my friends decided I needed a celebration before Macedonia. There were the Girl Cousins, the Doggie Walkers, the Maggie Walkers, the GNOs and of course family and friends. And at each celebration I had to keep THE secret.
We visited Hayden & Andrea in Berlin, the Busch family in Stuttgart and Denis & Martine in Switzerland before crossing the Atlantic in time to celebrate Evan’s 34th birthday with Ev & Steph.
We then flew south and drove across North America from South Carolina to California, nearly 6,000 kilometres through amazing country.
We finished our adventure in Hawaii, staying on the famed Waikiki Beach. I am still trying to finish my journal.
Home again, and resuming life in Melbourne. This time we have been sharing our time between Sorrento and Sandringham. We have been catching up with our blogs/journals and I have been dabbling in family history while Bruce has been kept busy with his freelance work.
Of course there are friends and family to catch up with as well.
And guess what, we are preparing another journey – this time to meet our very first grandchild in Berlin in September.
It has been a busy and fulfilling 2019 so far.
Friday 9 to Monday 12 November.
We were so excited to welcome Evan home in November 2018 for James Gibson’s wedding in Rutherglen. Sadly, Steph couldn’t join us, as she was visiting the Democratic Republic of Congo as part of her role with Chemonics in providing better access to education there.
We hosted a couple of events for Evan to spend time with family and friends. He also met many of his friends for a drink and chat.
We decided to drive Evan to Rutherglen for James and Siobhan’s wedding celebration and managed to do some sightseeing both with him and without him.
Having visited the Art Silos of north western Victoria, we though it would be fun to show Evan some more local ones, so we detoured to Benalla where we found a load of street murals. We still had a long way to travel, so our visit to Benalla was short.
Benalla has created a Wall-to-Wall Festival where the town invites artists to create murals. Professional artists and local people have so far created up to 50 murals around the town.
The Winton Wetlands are a reclaimed area, initially flooded for irrigation, but proved unviable because of shallow water evaporation and blue-green algae.
A project has been established to decommission the dam and restore the land. A skeleton of 150,000 river red gums create a unique landscape. Added to this are some pieces of art.
A Country Fire Authority water tank that has been decorated with the faces of three local volunteer firefighters and was painted by Guido Van Helten in March 2016.
We also found a wonderful fish painting on Boggy Bridge Road by local artist Tin Bowtell. By juxtapositioning yourself along the road, the coloured art on the individual trees comes together as fish – very clever.
There is a lot more to see at the Winton Wetlands – it is worth a longer visit.
Close by we found Goorambat where silos were painted by Jimmy D’Vate in March 2018. A beautiful rural farm scene complete with the iconic Southern Cross windmill sits on one silo, whilst a huge portrait of an endangered barking owl is on the other silo.
We also found the mural of Sophia of Goorambat in the Uniting Church, by Adnate. Sophia is the personification of divine wisdom in the Old Testament. Adnate has a strong interest and knowledge of early Renaissance paintings, which is why he was keen to paint a church mural, but he is also well known for his portraits of Indigenous Australians.
A little further north we stopped at Devenish, a small town where one sixth of its citizens signed up to serve in World War I. This is remembered by an amazing Silo Art Work by Cam Scale, depicting a nurse of the day and a modern-day army medic. Just two days before the Remembrance Day, the site was decorated with knitted and crocheted poppies – a welcome reminder of the service paid by so many Australians in both wars. They were completed in April 2018 as part of the 100th anniversary of the end of the war.
Our next stop was at Tungamah, where a wire fence kept us away from the silos completed by Sobrane in February 2018. A kookaburra sits on the left silo and dancing brolgas flit about the right-hand pair of silos.
These art silos are rather more recent additions to Australia’s amazing art silo trail. It’s a fantastic way to promote small country towns and bring a new form of art.
After we dropped Evan at Mt Ophir for the wedding celebration, we hit the road. This time to Pfeiffer’s Winery where we started the 10km hike around Lake Moodemere. The lake was once a billabong on the Murray River but is now a waterway in its own right. What struck us most about the beautiful walk was the number of birds we saw and heard. We were entertained by kookaburras, probably complaining to us for entering their territory, but I think they were also using the opportunity to teach their young how to laugh. I never ever tire of their laugh.
At Pfeiffer’s there were lots of turtles in the creek. We were told that the staff hand out dog food pellets to the young tourists to feed them. Having just read how these turtles are endangered, it was nice to see a safe haven for them.
We enjoyed a well-deserved glass of wine and a slice of Christmas cake at the end of the walk.
After a short walk along the rail trail on Sunday, we went to pick up Evan from the wedding party. Understandable he was feeling a little the worse for wear after a heavy night, but we dragged him to the Yeddonba Aboriginal Cultural Site at the foot of Mount Pilot in the Chiltern Mt Pilot National Park.
The walk is short but is mostly steps up and down the rocks. The highlight is some very faded aboriginal art of a Goanna-Snake and of a Thylacine. It is believed the art, in ochre, is about 2,000 years old and seems to indicate that the extinct thylacine (Tasmanian Tiger) may have inhabited mainland Australia.
We spent our last night in Yackandandah, a favourite place for our family. My father grew up in this small town with his maternal grandparents. Our ancestors go back to the gold rush days of the 1850s as fossickers (Backhaus) and bootmakers and blacksmiths (Clune).
Sadly, the town was on holiday, with both the top pub and the bottom pub shut for the night and Saint Monday café closed on Monday. We enjoyed a very decent Thai meal instead.
Quick stops in Beechworth to visit the honey store and Milawa to visit the mustard store completed our short adventure.
We returned to Melbourne to give Evan time to catch up with more family and friends before he heads off to Mexico for another wedding next weekend. Steph will be able to join him for that event.
We celebrated the winter solstice by taking delivery of our brand new Subaru Outback. The purchase had been planned for some time and much research went in before making our selection.
Our first full drive was to the Mornington Peninsula – old stomping ground. We chose the motorways and country roads we knew to test out the unfamiliar features.
Then it was off to the outback – well Victoria’s outback of the Wimmera region in the state’s north west, to see the Yarriambiack Silo Art Trail.
The first bulk handling silo in Australia was built in 1919 at Peak Hill in NSW. It was not until the late 1930s that silos were built in Victoria. They were typically built alongside railway lines, for fast transportation to docks and factories.
Farmers would bring in their bagged grain, which would be emptied into a receiving grate and elevated to the top of the silo. It was an effective way to hygienically store and distribute grain.
With the advent of current mechanisation and larger transport trucks, the silos became inefficient and many were closed down. About half of the 148 silos in Victoria are now not in use.
Since 2015, GrainCorp, who owns the silos, has supported silo art projects with the aim of reinvigorating some of Australia’s smallest regional towns.
There are many painted silos in Australia, but the Yarriambiack Shire has made an art trail of those in their region.
I saved the locations in MapsME on our travel Android phone and I have been looking for the best way to import them into WordPress. Many plugins import KML files as a premium addition, however I have found Flexible Maps does it simply. If you click on a red pin, a description will be displayed. So here is our journey:
We stayed in Warracknabeal, which is quite central to the art work. We arrived on Sunday and the options for dinner were limited. We chose the ‘Creek Hotel’ which became our preferred place for the following nights. It was lively and the food was good. Bruce even found decent beer there!
Our motel was close to the Yarriambiack Creek, which provided a nice walk to the Creek Hotel.
We were shocked at the number of empty shops in Warracknabeal and the other towns we visited. Those shops that were occupied were bakeries, butchers (one in each town), hairdressers and second hand shops. Many pubs were shut up. I guess that is indicative of the tough life in the country.
On Monday we drove north to see silos at Brim, Rosebery, Lascelles and Patchewollock. We were lucky with the weather and brilliant blue skies.
We made other stops to see some interesting installations at round-abouts in Warracknabeal and Minyip, and to see a mural by Kaff-eine in Beulah. I have borrowed from the excellent Yarriambiack Silo Art Trail brochure to describe the art work we saw.
Guido van Helten’s iconic Brim mural was the first silo artwork to appear in Victoria in 2015, and initiated further art in the area. He depicts an anonymous, multi-generational quartet of female and male farmers.
Kaff-eine created a art work in Rosebery, capturing the grit, tenacity and character of a young female farmer and a contemporary horseman in common attire of Akubra hat and oilskin vest.
Rone’s work in Lascelles depicts a farming couple Geoff and Merrilyn Horman representing families who have farmed the district for generations. The art is muted in colour and it was particularly challenging to photograph Merrilyn.
Fintan Magee was challenged to paint on a narrow 35 metre high silo in Patchewollock. He used it to portray Nick “Noodle” Hulland, a local, lanky, fair-haired, squinting, archetypal Aussie farmer.
On Tuesday we drove south to see silos at Sheep Hills and Rupanyup, then continued west on to Dimboola to see the Pink Lake. The day was overcast, so photographs were a little more challenging.
Adnate created an aboriginal mural on the silos of Sheeps Hill. The magnificent mural which depicts Wergaia Elder, Uncle Ron Marks, and Wotjobaluk Elder, Aunty Regina Hood, alongside two young children, Savannah Marks and Curtly McDonald celebrates the richness of the area’s Indigenous culture.
Julia Volchkova painted on squat silos in Rupanyup. The art work represents the youth of Rupanyup and their great love of team sport. The art is monochromatic and delicate.
We stopped at Dimboola for lunch. Our hosts at the motel had recommended we go to the Victoria Hotel for lunch, but it was closed. The beautiful building was opened for business in September 1924 and has been a popular watering hole ever since, except on Tuesdays at lunch time.
After finding a suitable sandwich we drove out to the Pink Lake just to the west of Dimboola. The pink colour of the water comes from a pigment secreted by microscopic algae. Alas there was little pink as the clouds created a very dull light.
In researching the silos I found it very difficult to find history of when the silos were built and how they were used. On the other hand I was fascinated by the stories of the artists. Many started their life in art as graffiti artists but now travel the world following passions such as indigenous people and refugees. They paint murals in places such as Jordan, Ukraine, Finland and Mexico. Truely amazing stories!
Now that my web site is up and running, I thought I would share some old stories. Our first trips to Europe in the 21st century.
The photos I am showing were initially posted on Flickr, but Flickr is limiting my photos to 1,000 unless I ‘go pro’ – so they are relocated to NGGallery here.
Europe 2005, at last
In 2005, shortly after Hayden moved to London to be with Elisse, we visited. That was my first return to Europe in twenty-five years and it was exciting. We visited friends in England, Germany, France and Italy. We also toured Spain – not knowing how it would enter our lives at a later stage.
Adventurous in 2007
After our first journey, it was time to venture to other places. In 2007 we returned to Europe to visit Hayden and Elisse who by now had moved to Barcelona. Then to Russia – St Petersburg, Moscow and the historical Golden Circle. This was an escorted tour. Whilst we loved what we saw, we hated the constraints of the tour. We finished our travels in Prague, Warsaw and Vienna.
Celebrating in 2008
It was Bruce’s idea to visit Denis for his 60th birthday celebrations in 2008, so we invited ourselves to his party. Fortuitously, Hayden and Elisse were still in Barcelona and Evan was touring, so we all got together in Barcelona and then Andorra. From there we went to Switzerland, then on to Hungary, Slovenia and a little bit of Italy. We stayed within the 40th parallel.
It has taken a while, but finally stainsbyte.com is back in action.
All my photos are back, all my pages are back and all my posts are back.
And I have just finished publishing my stories on Finland where we visited Helsinki twice, Rovanimie and Santa, lakes and castles around Savonlinna, the rapids at Imatra and the lovely wooden village of Porvoo.
I still have a lot of stories to tell, returning to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, visiting Hayden and Andrea again in Berlin before making our way to England.
Sadly, our English journey was interrupted to return home and farewell my gorgeous brother Phil.
We made a brave return to England then onto USA, before beginning a magical tour of South America.
Yes, so many more stories to tell.
It’s been nearly two months since we arrived home from a wonderful long journey that took in parts of USA, north-eastern Europe, South America and Antarctica.
Following a disagreement with the people who hosted stainsbyte.com (HostSailor), after they ‘lost’ my website, I have been trying to rebuild it.
HostSailor offered me a free month of hosting to make up for loosing my web site – that simply wasn’t enough. I am now back hosting with Dreamhost, and just hope it works for me.
With 146 blogs, nearly 400 pages, 470 galleries of photos, it has turned out to be a long slow process.
But I am slowly getting things together. The blogs and pages are there, but not all the photos. So excuse the ‘no images were found‘ at the end of my stories – it isn’t permanent.