Photo of the Week – Nelson’s Resting Place

This week’s photograph is of the spot where Lord Nelson lay in state before his funeral in 1806.

Lord Horatio Nelson died in action at the Battle of Trafalgar on 21 October 1805.  It was decided that he should have a state funeral.  Nelson’s body was brought back to London.  It was preserved in brandy mixed with camphor and myrrh.

Nelson lay in state in the Painted House in Greenwich for three days.  The funeral took place on 9 January 1806.  Neither Nelson’s widow or his mistress Lady Hamilton attended.

Until the next post, stay safe, stay healthy and keep smiling.


Prague & Bratislava – Day 11, 20/09/2012

Time to leave Bratislava and make my way back to Prague.  It is then that the realisation I will be going home soon hits me.  My mood becomes melancholic.

As I left the Hostel Blues the feeling of saying goodbye to people had begun to tear into me.  All I could think about was the thought of being home and back to the grind that is work.  At least the sun was shining and I was listening to good music.  That had lightened the mood.

I arrived into Prague at around 5pm.  I made my way back to the hostel St. Christopher’s at Mosaic House.  It felt like an old friend to me.  I checked in and found myself sharing a dorm with five Argentinians.  Nothing wrong with that except they were a bit loud and frankly I did not feel in the mood to put up with this.  I had to go and change my Euro’s into Czech Koruna’s.  When I arrived back I bumped into one of the Argentinians who asked if I could swap rooms with one of their friends.  I was only too happy to oblige and so I moved.  I am used to this by now.

Once settled in I decided to go and have something to eat.  The bar-b-q wings and ribs were great if not a bit sticky.

However, the feeling that I was going home would not leave me and I was not enjoying the beer.  Also I was feeling tired so it was best to get off to bed early and chill out.

Until the next post, stay safe, stay healthy and keep smiling.


City Walks: London – Greenwich

This walk starts at the DLR station Cutty Sark.  Once you leave the station the Cutty Sark comes into view immediately.  The former tea clipper was famous for being able to sail to Australia in less than 80 days.  It has recently reopened after being damaged by fire in 2007.  Admission is £12.00 for adults and £6.50 for children under 15 years of age.  It is advisable to book online as entrance is only by timed ticket.  In the autumn sunshine the Cutty Sark looks impressive.

The Cutty Sark

From the Cutty Sark I made my way towards the Visitor’s Centre which is housed in part of the old Naval College.  It is interesting to spend some time in there as it tells the story of Greenwich.  There are plenty of interactive exhibits inside.

The Visitor’s Centre

From the Visitor’s Centre I made my way to the Painted Hall.  The impressive painted ceilings took 19 years to complete.  It was also where Lord Nelson laid in state until his funeral.

One of the painted ceilings

I crossed the Romney Road and made my way towards the National Maritime Museum.  Free to enter the museum tells the story of Britain as naval nation over 500 hundred years.  Britannia did once rule the waves.  One of the highlights is the uniform Lord Nelson wore at the Battle of Trafalgar.  You can see the bullet hole in the left shoulder.  It was the bullet that would eventually kill Nelson.  Sadly, I was unable to photograph the uniform.  There are several other items worth seeing.

The National Maritime Museum.

Upon leaving the museum I made my way towards the Royal Observatory.  I stopped to look at the site of the Equestrian Centre that was used for the Olympic Games.  It looked an impressive sight.  The surface was being removed but the grandstands remained intact.

It is a steep walk to the Royal Observatory.  However, once you reach the top of the hill you are rewarded with great views particularly of the O2 Arena.

The Royal Observatory is London’s only planetarium.  It is also famously the home of Greenwich Mean Time and the Prime Meridian of the World.  The Astronomy Centre is free.  Tickets for Flamsteed House and the Meridian Courtyard cost £7.00.  If you do not want to pay but wish to experience crossing the Meridian Line there is a spot outside the courtyard where this can be done.  I warn you that it does get crowded.

From the observatory I made my way back towards Greenwich down The Avenue.  I passed the Greenwich Royal Park Herb Garden.  A haven where you can rest your legs as your sense of smell takes in all the odours of the herbs.

Back in Greenwich I passed the Fan Museum which is dedicated to fans and fan making.  Admission is £4.00 and the museum serves afternoon tea from 3pm.

Passing the Spread Eagle bookshop I made my way to Greenwich Market.  At Sunday lunchtime the market was packed with people enjoying the autumn sunshine.  There were stores that consisted of locally made handicrafts and clothes.  There is something for everyone.  Towards the end of the market my sense of smell took me towards the food section.  Here, one could eat the world.  In fact it was too popular and the queues were just too much.

Feeling hungry I made my way towards a coffee shop called ‘Red Door’.  So called because it has a red door.  A small coffee shop it had a cosy atmosphere which was what I needed after the bustle of the market.  My ham and tomato toasted sandwich tasted delicious, mainly of the olive oil used instead of butter.  The scone, jam and clotted cream also went down well.  From the ‘Red Door’ I made my way back to the DLR station for the train back to Central London.

The walk came from ‘City Walks: London’ by Craig Taylor.  This was the first in a series of 50 walks.

Until the next post, stay safe, stay healthy and keep smiling.


Museum of Communism – Prague

No visit to Prague cannot pass without mentioning the history when Czechoslovakia was under communist rule.  The Museum of Communism tells the story of this time.  Admission for adults 190 CZK, Students with ID 150 CZK.  Children under 10 years of age have free admission.

Ironically the museum is located above a McDonald’s on Na Příkopě.  Communism right next to an icon of the free market.

The museum is split into six sections and also include a cinema and a mock-up of an interrogation room.

The sections are:

  • The Origins
  • The Dream
  • The Reality
  • The Nightmare
  • Cult of Personality
  • Velvet Revolution

These sections follow in a chronological order to tell of life for the ordinary citizen.  It looks at the various areas of everyday life such as politics, sport, daily life, education, propaganda, censorship, the army and police.  There is also a display about the show trails that took place.

Lenin Pointing The Way Forward
Unloved Relics of the Past

The Cinema shows a film about the struggle for freedom for the Czechoslovakian people.  It particularly highlights the Prague Spring and the Velvet Revolution.  It was certainly moving and I could see people having to wipe away tears from their eyes.  It makes you grateful about the things you take for granted.

Would I recommend the museum as a place to visit.  The answer is yes.  One cannot separate communism from the history of Prague and how people suffered and why they took to the streets for their freedom.  There are relics all around the city.  It is a good way to spend an hour or two especially for the history fan.

Until the next post stay safe, stay healthy and keep smiling.


Prague & Bratislava – Day 10, 19/09/2012

I think I may have booked too many days in Bratislava.  I had seen everything that I needed to see so it was a case of finding things to do.  This was a chance to do some laundry.   This will kill the morning for me.  Also the weather had turned cooler and there was a hint of rain.

Once my laundry was finished I ventured out to a couple of places that I had not visited.  To be honest I just ended up walking around the streets.  It seemed so quiet.  I ended up back at Shtoor for another sandwich, coffee plus the delicious cheesecake.  It was there when I realised that I had not made my way to the Presidential Palace as shown to me during the walking tour.  I made my way to the palace.

The Presidential Palace

The weather not getting better and by this time all I wanted to do was to go back to the hostel.

When I arrived back at the hostel I noticed a lot of activity in the kitchen.  When I enquired about what was happened I was told it was the communal cooking night and on the menu was potato cakes.  There was about twenty of us getting stuck in preparing and cooking the cakes.  What was great to see was the mixture of nationalities getting involved.  There were Americans, Australian, Mexicans, New Zealanders and Canadians.  I was the only Brit.  We all helped also helped with the washing up afterwards.

Let’s Party

It was an ideal way to spend the evening.  Eating good food, drinking beer and wine and playing silly games which usually ended up with a forfeit of drinking plum brandy.  This is was staying in the a hostel is all about and I want to experience more of this.

Until the next post, stay safe, stay healthy and keep smiling.


Photo of the Week – View From the London Eye

This week photograph is of the Houses of Parliament.  As you can see it is not the greatest photo ever taken.

The Houses of Parliament

The object is of the photo is not what I want to focus.  More where it was taken from, the London Eye.  Opened in March 2000 by 2008, 30 million people had ridden on the attraction.  Once it was the largest ferris wheel in the world.  On a good day you can view all across London seeing all the sights.  The ride itself take about an hour to complete.

The London Eye is situated on the South Bank of the River Thames.  The nearest tube stop is Waterloo.

Until the next post, stay safe, stay healthy and keep smiling.


Imperial War Museum – London

Recently I was in London and I thought I would visit the Imperial War Museum.

It is a place that holds many surprises.  The first one before you enter the museum.  You would expect to see the guns outside but I was not expecting to see a piece of the Berlin Wall too.

The museum itself is free to enter.  There are entrance fees to temporary exhibitions that might be taking place.  Once inside it is far from the celebration of war that one might expect.  There are plenty of military hardware to view but it also looks at the problems and horrors of war too.

On the ground floor there is an exhibit decided to an ordinary family and how they lived through the blitz in World War II.  This was fascinating as it examined day-to-day living during the war.  This is something that can be easily forgotten with rationing and having children taken away to be evacuated to the country for their safety.

The first floor dedicated to the Secret Services and the role they have played in conflicts during the 20th century.  Again, this was excellent with plenty of video footage to view particularly of the SAS rescuing the hostages in the Iranian Embassy in 1980.  This was something I could remember seeing on the television at the time.  Also on the first floor there is a temporary exhibition about the soldiers serving in Afghanistan, a reminder of current conflicts.

Second floor main exhibition is the film ‘Crime Against Humanity’.  It tells of genocide that has taken place and the effects it has on the people.  Some of the images are upsetting and you warned not to bring in children under the age of twelve.  What I was left from this was the number of crimes against humanity that have taken place.  It is more than I thought.   There is also an art gallery with portraits and images from the war.

The third floor contained the highlight of the museum.  This was the exhibition dedicated to the Holocaust.  As you can imagine what you see and hear cuts right through you.  The horrors I could not imagine.  It seems so long ago yet it was only seventy years ago.  What stayed with me was the silence as I travelled through the exhibition.

The fourth floor celebrates the extraordinary heroes and the story of how they received their medals.

Overall, the Imperial War Museum was a great way to spend an afternoon.  What I found pleasing was the number of families that were visiting and the parents taking time to explain what happened.

There is currently some working taking place inside the museum and some areas will be inaccessible.  From 2nd January 2013 the museum will be closed for six months while major construction work takes place.

The nearest tube stop is Lambeth North on the Bakerloo line.  There is free Wi-fi in the museum and there is also a cafe and shop to visit.

Until my next post, stay safe, stay healthy and keep smiling.


Prague & Bratislava – Day 9, 18/09/2012

The weather today is simply beautiful.  What shall I do with myself?  I asked the hostel receptionist for suggestions.  Without hesitation she suggested Devín Castle.  Ever helpful she pointed out which bus I should catch and how much it will cost.  Also included in the recommendation was a coffee shop I should check out when I returned to the city centre.

So off I went to the bus stop.  The bus journey like most was uneventful but once I arrived I was totally blown away.  Devín Castle is a castle ruin, but I feel it is much more than that.  It dates back to the 8th century.  It was destroyed by Napoleon Bonaparte.  There is currently a lot of archeological work that is taking place.  The views from the castle ramparts are simply stunning.  There were plenty of opportunities to take great photographs, even for me.

Making my way to Devín Castle
One of the stunning views.

As well as the castle there were plenty of paths to walk along.  It was a pity that there was nowhere open to hire a bicycle.  Today would have been a perfect day for cycling.  The nearby village was beautiful and peaceful.  To live in a place like this you would have been a winner in life’s lottery.  The River Danube looked beautiful and powerful in the countryside.

The mighty River Danube

I made my way back to the city centre feeling hungry.  I remembered the recommendation of earlier today, so I made my way to Shtoor coffee shop.  As much as I tried to find it I was not getting too much success.  Just when I thought about giving up I noticed that I was standing outside the shop.  This is what a coffee shop should be about.  Good coffee, good food and a good ambiance.  My pork and caramelized onion sandwich tasted divine.  The berry and chocolate cheesecake went down even better.

When I left Shtoor I found myself caught in a demonstration outside the British Embassy.  It was interesting to find yourself caught in something like that.  The demonstration was in support of a Slovak woman Ivana Boorova who came to the UK for work.  Her two children were taken into care two years ago and nothing appears to have been done about the situation.  This seems so unfair.  I mentioned that I was British and I would offer my support when I got home.  So if you feel that something needs to be done contact the Mayor of London Boris Johnson and let’s see what we can do.

The Demonstration

Back at the hostel I was unsure what I was going to do.  I did not fancy the pub crawl but wanted to go out for the evening.  So I decided to go to the British Rock Pub.  It was open mic night.  I enjoyed the music even if I did not understand what they were singing about.  The pub crawl ended up in here.  Somehow, I do not think they expected to be there.  A good end to a perfect day.

Photo of the Week – Statue of Doctor Johnson, Lichfield

This week’s photo is of the statue of Doctor Samuel Johnson.

Dr Samuel Johnson

Famous for compiling ‘A Dictionary of the English Language’ Dr. Johnson famously said “A man who tires of London, he tired of life.”  In fact he was born in the city of Lichfield in Staffordshire.  This statue was erected in 1838 outside his birthplace in Market Square.

Until the next post, stay safe, stay healthy and keep smiling.


Prague & Bratislava – Day 8, 17/09/2012

While I was checking in yesterday I noticed a leaflet for a free walking tour.  The couple behind the counter also recommended that I should try it.  Walking tours are a great way of familiarizing yourself to a new city.  The tour was due to start at 11am.  The weather was excellent.  It was time to get the shorts on and expose the pearly white legs to the world.  However, in my excitement I forgot to apply the sunscreen.  My arms would know about this at the end of the day.

The tour itself was excellent and the guide Romana made it interesting with all her knowledge on the history of Bratislava.  What was sad to see was how little of the historical centre remained.  The Communists in their better judgement decided that a flyover would be of more use.  Oh well hindsite.

After the tour was complete I took a walk alongside the Danube in order to make my way to Bratislava Castle.  I passed a statue of Stalin.  Apparently it was on display for an exhibition.

Greetings from Uncle Joe

Like all castles the one in Bratislava is perched on top of a steep hill.  In its present state the castle was built only recently.  You cannot go inside but there is enough to walk around the grounds.  It also offers good views of the city below.

One view of Bratislava Castle
A view from the castle

I spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the rest of the old town.  I could not fail to notice on how beautiful the women in Bratislava looked.  Not that the women in Prague were not bad looking but Bratislava took it to another level.

Tonight was the first night that I cooked for myself in a hostel, tuna and rice.  I survived that.  I got the chance to talk to a couple of German girls.  They seemed pleasant enough.  We exchanged travel tales and they mentioned that they were going to Budapest.  I should have included it in my trip.  We all live and learn.

Until the next post, stay safe, stay healthy and keep smiling.