Thursday 22 December 2005

Almost Christmas Break...

So Christmas approaches, and with it holidays. Crytek is shutting down for 2.5 weeks over New Year, so I have been planning ways to spend the time. Of course the most important thing is to go home and see the family for Christmas. A canny bargain hunter can get his hands on all kinds of bargains at this time of year - people are practically giving things away during the so-called festive season.

I would like to spend more time at home, however since I get only four weeks holiday a year, I feel I have to make the most of my time in Europe and travel around as much as possible. Therefore I have scheduled visits to a couple of cities when I come back from Australia. Here is my itinerary:

  • 24/12 - Arrive home in Melbourne, no-doubt to the rapturous applause of
    the home fans.
  • 25-26/12 - Bask in the love and respect of my family and receive their
  • 29/12 - Conclude my whistle-stop tour and head back to Germany.
  • 30/12 - Catch the train to Ljubljana for a few days, including New
  • 2/1 - Head over to Venice for about 5 days.
  • 6/1 - Catch an overnight train back to Coburg.

This will of course involve a great deal of travelling time - this is unfortunate, but it has to be done if I am to visit all the places I want to while I'm here. Of course I will keep you all up-to-date with goings on (well at least partially up-to-date with some of the goings on, if past history is any guide).

Tuesday 13 December 2005

The Big Smoke

Having spent the previous Saturday night blundering around Nuremberg in the dark, we felt it would be a good idea to return the next week during the day. Therefore we set out this last Saturday once again, this time at about 12:00. It would probably have been a good idea to have left earlier, but this was as early as we could manage.

It's possible to get a train ticket that is valid for the whole day for 5 people anywhere in Bavaria for €25 on either Saturday or Sunday. This is called the Nice Weekend ticket. The drawback is that you have to travel on regional trains, rather than on the much newer and faster ICE trains. Therefore our journey took us about 1:30 hours. It was nice, and I was having a nice nap until half way through when a large number of drunken football fans got on and began making fools of themselves. Although I am looking forward to the World Cup, it will surely be a huge drawback to have large numbers of boorish drunkards roaming the streets day and night.

The main train station in Nuremberg is about the size of a small airport. It really has everything. Among other things, it has a cool model train set on display.

The christmas market itself is amazing. Apart from anything else, the sheer number of people is incredible. I would have thought that the locals would be all over it, but apparently they can't get enough. It must be the mulled wine that is sold in novelty cups. I was compelled to order myself a shoe of wine by the pure tackiness of it all.

Most of the market itself is a series of shops and stalls. There is lots of crafts and models and figurines and so on available, as well as many types of sausages and other food stalls. However, having arrived somewhat late we soon found that we were running out of daylight, so about 5:00 we started pushing our way through the crowd back to the station.

Some photos of the trip are here.

Friday 9 December 2005

Branching Out

Having spent my first month in Coburg, it was inevitable. Coburg is a small place - I mean it only has two McDonald's, and only recently opened its first Burger King! Note I am using these places strictly as a reference to the size of the town - not as an indication of the inconvenience their relative scarcity is causing me. No, no, I can easily make do with the Wednesday buffet at the Chinese restaurant nearby (this is an odd Chinese restaurant, but that's a story for another day).

So to alleviate this situation, we have made a couple of trips outside of Coburg. The first trip was a couple of weekends ago - we took the train to neighbouring Bamberg for the evening. Mind you we were supposed to take a car, but this plan somehow fell through, and half of us ended up on the train. Why was I in this half? Because I let people walk all over me, I presume. Four of us had bought our train tickets and were waiting at the platform, when one guy, a quite Swede, decided to pull out.

Anyway, Bamberg was nice. It is about 45 mins by train, and has some nice bars and clubs. Somehow, however, we wound up freezing at the train station in the morning, because the last club shut at about 5:30, and the first train left at 6:30.

We took the Inter-City Express (ICE) train, which is very nice and fast. There are both first and second classes, but even second class was very nice, albeit a bit expensive.

The next week we took a trip to Nuremburg. This is a little further away, but much bigger, which is probably why I had heard of it. We took a car this time. I had assumed that the people we were going with knew the place, since that was the impression they had given, but in fact we had to resort to cabs to get us to where we wanted to go. Here's a tip - if you want to go to a dance venue in Germany, overcome your embarrassment about the 70s and ask to go to a Disko. Don't make the mistake that we made of asking for a night-club, or I can't be held accountable for the result.

We had a good time in the city, which seemed huge after a month in Coburg. There was one club in particular we went to which was absolutely huge - it must have had thousands of people in it. The Swedish guy, who the previous weekend had shamefully chickened out, this week had come along. Not only that, but with the addition of a moderate amount of alcohol was transformed into a crazy night-clubbing machine. Somehow he could suddenly speak fluent German and was striking up conversations with everyone we met.

We are planning a return trip this weekend, but this time during the day, so we can have a proper look around. Hopefully I will have some photos to show you when I return.