Sunday, November 02, 2008

I now pronounce you...stag do participants

So where, what, how, when and why have I been. These constant interruptions I keep having have been getting in my way. Unfortunately for you – my worshipping public – I have not really had the chance to waffle on, being too embroiled in work, travel and relationship to be able to look out at the wide world of the UK and realise once again, the hilarity that is presented to me. But no more! I will not let you down. The New Year brings with it a new commitment to my adoring public, but I'll need to pump out a couple of prequel blogs in 2009 to bring you up to speed.

First things first, for the second time I have chosen the UK over a perfectly healthy relationship. Unfortunately Alyssa’s visa ran out and she had to return to Australia. Pondering a possible return, I decided not to. Sitting here on a cold day after looking through photos of her in the sunny Sydney weather, I question the decision. As I look outside at the drizzle running the down the window, wake up alone and wish the heating had clicked on just the 15 minutes earlier and then push my face in to a random man’s armpit on the tube, I question why again.

Well – travel of course. That and I just got promoted, so I'll focusing on that.

However, one thing to be missed about living with your girlfriend is coming home to find your draws with this kind of organisation...Pre-break up, however, waiting for an answer on the visa, I was jaunting around Europe on boys’ trips. Football trip followed by two stag dos in quick succession meant Central, Eastern and Western Europe all got hit up. First up it was time to go to the capital of the Czech Republic, Prague!

Prague, Czech Republic
Oko šoustání velké město

What I can’t really tell you is what we did – what goes on footy trip, stays on footy trip. However, once the usual crowd of 30 football guys left, it was left to Worm and I to do the site seeing.

Prague is a stunning city. It has been named again and again as ‘The City of Cities’ and was the centre of Europe. The Bavarian kings (German) used to use Prague as there Summer capital. That bavarinan influence – which I love so much myself – is obvious.

Hoping on the back of a walking tour we visited some of the classic sites of Prague:
Old Town Square
Located between Wenceslas Square and the Charles Bridge, Prague's Old Town Square is an oasis for travelers wearied by Prague's narrow streets. Among many churches, there's the Astronomical Clock on this square, while the tower at the Old Town Hall offers a panoramic view of Old Town.

Charles Bridge

Its construction started in 1357 under the auspices of King Charles IV, and finished in the beginning of 15th century. As the only means of crossing the river Vltava (Moldau), the Charles Bridge used to be the most important connection between the Old Town, Prague Castle and adjacent areas until 1841. Also this 'solid-land' connection made Prague important as a trade route between east and west Europe. The bridge was originally called the Stone Bridge (Kamenný most) or the Prague Bridge (Pražský most) but has been the "Charles Bridge" since 1870.

The bridge is 516 meters long and nearly 10 meters wide, resting on 16 arches shielded by ice guards. It is protected by three bridge towers, two of them on the Lesser Quarter side and the third one on the Old Town side. The Old Town bridge tower is often considered to be one of the most astonishing civil gothic-style buildings in the world. The bridge is decorated by a continuous alley of 30 statues and statuaries, most of them baroque-style, erected around 1700.

But you'll probably remember it as the bridge that Jon Voight fell off in Mission Impossible.

Astronomical Clock

The Orloj is composed of three main components: the astronomical dial, representing the position of the Sun and Moon in the sky and displaying various astronomical details; "The Walk of the Apostles", a clockwork hourly show of figures of the Apostles and other moving sculptures; and a calendar dial with medallions representing the months. The clock is so complicated and stunning, that the designer had his eyes gouged out on its completition so that he could not replicate it!

The background represents the Earth and the local view of the sky. The blue circle directly in the center represents the Earth, and the upper blue is the portion of the sky which is above the horizon. The red and black areas indicate portions of the sky below the horizon. During the daytime, the sun sits over the blue part of the background and at night it sits over the black. During dawn or dusk, the mechanical sun is positioned over the red part of the background.

Written on the eastern (left) part of the horizon is aurora (dawn in
Latin) and ortus (rising). On the western (right) part is occasus (sunset), and crepusculum (twilight).

Roman numbers at the outer edge of blue circle are the timescale of a normal 24 hour day and indicate time in local Prague time, or Central European Time. Curved golden lines dividing the blue part of dial into 12 parts are marks for unequal hours. These hours are defined as 1/12 of the time between sunrise and sunset, and vary as the days grow longer or shorter during the year.

Inside the large black outer circle lies another movable circle marked with the signs of the zodiac which indicates the location of the sun on the ecliptic. The signs are shown in anticlockwise order. In the photographs accompanying this article, the sun is currently in Aries, and will be moving anticlockwise into Taurus next.
The displacement of the zodiac circle results from the use of a
stereographic projection of the ecliptic plane using the North pole as the basis of the projection. This is commonly seen in astronomical clocks of the period.
The small golden star shows the position of the
vernal equinox, and sidereal time can be read on the scale with golden Roman numerals.

Prague Castle and Cathedral
Prague Castle (Czech: Pražský hrad, former Austrian: Prager Burg) is a castle in Prague where the Czech kings, Holy Roman Emperors and presidents of Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic have had their offices. The Czech Crown Jewels are kept here. Prague Castle is one of the biggest castles in the world (according to Guinness Book of Records the biggest ancient castle) at about 570 meters in length and an average of about 130 meters wide.
Bird watching (four nights in a row)

And Darth Vader (still not sure what the hell this actually is!!!)

Shuffling around the city that night we were fairly tired after a big long weekend and decided to have a few beers somewhere small. After bumping in to some Irish lads and lasses on the street we had one or two and headed home. Walking in the door at 5am it was time to head back to London.

On leaving Prague, we were reminded why this city had endeared itself to us....a place where beer is cheaper than water!

Edinburgh, Scotland

The next week was time for the Stag Dos. First off the rank – Doc’s Edinburgh epic. A nearly missed train, early celebrations and an apartment looking over the Royal Mile were some obvious highlights. Me trying to joust people with a mop and a cushion as a shield was not.

Monday morning was very difficult for me, and so was the following week leading up to Gary ‘Guns’ Gillgallon’s stag do in Estonia – smack right next to Russia. And don’t they remind you of it.

Tallin, Estonia
Uimastav naispere, uimastav linn

Estonia is great fun and the people are extremely friendly…if you’re not Russian. It’s the only place I've been to that has out and out xenophobia so much so that as you walk in to a club they ask you if you are Russian. If you say no, in you go. If you say yes, out you go, with a foot closely following. Asking a local, apparently it’s because the Ruskis take great pleasure in coming to the cheaper city of Tallin, boozing up and hitting people. We saw a little of it in Estonia, but it was ramapant in Prague. Of course, they spent most of their childhood eating concrete and trying not to be tortured, so who can blame them for bursting on to the world's beaches and bars in a tizzy of frills, Versace sunglasses and extraordinary tight pants.

Once again I nearly missed my plane – mainly due to the insistence of Ryan Air to fly out of airports situated miles away from any area that could remotely be called civilization and the only means to get there is bus at 4am. So obviously tired, it probably wasn’t wise for the first thing for us to do was to go to a medieval Estonian tavern to drink home brewed beer and eat wild boar. Worse still was that then then decided to go play with shot guns. Now the only guns I have ever used are an air rifle when I was 10 – shooting balloons on a board in Northern Pakistan – or a .22 at cans on a mate’s farm in Garfield (yes that is a place). So I wasn’t expecting to actually be any good at this.

After missing 6 of the 7 targets in the practice round, hearing the people talking about bear hunting (apparently there are bears in and around the area the forests we were wandering through) focused my attention. Hitting 80 per cent of the targets in the next three rounds, I was surprised as anyone that I turned out to be the best shooter. It was time to go looking for those bears.

Heading out the night I was very proud of my medal and did actually tell random stramgers about my success. They didn’t really seem to understand. Never mind, I was two sheets to the wind and having a ball. Most Estonians didn’t really know much about Aussies so several of us were a novelty.

The next day I still couldn’t find any bears, so we decided to pursue them on wheels. Many moons ago Eastern Europe – the people’s paradise – produced cars called Ladas. They were pretty much made out plastic, cheap and plugged along like that old car you had when you first started driving. They main use for them now s just to trash them around a racing track. And we did. Coming just shy or rolling my car, Guns smashing in to a tree and cracking his radiator meant that the game was over. But good fun nonetheless. More bear watching followed.

'Don't play with me - tell me where I can find more of you!!'

And back to the bars in and around Tallin. Venturing around the odl city centre, I finally found my prey. Deviating down and side street, into a doorway and sitting down in an Estonian restaurant, I finally found a bear.Not how I expected, but quite tasty. Kind of tasted like a sasusage with the consistency of steak.

So it's back in London and the single life for me. Ah well, I guess it's not all that bad!

More photos here.