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Mödling


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I've had an interesting week in Mödling, 14km southwest of Vienna. I was teaching Business English - it felt a little surreal, teaching in a secondary school context. I'm used to teaching in private language schools, without the school bell (or rather buzzer) ruling lesson lengths! Six classes a day, five minute breaks between classes, with one ten-minute one; I've never felt so rushed - but the students were lovely, I enjoyed it, and the early start meant an early finish in comparison to that of British schools.

The students' end-of-week presentations all went very well today! They were presenting companies they'd invented, their best-selling product, market research, how they would market them, etc. Of the four from the class I worked with the most, one was exceptionally good, one very good and two good. I felt very proud - a bit like how I imagine parents feel, in fact!

Regarding the town, apparently both Beethoven and Arnold Schönberg lived in Mödling for a while, almost exactly 100 years apart. Schönberg's house is now a house museum, but along with Mödling Museum, it is currently closed for the winter. Oh well. I managed to have a good look round the lovely historic old town. Highlights included the grey heron I spotted in a stream...

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...the old town hall...

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...general street scenes...

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...and the Catholic church of St Othmar, which I found perching on a hill overlooking the town.

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It was gloomy inside, but quite interesting, with some nice stained glass, a candle stand which I made use of, and a Nativity scene surrounded by real fir (or maybe pine) saplings - I thought that maybe they were keeping it up until Candlemas.

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Along one wall there were carved stones which I thought might have been memorial plaques, though I couldn't make out what the pictures carved into them actually were of. Next to the church, on the terrace outside, there was a locked up tower - I found out later that this was a charnel house, so maybe being locked up was for the best!

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I had a good birthday yesterday. Both classes sang 'Happy Birthday' to me in English first thing. I asked them how to say 'Happy Birthday' in German, just to see if I remembered correctly; apparently (in Austria at least) they just say 'Alles gute'.

In the evening we went out to an Asian restaurant, where I had some vegetable gyoza and fried noodles with pak choi. I was too full for pudding, but noticed 'Bambus Schnapps' on the drinks list, so after finding out that it was bamboo, I simply had to try it. It came in a glazed square pot, and to be honest the immediate taste wasn't nice at all. Once that had gone, however, I could really feel a pleasant warmth spread inside me. I've often heard about the warming qualities of certain spirits, but this was the first time I'd actually felt it.

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From the restaurant we moved over the road to a hotel bar. I was thinking of trying another schnapps, if they had an interesting selection, but they didn't have any (a rarity, apparently), so I had a delicious kahlua coffee instead - double espresso, kahlua, coconut syrup and a scoop of walnut ice cream.

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Then we suddenly realised what the time was - 22:10 - and that I was late for my family video chat, so we power-walked/ jogged back in subzero temperatures to the guesthouse.

A very long Flixbus journey tomorrow; I'm staying in Munich for the night before catching another Flixbus to Bregenz on Sunday.

Posted by 3Traveller 01:43 Archived in Austria Tagged birds austria christmas german english_teaching moedling birthday_celebration Comments (0)

Ephesus Museum

Ephesus and Selçuk


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At the north exit of Ephesus we savoured the air conditioning in the shop for a bit before leaving and taking a bus from the carpark back to Selçuk.

The first thing we did in Selçuk was head to Ephesus Museum, which was excellent. It not only holds treasures from Ephesus, but from the historic sites of Selçuk as well. Highlights included a bust of Socrates (4th cent. AD) and a magnificent statue of Artemis (2nd cent. AD)...

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...the gold and silver coins of the Ayasuluk Hoard (15th cent. AD)...

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...a bronze statue of Eros on the back of a dolphin (2nd cent. BC) and some Bronze Age swords and axe-heads...

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...bone spoons from the Hellenistic or Roman periods and some amber beads and pendants...

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...a curled-up bronze snake from the 1st century AD, an exquisite gold statuette of an un-named goddess (630 - 640 BC) and some gold-leaved diadems (1st-3rd cent. BC).

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Before we went out for dinner, at our hotel reception we arranged a trip for the next day. Ideally I would have loved to do this trip independently; to get a local bus to Pamukkale, spend the night there, look around the twin sites of Heiropolis & Pamukkale the next day and then get a bus back to Selçuk the following morning. But unfortunately we only had one day free, not three, and public transport looked very awkwardly placed for day trips. Oh well, at least we'd get lunch thrown in, and I was still incredibly excited to see the white calcite descending pools of Pamukkale and the historic site of Heiropolis, even if I knew we wouldn't get as much time there as I'd ideally like.

Like the evening before, we ate dinner at an outdoor table next to the aqueduct (at a different restaurant, though). The food was lovely and throughout the meal it was fun to watch the storks in their nests above. We also ended up cat-watching - lots of cats and kittens stalked around the tables and walls, hoping for scraps.

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Posted by 3Traveller 01:45 Archived in Turkey Tagged birds turkey museum dave ephesus storks selcuk roman_remains Comments (0)

Selçuk: aqueduct, storks, basilica and fortress

Izmir and Selçuk


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On Friday morning in Izmir we had time for breakfast before we walked to Basmane Station for our train to Selçuk. The walk was very hot - Izmir was the hottest place yet, even hotter than the interior, something I was surprised about. We passed through a beautiful large park, though, which was nice and shady on places.

The train was very shiny and modern, with more legroom than on British trains. There were TV screens showing some brilliant silent, funny, animated clips of animals saving themselves from predators by grouping together, with a caption afterwards (in English) saying 'better to travel in groups' and then 'go by bus'. When the screens weren't showing those, they were showing clips of whales, dolphins and deep sea creatures swimming underwater - not animated, they looked like they had been shot for a nature documentary.

Our journey was only an hour, but these clips made it seem even quicker. The scenery helped, too; we passed loads of orchards and fields of lush-looking crops with mountains in the background. I couldn't quite work out what some of these crops were, though I think some of the orchards were of fig trees, and some of the fields were of vines.

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I was completely charmed when we arrived in Selçuk and we walked out of the station to be greeted by the sight of what I assumed were aqueduct remains.... and topped with stork nests with storks perched in them! I'd seen storks before in Bulgaria, of course, but the only times I'd seen them in their nests I was in a car and therefore unable to take any photos.

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Artemis Hotel, our destination, was only round the corner. It was very good, and the first place we'd stayed at that had air conditioning in our bedroom rather than a fan. We had showers and rested for a bit before heading out again.

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We walked for about ten minutes to St John's Basilica, stopping for ice creams and cold drinks on the way. Constructed in the 6th century AD by the Emperor Justinian I, it covers the believed burial site of John the Apostle.

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The ruins are quite extensive and lie on a hill with some fantastic views of the valley stretching all the way to the sea less than 10 km away. The scenery looked quite Biblical to me, or at least how I imagine the more fruitful parts of the Middle East might look today. We could see in a field a long upright pillar; all that remains of the Temple of Artemis, one of the seven Ancient Wonders of the World.

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From the basilica we could go further up Ayasuluk Hill to the fortress, so we did. Partially reconstructed, it dates from Byzantine, Seljuk and Ottoman times; before then there were other fortresses on this site, going back to the Neolithic Age. We saw remains of water cisterns, a small mosque, dwellings and some other things.

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Part of the walls were roped off, but we got even better views from what we could access than from the basilica.

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After another short rest to recover from the heat at our hotel, we had a lovely dinner at a small restaurant round the corner. We shared some stuffed vine leaves, yoghurt with herbs and olive oil and a bowl of 'sea beans' (samphire- not something I expected to find here, but I suppose we are near the coast!) and some complementary bread. To add to that, I had a vegetarian Pide (Turkish pizza) and Dave had a mixed kebab.

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We shared the only dessert on the menu, a gorgeous concoction of coconut, ground semolina and milk squished together into flattened balls, topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and drizzled with chocolate sauce.

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Posted by 3Traveller 03:22 Archived in Turkey Tagged birds trains mosque hotel basilica turkey izmir dave storks selcuk fortifications roman_remains turkish_cuisine Comments (0)

Last teaching day

Veliko Tarnovo


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Today was the last day of the language school's academic year, and so my last day of work. It has been slowly winding down for a while though - the young learner classes all finished at the end of May (when they finish their academic year) and the exam preparation classes have also already finished. I only actually had one class today; a small, absolutely lovely Elementary class which I've really enjoyed teaching. They were very kind when I was saying goodbye!

I forgot to mention it in previous blog entries, but speaking of kind goodbyes, I was taken to Stratilat Café for lunch last month by a one-to-one student as a thank you for helping her pass the CAE (Cambridge Advanced exam). After we'd finished eating she gave me a novel called 'The Help' by Kathryn Stockett, set in the 1960s and described as 'the other side of Gone with the Wind'... sounds like an interesting read! She said that she hoped I would remember her every time I read it. Of course I will - she was an absolute pleasure to teach!

Last Sunday 'R' and I had a leaving party which was supposed to be held on the terrace in the sunshine, but unfortunately for once the weather failed us and the rain forced it into my flat instead. We had a great time anyway! Lots of people came and we had loads of food - mozzarella & tomato salad with red pesto, homemade hummous, flatbreads which I cooked ultra-fresh so people could eat them straight from the pan, green salad, a ham selection, strings of preserved sausages, sirene (feta-like) cheese, snezhanka (a yoghurt & cucumber salad), bottled roasted red peppers, olives, salted & buttered popcorn... There was cake which someone made, too, but I didn't have any space left for any!

Last Thursday I paid a visit to VT's Archaeological Museum. I know it sounds a bit silly but I didn't realise it was there until only about a month ago! The entrance is quite hidden away and there is a distinct lack of signage and advertising of it, compared to other attractions here. I love visiting archaeology museums - wish I'd found out about this place a lot sooner. Anyway, although not quite at the same level as the archaeology museums in Varna and Sofia, it was definitely worth visiting. It had some prehistoric objects, finds from the nearby Roman town of Nicopolis ad Istrum (which I visited on 21st March; see my blog entry here), Tsarevets Fortress when they were reconstructing the Patriarchate Tower in the 1980s, some votive tablets and figures of gods and goddesses, some Roman toys made of clay and some other interesting artifacts.

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One or two other out-of-the-ordinary have happened within the last two or three weeks - small enough not to merit a separate blog post each, so I've saved them up to put in one together;

- A couple of weeks ago it was a very misty and cloudy day; so much so that little sun was getting through. Both windows in my kitchen/ living room area were open. All of a sudden a swallow flew inside one window, circled the room and flew out of the other! When I looked back out of the window I saw loads of them circling round. My flat is on a ridge with valleys on both sides, so I have a wonderful view. I'd never seen so many swallows in the air in one place before, let along so high up yet level with my eyeline.

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- A week or two before the swallows incident, I was sitting in my flat doing something or other when suddenly I heard a voice on a loudspeaker getting louder and louder and then fading away. I rushed to the window and looked down but I was just too late to see what was going on. Ten minutes later it came back again and I saw that it was a circus advertising ploy - a small truck with colourful billboards on the back. It was clearly going round the town in circles, raising awareness. The third time it came round I was ready with my camera and managed to get a picture.

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- Two Friday evenings ago there was a Sound & Light Show with the accompanying soundtrack available to all - not sure what the occasion was (usually the soundtrack, apart from the bells, is only for a group of paying customers). It was a lovely balmy evening with a clear crescent moon. It was wonderful to hear and watch the show again, though bittersweet for me because I knew it was probably the last time I would hear it.

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As I said, tomorrow I am off to my first post-work travel destination; Skopje, Macedonia! I will have to go via Sofia. This is my plan for the next month and a bit; all of this worked out by ourselves, as we are travelling independently rather than with any tour company.

Veliko Tarnovo - Sofia - Skopje (Macedonia) - Sofia & maybe Mount Vitosha (Dave joins me here) - Veliko Tarnovo - Istanbul (Turkey) - Cappadocia - Izmir - Selçuk - Ephesus - Selçuk - Izmir - Istanbul - Veliko Tarnovo (Bulgaria) - Sofia (Dave flies home) - Veliko Tarnovo - Bucharest (Romania) - Sighișoara - Budapest (Hungary) - Home (UK).

Now that I've finished writing this, time now to down the road with 'R' to meet up with the other teachers for a drink or two at The Bestseller. A cocktail I think, or some Kahlua on ice or Malibu & Diet Coke.

Posted by 3Traveller 06:20 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged parties birds museum bulgaria veliko_tarnovo english_teaching fortifications roman_remains tsarevets_fortress bulgarian_cuisine Comments (0)

UNESCO World Heritage Site: Old Nessebar

Nessebar


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Our day trip today was to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Old Nessebar, which lies half an hour away by bus from Burgas on a tiny peninsula joined to the mainland by a narrow man-made isthmus. It is stuffed full of historic ruins and buildings, including Ancient Greek ruins, early Christian and medieval churches and fine wooden houses built in the coastal version of the Bulgarian National Revival style.

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We wandered around for a long time, enjoying the sunshine, architecture, cobbled streets and the white and light blue fishing boats in the harbour. Swallows flitted from building to building; a cockerel crowed down to us from someone's bedroom window.

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We came across lots and lots of old churches; some in ruins, some not ruined but locked and some neither ruined nor locked. Most of them had a distinctive green ceramic pattern running in a line across the archways above the doors and windows. The big ruined church of Sveta Sofia was impressive, as was the smaller church of Christ Pantocrator, which is now a small art gallery. I went in and looked round an interesting exhibition of facsimiles of historic maps of Bulgaria, the Balkans and the Black Sea coast (focussing on Nessebar).

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The church of Sveti Stefan, which was last up, had a spectacular interior. For once I was allowed to take photos (though still without flash), so I took full advantage. The frescoes were amazing.

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By the time I came out of Sveti Stefan, the sunshine had disappeared. We walked back to the old town walls, looked at the bus times and realised we didn't have time to go into the Archaeology Museum - a shame. As we looked out over the bay, we saw clouds and rain envelop Sunny Beach and then sweep towards us... The downpour hit us suddenly, with thunder, lightning and an absolute deluge of rain. I managed to get a good photo of a lightning strike, before running for the cover of the bus shelter.

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Before too long the bus came to take us back to Burgas.

Posted by 3Traveller 07:42 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged art birds coast beach old dave bulgaria black_sea orthodox_church nessebar unesco_world_heritage_site extreme_weather Comments (0)

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