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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)

The rest of the holiday

St Albans, Farnham and Hemel Hempstead


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Edit from January 2019: Fleetville Emporium was demolished in 2016 or 2017, and Dolce Italia on St Peter's Street closed down and became a charity shop at around the same time. Little Marrakesh and the Meating Room are both still going strong though!

We've managed to fit a lot into the last few days!

On New Year's Eve we woke up to heavy frost;

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Dave and I then went to see my Nana, who is unfortunately laid up at the moment with a broken ankle she suffered on Christmas Day.

In the evening Dave and I were thinking about going into London to see the fireworks, but decided against it in the end because it was cold and wet, we were too tired and we felt more like relaxing at home with Mum and Kate and watching the fireworks on TV instead.

On New Year's Day we had a big family gathering and exchanged presents, things we had deliberately not done on Christmas Day this year.

Yesterday was also eventful. The first thing Dave and I did was go back to the church to pay our wedding deposit, give back the filled-in legal document and have our IDs checked. Then we met up with Mum at Dolce Italia café, where we had a hot drink and a cake and I managed to knock my tall glass of hot chocolate off the table into my lap. Thank goodness I was wearing black trousers!

On our way home Dave and I stopped off at the Fleetville Emporium, a large place filled with antiques, vintage clothing, secondhand books, records and lots more. Every time I go there, it's extended itself a bit more. Dave bought some shoe lasts, but I didn't get anything. I did however buy some delicious rum balls from Simmon's nearby.

That evening we went out for dinner at Little Marrakesh, one of my all-time favourite restaurants anywhere in the world. I love everything about this place - the decor, atmosphere, food and service! We shared the Moroccan Mezze as a starter; hummous, tabbouleh, saffron-marinated sautéed potato and carrot chunks, chopped beetroot, filo prawns, a red pepper mixture and crushed grilled aubergine. Then I had grilled swordfish with Moroccan rice and Dave had a tagine, though I've forgotten what kind. The food was as delicious as ever.

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We thought about going into The Boot for a drink afterwards, but it looked too crowded for us, so we gave a miss.

Speaking of food, for lunch today we met up with Emma and Mark at The Meating Room, a fantastic new gourmet burger restaurant in St Albans city centre. This is another place I would recommend to all visitors. The burgers all have local names; I had a St Peter's, their version of a cheeseburger, with a lovely, thick, juicy patty. The burgers all come with amazing rosemary salted chips. I found out that our waitress was from Romania, but had worked with Bulgarians in Romania so had picked up some words from them; I tried out the word for 'thank you' (blagodariya) on her and she understood me, or at least was kind enough to say she did.

Dave left for Manchester late afternoon. After that, Mum and I went to Hemel Hempstead to have dinner at Kate & Andrew's. Special mention to the delicious bread & butter pudding!

Back in St Albans, at about 11pm I'm getting a train to Gatwick for my early-morning flight back to Bulgaria.

Posted by 3Traveller 13:43 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged united_kingdom christmas sisters dave mum st_albans st_peter's_church hemel_hempstead farnham british_cuisine Comments (0)

Sale

Manchester


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Dave and I have had a lovely time in Manchester with his family. Today we had a really nice lunch at Decker's at Sale Water Park; after lunch Dave and I walked round the lake a little bit and then crossed a field or two until we reached the River Mersey, the historic border between Cheshire and Lancashire. We walked along the bank for a while until we found a bridge and crossed into Lancashire and back before returning to the park.

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Before we looked round the centre of Sale - to get there Dave and I walked along the Bridgewater Canal. The houseboats on that stretch of the canal make a pretty sight. Part of the canal was frozen, part of it wasn't and part of it was in a state of inbetween.

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In Sale you can definitely tell that the local businesses lost a lot of trade after the Trafford Centre was built. I liked looking round the charity shops, however, although I didn't buy anything. From another shop I bought two pairs of trousers to take back with me to Bulgaria for work.

Posted by 3Traveller 12:38 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged united_kingdom christmas dave manchester Comments (0)

Wedding plans get going!

St Albans


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Since yesterday morning Dave and I have caught up on sleep, been amazed at Mum's travel-themed redecoration of what was my old bedroom, looked round some of the sales in St Albans city centre and had a nice relaxed evening in with Mum involving her lovely Scandinavian meatballs, a fire in the grate, cherry brandy on ice and a game of Upwords.

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We have also been to the church to see the vicar about our wedding, and the cemetery to visit Dad's grave.

Our wedding date is now officially set!

Off to Manchester tomorrow for a night - a flying visit to see Dave's family.

Posted by 3Traveller 11:22 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged united_kingdom christmas dad dave mum st_albans st_peter's_church Comments (0)

Boxing Day

Veliko Tarnovo and Sofia Airport


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We spent most of the day in Veliko Tarnovo, lying in, eating Christmas dinner leftovers for lunch and doing some shopping. I bought myself a lovely real leather handbag and a beautiful, colourful handpainted icon of St George & the Dragon. The latter was something I'd been thinking of buying for myself ever since I arrived in Bulgaria (St George is popular here, so his image often appears in icons). The shop was small, but still managed to have two sections; both were filled with antiques, but the smaller one also had lots of icons on the walls. While I looked at the icons, Dave inspected the antiques and bought a fancy wooden box - he originally looked at another box but it turned out to belong to the owner and was the only one not to actually be on sale!

We took the 5pm bus to Sofia without any problems. I'd bought our tickets in the morning, just in case the buses got booked up (I've never done this in Bulgaria until now, but I didn't want to risk the chance of missing our flight due to not being able to get a bus to Sofia at all). After I'd done that, we both sampled some hot chocolate from the Italian hot drink vending machine in the street in front of the ETAP bus station. These machines are spread out throughout Veliko Tarnovo; the drinks names are in Bulgarian but the instructions are in Italian. The hot chocolate was only 50 stotinki (20p) each and was quite small, but delicious.

At Sofia bus station I hoped the OK-Supertrans taxi desk would be open, but although it was only 8.30pm, it was closed. The opening hours listed there and in my guidebook claimed that it remained open until 10pm. I was hesitant to catch a taxi from outside the station without having gone through the taxi desk, because the only time I'd done that before I'd got royally ripped off, but now it looked like we had no choice. To guard against being ripped off I got Dave to take a photo of their listed rates. Maybe the driver we ended up with had seen us do this (or maybe he was just nice and honest), because as it turned out we didn't get ripped off at all.

It was snowing in Sofia. Inside Sofia Airport it was lovely and warm though and for the first few hours of our wait we were almost the only people in the whole terminal apart from two security staff. Our flight wasn't until 5.30am. We took turns to wander around (Dave went outside and took some pictures of the snow), we played another long game of 10-card rummy and I read part of a biography of Captain Cook on my Kindle. Dave tried to sleep but failed because lying across the seats was too uncomfortable.

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Posted by 3Traveller 09:23 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged snow airport christmas buses dave sofia bulgaria icons veliko_tarnovo Comments (0)

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