Sunday, 24 March 2013

Neeps and Tatties

Day 27-29: Scotland

We left Prague and re-entered the world of the Commonwealth, where entrants into the country and their cargo are actually taken seriously. A shame since we’d become well accustomed to European customs, which had typically involved striding through two empty rooms with silver walls, a few crates strewn around, and nobody in sight.

Nevertheless we were greeted by our two cheery questie hosts Sarah and Katie (the girls, or ger-rels in Scottish). We honed up on our tetris skills as we all packed in to a wee car designed for wee people, and were happy to make it and stretch out at Sarah’s wee comfortable mini-castle in the modest town of Motherwell.

After a warm round of introductions to family, we set off by train to check out city and Uni of Glasgow where the girls study. We survived the hour journey in good spirits despite being spotted as foreigners and tried out by a chirpy little shit holding an energy drink as thick and offensive as his accent. SQUARE ‘GO LIKE!?

Glasgow is a cosy city that put us in mind of Copenhagen, with its central district being designed around picturesque walking malls with plenty of shop fronts.

After a cocktail and small tour through the centre, we headed up to check out the University of Glasgow, built around an imposing Hogwartsesque on top of a small hill overlooking the city.

We had fun exploring while Katie meandered through the echoing arched hallways, humming the Harry Potter song in the creepiest way possible.

A trip to the ‘chippy’ (fish and chip shop) after the train ride home followed by a mini marathon of Breaking Bad had us ready for bed, determined to head north towards the highlands for some scenic photography the next day.

Apparently the weather had decided that was a bad idea, as the snow came down heavily throughout the day. With the visibility terrible and conditions worsening, we only made it out to Luss on Loch Lomond before deciding that we best head back lest the Seyera-mobile became buried under snow.

Still, we had some fun running around in the snow and checking out the cosy main streets around the town.

We arrived back to Motherwell, made a quick stop at the McIlhenneys’ to meet Bernie and Katrina (fond fans of our online antics) and got excited for a night out ahead. 

Some of S+K’s friends came around and we shared a fantastic Burns day celebration put on by the Kanes, featuring a kilt-towel, traditional Scottish poetry, shots of whiskey and of course the national dish of Haggis, neeps and tatties – all delicious!

After a broken wine glass, too much buckfast (horrible cheap fortified wine) and plenty of ‘wees’  we made it into a local pub, where we met with some lads, took a heap of photos and continued drinking heavily.

At the time, it didn’t make sense why we were kicked out of a quiet small town pub for playing raucous drinking games that involve everyone slapping the table constantly, but looking back it was probably all we deserved. Our undignified exit had us upset until we found the 1 pound menu at McDonalds and stuffed 3 burgers into our mouths, heading home to listen to as much of the live streaming Hottest 100 as we could manage (it was Aus day already across the world) before falling asleep (100-54).

We woke up to hear Thrift Shop taking out #1, and battled our hangovers with a cooked breakfast and second mini-marathon of Breaking Bad.

A late afternoon train took us to Edinburgh, where we wasted no time settling in and starting on the drinks at S+K’s friend Rebecca’s apartment, our base for the Australia Day festivities ahead. We met up with Jenny, Issy, Simmo, Annika and Marcin for a big Indian banquet dinner, where the drinks seemed to flow even more freely.

A couple more shots back at the apartment and we were on our way to a packed club hosting an Australia Day party with free entry for actual Australians.

We did our best to out-dance the resident 17 year olds, but we may have only succeeded to scare the shit out of them as we were all on our worst behaviour.

Even the inflatable animals weren’t spared our wrath.

The night ended with a late stroll home, eventually dozing off on the couch.

We didn't have too much time the next day, and we wanted to see the highlights of Edinburgh that we’d only managed slight glimpses of so far.

We trudged up through the city towards the famous Edinburgh castle, marveling at the ancient architecture and majestic scenery surrounding it.

 The sun was out, and the cameras were purring, enjoying their last full day out of the trip.

It wasn’t long before we’d made it back on the airport bus, this time genuinely sad as we were well and truly on our last hop home.

The scenery, sights, drinks and food were all fantastic in Scotland, but it was the amazing hospitality and welcome from everyone we visited that made the stop so special.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Karel for President!

Day 24-26: Oslo Airport / Prague

After no sleep following our huge final night out in Tromso, we boarded our plane and fell into a deep and ignominious sleep within seconds of finding our seats, expecting to wake up in Oslo ready for our connecting flight through to Prague.

Waking up mid-flight and checking the watch was a shock – our Prague flight was just about to take off - we’d snoozed through a 2 and a half hour ground delay in Tromso as the runway was cleared of ice. It seemed Norway wasn’t done with us just yet.

To the credit of Norwegian Air Shuttle (and possibly our drunken amusement amongst other grumpy travellers at the help desk) we were assigned $40 of food and drink tickets and a replacement flight on full-service airline Lufthansa later in the evening. It’s hard to imagine the likes of Tiger or Jetstar doing the same.

6 hours later, we made it through security and looked up to see the fateful message- 18:45 LUFTHANSA FRANKFURT – CANCELLED. Sometimes you just have to laugh, and we had a lot of fun sorting out a free overnight hotel stay and next morning flight with an eccentric old man at the SAS help desk.

Artist's Impression

After a very refreshing stay including separate rooms and free gourmet dinner and breakfast buffets, we were back at Oslo Gardemoen, finally getting away on our flights to Prague via Zurich as scheduled.

The drama wasn’t over though as Coppo’s bag missed the short connection and we were forced to organise a return to Prague airport later that night to collect.

Luckily we had our bouncy and delightful Czech host questie Marketa to cheer us up with a homemade sign (WELCOME THE BEST AUSSIES EVER!) and an introduction to some glorious Czech cuisine on the way to her dorm.

We were also convinced to get on her side in the upcoming presidential elections, wearing bright Karel badges with pride.

With Marketa modest to the point of embarrassment of the place, we were tentative as we went to Czech out (ha ha) where we’d be sleeping on the floor for the next 2 nights. To our delight the room is a pretty typical dorm, cosy, comfortable and most importantly warm.

After some catch up chats, a trip back to the airport and some cheap Vietnamese food on the way home, we were back on the beers with a plan to head out to drink and dance with Marketa’s roommate Nella.

We went to Popo, a small bar filled with travellers from a nearby hostel and a stream of men in suits going in and out of the toilet in conspicuous teams of 2. Welcome to Praha!

We had some $1 beers and spent most of the night on the dance floor, enjoying some dance beats circa Ministry of Sound ’03-05 followed by a frenetic mix set that included a childhood-destroying mix of Thomas the Tank engine theme and Missy Elliot’s “work it”.

After a falafel and some sing-alongs on the long walk home, we organised our cosy sleeping situation and nodded off, keen to explore the city the next day.

Explore we did. After meeting questie Petra for an amazing Czech lunch, we headed up to enjoy the views and some history of the country and its royalty at Prague Castle.

We explored through the Castle grounds, including climbing to the top of the massive St Vitus Cathedral and taking a stroll down the famous golden lane with a hilarious armour museum and tiny souvenir shops built into many brightly coloured houses.

After grabbing a full table’s worth of delicious bakery goods for less than $10, we set off to finish off the night exploring central Prague.

We tried one last Czech dish, Kürtőskalács, a sweet baked treat that looks like a toilet roll but tastes like a crispy cinnamon donut.

With vague plans to head out again that night, we had some beers over dinner but ended up calling it quits on the basis of exhaustion and possible minor alcohol poisoning.

Cheap, with very nice food, public transport and architecture throughout, we were extremely impressed with Prague. Still, the visit would have been nothing without our crazily enthusiastic tour guide Marketa, whose bouncy antics were just as entertaining as her beautiful city.

Onwards to Edinburgh and the ger-rels!