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  `-bruxelles_07 (8)
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  `-iceland_10 (14)
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08(01), 07(03), 06(03), 05(02), 04(02), 03(02)
12(02), 11(01), 10(08), 09(03), 07(17), 06(01), 05(04), 04(03), 03(02), 02(02), 01(06)
12(05), 11(02), 10(01), 09(01), 08(02), 07(04), 06(01), 05(02), 04(03), 03(02), 02(02), 01(01)
12(01), 11(02), 09(09), 08(16), 07(02), 06(03), 05(04), 04(03), 02(03), 01(02)
12(03), 11(01), 10(02), 09(01), 08(23), 07(03), 06(02), 05(01), 04(02), 03(02)
12(03), 11(02), 10(01), 09(01), 08(23), 05(02)
09(04), 08(01), 06(01), 05(02), 04(02), 03(01), 02(01)
11(01), 10(02), 09(15), 08(01), 07(02), 06(04), 04(12), 01(06)
12(05), 11(01), 10(06), 09(12), 08(02), 07(02), 06(01), 05(01), 04(10), 02(01), 01(05)
12(02), 08(01), 07(15), 06(02), 05(03), 02(02), 01(03)
12(05), 11(01), 07(24), 06(06), 05(03), 04(02), 01(01)
12(01), 11(01), 10(07), 09(01), 08(04), 07(05), 06(04), 05(06), 04(01), 03(04), 02(06), 01(04)
12(04), 11(02), 10(03), 09(04), 08(03), 07(04), 04(01)
07(01), 05(01)
08(01)
10(01)

Tue, 09 Nov 2010
a trip to vienna (0 comments)
a company excursion to vienna was set down for monday to tuesday, so i already went earlier to the capital to spend some more time there than just two days. on saturday ninsti (once again) and i went to the central cemetery[001-133] to take some pictures there. the weather was perfect for shooting, the light was superb.
we especially enjoyed the jewish section of the cemetery. the decayed and overgrown stones and tombs, the autumn leaves. it was so beautiful.
we also paid a visit to the "celebrity" section of the graveyard, full of impressive memorials and statues. most famous ones are mozart, schubert, brahms, beethoven, raab, boltzmann, hans moser, curd juergens, kreisky, ... and hundreds of others.
sunday i got a self made birthday cake[134-135] from ninsti. ooh, it has kitty! totally delicious. nomnom. we also went to the museum of modern art vienna ("mumok"), to see the "hyper real" exhibition. quite impressive artwork to see there. on monday i did some teleworking for the company. in the late afternoon i met with my coworkers at the hotel. we checked in, then went to cabaret "simpl" to see "nach der krise". i was surprised they had a lot of singing in this revue. still, it was quite good and we had a good laugh. afterwards we went out. some of us - including me - got to bed around five o'clock in the morning. puh... tuesday morning after breakfast, we split up. some were going shopping, some just strolling around, and some - as in: my boss and me - went to the spanish riding school[136-139] in vienna, to see the morning exercises. horses were ridden to waltz music. they even had one (and only one) female rider there. quite unusual it seemed to me. later we went to a ramen restaurant, had dinner there. afterwards we had an awesome segway tour through vienna. this fun cruise lasted for over three hours. at first we got instructions on how to safely travel by segway, then we had to make a choice of either having a touristy tour through vienna, or a tour that focuses more on riding, cruising, and having fun. well, we all agreed on chosing the latter. so at first we drove to the danube canal. came by the prater, the hundertwasser house, karlsplatz, and finally headed towards schwarzenbergplatz and then back to the starting point. it already got dark when we got back to there. right at the end we took a tram to get to the railway station to get back to linz. what an awesome weekend...

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Mon, 25 Oct 2010
zoo in linz (0 comments)
ninsti paid me a visit in linz over the weekend. so we decided to go to a zoo again (like we did in reykjavík about a month ago). the zoo in linz is a bit bigger than the one in iceland, and there was also a larger variety of animals.
so we enjoyed lynx, alpacas, firefoxes, all kind of birds, pigs, goats, sheeps, monkeys, spiders, snakes, meerkats, ducks, parrots, donkeys, and a little cat (of course). and i'm pretty sure i forgot some more animals we encountered. as the weather was not that fine, we were pretty the only ones going to the zoo this day. just as we know it.

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Sun, 10 Oct 2010
a visit to the botanical garden in linz (0 comments)
k-thrin and i decided to go to the botanical garden in linz today. it was the perfect weather for that. warm, and full of bright sunlight. well, not much to mention here besides that. of course loads of flowers, plants, succulents and cacti, trees, bushes, weed, blossoms, and grass from all over the world.
autumn can be so beautiful...

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Sun, 26 Sep 2010
iceland, day 14 (0 comments)
our last day in iceland. too sad. but we had a very good start as there was a cute cat[01-03] in the hostel. it was happy to get cuddles and caresses. and we were happily providing that. then we headed towards reykjavík. the town was quite the opposite of what we expected. there were hardly any cars or people. so we walked pretty alone on the streets of the capital of iceland. we found beautiful graffiti[08-19,23], strange shops[07,22,25], strange bars[07,20-21], and a few cats[26-28,66-69,87-89]. maunz.
we came by hallgrimskirkja[31-44], a quite extraordinary church, and a pretty big one too. so far we always found small, or very small churches. then we had a break to have some coffee or hot chocolate in a cafe[45] right next to the church.
after a nice stroll around another part of the city we came to the town hall[70] which has a big park[51-52] and a pond[53-55] in front of it, home to a lot of poultry[56-65], like seagulls, ducks, geese, and swans. a few people were there, feeding them. and a cute black cat[66-69] was there too, also trying to get some food and attention. we - once more - provided the latter.
next we decided to go the zoo, since it was sunday and all shops were closed. there we could finally see seals[71-73,83-86] from close up. the zoo actually was, like reykjavík itself, very small and did not house many animals. but they had a very cute polar fox[80-82], a reindeer[77-79], and a cat[87-89,93]. a pretty cheeky one, actually. during the feeding time of the seals, the cat climbed over the fence and waited behind the animal trainer to get a fish from the full bucket. as the trainer at first didn't notice the cat, it then began to meow. finally getting hold of the trainer's attention, the cat got some fish. nomnom. as soon as all the fish were being fed to the seals, the cat was gone too. in the meantime it had started to rain again. so we had a closer look to a house that was meant for kids we guessed. inside they had a lot of fun stuff, like a place where one could make huge soap bubbles[90], a tangram[91] game, big fish tanks with crustaceans and fish, and other cool stuff[92].
as the rain got more, we decided to go and clean our car before we have to return it the next day in the morning. gas stations there provide nice equipment like a pressure washer trigger guns with a scrub brush, for free use. also they had the usual vacuum cleaners, like they have in every country. they, of course, were coin operated. but after about half an hour the car was cleaner than ever before (in fact, i'm really not sure if it was as clean as when we got it). we also examined the car paintwork for dents and small scratches. but i guess we didn't add any new damage to the surface. good. it already got dark when we got back to njarðvík to the same hostel we have been at on the first day of our trip. it ends, where it started. again, no one was there, and again we used the telephon at the reception to book our room. funnily enough, we even got the same room number again - eight. we were pretty surprised we made a good estimation of all the stuff we needed during the trip. we didn't leave behind much stuff for other travellers (usually in each hostel there's a shelf for stuff that is not needed anymore, and thus free to use for anyone in need of the stuff available). tomorrow we have to return the car, get on the plane, fly to helsinki, to finally land in munich again several hours later, again hopping from timezone to timezone. i'm actually looking forward to the moomin shop at helsinki airport. cute trolls, maybe i buy some stuff there... let's see. iceland is still as fascinating and pretty as i remembered it. the landscapes, flora and fauna provoked a constant level of awe overload. nature's most wildest place i've ever been to i guess. always windy, sometimes even pretty stormy, bleak regions, rough mountain landscapes, and - luckily only on the last few days - heavy rain showers. pristine nature and unique sceneries. to sum it up: recommendable to a high degree, or actually... a definite must see. thanks also to my travelling companion ninsti[87]. it really was a very wonderful trip...

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Sat, 25 Sep 2010
iceland, day 13 (0 comments)
penultimate day in iceland, and it finally started to rain. according to the weather forecast this should have already taken place over one week ago (so, actually on day one). but we were lucky so far, so no complaining about really heavy rain showers. also, our first stop was skogafoss[002-007]. really bad conditions for our cameras. the spray of the waterfall and the really heavy rain. and although we both had water proof jackets and trousers the humidity got underneath the clothes and affected our cameras. so we avoided taking out the camera to take pictures as much as possible. too bad, because skogafoss was really an impressive and wonderful waterfall. next stop was another waterfall, namely seljalandsfoss[007]. less spectacular, still very nice and definitely worth the stop. after break at an N1 gas station and a N1 burger we drove to another waterfall. this one was called urriðafoss[010-018]. in the meantime the weather has gotten way better. no heavy rain any more.
next stop was the must-see touristy place called "geyser". i do still remember it as a very stinky place because of all the sulphur in the ground. this actually hasn't changed at all. but the rest has: there were now souvenir shops, a gas station, some hotels, a restaurant, and other things especially built for tourists at this place. good thing: the entrance to the geothermal fields was still free. there were some smaller geysers[020-023,052-062], and the big one, which erupts[024-051,076-085] approximately every 15 minutes. once it does, it takes only a few seconds and the show is over again. a huge hot water fountain of around 20 metres of height shot up into the sky with each eruption. was quit hard to guess when it starts at first. but by the time we could easily predict it and thus take pictures at the right time to capture this awesome event. there's also a strange flora[088-090] in the small sulphur rivulets.
the area[063-075] around the geysers was deep red and pretty muddy. so our shoes were all covered with the red clay. we also found a ladder that helped us to get over the fence around the geyser area. so we took a short walk up a little hill that provided us with an awesome overview of the area there. autumn already started to paint the landscape. all the deciduous trees gave a really wonderful view.
as we got thrown out of the souvenir shop there as it was already closing, we got on the car and headed for the next waterfall, gullfoss[093-122]. another very big and impressive one. there were several "platforms" around the waterfall. one was actually off the usual visitor's path but we decided to go there anyway. so we climbed over the cordoning and got pretty close to the waterfall[099-105]. then we went back again to see also the rest. this was actually one of the rare times when there were also more people around. same with the geothermal area around the geysers. but that was good practice for the days when we get back to crowded places again. after all we're heading for reykjavík, the capital of iceland. so we actually expect a lot of people there.
it already was dark outside, so we headed to selfoss to get a room in a hostel there. on our way there we suddenly noticed the dark sky turned orange. it was also pretty foggy and it just had started to rain again, so this looked really strange at first. we soon found out it was one of the glass houses[123-127], we have already seen several times near geothermal fields, but so far only during the day. they are heated with the steam from hot springs. and during the night they are all lit up as it seems. after a long day we finally arrived at the hostel. we both were pretty tired and got to sleep soon.

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Fri, 24 Sep 2010
iceland, day 12 (0 comments)
for starters today, two unnamed waterfalls[008,011-021] and a good-morning troll[019]. next we crossed a lava desert covered with moss[022-038]. absolutely strange landscape. very soft to step on, you almost bounce on the moss.
next we came to vík í mýrdal[039-064], the southernmost village in iceland. right next to the center is the reynisfjara[040-064] beach, a black pebble beach. the sea was rough and there were pretty big waves. yet i thought it's save to walk along the beach, as i clearly saw how far the flotsam (and thus the water) usually got. but my observation had a flaw, because for one moment, when i was distracted, a big wave flooded the place where i was standing[051]. of course this was the only spot the water got that far on the beach, and of course it didn't happen again at the time being at the beach. i think i can consider myself very very lucky. i put off my totally wet shoes[052,064]. of course there were trolls[040-041,050,057,058]. according to a folk tale the three trolls were caught by sunlight when they tried to pull a ship to land. poor trolls, but i guess those bastards are responsible for my wet trouser legs and shoes. rumour has it, the beach is one of the ten most beautiful beaches on earth, and vík is the wettest place in iceland.
back to the car we were heading for the campsite þakgil. on the way there we found an abandoned small village[065-082,139-140]. the guidebook it was most likely some film set once. metal hooks in the ground made this sound pretty plausible. in any way, it was a wonderful place with an awesome overview[068,071,073,077,083-084,140] of the surrounding area. heading on to the camping site we crossed the - to me - most beautiful place[087-116] in iceland i have seen so far (of course again with trolls[074-075,085-086,111] along the road).
also we had to cross our first ford[115]. just a small one, but yet, pretty exciting if our little toyota would make it through the small rivulet. also we were concerned if we would get back again, since it was raining and the water level might rise too much, so our car wont make it another time. but we took the risk and it was worth it. our guidebook already told us the campsite has a heatable lava cave[125,128-129,132] and an abri[128,132] for grilling. since the camping site was already closed for winter we were - once more - they only ones there (besides the obligatory sheep group of three, of course). we guessed this must be a great place to camp or stay in one of the huts[117-118,126-127,133] available there. also the swings[120-123] were great - hehe.
on our way back we enjoyed the small abandoned village we already came by earlier again. it's really impressive and so awesome to be all alone in this landscape[140] :) but by now it already got pretty late and we still had to get to a hostel. we decided to spend the night in the HI hostel in vík. so we drove back there, booked a double room, and drove on to the cliffs of cape dyrhólaey[141-146] with a lighthouse[144,146] nearby. the gravel road that leads there was one of the most bumpy ones we've seen so far. pretty shaky. but the sea in the twilight was amazing. also the sound was, as usual, overwhelming.
pretty late we got back to the hostel. what a wonderful day.

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Thu, 23 Sep 2010
iceland, day 11 (0 comments)
day 11 started very good: when we checked out from the hostel, guess who was there waiting for us outside on a bench. the tomcat[001-008] of course, looking for someone to pet him again. so lovely and cute... it was hard but we finally bid farewell and got on the car to drive[009-012] to some nearby beach with a huge rock, which most likely was just another troll[013-025] that had turned to stone because sunlight hit it. a lot of seagulls where there too because there was a nesting place right there.
we then drove on when we spotted some old abandoned small houses next to the road. so we stopped and went there. it turns out the small huts were actually stalls, for sheeps most likely. around the area[029-063] we found a lot of great things like an old rusty car[038-045], old farmer's machinery[053-062], and all kind of bottles[044-045]. we really enjoyed this place. but it should get even better... ninsti liked those ducks[082,103-105] (or swans?) very much, and there was a place where there were hundreds of them spread all over some lake (or fjord?). so we stopped again. while ninsti enjoyed the living animals, i found loads of dead ones[066-086]. it turned out to be almost some kind of duck cemetery there - death in all it's beauty. also, close by was a small group of huts[087-093] which we examined more closely. their roofs were covered with grass and from the backside they are really hard to spot because they perfectly fit into the surrounding.
then we drove on to the þórbergssetur museum[110-111]. þórbergssetur was a writer and the outside of the museum is a huge line of books with all his titles. very nice idea and also pretty impressive. at the museum cafe we took a short break and had a cup of coffee. then we drove on, around the vatnajökull[106-107,109,113,184-188] glacier, europe's biggest icefield. pretty impressive. but it should get even better...
we soon came to a bridge that brought us over a river flowing from the end of the glacier to the sea. it carried massive icebergs[114-183]. an absolutely amazing, impressive, and remarkable place. ninsti had to go back to the car twice to copy the files from her camera's memory card to her laptop to make place for new pictures. and also i took a massive amount of pictures. besides the icebergs there were also seagulls and seals flying and swimming around the huge masses of ice. jökulsárlón is definitely a place to see.
it was hard to leave this awesome place, but we had to, as dusk was already falling and we still had to get to a accommodation. we found one in hvoll, the biggest hostel we've been to so far. it reminded us more of a hotel rather than a hostel. large corridors, several kitchens, and a huge mess room. puh, we are not used to that...

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Wed, 22 Sep 2010
iceland, day 10 (0 comments)
another day dedicated to covering distance. so there are only this day not much happened. we got up, had breakfast, checked out from the hostel, put our stuff into the car, had a look at the area[01-04] around the hostel (since it was dark when we arrived the day before). the huge ferry[05] was still there. then we drove on southwards (since we arrived at the eastern part of iceland). we stopped at a beach[06-16] which we thought would be as pretty as all the other ones we've seen so far. but unfortunately this one was pretty dirty[12-13]. so we drove on, came by a house with loads of garden gnomes[17] in the front yard, a huge metal factory[19], and cafe "margret" [23-24] where ninsti had a greek salad and cake, and i had a coffee and also delicious cake - nomnom. also the interior was very exquisite. the owner was a german lady which we had a nice talk with.
then we drove on to berunes where we decided to stay at a HI hostel this night. they had a lovely tomcat[25-28] there with really huge paws, always purring, always looking for someone to pet him. in that case, that someone was us - meow. also there was a little church[29-31] and a cemetery[29-30,32-33] right next to the hostel.
since there was still bright sunlight, we went down to the nearby beach[34-57]. we found a wonderful place[48-54] underneath the cliffs where there was total silence. no sound of wind, no sound of the sea - nothing. very impressive. also, as it was totally windless, it was pretty warm. ah, and we saw another cute troll[51].

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Tue, 21 Sep 2010
iceland, day 09 (0 comments)
another day dedicated to covering distance. so there are only two highlights for today (although the landscapes are an on lasting highlight every kilometre you drive further around this great country). first one was dettifoss[02-24]. dettifoss is the biggest waterfall in europe (in terms of volume discharge), and the waterfall is around 100 metres in length and the water falls down for approximately 44 metres. again there's so much spray everywhere and it's so loud and impressive. dettifoss is also famous for the double rainbows[11,13-14,17-20] due to the plume of spray. we were lucky and the sun came out for a few minutes, so we could witness the double rainbow.
then we drove on and had to go over some high pass. we got pretty near to snowfields. as i wanted to have a snowball fight with ninsti from the first day on, this was the perfect chance. so we stopped in the middle of nowhere[31,35] and headed towards a small snowfield. but it was big enough to have loads of snowball fun[32-34] - yippieh! just for the record: ninsti won, but only because she was a little sick, so i was gentle and did not rub snow in her face. well... but she did. of course.
later that day we arrived in seyðisfjörður, a small bay with a bigger harbour. at the hostel we got the last free room, as there just arrived a ferry. puh, lucky us. we rarely have seen so many people in one hostel. pretty unusual.

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Mon, 20 Sep 2010
iceland, day 08 (0 comments)
ninsti absolutely wanted to do some whale watching, and today was the day. so we got to the harbour and bought two tickets. then we got on a boat and started the whale watching tour[001-029]. we left the bay and were navigating out to the open sea. we got some special clothing[013,021] to keep our bodies warm and dry. the wind got really cold on the open sea, and also the weather was not so good. nonetheless ninsti and i had pretty much fun in the front of the deck. there was the most action with boat rocking, almost like on a roller coaster. while we had a lot of fun the other attendants sat around on the boat, it seemed like some of them got a little sea sick. others seemed a little bored. so we navigated for about two hours and still had not seen a single whale. there was a french researcher on board too, who climbed the lookout[007,011,014], and also kept looking for whales. in vain. unlucky us[025]. the tour guide served hot chocolate, and we had a nice chat with christian (he is german), our tour guide. he was quite surprised we still had loads of fun on the boat, even without any whales, while the rest of the crew got rather frustrated and/or pissed off. so, although we didn't see any whale, we had a nice (but pretty expensive) boat trip. the tour guide told us, we can come back any time with the ticket and get another free ride, since this rarely happens that there is not a single whale around. we were happy, and now have a good reason to come back to húsavík. one more good thing: we now know that we do not get sea sick (easily), as the boat trip was quite shaky.
next we wanted to pay a visit to the phallological museum[032-033] in húsavík. we have already planned that weeks ago. but, again we were out of luck, as it was already closed. poor us. no whales, no phalli. so we drove on and soon came to a geothermal power plant in bjarnaflag[041-083]. the ground was really warm and all over the place was a sulfur stench. it also seemed to me that i was on some foreign planet with all the steam clouds and the strange colour mixture of the earth, the water, and the sky. also the steam exhausting from the power station was making a lot of noise. this place was really impressive.
we didn't know that it would get even more strange. we just passed a little hill and got to another very weird place, namely hverir[086-130], a place with some big sulfuric fields with geothermal activity and mud pots.
next our guidebook suggested we go to the grjótagjá[131-141] rift. there's also a little cave with hot water along the rift. the lava ground around the area is craggy and quite fun to walk around it. after enjoying the warm air inside the cave we drove on and entered birkiland[142-143], a small strange area full of birch trees, most likely planted by someone to build this little place.
after leaving[144] birkiland, our next planned stop was dimmuborgir[145-182], the land of dark castles. and trolls. we decided to take the small round through the area since it was already a little late. we almost finished it, when we decided to take a different route as shown on a map. we thought this would be a shortcut, leading us directly to the exit. so we took this path. at one point the path split up and we thought both of them would show us the way to the exit. so ninsti took one path and i took the other one. well, so far what we thought... in fact we were led astray by a troll that somehow must have manipulated the map signs. because instead of taking a shortcut, we walked deeper into the dimmuborgir area. no people, no ninsti, not even the slightest sound. i was totally alone. it was an amazing experience in this awesome landscape. only once i could hear a crow. after walking for quite a long time i crossed the road we initially wanted to take, and headed for the exit. worryingly i was the first at the car, although i followed a dead-end path when we split up. so i thought ninsti was always in front of me and should have arrived prior to me. now i got a little worried, and walked to the nearby closed cafe, where they had a nice platform with a good view over a small part of the entire dimmuborgir area. i shouted, and whistled, but no answer. i waited and waited, and finally... ninsti also arrived at the car. what a relieve. ninsti accidentally took the wrong turn at the crossing point from our supposedly shortcut with the small round path. so she added a few extra kilometres to the dimmuborgir hike. i still think all this was done by a troll[154,179]. happy that we got out there safe, we decided to get to the next hostel.
it was already dark when we arrived at the HI hostel in kópasker. but they had a cat (yippieh!) and a very friendly and nice hostel owner who offered his huge collection of books and CDs to all the hostel guests in a big lounge. really a great hostel.

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Sun, 19 Sep 2010
iceland, day 07 (0 comments)
first thing we did today, after having a breakfast, packing the stuff, checking out of the hostel, and bringing our stuff to the car, was going down to nearby beach[001-011] to see the seal colony[013-014,066-075,078-079]. there really have been a lot of the seals, lying around. and close to the colony was a huge and impressive petrified troll[004-005,040-042,044-046,048-049,055,060,065,076].
another thing i noticed was the huge amount of dead creatures like jellyfish[007-010,022-023,025-026], birds[027-032,034-037,082], and others[019,033,038-039,059].
then we got on the car and found the gas tank to be pretty empty once more. it's really hard to do a good calculation of how far you get with tank contents. but we made it to the next gas station again. and again we were really close to an empty gas tank. fully refueled we drove on to blönduós. our guidebooks said there's an extraordinary church[088-094] there, so we headed towards the big building in blönduós that had a big stone cross on the green. unfortunately the church was closed, but it really looked different on the outside from what i knew about churches. after another free coffee at N1 we headed towards akureyri[123-125]. we especially loved the heart shaped red traffic light. very, very cute.
next sight we had planned to see today was goðafoss[135-161], a big waterfall. since the sun had already set and it got darker and darker we were the only ones at the waterfall. another very impressive waterfall. so loud, so full of spray, so full of power. it is said, that at this location iceland's law speaker had thrown statues of his former god into the river and the people of iceland converted to catholicism.
it was already late when we drove on to húsavík. there was no HI hostel, so we read in our "lonely-planet" guidebook to find a good and cheap accommodation. we found a guesthouse in the center of a housing estate. it was run by an old couple. very nice people actually. in the garage the old man had a huge motorcycle. right next to the garage with the motorcycle was our room and the shower. pretty strange alignment of the rooms. unfortunately they had no cat there in the guesthouse.

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Sat, 18 Sep 2010
iceland, day 06 (0 comments)
day 06 was even more dedicated to covering distance than the day before. so we were driving along the northern coast of iceland all day long. hm... we didn't even stop for a waterfall once. wow. but we had to stop for sheeps[07-10] and horses[18-20].
the former because they were collected from all over the region to one central place where they later on get split up again, according to their label. this way each farmer gets back their sheeps again (if they had not died somewhere in the rugged landscape). so we witnessed a small sheep drive, where people on horses and with dogs collected all the sheeps.
next was again a lot of driving, driving, and driving. we decided to go to vatnsnes to spend the night in a HI hostel. a few kilometres away from the hostel we saw a sign next to the road that had a seal on it. we stopped there, as our guidebooks said this is a good area for seal watching. so we got off the car, explored the local beach[41-83] there. it took us quite a while, but then we finally spotted one - a seal[80-81]. oooooh, sooooo cute. at first only i spotted it and told ninsti, but the seal had gone underwater pretty quick. thus ninsti didn't believe me at first, but then, after quite a while it came back, just as we had already decided to leave again. what a smart animal.
shortly after that we arrived at the hostel, and the lady at the reception told us that right close to the hostel there's an even better place for seal watching, since there are hundreds of them lying around. oooh, if only we had known! but we will go there tomorrow, that's for sure. totally awesome things we spotted that evening/night: a calico cat and - again - northern lights! so absolutely wonderful...

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Fri, 17 Sep 2010
iceland, day 05 (0 comments)
this day was a day mainly dedicated to covering some distance and getting on. but of course we stopped at a waterfall[001-010] not far from our hostel for a little warm-up. though an unnamed one, it was also impressive (as all the other waterfalls too). our way led us away from the coast and fjords over passes[014-033] again, on red roads[015,020-024].
we also had to pass through a single lane tunnel. it was pretty long and for the oncoming traffic there were turnouts every few hundred metres. funny thing is, we were pretty much the only ones going the eastward direction, while loads of cars (for iceland that makes a sum of around four) where driving westward. but we had the lane that always had the right of way. hehe. at the foot of a plateau we had a planned stop for the dynjandi waterfall[042-116]. ok, there is an increase in impressiveness for the waterfalls, from time to time. this one definitely is one example. actually dynjandi is more a collection of waterfalls. five smaller ones and a very big one at the top, where one has to do a little climbing to get up there. but it definitely is worth every effort one has to undergo to get up there. the cascades[092-108] are totally awesome. as always, we were totally alone up there (although some english guy[086] started to go up there too with us, but he soon gave up to climb all the way up - poor him, he really missed the greatest part of that site). a fact i really appreciate a lot.
for the rest of the day we were driving again. passing sheeps, passes, and fjords again, heading for the HI hostel in korpudalur. when we arrived, a family now living in the house told us the hostel had closed for winter break on the 15th of september. so we were two days late - damn. but the people now living in the hostel (i think they spend the winter there to keep the house in good shape) phoned some nearby accommodations.
very nice of them, but we decided to drive to ísafjörður (since we also needed an ATM, which is hard to come by in iceland, food and a gas-station). once more it got pretty close with the gas, but again we made it - lucky us. ísafjörður is a really huge town (around 3500 people), and i also spotted a black cat on our way from the car to the reception of the hostel. a good place to stay. as there were not many guests, we even got the six-bed room just for the two of us, so plenty of space for us.

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Thu, 16 Sep 2010
iceland, day 04 (0 comments)
day 04 started with a good breakfast at the hostel, then going on in our circular, clockwise round trip around the island. soon we stopped again to find a beautiful small river[005-025]. of course there were sheeps, the living[004] and the dead[009-010,019-022] ones. they are everywhere, and almost always in groups of three. this has always been this way, also already 15 years ago - just the way i remembered it. maeeeeh. actually it's quite amazing how good they can walk the grounds and climb up high mountains. quite often you see three small white (or black) spots in a very steep mountain side.
next we came to a emergency hut[065-077] on a mountain pass. the box was mounted with screws and steel-strings to the ground, so i guess this one is really a safe place, no matter what's happening outside, be it a storm, heavy snowfall, hail, rain, etc. since it was no emergency, we decided to not stay in this box for this night, but rather go on.
you see waterfalls everywhere here in iceland. another beautiful (though unnamed) one we spotted was this one[080-094]. there was also a place to rest there with benches and a table, and since the weather was fine and the sun was shining, we decided to have a break there and grab some food[099-100]. after passing by a strange statue[104] we soon found another unnamed waterfall[109-133]. again pretty impressive and of course beautiful.
it already got a little dark when, on our way to our next hostel, we found an outdoor swimming pool[145-150]. steam going up from the water surface we assumed it was filled with water from a hot spring. so we stopped the car and soon found the source[147] of it. since the natural hot pot was quite small we decided to jump into the pool. the water was warm, the wind outside was cold, but it was superb and wonderful. we were in there for almost half an hour, and only one car passed by. so we were totally alone (once more) and could enjoy the surrounding and the hot spring water.
after the refreshing bath we drove on to bildudalur, where we spent the night at another HI hostel.

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Wed, 15 Sep 2010
iceland, day 03 (0 comments)
today morning ninsti told me she has seen a little cat in front of our hostel. unfortunately i was still brushing teeth while she already packed the car with our luggage, so i didn't see it. too sad - maunz. it didn't take long until we spotted another waterfall[006-029] where we stopped to explore it and take pictures. then we drove on to ólafsvík where there was a bigger church[032-035].
driving on we drove through the glacier area around snæfellsjökull [036-045], a nearly endless area with extrusive rocks covered with moss and short grass. saxhólar[046-057], a small volcano crater which one can climb, was our next stop.
skaðsvík[059-077] a wonderful beach was our next unplanned stop. since there was almost no wind in the small bay it got pretty warm. we even took off our shoes[067-075]. as usually we were totally alone again, enjoying the wonderful beach. i also found an alien egg shaped stone[076-077].
our first planned stop was svörtuloft[081-106], a cliff where birds, such as puffins and seagulls, use to build their nests and breed. unfortunately the puffins were already gone (as always). i wonder if i will ever see one in real one day. so, besides a lot of bird shit, wind, spray, and a wonderful lighthouse, there was not much else at the cliffs of svörtuloft. nonetheless, a very nice and impressive place (but i guess that is for every little spot in iceland)!
next signposted sight was fálki[107-150], a place full of ruins, a water well, and another lighthouse.
when we left the place we soon found two hitchhikers along the road. they were a belgian couple hiking through iceland. so we took them with us for quite a while. on our ongoing trip we came by malariff[153-154], a lighthouse in the shape of a rocket, lóndrangar[155], two huge stone columns, which are said to be elven churches. unfortunately there was no road that got us closer to the rocks. we dropped off the two hikers at a N1 gas-station. N1 stations are all over the country and we usually take a coffee break at them, because on the airplane there was a brochure giving away coupons for free coffee. we collected some of them. at the station there was also a map of the nearby area, and we found a hostel on the map. since it was very close we decided to go there. but when we got there we just found a house with some people in there. we were pretty surprised when the lady who opened the door told us that this map might have been a little outdated, since there is no hostel any more for more than ten years now. hehe. oh well... so we drove on to stykkishólmur to another HI hostel.

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Tue, 14 Sep 2010
iceland, day 02 (0 comments)
after getting up on day 02 we drove to a shop to get some things we would need like food, some plastic dishes and cups, and other stuff that might turn out useful on our trip. then we found a lovely place[001-030] near the sea where we had breakfast. there was pretty strong wind and a lot of seagulls[024-030]. they found a place of endless food it seems, since there was a spot where the sewage was pumped right into the sea. stinky, but the gulls liked it.
then we headed towards snæfellsnes. on our way there we passed a small church with a cemetery[032-038], stopped at a beach[058-078], had a strange encounter with psycho-horses (some were staring all the time, some were trying to chew our windscreen wiper jet washer, while others were sneaking around at the back of our car - no idea what they did there. so we tried to break free when we were surrounded by the horses. bad thing was, this street was a dead-end street. so we had to pass them by once more. another strange thing we encountered was spindrift[102-109] due to the heavy wind. small lakes beside the road spread their spray all over the street.
we had a break at another beach[113-144] again. i had troubles opening the door of the car since the wind was so heavy. again a lot of spray on the sea, resulting in lovely rainbows on top of the waves[120,124-126,129].
we saw a lovely waterfall from the street so we left the main and took a gravel road to get as close to it as possible. at the end of the road we found old vehicles[151-155] like a volvo and a digger. then we headed on to the waterfall[156-168]. it already got late and the sun set[169-173]. we ended up in grundarfjörður where we got to a hostel. again there was no one at the reception but a phone to call some guy again. we did so and got our keys. unfortunately the doors to the rooms lock once you close them. and of course ninsti and i both ended up being outside of our room with the key inside the room while we were cooking dinner. so we had to call the guy again with a "those stupid tourists"-look on his face. surprising wonderful thing we saw that night: northern lights - yippieh! i was chasing them on my sweden trip and it took ages until i first saw them and here it already happens on the second day. so wonderful.

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Mon, 13 Sep 2010
iceland, day 01 (0 comments)
after a stop in helsinki (+1 hour) and all together eight hours of travelling, we - ninsti [33] and me - arrived at kevlavik international airport in iceland (-2 hours) at around 17:00 o'clock. there we fetched our car from the car-rental desk and packed our stuff into a lovely little golden toyota yaris. ninsti totally liked the colour, i would have preferred black i guess. since the journey so far was pretty strenuous and we didn't get any sleep on the train from vienna/linz to munich because of totally uncomfortable seats in the compartment we decided to go to njarðvík[01-04] and get a hostel there to get some decent sleep. the reception of the hostel was closed, but there was a phone next to it with a button labeled "reception", which automagically dials some number. on the other end of the line a lady was telling us we can have room number eight, she will be at the hostel shortly. great. so we put our stuff into room number eight, grabbed our cameras and were strolling around the harbour[05-47], which is just opposite the hostel, and njarðvík city[48-60].
later the lady showed up at the reception and convinced us to get a hostelling-international membership, since there are about 36 hostels all over the island and as a member you get rooms cheaper. so we bought it and already got our first discount on the first room. nice. the room was fine and we both went to bed pretty early.
after 15 years i'm back again to iceland. i wonder how much it had changed...

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Sat, 14 Aug 2010
tyrol and alpine zoo in innsbruck (0 comments)
been to tyrol and innsbruck today to meet with a friend of mine. since the weather was perfect we decided to go to the alpine zoo[01-68] in innsbruck. bears, vultures, eagles, lynxes, chamois, moose, bison, and loads of other animals.
i preferred the lynxes though. so cute, and with two small new born family members.
later we also did a small sightseeing tour[69-89] through innsbruck. the golden roof[69-70,84-85] of course, and we climbed the stadtturm to get a fabulous view[71-87] over the town.
what a wonderful trip...

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Wed, 28 Jul 2010
dragonfly (0 comments)
on my way to jake's car i found a (unfortunately) dead dragonfly in the garage of the university of applied science in hagenberg. i took it with me to take a few pictures of it. turned out the animal looks quite interesting when zoomed in.
i think i should mention it also was also quite dirty...

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Wed, 14 Jul 2010
aist (0 comments)
another trip to the aist valley to take a few pictures. this time with my co-worker manuela. she got a new camera, so she asked me if i would like to join her taking pictures. well, of course i did!
the scenery was awesome as ever, unfortunately a lot of people.

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Sun, 13 Jun 2010
baptism ceremony (0 comments)
today my nephew florian was baptised. yippieh!

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Sat, 05 Jun 2010
poland trip, day 03 (0 comments)
today we had a hiking day to szyndzielnia mountain. there's a cable car[01-04] going up that mountain. the weather was perfect and we were not alone - a lot of people[06,08-09] had the same idea. near the cable car station there's a wonderful meadow where we enjoyed the wonderful view and the nice weather.
there's also a restaurant where we had lunch. i accidentally ordered a caramel "karmi" beer[13] (it's actually more a root beer). pretty interesting in taste, yet definitely not my favourite. i also had dumplings[14], which were delicious. later we got back to bielsko biala again.
what a wonderful day

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Fri, 04 Jun 2010
poland trip, day 02 (0 comments)
second day in bielsko biala, we first had breakfast at the hotel, then went to the nearby river to see some recently flooded areas[01-03]. the pavement was washed away, and the water level of the river was still pretty high. we took a long stroll through the city, seeing shops[04,09-14, 22,36], old houses[05,13,15-20,28,31,33-41,44-45] and fronts[06-07,26-27,32,42-43] with graffiti or art decorations of all kind.
amongst the houses was a famous one, namely the frog house[15-19], which is an old art nouveau house in the centre of bielsko biala with frogs and bugs on the front. next stop was the cemetery[49-52].
at the hotel we had a fantastic view over a firework[56-69] nearby (we don't know why there was one, but we enjoyed it).

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Thu, 03 Jun 2010
poland trip, day 01 (0 comments)
it was short after my russia trip that olga and i decided to visit our friend lukasz in poland. he lives in bielsko-biala. so we met today today at the railway-station in vienna to leave for poland at around 07:00 in the morning. the train ride[01-09] took us more than seven hours. unfortunately we got off at the wrong station, so we ended up on an abandoned railway station, namely bielsko-biala north[09-18]. since i like abandoned stuff, i enjoyed the station. yet, we had an appointment with lukasz at the main station, so we tried to get there somewhere else, since there was no timetable or any other information about the next train to the right station on the platform. so we found a nearby bus station[10] where we called lukasz. he told us the next train will be in 20mins. so we got back to the station again. olga's phone was broken as soon as she landed in vienna, which gave us troubles. we changed phones from time to time, so she could text her people at home and i could still be available for calls or text messages. this solution worked quite well.
so, later than we had planned we finally met with lukasz and his girlfriend at the main station. we then drove to the hotel by bus, checked in, and left our luggage there, got back to the city again (the ride took us about 30 minutes to get to the centre of the town). on the main square we went to a restaurant to have some typical polish dish, named "zurek"[19] (aka sour rye soup), an edible bowl made of bread filled with boiled potatoes and sausage inside. quite tasty. lukasz then showed us around a bit. we came by a pissing boy[20-21] (like the manneken pis in bruxelles).
for the rest of the evening we were strolling around the streets[22-27] of bielsko-biala.

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Fri, 23 Apr 2010
nostromo in mother russia land, day 12 (0 comments)
last day in mother russia land. so we went to moscow's kremlin once more, to also see the enclosed part[01-49], which of course requires to pay some entrance fee. inside there were only a few people, which we really enjoyed. first thing you see when entering the inner kremlin is trinity tower[01,48]. then we walked by the state kremlin palace[02], the assumption cathedral[05-08], archangel's cathedral[09], the annunciation cathedral[11], the twelve apostle's cathedral[12-15,26], the armoury chamber and the backside of the kremlin palace[17-23].
standing in front of the tsar bell[28-29], that is world's largest bell (but it was never rung because it broke during a big fire) was quite impressive, same with the tsar canon[33-38], one of the largest canons ever made. finally a walk over ivan square and cathedral square[39-47] led us to the exit again. i really hope i got all those cathedrals here right, it might easily be i mixed them up somehow - if so, i'm sorry. inside the cathedrals no photography was allowed. too sad.
then we drove home, i packed my things and olga's uncle fetched us and drove us to the airport, where olga's father is working. he said we should come a little earlier, so he could show us the new airport tower they were just building at the airport area. so we climbed up and ended on the open roof of the tower. it was very windy and cold, clouds were coming up along with rain. but i enjoyed the view. unfortunately, no photography again (due to airport security concerns). a final coffee at the airport and then olga and her father left. it then began to snow. in the end of april. what a contrast to the weather back in austria... it was a really impressive trip to this fascinating, but also strange country. i encountered nice people, wonderful landscapes, very impressive buildings, and weird bureaucracy. thanks a lot to olga's and dima's family, and friends for their hospitality, their willingness to spend some time with me.

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Thu, 22 Apr 2010
nostromo in mother russia land, day 11 (0 comments)
for today we planned a trip to gorky park. but before that we started our day once more at costa coffee[01] the place we already have been several times. they have good coffee, free wifi and nice cakes and the like. via the metro[02-03] we got to the bridge again to search for the geocache once more[05-16], but besides a nice view we did not find anything at all.
so, admittedly a little frustrated, we went on heading towards gorky park[17-91]. there were almost no people there besides us, and also most of the fun park attractions were under construction[27-28,33]. since olga and dimas like shooting (it seems), they stopped at some shooting galleries[45-52] and had fun.
inside gorky park there's is another little park[55-91] full with statues and monuments that were deconstructed. they were then collected over time and brought there. so you can find lenin busts right next to stalin busts. foreigners here have to pay almost double the price than locals.
after our visit to gorky park we brought dimas to the railway station since one of their cats got very ill. so he took the train back to get some veterinarian help for the pet. i hope the cat will be fine. olga is pretty worried about it too... ps: it's lenin's birthday today.

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Wed, 21 Apr 2010
nostromo in mother russia land, day 10 (0 comments)
day 10 was entirely dedicated to doing touristy stuff. of course first thing to do was to go to the kremlin's red square[004-020,075-102], to saint basil's cathedral[016-055], the gum department store[011,056-074], and some historical place[015] where people were beheaded a few centuries ago, nowadays used by people as a wishing well. unfortunately lenin's mausoleum[012] was closed due to preparation[010,012-013,091] works for the 65th anniversary of victory in WW2 celebration, and kremlin would have been open for only one more hour, so we decided to come back here on friday, the day of my departure.
so we went by metro[103-108] to get to a park where we met with two friends of dimas (although the second one, alexander, was a bit late, so we met him after the walk through the park). on our way to the park we came by the monument to the conquerors of space[109-110,195] which also houses the memorial museum of cosmonauts in the lower floors of the monument. the monument itself is 107 metres high and on top of it there's a rocket. the park, called all-russia exhibition centre[112-194] (aka "VDNKh-USSR") consists of many pavilions, loads of sculptures (including the quite famous one named "worker and kolkhoz woman"), fountains, a ferris wheel, and many other stuff. since the area of the park is bigger than monaco, we only had a look at some places there like the propylaea[112-114,117,123] the central pavilion[118,120-128], a fountain[129-135] dedicated to the friendship of nations, a pavilion[136,143, dedicated to moscow, ryazan, and tula regions, another pavilion[137,139,178] dedicated to uzbek SSR, next to the ukraine pavilion[146-148,162-170], a pavilion[157] dedicated to mechanization and a spaceship[149-155] and an airplane[159-160] right next to it.
guess what, all this stuff is next to another pavilion[158], namely one dedicated to cotton, which is next to a pavilion[179] dedicated to karelia, which is located right beside the pavilion[180] of armenia, which... we entered. puh. inside[181-184] were a cafe, and some shops which were already closed.
next we took a ride on "moscow-850"[185-193], a ferris wheel, constructed for moscow's 850th anniversary back in 1997. it's around 75 metres high and you get a good overview over the exhibition park and moscow. then we went to some sushi bar and had very delicious meal there. alexander then offered to drive us around a bit, so i could get a glimpse on moscow by night. of course i didn't want to miss that chance. so we got on his car and drove to kremlin[196-203] again. this time there were almost no people. another thing alexander wanted to show me was a bridge[207] where young couples put on locks. i have already seen several of these locks on all kind of bridges, but this one was quite impressive. they put up iron trees[204-209] and all locks were attached to those trees. next stop was another cathedral[210-212], another bridge[213-215] (we thought there should be a geocache, but we never found it. even when we returned there in daylight, the next day. but there were construction works going on, so maybe the cache was inaccessible). then we stopped at a nice viewing platform[216] which gave an impressive view over moscow.
last stop was a park that had clown statues[219-225] all over the place. looks like it was founded by some clown enthusiast[217].
unfortunately alexander had to get up the next morning early to go to work. so we then stopped the tour. thanks very much for this awesome and interesting tour through moscow, alexander!

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Tue, 20 Apr 2010
nostromo in mother russia land, day 09 (0 comments)
not much happened today so no pics again. we got up early, olga's mom drove us to the railway station of bryansk, we got on the train, we stopped in sukhinichi, had a look at the toys they were again selling at the station, played some multiplayer games on three nintendo DSs, ate, drank, and got off six hours later at around 15:30 in moscow. there we took the metro to get to a station where we were fetched by olga's uncle by car and brought back to the place i've already been on the first day. so far i've only seen three metro stations in moscow, but most of them (namely two) were very impressive. there are a lot of security and police men, so i hope i can somehow take pictures of them without running into troubles, because they think i try to make plans for the next bomb attack on moscow's metro. since all of us were quite tired, and i'm still not fully recovered yet (but feeling way better), we decided to not go back to the city, but rather go to the shopping mall with the IKEA, OBI, H&M, C&A, mango, esprit, and all the other shops we have in shopping malls in austria too. untypically i had american food today in a friday's restaurant. plain old boring burger i had. no borscht, too sad. also i already miss the cats, and i'm very curious about moscow by now.

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Mon, 19 Apr 2010
nostromo in mother russia land, day 08 (0 comments)
i stayed home today, because i got a terrible cold, headache, and a sore throat. so olga did some stitching, i was mostly sleeping, surrounded by sleeping cats. only exciting thing that happened today was the news of the first flight from russia to vienna by aeroflot after the volcano eruption in iceland. still three days left, i hope things are back to normal then.

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Sun, 18 Apr 2010
nostromo in mother russia land, day 07 (0 comments)
today was a strange day. firstly i woke up with a cold, headache and a sore throat, secondly olga got bitten by one of her dogs while they were fighting the neighbour's dogs. there was blood all over her clothes. so we went back inside to have her change clothes. then we were walking through bryansk again, having a coffee[01], and going to a market[02-03]. there they had all kind of stuff like food, clothes, accessories, and covers for mobile phones. i bought one for mine. also, i saw two teenage girls sucking cock in public there. but besides me and olga no one cared about that it seemed. well, unfortunately i didn't take pictures of that, but olga said she might do that one day, especially for me, so i can take a picture of her while she will be sucking cock. the only problem is to find those rooster-shaped lollipops somewhere. they were all red and looked quite delicious - nomnom. after strolling around[04-13] for quite a long time, we took a bus[14-16] back home to enjoy the presence of the cats[17-29].
we had some barbecue in the backyard of the house with olga, her mother, her sister, her nephew and niece, dima, me, the dogs and the cats. unfortunately i did not feel too well, so i went to bed early and could not really enjoy the barbecue.

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Sat, 17 Apr 2010
nostromo in mother russia land, day 06 (0 comments)
"what do you want to see in russia?" olga asked me when i said i will visit her. i said i would be interested in abandoned stuff, like houses, cities, villages, and such. and so today was the big day for such things. but before leaving to those places, we had to go to the doctor, because in the night dima and olga's mom were keeping the dogs from killing a hedgehog, and dima was hurt when trying to lift up the hedgehog, so we went to the doctor to have him checked for rabies and having a vaccination if necessary. the doctor said if the dog, who also got injured by the hedgehog, would still be alive in ten days, everything will be fine with dimas. nice prospect. afterwards we drove to the town where dima was born and his family still lives, to see some abandoned villages. the first place we visited was a memorial[005] for a burnt down village during the second world war. several hundred people were killed by german soldiers here. next place was a small abandoned village[009-034]. actually it was not abandoned entirely, because there was still one house where an old couple was living. the old lady[025] showed me around. she told olga that they lost almost all their bee hives[027-028] due to too much snow. inside the house they had several ovens for heating and cooking, and an old cat lying next to one oven. in this village there was also a geocache[030] hidden. there is a geocaching site for russia, that's why i did not find any caches on geocaches.com, but geocaches.ru did the trick. since those two sites are not really connected (in terms of caches and users), i still have my traveling bug with me. i hope i can get rid of it in moscow.
then we drove on to the next abandoned village[036-084]. we found a place where someone was collecting juice from a birch[075]. it's pretty common here and so birch juice is easy to get here. it tasted like water with a little sugar in it. after that we got to a holy spring[088-110]. they even built a small hut there for people that want to take a bath in the holy water. it is said that one gets young and good looking if they wash their face with that water. so i did wash my face - maybe it helps, we'll see. afterwards we had some sort of barbecue[106- 107]. dima's father brought some lard[110] and bread. quite tasty, and common (according to olga), but definitely not my favourite every-day food.
last building we stopped by was an abandoned school[119-131]. people started to dig at the corners of the ruins, because rumour has it that there should be some gold hidden (of course there was none - i was looking myself). then we stopped by at dima's parents to have dinner. we had some chicken with salad, of course borscht, and a delicious cake for dinner. all served with several rounds of vodka (yes, i ended up slightly drunk this evening). on our way home we were listening to scooter (because olga's mother likes it and thus had a CD in the car), stopped at a super market to buy some food and at the train station to buy our tickets for the train back to moscow on tuesday.

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Fri, 16 Apr 2010
nostromo in mother russia land, day 05 (0 comments)
today we planned to go to another part of bryansk. but first we had to get back my piece of paper they kept the day before. the lady in the office pointed at a box where quite a lot of papers like mine where in. so as picky as they are when it comes to bring everything and having filled out everything, as sloppy they are when it comes to handing out back any forms or papers. we could have just taken any pieces of paper, which for sure would have meant loads of troubles for the people that would have ended up without them. but of course we didn't. we walked around a bit until we came to, what olga called it, the suicide bridge of bryansk[008]. according to olga a lot of people here commit suicide. next olga showed me an abandoned bridge[013-020]. though fully functional it is not used by anyone. so no cars, just a few pedestrians and one woman on a bike were there. also i'd way more prefer this bridge to commit suicide, if i'd ever decide to end my life in this city. next we walked to the university, a place where olga was working once. there were so many girls, i totally forgot to take any pictures (or actually i was so busy staring, i had no time to take pictures). so olga dragged me away from the main buildings and showed me the area[024-072] around the university, again with abandoned buildings[028-045], bridges[051-071] and huge areas of swamp, wood, and meadows. on the bridge there were a lot of locks. they are put up there by newly wed couples, and on most of them there's something written on it.
on our way back we found an old, but still working public telephon booth[078-080] (or... sort of booth). it still was beeping when we lifted the receiver. later we met one of olga's neighbours[082-085] and the girl asked me to take pictures of them. after having a coffee break we went on to see another memorial[088-094] where people of bryansk were offered to help building it. right next to the memorial is some amusement park[095-098,114-116], an abandoned ski jump[099-113], and an abandoned driving school[118-124]. the amusement park unfortunately was closed.
on our way back home we hit rush-hour it seemed, so loads of people[129-135] waiting for, and in the buses. notice that about 90% of the girls here wear shoes with (very) high heels. back home we had dinner. of course borscht, a soup called okroshka[139], and belmin[140-148], which we made ourselves. at first we stuffed the dough ourselves, but then olga's mom came up with some device[146] to speed up things a little bit. as usual, very delicious.

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Thu, 15 Apr 2010
nostromo in mother russia land, day 04 (0 comments)
fourth day in russia started out with dealing with russian public authorities again. i have to be (re?)registered within three working days, once i had entered the russian federation. i think this is just to make sure that i really got fetched from the airport by the person that is named in the visa, and that i really still stay with them. so we went to some administrative office to have the paper work done. they require a copy of my passport, my visa and some paper that i was handed out when waiting for the passport control on my first day here. the paper was split into two parts, both requiring exactly the same information to be filled out, namely again my name, the place where i stay, the sequence number of my visa, when i arrive, when i leave, etc... so all this information by now should be registered at least a five, six times. but... yet they wanted olga (of course the both of us had to be there personally) to fill out all this again on two double-sided forms. the first part of the paper i handed out to someone at the airport when i came to russia, the second part i have to hand out when i will leave. they say if i don't have the second part when leaving russia, i might get into serious troubles. ok, so i just always put it into my passport. i should be able to not lose this one. the bad thing actually is, the lady at this office kept the second part. notice, she sent us away to get a copy of it, still she keeps the original. so we have to go there tomorrow to get it back. oh well... after spending about one hour at this agency, we went to some other part of bryansk. we got there by bus. they have two types of buses here: small ones, that are actually vans that have about ten seats in them and they drive quite fast. the other type of bus is an ordinary one as i know them from austria. you get on, have a seat and get off somewhere. in both of the buses you pay as you get on. on the first one you hand over the money to the driver, in the second one a lady is coming to you to collect the money. no matter how far you go, be it one station or 20, you always pay the same price, 12 rubles. so we finally arrived at an historical place, namely another first settlement found here. there was a graveyard again[01-06], and hiking a little off road, we got near to the flooded river[07-25] of bryansk. after a while we got back to a road[26-34] again, which we took to get back to o&d's office. there we had what they call "business lunch". they offered "schnitzel" there, but i had minced meat with smashed potatoes and of course borscht[36] and some strange, but very tasty fruit-juice[35]. coffee was next[37]. after getting on a bus again we got to the monastery[38-52]. there was a mass, and i dared to enter a little (but not to the room where the mass was taking place).
olga stayed outside, she had no clothes to cover her hair and dress properly to enter the church[41-43]. next to the church is a little "graveyard"[44-45] of dead monks and the house for the highest monks[46,50]. the rest unfortunately was not open to public[48]. behind the monastery there was a cool toilet[51], and some stairs[54-59] leading to a small spring[60-61] where one could take a bath. next our trail led us through a wood and a swamp[62-86] to some meadow next to the river. finally we arrived at the cemetery[87] again and took a bus to o&d's home again, where we had bryansk some beer.
then we went home and had blov, a dish made of rice, vegetables, and meat. reminded me of risotto somehow. today iceland's volcano had a break out. aeroflot canceled all flights from and to europe. if the volcanic ash cloud wont disappear within the next seven days, i'm in troubles. i guess. i just don't want to deal with visa-issues and russian authorities anymore...

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Wed, 14 Apr 2010
nostromo in mother russia land, day 03 (0 comments)
today olga and me were strolling around in bryansk. the city itself is rather split up, with loads of woods and swamps in between. so we focused on the centre. first we went to a chernobyl memorial[13-14], armenian's memorial[16-17], some public school[19-21] where one can just walk through the backyard of it, bokrovskaya mountain[34-40] the place where the first settlement was (or at least the people believe so). next stop was the obligatory "lenin" place[47]. every town has it, together with some lenin street and most of the time some lenin statue. olga said at some time people wanted to remove the statues, but then they decided that it's part of history, so they just left all the names and statues as they are. next place i was shown was a memorial[51-52] of soldiers that died during the second world war.
next we arrived at the company of o&d[61-74]. they are producing flash games for mobile phones, so there were some artists and some coders, and two bosses. all of the staff was very friendly and they gave me a warm welcome (i hope they were not forced to do so by dimas or they would get fired).
last sight was tolstoy park[75-89] with wooden sculptures. olga told me that once there was a park with very old and big trees. but one day all of them got some strange disease and people tried to save the trees, but they couldn't. so the trees had to be cut down, and artists were encouraged to make some sculptures out of the wood blocks. later we went to some little grocery shop[90-91] and we bought some traditional russian ice cream. it tasted nice and was actually not very different from what we have - surprise, surprise.
it seems like russians don't go out for dinner or coffee. thus there are only a few cafes in bryansk. poor me, i'm used to sight seeing then having a coffee break here and there and then going on. here i have to wait for quite a long time to get to a cafe[92]. but once we found some we have some desert and cafe. very nomnom, just like the rest of all the food i had tried so far. after coffee we went to olga's sister olesya and her kids. they also gave me a warm and kind welcome. there i had caviar. later dimas joined us, since he finished working and the company is just around the corner of olesya's place. so we went home and had once more a very delicious meal prepared by olga's mother. this time she made buckwheat with chicken hearts and sour-cream sauce. rather strange to me, but very tasty. nomnom. the rest of the evening we spent playing some wii games and having fun. ps: there are _no_ geocaches here in bryansk. too sad...

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Tue, 13 Apr 2010
nostromo in mother russia land, day 02 (0 comments)
this day started off with a nice breakfast at "costa cafe"[03] at the shopping mall we've already been to yesterday. the cafe can be found right next to an "obi" store[02] there. for breakfast i had a croissant with miscellaneous fruits[03]. then we were brought to the "bryansk railway station"[05-15] in moscow by olga's father and uncle to get our train to bryansk. the station itself is very beautiful with loads of nice details and a huge hall[09]. the train ride lasted six hours and there were only two stops. russia is pretty vast, so going by train here has some other meaning than going by train in austria. additionally we had a sleeping compartment, so we took some naps[14] during the journey. the second stop was in "sukhinichi". at the platform there were sold loads of plush toys[15].
at the station in bryansk we were fetched by olga's mother that drove us to my new home for the next few days. in the pretty big house there are nine cats (maunz!) and three dogs (although they have to stay outside). olga's mother also prepared some very very delicious food like some pie[19] with meat and potato filling, borscht (but without beetroot, since olga does not like it it seems), and very nice halibut. afterwards we had some japanese tee and nice cherry cake made by olga herself.
woah, so much eating, i'm not used to that any more after my ireland trip...

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Mon, 12 Apr 2010
nostromo in mother russia land, day 01 (0 comments)
since the day i decided to go to russia only olga and dima, the people i stay with/at for the next few days, gave me a feeling of being welcome to russia. russian authorities so far totally did... not. applying for visa was a pita. at first, olga had to send me an invitation, because you must be registered to some place where you stay - be it a hotel or some private accommodation, as in my case. once this was done, i additionally had to bring a travel insurance, so that russia can easily get rid of me if i get sick on my journey. once you have all the stuff (which means besides all the previously mentioned stuff, things like a printed out request for the visa, two current pictures of yourself and some other stuff and forms i already forgot about) you can apply for a visa. in my case this means going to the consulate in salzburg. the totally annoyed and unmotivated guy behind a thick glass window then sent me away again with a postal money order, because they don't accept cash there. so, in a foreign city you have to fulfill the quest of searching for the nearest bank to pay the 35EUR for the visa request. notice, this is all just for the request - no guarantee you visa will be granted so far. i already have booked my flight, bought my travel insurance and would have most likely already booked a hotel, if i would be staying at one. funny thing is, the only word the guy at the consulate said to me through the two-way intercom was "no" when i asked if i could pay cash. the rest of the "conversation" was pointing at some notes that were put up somewhere in the room, or nodding or shaking his head. but, as you can guess, the visa request was approved - yippieh, lucky me! this also means i got my passport back again, after ten days in which it was kept in the russian consulate. of course i had to go to salzburg again to fetch it. the visa itself is a one-page entry stapled into my passport with a nice awesome hologram. people here are totally into this hologram-thingie it seems. besides the address where i stay it also has a line that represents my name in russian letters, so that people know how to pronounce my name - nice. at the airport i pretty felt unwanted again, as all the people that arrive at the airport are heading for passport control. but there were only two counter windows, and one of them was for diplomats only. so people were queueing up, me amongst them. it took an average of two minutes for the lady at the check-point for each person to check the visa and passport. although loads of other staff people were frequently running around, no other counter was opened. this way i spent one hour in a queue that was slowly getting smaller. when i was the fourth in queue, the lady at the counter decided to take a break now, leaving about 30 people waiting. finally it was decided by some other guy there that we were allowed to queue up at the "russian citizens" counter. this was speeding things up dramatically, because the average time per person suddenly was around 30 seconds. two lessons i got here: firstly, russians are never in a hurry, secondly, i am convinced by now that they really do not like visitors. fortunately the warm welcome by olga and dima made me forget about all these troubles pretty fast. we got fetched from the airport by olga's uncle and drove to some flat pretty close to moscow (though i really don't know how close it is to the center or the city limits). first thing i got to see here was a mall and an IKEA[10] (though the "I" was russianized to some strange letter). the opening hours here are from 10:00 to 23:00 o'clock. pretty cool. inside the mall were loads of shops you can find in austria too, like H&M, C&A, esprit, salamander (the shoe shop), MANGO, zara, and of course some McDonald's[03] (with some very, very weird russianized spelling).
since olga and dima (from now on referred to as o&d) were hungry we went to some uzbek restaurant called "kuschmusch"[09]. they had stuff like mutton, sheep, lamb meat and other stuff i've never heard of. so i was recommended some great soup with lamb meat, vegetables, potatoes and fine herbs ("shurpa"), and some dumplings with mutton meat and onions ("manty") as main dish. i was also allowed to taste a little from o&d's meals ("dolma", some rice mixed with meat, herbs and stuff wrapped into a grape leaf, and "chebureki", some dough with meat filling). everything tasted really nice - i now know that i would survive in uzbekistan. at least when it comes to eating. after dinner we were strolling around at the mall. besides the shops, restaurants (sushi and the like), a cinema, and cafes, there's also a big ice rink[04]. but it seemed everyone was fed up with winter in the meantime, so no one was skating. i was told the ice rink is opened even in summer - i think this is great fun. afterwards we went to a cafe[05-08] to have some exotic coffee (mine[08] was with white chocolate and other stuff) and sweets[07].
at the flat[01-02] we had some tequila (yop, no vodka - i was surprised myself), some russian sausage, bread, and russian chocolate (pretty dark one). so far, i think russia is a nice place. a bit brownish, swampy, and vast - but maybe that's just because i just came back from my ireland trip. so quite the opposite to what i had seen in the last few days. tomorrow we will go to bryansk by train. train tickets are registered to your name again and - of course - have a hologram. the trip will last for over six hours, and we share a compartment for four people, so most likely there will be another person with us. oh, and olga and me have to go to some police station(?) to have my stay here confirmed (or so?). i think this is just to make sure that i really stay with the person i named in the visa, and that i got fetched by the person that will be responsible for me during my stay here in russia. did i already mention that i sometimes do not feel welcome here? btw, today russians celebrate the "cosmonaut day". from now on it will also be known as "the day the starship has landed in russia". well... at least for me.

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Wed, 06 Jan 2010
sweden, day 10 (0 comments)
since we didn't get a guided cave tour we decided to at least have some fun with ski-doos (or snowmobiles as they're sometimes called) today. so we booked two ski-doos at "camp alta"[01-19] in kiruna. it turned out that there's a frozen lake we were riding our snowmobiles over and then had a track through the woods. we slowly increased the speed each time we had a long straight trail. we soon ended at 90km/h. pretty fast, pretty shaky, and... pretty cold. sonja and me had a little bit of our noses uncovered. we ended up with frostbites and dark red areas on our noses. actually i only uncovered my nose once for about five minutes. seems this was enough. sonja's burns were a little worse. poor her. ulli had no problems at all, her face was covered all the time it seems.
after having a lot of fun with the snowmobiles we got back on the car again to get closer to lulea. we decided to return our car there and take the night-train to stockholm. this would on the one hand save a lot of gasoline (thus money) and time. since it would have been a long way to lulea we decided to spend the night in gallivare. on the way there we saw two moose[37-42], and had again a nice sunset[47-68].
a few hours later we finally arrived in gallivare[70-77].

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Tue, 05 Jan 2010
sweden, day 09 (0 comments)
we decided to go back to abisko once again. first of all because they had a free room for us, secondly because we still hadn't seen any northern lights so far, and thirdly we still wanted to take the ski-doo tour. abisko seemed the perfect place for that. also there were caves and frozen waterfalls around the place. we wanted to go there. so the first thing of this day was to drive back again for three hours. unfortunately no guided tour was offered for the caves, so we decided to see the frozen waterfalls[01-30].
afterwards we drove back to the hostel, had again the very unique sauna-experience they offer there at abisko, when suddenly... we saw them! at 21:44 some chinese guy rushed into our room and said that there are northern lights outside. at first we didn't believe it, because a few days ago a chinese said he spotted them, but it turned out to be only a cloud in the sky. actually there were a lot of chinese people there. one said that's because there seems to be a very popular blog on a trip through north-sweden. it also mentions this hostel we stayed at we were told. additionally asian people believe that seeing northern lights gives a long life and loads of luck for the future. that's why we saw asian people quite often in sweden. but this time there really were northern lights. unfortunately not very bright and strong, but hey, at least there were some.
yippieh, we finally saw northern lights! again all my equipment froze including the tripod. i only took it with me to take northern lights pictures with it, and then some joints and turning handles just froze - weird. since, once more, also the battery pack stopped working, i couldn't take more pictures of this beautiful phenomenon.

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Mon, 04 Jan 2010
sweden, day 08 (0 comments)
this day we went around with thommy[049] and nadine[050-051]. they brought us to some nice spots near fjelldal (yop, an IKEA bed is called like this too). first one was a nice place where there were reindeer[005-019], then a beautiful beach[030-053] with frozen sand and the sea.
next stop was thommy's relatives, having a farm-house right next to the sea. there we had coffee (or tea as some of us preferred), delicious cakes, a nice talk, a cat[055-060,128], a baby[125-126], and a nice walk around the house down to the beach[061-091]. later we got a guided tour through the cow barn[095-122]. when we got out of the barn it already was dark again. so we drove back again to stay another night at thommy's place. once more we had awesome food like salmon and prawns with a very tasty sauce and white bread. nomnom.
the nights up in the north were so very bright and full of stars[133]. this is so incredible and quite often breathtaking. i've never seen that many stars in the sky. my camera really suffers a lot. the temperatures once more made it freeze, so focusing makes a really painful sound. also the battery did not last long again. warming up the cells helped though. and once more condensate fills the body and the lenses. poor canon. me on the other side by now enjoy the temperatures outside. yippieh.

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Sun, 03 Jan 2010
sweden, day 07 (0 comments)
day 07 turned out to become a day of relaxing, talking and doing research and planning stuff since we had no car key yet.
thommy brought us to the airport near narvik where a bus was leaving for the town center. ulli and me drove to get the key from thommy's friend in narvik. sonja was doing the laundry in the meantime. the bus ride took us more than one hour, but after that the guy with our key was already waiting at the parking lot and handed it over. we finally got access to our car again - yippieh! driving back by car took us again more than one hour. losing car keys is pretty time consuming we found out. since we lost so much time, all plans had to be changed. currently we think about not going back to stockholm by car, but rather stay in the north of sweden (and maybe norway too) and drive back by a night train at the end of our trip. this saves a lot of time and is less exhausting than driving by car on icy roads and in total darkness (since we want to use the few hours of daylight for our activities). still no northern lights, but norway is so much warmer, due to the sea. temperatures range from -15 to -5 degrees. pretty warm compared to the -32 degrees we had in north sweden.

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Sat, 02 Jan 2010
sweden, day 06 (0 comments)
today we didn't do quite much since sonja lost the keys to our car somewhere in narvik, norway. so all we did on day 06 was taking pictures of the hostel's cat, going to narvik by car, planning our next steps on the tour to finally, after hours of planning, finding out that the key is gone. the next few hours we spent searching in narvik for our key, walking again all the streets and places we've been to since we left the car. but no way, no key. luckily thommy, the guy we first met on new year's eve providing the people at the hostel with totally delicious salmon and crabs, gave us a call, since we said we are going to meet him today in norway.
so, instead of having a coffee with him, he helped us out a lot by doing all kind of mysterious phone calls to the local police and many other friends of him to get things arranged for us. so in the evening we had a promise of our car rental company to send the key to narvik train station by handing it over to some conductor where a friend of thommy would fetch it then from the station (our car rental company offered to bring the key in the same night to norway for around 500EUR). thommy said there's only someone at the station a few minutes before and after a train has arrived. additionally he asked the local police guy (yes, guy - there was just one police man on duty at the police station for a rather big town on a saturday night) to have an eye on the parking lot where we parked our car before losing the key. then thommy took us with him back to his house. a ride of a little longer than one hour. there we had a nice chat with him and his wife until late in the night. again we had absolutely delicious food like shrimps, salmon and other stuff they cooked for us. nomnom. hope the key will arrive tomorrow and everything will turn out fine...

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Fri, 01 Jan 2010
sweden, day 05 (0 comments)
after getting up at around 09:30 and not much sleep due to the new year's eve celebrations the night before we were heading to the meeting point for the dog sledge tour we booked for this day. again we met thomas, the guy we had much fun with since we arrived here at the hostel. he was giving instructions on how to put on the dog's harnesses and how to tie the dogs to the sledge. all people were divided into two groups. the first group started with the dogs while the other group was brought to some other meeting point with some ski-doo where the groups were switching then. i was in the group to start with the sledge. so there are four dogs keeping on running all the time, only stopped by a break you can step on with one foot while the other one resides on the sledge so you don't fall off. branches of trees and huge bumps on the trail made it quite hard in the beginning to stay on the sledge, but after a while one got used to it and felt quite comfortable riding the sledge. since there were more sledges for each group than people i could stay on the sledge when the groups shifted. i really enjoyed it and it was great fun. the girls also had a lot of fun, but more with the ski-doo ride over bumpy trails rather than with going with the sledge.
the pretty interesting thing was the fact that the dogs ate feces from other dogs. the guys told us it's because there's still a lot of useful thing in the turds the dogs can digest. but only the first poop after having eaten. the second round they leave untouched. i didn't bring my camera to the tour since i thought it's too dangerous for the equipment. i thought it would break if i fall off the sledge. but actually i never did. sonja took some pictures with her camera. i will try to put them online as soon as possible.

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