Monday, September 27, 2010

First day in Sarajevo

The hotel gave me a simple map, but it wasn't clear where I was on it. On the streets the cars were moving very fast. They seemed to come at me from all directions. There were pavements, but people had parked their cars on the full pavements, so you had to walk on the road to get around it. It didn't take long to find the pedestrian area. I didn't want to lose the route back to my hotel, so I spent a lot of time trying to pin my location on my map. I was at the entrance to the old town, by the Sebilj water fountain. It could not have been simpler.

The old town area was full of bustling shops selling food and trinkets. There looked as though there were a few crazy people on the street, but they didn't bother me. (Note there were the same amount of crazy people as you would see in Glasgow say). If you are interested in this sky religion business, there were many churches and cathedrals close to synagogues.

I was looking forward to seeing the Latin Bridge where archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated. This event triggered the start of the first world war, although perhaps it was just an excuse for the great powers to declare war on each other. It didn't take me much time to find the bridge. Given the amount of death caused by in the first world war, I expected to feel some bad vibes, but no. On the other side of the river was a nice little park and a cafe, that I spent much happy time reading in.

In the evening I decided to try some Bosnian food. So I had a kebab, which was very tasty.

First night in Sarajevo

After a 11 hour train journey I felt I needed beer. I dimly remember some words about a minibar in the description of the hotel. After a frantic 5 minutes of pulling open all the doors in my room, and even checking under the bed, I decided there was no fridge in my hotel room. So I thought, it is time for a walk.

As I went out of the hotel onto the road, I found I was close to a huge graveyard. So this is what they mean by "old town" I thought. Should I go up or down the hill. There was no prospect of exciting neon in either direction. I saw two couples come down the hill with white plastic bags that looked to contain groceries. So up the hill I went and I eventually found a mini market. Unfortunately, there was no cider so I couldn't go into the graveyard and drink in the traditional English manner. It is probably a good think that I didn't, because the grave stones didn't look very Christean.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The journey to Sarajevo

My plan for this holiday was to fly into Zargreb and then fly back from Sarajevo. This is possible with cheap airlines, because they are happy for you to take single journeys. I knew I could get the train from Zagreb to Sarajevo, but I hadn't looked into details such booking a ticket. I was slightly dismayed to see that the train took 9 hours. It started at 9:00 and got to Sarajevo at 18:00. Also various online posts told me that there was no dining car on the train, but that people would sometimes get on and sell food and drink.

I was bit nervous about this, because a number of things could go wrong. Also there are only two trains a day. The second train is a night train. For example if railway clerk didn't understand English then buying the ticket would be hard. As it was he did speak English. We did have a problem when his machine wouldn't except my credit card. Luckily the ticket was only about 35 Euro, so I had enough local currency to pay in cash.

The train was a standard local train with compartments of 6 seats. I have been spoilt in other parts of Europe with access to high speed trains. Luckily the train was only 25% full, so there was plenty of room. The train seemed to stop every 20 minutes or so at really small stations, so it was a real stopping train. It was never very clear that the place the train had stopped at was actually even a station. I usually couldn't see any signs, but people just got on or off. We did stop at some bigger stations with modern utilities such as platforms. My passport was checked at the Croatia-Bosnia border.

Most people just seemed to stay on the train for less than two hours. Only the really stupid people stayed on the full journey.

The 6 seat compartment trains are more social, because you are more likely to have to have to talk to other passengers, if course only if you can all speak the same language. These type of trains remind me of Agatha Christie novels, so I worry that I will get murdered. At one point in the journey we went through a tunnel with no lights on. This is it I thought.

I did talk to one guy who spoke English. He asked if he could smoke in the compartment. I said yes. He would just have gone into the corridor and smoked at the window like 50% of the other passengers, so it made no difference. He was training to be a lawyer. He also told me the train was almost 2 hours late. My heart sank, but at least I was spared the worry of trying to work out whether each little stop was Sarajevo.

After 11 hours the train stopped at a big station that I hoped was Sarajevo, so I got out. There seemed a lot of soldiers travelling in combat uniform, but unarmed. Somehow the train seemed bigger than the one I got on Zagreb. The station was small, grubby and quiet for 20:00. I couldn't find a cash machine, which sucked because I had no local currency. After a 5 minute walk in the dark I found a cash machine at a nearby bus station. The view from the railway station was not promising: a big ugly car park, some big buildings with brightly lit neon signs.

Google maps is not very detailed for Sarajevo, in fact it is totally useless The wikipedia entry for Sarajevo warns of the taxi drivers at the railway station or airport who charge a lot, or run a scam where they take you to the wrong hotel. Given that in previous holidays I have been ripped off by taxi drivers and have spent many hours bitterly cursing them. I was not looking forward to talking to the taxi driver. After I was done with worrying I told the taxi driver the address of my hotel, he said "7 Euros", and mentally I jumped for joy. On the drive from the station, I didn't see many shops or bars. I hope there is a little nightlife here I thought.

Some pictures of Zagreb

I didn't take many pictures of places of interest in Zagreb. I was excited to see a church with iron bars over the statues of saints -- a bit hard core security if you ask me. The other pictures are either the Cathedral or of the square around the Cathedral. Whenever I see a cathedral I just think of the workers who were exploited to build it. Of course my good friend the Archbishop of Canterbury might say they built it, with blood and Faith. I would reply "Brain washing".

When I was wandering around on Thursday I went through an arch. The tourist sign said "Roman arch". In side the small tunnel was a small church of some kind. I was surprised by this, particularly as after my various experiments with the occult, I am not sure whether I can stand on hallowed ground any more. Apparently I can though, if taken by surprise.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

2nd day in Zagreb

I managed to see even fewer museums in Zagreb on the Thursday. Either the museum I tried to find didn't exist, or I couldn't the map properly. I did go the market again, which was open and people were selling lots of fresh fruit and vegetables.

I tried to find the Zagreb museum. This involved walking up a big hill. I was zoning in on the location. As I got close there were TV cameras and people standing around. There were black cars with police lights on the top of them. I didn't want to get involved with police.

"So why do you want to learn about the history of Zagreb. Perhaps you have some miltary interest?"

Anyway I looked at the police cars and cameras, and suddenly the thought of a cool beer at an outside cafe came into my mind.

What I did in Zagreb

What did I do for two whole days in Zagreb. Not a lot if the truth be told. It started so well. After breakfast I thought it is time for me to hit the museums and galleries. There is a big art gallery in Zagreb with a lot of paintings by old masters, but I couldn't find it. There was a big building with scaffolding around it.

I did find the modern art gallery. The first painting I saw covered the wall. It had a number of women semi-naked in a lake. Some kind of "lord" was lying on the bank watching the women. Some of the women were being attacked. Frankly a bit disturbing. There were many pictures of people from Croatia from beginning of the twentieth century to before the second world war. They all looked a bit sinister, like Bond villains. There was one women wearing tweeds and carrying a shot gun (nice).

Unfortunately I couldn't see any toilets in the building. I had drank too much coffee and juice at breakfast, so I rather rushed through the modern abstract art, so I could go for a quick piss in the toilet at the shopping Mall.

Then I wondered around in the sun for a bit. There are many park benches around Zagreb, so it is a good place to read outside. I wasn't feeling very well. This could of been because of the stress of travelling, or a real illness, or some bad beer the night before. I did find the cathedral and saw the close of some famous market. I walked back to the hotel, but I one last go to find the technical museum. I was feeling worse and worse, and couldn't find the blasted museum. I did find the botanical gardens. I had a sit down in the quiet. I didn't tour the gardens, but it was very green and peaceful. I began to feel better, so I walked back to my hotel.

Close to the Zagreb railway station

My hotel was behind a concert hall that itself was behind the railway station. There is a big mall underground close to the station. There were fast food options, and a big supermarket.

I have to admit that I found Croatian women very attractive. (I am sure that they will be all thrilled to learn that and even more thrilled that I am now out of the country.) I think somehow the warmer weather allows more elegant (but casual) clothes. I did try to explore the Mall. I got lost in a maze of designer shops, with cute women looking at new shoes and jeans. In the past I have only liked the book and CD shops in shopping malls. Now that the internet revolution has come and I buy mostly from Amazon or Itunes, so there is nothing, that I could buy, in a shopping mall to interest me. This sudden burst of lust was brought on because I suddenly realized that my chat up line "so do want to come to live in a EU country that doesn't use the crappy Euro" will no longer work. The standard of life in the center of Zagreb looked better or the same as in the UK. Especially, when the UK economy is going to get hit by the Conservative (and liberal) party's massive cuts. Also the weather in Zagreb is better and the cafe life is cooler. With my fantasy love like in ruins, I picked up some cans of beer, and slinked back to my hotel to watch TV.

First night in Zagreb

Unfortunately Expedia had just told me that my hotel was close to the train station. I still needed to use my trusty map reading skills to get me to the hotel. The sun was bright hot, so I was sweating. There were massive outside cafes with people just hanging out drinking coffe and chatting. I was ready to join them, but I still had to find my hotel. There were signs for many other hotels, but not mine. I wasn't too surprised by this, because I usually only stay in cheap hotels.

After some pacing around trying to get my directions, I was getting no where. Eventually I remembered that a train station could have a front and a back. My hotel was around the back.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Start of Zagreb trip

If you look on a map, it doesn't make a lot of sense to fly back from Austria to Germany, and then a day later to fly out to Croatia. That is what I did. The trip to Austria was a trip for work, and it gets complicated to combine with a long holiday.

The extra day in Wuppertal allowed me to wash my clothes and catch up with somethings I should have done before I left, but that I didn't do because I was writing a talk. I flew from Cologne/Bonn airport. So took the train from Wuppertal to Bonn and then the bus to the airport. The traveling to the airport went smoothely, but I was in a bad mood because I had to get up at 5:00. Also the day before I wanted to take a small netbook computer with me, but the browser wss so old it had stopped working. I tried to install a new OS, but that didn't work. (Alos drinking beer with wine probably gave me a worse hangover than one from just beer).

Zagreb airport is pretty small. There is a bus that takes you to the busstation. My hotel was close to the railway station. I was told to take a tram. When the bus stopped I went the wrong direction into a carpack, because I had seen two trains. After wandering around for a while I couldn't work out how to get to the trains. Also I was a bit depressed, because there were no shops around. It was hot and I needed a drink. I was thinking that Zagreb was one of those old socialist cities with nothing to do. After a while I went back to the bus station and found that I had gone the wrong way. Out on the street was the tram and shops to sell me juice.

Although I know what line to take. I didn't know what direction. It wasn't clear from the map which was the correct end station. Also I couldn't see how to buy a ticket. In Vienna I could just use a machine. In Zagreb I think you can buy the ticket from newsagents. This involves speaking Crotian, and I know no words at all (the shame of it).

I decided to walk to the train station, because I knew it wasn't to far. When I go to the railway stations, there were big elegant buildings, lots of green space, and signs for many museums. This holiday is going to be OK I thought.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


I am about to go to Zagreb for a holiday.

After that I am going to sarajevo

This mini-world tour is based on me finding new cheap airlines. other than Ryanair or Easyjet, in Germany that fly to new location. I am flying with GermanWings.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Goodbye Vienna

So my trip to Vienna is ending tomorrow. I have a 7:00 flight, which means a nightmare journey to the airport.

I really like Vienna as city. There is so much interesting stuff everywhere. I am not talking just culture, but more shops, bars and restaurants. Even the SPAR supermarkets are classy in Vienna. It is a proper big city. I wish I could live here.

Franz Ferdinand

In the afternoon I went to museum of military history in Vienna. It took a while to find the place. It was hidden behind the southern railway station. The museum was a celebration of the Austrian military, particularly there role in UN peace keeping missions.

Although I am a pacifist, I still need to see swords and guns. It was a shabby museum, but it had a lot of interesting stuff in it.

I hope you enjoy the two pictures. I got told off for taking them, by a security guard. Normally I don't take pictures, but I am getting more into it. Other people were taking huge amounts of pictures, but I think the problem was the flash. I was given two 5 minute lectures about this in German. Almost none of which I understood. I also didn't know how to switch the flash off, so I took no more pictures. At some stage I did wonder whether the guard wanted to see my camera, because I had broken some kind of Austrian security.

The reason I had gone to the museum was because they had some stuff about Franz Ferdinand in it. There was the car he was assassinated in and his blood soaked uniform (I could not see any blood). The picture is from wikipedia, because I had been banned from taking pictures. The assassination of Franz Ferdinand started the first world war in some kind of weird way, that I don't understand. I am going to Sarajevo next week, so I hope to find out more,.


So on my last day in Vienna I started the day by visiting Prater. This a park with an amusement fair. There is a famous Ferris wheel in the park. I believe that thus was the same Ferris wheel that was in the "Third Mann" film in which Harry Lime gives his famous speeeh about cuckoo clocks.

It was a small but elegant amusement park. None of the rides were large, but people were having fun. There was an old blues band playing outside the park. It wasn't Alton Towers, or the Millennium eye. It was definitely not Blackpool either. I just read my book in warm sunlight, and wandered around for a bit.

I should have gone on the Ferris wheel, but I was into my book.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Cake or death

To end the day I thought I should got to a traditional cafe in Vienna and have a coffee and a cake. The slight problem with this is that I needed to find a traditional cafe. There are many Macdonalds and fast food places. I did think about trying Starbucks, but I have been to Starbucks in many counties around the world.

After walking a mile up the road following signs for a SPAR supermarket so I could buy beer for my hotel room, I found the Cafe Ritter. I pulled the attached picture from the web, but it looks correct. There is more than one Cafe Rittner in Wien. The outside of the cafe looked faded, but the inside looked authentic.

I had a coffee and an Apfelstrudel. I like the way you get a glass of water with your coffee in Austria. I have found that if I drink more than 5 or 6 cups of tea before midday, I can't drink anymore, unless I have a glass of water.

A visit to a Market and then a little bit of art

After the Schönbrunn Palace I went to the Naschmarkt by the underground. According to wikipedia this is a big market, but it seemed very small to me. Perhaps I should have gone on Saturday morning. I had a spicy Chinese meal close to the market.

Then I went to the Kunsthistoriches Museum. This is an art museum. I wasn't really in the mood for looking at pictures, but it was only 4pm, so a bit early to start drinking. The first section of museum had a lot of Egyptian artifacts. This will provide lots of useful visual information for my creation of the great hidden pyramid myth in Wuppertal.

There were a lot of classical painting in the museum. I enjoyed these more than normal, because only a few of them were focused on religion. The pictures were almost lik

The translation of the web site says.

The basis of the collection as well as their main priorities were already in the 17 Century laid: the Venetian painting of the 16th Century (Titian, Veronese, Tintoretto), the Flemish paintings of the 17th Century (Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony van Dyck), Early Netherlandish Painting (Jan van Eyck, Rogier van der Weyden), and the old German painting (Albrecht Dürer, Lucas Cranach). Other highlights of the Art Gallery today, include the unique collection of paintings by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. as well as masterpieces by Vermeer, Rembrandt, Raphael, Caravaggio, Velázquez and the Italian Baroque painting.
I didn't see any pictures by Caravaggio, but there were many pictures by people influenced by him. I didn't see any pictures by Dürer, but it was so close to the closing time.

Schönbrunn Palace.

So I have spent the day doing pleasant tourist things in Vienna. After breakfast I took the underground to the Schönbrunn Palace. This was a huge summer palace. I didn't go into the building, but I wondered around the extensive gardens. I wasn't really in the mood for looking at plush rooms.

The gardens of the palace were vast and full of interestingly things. I saw a fountain and a Roman ruins (that was probably fake). There were Eygptian hieroglyphs on a obelisk on one of the fountains, that was meant to celibrate the history of the royal family. As the notice pointed out, the information was actually written before Eygptian hieroglyphs were translated.

There were signs for a labyrinth, but I could not find the entrance. The story of my life I thought. Eventually I did find the start of the maze and payed 2.90 Euros to go in. It was a small maze, and there were enough big trees. But I started to sweat in case I got lost. There were a number of children on an observation desk. I didn't want to be laughed at. Anyway it was a bit disappointing for a maze.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


So Vienna! I am spending two days in Vienna to try and dry my mind out. Because I was writing my talk for the workshop I had no time to do any research for this city. Thankfully the hotel has internet, so there is some hope that I will actually see some of the sights. I just need to see my good friend Harry Lime.

I will of course go to cafe and drink some coffee. Although I have not had a cup of tea, since Sunday, and I am starting to get withdrawal symptoms.

My hotel is in the Josefstadt area of Vienna. This is known as area 8. The better addresses are the smaler numbers.

Belle de Jour

So I have traveled from Graz to Vienna with the train. The journey took 2.5 hours. There is a lot of pleasant green stuff to look out of the window. However, I spent a lot of time reading "Belle de Jour" on the train.

Belle de Jour was the name of a famous blog that detailed her experiences as a call girl. She is an educated women, so there was no grubby. drugs or unhappiness. In fact it was all rather jolly. I read the book pretty fast, but I am not sure I found it that erotic. There was a plenty of sex in the book, most of it was pretty casual. I am not sure what the connection with the book was with Vienna, except that brothels are legal here.

There is also a great Bunuel film called Belle de Jour. I assume that is where she got the name from.

She is actually a biologist and was doing a PhD when she started becoming an escort. Anyway after reading the book I have decided not to seek out a job in the sex industry.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


I have been reading "What they teach you in Harvard Business school" by Philip Broughton. Broughton was a journalist, but he saw the writing on the wall for newspapers, so he decided to take a MBA at Harvard, so he could make more money and provide for his family. Also one of his ancestors had been a business women and he felt it was in is blood.

So he went to business school, but it was clear that he was not going to be an investment banker. His wife got pregnant during the course, so he spent a lot of time worrying that if he took a high pressure job, he would miss out on raising his children (they are going to hate you anyway dude). Almost every CEO who came to speak to his class had family problems of some kind.

Anyway I enjoyed reading how "the suits work and think", but I don't thnk that I will take a MBA.

Monday, September 13, 2010

More Graz

I am staying at a stylish hotel close to the railway station. There is a strip joint next door to the hotel. Non-stop action it promises, but it seems closed to me. I seem drawn to it, in an embarrassed lonely kind of way. I saw the door open, and a small truck was outside. What were they delivering? What would have Hitchcock ordered me to do.


So my first time in Austria!

I am at a conference in Graz Austria. I took a flight from Dusseldorf to Vienna. Unfortunaetly, the flight was at 7:20, so I had to leave my flat at 3:15 in the morning. The 4:00 train to Dusseldorf was surprisingly full of people. I didn't see too many drunk people, although one guy staggered up the center of the train, but he didn't bother anyone.

At Vienna airport I took some fast train to the city center. There I got lost, because I couldn't find the main railway station. There seemed to be a lot of construction work in the center. I was told later that they are building a new main railway station.

My mind was fogged by the lack of sleep, but I finally got a ticket from a machine and took a train to a bigger train station, where the internet had told me that the train to Graz started. On the train I was reading "what they teach you at Harvard Business school". At one point, I looked up I saw all these green hills and mountains. So this is Austria I thought.

At one station, some young guy asked me some german shit. He switched to English and asked to use my mobile phone to call his home. In a misguided feeling of being European, I gave him my mobile. He then proceeded to call the wrong person. (This is an English mobile dude, I thought, time really is money.). Afterwards we had a bit of a chat. He had a sister who lived in London town. At some stage he asked me what I was planing to do in Vienna for my holiday after the meeting. I have planned nothing. He was not impressed. He then asked me for famous Austrians. I flunked that test. When we got to famous Germans, I said "Karl Marx", he hadn't heard of him. Fucking unification He was a nice guy. He helped me find my hotel, whicb was close to the railway station.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Presenting Science

I spent part of the weekend reading "Presenting Science" by Cigdem Issever and Ken Peach. The book explained how to present science talks, mostly with an electronic presentation. The book contained a lot of hints about the format of the presentation, such as what to put and not put on the border.

I have seen some very memorable talks by Ken Peach. Although he seemed bored and tired in the last talk that I saw him give. This might have been casued by it being Saturday morning at a local summer school.

I am personally still bitter that many audience members complained to me about my use of the "Alien Glow" template in talks. The background was black and the letters were luminous green. People claimed that it made them feel ill. In the book, Issever and Peach, suggest that the talk should reflect the personality of the speaker. So perhaps I will start using it again.

Also after reading the book I think I should tell fewer necrophilia jokes to spice up my physics presentations.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

On Hawking

I an trying to work various deadlines at the moment, so I don't really enough time to do something about Hawking's thoughts on God. Hawking has a new book out. From the reviews, it looks like the standard hard sell for the usual crap: M-theory and the multiverse. Haking makes some remarks about God that have excited the press.

This is the ideal time to write a short piece of theology for a magazine, so that the Templeton foundation notice me, and thus start my campaign to win the Templeton prize for bringing togeher science and relgion. I liked Paul Davies's article on Hawking's views from a writing perspective. The basic idea in the essay is that we don't know as much about the "big bang" as Hawking claims and that there is still much to do. Howvever, Davies dresses this up to make it seem as though he is making a theological point. Very clever! This is why Davies won the Templeton prize.

The best I can up with is that gluons are like little angels (massless, but chained), but that QCD forces them to coalesce into heavy devilish glueballs. If I had more time I would try and link this to the gnostic Gospels found in a cave, deep in the desert.

You can start to see my problem. I don't really know that much about Christianity. I have read extensively about Gnosticism, heresy, and Scientology, but my knowledge of standard Christianity comes from critics such as Gore Vidal, Hitchens, and Richard Dawkins, or from Bob Dylan songs. Of course I could try reading the bible, but I worry that might infect me.

Another problem is that my colleagues might think I have gone insane if I try to link "solving non-perturbative QCD to the essence of God". The Templeton prize is one million pounds, so that would help with professional jealousy.