Czech Republic – Kutná Hora & Český Krumlov

After visiting Prague it was time to move on to my next destinations; Kutná Hora and Český Krumlov. First stop was Kutná Hora.

Kutná Hora was first founded in 1142 with the settlement of Sedlec Abbey, the first Cistercian monastery in Bohemia. In 1260 German miners flicked to the area to begin mining for silver in the surrounding mountain region. There was great economic prosperity from the 13th thru 16th centuries and the city competed with Prague economically, politically and culturally.

In 1420, Emperor Sigismund made the city the base For his unsuccessful attack on the Taborites during the Hussite Wars, which lead to the Battle of Kutná Hora. Kutná Hora was taken by Jan Zizka, but was burned by imperial troops in 1422 to prevent it falling into the hands of the Taborites. Zizka still the reigns of the city nonetheless and it emerged to new prosperity.

Kutná Hora was eventually passed to the Habsburg Monarchy of Austria in 1526. In 1546 the most prosperous of the mines was flooded. Eventually the plague, 30 years war, and a fire did the city in. The city became impoverished and the mines were eventually abandoned at the end of the 18th century.

The city has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1995. When I was here I visited the Church of Saint James (which was under construction), and St. Barbara’s Cathedral.

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After visiting Kutná Hora is was time to drive further along to my next stop, Český Krumlov, where I would be staying for the next two days.
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Český Krumlov started in 1240 when a settlement rose around a castle by the Vitkovci family, descendants of the Witiko of Prčice. The family died off in 1302 And Kind Wenceslaus II ceded the town and castle to the Rosenberg family. Peter 1 of Rosenberg, the Lord Chamberlain of King John of Bohemia, resided here and had the upper castle erected. Most of the people living below the castle were German-speaking at the time and migrated from Austria and Bavaria.

The Rosenbergs encouraged trade and crafts within the town wall, and when gold was found next to the town, German miners came to settle. William of Rosenberg, High Treasurer and High Burgrave of Bohemia, had the castle rebuilt in a Renaissance style during the time.

In 1602 Williams brother Peter Vok of Rosenberg sold Cesky Krumlov to the Habsburg emperor Rufolf II, who then gave it to his son Julius d’Austria. After the Battle of White Mountain, Emperor Ferdinand II gave Český Krumlov to the noble House of Eggenberg. From 1719 to 1947 the castle belonged to the House of Scwarzenberg.

After Word War I the city was part of the Bohemian Forest Region, which was initially declared part of German-Austria. The Czechoslovak army occupied the region by 1918, and it eventually became part of Czechoslovakia. in 1938 it was claimed by the Nazi Germans. After World War II the German speaking population was expelled and the town was returned to Czechoslovakia.

Under the communist ruling of Czechoslovakia the town fell into disrepair, but since the Velvet Revolution in 1989 much of the town has been restored. The city has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1992. The town was severely damaged in a great flood in 2002, but has since been repaired.

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Thailand – Day 6 – Bangkok

Today I woke up at 7:00am, which is on par with the normal time that I wake up. I had breakfast at the hotel buffet, which comprised of an omelette, sausages, bacon, and coffee.

I then relaxed at my hotel until 10:00am by reading my book. After checkout I walked to the JEATH war museum. It provided an interesting perspective as to what some of the things people went through, the kinds of vehicles that were used by the Japanese as well as the POW, and the kinds of loot that was found.

After the JEATH museum I walked about an hour to the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery. An incredible amount of lives were lost in the war just in the Kanchanaburi area, let alone the rest of the war.

I was still early for my 2:45pm train so I relaxed and read a book in a covered portion of the cemetery where it was substantially cooler. 2:00pm rolled on by so I walked to the train station, which was close by. I was informed the train was running 35 minutes late, so I read some more and people watched.

The train arrived at Thonburi station in Bangkok around 6:30pm. I decided I wanted to eat at the pad Thai place I had eaten at on the second night in Thailand so I walked back towards Khao San Road.

When I arrived at the steer vendor I placed my order and sat next to a couple that are travelling all the way from Wales. We got chatting while I was having my food, but I couldn’t stay too long due to my early morning flight tomorrow so we exchanged contact info.

I took a taxi from Khao San Road to Phaya Thai Train station for 60 baht, and then took the airport link train to the airport for 45 baht. This evening I stayed at the Novotel Hotel, which was extremely well appointed. My father was absolutely amazing and got me the hotel, in fact the majority of the hotels on this trip are from him using his Hotels.com accumulated free stays. I can’t express how thankful and grateful I am.

Tomorrow I fly out bright and early to spend the last 3 days of my trip on Koh Samui!

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Thailand – Day 4 – Death Railway & Hellfire Pass

Today I woke up at 4:00am because my internal clock is still messed up. I laid in bed listening to music and talked with a friend over the small amount of cell coverage I had.

Breakfast was at 7:00am, and included two eggs, four slices of toast, 1/4 of a pineapple, two slices of tomatoes, potatoes, a slice of ham, and coffee. The staff were very friendly.

While waiting for my 8:00am long bag back to the pier on the main land I saw an elephant in the water. The kitchen staff grabbed some food and went over to it and starting feeding it pineapples and watermelons. I asked if I could feed them to the elephants and they gave me some scraps. I got another hotel guest to take a video of me feeding the elephant, and I even got an elephie (elephant selfie).

I boarded the 8:00am long boat back to the pier on the main land where I met up with the same driver as yesterday. He drove me to the Hellfire Pass Death Railway museum. I walked through the museum exhibit and then walked through Hellfire Pass. The place was very somber and I learned a lot about the sacrifices and horrible conditions the workers had to go through. The Death Railway was built during the Second World War. To sum it up quickly 60000 prisoners of war and about 200000 labourers built this Railway from Thailand to Burma for the Japanese during the Second World War. They had horrible living conditions, almost no food, almost no sleep, and were beat. 20 percent of the people ended up dying. If you want to read more about it you can here: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burma_Railway

After visiting the Hellfire Pass museum my driver came and picked me up and took me to the train station where I had some green Thai curry for lunch before boarding the train to Kanchanaburi.

When I arrived in Kanchanaburi I walked around the town a bit before heading to my Hotel, the Felix River Kwai Hotel. The hot is very beautiful and sits right on the river embankment overlooking the famous Kwai River Bridge. The hotel is almost completely empty so I was able to sit and drink beer watching the sunset at the “Bar by the River” all by myself until an Australian couple joined about an hour later. I took some long exposure shots and some time-lapse videos. I even got to watch two Thai people do some welding without any PPE equipment and dangling precariously close to the river!

After watching the sunset I walked across the bridge to a restaurant called the Floating Raft. I ordered something that resembled Red Thai Curry but I regretted it afterwards. It tasted and smelled like garbage and made me feel unwell. My friend Kirsty told me it was probably durian, which now to me makes sense as it has the smell, look and texture of durian. I decided I will try a different restaurant tomorrow evening.

Check back soon for my next blog post, where I will be going to an Elephant Sanctuary to bathe elephants and cuddle with them.

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2017-08-19 Edmonton Air Show

Yesterday I travelled up to Edmonton with my friend Hadrian to visit the 3rd annual Edmonton Air Show. There were some amazing airplanes and pilots there, including a 75 year old stunt pilot (Gary Ward), De Havilland DH-115 Vampire, and the snowbirds presented the finale. Enjoy the photos below.

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August 25th 2016 – New Zealand Day 5

Today I woke up at 7:30am. It was pouring rain so I decided that I would drive to the Museum of Transportation and Technology (MOTAT) instead of walking there. It was supposed to be an hours walk away, but the drive is only supposed to take about twenty minutes. I wondered why traffic in Auckland was so horrific for its size, and I eventually found out why, but more on that later. I prepared an egg skillet for breakfast. The drive to MOTAT took nearly 40 minutes, which is pretty bad considering it is only 5.5km away from where I was staying.

MOTAT is comprised of two spots; the World War 2 aviation museum, and then the technology and transportation museum is a short tram ride away. The tram is one of only a few remaining tram systems in New Zealand; more on this later.
The aviation museum was quite large and went into New Zealand’s history and involvement in the war. Their aviation fleet was composed of mainly DeHavilland aircraft, most of which were manufactured right in Wellington, New Zealand. The plant actually had a lot of difficulties ranging from finding enough employees (women were eventually hired, uncommon in that era, because the men were at war), numerous floods, high winds, and golf balls because airplane production started before the factory could even be finished or had windows. I also learned about the bouncing bombs that were used in World War 2 to blow up and break down dams.
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It was 12:15pm when I left the aviation museum. I went back into my camper to make myself a quick lunch before hoping on tram number 893, a 1944 SW6 tram on lease from Melbourne, to go down to the second MOTAT area. A few trams are on a long term lease from Melbourne, which is one of only a few places in the world that still has a successful wide scale tram system.
Upon arriving at the second MOTAT location i was overwhelmed by the amount of school children on a field trip, so I did my best to avoid them. The second MOTAT location has over a half dozen buildings with different displays in them ranging from technology, trains, steam pumps, arctic displays, and my personal favorite was the tram display.
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Once upon a time Auckland actually had one of the most successful tram networks, at its time, in the world. It would be equivalent to what we now realize Melbourne for. The system was over 70km in length at its height in the 1930s and 1940s. The electric tramway in Auckland was initially a public/private venture by the British Electric Traction Company in London and the Auckland Borough Councils, eventually taken over by the Auckland City Corporation in 1919 and operated until 1956 when the Master Transportation Plan emphasizing motorways was favoured. The tram network was quickly ripped up and replaced by diesel and trolleybuses as part of a “modernization” program.
Ridership fell from a 1954 average level of 290 public transport trips per person per year, to only 41 trips per person per year in 1999. In 1954 58 percent of people used public transport, now that number is around 15 percent. Auckland has a similar population as my home town, Calgary, at around 1.4 million people. Calgarian’s love to drive and don’t really favour public transport, but it’s not that bad in comparison to Auckland. The entire city is gridlocked and the reverse thinking of its municipal government in the 1950’s has absolutely crippled the city in gridlock. They had a great system and removed it, whereas Calgary never really planned properly for public transport until now, but is seeing light at the end of the tunnel. To this day I would say Melbourne easily has one of the most successful transit systems I’ve seen for its size. It’s clean and supports 5 million people quite well.
After I was done at the second MOTAT area I took the same tram number back to my camper at the first MOTAT location.
It was time to get some more groceries, so I drove to a nearby grocery store to stock up. It was now time to meet Anne to go up the Sky Tower. I parked my camper at the same spot as the night before, and did the half hour walk to her hostel in the pouring rain. The weather conditions didn’t look good for the Sky Tower, but we both were leaving Auckland tomorrow so we decided to go up anyways. The view was absolutely white out conditions, but we made the most of it by having some ice cream! I had vanilla bean and Anne had raspberry orange sherbet. Mine was better, but she’s convinced I’m boring and that hers was better…
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After the Sky Tower we went in search of food because we were both hungry. She had never had Vietnamese food before, and I was craving it again, so I suggested we go to a place just around the corner. She ordered a spicy chicken curry soup, which was actually pretty good, and I ordered my regular sate beef pho, which wasn’t the best I’ve had. We said our goodbye’s and j went back to my camper and tried to get some sleep. On my way back to my camper I saw an amusing marvel comics creation made from sticky notes in office windows. Someone’s getting paid to have fun…
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I went to bed at about 9:30pm, and was woken up at midnight with a terrible howling wind like something you would have heard out of a horror movie. It really gave me the chills. I checked the weather report and the wind gusts were around 100 kilometres per hour. I put up with it for a bit, but decided that it was time to move. I found a free place to park about an hour inland in Mercer. I eventually got to sleep at about 2:00am and slept through the rest of the night.

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August 21st 2016 – New Zealand Day 1

Today I woke up at 6:30am so that I could pickup my camper van. I was supposed to walk to the International Terminal at Auckland Airport to catch the “yellow bus” to the Britz campervan pickup location, but the “yellow bus” happened to be parked right outside my hotel picking up passengers to take to the airport. I hopped on the bus and arrived about 40 minutes early at Britz. I had a coffee while I waited and picked up some brochures.
When the time was ready I signed all the paperwork and picked up my campervan; a new model 2014 Mercedes Sprinter LWB (Long Wheel Base). The camper only had 30,000km on the clock, and looked immaculate inside. I drove back to my hotel that I stayed at the night before so that I could pickup my bags, and go to the grocery store across the street. I picked up $120 worth of groceries, and got myself a bottle of wine and a case of beer.
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It was time to hit the road! My goal over the next few days is to do the Northwest loop and visit Cape Reinga. I put in my first destination; Davenport. Davenport played a role during World War 2 and was used as an outpost to spot enemy ships.
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The next stop was Orewa Beach, where I walked along the beach and also picked up some more groceries because I forgot some. I forgot coffee, which is the most important thing!
The next stop was Waiwera Thermal Resort, which was quite relaxing. I relaxed in the thermal pools, and went down the waterslides a few times. When I was in the hot pools a small girl (about age 4-5) jumped into the pool from a kids play area, and couldn’t swim and started drowning. The mother was nowhere to be seen, and the lifeguard was too busy reading a book to even notice. I grabbed the girl and started looking around to see if I could find the mother. The girl was crying, breathing, and appeared to be okay since it was only about 5 seconds of panic before I saved her. The mother came up to me and grabbed the girl out of my arms and didn’t even say thank you, and stormed off. I feel so sorry for that girl. I went up to the lifeguard and explained what just happened and she didn’t even seem to care. This really disappointed me because she’s getting paid to watch over people and save lives. Apparently her book is more important. I left the thermal pools at around 2:00pm.
I had a two hour drive ahead of me towards Whangarei. I was getting tired along the way so I pulled over and made myself a cup of coffee. Good thing I purchased that coffee! I was almost in Whangarei, when I saw a sign that distracted me; Waipu Caves. I decided to detour to Waipu, and I’m glad that I did. They were glow worm caves, and best of all they were all natural and free! I took a ton of photos trying to get the right balance of light and finally got a few that I was satisfied with. I also hiked along a small 1.5 hour hike to a beautiful lookout.
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It was getting dark now so I had to find a place to stay. I drove into Whangarei, and found a spot on a small nature reserve near the aquatic centre. I parked next to two other campers, and cooked myself some dinner. Dinner was pasta with home made meat sauce.
I worked on my blog for a bit, and had a beer, before going to bed. Tomorrow I’ll be visiting Whangarei falls before heading up to Cape Reinga.

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