Wednesday, 29 March 2006

Frankfurt & Prague

Here is a blog about a trip we made last October:

Immediately after Fenton's trip to the US we took advantage of the opportunity offered by the Autumn holidays (Herbstferien) to travel to Frankfurt and Prague. We left late as usual (to be fair Fenton had arrived back only the day before, and the weather had been particularly wet making getting washing dry (we have no dryer and the heating wasn't yet on) particularly difficult). We got to the Temple in Fredricksdorf in the early evening. Spent the next day alternating between attending the Temple and entertaining the children, which included teaching them how to knit. Saturday afternoon we went and met my Aunty Shirley and her partner Gerhard. We spent the afternoon with them at Saals, a recreation of a Roman fort. Bryna was particular taken with the 'pretties' -- jewellery and coins that had been found there. The rest of the children seemed interested without being carried away.
Photo of everyone at Saals

That evening we had dinner at Shirl's and met my cousin Krista, for the first time, and her boyfriend Mike. A very pleasant evening. Krista speaks a little English with Mike and Gerhard really speaking none at all and so it gave the children a chance to use their German and Fenton an opportunity to strangle the language.

The next day we had lunch with them at a pleasant Greek restaurant after which we departed for Prague with Joshua throwing up immediately before departure. We arrived in Prague late that night where we stayed at a hostel we had previously booked. Clean and basic.

The next morning got a few things organised (e.g. food) and caught a tram to Prague Castle arriving just in time to catch the change of guards. There is a cathedral inside the castle walls which was quite interesting and Fenton and the older four children climbed to the top of the tower (297 steps, though Mara counted 298!) giving them a fantastic view over Prague. View from the Church Tower at Prague Castle This castle was the home of Good King Wenceslas (though he never was king, but he has been sainted) and is the patron saint of the Czech Republic. Another impressive sight inside the castle was the Great (or Horse) Hall, so named because they used to hold indoor jousting tournaments as well as the usual balls and receptions. Inside the Great (or Horse) Hall of Prague Castle. As you can see in the photo it has beautiful late Gothic vaulted ceilings and the open doorway on the left leads to the Riders' Staircase -- a staircase designed to admit a knight mounted on a horse into the hall. A doorway at the end of the hall (opposite end to the one the photo shows) is the room in which the Second Defenestration of Prague (1618) took place sparking off the Thirty Year's War between Catholics and Protesants. You should try to use defenestration in a sentence at least once this week.

Shortly after this, being about 3 o'clock in the afternoon, we decided lunch was in order. As the prices inside the castle were exorbitant we proceeded to a restaurant, recommended by our 'Lonely Planet' guide, where we enjoyed and Indonesian meal. We then planned on catching the funicular railway for which we marched the children to the top of the hill only to find that it was shut that day for maintenance. We then enjoyed a pleasant stroll down the hill (denied by Joshua, 'We are lost again in a strange city') with great views of the castle lit at dusk. We then caught a tram from the bottom of the hill back to our hostel.Prague Castle at dusk.

Our last day in Prague included a visit to one of the four St. Nicholas churches which was full of chubby Baroque cherubs and gold-plated saints. Mozart had played there once which had most impressed Joshua. We then walked slowly across Charles Bridge (see the tourist-posed photo) with the children enjoying souvenir shopping and then onto the old city centre. Tourist Pose on Charles Bridge, Prague. We saw buildings which had played parts in the First Defenestration of Prague, the declaration of Communism in Czechoslovakia, the declaration of the end of Communism, the declaration of the end of the Second World War and the end of Czechoslovakia and the beginning of the Czech Republic. As well as this the city centre has many different architectural periods and styles interestingly juxtaposed. A personal favourite was the art nouveau buildings and the one nicknamed the 'dancing building' (post-modern, see the photo). The 'Dancing Building', Prague A stroll back across the river and a quick play in the playground before we returned to the hostel for some dinner and to prepare for the return trip the next morning.

Gaynor's Linguistic Note: It's surprising how well you can get around without knowing any of the Czech language.

Saturday, 25 March 2006

Poster Accolade

Followers of the newly published calendar (link to the left) may have noticed a recent two-day event, the 18th NNV/CPS Symposium. It's a small conference run by the Dutch Physical Society (NVV) primarily as a forum for PhD students. I presented a poster (pdf file, 1.8MB) entitled Detection of Relativistic Electrons and Positrons in a Tokamak which won the 'Best Poster' prize. :D The prize was accompanied by the gift of two books, The Elegant Universe and The Fabric of the Cosmos both by Brian Greene.

Friday, 17 March 2006

More Gruesome Details!

In the wake of popular demand I have decided two things with regards to this blog. Firstly, I solemnly promise to further harrass, cajole, poke and pout other family members into posting more frequently. It won't be easy to increase my already virtually intolerable high output of these Encouragement MechanismsTM but it's a sacrifice I am willing to make. I hope other family members are willing to make it too. No reward will be too expected to be withheld and no legs will be fast enough to get away if a negative reply is received furthermore to my oft-heard plea, "Hey you should write a blog post about that.".

Secondly, as a growing family with many diverse and interesting engagements we have started keeping a calendar. Actually it's more like a calendar system. My handheld computer synchronises with the family laptop from which two A3 pages are printed -- the current and the proceeding months. These pages go on the fridge door (sometimes even technology bows to time-honoured traditions, plus it's the most frequented place in the house) so the comings-and-goings are clearly visible and new appointments can even be added by the children. Once a month we have a sit-down and go through the upcoming month. Changes are made and the process repeats producing two new fridge calendars. It seems to be working so far though of course a fridge door with a touch screen interfacing to a central computer would probably be a better solution. But hey, you've got to work with compromises sometimes!

The short of this calendar system is that now it is simple to publish to the web our family calendar (exactly as found on our fridge door, less the children's pencil additions!). I've placed a new permanent link on the left hand side called 'Comings and Goings' so go on, try it out now :) The default view is for the current day, though I like to look at whole months myself. What this means further is that if you see an event that interests you, drop us an email or leave a comment and we'll be happy to give you even more gruesome details.