Monday, January 30, 2017

The return of Gnome boy to Munich

Skiing in Austria, mid-winter.  Why not.  A change from 'winter' in Vientiane going from a minimum temperature of +18 degrees to -15 degrees - no problem.  So after work on Friday we flew down to Bangkok and caught the 01:35am flight to Doha and on to Munich.

Both of us have been to Munich before: Andrew 40 years ago and me a mere 25 years ago.

Our arrival into Munich was easy and we dropped our bags at the hotel after taking the train into the city.  [Adagio Apartments]  We then proceeded to wander around in the cold for an hour before we could check into the hotel.  

Sunday morning dawned cold and clear.  Andrew donned his Gnome Boy hat - purchased 40+ years ago at Lilywhite's in London. It's so retro that he is cool again!

We took the tram to the Neue Pinakothek gallery for a dose of culture and their 18th & 19th century art collection.  It was a very good exhibition,  And on Sunday only 1 euro entrance (instead of 7 euro) - so an absolute bargain.

From here the plan was to walk to the Residenz area and find somewhere for lunch.  We found a beerhall and had our first experience on this trip of Munich popular culture.  

Next it was a walk through the Residenz.

The Munich Residence served as the seat of government and residence of the Bavarian dukes, electors and kings from 1508 to 1918. What began in 1385 as a castle in the north-eastern corner of the city (the Neuveste, or new citadel), was transformed by the rulers over the centuries into a magnificent palace, its buildings and gardens extending further and further into the town  
We didn't see any of the gardens - currently under snow, but did enjoy a walk through the rooms.

  • Andrew lost an iPhone cable at one of the airports we passed through en route.  
  • Day 1 he lost his carry bag, but found it after realising and sprinting 2  blocks back down the street. 
  • He then proceeded to exit the Residenz and realized he had lost the Gnome Hat.  After sprinting (again) back inside he found it: laid out neatly, on full view, at the ticket desk.  Oddly enough no one else had claimed it as their own.
After going to bed early last night without dinner,  tonight we ventured out in the biting cold to the Augustiner Keller where we indulged in Schnitzel and beers.  Happy times.

Outside there are 4 rinks where a curling game is played, lots of beers being drunk and open brazier fires.

We did a factory tour of the BMW plant.  We arrived early and at BMW Welt display area had a play with a number of shiny new BMW - but we didn't bring home any souvenirs

The tour itself was superb.  Looking at the level of automation and hearing the efficiency statistics it was fair to say it was a very well oiled machine.  The company Headquarters nearby were in the shape of engine cylinders, and quite eye-catching

Back in the city centre we reverted to history as opposed to modern technology and it was a view of the Rathaus and the famous Glockenspiel

For dinner we returned to the Augustiner Keller and more hearty fare washed downed with a bit more Weisbier.  Travel is tough

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Final Iran observations

Finally some concluding observations on Iran, based on a mere 2 weeks in the country.  Without hesitation we recommend visiting.
Plastic Surgery is HUGE. We read about it but didn’t believe the extent before we got there.  Noses everywhere had the post-procedural bandages.  While it was mainly women, there were a number of young men sporting bandages.  It even went as far as the shop mannequins
Food was hearty and we ate a lot of Yoghurt and Barberries.  There were very good biscuits and small eats. Dates were , moist and caramelly. 

Contrary to Andrew’s hopes, non-alcoholic fruit beer is not a great substitute for the real thing.  Contrary to Paula’s expectations Andrew survived without alcohol for 2 weeks without any major issues. 

Lamb was everywhere
The city streets were always very clean.  The public gardens were swept each day and provided good shade for walkers. Most towns had an abundance of seats along the streets and in the parks and that they were well used.

Driving was mad.  As one commentator said, it may look chaotic, but the drivers are very skillful to manoeuvere through the mayhem.  City buses were segregated - men at the front, women at the back- but long distance buses were not.  Motorbikes with windshields were standard issue.
Although international sanctions have been lifted the state of the economy is not great.  From the Economist 6 Dec 2016

Boosted by sanctions relief, Iran’s economy is set to grow by about 4.5% this year, up from 0.4% in 2015. Yet few ordinary Iranians have felt the benefits. Unemployment is at 12.2% overall and at 25.2% and 19.7% respectively for young people and women. An oil boom has done little to create jobs. The Revolutionary Guards’ grip on the economy does not help. President Hassan Rohani has started on reforms but has more to do

Hand labour remains common – the cross-braced wheel below was used to draw up the soil on a construction site.  There is a religious decree currently be promoted where women are not supposed to ride bicycles, but despite this they do.  We saw these two ladies in the park, one learning to ride.  We offered them some encouragement as we walked past.

Although everyone ‘wanted’ to know where you were from they really didnt know where NZ was – except in the tourist restaurant in Kashan where we were presented with a flag on our table while we ate


I wore the same over jacket every day.  Every. Single. Day!  It was also the best item of clothing for this trip.  While it is possible for foreigners to have more leeway on the dress-code the head-scarf is compulsory and other clothing remains conservative.  The light weight fabric of the jacket meant I could wear a t-shirt underneath and not be too hot and when the snow came I could also wear my fleece under it.  I recommend it!

We stayed at the following hotels/inns
Tehran: Forsat Eskan – central tehran -
Shiraz:  Aryo Barzan Hotel
Esfahan: Esfahan Tourist Hotel
Kashan: Manouchehri Traditional House