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Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Victor Harbor, South Australia

Victor Harbor

Victor Harbor has been a seaside holiday destination for over 100 years. It advertises itself as being less than an hour from Adelaide, I would add 'depending on what part of Adelaide you live in!' It's a popular spot for holiday makers during the summer, especially during a heat wave, it can be 10 degrees cooler in Victor Harbor than in Adelaide.

Looking down into Victor Harbor, the Norfolk Pines in the distance is the town centre with the causeway to Granite Island, the bump behind the trees is called 'The Bluff'. The town was originally called Port Victor as for a time it was a port for goods being transported from inland down the Murray River. In the 1920s the name was changed to Victor Harbor, but the Surveyor-General made a spelling mistake. Australians use British English spelling so it should have been 'Victor Harbour' and the train station has that spelling. The town name kept the misspelling, confusing people ever since!

Encounter Bay with The Bluff at the head of it. Encounter Bay was so named as it's the place where in 1802 (so before European settlement in South Australia) Matthew Flinders, who was mapping the continent for Britain, and Nicolas Baudin, who was mapping the continent for France, met to exchange notes, even though technically their countries were at war. Now it's a popular place to own a holiday home to spend your summers in! The Bluff was the location of the first whaling station, whale oil being the first export of the new colony.

The whale fountain in the town centre, one of my favourite pieces of outdoor sculpture.

The Whale Centre housed in one of the old warehouses. Victor Harbor had been a whaling station as the Southern Right Whale would come and calve in the warmer waters along the southern coast during the winter. The Southern Right Whale were called 'the right whale' as they floated when they were harpooned so making them the right whale to hunt. (I've visited the Whale Centre!) Now the whale numbers have been built up and the whales still come to calve and it's possible to go whale watching during the winter months.

There's a small island just off the coast of Victor Harbor, called Granite Island, a jetty was built there as well as a whaling station. In the 1860s a causeway was built to the island and horse drawn trams were used to bring cargo and later people across to the island. Now it's a fun thing to do on a visit, catch the heritage tram and walk around the island, there are walking paths for visitors to use. It's also used as a standard joke among people who don't travel that much "I've been overseas, I've been to Granite Island"! 

The tram going back into Victor.

The trams are pulled by clydesdale horses, it seems there's a rotating set of 3, as 2 were in the pen next to the terminus.

Victor Harbor has a very English holiday at the seaside vibe about it, just one major difference, no donkey rides here. But there are camel rides!

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Peace Memorial Museum, Hiroshima

Peace Memorial Museum


If you enter Peace Park from where the A-Bomb dome is situated, and walk through the park, at the other end you will find the Peace Memorial Museum. It was established in 1955 and parts of it were remodelled in the 1990s.

Peace Memorial Museum.

The museum holds various artefacts from the bombing of Hiroshima and the aftermath, it begins with models of what Hiroshima looked like the day before the bombing and then another model of just after the bombing.

The tear dropped shaped land between the rivers is where Peace Park is now located. The whole area had buildings crowded close together with narrow lanes, the day of the bombing there were junior high school students working in those lanes to clear fire breaks. The students all died. The t-shaped bridge (at the top of the picture) which was the original target the pilots looked for can be seen. On the right by the river bridge is the Industrial Promotions building with the dome that wasn't totally destroyed. The hyocentre (where the bomb actually exploded) is just over the bridge on the right.

After the bomb exploded all that remains are the remnants of a few buildings, the Industrial Promotions building is still standing on the right.

When I first visited the museum there was just one display with some of Sadako Sasaki's cranes, her family has since donated some more of her belongings so the display is bigger now.

A display of some of her cranes.

Her kokeshi dolls that were given to her when she was in hospital.

Some really tiny cranes she made, she folded them by using a pin to fold the paper. Fingers were too big!

This is part of an external wall, the black lines running down it are the 'black rain' that fell on the people after the explosion. I had to research exactly what the 'black rain' was, the explosion released isotopes that went high up in the atmosphere and that mixed with heat and thermal currents from the firestorms. That led to rain which mixed with the carbon (so it became black) from the fires on the way down and 30 to 40 minutes after the explosion this black rain arrived. As dark, sticky, radioactive water which stained clothing and buildings, contaminated the ground water and when ingested by breathing or drinking and eating from the contaminated water it led to radiation poisoning. There's quite a powerful documentary called "Black rain" that shows the aftermath of the bomb.

Hiroshima Peace Park and the Peace Museum are poignant sites to visit. The museum in particular as it was pointed out to me shows how many children and young people were killed or affected by the radiation. Many of the exhibits relate to children, Sadako's cranes, a lunchbox belonging to a student but no remains of that student was ever found, a child's tricycle all can be seen in the museum.

I've been to Nagasaki as well, the memorial park and the museum there are much smaller, and tends to have fewer visitors. Nagasaki isn't on the shinkansen line (the bullet train) so it does take longer to get there. Still worth seeing for anyone who is in Japan for an extended holiday.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Peace Park, Hiroshima

Peace Park, Hiroshima

A number of years ago now, a friend of mine moved to Japan to live and work there for a year. As I tend to live by the mantra "friend in exotic location, will visit" I organised to go and visit, and be a tourist for a week. I had never been to Japan, and knew very little about it, but placed Peace Park at the top of my list of places I wanted to see in Japan.

My knowledge of Japan was pretty pitiful, but I had been given a book by my cousin when I was younger about a girl who developed leukaemia as a result of the radiation she was exposed to as a 2 year old. So I was very familiar with the bombing and the aftermath of Hiroshima, that was the one place I wanted to see. The book I had been given was in Italian called Il gran sole di Hiroshima, I later found the English version of the same story called Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coer. These books were the starting point for my Japanese exploration.

The following pictures were taken on a different trip to Hiroshima, not my first one. I recommend going in April as not only is it cherry blossom season, but around the same time it's also when the azaleas all bloom and they're used extensively in hedges and in streetscapes.

On my first trip I spoke no Japanese at all (and certainly couldn't read anything in Japanese script!) but managed to get to Hiroshima on my own (my friend was working that day) and found Peace Park with relative ease. There was a sign, in English outside the train station as to which streetcar to catch, and the streetcar stations had English script so it was easy enough to get off at the right stop. Walking away from the stop towards Peace Park, you pass the Hypocentre, which is where the bomb actually detonated and then into the park itself.

The first thing you come across is what is now known as the A-bomb dome.

It is the building closest to the Hypocentre to have survived. At the time it was the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall, the dome shaped roof is credited with keeping the building together. The dome shape is apparently particular strong, so the building didn't collapse. It's now a World Heritage Site.

Just across from the dome is the T-Shaped bridge, which was the original target for the bombers.

The bridge has been rebuilt, and it's hard to tell from this photo, but one span of the bridge goes across the river, then a different span comes out from the bridge to another part of the land as the river separates. From the air, you can see the bridge makes a 'T' and this was the target for the bombers, it was easily recognised from high up in the air. It's amazing to see how close the Hypocentre where the bomb actually exploded, is to this bridge.

Here's what brought me to Peace Park, the Children's Memorial. It's a memorial for all children who died due to the bomb, but originally it came about as Sadako Sasaki's school friends and family published her story. Money was raised in Japan for this memorial. Sadako was 2 years old when the bomb was dropped, she survived but 10 years later developed leukaemia due to the radiation poisoning she received. She was told of the legend that whoever folds a 1000 paper cranes would get their wish granted. Hers was to be well again. She died but the cranes have become a symbol and children all around the world fold them and have them sent to the Children' Memorial, they then get displayed around the memorial.

This is the memorial in the park, to the Koreans who were also killed. Many of them were forced labourers taken from Korea, which Japan had claimed as a colony.

The burial mound that contains the ashes of 70,000 unidentified victims of the bomb.

The Cenotaph, this holds the names of those who were killed by the bomb.

The Peace Flame, between the 2 hands with the palms open upwards. The flame is to be extinguished when the last nuclear weapon is destroyed. The Peace Museum is behind it.

The fact that the park exists in itself is a testimony to the recovery ability of nature. The area up until 1945 had been a very urban part of the city with lots of narrow road, no open spaces. After the bomb had left the area devastated, people thought that nothing would grow there for decades and yet within a few months the first blades of grass appeared. The park was then created and it's green and lush and a lovely environment to walk around in.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Thai Hua Museum, Phuket

Thai Hua Museum, Phuket

During my exploration of Old Phuket Town, I came across this small museum of Chinese immigrants in Phuket. The building was the first Chinese school (Chinese as the language of instruction) built in Phuket for children of Chinese immigrants.

Phuket had tin mines and Chinese miners came, mainly from the province of Fujian, the towns of Fuxhou and Xiamen, to escape poverty by working in the mines. Some did very well and were able to build large colonial style houses, other miners built smaller houses whose architecture is now referred to as Sino-Portuguese. The current museum building housed the first Chinese school built for the children of these immigrants and was built with funding from the local Chinese community.

The piano was the original school piano, when the school was closed the piano went into private ownership. With the opening of the museum, the family who owned it donated it to the museum. Behind the piano is a stage, the Headmaster who stand on as he addressed the school. (These large raised platforms or stages seem to be common in Asian schools, Japan also uses them.)

With the building having been a school, there is a room set up like a classroom of the time with photos of the original students. As well as information on past teachers and principals as well as some school materials.

The centre of the building has a large open air courtyard, this helped cool the building as it allowed air to circulate. (Same style I saw in the Perranakan museum in Singapore which had also been a Chinese school)

The museum shows different aspects of the Chinese immigrants life, I found the model of the house really interesting as in the surrounding streets there were many of these, now restored houses.

The houses had verandahs that were at the street side so people were able to walk around protected from the sun. The front doors of the house were open so people (men!) could interact, as that part of the house contained a home office. The woman is behind the wooden screen so she could see but not be seen. Also on the next floor up, the room had a peephole in the floor so a person could be up there and see what was happening in the room below! The centre of the house had an open courtyard with a well. 

The back part of the house had the kitchen and a small garden.

This is what can been seen from the street, the houses are all decorated and many are brightly coloured.

A rickshaw.

The school was closed and the building is now run by a foundation that was established back in the mining days by well to do Chinese businessmen to improve living conditions of immigrants by building schools and hospitals. The museum isn't big and it's easy to make your way around the displays, it gives an insight into a minority group that made an impact on the local area. Once you've finished strolling around the museum, there's a nice coffee shop next door where you can grab something to eat or drink. (The 'drink' was what I was after, it was hot walking around!! A mango smoothie and a bottle of water was welcomed!)

I saw this beautifully restored building in Old Phuket Town, before I visited the museum, I found out that it was bought and it is used by former students of the Chinese school. (An Old Scholars Club if you like, or Alumni Club. I like the old British term which gets used in Australia!)

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Brighton, Adelaide

Brighton, South Australia

This past northern summer I visited the British city of Brighton and had a brief thought about the other Brightons there are, 2 beachside suburbs in Australian cities (Adelaide and Melbourne) are named Brighton. Adelaide's even has a nearby suburb of Hove to match the UK, Brighton and Hove towns.

The Brighton in Adelaide is a suburb, it has a jetty, a main street and is surrounded by residential housing. It's a nice area to live in and visit with a variety of cafes to pass the time.

The Adelaide Brighton has a jetty, this is the latest version of the jetty as it was rebuilt after a bad storm, complete with mobile phone tower at the end! Not quite the amusement pier of Brighton, UK!

Warmer weather at Brighton Adelaide, means palms trees and in the background are Norfolk pines, which line the coastal Adelaide beaches.

The Brighton Adelaide beach is sandy, no pebbles here! There was also either a surf competition (As in Surf Livesavers, the clubs have juniors and run events for them on the weekend) or just a training session for the juniors, that's the crowd at the left of the picture.

The main road which leads to the jetty is called (rather creatively!!) Jetty Road, there's the pub on the left and other small businesses along the road.

Jetty Road cafes and shops, all very suburban and local so nice to stroll around.

The Arch of Remembrance at the end of Jetty Road, the original arch built in the 1920s was destroyed by storms so this is the rebuilt version. Brighton is one of the older Adelaide suburbs and the people who lived there were slightly better off financially and could afford to build something grand (at the time) as their memorial to the war dead.

Interesting to me at least is that plaques are still being added to the arch for wars and conflicts that Australians fought in since WWII. The Afghanistan wreath just has a beginning date and no end date. The others are Gulf War (1 and 2) East Timor, the older ones are Vietnam and Korea.

Brighton is a lovely area and the cafes on Jetty Road are perfect for a leisurely lunch, or coffee on a lazy day.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Travel Tip. Reading

Travel Tip #2

Surviving long haul flights


Long haul flights are just awful, there's no other word for them. Long, tedious and an exercise in endurance. The only way to get through them is to have things to get you through the flight. Some people can watch 5 or 6 movies, I found that I can't. Three seems to be my maximum and then I've had enough, so I need some other distraction.

Lucky for me I've been a huge reader since childhood so books have been a saviour for me on long haul flights. And none of these 200 page novels, I want a solid, thick, page turner of a book.(The thicker the better, I have hours to kill!) Thrillers are my go to books for flights, I need a storyline that makes me want to turn the page and keep me distracted and involved in the story.

Here's a selection of my current favourites, these are all authors whose books I buy as soon as a new one is published. I've now got to the stage where I will buy one and then save it for when I'm next travelling. I do still buy physical copies of books, I will read a mixture of a physical book and an ebook on a flight. I used to travel with a small library in my suitcase, but now I tend to have one physical book and 5 ebooks loaded onto my iPad. (This freed up an amazing of amount of space in my luggage!)

I've also found that many hotels now have a library section where you can borrow one of their books or leave a book you're read. I did this during my stay in London last year, I left the book I had read on the flight over and read one of theirs during my stay.

I don't read a lot of travel books, my exception was one of the books in the photo. I bought the book in Singapore and loved it. The book is Final Notes, from a Great Island by Neil Humphreys. He writes about his final exploration of the island of Singapore before he leaves to live in Australia. I loved the book as Singapore is one of my favourite places, and his book introduced me to parts of Singapore I didn't know about.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Unter den linden, Berlin

Unter den Linden

Under the linden trees, Berlin

Unter den Linden is a street/avenue/boulevard in Berlin it's one that features in books set in Berlin. Either as a point of nostalgia of better times before the war or set in those heady fun times when Berlin was the place to be. From the books I read, the nostalgia aspect appealed to me, Friederikstrasse where I was staying leads straight onto Unter den Linden. Checking a map I saw that the Brandenburg Gate, which was to be my first stop, was at the end of Unter den Linden. Off I went. Sadly though at the moment the road is a construction site! A new subway line is being built connecting Potsdam Platz with Alexander Platz right under Unter den Linden so it's not so much an elegant avenue as one with construction hoarding all around!

During World War II the linden trees that gave the road its name were all cut down for firewood, but in the 1950s new trees were planted and these are the ones you can see now. I went to the Brandenburg Gate first but Unter den Linden technically starts at the other end, at the Museum Island end (where's there's even more construction!)

The Palace Bridge and the building with the most prestigious address, 1 Unter den Linden. It's called Alte Kommandantur, the original building was badly damaged during World War II and then completely destroyed by the East Germans who built their Foreign Affairs building on the site. That too was demolished and a media company rebuilt the original, there were no plans so the architects had only old photographs and some eye witness reports as to what the building looked like. It was completed in 2003.

Also down by the river the old Arsenal, called the Zeughaus is the oldest building on Unter den Linden. It was built in the late 17th and early 18th century as an artillery arsenal to display cannons from Brandenburg and Prussia. It was later opened as a military museum. It was badly damaged in WWII and restored by the East German government for it to house a museum of German history in the modern era from the communist point of view. It's now the site of the German Historical Museum.

The Crown Prince Palace.

With the removal of the royals in Germany at the end of World War I, the Crown Prince's Palace became an annex of the National Gallery, housing mainly modern art. During the 1930s when Hitler was at the height of his power, he closed the gallery and ordered the destruction of the modern art it housed, only 5 paintings and 10 drawings were not destroyed. The building itself was badly damaged by bombing raids in WWII, the East Germans restored the palace in 1968 and used it as a guest house for visitors to East Berlin. Since the reunification it is used for special exhibitions and cultural events.

Statue of Frederick II of Prussia.

The story behind the statue is probably more interesting than the statue itself, here was a sign in English as well giving some background to it. The statue now is back in its original place on the medium strip of Unter den Linden. During WWII to protect it, it was encased in concrete. After the war it the area it was in became part of East Berlin and in 1950 the statue was moved to Potsdam to the Sans Souci estate, then in 1962 it got moved back to Berlin and the Charlottenhof palace. In the 1980s it was restored and moved to a few metres of its original position, with reunification, more restoration was carried out, the statue moved to its original position and the wrought-iron railing and old lamp-posts recreated and that's what you see now.

The Royal Library, Humbolt University.

The French Church.

The Concert Hall.

These two buildings are part of the same complex and I basically turned a corner and went 'Wow gorgeous buildings' no idea what they were or that they were there. I had just looked at a map for a shortcut to Unter den Linden to walk to Alexanderplatz!

The Russian Embassy (and some linden trees!)

This was just near the Brandenburg Gate, a sign explained that the property was first purchased by one of the Tsars in the late 19th century, it was to be their Berlin home. With the overthrow of the Tsar, the Soviets made it their embassy, much of it was destroyed in WWII and the building that is there is very much an example of postwar Soviet architecture. With the breakup of the Soviet Union, it is now the Russian Embassy.

The Brandenburg Gate.

The Brandenburg Gate was the main Berlin landmark that I was familiar with, so planned to visit it my first morning in Berlin. This was one site I just didn't stumble upon!

The gate was built on the site of an ancient gate which was an entry to Berlin from Brandenburg. It's a monumental gate to Unter den Linden the road that led to the City Palace of the Prussian royals. It was badly damaged in WWII and then left adrift and isolated next to the Berlin Wall during the Cold War. Finally restored from 2000 to 2002 and it looks beautiful now.

The Tiergarten side of the gate, a band was playing so a nice bit of local flavour.

Other than the Brandenburg Gate, all the other places I've listed on Unter den Linden, I had no idea they were there, it was a lot of pleasant surprises. I took pictures (around the construction that was going on!) of pretty buildings and then researched as to what they were! Interesting to me at least was this area was all part of East Berlin, it seemed as though the Soviets at the end of WWII got (albeit badly damaged) the most attractive part of the city.