Scotland here I come!

 

Edinburgh 1999
Edinburgh 1999

Today I am hopping on a plane and flying to Edinburgh, Scotland. It has only been 6 months since our last big holiday which makes me feel extremely lucky, holidays like this don’t come along very often. The first and last time I was in Scotland it was 1999, and I was on a tour which stopped overnight in Glasgow and Edinburgh. It was short but sweet and the desire to return has never left. Why Scotland now you may ask? The opportunity to join a painting tour with my art teacher Louise Corke and several other artists came up and it was too good to resist, two weeks of painting and drawing in the Scottish countryside, destination Dairsie Castle and Gardenstown.

The tour starts and finishes in Edinburgh so I’ve tacked on a couple of days at the beginning and end of the trip, time to explore and do a day trip to Glencoe via Loch Ness. The group will also be heading to Northumberland to visit the Unison pastel factory and perhaps pick up a few more beautiful colours, such lovely soft pastels and with any luck I’ll be able to bring a box home without them turning to dust. What I am really hoping to get out of this trip is inspiration for my drawing, with the weather always changing (apparently) it should be relatively easy to get photos that I can use for as a reference for my art for at least twelve months.

Blog posts may or may not happen while I’m in Scotland, but you can follow me on instagram, twoblackdogz, because I can guarantee that there will be many, many photos taken:-)

Koalas, Kangaroos and Echidnas at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary

A visit to the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary in Queensland is highly recommended, for children and the young at heart it is a fabulous way to spend a day. As soon as you walk through the entry gate you will smile at the sight of koalas sitting among tree branches, munching away on eucalyptus leaves or having a nap. These beautiful creatures, like so many of our native flora and fauna are victims of progress, their natural environment destroyed by developers and their lives threatened by domestic animals and traffic. The wildlife sanctuary does a wonderful job of raising awareness of the plight of our native animals, educating children and caring for the sick and injured at their wildlife hospital.

There are plenty of opportunities to get up close and personal with some of the animals. For a fee you can have your photo taken cuddling a koala or you can buy food for the lorikeets and kangaroos and feed them by hand. We didn’t do any of that, however we did venture into the kangaroo enclosure and took great pleasure in patting young kangaroos while they were dozing in the sunlight. The largest and oldest of the male kangaroos was taking a nap near the gate, at 8 years old he has fathered plenty of kangaroos, the second male is 4 years old and not quite as large although one of the volunteers told us that his nickname was Fatty.

My friends and I spent a day there recently and we loved every minute. When our legs grew weary and our stomachs hungry we hopped on the people mover train and enjoyed a ride through the park and selected a lunch venue. The sanctuary’s rainforest environment is filled with the sound of birds calling and at times, howling dingoes, the train passes by the enclosures of kangaroos, wallabies, water birds and the Tasmanian Devil. Cameras and phones in hand we took hundreds of photos of creatures we don’t often get to see as well as a few that we will never see in the wild because their numbers are low and they are on the endangered list. I regretted not taking a camera with better zoom than my iPhone, the digital zoom on an iPhone really isn’t great and many of my photos look more painterly than photographic.

Waters of Venice

“The quality of Venice that accomplishes what religion so often cannot is that Venice has made peace with the waters. It is not merely pleasant that the sea flows through, grasping the city like tendrils of vine, and, depending upon the light, making alleys and avenues of emerald and sapphire, Citi s a brave acceptance of dissolution and an unflinching settlement with death. Though in Venice you may sit in courtyards of stone, and your heels may click up marble stairs, you cannot move without riding upon or crossing the waters that someday will carry you in dissolution to the sea.”
Mark Helprin, The Pacific and Other Stories

Cold noses and laughter in Berlin

Our local train station, Bahnhof Friedrichstrasse
Our local train station, Bahnhof Friedrichstrasse

The train trip from Innsbruck to Berlin was a long one, 8 hours sitting and wondering what Berlin would be like. Anyone we knew that had visited Berlin said it was amazing and awesome, I was worried that we wouldn’t like it as much as our favourite cities in Italy because it was so new in comparison. Little did I know how wrong I could be.

Our first full day was spent in the company of our Polish friend Tomasz, his girlfriend Barbara and Tomasz’ s family friend we called Boogie. Boogie had lived in Berlin for 40 years and she had lots to share, starting with a visit to her place of work: the Humboldt University library. We had woken up to a light sprinkling of snowflakes, the temperature and our noses got colder as we walked along the river to the Reichstag and our smiles got wider. As cold as it was, Marty and I were loving our walk in the snow and it seemed incredible to be standing under an umbrella, watching as snow fell one of the world’s most famous and modern, government buildings. Our friends were used to this inclement weather and our enjoyment amused them greatly. Tomasz did a bit of translating for Boogie, her English was good but she sometimes searched for the right word so Tomasz would help out and often he would add a little something extra and we would all end up having a good laugh.

Snow on the Reichstag
Snow on the Reichstag
Boogie's walking tour of Berlin
Boogie’s walking tour of Berlin

We didn’t spend the day doing all the typical things that tourists do in Berlin, Boogie wanted to open our eyes to what life was like during the cold war and when she first moved to Berlin so she took us to the “Palace of Tears” or  the Tränenpalast,the former border crossing at Berlin Friedrichstraße station where East Germans said goodbye to family and friends going back to West Germany. The Tränenpalast museum is now a modern history museum, the exhibits highlighting the division between east and west and how that impact the lives of Germans during the Cold War era. It is free to visit, but handbags have to be left in a locker which cost 1 or 2 euros. Adding to that experience was a visit to the DDR Museum. The DDR Museum is an interactive experience that gives the visitor the opportunity to see what daily life was like in East Berlin. Hubby had a simulated driving experience in a Trabant, a popular and cheap car for East Germans and apparently not that easy to ‘drive’ as the experience ended with a crash into a pole. I enjoyed exploring the living room and kitchen installations, the formica and colour scheme reminding me of some of the cheaper places I lived in as a university student.

Boogie also led us out of the centre of Berlin, several trains and buses later, to find a well known, popular vegetarian restaurant. I stopped counting how many changes we made after the first couple of stations and I had absolutely no idea where we were, thank goodness for Boogies. By the time we reached our destination, the smiles had worn off a little and our feet were cold and wet. As it turned out the restaurant was closed until later that day, feeling famished we entered the nearest open restaurant and proceeded to order a Chinese banquet. The food was fresh, tasty and very cheap and the time spent there allowed our shoes to dry a little and our feet to warm. Without Boogie we would never have found a delightful ‘village’ in the middle of Berlin, she took us to a restaurant that specialised in potato dishes and showed us beautifully decorated buildings. It was a truly wonderful introduction to Berlin, I’m not sure we would have loved this city as much without the Boogie walking tour and the company of our friends Tomasz and Barbara.

Burleigh beach walk

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Easter in Australia means a 4 day weekend, we have a public holiday on Good Friday and another on Easter Monday. It is usually a time when people pack their family into their car and head off to visit extended family or head to the beach to make the most of the warm weather before Autumn kicks in. We generally stay home, relaxing and avoiding traffic the main aim. Sometimes family pop in for a visit however this year it was just the two of us with our two black doggies, a nice break after a hectic start to the year.

Even though the house was void of visitors we still fit in some quality time with family. Hubby’s sister and her family had booked into an apartment at Burleigh Heads on the southern end of the Gold Coast. It is a great spot and from their apartment it is a short walk to the beach, cafes and a variety of small, non-franchised shops. On Monday morning we set the alarm for early, left Maxi snoozing on her bed and took Bundy to the beach to see the sunrise and join Hubby’s sister K for a walk. It was a perfect morning, the predicted rain never appeared and there was wonderful cloud formations happening which made the sunrise so much more interesting.

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There is a path along the esplanade that leads into Burleigh National Park, dogs aren’t allowed in the National Park so we stopped at the top of Burleigh headlands and joined many others in admiring and photographing the sunrise. Some photographers were there to take photos of the surfers out in the water, I have to say that I did feel a little lens envy when I saw the zoom on their cameras. Turning around we headed north, choosing to walk on the sand rather than continue on the footpath. Bundy loves the beach, he’s not too fond of swimming but he loves zig-zagging through the water and the sand, oblivious to everyone passing by. He is such a happy chappy when out and about and if given a chance he’ll say hello to other dogs and engage them in play for a short while, however he does prefer to hang with his two legged friends.

It was a beautiful way to spend the last morning of our long weekend, I hope you all had a wonderful Easter as well.