Rugby World Cup ’99 in Ireland

From a group email sent to family and friends after my trip:

In early October I flew out of Switzerland to Dublin, and from there raced straight up to Belfast for the Aussie’s first Rugby World Cup game – versus Romania.  It was great being there for the event with what must’ve been every Aussie in Europe.  After much beer, little sleep, green-and-gold facepaint and fingernail polish application, we all migrated to the ground to watch a resounding victory.  While swilling Guinness’ afterwards in the beer tent we were joined by most of the team, and it was fab to meet and drink with a few of the lads.

After spending an extra day in Belfast to shake my head at the complete stupidity of the Catholic vs. Protestant Northern Ireland thing, I raced across the country to Galway to see me ol’ pal Jimbo, who was working in a great little place called the Salmon Weir Hostel (even Caitlin from “Degrassi” stayed there once – that’s how good it is!).  There you go Jim, a free ad for ya!  While there I perused the west coast with trips to Connemarra and the Aran Islands in some of the most miserable weather ever (the “true” way to see Ireland I told myself).

Back in Dublin it was time for the big Aust vs. Ireland encounter at Lansdowne Road.  It was amazing how many of the same crowd were there for the match, and it was great to be in amongst the Irish lads (and Jem and her Dad!) and the atmosphere of the ground.  Once again I had the pleasure of chatting to some of the players, and I even managed to sneak into the official hotel function afterwards.  Lucky me.

A bad BLT and an 8-hour bus ride to the Dingle Peninsula saw me in pretty bad shape for the most beautiful part of Ireland, but I still managed to get around and see this “Ryan’s Daughter” country (anyone seen the film or am I the only one?) – rolling, green, stone-walled hills, white beaches, rugged coastline, olde ruins, the works.  I loved it.  My stomach didn’t.

The food poisoning saw me cross my legs and hope for the best aaaaaaall the way back to Dublin, as I was in no shape to stop in Limerick for the last game of rugger.  Luckily I was OK for my flights home, and after 35 hours of aircrafts and airports, I staggered back into Melbourne.

Farewell Switzerland

Well, my time has come – for now at least – to leave this land of good chocolate, cuckoo clocks, smelly cheeses, incredible mountains, filthy cigarettes, Nazi gold, ridiculous small dogs, offensive prices, and many somewhat humourless law-abiding people!  Hey, but it’s not all bad!!!  I couldn’t have asked for more out of the last year.  To recap bits of it, in case you’ve missed some….

I’ve been right up into the Arctic Circle,
    and down into the underground cities of Turkey,
I’ve done the Heineken brewery tour for breakfast,
    and been a drunk fool at Oktoberfest,
I’ve snowboarded myself stupid in the winter,
    and climbed my arse off in the summer,
I’ve celebrated New Years in London’s Trafalgar Square,
    and danced in front of 700,000 at the Zürich Street Parade,
I’ve walked through ancient cities in Turkey,
    but then seen the stolen “good bits” in a Berlin museum,
I’ve tackled 4000m peaks,
    and relaxed on the lazy, sleepy islands off Thailand,
I’ve caught a live sex show in Amsterdam,
    and been woken to sounds of a free show in my hostel dorm,
I’ve drunk with the Spaniards,
    and knocked my socks off on Absinth – 80%! – in Prague,
I’ve made the pilgrimage to Gallipoli for Anzac Day,
    and also walked the D-Day beaches at Normandy,
I’ve had a friend try to die on me on Koh Phan Gan,
    and had mates pass out on me in Zürich,
I’ve had all my clothes stolen in Sweden,
    and bought ridiculous tourist trash everywhere I go,
I’ve seen the Carnavale in Venice,
    and been in a bus crash in the Middle-Of-Nowhere Thailand,
I’ve drunk wine under the Eiffel at night,
    and stood in awe at the impressive Mont St. Michel,
I’ve slept in a snow cave at 3000m,
    on the floor of a train and in a convent dormitory,
I’ve skipped “Sound of Music” style down an archway in Salzburg,
    and got drunk and naked on a snowed-in rugby bus from Geneva,
I’ve seen some of the most amazing art you could ever imagine,
    but fallen asleep in a Vienna concert,
I’ve travelled third class on a Thai train,
    and ridden a fifteen hour non-stop hell bus in Turkey,
I’ve haggled over something worth twenty cents,
    but also paid eight bucks for a small beer in Norway,
I’ve been to some of the great cities of the world,
    and seen some of world’s worst excuses for beaches,
I’ve met some of the best people I could ever hope to meet,
    and I’ve had the most fun I could ever hope to have!

So, basically, I haven’t done much at all!

Where from here?  First a little side trip to Ireland for a few weeks to get my fix of Rugby World Cup action (got tickets to two games including Oz vs. Ireland at Landsdowne Road – yee ha!), and then I’m back to Old Melbourne Town. After that…well… I don’t exactly know!  I’ll do nothing for a bit and then I’ll do something, but you’ll hear about it all when the time comes.

My Six Week Jaunt Around Europe

(Yet another trip well before the era of digital cameras!  I’ll have to scan in some photos sometime…)

While I was interning at ABB Power Generation in Switzerland in 1998-1999, I was able to negotiate six weeks off to backpack around Europe over the summer.  Here’s a summary of the trip, with extracts from a group email I sent around in italics.


My first stop was Vienna.  I skipped Salzburg because I’d been there before and caught the night train to Vienna.  I really liked Vienna and spent a few days there doing the tourist stuff – museums, parks, palaces etc.

First stop was Austria and Vienna, which is still an incredible city care of the Habsburg dynasty.  Huge gradiose buildings all over the places, wide boulevards, statues and fountains on every corner.  Real opulence.  I did think it was missing a bit of heart though….  Manage to time my trip well with the Vienna Love Parade, rubbing shoulders with the entire Austrian gay community and all technoed out by the end of that night.


My next destination was the small town of Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic.  This World Heritage-listed town is set on the bend of a river with a castle and gardens set up on the hill on the other bank – gorgeous!  I then traveled to Prague, which back then was waking itself into the tourist destination is today.  I had a great few days there hanging out with a couple of fun travelers, and we covered the city pretty well.  We even took a day trip out to Kutna Hora to visit a spine-chilling chapel decorated with human bones and skulls.  Here’s more from the emails:

After five trains, one bus, seven hours and a shit-load of dicking around, I rolled into Cesky Krumlov in the Bohemian Region of the Czech Republic after midnight.  What a view walking down from the station – a tiny village unchanged in centuries camped on a horse-shoe bend of the river, with a huge castle and tower on a cliff overlooking the city.  It turned out to be a great few days there.  After half a day I’d seen all the sights, and it was fab just to unwind, relax, sleep, wander about, drink pints cheaper than a dollar, and try and get that damned travel journal up to date!!!  (still somewhere in May at the mo.)

A much easier train ride got me to Prague.  This city really grew on me over the days I was there and I was disappointed to leave.  Prague Castle, numerous churches (now a bit churched out), the old town square and astronomical clock, and the incredible 13th (?) Century Charles Bridge with amazing views across either side of the river.  Needless to say that the city was enjoyed to it’s fullest extent with some great company, including a few big nights partaking in a bit of absinth (70% al.!).  Oh yeah Mum, your goulash is waaaaaaaaaay better than theirs!!!

Also did a day trip out to Kunta Hora to see a fascinating but slightly morbid ossuary – some monk decided to decorate the inside of the chapel with the remains of 40,000 people.  It really looked like something you’d find in Goonies or an Indiana Jones adventure.  But well worth the trip.


I first caught a train back into Germany and stopped off in Dresden to see how the city was repairing itself after the fire-bombings of 1945 and the subsequent 40 years of Communist rule.  My destination was Berlin which I loved.  There was so much modern 20th century history there, lots to see and do, and I was staying in a cool backpacker hangout.  Here’s an excerpt from an old group email I sent out:

Berlin turned out to be quite an interesting experience.  It was fascinating for me because of all the recent history tied up in the city:  the Berlin wall, Checkpoint Charlie, buildings built during the Nazi era, the square where National Socialist students burned 20,000 books in 1933 (quite errie), Hitler’s bunker, the room where the WWII surrender was made official in 1945, war-damaged synogogues, the list went on. 

But it’s really undergoing a transformation at the moment since re-unification in 1989.  The Reichstag (Parliament) has been rebuilt and Berlin is the capital of Germany once more, and all over the city there are cranes, building sites, cranes, cranes and more of the bastards.  EVERYTHING is being rebuilt.  It’s definitely a place I’d want to go back to in 10 years to see the results.


It was a lot of train travel to get me to my next destination – Stockholm.  It was a loooong train up to Hamburg followed by another looooong train ride up to Copenhagen.  I didn’t stop off there as I was passing back through it and instead got straight on another train direct to Stockholm.  Here’s some more from the group email:

Time to move on then.  Did a big long haul up to Stockholm, stocking up on lotsa cheap grog on the ferry because their prices are soooooo exorbitant (what is it – $8 a pot or something?!?!?!).  Met up with my ol’ rugger buddy Ludde (the Swede for those that know him) at the train station and within two hours we were swilling beer underneath the statue of some king looking over the waters of beautiful Stockholm, which would have to be one of the prettiest cities I’ve seen – just as watery as Venice but with thousands of islands and parks everywhere.

So began a few big days of partying and not much sightseeing (I did it all on the last day in town).  Ludde was kind enough to show me the student scene at his university town Uppsala, and I was kind enough to empty my wallet at the bar (it’s still empty).  Also got treated to some real Swedish cuisine: pickled herring x lots, spuds, boiled eggs, rye bread, and some potent aquavit to wash it all down.  Now that’s living.  Also had the great pleasure of being introduced to Swedish beaches – picture a freezing cold lake with rocky bottom, shelving onto a rancid little brown pebble beach and you’ve got the idea.  Give me home…

Also had the highlight of my trip when my clothes were stolen from a apartment building locked washing room.  Some little thieving turd actually went through my stuff in the dryer and decided what he did and didn’t want – Big Day Out t-shirt didn’t get a gurnsey but he must’ve taken a liking to my reg grundies (non-Aussies read: undies).  So left with not much to wear I took on Stockholm for some clothes shopping (just my luck to pick the most expensive fucking country too….).  Hate to see the Visa now.


From Stockholm I traveled to Oslo in Norway to visit another friend, Marte Lid, who I met in Thailand the year beforehand.  I enjoyed my time there (an Oslo “beach” – interesting) but I found myself city-d out.  On a hunch I decided to travel up north and it was a GREAT decision.

Going up to the Lofoten Islands turned out to be the highlight of my trip so far.  It took 1 1/2 days on a train to get to the town of Bodø, which is above the Arctic Circle, but it wasn’t so bad because I got to have a squiz at the town of Trondheim along the way.

At Bodø I jumped onto a ferry and it was a stormy three hour ride across to the islands.  As we got closer the islands appeared through the cloud – 1000m high glacier carved islands rising straight out of the ocean, a jagged line of snow-capped mountains.  Impressive!!!

Once off the ferry I bussed down to the old sleepy fishing village of Å (“or”).  Went for a walk and just took it easy up there – the mountains right behind the town were great for hikes, even though the weather wasn’t.  I was staying in this rather unique place, actually part of the old bakery so I was woken up every morning to the smells of cinnamon rolls.  Mmmmm…..

A two hour bus ride along the island’s coasts, over bridges and through tunnels, with views out of this world around every corner, saw me to another fishing town of Stamsund (at 68 degrees north latitude, that’s higher than Iceland or Hudson Bay!).  This place had one of those hostels which you wish you could stay for weeks – basically you ran the place yourself and everyone was just great.  More walks and relaxing and then it was unfortunately time to go.

Bus, ferry and two trains got me back down to Oslo, where I then headed for the fjords around Bergen.  Where it rains for over 280 days of the year, I was really chuffed to get two good sunny days in the fjords.  They lived up to all expectations – huge snow-capped mountains and cliffs falling straight into the water below, with waterfalls and villages stuck to their sides.  Beautiful!

Back in Oslo I caught up with my pal Marte who showed me the plerasures of a Norwegian beach on a good day.  Needless to say that any full-blooded male would be impressed with what he saw!  Norwegians living up to THAT reputation!


Travelling down to Copenhagen I stopped off in Malmo, a Swedish town which is actually where this Anderson clan comes from (five generations ago just in case you’re interested).  I caught the ferry across to Copenhagen, and I’m there now.  It’s quite a pretty city and great for walking and riding, with some good museums to do and things to see.  But right now it’s time to drink some more beer, so I’ll sign off.

I spent a couple of enjoyable days in Copenhagen before heading south to Amsterdam.  I spent a few days there and then in Delft to visit a friend Richard (a colleague from ABB in Switzerland), and from there I went back to Zurich for the street parade.  I still had a week vacation after that and went to Paris to do a short trip across northern France with Seren.  Here’s more from my group emails:

So let’s pick up where I left off.  Oh that’s right, I was going for some beerage in Copenhagen.  Well that turned out to be a bit of a fizzer because the prices up there sort of precluded excessive alcohol consumption.  But apart from that, and the fact that I was in The Noisiest Hostel Ever, inadequately called “Sleep In Heaven”, Copenhagen was great: strolling down Ströget (the world’s longest pedestrian road), a boat cruise through the canals of the city, the disappointing Little Mermaid, the hippie town of Christiania and the fantastic Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek Museum.


Next stop Amsterdam.  I wasn’t originally going to stay in the city but with a mate outside, but next thing I knew I was dragged into a big drinking sesh (making up for lost time in Scandinavia I told myself) with a few mad Canadians.  This was followed up by the Heineken brewery tour for breakfast, with all the free beer you could drink for 45 mins.  GO!!!!!!  Somewhere in amongst the blur we critically (and amusingly) perused the works of van Gogh.  I also had a squiz inside the Anne Frank house, but other than that I just moseyed through the streets of the city, over and along the canals – quite a pretty city indeed.  By night of course the Red Light District was a must, and I did what most people do when they go there!  (as this e-mail is Rated G for kiddies, I’ll only tell you more on request)  All I will say was that it was definitely good for a laugh!!!

Rich the Krazy Dutchman met up with me the next night and we sampled many beverages throughout the city until 4am, when we caught the train to his house Delft (thanks for warning me about the multiple-kilometre walk with pack Dutchman!)  Next afternoon I was ready to tackle the town of Delft, which only took a few hours as there wasn’t THAT much to see (there’s only so much Delft Blue Pottery that one guy can take).  After a “typical Dutch meal” of pancakes (still trying to work that one out!), we found heaven in a bar with 400 beers to choose from, of course including my fave Newcastle Brown Ales.  Oh, it’s been a looooooong time between drinks……  No time to rest though.  Next day I travelled to Arnhem, site of the terrible and unsuccessful allied airborne attack in WW2.  It was quite an interesting day for me seeing places I’d read a lot about.


Next stop ZÜRICH!  But hang on, I hear you all say, you’ve got a weeks holiday left – why go home now?  Well because once a year this consevative bankers’ city totally lets go, and every weirdo from everywhere comes on down for the huge Zürich Street Parade (basically a huge techno dance party down the streets of the city).  The parade floats are these massive semi-trailers loaded with a veritable shit-load of speakers, a big fuck-off generator to run the whole thing, one DJ, and a hundred semi-clad dancers.  I was working on one of the floats and so I had a great view of the 750,000+ people there, and I was up there dancing with the best of them (OK, stop laughing now).  Turned out to be a great day and great night (!), and I ended up crashing in an all-girls dormitory inside a convent.  Might just go to hell for that one!  Heh heh.


Last stop was France for a week.  But you know what, I couldn’t be bothered writing that much about it and I’m sure you’re sick of reading.  So I’ll make it brief.  Paris, with Seren across from the UK, beautiful city, Louvre a disappointment but the fab Musee d’Orsay a must for all, up the Eiffel, Notre Dame Cathedral, freaky catacombs.  Eclipse from Sacre Coeur whoop-dee-doo.  By myself to Normandy.  Amazing 70m long 1066 AD Bayeux tapestry.  Absolutely incredibly totally impressive Mont St. Michel (you know, ye olde abbey on top of big rock surrounded by water).  Rude French (the Parisians were the nice ones!).  Sobering D-Day beaches.  Back home.

So I’m back in Baden now and at work.  In all it was a great trip, but I probably wouldn’t attempt backpacking through Western Europe in summer again – it’s just too hectic.  But there’s always somewhere else to go and something else to do…

Too true!  :-)

Some European Adventures

Here’s some text from a group email I sent in April 1999:

Grüezi miteinander!

Sorry I haven’t been around for a while but I’ve been too busy having too much fun!  The first few months of ’99 have been absolutely crazy, I’m loving Europe, and I haven’t really had time to take a breath.  I’ve also really been getting into my work (and they even require me to THINK! Wow!).

Highlights so far include:

  • Snowboarding myself absolutely STUPID this winter (I think I’ve accomplished it pretty damn well!!!), and I can now plummet down a black run with some control and little thought of personal injury. Some good resorts are soooo close to Baden too (1 1/2 hrs away!). Picked the right winter too – the 2nd most severe this century! It was a bit freaky seeing the legacy of all the avalanches up there – roads and railways swept away, huge trees snapped at their bases, destroyed buildings etc. Places like Flumserberg, Hoch Ybrig, Laax-Flims and Engelberg rate a mention. We’d usually head off the beaten track and find some fresh untouched powder that we’d carve up for a few hours without seeing another person. It’s an absolutely amazing feeling being in these deadly quiet mountains with the views in every direction. The best trip would have to be the long weekend at Grindelwald (below the Eiger and Jungfrau mountains with blue skies, sun, and incredible views down into the valleys below) and also Zermatt. It was amazing to see the Matterhorn in the flesh (or rock) – a truly awesome mountain. However I’ve never been colder than above 3800m at Zermatt in near white-out conditions and below minus 30 degrees (not including the wind chill and it was blowing a f***ing gale!!!). I even had icicles on my face (apparently, but I couldn’t tell you because it was just about frozen solid!) And they call that fun…..!!!
  • A fab few days in Venice. This place really blew my mind and I immediately fell in love with it. You could just wander the streets and canals for hours and not get bored, find a tiny restaurant to eat in and just relax. I was there with my friend Katie B, and we’d incidentally timed our visit with Carnavale, so the whole place was packed with people in costumes and Venetian masks, with music and dancing verywhere. It was great to be there for it and a great way to see it.
  • Rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous along the French Riviera over Easter. We did it tough in Nice and Monaco for a few days, basically just taking it easy on the beach (if you can call that stony Mediterranean crap a beach…!). Monaco was great: a beautiful city, every second car a Ferrari (and you think I’m kidding?!?!?), rich wankers on expensive yachts, money, money, money, money, money (uh, not me, them!). Even had a bit of a dabble in the Monte Carlo Casino just to say I have!
  • Seeing just about everything in Switzerland (it’s NOT that big…!). On the weekends I’ll usually go somewhere new, and places I’ve been to so far include Luzern/Mt Pilatus with the great views over Lake Luzern and the Alps, numerous mountain-tops and resorts (Mt Titlis, Vorab, Kleine Matterhorn etc), everywhere in the Swiss Alps, Bern, Geneva, Basel etc (and of course Zürich which is right near by). In spring/summer I’m planning on doing heaps of hiking through the mountains, which should be great.
  • Going to Basel at 3am on a Monday morning for Morgenstreich. This is a parade that happens every Feb: as the town clock strikes three, all the lights go out, and the processions of piccolos & drums meander the streets of the old town. Decorative candle lanterns on the musicians heads light the streets, and they all wear the most intricate masks. It might sound a tad shite and weird but it was actually a fantastic experience. I was well knackered at work that day though…..
  • Playing rugger for the Zürich Rugby Club. That’s right, I couldn’t have a year without rugby – the standard of the game is pretty poor, the competition disorganised (aaaah, just like home…), but still a hell of a lot of fun. It cracks me up travelling the whole length of a country for a rugby game, and being able to do it in less than 4 hours! The minibus ride back is of course made much more pleasurable with copious quantities of alcohol, gratuitous male nudity and filty and offensive rugby songs.

So that’s what I’ve been doing with myself.  In a few days I’m off to Turkey for 2 1/2 weeks backpacking.  I’m going to be in Gallipoli for ANZAC Day which should be a really incredible experience.  After that it’s down the Aegean coast for the beaches and some ye olde ruins, then I’m heading inland to have a squiz at the underground cities, gorges and some more ruins, then it’s back to Istanbul (no ruins there, just mosques, carpet salesmen, palaces and bazaars).  Should be a great trip.

And here’s another group email from June 1999:

Since I’ve been back from Turkey (did I mention how good THAT trip was???) I’ve been going non-stop.  Not work mind you, because due to this crazy country I haven’t worked a full five day working week since I got back!  It’s been full of three- and four-day long weekends (not that I’m complaining…).

After returning to work for a whole two days I trained across to Salzburg for three days.  The weather was crap, but I still had a great time.  It’s a beautiful town with a few things to see, but first stop for me were the ice caves, the Largest In The World (oooh errr).  Catching the train down south into the mountains, I arrived at the beautiful little village of Werfen.  After a bus trip up the mountain, then a cable car up some more and finally a 15 min walk I arrived at the cave entrance.  The tour was conducted using lanterns and magnesium strips and meandered through these huge chambers filled with frozen ice formations and shapes – absolutely breathtaking (and not just because of the freezing temperatures)!

Back at Salzburg it was time for the ubiquitous “Sound Of Music” tour.  Doing it with four crazy Canadian girls made it a good laugh, but the rest of the tour group (Americans and Indians (?) mostly) were pretty sober.  That was probably because they weren’t still drunk from the local beer hall – actually still a functioning monastery – the night before.  We had more fun after the tour than on it when we went around Salzburg and the Mirabellgarten recreating some of the scenes.  Sure we looked like idiots but who cares!

The next weekend I did a lovely day hike above Walensee, SE of Zürich..  The walk was along the Churfirsten range – beginning from the Walenstadt train station I walked continuously up 1500m to a top altitude of over 2000m.  The walk then continued along a “terrace” below the mountain summits, with still a fair bit of snow around that I had to trudge through.  It was a warm perfectly clear day and the views across the lake to the alps on the other side were tremendous.  Deciding to shortcut it down to the village, I found myself careening down the side of a bloody cliff on the steepest path I have EVER experienced.   Things soon got worse when I got into a steep valley – a winter avalanche had totally obliterated the path, so I had to find my own way down scrambling down the loose rock and ice.  Bit of adventure never hurt anyone!

Speaking of adventure, I think I had the ultimate of Swiss adventures last weekend (it’ll be hard to beat anyway!).  I decided to go for a spot of snow touring/mountaineering with a mate from work.  Catching the train from Lauterbrunnen to Jungfraujoch (3500m), we then dropped off the back of the mountain onto the glacier.  Original plan was to climb Jungfrau (4150m), but the initial climb to a saddle took far too long as I was on snowshoes and it was slushy spring snow.  The summit ridge looked a bit dodgy as well in the conditions.  After a two hour slog up a climb of over 700m (altitude taking its toll!), using both snowshoes and crampons, we lunched at over 3750m with clear blue skies, a hot sun (hello blisters) and incredible views of the alps in every direction.

Dropping down the glacier on the other side, we eventually connected with the Aletsch Glacier (Europe’s largest), and powered all the way uphill, with mountains towering over 1000m above you on both sides of the 2-3km wide glacier, for about six hours to the top of the glacier near the Hollandiahütte (about 3300m).  For the hell of it we built a small snow cave as the weather started to close in.  Pretty uncomfortable, but warm and worth the experience!  However, I wasn’t feeling the best due to a combination of dehydration and a mild case of altitude sickness (no preparation – the last time I was at this altitude was at Zermatt in February!).

Weather and snow conditions wrote off out idea to climb Mittagshorn Sunday morning, instead we had an easy day descending 10km down the other side of the valley, along the glacier, scrambling down the face and then along the valley floor to Fafleralp, a pretty little village in the Wallis region.  From there we caught a bus to the train, where a thoroughly exhausted and blistered (face, not feet!) me could finally rest.  Urgh!  Tough work, but it was absolutely worth it!!!!

For the last in the series of long weekends I popped down to Barcelona for 4 days.  After a hellish night train saga – sleeping on the floor instead of a cosy warm couchette!) – I joined the same four Canadians from Salzburg (big HI! to Sloane, Steph, Andrea and Aili).  Barcelona didn’t impress me that much: a bit pretty but nothing spesh.  Made up for it in nightlife though and I quickly learnt that these Spaniards know how to party:  start eating and drinking at 10 or 11pm and take it from there, sleep in, midday siesta, and then it all starts again!  Four days of drinking sangrias, eating and sleeping (oh, and some sightseeing along the way too…).  Straight to work Monday morning off the night train feeling slightly hungover.