Monday, 31 October 2011

Seven Billion!

Right now there are seven billion people on the planet. That is 7,000,000,000 people, and that figure is increasing all the time. It is twelve years since the last time humans have passed the 6 billion milestone and if you look at world population it was in 1804 that we hit 1 billion people. If disease and famine stay in check. In other words, no major natural disasters or wars come to wipre us off, we are looking at another 2 billion people and probably 3 billion people by the middle of the century. Many people say this is gping to be a disaster for human kind, others say this is an opportunity. The UN believe it is going to be a challenge. But whatever, the world's population growth is slowing. We are never going to hit another billion so quickly. Even at worst case estimates, the world's population is probably going to stabilise by the middle of the century.

For me, I have been living in a period of extreme population grwoth. When I was young, I remember the number four and a half billion that was bandied around. According to the BBC, I was around the 4.4 billionth person alive on the globe. Check out the widget it is really cool to place yourself in the number.

So what now for all of us?

Is it a time to be glum?

Is it a time to be optimistic?

Is it a time to be worried?

Whatever, we as a species and as a society have to deal with seven billion people and growing (more slowly) people on the planet. It is a fallacy to state that it will be the poor countries that will cause the burdens on Earth. The amount of resources someone like me uses in Europe depletes the planet of far more richness than someone in India or Nigeria. And remember, for many countries where there are food shortages, very rarely is it to do with weather related disturbances. This year's famine in the Horn of Africa is specifically linked to the conflict as well as the drought. And while India suffers from malnutrition, it is also a net food exporter. Bad governance and mismanagement are to blame for many of the worlds problems, not the simple statistic of overpopulation.

The conflicts that will rise up in the future are access to potable water and energy use. We have already seen in the Middle East over the last decade the results of both resources being under pressure. The answer to both is simple yet complex, but intricately linked. Cheap renewable energy is going to have to be used. That and a real development of Hydrogen production to wean humanity off oil. This will directly link into the second process - desalinisation. The Earth is covered in water, just a lot of it is salty. We are not short of water, just short of getting it cheaply. Once these problems can be solved, the rest of the solutions will fall into place.

We have to adapt, we have to change. Yes, the world is going to get more crowded, the competition for resources and life will get thicker. But this is also an incredibly lucky time to be alive. More people means more minds, more ideas and more ways that humanity will grow both spiritually and mentally. And yes, while there are increased risks and conflicts, the opportunities are also limitless. Look how innovative the last twenty or thirty years have been. We have steam rolled the industrial age down and are now in the information age. This is all due to the inventiveness of individuals, that we would not have had if our population was smaller. The amount of minds leads to a diversity of thoughts and processes and will ultimately enrich humanity. We are going through a unique period of inventiveness and humanity will not move so far forward again. It is time for us as a people to stop worrying and to start using, the numbers around us. Because one day, the population of Earht is going to drop back. And by that time, we will all be in a very different place.

So to the world's seven billion, rejoice, embrace and go forth! It is time to look at the possibilities. And hey, to the new-borns of today, good luck! We are all going to need it!

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Online Banking and how life gets sensible...

I know this sounds so early noughties, but I am really getting used to online banking. I recently swapped my accounts and so at the moment I have a current (checking) account, savings account and a (dreaded) credit card all with one bank.

So before, my stuff was all over the place, now on one page, I can see every transaction, swap money from one account to the next and generally get on with my financial life without having to go to the bank.

I suppose the main reason I never did this before was that I had no faith in internet banking.

But the reality is that I do a lot of financial transactions online. My goodness, life is all online. Let me explain:

This year, some of my biggest expenditures have been holidays. in total, I will be taking six flights to Europe by the end of 2011. All of them booked online. Any hotels that I used while abroad were also booked online, in advance. Presents that have been bought have been done online, even spare parts for my motorbike were ordered online, my bike insurance, the tax disc for my car. So yeah, I spend lot of money online. Why not begin to manage it in the cloud too.

(The only thing I never really jumped into was internet dating. Tried it once, it felt too freaky so never again.)

So slowly, I have been coming round to sorting out my finances. A part of growing up I suppose. And a lot of it has been done, like now, in the wee hours of the morning, online, while waiting for a computer to render, or just before heading to sleep after arriving from work. Nothing really important I suppose, just like a number of people.

But in a few short years, I am happily spending and organising my financial life without the interaction of other people. Alone, and using my electric communication connection. A decade ago, this was a strange, new world. Untrusted, and unknown. Today, it is not quite a part of the social norm, but it is no longer that unusual. We have come a long way since the world portrayed in The Net.

I suppose it is the eventuality of choosing life. Growing up. Cash is king, sleep takes over and the world, the way you saw it becomes very different. No longer just living for the moment and reacting, but thinking, maybe I should plan this. Of course, the most famous quote I always use, Si quieres hacer reír a Dios, cuéntale tus planes could easily apply to this paragraph. Plans, thinking of the future, these are unpredictabilities. But who can resist the sheen of low fat, high fibre, tolerable cholesterol fad consumption? It begins with online banking, but it will get more sensible, life, my life. And is that a good thing, a bad thing, or just an inevitability?

I got to get some sleep. All this nerd/life talk has got me tired...I suppose that is what happens when you eventually grow up. The fatigue of it all...

Thursday, 27 October 2011

This is the Road, To Hell

The M25 is a quarter of a century old this week - hurrah! A road that was first proposed in the early 20th Century as a response to the rapidly growing urban conglomerate known as London finally got built some eighty years later. The then Prime Minister hailed it as an investment in Britain's future. Many others looked at it with a dread as it blighted their community. At the time it was the longest ring road in the world and even today it is only surpassed by Berlin's ring road by a few miles.

Today it is a symbol of London. The term anywhere within the M25 is used by businesses across the city. Geographically most of the city lies within the London Orbital, but the urban spread of the city has reached and gone beyond the M25 making the road less of a city bypass and just another commuting option. The statistics are truly mind boggling. At its widest point, by Heathrow, the motorway is twelve lanes wide (six lanes either way and still congested). In the east the Dartford Crossing is a major bottleneck. However, if you are flying into London via HS1, it also marks the point where it is time to get your bags ready as you are in London within a few minutes...

(By Nilfanion - thanks!)

It is the place I love to avoid, but I have failed so many times. As a motorcyclist, it is not too bad, as a car driver, the road is bloody awful. Yes, it is the world's largest car park, but such is the reality of commuting today, where would we in London be without it? It represents both a great civil engineering project and a failure of transport policy in the UK.

For example, I have to pick up two people at Stansted this Christmas. Now for the three of us to come in by train to Central London it will cost £60 - one way. This is only the trip into Central London, not across the suburbs to where I live. That would mean the reality of the commute, one way, would come to around £75. Compare that to the car, even with today's petrol prices, it will come to no more that £30 return! Yes, the train is quicker, but it is worth spending an extra hour of my life on the motorway to save the extortionate amount the train would cost...

But yes, I have travelled along every stretch of this motorway. Been to every service station en route (especially Clacket Lane, which is one of the biggest in the country). From the M25's long slip roads at Junction 8 to the excitement of Bell Common to the mind boggling evil of the M4 interchange or even seeing the peas at Chalfont. My brain boggles to think how much time I would have saved if I had braved the South Circular (<--- this last link is brilliant, please click on it!)

For better or for worse, the M25 is very much a part of London's urban fabric. Future Archaeologists may wonder in awe, the meaning of this road once it is dug up. Some may call it symbolic of a great Sun deity we in the 21st Century once worshiped. Who knows with those crazy temple raiders? The road to nowhere that is busier than any other motorway in Britain, nay, Europe. The M25, 25 years old this week. Happy Birthday...

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Sleep is King

With earning cash comes the other problem.


Or the lack of it.

I do suffer for my art(s).

I do complain a lot.

But that is because I am grouchy without sleep.

Travelling here and there.

(Without the wheel, my life would not exist)

So I am up far too early.


And moaning...

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Cash is King

So I have discovered online banking so many years after it was first introduced.

And credit cards, generations after they first were exposed to the public.

Numbers on a screen.

SO that is what I work for.

Day in and day out, multiple things, always busy.

For digitised figures and numbers.

Not linked to any worth.

Quantitatively inflated out of existence.

Like the hamster on the spinning wheel I am running for nothing.

But hey, I suppose that is life, to gently submit, until one day you are a whimpering ball of fur...(sigh)

Monday, 24 October 2011

A Guide to Stansted Airport - F**k!

I do not know why I even bother. But my trails around Europe has taken me to London's most conflicted destination. Lonon Stansted Airport. A fantastic airport, really, one of London's best gateways, but with one major flaw. It is miles away from London itself, lying 30 miles north east to the centre of the city. But it is modern and pretty, and so here is my not-too-long guide about the airport. How to get there, what to do and how to do it.


Getting there and away by Road:

London Stansted Airport lies off the M11, one of Britain's finest motorways, traversing through the not too crowded Essex Countryside to Loughton in London.

The problem is that the M11 remains one of the hardest motorways to get to. Once you are on the M11, you are unlikely to have any problems. But to get there you have the following options. The M25 (help) the North Circular (ugh), approaching from the Blackwall Tunnel Northern Approach Road (why?) or a range of back streets via Camden, Finsbury Park and the Tottenham Gyratory to the River Lea (start crying).

The Motorway should make Stansted easy to get to but, it is the approach that makes it a pain. Two hours should be more than ample from any part of London, but be warned...


Getting there and away by Train:

The Stansted Express. Fast (45 mins into Central London), expensive and runs for about 20 hours a day. Bog standard railway carts leave from under the terminal building and whisk you to either Tottenham Hale tube (surprisingly good for South London and the West End if the Victoria Line is running) or to Liverpool Street.

And that is your problem, the Stansted Express does not take you anywhere or really close to any place that you actually want to head to.

As glorious as Liverpool Street actually is, do you really want to be wandering around the Gherkin with a suitcase? And to be honest, while the interchange is handy, come on, it is Tottenham that you're transiting through...

Oh, and I got to mention the price. At the moment, the fares (single, 2nd class) is a whopping £21! Book online for a whole £2 discount! Yey! Fine if you are by yourself, but for a family, you could be looking at-


Getting there and away by Taxi:

Two hours (give or take), £80-£100.


Getting there and away by Bus:

The reality is that if you are heading to and from London Stansted Airport, you probably have not paid that much for your flight. It is the bastion of low cost airlines in London, with Ryanair being the biggest tenant at Stansted airport. And so you will not want to be paying much for your transfer, hence you will be heading by bus. There are three options. Easybus, Terravision and National Express. All offer differing levels of service to different parts of London round the clock.

Unlike Luton, there really is competition between the bus operators and a plethora of destinations which you can reach by bus, at fares which do not bleed the wallet dry. If you are feeling lucky with the internet, then head onto easybus. There fares are the cheapest, but it is the usual catch. You lock yourself into a particular bus time, got to print out the ticket there is not a lot of space on these vehicles as they are glorified minivans.

The flipside is that they are nippy and can easily head on diversion if there is an accident on route (as there was when I returned from STN today) and the drivers will let you onto another bus up to 60 minutes either side of your allotted time, if there is room. Now that is really cool! The buses pick up and drop-off in Baker Street. Not the most obvious place to get a bus to STN but it works, just.

The other operators however can give easybus a run for their money. Terravision goes to Liverpool Street, in direct competition with the Stansted Express and is only half the price of the train. Of course, being a coach, you do get stuck in traffic, but it has the potential to be fast.

Likewise, there is a direct coach (National Express) from Stratford in East London for those living in the east end, and at £8, it is the cheapest 'turn up and go' options from Stansted Airport into the city. However, the hike from Stratford can be painful.

There are also National Express Coaches which take a long time to get into Victoria as they call at a huge number of points in North London. A pound more expensive than the Terravision Coaches, but if you are heading to North London, than this is the option for you.

Basically from Central, North or East London, Stansted is an incredibly easy airport to get to by bus, just look out for the time, However from South or West London, the journey is a pain.


The Airlines that use Stansted Airport:

Cheap. Not too cheerful, but the price is right. Like Luton, there is only one reason why I am putting myself out this far and that is because the flights are pretty good value. Like all budget airlines, be careful of the boarding pass game (print the damn things!), pack light (if you pack a suitcase in the hold, the amount you spend on the ticket becomes ridiculous) and just enjoy the ride. It is only a couple of hours, so hold your breath, go to sleep and wake up in another European country sometime soon...


London Stansted Airport itself:

STN is really a contradiction. It is a new, modern terminal that on the face of it, seems to cope quite well with the crowds. Before security, there is plenty of space. and as a result, it seems to have become an unofficial camp. London Stansted has become one of the cheapest spots to crash on your final night in London and many people spend a few hours here before heading out of the city. Click here for a great guide to crashing for the night in STN.

Surprisingly, the airport authorities have accepted with good humour the situation at Stansted, and the atmosphere is one that I have experienced at airports myself round the world. A bunch of people who just want a few hours of rest before the flight out.

The usual eateries exist and you can get by fairly well.

Once you go airside, the story becomes very different. Stansted Airport is cramped and simply cannot cope with the numbers. Departing from London Stasnted is a complete fail, with far to many shops cluttering up the departure area. You have to hunt for a seat and then nab it for as long as your bladder holds out. The departure lounge feels like an overpriced mall that just happens to have aeroplanes leaving from out back. Add to this the fact that the budget airlines leave it to the last moment for the gate to be called out and it is a mad scramble to the plane along newly partitioned corridors.

Arriving at London Stansted Airport is pitiful, and I truly pity the fool who decides to enter the UK via STN.

It took me 30 minutes to get through the queues at passport control.

That is half an hour.

The flight took one and a half hours.

Let me repeat that the equivalent of one third of my plane flight was spent queuing up to eventually advance a distance of 30 yards.

As an EU Passport holder I should be whisked straight through. But of curse, I am British, and so the UK Border Agency will scruitinise my passport more than some flimsy ID card from Italy. Because that is fair.

To out it simply, Schengen or no, why the hell does anyone put up with the UK Border Agency. Formed from the instinctive fear of Daily Mail voters, coming to the UK is a torture only matched by entering the USA. It is almost humiliating to see the long queues of the drained and the bewildered standing in line, while border guards push bits of digitised information from one computer screen to the next.

In true British Fashion there are so many warning signs on the long walk from the gate to the hell hole known as the arrivals hole. You know what I dread most when I land in the U. It is those border guards. Arrogant, waste of space pen pushers. But you know, ultimately, they are just doing a job. Who I hate even more are those self-serving politicians who have convinced themselves that Fortress Britain is the way forward. We may not have ID cards, but the UK Government knows every movement that I make. Big Brother definitely watches me, and the worst thing is that I am paying for all of this through my taxes as it has been sold as beneficial to society's safety.

The whole process of entering the UK makes me sick to the back teeth.

It is humiliating to have to stand in line and be scruitinised like a common criminal just because I choose to travel.

It is disgusting that after the hellish ups and downs of flying that involve rigorous security, plastic seats and lousy air, the final slap in the face is the UK government splashing my tax money all over the place.

And the worst thing is that this idiotic policy of a UK Border still is a political football that can be played over and over again!

You know what, there is no point in fast trains or planes that arrive on time if you then spend 30 minutes or maybe more waiting in a queue to show your ID.

It is s**t.

And to be honest, when I arrived in the country today, I actually factored in one hour over my arrival time, because I knew passport control was going to be an a**ehole.


Charles Michel Duke is a not-so-well known film maker who travels an awful lot by plane, as there is no other practical way to leave the UK. Sometimes called Frisky Boy, he absolutely resents having to wait a ridiculous amount of time to enter the UK, so he can pay his taxes to pay for the Agency and politicians that make him queue up to enter the UK.

Occaisionally he writes scripts about fun and not-so-fun things, usually in London, but today, he just had to write this blog post because he spent far too long waiting in line at the UK Border. What a farce!

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

It's 5am in the morning...

...and I am waiting for my computer to churn over.

It is that time of the month again. For me, when I am rendering some video files and exporting some codecs.

But as I have twenty minutes until the computer finishes churning, I figure, I can wait that 20 mins before exporting another video file. While that exports, I head off to bed, let the computer churn and I am the king of the Zzz's...

So I am waiting.

For my computer to churn...

I have already done my online banking.

As I now have a current (checking) account, savings and credit card with one bank under one roof, I am one of the few British consumers that actually changed their banks. SO that was fun. Yes, internet banking is fun!


Still some time to kill.

All right, what do I do online now?

Pornography is dull.

Watch some videos? Of movie trailers? Nah, that will slow up my computer.

Yes, I am quite tired as you can expect.

Still, my computer churns away.

Check mobile, yep, fully charged. Oh, got a text message, I should have checked that earlier on, shouldn't I?

Oooh, look, only a few seconds left!

That's it, I am off to export one more file and let the computer work while I sleep! Toodles!

Monday, 17 October 2011

Britain vs Europe - Which System is Better?

Ah, the European Union. From British shores, it is that big conglomerate thing with a funny blue flag that takes hard earning tax payers cash and doles it out to lazy continental scum to drink coffee and smoke cigarettes all day. I kid you not, that would be as accurate a description of the EU from a relatively sober member of the British public.

(European Parliament in Strasbourg - most Brits would spit at the institution, if we could be bothered to)

My view? Well, I will get to that in a minute.

For better or for worse, Britain is a part of the EU. But we are not a part of some of its major systems. Britain famously has kept Sterling and almost as significantly, we are not a part of the Schengen system of borderless travel. Now for me, I have never really cared either way, as my travels in the rest of Europe have been relatively minimal over the past decade. But recently and currently, I am heading off to Europe a hell of a lot. I have already gone four times this year to Europe and will be heading there another two times before 2012 swings in. That is an incredible change in my own travel patterns and has made m think and question Britain's take toward the EU, how it compares and the good and the bad between the two. For whatever Britain's membership of the EU, in effect the relationship between the two is similar to Hong Kong's relationship with China - One Country, Two Systems.

Let us tackle the question of the Euro. At the moment, with the debt crisis engulfing the Eurozone, it is very unfashionable to talk about Britain exchanging Sterling for the Euro. But it is my belief that eventually, Britain will adopt the Euro in some way or another. It maybe another generation to go, but at some point, Britain will relinquish total control over its currency and join the Euro. Why? Money talks, and in the end, that is the only reason why Britain today is a part of the EU - cash. The bulk of our trade is with Europe and that counts for everything, The EU, despite its cumbersome nature has allowed British firms to take advantage of the huge internal market that exists. It is the fundamental reason for Britain being tied to Europe, and it will reach its logical conclusion with the adoption of the Euro. But that will take time.

Do I think the Euro is a good thing? In practice, yes, I do. From the viewpoint of a simple traveller, it is a pain to handle different currencies over such a small geographical area. It would also make comparing the cost of goods and services a lot easier. It would remove the commission costs and fudged exchange rates that I have to pay every time I go abroad, which this year could rack up to around £30 - not an insignificant amount. I would love to see Britain join the Euro for these practical reasons. I have no notions of our currency or a loss of sovereignty. As currency is no longer linked to gold, they are in the end, just pieces of paper for governments to manipulate.

And it was a real pain on my road trip this year, passing through four countries and having to deal with four different currencies. If they all had the Euro, my life would have been a doddle!

At the moment however, the monetary governance of the EU is pathetic. Some countries were let into the Eurozone on political rather than economic grounds. To be honest, the political posturing of the EU has to be replaced by cold hard economic sense before the currency could be seen as fit to join.

And then the other big visible part of Europe. Schengen. Here is an example of what borderless travel actually looks like:

(Right foot in Slovakia, Left foot in Hungary)

And Schengen is easy! International boundaries have become no more than lines in the tarmac. The only way you know you have changed countries is a sign saying Poland Welcomes Careful Drivers, and a bleep on your mobile phone when the network changes. It is a joy to whistle past boundaries that once upon a time were the result of deep political and ideological differences. Nowadays they are marker points of linguistic flurries. Joy!

But should the UK join Schengen.

I am in two minds about this. While the Euro, I think is a good thing and with reform could become a source of strength for the UK, Schengen I am more ambiguous. I think I am 60% in favour of Schengen. Like I have said, life is easy, it is a doddle to whisk from country to country and you really do feel that there is one EU rather than lots of itty-bitty countries. It is nice, and it is one of the (successful and) defining characteristics of European Integration and the peace that has held since the end of WWII and later on since the fall of Communism in Europe. But, Schengen has certain things about it that I do not like.

First the need for an ID Card system. One thing about the UK is the complete lack of paperwork needed. I do not have to carry my licence/insurance with me when I drive. It is assumed that I would not be on the road without them, and if I am stopped by the police, they have to do the leg-work to find out if I am legal or not. The presumption of innocent until proven guilty is what rules the UK's governance. Thankfully, we do not have an ID Card system, despite Lord Blair's resolve in trying to foist one onto us. Do not worry, we, are under surveillance, as it was the UK that invented the Police Force. Collectively we are just as scrutinised as any of our European cousins, but on an individual basis, life is remarkably free. In Schengen, I have to have some photo ID on me, which means as I do not have an ID Card, I have to always carry my passport. Even to pop out to the shops to buy a loaf of bread. And this is considered normal.

In the UK, no. My wallet contains cash, not my identification. It means that I am less likely to loose my ID, and so I am less likely to get screwed over.

So, as much as I love Schengen, I do not like the idea of ID Cards that come with it. I think there is a greater good that results from having free borders, but not from being obliged into burdening the individual with more paperwork.


So is the EU a good thing? For me, overall, I think it is a good thing. There are a lot of rights and freedoms that more recent British governments would have eroded had it not been for the EU. I think the freedom of movement for people, goods and capital is essential and should be broadened. It has made life for me very easy with regards to regular travel across Europe, something that the EU had in mind when it was first formed all those years ago. Along with NATO, it has helped to keep the peace in Europe for longer than any other system of governance. But the EU is cumbersome, and if it was not for difficult Britain, it would probably be far too uniform. I think it is a good thing there is no one size fits all Europe, but an EU that blends and flows according to the whims of its citizens. Personally, I think the whole institution should follow a Confederational model (rather than a Federal plan), but that kind of organisation would take aeons to achieve. But the good outweighs the bad, and as I jet off again this week to Poland for another trip to that (now) fairly cold country, I think to myself, thank goodness for the EU. It makes my life a lot more simple!

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Częstochowa, Poland

As part of my road trip, I took a halt in Częstochowa in the south of Poland. A large town in this part of the country on the main road between Poland's two biggest cities, Katowice and Warsaw, its fame comes for being a pilgrimage site of the Black Madonna of Czestochowa. Millions of people come here every year, some drawn for holy reasons, others for the simple touristic value. Best of all, the complex of Jasna Gora where the shrine is based is completely free and packs a huge historical punch so it was out with my camera! Before I drove back to Western Poland, I took some time out in Częstochowa and spent the morning wandering round this absolutely massive complex.

(The flags state thecountry origin of each visitor. But how come there are no flags from Sri Lanka/Sychelles ;) now)

One thing I was surprised about was just how cheap Jasna Gora is. The complex is free to enter and walk around - of course if you want an audio tour, then you pay, but to enter is free. All the buildings are open to all members of the public. The eateries serve up lousy food, but it is the cheapest meal I ever had in Poland. Ad the ice cream is divine, and priced at a couple of Zloty, it is a bargain!

And for the simple reason that this is actually a pilgrimage site. This is not some tourist trap, but an active place of worship. And the local authorities primarily cater to these rather than the wandering tourist. People come from miles around, across the whole of Poland. Many actually make the pilgrimage of foot, and they are of all ages, young and old. As a result, on arrival, life is made as east as possible for them. It is the Polish Equivalent of Lourdes or Fatima. The pilgrims do not have to spend huge amounts of cash on food and even free toilet/shower facilities are provided.

Whatever you may think about the Catholic Church, I admire the fact that the bulk of sites I have visited linked to it is free to enter. Sure there are 'extras' to pay for (audio tour, heading into the tower to get a view of the vistas) but the crux of the site, no matter whether Jasna Gora or Westminster Cathedral they buck the trend of other 'religious' tourist sites. Do not get me wrong, there are some that charge, but it is the exception rather than the rule.

Częstochowa is intricately linked wth Poland's violent history, this time the Swedish wanted a piece of the country (I know, Sweden? How far is this country from Poland!) The Back Madonna is credited with helping to repulse the Swedish invasion and for stimulating countrywide resistance to a new overlord. As a result the site was built up and became a place for the sick to seek miracles and the number of medical implements left hanging on the walls of the shrine is...a lot!


Getting There and Away:

Jasna Gora lies on a hill on the outskirts of Częstochowa. Plenty of trains and coaches arrive in the town and it is a short walk (along a grand boulevard) to site of the shrine. As I mentioned earlier, food is cheap (but awful) and refreshment facilities are free. It does get crowded, so come early. The central shrine for worship 1opens up at around 11.30am, but the complex opens at 5am! Early visitors welcomed!

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Euro Road Trip 2 - The Great Day Drive from Budapest to Czestochowa

I arrived in Budapest after 16 hours in the saddle. Ouch! It was a long trip, but it was fun. But I also had to get back to Western Poland. That meant another long drive back.

But it was not going to be the same route. For starters, that was all highway, and it is incredibly dull. Second, I was driving throughout the day. I wanted something far more interesting to view on my way. And so the route was chose, north of Budapest towards Slovakia. And then through the breadth of this country until getting back into Poland before heading to Czestochowa for the night. The plan was for a ten hour drive, and yes, it did take that long!

Of course, it was done at a leisurely pace, and we left late. After all, the morning was spent wandering around Budapest's wonderful City Park (it was a Sunday after all) and so the road trip was late in its commencement. But off we went, leaving our glorious apartment block in a not too bad district of Pest.

The drive to the border was quick and easy. As it is all Schengen that basically meant sailing straight through. International boundaries just became lines in the tarmac as one road surface changed into another. And then came Slovakia - country number 35 on my list of 'places visited'.

(The Town of Krupina - Slovakia)

Driving through Slovakia on Sunday, I noticed that it was one hell of a quiet country! These people really observed their sabbath. Nothing was open, there was no one on the roads and it was almost like an empty film set. I was expecting zombies to jump out from round the corner, because the big question was where's the people?

Apart from empty, Slovakia is beautiful. Partly as the country is so empty, so there is lot of countryside to view. And it is very hilly. The Caparthian mountains dominate the northern part of the country, along its border with Poland and I was heading over there. So as the roads climbed steadily upward, I continued my journey, this great road trip towards mother Poland, with stunning viast as along the way!

(Stream next to Harmanecka Cave in Slovakia)

We took a detour, and headed off the main road, and decided on a far more hilly route. It added around an hour to the journey, but it was worthwhile. Seeing the beauty of Slovakia, the freedom of the road, the choice of where to go. This was the reason behind taking a road trip, the reason to drive rather than fly to Budapest. It was the choices available. Stopping off wherever we wanted to. Eating here of there, seeing something because we could. No rushing, after all, our hotel was booked, they knew we were coming along.

But all good things have to come to an end, and this road trip was no different. Night was fast approaching, the fuel was running low and to be honest, we had run out of Euros. We had plenty of Zloty, but we needed to head back into Poland to make any use of that. And then the smart move was made. The short cut.


Short Cuts are great. They are a way to see a new place, they take you off the main routes and it is an adventure. But, when the car is running low on fuel, you are out of local currency and you are driving on the wrong side of the road, they are not a great way to travel. Plus, it was getting dark, and as there are no great urban centres in this part of Slovakia, there are no bloody street lights! Help me! And it is not as if I could floor it through these short cuts, as let me illustrate, the roads are almost dirt tracks!

But somehow, we made it off the single track roads, back into civilisation and then finally, we turned round the corner and destination reached - Viva Polska!

(Never have I loved a border crossing as much as now!)

But the journey was not over. Despite the tribulations of Slovakia, we still had to cross Poland - and it is a big country. The EU's sixth biggest nation in terms of area, this chunky country means that crossing the border is not enough. We had to stop off to get something to eat. Feed the driver...and Zywiec was the pit stop of choice for fine Polish fare in a really funky restaurant.

(But I don't eat fish on a Sunday...)

Belly full, it was time to head off to our destination - Czestochowa. Although Budapest was the primary destination of my road trip, the thought behind it was if we are going to travel so far, why not make another stop. And so my travels across Europe continued, but this time, back in Mother Poland...

Friday, 14 October 2011

My Polish Interview!

As you know, I was at the Quest Europe Festival this year as a jury member.

And while I was there, I had two interviews on Polish TV. One of them you can see here:

Watch the interview by clicking here!

Yes, I do talk a lot! It was a great interview and thanks to the RTV Lubuska team and Agnieszka, the interviewer, who were really great to me and made me feel so comfortable. Almost too comfortable as can be seen by the amount I say :)

In the interview, I talk about my experiences at the festival as a jury member, the films I saw, my experiences as a film maker, what I think of Poland and also the influences on my own film making.

And I do talk about all of them in great detail. The Polish dubbing means that it is difficult to gauge what I say (unless you speak Polish) so I will give you the gist version.

First of all, I talk in great detail about the festival . What I saw, the breadth of the films but also in what I enjoyed in particular. In addition to the finalist films, I also saw a lot of 'Out of Competition' flicks during the festival.

Secondly, I talk about my own filming. I am asked about my own influences, and I cite my family as massive influences, in a very positive way. Coming from two big families, from two different countries gives me a lot of stories to draw upon and a wealth of possibilities to make movies from.

I also talk about 'Caution Wet Paint' and Agnieszka makes the connection between me and a much more famous and amazing Charles Duke! I also talk about my film influences, in particular I talk of my favourite director, Mani Ratnam and a little about Indian Films.

Finally, I am asked a little about Poland, and what I thought of the Lubuska area, in particular my time in Zielona Gora. As you can see from my blog, I love it! A fascinating area, with a diverse and rich history to it, Lubuska is very much an underrated part of the world.

While I have had interviews before, this has to be the glossiest interview I have had to date! I am a struggling film maker, and very new in this cinematic journey. As a director, the nature of film itself means that the turnaround time for a project is not months but often years. Remember, I shot Jay and Kay Save the World in 2008 (released it in 2009) and still now, I am discussing it and it is still very relevant in my life and in what I do. It is still a part of my work along with other current projects and projects that will be done in the future.

Once again, I have to thank Agnieszka, the RTV Lubuska team and the people behind Quest Europe for organising the interview, and giving me a chance to express so much of my thoughts to a wider public. For that I am very grateful!


On another note, stick around on this blog. As you know, last month I talked about my great Euro Road Trip. Oh yes, that was only halfway, as I have so much more to tell you...

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

The Guru - The Student Returns

The Student Returns to the Guru, for more advice, a little older, but is she any wiser this time round?

Click to Watch!

Part 2 to last week's edition, this is possibly my favourite episode of the Guru series so far. It was fun to shoot, by that time both Marie Claire (the Student) and Sippy (my venerable Guru) had swung into their roles and it was a hell of a lot of fun to see the two go for it.

In fact, there seems to be a pattern developing here. When the 'guest' is some sort of caricature, the episode flows well, but when the guest is a normal guy off the street, the episode feels clumsy. Mmm, I think this may influence how my future Guru episodes are shot. Anyway, for now, I hope you enjoy this little titbit.

Monday, 10 October 2011

London Cable Car

(Taken from ITN's website)

Here are a few links to have a look at. First of all, a new Cable Car for London. Sponsorship has been found, the planning process has been carried out at incredible speed and the hope is to open it in time for the Olympics. A massive White Elephant or a Grandiose Gesture and an essential new crossing over the Thames. Probably a little of both to be honest. I am in mixed minds about the project, and I think the money could have been better spent elsewhere but at the same time, any new crossings over the Thames is not to be sniffed at. It also is fast making East London one of the best served areas with regards to public transport. From Tower Bridge you can cross the river Thames six times by rail in addition to the Rotherhithe and Backwall Tunnels, the Rotherhithe & Woolwich Ferry and the foot tunnels - 3 times via the Jubilee Line, twice using the Docklands Light Railway and once using the Overground. With the Cable Car and the Crossrail Projects opening up in the next decade, in the space of a generation, this area has gone from pain in the ass backwater to interconnected hub!

Video for Cable Car

(Funky Corporate Music!)

So is the Cable Car a good thing? Well, there are arguments on both sides, and I really do see their points. The Cable Car is not a free option for London. Although a respected airline has stumped up the running costs for the construction work, the fact is that a few million quid is still going to come out of TfL's budget. In the end, not a biggie, compared to the 9 Billion that TfL spends in a year, but it does mean that an improvement elsewhere is going to be missing.

I am no big fan of the Mayor, as his transport cuts at the beginning of his term (it is criminal that the Tram was not extended to Crystal Palace - so cheap to do!) coinciding with huge increases in fares and the scrapping of the Kengestion charge were big steps backwards. I think the Borismaster is a waste of cash (nice but not necessary) and that the new cycle lanes are a bit lame, this coming from a cyclist's point of view. The Boris Bikes are a good thing, but all candidates in 2008 were committed to this scheme.

However, I do like the idea of a Cable Car. Yes, it is a bit of a vanity project, and the average Londoner is probably going to be better off taking the Jubilee Line. But if you are going to add new crossing capacity across the Thames, what a way to do it! It is a bit of a grand spectacle, but why not enjoy it! Sometimes you need to move beyond the mundane and the ordinary. And the fact that the bulk of the costs have been garishly sponsored is a good thing. At least the project is getting built. Kudos for the planning process being expedited - it is a wonder what the Olympics can do for a city!

Oh yes, expect me to be hopping on the Cable Car next year when built. I am one of those enthusiastic first timers!

Taken from TfL's website)

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Charlie in Glasgow

Scotland's largest city, my first time visiting it and all in the name of film! And while I may have been fortunate enough to have headed to destinations more far flung in my quest for cinematic superiority, I have a special fondness for the banks of the Clyde. As this was the first place in the UK to broadcast Jay and Kay Save the World! Now it was on hell of a coach trip up to Scotland, overnight, calling at Birmingham and surprisingly, the now under threat Preston Bus Station.

(The South Portland Street Suspension Bridge)

Anyway, on arrival in Glasgow, the first thing I did was head for the Clyde. Like in London, the river defines the city, and the Clyde is a natural navigation point for any lost tourist. The central part of the city lies to the north of the Clyde. The Clyde is one of Britain's most iconic waterways, as it was at the heart of the country's industrial revolution in the 19th Century and was the centre of the nation's ship building.

Back in the centre of town, one of the most striking pieces of the city's architecture is the Central Railway Station. For many visitors to this city, this is probably the first encounter with Glasgow, and what a stunning place this is!

If you decide to wander through the streets, take a jaunt down to Sauchiehall Street. This is one hell of a long road and starts as a pedestrianised route in the centre that takes you past the M8 to parks at the western side of the city. Its character transforms through the city and a walk takes you from a popular high street, through an artistic hub with funky shop fronts before ending in almost suburban serenity...

A trip to Glasgow would have to mention the city's iconic Subway, or Underground System. It has a quirky history, built as a circle line and opened in 1896, it was the third oldest Underground Railway in the world after London and Budapest, but never extended beyond its original route. It is cheap and cheerful, but to be honest, for a tourist like myself, it is a bit useless. It does not really go anywhere that I want to go, plus the city centre is compact enough that walking is an easy option.

Glasgow has an unfair reputation for being the centre of industrial blight, but the city is filled with gorgeous parkland. Glasgow Green is one of the city's best, and on the not-so-warm day that I visited, it provided great views of the Clyde and a relaxing place to rest my weary feet...

One thing to note is the amount of Granite used in the buildings. And also a lot of the city's Victorian architecture remains. There was very little bomb damage during World War II so a lot of the historical core retains it heritage features today. Cast Iron and Weather Worn Stonework pockmark the city. Whether modern or restored, these fine features give Glasgow a character that is distinct from other cities around the UK, particularly ones further south.

(Glasgow Cross)

I cannot end this post without a mention of Haggis. Scotland's proud national dish and scourge of the English, I am a huge fan of Haggis. I had two that day in Glasgow, battered, served with chips and washed down with an Irn Bru. If I lived in Scotland, my life expectancy may well decrease, as I am a big fan of chopped sheep's innards - really, I adore haggis! Any excuse, I will chomp on this delightful food. Don't mock until you have tried it!



Saturday, 8 October 2011

The Bicycle Diaries Autumn '11

A quickie, but I am incredibly happy with my new bicycle. When I returned from Polska a few weeks ago, I replaced old faithful, my last bike that had lasted an incredible 14 months. Incredible as firstly, I do not look after these things (shocking if you consider the mileage I make on these things) and secondly as it lasted through the harsh winter of 2010/11 where all the salt and grit from the roads corroded the hell out of the cycle.

(Big shoes to fill, but what the hell, it is red!)

I have been cycling this baby for the past few weeks, to work, to the bank and to see friends (all right, I will be honest, friend, sing. - I have only had one social event since Poland, how sad) and I have really enjoyed riding it. Especially as it rides like new, while the last one was getting a real pain to ride in the final two months. The gear mechanism had almost failed, the chain kept slipping and the crank was so worn out, I was cycling wonky style. All to save a few pennies.

And I do save quite a bit of cash, as there are no petrol costs! Which is the main reason for having the cycle. In my view, the fitness aspect is welcome but is very secondary in my mind. The reason for cycling is to save cash, and often, time.

Now, one problem with the bike, was that it had a twist style shift gear mechanism. I do not like this, as if you grip the handlebars tight, it changes the gear. And they were wearing out because I grip the bike like a madman. So I took it back to the shop and asked for levers to be fitted on, which they duly did.

All in all, including the new gears, I have spent £200 on he cycle. Now if it lasts for ten months, I will easily recoup the petrol costs that I would have spent in that time (in fact six months would do the job if I was doing that mileage on the motorbike, two months if doing it by car). But the health value and the reliability cannot be measured. Plus it is fun! Autumn is now here, and I am kitted up for winter's cycle riding fun!

Friday, 7 October 2011

Mixed Britainnia

Human Beings are incredibly wonderful. They can also be incredibly cruel too. Mob mentality and Democracy - there is a fine line between the two. One man's approval is another man's disaster.

With that thought in mind, last night, the programme Mixed Britannia was broadcast on the Beeb and is currently on the iPlayer for those in the UK to catch up on (as I did). It focuses on the story of mixed race relationships in the UK over the past 100 years, surprising, as I thought that history would have only been significant after WWII.

It is fascinating to see the reviews for that programme TV in the British Press, most of all as they use colourful language. Thornier? Eh!? I will come onto that later.

First of all, it is a fascinating biopic on life. Looking at raw statistics, it is life. And while the internet trolls, the bums and the usual suspects in the English Defence League will shout, beat, or whatever they do, it is not usually with women)...anyway, as I said a fascinating biopic. Of course I will also say that as here is a pic of Mum (Creole) and Dad (Tamil) to illustrate why:

I am a cheeky sod when people ask me the following: Do you find it confusing? Which side are you closer to? Do you love you mum or dad's family more? Which country do you like better? My reply is that yes, it is really confusing. I always s**t out of my backside, while the people around me s**t out of their mouths. With that as my rapid response answer, I will let you figure out the answer to those seminal questions that people ask me.

And this is the reality. While people in Ivory Towers still see people who are from different countries as exotic, different or something to be handled with kid gloves, the rest of us are getting on with life. I work with people from diverse backgrounds, both in McJob and as a film maker. There is not one person I can say is this or that based on race. Of course, by default, many members of my family are from different parts of the world (America to Fiji - try that for a free place stay).

Back to the newspapers. Things do not change much, and the dinosaurs in the media industry are amongst the best. Thank goodness they will soon be out of business, really, the guys who peddle such tripe are not fit to flip burgers (before you get sanctimonious, I have also done my stint at the burger bar - all 3 weeks and 6 days of it before I jetted off to Sri Lanka as a summer job). Despite the fact that this is the 21st Century, Multicaulturalism, Mixed Race, Evil Darkies or whatever the term you wish to use has been a part of the country for the best part of a century, we still get the word thornier to describe the cultural whole. Josephine seems to be Cameron's new BF. You need to get in the real world guys.

Now back to the documentary, a fascinating look at what is a very British phenomena. And interesting as the UK is a far more welcoming place to people of different backgrounds compared to the rest of continental Europe. And unlike Australia, South Africa or America, there were no segregation laws over here. Usually as our politicians are too obsessed with trying to squeeze the system dry to care about people's private life. Also, remember that in the UK, we have a healthy distaste and mistrust of officialdom, which helps when it comes to their governance over the private lives of individuals.

In fact, if I were to have children, I would not want to raise them anywhere else in Europe, as I know they would have a hard time out there. They would not be able to avail themselves of any opportunity that may arise, unlike here in the UK were the possibilities are endless. My story would be very different if my parents had chosen France or Germany instead of the UK as their destination...

My generation is exceptionally useless in this world (OMG let me jerk off on Facebook!), but we are good in one thing. We are exceptionally tolerant. Actually, let me rephrase that; everything for us is passe, nothing is shocking, and we pretty much go with the flow. We are not rebellious like the guys from the 1960's or different like the guys from the 1970's but rather more accepting of everything. Live and let live. Which is probably the reason why Mixed Race Peoples are the fastest growing section of the UK's population. We just think with our crotches and not much else ;)

Personally, I cannot wait for the rest of the series and I am looking forward to the rest of this biopic. I was raised in a Britain that was on the tail end of its insidious racism and the world I live in today is very different from the one I was a child in. I was one of the very few mixed race children in the class but there was nothing 'unusual' or 'conflicting' (sorry to disappoint you wanabe Eugenicists) about being me. I am who I am, and it was fun. Different foods, different languages, different holidays but also very samey. Just like any other household, we laughed, we cried, we had fun, we argued. It was normal. Really, nothing special.

In a way I almost feel honoured that there is a biopic about people like me - do I really deserve this splurge of taxpayers' money? But this first programme was an eye opener - I never realised the depth or history of mixed race families in the UK. And one of the interviewees made a great observation. The English Women who married men from different parts of the world (as the bulk of relationships before WWII were between foreign men and English Women) were Great Matriarchs. To quote, They followed their hearts instead of their heads. And it is fascinating to see the pictures of these trail blazing families. Nothing special, just ordinary people going about their daily business. But culturally, they were part of something far more fascinating. I wonder, if they were alive today, what they would think of the Mixed Britannia that is here today?

Thursday, 6 October 2011

America in Glasgow

World War Z.

I don't know. Zombies and me just don't get along.

No offence, there are great zombie movies out there, but I am no big fan of the horror genre. It just, does not entertain me.

Unlike fried chicken, which most definitely does entertain me.

But the reason I mention this film is that they closed off half of Glasgow's city centre to make this film.

That's right, one of Britain's major cities decided to close off a large chunk of its cityscape in order to make a movie.

Now if you are a local resident, this may be a pain in the neck for you.

If you are a visitor to the city, then this is fantastic!

I had no clue this was happening while I was visiting Glasgow last month, but I was well impressed when after wandering round the city in search of the perfect Haggis, I came across...Philadelphia!

And I was not the only surprised visitor. Lots of the local Glaswegians came to view their city transformed into a film set. To be honest, I did do a double take when I wandered through this part of town. I really did not think that the local authorities would authorise such a closure, but money talks, and why not? Movies are far more fun than banker's bonuses or government parades or something tatty like that. Oh go on, here is a another shot of America in Scotland!

To wander through this part of Glasgow was astounding. Of course unexpected, but amazing to see how the city really did look like Philadelphia. And as a film geek myself, it was great to see how realistic some of the details actually looked. Ripping out the old lights and signs to be replaced by their American counterparts:

Film sets are busy places and to be honest, the larger they are, the more dull they can seem. A lot of people standing around, getting paid to do very little. The flip side is that most of these guys are freelancers. Once a job comes in, they have to milk it, as the next paid job could be many months away. Being on the film crew is not easy or forgiving financially, but when the opportunity arises, then go nuts!

Part of the reason for allowing the city to be taken over was cash inspired, of course. But also, there is a certain bit of savvy marketing for Glasgow in allowing the city to be taken over for the best part of a month. It allows Glasgow to be shown in a different light. Probably the most famous film to come out of GLasgow in recent years is My Name is Joe, a beautiful film, but it really did not portray the city in any positive light. And yeah, Glasgow is not the prettiest place in the UK (more to come later) statistically, it is also f**ked. So allowing a big Hollywood production to be shot in the city gives Glasgow something else to shine with. And more importantly, could this be the start of a beuatiful relationship with some of those big film companies?

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

This blog confuses me...

Recently, I have been writing more abut travelling rather than film making, my other great passion in life. That is for many reasons, but nonetheless, film making has been taking an incredibly large amount of time. From distributing Irfan to festivals, to actually appearing at festivals, my artistic output has been massive over the past few months. And exhausting.

I have had to catch up with editing, which to be honest I have got into debt. The Guru episode from yesterday was one example of that. Shot in the summer, it is already two weeks late! Sorry! But I have been busy. Trying to balance the mundane (McJob) with the fantastical (film) has got me into a tizzy. And as I said, into debt. I am way behind on editing Amigos Amigos, yes, this project has to be finished. I do not know what will make me finish it, so I have decided to break with my puritanism and I have decided to treat myself. When I finish Amigos Amigos, I will buy myself a 3DS - I need to bribe my mind into getting this done, and this may be the only way. Pleasure for pain.

But the other big reason for falling behind has been two big corporate filming jobs, back to back. Lucrative (when the first one pays up) and fun, but they have completely thrown my normal film making process out of the window. Not that I am complaining at all. From a financial point of view, it is great to get paid to do what I actually enjoy doing! Which is also why the artistic stuff has got pushed to the back burner. Unlike an actor who appears for one day and says bye-bye, in Post-Production, the time to realise a film takes a hell of a long time. You have to bump jobs back, one by one as you cannot swing from one shoot to the next carefree Each job takes a hell of a long time to make, to be honest, to construct.

Luckily, I am fast ;)

I can edit at an incredible pace, but even I have my limitations! I try to be Superman, but sometimes I am no better than Aquaman. Such is life, I guess I am not that immortal.

So one of the ways to also change tack has been to write about travel. You see, films are fascinating, especially to watch. But writing about film making is, well, dull. I may be El Director, and this is my blog, but that still does not make writing about film making interesting. Contrast that to writing about festivals, or travelling to those far flung places. Yeah, that is a lot more interesting, and also healthy for the mind.

After all, it's good to look up once in a while from the computer screen. It's life, and if you're not careful, you'll miss it as it passes you by...

(paraphrased from here)

So do not worry dear reader. Like a swan, I am just here to make this look good. Beneath the serene ramblings of this particular blogger, is a mind working furiously on his filming life. It takes a long time, after all, I am on my own in this world, and I have been incredibly isolated on this journey that I am making. I have met many people made and lost many friends while on this journey to try and reach the stars. But the journey is still continuing...but my goodness it is taking its time!

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

The Guru and the Student Loan

Oh yes, freshers week is over, it is time to knuckle down and get back to lectures. And to remind yourself that you are now in debt to the tune of...a shedload of cash!

Click to watch!

Monday, 3 October 2011


It's just gone midnight.

No bad thing.

But tomorrow (or today) I got to be somewhere at 5am.

Why did I agree to such an early start!

And more importantly, why am I still up?

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Back in Budapest 5 - A final look round

You know, there are so many things I could write about Budapest. In fact a friend of mine yesterday was thinking of taking his partner there for a romantic weekend, so I pointed him over here, to this blog to have a gander.

And I myself have a few more things to say and show about the city. Let me start at my favourite point in the city, the Liberty Bridge:

(World's most romantic, iconic, styled, metal over water thingy!)

One of the city's most iconic structures, would this be anywhere else in the world, it would be a symbol of the city. In Budapest, it is merely a bridge for couples to hang their padlocks on.

Budapest is famous for Statue Park (officially called Momento Park), a large piece of green on the edge of the city where the grand busts of the Communist Era now spend their retirement looking on at the Glorious state of freedom that now exists in an ordinary Hungarian suburb. I did not manage to get here.

Of course, that has meant that the centre of Budapest has a lot of places that need filling up with art work...

(Good Dog!)

And Budapest is a green city. Parks and Squares adorn the centre of the city, and while City Park is justly famed, there are a whole host of smaller suqares and green plazas dotted around the city. These Green lungs provide rest and shade as well as a wonderful place to weave in between the traffic when traversing the city on foot:

(Sunshine, parks, what more could I want?)

The Central Market Hall in Budapest, just by the the Liberty Bridge on the Pest Side of the River is a wonderful example of a tourist trap. But is actually rather good. Really! One of my favourite places in all of Budapest, it is a fantastic place to sample some wholesome Hungarian food in the centre of the city. This is the place where it gets as close to the Asian Hawker Stall concept as you can imagine. Which means wholesome food at good prices ;)

Now, for some reason, there was a picture of HM Queen Margret hanging high in the Central Market Place. With a piece of propaganda that is almost as good as the old Soviet Statues, here is a monument to Capitalism that may get its own museum entry in a generation or so. Let us see how the current economic crisis pans out...

(She killed the Communists so you could be free to buy flowers instead of pluck them!)

Getting around Budapest is a blast. Although there was the option of the car, that would be suicide. After all, why would I want to use such an instrument of automation when I could hop on the city's trams, buses, trains or tube lines? With Line 4 being constructed at a pace that made the construction of the Jubilee Line seem quick in comparison, it is still easy to traverse the city. A lot of the Metro it is inherited from the Communist Period as well as from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but the network runs very well and seems to cope the crowds of modern Budapest. Along with the trams, why would you drive in this city?

(Russian Chic!)

The views are stunning across the city from Buda's hills. There are so many vistas that I want to share, but really, there are only so many photos that can be uploaded in one blog post.

(Beyond the city, there be wild beasties - look!)

Well thank you Budapest. You are a most hospitable place and have made yourself available to this humble traveller for a second year in a row. I do not know when I will next return, but hopefully, one day soon, I will be back. If you want a travel recommendation from Europe then this is it - head to Budapest! You will not be disappointed...

(Hint - look up while in Budapest. It is pretty!)