Sunday, 30 October 2011

A Room With A View

I've blogged before about how I never expect a great view from my hotel room when I travel as we don't tend to splash out on the most expensive of rooms to keep the costs to the project down. A few weeks ago I went to Brighton for a stag do (Rob, who was my best man, is getting married in a few weeks time), and to increase the amount of money to be spent on beer we were all staying in a hostel rather than a hotel. I think most of us had visions of some horrible grotty room with a toilet half a mile down a dingy corridor. Fortunately, reality was a lot better.

Given that there were quite a few of us, we didn't end up sharing with strangers. I ended up sharing a room with four others and we had our own en-suite shower and toilet, with towels provided. More impressive was the view from the window. Not bad for £48 including breakfast!

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Moving On

The research group I work as part of gets most of it's funding from external sources; government grants or companies wanting R&D. This means that while the style of work stays fairly consistent the actual tasks can vary widely depending on which project I'm currently working on. Since I joined the group at the start of 2009 most of my time has been dedicated to the LarKC project. My recent trip to Vienna, however, marked the end of LarKC and the reviewers from the EU were highly impressed with all the work that has been achieved. The work package I was most involved with helped discover a new genetic mutation which we proved causes oral cancer, and they couldn't help but be impressed by that! Actually I'm pretty impressed by it as well. Finding a new cause for cancer wasn't something I ever imagined being involved with. We are currently in the process of writing up the finding for a journal article so I'm sure I'll tell you more about it when that work is done. LarKC has also allowed me to make good use of my passport with trips to Bled, Milan, Berlin, Lyon, Munich, Sofia, Innsbruck, Beijing, Lund (which I seem not to have blogged about at all), and of course Vienna. Of course, while I do get to briefly see the countries we visit I spend most of my time with the other people who worked on LarKC, and here we all are (well those of us who were at the final meeting in Vienna).
So now that LarKC has finished I'm moving on to work on another large EU funded project called Khresmoi. Khresmoi is about medical information analysis and retrieval and has been running for a year already. From discussions in Sheffield it looks like my work will be similar to stuff I'd been doing for LarKC. I'm sure I'll have a much better understanding in a weeks time as I'm attending a project meeting next week in Prague, so it doesn't look as if my passport will be getting a rest anytime soon!

Friday, 28 October 2011

The Original Sacher-Torte

When I travel I try and make sure I get to sample the local specialty foods and drinks. For example, in Bled you have to eat the cream slice and in Beijing it's Peking Duck. When I was in Vienna I did sample the local wine (one of the social events was held at a vineyard), although I missed out on trying Sturm. I also decided there was no way I could travel to Vienna without trying the original Sacher Torte. Apparently.... the history of the world-famous Original Sacher-Torte began in 1832, when the 16-year old apprentice cook Franz Sacher created this dessert at the court of Prince Metternich. In the meantime, it has become the most famous torte in the world and the hand-written recipe is a "state secret" of the hotel. The Original Sacher-Torte is still produced in the traditional manner and is hand-made.

As I didn't have too much time to sit and enjoy the delights of the Hotel Sacher, instead of eating a slice in Vienna I bought a whole torte (in a wooden box) and brought it home. It survived a mad dash across Munich airport as I nearly missed my flight home, and it was worth every Euro I spent on it. Absolutely gorgeous. From the smell of high quality chocolate on unwrapping the box, to the lightness of the cake, it was just a delight to eat.

Of course you don't just have to take me word for it, you could order your very own Sacher-Torte to bring a little piece of Vienna to your own corner of the globe!

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Viennese Wildlife

While in Vienna I noticed a couple of strange wildlife sculptures adorning the front of big imposing buildings.
The double-headed eagle is easy to explain, it's the symbol of the city. This specific example was on a Regierungsgebäude (Government Building) on Stubenring, which I photographed from the balcony of my hotel room. The gilt bee is a little harder to understand. It is on the Spar-Casse Bank on Graben.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Poetic Graffiti

As seen on a fountain in Vienna.

Monday, 17 October 2011


I'm now safely back from Vienna (I've actually already been on another trip since I got back, but you'll have to wait to hear about that) and I've still got a few things I want to blog about. So firstly we have a couple of street signs both of which were seen within walking distance of Stephansplatz in the centre of the old city.
Now I'm going to assume that the red strip signifies a prohibited action but I'm a little confused as to what those actions are. At a guess the sign on the left means something along the lines of "no ball games in the street". As for the second sign, I'm torn between "no couples allowed" or maybe "no prostitution" (no idea what the law on that is in Austria) but neither really seems convincing. I'd love to hear your (imaginative) interpretations!

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Trying (And Failing) To Speak German

When I was at high school I spent two and a half years trying to learn German. It certainly wasn't my best subject and I eventually scrapped through with a D at GCSE level. Now that I travel quite a lot with work I get plenty of opportunities to make use of my limited German ability. Unfortunately although I try hard there is hardly ever a great success story. For some reason I seem to always struggle to buy lunch.

I'm in Vienna all this week and so I've had plenty of opportunity to hear, read, and try to speak German. Usually I limit myself to please and thank you, but yesterday I made the mistake of trying something a little more complex. I went into a sandwich shop, decided what I wanted, and ordered it along with a bottle of coke all in German. My sandwich and coke arrived and then I was hit with a long stream of German, of which I understood exactly zero words. So I had to switch back to English. Fortunately the guy serving spoke English and so there wasn't a problem. He even said that my German accent was quite good.

I wouldn't mind if this was the first time that this had happened, but in fact the first time I visited German (Bonn back in 2005), I also ordered a sandwich but couldn't understand the questions I was asked. On that occasion the woman behind the counter didn't speak English so I had to be saved by some helpful German students.

So from now on I think I'm going to stick to just reading small amounts of German and give up on the idea of ever being able to hold, an even simple, conversation.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Breeds of Chicken

We had planned this summer to start keeping chickens. Unfortunately things didn't quite go to plan. Firstly we haven't got as far with the garden as we would have liked, which means that there isn't yet anywhere to put a hen house. Secondly we had the unexpected expense of having to replace the car after it failed it's MOT so badly that it wasn't worth having it fixed. This does mean that we have had a lot of time to read up on keeping chickens and to spend time trying to figure out which breeds we would like to keep. Bryony has been doing most of the reading while I've settled on at least three varieties of hen I'm happy keeping: golden, speckled and crafty!

On the serious side, we are looking at having four chickens of different breeds which lay different coloured eggs. Not only will both the chickens and their eggs like nice and varied but it seems a really good way, especially as we get used to things, of keeping track of the health of each bird. If we suddenly don't have white eggs we will know which bird is sick.