6 Aug 2017

A couple of paragraphs about pies - also, Edinburgh

We'd made it. Despite the misgivings of the UK Customs officer, I was in the country. I'd met up with my girlfriend, explained why I was so late, and we set off. The first stop was to a currency exchange in the airport, to get pounds for our euros. A painless experience, as you'd expect.

Next up was getting to town. We just took the normal bus that runs from the airport into town, and my very first impression of Edinburgh, once we started to get into the urban/suburban areas, was a striking similarity to the kinds of neighbourhoods, suburbs and houses I would expect to see in New Zealand.
When the colonists started designing the city that would one day become Dunedin, in the South Island of New Zealand, they decided on Edinburgh as an inspiration for the architecture and style. It was also, apparently, designed by someone who had no first-hand experience of the landscape and implemented by people who would follow the rules, no matter what, which is why Dunedin has the world's steepest street, as well as a number of other, extremely steep streets.

I'd always known that, and I have visited Dunedin on a number of occasions in the past, seeing as it's not far from Christchurch, where I'm from; has a large student population (lots of people I know having studied there) and being on the main highway south (where I used to hitchhike occasionally). But it was incredible to see what a fantastic job the designers of Dunedin had done capturing the spirit of Edinburgh. The architecture, imposing grey stone buildings, wide streets, even the gloomy weather (which I'm sure can be nice from time to time), Dunedin really did seem to capture the essence of Edinburgh.

We arrived at our hostel (St Christopher's Inn, £8 a night in a 16-bed dorm). We arrived too early to check-in (even after my delay at the border, we'd still made it into town around 8.00 or something), but we left our bags in the lockers and headed out to have a look at Edinburgh properly. We were tired from being up all night, and hungry.

So, we continued looking around Edinburgh, not in any particular direction, or with any sense of urgency. To be honest, around half a year later, after spending 3 months mostly hitchhiking around the UK, I can't remember everything that we saw and did that day. But, I do remember that we were excited, because we found a shop that we'd seen on Youtube, in a travel video about Edinburgh, called "Piemaker". A place that sells pies. We'd been looking forward to visiting it, and by complete coincidence, it was literally just down the road from our hostel. Unfortunately, when we first arrived, it hadn't opened yet.

Now, in New Zealand, at least amongst my peers, a pie and a coffee was the hang-over food of choice. Pie to fill your belly, to stick to your ribs, tasty enough to want to eat it despite feeling terrible, easy to eat and a true comfort food for New Zealanders. And coffee to provide you with a caffeine hit, to ease yourself through the pain of the hangover, to shake off the cobwebs of a terrible sleep, beginning at some point too late in the morning, continuing through the deep, infinite blankness of a drunk sleep, culminating in a dizzying, confusing and sickeningly quick rush back to reality, to consciousness, to wakefulness, where any light, sound, movement, any thing is enough to make you feel sick. So, of course you feel tired and want a coffee, and a cigarette if you're so inclined, or one of those special jazz cigarettes if that's more your style. But, the important thing to take from this paragraph, is we love pies, meat pies, they are a major comfort food for me (not just when I'm hung-over) and that a meat pie and a coffee when you're hung-over are like magic.

In Vienna, there is a pie-shop, across the street from an extremely good cafe, in either some kind of amazing, fortuitous coincidence, or the two businesses have colluded to work together (New Zealand isn't the only place to enjoy pies and coffees together, although I would argue we're easily the best at it). In any event, both are extremely good, and a lifeline back home when I was feeling homesick in Vienna (read: hung-over in Vienna). However, they aren't a perfect facsimile; they are fancy and expensive (I mean, you can get fancy, expensive pies in New Zealand as well, but sometimes, you just want a lower-priced, decent-quality stomach filler) and getting them is a bit of an event. Because they are so ubiquitous in New Zealand, getting a pie can be an every-day event, you can make a big deal out of it, if you choose, but it can also be as simple as seeing one and thinking "Yeah, I could go for a pie, why not?".

So, despite hankering for a pie, we decided to continue around for a bit, looking for some food and some caffeine. If you know me, then you know that I love food, especially eating although I also enjoy preparing food. I like the idea of fine, fancy food, but for me, the real pleasure is local or regional foods, especially home-made comfort foods and dirty yet delicious, unhealthy yet irresistible street food etc. Being in the UK, even Scotland, didn't change that at all. I was on the lookout for something genuine and Scottish/British. Something like a mug of tea and a bacon butty. Just down the road, we found exactly that, at a student cafe. Cheap bacon, in a bap, with brown sauce...that was Scotland. My girlfriend just got a coffee, because she wanted to save herself for a pie.

My selection
Lisa's pies
After (first) breakfast, we headed back to Piemaker to see if it was open, and joy! It was! So, we got a couple of pies each...with so much time passed, I can't remember exactly what we ordered, but with a bit of sleuthing and reasoning with Lisa, we think we've got it. I'm sure I got a sausage roll and a shepherd's pie, and she got a couple of pies, a Scotch pie, so we could see what it was, and the other was a mac 'n' cheese pie. I distinctly remember, because I had absolutely no interest in buying one myself. I did try it, and I have to say, I didn't care for it, although my girlfriend enjoyed it. And I definitely noticed, mac 'n' cheese pies are definitely a thing in Scotland.

Saw these at the supermarket...didn't
buy them though, I wanted my first
Haggis experience to be the real thing
My girlfriend wasn't feeling too well, so after the pies, we went to a local supermarket. Something I noticed that was different about the European mainland as compared to New Zealand, was the fact that basic painkillers and other over-the-counter drugs aren't available at the supermarket, but only at pharmacies. Because Lisa wasn't feeling well, we went to the supermarket to stock up on cheap, generic drugs. We walked around for a bit, went to Primark (I'd forgotten to bring a warm hat, and I figured it would be useful to have one) and we headed back to St Cristopher's, where Lisa slept for a bit on the couch until we could check in. We napped for the afternoon, woke up, ate some super cheap Asian food in a place down the road, went back to the hostel, and slept solidly again until the morning time.

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31 Jul 2017

Update #4 - better late than never

So, I'm sitting on a ferry on the way to Sweden right now. I've been so busy over the last 2 weeks, visiting my friend at the Language Farm in Thüringen, so never got around to updating the blog.

Lisa came to the farm for a week as well, and we had a great time, I even got drawn as an anime character, which was cool.

After that, we initially planned to hitchhike from Jena to Leipzig, but we were so exhausted, we changed plan. We stayed for a bit in Jena, had a nice late lunch/early dinner at the cafe my friend used to work at, and I booked a hostel for myself in Leipzig for a night.

Lisa had a bus booked back to Vienna from Leipzig, at about 11:30, so we just chilled out at the hostel until out was time to leave. Once I'd seen her off, I headed back to the hostel, had a quick shower and feel right asleep. I'd set an alarm for 6am, as I wanted to get out and start hitchhiking as early as possible.

I woke up slightly before my alarm, had another shower to wake up and packed my things. Took a bit longer than I expected, because I was so tired, and didn't get to the spot I'd read about on hitchwiki about 10am. I got there with all my stuff (including my guitar which had been left at the Language Farm), and sat on my guitar case for a minute or two, just soaking up the sun a bit, trying to get the energy to start hitchhiking. I was at a petrol station on the motorway, and had been there for about 5 minutes, sitting in the sun, with my sign in front of me, when someone called out from the pumps.

My sign said "North/Rostock" and turns out these guys are from Rostock, had spent a weekend in Leipzig and were on their way back. It was mostly an uneventful ride, although there was massive traffic jams about halfway through. The driver was incredibly nice and took me the whole way to the port so I could buy a ticket for the ferry.

Unfortunately, the next ferry we completely booked, so I had to take the 23:55 one. And now, here I am. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous, it's a long way to go tomorrow, I didn't really specify a time I'd be in Enköping, but I said I hoped it would be lunch time. I'd have to get pretty lucky for that to happen, but we'll see...crazier things have happened.

Sorry for the non-standard formatting on this post, I am writing this on my phone, and the Blogger app doesn't allow much formatting.

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17 Jul 2017

Update #3

Been too busy this weekend to do the finishing touches on the UK blogposts I was going to write about, so I'll just describe the week that was.

All week, I've been preparing to leave to go to Sweden. Lisa and I are going to WWOOF on an organic farm in Enkoping, and I wanted to make sure I had all the bits and pieces. In addition, it's harvest season, so Lisa has been working at the Lagerhaus and I had been helping on the field.

Last minute, I decided to stop in Thüringen on the way, to hang out with some old friends for a couple of weeks. I wanted to leave on Friday, so on Thursday, I went back to Vienna to get the stuff from Lisa's apartment that I wanted to take to Sweden. Because Lisa was at the Lagerhaus, her brother took me to Leopoldsforf train station to get the train to Vienna. Leopoldsdorf doesn't have a ticket service of any sort, you must buy the tickets on the train. The conductor was in my carriage but she seemed too lazy to get out and check any tickets, so I didn't end up buying one, and just got off on the first station in Vienna. When I got off, however, I realised that I had forgotten to bring the keys to the apartment, so I had to Whatsapp everyone and let them know that I had, very typically for me, forgotten the keys and had to return to Kopfstetten. I had to buy a ticket from the machine and luckily, Lisa's brother would meet me at the Leopoldsdorf, drop off the key and I would take the next train to Vienna.

We did that, wasting almost a whole hour in total, and on the way back to Vienna, the conductor walked past me, looked me in the eye but didn't ask for a ticket and I never brought it up, so I got to Vienna free again.

I got the stuff from the apartment, and a new case for my phone, and headed back. I packed my stuff, and got ready to leave. I wanted to hitchhike, and I'd planned for it to take two days, I planned to arrive on Saturday evening. Lisa dropped me off at the Schönfeld-Lassee train station, I took a train to Vienna, and then made my way to the Hütteldorf, as suggested by hitchwiki.org.

It didn't take long for me to get my first ride and get on the way! My sign said "Kiwi going to Germany", because I felt like it would be beneficial for my sign to say that I was 

  1. From New Zealand
  2. An English-speaker
My "Kiwi going to Germany" and my stuff
However, the guy that picked me up didn't really read my sign, he just stopped to pick me up, he did, however, think it was cool I was from New Zealand. A pretty interesting guy, from Südtirol, in Italy (but the Austrian-German-speaking part), he lived in Vienna but worked near St Valentin as a tour guide at an old concentration camp. He dropped me off at a rest-stop, not too close to St Valentin, but that got lots of traffic.
At my first drop-off, in Oed

The next guy was one of the more interesting rides I've ever had. Again, not sure that he read and comprehended my sign in it's full entirety, we definitely got along right from the start. He was a Kurdish guy from Turkey, but had grown up in Romania. As he told me, the Turkish population in Romania is not particularly sizeable.

He could take me to Nürnberg, which was amazing, that was about half my journey complete right there! However, just after Passau, there was a border control, and they pulled us aside and checked our passports, his car and quickly interviewed us. We didn't have anything illegal and weren't doing anything wrong, and once they understood I was a hitchhiker, they were less confused about why a New Zealand with a Swedish working holiday visa and residency card was travelling with a Turkish Romanian who was going to Paris.

We stopped at a rest stop to get some lunch, and it turned out to be quite a nice little stop. I got one of my favourite Austrian comfort foods, Leberkäse, and I have to say, it was definitely one of the more generous slices I've ever had and accompanied it with a Radler, with dark beer (which I don't recommend). My new friend got an egg sandwich type thing, but when we sat down outside to eat, he decided he would get some potato salad as well (he was a vegetarian), so went back inside. He came out with nothing, and I asked him about it, and he said the chef had told him he would make him something special. He went inside after a few minutes, and came out with a massive plate of pasta, mixed with scrambled eggs, with large helpings of various salads on the side. He had brought two forks with him, because it was too much for one, and the chef had only charged him €5!

After we were done, we went in and said our thanks for the fantastic food, and headed out again. Unfortunately, it turns out on the motorway, there wasn't really a good stop close to Nürnberg, so he dropped me off a bit west of Nürnberg. Now that I was in Germany, I thought that having a sign that said "Kiwi going to Germany" was a bit pointless, as I was already in Germany, so I wrote a new sign on the back that simply said "North/Nord" on it, as I was going pretty much just heading North.
Just in front of the Fun World Casino

After only about 15 minutes or so, a fancy newish Audi stopped, and a sort of business-type stopped and asked me about where I was going, in German. We discussed it, decided it would work and put my bags in the back. I introduced myself and he asked where I was from. As soon as I said I was from New Zealand, he switched to speaking in English and turns out, he liked the fact that I was from New Zealand. He had spent some time in Australia and really enjoyed it and as a consequence, he really wanted to go back to that part of the world.
Arrived safely in Jena

He was heading to Leipzig, but in the end, he made a special effort to drop me off in Jena, which was my goal. I had made, what I planned to be a 2 day journey, in a single day, in less than 12 hours. I found what seemed to be the only hostel in Jena, and luckily, got there just before reception closed.

The guy who checked me in seriously thought I was the coolest person ever. He loved that I was from New Zealand, that I speak German and that I was hitchhiking. He offered to help me with my stuff after checking me in, but he only took me sign and showed it to other people. The only other guy in the dorm was a young Russian kid, very shy because his English was not particularly strong, but a really nice kid nonetheless. He offered me a beer after an hour or so of us sitting in near-silence on our respective electronic devices, and we had a small chat. He was in town for a science conference, and had an extra weekend just to look around a little bit.

In the morning, I checked out and went to get a breakfast at a cool cafe called "Stilbruch", where a good friend of mine had formerly worked in the kitchen. I just went there on her recommendation, and it was super-busy, but the food was great. Afterwards, I went to the supermarket, as I'd forgotten my shower gel in Vienna, and I also bought a bottle of wine. I took the train to the small town where I was meeting my friends, but they couldn't pick me up until the early afternoon, so I sat at the small town train station and drank a whole bottle of wine to myself.

Needless to say, when they came to get me, I was pretty drunk.

We had some more drinks, had a barbeque, had a nice time, and I had a sleep. We had some stuff to do on Sunday, luckily I didn't feel too worse for wear, and so I've been busy and only really found time to write this update at the very arse-end of the weekend. Hopefully I'll be better organised next week and get up a couple of posts about the UK as well.

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9 Jul 2017

Update #2 - week ending 09/07/17

I thought it was going to be a fairly average week, and I suppose in some ways it was, but there is definitely a bit to write about!

Early on in the week, I went to a Greek restaurant with Lisa's family, very idyllic, picturesque setting, overlooking the Danube-Oder canal (which connects with neither river, ironically enough...it was begun by the Nazis to connect the Danube in Austria with the Oder river in Poland, but it never got very far). The food was pretty good, the service was excellent Austrian service (pretty slow, but very friendly and personable, and it gives it more of an atmosphere of being there to enjoy yourself, just to relax, because there's no need to rush) and the setting was phenomenal.
View of the Danube-Oder canal

After that, Lisa and I got dropped off in Vienna (it's just outside the border), because she had an exam and I wanted to go to the Finanzamt (the Tax Office, more or less) and to do a bit of shopping for new running/sport shoes and some other stuff for Sweden. The Finanzamt was not the smoothest of operations this time; last time, my German was strong enough to get myself a code so I could log-in online, without Lisa's help, but this time, it was a bit more of a struggle. Unfortunately, we weren't able to do it online, and I went to ask why, but they asked where I lived, and when I explained that I didn't live in Vienna anymore, and wanted to use my girlfriends' parents' house as a postal address for my tax stuff, they said I would need to go to the Finanzamt in their district, not in Vienna.

Lisa's aunty has since assisted me, ringing the Finanzamt in Lisa's parents' district and finding out that I hadn't submitted a document detailing my earnings for the year. It is the kind of thing your employer can do, and I assumed mine had, but had not. It's not a problem, my boss did give me a copy when I left, and Lisa's aunty will submit that, and then I should be able to apply for my tax refund. A lot of effort for what I imagine will barely amount to €100, but I am proud of myself for going to the Finanzamt by myself, and at least making myself understood and moving the process along a bit.

After that debacle, I bought some shoes, that was alright, then I went to look for a device I'd send in the window of a store, when I was walking with Lisa, not so long ago. It was the kind of store that sells watches, and various electronics, home goods, odds and ends, but mostly electronic in nature. The item I wanted was a USB energy bank, for storing energy, that was equipped for collecting solar energy, as well as the more conventional USB charging. It was €20, which I judged to be an appropriate price, and I quite liked the idea of buying it at a local, small business. I spent ages in the hot sun looking in the windows, trying to find it again, but I really couldn't see it. I went in to the nicely air-conditioned shop and the owner automatically asked me (in German) what I wanted. I was a bit nervous, made worse by his brusque manner, so I just replied that I was "just looking, thanks". He then told me I could look from outside and gestured to the door.

Although I'm sure if I'd described what I was looking for, he would have assisted me, but my German isn't the best and he didn't seem the most patient of assistants. Moreover, I'd decided that I no longer wanted to support this business, and more specifically, this guy. I'll still be keeping an eye out for this kind of device, because they will be absolutely fantastic for hitchhiking, especially because in today's world, the phone is extremely essential, and if I am stuck somewhere overnight with no power, which happens sometimes, it is all to easy to run out of power. My phone is more than just a source of music (although it is the main thing I use it for), I also use it for navigating (even offline, if you've got a map open in memory already, it will update your real-time position on top of it; fantastic if you have to walk to the exit of an unfamiliar town/city and you don't have access to data or wifi) and as an emergency device (for contacting the police, friends, whomever I please).

I published the first 2 blog posts about my recent hitchhiking trip to the UK...if you haven't already read them, please do! Post #1 and #2. I will continue posting them twice a week, or maybe once a week if I am posting about some current travels.

Speaking of which, probably the most exciting news of the week...the camp I used to work at in Germany has asked Lisa and I to come back for a camp! My favourite camp of last year, the horse-riding/cooking camp. The horse-riding is neither here nor there for me (although I can ride horses both with, and without, saddles; I learnt when I was WWOOFing on a horse farm in Nordrhein-Westfalen), but the cooking camp is amazing. It's a bit of stress for the counsellors, when it's your turn to do a cooking project or whatever, but there is incredible food all week long. And I love food.

I had to write to the farm in Sweden where Lisa and I will be WWOOFing, to make sure they would be ok if I arrived a bit later (and they were), and Lisa had to make sure she would be done at the Lagerhaus where she has a summer job (she will be) but we made it work and we're very excited. And, I have agreed to do a camp the week before as well, which will be nice too.

Poster for the Seefest

Lastly, we went to a concert (Seefest) at a cool little pub, next to a little lake in rural Austria, which I've been to a few times with Lisa and her parent. The first band were a cute group of young kids, I'd imagine from about 11 to about 14, singing some of modern pop music, all in English except one song in Spanish.

Overall, a pretty awesome week!

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To the Empire

So, we had our flight to Bratislava from Edinburgh booked. We took a bus from Austria, and arrived at some point in the middle of the night; our flight was at 6.30 or something ridiculous. For those who have never been to Bratislava airport, it's quite a nice airport, fairly modern...clean, tidy, but it's main issue is that it is extremely tiny. That's actually not normally a bad thing, but when you've got hours to kill and everything is closed, at least exploring the airport can normally occupy a little of your time. But the public part of this airport takes all of 10 minutes to get around completely.
Bratislava airport at night

Our Ryanair plane

Aside from that, we had a fairly non-interesting flight with Ryanair. We got on the plane, the plane took off, flew for a bit, then landed. When it came time for customs, I had to line up in the peasants' (aka non-European passport holders') line, and my girlfriend, being an Austrian, went through the much faster EU line. While crawling through the extremely slow and boring line, I was trying to connect to the wifi with my phone, so I could talk to my girlfriend, or browse the internet, or literally anything even remotely interesting. I had no luck with the wifi but did manage to get to the front of the line eventually.

Now, being a non-EU citizen, I had to fill out a card on arrival, with the purpose of my visit, my intended period of stay, an address where I was staying and so on. If you've ever travelled to a foreign country, then you know the type of thing. I am not the most organised of people, and where possible, I tend to let my girlfriend organise the details of our travels, because she'll;
a) get around to it (I tend to put things off);
b) remember whatever it is that's been organised (I'll forget the date and time of a flight I've booked before I've even left the room).
And so, as a result, I actually had no idea what the address of the hostel we were staying at was. I had no idea what it was called. I did recall that it costed about £8, because that was ridiculously cheap, and that it was fairly close to the city centre. I left that blank on the card, while trying to connect to the wifi to ask my girlfriend about it.

So, I get to the front and begin my conversation with the immigration officer. Of course, she notices that I haven't got an address that I'll be staying at, so she asks me about it.
"I'm afraid I don't know the address, my girlfriend has all the details."
"Where is she now?"
"She's Austrian, so she went through the EU line...I know that it's a hostel, and it costs about £8 a night."

After convincing her that it was all good, she asked what my purpose was and whether I had an onward ticket booked. She also seemed perturbed that I had written "~2 months" under the question about my intended period of stay. I explained that I was having a short holiday with my girlfriend, and then she would fly back to Austria, and I would go to London, to apply for a working holiday visa from the Latvian embassy. If I got it, then I'd be off to Latvia, if not, then I had enough money in my New Zealand account for a flight back to New Zealand. She wasn't impressed. I then tried to persuade her that I understood the seriousness of over-staying, by telling her about the time that I was deported from Germany (which I'll write about another time). With hindsight I realise, of course, that this was a terrible approach to take, even after explaining that in the end, it was proved that the deportation was a mistake on the German bureaucrat's part, and that the decision was reversed. But in the end, she allowed me in to the UK despite my ambiguously filled out arrival card, my vague answers to her questions and my admission of being deported from another EU country (although the decision had been reversed).

What would I have done if I hadn't been allowed in? I'm not sure, to be honest. I would've desperately found a way to contact my girlfriend, as a first point of action, so she'd know what was going on. Aside from that, not sure. But I was allowed in, and so my UK adventure could begin...

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7 Jul 2017

UK travels - a background

I'm going to begin writing about my recent trip around the UK for 3 months, mostly hitchhiking and couchsurfing. There are some good stories, crazy adventures, high points, low points and everything in-between. First, let's travel back to the end of 2016.

My working holiday
visa for Germany
My working holiday visa for Germany had run out in September of 2016. I'd had a working holiday visa the year before, for Austria, and after it had expired, you were entitled to stay in the Schengen for an extra 90 days, as a visa-free tourist. What I learnt the hard way, after getting deported (which is a story for another time), is that after the visa had finished, one was supposed to leave the Schengen for any amount of time, then re-enter and the visa-free period begins on whatever date your arrival stamp states.

My passport with the exit
stamp from Croatia
Now, I wasn't sure if that also applied for the German working holiday visa, but I wasn't taking any chances. I'd booked a bus to Zagreb for a few days. to ensure I had at least the entry stamp. Upon returning into the Schengen, I was once again a legal visa-free tourist in the Schengen.

I'd been meaning to apply for a new working holiday visa for a while, but I'd lazy and disorganised and left it too long. It's not as simple as one might think; despite being young enough to be eligible for several visas all around Europe, it's not just a matter of sending in an application, waiting a few days and boom, you're done (although, to be fair, the German one is easy, you can just walk into an Ausländeramt (foreigner's office) and get it then and there apparently. I got mine at a German embassy and it only took a couple of days).

For example, not all the visas were available to me, despite being eligible for them. Let me explain; I was eligible to apply for the UK working holiday visa. Ignoring the fact that I was less keen to apply for that (as although it's in Europe and not too far from Austria and therefore my girlfriend, I'd still have to fly or go by boat to get back to the mainland), I would only be able to apply through the UK embassy in New Zealand. Now, I don't need to point out how ridiculous it would be to travel all the way home (when we came to Europe last time, the whole journey took around 50 hours!) simply to apply and then come back, and it meant that, effectively, the UK visa was unavailable to me. It was unavailable to me in the same way that Lamborghini ownership is currently unavailable to me; on paper, it isn't, but it's basically impossible. And other visas were out-of-reach for various reasons, including the same, or I didn't have enough money e.t.c..

So, basically, I settled on applying for a Latvian working holiday visa. It didn't require a large amount of savings (I only needed proof that I had the equivalent of around €600, as opposed to some other countries, that require €1800+), despite being quite far from Austria it was at least on the mainland, I could apply from an overseas embassy (in this case, London, so I could also leave the Schengen to avoid overstaying),  and lastly, although I think the number of visas issued every year is limited to a certain amount, it seems unlikely that the quota would be used up. To be honest, I've never heard of a single New Zealander ever applying for a Latvian working holiday visa, although I'm sure there must have been at least one by now.

I would definitely have to leave Europe in very early January, so my girlfriend and I had made a plan to fly to the UK together just before New Years. We looked online for some cheap flights from Vienna or Bratislava, and found some tickets that were cheap one way (for me), as well as return (for her). They flew into Edinburgh, and I happened to know that a very good friend of mine, who I met in working in Milford Sound, was living in the Highlands. I messaged him and, as his flatmate was away for most of the time Lisa would be in the UK, he was happy to host us for New Years and a bit afterwards.

And so, we were set. We'd fly to Edinburgh, spend a night there, then a night or two in Glasgow, then off to Fort William. Seems pretty straight-forward, but in fairly typical fashion, I almost managed to get myself refused entry into the UK. But that's a story for another blog post.

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2 Jul 2017

Update #1 - week ending 2/7/17

Well, it's been a busy week as far as this blog is concerned!

Pretty much launched all of it today, the Instagram, the Facebook and the blog itself!

Still learning about Blogger and how it works, got some ideas about how to make the blog itself better, more navigable and in more of a format for future referencing, like a real diary.

Aside from that, did some cool stuff this week - most importantly, got my phone back from Switzerland...I've been using a 3rd-party computer-based application to upload to Instagram, which is far from ideal, so now I can use Instagram the way it was intended again.

It was incredibly hot in Vienna this week, and I spent the early part of the week pretty much just melting in Lisa's apartment, although we did have a bit of a trip down to the Finanzamt...when I worked in Austria, I paid taxes as if I'd worked for a whole year and had only worked 5 months, so I could claim some of the taxes back. We'd been trying to do it online, but because I am no longer officially registered in Austria, we weren't able to get a code sent via mail to log-in online, so I had to go in person.

I went with Lisa by bike; her with her on bike and I took a Citybike (an incredibly cool service here in Vienna). We locked up her bike across the street but we decided she would go return the Citybike to the nearest station while I went in to get started with the bureaucracy, because it was close to closing time (it closes at 12 in summer). It took her a bit longer to return, because by the time she got there, the station was full, so she had to wait until someone took a bike. As it happened, my German was good enough that by the time she got there, I'd got through most of the process, and she just had to help me fill out a form. Haven't been able to do the process online, though, so might need to go back in this week.

Check out the Instagram or Facebook to watch a video from yesterday...Lisa and I went to the sports field in the town over, with her brother, to kick around the rugby ball, but on the way, we went to check out a bunker in the fields that Lisa's dad had told us about. It was smaller than I expected, but pretty cool nonetheless.

On the way to the bunker

Lisa in the bunker
Me on the bunker
About to pass

So, in the next week, look forward to the beginning of my trip to the UK. I have drafted up a number of posts already (but still got a lot of work ahead of me...it was 3 months, after all - mostly hitchhiking), so I think I will be publishing 2 a week, possibly more.

Congratulations if you read this, you may be the only person to have done so. 😬

Feel free to follow me on InstagramFacebook and look out for Youtube coming soon (I mean, it's technically there already, but it has nothing on it yet).