Monday, May 29, 2017

British Airways IT Crash

All BA flights cancelled
So yesterday started off fine.  I took the big yellow bus to Vienna Airport.  I was supposed to fly on BA from Vienna to London Heathrow at 14:10 and then on to Dublin.  I should have arrived in Dublin at 19:00.

That's not how it turned out.  By 14:30, we still hadn't boarded the plane.  Eventually, we were told that the flight would be delayed until around 15:30.  Everyone was given a €10 food voucher.  We were then told that the flight was cancelled.  Something about an IT glitch.  We had to go to the airport service desk to sort things out.

I had already gone through security and passed immigration since the UK and Ireland are outside of Schengen.  So I had to get stamped back in to Austria in order to go to the service desk.  The queue was kind of long when I arrived but it didn't take long for it to get even longer.

After a few hours, I finally made it up to the desk.  The solution was I would be put on an Austrian Airlines flight to Venice, Italy.  Then an Aer Lingus flight to Dublin with a 00:30 arrival time.  I was told that my previously checked in bag would be transferred to Austrian and get checked through to Dublin.  The flight to Venice would leave in 35 minutes so I had to rush to get through security again.

Rebooked on Austrian Airlines
In Venice, the gate agent asked me about my baggage.  I explained what had happened and that was the end of it.  Or so I naively thought.

I finally made it to Dublin early Sunday morning.  My bag didn't and there was no one at the Aer Lingus baggage desk.

Staff didn't show up for over 1,5 hours
It took over 1,5 hours before anyone bothered to show up at the baggage desk.  Let's just say that I wasn't a happy camper at 2 AM.

I gave a lost luggage description.  The guy told me that he doubts the bag ever even left Vienna.  He gave me a claim number and a customer service number but the office would be closed until Monday morning.

I finally made it to bed around 3 AM Sunday morning.  I only had my laptop and a baseball cap in my carry on bag so I don't have a change of clothes or toiletries.  Fortunately I'm not in a hotel this trip so I can borrow clothes and my host gave me a spare toothbrush.

Let's hope that I receive my bag soon.  As it is, I had to work from home today because I don't have any work clothes for the office.  Looks like I'll be working from home tomorrow too.

Here's a video about the IT crash that I found on YouTube.


Thursday, May 25, 2017

Upcoming Train Track Maintenance

This summer, there will be 170 million Kč (~$7.7 million) maintenance on the train tracks at Hlavní nádraží.  The repairs will limit the traffic at the main station with an impact to about 300 connections per day.

From 3 June to 10 September, most trains will come and go from Dolní nádraží.  The Dolní station is 900 meters from the main station.  It's just over a ten minute walk but there will be a shuttle bus running between the two stations.

In addition to Dolní nádraží, many trains will also make an extra stop at Židenice.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

2017 Depeche Mode Concert

So when I was a teenager, back in the 80's in Southern California, I missed the chance to see Depeche Mode in concert.  So when Claudia mentioned cheap €45 tickets for the Bratislava show I was definitely in.

I grew up with Depeche Mode.  They've sold over 100 million records worldwide.  Their Global Spirit Tour from May to July consists of 32 cities in 21 European countries.

The show was great!  We were in the standing section and it did start to rain.  But that's where the "I ❤️ Bratislava" rain poncho came in handy.  The concert was to promote their upcoming album so it makes sense that their focus was on the newer material.

They played 22 songs, including a five song encore, but I still wish their set had included "Master & Servant", "Shake the Disease", "Policy of Truth" and "People Are People", but they did include "Walking In My Shoes".

Here's a short clip of the beginning of "Enjoy the Silence" that I got on my mobile phone.


Update:  In 2018, Depeche Mode will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

New Quid

The Euro isn't the only currency being refreshed in Europe.  Last September, the Bank of England released a brand new fiver in the United Kingdom.

Old £5 above, new £5 below
The new £5 bank note is made from polymer so it is plastic.  The new bill has enhanced security features which makes it harder to counterfeit.  The plastic bill is expected to last at least 2,5 times longer than the old paper notes.

Back side of the new fiver
People had until midnight on 5 May 2017 to spend their old paper £5 notes before they went out of circulation.  Scotland and Northern Ireland print their own bank notes so I assume that they also have new polymer £5 notes but I haven't seen them.

A new £10 note will be released in September.  The new £20 note is scheduled for 2020.

Here's a short YouTube video about the new fiver.

©Bank of England

Front side - new £1 on left, old £1 on right
Then on 28 March 2017 a new £1 coin was released.  The new 12-sided coin is supposed to be the world's most secure coin.
Back side - new £1 on left, old £1 on right
The old "round pound" will no longer be legal tender on 15 October 2017.  I need to check to see how many old coins I still have.
Here's another YouTube video, this one about the new coin.

©The Royal Mint

Update:  Here's the new £10 bank note.
Update:  Here's the new £20 and £50.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

New €50 Banknote

In April the European Central Bank (ECB) released the new €50 bank note.  The new fifty has number of new features which makes it way more difficult to counterfeit.

The new €50 note is part of the Europa series which so has so far released new fivers, tenners, and twenties.

Old €50 above, new €50 below
The new €100 and €200 bank notes will be released in late 2018.  I don't know why but the ECB will not release a new €500 bank note but the old bill will continue to be valid.

The €50 note is the most widely used Euro bank note.  I would have thought it to be the €20 note.  There are move than nine billion fifties in circulation which is about 46% of all bank notes.

Here's a video I found out on YouTube that talks about some of the new security features of the bank note.

©European Central Bank

Sunday, May 14, 2017

2017 Q2 Team Building Event

Yesterday, my Brno team hosted our 2nd quarter team building.  We had people show up from Czechland, Slovakia, Hungary, Poland, and the UK - quite the turn out.

We started out at the Dalešice Brewery for a bit of a pre-party event.  The brewery was hosted a sort of schnitzel festival so we took the opportunity to have some lunch and drink a bit of beer.  A few of us rented rooms at the brewery so we were able to drop our stuff off.

Note, this is the same brewery we were at few years ago when I was invited to drink beer and tour a nuclear power plant.

We had a touch of rain but not enough to put a damper on the festivities.  After a few hours we had a bus take us all over to the main party location about 15-20 minutes away.

There were some games for a bit of friendly competition.  We had tons of food.  Plus lots of beer and slivovice.  My contribution to the food was a strawberry cake.

It was another successful event.  My group can definitely throw a decent party.  

Saturday, May 13, 2017

2017 Eurovision

It's Eurovision time again and the finals are tonight.  I'll miss them this year because I'm headed out to  a team building event about an hour from Brno.

This year's Czech entry is Martina Bárta and her song My Turn.  She is a jazz singer plays the French horn.  The song, sung in English, was pretty good but unfortunately she only placed 13th in the first round and failed to qualify for tonight's finals.  Better luck next year.

Here's her song and video from YouTube.

©Eurovision Song Contest

Friday, May 12, 2017

Pink Tank

The Pink Tank has come to Brno.  It's sitting in front of the Red Church, at Komenského náměstí, as part of Tribes 90 exhibition organised by the Moravian Gallery.  It will remain on display until early July.

The tank was originally green and it used to be a monument to Soviet tank crews.  In 1945 the tank monument was erected in Prague to commemorate the Soviet liberation of the city at the end of WWII.

For many people, following the Velvet Revolution, the tank came to represent the 1968 Soviet invasion that ended the Prague Spring and the permanent installation of Soviet troops in Czechoslovakia.  Urban legend has it that the "23" that was painted on the turret represented the year of the invasion because 1945 + 23 = 1968.

Then in 1991, then art student, David Černý, along with some of his friends, painted the tank pink.  They also installed a large middle finger on top of the tank.  Černy was arrested for hooliganism and the tank was repainted green.  Then 15 newly elected parliament members, who supported Černý and who all happened to have immunity, painted the tank pink again.  This went on a few times and each time there were protests from the Soviet embassy.  Finally the tank was moved to a military museum about 20 km (13 miles) from Prague.

In June 2011, the Pink Tank returned to Prague to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the withdrawal of Soviet troops in Czechoslovakia.  The middle finger was re-attached to the top and the tank was displayed on a barge on the Vltava river, near the Charles Bridge for a year.

David Černý went on to become one of Czechland's most prominent artists.  He's the one who put the baby sculptures on the Prague TV tower.

The City of Brno put on video out on YouTube showing the Pink Tank being installed.

©Statutárni město Brno

Update:  The Pink Tank will remain in Brno until sometime in September.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Bedřich Smetana

Bedřich Smetana (1824 - 1884) is widely regarded as the father of Czech music.  He was born in 1824 in Litomyšl near the border between Bohemia and Moravia in what was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

He helped develop a distinctive Czech opera style.  As a composer he pioneered the musical style that become closely identified with aspirations of Czech statehood.

By 1874 he was completely deaf and had a mental collapse in 1884.  His contribution to music was recognised during his lifetime.  He is best known for his opera The Bartered Bride and his symphony Má vlast (My Homeland).

Here's a video I found out on YouTube of the Česká filharmonie, under Karel Ančerl in 1968, playing Má vlast.

Update:  Here's a memorial for Bedřich Smetana that I found here in Brno at Česká.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Brno Girl Scout

The 1st of May is May Day, or Labour Day, and it is a public holiday here in Czechland.  Last week there was demonstration and march organised by the DSSS Workers' Party which is a Neo-Nazi, far-right party here in Czech Republic.

DSSS is Dělnická strana sociální spravedlnosti which basically translates to the Workers' Party of Social Justice.  They are an anti-EU, anti-Nato, anti-USA, pro-Russia political party that is not represented in any legislative body.  They usually take less than 1% of the vote.

The demonstration last week was about 150 people supporting the far-right.  But there were around 300 counter demonstrators who showed up.

One of the opponents was a 16 year-old girl scout named Lucie Myslíková.  The photo of her standing up to a skin head went viral.  We should all be so very proud of this young lady.

©Vladimír Čičmanec

Here's a short video I found out on YouTube that has some footage from the day.  At 21 seconds in you can catch a quick glimpse of her standing her ground with him.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Bonn, Germany

Bonn is the 19th biggest city in Germany with almost 319,000 residents.  It is 24 km (15 miles) southwest of Köln and just over an hour from Düsseldorf.  About 3/4 of the city is on the left bank of the Rhine River.

While not the biggest city in the country it is one of the most important.  From 1949 to 1990, it was the capital of West Germany before reunification.  Then until 1999 it served as the seat of the government.

While Berlin is Germany's capital, Bonn is still the de facto joint seat of the government.  The secondary seats of the Chancellor, the President, and the Federal Council plus, the the primary seats of six federal ministries and 20 federal authorities are all still here.  Bonn holds the title of Federal City.

Here's a DW video I found on YouTube about Bonn's place now with Berlin.

©Deutsche Welle

UN building
Bonn was founded as a Roman settlement in the 1st century BC making it one of the oldest cities in Germany.  Today, it is home the corporate headquarters of several top companies and 19 United Nations institutions.
Deutsche Welle has its headquarters here too.  DW is Germans's public international broadcaster since 1953.  It reaches 100 million people each week, worldwide, in 30 languages.  
Beethoven was born here.  The Beethoven monument at Münsterplatz was unveiled in 1845 in commemoration of the 75th anniversary of his birth.

The Beethoven House, where he was born, was founded in 1889 and is now a museum.

The Sterntor is a reconstructed gate on the remnants of the city's medieval wall.  It was originally build around 1244.  The Old Town Hall was built in 1737 and is located at the central market square.
The Bonn Minster was built between the 11th and 13th centuries.  It is one of Germany's oldest churches and is now a Roman Catholic minor basilica.
Villa Hammerschmidt was completed in 1860.  From 1950 to 1994 it was the official primary residence of the President of Germany.  Today it is the secondary residence.
The Deutsches Museum Bonn is fascinating.  It's a history museum that was founded in 1995.
The Museum Koenig is the city's natural history museum.

The Old Cemetery was established back in 1715.  It is 1,2 hectares (3 acres) of green space in the city centre.
The city is still politically relevant.  As I was heading back to the train station I came across a pro-EU rally at the market square.  Quite interesting and Bonn is an excellent day trip destination.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Cologne, Germany

Cologne, or Köln in German, sits on both sides of the Rhine River.  It is about 45 km (28 miles) from Düsseldorf and 25 km (16 miles) from Bonn.  Köln is the 4th largest city in Germany with over 1 million residents.  There are over 3,57 million people in the greater metro area.

The area was first founded in 38 BC until the Romans made it Colonia in 50 AD.

Rebuilt in 1971, here's the side portal of the north gate when the city was Colonia Claudia Are Agrippinensium, around 50 AD.

There were once 12 medieval city gates that protected the city.  The restored 13th-century Hahnentor at Rudolfplatz is one of the three still standing.

The original Eau de Cologne is 4711 was created in the early 18th century by an Italian living in Cologne.  It has been produced in the city since at least 1799.

The Köln City Museum documents the life in the city from the Middle Ages up until today.  It is housed in a former weapons armoury which was built around 1600.

There's a charming old town with lots of breweries, pubs, and restaurants.

The Roman Catholic cathedral is the most visited landmark in Germany.  It is the largest Gothic church in Northern Europe.

Construction began in 1248 and was left unfinished in 1473.  It was finally completed in 1880.  It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996.

The city hall is over 900 years old which makes it the oldest city hall in Germany.

The Roman-Germanic Museum was established in 1946.  It's an archaeological museum and moved to its current building in 1974.

The National Socialism Documentation Centre was founded in 1979.  It is the country's largest regional memorial site for victims of the Nazi regime.  The building is a former Gestapo prison.

The Great Saint Martin Church dates back to around 960 AD.  The tower was built between 1150 - 1250.  Restoration work was completed in 1985.

The Deutz Abbey was a Benedictine monastery founded in 1003.  It became a parish church in 1804.  It was restored in the the 1970s and today it functions as an old people's home.

Along the promenade on the west bank of the Rhine are the crane tower buildings.  They are shaped to look like hosting cranes.

The Ludwig Museum opened in 1976.  It's a modern art museum featuring many works by Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein.  It is also home to one of the largest Picasso collections in Europe.

On my day trip here on Saturday from Düsseldorf I joined in on one of the city's free walking tours which was quite well done.

One thing's for sure and that's that one day here isn't near enough time to see everything.  Köln and Paris are currently co-hosting the 2017 Ice Hockey World Championships so the city was incredibly packed with people cheering for their favourite teams.

Here's a short DW video I found out on YouTube sharing some of the city's highlights.

©DW English