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Archive for August, 2011

Vienna

Friday 26 August

First stop is Stephanplatz and Stephansdom. It’s a few minutes from our hotel, we’re in old Vienna. On the way we are excited to pass the shop where Michael bought us Mozart Kruger balls. This is a family landmark, and yes, we too took a photo of the shop sign. The cathedral is gothic, unsurprising given that the first part of it was built in the twelfth century. (the oldest church in Vienna is not far away. It was built in the eleventh century).

Outside are elaborate statues, some depicting the stations of the cross, all are carvings within carvings. Inside is even more ornate. It’s hard to know where to start looking, each alter, each point of worship has to be unravelled and examined in detail. There’s no way to appreciate the carvings collectively.

I’m the luckiest person alive! I understood from guide books that because there is a lift up the north tower it’s wheelchair accessible. But no. So, beaming, I leave the wheelchair behind, walk into the lift, then climb two flights of stairs to see a view, not only of Vienna, but also a close up of the roof. It’s painted shingles forming mostly zig zag patterns, but also pictures of eagles. There’s a sculpture of a rooster on the point of one spire.

Peter climbs the south tower. The public can climb 343 (7x7x7) steps that take you up 67 metres, not even a third of the way up!

We walk/wheel down to the Danube canal. We are suddenly incredibly weary, not sure what do next. Peter’s travel mantra is get your bearings, so we ride the tourist ring train and second time round get off at the museum quarter.

Passing two massive (and ornamental, of course) buildings that mirror each other across the square, we find the Leopold museum. Mumok, disappointingly, is closed. But the Leopold more than makes up for it. There’s a Klimt and Schiele special exhibition on. They led the self-expressionist movement, and were soundly condemned for their immorality, especially Schiele. But it was around 1910, and it’s not surprising that neighbors were horrified when Schiele painted nude women in provocative poses out in his open garden! Schiele’s work is amazing, especially his self portrait.

We spent ages looking at the special exhibition, and even longer at Leopold’s own collection, dating to the 1940’s. I kept going back to look at “Macabre Death” painted in 1915. I kept thinking of Siegfried Sassoon’s poetry.

All day we’d been looking forward to a concert in Stephandom, Gregorian chanting and organ music. The two just seemed to fit in this darkly gothic church, and we anticipated fantastic acoustics under the high, high spires. We’re not disappointed. The concert is in front of the high altar, normally closed off. The organist is a young man, beautifully groomed with a long fringe that sweeps over his face as he throws himself around, fingers racing over the keys. The madness suits the church. The music is kind of funky though, in juxtaposition with the ancient gothic mood of the church.

The Gregorian chanting is in it’s natural home. The high ceilings seem to amplify the sound and give it superb depth and quality.

We’ll never see or hear anything like this in these surroundings ever again. We soak it up.

Saturday 27 August

Schonbrunn summer palace. It’s so symmetrical! Everything has its equal and opposite mirror image, from the size, shape and design of the wings of the main palace, to the garden layout – every begonia has it’s colour match on the opposite side. Identical mirror twins … Two long gardens stretching into the distance, with an identical forest rising on an identical slope on either side. Was Franz Josef obsessive compulsive?

At the top of the hill is the Gloriette. And I walk up the hill to it! Fifty minutes up, twenty five minutes down! Not counting photo ops.

The fountain at the base of the hill is absolutely amazing. Only a picture can do it justice.

The gardens beside the palace are superb, with wisteria tunnels providing shade for the royal ladies, and hollow hedges with niches for garden statues to keep them amused. I remember that this is the summer palace and would have been closed for winter when everything is leafless and covered in snow.

Everything is beautifully manicured and maintained. I wonder what it costs to keep the palace grounds so perfectly groomed now.

This evening we are at a Mozart concert in the State Opera House. The members of the orchestra are in period costume, and the programme is supposedly similar to that which would have been played in Mozart’s time … Favourite segments of popular opera, bits and pieces to amuse and entertain. It’s the top of the pops from the late eighteenth century. The conductor interacts with the audience. It’s great fun joining in.

Afterwards we admire the lobby – more statues, arches and beautifully painted ceilings. This is the Vienna I always imagined, frivolous, pretty, ornate and fun … Just like the music of Johan Strauss and Amadeus Mozart.

Sunday 28 August

The town hall (Rathaus – I love the name) and parliament are virtually side by side. Both are ornate monuments to wealth and power, but one in each of what seem to be the prevailing architectural styles of Vienna, gothic, and Greco-roman. The town hall is dark intricately carved stone, and parliament is shining white marble with Greek and roman statues everywhere. And lots of shiny gold.

However, the Hofburg Imperial Palace and the kaiser’s apartments dwarf everything we’ve seen. On the way to our hotel the taxi driver had driven under the arches and through the palace. It must be the only road that at one point has a dome the underside of which is ornately and lavishly decorated. I’m glad we drove through it at 7.30am when no-one was around. It had looked magnificent, and seemed surreal. Returning today, the place is swarming with tourists and has lost its allure. (ironic!)

Continuing on, we see the Pastaule statue which seems a bit gross to me. It looks like lots of statues sliding and poking out of pus – but then it is a monument built after the kaiser promised he would if the plague epidemic would end. It must have.

We keep wandering deeper and deeper into the old city. It’s a maze of alleys and churches and old apartments and shops. We find a space that was excavated about twenty years ago and shows levels of construction going back to the Romans of the first century.

Being lost loses its appeal. I need to use the toilet, jiggling on cobblestones is not fun. Peter wants a coffee. I’ve been sitting in the wheelchair for nearly four hours with no chance to walk. I need to stand and walk to stretch everything thats been flexed. I get grumpy. We ask for directions out – most of this time we’ve been only a few hundred metres from our hotel! The old city is very different from the rest of Vienna. It’s all narrow cobbled streets, with occasional openings to small spaces, through which you catch a glimpse of another spire, another dome. It must have been hot and smelly in a nineteenth century summer, and cold and damp in the winter. It’s full of surprises. The museum quarter and nearby, however, is open and the buildings lavish, with parks and trees.

I just want to lie in a park somewhere quiet. There has been too much noise and too many tourists in too little space. We lie in Stadtpark and enjoy the rest of the afternoon doing nothing.

Monday 29 August

We’ve passed a Greek orthodox church near our hotel many times, always admiring its facade, which is different from any other type of architecture we’ve seen here. It’s made of regularly formed red bricks with arches beautifully edged in gold. Today, before we check out of our hotel, we go inside. It is beautiful. In the large foyer vaulted ceilings are painted with golden friezes against a background of dark wood. There is a service in progress (which is the only time the church is open) with strong men’s voices singing and chanting the service. The area for the congregation is more elaborate with dark wooden carvings and an arch through which the priest can be seen, first with his back to us, then he turns and chants with the male choir. It’s a very spiritual place, a place primarily for prayer. We’re reluctant to take a photo and show disrespect to those worshipping, yet we are also acknowledging the beauty of their place of worship. We take a photo.

On returning to our hotel, we cannot find our credit card … We have plenty of time, so we don’t panic. Peter does what needs to be done. **** happens! In the process of canceling the card he finds it. Too late, he has to proceed with canceling the card. **** happens! No problem.

I love the bread here. And the muesli. It’s mostly made of oats, but Austrian oats are obviously better than New Zealand oats. Boiled eggs seem to be served as a side dish to every meal. In Cafe Sperle I ask if I can have a plain salad. The waitress looks at me in astonishment – with what? Tuna? Or egg? The salad is a combination of three halves of soft boiled eggs lavishly covered with chopped chives, on top of boiled potato with a gravy/dressing on it, and surrounded by my salad of cucumber, mescaline and cherry tomatoes. It’s delicious. I’m a heretic. I don’t drink coffee, so in this revered coffee house I drink diet coke. Dad has a coffee, a double shot cappuccino, the best so far in Europe.

We wander through the main shopping area of Vienna and finally we’re amongst locals. We find the Naschmarkt where we buy fresh fruit and nuts, but we could have bought types of cheeses unknown to us, spices, seasonings and all sorts of exotic foods, fresh or dried. The market smells of spices. It’s nice to be away from the coach tour circuit.

Bus loads of tourists, walking tours and bike tours churn through all the tourist spots. In schonbrunn we had arrived to see more than a dozen coaches lining the street outside, and as soon as some left they were replaced. The grounds are large enough to swallow all, so that says something about its size!

Thousands of tourists walk shoulder to shoulder around the old city centre. I hear so many languages! The receptionists at our hotel are multilingual, Spanish, Italian, English, Russian. We’ve seen few Japanese or Chinese and those we have seen have struggled to be understood. What will happen when middle class China discovers Europe?

It occurs to me that the millions of tourists who pour into Vienna, a city only a little more populated than Auckland, bring huge amounts of money that some people in New Zealand would crave. But whereas tourists here contribute to maintaining and building a great infrastructure, and perhaps leave culturally richer, tourists visit New Zealand for a “green” experience. The more tourists there are, the less green NZ becomes, the less attractive it becomes as a tourist attraction, and, worse, New Zealand will have been pillaged, perhaps never to recover our true wealth.

Fewer people here speak good English than in Berlin, but many speak enough to get directions from. Everyone is willing to help. I want to find out what time a street vendor closes, and although she looks at me as if I am from another planet when I ask if she speaks English, she is happy to try and understood my miming. Success! People are kind and always willing to help. I suppose people here, as elsewhere in Europe, are accustomed to ignorant tourists who only speak English. They’re friendly and forgiving of our lack of language skills.

The tram and train system is extremely well integrated and easy to use. We use it without difficulty to get to the main train station, Westbanhoff, despite it being crowded. We’re sitting in the first class lounge waiting for our overnight train to Venice!

Notes on Accessibility

Most trams and trains can be accessed by wheelchairs, although the tourist ring road tram cannot. There are high steps up and I needed someone to push me up from below! Worth the effort though! Some of the older trains leave a gap between train and platform that can’t be crossed by a wheelchair. It doesn’t matter, just wait for another train, they come every two, four or six minutes depending on the time of day.

There are lifts down to all the ubahn stations, although they can be difficult to locate.

There aren’t many public toilets, and the disabled toilets were always locked! Some ubahns have toilets that are free to everyone, some have disabled toilets that are free, some have disabled toilets that require a euro-key. This is a problem for anyone outside the EU. I read a sign saying that the euro-key system is Europe wide, which is worrying as it seems this will be the way of the future. Not all disabled toilets are suitable for all wheelchair users. Some have no running water so could be difficult to use for self-catheterising. Fortunately, because I can walk, I can access other toilets but I need someone to watch my wheelchair.

Luckily, all the museums, and the area around the Hofburg palace, have great toilets for the disabled and, as in Berlin are free. (Perhaps that’s why public toilets for the disabled are locked – they’d be used by everyone who doesn’t want to pay 50p.) I wasn’t good at planning toilet stops, but it would pay to keep this in mind in Vienna.

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Overnight Train Berlin to Vienna

This is an adventure, a pleasure. I can’t recommend the overnight train strongly enough. We have a sleeping compartment for two with bathroom, complete with tiny shower, a few metres down the corridor. We have a picnic dinner and settle in for the night after watching the sun set … Best hotel ever … Best transport ever …

We’re woken with tea, coffee and croissants, and have breakfast as the sun rises.

It’s 24degrees in Vienna at 8.20am

Notes on Accessibility

It’s not. There are three high steps up into the carriage over a worrying gap that drops to the tracks below. No way do I want to drop a crutch down there. I walk to the compartment, Peter pushes the wheelchair behind me, the wheels scraping the walls as it goes. If it were 2 mm wider it wouldn’t fit. It would have to be taken apart and carried in pieces, one at a time, and there’s still the luggage, and no-one really to help. My wheelchair is 14″, most are at least 16″. I’m certain that Peter is at least as glad as I am that I’m small. Reminder to self: don’t put on weight.

The bathroom is great, with bars I can hold onto as the train rocks. The shower is accessible, the layout good for personal cares.

 

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This is an adventure, a pleasure. I can’t recommend the overnight train strongly enough. We have a sleeping compartment for two with bathroom, complete with tiny shower, a few metres down the corridor. We have a picnic dinner and settle in for the night after watching the sun set … Best hotel ever … Best transport ever …

We’re woken with tea, coffee and croissants, and have breakfast as the sun rises.

It’s 24degrees in Vienna at 8.20am

Notes on Accessibility
It’s not. There are three high steps up into the carriage over a worrying gap that drops to the tracks below. No way do I want to drop a crutch down there. I walk to the compartment, Peter pushes the wheelchair behind me, the wheels scraping the walls as it goes. If it were 2 mm wider it wouldn’t fit. It would have to be taken apart and carried in pieces, one at a time, and there’s still the luggage, and no-one really to help. My wheelchair is 14″, most are at least 16″. I’m certain that Peter is at least as glad as I am that I’m small. Reminder to self: don’t put on weight.

The bathroom is great, with bars I can hold onto as the train rocks. The shower is accessible, the layout good for personal cares.

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Cankles on lufthansa! It’s not funny, but I can’t help smiling as I sit on a crew seat with my feet up on food box … Made comfortable by friendly, helpful crew who seem as amused as I am.

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Berlin

Monday 21st August

Arrive at Tegel airport. The driver of the airpor golf cart is even more wild than that one in Singapore. Faster, with less attention to travellers … And no beeping sound. She asks Peter to call out as we approach and weave through fellow passengers. I hear one man say in disgust, “English!”

There’s a car waiting to take us to hotel Circus. No English, uh oh … At least he knows where he’s going.

We’re very early at the hotel and I drink litres of water while we wait for our room and plan the day … Not a moment to miss. Just as well, because Berlin is intense.

It takes a while to work out access to the underground train station. Our hotel is on one corner and there are access points on the other three, but only one has a lift.

We think about using public transport to sightsee, but wimp out and catch a hop-on, hop-off sight-seeing bus. It stops supposedly near museum island but there are no directions. Funny how things work out though. We stumble on Neues museum of ancient antiquities. The architecture and design of the building uses lots of natural light, and everything is exhibited with drama.

Germans must have plundered pyramids big time – so many sarcophagi, body casings, pieces of relief from pyramids, personal treasures … And nerfertiti! She’s gazing into the uninterrupted distance at Helios, on the opposite side of the museum. It’s unforgettable!

And I feel so special! I need to use loo. An alert male security guard takes control, strides into the female toilet, orders the long line of women, already waiting, to stand back then he unlocks the disabled toilet for me!

The National art gallery next door is closed, so we hop back on sight seeing bus. It’s overcrowded, and worse, too many disabled people, not enough space. People on crutches are standing. Also, the commentary doesn’t match landmarks, but at least we see landmarks that we recognize, and can check out later.

We get off at the Brandenburg gate. We can see why speeches like Reagon’s “bring the wall down” speech have been performed here. We walk on (well, I wheel) to the Reichstag … CLOSED …. Some sort of construction, but we see it from every possible direction and can appreciate the glass dome on top.

Public transport is better than the sightseeing bus, because you’re sharing it with Berliners, not cocooned with tourists. And you can wander around looking at all sorts of things you wouldn’t otherwise see.

Cankles are bad. Bit of a worry so I sleep with my feet raised.

Tuesday 22nd

Big day. Checkpoint Charlie is first up. I can’t use the wheelchair in the museum because there’s flight after flight of stairs and it wouldn’t fit anyway because the exhibits are packed in and so are the visitors. So I use crutches up and down and around. It’s information overload, so many ingenious ways of escaping the east, not always successfully. Everything, all the gadgets used are homemade and improvised.

The Jewish museum is staffed by friendly, people, eager to help. There are lifts everywhere so I can mix up walking and wheeling. The Museum itself is deliberately disoreienting, especially the introduction through the axes, the Garden of Exile – 19 tall slabs of concrete laid in a square, and the holocaust concrete triangular tower with just one slit at the peak for light and sound. There’s a permanent exhibition of Jewish life and Judaism, and the long intertwined history of Germany and Jews. It’s the latter, and the crazy layout of the axes that interest me. The axes remind me of the spinal unit, not everyone adjusts, and that’s a big part of the message of disorientation.

It’s interesting that security here is tougher than at airports and has the same system with xray. There are Police outside guarding against terrorists.

Walked/wheeled to Topography of Terror and museum of the wall. Extraordinary monument to remind Berliners of the atrocities they allowed to happen, and the ordinary people who perpetrated them … Not psychopaths, just middle class people buying into an ideology. The concept of a Volk community is chilling … Every is equal, because those who are different will be eliminated. Creating a permanent reminder of the terrors that emanated from the ss headquarters is brilliant. The barren stony ground that is all that is left, along with one wall of its foundations, in front of a long section of the Berlin wall, along with the commentary outside suggests that Berliners are not prepared to let this happen again. Every time you walk or drive down this street you can see this outdoor monument.

I see it as a work of art as well, because at my seated level, the information appears almost stamped on the foundation wall.

The holocaust museum, with the very personal stories inside and the blocks of concrete outside is a moving reminder of the millions who were murdered. From the street the blocks seem innocuous, playful, but venturing inwards the mood becomes oppressive, dark, disorienting as the blocks get taller. (After visiting this and the Jewish museum, I cannot imagine how Amy could bear to visit the remains of a concentration camp. I already have a picture of such brutality, misery, deprivation and abuse that I couldn’t stand any more.) Jews still face persecution. Security here is even tighter than at the Jewish museum. The lift is not working when it’s time to leave. So i climb the steps using crutches. German efficiency a myth?

On the way home we see the Brandenburg gate at sunset. Lights on the gate. Buskers. Lovely.

Wednesday 23rd

We walk/wheel to Museum Island to visit the national art museum. It’s a gorgeous building with columns and statues. Inside there’s a special exhibition of Waggener’s, the founder’s, collection. He collected contemporary art, ie from the 1830s and 40s. It’s realism, much from the students of Dusseldorf’s school of art. Absolutely perfect detail, with magnificent use of light.

The permanent collection includes works of Monet, Manet, cezanne, Renoir and Rodin – the thinker. I hadn’t known it was here so it’s like a gift from out of the blue! It’s smaller in real life than I’d thought but so wonderful. I want to keep looking at it, especially with a Cezanne on one side and a Renoir on the other. When would I ever see that scene again? I don’t want to leave. There’s a Delacroix nude … Some paintings just have to be seen in the original … this is one.

The permanent collection is a history of German art, and includes a room devoted to Lieberman’s work. I feel privileged to have been able to see so many priceless works of art by so many geniuses (what’s the plural of genius?)

Lunch is against a backdrop of the Dom and the Spreig River. Relaxing, and with that view, provides space before visiting the Pergammon.

What a dramatic entrance! The alter of Pergammon is stunning, breathtaking. Germans were obviously not only leaders (pillagers?) in archaeology in the nineteenth century, but tremendous restorers of treasures from antiquity. The recreation of the Ishtar gate is another highlight, but walking into the room with the Islamic palace walls is as dramatic and surprising as the Pergamum altar. The palace was donated to the Germans because their archaeologists were regarded so highly and the king who donated it believed they could recover, restore and preserve large portions of the the palace walls. Looking at the other works on display I can see why they had such a reputation. From here on, could only be an anti-climax, but no!

The number one exhibit quietly sneaks up on you. As I enter the next room I’m not sure what I’m looking at. It’s the Islamic Aleppo Room. From Syria, built around 1600, the elaborately painted panels of wood look as if they have just been painted. Each panel is 2.5 metres high and laid out to form, not a square, but a series of walls (with intricately carved wooden doors) that would have surrounded a fountain. They are behind Perspex, in a temperature and humidity controlled environment to preserve them.

The museum has easy wheelchair access, lifts to every floor, but no accessible toilets… Who cares…

Thursday 25th August

We take Bus 100, a route we’ve been told is a good way to sightsee. We have a leaflet with all the landmarks and monuments listed. I’d recommend this to anyone, rather than a sightseeing bus.

I want to visit Bebelplatz to see the memorial to burning books. It’s a hole in the ground through which can be seen shelves in lining the walls of a cube. There are enough shelves to hold 20,000 books, the number burnt by the nazis 10 May 1933. It must have been a spectacle at the time – bebelplatz is bordered by the Humboldt University and the State Opera House. There’s a plaque beside the hole. On the plaque is written a poem dedicated to preventing something like this ever happening again.

Also in one corner is St Hedwig’s Church, the first Catholic church to be built in Berlin after the Reformation. It was built in the 1760s. It’s a circular church with an altar at ground level and another below ground, but completely open to view from above.

We wander around, not really looking for anything, just enjoying being in Berlin. We find the Shinkel museum. It was a church, Friedrichswaresche Kirke, that Shinkel designed but is now a museum dedicated to him. It’s officially the Staatliche museum of the Berlin National Gallery. Whatever, Shinkel designed and sculpted many of the ornamental statues inside and outside churches and important buildings. It’s a beautiful building inside, full of statues and with great acoustics – a woman, staff, is singing the same phrases over and over in English. A bit weird but it sounds wonderful.

Next, we find the new guardhouse. In it’s life it’s been used as a number of memorials, but is now dedicated to those who died in WW2. An unknown soldier, and a concentration camp victim are buried underground along with dirt from battlefields and concentration camps. A single sculpture, “Mother With Dead Son”, sits in the centre directly below a circle open to the sky.

It’s been an interesting way to see Berlin and to realize how many monuments there are, and how imposing the architecture is. It’s easy standing on Under den Linden opposite the university to look left then right and visualize how magnificent it must have been in the nineteenth century to walk or ride down this avenue lined with statues, churches, and monuments, all intricately detailed in the style of Greek and Roman sculpture. Every corner of every building, every column ornately sculpted …

The World Clock in alexanderplatz is kind of fun. We’ve been through the platz every day to catch the u Bahn and not noticed it. I’m delighted to see that it has Wellington time. It’s 3.30pm Thursday in Berlin, and 1.30am Friday in Wellington. The map below even shows NZ! Underneath the clock, a busker plays a semi-acoustic guitar. All Berlin buskers seem to play music from the 70s … Beatles, Bob Dylan, Bread, Rolling Stones … I love it, it’s my teenage music.

Our final view of Berlin is at the Haufbanholf, turning back to see the sun on the Reichstag dome … How appropriate!,

Berliners are friendly, smiling, wonderful people who are always eager to help and are not afraid to try and communicate, even if they don’t speak English. And always smiling, whether their English is good, limited or non-existent. So easy going! I’ll remember that while i’m waiting outside the Neuese museum a couple of security guards waiting near me, offer to share their “bon bons” with me. So nice …

Notes on accessibility:

Trains are not wheelchair accessible, nor are buses, even though they drop down. I think there’s a ramp but as long as I have someone to lift me in my chair, the drivers don’t bother. Lifts down to the ubahn, or underground train stations, are difficult to find and are often out of order. I walk up steps with crutches, someone carrying my wheelchair. There are plenty of offers to help. Or we use the escalator, my wheelchair held on a step with me tipped back in it. When things get messy, someone steps up to help. There’s a gap between the platform and the train, and a step up as well. It would be impossible to use a wheelchair on trains without help. It’s not easy to wheel everywhere because of crooked bricked or cobbled paths that trap the front castors of the wheelchair. There are some kerb crossings and sometimes there’s only a tiny step down to the road. Often the kerbs are high and would require much greater wheelchair skills than i have. The streets and transport within Berlin is not as friendly to people with limited mobility as I’d expected. I’d suggest that a person travelling independently in a wheelchair use taxis. They’re surprisingly cheap. Roughly a euro a kilometre. And the city is generous to the diabled. Often you have to pay to use public toilets or toilets in cafes, but toilets are free to the disabled! Entry fees to museums are often heavily discounted or free to the “severely” disabled ie 50% or more. ACC in NZ uses an American scale and according to it I’m over 80% disabled and I imagine that Berlin would use a similar scale.

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There are advantages flying when your mobility is impaired:

Most fun moment – hurtling through the concourse in a golf cart driven by a madman, weaving through the foot traffic who jump out of the way … But we hardly hear their apologies because we’re already a few hundred metres on, wind blowing through our hair (well, mine anyway.) No OSH here!

Most whoops moment – eating my way through a huge plate of salad in the airport lounge, and suddenly wondering it’s contents had been washed, and if so, in clean water? Oh well, I’ll soon find out …

Most disgraceful (ungraceful moment) lying on my back on the floor of the lounge with my feet up on a chair. There is a reason, but still, it’s hardly dignified is it.

Most worrying moment – it’s an hour after the man in the golf cart said he’d be back to check us in for the next leg, to Frankfurt … Could be a problem …

To Be Continued!

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The once in a lifetime snow in Wellington coincided with an early appointment I had at Wakefield Hospital. I live in Karori, one of the hill suburbs hard hit by snow, but my appointment was in Newtown, where the snow never settled.

This morning the snow had turned into hills of ice and vallies of black ice. The windscreen and rear window of my car had at least three inches of ice! My plan was to turn the motor on ten minutes before i left and defrost the windows … Immediately foiled by my crutches skidding on the icy steps and me on my hands and needs.

Then my knight in shining armour appeared. A wonderful young man who turned my car motor on, scraped the ice off the windows (oh, his poor cold hands …) then retrieved my ski outriggers from the garage so I could walk on the ice to my car, all the time gently trying to dissuade me from driving – he’d rung the council and been told that it was unwise to drive in our part of the world.

But my appointment was a final check before I leave for Europe, too important to ignore.

I put my car in low, backed slowly out of my car pad, carefully turned downhill, round the corner, and immediately knew I’d make it. Hurrah!

Traffic on the main roads stopped for cars easing out of icy side roads. The snow and ice definitely brought out the best in people.

Then “tres horreurs”, a phone call from the surgeon I was to see in fifteen minutes! He also lives in Karori, but wasn’t prepared to take on the ice!!!!

Still, he eventually got into his office, and made space in his busy, busy, busy day to see me.

So, ten out of ten for this cripple’s bravery and driving skills; ten out of ten for my magnificent old Corona; and twenty out ten for my saviour neighbor!

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