Newsletter Number Twelve - May, 2005


So what does The Pope, Switzerland and large gatherings have in common? Not much apart from a large crowd gathering in St Peter's Square to witness the death of a Pope surrounded by the Swiss Guards; and the fact that all three play a part in this months newsletter.

A Roman Holiday
(now for the astute this will make more sense as you read on)

When it comes to a good holiday, timing can be so important; making sure the weather is kind to you, high season prices have not yet kicked in and the Pope does not die whilst there. Luckily I had two of the three. On spec I decided to take off to another not yet visited city - Rome. Whilst realising the Pope was not well, I had not anticipated that he would die whilst I was in the ancient city. Fortunately for me I was leaving as the millions of pilgrims arrived. The worlds media had already descended on the city camping outside the Vatican as had thousands of Catholics praying for the Pope and in a macabre way waiting for him to die. Fortunately I was able to make my way through St Peters, but the museums were closed thus requiring me to now make another trip to Rome sometime in the next couple of months.

A big thank you to Sue and Alex who visited the city prior and had written some great notes in the guide book the left me. You can see the usual holiday snaps in the gallery section under Rome....


Queens Day
Saturday 30 April was the much celebrated Queens Day in Amsterdam. This is the day when the country converges on Amsterdam wearing as much orange as possible to celebrate the Queen's birthday. In reality it is the birthday of the Queen's mother (Juliana) as her own falls in the middle of winter at the end of February, not conducive to the street festivities. The day is also the one day of the year when people are able to sell all the clutter that they have amassed during the year and not require a permit. Imagine the biggest flea market in the world...and there certainly is some rubbish that people try and sell, however look hard enough and you can find a great bargain.




Even a bicycle left chained to one of the bridges becomes a make shift clothes rack


Royalty abounds on Queens Day



Notice my token effort to blend in wearing Orange. More of an effort than Adam and Alex..

 

One of the smaller street
crowds around the city

 The day s also one big street and canal party. Almost every bar and restaurant sets up an outdoor stand selling food and drinks to all that pass by. In an effort to attract peoples attention they also seem to each have their own would-be dj playing trying to out blast everyone else. All in all it is one of the best days in Amsterdam, if you can live with the crowds, noise and don't have an aversion to orange.

Swiss Weekend

The weekend after Queens Day was a four day weekend in Holland. I thus made the most of the opportunity and on a whim headed Switzerland to spend some time with a friend whom I had met when he was in Amsterdam. Unfortunately the weather was not too kind, and with both Geneva and Zurich having lakes as their focal point, this really put a dampener on the weekend. However, with a local at hand who knew where to head when the rain set in we had a great time.  I will certainly head back when the weather is warmer to spend some time on the lake and really enjoy the city.

The lovely Laurent who I had met in Amsterdam a few weeks earlier. Below with one of his best mates in Geneva Patrice. If you are after a designer watch then visit his web site.

 


Lake Geneva in the background on a miserable day

The synagogue in Geneve which has a distinctive Spanish influence to the design


The skyline of Zurich including the clock with the worlds largest clock face in the world (below)

 


When in Zurich I also caught up with Patrick and Daniel who I met in one of Amsterdam's bars about 2 months ago.

Just one of those signs you have to take a photo of



Now one of the stranger sites in Switzerland you can visit is the grave of Audrey Hepburn. The cemetery where she is buried is  close to where friends of Larent live. We visited them for lunch, however I think it was an excuse to pay a pilgrimage to grave. It has been known for tour buses to detour off the road between Geneva and Zurich to allow for the photo opportunity....

On the right is my attempt to be a little arty - the picture was actually taken through a glass of red bull....


Another Dutch Moment

In January this year my "Verblijfsdocument" or Residence Permit expired. At the time I completed the  application form for a renewal and sent in a forest worth of paper work to the Immigratie-en Naturalisatiedienst (IND). At the same time I took a morning off work to visit their offices and have a 6 month re-entry visa placed in my passport allowing me to return to Holland without the usual barrage of questions from the immigration officials. I was warned that there was a delay in issuing the renewals and should contact their offices in about 4 months to see how the application has proceeded. (I am sure you can see where this is going...)

I contacted the IND last week to be told that the renewal had been approved and that I will receive a letter from the Amsterdam city council to collect the new card, however the letter could take 3 months to reach me. This would mean that my 6 month visa will expire and I still will not have my new residence permit. The solution, I was told, would be to get a new 6 month visa. So far OK.... I then inquired when the new permit would expire and was told 12 months after the application. Hence in Jan 2006 we go though the process all over again.  When I tried to get an explanation as to why the process was slow and I would always be needing to get a renewal visa as the card would expire 4 months after I received it, I was told that "it is just the system...it is the way it is here!"  And so the merry-go-round that is government efficiency starts all over again!

I don't usually promote products or services on my web site, but here is one which I think is quite useful. Skype is a voice over internet protocol (VOIP) service. Basically this means that you can use your computer as a telephone. The benefit is that if two people both have Skype, calls between the PC's is free. Better still you can use Skype to call any normal phone or mobile for much cheaper rates than usual international calls. As an example, to call from pc in Holland to a land phone in Australia is €0.017 per minute. If you have Skype or download it you can find me in the directory, I am sure that it will lower your phone bill and now you have no excuse to keep in touch..

Coming Up...

Towards the end of June I will be traveling to New York and Washington with friends. I am sure that there will be a few tales to tell and pictures to share. Till then I hope all are well and enjoying life, hey you only get once chance at it!

Mark

 


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