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In June 2013 we visited Russia.  Before that we had a couple of weeks in the UK while our frequent travel companions Craig and Sonia, together with Sonia's two Russian speaking cousins and their partners and two other couples, travelled from Beijing by the trans-Siberian railway.  We all met up in Moscow and a day later joined our cruise ship.  The tour provided another three guided days in Moscow before setting off for a cruise along the Volga-Baltic Waterway to St Petersburg; through some 19 locks and across some very impressive lakes.

Russia Cruise - Leaving a Lock

This river cruise was most interesting from a technical and geographical point of view.

Relatively flat countryside and many rivers and streams have allowed engineers to construct elaborate canal and lock systems across Europe and it is possible in summer to travel by boat or barge from the Baltic to the black sea and the Mediterranean; across Poland into France and Germany and connected countries; and even across the English Chanel.  In the north many of these waterways are frozen in winter but as we saw, they constitute a significant commercial asset for moving bulk materials and very large industrial components; in addition to tourist cruise ships. 

 

Russia Cruise - Commercial Traffic

 

In Russia (as in North America) the differing levels in large freshwater lakes also provides a significant hydroelectric power resource. 

 

Hydro Power

 The Hydroelectric Powerstation at Uglich

 

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Travel

Denmark

 

 

  

 

 

In the seventies I spent some time travelling around Denmark visiting geographically diverse relatives but in a couple of days there was no time to repeat that, so this was to be a quick trip to two places that I remembered as standing out in 1970's: Copenhagen and Roskilde.

An increasing number of Danes are my progressively distant cousins by virtue of my great aunt marrying a Dane, thus contributing my mother's grandparent's DNA to the extended family in Denmark.  As a result, these Danes are my children's cousins too.

Denmark is a relatively small but wealthy country in which people share a common language and thus similar values, like an enthusiasm for subsidising wind power and shunning nuclear energy, except as an import from Germany, Sweden and France. 

They also like all things cultural and historical and to judge by the museums and cultural activities many take pride in the Danish Vikings who were amongst those who contributed to my aforementioned DNA, way back.  My Danish great uncle liked to listen to Geordies on the buses in Newcastle speaking Tyneside, as he discovered many words in common with Danish thanks to those Danes who had settled in the Tyne valley.

Nevertheless, compared to Australia or the US or even many other European countries, Denmark is remarkably monocultural. A social scientist I listened to last year made the point that the sense of community, that a single language and culture confers, creates a sense of extended family.  This allows the Scandinavian countries to maintain very generous social welfare, supported by some of the highest tax rates in the world, yet to be sufficiently productive and hence consumptive per capita, to maintain among the highest material standards of living in the world. 

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Fiction, Recollections & News

The Coronation

Last Time

 

 

When George VI died unexpectedly in February 1952, I was just 6 years old, so the impact of his death on me, despite my parents' laments for a good wartime leader and their sitting up to listen to his funeral on the radio, was not great.

At Thornleigh Primary School school assemblies I was aware that there was a change because the National Anthem changed and we now sang God Save The Queen.

Usually, we would just sing the first verse, accompanied by older children playing recorders, but on special occasions we would sing the third verse too. Yet for some mysterious reason, never the second.

The Coronation was a big deal in Australia, as well as in Britain and the other Dominions (Canada, South Africa and New Zealand) and there was a lot of 'bling': china; tea towels; spoons; and so on. The media went mad.

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Opinions and Philosophy

Copyright - Greg Ham

 

 

I've just been reading the news (click here or on the picture below) that Greg Ham of Men at Work has died; possibly by suicide.

Read more: Copyright - Greg Ham

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