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In July and August 2022 Wendy and I travelled to Europe and to the United Kingdom (no longer in Europe - at least politically).

This, our first European trip since the Covid-19 pandemic, began in Berlin to visit my daughter Emily, her Partner Guido, and their children, Leander and Tilda, our grandchildren there.

Part 1 of this report touches on places in Germany then on a Baltic Cruise, landing in: Denmark, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Sweden and the Netherlands. Part 2, to come later, takes place in northern France; and Part 3 in England and Scotland.

 

 

In September 2019 we left Turkey by air, to continue our trip north along the Adriatic, in the Balkans, to Austria, with a brief side trip to Bratislava in Slovakia. 

'The Balkans' is a geo-political construct named after the Balkan Peninsula between the Adriatic and the Black Sea.

According to most geographers the 'Balkans' encompasses the modern countries of Albania; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Bulgaria; Croatia; Greece; Kosovo; Montenegro; North Macedonia; Serbia; and Slovenia. Some also include Romania. 

 

 

 

 

In October 2018 we travelled to Ireland. Later we would go on to England (the south coast and London) before travelling overland (and underwater) by rail to Belgium and then on to Berlin to visit our grandchildren there. 

The island of Ireland is not very big, about a quarter as large again as Tasmania, with a population not much bigger than Sydney (4.75 million in the Republic of Ireland with another 1.85 million in Northern Ireland).  So it's mainly rural and not very densely populated. 

It was unusually warm for October in Europe, including Germany, and Ireland is a very pleasant part of the world, not unlike Tasmania, and in many ways familiar, due to a shared language and culture.

 

 

  

 

 

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. 

 

 

In October 2016 we flew from southern England to Romania.

Romania is a big country by European standards and not one to see by public transport if time is limited.  So to travel beyond Bucharest we hired a car and drove northwest to Brașov and on to Sighisiora, before looping southwest to Sibiu (European capital of culture 2007) and southeast through the Transylvanian Alps to Curtea de Arges on our way back to Bucharest. 

Driving in Romania was interesting.  There are some quite good motorways once out of the suburbs of Bucharest, where traffic lights are interminable trams rumble noisily, trolley-busses stop and start and progress can be slow.  In the countryside road surfaces are variable and the roads mostly narrow. This does not slow the locals who seem to ignore speed limits making it necessary to keep up to avoid holding up traffic. 


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Travel

Cruising to PNG

 

 

 

 

On the 17th February 2020 Wendy and I set sail on Queen Elizabeth on a two week cruise up to Papua New Guinea, returning to Sydney on 2nd March. 

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Fiction, Recollections & News

On Point Counter Point

 

 

 

 

Recently I've been re-reading Point Counter Point by Aldus Huxley. 

Many commentators call it his masterpiece. Modern Library lists it as number 44 on its list of the 100 best 20th century novels in English yet there it ranks well below Brave New World (that's 5th), also by  Aldus Huxley. 

The book was an experimental novel and consists of a series of conversations, some internal to a character, the character's thoughts, in which a proposition is put and then a counterargument is presented, reflecting a musical contrapuntal motif.

Among his opposed characters are nihilists, communists, rationalists, social butterflies, transcendentalists, and the leader of the British Freemen (fascists cum Brexiteers, as we would now describe them).

Taken as a whole, it's an extended debate on 'the meaning of life'. And at one point, in my young-adult life, Point Counter Point was very influential.

Attachments:
Download this file (Point Counter Point - Aldous Huxley.azw3)Point Counter Point[eBook for Kindle]701 kB
Download this file (Point Counter Point - Aldous Huxley.epub)Point Counter Point[ePub for e-readers]448 kB
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Opinions and Philosophy

Climate Change - a Myth?

 

 

 

Back in 2015 a number of friends and acquaintances told me that Climate Change is a myth.

Half a decade on and some still hold that view.  So here I've republished a slightly longer version of the same article.

Obviously the doubters are talking about 'Anthropogenic Global Warming', not disclaiming actual changes to the climate.  For those of us of a 'certain age' our own experience is sufficient to be quite sure of that the climate is continuously changing. During our lifetimes the climate has been anything but constant.  Else what is drought and flood relief about?  And the ski seasons have definitely been variable. 

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