Tag Archives: festival

How it feels to be an Olympian for the day

10 Apr

Read about the day I crossed the Olympic finish line in Australian Times !

The theme song to Chariots of Fire plays from the speakers, pushing me on. I must keep going; I’m almost there. I can see light at the end of the long tunnel I am running through and as I come into that light, thousands of people are cheering. I can’t help but smile and it’s now I realise how incredibly lucky I am to be here. My excitement grows ten-fold as I approach the last 300 metres of my five-mile run in the new London Olympic Stadium. Despite being one of 5,000 runners chosen simply because my name was picked from a ballot, the feeling I’m experiencing is one of adrenalin, achievement and pride. This must be how the real athletes feel.

Feeling, if only for a mere moment, what it must be like to cross the Olympic finish line is pretty special. I’ve just run on the very track where many talented sports people will be sprinting, urging and willing themselves across the finish line in four months’ time. In a bid to make the most of my five minutes of “athlete” glory, I can now say I beat the 2012 athletes to the punch. The run itself was a fantastic insight into the Olympic Park for me and my cheering friends, and I’m sure many others, who won’t have the chance to get near the Games during the summer. To run past the iconic venues of this year’s Olympic and Paralympic Games in what was the first staged event to be held there, made me wish I had been born with enough talent to make it to the big time.

Yet even living in the host city and knowing full well that I was about to embark on a run that over 40,000 people entered to take part in, I never really felt the connection to the Olympic Games. I’ve seen the hype on the tele, of Boris’ team ‘cleaning up’ London, the unveiling of the athlete’s kit and even had a sneak peek at the Park from the Stratford Westfield after many a shopping trip there. But after actually running in front of the cheering crowds and feeling inspired by what the athletes are going to experience in front of a fully packed Stadium, I feel more excited about the Olympics now than I ever have, and probably ever will. The 2012 Games will be a great boost, not just for Aussie patriotism when our green and gold medal hopefuls land in the UK, but for British pride too – it’s inflated mine that is for sure. Look out London, Olympic fever has officially hit!

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Berlin will never be Berlin

10 Jan

The history of Berlin itself is enough to draw anybody to visit the city – the Berlin Wall, world wars and the Holocaust. However we were also heading to the capital of the great country of Germany for another reason: to see in the New Year in true German party style. Getting there seemed simple enough – we had booked our flight and well, after you do that, you simply go to the airport, board the plane and get flown for a bit to your destination. That is if you in fact double-check your flight times and don’t assume anything has changed, which we learnt the hard way. After arriving to the airport with more than enough time to catch our 3.30pm flight, we were informed that our flight time had changed and were meant to be in the air and half way to Berlin that very moment. After painfully parting with 600-odd Euros for new flights from Helsinki to Berlin (that’s £5 for every minute we were on the two-hour flight!!), we touched down in Germany. Needless to say we enjoyed a strong and refreshing drink that night. Germany is loved for its attitude towards the need for its people to get merry in a massive tent with hundreds of fellow citizens all dancing on the tables and drinking beer from massive steins (read: Oktoberfest!) – and we love it too and is definitely a great way to wind down after a stressful day!

Burnt holes in our pockets aside, the next day we set off to see what it is in Berlin that so many people rave about… everything. We embarked on a walking tour which took us to the Brandenburg Gate, the Holocaust Memorial, the Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie, the book burning memorial and various other historic monuments that tell us about Berlin’s interesting history. There are many memorable sights but perhaps the one that stands out the most is the Holocaust Memorial. It is a massive public space with 2,711 concrete columns standing, all of varying heights and thickness. The memorial is open for interpretation as the artist hasn’t conveyed the actual meaning of the structures. We immediately think of tombstones but after snaking our way through the memorial, the blocks seem to resemble the city itself where the smaller blocks on the outside build up to the taller ones at the end, perhaps conveying the re-building of the city of Berlin. Or perhaps it reflects the popular saying “Berlin will never be Berlin”, meaning that the city is constantly changing and perhaps the different sized blocks indicate the non-constant that is the city. Whatever the artist intended the blocks to represent, he has certainly got us thinking and I think it’s powerful that the memorial could mean so many different things to everyone who sees it.

Another highlight no doubt is the East Side Gallery – the longest surviving stretch of the Berlin Wall. It is basically a 1.2km long art gallery where each section is painted with beautiful graffiti and murals. Each panel reflects a different story such as the prevailing peace that the city now exists in, of the wall being torn down by Berliners and pictures of hope and survival. There is also the small fascination that is Hitler’s Bunker which is buried beneath a car park not far from the Holocaust memorial. We are taken here on our walking tour and are told how the car park now exists over the historical site and resembles the attitude Berliners have towards the tyrant, that he in no way deserves a dedicated place, but just a car park.

There is also the New Year’s Eve party – obviously a big reason why we were here. It is the biggest outdoor party in Europe to bring in the New Year. There was beer, lights, live entertainment, DJs, excited locals and visitors alike from afar, fireworks and all with the Brandenburg Gate as the backdrop – quite spectacular. It is no doubt a very cool way to see in a fresh, new year, one that we are as excited about as the last. I think it’s fitting for us to be in Berlin, a city of change, to reflect the changing of the years.

I wish we had time to re-visit Berlin and certainly more of Germany as it’s such a fascinating country. There is bratwurst, sauerkraut (no matter what your thoughts are towards it, it’s a weird and wonderful food), steins of beer, the fascinating history and the fact that this is the second time we have experienced good times in this great country. Here’s to an amazing new year and Berlin and Germany, we will always love you!

Time is going too fast… Oktoberfest flashback

20 Sep

To prove that time is going waaayyy too quickly for us over here, this time last year we were flying back home from Munich after enjoying all the fun and frivolity that can only be Oktoberfest. Ahhh… good times. Wish we were back there: http://www.australiantimes.co.uk/travel/cheers-to-oktoberfest.htm

Survival guide to the English music festival season

26 Jun

The pub is a staple in almost every English person’s lifestyle. Much like it is to Australians (when we first arrived, introducing ourselves as Australian we would usually receive a ‘ah… crazy drinking Australian’ or similar remark). Although us Aussies do love to sit back and relax with a nice drink and great mates, I personally think the English have this one up on us. London is filled with pubs – you can’t turn around on the street without coming face to face with an old English pub with a beer garden that is full to the brim in summer. It’s almost like a birth right to visit the pub on a Thursday or Friday night (or any other weekday for that matter), and then again on Saturday and Sunday (don’t worry, we don’t visit the pub THAT often!). The words ‘English people’ and ‘pubs’ go hand in hand.

I find it’s a very similar tune with the English and their music festivals. They know how to put on a good music festival. They are hard-core. The most famous one – Glastonbury – has a line up of bands that lasts for five days. Compared to Australia, and I know there are festivals that last for longer than one day, but the UK has literally hundreds of festivals that run over the summer months (450 in 2010 to be exact), all at least a day or two long. I was lucky enough to be able to afford £180 for the three-day Isle of Wight (IoW) festival in early June. The price tag for this camping ticket (all BYO) is extrordinate, but it was reported that 90,000 people attended this festival alone (do the sums!), so it has to say something about how crazy for festivals the English really are. Come to the UK in summer and try to get to at least one festival. They are worth experiencing and after having the pleasure of experiencing one for myself, I can now pass on some wisdom to others:

  • Be prepared for four seasons – winter, summer, autumn and spring variations of weather will crop up at some point during the festival. At IoW, we had cold nights; one day was hot and dry; it was windy at another point during the weekend and on the last day, the heavens opened up and it rained. Actually, it poured! I’m surprised that it didn’t snow as well.
  • Cheap tents will survive, just – our £30 tent from Tescos worked like a charm. Although we did think that the missing fly was actually due to a manufacturing fault, not the fact that our cheap taste in tents actually meant that we only got one layer to protect us from the four seasons we were likely to encounter. But, it didn’t leak and that’s all that matters!
  • Pack appropriate wet weather gear – this includes Wellies and a raincoat, not just street shoes and a plastic poncho. The poncho did the trick, but it wasn’t the most comfortable feeling being wrapped in plastic while the wind and rain battered down on you. The same couldn’t really be said for my shoes, which were thrown the minute I got home. They were OK – I didn’t slip over on my bum in the mud (there were a few close calls), so they did the job. They were initially white, but came home brown and wet (and a tad smelly). What’s worse is it wasn’t until when we were half way home on the train that I was able to change into a pair of dry thongs.
  • Learn the bands – another country = different tastes in music and different bands that English people go crazy for. We saw all the main line ups – Kings of Leon, Foo Fighters, Tom Jones, Eliza Dolittle, Joan Jett – but there were many, many others that we just didn’t know who they were. We also got a little distracted by all the other festivities put on – the market stalls, the silent disco (so much fun by the way), the beach, the free hair styling… the list goes on, but we didn’t see as many bands as we should have.
  • A home away from home – a tent is essential, but bring your whole camping kit – camping chairs, BBQ, shelter, and (more importantly), an Aussie flag. It was tent city at the festival and some people came incredibly prepared. I’m guessing they didn’t have to take public transport to get there!
  • Prepared to go without a shower – this is something that we probably couldn’t do in the sweltering Australian summer. But, with the cooler UK summers, going without a shower for three days wasn’t too much of an issue for us. We had ‘baby wipe’ showers in the privacy of our own tent. It certainly beats waiting literally hours of standing in line for this luxury like some people at the festival did. Personally, I wouldn’t want to waste a minute of my £180 ticket to see the festival on lining up to have a shower.
  • Portable loos – not much to say about these that people don’t already know. Next time, I’ll be packing a gas mask, disposable gloves and spray disinfectant to prepare for the ugliness that is the festival portable loo!

It may sound like the English summer music festival isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be, but it’s an experience, like everything else that we’ve done living the English life. It’s got to be done at least once in a lifetime and although I can’t afford to spend £100 plus on another festival ticket this summer, bring on English summer music festival season 2012!

today was meaningful

a collection of thoughts, life lessons, and days full of meaning.

Liv Hambrett

An Australian Writer in (North) Germany

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