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Markus' Travel and International Living Blog

Markus is an enthusiastic traveler, who lives in Houston, TX (USA) most of the time, but also spends some time in Saalfelden, near Salzburg (Austria). He is fascinated by travel and also by his experiences gathered by living in two different countries and continents.

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Saturday, November 18, 2006
On Thin Ice...

A thin sheet of ice to be more exact. Did I ever tell you that I play ice hockey?

I think I may have alluded to the fact that I used to play hockey in Austria as a teenager. I played for the "Zeller Eisbaeren". ("Eisbaer" is German for "polar bear"... no, not the cuddly stuffed animals... we are talking about the world's fiercest predators here!)

Well, Mike talked me into returning to the ice last spring, and I have had a blast ever since! I am now playing on two hobby teams. One of them is the Houston Aeros (no, not the professional one...) and the other is the Ice Dragons. Most of the time I play center.

I started out playing with the Aeros just for fun on Sunday nights. It was a little odd at first, after not having skated for 10-15 years. But it all came back pretty quickly. After a few months, the Ice Dragons asked me if I was interested in joining them. They are a little higher up then the Aeros team I play for, so I wasn't quite sure whether I'd be good enough. But I gave it a try, and guess what: I scored 4 goals in the first game I played. They asked me to come back ;-)

I wish I had some good photos of the action, but it is really difficult to take pictures at the rink. After all, we aren't playing in big stadiums, and since there is a plexiglass wall around the entire rink, one either has to shoot through the glass, or one can open a door before the game, and take some quick pictures before someone complains.

Here's a picture of a "big slapper" during warmup:

And one right after:

If I ever get better pictures, I will post them here.

Anyway: I gotta run since the Dragons are playing again tonight. Hopefully, we will get a good game together again. The Dragons won last week, but I was in Vegas, so I couldn't play. The week before we got leveled! And the week before that, we only tied so it wasn't that good a game either (although I scored the equalizer with less than two minutes to go, so I was reasonably happy).

BTW: You can watch our progress online at the Memorial City Hockey homepage.

Ice Dragons Post Game Update: We won! 7:0. Yeah, baby! I scored one myself and was on the ice for more than half the goals, I think. I had an assist or two (this means that I passed the puck so someone else can score). But most importantly: Not only did we win by a wide margin and got the shut-out, but we actually played really well. We passed the puck well, and we played a game that flowed really nicely. This was a very fun game to play...

Aeros Post Game Update: My other team lost the Sunday night game 6:4. Luckily, this was only a practice game :-D. And it was actually pretty exciting. 12 minutes before the end, we were down 5:0. We played OK and got quite a few shots on goal, but couldn't get it in. Then, after the first goal we scored, things started to click. We got to 5:4. I scored one. Actually, I should have scored 2, but the referee didn't allow one of the goals. He thought the goalie already had the puck when he didn't. So I shot it in a fraction of a second after he blew the whistle. That would have tied the game. Bummer. In the end, we were pushing hard, but I guess we played too offensive and got another goal. Oh well... it was just a practice game anyway... ;-)

   

Posted @ 7:48 PM by Egger, Markus (markus@code-magazine.com) -
Comments (18)


Saturday, November 04, 2006
A Week in Leeds (UK)

Boy, I haven't blogged even a single post in all of October. And yet there is so much to talk about. But I had so much going on, ... Well, anyway: One trip I def. want to share with you is my trip to Leeds in the UK in late September.

I have been to the UK on numerous occasions. So far, I always went to London though. Leeds on the other hand is much further north, and although it is a large city as well, I def. had a good chance to see what I would consider “typical English countryside”. And I have to say that “it was quite lovely, and I had a jolly good time”. J

I stayed at a relatively small but nice hotel outside of Leeds called Village Leeds. It looked very much like one of those old “halls” you’d see in a Sherlock Holmes movie. Rooms very reasonably priced (asides from paying a fortune for an Internet connection that never even worked right) and they had a whole fitness and wellness club there too. I took a few pictures, although unfortunately, I only had my cell phone camera, so they are not very good (the hotel link above probably has some better pictures). Here’s one I took right outside the hotel:

My friend Simon gave me a tour of the area the afternoon I got there. It was really quite exciting. Lots of rolling hills, with small roads in between rock-fences. All the buildings have the typical British look. Quite picturesque. I really regret that I didn’t bring a better camera. We went to a small town called Harrogate and spent some time there. I attempted another picture:

The same evening, we had some nice dinner Simon’s wife cooked for us. Like a lot of the food I had on this trip, it was not typical British food, and it was very good. (I am rather fond of Asian foods, so that worked out pretty well). Talking about food: During my stay there, I had to try a few different things, and most of them were quite OK, many even rather good. Things like fish and chips. I suspect that some of the dishes I had could send you into immediate cardiac arrest, but other than that, they are eatable.

The trip was a business trip, and I spent most of the week at an office working with a customer. I drank lots of tea, which was very enjoyable. I even took some home with me. Other than that, there wasn’t all that much worth mentioning (in a travel blog anyway) that occurred at the office. I did notice however, that the people who own the building (or perhaps the people who set the building code) have quite the fire-exit fetish. There really was no conceivable direction one could look, without seeing at least two fire-exit signs at once. That may be a good idea. I also noticed that they had tons of fire doors. That may also be a good idea in theory, but I really wonder about the fact that they were all made of wood!

We did have the chance to see a few interesting things on the short walks to lunch. For instance, I was introduced to the art of “bowls”. A bowling kind of thing, except it is played on grass and on a surface that features a hill in the middle so one cannot just bowl straight for the target. After having been introduced to the basics I even watched it on TV one night (I never heard of bowls before, but I guess it must be pretty popular…). I came to the conclusion that “bores” might be a better name…

The last day of my visit, Simon and Mark took me out for a “true English experience”. We went to Dick Hudsons pub out in the country side around Leeds. This was actually a very cool thing to do. We drank some of the English beer and I had a minced leg of lamb which was actually very good (yes, I know, I sound surprised). I fancied another picture:

This next one is from the inside (it is so bad you can hardly tell, but it is of my friend Mark drinking a beer):

This is def. an experience that I hope to repeat one day. I came to the conclusion that I really liked English pubs (the ones in England that is… most of the copies outside of the UK leave me less than excited).

At this point, I would have expected the blog to come to an end, since I left Leeds the next morning at 7am. However, things took an unexpected twist! It turns out that due to bad weather (yeah, imagine that! Bad weather in England!) all flights that day from Leeds airport were cancelled. This was particularly bad for me, because I had to catch a flight in Amsterdam, to come back to the US. And since I had decided to go to Leeds on relatively short notice, I added a roundtrip from Amsterdam to Leeds and back. So the leg from Amsterdam to the US was technically separate (although with the same airline). Long story short: Since KLM wouldn’t get me into Amsterdam, they considered me missing my KLM flight to the US a “no show”, so as far as they were concerned, I just lost that ticket!

That’s customer service, isn’t it? I gave them more business on relatively short notice, and as a result, they leave me stranded. However, as it turned out, I “was lucky” and there were open seats on the flight the next day, so I was able to pay to get on that flight by only paying a “small fee”. Only airlines can get away with that sort of service! Sometimes I wonder whether the reason for not allowing weapons at the airport is so you can’t shoot the customer service reps…

Anyway: There was no way to fly out of Leeds that day, so they sent people off to all kinds of other airports. I was sent of Teesside airport, with 7 other people. Now here is the catch: The put the 8 of us into 2 relatively small taxis and sent us off on a 90 minute drive. But wait, it gets better: The other 7 people were all together in a group. I had already noticed them in the morning, because at 7am they were at the airport restaurant drinking beer. As it turns out, they were on their way to the Oktoberfest in Munich, and despite the delays (perhaps thanks to the beers), they were all in high spirits.

Apparently one of the customer service reps must have told them that they were still waiting for “Mr. Egger” (that would be me), because when we all got together to get into the cab, they already greeted me from afar: “Hello! Are you the elusive Mr. Egger?”. I started to wonder whether I should claim I wasn’t…

As it turned out however, they were quite OK. In fact, they made the overall dreadful experience quite endurable and a bit of fun. The three people I ended up shoehorned into a car with were “Grunther” (who was obviously the alpha-male of the group), “Sput”, and “The Bear”. The taxi driver’s name was “Animal”. I am not making this up either (although the driver may have been). So Grunther, Sput, The Bear, Animal, and Mr. Egger set off on a journey through the English countryside. And what a trip it was! They ended up turning it into a tour of the area (albeit not the same kind of tour you could book from a tourist agency). I learned invaluable things. For instance, I learned that there is a part of England where people are called “Monkey Hangers”. Apparently this goes back to the Napoleonic wars. I am told some ship sunk off the coast of England and the only survivor was a little monkey. Apparently, people thought the monkey was a French spy, so they hung him!

Let me give you a bit more of an idea what the ride was like. At some point, Grunther received a call on his cell phone: “Hello?.... yes… hullo, how are you doing?... yes, I am just here with Sput, The Bear, Animal, and Mr. Egger driving along the motorway…. m-hm… yes… that’s right, Mr. E is here too… yes, he claims to be from Austria, but he has the Yankee-doodle-accent and all… yes, useless”.

Eventually, we arrived at the Teesside airport. Grunther directed Animal around a round-about the wrong way, and we entered the airport against a one-way street, which threw airport security into a frenzy. We jumped out of the car and had barely time to grab our stuff before Animal took off chased by a security guard on foot. Ah, you couldn’t possibly make this kind of stuff up!

I ended up having a beer with them at the airport pub (by now it was late enough in the day for me to fancy one), before I set out on my own for a restaurant (they weren’t interested in food). Not knowing any better, I got myself a beef pie. It is a bit hard to describe, but imagine it kind of like a mixture between Hungarian goulash and apple strudel. Sounds awful? Well, yes… (As Mark remarked later: Never eat unsupervised on a trip to the UK! He also assured me that English food wasn’t as bad as everyone says… it is in fact worse!)

The flight out of Teesside wasn’t scheduled until 5pm. Everything seemed to work out well, until about an hour before departure. At that point, the bad weather had caught up with me, and things had definitely taken a turn for the worse. It was raining cats and dogs. And then just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, the fire alarm went off.

The whole airport had to be evacuated. I was still in the restaurant where I had set myself up with my laptop computer, so I ended up taking the emergency exit right there. Once outside, the problem (asides from the fire alarm) was that it was pouring! And of course we had to get away from anything with a roof. Some people had tiny little umbrellas in their burses, but most didn’t. I ultimately ended up borrowing one of those huge sun-umbrellas from the restaurant’s outside seating area. Having such a large one made me quite popular with the ladies…

As expected, it was a false alarm (how could there possibly have been a fire in the middle of a monsoon?) and we were moved back inside 20 minutes later. The only bummer was that every 5 minutes, it went off again, sending everyone out the emergency exits again (except – as I learned later – for Grunther and The Bear, who toughed it out in the pub against all regulations).

But on a day like this, a few more hours of delay didn’t really matter either anymore. I made it out of Teessing and into Amsterdam that night. Drenched, tired, and hungry. But “Mr. E” had made it.



Posted @ 4:29 PM by Egger, Markus (markus@code-magazine.com) -
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