There and Back Again

Well, I’m finally back from my first solo trip overseas and, rather miraculously, I’m back in one piece and no major dramas! No lost passports, cards or luggage. I did get lost many times, particularly from train stations where my bearings were consistently wrong and stubbornly, I would only ask for directions once I realised that the place was taking much longer to get to than stated. I later learned that if I was certain that I was going the right way, it probably meant I should be heading in the opposite direction!

Over three and a half weeks, I travelled to Seoul, Vienna, Bratislava, Cesky Krumlov, Prague, Teplice, Auschwitz, Krakow, Tatra Mountains in Slovakia, Budapest and finally London. I loved all the places I visited but I especially loved Cesky Krumlov, an UNESCO listed town with most of their original buildings and castle preserved from Medieval times.

Cesky Krumlov

Everything was just so picturesque including its state forest where I went for a three hour (mostly downhill) bike ride – the first time I’ve been on a bike for nearly seven years! Somehow, I made it (except for three strenuous hills) and I only crashed once and it was into a fence five minutes away from our finishing point. It was either crashing into an old man hobbling along or the fence. I think I made the right decision. πŸ™‚ In Cesky, I also picked up two books from a charming little bookstore named Shakespeare & Co. (is this a chain?).

Shakespeare & Co. Bookstore in Cesky

Since my pack was so small (50 litres) and I wanted to travel light, I had made the decision to only buy books that were unique to that particular region. From the bookstore, I selected two books about the Czech Republic – one specifically on Prague and the other containing folklores from regions all over the Republic. Sadly, I only managed to find these sort of folklore books in Cesky Krumlov and so didn’t pick up anymore books until London.

In Vienna, I stopped by their National Library and famous State Hall. The baroque style hall was beautiful but it did somewhat empty of character and I was a little disappointed. Perhaps it was because the library was in the middle of being digitised which is fantastic but, nevetheless, the library was still stunning.

The State Hall - Outside

The State Hall with the bored security guard

Two level of shelves. The frecoes (?) on the roof were also stunning.

There were secret doors hidden amongst the shelves. πŸ™‚

The stunning upper level. I love how the light just hits the statue.

The beautiful roof frescoes. I could have just laid on the ground to stare at them.

While I managed to pop into various bookstores (Budapest was absolutely peppered with great little bookstores), I didn’t do anything else too bookish. However, I did manage get my first snow experience! That’s right, I’d never seen snow until I went to the Tatra Mountains in Slovakia. Not a bad place to experience your first snow. πŸ™‚ The mountains were absolutely stunning and the place was pretty much deserted since it was in between seasons.

Tatra Mountains - The frozen lake

Tatras - that odd thing sticking out is the old ski jump

And, of course, my first snowman πŸ™‚

Another highlight from my travels would have to be meeting other bloggers in London. πŸ™‚ I met the lovely Claire (Paperback Reader), Kim (Reading Matters), Polly (Novel Insights) and Sakura (Chasing Bawa. Also, thanks for the Pocky! They were a great sustenance during those long queues :-)) a few hours after reaching London at Waterstones cafe and, although I was a little tired and sleepy, they provided me with such a warm and friendly welcome and weren’t short of suggestions or handy tips! πŸ™‚ Unfortunately, I forgot to take some pictures. The next day, I met Another Cookie Crumbles, who took time out from her busy schedule, and we had more scones and tea at Harrods and sat talking until we were asked to leave since Harrods had closed half an hour earlier!

In total, I spent nearly five days in London and it was nowhere near enough. The days just flew by incredibly fast and I didn’t manage to do half of what I wanted. I’m suspecting I may have dallied away the time in the many bookstores I disappeared into. I loved Charing Cross and found great little second hand bookstores including one that stocked second hand Persephones. Persephones! I also spent a couple of days tracking down the bookstore. My silly map (although to be fair, it was a bus map) didn’t have Persephone’s street on it and I didn’t write down directions. When I finally found it the next day, I was elated!

At last! Persephones!

I went a little crazy in the store and would have bought far more books if I had more room or the muscles to carry them. I was more than thrilled to find that they had a special on if you bought three books. I also bought some of their lovely postcards and a bag. Ah, if only there were more stores and books like Persephones (especially in Melbourne :-)).

So: my final holiday book loot. I did have to buy an extra bag in the end but nothing terribly extravagant.

Holiday Book Loot

  • The Adulterous Woman – Albert Camus (this was waiting for me at home).
  • Odour of Chrysanthemums – D. H. Lawrence
  • Through the Wall – Ludmilla Petrushevskaya (I’ve been wanting to read this since Novel Insight’s review)
  • The Tooth – Shirley Jackson
  • The Feminine MystiqueΒ  – Betty Friedan (this was also waiting at home).
  • Sweet Valley Confidential – Francine Pascal. Yes, I know but I couldn’t help it (I’m looking at you, Another Cookie! πŸ™‚ ). It’s also a gift for a friend.
  • Two Prague Stories – Rainer Maria Rilke
  • 22 Czech Legends – Alena Jezkova
  • Frost in May – Antonia White
  • Farewell Leicester Square – Betty Miller. A lovely gift from Another Cookie Crumbles.
  • The Carlyles at Home – Thea Holme
  • There Were No Windows – Norah Hoult
  • Miss Buncle’s Book – D. E. Stevenson
  • The Blank Wall – Elisabeth Sanxay Holding
  • Miss Ranskill Comes Home – Barbara Euphan Todd


I also got two bookmarks. Quite restrained, in my case. One from Prague and another gifted from the lovely Claire. πŸ™‚

Ah, Persephone

And finally, the Persephone bag which I love. I think I had the whole Persephone experience. πŸ™‚

Finally, I managed to only read two books: Case Histories by Kate Atkinson which I absolutely loved although it was quite disturbing and What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt. I still have a mixed reaction to that. And now, what should I read next? I obviously don’t have enough books.

Library Finds

I found some goodies from the library recently. I try not to borrow many since I want to read my own TBRs but I can’t help myself. Instead, I try to make it equal and alternate between library books and my own.

The titles are:

  • The Unbearable Lightness of Being – Milan Kundera
  • I Dream of Magda – Stefan Laszczuk
  • The Beauty Myth – Naomi Wolf
  • The Well – Elizabeth Jolley
  • Tropic of Cancer – Henry Miller
  • Female Chauvinist Pigs – Ariel Levy
  • To Room Nineteen and other collected stories – Doris Lessing

There’s a bit of a feminist and gender theory theme going on here. An excellent article I read recently has re-sparked my interest and reminded me that it’s been awhile since I read some work on feminist issues. It’s an area I’m hugely interested in and I’ve always leaned towards the feminist stream while doing my arts degree which culminated in a rather feminist theme for my honours thesis where I wrote about female performance, Simone de Beauvoir, Sensation fiction and the idea of the female villain. Oh, it was such fun!

Reading on Mondays and Updates

This week’s RoM

I’ve gone slightly deranged and have been overzealous at accunulating books. And my attention span has gone out the window with most of my attention focusing on assignments with its due dates looming large.

Right now, I’m still reading all those books listed down the side bar on the right AND i’m halfway through Disgrace by J.M Coetzee. I’m in love with him. This is the first book of his I’ve read and I picked it up only because a lecturer told me a short story of mine reminded her of Coetzee’s book (not gloating or anything here but WOW!! What a compliment!)

I’ve also managed to rejoin the library. Those who read this blog know about my horrible tendencies to accumalate fines. I have joined about 5 libraries and I can’t go to any of them due to fines. But I did manage to rejoin a local one because it’s been awhile. I also discovered that my uni library has some pretty great books too and I’ve been ordering them in a frenzy. Who knows how on earth I’ll be able to finish these books on time. To make matters worse, I still haven’t managed to finish the 5 books I have going at the moment!

Books lined up:

The Children’s Book by A.S. Byatt.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larson

The Accidental by Ali Smith

The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold

The Memory Room by Christopher Kock

The Moon is Down by John Steinbeck.