November 27, 2015

German countryside

Below is a short video I filmed for my mother while on a German train passing through the area surrounding Langenbach in the Freezing District in Bavaria. I made this video to show how the Autumn Bavarian countryside is very similar to the Pennsylvanian country. Growing up we were always told that German farmers settled in Pennsylvania because it reminded them of home. It isn't too difficult to see how that could be true.

June 13, 2015

Ostrich Races

When I was recently back in the US, my family and I went to Penn National racetrack to watch ostrich and camel racing. As you can see in the below videos, the ostrich race was the more entertaining of the two. Actual jockeys rode the ostriches and had to do everything that they could to stay on. After the race, one of the ostriches jumped over the track fence and was on the loose. People on horseback frantically raced after the ostrich as it headed towards the nearby highway.

May 24, 2015

Eating and sleeping in Chernobyl

When doing my research before heading to Chernobyl, I found it difficult to find information on where 2015 overnight tours stayed at and ate at. While there is some information out there, much of it seemed to be several years old, and therefore potentially out of date, or was written in Russian. I also knew nothing about Ukrainian food. While the hotels or restaurants aren't likely to sway someone from doing a multi-day tour of Chernobyl, I at least found it comforting to have an idea of what to expect.

I stayed at the Hotel Desyatka in Chernobyl Town. I have also seen this hotel referred to as Rektan on some websites. The hotel is about nine miles from the nuclear power plant. As shown in my below picture, the radiation inside the hotel rooms at .14μSv/h is not much higher than Kiev which was around .11μSv/h and is therefore perfectly safe for a short stay.

Desyatka is a modern hotel built using some sort of modular construction method. It is not the older, Soviet style hotel in Chernobyl. While the rooms are relatively simple (I assume the 80s decor is a more recent Ukrainian style), the bed is comfortable enough, the heating works well and has a TV. At least in my wing of the hotel, several rooms shared two bathrooms with showers.  Pictures of the bathrooms are on the hotel's website.

I ate three meals at the hotel restaurant, a lunch, dinner and breakfast. The meals were a mix of what Americans would call family-style coupled with everyone being given an entree. While you don't choose your dishes, the staff bring out a wide enough range of food that everyone should find enough to eat. There is a lot of different kinds of meats, but the meals are pretty balanced with apples, salads and other vegetables at each meal.

Given where you are, what you are there to do and the restrictions on eating and drink outside, even very picky eaters like me make do and eat whatever is put in front of you.  You do a lot of walking during the day and are hungry enough that you just eat everything even if you are not sure what the dishes actually are.

The lunch on the second day was in the nuclear power plant's employee canteen. On entering the canteen, you pass through radiation checkpoints like the ones at the exclusion zone checkpoints. Like you would do at a school canteen, you grab a tray and go down the line. Similar to the hotel's restaurant, the dinner ladies, who don't speak any English, give you whatever they are serving that day. Again no choices, but no one complained. While you are in a separate section, eating with the plant employees is an interesting experience.

Pictures of the hotel and the various meals I ate are after the break.

May 3, 2015

Chernobyl Pictures

As mentioned in my last couple of posts, I went to Chernobyl over Easter. Here are some of my favourite pictures that I took while in the exclusion zone. You can see the rest of my pictures here.

April 17, 2015


Like my earlier videos, here is a video I made while driving around the abandoned streets of Pripyat. Pripyat was a city created by the USSR in 1970 for workers from the nearby Chernobyl nuclear power plant to live. The almost 50,000 residents were evacuated 36 hours after the accident.

The song at the end of the video is "Wonderful Far-Away" from the Soviet TV miniseries Guest from the Future (Гостья из будущего) from 1985. The song also features in a documentary about Pripyat before the nuclear disaster.

April 11, 2015

Chernobyl Town

Here is a video I made while driving through the town of Chernobyl. The town is about nine miles away from the nuclear power plant, and as you can see in the video, there are a fair number of people who live in the town. These people work at the power plant, build the new containment building or support the people doing those two jobs. Around 6000 people, predominantly men, work in the Exclusion Zone. Although most of them live outside the zone and commute in each day.

April 9, 2015


This week I went on a two day tour of the Chernobyl exclusion zone. The highlights of the trip were getting up close to reactor 4 and visiting Pripyat. I am intending do to a couple of posts on the trip, but as a taster of what is to come, here is a video I took as we drove past the nuclear power plant.

February 10, 2015


In Prague this past weekend I had the best hazelnut spread for breakfast.

Sympathica Peanua
Peanua is a combination of peanut butter and a generic version of Nutella, a chocolate hazelnut spread. Peanut Butter and the chocolatey goodness of Nutella go great together on things like bread and bagels. The beauty of Peanua is that it guarantees that you will get the right proportion of peanut butter to Nutella in every bit. 

I have been searching online to try to determine if you can purchase Peanua in the UK. From what I have found so far, it appears that it may only be sold in Lidls in the Czech Republic and Poland. It also does not appear to be listed by anyone on eBay or Amazon. 

February 2, 2015

Tartan Irn-Bru Bottles

Irn Bru is doing their version of Coke's "Share a Coke with" bottles with the names on. Each bottle of Irn Bru has a different tartan on the label. Similar to how people look for the Coke bottles with their name on, people are supposed to look for the bottles with their family's tartan on. There is a generic Irn-Bru tartan for those of us who aren't Scottish.

Murray of Tullibardine and Ancient MacKay tartans