A couple of weeks ago I posted an entry called Egypt, I Love You, which chronicled a 17 day tour I took of the incredible Middle Eastern country in 2009. Earlier today, my friend Nils, who lives in Belgium, tweeted the following:

Funny, when @danschaumann wrote “Egypt, I love you” a revolution broke loose. Think you can write “Belgium, I love you” anytime soon, Dan?

Absolutely!! As it happens, I do love Belgium! This won’t be quite as detailed, as it’s been over two years now since I was there, and I didn’t keep a travel journal like I did in Egypt, but I’ll try my best to remember as much as I can.

I travelled to Brussels, the Belgian capital, on the first weekend of January in 2009. I was living in London at the time and was fairly down in the dumps and heartbroken after a bad end to 2008, so I thought that a trip on the Eurostar across to the continent would be a great way to bring in the new year with a fresh start. I sure wasn’t left disappointed 🙂

My first impression of Brussels, after checking into my hotel, was one of grandeur and majesty. After a short stroll through some inner-city residential rue’s (excuse my terrible French), my first destination was the very impressive Grand Place in the centre of town. The architecture was second-to-none, and I was especially blown away by the nearly 100 metre tall spire of the nearly 600 year old Town Hall on the south-western end of the square.

The Town Hall spire

I walked through and around the Grand Place for about an hour. It was the middle of winter and the district still had a real European Christmassy charm to it, which is not something I was used to, after having spent my last 24 Christmasses in the hot summer of Australia. Eventually I moved onto the markets and streets to the north-east of the square, and came across the beautiful Galeries Royales de Saint-Hubert – one of the oldest and most magnificent shopping arcades in all of Europe.

The magnificent Galeries Royales de Saint-Hubert. I didn't buy a thing because it was all way too expensive.

It was about time for lunch by now, and I discovered that there was a main strip through the centre of town where all the tourist restaurants were located. I was skeptical of such tourist restaurants, as all my guidebooks in the past had warned me that most European restaurants with an English menu at the entrance will not be famous for its authenticity. But due to my budget constraints and my complete lack of knowledge in German, French or Dutch, I opted for said tourist restaurant, and unsurprisingly, wasn’t very impressed with the food. However – what they lacked in food, they made up for with fire!

I was fascinated by the fact that there was a fire in the restaurant. This was the Australian in me coming out again.

A leisurely post-lunch promenade through the city streets saw me head towards the inner south-eastern district, through the Albertina Square Gardens:

An interesting spot to dine


I don't know what this was but it looked cool

I'd never seen graffiti on a hedge before! Great use of the local landscape to get your message across.

I ended up at the Musical Instrument Museum, which I managed to get into without paying. I’m pretty sure there was an entrance fee, but there was a lack of English translation in the foyer area, so I smiled politely at the staff and they let me through the gate. The Musical Instrument Museum houses thousands of instruments ranging from glass harmonicas to hajhoujes to modekus (don’t ask me what they are), but I was particularly taken by this piano kinda thing:

Piano kinda thing

At the top of the Musical Instrument Museum, overlooking the city of Brussels

After my very thorough education in all things musical, I took to the streets again for an afternoon walk, where I discovered some of the more humorous aspects of Belgian life:

There were all these random wooden elephants in this park


It wasn't until I got back home and googled it that I realised that word is actually "Munt" :-O

I discovered the local winter wonderland was still in operation, which had such a lovely atmosphere. I adored watching the families on the ice skating rink, and I regret not giving it a go myself, although it had been about 15 years since I last went ice skating so I wasn’t keen on embarrassing myself. Beyond the ice skating rink, the paths were lines with dozens of little food stalls, bars and fashion shops. I drank mulled wine, ate Belgian chocolate, and from the top of the Brussels wheel, marvelled at the skyline of this gorgeous city, wishing that I had brought somebody with me to share these precious few moments with.

Winter Wonderland

On the way back to my hotel, I happened to pass a protest taking place on the steps of an inner-city building. It may well have been a governmental establishment, I’m not entirely sure, but the people were loud, angry and demanding action of some kind. I stood and watched the protest for a few minutes without understanding what was occurring, and thought it best to vacate the premises sooner rather than later in case things took a turn for the worse. As I was leaving the area, the group of enraged citizens suddenly disbanded and took to the streets in all directions, stopping traffic on the nearby road and continuing their protest, chanting at the tops of their voices. Luckily there was no violence, just anger in the form of words. I’d never seen anything like it before.

Protesters on the steps of an inner-city building

The following day I got up early and braved the 1°C chill as I ventured toward this piece of architecture I’d heard so much about, called the Atomium. The city map I had in my guidebook didn’t stretch far enough to the area where the Atomium was located, so I had to guess which Metro stop to disembark at. I knew it was towards the end of the line, but unfortunately I’d managed to get on the wrong line, and unbeknownst to me, I was heading in the complete opposite direction. I cottoned onto this as the scenery outside the window grew more suburban and I noticed the distinct lack of tourists on my carriage. After finally deciphering the Metro map, I got off at a random station in one of the outer suburbs and thought I’d have a quick look around before heading back towards my desired destination.

I didn’t see anything too interesting here, except for Santa Claus hanging onto a window for dear life:

I couldn't work out if he was trying to get in or out

Finally I made it to the Atomium! I went inside and took the escalators right to the top. It was indeed an incredible piece of architecture.

The view from one of the "cells" of the Atomium

I will borrow a few paragraphs from a past blog entry of mine, Why I Love The Winter, to describe the epiphany I had in this district of Brussels.

I had just finished wandering through the Atomium, a popular tourist attraction built in 1958 that resembles the cell of an iron crystal (albeit 165 billion times bigger than the real thing). I’d walked past a chemist earlier in the day whose digital thermometer told me it was 1.5 degrees, so I’d made sure I was well-layered, with two t-shirts, a jacket, and gloves. The sky was overcast as well, so I had an umbrella handy in case it decided to rain.

Departing the warm comfort of the Atomium’s enclosures, I made my way to Mini Europe, another nearby attraction, featuring downsized scale models of famous landmarks from all around Europe. Within 5 minutes of me entering the premises it started to drizzle, so I took my umbrella out of my bag, ready in case I was to be attacked by a downpour. Strangely, however, I quickly noticed that the falling droplets were not like normal raindrops at all. Instead of being sponged up by the surface of my jacket upon landing, the droplets stayed as they were, gradually melting their way into absorption.  This was not rain at all, I realised – this was snow, falling from the sky!

Oh, what a joyous occasion it was. To the average Belgian citizen, the flakes were so few and far between that they would have been fobbed off as a feeble and unnoteworthy. But to me, it was magic. Here I was, with a scale model of the Eiffel Tower in front of me and an enormous monument dedicated to the iron crystal behind it, and I was witnessing my first ever snowfall. I will never forget the day.

The Atomium, as seen from the Eiffel Tower at Little Europe

You can just see them in the photo - these are the tiny flakes of snow I saw at Little Europe!

My next Brussels adventure took me to the Belgian Comic Strip Centre. Now, I normally cannot stand comic books, but the one exception I have to this rule is that of Hergé’s famous comic book character Tintin, and his trusty sidekicks Snowy, Captain Haddock, Professor Calculus, Thomson and Thompson, and other such friends. Many hours of my youth were spent reading Tintin books borrowed from the school library and watching the cartoon on TV, so I simply had to relive my childhood fantasies and visit the many Tintin-related exhibits housed within the walls of this museum.

Captain Haddock

Tintin & Professor Calculus: Explorers on the Moon

Aside from my mediocre experience at the tourist restaurant on day 1, one of the things I could not get over in Brussels was the delicious food and drink, the likes & vaiety of which I hadn’t seen available in other European cities. There were chocolatiers galore lining the streets, Belgian Beer cafes, more chocolate, waffle shops, chocolate again, frites for sale at street markets, and for a change, some more chocolate. One of my favourite stalls I’ve ever been to was a take-away hot chocolate cafe just off to the side of the Grand Place. For four Euros, you could purchase a decent-sized block of chocolate stuck onto the bottom of a paddle-pop stick, with a small plastic tube protruding from the chocolate, the reservoir of which was filled with whatever type of alcohol you desired, from rum to whiskey to Cointreau. As you stirred your stick through the provided cup of hot milk, the chocolate melted away causing the alcohol to drip through the plastic tube, and before too long you were left with the perfect cup of hot liqueur chocolate. I wish they would open a stall like this in Australia.

Unfortunately I didn’t get a photo of it, but I did get a few other food & drink-related snaps:

Belgian waffle YUM

That was followed by a serving of authentic Belgain Frites, which are delicious, crispy, double-fried potato chips

A Belgian chocolateir near the Grand Place

A Belgian bottle shop full of the most amazing assortment of beer

A box of baguettes that I randomly discovered sitting in the middle of a footpath

I scoffed down my waffle and frites, and explored some more inner-city streets and shops. I found myself at the same location I was in the night before, with exactly the same event taking place:

This time the Politie were there!

My final destination before the Eurostar back to London was the very popular yet completely bizarre tourist icon, Manneken Pis (translate: Little Boy Pee). He’s stood here for nearly 400 years, pissing into the basin of the fountain. Every couple of days a member of City staff changes his costume, and I happened to catch him on the day that he took his dog out for a walk:

Apparently on special occasions they hook a keg up to the fountain and he pees beer

One final twilight photo of the Town Hall spire before I leave

Despite the very short time I spent here I can honestly say that Belgium is one of my favourite countries, and that of all the European cities I visited, Brussels was the most authentic. You go to Paris, and as incredible as it is there, you can see they’re trying to prove themselves to be the romantic capital of the world. Rome is the pizza capital, Vienna is the classical music capital, Munich is the beer capital, Zurich is the capital of clean waterways and offshore bank accounts. But Brussels? Brussels is just Brussels. From a tourist’s perspective, I didn’t feel that the people of the city were trying to prove or be anything in particular – they were just being themselves. That, as well as the great attractions, sights, humour and food, is what I love about a city.

And that’s not to mention that since my brief visit to Belgium, I have made some awesome Belgian friends through the internet, namely Nils who inspired this blog post, Vincent and Frauke. You guys rock! (those links are to their blog sites, and if you’ve read this far, please do yourself a favour and check them out)

I can’t wait to return one day to these fine Flemish shores and explore more of this country outside its capital.

Belgium, I love you!

Now that I’ve said it, can you please form a government? 😉

In August of last year I took a trip to Amsterdam for a long weekend:

I ate a muffin and I saw some pretty colours:

Then I floated back to my hostel room, laid my exploding head down on my fluffy white cloud, and wrote the following:

There is a guy in the room. He is looking in his locker. He just took a sip of a drink. I think he’s taking a pill as well, it looks like he’s getting one out of the foil wrapping. But no, he’s not, he’s just getting out his toothpaste. Brushes teeth. I can hear the gentle whispering of the brushes against his molars, with the trickling of the basin tap in the background. Perhaps I should request that he closes the tap valve so as to cease said trickling? No, that would be foolish of me because he just closed the valve himself. Leaves bathroom. Changes shirt, sprays deodorant. He is moving too quickly for me to make note of his actions, I ask in my mind that he slows down but the fucker doesn’t catch my drift, he keeps on moving and moving, quicker and quicker, my world slows as his becomes fast, fast like a rocket, fast like the speedboat I hear in the canal outside my window, which on my following moment of awareness introduces its road-handling abilities indicating that it’s not actually a speedboat, it’s a motorcycle, and I do possess a motorcycle learners licence so perhaps I could ride off into the unknown and use that to gain my advantage with the situation. This here situating moment that I currently notate, as I return for a brief sobering moment to compose the fact that I bear a magical auric shade of green. And not in a way which particularly refers to compassion with ones surrounding ecosystem, although I’d say much the same about the green in question. This is the emerald oasis of absolute confusion, fascination, morbid darkness and intrepid awakeness which emanates majestically from my harrowing hallway of whispering echoes. The hallway upon which nobody dares speak their truths, utter their desires, or bask in any form of brashen hopefulness altogether. Are they the sinners who retire amongst the trio of perpendicular shadowed edges? I hastily sermon my response as a yes, a yes for humankind who wishes for nothing more but love and peace coexisting with all lifeform, defiance not existing for but a second. As I pause to reflect among said goings-on, one realises where ones true foolishness lies. ‘Tis where the greying embers plunge away the golden.

Oh skyscraper in the sky,

Were you merely a scraper, the moons rays you would not reach,

Caught abreast your cracked, crooked lips.

The epitome of our evolutionary evils rests amongst the laurels of your tall, cumbersome self.

Were you not prefixed “sky,” the heaven’s blazing self you’d nay embrace, trapped amid fields of brashen development.

But skyscraper, the two criteria by which you fulfil, encompasses all such qualities of a yearning and ever-exploring wisdom beyond worlds of whomever is physically highest.

My tuneful self slowly returns to one of less melody, as the horizon draws near centre from its previous unbalanced windowframe. I have returned, but my travel sickness may linger with her aromatic breeze.

I read it the next day and was like :-O

Muffins are bad, boys & girls.

A few weeks ago the 7PM project ran a competition to win a Rhianna CD, and all you had to do to enter was leave a message on their forum describing what your favourite thing is that starts with R, and why? I ended up writing a mini-essay as my competition entry so I thought I might as well post it here and tell the world why my favourite thing that starts with R is Rome!

I went to Italy in July of 2009 for a weeklong holiday, incorporating a few days in Rome, a daytrip south to Naples and Pompeii, then up north through Pisa, Florence, Venice and finally to my mum’s birthplace of Trieste.

I have many fond travel memories of my European adventures, but one of the fondest of them all was the evening I went to a small and quite hard-to-find pizzeria in central Rome called da Baffetto. It was just around the corner from Piazza Navona, and it was suggested by my trusty guidebook to be the best pizzeria in the city. It actually looked quite dodgy and run-down from the outside – you couldn’t see inside the windows because they were blocked out with newspaper – but the smell was heavenly, and there was a substantial lineup of people waiting outside the front door, so I decided to give it a go.

It took about 10 minutes and an encounter with a cranky Italian waiter to reach the front of the queue, and when I finally stepped through the doors I found the place was so packed that they had to sit me at the same table as someone else – a happy & smiling girl who looked to be in her late 20’s and was still perusing the menu. We got chatting and established that English was our common language. She was an actress from Spain and had a few days in Rome for business, and I soon found out the reason she was at this restaurant was because she had the same guidebook as me (albeit in Spanish of course). She too wanted to experience the best pizza in the city!

Our hungry tummies were not at all disappointed when our pizzas arrived. To the eye, I will admit that it looked pretty average, but it actually turned out to be the most delicious, crispy, cheesy, flavoursome, amazing wood-fired pizza I have ever eaten. The base was just the right consistency, and even though I initially thought the toppings were lacking, I soon discovered it was composed of the perfect amount. Every portion of the delicious, meaty salami was savoured, every string of mozzarella was devoured with fevorous intent, every sprinkle of oregano adding to the flavour sensation that made up this true Roman pizza:

My newfound Spanish friend and I ended up having a brilliant night. Thanks to her ability to speak Italian, we made our way afterwards to a bar in the inner-southern suburbs called Big Mama (also listed in our guidebooks as one of the top nightspots to hit) where we were lucky enough to see a genuine Sicilian folk band, performing a unique style of folk music my ears had never before been graced with – and something I never would have done had it not been for meeting Carmen. I still to this day haven’t quite figured out exactly what the bladder-like instrument was that the band were using (it was very similar to a bagpipe yet at the same time, completely different), but it sure sounded amazing:

Two nights later, Carmen and I again met at the same pizzeria for an encore meal. This time I ordered a rocket and prosciutto pizza; it was just as incredible as the first. We sat outside and were grouped with four Italian guys who were in town to watch some football, and I somehow managed to make polite conversation with them using the few Italian words I knew and the small amount of English they knew, along with a bit of translational help from Carmen. We then decided to share another pizza between the two of us, and after a delicious tiramisu and a shot of Limoncello to wash it all down, we bade our football fans goodnight and headed towards a proper Roman coffee shop for an espresso. It was pretty disgusting but I’m glad that I tried it, and before heading home we stopped by the Trevi fountain to bask in its glory and take a few happy snaps.

Walking back to my hostel with a smile, I realised I finally fulfilled an experience I’d been waiting for since I arrived in Europe a year beforehand: that kind of travel experience I’d read about all too often where you meet a random person in a random city who you were clearly “meant” to encounter. And what better thing to bring us together than the best pizza in the city? I left the Italian capital the next day a much richer person – and that, my friends, is why my favourite thing that starts with R is Rome.

* * *

I ended up winning the Rhianna CD but unfortunately I don’t at all dig her style of music. Does anybody want it?!

* Coleman’s mustard
* Lincolnshire sausage
* The slow food market by the Embankment… mmm spit roast hog, garlic hummus and pigeon!
* Eating organically
* Rachel’s organic Greek style yoghurt with honey, and the Coconut yoghurt as well
* Puccino’s hot chocolate
* Jaffa cakes
* Chocolate that tastes ever so slightly different to Australian chocolate
* Digestives
* (The innocence of originally thinking that Digestives were tablets to help relieve indigestion)
* Yorkshire puddings
* Toad in the hole
* Fish & chips on the Brighton pier on cold winter days
* Mushy peas
* Proper steak & ale pies
* Authentic cave-matured Cheddar cheese
* Breakfast fry-ups
* Ploughman’s lunch
* Walkers Builders Breakfast crisps
* The word “crisps”
* Proper cups of tea (without sugar)
* Tea cosies
* Going out to folk music nights
* Countless amounts of gigs by well-known acts every night in London
* Australian acts who tour Britain and who are greeted with the rapturous support and applause of us expats
* The incredible assortment of theatre, comedy and musicals on nightly display throughout the city
* Locally-owned pubs built on atmosphere
* Historic and unique pubs
* The Tooting Tram & Social
* The Selkirk
* The fact that hardly any pubs have pokies
* Supermarkets that sell alcohol
* Off licences
* Guinness that actually tastes like Guinness should
* Real ale
* PINTS of beer as opposed to those pathetic little “pots” that us Aussies drink!
* Being able to fly to Europe for 20 quid
* Collecting stamps in my passport
* The red circle with the blue line
* Tube station advertisements
* Studying the tube map trying to work out which route will get me home the quickest
* Choosing random stops to get off at and explore, ie. Maida Vale and Ealing Broadway
* Oyster cards
* Night buses home from Brixton
* Cycling through Thornton Heath, Norbury, Streatham, Tooting & Colliers Wood on the way to work
* The massively long escalators at Angel
* Northern Line train carriages
* Coal miners with erections (you had to be there to understand!)
* Double decker buses
* Tube station buskers
* People slagging off Gordon Brown and Boris Johnson in the newspapers
* The Metro, The London Paper and The Evening Standard
* (but not the London Lite, that’s just shite!)
* Page Three girls
* Inquisitive dogs on trains
* Squirrels
* Urban foxes
* Mole hills
* Friendly Wandle Path street cats
* Wild blackberries
* Playing pool, table tennis and guitar on lunch breaks
* Hanging out with Team Six Nations and the rest of the A&C folk every day
* Staff bags
* Team snacks
* Cold, drizzly, overcast weather
* Snow
* Conservatories
* Regional accents
* People telling me that I’m losing my Australian accent
* People mistaking me for a Kiwi or South African
* Making fun of the Welsh just like we make fun of the Kiwi’s 🙂
* The M25
* The fact that motorways are referred to by number rather than name
* Rows of terraced houses
* Independently owned boutique high street stores
* Robbie Williams
* Take That
* Top Gear
* QI
* Cash In The Attic
* The Apprentice
* Jeremy Kyle
* Simon Amstell
* Dara O’Briain
* Susan Boyle
* Dave
* The BBC
* Castles
* Cathedrals
* Actually wanting to walk into a church to marvel at its history and architecture
* Church cemeteries
* Being nine hours behind
* Dyson air blades in airport bathrooms
* Heated towel racks
* The lady who reads the O2 voicemail message
* The lushness of the Wimbledon Common
* The deer within Richmond Park
* Microchipped bank cards
* Not having to select Cheque, Savings or Credit every time I make a transaction with my bank card
* Not being charged for every transaction you make at a cashpoint that is not owned by your specific bank
* The word “cashpoint”
* The word “innit”
* “You alright?”
* The museum quarters at South Kensington
* Hearing about people’s suggestions for places to visit
* Heading out to random towns and villages on the weekend
* The hilarity of Brighton “beach” that doesn’t actually possess any sand
* Boston & Stickney
* Edinburgh… my favourite place in the entire world
* Hanging out with Jess 🙂
* The British postcode system
* Toilets with levers instead of buttons
* The homeless girl in Thornton Heath who keeps asking me for 36p
* The fact that the school year begins in September
* Electric showers
* The bulky but cute three-pronged electrical plugs/sockets
* Camden and Portobello Markets
* Rough Trade Records on Talbot St nearby Portobello Market… the best record store ever
* The music shops on Denmark St
* Incredible, historical architecture
* Red telephone boxes and post boxes
* Bobbies
* Big Ben
* Leicester Square
* The Thames
* The endless fascination with the Royal Family
* British people in general
* The Union Jack
* God Save The Queen

* 1p and 2p coins
* Living in Thornton Heath

The end!

So I’ve just this afternoon come back from my road trip around Scotland and I thought I’d share one of the more interesting experiences I encountered along the way.

I flew into Edinburgh on the 3rd of March, and was completely blown away by its sheer beauty. I didn’t know much at all about the place before my visit, so after checking into the backpackers hostel (directly opposite the magnificent Edinburgh Castle) I hopped onto a tourist bus and took the hour-long journey around the city, listening into the highly entertaining and interesting commentary provided along the way as we passed the local sights. I was especially intrigued to hear about Edinburgh’s bleak past, in particular the townspeoples fascination with public executions over centuries gone by, and also the crime, disease and harsh environment associated with the industrial revolution.

As the bus drove past South Bridge we were given a glimpse into the history behind the 19 archways built back in 1785. Apparently there were hidden, haunted vaults built deep inside the bridge, a few rooms of which were actually accessible to the public on one of the many ghost tours conducted throughout the city. So naturally curiosity got the better of me and I went on one of these tours to see the vaults for myself.

It was 10pm and a group of about 20 brave souls met outside the Tron Kirk, the meeting point for the Auld Reekie Terror Tour, described as follows:

Join us if you dare! This is a no holds barred, adult only tour. We will take you on a journey through the streets of old Edinburgh. It will be dark and dingy and you can imagine for yourselves how the characters of old stalked these very alleys, doing unspeakable deeds and leaving a grisly legacy behind. Hear in every gory detail about the persecution of the witches during the 1600’s and how the plague caused a slow and agonising death. Then, only if you’re ready, enter our underground vaults, home of the South Bridge poltergeist!

Our guide Luke arrived wearing a trenchcoat and carrying a walking stick, and he took us on the initial walk around the cold, dark alleyways. He explained along the way how the booming population of ye olde Edinburgh, mixed with the burden of a man-made wall around its outskirts, meant that the only way people could be housed was to build the city upwards. Of course, structural engineering was not at the standard that it is today, so it came to happen that the timber floors built above the one-story stone buildings eventually collapsed, killing a great many people and rendering the survivors homeless. In time to come, the governing body of the city conveniently declared that all homelessness be illegal, punishable by execution. Those who didn’t want to face a beheading had no other choice but to live underground in the dirty, decrepit South Bridge vaults.

Into the vaults we headed. We were situated within a long, wide corridor, with three rooms built into the left hand side. The first room was a room that is actually still in use today by a group of local Wiccans who perform magick rituals on a regular basis. It was closed to public use, but you could see its full Wiccan setup in the dim light with its pentagram and wands hanging on the wall, and a stone circle in the centre. The second room, we were told, was the most haunted of the three rooms according to the many spiritualists who have studied the vaults. This is where the famed poltergeist was supposed to have resided; a single entity consisting of the souls of those who passed away from the trecherous, disease-ridden conditions of years gone by. However it was the third room towards the end of the corridor that interested me the most.

The Wiccans had actually chosen this particular room as their original venue for performing their rituals. They had it set up in a style much similar to that of the first room we encountered, with the pentagram and stone circle, however all that remained today were the stones, encircling a few cold puddles of water that had dripped down from the ceiling above. We were told that not long after the Wiccans commenced using this room, some very strange things started to happen. For example, objects within the room would move. The temperature would suddenly drop, then rise back up again. The water dripping from the ceiling would only drip within the circle itself, and never form puddles on the outside. People started feeling strange sensations, as if they were being held back or choked. It was clear that the room was possessed by a highly negative energy.

Eventually the leader of the Wiccan group decided to camp overnight within the circle, intending to perform some healing rituals in an attempt to ward away this unaccommodating, disturbing spirit. The night began without trouble, however it wasn’t long before the entity made itself apparent, and the Wiccan leader soon realised that he was fighting against something way beyond his own capabilities. After experiencing an agonizing discomfort and noticing scratches appear over his body, he fled the room and vowed never to set foot in it again.

Among other horrendous occurrences, it was in this room over two centuries ago, that a notorious criminal murdered at least sixteen prostitutes. It is said that the entity haunting this room is made up of the demonic remnants of these poor women.

At the conclusion of the story, Luke invited us to take a step inside the stone circle and experience the energy for ourselves, if we so dared. We were all gathered around the outside of the stones, and it was plain to see the effects of the storytelling had caused quite a lot of unease within the group. Luke confessed that on many occasions he has witnessed members of his tour groups either faint or begin losing their breath upon entering the circle, but that didn’t stop two girls from our group bravely taking a step inside. I followed. I have no fear. We had a quick hug in the middle, before stepping back out and confirming that we were all in fact ok. Nothing out of the ordinary happened, and neither of us felt any form of discomfort. We continued on with our tour, which concluded soon after in a pub where we all had a drink and eventually parted ways.

Now it’s completely understandable at this stage if you think the whole experience of being in a so-called “haunted” environment is a good example of human psychology accentuated by the theatrics of a few hair-raising tales about ghosts. But I haven’t finished my story yet!

It was well past midnight by the time I got back to my hostel room after the tour, so I got changed, went to bed, and had a nice peaceful sleep after a long day. I woke up fairly early in the morning, around 7:30-ish, and did the usual stretch and yawn thing that you do to encourage yourself to get out of bed. I scratched my head, wiped my eyes, and rubbed my hands down my face. It was then that I noticed blood on my hands.

I had a bleeding nose.

I’ve not had a bleeding nose since I was about nine years old.

You can draw your own conclusions on this one my friends, but in my mind this was no coincidence. This was the work of a troubled soul, giving me a warning for wrongly and selfishly entering its territory.


Thrice around the circle bound, evil sink into the ground
Thrice around the circle bound, evil sink into the ground
Thrice around the circle bound, evil sink into the ground


Here is an interesting link regarding a study into paranormal activity within the vaults: http://www.ghostfinders.co.uk/edinburghvaults.html

This is the one and only photo I managed to take within the vaults. Unfortunately it was pitch black, but you can just make out an artefact and a few crosses on the rear wall.

If you enjoyed reading this, then perhaps you’ll also enjoy reading about my other ghostly experience at the Toowong Cemetery, Brisbane, in October 2010: A Strange Thing Happened At Toowong Cemetery

I gaze at the palace, aware of the balance
Of scale and beauty in all that we know
Every end has a start, every light turns to dark
As is proven by watching the sun resting low

Hoping you’ll be with me soon
Under the Viennese moon

Priceless antiquities, modern complexities
Ballet Giselle on the clock tower tonight
Alive by projection, the modern selection
Of venue brings crowds by the thousands to sight

The rapturous applause as the leading girl soars
To the stage in the arms of her charming young man
Inspires a sigh as I look on up high
Past the bell and the spire and the Austrian flag

Hoping you’ll be with me soon
Under the Viennese moon

Roses appear like ornate chandeliers
On the balconies, teeming with scarlet and white
Pure reflections of nature’s perfections
Conveyed to the Gods of the Viennese night

So the young and the old, the warm and the cold
The dancers, the dreamers, we all have one wish
To live with the powers of Viennese flowers
And by moonlit skies pronounce, “ich liebe dich”

And I know that you’ll be with me soon
Under the Viennese moon

The scene appearing in front of me as I wrote this poem:
Ballet Giselle on the clock tower projection screen, with the Viennese moon in its full glory to the left…

© 2008 Daniel Schaumann