Culture – high and low

Sail surfers

My first weekend out of London went to Margate to take part in RailsCamp UK; a 4 day unconference, with about 50 guys, geeking with Ruby and Rails, no internet connection, barcamp-style sessions and copious amounts of Guitar Hero and other types of video games.

Beers are out the game is on

First of all it was great to get out of the big city and to the sea. I grew up close to the sea and that is one thing that is nowhere close when you live in Prague. The RailsCamp took place in an old hostel close to the beach so we went for a couple of walks to get blown out with fresh sea air after sitting couped up in a smelly room for too long. Margate where it took place is somewhat of a has-been resort town. In the past centuries it was the place to go for Londoners when they wanted a beach. But these days where a flight to Spain is cheaper than the bus to Margate the place is in somewhat of a decline. This made it an interesting place to go and take pictures of the shut down amusement park Dreamland.


After four days of geeking I returned to London and joined Ann and a group of her Maltese friends for a visit to the Les Miserables musical. One of Ann’s friend’s cousin was in the play so we got some of the best seats in the house 🙂 The musical has been running in London for 24 years now and I can surely see why. It’s a great production with a lot of nice scenes and songs.

Photo by Julie Broadfoot

We met the cousin after the show for a while and it was interesting to hear him talk about it. He also has a cool blog where he writes about his experience like when blind people come to get a Touch-Tour of the set.

The “low” point in culture this past week was actually really amazing. On Ian Visits, another London blog, I had read about the chance to see the Kingsway Tramway Subway tunnel which was decommissioned in 1952 and generally not open to the public. Now an artist had been allowed to use it for a huge art installation called Chord and we went to see it. The installation is two big machines with a number of roles of string turning and moving away from each other to create a bigger rope. The tunnel itself was not as interesting to me as I thought but I really liked admiring the huge machines slowly turning.

Photo by Ian Visits. Also see the rest of his set.

Saturday we went to the British National Gallery where Ann attended a class in Styles in Painting and I did the guided tour. The guide only showed us 5 pieces in an hour but really gave us a good introduction to the museum and their collection and I would definitely have to come back and see more some other time, they have a very impressive collection.

Today we went to the new multi-venue King’s Place where The Guardian was hosting a literary festival. We went to a talk by Dan Cruickshank about the seedy economy of 18th century, Gregorian London which he had written a book about. An interesting topic but the author was a bit all over the place.

Mr Cruickshank talking about the seedy London of the 18th century

Phew, that was it for now. I’m still amazed at how much London have to offer and even for low-budgeters like us there is more than plenty to do 🙂

Adventures in Ostrava

Thursday we jumped on a bus and drove 6 hours east of Prague to get to Ostrava. We are here to attend the Ostrava Rails Conference for the next two days. To those of you who dont know Rails it is a programming framework that is talked a lot about these days and it is one of our primary tools. So when we discovered that this event was on we decided to check it out.

The bus system here is amazing. We paid 1160czk for two return tickets on an air conditioned bus with leather seats, showing movies and Friends episodes and complimentary copy of the days newspaper or Maxim.

On our first venture in Ostrava we jumped on the tram to take it two stops and figured we could do that without buying a ticket. Bad idea. As soon as the tram started roling a ticket officer busted us and we had to pay a 400czk fine each – doh!

I contacted a couple of people on CouchSurfing to see if somebody had couches we could crash on and thats how we ended up meeting Petr. Or we havent actually met Petr yet. He wasnt home but he got Zeno – his flat mate and landlord – to let us in so that we could sleep on his floor.

Zeno is a photographer and cinomatographer and the flat were staying in is also his studio. The rest of the evening we spend with Zeno drinking whiskey – good times.