Recently I was lucky enough to be sent to Prague for an Immunology Congress. In addition to attending a dynamic summit, I managed to find some time to do a bit of sightseeing in between keynote sessions and meetings. I climbed all the way up to the millennia-old Prague Castle for a spectacular view across Vltava River and into the old town. I then wandered through the 15th Century Golden Lane, as well as St Vitus Cathedral, Old Royal Palace, St George’s Basilica and the Daliborka Tower. The air was bitingly cold, but the snow gave a soft beauty to the town.
This week we are spending our winter holiday in a lovely and relaxing location – our home in Brussels. The kittens seem very happy to have us around – Mint is getting plenty of extra treats from Adrian, and Pepper spends hours curled up on my lap, getting cranky at the laptop when it takes her favourite spot.
It has been a very lazy holiday for me (though Adrian has been burdened with grants and reviews). After starting the day with a sleep-in, I might pop out to the boulangerie for a fresh baguette for Adrian to use to make me lunch. Then, after a nap, we might find the energy to pop out and explore the city. We have visited the Leuven Markets and sampled our way through the Winter Wonders (plaisirs d’hiver/ winter pret) Markets in Brussels, returning home with Hasselt speculaas and vanilla snowballs.
Yesterday we visited the Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (Koninklijk Belgisch Instituut voor Natuurwetenschappen / Institut royal des Sciences naturelles de Belgique) to see the Destination Mars exhibition. I should have noticed that the woman at the door only charged us regular admission even though we got tickets to the temporary exhibition, too. This could have served as warning. Sadly, the Mars exhibition was only a tiny room with a few televisions and, for some reason, plasticine models of little green men. The only highlights were the scale models of two of the Mars rovers – 2004′s Spirit/ Opportunity and 1996′s Sojourner (incorrectly identified as Rocky).
However, the museum redeemed itself with the world’s finest collection of Iguanodons, with a note stating that they were still standing in their incorrect kangaroo-like positions, as they were too fragile to be repositioned into their cat-like posture. We also saw some very delicate crocodyliform fossils from the same coal mine in Bernissart, Belgium. All the fossils were a lusterous black, giving the army of Iguandons an impressive glow as they paused in their march through the gallery.
Brussels is looking so beautiful today in her new white coat. Every twig and every lamp-post is gently dusted with a light powder, and the whole city feels fresh. I am still astonished how a town can be transformed overnight by tiny flakes of frozen water. I smile to myself as I carefully step across the slippery cobblestones, taking in deep breaths of clean fresh winter air.
This morning I caught a glimpse of the first snow-fall of the season. It didn’t last for more than an hour, however there were definite snow flakes drifting down my window. With current temperatures of -1o to 1oC (30-34o F), winter has arrived.
As I write this tonight, the snow has returned in abundance. Millions of white feathery flakes are drifting down to the park below. We might even wake up tomorrow morning to find the whole city draped in white.
Two Australian scientists who emigrated to Belgium, and are enjoying the charms and challenges of living in Europe. We were joined in our adventures by our kittens Pepper and Mint in 2009, followed by our son Hayden in 2011. Most of the time, Adrian takes the photos and Lydia writes the words. Adrian's blog can be found here. We can be contacted at