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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Lots of everything...

IIGP, Burger's Zoo, Dublin, Snow

First of all sorry for not updating so long. For some reason it seems less urgent to post stuff on my blog since I got back to the Netherlands. Often enough, however, I find myself checking the blog to find a certain name, date or place of something I can't remember exactly... so I will keep updating it!

As part of the ING Management Traineeship there is an event called the "ING International Graduate Program" (IIGP). The first year the event is named "Inspire" and is meant to get all new trainees from all over the world more engaged with and aware of the activities of ING Group. It took place in Noordwijkerhout where I was for three weeks getting to know everything about ING, from ING Direct to Corporate Social Responsibility and from Wholesale Banking to Insurance. It was a great time, but since it was all work-related I will not elaborate further on it. Just check some of the pics and you see that besides working hard on all kind of challenging assignments, we also had a lot of fun!

Kind of strange to think back about that time, because so much of what we learned there now all changed with the announcement that ING Group will divest its Insurance branch, Investment Management, Real Estate and has to set up a new bank in the Dutch market (yeah... go Neelie...)!

At the end of October Yvonne and Thieu decided to come visit our new crib in Arnhem. Of course we also had to go do something fun and we decided we would go to Burger's Zoo (a big zoo about 3km from our house). Scored some cheap ass tickets (free) via Kruidvat and took off. Me, trying to be smart and not having a printer, thought we could have the entrance bar codes also scanned from my iPhone (that trick worked in Vienna)... but the zoo people insisted we had a paper version. In the end I paid the entrance fee and got the money refunded by Kruidvat later on (thank you for that Kruidvat ;-).
Check the kliiieks for an impression of Burger's Zoo!

November was a quiet month, but it was just used to plan a great trip to Dublin early December! Yvonne, Thieu, Shosh and I got ourselves some cheap tickets, booked a hostel (Avalon House) and went to Dublin for four awesome days. We arrived on Thursday evening and after checking into our hostel we went out to the famous Temple Bar district. And it is exactly what it says: a district with a lot of bars... some very touristy, others more genuine Irish pubs. We opted for the latter and ended up in the Porterhouse Bar. Totally worth going when you are in Dublin. Besides being a great bar, they also brew their own beers. We could choose between three ales, three stouts and three lagers... all very reasonably priced so its worth your while :-)

The next day we rented a car and went to explore the countryside. After some start up issues, like me not being used to driving on the wrong side of the road and Dublin being a city where you can't make any right-handed turns, we drove south along the coast. After a first quick stop at a seaside town we drove along some picturesque roads to the famous Wicklow mountains. In this county they filmed (amongst others) Braveheart, so you can imagine the scenery being very pretty.

Later that night we of course headed back to the bar district and actually went into the Temple Bar. Great atmosphere, loud music and lots of beer :-)

On Saturday we explored the rest of the city. Some churches, the Dublin Castle, Trinity College and the shopping area. Dublin is not a very attractive city, but it has its charm. I especially like the fact that it looks pretty old-school industrialized.

And of course we also paid a visit to the Guinness Storehouse! The Guinness Storehouse is extremely well set up, you can do your own tour, touch a lot of stuff, taste everything and enjoy it! The tour ends with a complementary pint of Guinness in the top of the storehouse which has a 360 degree view over Dublin. Well worth a visit!!!

On Sunday we walked into town and decided to end the trip with a well deserved, traditional, early afternoon pint of Guinness. The problem was that in the beginning we had a hard time finding a pub that was actually open ;-) But we succeeded, enjoyed the last bit of Irish hospitality and took a bus to the airport.

Since last Thursday it started snowing in Holland... And for our understandings quite a lot of snow... It was actually so bad that the railway company has major issues letting all trains go. The entire public transport came to a stop (or at least was reduced to an extremely limited schedule)...
On Saturday we did our Christmas shopping at a freezing -7 degrees Celsius and on Sunday we went out to enjoy all the snow (for a bit and then we watched a lot of movies inside and made our surprises for Christmas). On Monday it was impossible to get to work. No buses and hardly any trains so we decided to work from home as for as far as that was possible. I ended up in the Arnhem office (buses started driving again at around noon) and Shosh was home. On Tuesday we decided to go to our offices in Amsterdam even though the NS recommended not to travel by train. It took me 3,5 hours to get to work...

That's all for now. Coming weekend it's Christmas time and right after that New Year's Eve! For Christmas we'll be in Weert and the 31st we'll celebrate in Arnhem. In February Shosh and I (and probably Piggy will come too) are going to India for two weeks. First visiting a friend's wedding in Delhi and then we'll go and explore Rajasthan. Looking forward to that!

Cheerio and enjoy the holidays!!!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Holiday trip to Eastern Europe

Slovakia, Austria and Hungary

We left early Saturday morning from Dusseldorf airport with an awesomely cheap flight from Ryanair to go to Bratislava. A couple hours later we arrived and spend some time finding a hostel. Weirdly enough in these regions it is cheaper to book via sites like hostelbookers.com than directly at the hostel itself (quite a difference with Asia...).

Most of our day we used to walk around and explore many of the buildings with the Danube as the central line through the city. Bratislava is a nice, laidback city and you can feel it is at the forefront of developing rapidly.

A planned visit to a castle just outside Bratislava did not go entirely as planned... before we got there we ended up at a local wine festival.

Not to bad a detour I would say :-)

After a couple of days we decided that a little side trip to Vienna would be great. Vienna and Bratislava are the world's closest capitals so it only took us an hour by train to get there. We started out at the Schönbrunn Palace, which is absolutely stunning to see (also known as the home of the young empress Sissi).

Afterwards we toured the city, which also is a beauty. Everything looks very clean and well maintained, making it a pleasure to spend time there.

The next and final stop of our trip was Budapest. We heard from a lot of people that it's a fantastic place so we had high expectations. And it is very true that it is a great city, but it doesn't match up with Vienna... Nevertheless we enjoyed walking around, checking out everything the place has to offer

On of the things Budapest is known for are all the Spas. We went to the one in Central Park and had a very realxing time in the warm water and all the saunas.

Of course we also checked out the Buda side, known for the hills and the castle.

By night it is pretty as well!

The last day we checked out the infamous Sziget Island (known for the massive music festival held there every August. It is a very tranquil place and we were lucky enough to have great weather. Can't you see us being happy..?!

While traveling to different places we feel it is always important to catch up on local cuisine and that is exactly what we did during this trip as well ;-

More on the ING International Graduate Program I went to and my new position within ING will follow soon. At least a lot sooner that I posted this update... Sorry!

Na zdorovye,
Ruud & Shosh