Central Europe Adventures 2016 – Part Thirteen: Bundeswehr Military History Museum Dresden

The Militärhistorisches Museum der Bundeswehr (Bundeswehr Military History Museum) in Dresden contains a large number of military exhibits covering the modern history of Germany and has free admittance on Monday nights. I was fortunate enough to be visiting Dresden on a Monday, so after spending the day exploring Dresden’s old city and New Green Vault my friend and I caught a tram the few kilometers to the museum.

My primary motivation for visiting the museum (other than free entry) was to see the Soyuz Space Capsule and V-2 Rocket. When I arrived, I decided to follow the recommended path through the museum which takes you from the middle ages through to current German military deployments.

The quality of the exhibits and the tone of the museum is really good. Over the last 150 years, Germany has experienced many wars. By following the historical timeline through the museum you see both the advancement of technology but also the history of the modern state of Germany. The museum did well to not express a statement about the might of German technology nor did it have walls of remembrance like many military museums in Australia and New Zealand have. I was most impressed by how it handled the Second World War exhibits which included historical German propaganda and other political items, they were presented them in a simple, clear and factual manner.

Below are a few photos from my visit. Despite originally going to see the Soyuz capsule and V-2 I ended up becoming more engrossed in the Prussian and Cold-War era exhibits.

Completely destroying all data on a Hard Drive

A few days ago while clearing through some old boxes of computer equipment I discovered an old hard drive. This drive had been removed from an old computer that had been disposed of. At the time of disposal I copied all information from the old computer its replacement and kept the old hard drive as a backup in case something went wrong.

Now more than five years later I no longer need the backup and want to dispose of the physical hard drive. But first, I want to ensure that the drive is completely clear of the old data. Connecting the drive to my current computer it can still mount and read the old drive and I can see all the old files on it. It’s good that the backup has lasted this long but to completely wipe the drive of all this old personal data is a little more complex than just selecting all the contents and pressing the delete button or doing a reformat under Windows.

Completely destroying all data on the drive is important. If the drive is not completely wiped (that is every single physical sector on the drive is written over) it is possible that someone using a few pieces of software could bring the old data back from the dead.

To completely nuke the drive I could pay for commercial software or take a hammer to the physical drive. But there is a free way to nuke the drive by using Ubuntu Linux and it’s quite simple to do:

  1. Boot Ubuntu (running from a live CD/USB should work too)
  2. Find the full device path of the drive you want to destroy by running at a terminal:
    sudo gparted

    If you don’t have gparted installed, then install it using

    sudo apt-get install gparted

    Then on the right hand side of the GUI window select from the drop down list of hard drives and check the partitions of each one to confirm the path of the device that you want to nuke is. For instance:

  3. Shred the drive using the following command, replacing the path with the path you found in step 2.
    sudo shred –vzn 1 /dev/sdN

    This command will take a while to run. It will go over the entire drive writing random data into every single physical sector of the drive and then a second time writing zero into every single sector.

Once the command has finished your drive will be completely wiped. It can now be reformatted and reused without any worry about someone being able to resurrect the previously deleted data.

Central Europe Adventures 2016 – Part Twelve: Dresden

After a week exploring Vienna, Bratislava, and Prague it was time to return to Germany. The train pulled out of Prague just as the sun was setting on a Sunday evening. To get to Dresden the train runs alongside the Vltava and the Elbe Rivers which was a very picturesque until it became too dark to see outside. Darkness completely descended around an hour north of Prague as we pulled into the Czech city of Ústí nad Labem. Despite the darkness this city looked fascinating to visit and is somewhere I would love to return to.

As we crossed the border into Germany many hikers boarded the train who had been hiking in the nearby region of Saxon Switzerland. I got rather excited discovering new places to visit and I quized my German travelling companion about Saxon Switzerland and I began mentally planning my next trip to this area of the world.

Our train pulled into Dresden Hauptbahnhof just before 7pm and we immediately headed for the S-Bahn to take our luggage to our hotel before getting dinner. Our hotel was located next to the Dresden Mitte station and – as the German word mitte means centre – we were expecting our hotel to be in the middle of Dresden. However, both sadly and surprisingly the effects of the destruction of Dresden from the second world war are still visible. Our hotel was between a train station and a main road with nothing much else but light industry surrounding it.

Once we had checked out luggage into our hotel, my friend and I walked the 15 minutes from our hotel to Dresden’s Altmarkt, walking past the amazing Zwinger Palace along the way. At the Altmarkt we had dinner at a Hans im Glück restaurant on the very strong recommendation from one of my friends in Munich. The burgers at Hans im Glück are amazing, they are on par with the best that a Burgerfuel in New Zealand can produce.

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Central Europe Adventures 2016 – Part Eleven: Jewish Prague

I began my final day in Prague by walking from the hotel I was staying in near Wenceslas Square to Prague’s Jewish Quarter, Josefov. After getting quite lost trying to navigate the narrow streets of Prague’s Old City I found the ticket shop for the Jewish Museum.

I bought my ticket for the museum but, quite confusingly, I wasn’t able to figure out how to get from the ticket shop into the museum. When I went back to the ticket counter to ask, I was quickly told that the museum was in fact a series of buildings around Josefov that the ticket would get me into. Now in possession of a map showing a path I should take around the neighbourhood I headed off to the first building, the Maisel Synagogue.

The Maisel Synagogue contained a number of ~500 year-old artifacts from Jewish life and worship in Prague. The most disturbing part of this history lesson was that from 1215 until 1781 Jewish residents had to wear some form of distinctive hat or badge or badge showing they were Jewish.

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Central Europe Adventures 2016 – Part Ten: A History Lesson at Prague Castle

I started my second day in Prague quite early so that I could (as my guidebook suggested) get to Prague Castle before all crowds. My friend (for reasons still unknown) decided that he didn’t want to go to Prague’s primary tourist attraction and instead went for a long walk along the river.

To get to Pražský hrad I caught the metro from Můstek Station to Malostranská station. Finding the entrance to Můstek Station was easy, however, finding the platforms and working the ticket machine was a whole different story. I’m sure that on any other day it would be simple, but on a sleepy Saturday morning it was one of the most difficult things I did on my entire trip. When I got to Malostranská station I was also a little lost, as I had assumed that the metro would have gotten me to the top of the hill that the castle was on, not the bottom.

After finding the path to the castle that meanders up the side of the hill I entered into the castle complex. The castle complex is unlike other palaces and castles that I’ve visited before, there isn’t one “castle” building, but instead a number of buildings and churches that make up the complex. As I kept walking through the narrow streets inside the complex I was confused about the lack of tourists, that was until I realised that I had walked in the rear entrance (my meandering path was really the Old Castle Steps) and once I got to the area around St Vitus Cathedral I was in among the hordes of tourists.

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Central Europe Adventures 2016 – Part Nine: Culture Shocked in Prague

I spent the second weekend of my Central Europe Adventure visiting Prague. Prague was on my to see list because I’ve had friends visit it before and loved it. I did not know what to expect, I knew nothing about the city, other than it was old and they didn’t speak German and I’ve never met anyone who was Czech before.

The train from Vienna to Prague took four hours and I used this time to write up some of my trip notes and read a guide book on Prague. I was still in culture shock from my visit to Bratislava the day before and instead of being excited I had built up a little bit of anxiety about the unknown language and culture.

Arriving at Praha hlavní nádraží (Prague central station) felt like stepping into a different world. The train to Prague had stopped at Brno along the way and that had looked similar to Bratislava’s train station, and when we got off at Prague we didn’t have to cross the tracks but instead had the standard underground walkway between platforms and the main concourse. The main concourse of Prague’s central station was then like arriving into the middle of a shopping mall in London, New York or Singapore. I was hit by the modernist design and colour from the shops and the interior architecture. This was not what I was expecting.

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Central Europe Adventures 2016 – Part Eight: Bratislava

Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia is an hour from Vienna and an easy day trip from the Austrian capital. Arriving at the main train station in Bratislava is like stepping into a completely different decade or era.

The train station is extremely small and you get between platforms by literally walking across the tracks. When we arrived we managed to accidentally walk around the main station building instead of through it, so we headed back inside to try and find a tourist information booth which was hidden down a long corridor.

Once we had a map of the city we walked the 2km from the train station to the old town. The street we walked down was filled with old trolley buses, trams and run down buildings. All of this was a culture shock. We had literally left the wealth of Vienna less than an hour away and stepped into a country that is clearly still recovering from the impacts the former soviet economic system.

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Photos: Melbourne Formula One 2016

I flew from Sydney to Melbourne on Sunday to attend the 2016 Melbourne F1 Grand Prix, in doing so I literally fulfilled a childhood dream.

After arriving at the circuit as the gates opened, I headed to the “Melbourne Walk” to watch the drivers arriving for the day. This is a great way to get really close to the drivers for photos and their autographs. I then met up with a friend who had also come down from Sydney for the day and we watched the support races from various areas close to the pits.

For the Formula One race itself we headed over to the back of the circuit and sat on one of the embankments with hundreds of other fans. The atmosphere around Albert Park was brilliant and had quiet a different vibe to the V8 Supercar events that I normally attend. The race itself was also excellent, with everyone making a lot of noise when Ferrari beat Mercedes into the first corner and whenever passing happened throughout the pack. I am also extremely relieved that Alonso was completely uninjured in his crash, it’s the worst crash I’ve seen at a motorsport event and how he simply walked away from the wreck shows the quality of the safety designs of the cars. Overall, despite the high cost for the general admission day ticket, the viewing mounds and off-track activities right around the circuit made it a great day out.

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Central Europe Adventures 2016 – Part Seven: Repeatedly getting lost in Vienna

Wondering “where am I?” and “how do I get to my next point of interest” became a recurring theme in the few days I spent in Vienna.

After getting lost trying to find my way back to the Vienna Hauptbahnhof following a day exploring the city surrounds, I met up with my friend who had just arrived from Berlin. Our first task was to get back across the city to check into our hotel. We travelled on the U-Bahn to Schottenring station which has exits on either side of the Donau Canal. Naturally, we exited on the wrong side and were unable to find the exit for the other side of the canal. After ten or so minutes of looking like muppets trying to figure a way across, and after deciding that swimming across wasn’t a great idea, we jumped on a tram that went over a nearby bridge.

We then checked into our hotel and then immediately headed out to do a small amount of exploring and grab dinner.

Dome Fresco in Peterskirche

Dome Fresco in Peterskirche

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Central Europe Adventures 2016 – Part Six: A Long Walk Across Vienna

The second week of my adventures across Central Europe took me to Vienna.

My Monday morning began very early as the friends I was staying with had appointments before their work day even began. This resulted in me being kicked out of their house before 7am and I was on the first train from Munich to Vienna at 7.30am

The four hour trip from Munich across to Vienna went by very quickly, aided by free WIFI on the train which allowed me to catch up on a little bit of emails and talk to friends back in NZ and Australia. I also spent a bit of time watching the scenery go past the train window, including seeing the sun rise over the Alps and glimpsing the huge Stift Melk (Melk Abbey) in the distance as we approached Vienna.

Once I arrived in Vienna I had over four hours to kill while waiting for my travelling companion for the next week to fly in from Berlin. When he heard that I had arrived so early he forbade me from seeing any of the sights in the centre of town. So instead I decided to put my bags into storage and walk from the Vienna Hauptbahnhof through the Belvedere Schlossgarten and Stadtpark to the Donau Canal.

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