Monday, April 30, 2007

Rome: The Eternal City of Waiting (Italy)

They say that it takes a lifetime to see everything in Rome, so we knew that we could barely scratch the surface but we were determined to hit the ground running and see as much as we could. We arrived at our guesthouse in the funky Trastevere district of Rome around lunchtime, and immediately set to work helping the owner (Sylvie) carry some big charis up the thousand stairs to the roof-top terrace. While recovering on the roof-top, Sylive gave us a bird's-eye introduction to Rome, a sight she doesn't normally share with her guests.

We then headed off to the Roman Forum, and then to the Collosseum. After taking in the exterior, we joined the end of the 90 minute queue to get inside. However we were very quickly set upon by someone offering to get us stright inside, and give us a guided tour, followed by a guided tour of the Paletine Hill. Remembering all the stories of con men fleecing tourists, we decided it couldn't possibly happen to us, and handed over the money. It turned out to be an excellent decision, and we discovered that the guided walking tours were a fantastic way to see Rome's major sites in a short period of time.


Despite the claim that all the guides were native English speakers, our guide for the Colosseum was an Italian guy who spoke like a machine gun and didn't quite know when to stop with the stories, but was very entertaining nonetheless. Then we were taken up the Palentine Hill and back to the Roman Forum by "Geoff from Georrrrrrrgia". It was bizarre to learn about Roman architecture from a cross between a modern-day cowboy and Indiana Jones. We had dinner at a restaurant near out guesthouse in Trastevere, which is a great old part of Rome, filled with picture-perfect twisting alleyways, shuttered windows and ivy-covered buildings.


The next morning we got up early to find that on Sunday mornings Rome either goes to church or just sleeps in! We wandered the streets for an hour before we found somewhere open for breakfast and Simon accidentally ordered a jam tart and a chocolate chip biscuit - that's what you get for attempting to order the unknown! Karina went for the safe option of a cheese and ham croissant, and Simon is very pleased that at least espresso is the same in all languages!


We walked over to the allegedly amazing Italian shoe market, to find that it doesn't open on Sundays, so instead we went to the big flea market, which only opens on Sundays. Karina came out with a "genuine" Gucci handbag, that she had bargained down to almost half price - she paid about AU$25! Determined to track down the famous pear and blue cheese pizza that we'd heard about, we combed the streets of Trastevere for the resturant, and then we waited 15mins for a table. When we finally sat down, we were told they didn't have any pizzas (our Italian didn't stretch to finding out why)!

That evening we joined with another walking tour - a twilight visit to some of the sites on the streets of Rome. We visited the church Michaelanglo had his funeral in, the smallest church in Rome (an exact copy of St Peter's Bascillica), the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain, and the best gelati in Rome. We ended the day with dinner at a cool winebar and a fantastic meal including buffalo mozzarella.

We liked our last guide - a young, charasmatic Italian-American guy named Alex - so much that we decided to do his Vatican tour the next morning. Unfortunately, Alex was having a very bad day at work. After arriving late and obviously already a little frazzled by whatever had delayed him, he took us and the group to join the entrance line - normally about an hour long at this time of the morning. We had to walk almost back to St Peter's to find the end of the queue, which was the longest Alex had ever seen it in his 4 years of tours. After four hours of waiting in the rain, dealing with pushy tour groups, dangerous umbrellas and frustrated visitors, we all finally made it inside (just after 1pm).

Somehow Alex managed to maintain his good humour and enthusiasm - despite having to cancel a lunch date with his wife - and gave us a fantastic tour of the Vatican museum, the Sistine Chapel and St Peter's Basicalla.

Since we had a 5:30pm train to catch, and our luggage was still at our guest house, Alex put us in a taxi after the tour finished. We flew across Rome - our plans for the afternoon in tatters - grabbed our bags and collapsed on to the train for Naples, glad to finally be off our feet. Two days will never be enough to see Rome, but if you must try, make sure you don't go near a national holiday!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Rest & Relaxation in Santorini (Greece)

With a much more pleasent taxi (this time at 4am), we left Athens and then flew into the island of Santorini. As this was our first big rest stop, we had decided to go a bit more up-market - we'd booked at a luxury resort and the hotel had even offered to arrange a taxi. We were looking forward to being those glamourous people who are met at the airport by someone holding a sign with their name. So we were a bit dismayed when we couldn't see our name. The lovely hotel manager was so horrified that she had forgotten to book us the taxi that she spent the rest of our stay trying to make it up.

The resort was a set of 11 rooms/apartments just outside the village of Oia, overlooking the caldera and the volcanic islands in the centre. They served us a huge breakfast out on the terrace, which included amazing museli, a selection of meats and cheeses, all sorts of bread, croissants, muffins, honey, jams, fantastic Greek yoghurt (Karina will never again be able to face a low-fat tub of yoplait), a big fruit bowl and a pot of tea and a pot of coffee each. Best of all, it was all just for us, and it came every morning.

We decided that one activity a day, fitted in around pleanty or r&r, was more then enough. The day we arrived, we explored the village of Oia (basically the stereotypical Greek island village - tiny white buildings nestled tightly together with stairs and alleys leading everywhere). On day two, we took a boat ride out to the volcanic islands and jumped off the boat to swim out to some thermal pools (the Medditeranian being as cold as it gets, and the thermal pools being only slightly warmer). The third day was a strenous trip into Oia for relaxation massages (after which Simon was told he was the second most stressed person the masseure had ever met, based on the tension in his shoulders. Karina thinks it's more because of lugging our heavy bags for a month). On our last day, we took a trip to lie on the black sand beach at a place called Kamari, on the other side of the island.

As always, food was extremely important! Dinners included a selection of Meze (like Greek tapas) from an ouzori (traditional Greek pub), some Greek fare at a rooftop taverna in Fira, Santorini's capital, a great meal from a resturant hanging on the edge of a cliff in Oia, and €7.50 milkshakes made with Haagan-Daas ice cream. Of course, we also enjoyed a lot of local wines.

When we weren't exauhsting ourselves doing any of the above, you could usually find us relaxing by the pool, ordering cocktails and eating olives and cheese. If you ever find yourself on Santorini, we strongly suggest you stay at the Ikies Luxury Hotel. We had the smallest and most basic room (the Gardener's House), and they still made us feel like royalty. Santorini is yet another place that we would definitely like to visit again!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Classical Olympia & Delphi (Greece)

To explore Ancient Greece outside of Athens, and to take a break from having to think of everything ourselves, we decided to take a three day tour. We dragged our bags through the streets of Athens to our pick-up point, but after watching all the other waiting tourists get picked up by other buses we discovered that our coach was running on "Greek Time". Forty five minutes later, we finally joined our tour group.

There were some interesting characters in the group. There was Roula, our tour guide, who was an archaeologist, a linguist and a fabulous guide, and Kostas our driver, who manoeuvred the big bus through the narrow streets like it was a Mini Cooper. Then there were the other tourists. The Couple Who Was Always Late, The Lady with Hair the Colour of Vacuum Cleaner Fluff, The Indian Family Who Had to Video Tape Everything (Twice), The Young Honeymooners (dismayed by the twin beds in all the hotel rooms), The Grumpy Old Man with the Weak Bladder, the French Couple, and the French Canadian Couple (who were the only ones they could understand other than Roula). There was the Young American Girl with the Annoying Laugh (travelling alone) and The Australian Cattle Farmer and his Wife (who found themselves unwittingly adopting her for the tour. To name a few!

The first day was fairly long. We saw the Corinth Canal, the Theatre of Epidaurus, the ruins of Mycenae and the Tomb of Agamemnon. At lunch we discovered the joys of tour group meals as we were driven to an out-of-the-way restaurant/cafeteria. After lunch, we were taken to a "gallery of replicas" for "shopping activities" where we got a lecture on why we really had to buy the expensive vases, not the cheap ones. The hotel was "adequate", but thanks to our awesome travel agent we were one of the lucky few who got a free bottle of water. Dinner was also "adequate" and the conversation was a little stunted because we ended up sitting with the French couple.

On Day Two, after being picked up by the bus (20 minutes late, because of The Couple Who Was Always Late), we visited the beautiful site of Olympia, the birth place of the Olympic Games - this was Karina's favourite part of the tour, not least because of all the beautiful purple blossoms. Lunch was at another isolated tour group eatery, where we had very expensive slop masquerading as Greek food. We were even more annoyed to later discover that we'd been only a three minute walk from the the centre of town and dozens of reasonably priced cafes and tavernas. The highlight of the afternoon was crossing the new bridge across the Corinthian Bay, where we were told where to point our cameras for the obligatory photo of the bridge, and then back on the bus and heading for Delphi. Dinner and accommodation was much improved on the previous night and we thought that Delphi was very quaint, if somewhat touristy.

On the last day, after checking out the ruins of Delphi, we wandered around the town some more and had a surprisingly good lunch. While most of the bus was doing a four day tour, we were only doing a three day tour and so had to join another bus (with a much less interesting guide and a very angry driver) for the trip back to Athens. On the way we stopped at what could only be described as Carpet Town, where we could buy all the Greek and Persian rugs we wanted. We even had the great luck of arriving while they were having a sale! Arriving back in Athens, we dragged our bags back to Hotel Tempi for one more night before heading to the Greek Islands.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Ancient Wonders in Athens (Greece)

Our taxi ride from the airport bordered on terrifying with the World's Scariest Taxi Driver, and then ended with us hauling our bags through the streets trying to find our hotel at 11:30pm. But after that first taste, Athens improved greatly!

The next morning we walked to the end of our street and found the Acropolis. The aim was to arrive early and beat the crowds so it's scary to think how busy it would have been if we'd arrived much later. Although we know that the reconstruction and maintenance of the site is important, it made it hard to get the full effect. There was only one angle we could view the Parthenon from and not see heaps of scaffolding. We walked around to see the Theatre of Dionysus and then we walked over to what's left of the Temple of Olympian Zeus.

The afternoon was spent doing necessary domestics - grocery shopping, organising laundry etc. After carting our laundry across central Athens to discover that the laundromat was closed, we (and our dirty laundry) went for Baklava instead. For dinner we ate outside by candlelight at a beautiful Greek taverna with the illuminated Parthenon about 200 metres away. We had flower sellers offering us roses, and an ancient guy with an even ancienter camera offering to take our photo.

The next morning, we managed to get to the laundromat while it was open, and left our laundry with the little old Greek washer woman (along with an exorbitant fee), and then dealt with the Hellenic postal services to send home some stuff to lighten our ever-expanding suitcases. That done, we went to the National Archaeological Museum where Simon (in his element) read every single description of every single thing in the Museum, while Karina sat on every single seat in the Museum to wait for him. In the afternoon we went to see more ancient ruins (part of the city of Ancient Athens and its cemetery) and then looked at the ruins of the Ancient Agora.

Having had our fill of ruined buildings and broken marble statues, we sat in a cafe for while to people watch, before having dinner in another taverna. Since we had to be up early the next morning for our Classical Greece tour, we turned in for an early night.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Dubrovnik - The Jewel of the Adriatic (Croatia)

After our adventurous journey, we awoke the next morning to a view of the sparkling Adriatic Sea, which we enjoyed while eating brekky out on our balcony. Thanks to the help of an equally lost Croatian lady, we found our way to the Old Town of Dubrovnik without too much wandering. After talking to four different tourist offices, we still didn't have a map or any useful information, despite Dubrovnik being one of Croatia's major tourist spots. So we relied on our wits and the ever-faithful Lonely Planet.

Dubrovnik's Old Town is surrounded by solid walls that reach up to 25 metres high. We trekked the 2km around the top of the walls, getting a fantastic view of the city and the ocean. As the guide books all said, it was the high point of our visit. Karina even made friends with two little old Japanese ladies, who kept offering to take our photo.

We took the afternoon easy and finished the day off with a relaxing dinner (eaten where else but on our lovely balcony). Dinner almost didn't happen though, because we'd bought some tins of tuna to make some pasta, but discovered that the apartment didn't come complete with can opener. Simon went downstairs to ask the landlord to borrow one, but it turned out their can opener was broken! So, much to his chagrin, the landlord's son was sent to a neighbour's house to track down what may have been the only functional can opener in the street. So dinner was saved, and we celebrated with a litre of wine, which this time we bought on purpose and had no trouble finishing!

The next morning we discovered that we had no hot water, so after freezing cold showers, we headed off on a boat trip on the oldest boat still sailing on the Adriatic (it used to be a pirate ship). We got a great view of our apartment high up on the sea cliffs as we sailed past, then visited 3 islands - Kolocep, Sipan and Lopud. Despite the beautiful weather, it was still a tad chilly for swimming, and the few sand beaches weren't particularly inviting anyway. But we did eat about 15 fish each (no kidding) for lunch, cooked fresh on the boat. Yum!

Fortunately, we worked out how to turn on the hot water, so our showers on our last morning in Dubrovnik were nice and hot. We took a last walk around the Old Town, visiting the third oldest pharmacy still in use, a couple of monasteries where Karina was grossed out by saintly body parts, and had a massive meat platter for lunch (being a bit sick of fish after yesterday's effort).

After lunch, it was to the airport to brave Croatian Airlines and Olympic Airways, for the journey to Athens.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Briefly in Neum (Bosnia and Herzegovina)

The journey between Zagreb and Dubrovnik on the southern-most tip of Croatia seemed eventful enough for its own post. We'd decided to not spend any time in Split, but we still had to take the train there, so we could pick up the bus to get to Dubrovnik. All up, the trip would take around 11 hours.

After packing up and checking out of the hostel, we headed up to the tram stop to get to the train station. In our entire time in Zagreb, we'd never waited more than 5 minutes for a tram. Except this one - the #4 to the station took more than half an hour to come, but we made it in the end.

Getting our tickets and boarding the train was pretty painless. Or at least it was, until a backpacker sat down in front of us. It became inescapably apparent that he had been feasting on garlic and chilli, and had not washed either himself or his clothes for the last decade. The smell was enough to make your eyes water and your nose bleed - Karina's eyes and Simon's nose. After about 3 hours, we managed to move seats, and could breathe freely again.

The train was running 20 minutes late getting into Split, but we hoped we would have enough time to find the bus to Dubrovnik. Karina had pre-booked us bus tickets before we left Zagreb, but we discovered that the bus company didn't know anything about it. Fortunately there weren't many people on the bus, so there were lots of seats still free.

After nearly missing the bus because we were patiently waiting at a different platform, we were finally on the last leg of the journey and thought we could relax. Until we found ourselves being asked for our passports at a border-crossing! After everything, had we jumped on the wrong bus to Who Knows Which Eastern European Country? But no, as we were surprised to learn, Bosnia and Herzegovina extends to the coast in a small section, cutting off the road to Dubrovnik from the rest of Croatia. So we found ourselves spending half an hour (including a 15 minute toilet break in the town of Neum) in yet another country, and made sure we had a photo to prove it!

The bus finally pulled into Dubrovnik at 9:30pm, and after a brief trip with a smelly and somewhat dodgy taxi driver, we arrived at our beautiful beach apartment. Phew - what a way to spend our 8th anniversary!!!!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

A Day in Zagreb (Croatia)

We arrived in Zagreb after a short train ride from Ljubljana, where we got our first European passport stamps for the trip. We decided to brave the Zagreb tram system, which was really quite efficient (although not so much with two unwieldy suitcases), and found our way to our hostel.

After dropping off said unwieldy suitcases, we had dinner at a nice little restaurant recommended by the trusty Lonely Planet. Simon had a steak stuffed with cheese, Karina had some yummy veal with mushrooms, and we accidentally ordered a litre of wine (which we didn't finish). After dinner we weren't up to much other than rolling into bed, unfortunately for another sleepless night, due to lots of noise, and the fact that we'd both come down with mild colds.

The next day, we did a couple of walking routes through the city. Zagreb is known as the 'City of Museums' so we tried to fit in some of the more interesting ones. Our day in Zagreb fell on a Saturday, so everything was only open between 10am and 1pm. We still managed to fit in a whirlwind tour of the Modern Gallery, the Archaeological Museum and the Zagreb City Museum. We found a nice terraced cafe for lunch, then headed off to the local produce markets, where Karina was in her element buying fresh vegetables to cook up with some pasta for our first home-cooked dinner. In the afternoon, we walked around the city some more, saw a wedding, went up a tower, then had a quiet night in, some Codral, and a much-needed good night's sleep.

The next day we were back on the road. We decided to ditch our night in Split, and head straight for Dubrovnik where we had booked a beach apartment. We weren't quite as taken with Zagreb as we'd been with Ljubljana, but it was definitely an interesting place to visit.

Friday, April 13, 2007

We Love Ljubljana (Slovenia)

The drive to Ljubljana was pretty easy, but dropping off the hire car wasn't. Even after negotiating the one-way streets of Ljubljana to find the Europcar office, it turned out that the office had closed hours earlier, and when Karina rang the Europcar man, he told her to come back tomorrow. Thanks to her amazing skills of negotiation (or maybe just her stubbornness), he agreed to let us leave the car with the hotel that housed the Europcar office.

After the stress of getting rid of our hire car, we went in search of a nice bar for a calming drink. We found ourselves on the bank of the Ljubljanska river with all the hip and happening people of Ljubljana, all enjoying the beautiful afternoon at the many trendy bars. We managed to snaffle one of the high tables right on the river wall, so had a fantastic vantage point to people-watch.

Our two nights in Ljubljana were spent in an old military prison that had been converted into a very colourful youth hostel and art gallery. Our cell had a double bed above the door and two small, barred windows looking out over a sea of graffiti. On our first night we enjoyed an excellent pizza from their cafe, and we both coped with the first shared bathrooms of the trip (although at 3am, we coped less well with the noisy bar next door).

For our first full day in the city, we we walked all over the inner city, looking at all the sites on the tourist map. We saw a pink church, the Triple Bridge, the Cobblers Bridge, the Mother-in-Laws' Bridge (officially know as the Dragon Bridge), Ljubljana Castle, the open markets, and generally soaked up the atmosphere of this fascinating city. Karina also got to finally go shopping!

That evening we went on a river cruise, and then loitered around a wonderful river-side restaurant until a table became free. The next morning we checked out the National History Museum, the Natural History Museum (or 'Bug World' as Karina had been calling it), and the Slovenian Ethnographic Museum, before hopping on our train to Croatia.

We both really loved Slovenia - the people were really friendly, the scenery was amazing and Ljubljana was so cool. Karina wants to move here (although Simon isn't sure what they'd both do) and we would absolutely recommend that anyone visiting that part of Europe spend some time in Slovenia.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Beautiful Bled and Bohinj (Slovenia)

FROM INNSBRUCK TO BLED
Well, the journey to Bled in the Julian Alps region of Slovenia was definitely interesting. After jumping on and off trains at various tiny stations through the south of Austria (sometimes with only minutes to spare), we found ourselves, 6 hours later, at a tiny train station in the mountains, overlooking a beautiful lake. Unfortunately, it was about 4km to the town and our hire car pick up place, and not a taxi in sight. By this time it was about 5:30pm on Easter Sunday. Karina finally convinced the scary station man to call a taxi in return for 1 euro. The taxi finally came and we were very relieved to find ourselves at the Europcar Office in Bled. Until we found out that it was closed and there was no one there. But after a few phone calls, and thanks to a few very friendly Slovenians, we discovered that the lovely man from Europcar had driven to the other station in Bled to pick us up and had been waiting there! So he came back, and we got our car, so it all worked out in the end.

REKA HISA
We drove to our lovely little guest house right on the river, called Reka Hisa (River House), run by an English man and Filipino lady. From our bedroom window we had a beautiful view of the river. Every evening we had a fabulous home-cooked dinner, sitting around the big dining room table with all the other guests (3 other couples, comprising 3 Australians, a French girl, and English guy and a South African girl). The hosts were also amazingly helpful in helping us plan our time in Bled. If you ever find yourself in this part of the world, you can`t go past Reka Hisa for hospitality.

WHAT WE DID AND SAW
The first morning after we arrived, we drove through about a million impossibly narrow streets (or maybe they were actually just footpaths) through lots of little villages, to get to the breathtaking Vintgar Gorge. The Gorge had a beautiful crystal clear river running through it, and we spent an hour walking along the footbridge through the Gorge. We then drove down some even narrower country roads, in to the middle of the Julian Alps. The mountains were just beautiful, still lots of snow around, we saw lots of skiers, and Karina and Simon helped a guy to push his car out of the snow where it had gotten bogged. We spent the afternoon in Bled, which is becoming a fairly boutiquy resort town, and was full of Italian tourists who had popped across the border for the Easter long weekend. We had lunch at a restaurant called Okarina (where Karina thinks she saw Heather Mills), and took a boat trip out to the island in Lake Bled (and passed another boat full of people singing in perfect harmonies) to have a look at the old church (where Simon`s inner child had great fun ringing the church bell).

The next day, we drove to the less touristy Lake Bohinj, and went for a big walk, then had a giant platter for lunch by the lake, with one of the couples we were staying with at Reka Hisa. In the afternoon, after pushing another van out of some gravel that it had gotten bogged in, we braved the (very tame) rapids of the Sovec River and went white water rafting. It was just us and the instructor, so it was a good introduction to rafting, and we hope to do it again some day with a bigger group and bigger rapids! Simon jumped off a bridge 7 metres above the river, and we both went swimming in the water which was FREEZING.

FROM THE MOUNTAINS TO THE SEA
On our last day in Bled, we sadly said goodbye to Reka Hisa, and drove the car on to a train for a journey through the mountains. Out the other side, we drove through the vineyard area of Slovenia on the way to see some caves, but when we got to the caves, we decided to ditch that plan, and headed for the beach instead! So we had seafood for lunch in Piran, got our first glimpse of the Mediterranean, and pondered the fact that we had left snow and the mountains only 3 hours earlier. After an ice cream, we hopped in the car again and drove to Ljubljana (Slovenia`s capital).






Saturday, April 7, 2007

Soaking up the Scenery in Tirol (Austria)

Simon (and TomTom) did a marvellous job of driving us to beautiful Tirol. We arrived at our very quaint farm in the late afternoon, and went for a walk around the fields and down to the lake. Since our German consists of the words for 'thank you', 'exit', 'one-way street', 'station' and 'schnitzel', we had a little trouble communicating with our landlady, but sign-language and lots of nodding and smiling got us through in the end!

We drove down to the village for dinner, along a country lane which seemed to be even narrower than our very narrow European car, and found a great pub where we both had venison stew and lots of vegies - the best meal we've had so far.

Saturday we went for a long walk around the lake near our farmhouse, and then drove to the Swarovski Crystal Works, which was quite interesting. Next time you see Karina wearing a very very sparkly bracelet, you'll know that it's not diamonds!! In the afternoon we drove into Innsbruck, and came upon an Easter Market right in the centre of the Old Town, which is as cute as the Old Town in Salzburg.

Sunday morning, we say goodbye to Austria, and head for the mountains of Slovenia.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Freezing Cold In Salzburg (Austria)

We got off the train in Salzburg to discover that it was a million times colder and gloomier than we'd expected. After Vienna, we were starting to think that the polarfleeces filling our suitcases were just taking up space, but they definitely got a work out in Salzburg!

After checking in to our Youth Hostel, we walked through the old town (which is SO cute) and took the cable car to the Salzburg Fortress. The fortress sits upon a huge mountain next to the city, and so was even colder (but toasty warm inside the keep). For dinner Karina finally got the schnitzel she'd been wanting, and Simon had a bratw├╝rst in a small little resturant, presided over by a very fat and jolly man.

Thursday morning was much warmer and clearer, which unfortunately didn't improve the icky breakfast at the youth hostel at all. We spent some time walking through the fantastic markets near Mirabell Gardens before taking the bus to pick up our hire car. We decided the €8 per day for a GPS navigation system would be like divorce insurance, and it made the white-knuckle drive back to the youth hostel (on the wrong side of the road!) only a pink-knuckled drive.

In the afternoon we wandered through Mozart's birthplace (complete with a blue-haloed plastic baby Mozart), and then across the river back to the beautiful Mirabell Gardens (featured in The Sound of Music). We managed to get the last two tickets for the last Salzach river cruise of the day, and saw many hills that were alive with sounds of music. The boat even did a waltz before it docked.

Our last morning in Salzburg was even warmer and clearer, so we decided to go into some catacombs at (another) St Peters. After we emerged, we drove to Hellbrunn to see the Trick Fountains which spray water at you (Karina got more wet than Simon) and the Hellbrunn Palace.

Then it was in the car again for Simon to practise his new-found skill of driving on the wrong side of the road (and of the car) and we headed for the mountains of Tirol!

For anyone wondering, by the time we left Salzburg, we'd found the hair straightener, the fuse, and didn't need the physio.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Culture & Music in Vienna (Austria)

We arrived in Vienna very late on Sunday night after being awake for 24 hours. We went straight to bed for a good night's sleep (after Simon lugged the suitcases up about 1000 stairs - good practice for the rest of the holiday).

Monday morning we went straight to the Tourist Office and it only took us until lunch time to figure out a plan for our time in Vienna. The afternoon was spent at the Schonbrunn palace and gardens. After lunch in the village market, we went on a tour of the palace which was beautiful. Then we wandered through the gardens, walked up a giant hill to the Gloriette viewing platform, and went through the maze and labyrinth.

The best bit was the apple strudel show in the old bakery (with free samples!) - Simon has optimistically taken it upon himself to make an apple strudel when we get home. That evening we ate at a real (non-touristy) Austrian pub, and then went to a Baroque concert. It was fantastic, but we're ashamed to say we were both so exhausted that we kept nodding off.

Tuesday was spent walking through the historic parts of inner-Vienna (slowly, because Karina has stuffed her knee already!) The Museum of Fine Arts gave Simon an opportunity to teach Karina all about history and art (probably the first of many lessons to come!) The late afternoon was spent on a guided tour of the Vienna State Opera (the Staatsoper). We tried to buy tickets to Swan Lake showing there tonight, but it's literally standing room only (and Karina's poor knee just isn't up to it).

Tomorrow it's off to Salzburg for Mozart, the Sound of Music, and a mission to find a physio, a fuse and a hair straightener.