24 August 2010

More Slackness Covered

Catch up part two.

Our next stop was Rome. Day one (Friday) was the Colosseum, the Forum, Palatine Hill, Augustus' house and Parthenon. The Colosseum was definitely the highlight. The lowlight was the guys selling these magnetic stones that when you flicked them into the air they imitated the sound a cricket makes. They were absolutely everywhere. We also completed our civic duty by heading the the Australian Consulate to vote in the current election. The day was rounded off with the Trevi Fountain and dinner in the trendy part of the city.

On Saturday we headed towards the Vatican. Our plan was to see the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel and then into St. Peter's. Sadly the Vatican didn't like our plans and decided to close the museum and the Sistine Chapel. There was a public holiday apparently. Anyway we headed into St. Peter's. Gotta say the Catholics  really know how to dress a place up. We then headed up to the top of the Basilica for literally the best view of Rome.
The queue when we left the Vatican was huge. It wrapped three quarters of the was around the square and was growing longer. The umbrella salesmen were making a killing because of the rain.

From Rome we headed to Pompeii and then the Amalfi coast. Our time spent at Pompeii took longer that we expected and so we didn't get to Amalfi until after sunset. We decided to stay the night on the side of one of the roads and then spend most of the day on the beach. We got to sleep around ten only to be woken up an hour and a half later by the sound of a large crowd. Our van was surrounded by 50 odd people with cars, scooters and motorbikes lining the coast road. Confused and a little worried we stayed in our van hoping they would all go away so we could get some sleep.

Around midnight it all made sense. A loud boom followed by the crowd going “Aww!” and “Ooh!” signalled the beginning of a fireworks display. We weren't sure what the festival was but it was a spectacular display.
They next morning we forked out the money for some deck chairs and soaked up the sun. The rest and relaxation was needed. I even managed to get a few minutes sleep.

From Amalfi we headed back up the coast to Pisa. Along the way we had our first interaction with Italian law enforcement. Being pulled over we where expecting to be breathalysed or something but no. We were asked by a young Italian girl where we had left from this morning and where we were heading to. I think I can see the letters to the editor if this kind of thing happened in Australia.

Pisa was pretty much everything I expected. Even more so with the small amount of fast moving cloud that made it look like the tower was about to fall over. Watching everybody try to take that photo of either pushing over or holding up the tower was amusing. Trying to do it ourselves was even more so.

So that wraps up Italy. We are now heading around the Mediterranean coast through France and into Spain.

23 August 2010

Covering up the Slackness

Sorry about the slackness of updates but the trip has been pretty full on. I will endeavour to catch up the next time I have internet access.
But this serve as one big blog to catch to where we are.

Dresden

After Berlin we headed to Dresden. We chose to stay in Mouritzburg which is about 20 minutes north. The town was the location for German nobility to come hunting and so they built themselves a small little place to stay. Couldn't tell you how many rooms it had but it had its own chapel which took an entire wing. Can't forget the man made lake that surrounds it either.

In Dresden we took an open bus/hop on hop off tour around the city. But first we had to get there. There was a small misunderstanding at first where we thought we were in Dresden but were two suburbs too short. A quick train trip corrected this.

Dresden was happening place. Shopping, an old part of the city, a new part of the city, a modern part of the city, the Volkswagon factory and the local football team was playing a UK Premier League team that day. We picked up some amazing mustard from a shop on the hill (the new city) and the icecream shop next door had strawberry ice magic which was very nommable.


The next morning involved some shopping as I needed a sleeping bag and another pair of shorts. I was also demonstrating my innate Australian ability of running in thongs up the main drag as I was running late in meeting Brooke for lunch.
Man I love currywurst. Brooke had a fish sandwich and I'm sure you can make your own jokes.
Czech Republic
Before we reached Prague we were detoured through Usti. This was an amazing example of the Soviet Republic setting up an industrial town on a picturesque river that featured a castle over looking the valley.
I am still trying to decide whether I would move to Prague or Berlin at the moment. I think Prague might be winning. Purely because of the time the Soviet Army rolled into town to quash a local uprising. The Czech people got wind of it and in a beautiful act of defiance they removed all the street signs. The tanks that rolled in took an extra day to get to Prague.
I'm recommending the free tour that is run by New Europe tours. We learnt so much. From the medieval time through to WW2 to post Soviet era.
Kutne Hora and the Bone Chapel
We had a couple of small stops on our way out of Czech Republic. The first was Kutne Hora and the Bone Chapel. Kutne Hora is an amazing Gothic town. Filled with old and elaborate churches and other similar era architecture. The Bone Chapel is in the neighbouring town. A long time ago a monk went a bit nuts and decided to categorise all the bones from those buried in the tomb. A few centuries later someone went through and stacked the bones into pyramids, created chandeliers, recreated their family crest and decorated the tomb/chapel with the bones. It is all quite creepy.
The entrance to the camp ground that night at Ceske Budejovice was where the highway walkers looked for prospective clients. Brooke on a mission to get drinks and snacks was scared she would be confused for one.
The next day we continued our journey to Austria with a stop off at Cesky Krumlov. Krumlov is a small town that has a river that winds through and around the town centre. The town has held its medieval look with a large castle overlooking the village. The river is now used for kayaking and canoeing. The crowd watching and cheering on the paddlers as they negotiate the weir and run into the next section of water from the castle was quite enthusiastic. Even more so when there was a tip in.
From all of the border crossings we had done only the Czech to Austria crossing was the most obvious. It immediately felt like we had driven into the set of The Sound of Music. The ruggedness of the Czech landscape was replaced by rolling fields, farm land and cute houses.
In Austria we walked around the top of the Katrin Mountains and checked out the Werfen Ice Cave.
On our way to Slovenia we stopped off at a town called to Gmund. I really regret it now. I stupidly left my camera in the toilet of a petrol station. By the time we returned it was no longer there and no one had handed it in. I was helped by a very nice Police officer who obviously doesn't get to do much in Gmund.
In Slovenia we spent our entire time in Bled. It is an amazing place. The lake is incredibly picturesque during our time there we saw it from every angle. We walked around it, viewed it from the top of a hill, from the castle, rode bikes around it, rowed across it and swam in it. I could easily spend more time there.
Crossing into Italy was an adventure. We drove through the Dolomites. The the passes through the mountains were winding, steep and narrow. We even experienced a hail storm. It literally came from no where. We took shelter in a restaurant that was filled with cyclists and motorcyclists. Once it had passed it looked as if it had snowed.
That night we stayed in a small town called Forni de Sapro. The highlight of the night was dancing the Birdy dance in the street with the other locals listening to the band.
Our next stop was fair Verona. We saw the standard sights. The Roman palace overlooking the city was the highlight. The house where Juliet supposedly lived was a little overrated. Seeing that she is a fictional character and that the balcony was added in the 1930's. Although it was amusing that the most polished parts of the bronzed statue of her were her breasts.

On to Rome next.

So that was part one of the catch up.

11 August 2010

For Some Reason Rats Like Pipes

We packed our van and left Amsterdam and headed for Germany. By headed I mean meandered. It took us little while but we did see some great Holland country side. At about midday we grew sick of the back streets and plotted our course straight for Hameln.

Twelve kilometres short we found a castle atop a small village called Schaumburger. It was a beautiful hilltop fort and it clear how they planned to protect themselves from invaders. The local beer lived up to the view and we continued our drive to Hameln and began looking for a place to stay.

Halfway up the hill overlooking Hameln we found a picnic table and chairs and set up our first free camp site of the trip.

The next day arrived with gloomy weather and it immediately began raining as we arrived at the tourist information centre of Hameln. With map in hand we followed the rats trail around the town. They love rats in this town. They adorned pretty much everything. They even painted white ones of the footpath for tourists to follow.

Another theme that has popped up in the trip has been historical or tourist sights being surrounded by scaffolding or being renovated and Hameln didn't let us down. The church and the adjoining hall were having their footpath renovated.

After a brief stop at another castle (can't remember the name) we tried to leave the area. And I mean tried. Using both the Navman and the maps we went up roads, down roads, through towns, across valleys and continually turned around by road works without a single sign that told us how to get around the closed road.

So it was around 8:30pm we arrived at Fangschleuse to the camp ground we will be using for the next couple of nights. After negotiating with the manager (she in German and us in English) we had a camp site and promptly went to bed.
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