Sunday, 29 May 2011

Top of the World

Seven years ago Kiri and I (this is Keith) went up the Schilthorn in Lauterbrunnen in Switzerland.  I was so excited by the view that I rang Kathy at home to tell her all about it.  Today I would have done the same except that Kathy was standing beside me (as were Meryl and Glenn).  We saw the equal of the truly amazing view that the Schilthorn offers over the Swiss and French Alps but this is the Austrian Salzkammergut.  We had a 360 degree view over the jagged peaks covered in snow above the beautiful lake of Hallstattersee.  It was perfect.

It even inspired Meryl to start making biblical quotes about all things being for good.  You see the previous couple of days have been the worst weather we have had on our trip.  We are on our bike tour around the Austrian Lakes so pouring rain was not really what we were after.  We lost a days riding and went for a pleasant lake cruise.  The next day we trained (that is caught a train) down from Altmunster to Bad Goisern full of trepidation at what the weather might do.  We did do a bit of riding but it was cold and damp so mostly trained and ferried.   The ‘all things for good’ reference was because we – being so damp and cold – went into the first place we could find that served food.  As it turned out we had landed in the middle of a wedding complete with Umpapah (Austrian brass) band and the FOOD – my goodness.  It was fantastic and massive – see pictures.  And the waitress was a honey!  And all that cloud caused lots of snow.  We were told today that before yesterday there had been no snow up the top of the mountains but as you can see from the pictures there was plenty for us today.

Hallstatt is a tiny place trapped by the lake but it has played a surprisingly significant role in the world of trade and is the home of the world’s oldest salt mine.  We went for a very interesting tour of the mine and learned much about the very hard lives led by the miners.  It’s also a very cute little village.  Then we went up the Dachstein Mountain Range.  We first inspected an ice cave (eishohle in Austrian) which is full of ice (funnily enough) in delightful formations and really lovely.  Then we went up to the top.  And I mean top.  You can see everything for miles and it is gorgeous.  There are few sights in my view which can match a panorama of snow covered peaks stretching for miles.  And this sight certainly qualified as panorama of snow covered peaks.  Today has been the best day of the holiday so far for me.
Pork fillet cooked in the pan, to die for!


View from Hallstatt looking across the lake

View from the Hallstatt Salt Mines

Having lunch, not a bad view!!

Ice cave

View from the top, spectacular!!

Riding home to Bad Goisern along the lake

Friday, 27 May 2011

Cycling in the Austrian Lakes - Wunderbar!

Over a year ago I saw this cycling tour in Austria and said to the others that 'I'd love to do this, what did they think?' They all thought it looked great and now we are doing it. We arrived in Unterach on Monday and stayed there until today. We did 3 days cycling from Unterach but haven't been able to show you how lovely it was until today as no internet there.

Day 1. We hopped on the schifffahrt (ferry - it really is spelt with triple f) just outside our hotel with our bikes. The weather was perfect - warm without a breath of wind and the water was crystal clear . We sat outside and marvelled at the beautiful lake, Austrian scenes and mountains. We alighted at Weyregg and did a small ride up into the valley seeing typical, perfectly kept Austrian houses and countryside. Then we rode back around Lake Attersee stopping frequently to enjoy the scenery, take photos and have lunch. Attersee is the biggest lake in Austria.

View from our dinner table at sunset

Day 2. The hotel organised for us and our bikes to be taken to St Gilgen (this was to save us having to ride up a large hill) on Wolfgangsee (another nearby lake). We then rode around this lake and through some lovely glades of trees. At one point we had to walk our bikes around a hiking trail that rose high above the lake giving us superb views. Three quarters of the way round we left our bikes and went on the cog railway to the highest peak of the area which gave us a 360 degree panorama of the lakes district. We retrieved our bikes and continued on until the end point of the road where we had to catch a ferry back. We had 3/4 hour to wait before the ferry and found a lovely afternoon tea place nearby where Glenn managed to get his first real Austrian apple strudel. He was delighted with it! We then squashed on to the ferry and then rode home back down the long steep hill we were driven up in the morning.


Day 3 - My favourite day so far! We set off from the hotel and rode to Mondsee. We rode around the edge marvelling at the clear, turquoise water and checking out the people enjoying their private sections of lake edge. Most of the lake frontages are privately owned but only narrow mostly not with dwellings but tables and chairs and a grassed area. We rode through Mondsee township and continued on to Irrsee. We accidentally took a wrong road and ended up on a very steep climb up through farms with lovely views. We eventually got to the lake and had a delightful swim. This lake was warmer 21 degrees and the day hit a top of 31 degrees. After this we continued round this lake and back round the other side of Mondsee back to Unterach.


Our lovely waiter Georg

Sunday, 22 May 2011

On top of Austria

Your infrequent correspondent is back.

Left lovely Venice and our great apartment where we ate lovely home cooked food. The local cafe served coffees and cake for euro 2.40!! Lucky we have moved on or our stomachs would be expanding (more).

We then went to the Glossglockner road in Austria which I had been wanting to see. I had expected the road and view from it to be good but it was more than a nice road. We were so close to the mountain and the glacier was so close we felt we could touch it. The mountain claims to be at the TOP of Austria and we certainly felt on a high.

The winding road was also visually interesting and we came down 1,000 metres in 15 mins with both ear and eye popping scenery.  The weather collapsed with pouring rain as we got down from the windy road.
We are staying at the Hotel St Georg (Georg - Captain Von Trapp ) in Zell Am See (on a pretty lake), A swim in a warm pool (28c) and sauna felt very hot (50c).

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Austrian Itinerary

Zell Am See   22nd - 23rd May

Bike Ride
Unterach       23rd -27th May
Altmunster    27th - 28th May

Bad Goisern 28th - 30th May

Salzburg       30th May - 1st June
Alpbach         2nd - 5th June
Innsbruck     5th - 6th June

Venice - a Trip into Water World

What can you say about Venice that hasn't been said before! So unique, just watching the boat traffic jam down a canal is something I don't think you will see anywhere else. What did we do you all ask? We wandered down many lanes and canals, took a short gondola ride and a long boat ride. We saw 'The Doges Palace', went up the tower to see Venice from above, found out more about Venice's history, looked at lots of glass and lace (on Murano and Burano) and soaked up the amazing atmosphere that Venice has, specially the lights of the evenings.

A Canal near our apartment
The Grand Canal

At dusk

The Grand Canal at night

Rialto Bridge




Friday, 20 May 2011

Sirmione and Verona

Your occasional correspondent makes a brief return.

We arrived at Sirmione using our GPS (Juliet) but could not find our Hotel Catullo. We were just outside a castle gate so Meryl wandered over and asked the polizia guarding the entrance where was Hotel Catullo! Yes you guessed correctly it was inside the castle gate. As we drove over the draw bridge and scattered the lower caste aside we felt rather regal.

I ate my biggest and most expensive (Euro 6.5) gelato (icecream) ever and have decided no gelato for a week.

Later we went for a walk to the end of the isthmus and walked through the 2,000 year old ruins of a big wig roman dude.  Our room had a wonderful 180 degree view of the lake and the hotel had a candle light dinner with pleasant singing, very good food and a lovely ambience.  K and K slummed it on the first floor!

Roman Ruins

Next day we were off to Venice via Verona.

We went to the verandah of Juliet (of Romeo and J..) and watched people rubbing the right breast of the statue of Juliet to bring good fortune in love - kitch but amusing.

Juliet's Balcony

A month on the road

I should add a little to the report on the Cinque Terre. Beautiful as it was it also afforded us some people viewing that we had not expected. Several people just stripped off in order to get into or out of their swimming gear. Europeans are less modest than Australians!!

So now that we have been going for a month it is perhaps time to review. We started with a few lovely days in Paris where the extraordinary weather we have had for the whole time (except for half a day) started. We saw all the main tourist sites and some wonderful museums. The eating of pastries commenced and is yet to cease. Then off to Normandy starting with the beautiful gardens of Monet in Giverny then onto the stunning coastline of Etretat. Some nice days in the lovely countryside seeing some quaint villages followed by visits to the very moving war cemetries filled with those killed in the D Day landings. A somewhat dissappointing visit to Mont St Michel (choc-a block with tourists) was followed by some more beautiful villages especially Dinard.

Onto Tours and the Loire Valley. Here we saw the lavish lifestyle lived by the weathy French of history. Keith was cured of his chest infection and all was looking good. Across the country we went (toll cost Euro38!) to the mustard mecca of Dijon where we enjoyed the guided owl walk and the people notably the very helpful Sofie.  After the ridiculously beautiful Annecy we then turned south to the iconic Tour de France mountain climb at Alpe d'Huez.

A week of recuperation followed in a delightful little cottage in Buis, Provence. We saw some cute villages perched on the side of hills, some dramatic gorges, a 2000 year old Roman aqueduct and lots of windy roads. We went up another Tour de France icon - Mont Ventoux a stark and barren place. After a brief stop in the very upmarket Monaco we left France for Italy.

It is odd for an Australian to just drive through a tunnel and find all the road signs are in another language. But we were not phased until we had to cope with the nutty way Italians sell food. But we made it. On the ridiculously gorgeous Cinque Terre where (along with the afore mentioned undressing) we saw some spectacular views and did some serious climbing. After a brief sojourn in the village of Sirmione we came to Venice which we are currently enjoying along with the 50,000 other tourists who come here each day.

I want to give you an insight into the process of the creation of this blog. Each day (after a long day of sightseeing and driving/walking and a leisurely dinner) we - well mainly Kathy and Meryl - sit down to download all the days photos. This is 3 cameras worth. All photos are then reviewed and discussed. Early on Glenn and Keith participated in this activity but we don't have the commitment or staying power of K and M, so we have gradually abrogated responsiblity to the women. They (the women) will after considerable discussion, chose the right photos give them captions, upload them and then write the blog. I (Keith) have found this process somewhat tiring as my sleeping habits are a bit different to my sisters but the computer is generally in my room. The process will often finish well after 11 at night. I hope you are enjoying it all given the work put into creating it.

All comments are eagerly received and enjoyed. Please keep them coming. I like to know that my sleep deprivation is giving pleasure to some.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Cinque Terre - Perfect one day, Beautiful the next!

We are in Sirmione and back online! However we need to update you with our experiences in the wonderful Cinque Terre.
Five villages joined together with paths established hundreds of years ago now a tourist mecca for the brave and adventurous. We began driving down a one lane cliff hanging road, well done Glenn! and then settled into our authentic charming room and cosy studio after being welcomed by Giacomo.
Day 1 We set off on the walk from Vernazza to Monterossa with many Americans, Australians and Europeans, we were surprised we didn't hear any English accents. Again we found ourselves on a one lane path squeezing past many people coming the other way. Views along the way were stunning and well worth every step we had to climb. After that we caught the ferry along the coast to the village at the other end called Riomaggiore and walked lovers lane (too easy). Finally we trained home.
Day 2  Another beautiful sunny day and we trained to Corniglia, walked up 386 steps and then hiked back to Vernazza. So many opportunities for glorious views of villages perched on cliffs and beautiful headlands that it was hard to stop taking pictures, even Glenn wanted to have a shot! The afternoon was spent eating icecreams, lazing in the sun, talking to other travellers and Meryl and Kathy even had a swim in the Mediterranean cold but lovely, those boys are wimps! WE LOVED CINQUE TERRE!!!!!

What a glorious coastline!




Corniglia and beyond


Friday, 13 May 2011

Italian Itinerary

Vernazza 15th -18th May
Sermione 18th -19th May
Venice      19th - 22nd May

Beautiful Buis

Today we started lazily with our sugar laden muesli (I am laughing about this - you probably won't! The muesli is very different but nice - I mentioned this, this morning and separately both Glenn and Kathy told me 'Yes, but it has a lot of sugar'.) Sorry must get back to something interesting so you will read on.

Buis market was on this morning so we strolled out our front door, down the lane and there it was - and continued on to several streets. There was fruit, vegetables, olives, meat, hot chickens, samosas, paella, fish, cheese, handbags, shoes, lavender, mattresses, jewellery in about 50 stalls. I know many who would have spent many happy hours there. We mainly bought food. We came home and were very French having a big lunch. We set up the table on our little lane. Several people came past and wished us bon appetite!

Kathy, Keith and I went for a lovely walk up the hill this afternoon while Glenn wrote emails to his family and checked the sharemarket. (He did not check the Raider's scores!) It was very hot. Very different to Canberra we hear.

View across Buis to the Baronnies that surround it.
View of Buis with olive grove in the foreground

View of Buis. In the middle of town there are two thin trees.
Our cottage is just to the left of them.

View of the next valley up the hill from Buis.
This was our first introduction to Provence.

In Buis 16th Century building just around the corner
from where we are staying.

In the Buis markets. I would have loved to buy one of these
casserole dishes if it I didn't have to get it back home.

Having lunch in the laneway just outside our front door.
We bought all the food at the markets.
All the passers by said 'Bon Apetite'.

In the centre of Buis. Can you see Glenn, Kathy and Keith?

In a village nearby. This church is built
on top of a huge high rock.
Amazing where they have built some things.