Monday, 21 July 2008


There's been a bit of water under the bridge since the last post. We've moved on from waterbound Venice by train. We spent a wonderful few days in Vienna. What a civilised place that is. It's like a perpetual lazy Sunday. The transport system is great and there aren't too many cars on the road. Interestingly the buildings aren't very high. St.Stephan's church towers over the surrounds. It must've seemed an awesome structure to the locals all those years ago.

I was just about churched out by the time I saw it, but St.Stephans still managed to leave a huge impression with it's magnificent gothic interior. What a sensational piece of architecture. We took the mandatory visit to the top of the building. I can't remember ever being so terrified! We got out of the elevator to find ourselves on scaffolding which you could look right through to the ground so far below! I walked around gingerly for a bit and then headed back to the elevator only to find myself in a queue stuck on the scaffoling waiting. I had visions of the scaffolding collapsing and me clinging to the side of the building. I decided right away that I wouldn't be brave and try to cling on for life, I'd just accept my fate as I let go. Well, the scaffolding didn't collapse and I didn't need to make such momentous decisions. The elevator eventually came bringing me down to safety; my heart still pounding.

We then ventured into the catacombs below the church to see the macabre sight of thousands of skeletons of plague victims who'd been tossed down a hole, from the street above, into the catacombs back in the 1600s. Apparently way back when ... the stench got so bad, that they couldn't hold church services anymore, so they had to seal the catacombs for years!

After Vienna, where they can't make a decent martini - but that's another story, we jumped on a train to Budapest where we were ensconced in an apartment on the Pest side of the river where the Blue Danube certainly isn't blue!

From Budapest we moved onto Berlin which we loved and then on to Hamburg which we didn't exactly fall in love with, but where we entertained ourselves by searching out all the Beatles' haunts.

We checked out the Bambi Kino where they lived and several clubs where they played including the Kaiser Keller and the Indra. From there we drove down to Nienburg where my family hails from. It was interesting to see the area, the house my family lived in and all the old streets and haunts they talked about over the years. It's a lovely town on the River Weser. Then it was on to Bremen and a train to Norway. Norway. It's lovely and Bergen IS the most beautiful city on the planet.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

rocket man

The sound system was excellent. The lighting was very pleasant at times. They were the high points of the Elton John concert we saw in San Marco in Venice last night. Even though it was a solo performance it consisted of thumping piano and shouting voice most of the night. There were some pleasant sounding interludes, but they were few and far between. My expectations weren't all that high, but even so, they weren't met.

Venice is an interesting enough place to spend a few days with it's narrow streets, market squares and complete absence of traffic.

Our travels have taken us through a few places of note starting in Paris, moving on to Provence which was just gorgeous, then onto the Riviera (sensational), Tuscany in Italy (beautiful) and Switzerland which was just picture post card perfect. Then on to South Germany / Bavaria which I didn't enjoy much at all. We stayed in an old walled city on the Rhine. The accommodation, restaurants, shops and hotels were all stuffy inside despite the lovely weather outside. There were doilies, rugs, mats, seat cushions, curtains and worst of all plastic flowers everywhere. Internet access was just about non-existent. It really wasn't my cup of tea. The funny side of it was falling into the Rhine - well done me!

Well I've done a bit of griping ... so what are the highpoints of the trip so far? It has to be the fun of learning the signage and some basic transactional language in each country, as well as the scenery a lot of the time. Then there's the people you meet, whose company you enjoy briefly before parting never to see them again.

Lourmarin in Provence - a lovely spot to spend a week

The view from our hotel in Villefranche on the Riviera

Interlaken in Switzerland is beautiful from any angle

Despite my griping about Bavaria, the Rhine cruise is wonderful

I was surprised to find that I really enjoyed the Night Watchman tour in Rothenburg (another plus for Bavaria!)

Venice reminds me of the 1995 Kevin Costner movie, 'WaterWorld.' It was always a bizzare place to build a city!