Archive for October, 2014

Day 28 – Drawn to the Wall (™CLP)

Posted: October 17, 2014 in Travel

Occasionally CLP has a good idea. The title for today’s blog is one such instance. The other one was about 12 years ago .

Ouch. Damn there is that slap on the face again.

It wasn’t raining but we were not being blinded anytime soon by sunlight so time for some more Kulture of the outdoor type. First up some street art/ murals on sides of building and then onto the East Side Gallery on the remnants of the wall. Both were very impressive . Both have been somewhat ruined by Graffiti hoons. The East Side gallery does stretch for some way but is in a rather rough area of town so once seen not a lot else to do there. Well worth seeing though.

Then it was time for a walk through the Tiergarten to see the ” Chick on a Stick” which is at opposite end of Brandenburg Gate. It is actually called Siegessaule but that just sounds rude to me. It was still a dull day but it was an impressive enough site. Home then for a bit of R&R before heading out tonight to visit the Riechstag Dome and hang around for the lights on the Brandenburg Gate. May have a beer somewhere but can’t confirm at this stage . Did find a nice coffee though at West Berlin Cafe

Update : Beer consumed

So we headed out for our walk and a light dinner before our visit to the dome at Riechstag . By light, I mean we sat under a light while devouring a heaped plate of meat and potatoes and beer. I think now we were in the swing of German tucker – a bit bland but plenty of it and only slightly warmer than the beer.
By now it was dark and the Light festival was starting on Brandenburg Gate. Once again very impressive and massive crowds- pictures not as good as not the solid background. Onto the Dome and once I dodged the cow sliced in two we went on up to the top. Very impressive building indeed with heavy security.

Then it was time to walk the streets once more to home. It really is in a perfect position. The trade off for tomorrow is I will go to a castle or a river cruise but not both. The castle is looking good at present as really seen all the sights one would see in Berlin from the river. Except of course the actual river bank I guess.

And I would like to leave some time on our last full day to finally have a beer in Berlin.

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Mother Nature is a smart ass bitch. This we know. When I went off early yesterday saying that the weather Gods invariably smiled upon us while travelling she got the hump. Suddenly all weather forecasters became Einstein and predicted with scary accuracy. Drizzle and showers actually meant ” drizzle and showers “. This meant a Museum Morning which for me equates to Root Canal while Naked on a Spiked Chair. Watching The Voice.

Let’s kick off with the Checkpoint Charlie Museum. Interesting stuff mainly detailing all of the escape attempts, both successful and less so. Maybe not worth 32 rooms of said escapes though. At least I did not get sucked into buying an authentic piece of wall. Some probably did………. Actually the commercialisation of CC is a bit sad to me. For 2 Euro you can have your picture taken with two ” American Soldiers” . And in the rain, they carry umbrellas and flags. Win Win. We did have a very passable coffee though in Einstein cafe right on the corner there though and did some people watching. The connection to Einstein escapes me at present although in theory it was a relatively enjoyable place. See what I did there ? Also laughed a bit at the Segway and bike tours in ponchos to be fair.

Then it was onto the Topographie des Terrors. Walking around another interminable display of apologetic storyboards certainly fitted the bill for moi. It’s all interesting stuff but I was expecting some chains and ropes and maybe a sharp ice pick or something. Not something I could read about at home on the Internet while quietly sipping a Chateau de Chatterly. Of course seeing photos of Himmler you see why Donald Pleasance was chosen to play him in film. Then it was back home to check the weather app. Walking through rain maybe should have clued us in.

It was good resting weather so I did while CLP walked down to the Dali Museum. Two museums in one day was already 3 over my limit. Then by mid afternoon the rain had at least stopped and although still leaden skies we headed out for a walk. And we walked and walked. Saw the Bunker, Jewish Memorial, the amusingly bent Homosexual memorial, Brandenburg, Riechstag yada yada yada. Not good photo taking weather but when has that ever stopped me? On way home had a nice dinner of Pork and Cabbage. I may regret that later. CLP certainly will. The lights were starting again but still not quite dark enough so only took 23 photos.

Hoping for a better weather day tomorrow to see some murals and maybe do a river cruise. If it stays like this I may just need a jumper. Of course will take it off when entering any eating establishment as already the thermonuclear heating devices are in full swing

Bloody Germans.

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Day 26 – Danke Dresden

Posted: October 16, 2014 in Travel

For Sale One slightly used Weather App. Incompatible for any OS > 1. Apparently. Correct every 23rd day. Will trade for poke in the eye.

You know in Aussie land when you want it to rain and the forecast gives you that faint hope and then steals it away at the last minute. Exact opposite here. Noah is hammering away all night because it is going to RAIN tomorrow( not just showers or drizzle) . Because the moon, if you could see it, is still out at 10 am over here you tend to dress according to forecast not gut feel. To be fair my gut has some added insulation now anyway. So dressed like NotN we set off on our day trip to Dresden with the great unwashed. Lining up for these tours we always pass the time by picking out which couple is going to be the biggest pain in the ass on tour. A stern looking Frau was an early contender but completely blown out of the water by the old couple of Yanks once we actually tried to board bus after waiting ten minutes for two late arrivals – yes you win the prize. Now lets call them Billy Bob and Bitchface. Coupon clearly stated convert to ticket at meeting point. They didn’t. So we board the bus handing over our tickets. Now already GU (great unwashed) tend to rush the bus as if there are only 33 seats for the 40 passengers. BBB were in front of us and handed over coupon where upon asked to step aside to get ticket – ” we have been waiting for you to turn up and held everyone up” ” No no, we are getting on the bus” and simply keep moving forward head down.

So it is 180 k to Dresden and so we are somewhat interested but mainly bored by the history lesson given to us on the way. Thank me there was a toilet break after 100 k. Now for some reason there was a largish Hebrew contingent on tour who had their own guide so everything was spoken twice ! Every time he spoke I though someone was choking on their pretzel or about to spit in my general direction. Anyhoo, fascinated followers hanging on edge of seat- yes the clouds were dark and it looked gloomy indeed.

Until we got to Dresden and it cleared. Now I have to say in general we are very lucky weather wise on holidays. We often turn up at destination to light rain but by time we want to go out – you know after CLP has unpacked my bag and hung my clothes – it clears up. Dresden was no different despite its own specific dreary forecast

And lucky for us as it is a beautiful city indeed. Of course before getting off bus we were told we would split into two groups . One with the FEMALE English speaking guide and one with the MALE phlegm thrower. Pretty simple eh. So 10 minutes into the first building with spiel fuck me if BBB don’t wander over with phlegm boy saying these two should be with you. Groans all round. Let’s start spiel again

Anyway they could not spoil the day. About a 90 minute walk around with guide of the main attractions and then 3 hrs to ourselves. Heaven on a stick. The bombing of Dresden appears to be a dark day for Allies basically being tit for tat for bombing a beautiful English city – Canterbury or Coventry? Not sure, tend to wander off when guides start speaking

So having taken all requisite shots we settled in for a couple of Schnitzels and cold beers before wandering the streets at leisure. We saw a restaurant called Ayers Rock which we had to check out – especially the 5 Euro Lemingtons!
The bus was going to leave at 4:30 pm. Yeah right. BBB were last to arrive but we did actually leave only about 5 mins late.

Luckily the last organised tour of our trips , and maybe lives.

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Day 25.2 – A Festivus Miracle

Posted: October 15, 2014 in Travel

Last night was such a goodun it deserved its own post. We had booked dinner in the TV tower on what turned out to be a lovely night. The view was superb and the meal certainly satisfactory, not stunning. Plenty of wine though. From there we had planned to pass one or two buildings that were lit up for Festival of Lights. Instead we walked to about 6, so stunning was the spectacle. Pictures cannot do them justice but let’s give it a go anyway

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Day 25 – Segways Rock

Posted: October 14, 2014 in Travel

Our apartment was fine for our needs and located in a great area near Checkpoint Charlie. After a big day it was good to get some sleep but have to say the traffic noise may be a problem when not so tired, even though on 7 th floor. It is I. A busy part of town with a lot of night life I suggest.

A nice light breakfast set us up for the 30 min walk to the Television Tower for our 4 hr Segway Tour. And the skies were grey and a tad leaden. Forecasts were not promising. This is our 3rd Segway tour together and we simply love them as a way to see the highlights quickly and then return to selected sites for longer visit . Berlin is a flat city so great for Segway with plenty of bicycle lanes. Ok, you assholes on bikes here is another clip around the ear for you- get off the bloody footpath and use the designated lanes ya clowns. A couple of nervous moments crossing busy roads mind you but we all made it.

Anyhoo our guide Walid from City Segway was great. He was an openly gay man from Bangladesh and had a quick wit and encyclopaedic knowledge on Berlin history. We had a group of about 9 in all which was about the max you would want. We saw many highlights over the tour and will return to most. The most impressive aspect though is what we learnt about this rather fascinating city and country. There is always renovating or building going on so a lot of scaffolding around. Walid’s favourite joke usually was this building was built in 1839 and again in 2006. Obviously there was also a lot of damage during WW2.

The weather remained ok during our tour and dare I say may have even become almost passable temperature wise. We had our first , and likely last, Currywurst for lunch which was fine especially washed down with a cold beer. Tonight we have a prebooked dinner atop the TV tower so hopefully any rain stays away.

All in all an excellent first day in Berlin which left us with several places to explore further in coming days. But first a day trip to Dresden tomorrow.

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After another lovely meal last night at Da Gustino it was time to leave our Italian paradise and place our lives in the hands of trains and planes again. But first the drive to Pesaro station where our train left right on time for the 3.5 hr trip to Milan. We bid farewell to our wonderful hosts vowing to return again. For some reason Suzanne immediately ran out into the traffic screaming. By arrival in Milan it was piddling down and considered a taxi to Linate Airport but when told quote of 60 Euro ventured out into the rain bumping a few umbrella selling Indians out of the way in search of the shuttle bus – for 5 Euro each! Once safely on board it was a relatively short trip to airport and then the check in process started. We were flying to Berlin on two legs sadly and first had to get to Frankfurt on German Wings – the Lufthansa version of Jetstar I guess only smaller. We were early yes but the one girl at the counter was a little on the slow side and then informed us to come back later – with big bags in tow – as she could not check us through to Berlin yet. So a quick bite to eat at a rather inefficient ” My Chef” which seems to set the standard for this airport. There appears to be a massive number of high end stores in the airport but the actual flying caper seems very low key and minimal. We got our bags checked in finally then had to work out how to get to the gates! Once worked out the system in place – a very loose term in Italy – it was easy enough . Then came the 90 minute wait to board. There was also a layover in Frankfurt so not hitting Tegel Airport until 7 pm – if all went to plan!

The first leg was fine and maybe we were seeing the first signs of German efficiency kicking in. Although there were buses out to our plane and again on arrival it all went well. The plane was small, as in narrow, but comfortable and we even got a cuppa and cake in our 55 minute flight. Frankfurt is of course a very large airport but as we were on a connecting flight no need to go through security again so arrived in plenty of time for next flight. Then the next pleasant suprise of the day – free fast wifi!

Our flight to Berlin left about 20 minutes late . Weather looks a bit dodgy next few days , hope ok tomorrow for our Segway !

Day 23 – Sniffing out a Good Time

Posted: October 12, 2014 in Travel

The Autumn from hell continued unabated with clear skies and warm days. October in Europe? Bring your warm gear! My one pair of shorts were looking a bit threadbare. And obviously shrinking as they were getting tighter each week.

GHs x 2 were always interested in new adventures to suggest to guests – you know, the paying kind. As such we were invited along on a truffle hunt today in the nearby village of Fratte Rosa. I was a bit concerned I was expected to dress up as the dog which would have been difficult in this weather although at least had been neutered many years ago. Luckily though dog and English speaking guide were included in the price. We met our very pleasant guides – Luigi and his son Michele – and set off for the nearby forest with one dog champing at the bit. Now the two men were dressed in camouflage fatigues and Luigi had a rather nasty looking digging/slashing device. As he was the non English speaking guide there was a concern that Wolf Creek 3 may unfold here.

Once in the forest though their attire became understandable and wish I had not gone for the fishnet stocking look. Rover scampered off as dogs do and was sniffing with gay abandon. No , not other dogs’ backsides but rather the ground everywhere. Pretty soon he had found something and then Luigi pounced as can’t let the dogs actually get the truffles. He was suitably rewarded for having found his first one of the day – a small white truffle. For the next hour or so we trekked through the forest as Rover uncovered at least another dozen including some rather large black ones. All the time Michele was filling us in on the methods used and history – all interesting stuff. At the end of our short hunt apparently we had 72 grams worth and they sell for about 700 Euro per kg. (I rinsed my socks when we got home and made $12.50).Then it was back to their house for a sampling of a variety of local traditions , some using truffles obviously. And a couple of bottles of wine….

This was the highlight for me as we were warmly welcomed into their family home and sat at the kitchen table eating and drinking and nodding a lot at the Italian being spoken. Luigi was just one of those likeable easy going bear type of a man with a warm smile. The sons , just past teenage years, were obviously respectful of adults and it gave us an insight into the strong family structure in Italy. Michele had a pierced eyebrow – that his mother had done. He had also been out to the disco the night before until 3 am but still did his job perfectly well. We purchased some rather delicious tapenade for later consumption and then back to our home on the hill for some R&R and some light eats before dinner tonight at a nearby restaurant . Check out the website
for Luigi and his crew

Ciannitartufi

Like our stay in Spain with friends it had been a simply wonderful experience to live like a local for a couple of days and experience traditional food and life rather than more tourist haunts. Then come home to luxurious and peaceful surroundings. A man could get used to this. My waistline on the other hand….

Tomorrow it is a car trip, a train trip and two flights over 12 hrs which will hopefully see us in Berlin around 8pm

Day 22 – Down to the Sea

Posted: October 12, 2014 in Travel

CLP was happy. Had been able to do two washes and now cook a hot breakfast . If there had been an ironing board handy she would have been in seventh heaven.

Ouch, someone just slapped me in the face!

Ok , now I was awake it was time to head out for the day where we were going to follow the Adriatic Sea for a while along the Coast stopping for lunch as we go. Luckily we had a car or may not be back to write this

First we stopped at Flashnhome where we had a walk around the town for 10 minutes. Two circuits actually but a lovely little village. We stopped for a very nice coffee too. GH1 ordered, GH2 paid, I drank. It was white, then it was brown, then it was down. Then it was off along the cliff tops to Gibas for lunch

Ok this was officially a stunning place and could well be World Heritage listed next week. We parked our moped between the Ferrari and the Porche and wandered to our table Under the Tuscan Sun – if we had actually been in Tuscanny that is. The view was superb and the food sublime. Photos do not do justice let me tell you – especially with a new camera we were still learning about. A leisurely couple of hours were spent discussing peace in the Middle East and other weighty topics before it was time to head north again. I almost embarrassed myself – again- first though. Roberto bought out a small dish at the end with what looked like 4 pepper mints on it. I thought well it is almost ” wafer thin” why not. About to reach over and grab one when he started trickling water over them. Ok, after dinner entertainment I guess. But, lo and behold, they began to rise like a Phoenix and become the 4 Towers. They were actually warm hand/face wipes like you get on planes! Ya really owe it yourself to travel folks.

Some more beautiful spots to stop along the way as we continued to follow the Coast North. I know I could never live here because I would kill a cyclist a week at least. They are simply and largely arrogant pricks. Along a narrow road going downhill they will ride 4 abreast with no intention of forming a single file! Occasionally there may be a young lady in Lycra you feel the need to stop and help get her leg over but generally they are oafish ignorant clowns that think they have a god given right to ride wherever they want. Whereas clearly I have that duh.

Finally it was home and as there had been the requisite break while driving it must have been drinkies time again. Some bubbles and then some more red from the vat Earle must have hidden somewhere and it was time to crawl up the stairs to bed. Tonight I say we swap floors if this drinking nonsense keeps going:)

Today we go Truffle Hunting apparently with an elephant or some animal leading the way I believe. Should be interesting.

There could be wine tasting involved afterwards….

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Another impressive breakfast buffet greeted us on a leisurely morning awaiting our 10 am train to Fano. I do love saying Fano! But first we had to walk amongst the teeming masses dragging our increasing luggage over cobbled streets. We now know Bologna to be a University town which explains the aimless wandering of many younguns – always in the opposite direction we were going! There was a protest march down the main street we were walking to station but judging by the ratio of heavily armed cop to scruffy youth this one would not get out of hand. Our train board displayed Platform 11 in plenty of time. Yay. Up and down two flights of stairs to join the throng. Then 10 mins before departure some clown in a grey uniform walks past a few people and says a few words in Italian and they started to move. No official announcements etc but luckily we asked someone passing and she informed us we were now leaving from platform 9 – the one we passed two flights of stairs ago! Anyway we left a few minutes late and the seats were the least salubrious so far but all was on track. A bit of train humour there.

We stopped at Fano ( go on say it a few times if u like) and GH1 (Gracious Host 1) Suzanne was waiting to greet us. GH2 (Earle) was waiting at the car so we were quickly able to offload our bags and wander the quiet streets of Fano before a great lunch at Osteria dalla Peppa. Yeah I thought they could have corrected the spelling for the occasion. As in Spain it was a clear demonstration of benefit of eating with the locals who know the best places and speak the lingo. It was then off to our digs for the next 3 nights – Ca le Cerque near Flashnhome, my ancestral home in Italy. I think it either means See the Circus or House of the Oak Tree. Given the lack of a big top, I will go with the latter. It is simply a beautiful home in a stunning and peaceful surrounding set atop a hill with rolling fields and green hills in all directions. It was going to be rough but I was up for the challenge. As favoured freeloaders we were given the top floor which is superbly equipped to lock yourself away from the world for as long as you wish. However we knew the wine was on the first floor! We may be slow but we ain’t dumb. Check out the Facebook page and do yourself a favour if ever in Italy, you won’t regret it

Ca Le Cerque

We had a relaxing afternoon tea out in the beautiful gardens before cleaning up and doing some washing before dinner. Earle was instantly elevated to Legend status when he handed me a beer that almost required gloves to hold. A cold beer at last! Could it get any better – after two more bottles of red I forget. Great food, great wine and great company? I may never leave .

And to complete today’s audiovisual extravaganza – yes GH1/2 even took us camera shopping and we got a salesman with ” I speak English” badge on. We are now tracking down ” We don’t speak Italian badges ”

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Day 20 – Blowing through Bologna

Posted: October 9, 2014 in Travel

Another good night sleep and hotel breakfast had us set up for the 6 hrs of training to do today. The day dawned booteeful of course because we would be on a train.

First part passed without incident as train arrived and left on time. Not quite as swank as first TGV train but very acceptable. Especially when Garçon arrived an hour into our trip to take our lunch order. Ok,not cheap but you can extend the budget to fill in long boring train trips. Only so much Roy and HG on loop a boy can take. The meal and wine were fine and we arrived on time so no hassles

Of course Milan is no different to any big station, they only let you know platform 10 mins max before leaving and then you have to find it. As it was we left 7 mins late but kept me tell you the Itie train was very nice indeed. It was grey and drizzly by now but this cleared by time we hit Bologna. The hotel was only a 10 min walk so we hoofed it with bags in tow – on very busy streets. The Hotel International was an oasis let me tell you. Looked nothing from outside but all that changed once inside. Our room is large and has everything you need – except a kettle!

We walked around Bologna for a couple of hours but didn’t grab me, very busy and crowded. The main square looks interesting and maybe less intrigued now as camera has died and just can’t take same photos with iPhone. We opted to see if swank hotel had swank bar and were not let down. The bartender seemed very efficient on point of OCD. We were only customers but he was constantly doing something behind bar rearranging glasses etc. On occasion though he would stop and pour himself a drink and disappear out back to drink it !

Bologna was really just a stop off point as could not get all the way to Fano in one day. As such it has been good to see another city but won’t be rushing back any time soon.

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