A Travellerspoint blog


semi-overcast 21 °C
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We left Zagreb after a wonderful four days. We decided to walk to the bus terminal rather than take the tram. It was a beautiful morning and the walk was only about 20 minutes. We had time for a cappuccino before the bus. The Zagreb bus terminal is actually a nice building with several low cost restaurants. Very unlike some bus and train terminals we have seen. The bus trip took us out of Croatia and back into Slovenia. The off the bus, on the bus, off the bus, on the bus passport check was repeated as we exited Croatia and entered Slovenia. I could have showed the Croatian lady my Tim's card and she would have waved me through. The bus trip took us to Ljubljana in Slovenia. The traffic into the city was brutal and it was pouring rain. The stop was short, then we were on our way to Trieste. Never even knew we crossed out of Slovenia into Italy. No problem with passport control there. As we came through the last set of hills and onto the coast the weather cleared. Our hotel was only a 5 minute walk from the train station, so we got there easily. We had to make some travel changes so spent a bunch of time in the hotel taking care of that. Had a real hard time finding a restaurant which was disappointing. The next morning we had breakfast at the hotel and decided to walk around Trieste for a bit. We walked down to the Roman amphitheater, then over to the port of Trieste.IMG_1581.jpgIMG_1582.jpg We then headed over to the train station for our trip into Venice. The train journey was about 2 hours and was very pleasant. Arriving in Venice, after having been here before, is way less taxing. Our hotel is near the Rialto bridge and we knew the easiest and fastest way to get there, and also avoid some of the crowds. We checked into the hotel and the manager proudly told us that our room had the only private terrace in the hotel. Seemed like a good deal until we discovered it was a rooftop terrace. As we were climbing flight after flight of stairs I was reminded of a Led Zeppelin song, but I was so winded that I couldn't focus on the title. Something about stairs seemed right though. The room was quite small, but it is Venice and space is a premium. We went out on the 'terrace' and had a bit of a giggle. Didn't seem like that much of a perk. We unpacked a bit and then quickly headed out for a walk around the city. I have heard that venice is sinking. My solution would be to take out about a million tourists. The place would probably rise back out of the sea. The San Marco area was crazy busy, so we found some less used trails. We stopped at a little cafe for an afternoon glass of wine, then walked around some more. Venice is great fun if you're not in a hurry. We had made reservations at a restaurant called da Mamo. We had been to this place 6 years ago when we were in Venice and were really looking forward to the evening. Da Mamo didn't disappoint. The food was fantastic. We had carpaccio to start. It came with thin slices of an amazing parmigiana. I had gnocchi. It came with a creamy sauce with walnuts. It was great. Arlene had ravioli with pesto filling. Very good as well. 90_IMG_1591.jpgWe had a bottle of the house red wine. It was very interesting, very minerally flavour. Quite nice. For desert we split a panacotta. We then decided to go walk off some of that heavy food. Venice is a way different place when the cruise ships leave and many tourists exit. Without the crowds it's a nice city to wander around in. When we got back to the hotel we decided to take advantage of the terrace. Turns out it's a great place to hang out on a warm evening. We plugged in our portable speaker and listened to some tunes for a couple of hours. We can see the top 1/3 of St. Mark's bell tower from the terrace. It was lit up which made it a nice sight. We could also see some interesting buildings and down into 2 of the streets to watch people going by. This morning we had booked a tour to Murano to visit a glass blowing factory and see a glass blowing demonstration. We met at the appointed site, and were happy to see that it was a small group. We climbed into a boat and were off to Murano. The trip took about 30 minutes and the guide gave us dozens of interesting and easily forgotten facts about all sorts of stuff. We arrived on Murano and went first to the Church of Santa Maria e San Donato. DSC_0679.jpgDSC_0680.jpgIt's not one of those places that you would put on your must see list, but it was kind of interesting for its stone mosaic floor. The floor is made up of what must be tens of thousands of small bits of marble arranged into mosaics. We then walked around Murano a bit to see how residential neighbourhoods look. The we went to the glass blowing factory. The demonstration was only about 15 minutes, but the guy made a beautiful vase, and made it look easy. DSC_0687.jpgHe then made a horse glass piece in under 2 minutes. DSC_0690.jpgIt impressed the tourists. We then walked through the shop at the factory. I was very careful to look and not touch. One of the chandeliers was priced at €140 000. Beautiful works of art though. We then boarded the boat again for the trip over to Burano. Burano is famous for hand made lace. It's also a really colourful place. All of the buildings are painted in bright colours. 180_IMG_1592.jpg180_IMG_1593.jpgOn the way to the island we had a glass of prosecco. On Burano we toured the lace making place which took all of 3 minutes, then went for lunch. Hadn't had pizza yet in Italy, so this was the time. It was very good. Then we got back on the boat and returned to Venice. We got off the boat, said our goodbyes and headed down a backstreet away from the crowds. We did a bit of shopping then returned to the hotel. The guy who was at the front desk was very talkative, so we chatted with him for a bit. He recommended a restaurant that we will try tonight. Then it was up to the terrace to catch up on my writing.90_IMG_0606.jpgLater we went to the restaurant recommended by the hotel front desk guy. Great pick. We had lobster and pasta, a carafe of wine and a desert. It was really tasty. The pasta sauce was very similar to a putanesca sauce which we both love. The lobster was nicely done as well. IMG_1597.jpgI had a desert wine with biscuits. IMG_1598.jpgArlene had crime brûlée. Nice way to end our time in Venice. Afterwards we went for a stroll along the canals, but had to cut it short because of a bit of rain.90_IMG_1600.jpg

Posted by Basebrown 13:23 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Rainy days and Mondays...

rain 15 °C
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Guess what the weather was like today. We had booked a tour to Plitvice Lakes National Park in southern Croatia. We don't normally like to do the guided bus tour thing if we can avoid it, but the logistics of going to this park looked a bit painful so we did a tour. Turned out to be a good move. First off, if you're making a list of places that need to be visited, add this to that list. We caught the bus early - about 8:00. It was a cool overcast day in Zagreb. The bus headed off for the 2 hour drive to Plitvice Lakes and it soon became clear that it was going to be a rainy one. Our tour guide provided us with much information about Croatia and Croatian problems on the ride out. He also talked at great length about the war in Croatia in the 1990's. We went through a village that had been mostly destroyed in that conflict. It is mostly rebuilt, but there are a number of houses that still bear the scars of that horrific conflict. We stopped in the tiny village of Rastoke for a coffee/bathroom break. It is just a tiny place, but the river basically flows right through the town. Unfortunately it was raining so hard that pictures don't accurately describe how cool a place it was. IMG_1553.jpgIMG_1556.jpgWe then continued on to Plitvice Lakes. I had read about this national park and it was one of the reasons we wanted to visit Croatia. It is another UNESCO World Heritage site. The park itself is basically a waterfall lovers dream come true. There are literally hundreds of waterfalls, some big, some small. The park is pretty big and has paths throughout. Either boardwalk or stone trails. There are 16 lakes connected by these hundreds of waterfalls. The water contains limestone from mountain runoff which is deposited in the lakes. This deposition means that the streamflows are constantly changing. Also the water colour in each of the lakes varies depending on the mineral content in the water. The tour we took covered about 9 km of the trails. It was amazing despite the weather. It rained for most of the day. Didn't matter. The scenery was that terrific. Would have been nice to see the pictures in bright sunlight, but...large_IMG_2880.jpgIMG_2865.jpgIMG_2847.jpgIMG_2844.jpg The wooden paths through the park are a safety supervisors worst nightmare. They are uneven, there is rarely a railing, they were soaking wet today, there are crowds of people and there are often torrents of water running right underneath them. I can't imagine how many people have to be fished out of those lakes each year.IMG_2882.jpg We walked along and our guide kept talking about 'the big waterfall'. Every once in awhile we would come to one that was bigger than the others and figure that we had made it there. When we finally came to 'the big waterfall' there was no confusing it with the others. I went down to the bottom and had a guy take my picture. It was like being in a shower. A really good shower that soaks you right through. It was the perfect day for it as I was already pretty damp. large_IMG_2887.jpgIMG_2890.jpgIMG_2885.jpg90_IMG_1577.jpgWe spent several hours at the park, then boarded our bus. The plus side of doing a tour like this on a rainy day was that the tour driver picked us up right in the park rather than having to slog out to the public transport depot. The guide then took us to a restaurant for a really late lunch. This was the second advantage of the tour. The food was excellent and really well priced. We were told that they sold a craft beer that was only available in restaurants in that area. What could we do?90_IMG_1578.jpg We enjoyed our lunch with the company of a speech pathologist from Boston and a flight attendant from Dubai. They were good company. The ride back to Zagreb was an opportunity to dry out a bit and relax. We got back to the apartment and celebrated our day with laundry and a glass of Croatian wine. Off to Trieste tomorrow.

Posted by Basebrown 15:07 Archived in Croatia Comments (0)

Zagreb - day 1 and 2

semi-overcast 26 °C
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First day in Zagreb. Bad cold happening. Slept late. We headed out from our apartment late in the morning to get something to eat. The area was in full swing. We went into the square where they were holding a sustainable foods fair. It was really crowded so we went off to a side street and found a cafe. Food was good. I had ćevapčići, which I didn't know was a regional specialty. It was sort of like spicy pork sausage. The service in the restaurant was great. A real change from Vienna. Sat for quite a while and just watched life go by. These guys came by at one point.90_IMG_1531.jpgIMG_1530.jpg Not sure what that's all about, but it was entertaining. We went back to the apartment and hung out for a few hours before going out exploring. When we arrived the previous evening Arlene had found a Rick Steves Croatia episode that had about a 10 minutes on Zagreb, so we had watched it. Turns out the whole 10 minutes was filmed within about 5 minutes of where we are staying. We headed up the street and saw pretty much everything from the episode. Pretty cool. We visited St Mark's church,IMG_1535.jpg Porta di Pietra and walked around in the old town for quite a while. We could see that the cathedral was close as well, so we went over to check it out. It was interesting, but not too spectacular.90_IMG_1541.jpg We found out that the area of Zagreb we are staying in is ideally suited for walking. There are pedestrian boulevards lined with cafes everywhere. It seems that every square that we come to has a festival or event going on. We continued walking around and ended up in a square where there was a food/film festival happening. We decided to have a craft beer from one of the stands. We sat there for several hours, listening to the music and visiting with people from time to time. The ambience of the festival was amazing.90_IMG_1545.jpg90_IMG_1544.jpg We talked to a guy from Australia- strange dude. He was heading to the coast for a yachting regatta. We talked to a mechanical engineer from California who had quit his job at 35 and moved to Zagreb to teach English. Funny the people you meet without even trying. We headed back to our apartment and picked up an order of taquitos from a street vendor and a bottle of Croatian wine from a store. We had a drink and watched some Netflix. Hope I feel better tomorrow.

Feeling a bit better today, but we really didn't have much on the go. We got up and had breakfast and coffee then went for a walk. We again started of wandering around the old town. 90_IMG_1536.jpgIMG_1538.jpgNot much to see that was very spectacular, but very enjoyable. Once again, it seemed like every corner we turned there were sidewalk cafes. We even found another square that had a great flea market. I could have spent a lot of time there, but there was little point as I couldn't bring anything home. We walked through parks with fountains and generally had a relaxing time of it.90_IMG_1546.jpgIMG_1550.jpg In the evening we decided to go back to the food/film festival from yesterday and have some street food and a beverage. It rained a bit which thinned the crowds out, but it was still quite warm. Nice day.

Posted by Basebrown 13:34 Archived in Croatia Comments (0)

To Zagreb

semi-overcast 20 °C
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Another of the dreaded travel days reared its ugly head this morning. After enjoying 4 days in Vienna it was time to pack up and headed out to parts unknown. A bit of a side note. I have never seen a city with as much construction going on as in Vienna. There are building cranes everywhere. Also there are dozens of buildings that are in the process of being restored. Can't think that there is a contractor out of work in the whole city. But I digress... Zagreb. I know it's in Croatia. It's the capital of Croatia. After that it gets a bit thin. We ended up taking a bus because Zagreb isn't as easy to get to as you might think. Our bus didn't leave until 2:15, but luckily checkout at our hotel could go as late as noon. We took advantage of that and grabbed our bags and headed to the metro for the last trip. Vienna's metro is fast, efficient, clean and relatively inexpensive. Highly recommend! We got to the bus stop with no problems and waited until the bus arrived, then boarded. It was a double decker bus and while I put our backpacks into the luggage compartment, Arlene went and got us seats. We were on the upper deck, right in front. Great seats. We headed out for what was supposed to be a 41/2 hour journey. Road construction really sucks, and the road from Vienna to Zagreb was one construction zone after another. We had to pass through Slovenia to get to Croatia which you would think would be pretty easy. Turns out that they can be a bit on the miserable side. We passed out of Austria into Slovenia with no problem. About an hour later we got to the border to exit Slovenia. Everybody off the bus for passport control. The driver just shook his head. We had to pass through passport control on foot then get back on the bus. We drove about 200 m and came to the Croatian passport control. Bet you can see where this going. Off the bus we got. By this time the driver was ready to stroke out. On the plus side, the scenery through Austria and Slovenia is straight out of a story book. Forested hills with picturesque little villages. We got back on the bus for the last time and arrived at our final destination. By this time it was dark out. Nothing like arriving in a strange city with people speaking a language that really doesn't resemble anything you've ever heard and then to top it off it's dark. Another funny thing - even though Croatia is an EU member it has its own currency so we had to get cash before we could catch the tram to our apartment. Even though we had no idea how to get to the place, we arrived with no problems based on the owner's directions. We met the apartment owner and he let us in and showed us around a bit. It's a great little place. A nice one bedroom place that's about a block off the main square. Best of all it has a washer! We were tired and hungry so we walked back to the square and had our first hamburger in 6 weeks. It was glorious, but won't happen again for a good long time. There was some sort of a market going on in the square, but they were closing up just as we were getting there.IMG_1527.jpg No big deal as my cold is really getting me down. As we were walking back we noticed that there is a bar next door to the entrance to our apartment. It had a sign that said, 'beer to stay or go'. I went in and we discussed Croatian beer for a bit, then we walked out with 2 beer. The outrageous price was 30 kn. $5 for both. It's a fantastic dark beer. Hopefully I'll be feeling better to enjoy more of it. Only took 1 picture today.

Posted by Basebrown 13:29 Archived in Croatia Comments (0)

Vienna - day 2 and 3

semi-overcast 20 °C
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It's tough to do two days and keep track of everything, but last night I was too tired to even think about writing. First week of school is always exhausting! Yesterday we left our hotel and took the metro over to the center of Vienna. We walked the rest of the way to the Spanish Riding School to watch the training of the Royal Lippizaner stallions. The training goes from 10:00 - 12:00. The school itself is an amazing building, but the training was not that exciting. Still interesting to watch these huge stallions.IMG_1467.jpg90_IMG_1468.jpgIMG_1469.jpg We had skipped breakfast so we stopped in to a cafe for a cappuccino and a bowl of soup. Then we went to Time Travel Vienna, which is a historical trip through Vienna. It included a 5D ride which was lots of fun. The whole thing lasted about an hour, but was fun and educational. A bit hokey in places, but fun. We then wandered around the pedestrian malls in central Vienna. Lots of people out and about. DSC_0607.jpgEventually we came to St. Stephan's Cathedral. We bought a ticket which included an audio guide and went in. The cathedral is huge and the audio guide was extensive. I was a little annoyed when I remembered that I had my phone which had the Rick Steve's tour of the cathedral on it. Oh well, it was only €1. It isn't really an old cathedral in that it burnt down one time and was pretty much levelled in the bombing of Vienna toward the end of WW2. Still an awesome spectacle. DSC_0615.jpgThe outside roof is tiled with glazed mosaic tiles which make the shape of a double headed eagle, which is the symbol of the Habsburgs empire. DSC_0609.jpgVery unique in a church building. After that, we agreed that we were pretty much wiped out. Neither of us had slept very well the previous night. First week of school strikes again. We headed back to our hotel and stopped at a store and bought some cheese, bread, meat, red pepper dip and olives and made an early night of it.
Had a much better nights sleep last night, but woke up with a sore throat and cold symptoms. Often happens the first week of school. Of well. It was another coolish day in Vienna, perfect for sightseeing. We had a coffe and pastry in our room as we got ready to head out for the day. We took the metro to the center of town then caught the hop on hop off bus to the Prater Park. The park is very big and has acres and acres of recreational facilities.IMG_1473.jpg We wanted to visit a couple. First off we went to Madame Tussaud's wax museum. I had never been to a Madame Tussaud's and was quite impressed. Some of the images were downright creepy. 90_IMG_1474.jpg90_AAE9B333032A5F43A9EC8C1B83FC281A.jpg90_AAE38947BF5295801F0E5BD2C6FB48D1.jpgI felt as though Einstein and I could have had a conversation. We then went on the Vienna Giant Wheel which was constructed in 1897 and was the world's highest Ferris wheel for nearly 100 years. It was fun and the views from the top were great.90_IMG_1486.jpgIMG_1488.jpg We had some sort of a pork product in a bun for lunch, then got back on the hop on hop off bus to go back to the center of the city. We still had many things left on our Vienna Pass, but agreed that what we wanted to do most was return to Schonbrunn Palace to see some of the things we had missed on Tuesday. We took the metro there this time as it is the quickest way to get there. We first went to the Strudelshow. This is a demonstration of how to make traditional Viennese Applestrudel. It was fun and held in a coffee shop so we had a coffee and some strudel. IMG_1494.jpg90_IMG_1496.jpg90_IMG_1498.jpgAfter that we walked back into the gardens at Schonbrunn and it wasn't 2 minutes until we discovered a rose garden that we had missed on Tuesday. It was fantastic. Thousands of rose bushes as well as a rose trellis that had to be 16 feet high and 100 feet long. Huge red roses. IMG_1502.jpg90_IMG_1499.jpgWe then walked back to the maze and labyrinth that are in the palace grounds. We made our way through the maze to a raised viewing area in the center. We had our trials along the way, but made it through.90_IMG_1506.jpgIMG_1505.jpg As we had been going, we had met a guy with a camera a couple of times and never really thought much about it. When we got onto the viewing platform we noticed this guy still walking around. 90_IMG_1507.jpgWe watched him for a few minutes and had a good laugh at his expense. Then we noticed that he was in a state of pretty high anxiety. And he just kept walking around making the same mistakes time after time. Arlene got his attention and guided him through to the platform. He was pretty thankful. We then wandered through the labyrinth. After that we went to the arboretum. It wasn't really all that exciting so we only spent about 20 minutes there. IMG_1509.jpgRight next to it was a desert house. We were there, so we went in. It was really interesting. Lots of desert plants and animals as well as birds. 90_IMG_1511.jpg90_IMG_1518.jpg90_IMG_1519.jpgAB96EC4EF6FE163F6DA51A302B309AE7.jpgWe still had some energy left so we walked around for another hour, just going from garden area to garden area. Great relaxation activity.90_IMG_1524.jpg90_IMG_1525.jpg We took the metro over to the bus station we will be using tomorrow for our trip to Zagreb, just to check it out. We then went into the city center for dinner. Then it was back to the hotel. Well dark by this time.

Posted by Basebrown 13:17 Archived in Austria Comments (0)

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