Saturday the 29th of March
Goodbye to Germany and Hello to Croatia
Well after a very memorable night in the home of Martin and Gisela it was time to get packing and get going off to Cologne. Cologne is a large city about 400 klms north, north west of Nurnberg and we had booked train tickets to get there from Nurnberg.
The reason we are going to Cologne is that we had found relatively cheap airline tickets on the net from Cologne to Dubrovnik; in fact they were about a third of the next best price we could get from any other airline. We knew nothing about the airline called German wings except they started their flights very early, our flight out was at 5.45am!! Of interest was that we were advised that check ins commenced 2 hours before departure, something we did not realise the significance of until the morning we arrived at the airport.
Martin and Gisela took us to the train station at Nurnberg and as we had booked and paid for our tickets over the net, we knew we had reserved seats and were looking forward to another trip on the very efficient
German rail system. It was sad leaving Martin and Gisela as we get to see them so rarely. They are great friends and incredibly generous and hospitable and to stay with them was very special.
Our booking showed that we had to change trains at Frankfurt but we did not realise we were changing onto one of the incredibly fast ICE trains that are very much like a bullet train. We changed trains at Frankfurt airport and boarded the bullet.
This train absolutely flew along and it was a fantastic experience. Debs asked me how fast I thought we were going and I guestimated about 120 kph but then I looked up and saw the VDU display showing 296 kph! The train also had a buffet car and the girls were very excited about getting something to eat and drink on a train. Just as well the portable A.T.M machine was in good working order as two juices, two coffees and two sandwiches was about $40.00 but as Layni said, “Dad, it is all part of the travel experience” Oh the joys of financial innocence!
We arrived in Cologne at the main station and it is absolutely huge.
We tossed up about going to our hotel and dumping our bags and coming back into town or having a look around and then going straight to the hotel. The former one and we went and had a look at the main tourist site of Cologne which is their very famous Cathedral which is the largest Cathedral in Europe. Layni had her first experience a lighting a candle in a church and saying a little prayer but was a bit bemused about why you have to pay for the candles. I think the 2 euros for the two candles was worth the experience.
We sought help from the rail staff which was a tad confusing and then we asked a couple standing in line at the information counter about where we needed to go to. They were incredibly helpful and even rang the hotel for us to find out the best way to get there. The hotel we had booked was quite close to the airport but some distance from the main station and we were advised which train line to go to and how to make it to the hotel.
Off to the suburban line and off
to ‘burbs’ saw us walking to the hotel, lugging our bags along the way. After booking into the hotel we went for a walk along the Rhine River which ran past the hotel. Reminiscing time again as I am sure we had ridden along the walking / bike path many years ago on our tour across Germany.
Most rivers in Germany have walking / bike paths and they were brilliant for covering huge distances on the bikes. I think we actually averaged about 110 klms per riding day on our passage across the country. The Rhine river has a very high volume of boat traffic including barges and passenger boats that do extended cruises up and down the river.
We stopped and had a coffee and a beer and made a game plan about getting up very early the next morning. Unbeknown to us before we left Australia, daylight saving started in Europe that same night so we had to put our clocks forward an hour. Seeing that we had to get up at 4.15am anyway, losing an extra hour added a bit to the unpleasant thought of having to get up that early. I guess the benefit
of doing so however was the reward at the end of the flight - Dubrovnik in Croatia. We all went to bed very early and tried to get as much sleep as we could.
Sunday the 30th of March
Phone alarms and wake up calls were a rude awakening at 4.15am but the girls were brilliant and got ready without a murmur of complaint. Our flight was at 5.45am and we thought, very wrongly, that being at the airport ¾ of an hour before hand was going to be heaps of time. We got a cab to the airport and were met with literally hundreds of people organising to fly out with German Wings.
German Wings don’t have set counters for set destinations and they are not what you would call overstaffed. As the minutes ticked past we were getting a bit testy about making the flights, especially as our booking sheets showed that if you weren’t checked in 30 minutes before the flight you would not be taken on board.
Debs sought assistance from the staff and counter 2 suddenly became the goal line. Much to the consternation of dozens of other passengers, we made
our way, ‘quite directly and purposefully’ to the front of the line and breathed a sigh of relief when our bags were taken on the conveyer.
We thought we were home and hosed until we encountered the worlds most thorough security screening and then made our way to passport control. We handed over our tickets at the first section only to be greeted with a very curt, ‘boarding was at five fifteen.’ Then we met the most deliberate passport control officer who wanted to examine every page of our four passports, all the while with the PA blaring that the flight to Croatia had closed.
We were hoping that Germany had the same system that we have whereby if your bags are on, so will you be. At this time of the morning and without a coffee we were looking for a bit of a reprieve.
Alls well that ends well and we made the flight by the skin of our teeth and sat back and enjoyed the hour and three quarter flight down to the Adriatic, dutifully studying the Croatian phrase book as we flew south - not an easy language to understand and speak is
an understatement of mammoth proportions.
As we crossed over into Croatia, the islands of this beautiful country came into view and the prospect of spending some time sailing around the coast became incredibly appealing. We had organised a shuttle from the airport to the old town of Dubrovnik and were literally dropped off at the city gates.
Dubrovnik is another classic exampled of a walled city however Dubrovnik old town is actually quite small in comparison to the medieval towns in Germany we had visited. Cars are not allowed into the old city so it was a case of grabbing the bags and doing our best to deal with the narrow alleyways and in parts, very steep steps that form the basis of pedestrian traffic movement in the town. Dubrovnik is incredibly beautiful but I think that being as tired as we were, we didn’t really appreciate her beauty in the first hour or so of our arrival.
We had pre booked accommodation over the net and the photographs of the apartment we booked were very appealing to say the least. We met the apartment representatives and they took us to our apartment, it seemed like it
was on the 6th floor of the most narrow, cramped and dingy stairway you could imagine with barely room to pull our bags up behind us.
The apartment we were shown was not the one we had booked so back down the stairs for some consultation with our representatives. We were told the lady who runs the apartments was not working until the next day and it appeared we were stuck with our incredibly small, cramped and quite unpleasant little nest.
Not wanting to miss out on the rest of the day we headed off for breakfast in the main square and some obligatory sight seeing. The absolute bonus was the weather. It was brilliant sunshine and clear skies and we were relishing in the warmth and gamma rays. We walked down to the harbour and checked out the local fisherman who had just returned and was taking his morning’s catch out of his nets, chatting away to his friends and then spent a lot of morning down by the water, soaking up the sun and just relaxing.
We continued to wander around the old city and on the marble pavers that abound throughout the main parts
of the town. We found our way back out through the city walls and into other areas which afforded us brilliant views. We discovered a restaurant that had been recommended to us for our wedding anniversary dinner. After checking out the menu and the prices our appetite was suddenly quelled with average prices of about $100.00 AUD per main course! Although the location was stunning, right beside the cliff overlooking the sea, we decided we might find an alternative place to eat.
Later on in the afternoon we looked for alternative accommodation to take if we weren’t able to change where we were. We found one apartment which although only had one bedroom and a sofa bed was heaps bigger than the one we had been taken to in the morning. We negotiated a very good deal with the owner and when we got back to our original apartment in the afternoon we found that our very kind host had gone to great lengths to find an alternative for us.
We were now moved to the top of a very nice, but very small restaurant - Alsy was in heaven, living above a restaurant!!. They actually gave us
two apartments, one with a brilliant loft living room area that looked out over the old town. We went from not being able to swing a cat around to having heaps of space; the efforts of our Croatian host were much appreciated. It was a definite case of going from the *#@!house to the penthouse!
We took the kids out for Pizza and ended up having a pretty early night as we were all pretty knackered from the early start of the day and all the walking around we had done. We turned on the T.V to find some soothing Croatian T.V programs to help us sleep but were a bit gobsmacked when we realised we had satellite T.V installed. Not Fox or Austar but 588 channels to sate the appetite of the biggest channel surfer!
Monday the 31st of March -
Happy Anniversary Alsy and Debs, Richard and Jules and Dave and Lizzy!!!
Sunshine greeted our 15th wedding anniversary morning and although Layni was not feeling 100% we had decided to do the walk around the city walls as our anniversary celebration. Being the little trooper that she is, she was adamant that she was
Dubrovnik Coastal Scene
This is where we ended up having our Anniversay Dinner Picnic and the very expensive restaurant is in the background
not going to spoil the day and got up and got ready full of enthusiasm and determination.
We went down to the main square where Debs and the girls had discovered the best, well definitely a grand finalist anyway, hot chocolates that Debs had ever had. Incredibly thick chocolate covered in cream was about the best wedding anniversary present that Debs could ask for.
We went over to the morning market and bought some dried figs which are just beautiful as well as some grapes, strawberries and bananas. We bought heaps of water to get Layni’s fluid levels up and after buying a couple of sweet treats from the baker, headed off for the walk around the wall. I guess the wall would be about 2.5 to 3 klms long and completely encases the old town.
The views from the wall are just stunning and walking around the wall gives you a great appreciation of the layout of the city. On the way around we spotted a little café that is literally perched on a cliff face, overlooking the Adriatic Sea. It looked like THE place to go and we were confident that this was the bar
/ café that Sharon and Peter, our friends from Sydney had found a couple of years ago and recommended highly to us.
After the trip around the wall was completed, we headed off through the maize of cobbled alleyways to find the cliff café called Café Buza and were not disappointed when we found it. Simply stunning. We sat and soaked up the sun and views for quite some time before heading back to our apartment to give Layni a bit of a rest as she had started to fade quite rapidly.
I think it is fair to say that every minute you spend in Dubrovnik is memorable and it is incredibly relaxing just wandering around taking in the sights and the lifestyle. Even though we are here at the absolute beginning of the ‘tourist’ season there are lots of people around and you could only imagine how crowded the place would be in the peak of summer, I think we made the right decision to come when we did.
We made some inquiries about getting up north to Zadar to pick the boat up and it looks like rental cars and shuttle services are very expensive
and the bus takes a very long time due to the road works. Not sure how we will get up there yet but I am sure we will work something out.
We decided that our Wedding Anniversary dinner would be far more memorable if we organised a picnic with the kids overlooking the water somewhere and that is just what we did. We went to the markets and bought some nice food and a couple of beers and sat down on a bench overlooking the views of the cliffs and the sea, just metres from the restaurant that was selling main courses for $100.00. I think our dinner was just as memorable.
Earlier in the afternoon Debs and Nikki had found the best value ice creamery in all of Dubrovnik run by a young guy who loved Aussies and spoke strine like a true blue trooper. Most ice creams we had bought had one small scoop but this guy gave super scoops at half the price of the rest. So naturally we thought that would be our spot for desert and he accommodated our wishes brilliantly.
Just up the street from the ice creamery was a very
old and very little church called St Savior Church which was built in the 16th century. Every Monday night they have classical music concerts and having missed out on seeing a concert in Prague we thought this would be a great way to finish our Anniversary Celebrations. The concert was performed by the Sorkocevic Quartet and comprised 4 performers, one each on the flute, piano, violin and cello. They performed pieces by Handel, Mozart, Beethoven and Rossini. Although it only went for about 55 minutes it was absolutely brilliant and was the perfect way to end the day.
The girls were ready for bed by now and we wandered off back to our apartments, through the beautiful little alleyways that house so many little shops and restaurants. To use Layni’s words (again), ‘I had a great day.’
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