The Journey Continues

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October 11th 2019
Published: October 11th 2019
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Welcome to Blog number 4 for all my friends and family that have not been following my more frequent Facebook posts. My apologies for not blogging earlier but the last couple of weeks have been hectic.

We left the Cinque Terre and made it to Lake Como after being sent on yet another couple of Google Maps adventures. We keep arguing whether it’s the maps in the wrong or the navigator. Personally I think having a driver who has tunnel vision and no spatial awareness could possibly be most of the problem. Noel will beg to differ.

First stop was at the Monza race track. I had arranged to go on a tour of the track the next day but we decided to call in on the way through to Onno so that we wouldn’t have to double back the following day. Unfortunately the track was closed so Noel only got to view the entrance from the car park, where we were promptly told that the track was booked for a “private group”. It was another hour to get to Onno so decided against visiting the track the next day. Instead we hopped on a ferry from Bellagio (insert many dollar signs here) and cruised past George Clooney’s Italian villa on the way to Como, which is the biggest city/town around this lake. Did the usual sightseeing and took the bus back. Now the streets around the lake are very narrow and Noel had difficulty negotiating the bends and curves in our little Lancia Ypsilom. We can tell you those bus drivers are super skilled. They can drive those narrow roads at full speed, missing boulders and trees and even other cars by millimetres! There were even a couple of places where a few cars going in the opposite direction had to stop and back up quite a way to let the bigger bus through the gap first. Our bed and breakfast here was quite eclectic and we were served breakfast over the road, on the owners private beach, which had a full kitchen, tables and chairs, loungers and hammocks and a wonderful view that was only spoiled due to the humidity haze that hung around.

Next stop was Lucerne with a pit stop at the Schilthorn mountain in Switzerland where the Piz Gloria restaurant is located on the top of the 2970 metre peak. This is the round revolving building in the James Bond movie On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. There was a James Bond museum up there too and wonderful views of the Eiger, Jungfrau and Monch mountain range. If I had realised how much the detour was going to cost us we would NOT have gone there but seeing as Noel forked out over $20,000 for this holiday I shouldn’t really complain about a $300 ride in a gondola up a bloody huge mountain, now should I? He does love him, some James Bond. Our hostel stay in Lucerne was pretty dodgy but we survived. Noel only just survived because I nearly smothered him. I had to put up with the endless traffic noise on the main road outside the window, plus all the guests walking up and down the creaky wooden stairs outside my door AND Noel’s incessant snoring. Needless to say I was pretty testy the next day. Lucerne is really pretty but oh so expensive!! Food, drinks, accommodation, transport. Bring the platinum card with you if you ever visit.

We broke the drive up to Munich with a one night stop near Innsbruck Austria. We stayed in a motel room at a nice camping stop on a small lake. It was very picturesque. Munich was a total surprise for us. I don’t know why but I just always imagined it to be run down and dingy, grey and lifeless. As I said in my Facebook post, it was probably due to all the war movies we used to watch. Anyway it was a pleasant surprise. Bright colourful houses and buildings, neat and tidy, very green with wonderful parks and plazas, historic buildings and monuments. It was very vibrant with a huge café culture happening. We went on a great walking tour the first afternoon with a really good guide called Sophia and visited the BMW museum on our rainy day. On our last day we ventured in to the English Garden which is said to be bigger than Central Park in New York. A river runs through it and surfers can surf on a small “break” that is created as the water comes out of a tunnel from under the streets. We managed to play dress ups in the afternoon and went to Oktoberfest. Wow! It’s like the Easter show with rides and eateries everywhere, plus the big and small beer hall tents for drinking and eating. We had so much trouble trying to find 2 seats. We walked and walked to the point where we were about to leave in frustration. Luckily a group of young people grabbed a table and benches outside a beer hall and they kindly offered the old man and lady a seat. We were very grateful and ended up chatting with them for over an hour. The 16 day Oktoberfest expected 7 million visitors and the sale of 7 million litres of beer.

Then we were off for the big drive back to see my girl Hannah and her lovely family for the weekend. The weather was against us in Klingfurth but we managed to catch up for dinner on Friday evening and on Saturday we ventured to a mall for Hannah’s new shoes and then Noel finally got his long awaited Wiener schnitzel at a wonderful local restaurant followed by Hannah’s family of 14 people accompanying Noel and myself to the Wiesn-fest in Vienna. This is a mini Oktoberfest with about 3000 people in the beer hall. Luckily Sepp had been before and knew that we needed to book tables. Everyone had so much fun singing and cheering and standing on benches (except me because I did not want to get knocked off the bench by Noel who was singing his heart out to songs he didn’t know!). It was a great night and a couple of people had a few too many Mas’s. Our last day was taken up with consoling Chris Gwynne because his Raiders were robbed by the ref followed by an hour or so at the Sturmfest in the grounds of a mini castle. It was just a fancy building with big gates and walls but it looked like a castle to me! The “sturm” is wine, just before it turns into wine, so it is super sweet and you traditionally have it with roasted chestnuts called Maroni. I thought the Maroni tasted like warm potato but I really, really liked the Sturm. It’s very potent apparently so it was a good idea I stopped at two. The last evening we had a family dinner gathering with the Kraeftner’s extended family. Grandpa Joseph had a great joke…”.Why does a giraffe have such a long neck??????” ….”Because his head is so far away!!!!!” I love those silly jokes and he thought it was great that we laughed so hard. It was so wonderful catching up again with the people that befriended me last year, when I visited, and they were all so nice and kind to Noel too. I was very brave when I said goodbye to everyone that night but I keep tearing up when I think about not seeing my Austrian friends for a very long time now. L

We left Klingfurth on Monday morning and drove on a big detour to the Red Bull Ring motor racing track in Spielberg. This was to make up for the lousy Monza visit. There was no guided tour this day so we were allowed to just walk wherever we wanted, which was great. Got some good photos of the track. Noel was surprised at how steep the inclines were. The only place we couldn’t access was the actual racing track but it was right in front of us. There was hardly anyone around and no one bothered to ask what we were doing wandering all over the place. I checked the weather at 9am in Klingfurth..3 degrees. Same at 10am, 11am AND midday!!! Thank goodness for those winter clothes we packed.

Our drive to Zagreb was uneventful but it was strange having to finally fish around in my bag for our passports as Croatia is not part of the EU. The apartment in Zagreb was super nice and very large with a nice view over bushland and the setting sun. Dinner the first night was at a restaurant that the owner Filip recommended and the next day we ventured into the Old Town to take in the sights. It was nice to see the sun again after a few days of overcast and rainy weather.

Yesterday we went to Ljubljana in Slovenia. What a pretty town! So neat and tidy. More colourful buildings with a lovely central square and meandering river through the centre. An old fort on the top of a hill, which I smartly decided not to climb, after going more than halfway up…the WRONG way. My old heart can’t take this climbing rubbish! We really loved the ambience of this town. It’s a University town so there are LOTS of young people milling around, enjoying life. Oh to be young again…….

And here we are, today, in Padua Italy. I paid my respects to St Anthony of Padua at the magnificent cathedral here. Unfortunately there is a “no cameras” rule so I have no evidence that I ventured in. You’ll just have to take my word for it and that it didn’t crash down on my head for all my sinfulness. It was really quite magnificent in the abundance of art, frescos, sculptures etc. It is on par with St Peter’s Basilica. We visited another church near the river that is striking in its simplicity. It was nearly completely demolished in the Second World War by the American bombings and has been restored wonderfully. The business district of Padua is also a bustling area full of people riding bikes, walking dogs, people watching and just taking everything in at “Italian pace”. We could easily get used to this type of lifestyle.

So the last week of our trip starts now. We have 2 nights in Florence followed by a one night stopover in a teeny tiny village called Terni and our last three nights are near the Amalfi Coast at a clifftop hotel in Agerola. We head back to return the car in Rome next Thursday and our flight leaves at 10pm. I’ll try to squeeze one more blog in before we leave Europe. See you all very soon.

Love to all, as always.

Margaret (and Noel)

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