Munich, NY and Vancouver

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July 13th 2008
Published: July 14th 2008
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Venice to Munich by trainVenice to Munich by trainVenice to Munich by train

Lots of vineyards on way to Munich
Wow, time has slipped by so fast we haven’t had a chance to do more of our blog but here it is - better late than never:

14th June. Our trip by train was very long, approximately 7 hours, but we had some interesting company, with 2 people from Columbia, who had just got off a cruise ship, in our train compartment. At their home in Columbia they have maids and a chauffer and while they have being cruising they have a taxi driver for the day when they have time in each port. We don’t hold that against them. They were a very nice and an interesting couple who provided us with some good info for our journey.

On arrival in Munich or Munchen in Germany, and completely different in Italian (Monaco di Baveria)! This was really difficult for us, as at the station in Venice, we had no clue as to which train was ours. We found our hotel across the road from the train station. It was now 8:45pm and we were very tired as you can imagine!

15th June. We decided to catch the “Hop on Hop off bus for a quick over view
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OBarn? - high-speed roadway – vast sections above ground
of Munich. As every one knows this city was known as one of Hitler’s haunts during the war, and therefore a lot of the city was damaged during the war, so of course a lot of the old buildings were ruined, so after the war when the buildings were demolished, the rubble from these buildings was used to form small hills in the parks etc, as most of Munich is quite flat. Our guide on the tour referred to this period as the dark period, and of course we could have visited the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial, but we didn’t get to do this, as Rob was unwell and we ran out of time. I (Wendy) am glad, as I really did not wish to see this awful place. We did see the beautiful Nymphenburg Palace and gardens which was the summer residence of the Bavarian monarchs with its great array of paintings, and its history. We visited the lovely Englishes Garden, which is huge! The area is 370 hectares. We walked into this garden, just off one of the main streets, and we found a huge number of people (probably thousands) having a whole lot of beer, (funny that!!)
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Nymphenburg Palace
and of course there was German music being played. We got into a bit of difficulty trying to find our way out so had to ask for help - not because we were drunk though.

We visited the area that was built for the 1976 Olympics where Marc Spitz won all his medals, and also where the terrorist attacks took place and team members were killed. While there we watched some kids’ on roller blades, and we were quite taken with the skill of this young man in our photo. He was doing fancy footwork as he was slaloming through a course. Very clever!

This city is very clean and the city provided for their cyclists with paths for bikes all over the place. As a pedestrian you have to be careful that you don’t get in the way. The photos show there are still a lot of lovely old buildings left. As this was a Sunday, there was a huge number of people out, as well as the day being celebrated with a lot of people in their traditional costume, and also a market taking place.

16th June. This was a day for staying home,
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Nymphenburg Palace gardens
as poor Rob was not feeling too good, with a cold. The day was a bit wet and cool anyway. Sooo, of course, Wendy gave him lots of TLC, and then went shopping and had her nails done…of course!

17th June. As we had already booked the trip to Austria, Rob made a huge effort and we both duly got on the bus at 8:30am and went to Salzburg for the day. (11 hours in total) It was worth going as the scenery going there was lovely as well as we enjoyed the lovely castle at Salzburg. We took a funicular ride up the very steep hill to the top, and then we took a tour throughout and the view from the Castle was wonderful. We briefly visited the church that was shown on the Sound of Music as the church that Maria married into the Von Trapp family. (actually, it was not the real church on the inside, as the company could not have permission to film inside, so another church was used for the inside taping, hows that for a bit of trivia!!)

Salzburg is a beautiful town, and of course the older town is
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Just a couple of the King’s beautiful friends/mistresses at Nymphenburg Palace
as it used to be, so is quite lovely to visit, however it was spoilt for us as Austria is hosting the 2008 Euro soccer world cup, so there are tents and banners up all near the church, which spoilt our photos a bit, even the monument of dear old Mozart was difficult to see.

After Salzburg, we went on a boat ride along a very beautiful and huge lake not far from the city. (Yes, Wendy did also get on the boat) This town was called Wolfgang village, and the lake Wolfgangsee. The whole area is just so picturesque, and even though it rained at times we are glad we went.

18th June. Today we leave Munich for New York, via Heathrow, all in all another very long day. We arrived after 7pm to discover NY was very warm and humid. We took a cab to Janette and Rick Swan’s house in Brooklyn and by the time we went to bed, it was about 2am our time, but about 11pm New York time and we were just a little tired, you might say. It has been quite a while since seeing Janette and Rick, and it
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Fancy footwork – incredible to watch
has been great catching up again. They live in a flat in the middle floor of a three level house owned by a lovely elderly couple. Barry an Aussie from Colac lives in a flat at the top. Rick and Barry are both maths consultants, working with a number of schools in the New York area assisting the teachers at the schools. Their house is on the very edge of a housing neighbourhood and on the other side of the house is a neighbourhood of huge blocks of flats where predominately black Americans live. Janette and Rick have been living in NY for five years, and travel home to Kangaroo Flat at least a couple of times a year.

19th June. We really enjoyed staying with Janette and Rick, and enjoyed their company. Janette showed us how to use the subway to go to Manhattan, and after some lunch at Macys, she left us to do our own thing, and went home. The subway was great to use. NY is amazing as every where you look up you are looking at magnificent sky scrapers all around you and very interesting people around you as well - very multicultural. We
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Well laid out bike paths on most streets in Munich
managed to find ground zero, Pier 17, walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, and also saw the Statue of Liberty from the coast. After returning back to Brooklyn we went to a lovely restaurant in their neighbourhood and enjoyed a great meal with equally great company. (We had the best rack of lamb, and guess what, the lamb was from Australia!!)

20th June. Today after catching up on some washing, we left again to use the subway and do some sight seeing again in Manhattan. We got out of the subway at Bowling Green station, where the American Indian Museum is. We then walked to Battery Park, and then we got on the Staten Island Ferry, which takes you past the Statue of Liberty. (You can not go in to the statue anymore, so we went past only) After returning on the ferry, we got back on the train at Bowling Green, and then got off at Grand Central Station. This station is as the names suggests, VERY grand indeed. We visited Time Square and went past Madison Square Gardens We were to meet Janette and Rick for a movie, but managed to do a quick visit to the Rockefeller
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Portion of beer garden in English’s Garden – check out the size of the glasses
Centre and go to the observation deck at the top to view NY. We then ran like hell to meet our friends. Boy we were buggered when we got there. We enjoyed watching the Get Smart movie and dinner after, then walked again to Time Square to see the lights, before going home and off to bed. (Wendy was hoping for a photo of her with a big black burly cop, but we had to let that one go, for now)

21st June. We went into town today specifically to visit Central Park, which is just huge but stopped off at Canal Street Station to visit China Town and Little Italy first. We hopped back on the train again and went to Central Park getting off the train at 57th Street Station. We were going to take a bike ride in the park but decided to take a horse and carriage ride instead but got ripped off. We then walked around looking for some of the more interesting parts. We saw the fountain that was used in the “Friends” show, where they all are around the fountain in the beginning, also where they shot scenes from the movies “Serendipity
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Lots of people in traditional German dress at a festival
and Love Story. (The ice skating rink in particular, for those who know the movies.) Also there is a tribute to John Lennon called Strawberry Fields, organized by Yoko, as John was killed right near the park entrance near his home.

The park had lots and lots of people sunning themselves and generally enjoying the atmosphere. We walked till we were exhausted and then caught the subway home and enjoyed a lovely chicken meal that Janette cooked for us.

22nd June. This was our last day in New York, and we all decided to take a bike ride to Coney Island, about 4 or 5 miles from the Swans home. Janette and Rick have four bikes, so the boys pumped up the tires and we set off, most of the way we were on a specific bike path, but at times we were on the road, so we (in particular) had to be careful to look the appropriate way, as they drive on the right here.

Coney Island is a huge area with a very long and very wide board walk, with; of course, carnival rides for the young in the area. We visited “Nathan’s” for lunch,
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Inside church used in Sound of Music von Trapp wedding
which is famous for its food, especially hot dogs. Then set off home again, and ended up with very sore bottoms to boot. We only had one mishap, (despite Rick going against the little man telling us when it was safe to cross) and that was when we were about half way home, I (Wendy) took a tumble as someone coming the other way was right in the middle of the path, causing me to try and get out of her way, so that I almost hit Janette’s back wheel, thus I fell off!! A little bruising and grass on my pants was all that happened, thank goodness.

We enjoyed another great meal with the Swan’s then prepared to leave very early the next morning for a hotel in Manhattan to pick up our 5 day bus tour to Niagara Falls, Corning, Washington DC and Pennsylvania..

23rd June. We caught the 6.05 am train for Manhattan, with Rick as he had to work for his last day for the school year, and their year starts again in 2 months or so. Our stop was 34th Street Station but Rick got off earlier as he had to change
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Castle just above church
trains and travel to the Bronx.

The bus was late arriving, but once on board we set off for our trip to Niagara Falls. We were sitting up the front as I (Wendy) get motion sickness and it is better up the front. It did not take long for Rob to realize that this driver was going to have problems, as we had been driving for a short while, still in New York City, when he was blasted by a car when he seem to drift into another lane, but we thought, well, we can all do that. A short while later, he did it again, then later he was also heading for a concrete barrier. By this time we were both worried, Rob even spoke to the tour guide, and she said she had also noticed a problem, but still he was driving. We stopped for morning tea and then lunch and a break, but he was still showing signs of fatigue, with stretching, yawning, doing facial exercises, a little while after our breaks were over. By later in the afternoon, things got much worse, as Rob was getting quite worried, then he drifted into the emergency lane,
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Salzburg from castle
heading for the ditch. The tour guide and Rob both jumped up and rushed to the driver and woke him, and Rob grabbed the wheel momentarily, but he had then woken and realised what had happened, and then he requested Rob let go of the wheel. Rob then requested he stop the bus and get off, which he did.

As this was playing out, most of the passengers did not realize what had happened, so of course they stayed on the bus, which was on the side of the road, with the huge volume of traffic passing, buffeting the bus. I (Wendy) got off the bus as I realized we were really at risk staying there, and the tour guide also realized this, so the rest were taken off the bus, and it was then they found out what had happened.

We refused to get back on the bus with this driver, even for a short way to a truck stop, as we just felt so unsure of his driving, and others also felt the same. A new driver was sought, but of course this was to take some time, so when another bus stopped to see if
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Vernicular to castle
they could assist, we accepted a lift with them to a safe stopping point, approximately 20 miles down the road. Ironically, this bus load was a group on a religious pilgrimage, and they prayed for us all the way. Thank goodness for their generosity (and prayers) as it really was very lucky we were not injured!!

We finally arrived at Niagara Falls much later than we should have, so of course we did not get to do much that night other than have a walk near the falls to see them lit up with coloured lights - very nice. On a good note, we had a great room at the Radisson with a beautiful view of the Canadian falls. The falls, both Canadian and American Falls are simply superb and stunning. Words can not really describe the rush of so much water going over both falls, it is just magic!!

24th June. Bloody early start - up at 6am, cases in the hallway by 7am and on the bus by 8am. After the day we had on Monday, we did have a lovely day the next day with our new driver, Lou, (he was just great). We
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Mozart’s house
visited the falls on the “Maid of the Mist” boat, going right in to the turbulent waters and mist that the falls create. You get quite wet, of course (they give you a head to toe poncho to wear) and it is quite exhilarating. We also took a ride on a suspended cage across the ravine, which allowed us a great view of the river and the whirlpool. Some of the group took a helicopter ride. We didn’t as we didn’t feel it was worth the cost, however we all had lunch in the Sky lounge revolving restaurant, after visiting the very top of the Skyline Tower for a magnificent view of the falls and surrounding towns.

We left that afternoon to visit the town of Corning.
where some of us visited the Corning glass blowing factory, before stying the night at Corning. Corning is where all our Corning cooking dishes, etc. come from. Our stay here for the night wasn’t great as it was in an old motel - ah well, it can’t be great all the time.

25th June. Today we headed for Washington DC, the capital of the USA, driving through some very
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Street that Mozart lived in
picturesque country beside the Appalachian Mountains along the picturesque Susquenhanna River. In Pennsylvania we passed through a district where some Amish families live. Our guide (Els) told us that these families live without any mod cons, ie no electricity, etc. The kids all attend a separate school, and only for 8 years, as it is considered not necessary for further education as they do not need to learn much!! They live side by side with the modern day Americans, who have all the mod cons and cars. The Amish people do not have cars, they have a horse and buggy, and they of course, wear different clothes. All men wear hats, unmarried men are clean shaven, married men have a beard, no moustache is allowed. The girls wear long skirts, and bonnets, and their clothes are earthy colours. It is considered that the females are going to stay home and look after the house, or farm, so they do not need to go to school for long to do this. Some men get trade jobs, such as carpentry, but otherwise they work on the farm.

Still in Pennsylvania we visited the Gettysburg Civil War National Battleground. It was very
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The man himself
interesting to here about the Civil War that occurred in the mid 1800s when the Union Army from the North supporting to abolish slavery and the Confederate Army from the South wanting to continue with slavery because it was the economical way of farming. This battlefield memorial is spread over 6,000 acres and we toured both the museum and the battle grounds where there are lots of statues (memorials). The battle here lasted only three days but with great losses on both sides. This battle became the most decisive battle of the war and the Union Army were declared the victors. This is the place where Abraham Lincoln gave his famous Gettysburg address.

We arrived in Washington DC, and found our room to be similar to the room we had in Niagara. Both were the Ramada, and very nicely appointed, with very comfortable beds also. The beds had a pneumatic system where, if the mattress is too hard, then you can dial into a switch, like you have for an electric blanket, and you can make the mattress softer or harder, what ever suits either side of the king size bed. Wonderful for us as like a lot of
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Wolfgang village
couples, we have different sleeping habits. That night we met to all enjoy a lovely meal together, and then we went for a night drive around the Washington area to see the statues and buildings lit up.

26th June.
Today we met at 8:15am and went to visit the Arlington Memorial Cemetery, where John F Kennedy, his wife Jacqui, his brother Bobby and two of his young children are buried. Of course there are acres and acres of service personal and their spouses also buried there. The area is some 600 acres, all beautifully kept. It was going to be very hot, so we were glad we started the day early.

Next we visited some other important buildings like, Capital Hill, the White House (from outside the fence), and the Pentagon (you can see where it has been re built since 9/11) The President was in the Oval office, which is beside the actual White House. We were surprised how small the White House is. We also visited the memorials all built for the Korean and Vietnam wars, and the Abraham Lincoln Memorial which is very grand.

That afternoon we were left at the Air and Space
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Wolfgang village from Wolfgangsee Lake
museum, and we spent some time there before walking to the old Post Office, to go up to the 12th floor for a great view of the city. Washington DC has no sky scrapers; it is a city built especially as the capital of the USA, however, the city of Alexandria is in the state of Virginia on the other side of the river, just across the bridge, and it does have sky scrapers. The two areas all appear to be the one city, but of course, they are not. By 3pm we were fairly exhausted and so went back to a cool shower and to do some laundry.

27th June. We left at 8am again, on our trip back towards New York. We passed through several states from Washington to New York in only a couple of hundred kilometres. We had lunch in Pennsylvania, which was the Capital for about 10 years, while a new capital was created. (Sounds familiar to us Aussies?) This is the place you will find the Liberty Bell, and where the Declaration of Independence was formed, as well as the Bill of Rights. It is also one of the oldest cities and has

Tower Bridge on the Thames (we stopped over at Heathrow on way to NY
a particular French flavour to its buildings and streets, as do some of the other older cities in the US.

The roads or highways everywhere are huge, up to 12 lanes wide and very busy. On our way from Pennsylvania to New York the highway had three lanes for trucks and busses and separately, three lanes for the cars in one direction and the same for the other direction. Also, we noticed rumble strips on the side of the highways are indented into the bitumen instead of painted on top.

We arrived at 4pm in New York, which then gave us a chance to visit Madison Square Gardens, before catching the subway back to Brooklyn and then on to JFK airport. It was good to see Rick and Janette again, even for a short time. Hopefully we will see them in Bendigo when we return. I thank Janette for fixing my trousers for me, and I hope I don’t put on any weight so they still fit me. We called a “T” taxi car and set off for the airport to fly to Vancouver.

A foot note to the USA is that it is interesting trying to
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Empire State Building – just one of many magnificent buildings as you look up
remember the tipping you need to do. As we know, the people in the service industries get very little money, so they rely on tips to make good money. So, as a rule you pay the bill, wait for your change, then leave a tip, usually double what the tax is, as the tax is shown separate. So, when you see a charge for an item, you have to add the cost of the tax and the tip for the total charge. For our tour, we were told in information from the company, how much is the norm for the guide, bell boy and driver. Suffice to say, our first driver got zilch from anyone on board…

28th June. Our plane was delayed for 2 ½ hours, so we finally left after 1:30am, arriving at Vancouver at 4am their time, but our body clock was 7am, so we had been up for 25 hour. Our plane trip was very rough as there were storms around, so all in all we were pleased to go to bed, and try and catch some sleep before seeing a little of Vancouver.

The city is very nice; we took a tour later in the day on the Hop on Hop off bus. Vancouver has some lovely park areas, water areas and some huge buildings, including some that are used for making movies. We took a photo of the building they use as the newspaper building in Smallville, the show we get at home, when superman was growing up. We stopped off at old Gastown where a clock powered steam is and then walked to where there were some huge cruise ships in the harbour. They look fantastic, and from all we hear, the tours are brilliant, so maybe one day, I will arm myself with lots of sea sickness medication, and give it a go, so long as we only go up inside passage and not out into the ocean!! In the evening we wanted to walk to the beach area, quite a long walk along Burrard Street where our hotel was, but we went the wrong way and ended up at Canada Place where the cruise ships dock. So we had to go back and start again heading in the opposite direction along Burrard Street.

We will publish the rest of our journey in the next day or two
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Twin Towers site (Ground Zero)
- probably at the airport at Nadi before we return to Australia.


Rob and Wendy

Additional photos below
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Statue of Liberty from West Street park (near Wall Street financial centre)
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Walking the Brooklyn Bridge
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Just a small section of the magnificent Grand Central Station (train)
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Central Park from the top of the Rockefeller Centre building
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Enjoying a Mexican meal with Rick and Janette (centre) before seeing the movie, Get Smart
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New York - Manhattan

The waiter at Mexican restaurant (can’t see it here but the waiter had an intricate design shaved on his head). What’s with the dreamy look on Wendy?
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Coney Island near Rick and Janette’s place – check the amount of sand
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On way to Niagara Falls

Waiting on side of road for new driver after bus driver went to sleep
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What we woke up to from our hotel window – that is mist from the massive falls, not smoke
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Awesome power
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Horse Shoe Falls at Niagara Falls. The largest of the three falls
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Maid of the Mist boat ride to the base of the falls
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New York State

These silos were everywhere on our 5 day tour.

$3.97 for a US gallon (I think about $1.10 a litre – Americans were complaining bitterly)
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USA – Pennsylvania

An Amish horse and buggy in a modern day America

Major General Warren of the Union Army overlooking the battlefield
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What place is this????? The White House of course
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Wendy trying to get friendly with a cop outside the White House
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Huge fifth wheelers semi-trailer caravans everywhere usually pulled by twin cab trucks

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