21st Aug 2010 - 3rd Oct 2010 - Europe 2010
Bev and Helen’s European Trip for 2010 – Bev’s Diary
Preliminary info – 25 August 2010
Getting ready for the next big trip - EUROPE 2010
Bev and I are about to head off again - a couple of days in Hong Kong, then 6 days in London, an 11-day Scenic Tours trip from Munich, to Oberammergau (for the Passion Play), to Nuremberg and a boat trip to Budapest. Then a couple of days in Prague and Singapore and home. Sounds great? It does to me!
We head off on Monday 6th September, and return on October 3rd.
Here is Bev's message of 25 August:
Tis 12 sleeps til we leave Aus. As most of you know, I had just got home from our wonderful Mediterranean Cruise last year and was sitting at the coffee shop in Middle Park ready to discuss it when Hel came in armed with books and papers.
I think I will go to Oberammergau next year she said. Very good I thought and then she said I was going too!!!!!!!
And what’s more we need to go to Vicki’s Office NOW to book.
So we did – and all I can remember was that before anything could be booked the woman in charge of the boat component needed to know what sort of coffee I drank – did it really matter that much I thought!
We are about to find out.
The trip all came together very quickly and we leave on Monday 6th for Hong Kong and then on to Europe.
We will put it all up on the Internet on getjealous.com which Hel has already started off.
I have insisted she put a picture of me typing away into the late hours of the night (or something to that effect – sounds good anyway)
We are trying to cut down on some of the time it takes to get this from the computer to you.
Now you really don’t have to get it at all – if you have a computer it is available on getjealous and you can check it if you wish. Or you can get it direct on email or we will be sending a copy back here for Suzy to print out and send. Dad in particular will never have a computer and will have it sent to him and therefore it is no problem to send it via snail mail to anyone who would like it.
It’s your choice.
Well the next time I write, I know I will be sweating profusely and will probably find writing to you a wonderful excuse to not brave the weather of Hong Kong. Helen and I did that in 1974 – sat in the airport at Hong Kong and wrote to everyone we knew to avoid the heat!
Til then, I shall return to the more mundane aspects of life in Melbourne.......... the ironing
Roll on Monday 6th
Report Number 1 – Hong Kong Exceeded All Expectations – 6 – 9 September
Dear friends and rellies,
Many years ago our Grandfather, Norm Wilkinson wrote a book called Travel Trimmings. Most of us in the family have a copy of this – it is unclear if anyone actually bought one. At about the age of 9, I decided I needed to write a book.
My brother Brian and I were staying with our grandparents at their new home at Point Lonsdale and I began my writing career writing about seaweed! Having collected specimens we kept them in a bucket until they began to smell appallingly and the evidence was destroyed along with my writing career.
But after last year’s trip to Europe, I enjoyed writing bits and pieces about our trip – and having Hel to do some careful editing – so we may have to travel more often.
Tis now Wednesday and we are in beautiful Hong Kong. I think it is safe to say I am now wasting time to avoid going out into the weather!
The flight from Melb to HK was fine, quite long enough – we will be rejoining that flight 48 hours later to London.
We arrived in HK at 5.30 or so in the morning – so it wasn’t at all busy and the organization at the airport and express train and bus was wonderful. So as arranged, had a shower r and brief snooze – neither of us slept at all on the plane.
Gathering up our braveness we ventured out – it takes a while to get accustomed to jewellery/watch/suit sellers every 50 metres and decided on an air conditioned place for lunch which turned out to be Barvarian! We did the Cuckoo in Vic last week for Father’s Day and in 2 weeks will probably sit down to Chinese in Bavaria – wot is the world coming to?
Walked up to the Kowloon gardens – oh to have an abundance of work force – where the seats in the park are cleaned for you. A lovely park. Home for a swim - being the YMCA they have a stunning array of exercise classes and equipment. They don’t do swimming very well however and I reckon we would have beaten most in the pool and that is ridiculous. Again a cast of thousands to ensure our swim went to plan.
Bought a Sammy (sandwich) from the 7/11 for tea – sad isn’t it?
Down to the Clock Tower to go on a night tour of the Harbour Night Symphony of Lights Cruise – beautiful in that there is a mild breeze – the harbor is stunning – maybe from a different viewpoint it is a symphony –but it became rather confused in the middle of the harbor with nowhere to focus.
It’s not only the Au Govt that outsources everything – had this problem in Barcelona and it was very evident last night – Viator whom we have booked a number of tours through – don’t do the cruse and it’s anyone’s guess who does provide the tour – a call in a different language established that we should be taken – is not overly reassuring that we are actually on the right boat!
Tis Thursday and we are in the QANTAS lounge at HK – HAD TO GET UP AT 3.30am WHICH APART FROM BEING LOGICALLY STUPID – WAS PROVEN BY THE FACT THAT NOTHING AT THE AIRPORT WAS OPEN!
Back to yesterday - we should have set off earlier – had a great day – went on the Big Bus on the red route around HK Island and then up to the Peak on the tram. The top facilities are now so very different to 1983 (and 1974 for Hel). Absolute holiday person’s heaven – lots of coffee shops, cheap and dear – many with stunning views. It did rain a little so the views were limited – not a prob – after a bit more exploration got the tram down and by-passed the Hong Kong Park gardens – cos we wanted to get to the beach - (it’s a bit of a pattern with Hel – we need to go to the beach, the HK harbor just doesn’t do it.)
So onto the blue route and off to Stanley via Repulse Bay. This time my head set worked and I am now full bottle on HK. We all sat in the air conditioned down stairs (well nearly all) it was way too hot in the open upstairs.
The amazing part of all this is how polite and well behaved the people are - conservatively a million buses, no-one runs into anyone and no-one toots except when really necessary and it all keeps moving.
I digress – we headed off beachwards – excellent views over the water. Stanley is excellent – much to do (if we only had read the books) however we had a lovely tea sitting under an umbrella looking out to sea.
Two coffees later – we set off and discovered by chance the Stanley Market – everyone else knew it was there but us! Bought hankies – so necessary in this climate.
Missed out on the butterfly place etc etc They have a magnificent set of escalators from the beach – wonderful - absolutely every spot of land is used – and if not for building – then for well-cared-for greenery.
Sat upstairs on the way home as the sun had set. Still very warm but with the wind in our hair we appeared to scream down the hills back to central, The wonderful Star Ferry back to Kowloon and then raced home so we could be back in time to give the Symphony of Lights a second chance.
The Y (YMCA Hotel) is an excellent spot but the HK officialdom won’t have us run across roads and there is an extraordinary set of subways to get under roads and it can take an age to get from one side of the road to the other – it might be through a whole shopping complex - quite amazing.
Anyway we made it to the harbor to watch the symphony of lights and it was way more impressive from the edge for free than on the boat. Home again we tried to go to bed early for a 3.30 start but nature decided on her own sound and light show – enormous amount of thunder and lightning and rain . I think I got 2 hours sleep.
We got to the airport way too early – check-in not open nor for that matter was anything else. But we were there and no plane was leaving without us!
Anyway I am typing this on the plane – need to look as though we have made it into the 21st Century.
Hel can edit whilst I await breaky v3 for the day.
Report Number 2 – Dear Old London Town – 9 to 12 September
WRITTEN ON FRI 10 SEPT: This is the life – was sitting on our balcony overlooking dear old London drinking coffee and listening to music whilst the washing machine droned on – holiday perfection.
I had plenty of time to do that whilst Hel worked on sending out the last letter.
Yesterday was an excellent day flew from Hong Kong to London. A day time flight is just so much better than night flying. Hel was able to watch the deserts and snow capped mts of China and Russia go by.
Heathrow leaves a lot to be desired! Old and sad - they say they are upgrading – compared to HK and Dubai – v v sad And whereas in the other countries there are an abundance of staff for everything – the staff at Immigration went home at 2pm and left a whole lot of us just waiting to be seen be seen by one chap!
Acquired our Oyster card (for local trains and buses) and then put on a tantrum cos we are supposed to go down a huge escalator with suitcase to the platform! They took pity and took us personally to a lift thankfully or we may still be in Heathrow.
Train to Hammersmith and then walked up Shepherds Bush Road with a protesting suitcase (just like Paris last year – it apparently doesn’t like cobble stones and 20kg of junk).
Our home is excellent – 2 bedroom flat with balcony and lounge room and washing machine!
We went out for dinner last night to meet my friend Karen who is passing thru London on her way to Wales today.
I said we could walk there – and to say my sister got me lost is a tragic understatement – we got there – v late by my standards but got there (15 mins late). A great place for dinner for which we had booked a table on the internet 3 weeks ago – love it!
Got a bus home and that worked so much better.
WRITTEN ON SAT 11 SEPT: Tis now Saturday I think.
Had a wonderful day yesterday! Today we were meant to get up and race off to Kew Gardens now, but I thought – nup – stay here for a few hours – and enjoy pottering.
Yesterday we had our date with the Queen …. She couldn’t make it but we went there anyway.
Bus to Hyde Park and enjoyed a hamburger from a street vendor. Discovered that some Brits at least are still as pessimistic and depressed as they were 30 years ago. “All these other people from other countries get this and that and we get nothing – it’s just not fair”.
Walked thru the park and saw the end of the Changing of the Guard and then got our tickets to visit Buckingham Palace. If Queen Victoria had only seen the crowd that came to see her home she would have been stunned. Good grief – who else have we been out conquering in the past 100 years! A very diverse group – large portion non-English speaking. The whole event is done brilliantly and we had headphones for commentary – could spend as long as we liked in any room etc. Many staff to ask questions of. And the rooms are just stunning – the paintings, the gifts from foreign countries, the hidden door that Liz uses to materialize from, the stunning views across the hectares of lawn and trees – I could v easily move in.
When we had finished the tour had coffee and scones hopefully pictured.
Then a walk along a path around the garden and shop to the exit. Beautifully organized - so worthwhile if you are in England at this time of the year
Then we had to make our way to the London Eye – well this took way longer than anticipated cos of my phobia of downward escalators, developed in UK in 1974. So we caught buses and walked etc with my sister muttering – ‘if only had a decent bus map’.
Anyway got there – used our priority “jump the queue” and were on board in very prompt time. Again excellently organized and terrific views of London and well beyond. No real sense of climbing or movement which was a bit disappointing (for some)!
We had planned on going home and coming back into town for a show but completely ran out of time so decided on a trip to Victoria Station to get some bus maps and tea at an English Pub. Tea was basic but very British – pie and mash.
More bus and lost walking got us to the Theatre late. They were thrilled I am sure as we pushed our way to our seats in one of the front rows.(I hate that and reckon if people can’t get there on time – well tough – fortunately they didn’t adopt that strategy.)
Dreamboats and Petticoats is a great show - very high-energy show putting together a large number of the hits of the 60’s era. The audience was primarily our age and we were encouraged to get up and dance towards the end – not a pretty sight – but loved by all.
Again more buses and eventually home about 11 or so. Very happy with our day.
WRITTEN ON SUNDAY 12 SEPT: So having decided against the gardens - we spent time on Saturday morning trying to work out why the hot water was erratic and then why it didn’t become hot anymore – being so competent in this field of endeavour, we rang the owner and also reiterated that life couldn’t go on with a beeping smoke alarm – we didn’t bother to insist that the now fallen apart shower hose holder needed be fixed! But we didn’t have time to wait for workmen so just left instructions and left….
Had a cap out in the morning and a spot of shopping – a crisis was looming in my ability to find coffee for home – found some – not the right one but a perfectly satisfactory model. Hel purchased yet another cold/cough wotever cure – was told it sounded like catarrh – I thought that catarrh had died but maybe this will cure her. I think she is getting better with the assistance of TIME.
All domestic activities attended to, we set out to The Mayor of London’s ‘feast on the bridge’ they blocked off Southwark Bridge to traffic and set up tables and chairs - lots of different activities – corn dolly making, edible hat-making, composting, cake decorating, storytelling for kids, a piano for anyone who wished to use it – and they did, etc etc. We had lunch there – chicken souvlaki and falafel wrap (but posher names) - and coffee from a solar powered van. We are pleased we went – but don’t need to return. Neither of us has been to Moomba in 40 years and there are lots of similarities, we think – that comment obviously comes from a badly out of date source.
Having sorted that out – back to the big bus challenge – across to Hyde Park. I have sorted out their problem – glad they haven’t thought of it! The bus system is wonderful – buses going everywhere every few minutes – problem – not enough room for all the buses. It took forever to get around Piccadilly – the roads are a sea of red double decker buses.
Eventually made it to the Park. The night of “The Last Night Of the Proms” – after much anguish, Hel had decided that trying to go to the Albert Hall version at $1,000 each was ridiculous. So we joined 40,000 at the Hyde Park version. They said don’t bring chairs – an instruction lost on most of the crowd. I knew I couldn’t sit on the ground for 5 minutes let alone 5 hours so brought a beautiful stool from Aus and it worked a treat. We had our own concert live from the stage which started at 5.30 (we were there politely late at 6.30!) – Bjorn Again, Jersey Boys, Jose Carreras, Dame Kiri te Kanawa, and then Neil Sedaka – a brilliant concert in its own right. A beautiful weather night – lovely sunset and no breeze. The show was compered by obviously a London favourite, Terry Wogan, personally I thought he was ‘way out of touch’ but suspect I may be shot for such a thought. Never mind, he made no difference to the enjoyment of the show – we crossed by video on the huge screens to the Albert Hall for the last section of the concert and sang with gusto –You’ll Never Walk Alone, Rule Britannia. Blake’s Jerusalem and God Save the Queen. I had bought my Union Jack – so you will see me on the replay! Hel chose against a Union Jack but didn’t bring the Aussie flag. After the fireworks and Auld Lang Syne we left happy and headed across the Park to the bus – this worked brilliantly – got on an empty bus waiting for us and were home in a few minutes. And the water was hot again and the beeping had ceased – What a Day!
But what about the footy – we had two messages to tell us that the mighty dogs had won on Saturday –I have put it to Hel that she needs to consider a return flight but she remains eternally pessimistic about their chances of winning a flag – so she will stay in Europe!
WRITTEN ON MONDAY 13 SEPTEMBER: We are now heading at speed across the country towards Liverpool. We have been allocated bad seats for typing etc – didn’t they know we needed power, a table etc etc – apparently ‘no’.
Anyway – yesterday Sunday we headed off to Hel’s old Church –Methodist Central Hall Westminster. Apparently much has changed - there was a lift to the correct floor and everything. Well friends from Wesley, the minister wanted to know if his efforts should be in issues of buildings or more fundamental issues of faith. However somewhere along the line much money has been poured into the Church building – all very beautiful. Congregation very different to how Hel remembers it – diverse cultural mix – the three levels of Sunday school/child care workers - all 9 of them - predominantly Nigerian or other African.
After church we walked on down to the river- a beautiful sunny cool day in London. Had lunch on the river’s edge along with many other tourists.
Then went on the London Duck tour, our duck “Mistress Quickly” was celebrating her 70th birthday. Enjoyable tour on land around central London and then entered the Thames at the Vauxhall Bridge and enjoyed our very short river cruise of London up to the Westminster Bridge and then back to entry/exit point and home to somewhere behind London Eye.
Decided on coffee and a meeting. Being a tad anxious about making Euston station by 6.30am Monday, we decided it was best to know exactly where to be and how to get there. Sadly it took us longer to find our way into Waterloo Station than to sort out the rest –but in the end sorted out a very simple method of getting to Euston.
So using that knowledge, home we went and bought lovely Thai food for tea and retired early so we could get up at 5 this morning.
Report Number 3 – Sadly Leaving London (London to Munich) – 13 to 16 September
WRITTEN ON TUE 14 SEPT: When I left you last, we were hurtling across the country to Liverpool yesterday. Excellent train – and service and we were in Liverpool on the other side of Britain before Hel even normally considers getting up. It was a bit drizzly and frankly that’s what Liverpool should look like according to me! This was our Beatles Tour Day. So to inject some variety/class into the tour we walked up the hill to the Liverpool Cathedral – a very beautiful building. Pottered down the streets with their finishing summer blooms. Flower baskets still look magnificent.
Walked down to the upgraded waterfront and found a coffee / lunch at Starbucks (a place I would normally avoid at all cost) however they are the starting point of the Beatles Magical Mystery tour. Off we headed around the streets and lanes of Liverpool and suburbs stopping at such famous places as Penny Lane, Strawberry Fields etc. Went by all the houses and schools the lads attended.
We were dropped off at the Cavern Club. I must say that it is not quite the original model – but apparently very much the same. Climbed down countless steps to the basement and the stage is all set up for a concert – there was to be one a little later in the day of Beatles music (the townsfolk know when they are on a good thing), had an orange juice and pretended we were there in 1962!
Back up to the daylight, walked down thru the very modern part of town – full of escalators and stairs which took us back to the wharf area. Under the ground again to a Beatles exhibition – wore head sets and looked at ‘stuff’ whilst being given commentary – very well done.
At the end - again in the Starbucks Café – made a hasty exit and walked along the Wharf part of the Mersey River – a very large river indeed.
Dinner in that precinct before walking back thru town to our return train to London.
Easy trip back to Euston to home. Got home very tired after a 16 hour adventure.
NO hot water. A bit of a downer not being able to just have a shower and go to bed – but many saucepans later my hair was washed and so was I and night time declared.
WRITTEN WED 15 SEPT:
Currently sitting at Heathrow awaiting our flight to Munich –
My apologies to Heathrow airport – the Departure building at Terminal 5 is wonderful – there couldn’t be more of a contrast with the incoming area – it’s light, bright, the staff are helpful and smiling – says a lot about a person’s workplace really, and how important it is to wellbeing and I dare say productivity.
Yesterday (Tuesday), we spent the morning pottering – Hel involved in one of her all time favorite activities – photo up load and letter/email distribution.
This was done in conjunction with trying to sort out our water supply which has been very problematic from the beginning and now we have left – sadly still is. We had the plumber and the cleaner around - a long story about the trickiness of water supply. The owner Jonny lives in Ireland which makes it very tricky for him to sort out.
Anyway we got them and us out by 12.30 and we raced off to the train station – Hel bought us a sandwich on the way.
Tube to Euston Square and then changed at Euston to Belsize Park for our visit to Pax Lodge. For any who didn’t know –Hel and I were heavily involved in the Girl Guides a fair few years ago now. We have both stayed at the former Girl Guide house, Olave House, in Earls Court and Hel worked there for some time. Pax Lodge is the replacement – and is one of the 4 World Centres.
Got to the station and the instructions said it was a 15 minute walk which in reality it probably was, but one of my requirements was to travel in a London taxi – which we did – an embarrassingly short but cheap trip to Pax Lodge. Hel was so embarrassed, she felt compelled to tip the driver – but goal achieved.
Met by two volunteers at the house who showed us thru – I thought it would be a group - but no we were it! But we were very impressed with the place and people.
Afterwards walked down to a coffee shop and pulled out all the maps and decided that Harrods was to be our next destination – using buses, so we could see the scenery.
Harrods has changed a lot in 30 years. No Egyptian flavour then, no memorial to Diana and Dodi etc – the clientele and the staff so very different – much less snobby now.
Got yet another bus up past Piccadilly - Queens Theatre area and had most enjoyable Italian dinner before going down to collect tickets for Les Mis which had been paid for months ago - no record of that transaction but fortunately they gave us tickets. It was the most brilliant show – could hear every word of singing and dialogue. Scenery stunning –acting and singing just superb – and of course the music is wonderful - all up a brilliant show.
Home on a series of buses – but there is never more than 5 minutes between each change so it’s quick at that time of night.
Reflections on London-
It is now 30 years since I was last in London – in some ways nothing has changed, in others much has altered.
The wonderful buildings are still all in place.
Red double decker buses litter the streets, but they are all new clean and shiny.
All the Royal sites set the place up, as do the wonderful green areas – Hyde Park, Green Park, St James Park etc.
But the city is so much cleaner. The ethnic mix is now so very different. Folk from all over the world – admittedly a v large percentage of those in London are visitors
They put advertising on London cabs! Outrageous.
I like to think the huge influx of different nationalities makes the food significantly superior to 30 years back.
It is not as expensive and the quality is superior.
Apart from the first 3 people we met – the populace appeared more cheerful which was never a forte. Again agreed we mostly had contact with visitors. (In Liverpool – where the particular accent of the area was so pronounced and it was clear they were residents – but they were happy residents.)
I am sure there were lots of dogs in London years ago – saw very few this time – probably same reason – people not resident here.
I need to return to England to do some more reflecting! And to check out the million things and places we missed.
Back to Wednesday - Well we spent quite some time at Heathrow – and left a little late for Munich. Lovely flight – only a couple of hours –bliss.
A chap was waiting for us to drive us into town to the posh pub –Le Meridien – over the other side of the tracks to where we stayed last year. Le Meridien is more than double price (Oktoberfest helped this) but this is the start point of our tour –so we decided to stay here the two nights as we couldn’t get in early enough on the official start day.
We sped at 100 kph for miles and then we virtually stopped. What should be a 40 min trip turned into a 90 min trip as there was a U2 concert, a footy game (we think) and a bus strike! So now I have to reflect upon traffic jams in London with too many buses versus traffic jams in Munich with no buses! (A PhD coming up here)
Eventually made it and moved into our very pleasant room. Trouble with a very pleasant expensive room is that you can’t make coffee or anything! Had dinner poshly served in our room and early to bed
Awaiting the next chapter of our holiday – Oberammergau.
PS from Helen: We have loved receiving emails from many of you – including one incredible one from David Rush, a Melbourne friend, who was at the same church service as we were at Central Hall London last Sunday – but we didn’t see one another! David is the reason I went there in the first place 35 years ago, and then went to Wesley Church Melbourne – amazing!
[We officially start our “Scenic Tours” tour this afternoon, which means one night in each of Munich, Oberammergau, Innsbruck, Salzberg, before getting on the boat at Nuremberg – I suspect I won’t be able to do much computer uploading until then, so it may be a few days before our next report! Also I expect they will keep us very busy on the tour! – Helen]
Report Number 4 – Gorgeous Europe - Munich to Nuremberg – 16 to 20 September
Well we have now spent an extremely expensive few hours in our hotel in Munich! Last year we had a special Arvo Tea on the Champs Elysee ($64) which included cake with our coffee – but here getting coffee to our room which is the only realistic way of doing it is just ridiculous $25 per serving and we have had 2 servings
Anyway apart from that whinge, all is going very well. Hel describes this as our day off.
Short walk at lunch time and then a swim in their beautiful pool – most enjoyable.
Got to meet our fellow travellers tonight over cocktails or orange juice!
A quick tea at the same Chinese place in the Main Railway Station that we had enjoyed last year and then home for an early night.
We have started to get used to the travel system – suitcase outside door at whatever ungodly time and on the bus at some other time. We were given programs for the day but it seems men don’t want these – so too few were printed – only one per room. That error will be rectified and Hel and I can have a timetable each – along with a number of other women travelling together.
Beautiful big bus with 15 spare sets - so luggage no issue and we can have a window each.
Headed out of Munich, which is very flat with the Alps in front and to the side, watched with keen anticipation the mountains growing taller and closer.
The town we stayed in, Garmisch Partenkirchen, is not far from Munich – and every single bed in the area is taken for Oberammergau.
The hotels know what to do – check the last group out and have the beds made up by 11am so when our bus pulls in they are able to check us in – give us rooms and then provide us with lunch so we can be back on the bus and on our way to Oberammergau by 1.15pm.
A short but very pretty drive to Oberammergau where we joined thousands doing just the same. A town totally dedicated this year to the Passion Play, lots and lots of pretty shops but no, you can’t shop now – over to the toilet area which must be mentioned for its sheer efficiency in dealing with 3,000 women at the same critical time – and they did – banks and banks of toilets.
Off to find our seats – all very well organized and we all squashed our way into our seats. We all had our cold weather gear on –long johns etc – all the stuff I wore in Antarctica - there is a roof but the stage is in the open and the draughts come in from the mountains. It was fortunately a very still day so it didn’t really get cold as in ‘MCG cold’ some days.
The passion play is divided into 2 halves of 2.5 hours each. During the interval we had dinner at a restaurant set up for this. Then we had an hour or so, so all the folk could buy souvenirs for themselves or the grandkids.
The play itself is totally in German but you have a book, so you can follow the storyline. I have bowed to Hels’s greater knowledge here to try and describe – the content. The Play starts as Jesus enters Jerusalem with a swarming mass of people. We see the expulsion of the Temple Merchants, and much interaction with Pilate and Caiaphas, and on to the arrest, crucifixion and resurrection. There are lots of flash-backs to the Old Testament. The final words were “Hallelujah! He is risen!” Personally I would have got more out of it if it was in English, as I found it hard trying to follow the book – but it was a great and vivid experience.
I am so much better on impressions - the acting and singing and whole production is just wonderful. Our tour guide was saying that it went 20 mins longer last night than when she saw it in July. Personally I think they could have taken 20 mins out and lost nothing of the impact.
Very late back to our beautiful hotel which we didn’t get a minute to enjoy.
No coffee or any other drink, water and off to bed – not my idea of a setting up a good night’s sleep – however it didn’t seem to matter – asleep in no time.
I think Helen is cured of what ailed her – she thinks the catarrh medicine did it – I think ‘time’ but maybe both. All of a sudden it seems to have gone which is really excellent, esp. at the show where one cough set off another and at one point there was almost an epidemic of coughing in the audience – but it wasn’t Hel instigated.
Saturday – up earlyish, not because we were going far but they needed the rooms (Bev reckons) –and off to Seefeld via a flea market somewhere – of little interest to us.
We moved into Austria - no discernible difference – no border checks, no passport control.
We were on our way for a ‘carriage ride through the woods’ which we all thought ‘10 mins max’ but no, we sat down, had blankets put over our knees and we were off for a ride around a lake up through the woods past innumerable pretty houses with their window boxes brimming.
Our driver, if that what you call a person in charge of a carriage, gave us schnapps to drink – not offered in other carriages – of course sadly Hel and I said no.
Arrived at our destination for coffee and beautiful apple strudel about 75 minutes later. One of the ladies hit her leg and got a nasty gash – we thought we were in the middle of the forest but the ambo was there within minutes and transported her to Innsbruck Hospital just up the road from we were bound. (Margaret rejoined us later that day with 15 stitches in her leg – very well cared for by the Ambo/hospital system here).
Set off along miles of wonderful scenery towards Innsbruck – a couple of stops – one at the view over Innsbruck and the ski jump used in 2 winter Olympics. It is very late summer so no snow, however, they have found a way to use the jump - stupidly they water it and we watched some ridiculous man come down the jump and soar into the air before landing safely – we were below him and it is such an impressive sight from that angle that is not captured on the TV.
Next stop a magnificent church Wilten Basilica (Most important Rococo Church in the Tyrol) – so overdone in all its carvings, its colours its gold etc etc – just wonderful.
On to Innsbruck – where Hel has now joined the walk whilst I type and supervise suitcases delivery. It is an extremely modern hotel – but I can’t get over the picture on our wall. We are in the heart of arguably the world’s most beautiful scenery and we have a photo onto metal picture, (sorry for the appalling description) but it is what appears to be grain silos – beautiful in their own right but in Innsbruck?
Hel tells me they walked to Golden something. I asked what else they saw and hers and my rather sad grip on history became all too apparent - ??
It was always a criteria of Hel’s that we didn’t go on a holiday where history played an enormous role - we have much magnificent scenery to compensate.
Beautiful dinner which was a relaxed affair – different to so many meals where you have to be somewhere soon! Now!
It is just as well I didn’t book Hel on a flight back to Oz to watch the footy grand final. Sadly for Doggie fans, another year has now come and gone – I am not sure that next year is your year either – but time will tell, ONE day it will happen.
Tis Sunday – today is a beautiful weather day – there really hasn’t been much wrong with the other days but today is all blue sky and sun – gorgeous scenery etc.
Left Innsbruck at 8 and drove to Salzburg along highways along the valley floor – so out of Austria to Germany and back to Austria - watching the castles, the villages, crops and endless green scenery and mountains along the way.
A highlight of the trip was - one of our fellow travellers is a very good singer and has performed in Sound of Music –somewhere in the USA – and she sang a solo and led us in singing a number of the songs from the film – we all had a wonderful time singing along.
As soon as we arrived in Salzburg we were met by a local guide who took us on a walking trip. The emphasis was on Mozart and some Sound of Music sites.
We are staying at the Sheraton which backs onto the Mirabel Gardens which are just beautiful at this time – not long from now the snow will come and that will be the end of the flowers till next April. A different kind of beauty will take over.
Today being Sunday means that the only places open are coffee shops and touristy shops.
It is also slightly out of season – so it is all delightfully uncrowded. Walked over the River Salzach and into the old town.
Checked out former homes etc of Mozart – much of the town is heritage listed so a lot has not changed in centuries; of course bombing during the War altered the landscape in some parts.
At the end of our official tour we wandered back thru the wonderful streets and lanes – looking to join the coffee culture so prevalent in Salzburg – I think I could live here very happily. We found somewhere to people-watch and enjoyed our lunch. I haven’t established whether Hel is automatically excluded from membership of the coffee culture if she only drinks decaf! Is that really coffee? Pottered on until we came to the Sacher Hotel – had to indulge in a shared small piece of ’original’ Sacher Torte – beautiful.
Made our way home – possibly described as the long way!
Our hotel is just lovely - so it is great to be able to spend some time just enjoying it.
Our injured comrade, Margaret, was able to go to dinner so 6 of us shared the taxi with her while the others walked. We walked back which took 26 minutes. We didn’t leave the restaurant all that late, but a number chose to use taxis. Dinner was held in the oldest restaurant in the world – some 1200 years old – fascinating place.
The last day of our road trip component of Europe – up early of course – then on the road.
Quite a lot of driving – pretty scenery in and around Salzburg heading north towards Nuremberg. Our first stop was part of our Sound of Music theme. We stopped at the church used in the film for Maria’s marriage to Capt von Trapp. Beautiful church. Our singer, Linda, with permission of the nun cleaning the church stood at the altar and sang Ave Maria – beautifully – unaccompanied. A few pictures and purchases later we sent off again. Jan our leader had purchased the Sound of Music DVD, so we watched it on the bus and all enjoyed it thoroughly.
Stopped at a road house for lunch – last year’s tour would have made a great fuss about where we had every morning tea/lunch/arvo tea – mostly connected to (a.) a toilet and (b) usually a store selling something. But this has always been understated – yes there was lunch – get it yourself which was good deal quicker and a lot less of it.
The toilets cost 70 cents and then you get a ticket back for 50 to spend on anything in the store.
Off we set again – more Sound of Music – as Jan said – I didn’t realize it went for 3 Hours! But every time we saw something we recognized – much shouting – I have been there. A bottle of Lemoncello was bought and shared around the bus – I had about half a teaspoon and thought it was rather lovely – Hel however after a drop thought she might die – we handed over the rest of drink to someone else to finish off
It has been an excellent group – no one that we might have wished had stayed home. All seem genuinely happy and pleased to be doing what they were – no endless complaints at all. Everyone willing to help others.
So it was a happy group who got off the bus at Nuremberg. We were all sorry to see our guide leave.
But we arrived at the river in Nurenberg at 4 pm and joined with a number of other groups and individuals to board Ruby – our Spaceship home for the next week.
Report Number 5 – Beautiful Danube – Nuremberg to Vienna – 20 to 25 September
It was an exciting moment when we pulled into Nuremberg and saw a number of these very large cruise boats. Ours of course is the best – Scenic Ruby.
Ruby is one of the fleet of ships owned by the Australian firm, Scenic Tours. The beauty of this boat is that many of us have very decent sized balconies. It might be argued that that makes the cabin size smaller – but we are very much enjoying our balcony.
170 people on board – many Americans, Aussies and a mix of others by the sound of their voices. All announcements are in English only. Most if not all of the staff come from the countries included in the tour – no apparent exploitation of cheap labour from Asia!
We stayed in Nuremberg over night. Spent the evening either enjoying (part of) a 5 course meal and chatting or getting to know the ship.
Today, Tuesday woke very early as we had to be out by 8.
Four large buses took us all on a guided tour of Nuremberg. I have never really wanted to come here and have no real desire to return.
We have been to cities and places in the past where shocking crimes have been perpetrated by man against fellow man but somehow that had been a long time ago. Hitler doesn’t seem all that long ago. This city was one of his favourite places for rallies etc and much of that infrastructure still exists. Nuremberg was largely decimated during the war, so much has been recreated. Endless debate has been held as to whether you keep the dark past buildings etc or completely erase it. They have decided on what I guess is a fair balance – they have a number of parade grounds – Zeppelin Park and the building arranged by Adolph – something that resembles the Coliseum in Rome – but his had to be bigger – it was never finished but stands there as a dark and stark reminder.
There was a later tour of the Documentation Centre that we chose not to attend.
Hel has spent time in each city and town looking for a handbag just like the one she has – thus far to no avail. Personally I think she needs to join a leather working class and make her own, or of course buying one like everyone else has – provided it can carry a ridiculous amount of heavy stuff. So in Nuremberg she walked for ages in search of this elusive bag. I went looking for gingerbread - much more successful exercise. It has to be the right gingerbread……. Nothing like the one we have, it is delicious.
12.30 bus home to the boat – where Hel sent out our last letter and feeling satisfied with myself that I had done my bit – sat on the balcony and watched the world whilst doing puzzles.
Each guest is at some time invited to dine at the Portobello restaurant – the more exclusive of the on-board restaurants. It was our turn tonight. One of our group, John, was celebrating his birthday and we joined him and 6 others for a wonderful 7 course dinner. And then followed by birthday cake. Fortunately all courses are very small – absolutely delicious. I don’t even feel remotely over fed.
We woke at 8, having been given permission to sleep in. Outside it was quite foggy and looked as though we were completely lost and alone – but then – someone fishing on the bank – another in a tent – beautiful white swans glided by. We had been thru a number of locks overnight (apparently) we slept right thru.
Whilst we were at breaky sitting beside the water awaiting another lock entrance, we and the captain were told there was something wrong with the lock – total change of the day’s plans.
We were ‘parked’ at Kelheim and were told we could go off the boat but be back by 12 as buses would take us into Regensburg. This suited all of us but the captain and the chef just fine. It was a glorious day once the fog lifted - it was blue skies and 23 degrees.
It is lovely and warm but the trees are turning and it makes it very special. Walked along the river and into the small town of Kelheim. They must love it when 100 unexpected guests come and spend time/money in their village
Made it back to spend 15 minutes enjoying the chef’s Oktoberfest luncheon of sausages and sauerkraut. Fortunately for us there was some more standard fare.
12 noon and 4 buses materialized in the woods to drive us the 40 minutes to Regensburg. Beautiful scenery.
Met there by guides who took us on guided tours of the old part of Regensburg. Our guide, an American who came 20 years ago to lecture in English and stayed on – showed us everything that was the oldest, the largest, the anything else that ends in “est”. They can’t help themselves. We then were set free to spend the arvo in Regensburg as the boat would not be in till 4.30. Pottered in the old town, enjoyed the coffee culture here. Did a spot of shopping and walked over the Stone Bridge constructed from 1135, one of Europe’s oldest intact bridges! And just promenaded as so many others appeared to be doing.
Made our way back to the river and were delighted to find Scenic Ruby tied up. After a spot of washing clothes etc we met for a briefing of the next day and then dinner.
After that, the Oompapa band turned up for Oktoberfest - so lots of dancing and merriment – enhanced by just one drink too many – which is never my scene. I retired to watch the world from our cabin – it is full moon and very pretty.
This is the life folks – tis I think Thursday and we are cruising at a very good speed down the Danube towards Linz.
This morning we all had to get up early. There were three choices of tour on offer – a day trip to Salzburg which our small group didn’t consider or a day trip to Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic or the one we chose – a morning tour of Passau which is where we docked at 7 am this morning. Lovely little town – a very tricky positioned town at the junction of the Danube and the Inn and Ilz rivers which makes it so subject to flooding – flooding they can apparently do nothing to prevent.
Build on high land I suggest. But of course the rivers are what give Passau its reason for being. Spent all morning walking on cobblestoned alley ways – not one of the world best inventions.
It seems that when you all retire – take note – that you take up work as a guide. Today’s guide was an engineer who spent time in Melbourne at the Ford factory designing the roof component of the Ford Capri - which was not a great success, he told us. Interesting chap – and as you by now are well aware, I am into totally useless trivia – he was saying that hell (as I call my sister) didn’t always mean the unfortunate place we might end up in, but in German (and I thought it might have a more uplifting meaning like angel etc) – no it means mud! I am not sure that Hel sees that as much of an improvement.
After finishing the tour which ended at the St Stephens Cathedral – a splendid building – inside – but outside it is in poor shape – all covered in hessian etc whilst they sand blast it. It is made of sandstone and is being badly eaten away by acid rain.
Hel is gathering interesting funding solutions for Wesley from this trip – but it seems that the congregation have to pay taxes (an extra 8% tax) – has caused a significant drop in church membership!
No more sausage sizzles – just taxes!
Pottered on down the hill towards the ship on yet another glorious day. Once the fog burnt off – clear skies and 23 degrees.
The idea was that those doing the Passau tour were to be back on board by 10.45 and we would head off for Linz where the other tours will rejoin us.
Sat up on the roof and watched the world go by – a wonderful way of putting in time. So we spent a lazy day travelling watching passing little towns and a seemingly endless collection of locks.
Half an hour of live piano and arvo tea whilst pottering on the computer. I get this part when we lose the internet connection – so I have won out for the time being.
Arrived in Linz – again a pretty place – this is more like a city and when we arrived it was peak hour and the traffic is at a standstill on the bridge etc.
Double parked our boat – which is a bit messy having to climb up and out of our boat onto another and negotiate a number of flights of stairs to escape to the streets of Linz.
We of course walked to the flower beds – I am always reluctant to have people come with us or to go with others – they invariably set off for cathedrals/castles/etc/etc. Not us – the flower garden and then to main square which is a triumph. Totally huge main flower beds, trams running thru the centre – of always total confusion to us with no apparent pedestrian area versus road and with the traffic turning from the opposite side plus the liberal addition of bikes – who do have marked lanes, make for a very stressful time – just walking.
Anyway amidst this chaos – was a tourist tram that went on a 25 minute tour of Linz. We got the last tour at 6 pm and enjoyed the setting sun over Linz whilst listening to an English version of the trip. Excellent.
Walked back down to the boat in time for the following day’s briefing and dinner.
The majority of the folk had then returned from their day excursion to Salzburg or Cesky Krumlov.
They were all exhausted after a lot of travel however our friends had all had a wonderful time in Cesky.
After dinner there was meant to be some horse racing game. Not sure how many
Yet another beautiful day – which I thought was Saturday but later discovered was Friday after sending dad an sms asking Who Won? (AFL grand final) only to receive response –‘tomorrow’, so ok its Friday!
We are docked in Melk, a small town reached by walking thru the wood to the buses which took us to the abbey a magnificent collection of buildings used as an abbey and school for 900 children but just as importantly – they have huge numbers of tourists thru. It is extremely well set up for tourism and we ended in the church with an organ recital by the 79 year old organist.
Magnificent building – some parts very modern but much baroque with endless amounts of gold.
After walking back thru the woods to the boat, saw 15 or so of our passengers who are to ride to the next stop – Durnstein.
The rest of us settled down to a lovely lunch. Cruised thru the Wachau valley one of the prettiest areas. Pretty mountains on either side dotted with castles and a tour
Tied up at Durnstein – a gorgeous little town. Have you ever considered – why doesn’t she get a thesaurus – not everything could be like that – but it is.
Took a ‘train’ on wheels – pulled by a tractor – into town – the long scenic route via vineyards thru the rows of grapes - and on up into the rocky hill that is Durnstein. Pottered in the little streets and alleys – a town I would think that is highly reliant on tourism.
It was a lovely sunny arvo and being ladies (or aspiring to be) we took ourselves to the 5 star Hotel Schloss for arvo tea – the coffee shop part is in the open overlooking the river – just beautiful.
Pottered some more – we hear tell that some climbed to a relic/castle, others to a church – but not us. We just enjoyed the scenery and got the train thing back to the boat a few minutes before we took off for Vienna.
It didn’t seem quite right but we had the captain’s farewell dinner – it seems that we will be so busy from here on and they don’t want too many people crying, so it’s good to hold a farewell dinner early. Whatever, it was indeed a lovely evening.
After dinner we had the ‘one and only’ staff concert - a fun evening – but with little ‘class and talent’. One exception was one of the girls from ?cleaning who has a lovely voice and sang the final number of the evening before most of us went off to bed.
Tis Saturday morning – 6.30 am here and I know a lot of you are getting ready to watch the grand final; personally the bit I like is the pomp and circumstance that goes before the game so I hope it is a fair weather day.
We are preparing for a day of culture etc in Vienna.
After breaky we broke into two groups – most went off to Schonbrunn palace – not us - we joined 40 or so others on a tour on the elegance of Vienna! We are looking for pointers!
Anyway this involved a tour of the old part of Vienna initially by bus and then we were dropped off near the State Opera building of which we did a tour.
It was when we were sitting there in our opera seats that I got 3 sms’s to say the footy final was a draw! I quite lost the plot on the opera whilst pondering the logistical nightmare that a draw produces. Never mind - back to becoming elegant – Hel has found the building she wants – it is a lovely building almost devoid of gold and a great shape and size and doesn’t appear to want to be the biggest or any other “est”.Of course much was rebuilt after being bombed.
Following our opera house tour we were taken for Austrian cake and coffee – beautiful.
Then we had to walk off our morning tea – went on a walking tour with many many other tour groups – but also got to admire the elegantly attired Austrians who were out to see and be seen.
We also saw the huge number of magnificent buildings that Vienna has and pottered looking for that elusive handbag.
More in a few days time!
Report Number 6 – Reluctantly Returning Home – Vienna to Singapore and Home – 25 September to 3 October
Well folks – this will be the last chapter of this wonderful holiday –
The last letter finished rather abruptly –as Hel was keen to get it out whilst we were still in port at Vienna.
The continuation of that day which was Saturday – grand final mark 1 day.
We had an early dinner prior to going out to a private concert. We went to Liechtenstein Palace (in Vienna) where we enjoyed a drink and took many photos. Unfortunately, ‘they’ must have learned how to take pictures of carriages inside palaces on the night I was missing from Adult Education Photo taking class, cos I haven’t got that sorted out at all.
However, we then moved on up the long staircase to the highly decorated wonderful concert room where we were entertained by the Wiener Imperial Orchestra, and two excellent soloists and two ballet dancers.
The concert was all about Viennese music and waltzing – with Strauss waltzes, Mozart and Beethoven. Mostly fairly well known pieces played brilliantly and a concert enjoyed immensely by all.
When we left the Palace, we discovered it was raining – not part of the grand plan – but it was still warm so no problem.
Back to the ship for a goulash party! We are practising for Hungary! Hel and I chose not to have any and others rather wished they hadn’t. No sure how we will fair in Budapest.
Set sail for Budapest at 10pm wishing we had much longer to enjoy the beautiful city of Vienna.
Tis Sunday – and we travelled all night with some interesting bumping noises that woke most of us. But the ship is still afloat so we assume no mortal wounds were inflicted. During the journey we have travelled through 16 locks most go very smoothly but the water was quite rough last night.
We woke late as it was a 2 p.m. docking in Budapest. So a messy kind of morning – had a disembarkation meeting. Our ‘leaving here’ time is so civilized compared to some who leave for the United States – their wake up time is from 2.30am. We don’t need to have our cases out till 8am – way better.
So pottered about the boat and compared cabins. We are very happy with ours.
After docking in Budapest – which unfortunately is covered in light rain which does not show it off to its very best - a marathon was being held in the city which as we all know makes traffic conditions very difficult.
We set out on our city tour having to do it backwards which threw the guide and her spiel.
It seemed that the weather, the marathon and possibly the fact that many people have now mentally ‘moved on’ made it less than perfect.
In the evening we had a beautiful Hungarian dinner which we faced with great trepidation, however the entrée of chicken pancake and the main course of crumbed mushrooms with a tomato sauce were delicious. Hel chose one of the ‘always on the menu fall back mains’ – and had steak.
After dinner a group from Budapest came on board and we had music and dancing.
The band played things like Hungarian Dance no 5 and some more popular numbers and some silly numbers. They had 4 dancers who sang and danced and got others to join in a “Hungarian” version of a conga line.
Later on in the evening, as a treat, when the skies had cleared we went for an evening lights tour of Budapest. We had the music playing throughout the ship and I suspect half of Budapest. Of course the Blue Danube rated highly – it certainly is a very beautiful city. And it is amazing what well placed lights and a river can do for the beauty of a place.
Sad farewells all round – some fellow travelers had already retired early but we were in no particular hurry.
Tis now Monday – a bright and sunny day in Budapest. I am sitting in a lounge dedicated to Scenic travelers, writing to you whilst Hel has gone out to harass poor shop keepers into selling her a bag.
Disembarkation is always slow and tedious however this worked well but slowly. They needed us off the boat and obviously have a deal with the Marriott and bused us here to the Pest side – the other side of the river from where we had been docked, (which was the Buda side).
People are heading in all different directions and very soon we will be on our own, a large number on the cruise came via Prague so no one is going there today but us.
Hel eventually came racing back to the hotel – of course without a new bag but having had lots of exercise. The taxi was ready for us and off we went to Budapest airport.
Again too early to check in – so a coffee and then check in and again a wait for our plane.
I was expecting a great big plane to take us from one country to another – boy how disappointing – we thought we were up near first class with seats 6a and 6b – but it held 46 people – one hostess and a chap who threw us a cake each. We had to go by bus to the plane – quite ridiculous! And also when we arrived in Prague - where we noticed a significant drop in temperature - 10 we think.
Prague Airport was next to empty when we arrived –and no formalities – just walked out. As arranged, a chap picked us up and took us to the hotel. He was a Canadian who came here many years ago and had such a wonderful time he never went home. He was able to give us a number of helpful hints.
Checked into our hotel which is lovely but for the steps – yes there is a lift but it goes to the place between floors so you have to get the cases up to Reception (a dozen steps) and then down to the lift (another dozen steps) – etc. When you have gotten rid of the cases, all is wonderful.
Walked down a block – cos we now have to make all our own decisions – tuf that.
Hel bought some transport tickets and we had pasta for tea and ran out of money – we are used to people providing these things free.
Anyway we went on a tour to see the Krizik fountain – perform to music. Tonight it was (romantic) classical music – Tchaikovsky and Dvorak to mention two (cos we have forgotten the others) - which was just as well because it can do heavy metal etc.
The fountain is over 100 years old – a bit unclear when the last renovation was done. The fountain is in the open but surrounded on 2 sides by grandstands – fortunately with roofs on – we have had a lot of rain. It is an excellent show. There were only 3 of us on our tour and a guide and driver (plus another 50-100 at the fountain show who weren’t part of our tour). We were supposed to get a Prague by Night tour but the other girl got out when she reached a place she recognized, so the driver took us to 50 metres from home. I must say it suited us well but we definitely didn’t get value for money.
Tuesday - a dull weather day on Prague – with some showers – nothing too dreadful – thus far.
Began the day latish and went down to breaky. A very adequate buffet breaky – nothing like the ones we have been used to but most enjoyable.
Headed out and discovered that it wasn’t raining so decided on checking out the Botanic Gardens. I have them listed for every city but they tend to get dropped in priority some days, but not today. They were looking very pretty with their early autumn leaves. Flowering plants not so special but it was nicely laid out on a steep block which makes for a more interesting garden. They appeared to be part of the uni.
We were hoping to use our tram ticket that Hel had bought but the tram we wanted – well the track was being laid this morning so we had to find another way to town. It is a public holiday and fairly quiet early and many gates locked so it took us a little longer than expected to find the tram. But we did thankfully and headed off.
Coffee on our way to the ‘Grand Tour of Prague’. Different tour company to last night – commentary done in English and Spanish – neither his native tongue. Numbers were a bit of an issue but all went well till he lost us! We came out of a building and he was gone! About 10 of us left standing in the rain. ‘He will come back’ we all said but after a while people weren’t so sure of that at all and mild crossness and panic set in. It was a very interesting experience watching all these adult people cope with ‘abandonment’. Needless to say, he did miss us and did return and blame was apportioned on both sides – and the tour was able to continue.
We began with about an hour driving around each zone of Prague and then climbed the hill (in the bus) to the castle. The castle is the centerpiece of Prague – interesting collection of buildings – all of immensely different eras and styles. Of course built over many many centuries.
It has beautiful views over the city.
After coffee we watched the changing of the guard at the castle and returned down to the old city.
Discovered that all the tourists had got up and were pottering about in town. We joined in and pottered a while and then set about looking for the right trams to get us home again.
In the evening we went to a ‘folkloric evening’. We were picked up by the tour company – all rather hilarious. Met with 8 other people and were driven to a venue about 45 mins from town. It must be said that it is nearing the end of the summer season.
The hall caters for about 120 guests and there were just the 10 of us and they set one cramped table in this huge area – we sorted that right out. We sat with a Mexican couple - I have a stereotype image of what a Mexican should look like and this couple failed so badly. Lovely couple about our age celebrating their 44th wedding anniversary and they are both biologists and run a clinic and are doing the pathology work. Very interesting people – as we have no Spanish – relied heavily upon their English.
The show was great – we had a driver and guide; the place had the owner who ran it all, his wife who did the cooking, a three piece band and two dancers. They were all particularly good and we enjoyed ourselves muchly. They must have made an awful loss.
Wednesday -our last day in Europe – I have been considering ways of staying – Hel keeps coming up with seriously boring issues such as money, not to speak of all the people and things I would really miss. But I do love Europe and would love to stay much longer.
Anyway got Hel up earlier than she hoped for cos it is going to be a very very lengthy day.
Packed our luggage and went down for breaky. Afterwards left our luggage with reception and set off to make good use of our 3 day public transport pass. We can only catch trams using their number cos we can’t understand a word. It was to be a 16 and 17 but changed that to a 4 and 17 – how exciting I hear you say. It was for us and dropped us somewhere near the Charles Bridge.
We walked over the bridge which is just something you have to do. It’s a pedestrian bridge built some 600 years ago, and has wonderful views of the river, the Castle and much of Prague.
There are also artists and knickknack sellers on the bridge.
Following a coffee we set about finding the funicular railway. We walked quite a lot further than necessary but eventually got on board. It only goes 2 stops straight up the hill overlooking the city. Arrives at a garden area and some more distant things, such as a small copy of the Eiffel Tower which I decided I didn’t need to see really.
So we descended the hill and had lunch at a Thai restaurant to get in practice for our Singapore Experience.
More trams back to Wenceslas Square. Wandered on home and rearranged the luggage and waited to be driven to the airport.
It has been great having someone pick us up and return us to the airport – both guys were able to give insights into life in the Czech Republic.
Checked in at the Prague airport and pottered – it is a time to switch off from the real world but retain enough consciousness to get on the right plane. All a bit tedious and very time consuming.
Short pleasant flight to Frankfurt airport which is the size of a small city. We had checked our luggage hopefully thru to Singapore and the girl in Prague said we just had to do something in transit – however we ended up outside the secure area and found the Qantas counter which was ‘manned’ by people for whom the answer to any and all questions was 8p.m. They belonged to another airline and the Qantas people don’t arrive till 8 so all we could do was sit and wait.
Fortunately some woman took pity on Hel at 8.00 and checked us through (there is no suitable facility in the general transit lounge which is the reason it all went awry).
So now in the Qantas Club which is really the JAL lounge. The absolute highlight is the toilet. A warm seat with all bidet functions . Had to race out and tell Hel without all the world knowing.
She has now gone to hopefully find a lounge to lie on, leaving me with you. I don’t have a power connection so have to keep typing till the battery goes.
Thousands of miles later we are now in Singapore and we have had a debate and decided that today is Friday.
There was a chance that we may have been thrown off the plane but one thing is now clear – Helen in particular, but both of us, should not travel thru the night and into the daytime.
It’s such a shame that they insist we have the windows closed because ‘everyone wants to sleep’ - Hel refused to close hers and the chap eventually in a huff said he wasn’t going to argue – but pressure was brought all night long and everyone missed sunrise, the mountains of Nepal, maybe even the Himalayas, India – the snow on the mountains. Hel sneaked a few photos by covering her head and window with a rug! A 12 hour flight, 9 hours of which were in daylight, and the windows were closed for10 hours!
So a number of people checked out the scenery from the back window which was of no more joy to the sleeping folk of the back rows. A shame really. [Late addition – we flew home on an even bigger plane, which has “sky-cam” – a camera in the tail of the plane that shows the view downwards. We presume it works, but our entire flight was in the dark, so there was nothing to be seen. However this is a great idea, Hel reckons.]
So a long time later we landed in Singapore and prepared ourselves for stern people in customs – wrong again – smiling lady greeted us and offered us lollies – I felt it was a trick! But no. Spoke to the folk at Enquiries who gave us a big V sticker to wear and eventually a bus came to pick us up and take us to the Changi Village.
Huge hotel complex not too distant from the airport.
Too tired to care, we rang for some tea which we waited and waited for - apparently the order was lost so after a second call it arrived quite promptly – minus the milk – he was dispatched to get it immediately (I needed it for breaky after all).
Every hotel has idiosyncratic water and light systems – why? So after we worked out most of them a good night’s sleep was had.
We should stay here longer – all set up for me – coffee making facilities in our room, and washing machine a few rooms away. Wot a place.
And there is more – we took ourselves off to the top floor for a swim - the outdoor pool is large and an attractive shape with a view overlooking the sea. Very enjoyable.
Spruced ourselves up and had lunch here whilst discovering the real way to see the place – a taxi.
Changi is not on the route to anywhere quickly – it was anticipated it would take 90 minutes to get to town by public transport. We were to go to the harbour for a 3 hour cruise with high tea and spending some time at Kusu Island.
The island is largely man made with nice beaches and a temple. The main feature though is the tortoises of which there are thousands – just little ones. High tea was interesting - maybe a hangover from previous British times – quite British with sandwiches and little cakes and curry puffs!
Very pleasant afternoon on the harbour listening to some commentary and looking at all the new buildings that make up Singapore.
Arriving back at the wharf we looked for the nearest taxi.
Taxi out to the Night Safari. Now we are one night late – Halloween began today. And you are going to be scared – we feared that they might have moved all the animals out but fortunately no. I have to say for all of those who know Helen – I am so glad it was Halloween we had to contend with, and not last weekend when it was the Grand Prix oh how she enjoys Melbourne’s Grand Prix (not)!
Anyway the main feature of the night safari is going for a tram ride thru the zoo for 35 mins – and I suppose normally hear about each family of animals. Tonight we heard more of their bad/gruesome side in keeping with the Halloween theme. Added for effect, Halloween-themed people kept jumping out from behind trees etc – also a lot of gruesome pictures, extra effects all over the place.
After describing what some animal might do to you, the engine made a loud banging noise and refused to go any further – now the folk had cause for panic – but not really. We were all asked to stay in the tram which we did and about 15 mins later the Zoo equivalent of the RACV materialized. And within minutes we were on our way again.
We were automatically placed in a queue for ‘Creatures of the Night Show’ and after a 15 minute wait we all made our way to an amphitheatre for a show about a number of nocturnal animals, inc raccoons, wolves, otters and hyenas and others doing ‘tricks’ – nothing that would overly worry the animals.
The fascinating part about everything is the writing and the spoken story in each event are all only in English – and that is certainly not most people’s preferred language. Jokes and stories get quite lost in those circumstances.
Preparing to come home, as a spot of sleep is needed, we left the zoo at 9.30 preparing to join the queue for a taxi – as we had witnessed upon our arrival – to find many taxis and no queue at all so straight home. The weather has been warm and sticky but nothing to worry about.
Tis now the last day of our wonderful holiday – we are now sitting in the Qantas Club at Singapore.
This morning we slept in for a bit as we know that sleep is a way off now.
However, we decided that the best strategy was to do the hot and sweaty activities – there are a number of things you can do around Changi – and we went for a walk and found the ferry terminal. The ferries go to a couple of small islands described in Lonely Planet as going back to Singapore of the 70’s and so it was.
So we waited until 12 people had gathered and scrambled on board a bum boat and we were off – only a short ride and we were there. Headed off looking at some of the things I remember from the last visit – in 1974 – food stalls that I don’t trust, dogs of dubious breeding, not a made road. We checked out the sensory walk and then discovered the main reason for the island – bike riding – hundreds and hundreds of bikes for rent. As time went by, more and mainly young men arrived at the island, many bringing their own bikes.
When we returned to the mainland we also had a number of these bike riders who nearly all had gashes and blood and mud on them – definitely a must if you wanted to prove something ?manliness, braveness or just stupidity. All were very happy with their wounds.
After arriving back we continued on with our boardwalk saunter – it became quite warm and muggy.
It was a very different tour of Singapore this time – never went near Orchard Road or any of the other tourist haunts.
Arriving back at the hotel it was swim time – oh how beautiful. It’s warmer in Singapore today – no real cloud cover that we had yesterday – very pretty day really.
Then down to the more mundane features of holidays – packing and finalizing stuff!
Very sorry to leave this lovely hotel/resort. But hopped on their bus and at the airport within minutes. Of course we are here early and able to check luggage in early which was a bonus. A number of Qantas flights leaving at similar times so the Qantas Club is a busy place.
Again the staff at the airport smiling and helpful – ‘for sure, keep your bottle of drink but just throw out the bottle before you board’ etc.
Not a single sms to tell me the disheartening news about Collingwood – but they are playing the Channel 9 News, so fully up with it now. Another valid reason to return to Europe.
As we await the flight home it’s time to reflect upon our wonderful holiday.
Everything has gone wonderfully well – there have been so many highlights – I do hope for Hel that Oberammergau rated right up there. (Hel says she is really pleased she has been there, but her expectations were too high.)
The river cruise was just beautiful. The scenery thru Europe – just visiting the pretty villages esp. Kelheim, the magic of floating down the river to the sound of Viennese waltzes, and watching gorgeous scenery. And for me Vienna was stunning.
Totally loved London – so much cleaner and more welcoming than many years ago - Hel especially loved the Last Night of the Proms in Hyde Park, as did I. I loved Buckingham Palace and having tea overlooking the Queen’s backyard. Hel says most of her highlights involved music – Les Mis, Dreamboats and Petticoats, the private concert, the folklore concert (particularly the playing of a cimbal – like a dulcimer, we are told). Both Hong Kong and Singapore exceeded expectations.
The possible exception – and this is probably unfair - is the flights – the long flights. They really are a necessary part of travelling from Aus – but particularly tedious, esp. night time flights. But in reality this is a small inconvenience in the grand scheme of things.
It’s been a brilliant holiday and we have enjoyed sharing it with you
Bev and Hel