A Travellerspoint blog

Old World Charm

Pigeons, high prices, fanny packs and pretty canals...a few days in Venice.

sunny

We are now in Pula, Croatia by the way - we just arrived by bus last night. As we expected, Venice was extremely expensive (even internet was 10 bucks an hour) so we only stayed for two nights. Our first look at the city was a tantalizing view of the Grand Canal just next the the train station. There is something purely incredible about Venice, even if tourists outnumber the locals. The architecture is seemingly ancient, with a gorgeous mix of rennaisance, baroque and gothic. Flowers adorn nearly every window sill, the streets are cobblestone, the canals snake through the entire city, the public buses are noisy, bloated boats. It's certainly a sensory overload, to say the least.

We spent our days wandering the labyrinth alleyways, hopping around to the typical sites, and sampling the local fare. Our stop at the Murano glass factory was fantastic - we watched the masters blowing the glass into (expensive) works of art. Luckily for me, all the jewelery was half off...so I was sure to pick up a little souvenir. :)

We also stopped by the ornate Basilica di San Marco, which was certainly beautiful, but disturbingly so. Something about gilded catholic churches makes me uncomfortable. We decided not to pay the rip-off $15 entry fee, so we payed one euro to play with the pigeons instead. Although I am a firm believer pigeons are little more than (damn persistant) rats with wings, Porter and his bag of bird feed were soon drowing in them as the birds swarmed all over his arms, chest, back and shoulders. One particularly ambitous pigeon took a perch upon his head. Okay, okay, I tried it too...but they definitely liked porter more than me.

Overall, it was a pricey but lovely experience - we could have saved a bit more money if we realized that only gullible tourists actually pay for the local transportation (no one ever checks for tickets) or frequent the mildly expensive restaurants (the street food was far tastier and more affordable). We also had to leave on the once-a-day bus before I could visit the Peggy Guggenheim art collection, so I suppose I will have to return someday (a bit wiser and wealthier, perhaps.)

Soooo....we boarded a comfortable bus (nothing like Africa and India, to say the least) for Croatia, passing through a very green Slovenia and barely-there customs. I find it very strange that I've not had my passport stamped since I entered the Munich airport. They take a look at them (appearing official and mildly skeptical), and then hand them back...nothing fancy. Apparently I was too awed by the gorgeous scenery, because I managed to leave my passport on the bus - which was long gone before I even noticed.

In a mild (okay, extreme) state of panic, I found some other driver hanging around the station who made a call to the now off-duty driver of the runaway bus, who hand-delivered my passport in his BMW. He was sporting fancy shades and a ˝stupid annoying American˝ expression. Very, very close call.

Croatia has been fantastic and affordable....we're staying with a lovely local family. The husband makes his own wine and served us fresh cherries from his orchard. The wife speaks only croatian (my few phrases are a little insufficient), but she is very kind and jolly. We sat on the porch until quite late, enjoying wine and fruit and chatting with the husband and a permanant tenant - a retired naval engineer/skipper with a bad knee and a world of experience. We talked about the war, the Serbs, the croatian economy, his career memories, and his jaunts around the world (including Cuba!). We ˝ordered˝ a pizza from some local woman, chowed down in the kitchen, and went off to bed.

We awoke this morning to fresh coffee (which neither of us like, so porter downed both of our cups so as not to be rude..haha) and an extremely adorable, snorting female pug. After a breakfast of bread and jam, we made our way into town, stopping at the awesome first century ampitheater and this lovely internet cafe. I must say that I very much miss the clean air laws of the USA, as everyone...everyone smokes here. Anyway, I apologize for the stream-of-consciousness nature of this entry, but I am suffocating from lack of oxygen...I believe the only cure is a relaxing trip to the beach...

bye for now!

Posted by MegMc2003 03:06 Archived in Croatia Comments (1)

(Almost) Everything they say is true!

A few days in Italy

sunny

We were sad to leave Germany so quickly, and we certainly could have stayed for several more days. Munich was one of those addictive cities with so much to see and do, so much history to absorb, and so many biergartens to sample...but alas, we are anxious to get to croatia so we hopped a (miserable and freezing) night train through the Alps.

Bologna, Italy was beautiful and ancient...we climbed thousands (well, maybe hundreds) of stairs to the top of the larger leaning tower for an incredible view of the city. The steps were absolutely tiny, and I'm sure my knee surgeon would be proud of my activity level! Other than the hike into the sky, we were pretty low-key for the rest of the stay...spending most of our time people watching in the large public square and downing wine and gelatto. (I swear the foodstuffs of this place will be the end of me!)

The street performers were interesting...if not hilarious...including a group of "native Americans" in full dress playing flutes, and a large, uber-masculine, long haired man in all leather badly lipsyncing to "world peace" songs - (with his tiny little poodle bobbing along beside him).

The stereotypes of italy have been mostly (wonderfully) true - gelatto and scooters at every corner, outdoor cafes, gorgeous stucco architecture, charming public plazas, glitzed up women and macho men, cheap wine and expensive clothing, and a landscape like no other (green trees, rolling hills, and an impeccably blue sky). I certainly could not afford to spend a great deal of time here, but we've had a lovely experience thus far.

We're now in Verona, which is steeped in cheesy (wonderful) legends about Romeo and Juliet - with whom, as many of you know, I am rather obsessed. Shakespeare has a wonderful presence in this beautiful little town, and we were even fortunate to see 'the house of juliet', complete with a very appropriate balcony. You can imagine my giddyness. When I am home, I immediately plan to curl up with the greatest play of all time- in my opinion at least! It's a very romantic city, and very steeped in history. A great deal of roman architecture - including the 3rd largest ampitheater - still exists and is in good working condition.

I am running out of time, so I will have to leave you here. We'll be heading to Venice this afternoon - where the internet cafes are a horrifying 7 euros an hour. Thus, you may not hear from me again until croatia!

Until then...Ciao!

Posted by MegMc2003 03:17 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Our first days in Europe

Munich

sunny

So, I apologize about my delay in starting up a new blog for this grand adventure of mine. We've been non-stop traveling, and the backwards keyboards are absolutely maddening for a tired temper.

Our first hours in Munich were mildly frustrating - we were both awake for a solid 24 hours and they lost my bag...my only bag...my entire life for the next three months! Luckily, it was delivered to our hostel later that evening. Overall, Munich was completely fantastic! It was strange, because I felt far more intimidated there than in any of the 'third world' nations I've explored...maybe it was the overly fashion conscious population (my backpacker gear was a little underwhelming I believe), maybe it was all the fancy cars, maybe it was the swarm of other travelers - I'm not really sure. I got over it pretty quick and started to enjoy myself :)

We took a free walking tour of the city on our first day - perusing the historical streets of Munich was a real treat. We passed multiple WWII relics, the largest city park in the world (complete with a randomly strolling very wrinkly naked old man...a bit removed from the nudist sunbathing area apparently, and a surf-able river), the oh-so-famous and atmospheric Hofbrauhaus (the oldest biergarten in Munich), and the famous glockenspiel (sorry about the spelling). The city was clean, and historic, and utterly gorgeous!

We spent the rest of the day at the very sobering Dachau concentration camp - which is just as horrifying in person as in the textbooks. We arrived a bit late due to a little too much time spent enjoying beer and pretzels, so we didn't have a chance to see the crematorium, but everything else was sufficient in pulling at my heartstrings. It was utterly mind boggling to stroll through the camp and imagine the atrocities committed there. I certainly believe everyone should see such a place at least once in their life - it truly brings the reality of the world a little bit closer to home.

The rest of our time in Munich was spent perusing the busy streets - I was even kissed by a street performer - and in Fussen, the home of Neuschwanstein, Ludwig's breathtaking fairytale castle. We took a cheesy (but wonderful!) horse drawn carriage ot the castle, wandered the overly ornate castle corridors and soaked in the gorgeous alpine scenery. We even opted out of the usual route down from the castle by trekking through the forest, in awe of the many crystal-clear waterfalls. It was truly a fantastic experience!

We caught a night train that evening for Bologna, Italy, which is where we've been since yesterday.

In the interest of time, I will have to leave you hanging by the edge of your seat until my next entry :) We'll be departing for Verona quite soon, and I will fill you in on all the glorious details of our adventure!

Posted by MegMc2003 01:40 Archived in Germany Comments (1)

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