Day 9 – Venice

21 June, 2019
Rat Fink

What a wonderful time it was in Venice with Kay, getting ridiculously lost notwithstanding. (Easy to do in Venice, where all the streets and different piazzas look pretty much the same.)

Instead of jamming ourselves onto boats and doing touristy things, we decided to just take in the city, one canal and one street and one restaurant at a time. It enabled us to sit and chat, enjoy great food and each other’s company, get caught up on conversation, and just generally take in the surroundings without the press of all of humanity. It was nice.

We did, however, take the opportunity to sit in Piazza San Marcos and listen to music while having a drink at the historic Gran Caffe Lavena. Time well spent! (And yes, they definitely played the theme from The Godfather.)

We had dinner in an out-of-the-way restaurant, talked forever, took a long walk around the shoreline, then called it a night.

This morning, we got up early to walk the city and take photos.

Sleeping gondolas, waiting for the day’s insanity

Again, San Marcos and the surrounding areas were nearly empty, and we took advantage of the quiet. Then it was time to go back to the hotel, have breakfast, check out, and schlep it to the train station.

We got horribly lost trying to find the station on foot, so we ended up on a crowded vaporetto, which dumped us where we needed to be — but not in enough time to make our train to Gorizia. So we hung out at the station, had a cold drink, talked, and waited on the breezy platform till the next train was ready to go.

I think Venice is a place I’m glad I visited again after all these years, but it’s not a place I will necessarily miss. Perhaps I’ll go again after I’ve retired, so I can experience it when it’s not so busy, like in November or March. Still, it was fantastic to reunite with Kay there, and we shared a lot of laughs and great conversation in that beautiful place, which we’ll always cherish.

At the end of our 2-hour train ride, we met up with Bob, who drove us to my final destination before home: Slovenia. I will enjoy these last four days — and I know you will enjoy looking at the pictures of this incredibly beautiful place, full of history and stories and family and tradition. And great food — don’t forget the food. :-)

Stay tuned!

Day 8 – Venice

20 June, 2019
Rat Fink

I woke up early yesterday and hoofed it to the Trieste Centrale train station, where I had a great big croissant and a tiny little latte while I waited for my train to Venice. Once I arrived, I needed to grab a vaporetto (equivalent of a city bus, but it’s a boat) to my hotel.

Un. Believable.

I haven’t been to Venice in 43 years. Not much about the facades of the buildings and the layout of the city has changed, but oh my…the place is nonstop crawling with tourists. And I don’t mean lots of people leisurely strolling, taking in the sights and snapping pictures. Rather, I mean yelling, rude, selfish, inconsiderate, and obnoxious tourists — and believe me, not nearly half of them were Americans.

The biggest contributors to Venice’s overcrowding problem (besides the fact that it’s an island, and can hold only so many inhabitants) are the discount airfare businesses who make it possible for folks who aren’t rich to travel internationally, the cruise lines, and the organized tour industry. Enormous cruise ships (I saw three while at the docks this morning) tie up outside the city, and disgorge thousands of people at once — literally thousands — into Piazza San Marco. Tour groups of 60-70 walk the slim alleyways and rent multiple boats on the canals. When I saw it all yesterday, I was stunned into frozen silence. I just stood there like a dork, gawking at it. I refused to take a photo of any of it. I found myself — a tourist, absolutely — getting honked off.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Back to my arrival.

I got in line to buy a vaporetto ticket, paid my 7 euro, and went to the holding area. That’s where the ugliness began.

People started pushing to get to the front of the dock, where the next boat would pick up passengers. I was bounced around like a pinball. I started to make motions to calm people down, and it worked for about half a second. The more people pushed in front of me, the more disgusted I became.

So, like a champion salmon, I started pushing upstream — outta there. I decided I’d rather walk to my hotel than deal with these idiots for the next hour, so I burned that 7 euro and took off walking, with Google Maps as my only guide.

Off I went, on what Maps said would be a 29-minute walk. Wellll yeah, not so fast. haha I’d forgotten how easy it is to get lost in Venice, as the narrow streets (and by “narrow,” I mean they measure about 6 people across) look the same, and some aren’t labeled very well, or at all.

Ninety minutes later, after schlepping 20 lbs. of gear in the 90-degree heat, I dragged into my hotel, whereupon I was told my room wasn’t ready yet. Yay! So I left my backpack behind the front desk, went to the lobby rest room and washed my face and drank a gallon of water directly from the sink, and set out to find lunch and rest — which I did. The pasta carbonara was great, as was the air-conditioned restaurant. I returned an hour later, checked into my room, got a shower and clean clothes and a bit of a nap, and felt a ton better.

By that time, it was getting to be late afternoon, and I was still dragged out. The only thing I did last night was venture out after the sun went down to find a pharmacy (left my clippers, tweezers and Tylenol on my desk at home), so I had a nice stroll. But I still hated the crowds.

So what do you do when you want to get a nice photo, but hate the pressing crowds? Wake up early, before the three cruise ships parked just outside St. Mark’s get their breakfasts over with and barf everyone down the gangway.

It was a beautiful experience, watching the sun come up. Behold, the city at 5:55 a.m….

A back canal with no traffic (yet)

 

Basilica di San Marco, with the sun rising behind it

 

Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace)

 

I saw four different couples having their wedding pictures taken.

 

Ponte di Rialto (Rialto Bridge) — the most famous in Venice, built in the late 1580s. (And usually crammed with a thousand writhing bodies, but not at 6:30 a.m.)

 

Beautiful and serene; the calm before the hurricane.

 

I went to the market and watched them set up for the day’s business. Everything looked delicious!

 

Hey, what say we have some of these slimy, gelatinous things for dinner tonight? *hORk*

So I beat the tourists after all, at least for one hour. Today, Kay and Bob arrive in the city — looking forward to sitting over a long meal and catching up. I’ll report on our wanderings later — thanks for checking in! Hope you enjoyed the photos.

Hugs

 

Day 7 – Hohenschwangau

18 June, 2019
Rat Fink

OK, so I scheduled this stop with the sole purpose of seeing this castle, built by royal nutjob Ludwig II of Bavaria, and in which he lived only 173 days, before his death under “suspicious circumstances.”

The king’s childhood home is right down the road; you know, on another mountain. It’s called Schloss Hohenschwangau. Notice in both castle names, there appears the word schwan, which is German for “swan” — the family crest.

Anyway, Neuschwanstein didn’t disappoint. Of course, we weren’t allowed to take photos (a member of castle security followed our group around for the entire 35-minute tour), but I did get a few photos of the exterior. Impressive…

It’s a mile-long walk uphill to get to the castle, and since I was tired already, I opted to take the bus up and down. Little good it did, as they let you off at a drop-off point, and you still have to walk a half mile uphill. Once you’re inside, there are at least 10 spiral staircases (I lost count) with 15 steps in each. Climb, climb, climb. With virtually no handicap access, you have to be willing to schlep up and down the stairs if you want to see it. It was OK though — after all this rich food, I needed the workout. And boy did I get it.

The bus back down was an exercise in sheer terror. The lunatic bus driver went 30 MPH around curves, I swear it, with people jammed on the bus in excess of twice the capacity. Here was my view, all the way down. Some guy had his butt on my leg the whole way. Horrifying. We all thought we were going to tip over and go head over heels down the steep side.

But on to my travel day…

In one day, I rode in a bus, a train, a plane, and a car. All that’s missing is the boat!

Looking like a couple miles of bad road…

It’s been a long haul over the last 12 hours, from Germany to northeast Italy, and I’ve been tired all day. But I didn’t mind; part of the fun’s getting there, right? And I knew I needed to drag it out bigtime for one day in order to make the final leg of the Odyssey.

Let me say first: I have ridden nine different airlines in my lifetime. I know that may not be many to some, but it’s a handful for me, and you know who’s #1 on that list? Air Dolomiti. Man…the Americans could take a lesson. Boarding is NBD — everyone was on the plane (which they opened at both ends — front and back — imagine that) in minutes, and take-off was a minute early. They gave all instructions in Italian, then followed with English. They were quick, friendly, and efficient, which automatically put the passengers at ease. A+, AD!

I started out the morning with breakfast at the hotel, and then checked out and walked a hundred yards down the street to the bus stop, where the #78 took me back to Füssen and on towards Munich. Fortunately, there was no one in 1st class with me for the first 2.5 hours of the journey, so I had some quiet time.

Goodbye, Alps — hello, Dolomites

Things went sideways a bit when my second train was rerouted and I had to get off and find another one, but I found one, and went the rest of the way into enormous Munich Airport, where I caught my plane to Trieste.

Tomorrow, I take a train to Venice and check into my hotel. I’ll wander the canals solo until Thursday, when I meet up with Kay and Bob. We’ll have lunch, and then Bob will drive the rental car to Slovenia (right across the border), and Kay and I will have a day to ourselves in Venice. We plan to go off the beaten path and hopefully find some treasures to tell you about.

I was going to go find some dinner here in Trieste, but it’s already going on 9 p.m., so I’m having hot tea and cookies and calling it a night. Early train in the morning — I’m out. See you tomorrow!

Much love…

Day 6 – Salzburg

17 June, 2019
Rat Fink

Hello everyone – once again, thanks for following this little adventure along with me.

Suzanne and I finished our time together yesterday, and it was wonderful. The only bad part was saying goodbye; she caught a train back to Vienna, then got on a plane for home in the Netherlands, and I went north and west to Germany.

But before we did, we had a fantastic day. We started at the Mozarthaus, and we both learned quite a bit not about Wolfgang, but about his father. Photos weren’t permitted, but we saw letters and music he’d written, and originals of famous paintings of the Mozart family. Very interesting.

From there, we took a taxi out of town to Untersberg Mountain, part of the Alpine range that straddles Austria and Germany.

Truth be told, I wasn’t crazy about the idea, but Suzanne really wanted to see it, so I thought why not… What’s the worst that could happen if that thin cable snapped and we plummeted a thousand feet to the rocks below? So, up we went.

When we reached the summit (alive), we got out and walked around. Man, it was cold up there! They had a cute little café, so we had lunch there. The beef and noodles was spectacular, even though I secretly worried it would be my last meal.

After returning (alive), we hopped a bus and went back into town, and I did some laundry while Suzanne arranged her trip back. We decided we wanted to have dinner at the Fortress, where we’d tried the night before (they had it closed for a wedding reception, so we were out of luck). So we hailed a taxi to take us there. Trouble was, the driver didn’t know how to get there (!!!) and wasted 15 of our euro before we finally said, “never mind, just let us out here.”

Not knowing where to go next, we stumbled into a huge square, and I said, “Hey.. I think that’s the horse fountain that Maria splashes in while singing ‘I Have Confidence.'” Sure enough, that’s what it was! Another happy accident.

After having a delicious, leisurely dinner at an out-of-the-way restaurant, it was getting late and things were shutting down for the night. We went back to the hotel, sat on the patio enjoying some drinks, then hugged goodbye till next time. Looking so forward to seeing what our next adventure will be!

Having some connectivity issues with my laptop right now, so I owe you another post (I’ve done this one on my phone, and I have no idea what it’s going to look like, so sorry if it’s wonky). On to Germany!

Much love…

 

Day 5 – Salzburg

15 June, 2019
Rat Fink

Shew, what a great day! It’s 8:50 p.m. and I’m ready to collapse, but I have to write to you about the beautiful memories and everything we experienced.

The train ride to Salzburg from Vienna was fun and relaxing, and as we traveled west, the mountains began to slowly creep into view. Pro tip: when riding the rails, book 1st class. It’s not that much more money, the atmosphere is peaceful, and in our case this time, we got to ride on the upper deck of the train, which really provided some fantastic views.

When we reached the central train station, we hailed a taxi to take us to our hotel, which is located right in the middle of the oldest part of the city. Score! We didn’t waste much time getting settled in our rooms and venturing out. We knew it was going to rain later in the day, so the Sound of Music stops were first on the list, as they are all outside.

The Dwarf Garden

Mirabell gardens is where several scenes from “Do-Re-Mi” were filmed, and it was surreal seeing them up close and in person. The palace and surrounding grounds are right in the center of town, so we started there.

Do you recognize any of these places? Of course you do. :-)

Running a race through the garden tunnel

 

Around the fountain

 

Walking up the steps at the end of the song

We went to the Feldensreitschule, where the final festival concert was filmed, but were told at the gate that it was closed. Boo. Tomorrow, we plan to take the 40-minute drive out to Schloss Frohnburg, which served as the von Trapp family home in the movie.

Time and weather prevented us from seeing all the movie locations, but the ones we saw were fun and brought back some memories for me on more than one level. Suzanne said, “When you watched this movie as a kid, did you ever think you’d be standing in some of the exact places it was filmed?” No, I didn’t!

Perhaps the neatest discovery was the one we made totally by accident. After having a fabulous dinner at Steiglskeller in the old city, we walked down the steep cobblestone street to grab a ride back to the hotel (unlike tourist locations in the US, many cities in Europe close down at 5 or 6 p.m.). When we reached the bottom of the hill, Suzanne stopped in her tracks and said, “This is it! This is the place.”

Right in front of us was St. Peter’s Cemetery and catacombs — the medieval monastery to which the von Trapp family fled to hide from the Nazis before escaping to Switzerland. What a find!

Of course, the oldest working monastery in Austria wasn’t used for filming, but rather the production company built a replica and filmed the scene in Hollywood. Still, it was great to stumble upon this gem of a location around which the entire city of Salzburg was built. We stood on old, holy ground and admired the silence and beauty.

Tomorrow, we’ll take in some Mozart history and finish looking up Sound of Music locations, eat some more great food (oy I am going to need to go on a diet when I get home), and spend one last evening together before Suzanne and I say goodbye for another summer, and I continue on my journey alone for a few days.

It’s so wonderful having you all along — I promise I will respond to all your kind comments! More to come tomorrow…

Much love :-)