A Travellerspoint blog

Estilo Alemão

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View RTW - 2010 on flaviaU's travel map.

As últimas duas semanas passaram muito rápido, nem percebi que já faziam 10 dias que eu não havia escrito meu blog, nas últimas semanas passamos por 4 países, visitamos vários amigos e engordamos uns 10 quilos. Saímos da Suíça no final de semana e voltamos para a Alemanha, dessa vez para conhecer a região da Bavária, que para muita gente representa a verdadeira Alemanha, com muitas tradições, muita comida e é claro, muita cerveja. O nosso amigo Leo nos esperava em uma estação de trem na cidadezinha de Tegansee, à uma hora de trem de Munique, de lá fomos para o seu apartamento onde o restante da família nos esperava, nós conhecemos o Leo e a Anna (esposa) a quatro meses atrás em uma praia na ilha de Koh Phangan, na Tailândia, onde eles dois com os dois filhos pequenos passavam férias, passamos alguns dias nessa praia com eles e fomos convidados para ficar na casa deles quando fossemos para a Alemanha. Como eu e o Jonathan nunca perdemos a oportunidade de conhecer novos lugares e garantir uma cama macia pra passar a noite, claro que aceitamos o convite, a família nos recebeu com muito carinho, logo que chegamos já fomos servidos com um típico café da manhã Alemão, que consistia de diferentes tipos de salsicha, pretzels, queijos e cerveja, servida em copos gigantescos, mas isso foi só o começo, dos três dias que passamos com eles não faltou comida na mesa e aonde quer que fossemos sempre havia uma parada para beber cerveja e comer, até que não agüentássemos mais. Mesmo com o tempo chuvoso, conhecemos quase toda a área da Bavária, seus castelos, monastérios, montanhas e lagos juntamente com a cultura típica Alemã, com várias pessoas que nos finais de semana se vestem no estilo Oktoberfest, super engraçado. Fomos muito gratos ao Leo e a Anna por acolher-nos por uns dias e foi graças a eles que também ganhamos uns quilinhos a mais.

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Continuando a nossa viagem pela Alemanha, em direção a Stuttgart, cidade centro da indústria automobilística Alemã, na realidade a cidade em si não nos atraiu muito, a razão da nossa visita foi para rever um amigo, o Jean-Paul, que o Jonathan havia conhecido há alguns anos atrás quando ele viajava pela America do Sul e que eu acabei conhecendo algum tempo depois já nos Estados Unidos. O Jean-Paul é uma pessoa muito querida e super receptiva, ele nasceu nos Estados Unidos, mas a sua mãe é da Guatemala e o seu pai é do Haiti, ele já viveu em diversos países, fala mais de 5 línguas e gosta de muita festa. Logo na chegada ele já tinha uma dose de vodka esperando pela gente e já havia preparado uma lista de bares pra gente conhecer, mas eu acho que a gente acabou deixando ele meio desapontado no final das contas, pois não estávamos no mesmo “pique” que ele, ele esqueceu que nós somos um casal e que preferimos algo mais tranqüilo do que sair pra dançar a noite toda em bares de música eletrônica, mas nos divertimos bastante do mesmo jeito. O Jean- Paul esta em uma fase de procura, ele quer encontrar uma menina legal, bonita, carinhosa, inteligente, compreensiva, etc... ou seja, ela tem que ser perfeita e assim fica um pouco difícil, mas ele ainda não perdeu as esperanças, quem sabe um dia ele mude de idéia e resolva aceitar alguém que tenha defeitos, afinal que muito escolhe acaba sempre sendo escolhido. Um pouco cansados do “Jean-Paul tour by night” resolvemos respirar um pouco de ar fresco e conhecer a região de Alsace, na França, que está localizada a apenas uma hora e meia de Stuttgart, que produz muitos vinhos de qualidade, sendo uns dos meus vinhos preferidos. Alsace foi uma região de muitos donos, primeiro pertenceu à França, depois após a guerra Franco-Prussiana a Alemanha tomou posse dessa área até o final da Primeira Guerra Mundial, quando os Franceses retomaram o seu território novamente, com todas essas mudanças a região manteve um pouco de cada cultura, seus habitantes falam Francês e Alemão, a gastronomia é composta de muitas influências da culinária Alemã, tanto quanto na sua arquitetura, mas a personalidade dos seus habitantes é predominantemente francesa. Conhecemos duas vinícolas na região cujos vinhos são vendidos nos Estados Unidos e estão entre os nossos favoritos, para a nossa surpresa as vinícolas ainda são gerenciadas pelas famílias, onde todos os membros colaboram com a produção do vinho e mantém as tradições de centenas de anos, apesar de não falarmos Francês, conseguimos nos comunicar um pouco com a ajuda do nosso amigo Jean-Paul como tradutor.

Depois da nossa visita rápida para a França voltamos à Alemanha, nos despedimos do Jean-Paul e seguimos para a Holanda, mas como eu já combinei uns três países de uma vez só, vou deixar a Holanda para o próximo blog, como vocês já devem ter percebido, nós agora estamos viajando mais rápido do que o normal, pois teremos que encontrar os meus sogros em Londres em alguns dias e de lá iremos viajar juntos pelo Reino Unido, a Escócia e a Irlanda. Até logo!

Posted by flaviaU 18:59 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

Country hopping

all seasons in one day 81 °F

Catching up with friends has been a bit more taxing than we anticipated. Although the accomidation is much nicer, we have been away from our room more in the past week than throughout the rest of the trip. Except maybe in rainy Basel! We left Zug for a quick two night trip to see one of Flavia’s friends from preschool, yah, preschool. It’s amazing what the combination of travelling and Facebook allows, a time to reconnect with people that maybe you haven’t seen in years. The oddest part is when you see that person and it seems like you haven’t skipped a beat. Flavia and Paula may as well still be playing in the sandbox in Brazil. The two of them spent the days together as if they had never once been apart, and fortunately for me, I hit it off well with Allian, Paula’s husband. We chatted in a mix of Portuguese and English, them two trying to make up for lost time, and me and him just watching the day pass. Basel was like a trip to a different world, leaving the glamour and glitz of Zurich and Zug and finding a nice clean, decent, and livable city. We wandered along the clean river that runs through town and watched people float by as they made their way from to the “beach”, a series of concrete steps where the sun worshippers gathered whenever the clouds parted. There wasn’t much else going on there in the middle of the week. Paula just moved from Brazil last year and is very much in with the small crowd of Portuguese speakers, who invited Flavia and I to come and do an interview for their weekly radio show and tell them a bit about the trip. It was pretty interesting to be behind the microphone trying my hardest to tell stories in Portuguese. Besides that the highlight was that I finally had my first ever Fondue, a bit late in life for a first of this magnitude, but well worth the wait.

After two days we spent one night back in the fantasy world of Zug. We headed out to Jazz night, where seemingly the whole town wanted to buy us beer and chat with us. One fascinating occurrence with the Swiss that we found is that even if we were in a group of 10 people, if two people across the group were talking, they would speak English instead of Swiss German, just to be sure that we wouldn’t feel excluded from their conversation. Overall, the Swiss seemed to be the most well mannered people I have ever met, and they do it with sincerity and compassion, an obvious result of being blessed with smarts, an amazing education system, and a small town mentality.

The train ride to Munich seemed to take much longer than it needed to. It’s weird sometimes that I almost miss those terrible night bus rides, where at least I could sleep most of the time. Most of the train trips we take end up being 6 hours or so, not long enough to pass a full night, but too short to just be a “hop on and we’re there” kind of ride. Plus trains do weird things, like when we sit facing forward so Flavia can read without getting sick, and then halfway through the train starts heading backward after stopping. Or then on the train from Munich to our friends place, the one that splits up into three trains half way through the route, each peeling away to head to a different location. Anyway, we woke up at 7, caught the bus at 8, the train from Zug to Zurich at 8:30, the train from Zurich to Munich at 9:16, then the train from Munich to Tegernsee at 2:15, arriving the tiny lakeside town in the heart of Bavaria a bit after three. Leo was waiting for us with Tony, we were happy to be there, even with the slight drizzle and the cold weather. We met Leo, Anna, Tony, and Nikki in Thailand a few months ago and they made the mistake of telling us we could stay with them if we passed through. Nikki was spending the summer in Russia, where Anna was from, and little 3 year old Tony remembered me instantly and became my best friend for the next few days. Leo and Anna work for the Discovery Channel and welcomed us to Bavaria in the best way, a quick bite to eat of veal sausage and pretzels, with a few beers, followed by a walk through the hills, then down to a lakeside Monastery where amazing beer has been served for 900 years or so and guys in Lederhosen can sit around the tables and drink the huge steins with pretzels, sausages, beer dip, and all heavy food you could ever dream of. And so began the routine of eating a lot, often, and always washing it down with copious amounts of beer. My god, in three days, I managed to feel as if I had become pregnant!

We explored Bavaria through the rain clouds. We went to castles, where we had beer, pretzels, and watched the rain. We sat on their patio in between rain storms, ate pretzels dipped in beer dip, while drinking wheat beer. We met them for lunch in Munich on our last day, and had a nice lunch of pork knee, pretzels, and beer. Bavaria is where beer was perfected, it was really good, noticeably good, but if I ever lived there, I would have to seek rehab due to severe pretzel addiction and buy larger clothes by the week because of all the… everything!

Leaving Munich for Stuttgart, we knew we had another friend waiting, and more opportunities to see cities in between beer and food! I met Jean Paul a few years back while I travelled South America and have seen him a few time since then. He now lives in Stuttgart for the next three years or so, where he works on an American army base in the outskirts of the city. It’s interesting that the US army has such a large presence here. There are three bases, and inside, it is like being back in America. The stores have all American goods, like you would find at Target or the mall, the food court is all American food, the Post Office mails things at local US rates, and the Bank of America branch dishes out dollars. It’s a bit odd to have been back in America for a few hours when we went to check out his office and do a bit of shopping.

We spent most of the evening’s and nights checking out Stuttgart’s nightlife, which is JP’s specialty. I think that maybe he failed to realize that perhaps I don’t go out as much as I did during my bachelor days while I roamed South America. Either way, Stuttgart seems like a decent place, perhaps a bit boring, but with the normal assortment of bars, restaurants, and the odd 600 year old building in the old town. On our last day, we did do something very special though. We jumped into the car fairly early and sped down the Autobahn to France and the Alsace region to head to the Allimant Laugner vineyard, to taste Flavia’s absolute favorite wine, straight from the source. When you drink a French imported wine, I’m not sure what you think of. I guess I think of massive wineries with big labs and perfect PH and acid levels, carefully measured by expert winemakers who frown at Americans. This place was the opposite. Ms. Laugner, the grandma took about 10 rings of the bell to wake up from her nap, and then she ran to greet us and spoke to JP in French (he speaks French), then opened the basement to the home their family has lived in for 300 years to show us the tiny cellar. She was so happy to have us there and immediately called her grandson and granddaughter to come and tell us about the winery, since they spoke English. Nikolas showed up shortly after and gave us the full history of their tiny operation while Anais stole Jean Paul’s heart! After that, they led us to another door in the courtyard that led down a few steps into their beautiful tasting room, where Flavia got to taste the good stuff right from the source! We loved it, it’s so amazing to have a fantasy play out like it should, Flavia’s first day ever in France, a bit of Alsacian food, a visit to Trimbach to taste some of their amazing Gewürztraminer and Riesling, and then a drive up into the hills into the tiny town of Orschwiller, nestled in between green vineyards for the ultimate in wine tasting, merci! We are off to Amsterdam tomorrow to make it four countries in a week… I wonder if we’ll ever slow down.

Posted by JonathanU 23:13 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

Alemanha Oriental e Alemanha Ocidental

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View RTW - 2010 on flaviaU's travel map.

Chegamos a Berlim em um dia chuvoso, andamos pelas ruas do bairro de Prenzlauer Berg onde nos hospedamos e já nas primeiras horas que passamos na cidade começamos a apreciar sua diversidade. Berlim é jovem e velha, moderna e antiga, rebelde e pacífica, com um passado recente de separação e conflito que ainda deixa marcas em todo cidade. O Muro de Berlim foi construído pela República Democrática Alemã (Alemanha Oriental) durante a Guerra Fria, que rodeava toda a Berlim Ocidental, se separando da Alemanha Oriental. Este muro, além de dividir a cidade de Berlim ao meio, simbolizava a divisão do mundo em duas partes: a República Federal da Alemanha (RFA), que era constituído pelos países capitalistas e República Democrática Alemã (RDA), constituído pelos países socialistas simpatizantes do regime soviético. Construído na madrugada de 13 de Agosto de 1961, dele faziam parte 66,5 km de gradeamento metálico, 302 torres de observação, 127 redes metálicas eletrificadas com alarme e 255 pistas de corrida para cães de guarda. Este muro provocou a morte a 80 pessoas identificadas, 112 ficaram feridas e milhares aprisionadas nas diversas tentativas de atravessar-lo. Durante sua existência, entre 1961 e 1989, o muro quase parou todos os movimentos de emigração e separou a Alemanha Oriental de Berlim Ocidental por mais de um quarto de século. Durante uma onda revolucionária que varreu o Bloco de Leste, o governo da Alemanha Oriental anunciou em 9 de novembro de 1989, após várias semanas de distúrbios civis, que todos os cidadãos da RDA poderiam visitar a Alemanha Ocidental e Berlim Ocidental. Multidões de alemães orientais subiram e atravessaram o Muro, juntando-se aos alemães ocidentais do outro lado. A queda do Muro de Berlim, abriu o caminho para a reunificação alemã, que foi formalmente celebrada em 3 de outubro de 1990. Eu recomendo a todos se puderem assistir o filme Good Bye Lenin! que retrata essa época com os olhos de um adolescente que vivia na Alemanha Oriental, também para uma visão mais psicodélica assistam “Pink Floyd The Wall” o filme.
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A primeira parada do dia foi a “East side Gallery” que é um memorial que simboliza a libertação de Berlim, são aproximadamente 100 pinturas de diversos artistas do mundo em um muro de 1.3 Km de extensão pintadas primeiramente em 1990, demonstrando o espírito de revolta contra a guerra e a esperança de paz no mundo, a galeria foi uma das coisas que eu mais gostei na viagem, te faz se sentir vivo e não perder a esperança de que o mundo pode melhorar, uma das mensagens que ficaram na minha memória foi: “Porque aqueles que pensam que são loucos o suficiente para mudar o mundo, são no final aqueles que fazem a diferença.”
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Seguimos as muralhas do antigo muro de Berlim ate chegarmos no “Checkpoint Charlie” antiga torre de controle dos americanos, onde havia uma exibição ao ar livre da história de Berlim e de todos os fatores que contribuíram para a sua separação e mais tarde sua unificação, de lá visitamos o Museu Judaico, que retratou toda a história do povo Judeu, desde os primeiros cidadãos até as diversas formas de preconceito sofridas por eles durante os muitos anos, principalmente na época do Holocausto, onde milhares de pessoas que pertenciam a grupos indesejados pelo regime nazista de Adolf Hitler foram exterminadas em campos de concentração. Os Judeus foram impedidos de viver em sociedade, negados direitos e alimentação e finalmente exterminados juntamente com o restante da sociedade marginalizada, como os homossexuais, ciganos, soviéticos, etc.

Depois de um dia repleto de história e sentimentos de indignação, resolvemos conhecer o lado “fashion e alternativo” da cidade, cheia de estudantes, hippies, artistas e rebeldes, cada pedaço de Berlim tem sua própria identidade, que se expressam nas roupas, calçados, na culinária, nas inúmeras bicicletas, nas casas, bares, lojas e cafés. Respiramos o ar alternativo de Berlim por somente 3 dias e partimos com um sentimento de quero mais, um dia com certeza voltaremos.

Da Alemanha para a Suíça

Como eu já estou um pouco atrasado no meu blog, resolvi escrever um pouco sobre a Suíça também, um país que não estava na nossa rota, devido ao fato de ser um dos países mais caros do mundo, ou seja, proibido para mochileiros. Mas mudamos de idéia depois de conhecer vários Suíços no inicio na nossa viagem, a maioria na Austrália nos vários campings que nos passamos, todos com um espírito muito hospitaleiro, depois de vários convites resolvemos conhecer esse lindo país, que apesar de pequeno e ter uma fama de ser muito fechado para outras culturas, nos provou que as pessoas são pelo contrario muito interessadas em conhecer estrangeiros, conversar por horas e horas, claro que não deixando de esconder o seu “jeito Suíço” de ser, muito educados e refinados. Alguns fatos sobre os Suíços, eles recém uma educação exemplar, quase todos falam 3 ou 4 línguas e se tornam profissionais muito competentes, o nível de educação é muito superior, eles só querem os melhores profissionais trabalhando no país, os Suíços são muito preocupados com barulho, com ouvidos muito sensíveis, são extremamente pontuais (só poderiam ser não é, com a quantidade de relógios que vem de lá) e tudo funciona do jeito que tem que ser, sem nenhum imprevisto, por ultimo, eles consideram extremamente importante fazer um brinde toda vez que um grupo de pessoas começam a beber, não somente pelo o tim tim do copo e o desejo de saúde, mas principalmente pelo olhar no olho de cada pessoa que você brinda, se não olhar no olho você vai passar anos e anos sem sexo, o brinde é levado a serio, e ai de quem não brindar. Vale mencionar que a Suíça possui os melhores queijos, leite e chocolate do mundo, segundo eles, e depois de uma semana sendo alimentados a base de founde e chocolate nos entendemos o porque, acho que já engordamos uns 5 quilos nos últimos dias.

Na nossa passagem pela Suíça, visitamos novos e velhos amigos, fomos recebidos pelo Winni e o Stephan, que conhecemos na nossa primeira semana da viagem, la nas Ilhas Fiji e depois de seis meses nos reencontramos. Eles são dois figuras, o Winni é uma das pessoas mais queridas e atenciosas que eu já conheci e com o Stephan não existe tempo ruim, tudo ta bom. Eles nos levaram conhecer os Alpes Suíços e os vários vilarejos típicos Suíços e também nos introduziram ao famoso “Raclette” que é uma refeição típica de inverno onde cada um cozinha seu pedaço de queijo em uma chapa quente e este será servido com batatas, bacon, tomates, lingüiça e o que mais tiver direito, no final o problema é levantar da mesa depois de tanta comida. Também fomos a Zurich visitar um casal que conhecemos na Austrália e que acabaram de voltar de uma viagem como a nossa, A Alex e o Frank, que ainda estão sofrendo com a volta a realidade, o que me fez ficar com um pouquinho de medo de voltar pra casa. De lá fomos para Basel, onde uma amiga brasileira dos velhos tempos esta morando com o seu marido Suíço, a Paula foi a minha melhor amiga da época do jardim de infância, mas ela se mudou e depois disso eu nunca tive mais contato com ela, graças ao Orkut nos encontramos e foi muito bom revê-la, conhecer o seu marido Alan e relaxar, apesar dos muitos anos algumas coisas nunca mudam, a Paula ainda continua sendo aquela que eu conheci no jardim com 4 anos de idade, mesma voz e o mesmo jeito de ser, claro que agora somos adultas e casadas, com diferentes responsabilidades, mas ainda temos algo em comum. A Paula participa de um programa de radio em Basel, que possui um show semanal de musica brasileira, então ela nos convidou para dar uma entrevista no radio e falar sobre a nossa viagem de volta ao mundo, conhecemos alguns brasileiros perdidos na Suíça e ganhamos a oportunidade de compartilhar a nossa historia. De Basel voltamos para Zug onde mora o nosso amigo Winni para passar mais uma noite antes de voltar para a Alemanha, onde vamos visitar mais alguns amigos. A nossa viagem com certeza não seria a mesma se não fosse pelas pessoas que conhecemos no caminho, que estão nos proporcionando experiências maravilhosas e amizades para a vida toda.

Posted by flaviaU 15:36 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

Berlin to Switzerland

overcast 80 °F

We took the train to Berlin on a rainy morning. The familiar noise of hungover/still a bit drunk posh English girls twanged from the carriage down the hall, and Flavia and I read as we bumped along the Czech countryside toward Germany. Upon arrival at the massive train station we made our way through the various levels, took a metro, then a tram to our hostel. The first thing we noticed about the city is that it is absolutely enormous. The sprawl seems to extend forever and fortunately there is a cheap and very reliable 24 hour transit network of buses, trams, and a metro. Navigating the network at first seemed a bit tricky, but in the fashion we expected, everything was well organized and easy to find. We set out in the afternoon as the rain clouds dissipated and explored some of the tourist spots. We started at the Eastside gallery, a monument to the wall which now has some of the best graffiti in the world. The statements made at the monument were political and compassionate, some profound and some elegantly simple, and we began to get a feel of Berlin; an open, artsy, welcoming façade, with one of the darkest recent histories in Western Europe. As we toured around, we walked a lot; we’re used to walking a lot. I don’t exactly miss having a car, parking, getting lost, paying for gas, but our reliance on public transit as well as foot power has put a lot of strain on our poor feet. I enjoy walking though, you notice the little things that you would miss when driving past.

I think overall Berlin’s sites were a tribute to the last 100 years. Most of the buildings before that was destroyed in the war, and I will say that they have done their best to apologize for the holocaust and continue to put any racist or prejudice past behind them. The memories are still explained, from the vast Jewish museum, to the extremely modern holocaust memorial, the issue is not ignored, instead it’s presented in a way meant to stimulate as opposed to resent. The story of the wall is something that amazed us as well. I always pictured a wall that just cut through the city, dividing it into two nice equal pieces. That’s not it at all though, instead it twists and turns its way through the city, separating neighbors and neighborhoods with indiscriminate concrete. The checkpoints were scenes of death, tension, and desperation. We walked much of the way along the simple park with the two brick wide marker of where the wall used to be, and enjoyed the free exhibits about the wall and German history.

That night we met up with Campbell (from Australia). He is working in Germany and was passing through Berlin for the weekend and we couldn’t miss an opportunity to see him. It’s nice to be back with friends, and Berlin seemed like the perfect place, kind of a home city instead of a tourist one. There are tourists here, but there isn’t really a designated old city or tourist zone like in the other large cities in Europe. Instead, everyone is everywhere, meaning you can get a local meal, at local prices, surrounded by, yah… locals. It’s nice to not feel gouged for looking at an English menu, and the diversity of the food in Berlin almost made us a bit homesick. Not homesick like we missed home, instead Berlin felt like home, with the multitude of restaurants, art, cafes and bars, all packed with young families, art students, and hip 20 somethings, this area kind of felt like Oakland. We ate a quick meal and headed around an area that had a bit of action, perhaps not the best place for us to go out, but we settled into a picnic bench outside of a bar to watch the rest of the night pass.

The next day we met up with Campbell again to explore the city. Heading through the Sunday morning flea markets we smelled Currywurst and mustard, sipped on great cappuccinos served out of a trailer, and I picked up a few t shirts to replace the ones that are in serious need of replacing. The mood in Berlin on that Sunday morning was upbeat, happy that the rain had held off, at least for the morning, and keeping count of the waning days of summer. People were very friendly, quirky and everyone spoke great English. Campbell was in worse condition than we were, as he had a few pit stops on the way home to his hostel to find that at night it turned into a nightclub and therefore the music didn’t stop until well into the morning. We felt good, I really am enjoying a bit of a cool down, it seems to make the cities much more enjoyable to walk around. After some Pho and a trip to a few more monuments, we accompanied Campbell back to his hostel and then sat and had a cappuccino at an amazing network of cafes and bars nearby. The front of this building was held in tact after the rest was bombed in World War II. Instead of tearing down the whole thing, they moved away the rubble of the back half of the building and left the front, with its interesting ledges and cut away stone patios. This seemed like a mix between a transient home and a co-op, with the inside completely covered in graffiti and the outside stuffed with odd modern art style seating, antique barbers chairs on springs, and scruffy patches of grass surrounded by an organic garden. The mix of smells was remarkable, from wonderfully fresh coffee, to stale beer, to piss in the corners and alleyways. This spot screamed Berlin, the rebellious attitude, the multitude of languages, the “everyone in welcome” feel, and youth yearning to change or further the image of the city.

After a full day of walking, we settled for a great meal at a nearby Indian restaurant, then relaxed in the room, resting, taking the first bit of time that we’ve had in a week or so to just sit and not do anything. Since we left the beach in Croatia, we have been going full speed, and we were both in need of a little break. That break came when we arrived in Switzerland to see Wini and Stephan’s smiling faces waiting for us at the Zurich airport. We met them our first week of the trip while we were in Fiji, as they were taking a break from a campervan trip around New Zealand. They were eager for us to come to Switzerland to visit, and we were more than happy to accept their invitation to stay at their homes. We quickly learned that without their help, there is no way that we, or any other backpacker, could ever afford Switzerland. This country is remarkably expensive, nothing at all is cheap. Public transit… expensive, food from the supermarket, expensive, a steak or any piece of meat, forget it! I guess what I’ve learned here is that they do their best to give you nice value for what you get, because everything does have that little extra touch. Also, if you worked here, in a place where a starting teacher’s salary is $80000 per year, then maybe it doesn’t seem so overpriced.

Wini drove us through his town Zug for a quick stop for lunch, followed by a drive down to Luzern where Stephan lives for the night. We wandered the clean and bright streets of old town Luzern where opera chimed from a bridge nearby and shimmering clear water flowed from the stream into their river. The old churched build on the lush green hills gave way into the distance where towering glaciers promised a great winter for skiing. Everything outside of the city is green. There seems to be so much importance on livelihood and health in Switzerland. Everyone is in good shape and rides a bike. The cities are set up to be so bike friendly and outside there are hiking trails and peaks everywhere lined with clean streams, purple and yellow wildflowers and fresh cool air. We shopped for dinner and we were told that we had to try, Raclette. This traditional Swiss food is of course based around cheese. It uses a special hotplate, with a broiler underneath for the cheese. Square cuts are placed into a little tray with onion and topped with spices, then broiled until they are melted and then poured over a baked potato. On the grill plate we cooked up a few sausages and bacon strips and washed everything down with a bit of white wine and beer. Stephan’s house was a perfect example of Swiss made architecture. Painted with a lot of red and white, the house is perched into a hillside with modern appliances that I have never seen in the US, like an amazing induction stove, to an amazing automatic cappuccino maker! There is a large sitting room with modern sofas surrounded by abstract art, and three levels of patios and a pool. There are very strict rules about construction in Switzerland. Outer walls must be 13 cm thick and 20 cm thick in the mountains. There must be three or four types of insulation in all of them and stone or brick on the outside. These sustainable building methods help to keep heating costs down during the brutally cold winters.

In the morning we rose a bite later than planned and cursed the bottle of Fijian Rum sitting on the table while making our way towards breakfast and hoping for a bit of motivation to get us out into the mountains. The plan did unfold, eventually, and we drove through the alps, stopping at a few passes, the Devil’s Bridge, once to take a few pictures with a guy playing the Alps horn (you know the one from the Ricola commercials) and then again for a cappuccino to keep us awake for the ride back to Zug. The highway system in Switzerland is remarkable. They charge to get a pass to drive on the highway system and therefore the money goes to making impressive tunnels and new highways free of potholes that wind through the mountains and passes. The roads are lined with ski areas, now just green hills with lonely chairlifts and ski lodges filled with mountain bikers and hikers. Once back in Zug we took a quick shower and jumped in the car… again… for the short drive to Zurich to meet Frank and Alex (the Swiss couple we met in Australia that were staying at Campbell’s), as they had just returned home from their trip around the world and were adjusting to real life. We had a quick dinner and strolled along the Rhine in the pristine old town of Zurich. This is the most immaculate city we have seen so far on the trip. The wealth here is not hidden, and if you don’t have a luxury or Italian sports car, stay off the damn streets! The buildings are so clean that it seems that everything is painted each year, and the city was preparing for the upcoming street parade where a few hundred thousand descend upon the city to dance and party throughout the weekend. Zurich did seem prohibitively expensive, with hostels asking $80 for a bed in a dormitory, and no meal with entrees under $15, even a street Kebab was $8. I think that in this country, people our age do have to watch their spending even more than in the US due to the cost of living. This country is geared towards the rich, although we learned that the social programs do make up for what the lower classes earn.

We headed back to Zug to spend the night at Wini’s mother’s apartment, who is out of town, and we settled in on yet another late night with an early morning train ride the next day.

Posted by JonathanU 16:04 Archived in Switzerland Comments (0)

Pessoas e lugares

Áustria e República Checa

rain
View RTW - 2010 on flaviaU's travel map.

Passamos somente alguns dias na pequena cidade de Salzburg, curtindo a paisagem que consistia de castelos e jardins repletos de flores, mas como todo conto de fadas tem um fim, partimos para a Viena, a cidade onde nasceram grandes compositores da musica clássica como Beethoven e Strauss e a grande quantidade de monumentos históricos que foram incorporados pela vida moderna dos austríacos, suas longas avenidas, carros luxuosos e arranha-céus. Apesar de a arquitetura ser impressionante, a cidade pareceu um pouco monótona, com cara de cidade pequena, o centro da cidade completamente vazio e o comercio todo fechado em pleno domingo ensolarado, então só nos restou andar pela cidade fantasma, por horas e horas, até que as nossas pernas não conseguissem mais ficar de pé. No caminho paramos para apreciar o antigo castelo da família real, em estilo barroco, com seus 1441 quartos e quilômetros de jardins, fontes e labirintos, sendo que esse castelo só servia de refugio da família no verão, imagina só tamanho do verdadeiro castelo real. Até então a imagem que eu tinha dos Austríacos não era das melhores baseado em um casal que conhecemos quando nós estávamos no Vietnam, que infelizmente não foram nada simpáticos e acabaram injustamente arruinando a moral dos Austríacos, mas felizmente eles provaram ser o contrario durante a nossa visita a Áustria, sendo muito atenciosos e receptivos e na maioria das vezes os lugares sempre se tornam mais interessantes por causa das pessoas que vivem neles.

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De Viena cruzamos a fronteira com a Republica Checa e chegamos em Praga, debaixo de chuva atravessamos a cidade e chegamos na pensão onde nos hospedamos, no caminho já se viam varias das Igrejas de estilo Gótico que fazem parte da historia de Praga, a chuva dando a cidade um ar de melancolia. Armados de capas de chuva saímos explorar a cidade, caminhando sem rumo definido e admirando as suas dezenas de pontes, monumentos, castelos e jardins, a arquitetura Gótica esta presente em toda a cidade com suas cores e imagens obscuras divididas pelo Rio Vltava e as suas inúmeras pontes. A antiga capital da Checoslováquia, dominados por Alemães e Soviéticos no curso de sua historia conseguiu finalmente a sua libertação em 1992 e passou a ser a capital as Republica Checa. A cidade de Praga também é internacionalmente conhecida pela sua infinidade de bares e cervejas de todos os estilos, a cerveja Checa é de ótima qualidade e é muito barata, fazendo com que tanto os cidadãs quanto os turistas bebam cerveja 24 horas por dia. Claro que com toda a fama da cidade nós tínhamos que conhecer a sua vida noturna, então saímos do centro turístico e nos aventuramos de metrô para um dos bairros residenciais, o Zizkov, que de acordo com os moradores possui os melhores bares. Esse bairro nunca teve uma fama muito boa, a alguns anos atrás os únicos moradores eram as pessoas marginalizadas pela sociedade e os edifícios ainda tinham sinais de destruição da segunda guerra mundial, foi nos últimos anos que a população jovem da cidade tomou conta do lugar devido ao preço baixo dos aluguéis de apartamento, e com eles vieram os restaurantes, os bares e as pessoas interessantes.

A noite começou com uma típica refeição Checa composta de lingüiça, carne de porco e muito queijo, o difícil foi levantar da mesa depois da refeição, em seguida a algumas quadras do restaurante fomos para os bares, nós escolhemos o bar que parecia ser mais apropriado para a nossa idade, sem ter que lidar com a galera de 18 anos, já no inicio fomos recebidos muito bem pelo “bartender” que abriu um sorriso e isso foi o suficiente pra gente resolver passar a noite toda lá. Conhecemos vários “figuras”, conversamos com todo mundo no bar, gente de varias nacionalidades, gregos, croatas, americanos, britânicos, todos vivendo em Praga, nós fomos os únicos “turistas” que nos aventuramos, e valeu a pena pois fizemos várias amizades e tivemos um das noites mais divertidas da viagem. Entre os nossos novos amigos, o mais interessante foi o Miro ou Miroslav, o Croata doido! Nascido na Croácia, se mudou para Praga com vinte e poucos anos, conheceu a sua mulher que também havia emigrado para o país,teve filhos gêmeos e trabalhou um bocado, hoje possui as melhores livrarias de Praga e também ajuda autores independentes a publicar seus livros. Miroslav conhece todo mundo em Praga e todo mundo sabe quem ele é, a minha introdução ao famoso Miro foi feita com um copo cheio de cerveja derrubado no meu colo e uma promessa de jantar na casa dele, que segundo ele seria a única maneira dele se desculpar. Na manhã do outro dia o Jonathan fez uma visita a ele em uma das livrarias e confirmou o convite enquanto eu ainda estava no quarto do hotel sem coragem de abrir os olhos com uma ressaca tenebrosa, às oito horas da noite batemos na porta do Miro e ele apareceu na janela do apartamento berrando o nosso nome e atirando a chave pra gente abrir a porta, com um abraço ele nos recepcionou e sentados na cozinha do apartamento a noite toda assistimos ele cozinhar e contar estórias, com dor na barriga de tanto rir, ele é uma pessoa maravilhosa que nos proporcionou uma experiência única e uma amizade que espero que dure por muito tempo.

Moral da estória: na maioria das vezes os lugares sempre se tornam mais interessantes por causa das pessoas que vivem neles.

São essas experiências que guardaremos para o resto da vida!

Posted by flaviaU 00:41 Archived in Czech Republic Comments (0)

Prague is big enough

rain 65 °F

Wow what a busy last few days. Prague and Berlin have absolutely worn us out. We have finally discovered some real big city love in Europe and all the things that come with it, great food, walking all over, great public transit, heavy party nights, and the inevitable morning after those nights. The weather forecast forebode heavy rains for the entire week, but other than a few rain showers our first day in Prague, it didn’t affect us at all. We arrived in Prague by bus to save money, and easily negotiated the subway and settled in, taking a few hours in the afternoon to explore the old city. We were immediately put off by what we saw, hoards of tourists, a money changer that ripped me off (just a few Euros, but still), everything (over)priced for tourists, and all this with rain streaming down gave us a bad first impression of the city. We sucked it up and kept walking, trying to stay dry, snapping a few pics, and just kind of hoping everything would improve for us. I was very excited about returning to Prague. When I came to Europe oh so long ago, Prague was my first city. I remember driving in from Germany on a highway lined with bombed out buildings and arriving in a gothic center that screamed about how different it was from everything I’d seen up to that point in my life. The sites were still the same, just way more crowded now that Prague is a huge dot on the tourist map and it seems like only the scammers have caught up with the times. Wandering and wandering we saw the clouds clear, and the sun peaked out a bit, and we relaxed by the river before squeezing across the St. Charles bridge where we saw Kat Von D and Nikki Sixx making out under the Gothic statues! As the sun went down we settled in for a Thai meal and a few ridiculously cheap beers before heading home and catching up on a bit of reading and sleep.

Reading has been a large part of this trip for me. I really have discovered the beauty of the written word here. I have read of course in the past, but over the last year, I have slowly started to devour everything I can get my hands on, from classics like “The Brothers Karamazov” to the travelers classic “Shantaram”. I really love to read now, and having free nights where I’m not occupied by TV or finding a bar, as in South America, has given me time to read at night, and a clear head the next day to finish what I started. I guess even though we have internet most of the time, I still try to read when I can. The Iphone is an addiction, it’s so easy to get the news, or browse Facebook, or write a few quick emails, that sometimes I lose myself in that. I received a bit of a critique from a Blog reader who had noticed how little I have written recently and wondered if I was getting fatigued. I guess for the Blog I just haven’t had the time to put in a few paragraphs a day. I feel like we are moving so much right now that I really need to just get some words down after a few days to recollect instead of just go over what our daily schedule has been. Plus, we have so many damn pictures that Flavia has to edit and then we have to choose, that by the time we are done with that, the thought of looking at a computer screen seems like the last thing we want to do. Also about being fatigued of travelling, I think that Prague and Berlin have awoken both of us, and really revitalized us and we are so excited about these next few weeks and the rest of the time that we have in Europe. Fatigued… No, a bit tired from last night and walking around all day, YES!

So, back to Prague… Oh man, what a beautiful city. I love Gothic architecture and this city is the heart of that. But it’s the little things, it’s the tiny detail added onto every tiny detail of every building and church. The colors tell the story here, the coal black statues, the shiny gold domes, the pink and light blue apartment buildings, the shadowed archways, and the moving clouds paint a picture of history smashing into the present. As we made our way with every other tourist in the city to the castle overlooking the city, we saw the points and domes of the building in the old and new city. We wandered the courtyards and then the cobblestone streets; retreating to a bit of solitude after a funicular ride up to the rose garden and a bit of exploration of the other side of the river. We then began our search for a lunch restaurant. Of everything in Europe so far, trying to find a decent restaurant for lunch has been the most difficult. We always are set for dinner, but it seems like a good lunch is extremely had to find. A low priced, healthy, quick bit to eat doesn’t seem to exist in the middle of the day, especially in Italy, where their impression many times of lunch was a stringy reheated calzone with the minimum amount of ingredients inside. All the time we are searching, looking at menus, asking advice, consulting the guidebook, we start to get hungrier and hungrier, and more frustrated, then the feet start to hurt, then we start to bicker, then, probably 50% of the time we end up at a disappointing restaurant, but at least we are finally full.

We headed out after a nap and a cappuccino for a night on the town in Prague, opting for the less visited district of Zizkov. We took the metro then squeezed onto a picnic bench at a packed restaurant, always a good sign. Sausages, meat, marinated vegetables, mustard, horseradish, and bread were thrown onto the table and with the wonderful beer, and we were full in no time. We moved up the street to Bukowski’s, a bar known for its mellow sophisticate crowd and its wonderful bartender. We pulled up to the bar and I asked the bartender to make us two drinks, whatever he thought we’d like. That seemed to work, and we enjoyed some delicious cocktails while getting a bit of info from him and striking up a bit of a conversation with our neighbor. Soon we were fully engrossed in the activity of the bar, and a quirky looking guy gave us a smile and approached. No sooner had I quipped to Flavia that here comes trouble, he knocks into her and spills a quarter of his pint on her jeans then fumbles for napkins and wipes furiously, apologizing profusely. That was our first impression of Miroslav, a bookshop owner from Croatia who has called Prague home for the past 15 years. This man was one of the quirkiest characters that we have met on the whole trip, up there with Sid from Apache (in Thailand). He has that odd mix of wit, eccentricity, knowledge, and a great laugh that creates a friendship within one minute of conversing, even when he’s just spilled a perfectly good pint of pilsner on my wife’s only pair of pants! Shot’s of plum brandy were presented, more drinks were shaken, the laughter and conversation got louder, and soon it was time for us to go to catch the last train home. I asked the bartender for the bill, and he gave me a strange look. I told him we had to go. He continued making a drink, with a pensive face. He finally responded that he didn’t think that it was a good idea for us to leave. He thought a better idea would be for us to have another drink. I tried to explain that we would have to take two night trams home if we missed the last train, and he said he would call us a taxi, but for right now we just needed to worry about the next drink. I didn’t know how to argue with that so I shut up and drank the wonderful Mint Julep that he made for me, and went back to the fun with Victor the bartender, Miroslav the Crazy Croat, Aquilles the Greek circus performer, and Jans, the Slovakian tv actor, trust me, I couldn’t make this up!

I’ll skip the rest of the night, because it was too much fun to try to explain, and my head still hurts from the next morning, where I rolled out of bed to bring Miroslav a copy of my book at his bookstore. He invited Flavia and me for dinner that night and promised to make up for the spilled drink incident, and we chatted watching the tourists pass by. I excused myself after a bit and headed back to the hotel to see if Flavia had stirred. It was a different experience for me, walking back through the old city to the metro without a camera. I didn’t stop to look for the great shot, or have to wait for the tourists to get the hell out of my way. I felt free and totally in control, a nice feeling, a different feeling. Back at the hotel Flavia declined to come with me to meet Victor the bartender for lunch. I made my way the other way across the city by tram and we chatted over wonderful pasta about growing up in Prague, the history, and the way of life there. That night, we headed over to Miroslav’s and had more great Italian food and sat and drank beer until the wee hours of the night, a bit upset that we were leaving Prague, but with a certain feeling that this city had captured a bit of us.

We left the next day for a train ride through the rain to Berlin. You know… I think I’m gonna save this for another day. Our experience in Berlin deserves a fresh slate, and I don’t want to lump it in with Prague. These two cities didn’t feel like we were passing through, instead it felt like we lived in each of them, if only for 72 hours, making friends, telling stories, and having a blast. I won’t wait a week to post the next one, just a few days to let the Prague dust settle before sweeping up the remains of our time in Berlin. Off to Zurich tomorrow…

Posted by JonathanU 17:50 Archived in Czech Republic Comments (0)

Updated Map

Posted by flaviaU 11:07 Comments (0)

Zagreb to Vienna

sunny 87 °F

An island escape in Croatia seemed to be just the right medicine and we felt great as the days passed. The wind picked up, cooling the scorching sun and the sound of the swaying pine trees that line the beaches was audible around the town. We spent mornings in our apartment, lounging, reading, being lazy, then we’d head to the beach in the afternoon, unfazed by breeze, and happy that the rocky beaches prevented sand from being blown around. The pace of life was slow, and we really enjoyed our 5 nights there, although we were eager to head north when we packed and set out. We had a long day of travelling from the south to the capital, Zagreb, a spot well off the tourist path, and a small taste of Balkan city for only a few nights. The city did feel a bit depressed, and the expressionless faces of the Croatians perhaps still wore battle scars from years of struggling and fighting for independence. Worn out from the journey and excited that we finally had free internet we spent an afternoon in the lobby of our insanely decorated hotel, uploading our Venice pictures, finally. The hotel was unlike any we had stayed in so far. The owner, an eccentric, loud, and perhaps a bit loony, shouted into the phone with joy and that could best describe the way he decorated his place. Not one spot seemed to be untouched by brightly colored carpeting, or a regal throne, or grandma’s sofa, or some bleached white nude statue. It was more than a bit too much, and if that’s what he was going for, he did it! Zagreb was nice to see, but it lacked the feeling and pulse of most big cities we have been to so far. It was good for one full day, but that’s about all that we needed to invest.

We took a train to Salzburg early in the morning to celebrate our anniversary that evening. We were up way earlier than usual and faced a drab rainy morning as we made our way by tram to the central train station. The Croatian trains seemed a bit dated, but fairly cheap, the only thing about 2nd class seats is that they do not recline at all, which was the same as in Italy. Everything was fine as we chatted with a group of happy and exhausted Irish girls until we made it to Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, where after waiting for 15 minutes we were told that we would be delayed there for another hour due to an accident further down the tracks. We waited two hours until we finally left and the six hour direct train ride turned into an eight hour extravaganza when they made us change trains to an already packed train where I fought for us to have seats for the last two hours of the trip. Now we would have been delayed if we’d had our passes, which are still in Italian customs, but those tickets guaranteed us first class tickets so at least we would have been more comfortable. Speaking of the tickets, we have had a breakthrough. Our travel agent received the wrath of my mother, and when she finally got to speak to his manager, he said he would do everything he could to get us a refund. So now, we have filed a lost/stolen report with the Vienna police and sent that in, and technically we should be receiving our refund sooner or later, which will make us very happy. I think what pisses me off above everything is a feeling of deception from our travel agent. Not only did he tell us that we would be fine sending the tickets internationally but he also sent me a link to a website that has ticket prices for the train trips. This website is based in the US and the prices are inflated by about 300%. If you are ever travelling to Europe, buy the tickets when you get to the city, they will be cheaper, and will be available even if you are travelling at the high season. The point is that in the end we won’t spend the price of the passes on all of the tickets put together making this whole situation avoidable and pretty much just a tool so our agent could get his commission.

So anyway, back to the travels… We arrived in Salzburg and the Austrian alps in the midst of clouds and drizzle. The temperature was cool but nice and we settled into our hostel and rested after our extended train trip. We went to an Austrian restaurant for our nice anniversary dinner and we were not disappointed. We split veal sausages and a fresh, soft pretzel with sweet mustard for our appetizer, and even Flavia ate the mustard. We washed that down with a bit of local rose that was just a touch sweet, but most Austrian wines do tend to finish a bit sweet because they have to add a mixture of juice or sugar because of the short growth season and cooler temperatures that prevent the grapes from ripening to their full potential. For our entrees, Flavia had a huge dumpling with some broiled pork and I get a whole damn side of pork ribs. We split a carafe of Blaufrankish, a bone dry and fruity Austrian red. It was a wonderful meal, and we were beyond full as we walked off the meal through the beautiful and sparkling clean streets of Salzburg, stopping to listen to some masterful banjo playing by a New Yorker hanging out in a pedestrian tunnel.

Salzburg is beautiful. It’s extremely posh, with Ferraris screaming up and down the cobblestone streets, and furs and lavish outfits being sold in the tiny boutiques that line the pedestrian streets of the old city. It’s a very tourist friendly city, with everything accessible by foot and its situation along the river makes it a bit cool and flat, except for the beautiful white castle at the top of the hill overlooking the whole city. I’d been here before and it was nice to come back and see that it was still how I remembered it, and that even though it was touristy, it’s still one of the necessary stops along the way. Even though we enjoyed it, we were a bit limited on what we could do because the city is expensive, so we took the train to Vienna after one more day of wandering once the sun came out. We checked out the dead city toward the Hapsburg’s summer palace, a small 1480 room place that seemed like a decent place for them to spend a weekend! Vienna was more dead on this Sunday than I had ever seen a big city. It seems that they are still trying to feel small town, and everyone was going along with it. We wandered the palace gardens for a few hours in the heat before walking back to the hostel and going out to dinner where we had a dinner that would be a cardiologists worst nightmare, Wiener schnitzel (breaded and fried meat) and cheese filled bacon wrapped sausages, both served on top of fries!

Vienna was in all honesty a bit boring. Although the architecture of the historical old town was beautiful, we are pretty “museumed out” and spent a bit of time relaxing in Freud park on the free lounge chairs before wandering our way home after exploring for the whole day. A bit unfulfilled we headed to a bar for a few pints of afternoon Austrian beer before cooking dinner and packing up for our next stop. Austria did prove a few things to us. First was the people, Flavia and I’d had a few experiences so far with rude Austrians, including one in Vietnam who called me an “American Asshole”, not sure where he’d get that idea from! Anyway, everyone that we dealt with, from the hotel staff, to random people on the street stopping to help us with directions, to the police officer when we filed the report were extremely patient and friendly with us. Second was the food and wine, although we knew that things would be mostly heavy and fried, I was very impressed by the little sauces and touches on all the dishes, from grated horseradish with street sausages, to the sauces served with the entrees in restaurants. Things didn’t seem to be served to save the restaurant money, instead chefs really tried to make us the best meal possible, which was very appreciated. Finally, Austria was the most dog friendly place I have ever been. Dogs seemed to be welcomed everywhere, in every shop, on trains and trams, and everyone had one. We are now on a bus from Vienna to Prague for a few nights of Absinthe and gothic churches, should be fun.

Posted by JonathanU 20:03 Archived in Austria Comments (1)

Tempo de relaxar e celebrar!

sunny
View RTW - 2010 on flaviaU's travel map.

Depois de 3 semanas na Itália já estava na hora de seguir viagem e explorar o restante da Europa, composta por muitos países e acreditem ou não, 4 meses não são suficientes para conhecer tudo. O plano inicial seria de conhecer alguns países fora da União Européia, os países bálticos localizados no leste Europeu, mas como não temos muito tempo decidimos conhecer somente a Croácia e a Republica Tcheca. A Croácia, juntamente com o restante dos países do leste europeu foram palco de um grande conflito, a Guerra Fria, que é a designação atribuída ao período histórico de disputas estratégicas e conflitos indiretos entre os Estados Unidos e a União Soviética, compreendendo o período entre o final da Segunda Guerra Mundial (1945) e a extinção da União Soviética (1991). Em resumo, foi um conflito de ordem política, militar, econômica, social e ideológica entre as duas nações e suas zonas de influência.

De barco cruzamos o oceano Adriático da Itália em direção a Croácia, a jornada começou às 9 da manhã em Veneza, pegamos um trem em direção a Ancona de onde o navio partiria, a viagem de trem demorou 6 horas com diferentes conexões, quando chegamos em Ancona, pegamos um ônibus local em direção ao porto, lá esperamos algumas horas ate embarcar no navio, o navio partiu de noite e depois de 12 horas chegou na Croácia, da cidade de Split na costa sul, desembarcamos do navio e embarcamos em um ferry em direção a ilha de Brac, uma hora depois chegamos em na vila de Supetar e de Supetar pegamos um ônibus de mais uma hora em direção a vila de Bol, a nossa ultima parada!Ufa! As vezes viajar não é tão fácil quanto parece, exaustos e famintos alugamos um apartamento com cozinha por 5 dias, tempo suficiente para relaxar antes de arrumar as malas de novo e seguir viagem. Mesmo cansados, não conseguimos tirar os olhos das belas praias da ilha, a água mais clara que eu já vi, mais que a Tailândia ou as Ilhas de Fiji, as praias são formadas por pedras pequenas, de formato oval e devido a ausência de areia, a água é sempre transparente, purificada pelas pedras, que dão a ela a cor de azul turquesa. Claro que tanta beleza chama a atenção dos turistas Europeus, que com suas famílias lotam as praias e restaurantes da vila, sem deixar de mencionar a grande quantidade de mulheres fazendo topless, a maioria já passada da idade pra topless, mas sem vergonha nenhuma de mostrar o que Deus lhes deu, imagina só sentar do lado da sua avó fazendo topless? Só pra Europeu mesmo... mas nem isso nos incomodou, o nosso pequeno apartamento estava localizado no topo da vila, longe do barulho e dos turistas e os cinco dias que passamos nas ilha foram muito relaxantes. O nosso próximo destino foi a cidade de Zagreb, a capital da Croácia, dois dias foram suficientes para ver a cidade, como toda cidade grande, possui um centro histórico, varias praças, monumentos e Igrejas, na minha opinião uma cidade como qualquer outra, nada muito interessante alem da culinária local que consistia em vários tipos de carnes, a maioria com caldo e gnocchi para acompanhar, refletindo o clima frio Europeu que persevere naquela área, mas com bastante sabor e sempre acompanhadas pelo vinho local.
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Nos despedimos da Croácia e embarcamos em um trem supostamente de 6 horas em direção a Áustria, no mesmo dia que estávamos celebrando o nosso quinto aniversário de casamento, mas o trem acabou tomando 9 horas do nosso dia e quando finalmente chegamos na romântica cidade de Salzburg, norte da Áustria, que escolhemos para passar essa data especial, já estávamos exaustos e encharcados pela chuva que não dava trégua. Mas como aprendemos varias vezes nessa viagem, tudo da certo no final das contas, depois de um banho quente vestimos as nossas capas de chuva e andamos pelas ruas da cidade, rodeado por castelos e montanhas, parecia um conto de fadas, bebemos uma taça de vinho e brindamos as cinco anos de vida juntos, a cada ano o amor e a cumplicidade crescendo, ainda mais com a ajuda dessa viagem, a celebração não poderia ser mais especial. Te amo!

Posted by flaviaU 22:09 Archived in Croatia Comments (0)

The Venitian Rollercoaster

sunny 91 °F

It’s been quite an emotional rollercoaster since we arrived in Venice. We were surprised at how much we really loved the city. It is extremely touristy, really expensive, hot, but for some reason it still maintains its authenticity the minute you veer off of the wide paths leading to the Piazza de San Marco or near the train station. We originally intended to only spend one or two nights in Venice then move on to Croatia, but we were very soon stuck in a very annoying dilemma. We recently purchased a Eurail pass from our travel agent in the US, at a pretty steep price, especially on the budget that we are on now. We added the potential costs of train tickets for the next month and realized at the last minute that we should purchase a one month unlimited pass. It was sent to us via international express due to arrive in 3-5 business days. Unfortunately once it arrived into Italy it was seized by customs and has not been released. The big problem is that there is literally no way to get in touch with them. In fact we don’t even know what city the package is being held at. There is no phone number for customs and any attempts to contact the Post Office ends in them deflecting the blame and saying that there is nothing that we can do. So we waited.

We wandered around Venice in the cheapest way possible, not buying anything, not going into any churches, and especially without taking one of the famous Gondolas, which start at 80 Euros for 50 minutes. We roamed small alleys where tiny grandmas in flower print dresses watched us with a weary look and where life in Venice seemed unchanged by the countless visitors that roamed only a few blocks away. Venice is beautiful, and so full of character, and the pride of the locals to keep their blocks within the hands of the local Venetians keeps the pulse of the city beating at its own slow rhythm. Everything in Venice moves a bit slower, the delivery boats move at a relaxed pace, the men take a slight break between each step as they move their handtrucks slowly up each step of the bridges over the canals for their morning deliveries. The day is long and slow, the heat is powerful and life was good. The food was great, beautifully fresh seafood, nice Cicheti, which are low priced bites of local pride, meatballs, fried squid on a scewer, or just the simplest of local cheeses on a plate with a paired glass of crisp, cold, white wine. The pride is there, the minute you get away from everyone, the locals still want to show that they are unfazed by who’s around them and fully aware of what’s around them, and they are there to make the best food, and to put every ounce of their busting Italian ego into that first bite. Venice has a Bohemian culture, a “We’re different from every other city in Italy and the rest of the world” idea in each step, tattoo, or outfit that just looks so ridiculously their own.

We were of course paying a bit more for a nice hotel, paying a lot more to take the public transit to get to Murano, where we spent more than usual on a few gifts of the famous Murano glass for a few special people! We spent more on food, but I think the highest price was the price of uncertainty that arose every time we went to the post office hopeful and received a “no” and that was all. When that would happen, the next two hours of the day were spent wondering what was happening. We also know that there is no refund without returning that ticket, there is no way to reprint it, and that the possibility of losing that money plus the cost of us having to buy every future ticket for the next month is weighing heavily upon us. After three nights of loving Venice and hating the Italian postal service we left, deciding to give them a week to work out their bureaucratic bullshit situation that we are stuck in the middle of. The bottom line is that perhaps we have been robbed by an unseen hand, but fortunately the situation could be a lot worse, we could have had an accident somewhere, we could have lost all of our money or passports in some way, or we could be sick of travelling together or just travelling in general. Whatever happens, THIS WILL NOT RUIN OUR TRIP, it will not defeat us and I will get this resolved sooner or later even if it has to wait until we get home.

We took two trains, two buses, two boats, then another bus, for 26 hours to get from Venice to Brac, a small island in the south of Croatia where we rented a small apartment and will relax for a week or so. It’s beautiful here, and I’m enjoying cooking, grilling and just sitting outside of our small studio reading and drinking instant coffee. The beaches are rocky and crowded, but nice, and the cool breeze maintains a constant agreeable temperature. We are laying low for one week, and then will decide whether to head back two Venice if, IF, IF, the package has arrived or maybe just head north from here to Austria and continue our adventure on a bit of a tighter budget, and resolved that sometimes, well, shit happens.

We really are enjoying slowing life down a bit here in Bol. The island of Brac seems to be the perfect retreat after an extremely hectic few weeks in Italy. The water is crystal clear and the highlight beach, a V-shaped stretch of pebbles provides a postcard perfect retreat for our afternoons. There is fresh fruit and produce at the nearby market stalls, calamari caught that morning for sale in the fish market, and lots of cheap wine. I’ve enjoyed grilling on the wood fired grill and chasing a tiny orange kitten around our apartment.

Honestly, life over that last few days has been the toughest of our trip. I have become accustomed to waking in the middle of the night for a few hours and sitting in bed, wondering what I could do. It has been tough on my mother, who has been working diligently to try to find a solution from her end. We have gone from loving the day in Venice, to near tears when we leave the Post Office. I have shouted at my travel agent, screamed at myself for not buying the pass many months ago when it seemed so irrelevant, and feel at some points that the air has been taken from my lungs and that I need to just sit down and sulk. Sometimes travelling as we do it is so damn frustrating, I know I will get no sympathy from those of you reading this at your desk while on a mindless conference call, but helplessness and especially helplessness in Italian is tough.

Posted by JonathanU 18:54 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

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