A Travellerspoint blog

First night in Berlin

rain 13 °C

Last night Neal tasted German beer, it came out in a huge half litre glass. I was laughing. The glass was almost bigger than Neal from the angle I was sitting at.

We walked the streets after dinner for a little while, took some snapshots of the city at night. There were a lot of people on the streets around 9.30pm. I guess this is normal for Berlin. I felt a bit uneasy, however I was enjoying Berlin's beauty at night. I am surprised that the city looks very modern. Its population is around 3.5 million.

We noticed a river boat on the river nearby with dining seats inside. We noticed a variety of different cuisines such as spanish, italian and asian foods available, any cuisine you could possibly want. Different varieties of breads and pastries and sausages of course, a bit different to what France and Italy offer. Yes there are plenty of McDonalds and Burger Kings too in Germany as well as Italy. Currywurst seems to be popular here. It is a fast food German dish, which is steamed and then fried pork sausage cut into slices and seasoned with curry ketchup and served with french fries or bread. Neal has not had a chance to taste this yet but I am sure he will soon.

As we were walking, out of the blue, someone in the street fired off a couple of fireworks or firecrackers not far from us, I screamed my head off. Scared me to death. The firecrackers were so loud. We did not know if this is allowed in the country but it happened on the street. Looks like you have to be on your guard all the time.

We noticed people sleeping on the sidewalks which was sad to see and people begging for money. We noticed one man screaming something in German in the street, we ignored him and kept walking just like the rest of the people. It made me feel uncomfortable but Neal was ok with it all.

Tonight we saw on the BBC news how Sydney had thick fog over the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House. It is basically the only station we watch at night because it is basically the main one in english.

Oh by the way, I forgot to mention that in Italy they have service staff that fill up your car with petrol or "benzene". Outside of hours you can use self service petrol stations by using your credit card or paying for a set dollar value (no change is generally given). I was not with Neal at the time but he says that it was too difficult for him to work out the self service, again the language barrier issue. As we had to fill up the hire car before returning, Neal decided to head towards the airport and hope that we find an open petrol station. Lucky for us there was one outside the rental car return car park, how convenient. Prices were no different to what we had seen on our travels, are they stupid or what. If it was my service station I would be charging a lot higher.

Also there appeared to be a lot of trucks on the road when we were driving, at one stage there were 18 trucks in a convoy. Also forgot to mention that the roads are amazing here, but european drivers are crazier than any australian driver in our opinion, from what we have seen. In Italy, don't know about the rest of Europe, semis are not allowed on the road over the week-ends.

Posted by ktime 23:29 Archived in Germany Comments (1)

Venice to Berlin

overcast 13 °C

Today we woke up early to catch a flight from Marco Polo Airport (Venice) to Berlin. We had another hearty breakfast at the Best Western hotel which included scrambled eggs, fried ham, a variety of cheeses, fresh hams, salami and green and black olives, ricotta cheese, yoghurt and fresh fruits such as strawberries, kiwi fruit and canteloupe, breads and a variety of venetian biscuits (which I could not sample), cereals, tea and coffee.

Neal and I managed to fumble our way to the main shopping centre (huge) at Marcon yesterday. Boy, that was unbelievable, our GPS lost connectivity and so we were on our own. Some how we fumbled our way to the shopping centre. We managed to get our GPS up and running again for the way back to the hotel.

We have noticed that most of Europe, that we have visited so far, have a lot of roundabouts in each city or town. It is not easy for us to drive. It has not been smooth and we have faced many challenges on our journey so far, however we are having fun. The main challenges have been the language barriers and just finding things such as post offices or mobile phone credit recharges. Thank goodness for Neal's download of various language translators. It has helped us get by as well.

Tomorrow we explore Berlin.

Posted by ktime 10:20 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

Salzburg - Austria

rain 3 °C

Today we went on a "The Sound of Music" tour, showing film sites in Salzburg and revealing information about the film that we did not know before. Surprisingly, this is one of Neal's favourite movies.

We woke up to a hearty breakfast. It was unusual to see a range of foods which included cucumber and fresh tomato for breakfast along with fried or scrambled eggs, various sausages, bacon, fresh watermelon and melon, tinned fruits, yoghurts, various hams and cheeses, gluten free crackers, various tea and coffee, jam and bread but no toasters. Neal asked where the toaster was and they said they did not have one. Also I noticed they don't seem to have the variety of tea's that we have eg. chai tea both loose leaf or tea bags. Our first experience of an Austrian breakfast.

Anyway we found out on our tour that Salzburg means a place of salt. They apparently made a lot of money here by mining and selling salt. We were taken to various locations in Salzburg where the movie was filmed by bus. Neal was in heaven singing to The Sound of Music songs on the bus He was so embarrassing. He also filmed the young tour guide singing to the music. She was very young and from London.

We learnt how Hollywood can make amazing things happen in movies by cutting and editing. For example, Salzburg is usually very cold and wet. It was planned that the last scene you see in the movie was going to take 6 weeks but it ended up being 11 weeks due to the weather. The directors and producers had to find a way to make things happen so they took shots and then took them back to the office where they were cut and edited to make the scene sunny with gorgeous clouds. They allowed us an hour break and we went into a small gift shop where we saw a t-shirt which had a kangaroo on it and it read "No Kangaroos in Austria". Neal and I had a laugh.

Then we had a coffee at a nice small and very warm coffee shop nearby. I must say that so far Italy has had the best coffee out of all the countries we have visited. This is my opinion only. France and Germany's coffee were very strong and bitter. Italian coffee I find is very strong but not very bitter. I think it is all in the beans they use. Austrian coffee is ok but Italian coffee comes out streets ahead of the rest in my opinion.

It has been difficult for Neal and I to find laundromats here as they are almost non existent. We did find one at the hotel we stayed at in Nice.

I am not sure I could live in some parts of Europe unless I owned a house or apartment as most people live in high rise apartment blocks. Reminds me a bit like Sydney without the many years of history.

Salzburg is about 3000 years old. It is very beautiful with the Bavarian/Swiss Alps in the background.

We saw on the BBC world news the weather for Australia and it appears it is getting cooler there. We also heard about Ford cuts in Australia the other day. Not good. TV viewing is very limited, BBC world news/CNN only.

Tomorrow we are driving from Salzburg to Venice and the next day flying out to Berlin for a few days before I go and meet my cousins in Southern Italy.

Posted by ktime 22:23 Archived in Austria Comments (0)

France to Switzerland to Austria to Germany& back to Austria

rain 3 °C

Today it rained the whole day and it was very cold so Neal and I decided to drive most of the day to various destinations. We went from Saint Julien En Genovis to Switzerland and then to Austria and then to Germany and then back to Austria to a place called Salzburg where we decided to stay for two nights. We saw a bit of Munich and Genova and Lusane and Bern. Salzburg is the place where they filmed parts of the movie The Sound of Music and where Mozart was born.

On our journey it started to hail on us in the Swiss Alps. It was cold.

It was interesting on the autobahn. Cars were flying past us like speeding bullets. We reckon they were going 160+. I think the highest speed Neal got to was 130km per hour and he was very slow compared to most. Neal wanted to play with the big boys in the fast lane but I made him stay with the trucks and caravans and buses. The road was very wet.

I saw a little red corvette on our journey and got very excited.

The roads have lots of tunnels that go through mountains. We went through a tunnel that was about 5km long. It seemed to never end. Some of the tunnels are scary even though there are lights in the tunnels.

We saw lots of beautiful mountains and large, wide rivers. Maybe quadruple the size of the Murrumbidgee River. Some of the bridge structures were amazing. They have structures above bridges which keep the bridges up.

It appears that there are yak farms and some cow and sheep farming in the regions we went to today. We noticed a lot of wheat and canola crops along with vineyards and nut trees and berry shrubs. I did not think much grew in these cold parts but now I know otherwise. We noticed greenhouses and lots of homes with roofs totally covered with solar panels. In some of the mountains of Switzerland we noticed large, tall windmills generating power.

The look of homes changed somewhat from Italy to France to Switzerland and Germany. In Italy they seem square shaped and in France have a bit more shape to them. In Switzerland they appear to be more of an A shape or triangular shape and in Germany they have a different shape altogether. Regardless they all look beautiful from the outside. All the areas we visited today were very very green and lush with lots of coniferous trees. Some areas of Switzerland were very picturesque. We also noticed that the old churches also changed somewhat from country to country. It was very noticeable by looking at their steeples.

I forgot to mention, the vignette (pass) for the autobahn in Switzerland cost around 40 francs and is valid for one year. The vignette for the german/Austrian autobahn cost about 8 euro for a 10day permit. In Italy and France we had numerous road tolls (Telepass) where you stop at various places and pick up a ticket and then pay for the road use once you leave the area at another road toll stop as you exit. The amount varies.

Also most places we have stayed at include a tourist tax which is added on when you pay your hotel bill. For example, in Nice there was an additional 34 Euro charge just for visiting their area. Apparently this money is spent on the local area.

Oh I forgot to mention, Neal and I were in a small supermarket at a road stop in Switzerland where we were looking at all their products on their shelves and I noticed rice products such as flavoured rice in packets, Uncle Bens risotto products and other rice products from other countries. I called Neal over and he started to take photos of the rice products. The store attendant came and told him to stop taking photos. It was funny. He managed to sneak some photos past her.

Posted by ktime 22:03 Archived in Austria Comments (2)

Avignon to Saint Julien En Genevois (Geneva) - Swiss/France

overcast 8 °C

Our stay in Avignon was amazing. Avignon is a very interesting and historic town. At this time of the year it is very busy and "touristy". It is home to the palace of the popes. It has about 2000 years of history. Rome had become impossible for the popes to govern so they set themselves up in Avignon France. It wasn't until later that a strong movement of opinion was formed that took the pope back to Rome. The palace that Neal and I visited took about 30 years to build. It is an amazing place and worth a visit.

We had an overnight stay in Avignon and we both liked the place very much. Lots of Gelato places and Patisserie's. Shame I cannot taste most of the pastries. We had a chance to taste some fine French food at our evening meal but I was not game enough to order snails which was on the menu, snails in a butter sauce from memory.

Breakfast was interesting, there was a juicer there to cut and juice our own oranges for fresh orange juice. It appears that they love their cheeses and hams and salami's so there was a selection of those. They don't really have bacon and eggs. In Italy they have prosciutto and scrambled eggs and in France you can boil your own eggs using an egg boiler or have scrambled eggs and ham. Their fruit salad is not like our fruit salad with many fruits. Both in Italy and France they appear to only have pineapple and apple and a few grapes in their fruit salads. The strawberries and kiwi fruit are in a separate bowl. It is easier to find gluten free food in Italy than it is in France.

After Avignon we decided to hop in the car and continue our journey towards Switzerland-Austria. As we were unsure what to do with autobahn (Swiss Motorway Vignette) passes, Neal decided to stay in Saint Julien En Genevois (Geneva) for one night which is located on the French side of the French-Switzerland border. The scenery was beautiful and breathtaking at times.

We did not spend a lot of time in Saint Julien En Genevois as it was raining and very cold so we decided to spend the next day driving to Austria.

Posted by ktime 13:57 Archived in France Comments (0)

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