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Posts tagged ‘Travel’

Odl lay hee hoo

We have been promising to visit St Anton and go skiing with friends Vicky and Tony for sometime. They spend the entire season here each year.

Unfortunately, it’s summer here and Vicky and Tony are back in Australia enjoying the remarkable season down there. But, here we are in St Anton!

We are excited to be catching up with Andrea (also mutual friend of V&T). Andrea’s Mum comes over from the States to hike each year with her friend Diane.

Andrea has just been in Europe cycling and holidaying in Greece with Vicky, who has been celebrating a birthday (won’t say which). Our travel plans didn’t end up coinciding with Vicky’s, so we didn’t get to celebrate with her.

St Anton is a picture perfect alpine village. Designed for skiing, it’s also a popular hiking and cycling destination in summer. The night we arrive, the local summer fair is on and we have dinner in town enjoying more Austrian music. Not as good as the Fritzens, but entertaining all the same.

I could say we went on a hike, but perhaps ‘leisurely walk’ would be a better definition. The easier trail was opted for in favour of the lesser experienced Aussie tourists. Otherwise, our three hosts would have been scaling mountains!

The weather also proved a bit of a hinderance and threatening rain shortened our walk to 3 hours.  Just as the rain was coming in, we made it back for lunch in one of the huts up the mountain for some traditional Austrian fare.

We have a fun two nights, spending most of it chatting and laughing. We play Skip-Bo; a crazy card game Andrea and Magit have recently been introduced to. It was wonderful to catch-up on Andrea’s world (as we have not seen her in 18 months), meet Magit again (the last time was at least 5 years or so ago in Australia) and meet Diane for the first time.

We very much enjoyed the simple pleasure in just hanging and relaxing with friends, old and new. So a big thank you Andrea, Magit and Diane for welcoming us, sharing your wine and food, entertaining and educating us. It was a memorable few days.

Magit grew up in Austria and her knowledge of Europe is extensive. She gives us some great tips on where to go and also, where not to go – avoid Switzerland “it’s soooo expensive, it costs you money just being there”, these are her lingering words as we bid farewell.

The scenic Arlbergstraße takes us north through the Alps, the weather is however bleak and miserable, any plans to stop and see more of the Austrian mountainside quickly fade. What we did see through the drizzle and fog looked magnificent. Hopefully we will come back through this area and we certainly have itchy feet to come skiing in St Anton.

We stop for coffee and to strategize on where we are staying tonight. With the weather looking dodgy we decide that a larger town/city will have more on offer than staying in the alps. Against the advice of Magit, we head into Switzerland deciding to make Zurich our home for two nights.

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Swarovski Kristallwelten

Swarovski is synonymous with Austria, the crystal manufacturer dates back to 1895. The factory (yes, with a shop) is not far from the Fritznerhof, the lure of a shopping opportunity is too strong.

Actually, it’s not all shopping. Kristallwelten (Crystal World), which is no doubt a marketing ploy to ensure you do end up in the gift shop, is a stunning exhibition of crystal art. It starts at the entrance; a Giants head with sparkling crystal eyes. There are 13 dazzling chambers, each designed by world famous artists and designers. The list includes Keith Haring, Andy Warhol, Salvador Dalí and fashion designer Alexander McQueen.

Of course, the experience culminates in a shopping extravaganza of Swarovski crystal products. Yes, purchases were made and we may drop in again when we have my Sister join us.

Commute to Turkey

When we calculated the distance to Turkey and the list of things we wanted to see within the 6 weeks Katrina had with us, we realised that our best option was to high-tail it across the continent.

We left Venice with the intent to keep on driving for as long as we could. From Italy we need to cross Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia and Bulgaria before we enter Turkey, where our first stop is Gallipoli.

The Slovenia countryside was very pretty and maybe worth a visit sometime, but we quickly cross the border into Croatia. Everyone raves about the Croatian coast,but we can’t say much for the scenery along the motorway, as it starts to become more sparse and bleak the further east we travel.

We stopped at a roadside café to refuel the car and ourselves.  Between the pictures and words we could decipher on the menu, we end up with chicken schnitzel (I think)!  Katrina points out the Croatian dress code; tracksuit pants, trainers, t-shirt.  Jeans are obviously reserved for more formal occasions!

As evening approaches we have crossed into Serbia and we will need to stop somewhere for the night. We pass by Belgrade (the Capital) and we decide that we won’t be stopping here, as it’s one high-rise after another, looking very depressing.  We eventually detour into Kragujevac, 20km off the motorway, thinking it would be a bit smaller (and nicer, only to discover it is the 4th biggest city in Serbia).  The tourist highlights are apparently the tennis courts, first high school and the Cineplex!

With the aid of the nav system we find the centre of town and a couple of hotels. The first is full, but the second has rooms for Aus $55 and looks reasonable.   We check in and head into the bar for a night-cap, where we discover there are very different non smoking laws in Serbia (probably none at all). We are greeted with a wall of suffocating smoke in a crowded bar, with everyone watching a basketball game.  Our distaste for the smoking is obvious and we are ushered into the restaurant where there is less smoking, but still smoking!! There is also live entertainment; a cover band belting out 80’s hits in both English and Serbian.  They do a pretty good job of Pink Floyd’s – ‘Wish You Were Here’ (but we are not sure we do).

The next morning we are back on the road, with only Bulgaria to cross.  The CPI has got cheaper, but this is (unfortunately) in direct correlation to the quality and this continues the further east we go.  In desperation for a reasonable coffee, quick meal and clean toilets we opt for McDonald’s in Sophia.  None of us are Maccas fans, but they do pride themselves on worldwide consistency – however, we don’t think the Maccas quality control team has visited Sophia in a while!

Who thought I could write so much about a road trip….anyway, we arrive at the Gallipoli peninsula early evening.

Format changes

After undertaking comprehensive market research and reader feedback we have made a couple of changes.

A) The photo format will revert back to a carousel style layout (you should be able to click and enlarge to view slide show), rather than mosaic style (it took up too much space).

B) Comments per post has now been turned on so your opinion is appreciated.  Outside of the market research group (of 1) + family, we have no idea I who is taking any interest in our travels.

Please let us know if you have any other suggestions for improvement.