Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Salzburg and The Sound of Music

We have really enjoyed our two days in Salzburg as we managed to get some culture as well as find a laundromat and finish our washing.

Yesterday we visited Mozart's home which is now a museum and we really enjoyed seeing all the historical displays.
We also enjoyed some typical Austrian food such as schnitzels and Salzburger Nockerl, which is a special souffle served with cranberry sauce and delicious.
Today we took the Sound of Music tour and enjoyed seeing where the various scenes were filmed as well as hearing stories about the making of the film. The tour guide was very good and we sang along to the CD of the film score while we drove through the countryside. It was a good way to see more of the surrounding countryside too.
Tomorrow we are off to Vienna and a Mozart concert so we are having a variety of experiences on our trip. We enjoyed the smaller city of Salzburg and we were surprised to hear that there is only a population of 148,000. Most of their industry comes from tourism and of course the Sound of Music plays a big part in that.
The weather has been a bit cooler for the last two days so we're enjoying a change from the excessive heat of Italy too. I can't believ that the trip has gone so quickly and we will be home in about 10 days time but we have a lot more to do before then.
Hugs, Jan Mac

Monday, August 29, 2011

A Castle in Germany

We did another 3 countries in one day as we left Swizterland, passing through Austria on our way to Germany. We wanted to see the Neuschwanstein Castle, built by King Ludwig, and almost bankrupting the country. Of course now it‘s a huge tourist attraction.
We took the train from Zurich to Fussen which is the closest town, and then took a tour of the castle.
The castle is often referred to as the Disneyland castle as I think they used it for the Chitty Bang Bang film. The views were spectacular and the castle wasn‘t finished but the completed rooms have lovely wall paintings and very elaborate chandeliers all in the shape of a crown. The main one weighs a ton.
Fussen is a lovely little town and it was easy to arrange our own visit there rather than take an organized tour from Munich. We stayed the night there and then took the train to Salzburg and we were very surprised to see so many homes with the roofs completely covered by solar panels.
Hugs, Jan Mac

There's Money in Zurich

There's also lots of people and many expensive cars. We had 2 nights there and the weather had finally cooled down and we even had some light rain. That wasn't a problem as we did our own walking tour the first afternoon and then a trolley tour of the city and a boat ride on the lake on the second afternoon.
We were told that there is a laudromat at the Zurich station so we took our dirty clothes for a walk but there isn't one there so we brought them back to the hotel and will try to find one in Salzburg.
The information says that there are 350,000 passing through the Zuirch station every day. We were probably the only two with our dirty clothes.
The scenery is lovely there and the homes on the lake are fabulous but apparently only 7% of the city's residents own their own homes and the rest rent.
We also finally had our meal of Swiss fondue. It's usually a meal for the winter but we found a restaurant which specializes in a cheese fondue which is eaten with bread. It was delicious and we finished it off with cake doused in kirsch.
We managed not to leave too much of our own money in Zurich and there was the usual juggling of the last of our Swiss francs before we left and could use Euros again. Still having lots of laughs and we also found that the toliets in Swiss stations are called McClean. You pay according to which body function you wish to perform. It must be something you get used to but I wonder how they determine whether or not you paid enough. Also raises the question of what happens if you anticipate an outcome which doesn't evenuate.
More to come, Jan Mac

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Bernina Express

No it's not a sewing machine sewing quickly, it's the name of a scenic rail trip which goes over the Swiss Alps. It starts in Lugano with a 3 hour bus ride to Tirano which is just over the border in Italy. The road follows the Italian lakes and the scenery is very pretty with roads which are only wide enough for the bus at times and the driver sounds the horn to warn oncoming traffic.
After an hour's break for lunch at Tirano we boarded a train for Chur, which is 4 hours or so away. The train goes over the mountains and the scenery is lovely with lots of mountain views.
A man comes through the carriages regulalrly offering refreshments to purchase and a stuffed mountain goat is on the front of his cart- probably one which didn't move quickly enough.
The trip can also be taken in reverse and this was the other train trip we particularly wanted to do as it's classed as one of the best train trips for scenery.
It was a great way to see lots of the Alps and the views from the carriages was great as they have extra expanses of glass.
You guessed it- there's more to come but that will be tomorrow.
Hugs, Jan Mac

Whispering Wednesday

We left Interlaken on Wednesday and took a slower train to Lucerne, seeing lots of lovely scenery with mountains, lakes and chalets along the way. We changed trains at Lucerne for our train to Lugano, in the Swiss Alps. Unfortunately we found ourselves on a "quiet carriage" and a passenger had nominated himself as the "noise police". We were speaking quietly as we settled in with our luggage etc and he came over and told us there was to be no talking or noise. Then he went over and shushed a married couple who were speaking quietly. They left the carriage but we decided to stay and see if we could be quiet for 3 1/2 hours.
Apart from a few quiet giggles and some written notes passed like we did at school, we managed to keep the peace. The conductor came through and spoke to another passenger but that was allowed apparently. All part of the experience and it did liven up our memories of the trip.
Now we will try to avoid these carriages in future but haven't seen them again so far.
The photos don't do the scenery justice with the heat haze and the glare on the snow but the views are fabulous, we are having fun and we can't ask for more.
I'm very lucky to be able to share this trip with my sister and I expect that we'll still be on speaking terms when we finish LOL.
We are having plenty of laughs and no more Campari so life is good.
Yes there is more to come later.
Hugs, Jan Mac

Journey to the Top of Europe

On Tuesday we took the train from Lausanne to Interlaken and it only took a couple of hours. We walked to our hotel with our suitcases and checked in before taking a trip to the highest train station in Europe at Jungfraujoch. The railway is owned by a private Swiss company and it wasn't cheap but the views were spectacular. We traveled on a cog railway and had to change trains twice. Finally at the top we had views of three mountains- the Eiger, Jungfrau and Monch.
It was well worth the trip even though we didn't get back to our hotel until almost 7pm. The photos don't really do the scenery justice but as we'd planned our trip around this one and the Bernina Express we were very happy that we'd done our research and managed to fit it in to our schedule.
We were at 11,333 feet so we had a bit of altitude sickness and just felt a bit light headed but a great experience.
More to come, Hugs Jan Mac

Friday, August 26, 2011

Three Countries in a Day

We haven't had time or internet for the last few days so I'll update several at once. We left Genoa last Monday morning, had lunch in Milan and then arrived at Lausanne in Switzerland for our next stay. While there we found that we could take a boat trip across Lake Geneva and be in France in 35 minutes. Of course we couldn't resist so we arrived in Switzerland at 5.15 and and hour later we went to Evian in France for dinner- doesn't everyone? LOL
We ate crepes as our French cuisine and enjoyed the boat ride too. There was a storm with lightening when we came back to Lausanne and our schoolgirl French lessons came in handy as "Mon Dieu" came to mind.
One young lad tried to take photos of the forked lightening but missed it every time.
We had an early start the next day as we had one of our big train journeys into the alps so will tell more in the next post.
Hugs, Jan Mac

Monday, August 22, 2011

Beautiful Florence, Warm Pisa and Hot Genoa

We enjoyed Florence despite the heat and enjoyed walking around the old part of the city along with many other tourists. This morning we took the train to Pisa and stopped off for an hour and a half to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa. It's still leaning but has been cleaned during their recent restoration. Many of the stone works in the museum or church floors here and in Rome reminded me of patchwork patterns and the intricate mosaic work of the paintings in St Peters and floors in the Sistene Chapel were things I would have liked to study without all the tourists. Never mind they were all there to enjoy them too. Pisa was 37 or 38 degrees and the train to Genoa was delayed and the air conditioning wasn't working so it was a very hot trip on a crowded train. We enjoyed walking along the water front near our hotel and a lovely meal of shrimp (prawns) for our evening meal.
In the morning we are catching the train to Lausanne in Switzerland via Milan and it will be hot again so we hope the air conditioing is working. At least our hotel is lovely and cool here.
Off to have my third shower for the day. LOL
Hugs, Jan Mac