Currently traveling

Singapore UK and Europe 2019

September - November 2019
Currently traveling
  • Day63

    A full day in Verona

    November 3 in Italy ⋅ 🌧 12 °C

    Another rainy cold day but after breakfast we grabbed our umbrellas and set off. We found the "Arena Di Verona" a beautiful Romania Amphitheatre built in the first century and seats over 20,000 . It was so well built it's still used today for rock concerts, operas and plays. It was wet and cold but I guess added to the atmosphere. It usually costs £10 to get in, but it was only £1 because of the rain.

    Italy really is a wonderful place, but it is full of rip-offs. As we left a couple of guys, dressed as Roman soldiers, were getting tourists to have their photos taken with them. I somehow ended up getting mine (Anne took the photo) but then the fix comes in and they want to get paid - all I'll say is I ended up £20 poorer😢. At least with pickpockets you don't know it's happened until later. I'm still pissed-off about it!!

    Despite the hassle, Verona really is a gem.
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  • Day62

    Villach to Verona

    November 2 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 9 °C

    Breakfast and headed off, towards Verona (Italy) about 10 am. The drive out of the town wasn't quite as hard as the drive in, but I'm pretty sure we did find a one-way street to drive up the wrong way. Lucky it's Sunday and still pretty quiet. As Anne said "no one got hurt".

    We took the autostrada on a very wet rainy and cold day - I guess it had to happen sooner or later. The drive through the mountains into Italy was beautiful despite the weather. You don't go over or around the mountains so much as through them. There were impressive tunnels after impressive tunnels. Between the rain and wet weather there were a few stretches of road that were between 50kms and 80kms speed limits. This didn't seem to register with any other car on the road. The autostrada has a maximum speed limit of 130kph in dry clear conditions. I think most of the other drivers took the 130kph as the the minimum speed in any weather/road condition. I was overtaken (despite exceeding the speed limit) by every other car on the road. We saw a couple of motorbikes on the road and caught up with them when we stopped a roadside cafe - they said the rain/wet was just bearable, but the cold (wind chill well and truly below zero) was just terrible. Here I was missing going for a ride🙃.

    Italy is a fantastic place (I may be slightly biased), but it does have its quirks and issues (like other places). When we stopped at the roadside cafe (part of a service station) a beggar (older woman) asked for some money for food - unfortunately you just can't afford to give to everyone who asks (and we have given a fair bit while travelling around as homelessness is everywhere - like at home but maybe more obvious). When we parked I noticed that a lot of the individual car parks had signs saying webcams were available - I though wow that's modern without thinking why. It was only when we got inside that I saw signs explaining how to download a smart phone app that let you keep an eye on your car while you are inside - just in case someone was trying to break into you vehicle. The homeless at least ask, these buggers just go straight to the taking.

    We missed a turn but finally got to Verona around 2.30pm and booked in. Still cold and drizzling but, without complaining,started some sight seeing. I know it seems as if we visit a lot of churches, but they do tend to be amongst the most magnificent of buildings each with their own history and full of wonderful paintings, sculptures and artifacts. They really are museums and windows to the past. I'm really not very religious so apart from funerals and weddings, really the only time you'll find me in one. The Basilica of San Zeno (over a 1000 years old) didn't let us down. The walk around gave us an idea of what to do/see tomorrow as we're staying for a couple of nights.

    About 5 pm (now raining properly) we started to head back to the hotel and dropped into a market on the way to get some food/drink for the night. It was a pretty big supermarket (the amount of fresh food compared to supermarkets back home is amazing - people tend to shop only for a day or two and mostly eat fresh). We walked into a sort of "anti room" before you walked into the store proper. Our umbrellas were wet so I convinced Anne to leave them in the foyer in front of the shop (along with a panini I was going to throw a way). Cut a long story short someone stole the umbrellas but left the bread - pity the store didn't have umbrella webcams😩. It was raining pretty heavy and we had a way to walk so Anne went back in, and €20 later we were on our way. Anne has been keeping a running tab of our spending - she put the €20 under a new category called "Stupid" (with the note in brackets "Maurice" that I think is a bit harsh). We now have bright orange umbrellas that makes us look like walking tour guides (I wondered why we had a bunch of Japanese tourists followed us back to the hotel 😆).

    Tomorrow a full day exploring Verona.
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  • Day61

    Velenge to Villach

    November 1 in Austria ⋅ ⛅ 5 °C

    We're heading into back to Austria after a great breakfast - lots of variety and as much as you can eat (lucky I have the ability to fill up for the day ahead).

    I've been meaning to mention the long, long street names found in some European cities (particular in Eastern European countries such as Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia amongst others). Streets are often named after famous people or politicians etc. Street names like "Zygmunta Krasinskiego Ulica" or "Avenjia Marina Drzica Ulice". Whilst the names might be long (and take a while to say) the streets themselves might be quite short. The problem this presents, when using a GPS, is that by the time the GPS finishes telling you to turn right into "Avenjia Marina Drzica Ulice"", you've actually driven past!!!! The GPS will re-route, but it keeps happening over and over again.

    Slovenia is a small country, but what it lacks in size it makes up in scenery and fantastic roads. We were back into Austria pretty quickly .

    We got to Villach and tried to drive to the hotel which unfortunately (again) located in pedestrian only area in the "old town". Anne tried to convince me to drive down an ever narrowing laneway that lead to the square - thankfully I resisted, the other end was far too skinny for any car. I had only just finished telling her the story of the guy who followed his GPS into a mine shaft and got stuck!! I think we would have had to change our hotel stay from one night to the rest of our lives. Having said that the car would have been parked only about 50 metres from the hotel so it would have been a short walk after we got out of the boot as there would have been no way to open the doors. We found a park, walked to the hotel and got directions on how to get to the court-yard at the back. We did eventually manage to find our way, but I'm pretty sure, from some of the looks we got, we drove the wrong way up some very narrow streets and some footpaths as well. Staying in the middle has a lot of advantages as far as sight seeing, restaurants and people watching,but it is hell on the nervous system😨. We had lunch after booking in - first time in a while I was tempted to have a very large whiskey (to calm the nerves) but I resisted.

    It's a very quiet day due to the "All Saints day" holiday. So hardly anything open. As much as I hate to admit it, we ate at Austria's version of Kentucky Fried Chicken. At least we had a more traditional dinner at the hotel restaurant (though after we did walk down to McDonalds so I could have a sundae - the shame of it all).

    Tomorrow we head into Verona Italy - hopefully my Italian will be as good as I hope it is (I've had a few embarrassments in Italy before😊).
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  • Day60

    Zagreb to Velenje

    October 31 in Slovenia ⋅ ☁️ 5 °C

    We’re off to Slovenia. I had told Anne this is probably the most picturesque country in Europe so, hopefully, it doesn’t let me down.

    We walked to the car park (about 500 metres away) in the rain,and about 6 degrees, so not a good start - a coffee/hot chocolate on the way helped a bit. For a change we got out of the city okay and headed on back roads towards Slovenia. When you put into the GPS “no tolls and no motorways” sometimes it takes you through some country one lane roads that has locals, on tractors, wondering what you are doing out there (if the looks on their faces is anything to go by).

    As we got closer to the border, I told Anne that the roads had a very familiar feel about them from my motorbike trip of 3 years ago (actually I think I saw the same confused 🤷‍♂️ tractor driver back then). I said to Anne won’t it be funny if we have the same trouble, I had back then, getting across the border. Sure enough, when we got to the border and stopped, I said to the guard “we can cross here?” He nodded yes. Handed over our passports and as soon as he saw “Australia” he changed his mind to a no. Unfortunately the crossing was only for “locals” from both sides and not for anyone else. He told us we would have to go to the border crossing at Kumrovec. I asked him nicely and he put it into the GPS. A female guard came out an instructed us to drive through into Slovenia, to turnaround, and then go back into Croatia. She kept our passports to make sure we did! I swear it was the same woman that made me do the same thing when I was as last here on the bike. Anne was only slightly amused - she reckons a third time and they’ll lock me up for a while. At least this time I had the right border crossing in the GPS and it was easy to find. 3 years ago they gave me a very bad mud map (because I couldn’t understand their instructions) and I had to stop 3 or 4 times to ask for help (from confused guys on tractors).

    We finally crossed the border, the rain pretty much stopped and the country opened up into beautiful green rolling hills, and majestic mountains, dotted with picture-perfect villages. The road was fantastic to drive (I remembered how much fun it was on the bike). Anne agreed - prettiest country we’ve seen so far.

    We got to Velenje (a small city) and checked in before heading out for lunch and a look around.

    We walked up the hill to the Valenje Castle. It was a bit of a steep climb but well worth the hike. The castle was built in 1270 and is now well preserved as a museum. Some fantastic views from there as well.

    A rest tonight then we’ll (try) to cross the border into Austria tomorrow.
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  • Day59

    Zagreb - a full day

    October 30 in Austria ⋅ ☁️ 5 °C

    Woke up to a cold (about 5 degrees) showery day. Hopefully it will get better (at least stop bring wet) but it will only get to about 9.

    Started exploring,after breakfast, by deciding to walk up a long long set of ancient stairs to the top of a hill - we followed 2 or 3 groups of people thinking they must be going somewhere interesting. Not so!!!! It turned out we were all going to a medical research facility - given some of the people we were following, we decided 🤔not to go inside. We found a roundabout way to get back down to the main part of the city and the old town. We walked around a really large old cathedral and tried to get in through a side gate when it mysteriously opened for us. We were about to go into a building when a guy came running out telling us this is a private property (he was Croatian so we guessed that what he was saying as he ushered us out). Eventually we did find our way into the cathedral and it didn’t disappoint- built over 900 years ago it has a lot of history. We did a lot more walking/exploring including finding the Gric tunnel (about 350 metres long) that was built as a bomb shelter and a promenade. We found a huge open market place (that unfortunately had started to close for the day) as well as lots of other great places/sights - really worth the visit.

    Lunch at where else but an Italian restaurant (they really are everywhere ).

    The weather wasn’t great, but added to the atmosphere.

    Tomorrow we leave Zagreb for Slovenia.
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  • Day58

    Nagykanizsa to Zagreb

    October 29 in Croatia ⋅ 🌧 9 °C

    We’re off to Croatia - Zagreb to be precise.

    Hotel had a typical European breakfast - bread, cheese, salami and ham. Before we headed off Anne had to have her espresso (with frothed milk on the side - she is now officially a coffee snob/monster).

    Croatia isn’t part of the Schengen area so we had to stop at the border crossing to get stamped out of Hungry and then checked/stamped for entry into Croatia- through without any issues (we did have to wind down the rear windows so they could check to make sure there were only the 2 of us in the car, why they wouldn’t check the boot I have no idea). The drive is nothing to write home about ( so I won’t ). Actually whist there were some nice villages and views, it rained most of the way.

    Got to Zagreb (another city with trams that you have to negotiate) about 1 pm and parked the Duster in a secure underground car park @ £7 a day (cheaper than Brisbane 👍). The apartment is tiny but in the middle of town and newly renovated and modern (even a smart TV and aircon. It’s cold outside (about 6 degrees and raining) so you would think you would need to put some heat on. Not sure why/how, but like a lot of the other places we’ve stayed it’s uncomfortably hot so we opened windows.

    We’ll do some exploring tomorrow.
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  • Day57

    Budapest to Nagykanizsa

    October 28 in Hungary ⋅ ☁️ 16 °C

    Leaving the apartment complex garage turned out to be a lot easier than driving in👍. The drive took about 3 1/2 hours.

    Road safety doesn’t seem to be the first thing people think about in Europe generally, or Hungry in particular. It seems that as long as you put hazard lights on you can park anywhere - double park on the street , park on the footpath, or on the pedestrian crossing!!!! Road workers don’t bother setting up diversions. On the way we came across a council truck stopped in the middle of the road facing the wrong way. There wasn’t any warning signs or a stop/go man - just 8 guys working (well 4 working and 4 watching) on filling in a pothole. You just had to stop, try and look around the 🚚, and if you thought no one was coming, drive in the wrong side of the road to get around. At least it keeps the driving interesting 🙄.

    The drive itself was okay if not riveting. We stopped off at a bar/cafe for lunch. All cafes sell alcohol, and all bars sell barista coffee (only fair I guess). We had a bit of trouble with the language (at one stage reverted to miming eating). I started to use google translate and the bar person/waitress hopped on to her phone to also use a translation app (apparently Aussie accents not heard out here very often). Me translating in to Hungarian and her translating into English. The double translation had some issues but we finally got a toasted panini each - though neither me or the waitress were quite sure what I was trying to order!!!!

    Nagykanizsa is more of a stopping point for us on the way to Slovenia rather than a destination. Having said that a nice enough city/town. We had a bit of a walk around and dinner at a hotel. Anne had beef goulash soup and a side of grilled vegetables and a side of roasted potato croquets. I had an enormous roast pork with fries. Neither of us could finish our meals. The whole lot, along with 2 bottles of sparkling mineral water, cost $23 - very good value even for a cheapskate.

    We stayed at the “Oazis” hotel that didn’t really live up to its name. It was in the midst of renovations and our room definitely hadn’t been renovated yet. At one stage I turned off a light and the switch fell off the wall onto the floor. No jugs to boil water (“we don’t supply electric jugs” - why would you supply coffee/tea cups then?). A sink to wash dishes/cups but no tea towels to dry up. 2 spoons and 2 forks but not a knife in sight (no sharp objects allowed?). And funniest part “we don’t supply toilet paper” (why the hell then do you supply a toilet ?). There was almost translucent blinds on the two windows and the two skylights in the room. Directly outside was an orange street light in misty light rain and this meant our room was bathed in the orange glow you would expect immediately after a nuclear holocaust. Some of you will know I carry blu tack and bandaids to cover the orange and blue lights of tvs etc. in hotel rooms because I need dark to sleep 💤. Unfortunately they don’t make enough blu tack and I only had about 20 bandaids. The cleaners the next morning will have wondered what the hell went on in there the night before. What added to the uneasiness of the night was the bathroom. I wasn’t sure if, inside, there wasn’t a torture chamber rather than a shower 🚿- have a look at the pic🤔.

    Sleep was, let’s say, interrupted.

    Tomorrow to Zagreb in Croatia for a couple of days.
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  • Day56

    Budapest - last day

    October 27 in Hungary ⋅ ☀️ 19 °C

    Last full day in Budapest and my last chance to convince Anne how beautiful this city is.

    After breakfast (and Anne’s obligatory coffee) we were off to the other side of the river - the Buda side of the city. There’s an island in the river (Margit) that you can walk to (using a bridge obviously - I’m not Moses) Dropped in and a saw a beautiful fountain that went in time to music (Beatles, Rolling Stones etc.). You probably had to be there to appreciate it😛. The Buda side has what I guess you could call the “old town. Cobbled streets, stairways and lots of churches. The views from the river are magnificent- see the pics.

    Heaps of cafes and restaurants so we stopped for lunch. Anne has a risotto and I ordered chicken dumplings - something got lost in the translation (literally) I got 🐓 but it certainly wasn’t dumplings. In any case it was very good!!!!!!

    I’m not sure Anne thinks this city is as good as I do - but she is impressed none the less.

    Tomorrow we try to get out of the underground car park and drive to Nagykanizsa - still in Hungry.
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  • Day55

    Budapest day 2

    October 26 in Hungary ⋅ ☀️ 17 °C

    History lesson Budapest is actually two cities separated by the Danube river. Buda on one side of the river, and Pest on the other. We are staying on the Pest side.

    I’d been telling Anne that Budapest is the pick of European cities, hopefully over the next 2 days she’ll agree with me.

    Actually we had a slow day and didn’t head out until about 10.30. We had a walk through the main shopping street/area on the Pest side ending up at a huge market on 3 floors with lots of local produce, clothes etc. On the way shady looking guys kept trying to sell us iPhone 11s at a very cheap price - I’m guessing either stolen or not working, or both. We also visited St Stephens Basilica.

    Tomorrow we’ll go to the Buda side and Anne will be impressed!!!!
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  • Day54

    Bratislava to Budapest

    October 25 in Hungary ⋅ ☀️ 21 °C

    We’re locals - the coffee shop remembered our order!!! Went to a “market” just down the street to buy some more jocks (bought a couple yesterday) and she remembered my order - locals!!!!.

    Okay - hesitantly hopped in the car and headed-off. A few pedestrians but we timed the trams just right. Got to the point where we got off the pedestrian area and joined the street when a policeman 👮‍♂️ stopped us. Whew, it’s okay, he was clearing the intersection so a politician and their entourage had a clear passage. We did end up doing a couple of wrong turns, but eventually got out of the city and on our way to Budapest.

    Just before the border crossing into Hungry we again got pulled over, behind a truck, by a policeman. We waited for a few minutes thinking it might a breathalyser test. After a few more minutes the policeman stuck his head out and waved us on. I don’t think he had expected us stop and was wondering what we were doing (he wasn’t the only one confused). As we crossed the border we noticed all the other vehicles had stopped at a building off the side. We hoped they were just buying a road vignette (that you need to drive in a Hungry - we got one online) and not because we were also supposed to stop. No one chased us so we kept going.

    We got to Budapest and had to drive through a maze of one way very skinny streets. I couldn’t find the reception for the apartment so I walked around aimlessly for a while, while Anne waited in the car in case it had to be moved. Eventually found the reception - okay where is our reserved parking? - nowhere obvious🤔. Got given a remote control and some brief instructions. The car park is under the building. There is a small garage door to the side and of course one car park behind us on a one way road. I decided in collaboration with the driver waiting for our car park that I would do a 3 point turn rather than go around the block and drive straight into the lift - too easy - except just as we were about to drive in, a van came out of the garage and it went a little pear shaped just for a moment . All of a sudden we had horns blasting and people yelling at us to back up as we had room, which we did and then it all came together again. The van drove out of the garage, we drove into the garage and the driver got his car park and the 5 cars behind him finally got to go. That is how you stop Budapest traffic 😁. The remote calls a car lift up from underground and when the door opens you drive into the lift and push the button for the underground No 2 parking floor. Again we picked the right sized car, another centimetre taller, or wider, we may not have fitted!!!

    We dropped off our gear then went for a walk down to the the river Danube - magnificent (more tomorrow). On the way we had a look at the Hungarian Parliament House.

    On the way back we stopped off at a supermarket to buy some food including bananas. Here you have to weigh your fruit and print out a price sticker, that you put on the fruit yourself, before you take it to the checkout. I put the bananas on the scale but couldn’t work out how to specify “bananas” in the search tab. There was an older couple behind us so I asked the man if he spoke English - “yes”. I asked him how to spell banana, in Hungarian, so I could search it on the scale machine. His response, slow and one letter at a time, was “B, A ,N, A, N, A” . The smart-ass was from Melbourne, also on holidays, and couldn’t speak (or spell) a word of Hungarian. As it turned out it’s actually spelled “banan”, so he wasn’t that far wrong.

    Back to the apartment for a rest before tomorrow exploring the city. I had the world biggest veal schnitzel to eat for dinner
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