Happy Birthday Denis! - Asthe
ghouls and goblins gathered on Halloween, Bob's son Denis celebrated his 3_th
birthday, and Dad finds it hard to believe how the years have flown by. At
the moment while we are goofing off in Europe, Denis is hard at work with
Physics and Calculus problems - as we say in New Zealand, Good on Him! We
both wish him a Very Happy Birthday in Tallahassee, and many happy
returns of the day!!
ending 1 Nov 03 (Bob)
Prague This is
one of the most beautiful and charming cities that we have visited anywhere!
In sharp contrast to the dull buildings in East Berlin, the Communist rule for
40 years apparently did little to destroy the classic beauty of the city. It has
sculptures, gilded artwork, twisting streets with cozy cafes and boutiques, and
museums of all varieties. The streets were full of people, even though it was
the end of October. We visited for only 2 days (a week would have been easy to
justify) and saw a few of the highlights:
Concerts - Classical
music is big in Prague, and there were concerts everywhere! Every church,
theater, and a few holes in the wall offered 1 hour concerts (apparently the
attention span of tourists). If the Czech Republic turns out more than its
share of musicians we could understand why.
Don Giovanni Mozart
organized his first performance of this famous opera in Prague, and Judi
made sure we saw a performance. In this case it was a well-known puppet
show, and it was fantastic! The Mozart puppet drank wine as he
conducted, and steadily became more drunk as the performance progressed. The
puppeteers managed to turn this tragic opera into a side-splitting comedy
that entertained a full house!
Czechs are very artistic, and it is on display everywhere. Paintings on the
Charles Bridge, sketches at the Palace, handicrafts on the streets - we
resisted buying, but barely! Exhibits abounded: one with photos by Jiri
Kolbaba had outstanding images of many exotic places in the world and the
multi-media "Post-Industrial Civilization" left us scratching our
Prague is beautifully
preserved, perhaps the most beautiful city we have visited to date.
Theaters, houses, government buildings, palaces many with sculpted or
painted fronts or gold-gilt emblems. In the city square the Town Hall draws
hundreds of visitors with their camcorders each hour as the ornate clock
stages a march of the 12 Apostles past windows before striking the hour! We
walked to the top on the Town Hall to watch the sea of visitor heads looking
up at the clock.
Prague Palace This
palace, still used as the seat of government, sits high on a hill
overlooking the city. Ornate rooms, a banquet hall large enough to stage
jousting matches on mounted horses, and the St. Vitus cathedral draw the
tourists in droves. We climbed the 287 steps to the top of the bell tower
and were offered fantastic views of the city. On the hill below the palace
in Nerudova St., location of many famous old homes with ornate paintings to
Above the Palace sat a
monastery with a glorious view of the city, and a 13th century
library. The library had beautiful rooms, and a collection of books that
would make any museum envious. One room was devoted to Bibles of all ages
public transportation system in Prague was outstanding no cars or buses
were allowed in the city center, but trams and the subway went everywhere
one needed to go at reasonable prices and quickly. Many cities in the US
could employ this type of transport system and improve the quality of life
in the cities immeasurably.
were very happy with our visit to Prague, people were friendly, we felt
secure while riding the subway late at night, prices were reasonable, food
was good, and the city was beautiful. Perhaps on another visit we can visit
well-traveled city in the heart of Bavaria is pretty, with lots of shops,
restaurants, and museums. We did not find it as beautiful as others we have
visited, but it has a charm of its own. In our brief stay we hit a few sights:
local guide rates this as one of the most over-rated attractions in the
world, but twice a day tourists stop to watch as figures twirl, knights
joust, and roosters crow after the clock has chimed the hour. Of course, we
had to join them.
visit to Munich would be complete without a stop at this legendary
beer-hall. We stopped for a beer and pretzels, and listened to the brass
band play typical German tunes. Our only disappointment was being served by
a young man of Mediterranean extract rather than a muscular fraulein as
is like most other large cities with a large pedestrian mall surrounded by
shops of all varieties, with womens clothing outnumbering all other.
somber visit, but perhaps necessary for those of us who have some faint
memories of World War II. They have retained many of the buildings, rebuilt
some that had been demolished and augmented it all with sober photos and
footage of the atrocities committed in this concentration camp. The sign at
the gate "Arbeit Macht Frei" (Work Will Make You Free)
was particularly ironic since the only way the prisoners became free was to
die, or be freed by the Allies who finally came in 1945, 6 years after the
camp was built. Tim from The Original
Munich Walks did a great job of leading our tour.
zipped through this beautiful country, home to the Garmish ski area, and many
other attractions but did not tarry long enough to see much. We did stop at:
attraction here is Neuschwanstein Castle, said to have inspired
Disney-lands around the world. With its towers and turrets, high on a
hillside, it is spectacular. Unfortunately on our day it rained, so we only
saw the views on the postcards, but we will return! The town sported
another castle and scads of restaurants - it was busy the rainy day we
visited so we can only imagine what it must be like on a sunny summer day.
ending 8 Nov 03 (Bob)
Austria Bob had
to return to the site of an 80s ski trip so a short drive through Fern
Passe, a cleavage in the Alps south of the castle and we found ourselves in Sound
of Music land. The mountains were still majestic, the valleys green, the
fields dotted with neat farm houses and winter feed bins for the livestock. In
our haste we made only two stops:
beautiful town, with narrow streets, chic boutiques, and 360Ί views of the
Alps. We had lunch at the restaurant at the top of the on Olympic Ski Jump
that has spectacular views of the entire city and took a cable-car ride up
another hill to get a good view of the Inn River, that flows through the
heart of the city.
Zell Am Zee After
a couple of days of Innsbruck, we headed east, through the scenic mountains
to a small lake community, where they were already skiing in November!
We took a long walk into town and back and just relaxed for a day. The
caravan park is one of the nicest we have been in so far.
Italy - After a too
short visit in Austria we felt it was time to move again, this time across the
Southern Alps to Italy and that fabled city:
old city-state held us captive for three days, one while it bucketed rain,
and we really enjoyed it. The narrow streets and alley ways with no
vehicles, winding canals with gondolas and work-boats, shops where you would
least expect them (and Heaven help you if you ever want to find your way
back to one) - it all conspired to make a memorable experience. We heard a
gondolier quote 60 Euros for a ½ hour ride, and decided it was not in our
budget but we enjoyed watching others get their 15 minutes of joy under
the Rialto bridge or beside the Piazza San Marco.
East Coast We
decided to drive down the east coast, expecting to find beaches and scenery.
Wrong! The roads were packed with traffic (and this is NOT vacation time),
the air was hazy or smoggy, most accommodations along the way were seedy,
and it was not an enjoyable ride.
ending 15 Nov 03 (Bob)
Republic of San Marino
Never heard of it you say? Neither had we until a few days before we entered
oldest and smallest independent state in the world
The fact that it happens to be completely surrounded by Italy, speaks Italian,
and appears to be controlled by Italy in most ways seems odd, but hundreds of
years ago the Pope of the day decreed it should be independent, and so it is.
The caravan park was first class and the Old Town of San Marino is a walled city
and capital of this tiny republic, with tiny streets, a cross-bow archery range,
its own army, and the tackiest souvenir shops in the world. Apparently a
vacation spot for Italians, it offers things not available at home like an
AK-47 look-alike and many realistic handguns. We would have been more amused,
but friends had just been mugged in Palermo (Sicily) and the mugger used a
handgun, perhaps a toy one bought here.
Sounds Like Greek to Me!
Yes, we finally have been able to use that worn-out line for real as we
crossed the Adriatic Sea from Ancona, Italy to Patras, Greece on an Anek Line
ferry. This was a neat trip where we camped on deck - we plugged in,
slept on board, ate in the restaurants and read in their lounge chairs as the
miles flew by outside under clear skies. So far in Greece we have visited:
is a small but important port with lots of ferry traffic from Italy. It also
is a center of ferry runs to Central Greece, and to watch scores of cars,
vans, trucks, and tractor-trailers jockeying for an opportunity to reverse
onto these ferries as they fill and leave every 15 minutes is more exciting
than an evening watching professional wrestling. While trying out our first
Greek caravan park, we met Margaret and Barry, a dynamic retired couple who
make a habit of bicycling across continents: Australia, the US (3
times), and Europe in several directions we felt exhausted just thinking
about the prospects of biking across the Rockies!
southern mainland of Greece known as the Peloponnese, connects to central
Greece by a narrow isthmus a spot ripe for an engineer to insert a
canal. In the 1800s a ditch was finally dug, 4 miles long and up to 300
deep so now ships are towed through and sailboats do in an hour what would
otherwise take several days.
ending 22 Nov 03 (Bob)
More Greece - We
continued our touring, stopping at:
of the famous Acropolis, we had to stop and see it, before the throngs of
visitors come for the 2004 Olympics. Aside from the brand-new Metro
(subway), the city does not seem ready for prime-time well see how it
looks next Summer. Meanwhile, it was really exciting to visit the Acropolis
with the beautiful Parthenon and surrounding buildings. It was a
fantastic piece of design and construction a full 2300 years ago. Time has
taken its toll, and the scaffolding from ongoing repairs is a little
distracting, but it is still awesome.
150 km northwest of Athens is a site with temples, theater, stadium and
other buildings built by the ancient Greeks to honor the gods of the day:
Apollo, Athena, Zeus, and others we all remember from Greek mythology. The Oracle
of Delphi operated from the Temple of Apollo, providing ambiguous
predictions after being plied with gifts and sacrifices. The site hangs on a
steep hillside with great views of the valleys below and the Corinth Gulf in
the distance. We were lucky to find a campsite (Camping Apollon) perched on
a nearby hill with views even more awesome and still open this time of
the year. On a crisp Autumn day we walked the mile in and out of the new
Delphi town to window-shop and have a Greek lunch with a $1,000,000 view.
amazing place imagine 24 sharp peaks sticking 1000 out of the valley
floor, then perch a monastery on top of each one and surround the lot with
bright Fall foliage! That is what it looked like years ago. Now the 5 active
monasteries retain the mystical aura of the 14th century when
they were built. Fortunately, a road has been built to provide access where
ropes and vertical ladders used to be the only way up, so we could enjoy the
vistas the monks and nuns had many years ago.
drove over a high range past Mt Olympus this is the peak where
the gods played in Greek mythology, Zeus threw thunderbolts from here and
all sorts of mysterious battles took place between the gods. We saw none of
this, but from the sunny west side, we passed through a pass and clouds
boiled up from the Aegean Sea, and we were one with the clouds until we
descended to more earthly altitudes. Two more days of driving found us at a
cute coastal town of Alexandroupolis, the last significant outpost of Greek
civilization before entering Turkey. We met a young Dutch couple who gave us
a forecast of what the caravan parks would be like in Turkey primitive.
ending 29 Nov 03 (Bob)
Turkey - The border
crossing was uneventful, except for the paperwork. Greece let us out with
no problem, but Turkey extracted its pound of flesh by making us go through 4
paperwork stations, with no instructions in a language we could not
understand. At the end, Bob ended up with a stamp in his passport
requiring him to take the motorhome with him when he leaves, or pay big
time! We drove to:
sticks in the craw of Australians and New Zealanders more than the battle of
Gallipoli, where Britain sent antipodean soldiers to capture the Dardenelles
from Turkey in WWI. Thousands died, and after an 8-month stalemate the
Allies gave up and withdrew. The battlefield cemeteries are another somber
reminder of war, where men tried to claw their way up steep hills under
withering machine-gun fire from above. The memorials and their tributes,
particularly President's Ataturk's shown at the right, are
inspiring evidence that Turkey, Australia, and New Zealand are now friends,
and have much respect for each others soldiers who fought there 88 years
Ferry Ride -
After a night at the local park, we hopped a 15-minute ferry to cross the
Dardenelles, the straits that make Turkey the guardian of the Black Sea. In
the next 4 days we then drove down the West coast to:
Cesme - We
visited our friends on Herodotus who have settled into Cesme for the winter,
a harbor in a typical Turkish town. Locals are reported to be
friendly, and our meal out was enjoyable. We managed to wrangle a spot
inside of the marina for the night.
Marmaris - This
is the largest marina town on the south coast, with at least 3 marinas and
hundreds of boats. We found a small caravan park with a great view and
groddy facilities and stayed for the night.
Kas - A
beautiful town with a quaint downtown and beautiful clear water. No
caravan parks in sight so we parked on a bulkhead under construction - we
worried about unwanted visitors but had no problems. After a stop at
Park Kemer marina to see who was still there we made a beeline home.
Back on Long Passages
- After 3 months and 10,000 km we are a mite tired of driving and daily scenery
changes, so we are glad to be back aboard. While we were gone the main
circuit breaker popped, and our house battery was totally flat - we hope it can
Autumn in Europe Our
Not Crowded The
August vacationers have gone back home, and we have places (almost) to
ourselves. The biggies (like Prague and the Acropolis) have tourists, but it
was not uncomfortable. Out of the way places like Delphi have been
Weather We have had great weather in Greece, warm and sunny. Austria
was clear and cold, and in Germany we had rain and thick frost so
weather has run the gamut, just about what one would expect for
October-November. So far, it has been quite tolerable.
This is the worst part of this time of the year, caravans parks are
closed, or open with reduced amenities (e.g. no restaurants), museums are
closed for remodeling, Information centers are closed, etc.
lack of facilities takes some of the fun from a few locations but we dislike
hordes of tourists even more so we like it so far and are glad to be
month we traveled thru Scotland, England, Holland, and central Germany to
Berlin - check out October's log for this