Friday, May 16, 2014

Day 10 & 11 Munich - Austria - Venice

We left Munich on a hazy Saturday and passed through Innsbruck, Austria where we found a gorgeous Baroque-style Cathedral called St. Jacob that was so beautiful and ornate that it seemed we would need to stay all week to see every detail. Our friends snapped a pic of us canoodling which is a big no-no usually but nobody was there but us.

We happened upon a beer garden that had an old world tavern style to it where people still smoked cigarettes and there was a group of semi-rowdy gentlemen toasting in the corner in celebration. We ordered goulash, mixed green salad, garlic soup and beers and received our food in record time which was awesome because we were short on time. It was funny when we got the bill to see that we had to pay more for coke than for beer ;)

Venezia, the sinking city. More commonly known as Venice, it was one of the highlights of our trip. First we witnessed the magic of Venetian glass making where we watched a man in an Adidas jumpsuit transform a hunk of glass into a beautiful horse, we then shopped in the showroom (no pictures were allowed due to internet poachers who make fakes from the online photos). I've never seen Venetian glass chandeliers before, they are truly the most beautiful chandeliers on the planet. After our glass blowing tour, we left the group, choosing instead to go at our own pace and allow ourselves time to wander. 

Though similar to Amsterdam with its inner city water ways and buildings that were built to be entered from the water, the architecture was mainly brick and built wider with more girth. All roads led back to the city squares that held monuments and churches, maps were virtually useless and most alleyways lacked street signs but there were signs visiblly pointing to a neighboring square. There was an astronomical clock similar to the one we saw in Prague because there was a clock-making competition many years ago and every city wanted a big bad-ass clock.

According to our tour-guide Kevin, (if I got my facts straight) the beginning of Venice started with a group of fishermen setting up camp to avoid attacks from their enemies. The original buildings were all made of wood but nothing remains of those. Not until the 16th century did the buildings start being built of stone. Veneers were built around original structures. Constant building and renovation is happening all the time as constant sinking of the city is happening, too. It is common for old doorways and first stories to now be completely submerged underwater.  There is a separate island for the garbage of the city and everything is recycled. It apparently took them a long time to fine-tune this process. It is so expensive to live in Venice that there are no places for the working class to live. The government created subsidized housing that people could rent out for as little as 100 Euros a month. What people started doing was renting out these apartments when they went on their 5 week holidays.  

We found a sandwich shop straightaway down an alley across from a fine Venetian Glass shop with items displayed that were all whimsical and unique. We ordered some food, used the WC then headed to the next shop down for a double espresso and a cafe machiato. We were advised that men who order milk in their coffee after 10am are looked at funny by other men in Italy because it is not a masculine thing to do. Aaron made sure not to order any milk with his doppio espresso to avoid any unpleasantness. 

We found a flea market, watched the gondolas pass through canals carrying loads of tourists, witnessed a high-fashion photo shoot, saw pizza with french fries as a topping, and even heard an opera singer or two whose booming voices projected off the tightly woven tall brick buildings through the canals. There were so many tourists and tourist shops to cater to them. Too many touristy shops carrying the same items. You could easily overpay at one to find the same item cheaper the next street over. After we did a bit of shopping where I found an Italian leather purse, a few Venetian mask fridge magnets and a few glass items, we began wandering on a whim down whichever narrow pathway that took our fancy. We hoped to venture outside of the "commercial canals" that surrounded St. Marcos Square due to the overwhelming hoards of visitors and the repetition of shops and items. It felt like we were in Disneyland and not the romantic Venice that we had in our minds. 

Soon thereafter after much exploration, we followed the signs back to St. Marcos square where we found a place to sit and eat lunch. I ordered Pasta Nero thinking it would be those cool looking black pasta noodles I kept seeing but it was squid spaghetti, black from the ink, I think. Not bad but not what I was expecting....

Because the rest of our group went on an exclusion together, we decided to navigate the public transportation back to our hotel. After buying two ferry boat passes good for 12 hours (38 Euros) and two round trip bus passes (5 Euros) with the intention of coming back to Venice we headed to our hotel for a nap rather than wait two hours for our group coach. After all the stops it was about 1.5 hours to our hotel. Because we wanted to see Venice at night, after our nap, we went back on the bus/boat about 3 hours travel time round trip just to snap a few pictures of the moon over Venice. Looking back, we would have seen more doing the group activities because our hotel was so far away from the city. Though we were exhausted and the nap was needed, I regret not having more time to walk around Venice at night. I would like to go back there and spend about a week seeing this incredible city next time staying closer to where the action is.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Day 9 - Prague - Regensburg - Munich

On May 2nd, our official 5th year wedding anniversary, I wore my new Amber necklace and we crossed back into Germany, stopping in Regensburg, a city on the River Danube where we captured some pics of the cathedral, stopped for a local beer called Bischofshof in a courtyard restaurant, wandered the cobblestone streets in search of souvenirs and bratwurst sandwiches with sauerkraut, they weren't hard to find. We stopped at a very historical restaurant right on the river that served people outside and they prepare the food in a smoke filled tiny shack of a building, to order you must go into the building and hopefully not pass out from smoke inhalation. There were lots of interesting shops and nooks and crannies there. Some folks in our group bought some cool German hats, now if they could only yodel...

In Munich, capital of Bavaria, our orientation included the Olympic Stadium, Ludwigstrasse and the Marienplatz, renowned for its musical Glockenspiel. We joined a few of our Australian traveling companions and had a giant pretzel and huge beer at the oldest bierkeller (brew house) in that part of Europe. The place named Hofbrauhau and was a huge booming hall of travelers where each waiter purchases food from the restaurant then sells it to the customer making a profit. They are resellers and make their money only by selling items, they basically rent the restaurant to do business in similar to a hair salon. We purchased our pretzel from a girl who walked around selling them out of a large wicker basket. We enjoyed some conversation of our fellow travelers then headed to our Hotel called Park Inn by Radisson Munich East. I am struggling to remember more details of this day as I am writing it a few days after the fact. This is exactly the reason I am keeping a blog, to remember where I've been and what I've seen. If I don't it will all seem like a blur, and it already does. This is the longest stint of travel that we have ever endured and though we have been well taken care of, being constantly on the road and living out of a suitcase has started taking its toll on everyone. Some people are traveling much longer than us, some even 10 weeks and more! We are calling this our sampler trip with training wheels to allow us to get a taste of many countries so that we can come back and spend more time in the ones we enjoy the most.