The blog is evolving!

Stay tuned for new features including journey maps, some missing posts, linked photo albums, minor tweaks and ultimately... the earlier trips...

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Day 36 - AU

Cookie says...
We should still be in the air and landing tomorrow.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Day 35 - DE

Cookie says...
As they say, all good things must come to an end. We should have been on a flight out of Frankfurt tonight. We'll be heading home via Singapore and Sydney.

Happy Birthday Megan!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Day 34 - DE

Cookie says...
Tonight we should have stayed in Stuttgart, I shall update this post as soon as possible.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Day 33 - DE

Cookie says...
So much for a cruisy stay in Freiburg. Today we stepped back into France to visit Strasburg. We walked about Petite France, some of the old town and were gobsmacked by the size of the munster there. After lunch we autobahned it back to Freiburg.

The plan had to be to get to another town as we were after a Black Forest clock but time was short so we strolled around Freiburg and found one there instead. You need to be careful when walking the place as there's mini canals along side all the kerbs which were installed centuries ago to assist with fighting fires. If they existing in Australia, they'd by painted yellow with railings all around them.

We spoiled ourselves for dinner tonight by eating at a joint that the Michelin Man recommends. I know why he's the shape of Mark 'Tubby' Taylor with a few too many spare tires. The wine was matched to the food, it was seriously good tucker (including several things I've never eaten before), we had a plethora of cutlery to use incorrectly and several people seeing to our needs. It was pretty clear we were eating with people from a few classes above us but it was fantastic.

Home time where we packed to for the final leg of the trip.

Julie says...
After finding out there was a Michelin Star restaurant in Freibug, we decided it would be a nice ending to our trip, and worth the money we'd saved sharing bedrooms with snoring friends and eating ham sandwhiches from bakeries in France.

So, here is a description of how our evening went, as Cookie's knowledge of fine dining etiquette was lacking:
1. Cookie has no real idea what 'Michelin' stars in restaurant circles mean, so he googled it before we left for dinner (I could tell this was going to be a classy night)
3. After 5 mins of staring at the 4 different menus we'd been given each, we went with a 'pre-set' seasonal menu with matching wine, as Cookie's decision-making processes meant we would have been there until midnight trying to decided between the 15 different choices of starters.
4. Cookie tried to tell me you are supposed to eat the bite-sized "pre-hous d'ouvers" hous d'ouvers with cutlery.
5. Cookie came across two different types of cutlery he didn't know existed and didn't know how to use properly
6. Cookie told the waitress (who spoke limited English) that he was about to ask a stupid question, and then proceeded to ask his stupid question about where the 'truffles' were on the plate, to which she replied that they were in there somewhere (because she didn't know what he was asking).
7. Is an 8-course dinner too much? According to Cookie it isn't... but then each portion was 'supermodel on a diet' tiny, so I guess it doesnt' matter.

Overall the dinner was really lovely, and the matched wine was beautiful. I would happily go there again, but I would make Cookie research how to use fancy cutlery first, so that he didn't look so hilarious each time they put a new piece in front of him and he didn't know what to do with it.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Day 32 - DE

Cookie says...
There were a few sights we identified of interest however after driving through some wonderful Black Forest roads in the clouds surrounded by snow laden trees, we discovered that the first two were closed. We're not sure how a waterfall can be closed but it was. Oh well, it's probably a good thing as it helped with time.

The third stop was Burg Hohenzollern, which is a royal castle for the ruling family from Prussia. They weren't horribly original in their names as they only ever used two (Fredrick and William). We ended up on a tour of castle interior with a pair of Kiwi's (have I mentioned that it's hard coping with the numbers during this time of year?) and they were a touch odd. Quite into history and all that and I think Julz is glad that I'm not as into things as much as them.

Bit of a trip home in the dark with a combination of autobahn speeds and tight roads at times (even hairpins). We ended up having pizza (for a trip that didn't hit Italy, we've eaten a lot of pizza) and chocolate mousse from a supermarket which was surprising good.

Julie says...
Driving through snow-laden hills and forests was nice. The scenery over here is brilliant, even if it has been foggy at time and rained a lot. I know it would be beautiful here in summer, but then you'd get crowds of people ruining the peace and quiet.

Again we were off to visit castles... yay. The 217 steps up the hill to the Prussian place was painful, considering the number of layers I am wearing and how unfit I am at the moment :( And why do Prussian royalty need a castle in the Black Forest anyway... I thought we were in Germany? I'll have to go home and google Prussia, as my European history and geography knowledge is severely lacking.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Day 31 - DE

Cookie says...
Pretty simple day today. It was basically all driving. As we left Munich, we wanted to stop by Dachau even though we knew that the concentration camp memorial was closed. We walked around the outside of some of the site and read some of the information boards before getting back on the road. Quite like these autobahns but I'd love to put the Magna through it's paces on them.

Next stop Freiburg. Several hours, a few pitstops and a coupla autobahns with crazy drivers later, we'd arrived in the Black Forest. Once again Julz has picked a place in some obscure location (this is dragging up memories of our stay "in" Salzburg) however it could be another winner. We managed to check in but tried and failed at finding a laundry, had dinner and headed back to the B&B.

Julie says...
Today Cookie got to 'legally' drive at 160kms per hour down the autobahn. He looked quite pleased with himself, even if we were overtaken by every Audi, Mercedes and BMW driver (some must have been doing at least 180kms). I'm suprised our tiny Opel Corsa (similar to a four-door Holden Barina) didn't fall apart at that speed.

And yes, I have managed to book us into a B&B in the middle of absolutely nowhere... again... But as per the 'Salzburg' experience of 2008, the place is an absolute gem, the hosts are lovely, the views are spectacular, and it is definately worth the 20mins drive from town. Cookie, you should just learn to trust my instincts when it comes to booking accommodation!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Day 30 - DE

Cookie says...
Gavin took us on a walking tour around Munich. We managed to bump into Rachel Smith of AECOM fame who has been involved with a cycle program over here.

We gave mulled wine another chance (we really aren't fans) and then went to another beer house for lunch. Afterwards we walked through the Munich Residence (where the Bavarian royal family lived) for an hour or so (it's not exactly small).

We found a cafe, bludged back at our place and then dropped them off at the airport to head back to England.

Julie says...
The carillon at the "new" town hall was underwhelming but the antiquarium in the Residences is worth a look. However, my highlight for the day was seeing blue sky at 4.30pm, even if it was devoured by nightfall 30 mins later.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Day 29 - DE

Cookie says...
On the way out of Zurich we made a pilgrimage to FIFA headquarters. I couldn't help but notice some brown paper bags lying around the place...

We had some horrible weather to drive through first before returning to Germany. We met up with Gavin an Oksana at Neuschwanstein Castle and had a look through it. I once heard an American tourist saying that Germany had their own Disney castle but we didn't hear any dumb comments like that today. The ironic thing with this castle is that the king had it built to be an authentic medieval castle yet he knocked down a medieval castle to build this fake castle.

Munich was where we were staying for the next two nights and after checking in, we went in search of dinner and finished the night in the Hofbräuhaus drinking beer and eating German roast meat.

Julie says...
Today we drove through a blizzard, visited a pretty castle on a hill, broke the law, had a snowball fight and drank beer in a royal brewery.

Gavin says...

Oksana says...
Петр странно, он любит Bon Jovi.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Day 28 - CH

Cookie says...
I had hopes of catching up with The Martin's today however the planets didn't align. They're a couple I knew from my time at Arana Hills COC and have been living over this side of the world for a few years now and presently live in Zurich. Instead we checked out the National Swiss Museum which (as expected) has a good display on the history of their country.

We did a whole lot of walking to burn off the bread we keep eating (Swiss bread is ze best), walked up and down a church spire, sorted out our train seats to Stuttgart and headed out for Italian.

We ended up in a Starbucks so I could update the blog while Julz read my Christmas present (A Game of Thrones).

Julie says...
The weather improved for us today (it didn't rain), but I still think Zurich is similar to Geneva.. really not that interesting. It was good to read up on Swiss history (I really knew nothing about it before), but I'd had enough of the museum when we got to the endless rooms of "house furnishings and lounge room designs from the 1940's to the 1990's in Switzerland" section.

The afternoon was good, as I got to read more of my book :)

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Day 27 - CH

Cookie says...
We moved from Luzern to Zurich today which is about 30 mins up the road but we went on a bit of a Cook's Tour as we had a mission to conduct. We had a chance to visit another country, well, actually it's a principality, so we took it. We made tracks for Vaduz which is the capital of Liechtenstein where we did the typical tourist thing of getting our passport stamped, a couple of souvenirs and sent a postcard.

A few hours later and we'd checked into the hotel in Zurich and were pounding the pavement around the old town. Because Pilty had left, the weather had mostly been miserable and today was no exception. We'd copped rain, wind, sleet, lightning and after walking around the town tonight, we'd even copped ice. After a hearty Swiss meal, we headed back to base.

Julie says...
In the movie "A Knight's Tale", Heath Ledger invents the story that he comes from Liechtenstein. I always just assumed that Hollywood made that place up but today I got to visit Liechtenstein. It was tiny, rainy, pretty well deserted and looked to consist of a giant mountain range and not much else. But I now have a passport stamp to show for my visit and the customary deck of cards with Liechtenstein's only castle on the back (because our household needs more decks of cards...).

Zurich is wet and miserable and reminds me a little of Geneva (un-inspirational). But the Swiss meal was brilliant and hopefully tomorrow the weather will improve.

On a side note, after 27 days on the road I believe the pillows in this hotel are the worst yet. You'd think merchant Swiss bankers with 7-figure salaries could provide better pillows... but maybe they're spending all their money on the watches worth 20,000 Swiss Franks displayed in every shop window here.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Day 26 - CH

Cookie says...
We were off to the transport museum this morning and it was pretty good. It's really hands on to keep the kids occupied and it has a few other neat things to see. It even has a model railroad which represented a section of their network which was almost up to the standard of the Miniatur Wunderland models but built over fifty years ago.

We went in search of the Lion Monument and lunch, scoped out a spot for some time-lapse and then walked along the base of the old town wall (the walls and towers are only open during summer).

We returned to a spot for time-lapse, proceeded to freeze, snapped some extra photos and then headed to an English pub for dinner. I did find it amusing that an I, an Aussie ordered an American burger from an Indian in an English pub in Switzerland - we live in a global village now.

Here's a rough cut of the time-lapse.

Julie says...
Oddly enough, in a country obsessed with banks, it took us ages to find an ATM so we could buy lunch. The Swiss must carry thousands of Swiss Franks with them everywhere (we can only assume that they are all merchant bankers).

Otherwise it was a pleasant day walking off all the food we have eaten these past few weeks. Hopefully my muscles burnt a lot of energy as I shivered with hyperthermia during the obligatory time-lapse.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Day 25 - CH

Cookie says...
Our shoebox might have been warm and dry but it had crap beds and pillows and I now have a sore back. Somehow we shanked a cheap breaky however afterwards I'm not so sure it was worth the saving. We returned to Geneva airport to pick up the car and we were back on the road. This time it's an Opel Corsa and only just fits us and our gear.

The capital of Switzerland was our next stop (Berne, not Geneva or Zurich) but we turned it into a driveby. From what we saw, it looked nice. We then decided to ignore the sat nav and follow the signs to Luzern. This meant that we ended up driving a back road as opposed to the motorway and for 30 mins, the car was telling us to do a u-turn. We're glad we didn't as we saw some stunning scenery peppered with sterotypical buildings. It was wonderful.

After checking in we went for a walk around the old town and found a place for dinner where we cheese fondue'd it again. Tomorrow we'll find some things to look at.

Julie says...
Ditto to everything he said...

But Cookie forgot to mention that we visited CERN on our way out of Geneva. Now for those readers who aren't science nerds, CERN is the large hadron colider a few kms underground that spans 50kms of France and Switzerland (in one big circle). It's where scientists get to slam tiny little particles together to try to re-create particle fusion and ultimately try to prove the big bang theory (no success so far). Unfortuantely it was closed, and so I missed out on making Cookie do nerdy science stuff with me for once.

Luckily for me however, we checked out places to time-lapse for tomorrow evening, so I can't wait for those 3 hours of boredom to begin :(
And I finally bought some cough medicine, which is a shame for my abs because they have had a serious workout this past week.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Day 24 - CH

Cookie says...
I have two words to describe Geneva today - wet and miserable. Regardless, we went exploring. The former United Nations headquarters was still closed so we looked at it from the outside. It seems that tourists aren't the only ones who don't find these things out until it's too late as there was a protest going on outside the front gates.

Next stop was the Reformation Wall and then the cathedral.

The Jet d'Eau was running but it's hard to discern white spray on a background of light grey sky.

We walked through the shopping district (it seems all European city centres are built around shops and souvineers). We even saw a dress for CHF 11,000 (Switzerland is expensive and Geneva moreso). Most places cost a first born to eat at and we can only imagine that everyone must be bankers. We gave up on the weather and headed back to the 'mansion'.

We snuck out for dinner, played some two player 500 (not as fun as four players but still playable) and it was game over for the day.

Julie says...
Today was kinda boring...
It rained, Geneva was closed, and really not that interesting anyway.
I don't earn enough money to even go window shopping in this town.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Day 23 - CH

Cookie says...
Sadly, it was time to leave Chamonix. Bronwen was staying the last night there while Pilty and Sarah joined us on the bus back to Geneva. They had a few hours of waiting until their flights so we headed in search of our hostel. We found it easily enough and not far from the train station however it isn't a very big room. In fact, the Hamburg to Paris train trip had marginally less space. Anyway, it's dry and warm so it will be fine.

After settling in, we took a stroll around Lake Geneva and discovered that the massive fountain stops running at four in the afternoon, minutes before I'm about to setup and take some photos of it.

As it was dinner time we headed back into CBD however apparently Geneva resembles Adelaide on Sunday and being New Years Day, it made it even harder to find something open. Fortunately a crepe joint beneath our hostel came to the rescue. Once back in the room we broke out Ticket to Ride, did some reading and hit the hay.

Julie says...
Seeing as how nothing much happened today (a typical travel day), I thought I would take this moment to give some advice to any travellers wishing to follow in our footsteps and explore Europe on a budget by using hostel/cheap hotel accommodation:

1. As European pillows are the thickness of cardboard even when doubled-over and wedged against the headboard, ensure you pack a coat you are happy to roll up and use as neck support.

2. The lake that develops at your feet during shower-time is normal - the Eurpoeans have not figured out that the size of the drain needs to be in proportion to the amount of water coming from the shower-head.

3. Don't ever expect a top sheet on your bed. Instead expect an over-heated room with a heavy doonah, so that you spend the entire night getting too hot and throwing a leg out the side of the bed.

4. When a towel is advertised as being included, expect to be drying yourself with something the size of a facewasher.