A Travellerspoint blog

Prague to Graz

sunny 23 °C

I'll be the first to admit I am not the world's best driver, it's not that I lack the skills it's I tend to lack the concentration level that is required over a long period of time. My hat goes off to long distance drivers of heavy vehicles ( tipped to you Mal!) who can maintain vigilance and not kill themselves or anyone else on the road. My trouble started when we left Dresden for Prague. The main thing wrong was the lack of coverage of the GPS. Hire company must of thought it hilarious to give us a GPS without maps. It did have some maps, only the ones we didn't need like Scotland and Sweden. Anyway to cut a long story short, after going up streets the wrong way, nearly being cut in half by a tram and running up gutters designed for roman carts and not six metre tanks we finally made it to a camp ground on the other side of town. We only made it there after buying our own GPS in an electrical shop that we just happened to pass completely lost. God must have decided enough was enough. We were wrecked afer what was supposed to be an easy day. the following day made up for it with a visit to the beautiful city of Prague. Without a doubt the most beautiful city I have ever been in. The place is just covered in magnificent old buildings and monuments. Everything is just so bloody old. Bridges and buildings go back to the thirteenth century and the surprising thing about it is that it wasn't that long ago that Prague was shut off behind the iron curtain. The city is now a renowned university hotspot with students from all corners studying in Prague and although it's ancient the place has a real sharp vibe with edgy fashion and really cool bars and cafe's. Another city I could definitely live in.

We've decided to try and make Gallipoli for Anzac day so after only one real day in Prague we headed down through the Czech Republic to Cesky Krumlov. Another small but beautiful UNESCO world heritage site. It seems like every corner you go around there is something. Pushing on through we headed through to Austria, over and under some of the Alps, back into Germany unknowingly and finally back into Austria and are currently in Graz. I could give a detailed account of most of these towns but suffice to say that if you're into old buildings and history then Europe is the place for you. If you're also into the best food you'll ever taste and cheap beer sold by the half litre then this is also the place for you. For a committed fat antique junky with a drinking problem, i believe i'm in heaven.
Graz is another one of those places that is like a postcard. We are here in Spring so the weather is mild and really comfortable. Everybody seems happy to be out and getting heaps of exercise. Spring must bring a real optimism to places that have long winters. A sign in the city said be careful of avalanches.... coming off the roofs above. Imagine if you were having a bad day and half a ton of snow landed on you from twenty feet up, just to cap it off. Seemed too funny for words. I'm really enjoying the sophistication of these cities after coming from Asia. Gone is the smell and dirt and dust only to be replaced by spotless streets with beautiful smells coming from bakeries and deli's. Unfortunately we can'y stay so it's off to Ljubljana.
l

Posted by mike1967 06:21 Archived in Austria Comments (0)

Campervan Dresden, Germany

sunny 16 °C

After a night of comparative luxury and pub food in London we jetted off to Dresden, Germany to pick up the camper. She looks to be a mid nineties model with a few lumps and bumps but clean and comfortable all the same. It’s big enough to leave the beds made up so saves a lot of hassle every day. Getting to our first camp site was a bit hectic. We had to drive through the city on the wrong side of the road in a 6m tank after not having driven for 2 months. I was a little testy you could say. It put the wind up me a bit and we haven’t moved for 3 days. Looks like 3 months in Dresden! We have spent the last couple of days getting the van ready and stocking up on food and essentials like beer and wine. Living in such close quarters doesn’t leave a lot of space for privacy and it’s not so bad for the men but when Pat needs to do lady things space can be at a premium. Worst case scenario happened when due to lack of space and time a grey hair was found in her head..still attached so no-one to blame. Ohh the humanity! A quick trip into town under lights and siren if it were allowed and straight to a hair dresser is on the cards. Perhaps some councelling.
We have marked out a kind of itinerary that should see us making a massive circle through Prague, Austria, Croatia, Turkey for Anzac day, Greece, Italy, France, Switzerland and back through Germany. Spain, Portugal and Morocco will come after Ireland. Hopefully all will go well and by avoiding the motorways as much as possible we should see and experience a lot. The camper comes with four pushbikes and we’ve already had a couple of them out exploring. It’s the best way to see an area and to find the hidden gems. We all managed to lose some weight through a combination of travelling and forced diet change in Asia however I think that may change in Europe. The food has been delicious and more like home except a larger choice. We are suddenly preferred customers at the bakery and afternoon drinks yesterday was a salami, brie, cream cheese stuffed peppers, marinted olives served with water crackers and washed down with a cheeky French Cab Sav ’ no less. Dinner was steak, potato dumplings and veges. It sounds strange talking about food like it’s the focus of our day but when you have been living on rice, fish and what’s that? for two months you tend to have cravings. I haven’t even mentioned the jam filled donuts, the hot knackwurst sausage in a roll or the really cheap beer. All this talk is making me hungry…. Lightly fried bacon with egg and toast soldiers. Andiamo.

Posted by mike1967 03:56 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

Jordan

overcast 10 °C

By far the biggest surprise on this journey has been Jordan. I didn’t expect the beauty of this country or the warmth of the people. From the moment you arrive in Jordan there is a genuine inquiry as to where you are from and then always a “welcome to Jordan” or ”Jordan welcomes you”. These people are open, generous and honest. We managed to see most of the sites over five days but I honestly believe you could spend a month without a problem. Amman is a beautiful city stacked with Roman ruins. The amphitheatre has been restored to it’s former glory and is still used. Brenton and I managed a small rendition of in front of a crowd of two but the atmosphere was awesome. Matt has decided to play a game of cards at all the sacred sites that he has visited so no place is sacred. We have been forced to play cards in the ancient city of Petra amongst the ancient ruins, the Citadel above Amman where Hecules’ was honoured and the ancient amphitheatre. History has different meanings for all of us, for Matt it’s just another old thing after another and if you can see a skull or skeleton or any type of weapon that can kill, well that’s pretty cool. The rest of us have some kind of respect. We decided to take a night down in a desert area called Wadi Rum. Wadi Rum not only sounds exotic, it is. The scenery is spectacular and the setting makes for a great night. We were joined by about fifty local Jordanians who welcomed us with open arms, we danced and ate and talked around an open fire. It was terrific. The morning was beautiful with the sunrise on the rock escarpments changing colours almost constantly. We jumped in the back of a four wheel drive ute and toured Wadi Rum for about two and a half hours and honestly some of the most breathtaking desert scenery you could imagine. Our journey continued on to Aqaba, a small beach side city before we headed back to Amman and then on to the Dead Sea. It’s the strangest feeling being held up completely by the water but try as you may there is no way you can sink in the Dead Sea. The salt content is eight times the norm so even little fatties can stay afloat without a problem. I can’t mention Jordan without commenting on the food. This place is the kebab centre of the world. The kebab shops are plentiful and cheap. One dinar gets you the closest to kebab heaven as you’re ever going to get and if that’s not enough the Jordanians really know how to bbq a chook. We ate until our gills were exploding and it still only cost us about fifteen bucks. All the good work we did in Asia losing weight has been slowly eroded due to the hospitality of the Jordanians. I can always gauge a place by the enthusiasm of Brenton and Matt in regards to their willingness to return. Both reckon Jordan was unreal and would definitely be on their return hit list. We were in Jordan when all hell broke loose in Syria. There were many travellers stuck in our hotel and all talk was of unrest in the region. The shame of it all is that the whole middle east is tarred with the same brush, Jordan is a safe and stable country with great people and a lot to see and do. Andiamo.

Posted by mike1967 03:53 Archived in Jordan Comments (0)

India

Holi Festival, Mathura

sunny 28 °C

As we settle further into the way of life in India it seems to get easier. The culture shock is gone, the fear and uncertainty of all things different is gone and the anxiety is gone. We spent the week-end in a town about three hours from New Delhi called Mathura. Mathura could almost be classed as little more than a small town by Indian standards with roughly one and a half million people but what makes it different is they celebrate Holi festival like no other. Holi is the reason why we’re in India so the long trek and hassle was worth it. Holi is a Hindu Krishna celebration celebrating good over evil. It includes burning effigies, mad dancing, screaming music and drums and best of all, the colour. Coloured dyes are thrown at you or wiped on you with a good hearted “Happy Holi” The local people celebrate Holi over two days and it’s a time when all are considered equal. It is a celebration of love and a time for more reserved Indians to cut loose. They will spray coloured water, some drink alcohol, take some kind of narcotics and generally celebrate like its 1999. The Indian people welcomed us with open arms and especially our hotel manager who was our guide and protector for the first night. Some Indian men can get a bit frisky and it seemed we all came in for a little bit of unwanted attention. It is not typical and is mostly caused by the celebration and the high. The following day we headed down to the Krishna temple and decided it might be a little dangerous for Patti inside so we stayed on the street and once again got covered in colour. The kindness really is overflowing and a great time was had by all. Let me say the kindness doesn’t extend to the cyclo riders or the Tuk Tuk’s, they still charge a foreigner double. Living in Muthura for a couple of days was pretty hard travelling. Matt picked up another bug and was unwell. It’s not the kind of place that has corner shops, it doesn’t have footpaths. The dust is ever present and moving around was difficult.
A week in India feels like a month. It has been more difficult for Patti because of a lot of unwanted attention. There is lot of staring and invading of personal space and we have found that we’ve had to give the odd gentle nudge to a few more persistent admirers. It has be hilarious on occasion with people openly taking photos of us or wanting us to be in their photo. Matt and I were chatting to a couple of English travellers on a train platform and we found ourselves surrounded by about twenty curious Indians.
We all had a massive laugh after catching the wrong train back to New Delhi we stepped into what can only be described as a madhouse with anything from cows walking on the platforms, beggars, cripples, artificial limbs, people sleeping, living, urinating, cooking, yelling, screaming aggghhhh! We stepped out into the grand bazaar and I genuinely meant it when I said it was good to be back. That’s when I knew India had gotten under my skin. We quickly found our hotel had something to eat and while Patti and I wandered the inner bowels of the bazaar, the boys hired a Tuk Tuk and went in search of a park to hit a shuttlecock around. While Patti and I had a glass of tea and watched the craziness from a café the boys decided they’d forgo the ride home in a Tuk Tuk for a McFlurry. Nothing like a walk in the heat and dust. Can’t help a Mac attack. Andiamo

Hi All
India has been amazing; I love the colour and exotic looks of the Indian women. The saris and dresses of the women are very colourful and it seems that despite their status in society anyone can wear beautiful materials. There does seem to be a definite class system ranging from very poor beggars and ragged children on the streets to more wealthy people who drive cars, children who have braces, wear glasses and are obviously well educated. The people with less appear to be more tribal in appearance, with darker skin colouring than the more educated people. I don’t know how easy it is for someone to break out of his or her class situation. The Indian people are very interested in tourists, when you bring out a camera or the laptop they immediately come over to look and are very curious to see photos of themselves or to ask about where we come from and to see photos from Australia. I wish that I had put more photos from home on the computer.
I think that Brenton and Matt have had their eyes opened a lot to how little some people have in life. Brenton has a very soft heart and to see children begging in ragged clothing on the streets has touched him. The disabled people that he has seen on the streets also have touched Matt. It is very hard not to give to everyone who needs it.
Well I have to talk a little on the cows of India. They really are very sacred. They are allowed to wander wherever they wish to go. They walk through the main bazaar, poke their heads into stalls, one decided that it liked the colour of a scarf yesterday and tried hooking it with its horns. They walk along the streets, up ramps onto the train platforms and through the middle of crowds of people and you never hear a harsh word to get rid of them. They were untouched by coloured powder and water through the Holi Festival, unlike some of the dogs. I don’t know if they are owned by anyone in particular but they are truly respected by all.
I loved our visit to the Taj Mahal and the Baby Taj, the work involved in both place was amazing. Each place had different things to offer. They both are works of art, the Baby Taj has some lovely hand painted panels within the marble as well as inlaid marble work, whereas the Taj Mahal’s sheer size and intricacy is fantastic.
Andiamo
Patti

Posted by mike1967 01:06 Archived in India Comments (1)

New Delhi

I really don't think anything can quite prepare you for India. I'm glad we have had 2 months in Asia to go part the way to numb the senses a little. Aswell as the usual hiccups of nobody turning up and trying to find a hotel at 11:30 pm in what looks like the biggest of all s#+t fights you have to do battle with the maddening crowds, the constant hawkers and the smell of ahhh, humanity. That's a nice way to put it. The cliche' is you either love it or hate it, problem is that happens at the same time. The colour of the place is amazing and once again we have ended up in the "not so affluent but certainly effluent " area around the famous Connaught place. The Tuk Tuk drivers are as mad as any i've ridden with and the constant horn blaring and movement can be pretty tiring. Getting a hotel off the street is the key to keeping sane.

We braved the train system and caught an aircon seat to Agra, home of the Taj Mahal. Surprisingly the train was a great and comfortable experience and the Taj is breathtaking. What makes it more so is that it seems like an oasis in a dust bowl. We got there early but by the time we left half of India was there. The story around it is pretty interesting. Must have been ok, Matty said it was cool.

The people here have been typical of most that we have encountered in Asia. Life is very hard and they see westerners as being filthy rich and comparitive to them, we are. So as a consequence it is rare that you are approached and there is not some other motive. Having said that not all people we have met are thieves and certainly not all are angels, just like home you need to have your wits about you and don't be suckered. Andiamo

Posted by mike1967 23:57 Comments (1)

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