A Travellerspoint blog

A 'Dam Good Time

Was Had By All In The Netherlands

sunny 12 °C

There really are a lot of windmills!

April 10


We drove 1100 kilometres yesterday! I drove it all. Jenn navigated superbly. It took us 12 and a half hours including stops. Thank-you, German autobahn, for helping us make up for the slower portions of rain, fog, twisting roads, traffic, and one wrong turn. Entering The Netherlands for the first time, we were given a memorable first impression: ponies. Little ponies, the kind that look like they're wearing leg-warmers. I think they're called flashdance ponies. Soon, though, we were indeed seeing windmills (the old-fashioned kind), tulips and canals. The stereotypical images are for real, and not hard to find.

Entering Amsterdam itself, driving alongside the canals, and the colourful, idiosyncratic houses, the impression was: what a pretty city. It really is a special place, and, for one night, we're staying right in the heart of it. Right near the Anne Frank house, and just down the street from the red light district (see what I mean, Jean?). Amsterdam is tremendously expensive for hotels, and our "budget" hotel is actually the single most expensive price we've paid per night on the entire trip! And what does that get you? Perhaps the single smallest room we've had on the entire trip. In a hotel without an elevator. Or parking. To be fair, it's there's nothing wrong with it, and they do include breakfast and free wireless, but, really, we just laughed as we climbed 50 plus vertiginous steps to our tiny room.

April 11


Amsterdam is a unique city. Everything I imagined. It has as many canals and bridges as Venice, it seems, but in more orderly, concentric circles. The houses are all so distinct and colourful. We were wakened with bells from the nearby churches.

Canal across from Anne Frank House, near our hotel

After breakfast at a shared table with a mother and daughter from Canada, we headed right over to the Anne Frank house, just a couple of blocks from our hotel. Anica once again declared "this is my favourite museum." It is very well done, and very moving. Jenn and I had tears in our eyes right from the beginning. Her story proves Stalin's chilling maxim that "one death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic." You really saw how they lived in hiding, including the meager decorations that Anne pasted to her walls. They have short videos to watch as you go through the house, mostly oral histories. You even walk through the same bookcase to the secret annex as that Frank family did.

For lunch, we had Indonesian food. Anica seemed really excited about that, for some reason. We didn't go to Indonesia, but it's very similar to the Malaysian food we had.

Then we called our friends, Fred and Irith, whom we met in Cambodia. We'd kept in touch since then (many months ago!) and they had extended a sincere offer to come stay with them when we got to Europe. And now it's actually happening, and we're having a great time! They're warm, generous people, and they did their own world trip. It was six months and they went to Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia and New Zealand. So we had lots to talk about! Their two kids, Marisa and Igor, are just a little younger than Anica. Even though we have no Dutch, and the kids speak only a little English, they have fun, especially Anica and Marisa who are less than a year apart.

They live in Santpoort, about half an hour's drive from the centre of Amsterdam, on the coast of the North Sea. The first evening we arrived we got a feel for their area of Holland. We went up a windmill that was built in 1779. It's a working windmill, and we saw the flour they'd made that day. Then we went to "the dunes," a huge park of rolling, grassy sand dunes and gnarled trees. On the path we encountered the "wild" horses they'd introduced to the park, along with cattle, to naturally graze. When the sun was setting, we headed back to their house for a traditional Dutch meal. What a great introduction to their life in Holland!

Dunes, Horses and the kids: (Anica, Marisa, Igor)

April 12


Like thousands of others, we headed to Keukenhof, the biggest display of tulips (and other flowers) in Holland. These gardens are huge!And of course, beautiful. Different companies create displays, and the grounds adopt a theme. This year's was China, so some of the gardens and sculptures reflected that. Anica probably saw the flowers as a colourful blur, because she was running around with Marisa and Igor, having a great time. There's even a big playground there for the kids. Jenn and I noticed that people "dress up" in traditional Dutch clothing to come to the Keukenhof.

A few of the millions of tulips at Keukenhof

The Keukenhof kids: Igor, Marisa, Anica

And the grown-ups: Jenn, Irith, Fred

Then we went off to Zaans Schanns, which collects many traditional aspects of Dutch culture in a scenic spot that is not quite like one of our "pioneer villages." There are many windmills, but most of them still serve their purpose. There are quaint 17th century houses, but some are still lived in. Across the water, the houses look just as pretty, and they are all lived in. We also saw wooden shoe-making and cheese-making. Irith absolutely loves cheese, and we've been treated to some amazing cheese. As for the wooden shoes, yes, they did wear them as kids around the farms, and yes, they are quite comfortable - they're custom-made, after all.

Windmill at the Zaan Schanns site

Marisa and Anica from across a bridge at Zaan Schanns

We also went to the beach, another part of the "dunes" part we were at yesterday. It was windswept, but sunny. We had pea soup and a glass of warmed wine at a restaurant overlooking the North Sea, then played a little on the beach.

Typical Nord See beach scene?

April 13


The town of Santpoort, like so much of what we've seen in the Netherlands, has bicycle lanes on every road. It also has a ton of sports and recreation options. One is the farm we visited this morning. Like the trend in Ontario, it's a semi-working farm, but mainly it's for visiting. The kids petted the animals, and climbed on the ropes and walked through the trails.

Then we took the train to Amsterdam itself, and went on a canal tour by boat. Fred knows Amsterdam really well, and we mostly ignored the commentary and talked with them.

"I am Amsterdam." "No, I am Amsterdam!"...

After walking and taking the tram through more of Amsterdam, we went back to Saantport for another nice dinner and evening together. The "real world" of Monday morning work was calling them, and in the morning we said our goodbyes. One of the most incredible things about this world trip was the fact that we, a family from Canada, met a family in Cambodia, from the Netherlands, and made such a strong connection that we were able to stay with them months later and have a wonderful time. Our weekend in their home, seeing their part of Holland, will always be one of our most fondly-remembered times on the trip.

April 11


Today we went to the Anne Frank house. It was my favrite museum so far, because it was really intrestng and had little bits of her diary and the wall. You watch movies (1-3 minutes aproxamitly) from Miep Gies or Otto Frank - they also had a copy of her diary! They also had a postcard that the Frank family sent. I also got a book called The Story of Anne Frank. We walked around town and bought me a top (at H&M) before having lunch at an Indonesien restaurant. Then we hopped in the car and went to Irith's and Fred's. I played with Marisa (pronounced Ma-ree-sa) before we went to the dunes we made a tree house at the bottom of a tree (the house was already made before we came) and we played. Had a lovely Dutch dinner, G.N. P.S. they're from the Netherlands so they don't speak every word of english - but, boy, they sure do know a lot!

April 12


First, today, we went to the Keukenhof. That's a big flower garden in a town called Lisse. The main thing Marisa, Igor and I did was go to the playground. Otherwyes we just played with our ballons from the lady at the informatin center and looked at the flowers. Then we went to a town where, first, this women took two pics of us, where Marisa, Igor and I went in a giant wooden shoe, played tag, and saw huge windmills. Then we went to the beach. While the Mums and Dads had hot wine, pea soup and bread, we gulped down our fries and ran outside to play. We made a sand castle/fort and played soccer with the Dads. Then we went home, Marisa, Igor and I played (Marisa and I played barbies, while Igor played with my plane and his other transports). Had Indonesian food for dinner, and, G.N.!

April 13


Today first all of us went to a petting zoo. Actully it wasen't a petting zoo it was a farm. First we petted the cows (plus a baby who liked to lick Marisa). There was this one cow who snorted at us. Marisa and I backed off. Then there was the sheep. We petted babies for a bit (the baby sheeps) before a female one (not his/her mother) head butted him really hard cause she wanted atenntion too! Poor baby! It ran back to its mother. Before going back to the playground we petted the so cute, about two fingers long, baby bunnies! The coulers were black and brown. Then we played in the playground. We went to the train station (after droping Marisa off for a birthday party, so it was just Irith, Fred, Mum, Dad, Igor and I). to go to Amsterdam. We went on a fun boat tour around Amsterdam. Then we went on the tram, went back, had a yummy dinner, G.N.!

Anica and Marisa pet a calf at the farm near Saantport

Posted by jennrob 10:11 Archived in Netherlands Comments (5)

Swiss Log

Composed at 1274 Metres Above Sea Level

sunny 4 °C

One view from Topferhaus, our apartment in Albinen, Switzerland

April 1-2


Getting to Lucerne, we discovered a new twist on the old art of getting lost. We had directions for our hotel (or so we thought) printed out from michelin.com. It's normally pretty reliable, by the way. This time, however, it defaulted and directed us to the centre of Lucerne. I was thinking: this hotel location is too good to be true! And it was. At one point we were staring directly at the famous wooden bridge, thinking: that's not our hotel!

Switzerland is everything I pictured. Snowy, jagged mountain peaks tend to surround you, whether you're on a major highway or in a town. Swiss cottages dot the richly green hillside, some angled so precariously it's like they've dared each other: look where I built a cottage!

Eventually we figured out how to get to our hotel, which is in Lucerne's suburb of Kriens. It's still only about 3km from that famous bridge. Nothing much in the immediate area, although in our hotel lobby Jenn noticed a brochure for what seems to be brothel practically next door. "Classy and discreet," it claims. Stumbling upon the local examples of the world's oldest profession seems to be a bit of a theme on our trip.

The next day was our full day in Lucerne. We spent most of it at the "Transport Museum," which is Switzerland's most-visited museum. Anica said it was her favourite museum in the world at one point today. I'm glad she enjoyed it because we have been to a lot of museums lately. This one is sprawling. It contains many full train-cars, planes, cars, boats, etc. We went on a ride that used dioramas, video, and other special effects to tell the story of building the Gotthard Tunnel. A story of boring that was anything but boring. We've already driven through a 6km tunnel in the Alps; this one was 15 km long and built in the 1880s. Another feature at this museum was a planetarium. Anica was at the right age exactly to enjoy the "Cardboard Rocket" story of two kids who explore our solar system.

Anica, News Anchor - at the Transport Museum

We did see a couple of the famous sights in Lucerne as well. We walked across the Chapel Bridge. We looked at the "Dying Lion" monument, which Mark Twain called "the most moving and mournful piece of stone in the world," in "A Tramp Abroad." But that's about it! It was raining off and on and pretty cold. To get out of the rain and avoid an over-priced dinner, we got some fresh food at the grocery store and had a picnic back in our hotel room.

The Lion of Lucerne

Chapel Bridge, Lucerne

April 3


A new nominee for "best drive!" A new nominee for "best view." Can you tell we're in Switzerland? We drove from Lucerne to our self-catering place for the next week, which is in the Valais Alps, right down by the Italian border. Still, most people here speak French. In Lucerne it was almost all German. Anyway, the drive was exciting for a couple of reasons. First, because the weather was sketchy. Snow was in the air. Some said the mountain pass would be closed. But we made it! Secondly, because our car got to ride on a train. For the longest tunnel, we just drove onto a flatbed train car and off we went. It was a long and (surprisingly) dark tunnel. We've been on car ferries before, but never a car train. Then there was the sublime Swiss mountain scenery. This is why "wow" entered our vocabulary. The place we're staying has great views, and we're a long way up the mountainside. There are several peaks of just under 3000 metres here. To the south, but not visible, are Switzerland's ten highest mountains, all over 4000 metres. With the snow coming in waves, we're thrilled to have brought our groceries and be able to settle in and watch the view. If you don't like the way it looks, wait ten minutes!

Another view out our windows

April 4-8

When in Switzerland, with gorgeous picture-window, and the weather swinging wildly from warm spring sun to threatening snowfall, why not just sit back and enjoy the views? So that's mainly what we've done. Jenn has no trouble with that, especially with an internet connection available to help pass the time. I get a little more restless. I took a couple of nice hikes - there's signed trails that start right beside the house. The second time I took Anica with me, and she surprised me by going almost as far with ease. They even have benches set up along these trails, at just the right spots to admire the mountains and valleys. Jenn came with us the third time. Full points for her because heights aren't her favourite thing and these trails go along the side of the mountain at places that are nearly cliffs. Huge steel fences and nets are set up to catch falling rocks.

Our house, viewed from above during a hike

Even walking in town is a hike. It's so steep. What an eccentric little town Alibenen is, too. It's got a distinctive modern church. White, rounded and stucco-like. Meanwhile, the rest of the buildings are dark wooden Swiss chalets. They all look unbelievably rustic. There's little difference at a glance between the cabin that just contains hay, or goats (as some do, right in the middle of town), and the winterized versions. You can spot these by the tell-tale satellite dishes, skylights or solar panels. Many properties in town are rented or operate as hotels. We're only a few kilometres from Leukerbad, a prime ski-resort town.

View of Albinen from other side of town

Anica and I went to Leukerbad, to go up the Gemmi cable car, and check out the 1 km sled run. This turned out to be a disaster. Well, the cable car was fun. It goes up to about 2400 metres, and Leukerbad is lower in elevation than Albinen, so it's a good ride. From the top, you can see more distant peaks, all over 4000 metres. The Matterhorn was unmistably visible from the Gemmi chalet. Most of the cable car ride rises over sheer cliff. Anica enjoyed this, but we just don't have the clothes for the colder weather. The day we went there was clear, but cold, the coldest of the week. When we wiped out on the sled, which was way too fast for Anica, she got snow all down her boots and that was the end of that! I felt so bad for her and regretted bringing her. She's learned from her travelling, however, a curious development of new confidence AND new fears, so by the time we got home, it wasn't a miserable, tear-filled morning...it was a story to tell Mummy!

Our one big meal out was to have cheese fondue at a restaurant in Leukerbad. Sure it's a cliche, sure it's over-priced, but it was a first for Anica, and we all enjoyed it.

On our last full day, we went to "Burgerbad." That's not a fast food chain with lousy food, it's a "thermal baths." Actually, it's a glorified serieis of swimming pools, but it's pretty good fun. Thery're all really, REALLY warm - two the pools are outside and the steam rises off them up into the snow-covered peaks that cradle the town of Leukerbad. There's jets and fountains that pour the water down from above, too, so your poor little head doesn't have to stay cold. Anica like the indoor kid's pool, with its slide, as well. In total there's about six pools (and different ones are open in the summer). We enjoyed our three-hour pass very much - a unique activity for our last day in Switzerland.

April 1


"A 3 Country-Day and our 3rd Ibis"

Today we went to Lucerne. The drive there was long and (again) getting lost. Our directions from Michelin put us right downtown on the other Industrialstrasse when we wanted to be in Kreins. Bad Michelin! We asked somebody, that's how we found out. We arrived at our Ibis and because we wanted DVDs for our place in Albanin (next place), Mum's like "what we really need is a Media Market." We arrive, Media Market is right beside us! They got something for them, but nothing for me but who cares because I already have the 3rd Harry Potter (only one I haven't seen of the movies out now). Dad used Swiss Franks when we could of used Euros. He's like "exceuse me do you take euros?" "Yes!" Swiss Franks are really colurfell because the 100s are blue and the 50s a sort of yellowish/goldish/orangeish colur and the 5s are red. We were walking around in 15 degree weather and theres huge snowy mountains right ahead and behind you! I think this Swisszerland is a great country so far. For dinner we had yummy pizza from a place called Pizza Connection. We got Diavola and Hawai pizza. G.N.

April 2


"Transportation Museum One Day and Transportation Experiance the next"

Today we went to the Transportation Museum. It was lots of fun because you could try scooters, go on trains...The first thing we did was a ride on a mining train through a tunnel! That was XL extra fun. You could go up tiny stairs to a little area of a train you could look around. After lunch we went to the Planatarium which was really interesting cause when we watched the movie it was like we were moving! The movie was called the mystoery of the cardboard rocket. We saw exhibits on trains, cars, trams and airplanes. Hmmmm! We've been on a tram in Vienna, got a pegout 207 now, and rode trains through out Asia, plus going on airplanes everywhere! After the museum we went to a Coop where we got grocires and ate back at our cosy Ibis. Had dinner, G.N.!

April 3


Today we went to Albinen. We went on a train in our car! The tunnel (largest tunnel driving: 6 km) on the train is so long. When we got to Albinen our veiw from our place was betiful! Plus, it was snowing. Had dinner, G.N.

April 6


Today me and Daddy went on a hike. It was 80 minutes long cause it took 45 minutes to get to the end, 35 minutes to get back. On the first sort of 10 minutes it was uphill. It actully took us about 5 minutes to go on the uphill part and 5 on the snowish part. Covered with snow. On our hike we saw wolf (we think) fur and footprints. We didn't see the wolf though and that was sad/good. We also saw huge giant snail shells. We sat down a lot and (luckily) brought water, for it was a long hike plus lots of uphills! When we arrived home I started writing this journal entry whell my tulip from Migros, Lekurbad (a day I didn't write about) was starting to bloom. Had lovely dinner made by Chef Mummy watched the special features for Harry Potter and the Prizoner of Azkaban. G.N.!

Sunrise on the day we left Albinen

Posted by jennrob 21:33 Archived in Switzerland Comments (4)

"...Then We Take Berlin"

With Help From a Friend

semi-overcast 10 °C

The Victory Column, one icon of many in Berlin

March 25


Today we passed through the Czech Republic, sadly avoiding Prague in order to save the bother of another language and currency. Also, Prague is no longer cheap by any stretch. We decided on Dresden, closer to Berlin, our next stop. That may be important with the weather we've been driving through: swirling snows and a mercury dancing around the zero mark.

It's funny to cross an open border and then immediately see the difference. We giggled at the Eastern European tableau laid before us: Czech casinos, theme restaurants, "sexy shops," even a shooting range. We weren't in Austria anymore.

As we went on, though, we travelled through forests of barren birches and dark evergreens, and also through open fields where we easily spotted deer, large hares and pheasants, even at 120 kph.

Arriving in Dresden, we found our "Ibis" hotel. This is the first time in a month we've stayed in a hotel. Ibis is a non-descript chain of two-star hotels. Here there are three, all in a row, backing onto a Soviet-designed pedestrian thoroughfare. The Bloc-architecture has been dressed up a little and the pedestrian mall is really blooming. It's a neighborhood that looks brand-new but actually has an interesting cold-war history.

A new Dresden: march of the Ibises

March 26


Dresden, we hardly knew you! Our one full day here, and what did we do? Spent most of it in the "Deutsche Hygiene-Museum." That's because it was a really neat place with lots to do. Anica had the best science-health-philosophy field trip in the world. At first we thought "hygiene" museum? A novelty, perhaps? Something to look at to get out of the cold wind. This place, however, is nothing like its name implies. And it's been around since before World War I. It was started by a man who had made his fortune in mouthwash. The museum's own history is described inside, how they were a propaganda vehicle for Nazi "eugenics," then a propadanda vehicle for Communist public health dictates. Now? Lots of ways to examine aging, the senses, sexuality, and diseases. I particularly liked the temporary exhibition on "gluck" (happiness, but also luck). It used avant-garde multimedia art to illustrate the question "what is happiness?" In the beginning Philosophy course I teach, this would be a perfect fit. I wish I could bring the topic to life as well.

"I'm Looking Through You...Transperant "Man" in DHM, Dresden

When we finally emerged from our visit there, which included another surpisingly good cafeteria lunch, we took a quick walk through historic Dresden at sunset, until we were cold enough and hungry enough to eat dinner. Dinner was at a kind of "Saxon" theme restaurant which we all thought was fun. Again, though, the food was actually really good! We saw some of the architecture that make this a "Florence on the Elbe," mainly stemming from the period of Augustus the Strong, when Saxony was at its peak. World War II levelled Dresden, including it most important Protestant Church. They just completed the rebuilding of it in 2006, for the 800th anniversary of Dresden!

18th Century Saxony + 21st Century Streetcar = Dresden

March 27


A short, simple drive got us to Berlin today, where we were meeting Jenn's friend, Marny. She lives in Hanover, but said, why visit there? She could show us around Berlin, having been there a few times before. I think it's always the best way to see a place. It's a break for us in language, too, with Marny handling all the German-speaking.

We're staying at an Ibis, in the east end. We got right on the underground and emerged at Alexanderplatz, at the foot of the TV Tower, symbol of East Berlin. For dinner, Marny took us to a the oldest part of Berlin, and we ate at a pub in a 500-year old house.

Because we arrived on a Thursday, Marny suggested we take advantage of "Museum Night." All the museums on Berlin's "Museum Island" are free from 6-10. First, we went to the Pergamon museum. It's named for the "Pergamon Altar," a huge display from 2nd century BCE of Greek Gods fighting giants. Even more impressive was the Babylonian "Ishtar Gate," 6th century BCE, installed in this museum as it would have appeared in Babylon.

Ishtar Gate, Pergamon Museum, Berlin

They also have the ruins of a Jordanian desert castle walls (which was about the only thing we missed seeing in Jordan, but now we've seen it here!) It's a portal facade from Mshatta, from the 8th century.

In the last hour before closing, we headed over to the Egyptian Museum. The star of the show there is Nefertiti's bust. I'm sorry, did that sound rude? Anyway, this is the famous sculpture of her, with the left eye blank, unfinished. She really is beautiful.

March 28


For breakfast, we've found this Turkish coffee-shop just around the corner that seems quite nice. Berlin has about 200,000 Turkish residents, which I found surprising. Turkish coffee really gets you going in the morning!

Catching the double-decker Bus 100, we scrambled upstairs for the coveted front-row seats. It's just a regular public transit route, but it might as well be a sightseeing bus. It's almost all tourists because of the route it takes. Starting from the TV Tower, you pass by some of the museums, Berlin Cathedral, Humboldt University, various embassies (including the American, with the road it's on permanently blocked off to cars), the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag, Bellevue Place (the President's residence), the Victory Column (as in the 1870 victory against France), the Tiergarten, the Bauhaus Archive, and finally, the Berlin zoo.

Aside from just enjoying Bus 100, the zoo was our destination. We haven't overdosed on zoos on this trip, so Anica was really looking forward to the visit. It turned out to be almost a full day. One highlight was the seal, who threw up and caught a stick with his mouth. When another seal tried to take the stick, they fought. The growing crowd cheered when he got the stick back. This natural playing behaviour was every bit as fun as watching trained seals.

Catch That Stick!

Across from the zoo is the "Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church," which we also visited. It was bombed in World War II, and left unrepaired to show the damage. The spire is gone, so it looks like an overturned cone with the point broken off in jagged edges. Most of the nave is gone, too. Inside is an exhibition that shows before and after photos. Beautiful mosaics from the vestibule remain. At either end, modernist church buildings now stand, built in 1961. They're done in glass blocks, that are actually stained glass, an effect visible from the outside in the evening, as it was when we were leaving. Instead of rebuilding or replacing, these offer a provocative contrast.

We ate dinner at an Italian restaurant in the neighborhood of our hotel. We haven't seen prices as low as this anywhere in Europe, and it's sure not typical of Berlin. Pizzas and pastas for 2 Euros! In Rome and Florence we were happy to see anything under 10 Euros. And the food was quite good, with an atmosphere warm and welcoming.

March 29


Berlin is a cool city. Vienna has its old-world charm, but Berlin smothers its own old-world foundation with avant-garde sauciness. Then there's the compelling storyline of the Berlin Wall. Our first stop today was to the East Side gallery of the Berlin Wall. Here was the longest remaining stretch of the Wall. When the restrictions were lifted, artists came out to paint it. The West side already had that freedom, but the East side always have the "death strip." Wall-peckers and subsequent graffitti has worn away the art of 1989-90, but it's still colourful, and it's really interesting to walk beneath the wall. It's not that tall, but it's tall enough.

Start of the "East Side Gallery" of the Berlin Wall

Next we crossed town to see the Brandenburg Gate up close. Its original message was "peace," and so it is again. Napoleon and Hitler both defiled and subverted it, but when the Wall came down, people flocked to this symbol of their city, and it became a symbol, too, of freedom.

Right next to it is the new memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Memorials are in the works for other groups, like Roma and homosexuals. This one is very hard to figure out. It consists of about 3000 steles, lying flat like coffin slabs. No words, just a series of undulating rows. It's practically a maze. That makes it a little too much fun for kids, perhaps. We told Anica not to shout or climb on the blocks, but, like every kid there, she liked playing hide and seek in the "maze." It is disorienting and stark, but without visiting the information centre, reveals little and is TOO open to facile interpretation.

There's a store on the "main street" called the Berlin Story, which Marny took us to, not just for the great souvenirs, but for the video called about Berlin's history that they screen there free of charge. Another store nearby only sold souvenirs relating to the "Ampelman." These are the green and red East German traffic signal men. We first noticed them in Dresden, and in Berlin there's a whole industry of products devoted to them. A campaign was successfully fought to keep them. They're probably the only facet of life in Germany that was "cuter" under Communism.

Model of the Ampelmann

We also visited the German History Museum, which Marny had never been to. It had many good connections to the European history course I teach. We spent probably too long in the museum, and Anica was very patient, considering there wasn't much intrinsic interest or hands-on activity. It's new, superb, and yet somewhat staid. The view of German history, including the Nazi era, is very objective. When the museum closed, we finally had to leave!

March 30


Today's visit to the Jewish Museum was a much bigger hit with Anica. The museum deals with 2000 years of history, and while Anica did comment that "Wow, these Jews. They sure had their problems," it also celebrates achievements, religion and family life.

The building is very strange. Everything seems tilted and angled. The floorplan snakes. Marny felt dizzy, and I bumped into a couple of walls. There are deliberate "voids," dead spaces to represent the missing. Architecture doesn't get much starker. The outside is like sheet metal with scars for windows. I wondered if some of the older Jews saw it for the first time and said, "what is this? They give us this, now?" Especially the outside could be offputting to some.

But like I said, the exhibits are very inventive. There's a 3D theatre, a pomegranate wish tree, a Moses Mendolsohn coin press (because his son made coins, I guess), a peddler's pack to try on, a write your name in Hebrew computer game... all sorts of things to keep Anica busily engaged. In terms of presentation style, it's probably the best museum I've ever seen. It's even possible to learn a few things there!

Hebrew Letter Puzzle in Jewish History Museum, Berlin

A short walk from there and we were at Checkpoint Charlie. It's not much to look at, but you can read signboards about the escape attempts while standing on the very spot where they took place. Anica wondered if we would have tried to escape. She hoped not because so many didn't make it and were killed. Jenn and I eventually just said no, we wouldn't risk your life, which is what she wanted to hear.

The final sightseeing stop in Berlin was to the Reichstag. Despite fire in 1933 (hmmm, who started that?) and damage through 1945, the parliament maintains its original appearance...with a twist. A huge twist. A twisting glass dome with a core of angled mirrors. We went up the circling pedestrian ramp and enjoyed views over the Tiergarten, Museum Island, and just about everywhere else we've visited in Berlin. Jenn and Marny sat and talked while Anica and I went up and down the 750 feet of ramps two more times! Anica said "we waited in line to get in, went through security and we're only going to do it once? No way!" That seemed logical to me, despite the fact that nobody else walked the ramps more than once. Like the saying goes, it's the journey, not the destination...

Looking down the Reichstag dome's interior column

March 31


Jenn said "I can't believe it's going to be April!" I agree; I thought it was still August...didn't we leave on this trip at the end of July? What do you mean 2008 is one-quarter gone?

Anyway, we said a sad goodbye to Marny - thanks again for showing us a great time in Berlin, Marny - and headed south. And a little west. Once we got off the big highway, we saw the quaint old Germany we really hadn't seen yet. Colourful houses, covered bridges, improbably shaped rocks lining a river-bed road...and signs directing us to Rothenberg.

Rothenberg's Town Hall

Rothenberg - what a place! So cute, but still, somehow, not overly touristy. Not this time of year, at least. We looked out from the town ramparts over the valley and there other than half a dozen cars and a mechanical crane, there was nothing obvious that couldn't have been there 400 years ago. We did a self-guided walking tour that featured all sorts of quirky architectural details.

Rothenberg gate, outside the walls

We've splurged on a guest house that's 600 years old. It was once the house of the famous mayor who saved the town with a prodigous feat of beer-drinking. It's true that that's the story they tell. It's just not a TRUE story. We ate dinner here, too; great country-cooking.

We're all really glad we got to come here, even if it was for just one day and night.

Rothenberg's Clock Tower

March 25


Today we left Vienna. The guys who own are apartment gave me a box of Milka, a bunny and a mix of chocolates. As we got in the Czech Republic we saw the tinyest border I'd ever seen in my life! A sign, a police man in a statin and ta da! The C.R.! We diden't stop in Prague because we couldn't find anything, so we booked a place in Dresden. A huge snow-storm made us think "Hmm, should we really go off to have lunch?" It might just get worse! So we ate pretzels and granola bars in the car. So much for the Esso on-the-go. You still have to get off the highway. The border to Germany was even smaller, JUST a sign. We arrived in Dresden, got lost for a bit, found our hotel, went out, had Pizza Hut, went back...G.N.!

March 26


"Dresden Excitments"

Today we went to the Hygine Mueseum. It has exhibits and a Kinder Museum. In the first room you could see what parts were where, see parts of body, and play room-based computer games. My favorite room of those exhibits was the one with computers where you could see who ate the animals, email recipes, and see difrent peoples meals. We had lunch and moved on the Kinder museum. I touched a fake eye, climbed up a tower, went a qaurter way through a dark tunnel, smelled stuff, and just plainly, had fun! For dinner we went to a 1780s restraunt with the sort of swing thing at the amusement park but slower and I had Saxon potato soup with (according to them) fine slices of sausage. and stroodle. G.N.

March 27


Today we went to Berlin. It was supossed to be a 2 hour drive but it was more like one and a half. As soon as we started seeing exits for Berlin I went "we are going to meet Marny!" Then we had McD for lunch where I got Katie. She's a stuffed animal toy from my Happy Meal. She barks. Before meeting Marny (we had already found our hotel), we went to Toys R Us. We liked giggleing over how they put Snape - so unreal! Also, had a huge sectin of Playmobil (had all stuff I did except the little family) and Barbie. We met Marny and she is very nice. We went on the metro to the stop where we transferred from the U7 to U8 at Hermanplatz. Got off at Alexanderplaz and saw a huge TV tower. You can actually climb up it. We diden't go, though. We went to a small bar which was full of locals drinking beer and eating. I had sausiges and potato salad. We crossed the river and went to a museum. Till ten o clock all the museums in Berlin were free! This one had: Umayyed art, Assyrian and Fatimad art and just lots of intresting pictures and stuff. One of the favrites is the Babylon gate. Blue and covered with animals (fake), Babylon gate was a five star gate. We moved on to the Greek, Roman and Egyptian Museum where we saw all the neat stuff quickly. Such as the beatiful (except for only having one eye) Nefertiti, and the unwrapped mummys and colurful death masks. We went on a exicting ride back and...G.N.!

March 28


"At a Zoo! 4 Hours! Yay!"

Today we went to the zoo. We took the metro from Grenzalle to Hermanplaz to Alexanderplaz. Got on bus 100 to the zoo and got top front seats. We arrived at the zoo and saw the Alpaccas. Weird sort of lama-like. After a mixture of funny beaver guys, monkeys and birds, we went to the Aquarium. So many different kinds of fish! Over 1 hundred! 14, 039 animals, 1, 1434 species, 203 mammels specis, 439 bird species, 78 reptile specie, 46 amphibian and 239 invertbrates species. Saw elephants, seals doing marvellis tricks WITHOUT a zoo-keeper, and lions awake. Had lunch and went to the childrens zoo, feed and pet animals, went to a huge big playground - as big as High Park's! Saw more animals, saw a bombed church, went home, had dinner, G.N.

March 29


"Mazes, gates, shops, and Museums"

Today we did lots of stuff. We started out the day by going to the Berlin Wall, Brandenburg gate and a Jewish Memorial. The Brandenburg gate was huge! At that time you coulden't cross through it! A wall, a dead end! The Jewish memorial to the murded Jews of Europe was like a maze. First it's easy then it gets harder. We also went to a shop where we watched a movie and I bought a pen and a pencil with the street guys on them. The cross-walk guys are so funny. Go is a man walking with a hat on his head and stop is a man with his arms stuck out! We had lunch and went to the German History Museum. It was o.k., I guess, but any not-lover-of-musuem-kid would be bored. about fifty sections! The Jewish Museum the next day was more kid-friendly. Went home on the bus, had dinner, G.N.

March 30


"A Jewish and German mix. We came to the Reichstag, stood in a lineup. Were not going to go up it just once!"

Today we went on the metro past Hermanplatz. We instead went to a statin where we could transfer to the U6 and go to the Jewish Museum and Checkpoint Charlie. Like I said in my diary from March 29, this museum was much beter and kid-friendly. the one yesterday was also hard to go through. At this one you could go on computers where you would have to pack the right 8 items in a travelers back-pack. It included cell-phone and bunny! I went "funny" and put those in her suitcase and it went "two items you put in Gliki's bag are wrong. The cellphone woulden't be invented for another 300 years and the bunny would wat Giki's spices" Ha-ha! We saw lots more stuff before going to Check-point Charlie. It was a intresting checkpoint by the Berlin wall. We walked down to Alexanderplaz and took the bus to the Reichstag. We stood in a line-up with a robot guy going around! We went up the huge circular dome and I went "again!" "No." said Daddy. Me: "We came, stood in a line-up - were not just going up it once." Dad: "Ok." We went up it two more times, went home, had dinner with Marny at a yummy Italian place called Mona Mia, fineshed, G.N.!

March 31


"A Hotel that used to be a Mayors House"

Today we went to Rothenburg. The drive was 4 or something hours. We diden't get lost (lucikly). We took a pretty fast highway and when we got there checked in. Beatifull, huge room wth cosy double beds. We went on a intresting Rick Steves guided, perfectly great, tour. 1 hour, but intresting. Had lovely dinner of (for me, since I can only remember mine) dumplings with gravy and apple juice and apple sauce for dessert. That was a kid's meal. Creaky stairs. Went back. G.N. P.S. There were the guys that drink beer every hour (the guys were fake) up in the clock. G.N.!

Posted by jennrob 08:25 Archived in Germany Comments (6)

Up-Tempo Waltz

A Few Days in Vienna

all seasons in one day 6 °C

All in the Family: Hapsburg digs in Vienna

March 21


After a month in Italy, we slipped into Austria today. There was the usual missing of our exit and backtracking, asking for directions, but, considering we didn´t have a Vienna map, we miraculously found the right house out of a million. It´s a cute attic apartment, with skylights, light-coloured wooden panelling with darker crossbeams, in a "studio" layout, a curtain separating our bedroom from Anica´s bed and the rest is. There was some snow still lurking on the lawns! Today, however, it was 11 degrees when we arrived. We´re at the far west end of Vienna, looking out across a field, to some hills across a river. It´s hardly like being in a city at all.

German is a shock to read and attempt to speak, after three months of French-Spanish-Italian. German has some words in common, but many seem to be just like three or four words strung together. There´s probably a German term to explain that, such as "weputzdeesvurdztagever." Makes reading signs and labels difficult, though. As usual, we´re spoiled by the many people we´ve encountered who speak English, and do so pleasantly at the first sign you´re struggling with their language.

March 22


OK, after a day in Vienna, I´m ready to say it´s one of my favourite cities in the world. It´s just so monumental, and yet so inviting. The public transport is great; our bus ride plus underground ride was no hassle at all. There´s all sorts of pedestrian streets, and the combination of architecture, art and music - especially music - make "Wien" wonderful.

The Spanish Riding School

We had some luck early in the day when we went to the world-famous Spanish Riding School of the Lipanazzer stallions. Hoping just to see their museum, and maybe a practice session, there was a performance scheduled and we were able to get standing room tickets. Despite my mild asthma attack, and the discomfort of standing (before the show, too) it was an impressive thing to witness.

Then we had a great lunch, involving schnitzel, doner, lamb kebab, lots of extra spices for me...very tasty. It was a restaurant called "Levant," so that suits our experienced taste-buds just fine.

Taking advantage of our day-passes, although public transport is all on the honour system here, we took the #2 Tram ride, which follows a ring-road route tracing where the medieval walls once were. We saw all sorts of interesting buildings on this ride.

The afternoon was mainly devoted to the Haus Der Musik. No translation of that needed, right? Jenn had seen this recommended for kids, and it was indeed a huge hit with Anica, but really with all three of us. The core of the "kid" appeal was in the hands-on, science-of-music exhibits that let you play with sound waves, your own voice, pretend to conduct an orchestra, etc. There´s also a series of rooms devoted to famous composers who lived in Vienna: Mozart, Beethoven, Strauss, Mahler, Schubert, etc. Each one is decorated with materials that evoke the time period and personality of the composer. Very well-done.

Dinner was a stand-up affair! We ate at a "Weinerstanzel," or hot dog stand, we´d say in North America. Very yummy! All of us enjoyed it, and I particularly liked how they served their draft beer in a real glass. Like the transit system, very trusting of their patrons.

Anica, with hot dog, triumphant

To cap off the day, when I asked the bus driver if he stopped at our street, he merely said "yup," so we got on, knowing it was the right route. However, when we came to our street, he called out to us "76?" guessing our number, and stopped the bus right in front of it. To Anica, it was magical. How did he know? I guess that house is known as a tourist guest house, the only one on the block.

March 23


Easter Sunday! And the Easter Bunny found Anica in Vienna. What a relief! As for the rest of the day, mostly it was a case of the Hapsburgs getting our money. Just like in the good old days of the Hapsburg Empire. We went to Schonnbrun Palace, the "summer palace" of the Austrian ruling dynasty. There were all sorts of things going on for kids. First, we did the "Kindermuseum," which is always for kids, but they had a little egg hunt added in. In this museum, Anica got to dress up in replica princess clothing, petticoats, wigs, and all. Then we explored how the royal children lived, including some of their actual apartments in the palace. In each room, an interlocking pair of wheels could be turned revealing pictures of how peasant children spent their days as compared to the Imperial offspring. A simple, but sobering visual tool.

We ate at the Palace Cafe, which (surprise) wasn´t all that cheap. The food was good, though. Rain scared a few people off, so we were able to get in a shortened lineup, and go on the "Grand Tour" of the palace itself after lunch. Even the grand tour only takes you through 40 rooms....out of 1,441. There´s some amazing moments, as the audioguide tells you, "in this very room..." ...Mozart performed for the royal family at age 6, or ...the last Emperor signed his empire away on Nov 11, 1918; or ...Kennedy met with Kruschev in 1961...(bet you didn´t see that last one coming!). Aspects of the Hapsburgs being in-bred and foolish are mostly ignored, of course, although for anecdotal interest much is now made of Empress Elizabeth, aka "Sisi," who lived a life that has some parallels to Princess Diana.

Easter at the "Summer Palace"

The other kid-focused thing going on was the Easter Market. The rain had stopped when we came out of the palace, so we looked through this, buying oversized pretzels and admiring the crafts. Giant, colourfully-painted eggs decorated the rows of temporary stalls, all set up in the square outside the palace.

Definitely an Easter to remember!

March 24


When we woke this morning, we were in for a shock...snow! Foolish Canadians are we, thinking we could go a full winter without seeing snow. It blanketed the three skylights of our attic apartment, covered our car, parked outside in the street, and whitened the hills all around us. Anica was excited about it. Snow!

An OBWT first: snowfall!

Soon, it was melting again, but Jenn had already declared she was staying home for the day to avoid the cold. She got some valuable peace and quiet, too, because Anica and I went out. Anica was going to stay home until I said, "there´s a great Natural History Museum" in Vienna. Then she couldn´t wait to go.

It was pretty good, too. Hundreds of stuffed specimens, of course, similarly exhaustive cabinets of rocks and meteorites, plus some great prehistoric objects, including the famous "Venus of Willendorf." That was housed in a spooky little "cabin" of its own, with horror-movie music playing in the near-dark. Not sure why!

Anica: behind you!

The Natural History Museum has a "twin," across the courtyard, called the "Kuntshistoriches Museum." The KHM. Normally, it´s closed on Mondays, but it was open today. Although not initially good news for Anica, who´d just put in three very enthusiastic museum hours (including a lunch break), but, again, when she heard they had an Egyptian gallery, we bought our tickets and made a beeline for it. Their Egyptian collection is good, but is a tiny fraction of what we saw in Egypt itself. Anica just likes spotting her favourite gods and goddesses and Pharaohs. Egypt has really made an impression on her.

The KHM is best-known as an art gallery. We saw a special exhibit of Arcimboldo, the 16th century artist who did the composite portraits using fruit, etc. Especially cool were the still lifes that only looked like portraits when viewed upside down. The gallery had mirrors angled below the paintings so you could see them like this.

Anica was going from room to room, looking for Brueghel. Ever since she saw his "Triumph of Death" at the Prado, she´s been fascinated by Pieter Bruehgel´s art. In our flat here in Vienna, there´s a big oversize art book of Bruegel. Eventually we got a room that was all his, and we saw many of his most famous works, like his Tower of Babel, the peasant wedding, Carnival vs. Lent, and his series on the seasons. I love it too, because there´s just so much detail you could look at one of his paintings for an hour. The one with the "230 children" playing "83 games" is like a visual record of 17th century Northern European childhood.

We got home easily, on what I think must be the best public transportation system we´ve been on anywhere in the world.

March 22


"Vienna, Austria...and a horse show"

Today we did a lot of stuff. First we went on an amazinly not busy bus, and a same-thing-as-the-bus metro. As we arrived at Karlsplaz we said: "do we want to just go to the Lipizzaner stallion museum?" So lucky! Even though the museum was closed we came up to the ticket desk and said: "Exersise?" "No, performence only." We got to go see a performance. Hmmm, it was, though, 80 inutes with 20 second peeks because of people in front of the boxs. They prance! They dance! They jump up from standing! They do anything! We had lunch, went to the Haus der musik. Can anybody guess what it means?! House of Music! We spent 3 hours! Some of the things you could do were: "Light wall: six terminals to the left invite zou to walk through various possible and impossible acoustic rooms"...so on and so on...My 2 favs were Harmonic driving. a sort of musical stay-on-the-path roller-coaster thing, and conducting with a baton, my own orchestra! I also liked the exibit on Franz Schubert! Guess what we had for dinner!? Stand-up German/Austrian sauseges! Amayingly good! So ate there, went home, G.N.

Electronic orchestra conductor simulation at "Haus der Musik"

March 23


"Easter Day!"

Today I woke up, felt around and went "The Easter Bunny came!" Yay! I got 28 miny choco eggs, 1 Pez, a giant suprise Barbie Egg with a miny Barbie doll, a dog, a leash, and a purse! We road the metro to Schönbrun Palace stop and when we got off we went to the Kids Mueseum. I dressed up as a Princess with a white/gray wig, a fan, and coulered gloves. I found the nest I wanted and got a toy. I got to play with imperial toys and layed a table where King Daddy sat. Had lunch and went inside the Palace where we went on a free audio guide tour through 40 intresting, decresptive rooms. Went home, had a lovely dinner home-cooked by Chef Mummy! G.N.!

Princess Anica of Wien

March 24


We woke up and it was snowing! Neat, neat, neat and neat. Actual snow! Me and Daddy decided to go to the natrul history mueseum. Without Mummy! We saw: jewelarry from prehistory, skealtons, aquariums, but stil the meany people stuffed the animals! Boooo! We liked it though and we had lunch on are own. Without Mummy! I think it's neat seeing the jewlarry because they didne't have to stuff them! Daddy was so suprised that its twin museum was open. we saw a whole room of Brugel with 4 pics I knew. Also had an Egyptian collectin. Went home, had dinner, G.N.!

Detail from Brueghel' "Peasant Wedding"

Posted by jennrob 11:47 Archived in Austria Comments (8)

"Ah, Venice!"

...as they say in the movies

semi-overcast 12 °C

The Grand Canal, Venice, with Rialto Bridge in the background

March 14


We drove from Tuscany to Venice today, through wildly fluctuating temperatures, to arrive in the suburb of Favoro Veneto in 20 degree sunshine with nary a wrong turn. Good directions from these people! Venice, unlike Rome with its spacious greenbelt, seems to have a belt of ugliness around it. Factories and highways. Trucks. Drivers with a pathological need to merge poorly. It was the most harrowing of the European driving I've done. But, it should balance out because nobody can drive inside Venice proper.

Our flat is in a "plex" of some sort...duplex, triplex, quadplex. Bright colours, a weird layout, but really cute. So is the town. It's seems "new," but maybe that's just in comparison to medieval Castiglion Fiorentino. To get into the heart of Venice, we just take one bus for about 20 minutes. We'll try it tomorrow.

March 15


Yup, one bus. Worked well, although it's crowded. When we got out at the bus depot, we saw a bridge from there into "the" Venice. It was like stepping into a magical kingdom. Venice really is different from all the over places we've been. The striped poles, the canals, the decaying lower parts of the palazzos, it's like a run-down seaside amusement park. Tourist visitors far outnumber residents, which heightens that impression.

We walked the more or less main drag of sidewalks and bridges, over the Rialto bridge, to San Marco square. Benches were put out that become sidewalks in case of flood. We admired the clock tower, with its two figures striking, its digital readout, its 24-hour readout, etc. We admired the Campanile from a seat in the square. Jenn and I fed the pigeons, and since nobody else was feeding them, we got a lot of pigeon attention!

Rob with feathered friends

Detail of the 24-hour clock

We looked at San Marco basilica from the outside, with its Byzantine onion domes. San Marco square may be my favourite piazza in all of Italy. Then we took a tour of the Doge's Palace.

It was the "secret itineraries" tour, which meant no lining up, and getting to see way more than the regular tour. It was guided, which Anica doesn't usually like, but we don't overdose on those, so she was okay. The theme of the tour was how great and progressive Venice was in the past (first to abolish slavery, to eliminate torture, to deny nepotism, a republic longer than most, etc.). There's a lot of truth in it, relative to the time, although it was always elitist. We saw the spartan offices of the council of ten, working behind the scenes, and saw how the Doge was practically a prisoner in exchange for his title.

Speaking of prisoners, the Doge's Palace also housed the prison, and we saw where its most famous inmate, Casanova, had his cell at first, then another, which he broke out of. The whole "behind the scenes" secret tour was great, better than the grandeur of the big staterooms we saw on our own. Towards the end of the general tour, we got to walk across the Bridge of Sighs, and peek out through the stone-latticed window.


March 17


After our typical quiet Sunday, it was back into the lagoon today. Instead of walking, we bought a transit pass for the day, which includes the Vaporettos (motorized ferry boats). In the morning we took the #2 vaporetto, which goes around the outside of Venice, in the big water, past towering cruise ships, and low, tiny boats unloading everything from vegetables to Xerox machines (actual examples). We got off at San Marco square and toured the basilica first, with its beautiful marble floors and gold-backed mosaic ceilings. The story of how the gospel-writer's bones ended up in Venice is a marvellous one. Then we went up the Camanile, the 60 metre bell-tower, for the best views over Venice.

View of San Marco Square from the Bell-Tower

Also from Bell-Tower, view of the Basilica

At lunch, we gave up scrimping and purposely sought out a "menu touristique" place. Jenn and I had a lunch that was almost too much food and Anica had a huge pizza of her own. Venice certainly is expensive, but at least today we were full for 17 Euros instead of still hungry after paying 12 Euros.

We made use of our Vaporetto day pass to get to the Peggy Guggenheim museum. She had quite the life! We saw her grave, and that of many of her dogs, out in the sculpture garden, and then went though each room of her former residence, looking at her modern art collection. It sure was a change from the art we've been seeing lately, which has all been religious, and medieval-to-renaissance in period. It was interesting to hear Anica's comments on this. Some of it she just laughed at!

Another Grand Canal View

March 18


For the record, we took another stroll around Venice today and saw a couple of sights. We saw Tintoretto's masterpiece work in the Scuola, where they give you mirrors so you can admire the ceiling without hurting your neck. Except it made Anica dizzy! They're canvas, not fresco, so it's an unbelievably huge undertaking - several times more space than the Sistine Chapel. I also loved the wood carvings, various allegorical figures, that were done about 100 years later by another artist.

The other sight was the Friar's church, pardon the anglicized name. It had a fascinating collection of tombs, including Titian, whose altarpiece adorns this church. Canova's tomb is a pyramid shape, with a mysteriously inviting half-open door. Darn those tomb raiders!

The rest of our rambles featured Anica wearing her new Venetian mask, the kind with the stick that you use to hold it up to your face. We took pictures of her all over Venice sporting it. Since it was Venice, nobody was too startled.

We can't reveal who this is, sorry!

March 19


Our driving day-trip for this locale: Padua. We were there to see Giotto's famous frescoes in the Scrovegni chapel. But it's also just a really nice town, and it was a really nice, sunny day. The grounds all around the chapel are parkland now, since the Scrovegni family palace is long-gone. There was even a big playground with some pretty cool stuff to do. Anica and I also played on the barely detectable ruins of the Roman amphitheatre (does that count as another one in her total? That might make 14...)

The chapel, with its 14th century Giotto frescoes, is indeed beautiful. But what makes it a must-see attraction is the job they've done with it. Only 25 people can enter at a time, only with advance tickets, and you settle in with a movie about the family, artist, and chapel. During this time, the group's humidity level is measured. No joke! Then you enter the actual chapel via an airlock. Simple, right? You have 15 minutes to ooh and aah, and then a tone sounds and out you go. That's fine, though, because the attached museum has a multimedia centre that lets you dissect and view the chapel and learn more about Giotto and Padua. It's an exceptional experience on beautiful grounds.

The modest exterior of the Scrovegni Chapel

The experience of parking in Padua is worth noting. They've come up with such an unusual way of paying for the parking lot that the town drunks gather by the pay machines, hoping to instruct you, and thus earn a tip. We figured out that a camera took our license plate on the way in, and that we didn't pay then (since one woman kept saying "dopo" over and over - i.e. "after"). It seemed really complicated, especially since it really didn't cost that much to park there (a Euro an hour).

March 20


We spent a luminous day in Murano. This is an island, also part of Venice, that has been known for centuries for its glass-blowing. To my eyes, and perhaps it was just the sunny skies, it was even prettier than Venice itself. Murano has wide canals, and almost every sidewalk runs along a canal. From its shores, you can see a huge swath of snowcapped mountains in the distance.

Murano "street"

You're hard-pressed in Murano to find a store that is NOT devoted to glass. We looked in many, and also went to the Glass Museum, which Anica was very interested in seeing. Especially when she realized that some of the glass pieces there date to the 1st century AD. They've survived where huge marble buildings have crumbled! It is amazing.

Huge Murano glass sculpture in public square

We did the trip by Vaporetto again. The first boat was through Venice's main, Grand Canal, and we sat at the very back, outside. Then we had two other long Vaporetto rides getting to Murano and back, including a tour through the whole island on the way back. Joy-riding around in the Vaporettos is a wonderful experience, especially with a window or outside seat on a beautiful, clear day like today.

March 15


"Venice: also known as Venizia"

Today we went to Benizia. We took bus #19 to Venice instead of take bus number 4 through Mestre (pronounced Mess-tra), back out and there: Venezian bus terminal. It started and went like this: we got up early so we could go to Venice early, to skip the crowds, BUT we did not do the line-up at the Doges Palace because we went on the secret itenires tour! SO, what was the point of getting up early? We walked over a bridge and boom! never-ending canals, Murano glass stores, bridges...all resembling Venice. IN S.Marks square we found out the benches we were sitting on were sidewalks for then it floods, let Dad and Mum (not me) feed the pigeons, find our really, how beautiful the Basilica was, saw people up at the Campanile and gaze at the bridge of sighs. "Sigh." On are secret itineraries tour we saw: Casanova's prison where he asked "I want my bed, I want food..." torture section, armours, offices...GREAT TOUR! Went over the bridge of sighs, luckily, had lunch, went home, had dinner, (want to guess) G.N.!

San Marco Basilica

March 17


"Venice canals and a fallen-out tooth"

Today we went again to Venizia. When we got to the bus terminal we got on a Vapporetto to go to S.Marks Square which was beautiful and had a basilica built for a saint. The Vapporetto was brilliant - we got front seats "outside" overlooking the water. Man, did he (St. Mark) have an interesting life! Count how many people have been dragged around the streets till they die?! We went inside the basilica where the shiny golden mosaics made it beautiful and where S.Marks stone coffin lay. We went out (theres the Muslim guys who ring the bell every hour, and they're fake. Under the world's first digital clock!) Went up the Campanile on the elevator and went "wheee!," Peggy Guggenheim! Mysterious, some un-named art! Oooo-aaah. My favourite was the boy who looked like his penis was electrified! ha-ha! We took the Vapporetto back, went home, had dinner, had a blood-mass coloured chocolate spitted out of my mouth as my tooth came out, G.N.!

Does this explain the "electrified" comment? Sculpture at the Peggy Guggenheim

March 19


Today we went on a 40 minute drive to Padua. We went on the SR11 to it. The SR11 took us through Mira, a town we might of stayed in it hadne't been for Simonetta and Bruno. When we got to Padua we got lost (again) looking for the place that we wanted. A church. Actully not just a regular church! A church that somebody built to save his father's soul. Beatifull! Also, images of Mary's father! And the mothers in the slaughter of the innocents were really crying! Vices and virtues (bad=vices and good=virtues) were displayed opesite each other! e.g. angryness was on one side...happyness/kindess was on the other wall! Then me and Mummy did some "is-the-baby-looking-alright" comparing of Jesus in different pictures and went to the multi-media room. Had lunch, went home, had dinner, G.N.!

March 20



Today we went to Murano. We took a 45 minute boat ride to Murano - actully the boat ride was 80 minutes. With a lighthouse greeting us at our stop, we went to the Murano glass museum where we saw stuff from 1st century BC to 18th century AD. Amazing sparkiling glass! Wow! Sighs! Went home, had dinner, G.N.!

Posted by jennrob 09:12 Archived in Italy Comments (4)

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