Athens

18 -21 May

Leaving Prague was a little hairy scary in the middle of the night, by tram, train and plane we made it to Athens. I couldn’t wait to get stuck into the Ancient sites, and Ben couldn’t wait to get stuck into some Mythos (local brew) and Souvlaki/Gyros.

One of the first things we noticed was how all the buildings were white in colour, but going to the rooftop of our accommodation, we had a perfect view of the Acropolis, lit up in the night. You could also see other Ancient Sites lit up the lower surrounds that we were also going to discover. In easy walking distance we could see remains of Libraries, Agora’s and Temples, with the remains of columns, mosaic tile decorations. We could see where the city was once centred, even where the public toilets were, right next to the Tower of Winds.

We visited the Panathenaic Stadium built in 4 BC, this was truly an amazing site. Built to house the Panathenaic Games it went on to host the modern Olympic Games in 1896 and held some events during the 2004 Games. It also is the finishing point to the Athens Marathon where the Greek soldier Pheidippides first ran the distance that now measure a marathon, and is where Athletes such as Michael Booth in 2010 have completed this event. The white marble really makes it stunning. Even the seating is a delight to see, the ornate thrones and seating where dignitaries sat for the perfect view, where my mother would sit waiting for Dad to finish. It always comes down to the little things. I loved how thought was put into the construction for something so old, such as when people are walking at the base, the first tier’s views are not obstructed as it sits lower than the field. The draining tiles that appear around this circular walkway are the original and have not gone through any change or alteration since it was first built and still drains the Stadium perfectly. The self-guided tour to the athletes tunnel is awe inspiring, and can get a glimpse of how the athletes must have felt entering the arena.

We saw the changing of the Guard right on the site of the riots that occurred recently. Quite different to others I’ve seen, although I would have to comment the outfits didn’t seem Greek to me.

Other sites included Dionysos Theatre, Parthenon, Temple of Zeus. The best part was having a few drinks and/or having a dip in the Jacuzzi while admiring the grand Acropolis! Priceless.

Having been enthralled in seeing the sites of those I’d studied it occurred to me that every site were very particular to ensure you had the right ticket, stood in the right areas, although feral cats and dogs roamed as they pleased, and uh em did what they pleased on these ancient sacred sites. It saddened me it was not taken better care of, especially at the Acropolis where they must be spending a lot of money (that Greece cannot afford) on reconstruction.

Loved Athens – have to go back.

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Prague

15-18 May

Caught the train to Prague and met Kristina, who ran our accommodation. Straight away she was so friendly and helpful and welcomed us in if it was her home. Drinks, snacks, a great map with tips, we knew we had picked the right place. She even threw in breakfast for free as she thought she had given us a small room. She was very charismatic and easy to talk to.

Prague was another beautiful city with a river running through it with stunning gothic architecture, but had its own uniqueness to the other cities we had explored.

Points of interest was the astronomical clock built in 1410, not the oldest clock but the oldest still working. Beautiful. Prague Castle, the Jewish Quarter, the gorgeous Charles Bridge, Saint Nicholas Cathedral and Wenceslaus Square. I didn’t know that King Wenceslaus was from here, famed by the Christmas Carol. Also the dancing house I’ve seen on those emails we walked past.

We explored the first settlement in Prague, Vysehrad, really great views over the city and gorgeous buildings. It had a small cemetery where they had many Czech famous people layed to rest. Without sounding morbid it was really grand and tastefully done, a very unique cemetery.

After asking Kristina where the laundromat was, she offered to do our laundry for free! She insisted, she was so helpful it was like staying at your long lost Aunt’s for the weekend. We couldn’t have asked any more from Kristina, so informative with safety, tourist sites and places to eat, making sure we had everything we needed for breakfast and had our favourite coffee or tea sorted. I had imagined before leaving that we were going to spend a few of our evenings at a Laundromat eating Chinese takeaway and playing Uno. Thus far we have survived on only a few hand washes of smalls, and the luxury of a washing machine included in the room. Kristina topped it off by giving us our breakfast the night before our early departure with a Czech hat!! Winner

Bermersheim

12-15 May

Travelled to Mainz by train to be greeted by Ben’s cousin Yuliana and her husband Jens. Saw some more beautiful scenery on the way. Yuliana is much like the other women in her family, pretty with a big smile and laughs a lot.

They live in a village in Bermersheim right next to huge vineyards. They didn’t waste any time and took us straight to an Asian all-you-can-eat with their friends. Yuliana has met other Indonesians in Germany so the table were talking in a mix of Indonesian, German and English!

After eating and drinking too much we went next door for some Ten Pin Bowling! I’d forgotten all about the clown shoes they make you wear. It has been a long time since playing this, not counting the Wii variety that my expert nephew beats me at. Some of them seemed to take it seriously so I whispered to Ben that I hope I wasn’t going to embarrass myself. I started badly, missing everything. Well I’m happy to report I came back, the under dog, to end with a strike and win!

We were shown around the town of Worms and had a drink at the riverfront on the Rhine, complete with faux beach. It was great for Ben to catch up with his cousin who he hadn’t seen since he was a child and it was nice for me to get to know them both.

Along with Yuliana and friend Lisdiana, we went shopping in the finance capital Frankfurt. We scored some free drinks at a place called Tea-One and had a Bubble Tea, which is a tea they put marble sized, water ballon like, flavoured bubbles that sit at the bottom. Naturally Ben nearly choked on one!

Shopping was great in Frankfurt and picked up a few things to send back home. Hopefully next time we’ll see Yuliana and Jens in Tassie!

Berlin

9-12 May

We stayed in a trendy residential area, Zionshirchstrabe in an apartment with white goods. So happy to see a washing machine! Every corner had a cafe, lovely restaurants and there were lots of lovely shops. We even had a little tiny balcony to people watch. I felt very at ease here. We later found out that cafes really meant just drinking and smoking, no food. They even had cigarette machines. I knew that Europeans smoke a lot but it was a lot more literally in my face than I thought it would be. A lot more of the population seem to smoke than they do in Australia, and they smoke everywhere, and they don’t mind if it blows your way! Yuck!

Germany, particularly in and around Berlin has a very dark history. A lot of it is physically evident in that of the Berlin Wall and Concentration Camps, but what I found talking to the locals during my time in Germany, is that the East/West conflict, or unease, can still be felt. I talked to a middle aged woman and she talked about how in her teens she was not allowed to cross over to the West for a very long time, and even today she can feel uncomfortable in doing so. I cannot imagine this in my own country.

We set out to see the Berlin Wall. There are quite a few areas that still have the remaining Wall, but where ever it has been removed, it is marked with bricks or something else to make it stand out. We mostly looked at the longest stretch of the Wall that remains in Friedrichshain. Most of it is covered in graffiti however I believe the best side that stands closest to traffic has been dedicated to certain artists, and was quite fascinating to see.

We then walked over to the ‘Death Strip’ and Checkpoint Charlie. The Museum nearby detailed what went on and the dramatic escapes and attempts that were made. It was fascinating yet heart wrenching how desperate people were to escape using such elaborate and crazy methods, including a hot air balloon, digging tunnels and making tiny capsules in cars.

Other sites we saw were the TV Tower, World Time Clock, Reichstaggebaude (Parliament) and Berliner Dom. The Brandenburg Gates were a spectacular site adorned with the winged Goddess with a chariot. The Holocaust Memorial was an interesting set of concrete pillars, about 2000, all of differing heights.

Sachuanhausen Concentration Camp was a horrific reminder of the brutality that was served out to people in such camps. The camp was originally set up to house political prisoners, it wasn’t until later that they started to kill the prisoners. As the number of people died grew too large, the more horrible their end of life and aftermath became. I would have to say the entire site would have to be considered a mass grave after going there. Horrendous. A bit confronting but important to know about the past, for futures sake.

Interesting to note, not once in all my time in Berlin did I see an image of Adolf Hitler, I don’t think I even saw his name. I know the use of the swastika is banned by Law in Germany but I would argue this might be the case also for him! (not sure if anyone else knows?) I just thought it was interesting to note!

Even though Berlin has a lot of history, and most of it not positive, I was pleased that Berlin still has a lot more to offer. Such beautiful buildings, parks, water features, and the area we stayed in was a ‘young’ area with great shops to look at. I definitely got the reminder that I have a lot to be grateful for.

Liverpool

7-9 May

It has always been a dream for Ben to watch a Liverpool game at Anfield. The first part of our trip was working around the fact we had bought tickets to see Liverpool play Chelsea on the 5th, however due to the FA Cup final scheduled for that day (also Liverpool vs Chelsea which resulted in a 2-1 loss) the game was moved to the 8th, changing all our plans.

We started our day with a private Beatles Tour in one of those British Taxi’s. Having been exposed to the Beatles music growing up by my father, it was a great to see where some of the lyrics originated from, including of course Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields, but also where they drew inspiration from including grave sites of the Church where John and Paul met. We also saw their childhood homes, where they had their famous hair cuts and clubs they played at including the Cavern Club.

On our own on foot we explored Albert Dock, and the inner City including the Town Halls.

I was raised on a healthy dose of AFL so since knowing Ben I have slowly been learning the rules of soccer. The hardest thing for me is not only the complicated rules but also how low scoring it is. At first I wasn’t thrilled about going but was happy to go along for Ben.

We did a Tour of Anfield and this is where I started to get excited about the game. We even walked through the players tunnel where they touch the famous ‘This is Anfield’ sign.

Our tickets were part of a hospitality package so we had a three course meal and drinks before the game at the Conservatory right next to the Stadium. We also went back after the game for snacks and drinks.

Now for the big Game! We were finally here. After losing to Chelsea a few days prior we were just hoping for a competitive game and to score at least once to experience a celebration. We got more than we bargained for. Half time saw Liverpool up 3-1!! Celebrations were so much fun. Even though you had a stadium only housing half as many as the MCG, the noise was incredible and the chants were loud and amusing.

Ben didn’t get to see his favourite current Liverpool player Steven Gerrard, but I think given the score, 4-1 result and the players doing a lap with their gorgeous kids in Liverpool shirts (one child had ‘Papa’ for the name on the back) he was an extremely happy chappy. Sealed off with singing You’ll never walk alone.

Edinburgh

5-7 May

I didn’t have much time to think about what to expect from Edinburgh, probably men in kilts with red hair and a gruff voice. All I knew was that we were going to see the Castle. What I didn’t expect to see as I was getting out of the taxi in the centre of the city, was the 360 degree views of magnificent architecture and natural rugged scenery. Of course most the buildings needed a good karcher but it all added to the charm and history of the area.

We stayed on the University Campus which had a building which housed travellers. It was great and the breakfast was fantastic. We arrived at night and was guided to a great up-market Pub, Salisbury Arms hidden away across the road from the Campus. It was freezing so it was nice to have something close by.

The next day we walked up the Royal Mile towards the Castle. On our way I honestly saw a man wearing a kilt, not for laughs or money or a bucks night, he was just proudly walking by.

There were some lovely shops on the way up, mostly pubs, cafes and shops selling scarves, even a couple of shops making and selling bagpipes.

I’m not sure if it was on purpose, but the Castle was more impressive from the inside than looking in from the outside. Some highlights include the Dog Cemetery, St Mary’s Chapel, War Memorial, prison cells, and the Crown Jewels. It set upon the highest stone (which the kept the upper most bare) so we enjoyed spectacular views of Edinburgh and beyond.

During our tour of the top of the Castle enjoying the sun as it was so cold, we then realised it was snowing!! Twice it snowed that day.

We had planned to go to Holyrood Palace, but bleeping Prince Charles (or Duke of Rothesay as he is known here) was due to arrive for a visit and was closed. This is where all the dignitaries stay on official visits.

We then set out for Arthur’s Seat next to it. This was kind of like having the Gorge right next to the city but on a grander scale. We walked up to the top in a circular motion. It could get quite steep and was a bit of a hike. I could see runners exercising around and under the hills and could think of someone else that might enjoy doing that too.

I eventually got to the top and the views were worth it! Walking back home it snowed again!

Ben was wanting to go on a Ghost Tour, so I was marched around the city in the middle of the night, in the freezing cold, hearing stories in dungeons beneath the city and the Blair Street vaults. I’ll have to think of something to make him suffer later… Although the tour guide did do a demonstration on hangings on Ben!

Loved Edinburgh, a great surprise.

Dublin

4 May

I really enjoyed the history of Dublin. Along the way I have been finding I want to know more and do my own research. We used those red hop-on/off buses to do a circuit to see what we wanted to do. It was a great way to capture the city and grasp your bearings. We saw a lot of things we weren’t likely to make a special effort to see or may not have had the time. We ended up seeing a lot of Trinity College, St Stephens Green, Guinness Brewery, Kilmainham Gaol (and the links to Tas). We found some great pubs in the Temple Bar area, including O’Neil’s. We enjoyed more huge winter warmer meals of stews and casseroles.

The first thing to catch my eye was this great big silver toothpick. It must have been one of the tallest monuments in the city. It is called the Monument of Light. It was handy for us as it helped find our way back to our accommodation, but we found out along the way that the locals thought it was as useless as it looked. It also had been given names like the Stiletto in the Ghetto, the Pin in the Bin, the Rod to God and some other naughty ones you can probably think of yourself. It is only about ten years old and replaced the Nelson’s Pillar that was blown up in 1966. Another nod to Horatio Nelson.

The Gaol was very intriguing and insightful, telling gruesome stories of life in the prisons, the famous hangings and the shipment of prisoners to Hobart (ship Success?). Guinness Brewery was also very interesting, even though I don’t drink beer etc it was good to see. The ticket included a pint of Guinness and you could even pour your own or enjoy in the roof top bar (the views were 360 and stunning!) so Ben was pleased to do both and was pretty happy by the time we left.

Although it was freezing the whole time, the history (or stories) and the sites really intrigued me and there was so much to take in.

P.S I apologise for photos appearing much later than the post. Most of the posts are done on the run on my phone when I can get wifi, and the photos are uploaded whenever I can have the laptop and a good connection.

You are encouraged to comment on any posts, also it’s nice to know who’s reading. Alternatively you can email me on my hotmail. Cheers!

Ring of Kerry/Dingle Peninsula

2 May

We set off in our little car. We hadn’t had much with the weather thus far but if we were to pick one day for it to be clear it would be today. We lucky that for most of the day it was. We had yet another full (Irish) Breakfast which usually lasts us all day and made our way to the pictueresque South West Coastline. We had stunning views over the water and cliffs, farms, animals etc The hills were so apex like the animals (sheep and cows) would sit at the top also enjoying the views. Some of those hillsides were steep!

We also went along the much smaller Ballyskellig Ring and talked to some locals fishing on the beach. I was enjoyed the beautiful scenery when we found a tiny Chocolate Factory! Always keen to help the struggling economy we went in to try some samples, hot chocolate and lunch while overlooking the beautiful scenery. Excellent!

We completed the circle anti-clockwise and made it back to Killarney then drove through to Inch Beach but by this stage the weather was cracking up. We then made our way to Anascaul, and checked into a B&B owned by a lovely young couple, who seemed to like to travel too.

The next day we continued our breakfast for Kings and set out for Dingle Peninsula to tackle clock-wise. Here the scenery was more rugged and the cliff faces more raw and the roads were much windier. We also saw a prehistoric bee hive hut made of rocks which was amazing as it was not made with mortar. After completing the circuit we headed to cross back over to Dublin, via Limerick.

We handed back the car and checked into our room in Dublin. I love the freedom of having a car. Ben and I thought we should do something different for Breakfast, as the portion sizes were getting a bit ridiculous so we stocked up on cereal and toast instead for our stay in Dublin. At first I was a little disappointed to be back in a city, as we had been so spoilt with natural scenic surrounding. But my morning Dublin started to grow on me.

 

 

Wexford to Killarney

Ben kissing the stone.

So much for an early start. We talked about leaving in the morning for our road trip across Ireland, East to South West. Realistically we didn’t leave until well after lunch, very slow moving. We checked out Lisa’s School, Curracloe Beach (where the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan was filmed) which wasn’t exactly beach weather, sorted out our supplies and set off towards Cork. Just outside of Cork we visited Blarney Castle which has this funny thing where you practically go upside down to kiss the stone, which is said to give the person great eloquence. I can tell you I didn’t feel very eloquent!

We found a lovely BnB in Killarney, a great little town. The owner was fantastic and very helpful. We decided the next day we would tackle the Ring of Kerry, then Dingle Peninsula.

Wexford

Caught the train to Fishguard then the Ferry to Rosslare, Ireland at 2am Monday 30th. I’m so glad I was tired as it was a rough ride. I didn’t dare open my eyes even though you probably couldn’t see much. Had to wait for the car rental place to open. Still a comedy of errors as three different points we couldn’t get cash out! Luckily we had great directions to get to Wexford, and the Pub where the Moore’s were meeting us.

Seeing so many familiar faces was great and immediately we received a hot drink, choccie and a warm bed to recover. Bliss! It was great to stay with Lisa’s Uncle Pat, such a warm kind hearted man.

Wexford is a gorgeous little town, even though it was raining it didn’t make it less beautiful.

After a few hours recovering, a Pub meal, and a quick look around we were invited into the Pub where you’ll find Robbie. 🙂 it was kind of like your corner store which converted into a bar in the evening. It seemed very convenient if you needed a pint of milk at night but be sure not to send the Husband as I’d doubt he would return home at a decent time. Handy too when you’ve had a few pints of cider (and whatever else young Gary was giving us) and start to get the munchies. It was very homely and laid back. Ben and I had a great night, the rest is a bit of a blur. It was great to catch up with people we hadn’t seen for a few years and met some great locals. Thanks everyone near and far xx