A Travellerspoint blog

Thursday 23rd July

Into Eastern Europe

sunny 32 °C
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The Alps end just before Vienna, so as we left Vienna and headed east, the land in this area (known as the Vienna Basin) was quite flat, similar to the Netherlands. Windpower generators dotted the land; hundreds of them. Soon we reached the Hungarian border. Hungary is now party to the Schengen Agreement (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schengen_Agreement), which means that border controls, and the long waits associated with them, are no longer necessary. However, we could still see the old abandoned checkpoints from times past. We noticed an immediate drop in standards as we entered Hungary, and these would continue to deteriorate as we pushed further into Eastern Europe. Hungary is relatively westernized; not so Romania and Bulgaria, where we would be going soon.
We stopped at Gyor for lunch, and then continued to Budapest, a delightful city still showing the ravages of the Communist era (1947 - 1989), and the excesses of the former period.
After settling into the hotel, we went on a tour of the city. Egged on by our colourful local guide Andrea, we drove into an area reserved for the Grand Prix which was to be held the following day. After being chatted by local police, and some very skilful manoevering by Atilla the driver, we were finally able to escape the area after a couple of hours. It's nice to let someone else to do the worrying for you.
That evening, we were taken for a cruise on the Danube River, with a delicious multi-course meal with a wide variety of local fare. Whatever your taste or dietary requirements, it seemed to be there.

Posted by bryceb 21:39 Archived in Hungary Comments (0)

Wednesday 22nd July

Magical Vienna

sunny 29 °C
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Today we learnt quite a bit about the Hapsburg Family, and the influence they had over the centuries.
We took a visit to Schonbrunn (the Summer Palace of the Hapsburgs - http://europeforvisitors.com/switzaustria/articles/schoenbrunn_palace.htm) and thought that was big, until we saw the winter palace. Howard, the tour director, has an amazing knowledge of European history, and the dates and events come pouring out. I couldn't believe he wasn't reading it out, until I looked up the front of the bus one day and saw that he was reading it out. But he said they were only cheat notes, and most of the knowledge was in fact, in his head. Anyway, we were able to get in before the crowds, and we also had priority entrance, which meant that we were able to bypass the queue and go straight in. The extravagence of the people who lived in these palaces is unbelievable, and no expense was spared to decorate the rooms in the richest and most ornate ways possible.
After that we were given a tour of the city, followed by free time until 3pm. We were then taken back to the motel, and later that evening, went to a concert where a small orchestra played the works of Mozart and Strauss in a very entertaining fashion.

Posted by bryceb 22:49 Archived in Austria Comments (0)

Tuesday 21st July

Over the Alps again

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This morning we left Venice, following the coast of the Adriatic Sea for a while, before climbing up into the Alps again, and back into Austria. We stopped at Graz for lunch, before arriving in Vienna.
That evening we drove out to a restaurant in a country town. When we arrived, the restaurant staff rolled out a red carpet, and we marched in, serenaded by a local band. The restaurant was like a museum, with exhibits everywhere, including hanging from the ceiling. The menu was a 5-course affair of local delicacies, and they did everything possible to make our stay enjoyable.

Posted by bryceb 10:11 Archived in Austria Comments (0)

Monday 20th July

A day in Venice

sunny 29 °C
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A very busy, tiring but enjoyable day today, spent all around Venice, exploring the Square, Basilica, palace, as well as various water taxis and cruises taking us to a variety of places, including the lagoon, islands, and glass factory. The day was finished off with a multi-course meal on a small island.

Posted by bryceb 21:55 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Sunday 19th July

Back in the lowlands

sunny 28 °C
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We drove over the rather impressive Brenner Pass, and then descended to Italy, stopping at Verona where we wandered the centre, exploring the Arena (like a mini-Colosseum), and eventually reaching Venice Before tea we hired 4 gondolas and did a cruise of Venice's canals accompanied by a piano-accordian and a singer. Very atmospheric, touristy and a lot of fun.

Posted by bryceb 21:44 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

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