Munich to Mlini http://gregspurgin.com/croatia Judy and Greg in Croatia and around Thu, 15 Sep 2016 13:16:32 +0000 en-AU hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.3 Prague http://gregspurgin.com/croatia/index.php/2016/09/15/prague/ http://gregspurgin.com/croatia/index.php/2016/09/15/prague/#comments Thu, 15 Sep 2016 08:38:36 +0000 http://gregspurgin.com/croatia/?p=329 Continue reading Prague ]]> So, the tent is now drying in stages on the airer in the spare room, we’re slowly emptying the car of everything we’ve accumulated over the past 5+ weeks and I’m watching far too many bread baking videos on Youtube, which is probably the surest sign that I’m ready to go home.

We visited Cesky Krumlow on Monday. Described by our Lonely Planet Guide as Czech’s only other world class sight and ‘must-see’ outside Prague, 180kms south and close to the Austrian border. I’m not sure about that, I’m really enjoying travelling here, but Cesky Krumlow was well worth visiting. Beautiful old town with a huge Renaissance Castle overlooking it. As we looked over the old town from the castle, it felt as though the view had probably not changed in centuries, there were no modern buildings and only a few advertising signs on old buildings to suggest that we were actually in the 21st Century. Located on the Vltava River, which also runs through Prague and flows out into the North Sea. We camped beside the river on Monday night at Camp Paradijs, our last night of camping on this trip. The river’s gentle sounds just a few metres from our campsite were a nice ending to the 14 nights we’ve spent in our much-loved tent on this trip.

On our way into Prague, we stopped at the Sedlac Ossuary to look at the ‘Bone Church’. I’m not even sure how to describe it – strange, weird, creative, ghoulish. The small church in Sedlac monastery has been decorated almost exclusively with bones – 4 huge piles of them, plus garlands, crosses and other shapes, all made out of human bones. Interesting but weird.

We’re spending 4 nights in an Airbnb apartment right on the edge of the old town, above Prague Castle. Parking is only a minor problem here – we can’t park right outside the apartment because it’s for residents only, or we have to SMS something to somewhere, or some other thing that is a bit out of our range of expertise; however it’s possible to park about 5 – 10 minutes walk from here, on the other side of the freeway. Just a short walk over a pedestrian bridge and on a few quiet streets. Greg has done this walk numerous times, I’ve done it once!

Yesterday we walked down to, and across, the Charles Bridge. I’m sure there were more tourists there and around the Old Square than we’ve seen anywhere this trip! Even Dubrovnik wasn’t as crowded. Gorgeous place, though – the bridges, the buildings, the squares. We just happened to be at the Astronomical Clock as it was about to strike on the hour – well, the huge crowd of people gathered expectantly nearby gave us a clue that something was about to happen, so we waited to see.  And we’ve extended our Trdelnik Chimney Cake experience by adding an Apple strudel ice cream cone one and a pizza one to the range we’ve eaten!

We caught up with our Czech friend Peter last night. We met him when he was cycling in Tassie a couple of years ago, then he came and stayed in ADL with us for a few days and we’ve kept in touch ever since. He encouraged us to come to Prague on this trip and I’m really glad that we did. So anyway after tossing around a few ideas of when and where to meet, we decided to have dinner here at the apartment, which was an excellent plan until I realised about 45 minutes after putting the chicken and potatoes in the oven that the oven wasn’t working due to operator error! There is a beautiful terracotta Schlemmer Topf roasting dish here and I was keen to use it, but messed up the oven settings, so dinner was a bit later than we had intended. It tasted good, though and I’m going to keep an eye out for a terracotta dish at the op shops I haunt in my never-ending search for Women’s Weekly cookbooks. Then we had Medovnik Honey Cake for dessert. I’m definitely going to have a go at making one of those when we get home – layers of honey cake with buttercream icing in between, and caramel & walnuts on top. It was good, but very filling.

Peter has given us great tips on where to go and what to see, and we’re getting together again tonight to eat Czech food in a restaurant. Good times!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Cesky Krumlow Castle
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Cesky Krumlow
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Cesky Krumlow
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Cesky Krumlow
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Chimmey Cake (Trdelnik) at Cesky Krumlow
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
at Cesky Krumlow there were lots of Chinese tourists. They are obsessed with taking selfies. Here are 3 in a row getting ready to take selfies.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Cesky Krumlow
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Camped by the river at Camp Paradijs
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Leaving the rock behind. The white rock had travelled with us from Italy to knock in tent pegs, we left it next to a campfire with other rocks to live out its life so far from home.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Sedlac Ossuary sign near the entrance all in bone
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Sedlac Ossuary decorations of skulls
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Sedlac Ossuary ceiling decorations
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Sedlac Ossuary
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Sedlac Ossuary bone and skull pyramids (there are several)
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Sedlac Ossuary
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Sedlac Ossuary
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Apartment in Prague
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Entrance to the Charles Bridge
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Ice protection for the Charles Bridge
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Apple Strudel and Ice-cream Chimney Cake (Trdelnik)
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Trdelnik cooking
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Astronomical clock Old town square
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Old town square
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
John Lennon wall. More about graffiti on who was there than John Lennon

 

]]>
http://gregspurgin.com/croatia/index.php/2016/09/15/prague/feed/ 3
Back in Czech http://gregspurgin.com/croatia/index.php/2016/09/12/back-in-czech/ http://gregspurgin.com/croatia/index.php/2016/09/12/back-in-czech/#respond Mon, 12 Sep 2016 07:38:39 +0000 http://gregspurgin.com/croatia/?p=312 Continue reading Back in Czech ]]> Quiet day on Saturday. When we were at the Gasometer Buildings, Greg bought a piece of apfelkuchen apple cake from a supermarket and has been searching for it since. He tried a couple of places on Saturday morning without success. In the afternoon we walked to, and around, Schonnbrunn Palace. It’s across the road from the apartment we stayed at … sort of. There’s actually a street, tramline, river, metro line and a couple of fences between the apartment and the palace grounds, but we could see it from the apartment, and the huge grounds were a lovely buffer in a city of over 1.5million people. The Viennese equivalent of Central Park.

We walked to the gate closest to the apartment, which had a Lindt chocolate shop conveniently located at the entrance. Bought a couple of blocks from the huge selection – whole product lines that we had never seen before. Then walked through the park to the palace. All 1400+ rooms of it. Part of it is open as a childrens’ museum, a gallery and it is possible to do tours of palace and concerts are held there. Outside, it’s a fantastic public space, free to wander around the huge grounds, which also has a zoo, a swimming pool, a maze and other things that you can pay to see. The cafe in the palace does a Strudel making class which I was going to do until I realised it would all be in German.

We walked up the hill to the Gloriette which offers a superb view over the city, and we think we found the street we stayed in, just past the trees in the palace grounds. Then we walked back to the apartment via the main entrance, with its enormous open space in front of the palace. Hot day, we didn’t take enough water and were very thirsty by the time we got ‘home’.

Yesterday, Sunday, we drove out of Vienna to Czech. We didn’t buy a vignette in Austria so had to use secondary roads, which was fine, through little villages and along a tiny sealed road on the side of the motorway. Probably just for the local farmers, and we did meet a tractor coming in the opposite direction, but a few local cars and a motorbike also used it. Nothing is open in Austria on a Sunday, but as soon as we crossed over into Czech … BAM! Outlet shopping centre just across the border, casinos, 24-hour nightclubs. If anyone can explain how they work, we’d love to know – I thought the point of a nightclub was that it was, well, night-time.  Our new favourite supermarket, Albert, was open in Znojmo so we went and bought a couple of things we’d run out of and some bread rolls for lunch. Gosh, the Czechs are good bakers!

Our second-last night of camping last night, and tonight is our last. Then we’re staying in an apartment in Prague for 4 nights and heading back to Munich on Saturday, flying home on Sunday. We’ve been on the road for 5 weeks, but it seems like a much longer period of time, because we’ve been to so many places and seen and done so much.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The Kings waiting room at the railway station near the Palace (never used)
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
A small selection of the chocolates at the Lindt shop
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Schonnbrunn Palace Gardens
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Schonnbrunn Palace Gardens
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Schonnbrunn Palace Gardens Rose Arbor
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Schonnbrunn Palace Gardens Rose Arbor
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Schonnbrunn Palace Gardens a small separate garden
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Schonnbrunn Palace and Gardens
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Looking over Vienna
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Glorietta
img_20160907_093542-medium
Self Serve Bakery at Albert row 1
img_20160907_093545-medium
Self Serve Bakery at Albert row 2
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Camped back in Czech at “Camping Country” an almost empty camping park
]]>
http://gregspurgin.com/croatia/index.php/2016/09/12/back-in-czech/feed/ 0
Out & about in Vienna http://gregspurgin.com/croatia/index.php/2016/09/09/out-about-in-vienna/ http://gregspurgin.com/croatia/index.php/2016/09/09/out-about-in-vienna/#comments Fri, 09 Sep 2016 16:59:38 +0000 http://gregspurgin.com/croatia/?p=276 Continue reading Out & about in Vienna ]]> We had a few vague ideas about what we’d like to see and do in Vienna, but no firm plans, so when our lovely Dutch friend Mickey asked if we were planning on visiting Zentralfriedhof, the Central Cemetery, we thought that was a great suggestion! We like cemeteries – we visited the Pere Lachaise cemetery when we were in Paris a few years ago and paid our respects to Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf, Gertrude Stein & Alice B Toklas and Jim Morrison and others I’ve forgotten now, and Arlington in Washington DC, then when we were in St Petersburg we visited the incredible Piskaryovskoye Memorial Cemetery. 

Some of Mickey’s family members have a grave at Zentralfriedhof, and quite a few famous composers are also buried there, conveniently all located in the same section quite close to one of the main entrances. The cemetery is on the outskirts of the city and it’s huge! It occupies over 600 acres of land and its dead population is nearly double Vienna’s current living population. We drove there as it’s a bit of a long haul on public transport; parked outside and we must really have acquired the mindset that we have to pay for parking everywhere, because we were very careful to check with the local Wurst stand seller that we could park there for free.

The composers’ graves are all in a very well-tended section, with nicely mown lawns, flowers and a plan to show who is where. We visited Beethoven, Brahms, Schubert, the senior and junior Strausses, and a cenotaph honouring Mozart, who is buried in another cemetery. We followed Mickey’s excellent directions and found her family’s grave. We took a yellow flowering succulent in a pot and placed it on the headstone, took a few photos and walked back to the entrance along a different path so we could see a bit more of the cemetery. It’s feeling like early autumn here, although the weather is still warm, lots of leaves starting to change colour and starting to fall.

Then we drove to see the Danube River just outside the city limits and to visit another, smaller cemetery, Friedhof der Namenlosen, Cemetery of the Nameless, for people who drowned in the river. And then to the Gasometers, 4 huge cylindrical gas storage tanks which have now been ‘repurposed’ into shops, residential & commercial use and entertainment venues. The buildings themselves are interesting enough, but to then see what they have become is really something!

Today we caught the metro into the city centre, walked along the mall, visited St Stephen’s Cathedral, ate strudel & cake at Gerstner Cafe (established 1847) and strolled around the fascinating Naschmarkt. Bought a couple of things – corn on the cob for dinner, an interesting-looking Turkish cheese, zopfkase, which looks like a bundle of string tied into a ball. I’ve just tried it and it’s very salty – I’ll soak it in water for a while.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Mickeys family grave
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Guess who…?
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Strauss and Brahms
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
a small part of Zentralfriedhof
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Friedhof der Namenlosen
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
a barge working its way up the Danube
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
One of the Gasometers
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The two middle Gasometers
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Central Vienna
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
St Stephens cathedral
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
inside St Stephens cathedral
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Naschmarkt
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Naschmarkt rope cheese
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Naschmarkt
Paid bike storage at the local U-bahn station - like you would never get in Adelaide
Paid bike storage at the local U-bahn station – like you would never get in Adelaide
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
View of the street outside the Apartment. Its free parking on weekends, so we got a park at 6pm Friday night but by 8pm there were no parks left. A few spaces Saturday morning
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Panorama outside the apartment window. Another sunny day in Vienna

 

 

]]>
http://gregspurgin.com/croatia/index.php/2016/09/09/out-about-in-vienna/feed/ 5
Vienna, Austria http://gregspurgin.com/croatia/index.php/2016/09/07/vienna-austria/ http://gregspurgin.com/croatia/index.php/2016/09/07/vienna-austria/#comments Wed, 07 Sep 2016 18:00:15 +0000 http://gregspurgin.com/croatia/?p=257 Continue reading Vienna, Austria ]]> Our last post was 3 days, dinner at a Michelin-starred bistro, a visit to a salt mine and 2 countries ago.

Dinner at Zazie Bistro was wonderful! We got a table in the cellar part of the restaurant rather than in the smaller street-level section. Great menu, which you can see here. When my parents see the menu, they will know immediately what I had for an entree, but I’ll tell the rest of you anyway – the veal sweetbreads. And they were superb. Then I had French potatoes gratin with chicken etc, and Greg had the veal chop(s) on the bone etc. With 2 big beers, the total came to less than $35, and we were so impressed with the meal and so surprised that it was so cheap that we left a 20% tip!

Next day, Tuesday, we left the apartment in Krakow and drove to the Wieliczka Salt Mine. We put on our walking boots and some warm clothes and spent a couple of hours doing the excellent English-language guided tour. We didn’t take any photos while we were in the mine, partly because it cost a few dollars extra and we hadn’t realised when we bought our tickets, but mostly because there are already loads of photos of the interesting things at the mine on the interwebz, and one of my commonly uttered phrases from this trip has been  … ‘for f@#ks sake, how many selfies and photos do these people need?’ So many people take photos of themselves at very uninteresting places, as well as at interesting ones, but do they ever look at any of them again?

So then we pooled our remaining Polish zloty and went to the supermarket where we thought we were loading up on everything we thought we needed, but only managed to spend half of the $40-odd we had left in local currency. So I went back and bought some wine and cider, but we STILL have zloty left! We’ll keep it for when we go back to Poland some day, or if someone we know goes there.

We camped at a municipal campground in the north of Czech Republic last night (Tuesday). We had to find an ATM to get some Czech koruna, but the campground reception was closed when we arrived there at 6.30pm, so we just pitched the tent and sorted out payment this morning. Nice camgpground, but it was almost next to a railway line, so it was a bit noisy.

And now we’re in Vienna! We’re staying in this Airbnb apartment until Sunday. It’s just across the street from the grounds of Schönbrunn Palace, close to the metro and the Museum of Technology is nearby as well. The apartment is used for tutoring primary and high school students during term time, but it’s still the summer holidays in Austria until the middle of September, so our host is renting it out until her ‘real’ work begins.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
in the cellar of Zazie Bistro
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Dinner at Zazie Bistro
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The $35 bill at Zazie Bistro
A picture of the wieliczka salt mine we took from the internet because we were too cheap to pay the extra money to be allowed to take pictures in the mine.
A picture of the wieliczka salt mine we took from the internet because we were too cheap to pay the extra money to be allowed to take pictures in the mine.
The Salt mine in cross section
The Salt mine in cross section
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The internet doesn’t have enough cat pictures – so here we are camped at Hranice Czech republic
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
camped at Hranice Czech Republic
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
More cat pictures….
]]>
http://gregspurgin.com/croatia/index.php/2016/09/07/vienna-austria/feed/ 2
Sunday in Krakow, Poland http://gregspurgin.com/croatia/index.php/2016/09/05/sunday-in-krakow-poland/ http://gregspurgin.com/croatia/index.php/2016/09/05/sunday-in-krakow-poland/#comments Mon, 05 Sep 2016 09:42:34 +0000 http://gregspurgin.com/croatia/?p=244 Continue reading Sunday in Krakow, Poland ]]> Yesterday was a day of minor irritations and more great food. From the old guy who rode his bike into the back of my foot, to the grumpy woman who charged me for 2 baguette pizza thingys but only supplied one, but it was a gorgeous sunny day and we have ticked a few more items off our Polish must-eat food list.

We decided to go to Old Town, to look at Rynek Glowny, the largest medieval town square in Europe, and maybe visit St Mary’s Basilica & Wawel Castle. As we crossed the first main road between Kazimierz and Old Town, it felt like something had changed … we were hitting tourist-ville. Lots more signs in English, lots more currency exchanges, and lots more people! Part of Old Town was blocked off because there was a corporate fun run happening, & we couldn’t get to the castle entrance, so we headed to the main square. A new Polish friend who lives in Sydney recommened that I try a papieska kremowka Papal cream cake – a vanilla slice-type pastry that Pope John Paul II liked to eat. He grew up in Wadowice, west of Krakow. We found a lovely cake shop that sold kremowka and bought one for me, and a sort of chocolate-filled iced berliner for Greg. Delicious! 

The main square was full of cafes with large umbrellas for shade, and loads of people. We went to have a look at the Basilica, but there was a mass in progress, so we might go back another day. Then walking up one of the main streets in Old Town, an old guy rammed his pushbike into the back of my foot and let forth with a string of abuse in Polish.  It must be hard for locals to have their space invaded by tourists, but really, riding down a busy street on a Sunday seems like a dumb idea to me. We got out of the touristy part fairly quickly and walked around the Planty, a green belt around the outside of the city walls. Much nicer.

We tried to get a table at Cafe Zazie, the Michelin-starred cafe just a couple of blocks down the street we’re staying on, but they were full so we made a booking for dinner there tonight. Then went to a traditional Polish restaurant a few blocks from here – we found it when we first got here and I’d liked the look of their menu, then our host recommended it. We got a table, then got menus, but after 30 minutes of being ignored by the busy waitstaff, we decided to try somewhere else. Found a little place that sells pierogi dumplings that were delicious – much better than any we’d eaten in Russia.

And then dinner – it just had to be zapiekanka ‘Polish pizza’ – half a baguette topped with melted cheese and other fillings – from one of the dozen or so sellers at Plac Nowy, with a side order of Belgian fries. Greg went to order the fries and I ordered and paid for 2 zapiekanka but only got one . The very grumpy woman serving refused to admit she’d made an error, so we had quite the bi-lingual argument, Greg came and we refused to budge from their ordering area ( so no more orders could be placed), Mrs Grumpy got someone to come and translate for us and then finally agreed to make us another one. Being mindful of what cooks can do to food when they are annoyed with customers, we decided to leave before we got the 2nd ‘pizza’, and in fact one pizza between the 2 of us was plenty. I wonder if Mrs Grumpy thinks nostalgically of the good old days when concepts like ‘customer service’ and ‘consumer rights’ only happened in other places.

IMG_20160904_172240 (Medium)
our car parking on Sunday morning. In most roads you park half on the footpath.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Wawel Castle
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Heading to the main square Old Town Krakow
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Market Square old town Krakow
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Northern defensive wall/gate old town Krakow
]]>
http://gregspurgin.com/croatia/index.php/2016/09/05/sunday-in-krakow-poland/feed/ 8
Krakow, Poland http://gregspurgin.com/croatia/index.php/2016/09/04/krakow-poland/ http://gregspurgin.com/croatia/index.php/2016/09/04/krakow-poland/#respond Sun, 04 Sep 2016 08:53:30 +0000 http://gregspurgin.com/croatia/?p=235 Continue reading Krakow, Poland ]]> In the early 1980s, I studied Polish History at uni for 3 years. I don’t remember much now, that space in my brain has been replaced with html, seo and other online selling stuff, but  as we walk around this beautiful old history-filled city, bits and pieces come back to me. Somehow, pronunciation of Polish words has stayed with me, so while I probably don’t know what it means, I do know how to pronouce it!

We’re staying in an Airbnb apartment in Kazimierz, the Old Jewish Quarter, for 4 nights – here. Gorgeous old building, huge 2nd floor apartment with parquetry floors and high ceilings. There are 2 bars on the ground floor. The bars each have a ‘beer garden’ in the courtyard below our apartment, but they close at 10pm, so it’s not noisy. A couple of streets away it’s much more lively with the bars and eating places staying open until 3am.

The food choices here are amazing – from street food and a couple of empty corner blocks with 6 or 8 food trucks permanently parked there (and a handy Bankomat ATM at each site too!) to traditional Polish restaurants to a Michelin-starred French cafe just a couple of blocks down the street from where we’re staying. Between us so far we’ve eaten Belgian fries, kielbasa (Polish sausage) with sauerkraut & rye bread, French crepes, pulled pork rolls, Krakow pretzel with salami, tomato & cheese and rhubarb & apple crumble. I was initially a bit disappointed that there is no oven in the apartment, although there is a washing machine, and after the mess I made of the pulled pork roll, I think our Airbnb host has the right priorities!

We spent yesterday afternoon at Podgorsz, across the Vistula River from Kazimierz, visiting the Schindler Factory, the Pharmacy Under the Eagle and a short remaining stretch of the Ghetto Wall.

 

 

]]>
http://gregspurgin.com/croatia/index.php/2016/09/04/krakow-poland/feed/ 0
Slovakia http://gregspurgin.com/croatia/index.php/2016/09/02/slovakia/ http://gregspurgin.com/croatia/index.php/2016/09/02/slovakia/#comments Fri, 02 Sep 2016 19:10:30 +0000 http://gregspurgin.com/croatia/?p=219 Continue reading Slovakia ]]> We left the beautiful Budapest on Wednesday morning and drove to Eger, which is about 140kms to the north-east. Historic town, wine district, thermal baths. We camped at a campground just a couple of kms from the old town and wandered around it on Thursday morning. One of the most interesting pieces of history is the 16th century 40-metre high Minaret, which is the northern-most historical building of the Ottoman empire in Europe, and the only remaining evidence of nearly 100 years of Turkish rule in the area. It is possible to climb to the top, but it’s very squeezy and uneven, so we decided against that.

Then a nice drive through the Bukk (Beech) National Park to Slovakia. No checking at the border, we just had to buy another Vignette (10 euros) to be able to drive on Slovakian freeways. We stopped at Spis Castle, one of the largest European castles by area. Very impressive, but the lack of signage to and within the castle was disappointing. We parked and paid at an ‘official’ carpark for the castle, then slogged up the hill to the castle walls but had trouble finding how to actually reach the entrance. We asked a couple of people on their way back down to the car park and eventually found where to get in,  had a look around the main castle buildings, but didn’t walk on the extensive castle walls due to lack of time and needing the energy to get back down the hill!

We camped at a campground near the High Tatras, the tallest range in the Carpathian Mountains. Close to a ski resort town, at this time of the year it’s a popular destination for hikers and mountain bikers. This morning we drove up to the car park at the bottom of the chair lift, which was a hive of activity with walkers, bike riders and groups of people getting ready to start their day’s activities.

We decided not to visit Bratislava, capital of Slovakia. It’s almost on the western border of the country, on the Danube River. It would have been a big detour for us,  just to see another capital city and we’re much more interested in spending time in Krakow in Poland. It was only 150kms north, but took several hours to drive because of heavy traffic, a truck broken down on a narrow stretch of road, lots of villages along the way, heavy traffic, one-way streets and heavy traffic. We’re staying in an Airbnb apartment in Kazimierz, the old Jewish Quarter just south of Old Town. More about Krakow and Poland later.

more pics here

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Town Square with the castle in the background in Eger
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Minaret in Eger

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Spis Castle – a long walk up
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Looking up to Spis Castle
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Spis Castle
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Spis castle
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Camped at the camping ground near the High Tatra mountains Slovakia
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
High Tatras
]]>
http://gregspurgin.com/croatia/index.php/2016/09/02/slovakia/feed/ 2
A bit more about Budapest, Hungary http://gregspurgin.com/croatia/index.php/2016/08/31/a-bit-more-about-budapest-hungary/ http://gregspurgin.com/croatia/index.php/2016/08/31/a-bit-more-about-budapest-hungary/#comments Wed, 31 Aug 2016 08:30:37 +0000 http://gregspurgin.com/croatia/?p=203 Continue reading A bit more about Budapest, Hungary ]]> There is as much interesting stuff to see on the Buda side of the city as there is on Pest. Yesterday we caught the metro across to Deli Pu, the last stop on the red line. The Deli train station is also there, and it’s a short but steep wall up to Castle Hill. Getting on the metro was a bit tricky – most of the smaller stations don’t have ticket sellers any more, just a machine. The first 2 we tried would not accept coins, only card payments, and of the 4 machines at the 3rd station we tried, only 2 accepted coins. We made sure we bought enough tickets to do us for the rest of the day.

Castle Hill is (of course!) on a hill overlooking The Danube and Pest. Impressive city walls, lots of museums, a few churches and HEAPS of touristy stuff and tourists. It was good, but after seeing the old towns in Zadar, Trogir and Dubrovnik, where real people actually live their lives, Castle Hill seemed a bit … um …. 2-dimensional, like a theatre stage with nothing behind it. The really ‘off’ moment for me was finding the Jamie’s Italian restaurant. Um, what’s a chain restaurant that doesn’t even serve regional food doing THERE? (apologies to any Jamie fans among our readers). I know, I know, it’s for the tourists.

The Royal Palace complex is also within the city walls, with more museums, the National Gallery which is currently featuring a Modigliani exhibition, statues and more great views of the river and Pest. We walked down to the river and towards the Liberty Bridge to get the metro back across the river, stopping at a cafe for lunch – the daily special for me (mushroom soup and crumbed chicken livers with rice & peas), crepes with strawberry jam and a milkshake for Greg.

Then 2 line changes on the metro to get to City Park, which is east of the city and our apartment. Originally royal hunting grounds, the park is a huge green space which was the main location for the city’s millennial celebrations in 1896. The Budapest Zoo, Municipal Great Circus, museums, the city’s largest thermal baths, an amusement park, monuments, cafes, restaurants and the list goes on. Just at the entrance to the park is Heroes’ Square with an empty coffin representing the unknown insurgents of the 1956 Uprising, with the Archangel Gabriel on top of a 36-metre high pillar, holding the Hungarian crown and a cross, and the very  impressive Military Monument with 14 statues of rulers and statesmen.

We walked back to the apartment along Andrassy Utica, with its beautiful mansions and townhouses, past theatres and the Terror House which pays tribute to the victims of the Nazi and Soviet regimes. We didn’t go in, I’m still scarred by our visit to the Apartheid Museum in Jo’burg last year.

Here’s a song, suggested by Margaret

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The metro in Budapest
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Matthias Church Castle Hill
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Looking down over the Danube to Pest
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
City Park
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Heros Square
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Terror Museum
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Victims of torture displayed outside the Terror Museum

 

]]>
http://gregspurgin.com/croatia/index.php/2016/08/31/a-bit-more-about-budapest-hungary/feed/ 2
Budapest, Hungary http://gregspurgin.com/croatia/index.php/2016/08/30/budapest-hungary/ http://gregspurgin.com/croatia/index.php/2016/08/30/budapest-hungary/#comments Tue, 30 Aug 2016 08:57:52 +0000 http://gregspurgin.com/croatia/?p=184 Continue reading Budapest, Hungary ]]> We drove the 350-ish kms from Zagreb to Budapest on Sunday, which was a good day to travel and find our way through Budapest – not as much crazy traffic and free parking in the city so we could get our bearings, use the free wifi at a McD’s and find the apartment.

On the Croatian side we drove on the autoceste and paid the toll at the end, but on the Hungarian side we needed a motorway pass (or matrica or vignette). They’re available from petrol stations and post offices (but not on a Sunday, obviously), and there were a few signs pointing to where they are available at places just off the motorway. 2975 forint, about $15, or 13 euros – cash only, no credit card payment. We had euros, and got change in euros.

Next stop was Tesco, for condensed milk. We couldn’t find it anywhere in Croatia, so Greg had to go without his morning porridge for a few days, because we didn’t buy quite enough in Italy. Even here, it seems that Tesco is the only place that sells it, but Greg will make sure he’s stocked up from now on. Prices here seem much cheaper than in Croatia, which has a 25% GST. If there’s any kind of consumption tax here, it’s not itemised on cash register dockets.

We’re spending 3 nights in Pest, which is on the eastern side of the Danube. Our apartment is close to public transport and just a few streets away from some of the interesting stuff. We’re on the top floor of  building that has a currency exchange and the local equivalent of a $2 shop at street level, in a street filled with pubs, takeaway places and nightclubs. You can see some photos of the apartment here.

Yesterday morning we walked to the magnificent Parliament Building, past the Soviet Army Memorial and nearby larger-than-real-life statue of Ronald Reagan, then along the Danube past the poignant Shoes on the Danube monument and a short tram trip to Nagycsarnok – Central Market (literal translation is ‘great hall’). We bought corn on the cob for dinner, and strawberries for Greg to eat right then. Quite a few stalls were closed with a few signs up that they would be reopening in early September. August is the month when lots of locals go away for their summer break.

I found an interesting-looking food truck in an in-flight magazine at the apartment, and it turned out that they also have 2 shops as well, one of which is in the same street as the apartment! We’re staying at number 33, and Meat & Sauce is at number 34, but because of the strange street numbering it’s 2 blocks down the street. We had lunch there yesterday – Roast Pork sandwiches with fat fries … delicious!

We’ve discovered that we’re flying out of Munich the same weekend as Oktoberfest starts! Ack! I suddenly remembered yesterday that Oktoberfest is not actually in October, so Greg hopped online to get some dates and organise accommodation for the night before we leave. The place we stayed at when we arrived 3 weeks ago is now double the price, but we got a room at a hotel near the airport. Phew – if we had left it till the last minute which is our usual travel style, we possibly would have been sleeping in the car. Which wouldn’t have been a big deal, really.  But I’m kinda glad we’ll be sleeping in a bed the night before we embark on 25+ hours of travel.

Today we’re going across to Buda to see some stuff. So far I’ve learnt that we could easily spend a lot more time in this beautiful city, there’s so much to see.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Our apartment in Budapest right at the top on the roof
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Trolley-buses running on overhead power lines
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Ronald Regan in the flesh, or bronze
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Budapest Parliament Buildings
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Shoes on the Danube monument
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Chain bridge, bombed by the Nazis in 1945 to stop the advancing Soviets. Only the towers were left and it was rebuilt after the war. All Budapest’s 7 bridged were destroyed by the retreating Nazis
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Nagycsarnok – Central Market
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Central Library Budapest
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Lunch at meat and sauce
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
a Budapest sign in the apartment
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
made like this
]]>
http://gregspurgin.com/croatia/index.php/2016/08/30/budapest-hungary/feed/ 8
Zagreb, Croatia http://gregspurgin.com/croatia/index.php/2016/08/28/zagreb-croatia/ http://gregspurgin.com/croatia/index.php/2016/08/28/zagreb-croatia/#comments Sun, 28 Aug 2016 16:59:19 +0000 http://gregspurgin.com/croatia/?p=167 Continue reading Zagreb, Croatia ]]> After our lovely morning wandering around the beautiful Plitvice Lakes, we drove to Croatia’s capital, Zagreb. Located in the north of the country, close to the Slovenian border, 140kms from Ljubljana, and about 80kms from the Hungarian border, population 800,000.

We drove the last 50kms to Zagreb on the autoceste and joined the huge queue of vehicles at the toll gate – it took us longer to pay the $4 toll than we spent driving on that stretch of road! We were late meeting our Airbnb host, but he wasn’t too fussed – he knows what the local traffic can be like, especially on a Friday afternoon! The apartment was close to the city centre, around the corner from the university and not far from the Botanic Gardens. After our parking woes in Dubrovnik, Greg made sure this one really did have parking on the premises, and it did …. but it was down a very narrow entryway through the building in front of our apartment block. As Greg said – it was probably the width of a standard horse-drawn carriage’s wheels!

Our 30-something host, Neven, lived in the apartment with his family when he was growing up, the family moved to their own places and the parents moved somewhere else and the apartment sat vacant for a while, then became Airbnb accommodation.It was a lovely mix of old and not-so-old – gorgeous parquetry floors, tiny 1960s kitchen, huge bedrooms with timber built-ins, very intricate modern front door lock, brand new front-loading washing machine purchased the day we arrived. Here it is so you can see some photos.

Neven is a computer software engineer and has developed a program for Airbnb hosts (and guests) to help them manage bookings and information. It’s called ‘MyRent’ and so far is only available in Croatia, but Neven is hoping to take it to ther countries as well. Wherever we stayed in Croatia, we had to show our passports – or a couple of times campgrounds would hold our passports overnight and give them back when we paid our bill. I don’t like letting my passport out of my sight and would have much preferred to prepay the bill.

We spent yesterday exploring Zagreb – in the morning we walked around to the local supermarket to get lunch and dinner. There was a small market outside the supermarket with a few stalls selling produce and others selling second-hand stuff. I could only get 2kg bags of potatoes at the supermarket, so bought just enough for dinner and a couple of leeks from one of the market stalls – total cost $2.  In the afternoon we walked to the Botanical Gardens and found a Wollemi Pine tree! Very exciting! We saw a tree in a cage and I said ‘heh, if we were at home, that would be a Wollemi Pine.’ And it was – a fine-looking 11 year old tree, about a metre tall.

Then into the main square in town, a stroll through the old town and past the cathedral which reminded us a lot of Burgos Cathedral in Spain and back to the apartment.  A nice day, our last in Croatia.

We’ve just arrived in Budapest, found our Airbnb apartment which will be ‘home’ for the next 3 days and will start exploring tomorrow.

more pictures on the photo pages as well here

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Home made Pizza by Judy baked in the Zagreb apartment – very nice!
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The local markets in Zagreb on Saturday morning
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Lots of trams on lots of routes in Zagreb
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Vegetables in the Zagreb Botanical Gardens
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
A Wollemi Pine in Zagreb Botanical Gardens
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Zagreb Catherdral
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Zagreg main square
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Croatias favourite son Nicola Tesla (Nicola Tesla street)
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Squeezing our way out of the parking area near the apartment in Zagreb

 

 

]]>
http://gregspurgin.com/croatia/index.php/2016/08/28/zagreb-croatia/feed/ 7