A Travellerspoint blog

Vienna

Classical Concert Extravaganza

storm 34 °C
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Salzburg to Vienna by train was via Linz and took just over 3 hours. The timing of our arrival at the train station in Salzburg was slightly delayed due to us being indecisive about one very important thing. Although we recognised that it was a Sunday, the English shop window had vegemite in it and therefore we travelled entirely across town to see if they were open. Unfortunately, our cravings remain. As we determined which platform our 11:10am train would depart we realised that the 10:15am was still delayed.

Making haste we arrived at the delayed train just in time to see the 4 security gaurds watch the mechanic emerge from the undercarriage. Putting any strange thoughts out of our mind we boarded the ancient carriage at the end of the train, only to realise later that we could have sat in the first class cabins anyway.

Vienna - 24 June

We only realised later that the first city stop our train made in Vienna within walking distance of our campsite had passed so we made the metro detour via Westbanhoff Station. Metro systems are now thankfully second nature, particularly for Camilla who without hesitation determines our fastest route with the least changes with ease. We relieved two young travellers of their tickets valid for a further 24 hours at a reasonable fee as they were leaving town early and made our way to Huttledorf.

Pitching the tent in the sweltering heat was not something we had imagined doing in Vienna. There was little shade in the large paddock where the other tents were placed, so we made haste then packed for a late afternoon adventure in town. Our adventure started with a complete backtrack of the same trainline to the edge of the Danube Inlet. Confident that the walk to the Danube river was only a few minutes away we set off with MacDonalds icecream in hand and got completely lost.

Taking a u-turn Camilla thought it wise to weigh herself (following Maccas icecream and chips) and was pleased to note that all that lugging of packs and walking has cancelled out some if not all of the French cheese, Italian pizzas and Greek salads. Finding a comfortable spot in the thick grass in one of the beautiful parks with other Viennese locals soaking up the late afternoon sun we knocked up a mushroom rissotto with the portable kitchen. A good night sleep was in order so we headed out to Wienerwald (Vienna Woods) where our home lay waiting.

Day 1 - 25 June

Getting high on opium for breakfast (poppy seed bread) we packed our bags to explore Vienna throughout the day with respite regardless of wanting to sit and drink coffee and eat cake all day. Walking past the major theatres, concert halls and impressive fountains we were lost in the back streets (please note, back streets in Vienna as 6 lanes wide and perfectly positioned between towering architectural gems) we stumbled across the main English book store for the city. As you know we completed our Dan Brown marathon in Italy and were therefore craving some literary inspiration.

On the back cover of our selection there is a priceless quote from the famous author C.S.Lewis 'The englishspeaking world is broken into two categories, those who have read Lord of the Rings, and those who are going to'. Needless to say you can guess that we purchased a Jane Austen masterpiece... kidding, the 1,100page 50th anniversary edition of this great work may, and we are not certain, fit into our packs. If it comes to it we will discard unnecessary clothing, toiletries and survival gear to make room, number one on the hit list is The Lonely Planet.

Lunch was a less than admirable affair although after 3 months without the better burgers of Hungry Jacks it was high time. As we worked off the calories it was a hot time walking in the 34 degree plus heat of summer. Our first notable touristic venture was a visit to the immense gothic cathedral which is surrounded by both modern and renaissance classic buildings.

Onwards we dodged the horsedraw carriages, of which there are literally hundreds, to a smaller ornate church by the name of St Peters. The major drawcard of this little gem was the free Organ concert to demonstrate the accoustics and fine note of a 300 year old instrument. While normally a huge marble cavity is cool, and the reverberations that could be heard from Switzerland would keep anyone attentive, Steve obviously was a little overcome by the heat, Hungry Jacks and excitement of J.R.R Tolkien and unfortunately got the noddies. 'HOW ON EARTH COULD YOU POSSIBLE GET THE NODDIES' Camilla exclaimed as we exited.

Vienna is world renowned as one of the great classical music cities and this comes across at every turn with talented buskers, sprukers in period costume and reverberrating churches. Clearly it would not do to play the impoverished backpacker card at this point so we committed within 30 minutes of each purchase to two impressive programs. Outside the Palace, and almost overcome with heat exhaustion we admired the tickets which were our invitation to be inspired.

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An evening with Mozart was held tonight in the Musikverin where the global NYE telecast of the Vienna Philharmonic is held, and tomorrow we would be enjoying a renowned ensemble of opera singers to the NYE program at the Vienna Musikhaus. As you can imagine we were very excited that evening to enter the great hall well known by many as the NYE stage.

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Unfortunately they do not keep the floral arrangements in place for the year as one can understand when you see the venue 'dressed' for NYE. The performance was a real treat with a superb female soprano opera singer complimenting wonderful arrangements of some great well known pieces including the infectious Blue Danube waltz to finish. As if arranged by Mozart himself and coordinated by the conductor, mid way through the performance the entire hall shuddered to throaty claps of thunder. As we exited into the cool night air the heavy air reminded us of every great afternoon thunderstorm.

Making our way back to base camp was easy enough and we had the pleasure of meeting a very friendly couple from America, Ryan and Louisie from Texas. Sharing travel stories late into the night we parted ways as the wind picked up and hoped to see them again in the days to come.

Once cocooned in the bombshelter we were glad it was rated for 4 seasons. At one point during the night Steve dove out in his boxer shorts to retighten the guidelines as the wind whipped and lashed at the tent till early morning. Our outdoor entry mat (the Red Carpet as it is lovingly called) was later found at the opposite side of the campground yet no damage was done.

Day 2 - 26 June

Without a full compliment of clean clothing (primarily clean undies were scarce) it was time to catch up with the mundane. Around 11:30am we rescued Ryan and Louisie from outside the closed minimarket offering what little we had in the pantry. It has been a long time since we entertained anyone other than each other so it was a great delight to share a meal with new friends. As it turned out Asparagus soup and 3 burenwurst sausages (rather larger than a thin BBQ sanger) with bread is more than sufficient for 4 people.

Blogging is now categorised at the equivalent level of importance as no clean underwear. We found a reasonable @Cafe and got our thoughts out before moving onto a classic must-do for visitors to Vienna. Cafe Sperl was established in 1882 in the classic Viennese coffee house decor. It has been maintained with the element of authenticity difficult to find in newer establishments. Had Steve been wearning spats and a bowlers hat with Camilla on his arm in gloves and hat it would not have been out of place against the rich dark woods, red velour upholstery, bevelled glass windows or bronze fixtures. Viennese iced coffee, chocolate marmalade gateau and Lord of the Rings page 1 were enjoyed simultaneously.

Dinner was less of a traditional affair however as AustralAsians it is difficult to go more than a couple of weeks without a fried rice fix. More importantly we had been strolling around town all afternoon and knew that the Chinese could prepare the meal in time for us to get to the concert.

Early for the evening, we strolled around the war memorial and watched the trams go by before stalking one of the musicians to the hall. We assumed if he was still on his way, we arn't late yet. Vienna Musikhaus rivals anything we have ever seen for the prototypical classic renaissance entertainment venue. You could not more accurately recreate the grandure of a room such as the Grosse Salle where the performance was to be held. With cameras in hand we entered along with the other 1798 guests for the spectacle. Camilla was able to capture just moments before opening the performers-eye-view as it were of this grand room

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As Opera performances go the evening was not only the best we have ever seen, it is the only one we have seen live in full to our recollection. It may become a more regular event, however the bar has certainly been set very high. What a stunning performance from the duet Soprano Diva and Barratone who have been working together for more than 30 years. To hear a womans voice in perfect pitch fill every crevass of a room of this size is a marvel to behold.

Leaving Vienna the following morning for our next destination we had been given somewhat average advice. Arrive at the sudbahnhof station and you should be right exclaimed the campsite attendant. After purchasing our tickets we had less than 20 minutes to cross Vienna to Westbanhof. This would otherwise be impossible if it weren't for the direct tram line. Obviously still on a high from the previous evening Camilla was humming the blue danube and accurately observed that 'everything in Vienna has fantastic acoustics, even the trams!'

Posted by snchall 02:11 Archived in Austria Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Salzburg

The hills are certainly alive with the sound of Camilla

rain 22 °C
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Leaving by train from Innsbruck took only a couple of hours to bring us to Salzburg. While the scenery at the start of the trip was mountainous it slowly gave way to open rolling fields of richly coloured farmland.

Salzburg trolley bus network (buses attached like trams to overhead electric cables) is the most comprehensive we have seen. Having chosen our campsite from the 3 within a few minutes ride of town we were pleased to find that the site had a filtered view of the fortress and rooftops.

With a threatening sky full of dark clouds we made haste to pitch the Embassy. In the scuffle of pegs, strings, rocks and flysheets Steves finger made use of itself in a way not ordinarily recommended. Fingers, like Lonely Planet publications are not the best thing for hammering in tent pegs. Oozing quite a bit of blood he smiled and asked for a nurse (to finish pitching and packing the tent, not fix the finger).

Salzburg - 22 June

After a quick meal and checking the 999 satellite TV channels (only a few in English) the sky cleared somewhat and we headed into Salzburg. Walking through the old town we admired the popular shopping promenades, looked at the facade of Mozart's birthplace then retreated from the returning rain and thunder for a hot chocolate.

Warm and happy we dove back into the cold night air under our umbrellas to explore the other side of the river. Just our luck the annual music festival was in full swing, unfortunately the rain had kept the revellers from packing the streets. We enjoyed rock, jazz, classical and latin stage shows interrupted only marginally by thunder overhead. As the days are getting longer it is hard to judge what time it is so we found ourselves heading back for camp around 11pm.

Walking through the field of knee high grass leading to Campingplatz Panorama we turned suddenly to what appeared to be a huge clap of thunder. It turned out that the festival was concluded for the evening with a spectacular fireworks display, illuminating the valley, red roof tops and gleaming white fortress.

Day 1 - 23 June

It is always a good day when we start with French toast, juice and tea. While it was not absolutely decided the previous day Camilla had a plan. Salzburg is renowned for numerous things, Mozart, music, art, universities and the very cheesy 'Sound of Music' Tours. Arriving early at the Mirabell Gardens we admired the famous horse fountain, dwarf garden, open air theatre, long hedge lined passageways and the local music school performers.

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After Camilla has worn herself out dancing on the theatre stage, singing and skipping through the vine covered archway it was clear that the 2pm Sound of Music tour 'needed' the Halls. Lunch was held by the river where we devoured an entire pack of Speck (Tirol smoked bacon), camembert and dips while watching the passing parade of families, boats and dog walkers.

While we are not tour-group travellers we do know some of the tricks of the trade. Once the tickets (worth every euro) were acquired we asked precisely where the bus would pull up, estimated the length of a coach and stated our claim at the front of the queue. We were accurate within centimetres and greeted heartily by the yoodelling bus driver Marcus. Trudy the tour leader bounded out behind him in full traditional Austrian highland attire.

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On the front seat of the bus Camilla was grinning from ear to ear as Trudy introduced herself, asked who has seen the movie to squeals of delight (Steve ashamedly had to join the only other Aussie Bloke in putting up his hand at not having viewed the masterpiece). Our destinations included lake, gardens and back view of the Von Trapps home, Love Gazebo (which has been relocaed as the music school could not bear the singing and dancing tourist hoards back in 1970s), the monastry and drive around the fortress. Once the in town sights were photographed we headed, singing and cheering, to Lake Wolfgang (splendid) where the mountaintop steam train is located, and Lake Mondsee where the trees the children climb have now grown enormous.

Finally, an icecream to placate Steve and quick visit to the church where Maria married Captain Von Trapp. All together, the tour was a great sucess and an interesting insight into a film which is not only world famous but based (fairly accurately) on a true story of a Salzburg romance during WWII.

Walking over the Mozart bridge (also featured in the Sound of Music we now realise) we headed through town to the traditional beer gardens for our first Austrian stien. To work off some of the calories we climbed the hill for an uncompromised view over Salzburg and the surrounding districts.

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Winding our way back down the narrow stairs past the festival halls we rejoined the music festival that was in full swing and well attended due to blue sky. Dinner and drink included an enormous donut pretzel, half a BBQ chicken and two glasses of wine next to the jazz and salsa stage till late in the evening.

We have visited many pretty towns so far and Salzburg is one that present in immaculate condition complete with soul and points of interest for all.

Posted by snchall 01:40 Archived in Austria Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Innsbruck

Goodbye Italy, Hello Austria

storm 20 °C
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Awaking very early we were the first to breakfast and therefore had pick of the first slice of fresh apple strudel and tea cake. Warm and full of food we boarded the bus at 8am with the locals off to work and enjoyed listening to a dialect that is not entirely Italian, German or Slovenian. Our bus took a familiar route down the Val de Fassa before diverting to Bolzano where we connected with a train to Innsbruck.

ITALY: Our final thought on the splendid time we have spent in Italy (totalling just over 5 weeks) is that it is jam packed with some of the greatest sights, tastes, adventures and people. Having reviewed our time and destinations it is impossible to say that we would have been happy to miss anything however we do feel that the route has been relatively comprehensive without being excessive. We will be back, most likely during Winter for the snow as soon as we win Lotto so that we can go crazy with the fashion, food and Ferraris.

Crossing the border to Austria we were totally engrossed in a Gravitational Physics 101 lecture from a very friendly Assistant Professor working on the LISA project. It is not every day that you get to ask what gravity really is and get the most up-to-date laypersons answer from someone who is helping to launch rocket ships into space to find out. We now have a very brief understanding of black holes, laser beams and other useful galactic cooking tips.

AUSTRIA - Innsbruck - 20 June

Steve may be good at some things; carrying heavy loads, eating leftover pasta, pitching a tent almost anywhere and playing charrades with non-english speaking bus drivers, however, when taking directions from the tourist office at the Innsbruck train station regarding the closest campsite he was obviously dreaming about strudel.

We walked, and walked... and walked some more before arriving at the campsite in the rain where the very friendly blonde receptionist asked how the bus ride to the front gate was. Steve broke a small sweat and said 'eh...I may have forgotten about the second bus connection... would you mind not mentioning it to my wife'. It should be known that Camilla had an inkling that we had taken a rather longer approach than was necessary and probably read that from Steve's face when he offered to carry all her bags to the pitch.

As it was raining heavily all afternoon we caught up with tenthold items such as cooking, tea, washing and drying, reading about Innsbruck and planning our following day. To make it interesting the gliders were wizzing over our heads to finish their decent and the thunder in the hills could be heard echoing off the 3000m high cliff behind our tent.

Day 1 - 21 June

Innsbruck is fantastic for adventure sports of all kinds with a great program of free, inexpensive and exhuberent activities to choose from. As impoverished backpackers we thought it best to join the free guided walk through the mountains. After a dry bread breakfast we arrived at the congress building early to be met by Martin the Austrian tour leader and one other hiker. Not the crowd of thousands we were expecting, it may have had something to do with the thunderstorm looming overhead and hailstone warnings which those with a TV may have been privy to.

Setting off on a 50 person coach we wound our way up to the 1964 / 76 Winter Olympic skifield venue to commence the walk. With the pass we were aiming at visible up in the clouds we were keen to get going. Martin on the other hand set the pace a little slower than expected. As we dodged the butterflies overtaking us we at least had time to admire the thick flower growth, old trees and noisy bell-bound livestock.

Nearing the top of our ascent the thunder clapped louder and we realised that it was coming from overhead of the valley we were aiming at. With only seconds to have the new information register Martin pointed out that we could see the highest peak in Germany and the Italian Alps from our vantage point. As Steve pulled the camera out from under his jacket Martin could be seen leaping like a mountain goat hundreds of metres further down the ravine.

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Our shoes and knees got a real workout as we slipped, slided and cursed having to keep up with the ill prepared mountain guide / pace setter who evidently did not choose to bring all weather gear as we had. After 30 minutes of non-stop scramble down from the pass the weather fined up slightly and we arrived at a traditional Austrain mountain hut at 1740m. Only seconds from devouring our somewhat squashed salad rolls Martin had a hissy fit that we were not going to partake in a full hot lunch. Whether he missed out on his kickback from the takings or not, we are just not use to lavish hot meals being available on every bush walk and tucked into the soggy rolls.

Running in the rain the rest of the way downhill, only to take a snails pace on the remaining uphill sections were were greeted at the end of the walk by sunshine and a spare 30 minutes before our pickup. Martin, please don't quit your dayjob! The walk in all was wonderful and the free time in Tesfel afforded us the time to admire one of the stunning 17th century churches with elaborate frescos and a fully adorned mummy / skeleton.

Back on the now shrunken minibus we drove along the Autostrade across a 190 metre high bridge in horizontal rain. Back in Innsbruck however the weather was breaking into pockets of sunshine. Walking through the old town was a real treat including admiring the famous Golden Roof before a well deserved reward of Strudel and silver service tea in a charming little Strudelhaus.

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After adminiring the Swarovski crystal displays we got lost in the two main multistorey outdoor adventure stores. After our kneebreaking experience Steve has invested in some alpine walking sticks (hmmmmm) which are expected to get some use in the coming weeks.

Dinner was soon to follow where we planted ourselves in the main square watching the trams go by and framed by the towering mountains behind. Dinner was a traditional affair with Snitzel and chips for Camilla and a country chicken, speck (smoked bacon) and potato casserole for Steve. Austrian beer was the chaser and well deserved at that.

On our way back through the network of trams and buses we joined a retired Queensland couple at the infamous second bus connection to chat about motorhomes. They had only two days before taken delivery of a brand new mobile mansion in Strasbourg. Keen to discuss every detail of the purchase, design, delays, and general operation we were privy to the grand tour on our arrival (no walking) back at camp. It should be noted that although we love our little Chateau the inside of a new motor home is shmick, maybe when our knees can't cope with hauling luggage and crawling into tents will we consider this upgrade.

Innsbruck is fantastic, very pretty and a real gem in the Austrian Alps. Like Italy, the location looks superb under a velvet cover of snow and may require a visit again in the coming years.

Posted by snchall 09:06 Archived in Austria Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Canazei

Dolomite Mountain Adventure

sunny 25 °C
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Finding our train in Venice out in the back paddock after passing all the swish Italian high speed bullets was a little concerning. It would be a 4.5 hour trip all stops to Trento in the north east of Italy. Thankfully the train was very smooth so we spent most of the time reading Dan Brown (Deception Point) which was finished later that evening.

Stopping in Trento we were a little restless given that we had not adequately researched the area and had no idea where the best access to the famous Dolomite ranges would be found. After talking briefly with the train and bus attendants we stumbled across the tourism board in a side street who informed us that the Val de Fassa would be the best start. With Canazei now in our sights we committed to a 3 hour bus tour (all stops domestic) high into the Dolomite ranges and relaxed in Trento town square for gelato and frappe.

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Canazei - 17 June

Europe has certainly got the accommodationless tourist thing down to a fine art. Our scenic bus trip was fantastic and dropped us right infront of the town accommodation booking board, a large electronic listing with map and free phone of all available rooms in town. We debated the benefits of setting up tent at 9:30pm in the mountains and somehow Camilla seemed to quiet easily convince the pack mule that a comfy Penzion would be best. As we fell asleep we could hardly believe that a 1 star penzion with breakfast in this beautiful location could be so reasonably priced. Having planned to stay only one night then relocate to the campsite the following day we somehow ended up confirming another 2 nights.

Day 1 - 18 June

After a wonderful nights sleeps and completely stuffing ourselves with breakfast we retired back to our balcony, complete with valley and mountain views for a relaxing read. Strolling through town late in the afternoon we crossed the fast flowing river and walked through the woods for about half an hour. Settling on a big comfy park bench we discussed life, the universe and everything. Without resolve we have come to the conclusion that extended travel is a valuable part of our personal and relationship development, thankfully there is still another 12 weeks to go.

Eating a home cooked meal of pesto burgers we decided that the following days challenge would be to summit Piz Boe and explore the Sella Gruppa mountain in the Dolomites. To cheers this conclusion we had come across a bottle of the Spumante Dolce Barghetto d'Aqui in the supermarket which we had previously enjoyed in Capri. What a great end to a lovely day.

Day 2 - 19 June - THE CLIMB

Although some of you may argue that a gondola and two very large cable cars is cheating however we could not see ourselves completing an ascent from 1450m above sea level to 3152 into a midday stroll (read: gruelling 6 hour alpine endurance).

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Rising up above the thick forest in the godola we immediately boarded the first cable car to be lifted higher than Kosciosko. With an imposing view of the valley from a small precipice our adreneline and excitment had risen to new heights. A short 40 minute walk across the top of the ski fields gave us ample opportunity to admire the green grass, spring flowers and day dream about this area covered in thick snow. At the base of the final Pass Pordoi cable car we could see the top station clinging to the cliff edge high above.

The Dolomite mountain ranges, in particular the Sella Gruppa are an ancient seabed which rose around 300 million years ago to an average height in excess of 2500 metres. Impressive vistas throughout the region include the jaggered mountain faces and large risen plateaus. In the afternoon a rose colour can be seen in the rock and close up it is possible to make out fossilised corals and small crystals. Camilla was at an advantage on this climb as yesterday she invested in a pair of indestructable ASOLO mountain hiking monster boots.

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Having reached the top of Pass Pordoi cable car and making our way across the first 2 or 3 snow drifts it was obvious that the boots were a great investment. Precariously narrow trodden paths through the snow and around the cliff edges connected large expanses of open gently sloping hills. Coming to the base of the final ascent we crossed crunchy brilliant white rock and stopped for the final energy fix.

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Approximately 45 minutes worth of 1:1 grade climbing was heavy going, particularly the technical sections where permanent cable railings were essential. We felt confident in our capacity to achieve this minor gravity defying exertion in that the 4 and 5 year olds were not overtaking us too rapidly. Notably, the air is thinner at 3152 metres than our homes in Pennant Hills at 50 metres which of course is the only reason our fit athletic bodies would require us to puff and pant (yeah right!)

Having little time to admire the views with our faces firmly fixed on the next step up it was a welcome reward to finally reach the summit. There is little that can be said that is not obvious in our smiles on the photos. What a feeling.

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Downhill, for some unknown reason, was by far the hardest section. With jelly legs on slippery rocks and snow we took our time and only used the derrier and additional limbs when necessary. Thankfully our timing was spot on as we caught on of the last few cable cars down to the bottom. Camilla was given the task on the limp back to the penzion to recite all of the sound of music songs in chronological order in preparation for Salzburg.

Having now tasted the European alpine environment, immersed ourselves in the aroma of spring flowers on the hills and completed a (fairly) rigorous climb we are now truly itching to see this place in winter. The Dolomites are both unique in that they are the only coral mountains at this height in the world and present stunning vistas in every direction. Very Cool.

Posted by snchall 08:17 Archived in Italy Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Venice

A stunning labyrinth of canals and bridges

sunny 30 °C

Arrival - 13 June

Having been shuttled from the port to the main bus station in Venice our accommodation options were merely a dozen phone calls away. It is way more difficult communicating your needs over the phone without the accompanying arm flailings, thankfully each hotel had multilingual staff making the job that much easier.

Having confirmed a night in well positioned and priced 1 star hotel we gave the ambitious estimate that we would be there in 15 minutes. From our location and using the trusty map it looks like it was due east so how hard could that be...

With compass in hand and morning sun position as a guide we were amazed to find how quickly we were staring up a canal from a narrow footpath with nowhere to go! Traditional navigation methods aside we resorted to the best known team orientation method where Steve chooses a street to turn, then Camilla, then Steve and so forth. Incredibly all it took was 30 minutes to find our way perfectly to the Targhetto at the fresh fish markets.

A Targhetto is the workhorse of the gondola family whereby occupants pay 50 cents each to stand (crammed like sardines) into a 25 foot long boat that is less than a metre wide in order to cross the grand canal. Ordinarily this task would be manageable however Sardines don't often carry 50 kilograms worth of mountain camping equipment. With every breath each of us took the boat heaved and rocked sickeningly as we stared blankly across one of the busiest waterways in Europe. Like all good Aussie travellers it was "no worries mate".

Our hotel was more like a small room at the bottom of a real hotel where you place you unwelcome long distance family members when they drop in unannounced. Welcomed by the owner clearly stating we only have one night available and told that our room is hours away from being ready we gladly headed off into the maze like streets to explore.

Into the daylight it was evident what was on our minds, Camilla made a bee line to the closest Venetian glass ring shop whilst Steve pressed his forehead against the window of the butcher next door. Given that it was still only 9 am we compromised on a bakery breakfast of fresh spinach and ricotta pie and fruitcake filled pastry.

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Where in the world is better to be entranced by the mesmirising bobs and ducks of thousands of boats. Venice is simply heaven to get lost wandering and admiring a life that vastly different to any we have seen. It became obvious that since every street and canal is of interest you are only ever truly lost if have somewhere particular to be. Thankfully for the next 4 nights we had nowhere else we would rather be.

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As if we had a new bout of energy our afternoon waiting for the hotel room was spent feeding pigeons in San Marco square which Camilla was originally reluctant to participate until finally letting out squeals of delight. After fattening the sky rats we admired the grand canal and Rialto bridge, watched the sun set from Ponte Acedemia and listened to classical guitar in the square where we later bought his CD in appreciation.

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Day 1 - 14 June

Greeted with a hot chocolate and pastries for breakfast in the hotel we bounced out the front door full of beans and ready to soak up the city. The city on the other hand took it literally and decided to pour for the exact time it took to buy umbrellas and cross the canal (less encumbered) on the targhetto to the fish markets. Our objective was to purchase the very best local seafood in Venice and sit by a canal over lunch time cooking up a storm. We are amazed at how efficiently two hungry backpackers can polish off a kilo of hot mussels, fresh scampi and a bottle of sweet bubbly if given the chance.

At the end of the final tasty morcel the meal was topped off by an unexpected (sort of planned but that is unimportant) call from Jenni - Steve's sister. It is great to hear familiar voices and only amplyfies how much we miss everyone at home. Alternatively, it seems like a far better idea if everyone just joined us over here!

Full as a googie egg from our seafood nosh, and in tact after a near death experience when opening the warm bubbly (Steve's red mark on his forehead has now faded) we passed a canal which was in the process of being cleaned. Each canal is refurbished, maintained and cleaned every 10 years to avoid excess pollution, degredation to foundations etc. Blocked off at each end, the canals are about 2 to 3 metres deep and get drained dryish, certainly an interesting site to see.

Unfortunately our afternoon was marginally hampered by the fact that we need to move hotels across town. Having found an even better location within 2 minutes of St Marks Square and a vastly improved room at a similar rate we navigated our way easily through the maze.

Cooking the remainder of the fresh seafood on the bathroom window sill was a little precarious as we had to lean over the biddae! We tried fresh sardines labouriously filleted by Steve then followed by a big Salmon Steak chaser. A great day of culinary delights in a great city.

Day 2 - 15 June

Eager to get out on the water we made plans to visit the Murano glass houses out in the lagoon and travel around by Vaporetto (ferries) to explore the city with the locals. Murano is a well organised little island where tourists are ushered down to the demonstration glass blowing room before being herded into the souvenir shop. 30 seconds later and we broke away from the flock to make our own way through the rest of the island. Camilla finally found her treasure, a beautiful Murano glass ring, deeply blue with an aqua shimmer within like the ocean.

Our stomachs recalled the previous days indulgence and therefore commenced calling us forth with goodies. Overpaying the bakery for a few rolls was quickly shadowed by the experience of purchasing local vegetables and fruits from the old grocerer in a canal boat.

Armed with a hot BBQ chicken, rolls and other delights we island hopped back one towards Venice for a picnic and realised we had landed ourselves in the major Catholic cemetery. Without too much discussion we were back on another boat post haste and held off until the stop opposite St Marks and the large shipping chanel. Planting ourselves next to a tree on the concrete it was delightful watching Venice from such a vantage point.

Ferry # 82 is worth remembering as it takes cheapskates like us all the way along the Grand Canal as part of the basic commuter ticket. With the front seats on the ferry it was almost an hour later that we had circumnavigated all of Venice and had the pleasure of joining the Gondolas, water taxis and targhettos up the Grand Canal.

The opportunity to sit in one of the great music halls built in 1580 and listen to Vivaldi's 4 seasons, Pachebel's Canone (Camilla walked down the isle to this piece) and other hits from way back when was not to be missed. As if a great dollop of cream had been added to the icing on the cake the poor buggers were dressed in vitage XVIII century regailia. What a treat to see a violin virtuoso (whos name now escapes us) fill the hall with exquisitely detailed sounds, a true highlight.

So inspired are we from the passion which this great music evoked in us we have committed personally, to each other and those poor souls who will no doubt be subject to the endless practice that it is time we take up (or renew) the piano (Steve) and guitar (Camilla). Further review upon our return may ensue. To top off the evening we had 30 seconds left on our boat ticket so we hopped onto the # 82 back down the grand canal at night and disembarked at San Marco.

To our great surprise, and unfortunate delight, St Marks square was rapidly filling with the incoming tide. Persistent in thier quest to entertain their patrons the three famous coffee houses put on a musical show on raised platforms. Dancing in the puddles (thank goodness for Aussie thongs) we waltzed to the greats and swing danced the rest. Reflecting every whisp of light the water that engulfs St Marks so regularly makes for a dazzling portrait of city that is in immanent danger of being lost to all.

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Day 3 - 16 June

Exploring the remainder of Venice was as easy as being determined to get lost for a few hours. What a pleasure wondering the narrow alleys, crossing numerous plazzasa and bridges, and oggling every bakery window. En route we caught the targhetto to the fish markets, argued a bit over the need for meat versus squid then gave in to each other and bought both.

At the train station we were blessed with the greatest timing and highlight of the lost traveller experiences. A poor little tourist (no indication of nationality required) came bounding up to us bewildered and asked with sincere concern "Is this Venice???". With the gondolas bobbing only just over our shoulders it was difficult to keep our total shock and disbelief behind our poker faces. Steve calmy replied [i]"I believe so... eh ... good luck".

Our final afternoon was spent cooking, watching the world go by from the top of St Marks tower which affords the most fabulous view of Venice and then finally dancing in the square as the tide pushes up relentlessly.

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Leaving in the early on a Sunday morning the air was filled with church bells while the streets were empty. At this moment we knew for certain that one day we would be back.

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Venice must be visited at least a couple of times throughout to be truly appreciated. We hope you all get the pleasure of spending time in this fragile and rewarding city.

Posted by snchall 06:08 Archived in Italy Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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