08.02.2013 - 15.02.2013 -2 °C
Since we last spoke, Iain, myself and the matchbox car have done a few miles. For the majority of the time the matchbox car had very little windscreen to use, making the trip a little like a game of hide-and-seek with the road. But I guess that’s what happens when you are too tight to pay for anti-freeze window cleaner. Why won’t my budget water option work at minus 8! I also want my window wipers not too freeze to the windscreen, but I guess beggars can’t be choosers. This is basically what we are now, beggars. This is evident from the fact I am currently typing this update on a £19 flight from Milan to Sofia, Bulgaria.
For people who are now essentially slumming it, we have had a pretty fun last couple of weeks. From Thun (where I think I last left you), we have spent a night just outside Zurich, 2 days in Munich, a night in Garmish, and three nights in Lake Garda, where we did day trips to Verona and Venice (on NZ Valentines day and EU Valentines day respectively… no big deal).
Our drive from Zurich to Munich was an interesting one, the GPS said it would take us 3.5 hours. No problems Iain said, like a drive from Taupo to Auckland. Yeah, good Tui billboard. It turned into a drive from Taupo to Whangaparaoa on a holiday weekend. I guess it may have taken the expected time, if we weren’t driving on an ice skating rink. It took the 3.5 hours to just get to the Lustenau on the boarder of Austria. Look it up on the map, its not that far. Once we got into Austria we thought that it would be better, wrong again. The roads were still crazy full, crazy slippery and now we had trucks sliding backwards down the inside lane back into the traffic. My only desire for Austrian antics was to spin merrily and uncontrollably in a field of green singing ‘the hills are alive’, however there was none of that. The insane amounts of snow, limited visibility (even with being able to see (briefly) through the window) and continuous blizzard meant that Austria was bi-passed until another time. When we left Switzerland it was sunny, when we arrived in Italy it was sunny. Austria = grey and desolate. To be honest without evidence to the contradictory I am under the impression that Austria is the Hamilton of Europe.
The only plus side of this adventure was I got to see a van full of children that looked like a cross between the Von Trapp family and the Children of the Corn, who were dressed in outfits that wouldn’t have been out of place in a made for TV movie ‘Little house on the Austrian prairie’. I decided they must be a travelling family band. You can guess how long we sat alongside this family… I had a lot of time to think about this.
Southern Germany and Switzerland were great though, full of culture, oompa bands, joviality and free cigarettes. New Zealand gets Red Bull girls, Germany gets cancer stick girls. Free smokes aside, we have been pretty lucky to unexpectedly plan our travel around Carnival season. For those who haven’t experienced a Guggenmusic festival you are missing out. Imagine American high school bands got old, moved to Europe, drank a lot of beer, and lost all the lame woodwind instruments in the process. They basically dress up and have brass instrument battles of awesome music, while everyone stands around drinking in the street on a Friday morning.
For the first time in a while we were in a city that other tourists were in. It was a bit weird. When you travel in the off-season most of your time is spent spotting the tourists, not trying to avoid them. But Munich had a few tourists spotted around which was nice. It makes for great games of ‘Who’s got the better deal?’ Anyone that knows us well has been introduced to this terribly judgemental game. I’m not going to introduce the rest of you to it. I think the world is a bad enough place.
Even though my limited German vocabulary was tested in Switzerland, it was nice to see a wee bit had lodged itself into my brain for Munich. My fifth form German teacher Miss Single (a hilariously accurate name for her) would be so proud to know I could make my way um die ecke (round the corner), to the Hauptbahnhof (main train station) with a pomme frites mit mayonnaise (come on, that one is easy). Other than that I spent most of my time wandering the streets of Munich wishing I didn’t spend my whole time harassing the girl who sat in front of me in class and cheating on the daily vocab test. Hindsight is a beautiful thing.
After Munich we headed back to Italy and spent three nights in Lake Garda between Milan and Verona, a beautiful spot surrounded by mountains and water, and definitely worth venturing to in summer, winter on the other hand was a little chilly. Whilst based in Garda we ventured on a day trip to Verona. In case it didn't come to you immediately, Verona is the setting of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. A work of fiction, yes, however it is based apparently on a couple in the cities past. There was romance everywhere in this city, especially considering we were there the day before Valentines day. However in my opinion regarding one particular tradition, the romance extends just a little too far. The most popular tourist spot in the city is the balcony of the famous Shakespeare scene. When entering the Capulet garden to view the balcony, there is a tradition to put a piece of gum on the archway that leads to it. The gum is in the shape of a heart mind you. But I’m not sure if this is considered romantic, or just a little gross.
Valentines day was spent in Venice. Men reading this - if your Mrs, was originally happy with the half eaten box of chocolates you gave her on Feb. 14th reading that Iain and I celebrating it in Venice, may lead to you a late night trip to the Shell station to buy a couple of roses to make up for it. Venice was incredible, everything I had imagined it would be. It helped too that it was beautiful and sunny. It has been a few months since we got to bask in the sun, made especially nice considering it was enjoyed whilst drinking on the waterfront of one of Europe’s best cities. You have to be prepared when heading to Venice that you will spend way too much for everything. So if you go with that mindset, the city is fun. We ate pizza from a shop window on the waterfront, we sat under monuments and ate gelato, and enjoyed the people watching. It was a wonderful day out. We didn’t do all of the touristy things, as our budget is now a little on the tighter side (re: choo-choo-poor-train). Nevertheless it was a fun excursion, bookended by a rollercoaster on Italian motorways.
We are now heading to one of our final adventures before heading home, but what an adventure it will be. We are a little unsure of what we are heading too in the Bulgarian wilderness, but as the cool kids say, YOLO.