Anyone heard of Liechtenstein?

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We stopped over for a night in the small country of Liechtenstein, which is between Austria and Switzerland. 

Never heard of it?  Neither had we.  It is a shame really as it is such a nice country (even though we only saw a few cities) and there was a lot to do.  Basically the country is owned by a wealth family who govern most of its running. They even still live in the castle in the capital, right near the main street of town.  They even have a postage museum.  

Some fast facts:

–          Population = 35,000

–          160 square kilometres

–          Fourth smallest nation in Europe

–          Only country in the world purchased and owned by the same family

–          Prince still lives in the city castle

–          More dentures are produced here than anywhere else

 

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Germany Part 2: Oktoberfest

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Beer, currywurst, rides, beer, pretzels, beer, traditional music, beer, half a chicken, beer, shows, beer, singing and dancing, beer… Oktoberfest was a lot better than we had imagined.

Lots of civilised people (expect for the occasional beer skullers in one particular tent), most locals in their cultural dress, and a great atmosphere is what we discovered. It was like a small town fair but on a much larger scale, and with lots of beer thrown in.

There were the 1litre jugs of beers, which are carried in groups of 10 by beer maids, but the beer maids aren’t the same as the ones seen in all of those advertisements and pictures. Very friendly ladies though.

 

We met some fellow Aussies and South Africans (we we will catch up with next year in J’burg) and a few local folk who gave us their side of the Bavarian tradition and tried to convince Nic not to drink wine at a beer festival.

New Friends

Waldu winning Nic a stuffed toy

 

Waldu at one of the many street side food stalls

9 hours later we made it back to the campsite and fell asleep to the chatter of fellow Oktoberfest-ers stumbling home (or into the camp site beer tent near our car).

 

Austria – just a few letter short of Australia and just as beautiful

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Wow!  Every country just keeps getting better and better in terms of scenery and the welcoming people. 

From the picturesque country side of Scotland to the country villages of Germany and the castles of Slovakia, to the natural beauty and charm of Austria and its people, our journey just keeps reaching new heights.   Every time we turned a corner on the winding country roads we were met with another spectacular view or village to explore.

We will let some pictures tell the story…

 

 

We have found a country we hope to return to again. 

 

A tale of two mountainers

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Nic’s side of the story

We hired mountain bikes to explore the Austrian countryside.  After finally finding someone who was open (they have siesta here too) we were underway.  Secretly I was hoping that no one would be open.  The thought of riding a bike is daunting – it’s been 20 years and I wasn’t very good at it back then either. 

We collected the bikes, I fell off, teary moment and then we are underway.  “I really can’t see the point of riding when we could pack up the tent and drive” I said.  It was nothing like RPM classes – the bike actually moved and the vertical ride wasn’t quite the same when the bike wobbled. Before too long I am actually enjoying it.  A few near misses with cars (and Waldu) and walking the bike up the steep hills, but other than that it is nice and we rode off the road to the purpose built bike track headed for…well, we really didn’t know.

We stopped at a few maps and worked out where we are, then aimed for lake odesse which seemed to have a cafe.  Before too long we are there, and enjoying a nice schnitzel lunch while our legs recover.  Then it is off again, time to head back. It is at this point that Waldu informs me that there are different gears any maybe I shouldn’t be trying to climb the mountain in a lower gear – now he tells me!  Then a quick stop for a wine and beer on the way back at one of the many little beer houses that dotted our path.

It was a fantastic day and I couldn’t wish for a better teacher.  At 33 I can now say that I know how to ride a bike.

 

Waldu’s side of the story

We hired two mountain bikes – half an hour later we hadn’t gone far.  Nic had a little tanty and threw the bike into the fence.  Has this girl ever ridden a bike?  Finally she gave it a go and I helped her get underway. 

A pit stop for lunch and a beer (Nic running away from the table because of the bees and leaving me alone with my beer and the bill) and then we were underway again, back to the campsite via a few pubs.  Nic was getting the hang of the gears, but said “I will walk the bike up the hills so I can walk tomorrow.”  A great day topped off by a chat to the neighbours and a cold beer.

Three countries in a day (19 Sept)

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We decided to take a little detour from our plans and skip Prague and drive to Slovakia from Poland. But to get to the capital, Bratislava, we had to drive through the Czech Republic (once joined with Slovakia) – 3 countries in a day. Can’t say we saw much, but our little detour did save us a possible 300 euro fine thanks to a polish truck driver who hailed us down to let us know that we needed a toll sticker for Czech and Slovakia. Very helpful, but of course he did later ask us for money for the favour. Nothing is for free in Europe (even to use the toilets can cost us to 1 euro).

We entered Slovakia, the rain stopped and the skies opened up (for a couple of hours) long enough for us to set up camp in Trencin, a small town not too far from the capital. A helpful Slovakian lady, Ingrid, helped us secure a site for the night in a campsite that had just closed for the summer season two days earlier. She joined us for a beer and told us what life was like as one Czechoslovakia, about working in Afghanistan and Nigeria, and what local sites we should see. This is what it is about – the people.

We closed out eyes taking one last look at the Trencin castle from our roof top tent window…ready to explore the 14 century castle and village streets the next morning and sample Modra wine in the afternoon, on the way to Bratislava (Slovakians do actually make wine and it is really nice).

The next day we explored Bratislava – wow, another beautiful city.  Endless castles and picture perfect scenery scatter Slovakia. 

We highly recommend a visit.

Contrasts of Krakow

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Our three days in Krakow, Poland could not be more different.

Day 1: Auswich.  A moving tour of the NAZI concentration camp.  It is hard to believe that such crimes occurred there, and that this happened in our modern times.  This place serves as a constant reminder of the impact of war. 

It would be hard for anyone to leave this place untouched. 

Day 2: Krakow. We stayed two nights in Krakow and took one day out to explore this city that escaped the world wars in

Wally in the wall

terms of its buildings – only minor restorations have taken place.  It’s people however, well the visit to Auswich where the Polish and the Jews were killed on mass tells a different story about how the war impacted this city. 

The old town, centred on a huge open square full of bars and restaurants, the quaint old Jewish quarter, the friendly people, the wealth of history, gave Krakow our vote as our favourite place to see so far. 

 

Day 3: The Wieliczka Salt Mine (built in the 16th century) was only 10km outside of Krakow.   After descending 360 steps we were 140 metres underground and only a small amount of the way down this huge salt mine (not in operation anymore)…and took the lift back to the top.  We found a shop, post box, cafe, toilet, Wi-Fi, and a beautiful big cathedral!   Nic even got to lick as many walls as she wanted – just not the rock salt statues that line the corridors, created by the miners.

Underground Church

 

Germany Part 1: East meets Wurst

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Our first trip into Germany took us through the north, whizzing down the autobahn where you can travel at whatever speed you like (or something like that) to the VW ‘experience’  – Autostadt.  “Spinning Lamborghini light show, action shows, endless things to do, you can easily spend two days there” – all things we were told.  Two hours later…we were well and truly done.  Completely over rated and in need of some marketing help!   

Next stop – Potsdam.  It was supposed to just be a good base to see Berlin from, but it turned out to be a great campsite and perfect weather.  After doing the obligatory touristy sites in Berlin we came to the where a section of the wall still stands today.  From there we walked down a corridor full of history and memories of the past, all really well depicted so every visit can get a full view of what life there was like until 1989. 

Wally and the Wall

 Where east met west we found a different kind of attraction – the Currywurst museum. 

An interactive tribute to the German favourite dish, Currywurst, finishing with a tasting plate.  In a nutshell, it is a cooked sausage that is fried up and cut (thick or thin to your preference) and put on a white paper tray.  Curry powder and special sauce (each vendor has their own) is added, plus more curry powder.  Then it is served with fries. 

People flock to little street side vendors all day long for this cheap, filling snack. You eat it while standing around a small table, chatting to others at the stand.  At some there is also beer and one vendor we saw also sold premium champagne to people frocked up for the opera etc.  Our verdict?  We love it!  So much so we can’t wait for our second trip into Germany (Munich – Oktoberfest) to try some more.

Reunited with an old friend (see Russian posts)

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