Sunday, July 23, 2023

Blog Europe 2023 Part 2 (Scroll down to read Part 1)

7 July 2023

We went by train from Basel to Milano with no problem boarding at 9:30am.

Milan to Venice did not start well.  Another couple had the same seats booked as ours.

The Italian conductress said it was impossible.

Confronted with the evidence she then said the computer had made a mistake.  Fortunately she found new seats for the other younger couple.

We got to Venice at 6:30pm, grabbed a porter who did a great job organising a taxi to the Hilton Molino Stucky on the island of Guidecca..  The Hilton is the biggest hotel in Venice and is extraordinarily busy.

Before going to Venice I had some research and torn out some articles.  One began by saying “Forget wandering among the canals and canoodling in a gondola.  What you should be doing in Venice is eating.”  If you have read my first blog you could say that we had already adopted this philosophy and I can only agree,’

8 July 2023

Following the advice of her nephew, Angus, we caught a ferry to the island of Lido.  We walked to the typically Italian Beach covered in umbrellas in reserved areas where you pay to stay.  Lido is a wealthy suburb.

That night on the recommendation of Marita Blood we ate dinner at the Corte Sconta, Calle del Pestrin.  A recommendation which proved to be brilliant.  Great food and great ambiance.  I asked the owner, Marco Proletto, to name his favourite restaurants and we ended up eating at two of them.  Book before going, this restaurant is well known in Venice and very popular.

9 July 2023

Thus began our education in Venice.  I woke up to find my computer had frozen.   It was Sunday so we went to the concierge to ask if there was a computer shop in Venice.  He said there was one behind the Teastro de Venice in the Calle de Molino.  Vivienne suggested we go there and the find the shop so we could easily go there on Monday.  Like a good husband I followed her advice 2 hours later we had gone up and down the street with no luck.  We then went into a mobile phone shop and was told by the techie no computer shop here but try the Strata Nova.  Another 1.5 hours no shop.  Like every other tourist wandering around Venice we were discovering GMAPs is very hard to use.  However we had one good piece of luck; it was hunch time and we were 100m from the Vini ds Gigio and 10 minutes later we finally found it and sat down to lunch.

This was a  recommendation by owner of the Corte Sconta,  Another excellent seafood restaurant.

The other good news was that I had plugged in my computer to charge it and it booted immediately.  Somehow it had not been plugged in properly.  And that evening doing the promenade to find a bar in Guidecca what was the first thing we found? A computer shop 300m from the hotel!!!

10 July 2023

Continuing our exploration of Venice we decide to cross of the Guidecca Canal  to Zattere and explore the Dosoduro area of Venice.   We started late; I had woken at 9:30am and had a local bar croissant and cappuccino for breakfast.  Vivienne was hungry so I found using GMAPS a great restaurant  Trattoria Ai Cugnai S.Vio 857.

As we were close we decided to go to the Guggenheim Museum.  Walking around and looking at the very attractive interns and not really into non-representational 20th century modern art, I asked a young male intern if he had ever read Tom Wolfe’s The Painted Word? 

To my utter amazement he said he had read it 2 weeks ago, thought it was brilliant and was recommending it to all the other interns.  My declining faith in the young generation was suddenly restored. 

11 July 2023

Vivienne said she wanted to explore the Grand Canal and I said sure we can catch a ferry and then did the trip down the Canal.  It was now 12 noon and I had booked lunch at the Antiche Carampane for 1:30.  GMAPS said we were 15 minutes away and 2 hour later we finally found it.  Luckily they had kept a table and Marco’s suggestion proved to be excellent. 

I do not want to describe the trip back but what should have been 45 mins max back took us 2.5 hours; Venice is a tough city to navigate.

12 July 2023

We transferred to the Viking Sea our home for the next 10 days as we cruise from Venice to Athens.  Cruise ships are now banned in the Venice lagoon.  The Viking Sea was moored in Choggia, a 90 minute cruise from Venice.

13 July 2023

We were meant to sail to Slovenia but due to some complication we could not so we spent the day moored in Choggia.  We took the free offer of guided short tour of Venice which was somewhat ironical being we had already spent 4 day there,  The guide, Gabriela, who was not much younger than me was very sprightly and walks at a cracking pace.  Her commentary was first rate.

Vivienne tried to match our stunningly attractive Viking Guide, Annelise, with a very handsome gondolier who was giving Annelise the eye.  Her reply? “My father was a gondolier, so was my uncle, my brother, and my two last boyfriends.  I will never go out with another gondolier.”

14 July 2023

We sailed to the port of Zadar on the Croatian Coast.  The oldest city on the Dalmatian coat it has had a challenging history due to it always finding itself positioned on the border between two opponents in conflict.  The latest was the Homeland War between Croatia/Slovenia and Serbia/Montenegro.  Our guide was excellent and told us why it was all Serbia’ s fault.

15 July 2023

Next port Dubrovnik; easily the most scenic port on the Dalmatian Coast.  We were last here in August 2008 and all I can remember is how crowded it was.  Since then Dubrovnik has survived the terrible siege of the Homeland War in the early 1990s and two years of Covid.  Again the guide gave more history about the Homeland War. 

On the other hand two great decisions by the local government have made Dubrovnik far more enjoyable to visit.  The first was limiting the number of cruise ships to two; previously it allowed up to 10.  The other was to give Game of Thrones rent free use of the city (It is the Kingdom of Lannister).  It has since been used for multiple film & TV productions.

16 July 2023

Kotor was described by Lord Byron as ‘’At the birth of the planet, the most beautiful encounter between land and sea must have been on the Montenegrin coast.’’.  And he is probably right. 

However, the most amazing part of our tour was when the guide explained the prevalence of cats which are everywhere.  Kotor managed to escape the black death that ravaged the rest of Europe killing over 40% of the population due to three reasons.

1.     Excellent sewerage systems built by the Romans.

2.     Excellent fresh water in the surrounding mountains brought in by aqueducts again built by the Romans.

3.     The large number of cats that caught the rats.

 I asked the guide what did Montenegro call the 1990 Balkan War? Her reply is that it was a civil war started by paramilitary forces based in Croatia.  It was started by politicians and was terrible the way it divided families including her own. 

There are always 2 sides to every story.

17 July 2023

It is getting hotter; today it reached 37°C.  In all my travels I have never been to Corfu and it had long been on my bucket list.  For years it was the #1 location for the Brits.  And to be honest we were both less than impressed.  There were too many people using the limited public resources.  

On the other hand once our tour had finished we had a very nice cappuccino and bellini at the Sessions Café on Liston - Eleftherias Street, easily the most attractive street in Corfu.

18 July 2023

Even hotter today 39°C.  Moored at Kalakolon and went to Olympia where the Olympic games started in 776BC.  Now is the site where the Olympic flame is lit every 2 years prior to going to the host country.  Impressive site but our tour guide could have been longer and slower.

19 July 2023

When we woke up this morning and went out onto our balcony, we were met with a convoy of cruise ships.  Six of them (including) ours were mooring today in Santorini harbour.  We were last here in 2006.  I spent 2 days in our cave bedroom in Oia recovering from cellulitis.  And the island was overrun when multiple cruise ships moored in the harbour (like today).

I booked an excursion that described as .”Cities ancient and modern.”  The first part was a visit to Akrotiri: known the Pompeii of the Aegean, a town completely submerged in the massive volcanic eruption of 1600 BC. It is now a major archaeological site and quite fascinating; the sophistication of the locals was  impressive (aqueducts, sewage systems, etc.) 

The second part was a visit to Oia.  We ended up having a great lunch at Pelicans restaurant and while crowed the town was nowhere as bad as it was in 20o6.   On the other hand the drive down to the port to catch the tender back to the ship was a nightmare.  Santorini is spectacular but I would go mad living here.

20 July 2023

We made  it to the final destination Piraeus/Athens.  We had and excursion booked starting at 1:30 and the bus said the temperature outside was 44°C which even for Australians is hot.  We did a quick 10 minute stop at the stadium used for the first Olympic Games held in 1896 and I thought this is insane. Our next stop was a 1.5 hour air conditioned tour of the National Archaeological Museum which is brilliant.

21 July 2023

We transfer to the King George Hotel which is one of the best hotels in Athen and has the prices to match.  We ended up having lunch in its partner hotel the Grande Bretange next door and dinner (1 course appetizer) and treating the day as a rest day which we needed.  Cost of taxi 40 euros including tip,  Cost of hire car organised by cruise 240 euros.

22 July 2023

It now so hot in Athens (39°C) the Acropolis in only open in the morning.  ontains the remains of several ancient buildings of great architectural and historical significance, the most famous being the Parthenon.  It was rebuilt by Pericles in the Greek Golden Age (460-430BC). It can be seen from everywhere in the city and has to be visited.

So on the advice of the hotel we pre-book tickets and catch a taxi to thce Acropolis at 7am.  We arrive at 7:15 am along with around 500 tourists in the queue.  By 8am there are some 5000 people queueing in a disorderly fashion but we get inside at 8:15.  The climb is quite tricky for those with limited mobility like myself but I made it..   OHS is non-existent and by 9:15 the crowds were overwhelming. 

In the afternoon Vivienne went shopping and I treated my self to a massage.

23 July 2023

Our last full day in Europe and nearly a full rest day.  The King George Hotel does a great buffet with great views and Vivienne noticed the Changing of the Guard outside Parliament House at 10am.  We decided to walk to the Parliament (2 minutes) and see the next change at 11am.  Unfortunately so did 3000 other tourists.  The view from our hotel was better.

I will finish here.  The temperature is predicted to crack 40°C so sightseeing is out and we have done enough anyway.  In conclusion it is very hard to beat the culture and history of Europe and cruises are a great way of exploring it.  (This is a plug for Viking who do a great job).

Chris Golis Australia's expert on practical emotional intelligence
Email:    mobile: +61-418-222219

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