Friday, March 29, 2013

Ciao, Italia!

I am writing this post from a "campground" outside of Rome.  By campground, I mean a rustic Italian building containing a full bar, pizzeria, flat screen TV showing the Good Friday proceedings in the Vatican, a convenience market, shuttle bus, heated cabins, and, obviously, wi-fi.  Oh, and a Ducati motorcycle parked inside the bar.  We are officially Euro-camping.  And it is fabulous.  Fabulous and budget-friendly!    The lush springtime foliage and perfect weather are just what we need after a challenging few days on the road.  

After setting off to Trieste, Italy from Split, Croatia by bus on Tuesday night, we arrived bedraggled at our destination early Wednesday morning after crossing the freezing mountains at the Slovenian border.  Expressing a need for coffee STAT, we found the Italian espresso was just what the doctor ordered.  Indeed, it is difficult to stay tired in Italy.  We proceeded to power through a magical 24-hour stay in Venice, ending with a sprint across town to visit San Marco's Plaza before our bus left.  Or so we thought.  Then one of our travel nightmares occurred: we missed our bus!  There's always a first, but Lordy, does it smart!  Non-refundable tickets!  Tough to swallow, but I think I'm over it....      

Anyway, after a night spent at a bar in Bologna and the train station, we finally arrived in Rome.  And it is totally rocking!  We may stay longer than anticipated....  Time to organize our activities in this city jam-packed full of sights and events, especially over Easter (you may have gathered that we are last-minute planners, which usually works out fine, but occasionally comes back to bite us in the arse...).  I leave you with a few photos of Venice for starters.


Arriving at the train station in Venice....  Like a living postcard.

Rainy day in Venice- the subdued beauty of an alley.


San Marco's Tower, where my grandfather, Linus Burger, was stationed in World War II.  Happy Easter, Grandpa! Hope to meet you someday :)

Monday, March 25, 2013

Goodbye for now, Croatia:-(

As if to affirm our decision to move on to Italy tomorrow, the heavy rain and howling wind set in to give us a case of the Mondays, Croatian style.  But it helps to remember Friday afternoon in Trogir, drinking coffee along the waterfront by the Roman fortress, providing one of the key images we will take from this country.  My thoughts (and photos) are scattered as I struggle to process all that we have seen and done in our first month, while looking forward to our next amazing destination.  It's all going by super fast, which I will accept, since the traveling is hard and we miss our peeps, but if only we could just cram more in without worrying about those pesky details of humanity like sleep and nutrition.... We'll do our best:-)

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Thoughts from Croatia

We are absolutely exhausted, running ourselves into the ground here in Croatia, trying to absorb all we can of this incredible country, while also planning our upcoming travel to Italy.  After about a month on the road, we have spent time in three countries, and more or less identified our rhythm of travel (about a week per medium-sized country, without trying to cram in so many activities that they all run together).  We are tired, but thoroughly enjoying ourselves and not straying too far from the budget.  Fortunately, we have been healthy and happy and have encountered a multitude of amazing people. 

I write this post from the lodging my sister refers to as our "Soviet flophouse", which is a rather harsh description of the shabby-chic, well-located and (kind of) sturdily-built apartment we booked ahead, which firmly falls under the category of "looked better online"....  At least we didn't fork over large quantities of cash for it.  And, as Mia's boyfriend Patrick pointed out, it could have been worse.  

On a lighter note, I don't think I have seen this much sun since we stayed in Mexico, about a year ago.  It isn't warm enough to swim in the cerulean Adriatic sea, but we can at least put our feet in and lounge around while wearing a light jacket.  We have been exploring Split and Trogir for the last five days, and tomorrow will take a ferry to one of the nearby islands for a day trip.  Tuesday my parents, Mia and Patrick will head back to Tuebingen, Germany, and Harold and I will take a ferry to Italy, where we will spend a couple of weeks before making our way slowly along the coasts of France and Spain to arrive in Morocco. We still can't really believe we have actually embarked on the trip we have been planning for so long, and although we are revising the itinerary as we go along, it has absolutely been a dream come true so far.  Happy honeymoon to us!

The following are scenes from around Split, an ancient Roman port on the Dalmatian coast.  Brace yourselves for large quantities of photos of Croatia- we just cannot stop snapping away at this breathtaking country.....

Visiting early Christian churches and hermitages on the Marjan peninsula in Split- there were tons of people out cycling, playing soccer, rock climbing, strolling and taking in the sunshine.  Locals often smile and wave, or offer to help if we appear confused, which is frequently the case...

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Photo of the day

Hey, y'all!  Thanks for continuing (or beginning) to check our little ol' blog, and we hope you are enjoying the updates.  This is our first time traveling so quickly from place to place, since in the past we have generally picked a place to live and traveled around the area from a home base... However, switching countries every week or so, it is easier to see the obvious differences in character from place to place, i.e. the charming eccentricities and abundance of cultural offerings in London, to the polished elegance, intellectual vibe and impressive societal organization of southwest Germany, to the sheer unfamiliarity, fascinating combination of cultural influences, and touching warmth of the people of Croatia, where we are currently having a delightful time with family in the coastal city of Split.  

Having learned practically nothing about eastern Europe in school, and not paying a heck of a lot of attention to the region as adults, we hadn't much of an idea what to expect when visiting Croatia.  We have been absolutely thrilled with the incredible landscapes, dynamic culture, and welcoming nature of the people.  Since this is, by far, our most challenging travel experience linguistically, I am finding that my attempts to decipher Croatian (which, thankfully, employs the Latin alphabet) are crowding out my English vocabulary, so I will stop typing and leave you with a photo from our stroll around Split today....

Monday, March 18, 2013

The crew (minus Patrick, who was at football practice) fills up on Chinese/Thai food before an early rise tomorrow to fly to Croatia!!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Bebenhausen: A stunning glimpse of medieval monastic life

The Kloster Bebenhausen, a 12th century Cistercian monastery located about a ten-minute drive from Tuebingen, is one of the most photogenic places we have visited so far.  Although almost five centuries have passed since it was an active monastery, a profound sense of tranquility permeates as you stroll through the gracefully constructed abbey.  

Entering the abbey.

A view of the town of Bebenhausen from the abbey wall.

A good lookout point to check for potential troublemakers in this formerly lawless area of Germany. 

Cannons for defense of the abbey.

A deer head above a doorway.  I would like to know more about the meaning behind it...

Three family members, three different directions.

The parlatorium, where the monks were permitted to talk for one hour each day.  Further demonstrating their extremely humble lifestyle was their one daily meal, simple straw bed, and one hour of warming time by the fire each evening.  Hard core!

An entrance to the church.

A prior entry to the church.

Previously a walkway, now framing the town cemetery.

The well.

Strolling around the picturesque town of Bebenhausen.

Abandoned lawn chairs- one of my favorite photographic subjects, for some reason...

Entering the forest outside Bebenhausen.  Discovering a book exchange in the forest!  Germany is indeed an intellectual destination, taxing on the old noggin...

The woods are reminiscent of the southern Indiana forest, where my ancestors from this part of Germany settled in the mid 1800s.

Riding a wild boar!

The smile recognition function of my camera, resulting in a chaotic family photo.

Jumping for joy, strolling to a nearby village.

A village in the distance...

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Greetings from Deutschland!

After our whirlwind stay in London, we caught the bus to Stuttgart, Germany.  How, you may ask, does one take a bus from England to continental Europe?   Well, in our case, the bus boarded the train, which passed underneath the English Channel via the Eurotunnel.  An odd experience, to be sure, as the bus driver expertly  maneuvered the double-decker vehicle onto a train car that allowed about two centimeters of space on all sides of the bus.  There was barely any light once we were in the tunnel, and no perceptible movement towards our destination.  However, somehow, after 30 minutes, we found ourselves in France.  

Arriving at, let's just say, one of the less-polished areas of Paris several hours later, we waited inside a McDonald's at a nearby mall for our connecting overnight bus to Stuttgart.  You may have some questions at this point, such as "why the #^%$ did you guys take the bus that far" and "why McDonald's"?   We bussed it for the price (even cheaper than the budget airlines at 4 pounds from London to Paris!) and the opportunity to see the drive (which, in all honesty, wasn't that amazing, but at least we saw it!).  And placing ourselves firmly in the "budget travel" category, we have been known to patronize the McDonald's dollar menu, or in this case, "one-euro" coffee menu.  Plus, they have Internet...  Don't judge!  (Full disclosure: those were not the best three hours of our lives, as the establishment was filthy, deafeningly noisy, and the bathroom boasted a nauseating combination of smells, along with a piece of petrified excrement on the floor.)  We will be back to Paris later on in our trip, and this mall will not be on our list of places to visit...

The next morning, we rumbled up to an industrial area of Stuttgart, Germany after a long night with thirty chatty, chain-smoking French teenagers and a rowdy Bulgarian(?) dude that came close to getting into a fistfight with our emotionally labile bus driver who regularly screamed at the aforementioned teenagers to pipe down.  Since we are too cheap to buy SIM cards in every country we visit, we had attempted via Skype to pin down beforehand where to meet my parents and sister once we arrived, but ultimately had to just walk in circles until we found each other.  

Once we did, it was a wonderful reunion in the state of Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany, my ancestors' area of origin, where I lived as a very young child, and where my sister currently resides, working on her Master's degree at the University of Hohenheim.  It was as if the family had come full-circle in a way, and the fact that it was one of my husband's dream travel destinations made it all the more meaningful.  

Since our stay in Germany has resulted in a multitude of photos, I will leave you with snaps of Stuttgart for starters.  It is just really hard to refrain from photographing the heck out of the elegant buildings, monuments, fairy-tale landscapes and amusing travel activities, and with the excessive amount of photo storage we made sure to line up, why not snap away?

A castle in downtown Stuttgart.

City Hall, reconstructed in the Roman style after WWII.

A grand library with surrounding pond.

A majestic schwann.

Part of a Roman wall in the middle of a city park!

A grand hilltop university building.

Public descriptions of spa-mineral bath activities for visitors.  Apparently 80s aerobics garb is a prerequisite...

As my sister puts it, "an awkwardly-proportioned statue" along a riverside walkway.

Beech tree (I think) walkway.

A book, a bike, and a park.

Mom and Papa on our train to Tuebingen, where my sis resides.

My hubby with my sister, whom I had not seen in over a year :(

Stay tuned for a photographic journey through our other German destinations......