Europe 2012

August 30 to September 20, 2012.


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The following page describes, in very little detail, our three week trip to Europe in the autumn of 2012.  The excellent advice given by our friend Nicole to take Nyquil during our flight was the best part of the first 24 hours of the trip.

Bob had a bit of a brain wave lapse which caused a hectic drive through Seattle’s rush hour traffic to Seatac, where we arrived with more than enough time to check our bags for the first time since 1996.  Apparently Condor Airlines doesn’t allow carryon luggage greater than about 6 kilos, so we had to check our bags.

  • Slept for at least 7 hours of the 9 hour flight.  Sweet!
  • Frankfurt Airport Strike.  Boo.
  • Last two passengers on flight to Milan Malpensa (not Bergamo)
  • Lost Luggage for 3 days (Heidi) and 5 days (Bob)
  • 200 Euro cab ride to Bergamo- dropped off in the pouring rain- Garmin saved the night
  • Gorgeous apartment, excellent polenta, hot shower, washing our only set of clothes in the sink.
  • Waking up to rain and mostly dry clothing.
  • Italian cappuccino reminding Heidi that we actually were on vacation.

 

Bergamo, Italy

This is our view out the window of our cute little apartment.  Unfortunately we only had it for one night, but we loved it and the hotel we had for the next two nights was fine.

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Heidi was energized after a cappuccino and the sun peaking out through the rain clouds.

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I bought a rain jacket that was eventually ditched in Tuscany.

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After a few hours on the phone with Lufthansa (the airline that lost our luggage) and a couple of days wandering around Bergamo, we rented “Fifi”, picked up Heidi’s luggage in Milan and drove to Lugano.  The sun came out, as well as the platinum card (ouch) and our vacation was headed in the right direction!

 

 

Lugano, Switzerland

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This is Heidi with Fifi.  Fifi was gutless, but she was cute and got us where we wanted to go.Europe_2012_Switzerland_Lugano_HeidiandFifi

This is definitely a town of the rich and famous, as we saw many Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche, Bentley and other brands of vehicles that may have been imported from other countries, but were clearly purchased with Swiss Francs.  The photo below is the Hotel Pestalozzi where we stayed for two nights awaiting my luggage.  I heard the hostess speak German, English, Italian, French and Japanese.

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These next three photos are views of Lugano, Switzerland and Lago di Lugano.

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St. Mortiz, Switzerland

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There were essentially two routes to drive from Lugano to St. Moritz.  One was to travel north, then east over Julierpass before dropping down in to St. Mortiz.  The second was to drive up the coastline of Lake Como, then over the Malojapass.  The former seemed a bit less conducive to Heidi getting auto ill.  The drive was incredibly beautiful and fun.  It turns out that neither routes are not great for the faint of stomach.  We drove back over the Malojapass, which was even more crooked with switchbacks, but we drove slower.

Terrain around St. Mortiz


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An example of our route home- what you can’t see is the elevation change.  It’s beautiful and steep!


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While in St. Moritz we had a great lunch!Europe_2012_Switzerland_StMoritz_Fondue

This is the glockenspiel in the center of St. Moritz.

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Wish we could have stayed here for a couple of nights.  Or one…

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We drove Fifi down to the Bergamo airport and dropped her off, grabbed a bus to Milan for the night, then a train to Ancona, Italy.  It’s relatively unattractive port town, but it was our ticket to Croatia and we were excited to get some warm weather!

 

Ancona, Italy

This is the vessel Marko Polo which took us across the Adriatic Sea to Croatia.  It was a bit tired and old, but we had a great time drinking Croat beer and sleeping in a tiny stateroom.  Heidi didn’t like the signs about “mustering” on the main deck if there was an emergency…

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Sunset as we were motoring out of the Port of Ancona.

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Split, Croatia

Split is an ancient city that was the birthplace of Diocletian, a Roman Emperor.  He built a huge palace here, which still stands to this day.  The center of the old town waterfront was built around the palace.  We stayed for two nights in a really nice apartment here, but it was a bit gritty and touristy for us at this point in our trip, so we made our stay in this town relatively short.Europe_2012_Croatia_Split_Ship

Common passageway in Diocletian’s Palace.  Our apartment was 50 meters from where I took this photo.

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Wizard.

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Typical homes in the city of Split.

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We boarded a fast ferry to Hvar, as the weather forecast was looking great- Sunny and 80 degrees for the rest of the week.  We’re hitting the beach!

 

Hvar, Croatia

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Hvar is the San-Tropez of Croatia.  Beautiful views, yachts in the harbor and fancy resorts.Europe_2012_Croatia_Hvar_HarborFromCastle

We stayed in the old town, which is a few blocks from the resorts, but right at the base of the hill and adjacent to the harbor.  The next three photos are looking out from our apartment’s deck and down the street toward the harbor.

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The next three shots are in the harbor as we walked along the promenade.

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This looking from our apartment up the hill to the castle.  The first two photos displayed here of Hvar were taken from the castle at dusk.Europe_2012_Croatia_Hvar_Castle

 

Dubrovnik, Croatia

This is a view of the walled portion of Dubrovnik.  This photo was taken from the fortress, which is accessible by gondola.Europe_2012_Croatia_Dubrovnik_FromCastle

Since we were in Croatia in the off season, the ferry schedule was limited and our ability to travel from Hvar to Dubrovnik (our principal destination) was made difficult by the fact that the next ferry was either the day after we arrived in Hvar, or a week later.  Knowing our travel style, we decided to leave the small town for a bigger town and we jumped on the ferry in Stari Grad, a 30 minute bus ride from Hvar.  7 hours later we were in Dubrovnik.

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Dubrovnik is an amazing town- full of history, an interesting mix of Italian and slavic culture and the victim of a recent war (1990-1995 independence from Yugoslavia).  Although the town isn’t limited to the walled portion, this is the area we stayed and we enjoyed every minute of it.

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This is the apartment we rented.  It was cute, private and had a great view.

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Below is a photo taken from the window of our apartment, looking over the inner harbor.  You can see the cruise ship tenders hauling hoards of geriatrics to and from the motherships.

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Due to the location of Dubrovnik, the city has a history of being attacked by everyone in the Mediterranean Sea.  That’s why they have huge walls and fortresses surrounding the entire old city.  One of the highlights was walking the wall.

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As I mentioned  before, the non-militarized city was attacked by the Yugoslavian army in 1991 due to the intent of Croatia to gain independence.  The city was put under siege and was bombarded for an entire year.  Apparently over 11,000 buildings sustained damage and over 15,000 refugees had to leave Dubrovnik.  The Croatian army was able to eventually regain control of the area after hundreds of people lost their lives.  This was in 1992.  It’s crazy what humans will do to each other.

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We discovered a really great outdoor bar/swimming area just outside the walls of the city and only a few hundred feet from our apartment.  We spent a lot of time there the last two days we were in Dubrovnik.

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We stayed 5 days in Dubrovnik and were ready to move on.  The weather forecast was looking grim, so we decided to get out of dodge and check out a country we had very little knowledge about.  After a frantic bus ride, we caught a Croatian Airlines flight with just minutes to spare and flew to Zagreb, Croatia.  There, we wandered around town, had a very nice meal and hopped a train for…

Ljubljana, Slovenia

Slovenia is another eastern block country that had been a part of Tito’s Yugoslavia.  One advantage for Slovenia is that Tito had set up a lot of industry in Slovenia and they have a lot of natural resources and natural beauty (Julien Alps, beautiful lakes, and gorgeous architecture left over by the Austrians).  They were the first country to attempt to succeed from Yugoslavia and had a much better outcome than did Croatia, Serbia, etc.  They had basically no damage, no ethnic cleansing and their country has been successful in joining the EU.  Although they are suffering through austerity measures as many of the EU countries currently are, they are in much better shape than any of the other former Yugoslavian states.

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After two days of great sightseeing, the best meals we had yet in Europe in 2012 and some interesting history lessons,  we bailed out of Ljubljana and caught a bus for…

Lake Bled, Slovenia

The town of Bled is a tourist destination for a small population of people- those who actually know about it.  It’s a hidden gem and the Lake is the best part.  It’s a beautiful fresh water taste of perfection that lies in the foothills of the Julian Alps.  It has a castle on a cliff looking down at a church on an island.  It’s idyllic! This photo was taken with my iPhone in the middle of a rainstorm.

 

 

Here’s Heidi, amused that we were walking around taking  photos in the rain when we could be in Italy basking in the sunshine and drinking wine.  Give and take, I say.  I loved it in the mountains, eating germanic food and breathing fresh air.

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That’s what I call breakfast.  And, finally photo documented for all to see, Heidi’s two-fisted cappuccino habit that she continued to support each morning for the entire trip.

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This is the interior of a small restaurant/bar that we ate at a few times while staying in Bled.  We met some young people from Ireland and the Czech Republic that were really fun to talk to for a few hours.  Great perspective, intellegent thinkers and a breath of fresh air.  That’s the best reason to travel outside of your regular boundaries.  Fresh perspective and realizing that humans are the same where ever you go.

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This is a B&B that we stayed at in Bled.  It was quite nice.

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The castle above the lake had a bunch of great art- some of it medieval.

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This is the staircase leading up to the castle.   It was actually much steeper than this looks.

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Unfortunately our weather wasn’t great in Bled, but the views were still spectacular.  Some day I want to go back and row a boat out to the island church.

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Florence, Italy

Heidi and I had been to Florence in 1996, so we just relaxed, enjoyed the food, parks, sights and the nice weather.

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San Gimignano, Italy

Our friends Mark and Gina suggested visiting this incredible hill town in Tuscany.  I’m glad they did.  It was only a short 1 hour bus ride from Florence and we REALLY enjoyed our time there.

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I had to end this page with the photo of Heidi eating her favorite dish, lemon gelato.  This was on the last day in San Gimignano.  What a great way to end a great trip.

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