Destination: Europe, Part 4

Thursday 5th September – Dresden to Treffen (Austria) via Salzburg

We made an early start as we planned to visit Salzburg, but we also wanted to get as close to Venice as possible before putting our heads down for the night. The car needed to be returned to the hire desk by 10am tomorrow so we didn’t want to travel too far in the morning. As with our journey north, we didn’t book a hotel preferring to pick a location when we had a better idea of how we were feeling at the end of the day.

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I was looking forward to revisiting Salzburg having last been there as a kid, way too many years ago. As with Dubrovnik I remembered how much I liked the city, but this time I didn’t recall very much other than the castle perched high on the hill above the city, and the river flowing through.

We had a long, but uneventful, journal arriving in an overcast Salzburg late afternoon. Unfortunately as we walked out of the car park it began to rain but that wasn’t going to stop us having a look around.

We stayed in the old town area at the foot of the castle cliff where the streets were pedestrianised, narrow, and full of shops worth having a quick look into. There were the usual high street names we are used to seeing, but also quiet a few unusual places to keep you interested. In one square there was a small market. It was beginning to close up for the day but there was still some stalls for us to wander round.

While strolling we happened to find the birth place of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. We guessed it was the right place by the number of people taking photographs of this otherwise very plain building.

IMG_7346It had been a long day and we were ready to eat, so found a small restaurant and enjoyed some authentic Austrian fair.

As we walked back to the car park, in the now pouring rain, we realised we had lost our bearings. Thankfully a very nice lady pointed us in the right direction and also showed us how to get there under cover.

Dresden to Treffen, via Salzburg : 826km

IMG_7348Before arriving in Salzburg, Katja had booked us into a hotel in Treffen about two and half hours south. There didn’t seem to be too many rooms available in the area which was explained when we were chatting to the owner of our hotel who told us that there was a Harley Davidson gathering nearby and that approximately 50,000 bikers were in the area for the next few days. He himself was a biker which explained the Harley on display out front of the hotel; all the bike pictures everywhere and even a bike headboard in our room.

Friday 6th September – Treffen to Venice

After yet another early start we were at the car hire return desk in plenty of time. With the formalities done Katja asked the girl serving what was the easiest way into Venice. This was when we found out that there was another way to go – water bus directly from Marco Polo Airport. This must be the only airport with such a service!

Treffen to Venice : 270km

We took the bus across the lagoon, through Murano and round to Venice, getting off at Arsenale. Our hotel, Albergo Al Nuovo Teson, was just a few minutes walk away.

HearseOn our way across the lagoon we passed another sight which may also be unique to Venice; a water hearse. Its when you see these unusual boats you begin to understand the complexities of living on an island which, criss crossed by canals, means there are no roads, cars or trucks. Even the rubbish is collected from houses and shops in hand carts before being loaded on to boats for transportation to the tip.

Unfortunately our hotel room wasn’t as shown on their website which was very disappointing. It was very small with no room to get around the bed! That said, we had stayed in a few hotels during our trip and this was the only one that had not been up to expectations.

Having dropped our bags it was time for lunch. Turning right out of hotel was a small square with several restaurants. For no obvious reason we picked Da Noi Osteria Pizzeria which proved to be an inspired choice. We had pizza for lunch which was just perfect. It was so good that we went back for dinner a couple more times.

For the rest of the afternoon we relaxed, had a little stroll and then found somewhere for dinner. No obvious sightseeing today as we were both a little tired from the journey, but we took the opportunity to enjoy being in such a beautiful city, away from the crowds.

Saturday 7th September – Venice

We woke to a blue sky and warm sunshine. Today was definitely for seeing the sights! A quick coffee and croissant for breakfast and we were off.

Everybody who has been to Venice will warn you about the crowds. Thousands of people visit the city everyday and they all want to see the Doge’s Palace, St Marks Square, the Bridge of Signs and Rialto Bridge, so the advise is definitely “Get There Early!”

IMG_7393(1)We were keen to tick all the boxes, at least as far as having seen the buildings concerned, even if we weren’t going to queue to go inside.

I had completely forgotten about the Bridge of Sighs until searching on-line for some additional blog material. I was actually annoyed with myself that I had forgotten all about it only to find that I had actually taken a photo of the bridge while we were out! As we walked along the bank of the Giudecca Canal towards St Marks Square, I just happened to look to the right down a side canal and took a picture of this lovely stone bridge between.

The view from the Bridge of Sighs was the last view of Venice that convicts saw before their imprisonment. The bridge’s English name was bequeathed by Lord Byron in the 19th century as a translation from the Italian “Ponte dei sospiri”, from the suggestion that prisoners would sigh at their final view of beautiful Venice through the window before being taken down to their cells. [Wikipedia]

We walked past the Doge’s Palace on our way to St Marks Square. This truly magnificent example of Venetian Gothic was initially constructed between the 10th and 11th centuries, although it has been expanded, renovated and modified many times over the years.

Piazza San Marco, known in English as St Marks Square, is the main square in Venice. It is generally known simply as “la Piazza” by Venetians, all other open spaces, with the exception of Piazza Roma, are known as “campi” or fields. The square is surrounded by the principle buildings of Venice from which the city was governed over the centuries.

When you see the square from above (Google Maps View) you realise just how large the space actually is, and how the surrounding buildings crowd in.

Like much of Venice, The Piazza San Marco is prone to flooding. Over the years the city has sunk into the mud leaving many areas very close to sea level. During the Acqua Alta, the “high water”, which is caused by extremely heavy rain or storm surges from the Adriatic, water can no longer drain away into the Grand Canal, in fact the drains have the opposite affect of pushing water up in to the square. It was noticeable that many buildings kept their ground floor area for storage or, as in the case of our hotel, had flood protection barriers to ensure the water was kept out.

IMG_7427From here, having taken a deep breath in preparation, we navigated the tourist filled streets in search of the Rialto Bridge. This is the oldest of the four bridges which cross the Grand Canal. It’s an amazing structure with shops lining both sides of the central roadway and then footpaths at the back of both lines of shops as can be seen clearly from above: Google Maps View.

We spent the rest of the afternoon strolling through the streets, looking in the shops and generally enjoying the sights.

Venice is a maze. While you may know that the place you want is only a few meters to your left, you have to take several right turns before you get there. There are also the dead ends and waterways with no bridge to frustrate your further. I think the trick is never to be in a hurry and give yourself plenty of time to get to where you want to go.

For dinner we decided to go back to Da Noi Osteria Pizzeria where we had lunch the previous day. This time we were welcomed back like old friends complete with a complementary champagne to start our meal and lemoncello to round it off. It was a very quiet night for them, apparently most tourists were in another part of town for the Venice File Festival, and so we had plenty of time to chat and joke. It was yet another great evening to add to our memories.

Sunday 8th September – Venice

IMG_7471IMG_7470Venice is an amazing, ancient city which just exudes mystery, intrigue and history . It feels like there is a story to tell behind every doorway. Houses standing down dark passageways, in squares with restaurants bars and hotels, and in some cases across their own private bridge. My words and pictures just cannot do it justice.

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When wondering through the streets its it very likely that at some point you will notice the house numbers painted above, or next to, every door way. One one occasion I saw a number above a window but it was obvious that the window was once a door, and having allocated a number then it has to stay for ever!

In Venice house numbers aren’t allocated in any organised way and it is known that you cannot use the number to find an address. Even Google Maps can’t cope – this was clear to us when looking for our hotel which based on the street address was no where near the actual location. This article in Luca’s Italy explains the history, why the numbers are painted the way there are and how to navigate the city : Venice house numbers

As the weather had been horrible most of the day we hadn’t been out much, so we took a stroll along the water front before dinner. As the time ticked past 6pm we saw a cruise ship start to move in the distance. As we waited and watched, it slowly sailed down through the Giudecca Canal on its way out to the Adriatic Sea. As the ship came fully in to view we saw that it was the Norwegian Star, the very ship that we were on just three weeks earlier! It was amazing to watch it manoeuvre between the ancient buildings of Venice.

We had a final dinner at our favourite restaurant where we were again welcomed back like old friends with a glass of champagne before we ate and several lemoncellos to finish our meal in true Italian style.

Monday 9th September – Venice to Sydney

IMG_7516Sadly our amazing European adventure has come to an end. One last breakfast looking out over the Venice canals then finish packing, check out of the hotel and catch the water bus back to Marco Polo airport.

Venice is magnificent. A destination we must return to soon so that we can see the rest of the city, I’m guessing that accounts for about 75% of it, the many other islands in the lagoon and also go into some of the incredible buildings that we only saw on the outside.

Venice to Sydney : 16,300km

And so to the long flight home, via Dubai.

And so to the next time …..

IMG_7424Our trip is done, and what a trip it was!

We have seen and experienced so many different countries; Italy, Greece, Croatia, Austria, German and the UK.

There are places to which we plan to return; Venice, Dubrovnik, Mykonos, Cinque Terre; and some that we may not.

We have flown (35,000 km), sailed (3,000 km) and driven (3,500 km).

And we have some magnificent memories.

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