Friday, August 31, 2007

From Venice to Naples

As referred to earlier by Judith, we had a picture-book trip through and over the alps from Munich to Venice. Although it was quite a long trip it was an enjoyable one and Judith used some of the time to brush up on her Italian.

We spent three days in Venice which was too short and we are now spending four days in Naples which is probably too long! However, Venice is beautiful but over-run by tourists (including us). There are cafes, bars and shops selling Murano glass every three metres and the tacky tourist mill is a sharp contrast to the magnificence of the buildings such as the Doges Palace and the church of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari and the great art contained within.

On Tuesday we travelled by train through Tuscany, Florence and Rome to get to Naples. It was almost like travelling through two different countries. And this difference is even more dramatically contrasted in the two cities of Venice and Naples.

We are finding Naples very hot and extremely humid. We need to go back to our hotel each day to shower and cool down. Unfortunately our hotel does not have air conditioning but with the help of an open window and wall- mounted fan we are managing to sleep OK.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Art in Berlin to picturebook Bavaria

We are now in Naples, having taken the train from Venice via Roma. Unfortunately the train was delayed for two hours which meant we had a long day's journey into night. I thought I'd do a little catch up as we haven't had a great deal of access to the internet over the last three or four days (8 euro per hour in one internet point in Venice!)

As mentioned earlier, we visited the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin, which is housed in an old railway station. The setting was sensational and the artwork ranged from brilliant and visually exciting to very edgy and confronting (a table full of about forty plastic boxes containing rotting matter). Judith was not engaged but Anthea, Andrew and I were. I particularly liked the thousands of roughly hewn slate from the Himalayas (above).

On the morning of the day we were leaving Berlin, we lined up to see the Reichstag along with many others, but found that we were unable to wait long enough as we had to check out of our hotel room by 12.00. We left the queue and then stumbled onto the Holocaust memorial which we'd heard about but had not seen. It was very moving and sensitively done - no mean achievement. It consists of the myriad concrete blocks seen here, with the displays and informative element housed underneath.

After Berlin, Judith and I flew to Munich and stayed with a lovely family Judith had contacted through the internet. Our hosts were extremely hospitable and took us for a drive into the Bavarian countryside where we visited an old castle built by "Mad Prince Ludwig" who only lived there a short time and was reknowned for building four or five castles. This castle was on an island and was modelled after Versailles. Eventually he drowned under mysterious circumstances. We then drove into the hills and had afternoon tea overlooking the lake and island (below). The whole trip was picturebook Bavaria.

The following day we visited munich itself and just had a pleasant day ambling around the streets. Our hosts showed us genuine friendly Bavarian hospitality and our stay was a real highlight of our current trip.

Monday, August 27, 2007


This is our first full day in Venice and this will be a very short post as Internet access like everything else in Venice is very expensive.

We came by train from Munich yesterday through storybook scenery in Bavaria and Austria into the Italian Tyrol.

Today we went to see the Doges Palace at the Piazza San Marco (with the thousands of other tourists). We are limiting ourselves to one museum/ gallery a day as we are finding that there is a limit to how much one can effectively take in. Venice has a fading grandeur that is really beautiful, but it is impossible to see anything without many other people sharing the experience.

We have another full day here tomorrow and then off to Naples.

Monday, August 20, 2007


We have been in Berlin for five days now and have been doing a great deal of sightseeing with Anthea and Andrew. We have been impressed with the architecture which is far more adventurous than most Australian architecture and often very striking. Judith has outlined much of what we have been doing but one place we visited which does indicate something of the design ethic of Berlin is the Sony Centre, which includes a very large covered space with a windmill-like umbrella; this is a photo of the roof of the Sony Centre taken from below.

The food in Berlin has been fantastic. There is a very wide range of cuisines clustered in a series of eating strips, and we have had some excellent eating experiences.

Tomorrow we fly to Munich in the afternoon where we will be for three days and then on by train to Venice.

Day 3 in Berlin

After a very long 23 hours in the air we arrived in Berlin on Wednesday morning. Thanks to a very efficient public transport system we quickly reached our hotel.

Wednesday afternoon was spent exploring the quiet neighbourhood around our hotel. Late afternoon Anthea and Andrew arrived in Berlin after their quick trip to the UK.

We spent two days of busy and intense touristing and managed to see the Brandenburg Gate, the 500m stretch of the Wall still standing, Checkpoint Charlie, Potsdamer Platz, the Pergamon Museum (fantastic antiquities from the middle east and Turkey), The Jewish musuem ( thought provoking and harrowing in a confronting archtectural style) and the Hamburger Bahnhof Museum (devoted to very modern art and best described by Milton as my comments may not pass the censor).

This afternoon we went on a boat cruise down the River Spree which was very relaxing and a good way to see some of the sights. The "City Beaches" are particularly interesting - sand is bought in and people stretch out, make sand castles and generally behave as if they were at the seaside instead of on the river bank. It is in the mid 20s today but worries of skin cancer do not seem to concern the sunbathing Berliners.

Anthea and Andrew are going to Hamburg tomorrow to visit Jörg - they come back late Tuesday and then fly out to Ireland early Tuesday morning so tomorrow morning we will have breakfast with them and say goodbye.

My school girl German is holding up well - helped by the fact that many people speak excellent English.

Impressions so far are of a clean city with helpful friendly people. Beer and sausages are sold everywhere and food comes in large servings but people generally appear trim and fit. The public transport system is terrific - we have been hopping on and off trains using our weekly pass. I have managed to avoid both the beer and sausages so far - we have eaten Syrian, Asia and Italian for dinner and for lunch and breakfast have visited some of the great bakeries near our hotel.

We are still recovering from jetlag and our feet are just coping with all the walking but over all we are doing fine.
Andrew is currently giving Milton a lesson in uploading photos to the blog so we should have a ew up soon. Unfortunately are having troubles with our Flickr account so I will remove that from the links.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

I bought a camera!

We fly out of Melbourne at 2.40 pm today, so are just doing last minute preparations. Thought I might give an update on the camera purchase for those technophiles out there. I had decided to buy an SLR digital camera so that I could not only take better happy snaps, but also take better macro photographs of jewellery I have made.

I settled on an Olympus E-410 with a 14 - 42mm zoom lens, and also bought a Zuiko 35mm macro lens for good close-ups of jewellery. A key factor in deciding on this particular camera was that it is promoted as the smallest and lightest SLR-D on the market and that certainly was my perception, having had a good look at what was available for a similar price. This is an entry level camera but it will do all I want it to do and more. I am extremely pleased with my choice so far, having played around with it for the last three weeks, and having gone to a two-day workshop on taking more professional photographs of your own artwork. Actually, I think it is more user-friendly than a normal digital camera.

I also was talked into buying a 2 gig SanDisk Extreme III flashcard which can hold more than 800 jpeg files/photos. I already have an 18 gig iPod which has over 8 gig of music on it and still has available just over 9 gig of space for photos. By my calculations, that's room for about 7200 photos. I figure that if I take that many photos in 9 weeks I need to come home and get a life!

Oh, and my wonderful family bought me an iPod docking station for my recent birthday so we can listen to music sans earphones wherever we might be.

At this stage, the biggest decision we have to make is: do we book a taxi to the airport at 12.00 or 12.15?