The Retirees return to Europe – Brengz Austria

Bregenz

Goodbye Vienna. Our preplanning worked well and we might have caught the train on time if Kerry had not left her handbag in the train station waiting room. Literally she was stepping into the train when she realised it was not there. She ran back to the waiting room, but we knew we had missed our train. However, unlike aeroplanes we could catch the next one with our luggage and the EUrail pass gave us that flexibility. We had chosen first class seats because this is a 7 hour journey with no stops. There is a dining car, and we could order from the menu and get in seat service. The train reached speeds of 221kph and taking photos was often difficult, but we managed to capture some of the pleasant Austrian countryside and Austrian Alps. The following photos trace our journey from outside Vienna to Bregenz and you may notice the progression from plain to Alps in the west.

Photos

We arrived in Bregenz late afternoon and caught a cab to our accommodation which was outside of Bregenz and in a suburb/village called “Hard”. Very suburban and quiet but with not a lot of action either. It is a studio in a large house probably purpose built and clumsy in the way of east European architecture but suited our needs perfectly. The lines 15 and 17 bus to Bregenz Bahnhof (the main rail head) was under 5 minutes’ walk away and the buses ran every half hour – very convenient.

We walked up to the nearest supermarket “Billa” – about 20minutes away and bought some articles and two salads for dinner. After 7 hours on our bums the walk was needed. Bedtime was strange as sunset was about 8.30pm in the evening and this continued to disrupt our planning right up to the evening at the theatre when we arrived for a 7.00pm start only to find it was 9.00pm start as the theatre was open air. We knew it was open air and wondered how it was going to function in the bright afternoon light. Now we know – they wait till the sun goes down.

Bregenz is on the banks of Lake Constance Europe’s 2nd biggest Lake and the lake is the border for Austria Germany and Switzerland. The Austrian and Swiss Alps run up to the lake so Bregenz has Pfander mountain at its back. For our first visit to the city/old city we started with the board walk along the lake to the boat terminals and then walked to the cable car to ride to the top of Pfander.

My first photo is Kerry on the boardwalk and then the ultramodern dinner boat called “Koningin” docked at the boardwalk. Then follows photos of the cable car ride up to Pfander, a view of Lindau Island Pfander, and rest area where there is a mini zoo of mountain animals. I have included a panorama showing the lake spreading away to the unknown. Views of the surrounding Alps and the facilities and animals of the zoo follow. The return journey gives a clear indication of the height of Pfander and how quickly it rises behind Bregenz. Watch out two of the jousting mountain goats have escaped from this gallery to the next gallery.

After returning to the town level, we walked along one of the streets bounding the old town so there was a mixture of old and new. Amongst the houses we encountered a parked car with a car cover over it clearly been there for years: so long in fact the town has declared it street art and posted a sign about the “artist”. It is all in German with no English note but our enquires lead us to understand that some local “artist” bought himself a new Porsche and was disappointed with it, so he put the cover over it and walked away. This was in 1947. His studio is beside it and an eclectic bunch of stuff sits in the yard of the studio.

Several of the old town buildings are decorated with art works some portraying the first use of the building. In the main square stands the local parish church constructed with the eastern Christian church “onion” dome. Bregenz Summer Festival is on, so the streets are decorated with flags declaring that to be the case. In the case of these photos, they were taken when we had coffee at a restaurant above the square in one of the modern buildings which looks abhorrent and out of place. Like the monument to Indian Snake Charmers – the knotted rope statuary. No photo of the abhorrent building.

My library of photos has been overtaken by some sparring mountain goats left out of the previous photo gallery. don’t pay too much attention and they will be fine. The next photo is a historic house then the “porsche under cover”.

We had some reason to visit the Apothoke (Chemist). We found the Apothoke shop just off the main square. The interior was a museum perhaps of a 19th century shop.

We are here for our wedding anniversary. Kerry promised herself to return and see a show at the Bregenz Theatre in the Lake after we had stumbled across it in 2015. In 2015 the Opera was “Turandot” and the stage was the Great Wall of China and the Terracotta Army. This year it was Puccini’s opera “Madame Butterfly”. The stage is a deceptively simple white background with hidden stairs doorways and a hole for an enormous flagpole. Under the stage (rows F, G & H) banners advertising the show and pictures of the previous stages hence the photo of the stage which we saw being constructed. This magnificent stage is built at the western end of the lakeside walkway with Bregenz Bahnhof (train station) behind it. There is no orchestra pit but rather the orchestra plays on a sound stage inside the auditorium behind the patrons seating. This outdoor seating is erected leaving space between seating and stage for boats containing parts of the stage scenery to sail past during the performance.

One of the entertaining things to do in Bregenz is to travel on the lake and visit different countries or so you might think. Well, there are no tours as such, but you can sail aimlessly around for 1 or 2 hours (we did the 2 hour trip) looking at the different countries. The following photos give you 2 hours of excitement.

After the excitement of the boat trip, we decided to follow the self-guided tour provided by the Tourist Information Centre. Now the first stop was a shop selling various forms of alcohol. See the first photo below. Here I was persuaded to sample a Swedish single malt whisky (or do you spell it the Irish way “Whiskey”) and purchase 500ml of the brew – many of my friends will be clamouring for this. The next few photos depict some of the older buildings in the narrow streets of the old town. But number 5 is the front door of a residence which is little more than 1 metre wide at its entry – Bregenz’s smallest residence. Next is the adjoining building which appears to have been a type of craftsman’s lodge judging by the figurines displayed on the exterior. By the time we had climbed to the oldest part of the town we came across what might have been a moat around a fortified residence which proved to be a former monastery. The parish church although not connected was on the outside of the former moat but separated from surrounding land by its own moat. Inside was a clean and fresh-looking church and of course it had a confessional (you know whom I am referring to VC). After leaving the church we found a set of stairs which now allows movement between church and monastery which has been separated from the residences constructed where once monks would have toiled. The old castle gate remains with it an open portcullis and the track down to the town. In the town we found this strange feature on one block of residences – it looks like someone was buried but manage to stick their arm out of the coffin.

We had not been impressed with the boat tour so the following day we tried direct travel to selected places; Lindau Isel (Lindau Island) and Fredrickschafen in the Bavarian-Swabian part of Germany. By ferry Bregenz to Lindau Isel takes 1 hour and 2 hours to Friedrichshafen and we were to find out only 20 minutes by train to Lindau. We purchased a return journey on the ferry to Lindau and on the trip, we spotted a modern Zepplin (Dirigible balloon). Arriving at Lindau Is. visitors are greeted by a resting lion and lighthouse from the early days of trading between villages. A tower which formed part of the defences of the harbour also remains. The foreshore is hotels and restaurants, and everyone had the same idea as us to visit the island. The pictured building is the Rathaus or Local Government Hall. The other photos are general street scenes. This is an island, and it is connected by a causeway to the mainland. Near that causeway bridge we found the remnants of a church predating the 11th century. The Peterskirche is the oldest sacred building in the city of Lindau. The essentially Romanesque church goes back to the 11th century and is of supraregional importance due to late Gothic wall paintings often attributed to Hans Holbein the Elder. It stands on the western outskirts of the old town and has housed a war memorial in the form of a WW1 German soldier since the 1920s.

We enjoyed the trip but really the ferry was a pain, so we decided to experiment with the train and found it to be superior and without so many tourists

We then circled back to the harbour but our next ferry was some time off arriving. We decided to try catching the train home. Not only was it cheaper but less than half the travel time.

I think I need to say something about our accommodation in Bregenz. Whilst not in the city centre and not near shops it was well serviced with buses and very quiet. I have inserted some photos of the exterior and the interior for your interest.

Our trip to Friedrichschafen in Germany was a gamble in that we knew nothing about it, other than it was a Bavarian town on Lake Constance.

After docking we walked around checking the place out when we came upon the Graf Zepplin Museum. The Zeppelin Museum Friedrichshafen is there because Friedrichshafen is the birthplace of the Zeppelin airship. The museum houses the world’s largest aviation collection concerning dirigible airships and chronicles the history of the Zeppelin airships. In addition, it is the only museum in Germany that combines technology and art. The museum has been in its current location at the Hafenbahnhof (harbour railway station) since it was reopened in 1996.

The centerpiece of the zeppelin displays is a full-scale, partial model of the airship LZ 129 Hindenburg. The exhibition also includes an original engine nacelle of the LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin airship. A great number of airship models, not only from Germany, are also on display in the technology department. There is a full-scale recreated Cabin Lounge of Zeppelin Hindenburg, the centrepiece of the Zeppelin airship and a partial replica of the LZ 129 Hindenburg, which was reproduced true to the original and authentically furnished. It is 33 m in length, large enough to convey an idea of the enormous dimensions of the original airship. The Hindenburg was 245 m long and had a maximum diameter of 41.2 m. It was propelled by four Daimler Benz diesel engines with a capacity of 772.3 kW (1050 hp) each, and reached a maximum speed of about 130 km/h.

After the impressive overview of the partial model from the outside, the folded-down retractable aluminium stepladder invites visitors to go on board. It leads into the lower deck, the B-deck, which has a bar, a smokers’ lounge, and toilets. The passenger cabins are arranged on two decks, stacked one on top of the other. In the cabins, visitors can experience the special inside ambience of a 1930s airship and get to know the technical aspects of this aircraft. The beds inside the cabins are made of aluminium. Every cabin has a wall-hung wash basin (with running hot and cold water from a tap), a curtained wardrobe niche, a folding table, a stool, and a ladder for climbing into the upper bunk. The cabins also have electrical lighting and are ventilated and heated.

The Hindenburg travelled 18 times to North and South America. On 6 May 1937, while landing in Lakehurst, New Jersey, the airship burst into flames just before touch-down and crashed killing numerous passengers and crew. Some of that wreckage was also on display.

My photos start with the view across the bay when alighting from the train. We walked around the bay for some distance before we encountered the waterfront. The only evidence of a commercial past is the derrick amongst the cafe umbellas. Then we encountered the Zepplin Museum.

Truly worth while visiting this museum. I had no idea of the extent of Zepplin history or that Friedrichschafen is home to the Zepplin factory today and is one of the largest employers in the town.

There was not much else different about the town. The waterfront was all cafes and very busy. Of course this was a little bit different.

We returned home to our apartment in Hard without any plans for tomorrow.

We had been informed that there were supposed to be 2 restaurants nearby and that we could gain access to a beach nearby. So, our plan for the next day was to find the beach and restaurants. We set off to find the beach and restaurants. Opposite our apartment is bush land and in that green space several trails and a football field. We tried following one of the trails ending up following a bitumen road with no sign of any beach however we did pass a restaurant which was not yet opened for the day. It had a colourful old buggy full of flowers in front which gave it some charm. During this walk we noticed that every household had wood stockpiles standing in their yards and on some occasions the stockpile formed the “fence” between neighbours – a sure sign that the winters are cold.

Our purpose in coming to Bregenz was to witness an opera perform on the Lake stage and Saturday evening was the date. We had difficulty finding the opening time and were impatient and anxious to get there. So, on the basis that the show would commence at 7.00pm we caught the bus into the city and walked to the theatre. Too early! We had arrived about 5.30pm and we learned the show started after sunset at 9.00pm, so we found seats and settled down at the Sunset Bar (a Rotunda on the end of a short pier in the lake) with a drink to wait for the show to commence at 9.00pm – yes I certainly got that wrong. We had a big lunch at that restaurant we found so we weren’t hungry, but it was going to be a long wait and as the wind picked up a cool evening. We even went and sat in our seats to wait for the show but that did not last long through boredom. Finally, about 8.30pm there was some movement to get the show on the road with the arrival of passengers from the cruise boats. We had purchased a souvenir blanket to keep out the cold wind that was rising and lined up to take our seats. There must have been over 1,000 people who finally took their seats and the show started at 9.00pm.

A very moving performance across a very functional stage portraying the arrival of the American ship with Pinkerton on board and the arrival of Butterfly and her entourage and assistant Coco, the British official Wilkinson and the other players. There were vessels arriving and passing through the channel between the stage and the audience and the opera although not familiar to me was very moving. Two hours passed quickly. Unfortunately, no photos. Home by 11.15pm and up by 5.00am to catch the train to Luzern.

To be continued.

The Retirees visit Warnemunde Germany

As we left a thick sea mist settled upon the water. Grey surrounded us and moisture hung in the air. the mist followed us for the two days sailing to Warnemunde and the joyous tune of the “Love Boat” blared into the fog. We killed time with cards and board games, feasting on the smorgasbord and other things which I have now forgotten. Little did I know that a sinsiter shadow was following me all that time.

Resting in our cabin I noticed we had a visitor in the form of a small land bird seeking refuge and probably lost in the fog.

The fog disappeared suddenly as we docked at Warnemunde. This is the port for Berlin 3 hours south. as we had spent 5 fantastic days in Berlin we were not considering sitting in a bus or train for 6 hours going to and from Berlin so we tumbled ashore to see what it had to offer. quite frankly I was pleasantly surprised.

From our cabin we could see a warm day rising. However I was now aware that I had a shadow. Warnemunde is a busy port as you might expect. Warnemünde  literally Mouth of the Warnow is a seaside resort and a district of the city of Rostock in Mecklenburg, Germany. It is one of the world’s busiest cruise ports. Founded in about 1200, Warnemünde was for centuries a small fishing village with minor importance for the economic and cultural development of the region. In 1323 Warnemünde lost its autonomous status as it was purchased by the city of Rostock in order to safeguard the city’s access to the Baltic Sea. It was not until the 19th century that Warnemünde began to develop into an important seaside resort.

We walked along the peir towards the railway station and the crossing into the township passing two other cruise ships of similar size to our SS Regal Princess before we encounter our first opportunity to purchase souvenirs. Out front of this establishment was a sand sculpture – why I don’t know exactly but it was very impressive in its artistry and detail.

A lefthand turn through a tunnel and we were out into the township with the rail station behind us. As we walked we encountered various buskers but this one caught my eye as very clever singing “Sitting on the dock of the bay”. the town’s fishing heritage can be seen with the fishing boats lining the canal whilst the new monarch of the seas stand large in the background.

The towns economy depended on fishing for centuries so you would expect some history around that. I found a well preserved fishermans house which had been enlarged with a modern extension to house a museum. The front entrance takes you back in time to when the last of the fishing families lived there. It is very much like someones home at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. as you walk through the home you are lead to the extension and the history of the community. I was impressed with the charm and the stories told by this museum. Like the story of Stephan Jantzen who went to sea at the age of 14. In 1856, he was granted a patent for skipper on a long journey. In the same year, he became captain of the 38-meter Bark “Johannes Keppler”; Jantzen personally commissioned this ship and had shares in this ship, with which he circumnavigated the earth twice in the period from December 1856 to 1866, mostly accompanied by his wife and his firstborn son Magnus. The second son Varelius was born on one of the trips aboard. Both sons of Jantzen later became sailors as well.Jantzen sold his vessel in 1863 and became commander of the local sea rescue stations of the German Society for the Rescue of Shipwrecked Persons and received numerous awards from Germany, Sweden and Portugal for his bravery and daring in rescuing shipwrecked persons.

I was the only one interested in the fisherman’s house so when I emerged I was all alone. I headed toward the town square and found my co-explorers who were oogling the markets in the square. As is the case in small towns and villages of Europe there was a collection of vendors selling everything from suasages to sauerkraut. We gathered a few items for a platter whilst playing cards on the ship. One item that abound in Germany is white asparagus and they are popular. What was unusal was a pub off the square called the “Captain Bligh” from mutiny on the Bounty fame (a bit of the south pacific in Wandemunde).

The town is on the Baltic Sea coast and has large sandy beaches and a unique beach chair. There is not a lot of wave action but the Germans are at the beach in great numbers. Nearby is the mouth of the river and great lines of ships can be seen sailing into the wharves in the river. We walked down the beach and over to an odd shaped building house an inviting cafe serving odd german beers – a Rostocker for Rod and a Duckstein for me. Having quenched our thirst and sampled the odd beach chairs we moved into the fishing wharves area and the major tourist strip. Still our ship was the largest thing in sight.

We returned to the ship ready to rest play cards and nibble on our market snacks. Relaxing in our cabin I realised how industrial the area around thei town has become. Later that afternoon just as we were readying to sail I saw a naval ship sail past. It was only then that I noticed the naval base behind the undergrowth on the island beyound our ship.

 

The Retirees go Abroad – Cologne –Back to Long Eaton via Monchau.

Next morning we arose with the alarm to finish packing and put the cases outside the cabin have breakfast and get on the bus. Thus far on this trip our bus drivers had got lost three times and our tour guide Jill was found wanting in her knowledge outside of the script given to her by Shearings. So it should not come as a surprise that Jill forgot to tell those of us waiting in the lounge to board the coach leading to a late scramble to board the bus. Derek our new driver from Lancashire seemed a bit more positive in his knowledge so when we ended up at Monchau and not the retail designer outlet village that had been a feature of our return journey, there was consternation in the camp – Kerry let him know her opinion and she was right; they had changed the itinerary without informing us.

After sharing our opinion with Derek, we went off to view the village and a pretty village it is. Established in the 12th century the village had its glory during the 18th century making fine quality clothe and some of the buildings evidence the wealth of the town. Most of the village is original as it was saved from damage through the Second World War probably because it no longer had any commercial importance or strategic value. Our walk took in the oldest church, and the river that runs through it a cafe where we enjoyed goulash soup and a strudel, the into the oldest part of the town where we found a family of coffee blenders and some chocolatiers making chocolate with mustard from the local mustard factory, the Red House (an impressive 18th century mansion now a museum which closes at lunch time of course) and lots of other quaint buildings.

We then had a wearisome drive to our hotel arriving at 7.30 pm because of traffic. After a good night rest (the first time in a bed larger than a ships bunk for 6 nights) we boarded the coach only to learn that the refugees had been rioting at Calais again. Despite this the bus driver insisted on stopping at a duty free store for all the addicts to stock up on nicotine (one woman had the habit so badly that even though the weather got mist and freezing winds , she would stand outside the hotel sucking on a ciggie chain smoking rather than forsake the ciggie and join us inside). Our worries about the ferry and delays proved unfounded but the French are taking it more seriously. Two police were posted at our hotel to stay with the bus overnight to ensure no illegals hid on the vehicle. We boarded the ferry on time and at this rate we expect to be at Long Eaton by 6.00pm tomorrow will be a busy day finishing the packing and moving out of our home for the last 18 months.

The Retirees go Abroad – Cologne –Rudeshiemer by night

Back to the boat for a rest then after that we prowl Drosselgasse for a nice restaurant. Drosselgasse is the local tourist strip containing all the authentic German restaurants and all serving traditional foods and the local specialty – Rudeschiemer Kaffe – a liqueured coffee. We ended up at the International – Bie Hollerne where two rather Asian entertainers appeared to be enjoying a karaoke night singing English and German tunes with an electronic keyboard and electronic backing. The food was traditional German with lots of sauerkraut and potatoes. I picked a shwineaxe and Kerry selected a veal schnitzel. The schnitzel was melt in your mouth but my schwineaxe stunned me. About 1/2 a kilo of pork joint baked with crackling on a bed of sauerkraut with mashed potato. Well I struggled and I was beaten – no way was I going to eat all of that.

Of course we had to try the coffee. It is served in a traditional pink and white cup into which blocks of sugar and the local brandy Asbach are placed. The waiter then lights the brandy melting the sugar pours black coffee over the flaming sugar and finishes with a scoop of cream. Delicious.

After loosening the top button on my trousers we headed for the boat and a peaceful night free of boat noise and trains rattling by. Well the boat was quiet but even though we were some distance from the train they could be clearly heard echoing through the valley.

The Retirees go Abroad – Cologne – On the Rhine to Koblenz and Boppard

The boat sails at 10.30pm for Koblenz and whilst Kerry pretends to sleep I start this blog. It will be a rough night with the motor noise and things shaking through the night.

We are woken by the silence. The ship’s engines have stopped. We have arrived in Koblenz. Koblenz is at the confluence of the Rhine and Mosel rivers. After breakfast and a consultation with the tour manager we decide to go it alone. Map in hand we head for the Oberes Mittelrheintal a complex of stately buildings in the centre of medieval Koblenz. On one of the houses is a clock with a face below. The eyes in the faces move with the second hand and on the hour the faces extends its tongue – I don’t know why but it does. Alongside it is the local church (note two bell towers they are very big on twin bell towers) and nearby an impressive school.

The tour manager gave us a few clues as to what to look for and one was the pissing boy. We did not find the boy but may have found his father hard at work selling his wares. Then another church and a walking tour of Americans – weren’t we lucky. A little further along we came across a monument which represent the time line for Koblenz’s history.

Time is getting on and we want to visit the Skyrope and the castle across the Rhine. So we head for the river and find the Skyrope (a cable car) but it doesn’t open till 9.30am. As we wait Martin and Christine (co adventurers on the boat) turn up. It was their idea to go to the castle and not the tour offered by the boat so we join them in a trip up to the castle and then they headed off to view the park around the castle whilst we visited the castle. On the way up we could soon why this site was chosen for the castle – it commands the confluence of the two rivers.

Whilst most of the castle structure remains, the internal areas have been largely converted to various uses. The castle appears to be based on the Dutch design of a star shape with a gate separated from the main gate by a moat. Where once you would have entered the castle by coming through the barbican and climbing the steep hill to the castle gates; these days you came directly into the old fortifications. The castle is now a number of things from military museum to commercial. One of the displays was a trip around the world and through history with Play Mobil figures. In the court yard you have the best views of Koblenz and the two rivers and the old path climbing the hill.

We must return to the boat by 11.30 or miss the boat. So we take the return trip with the Ropewalk and walk to the junction of the two rivers where a bloody big monument has been erected. It appears to celebrate the first unification of the Germanic states. The horse a top the monument column was so real to life it even had the world’s biggest brass balls. Kerry had heard or read that there was even a memorial to the third reunification – parts of the Berlin wall.

We made it to our boat in plenty of time. One thing that we find strange is the dining room is located on the water line as you will see in the following photos. Some people are getting sea sick every time another boat passes. We retire for lunch and the boat sails to Boppard a charming little village just designed for trapping tourists. So we take the unconventional route behind the town to avoid the tourist shops. We were excited to discover an ancient tower now converted into a home and shop – quite unique. This lead us to the main square and the local church again with twin bell towers – what is it about twin bell towers. Digging around in the back streets we found parts of the old city wall still standing and now incorporated into houses and other buildings, the last remaining city gate and a variety of buildings dating from the 16th century. Not much else to report on Boppard. It has a chair lift but it did not seem to have anything other than views to visit.

Now it is time for a kip then shower time and dinner. Hard life!

The Retirees go Abroad – Cologne

There are only a few weeks before we go home and to make the most of our last few weeks we have decided to try a bus trip to Cologne in Germany with a trip down the Rhine River for a few days. Yes it may seem odd to travel by bus but it was cheaper by far than plane, train or automobile. So our adventure starts at 5.00am with the alarm going off so we can catch our bus 100m around the corner outside the job centre at Long Eaton. It is a foggy morning and bloody cold as well but there is our bus awaiting us. On board are the driver and a couple from Chesterfield who had to get up at 3.30 am to catch the bus.

It is a bloody boring drive to Stop 24 where we meet our tour bus (they collect everyone and sort them out at Stop 24). We bought some lunch as we thought we were there for an hour and a half but no sooner do I have the subway foot long than the call comes over the intercom – passengers for bus 24 your bus is ready for boarding.

Another boring bus ride then a ferry ride with P&O. We are used to My Ferry and it is a shock to see the difference on the P&O ferry – most disappointing. We are overnighting at Lille or so we are told but it turns out that we are staying at Neuville near the Belgian/France border. The accommodation is fine the meals are shit and the walk after dinner into the village was most interesting. Nothing is open – Its France on a Sunday – but it is a pleasant village with some unusual shrines which I expect are all small chapels giving thanks for peace. After all this is one of the deadliest battle zones of WW1.

The next morning we are promised we will be in Cologne by lunch – we forgot to ask what time is lunch. Breakfast is fine and I get to teach a few Poms how to tell the difference between a boiled egg and a fresh egg. The bus ride is painful with the old biddies in front unable to shut up and Barbara behind us snoring like a trooper.

We arrive at Cologne and the bus driver cannot find the boat. This is the second driver who did not have a clue about his destination. The previous driver could not find Northampton bus station. We find the boat at the end of a bike path – I would never have guessed that the driver would have to reverse his bus up a bike path to drop us off. Two o’clock is lunch time and the food is good so we look set for a decent feed at least once per day.

We have the afternoon in Cologne. We walk for about 30 minutes past some amazing buildings and bridges to cross the Rhine and make our way to the Cathedral but we never made it.

Michael on the cycle stopped us. I bumped into an Irish man who looked my age driving a pedal rickshaw offering guided tours of Cologne and the deal; was so good we took it on. I wanted to see how this old bastard was going to pedal us around Cologne. An electric bike is how. Oh well at least I knew I would not have to push.

He took us to the Cathedral. Michael told us that the Cathedral contained the bones of the three wise men who visited Jesus at his birth. Frederick Barbarossa had stolen them from Milan and built a Cathedral to house them and here they remain. They are contained in a golden shrine in the eastern end of the cathedral.

And then to a memorial to the 6 million Germans killed by the Nazis and then to view a railway bridge and pontificate on the financing of the Cathedral by a levy on boat traffic on the Rhine. Even though the levy was raised for 300 years it took 600 years to finish the Cathedral.

From there we went to see the flood levels of the Rhine in recent history, the new docklands where the old docks of Cologne had been gentrified as apartments. We then returned along the river front to Mick’s favourite Irish pub, the old square containing the medieval city hall (Rathaus) and the Jan and Greta memorial as well as some irreverent grotesques – one poking his tongue and the other baring her bum.We left Michael and returned to the Cathedral and this time went inside.

We decided that we would return to the boat as there are free drinks on tonight. Back at the boat we dine (the food is alright again) and then go to the bar with our dinner companions for a few drinks. Great afternoon and night. This bus tour may turn out alright!

The Retirees go Abroad – Verona Onto Salzburg

We discovered that we did not have any maps in our GPS for Austria or Germany. Alarm bells! What were we to do, we were half way to Salzburg and our host was expecting us at 15.00. We also realised that we had not experienced a German speaking country before. We decided that in respect of the GPS we would do it the old fashioned way and buy a map, and in respect of the language we would play dumb (which we were) and hope to find English speakers.

The road to Austria and through Austria has some of the most spectacular scenery we had seen so far. High mountains followed us throughout the day. Large castles appeared among the villages springing up throughout the valleys and sometimes perched precariously on the mountains. The .weather was threatening rain most of the day but the scenery made up for it. We even passed through the Dolomites which are a mountain range located in north eastern Italy. They form a part of the Southern Limestone Alps. The name “Dolomites” is derived from the famous French mineralogist Déodat Gratet de Dolomieu who was the first to describe the rock, dolomite, a type of carbonate rock which is responsible for the characteristic shapes and colour of these mountains.

Before entering Austria we called in at a services area to get our map. By now we were satisfied that the cord for Kerry’s IPhone was broken as her phone was not charging so when we bought the book of maps we also bought a new cord. 45€ later we were walking out of the service station office when I notice a sign in Italian with the Austrian two headed eagle on it and other ominous looking words and so I thought I better enquire. It turns out Austria has a road tax and before entering the country you need to buy and display a vignette. Of course the servo sold them and a ten day pass cost 9€.

Well with Kerry’s phone recharging we realised that we could use it for directions so the book of maps was unnecessary. Then we realised that it was not Kerry’s cord but the power outlet in the car – the fuse had blown for our auxiliary outlets on which we ran the phone and the fridge. Just one of those days.

We also encountered an extraordinary number of tunnels and bridges; too many to count although I think I got up to 28 tunnels before losing count.

Well when we finally arrived we were dismayed. The house was surrounded by scaffold (my picture is of the back of the house which is more flattering). Petra the owner was quickly at the front door and showed us inside speaking very good English. She explained that she and her father were renovating whenever she had the money to do some more, but the flat we were renting was complete on the inside. It certainly was and had every comfort. She gave us a run down on the buses and other things and then showed us her part of the house inviting us to call if we needed anything. So we unpacked and headed for town. As we walked to the bus we noticed a huge castle on a nearby hill which turned out to be Hohensalzburg in the centre of Salzburg. We passed a red phone box which had been converted into a community borrowing library, passed over a canal and noted that Austrian houses had a distinct Swiss appearance or vice a versa.

Not much else happened that first day but as the photos show we were in Salzburg.