Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Marionettes, Mozart and More

Hello, QT and KT here just reporting on another fun filled day here on our journey. Today we explored Salzburg - literally salt town. There was a beautiful fountain in front of the royal residence.
We didn't take a horse ride, but there were many carriages available, and it looked like a really fun way to see the sights. Hmmm, maybe on our next trip?
One of the first things we did was go up the old castle of Hohensalzburg. It is a medieval castle that overlooks the whole city. It was massive, but we didn't spend too much time here as we are going to a different castle, Hohenwerfen later. (Stay tuned for that post)
Here Auntie Monica is finding out why there is a statue of a bull in the courtyard of the castle. It seems that one time the castle was under siege and they were running out of food, but they didn't want the attackers to know that. So what the creative people in the castle did was parade the one remaining ox in front of the attackers. Then that night the painted it a different colour and paraded it around again the next day. They then washed the paint off, got a different colour and showed the attackers a 'third' ox. The attackers, thinking that the people in the castle had enough food to last for a long time, left. The people of Hohensalzburg were sometimes known as Ox-washers.
After the castle on the hill, we went to a really old but beautiful cemetery. It had a building that was attached directly to a cliff. This picture is a view out the window of that building.
Here we are in the old building, in a chapel. The painting on the wall (called a fresco because it was painted onto fresh plaster) is really old - probably over a thousand years old, because the monastery and church date from about 700 AD.
Then we had to go and find Mozart's birthplace. It is amazing to think that these building are still here, and that we can visit them. Inside was a museum that told us a bit about Mozart and his family.
One of the specialty treats in Austria is called a Mozartkugeln, a chocolate and marzipan treat. Apparently it was something Mozart liked to eat - or so I heard. Anyway, they had whole stores devoted to this candy, so we had to get a picture.
After the Mozart museum we went to a beautiful palace that had free public gardens. The palace is called Mirabelle, and we didn't go inside we just walked around. The view of the Cathedral in front of Hohensalzburg is one reason this garden is situated where it is. It really was an amazing sight.
Finally, we got to go and sit down for a while. We went to a marionette (puppet) show of Shakespeare's play, A Midsummer Night's Dream. The show was amazing. This first picture shows the stage, and how beautiful the theatre looked.
Here are two of the marionette's, Bottom and Puck. The marionette's are only about two feet tall, but they way they show them, you almost think they are life size. It was fantastic.
After the show we had dessert at the Sacher Hotel Cafe. The original Sacher Hotel is in Vienna, but since we weren't getting there this trip, we thought this would be ok. We had Sacher Tort -a very famous dessert. It was yummy and very chocolate-y.
Our last stop of the day was at Hellbrunn castle. There were amazing gardens, beautiful buildings and some cool statues. The unicorn is one of a pair that guarded this path.
We also thought this dog statue was cute, because it was not the usually Greek or Roman type of statue.
We took a tour of trick water fountains, where we did get wet, but on the tour there was also this amazing city scene. This was built in 1750, and of the 180 figures, 150 still move. And all of the movement is done with different water pressures. It was spectacular. Then we finally went home, tired but happy. Bye for now.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Of Mountains, Mines, and Caves

Austria is a country built in the mountains, so we did some very mountain type things. One day it was raining so walking around outside wasn't very fun. We drove up a mountain and at the top of the mountain was a restaurant. So we had lunch and we took a picture with this farmer and son.
Here is a view of the town we stayed in. This is taken as we were coming back down the twisty mountain road.
Another mountain adventure was going deep into the mountain into a salt mine. We didn't take a camera into the mine, so this is the only picture we have from inside. We got to slide down these really fun wooden slides. They are how the miners used to get from the higher levels down to the lower levels very quickly. Gluck Auf! is an expression the miners used to say to each other as they entered the mine, is means something like 'Good Luck!'.
At the salt mine, there was also a recreation of a Celtic village. The Celts were the first people to mine the salt in the mountain. They lived in the area from 500BC to about 100AD - a long time ago. Here we are hanging out with Auntie Kendra in what would have been a Celtic home- look how short the door is!
And we are just hanging out in the animal barn. Although there weren't any animals in here today.
This was the entrance to a Celtic mine shaft, although we couldn't get past the barrier. The Celts had to dig their way into the mountain with very few tools, and chip away at the salt and rocks. What a lot of work.
Our third mountain adventure took us up a very tall mountain. When we got to the parking lot we had to take a bus up a very narrow, winding road. Then we had to hike for about 20 minutes up to the lift. As you can see, it is very rocky.
Then we got to go up the steepest part of the mountain in a cable car. It went really fast, and it gave us a great view.
Finally we had to hike another 20 minutes up to that big hole in the side of the mountain. We stopped often to take pictures - or at least that's the reason Auntie Kendra gave for our frequent stops.
We couldn't take our cameras into the mountain so we had to buy some postcards, and here is one. There were huge sheets of ice on the floor, or hanging on the walls, or free standing like this ice sculpture. It was very cold, but very amazing to see.
Well that's all for now about our mountain adventures but we did see more in Austria, so stay tuned. Love KT and QT

Friday, August 07, 2009

Arrivederci Italy, Willkommen Austria

Well, here we are in Pordenone - the town where Auntie Monica lived in as a little girl. This fountain is in a Piazza close to one of her favorite gelato shop. This is our last day in Italy, so we had to come and visit. QT and I really liked the fountain on this hot day, because the wind would blow the water at us and cool us off.
And here is one of the special ice cream treats available at Casa del Gelato, the best gelateria in Pordenone. It is spaghetti ice cream -how cool is that! It was yummy, too.
To get from Italy to Austria we had to cross the Alps, so we drove through many tunnels in the mountains. Some were fairly short, a few hundred metres, but a few were up to five or six kilometres long.
In Radstadt, the town we are staying in here in Austria, there is an old city wall that goes around part of the city. It has very big, round towers at the corners of the walls. Today it is very pretty with water and fountains around it.

We have to park underground, well, sort of. There are grass and flowers growing on top of the parking garage. But at least we have covered parking.
Bye for now, I'll wrote more about our adventures in Austria later - Love KT

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

And now for a Venice post without small animals.

Venice is really so beautiful that I couldn't stop taking pictures, even when I wasn't sure exactly what it was I was taking a picture of. Well obviously they are cathedrals but as there are so many I don't know which ones these are. The architecture and detailing are just fantastic.
These pictures are from our ferry ride from the mainland to Lido, the beach resort town we stayed in while we visited Venice. There are no cars in Venice, so we stayed where we could park our car. It meant taking a car ferry, but it was a great way to see parts of the city.

Another beautiful church.
Venice at night as seen from our hotel balcony -amazing.

I know it is very touristy, but I just had to take a gondola ride this time in Venice, and it was so worth it. The front of the gondolas all have similar marking, and they represent the six sections of Venice.
Sometimes the canals would be clear, just our gondola, then we would turn a corner and there would be a lot of traffic, from other gondolas, to delivery boats, to water taxis, to personal transportation.
We saw many beautiful building and bridges, and then there was this building. It was not as architecturally beautiful as some, but it was the home of Marco Polo! So cool.
Our gondolier, who actually did sing, but only a few bars. Mostly what he did was call out and talk to every other gondolier or boat driver around.
After our gondola ride we went to tour the clock tower. It had been undergoing repairs and conversion to an automated time keeping system last time we were in Venice. The clock was built in 1499. This is a view of Piazza San Marco from the top of the clock tower.
The famous bronze horses. We toured through St. Mark's Cathedral last time, so this time around we did different things.
Our guide is showing us how tall the 'Moors' are on top of the clock tower. (Over 2m tall) They are called Moors, not because they represent Moorish figures, but just because they are tarnished so they appear black.
There are 132 (I think, Monica, is that right?) steps, and very curved.
A view of the tower from the piazza.
People in Venice use boats like cars, including people who talk on cell phones as they drive! It may be hard to see in the picture, but he was definitely talking on his cell. Over here we have also seen people talking on their cell phones while riding bicycles.
A last look at Venice on our ferry ride back to the mainland.

Water Good Time in Venezia

Venice is a city that is built on the water, so I guess it is only fair that we got to spend a lot of time on boats. What fun! We started our journey into Venice on a big car ferry, well not as big as the ferry that goes to Victoria, but still pretty big. When we were on the ferry we saw lots of other boats on the water, including this very cool pirate ship - KT and I were very glad that the pirates didn't attack us!
When we got into the city itself, we saw some pretty cool buildings and things, including this weird iron bird. We thought the ball of umbrellas was pretty fun and colourful.
The next boat we got to ride on was a gondola. All gondolas are black, even today, because a long time ago there was a law that said all gondolas had to be black so that their owner's couldn't try and show off their wealth by making their gondola really colourful or ornate. The gondola ride was very fun, even when our gondolier started singing!
After our gondola ride we went up a really old clock tower. It was built in 1499. From that time until 1998 there was always a clock keeper who lived in the clock tower, with his family, to keep it running. Can you imagine having that clock as an goes off every hour!
We had a very busy day so far, so we decided to go and have some tea at a restaurant that has been operating for 289 year! Yes, it opened in 1720. Oh, you might have noticed the cool souvenirs KT and I picked up in Venice. They are Carnevale (carnival) masks. There are some very beautiful masks to buy.

After our long day in Venice, we took a traghetto (a water bus basically) back to our hotel. Here we are hanging out (literally) on the balcony. We were just enjoying the sunshine.
Another place we enjoyed the sunshine was at the beach. We couldn't stay too long, so we just built a small sand castle with our friends before we had to catch the ferry back to the mainland.
And here we are, enjoying the ferry ride back from our beautiful hotel in Lido. Lido is the beach resort area we stayed at while we visited Venice. Our next destination...Pordenone. That's all for now, QT.