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Two 'Skips' in Europe

Roger and Wendy Forsey have been enjoying the delights of foreign travel, and all the things that are different from home....

When we left Melbourne it was the middle of winter, around 11°, so it was a shock when we arrived in Frankfurt and it was over 30°. Frankfurt (Main) Hauptbahnhof was as hot as a glasshouse in the afternoon sun.

We hopped on a Regional-Express (RE) to Würzburg. It was pretty crowded and flaming hot, as it was not air conditioned and you couldn’t open any of the windows.

Arriving in Würzburg we were going to hop on a tram a couple of stops to pick up the keys to our apartment.

Have you ever tried to use a ticket machine for the first time in a foreign country with a LCD display in the hot afternoon sun after travelling for 32 hours? Mission Impossible. So we ended up dragging our suitcases over the medieval Belgian block roads and footpaths to the apartment owners AIR CONDITIONED chocolate shop.

Würzburg is located on the Main River in Northern Bavaria, Germany.

“The Würzburg witch trial, which took place in Germany in 1626–1631, is one of the biggest mass-trials and mass-executions seen in Europe during the Thirty Years War; 157 men, women and children in the city of Würzburg are confirmed to have been burned at the stake, mostly after first being beheaded; 219 are estimated to have been executed in the city proper, and an estimated 900 were killed in the entire Prince-Bishopric.”

Main attraction is the Würzburg Residence, a vast compound near the centre of the town, something two local Prince-bishops had whipped-up in 1720.

Somehow, I think that Tony Abbot secretly fancies himself as a reincarnation of a Catholic Prince-bishop.

Würzburg was almost totally destroyed in the closing weeks of the Second World War – like Dresden it had no military significance but the medieval city would burn well. Today we call it a war crime.

After a couple of days it was off to Munich via Rothenburg, known for its well-preserved medieval old town. Only had enough time for a quick tour before returning to the main line to catch the Regional-Express (RE) to Munich. Again, this train was hot as hell. All of the windows were open as the Air Conditioning was kaputt( German spelling). At Ingolstadt we had to change to a replacement train.

Our apartment in Munich was a 10 minute tram ride from München Hauptbahnhof. It was located in a typical five storey apartment building with a large central courtyard. Nice and quiet, apart from the baby in nearby apartment. A small supermarket was just across the road.

Europe was having a heat wave – it was over 30° for the first week. The problem is they are not prepared for the heat. No external blinds, ceiling fans, air conditioning.

During one of our visits to the Residence, I was asked by a pommy to take his picture in the Residences Theatre. He started talking about his travel and asked for more pictures of himself. He started to follow us around and engage us in conversation, becoming a real pest. I moved away, so he started to pester Wendy. In the end she told him to piss-off. He peeled off from us still talking!

Did you know that there is a Surf break in the middle of Munich? We went for a walk in the English Garden, a large public park that stretches through the centre of Munich along the river Isar.

Water from the river is diverted to a stream that flows through the garden. There is a point in the canal where the water forms a standing wave. You can watch as the local surfers take their turn to ride the break.

After 17 days in Munich we had booked a 1st class ticket on the train to Prague. When we arrived at the station we found that the only first class carriage was locked, as it was defective. I scored a 2nd class compartment and Wendy raced off to re-book the tickets. This has to be done where you had booked the tickets, otherwise it’s difficult to get a refund. This took some time so after an anxious wait Wendy texted me that she had got on the end of the train just before it departed!

We shared our compartment with a Czech woman and her daughter. She spoke English, so we managed to learn how to say hello in Czech.

Again, we had to change trains mid journey, as something went FUBAR.

We spent a lot of time in Prague around the river and up at Prague Castle. Prague Castle is the biggest in the world. It was very hot in Prague, fortunately our newly refurbished apartment was air conditioned.

Next, we boarded the train to Vienna. Praise be, it didn’t break down. At some stages we were “doing the ton”, travelling at over 100 mph (160 kph).

Funny thing is we arrived in a place called Wein, not Vienna? Turns out that’s the German/Austrian spelling. It’s only the foreigners that pronounce it as “Vienna”.

The first thing we did when we arrived in Vienna on the train from Prague was book the overnight train to Florence.

It was during our stay in Vienna that the refugee crisis reached crisis point when Germany announced that it was closing its borders after over 12,000 refugees arrived in Munich over one weekend.

Hungary was racing to complete its new border fence with Serbia to stem the tide of asylum seekers from the Middle East and North Africa.

There were no trains running from Austria into Germany. Each night we would watch the drama unfolding on the BBC news.

A couple of days before we were due to depart we went through the main station. Outside the booking office was jammed with refugees trying to get to Germany.

On the night we left for Florence the concourse was jammed with refugees.

This was our first experience in travelling on a sleeper train. On arriving in our compartment we found that they have no provision for storing large suitcases, so we were rather cramped. Just enough room to stretch your feet out. To get out of the compartment you had to climb over two suitcases. It got even more interesting when it came time for bed. The two bunks fold down over the seats. I had to climb a ladder to get into the top bunk.

You don’t realize how much a train sways about until you put your head down on a pillow. The track from Vienna to Florence seems to descend through lots of twisting bends. Lots of screeching rail noises on the bends. I didn’t get to sleep until I used the ear plugs.

We were woken up at 5 am to have breakfast and pack, as we were due to arrive in Florence at 6 am.

Dawn was breaking as we towed our bags into Florence main station. We couldn’t get into our apartment till 2:30 pm. There were no luggage lockers, so we had to use the stations Left Luggage facility. A look at the storage rates per bag indicated that it was comparable with an extortion racket run by the Cosa Nostra. It had cost us €4.50 to store our bags in Vienna. This ended up costing €37.60 in Florence. I thing that also run the WC concessions – the average cost of a WC visit (if you can find one) is €1.0

I say Florence, but again we foreigners have been duped. It’s really called Firenze in Italian.

I don’t know how they do it, but the first thing I noticed in Florence is that the Ambulance sirens wail in Italian!

(Q) Why do Italians use headsets on their mobiles?

(A) So they can talk with their hands.

On Monday we take the train to Milan. Our flight home departs on Wednesday night, arriving home on Friday morning.

The Duomo photographed under the Super Moon, taken with a 9mm wide angle lens


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