Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Adieu, adieu, to you and you and you!!!

Sitting here feeling quite sad at the moment.
We are at Changi airport waiting to be called for our plane, to journey home once more.
The last month has flown, as wonderful holidays away/abroad always do and I am left with the fleeting impressions and emotions I have experienced over this last month.
I have been joyous, teary, tired, alert, happy, content, hungry, concerned and pleased.
I have had days where I have not felt 100%. I managed to catch a cold flying over here so had the inevitable cough, sore throat and runny nose for a few days, but that passed. I managed to damage my right large toe and consequently had an infection there but with the help of antibiotics it is slowly healing.
I have been hungry, over full, thirsty and sated. I have drunk tea, coffee, lemonade, beer, wine, cider, water, ouzo (and liked it). I have eaten rice, noodles, sausages a la German style with sauerkraut and mustard, apple strudel with vanilla sauce (aka custard), Weiner schnitzel, potatoes, salads and any number of German sweets. I have developed a love for German chocolate (schokolade), and their German pastries both sweet and sour, not to mention dinky di pretzels....the big ones!
I have learnt to say "Ja" spontaneously and "Danke Schoen" as required, not to mention Gutentag, Gutenmorgen and Gutenaben.
People in Germany smile when you attempt these few words. They are pleasant and polite and smile all the time, especially when they realise you are a tourist come to visit their fair country.
When shopping in Düsseldorf, the women and men behind the register would ask where we came from and when told then ask why on earth would we come to Düsseldorf for a holiday.
I was always quick to explain our daughter lives and works there, and they would then nod their heads understanding our need to see her and her partner in their home habitat.
I do believe Merryn and Kieran have enjoyed having us experience their lives if only for a brief period of time. We have shared meals at their place, eaten out with them, had a beer or two, not to mention numerous cups of various tea flavours and coffee à la Kieran. We have slept there, played 'Cards against humanity', 'Bullshit' (incidentally a great game needing 4 people at least.... The more the merrier with THAT one). We have washed clothes together and rotated them on the clothes horse until dry.
We have ridden numerous trams and trains and walked and laughed and shopped. Both Merryn and I have a love of supermarkets in different countries, so Santorini and Athens were both fun to explore.
I have watched whilst my husband has befriended numerous people...he (and I) have spoken to other travellers from Italy, U.S.A., Canada, Northern Europeans and fellow Australians. We have made good impressions (I hope) on those working where we have travelled to, such as in Greece, and Italians working in pizza shops in German towns (Regensberg) who have travelled to our fair country and reminisced with us about their fruit picking experiences and their friends they have left behind.

All in all, our experience over here has been a wonderful one. Our joy at seeing our daughter and her partner has been paramount and it has been consequently a fantastic opportunity to experience yet again European culture at its best.
Thank you Germany and Greece... We will return one day I am sure.

Well it's now 3:10 am. 
I am sitting in very close proximity to my husband, and both the woman in front of me and the person behind.
You guessed it.... I am flying high in the sky. I just peaked outside and I can see stars above me and clouds beneath. Lucky me, I got the window seat unfortunately for my husband. He at least has the aisle seat. The woman in front has her seat right back but I have mine upright as I type my story.
The glory of the moment though is that I am revisiting my youth listening to Eric Clapton...the COMPLETE album, so right here and right now Sunshine Of Your Love is playing full blast and no one else can hear.  I feel like singing but it might not go down too well on here!. I loved Cream when I was young... They always seemed to be one of the extreme bands in my mind back then...not so much the hippy scene but more the left of centre and when I really wanted to 'be wild' they were it, along with The Band, Led Zeppelin and so forth.
Chicago were always my favourite though, I loved them especially in their early years especially when Terry Kath was still alive. Family and nursing friends can attest to my dogmatic playing of their music incessantly, especially after work!
Ah, those WERE the days weren't they.
We can all identify our lives with the music of our times and when I expire, right here and now I do believe I want a late '60's early '70's medley thank you very much.
You can throw in Black Dog (Led Zep), Sunshine of your love (Cream) but especially Ballet For A Girl From Buchanon and um....I'm A Man (Chicago). Do yourself a favour and check them out... You'll see what I mean!

Sorry guys, I think I'm rambling a bit. Have yet to sleep and am pretty sure I won't get any on this flight. These packed planes are certainly not conducive to sleeping, especially when you're not a small and/or petite person. I envy those than can curl up on nothing and sit with crossed legs on a plane and sleep. It'll take me a day or so to stretch my spine out again I reckon.
Shall have to take the dogs for a big walk when we get home after a sleep I am thinking.
Anyway, will finally sign off now. Eric continues to sing so I shall close my eyes and groove along for a bit.
Bye for now.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Munich no more!

We are currently riding a train back to Düsseldorf. It's always exciting when you hop on a train, hoping it's the right one...
We had a couple of hiccups today as we boarded....getting into the wrong carriage and sitting in someone else's seats for example.
Then, thinking we might be on the wrong train, for it apparently separates later on our journey we were able to move through to the right carriage and we are in our own little cabin...no one else is in this little room with us. We are travelling at a speed of 200+ kilometres per hour which is kind of sad as I am in no hurry to leave this beautiful country. Am thinking the train driver has other ideas though.
Before I tell more tales about where we have just been, I shall tell you reader about our Munich encounter.
We came over to Munich on a train, (incidentally it's the best way to travel over here as far as I'm concerned).
There was a mix up in seating on that train and instead of enjoying our first class tickets, elitist that I am, we had to sit in second class where there is very little room to spread out. I don't know about you but over time when on holidays we tend to accumulate extra bags wherever we go.
We had no wifi which is not really an issue but when you've paid for it it gets more and more frustrating as time goes on.
Given our trip from Düsseldorf was the longest train ride, by the time we disembarked we were a little disillusioned to say the least.
Anyhow, we arrived in Munich. Got out of the Hauptbahnhof into a dirty smelly street with many many men standing around smoking and spitting and began our walk down Goerthestrasse, where our hotel was. We walked past strip joints and gambling houses, past a couple of outdoor/indoor middle eastern fruit and vegetable shops, past a couple of food houses to our hotel so you can get the picture. It was late afternoon, cold, drizzling and we felt slightly disgruntled given that we had paid quite a lot for our accomodation. The chap behind the counter was ever so unapproachable when we told him who we were. He was most uncommunicative and I had a a feeling he did not want to be there let alone us, his attitude was so unpleasant so once we had signed in, we went straight up to our room which was quite a shock. It was a small, dark dingy room with a perennial dripping tap. There were two single beds pushed together. The room window opened onto the rabble down below, the bathroom a high bath with a shower inside it and not much else apart from the toilet. The phone didn't work, not that we required it anyhow. 
Anyhow, you get my drift...we were not happy about Munich, especially the accomodation. We were there when hotels were booked solid apparently as there was a large convention on in town, hence all the men around.
I have just realised too that I took no photos of where we were given my displeasure.
We had our day trips to Neuschwanstein and Dachau that took up a lot of our time fortunately and they were such magnificent day trips. Unfortunately, Munich I guess was the low light of our holiday, but it was all part of the broad experience after all.
We ate at two local Cafes the first two evening and the food was great. The third night we were there, we walked through the Haupbahnhof onto the other side and were swept away with the contrast to where we were saying.
 The streets were clean, you could hear music playing, a tram shuffled by as we walked and we found a cute little Vietnamese restaurant where Murray had duck and I had a rice dish all for 9€ all up so our faith was a little restored, as we had been told wonderful things about Munich and had wondered where we had gone wrong here. 
It seemed the whole time we were there it rained on and off which didn't help the mood I guess and by the time we left we had no qualms about furthering our adventures elsewhere.
Word of warning, don't ever stay at the Smart Stay Hotel in Munich. 

Faulty Towels
Only one towel when we first got there. When asking for an extra towel, got a bath mat instead. When asked for said towel again...."Sorry we have none.".
Surly hotel reception...
Murray's key repeatedly failed to work. Had to go down to reception each time and ask for it to be recalibrated.
Room small, dark, hot. Unclean carpets.
Unable to deadlock room from inside.
No safe in room.
2 small bottles water did the 3 nights we were there. Not replaced.
Ran out of tissues early. Not replaced.
Phone not connected consequently didn't work
Internet not working last 12 hours or so. Actually the server was turned right off.
Advertised tea/coffee in front reception. No cups available for said tea/coffee. "Sorry, we have none"????????
Wrong side of tracks.... Dirty street, noisy, betting houses, strip clubs around. Many men hanging on street corners all times of the day.
Very small flat pillows, one each. No extra pillows
Constant dripping tap in bathroom.
Room very warm, no air conditioning. Hot overnight.
One small single lift. Sometimes we had to wait a while to access it. We were on 5th. Floor. Also used as transport lift for linen to other floors

Two single beds, comfortable.
Clean sheets.
Had the two towels after day 1.
Hot shower with great water flow.

I think when you have a range of experiences throughout a country, however small or large you are bound to have good with not so good. We were fortunate we had no nasty experiences. We didn't lose anything whilst we were there and no one accosted us. I think, the disappointment lay in this place not being up to the same standard of every where else, which is our error and misadventure after all.

As mentioned before, we enjoyed our day trips, the food was great yet again and most people happy to provide great service.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Backwards in time to Berlin.

,Shall I tell you a tale or two?
A tale that encompasses both good and bad, great experiences, mediocre experiences and downright unpleasant experiences.

This trip away of ours, like most good holidays, has gone so fast. We are nearing the end and now I am really into the swing of travelling around Germany I cannot help but feel a little sad.
Mind, if we were to have a longer time, I would be advocating to stay right where we are now in Regensberg, one of the prettiest towns I have had the pleasure to come across.
Following our trip to Greece, we returned to Düsseldorf, if only to wash, rest and prepare for this segment of our holiday. We had the pleasure of Merryn's company still and so the three of us travelled to Berlin for two nights via train. The train travel over here is head and shoulders far superior to what we have in Australia. Our seats are clean and comfortable, we are offered food and drink (at a cost of course) but we imbibe as one does to break up the journey a little. I must say the coffee is not too bad and neither is the food so I cannot complain about that either.
We arrived in Berlin and found our way through a succession of UBahns and SBahns thanks to Merryn, to our destination....Hotel California. We were actually prepared for a dingy dive with a name such as this that harkens back to the 1970's but the reception is genteel and quick and we are up in our room before we know it.
The room itself is smallish but that's because it accommodates three beds as we are all sharing. The room is clean, the beds are ever so comfortable, we are safe in a strange city and there is a bathroom which is generous in size also.
Whilst we were in Santorini, I was trimming my toenails one day (gross I know) and managed to cut the side of my left large toe. I didn't worry too much about it at the time, despite it bleeding just a little, presuming my toe cleaning habits would help it heal.
Unbeknownst to myself, some nasty bacteria decided to enter, and consequently, a nasty little infection has occurred in my toe, with it being rather swollen, red and painful by the time we reach Berlin.
We make an executive decision the day after arriving for me to pay a visit to a local doctor which I thought would end up being a very costly exercise. Merryn and I asked at the hotel desk and they recommended a GP clinic just a few doors down from our abode.
We go in, me limping quite significantly by now. I register my details, and we wait all of 10 minutes. The clinic is squeaky clean, with a delicious fresh perfume wafting through the waiting area. I am called by a young woman, tall, thin and wearing a white shirt and white pants, obviously the medicos uniform as all the doctors appear to be wearing something similar. She is polite, apologising in advance if she has mispronounced my name and asks me my problem. I tell her, she inspects my toe then suggests I need a surgeon to lance the toe to drain it. I explain why this is not possible so she prescribes me some pretty strong antibiotics and I am out the door and paying my bill all within 20 minutes of entering the place. The cost of all this you ask...not 50 euros, not 30 euros, but a whole 21 euros, less than what one would pay in a non bulk billing GP clinic back home!
I am most impressed with this Germanic way of life.
Great health service, great trains, food is cheap and easy to come by. Merryn tells me also that everyone has to have private health insurance over here also, even those like herself and Kieran on visas, so if they are unwell, they are covered.
So, once that was sorted, it is time for tourism. 
And what more could you ask for, our very own tour guide who has been to Berlin before and loved it.

Merryn was able to show us her highlights and also what we were wanting to see as a consequence.
We found remnants of the Berlin Wall, and can you believe, just as we are taking these photos, my bloody camera battery dies!!!
We found Checkpoint Charlie, 

We found the Reichstadt, looked at amazing shops, bought gloves and caps because it was so cold. We ate pizza and pasta and cake and ice cream despite the chilly temperature too but the highlight of our gourmet appetites are the doner kebabs purchased from a street stall. 

We waited a whole hour in a queue for these kebabs and just as we got to the head of the queue we were informed they had literally run out of chicken, which was Murray's preference, so, it was vegetarian for everyone that evening! 
We visited the Jewish Museum that details the history of the Jewish population from before the Middle Ages and learn about the effects of war on this oppressed religion. 

We hunted for, and found brass plaques embedded outside a number of buildings which actually bore the names of the people who lived there, before being carted off by the gestapo and eventually murdered all in the name of war. 

I learnt the history of why the wall was built and its eventual demise and how it divided a city devastated by World War 2, we found the Brandenburg Gate also and inspected a protest about the treatment of women in Iraq. We listened to a man as he played his music box too, expecting to see a dancing monkey but alas, his monkey was literally stuffed and hanging on the side.
Like everyone says, there is so much history here with so many hundreds and thousands of stories.
Mine is but one collection of words that merely skims the surface of life here.
There are so many beautiful people in this city which, because of the devastation of war and division is now so young. The buildings are made to appear old, but most had to be rebuilt after the war and many were then rebuilt once the wall came down in the 1980s also.
Everyone appears to have a purpose here, but there are still beggars in the street. Old women who implore you in a language I do not understand, their hands outstretched. We see police accosting what appear to be possible refugees...young boys with backpacks, young women who look resigned and tired with a baby or two in tow. Berlin is an amazing city but before too soon it is time to say farewell and leave on yet another train journey, this time to Munich.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Dachau in a day

So, today we went to Dachau.
I want to begin with our experiences leading up till this day, but I believe Dachau deserves a write up of its own so I will leave the other until next time, maybe tonight, maybe tomorrow, depending on how I go for time.

We returned to the main train station aka Hauptbahnhof München this morning hoping to go on yet another tour... 
Yesterday we had the delightful pleasure of travelling with the extremely historical knowledgeable tour guide, Ludwig, so he calls himself for the day, but unfortunately today, our potential Irish tour guide informs us there are not enough people as we wait to go on the tour to Dachau so we are to travel there unguided and do the tour ourselves.
Whilst we wait for this information, I noticed an African fellow sitting on the floor next to where we are standing, initially very quiet, almost asleep it seems. All of a sudden he awoke and made a move to get up but was unable to do so. He actually rolled over a couple of times, got to his knees then proceeded to stand with the assistance of a metal rail. Once he had found his feet that wanted to go in the opposite direction to where his head was heading, he then found his voice and began to berate those around him, taking a swipe at a poster advertising the tours we were to take, knocking it over. Once he laughed at his own folly and everything else, he then stumbled over to a plant shop nearby and in full view of everyone, voided into the plants outside the shop, laughing once again as he did so.
People then moved away as police made a belated appearance and escorted him off the premises, much to the dismay of the florist who was most displeased about her urinated-upon plants.
Not sure what she was going to be able to do about her potted tulips and gardenias as there is no facility within this complex to hose the plants down. I would have been pretty pissed myself if I was her!
Anyhow, once again, I digress.

Our erstwhile tour guide apologised for not taking us to Dachau but kindly assisted us in purchasing train tickets (which we probably didn't even bloody need) and before we knew it we were on the train and we're off.
The ride there took all of 15 minutes from Munich and Dachau was the first stop so we were standing iwaiting for a bus to take us to the Concentration Camp before we knew it.
The bus took us about 10 minutes also. 
Interesting that we have all the comforts of the world with trains and buses, whereas 83 years ago 'political' prisoners had to walk to a beat not of their own making and if they fell by the wayside were left to die.

We walked in to an amazingly beautiful place. It has been raining here today and the local birds were making the most of the wet weather. Our footsteps scrunch as we walk along the path to the entrance and even though there are hundreds of others here as well, there is a hush. People are respectful and there is no laughing, no yelling, no children running and playing, no one taking selfie photographs for a change.
It is peaceful and yet because we know what has happened in this past, there is an underlying sense of horror which is inexplicable.
The place in parts is green and as described before, breathtakingly beautiful. Other areas where the barracks were is stark in its reality and there are frequent reminders of what was.
We acquired audio sets on our entrance that pick out areas that we might not have realised as we travel through......  railway lines that led to crematoriums, man-made hills that blocked the views in days gone by from people passing by. 
The iron gates leading from the path into the camp have a statement saying "ARBEIT MACHT FREI" meaning "WORK WILL SET YOU FREE" which as we know it now is a lie, for not many that entered these gates were freed voluntarily.
Dachau was not only a concentration camp for many men of the Jewish faith, but also those that rebelled against the reich, such as priests, and politicians who opposed Hitler's movement,  those that did not fit into the ideology of the gestapo and their cronies. It was also a training centre for the SS, where recruits were indoctrinated into the system which nurtured and encouraged the torture, humiliation and killing of the prisoners.
It is hard to reconcile this place to what would have been hell on earth for many there. The barracks that once housed hospitals that used prisoners forcibly for experimentation are no longer there, just plaques to remind us of what happened once.
There are barracks still standing to give you the impressions of what it was like in rooms that were supposed to house 200 men, but ended up housing over 2000. 
The supposedly never used death shower rooms remain to this day as a reminder of what was. The crematoriums remain also as do the areas where thousands upon thousands of men's ashes are buried with plaques again commemorating those that lie there. 
There is so much to take in that I weep a little at the magnitude of it all.

Time and time again I ask myself how man could be so callous and cruel and cold towards his fellow human being. I find it incomprehensible that death was such a daily happening there.
At the far end of the complex there are memorials to all religions. There is a Russian Orthodox Memorial chapel.  There is a Protestant Church Of Reconciliation. There is the Mortal Agony of Christ Chapel adjoining a Carmelite Convent. What takes my breath away though is the beautiful Jewish memorial which is partially underground and includes a seven tiered menorah which reaches to the sky from where you are standing and allows light in to the area.
I find it difficult to equate this significant reference to religion as it is my personal belief there was no God here, from 1933 until liberation by the U.S. soldiers in 1945. There are many I am sure, who used their beliefs to sustain them until freedom, one way or the other.
Once we have gone from the entrance to the back of the complex, we then walk up to the top again where is housed the most extraordinary museum I have ever encountered. It seems to go on for ages and ages, and tells the story of Hitler's rise and his mass hypnotism of a race of people, it tells the story of events that led up to the incarceration of so many people and his hatred of people of the Jewish faith. It tells the story of life in not only this Camp Dachau, but, also that of Buchenwald, Belsen-Belsen and of Auswichz. It talks about survivors' personal experiences whilst imprisoned, the underground reprisals and the people who risked their lives to tell the world what was happening in their own country. It explains how people were unaware of what was actually happening whilst they were trying to live their every day lives during war time. Most importantly though, this museum describes the events and the day to day lives in this concentration camp and how so many men dared to try and survive against so many odds. It talks about the world's gradual awareness of what was happening here and the shock and horror the liberating soldiers felt upon their entry into the camp.
We also watched a film clip at the completion of our day (which helped us to dry out and warm up a little as it had rained continually the whole time we were there) about the whole damned thing yet again. This once more made me weep to see families torn apart and lives lost so indiscriminately and again I am reminded that there was no religion here, just life and death after all.
Once we are done, once our hearts are heavy with sadness, we leave and return our audio sets. We then call into an adjoining cafe for a bite to eat and a drink, then go onto the bookstore where we both make a purchase.
Murray asked the lady (for she is a lady...gracious and polite AND speaks a little English) why there is no charge to enter this place.

She then tells us "We do not charge, for this is in memory of those who died here and we want all people to come here so no one forgets. If we charged, people would not come because it would cost too much for some. We want all to be able to come here and see what has happened and why it should never ever happen again".

As a postscript to this, I will say I am so very impressed with what has been done to commemorate this site. The people that have restored and maintained this place have done an incredible job. It would have been so easy to bulldoze the place and pretend it never existed whereas the guilt is acknowledged and accepted and reparation is made by the memories created here.
To those that have done this, I thank profusely. I am just a mere bystander who has had the time and fortune to visit this place.

My 'friend' from this morning who was so obviously inebriated, I only hope he is sleeping off the effects of his consumption. I can only imagine his sadness in his life, no longer living in his birthplace. At least he has the opportunity to live and be free from oppression if he should want.

Those 80 odd years ago were not so lucky.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Next stop, Berlin!

So, today sees the trilogy...Father, daughter and mother on a train to Berlin to catch a sense of history about this country.
It's a cool day outside, great for such travelling. We are in a very fast train which will take us 4 1/2 hours to arrive. My only concern is we are travelling backwards and there is a funny odour inside this carriage so I probably won't be eating much on the journey!

So much for first class reserved tickets!
Never mind. This all goes into the holiday journal and it's something to talk about.

You might recall our disastrous ferry ride to Athens.
You might also know we arrived some 3 1/2 hours later than expected. Needless to say (but I will anyway) our transport was not waiting for us when we pulled into the ferry terminal. Numerous phone calls later, at our expense I might add, we were told the pick up driver will begrudgingly return (as he was there at 5 pm.! and waited the obligatory 30 minutes), but it would cost us an extra 40€ which equates to $59.26 Aust. Needless to say, we politely declined and caught a taxi to our hotel which cost 25€ instead.
This photo taken in the Athens Harbour whilst we were waiting for our non-existing transport, depicts the first moon I have seen since we left home a couple of weeks ago. For some reason, the moon wasn't visible in Santorini but it was certainly waiting for us once we gladly disembarked in Athens.
I was a bit peeved as our documentation stated that if our ferry was delayed the transport company would be aware and ensure we were picked up when we finally arrived but that didn't happen, so I shall swallow my frustration and get on with life until I get home.
Ahhhhh, first world problems!

Despite that very minor hiccup, our stay in Athens was absolutely wonderful. We ate like kings and queens or is that Zeus and Athena.....and the boys were quite taken with giros and souvlaki, determined to find the best the city had to offer.
My only regret is I somehow dropped my iPad whilst tapping away and have managed to partially shatter my screen but it still works ok so I am not too fussed.
The hotel Divani Palace we stayed in for the 2 nights was lovely. Beautiful big comfortable beds, great service. Breakfast was amazing as they all are, so we were quite pleased with our decision to stay there.
Our one free day in Athens took us all to the Acropolis Modern Museum which was filled with artefacts from around the city but especially from the Parthenon and Athena's temple.

I recall learning about ancient Greek history when in primary school but never really gave it much thought once done though. This very quick foray into Greece has made me quite curious about their life in ancient times and how their struggle has taught them how to survive despite adversitary, both old and new.
I am now disappointed we only spent one full day in Athens as the was so much to see, both on the Acropolis, but also the old quarter, not to mention the beautiful enticing gardens that surrounds this bustling city.
Our trip up to the Acropolis was a morning venture and whilst the lads swam and rested in the afternoon, Mez and I went shopping in the old quarter which is filled with trinketty tourist shops but also some rather unique shops as well.
By the time we returned to the hotel, it was time to prepare for dinner and eat out yet again on falafel, kebabs, and the inevitable but delicious tzatziki dips that are a mainstay in this country.

All too soon, it was time to leave Athens and fly back to Düsseldorf.
We flew over the Swiss Alps which looked just like meringue atop a cake which was most spectacular.

Things I learnt on a plane:-
You have to be quick to bag a spare seat. We were in the back of the plane where the last 3 rows were empty. Consequently Murray and Kieran moved to seats where they were the only occupants. I was just about to move into the seat in front which was also free when a burly swarthy chap beat me to it and then proceeded to lie down and sleep for most of the journey, so he must have been knackered.

I have also learnt it's not good to allow young children to run up and down the aisle unrestrained during the flight as there with be consequences when it's time to secure them in a seat belt come landing time!....for all aboard!!!!!

Lesson number three is a murphy's law rule. When flying on planes and you are served a meal whilst wearing white clothing, it is inevitable you will hit enough turbulence to spill either coffee, tea or food of some description...enough to make you wish you either wore black or you wore a feeder!!!!!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Drama on the high seas or is that Mutiny on the Bounty?

Now we are on the ferry, travelling at high speed across the seas, to Athens.
Our trip had been delayed, presumably as its a bit choppy out there, or maybe because someone was late, or slept in. Not sure as there was no reasoning why, just us having to wait, but the ferry rolled up 45 minutes after the initial expected time and we were smartly ushered on board and took off very quickly.
Whilst waiting for the ferry, in the terminal, we were subjected to a bunch of Asian women parading as if on a catwalk and singing the same song over and over again, much to the mirth of we bystanders. They were obviously practising for a performance somewhere and grabbed a rehearsal whilst they waited regardless of the stares from onlookers and the laughter and clapping when they decided their performance would not be improved by any more episodes.
Whilst initially setting off, the sea was pretty rough and some people were feeling most nauseated. Fortunately our craft is a speedboat sea jet and it cuts through the water with minimal turbulence where we are sitting.

Unfortunately I had to go to the toilet not so long ago, and the toilets are located at the back of the ship. Whilst sitting on said loo, I nearly fell off, I managed to jam my right thumb and rammed my right thigh into the washbasin. Hopefully that's the only damage I'll manage to do whilst onboard and even though I don't feel as crook as others, I'll be pleased when we disembark at the Port of Athens.
From our collection through to the first stop we were exposed to a film. A film with no sound, but with Greek subtitles.
I made  up my own story as it went along to keep me amused but I soon grew tired of the goblins and killing and medieval mayhem and magic and consequently decided to blog again, hence my presence here.
It is now 1710 hrs. We have been stuck off Mykonos for the last couple of hours as there was a problem with the Port Authority apparently. For some obscure reason, of which we have no access to, the police would not let us depart hence our tardiness.
Lots of irate passengers around as people have had flights to catch in Athens as well as privately assigned taxis to take them to their hotels....much like us.
We're now about three hours behind our arrival time so it'll be interesting to see if our private taxi is still waiting when we arrive.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Our last few hours in Santorini.

Today is our farewell day to Thira, Santorini and the whole Greek bit except for our two nights in Athens coming up.
We are having our final breakfast now.
When we first got here, the resort was very quiet and it felt like we were the only people here. This morning (Kalimera!) the dining room is inundated with people from all over the world.
If I listen quietly, I can hear American, Asian, north European and Greek accents...all talking in their own dialects and languages.
Everyone sounds excited as this is their spring break so I am told. Everyone deserves a holiday every now and then and what better place to have said holiday bit in Santorini.
Things I have learnt whilst here.
Cars go in any direction. Crazy driver rules apply here, but MOST drive relatively slowly. There seems to be no hidden agenda, no evidence of road rage that we have perceived.
Many cars stop in the oddest of places, occasionally blocking traffic. If they leave their hazard lights on that means they can get out of their cars and go chat with someone in the closest shop for a while before returning and resuming their drive.
Hardly anyone wears a seatbelt in their car.
No one wears a helmet whilst on a bike....motor or foot pedal for that matter.
Everyone wears a helmet...(almost everyone) whilst driving quad bikes on the roads as well. They seem to be a popular form of tourist transport nowadays, whereas we old fogies went by foot or by bus. 
People drive with their mobile phones pressed closely to their ear. No concerns for police catching them here. Even the older aged women have mobile phones up against their ears as they drive.
People smoke in cars, in restaurants, wherever.
People spit in the streets (it's a man thing here I guess).
Just about every Greek person we have had the pleasure to exchange conversation with has done their utmost to be polite and courteous to us. I know and understand that in the hospitality business it's imperative to be smiling all the time, but the people here seem to go just that one step further to demonstrate how much they care about your presence.
Last evening we had a farewell dinner in a restaurant that overlooked the sea between us the the volcano island. We watched as a large cruise ship reloaded its tourists back on board after a day of Santorini sight seeing.
Our waiters were two of the most loveliest waiters we have encountered.
They gave us complimentary hummus to go with our inevitable tzatziki as an entree, plus on completion of our meal, a dessert snippet...of a chocolate like pudding with a dollop of cream on top. Both were 'on-the-house' which is so generous of them.
Times are tough in Greece right now with austerity measures apparently in full swing so to be treated so well by people who are not even sure if they'll get a wage at the end of the week is amazing to say the least.
Both our waiters spoke our language and both expressed desire to travel to Australia. One even (figuratively speaking of course) divided his heart into two and said one side is for his family, the other side is for Australia. This is because out of all the people he has encountered in his work, Australians are the happiest, generous and most receptive he has encountered and he one day wishes to go to Austrlia, to catch up with family and friends.
How sweet is that!

Well, it's time to go complete the final pack and make sure we have all our stuff ready to be hauled on the ferry to Athens.

I shall write again soon folks.
Great to be sharing my memories, thoughts and perceptions with you all!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Our day on the sea

I have fallen in love with the simplicity of this place. Mind we are staying an extra day as it turns out, so, yesterday took all four of us on a high seas adventure (one for tourists at least)!
We sailed on the Aegean Sea aboard a sailing boat equipped with motor. We walked across a volcano and were awed at the toxic smoke that continues to spew forth from its belly, even to this day.
Am so pleased that was all that spewed forth from it!
We listened to the story by our presiding captain, of how volcanoes, this one in particular, were formed, and why the villages are all painted a gleaming white, with blue domes on the churches.
We were held captive on an island for lunch and made to pay middle range prices for very ordinary food...(everything else is closed on this day apparently on this island), but the views from the beach and the quaint sea side scenes were more than made up for our hijacked lunch.

Murray and Kieran ventured into the coolish waters with enough others (hence why Mez and I stayed on board) to swim over to the heated spring waters, made orange by rust apparently. We were then dropped off at the tiny port of Oia where we had to venture up up up into the gods to the town bustling with tourists preparing to bunker down and watch the sun set.
Our choice to go to the top was either donkey ride or walk. Donkey rides cost 5€ and even for that price I would have felt guilty allowing a poor donkey to haul me up the hillside. All the other donkeys would have been busy hee-hawing at me so I decided to tempt fate by walking up the very steep hill of what seemed 1000 steps with my darling daughter in tow ensuring I didn't collapse on the way up. Kieran sprinted up (virtually), Murray The Great chose a donkey ride 

whilst Merryn and I laboured up step by step, carefully avoiding donkey poo and lizards on the way up, having breaks every so often and distracting ourselves with photos to mark the journey. It was hot, hard yakka getting up there I might say at this juncture, but not once did I think I wasn't going to make it as I had my girl with me encouraging every step of the way.
So, we made it to the top of the hill and felt like we'd accomplished a marathon.....eventually.
Up the top, we found numerous arcades selling all sorts of wares...touristy stuff and classic beautiful clothes...all for the slender woman in us all!
There were bags and scarves and perfumes and jewellery en masse, foodstuffs, shoes, sports wear paintings, ceramic artefacts, all very up-market.
We eventually stopped walking for a bit to admire the view and decided to sit overlooking the sea whilst we dined on pasta, seafood and the always accompanying tzatziki garnished with one olive and lots of bread.

I feel I could live this life long term...not sure what the rest of my family would have to say about that.
Am sure there's a job for a midwife here somewhere!
Following our impromptu dinner, we headed down towards more spectacular views of the water to witness yet another glorious sunset.
There were a number of vantage spots where people congregated in large numbers and it was all a bit noisy in the crowded throng. There were young kids doing foolish things like balancing on the edge of buildings for dares and to attract attention, so I wandered down towards the quieter part of town where there were windmills attached to a couple of the houses.
Here the views were even more superior and with the added bonus of no noise what so ever, it was simply bliss.
The rammed earth homes built on the cliff side around here are available for short term accomodation and are described as authentic homes in which to live. So tempting to investigate a bit further.......
I think though, in order to appreciate the environment here one would have to stay out of the summer season when there is less fuss and bother to deal with.
There's something to be said for quiet and feeling like you're the only people on earth in a little bit of paradise...
We watched the sun descend gently to the earth, taking the light with it on its way and it was then time to hike it back to the bus stop in time for our ride home to El Greco.
There is always time though for one more photo and I managed to take a few as we went...

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Add it to Santorini

We have had yet another wonderful day.
A day in the life of Santorini.
We spent the morning in shops and funnily enough we spent the afternoon and evening in shops...that is, in between eating.
I drank Ouzo on this day, both straight and with a dash of coke....and liked it.
I ate cod fish and sardines and beloved dolmades at dinner time. 
I smiled at many and got smiles in return. People here are so gracious and willing to chat about anything.
There is poverty, yes. There is probably frustration and concern behind closed doors but all we see are generous welcoming people who are happy we come from Melbourne.
According to those we speak to, Melbourne has the second largest Greek population in the world and so we are family!
I understand we have only experienced just a mere glimpse into the life of Greece, having being on a hold at island for just over 24 hours, but, as mentioned before, the sun shines, the ouzo tastes great and people are happy with our presence and so, what more could we ask for?

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

A day in the life.

So today we are in Thira, Santorini, Greece and loving it.
The sun is out, the weather is beautifully warm and we packed for a mini winter of course. I will have to de-layer a bit and suffer the consequences of all those stares. I forget I am now 61 and people don't look so much at me now anyhow!
We arrived yesterday and ventured in to town to check it all out.
I might add that I haven't felt much like blogging over the past few days as I have been feeling a little under the weather as a consequence of my head cold acquired on this journey to the other side of the world. Going to a pharmacy yesterday in Thira enlightened me to more natural therapies as the pharmacist did not want me to have any chemical remedies given the medication I am already taking, so it was a saline washout that did the trick last night and this morning.
After feeling like I was underwater all last evening, it was great to wake up to normal hearing again today so it must have worked.
I tell you, I was a bundle of misery on the plane as we came in for landing but hopefully that's all behind me now and I can get on with enjoying the holiday again.
So, back to Thira and its cars, bikes and quad bikes. One has to be mindful when walking up the road as everyone has right of way here and in some places there is not so much footpath, just people dodging between cars to make it safely to their destination.
Thira is a bit like Thailand, only the people are more gracious and welcoming. They speak of their global crisis quite matter-of-fact and we can tell many are doing it tough. There are many shops that are closed unfortunately as a consequence of the country's finances being in disarray but there are still plenty who have remained open to encourage us to spend a little here and there.
The town of Thira itself is quite hilly. It is mainly cobblestones underfoot and many many tourist walking around.
The surrounding scenery is magnificent with islands in the distance and clear blue water in between that Kez is itching to swim in. Hopefully tomorrow we will go on a cruise that incorporates the local volcano, hot thermal springs and a sunset to die for.  
Loving the life!!!

Friday, April 1, 2016

Down time in Düsseldorf.

Here we are during our first real day in Düsseldorf.
Yesterday was all about arriving, via train, into the heart of this city and getting to Merryn and Kieran's place and napping and settling down after a long day and a half in the air.
Before I ramble on about my daughters home, I will elaborate on some on the enjoyment we had on our last leg yesterday. As I had mentioned, we were given an upgrade to Business Class and like all human beings were more than happy to accept.
We each had our own little pod with a seat and bedside table, equipped with soft drinks and water. We had a mattress on our seat and lovely thick blankets to keep us warm. Even the earphones were superior quality to those in Economy Class. We were given eye pads and socks too to keep us amused. Our television screens were larger also and on arrival we were offered a glass of Veuve Cliquot champagne, (so the bottle said), which was delicious and for me, head spinning, I was so tired!
I didn't have to worry about the person behind me, or live in fear about the person in front of me which was lovely too.  My chair had three settings, one of which reclined to a bed. The food was extremely plentiful and delicious and if I had wanted, I could have wandered down to the bar at the back, had a cocktail or two, even a G&T if so desired and fed up on pies, and petite bread rolls and salad, nibbly things, scones, cakes and biscuits but food was the last thing on my mind at that point so, I merely looked as I waited to go to the loo.
We both managed to fit in a little extra sleep during that leg but I was impatient to disembark and see our daughter, so my mind was elsewhere.
Finally the plane came to a stop....on the ground, fortunately. There had been a little turbulence at various stages on the journey. You have to admire the cabin crew who must learn how to handle liquids and food during such times as not one drop or morsel was spilt as my stomach lurched.
Anyhow, I digress. We got off the plane, joined the queue to go through passport control. The young woman who inspected my passport had not smiled the whole time I stood waiting to have my turn at being checked into the country.
"What are you doing here in Düsseldorf?", she asked of me with nary a smile. I am on holidays I replied. She then broke into the most beautiful smile as I handed her my passport. She skimmed through, looking and feeling the texture of the blank pages. She then said "I just love your Australian passports. They are so lovely, with nice paper!"
I suppose the people behind the desk there get to see and handle many many passports and I am possibly being a little presumptuous when I presume our Australian passports must be of a better quality than some they get to see on a regular basis.
Anyhow, from there we wandered over to where we presumed our luggage would arrive. We stood with many many others around a carousel and watched as piece by piece was taken by those around us, until the carousel stopped and we were left there with no luggage. Panic settled in very nicely then around the heart as we wondered what to do, so we walked over to a group of men in uniform who looked like they might be waiting to do some security control. As neither of us speak German, we asked if anyone spoke English. Quite possibly, the gent who replied spoke better English than we did and when we told him of our plight, he informed us we had been standing at the wrong carousel and we should be at one on the opposite side of the building. Panic then did a little flip and disappeared and we then walked over to where we should have been, to find our bags were placidly going round and round the carousel, waiting patiently for us to claim them!
It was then a matter of walking straight through the declaration area out to the throng of people, some with balloons, some with cards, all with anxious smiles waiting for someone they knew and maybe loved. I skimmed the crowd looking for a particular well loved face and it was as we were walking along that I saw her and all concern then disappeared as Merryn and I hugged. I cried just a little I was so pleased to see her and all was good with the world again.
It was then just a matter of riding down an escalator to a waiting train which took us probably three stops from the airport to where we once again, disembarked. Up a flight of stairs we went then we were on Birken Strasse before we knew it.