Germany, France, Switerland, Leichtenstein, Italy

Trip Start Dec 10, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Friday, September 29, 2006

Wong & Gem's European Vacation - Diary Update 12
Germany, France, Switzerland, Leichtenstein, Italy

Day 198- Wednesday 13th September - 2006 - Butzbach to Speyer to Baden Baden
Well today we had to say goodbye to the clan. It has been so great to meet our extended family in Germany and to get to know them. Little shy Ellery had even gotten used to us and was talking to us so it's sad to say goodbye. Next stop was about 120 km away (Gemeah speedy gonzalious on the autobahn got us there in record time!!) to the gorgeous town of Speyer. Here we got on our bikes and toured the little town taking in the beautiful parklands where we watched a guy play enchanting music on a giant xylophone, then checking out all the little cobbled stone streets , the giant gate and the massive church. Wayne bought a baguette and he looks very French riding through the streets with it in his basket on the front of his bike !! Wayne filled the baguette up with some yummy fillings and after that we took off on the autobahn again to find Baden-Baden which is a small town that is famous for it's natural hot springs that have attracted visitors since Roman times. Today it is classed as Germany's premier and ritziest health spa. Well it was certainly Ritzy as there are lots of well dressed people and gorgeous shops (Gem has to stop drooling at the clothes!). Lots of old people everywhere as well as they all come here for the healing properties of the thermal spas. We had a great time listening to a free concert by a massive orchestra in the central park in front of the famous casino .... Very posh area filled with beautiful cafes with nice table and chairs everywhere. Wayne checked out the casino, which is supposed to be one of the worlds most beautiful casinos... it was nice... but what a shame they don't play poker until the weekends !! (Gem is rejoicing !!). We found our way back to the motorhome parking spot and found that the French had invaded !! about 30 French motorhomes had turned up since we left. Wayne cooked another great meal and we spent the night reading and laughing our heads off watching a Little Britain DVD.

Day 199 - Thursday 14th September - 2006 - Baden Baden to France
Today we were glad to wake up and find that the weather had turned cooler (as yesterday was really hot) as we are planning on going to the Caracalla Spa to bathe in the thermal waters. Gem chose this one as you have to wear a swimming suit, where as at the other main Roman spa here you have to go nude and it is mixed swimming... Gem just could not cope... Wayne on the other hand is a born free snaker so he would have been fine with it. Well the spa experience was great. It was very relaxing and had heaps of different pools at various temperatures, whirlpools, big water jets that massaged your back and neck, a special steam room with homeopathic vapours!! We felt very relaxed and then went for a stroll through the local markets, the French patissiere and the charcutiere(Deli) to buy some fresh produce for tonight's dinner. It was about 6.00 pm by the time we took off and drove about 60km over border to France... into Stasbourg... which is actually was a German town till 17 0r 18 hundreds and is now part of France. We kept getting lost as Navman kept cutting in and out... we did not get to town tonight but found a motorhome spot in the small town of Kehl just over the border in the German side. On our drive there we saw two lots of gypsies set up in parks beside the road... we initially thought it was somewhere where we could stop but then soon realized they were gypsies as they all park their caravans in a circle, they have washing everywhere and tap into the electricity supply from the mains power boxes and they all have the most poshest cars... the newest Mercedes Benz and Audis... they must be able to afford them as they never pay any rent or don't own homes.

Day 200 - Friday 15th September - 2006 - Strasbourg(France) to Freiburg (Germany)
This morning we worked out how to catch a bus into Strasbourg and visited the main tourist attractions, being the centre of town which contained the massive Gothic Notre Dam cathedral and cobblestoned alley ways full of gorgeous crooked half timbered houses. We then walked through the section called "Petite France" which again was very beautiful. Then back to pick up Misty (we were relieved to find her safe and well and not broken into by any Gypsies... just an old man peeing behind her) and we drove into Freiburg and through the beautiful valleys of the black forest. We found the motorhome site and upon entering it we had this group of people just stare at us like we were from out of space. We found a spot and next minute the man and his son had run over to greet us and wanted to know if it was true that we were from Australia (he had spotted the sticker). Well they were very excited as they currently had relatives that were visiting Australia and wanted to know what we were up to etc. He went and got his wife and daughter and we all stood around talking for ages, then as they were setting off to drive home (about 300km away) he gave us his parking ticket for the night so we did not have to pay and then gave us a camping book for all of Europe and invited us to come and visit them if we went back their way. What gorgeous people !! So it cost us a total of 1.50 euro for electricity to camp for the night... and they had free wireless internet... what a bargain !!.

Day 201 - Saturday 16th September - Frieburg to Bad Sackingen
Today was spent exploring Frieburg... nothing much to see here as we decided not to take the gondola up the mountain to admire the black forest as it was very overcast and everything was covered in cloud. So we spent some time in the city trying to find somewhere to buy a new external antenna for NAVMAN (we are ready to kill it as it keeps losing the satellite) and we also came across some fresh produce markets where we stocked up on veggies for dinner and Wayne ate more big German bratwurst.... Wayne can't resist a big German sausage!!! ha ha. We eventually found Media Markt on the outskirts of town and got a new antenna.... Oh and it picked up the satellite in 4 seconds... so we won't be driven crazy by NAVMAN dropping out anymore! More driving through the valley's of the black forest through beautiful scenery and onto Titilsee... which we explored on our bikes. It was another gorgeous little town built around a massive lake... but full of tourist shops selling cuckoo clocks at cuckoo prices! More driving through beautiful scenery with dense pine forests until we eventually found a motor home site in Bad Sackingen with about 30 other motor homes. The weather had changed something dramatic now that we are near the Swiss Alps again... it is very rainy and overcast and slightly cold (which means it is cold for normal people who are not heat bags).

Day 202 - Sunday 17th September - Bad Sackingen
Pouring rain this morning so we slept in and enjoyed listening to it. We were going to find a supermarket today to stock up on some food before we hit Switzerland as we have been told that everything there is crazy expensive. But we forgot that nothing opens in Germany on a Sunday .... Bugger. As it was raining I suggested that we just have a lazy day and read and watch DVD's but Wayne decided he wanted to go for a drive to Lorrach. But I did not want to go, as I knew there would be nothing there(yeah of course she did...! NOT) and everything would be closed and I am now sick of German towns anyway and need a change of scenery... but Wayne insisted. Now this is the problem with being stuck in a motor home, you both have to go and you can't get away from each other... So I decided to amuse Wayne and drive the 28 kms to Lorrach.... Surprise surprise... when we got there... it was a hovel and nothing was open... so we drove the 28kms back to the motor home site in Bad Sackingen to fill in a day before we can go grocery shopping tomorrow and head into Switzerland. The motor home spot we are in is all automated (so nobody mans the site) so Wayne decided to try and hook up to power and to do this you have to pay money into an automatic machine... well this turned out to be a saga as he could not work it out and came back having a hissy fit about the instructions being written in German and not English (funny that given we are in Germany). He went back to try again, and fortunately the little German man in the motor home next to us came over to see if he could help... well even he had trouble with the machine and he was German !!... next minute (and several wasted euro later) another German came over and all three men were standing around the machine... every now and then hitting it... I found it all very amusing and started to make jokes to Wayne about how many German's and Australian's it takes to operate an automated electricity machine.... Well they finally worked it out and we got electricity!!! Yeah. This afternoon when the rain eased up a bit, I went for a walk over to Switzerland (Wayne was boring and slept)... well it sounds like a long way but where we are staying is next to the River Rhine which actually divides Southern Germany from Switzerland. I discovered that we were parked right next door to the palace gardens (could not see over the fence) and then discovered the very old covered wooden bridge that Bad Sackingen is famous for. It's a gorgeous bridge with planter boxes full of beautiful hanging flowers and it crosses the Rhein... halfway in between there is a white line painted that divides the river into half belonging to Germany and half Swizterland. I then went through a lovely walk in the town square and found the beautiful church that keeps ringining it's bells and I sat in on a church service... all in German but it sounded good as they said their prayers. Then off through the beautiful grounds of the palace and back to Misty.... Where Wayne was still snoring !! Tonight we entertained ourselves by playing phase 10 and then watching a DVD.

Day 203 - Monday 18th September- Luzern, Switzerland
Pouring rain again this morning. We got stocked up on food and alcohol in Germany and then headed across the border to Switzerland. The big beafy border crossing guards decided to eventually let us in and then it was off to Basel. Well we drove around and we were rather disappointed with what we saw so we took off to Luzern.... We are so glad we did as Luzen was stunning. We walked over the famous wooden Chapel Bridge, through the old Town where we bought some yummy (but expensive) Swiss chocolate, then off to find the Dying Lion Monument of Luzern - this was very impressive and was carved into a cliff face in 18?? to honour the fallen Swizz soldiers of the French revolution. This afternoon we spent walking around the lake.

Day 204 - Tuesday 19th September -Zurich, Stein an Rhein & Rhein Falls
Today we woke up 7.30am and hit peak hour traffic through the city but eventually found our war to Zurich. We wanted to go up to Mount Pilatus in Luzern but it was still overcast so we thought we would not see anything.. so it was Zurich instead. We found the camping ground and booked in despite the cost being astronomical compared to what we have paid before (about 40 to 50% more expensive). We found our way into Zurich and walked and walked and walked all around the old town, the famous bahnhoffstrasse with all the banks and posh shops and along the lake. But we must say... we really are disappointed with Zurich, it is not that pretty of a city and quite boring compared to other things we have seen. We decided to see if we could visit the Lindt Chocolate factory which was in the same street as the camping ground... but then we read in the tourist magazine that it was closed to May... bugger..will just have to go and eat the Lindt we have in Misty. So we decided to go back to the camping ground and see if we could take off as we really were not too excited about Zurich and did not fancy wasting any time sitting around here. We had to wait a couple of hours as the office was shut for lunch, so Wayne had a sleep (how unusual he fell asleep in 3 seconds!!). Fortunately, the camping ground had a day rate that was just under half price so we decided to cut our losses and run. We drove on to Stein am Rhein... an absolutely gorgeous medieval town that was really really stunning in that all the buildings in the main square were painted with the most beautiful frescos. Then we decided to keep driving to fine the famous Rhein Falls.... Again we are glad we did as they were amazing and we went for an amazing walk out to a platform that lets you jut out right next to the rushing falls... it was deafening. We got talking to some other German motor homers ... one who could speak perfect English and we ended up parking next to the falls for the night with them and a heap of French.

Day 205 - Wednesday 20th September - Switzerland to Germany back to Switzerland
This morning we woke up to be greeted by some other Aussies... another young couple who have also been motor homing since April but had been away from home traveling for 4 years and had also motor homed through Canada, America and Mexico. We had a great chat and it was fantastic not to have to struggle with the language. Then on to find Konstanz... while we were driving we got a phone call from Simon and Fraenzi (the young Swiss motor homers we met in Finland)... they were in France but we arranged to meet them in just over a week in the Swiss Alps in Vals, Switzerland.
At lake Konstanz we crossed into Germany and refueled, had a walk around Konstanz with all its alfresco painted, timber crooked houses. We had a walk along the lake, enjoyed some soft ice (soft serve ice-cream) and headed back over the border into Swiss territory. At the border stop Wayne thought he would try and get the Swiss border guard to laugh, so when he was asked where he was going he said 'Switzerland' the response from the guard was a non emotional (best read in a Kernal Klink voice from Hogans Hero's) " I sink I know this, but where are you going?' Well we where killing our selves laughing, needless to say he didn't find it so amusing.... But still let us into the country!!
So off we went to St Gallen, which has a UNESCO listed bibleotech (library) it's a few centurys old and is made of timber with the ceilings painted in the renaissance style. Drove around and found some open wirless connections, emailed and checked the news and then took off to Appenzell. A two street town but absolutely gorgeous, with a black smith who you can watch making cow bells of various sizes with the crest and colours of the region. Gem went shopping while Wayne checked out the Fromagerie, Konditori, and Delis with all local produce. This place is full of beautifully painted houses and all set to a back drop of the Swiss Alps with rolling green fields and the constant clink of cow bells as they wander through the fields. We found a spot along the river and had dinner and slept to the sound of rushing water and clinking cow bells. Aaahhhh a sound sleep for all.

Day 206 - Thursday 21st September - Switzerland to Liechtenstein to St Moritz
 We set of for St Moritz and over the pass with its absolutely jaw dropping scenery. Think marvelous mountains everywhere, blue lakes and clear streams.... We drove around St Moritz... which is known as one of the ritziest ski resorts in the world.... Well the town did not impress us very much but the scenery sure did...even if there was no snow. We found a gorgeous camping sight and spent a very cold night in the mountains with a view of the town below... very nice.

Day 207 - Friday 22nd September - St Moritz to Trento - Italy
Today we decided to head towards Venice, as we are going to come back to Switzerland next weekend when we meet up with Simon and Fraenzi. So Italy here we come!!. Again today was lots of driving through the most amazing scerny of the Swiss Alps, then over the border into Italy, through amazing country Italian towns that were built in the 13th century and still surrounded by walls to protect them from invasion. Then onto Bolzano and into Trento. This drive was also very beautiful along the river, the amazing Dolomites in the background and through valleys of apple farms... we have never seen so many apples in our life !! We eventually got into Trento but got very lost and spent a lot of time trying to find the motor home sites... it was quite confusing as we thought we had found a spot to park but it turns out that the Italian's don't put their motor homes into storage, they just park them en mass wherever they want in car parks, etc.... so it makes finding the actual allocated parking spots quite difficult. We did eventually find one, but we decided to move again as there was quite a big population of "feral" Italian motor homers who looked like they were living in them on a permanent basis... they just looked a little too dodgy for us.... So off we went again in search of another spot and we got very very lost indeed... we ended up finding a big parking lot full of empty motor homes so we just parked amongst them to look inconspicuous.... Well the car park was actually for a big supermarket and a restaurant... so by this time we were starving so we went and had some dinner at what turned out to be a great Italian restaurant... the staff were exceptionally helpful and could speak quite good English. The waiter was trying to interpret the menu for us and he could not remember the English word for one of the pizza toppings so he went into the kitchen and got all the raw toppings and bought them out to us so we could see what we were eating!! Very funny. We had a bit of a sleepless night tonight as mum called to say Ruphus was sick and in pain and her and Dad were going away in one day to China for holidays and he was going to be looked after by house sitters !!! Gem was crying, Mum was crying .... Because Ruphus was crying...

Day 208 - Saturday 23rdt September -Trento to Venice
This morning we got up and went food shopping.... Wayne has been hanging out to get to that Italian food. Well we stocked up on all food Italiano... can't wait for Wayne to get cooking. We then eventually found our way into town (after getting very lost again) and checked out the main town square for Trento... it was very beautiful... and we had the best gelato ever!! Stuff the diet it's gelato time baby!! Wayne also had the best coffee he has had since being in Europe. Then it was off to Venice... over 350km drive through scenery packed with vine yards, medieval castles sitting on top of the mountain ranges and more apple trees. We eventually got to Venice and found the parking area called 'Troncehtto" for all the cars, buses etc that aren't allowed to go into Venice. The area we stayed in was actually quiet nice next to the water, with a nice breeze and guys training for gondola races racing past!! Too tired to go into Venice tonight so we slept in preparation for a big day tomorrow.... Oh and Wayne made the best meal ever, fresh gnocchi with chicken and tomatoes basil sauce. Yummo!!

Day 209 - Sunday 24th September - Venice
Venice Venice Venice!! It's amazing. Gem has been waiting 4 years to get back here and was hoping she had not talked it up too much to Wayne in case it did not live up to his expectations. No chance... Wayne fell in love with it immediately as well. We spent the entire day walking and getting lost in the little narrow walk ways that make you feel like you are in a maze and exploring the beautiful glass and mask shops. As we walked into St Mark's Square we got a taste of the real Venice, it was flooding so we had to wade through the water as we watched it bubble up through the drains. We took a million pictures of the old buildings, the gondolas and had a great time watching people and watching how everything in this place is operated on the water... water police, water taxis, water ambulance, water DHL boats....We had a great time easting gelato, drinking the best coffee ever (Wayne is getting wired !) and exploring the markets shops (Gem well and truly killed this weeks budget buying jewelry and a few masks) We headed back to Misty for a few hours to have another great meal as prepared by Wayne and spent a bit of time chatting with some English motor homers. Then off to St Mark's square again tonight to catch the ambience.... Thankfully the flooding had disappeared and we were able to walk around taking in the fantastic orchestras that played at the ritzy cafes. What a fantastic day!! On top of that we were both feeling happier as we got the news that Ruphus had been to the vet and is doing better!!

Day 210 - Monday 25th September - Muruno/Venice
This morning I woke up to find a note from Wong... "Hello Gemmy, it's 9.00 and I have gone into Venice to have another coffee, will be back soon ... didn't want to wake you". The weather had turned a bit rainy and overcast today and when Wong eventually got back he was wired on coffee again and wet but had enjoyed taking in a bit more of the Venetian ambience !! Got him dried off and then we took off to Murano by boat... that's one of the little Island's off Venice that is famous for all it's glass works. As soon as we got to Murano I dropped Wayne off at a coffee shop and glass blowing factory and then hit the shops on a mission to find the jewelry that I wanted. Three hours later and I was shopped out and had achieved my goal and well and truly blown the budget for the next month... but Wayne was prepared for this as I have been warning him for 4 years that this was going to happen. We were tossing up whether to stay another night and pay for another lot of camping fees (it is crazy crazy expensive) but we decided to take off and drive to Verona. We were both quite sad to leave but we are going to try and come back again in February for the Carnivale Festival. Well we drove and drove and drove and went through the suburbs outside of Venice which are famous for all of the giant Villa's... there were certainly some stunning homes here. We got lost in Padova a few times and took in some of the night life with prostitutes showing off their stuff on the streets. When we finally got to Verona it was really difficult to get orientated and we could not find any of the parking spots for motor home, or the one we did find was closed. An hour after looking we finally found a spot, only to find that it was exceptionally noisy... so we moved again and we finally found a spot with some Germans. Wayne fell asleep instantly, Gem got about 2 hours!!!

Day 211 - Tuesday 26tht September - Verona, Sirmione, Salo & Gardone Riviera
Well we woke up still alive and then walked into the Old Town of Verona. Gem has been here once before when she went to the Opera in the Roman Arena (a smaller version of the coliseum), so with the help of her memory and the Lonely Planet book she took Wong on a guided tour. Verona is the town that is famous for the love storey of Romeo and Juliet. Shakespeare based his play on the town's history of the Scala family who were noted for the savage family feuding. So off we went to find Case di Giulietta which is Juliet's balcony and admired the bronze statue of Juliet (along with about 500 other people crammed into the court yard) and read some of the love messages that people have graphitized onto the walls of the entrance. We explored the Piazza Del Erbe which is the lively heart of the city, admired the Roman Arena, the Pallozo Maffei, the tombs of the Scali family and Castel Vecchio. We said goodbye to Verona and then drove back into the Lakes area to Sirmione which is a very popular tourist spot... but we did not like it so we kept driving to Salo which was a very beautiful lakeside resort town and then onto Gardone Riviera which is a one of the lakes most popular holiday spots and is full of lush villas and stunning views. We stumbled across a fantastic spot to park for the night, along with one other German motor home... this guys were also in a massive Hymer but were decked out with a generator and all. Well we parked next to the lake but in the middle of an olive grove, with a beautiful pebbled beach that overlooks the snow capped Dolomites in the background. There is a resort here that obviously only opens in the peak season of July and August because despite the weather being warm and sunny today it was shut for the season.... But that's fine with us because we had the beach mostly to ourselves and it meant we got the best camping spot ever!! This afternoon we enjoyed swimming in the crystal clear lake and taking in the ambience of the area.

Day 212 - Wednesday 27th September -Bergamo to Bellagio on Lake Como (Wayne gives Misty yet another war wound)
Well we had a lovely sleep in this morning, but then we were woken up by men cutting the grass in the olive grove we were parked in... so we thought we had better move. We spent the morning enjoying the area and reading our books on the water front. Then off to Bergamo which was another gorgeous Italian town that is divided into two parts... the upper and lower city. Gem decided that Misty could take no more hits and decided to drive... well did we mention what maniac drivers the Italians are... they are just as bad as the Czech's and their roads are just as bad!!. It was all rather stressful trying to cope with getting Misty down very narrow streets and putting up with maniacs who drive on the wrong side of the road and nearly cause head ons (they even overtake in tunnels that are one way on blind corners). We have decided that the Italian's drive like they play soccer... they cheat, they push in, they overtake, they park anywhere and they complain like no end when it does not go there way!!! Anyway enough Italian bashing.... Bergamo was nice and we went our separate ways to explore the area... this involved for Gem taking in the shops and the fashion (lucky most of them were closed for siesta) and for Wayne finding a restaurant recommended by Lonley planet so he could pork out on the area speciality of Polenta and Rabbet .. and of course a craft of red wine. This afternoon we continued the hair rising drive to the town of Bellagio on Lake Como. Well this drive was dangerous because the road winds around the mountains and you could easily plummet off the edge into the water below... then on top of that the Italian maniacs that drive at double the speed limit on a road that barley fits one car ... Gemeah decided to adopt the Italian attitude and cursed and waved hands at them as they went past complaining. The funniest bit was when we came to a curve and Gemeah had a Mexican standoff with a DHL van driver who did not want to move (the cars were about 1 cm apart)... he started carrying on so Gem gave it back to him and he shut up !! When we finally arrived in Bellagio we were even more stressed out when we got stuck in a car park and people started going off because we had to move Misty for a bus to park and could not go anywhere (as they all park like wankas as well with no system) so our back end was blocking the road ... Wayne got out to try and work out how we could get out and some old Italian guy came up and started going off his nut at Gemeah who was driving.... so Gemeah went off her nut back at him and he ran away !!! Don't mess with Miss Piggy when she has had enough of Italians and their shit for one day!!! Anyway we finally found a spot in a secure car park and enjoyed the beautiful town of Bellagio (all the while trying to calm down from today's driving experiences)

Day 213 - Thursday 28th September -Varenna (Lake Como) to Ascona (Switerland)
This morning we decided to give driving a miss and caught the car ferry over to Varenna which is yet another gorgeous little town on Lake Como. We had fun walking along the water, exploring the narrow lane ways and admiring the wonderful Villas and their gardens. Then Gemeah found some more silver and murano glass jewelry that she adored and spent the week's budget in one hit! We had lunch at a lovely restaurant overlooking the lake and got a bit tipsy on red wine. We got a bit sad again then as we got a text to say that Ruphus was misdiagnosed and now they think he has a compressed disc in his back and may need surgery!!! Aaggghhh now we just want to go home to be with our boy!!

We did more exploring of the area to sober up and then took Misty on yet another ferry ride over to Menaggio which was yet another gorgeous lakeside town and then Wayne stocked up on Italian treats at a supermarket (did I mention that he was in the supermarket for 1.5 hours just looking at food!!). The rest of the afternoon was spent driving and this was an absolute nightmare... bad Italian mountain side roads that barely fit two normal size cars, bad impatient and rude Italian drivers and to top it off it was peak hour. Well we nearly had several accidents, told several Italian's who abused us to go and get *#^%%$ and got stuck in a tunnel where no one would stop to let us though... Wayne nearly took off the awning and then nearly reversed into some ones car behind us... the only reason we got through the tunnel was because one nice old man on a vesper stopped the traffic coming the other way and we managed to squeeze through... The Italian roads really are quite pathetic and their tunnels are even more pathetic, tiny and falling apart with massive cracks in them and leaking water... it does not make you feel particularly safe. We decided to try and get back into Switzerland to get away from rude Italians and their terrible roads. We drove into Locarno but it was bigger and busier than expected so we kept driving to Ascona which is on Lake Maggiore. Well we were much happier to be in Switzerland as the roads improve straight away and the people are calmer. What we thought would just be a small little town turned out to be a very richie rich resort town... Wayne spent the entire time drooling and yelling out "I want one" as a heap of Ferraris, Porches, Lamborghinis and Massaratis drove past us!! We found a great spot on Lake Maggiore and tried to unwind from our hair rising drive!!
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