Friday, December 14, 2012

Rowing Slowly in Slovenia

Bled Island, situation mostly in the middle of Lake Bled, is the only true island in Slovenia (as opposed to a fake island?) and we rowed out to it.  The crossing certainly wasn't the most graceful, nor was it among the speediest crossings on record, but Lisa was once a coxswain so if things really started to fall apart en route, she could dole out a verbal beat down in order to right the ship.  

No breeze, no waves, no boat traffic:  smooth sailing!
The bow, engine room, and stroke
Almost there!
On the island there is a small church housing a 15th-century belfry with a 'wishing-bell' that can be rung if a special favor is sought.
"My wish:  to row in a straight line"
"My wish:  to row in a straight line" 
Wishes granted!
After returning to shore, we continued wandering around the lake --- a leisurely six kilometers --- with a detour up to an overlook.
Seems so close...
...yet so far.
After spending a day in Bled, we headed to Ljubljana by way of Predjama Castle and the Postojna caves.  
Looks pretty unassailable from here
20+ kilometers of passageways in the Postojna cave...
...yet visitors see less than six. 
And Ljubljana...
Cobble-stone streets and bike-friendly...just another European capital.
The dragon, the symbol of Ljubljana, at the entrance to Dragon Bridge

Friday, November 16, 2012

Crazy to Calm: Naples to Amalfi

Naples is dirty, chaotic, and loud.  Lisa and I have been to a handful of Italian cities/regions --- Venice, Rome, Cinque Terre, Tuscany, and the Italian Dolomites --- but none of them prepared us for the (organized?) chaos characteristic of Naples.  Scooters speed in and out of traffic while weaving between pedestrians, cars honk their horns non-stop en route to their destination, and a certain griminess is caked all over the city.  But the food, especially the pizza, is exceptional.  And cheap.  So we ate a lot of it.

Lisa, me, and our good friend, Brian, met up in Naples to begin our week of traipsing around Campania (the region of Southern Italy including Naples, Capri, Pompeii, and the Amalfi Coast).  On the first day in Naples, we wandered around trying not to get run down by crazed teenagers on scooters and toured the underground passageways of Napoli Sotterranea; the second day we took a ferry out to the island of Capri; the next day we drove to the Amalfi coast by way of Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii; and then we rounded out the trip with a day hiking the  Amalfi coast.  
 
More pedestrians than scooters in this Naples' alley (photo credit:  BLM)
Oh, Napoli, your graffiti and grime are so seductive, especially on one of your city's best examples of Renaissance architecture (Chiesa del Gesu Nuovo)  
Naples' underworld:  a candlelit tour of the passages and caves 40m below the city
Big boys beware:  these passageways are narrow!
The rocky and rugged coast of Capri.  Although it doesn't look it, it was too windy to visit the Blue Grotto, so... (photo credit:  BLM)
...we ate the signature dish of Capri, the insalata caprese:  fresh tomato, basil, mozzarella, and olive oil (photo credit:  BLM)
Not all of Capri is designer swank.  This is the view if you wander far enough.
After two days in Naples and Capri, we were eager to start making our way down to the Amalfi coast with a stop at Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii along the way.  Mount Vesuvius is the only active volcano on the European mainland and is most famous for its eruption in 79 AD when it buried the entire city of Pompeii. 
Even though the most recent eruption was in 1944, Vesuvius is still steaming
The only good thing about an eruption would be the chance to yell, "She's about to blow!" (photo credit:  BLM) 
The main piazza in Pompeii with Mt. Vesuvius in the background
Gazing down one of the many stone streets of Pompeii (photo credit:  BLM)
A sample of the many artifacts unearthed from Pompeii.  The body cast was formed by pouring plaster into the hollowed out area left by the disintegrated body.
Standing in the foro (forum) with the Temple of Apollo behind and Vesuvio looming above
We had one full-day in Amalfi so we spent it hiking the 12km Sentiero degli Dei (Path of the Gods) from Praiano to Positano.
The trail traverses the craggy coastline.  This is before we got caught in the downpour.
Walking with goats (photo credit:  BLM)
Certainly don't feel like gods when this drenched
Path of the goddess(es) instead?
A soggy Amalfi Coast
The quintessentially quaint Amalfi at night (photo credit:  BLM)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Love the Lederhosen (Again)!

Oktoberfest 2012!
Oktoberfest was so much fun last year we decided to go again.  And like last year, we went Bavarian style --- lederhosen for men and dirndls for women --- while celebrating all things Bavarian-beer...one glorious liter at a time.  Our group was a bit larger this year --- six Americans, five Germans, and one Australian --- so we managed to get a table in the Ochsenbraterei tent without having to queue by 8AM (thanks to a connection someone in our party had on the inside).  Most people are familiar with the general thrust of Oktoberfest --- a celebration of beer involving drinking, eating, dancing, and singing --- so I'll skip the explanation and get right to the pictures.



Welcome back!
Bier Nummer eins
Prost du Säcke!
Bier Nummer zwei
Bavarian love
Bier Nummer drei
Even more Bavarian love
Bier Nummer vier?  Ja, vier.
Big beers = People singing and dancing while standing on benches
The Oktoberfest venue from above...loads of lederhosen and dirndls down there!
Slides, roller coasters, a Ferris wheel, and Bavarian beer?  This place is like a playpen for adults!
The day after Oktoberfest we wandered around and sought shelter from the rain in, of course, a pub. 
Cheers to Oktoberfest!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Running Past The Little Mermaid

We were in Copenhagen for just a couple of days.  We arrived late on a Friday night, wandered around on Saturday, then ran the Copenhagen half-marathon on Sunday before returning to Vienna.  Copenhagen is a scenic city and very walkable (even more bicycle-friendly) making it an ideal destination for aimless wandering interrupted by the occasional beer, waffle, or both.  Aside from the half-marathon (which Lisa ran a personal best), we didn't have much of an agenda.  
Wandering through Churchill Parken
Quintessential Copenhagen?  Perhaps.  We would see the Little Mermaid while wandering the city and again during the half-marathon.
Pre-race day hydration
Waffle with soft-serve ice cream.  Pasta prior to the race?  Ha!
Nyhavn canal