Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Western Europe - Keep calm and drive on tour - wrap


Western Europe
01 September - 15 September 2015


It's a wrap 
It has become standard for me when I've ended a trip I've taken to doing a last summary or a 'greatest hits' review whenever I managed to complete the final entry on the 'how, why, when and whatever else may have been alcohol related' blog series of my most recent escapades. Sticking with tradition and therefore adopting the same template that I've used in the past, see also;

The end was almost as anticipated as the beginning.  We experienced  a lesson in what happens when energy, age, thoughts, ideas and the capacity of four people are so different that those disparate thoughts cause a god awful mess, but hey, enough of the bad staff, here's a list of some of the highlights.

WESTERN EUROPE  - 'THE FINAL'


Favourite places

1. Madrid (Spain) & Lisbon (Portugal) - It's hard to split this pair. Madrid is known to me, it's regal, exquisite, noble, just damn beautiful but Lisbon, well, it was the surprise packet. A vibrant, colourful, energetic city in its own right. Hard to split so they both occupy the top spot.


Madrid - Spain

Lisbon - Portugal

Lisbon - Portugal



3. Chamonix (France) - The backdrop here is stunning, how can you not be impressed by the rooftop of Europe at your backdoor.

Chamonix - France


Most Surprising

1. Montpellier (France) - I'm basing this completely from one afternoon and one evening but from what I saw, such a cool mix of modern city life and old town charm. I didn't have any expectations before stopping there, in fact, I didn't even know that we would be making a stop but am glad that it happened.

Coolest place for a night out

1. I'm basing this just off this trip, so I'm covering my true favourites by my own circumstance, but on this occasion Lisbon (Portugal) won out. I mean this could also go to Barcelona, Madrid or San Sebastian but Lisbon had such a great vibe about it and areas that were more than just willing to support your night out but also dragged you into their party and demanded for you to stay.



Best drinks

It must have been the nature of this trip but truly there was no stand out. In actual fact, I don't recall drinking that much at all, so the surprise here is that the register has nothing to show.

Can you believe it moments?

1. Driving 11hrs in a day - Why? What was the need? We drove from San Sebastian to Chamonix in a day, for what reason, I don't know? We weren't late, we weren't required to be there, we were just keeping to a mysterious schedule that had completely no basis and was just plain non-sensical.

On the road in France - only 7 HOURS TO GO!


On the road in France



Best Accommodation
1. Hotel do Chiado - Lisbon - (Portugal) - The road to get to this place was paved with bad luck, and yet, it all worked out as this hotel had the greatest view over the central part of Lisbon

 Hotel do Chiado - Lisbon - Portugal

Hotel do Chiado - Lisbon - Portugal

Hotel do Chiado - Lisbon - Portugal


Hotel do Chiado - Lisbon - Portugal










Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Hallstat - It's chocolate, coated in chocolate, wrapped in chocolate


Hallstat (Austria)

13 September - 15 September 2015


No doubt, I was grateful that this would be the last stop on such 'bomb riddled' ride across the continent. Of course there had been highlights and of course there were moments of collective enjoyment, but the exercise of mandating active journeying for 'tick box' purposes made no sense, and neither did the active complaining. Still, Hallstat as the final destination was to be a real highlight.

Perhaps some 16-18 months earlier I had opened the travel section on a beautiful Sunday morning and come across Hallstat for the first time. A fairy tale like alpine village nestled between the Hallstater See and the Dachstein mountains. The Sydney Morning Herald had nominated it as one of their prettiest villages in Europe and hence is automatically made it onto the travel schedule that I had created for my parents as they traveled around Europe that year. I could not have imagined then all the changes that took place between that time and me arriving now. All the participants were the same except for me, I had replaced my father in this mission. Still, I'm glad that he had the opportunity to have seen it when he did.


Hallstat - Austria


Hallstat - Gmunden district - Upper Austria

Obertraun - Austria

Hallstat - Gmunden district - Upper Austria

Without question, this village is the epitome of cute, or sweet, or 'picture postcard' perfect. It has everything going right for it. Gorgeous scenery, picturesque architecture, a lovely cool climate, clean, crisp air. It's dream-like in Summer and I can only assume that Winter turs this place into something unearthly. It really is that impressive.

We actually took up residence in a town on the other side of the lake, a short drive from Hallstat, named Obertraun. Quaint in its on right but infuriatingly heedless, or unmindful, by way of their numbering system for commercial/residential premises. There literally is no rhyme or reason to the way they do it, No.2 stands next to No.47, No. 63 stands next to No.17.  There's no logic, no algorithm, no code that can comfortably distill what you have into something that you may safely utilise to find your way. What's more, asking for assistance will either get you blank looks or directions that are unlikely to be of any real use. Apparently the travel crew had encountered exactly the same mindless situation the year before, and hey presto, he we were giving it another whirl just for kicks.

 Hallstat - Austria

Hallstat - Gmunden district - Upper Austria

Hallstat - Austria

Hallstat - Austria

Another kick in the gonads was received whilst we checked in at the DORMIO RESORT in Obertraun. I wrote about this ridiculous situation on TripAdvisor, which you can also read about via this link SHOCKING BILLING PRACTICES - DORMIO RESORT (OBERTRAUN)
...the short of it being that a one night stay of 181 euros had a little 'cleaning fee' of 191 euros added to the bill, apparently 'fine print' which I had missed whilst making the reservation on booking.com. I've also seen that amount described by other people in the same situation has a 'Hallstat tourist tax' or some other fanciful name. Either way, completely bogus and shameful I have to say.

DO NOT STAY HERE! DORMIO RESORT - OBERTRAUN - AUSTRIA

Our days in Hallstat were pleasant, its hard not to appreciate a place as beautiful as this. Scenery and views in such abundance in the same sort of way that extremely attractive people somehow don't feel right to walk amongst the also-rans, they just feel so far removed from normal that they edge into uncomfortably abnormal territory - right! - you know what I mean.

An interesting attraction in that area are the salt mines, which have an estimated date of first utilisation sometime between the 8th and 5th centuries BC. Who knows, maybe I had some ancient ancestors that cruised this area for salt back in the day? Ancestry.com tells me that it's a possibility at least. 

Salzwelten - Hallstat - Austria


Hallstat - Austria


Hallstat - Austria

At the end of the day you go to Hallstat for a dose of beauty and perhaps a great schnitzel, if you do that then guaranteed you won't be disappointed.

Somewhere on the road in Serbia - motoring back to Belgrade

After a couple of days we finally turned the car south and heading back to Belgrade, what was to become my new home. This trip, mercifully, had come to an end, but new adventures were just starting to appear on the horizon, and boy, the 'holiday attack' fleet looked absolutely stacked. I really had no idea.



Sunday, September 13, 2015

Interlacken - Far Ken

Interlacken (Switzerland)

12 September - 13 September 2015


Another day and another day on the road. Pointless, the whole trip was pointless and by this stage I had really gotten over the useless departure and arrival situations, the fact that we were simply driving for no reason and the endless bickering that was occurring in the car. Generally, the whole thing had become unpleasant and I'd much rather have just gone on my own, stopped where I wanted to, seen that places that I wanted to and not be bound to whatever agenda we were on.

Anyway, another early morning and we left Chamonix, bound now for Interlacken in Switzerland. I think this choice belong to Vladimir, perhaps he'd been there when he was younger, that amount I can only surmise.

One thing about Switzerland, 'Where are the masses of people that do the work to keep this place so darn neat, tidy and orderly?'. It's a little bit sick, and kind of weird. Everything has its place, everything is too perfect. Even firewood is stacked so perfectly that it makes you wonder how it was done, by whom and how long it took. The grass here was be genetically manufactured to look the colour that it does and to grow to the height it does. There are meadows of perfectly manicured grass that seems to just be, because from what I saw, there was nobody outside doing any work of any sort. No hoards of people cutting vast swathes of lawn or masses of cows chewing up these rolling hills. Sickening, odd and fascinating. Welcome to SWITZERLAND.

On the road - Switzerland


On the road - Switzerland

Interlacken - Switzerland

Interlacken - Switzerland

Interlacken - Switzerland

Interlacken - Switzerland

Interlacken - Switzerland


Interlacken - Switzerland

Interlacken - Switzerland

Interlacken - Switzerland


Interlacken - Switzerland

Interlacken - Switzerland

Interlacken - Switzerland

Interlacken - Switzerland




Thursday, September 10, 2015

Chamonix - Snowriders

Chamonix (France)

10 September - 11 September 2015


Warren Miller's 1995 movie 'Snowriders'. That's when I discovered both Chamonix and the Counting Crows, it was also about that time that my passion for snowboarding was ignited. When I look back at that movie now it actually looks and feels like a movie made in the 90's - remember, this was before the era of the X-Games, before events such as 'Slopestyle' and 'Big Air' made backflips a compulsory part of the layman's run down a slope. What I hoped hadn't changed since that time was Chamonix. I was still hoping for a smallish village style resort at the base of some of the highest mountains in Europe, cobblestone streets, quaint French bistros, beautiful scenery and apres ski life (well, considering it was only early Autumn, just bar life). What i found, thankfully, was all of that.

...What we had to get through however was a 9 or 10 hour drive from San Sebastian to Chamonix. Why? I still don't know, I didn't make the rules for this trip but apparently that's what we had to do. I still can't figure out why the hell we needed to do so much driving, we weren't on a deadline.

We all endured the 9hr ride, for whose benefit I'm not sure. What I do remember however is that the scenery was impressive. Beautiful, imposing, almost regal style mountains overlooking the beautiful village/town of Chamonix. Absolutely picturesque and undoubtedly a stunning place to be once the Winter season was in full swing. You could just imagine how picture perfect this place would be at that time of year. I remember years ago there was a period of about a month when I'd put some serious planning together to make it here for a couple of weeks of snowboarding. Like a few of my trips over the last few years, sometimes life just intervenes and morphs your thoughts and desires into something else entirely. Never the less, here I was. In Chamonix after a wait of some 20 years. So to that I say, 'Alexa, play The Rain King by the Counting Crows'.

On the road - France


Yup - that reads 7.5hrs to go!  Somewhere in France
Chamonix - Mt Blanc - France

Chamonix - France

Chamonox - France

Chamonix - France

Chamonix - France

Chamonix - France

Chamonix - France


Chamonix - France

Chamonix - Aiguille du Midi - France

Chamonix - France


Chamonix - France

Chamonix - France

Chamonix - France