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Robin Julie Adriana Rosie & Stephi's Travel Diary

Welcome to the Pryer Family's Travel Page. We will attempt to keep a record of our travels, we may even be lucky enough to work out how to put some photos on it. Hopefully you will enjoy reading it. We would love it if you left a message for us. Don't be too upset if we dont reply immediately....we may be far from a computer in the Italian countryside sipping Chianti and sampling olives.
NOTE: "Wobin" has decided that he would like all of his adventures on the same day. So from now on if you would like to know Where Wobin is.... you will need to look under 19th October 2007 where he will continue his story.

Diary Entries

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Location: Latuile, Italy

Where's Wobin?
With both Julie and I having a go at keeping interested people up to date with our adventure, there will inevitably be a variation of views with about events.

Disclaimer. There is no spellcheck for this program and I'm on holidays so I will be using invented spelling.

Leaving Home
The stretch limo arrived 10 minutes early which put the cats amongst the pigeons for a few minutes. At the sight of it coming up the driveway, the girls, who were unaware that a limo was taking us to the airport, started racing about like chooks with their heads cut off. Screaming and yelling was the order of the next few minutes.
We took a couple of minutes to tidy up the breakfast things, take a last check of all the locks and turn all the lights off. Wendy would be arriving the next day to occupy the house. All set in the limo along with a hamper of Italian cheeses, Italian crisp breads, champagne and wine provided by Julie's catering service, we headed off for the airport.
Inside the limo, high spirits pervaded the atmosphere with some seat swapping to try a variety of views and quite a bit of waving to other vehicles as we passed them. It was the best trip to Sydney I have experienced.
About a kilometre or two from the international terminal Rosie or Steph pointed at a black Lexis 4 wheel drive almost parallel with us saying, "Thats your friend in that car. You know, the man in the band." I rolled down the window and saw my old mate Don Walker in the other vehicle. He yelled out that his daughter was off to California for a month and he was dropping her at the airport. I told him what we were doing and then the traffic separated us. For a minute I felt like a jet setter.
After checking in Julie Sharp grabbed us and took us to the first class lounge. She provided a free gormet lunch and more wine along with a bunch of goodies that 1st class passengers get, then off to the plane. The trip was excellent. The kids were entertained well with videos on demand and activities provided provided by the hostesses. We hardly heard a word from them; even Steph, who didn't do one cartwheel!

Hong Kong
Arrived at about 10.00 p.m. The airport is state of the art, huge and sparkling. Caught the bus to Kowloon. very cheap and efficient with brand spanking hew roads. Dropped of at our accommodation and hour later. Steph asleep and everyone a little fractious. Plenty of people in the streets. A 4 person lift in which didn't easily fit us and our luggage. Made it to our floor (2nd world accommodation) the obligatory argument with the proprietor who thought he might miss out on some money if we were late. He had given our room to someone else. It was eventually sorted and we were led to our room.

A very small room easily mistaken for a public toilet due to the floor and all the walls being tiled. I suppose it makes it easy to hose out once the guests have vacate.The actual bathroom was of Lillipution proportions. After some examination of the subject it seemed that the best course of action for safe use of the amenity, was for one to back ones-self into the bathroom, having taken careful aim and noting that the podium was not directly in line with the door, trust ones judgment and gingerly follow the planned trajectory. Having successfully reached ones goal, and to avoid damage to ones lower body parts, it was advisable not to attempt a regulation 360 degree turn but to retrace ones steps out of bathroom.
Our beds were two double beds, with Steph on the floor on her air bed between the double beds. The double beds were of the quality that made you wish you could hover above the bed and not touch the sheets. We slept fast and had an incentive to get up early, stay out late and count down the days with eager anticipation.
Hong Kong/Kowloon is a bustling modern city with the nuvo riche and the poor, who were not obvious, rubbing shoulders as they clamber their way to achieve western upper middle class economic materialism. Fascinating!
We enjoyed a day visiting the highest peak on Hong Kong Island. A short ferry trip that cast $1 AUD for the five of us and a ride in tram that was winched up a tram track at a 45 degree angle. When you enter the tram you immediately note that the floor is scolloped. This seems strange. When the cable begins to reel in the tram it is obvious that as the gradient rapidly becomes steeper the passengers in the aisle could not possibly hang on and they would tumble down to the lower end of the tram. Instead, they lean up hill at what appears to be an impossible angle. We were fascinated.

Departing Hong Kong.
Up early to catch the bus to the airport. Crossed the road very early in the morning. Streets almost empty. Lined up at the bus stop. Only a few people. The bus seems to be a little late. Slight discomfort. An oportunity for an enterprising people mover owner. He sees us, pulls up and quotes us a reasonable price to take us to the airport. It seems logical that he will be quicker than the bus. We say "OK". He flings open the back door and starts stuffing our bags in. "Toot, Toot". The bus pulls up. We are in its loading zone. We scamper into the people mover and it accelerates away. Are we all in? Do we have all our bags? A quick reckoning and yes we're OK.
The airport comes into view. Pay the man. Phew we made it in plenty of time. The van man hustles and bustles us and our luggage out of the vehicle and accelerates into the brightening morning. In the airport we orient ourselves. One of the girls think they need something from on of the bags or needs to check if something may have been left behind. They open a bag to search. Something stirs uncomfortably in the back of my brain. The item is found in the bag. A few butterflies begin gambolling around my stomach. My right hand moves towards the right hand back pocket of my jeans, Did I pay the van man? The butterflies defy science and instantly evolve into elephants.
I feel my pocket. SSHHIIII@#@$%$*&@##@!T!

Well the wallet was gone. Most likely left or lost in the van man`s vehicle. Thank goodness for travel ensurance! Wendy has been our most wonderful backup for sorting out any problems with replacing lost cards etc.
After letting airport authorites know about the loss, giving them a description of the wallet and its contents we were running very late for our flight. Nothing like a good panic and shock to get everyone going. Julie had a tearful moment, I felt lower than a worm`s stomach and then we rushed off to board the plane for Athens. Goodbye China.
We flew to Paris bypassing Athens and then transfer to another plane to back track to Athens. In Paris the authorities must have heard about our near miss boarding the plane in Hong Kong because as soon as we landed a fellow holding a board with our names on it. He grabbed us, tossed us into an airport vehicle and drove madly around the airport for 10 minutes to end up running with us down the loading ramp onto the plane! (Already we have an international reputation.)

Landed in Athens about 10 p.m. local time. Needed two taxis to carry the 5 of us plus the luggage. The two drivers had an animated conversation about the arrangements and then we zoomed off into the night, Julie, Steph and Arnra in one car with Rosie and I in the other. Our driver spoke reasonable English but drove like a lunatic to keep up with the other taxi while trying to write down its number plate. He told Rosie and I that the Mafia controlled a large percent of the taxi business in Athens and would over charge us by making excuses to stop and look for the correct, street or would step outside and have a cigarett etc, then charge an extra 10 euros per minute while he wasted time. This was supposed to be the rationale for Julie`s taxi going so fast and Rosie`and my driver getting to the address first. Who knows? they were both mad.

We were dropped off at the Athenes Backpackers a stones throw from the Acropolys. The Guy behind the desk was great and varified that we should only be charged the regulation 30 euros which we had done.(confusing eh?)

Tired now. Must go to sleep.

Where's Wobin?
Well the wallet was gone. Most likely left or lost in the van man`s vehicle. Thank goodness for travel ensurance!
After letting airport authorites know about the loss, giving them a description of the wallet and its contents we were running very late for our flight. Nothing like a good panic and shock to get everyone going. Julie had a tearful moment, I felt lower than a worm`s stomach and then we rushed off to board the plane for Athens. Goodbye China.
We flew to Paris bypassing Athens and then transfer to another plane to backtrack to Athens. In Paris the authorities must have heard about our near miss boarding the plane in Hong Kong because as soon as we landed a fellow holding a board with our names on it. He grabbed us, tossed us into an airport vehicle and drove madly around the airport for 10 minutes to end up running with us down the loading ramp onto the plane! (Already we have an international reputation.)
Landed in Athens about 10 p.m. local time. Needed two taxis to carry the 5 of us plus the luggage. The two drivers had an animated conversation about the arrangements and then we zoomed off into the night, Julie, Steph and Arnra in one car with Rosie and I in the other. Our driver spoke reasonable English but drove like a lunatic to keep up with the other taxi while trying to write down its number plate. He told Rosie and I that the Mafia controlled a large percent of the taxi business in Athens and would over charge us by making excuses to stop and look for the correct, street or would step outside and have a cigarett etc, then charge an extra 10 euros per minute while he wasted time. This was supposed to be the rationale for Julie`s taxi going so fast and Rosie`and my driver getting to the address first. Who knows? they were both mad.

We were dropped off at the Athenes Backpackers a stones throw from the Acropolys. The Guy behind the desk was great and varified that we should only be charged the regulation 30 euros which we had done.(confusing eh?)

Tired now. Must go to sleep.

Where is Wobin now?
Still in Athens.
Had a great nights sleep in our very modern studio apartment. A 200 m walk to the Athens Backpackers with whom the the studios are associated for a free breakfast of toast, a choice of 2 jams coffee, and a throng of 18 to 35 year olds who seemed to moving in slow motion. Probably something to do with the "roof top bar" that has the best night view of the Acropolys and Parthenon. What an awsome sight it will be when its finished. The Greeks have only been at it for 3,500 years; whats the rush! This is a sight everyone should experience.
Oh, the slow moving backpackers where victims of Athen's cheapest OZZO in town.
Off to the Acropolys for a geeck at one of the wonders of the ancient world. If you're into ancient history and have only ever seen photos of the place then the experience will bring tears to your eyes. It is an absolute must to see! After absorbing as much as possible, we headed off to the Agora building just 100m away was where the first democracy began. As we came closer to the exit gate of the Acropolys the small crowd of exiters slowed down a little and a few people with cameras began gathering near the gate. We just continued on and moved through the gateway to be met by polite but serious blokes wearing dark suits, short cut but neat hair, polished shoes and obligatory dark glasses, who moved us to one side of the gate. Julie sensed that some "star" or other was being mobbed. Stephie temorarily ceased her cart-wheeling and oozed to the front line; the "missing-out gene" strikes again. Over the sea (more like a pond than a sea) of heads, a familiar hair style, all silver, brushed back and underpinned by a tired but smiling mouth comes Bill Clinton. "We love you Bill," shouts someone from the back. Clapping breaks out sponateously, hands stretch our from the crowd to touch Bill. By now Mr. President has moved closer to our position. I can't see Steph or Rosie. They must be at the front. Bill leans down and pats a few heads. He is less than a metre away from me. I calculate that this could possibly an event that might never happen again. A latent, possibly dorment "missing-out gene" swings into action. My mouth starts before my brain does and call out, "Gudday Bill" in my best Australian accent while at the same time I extend my right hand. Our eyes meet for just an instant across a crowded space he shakes my hand, smiles, and moves on. I shake myself out of my daze and instantly hope that if Stephie is now in the front row she doesn,t come cart-wheeling out of the crowd and crash into Bill's Monica Lewinsky's. I suppose that could be just another way to bring a president down!
We walked around the area outside the Acropolys through many winding streets facinated by the shops and the Raferties Rules that pass for road rules. The person with the loudest horn has the right of way or the one with the the largest vehicle AND the loudest horn. The greek people were very easy going and seem to be devoted to the children especially little ones. We walked passed "God's" restaurant each day (that was its actual name). Papa, an elderly man who owned the reastraunt (therefore) he must have been God, greeted us as we walked by and always called Steph to him to give her a big cuddle. His 27 year old son offered to marry her. I don't think Steph was very impressed. The food was very lovely but not cheap.
Alan will be impressed with the OH&S situation. No rules regarding keeping safe. Next to God's place a few blokes were gutting and demolishing a the interior of a shop. They were using jack hammers wheelding sledge hammers and electic wires hanging everywhere. No sign to warn pedestrian traffic about construction material spread across the pavement. Bricks, broken glass etc fell out of the glassless windows. The classic OH&S situation was one workman obviously conforming to Greek standards was up a step ladder inside the shop wearing singlet, shorts and thongs, with a jackhammer and a bare head. Just wouldn,t pass muster in OZ!
If you're into ancient history there are amazing places to wander around and ruminate over.

Next move was to catch the ferry to the island of Santorini. This town clings tenuously to inside of a still active volcano. The place is very colourful with the buildings being painted predominantly white and blue. Narrow winding streets thread themselves across the face of the cliff enticing us to look around the next corner or to see what we might find along that narrow street turning off to the right or left. Open air reastaurants were everywhere. It was a unique experience to sit and watch the sun sink gracefully into the azure blue sea while sipping fine wine and sumptuous food is a real treat. Its a pity the weather for us was chilly, wet and windy! Oh no it wasn't too bad.
The whole top of the cliff and its face is the inside wall of a still active volcano. It's not too active at present and is forecast to errupt again in another 1,500 years. Its previous erruption was approximately 1,200 years ago and it blew most of the volvano's conical walls to pieces with the equivalent force of eighty atomic bombs leaving the mostly submerged. We took a trip to what remains above the water and experienced walking through huge black boulders that were strewn everywhere. Steam still rises from small holes and the smell of suphur wafts passed your nose occasisonally. The magma chambers are 4km below. After the climb our boats took us to another spot. We dived off the into chilly water and swam about 60m to the warm springs we told to look forward. WELL, the big V must have been having an off day because the springs were not very warm at all. Many commented that it would be easily warmed if everyone could pee at the same time. Back to the boat and home for a hot shower.
After disembarking we took the traditional donkey ride up the step winding path to Feira, the main town. The donkeys aren't led by a man but simpley head off at their own pace up the path with the herder calling out at them from way behind. Donkey poo was ankle deep, some donkeys were competitive and rushed to the front with shreiking fat Americam women clinging in terror to heedless donkeys. Other donkeys propped for no particular reason and kicked at the one following. We seemed to have been lucky enough to be on the team of donkeys who had suddenly and simulatenuosly struck down with chronic diorea. The whole show was a shamozle. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief as they dismounted and determined that next time they use the cable car. Not very romantic but practical and a lot less smelly.
Well time was rushing by and we needed to take some action about learning to drive on the righthand side of the road before we picked up our car in Milan. We hired 2 quad bikes. Julie on one with Arna and me with Rosie and Steph. This would be our orientation to the right (wrong) side of the road. You know, this was one of the most difficult things to do so far. Being so conditioned to the other side of the road created a real mental struggle for me to get comfortable. Julie picked it up quite quickly but she had driven in Europe for quite a while years ago. After riding from one end of the island to the other, approx 20km, I was feeling confident. The traffic was light and the pace pretty slow. I reckoned I had the situation nailed! We spent our last few days walking up and down the narrow streets and by then our leg muscles were ready for the next challenge.

Picking Up the Car

Up nice and early to catch the flight from Santorini to Athens and then fly to Milan to take delivery of the new Renault. As we passed over the Italian mainland heading north I was able to point out the broad “U” shaped valleys formed through glacial action during the last ice age and the narrow “V” shaped valleys formed by water erosion since then. We could also identify the beginning of the Alps starting with rows of low wrinkles on the Earth's surface. These gradually grew into steeper and more compact wrinkles that rapidly became almost perpendicular with huge peaks soaring upwards. The kids were fascinated. NOT! Oh well you can only take the horse to water.

Landed in Milan, found the bloke who had the car parked outside exit 6. He spoke some English but not much. Our Italian was still in its embryonic stage. His mate, the other part of the delivery team spoke no English at all. For efficiency they quickly divided up the jobs. Seems like a good idea.
The one with no English attended to me. He carefully explained, gesticulated enthusiastically and mimed; all the while speaking slowly and enunciating clearly in Italian. Asking questions was a waste of time. At the end of this overview I was able to turn the engine on and off and I knew that it was urgent we put fuel in the tank before travelling 4 km. The guy with some English was busy with Julie telling her about the “must see sites” of Italy. She had information and I had only confusion, but being a male and therefore being entirely at home with all forms of technology, I reckoned that I was ready to take on the notoriously untamed Italian drivers.

A parking cop turned up to let us know we had to move. Great! While she waited for us to do our first car pack Julie and the Italian speaking mime master started chatting to the cop. In Australia Julie had very carefully measured the luggage space of the Renault. We packed four suitcases. They fitted into the Limo and they fitted into the aeroplanes BUT could I make them fit into the back of the Renault?
I packed, repacked, turned, ports around, huffed, puffed, went red in the face, grunted groaned and stamped my foot but to no avail. The cop who had been talking to the others was glancing at her watch. I had to load the luggage now or leave some of it. I called Julie over who by now had become firm friends with the cop, who was also offering her selections of the “must see” Italian sites. She came over, told me that the four ports had expansion curtains on all four of them. “Dah!” we had both forgotten to include this fact in the trial pack at home. All we needed now was for Julie and or a couple of kids to sit on each port zip up the expanded, section and everything fitted. FANTASTIC! We were ready to leave and head for the "Oh so easy to find petrol station to fill up and whistle our way to Lugano.

I have noticed there are three kinds of people in the world. Those who can count, those who can't and those who can't give directions. The worst of these are the people who start giving directions by saying, “It's easy to find. All you have to do is....... ”.
This immediately puts you in the dunces corner because if you don't find IT and you were already told beforehand that it was easy, then you can only qualify as being an idiot for not being able to follow such straight forward simple instructions (according to the person giving the directions) that any halfwit on the planet could follow easily, even after having had a botched up labotomy operation performed by a blind dwarf with acute arthritis and a drinking problem!

So the Italian mime artist gave us directions to the closest petrol station to fuel up. “It's simple,” he says. Twenty minutes later we have not found the obvious, can't miss it fuel stop. We're heading in totally the opposite direction to Lugano and the car is miraculously not yet out of gas. But, we remain positve and remind ourselves this is all part of the adventure. Just as Steph and Rosie start their traditional chorus of “We're hungry and we urgently need to go to the toilet, we find ourselves on one of those 160kmph motorways that run for miles with few stops.

Having had an hour or two on the quad bikes in Santorini a couple of weeks ago I was not entirely equiped for the Formula One Combat Driving Team. My peripheral vision suddenly picks up an object travelling at high velocity somewhere on my right hand side. This causes my brain some anxiety. This is not a normal event! This could be dangerous! Slowdown!!!!! On go the brakes for a split second. My goodness, what is this maniac up to? Julie sucks in an enormous volume of air that would make any top vacuum cleaner salesman proud. There is now silence in the car. Julie lets out the afore mentioned air. Ok, the rule must be that cars coming from the right, "the wrong side of the road" have to make their speed match the flow of the mainstream traffic. I think I have it now!
We spy a service station ahead and thankfully pull in to fill up, calm our nerves and reflect on the motorway ethos. Back in traffic again and have discovered that we are on a ring road that will eventually take us in the right direction, north to Lugano where our first house swap will be. Julie is a world champion navigator and I am still having to mutter to myself repeatedly, "the right side of the road, the right side of the road". I second Rosie to remind me every time I get in the drivers seat, "right hand side dad."
Our impression of Lugano from the map was that it would be a town something the size Maitland. It wasn't. It was much much larger. After finding a park we rang Hedda, our house owner who then came to meet us so that we could follow her to her house. She was very pleased to see us and we were glad to unpack, put our feet up, have a glass or two of wine that Hedda had provided and just collapse.
Lugano is a beautiful city on the banks of one of those beautiful alpine lakes. The buildings are very attractive with sun lit Piazzas everywhere. It was lovely to chill out for a while and wander through this compact city, sit down to a lovely Italian lunch or just coffe and cake and watch the locals go by. The weather was getting quite cold by now and all the ladies were parading in their winter fashion. Knee high black leather boots with stilletto heals and pointy toes over dark fishnet or patterned stockings, short skirt and a black leather jacket with a belt, seemed to be the go. I'm sure Al would look lovely in this gear! For less formal occassions the ladies must be slender tall etc and be able to pour themselves into the tightest jeans possible or simply purchase a can of denim blue or black spray paint and apply to the appropriate parts of your anatomy. I don't think I've seen so many pairs of "possums" fightingto get out of a tight situations in my life! Rosie Steph and I took a well earned spell from watching Julie and Arna shop and spent half an hour in one of those pedal boats out on the lake.
Our hostess at the houseswap stayed for only 3 days before she flew off to China for 3 weeks. (Hope it wasn't somthing we did.)
She is a widow with no children and highly educated. She spoke German, French, Italian and English.(and I'm still battling with English). We had a huge bathroom with the addition of a bidet which amused the kids quite a bit. After finding the local supermarket and "bankomat" we set about exploring the area. I practiced going around the round abouts the right way and Julie practiced yelling "ROBIN YOUR ON THE WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD!!!!!!!!!" Rosie was very helpful in reminding me that as the driver, I should be in the centre of the road and not on the the outside of the road. Very confusing but the Italian drivers were very forgiving and very generous with their car horns. It was good of them all to wave to me alot and help me at intersections and to assist me to with roundabouts etc...

Our First Outing
Julie and the girls are very "gungho" and ready to plan the first excursions a.s.a.p. Sooooooo, on the map of this region there are a number of lakes that are reputed to be very attractive. Julie has the map and we head off for a trip around the edges of several lakes. Please note that we have been developing our ability to sleep in late, so we leave about 11:30. It is well into Autumn / Winter and the sun sets quite early.
We have our themos packed and a selection on various hams and cheeses along with some of the yummiest bread I've ever tasted. The road starts off as a narrow one that wends its way harmoniously with the the curves and inlets of the lake's shore line. Our car is not very large and with a full load on board it's still small in comparison to the family sized Holden. "Wow these roads are getting a little tight,"I think out loud." These drivers think they really are "Fangio", (refer to ancient history re: motor sport.)
These guys and gals coming in the opposite direction at a speed the can only be classed as suicidal, are taking my breath away. I start to wish that our car was a 5 seater motor bike so that we can avoid the near misses or at least it could convert to a flying car like Ron Weasley's. (refer Harry Potter Vol 2)
Well, we make it around a lake, catch the car ferry across to Belligio, only an eight minute voyage. Off the ferry and onto the next location. We have travelled around 15 km, as the crow flies. We sit down in a cafe for coffee and some hot chocolate. We have a pocket full of Swiss franks because we are currently living in Switzerland. Unfortunately we are now in Italy and we don't have any euros. What to do? Its Sunday and most stores etc are shut. The local news stand will be able to convert our currency I,m sure.
HE CAN'T!! Rosie and I try the local parking officer for change but no luck. The news paper man tried to look up the conversion rate in his financial review but failed miserably. Rosie and I bought some lollies and he seemed to be able to do some financial magic to do with the alchemy of lollies, Swiss franks and euros that allowed us to purchase some refreshments at the neighbouring cafe. Here we experienced the thickest hot chocolates on the planet. The girls were gobsmacked when the waitress brought them a cup of what appeared to be hot mud. Their spoons could hardly penetrate this almost solid material. It was simply chocolate melted into a cup via the application of steam. After much curfuffle we got a pot of hot milk and the girls were able to add it to the chocolate and sort of drink it. Ok, it's starting to get late and we need to get going because we need to return home along the other side of the lake as well as cross back over the lake on the ferry. Its now late in the afternoon, the sky is darkening and there is an ominous wind rising. "Just a couple of more photos" says a voice. Twenty minutes we are leaving Belligio. Twenty minutes can be a long time in some circumstances.

The Sun Sets
It's amazing how narrow roads can become dramatically narrower in the dark. It is now dark and the wind is up. The road is hardly wide enough let 2 average cars pass. One the driver's side there is a 4 metre rock wall. The wall is not smooth and uniform in it's design. Oh no! Rocks poke out into the space that ones vehicle craves but is hungrily consumed by them. On the other side of the road is a cliff that plunges down to the lake. There is a protective rail about a metre high the saves one's vehicle from a face to face argument with said lake.
We creep along the road back towards the ferry with a long line of frustrated drivers creeping along behind us. Even so, the locals who tend to drive one handed and with a fag in their mouth and a mobile to their ear honk and tootle the horns in a joyful and encourage fashion. AHhhaaa, blessem!
We make it to the ferry. The wind is now whipping up the lakes surface into generous waves ( a little like William Tell when he escaped the Austrian oppressors (refer William tell overture / the Lone Ranger theme.) "da, da, dump da, da, dump, "da, da, dump, dump, dump da, da, dump etc. You know how it goes!) Any way the wind and waves are getting fierce. The girls as usual suddenly need to go to the toilet. This means they have to get out of the car, walk 10 metres to the toilet across an open deck and then squash into a tiny toilet. Yahoo, they make it! Because it was so much fun being blown around on the way over they reckon it would be excellent if a wave could splash up into the deck. Well!
The inevitable happened! A large wave crashed over the side just as the girls were doing their last giggly run from the toilet back to the car. The giggles turned to squeals and three cold, damp bodies clambered shivering into the back seat. Off the ferry and onward towards home.
Now enveloped in darkness, wind and rain, we weren’t looking forward to taking on the roads again. We crawled along leading an ever increasingly longer queue of cars filled with frustrated drivers, many of whom threw caution to the wind and overtook us apparently heedless of the potential danger.
It’s worth noting at this stage that there are lots of medieval towns and villages through which the main road traffic still passes. These roads were built before Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble invented the “pedie car” and just after the horse was domesticated. The largest moving man made land transport at that time was most probably a large wooden cart drawn by a team of horses. The width of the winding streets, hardly 4m, attest to this. Eg: Two medium sized cars really can’t pass each other without creeping along to avoid exchanging duco.
Building regulations were obviously not too well defined in those days. Shops, churches and homes jut out into the road at unexpected places and without warning. Some people have stone bollards on the corner of their building to protect themselves from unwanted vehicles ending up in the front room. (No references to Julie.) I’m not sure whether the house came before the road or the road before the house, but whichever way it goes it makes for very narrow streets. At the walking pace of a horse and cart this would be OK but at 35 – 40kms per hour it makes things a little bit difficult. As you can imagine, many streets are obviously one way only, even if there isn’t an official sign saying so. We saw numerous buildings on street corners and bends, with chunks of masonry missing and motor vehicle duco smeared on them as well as the occasional car body part left behind as a trophy sitting on a corner bollard. Here endeth the lesson on medieval streets.
Praise the Lord and onward into the DARKNESS!
Imagine the scene. It’s dark, wet, stormy, a foreign road in a foreign land, maniac drivers pelting along firmly gripping a death wish between their teeth; a driver who turns the windscreen wipers on and off instead of the right hand or left hand indicators, who’s still not certain which side of the road he should be on, nor exactly how one should approach a roundabout, and a front seat passenger who is “very uncomfortable” travelling after dark. The atmosphere inside the Renault was deafeningly silent. Even the occupants of the back seat, usually singing along with their individual iPods at the top of their voices had grasped the gravity of the situation and ceased their sonic onslaught.
Managing to travel at a steady pace, taking care not to plough over the edge off the cliff into the lake somewhere down below as well as avoid a 12m rock wall that lacked a uniformity of surface with large boulders protruding from it on the passenger’s side, we made reasonable progress. Somehow we even managed to stop at a couple of road work stop signs! Julie and the girls were extremely encouraging of the driver who impressed everyone by not wandering across onto the left side of the road. Filled with growing confidence, we sailed through one or two roundabouts correctly. There were only odd occassions when “You’re very close to the wall!!!!!” came from my riveted passengers. Things were going well. The roads centre line was my reference point for avoiding contact with the oncoming traffic. Unfortunately, there was no line on the edge. Through the gloom, rain, mist etc (you get the picture) another road work sign loomed into view telling drivers that the road was about to become narrower, if that is possible! How could it get any narrower? I slowed down to a snail’s pace and suddenly the centre line disappears.
“@$£”%&!!!”, I think to myself. My guide line was gorne!
I ask my co-pilot how close I am to the rock wall, which now can’t be seen at all from the driver's seat on account of the atmospheric conditions. She tells me that she doesn’t know because for the last half an hour she has been travelling with her eyes shut. She bravely opens her eyes and the window and estimates about half a metre. As the window rolls up the co-pilot takes another fleeting glance to check the distance and……
“ROBIN, YOUR’RE TOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
“BANG, SSSCCCRRRAAAAAPE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
(at this point I’d like to honour both Mat & Pioa for their contribution to the diary)
“Oh deary me,” I said out loud. I wonder what that noise was? And why is the passenger side rearview mirror hanging by only two wires as it dangles in the wind?”
You know how it was as a kid when you went to the show with that bag of coins that you had saved all year? And at the last minute a kind relative may have topped up the amount just so you could afford to have that extra turn on your favourite ride? Well my favourite was always the dodgem cars. What fun it was bouncing off the other cars and the rubberised edges of the track? Well this minor incident didn’t emote quite the same level of enjoyment.
Under pressure my brain can sometimes come up with a good idea. Alas, this time only a statement of the blooming obvious. (refer John Cleese or Alan Doherty)
“Too close to the edge old son. You’d better move away from that 12m wall a bit!”
“ Bang!!” “Thwack”! “Thump!”
“Sugar, bother and goodness me!”, I mused. “What was that?”
The passengers were very quick to inform me that I had just knocked into a road sign and had cleverly used the same mirror with which I had assaulted the rock wall only 15 seconds ago. Oh what a whole lot of fun we’re having. It’s just like driving the dodgem cars at the country show. From the back seat there was a hint of Chicken Little’s, “The sky is falling the sky is falling” panic. Those with rosery beads, worry balls, mantras, transcendental meditation chants or people who tend to crack their knuckles or suddenly start talking in tongues etc when under duress, eg: in fear of their life, began breaking down.
There was nowhere to stop or turn. All we could do was press on towards our current abode. In about another minute or to the silence broke when Julie, her previously blood drained face now showing a hint of pink, started to first cackle and then to laugh making the analogy of us bumping our way home eg: the dodgem cars. When we arrived home and examined the rearview mirror it was not as bad as it had sounded. The mirror was cracked, only 7 years for that, and some scratches were obvious on the casing. The mirror popped back into place, was still able to be adjusted electronically. “By goom these Renaults are tough!”
Hedda, our house swap lady had put a couple of loads through her machine for us before she flew off to China. Being a family of five and four of them female, there was still a lot of clothing in need of washing. We decide to take them to the nearest local laundromat. Oh, there isn’t one. We are informed that the Swiss don’t have them except in large cities. What will we do? Lugano isn’t too far away but it becomes a whole day out and is a nuisance. We take a reflective ramble along some of the lanes and byways leading to the shores of a local lake and discover a caravan park with a playground. The kids, even Arna loves to muck around on the swings etc. We stumble across the park’s laundry. This could be our solution to washing our clothes. The caravan park is practically empty and winter’s on its way. Probably only half a dozen campers left. We think positively, pop into the office and are lucky enough to find a woman who speaks English well. We put her in the picture as far as our washing situation is concerned and offer to pay for a couple of hours use of the machines. I thought we had a reasonable case in light of the circumstances but she said no. Disappointment. That evening I come up with a plan.
I remember as a small child (I was born at a very young age) watching my mother boiling the copper in the laundry to wash the clothes, rinsing them in the concrete tubs and wringing them out by hand before putting them through a mangle and hanging them on the line. Inspiration! What a great experience and fun for the kids to go back in time and wash the old fashion way combined with some newer technology. I excitedly explained what fun it would be working as a team, doing things in the way their grandmothers and great grandmothers would have done. The response was unenthusiastic but with a little coaxing we got into it straight away. Remembering that we had no access to a laundry, Julie filled the kitchen sink with hot water, I filled the dual hand basins in the bathroom. Unfortunately the bath tub was out of commission due to a cracked and leaking bottom. We even disinfected the bidet, closed the plug and filled it as well. We washed everything. Boiling water soap suds were the order of the day. Kids and adults with blisters on their hands from wringing towels and clothing, everyone sweating because the central heating was as high as it could go. The day flew by. We were all knackered but very pleased with our efforts and I even think kids caught a little glimpse into the past.
The Train
I headed into Lugano for a day while all the girls went to the markets at Ponte Theresa. Males and markets generally don’t mix unless there are computer programs or machinery to mull over. This was going to be a short trip to an internet café to catch up with some typing for the diary and later sit in one of those sunny square’s at a restaurant and eat a leisurely lunch. I left home early and reached the station in about 15mins.
It was a small station with two tracks, two low platforms and apparently nobody in attendance. I was the only one waiting to catch the train. Must have arrived after the morning rush. The timetable was in Italian but as time is written numerically I knew the train ran every 30 minutes. So far so good. I had about 22mins before the next train arrived. Plenty of time.
There were a couple of machines on each platform and as there was no ticket office I bet they must dispense tickets. A small green one was located at the entrance to one of the two platforms. I wandered down to have a look at it. Yep, I was right. The instructions were all in Italian but this didn’t faze me. They all work on the same principle, a bit tricky maybe, but should be pretty well fool proof.
All one has to do is pop in some coins. Put in more than enough coins required and the machine figures that you want a ticket. It calculates ones change, assigns a ticket for the right amount and both change, ticket and the extra added coins are spat out pronto. It ain’t rocket science is it?
I check the time, drop in a euro more than the needed amount just in case, and as predicted out pops a ticket and coins.
No one has turned up at the station yet. Must be a slow day.
Very pleased with my ticket I head for the centre of the platform. A large yellow machine catches my eye. It probably dispenses drinks and confectionary. I saunter over to have a geek at it.
Someone will turn up shortly I guess. Only about 5 or so minutes to go.
Big yellow doesn’t have food, it dispenses tickets. Well, I don’t need 2 tickets to travel to Lugano! The machine was covered with endless instructions in Italian and German but not English. It had diagrams of small groups and large groups of people. I fathomed the days of the week and guessed the map with colourful lines on it were train routes going to different parts of the region. All very familiar but what do I do?
I don’t want spend money on another ticket just because I’m unsure about whether I have got the wrong one or not.
Wish someone would turn up at the station. They could give me some information about the tickets. Oh bugger it! Don’t be a cheap skate. Get another ticket from the big yellow machine and you’ll be covering at least a couple of bases. Gee whizz, it only costs a couple of euros to be sure.
Here goes, a bunch of euros in and…. All the coins tumble out but no ticket! That’s unusual! Several attempts later I’m still getting the same results, returned coins. Well, I still have my other ticket from the first machine. I’ve got things pretty well covered and besides it’s all a learning experience isn’t it.
Ah, a lady turns up in a car, hops out, walks towards where I’m standing. She’ll be able to help me hopefully.
“Hello, parlo Englase?” in my best fake Italian accent. She gestures “a little”. She explains it so that I understand.
The ticket from the little green machine turns out to be a ticket for the car park but the car park is across the road around a corner and can’t be seen from the station. I ask her about the big yellow machine. It dispenses the train tickets. I ask why it keeps returning my euros but no ticket. She smiles one of those,
“You poor simpleton, from a far away land, you’re out of your depth aren’t you dear,” smiles. She explains the mystery clearly, one heavily enunciated syllable at a time.
For this station, probably the only one in existence, I have to use Euros for the car park ticket, the one I didn’t need AND Swiss francs for the train ticket.
I think, ”Oh yes! Silly Me! What a lark, Where’s the hidden camera then eh? (refer John Cleese)
After reading some information from the timetable the helpful lady goes off with a broad smile on her lips. Ok, I now have my train ticket plus the useless one for the car park. I’m hunky dory for the train when it turns up which should be in the next few seconds. I’m still the only one waiting. Now a train approaches the station but stops at the opposite platform. It’s headed away from Lugano. Four people rush onto the platform, board the carriage, train departs. Now my train rolls into the platform. It appears to be sparsely populated. I’m the only passenger on the platform.
It stops. I walk to the door, ticket securely in my hand. Nothing happens. This seems unusual. Maybe the automatic door opening gear hasn’t detected my presence? I take a few steps backwards away from the carriage. People sitting inside take a casual glance at me. I confidently step forward to the door. Again nothing happens.
When the first train arrived at the platform opposite, the doors seemed to open automatically but being on the blind side of the carriages I couldn’t observe exactly had happened.
I’m thinking, “What the heck is going on here?” I’m a bit flummoxed. Embarrassed. I make another attempt to board said train, mind working overtime.
“What can I do differently that might work?” Alright, maybe the ticket has a bar code that needs to be scanned by something.
Holding my ticket out in front of me as though it was a lit fire cracker that could explode at any second and waving it from side to side so that any secreted scanning devices could read an invisible to the naked eye bar code, I slowly approach the carriage door. Gathering faces now peer out at the only person on the platform; me!
Again I approach the door with determination and speed, just in case I was too slow last time and the detection device is triggered by rapid movement or even maybe infrared waves. The door remains stubbornly shut. Despair! Frustration! and an audience too! What else could you want.
The faces all smile.
I don’t smile!
Even more faces are now watching the poor idiot trying to board a train. How hard could it be? And which home for the lost and bewildered has he escaped from?
I consider charging the door but think better of it: Dicky Knee wouldn’t be able to cop. The train rockets off towards Lugano. I’m left there with ticket in hand, jaw on the ground, red faced and embarrassment. Bugger! Maybe street or platform theatre could be a sideline.
The next train arrives half an hour later. I’m ready for it this time. I had relied on body movement or infra red heat detection to trigger the doors the first time. I couldn’t find any slot into which I could insert my ticket either. There must be something else like a lever, button, something! In comes the train. My eyes rake along the side of the carriage, around the doors for a lever. No lever. Try for a button next. YES! Success!!! About a metre and a half from the door is a smallish red button, encased in a black rubber surround? This must be it! Even though there is no writing anywhere near it. I press it and OPEN SESAME, a step slides out and lowers itself, at the same time moving forward to cover the gap. Triumphantly I board the train and move on out.
Fancy having two ticket machines at the station, each requiring different currency and who would have thought to have a button on the outside of a train carriage more than a metre from the actual door?
My brain power has been drained so much it is the equivalent of a very mentally and emotionally exhausted guppy. I must be due for a lovely long lunch, with one of those excessively large balloon glasses full of Chablis in the sun and just watch the world go by.

Our tentative plan was to stay in the Lugano area for about another week or so, but musing over the map and estimating travelling time and how many extra days we could consume I thought it would be an idea to tour further into Switzerland and maybe Austria. The kids could see the snow capped mountains, Adriana could see the 5,000 year old frozen body of Utzi man who she had studied earlier this year and revise the features of alpine climate.
The objective for the day was Zermatt, approximately 4 hours drive including stops. Our thermos, mandatory fresh loaf of crusty bread, assorted cheeses proscutio and fresh cherry tomatos were all packed ready to go. Having had some trial runs at fitting in all the suitcases etc in, we were soon under way. Only 2 wrong turns and a missed right hand turn and we were rocketing along the highway. The traffic was smooth, passengers light hearted, driver comfortable. After a while we began to climb towards the mountains that seemed to form an impenetrable barrier in front of us. The valley floor that had been possibly 4 or 5 km wide in parts started to gradually close in. Julie went through a set of questions for Arna about identifying features of an alpine climate. She couldn’t muster much enthusiasm and reluctantly answered most questions correctly. Then it was a jaunty Q & A time so that dad could tell everyone all he new about Utzi man. (This topic took about one minute.)

Utzi was in his very own museum in the town of Belzarno. There has been a wrangle between the Austrians and the Italians over which country owns him. This could be a furffey but I think Utzi was discovered in Austria but the Italians brought him off the mountains into their country and have kept him. Now that’s a bit sneaky but what a way to boost your tourist trade.

Every town has something “BEAUTIFUL” or novel for tourists to see. Churches and Duo Omos (not the laundry detergent but Cathedrals) are top of the list followed by :
• “BEAUTIFUL” Medieval towns and villages perched on every second hill top,
• A Saint Someone or other who was born or buried there (I had no idea of how many saints there were. Not just the usual pack that might be rattled off by the man or woman in the street, but all the others. There must be thousands of them. Even OZ has one!
• A miracle of some kind apparently occurred there,
• An Etruscan tomb is in the vicinity,
• A Roman arch is still the gateway into the town,
• A famous Piazza where something historic has taken place,
• Is the sight of an annual festival whose purpose is lost in time but it is a good reason to have a good party.
• The specialty of the region in the form of its cuisine, art, fabrics and
• It’s simply great to watch the locals at work and play and try your meagre skills at talking Italian.

Our navigator was pawing over the map making sure I didn’t suddenly decide to take a random wrong turn. We were heading for a small town called Wasson where thought we’d have our picnic. It was about one third of the way and the beginning of a road that would take us through a mountain pass called the Furka Pass. There were only two roads out of town; straight ahead or turn right and we took the wrong one. We had only travelled a few kms before we did our popular and well rehearsed three point turn. Poetry in motion. We found a cute little park with a swing and slippery dip and sand pit. There was a very nice looking 2 storey building made of some attractive grey stone. Very little grass was growing on the ground. There was full sized fixed marble ping pong table in perfect condition, a couple of small bins and a fabulous view across the valley to snow capped mountains. On one side of the building the ground fell away steeply to a mesh fence. Next to the decent was a square tower constructed of the same stone as the 2 storey building. It was about twenty metres high and approximately 32 metres in girth. It the girls quickly discovered that there were iron steps built on to the side of the tower. They could climb down to the lowest part of the steep hill or climb all the way to the top of the tower. They were all very excited at the prospect of doing this but Julie, on inspection deemed it to be too dangerous so I had to climb up and down with them until they had worn me out. We set up our picnic and took time to read the inscription above the very handsome door. As we ate and scrutinised the building more closely we thought it might have been a school. As you know, the Pryer children are not demure and can at times be quite boisterous. The came running back to where we were picnicking, only 5m from the door of the place calling out that there were people inside. Julie returned from a having a look around the back and said there was a library with kids in it. As we were almost finished eating we packed up our things and loaded ourselves back into the car. As we drove away in the correct direction we talked about what fun it would be to have a very small playground with a very steep drop of about 12m, a 20m tower with built in iron ladder and be the only one on playground duty. OH@S when you need them.
On to the long and winding road again. We continued to climb as we drove. The snow capped mountains gradually crowded in as Stephanie,s and Rosie,s excitement at seeing and possibly touching snow for the first time expanded. The roads were quite good though narrow. Our only real concern was that there were no safety barriers at all and the drop into the valley below would be at least 400m or more. After our previous lakeside drive Julie was somewhat nervous. She resorted to covering her eyes with her hand for much of the drive only occasionally peeking out and telling me not to drive so close to the edge. Did I have a choice!
Towards the top of the Furka Pass, soon to be known as the Furkarn Pass, we found a place to pull up and look at a small frozen waterfall, gave the cameras a bit of a workout and shot off to get to the really exciting stuff, the snow!
The little girls were totally charged up to get to the snow. At the summit there was an abandoned two storey stone guesthouse that was all boarded up and looked as though it had been for a long time. On the opposite side of the road were a number of tumbled down wooden buildings that were mere piles of rotten wood. Even though the area looked like a lovely location to spend some time in winter, I suppose that some kind of economic or personal misfortune had forced the people to leave.

We pulled off the road and stopped near the largest patch of snow we could see. As if propelled by rockets the kids exploded out of the car racing each other to be first to reach the magic snow. It was great fun. They screamed and ran about like lunatics for about 15 mins. They soon discovered that snow freezes your fingers, hard packed snowballs hurt, if you don’t wear waterproof clothes snow makes you wet and you freeze for the next hour or so while you try to dry yourself. They were still wanting to stay and make a snowman BUT we had to get down from the summit before nightfall. Reluctantly they climbed back into the backseat and off we went promising there would be more snow as winter began settling in.
It would take lots of very careful driving before we reached the bottom of the valley safely. Once in the valley, all we had to do was to find somewhere to stay the night and the sun was rapidly sinking. We turned into a small city or maybe it was a large town, called Speize. As luck would have it we turned a couple of corners and parked right in front of a swanky looking hotel. Investigations led to “No vacancy!” But there was a hotel just around the other side of the lake, a 3 minute drive. The clerk rang the “across the lake” hotel for us and in a jiffy had us booked into a very nice double room plus breakfast situation at reasonable rates. The kids were excited. That’s twice in the same day.
There was a TV in each room so they could watch CNN and BBC NEWS in English or the Simpsons in either German or Italian. After a while they gave up on the news in English and opted to watch the Simpsons. The next day we headed for headed for Zermatt.
Another lovely drive through beautiful alpine valleys. We were now consumate tourists just sitting back without a care in the world. It was a pleasant couple of hours drive with no incidents. The kids with their iPods singing along to their current favourite tune. When we pulled up in Zermatt we booked the car into the multi storey carpark, caught a mini electric taxi truck and were whisked away to the Hostel. A quick settle in to our room and then check out the scenery.
When we opened up our up the window of our room, right there in front of us was the Matterhorn. Now those who know me some a bit, realise that I am not very easily excited or impressed. Its simply not my nature. If I do take the odd quantum leap into the world of the extraverts, then its gotta be good. Not just any hill, cliff, valley, ancient ruin etc will float my boat.
It was so close and unencumbered by buildings and vegetation that you feel as though you would only need to put you arm out of the window and you could touch it. It is worth every superlative that you can find in the dictionary. Perfectly framed with the clearest of clear blue sky it was an awe inspiring sight. All the power and majesty that no human can create. I was dumb struck and stayed transfixed for at least half an hour.
While I was gawking at view, Julie was quick to get organised and ready for the obligatory orientation stroll, (Julie dose not stroll) around the very German alpine township with those classic timber homes that have the ornately carved designs hand rails, facia boards etc. It was as cute as a button. At any minute one expects a cuckoo to pop out and start calling the time or two bearded men in leather shorts to appear on the verandah doing a slap dance. Mini tabletop trucks taxis etc, all with electric motors sneak up on you from behind and then have the hide to blow their horns and frighten the life out of you.
Once the town was cased we headed off for a just can’t miss it lake, that at the right time of day gives a perfect mirrored symmetrical reflection of the Matterhorn. A photographers dream! It was a longer walk than we anticipated and the lake when we found it was frozen. This fascinated the kids. Before they realized it was frozen I challenged them to see if they skip a stone across the water. I went first and they were astonished that my stone made 32 skips. Then, everyone was in on it. Skipping stones and finding boulders to try to break through the ice was all the go. Nobody was able to carry a boulder heavy enough to rise to the challenge.
The sky was starting to darken and the temperature drop. It was definitely time to dig to the bottom of the bags and bring out the thermal under ware.
Arriving at our hostel we met a family with two children about the same age as Steph and Rose. They were Canadian and are travelling around the world for a year. They were both teachers and what a small world, he had been an exchange teacher in the Riverina some time in the 70s. It turns out that he knows Jim Wibblen from those days. Jim is the principal of a school in the Newscastle.
Area and I went to high school in Grafton with Jim. Is the saying “6 degrees of separation” applicable here? They were a nice couple and their kids were hanging out for some one to play with so we teamed up over the next day and planned to meet them again in Venice and book in at the same hotel.
We took the mandatory funicular ride up to the highest point on the rail. Unfortunately the mountain was clouded over, unlike the way we saw it the day before. Because of the fog , mist and cloud we were unable to take the final leg to the top of the highest side run. Of course only professional mountaineers climb to the top. There is a small cemetry in Zermatt dedicated to climbers who have died whilst attempting the summit. Around 100 have failed to come back alive. On a clear day apparently you can look into France, Italy and Austria from this point. It was very interesting to see a couple of glaciers carrying flows of black rocks. Julie took time to explain a few features about the glaciers to Adriana and Rose. It was very chilly even with the thermals, so down the mountain we went.
Later, I took some time to try to catch up on my writing while the Canadian family, Julie and our 3 kids went off to find a park. It turned out to be a rope course where lots of fun was had. The Aussie girls were too brave and confident for the Canadians reported their father.
The hostel was nice but not cheap as we were led to believe. The Gardners (Canadian family) gave us information about quite good hotels that were much much better quality than the hostels but cheaper. In some cases the hostels were more expensive than a Novotel for example.
Alex the father, told us about a fabulous art gallery in Zurich so we decided to go there the next day and check it out.
Part of this journey included driving our car onto a train. We drove for some hours wending our way up those now familiar mountain roads eventually coming to a large rail yard. It was dark. There were numerous men wearing reflective jackets, waving flashing lights and pointing to various lanes for drivers to attach themselves to. Our turn next.
The train, stood parallel to the platform. The carriages were flatbed with low sides. The junction between each carriage was covered by metal plate similar to a speed hump you would find in a car park. The first vehicle drives up to the last carriage which has its side down and drives on at an oblique angle. Not too tight and easy to negotiate. Once this is negotiated it is very simple to just follow the leader. The first vehicle simply drives from carriage to carriage over every speed hump plate until it reaches the end. When all cars have boarded they must turn off their headlights, leave the car in neutral and apply the hand brake. Just sit back and zoom through the night until you reach your destination. On arrival, the side of the front carriage swings open and vehicles file off and disperse.
We arrived in Zurich mid evening, now our preferred modus operandi, found the hostel, settled in had a bite to eat and off to bed.
The Zurich art gallery was marvellous. Many impressionists were represented as well as sculptors. This is a must see Gallery. Julie will have more detail about it in her writings.
Next day, Salzburg. After a long day driving and passing through three or four countries we reached our destination. Julie had an apartment for several days at an unusually decent rent. It had recently been done up and was quite comfortable. Next day we hit the centre of the old town. Straight to the house in which Mozart was born, then to the house he grew up in. Considering he spent one third of his life travelling Europe it would be a misnomer to say he grew up there.
His birth house had three storeys and I guess it would have been the equal of a middle class home at the time. His second home in comparison is one of much higher status. A large ballroom, music rooms bedrooms, reading room sitting room etc. The rest covers 3 storeys and would be 3 to 4 times larger.
Armed with a fist full of Mozart CDs we headed for the Tourist Information Centre to find out about the “SOUND OF MUSIC TOUR” (nb. This must be read out loud with a theatrical booming voice with lots of echo.) among other must see attractions. In our sights were the Arch Dukes Castle sitting high over the city, the salt mines and their salt that made Salzburg wealthy and the Mirrabell Palace and Mirrabell gardens that were built by the Hapsburgs when they were the rulers of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Quite a number of outdoor scenes for THE SOUND OF MUSIC (remember to use that special announcer's voice with echo) were shot in the gardens. The all important and most exciting SOUND OF MUSIC TOUR was booked for the next morning. All the girls, including the eldest were smiling from ear to ear and singing songs from that musical as they skipped along the streets. Would they be able to get to sleep the night?????
I'm pretty sure Julie has written about our time in Salzburg so I will carry on in my own little world.
After boarding the coach and settling into our seats our tour guide introduced himself and the driver. As the bus pulled out and he began to give us an outline of the tour. It quickly became apparent that he was not just a guide but a comedian and singer as well. Luckily I enjoy someone with a dry wit so I sat back and settled in for the ride. He was great.
We heard lots of the behind the scenes stories regarding the movie.
1. The actor who played the father (can't remember his name, apparently hated the children and loudly and widely called the movie THE SOUND OF MUCUS! (don't forget the echo).
2. The scene where the children and Maria fell out of the boat was shot twice, even though is was perfect the first time. On the second take little Grettle went way under the water and almost drowned.
3. The opening scene on the mountain was taken on a hilltop about twenty km away from the abbey. Julie Andrews takes a short sprint to make it to the abbey before the bells stop ringing. What an athlete she would have to be to get down the mountain in time!
OK; Three jokes from the tour guide. Groan, moan or smile as you deem fit.
1. Why are a gorillar's fingers so big? Just take a look at its nostrils. (Boom)
2. After a long evening of drinking, two drunks leave a pub in Salzburg and stagger off into the darkness ending up in a cemetery. They soon find they are totally lost. They hear

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Recent Messages

From megan
hi stephi school has finished
LOVE Meggy
Response: hi meg,
i hope you had a merry christmas and a happy new year.
i got a pink nintendo off santa.
what did you get.
love Stephanie
From jaime
Hi Rosie,

Why haven't you called or sent to me.

Love Jaime
Response: Hi Jaime,
It must have gotten lost in the mail.
Ill send you another one tomorrow
Love Rosie.
From Robyn
Ho Ho Ho! Merry Christmas. Hope you have a wonderful day in Rome.

Love The Allens xoxoxoxoxoxo
Response: Hi Rob,
we had a great day in rome. we saw the pope and received his blessing.
and had a typical italian meal.
love the pryers.
From mackenzie
hi Stepi
how is it.
Merry Chistmas and a happy new year.

Hi Arna
I like the Just for fun photes.

Hi Rosie
merry Chistmas and a happy new is italy.



Response: hi kenz,
merry christmas to you too.
it was wonderful talking to you on christmas day.
i hope you had a wonderful christmas.
we all miss you so much!!
love lots steph, arna and rose.
From campbell
Hi rosie
how are you?MERRY CHRITMAS
got a t-shert of the internet.

Hi stephi Yes school is over.
How are you?

love cam!!!!!!!!!!!
Response: Hi Cammy,
I hope you all had a wonderful day at sissys without us!
we missed you soo much.
What kind of a t-shirt did you get?
Love Rosie.
How is it?

I have your postcard.
love Mackenzie

Response: Hi Kenz,
How are you. Is school over yet.
Love Stephi
From Amanda
Hi Julie, Robin and girls, Sounds like you are having a fantastic time. Sounds like the Tuscan delicacies are best avoided with children - just find the Pizza Hut! really a local produce menu isnt it!Love reading your stories, I need to collect some travel tips for us next year. Have fun
Love Amanda
Response: Hi Amanda,
We havnt seen a Pizza Hut, but plenty of Pizza. We do have McDonalds which is a saving grace sometimes.
Love Julie
From Meg
Rosie....the class is missing you!!!! Where's the postcard? hehe. We know you are busy....Take care xxx
Response: Hi Meg,
Its coming.....she has been very busy.
Love Julie
From Harv
Sounds great, But can I get a Kebab?
harv, the only place we have seen kebabs was in Salzburg, otherwise its pizza, pasta or ham and cheese sandwiches
From nic
hey arna n family how is the trip so war it looks a lot of fun wb =] nic
Response: Its great Nic.
Luv Arna
From Debbie Mac
U R really missing out!
Throw the sponge at the teacher!
Who thought of that one?
We R enjoying following your trip.
From sam
I miss you guys, & that photo of arnie & rosie eating each other & my lill poser stef makes me miss you more.
but hey at least no matter wat country you guys r in u havent changed
xoxox lovee you!
Response: Hi sam,

No we dont change. You should see some of the photos I dont put on the blog.
From Tina
Hi Guys... I've just sat down and looked through all the gorgeous photo's, they are so amazing. The accomadation you've had thus far is remarkable. Julie I envy you taking the cooking course and hope you bring home and share the recipes (I'll pay if they are any good) lol
Keep having heaps of fun... Hello to the girls :)
love Tina
PS: Lizzy says hello to you all, and Harrison said "who are they again??? oh, I know!! ha ha
Response: Hi Tina,
It is so amazing that you wrote. I was thinking about you while I was doing the cooking, thinking you would really enjoy it. I will teach everything I know when I get back.
Love Julie
From Debbie Mac
I'm really enjoying following your adventures can't wait for the next installment!
Steph, all of your mates in 1/2/3 say CHOW!
Response: It Deb,
great to hear from you.
From megan w
steph where is my postcard i have been waiting i am sleeping at Mackenzie's house.
megan w.
Hi Megan,
I am still writing your postcard.
Love Stephi
From gabby n maddie !!!
hello every body i hope you are having a realii good time at well werever you are atm lol
i miss you all so much n cant wait till you get back !!
i love all of your pictures !! they are gorjuz !! omg i smelt your clothes lol iu miss you heaps i was crying at skool to the other daii because i miss you soo much !!!
i cant wait to hear from you !!
oh guess what it is my mums b'daii todaii =]
soo yeahh we r goin out for dinna on sundaii =] oh cristymass is soon =] but its bad cuz .... i wont be spending it with you lyk last yr !! lol good times good times ... well every 1 from my skool that knows you is missing you !!
soo yess hope that makes you feel better darling =]
oh i hav a secret admir a but he isnt realii secret cuz i know hu it is n he wont stop asking me out n he is buying me stuff lol for x'mass he is buying me an ipod nano !!!!
omfg !!! lol
but yeahh its kinda confusing and ohh!!! im getting a new horse verii shortly i think im goin to pick him up this w/e or nxt w/e mabey dunno but he is gorjuz !!! =] cant wait till you get back to go for a ride with me ! lol
we will hav to do somthing together =]
omg i had exams all this week so far arrggg !!! but its okii now cuz they aree over lol.
now i will hand it over to maddie lol
love you all so much n miss you heaps xxx i love you loads !!! (gabby)

hey guys.. i hope you are having fun where ever you are!
its only been 7 weeks and it feels like a life time!!!!!!!!!
i loved your pics especially the one with brad pit! yummy!!!!...
yes well i am at your house with ur aunty! hehe...
we came over for a visit.. and smelt your clothes!
lol we are not stalkers! joking!
i want to take ur pillow home and smell it all nite lol.. im only joking but ur room makes me sad.. :( hehe..
ok well i best be off have loads of fun and keep taking gorjuz piccys!!!....
so i can see u! and snuggle up to ur pillow!haha and carmen came past my bus stop the other day luke told me to do some thing to her but i just said wat needed to be said haha!!!! if u get my drift!!!..he misses u 2 (merchant).. and im going to get my hair cut tomoz at our fave hairdressa!!!
hehe sekt!!!! hehe.. ill get the homo guy to do it for me lol.. i mean the gay guy haha good old aaron! :D ok well
hahaha! i miss u loads and love you heaps i cant wait to hear from u again!
love you heaps xxxxxxx

Response: Hi Gals,

Good to hear from you. Arna has read your message and I think is talking to you via email.
Love JUlie
From Meg
hehehe I can't believe you asked how school is going!!! That should be the furtherest thing from your mind.hehe School is fine though and everyone is well. Missing you all though
From donna & jim
Hi from your ex-nextdoor neighbours!Gaz gave me your internet address so thought i'd look it up.I'M SO ENVIOUS!!,julie.You all look like you're having the time of your lives.We are finally in our new home,somewhere for you to visit when you return, but no mountain views,sparkling lakes or snow-capped peaks here,no siree, just a few gum trees!!Anyway jim and i say hi to the girls and wish you all a fantastic and safe holiday.I'll keep an eye on this sight.bye for now, donna
Response: Hi Donna,
Great that u are in your house. It is lovely to hear from u. We will visit when we get home. Sorry we missed you before we or u left. Take care.
From Meg
The photos are fantastic!!!!!!
Response: Thanks Meg, Hows school.
From nic
hey arna i got myspace now n i went on yours n was talking to all your friends n that some paige girl im like do u now arna n she keeped on deniying it any way have
xx nic =]
Response: lol
shes wreird now.
i dont even like her.
shes mean =[ lol
i added your myspace.
or whatever
so ill talk to you soon
love arna
From nic
aye in the photo of arna bitting roses arm is roses toung pised
from nic =]
Response: lol
no .
do you really think mum would let ROSIE do that.
she wont even let me.
love arna
From Robyn
Just loving your holiday snaps - particularly the artistic ones in Santorini Julie.
From nic
hey its nic
aye arna do u have your mobile phone on u cause there is a couple mesages n that on there from me lol
italy is the best woohoo my dads family is all italian looks like u r all haveing fun oh n do u have windows live over there in the internet cafe
talk to u soon cya nic =]
Response: whats windows live.
and no i dont have my fone sorry.
mum sed i shouldnt bring it cuz it wont even work over here so yeaa.
any way..
talk soon
love arna
From Robynne
Hello Pryers, absolutely loving your website, although I nearly cried when you lost your purse! glad to see you are having a great time. As for the photos, they are fantastic. Whoever is taking the photos is doing a wonderful job. Cant wait for the next instalment. Bye for now, keep having fun, The Metcalfes
Response: Hi Rob, thankyou, I am enjoying talking the photoes. I bought a Canon 400D in HK. I am using it mostly on auto but it still seems to be working OK. I would love to put more photos on but it takes so long.
From nic
aye every body what time is it over there when it is my 6:00 there is a time delay is it midnight over there from nic =]
Response: umm when it is 6:00 at night it is ummmmm 2:00 in the morning here.
so there is 8 hours difference.

love arna