Blog 32 – Crete and final Blog

Well if I thought everybody still smokes in Austria, including inside cafes and restaurants, everybody REALLY still smokes in Greece. Well, not REALLY really, but you know what I mean, it feels like it. Australia seems so clean by comparison. I only noticed it on this trip, how lovely it is to be able to sit in non smoking environments everywhere.

1.11.16 Arrived in Chania, Crete. And what a good decision it was to come here. Thank you to everybody who encouraged me and particularly to Annette who found this writing workshop for me. My teacher Dr Hanne Landbeck is fantastic and keeps me busy, oh yeah! Hanne is German and as you know, we don’t mess around. I sure get my monies worth and there’s no time for dilly dallying. She also does online courses and gives you tons of material, just to give a little plug if anyone is interested. To keep my Blog going at the same time is a challenge. We are working together 2 hours in the morning and 2 at night and then in between there is homework! Head is SMOKING!

My airbnb is also fantastic, a brand new self contained apartment, with everything I need for only, yes, only 16 Euros a night. I paid 108 Euros for 7 nights. Can’t believe my luck. And it is luck, because this price will go up. Often people who are new to airbnb start cheap to get some reviews and their ratings up. Chania feels like one of those towns where I feel instantly at home and will have no trouble to hang around for a while. I also went to see the EOS, the local bushwalking club last night, here called Mountaineering Club. They produced a guide book for the E4. They are open every night between 21.00 – 23.00 o’clock. Didn’t think I read their website correctly. Had to set my alarm to get there! Mediterranean timing sure is different. I’m considering to hike the E4 after my course, mainly because I don’t have enough material for my book yet…..hahaha joke! Super nice guy there and I will join them for a walk this Sunday (classified “easy”). I hope they don’t work like our Cairns bushwalking club, where you never quite know if “easy” will really stay easy once they get going. One of the most famous hikes in Crete, the Samaria Gorge, closed on 1 Nov for the season. Pity. There are downsides to off season visits. 20161103_122111.jpgThis powering vegie garden right by the beach on pebbles was inspiring I thought. Wonder how they built up the soil. Shows you we could grow stuff everywhere.

wp-1478149172556.jpgBlue sky and beautiful in the day time but already nippy and dark as soon as the sun is gone at about 5.30pm.

5.11.16 Yesterday was day 3 of my writing course and I’m absolutely spent! Thank god it’s weekend. My little brain is so challenged. If I like something I can get absolutely absorbed and can forget the world around me. I have to consciously remember to get up from my desk and stretch, walk, eat. Not good for my back all that sitting. After my morning class with Hanne yesterday I went for lunch and filled up the whole tablecloth with writing, graffiti Ursula is on the loose. Before you panic, the tablecloths here are paper and then you can take it with you, if you don’t make such mess of it like my friend Bettina in the Azores!

20161104_114922.jpgBut of course I’m also distressed again by the amount of rubbish everywhere so near the water particularly. One regret in my life is that I wish I had the ability to initiate large group activities. Like some cyclists ride around the world to raise money for something, some good cause. So many times while hiking I fantasised about how could I organise rubbish cleaning up days, raise awareness about this HUGE amount of plastic everywhere. All the knowledge about the polluted oceans is out there, yet we don’t seem to care, not in a urgently needed way anyway. What does it take?

20161108_203751.jpgThis is Hanne, my teacher. oh…..time’s gone by and because of so much other writings: practising dialogues, landscape/people/places descriptions, mindmapping, cluster mapping, structuring and so on, I neglected my Blog. And guess what: it’s already the 12th Nov and I’ve already done 3 days of walking on the E4. All on road and arthritis in my right toe is screaming plus some surface blisters between my toes. Haven’t peed on anything for a while! At the same time it felt safe (no traffic to speak of) and no way to get lost.

20161111_092330.jpgThe goats are gorgeous with their long hair and bells on. At times the only sound in the stillness of the mountains.

20161111_144737.jpgSmall villages spread through the countryside. How will it be to stop walking/traveling, and god forbid!!! working again? Yes, I bought my return ticket to Brisvegas. Anyway, for now I’m still hiking a bit longer. Can’t believe my luck with the weather. As unusually cold it was in Portugal in March, as unusual warm it is now in November. It rains at night to freshen everything up and then around 20 degrees in the day. While friends tell me of snow in Switzerland and Germany and 38 degrees in Maleny I’m enjoying the perfect climate for walking.

20161111_163408.jpgThe house in the middle was last night’s accommodation in a village called Kefali. Beautiful. Watched the workings of an olive processing plant.

20161113_082430.jpg20161113_085126.jpgOlive harvest everywhere. They use some rotating device with 4 plastic cords, like on a brush cutter, swinging around to strip the olives off the trees. Strips lots of leaves as well, but obviously doesn’t do the trees any harm.

20161113_092932.jpgThen bagged and off to processing plant a few kms away. Tiny olives to be turned into cold pressed oil. Black olives lying on the road look the same as goats’ droppings, size and all. Nothing but a bit of poop to spice up your extra virgin!

20161113_113149.jpg20161113_122735.jpg

Stayed 2 nights in Chrissokalitissa, near Elafonissi. Elafonissi beach is pink in places. Can you see that on the photos? Can’t find out why, but have never seen anything like this before. Maybe from corals? Such a pretty place and I’m the only tourist (and it’s Sunday) apart from a French group of women who seemed to be there for a Yoga workshop. All struggling with the Bridge Pose on the beach. Something about a bridge in bikinis. I wouldn’t want to be here in the season, place is chock o block full of tourists locals tell me. Eeeeek…

20161113_131929.jpgMarkers, a hiker’s best friend! 20161114_105640.jpgDo you see a path along this coast? I don’t, but there is and I walked it! Up and down rocks and hills and beaches and up again. The trail was actually very well marked with black and yellow painting on the rocks. Without them, no chance! And not a soul all day. 20161114_150333.jpgI could move in here, like in the old hippie days.

15th Nov. Staying 2 nights in Paleochora as well, mainly due to the stage after next is labeled as maximum hard, so no go for me. Meaning I have to take a ferry, which now in the winter only go once a week. If at all, I have to find that out today from the water police they tell me. If no ferry I’m not sure what to do. One option is a bus all the way to Chania and then a bus back down to where I can continue hiking, Hora Stakion. No buses go across due to high rocky mountain ranges. It will all be revealed.

Well, I  took that option. Bus to Chania (70kms) a writing lecture and lunch with Hanne and another bus back down to Hora Sfakion, another 70kms. But it was fine, being driven around gives me a different perspective to hiking. This is Sfakion, where I stayed 3 nights and did day walks from there:

20161118_111057.jpgIt’s so dry here, such barren mountains. Not even sure what the goats find to eat. I’m pretty much the only tourist here, but a supermarket, 2 tavernas and a bakery are open.

20161117_113207.jpgLittle shrines like this all over the place. And today I had a walking companion, which was really nice. This little, strong as an ox doggy walked all the way to Loutro and back with, about 5 hours, along rocky cliffs. One of those better not look down walks. Doggy was shy at the beginning, didn’t let me touch him, didn’t want any water, kept his distance, but always looked around to see that I was coming. I told him off a few times for racing up the hills chasing goats, naughty boy.  wp-1479395167268.jpgBut you see here, on the way back we bonded and he took over 3/4 of my blanket, drank my water, wanted my omelette and then slept soundly. I told him, I’m a Social Worker and understand the process that first we needed to build rapport before we could bond and now we have to establish boundaries. “Oh, boloney” he said between snores. When we came back to Sfakion he just disappreared, no ‘good bye, nice meeting you’, no ‘see you tomorrow, what time?’

MONGREL!

wp-1479479692131.jpgThis is Loutro, totally deserted outside of tourist season. You can only reach it by boat or walking 2.5 hours.

20161118_133831.jpgAnd today 18.11.16 I walked up Imbros gorge, stunning. I was quite overwhelmed by nature, the high mountain walls in the gorge, the sunshine, and the stillness. I did a meditation on a rock, listening to silence, having a bit of an emotional meltdown, thinking, here I am in this beautiful lonesome environment and in 6 days time I’m probably having Greek food with Lillian, Nadia, and Danni in bussling West End, Brisbane, where we had Greek dinner pretty much excatly 9 months ago! Interesting, what NEW will I give birth to? Wow, I’m having such mixed emotions and on that note I might post this, my last Blog.

Thanks to all my friends who followed me and sent me so much encouragement. I will see many of you real soon and leave many here behind in Europe. To those, thanks for putting me up and please come over to Oz. I will sure miss you.

Bye bye……………..

 

Advertisements

Blog 31 – Austria


20161019_175808.jpg

Hmmmm Paracelsus, can you help me with decisions regarding what I should do in November? It’s getting too cold for my liking in these countries. Although the autumn colours are simply stunning.

“Naaaaa, passt scho”. I like this Austrian expression, something like “she be right” in Australia. Wandered the city of Salzburg today, rugged up to the Hilton! After it bucketed down all night it luckily cleared up today. I passed a local market with lots of Knoedel, REAL fresh Sauerkraut from a wooden barrel, pate in all sorts of flavours, and look how brussel sprouts grow:

20161020_094410.jpgwp-1476973005875.jpgHow these people can do markets in this cold weather, selling fish and all is beyond me. My hands would drop off. I then went up Forte Hohensalzburg with a beautiful view from the top and took the funicular down.

20161020_114447.jpg

20161020_102928.jpg20161020_115152.jpg

20161020_115158.jpg20161019_174802.jpgOn the Markart Steg are 1000s of locks from people promissing eternal love to each other. How romantic and great for the lock industry. 20161019_172101.jpgSculture near the Dome by Stefan Balkenhol.

21.10.16 Took a day trip to Hallstatt today, recommended by my Tyrol friend Evi. Very worthwhile and overrun by Asians, mainly Chinese it seems. I wouldn’t want to visit this little town in the summer! The Chinese love this place so much that some rich mining tycoon built a replica of it in 2012 for $940 million in China. Can you believe it? I met someone who’s husband went to see it. They just built the facades and inside is all different. Very weird indeed.

20161028_214246.pngSome google images of the China place. Had to google it, couldn’t quite believe it.

The REAL Hallstatt is so postcard pretty, I mean it’s clear why people love it.

20161021_105655.jpgHouses built against and into mountains.

20161021_140331.jpg20161021_112054.jpgAlso a “Gebeinenhaus”, similar to what I’ve seen in Evora Portugal. Remember? 100 Blogs ago…Hallstatt had no space to bury everybody and dug people out of the ground after 10 or so years, to make space for new bodies. And they painted the sculls and put the person’s name on them. Hmmmm, another reminder of impermanence.

20161021_194423.jpg

20161021_120902.jpg20161021_184000.jpg

22.10.16 And today I’m meeting my oldest friends (I mean in time, not in age) Sygun and Verena again for 5 days of spoiling ourselves in Biohotel Sommerau. Nothing but healthy food, saunas, hiking in beautiful surrounds, couple of massages, you get the idea! Before you get too jealous, the breakfast bread was a bit too healthy for my liking and I personally missed a few meringues with cream, but, well, it’s never perfect is it? I’m a bloody sugar addict, that’s what I am! Here we are having an apple juice, well deserved after a long hike: PROST!

20161024_124630.jpgwp-1477598187152.jpgThe bottom right photo is when we visited a salt mine (called white gold in years gone by) in Hallein. We had to put some special outfits on because you go deep into the mine via some slides like this:

20161026_105831.jpgGreat fun! We ran up the steps and did it again….

20161026_110411.jpgAnd because I took so many photos of border crossings on this trip, here is another one. Underground we passed from Austria to Germany. Funny….

It’s quite strange but I never related this area to salt, although many names clearly tell you, like Salzburg, Salzkammergut etc. I thought salt is only found at the sea. Ignorant little me. It made the area and some nobility very rich, while the workers suffered severe hardship underground and died young, the usual. Images of Saint Barbara (3rd century) are everywhere. She is the saint of miners and others who work with explosives.

20161029_073620.pngHer dad locked her in a tower to “preserve” her from unsuitable riffraff. She converted to Christianity against his will and so he chopped her head off. Nice daddy! But he was struck by lightening or so the story goes. Bit of instant Karma.

The Biohotel had no Wifi, healthy, no radiation you know. And whilst I already know how addicted I am to my little machine and that it would do me good to be without it for a while, it was quite confronting. I had NOTHING further booked or planned after Friday the 28th. One idea was to meet Lillian in Paris for a few days before she flies home. Big cities are so much more fun to explore with someone else. I thought I had plenty of time to research and figure all this out in my quiet wellness week. But not so. So, the no Wifi cut Paris off the agenda, too hard or impossible rather to plan in time. Probably good as too expensive for such a short time anyway. Sorry Lil. Discussions with my friends helped with the decision that Crete (still warm with around 20 degrees) and the writing course at the Goethe Institut in Chania is probably a good plan, since I didn’t manage to catch up with Bill Bryson in a pub in England! The book idea is still in my head and even if the course clarifies that writing is not for me, it’ll be a good outcome. And then there is superb hiking on Crete I hear. A few more weeks of walking to finish off the year? Why not! The Biohotelfrau kindly let me use their wifi one evening for an hour, so I could book a hotel in Salzburg again and a flight to Crete. Very helpful. And after that I could really relax and it was easy to be without my machine for the 5 days.

Time went fast and the goodbyes came way too soon. Who knows when/if we’ll meet again. I’m rather sad this evening, 28th October. After travelling with friends now since mid September, and we all had a great time without the slightest bit of disagreement, I’m on my own again. It will be ok, but still, it takes some adjustment. I’m so very lucky to have such incredibly amazing friends. I thank you all for being in my life.

screenshot_20161028-205818.pngBack in Salzburg, check out this colour combo. Nature blows my mind again and again.

20161030_153541.jpg30.10.16 One night in Vienna staying at axe murderer Thomas. Here he looks like a handsome price on his horse, no? Very deceiving man! I picked Thomas up hitchhiking in Brisbane 1995 and he stayed at my place for a few days, where he suddenly asked “How do you know I’m not an axe murderer?” Well, good question of course, some strange people came out of Austria! But I took the risk and see, I’m still alive. We stayed in touch and I let friends know, that if they never hear from me again, start looking in Vienna! No, joke aside. We went for a lovely walk and I just HAD to take a photo of this gorgeous little girl playing in the autumn leaves. She looked like she was in a nest and had such a good time.

screenshot_20161031-064939.pngOk, off to Athens and Crete today. Bit nervous about this writing course. I don’t think I’ve used my brain in any serious way for a while!

I’m starting to correspond with some of my ex work colleagues. Yes, the thought of a different reality is already starting to creep into my mind, the one called WORK! Iiieeek, shrieeeek…..lots has changed in my previous work environment it seems. Every backfill longer than 2 weeks one has to apply for, interview and blabla. Since I don’t have a CV or old sample applications on my Smart phone (shame it’s not THAT smart and write the applications for me!), I won’t be able to apply for anything untill I’m back. Good probably since that would already wreck my time away. ENOUGH OF THIS TOPIC!

Next Blog will be Greece.

Blog 30 – more of lovely Italy

10.10.16 We returned the car without any further scratches and I must say I’m quite proud of my driving around the mad Amalfi coast.

20161010_130218.jpgimg-20161012-wa0005.jpgOff by train to Assisi and spreading the lunch out. Looks like we have a kilo of prociutto, but it’s not really. We will be meeting Vanessa tonight and hopefully have a great time as a threesome. Here we are having out first coffee at our airbnb’s host’s coffee shop, which we call “Angelo’s”.

20161011_093942_001.jpgFor the next 4 days we explored the beautiful town and surrounds of Assisi. And what a place, just when I think I have seen all the beauty I can take, comes another highlight. The Basilika di San Francesco takes your breath away. Unfortunately you weren’t allowed to take photos inside. So, my friends, you just HAVE to come here yourself. Please put on bucket list! 20161012_122410.jpgView of Assisi from Rocca Maggiore, the town’s Forte.

20161013_071958.jpgSunrise behind the Cathedrale di San Rufino, view from our airbnb! We’re right in the middle of it all. And then the town and surrounds are full of amazing scultures. One day we walked up to Eremo delle Carceri (791 mts high, 4 kms), where St Francis spent a lot of time in prayer apparently. A beautiful place in the middle of the forest with lots of quiet spots with benches for prayer or meditation. Not the greatest weather otherwise we surely would have lingered longer.

screenshot_20161012-141414.png20161012_104654.jpg20161012_105027.jpg20161012_105119.jpgOr daydreaming just looking at the sky maybe?

screenshot_20161012-141439.pngNo, we’re not in Japan!img-20161011-wa0022.jpgAnd then we went to Bosco di San Francesco and Santa Croce.

20161013_161316-collage.jpgA landscape sculture of 3 circles, called the Terzo Paradiso created by Michelangelo Pistoletto. The 2 small circles are the mathematical sign for infinity and the artist interprets one circle’s meaning as the heavenly world, the other one the world we humans have created with technology etc. And the big circle he placed between the two is for us to reflect on the responsibility we have to combine the two and create a better world for ourselves and future generations. Not sure if I wrote that clearly enough, but anyway. The olive trees were full in fruit and we love their silver shine. To walk the circles quietly was so lovely. Sam had suggested that to see the Basilika by night is a MUST, so after our good bye dinner Vanessa and I dashed down for some last photos.

20161013_223711.jpgIt was misty and rainy, but as it happened there was a free gospel concert on in the Basilika. Wow, how lucky were we! Thanks Sam. It was incredible, The “Charlie’s Gospel Angels” from Rome. Tried to download a sample, but can’t seem to downoad videos.

20161013_211138.jpgBut I could get a shot of the inside of the Basilika, as everybody else was filming etc.

wp-1476522402293.jpgLooking out onto the piazza on Friday, our last morning. We loved Assisi and a great time was had by all.

20161014_153703.jpgOh, the serenity at crazily busy Bologna train station. Great to be young! (no, it’s not me!)

14.10.16 Vanessa went off earlier than us back to Switzerland and Lillian and I took the same trains til Florence where she headed off to Pisa and then France and I went on to see friends in Tyrol, Bressanone-Brixen. Evi and Matthias have also been airbnb guests of mine in Australia and meanwhile have a baby, little Nora.

20161015_110215.jpgNora unfortunately doesn’t like driving and is also not keen on hiking, so daddy did babysitting and Evi and I took off (16/10/16) into the Dolomite mountains. OMG, the beauty of this and so lucky to have a glorious autumn day.

20161016_104330.jpg20161016_135403.jpgSugarcoated mountains, the Geisler group. Yes, snow up there already. I’m back to my normal wear of 5 layers and long johns (makes the backpack light).

20161016_151147.jpgNo no, this is NOT a Milka chocolate ad. This is for real, can you believe it? And please imagine the cow bells going. It is just so pretty. I often get asked which place in my travels was my favourite. It’s really impossible to say and I have been so fortunate to see so many amazing sites. Many places have their charme and specialty and actually I haven’t been to any place I didn’t like or where I didn’t feel safe. But these pristine mountain areas must be high on the top of the list.

wp-1476728328173.jpgAnd I hadn’t seen Zwiesels for so long! In fact a Zwiesel gathering, not sure what the discussion was??? I think it was about D Trump and how best to turn him into sawdust! Hopefully they get the Zwiesel Secret Service onto it.

20161016_222132.jpgThis is a strange sort of photo. The sun was too bright for photos, but here it was behind a mini cloud for a second. Looks like some UFO coming to take us away (haha) I reckon.

20161016_124833.jpgAnd then from Basilika gospel music to accordeon in the mountains, at the Gschnagenhardalmrestaurant. (Love to hear you try and pronouce this). This guy was so good, I put a clip on Facebook. He entertained us while we ate “Spinat und Käseknödel”. Oh, I’m in my tribe again. Everybody looks like me, hiking boots, walking poles, same type of jackets, jumpers etc. See, the car park:

wp-1476729463928.jpgRuth, if you read this, looks like our bushwalkers starting, doesn’t it?

20161017_200432.jpgThe Brixen Dome.

(18/10/16) I did an 18kms hike by myself cause Evi and Matthias had to work, (yes some people still do). I had a great day, starting in drizzle but it cleared up to beautiful sunshine.

20161018_111418.jpg20161018_140232.jpg

screenshot_20161018-163512.pngThe Geisler group again from a different perspective. Something about walking in the mountains! There is such calmess in the air or quietness. I’m so happy trodding along by myself. And the smell of pine trees. They must trigger something from my past. When I die, should some of you be around, please burn pine incense, the smell makes me so happy. I did the Keschtnweg, the way of the chestnuts, the edible ones.

wp-1476801429788.jpg Every restaurant had dishes with chestnuts, from sweets to savory in all shapes and forms. Hey and all of a sudden I saw my beloved Camino sign pointing towards Rome. I could have just walked on, bummer didn’t have my backpack with me! On the bucket list!

20161018_120609.jpgOk Italy, good bye for now. Loved it and there is so incredibly much more to see. Might have to come back. This was meant to be my last trip to Europe. Hmmmm.

I’m still not clear what to do in November at all. The weather is turning really too cold now. Already bought a doona jacket, feather light, obviously hahaha. My unit is not vacant til 8/12/16. Evi and Matthias hiked through Crete and really loved it. And then I’m still occasionally google trying to find a creative writing workshop. My now famous author friend Annette gave me a link for a course in Crete at the Goetheinstitute. Crete again as it happened. Maybe the signs pointing? Still supposedly 20 degrees in November. Greece wasn’t on my agenda, but then Ireland wasn’t either!

We’ll see, life will unfold.

screenshot_20160706-165020.png

 

Blog 28 – Italy

 

29th September 2016

Wow, 1st time ever to Italy! Arriving by airport bus in rush hour (if there is such a thing, it might be always rush hour). It was really hot, finding my way from the trainstation to my hotel, filthy with so much rubbish everywhere and I suffered from culture shock, after the quiet Azores. But after a good night’s sleep, and after sorting out some issues at the Hotel (like they gave me a double instead of a twin, then no blankets, just sheets, then lights didn’t work, no Wifi either), I felt better.

20161001_162605.jpgThe rooms are awful for the price (ours is top floor with the open window), but we are living in this amazing Basilica, which makes up for the sparsity in the room.  20160930_111318.jpgMaybe they want to provide a feeling of monastic life? Back to a different airport the next morning to pick up Lil. We had arranged to meet Dorian and partner Juliet for lunch, who flew home to Oz the same night. Lucky timing. We had all worked together at the Maleny Credit Union many many moons ago, in the 90ties. Our friend Vanessa was also to be there, but had to cancel, due to sad circumstances with friends and family. We missed you Vanessa, but gave out a million in loans, discussed the merger and completed the end of months reports anyway!

20160930_131507.jpg  It was great catching up after so many years!20160930_180721.jpgThen Lil and I walked to the Colosseum, WOW. We knocked off 18kms today (30/9/16). Then Lil had a glass of wine and jetlag took care of the rest!20160930_204749.jpgHowever, nothing that a macchiato couldn’t fix the next morning.

20161001_110828.jpg1/10/16, pinch, punch October! Today was to be less walking and we took the Hop On-Hop Off bus around the city. 20161001_114734.jpgFood, food, glorious food – Campo de Fiori.

20161001_115204.jpgPasta in all colours and sizes.

20161001_111441.jpgAnd we thought selfies were a recent phenomenon!

20161001_163809.jpg20161001_144138.jpgMexican artist Gustavo Aceves made this huge horse sculture, one of 40 horses displayed around Rome in September.

20161003_073022.jpgimg-20161002-wa0016.jpgTrevi Fountain, nice 6 pack we thought. Floors and ceilings, could take endless photos of the beautiful mosaics everywhere.

wp-1475680034580.jpg

20161002_185330.jpgExcavation sites near the Colosseum.20161002_135632.jpgSpanish steps, can you find Ursula in amongst the crowd?

img-20161002-wa0015.jpgSt Fransis of Assisi.

20161003_093246.jpgToday we had an afternoon nap, to be able to see a bit of Rome by night. AMAZING!

20161002_190639.jpg3.10.16 My mother’s birthday, may she rest in peace. We took a train from Rome to Salerno and hired a car to drive to our airbnb near Amalfi. Driving in Italy and on these small mountanous roads! OMG! I don’t think you see a car without huge amount of scratches on the sides. At the hire place we pointed out (and took photos) of some scratches, just so we won’t get blamed since we had to pay 900 Euro bond.  But the guy just laughed, indicating those were nothing. Car only has 8600kms on the speedo and already damages. Must be the German in me…

4.10.16 Crossed another walk of my bucket list today: The Segieri degli Dei – The Pathway of the Gods. The Gods came down this path to get to the sea. This is us at the start in Bomerano:

wp-1475679743116.jpgAnd wow, it was so beautiful.

20161004_191345.jpgThe air was a bit hazy. Down to Positano were 1600(ish) steps. I thought I did a lot of steps in Glendalough, with 679. Our knees started to scream slightly. 20161004_153418.jpgscreenshot_20161004-191700.pngThis is Positano, so pretty. We took a boat back from there to Amalfi and it was great to see where we walked from the sea. What a coast line!

20161004_155246.jpgHow on earth did they build those places onto/into the cliffs?

20161004_162741.jpg20161004_163741.jpgThe Basilika in Amalfi, moorish influence again.

20161005_070921.jpg20161006_070515.jpgBeautiful sunrises every morning. This one at our airbnb near Nerano.

6.10.16 We moved on to  little beach near Nerano. So pretty and hardly any tourists at this time of year. But enough, so you don’t feel all alone in a restaurant, or all being closed. Today I hiked up to this little church, Santa Croce.

20161006_104241.jpg20161006_094348.jpgThis is the view to Capri, where we are taking a boat trip tomorrow.

20161006_105828.jpgThis is from Santa Croce down to our little beach, Marina del Cantone. Can you see Lil waving at the far end of the beach? She’s not feeling too well, so had to stay home and drink wine, no sorry cough mixture.

20161006_172608.jpgThis is our airbnb. It doesn’t look much chop from the outside, but it’s the best airbnb EVER. It’s beautiful inside and has got everything you might ever need, including lots of food provided by our host Rafaele.

20161006_190342.jpgView at night from our window, and listening to the gentle waves is so much better than listening to snoring.

7.10.16 Storm/rain, boats cancelled and Lil sick anyway. So, rest day. 8.10.16 But all go today for our trip to Capri. And what a great day it was!

20161008_085541.jpgLeaving our little porto behind. Our airbnb is that pink place on the right. 20161008_145906.jpgArrival at the Marina on Capri Island. After wandering around, a bit of shopping at Prada for Lil: 20161008_142320.jpg20161008_103632.jpg20161008_175829.jpgA limoncello shop and a little crocheted bird/cage. Capri feels a bit like a playground for the rich. The taxis are all coupe sort of limos, pink or purplish leather seats, brand name shops, a coffee is 5 Euros. Unfortunately the famous blue grotto was closed, not sure why, something to do with the storm yesterday. So we took a bus to Anacapri, wandered around there and the chairlift up to the Solaro, the highest spot on Capri at 586mts. Was great fun.

20161008_124716.jpgI do hate selfies, but……..screenshot_20161008-175943.png chairs were a bit far apart to get good shots of each other.

20161008_131200.jpgFrom the top of Solaro.20161008_161629.jpgSame rocks on the way back. We drove through this arch and you are supposed to kiss someone when the boat goes through, but I had noone to kiss, and didn’t want to pick a stranger, you know….

20161008_161241.jpg20161008_162211.jpg

Day driving around a bit, Castellammere and Sorento. Beautiful mosaics again and I also like those little shop fronts.

wp-1476024966229.jpg

wp-1476025490682.jpg

20161009_165858.jpgAnd when you peek around corners you find stunning courtyards. Italy seems to be another country I’m falling in love with. Tomorrow we are returning our hire car and go by train to Assisi. We will meet our friend Vanessa there, who will be coming from Switzerland to join us for 4 days. This is great and I’m so happy she’s taking a few days out for herself.

More from Assisi and Brixen, in Tirol in my next Blog.

Blog 27 – Azores

20160913_172239.jpgLast days in Ireland at my Workaway Placement in Wicklow. On our day off, my lovely co-workers Alex and Alice from Lille and I hired a car and went North of Dublin to look at various neolithic sites. Above is Newgrange, one of a few tombs you can actually go inside (3000BC). On the winter solstice, 21st December at sunrise the sunbeams shine through the entrance right into the tomb for about 15 minutes. They simulated this by turning the electric lights off and then slowly have a beam come on. It was amazing and very moving. They had a lottery going for an entry ticket for that day. Only 20 people are allowed in. I signed up!

20160913_172823.jpgThe entrance to the tombs with ancient art work.

20160913_145841.jpgThis is Alex at Old Mellifont Abbey, an old Cistercian monastry (1124) for French and Irish monks.

20160914_055750.jpgThis is at the Hill of Tara, the most sacred site in Ireland, seat of the High Kings. This photo is a cheat, a shot of one of their maps, cause when you wander the fields it’s actually not that impressive. Just looks like groves in the paddock.

20160915_195355.jpgFinal good bye dinner for me, carbonade flamande, cooked by Alice & Alex. Felt like leaving family behind.

screenshot_20160917-182834.png17.9.16 Off to Dublin and visited Roseleen in Drogheda for a couple of hours, another lovely woman I met on the Buddhist Retreat, ages ago! I ended up spending two and a half months in Ireland. Not bad for not having had Ireland in my plans at all! Off to sleep now, taxi comes at 5.45am to take me to the airport for Lisbon.

18.9.16 Lisbon! Oh, I love you……and 25 degrees! Summer…..I just compared some photos from when I was in this airbnb in March and Helena dressed me up in wintergear….Lea the dog remembered me, so it appeared anyway.

screenshot_20160919-185629.png20160919_172601.jpg These are Helena and Lea looking out the window and Bettina and I exploring Castelo St Jorge.

20160920_091958.jpgLisbon was full of cruise ships. This view looks quite surrealistic I reckon.

20160920_155204.jpgAnd then we took the yellow tram #28 in all directions. It’s so adventurous, such a tight squeeze around the corners, you can shake hands with people who live along that line. They come out of their houses and get run over if they’re not careful. Mind you, that noise of rattling and ringing would drive me bonkers if I’d live there.

20160921_071416.jpg6.30am, 21st September. Off to the airport to fly to the Azores with Bettina. New adventures! 20160922_134405.jpgAt Ponta da Ferraria are hot thermal springs.img-20160922-wa0011.jpgThat’s me waving with the hat on. 28 degrees water temperature, wow, am I happy. First time in the ocean the entire year! This is one of the pools you can see from the photo above.

20160922_130209.jpg20160922_130409.jpgAnd these are two thermal spa pools of about 35 degrees, where I was totally by myself. Doing some stretches ahhhhhh, so nice.

20160923_133040.jpg20160923_133246.jpgBubble bubble toil and trouble…..

20160923_133129.jpg23.9.16 Today we went to Lagoa das Furnas. At one side of the lake were all these hot springs where they cooked a dish called Cozido, a sort of stew, in huge pots. We had the timing right and they were just getting the pots out and people from different restaurants arrived to pick up their pot.

20160923_133557.jpg20160923_133605.jpg

From here we started the 9.9km walk around the lake. And it bucketed down rain, hence no photos. But troupers that we are, and not made of sugar, we bravely marched on. At least it was warm. Arriving back at the car, soaked to the knickers and no spare clothes, we had to wear our towels. Luckily we had them, cause the plan was to soak our beautiful bodies in some other hot spring.

20160923_161722.jpg20160923_161919.jpgAs soon as we were off the mountains the weather was gorgeous again. We thought of hanging our pants on the antenne or squeeze them in the windows of the car for a blow dry job, but decided against it! So, we visited the only tea factory in all of Europe in these outfits and only a few people laughed at us! We can’t help it, we look stylish in everything we wear.

24.9.16

20160924_200717.jpgToday we explored the Western side of the island some more, Lagoa Verde and Lagoa Azul. This was some stunning orange coloured, a fungus of some kind, bridge/aquaduct maybe, but really no idea what it was, just pretty colours.

We then hiked in the Sete Cidades and Lagoa Azul, Lagoa Verde area. Beautiful, a blue and a green lake. The usual story, a princess was in love with a shepherd and they met in secret where the two lakes meet. Her Daddy, the King, wasn’t happy about the set up, below standard and all and married her off to a proper Prince. She cried tears to fill a lake from her blue eyes (azul) and the shepherd cried a lake from his green eyes (verde). And everybody was unhappy ever after!

20160924_145253.jpg20160924_135328.jpg20160924_135449.jpg

20160924_135039.jpg

25.9.16 Caldeira Velha, waterfall and iron rich hot springs.

20160925_124911.jpg20160925_131431.jpgYet again more hot pools, at 35 degrees I’m in my element, while Bettina is close to collapse. The little wooden boxes are the change rooms.

20160925_130135.jpgIt feels a bit strange for me here, cause the vegetation is so close to what grows around Cairns where I live. Tea, pineapples, bananas, ginger types, melons, tree ferns, cycads etc ….

20160925_113630.jpgLagoa do Fogo. Are we bored of stunning lakes yet? Last series of earth quakes happened here from May to October 2005.

20160925_151410.jpgAnd from most places you can see the coast, the landscape is simply spectacular.

20160925_203641.jpgLovely Bettina outside our Airbnb, a whole little house for 36 Euros. And my flight here to Ponta Delgada was 40 something Euros return from Lisbon, incredible. Ryanair has only been flying here since 3 years. I just hope this beautiful place won’t be spoilt soon with ugly tourist monstrosities.

20160925_203720.jpgI look so innocent which of course I am.

20160927_185806.jpg27th. Last day already. Where did this week go? We drove around the East Coast today in our hire car, delivering potatoes and capsicum on the way! New Workaway job!

20160926_203753.jpgAt this place we walked to a little porto and lighthouse, about 1km VERY steep.

20160927_185806.jpg20160927_142551.jpgTiny little cottages plastered against the steep rock face. Perfect little airbnbs we thought….

20160927_145646.jpgHardly made it back up.

20160927_134702.jpgNordeste, the capital of the East coast.

wp-1475041430739.jpgAnd then I’m so proud of my collage making skills now, curtesy to Bettina. Little church in somewhere. Unfortunately I struggled with a migraine all day, which didn’t get better despite drugs. So, I left Bettina to have our good bye dinner on her own! img-20160928-wa0001.jpg And am I glad about that! Look at the mess she left, you can’t take her anywhere really.

wp-1475094556637.jpgWe had another try in Lisbon with me still not feeling on top of it.

20160928_133945.jpgAnd I had to put this photo in of Obivan, the vicious cat. But she is so photogenic compared to me! Final sad good byes to Helena, Shakir and Caueh. Thanks guys, you are an amazing family.

20160928_082444.jpgBye bye Azores and Lisbon and thank you Bettina, I had a blast. Holidays with you any time again….

 

 

 

Blog 26 – Wicklow Way

20160822_163326.jpgTrish and Ian had the whole kitchen full of handprints of all the Workaway Helpers they had over the years. I think it’s gonna go though, since now their place is not a hostel anymore but a respectable B&B.

On the 25th Trish drove us to Glendalough in the Wicklow mountains.

20160828_104049.jpgFor me to walk the Wicklow Way and and for the French helpers Alice and Alex a few days off. The area is what everybody told me it is: beautiful. 20160825_134914.jpgThere are 10 lovely walks just around Gleann Da Lough (meaning Valley of 2 lakes), this is on the ‘white walk’, a 9kms walk with the Upper and Lower Lakes in the distance. I’m spending 3 days here to get back in the swing of long distance walking, but without my pack for starters.

20160826_095111.jpg20160826_095141.jpgI wishing tree where people hang coloured ribbons to get blessings from the Saints, St Kevin in this case, the Irish equivalent to Francis of Assisi. Or from the wee folk, as in small (?) I think meaning fairies and leprechauns etc., not wee as in pee.

20160826_154202.jpg20160826_152505.jpgRowan red berries or Mountain Ash tree. Quick, take photos while the sun is out! No, it’s amazing, 3rd day of brilliant hiking weather already, around 18-20 degrees and partly sunshine. LOVE it. And deserve it I reckon, the amount of shit weather I had on this trip.

20160826_151523.jpgThe heather is so pretty. The mountains are glowing in purple.

20160827_121334.jpg20160827_121341.jpgAnd nothing like 679 steps to get my heart doing overtime and my tongue mopping the ground!

29th August. Yesterday I did 24kms WITH pack. Boy, was I stuffed arriving at the hostel Knockree at 5pm. It was such a beautiful and varied walk though. Below photo is part of the Guinnes Estate. It was so green, I think they use Guinness for watering the lawn. Lets keep drinking to keep that estate so well maintained. Lol…20160828_131332.jpg20160828_130447.jpgLough Tay, lovely views but howling winds.20160828_151926.jpgBit of nice rock….and then sunrise this morning promising another lovely day:20160829_060257.jpgThe colours are totally wrong, the reality was bright red, not yellow. Staying 2 nights at Knockree Hostel gave me time to meander to Powerscourt House & Gardens, the 3rd nicest gardens in the world according to National Geographics. Who knows the top 2 without looking at God google? I love my variety of pure nature and then a bit of manicured occasionaly. The manicured also had excellent food.,20160829_112855.jpg20160829_114205.jpgscreenshot_20160829-171049.png20160829_115828.jpgIt was such a nice day today. I must say that sunshine definitely makes a difference to my mood. I was overwhelmed yet again by gratitude for my incredibly fortunate life. I can just meander about, go where I like, change my mind on a whim, having as many meringues with cream and strawberries as I like.

screenshot_20160830-154300.png20160830_141435.jpg20160831_095529.jpg31st last day of August. Where is the year going? I got a lift back to Glendalough and then started walking South. The last couple of days were going North. Yeah yeah, I’m doing this in a very unorthodocs fashion again. Made it to Glenmalure, which seems to come out as Glenmanure (Guelle-for my German readers). Short day, 15kms. So plenty of time for resting and eating the obligatory meringue with fruit (healthy) and cream (calcium for postmenopausal women, fat to keep bones lubricated), egg white (protein), the only problem, the little bit of sugar (not so healthy).

20160902_152828.jpg

20160831_164524.jpgGlenmanure Lodge! NO smell….

20160830_154449.jpgWell, I want to throw in something completely unrelated. My dear friend Juliette sent me a photo of above label, since her husband Mark only wears designer label clothes! Moth eaten or not, has to be designer (only kidding). Man, this jumper made in one of my former lives must be at least 20 years old. I haven’t knitted, definitely not since I am in Cairns since 2000. Juliette says that quality clothes last a long time! Bless her if I may, for tickling my ego.

Pinch punch, 1st of the month! Today I risked my life twice! Either being killed by a pine tree falling on my head or by being shot. First, after about 8kms into the walk a sign said ‘Road closed, no unauthorised person to pass’. So, what is one to do after having done half the walk and being in the middle of the forest? Walk ahead, ignore the warning is one to do. Forestry workers were felling trees with big machinery and stripping bark. But I waved wildly when I came near and they stopped work and let me through, appearing friendly. Next sign said:20160901_133828.jpgHmmm, looked like a bit of an old sign. And luckily I saw an English couple walking from the other side, having obviously survived. So I took my second chance of being shot! But here I am, having arrived at my next lodging safe and sound. Some of the accommodation in Ireland feels like I’m walking into my grandparent’s home and bedroom, so quaint. 20160901_154411.jpgYou see 2 cups of tea. Not because I’m expecting someone, but because I always make 2 cups from one bag!20160902_080808.jpgBreakfast room.

Yesterday September plans fell into place. I’m going back for another stint at the Wicklow B&B, just 8 days or so while their cleaner is on holidays. 6th to 15th or so. Then booked my flight to Lisbon for the 18th to meet with Bettina from Hamburg and go to the Azore Islands. Very much looking forward now to travel with friends for a while.

2.9.16 Last day of the Wicklow Way. Rolling hills through farmland mainly. This photo could anywhere.

20160902_114145.jpg20160902_120723.jpg

3.9.16 Took a bus to Dublin and a train over to Westport, 3 hours. Crazy probably for distances in Germany, for Australia, you’d say ‘down the road’. I wanted to see and climb Croagh Patrick, the holiest mountain in Ireland.

20160904_123430.jpgThere you see him, now you don’t. 20160904_102556.jpgscreenshot_20160904-132231.pngSt Patrick. If you climb on St Patrick’s day, you get double merits. 20160904_104018.jpgIt was tough going with a lose rocky path demanding very mindful walking, but incredible views. 20160904_111441.jpg20160904_111750.jpgPeople left their names in rock all over the place. And I admit, I only made it up to the ridge, sort if 3/4 way. The last bit was just too steep and fear set in. I could have made it up but was worried about my knees coming down. But there is a T-shirt that says: “Made it up halfway to Croagh Patrick”. Obviously I’m not the only one to turn around. Almost at the bottom I met a group of lovely nuns from Columbia. If they make it all the way up,, they put me to shame. Their robes won’t be as white when they get back, I can tell you. Apparently suffering is good going up there and some people even go barefoot! I never quite get why a God wants you to be in pain. But as we know there are lots of things I don’t get.

screenshot_20160904-132007.pngscreenshot_20160904-132021.pngI think I will post this Blog and might wait with the next one until the Azores. Not much new will happen til then I think. One never knows of course. You can always email if you wonder about my whereabouts.

Much love from me to all of you.

 

 

 

Blog 25 – Work and other bits

8.8.16 Thought I better do the ‘compulsory’ tour, together with 1 million other tourists, to the famous Cliffs of Moher. This is a little pink shop in Doolin for Aran jumpers. The roads are so tight, it’s ridiculous they squeeze buses through. Why not park just outside of the village and let people walk?

20160808_141949.jpgscreenshot_20160808-154230.png8kms of beautiful cliffs, formed 320 million years ago, give or take a mil!

20160808_155127.jpgJust caught a bit of erosion happening there. See the dust, looks like smoke?

20160809_082751.jpgMissing my SMCC (Saturday Morning Coffee Club) members. Very tropical looking coffee shop, with citrus and banana trees and GREAT coffee, called “Jungle Cafe” in Galway.

20160808_102527.jpgMeeeeeee!

screenshot_20160814-070329.pngMet some lovely Austrian travellers the other day and we mentioned that Australia and Austria seems to get mixed up often (?) and so the Austrians came up with this T-shirt…….ahhhh funny I think.

Getting serious now, splashed out and bought 50 Euros worth of clothes today, including a pair of shoes. Yes, did well. Thought I can’t work 2-3 weeks in a B&B in my hiking boots.

20160809_124658.jpg20160818_125756.jpgscreenshot_20160818-125842.pngDublin seems like a lively great city. Must explore it more on my days off. Here she goes, hasn’t even started work and already thinking about days off. It’s only 40 mins train ride from Wicklow. I caught up with Marie tonight, another lovely person I met on the retreat. She took me for dinner to their favorite Italian restaurant. Yummmm.

10.8.16 Meeting employer at 11am today and woke up with Laryngitis! NO voice……what the???? Kind of funny when you travel alone, I only noticed that I couldn’t speak when trying to say goodbye at the hostel. But bought a great spray at the chemist and throat almost instantly better.

14.8.16 I had put 7th in the date this whole blog. Tells you I’m on holidays, no idea of time and date. Would NOT score well on any dementia tests! So, already on the 4th day at my B&B “Workaway” job. The owners Trish and Ian

20160820_114746.jpgare so lovely and chilled. They are very understanding of my back issue, and slight cold and cough and just let me plotter on in my time. They are running two B&B houses at present, one is leased (8 rooms) and the lease might run out at the end of this months and the other one is their house that they are moderating to run as a B&B for 5 rooms, but is functional sort of already. It works out that I help with breakfast at the big one, clean up the kitchen etc then have time off and then be available in the afternoons for check ins, which frees Trish up to be at the new place to get it organised and go shopping or whatever. Over lunch I can explore Wicklow or sleep! Needed a bit of that, cause, boy, this working thing! VERY tiring! Most of you would know this, but I had forgotten! LOL! No, I have been kind of unwell and my back still blablabla. But on one of my lunchtime meanderings I met Sammy:

20160812_145330.jpgSammy the seal hangs around Wicklow harbour just outside the Lighthouse Restaurant and eats too much bad food like the rest of us!

Then I visited Wicklow jail, a gruesome place and very interesting. Apparently full of spooks.

20160811_143410.jpg20160811_142728.jpgWomen’s health improved it says when put on the treadmill for punishment. We’re paying high gym fees these days to be on a treadmill…..

Only the Botanists amongst you need to read the next bit. An eternity ago, when walking the Via Algarvinia in Portugal I had asked if anyone knows the name of a particularly beautiful shrub. No one knew and fancy I saw it again today in the famous Mt Usher Gardens and found out the name: Acacia Baileyana, or Cootamundra Wattle, a tree fom NSW in Australia! 20160815_141220.jpgIt has all these beautiful shades of purple but when in flower goes really yellow. Bit of trivia but there you have it. Annegret, you tried to help me out then with long lists of possibilities, remember?

I think I post this Blog as nothing very exciting happens while you’re working. We had 2 more workers arrive yesterday, a lovely young French couple. There are plans for more heavy work for those 2, furniture removals, gardening, window cleaning etc.

20.8.16 Still not clear if the lease will be renewed or not. Trish and Ian are amazing, how relaxed they can stay with this uncertainty. It would stress me out to the max. I mean it’s 10 days to the end of the month. Not sure how long I’m staying. Maybe another week. I have no REAL plans til I meet up on the 19/9 with my friend Bettina in Lisbon to fly to the Azores. Do you think I will some summer this year? I’m allowed to go back to the Schengen countries as of 31/8. I might walk the Wicklow Way (127kms) before I leave Ireland. This area is supposed to be beautiful and I haven’t see any of it yet. Work, work work…..you know the one! (imagine a Smiley Face if I’d know how to put one into a Blog). Then I had also planned a bit of the Camino Norte in Spain. Haven’t walked now for a month and unfit again! Man, where does the time go? I had a fantastic treatment called Amatsu Therapy, some Japanese injury treatment. All the rage over here. Had never heard of it before. But he (Lee) did my back a world of good. Having another one today. I spent lots of money on my back. But as Christa used to say: if you think health is expensive try illness!

Well, two weeks has gone by since my last posting and some of you are wondering where I am. So, I better post this as nothing more exciting is about to happen!

Love you and leave you…..til next posting.