Monday, September 22, 2014

Sunday in Venice - Rowing and meeting up with Marion

This is our last full day in Venice as tomorrow is a travel day yet again ... it has been nice to be in the one spot for a week!!

Having tracked down "Row Venice" we  were lined up to go rowing on the canals today! A group of young people who have some older Venetian boats - not Gondolas but somewhat similar, konwn as "Batelas" - give the punters a chance to row themselves around the canals of Cannaregio, with one of them firmaly in command at the back!! This meant we had to catch the Vap at Celestia for the couple of stops to Orto. We were a little early so we joined the start of 11 am mass at Chiesa della Madonna dell'Orto which was complete with Baptism! Just like being in St. Vincent's!!!

At 11:30 our batela and guide promptly returned from the previous outing and after being shown the finer points of providing the engine power to a Gondola (the brains, steering and control all rest with the guide at the back) we set off for a splendid hour and a half! We had felt that the actual Gondolas were just a touch tacky, akin to a ride around Central Park in NYC in a horse and carriage ... great for a romcom movie but a bit cheezy in real life! - so were happy to raise a real sweat!!! We navigated the various canals of Cannaregio and ventured out into the misty Laguna for a short while as well. Mick, of course, hammed it up by singing  something remotely resembling a Gondoleri song and we had a lot of fun!! It was vry well worth doing!

Back home for a late lunch and a snooze before heading out to catch up with Marion Gifford who was to arive around 6:30. We had a couple of beers while waiting and really enjoyed seeing Marion emerge from the crowds around 7:15, after a somewhat difficult travel day - she is certainly the intrepid traveller!! Acting as tour guides we steered through San Marco and along the Rives before sharing a most pleasant meal at one of our regular haunts!! There was much sharing of travellers tales and laughter before, after leaving Marion at her hotel we fell into bed around 11:30.

Tomorrow, as a "big" travel day sees us catching the Alilaguna at 12 for the trip to the airport when Emirates will whisk us to Dubai (5.45 hours); 3 hours wait thence to Sydney (13.50 hours) where we arrive around 10 pm on Tuesday!! ... see you then!!!

Saturday - Peggy, Dorsoduro, Valvaldi & Montiverdi - real magic!

A slightly slower start on a cloudy, cool  Saturday had us heading via the "1" to Accademia to go to Peggy Guggenheim's beautiful place. We have said often before that the best way to experience art is via an intelligent (and rich!) person's private collection!!
This was certainly no exception to this rule! Peggy collected in the 1940s and the examples of Picasso, Klee, Kandinsky, Brancusi, Pollock etc. really knocked your socks off! The enhancement and intimacy provided by such a lovely small space really made this a special experience ... we really loved it!!!

Home for salad, cheese, proscuitto and beer before a siesta to prepare us for the evening!

This was one of those magic times that just seem to happen!! ......

Having read about Campa Santa Margherita, a large square in Dorsoduro, we made this our base (guided by Lonely Planet) for the evening. First we had a beer and coctail at "Imagina Cafe" around 6, then we headed into the square to "Cantina di Millevini" a wine merchant with good food. We snaffled an outside table and just sat there for several hours eating lovely cicheti (Italian tapas) and watched Italian life unfold before us. The square was full of Italian families just enjoying the Saturday evening.
Kids playing everywhere, a group of mothers catching up over a glass of wine next to us, young families pushing and carrying infants ... lots of lovely noise and life - it was just like being in a village! This carried on until it became dark around 8 when the families gradually slipped away and the young people began to slowly gather for the evening. Mick had several glasses of the best wine we have had since leaving home and we had a great time talking and watching.

We had to slip away around 8:15 for our evening's entertainment. Monteverdi Madrigals in Scuola Grande di San Rocco, just nearby! This was a French group "Les Arts Florissants" who presented a great program accompanied by a chamber group using period instruments. The rooom, which we had visited yesterday is full of Tintorettos (at least 15 really big ones in the upper room alone!), and was a wonderful place to absorb the beautiful music.
We had stumbled across this almost by accident and it was truly one of those pearls of this trip.

We wandered back to Millevini for a nightcap - the square was really pumping by now with a very different beat!! - before the Vap from Ca' Rezzonico and home,
 wonderfully tired, around midnight!!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Thursday and Friday - Murano, St. Marks and San Polo

Thursday was beautifully sunny and warm and we had decided to get up early and head for the islands - viz. Murano and its glass!
We walked to F. te Nove, which saves a lot of boat time and were actually on Murano quite early. With the aid of Lonely Planet we enjoyed a wander, a gander and the chance to buy genuine (hopefully) Murano glass as gifts for some of those at home!
The day was particularly warm and pleasant so we just took our time. Coming home again around 2:30 for a snooze makes it all quite relaxing and, after trying a much better cafe for "Free Wi-Fi" and catching up with the internet - we managed to "skip the queue" for St. Mark's and book "Learn to be a Gondolier" for Sunday morning (rather than forking out for what seems like a rather tacky ride around Central Park in a horse and buggy!!) - we bought some steak and vegetables and had a lovely meal "at home", for a change!

(A couple of Mick's reflections that we wouldn't want to lose ...
- You could almost  leave your camera on automatic - everywhere you look there is something unusual and usually beautiful. The colours and the light are amazing. The challenge is to really look and to be present here rather than trying to hold it in your hands for later!
- Mick loves the bidet!! As the Don used to say: "I never enjoy batting on a sticky wicket"!!)

Friday was up earlyish and out to St Mark's for 9:45. The ticket swept us through and we really enjoyed a couple of hours here - it is amazing how many people are in and out in around half an hour!
We happened across a simple Mass, celebrated by an old priest who seemed a nice man! This was in the "Blessed Sacrament Chapel" an extraordinary, very small area with exquisite mozaics! While all the aspects of Catholicism may no longer appeal, it is wonderful to be "a part of a tribe" and we joined in the "Celtic Alleluia" and Mick led the troops with "Ave Verum" (in Latin thank goodness) luckily with the music to guide us!

A "Venetian ship" exploit for Mike Britton led us to San Polo and Gilberto Penzo's shop of Venetian nautical models and plans. Gilberto was most helpful (Elaine felt that he understood much more English than he was letting on!!) but he didn't have the models that Mike wanted. Still this exploit led us to investigate the area a bit more and we dropped into "Santa Maria Glorisa dei Friari" to pay homage at the tomb of Titian and to be awed by his an Tintoretto's paintings. As it was just next door, we dropped into "Scuola Grande di San Rocco" to give thanks to St. Roch for delivering Venice from the Plague - again in some pretty exalted company!!

Being rather weary by now, we put our masterplan into action and headed home on the Vaporetto for beer, salad lunch and a snooze! 

Out again around 5:30 for provisions and free wi-fi (you only have to pay for the beer!!) where we spent an hour catching up with the world and making sure that we have the next few days organised. Copying the maps for the rowing, writing to the kids about family Friday etc. A sudden thunderstorm cleared the decks quickly and we just beat it home! Again we cooked ourselves and enjoyed some wine at home. When we went out for a Friday night walk afterwards things were very quiet indeed!
We wandered around Arsenale for an hour or so and came home to bed around 10!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Wednesday in Venice - Il Doge, Il Trovotore and Il Siesta!!

IWith the prospect of an afternoon snooze in the offing we were both happy to get up early and be waiting at the door of the Palazzo Ducale when it opened
at 8:30!! 
We beat the crowds in by a long way and thouroughly enjoyed a leisurely look around with the audio guides.Some of the rooms are amazing - even just in size! To gradually get an idea of the role this Palace, the Doge, the Council of Ten etc. have played in the history of this unusual place was very worthwhile. The armoury left anything we have seen elsewhere for dead and Mick "sighed" as he headed
 for his prison cell!

Using our Museo Pass we then visited Museo Correr which, while a touch pedantic, had some marvellous historical items and art and, on the way to the Vaporetto, called in to the Chiesa di Santo Maria del Giglio (using our Church pass) where Elaine was swept off her feet by the Reubens (that's P.P.) "Mary with St. John" in the small chapel.

Enough for this morning, so home on the boat, beer and a lovely salad meal (at the "water window") before a snooze while most of the shops are shut anyway!!

Up, showered, dressed up we walked to the "Teatro La Fenice" for "Il Trovotore" starting at 7 - Elaine walked there in her thongs (the ones on her feet!), carrying her high heels and changed just before we got there! We were in our element this time with everyone dressed up - our seats, however, were right up in the Gods but we could still see and hear very well thank goodness! It was another wonderful production with the music and the orchestra being really top class! The singing was pretty good too and we thoroughly enjoyed it. 

Afterwards we stumbed across a really pleasant small enoteca just a few calles away and had a lovely meal before the Vaporetta home and tumbled into bed around 12:30!!

Settling in to Venice!

Tuesday was another glorious day - probably the best weather of the whole trip!! We both slept late and woke around
. It was great being able to make our own breakfast coffee with a stovetop "Italian style" coffee maker in this remarkable flat. 

The place has about four rooms and could sleep another couple. It is on the ground floor and actually has a "water window" a large opening window giving us our private space directly onto the canal - if Kathy were here she could dive in for her morning swim!! OK, so it isn't the Grand Canal but it is a canal!! The rest has all mod cons (except the internet!!) and is really most comfortable and spacious.

Needing to get Venice's measure we decided to take control so headed for San Marco and a "Tourist " place. This was  actually only a place selling "tours" but after reading up we bought 7 day Vaporetto tickets (€60), Church and Museum passes (€12 & €16) so now we have to make sure we use them! With the San Marco crowds being so huge we decided to jump onto a Vaporetto for a Grand Canal ride. It was really very crowded and the stops took quite a long time with so many getting on and off- but still it was worth it. We jumped off at Biasio and began to explore that area and to head for the Rialto Markets.

We are beginning to appreciate just how much there is to this lovely place and that each area has its own delights! After some meandering we found the fish markets, which were just packing up, and had a most delightful fish meal at a little stand-up modeern fishy place (no bread in sight, thank  God!).  Deciding that we need to get into the local mode we walked back home and had a beer and a siesta!! It is amazing how the place just shuts down around 1:30 pm (except for the tourist places) and comes to life again around five! 

Having been refreshed by a little vino and cheese at our "water window" we headed out again for a "Lonely Planet" recommendation that was close to San Marco. We had a lovely meal in a little "out of the way" place - most pleasant! We then cased out Teatro La Fenice (for the Opera tomorrow night) we walked to Accademia, caught the Vaporetto back to Arsanele and fell into bed!!!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A quiet last day in Berlin and travelling to Venice!

With the church bells chiming each hour we began a pretty leisurely start to our last day in Berlin. We needed to pack pretty precisely for Air Berlin and are pretty tired so we opted for an easy day - we need to leave some things to come back for!!

We took the chance to ring people at home and arranged for Todd to come up to Mitte for dinner before heading out to Maur (aka "Wall") Park where there is a huge "trash and treasure" market. This was  good insight although there wasn't much to entice us, we did, however, complete our "presents" catalogue with ease! A quick dash into the city to pick one  last thing for Les then home about 4:30 - central Berlin really does shuit down on a Sunday! Galleries Lafayette was closed ... how would DJs keep the shareholders happy??

With the usual pre-travelling restless night behind us (aka Mick's anxieties!) we were up at 6:30 and out the door by 7:30. We took the "U" to Alexanderplatz and the Tegel airport bus which meandered around the whole city before dropping us, choc-a-block by this stage, at Tegel around 8:20

Sorting Air Berlin was easy enough (if a bit like leaving Wagga!) and we arrived uneventfully inat Marco Polo airport in Venice around 12. We rang Brigitte from a payphone and caught the Vaporetto (after about a 40 min wait!). This is indeed a lovely, gently-paced introduction to Venice even though our path took us via Lido rather than San Marco. It took a good 90 minutes but gave us plenty of time to orient ourselves using the maps. 

When we alighted at Arsenale, there was no sight of Brigitte but it has to be said that you couldn't have waited in many nicer places in the world!!! San Marco and San Giorgio Maggiore in the background and the sun shining and warm!!!! Mick borrowed the phone from a Melbourne couple and rang Brigette, who had met the 2 pm ferry, she scuttled down and all was well. Aflat walk (only one bridge!) with clear instructions - left at the Photographiers; right at the canal; cross the bridge opposite the Church; left at "the Lion"; past the free Wi-Fi and down the passageway! Easypeasy!!

The weather was glorious so we immediately unpacked and headed out to check out the supermarket etc, The Coop is a bit ordinary but we at least purchased milk and coffee and a nearby fruitshop had some much better fruit, As we hadn't had lunch we had some lovely bruschetta and a beer (much dearer here than elsewhere!!). Home again for a little while than exploring the various ways to San Marco - the crowds there, to put it mildly, are overwhelming but we wandered for a while, had a beer in one of the outrageously priced places (just for the sake of it!! .. 15 Euro each!!), some pizza at a much smaller nicer place on the way home and collapsed into bed, after a lovely, luxurious bath!!!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

A visit to the "Fertile Crescent" and the Berlin Phil!!

We travelled briefly to the near East today with a visit to the amazing Permagon Museum
which has this incredible collection of huge (and I do mean "huge"!!) items from ancient Assyrian and other near-eastern ancient civilizations. Happily forewarned by Tripadvisor that it was best to by one's ticket online, we jumped the queue and walked straight in!!

To say it is jaw-dropping is an understatement! The size of the displays is monumental and extremely impressive. Interestingly, the "Elgin marbles" issue seems not to be an issue here as it is apparent that if this stuff wasn't here and being looked after it probably would have been destroyed completely by now. Also much of what strikes you is reconstruction around the pieces that have been so painstakingly put together by sheer German doggedness and efficiency!! The Islamic art section is also very good and the "businessman's entrance rooms" display was extraordinary too!

Feeling that we should at least visit (and in search of a recommended toy shop) we journeyed to Charlottenburg, where we walked around (to the toyshop and back to the train) for an hour or so. How very different this is to Mitte. In the divided city, this became the centre of the "West" and there are lots of trees and a large collection of high-end boutique stores (at least where we walked). It was good to see it and the train certainly made it very easy. We were soon back in Hackescher Markt for some serious shopping - we have recently discovered the "golden triangle" of shopping hidden away here!

A beer at our local, a shower and a brief rest before heading out for the Berlin Philharmonic!!
We had a glorious time perched up behind the orchestra on the 8 Euro benches!! (We could have reached over and played the glockenspiel without moving!!!) The program was part of "Musikfest Berlin" and featured Conductor, Peter Eotvos, and "The Barefoot Fiddler", aka Patricia Kopatchinskaja, whom Elaine had seen a couple of times with the ACO in recent years. Being so close to the orhestra was wonderful .. you almost feel part of the percussion section!!!

A meal and a beer in the ultra-modern Sony Centre at Potsdamer Plaza before wearily home via the S and the M1 to a sound, sound sleep!!!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

How Good was that?! Magic Flute and Jazz.

We were actually up pretty early (for us!) as we were heading to Hackscher Markt for a walking tour with one of Todd's mates. Unfortunately there was a bit of a mix-up and he was doing the full-day "Concentration Camp" tour today and we didn't really have a full day.
It was, overcast, cool and drizzly so we decided to head home and do the washing!
The laundromat is close by and had all the hallmarks of German efficiency - so, fortified with our books and coffee, we did a couple of loads!

A snooze in the afternoon before heading out to one of the real highlights of this trip!! The Komiche Opera has a reputation for present more traditional works (from Mozart to Rodgers and Hammerstein) in new and engaging ways - Barrie Kosky is leading it currently!
Tonight was "The Magic Flute" - the music and singing were as Mozart decreed (pretty much) but the presentation integrated the whole story within a very clever video animation.
It worked extremely well and we both thought it was one of the best things we have ever seen! It was wonderful to see so many kids being introduced to real Opera as well - a truly top night!

Our guide and mentor, Trip Advisor, when quizzed about "Berlin Jazz" had indicated "b Flat" which happens to be about three hundred metres from our place!! So on the way home, we dropped in to catch a couple of sets!
It was a crowded, thankfully smoke-free, dingy, warm and fun!! Tonight was Rolf Zielke teaming up with "human beatbox" Daniel Ferreira. We sat with a lovely group of young Germans and enjoyed it a lot.

A stroll home, with a filafel roll, and into bed at 1:15!!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Berlin - Thursday some Art and more Todd!

We took some moving again today and were up and out a little late - perhaps understandable as this is a long campaign!! We had a Museum focus so headed for Museum Island where the queues  for the Permagon were two hours long, so, on the advice of Trip Advisor, we decided to book a slot for Saturday online later.
We took in the incredible range of architectural styles on the Island and poked our noses into the Cathedral (the "Dom") before walking through the business district to "Checkpoint Charlie" to complete our Berlin Wall tour from yesterday. This part is a bit more touristy but still worth seeing - it really is incredible imagining what it must have been like with a city divided so coldly ... we have made an intention to re-read "The Spy Who Came in from the Cold"!

Intent on art we headed to the Kulturforum and the Gemaldegalerie which houses "one of the world's best collections of European art from the 13th to the 18th Centuries".
There were actually very few people here and the collection is quite amazing with all the heavyweights (especially the Dutch) featuring strongly. You could take fifteen frames from any room and put them in an exhibiton in the NGA in Canberra and the Hume Highway would be chockers with tour buses, but here it was just a few of us!!! It is quite an extraordinary experience to have such access to pieces by Botticelli, Titian and everyone else on the list - what a wonderful place to live this would be!!!!

We dropped into the Philharmonia Hall,
just on the off chance, and lo and behold there were tickets left for the Berlin Philharmonic on Saturday night!!! (only 8 Euro each .. up behind the orchestra on benches, but who cares!!!). We headed home on the 200 had a beer, caught up online, and headed out to meet Todd in a different area of Kreuzberg for schnitzel. We all enjoyed the biggest schnitzel imaginable, at least the size of two and a half dinner plates. It was good to see and talk with Todd again, especially as we are tied up the next two evenings.

Home on the "U" to a cup of tea and a deep, deep sleep .... lots of snoring from the  tired duo!!!