Friday, October 26, 2007

Ice fast run

The weather has been decidedly wintery this last week or so in Germany. It was been as cold as -2 degrees at night with max temps climbing up to a not-so-balmy 4 degrees which has taken some getting used to. The good news is that the house is very warm and cosy, and when you go for a run in 2 degrees you don't get up too much of a sweat! Michelle, my Aussie friend was here for a few days this week. She had been in Salzburg last weekend and I had a SOS message from her when she found herself in the midst of a winter wonderland, snowing for 3 days and she didn't know what to do...she definitely didn't have the clothing for such weather and so she jumped on a train bound for Germany.
We had some pretty funny days, I tried to take her up the mountains to show her how pretty it is around here....about 5km from home we encountered a pea-soup like fog. We persisted, drove up there and in the end could not really see past our toes....bit of a shame! She was not too sad to say goodbye and head home to some Sydney sunshine after 10 weeks of travel.
Tonight we went to watch the Deutsche Meisterschaft Eisschnelllaufen (literally ice-fast-run) normal speak, German National Speed Skating Championships.... It was a bit of a thrill for me...I have never seen speed skating live and it is just so fast! The ice was like glass, and the skaters were great to watch, I even got to see a crash. I did the appropriate sport spectator things (German style anyway)...ate bratwurst and drank Gluhwein...and had to leave when I hadn't been able to feel my toes for 20mins.
This weather isn't super motivating for bike riding but I have been doing a bit to get back into it. Hopefully the weather forecast isn't wrong and there will be some sign of sunshine and temperature in the double-digits...this little Aussie is hopeful :)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Home time

The holidays are over and I am back 'home' in Germany, time to adjust back to 'normal' life (I'm not sure that I know what one of those entails!).
The last days in Rome were fantastic. The days flew by in a whirl of ancient ruins, amazing museums, cappuccino's, great pasta, yummy pastries, delicious gelati, creamy cafe macchiato's, smooth red wines....this list definitely has a bias towards items of an edible or drinkable nature and that is not really an accident. We ate and drank hours away, interspersed with walking at least 15km a day through the winding backstreets that make up Rome. It is no surprise that we did some of the eating whilst on the was the only way to fit it all in!
We managed to see all the sights and were lucky on more than one occasion. I did a little 'woe is me' time after having to wait more than 2 hours to get into the Vatican Museums and then realised how lucky we had been when we stopped for a bite to eat on the way home and it began pouring with rain, a surprise afternoon downpour came from vibrant blue skies. The pour sods who were still waiting in line would have been soaked....what to do in that situation? Do you stand and get wet through because you've already been waiting 2 hours or abandon post? Luckily we didn't have to make that decision as we were in a cafe with Gunnar silently pleading with the staff to serve me asap (a certain someone gets a little cranky when the blood sugar drops!).
I could write pages on all that we did and saw but I can just summarise and say that Rome is overwhelming in so many ways...the amount of: history, amazing buildings, crazy women driving in stillettos on a vespa, good coffee available at every corner, well-dressed Italian men (love a man in a suit!), great, fresh food etc etc. We finished off our trip with drinks in Villa Borgehese watching the sun go down, dinner at a little Osteria we found which had fantastic pasta and then gelati at a gelateria we couldn't believe we hadn't found earlier (probably a lucky thing).
Now it is time for reflection on the season of racing, time to get things in order for next year and enjoy my last weeks in Europe. As much as I look forward to being in one place, I tend to get restless after 4 or 5 days so we will see how it goes :) I was thinking about where I have been this year..apart from Australia I have raced in Germany, Holland, Italy, France, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Poland, Sweden, Canada and Belgium this year. I have been able to explore Prague, Slovenia and Rome and am soon to visit Bellagio on Lake Como. How am I ever going to settle down to a normal life? That will be a challenge indeed :)

Friday, October 12, 2007

Just a short post to wish uncle Graham a very Happy Birthday for Sunday....whatever you do get up to, I hope you enjoy it :) For aunty Cheryl, we did have gelati from the place close to Trevi Fountain last night....the meringue with hazelnuts was spectacular :)
Have a good weekend everybody

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The craziness that is Rome

I have journeyed some to Rome, a crazy, fascinating and enchanting city. My Sydney friends, Sam and Heather McGovern are based here for a few months for work and it has been great to see them and see how well they have integrated themselves into the city. I think it is well and truly agreeing with them....Heather has charmed all the local old men, from doorman to butcher and Sam has nearly figured out the direct route to the best gelati in Rome. The weather has been much more agreeable than in the more northern parts of Europe....sunshine and 25 degrees which for this Aussie is just about spot on.
The first few days I was not too much of a tourist, I enjoyed following Sam around through the little streets from the laundromat to the fresh food market and in search of a 'good' bike shop in order to find out how it is possible to go for a decent bike ride in this city. All of these tasks involve passing the many 'sites' of Rome...Piazza del Popolo is a stone's throw from their 'home', the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona, Via del Corso...and numerous other amazing old buildings and churches....there is just too many to know the names of them all. One of the treats has been staying with people who have already explored and know where the best local cafes, delis and restaurants are. It saves playing hit and miss and means enjoying plenty of fantastic fresh Italian food, wine, coffee and gelato every day....what a life!
Gunnar arrived last night and today we played tourist. With backpack in tow be headed off to the Vatican to try and get a glimpse of the Sistine Chapel and St Peters Basilica. We were prepared that it would be busy but we were overwhelmed with just how many people there were. A 3 hr long wait to get into the Vatican Museums to see the Sistine Chapel and 2+hrs just to get into the church. We were not super enthused about this, so took in the piazza and headed off for other city sites with plans to get up very early for the lines tomorrow.
We have had a great day taking in everything, and we still have dinner tonight to look forward to, always an experience within itself.
I can't wait to get 'home' to Germany and post some photos of my last weeks of adventures.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Lovely Ljubjlana

It is my morning of departure from Slovenia and I am sad to be leaving. As with most places that you travel to, you think that of course you will be back again but often that is not the case...there are so many places to see and explore in the world.
Since my last blog we had some more amazing days in Bled and its surroundings. Lake Bohinj is gorgeous, and the hiking around the area was beautiful. We had planned to do a big walk for the day but unfortunately I was the weakest link. It happens to me at the end of every cycling season, I attempt to do some other form of exercise and end up hobbling around for days after pushing those muscles I haven't used for more than 6 months a little too far. On this holiday, I am not sure what I did but I woke up on Wednesday morning and my right quad was not happy with me at all. Walking on the flat or uphill was fine but going down was terrible, I had to do a funky kind of hop just to get down to breakfast. Due to this we had to settle for hiking up to a waterfall and then around one side of the was a lovely day again and the 10km or so that we did was satisfying enough.
The next day in Bled we headed out to Vintgar Gorge, the walk from Bled out throught the little villages, surrounded by the mountains was a great way to start the morning and the gorge was all that is cracked up to be. We finished the day off with hiring mountain bikes and riding around the lake....all in all another happy day in Slovenia.
On Friday we caught the bus here to Ljubjlana...we had booked to stay at Hostel Celica, which is the place to stay here. It was previously a prison and has been renovated, with the help of 18 top Slovenian artists to become the coolest hostel I have ever stayed in. Some of the rooms are the more traditional dorms but the first level is the converted 'cells'...quite an experience. We explored Ljubjlana in the late afternoon and followed the masses by pulling up a stool at one of the many bars next to the river and drank some of the local beer, 'Union' while people watching. Saturday we awoke to the sound of heavy rain...for Michelle it was a bit of a godsend, she has been travelling for more than 7 weeks and was in need to an enforced down day. We have been so lucky with the weather, at this time of year you have to be grateful for every day of sunshine you get, so we weren't too worried. We did venture out into the rain to check out the fruit and vege markets...very worthwhile but we were soaked and spent the rest of the morning drying out, reading on the couches in the cafe in the hostel.
So now I head to Rome...I'm very much looking forward to this week as well. I am so glad that I decided to come to Slovenia, I would be back here in a feels like much more than a week since I left Stuttgart which for me is the sign of a good holiday :)
Photos still to come....

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Beautiful Bled

It has been a long time since my last blog and so much has happened....Tuscany for racing, Novellara for visiting, Stuttgart for spectating and now I am in Bled, Slovenia for some holiday time.
My uni friend Mich and I arrived here early on Monday morning after quite a comic train trip from Stuttgart.

The first day here we walked around the lake which is incredible, sussed out the town, walked up to Bled Castle for a fantastic view over the region and then rowed out to Bled island and rang the bell in the church for luck...its the thing to do. Yesterday we joined a group for the 'Emerald River Adventure', there were 2 van's of us, and not surprisingly all but two in the group were Aussies...can't escape them. We did some hiking in several beautiful spots, climbed up to waterfalls, white-water rafted down the Soča river (beautiful green colour), fell into the 6 degree water several times, watched a few of the others jump off a 14m high bridge into the 6 degree water (one of the girls bent her legs at the last minute and had some big bruises down the front of both legs from where they hit the water, ouch!), caught a car-train through a tunnel that cut through the mountains, drank some local beer, ate some local soup for lunch and met some really nice people. We were away for 11 hours and it was a fanastic day. We have been blessed with sunshine, clear skies and no wind....there is that lovely mountain freshness in the air in the mornings and evenings and the days are glorious. Can't wait to post some photos....
Today we are going out to a place called Lake Bohinj for some exploring and some hiking. I am sold on Slovenia already, the people are lovely, the autumn colours are magic, the scenery spectacular. On Friday we head to Ljubjlana for 2 nights and then Mich travels on to Croatia and I catch the train to Rome via Venice. I am back in Germany in just under 2 still some adventures to be had :)