Okay, this is another long one, but be comforted by the fact that I only have two weeks left, so there won’t be too many more after this one. Please hang in there!!!
Ciao tutti (Hello all),
I know I keep repeating this, but I just don’t know where the days are going!!! Already since my last email I spent 3 nights in Prague (Czech Republic), 3 nights in Salzburg (Austria), 3 nights in Vienna (Austria), 6 nights in Monza (just outside Milan, Italy), 3 nights in Venice and tonight I am in Trieste, Italy!!!
I will start with Prague..which again was just magical! The weather was absolutely spectacular…incredible blue skies and a cool temperature of 22 degrees! I had a wonderful time. While there I navigated my way around to all the fabulous sights again (Charles Bridge, the Prague Castle, St Vitus Cathedral, the Astronomical clock, the Old Town Square and many others). Yes, I actually found them on my own!!! Ros will be so impressed! This time I climbed the Old Town Hall tower and the view was breathtaking. Again I was lucky enough to be there when the bugle boy played his tune!! He was a sweetie and even posed for a photo with me.
People waiting for the Clock to chime on the hour (photo above)
(Wall on the stairway to the toilets in the shopping centre)
As I wandered along one of the streets, I became so excited as in the distance I thought I saw my elusive ‘principe azzuro” (Blue Prince)!!! However on closer inspection, he was a very scary looking red one!!
I once again contacted my Prague friend Adriana (who I had met in Venice) and not only did she invite me into her home for a traditional Czech dinner but she also gave me a traditional Czech present – a beautiful Austrian crystal drinking glass!!!! The generosity of the people I have met is simply incredible!!
Her wonderful 16 year old daughter Linda even took the afternoon off school to come on a tour with me to the town of Kutna Hora. Linda was interested in photography and Australia, so we got along fabulously. As part of the tour, we stopped at a small village (Sedlec) which has one of the most unusual burial places in the world (Ossuary). The chapel was decorated by more than 40,000 human bones!!! I am not kidding…freaky!!! They had chandeliers, a coat of arms for one of the noble families and all sorts of decorations inside the chapel made out of bones. I had to smile when I saw some Japanese tourists posing for photos beside the skeletons! Not exactly the most charming of backdrops. Can you picture that hanging on their wall at home???
From Prague I then made my way by train to Salzburg, Austria. I have previously said I ‘love’ public transport as it has been a source of making many new friends. Well, this trip was no different!!! I met the lovely Kathie & Jimmy (from Boston, US) at the Train Station when I helped them work out which platform our train left from. Yes, a risk for them, I know. They had no idea that I had once caught the ‘wrong’ train and was maybe not the most reliable source???
I then sat in the train carriage with Julio & his wife (from Brazil). Julio called me their ‘Angel’ as I also helped them work out their train carriage and seats J. Julio was a physician in Obstetrics & Gynecology who also wrote books on the topics. While I was impressed, I did not feel the need to write down the name of any of his books for future reference!!! I also spent an hour chatting to a lovely girl from Vienna, Birgit (yes, another Facebook friend!!).
Salzburg was simply beautiful!!! The first day I went on a Sound of Music Tour, which was just fantastic. We were driven around to all the famous locations which had appeared in the ‘Sound of Music’ Movie, all the while listening to the classic songs “Do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do……The hills are alive with the sound of music…..Climb every Mountain…” and receiving a fabulous commentary explaining how the film was made. I loved it!! I did manage to refrain myself from the strongest urge to sing aloud, but inside I was bursting with song!!!!
And of course, to top it all off, I did meet another lovely American lady on the tour, Virginia. Virginia also wrote books!! Children’s books this time. HHmm, was a little more comfortable to discuss these types of books! And it was amazing that her son was a professional photographer and she was also interested in photography!!! Yes, we are keeping in contact.
I spent my second day in Salzburg walking around the streets, soaking up the atmosphere, and visiting the Hohensalzburg fortress, Mirabell gardens…and maybe just a couple of shops!!
Then it was off to Vienna. I loved Vienna even more the second time I visited the city!! I realized that I take in so much more of the surroundings when I have to navigate myself around. Obviously a good thing when one needs to find their Hotel again at the end of the day!!!
I had the most incredible “Serendipity” moment in Vienna!!! I was standing at a set of traffic lights waiting to cross the road and was flicking through the photos on my camera while I waited. I then looked up and started to cross the road and couldn’t believe my eyes when I bumped into Kathie & Jimmy (the American couple I met on the train ride to Salzburg)!!! We all hugged in the middle of the road and then went off and had a coffee together!!! I felt such a connection with them. Poor things though. I don’t think I stopped talking for the whole hour and a half we were together.
And the other great thing - When I was in Vienna with Ros and Mel, I had seen a very nice ring but didn’t buy it. You know the “no regrets” purchasing motto of Mel’s. Well, I had regretted not buying it and couldn’t find it again in any other country. Well, I can quite happily say that I now have NO REGRETS!!! I found and purchased my lovely little pink ring!!!! HHhmmm, plus maybe a few other nice things I found whilst dawdling through the shops…..
While in Vienna, I thought I should do another day trip somewhere, so this time I chose a day tour to Bratislava, Slovakia!!! An hour’s bus trip to ANOTHER country!!! How awesome is that!! It’s like dragging out your passport before you drive to Port Douglas!!! This time I met a lovely young New Zealand couple and an elderly Australian man from Sydney, John. John was a retired lawyer who had also written 30 books on law and the legal system. Yes, another writer!! John was well travelled and I really enjoyed chatting to him. He had the loveliest smile that lit up his face every time I told him about my adventures. And yes, the OMM – ‘Old Man Magnet’ was on again!! John was a 78 year old ‘pensioner’!!!
And then it was time to fly to Milan to stay with my fabulous relations again!!! Do I need to even say it??? My ‘Royal’ bed was made up for me and I was waited on again!!! I so love my new cousins!!! Their hospitality, generosity and kindness had no boundaries. We went for walks/bike rides in the park, a wander through the markets, a drive up to the mountains; we visited even more relations, and ate continuously!!!
The night before my birthday we had a lovely family dinner and then all of a sudden they appeared carrying the most beautiful cake, singing “Happy Birthday” (both in Italian and English) and carrying armfuls of presents!!! Wow, Wow, Wow!!! Very very special!!! I wish I could bring them all back to Australia with me (I’m talking about my relations, not the presents. Obviously, I am bringing back the presents!!!).
I left for Venice the morning of my birthday (13th). Yes, there were tears and many hugs at the train station. I am so going to miss them. And yes, once again the train trip was a great one. I met a lovely Italian lady Dora from Milan who was very complimentary regarding my age when I told her it was my birthday. Her word was “meraviglia” (a marvel). She said I looked 28!!! Okay, okay…I know I look 38 (??), but I was very appreciative of the compliment. She was a retired teacher who also loved photography. How funny is this – she was heading to Trieste (which is where I am now) to attend a friend’s “book publishing” ceremony. This was now the fourth person who I met in short succession that had something to do with books!! Is there a sign here???
And then I arrived in Bella Venezia!!! My birthday treat was a 3 day “girls” weekend in Venice!! Over the past 4 months I have kept in contact with a lovely German lady Tamara who I became friends with during my Italian classes in Siena. We decided to catch up again before I flew home and the perfect place and time to do it was in Venice for my birthday!! We shopped (for birthday treats……hhmmm…happy birthday to me??); explored the amazing streets and sights; of course ate more gelati and cake; and went out for dinner each night!!! It was wonderful. I also received so many Facebook birthday messages and emails that it brought tears to my eyes reading them. Did I happen to mention I am blessed!!!
And then this afternoon, after lunch together, Tamara and I said our good-byes and I headed to Trieste for 2 nights. Oh my God it is so cold!!!!!!! It dropped to 16/17 degrees the last few days (during the day) and it is only 8 degrees tonight!!!! Oh dear…I just checked the weather report and it will be 15 degrees tomorrow. It doesn’t help that I have noticed a certain chill around my right ankle when I have been wearing my new jeans. Hhhmm, it may have something to do with the way I stitched up the hem???
Well, I still can’t believe this, but I only have 10 nights left in Italy. After Trieste, I head to Florence for 4 nights and then Rome for my final 4 nights. I fly out of Rome on Wednesday the 26th and arrive home on Friday the 28th. Hhhmm…I lose Thursday somewhere in there???
That amounts to at least 10 more gelati’s, 5 more pizzas, 3 more pastas, and 2 nights of tuna and salad (because I am on a diet??)…………
So can’t wait to see you all.
Love Joyous xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Final note: I received an email today to say that a friend from my old mixed touch football team passed away tragically last month. I just couldn’t believe it when I read it. I still can’t believe it. He loved life so much. But it reinforced to me how important it is that we all make the most of our life and any opportunities that come our way. We owe it to those who no longer can. My heart goes out to Hayden’s family and friends.