Zagreb – Melbourne

Winding up the holiday – Woke up early to catch our flight home. The plane from Zagreb to Doha was almost empty – about 25 people on board, so we could stretch out a bit. 6 hours to Doha and then a 4 hour layover until our connecting flight to Melbourne.

Riding on the automatic train at Doha Airport.

Our flight from Doha was about 13 hours, and reminded us why we spend so long away – the flight there and the flight back are a challenge, so make the most of it while you are away!

Landed in Melbourne to 16 degrees and rain. Cabbed it home to some excited dogs and got some long awaited sleep.

Thanks for following our trip – it was fun!



Zagreb – Part 2 – Day One

Short post today, we headed into the city to do some last minute souvenir shopping and have a bit of a chill day. First stop was a coffee shop near the Flower Market – the site of our previous AirBNB. Had some cake and relaxed with some people watching for a while.

Mmmm… cake!
The son next to the sun….

We walked past this Golden ball last time, but we didn’t realise what it was. This is an art installation called the Grounded Sun, put here in 1994 after being first created in the 70s. The ball is a 1:68,000,000 scale model of the sun. 10 years after the placement at it’s current location another artist created a supporting installation by adding the entire solar system around the sun – also at 1:68,000,000 scale. That means that Mercury and Venus are tiny balls a block or so away, and Pluto (yes, it was still a planet back then) is about 9km away from the Grounded Sun. The strange bit is that the artist didn’t tell anyone that he was doing it, nor where all of the ‘planets’ were placed. It took a group of physics students to work out where they were all placed. The story is here –

We wandered back through the market and then had some lunch at a bakery before heading back through town to do some shopping for plane snacks before heading home for or last night in Europe. Tomorrow morning we fly out of Zagreb and head home. 😦 or 🙂


Bratislava to Zagreb

Got up for our last big drive of the holiday, back to Zagreb. Woke up to a beautiful day, and wondered why this weather couldn’t have come a day earlier! We did a quick pitstop to the UFO in the middle of a residential area just outside of Bratislava. Not sure why it’s there, but it looked great!

Anyway, off we go, towards Vienna and then down through Austria, as that was the quickest route to Zagreb. Did our normal Schengen border crossing (i.e. no passport check and no lines – yeah!)…….But then, our yeah changed to What The???? We got pulled over, 5 meters into Austria. No idea why. Until the lovely man told us our Vingette/toll pass didn’t cover Austria. WHAT? And that would be a 120EURO fine, thanks… DOUBLE WHAT???!!!! Would we like to pay in cash or card….. after we picked up our jaws, we told him we understood the vingette we purchased a week ago covered Hungary, Slovakia and Austria (as that’s what it stated at the place we bought it from). Let’s just say he wasn’t at all moved. How would we like to pay the fine…. Anyhoo……(Later on I googled this situation, and someone had been fined the 120EURO for buying one, having it displayed on their front window, but NOT STICKING IT ONTO THEIR WINDOW..goodness…)

Four countries in one drive….
Before leaving Bratislava we had to go to the UFO….
Seems like a strange place for a sculpture
Looks – it’s a UFO!

After about a 3 hour drive through Austria and Slovenia and seeing really beautiful countryside – so green and lush – we crossed into Croatia, and stopped at Trakoscan. Thought we’d see the castle there, but somehow stumbled upon a large fair at the base of the castle. It’s in the middle of the week and early afternoon, yet hundreds of people are here. We discovered later that night that it’s their celebration for May 1st – Labour Day. We had a wander around the fair, and then headed up to check out the castle, which is surrounded by a beautiful forest and large lake – really lovely.

The castle was originally built in the 13th century as a small observation fortress, and since then has changed hands numerous times over the years. It must have had a bit of money put into it recently as it was very well kept and organised inside and out. Lots of hand-carved furniture built especially for the occupants at that time, and some amazing walls that looked like they were covered in some type of tapestry, but was actually hand-painted hessian. Off to Zagreb after our visit, and getting ourselves sorted for our last day to see the city before we head home.

We stopped off at Trakoscan Castle
The painted wallpaper
Beautiful setting – on a hill, overlooking the lake and forest
In a room full of military portraits we found Mr Bean
School / work on Monday….

Bratislava – Day Two – Vienna

Isn’t it great when you can wake up in the morning and decide to drive to Vienna for the day. Headed off relatively early and drove the 60 odd kms from Bratislava to the outskirts of Vienna. We had decided to do a park and ride, but that got a bit interesting when the car park was full. We literally had to wait until one car left, before we were allowed in to find that one free car park.

Driving to Austria – wall to wall wind turbines…

Whilst trying to work out the ticket machine for the underground a couple of tourists handed us transit passes that were still valid for a few days – very nice of them. Jumped the tube to the middle of Vienna and got out at St Stephens Cathedral. We went in and had a look at the cathedral, and went for a guided tour of the crypts underneath. Quite interesting – they had recent bishops and cardinals interred in the new section and bodies and organs of the Hapsburgs. Apparently one of the organ containers sprang a leak and the stench was so bad no one could go down into the crypts for days. The reason there was just organs in the jars as that there were three major churches in Vienna, so not to have favourites, the Hapsburgs had their organs interred at St Stephens, and their bodies interred at the Imperial Crypt at the Capuchin Monastery and their hearts in the St Georges Chapel at Augustinerkirche. The old section of the catacombs are out under the square, and they have mass graves of plague victims, as well as charnel houses, where the bones of previously buried people had been gathered and cleaned by prisoners, and stacked like firewood to create space.

First stop in Vienna – St Stephens and the catacombs

Vienna was not kind to us with the weather. It was about 12 degrees and pouring rain, and we had one umbrella between the 4 of us. Our rain jackets did not prove to be much protection. We walked from St Stephens out to what is arguably ‘the greatest museum on earth’. We passed a few other sites on the way, but decided to give them a miss to get out of the rain. When we got to the museum we discovered that everyone else had the same idea, and there were queues of about 50 people at each door, waiting to get in. Waiting in the rain. Waiting in the cold. Waiting with other people’s umbrellas emptying into your shoes. :o(  When we eventually got into the museum, it was worth even that wait. We took copious amounts of photos that still don’t do it justice. The museum was built specifically by the Hapsburgs as a place to house all of the treasures that they had acquired over the years. The first floor contains artifacts, sarcophagi, marble statues – anything you can think of from the ancient Egyptian, Roman and Greek periods. The Egyptian section was about 10 galleries of amazing stuff, and the Roman and Greek collections were of similar sizes. And that was just the first half of the first floor. The other side of the museum focussed on treasures of the Hapsburgs themselves, and Austrian/Vienna historical objects. More bling than you could poke a stick at.

Vienna did not welcome us with beautiful weather – about 12 degrees and hammering down. Austro-Hungarian architecture does not provide much shelter from the rain – if anything you get wetter standing next to the buildings – the drops are bigger!
Egyptian rooms
Egyptian rooms – a 4000 year old Hippo statuette.
This is an ancient fertility idol, but to me it just looks like Dilbert.
Some of the carvings were extreme. This piece was about a foot square and this was just the central detail of it.
This is actually an automaton – Diana and Centaur
Another automaton – this one moves along
They had a video of a lot of the automatons working – this boat actually fires from the cannons.
This is a bit of tableware for a King – basically a salt shaker, but sculpted from pure gold.

We spent over two hours on the first floor alone, and then it was time to move up a floor. The second floor was solely comprised of paintings. There were so many masterpieces from so may famous artists it was not funny, although Ben was disappointed that we didn’t find any from Da Vinci. Erica made the comment that they could cure world hunger by selling the contents of this museum. After another hour or so, probably closer to two, we shrugged back into our sodden clothing and headed off back to our car, grabbing a very late lunch on the way. We paid it forward by handing the transit tickets to another couple of travelers and drove back to Bratislava for our final night there.

Even the building was magnificent
This guy did paintings like this for the four seasons – but this one was titled ‘Water’
Just a lazy Vermeer, but I suppose when you have a room full of Rembrandts, one of Titian and a gallery and a half of Rubens, the surprising thing was that there was only one Vermeer.
It’s true – you can have too much art!
My picture of this didn’t do it justice, so I lifted this one from the internet – My favourite because of the guy in the funny hat!


Bratislava – Day One

Today we left the house around 10am and headed toward

Today we left the house around 10am for a rainy morning and headed towards the old town. We saw the Pyramid Building, a massive fountain that had stopped being maintained at the fall of communism, and the palace where the president lives. The palace had big front gates with some parts painted gold and a fountain that ‘was in the shape of the globe’. It had gardens at the back that was open to the public. It wasn’t as big and fancy as we had thought and looked more like a normal park just neater. We then saw the old town entrance that had a metal circle in the ground pointing in the direction of different places and one arrow pointed to Sydney.

Our luck with the weather seems to have run out – 9 degrees and rain.
Bratislava Radio Pyramid – stared building in the 60s, finished in the 80s. Known as the Pyramid Building.
Union Fountain – a Soviet era fountain that stopped being maintained after the fall of communism. Fell into disrepair and will now cost more than a million Euro to repair.
Soviet era building – Erica liked to bas reliefs showing everyone helping everyone else and working together.
The Presidential Palace.
Michael’s Gate and the Old Town. Central Bratislava is cobbled and pedestrian. Quite nice really.
One of the many sculptures around the place. You really need to tip your hat to the Slovaks.
Going nowhere fast.
Ben wanted to know why this sculptures lap was shiny…..
Bratislava Castle. Note to travelers – Monday’s are the day EVERYTHING is closed….
The castle gates. If you look closely you’ll see that the statues on the top have no heads?!?

We looked through many of the souvenir shops that were quite expensive. We walked around and saw the town hall, a statue of a man holding out a hat and church. Afterwards we headed up to the castle, which we then found to be closed though we did get to see that the statues had no heads.

We then started making our way back home and on the way saw the blue church of St Elizabeth. It was all blue on the outside and also on the inside which contain many blue artefacts that we unfortunately didn’t get to see as the church was closed and was only open on certain times of the year.

Church of St Elisabeth – known as the Blue Church for some reason.
The church was closed, but we took a photo through the front doors – blue inside as well.
Not quite sure what this guy represents….but he is pointing up to something on the wall – see next picture….
Maybe this was the office of the Soviet era secret police?
Street art of a Bratislava streetscape.

We went home, chilled for about 20 minutes and then drove to the main shopping centre to the cinema to see ‘Avengers: End Game’ with Slovakian subtitles. We then went shopping for dinner and then went home.


Budapest to Bratislava

Today we drove to from Budapest to Bratislava. First we drove to siofok to see lake Balaton, we didn’t stay very long because it was freezing cold. Then we headed to veszpem to get lunch and some cinnamon rolls. We finally arrived in Bratislava and got into our apartment.

Headed to Bratislava – Via Lake Balaton
They use the same type of Trolley Bus in Vancouver
Stopped by Lake Balaton – about 12 degrees and windy!
Lake Balaton is the most popular tourist destination for Hungarians in summer. It is NOT summer!
Welcome to Bratislava – the UFO observation restaurant with Bratislava Castle to the left.


Budapest – Day Four

Today we took the opportunity to check out a couple of the more obscure spots in Budapest, as well as the bits we’d missed in the past few days. First off was the Central Market top floor. We’d already looked through the main floor a number of times, and had some yummy food from there, but thought we’d have a look at the souvenir/stuff/tourist trap area :o) The photo below must have been a break in the crowds, as it was crazy – literally shoulder to shoulder of tourists checking out the stalls.

Top level of the Grand Market – souvenirs and bric-a-brac

Out of there, and grabbed some cinnamon rolls as our reward for getting through that craziness, and then started our walk through the city. We passed a number of city squares with markets (definitely a thing here – anywhere where there is free space there are stalls set up), and smells wafting through that got the attention of Scott and Ben – photo below shows a familiar scene of them drawn to a food stall :o)

Reading up about the history of the chimney treats – see later. Also note the lack of shorts on everyone else in the shots!
Alien Skater Boy – plenty of street art in Budapest. Bit concerned about the way his head is facing.
The Big X in fashion street

We then went to St Stephens basilica, primarily to see the mummified fist of a saint. When the body of St Stephen was exhumed (as part of the cannonising process in the 11th Century) they found that his arm was as ‘fresh as the day he was buried’ and promptly chopped it off. Later on in the 13th century the arm was cut in two – top part was sent to Lemburg, bottom part to Vienna so there would be no arguments between the branches of the church. Apparently each year on St Stephens Day they ‘take it out for a walk’ and the fist leads a parade through the city.

The Royal Right Hand – mummified hand on St Stephen. They bring it out every now and then to lead a parade. It is kept dark until you put 200HUF in to light it up – and then everyone rushes to take their photo!
The cupola of the Basilica

Then off to the Electro-technology museum. Sounded good, and we’d read that the guides were enthusiastic and there were demonstrations of the old machinery, including ‘Tesla’s egg”. All turned out to be correct – it was a strange little museum hidden away next to a nightclub, but was fascinating to see.

One of the displays at the Electro-Technology Museum – early neon sign.

The last thing for the day was to see the Agricultural Museum. Not to see what was inside (wayyy to many animal heads), but to see Vajdahunyad Castle. It was initially built out of cardboard for the Hungarian Millennial Exhibition in 1896 as a replica of the castle in Romania. It was so popular they decided to rebuild it out of stone and brick, and is in the middle of a beautiful park at the north of the city. As we were walking around we noticed that there were alot of people, and they definitely weren’t all there for the museum, No, we’d stumbled upon a huge recruitment drive/fair/demonstration for the Hungarian Army/Police/Fire/Ambulance etc etc. Including robotic machine gun/mini tank things. It was pretty full on. On the up side we did find a stall selling Chimney Rolls – photo below – it’s a bit squished but you’ll get the idea. Can happily say it was one of the top 5 things we’ve eaten here!

The Museum of Agriculture – we caught the metro line to look at this building and came across a fete celebrating essential services – fire brigade, police etc.
They had old cars giving kids a ride, Cherry pickers lifting them up, rock walls to climb. They also had army bomb disposal robots that kids were handing balloon swords to.
The Chimney Roll. About a foot of sweet dough, cooked over coals and then rolled in your choice of cinnamon sugar, walnuts, chocolate or coconut. You could get them smeared in Nutella if you wanted. We opted for cinnamon 🙂