A Travellerspoint blog

Going Lisbon

sunny 30 °C
View Year of the Nink on Buccas's travel map.

Our Portuguese public transport skills proved to be up to the challenge, and three hours after leaving Porto we arrived in Lisbon. We even managed to navigate the metro system, changing lines mid-way to get ourselves to the required station. From there, we were very close to our Airbnb apartment. Except that we were at the bottom of the hill and it was at the top. Welcome to Lisbon, I guess.
Our host showed us around and left us with a map, a bottle of wine and some cheese. Superhosting skills right there. We went to the nearest supermarket and obtained the necessary provisions for dinner, and cooked pasta while stopping occasionally to check the view from the terrace again.
Monday morning saw us enjoying coffee and peanut butter toast on the terrace, before traipsing up hills and stairs to get to a walking tour. We were initially put off by the size of the group, and it was hard to hear Riccardo while we were standing in the main square, but we liked what we heard and we liked what we saw, so we persevered.
We were rewarded for our dedication, and spent the next few hours learning about Portuguese and Lisbonese history, avoiding the crowds for the elevator to nowhere, and puzzling over Pessoa and his heteronyms.
An Australian couple joined us for lunch afterwards, but they weren't really my kind of people - they tried to lure us into competitive holiday story-ing and wanted to tell us what to do but I just smiled politely and planned to continue ninking my own way.
We spent the afternoon with a bottle of wine on the terrace, accompanied by the sound of tradies doing something or other to our stairway. Eventually they knocked off and we headed to one of the viewpoints of the city where we defied the wind, admired the setting sun and savoured the ginjinha. We went to another posh-but-cheap restaurant for dinner that had been recommended to us by the Irish/Australian/American crew on our tour to the bone church way back in August - turned out to be an excellent recommendation. Roast vegie couscous with mint sorbet for the win.
Tuesday started with an attempt to learn stuff and things at the Museum of the National Guard - an attempt slightly thwarted by some imperfect English translations and chronologically disordered displays.
Next we went to the market in order to eat stuff and things, and were nearly thwarted simply by the overwhelming array of foods on offer. After lunch, we grabbed some cheese and chorizo and headed back to our terrace for some rest (despite continued intensive renovations) and the most delicious antipasto dinner which accompanied some serious problem-of-the-world solving.
Next day was hot so we headed into the Alfama quarter nice and early to explore the narrow streets, tiled buildings and scaffolding. It seemed that the whole city was under construction - maybe if all the effort was concentrated on one project at a time there would be more noticeable progress. We meandered into the main square, greeted by a totally drinkable sky and a sparkling blue river, which accompanied scrumptious gelati. From there we went to the Museu do Fado and learned about the origins of the Portuguese singing style until we got hungry again. The one thing that we did NOT do was ride tram 28. This yellow tram is considered an icon of Lisbon and a prime tourist attraction, supposedly the best way to see the streets of Alfama. I beg to differ. We walked past the first stop and gawked at the people lined up for miles, standing in the full sun on a 30+ degree day. They would wait for an hour or more for the privilege of sitting or standing in a tiny electric tram with about the same level of personal space you'd get if you were a tinned sardine. Did I mention it was at least 30 degrees? In the words of my wise brother, "I'll pass."
Back at the apartment, our favourite tradies were at it again. Nothing a movie couldn't fix. And then we set off to a carpark in the Bairro Alto district, which sounded like an odd destination given that we did not have a car. But at the top of the car park was a rooftop bar (cleverly called 'Park Bar') with views across the city, a garden, a DJ and beverages. Other people had obviously had the same bright idea as us, because we claimed the last available seats and got down to the serious business of Appreciating the Beauty & Excellence of the sun setting over Lisbon. Ably assisted with a cocktail and tapas, naturally. We're pretty sure that Belinda requested a certain Kelis song from the DJ to add to the ambience...
On the walk home, we had a couple of polite offers of hashish and cocaine, which we politely declined. We had to be more firm in our response to the waiters that lined the streets, hoping to lure an unsuspecting tourist into their restaurant and feed them cheap food. We made it through unscathed and climbed the stairs up to our apartment for the final time.

Posted by Buccas 02:08 Archived in Portugal Comments (0)

Port wine in Porto

sunny 25 °C
View Year of the Nink on Buccas's travel map.

We woke up in our floral haven one last time on Thursday, finished off our cornflakes and set off for the train. Belinda and Pat headed to the city for some last minute sight seeing, and we stayed on the train, waving sadly to them as we continued on towards the airport. It was back to just the two of us... *sigh*
But not for long! We found Steph at the airport and caught up on news from Camperdown over weisswurst, bratwurst, pretzels and beer. There were even blokes standing around in cheap lederhosen, so it felt like our own mini-Oktoberfest. It was then time to farewell Bavaria, and say ola to Porto!
From the minute we landed, the Portuguese people set out to break the record for World's Most Friendly Country. We were handed a free map, and then the man at the ticket machine helped us buy a train ticket, find the train AND gave us a crash course in speaking Portuguese. We checked in to our respective apartments for the night (confusing both sets of hosts as to the planned sleeping arrangements) and then found somewhere for dinner. The waiter could not have been nicer - and the food was pretty gosh darned good too. Since we were in Porto, we felt it would be rude not to sample some port, and we discovered that the acceptable serving size was considerably larger than in Australia. Our week in Portugal was definitely off to a good start.
The next morning we checked in to our next apartment - an amazingly open-plan house that would have benefitted from fewer suspicious artworks and more 'you are here' maps. Alex, Gemma and Hermione arrived not long after us and they came armed with vinho verde which was apparently a Portuguese specialty. It was at that point that we discovered that our apartment was severely lacking in the corkscrew department, but it was nothing that a bit of googling and a wooden spoon couldn't fix.
We had toasted sandwiches for lunch - definitely a regular feature on the local menus, along with cheese and eggs. 'Finesse' beer was served in a champagne glass and cost one euro, which we loved - except that Simon was told he couldn't have one. Blatant sexism - apparently men have to drink a minimum of 330ml of beer in one sitting. Next we completed some rigorous quality control of sangria porto and sangria espumante (both highly satisfactory beverages, for the record) before purchasing some essentials at the fishy smelling supermarket on the way back to the apartment.
We headed to a highly recommended vego restaurant for dinner, only to discover that no reservation means no food. We were given vague directions to another restaurant with the caveat of "but you probably won't find it". That turned out to be true, and I still have my doubts about whether or not the restaurant even existed. So we embarked on a walking tour of the lesser known streets of Porto, eventually ending up at a burger bar that agreed to feed us.
It was a short walk home from there - but we had learned a valuable lesson about the need to plan ahead for our evening meals in Porto.
On Saturday we made our way into the parts of Porto more commonly frequented by tourists. Alex, Hermione and Gemma scoped out the Harry Potter bookstore while Steph, Simon and I bought train tickets at Sao Bento while admiring the tile work. We found an hipster spot for lunch, where the waiters wore overalls, transparent shirts and black eyes with effortless coolness. Simon had the francesinha - a multi-meat sandwich with truckloads of cheese and a weird beery sauce - because, well, SOMEONE had to try it. We strolled along the Douro River and enjoyed views of the Ponte de Dom Luis I, simultaneously enjoying the worst service possible from the cafe staff.
From 3pm, the true Porto experience began. We had booked ourselves on a port wine tour and it turned out to be an excellent decision. We crossed into Vila Nova de Gaia and toured a port museum and visited two other port cellars. We learned that Port technically has nothing to do with Porto, except for its consumption. We learned about the shocking and controversial marketing strategies employed by Ramos Pinto. We learned that there is such thing as rosé port, although we learned that we didn't like it all that much. From our fellow tourers, we learned that Switzerland is boring and Hong Kong is for single people, and that people from Cambridge really do talk like that. Maximum banter. We finished up in a professional tasting room where we swirled port and held port up to the light and generally acted like we knew what we were doing. Things got a little strange when the sommelier took a shine to Hermione, but it gave us plenty to laugh about as we drank our vintage port up at the rooftop bar, looking over the Porto area. Wonderful.
We headed home for some pre-dinner cheese, and then set off to our reserved table at "Em Carne Viva", an oddly named but highly recommended vegetarian/vegan restaurant. At this point, Porto decided to rain on our parade - quite literally - but we sang our way to the restaurant, inspired by the Evanescence album we'd heard blasting from a small green car earlier in the day. The restaurant let us in, even though we were soggy, and we had a meal that was posher AND cheaper than we would be able to have in our respective home countries. We had heated debates about the big issues in life (Crocs, mostly) and by the time we were ready to leave, the rain eased up - perfect timing. By the time we were less than a block away from the restaurant, the rain resumed with great enthusiasm. It did stop completely before we made it home, but that victory was very short-lived as we had a gutter overflow and dump its contents on us just as we had been about to celebrate the reduction in precipitation. Perfect timing.
The next morning we packed up our goods and chattels and took ourselves to Base - an outdoor bar that was perfect for enjoying the sunshine with some sangria espumante while having our suitcases scattered around us. We had a lovely little picnic - Simon even managed to convince everyone except Steph and I that the veggie mouse lollies were an acceptable foodstuff.
From there we went our separate ways - Alex, Hermione and Gemma headed to the airport, and Steph, Simon and I were on a train bound for Lisbon. Or so we hoped.

Posted by Buccas 00:47 Archived in Portugal Comments (0)

Munching in München

semi-overcast 20 °C
View Year of the Nink on Buccas's travel map.

Monday morning - a time to savour our Kellogg's cornflakes. Infinitely better than the bland no-name brand flakes of corn we'd acquired in Norway. A time also to struggle at the basics in life. While shopping at Interspar, we spent an eternity looking for peanut butter. If we had wanted beer or cider or wine or any other alcoholic beverage on our sandwich, that would have been easy. But the ol' edrussbutter was a bit more elusive. We persevered and eventually claimed the last jar available in store. Triumph.
We packed up our pb sangas and our other less important possessions and navigated the ticket-buying-and-bus-catching system with style, getting ourselves to the main station with plenty of time to find the train bound for Munchen.
We found Pat and Belinda at Neuaubing station and were pleased to hear that their train experience had been much less traumatic this time around. We traded Salzburg and Berlin/Leipzig stories while making our way to The Most Floral Apartment Of All Time. Anything that could be floral, was floral. And anything that couldn't be floral was pink. Some items managed to be both. But it wasn't all bad - the landlady had thoughtfully provided non-floral beer in the fridge for us. And we had peanut butter. Small victories.
We settled in and headed into the city to explore, shop, and cringe at the bogan Australian accents that filled the streets. Dinner was at the cleverly named restaurant 'Yum', and then we checked out the Hofbrauhaus (so noisy, and so many mildly unpleasant and unidentifiable smells) before finding another place to sample the local brew. I was mercilessly mocked for ordering a 'small' beer (which would be called a 'pint' in Australia) but that was quickly forgotten as the eclectic music selection distracted everyone from my inadequacies. Some songs were familiar, some were not, most were unexpected (Moscow! Moscow!) but all went down very well with the rowdy crowd at the front of the bar. We enjoyed spotting Oktoberfesters on the train home, and realised that you don't need to speak the language to understand what drunk boys are saying to each other. That kind of banter is universal, it seems.
Tuesday was brewsday - time for us to become Oktoberfesters ourselves. Since we had completely unintentionally booked a trip to München at this time of year, it would have been a shame not to. The girls had braids and the boys had to compare notes on whether jackets were or weren't required, and then we were off. We knew which train station we needed to get to, and then figured we'd check the map to get us to the venue in question. Rookie mistake - map totally unrequired. We simply followed all the dirndl-ed and lederhosen-ed people and made it there in no time. Our first impression on arriving was that it was basically a big version of the Noorat show, with beer halls. Excellent.
Over the course of the day, we managed to get seats (and beers) in three different tents - Ochsenbraterei, Hofbrau Festzelt and Hacker-Festhalle. Visiting mid-week and being there mid-morning probably helped our cause considerably. We sampled pretzels, oxen, kartoffelsalat, potato dumplings, doughnut pretzels, and the undisputed culinary highlight of the day - roast chicken. Soooooooooo good. We relived our childhood on the dodgem cars, provided a critical appraisal of the strong man test techniques, and acquired various stuffed toys through various demonstrations of skill in the sideshow games. Some of us rollercoastered - some of us photographed. We met people from Coburg, and people from Manhattan. We saw varying levels of classiness in the dirndl department, but were happy with our decision not to partake in dirndl wearing for financial reasons and for warmth. It seemed that half of the dirndls we saw were covered by hoodies anyway. And then there's the fact that neither Belinda or I are (or ever will be) the right shape for such things...
Oh and we drank some beer too. Because Oktoberfest, after all. Once we'd had our fill we followed the crowd back to the train station, got ourselves home via a fountain and Bohemian Rhapsody and got some chips and some water. Belinda and I watched Cruel Intentions in German (Ryan Phillippe's German voiceover was terrible, for the record) and the boys went adventuring on their own.
The next day started with a session of comparing photos, videos and quotes from the day before - and I still stand by my claim that the best thing about Oktoberfest is the chicken. And that it is all Simon's fault. And that I love him. Once we had laughed to the point of incredibly sore cheeks, we headed into the Viktualienmarkt and perused the goods on offer, before having a quick lunch in the cellar at Ratskeller and then joining a walking tour with Ben, the Irishman with a striking resemblance to King Ludwig II. We saw the sights and learned the stories of the city, and left feeling incredibly intelligent. We put our newfound intelligence to the test with an escape room, which we smashed out of with 8 minutes to spare. Legends.
From there we found our way to the Englischer Garten, a vast park in the city which gave us our fix of 'green' for the day. It also provided the opportunity for surfers to get their fix on the Eisbach River. We stood and watched the river surfers for ages - Google it and you'll understand why. Eventually hunger and fading light got the better of us and we found our way to a food serving facility, where we had our final prost together. Danke, München.

Posted by Buccas 02:26 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

Salzburger


View Year of the Nink on Buccas's travel map.

On Friday morning we farewelled Pat and Belinda temporarily, as they headed to Berlin and Leipzig while we set off back to Austria. Team Buccas had a smooth run to Salzburg, while Team O'Bennett had a less than ideal trip to Berlin (via Gottingen), but we all made it where we needed to in the end.
When we arrived in Salzburg, we were briefly confused and entertained at the station because there seemed to be an impromptu jazz performance occurring right where we needed to catch a bus. So instead of bus number 1, there was a man with a saxophone and a bus driver playing the bongos. After a few minutes it all finished, people applauded and the bus drove off, still jazzing away. Turned out to be some kind of public-transport based jazz festival, and it was quickly followed by the arrival of bus 1, which took us to our Airbnb for the next three nights.
The weather was fairly warm, but with rain forecast, we figured we should get some exploring under our belt before things changed. So we wandered into the old town, found a love lock for Simon and Pat on the bridge, watched a boat 'waltz' dizzyingly down the river, admired the location of Mozart's birth and generally Salzburged around. We stopped off at the Augustiner Brau for dinner on the way home, along with a squillion of our closest friends.
The next morning it rained. Well done, weather man. We defied the rain and walked to the train station anyway, then trained and bussed our way to Salzwelten at Durrnberg, an old salt mine that actually crosses into Germany. Here we experienced the full force of the 'drink anywhere, drink anytime' culture - we ended up on a tour with a bunch of people who were still finishing their beers right up until the moment we stepped into the mine. At 10am, they were already sozzled and smelling strongly of beer. But they were better behaved than I expected, so well done Drunk Austrians. The mine was impressive - we traversed the mine by mini-train, floated across a leaching pond on a boat and slid into the depths of the mine on a slide. Whee! The guide presented the tour in German and then in rapid-fire English without pausing to take a breath in between. The videos had English and Italian subtitles, and between the two languages I still think I missed some of the jokes but managed to get the gist of what was happening. We were given free salt as a souvenir at the end, and then had a quick look around the nearby Celtic museum - but let's just say the Celtic history is presented better in Scotland and Ireland.
Once we were back in town, we headed to Tomaselli's Cafe for a coffee and sundae in the cafe of choice for visiting celebrities. I had a 'Mozart Sundae' - because Salzburg. It was delicious, even if it was a tourist gimmick.
From there we wandered the streets and admired the least plastic and most beautiful McDonald's sign, before getting home to do some much-needed washing. We had dinner at an un-Trip-Advisor-rated Chinese restaurant, figuring that the risk was worth it for a five minute walk. The risk paid off and we enjoyed the break from schnitzel, pork knuckle and pretzels.
The next day we were blessed with ideal walking weather - not too hot, not too cold, and not too wet. We walked into town, enjoyed a 'Salzburger' and the best hot dog I've ever had, and then caught the lift up the mountain to the modern art museum. Instead of admiring modern art though, we admired the views of Salzburg and its surrounding hills (which were, of course, alive with the sound of music). We kept traipsing along the elevated walk, until we found a scenic park bench to sit and Appreciate Beauty and Excellence. And then the hills came alive with the sound of F18s zooming around, making a lot of noise and generally showing off.
On the way down the mountain, a shitsu puppy called Bouschka made itself the centre of attention by gambolling downhill with excessive glee and enthusiasm for life. I can only guess what sort of horrendous day you must be having when a tumbling ball of fluff fails to make you crack a smile.
We ended up at the market and shared a cinnamon-doughnut-pretzel as big as a football but much, much tastier. From there we admired the church (no sprucing required) and crossed the River Salzach to see what was on the other side.
Almost as soon as we crossed the bridge we encountered a cafe called "Darwin's", and it was advertising Pimm's, our drink of choice when holidaying up north. It was definitely A Sign. So in we went - and ended up being served a coffee and a Pimm's by a Kiwi. Because wherever you go in the world, you are never far away from an Antipodean. Simon voted it as one of the top three coffees he'd had since leaving Australia, so we were glad we'd paid attention to The Sign.
We walked past the theatres advertising 'Spamalot' and scoped out the Mirabell gardens, where I rode a unicorn and watched from a tactful distance as a young man recorded himself singing a love song with his phone in his hand playing the accompaniment, and the lyrics on a piece of paper in his other hand.
We had grand plans of buying actual vegetables and cooking dinner that night, but were thwarted by the old Sunday trading laws. I'm not sure how they work, precisely, but it seemed that the only shops that were not open were the ones selling fruit and vegetables. You could most definitely still buy beer. So we had Asia Wok-Man dinner #2, because at least the crispy duck and noodles came with some sort of greenery. And also because it was delicious. Salzburg adventure complete.

Posted by Buccas 23:04 Archived in Austria Comments (0)

Return to Garmisch-Partenkirchen

sunny 26 °C
View Year of the Nink on Buccas's travel map.

We got up earlier than usual for our last day of walking. A table was reserved for the 'Buccheri family' at breakfast, and so we officially welcomed Pat and Belinda to the clan. We set off in the cool of the morning, defeated a minor navigational challenge and soon overtook everyone else walking uphill. To be fair, we were at least twenty years younger than most of the other walkers we encountered and we had completed a fairly rigorous training regime in Norway. Up we went, stopping only briefly for sugar refills. We had acquired some 'vegiemaus' along the way - lollies shaped like mice that tasted like vegetables. Not a hit with the girls, but Pat and Simon happily munched away as we walked out of Austria and back into Germany, with nothing but a faded painted sign to mark the transition.
We got a hedgehog stamp at the stempel point looking over Lake Eibsee and lunched on the edge of the lake with the best pretzels of the trip so far. As it was still early, we decided to add on the optional walk-around-the-lake to our trip. It was a loop walk, so theoretically it didn't matter which way we went - except that we seemed to pick the uphill route. There were lots of walkers and cyclists coming the other way, but mostly electric bikes going the same way as us. The water was all sorts of shades of blue and green, and people were using the lake to its full recreational potential. The trees provided plenty of shade, which was appreciated as it was the hottest day we'd had yet, although the wind picked up and it threatened to rain part way round the track. We were startled by what appeared to be a cycling clothes rack, but most of the other encounters we had were fairly conventional.
Once we made it around the lake, we found the train station and the (surprisingly late) train took us for the half hour ride back into Garmisch-Partenkirchen. We celebrated making it back to where it all began by going back to the Mohrenplatz beer garden that we had visited right at the start of the walk. We slaved over the German menu for awhile before being offered the English version - and while it wasn't as much fun as trying our best to decipher the code, it meant we actually knew what we were ordering, which had its benefits. Prost!

Posted by Buccas 12:29 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

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