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Stuck for a day in Vienna

Armenia & Georgia 2017

Reading the itinerary for this trip I alread thought it would probably be a close call at Vienna airport since the connecting flight leaves only 45 min after we were due to arrive, but at Amsterdan Schiphol airport it already became clear that we wouldn't make the connection. A portugese plane was stuck at 'our' gate and just wouldn't leave. When it finaly did 'our' plane docked at the gate and they were still cleaning and loading Luggage at the time our flight from Vienna to Yerevan was leaving.
I already met some of the members in my group, you could easily pick them out of the crowd; looking at the clock and looking a bit lost.
At Vienna airport we all (our group) headed for the Austrian Airlines desk to get more information and we were booked on the next flight (24h later) to Yerevan and were given a hotel voucher and a overnight-survival-kit

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At the hotel we got the keys to our rooms and some of us agreed to meet before breakfast and plan our day in Vienna. Instead of a city tour Yerevan we did our own city tour Vienna
Totally unprepared for Vienna we just took the train down town and started walking,

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Past Stephansdom (Domkirche St. Stephan) can't miss it, to the stables of the 'Spanische Hofreitschule'

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Lunch (well cake and drinks) at a small café

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and some relaxing at the park, more strolling through city center and back to the Airport hotel. We didn't risk getting late at the airport and at the same time we were supposed to leave yesturday
In Yerevan our guide was waiting for us, again. We contacted the travel agency on our delay but the message wasn't forwarded to our guide so she had been waiting for us for two nights now

Posted by Stefmuts 00:35 Archived in Austria Tagged city sightseeing city_trip Comments (1)

A taste of Rome's fountains and piazzas

Rome 2016


View Travelling the movies on Stefmuts's travel map.

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Piazza del Popolo (twin churches ???) Only half a day left before flying back home and still so much more to see and do in Rome [Rome-travel-guide-278393]. We decided to take the metro to Piazza del Popolo and walk around until it's time to get to the train station. We left our luggage in the hotel and went on our way.

Somehow it seems I have a thing for scaffolding this year, many of the castles in Denmark and Sweden as wel as the Moses statue at the Basilica di San Pietro in Vincoli and guess what one of the twin churches at Piazza del Popolo (!) always my luck!

From there we walk to the spanish steps, it's not a thing thats very high on my list but as it's close we might as wel take a look right? The steps have been closed for renovation this summer and are only just re-opened.large_1297706_14831083914936.jpg
It's sayd to be a meeting place always crowded with people sitting on the steps, but after the renovation the Roman police sees to it you don't go and eat your lunch on the steps, don't know why but it's not allowed and they are pretty strict on the matter. The fountain at the bottom looks like a sunken boat, I think it's quite ugly, and thats exactly what it's called too: Fontana della Barcaccia

Next we go and follow the route to Fontana Trevi which I actually liked a lot more than I thought I would, I thought the whole entourage of the fountain would be too much but it all fits just fine. I only think it should have been on a bigger square, but on the other hand thats also part of it's charm. I didn't throw a coin with my right hand over my left shoulder but I'm sure I'll be coming back to Rome one day so I didn't feel the need (and my Dutch roots prevent me from throwing money anyway)

It's still a bit early for lunch and since the Pantheon is really close now we go and visit this as well.large_1297706_14831084178457.jpg
Fontana Trevi (multiple photos cut and paste)Didn't think there would be enough time but everything is much closer than I expected. I'm really glad we did get to visit it! I think it's a great building. It started out as a Roman temple and was later transformed into a church. You would expect it to be a dark place with only a hole in the roof for lighting (the eye or oculus) but it really is not. The floors and walls are richly decorated but my main interest goes to the dome (occupational deformity)

We have lunch near the Pantheon before taking the nearest metro train to Termini station. We pick up our luggage at the hotel and go and find out how the ticket stuff works to get us to the airport. An old guy helps us out, I know it's a form of begging, but hey he helps us on our way so I leave him some change.

On our way to the airport it starts raining, we have been lucky with the weather for a change

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Posted by Stefmuts 04:44 Archived in Italy Tagged churches buildings fountain ruins city sightseeing roman city_trip Comments (0)

Vatican skip the line

Rome 2016


View Rome with Mom & Travelling the movies on Stefmuts's travel map.

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After breakfast me and my mom went to find the open hop-on hop-off buss to go with the rome Omnia card. We knew to look for a yellow bus but it took us some time to find the right bus stop as they don’t have a sign as most other hop-on hop-off companies. It turned out to be across the street from the train station (Termini) on Via Giovanni Giolitti (for those planning to use the Omnia card on their trip) To use the skip the line ticket option we had to join a group tour at a set time so we only reserved for the Vatican museum and took the gamble at St.Peters. We had some time before we had to get to the meeting point so we started exploring on our own.

At St.Peters there was a long line of people waiting to get in so we almost regret not getting the tour.large_1297706_14830227453000.jpg
But as we planned to visit the basilica after the museum we would just get in line then. Another thing on the list was Santi Michele e Magno (Kerk der Friezen) I located it on google maps but it still was a bit hard to find it in real life. There was only a small sign on the wall and stairs going up between the buildings, no real indication of there being a church. On top of the stairs a big steel gate and behind it a courtyard and indeed a building looking like a church. Sadly the gate was closed, a man sitting at the top of the stairs told us it had been open every day up until now, must be our luck.

At 12:00 we had to go to the meeting point. While waiting we saw other groups pass by, following the person with the flag. A boy waiting with us asked his dad why those people were following the flag, not realizing he was about to do exactly the same.large_1297706_14830228053648.jpg
Our flag was a fast walker though and I felt sorry for the lady with the walking cane who could not keep up. We skipped the line on the other side of the street. So this is what they mean by better use a skip the line ticket for the Vatican museum. The row of people waiting to get in was huge! We on the other hand could use the group entrance which was empty (!) Inside we got our tickets and could go on by ourselfs. We didn’t plan to see all the rooms so we skipped the Egypt exhibition and took the short route to the Sistine chapel, our main reason for visiting the museum.

We pass through various lavishly decorated rooms, it’s all so much you fail to see the beauty of it all. Walls, floors, ceilings everything is covered in paintings tapestries tiling everything telling a story.
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Finally we enter the Sistine chapel. Here no photo’s! Inside I’m actually a bit disapointed , it’s much the same as the rooms we already passed, too much of everything! (Critics are gonna hate me for saying this) The paintings are beautiful on their own but stashed together like this the beauty fades, and my first thought of the wall paintings was: color blue on sale or something? As for no Photo’s; I just couldn’t help myself … nearly got myself kicked out by an angry guard but he didn’t make me erase the picture so …

Back at St.Peters the huge rows had reduced to a lot less and within 5 minutes we passed the security gates. Inside it was crowded but not as much as I feared. We had to shuffle along to see Michelangelo’s Pietà and had to wait a bit at the elevator going up to the dome but nothing bad. My mom went with me up the dome which surprised me since she has a fear of heights. She did enjoy the view and actually went right up to the fencing, not looking down is the magic trick she said.

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Posted by Stefmuts 05:03 Archived in Vatican City Tagged churches buildings city sightseeing roman ancient city_trip Comments (4)

Preparing is half the fun

Rome 2016


View Rome with Mom & Travelling the movies on Stefmuts's travel map.

large_1297706_14830214115699.jpgMy mom wanted to visit Rome [Rome-travel-guide-278393] for a while now. First try was with 2 of her sisters, everything booked and planned and then she fell ill and had to cancel the trip. Her sisters did go along with the trip and had a great time. We are some years later now and one day my mom said: I still haven't been to Rome, dad doesn't want to go there. So I said: I will go to Rome with you. So we picked a time of year and started collecting information on everything to do with Rome.

I went to my local travel agent and got some books with city trip offers, asked my fellow TB-ers what must sees Rome has besides the obvious (Vatican city, Colosseum, Trevi fountain etc.) I got some nice tips, enough for even more trips to Rome.large_1297706_14830214223793.jpg I found on the internet info on the Rome and Omnia card with skip the line options. Separate tickets might be cheaper but this has all we want, entrance tickets to the Vatican and ancient Rome, hop-on hop-off bus and public transportation. My mom found an offer for flight and hotel so we booked this all together.

Next thing is to plan the trip itself, most things we both want to see so no need for concessions there. We plan a full day for the Vatican, a full day for ancient Rome and on the last day. Piazza del Popolo, Spanish steps, Trevi and some more if there is time

Our flight arrives in Rome around noon, then we have to take the train to the city center. Still way too early to check in to the hotel so we decided to walk to the Basilica San Giovanni in Laterano where we can pick up our Rome and Omnia card and stop on the way to get some lunch. I have my backpack so I can go on for days, my mom has a small suitcase on wheels which turns out to be not as convenient as it sounds. We had a pizza and a soda on a small terrace near piazza Vittorio, picked up our Rome and Omnia card and took the metro back to Termini station. Checked in our hotel and stayed there till dinner time.

We found a nice restaurant really close to our hotel we didn't feel like doing the city tour at night so we would just make sure to be rested enough for tomorrow: the Vatican

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Posted by Stefmuts 03:44 Archived in Italy Tagged churches buildings city sightseeing city_trip Comments (1)

Citytrip Beijing

7 days City trip

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I have some catching up to do with my travel blogs, but I don't want you to miss out on some of my trips. Beijing [Beijing-travel-guide-208144] might have changed a lot since the olympics so if you plan a trip there this blog might not be accurate enough but maybe it can give you ideas on things to see or do. When I told at work I was going there one colleague said 'oh nice! going to a warm country' not knowing Beijing in ferbruari is freezing! Why go in februari then? Well, my aunt got the offer from a travel company she ones traveled with and she asked me if I would like to come along. We had 7 days with a group of 17 on a tight schedule, but on arrival we first had the chance to acclimatize a bit and we used that time to go to the nearest supermarket. Crossing the streets in Beijing is a bit tricky, we found out the best way is to just start walking and look determined.
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Dinner is served on a glass turntable, all kinds of food and all delicious!
Next morning we go to the forbidden City, its very cold but that means little tourist. We start the tour walking like sheep behind our guide with his little blue flag, we all felt dumb, but we had little choice. We did get some time to explore on our own as well. Next is coffee at a souvenir shop (mandatory), then Tiananmen Square. We tried to get our guide to talk about the protests of 1989, but he dodged to answer all questions. After a bit it's back on the bus to go to the Temple of Heaven. This temple has a beautiful blue roof and it is said you can ask questions to the gods here, some of our group tried but got no answer.
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After that we got some time for souvenir shopping and then dinner: hot pot, a kind of chinese fondue.

Due to the foggy weather the next morning we first went to a Jade factory (yes, we bought some) Then the sacred road. It's a beautiful area and we were the only ones there. You can visit all the Ming tombs but we only had time for one, Changling. Then another factory, cloisonne (we didn't buy some). Unfortunately it still was foggy but next on the list was the Great Wall at Badaling [Badaling-travel-guide-1309487], it was crowded and you couldn't see very far, pity! We bought some t-shirts, bargaining of course!

Today we went to theTemple of Azure Clouds or Biyunsi, very beautiful buddhist temple! Long stairs bring you to the top where the temple look pretty Indian.
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There is a room with 500 buddah statues, I didn't count them all but there are lots! Then again a factory, pears this time. Then off to the summer palace. This is huge, we could have spent the whole day but we didn't have that much time. Pity it was foggy again, there would have been beautiful views. In the evening we went to the Chinese opera. Thats something else, anyone who thinks about going to see that, bring ear plugs! Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't have wanted to miss that! The costumes and makeup are great and it's really a show!

Another day of sightseeing starting with the temple of Confucius and then a bit further down the road the Lama temple. On our way there, walking behind the guide with his flag, we heard music coming from a building besides the road.large_1297706_1417353211793.jpg
Us curious people went to the window and looked inside. A local opera group was rehearsing. They saw us and one of the singers came outside to invite us in. While our guide walked on the whole group disappeared inside, it must have been a scare for him to lose a whole group of tourists. It didn't take him long to find us though. At the lama temple there is a huge statue of buddha, wasn't allowed to take pictures of it. After that shopping at the silk market, which is more like a cotton market with lots of fake brand clothes, if you go there beware, it's mostly illegal stuff! For dinner we were on our own this time, guide had an evening off. My aunt and I went to the restaurant at the library, good food and ridiculously cheap.

Today we had a full day off so we got up at 6:15 (!) to go to the park and see the locals do their Tai Chi.large_1297706_14173532121216.jpg
Today the air is clear so we plan a trip to the Great Wall, not at Badaling again but at Mutianyu [Mutianyu-travel-guide-1328445], our guide wrote us a note for the taxi driver (hardly any speak English), we asked the group if anyone would like to join us (two of them would like to) and we went on our way. It was great! The driver had to ask locals for directions but when we got there we almost had the Wall for ourselves. And the view was great ! We spent the whole day there, walking around, buying souvenirs, ordering lunch with hand and feet and after that the same taxi driver brought us back at the hotel.

Our last day we visited a hutong, a traditional residential area. We went there by pedicab, visited a school, one of the homes and some old people put up a show for us. Then the drum tower and the Bell tower en after that the tea ceremony.large_1297706_14173532123539.jpg
Again those Dutch people try to ask all kind of strange things, if the girl has a boyfriend or maybe even a girlfriend? The girl didn't even believe something like that exists. In the afternoon we visited Beihai park and we had our last group diner at the famous roast duck restaurant (you can get the ducks heads roasted on a stick at the back door) Next morning long flight home, sadly

Note: back in 2004 I didn't have a digital camera yet so all the pictures are scanned (hell of a job btw)

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Posted by Stefmuts 23:53 Archived in China Tagged landscapes food culture city_trip analog_photo Comments (0)

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