Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Back to the USA - Day 33

We made our way down to the sumptuous breakfast that was  included in our hotel stay at the Hotel Amano in Berlin. When we were done, we asked the front desk to call us a taxi and it was there in less than 5 minutes ready to take us to the airport.

Our wonderful, perfect trip was over. The flight was great. We were served a breakfast and lunch. Curry Wurst, if I recall. That's a sausage with a mixture of ketchup and curry - it seems to be the signature food of Berlin at the moment. Not sure if I like it or not.

Leaving Berlin. Can you see all the windmills?

We got off the plane, used the automated kiosks to show our passports and pass customs. With only our carry on baggage, the longest part of the process was simply walking down the long hallways.

Back home. We used our Uber app to get a ride from Miami airport back to our home in Fort Lauderdale.

#LoveToTravel #LetsDoItAgain

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Monday, June 19, 2017

Why I like Facebook - a Berlin story

As if we planned it! I know David Fenimore from when I lived in Lake Tahoe back in 1980. He still lives in Reno. The last time I saw him was when we visited Reno in 2004. Yesterday, after visiting the Holocaust memorial in Berlin, I looked at Facebook and saw a photo of the Holocaust memorial - posted by David! I messaged him, and we met up. We're only in Berlin for one day, he leaves today. #WhatAreTheOdds? It was great to see you David. And so nice to meet you Ashley.

Jim and me meeting up with David Fenimore and Ashley, completely unplanned, in Berlin



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Berlin - days 31-32

Because we flew Air Berlin to and from Miami, we were given the option to stopover a day in Berlin for no extra charge on the airfare. For the record, our airfare was $1,640 round trip for both of us combined. Not bad. Thanks Dolphin Travel!

Air Berlin flew over the Alps between Milan and Berlin
We landed in Berlin and Google Maps showed us how to get to the hotel with a combination of bus, subway and walking. This was the most modern hotel we've had yet.

We checked in then went out for a walk. Hey - if we're going to get 7 miles in today, we've got to get going! LOTS of construction going on in Berlin! It's a very active, vibrant city.

Berlin is a growing place
We found the famous Brandenburg Gate on our walk, not too far from the hotel.
I knew that another of my fellow Google Photos support experts lived in Germany somewhere but I had not made contact before our trip like I had with Paolo in Milan. I didn't know what kind of time we would have in Berlin anyway. But, I decided to take a chance and text Alex to see if it would be possible to meet up. Yes! I'm so glad I did. The Geeks on Meetup Tour continues! It was great to get to know Alex a bit. Putting a face and a personality to the people you only know on the web is a major benefit.


Then we had a bus and boat tour scheduled for the afternoon. We stopped to see the "Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe" - aka the Holocaust museum. What an innovative design for a memorial, dozens and dozens of massive concrete blocks. You feel their weight, you feel masses of unnamed people they represent. You feel chills.
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
The actual museum was underneath.

The hop-on hop-off bus tours are great ways to get an overview of a city for the first time. We didn't have time to hop off though, so we just stayed on and went all around Berlin.

Hop-on Hop-off tour bus to see Berlin

What's left of Checkpoint Charlie is full-blown tourist attraction
After the bus came the boat. It's always best to see a place from the water. We had a gorgeous day for it.

The commentary on the boat said that Berlin has more bridges than Venice !?!


More photos in our 2017 Europe Photo Album

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Sunday, June 18, 2017

Milano - days 29-30

This was one of the stays that was booked by our travel agent before we left the states. We wanted to know where we were staying when we flew into Florence and the beginning, and when we flew out of Milan at the end. Then, everything in between was open. I call that freedom within structure - the perfect combination.

Milano (Milan) is a big city. It is the financial center of Italy - kind of like New York City. When we got off the train and made our way thru the station, we felt like country bumpkins come to the big city. I sure am glad our Google Maps worked over there or we would have needed a lot more time to find our way around.

The train station in Milan was as impressive, or more so, as Grand Central in New York City. 
One of the reasons we chose to fly out of Milan was because I have a contact there. His name is Paolo and he is a "Top Contributor" on the Google Photos forum. I am also a top contributor and I consider one of the major perks to be the fact that I have contacts all over the world because there are a few dozen of us helping each other as we help the users who have questions on the forum for Google Photos. All of us participate in a private online chat area and actually get to know each other that way. Paolo lives in Milan and works at the Planetarium there - he is a space geek! So, our first stop was the planetarium. We walked.


I found Paolo! One of my co-workers on the Google Photos help forum.
We then went to our hotel and got checked in just in time to make it to our reserved tour of Leonardo's Last Supper. A very famous painting, they have to control visitors. Only about a dozen are let in to view it at a time and there are air-lock doors to keep down any dust or other debris. Your group walks thru one set of doors and stay in a room between the doors for just a minute, then you are ushered into the room where the painting is. After 15 minutes, you are ushered out. The painting is on a wall and it has been painted over, and then restored several times it appears. It's still pretty moving to be in the presence of Leonardo's work.

The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci
Since the signature part of the tour only lasts 15 minutes, the guide takes us around to some other famous sights in Milan.
Milan Cathedral
Although the Cathedral was beautiful, I was most taken by the Galleria. I think because it was just as splendid as any of the cathedrals we'd seen, yet it wasn't a church. It was built from the beginning as a shopping mall.
Definitely my favorite statue ... Leonardo
When the tour was finished, we made it back to our room and crashed. We had arranged to meet Paolo for lunch the next day. Then he showed us around his city, including a wonderful park and a tower where you ride up in an elevator and get a view of the entire city.

Meetup with Paolo for lunch
Tower to the view of the city

This was our third 7-miles-walking day in a row! Come dinner time, we picked the restaurant directly next door to the hotel. It was wonderful!
The restaurant next door for our Last Supper

The next morning we caught a taxi to the airport.

We are very sad to be leaving Italy
More photos in our 2017 Europe Photo Album

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Thursday, June 15, 2017

Eurail to Lake Como - Days 27-28

Before leaving Lake Bled, we took some time to study the map and the calendar and decided we could make a stop at Lake Como before getting to Milan. We had a Eurail Pass that gave us 10 days of train travel within an overall 2 month period. At first I thought we used it all up, but then I realized that 2 legs of train travel were actually accomplished in the course of one day. It is days that count, not travel legs.

From Lake Bled we caught a bus to get to the train station, then a train back to Ljubljana where we had several hours before the bus to Trieste. Let's see what can we do while we're waiting?
This waiter was born and bred in Ljubljana, but had also spent time elsewhere. He spoke very good English and we had a great time drinking and chatting.
The bus to Trieste was quite pleasant and it was so nice to get out at the station and know exactly where we were. We had stayed in Trieste previously (day 15) but the B&B we stayed at that time was booked so we stayed at the Hotel Roma - very close to the train/bus station.


The next morning it was back to the train station to catch a high-speed train this time. This was our longest ride yet, but it went quick.


Lake Como is so much bigger than I imagined. We took a one hour boat ride that I thought was going to show us at least half of  the lake, but no, if the lake is like a finger, we only saw the tip of the fingernail! We had great accommodations there. This was our only AirBnB. Our contact's name was Larissa, the room was private with it's own outside door and it was only a block from the Lakeshore.

It was a short walk to the Funicular which took us up the hillside into the residential area around Como. That was easy. Then we decided to walk the rest of the way to the very top. By the time we were done for the day, our phones had registered over 7 miles of walking! And, most of it was steep up and down. We are definitely getting our exercise.

Larissa taking us thru the gate to a private AirBnB room
We rode the Funicular up the hillside by the town of Como
We walked up and down steep streets to the top of the hill and an overlook of the lake.
Lake Como from the top of the hill

What a perfect evening for a boat ride on Lake Como
We ended the evening at an outdoor restaurant directly across from the Duomo. We enjoyed our favorite Italian foods and watched as the cathedral doors opened to let out a procession of singing priests and followers.

The melon was all so perfectly ripe and sweet, wrapped in prosciutto is such a taste treat. The tomato and mozzarella Caprese is a perennial favorite for both Jim and me.

A completely unannounced procession right in front of our open air restaurant. A magic end to a gorgeous day.
More photos in our 2017 Europe photo album

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