A Travellerspoint blog

Brig to St Moritz (Glacier Express)

overcast 21 °C
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Left Lausanne early (7am) Saturday morning on the local train to Brig. Brig is down in the valley which the Glacier Express drops down to after leaving Zermatt about 8 in the morning. We arrived in Brig and went to the supermarket to get a picnic lunch for the train, got aboard the Glacier Express at 10:20 and started on the way toward St Moritz. The Scenery all throughout Switzerland is amazing, it is so much like the area around Queenstown/Fiordland feels like being at home. Also after being in Italy and France the number of people that could talk to us in English was awesome. The train rumbles past heaps of tiny villages etc, heads into these tiny twisty tunnels and climbs some serious inclines (In Brig they hook up a traction unit with a cog drive) After climbing over the high point of 2000 or so meters the steep descent begins, this is the headwaters of the Rhine river, after the main descent the train heads into the Rhine Gorge, which is apparently known as the Swiss Grand Canyon... actually it looks like that big sandy cliff at Tuckers Beach on the Shotover River (you know the one that you see from the old landfill). Its the same even down to the pine trees all over the slopes :)

Arrived at Chur and the engine was changed back to a normal 'adhesion' one for the trip on to St Moritz, this is probably when the scenery is at its best, its the typical picture postcard Swiss scenes. Arrived into St Moritz into heavy rain showers and caught the bus around to the hostel. The Hostel in St Moritz was awesome, we had dinner included in the price for the night and so had a huge feed of salad and beans etc. There was pork stew and mashed potato as well, and soup and custard and fruit for desert. Pretty good deal for only 2 more euros than what we have been paying at all the other hostels...

Had an early night in St Mortiz and got everything sorted for the next days early start to get the train to Luzern. Had a battle with understanding instructions for the washing machine (they were in a dialect of German/Romanche that was far removed from School C German) but finally got some water noises being made and swishing happening. After going back about 40 minutes later to put it in the dryer we found that the washing machine was red hot and was still at the start of the 100 minute cycle... in what seemed to be boiling water... oh well at least the clothes would be germ free... after even more of a battle we got the clothes rinsed in cold water and spun and into the dryer to get in the morning. Morning comes and we go to grab the clothes, find that Jo's Icebreaker is a new, slimmer fit. Her week old singlet is a nice new shade of misty grey and Tim's T Shirt print has mysteriously disappeared... gone, completely gone :) Oh well not much we can do, off to catch the train.

Posted by timnz 12:45 Archived in Switzerland Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Lausanne via Geneva

sunny 30 °C
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Left Lyon quite early in the morning, caught the metro across to the main station and hopped aboard for the ride to Geneva. Pretty uneventful ride up, woke up not too long before Geneva and watched as we slowly saw mountains appearing on the horizons.

Was a beautiful day when we got of the train around lunch time in Geneva, we didn't have any Swiss Franc's so we couldn't put our luggage into a locker. On the train up from Lyon we'd read that our Eurail pass gave us free reign on the regular boat services on all of Switzerlands lakes, so we decided to investigate getting a boat up to Lausanne. (There were at least 2 trains per hour heading to Lausanne from Geneva anyway). There was a boat leaving at 3pm that we decided to sit around and wait for, so after sitting on the lakefront and eating some lunch we'd bought the night before we decided to go grab some drinks and more food from a supermarket. On the way back we dropped into a pharmacy and Jo got a hair clip 'cause it was really hot. (The significance of this will become apparent later...)

Got on the boat for 3 O'clock and grabbed a seat out in the sun for the cruise up to Lausanne. On the waterfront in Geneva there is this massive waterspout that they have set up, it's absolutely massive and only later did we realise just how big, we could see it all the way until about 20 minutes from Lausanne (3.5 hours later). Geneva was a beautiful city and we decided that we'd be keen to go back...

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Arrived Lausanne around half past six, on the waterfront after we hopped of the boat there were a couple of guys who apparently still think that roller skating is cool... This guy was doing spins and all sorts thinking he was the MAN strutting his stuff as we videoed him, having trouble holding the camera still from our laughing :) Putting the camera back into Jo's 'Prada' handbag the receipt from the pharmacy in Geneva fell out, we were in the process of checking it to see if the full credit card number was on it (over here they print the whole number, plus your expiry date, so if anybody finds it they can use your details on the internet etc) when we spotted the amount that Jo had been charged.... 214 Swiss Francs!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! what!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! for a hair clip!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (ps. thats about $250NZD). Alright, so we needed to get this overcharging sorted, but we were in Lausanne, leaving in the morning to go to St Moritz on the Glacier Express. We Headed for the hostel and checked in and showed the girl the receipt, she tried calling the pharmacy to get them to refund the difference but they were closed, and it was Friday....

Posted by timnz 12:24 Archived in Switzerland Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Nice and Lyon

semi-overcast 23 °C
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Left Italy and arrived into France, just like the arrival into Italy the exiting was just as distinct. All of a sudden the train stations were clean and new looking, the buildings were clean and there were sign posts! man they really are useful when you don't know where you are heading... The place we stayed at in Nice was really nice, very close to the train station so didn't have to walk far. We arrived, dropped our bags and then went for a walk down to the waterfront, the beach was nice, there's no sand only pebbles but still looked good. That was about all we had time for so after a good nights sleep we were again at the station early in the morning to catch the TGV to Lyon.

Arrived Lyon about 4pm, after finding a city map we realised that our hostel was on the other side of town. Just as if we were old hands we went straight to the metro, bought some tickets and navigated our way along the passages to get on the train, after changing lines and climbing aboard another train we arrived as close as we could to the hostel, only problem was it was up a steep hill, and it was hot... After a slow slog up to the hostel we sat around and sorted out what we were going to do the next day, went and got some dinner and then came back had a beer and went to bed :)

Next day we got up and walked to the Museum of the Resistance and Deportation, a museum about the French Resistance. It was fairly interesting but lacked any real exhibits, i mean they could have put the museum in book form, we just walked around the whole time reading panels, there wasn't actually any items or anything to look at... We had a meal across the street for lunch and then caught the metro up to the Lumiere Brothers Museum, these are the guys that invented the cinema, and the movie camera. This was a more interesting museum with lots of things to look at, read and buttons to press to make things light up and spin around :) After checking this out for about 2 hours we caught the metro back toward the hostel, caught the funincular railway up to the top of the hill and went and visited Lyons Notre Dame Basilica. Another really decorated church, this time with an underneath chapel that was also massive and lavishly decorated, pretty cool.

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We walked down the hill back towards the hostel, got a little bit lost, bought some groceries on the way and finally climbed back up the hill to the hostel... All's well that ends well :) We ate dinner and then sat around until heading to bed, as we had an early start to catch the train toward Switzerland and Lausanne...

Posted by timnz 14:54 Archived in France Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Pisa and the Cinque Terre

sunny 28 °C
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After leaving Rome we dropped into Pisa for a quick stop on the way to the Cinque Terre.

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Pisa was really nice in comparison to Rome, it is a university town and everyone there seemed to be a lot more laid back than the other places we'd been to in Italy. We dropped our packs at the left luggage office at the station and walked following our map to the tower. It really is as crazy as it looks when you see it in real life. It doesn't seem like it should be standing. Looking up from the base of the tower the overhang is massive.

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In the same area there is a Cathedral (the tower is the belfry) and some other building and all of them are leaning. The Cathedral seems to have sunk in two directions from the middle and looks pretty weird :) After seeing the tower and thinking it funny that people from all over the world come to see some ones cock up we caught the train toward Manarola...

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As you arrive in the Cinque Terre you seem to relax, you get off the train at the station which is just an opening in the tunnel, the train is actually in the tunnel at both ends and the platform runs into the tunnels. After wandering up a really steep hill in the blazing sunshine we made it to our hostel, we just had to wait 45 minutes for it to open... we made ourselves comfortable on a bench and watched people wandering by.

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The next day we got up reasonably early and whipped down to the station to buy our ticket to walk on the main tracks, you have to get a ticket to walk between the villages along the main route, it was about 5€ each. We walked down to Riamaggiore (the first of the 5 villages) and got a coffee and croisant for breakfast, then headed back to Manarola and kept going. Corniglia was not too far away from there and we got there after not too long. After finally finding the right way to continue onwards we started climbing and the track got thinner as we went. The views were beautiful, looking back down onto the towns we had just left and across and through the grape vines and olive trees that are planted in terraces built all over the steep hillsides. After about an hour we arrived at Vernazza and stopped to have some lunch.

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This was a really beautiful village as well and a little bigger than the other three, it had a beach area behind a breakwater, looked really tempting until we got closer and saw about a million little purple jellyfish drifting backward and forward... After lunch we began the brutal climb upwards onto the cliffs to head to Monterosso, the climb wasn't made any easier by the temperature, it was a stunning day, no clouds and no wind. After wandering around high up above the sea we decended sharply and arrived into Monterosso, the last and largest of the 5 villages. We decided not to walk back but instead caught the train back to Riamaggiore and walked back to Manarola, thank you Eurail ticket :) Was an awesome walking and would like to come back maybe at some stage to do some more of the walks (you can climb onto the hills higher up behind all of the villages and there are more tracks and roads that link together all over the place)

Packed our bags that night and got ready for the trip to Nice the next day...

Posted by timnz 14:32 Archived in Italy Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Rome

semi-overcast 24 °C
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Well we rocked into Rome a few days back now, sorry about the delay in updating this page but internet access points seem to be few and far between throughout Italy... Actually it seems as if Italy doesn't have the internet yet, the whole country is not what you are led to believe with from the tourist brochures. The overwhelming impression that we have of Italy is one of dirtiness, everything is filthy, the buildings obviously haven't had any maintenance done to them since they were constructed, and even all the public buildings like train stations are dirty.

We arrived in Rome in the early evening after riding down from Venice on the train, its quite a long journey and not overly scenic so was good to stretch the legs, the hostel wasn't too far from the station, about 4 blocks, but it was only when we were about to go in the door that we remembered that we had to pay in cash, and the nearest ATM was back at the station... so 4 turned into 12 blocks but we finally made it. The hostel we stayed at had most probably the smallest shower cubicle that was ever manufactured, you could barely pick anything up from the floor because you became wedged between the sides as you tried to kneel down, was good to have a private shower in the room though.

The next day we decided to get a ticket that allowed us to use all of Rome's public transport for the day, we hoped onto the subway line 'B', this was more than obviously the B grade line as the train was completely covered in graffiti, the walk down to the tunnel was past the most dirty roughcast plaster you have ever seen, the dust and grime was hanging off all the tips of the plaster... Anyway it got us to where we were headed (the Colossium), well almost. It shot straight past the stop that we needed and left us down at the next stop, Circus Maximus. This wasn't so bad, or so we thought as we were going to walk down to there anyway. Once we were on the surface things started going downhill though, the street we needed to head down was blocked off and there was half the city of Rome lining the sides watching what seemed like the entire Italian army march along. We had a map so thought we could circumvent the blockage, after walking for kilometers we were stopped at our final crossing point when we ran into the other end of the parade route... After walking all the way back which we'd come (taking a short cut over Capitole Hill sic) we managed to cross the street that had earlier been blocked and finally after about 2.5hours of walking we caught a glimpse of the famous structure. After having a picnic lunch we walked all the way back to the Circus Maximus metro stop and headed in the direction of the Vatican...

Arrived at the metro station that was closest to the Vatican and walked for about 10 minutes till we were suddenly in St Peters Square, as the queue for entry into the Basilica wasn't too long we joined it and after about 20 minutes we were being metal detected and allowed to head inside. The inside is absolutely massive, what at first appeared to be the inside of the church was in fact really only the first wing of the entire thing. There were four of these wings centered around the massive, soaring cupola. Every surface was covered in carvings, frescoes or mozaics, amazing :) We then exited the church via the crypt under the building, walked out and back into the scorching sunshine...

So we still had plenty of time left in Rome and nothing else planned to have a look at, we had decided not to queue for the Vatican Museums because from what we'd heard the line was massive (a few days earlier it was around 3 blocks we'd heard from Chris and Jo that were there) As it was around 3 O'clock we thought we'd go and see how long it was, as it turned out there was no line and we walked straight into the Museum and about 30mins later after walking through the labyrinth of passages we were standing in the Sistine Chapel, if all the other churches we've stood in were decorated, this one was the next level, but it was only painted, every part of the room was covered in paintings, obviously they'd got a bit cross eyed by the time they made it down to the bottom sections because all around the bottom they just painted some curtains :) Although you'd think this place would be peaceful some Italian dude on a power trip standing keeping watch keep bellowing out, no photos, shhhhhhhhh, quite please this is a holy place... and clapping... It was ridiculous, it couldn't have been less holy if they tried, all the other churches we've been in have been respected by the people in there and just have a quiet murmur much nicier that some dude yelling and screaming.

We headed back to the hostel via the Trevi fountain, this fountain is wicked, if only there weren't so many people, it was absolutely packed in the tiny piazza where the fountain is, beautiful all the same. We watched an american woman try and through a 2€ coin over her shoulder into the fountain (it means you will return to Rome), she failed miserably and hit another woman in the head, and the coin was eagely snatched up by some little kid :) As we didn't really have any great wish to return we forwent tossing in a coin and hoped back on the metro and retired to our room.

P.S. Due to a minor technical hiccup (clearing the memory card) we no longer have any photos of our day in Rome... oh well :(

Posted by timnz 13:56 Archived in Italy Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Venice

semi-overcast 18 °C
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Alrighty, arrived at Venezia aboad a train that truly let us know we had arrived in Italy, yep they really do like to talk to each other while at other ends of the train :) Hoped off the train at the main station and hopped on a city bus to head to the camp ground that Chris and Jo had suggested to us. Dropped the bags off and then caught the next bus back to where we'd just come from... Managed to arrive in one piece, just had to push a few teeth back in, was probably the most bumpy bus ride we've ever been on :)

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Wandered around Venice from 5:30 until 9:30 was really nice to see the light reducing and the lights coming on. The streets (can you really call them that) were an absolute maze but with a map in hand we arrived where we had planned to end up, San Marco, or tourist central. People were feeding pigeons in the piazza, for 1€ you could by feed and have pigeons acost you and eat out of your hand... weird. Wandered around just following our noses, outside the Prade shop there were these guys with big sheets layed out with heaps of rip off bags laid out, Jo was smitten (with the bags) and decided to do some 'African business' and bought a 45€ bag for 25.

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So wandering around with a camera and a fake Prada bag stuffed with newspaper we saw the rest of the sights until we caught the bus back at around 10pm.

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Venice is a strange place, can't really see it exsisting without tourism. If people didn't come to see a city built on water it would have ceased to exist years ago. The city itself is having rather a hard time of it, some parts are sinking at up to 10cm year! The place seems to be being raped of all it can with no money being put back into anything that doesn't have an immediate monetary return. It's a shame because all the buildings are really cool, but most are ready to fall down. For the number of tourists in the place it seems that there must be money available to improve things... I mean the vaporetto (Water buses) seem to be last upgraded in 1980... (this was obviously the last time somene arrived selling music to, as the soundtrack to Venice would definetly have only been released on cassette ;) )

All and all though its a nice place to visit, and glad that we went.

Ciao !

Posted by timnz 13:33 Archived in Italy Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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