Saturday, 24 January 2015

Bangkok Codicil

Now we all know that Dear Jude is a fantastic organist. She loves the planning bit of trips and making sure that accommodation is first class; that trains, planes and buses all connect with the minimum of fuss. As with all our previous trips, organisation was, once again, exceptional, as evidenced with the following narrative:

With the prospect of a 10-hour transit stop-over in Bangkok, DJ booked a hotel room in the city. Though we were not going to stay overnight, it turned out to be a master-stroke. The train trip from airport to city and back gave us a good sense of place and culture, but the best bit was the swim in the hotel's pool. Most refreshing and invigorating, being a tinch bit cooler than one would have expected.    Here's a couple of photos:

Thanks to DJ, Steph and Ally for making the trip sensational. Thanks to Georgia for looking after things back home. 



The last day of our European adventure was spent hurtling around a few of the touristy attractions - parks, museums, galleries and the like. Too much to write about in detail. Ally told us s story about two statues in the courtyard of the Burghof that might tickle the intrigue nerve of the reader. (Ie youse). 

It seems that two statues were crafted by well known artists of the day who were each other's contemporaries. One really clever chap put his subject on a rearing horse connected to the statue's base at only one point. Here is a photo;

The other statue's creator was unable to mount his subject in quite such an  elegant fashion, thus:

You can see that he has secured his horse to the base using one leg and its tail. It turns out that the second chap was so distraught at being outclassed in this way that he topped himself!  That is a truly amazing story, don't you agree?  [Unless Ally is lying,]

That's it for this trip blog. See you all soon, we hope!



Thursday, 22 January 2015

Return from Hinterbrühl

We all three arrived back to the bus stop, but there we split. S & DJ went straight back to Vienna Central to "do" some galleries. Groombles walked into Mühlbach along the bike path ("radweg"). How delicious!  

The path runs alongside the river that tumbles out of the underground lakes of Hinterbrühl. Actually this water is pumped out, otherwise these lakes would be un-navigable (people would bump their heads on the rocky roof). 

Colder than usual, with hands shoved into coat pockets, I rolled into the bigger town of Mühlbach - where the train takes us into Vienna.  But what's this long the wY?  A path heading up a big hill towards a ruin on top of a cliff!  Yikes!  MUST climb up to that baby!  So I did. 

Here's the view back from whence I walked ...

Strolling along from what turned out to be an early 18th century folly (but a pretty intriguing one), saw me smack in the middle of the Vienna Woods. WHO WOULD HAVE THOUGHT???

Wednesday, 21 January 2015


OK, because DJ missed out on a trip to Hinterbrühl in 2001/2, now was her big chance to smash on out with Steph and me. Metro to edge of the city then regional train to Mödling. 

The destination is an underground lake dug out of a small mountain to mine gypsum. A very special destination. A 400 metre walk with guide horizontally into the centre of the hill passes some representations of rest areas for the miners and accommodations for the blinded horses that spent all of their 20 years' working life underground, in the dark and toiling hard. Must have neede the gypsum real bad!

The result of all that mining produced a huge underground area with lakes at three levels. In the middle of these we took a motorboat ride with our guide.   Quite a surreal experience!

This underground space contains a theatre where the Bienna Boys' Choir performs regularly, and where an opera is currently running. 

In WW2 the Nasty Nazis used slave labour supplied from the small concentration camp above to build an extraordinarily unsuccessful jet fighter with its engine mounted on top. Seems that everything about it worked well apart from landing the bit. Most of the frame was made of wood(!)

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Stephanie's 30th!

What a night we had tonight!  Thanks to Stephanie, our last evening in Europe for this trip was spent first way up to the sky at Le Loft in the Sofitel Hotel for drinks. Then at the Do and Co Restaurant at Stephansplatz for dinner. Where else in the world would one wish tho send one's 30th birthday?  I ASK YOU!  ["Arks youse"?]

Anyhow, wish youse could all of been there!


Friday, 16 January 2015

Hurtling snow

Departure day from Dobbiaco. Great week of skiing and the snow is hurtling down upon us all here in the Dolomites. Excellent news for the skiers arriving for the weekend!  It is also good travelling weather for us returning to Vienna for our last stint prior to heading home. This morning's window-view:

Have to report on the standard of skiing exhibited this past week by Rose family members:

Stephanie - began fast, dropped back momentarily to gain some style, finished with poise and grace. 

Ally - hurtled down the slopes with DJ, leaving all in her wake. 

Dear Jude - style and grace a-plenty, zooming down with Ally in perfect control. 

Groombles - started poorly, vainly trying to remember how it is done. Lots of falls. Remembered about un-weighting and bobbing in time for two fall-free days at the end. Wishes he could ski like DJ!

Dolomite Skiing


Dobbiaco bus:

Sign flicks to:

Thursday, 15 January 2015


One day's skiing in Cortina was not enough. While our favorite ski area was the Dobbiaco side, the skiing in Cirtina was pretty special. Photographs rarely do the alps justice, but here are some amateur attempts to capture the magic of the place. 

... And there was also some sort of regional cuisine/wine teasing show being filmed for television at one of the many alpine restaurants. 

Does anyone know who these two Italian "personalities" might be?  The chaps on the left are filming the proceedings, but the two on the right could very well be the Mike Preston (in blue) of the Italian gastronomy circuit and the other one (in yellow) could well be one of the competitors in the upcoming world championship giant slalom championships about to take place here. WHO KNOWS!??

Dobbiaco/Toblach II

Well, what a place to spend some time!  Dobbiaco. YOUSE ALL HAVE TO COME!  It's a splendid part of the world. A part of Italy where you can practise your Italian. Also only a couple of km from Austria, so you can practise your German if that is your preference.  I plump for the latter. 

It's surprising what one can find for sale in and around Dobbiaco. Here are the four skiers of the youthful variety in our party (Steph, Henry, Penny and Ally) after a hard day's skiing in Cortina yesterday looking at what's available in the vending machine at the bus station. 

What IS available will rock your socks:  vibrators, pregnancy tests, prophylactics, YOU NAME IT!  All available for the price of a macchiato or two. 

Not long after, the bus came to take us home to Toblach before anyone had time to slip some spare change into the machine. The snow that fell during the trip home made for some wonderful skiing at Viersach today. 

Competition Time

OK. Word association competition time. A Mars Bar for the first neatest correct entry for the following movie name:

It's an escalator, and here's the name of the company that made it:

Australian director, movie set in Europe in 1940s. 

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Dobbiaco Morning

Overnight snow dump should make for an even better day' skiing today (from apartment window)

More later ...

Monday, 12 January 2015

Off season in Dobbiaco/Toblach

Well it seems that it is low season for the two weeks we are here because school is back for this timeframe. As a result, prices are cheaper and there is not a queue on sight on the lifts. "The LIFTS??!" I hear you exclaim in rowdy unison, "Surely you, G. Charles Rose, are not DOWNHILL SKIING!???".  Well yes, as a matter of fact, I AM!  And enjoying it, so move on. 

In support of this move to "yo-yo" skiing, it must be said that conditions for x-country skiing in Dobbiaco are far less than desired. There is one 5-km track that was constructed for an event two weeks ago, but this now looks pretty tired and there are bits that have no snow on them at all. For cross country skiing it's all a bit grim. 

Last year in Dobbiaco there was no downhill skiing because there was TOO MUCH SNOW! - go figure ... . "Go with the flow", I reckon and snap on those downhill skis!

Let me tell you, it's terrifying!  Really, really scary. The downhill angles on the slopes are way too huge!  The speeds generated from the combination of gravity, body weight and ski slipperiness horrify me to the very core!  

And all the while, Dear Jude and Stephanie glide gracefully ahead, loving the whooshing poetry of the joy of alp- descending. Not a worry I'm the world. Pure bliss. "Let's do THAT again", they shout, as Old Groomby shooshes up to them waiting together at the bottom. "Couldn't we just have a little re..."  But it's too late. DJ and Steph are already heading to the base of the chair/lift/towing device all ready for the next downhill smash. Groomby trails along in their wake. 

So that's it. The end of Day One. I'm bushed (that means 'tired').  "Looking forward" to tomorrow's "adventure". Just maybe the sum of all the lessons I've paid for over the years will kick into gear and I shall become the ski champion of my dreams. STAY TUNED!

Falls by Groomby: 5
Falls by DJ: 0
Falls by Stephanie:  0

Sunday, 11 January 2015


All day yesterday was devoted to train travel; east through smoggy Italy and then up into the alps after a left-hand turn at Verona. [Looked for two gentlemen, but to no avail.]

Another train to the top of the alps, then another cute-as train east across the top to Dobbiaco. Surprisingly, quite a bit of secondary industry along this line, but soon we emerged into more classic alpine meadows and towering alps. Green meadows; white alps. 

Not much snow about, but we are assured that downhill skiing is OK. Cross country skiing is all but non-existent. It's certainly fortuitous that skiing was not our sole purpose for coming!

DJ and I took a stroll up the hill behind the town and came across a huge ski jump, grassy AS, and not a hint of snow. Here's DJ pretending to take a huge jump!


 The thing I'm loving about this region is the combination of German and Italian cultures. Signs are written in both languages and both can be heard spoken in and around the towns.  Many towns have a German, as well as an Italian name. Dobbiaco is also known as Toblach. I have had a few (simple) conversations in German with some of the locals and am surprised at how much is buried deep within. 

A further observation of note is the absence of people around both Dobbiaco and its twin resort Cortina - the swankier ski resort 20-odd km away higher in the alps. Perhaps this is a special holiday time. The next two weeks, for some reason are "off season" and lift tickets and ski hire are cheaper. Another possible clue is that the cemetery is lit up with candles burning in the dead of night.   WHAT is going on?

French Situation

We are all shocked by the recent events in Paris and this blog should not allow the events to pass unnoticed. Our hearts are solidly behind the French people and we share their grief and outrage. [The shocking events took place the day after we had left Paris.]

At some point, the brake needs to be applied to the "Je suis Charlie" outcry. For the French, perhaps, it is appropriate. However, I am reluctant to join this particular chorus. I never wish to give offence, at least consciously. This is in direct contrast to Charlie Hebdo, whose primary aim is to do just that. 

My religious orientation has morphed from "Informal Methodist "(as a young lad) to one of "Devout Atheism". From this position, however, I do not deride the Faithful with scorn. We are all entitled to our individual beliefs. 

The Charlie cartoonists gave offence of the highest possible order to those of the Muslim faith.  [In the same way as they gave similar offence to members of other religions.]  They did not deserve to die for what they did, however. In my heart I am walking with the people of Paris tonight. 

Groombles' Product

I know that there a fair few of you out there who are concerned about how my Product supplies (for the hair) are lasting. Well, I'm happy to report that, with appropriate husbanding of this precious resource, that I shall have enough to cover my needs for the remainder of the trip!  

Saturday, 10 January 2015

DJ's New Car

We've talked about what sort of car Dear Jude should get herself should she ever retire. Well, HERE IT IS!  It's a Renault ...


Have to say that I really like Milan! Maybe it's the fact that it's winter and there are not too many of us gawking tourists about, but it does not feel like a touristy town. More of a Melbourne and less of a Sydney. 

Our apartment is near Via Vincenzo Monti, a mannish thoroughfare with tram lines, a supermarket and the tight number of quaint little unpretentious restaurants. Here is the wallpaper from last night's:

The previous night, homeward-bound after a heavy day of shopping, DJ suggested we stop at a bar for a drink. Turns out that the food was free for the cost of a €9 drink!  Just one of the many Milanese wonders!

Now, just on the subject of shopping, here's a sobering cry from a Milanese vandal:


Thursday, 8 January 2015

Shopping The Milanese Sales

The Girls would LOVE to skitch round to all the museums, cathedrals and monuments in Milan. They really truly would.  However, the SALES are on and no self-respecting girl could do otherwise than go for a good rummage through the bins in the likes of Banana Republic, Zara, Sephora, to name but a few. 

They are the absolute champions of this style of shopping (you know: the frenzied, 'desperate for a bargain' style of shopping; this in direct contrast wth the stealthy 'wait quietly for the odd sale to appear and then pounce' style that takes place throughout the rest of the year). Anyhow, that's what's happening today. 

Mind you, we did kick off with a wander through the main cathedral, "Il Duomo". This took about 25 minutes. But the shops are so CLOSE, don't you know  ...

Old Groomby gets to stand outside in the street during these forays. Here he can observe the passing parade and various goings-on. 

Here's an example.  A group of three early-to-middle-thirties gents offering some sort of 'bargain' tickets detailed in a green pamphlet. Passers-by are offered the pamphlet. If they accept the offered 'bargain' they are told that there is a price to pay. When they try to hand it back it is refused and payment demanded. Things get a little heated till the respondent walks away. Never to be disillusioned, the chaps go back to offering their 'bargains' to the passing parade. In the 30 minutes I watched, not one 'sale' was made. 

It's lucky theses guys don't look slimy and/or sleazy, isn't it?!

Let's not end this blog on a sour note, though. Here's a photo of the girls in the swankiest arcade in Milan with their Booty:

The 139 Steps

Yup!  That's how many steps up the stairs to our Milanese apartment. [Only 63 up to the top of 28 Rue de Lorraine, so stop grizzling about it.] We were met by a VERY Helpful Harry (apartment welcoming chap), who grabbed Steph's case and took off up the spiral staircase. We grunted on up behind. 

It is a huge climb, but the way is marked by the Stations of the Cross. For any of you who are unacquainted with the Ss of the C, each of the 14 stages is a representation of Jesus' last movements throughout His crucifixion journey to Heaven via the Cross. These Sations can be found around the walls in Catholic Churches and along the routes on mountainsides. This is the first I have seen on apartment stairs.  They are a source of endless fascination for this child of the Methodist Church.]

It seems to me, as I make my way up to the apartment, that my journey stands as an inverse relationship to that of Jesus' last trip: the further He travels, the greater His grief, while my ascention brings me closer to our apartment, warmth and safety. Perhaps this is the very point. 

I wonder if the other of the building's tenants remember their apartment's location by which Station is on their landing ... No such problem for us - ours is at the tippy top!  Here is the last Sation (Número 14):

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Cute-AS Trains

Up here in the Swiss Alps there is NO SHORTAGE of cute tramways, cable cars, trains and chair lifts!  All are accessible to us on our 3-day passes. So on our last day in Interlaken we dropped our bags in the station lockers and took ourselves up to all but the tippy top of the mountains. In the next valley along from Grindelwald. 

So it was that we found ourselves in Murren. But only for half an hour, before we had to board the cute-as tram, back to the top of the cable car, back to the local station, on to the inter-city and lastly to the international station at Spiez, bound for Milano. Here are some farewell to Switzerland photos:

One last observation about Interlaken. I had never made the connection (aghast!), but of course it literally means "between the lakes". How could I have missed this?  But then I do have an excuse. "lake" in German is "Die See", while "between" is "inswischen". Seems that Interlaken is more than a nod to some Roman heritage or other. WHO CAN HELP ME HERE?

Here is one of the lakes:


One of the by-products of our trip up to the Jungfraujoch was a 3-day pass on the trains and ski lifts on the mountains in and around Grindelwald. The Helpful Chap who sold the tickets pointed out that the Jungfraujoch trip would cost 200 Francs each, but the 3-day pass would cost CHF 225, INCLUDING the Jungfraujoch. I mean "HULLO!"  Which would we plump for??  After a quarter-nanosecond's consideration we settled on the latter. 

And so we found ourselves today on the rooftop of Europe mounted on four trusty sledges hurling ourselves down first one alp and then another. Yahooing hullooing and yodelling at the tops of our voices, we smashed out four 2-km runs (@ 25 minutes each) till the evening closed in at around 4:00 pm when we headed for Winderswil and home. 

The sledge hire chap assured me that I would NOT be the object of scoff and derision as I feared I would be. No one would laugh me to scorn as would be the case on the rooftop of Victoria. Here's DJ:

That was one type of sledging. [Wait for it ...  You knew it was coming]. Here is the other:

Stephanie is telling Ally that she's a worthless tobogganer and that she, "Can't bat; can't bowl; can't field; CAN'T SLEDGE!!!"

OK. For putting up with that lame gag, here's a bonus photo taken from Groomby's sledge:

Monday, 5 January 2015


Pretty amazing up there in the Swiss Alps! Huge towering peaks glisten brilliantly in the sharp winter sun. Loving the three trains that cranked us up from Winderswil to Grindelwald, thence to another connecting stage an THEN on to the Jungfraujoch. VERY touristy, but fabulous all the same. 

Around 2/3 of the tourists were of Asian appearance, while at least 87% of THEM were Asian, it appeared to me. At least one small group were of Australian appearance. That was us. Here is a photo of two lovely Asian girls having fun along with the rest of us:

Here's a photo of the Australian team whooping it up eating their lovely supermarket rolls for lunch:

Here's a resident bird.  I just couldn't get over his/her yellow beak!  This is a bird with ATTITUDE!

Have you ever seen ANYTHING so freaking YELLOW?

It's what you do when in Interlaken - go up to the darlin' old Jungfraujoch. So we did. Tres expensive, but tres worth every penny. Great day!  I suppose youse want a shot of the mountains. OK. Here it is:

Sunday, 4 January 2015


Just had a newsy email from Fran Vaughan as we woke on this Monday morning. What a joy to hear from friends far away!  I promised her a photo from our bedroom window of the Jungfrau, and here it is:

Quite a stunning view, but you - along with us - will be astonished by the dearth of snow.  At this time of year I would expect the white stuff to be piled on top of the roofs and footpaths. While this makes getting around easier than normal, I would much prefer things to be more 'normal' than they are.  PLEASE let this not be a symptom of Global Warming. PLEASE let it be that our Tony Abbott is, while not in the majority - and by a long way, correct in his firm view that GW is not happening. NOT HAPPENING!

Gotta get out into the cold now. The day beckons. Keep the missives coming!

Love to all. Missing youse heaps!

Repair jobs

There was a number of necessary repair jobs to be completed while 'en domicile'. One was to stop the cold black toilet seat from flopping onto one's warm back while 'sitting on' during the night. The yelp of shock emanating from the toilet can wake the whole apartment block. The solution was to stick a piece of black Velcro onto the seat a piece of white Velcro into the white cistern.  That was the plan.

Not much luck with the Areldite. It didn't mix properly, or it was too cold/damp. So I went for the Superglue option. That was the genesis of the problem that ensued. 

Manipulating the 5-cent sized pieces of Velcro is problematic at the best of times, but couple this with an open tube of Superglue and you have a potential disaster.  [All the handy-persons can stop reading now because they know what is coming. You are excused.]

To cut a long story short, while pressing the Superglued patches onto the cistern, my thumb and forefinger came together and pressed hard against each other. BANG!  Fingers frozen in a "pincher" position. Solid. No pulling those suckers apart!

You have no idea the sense of panic that a situation like that engenders a kind of inescapable bondage. No idea what chemical would dissolve the glue. Wouldn't have any at hand, anyhow. No one around to smack off down to the ironmonger. What to do?

No option but to grab for the knife. Saw, saw - nothing. Saw, saw some more with serrated knife - still nothing!  Grab for the scissors and - "snip!"  Straight through forefinger skin and - hey presto - free at last.


Rolling on to Interlaken

So here we are on the TGV to Interlaken. First Class, no less - that's because DJ had the FORESIGHT to get our rail pass in Australia before we left. And so for a couple of rail travel stories. Are you ready?  Here we go:

Story Number One

We have all borne witness to this type of event. The one where the travellers have taken their seats and are furiously getting themselves organised for the hours ahead - bags, books, phones and ... hankies.  In this story that's us. 

Along comes another traveller keen to get herself and her 14-year-old daughter into THEIR allotted seats. "You are in our seats", she says waving her ticket as the 14-y-o pushes past me to the place by the window. 

Next comes the inevitable scramble for the tickets by Dear Jude. "Oopsies", gasps one of the parties inside her head. "Isn't this carriage 12?".  "No, it's carriage 13". [Can you guess which party is in the 'I was right all along' box?]. CORRECT!  It was Dear Jude!  With barely a hint of apology, Mrs Know-It-All and 14-y-o scurry off to fight another battle in carriage 12. 

Story Number 2

Dear Jude is the sensible one in the family. Everyone knows that. When it comes to buying refreshments offered in-flight or on-journey (in the case of trains) the answer is always a firm "No". And rightly so!  They are always WAY too expensive. 

So when the food trolley approaches, pushed by an Obliging Uniformed Chap (OUC), DJ seems to stiffen. How is she going to put Groombles and the Girls off the buying of the midday meal?  Ignore him. That's the go. 

Groombles looks plaintively at the chap, who is about to move along to the next set of seats. He is astonished that he has been 'ignored'. Groombles, at the last moment asks, "Is the meal included?"  "But of course", answers the OUC.  I nearly kissed him!

And do we smashed into a typically lovely French lunch. On the train. With wine. Hurtling along to Mulhouse Ville and on to Interlaken at - at times - over 300 kph!