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a travel blog by craigandcorrine

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Zakopane ... Zako-Where???

Zakopane, Poland

We thought we needed a break from our regular sightseeing and decided to get away from it all in a small Polish skiing town called Zakopane. Which is two hours south of Krakow by bus. We arrived at the bus station and wisely caught a taxi to the hotel. Had we made our way by our selves we would have certainly gotten lost.

After checking into the hotel we checked out the closest ski run to the hotel, it was less than a five minute walk away. We made sure we knew where to go to hire ski equipment and booked a ski lesson for the next day.

The next day we made the short walk up to Polana Szymoszkowa and got decked out in ski boots and all, and went for our lesson. It is not as easy as it looks. We spent more time on the ground rather than upright on the skis. The young kids (who were shorter than our skis) were putting us to shame as they went whizzing past us in a blur. We went back to the hotel feeling rather defeated but determined to get better at our second lesson the next day.

Since skiing is such hard work and leaves you feeling very hungry even if most of the time you are actually on your bum, we went into town via a chair lift then a funicular to have some lunch and check out all the sights. The town was really nice with market stalls lining the streets. We had a great time browsing and checking out what was on offer. This became our pattern, spend time skiing then make our way into town for something to eat.

The next day after a much more successful lesson, it was time to brave the slope all by our selves. It was very scary but we did well with only Corrine falling over the once. By the end of the week we had finally gained a little bit more skill and a lot more confidence. We were finally enjoying our selves as we were skiing rather than being frightened for our lives the whole way down.

If Zakopane sounds familiar it might be because you follow such sports as ski jumping, during our stay here the World Cup Ski Jumping was on, so we went and checked it out. We learned that the Poles are crazy for their countrymen who are competing. The streets were full of vendors selling scarves, crazy hats. beanies and horns. We made our way up to the run (we think that is what it is called) and joined the hoards of people cheering. A few locals after finding out that we were Australia started treating us like we were celebrities, they were taking photos of us, gave us shots of vodka and even painted the Polish flag on our faces. It was great fun.

We realised why people in very cold countries drink vodka, it sure does warm you up. It does make for interesting times walking down the icy footpaths though. We had never seen so many people who all seemed to be drunk off all the shots of vodka that they had been having fall over. It was very amusing.

Our stay in Zakopane has been wonderful, even though not many people speak English everyone we have come across have been so accommodating and have gone out of their way to help us. We will always remember Zakopane with great fondness.

permalink written by  craigandcorrine on January 23, 2010 from Zakopane, Poland
from the travel blog: World Tour
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The hills are alive with the Sound of Music... well, underneath the snow

Salzburg, Austria

Our only stop in Austria was Salzburg, a town famous for being Mozart's birthplace and one of the greatest movies of all time, The Sound of Music. Yep thats right, the 1965 Musical starring Julie Andrews about the Von Trapp family who escaped the war. We had a look at the Abbey that Maria actually belonged too and where Maria and the Baron got married in real life. A couple of the scenes from the movie were actually shot there. The opening scene where Maria is running late for mass.

We also checked out the Mirabell Gardens where most of the scenes for Do Rae Mi where filmed with Maria and the children skipping around fountains and running through tree lined footpaths. We also saw the statues that are in film. Our only regret was that we did not see it in all its glory during Spring or the start of summer when all the flowers would be in full bloom.

Aside from The Sound of Music factor that did feature heavily on our stop in the cute cobblestoned streets of Salzburg we had a look at the Medieval Fortress Festung Hohensalzburg. Which dates back 900 years. The fortress was built on the highest part of the city and offers really spectacular views of the city and the mountains, unfortunately for us we didn't come at the best time of the year for clear views to the mountains. While in old fortress we learned that if you did not have a crazy moustache you were probably not likely to ever be a ruler of Salzburg. This is bad news for Craig if he does want to try and become a ruler since he has trouble growing any facial hair.

After a morning strolling through the winding paths and checking out some of the very strange statues that are in the city we are heading to Munich which is going to be full of stein drinking frivolities including a trip to an Aussie pub for Australia Day.

permalink written by  craigandcorrine on January 25, 2010 from Salzburg, Austria
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The Washing disaster and beer

Munich, Germany

We made it to the beer capital of the world. Munich, famous for Oktoberfest. After being on the train all day we got to the hotel. What we did then will surprise everyone. Rather than go and check out one of many beer halls that Munich has to offer we washed our clothes. Thats right we did laundry.

Which turned out to be a disaster of epic proportions. We found out that we didn't need to travel to get to a laundromat, the hotel had washing facilities. We loaded up the machines and grabbed something to eat. Then it was time to dry them.... We loaded the wet clothes into the dryer turned it on and went to our room to watch a movie. Two hours later when the clothes were meant to be nice and dry Craig went down to collect them. The clothes had some how become wetter or so it seemed and the dryers would no longer work After dragging all our clothes, that were still literally dripping wet upstairs and spreading them out all round the room so they could dry, it was then that we noticed all our white clothes were an awful shade of pale blue. We determined that it wasn't anything that we had done it was the dodgy washing machine and dryer combo. We finally got to go to bed after 1am. Our room also happened to be one of the smallest rooms we have stayed in the whole trip.

The next day with some of the clothes still dripping we made our way into the heart of the city and took in the sights. We booked a food and beer trip for the evening and then went to see what Munich was all about, beer halls. We checked out Hofbraeuhaus, the biggest beer hall in the world. Where real men drink beer by the litre. We also had a traditional Bavarian lunch. Bavarian food consists of pork, whether that be in a sausage, meat loaf or roast form. On the side there is either dumplings, sauerkraut or potatoes.

That night we went on a tour to learn about where beer all started. We learned that in the medieval times beer was made by monks and it was classed as a food and not a beverage. We also learned that Oktoberfest was originally set around horse racing and other such events. We also sampled different types of beers and more sausages...

The next day we went to the Dachau Concentration Camp, this is where we learned about Hitlers coming to power, we were also informed that one year he was given the honour of being Time Magazines Man of the year. We had a look at the gas chambers and crematorium, even though the crematorium was used a lot no one is sure how much the gas chambers were used as Dachau was never used as an extermination camp. Most of the inmates died due to other reasons such as hypothermia, typhus and from malnutrition. One thing that we found surprising it that we can thank Hitler for the Olympic torch relay. He decided that it would be a good idea and to make it look like the world was one to have the torch travel around to give the feeling that the was no division in the world during the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Next time you watch the Olympic Torch relay think about this.

Our final day in Munich saw us having a look at the 1972 Munich Olympic Stadiums where Shane Gould won two gold medals in the pool for Australia. This was also the Olympics where there was a terrorist attack on Israeli competitors. It is also the only 20th Century architecture that is a landmark in Munich.

On our final night we went back at the Hofbraeuhaus beer hall for a drink and some food. As the hall got busier we shared our table with two Germans who introduced us to the spirits on the menu. It was a very enjoyable night that included music, dancing and beer of course. It was a shame we met our new friends on our last night in the wonderful city. We are sure if we had met them earlier they would have taken us under their experienced beer drinking wings. It always does seem the way when traveling though.

permalink written by  craigandcorrine on January 29, 2010 from Munich, Germany
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Pasta, Pizza, Pizzoccheri and Polenta

Ispra, Italy

Deciding we needed a holiday within our holiday we headed towards Ispra in Italy, town where some of Craig's relatives live. After a marathon 10 hour – 3 different trains – journey we got picked up at a train station by Giambi and Luca, some of Craig's Italian cugini (cousins). After the formalities of the hugging and kisses on the cheek (3 in Italy) we headed off to Ispra. 'Casa di Mario e Liboria' was our accomodation for the three nights over the weekend. We got a great feed that night of pasta, schnitzels and potatoes, and as always we finished with some good chunks of cheese. We also got a quick refresher course in Italian with Luca and Robi (Giambi's wife) doing a bit of translating and teaching...

After a nice sleep in, and waking up to temperatures above zero whilst being in mainlaind Europe, it was time for some more of Liboria's wonderful cooking, Pizzoccheri. Strange sounding name, strange looking pasta but lots of potatoes, pasta and plenty of cheese make up this pasta dish.

We stuffed ourselves to the brim and decided we needed to walk some of it off so we headed into Varese, the local city. Giambi, Robi and Luca showed us the sights of the city, some shops and we stopped by a local cafe for some hot chocolate. For those that have not tasted European hot chocolate, imagine melting a block of Cadbury chocolate, pouring it into some mugs and serving with a hefty blob of whipped cream on top. Very rich but also very nice.

That night involved going out at a local restaurant with some of Giambi and Robi's friends and having some more traditional Italian food, rissotto and pizza with sausage and potato chips on it.

Our final day in Ispra involved a healthy serving of Polenta (mmm, more cheese) for lunch, a nice walk near the lake, saying hello to more of Craig's family, eating some freshly made pastries by Giambi and finally watching a game of football with a drink in hand. Juventus ended up drew 1 all but a great day to end our trip to Ispra.

Next stop Lichtenstein, the 6th smallest, country in the world. We will actually be staying in Austria, near the border as there are not many hotels in Lichtenstein, can't blame them really, as the country is only 6km wide!

Blog you later

permalink written by  craigandcorrine on January 31, 2010 from Ispra, Italy
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Feldkirch & Kegelbahn

Feldkirch, Austria

What looked like a complicated journey from Ispra to Feldkirch with train changes at Milan, Zurich, Schaan, Buchs proved to be a breeze. Maybe this was due to the Italian food given by Mario and Liboria. 2 bottles of prosecco (sparkling wine), some cheese, bresola and salami. We had a great feast on the train whilst watching the lakes and mountains pass by,

Feldkirch, Austria is a little town that is close to the Switzerland, Lichtenstein, German borders, a total change from what we are expecting when we head to the mayhem of New York over the weekend.

It was another place where English was not very common at all we navigated around the town quite well on the buses and footpaths. It was a very quaint little town with a medieval square one of the highlights. Also for those who are travelling through smallish towns, don't trust the churches as a location marker as we found out. What Craig thought may have been church across the road from the hotel, turned out to be wrong and we had to wait another 15 minutes in the cold for the next bus. Although this was a great time to let the beer, just purchased from the supermarket, chill off in the ice on the footpath. Ended up being a sign that the beer was very ordinary and the worst Craig had tasted all trip.

On our final night we went to the basement level of the hotel and found the local Kegelbahn alleys. A game with nine pins (all attached to strings, no need for fancy machines) and smaller balls than ten pin bowling, provided for a couple of hours entertainment. We even got to witness a local competition happening on adjacent lanes. For the record Corrine's name goes down as the Copes Kegelbahn Champion and gets her name on the wall alongside plaques from competitions dating back to the 60's between Austria, Germany and Switzerland held at this venue. It is a shame we had to rub her name off the blackboard and leave it clean for the next players.

Blog you later

permalink written by  craigandcorrine on February 2, 2010 from Feldkirch, Austria
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Vaduz – Liechtenstein

Vaduz, Liechtenstein

After briefly seeing the country on the way through to Feldkirch and only 20 minutes away by bus we decided to visit Vaduz, the capital city of the 6th smallest country on the planet. It was a nice walk around the city (it only has 35,00 residents) and is amazing that a prince who lives in his castle up on the mountain overlooking the city still rules. We did read that once a year he opens the castle and invites all the residents of the town to join him for a drink. Was quite strange seeing postcards of him in all the souvenir shops.

Also we visited the Prince's winery and tasted some local wine and even saw some Australian wines showcased with other wines from around the world in the Cellar. Saw some strange looking horse statues and enjoyed the balmy weather of 8 degrees which saw us eat lunch outdoors and earn the name “Vikings” according to one of the locals.

Blog you later

permalink written by  craigandcorrine on February 3, 2010 from Vaduz, Liechtenstein
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Red Lights and Bum Bum

Frankfurt, Germany

Our final night in Europe was in Frankfurt. Another long train journey but we arrived with spirits high, a little tired but spirits high. After forgetting to write down the address of the hotel, the first time in all of Europe, we set about navigating blindly the 5-10 minute walk from the central station. We read the hotel information display and found an address. Karlrhustrasse was the street name we were looking for. We had a good look on a big map as we left the station and headed towards Karlstr. This was where our 5-10 minute walk turned into a good 30-40 minute walk, including a stop at an English Pub for directions, walking through the local red light district and finally returning back to the train station carrying all our luggage. Turns out Karlstr. stands for Karlstrasse not Karlrhustrasse!

We went back to the English Pub for tea where Craig had a meat pie and chips and Corrine enjoyed a nice seafood salad. Aside from the meals with our families this meal would be one of the best we had in Europe. On the way back to hotel we called into a supermarket and a couple of items caught our attention. The first one was Dickmans puddings but the one that really caught our eye was the Bum Bum icecream. It was cold outside but like two little kids we decided we couldn't resist buying one each and trying it out. Our first Bum Bum experience was quite an enjoyable one.

Off to the airport and head off to New York City.

Blog you later

permalink written by  craigandcorrine on February 5, 2010 from Frankfurt, Germany
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New York, New York, Yankees, Knicks and Rangers.

New York, United States

We left Europe and headed towards the USA. We left from Frankfurt in Germany, going through baggage screening Corrine's bag got taken aside. There was a butter knife in there left over from one of our long train journeys. The man screening the bag was very good and was even going to let Corrine take it on board with her. We let him keep it.

Once in NY we struggled our way to our hotel with our bags which weighed 21 and 26kg. The subway was one of the most scariest thing that we had ever experienced. We finally got to the hotel with out any stab or gun shot wounds. Yay we had survived our first 45minutes in The Big Apple.

It was time to eat so we headed to a burger joint that we had heard that was good. The place offers 50 different types of burgers. After struggling through the menu and after asking lots of questions, there were so many strange words on there. The food lived up to it's reputation.

After an early night and a very good night's sleep we went out for breakfast and hired bikes for a cycle around Central Park. We saw lots of squirrels. Since it was Superbowl Sunday we headed into Times Square, we were lucky and snagged a spot at the ESPN Zone, which is a bar/restaurant. We didn't really understand but we had a great time. Everyone seemed to be very happy that the Giants won, and every one was saying what a great thing it is for New Orleans.

The next day we went up the 82 floors to the observation deck of the Empire State Building. The elevators were very fast. It was extremely windy on the deck and you couldn't spend much time up there as it was so cold. We also made the ferry trip to Liberty Island, home of The Statue of Liberty. The statue really wasn't as big as we imagined. We also both thought that Lady Liberty looks like a man in a dress.

We went and had a look at Times Square and discovered that there is a whole store dedicated to M&M's! Could you even get a better shop?? After catching a stand up comedy show that was in a basement starring Craig Carmean, and getting made fun of by the comedians we stopped by a street vendor selling kebabs on the way back to the hotel, (just like in the movies) We grabbed one and it was fantastic and full of late night kebab goodness.

One thing that New York has to offer is sports! We started our sporting tour off with as mentioned above in a bar for Superbowl Sunday, we continued it with a tour at Yankee Stadium including going into the players locker room and the dug out. It was by far the coolest thing we did while in New York. Even though neither of us really follow baseball we will be coming home as fans of the Yankees. That night it was off to see the Knicks play at Madison Square Garden. The home team blew a 16 point lead in the 4th quarter and went down by 4 in overtime. We thought that the atmosphere was going to be a lot more intense that it was but it did pick up in the 4th and overtime. We are also the proud owners of a big bright orange foam finger that we bought at the Garden.

Our sporting excursion did not end there, we found the NHL store and marveled at all the merchandise that one can buy, including a golf putter that looks like a hockey stick. The next night we went to a game to see what this crazy game is all about, we still don't know. Since the game was not a sell out we decided to upgrade our selves to better seats. We sat down and a kid next to us threw up!! Karma is a bitch, although we must have done something nice cos we moved closer to the rink (using the spew kid as an excuse) and ending up talking to some really nice people who gave us a couple of Rangers beer cups to take home with us, all because we were from Australia.

Our trip to New York had finally come to an end and it is now off to LA for a couple of nights before going to Vegas and Disney Land.

Blog You Later.

permalink written by  craigandcorrine on February 11, 2010 from New York, United States
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LA - Round One

Los Angeles, United States

We arrived in LA after flight made very long by awful passengers behind us, they were a teenage brother and sister who's mother was sitting next to them but didn't care that they were hitting and kicking each other and our seats at the same time. Craig had to say something to them it got that bad, the mother of the brats gave Craig a dirty look.

It was a flying visit to LA starting with an NHL game at the Staples Center which was fantastic. Unfortunately LA Kings lost to the Edmonton Oilers is a 10 round shoot out. We went back to the hotel tired and ready for a good nights sleep.

The next day we went to Universal Studios and checked out all the things to see there including the back lot, we were not lucky enough to any celebrities though. Highlights of the back lot would have to be the Desperate Housewives Wisteria Lane set, and the war of the worlds set where the plane crash is. We also saw where Jaws was filmed. It was very interesting to see some of the tricks of the trade. We went into the “warehouse" to see where Back Draft was filmed and saw the place “on fire”.

We checked out some of the rides, there was no lining up for us because we bought front of the line passes, something that I would recommend for an extra $20 each. the Simpson's ride was very good considering we didn't move anywhere, it is a 3D screen and a “car” that you sit and shakes and jolts you around. The Mummy ride was pretty crazy with a sudden jolt then you go backwards. It was a warm up for what is to come at Disneyland.

permalink written by  craigandcorrine on February 13, 2010 from Los Angeles, United States
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Las Vegas, M&Ms and a big hole in the ground

Las Vegas, United States

We arrived in Las Vegas on the bus from hell, it was the hottest bus in the world, well that is probably a slight exaggeration, but it wasn't pleasant. We checked in to The Luxor and then went in search for food. The casino in the hotel was not as impressive as we thought it was going to be. Maybe it is because we have a casino at home so it wasn't really anything new for us.

The next day it was an early start to go the Grand Canyon and the Hoover Dam, it didn't take that long to get the dam which didn't look as big as we imagined it was going to be. Although you can't actually get as close to is as you used to be able to since there are always threats to it. Security had to search the bus before we could even drive over it. Not only does the dam provide water for many people it also provides electricity for LA. From there it was a long drive to the Grand Canyon which included a couple of stops in very unusual places. We even saw “coon hats” which seemed to be fury hats with some sort of animal tail attached to the back of it.

We finally arrived at the big hole in the ground, it was a great sight to see. It looks just like it does on post cards, which make you wonder if you are looking at a giant back drop. After seeing two different places around the canyon it was time to head back to Vegas, but the fun did not stop there, five minutes from our stop the bus blew a water hose. Another bus and driver came to our rescue and we were back to the hotel. We had a bite to eat with a new friend that was on the tour with and also had a cocktail that made Corrine rather ill. There was cream on the top and that is the only thing that we can think that made her ill during the middle of the night.

The next day we walked the strip and checked out the was going on. We picked up tickets for Cirque du Solei, Mystere and had a great time at the show that night. The performance was stunning and every act that came out was better than the one before. The show blurred the lines between human and animal with the way that the performers moved and the things that they were doing such as climbing up poles like monkeys.

As we were leaving the theater extremely satisfied we were handed coupons for buy one get one free cocktail at the bar where we happened to have lunch just next to the theater. We figured lunch was good we will go and have a quiet drink there. The coupon said one per person. After two cocktails each the bartender who happened to look like Toadie off Neighbours told us to go grab some more so we could continue to get half price cocktails. We did and thats when the night took a turn. There was also a competition for the bar tenders to see you could throw the cocktail shakers around the best when making a cocktail, for some reason which eludes our memories this turned into free shots for everyone in the bar, one was given to us in a glass and the next was given to us poured into our mouths straight from the bottle by the bar tender who was standing on the bar at this stage. The bar eventually closed and we hung around with our new friends that we had met for a while longer. It was time to make our way back to the hotel which was at the other end of the strip. We caught the bus but somehow missed our stop. We ended up a 45minute walk past our hotel. When we finally went to bed it was close to 6 in the morning.

The next day after less than three hours sleep. Crawled out of bed and made our way down to the all you can eat buffet. You pay $30 and you can keep going back all day. After picking at breakfast which we were sure our very hungover bodies were going to reject we went and had another look at the strip including the Coca-Cola and M&M's store. At the Coke Store we bought a sample tray of all the different soft drinks of around the world. There were some very strange things on the tray. After trying them all we decided it wasn't the smartest idea in the state that we were in. (we are not talking about being in Nevada either). From there we went to the second M&M's store of our American Leg of our trip. Even though the Las Vegas one is the original and the apparent best we both thought that the New York one was better. We checked out the old Vegas where all the wedding chapels are and even saw the chapel that Britney Spears got married in.

That night we went to the Criss Angel BeLIEve show, it was so good. Corrine is in love. The illusionist is a master and every trick he did kept us wondering how he did it. The show combined just enough comedy with the magic. Even though our bodies were screaming for sleep we ignored the screams and went and checked out the Mirage Volcano show and the Bellagio fountain show. Both shows were quite impressive and certainly worth a look. We then walked back to the hotel to get some sleep before the early bus departure for Anaheim.

permalink written by  craigandcorrine on February 18, 2010 from Las Vegas, United States
from the travel blog: World Tour
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