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2-Month Sabbatical: Italy, Austria, Budapest, Berlin, London, Paris

2-Month Sabbatical: Italy, Austria, Budapest, Berlin, London, Paris

Old Mar 28th, 2016, 01:05 AM
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2-Month Sabbatical: Italy, Austria, Budapest, Berlin, London, Paris

Hi Fodorites!

We're off on our annual 2-month sabbatical. My husband writes a blog about our travels and I'll post his entries here each time he has a new submission. I'll also put a link so you can see his photos, most of which go along with the story (all photos taken with an iPhone 6s+, some out the car window while driving (me yelling!)). His blog goes back a-ways, so you can look at other entries if you are so inclined!

Here are some generalities:

Start: March 12, 2016 ROME
End: May 7, 2016 PARIS

Transportation: some rental car, some train, some flights

Hotels: In general we stay in agriturismos, apartments, or small boutique hotels. We have been to many of these 6 or 7 times, and have come to know the owners and their families.

Route: here's the route + length of stay + lodging in sequential order:
-- Rome (4 nights) Colonnato di San Pietro "Moon" Apartment
-- Tuscany (5 nights) Agriturismo Savernano
-- Verona (4 nights) B&B Villa Beatrice
-- Bolzano (4 nights) Hotel Hanny
-- Salzburg (5 nights) Bloberger Hof
-- Vienna (4 nights) Pension Suzanne
-- Budapest (5 nights) Kapital Inn
-- Berlin (7 nights) Hotel Am Steinplatz
-- London (8 nights) Rosebery Apartment
-- Paris (9 nights) Apartment in St. Germain

Posting #1: Rome and Tuscany

“Rome was a poem pressed into service as a city.”
Anatole Broyard

“My idea of heaven still is to drive the gravel farm roads of… Tuscany, very pleasantly lost.”
Francis Mayes

We arrive in Rome, once again to practice being Italian.

With affection, we refer to our cozy marble-faced apartment within the Vatican’s countenance as The Mussolini Arms.

We cover the Eternal City by foot, proclaiming our daily schedule and itinerary: “as and when!” No rush; no compulsive need to cover required attractions – this visit we are “just here” in Italy. Comfortable and quietly exhilarating.

Glorious weather favors our indulgence of familiar pleasures: Caffé Canova – caffé e latte and eye candy on Piazza del Popolo; Ristorante Vecchia Roma bordering the Ghetto – lunch of antipasti and spaghetti carbonara, operatic concert at the Sant’Agnese in Agone Church – a glorious recital of classic arias; half-marathon walks along the graceful curves of the Tevere River, bisecting the Holy from profane.

An Italian SIM card transforms our iPhone into a localized appliance capable of Googling every whim and vocalizing directions with near flawless precision. Our torment navigating foreign terrain is finally over! One comical exception – “she” pronounces Bologna “baloney”.

After 4 immersive days of surveying Roman culture, relaxed and in tune with the latitude, we transition via Hertz to the embrace of Agriturismo Savernano in Toscana. We are the first visitors of the season. “We open for you!” says Cosimo, the charming teenage son of Davide and Eva. We are welcomed by the family with a roaring fireplace and kisses on both cheeks.

This wonderful farmhouse, amid vineyards and orchards, is our base for 5 days. Each day we set out for excursions to Florence, Siena, to hilltop Preggio on the Umbrian border, and on a sleepy Sunday, to nearby Castelfranco where we thrill to a regional pro-cycling race. Evenings we return to the warmth of Savernano and relax with Davide’s Chianti and Eva’s home cooking.

Preggio, which we visited on our first day in the countryside, holds a special place in our memory. It is remote, wildly rural, an almost perfectly preserved hill town. Bruno and Elena live at the base of this Medieval setting among 2000 hectares of vineyards and produce “biologic” (organic) wine, olive oil, and honey.

We are treated to an eight course, four-hour lunch of hand-made delicacies- many of the vegetables and herbs gathered wild from their fields. Their hospitality and field-to-fork offerings are what draws us from Town to Country.

(pics here: http://www.choosewhatworks.com/blog/...and-country-2/)


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Old Mar 28th, 2016, 04:35 AM
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That link doesn't work...
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Old Mar 28th, 2016, 04:44 AM
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The link works for me - happily following along!
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Old Mar 28th, 2016, 05:07 AM
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Thanks for figuring that out! The 1st link works, the 2nd does not as I put a parenthesis at the end of the link. Use the first link at the top of the posting. East to find as it's in blue as well.

I won't make that mistake again!

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Old Mar 28th, 2016, 05:24 AM
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Ah, I should have realized... I used to have that problem a lot with links I posted until I started leaving a blank before the closing paren.
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Old Mar 28th, 2016, 08:37 AM
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That's a great tip. I'll use it!

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Old Mar 28th, 2016, 12:26 PM
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Posting #2: Verona and Bolzano

“Italy is a dream that keeps returning for the rest of your life.”

-Anna Akhmatova

The Oriental Bar at the Metropole Hotel in Venice offers shelter from the chilly wind off the Adriatic. Entering, we are in a Bogart movie – we settle into rich burgundy mohair banquettes and sip caffe lattes (molto caldi –very hot), protected from the hundred-tongued mob just outside the window.

But we are getting ahead of our chronicle. Travel from Tuscany over the central Italian mountains and verdant Modena plain is less traumatic this year – perhaps it’s the new autostrada variante, softening torturous tunnels and curves; perhaps it’s the zippiness of our Lancia Ypsilon; or maybe, we’re just well-braced for the Herculean effort.

We stay at Villa Beatrice in the garden hills above Verona. Each morning arising to cheerful Buongiorno, and home-prepared breakfast (rice cake or strawberry tart, creamy yogurt, energy -blended juices) prepared by our host, Simone Colliselli. We discuss the affairs of the day and gain insight into the charming, often puzzling logic that is Italy (let’s just say that technology follows the beat of a different drummer here).

Our days are in tune with Spring… leisurely morning passeggiatas (walks) through hillside roads with rent-a-dog, Shanti. We drive down to central Verona for a lunch of marvelous salads at Caffe Mazzanti on the Piazza delle Erbe. We deem this Italy’s fairest square. The pavements of Verona are large, smooth stones offering effortless glide around this gem of the north. Let’s keep the secret of Verona’s lovely, elegant character between us and, um …Shakespeare.

A day trip to Venice, as mentioned, is hard to decline. Seeing wondrous Piazza San Marco, we imagine ancient travelers beholding the scope and splendor of this dream in stone, open to the navigable East. We are no less humbled every time we return.

Venice can be viewed as a museum populated by real people, working the fisheries, the crafts, the accommodations. We lunch on hearty vegetable soup and warm octopus with potatoes and cherry tomatoes among hungry gondoliers and DHL delivery guys at Trattoria Alla Ferrata.

Further north is Bolzano/Bozen in the Sud Tyrol (Italian Dolomites). Some describe the community as half-Italian/half-German, so it feels like a Swiss canton – proper and orderly, yet active in spirit and so livable. Bike paths, green spaces, and distinguished, old-world buildings set amidst snowy peaks and castles with terraced vineyards.

We are guests at the immaculate Hotel Hanny, family run and nestled in the vineyards just at the edge of town. After a hearty German fruhstuck (breakfast) we walk or bike into the town center along lovely parks that run next to an alpine river. We seem to be the only Americans in sight.

Easter morning, 44F degrees, we bike hurriedly on cobblestone streets to the sound of countless bells calling the faithful to worship. Arriving at Bolzano Cathedral just in time, we are unknowingly among a procession of priests entering amid great excitement. We came for the sacred music (thunderous organ, choir, and orchestra) and stayed for the incense! Huddled in the stone cold sanctuary we marvel at glorious pageantry and solemn community.

Dinners of fresh grilled fish and asparagus specialties, hiking through hillside fields, picnics of artisanal cheeses and medieval bread on the village green, and naps in the warming spring sun are typical activities before we settle down for an afternoon coffee on courtly Walther Square.

(pics. here: http://www.choosewhatworks.com/blog/...nord-italiana/ )
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Old Apr 3rd, 2016, 09:58 PM
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Posting #3: Salzburg

“Traveling…leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.”

– Ibn Battuta

Desperate to return our Lancia before the 3-day Easter shutdown, we race to the tiny car rental outpost at the Bolzano Airport and discover it shuttered. Perplexed once again by the predictably unpredictable, we conjure Plan B. Suddenly, the agent dashes from the adjoining café, greets us, and tells us to leave our car “anywhere” in the parking lot. Casually, he signs off on the rental papers and re-joins his friends for pre-Easter cheer – no concern for checking for car damage or fuel consumption. He smiles and extends a relaxed, Grazie, Buon Viaggio!!

Thus marks the South Pole of our transition north across the Italian- Austrian frontier.

A few days later, we board the db Bahn express bound for Salzburg. Snoozing and sipping canned Illy cappuccino, we snake through snowy mountain passes and green wooded expanses, arriving at the impressive new terminal in Salzburg.

Now the vivid contrast of cultures is drawn in high relief. An efficient Hertz office across from the heavily-policed train station brightens with a cheery “Gruss Gott” from Kirsten, the blond attendant. After endless formalities of the Austrian rental are explained, we are presented a list of existing “damage” of the car we are picking up (a sporty Volvo D40 diesel).

Outside, we examine our gleaming, spotless “ride”. Kirsten points out the recorded areas of distress – microscopic blemishes, almost impossible to detect. Daunted, we drive away anxious that we will add to the unforgiving catelog of wear and tear.

Suppression dissolves as we roll across the invisible threshold opening our next adventure, Salzburg.

Bloburger Hof, at the periphery of Salzburg, is our address for five high-spring days. Our hosts – fam. Keuschnigg-Santner – run a prosperous inn set against Bavarian peaks dividing Austria from Germany.

In this picture-book neighborhood, we are steps from dinner at three satisfying Gasthofs serving rustic Austrian fare (chicken crusted with almonds, mixed salad with potatoes and dilled cucumber, seeded breads, Stegl pils, and fruity Gruner Veltliner from nearby vines).

Each morning we bike on trails that separate villages, manicured farms, forests, snow-fed streams, and enchanting homes and rural businesses. Freshly fertilized fields have intoxicating charm – albeit an acquired taste.

One discovery, a former noble hunting lodge in a misty private park, has been converted to professional offices. Enchanted by the merger of centuries, we vow to set up temporary shop here – “someday”. Returning off-trail, Lisa bravely, perhaps recklessly, guides us through electric fences (current evidently off) that corral pastured horses intrigued by our trespass.

Excursions into Salzburg (10 min. drive) or tours of breathtaking alpine summits and forests occupy our afternoons. Hallstatt, an hour’s drive, is a perfect “sound of music” setting that always refreshes our souls (apparently this prestine lakeside village has been perfectly recreated in China). Berchtesgaden National Park (yes, that Berchtesgaden) just over the unmarked German border is instant access to ski runs, perfectly cut and piled wood, leather trachten-wear. We see Spring-break skiers coming off the slopes in 78-degree sunshine ready for beer and wurst.

In Salzburg we luxuriate over latte and Topfenstrudel at Café Bazar, a classic Austrian coffee house, where citizens linger over the daily papers. Jokingly, we calculate that after lodging, coffee is our biggest travel expense.

Walking across the Salzach River to an early evening recital, we sit within feet of a 12-piece chamber ensemble, in the residence of Mozart’s first patron. International musicians gather to refine their art in this exalted setting. We focus individual sounds each instrument creates, as well as the total exquisite baroque harmonies – vivid, exhilarating, memorable.

(pics. here: http://www.choosewhatworks.com/blog/...ng-a-latitude/ )
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Old Apr 4th, 2016, 02:06 AM
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another sabbatical, you guys (he complains sitting on his 365 days a year one) ;-)
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Old Apr 4th, 2016, 06:26 AM
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Glad you're along for the ride, bilboburgler!

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Old Apr 4th, 2016, 08:07 AM
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Enjoying this tremendously. Look forward to next episode.
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Old Apr 9th, 2016, 02:20 PM
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Posting #4: Vienna

“A representational photograph says, ‘this is what Vienna looked like.’ An interpretational photograph goes one better and says, ‘this is what Vienna was like. This is how I felt about it’.”

– David DuChemin

High drama at the Spanish Stables!

Roma (Gypsy) thieves/pickpockets make two runs at Lisa’s backpack just after we arrive in Vienna’s Imperial Centrum.

Two teenagers, male and female, nicely dressed with trendy hair, reading a map every time we saw them so as to appear as tourists. We realize later they are tailing us in the shadows (photo evidence appears at end-of-day review of snapshots).

We notice the clasp and drawstring of Lisa’s bag unexpectedly open (she senses nothing – they are artful!). Still clueless, we fasten her backpack and continue around the corner pausing to photograph the marvelous Lipizzaners in their street-facing stables. The plot thickens….a bump in the crowd.

Lisa softly gasps, surprised and perplexed: “that woman just touched my backpack”!

The Gypsies immediately turn and slither away silently. Alarmed, we check the bag – nothing missing – apparently, they are thwarted again.

When we realize their larcenous intent, I give chase yelling “robbers! robbers!” I catch up to the pair in 75 meters near the Palace Gate among horses and carriages. The guy takes off down a side street, lost in the crowd. I yell at the anxious girl: “you are a thief!” while desperately looking for police to assist in her arrest. None in sight.

I don’t grab her or take possession of her large purse (which I figure contains other stolen goods). With no police around to corral her, she weasels off in another direction from her brother/cousin. A peripheral concern is a possible confrontation with their “manager”. I remain inexplicably calm throughout the action sequence.

Nothing actually stolen, although we feel our karma violated for a few hours. Now Lisa positions her bag front-facing, and we constantly survey for dodgers. (Saw some others today who had a puppy with them – seems they use the pitiful doggy as bait to attract “marks” to rob.)

No real damage. The upside is that Lisa saw me run real fast, and thinks I’m a HERO!

Once this Dickensian chapter is behind us, we ramble for four magnificent days among the tranquil treasures of this once-Imperial capital.

We know what we like, having been here several times before: coffee every morning at the open-air Naschmarkt; neighborhood discoveries alive with local citizenry; the pageantry of an obscure performance of the Czech opera “The Cunning Little Vixen” at the grand Staatsoper.

Dinners are a relaxed promenade in glorious Spring weather to favorite eateries. Huth, where crispy char is served over beet risotto; aged, stuffy Gmoa Keller for required Wiener schnitzel – where we are sure the Bolshevik revolution was conceived.

(pics here: http://www.choosewhatworks.com/blog/...rtful-dodgers/ )
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Old Apr 9th, 2016, 02:35 PM
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Really enjoying your reports -- will tag along for sure.

Hint -- you've figured out about the trailing parens w/ url's . . . BUT there is no need for any parens when posting links. Just a good habit to lose

Simply paste the link -- no additional punctuation required
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Old Apr 9th, 2016, 09:56 PM
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So glad you are along for the ride, and enjoying it! And thanks for the recommendation requiring parens.

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Old Apr 11th, 2016, 07:09 AM
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So glad your encounter with Romas ended up well. We had similar encounters in Rome with no loss of property, but weren't as lucky in Paris where I lost my wallet to thieves (not Romas) in the subway many years ago. We made a report to the police and a couple of weeks later, after our return home to Canada, I received a letter from the Paris police advising me that they had found my wallet in a garbage bin, minus the francs, and I could pick it up any day, Mon. to Fri. between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. I guess they have a sense of humour.

Enjoying your report and pics. Look forward to the next instalment.
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Old Apr 17th, 2016, 01:47 AM
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Posting #5: Budapest

If you come from Paris to Budapest, you think you are in Moscow;
If you go from Moscow to Budapest, you think you are in Paris.

-Gyorgy Legiti

Albert’s salon.
36 tulips in our bedroom.
“Heidi” chocolate from Romania.
Szechenyi baths on a summer’s day.
Doner kebab on the Oktogon.
Fat-bellied ping-pong in the park.
Hungarian stews.
Lemon basil sorbet.
Alexandra’s ceiling.
Toby the dog.
Public photo paranoia.
Cute state-subsidy babies.
Toby the dog likes strawberries.
Hipsters in the ghetto.
Ruin bars.
Bed bug party-hostels.
Drunken British bachelor parties.
Chinese discount-store duffle bag.
Piano pyrotechnics dazzle at Liszt Institute.
There are no rules; just make it gold.
Surprising local wines.
Sour cream.
Facades worthy of an empire.
Italians, Russians, Americans, Koreans.
Dog shit.
Graffiti upgrades the neighborhood.
Ancient Andrassy subway.
Soviets, just here to help.
More sour cream, please.
Hip barbers–no ladies.
“Don’t take my picture”.
Alcoholics unanimous.
Cute dogs.
Old Commies.
Street food.
Queen of Spades amazes.
The Hungarian Radio Orchestra.
Transcendental Liszt.
92 steps up to Albert’s.
Brooklyn on the Danube.
Dogs off leash.
Mazel Tov tapas.
Robotic car park.
Cool sunglasses.
District 8 discovered.
Day trips rejected.
Rooster testicle goulash.
Sunday lunch post-concert at Menza.
Beet risotto, where have you been?
Soaring architecture.
Gellert baths on a winter’s day.
It feels like where I come from.

Pics here: http: //www.choosewhatworks.com/blog/2016/04/budapest-the-liszt-3/
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Old Apr 23rd, 2016, 02:21 PM
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Posting #6: Berlin


“All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin. And therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words ‘Ich bin ein Berliner!’

– John F. Kennedy

Berlin, devastated by Allied bombs, punished by Soviet artillery and imposed collectivism, is history alive. Today the unified capital deals admirably with communal guilt and distance from “National Socialism; 1933-45.” Monuments to the victims, the Holocaust, the Wall cannot be avoided by indifference or recalcitrance.

Overwhelming contrast between former East and West, blurring in some districts, remains.

Western quarters flower with prosperity, renewal, and a cosmopolitan civility. The monotone Eastern “neighborhoods” struggle to emerge from a crushing grey sameness – families gentrify previously faceless strasses.

Our welcome, Hotel Am Steinplatz, is an unexpected harbor in our journey. It is an exquisitely designed, intimately-staffed jewel in the heart of the film and arts district.

The immaculate sauna and hotel spa soon becomes addictive, albeit with trendy guests comfortable “schvitzing” in birthday suits.

After a cursory tour of the decentralized sprawl, we elect to spend our days in leafy Charlottenburg, the area surrounding our hotel. From here we stroll to cozy coffee shops, terrific restaurants of every persuasion, and fashionable boulevards rivaling Paris.

The efficient AB Bahn train provides access to other areas for ventures to the Mitte (Brandenburg Gate, The Wall, the Reichstag) or other recommended sights. Hauptbahnhof station with 6 levels, glass, tubes, and escalators is “Bladerunner” realized. We quickly realize that leaving the serenity of our ‘hood is not worth checking the required tourism boxes.

One excursion to the Eastern side is noteworthy: we attend the Achtung Berlin film festival’s World premier of “Rabbi Wolff”, an Oscar-quality documentary that brought the new Germany into focus for us. I chat with Rabbi Wolff, wish him well, and feel exhilarated being part of the festival’s SNL-like ensemble.

Clearly this isn’t my father’s Berlin.

Pics. here: http://www.choosewhatworks.com/blog/...-ein-berliner/
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