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Back from Mittenwald, Salzburg, Slovenia, Venice & Bruges

Back from Mittenwald, Salzburg, Slovenia, Venice & Bruges

Jun 11th, 2001, 12:09 PM
  #1  
Heather
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Back from Mittenwald, Salzburg, Slovenia, Venice & Bruges

My trip itinerary may look a bit odd, but I had limited choices on where I fly into and out of due to cashing in my FF miles with United. So my journey went:

Flew Chicago to Munich
Train from Munich-Pasing to Mittenwald (2 nights)
Train via Innsbruck to Salzburg (3 nights-second visit)
Train to Lake Bled (3 nights)
Bus via Koper to Piran (3 nights)
Bus to Trieste, train to Venice (4 nights-third visit)
Plane to Brussels, train to Bruges (3 nights)
Flew home from Brussels to Chicago

For those who dislike trip reports, please don’t flame me for posting this and do not read any further as this will bore you silly. But, I noticed scant info on Mittenwald and Slovenia and only am adding highlights from the other locations as many other previous posts probably cover the places very well. I will try to add any Internet addresses that I can locate. Failing to keep a journal was my only regret, so am piecing this report together (literally) from scraps of napkins and my spotty memory. If anyone has any questions or comments (in particular, about women traveling solo), please post here or feel free to email me any time at my hotmail address.

MITTENWALD, GERMANY
I chose Mittenwald for a quiet place to hike, breath fresh mountain air, and to decompress. The town is delightful, the people were tremendously kind, and I enjoyed several very good meals here.

Hotel: Hotel Reiger was 99DM per night (including taxes) for a single with a private bathroom and a patio. I picked the hotel off of the Internet, and it was quite roomy and comfortable, with an enormous buffet breakfast (served in the hotel’s large dining room). A very pleasant place to stay and parking is available here, and it is a 5-minute walk from the train station

Dining: My first evening, I had to locate a restaurant that stayed open late, which is not easy to do in Mittenwald. A member of the hotel staff directed me to the Sudtiroler Stubn, which was a terrific suggestion. They have many Italian dishes and daily specials. I had a wonderful “noodle” soup, an entrée of white asparagus grilled with mozzarella and fresh vegetables, and a tasty Mittwalder pils. The waitress here possibly was the most helpful, friendliest that I’ve ever had. The second restaurant that I would recommend is located in the hotel Alpen Rose. Here, I had fresh whole trout served with potatoes and a huge salad (and another pils). Both restaurants were very reasonable -- large dinners with beer and hot tea = $15-18 tax & tip included.

Hiking, Things to Do: Wandering the town is very relaxing at night, but the daytime brings quite a large number of daytrippers on large busses. So, during that time, I hiked on easy trails around Mittenwald. On Saturday, I got up at 5 and hiked up to Lautersee. Not a single other hiker around and the waterfall and trail were gorgeous. The hike is relatively easy and the lake has a path to walk around and a lovely small chapel. Trails led further, but I had to pack and make my way to the train to depart for Salzburg. Also, the town’s cemetery is very peaceful and has a small church. The church in the town center, St. Peter & Paul, is beautiful, and, like all other buildings in the village, is decorated with charming paintings. In general, just a terrific spot to unwind and get ready for trains, planes, and busses for the next 2+ weeks.

Mittenwald site: http://www.mittenwald.de/
 
Jun 11th, 2001, 12:11 PM
  #2  
Heather
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SALZBURG (part 1 of 2):
During a prior trip, I was in Salzburg in gloomy November weather. While I fell in love with it then, I knew that it had to be seen in sunnier times. It was amazing and the weather gorgeous!

Hotel: Weisses-Kreuz (http://www.salzburginfo.at/topic_res...uz/first_e.htm), which is at the base of the fortress and right next to the Kapitelplatz. My single room had its own bathroom and was cozy for 700ATS per night, including buffet breakfast in the restaurant. The hotel also offers parking. A taxi from/to the train station cost about US$7 each way. (On my prior trip, I stayed at the Amadeus, which also was very comfortable, but is on the other side of the river. The hotel’s site is http://www.hotelamadeus.at/)

Dining: Ate at the hotel on the first night and had the recommended “Balkan platter”, which was delicious. Unfortunately, I don’t know the names of the dishes, but essentially, it was meat, meat, meat, and rice. All of which were fabulous and very flavorful. The portions are enormous and the red wines very good, and at an extremely reasonable price of US$8-10 with everything included. Also, came across the Stern Brau when I wandering around and loved my meal of fresh trout and Neuberger wine. Yum. The restaurant has indoor and garden sections and a beer garden is “next door” that had wonderful live music playing. I don’t have the exact address, but it close to the elevator up to the Mönchsberg trails. Also, was taken by guide Rupert (see below) to Barenwirt (Mullner Haupstr. 8, 0662/422404), a delicious restaurant with a small outdoor patio overlooking the river.
 
Jun 11th, 2001, 12:11 PM
  #3  
Heather
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Salzburg, continued ...

Things To Do: Only touching on the highlights of what I did …
In 1999, one of the events that I missed due to the company’s tour schedule was the Marionette Theater. I thought that I would be the only non-kid in the audience, but the average age probably was about 55. Seats can be booked through the Theater’s site: http://www.tcs.co.at/theater/index_e.html The performance of “The Nutcracker” was simply delightful … the sets and marionettes were gorgeous.
The weather was picture perfect during my stay, so I spent most of the second morning hiking along the river and generally exploring. Saw a lengthy procession of families/groups (?) in traditional garb with bands, marching into the Salzburg Cathedral. Don’t know what the occasion was, but it was incredibly interesting and a fun, unexpected event. Then, went to Mirabell Gardens, where a wonderful band was playing for free. The gardens were filled with families and happy tourists like me. Spent a short visit to the Salzburger Barockmuseum, entrance right off the gardens. There were beautiful works here, including some pieces by Rubens and Bernini. I would have spent more time here, but the gorgeous weather was calling. Took the elevator up Mönchsberg to the lovely paths leading back to the Fortress. Did not know that Café Winkler had closed, but the building is being converted into some type of museum (at least that is what I was told).
Then, I had reserved a spot on an afternoon trip to Berchtesgaden and Eagles Nest through Bob’s Special Tours (www.bobstours.com). The fabulous Rupert was our tour guide for five of us in a minivan. The weather was perfect and visibility so good that I swear you could see the Sears Tower from Eagles Nest. It was just the second day of being open for tours, so we really lucked out and had a wonderful afternoon. Would highly recommend using Bob’s Tours and, in particular, Rupert, as he went so far beyond the call of duty by joining three of us for dinner and a beer. He made the afternoon/evening even more fun.
During my first visit, Hellbrunn’s water parks were closed, so I hopped the bus out for a fun time of watching schoolchildren shriek with joy every time that they were squirted. The “palace” itself was relatively uninteresting, but I thoroughly enjoyed the zoo. There is a great children’s petting zoo and the setting is gorgeous. If you bring along a little picnic, the non-squirting garden areas are a nice place to relax and have a bite to eat. For those who are “Sound of Music” fanatics, the refurbished gazebo from the movie is located here.
The other “biggie” event that I did was a concert in the Prince’s Chamber in the Fortress. The music was very good and it was a perfect final evening in one of my favorite places. You can prebook tickets at http://www.salzburg.co.at/festungskonz/concert.htm For those visitors with physical limitations, there are large amounts of stairs to reach the Chamber and I did not notice any lifts or ramps.

Salzburg site: http://www.salzburginfo.at/desk/frame_home_e.htm There are two TIs in Salzburg: a small one in the train station and the larger one in Mozartplatz.
 
Jun 11th, 2001, 12:13 PM
  #4  
Heather
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LAKE BLED, SLOVENIA (part 1 of 2):
From a photo travelogue that I stumbled across on the Internet last Fall, I decided that Slovenia would be included somehow on my 2001 trip. Originally, I hoped to tie this in with Croatia, but flight limitations and schedules didn’t work out. Contrary to what one coworker thought, this is NOT where the light bulbs are made (that would be Sylvania, which, of course, is a company not a country).

Hotel: Hotel Park (http://www.gp-hoteli-bled.si/) is a large, clean hotel right on the lakefront and the staff was quite courteous. It has the feel of a conference center, but the room size and very large buffet breakfast (and extensive cable TV, if you want to catch up on ESPN) were nice bonuses. My room cost was 16.900 SIT for the largest single that I’ve ever seen (actually had a king size bed, a balcony, two closets, and a large bathroom), including breakfast, taxes, etc.

Dining: The food here was delicious and incredibly reasonable. I ate four meals at Gostilna Pri Planincu and would have gone back for a fifth, but decided that I really should try another place (which was not as good so doesn’t make the “highlight” list). The pizzas, turkey, chicken, salads, beer, and wine at Gostilna Pri Planincu all were melt-in-your-mouth good, and the wait staff was extremely prompt and friendly (my waiter did a great impression of loud Americans from Chee-ca-go and Texas). I can’t locate my scrap of paper for the other restaurant that I liked, but it was located on the lake, below the church (great directions, huh?).
 
Jun 11th, 2001, 12:14 PM
  #5  
Heather
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Lake Bled, continued ...

Things To Do: On the advice of the desk clerk, I hired a taxi to drive me to Vintgar to hike along the gorge (400 SIT entrance fee). Stanislav picked me up at 9am and had his extraordinarily kind son pick up me up again at 11:30. The rides cost about US$9-10 each way. It seemed a bit far to hike there and back, but I didn’t have a good map. I ventured a bit further past the gorge trails into Triglav National Park (http://www.burger.si/TriglavNational...iParkSkica.htm). There is a TI for the Park located on the lake in Bled. Going early, there wasn’t anyone on the paths, but huge groups of schoolchildren and tourists began arriving around 10:30.
Of course, I went out to the beautiful island and visited the small church to ring the bell (supposedly, ringing the bell gives you a wish).
I also left $20 at the Bled Casino blackjack table, but had a lot of fun playing and visiting with the people who worked there. I talked with one woman about how the first 10 years of being independent have gone and she seemed very leery about the rapid Westernization of Slovenia, but believes that capitalism does have its perks. (Working in a Casino probably offers a skewed perspective in any country.)
The hike around the lake is tremendously relaxing and a great way to work off travel stress. There are some places to stop along the trail for a drink, ice cream, or just to put up your feet and admire the views. It took me about 1-1/2 hours with lots of stops and visiting with a local artist or two.
Finally, the Castle offers some outstanding views and was quite interesting to visit. I don’t know if there is an easier path, but I climbed the zigzag trail that comes off of the lakefront walkway. A bit of a hike, but the reward is sitting at the outdoor restaurant, having a good lunch with wine and overlooking the lake and mountains. Wow!

Good sites for Bled information: http://www.kompas-hoteli-bled.si/Kom.../ENGBled.html; http://www.bled.si/; http://thetravelzine.com/slovenia1.htm

Transportation note: I took the train directly from Salzburg to Bled-Jezero (final destination of the train was Belgrade). The ride was approx 3-1/2 hours through gorgeous scenery in Austria. At the train station, a bus picks up across the street that takes you into Bled (check the schedule). If you need to exchange money, there is a post office a half-block away from the station.
 
Jun 11th, 2001, 12:15 PM
  #6  
Heather
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PIRAN, SLOVENIA:
Picked this stop out of the LP “Slovenia” guidebook and Don & Linda’s “Travelzine” report [http://thetravelzine.com/slovenia3.htm#Piran] confirmed the choice. Absolutely fell in love with the place and was sorry that I didn’t have at least another day/night here. The bus ride from Ljubljana (took bus from Bled to Ljubljana) was very interesting and the changes in landscape were remarkable.

Hotel: Of the two hotels and one hostel in Piran, I choose the Hotel Piran (http://www.turistika.net/cgi-bin/baz...ti.cgi?ID=1104), which sits right on the Adriatic. Contrary to what I read in Don and Linda’s report, the staff here included some of the most friendly, helpful hotel workers that I have ever encountered. Prior to my visit, they answered several email messages about the best ways to travel to/from Piran, as the LP book wasn’t up-to-date. My single was 9.100 SIT, including breakfast (small, but adequate) and a patio that overlooked the water (about 30-40 feet away). Bring flip-flops, though, as the carpeting is suspect in the rooms.

Dining: I highly recommend the Gostilna-Trattoria Mario on the main (Tartini) square. The food was fresh, reasonable, and very good. Since I ate here four times, I won’t bore you with the long list of great dishes enjoyed, but would say that the fresh seafood platter for two is an outstanding bargain and quite delicious. Also ate at the restaurant Don and Linda mentioned, Gostilna Galeb, which is located on the water. IMVHO, not as good as Mario’s and more expensive.

Things To Do: Lots of great gelato places to grab a cone and wander or sit by the water or sit in the square and watch the kids. Hiking around the town, up to the old fortress walls for tremendous views, or up to the church to drool over the sea views and great breezes (great place to watch the sun set). Also, took a daytrip on the Marconi boat to Rovinj, Croatia, for a five-hour stay (cruised 1-1/2 hours each way). The other option was to cruise farther to a national park in Croatia, but the travel agent in Piran talked me into Rovinj. I enjoyed myself, but the town was considerably overrun with daytrippers (like me!). The church at the top of the town was perched much like the one in Piran and offered terrific views. There are many “artists” with shops along the winding, cobblestone streets/paths … some good, some really not so good. I also noticed quite a large number of gold shops, with all types of jewelry. An interesting daytrip. Piran is not commercialized and has some beautiful architecture dating from its days under the Venetian Empire. One evening, wandering around like I do, I came across a men’s choir practicing in a small church, singing old hymns … it was beautiful and I was the whole audience. Piran is way up on my list of must-return-to places.
 
Jun 11th, 2001, 12:16 PM
  #7  
Heather
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VENICE:
Since Venice is much covered here, I will keep this brief. For those who have read this far, this will be welcome relief.

Hotel: At the Hotel Galleria (http://www.hotelgalleria.it/indexbri.htm), I had a room overlooking the Grand Canal, breakfast served in the room, bathroom down the hall, and the single price was 110.000 Lira per night. One note for single travelers, standing in my room, I could stretch out my arms and touch both walls. This is not an exaggeration, just a warning for claustrophobics.

Dining: Based on recommendations from the fabulous Paolo (did I spell it right?), I splurged at Da Fiore (www.dafiore.com, tel 041/721308) and it was truly outstanding. Can’t rave enough about a restaurant that already receives more than its fair share of raves. If you would like more info on how good it was, what I had, or how much $$, let me know. On the other end of the dining $pectrum, I enjoyed a nice meal at Da Alvise Pizzeria/Trattoria (www.daalvise.com) right next to the Fondamente Nove vaporetto stop. Here was one of the few places out of the tourist crowd that also offered a nice breeze (did I mention the heat wave while I was there?). The pizza was yummy and the wonderful manager/owner (?) taught me about stropini (spell?), a fabulous after-dinner drink of Prosecco, vodka, lemon, and ice cream. Allegedly, this wonderful drink helps with digestion, but who cares? … it’s delicious. Only other advice is to repeat what others have posted: get away from the main tourist sights if you want good food and a reasonable price.

Things To Do: Since this was my third trip here, I made some headway in my list of places still not seen, so that I have added new “favorites” (Torcello, Scuola Grande di San Rocco, the Etruscan exhibit at the Palazzo Grassi, the Basilica of Saints John and Paul, and many more). Also visited many old favorites, like Burano, Murano, Palazzo Ducale, Salute, etc. Now that I’ve spent 12 full days during three trips to Venice, is it normal to feel like you haven’t even scratched the surface? I still want to explore eastern Castello and what was the Jewish Ghetto and so much more. It’s overwhelming that I once heard that Rick Steves claims that you can “do” Venice in a day. Gah.

A few of the Venice sites: http://www.invenicetoday.com/eng.htm; http://www.actv.it/ (vaporetto map); http://www.elmoro.com/; http://www.veniceword.com/; http://www.virtualvenice.net/en/ (I believe Elaine has posted a lengthy list of sites for Venice if you do a search.)
 
Jun 11th, 2001, 12:16 PM
  #8  
kk
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Heather, thanks for the neat postings. I loved Salzburg too and was there in the gloom of November. I didn't miss the crowds though! I hope you will be posting more about the other places you visited.
(yes, I am the same kk you helped a year or so ago with a restaurant in Chicago.)
 
Jun 11th, 2001, 12:18 PM
  #9  
Heather
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LAST STOP – BRUGES (BRUGGE), BELGIUM (part 1 of 2)
Have wanted to visit here and never had an itinerary that matched up, so I bought a $99 Ryanair flight from Venice-Treviso to Brussels and hopped a train to Bruges.

Hotel: I chose Hotel Leeuwebrugghe (http://www.brugge.be/Verblijf/en/leeuwee.htm) off of the Internet based on price, photos, and location. The location was 5 minutes from the main square and a $5 taxi ride from the train station. My single was large with a comfy bed (FIVE pillows!) and a private bath for 2.200 Belgian Francs. The breakfast was skimpy but adequate.

Dining & Beer & Chocolate: Highly recommend Gruuthuse Hof (Mariastraat 36, 050/33.06.14, closed Weds.) for lunch or dinner. A three-course meal, including a fabulous roasted ¼ chicken with pepper sauce, plus wine and hot tea was less than $20. And, the staff was attentive and quite nice. A small place with a nice attention to detail. Also ate a great large lunch at a restaurant across from the Belfry (if you put your back to the Belfry, it is the second restaurant from the right … sorry, also lost the card for this place).
And, now, onto the beer that has spoiled me for life. Two outstanding pubs/bars are De Garre in a small walkway off of Wollestraat behind the Belfry, and the other is Brugs Beertje, between Goezeputstraat and St.-Jan in De Meers off of Westmeers (makes more sense looking at a map, but ask anyone for either place as they’re very well known). Both places serve 100s of ungodly good Belgian beers. Had I been of sounder mind, I would’ve made a list of those that I tried, but just ask for suggestions if you aren’t sure (although the bartenders tend to serve triples when you leave it up to them). Also toured the Straffe Hendrike Brewery, which was interesting and involved a “free” beer at the end of the tour. If you are interested in taking home Belgian beer (no, the stuff that they export to the US is not the same), the Bottle Shop on Wollestraat close to the Belfry has a terrific selection (unfortunately, they do not ship).
Hands down, my favorite chocolate shop was Dumon (www.chocolatierdumon.com, two locations: Eirmarkt6, 050/34.62.82; and Walstraat 6, 050/34.00.43). I bought a number of gift boxes here that were happily received by my family and friends. Christophe, who runs the shop on Walstraat and is the brother of the gentleman who makes all of the chocolate, is absolutely charming and very helpful. He is extremely knowledgeable about Bruges and was happy to answer many questions. I’m not even a sweets/chocolate lover and was won over by the Dumon’s product. Between the chocolate and beer, be prepared to fill another small carryon.
 
Jun 11th, 2001, 12:19 PM
  #10  
Heather
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Bruges, continued …

Thing To Do: Go to the TI and buy the map/guide for 25 BF and either start wandering (you WILL get lost) or follow the three walking tours outlined. Bruges is gorgeous, safe, clean, and a perfect place to walk and gawk. The Minnewater area is charming to the nth degree and the city itself is a “sight”. Although my schedule did not match up, others that I met highly recommended Quaismodo tours (www.quasimodo.be, 050/370.470) for daytrips out of Bruges. The tour guide (in English) is supposed to be very funny and knowledgeable. The two trips that I considered were one to “Flanders Fields”, which covers battlefields/war sights (Sun., Tues., Thurs., 9am-4:30pm), and “Triple Threat”, which includes castles, chateaux, waffles, chocolate, and beer (Mon., Weds., Fri., 9am-4:30p.m.). Cost = 1815 Bf per adult; 1533 Bf for anyone under 26.

Transportation note for those flying out of Brussels: I caught the train to Brussels around 7:35 a.m., connected to the Airport Express at the Central Station stop in Brussels, and was at the airport and checked in more than two hours before my flight at 12:50.

Well, between my sketchy memory and baffling notes, that is all I have to report. I apologize for the length, but only scratched the surface of what I saw, ate, drank, experienced, etc. And, I met so many wonderful people who made it the trip of a lifetime (so far), so, many thanks to Rupert, Stanislav, Brian & Janis, Elgin & Kris, Bob (the Englishman), and all of the rest of the travelers and locals who took their time to visit with the single traveler from Chicago!
 
Jun 11th, 2001, 12:20 PM
  #11  
Heather
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Hi, kk! Of course I remember you ... was wondering not too long ago what you were up to down there in the Texas heat (hopefully not the floods, too). Any Chicago (or other) trips coming up?
 
Jun 11th, 2001, 12:28 PM
  #12  
s.fowler
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Thanks Heather! That was a fascinating and helpful set of reports So where are the piiiiiictures??
 
Jun 11th, 2001, 12:40 PM
  #13  
Thyra
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Heather,
Thanks for the great report... I am going to print it out for reference for our Spring 2002 Bruges trip. Glad you had such a great time! Were to next????
 
Jun 11th, 2001, 12:48 PM
  #14  
Heather
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Sally, be careful what you ask for ... the next get-together I will trap you in a corner with wine and my photo albums. Ha! I'm picking them up tonight after work and am very excited.

Thyra, if I find any more notes, I will post them for Bruges. I forgot to mention that it becomes the "Cultural Capitol of Europe" in 2002 and the tourists are expected to grow from 3.0 million this year to 6-6.5 million next year. But, I still want to go back. And, I'm suffering from lack of trip planning/going already. Maybe 3 weeks doing Belgium, Western & Southern Germany, and Salzburg, again. Or, Tuscany for a week followed by a week in the Italian Lakes/Dolomites? Or, other points undetermined. I feel rudderless ... any suggestions?
 
Jun 11th, 2001, 12:53 PM
  #15  
Santa Chiara
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Thanks for the great report, Heather. You are a traveler after my own heart.
 
Jun 11th, 2001, 01:11 PM
  #16  
Heather
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Thank you, Santa Chiara! I was nervous posting a report, as so many people seem to not like them. But thought that some of the info might be helpful ... I appreciate the kind words. It really was a fabulous vacation and the first solo experience.
 
Jun 11th, 2001, 01:16 PM
  #17  
kk
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Hi back, Heather. I hope you will post--or have Sally post--many of your photos.
The only trip I have that is more or less definite is to Hilton Head in November. I hope to go to Germany at Christmastime but that remains to be seen. I don't even have a US conference on the horizon, which is how I got up to Chicago last time.
I was lucky in the Houston flood but 20,000 flooded out people were not, never mind the massive destruction to infrastructure all around the city. Truly horrific. And it wasn't even a real hurricane, just too much water (36 inches in some parts of Houston)from a tropical storm that would not go away and kept pulling up water from the gulf and dumping it on us. Not a good time to visit here, that's for sure.
 
Jun 11th, 2001, 01:19 PM
  #18  
kk
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PS. What about Trieste? I've read a couple of interesting travel articles on it lately, one I think was in the NY Times. Did you think it was worth a visit...if you skipped through it quickly...that is, a return visit?
 
Jun 11th, 2001, 02:18 PM
  #19  
Heather
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I'm keeping Houstonites in my thoughts ... "no more rain".

You are right, though. My trip through Trieste was viewed through bus and train windows. To be honest, I was interested in small towns and countryside (excepting Salzburg & Venice), and had no time scheduled for Trieste. It looked large, hectic and urban, which is what I wanted to avoid. But, I did hear that it is a good city to visit from many of the locals in Piran. They seem particularly partial to visiting there and praised the food.
 
Jun 11th, 2001, 04:53 PM
  #20  
topper
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up.
good stuff in here.
 

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