The Shortest European Trip Report Ever!

Old Jul 6th, 2013, 05:38 AM
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I should have added that the major rolles last night were sung by Lana Kos (Violetta), Francesco Meli (Alfredo), and Roberto Frontali (Giorgio) with Andrea Battistoni conducting>

Today we chose to take a leisurely stroll along the river with its hundreds and hundreds of roses in bloom to the San Zeno basilica.
Verona really is a charming city and once you escape the larger number of visitors who seem to congregate around the arena environs and the supposed "balcony" and the shopping area, things get much quieter.

Today, a saturday, comes with lots of closed stores, parly cdloudy skies and heat that doesn't seem quite as oppressive and fewer visitors venturing away from the very center.

The San Zeno church sits above the river. Zeno was born in Africa and became the 8th bishop of Verona. He is reputed to have "converted the whole town to Christianity."

The original church was consecrated in the year 806; the great earthquake in 1117 destroyed a nrenovation project and parts of the church, the bell tower, etc., collapsed. What is currently seen seems to date from the 13th and 14th centuries. The walls are a mixture of stone and brick

The interior has a wonderful painted/coffered ceiling. The usual abundance of frescoes in various states of repair; hugh bronze doors.

A fairly large rose window (but with clear glass) knwon as "the wheel of fortune" is from the 13th C.

After spending time inside we stopped at a small bar/restaurant situated on one corner of the square in front of the church for a bite to eat and something to drink.

This latter was laid back at its best. We each had some wonderful freshly-made lasagna with the thinest of pastas and a bolognese sauce that only hinted of any tomato. A dog at the next table to fool with; huge old trees providing shade.
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Old Jul 6th, 2013, 07:42 AM
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Dark, dark, DARK was the mood and while the acting and singing were good, I thought, I was kinda glad when this poor creature finally died.>>

the last Traviata we saw was in Budapest; it sounds as if it was light years away from this one!

Aida AND Trovatore? Bravo! you should be Verona experts by the end of your time there.
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Old Jul 7th, 2013, 12:51 AM
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A very different experience in some ways from La Traviata in Il Trovatore last night which was also the opening performance.

The usual over the top set; the stage raking was modified with lots of stone steps; the "curtain" was a series of metalic-looking panels festooned with all sorts of lances, spears, pennants on staffs, as down left and down right contained huge (easily 20 feet tall) figures of fully armored knights in battle scenes; one about to behead his adversary and the other driving a spear into the midsection of an opponent.

At one point when Leonora is at the convent a massive golden altar piece is revealed which was nothing short of stunning. During the so-called "crowd scenes" there were easily several hundred performers on stage and with LOTS of room left over.

The voices included Artur Rucinski as the Conte di Luna, Hui He as Leonora, and the brooding and angry Anna Smirnova as Azucena along with Carlo Ventre as Manrico.

Much much bigger voices tonight than last nights La Trav but interestingly enough the audience wasn't nearly as enthusiastic no pounding of the feet at the curtain calls which happended for La Traviata and the applause wasn't nearly as enthusiastic, either.

What is always interesting about these things is who shows up in the so-called "expensive" seats (around 198 Euro each) and how they look.

I noticed Mr. Designer in the toupee again; tonight he was wearing a 3/4 length snakeskin coat. Plenty of beautiful clothes on the women; the men with few exceptions were much less done up.

And of course the usual Arena announcements about no cell phones and no pictures and as soon as the thing started the phones were out taking pictures with more than a few flash pops.

NO smoking allowed inside the Arena at the intervals including elecronic cigarettes and this is one prohibition everyone seems to observe; the fire/emergency crews in the audience in their hi-vis turnout gear probably helps reinforce that rule.

And last night just at the end of the final curtain call we got our first few drops of rain. Once performances begin here there are no refunds.

I also noticed last night (we got out about 12:30 AM the local MacDonalds which stays open until 1 on Sunday morning was jammed with some of those same gowns and jewels.

I see there is a thread here from someone wondering if the production quality here is as good as in LaScala. Hard to know but if you are looking for "minimalist" anything this is not the place to be.
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Old Jul 7th, 2013, 02:08 AM
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A very nice winebar with views over the river is to be found walking north along the town side of the Adige toward the Ponte Pietra. There is a terrace at the back and they serve good salads amongst other things.
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Old Jul 7th, 2013, 07:05 AM
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Tarquin, thank you for the suggestion.
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Old Jul 7th, 2013, 08:03 AM
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Enjoying your report so far.
Thanks for taking the time to write and delight us.
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Old Jul 7th, 2013, 09:54 AM
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You are welcome and if it helps even only one or two others it is worthwhile IMO.

This afternoon a large contingent of folks from the Uk gathered in the hotel bar to watch the Wimbledon men's finals. The place went nuts when Murray won which is understandable.

Tonight is our final opera, "Aida" which over the years has been a real workhorse for this venue, elephants and all. We are told there will be some sort of "modern" set and I have seen pictures of it. I am anxious to see if the voices tonight are as "big' as they were for Trovatore.

Tomorrow morning we leave by rail for the Berner Oberland and undoubtedly different weather and higher food prices.
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Old Jul 7th, 2013, 01:54 PM
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Dukey1, I owe you big time for the info on italiarail.com. You just saved me loads of money and time. Great report, by the way. Thanks a bunch.
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Old Jul 7th, 2013, 04:52 PM
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"Aida" tonight:

here are a few highlights:

flaming hieroglyphics, a flooded stage for the Nile scene with a gliding boat, life-sized mechanical camels and elephants, cranes, forklifts, moving stair ladders a la Home Depot, solar panels which collapse to form the lover's tomb at the end, bumper cars, cavorting crocodiles, human palm fronds, 50 gallon drums, and inflatable sand dunes.

No it was not "conventional" and the singing was great. Made the entire trip worthwhile and it didn't end until 1 AM trhis morning!

Hey, you want tradition? Go to the Met or LaScala! On to the Berner Oberland later today
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Old Jul 8th, 2013, 07:23 AM
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This afternoon a large contingent of folks from the Uk gathered in the hotel bar to watch the Wimbledon men's finals. The place went nuts when Murray won which is understandable.>>

Dukey we were going nuts too. so nuts we cracked a bottle of champers when he won. [Yes, this IS a big deal in the UK. You have NO idea.]

the production of Aida sounds terrific. A friend of mine talks about seeing it once outdoors in Rome when they had LIVE elephants, but it may be another of his tall tales. Glad you enjoyed it so much.

Have a good journey to Switzerland and we'll see you on the Lauberhorn.
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Old Jul 8th, 2013, 12:49 PM
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Up this morning for breakfast at 7 and then the 15-minute walk from the hotel to the Verona Porto Nuova train station. The trips to Milan and then onward to Brig where we changed foir Interlaken Ost and Grindelwald happened without problems,

I used the Swiss federal Rail site to book tickets from Brig onward and had printed them out at home before leaving for Europe.

The trip up to Grindelwald brings the usual dramatic scenery and this is as far "up" as we have ever been in the Berner Oberland.

Our hotel is adjacent to the rail station and after checking in we took a short walk around part of the town.

I can understand now why many people say they dislike Grindelwald or at least that they prefer other locations. The place isn't particularly "charming" what with all the hotels bunched somewhat together and there was plenty of foot traffic this afternoon around our 4PM arrival timee.

What I did NOT see was the "bunch of tour buses" someone here recently complained about; in fact there weren't ANY tour buses around at all. Perhaps they had all left for Paris the perfect city.

Anyway, we walked around and didn't see much to tempt; did stop in the COOP market (jammed) to but some snacks and milk for later. Finally had an early dinner in the hotel restaurant which was more appealing than sitting having a beer somewhere.

I got the Jungfraubahn pass validated at the train station so we are ready to do the "Top of Europe" excursion in the morning.

Oh, and as to this town...say what you will but the VIEW is spectacular and we have a great view of the Eiger from our hotel room balcony, too so feel fortunate to be here.
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Old Jul 8th, 2013, 03:04 PM
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Enjoying your trip report! Enjoy Switzerland!
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Old Jul 8th, 2013, 05:59 PM
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Any climbers on the Eiger?
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Old Jul 8th, 2013, 09:08 PM
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Peter, I am looking up at the Eiger as I type this and I do not see any climbers but I probably should have brought binoculars.

This morning is quite clear but my previous experience with areas such as this has been that the "weather at the top" can change quite rapidly. I suspect this biggest issue as we ascend today will be how many other people are ascending right along with us.
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Old Jul 9th, 2013, 12:17 AM
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Very much enjoying your trip report. Some parts remind me of our first trip to Italy, and others I am going to add to my next one! Thanks for sharing all the great details.
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Old Jul 9th, 2013, 05:03 AM
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I too am following your trip report with avid interest. Want to ask about the Opera in Verona. Your description above convinced me that I do not want to see La Traviata, but rather Aida - and I am changing some other plans to manage that. I am on a budget, but do not want to sit where it is impossible to hear / see what is going on on stage. They have sections called 'nubered seats on steps' OR 'lateral numbered seats' OR 'unnumbered seats on stone steps' ... Please Dukey, can you make a recommendation here? I know you get what you pay for, but do you think the 'cheaper middle class' will be OK? Or will it be better to splurge on more expensive tickets? Thanks for a great report - I am learning from you and will shortly be following in (some of) your footsteps.
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Old Jul 9th, 2013, 06:18 AM
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<<On that trip we literally went from the sublime (the Passion Play which we had also seen in 2000) to the grandiose and spectacular ("Carmen" here in Verona).>>

In 2010, we were also in the audience for "Carmen" on a perfect full moon night in Verona. Spectacular! Wish we had seen "Aida" also.

Thanks for a great TR with all the details.
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Old Jul 9th, 2013, 07:10 AM
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Before I recount the trip of the day today, re those seats in Verona: we were seated in the more expensive "orchestra" seats and we were never further back than Row 5. On two of the three nights we were in Row 2 and very close to the center aisle.

The stage itself is "miked" as is the orchestra but I do not think any of the performers were. There is no worry about being able to see what is happening on the stage from any of the seats in my opinion. Those unnumbered seats on the steps mean that when you sit in one of those sections you are free to sit as close to the center as you can get. I think I would opt for the next more expensive option.

As to acoustics and how well you can hear...since we were close to the orchestra we sometimes heard more orcchestra than we heard voices but that also depended on the voices. The singing was a lot stronger for Trovatore and for Aida than it was for Traviata.

all in all sightlines aren't as much of an issue I suspect as is the hearing issue. I hope this helps some and if not ask more questions and I'll do my best to offer advice.

Whatever you do don't be put off by the Arena's suggestion about so-called 'elegant attire' because there was all manner of attire present on all three nights and I cannot imagine them barring anyone who has a ticket.

Today we did the jungfraujoch trip, leaving Grindelwald a little after 8 AM. the train up was plenty full and the scenery is the usual spectacular as you climb higher and higher to Kleine Scheidegg. Plenty of wildflowers as well as plain old weeds (dandelions) in bloom along the way. Lots of hikers of all ages. And lots of tour groups; entire cars of the train had been reserved for those folks.

Kleine Scheidegg was already plenty busy when we arrived; people milling around, sitting and eating/drinking in the warm sunlight and the pretty much perfect weather. The clouds as they drift over the mountain tops are like cotton.

It is truly amazing when you think that it took a total of 16 years to bore the tunnel up from Eigerwand to the top and the displays of tools from pickaxes to pneumatic drills at the top were interesting, not to mention those tiny lanterns they had to work with.

The train stops at various points during the ascent and there is a more or less mass exodus to the viewing windows with lots of pictures being taken and you get to look down from higher and higher at the ends of the tunnels cut through the solid rock.

Apparently this whole thing was a commercial venture from the beginning, "so people could experience the Jungfraujoch" and they were definitely onto something because that "top" is more than a simple lookout. There are various places to eat, LOTS of watches for sale, and a self-"guided" tour which takes you to vantages points such as the "Sphynx" which afford spectacular views; the "ice tunnel" and then you can eventually walk out onto both the terraces as well as onto the snow itself.

Despite the very large numbers of people up there we felt the trip was worth the effort and we have seen some great views in witzerland in the past from the trip up to Rochers de Naye above Montreaux to the Gornergrat trip up above Zermatt with the view of that higher peak as well as the view over the Monte Rosa massif but none of those IMO are any better than this.

We descended to Kleine Scheidegg and then took the train back toward Lauterbrunnen. We stopped off in Wengen and I can easily understand why people say they prefer it to Grindelwald. The car-free status helps and when wwe got therwe around 1:30 the town was practically deserted. And those views...WOW!

Had lunch at the Eiger Hotel after walking around part of the town. The usual bad-for-you food but the salad was good and so was the schnitzel all fried and tasty!!! A nice relaxing meal and I got to play with the doggie at the next table, too.

On to Lauterbrunnen (we have been before) and <B>the</B> waterfall...that thing never ceases to captivate me for whatever reason.

I can also see why some like basing themselves there due to the various transportation points and the valley really is beautiful.

Returned to Grindelwald via the change at Zweilutschinen and when we got back here there was a whole bunch of people waiting to go up to the top.

I am looking out at the Eiger now and those clouds are hanging lower and lower; they feel almost close enough to reach out and touch as they drift along.

This is, as I said upthread one of the few areas of Switzerland we have never done and if it hadn't been for a cancelled flight schedule out of Verona to Vienna which I could do nothing about or provide a suitable alternative for, we wouldn't have done the Berner Oberland this time around either so we have been most fortunate.

Now, a word about the hotel here. We are staying in the Derby which is adjacent to the train station and one reason I picked it is its location. It was hard to tell just how far apart some of these establishments actually are when you look at those TripAdvisor (for example) maps.

The place is typically Swiss efficient, everything works, the typical light wood furniture in the room, etc. We have a great view. Breakfast is fairly extensive including those semi-hard-boiled eggs in the hot sand!

The one not-so-great has been the flies. We've left the door to the balcony open for fresh air and the flies while not oppressive are here; they were flying around at breakfast,too.

A woman next to me at breakfast this mornig remarked that, "There weren't as many flies yesterday morning."

We have one more full day tomorrow and debating which cable car trips to take. We may do the Schilthorn trip; we've done the Trummelbach Falls in the past (which I thought was great) so we'll see.

Thanks to everyone for your kind replies and comments above; they are all deeply appreciated.
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Old Jul 9th, 2013, 07:31 AM
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I'm reading.. I'm enjoying.
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Old Jul 9th, 2013, 08:05 AM
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Thank you, Sueciv.

We definitely made the right choice to go up above this morning. Right now at 6:04 PM local time we are having a thunderstorm and I am unable to see any of the Eiger from our balcony because the rain is falling so hard. Thunder reverberating off the mountain walls; an end to another great day.
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