Salzburg may be politically part of Austria; but geographically, it's actually much closer to Bavaria. And when it comes to beer, it's clear that the closeness is measured by more than mere kilometres. The Augustiner Bräu is where Craig, Sarah, Kade, Lisa, Thierry, Wilson and myself went tonight — for something to drink, and for something to eat — and it's the kind of place that could only possibly exist somewhere whose heart is of Bavarian fibre. I kid you not when I say: the Augustiner Bräu is a beer hall that has been operated for centuries by Augustine monks; that serves the Augustine beer that the monks themselves brew and copiously drink; and that is physically connected to the monks' fully-functional church. Of course — this being the crazy beer-religion-wotzdadiff place that it is — all that is perfectly normal and acceptable. Anyway, all I can say is that these monks sure do a good job, because they brew some of the best beer known to mankind; job satisfaction is no doubt a part of life for them.
This morning I paired up with my mate Thierry, and together we embarked upon a chilly but pleasant exploration of downtown Salzburg. Our ultimate aim was to reach the hilltop Hohensalzburg fortress; but we had no hurry, so we managed to take in a fair few of Salzburg's attractions along the way. Salzburg is a gorgeous town, perfectly preserved over more than 500 years, and ridiculously compact and convenient to wander around in. The weather was freezing (quite literally — town signboards read -2°C) — but at least it was reasonably sunny. And anyway: it was my first-ever exposure to a frost- and snow-covered cityscape, and I for one was revelling in its beauty.
Did you know that the word "Aussie" has 4 different meanings, here in Germany? First, it refers to Austrians — Germans have been calling their southern brethren "Aussies" for yonks. Second, it refers to Australians — naturally, who the hell doesn't know our affectionate national nickname? Third, it refers to East Germans, whom their Western brethren sometimes like to joke about. And finally, it refers to Ozzie! At least, that's according to Ozzie himself (yep, that's his name): the (allegedly) quarter-native Bavarian, 100% black, 110% crazy tourguide who took half of Wombat's on a tour of Munich this morning.
The historic centre of Cologne has various buildings and monuments to see — but by far the biggest, and the only one that it's essential to see, is the city's famous "Dom" (i.e. cathedral). Located smack bang in the middle of town — just outside the main train station — the Dom is so bloody enormous, it's quite impossible to miss. With its impressive towering exterior, and its gorgeous arches and windows inside, it's believed to be the largest fully-preserved gothic structure in all of Europe. Entrance is free, too: just wander in and look at your leisure. This morning, before I scooted out of town, I checked out the Dom, and got somewhat blown away by it. No, really: it was a super-windy morning; and while standing in the exposed plaza in front of the Dom, I literally got blown inside.
There's only one thing you really must see when you visit Pisa. I'll give you three guesses what it is. If you answered "the cemetery", or "the art gallery", then you're a knob, and you've obviously spent most of your existence living in a cave in Chad. And you've got one more try. So do yourself a favour, and don't make me pull out my electric cattle prod in frustration at you: tell me that you gotta see the tower! Since I had the entire day at my leisure today, here in the beautiful city of Pisa, I naturally spent at least some of it admiring the lovely and architecturally precarious landmark itself.
One of the main reasons that I came back here to Rome — apart from the necessity of having to collect my large backpack, which I left before going to Sicily — was to see the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel. When I was here three weeks ago, I managed to see the Vatican Church and St. Peter's Basilica; but my efforts at seeing the rest were thwarted. Last night's horrendous theft on the train has obviously left me traumatised — and to tell the truth, I didn't feel like doing anything today — but I decided that I shouldn't let that completely spoil the rest of the day; so I gave the outstanding Vatican sights one more shot. And this time, I finally got in.
Catania is Sicily's second-largest city (after Palermo), and one of the island's most crowded and traffic-infested. It's not high on the average tourist agenda — but like so many big and ugly cities, it's often near-impossible to avoid. This morning, my route up the east coast of Sicily led me through Catania: and I decided that seeing as I was in the area, I might as well at least check it out, and see what the place has to offer. So I came, I saw, I got lost, and I eventually found my way out.
From my night's abode at Camping Bazia, this morning I cycled on, and tackled the winding road that leads up to Capo Tindari, and to the village and attractions at the top. It was quite a tough uphill ride — like Capo di Milazzo to its east, Capo Tindari is tall and steep — and a sprinkling of damp, drizzly rain along the way didn't help, either. However, once I reached the top, the weather improved, and the sights proved to be worth the effort. Not that I had a choice, anyway: not only is Tindari a major attraction in this part of Sicily; there's also no easy way around it. As well as some Greek ruins (which I skipped), Tindari is also home to a very impressive church, which sits right atop the cape (above the village), and which overlooks the cliffs and the sea beyond.
You can't go to Rome and not visit the Pope, can you now? Today, with the weather unfortunately still grey, and with nothing more pressing on my itinerary, I went and visited the Vatican. The Vatican is a ridiculously crowded attraction — it's clear that everyone, without fail everyone, who visits Rome pops in to it — but it is nevertheless very moving and very imposing. Didn't see the old man himself, but apparently he came out for a public appearance yesterday — pity I missed that, although apparently the crowds yesterday were even worse.
Sounds like the kind of name that America's worst president would make up, don't you think? Actually — amazingly — the name "the freedom trail" was not made up by Dubbya, and it even predates the Bush administration. "The freedom trail" is a red line that winds through the streets of old Boston town, and that guides the curious tourist to a number of the more prominent historical landmarks, here in one of the oldest and most history-rich cities in the USA. Today, Ivor, Manuela, dad and myself embarked upon the trail, and discovered a whole lot of things about Boston and American Heritage.