Bikes and boats and beautiful places

By | April 29, 2016

It’s time for some new experiences, so we planned a month long trip through a number of countries in Europe from late April to the end of May 2016.

Our Opal cards get us all the way to the International station where we are able to make our 6am departure on an Emirates A380. The very early start has the benefit of very little queuing to do the bag drop and passport control/security processes.  a6-edq-emirates-airbus-a380-861_PlanespottersNet_248888

The huge aircraft lumbers down the runway seemingly bound to the ground until airspeed and aerodynamics set us free from earth as we turn right to spend the next few hours simply crossing the Australian mainland before pushing on north westward across the Indian ocean.

Everybody seems to have their own way of dealing with the 14 plus hours of flight; reading, sleeping, watching movies and generally trying to find a way to ignore the fact that many hours are slipping by that can never be retrieved.  The early morning flight is only around half full, so we grab some empty banks of seats, raise the dividing handrests and make the most of the chance to stretch out and try to get some sleep.

We drop into the heat and haze of Dubai where the vast sums of money invested in infrastructure and aircraft is evident in the Emirates’ terminal and the long line of aircraft nuzzling their airbridges.  It’s an amazing place: 2 million plus people with well over 80% ex-patriots. Luckily our layover is only 2 hours and we’re soon aboard another A380 en route to Munich, where it turns out that there has been snow and temperatures in the low single digits, despite being a month into the Northern spring.

We had timed our arrival to be at night to try to be able to sleep straight away and deal with the jet lag. The airport train gets us into the heart of Munich in around 45 minutes, and we find our hotel close to the Hauptbahnhof, the main station in Munich, check in, set alarms and sleep soundly to get our body clocks back on track. We look outside our hotel window to see snowflakes and a light dusting of snow on our window sills and nearby buildings. After a great breakfast we don warm clothes and hats and gloves to counter the cold as we set off for a walk around the immediate area.

DSCN5982As in most cities we’ve seen in Europe, there is an evident recognition of the need to use multiple forms of transport and, despite the cold, people are everywhere on cycles and large banks of parked cycles sit outside many buildings.  It’s clear that there is an appreciation of the way that transport modes can integrate to provide solutions which supercede the use of private cars for trips where it’s reasonable to use a bike.

Back home in NSW it seems as though the policy makers are falling for the usual trick of trying to appease a range of lobby groups through adopting what can only be described as punitive laws aimed at sending a message to rednecks that ‘this government is going to make it as tough as possible for people to actually contribute to a range of positive outcomes for cities and people through use of bikes for commuting and getting around: replacing car trips and reducing emissions.  We hear the whines that ‘they should have to pay rego;’ ‘they’ shouldn’t be allowed to do X,Yor Z.  It must be shades of our convict beginnings where there seems to be a fixation on getting governments to make rules so that we can work out ways to thwart them, or spend time complaining about them.

DSCN5987 (1)In Munich, as in so many cities, bikes are an integral part of the business of getting about and age is no barrier. We’re looking forward to our bike adventures riding along the Danube next week.

We check out and pick up our rental car for our trip to Prague to gain a brief encounter with the Czech Republic and a city rich in history and beautiful buildings.

The landscape in Bavaria, this part of Germany, is postcard perfect with small villages and towns peppering the green hills and valleys, steeples and steep roofs providing a means of shedding snow and reaching up to some sense of a higher being.

Yet again we see an area where policy makers back in Australia seem to be dragging the chain as a result of their vulnerability to powerful lobby groups.  All the way along the highway huge areas of solar arrays stand on valuable agricultural land, and barn roofs are covered in solar panels.  Elsewhere, huge wind turbines add to the suite of renewable energy options.

Given that Australia has both large amounts of space and sustained sunshine it is verging on obscene that we have policy makers who deny the need, or who are so beholden to populist ideals and powerful mining and other lobbies that we have dragged our feet on what seems to be taken as a given in this part of the world.

Driving on German roads is also a revelation.  We’d all, no doubt, heard stories of the German autobahns where cars travel at speeds approaching 200km per hour in some cases.  I had always imagined that this meant that the roadways had special characteristics to allow this to happen. The reality on this trip is that the roads travelled were no more advanced in terms of number of lanes or surface/banking/gradients etc than, say, the M1 or Hume Highway in Australia.  One difference is, however, that the cars generally driving at very high speed on German roads tended to be a bit larger and probably safer and more able to handle the speed than, perhaps, a Barina or Hyundai i30.  It was interesting, however, that we didn’t see a single equivalent of our Highway patrol vehicles and we never had a radar gun pointed at us.

Our rental car turned out to be a diesel Volvo wagon and it proved to be able to comfortably stay with the traffic stream at speeds between 140 km and 160km per hour. DSCN5990

We stopped in the beautiful city of Regensburg on the upper Danube where we were able to enjoy a great lunch at a cafe in the ‘old town’ before pressing on to the border and into the Czech Republic; arriving at our AirBnB apartment just off Wenceslaus Square in Prague.

We check in and find that our AirBnb apartment is spacious and well located. Our street runs down to the square and is amidst a number of bars, restaurants, cabarets and, just across the street, a ‘sexy sauna!’DSCN5993

Like most inner city areas in Europe, parking is at a premium and we’d stopped along the way to book into one of the Mr Parkit garages in Prague.

This garage was a fascinating concept where the car was driven onto a turntable reminiscent of the old turntables used in locomotive roundhouses on our railways.  Once correctly aligned, the operator hit a button and the car disappeared into DSCN6009the bowels of the parking garage where it was slotted into space number 14.

Car secured, we’re able to grab some essentials at the cheese shop on the corner and get ourselves organised before trying out one of the many craft beer bars that we’d read about in Prague.  This one, the Illegal Beer Bar, happens to be about fifty metres away up our street and we find that they have a very nice Saison on tap for Lynette and a serviceable Rye IPA.

Now, after over 24 hours of flights to Munich followed by a drive to Prague, it’s time for some sleep, ready for new adventures.

DSCN6001Prague turns out to be a fascinating city, with beautiful squares and narrow cobbled streets.  We spend most of the day walking to different parts of Prague 1, the innermost area: where beautiful buildings line the streets, and trams play back and forth along the routes where they have room to do so.

We find ourselves in the old town and Old Town Square; dating from the 12th Century, where tourist groups bundle along behind their tour leaders holding aloft a coloured umbrella or flag, as a rallying standard for their small army of visitors who move like locusts ready to tick off the sights in their guide books.

We wander aimlessly before employing the trusty Google maps and the ‘blue dot,’ thankful as usual for mobile data via our international travel SIM, gradually find our way back to the apartment before heading out in the lat afternoon for some more great craft beer at the Prague Beer Museum and a memorable dinner of traditional Czech cuisine at the Lokal.

DSCN6008On our way home we spy this marvellous looking bike and imagine how it might add to our ride next week.  For now, though, it’s time to catch up on some sleep ready to tackle tomorrow.

The amazing thing is that food and booze is very cheap here.  We ate a very nice dinner washed down with a pint of Kozel dark lager for just under $20 AUD all up. Bottled and canned beer sells in convenience stores and I was able to pick up two 500ml bottles for a total of 44 Czech Krona, or $2.42: $1.21 each!

Time to call it a day.  We’re hoping to hire some bikes tomorrow and set off further afield to see more of this enigmatic city.

7 thoughts on “Bikes and boats and beautiful places

  1. Courtney

    Great start to what’s going to be an amazing trip! Look forward to reading all about it. Enjoy and love to you both xox

    1. admin Post author

      Thanks Courtney. Luckily the weather looks like warming up a bit next week.

  2. Leoni

    I just love reading your posts Roger, its almost like I am there with you both. Enjoy your trip up the Danube and I can’t wait to see the movies .

  3. John T

    Travel safe. Thanks for the update!
    Euro policy seems people focussed as distinct from OZ.
    Why can’t we get this right!
    Sorry, angry man comment.
    Keep on enjoying this experience – best wishes.

    1. admin Post author

      Hi john..thanks for the comment. Not angry old man at all,just the incredulity we share and the wonder about what expenditures and planning we have been denied, especially in infrastructure. Just here has our money been spent? Or which lobbies have been placated? We’re having a great trip!


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