We have just returned from a weeks break to Austria where we visited Salzburg and Zell Am See.

We stayed at the 'Schwaerzler Hotel Neutor' in Salzburg (Austria) at the beginning and end of our journey and I can say that it was a pleasant hotel, ideally located at the edge of the Old Town.

We then took the train to Zell Am See, Kaprun and rented an apartment at the north end of town (Steinergasse) directly from the owner using Owners Direct. The apartment was well placed for access in to town; rather at the budget end of the scale but very capable. 

It was quite basic but sufficient for our needs. We had a bit of a panic because the key handling agent wasn't answering the phone when we arrived and the owner booked us into the Hotel Zum Hirchen which was very nice (he didn't make much profit out of that week!). In the end it turned out that there was just an unfortunate miss-understanding during a difficult period for the agents, we entirely understood and were happy with the actions of everyone in the end.

We walked A LOT. We walked up to the cable car and took it to the Schmittenhohe, walked over to the next peak and back. Also walked to Schuttdorf via the lake and back via the hill walk. Found a really surreal bar open half way up the hill with a very drunk postman entertaining the confused travellers. Took the Schiff boat round the lake and generally relaxed (despite all the walking).

It was verrry quiet, we were told by friends, but a few places were open but not every day. There were a surprisingly large number of young Arab families there on holiday. I assume someone had the idea of advertising to them to fill the off-season. Few things more surreal for a westerner than seeing a lady in a full burqa at the top of a 2000m Austrian mountain. Not that I mind, I would say they seemed like they were enjoying themselves but many of them looked surprisingly bored!

Eating out was incredibly good value compared to many European countries (I'm looking at you Belgium and the Nordics!) and you never went hungry with the portions. Overall it was a great trip and when my partner told her mother about it she wanted to go. So looks like another trip next year!

(Updated: 13th Oct 2009)

The London Black Cab, or Hackney Carriage (as they may not always be black) is one of the most iconic symbols of London. This Christmas I was asked by Angeliki's brother-in-law what company made them (what brand). Oddly enough no one company makes all of them, unlike in cities like Berlin where almost every (yellow) taxi is a Mercedes, the Hackney Carriage is infact a style of vehicle which has been around since the 40s. From Austin, LTI or Metrocab. The most notable thing about the Hackney Carriage is that it has a 25ft turning circle which allows it to turn around in London's tight streets in one go, I doubt a New York Taxi could achieve such a feat!

London's Hackney Carrage drivers are the only ones allowed to stop and ply for trade on the streets of London without a booking, so if visiting London only ever hail a black cab otherwise you might not be so safe. The other advantage of a licensed London Cab driver is that he must has passed "The Knowledge", which is a test which is designed to ensure that the applicant knows every part of London inside and out. They are tested to ensure they can (without the assistance of a map) remember a selection of routes around London and the location of almost any street.

Read more about this fascinating vehicle here:

http://www.lvta.co.uk/history.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hackney_carriage

http://www.lti.co.uk/

 

Venice is a nice place to be for 2 to max 3 days. I don’t know if I would like to live there. The cold penetrates you to the bone and personally I had troubles to sleep because of the horrible pain to my body’s joints caused from the humid. I also got back with a terrible cold which still exhausts me one week later. I know that you may think that it can’t be that bad, how can one nag when being in one of the most romantic places in Europe! Indeed it is an exciting place which combines the unpreserved matured beauty with the modern facilities and luxury. While approaching the island you have the feeling of entering an industrial zone or a shipyard. Once sailing slowly down the Grand Canal, penetrating the island you begin sensing the blows of the city’s charm.

Amazing buildings, great Venetian architecture, arched windows supported on double roman columns, soft pastel colours, decayed walls, green with moss entrances emerging from the sea level, grandiose heavy double wooden doors, geraniums hanging off the windows reflecting their beauty into the still sparkling murano crystal window-screens formed by hundreds of little glassware circles bonded together. But the best is yet to come...

As the dark falls the town is dressed in its heavy black velvet cloak, covers its face in a golden Venetian mask and strolls into the narrow allays or sails in the dank canals. If you are lucky enough, you may find her in one of those little bars offering you a glass of deep red fruity wine, drinking with you and telling you amazing stories for ghosts and secret lovers. This is Venice. A town stopped in time but never forgotten.

This weekend we visited West Sussex, on the South coast of England, near Chichester and visited a former priory which is now in ruins (although the fantastic church still stands well).

I have used it to achieve my first 100% Synthy panorama in Microsoft Photosynth, take a look here.

Here are the pictures from our trip to Venice.