A Travellerspoint blog

Greece - Footsteps of Apostle Paul

Team Senn gains another member!!!

sunny 36 °C

Wednesday 10 September - Arrival in Athens
Getting the right definition for OLD BUILDINGS!!

Travelled in from the air port via taxi to hotel
Used the morning to visit the Temple of Olympian Zeus behind Hadrian’s Arch (built in honour of Hadrians accomplishments) via a very clean and function underground after this we walked passed the Zappeion (congress hall) then up past the national garden, and continued for a half hour walk to the top of the Likavitos Hill (highest point of Athens).

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Angela & I had almost melted by the time we had reached the top however - The vantage point gave us a complete 360deg view of the city with its fantastic land marks like the Acropolis & Olympic stadium etc. We also were able to get a good feel for the size of the city that packs 5 million people in. Utilizing a smarter exit strategy we took the tram down (which we should have taken going up doh!!) and walked back into town to the shopping area of Plaka, passing many random ruins along the way.. The 38 DegC Heat was exhausting to say the least phew!!.

Caught up with Mum Senn at the Hotel (Athens’s Imperial) It was really great to see family after a month & half of travelling and seemed a bit surreal being so far from NZ. Together we attended the welcome meeting for our 10 Day Globus Tour - The footsteps of apostle Paul.

Thursday, 11 September - Begining of Tour
Up early to sight see in Athens with our local guide:
1) The Famous Athens Acropolis Parthenon & Aropgagus Hill where Paul spoke ( Acts 17:15:34) – We could see that Paul would have been preaching in the shadow of a number of temples right next door – probably facing the Athena & Poseidon Temple (pantheon) up on the hill. The scale of these buildings and locations were spectacular. It was awe inspiring as the scale of the building!!
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The Greek Ceremonial Guards looked very threatening with their pompoms attached to their shoes!! ;-) heheehee

2) Then the group bussed to Corinth to see the Excavations of the old town, this was where Paul worked for 18 months (Acts 18:1-18). Once again this place was big & this was obviously a very advanced city with about 200K of inhabitants back in the day. With modern facilities like reticulated water and sewage. Among the many features of the city was a two storey waterfall and a 500BC temple dedicated to the God Apollo.
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The city sprawled from the base of the hill right down to the Aegean sea. They have only uncovered a small portion of the city to date. Also the City of Corinth of biblical times is in fact built upon an even older city. There were some dogy offerings to the gods for healing that were worth a photo check it out!!
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After another extremely hot day in the sun Mum Senn & Angela went for a swim up on the roof of our hotel, after which we went to the Archaeological Museum which had a dizzying array of stuff dating back to the 4000BC. With some interesting finds...
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The Greek Ceremonial Guards look frightening with their pompoms on there shoes!! heheehhhe...

On our return we had a group activity - traditional Greek Dinner in Plaka with Traditional Dancing, singing, belly dancing and lots of food. Lots of fun especially the flaming desserts that looked like pavalova. The Greeks like to make a song and dance about anything and have a word to express spontaneous joy of which we were encouraged to use often!! OoPA The group performing even had a dance involving knifes!! They have a drink they mix with water, ice and Uzzaye (Aniseed Liqueur). It made hair grow on the back of my hands… ;-) They also smashed a heap of plates as the grand finale. Crazy Greeks!! OOOPPPAAA…
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Friday, 12 September – Sailing Across the Aegean Sea
Today was the beginning of our 3 day Boat Cruise, after quite a process we managed to get thru customs and onto the boat – first up the crew made us all do an Interesting lifeboat drill where we had to get our life jacket and stand outside our designated life boat – then they went around checking we had our lifejackets on properly….(Mum Senn got out of it by claiming sickness..) apparently all the cruise liners have to do it and it is compulsory for everyone on board to attend.
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In the afternoon we had a trip to Mykonos the sister island to Santorini where Ange was able to break her dress drought and get a couple of racy numbers ;-) We found Mykonos to have slightly different architectural features to Santorini - buildings have more regular shapes, & brown, blue, white seem to be the common colours used for the houses. For majority were still white, The paving was all very similar between the buildings. We saw the famous 5 wind mills. They are no longer used & are kept up more for the tourists to photograph which we were happy to do...

Saturday 13 September
In the night the boat had sailed to Rhodes where they got us up early to begin our
Tour of Rhodes Island starting with the town of Lindos & the imposing knights castle high on the hill with its acropolis all with an awesome view of St Pauls harbour where he was reported to have sheltered from the storm 51AD (Acts 21:1).
The Bay where Paul stopped to shelter from the storm was indeed very sheltered, and looked inviting for a swim!! (though no time for this).
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Got to see the local pottery guys in action. Check it out!!
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Then it was back for a tour of the Medieval walled city of Rhodes Town heavily fortified by the knights of St John during the crusades 1300-1522AD
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Rhodes Town’s medieval city has remained mostly intact and is the worlds largest fully functional inhabited medieval city in existence. The fortifications were massive with multiple moat’s & bridges Ange and I went thru ST Johns hospital where the knights would come back to heal from the wounds they had received in the crusades. This place was extremely well built complete with fire places and would have been great place for R&R after been shot thru with Saracen arrows!! They called the Knights who helped out hospitalliers & this is where the modern St John’s originally came from. Because there where many nationalities involved in the crusades they had embassy buildings within the town. Steve found this place fascinating & could have easily stayed here at least a week.
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Sunday 14 September. - Island of Patmos
Visited the Island of Patmos where St John was purported to have written revelation. We got up at 5.15am to be ready to leave the boat at 6.45am to be in Skala after a briefing. After bussing to Chora we were herded down a serious of narrow steps towards the grotto which was a natural cave where St John hung out with his trusty disciple while God spoke to him regarding revelation. Being Sunday the Greek Orthodox Church was having a service in the Grotto that is now been converted to a very small church. In general we both found the whole experience quite underwhelming and was a dangerous experience for Mum who could have gone for a skate on the steep slippery steps. We witnessed one of our group do just this with a lucky soft landing!
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Apparently a lot of stars have properties here on Patmos, though after Santorini we would have to wonder why?. On the whole we where pretty neutral about Patmos. Would have been a good idea to look inside the fortified monastery of ST John divine which is the cultural centre of Patmos. Time was against us and shortly we were back on the Boat & steaming for Kusadasi Turkey where we would spend the early afternoon exploring Ephesus advanced roman city where Paul hung out for some time.. Clearly we could see multiple temples and one had to marvel at the extent of the city and its opulence for the time. The Great Theatre in itself was monstrous and could seat up to 24,000 ten percent of the population. This was where Apostle Paul was involved in a riot with the locals. I won’t write more about this check out this web site for the low down:
http://www.markdroberts.com/htmfiles/resources/ancientephesus.htm

Monday, 15 September - Back to land mehearteys!!
We disembarked from our boat cruise and spent the entire day travelling by bus to Thessalonika. Here they were putting in a new sub way line and we could see the inspector checking out the tailings to see if they had hit anything of historical importance apparently they had hit many old things in the course of the project effectively putting a halt to current works until they had completely relocated the artefacts. Needless to say the time budget was out the window…We photo’d the white tower & the massive beach front, check out its chequered history here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Tower_of_Thessaloniki
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Tuesday, 16 September
A full day excursion accompanied by our guide Diana along the ancient route of Apostle Paul from Amphipolis (Acts 17:1), to Ancient Philippi, where Paul established the first church in Europe and to whom he wrote his letter to the Philllippians while in Rome (Acts 16:11-40; Phillippians). We got see the river where Paul allegedly baptised the first convert in Europe a woman called Lydia a seller of purple from Thyatira – once again the site was quite touristly enhanced. Our guide let us know that course of the river had changed many times however they were 99% sure this was the one!! Just behind the touristy bit we found the real river and took a photo (contained plenty of fish).
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The Ruins of Philippi were extensive and had considerable evidence that pointed to the early church being clearly established here. Also got to see the local jail house where they have purported to have thrown Paul after he and his buddies caused a raucous at the theatre.
It was an earth quake that eventually ended the city. The communal toilets were impressive & I guess kinda cool due to sitting on 2inch thick marble seats…interesting!!
Check out this for further information:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philippi

Next we headed to the city of Kavala which was very scenic with its fishing boats ancient aqueduct and hilltop fortifications – our seafood lunch tasted fantastic as the squid & prawns were very fresh!! This was the ancient port of Neapolis (Acts 16:9-11), which Paul visited. From here was a scenic drive back to Thessalonika.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kavala

Wednesday, 17
Visited the Beamer of Apostle Paul which consisted of 4 original steps and a big white edifice which didn’t really do it for us  however this was (Acts 17:10-15) where Paul was said to have stood and preached the gospel to the local population. We then headed for Meteora and after a smorgasbord lunch Greek style we headed up into the Rockies which had to be one of the strangest geographical sites we have been to so far with large lumps of granite springing upto 800m out of the ground and these monasteries perched on top of them. By far one of the most picturess places we had been on the trip. We got to visit a Monks order (Baphaam aria metewpa) founded in 1350 by Monk Varlaam & also a Nunnery (St Stephens Holy Monastery) – Holy Meteora. Angela preferred the nuns due to the pretty flower beds!! Mum braved many steps to get a good look – what a trooper!! Fantastic view…
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check here for further information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meteora

Thursday 18 September - Final Day
Today was essentially a travel day from Meteora to Athens with only one scheduled stop where we got to check out a real life Iconologist in action at a real life icon factory – Apparently you need to study for 3+ years to get the degree in iconology and by the sound of it the training is required to really understand what every symbol means in order to clearly convey your message clearly.
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Tonight was the Good bye night for our Globus group – who were all a really neat bunch!! The meal was held in a scenic location with the acropolis as the backdrop to a perfect night.

Friday 19 September - Off to the Italian Riveria
The night prior we learnt on the news that the airline we had been booked with was officially bankrupt Ailtair (Italian Air) so we were unsure whether we would be flying or not!! And would not know until we were at the airport – apparently the problems had been going on for some time.

Hence we were up early and tracked down the local post office – which turned out to not accept parcels!! Bumma. They directed us 300m down the road to one that did. Here they informed us that they did not sell packaging material? So we had to run off else where to find some packaging– but because it was early not many shops were open….
Finally after scrounging some cardboard and paper towels we were able to pack up our fragile plate and ship that home – hopefully it will make it in one piece!! It felt like we had been forced to join some crazy scavenger hunt.

Greece Tour Oberservations:
We got to see some really amazing country side with valleys that resembled patch work quilts as cotton farms stretched for hundreds of miles and large hill ranges reaching up to the very blue skys. Fantastic Islands & history that has shaped the world.
Be warned the Greek push and shove to ger on buses, boats, Trains etc - if you visit get ready to join the fray!! OOOPPPAA
All things aside the Greek people can be really warm and generious!! But then its all greek to me ;-)

On boat cruises the cabin crew can do some interesting things with your towels check this out!!
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Posted by coogiextra 14:43 Archived in Greece Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Santorini - Paradise in the Sun

Greek Islands

sunny 34 °C

Santorini Island – 4th September
Arrival to the Greek Island - Santorini was painful….
Got settled at our Hotel just out of Fira the Melina hanging with Yanis & Sam, the town came alive after 9.30/10pm so we went in to explore and grab a bite to eat at the local pizza joint.. The local architecture is amazing as the island has a rich history with the local weather and terrain driving the styles we now see today. Santorini as an island is quite barren with water needing to be brought in from the mainland as well as almost every thing else. Local produce seem to be grapes, white egg plant & cherry tomato's.

http://www.greekhotel.com/cyclades/santorin/fira/melina/home.htm
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Monday, 5th September
Due to the extended period of travel Yesterday Steve caught up on some sleep and I read though certainly had some problems keeping my eyes open!!

In the late afternoon we headed out to Oia via the local bus which is on the western side of the island to catch the famous Sunset & met some friendly locals along the way...
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The Sunset had a nice orange glow to it due to the water vapour in the air. Ange could feel the romance!!
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After this we had dinner in Oia looking out to sea from our cliff top perch. The location was great but the meal was pretty average so we blew the joint for desert in Fira, Angela was shopping all the way through the winding streets of Fira.

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Tuesday, 6th September
We got up early and made our way to the old port via cable car. With a fantastic view of the harbour on the way down, from here we took a powered schooner across to the Dormant Volcano, & checked out the smouldering cone at the top (25minute walk). Once down we headed via schooner to the hot springs for 30minutes and then onto an adjacent Island Thirassia for a lunch right on the water complete with sprats and cats.

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It was so hot walking up the hill to see the volcanco (The National Geological Park of Nea Kameni) but the view was worth it, we got to see a whole different aspect. The hot springs turned out to be yellow brown and luke warm which was fine with Ange!

http://ismosav.santorini.net/
http://www.santorini-cruises.com/
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When we returned to the Old port Angela was looking forward to a donkey ride to the top instead of the walk or cable car.... well …. This turned out to be more of an experience than first expected. For a start the Donkeys resembled horses more than Donkey’s & were not guided but left unattended to take us to the top a sort of donkey autopilot, Angela & I were first up so Angela’s Donkey was in the lead & it took off with her on its back at quite a pace, my donkey was a follower & so it soon caught up. After about a couple of staircases Angela’s donkey just stopped which created a donkey jam!! As about another 5 don keys concertinaed up behind us on a very narrow and steep part of the hillside. At random intervals Angela’s donkey routinely tried to bite & boot my donkey as it was standing very close – which in turn was very close to my leg, so Ange tried to slap her ride to get some sort of behaviour control, which promptly made it want to lean forward to tip her off…. After a couple of minutes of donkey attitude, suddenly Ange’s Donkey was off again with mine galloping after it!! Then abruptly after another couple of flights of steps Anges Donkey stopped again & it was all repeated all over again for 2-3 minutes in the Blazing hot 34 °C heat but now there were even more donkeys stuck behind us and we could call it an official Donkey Jam!!!
So here we were stuck with some real bitchy donkeys on a stinky sticky narrow trail. There was no space to even jump off!! Fears for our safety were not unfounded at this point!! Then after much biting & kicking Anges cranky Donkey was passed by another from further back (just squashed its way thru flattening ME & my beast AGAINST THE CLIFF!!).Then in a condensed donkey scrum we were off it was at this point that the reason for the random halts became apparent as Ange’s Donkey dropped a giant donkey fart Brrrraaaattt, fut, fut - followed by plop plop plop which narrowly missed my leg. Now that Angela’s Donkey was no longer stuffed up it found turbo mode and attempted to regained the lead by cutting the offending donkey off at the corner and grinding its owner’s leg into the rough stone wall. However the other Donkey was not to be denied and the neck & neck battle continued to the top. I got left behind in the middle of the maul and had to fend donkey’s & walls to keep my limbs intact. What fun!! Once Ange was at the top she was greeted by a man who said quite plainly GET OFF!! And so ended a very memorable hill climb!! After we had completed our limb check and recovered our composure along with the rest of our group that we had become intimate friends with. We headed off in search of a cool drink… phew!!
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This evening we found a lovely restaurant where the food was a reasonable prices and tasty. As Ange had found some of the food a bit bland. The Kalfai was amaxing ( a dessert made of a special type of filo spattegi pastry with honey and walnuts all rolled in a ball.

Wednesday, 7th September
We had hired an ATV for the day, we decided we would spend some time exploring the island we drove approximately ¾ of the way around the island starting from Fira and heading in an anticlockwise direction to Kouloumbos & Paradise Beach, passed Oia and stopping at Imerovigli for lunch & a picture. Lunch took ages to get delivered! But tasted great when it finally arrived.

Carried onto … Ancient Thira, located at one of the highest points on the Island as we arrived at 2.25pm we found it to be closing, so had a sneak peak through the gate We could see that it consisted of many old ruined buildings we really had a blast taking the ATV up the Hill on an ancient cobble stone path, Amazing view. Check the photos.
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Then we drove through Meglochorr and to the main beach Perissa & Perivolos. We liked Perissa the best with its shops, umbrella’s, stony sand and decided to swim here. Returning to the Hotel before 7pm to meet our NZ friends Johanna & Carlton for dinner. Thanks J & C for the great tips !
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Thursday, 8th September
We decided to keep the ATV for another day. As we where able to continue our exploration and see Vlihada marina, Red Beach, Akrotiri excavations (these were closed) Then we headed to Perissa again for another swim!
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Late Arvo we made our way to Faro light house sure another amazing sunset with less crowds. We stopped at a local stall by the side of the road on the way back and had the opportunity for a taste test of local products The wine was strong & sweet like port, the cherry tomatoes in oil where amazing, the olives (normally don’t like olives) were the best I had ever had!!! (& haven’t liked any others since). The lady was very friendly but spoke almost no English and shed ended up getting some locals standing around to peel some of there cactus fruit as the spines can be deadly if eaten accidently. The fruit tasted like a watermelon and a tomato – quite odd but strangely tasty and we are both still alive. The locals seemed quite concerned that we might kill ourselves :-)

Friday, 9th September
Dropped off our ATV & some laundry, had one last look around town and spent the rest of the day by the pool. Steve caught up on the blog while I kept my head stuck in a book. What a team! :-) It was nice to come back and collect our laundry all pressed and folded & ready to go. They did a great job!!
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Saturday, 10th September
Travelled to Athens - Very Early in the morning!!

As we prepare to leave Santorini I would like to say the weather here has been awesome in the mid 30’s with not a cloud in the sky!!! Soooo beautiful, its been a wonderful experience. Our staff at the Melina Hotel were fantastic – Thanks Sam & Yannis you made our stay memorable.

Observations:
Cats & dogs everywhere
Grow cherry tomatoes & grapes for wine
Has a white aubergine, contains fewer seeds than the one we have
The capers are very salty
Eat a lot of goat cheese (which is locally made)
Popular meals are rice-stuffed red peppers, cherry tomatoes, greek salad and Kafalia
Churches every where!! like the following:
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Posted by coogiextra 05:12 Archived in Greece Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Germany - Tobias Tour Services ;-b

The Land of Castles Rivers and Woodlands

sunny 28 °C

Sunday, 24 August
Trained from Zurich to Frankfurt central on a high speed ICE train. We had a family sitting next to us who had the family cat on board in a cage wasn’t long before they had the cat out & amazingly it sat still even in between station stops. People in Europe seem very attached to their animals – quite often you will see them in shops & around the city. It would seem the people and there animals are inseparable. Back in NZ I don’t think u would catch a dog and its owner in Farmers for example…Also we note that it is still fashionable to smoke over here & it is almost reminiscent of NZ in the late 70’s early 80’s with smoking allowed in public places & bars / restaurants. Smoke croak choke. ;-)
After finally catching the right train towards Neu Auspach Tobias caught us as we were trying to find our next train to get to him – Wow what a relief because our German reading skills were not great…

After a brief reunion Tobi took us for a drive thru to Bad Homburg where we learnt that bad meant good in German…? Here we saw our first German Castle and German Church’s which were very large with out some of the detail we had seen in Switzerland.
Then it was off to meet Tobi’s family.

Tobi’s Family gave us a great welcome Eddne (mum), Arnold (dad), Christian (Bro) and Uwe (pronounced Uver – family friend). Tobi’s parents & bro live in a large 3 storey town house with a full basement underground + large 2 storey outside shed and field which was half in a veggie garden. The house was designed with a self contained bathroom and kitchen on each level.

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Monday, 25th August
Next day involves shopping for a campervan trip that Tobias had pre-organised with Uver for the next 4 days Thanks Tobi & Thanks Uver as this is an opportunity to get back to nature in Germany.

Eddne was keen to take us to Hessen Park. So we spent a couple of hours going through the village where we saw a early German settlement recreated on a park like setting of 100 acres+ Some of the building were in working use with businesses operating out of them, the buildings were great & the whole thing had been recreated from historic buildings that have had to be shifted for roading & other reasons etc. Many of the buildings had been pulled to small pieces then completely reassembled. A major job!.Well worth the visit – a bit like giant Motat I guess.
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http://www.hessenpark.de

Tuesday, 26th August

Now on our trip with Uver Our first stop was Stadt Idstein (a tall watch tower) located in the old town centre of Idstein. where we got to climb the Witches Tower. It afforded an awesome view of the town centre and the walls had to be at least 3 metres thick.
www.idstein.de. There were heaps of stairs to climb! Also got to see the town protestant Union Church with some vividly coloured ceilings by the students of Ruben. (dates from the 14th century).

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Then onto Mainz where we got to see the catholic cathedral & old area of Mainz complete with violin playing trio for atmosphere that compelled a auto donation from Angela!!

We drove on and ended up staying on the side of the road next to the Rhine not far from Bingen 5 kms from the ferry.

Wednesday, 27th August
Off with the cycles, Angela got into cycle mode and we cycled to the ferry and went across to Rudesheim! A true German tourist mecca
We had beautiful weather around 30+ deg C A great time was had visiting old town complete with the museum of torture… excellent – we decided to give that one a miss & checked out the Niederwald Monument www.rahmel-verlag.de via Chair lift which gave us a great view of the Rine on a hot summers day with the tour boats & commercial freighters plying the 800 odd metre wide waters. This is a really big river!! After which we enjoyed a good German meal at a local café. Not content to sit on our laurels we then set off to jump on a river cruise which took us from Rudesheim to Bacharach (3hours cruise) which was really a idyllic old German village with its ruined Church called Werner Church. the state of this town was amazing and it all looked authentic all traffic had to drive thru a tower to enter the town very cool.
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We got to stay in a camping ground tonight which was great, we were very hot and sticky from the day out and about and it was great to have shower and feel refreshed!

Thursday, 28th August
First off we stopped at Bacharach to take some more pictures of Werner Church, loved the history here! The history was all about reconciliation, it was fab.
http://www.bacharach-germany.net/

Also visted the town of Boppard where we saw the Best Roman Ruins in Germany that showed the towers and wall locations as they were in the time of Christ or there about the walls were at least 3metres in thickness. & were located in the middle of town.
http://www.boppard.de/2001/html/touristin_roemer_engl.htm

We then did a bit of driving and stayed the night at Bad EMS (Bad means good hear in Germany). The town had a massive old school hotel and river running through it plus a bridge similar to the one we crossed in Switzerland. It was a great camping ground, next to the river, people were very friendly and we had fresh Germany buns provided for Breakfast! Yummy. One of the campers had a owl which he let Angela hold very cool.

Friday, 29th August

Then on the road and off on to Lahnstein. We stop at the Lahnstein Catherdral, this area had seen a lot of war so the Catherdal had experience a lot of changes (Swedish soldiers had gutted the fancy interior at some stage). Ange loved the old township so we had lunch and a small chance to look through the shops and browse the streets!

Then we visited Marksburg – the most genuine – preserved castle from 1200AD on the Rine – we learnt that many had been rebuilt from ruins long since deserted. Here we got to see the German version of the stock – their one has spikes in the arm holders oh what fun…. + we got to see an impressive armour collection and a chastity belt. (quite a fashion accessory).

http://www.marksburg.de/english/frame.htm

Our day ended with us having dinner with Tobi in Braunfels, walking around the castle and the old township with a brief pause at the pear festival (German brass band & beer drinking – didn’t see any pears) where Tobi & I shot some moving targets to get a prize (what a team) finished up with a good hearty German Pub Meal overlooking the river and surrounding town and returning home to Tobi’s parents place in Scmitten for the night.

Saturday, 30th August

Steve was not one hundred percent today so he’s sleeping and I am catching up on some typing. Hope to go to Frankfurt this afternoon.

Well, we ending up going to an annual Museum festival in Frankfurt having a walk through the town we learnt that most of Frankfurt had been flattened in the WWII so the German people have decided to rebuild the inner city centre as it was prior to the war there concert hall is one good example of this,

The festival attracted 3million people over three days it was nothing like I had ever experience. People everywhere on both sides of the rhine - Chocca. People everywhere, police patrolling on boats, live bands every 800 metres, all cultures doing live shows, food & drink galore & then more drink. People were really well behaved and I didn’t really see anyone drunk. It was a bit like an AMP show gone mad.

We went to a bar afterwards, for a cocktail (which was fab!) the bar is fondly name by the boys as ‘the nipple bar’ (because of its strange decorations)! Its actually called the red bar! (real German humour!!) Got back about 3am

Sunday, 31h August

Attended the Baptist Church with Tobias, Christian Uver& Eddne. Was surprised to have two or Three songs sung in English…Met a number of people from Tobias church who were really great!!

This Afternoon we got to see Tobias’s hut in the forest not far from where he lives which he built from local logs in the forest (took 6 months for he and Uver to build as a scout project)Barbecue German forest style – lots of fun. roasting sausages marshmallows over oak fire a very tasty time.

Tobias_Hutt.jpg

Monday, 1 September
We have spent the morning catching up and then headed out to a bird park in the afternoon. It was so amazing to see such large eagles, falcons, hawks, owls & vultures so close. We watched them get fed and fly around outside the enclosure – the birds could certainly do some fancy aerobatic’s. Got to see some really large owls who don’t think much of the eagles as it turned out. Check out the pic.

Owl.jpg

Then in the afternoon we made our way to the Saalburg – Roman fort that stood on the border between the barbarians and the Romans- Angela & I were surprised to see how advanced the civilisation was! And how big the complex had been

On the way back we had a look at where tobi’s mum place of work a local mental health hospital for people in various types of rehab. It was an extremely good facility. After this we stopped in the local supermarket for an explore (picking up fresh lycee and seeing chilli chocolate!) then Tobi took us up a hill to climb a large tower to get a peak of the sun setting…. Wow what a day!

Tuesday 2nd September

Tobias took us to see Braunfels Castle which had been described as one of Germany’s best castles & when we arrived we could see why. It had the old town within its outer perimeters which had been enlarged several times so it had many gates to go through before you actually entered the castle courtyard. Very impressive structure luckily we were able to catch a tour and have Tobi translate for us. After the tour we went to a local wildlife park with deer and other game roam freely Photo’s as follows:

Wednesday 3rd September

Today was a trip to Ikea (we could use this in NZ) for shopping and then we got to take Eddne, Uver & Tobi out for dinner at their local town restaurant as a thank you for all their time and effort looking after us crazy kiwi’s.

Thursday 4th September

Up at 4am to catch a ride with Tobi to Frankfurt Airport – this is where we said goodbye Tobi and thanked him immensely for his hospitality we had a truly great time!! Thanks TOBI & we hope you weren’t to late for work!!

Riek_Family_Photo.jpg

Our flight via Lufthansa turned out to be quite entertaining as it was overbooked and our tickets showed standby – which later read business class – we were upgraded for free!!
However the plane was late leaving so missed its take off time so then they got us to wait while they fixed some minor problem. Then we started to taxi to the run way and the plane halted while they added an extra passenger (a technician for Greece). Then after he had boarded we were about to head to the runway and the captain came over the intercom to say the previous plane had dislodged a piece of tarmac the size of his bedroom so we had to be rerouted to another runway. Any way after 1.5 hours on the tarmac we were finally safely in the sky & 2hours later we had touched down at Athens. Phew!! & boy was it warm!!

Observations in Germany
There are apples trees everywhere…. Apple wine, juice etc…
Learnt KFF is a warning sign for nudist areas
Learnt People can drive there car nude here! As it is considered personal space!!
Rebuilding buildings in central Frankfurt to be like prewar times!
German’s like to have festivals for all different things; pears, museums!
German’s are very proud of there beer & bread’s

Posted by coogiextra 12:25 Archived in Germany Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Switzerland - The Land of Senn Grand Senior

The Land Of Milk,Mountains and Money :-)

Wednesday, 13th August
After a short sleep it was an early start in order to catch the 7am Eurostar (high speed train) from London to Paris Nord via the chunnel as they call it (channel tunnel)(central station). We allowed ourselves plenty of time and to get there and just as well as the Metro ‘circle’ line we took was stopping for all various reasons which delayed us in arriving into St Pancras station. Eg people on the track – trains on the track, aliens on the track – I think they were starting to run out of excuses as what should have taken a 10minute trip took closer to 30min’s

http://www.eurostar.com/dynamic/index.jsp

Eurostar_in_style.jpg

Our trip to London to Paris Nord went smoothly. Upon arriving at Paris we then needed to catch another train via another station. We managed to navigate our way to the next station by foot. Which was trickier than it first looked from the map. We took the TGV (fast train) to Zurich travelling at 250km/hr in places – which seemed very smooth, Steve really enjoyed the scenery as it flashed by & polished off a 2 course meal that cost a small fortune. Upon our eventual arrival into Zurich HB we grabbed our gear & walked to our hotel the Continental. (The taxi man was happy to give us directions as he didn’t think our fare would be big enough to warrant him loosing pole position in a very long queue).

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

Half and hour after arriving the first priority was to organize a car for the following day. Which our mate Barabas the concierge was only to happy to do.

As Steve was extra attentive on the trip over due to finally arriving at the ‘father land’ he didn’t get any sleep on the trip over and made up for it by crashing on the hotel bed where he did not arise until the following morning...

Our First impressions of Switzerland & Zurich were that this was a city that had not seen the blight of a major world war and this was reflected in the buildings that looked very grand & well developed with a nice river running through the centre of the city & swans. There central train station had a large shopping centre located under it which was a hint of things to come.

http://www.sofitel.com/sofitel/fichehotel/gb/mga/1196/fiche_hotel.shtml

Thursday, 14th August
After a great nights sleep on a feather duvet like mattress we are able to launch into Steven’s big day of family research, bolstered by a massive full buffet breakfast we went down stairs and jumped into our rental car and headed out of Zurich to Kirchdorf!

Steve was not at home adjusting to driving on the other side of the road as well as having all the controls on the other side of the car. Needless to say we had some exciting moments… The car was equipped with a Nav man, which sent us on a direct route (very scenic) which was the long way straight over the mountains but gave us some awesome scenery along the way. For example we spotted some community gardens where they can have a vege plot even if they are towney’s and witnessed the clanging of the bells around the cows necks on some very green hills.

Finally at the picturess town of Kirchdorf, Berne, we found the church straight away and the minister’s wife (Christina) was home who cleared up one major misconception straight away with regard to the religion of the church which we had assumed was catholic was in fact protestant – Lutheran in origin. Christina happily rang and arranged for us to have access to the church records in another town not far away called ‘Uttigen’. After meeting with Elizabeth and Rosemary (Thanks A Million! :-) )at 5pm they took us into the bowls of their office and we were wading through documents from the 1700’s / 1800’s trying to find some mention of my Great Grand Father’s confirmation etc. Because the books were written in flowing script and German it made quite hard going. Luckily Angela was able to find a dispute between a Senn and some one else which we are yet to fully comprehend. Through the contacts we made we were able to find out that the Senn name and families were located around Uttigen and an old guy by the name of Fritz may be able to help us in our quest of finding our family members still in Switzerland.

Kirchdorf_..n_Admin.jpg
Kirchdorf_..ch_comp.jpg

While in the office block, Steven noted a very solid door that looked like it belonged to a bank vault but in fact turned out to be a bomb shelter that could cater for upto 100 people for an extended time and Elizabeth informed us that all buildings in Switerland were setup to be able to provide cover in times of war just in case some one tried to attack them.

Afterwards we headed back to Zurich via the Autobahn and spotted a number of medieval castles and quaint villages on the way back. After stopping in at one village on the way home where Steven was able to enjoy a nice ‘Horse’ steak for dinner!!! Apparently it didn’t taste any different to beef…

Steve___Horse_mmmm.jpg

All in all we where pleased with what we were able to achieve.

Friday, 15th August –- Globus Tour ‘Switzerland at Leisure” begins:

We had to reluctantly change rooms today for the start of our tour, the room we had prior had a great bed, which is really important to a great nights sleep.
It has been raining all day today, so we took a taxi into town and had a look around at the shops to see the different things available; we looked at some nice fashion stores, supermarket, chocolate stores. The choice of cheese in the supermarket was dizzying.

Then heading back to our hotel where tonight we have had an introduction to our tour/guide Merella (Italian Lady) who Steve promptly renamed mozzarella in order to easily recall Her name!! and dinner. Off to bed now to get ready for the first day of our action packed 10 day tour around Switzerland.

Saturday, 16th August
We started today with an orientation of Zurich and a walk through the old town, the Fraumunster Church, and the opera house. It was a bit slow at the start. However with the afternoon free we went to the end of Bahnofstrasse Street and took a 1hour trip around the Zurichsee (lake). It was a beautiful day and were able to take some great photo’s (check lake house photo below). On our way back to the hotel we took a stroll through the local market (bit like a swap meet) was very interesting to see what was being sold, from here we carried on through the old town, grabbing lunch from the Coop (supermarket) on the way back.

On_the_lake_of_Zurich.jpg

At 3pm we headed off to the Rhinefalls the most powerful waterfall in Europe. We learnt the Rhine starts in Switzerland from a lake! Next we took a private boat right up close and personal to the waterfall and got a bit misty in the process then headed off down the tree lined Rhine to our dinner date at an ancient town via the Rheinau Monastery church (following the rules of saint benedict). We had to stop and pull the boat out to get around a power station at one point – the Swiss had this all sorted with a boat escalator….

Rhine_Falls.jpg

This turned out to be located on an island and was said to be founded in 778 by a man that survived a plunge over the Rhine falls while asleep in a boat!! Unfortunately the exterior was in the midst of a major rebuild so only small parts could be seen. The Church it self was of the catholic persuasion, where you could see as the protestant movement became strong how the catholic church had gone to great lengths to beautify their churches and try to draw members back. This was born out by plain pillars that had been painted to look like marble and ornate carved sculptures and altars located along the sides of the church topped only by the main alter it self. Even the lecterns were a work of art in them selves. After the tour of the abbey we crossed a bridge & had dinner at a nearby relatively modern 16th century Tavern and got quick peek at a wedding band and bridge party in action which consisted of a traditional German brass band and two ladies singing traditional songs. After the meal we returned to our hotel via coach. .

Monastery.jpg

http://www.kathrheinau.ch

While travelling the Rhine we had Switzerland on our left & Germany on our right.
We ended up having dinner at Germany by crossing a bridge!...very neat!!

German_Pub.jpg

Tomorrow we are heading off.

Sunday 17th August
Well today we are off to Grindelwald, via coach ‘the glacier village’ on the way we stopped at a popluar destination Lucerne. We saw the Lion Monument and Chapel Bridge. The Lion Monument was in recognition of the Swiss that had died in wars for other countries specifically when they helped out the French monarchy during the revolution & lost their lives in the process along with the king. We walked across the Chapel Bridge (A very long wooden structure for pedestrian transit only!) which had been majorly restored after having an accidental fire a few years prior. There were ancient oil paintings in the eaves every few meters most of which had a rather grotesque theme like so…

Bridge_of_Sighs2.jpg
Bridge_of_Sighs.jpg

We then went the long way to Grindelwald in the bus (avoiding the motorway) to see Brunig Pass to the town of Interlaken, where a few Para gliders dotted down right in front of us... It was so beautiful we were now starting to see the beginning of a major mountain range unfold around us all with the accompaniment of highland cow bells… see pics.

Arriving at our hotel in Grindelwald we had a lovely dinner with a beautiful vista of the Eiger some thing right off a picture post card.!!!!!!!
Staying at Grindelwald

http://www.sunstar.ch/wengen

Monday 18th August
After a quick coach ride we were in Stechelberg from here we took a cable car to Murren and walked the streets of a traditional Swiss mountain village complete with deer and marmot munching away on the alpine slopes. It was nice to see picturess houses in their beautiful alpine setting. Our tour director stopped us seeing the schilthorn further up due to time constraints.

On our way back we stopped to see the Trummelbach the only glacier waterfalls in Europe. It was loud!!- roared like a lion, producing a powerful water flow that had carved a way through solid rock to the point that it was essentially underground! & only accessible via a lift On our way out Steven and I sat by the river for a while had a bite to eat before heading back to the coach.

http://www.truemmelbach.ch

When we returned it was early afternoon. We were going to head off Paragliding, But it was fully booked due to the great weather. So we took a gondola with John & Lyn from our tour up to the valley from Grindelweld to the “First” Schreckfeld. Here we were able to watch the paragliders launching and take in ar a truly spectacular view of the valley & the Swiss alps. With small Alpine lakes feeding rivers cascading down into the valley below Wow!! And no we did not see any Schrek’s ;-) only lots of Nordic walkers…

For dinner we headed out with Ted & Laurel from out tour & enjoyed a real deal Swiss fondue with red wine, bread, bacon, & potatoe - it turned out to be very heavy meal!!

Tuesday 19th August
It was a great day today, the weather has been awesome, which is of great benefit as we are going high into the swizz alps. This was our trip to Europe’s highest railway station that took us to the Jungfraujoch (the top of Europe). Reaching an altitude of 11,333 feet where the station lies. The views were break taking. We got to see the ice palace & a dog sled in action, Ange got to pat the huskies!!! When we were finally outside looking at the view we heard some yodeling which turned out to be a bunch of Korean kids on tour performing Swiss songs, this was really some thing out of star trek & for a moment There we were wondering if we had been gated to a parallel universe…

Youngfrau_building.jpg
http://www.jungfrauchbahn.ch

Wednesday 20th August
Wow what an action packed day, we have been on the move, having been up early to catch the coach. We went to the Capital Berne, then to a Swiss working dairy farm for lunch, onto a small town Gruyeres reaching the banks of Lake Geneva, following the Rhine River to Tasch and taking the last few 15mins by mountain train to Zermatt!!
A car free village central to great climbing (Matterhorn) & alpine walks etc.

Although out time in Berne was limited we really enjoyed the old city with its amazing main street and musical clock complete with moving figures & chimes acting out the movement of time on each hour this was also a celestial clock with movements of the stars and moon (if u could read it). We had a guide that gave a great run down on the history. There were a heap of stone carvings, drinking troughs, underground shops, roof top gutters that spout water at you… very strange. Old original buildings and an ornate Church entrance that had to much detail in it to describe – which was a modified scene originally designed for the former catholic church which had turned protestant. Hence only one archway had the original detail. The original city walls could still be seen and the cobblestone paths were shiny with wear.

The lunch on the working farm was a 3 course meal!! The working farm was made up of 12 cows on 13 Hectares, some pet rabbits and 2 fields of sunflowers + chickens. We were very surprised to see how small the farm was. The buildings here were amazing with detail. Very hard to photograph and dated from the 1700’s. There appeared to be a large amount of infrastructure compared to the output of produce. If NZ farmers were to farm in this manner they certainly wouldn’t last long.

Working_farm.jpg

The town & castle of Chateau de Gruyeres was cool, it had so much old world charm, with a heavy French influence. We also enjoyed walking around the castle inside the fortified walls otherwise known as the keep. I must admit the Alien styled bar did take us by surprise & kinda looked a little out of place.

Alien_Bar.jpg
Chateau_de_Gruyeres.jpg
http://www.chateau-gruyeres.ch

Where we have finished up tonight is very expensive part of Switzerland – “Zermatt”, being located almost at the foot of the Matterhorn which is best known as the symbol found at the beginning of Movies by Paramount Pictures - u know the one in the circle. Zermatt is the gateway to many peaks and picturess walks all made accessible by some of the worlds best engineering – tunnels, trains, trams, cable cars & elevators all high up into the mountains its an amazing place to be.

http://www.alex.ch

Thursday, 21st August
We got up early and had a quick tour of the old city where we saw some rather strange architecture - which after a quick explanation made more sense!! Round schist stones placed between piles and the bearers!! ask me when we get home for the explanation!! Also we went past the home & memorial to Ulrich Inderbinen one of Switzerland’s greatest mountain guides he retired on his last climb at the age of 95 & lived to 104 –in that time he ascended the Matterhorn some 370 times. Wow what a man. After the town tour we took the Cogwheel railroad trip upto the Gornergrat.. It was a fantastic day with warm weather and skies clear. What a wonderful view… From our location we were able see the entire mountain range including the Matterhorn @ 4478m + others.

Matterhorn.jpg
Zermat_Hut.jpg
Team_Senn_..negratt.jpg

We had a hot drink & lunch with friends at the café’ and then all photo’d out headed back to our hotel. Had a wee break and then went for a 1hour hike up the valley leaving Zermatt, Zumsee then arriving at Furri and returning via gondola. It was great to get some good alpine exercise. On the way down we got to see a Marmot out getting a alpine sun tan. They make a call similar to a bird sound which was wonderful. Steve was wondering what the plump little fella would taste like… YUK!!

Finishing the day off with a traditional Swiss meal, a meat fondue! They gave us cut veges, meat & some fruit which we put into a bowl of boiling oil – quite tasty & ultimately filling. What a fab day!
http://www.gornergrat.ch

Friday, 22nd August
Today we got up early, we where expecting the weather to not be so good in the afternoon. So we made the most of the expected good morning and took the gonala up to the Klein Matterhorn glacier paradise. Wow the gondola can carry a lot of people! It was very cold up there and windy. Just as well I had packed my gloves. Again we had great views!
Went through the ice palace which was a bit rough around the edges not has good as the Jungrauoch Returning by gondola, We rested this arvo, got some free spoons from the Bucherer shop, had a swim and another traditional Swiss dinner with grilled cheese, gurkens and bread, very plain.

Oh yes, we also went to the Matterhorn Museum
http://www.mattterhornmuseum.ch
It was the best museum I have been to in ages (Ange), it was new, & set out like an archeological dig (it was all underground) There was heaps of stuffed animals I haven’t seen before and very easy to walk through with our audio guides & informative, which helped keep my interest. We learnt that people like Winston Churchill & Theodore Roosevelt had stayed at Zermatt prior to heading off to conquer the Matterhorn. I all ways thought of Winston as a pudgy cigar smoking old man however he was certainly young once and no sluggard according to the museums records. We also got to find out that the Matterhorn is called the killer mountain as has claimed many lives & the first guy to successfully climb it was Edward Whymper 1865, slightly a head of an Italian party.

Found lots of nice watches but could not justify the $$...
Bought train tickets that later proved to be too expensive.

http://www.zermatt.ch
Saturday, 23 August

Heading for Zurich via the glacier express a special train designed for panoramic viewing via its glass topped cars with hot 3 course meals served. The views of the train were spectacular as we wound our way up and down valleys with icy mountains and bubbling streams thru to mighty rivers with shear mountain cliffs & monasteries and churches perched on hill tops. This was truly an amazing experience.

Angela_-_A..Express.jpg

Finally in Zurich we stayed at the movenpick – more than just ice cream… apparently. This was a very nice modern hotel complete with your own personal espresso machine (that took coffee capsules!!?) and outside room ice machines & shoe polishers… lotza fun…

Ange loved the interior design in the rooms too!

In summary we have dubbed Switzerland the land of milk, mountains & money ;-)
Additional observations are as follows:
• Houses are almost all built with underground bunkers. (just in case)
• For all men there is a years compulsory arms training after school, and refresher courses upto the age of 65 approx, all men must routinely spend time on a rifle range or face a jail sentence.
• Major bridges and tunnels are all rigged with explosives just in case…
• The swiss consider themselves a ‘neutral’ country!! And you certainly wouldn’t want to mess with them…
• Smoking is trendy and is done in all public settings, only recently been stopped in hotel rooms, more often women are the smokers.
• People dress very smart
• It a tad greener than New Zealander…. Yep it’s true!
• It is a very wealthy country
• Party Country with lots of concerts held here.
• People take their Dog everywhere… restaurants, shopping malls! Into the mountains, you name it!!
• The Swiss are awesome Engineers and build tunnels every where, the longest tunnel we went through via train took around 15minutes @ around 90kmh.

Posted by coogiextra 13:47 Archived in Switzerland Comments (0)

England - Central London, Shopping & Theatre

knocking things off the list!!

Monday, 11 August

Today we went shopping starting from our hotel with a lengthy stroll across London’s Hyde Park – this place is big!! – took over 25 minutes as we navigated the parks water ways and various features (c/w a brief pause at the Memorial to Lady Diana where you are able to get your feet wet, which Ange thought was pretty cool).

http://www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/hyde_park/

Finally at Harrods’s we got to see a different class of department store where scale, service & style were at a level that is not represented in NZ. There where quite a few Arab ladies some wearing full black Berker’s adorned with beautiful silk scarf’s, . multiple large gold bracelets, oversized name brand sunglasses & finished off with Armani hand bags + limited edition gold & diamond encrusted Nokia phones. Phew what a mouthful – I guess you might say accessories for the accessories & They didn’t seem to be too concerned about the prices..!!. The range & quantity of top quality products were out of this world. Brand names and prices extremely foreign to our experience. Harrods was truly an interesting experience certainly worth the having… even if the 2 scoops of ice cream cost about 6pound but I could certainly taste the extra value ;-)

http://www.harrods.com/harrodsstore/
Harrods.jpg

Forte & Mason – Is a multilevel grocery store where Her Majesty the Queen shops and they have the best of the best from all over the world. We enjoyed the Delicatessen area where we were able to confirm that the Queen does send staff with special orders... Accordingly every thing looked great including some large live crayfish in addition to the sea food their were a large variety of cheese and fancy bits & pieces. On one of the floors we stopped for a hot drink at a café where they seated us and proceeded to provide a full silver service experience with silk serviettes - all for one coffee as it turned out!! Now that’s what I call service…!!

Hamleys – was a 5 story toy store, it was not only large but busy with it being the school holidays. Not the best time to be there as it was packed! Had a little look at each floor and then was ready to call it a day Steve really enjoyed the range of scale models they had available + the full monty railway sets...

http://www.hamleys.com/

All in all it was a fun day seeing how other people live! & shop…

Tuesday, 12th August

Ange_in_Action.jpg

Was a bit stuffed up, spending the morning and early afternoon updating our blog site. Then headed off to the British museum to see the Egyptian artifacts display & Elgin Marbles (large collection of classical Greek marble sculptures taken/pilfered from the Parthenon in Athens).

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

Marbles.jpg
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In addition to seeing these classical works of art we were able to finally establish the truth about Mermaids – check out the picture…? I will leave you to make up your own mind… ;-)

Mermaid2.jpg

After the museum we made our way to the Lyceum Theater to see the Lion King as Le Mis seemed a bit too hard out for us non theatre goers. (stopping to have a wind swept dinner at Covent gardens first).

Heading into the theater I (Angela) had a scalper try and slime on over to purchase our tickets!! It was almost up there with getting my bottom pinched on the Metro!

The stage and costumes were awesome – the whole stage lifted up about 20 feet in the air great music and fab costumes and stage setup was awesome. We had a fun night. The theater itself was a treat with its grand balconies and multiple tiered seating. All together a very enjoyable night!!

http://www2.disney.co.uk/MusicalTheatre/TheLionKing/home/index.jsp
Lyceum.jpg

Posted by coogiextra 14:57 Archived in England Comments (0)

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