Well, sort of. Mr Esther and I are on our summer holiday right now.
As I type this I’m in a little cottage at the bottom of the Vesuvius, near Pompeii, in Italy. Mr Esther and I drove here, we arrived Saturday evening and it took us seven days to get here. This is our first summer holiday for just the two of us in 21 years and I admit that especially at the beginning it felt very weird to me to not have at least one kid with us. But we’ve been keeping in touch, so that is something. Missing the kids doesn’t mean I am not loving our time away, though. Mr E and I do really enjoy each other’s company and that is no different on this holiday.
Day 1 was Sunday, July 17th. We covered the longest distance that day, some 550 km to Würzburg, taking turns driving and eating our first Käsekuchen (German cheescake) of the journey in a little village called Münzenberg just off the highway to the north of Frankfurt.
We arrived in Würzburg at the end of the afternoon, dropped our things at our hotel and then walked into town to do our first exploration. After dinner we sat along the Main river and read while we also chatted and watched the people stroll by.
Incidentally, that was the last evening my e-reader worked! It has since died… Luckily I also have loads of books on my laptop and was able to transfer a few to my phone to read from there. Not that I particularly like reading from my phone but needs must. Anyway, we had booked two nights in Würzburg and good thing too because I was tired after working so hard leading up to my holiday, then of course the Ed Sheeran concert, then Saturday packing and Sunday travelling all day.
Day 2, Monday, was also spent in Würzburg. We slept in for a bit and then walked around town, visited the castle (no pics allowed to be taken inside) and also bought cheap but functional summer hats because we really needed them to protect us in the heat. I was annoyed by some of the tone in explanatory texts pertaining to last century’s German history (or lack thereof) in one of the churches, the cathedral and also the castle, which left a slight bitter aftertaste. Despite that, Würzburg is quite beautiful. Then in the evening we got a few groceries and sat down for a picnic on the other bank of the river Main for our dinner. It was lovely.
Day 3, Tuesday, we were back on the road again for our next leg of the journey which was about 420 km. We were driving past München and I had always wanted to visit the Dachau concentration camp, having studied the Holocaust and read so much about it. I just wanted to get an idea of the place and so we stopped there for a few hours. I did take a few pictures but it doesn’t feel appropriate sharing them in this post, it needs attention all on its own. Such concentration camp visits are always sobering and deeply depressing visits and a reminder of how low humanity can go.
From there we drove on to Austria. We stopped just across the border in Kufstein at the end of the afternoon for a little break and an ice cream…
…. and in the evening finally arrived in Innsbruck. Our hotel was in the center of town, so we walked into town for a late dinner there. Innsbruck is really beautiful, right in the valley between some mountains in the Alps.
Mr E had had a few days off work before our summer holiday started but I hadn’t and it was taking its toll. I wasn’t sleeping well, was finding it hard distancing myself from thoughts of work (even though I know I left everything fine and under control). I think I found it hard to let go because I am still new at that job and just needed to make sure over and over again in my head that all was fine. That and the travelling left me exhausted and so the next morning, Mr E let me sleep in a bit while he did a little sightseeing in Innsbruck on his own for an hour or so.
Day 4, Wednesday, we walked into town in Innsbruck again for lunch and a last look around…
… and then left town to drive through the Alps on the Brenner Pass road. We took the old road, not the highway and it was beautiful. When we left Innbruck we drove by one of the the oldest still functioning companies I have ever seen (Grassmayer Glockengiesser, i.e. maker of bells since 1599) and left the pretty city in the valley for our trip through the mountain pass. Pictures never seem to do the views justice.
Our drive that day was 275 km and we drove to Verona. That is, Mr E drove as I wasn’t feeling too well. We dropped our things at the guesthouse in Verona, freshened up and then walked into town for dinner and our first impression of the town. Especially the old Roman amphitheater is impressive! We saw that there was an opera festival happening and saw all the equipment for an upcoming performance of Aida already stored outside the theater. We walked around after dinner and also passed by the little courtyard to “Juliet’s house” but it was closed. It’s a bit weird that a fictional character has a real house but whatever. 😉
With the whole opera festival going on, Mr E and I decided to see what would be on the next day at the amphitheater. It was to be opera Carmen. Full disclosure – neither Mr E nor I have ever been to a live opera. There were still cheap tickets availabe so we figured that trying out opera in an old Roman amphitheatre would be the perfect thing to do! And so we booked tickets online for the next night as were staying in Verona for two nights anyhow.
Day 5, Thursday, turned out to be a perfect day to not be travelling on. I was really not feeling well by then, so I decided to stay in bed in our guesthouse for the whole day and nap and read. Mr E had to further discover Verona on his own that day and he did. He came back for a little rest himself at the end of the afternoon and by the early evening I felt fit enough to walk into town again. Mr. E pointed out a few more highlights, we had dinner and then headed off to the theater.
Boy, was it special experiencing our first live opera there! We bought little pillows to sit on and sat up on the old Roman stones to watch Carmen by Georges Bizet. It started at 9, after the sun had left the theater, and lasted four hours, including two 20 minute intermissions and one relatively quick scene change where we were asked to not leave our seats. The supporting cast was huge, we think there may have been around 200 people on stage at times, which made the choir portions of the opera sound absolutely stunning. This was an experience I won’t easily forget.
Day 6, Friday, was a travel day – about 300 km to Siena. I was still not feeling great, so Mr E did all the driving again. We stopped in a little town not far from Siena called San Gimignano, which is apparently sometimes referred to as the ‘Manhattan of the middle ages’ because of its still intact 12th -14th century towers. It’s quite small and sadly overrun by tourists but still beautiful.
At the end of the afternoon we arrived in Siena. At the guesthouse we had booked I sat down on the bed for ‘just a minute’ and promptly fell asleep for an hour! That did the trick, though, as I felt refreshed enough to walk into the old town after, which started basically around the corner from our guesthouse. We had dinner on the main square, which is so pretty! Late in the evening, just before we were to go to sleep, a drummer and guys waving flags, followed by a whole group of people, with some men wearing women’s wigs and dresses, passed by our window. It looked like it could have been a gay parade but the banner with coats of arms is usually associated with the horse racing in the streets of Siena on two days in the summer. so we had no idea what it was about. We waved and enjoyed the little show, though.
Day 7, Saturday July 23rd, was yet another travel day but we couldn’t leave Siena before first visiting the Duomo (cathedral). I especially loved the ceilings and those 15th century hymn books.
Near where our car was parked in Siena I saw this statue which totally reminded me of my tattoo! Spot the differences…
We had another long drive in the afternoon, some 450 km to a little cottage we rented at the foot of the Vesuvius right outside Pompeii. Mr E again did all the driving, even though I am starting to feel better. We got there in good time, at around 6 pm and it sure is very pretty here. It’s a little, simple, one-room cottage in the middle of a vineyard and we were welcomed by cats, which to a cat lover such as myself, is paradise. On one side of our cottage we look straight up to the Vesuvius mountain that once spewed its lava and pumice over Pompeii and on the other side we can see the bay of Napels! We have this cottage for a week.
Humid heat and mosquitoes do take a little away from the charm but we have airconditioning too so we will happily survive here. More adventures to follow in later posts…