Gra Nomad Wanderings

Saturday, September 29, 2012


Sunday 23 Sept
WEISENBLASEN im Almgebiet Ramsaul Dachstein
Maybe it was a 15-20 km drive to Türlwand where a bunch of local restaurants put on live music. It only happens once a year and we were there just at the right time. From Schladming, we headed up past Schildlehen and on up a very windy steep road till we came to where there seemed to be some action. Several restaurants in the area were involved. Music would start at one restaurant and then when those musicians took a rest, the music would come from another venue. Really neat. Türlwand is at 1692 metres. Barry ventured even further by taking the cable car to the top and having a wander there. Think the place was called Hunerscharte Austriascharte. The area was RAMSAU am DACHSTEIN. Barry went up to 2736 metres – a dam long way from where we were. I have NEVER seen a cable car that travels so far and so high with just ONE span! Yep, just one span.  And he came back to tell the tale. This area was NNW of Schladming where we are based. 
We went for a one hour hike after we’d tasted the wares at a couple of restaurants and listened to their musicians. As it turned out, that walk (at a pretty high altitude) was the last walking Annette was to do for four days as she came down with a very nasty illness – cold/flu/whooping cough/pertussis…. or whatever it is/was. We were walking at altitude.

Monday 24 Sept
Yep, a doctor’s visit was in order! Then chemist. Rest of the day was internet, printing photos, visiting Tourist Information, resting.  Hey… we saw a bloke on a penny farthing wandering through the square (which is actually a rectangle). “Oh, I haven’t seen one like that before!” said a voice…. or was I just imagining it?  

Tuesday 25 Sept
 Bike day! Good fun… especially coming back down the hill. I must’ve got sucked in, because I figured a track beside a stream would be fairly flattish! Not so over here. Mountain streams seem to come from way up there and are pretty steep, or as Jim would say… steepish. Yeah… that was one neat bike ride. Even met a unicyclist on the trail – couldn’t believe our eyes!

Wednesday 26 Sept
Trip to the quaint village of Hallstatt leaving Barry to look after the ailing Annette back in our Schladming resort. It was 80 km away and we averaged 52 km/hr. Fuel consumption – an impressive 4.4 L/100 km. Unreal. We bought hot chocolate and apple strudel. Hope you can get an idea of it from the photo. The village of Hallstatt (accessed by a long tunnel) clings to the steep slopes of the foothills of the Dachstein mountain range and takes its name from the lake (Hallstättersee) into whose dark waters the slope dips.  This is romantic Austria with men in their Austrian jackets, leather shorts, braces and small hats and ladies wearing their traditional attractive long skirts and frilly colourful bodices. Streets were narrow and steep. We sensibly left our car out at a parking lot on the edge of town. Ancient overhanging houses, grapevines everywhere and beautifully decorated wooden buildings surround the tourist. The market square was more like a triangle (I am particular about my geometry.) Quite a day. Good thing Thursday was a rest day (emails, shopping, swimming and hot chocolate!) Annette had her first walks for the week…should I say weak? 

Friday 28 Sept
Went to the markets in the morning and bought some fruit and buns (apples are reported to be some of the best in the world. They were pretty impressive.) Next we headed for Undertal. Then walking walking. I read on the signboard, Turning back often requires as much courage and will power as striving to reach the summit. If you are in any doubt at all it is better to turn back. The mountains will still be there another day. The mountain trail was great, but I was happy to stay and look at the beauty from where I was, allowing the other three trekkers to venture into the higher altitude like a small bunch of mountain goats.That's Barry on the right walking on the 50 metre long suspension bridge. No, Fay didn't do it.

Lunch was at GasthofMichlbauer which proved a wonderful choice. Reinhardt and Sissy did a great job of looking after our needs. Three schnitzels and one freshly cooked local trout for Annette, eaten out in the delicious and captivating sunshine. Maybe I’ll never eat schnitzel in Oz ever again! It was so fresh and tasty. Thanks guys…. You cooked and presented the food excellently. Master chef for sure! See you in Australia.  

Saturday 29 Sept   
We say farewell to AlpineClub where we’ve stayed for seven sleeps! It’s been very comfortable and staff have been helpful. The dining room was excellent. Thanks folks.
Off to Holzleiten 88, Obsteig in the Austrian Tirol via the beautiful Innsbruck. Stay tonight with airbnb hosts Elvira and Rudi. What a gorgeous spot out in the donga! Then Sunday we head to Germany - Fussen, Augsburg, Donauworth and Ulm. Should be with Lieselotte and Volker in Senden, near Ulm by Sunday arvo.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


Monday – CINQUE TERRE             167 km
Here we visited the city of La Spezia and the small coastal towns of Riomaggiore, Manarola, and Monterosso. Corniglia and Vernazza are the other two.  We walked some, rode the train some and then ferried along at the finish. In all, we got a pretty good look at this world famous area. 

Tuesday – PISA                                 58 km
Yeah, we had to check out Pisa! But it’s not just the leaning tower, it’s other buildings and it’s the walled town that we enjoyed wandering through. It was really excellent that we stayed at Lucca and were able to venture to Florence, Cinque Terre and Pisa while staying in a comfortable apartment owned by Giorgio and Gabriella. We even tried out their pool before heading off to a concert and dinner with folk from Canada we’d befriended. The concert was a Puccini-Mozart concert – just beautiful. 

Wednesday – LUCCA to SPINEA                360 km
Extremely picturesque wander through the mountains of northern Italy. Heaps of semis as we took the scenic route. Told our GPS (they call it Navigation here), “no tolls” – she obliged. Fran (our GPS) got us to our hosts’ place at 6:15 pm which was ecxcellent timing. After dinner, Mario took us to his friend’s place where Fay and I were staying. Barry and Annette stayed with Mario and Rosetta. 

Thursday – VENICE                         
Following instruction from Mario we headed for Venice by bus. 180 canals and 450 bridges! Maybe we didn’t do them all, but we walked over a few that’s for sure. San Marco church, Rialto Bridge (above),  Murano glass etc. Finally a weary 40 minute trip home in the bendy bus. Dinner at night was at  a beaut restaurant where we took our hosts Mario and Rosetta. A beaut night (including 2 bottles of bubbly) and it didn’t break the bank. 

Friday – SPINEA to UDINE            255 km
After our farewells, we headed for Udine/Tarcento area. On the way we went to Aquileia (ancient ruins) and then passed through Grado (resort area) and Cividale del Friuli. Finally to Tarcento where we wandered round looking for where Annette’s relatives lived or are living. We had good fun but were not successful. We found the street but that was all. Off then to Hotel Alle Due Palme. We drove along a hick area using coordinates for the first time and Fran finally said, “You have reached your destination!” We were at a deserted building very much in need of repair. Common sense over ruled and we wandered round a bit till we actually found the hotel which turned out to be a winner – comfortable ensuite rooms including breakfast. All for 50 Euro a couple. Car was parked right outside the front door. And man was it a beaut brekky!  

Saturday – UDINE to SCHLADMING (AUSTRIA)   298 km
Into Austria – and the countryside looked way different to Italy. After lunch we were pulled over by police because a mob of cows were coming along the road in our direction! Bells ringing, accordion playing, cows pooping etc. Quite a spectacle. Our next surprise came when we had to put the car on a train to go through a tunnel! Seventeen euro later…. We continued. It was a 12 km trip. Unexpected! Finally we landed ourselves in the resort town of Schladming and found the ALPINE CLUB up a hill out of town. Very comfortable. The ladies went on strike so we all went to the restaurant for dinner. A wonderful idea.  

We didn’t go too far today, but joined in a musical event by visiting a few restaurants in the hills. These restaurants had live music playing while you ate. Have soup at this place, coffee at the next – or was it the other way round. How lucky were we to be in the area of Ramsaul Dachstein on Sunday 23 September! Barry ventured up the gondola which took him to the top of the mountain (3,000 m) – near Tuerlwand restaurant. A great excursion for the day.Photos to come.
Yeah…. That was another great week!  Our third. Everybody still talking to everybody. Annette crook. Fay fairly recovered now. Six more sleeps at this resort here in Schladming, Austria. Then off to Germany.

Monday, September 17, 2012


 Matera had heaps of cave dwellings in the hills. The inhabitants were chased out in the 50's & 60's, but more recently some have returned to renovate and live in them. Might be a bit of a hike to the nearest cafe though.

 Pizza on deck at Laterza. A lovely night. Pizzas cost 6 Euro each and accommodation here was 60 E a couple (large ensuite rooms and access to entire apartment.) The brekky (included), included lovely milk coffee and a croissant with LIQUID CHOCOLATE INSIDE. I kid you not. Matthew and Linda woulda loved that. Thanks Raelena & Giuseppe. 

On the way from Laterza to Bisceglie we saw these tulli - quite amazing. Cone-shaped huts made from stone, but meant to be portable!

 Top accommodation at Hotel OLYMPO when we got to Bisceglie. (Found on We paid 55 E here, which included a lovely brekky and security parking. 55 Euro is about $69.

 Next stop was beautiful Pacentro - east of Sulmona. We had a 2 storey pad which was built sixth century. Isn't that unreal? Stefania looked after us and got our brekky. While it was tiny, we had a bedroom and bathroom each. View? Magnificent!

What a lovely place to wander round at night, exploring. Here's Annette trying her hand at night photography. We are both using PANASONIC cameras.
We've now been 2 weeks into the trip. Heaps more to tell you - even about week 2!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


 Cava di Tirreni was an unbelievable spot. Gorgeous views and really worth it just for the drive there! Never thought I could drive through such narrow roads. At times I had to ask somebody to get out to see how close we were! Scarey! Ours is the big Pug on the right with red plates.

 All of us spent time here deciding whether we MIGHT get through this "laneway" (recommended by our GPS unit). Most figured we could probably make it. I know it'll disappoint you, but we decided not to try it. Meant we had to drive up a one way street the wrong way..... carefully.

 This was a view of the Amalfi Coast - Vitri Sol Mare. If you don't think it's a good photo, it's because Fay took it! I was the driver!!

 Saw 3 gorgeous Greek temples at Paestum, not too far from Amalfi Coast.

 At Reggio di Calabria we sought out the Pug dealer who checked out the "French Wombat" (our Peugeot 3008). That's the lovely Maria checking out the front of the car. The mechanic is checking out Maria. She was a huge help to us all.

 Maria's husband owned this resort with gym, beach, pools, change rooms etc. People get a 3 month season pass for June-July-August.

 Nectarines were large, juicy, tasty and quite cheap. Yummy.

 Matera was the place where they had all these caves in the side of the cliff. Unreal. Quite elaborate.

Found a B&B at Laterza (small town). Here we are getting clothes out of bags so we didn't have to lug suitcases up long flight of steps. Looks like people going through the bags on an Aussie rubbish collection day.
Well, that's week one over with! Done a lot and had a lotta fun. Bought no souvenirs - sorry kids.
Didn't have internet for some days. Not too many internet cafes in Italy, at least not where we're travelling. Don't know whether the car goes over 135 yet. It has stop/go technology and a 1.6 L turbo diesel donk. No problem with going that's for sure!!!

Wednesday, September 05, 2012


 Here's the Lawrence-Keast Gang planning a little action in Sydney before departure.

 Fay and Gra at St Paul's basilica in Rome. The grounds were magnificent and the inside was just unbelievable.

 Our partners in crime - Annette and Barry.

 The ceiling in St Paul's basilica. 

Barry does like a biggish cup!!! 

 St Peter's Square. 

Planning tomorrow - it's gonna be a busy day. 

Sunday, September 02, 2012


 10 am - Our first grandaughter, Nina, was baptised. It was a great event, witnessed by many friends and family. Brendan, the proud Dad, was the one who actually did the deed.

 Scott and Karen sang with Simon on the guitar. "Be strong and courageous..." Beautiful guys. Thanks.

 1:30 pm - Kathryn, a blonde comedian, locked her car..... engine running..... keys STILL IN THE CAR. Only a blonde could do that I reckon. Yes, it's a BMW!!!

 2:45 pm - I did my storytelling bit at the Roxbury Hotel in Glebe (Sydney). You can even get a look and a listen to it later in the week, on youtube I'm assured. Thanks Kathryn. As an added bonus, our son, Jeremy, also took to the microphone and told a story from his perspective. It had a fathers' day emphasis.