Saturday, 23 August 2014

Life: Slow boat to Budapest, Fast Jet to Munich, Quick Mercedes to Raubling... leaves me longing for my island home!

So a couple of years ago, Deb and I were out for a birthday Chinese meal one Saturday night with good friends Greg and Heidi. Over the meal, Greg asked us if we had ever considered a holiday floating along the European river system. Well we actually had back in 2007, but ended up doing Europe in a high speed Audi A8 instead.

And in the fullness of time.....

We came to join Greg and Heidi and about 80 others on an Avalon Waterways trip from Amsterdam to Budapest on their newest ship (and largest in the river system) the Illumination. For 14 magic days we motored along the rivers and canals until we came to Budapest. Lots of good times, laughter, too much wine and food. Actually way too much wine and food.. my belt has shrunk.. a lot!

And we met some new friends along the way.

This trip I decided was going to be about making interesting images.. so lots of B&W shots of doors and street scenes. Not so many post card type images. And of course.. for these the studio needed another new camera. The Fuji X-Pro 1. A real piece of hardware and one that encourages those "different" pictures.

The mighty Fuji X-Pro 1

So we started in Amsterdam after a wasted day in Dubai. (Now that is another story!) Wandering the back streets and seeing people laughing as they wined and dined at street side cafes. Interesting place, not as much government in your face here. I like it. And I also like the meals at the Hotel America. Now if you visit Amsterdam try it out. We were last there with Gerry and Jeanine in 1990. Bitter sweet memories.

Evening meal with Greg and Captain Heidi in Holland

So eventually we board the ship, do a life boat drill and away we go. As the sunsets ever so slowly in the west we cruise into Germany for many stops along the way. The next 2 weeks were pure bliss. Lots of side trips, making new friends. (Hi Mark & Libby.. how's the new watch?)

Then eventually we sail into Budapest on our last day to a cold overcast morning.. but wow the buildings here are stunning. Simply the prettiest city I have ever seen. Since the fall of communism this place has come alive. No phones in your houses (unless you are part of the party machine) let alone mobiles under communist rule. Go and use the phone box on the corner .. and be careful what you say. Big brother is tuned in!

Our tour guide told us they didn't get a phone in their family home until 1994!

Even the trams look good in Budapest.

And then the day to go home came... and suddenly I realised how much I loved Australia. Standing at the airport to book in on Luftwaffe to fly back to Munich; being told i am 2 kg over.. that will be 50 Euros please. "You're kidding me.. 2 k over and it's 50 Euros" And the answer  came.. "Every K over is kerosene!" A new tag line for our speed camera obsessed government!

Still they flew us to Munich safely and then after a day's business we're loaded on an A380 for the long trip back to Australia.

And the thing about Australia and Europe is this: As Greg pointed out during our trip.. Europe has been at war with itself since Biblical times. And with the Russia/Ukraine thing at the moment.. well it still is.

But down here on our island in the South Pacific... well what a life style we have. And we need to keep it that way. After my 10th trip to Europe, I have never before appreciated coming home as much as I did this time.

Even if we did fly Emirates. (Dear Mr Emirates.. my 12th leg with you guys.. and the last. Lift your game at Dubai airport. Standing in the burning hot desert sun on the aircraft stairs while you try to offload 500 people into buses for the 20 minute ride to the terminal.. it's not good enough. You have 52 A380s... upgrade your airport to allow air bridge disembarkation  at the terminal before you buy any more new planes if you want to see us again!)

Now the time has come to process all of those images and make a coffee table book.

Thanks Greg for the suggestion of the trip.. thanks again for the company, you too Heidi and Mark & Libby and the rest of the cast and crew. Most relaxing holiday ever.

Now.. where's Weight Watchers phone number.. need to resign!

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