Europe ... Italy, Austria, Hungary, Slovenia and Italy again ... May 2014

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San Giorgio di Maggiore behind us and a water buses and taxis and gondolas, the usual, charming mess on the Venice waterfront.  They still call them "vaporettos", from the days of the steamers ("vapor"). Click for a larger image.
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Coming back to San Marco from another island (San Lazzaro).  San Giorgio di Maggiore on the left, Santa Maria de Salute in the center and San Marco on the right.  Click for a larger image.
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Coming from the airport by water taxi ...
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... a quick luxurious trip straight to Venice ... click for a larger image
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... last stop San Lorenzo, a few steps ...
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... from our apartment. Click for a larger image
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The first afternoon, visiting some obvious sites, here the Bridge of Sighs, a few minutes' walk from the apartment ... you, too, can book it on airbnb.com, see it at Click for an even larger image.
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Another sunny day in Venice, this time exploring more places.  Behind, again, San Giorgio di Maggiore ...
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... and a view of Venice from Giudecca.  We are using the water buses well.  Click for any photo to see a larger image.
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A view from San Giorgio di Maggiore in the opposite direction.  Click for an even larger image.
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In St. Mark's square, a couple of glasses of wine at Florian's cost 39 Euros, including the music.  Terrible, yes, but enjoyable and, if you see that the next morning ...
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... we used the tables to have our own pic-nic breakfast, before the tourists arrived, then so on average, not too bad.  Click for a larger image.
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We saw a nice concert in La Fenice, now restored after the 1996 fire.  Click for a larger photo.
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Now I jump ahead, just to keep opera houses together.  A few days later, we saw and opera in the Vienna Staatsoper. Photos from Vienna are a little lower down the page.
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And later, we went to the Budapest State Opera for a ballet.  Photos from Budapest are lower down this page, below Vienna. Click for a larger photo.
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OK, back to Venice ... here is Santa Maria di Salute, built to say "thank you" for the end of the plague. A beautiful church. Click for a larger photo.
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We went to the Rialto several times and bought various things in the many shops in the area.  Click for an even larger image.
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We went, for a day, to Murano, and bought a few glass items.
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There is a big glass item by the canal in Murano.  Click for a larger image.
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From Murano, we went to Burano ... 
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... where we had lunch on "Fondamente dei Assassini", how extremely dangerous!  Click for a larger image.
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We also went to Torcello, but it was all closed up. "Locanda Cipriani" was having a private party.  Click for a larger image.
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The Rialto bridge looks as good as in the past few hundred years.  Water buses are as good as ever.  Click for a larger image.
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Soon, the time allotted to Venice aas up and we took one last look from the Rialto over the Grand Canal.  We'll be back!
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As we were heading back to our apartment, one last, late gondola was still in front of Salute.  We will be back.
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From Venice, we drove to Vienna through snow-covered Dolomite Alps and the weather changed.  It rained.  No problem, we went to dry places, such as (here) Cafe Sacher with the "Original Sacher Torte". Click for an even larger image.
 
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We had schnitzels at Figl-mueller, the best Schnitzel house in all of Austria .... 
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... and listened to a Mozart and Strauss concert at the Musikverein.  Click for a larger image.
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At the Musikverein, we heard some famous music.  I took some videos that are now on YouTube:

Mozart: Eine Kleine Nachtmusic: http://youtu.be/tCoXkI8_a7Ahttp://youtu.be/tCoXkI8_a7Alink https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tCoXkI8_a7A&feature=youtu.be
coming
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Videos of the music from the concert are at YouTube, at:
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At the Vienna Staatsoper we saw "Norma" by Bellini and the Viennese society.  Click for a larger image.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tCoXkI8_a7A&feature=youtu.be
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St. Stephens cathedral was dry inside ... and around the corner from our Airbnb.com apartment.
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This is Graben, one of the main shopping streets.  Our apartment looked down on it.  Click for a larger image.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tCoXkI8_a7A&feature=youtu.be
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Like much of the center of Vienna, Graben is pedestrian-only. Finally, it stopped raining. 
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There are lots of nice shops in Vienna, this one across the street from our apartment. Click for an even larger image.
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From Vienna, we drove on to Budapest and the weather started improving.  Our new apartment was close to this view. Click for an even larger image.
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In the distance is the Chain Bridge ... we had a view of that from the bedroom.  Click for a larger view.
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... here is the Chain Bridge at night, walking back from the opera.  Click for a larger view.

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At the Budapest State Opera, we saw a couple of ballets, a modern one and "La Sylphide", a very old romantic ballet.  Hungary keeps the same time as all of Western Europe, so for the interval after 8 p.m. it was still light outside.

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The opera house is very elegant ...
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... with some very elegant guests. Click for a larger view.
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We had dinner up on the top of the Buda Castle hill ...
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... and lunch at Gundel, so famous that it is one of the "1,000 Places to See Before You Die". Click for a larger view.
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The cog-wheel train and the "Pioneers' train", staffed by 11-12 year olds, take you to the green Buda Hills.
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... in the Buda Hills, people go to walk, hike, bike and enjoy the mountains. Click for a larger view.

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We obviously went to the splendid Gellert Hill.  Click for an even large image.
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... and a cruise on the Danube.  Our apartment was just off the right end (the Buda end) of the Chain Bridge.
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Hungarian parliament, on the river, a bit like Parliament in London.  Click to see a larger image.
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... and our last dinner in Pest, with Buda as a backdrop.  Click to see a larger image.
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From Budapest, we went for a couple of days to Keszthely in the south of Hungary, at the end of Lake Balaton.  This is the Festetics castle in the center of Keszthely.
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... you can see that by now the weather was really hot and sunny. We had another apartment here. Click to see a larger image.
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From Keszthely, we made a day trip to Sumeg, Herend and Heviz.  In Sumeg, there is an imposing castle on the hill above the town, but also a nice church with frescoes, "the Sistine Chapel of Hungary".
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In Herend, we had a tour of stunning porcelain factory that produces very expensive items. Click to see a larger image.
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The Herend factory is 75% owned by its workers and 25% by the Hungarian government.  Of the 800 people who work there, 400 are painters, who hand paint the pottery.  Click on a larger image.
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Here is one of the workers making a very delicate piece out of clay spaghetti.  Unfortunately, I picked one up and it was not yet fired, so it broke into hundreds of pieces.  She said she would make a new piece.
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From there, we went to Heviz, with Hungary's largest thermal lake to float among the Hungarians and the water lilies.  Click on a larger image.
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People float here all year round, apparently even when there is snow all around the lake. From there, we drove the next day to Slovenia.
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In Ljubljana, we found our new Airbnb.com apartment.  It was just a few minutes' walk from the beautiful (and again almost totally pedestrian) center of town.
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The old center of Ljubljana is beautiful ...
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... when we got there, they had a food fair, many of the best restaurants had open-air stands by the market and hundreds of people were enjoying every type of food.
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We visited Ljubljana Castle, saw a museum of Slovenian history, climbed the tower and relaxed ...
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... there is the castle, above us.  Click for a large image.
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The next day we stopped in "Postojnska Jama", or Caves, where a train takes you a couple of kilometers inside the mountain and then you walk a kilometer and a half.  The largest cave system that we have seen.  Click on a larger image.
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... the caves were amazing.  It's difficult to take photos in caves.
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After the caves, we visited Predjama Castle, built in the 15th century into a cliff.  Click to see a larger image. 
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Another nice apartment, in the old center of Piran on Slovenia's Adriatic coast.  Piran traded with Venice, has a Venetian style campanile next to the cathedral, Venetian houses and a look and feel of Venice to its small streets.  Piran has to be pedestrian, because cars do not fit into most of its narrow streets. Click to see a larger image.
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The main square in Piran.  In this house, the man who took our photo, and who has the shop in the left corner told us, they do re-enactments of Venetian love scenes, on the balcony and in the windows, with carpets in front of the house.  He is one of the actors in the play.
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Piran has a beautiful small harbour, lots boats and waterfront restaurants.  Through the trip, we carried a small cooler with cheese, salami, freshly bough raspberries every day and made breakfast sandwiches ... each apartment had a kitchen.  Click to see a larger image.
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The Adriatic sea is bright blue. Slovenia is a prosperous and a beautiful country to visit.  Most people speak English and it uses the Euro as its currency.  Click for a larger image.
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Piran main square, used to be the harbour until the 1880's when they filled it in.  Click to see a larger image.
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Piran is close to Trieste, where we had another apartment, on another pedestrian boulevard, lined with trees, restaurants and shops.  A beautiful day, here in the Grand Canal in center of town.  Trieste prospered in the 18th and 19th centuries under Austria, as the only seaport for the empire and the fourth largest city after Vienna, Budapest and Prague.  After WW2 it suffered, as it was cut off from the West, almost entirely surrounded by Yugoslavia which built its main port further south in Rijeka.  Now that all the borders are wide open, Trieste is prospering again and it can be seen. Click to see a larger image.
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The old fortress above Trieste offers scenic views of the harbour.  Click for a larger image.
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On the Canal Grande, there was a festival of food and open air shops selling stuff, including beer from Traunstein, Bavaria. 
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From Trieste, we drove back to Venice, returned the car that did more than 2,000 kilometers during the vacation, and flew to Rome.  Our last Airbnb.com apartment was about 50 meters from the Trevi fountain.  It obviously works:  you throw coins in, as we did last October, and you come back ... we did.  Click to see a larger image.
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We made a pic nic breakfast and took it to the fountain, with a tablecloth, plates, cups, coffee ... and watched the city workers, early morning, vacuuming thousands of coins that people threw in the previous day. The tourists were still asleep ...
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... but they came later in the day to throw more coins in.
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Photoshop tried to put together about a dozen photos.  The city workers, on the right, are done with cleaning out the money and cleaning around the fountain for another day of thousands of tourist. Click to see a larger image.
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We walked over 8 miles one day and over 10 the next..
The Quirinale Palace was just behind our apartment.  The Italian president lives here, in a nice palace with large gardens. Click for a larger image.
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Isola Tiberiana, a small island in the Tiber river, with yet another church.  Walk, walk, walk  
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We walked up Via Condotti, one of the best shopping streets that leads to the Spanish Steps (behind us) ...
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We took the Metro to the Vatican (St. Peter's behind us) to see the Sistine Chapel, probably for the last time because they think it can't stand the tens of thousands of people every day and will likely soon close it to tourists.
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We walked past the Coliseum.  There is a large scaffolding on a part of it and in the areas beyond it, they cleaned the black lower levels and it is now shining white ...
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... and everywhere you go, Romans walk with their dogs.  When the stop for a coffee and a glass of wine, the dog gets to be parked like this.  Click to see a larger image.
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We had a nice dinner in Taverna Flavia. not far from our apartment.
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I was photographed with St. Tomas in yet another church, the huge and beautiful San Giovanni in Laterano, Rome's official cathedral and the first church of the popes.  Click to see a larger image.
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... and we put our hands in the "Bocca della Verita".  There is a good story that goes with the old Roman stone that is now in the entrance of the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin.  A line of a few people slowly moves and everyone is allowed to take one photo. Click to see a larger image.

And then it was "bye, bye Roma, arivederci!"

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