15 December 2005 - Brisbane, Australia
Qantas 747-400
Departing Brisbane for Frankfurt... or so it seems.

 


16 December 2005 - Frankfurt, Germany

Iced Volvo
After navigating our way to the hotel in the dark we were told that we must return six hours later (despite having organised an early check-in)
. Having slept reasonably well on the plane we decided to collect the hire car and head for Usti. Our car did not have navigation (nor did any others) so to compensate they gave us a larger Volvo V70 station wagon at no extra cost.

Fortunately I had prepared for such an event and had printed driving directions from www.viamichelin.com before I left Australia.

The directions were spot on until we approached the Czech border and found ourselves on a motorway that was due for completion in 2006! After finding an alternative route we crossed the border at a very small crossing. We had to wait for 20 minutes before they let us through (I suspect they were wondering why on earth we were crossing there).

After entering Czech it started snowing, heavily. At this point I discovered that the Volvo was not only a front wheel drive (probably not such a bad thing in hindsight) but that it didn't have any sort of traction control - just a useless light telling me that the wheels are spinning (which is fairly obvious). We took an unplanned diversion through a town called Tisa - the roads were too small and icy to even think about turning around. We eventually made it to Usti without incident.

 


17 December 2005 - Usti nad Labem, Czech Republic

Severni Terasa
The view that greeted us from Jana & Jitka's house the following day. Had we driven from Frankfurt as planned we may not have made it this far. It snowed for two days and the roads were extremely slippery. We bought and fitted snow chains that morning.

The snow melted over the following days.

 


17 December 2005 - Usti nad Labem, Czech Republic
Lunch @ Babicka's
Traditional Czech food for lunch was just what we needed after our long journey.

 


21 December 2005 - Munich, Germany
U-Bahn Station
As part of our holiday we decided to take Jitka & Jana to Germany for a few days - they have never been there before. After navigating our way to within 10km of the hotel we had to ask for directions from the locals. We left the car in the hotel car park and travelled using Munich's excellent public transport system. I've never seen trains arrive & depart so frequently from the same platforms - very well organised indeed.

 


21 December 2005 - Munich, Germany

BMW Headquarters
We had planned to visit a BMW factory (and go on a production tour) in Leipzig, however all the factories shut down for the exact duration of our holiday... I knew this in advance so we decided to pay a visit to the BMW Museum near BMW Headquarters while we were here. The Bavarians are very proud of this company.

The Museum is in a state of flux at present. In 2007 a huge complex will be completed (it can be seen just east of the site in Google Earth) which will house the museum. It will be an impressive structure. I won't bore you with the history of BMW but if you're interested, the book 'Driven' covers it well - very interesting reading.

 


21 December 2005 - Munich, Germany
Neues Rathaus Detail
This large neogothic town hall in Marienplatz was completed in
the early 20th Century. It features a 80m high clock tower known as the Glockenspiele. Each day at 11am & 5pm animated statues in the tower come alive.

 


21 December 2005 - Munich, Germany
Frauenkirche
The copper domes were added to this enormous church in 1525, marking it's completion. The church suffered heavily during World War II such that most of the roof and interior had to be reconstructed from photographs and technical drawings. Many aspects of the original church, including fine carvings and statues, could not be reproduced.

 


21 December 2005 - Munich, Germany
Michaelskirche
St Michael's Church was completed in the mid-sixteenth century and escaped damage during the war. The vaulted ceiling is second in size to St Peter's Basilica in Rome.

 


21 December 2005 - Munich, Germany
Gluhwein
We spent a few hours walking around the Christmas markets in Marienplatz (the large square in front of the New Town Hall). While we waited to see the mechanical figures in the tower come to life we enjoyed some Gluhwein.

 


21 December 2005 - Munich, Germany
Neues Rathaus
The statues in the tower were on strike that evening - there were hundreds of people gathered in anticipation so I suspect it was a last minute failure. Even the locals were surprised nothing happened!

 


23 December 2005 - Usti nad Labem, Czech Republic
Christmas Cookies
Every year Veronika's grandmother makes these delicious cookies. They taste as good as they look.

 


24 December 2005 - Usti nad Labem, Czech Republic
Merry Christmas
We hope you all have a wonderful Christmas.