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Sunday, 31 January 2016

Jaro and his bike are now in Chile (late January/16).....

I just did the extra 2 km to the nice lookout near Huiro.  There is a fabulous nature appreciation trial, all made out of elevated wooden walkways.  Quite a maze of them, actually – impressive, and with numerous info-interpretation stands along the way.   

This is really cool - a display for blind people, complete with Braille info tags.  It shows how different kinds of trees can be identified by the texture of their bark. 
Pure serendipity that I found this walkway - it was totally deserted when I arrived.   Only later did a bus with school kids show up.

Although I did not get a chance to take a photo, I spotted a Patagonian fox on today's ride.  Beautiful animal, with a very distinctive bushy tail - fairly large too.  It is the first time I have seen any wildlife here, other than birds and sea lions.

Wikipedia link
Heading back to Corral, to catch the 3 PM ferry....

All in all, a great day out in the sun on the bike.

Photos belong to Jaro Franta.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Jaro and his bike are now in Chile....

Chaihuin is at the end of the (mostly) paved road from Corral - it is about 20 km from Corral, which is where you get off the ferry from Niebla, which is about 15 km from Valdivia.

From Chaihuin on, it is just dirt, but surprizingly good quality dirt - with a real hard base instead of the usual "river of sand and gravel".  The end of the paved road, on the south side of the bridge from Chaihiun....

This is is a typical tourist info shack along the road - doors locked, nobody inside - they are all built to the same plan.  It is amazing that they have not been vandalized in any way - in most other places, they would have been trashed within weeks of construction.

Watching these huge flocks of sea birds fishing was mesmerizing!

Next blog, continuation of day......


Photos belong to Jaro Franta.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Jaro and his bike are now in Chile....

My apartment.....
Lots of traffic every day and night.  Mornings, it is  mostly row boats - singles, quads, even eights.  Sometimes a whole bunch of them at once, with a coach in a motorboat.

Patrol boat - one time I was walking by one of these and saw them pulling a bunch of stuff from the rear cargo hold - a couple of mountain bikes and one time, trial road bike.

Unusual to see a ferry this far up the river - wonder what they were doing here?

The balcony on my apartment is a great feature....

Photos belong to Jaro Franta.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Jaro and his bike are now in Chile....

Mariachi Chilean style!  More sights in and around Valdivia....

A mini version of Westmount on the west side of Rio Valdivia.

Ship boneyard on the north side of Rio Calle Calle....

Chilean Navy...

 Paddle Boats
Lots of live music, with stages set up in various places, very noisy.  Glad my apartment is well away from that.

Photos belong to Jaro Franta.

Christmas cruise on the Danube River - Dec 23rd/2014....

At 10:30 in the morning, AMA presented us with Fruhschoppen - a Bavarian tradition, perhaps described as a mini-luncheon or fancy snack which is served to guests.  They presented a sliced, cold pork meat loaf, selection of German sausages, large pretzels, varied mustards, and beer.  I had the pork sausages, pretzels, mustard, and beer.  I can not resist German sausages of any type.  This was a nice touch, which hit the spot.  For lunch, after the Fruhschoppen, I just had some soup.  In the afternoon, we arrived in Nuremberg and departed for the tour of the city.

Nuremberg is an interesting, enjoyable German city to visit, especially at Christmas time.  During the 13th century, Nuremberg developed into one of Europe’s greatest trade towns.  

Most of the city was completely destroyed in a mere 90 minutes during WWII - the historical buildings were mostly rebuilt using the same bricks.
In the 1920s and 1930s, Adolf Hitler chose the city as the site for his annual Nazi Party Rallies.  Interestingly, the viewing stands of the rally grounds (which are seen in WWII documentary films) are still intact; the large open field (Zeppelin field) in front of the stands has been fenced off. 
Just a short distance from the viewing stands, a huge, unfinished structure called the “Congress Hall” can be seen. The structure’s outer shell was completed prior to WWII, but the inside and roof was unfinished because of the demands of the war.  The U-shaped building reaches a height of 128' and a diameter of 820'.  The design of the outer fa├žade was inspired by and has a similar appearance to the Coliseum in Rome, but larger.  Tours drive their buses into the inside of the structure. 

We started out at the castle - we did not have the time to enter any of the buildings but it is a very interesting place to walk around.  The upper part of the castle offers a dramatic view of the city.   From the castle, we walked into the city to the Tiergartnertoplatz.

The Hauptmarkt is a beautiful medieval plaza containing the Frauenkirche, a gothic church and the Beautiful Fountain resting on a four-step stone pyramid above an octagonal water basin.  The Hauptmarkt during the Christmas market is a special sight and time of the year.  

 At one of the Christmas market booths, I bought their Nuremberg Bratwurst (grilled sausage) which is shorter and thinner than other bratwurst sausages.  They put three to four sausages on a bun.  They are very tasty with some mustard - my favorite German sausage.  AMA gave us a coupon for a free Gluhwein, wine heated short of a boil.  It was getting colder, hovering just short of the freezing point; so the hot wine was just right.

Buses took us back to the ship docked at Nuremberg - we were scheduled to remain tonight and tomorrow night in Nuremberg.  Some passengers would end the cruise in Nuremberg, and new passengers would board the ship.

This would be the last supper for some passengers, and it was another excellent meal.  I had the goose liver pate on pumpernickel for the amuse bouche.  I chose the appetizer with three items:  lobster ragout, butter fish on seaweed salad, and crab meat spring roll; sampling small portions of three items was another nice touch.  I had the cream of mushroom soup and the main course, roasted beef.  They served another excellent red wine.  For dessert, they served another course with three selections - cake, ice cream, and mousse.

 Photos belong to Phil Bianco

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Jaro and his bike are now in Chile....

 A three-day trip to Panguipulli and Lago Calafquen - heading out to Lican Ray.  The mighty Volcan Villarica dominates the landscape - puffing away, but nothing compared to last March.

A little siesta in a park in Conaripe.....

A bike path in the middle of nowhere - this was not here back in 2002 - the last time I passed by.

This was all gravel road back in 2002.  Big project to turn a dirt road into a paved road - still 11 km to go - the hilliest part.  It was quite a tough slog....

From Lago Calafquen back to Panguipulli.  Super smooth road!

Panguipulli power station.  Same picture I took back in 2002!

Photos belong to Jaro Franta. 

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Jaro and his bike are now in Chile....

Lago Panguipulli.
A three-day trip to Panguipulli and Lago Calafquen.  Panguipulli is about 120km from my place in Valdivia, somewhat uphill much of the way (coming back was quicker than going out).

The loop around Lago Calafquen was about 93km, including 11km of some pretty tough dirt road (only had to walk the bike once).

Found out that taking photos of snow-covered volcanoes is tougher than I thought - the pictures did not turn out as well as I hoped.  Anyway, there is no way to convey the grandeur of the scenery in 2D - you just have to see it to believe it.....

Nice road on the way to Panguipulli - saw several bikers, hauling heavy panniers.  Not enough time to get the camera out and shoot.

The traffic is not too bad, even though this is the main road from Los Lagos to Panguipulli.  Even less traffic on the side roads.  Overall, very bike-friendly!
Arrived in Panguipulli - checking out the water front scene.  Weather is hazy, can not see much of the mountains.
The iconic church of Panguipulli...
My hotel in Panguipulli - it is in the left part of the building only.

Photos belong to Jaro Franta.  

Friday, 1 January 2016

Christmas cruise on the Danube River - Jan 1st/2015....

Today was a cold and wintery day - most places were closed so I stayed on the ship the entire day.  I finished packing early in the day, then just relaxed in the lounge and did some reading.

The Amasonata itself, which was only about a year old, is well designed, pleasant and very comfortable.  It is a 164 passenger vessel with spacious rooms, a choice of dining venues, a heated pool with swim-up bar, in-room internet access, a fitness center and a spa. There was an excellent self-serve coffee machine in the lounge - the crew kept the coffee station continuously well stocked with coffee and clean cups - passengers used the machine frequently. 

Overall, I have to give this trip and AMA Waterways the highest rating.  It is always possible to criticize anything - there are a few minor things that AMA might have done better, but the only thing that is obvious to me is the slow pick-up in Wurzburg to return to the ship.  AMA offered more excursions than on other cruises, and there were more choices. 

The service by the ship’s personnel was excellent and better than what I experienced on other companies’ cruises.  The excursion to Salzburg (with an additional charge) was worthwhile.  The excursion (without an additional charge) to Munich via train was one of the high points of the trip; and a nice lunch was included.  I have a hard time imaging another cruise company accepting the charge for the excursion to Munich via train.

The food and wine was absolutely superlative and the best in quantity and quality that I have had on any river cruise.  I would even go as far as to say that the food was superior to what I received on Holland America ocean cruises.  Also, the complementary wines at lunch and dinner were far superior to what I received on other cruises.

For the final supper, I had the crab cake, which was very nice. Then chicken broth with tomato and rice, grilled fish with shrimp sauce and white wine.  For dessert, I had the banana split. There was piano music in the lounge.

The next morning, there was juice, sweet rolls, and coffee in the lounge.  About five of us left in a van for the airport at 8; the airport transfer was included.  Many people took off work today so there was no traffic to speak of - it was raining.  The security procedures at the Amsterdam airport are the most excessive that I have experienced.

 We departed to Atlanta at about 11 am - about a ten hour flight.  The flight to Jacksonville was delayed about 45 minutes as the plane was late arriving.  We arrived in Jacksonville at about 7 pm -  I arranged for a taxi pick-up at the airport.  There was an unusually bad traffic jam on Interstate 95 northbound - I have had 38 previous trips, and not on one of them was there ever a traffic jam.  We must have sat in traffic for more than an hour, fortunately the rate for the taxi is a fixed amount. 

Although I am not religious, a European cruise at Christmas is special.  The best Christmas market that I personally saw was Salzburg, Austria.  The Christmas markets at Vienna, Nuremburg, and Munich (and others) were also very good.

 Photos belong to Phil Bianco