Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The things we do . . .

Well it is getting down to the nitty gritty now.

We have started to pack (well, at least Michael has brought the suitcases upstairs!) and earlier in the week we posted a 17kg box of travel books, souvenirs and associated paraphernalia to Germany ahead of us. For those who might need to know - if you leave it so late that you need to post it airmail, it only costs an extra $5 to post it Express with a delivery time to Germany of 3 days!

Yesterday, we went to the doctors and engaged in that favourite pastime of mine - having a needle! After much discussion re our plans, proposed routing, checking the net etc, it was decided that we really only need to have a tetanus booster (phew). As we are no longer in our teens and want to take the riskiest options, we figured that this added to a good dose of common sense would prevail!

We also finally booked our tickets to New York - so it is now official - we will spend New Years Eve with Michael in Times Square - hopefully where we can see the ball drop!! With the Australian dollar plunging against the greenback, we were not sure that we would commit to this - but figured it might be our one and only chance to do this, so off we go travelling from Stuttgart on the 30th December to New York through Atlanta and returning to Stuttgart on 5th January.

We hosted our first couchsurfers this week with Inge and Fabi (from Cologne, Germany) arriving last Sunday and staying until after lunch on Tuesday. They had consulted the Lonely Planet guide to Eastern Australia that recommended a visit to Wharf Street. So we dropped them down there where they spent almost 2 hours at the Maryborough Military & Colonial Museum (talking with Noel we think!) then went over to the Bond Store Port of Maryborough Museum before they took a walk through the Mary River Parklands (where Inge marvelled at the Strelitzia reginae [Bird of Paradise] flowers) and then went through Queens Park into the CBD.

We are expecting John from England here this Sunday coming - and are hoping that he will arrive in time to join the local campanologists who are bell-ringing at 5pm so they don't drown out the Christmas concert in front of the City Hall.

VERY exciting now with only 11 days until we leave for Long Island from where we fly direct to Sydney and then off . . . .

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Australians - our easy going nature precedes us!

Interestingly, it is very easy for Australians to travel to most countries.

Researching the need for visas as we are looking to go a little further into the Middle East, I was very surprised to not only find that Australians have no difficulty in getting visas into places like Albania (at the border) and even Iran (at the airport), but also that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has no warnings - even for Iran! In fact, Australians seem to be warmly welcomed almost everywhere we look.

So into the cradle of civilisation we go further. Persepolis dates back to 500 BC - almost incomprehensible for us Aussies whose built structures date back a mere 200 odd years.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

How the year turns

Well, the countdown has finally hit one month.
As I sit here typing, there is a distinct feeling of butterflies in my stomach as I REALLY realize that we are going to do this - and like really soon!

Our planning continues and this week we hit the task of getting things ready for our leaving party next week. The guest list has already hit the 50+ mark and could get as high as 100! At this point, we will be joined by our first Couchsurfing guest this night - a young German couple - Fabi and Inga, so if you are here, be sure to meet and welcome them.

It looks like Couchsurfing is going to be a wonderful experience for us.
We have offers of accommodation in Bruges (Belgium), Milan (Italy), Berne (Switzerland) and Palmyra (Syria) that we have pencilled in. We will continue to explore this option as a way to extend our $. Although the exchange rate has rallied slightly, it slipped again last night.

Our passports are back with the Chinese visa affixed to them. Quite a nice one. Still have to arrange a Syrian visa and convince someone that we need a Schengen Visa so we are not limited in our travels through much of Europe - trouble is, most of the consulates keep telling us we don't need one as we will not be spending more than 90 in THEIR country. Will sort this one next week. And we could even be looking for an Iranian visa yet ;).
Michael also hopes to get to the Crimean battlefields (in the modern day Ukraine) with some local people in June or July next year.

We managed to get our hands on a reasonable supply of Australian souvenirs this week - albeit most of them manufactured in China! Got keyrings, coasters, stickers and tattoos, stubbie holders, pencils, clip on koalas, purses, and small toy kangaroos, koalas, echidnas, koalas plus a heap of postcards. These will be used to spread the Aussie cheer. Would love to take small pats of vegemite with us, but based on the reactions of all the international visitors who have graced our doors over the years, it would be wasted - 99% of them HATE it! Now, Tim Tams are another matter - but too bulky to carry (and Michael would eat them all anyway!!!)