By CHOO SUI NIA

We went to Europe for sightseeing in August 2015.

It took us months of preparation. We went online well in advance to buy train tickets for our trip from Rome to Salzburg – the “Rome of the North” – as well as entrance tickets to the Colosseum and the Vatican.

We arrived early morning in Rome and made our way to explore the world-renowned Colosseum. After that, we spent some time strolling along the Roman Forum before sampling some of the finest Italian pizza for dinner.

Rome is known not only for its iconic buildings, but also skilful pickpockets. I lost my medicine in my handbag without realising it.

The following day, we visited the Vatican. Although art is not my cup of tea, Michelangelo’s painting on the Sistine Chapel ceiling was amazing. We also visited St Peter’s Basilica, one of the largest churches in the world. After that, we enjoyed sampling gelato ice-cream before moving to the Roman Pantheon, which was once dedicated to all the pagan gods.

We did not miss the beautiful Spanish Steps at the Piazza di Spagna and Trevi Fountain. Unfortunately, the Trevi Fountain was under renovation. Still we were able to admire this exceptional Baroque masterpiece made famous by a number of movies. As for dinner, we found a Chinese restaurant to dine in.

The writer and her grandchildren in front of the famous painting The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci, at the Vatican.

The writer and her grandchildren in front of the famous painting The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci, at the Vatican.

On the third day, we moved on to Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance. On the day of our arrival, we wandered around the city (which is almost like a museum in itself), spotted The Duomo, visited David (the famous statue) and crossed over the Ponte Vecchio Bridge. There were many stalls on the bridge and we managed to buy some souvenirs.

We went on a guided tour of: a vineyard in Chianti, for wine-tasting; the unique medieval cities of Sienna and San Gimignano; and Pisa, to see the famous leaning tower.

Our tour guide spoke in English and gave detailed information on these places. We were told that Carlo Collodi (real name: Carlo Lorenzini), the author of The Adventures Of Pinocchio, used Collodi as his pen name because he was brought up in the town of Collodi.

A section of Venice that is famous for its canals and bridges.

A section of Venice that is famous for its canals and bridges.

After we checked out of our hotel in Florence, we caught an early train to Verona. We wanted to spend half a day in Verona before crossing partially over Germany to Salzburg, Austria. In fact, we had our breakfast in the train. We also enjoyed some sumptuous Italian pizza for lunch in the captivating Piazza delle Erbe, before visiting Juliet’s Balcony (of Romeo And Juliet fame).

We boarded the afternoon train and planned to reach Salzburg by midnight. Everything seemed ordinary until we heard that there was a substantial number of refugees on board! We found out that Germany and Austria were accepting these Syrian refugees. Because of this, some parts of the Germany-Austria border were closed. Nevertheless, a replacement bus service was provided to ferry us to the main railway station in Salzburg. In spite of the delay, we managed to contact our hotel to keep the room for us.

The writer inside the Hallein Saltmine in Austria.

The writer inside the Hallein Saltmine in Austria.

The next morning, we went for a saltmine tour in Hallein, Austria. We learned the history of the salt industry in Salzburg. Despite being a septuagenarian, I could slide down two extra-long wooden slides inside the mine. After that, we visited the Celtic Museum. In the Iron Age, the Celtic tribes occupied some parts of Europe. Unfortunately, the nearby Silent Night Museum was closed that day. When we returned to Salzburg, we indulged in a buffet meal in a Chinese restaurant.

The writer’s grandchildren against a backdrop of the Bavarian Alps.

The writer’s grandchildren against a backdrop of the Bavarian Alps.

On our second day in Austria, we bought tickets for the hop-on hop-off Sound Of Music bus tour from the main railway station. We visited notable places like Mozart’s residence, the shopping street Getreidegasse (where we bought some Mozart Chocolate), Mirabell Gardens and Hellbrunn Palace. On our way out of the palace, we spotted the huge gazebo where the song Sixteen Going On Seventeen (in The Sound of Music movie) was sung.

We took an overnight train, sleeping in the couchette compartments that had six beds (just nice for the six of us), to Venice. We spent a night there to catch the night view of the splendid city before returning to Malaysia.


The views expressed are entirely the reader’s own.

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