Sunday, 28 September 2008

Geneva - Innsbruck

Only 5 days after returning from Sardinia we took off again, this time to drive half way across Europe to meet up with Linda's parents in Prague. By the most direct route, through Germany, this is about a 1000km drive - but going via Austria to see Innsbruck, Salzburg, and Vienna added an extra 500km to the journey.

Linda's parents had leased a car from Geneva that they planned to use to drive from Prague to Switzerland, and we were to do the outward journey. As a result we had to pick up the car from France near Geneva. This was somewhat more complicated than we expected (no, you cannot simply walk through the airport from Switzerland to France) and in the end we didn't get properly under way until almost midday on Saturday.

It rained all the way to Innsbruck and, due to this and the 17km long tunnels we drove through to get there, we didn't see much of any mountains along the way.

It was cold and rainy in Innsbruck too, so we were unimpressed when our hotel told us our room was flooded and another reservation had been made further away from the old town, which in turn directed us still further away.

Anyway we forced ourselves to walk into town and wander around, ultimately having a very nice time. We checked out the Goldenes Dachle (Golden Roof) building in the main square and had dinner at the nearby Gasthaus of the same name, where we had some delicious, hearty Tyrolean food before retiring for the night.

Sardinia - Around and About

I did plan to properly record all the places we visited while in Sardinia, but since we were back in Switzerland for less than a week before taking off on our next adventure I'm going to be a bit less ambitious and try to cover all the rest in one post.

As you can see from the map of our travels, we covered a lot of ground in Sardinia!

We started in Chia on the Costa del Sud, where we camped for our first time since, well, ever - discovering the joys of 'resort' style camping (disco music into the early hours of the morning). More importantly we had our first swims in the Mediterranean and some delicious seafood.

We drove around the Costa del Sud to the islands of Sant'Antioco and Isola di San Pietro, where we spent the night in a very nice B&B which overlooked the town of Carloforte. We had dinner in town and the waiter tried to rip me off €10, but I was having none of that! (actually I'm sure it was a mistake, but still, no tip)

In the morning we drove to the western tip of the island and checked out the view. We were struck by how different the scenery in Sardinia from Switzerland (still green in the middle of Summer); very dry, scrubby and rocky.

Our next step was something of a mistake, trying to drive to the Costa Verde; reputedly the most 'underdeveloped' of Sardinia's coastline. We thought this would mean less hotels, but in actual fact it meant an incredibly winding road that eventually turned into a dirt track. We eventually gave up, after crossing a stream and half way up a sand-dune in our Renault Twingo.

We continued on to Oristano, where we stayed on a campsite but in a cabin, which was nice because it had an internal bathroom! More swimming in the Mediterranean and more seafood (though not as good as the previous nights).

In the morning we went to Tharos - a Roman ruin looking over the sea. The ruins were interesting, but it was boiling hot and we were happy to spend most of our time in the water, which was clear and cool.

Not deterred by the previous days driving, we elected again to drive along the winding coast road towards Alghero via Bosa. In fact we were very glad to have taken this route, as the views were incredible and the roads were not nearly as bad as the previous day.

We spent the next two nights in Alghero, which is meant to be the most Spanish of the Sardinian towns. We didn't hear any Catalan being spoken really, although we did make sure to have a Paella, a local specialty.

In fact the food was probably the highlight of Alghero, with delicious seafood, pizzas, and we found some especially good gelato shop which we went back to a number of times.

After Alghero we headed further north still to Stintino. I'd heard from a friend at work that Stintino was beautiful, and indeed we were really struck by the incredible clear water and white sand, watched over by a ruined Spanish watch-tower.

We spent pretty much the whole day at the beach, swimming, picnicking and people-watching. It was an incredibly relaxing and enjoyable way to spend the day, and we very reluctantly left it to drive back towards Alghero where we would be camping for our last night (this time no disco music, thank God).

The next day we drove back along the spine of Sardinia, stopping by a couple of incredible Nuraghe sites, which dated back many thousands of years and which tend to look like piles of rubble from the outside, but actually are very well preserved internally.

When we got back to Cagliari we certainly felt like we had gotten everything out of this trip that we wanted, the sun, seafood and swimming, although as usual we felt like we could have done with a bit more sleep!

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Sardinia - Cagliari

We chose Cagliari as our start and end point for our visit to Sardinia; it is meant to be much more interesting than the alternative of Olbia, a more industrial town, and is located far from the Costa Smerelda; the much hyped and much visited tourist capital of Sardinia.

We weren't going to spend much time in Cagliari - our focus was to get out of the towns and onto the coast for sun and seafood. We took the time to wander around the town a while, especially to visit the archeological museum which holds a lot of artifacts from the Nuraghe people of Sardinia.

We also visited the Cathedral, which we found the Pope would be visiting the day of our departure, and climbed the elephant tower to take in the view over the town. Most importantly, of course, we had coffee, gelato and pastries, enjoying being back in a country where food is such a priority.

When we came back into Cagliari on our departure, the town was quite locked down in preparation for the Pope's visit and we passed a lot of the preparations still in progress. I was surprised that they hadn't put a lick of paint on a lot of the houses along the route he would be traveling - some of them still with stripped back concrete and bare wires hanging out.

The apartment we stayed in had a terrace with a view towards the Duomo - and our host was please to tell us he would have a sniper on his roof for the Pope's visit.