I wrote this yesterday and thought I would be able to get it poseted yesterday but the wifi at our appartment went down so I wasn't able to post it until now. We arrived in Split, but more on that in the next post.
Today is Thursday, we took off from Portland last Saturday. I have meant to sit down and write about our trip so far but we have been quite busy and today is the first chance I have had to sit down and write.
Going back to Saturday and our flight to Amsterdam, the flight was uneventful, other than the fact that we took off an hour late. We have now taken this flight a couple of times. Portland has a flight direct to Amsterdam and it is nice to be able to be on a single plane for a 10 hour flight instead of flying to the east coast, having a layover and then and then another 5 hour or so flight.
The plane has nice in-seat entertainment system with a nice selection of movies and TV shows. If you combine this with Ambien part way through the flight and it isn’t bad. About 2 hours into the flight Shannon and I both took Ambien. I think we both only slept for about 3-4 hours which wasn’t the 6 I was hoping for but we at least got some sleep.
The problem ended up being the fact that we only had a 55 minute layover in Amsterdam before our flight to Munich. We landed about 5 minutes before our Munich flight took off. We ended up waiting in line for about 30 minutes to get rebooked and they gave us tickets on a 3:00 flight. At this point in was about 9:00 on Sunday morning so we had a while to wait. While spending that long in an airport isn’t much fun, Amsterdam Schipol is one of the world’s largest and it didn’t end up being too bad.
We went to get on our 3:00 flight and when they scanned my boarding pass it buzzed, and not the good ok sound. After the gate agent spent a couple of minutes looking he found that the ticket was for the 3:00 flight on Monday, not today. The flight that we were trying to get on was also oversold and the gate agent told us, after everyone else boarded, that even if people didn’t show up it was too late to get on the flight so we had to go back to another service counter.
When we got to the service counter, I tried hard not to be too angry but it still came across. The woman who was directing people acted like it was no big deal, told us there was nothing she could do and sent us over to someone else. Neither the gate agents or her seemed to really care, and so I was even more angry when I went to the woman who apparently was going to do whatever could be done.
Fortunately she was awesome, she apologized and said it must have been a mistake, Munich flights were heavily booked and the previous agent probably just didn’t see that the system put us on a flight the next day. She spent a while doing everything she could to try and find us a flight that would arrive in Munich that day. She ended up finding a flight for us to Hamburg and then a flight on Air Berlin to Munich. It was going to put us into Munich at 8:00 that night. She also worked hard to get one of the tickets confirmed that was on standby. She also made sure that our bags would be on the flight to Munich.
Our flight to Hamburg left at 6:00, so we waited some more, caught that flight and then waited about an hour for our flight to Munich. All of this was uneventful. But when we landed in Munich no bags. We ended up working with a very nice man for the company that handles Air Berlins baggage. The bags were in Munich and he was going to work on getting them sent to Munich and on to our hotel on Monday.
As a part of the BMW European Delivery process, BMW now provides a service to pick us up at the airport and take us to the hotel. He ended up being a very nice man, who was pretty funny for a German, among other things he had questions about marijuana in Oregon and how police handled it if you drove high. He picked us up in a BMW 7 series long wheel base model. It is basically between a Lincoln Town car and a limo. It is a car that you buy to be driven in, not to drive yourself. It had several feet of leg room, reclining and adjustable rear seats and is something I could get used to, to have my driver pick me up in the morning and take me to work.
I booked our hotel based on it being closed to the BMW Welt (BMW World) where we would pickup the car on Monday. The hotel ended up being on the 13th floor of part of the Olympics complex from the ’72 Olympics. I think our room overlooked the building where the Israeli athletes where murdered.
Monday morning we got up and walked to the Welt. This is now the second time we have been there and it wasn’t until we walked in just before they opened at 8:00 what we were doing. It is quite an experience. BMW has perfected the car delivery process. The service is truly impeccable, from the moment you walk in until when you leave. It is located in an incredible very modern building that was completed just before our last European Delivery (ED) in 2008. The ground floor has most of their car models from all of the BMW family (BMW, Mini and Rolls Royce). They had one of the new BMW electric high-end sports cars, the i8 and I think all of the Rolls Royce models currently available. They also have the BMW motorcycle line, shops and restaurants. It is actually a heavy draw for tourists.
For those of us doing ED, they also have an executive style lounge, with free food and drinks. After a short wait, we met with the man who was going to give us our car. They normally take you through an electronic video game like simulator to walk through car handling but it wasn’t working. We instead walked down the stairs from the third floor to the second floor where they deliver the cars. There were several cars scattered about that were going to be delivered shortly and when we start to walk up to ours, they turn on the turn style the car is on so the car sits there spinning so that you can see it from all angles. They then took our picture with the car and he spent about 15-20 minutes going over all of the cars features. Then we were off. The delivery area is circular and you drive all the way around it like taking a victory lap.
Our M235i at the BMW Welt
When we were in Spain we found the importance of GPS while driving in Europe. Last ED, I had nav on the car so they provided maps of Europe. I use nav so rarely that I didn’t see the value of paying for it on my new car. Garmin came out a short while ago with an offline program for the iPhone that I downloaded because data costs while roaming internationally are expensive and both Shannon and my iPhones were locked (Shannon became available for unlocking on Sunday so we are going through the process now to unlock here iPhone and we will get a Croatian SIM so we can get inexpensive data). The problem came in that I downloaded the new iOS for my phone early and the program would crash. So when once we had the car we went to Germany’s version of Best Buy and bought a new Garmin.
We stopped back by the Welt for a few BMW momentos and then went into downtown Munich. We wondered around, looking at $30,000 and $40,000 watches in the windows and had lunch near Marienplatz. I hadn’t gotten a call on my cell about our luggage so we went back to the hotel. No word there so we went to the airport. We had to get what was basically a boarding pass to get through security and went back down to the baggage area.
There were bags everywhere, as there had been the night before. All around the baggage carousel where stacks of bags, hundreds of bags. We looked through all of them but ours weren’t there. At this point we had been in the same clothes for about 48 hours and it was getting kind of old. We talked to the same very nice man we had worked with before and he sent another message to Hamburg. He realized that we were driving to Croatia the next day and was obviously doing everything he could to try and get us our bags.
We then drove all the way through Munich to Andechs Monastery, the same place we went the night after we picked up our car the last time. They have been brewing beer there since 1455. It is a nice drive about 25 miles southwest of Munich. Located up on a hill with an indoor area and an outdoor area to enjoy their beer and food. Our last time here, when we got food the man who was getting us our food at the counter cafeteria style became incredibly mad when we didn’t want pretzels and after trying to give us one actually threw it back into the bin. We had eaten several pretzels over the last few days and didn’t want another but apparently we insulted him. This time, after having eaten a late lunch we didn’t want much food but we did each have a pretzel, which was very good.
The next morning (Tuesday) we went on to a website that allowed us to track our bags and while the status on mine had been updated to show delivery was underway, the status on Shannon’s stilled showed that they were still trying to find it. We had reservations for an apartment in Rovinj, Croatia for Tuesday night, which was a 6 hour drive away. This left me wondering what to do. Do we try and pickup my bag at the airport? Do we wait around the hotel until the last possible moment? Or do we just leave and wait for the bags to catch-up with us at some point or worst case until we come back to Munich in 10 days?
If we were going to be without bags for sometime we needed to get some essentials so we went to a mall in Munich. Slightly different from American malls with things like butcher shops and locksmiths. A few stores you would recognize, like Crocs but many you wouldn’t. We picked up some essentials like shampoo and socks and underwear.
By the time we left Shannon’s recommendation of going to the airport to see if we could get at least my bag seemed like the best thing to do. While I didn’t want to have my stuff while Shannon didn’t have hers seemed wrong, it did make sense. So went back to the airport, went back through security and went through all the bags around the carousel. Nothing. So we went in the office and there was my bag. We then ended up working with another wonderful woman to get all the details worked out about where we were going and what we could do. She even gave us their direct telephone number that is never supposed to be given to customers. I wanted to use the bathroom before we started our drive to Croatia and Shannon decided to walk around one more time. When I came out of the bathroom there was Shannon with both of our bags! She found it in an area we walked by but she came at it from the opposite direction and the pink lock on it caught her eye.
We went back to the woman we had just been talking to and told her the good news. She was genuinely happy for us. If it hadn’t been for the two people we worked with at the baggage company and the woman who booked are flight through Hamburg the start of our trip would have been miserable.
Off we went to Croatia. It was a nice drive, a little time on the German Autobahn where, since the car is still in the break-in period we had to keep in under 100. Through Austria, where like through most of Europe the speed limit is 130 KPH or about 83 MPH, and around and under the Alps. Some impressive mountains towering above us and about a dozen tunnels, some of which were 6-7 miles long. A couple of times we came around a corner or out a tunnel and there is a castle.
Then through Slovenia, which is about the size of the Willamette valley and also very beautiful. Germany, Austria and Solvenia are all parties to the Schengen agreement which means that their borders are open to one another with no stops just like crossing state lines. Croatia is a member of the EU but not a party to the Schengen agreement so their border is not open. So we stopped at one both and had our passports stamped out of the Schengen zone and then rolled forward 5 feet and has the stamped into Croatia. We entered Croatia right near where Solvenia, Croatia and Italy all meet. A short ways in the distance we could see Trieste, Italy; a town I had hoped to stop at on the way but an idea I had to drop because of retrieving our bags.
After about 1.5-2 hours, we arrived in Rovinj (Ro-Veen), where we would be spending the next three nights. In Croatia you have two choices when it comes to hotels, expensive or Communist era and bad. So a lot of people rent apartments. This is something that I have never done but hear more people talking about and liking. So we are staying at apartments for all three of the cities we are staying in while in Croatia. So after some difficulties with the GPS sending us to the wrong place we met with the guy who manages the property, got slightly situated and then went into town.
We happened to arrive on the day of their Saint, St. Euphemia. She became a martyr in 303 AD when she refused to make a sacrifice to Ares. After torturing her they feed her to lions but supposedly they just locked her wounds. Some of her relics are in a sarcophagus in the cathedral on the top of the hill in Rovinj. I hadn’t known that it was a saint’s day until Shannon noticed it in the guidebook on the way here. Fortunately, we were able to head into town just as the celebration was dying down.
The next day we woke up to the view. Normally I try to book rooms near the center of town for easy access to everything but Rovinj was an island that they connected to the mainland in the 1700s because of over crowding. It was the most populated city in the area during medieval times because it was a walled island. This means there are very narrow alleys in the old city that you can’t drive now and I figured it would be a nice place for something that was waterfront.
Rovinj is on Istra, a peninsula that sticks out into the Adriatic near where both Italy and Croatia come off of the mainland. From a cultural perspective it is half Italian and half Croatian. It was part of Italy between WWI and WWII and a lot of the people speak both Italian and Croatian (Hvarska). Rovinj was part of the Venetian empire (Venice is a three hour ferry ride away) and a lot of the architecture is very similar to Venice. There is also a lot of Italian food. There is very good pizza everywhere (I had some for lunch today that included dollops of mozzarella that was the best I have had), gelato and coffee (Shannon is mad because when you get coffee while it is very good it is only a couple of ounces, no 20 ounce lattes here).
Alley in Rovinj
We spent time Wednesday morning wondering around town, visited the market (they sell a lot of truffle based oil and spreads, very good but $40 for a jar is a little more than I am willing to pay). In the afternoon we drove to Pula, which is a town that is about 30 miles away. It is a major industrial town and doesn’t have a lot in the way of tourist appeal to the extent that Rovinj does but it has a few things worth seeing. Being this close to Italy, there are some very nice Roman ruins, including the sixth biggest and best-preserved amphitheater. We also saw the Temple of Augustus, Roman floor mosaic and a chapel from the Byzantine Empire (6th-7th century AD).
Temple of Augustus - Pulla, Croatia
Roman Mosiac - Pulla, Croatia
Byzantine Chapel - Pulla, Croatia
We had a lazy morning today and spent time in a café where I had a macchiato and Shannon had her couple ounce black coffee (it is hard to do much of anything when you can sit with views like the one below). We wondered around town and went to the cathedral. Not too productive but it was kind of nice to take a little bit of a break.
Tomorrow we drive down the coast to Split.