Back in the land of schnitzel and strudel! We are working our way back north after six glorious weeks in Italy, this time via the Black Forest region in Germany as we return to Frankfurt.

Our arrival at the station in Freiburg was so easy. I was still looking around for the way out off the platform and realised we were on the street, with taxies right in front of us- unpacking in our hotel no time. It turned out that almost everything in Freiburg was easy. The exception was the language as we only have a few words of German; in retrospect, we had enough Italian to get ourselves around and miss it already.

Every place we stay has its pros and cons, so I try to focus on the good things. The Fourside Hotel in Freiburg is a new chain hotel, further out of town, very clean and shiny, comfy bed, very quiet (we sleep in late here), and has a fantastic large shower, complete with a huge picture of a lady (a local legend) in it! Although a bit of a way from the action centre, it is opposite a massive supermarket and has a tram stop out front. All things to like.

What a beautiful, green city is Freiburg! Trees and gardens everywhere, flourishing flower boxes on the streets and balconies, and forested hills on all sides of town. Tidy, well signed and no rubbish anywhere. Neat blocks of apartments in our area, painted in various combinations of colours. Lots of bikes and dedicated paths (have to look both ways twice to avoid being run down) and a fantastic sustainable and reliable public transport system.

Having seen the weather forecast, we were up and out the first morning to make the most of the last predicted sunny day. Always drawn to heights and cable cars, we pored over the transport map for a way to get to Shauinslandbahn – the world’s longest circular cable car to the top of the mountain. It looked doable – Tram 2 and Bus 21 here we come!

It took five kind Germans to help us find the stop, the tram and buy tickets. It is a bit frustrating not to be able to read information. A friendly young woman at the stop assisted us first, and it turned out that she was going to Brisbane the very next week to do her PhD in chemistry!

Even after we were heading the right way, a gentleman saw us looking at the tram map and asked if we needed help. One lady even grabbed a high school student and told him to help us as she didn’t speak English. So kind! In fact, whenever we look at our map, someone asks us if we need assistance.


We have fallen in love with this sun-dusted part of Italy. I don’t remember ever watching such a series of glorious sunsets every night for two weeks; the palette is a little different each night. The temperature has been perfectly warming every day, and increasingly refreshing overnight. Only a tiny breeze to break the stillness, and the sound of tractors pulling ploughs all day as the autumn farm routines roll on as they have for hundreds of years. The vines are slowly turning russet while the olives keep their colour, and their fruit is ripening.

Seasonality is very calming. Hard working people in tune with God’s earth. It’s a while since I was content to sit and gaze at the scenery without thoughts of what I need to do! It has been so good for my busy mind and soul.

Tuscany is famous for its wine and people come from all over the world to try it. All the little towns have more enoteca (wine tasting shops) and wine bars than anything else, with the hero wines being Brunello and Rosso. We are not huge wine drinkers; I drink almost none and Peter was driving! But as Marco, our host’s husband, did wine tasting tours as well as looking after an olive farm, we thought we would give it a go. Adventures are the order of the day.


It was time to leave Sicily, vey reluctantly. Feeling more confident on the roads than when we arrived, we took the the little Panda car to the autostrada, heading back to the huge port city of Messina. When we returned the car safely, I could see relief written all over Peter’s face: a month of challenging driving in Sicily and no scratches or bingles caused by us or any of the mad drivers we saw. A miracle.

The rental car office was happy to mind our luggage, so we had a long day to fill in waiting for the night train, but we were at least unencumbered. Messina, however, is a huge port (with a row of cruise ships in dock) and I didn’t have energy in the heat to go too far, so we did what all good travellers do to fill in time- settle in at KFC for chicken and salad, and then Maccers for coffee and tiramisu. Food, coffee, toilets and wifi all helped to pass the day. In KFC we shared a table with two young men from Uzbekistan who are studying in Messina. They had perfect English and were very assured as we chatted. Both supported by their parents, clearly the new middle class.

Two things of note about MacDonalds: it was modern, clean and had service to the table, and, we were the oldest people there by a couple of decades!

We still had time to kill at the station for our 10.10pm train, but started to see and hear information that it was running an hour late. It was immediately clear that we would miss our connection in Rome to Florence the next morning and the trip was all downhill from there. For starters, we discovered that the toilets at the station were locked up at 10pm! We were relieved in every way when the train finally arrived.