Saturday, June 26, 2010

Neuschwanstein Castle (and more Munich!)

Today Sharon and I took a tour out 2 hours away from Munich to the foot of the German Alps to see Ludwig II's Neuschwanstein Castle - the most amazing castle in existance. We took two trains to Fusen, and then packed into a waaay over crowded bus to the base of the alps to start our tour and our hike up the mountain.

At the alps we had to take an easy hike up the mountain for a ways. It was a consistent incline the whole time, but it wasn't steep and it was either paved or gravel the whole time. So after completing the bulk of the hike we all met up again at a split it in the path, and from there headed across to Mary's Bridge.

Mary's Bridge (named after Ludwig's mother, not the Virgin Mary, making it the only thing named Mary that is not named after the Virgin Mary in Germany) is really cool. it is a small wooden bridge, reinforced by iron, that stretched across from one alp to the other almost 100 meters above a small waterfall and river. And looking out from the middle of the bridge you get the most amazing view of the castle. And a word about the bridge itself... obviously it has not collapsed to date so it can handle the weight, but it was really cool feeling and even seeing the wooden planks of the bridge bow and bend with everyone walking on it. It just felt like it could collapse at any time, it was awesome.

So we walked back to the path split and headed along the edge of the mountain around to the other side and took the path up to the castle itself. The castle is so exactly like fairy tale castles, you can see how they are all influenced from this single castle. We walked into the courtyard through the main gateway and listened to the tour guide some more until we got into the castle itself. Unfortunately you aren't allowed to take any pictures inside, and while I got one picture at the beginning they were very strict about it. But trust me when I say, the inside of this castle is amazing.

The rooms (that are finished, there are many rooms just not finished because they never finished the castle) are so ornate and intricately detailed. For example: It took four wood carvers four years to finish the woodwork in his bedroom alone. The inside of the castle was just breathtaking.

So after finishing inside the castle, we headed back down and then took the more scenic path back down to the tour meeting point. We got back on the bus, then back on the trains, and then back to the hostel. We met up with Dave and Jen again and then with two Canadian girls they were hanging out with in the hostel while we were gone and we went back to the Hofbrauhaus to watch the USA World Cup game and eat dinner. I had a vegetarian mushroom soup meal with bread dumpling things. It was awesome. And the US team played like garbage and lost. That was not so awesome, but it's okay because I don't really care. So after that we came back to the hostel, and now it is off to sleep because tomorrow we are heading out to Dachau, the concentration camp closest to Munich.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Mmmm... Munich!

Welcome to Munich!

Today we arrived at 7:30am to Munich on our overnight train. We got off the train and together with Ian and 2 guys who were in on the train and also looking for our hostel and we headed out in search of it. Our hostel for the next three nights here in Munich is the Wombat Hostel. We had trouble finding it because all the streets we needed to be on were not labeled on the map. But we found it after a little back and forth and it is a really awesome hostel. We dropped our bags and Ian did as well and we headed into the hostel's breakfast. It was a really awesome buffet breakfast and even had a panini maker, wow!

After breakfast we headed over to a short walk to Marienplatz, the center of the old town, right under the Glockenspiel. We hung out for a bit and then headed out with the tour. Our tour guides name was Kevin, and he was pretty cool. We did a lot on the tour, but to be honest it was the least enjoyable of our free tours so far. I don't know why, the tour was fine and I enjoyed it but... maybe we were just tired from the lack of sleep on the train all night. We did cover a good amount of stuff on the tour. Bullet list time!

  • Glockenspiel, the famous "dancing clock" of Munich. It was pretty cool I guess. Kinda small-world-esque to be honest.
  • The New Town Hall (which is older then the Old Town Hall due to the old one being burned down and rebuilt)
  • The Old Town Hall
  • Church of Our Lady (and the legend of the Devil's Footprint)
  • Another cathedral that I don't remember the name of... started with a T... haha stupid German names...
  • Memorial to the German Resistance (Gold brick path along the alleyway they avoided the Nazi checkpoints with)
  • Origins of Oktoberfest
  • Hofbrauhaus (famous beer garden and great hall)
  • Viktualienmarkt
  • St. Jakobsplatz
  • Mary's Column
After the tour we went to a nearby place to get some good German food with the tour guide, as they often offer after these tours. We went with a small group of people from the tour, and we ended up hanging out with most of them for the rest of the day. Lunch was good, and we hung out there for quite some time. We were hanging out with Emmett and Justine from Canada, Kathleen from Australia, and of course Ian was with us still as well. It was really cool hanging out all day.

After lunch we went back to Hofbrauhaus and hung out inside. And everyone else got their German beers, regulars of which were these giant 1 liter glasses. We hung out in the beir garten and just had fun for like an hour or two while the football game was on in the background and the crowd was freaking out on and off. After that we headed back to the hostel very briefly just to get our room situated and our bags moved up, then we headed to a bar/restaurant nearby the hostel called Agustiner Brau Mundhen. We hung out there, I got this awesome beef gulach soup, and we just hung out talking and stuff for a while more. We then went back to the hostel and hung out some more in the open air courtyard common area in the center of the first floor, as the end of the football game played. Ian left for his overnight train to Paris, and then everyone else left to get some sleep since they are all leaving in the morning as well. We had an awesome time today with our little Munich Posse that formed, and it is too bad tonight was the last night for all of them in Munich.

Tomorrow, Sharon and I have a day at Neuschwanstein Castle planned, and it shall be excellent. Heaps of fun to be had! Good night all!

Berlin!

Post about Berlin yesterday...

I love Berlin. This city is so choice. I want to visit here again. I don't know, it is just the vibe I get. There was nothing in particular that was so amazing, I just really really love it here.

Today we spent the day exploring the city. We got up and got breakfast at a nearby cafe. We then got on the metro (got a day pass) and headed to the Brandenburg Gate to meet up with the New Europe free tour. We took the tour, our tour guide was a kiwi named Stephanie and she was really awesome, and we saw a ton of stuff. This tour in particular had the most sort of history lesson type of things and interesting stories, and it was really great. We saw so much, it was the longest free tour yet (3.5 hours) including... (excuse my bad spelling, I'm sure I will butcher some stuff)

  • Brandenburg Gate
  • Reichstag
  • Memorial to the Murdered Jews
  • Site of the bunker Hitler killed himself in... now a nondescript dirt parking lot. Suck it Hitler.
  • Checkpoint Charlie
  • A Standing segment of the Berlin Wall
  • Bepel Platz
  • Hitler's Opera House (rebuilt like 4 times)
  • Underground empty bookcase, memorial to the 20,000 books burned by the Nazis
  • Memorial to the New Watch
  • TV Tower, known as the "Pope's Revenge" because all the crosses were taken down in Berlin but the sun reflects off the TV Tower in the shape of a cross.
  • Museum Island - island formed by the river running through Berlin with multiple museums on it.
The tour was totally awesome. After we wandered around a bit on Museum island, then headed back towards our Hostel meandering around, and then stopped at a beer garden called Prater Beir Garten. We hung out there for a while, got some German food such as brotwurst, and watched some world cup. We then stopped into some stores and fooled around, looking at various things for sail. Caption for the picture of me with the big fake revolver: "I have THIS!"

After we headed back to the restaurant from last night and got another strudel. Sooo good! Then we headed back to the hostel, grabbed our bags, and headed to Berlin Hbf station.

We were waiting for our over night train and met a guy named Ian from Michigan who had been living in Vienna for the past 6 weeks for school and was now traveling for the next 10 days before going home. We hung out for a little while on the train and decided that we would all hang out the next day in Munich and go on the tour together. Then there was the overnight train... which was seats and not beds. Woah... that sucks. So we had to spend all night sitting in the train. Yuck. Oh well, Berlin was awesome and Munich now!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Awesome Awesome Awesome

I heard a rumor that a certain relative of mine who will remain nameless has devised a drinking game revolving around every time I say the word awesome in my blog. This post is for you!

awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome

Welcome to Germany...

Guten Tag!

This afternoon we arrived in Berlin. We spent a good hunk of time traveling (5 hour train ride from Prague to Berlin... I watched a lot of Lost... :-D) and got into Berlin around 3:30pm. We hopped a few metros and made our way to our hostel, EastSeven Berlin. The hostel is pretty nice, especially the common areas. We dropped our stuff, gathered maps and stuff, and asked the desk where we could get some good authentic German food, and he directed us to a place that was like a 10 minute walk away. So off we went.

We walked along to the restaurant, called Schusterjunge, and as we walked I was getting a really good vibe from the city, and I'm excited to explore it tomorrow. We got there and ordered our food... I had Shnitzle, Dave had Bratwurst, and the grils had 2 different beef dishes. The food was totally delicious. And it tasted so German. It was awesome. And after we finished, we ordered some apple strudel. Holy crap. That was the best strudel ever. It was insanely good. After we headed back to the hostel and just kind of hung out and planned our day tomorrow. Tomorrow we hit the town, and that night at 8pm we have our last overnight train, to Munich. So Berlin's post will have to be postponed a bit. Only 3 more countries to go after Germany!

So since we didn't really much of anything to report today, I thought I would fill the rest of this blog post with fun facts about our trip so far! Here goes!

  • Today is day 30 of the trip.
  • So far we have visited 26 cities in 10 countries, with 6 - 9 more cities (depending on what happens and our time) in 3 more countries to go.
  • We have been on 28 trains for a total time of about 67 hours.
  • Factor in the 63 metros we have taken (Be them above ground trains, subway trains, or funicular trains) and we have been on a total of 91 total trains so far.
  • To date I have taken 3,197 photos totaling 14.8 GB
And well... I can't really think of any other fun facts. Auf Wiedersehen!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Czech It Out!

Pat Hughes here, reporting live from Prague, in the Czech Republic. There has been a great deal of activity in the area today, and I'm here to give you all the updates.
This morning we got up and headed down to the breakfast here at our Prague hostel, Sir Toby's. The breakfast was not included, which of course stinks, but for only 100 Czech Crowns ($5) You got a cook-it-yourself all you can eat buffet. Eggs, pancakes (first time seeing pancakes in Europe, most countries don't think of it as breakfast!), cereal, yogurt, fruit, etc. It was good and we filled up well to cover lunch as well (always a good thing).

After we left the hostel and got on a tram (Prague is made up of metro systems like subways and trams like subways that run in the middle of the cars on the roads above ground) to the center area of the city, just a 5 minute walk from Old Town Center. Prague's Old Town is really great. The architecture throughout Prague is so varied from Gothic to Art Nouveau and even to the only existing Cubist building in the world. Really great stuff.

At the Old Town Center we grabbed yet another New Europe free walking tour. Every city from here on out has one so we will be doing this in every city to really get acquainted with it from the get go. For free!

The tour was totally great as usual. Some of the many things we covered and places we visited include... (bullet list time again!)

  • Astronomical Clock
  • Wenceslas Square
  • St. Jame's Cathedral (Which has a mummified severed hand hanging in it, relating to a legend involving a living statue of the Virgin Mary, a thief, and a priest with a saw...)
  • Powder Tower
  • Rudolfinum
  • Old Jewish Quarter
  • Spanish Synagogue
  • Old New Synagogue
  • Cubism Cafe
  • Prague Castle (Oldest and biggest Medieval castle in the world)
  • Charles Bridge
After the tour we went in some stores, stopped at the post office for Sharon to send out post cards, and headed over to the Franz Kafka museum. Now Sharon and I had no real interest, but Dave wanted to go and Jen went in with him. They said it was cool and trippy, it sounded pretty rad their descriptions actually made me kind of wish I went in. But the area outside was cool, we sat and hung out and there were these 2 statues of guys peeing on the Czech Republic that moved around (It was a water fountain). It was cool.

When they got out we headed back to the Astronomical Clock to see it go off for the 6pm hour. It does this little thing with moving characters and stuff, which in and of itself isn't that impressive... but when you look at it through the lens of being the oldest working machine in the world (built in 1410) it is pretty impressive.

We then headed back to the hostel for the obligatory rest/nap time that is becoming so common these days. Seems like everyone is starting to get run down by the trip (Not me, just to clarify... I usually just sit on a computer or writing in my journal or watching Lost or something during these times) Then the other three were off to a Pub Crawl. I'm sure they are having a bang up time right now. As for me? I headed down to the pub under the hostel with our roommate Emilio and we had this traditional Czech soup they were serving and hung out while a live Jazz band played. It was real cool and real chill. Now I'm just hanging out relaxing in the room, and it is good. Tomorrow? Berlin!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Video Time!

Hi all! Tonight we arrived in Prague, Czech Republic, and since the day was mostly spent traveling I don't really have anything of note to report. So we put together this video of things we have been up to so far on the trip... enjoy!


video

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Vienna, Austria...it's Naht a Tumah


So today we rolled into Vienna at around 8am on our overnight train. The overnight train was pretty cool. For around an hour and a half we were just the 4 of us in our own private room, but the rooms were 6 person so we knew we would most likely eventually lose our privacy. We had some dinner we had got at a market before hand and just hung out. We ran into some people who were in our room at Naples the first night we were there so we talked to them a bit. Eventually 2 guys got on and then we put the beds up and all went to sleep. I know the others had some sleeping troubles but I slept pretty well, I like overnight trains.

We got in and made our way to the Hostel. It is located like right next to a metro stop so that is good. We got there and checked our bags before hitting the city. We first decided to go to go to the Schoenbrunn Palace. We got there and found that you could wander around the gigantic garden for free, so we spent a few hours exploring the grounds. While we were there we found that there was a hedge maze, so we paid to go into it. Not only was there a hedge maze, but there were three hedge mazes! It was totally awesome. We ran around and successfully navigated the first one. We wen't into the second one and it was a shorter one, kind of for kids, but it had all these cool things inside it at different parts you had to find your way to. There was a little mirror hall, these pump things, a body of water you had to hop stones to get across, and these panels on the ground that played musical notes when you jumped on them. After navigating out of that one we got to the third one, and it led first to a climbing pole, which Dave and I climbed up (like climbing up a real big fireman's pole to a bell) and saw where the end of the maze was. We got there, a raised area of land with a tree in it, and then got back out.

We left there and looked around the park a little more until we made it too the palace. When we were back at the palace, Dave and Jen decided they wanted to go check out Sigmund Freud's museum/house and we were going to go to Stephansdom Cathedral. So they left and we headed up that way.

The cathedral was really cool, but naturally - like everything else we seem to see on this trip - it was covered up and heavily under refurbishment. But one side and half the spire were showing, and they were cool looking. The inside was pretty impressive, and such a pure example of Gothic architecture. Very cool. From there Sharon and I wandered the area a little, it was a pretty hopping area. We ended up getting a late lunch and then headed back when it was finally time to check in so we could check into our room.

The hostel we are staying in is very cool. It has a good common room and stuff and people are around so we will probably hang out here for the rest of the night (I think my Blog usually displays the time in USA Eastern, but here as I'm typing it is 8:15 so it will post a little after this). Our room is so big and nice, has a private bathroom, and even has a TV. This is only the third time we have had a TV, and the first time it didn't work, so we watched a little in German because it was funny. We saw an episode of Family Guy, I liked it a lot haha. Peter sounded so angry.

So tomorrow we will be going to the Czech Republic to visit Prague, and we will be there for 2 nights before heading into Germany. After a few days in Germany, we will be going to Belgium for one day, and then finishing up for 2 days in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Then after our over night layover in Reykjavik, Iceland we will be home! Everything goes by so quickly...

Venice: The Final Frontier (aka The Last Day in Italy)


Last night we had an overnight train from Venice to Vienna, so obviously I had no internet. Here is that post!

Yesterday we went to Venice. We got in pretty early, checked our baggage, and booked our overnight train for that night into Vienna, Austria. When all that was said and done, we headed out to hit the town.

Vienna is so cool looking. The way the water just runs throughout the whole city is awesome. No cars, and their taxis and metro system are boats. It is really awesome. We walked around exploring the city some for a while, walking through buildings and along water ways and over bridges. We eventually made our way to St. Marco Square and saw the big cathedral there and all the cafes, but did not go in because the line was too long. We saw the Bridge of Sighs, or at least some of it as most was covered by billboards because naturally it was being refurbished. Like everything in Europe this summer. We walked along the water some more and explored into the city. We looked at some stores, there were so many places selling those Venetian masks... some of them were so ornate, outrageous, and awesome.

We eventually found ourselves at the very end of the city, so we started to make our way back in the direction of the the train station. As we had been walking all this time, it had been raining lightly. Never much more then drizzle really, but fairly consistent for an hour or 2. When we got back to St. Marco Square we found that much of it had flooded. The water table was already high in Venice when we got here, so the rain raised it to the point where water seeps into the city from the roads and the waterways were flooding up some of the entrances into the paths. Everyone in the square was trying to maneuver through the same 1 person wide dry parts and it was causing major traffic. We just walked right around them through the very shallow water to get the hell out of there. We found the city fairly flooded throughout. We stopped in a park and some more stores as we walked.

We split up for a little while, and Sharon and I took a gondola ride around some of the city. It was really cool to ride in an actual gondola through the canals of Venice. Our gondola (pilot? captain?) rowed us and was even wearing one of those big gondola hats you see in movies.

We got our last real Italian meal at a place on the way, I had Spaghetti Bolognese. It was alright. The portion was super small though so we ended up getting a slice of pizza when we were almost back to the station. It was the most similar to pizza at home but the slice was huge and delicious. I had mushroom, yum!

While we were making our way back, we saw a small tornado in the distance. We weren't so sure it could be that at first so we studied it for a while, and there was a crowd watching as well. It was fluctuating in size and shape and absolutely swirling. It dissipated while we were watching after a while.

We got to the station, headed to Mestro station, and got our overnight train to Vienna Austria!