Thursday, 26 April 2012

Saturday April 7th, 2012 – Berlin

            On Friday April 6th, 2012 we arrived in Berlin in the afternoon.  After we checked into our hostel we saw the Holocaust memorial, Brandenburg gate, Reichstag, DDR museum and went in some shops on the main street from the Brandenburg gate.  We also saw some parts of the Berlin Wall.  The next day we went to the Checkpoint Charlie museum where we learned about various escape stories of people trying to escape from East Berlin to West Berlin over the wall.  One women escaped successfully by hiding between two surfboards with a cut out of her body in them on top of a car.  Another women escaped by hiding inside two suitcases put together.  Other people escaped by creating zip lines, their own little planes, and other ladders that would quickly fit over the wall and then collapse again.  All of it was very interesting and I would greatly recommend going to it if anyone visits Berlin.  Next we saw the Topographie des Terrors exhibit where my hatred for Hitler exponentially rose x infinity.  In high school they taught you a bit about World War II and the holocaust, but not to the extent that I learned while in Berlin.  After reading some stories and things that happened to some of the Jewish people I shed a few tears right in the museum.  I just can’t imagine what it must have ACTUALLY been like.  Hearing the descriptions of everything in all the museums definitely doesn’t do it justice to the real thing.
            Next we went to the East Side Gallery where the longest piece of the remaining Berlin wall is.  There were many murals on it each portraying different messages.  After that we went to the Easter market in Berlin, which lightened up my spirits.  Sadly, I became depressed again when went to the Holocaust Memorial and information centre.  We learned all about the Holocaust in great detail there and it was all very heavy to take in.  Pretty sure I shed a few more tears while reading some stuff there too.  Finally, we decided to spurge and go out for dinner and we got ribs and wings at an Australian restaurant.  They weren’t too expensive which was why we got them.  That day in Berlin it was extremely cold and it even started snowing at some points, which was why we spent it in museums all day.  The next day we left for Amsterdam after a depressing day and a half learning about Berlin’s history in great detail.

Thursday April 5th, 2012 – Vienna and Prague

            On Monday April 2nd Mike and I arrived in Vienna bright and early from our overnight train.  We only had about 5-6 hours in the city so we decided to mostly walk around and take the subway everywhere to see as much as we could.  We walked around the old town, and saw the beautiful architecture and gardens.  We walked by the Hapsburg Palace but sadly couldn’t go inside since we didn’t have enough time.  Next, we went to the Schonbrunn Palace and walked around the grounds and Easter market there.  I wish we had more time in Vienna because it looks like a gorgeous city to see in more detail with many palaces and museums to visit.  After lunch, we then took a train to Prague.
            Prague ended up being our favourite part of the whole trip, and is probably my favourite city I’ve ever visited, tied with Hawaii.  When we first got there and checked into our amazing hostel, we walked around the Easter markets and old town.  Right away I was in love with the Easter markets.  They offered many different types of traditional Czech food, which were ALL amazing and relatively cheap.
            On the Tuesday we had 2 3 hour-long walking tours of the city.  We started off with the free walking tour, which made me LOVE the city.  Our tour guide was superb at her job and told us all about the history of the city.  I didn’t know much about Prague’s history so learning about it was definitely very interesting.  Mike already knew about it so he ended up teaching me about it further after the tours.  During the tour we saw the Old Town Square and the famous astrological astronomical clock.  We also saw the Estate’s Theatre where Mozart conducted the premiere of his opera Don Giovanni in 1787.  We walked to Wencenslas Square and learned about the modern history of the country including the Velvet Revolution, which happened within that square and led to the fall of communism in the country in 1989 (so recent!).  We then saw the powder tower, the Spanish synagogue, and Old New synagogue, the Metronome, and Prague Castle.  Afterwards, we did a 3 hour tour of the Prague castle and surrounding area where we had a panoramic view of Prague, saw the TV tower with babies on it, St. Vitus Cathedral, the castle district, changing of the guards, and a monastery.  That evening we had dinner overlooking the Charles Bridge on a boat restaurant on the river during the sunset.  That pasta we had was the best pasta and food we had on our whole trip.  It wasn’t too expensive either and definitely was a highlight of mine of our time in Prague.
            The next day we saw the memorial where Jan Palach set himself on fire in 1969, the Museum of Communism, the giant baby sculptures in a park, and the Lennon Wall.  We then went inside Wallenstein’s palace for a while and saw white peacocks.  We also saw two peacocks mate in front of 20 people!  Next we walked up to the 75-foot tall metronome, which was ereceted in 1991.  It stands on the spot where an enormous monument of Soviet Leader Joseph Stalin once stood but was destroyed in 1962 by dynamite.  It represents a separation from communism, pacing time toward the future.  We then walked to a beer garden in a park and had beer and ice cream on a patio, which were both super cheap.  Next we went to my favourite part of the city in the old town square and listened to traditional Czech music while traditional Czech dancers were performing as part of the Easter Market.  We then got fried cheese, nuts, and a deep fried garlic and cheese bread thing that is apparently a traditional Czech food.  The food was AMAZING.  Next we went to the top of the Old Town Hall Tower to get a view of the city at night.  Finally, we ended our night by going to a rooftop patio overlooking the old town square and getting drinks and ice cream as a treat.  The day was definitely a good one.
            The next day was our last full day in Prague.  It was cold and rainy but that didn’t stop us from exploring more of the city.  We saw the dancing house, walked up to the little Eiffel tower, went in a mirror maze, and wandered back down to some shops.  We then went to the Easter Market yet again (because I loved it so much) and saw some farm animals there this time.  We mingled around the vendors, then did some grocery shopping and went on the internet at the hostel and then back to the old town square for our final night there.

Sunday April 1st, 2012 – Milan and Venice

           So I know I’m long overdue with updating everyone about my Eurotrip I went on!  Here is the first post of many about my 3 weeklong trip!  On Wednesday March 28, 2012 Mike and I left for Milan and got there pretty late with only enough time to check into our hotel.  The next day we spent the morning in the city.  We saw the Duomo Cathedral and went inside of it.  We then walked around the streets and saw the La Scala Opera house.  After walking around and going into a few touristy shops we then had lunch and went on our first train ride of many on our trip.  We started to make our way to Venice with our Eurail passes!
            That afternoon we arrived in Venice and checked into our hostel which was right on the Grand Canal.  Right when we arrived in the city I was blown away by it.  It’s SUCH a unique city with only vespas and people walking everywhere since some of the “roads” are pretty much alleyways.  That evening we walked around the city and saw the Rialto Bridge, the Bridge of Sighs, and St. Mark’s Square.  We then decided to go back to the hostel since it was starting to get dark and we had a 30 minute walk ahead of us through the maze of Venice “streets”.  Unfortunately, we kind of got lost and ended up walking around for an hour before we found our way home.
            On Friday March 30, 2012 we spent the day touring around the islands in Venice.  We first took the waterbus to Murano where the famous Murano glass is made.  We started off with seeing a glass blowing demonstration where the two men made a vase and a gorgeous horse in just a couple minutes.  We made our way along the main canal in the island and went in MANY small shops that sold Murano glass.  Even though most of it was out of our price range, it was worth it just to see the beautiful art the people of the island make.  Next we went to the island of Burano, which is famous for its differently coloured houses.  The famous leaning church steeple was there and it made me wonder if it would ever fall down.  After exploring the island, going into shops, and getting some gelato, we then made our way to the main island of Venice again to St. Mark’s square.  We decided to splurge a little and go to a restaurant for dinner so we found a cute restaurant and ate our amazing pasta we got outside.  Afterwards, we walked around St. Mark’s square more and listened to the music that was being played by musicians.  Since it was already 9pm at this point, we decided to take the waterbus home since there was a bus stop right in front of our hostel.  It was nice taking the waterbus at night since we basically got an amazing tour of the Grand Canal.
            On the Saturday we went inside St. Mark’s Cathedral – wow!  The whole inside of it has mosaics on the walls that were individually placed there by people many, MANY years ago.  The mosaics themselves were incredible.  We then went in the museum and the terrace at the top of the cathedral to overlook St. Mark’s square.  Next, we went inside the Doge’s Palace, which had amazing artwork on all the walls inside the giant rooms.  It reminded me of the Palace of Versailles.  We ended up seeing the dungeons and walked inside the Bridge of Sighs.  Next, we went to Academia, which was a famous art gallery.  We then walked around that area and found an area where gondolas were made.  Since it was a warm day right by the water, we then decided to have some gelato beside a large canal.  We ended up walking along the canal and then had a private “gondola” ride of our own in one of the traghettos, which were basically retired gondolas (rides were only 50 cents to get across the Grand Canal!).  We then made our way to our hostel and ended the night with making our own dinner with multi coloured and different shaped pasta we had gotten earlier in the day.
            Sunday was our last day in Venice since we were leaving that night to go to Vienna on an overnight train.  We spent the day walking around Venice in the area by our hostel.  We walked all the way to the Rialto Bridge and market where we got lunch as well.  Of course we went in many cute shops and bakeries as we walked around.  Since we had walked around a lot during the past few days, we decided to sit around more to rest our feet.  We went to the Jewish Ghetto and people watched in the main square there.  We saw a few churches including the Frari as well.  Lastly, we sat by the Grand Canal for a while and walked to a nearby park and through laneways.  Finally we left Venice in our 6-person couchette within the train to Vienna.