Travels in Italy: Florence

florencepanofb

From the sunny shores of the Bay of Naples, we headed back north and inland to the capital of Tuscany–Florence. Florence is a beautiful city and as the birth place of the Renaissance, it’s an art-lovers dream. All around the city are many art museums, galleries, and wonderfully decorated churches.

One of the things I loved about Florence was how easy it was to get around by foot. Compared to other Italian cities, it’s a smallish city with all the sights and attractions being fairly close together. There is a bus system that could make getting around a lot quicker, but the buildings and streets of Florence are beautiful–they’re meant to be walked!

Despite Florence being a treasure trove of museums and art, we actually skipped out on some of the major sights like the Uffizi, where works from famous artists such as Michaelangelo, Da Vinchi, and Raphael are on display. Or Accademia, where the famous David statue resides. At this point during our trip around Europe, we were getting a little tired of seeing so many art galleries, museums, and churches. We did make an effort to visit the Duomo however, the main attraction of Florence right in the heart of the city. The massive cathedral, which began construction in 1296, was (and still is) the largest masonry dome on Earth when it was completed in 1436. It’s huge and it towers over the city. At 114 meters (374 feet), the Statue of Liberty could easily fit inside it. making it easily recognizable from afar. On the inside it’s quite ornate and looks different than other churches I’ve seen in Europe. And entrance is free!

IMG_1025

We also did check out a few other churches such as Santa Croce, where Galileo, Michaelangelo, and Machiavelli are buried and another (Basilica de Medici) where Donatello rests. Other than that we just enjoyed walking around and getting lost in the streets.

IMG_1034

Of course we also paid a visit to the famous Ponte Vecchio, the last remaining medieval bridge. During WWII all the bridges in Florence were destroyed with the exception of this one. Rumor has it that Hitler sent a last minute decree to spare the bridge as he had a liking for it. Whether that’s true or not, it’s still standing after all this time and is among the oldest bridges in Europe. What also makes this bridge unique is that there are still shops lining its sides, just as they were centuries ago.

IMG_1101

On the other side of the river is my favorite place in the city, Piazzale di Michaelangelo, where you can get an incredible panoramic view of all of Florence (as seen in the header photo)!

Another great view of the city can be seen from the nearby town of Fiesole, out in the countryside and up in the hills outside of the city. From Florence we took a bus to the tiny commune and spent an afternoon there walking about and watching the sunset over the city.

IMG_1147

That’s all I have for Florence unfortunately. It really is a beautiful city with lots to see and do, but unfortunately we just weren’t keen on seeing most of them. I would probably come back if I ever found myself in Italy though, as a jumping off point to visit other parts of Tuscany. After Florence we headed west to our last (and my favorite) place in Italy–Cinque Terre!

Posted in Europe, Italy, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Travels in Italy: Sorrento & Capri

sorrentopano

Sorrento is located in a beautiful and serene part of Italy, just south of Pompeii where we based ourselves to explore the area around the Bay of Naples. It’s a small city nestled at the foot of a beautiful mountain range that graces the edge of the Mediterranean Sea. Most of the coastline is textured with steep cliffs, deep gorges, narrow winding roads, and tiny fishing villages clinging to its shores. Mount Vesuvius can be seen on a clear day across the bay. It’s an attractive scene and it’s very easy to get to from nearby Naples or Pompeii by train via the Circumvensuviana line.

Aside from the beautiful scenery, Sorrento is also a popular jumping off point to other famous sights nearby, including the islands of Capri (which we would visit another day) and Ischia and the glitzy Almafi Coast. This draws in thousands upon thousands of tourists each year and in mid-summer we were at the peak of the season. The city caters to tourists and getting caught up in the tourist trap was something we weren’t keen on doing. So since it was a hot day, we decided to go swimming. There are a few beaches near the city center that you have to pay to use, but they’re small, pebbly, and quite crowded. I had heard from someone about a swimming hole that the locals like to hang out at about 3 km outside of town, so finding it was our mission for the day.

The walk was very nice. Most of it was just following one of the narrow winding roads that leads out of town, heavily congested with tourist buses and Vespas. There are nice views of the city and the bay along the way. Eventually we left the crowded road for a long, quite cobblestone street that descended toward a hidden natural pool surrounded by a wall of rock. It was amazing! There was a cave at the other end that you could swim through and out into the open sea. We swam and did some cliff jumping for the afternoon and had a nice picnic lunch admiring the views across the bay. A magical little place.

IMG_0896

The following day we came back to Sorrento and just nearly missed the last morning ferry to Capri. The island, only 5 kilometers from the mainland is a giant craggy monolith of limestone rising out of a shimmering cerulean blue sea. In the Greek epic, The Oddysey, the island was known as the isle of the Sirens–seductive woman-like creatures whose songs lured sailors toward the island causing them to crash into the rocks. While the Sirens may exist only in the storybooks, the island is still undoubtedly alluring. It’s been a popular destination even since the era of the Roman empire and in the summer time it attracts thousands of visitors a day. The tiny little towns are packed full of day trippers. Glamorous villas and vacation homes hang high on the cliffs above the water. All around the island’s many coves and hidden beaches, multi-million dollar yachts are anchored just off shore. Yet despite the tacky souvenir shops, the crowded beaches, and inflated prices that come with all the tourism, it doesn’t take away the enchanting atmosphere of the island.

IMG_1013

While most people come here to see the famous blue grotto, we decided to spend our limited time on the island ascending to the top of Mount Solaro–the highest point. Upon stepping off the ferry, we were greeted by a rather long line of people waiting for the bus going up the road to the Anacapri, the lofty little town on the western slopes of the mountain. Since the roads in Capri are so narrow and windy, the buses are very small and can only hold a limited number of people at a time. So rather than waiting in line for an hour we decided to hike up. The 1.6 mile (2.7 km) path between Marina Grande and Anacapri seems to be only a tame little walk…on a map. In reality, it was a very hot, sweaty, and exhausting climb. Albeit it only took us about 40 minutes, trudging up the seemingly endless stairways under the hot Italian sun left us beat. And I’m used to lots of hiking! Still, I felt better doing that than waiting in the bus line in town. And the views along the way were rewarding.

IMG_0965

Upon arrival in Anacapri we made our way over to the chairlift that would take us up to the summit. From what I remember, it cost about €10 round-trip and took about 20 minutes. At the top we marveled at the amazing 360 degree views of the island and the Gulf of Naples.

IMG_0980IMG_1000

We stayed up there for about an hour before coming back down into town. This time we managed to hop right on a bus and made it down to the marina in no time. Since we only had about an hour left before our ferry departed for the mainland, we decided to go for a swim at one of the nearby beaches. So refreshing after a long day of walking up and around the upper reaches of the island.

Capri has been a place I’ve always wanted to go to and despite our short day trip, it will always be a memorable one! We left the island late in the afternoon and upon arrival in Sorrento, took the crowded train back to Pompeii. We indulged in our nightly ritual of getting a pizza for dinner before passing out for the night, having to get a good night’s sleep for the long train ride to our next destination–Florence!

Posted in Europe, Italy, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Travels In Italy: Pompeii

IMG_0858

Journeying further south, we departed Rome on the train bound for Pompeii where we would be based for the next few days to explore the area around the Bay of Naples. This is a beautiful part of the country not to be missed. The sun-drenched coastline is dotted with cities and little rural villages, surrounded by steep mountains and limestone cliffs that plunge right into the deep blue Mediterranean. It’s a wonderful little region with lots of things to see and explore, great food (pizza was by far the best here), and a much more relaxed and slower pace of life than other parts of Italy. I think one week would be ideal enough for a visit, but we had to cram in as much as we could in four days.

We arrived at the station around noon and made our way into town to check into our hostel. Pompeii is recognized as the ancient Roman city, now in ruins following the dramatic and violent 79 AD eruption of nearby Mount Vesuvius. However, the nearby town of Pompei is still alive and well with a population of about 25,000 people. It’s a nice little town. It mostly caters to tourists who come and visit the ruins, but it had a nice charm to it. The center of town boasts a grand Catholic cathedral with fountains and a large grassy piazza before its doors.

Our hostel was very nice as well–friendly staff, nice courtyard area to relax in, the rooms were quite nice, close to the center of town. Even during the busy summer season it was a fairly inexpensive place to stay. If you ever find yourself in Pompei I’d recommend staying at Agora Hostel Deluxe! The only downfall was there wasn’t a kitchen there to cook our own food, which really wasn’t that big of a deal anyway because we were in Italy–the land of good food! So basically every day for dinner we would go out into town for a meal. Which for the most part was pizza every night. With Naples, the birthplace of pizza, just 20 minutes away by train, the pizza in Pompei was incredible. Definitely some of the best I’ve had and for only 5 euros you get a whole pie that’s big enough for two people, which I guiltlessly devoured all to myself. It was so good!

photo (1)

After check-in we wandered over to the ruins of Pompeii just on the outskirts of town. We paid the entry fee and entered, free to explore the ancient city for the rest of the day.

IMG_0862

Pompeii was fascinating. It’s actually quite big, stretching out for about 170 acres, making it one of the largest excavation sites in the world. Once a prosperous city that was a popular summer vacationing spot for wealthy Romans, the cataclysmic eruption of Mount Vesuvius buried Pompeii and the nearby city of Herculaneum under nearly 17 feet of ash and volcanic debris. Several thousand people perished and the city was forgotten about for nearly 1700 hundred years. What’s even more incredible is how well preserved the city actually is. Even 2000 years later, you can still see the mosaics, paintings, and even grafitti that decorate the walls inside the houses. And, displayed throughout various parts of the ruins, you can see the casts of the Roman victims frozen in time in their final moments.

IMG_0867IMG_0866IMG_0875

We spent hours here wandering the ancient streets. It reminded me of walking through the ruins of Machu Picchu, another ancient city forgotten for centuries. All you can do as you walk through the old stone buildings is letting your mind to wander and imagine what life was like back in the day.

Posted in Europe, Italy, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Travels In Italy: Rome

IMG_0762

After a wonderful time in beautiful Venice, we hopped on a high speed train bound for Rome. As a present-day and ancient capital, Rome is rich with history, old ruins, museums, churches, and of course great food. We spent a good four days there and I can say I really liked Rome. One of the first things that came to mind as we first started wandering around the city was how ancient it really is. Sure, European cities in general are all old and have unique histories in one way or another, but in Rome it has never appeared so prevalent. It’s amazing how you’ll be walking down the street past modern 21st century retail shops and corporate businesses then right around the block you’ll find something the Colosseum, which has been sitting there there for almost two thousand years. Rome is ancient. It’s also modern. It’s beautiful. And it’s the home to some of the most amazing gelato, which is just icing on the cake for me.

Here are some of the highlights during our stay:

The Colosseum
colosseumnight One of the most famous landmarks in the world and among the seven new wonders of the world, everyone goes to the Colosseum when they come to Rome. Just like the Eiffel Tower in Paris, seeing the Colosseum for the first time was surreal. You grow up seeing so many pictures of it you can hardly believe you’re there when you see it sitting there in front of you.

The Roman Forum
IMG_0640 Right next to the Colosseum is the Roman Forum, once the buzzing social and political center of the former Roman Empire. It’s hard not to imagine what it was like here thousands of years ago back in its heyday as famous ancient rulers and figures like Caesar and Augustus walked its streets.

The Vatican
vaticanspiralbw Another major landmark that everyone flocks to when in Rome. We easily spent a few hours there wandering through the museums, admiring Michaelangelo’s famous Creation of Adam painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, checking out all the priceless pieces of art, and basking under the heavenly light beaming through the windows of St. Peter’s Basilica.

The Gelato
It may have been because it was so refreshing after walking around all day under the hot sun, but I remember having some of the best gelato in Rome. There are a lot of gelaterias throughout the city, some selling the real stuff and others not so much. We learned that color and texture play a big role in determining what’s authentic. Anything that’s piled into a giant fluffy mountain and glowing vividly in color is most likely made from artificial ingredients. To find the real deal, the colors should be more muted and match their flavor. So the melone gelato shouldn’t be a vibrant orange like a traffic cone–it should look the same shade of orange as a real cantaloupe. Giolitti’s near the Piazza di Monte Citorio is a great place for some authentic gelato and was one of my favorites.

Hanging Out in the Piazzas
IMG_0677 All over Rome you can find public squares that are perfect places to eat lunch, feed the pigeons, and people watch. Piazza Navona was my favorite as it was surrounded by beautiful buildings and decorated with fountains.

The Fountains
IMG_0706 Speaking of fountains, Italians really know how to do them well. Although the famous fountains like the Trevi and Barcaccia (next to the Spanish Steps) were bone dry and under renovation during the time of our visit, there were lots of other intricately designed fountains throughout Rome.

Trastevere
IMG_0715 Across the Tiber River is an especially beautiful part of the city with a vibrant atmosphere, narrow cobblestone streets, aged, ivy-covered buildings, and tiny restaurants. Exactly how I imagined a street in Italy would look like. The neighborhood is also set at the base of the Gionicolo one of the tallest hills around Rome which offers a great view of the city. There’s a big fountain at the top–a perfect place to soak your feet after walking around all day in the sun!

Posted in Europe, Italy, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Travels in Italy: Venice

venicegrandcanal2

Known for its rich history, fantastic food, warm Mediterranean climate, and generally just being packed with loads of things to see made us realize that we didn’t want to just breeze through Italy. Some of the past few countries we had been through had only been brief visits of just 2-3 days, so we wanted to make sure we did Italy properly. Even then, two weeks wasn’t nearly enough time but I feel we made it to most to a lot of the highlights that make this country one of the most culturally rich and beautiful in Europe.

Our tour of Italy began in Venice after a long day of bus and train travel from Munich. Rather than staying in the city, we got off at Mestre Station on the mainland and stayed at the camping ground where it was cheaper (and by camping I mean glamping–even staying in one of the little bungalows was a great deal!) We only had a day and a half to see Venice so we didn’t want to waste any time. After grabbing a quick bite to eat we headed back to the station. A couple euros and a 10-minute train ride later we arrived in the city just as the sun was going down.

IMG_0387

Before coming to Italy I wasn’t really expecting a whole lot from Venice. Sure it’s known to be a beautiful city famous for its canals, but others I know said it was over-hyped. It’s hot and humid in the middle of summer, smelly, damp, and was overly crowded with tourists. But once we found ourselves standing on the banks of the Grand Canal, it was love at first sight. The city lights shimmering on the canals, busy with boats and gondolas gently gliding by. The colorful and rustic buildings rising out of the sea. The endless maze of narrow streets lined with little shops and restaurants. Venice truly is stunning and I think coming at night first played a big part in creating a good first impression. After all, the city empties out in the evening as all the day trippers head back to the mainland.

venice
venicemasks
venicecanal

We had no planned itinerary so we just aimlessly wandered the streets, which are more like alleyways really. Honestly, I think this is the best way to see Venice. There are literally no cars in the city–the only mode of transport are boats and your own two feet. Good thing we like to walk because we did a lot of it. We didn’t even really go into any museums or churches as we were happily content with just getting lost in the maze. There is a main route that connects the train station to Piazza San Marco that nearly all the tourists follow, but all it takes to leave the crowds is simply wandering astray down a side street. Once we did this we nearly had the place to ourselves at times. Even in the day time, when the island was packed full of day trippers, it was easy to find quite streets away from the crowds.

IMG_0511

One thing I found interesting about Venice (other than that fact that it’s built on water) was its unique architecture. It’s very different from any other city in Italy. Looking closely, there are signs of Islamic influences throughout the city, from curved windows to intricate designs and Arab façades. Even the canopies atop the domes of St. Mark’s adorned in its beautiful array of mosaics are quite Arab-esque. Something I didn’t expect to see in Venice, but it makes perfect sense as the city was one of the key ports during the spice trade linking commerce and trade between the east and the west.

IMG_0426
IMG_0535

I also found it to be an odd coincidence that Venice is shaped like a fish! The design was completely unintentional, it just so happens that the group of 117 islands that Venice sits on was naturally shaped that way. How amazing is that?

veniceboats2
venicecanalboat

So that’s how we spent our 36 hours at the city in the sea. Venice was much more than I imagined it to be and even though it is extremely touristy, you can’t be unimpressed by it. It’s picturesque, it’s different, it’s timeless–I imagine little has changed from hundreds of years ago. That’s why Venice sits easily toward the top of my list of favorite places in Europe. I would definitely come back if I ever find myself in Italy again.

Posted in Europe, Italy, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Prague

charlesbridge

My first post for 2015! Already it’s February and the time has really flown by. Between working all the time and having to deal with the crappy Australian internet, I’ve really gotten behind on keeping this site updated. It’s been six months since I was actually in Prague, so my memory of my three days there is a bit fuzzy and I didn’t keep a whole lot of notes about it, nor did I take many photos for some reason, so please bear with me!

After gallivanting around Germany for a week, I made a brief return to France before hopping on a flight to the Czech Republic (for only €40, what a bargain!), this time accompanied with my French travel partner, Servan. Other than hearing from friends and other travelers that Prague was a nice city, I really didn’t know much about it and didn’t know what to expect.

praguetownsquare

We arrived in the evening so we didn’t see much of the city in the beginning, other than heading off to a pub to try some goulash, a slow-cooked meat and vegetable stew which is a staple food in the Czech Republic and throughout Central Europe. It was amazingly delicious–not a bad first impression! The following morning we headed off into the city to see the sights. On our way to the Town Square we randomly stumbled across an old Soviet tank and and American army hummer parked next to a big building that said “museum” on it. Naturally we went inside just to check it out and ended up staying for over an hour. It turned out to be the Army museum and it was actually really interesting, covering the history of the Czech’s involvement in WWI and WWII. Best of all it was free!

Eventually we arrived at the Old Town Square where we met up with Servan’s brother and his girlfriend who also happened to be in town. We spent the rest of the day just walking around the city, checking out all some of the big sights like the Charles Bridge (which was so packed I didn’t even bother taking photos there), the Old Town, and the Church of St. Nicholas. We also stopped from time to time and allowed ourselves to be amused by the many street performers on the city streets, most were actually quite good at what they did. There are quite a few talented musicians in Prague!

IMG_0106

The following day we huffed it on up the hill to the city’s most famous landmark, the Prague Castle, the largest ancient castle in the world. It’s actually a conglomerate of several buildings, including a few palaces, churches, and halls. We didn’t go inside any of the buildings due to the long lines, but we did a little walking tour through the complex before heading back to the city to wander around some more. We ended up finding a nice little gem, the Valdštejnský palác, or Wallenstein Palace, which currently serves as the Czech Senate. Compared to the Prague Palace just up the hill it was way less crowded. The entrance is a little tricky to find, basically being just a doorway in a big wall. We walked among peacocks grazing about in the symmetrically designed Senate Gardens and even found that we could actually go inside parts of the palace. The rooms were beautifully decorated with artwork painted across the ceilings. I think it might have been my favorite building in Prague. Another added bonus, it was also free!

IMG_0147

Compared to other European cities, things are much cheaper in Prague so we took advantage of that and did some shopping in the New Town district. We also checked out the nearby Communist Museum (also quite interesting) and munched on street food. After dinner we grabbed some trdelník (a sugary pastry wrapped around a stick and grilled over a fire) and walked to Střelecký Ostrov, one of the islands in the middle of the Vltava River, which flows through the city. There was some kind of festival going on so we went to check it out and hung out next to the river to people watch. At the time there was also a storm passing through outside of town and we enjoyed watching the lightning show behind the castle. We didn’t stay out too long however, as we had an early bus to catch to Munich.

IMG_0217

I liked Prague. I didn’t LOVE I did with cities like Paris and Venice. But I did find it quite nice. It’s a city that has managed to withstand the test of time, loaded with lots of history and a well-preserved medieval charm. Unfortunately we didn’t really do a lot of research before coming so I have a feeling we missed out on seeing a lot of cool stuff outside the main tourist attractions. On top of that, we were there during the peak tourist season and with the city being crowded with so many other travelers it was a bit overwhelming at times walking through the narrow streets. Strangely, I didn’t mind the tourist summer crowds as much in other cities, but in Prague it just seemed too claustrophobic. I think it would be a much better place to visit in the off season, particularly in autumn. Maybe one day I’ll return then, and I’ll be able to really appreciate the city’s magic that everyone talks about.

Posted in Europe, Prague | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Germany

IMG_9837

I went to Germany mostly to visit friends that I met traveling in New Zealand or knew in high school. To be honest, before I knew any Germans it wasn’t really a place I ever dreamed about or considered going to. But I’m really glad I went because I loved my time there! And since I was staying with friends, I went to some places that tourists don’t really go to and experienced the “real” Germany. Some things I observed during my time there:

  • Germans seem to have a reputation of being so serious and unfriendly, but I found a lot of people were very friendly!
  • There are a lot of nice cars on the road and they all look really clean and well-kept.
  • You really can drive as fast as you want on the Autobahn.
  • Nobody talks like the German guy in this video. The German language  isn’t as harsh as most people make it out to be, especially in the north where it actually sounds quite nice!
  • The cities were clean and modern, yet still preserved their Old Word charm.
  • Like many other European countries I went to, the food was soooo good! From currywurst to apfelstrudel to all the delicious breads, I ate really well in Germany. And yes, the beer really is the best!

servanstephenhaufbraunhaus

Like throughout the rest of Europe, getting around is very easy. The train system is very good and travelling within regions can be very economical if you’re travelling with a few people using a regional pass. Bus companies like Meinfernbus are great if you don’t mind spending more time getting from place to place. They’re very cheap and comfortable, sometimes costing just a few euros. Most of my time in Germany was spent in the west and the north, although I did spend a few days in the south as well.

Düsseldorf
photo 1
Düsseldorf was the first place I went to and it’s where I met up with my friend, Annette, whom I met traveling in New Zealand. It wasn’t the best day weather-wise, but we still spent the day out in the rain walking around the city for a few hours. Düsseldorf is an artsy upscale city in the west of Germany situated along the Rhine river. We tried some Leberwurst and Kartoffelsalat (German potato salad) for lunch and spent a few hours walking the streets and along the riverfront admiring the city’s modern style and funky architecture.

Cologne
kolnoldtownAfter Düsseldorf, we hopped on the train further up the river to the nearby city of Cologne. After leaving the station, the first thing you see is the Kölner Dom, a massive Gothic-style cathedral in the city center. It’s huge–even bigger than Notre Dame in Paris. In fact when it was completed it was the tallest building on Earth for a short time. After checking out the cathedral, we followed the grey cobblestone streets to the Altstadt or Cologne’s old town. Compared to Düsseldorf, Cologne seemed more laid back and trendy with a definite hipster scene going on. Even in the rain, the streets are bright with colorful buildings and lively with hip cafés and bars. And of course no visit to Cologne is complete without drinking some Kölsch beer!

Bielefeld
IMG_9815After Düsseldorf and Cologne, I stayed with Annette and her family in her hometown of Bielefeld for a few days. It’s a big university town in the northwest that hardly ever sees tourists (at a population of over 300,000 people I would call it a city, but by German standards it’s a big town). Many Germans haven’t even been there and there’s even a joke about how the town is just a conspiracy and doesn’t really exist. But it does and it was actually a nice area to visit for a few days! The town is surrounded by forest covered hills, with lots of hiking and biking trails. There’s even a castle on top of one of the hills that overlooks the town, so one day we decided to hike to the castle via a long hike through the hills. Somewhere along the way we missed a turn and got lost, ending up in some neighborhood at the other end of town. While walking down one of the streets, we came across an old couple out in front of one of the houses and asked them for directions to the castle. Instead, they kindly gave us a ride all the way up to the castle in their nice clean car, even with the little muddy dog we had with us! It’s one of my favorite memories from Germany.

Another day we drove out to the countryside to the nearby town of Detmold. It’s a beautiful little town that looks just the way I thought a German town would look like– cobblestone pedestrian-only streets lined with little shops and charming old German-style buildings. The town had a very relaxed atmosphere and on a warm sunny summer day it was the perfect place to be. Visiting places like Bielefeld shows that it pays to go off the beaten track sometimes!

Hamburg
hamburgskylineAfter saying farewell to Bielefeld, I took the bus north to the city of Hamburg and stayed with my friend Alena, who was an exchange student at my high school I’ve stayed in contact with over the years. I’ve always heard Hamburg was a nice place. While it’s less popular than other big cities like Berlin and Munich, Hamburg was pretty amazing. It’s a big riverside city that happens to have the 3rd largest port in the world and is said to have more canals than Amsterdam and Venice combined.

Some of the things we did included climbing to the top of Church St. Michaelis for a wonderful view of the city, taking a quick jaunt through the Reeperbahn, munching on Franzbröchten (a pastry you’ll only find in the bakeries of northern Germany), and checking out the miniature world. The latter was really impressive by the way—uber nerdy yes, but it’s incredible how much detail and work went into the project.

In the peak of the summer season, the city was alive and buzzing. Heaps of people were out everywhere you went, especially in the parks and by the water. We spent an afternoon canoeing through the city’s maze of canals and lakes, which in my opinion is the best way to experience Hamburg. There’s even a café where you can order ice cream from, right from your boat! There’s many more things to see and do here, but I didn’t have the time to see it all unfortunately, which means I’ll just have to pay another visit someday!

Munich
IMG_0254I actually traveled to Munich after visiting Prague as a stopover on our way down south to Italy. It was a very short two days, but we still managed to see quite a bit with the help of my friends Marco and Magdalena (also friends I met traveling in New Zealand). They took us to all the big sites: Olympic Park (where the 1973 Olympics were held), the famous Glockenspiel clock tower, the Marienplatz, the BMW museum, and the famous Hofbräuhaus for some weisswurst, massive brezels, and huge mugs of beer. Munich is a fun city. It’s very green with lots of parks and you can tell a lot of people like to spend their free time outdoors. The city has a big system of biking trails and there’s even a special spot in English Garden, a huge park in the middle of the city, where you can go surfing on the river! And with the Alps only an hour away, the opportunities for some outdoor fun is endless.

On our second day, we took a train out to Dachau to visit the concentration camp and WWII memorial. I’ve seen lots of movies and documentaries about the concentration camps, but being there in person was a very sobering experience. It’s very easy to get to from the city, admission is free, and it’s very well done–well worth the visit. Overall, Munich was probably my favorite city in Germany. If I was German, I’d live there!

Posted in Europe, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments