Friday, November 25, 2011

Oui Paris

After an 8hr train ride I arrived in Paris. I stayed in one of the better hostels but quite far out of the city, about 12 stops on the metro.  Paris is a really dirty city, like rubbish everywhere and it smells like pee. This is the first city I have really been surprised by.  I checked into my hostel which is the most expensive one I have stayed in throughout Europe and also the worst.
The girls in my hostel were lovely and we had dinner downstairs in the Restaurant and Bar. I had a vegie burger with blue cheese, fries and of course red wine.  This place was the cheapest place to eat and drink around.  It was pretty cool too.  It was not a late night, the girls were all leaving the next morning.

While we were having breakfast, an Australian guy came and sat with us.  His name is Scott and was staying in Paris the same amount of time as me so that was good to have a mate to hang out with as the other girls were checking out. 

Our first day we did one of the New Europe walking tours of the city our guide was amazing.  He was a Kiwi and very intelligent and excited to be sharing his knowledge. Informative, plenty of sight seeing and its always a great way to meet people in a new city.  During the tour we came across a bridge, featured in many movies i.e Sex And The City and the fence is covered in padlocks - Love Locks!  Couples come to the bridge, write their initials on the padlock, lock it to the fence then throw the keys in the river as a symbol of their everlasting love.  We learned about the Nazi Occupation, French Revolution, Napoleons Empire, Parisian Architecture.  Saw all the important sites, Tuileries Gardens, Champs -Elysees, The Lourve, Musee d'Orsav, Arc de Triomphe.  Our guide took us out to lunch afterwards (optional)  I had a quiche lorraine with salad and a glass of wine.

That night we went on a Pub Crawl.  Hmm what a disappointment.  There was no nightlife in Paris on this night ...a Tuesday night, the bars were dead, the drinks were overpriced and it was just super lame.  We also were not told the Metro stops running at 1am so when we went to the metro at 1.04am and discovered it was closed up we had to order a taxi! The highlight of the evening was a ham and cheese crepe I ate, it was so fat and tasty.  Next time I need a feed at home in the middle of the night and drunk all I will want is a ham and cheese crepe!

The next day we went shopping in the Layfayette district, but I was not overly impressed.  Its quite cool if you have a lot of money but otherwise window shopping is all that can be done.  The Louvre was opening this evening until 10pm so that was the plan for our day.  We arrived after dinner and I was surprised to see we are allowed to take pictures inside, just no flash.  So we viewed some of the most beautiful artworks in the world, most importantly the Mona Lisa.  She is a small painting but very impressive. 

Next morning  the weather was not great but we made our way to the Eiffel Tower. It is quite impressive from a distance, but up close I can completely understand why the Parisians hated it.  It is an eyesore, a monstrosity of metal.   I went up to the second level and did enjoy a nice view of the city though.  We then had a plan to head to the red light district but got lost, so decided to head back to the hostel for a meal and some drinks.

The next day we visited Notre Dame.  It was magnificent.  I would say this gorgeous church was my highlight of my visit to Paris.  Inside their are many tombs, stained glass windows, candles.  It has a dark gothic ambiance,  a very peaceful energy.  I sat on my own and said a prayer for my family and friends.  Afterwards Scott and I walked around, checking out the souvenir shops.  We ate more crepes, yummy.  

After my fourth day in Paris, I was starting to feel ready to leave.  I had one more night to stay as I was waiting on mail to arrive to my hostel and it had not yet come.  I had decided after Paris I would go back to Munich to visit Patrick. It may have seemed silly and a risk, but I had no definite plans or bookings for after Paris so I decided to go back to Munich.

After more sightseeing, Scott and I went back to the Hostel. I checked at reception to see if any mail had arrived for me. Much to my surprise, both letters I was waiting on had arrived early! So realising I had no reason to stay, I asked if I could have a refund on my final night, which I could!  So I received back my 35euros.  I then raced up to the metro, caught the train back into the city to book my ticket to Munich!  It was all taken care of, everything fell into place and I knew Munich was where I was meant to be going.

Overall, I know I need to see Paris again.  I need a real Parisian to show me the beautiful city, I need to see the ins and outs, the underground!  Not just the tourism side.  I want to come back and get to the heart of Paris, I will give it the second chance it deserves.  I just know that I will need a wad of cash to be able to afford it.  

I look forward to returning to Europe and giving France a lot more of my attention.
























Thursday, November 17, 2011

The sound of Salzburg

So Friday afternoon, checked into Yoho youth hostel, a really nice place! It turns out the tour of the ice caves I wanted to do is closed for the season, aww but it's ok.
First night alone of course I make a beeline for the bar at happy hour.  There is no one at the bar, awkward! So I go to the computer room.  I notice a young Australian couple and we get to talking. Cam and Ash, very nice people, we went to the bar, had dinner, a couple of beers and chatted about our times.  Ash went upstairs to go to bed while Cam and I finished our drinks. The bar was starting to fill up and 4 guys came over and asked to sit with us.  So here we have Alex, Philip, Tasos and Patrick.  Guess where they're from? ... bloody Munich! They were funny, interesting, great to talk to. Cam went upstairs and I stayed with my 4 new Bavarian friends. It turns out its Tasos birthday and they are here to celebrate.
The 5 of us headed off on foot to find a bar, with frozen faces, beating hearts and much laughter we eventually get to the river which is where we find some action. We go to a bar called Roses, drinks are a little expensive but it plays a good mix of music and has a good mix of people around. 
A little dumbfounded I realise Patrick has an interest in me, the drink will do it to ya. There was a mutual attraction though.
I went to the bathroom and met a great girl named Sarah we bonded straight away as she had spent some time in Australia and loved it.  She bought me a Spritzer (wine & soda) and we had a lot of fun, I met all her friends, so we had a pretty large group by the end.  What's funny about the Austrian hospitality is they will buy you a drink as a 'guest' but then you are not allowed to buy in return! 
After however many hours, me and the boys went back to the hostel.  I woke in a haze the next day, my brain was not processing much.  I met Patrick downstairs and then we walked the city up to the castle. The sun was shining , we had such a nice day! I really enjoyed spending time with these crazy Bavarians! Sadly  I waved them off at the train station that afternoon.  Sad again of course I am really hating these goodbyes.
I slept for 12 hours that night.  I woke, had breakfast and then watched the Sound Of Music.  What a lovely story, I cant believe I had never seen it to the end! I walked the city then had another early night as I was leaving early for Paris the next day. 

Bavarians do it better

Munich round 2! Boy  am I glad I made the decision to come back and do some sightseeing.  This city rocks, I have a feeling I will be back.
Day 1
As I am checking into Wombats Munich, I am checking in at the same time as an American girl. We get told we are roomates. Boom, instant friend and man is she a legend.  Megan- fellow traveller from San Francisco, a summer camp director and all round awesome chick.
We went out that night to the famous Hofbrauhaus, pork knuckles for dinner and I was soft, I only drank a Radler (lemonade & beer).  We talked among some other Aussies we met who shared our table.  In these beer halls, if there are no small tables you generally share a large one with other people. Fyi Hoffbrauhaus is where the National Socialists started.
Day 2
Megan and I headed off to our free tour of the city (New Europe tours) it was a fantastic day! Our guide, Marcin was an ex history professor / musician now tour guide.  So we learned about the fascinating history of Munich, saw some gorgeous sights and had a lot of fun!  Marcin has a documentary in progress, about the genocide of Ww2 but how unfortunately genocide still exists today. After all we have been through, how do we still allow this to happen?  He rode his bike around Europe and Africa documenting his every move. Visit www.marcinonabike.com
That night after hearing from Marcin of an amazingly huge schnitzel, we headed off to find this restaurant and quench our schnitzel desires! So we get there and our waiter is ao lovely, we order the one schnitzel between two of us and a drink each.  Out comes this plate, the schnitzel is freaking huge, about 40cm long and sitting on a bed of fried potatoes. We got a salad too but sheesh who needs it. And I wonder why I am getting so fat haha!  Megan and I devoured  this thing! Oh lordy, I love Bavaria.
Day 3
Up early, Meg and I head to Dachau concentration camp. Infamous and gruesome.  We watched a documentary in the museum which gives a fantastic and in-your-face history on Dachau. 12 yrs of fucked up shit. Pardon my french, but what else can I say.... We were so emotionally drained we did not stay at the site long.  So off we went to feed our souls and get some lunch.  We walked around Marionplatz and decided on eating at the Augustiner Beer Haus.  We each ordered an Augustiner Edelstoff, after Marcin telling us it was his favourite beer. Well he was right, its bloody delicious!  We ordered Goulash soup each, it was the cheapest on the menu.  I wasn't too excited. Anyways it came out, first mouthful in I swear tears of joy came to my eyes. What was this hot pot of liquid gold we had just stumbled upon!?  The flavours were incredible, mouthgasms were had.
After lunch we walked up to the English gardens.  So massive we only scoured a small section of it. Very beautiful but I wasn't sure what was so english about it.  We watched people walk their dogs and we admired the crazy critters running around, into the freezing creek then rolling in the leaves.  Some part of the gardens there is a naked section, safe to say we didn't come across it.

After heading back to the dorm, having a nap Megan and I headed out to dinner.  We ate at a Bratwurst beer haus. And yeah we ate sausages. Oh my lord, how good they were! Of course washed down with Edelstoff.  We headed over to an Irish pub called Killians, its a cool place, just like at home with a live cover band. Killians is right next door to an Aussie pub, but its crap and only serves Fosters and Vb.  So we had a couple of drinks, sang along to the music then headed home for some sleep.
Day 4
At breakfast I met a Canadian girl named Rachel.  I told her we were visiting the Neuschwanstein Castle and she was welcome to join us, which she did.  Its a 2 hr train ride to Fussen, then you get a bus into the cute little fairy tale town, castles and horse drawn carriages but sadly no Princes. The castle is freakin huge, flamboyant (the king was controversially gay) and it was never completed inside. Only 16 rooms are done. It is a bit of a rip, €12 and only half an hour inside. Afterwards we walked to the bridge and took some gorgeous pics looking back at the castle.
After a big day the 3 of us went out for dinner and then back to Killians Irish pub.  Back for beer, music and good times.  We met 2 Canadian soldiers who were on leave with their father. Very lovely people, it was a big night, lots of laughs, good conversation and bad dancing.

Day 5
Megan checks out in the morning, nooooo! Off to her next destination. We had a very hungover goodbye, when I woke up later she had left me a thankyou card and a token of friendship/appreciation. So cute, God love her, I will miss her. Damn these goodbyes!
After coffee and a sandwhich, I spent some time on the internet, booking my next hostel, catching up on emails and applying for jobs back home.
Rachel and I went to dinner that night, we call the last supper. The only place deserving of such a name is of course Augustiner Brau Munchen.  Now this meal, turns out to be the tastiest most amazing in all of Germany. Rach had an incredible pork knuckle, I had roast pork. It was so delicious, I honestly said I could die happy right now! After dinner we raced back home and I walked Rachel to the train station and waved her off.  I had an early night, the next morning I am off to Salzburg Austria! I'm a little excited for you all to read my next story....










Monday, November 14, 2011

Beautiful Baden

It is so difficult, to meet people who welcome me, a mere stranger, with open arms, pure kindness and friendship to then just leave them. Not knowing if we ever meet again.

I arrived to Baden-Baden station after lunch Friday afternoon where Simon met me. I was a little nerve wracked knowing I would be spending time at a house where nobody spoke english. 

We pulled into the street and perched at the end is a gorgeous, very german two story house with litttle picket fence and typical high set pointy roof.

I received a warm welcome from Simons parents. Ingrid his mother and Bernd (Bernie) his father.  So lovely.

After our introductions we headed off to see Baden.  Right in the Black Forest, the trees are golden, orange, red and green.  Perfect autumn, leaves fall around and litter the streets like beautiful, natural confetti.  We drove up to Mummelsee, a lake up the mountain and walked around it.  We then went to a ride.  Then the tv tower, we climbed to the top and looked down on the city and forest.  After this we went to the Old Castle.  A castle built in 1100's that is now ruins.   On our way home that evening we stopped in to the shopping centre to pick up some schnitzel for dinner.  The shopping centre is like 2 large Ufo's! Very space agey.  The grocery store was massive and had the largest deli sections i've ever seen! Probably double the size of our supermarkets at home but the shelving is not so high, everything is in reach.  The delis run the whole length of the store, cheese, seafood, meat, wurst, chicken, bread - the selections are HUGE! 

So that night Ingrid prepared schnitzel with chips, pasta spirals, brown sauce and salad.  We sat and attempted conversations using the translation book that Bernie had. He had beem practicing! They are so cute, very precious.  He then brought out a globe and wanted to see where I lived and learn more about Australia.  We had icecream and sat in the loungeroom.  We sat by the 'oven' a large enclosed fireplace, it was a very lovely evening.

Next morning, I came out to see a lovely breakfast.  Rolls, cheeses, deli meats, coffee. Fresh rolls might I add. In Europe you never find mass produced commercialised bread products. Everything is bakery made, fresh and fancy.

We drove to the palace, Schloss Favorite and went on a guided tour inside. Admiring the 600yr old rooms still in tact with original wall coverings, ceiling art and flooring.  Adorned with porcelain in every room the dutchess who lived here loved to show off her wealth.  The kitchen still had the original copper pots and pans and one of the sitting rooms has the oldest glass chandelier in europe. There are some 3000 pieces of hand painted blue and white tiles that are tiled around the place. 

Afterwards we headed into the city, walked around, saw the famous Roman baths, Trinkhalle, Casino, and the Allee.  We then drove up to the cable train, which took us up the top of  mountain where we can overlool the entire region of Baden. So beautiful and colourful.

That evening we went to dinner at the Y Burg. An old castle, the front has been remodelled into a restaurant.  I ate a steak salad then a berry crepe for dessert.  Washed down with a glass of Sekt.  When you go to dinner with someone who you cant really converse with, it is often awkward.  Car rides are often quiet and when we do talk, it can get frustrating trying to explain and translate, that attempting conversation just becomes too hard.  A lot of what we talk about is small talk, it sux because the friendship will never grow. It is an odd situation to be in, especially for me, who is so verbal.  The novelty of interaction with a friend who is so foreign, wears off. It can feel disappointing as I have made a good friend but I cannot make the friendship stronger as we can't bond and share life stories and or compare our life experiences. 

Next morning as I am out of the shower, the breakfast spread is even more impressive.  More rolls, the meat and cheeses are laid out on a platter, with addition of smoked salmon and jams. I am feeling heavy in my chest knowing I am parting from such a lovely family who I appreciate so much. 

When I say goodbye to Ingrid and Bernie they both give me huge warm hugs, tell me (in german) I am welcome anytime.

I wave goodbye and soon enough I am boarding another train.




Sunday, November 13, 2011

Lubeck

I checked into the Hotel Stadt in Lubeck, very nice place, great value, a beautiful breakfast was included both mornings.

A unesco listed city, Lubeck is gorgeous. Very small, old and cute! I walked the city which is very easy to navigate as it is so small.  I came across the worlds oldest, largest puppet and marionette museum. For only €5 I had to go in and I was glad I did!  It displayed puppets from all over the world, each continent and some 500 yrs old. 
Afterwards, I did a little shopping, had a haircut and went back to my room to pack. I was to leave early the next morning.  So just a short stay in Lubeck but still loved it!







Thursday, November 10, 2011

Howl.

 “I don't think there is any truth. There are only points of view. ”  Allen Ginsberg


While in Sweden I watched a film starring James Franco called Howl.

Named after the poem Howl by Allen Ginsberg, the film has Franco playing the part of Ginsberg retelling the story of his life and times surrounding the  release of his controversial poetry.

As a young poet growing up in the 50's struggling with his sexuality.  He's confused until he realises he is homosexual after he falls in love with his friend Jack Kerouac. Back then if you were gay, you were crazy and quite often were thrown in the loony bin and given electroshock therapy to 'fix' your brain. 
The poem Howl, is a based on Ginsbergs experiences of growing up with a mentally ill mother, his idenity, his sexuality, his lovers, friendships and society.  Most noteably he writes of his friend Neal Cassidy who me met in hospital. A fellow homosexual.  While Ginsberg did not receive electroshock therapy, as he promised Doctors he was turning straight and would marry a woman (he was clearly lying) his friend did receive this treatment. Ginsberg watched Neal friend become a shell of a man, as slowly his brain was fried.


The movie follows the story of the poem (book) going to trial for Obscenity. The poem uses 'obscene' language which is questionable in society.  It is asked if some of the language needs to be replaced with less offensive terms before it can be returned to shelves.
 
I'm not writing this as a movie review. Just sharing a story of an artist whose words touched me.

 
“Concentrate on what you want to say to yourself and your friends. Follow your inner moonlight; don't hide the madness. You say what you want to say when you don't care who's listening.” 
 

Sweden round two.

Well here I am back on the train, onto the next stage of my journey. I
said goodbye to Amy then Adam drove me to Malmo Hyllie station where I was to transfer at Copenhagen then onto L├╝beck. When I arrived to Copenhagen I found out the trains had been re-routed so now a 3hr journey is taking 6hrs. Oh well not to worry, the rides are very relaxing and I tend to fall asleep pretty easily.

While in Sweden this time around we had the Halloween party which was a lot of preparation with spooky decorations, pumpkin carving, cooking, costume organising etc.  Everyone who attended put great effort into their costumes, they looked great! I was a thrown together pirate,  Amy and Adam Aristocrats from the 1700's. We drank plenty of wine, of course.  As I had a cold, still from Switzerland, I lost my voice! Over the next few nights, I would continue to lose my voice, I think someone may have been telling me I need to shut up for a few days.

One Friday, Adam, Amy and I caught the train to Helsingor in Denmark to visit the Kronburg castle. A real castle built in 1420 with canons and a moat, coool!  It is a large castle, on the water. The interior though was lacking as the castle had been damaged from being used for military baracks, so their was no original wall coverings and few fittings. Most of the furniture, tapestries and artwork do remain though.  My favourite was the casements. An underground basement / cave... Casement - fitting name huh.  Anyway it was extremely dark and would be easy to get lost down there if you took a wrong turn into one of the little casement rooms. It was very cold in Denmark by the way  I said 'this is the most clothes I've ever worn!'

The following day was Isabels birthday, so for the morning we went to Isabels mothers house for the traditional Swedish birthday greeting where you all gather and wake the birthday boy or girl up, singing and with presents in arms.  We then had breakfast together, it was a lovely morning.  That evening we were to return for dinner, a dinner party with a few more guests. A very nice evening, much to my surprise. It was a warm and happy atmosphere, not a late night. We returned home for a glass of wine and a movie.

I had such a lovely time at Adam and Amy's.  I got a good feel for the place.  It was very relaxing, a home away from home.   I had a few tears as I sat on the train and waved goodbye to Adam.