Greetings from rainy Munich! Starnberg, actually. There’s quite a lot of ground to cover with this update, I’ve been through quite a number of places since Scotland!
Lets start chronologically. And a fair warning, this is going to be very long. But that’s when happens when I don’t update for a while.
When last I left off, I was on a train heading to New Castle to take an overnight ferry to Amsterdam. Well, I did indeed take an overnight ferry to Amsterdam! And I must say, it was the most disappointing part of my trip thus far. Something had to be. The ferry is marketed as a luxury cruise ferry. I won’t really dispute that, and I think I would have really had a great time in the boat if I was there with a friend. It’s not really even the ferries fault, really. There just wasn’t any mingling going on. Everyone on board had come with a larger group of people, and no one was really interesting in socializing outside their group. So unless I wanted to drink by myself in one of the three bars on board (one of which I actually thought was alright) or gamble in the inboard casino (which was just blackjack, roulette, and slots) I was basically left to drink scotch by myself (and I did have some fantastic scotch with me) and go see Iron Man 3 in the inboard cinema (which wasn’t actually very good. Granted I missed the first 30 minutes. I was drinking scotch.) I did have a good laugh with the DJ in the “club”, who was delighted to play some Rush for me, but otherwise I think I could have found a less expensive way to Amsterdam and been just as happy.
But once I actually got into Amsterdam, things really started to turn around. After being very confused with how to actually get into the city from the harbour, taking a nice bus ride into town, and then getting directions to my hostel from a very helpful information lady, I arrived at what might be the most fun hostel I been at so far. It doesn’t hurt that they market themselves as a party hostel in the heart of Amsterdam, but The Flying Pig is so far my pick for the most fun stay in Europe. Full of amazing staff who love to chat and hear stories, equipped with an in house bar, and catering to young adventurous people, there would be no excused for it meeting people and having a good time. And that’s exactly what I did!
After getting settled in I did my usual explore of the immediate area, got some cash and a SIM card, and made a stitched together plan for my stay. I would be staying in Amsterdam for two nights and wanted to make the most of them. I ended up exploring a wee bit and finding a grocery store so I could make use of the kitchen that evening. It’s always a great idea to cook if you can while travelling because not only will you save money on meals, but you’ll almost always meet someone awesome as well. I met a girl from California who had been living in Montreal for the last two years and was trying to immigrate. She was also cycling through Europe. Pretty neat. We cooked together and then went exploring to see what Amsterdam in the evening would offer. The coffee shops of Amsterdam are interesting, and something I remain completely neutral towards. But the night was uneventful.
The next day I got up early to go on a walking tour put on by my favourite walking tour company, Sandman. I really can’t recommend their free tours enough. That day our guide was Maddi, a lovely young Canadian girl, recently finished university, who has a Dutch father and had been coming to Amsterdam since she was a girl and spoke Dutch quite well. We were natural allies. The tour was great, we got to see so much, and Maddi knew so much about the city and is history. At the end of the tour, as is customary, the raddest of us went for lunch with out lovely guide where I had some traditional Holland pea soup and a not so traditional strawberry beer, because I can’t read Dutch and just pointed at a bottle on a page. Always ask questions, kids. I always like the end of the tour the most because you get a chance to actually visit with a few of the people you were with all day, and the guides are always such fun to be able to speak with in a small setting. After lunch I went through the Ann Frank house. I wasn’t expecting to, but I’m very glad I did, it was very interesting. I also got some fantastic cheese that we had sampled earlier in the day, absolutely amazing cheese. I can’t wait to share it at home.
That evening I went on a tour of the Red Light District. It was…. Interesting. The tour is great because our guide, Lars-somethingicantremember, had done a lot of “research” on the topic and was very knowledgable of both the history of the district, and all the best spots. Not everything he told us was from first hand experience, he’s a strapping young lad and has other, less strapping young lads, to send into the windows to report back for him. But it was a lot of fun, we got to see a lot, got some great tips, and learned a lot that I really had no idea about. Like the Blue Light alley. I’ll let you google that one yourself.
I sent most of the rest of the evening just planning my next route the following day. I ended up booking an overnight bus from Amsterdam to Copenhagen to visit Mandy and Rasmus. Which left me with a whole extra day in Amsterdam! So the next day I set out to experience some of the things I hadn’t expected. This included touring Heineken, which was a lot of fun and I’m really glad I did. The tour is similar to the Guinness storehouse in that you’re not actually touring the current brewing facilities, but older facilities they no longer use. Unlock Guinness, however, there is actually a lot of equipment left behind so you can see how the process would have worked in a much more visceral exhibit. And of course, I poured my own glass of Heineken at the end. And much better than the other bartenders, I must say! The tour also includes a free gift from their central shop in down town Amsterdam. But instead of making you fend for yourself, they offer a free canal boat that will take you there. You know what that means? Free canal tour! The gentlemen on the boat do a great job of talking about the city as you pass through the canals, normally you’d have to pay €12 for such a tour! They also let me take the boat back with them, which was great because I got to speak much more personally with them and got a few more tips for the rest of the day.
I then made my way towards the large park, which I forget the name of, near the Van Gogh museum. After hanging out in the park a while and having a bit of a light lunch, it was into the museum with me. It was so nice to be out of the sun. Everywhere I’ve been so far has been so hot and sunny, very uncharacteristically everyone has assured me. The museum was pretty neat, they have a lot of works both Van Gogh and his inspirations and contemporaries. Art history has never been one of my primary areas of interest, but it was really great to be able to see the works of such a famous individual. Afterwards I made my way towards my hostel, had some dinner and collected my things, and headed to the bust station to wait for my bus to Copenhagen. This is when things get interesting.
Everything started out as one would expect. Get there early, kill time, board bus, get comfy, drift off to sleep. Then, some time after we had crossed the German boarder but before we got to hamburg where we were to change busses to continue to Copenhagen, at around 2:30 in the morning, we were stopped by German police. I’m still not exactly sure why. The officers inspected everyone’s passports and ID cards, confiscating some but not others (not mine, thankfully) and inspecting the undercarriage of the bus. Looking for someone or something, I suppose. Eventually they came back on the bus and addressed a man I think may have been from Turkey with, “hey, you’ve got a problem” to which he replied, “I’ve got a problem?” To which the officer the said, “what? You have problem? What is problem. We can give you problem.” Then they went outside. The whole ordeal took about 45 minutes to an hour, the gentlemen eventually returned, and everyone got their identification back and we were on the way again. Uneventful again until we arrived in Hamberg, where German customs and immigration officials were hand inspecting the busses that were coming in. Which included us. So the bus in front of us is being inspected and its the bus I have to change onto. And then we are to be inspected. It took 30 minutes for them to inspect the first bus, which they thankfully held for us, and then another 30 to inspect us. Nothing was found, of course. And then onto the next bus for an uneventful continuation to Copenhagen.
Ah, Copenhagen. You, my friend, are a beauty of a city. Originally I had absolutely no intention of coming to Copenhagen while planning my trip, but when I remembered that Mandy and Rasmus were there, I had to make sue to go out of my way and see them. And I’m so glad I did. Arriving in Copenhagen I did what I always do; find my hostel, get settled, and get a feel for the area by going on a walkabout. This would mark the first bout of bad weather since London. Having not learned from my time in London, I did not have an umbrella and was greeted by a thunderstorm while walking in just a cotton bunny hug. I hid in the visitors centre, which had amazing and free wifi, where I got a coffee and a decisions Danish sandwich. Not a pastry. Though at would be funny and I was always looking out for danishes. I found that the tour company I love so much runs in Copenhagen and would be having a pub crawl that night. So I planned on venturing out in the town with them, but no one ever materialized. It seems they’ve got their pub crawl and tours planned, but no one to actually do them yet. It should also be noted that I also visited an ATM that evening, and withdrew 400 Danish kroners. This was the least I could withdraw. It equates to $76 Canadian. The kroner really doesn’t have any buying power. Anyway, sans pub crawl, I explored the lowest shopping street in Europe and got ideas of what to come back for the next day. Stopped for dinner at an Irish pub, and made my way back to my hostel for the night.
The next day, since there was no walking tour for me to enjoy, I instead boarded a hop-on-hop-off bus. I don’t think I’ve been less satisfied having spent €25 to date. They’re quick, they aren’t especially informative, and, at least for me, are far too not. So I abandoned the bus near the little mermaid, which I had no interest in seeing, and instead made my way to the island citadel. A very cool place. I slowly walked my way back to the city centre, stopped in at an amazing pipe shop, before getting to the bus to go visit Mandy and Rasmus. The bus systems have been so great everywhere I’ve been, and Copenhagen was no exception. And everything is so beautiful! The streets, the sky, the trees. Absolutely stunning. I made my way to Rasmus’ grocery store and he took me to their apartment just around the corner. A big hug from Mandy and an introduction to Little Rasmus (their nearly two year old!) and we made our way downstairs again to order a lot of Sushie and tour the store. We then made our way to the beach where we enjoyed our lovely sushi with some sparking wine and a gorgeous view, and some fantastic conversation. After the sun started to set and it was time for Little R to get some sleep, we headed back to their place where Rasmus and I drank rum and whisky, and continued our talks of li, sports, and cars.
After making my way back to my hostel I planned out the next leg my my journey: getting to Berlin. I scheduled another overnight train, leaving the next evening. Surely an over it train would be much better than an over it bus, after all, I’ll be getting a sleeper! More on that later.
The next day I ended up chatting with a few people in the cafe of my hostel. One of which was a bit of an entrepreneur who was very interested in speaking more with me in the future once he found out I not only have a passion for compute, but IT support specifically. I’ll be contacting him once I’m back in Canada. I also spent quite a while talking with a couple from Halifax on vacation in Europe. He’s a semi-professional photographer who, after seeing some of my photos I’ve taken thus far, is very interested in seeing more once I get back to Canada and get everything online to Flickr. So that’s two unexpected contacts.
I spent the rest of my exploring and touring the Carlsberg brewery in Copenhagen. A very neat place that I recommend reading up on I you’re interested in brewing. I then made my way back to Mandy and Rasmus’ for an early dinner of traditional Danish open faced sandwiched, which have a name I cannot recall, before heading to the train station.
So begins the tail of the overnight trip to Berlin. It all started well enough. Get to the station early, nice sunny day. Get sorted where I’m supposed to be. But then little things started to become apparent. My car wasn’t on the train. I still had a seat with my name on it, but my car had been exchanged from a sleeper to a seater. Maybe we go to the sleepers later? As it turns out, they mistakenly swapped two sleeper cars for two seater cars. We had accepted our fate of sleeping upright, of course the gentleman and I in the cabin sharing a few beers didn’t hurt, when it was announced (I’m German of course, thus leaving me slightly out of the loop until I could get a friendly translation) that we would be doing an unscheduled train change in Hamberg. Seems they tacked a couple of sleepers onto the end of a train leaving jamb for Copenhagen for us. Well, alright. We haven’t slept much anyway, so we can make it until then.
About an hour later we get to Hamberg and unload, get to the new train, and start loading in. But there’s another slight problem. They’re short 5 beds. So myself, a gentleman from Colorado, and three siblings from Austria are left to find seater cabins for ourselves. The gentleman from Colorado and I ended up finding space in a cabin with three nice young ladies from the States, they had just finished collage and were going in a European trip before they all joined the Forces together. So the next three hours were spent talking and laughing and sharing stories. Colorado was in his mid 40’s, has three boys between 17 and 22, and served in the army during the Cold War. Specifically, he served in Berlin while the wall was up, and met his wife there! She was a west Berliner, they met during the occupation, and couldn’t be happier. The girls were from California, Pittsburg, and I forget where. Not much more sleep was had.
We eventually arrived in Berlin at 6:30 in the morning, two hours later than we were initially supposed to, and Colorado was a great help in getting us all in the right direction, having Solent so much time in Berlin both during and post The Wall. I got to my hostel at about 7:30 in the morning. Check in was at 4PM. So I had some time to kill.
Breakfast and exploration were the name of the game. And, if course, I did what I always do in a new city: get my bearings and go on a free walking tour. I must say, Berlin is by far the most ingesting place I’ve ever been. It’s literally living history. Everything that happened pre world war 2, during the war, the Cold War, and post Cold War. It’s constantly evolving, taking in everything around it. You can stand in one spot and in every direction you’ll see a relic of an era. Classic European architecture, nazi buildings, Cold War era high rises, 80s design chic, 90s revitalization, and contemporary design. Memorials and reminders of the past everywhere. Germans are not afraid of their coloured history. They are acutely aware of the past and strive to better themselves and the world, and to always make sure no one will forget such atrocities, lest they be repeated. I admire that greatly about Berlin and the German people as a whole. My tour guide this time was a lovely young woman from Australia named Kim. Naturally she had me at hello. I was also in the good company of two Canadian girls, one from Ottawa and one from Winnipeg, and a fun girl from brazil. Together we absorbed everything around us, not to mention the sun. Possibly the hottest, most sunny day I’ve experienced in Europe yet was in Berlin. Luckily our guide, being Australian, knows what’s up with the sun, and was able to spare me some, lots, of sun screen with me.
After the tour I had lunch with the Canadians, and then wandered around with tacitly with Krystina, the girl from Winnipeg. The girl from Ottawa, Jocelyn, got both of our names for Facebook, but me being me I didn’t get either of their last names copied down and they had since escaped me. Krystina did seem excited to see future pictures of me once I get back to London and enjoy a hot towel straight razed shave. But we had a lovely afternoon and its a shame it had to end. But all good things, I suppose. In the evening was another pub crawl I was thinking of going on, but after getting to my hostel to change out of my sweaty shirt, I quickly fell asleep. It was not meant to be. My hostel, by the way, more more like a hotel than a hostel, and priced very much comparably to most other hostels I’ve stayed at. So I did laundry, are some supper, and caught up on sharing months while I had the great Internet connection. I also booked my ticket to my next destination: Starnberg!
Starnberg, the point of it all! Situated just southwest of Munich in the heart of Bavaria, is where my cousin Ariane and her two boys, Alexander and Valentine, reside. It may be one of the most, if not the most, beautiful area I’ve ever been in. The trees, more than anything, remind me of being in the forests as a child. Only a half hour, ish, by train from Munich. I’d have nothing to do with overnight trains this time, and instead opted to take the 6 hour train ride during the day. Lots of video games and reading were done. The trains in Germany have thus far been the most expensive I’ve taken in Europe, though also the farthest, but have been by far the most comfortable. Even in 2nd class.
I’m going to leave off there for now, because not only has thus post become incredibly long, but I’m still having adventures in Munich and won’t want to fragment the story. From here I’ll be going to Cologne to visit a friend of mine, before continuing to London to visit the Bennett’s, hopefully see Stonehenge, and finally begin my journey back to Canada. I’ll write all about Munich during my next train trek, which should help keep it much shorter yet more detailed. I’m sure there’s many details I’ve forgotten that I’ll Beale to share in person once I get home. It’s hard to believe I’m onthehome stretch already, it seems like only a week ago that I landed in London. Time really does flu when you’re having fun, doesn’t it?
Oh, and my apologies to everyone who I promised post cards to, I’ve found myself far to distracted doing awesome things to mail any yet. But I assure you I will by sending many post cards before I fly home.
Until next time, later days.