Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Berlin, Germany

September 19-21st, 2009
View from the parlement roof top.

Day 16cont.
We arrived in Berlin and took the s-bahn to Alexander Platz, and then we changed to the U2 getting off at Rosa-Luxemburgstr. The Wombats hostel was right by the station and we were checked in quickly. It was a large hostel and very nice, but not as nice as the hostel I stayed at the last time I was in Berlin. We left right after we dropped off our stuff and went to Alexander Platz. We checked out the movie theater there and found that they were all in German, so we went to another theater. The theater in Potsdammer Platz had English original versions and we saw Tropical Thunder. We bought sweet popcorn and watched the movie. After that we went back to our hostel, and then to the grocery store. We bought breakfast and some soup just in case we got hungry. We didn’t get hungry; we just read, went to the bar for our free drink and then went to bed.

Day 17
We had to set our alarm for 9:20am so that we could be ready in time for our tour. We got dressed and went down to eat breakfast. We left for our walking tour shortly after breakfast. We had to take a bus to Brandenburg tor to actually start our tour. Once there we got some stuff at Starbucks then followed our tour guide. It was the same tour I had taken a year before with Brian, expect that we had a different person and we started where the other tour had finished. I liked the first tour best, I thought the guy was brilliant and knew much more interesting facts. Anyway, it was a good balance because I learned some stuff that I didn’t know before. After the tour we went to the parliament building so that Victoria could see the inside. We took the bus back to our hostel after visiting the parliament building. We hung around for while then decided to go out to dinner to celebrate our last day of travel. We went to Marcus Bräu, an authentic German restaurant, a little pricey but dang good. We went back to the hostel, read and then went to bed.

Day 18
We woke up at 9am again, got dressed, ate breakfast, checked out and went of a walk. We took some pictures of the Rathaus then had a coffee at a café. We walked back the hostel to get our stuff. We took the bus to the airport and checked in, ate our leftover cup of soup (we had to borrow some hot water!! It was pretty ghetto!!) and then went through security!! We boarded the plane and our September trip was over. Back to reality!

Berlin was a 3. Better the second time around.

Dresden & Leipzig, Germany

September 19th, 2008
Square infront of the National Opera.

Day 16 cont
The train from Dresden arrived in Leipzig at 11am. We locked our backpacks up at the train station then walked to tourist information to find a map. After we got our map we walked toward the first sight on our very short list. On the walk we noticed that there was a lot of construction going on in the city. A few streets were closed because of it, but we could still see the main sights. We went to the Market Square, St. Peters Church, Nicholas church, the Old Rathaus, the New Rathaus, the Opera House, and through most of the shopping district, in an hour!!! We walked back to the city center and got something to eat at a Chinese restaurant. I had chicken fried rice, as usual. We walked back to the train station after lunch and still had an hour to kill before our train to Berlin left. So we sat outside and listened to music. Then we got some ice cream and went for one last walk in Leipzig. We went to the train station, got our bags out and then got on the train to Berlin at 1:51pm. Two cities down, one more to go!!

Leipzig was a 2.5. It was much more interesting after we learned more about the cities historical significants. Too bad we learned this info while we were in Berlin!

September 18-19th, 2008
A view from the river.

Day 15cont.
The train ride from Prague to Dresden was a little under 2 hours. When we arrived in Dresden and followed the direction to our hostel, Der Doofe. It took about 20 minutes to get to our hostel once in route. We checked into our hostel and were the only ones in our room. We relaxed for a few minutes and then headed out to see the city. We took the train to the river and then walked along it, seeing: the Ministry of Interior, and the Golden Rider. Then we crossed the bridge Augustus, passed the Blockhouse, Opera, Royal Palace, Zwinger, and the National Theater. We ventured into a large square to the Church of Our Lady. We sat inside the church for a few minutes admiring the craftsmanship and then left. We walked to city hall and he Church of the Holy Cross. It was well past 2 by this time and we were starving so we took the tram to the pedestrian zone. We got some money out and ate at Pizza Hut!! Very American, but it was good!! After our late lunch we went back to the square and bought post cards. Then we took the tram to our hostel and were in for the night. We read, did a crossword, and then went to bed.

Day 16
We had another early morning. Our train to Leipzig was at 9:21 so we dressed, ate breakfast and were out the door by 8:45. Once at the train station, we went straight to our train and were on our way to Leipzig.

Dresden was a 2. Interesting historical buildings but little to do or see.

Prague, Czech Repbulic

September 16-18 2008
Victoria and I decided to walk along the river, thinking we could get to the bridge. We couldn't! We had to walk all the way back and go around!

Day 13cont
The flight from Krakow was very short and we arrived in Prague at 4pm. We bought tickets for the bus and took it to the metro station. We took the metro to the stop recommended by our hostel, the Riverbank hostel, and then walked to our building. We rang the bell and no one answered, so we had to go to a shop just down the road and use their phone. We called the hostel guy and within 5 minutes he arrived to let us in. We checked in and paid for our stay. We changed clothes and got ready to go to dinner. We were meeting Victoria’s cousins at a Cuban restaurant, La Bodequita Del Medio a Cuban. We took the tram to Powedergate and navigated our way to the bank to get some cash, and then we walked to the restaurant. We got to the restaurant before they did, so we ordered a drink and waited. When they arrived we were seated immediately. We ordered and then chatted while we waited for our food. Dinner was good and we were out of there by 9pm. We were supposed to meet our Australian friends again, at 10pm, so we had an hour to kill beforehand. We walked around to try and see if we could find the bar they were in. We couldn’t find them so we gave up and went for some ice cream. We finally met them at 10pm and hung out at a bar until closing time. Victoria and I walked home quickly at around 2am, and then we went straight to bed.

Day 14
I hate going to bed really late and still waking up early. It’s really annoying!! Anyway, we went to the grocery store after dressing and got breakfast. We ate and then headed to the Prague Castle. It was a long walk and it took us about an hour or more to make it all the way to the top. It didn’t help that we were stopping a lot along the way to look at souvenirs!! We took some pictures of the castle and the view from the castle and then headed down. We walked across Charles Bridge, stopped at a few stores, and then headed to old town. We saw old town again, but during the day which was nice. We took the metro over to the National Museum, by main shopping district. Then we took the metro to the hostel and took a nap. After our nap our friends had arrived and we went out for dinner. We chose an authentic Czech restaurant. It was delicious but not too expensive. After dinner we hung out at our hostel, playing mad libs, having a few drinks and doing a crossword. They left after 1am and we went to be around 2.

Day 15
We woke up at 8am, got ready to leave, ate breakfast and checked out. We went to the train station to buy our tickets. We waited in line for a long time only to find out that we were at the wrong train station. We bought our tickets there still and took the metro over to the other train station. It was a good thing we decided to be earlier than needed. Other wise we might have not made the train in time!!! But we had plenty of time, so we got some snacks to use the rest of our Czech money up. Then we boarded our train at 10:30am and were on our way to Dresden!!

Prague was a 3 the second time around. The weather was crappy and it was a lot colder than last year!!


Auschwitz Concentration Camps
September 15th, 2008
View of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest of all Nazi concentration camps.

Day trip
I have wanted to visit to Auschwitz ever since I moved to Germany and have seen the Nazi history come to life. Auschwitz played a major role in the holocaust. We decided to do a private tour, in order to get the best experience. We took a bus from Krakow to the Concentration camp. On the way we watched a very graphic film shot by the Soviets when they liberated the camp. When we arrived at the camp we got our head sets and followed our tour guide. We toured the main camp Auschwitz I first. The camp was well maintained and very depressing. We were at Auschwitz for 2 hours, going through the barracks, administrative buildings and experiencing the horror that occurred. We finished up with Auschwitz I and headed for Auschwitz II-Birkenau. Birkenau was the main extermination site, and the largest Nazi concentration camp in Europe. Both camps are a perfect testament to German efficiency. The Nazis efficiently, registered, housed, beat, humiliated, controlled and killed hundreds of thousands people. Birkenau held over 400,000 prisoners of may backgrounds. The Jews were normally murdered right away, but the Pols and Hungarians were kept to work in the IG Farben factory or out doors. Millions people died over the 4 years the camp was in use; constructed in 1940-41 and liberated in 1944-45. It’s very difficult to describe how you feel when you are there. It’s so fascinating, intriguing and disturbing all at the same time. I’m glad I went and I think everyone should go at least once in there life.

Photos from Auschwitz II-Birkenau

Left picture: Tracks leading into the camp.
Right picture: Barracks within Birkenau.

Left picture: Bunk beds for prisoners usually slept 4 per bunk.
Right picture: Toliet facility for prisoners.

Photos from Auschwitz I Camp

Administrative buildings/prisioner holds

Left picture: Typical electric fence surrounding the camp.
Right picture: Crematoria for new arrivals.

Although Auschwitz was extreamly sad and depression it was a 4. Very interesting and a must see.

"If we don't learn about the past, how will we know if history is going to repeat itself?"

September 14-16th, 2008
View of Karkow City.

Day 11cont.
We landed on time and found ourselves in one of the smallest airports I have ever been too. It had maybe 5 gates. Anyway we had to wait for the bus to take us to the train that would take us to the city center! We only waited for 20 minutes before the bus came. The train took us to the train station that was connected to a mall. We walked out of the mall and our hostel was right there. We checked into the Greg Tom hostel, settled in, booked our trip to Auschwitz for the next day, and then headed out. Krakow is small but nice. We went to the market square and took some pictures. We hung out around there for a while, and then went to get something to eat. We had more traditional Polish food, it was great and cheap! After dinner we met up with our Australian friends that we met in Warsaw. We just went to a bar and talked for a while, and then we all went back to our hostels.

Day 12
We had to wake up early because of our trip to Auschwitz (See above blog for details). After we got back from Auschwitz it was still fairly early. So we ventured over to the castle and explored that for a while. Then for lunch/linner we went to the mall. We ate in the food court, and then got some snacks for later, at the grocery store. We went back to the hostel and stayed there for the rest of the day. We sat in the living room and watched movie after movie. It was great. Then we ate traditional polish soup that our hostel made, for dinner. We went to our room and went to bed at 12am.

Day 13
It seems like we have been traveling for months. We are only on our 13th day and we still have 5 days left and it feels longer. I mean I’m not tired of traveling with Victoria; I am just annoyed with the weather. Traveling can be very exhausting! Anyway, once again we were on our way to the airport but this time we were headed to Prague.

Krakow was a 2.5. Smaller than Warsaw but still nice, clean and interesting.

September 12-14th, 2008
The "Prague" looking side of Warsaw!!!

Day 9
When we arrived in Warsaw, it was a lot colder than it was in Scandinavia. We were a little upset. Anyway, we found the bus to the city centre and got off near the hostel. We walked for about 5 minutes and found the place. We checked in and put our stuff away. We went to get some money and food. We walked down Krakowski toward city centre. We found the bank, got money out and then went to KFC for lunch. After lunch we went to this Empire State looking building, that was a museum. We wondered around in there for a while, and then went to the indoor flea market. We bought some stuff then headed back to our hostel. Back at the hostel we paid, and asked where a grocery store was. We went to the store to get our food for our stay. Back at the hostel we pretty much just sat around and talked to some Australian guys the entire time. We exchanged information and planned to meet up with them in Krakow, our next destination. We went to be after 2am.

Day 10
This was our main sight seeing day. We went to the old town part of Warsaw. It reminded me a lot of Prague. As we walked down Krakowskie Street, in the opposite direction as the day before, we passed the Kopernika statue, University of Warsaw, a church, the National Theater, and the Opera house. We arrived at Zamkowy square, where we took about a thousand pictures. While in old town we stopped and looked at a lot of souvenir shops and bought some post cards. As we continued to explore old town we saw a lot more sights like, the Royal Castle, St. John the Baptist Cathedral Basilica, Our Lady of Charity church, and the Museum of Warsaw. After seeing almost all of old town we headed across Slako-Dabrowsky Bridge. We walked for 20 minutes in sleet and wind before we made it across. Once across we saw the more residential part of Warsaw. We passed a few more churches before we found the restaurant we were looking for. Well it’s actually not a restaurant it’s a Soviet Milk Bar, and its one of the few left. It’s called Zabkowski. The food is extremely good and really cheap. Mostly pensioners and students go there. After lunch we took the tram back to old town then walked back to our hostel. We were extremely tired so we just hung around the hostel, read, did a crossword and ate dinner. We went to bed around 10pm.

Day 11
I’m glad we were able to sleep in because we were really tired. But we only slept in until 9am but it was nice. We ate breakfast, messed around online, hung out and then walked to our airport bus. We were at the airport in no time and on our way to Krakow.
Warsaw was a 3. Cleaner, safer, nicer and prettier than I expected. It has an unique mix of Prague and Kiev.


September 10-12th, 2008
Helsinki Cathedral, the inside is very modern and simple.

Day 7cont.
We arrived in Helsinki, I got my bag, and we went to find city transportation. We decided to take the bus and bought tickets. The total travel time was 45minutes. We took the bus to the last stop, and then took the tram to our hostel. It wasn’t the easiest thing to find but we managed. After checking in, we went out to explore the city. We took the tram back toward the city centre and got off to see Helsinki Cathedral and Senate Square. The Square houses the Government Palace, University of Helsinki and the National library of Finland. We took many picture of the square and then wondered into the Cathedral. By this time we were starving so we ate at McDonalds, again!! After lunch we headed back to the hostel stopping at the Uspenski Orthodox church, the largest Orthodox Church in Western Europe, along the way. Back at the hostel we took a nap before heading out again. We took the tram back to the city centre to go to the Museum. After that we took the tram further toward the city outskirts. We visited another church, the National Museum of Finland and the Opera House. On our way back to the tram we saw a parade of Finish football fans going to the game vs Germany. They were escorted by police, it was quite the spectacle. We went to a traditional restaurant called Zetor, which is famous in Helsinki. The inside of the restaurant reminded me a lot of Texas Roadhouse! The food was amazing and the portions were very large. After dinner we went back to the hostel and read, then went to bed.

Day 8
Victoria had planned on going to Estonia for the day, and I planned on seeing some movies. However, the ferry to take her to Tallinn got cancelled, so her plans were ruined. I was already so set on seeing movies that I decided to go anyway. Victoria went to this castle on an island instead. I went and saw, Hell Boy 2, Once, and Don’t Mess with the Zohan, all very different movies but good. I had pizza hut for lunch in between the movies. After the movies I went back to the hostel and read for a while before going to bed.

Day 9
We arrived at the airport at 11am, after leaving the hostel an hour before. We did the usual airport routine and boarded the plan. 30 minutes later, we were headed for Poland.

Finland was a 3. Prettier than Oslo but not too exciting. They do have good movie theaters though!