Sunday, 31 January 2016

Day 5》Innsbruck to Venice

A very early start today. I'm at the front of the bus so I can see the landscape through the big front windows of the bus. It was such a beautiful trip!

We got to Venice midday and went off to the ferry to the actual sinking city which is an island built on the swamps. It is such a sight! The concept is incredible and one has to wonder who ever thought building there was a good idea?

We were very lucky timing wise as they have just gone into carnival season which means they are at their most glamorous. this made the dreary, rainy weather tolerable. People were dressed up in full renaissance regalia wearing beautiful masks to obscure their identities as is tradition. The San Marco piazza was extremely full and they had a massive stage built for carnival performances.

We went on the gondola ride through the canals. It was an experience to check off on the bucket list. We were able to see all the pokey alleys and landmarks that are iconic of Venice. While Venice is unusual and beautiful in its strange way it is also grubby and smelly. I'm sure the smell is ten times worse in summer. The canals smell like eggs and while we were in the restaurant for dinner the building's ventilation suffused with the odor as the tide went out.

Other things I did was see the outside of the Basilica Di San Marco. I didn't go in because the line was huge. Also saw the Rialto Bridge and wondered around the alleys looking at all the stunning masks and venetian glass which the area is famous for.

For dinner we went to an Italian restaurant. The food was sharing platters starting with bruchetta, carbonara pasta, calamari rings, risotto and a pesto pasta. For dessert we had gelato (of course). On the topic of gelato I tried two flavours on my Venetian adventure: tiramisu and pistachio. Both were great. Looking forward to more gelato while I'm in Florence and Rome. I also had an Aperol spritz which is very Italian. It is ice, prosecco and Aperol liqueur topped off with some soda water.

Shopping wise, I bought an authentic venetian mask in the shape of a cat because you have to when in Venice. I also found beautiful Venetian glass quills for calligraphy. I was so happy! I chose a pretty green one. What makes it special is even the nib is glass. It was such a beautiful shop and now I can say I have a small piece of Venetian glass that I actually like (I found that while all the glassware and glass jewellery was pretty, it didn't fit my bag or my style). Price wise, everything was very reasonable.

After dinner we got the ferry back to the mainland. Apparently after 2200-2300 Venice is dead and you can get stranded there if you miss the last boat.
So yeah. That's Venice! Enjoy the photos attached:

Today's itinerary:

Friday, 29 January 2016

Day 4》Munich to Austria

Chilly morning in Munich. Breakfast at the hotel was great. They had an awesome buffet that even included pancakes. Yum.

At 0830 we left the hotel for Dachau which was a concentration camp outside Munich. This camp was not known as a death camp but rather a temporary place before a prisoner was transferred. That being said the museum reveals that many people suffered and died in this camp. It was a very powerful place that makes you feel appreciative of what we do have.

The camp is on flat ground which only emphasises the sheer size of the place. It was so dreary just a wash of grey in different tints. We saw the barracks, gas chamber and crematorium. I cannot imagine how the prisoners suffered. The pictures I saw showed emaciated and desperate people struggling to survive. There was a memorial at the back to symbolise understanding for different cultures and religions so this will never happen again.

After that we left in a visual route towards Austria. We stopped at a look out to take pictures of the Bavarian alps overlooking a beautiful lake. So stunning. We also made another stop closer to the alps so that we could frolic in the snow. A lot of the guys have never seen or touched it in person before.  Chaos ensued with flying snow balls.

Once we crossed into Austria we managed another stop to take photos of the Alps overlooking the Ahkensie lake (I don't know how to spell the name). The view here is breathtaking and the weather was superb making for a truly remarkable experience.

When we arrived in Innsbruck we had two hours free time to explore the city. Naturally I went to see the Swarovski shop that had some beautiful art sculptures and, of course, merchandise. After this I went to the strudel shop, as this is iconic Austrian food, and selected a cherry and chocolate strudel with warm custard. It was very tasty. Conveniently the schnapps store was directly across from this so I managed to sample the original schnapps made from pine. It was sweet however it almost tasted like a whiskey liqueur. 

I meandered down the old city and the Maria Theresian straße. Everything was so picturesque with gingerbread-like buildings.

After the town we went to our hotel. Today we are in the Dollinger and it is the best hotel we have been to so far. Wish we could stay longer. We had dinner at the hotel of some kind of seasonal vegetable soup, veal schnitzel and a liqueur mousse. The schnitzel was amazing.

Now I am in bed. Tomorrow is going to be a busy day. Enjoy the photos attached to this post.

Today's itinerary:

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Day 3》St. Goar to Munich

Early start again -- alarm at 0630. I have a whole bunch of bug bites (bed bugs?) all over me. They are mostly on the left arm from literally my fingers to my collar bone. There are also some on my right arm, ankles and back. So I'm very itchy at the moment. All up I probably have over 30 bites. Interestingly no one else has this problem.

At 1130 we stopped for 45 minutes at a petrol station and got lunch.

We arrived in Munich in the late afternoon. We had a half hour refresher in the hotel before we departed for the city centre.

In the city we went for a walking tour. We saw a bunch of historical places that had been re built after WWII. Munich was the Nazi HQ which explains why so much was destroyed. After the tour I went to the pharmacy for something to help my bites and then I went to the post office to send my post cards.

For dinner I went to the Hofbräuhaus for pork knuckles, dumplings and a stein of beer. Everything was delicious.

Now I am in bed pretty tired. Sorry about the short post and lack of imagination it's just been such a long day.

See the photos. I've also attached tomorrow's itinerary. Photos include: hotel we are in, Munich in general, Hofbräuhaus, and traditional Bavarian dress

Today's itinerary:

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Day 2》Amsterdam to Rhine Valley

I throughly enjoyed my time in Amsterdam! Today I felt alright despite only getting back to the hotel at midnight. I was up at 0630 and felt fine even with the lack of sleep however I could see at breakfast people still drunk, stoned, hungover -- or all three!
At 0830 we departed the hotel to the center where we had free time to do as we wanted. It was very rainy and cold, which may seem like a drag but worked well in our favour. Usually the Anne Frank Museum is rammed with tourists and a line that goes around the corner. Thankfully we only waited 10 minutes!

The museum itself was very well organised which meant for a thorough overview of the place while being quick to get through. At some points I felt immensely sad to think of Anne, from all accounts, a vivacious girl who had to remain quiet and be confined in the attic of a house for two years. While she did not survive the Holocaust her father did and ensured Anne's dream came true: she would be an author.

The museum explains general World War II history as well of the identities and backgrounds of the people hidden with Anne. It documents her evolution from a carefree girl doodling in her diary to an articulate journalist with the thoughts of a person beyond her age. The tour ended with a quote from her father saying that while he never thought too much of her diary he never expected her words to be so poignant and mature, ending on the note that parents don't really know their children or rather what they are capable of.

After this I went solo to the Tulip Museum which explained how the Netherlands got their national flower. It was another well created museum/exhibition with lots of interesting facts. The frilly tulips (most prized in the past) are called "broken" tulips and the appearance is called by a virus which over years ruin the bulbs.

Once I was done there I went for brunch at the Pancake Bakery. It was so delicious! I had the cherry pancake which consisted of cherry liqueur/cherries, ice cream and cream. It was so rich!

The rest of the free time I meandered past the coffee shops (aka weed establishments) and checked out vintage shops on my way to the Central Station. We waited at the Victoria Hotel for our bus (at 1245) and we departed again to the Rhine Valley.

We arrived at St. Goar and had dinner. As soon as this was over we went to a wine tasting literally across the road. It was run by a husband wife duo. The husband had a speech defect from a stoke a few years ago but he had a special charm that did not affect his enthusiasm. He had so many funny jokes. For €9.00 we tried red wine, rosé, white wine, dessert wine and the much and anticipated Ice wine. I really enjoyed the experience and at the end the glass we used could be taken as a souvenir.
Currently I am in the hotel bar having a pint of Germany beer "Bitburger". I've attached photos to this post. It's not interspersed within the writing as the blogger app is weird. Enjoy.

Tomorrow's Itinerary:

Day 1》I AMsterdam

Today was an early start to a very long day! I got up at 0430! I arrived at the Russel Square hotel indicated by Contiki and I had plenty time to spare (despite the wayward Uber driver I had to find.
When we all checked in we piled into the bus and stared the journey to Dover Port. And bonus, got to see the Dover Cliffs which are white from lime in the soil. Apparently on a good day you can see the cliffs from France.
Once we crossed the channel we drove from France through Belgium to the Netherlands. The bus ride over the day was very long however we made it to our hotel at 1730. The hotel is called Nieuw Slotania Hotel and it's ok.
We had dinner which was a simple buffet before heading off for our cruise down the canals. I couldn't take photos because it was too dark. We traveled down for an hour and a.half during which there was an open bar for beer, wine and soft drinks. Naturally thus was very popular.
From here we ambled down the Red Light District where the prostitutes were advertising themselves in red illuminated windows. Amsterdam is very modern in its ideas and it hasn't had a detrimental effect -- if anything it has only helped bring in tourists especially with their "coffee shops" for drugs.
As an optional activity we went to see a live sex show which was rediculous but exactly what I expected it too be.
That's all for now. I wish I had photos but it was just too dark. At least I have a photo of Dover Port and tomorrow's itinerary.