A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: ShelleyJ

Berlin

A City Both Old and New!

Tonight is our last night in Berlin and we have enjoyed the last four days exploring this vibrant and energetic city, which is a mixture of old and new. Being in Berlin, really brought home to me how isolated and insulated we are in New Zealand and Australia, from the whims and politics that can shape countries in drastic ways. Two world wars, as well as the many changes in the centuries prior to those events, have built these complex and intertwined cultures and countries, and no where is that more evident than in Berlin. The division of a city, and the lack of development that occurred because of this, meant that in the last 27 years, since the wall came down, there has been an explosion of growth and development! Potsdamer Platz is an example of this, where 25 years ago it was a wasteland between east and west Berlin, and now is full of new buildings and a thriving centre of shopping and business. Its hard to believe that none of those buildings were there such a short time ago! We spent quite a bit of time exploring the places where the Berlin wall had segregated the people and a country. The Berlin Wall Memorial gives you a small perspective of what it must have been like, and how the wall developed from a space either side and a barbed wire fence to a series of walls and defences designed to keep the people from the east crossing over to the west. So many people lost their lives trying to make their escape and the Checkpoint Charlie Museum showed many of the ingenious ways that people tried and did actually succeed. The East Side Gallery, where artists were invited to have painted pictures on the remaining section of wall in 1990, is iconic, and well worth the walk. There are only small sections of the wall remaining, but a row of cobblestones has been laid where it was placed and it snakes through the city, intersecting streets and pavements and we crossed or followed it many times during our days here. The older buildings that have survived, and have been rebuilt in some cases, are beautiful and imposing. Museum island, with its collection of amazing art, antiquities and history, as well as placement in the centre of the city and surrounded by the River Spree is well worth a visit. The Reichstag and the Berliner Dom, as well as the Brandenburg Gate, Alexanderplatz and the TV Tower, Hackescher Market, the Tiergarten and the many other sights, have made our visit to Berlin very special. And of course there has been Beer and more Beer, Currywurst sausages, more street food and riding the trams, S Bahn and U Bahn as we make our way from one place to another...walking A LOT...and sometimes getting a little bit lost in the process of finding our way. Tomorrow, we board our last train back to Amsterdam where we will spend one more night before flying back home. Its been a blast!

Posted by ShelleyJ 11:52 Archived in Germany Tagged berlin Comments (1)

Prague

rain

I will just start by saying that we are loving the Eurail Pass! It is making travelling the continent so easy, and the trains are numerous and efficient and comfortable. In planning this trip, we booked accommodation as close to each train station as possible. This has meant that we could walk and dump our bags and then begin exploring as soon as possible. It has also meant that we don't waste too much time getting settled and are also close to the main transport hub that can whisk us quickly around town...once we work it out that is! Prague was one of those places where we didn't use any of the public transport on offer. We were close enough to walk to everything that we wanted to see, and with only two days in the city, we stuck to the main tourist sites and enjoyed wandering the old town. We have discovered that there are things that you miss when touring in rainy weather. Because of umbrellas and hoods, you tend to be looking down a lot, and hence, don't look up as much and take in some of the things around you. It wasn't until a brief dry spell, when we really got to take in some of the decorations and fresco's painted on the buildings around Prague. Looking down did have its advantages though...I was really taken with the different paved patterns on the streets...there seemed to be so many, and I marvelled at the amount of work that went into laying these small pavers over so many streets and narrow lanes. So we looked at the Astronomical clock, crossed the Charles Bridge, walked the many lanes and roads, marvelled at the castle on the hill and the medieval architecture and generally soaked in all that Prague had to offer, and that included the rain! You would find it hard to be a vegetarian in Eastern Europe, as meat, all forms of it, and the bigger the better, makes up a large portion of the diet. The delicious sausages and smoked meats are not to be missed, washed down with generous steins of beer and we partook of these regularly. The street food is great, so you can eat cheaply and be fully sated! So, thank you Prague for a wonderful few days and now we head off to Berlin!

Posted by ShelleyJ 10:14 Archived in Czech Republic Comments (0)

Vienna!

rain 10 °C

The weather gods have been smiling on us in the last almost 3 weeks that we have been travelling, so I suppose we were due for a bit of rain, and Vienna has delivered that as well as some wind and cold temperatures today. We arrived 2 days ago, on the back of the Cronulla Sharks winning the NRL Grand Final, so spent our first afternoon eating the best Weiner Schnitzel EVER at the original restaurant in Vienna and drinking good beer, (and lets face it, as far as we know, there is no beer in Austria and Germany that doesn't taste good!) Yesterday, we had booked to do a day/night cruise up the Danube, so after an early start and tram ride, we boarded the boat and although the clouds looked ominous at times, we enjoyed a lovely day sightseeing up to the Wachau Valley and back. We spent a bit of time wandering around the town of Krem, famous for its apricot schnapps, and for being a very important roman outpost back in the day. It gave us a taste of what those river cruises that ply these waters must be like. We certainly have seen many of the ships going either up or down the Danube and the Rhine and tied up in port in Amsterdam, Budapest and Vienna. We arrived back at our hotel close to midnight so had a bit of a later start out today! It was a couple of hours out of the driving wind, rain and cold weather, but we had come prepared, and with our coats and umbrella, we ventured out, catching the train back into town. I must mention here how much we love the transport systems here and in many other places in Europe. A train/bus/tram coming every 5-10 minutes or so, on time, fast and efficient, well signposted and with routes clearly displayed. It makes navigating your way around an unfamiliar city very easy. Up and out from the underground, the full force of the weather hit us, but being hardy souls and not prepared to waste a moment of our time here, we made our way towards the Hapsburg Palace. We stumbled across a free walking tour as we arrived and decided to tag along, as we figured it would save us from wandering around fairly aimlessly...as we do sometimes...which is fine in good weather, but not when its teeming down, and this proved to be a good move. We still got wet and cold, but managed to see all of the things that we really wanted to see in a couple of hours. Due to the weather and holding an umbrella and my fingers like ice, I did not take as many photos as I would have liked, but will hopefully get a few more later in the day. In the early afternoon, our wet shoes and socks and feeling the need to warm up with a hot shower meant that we dripped our way back to our hotel and dried off, raised our body temperatures and will plan to venture out again this evening...and what do you know...the driving rain has now abated!! Its still windy and its still cold, but at least we won't get wet!

Posted by ShelleyJ 08:29 Archived in Austria Comments (1)

Budapest!

Wow! Where to start?? We left Timisoara 2 days ago, after a tearful goodbye at the train station. After a bit of a wait, because the train was late, we finally made it on board into an almost empty 1st class compartment. That 30 minute late start soon turned into an hour after waiting at borders etc, but we finally made it to Budapest. This is the first time that we have had any delays with trains so its the exception rather than the rule. We jumped in a taxi and after a bit of confusion, our very helpful driver found the building and we were met by the owner and checked into our amazing little studio apartment. Its fabulous!!!Then it was off to hit the streets and spend the whole afternoon and evening just walking the banks of the Danube, across the chain bridge, and up to Fishermans bastion and a walk around the castle at the top. The next day we headed out again for yet more walking, as well as cycling, and explored yet more of this amazing city! More bridges to cross, more streets and buildings to explore and we just soaked in the sights and sounds of both Buda and Pest. The city looks just as amazing at night as it does during the day. Today we are off to take the Metro, the oldest underground in Europe, and head to city park, where we aim to soak our muscles in a thermal pool and once again be amazed by this place. If you are ever in Europe, Budapest is a 'Must See!'

Posted by ShelleyJ 00:00 Archived in Hungary Comments (1)

Timisoara, Romania

We completed our longest train leg of this trip by boarding the train in Salzburg at 9am and travelling through Innsbruck, Vienna and arriving in Budapest. We changed trains there and left at 3pm for Timisoara, arriving just after 9pm. With a change of time due to daylight saving in Romania, and stopping for some time for both a Hungarian and Romanian border and passport check, it was actually only about a 4 hour last leg, so not as bad as it seems.
Timisoara is a city undergoing a transformation. It is a work in progress, but the parts of the central city that have been restored have been beautifully done. The various squares and buildings, parks and canals and lovely to wander around and the shopping and food is great! Timisoara is to be
'European Capital of Culture' in 2021, so more work will be done to ensure that it will look grand I'm sure! Both the Roman and Ottoman empires shaped the architecture and history of this city, and its evident in the number of mosques and churches, catholic and orthodox, that are prevalent throughout the city centre and beyond. Your money goes a long way here too, with good shopping and great food at a VERY reasonable price.
Our main reason for travelling to Europe this time, was to spend a few precious days with close family who we have not seen for some time. The opportunity to see my son, where and how he lives and the way he has embraced the country and the culture in his 4 years of living here and playing rugby, is priceless, and means when I watch his games online when back at home, and talk to him on Skype, I have a better understanding and truer picture of his life here. we have a couple of days left here and we will enjoy every minute! Thanks to Timisoara Rugby for allowing me watch a training session this morning. It brought back memories of the many days and weekends I spent being part of this when my boys were young, and when I watch future games online, I will imagine myself sitting there in the stands. More of Timisoara to come!

Posted by ShelleyJ 06:50 Archived in Romania Comments (0)

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