9 Countries in 3 months has gone so fast. Japan, Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and now England. I’ve seen and done so many things I can hardly remember. Every now and again Dave will mention something we did and I have to dredge it up from the swamps of my mind. So perhaps I should write down some of these things before I forget completely. Japan you’ve already heard about so…
First there was Switzerland, a short and sweet stay, because ya know the exchange rate. Six days in Zurich and Lucerne drained about $900 NZD from my account. Zurich is a lot smaller than I imagined, walkable in a day, with a cute old town and home to amazing Swiss chocolate. My favourite was Läderach (mum always said I had expensive taste). Here I saw my first European snow at midnight, a very cool clock museum and the grand Mt. Titlis.
Then there was Vienna, a city I never planned to visit nor expected to love so much. The Bhaklava from Naschmarkt was the best I’ve ever had. Hostels were nice and reasonably priced, and to top it all off Vienna City Bikes were virtually free!
Vienna’s City Bike system is by far the best I’ve come across in all cities visited. After a first time registration fee off 1 euro, I was able to use these to get anywhere I wanted to go. All the main tourist attractions were within easy cycling distance. The deal was the first hour was free, but the thing was, once you return the bike after your first hour, after fifteen minutes, you can take it out again for free. This meant I didn’t pay a cent on transport while in Vienna. They’ve really done it right. Docking stations provide maps of all the stations and there are signs all over the city directing you to the stations. After a while I realised no matter where I went in the city there would be a docking station not far away.
I ended up staying six nights in Vienna and could have stayed longer. There was a lot to do here, especially for Museum lovers. The Museum Quarter is home to several large galleries and museums, but I chose to visit the house and Museum of Sigmund Freud; a must see if you took any Psychology paper, or just because it’s Freud. The House is where he lived with his family until they had to flee during the second world war and still has some original furnishings. It is also a beautiful representation of Viennese architecture. I loved the grand sitting rooms and polished wooden floors.
After Vienna I made my way to Budapest a few days early before the the start of my Topdeck ‘Spires in the Snow’ tour. Here I met a cool Canadian chick and we had a couple drinks at a Tiki Bar.
From here, the Topdeck tour introduced me to a group of awesome people, mostly Australians and Kiwis, took me to a Dive Bar (Budapest), the Szechenyi Baths (Budapest), Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps (Poland), Wieliczka Salt Mines (Poland) and the cobblestone streets of Prague. Booking this tour was the best decision of my whole trip.
Upon arriving in Berlin I fell ill. I guess that’s what being on tour does to you.
Two days later I pack up to meet David in Hamburg; a quiet harbour town. Here we hang out at the Winter Pride market and drink more Gluhwein. Then we begin our journey north.
After hopping on the train, which hopped on the ferry, our first stop is Copenhagen; the place I’m most excited for this winter trip, and it doesn’t disappoint. We’re staying in an adorable Danish style apartment, owned by Jonatan, we found on Airbnb.
I’m a kid the first night we walk into Tivoli; a historical garden theme park with childrens rides, some more thrilling attractions, and during the christmas season, a lot of food and festivity. The Tivoli Gardens were opened in 1843. They’ve survived sabotage from the second world war, and in 1951 Walt Disney visited the gardens and was keen to imitate the ambiance for Disneyland. We couldn’t resist going a second time.
Copenhagen also showed us it’s famous Nyhavn canals, Christiania town, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, impeccable design, the Roskilde Viking Museum, thriving bicycle culture, a decent coffee and human feces (which David stepped in). Apart from that last bit, it was very “hygge” (danish for creating a cosy, warm atmosphere).
Stockholm was another winner, partly due to our superb hostel experience at City Backpackers. It’s got a very retro feel but with all modern technology, a cafe and even a sauna – great for after you’ve borrowed their free skates and been to one of the local outdoor ice rinks. It was a great place to spend Christmas with the friends we met.
Memorable attractions included the 35 degree celcius brass woman; a statue built in memory of a local artist. You’ll immediately notice shinier parts on her belly and nose where people have rubbed; these are the warmest. I also loved cycling the city, the Old Town and its Gringots style underground vault cafes and of course the larger than life Vasa Ship Museum.
New Years Eve in Berlin is feuerwerks, lots and lots of fireworks. At some points I felt happy to escape unscathed. It was actually nuts. The Brandenburg Tor (Gate) party was pretty cool, but cold, so we spent most of New Years Eve in a bar near the gate, emerging just as the whizzz bangs started.
So since New Years was over we figured we should start heading back to London, money was getting low and we wanted to find work to save for Summer. But we still had two trips each left on our Eurail passes, so we figured we’d stop in Cologne before following on to London.
Until we found out there was a strike in the Brussels train station lasting three days, blocking our passage back to London, the air fares had therefore skyrocketed, and even using the Eurail pass it would still be 120 Euros to ride the Eurostar. So we ended up booking our first Ryanair flight and staying six days in Cologne; a lovely place where I got to spend three consecutive days in the Lego store designing dream houses. They also had a decent Cathedral.
And here we are in London. Let the adventure continue…