28.11.2011 - 10.12.2011
Paris to Berlin…
We took an overnight bus from Paris to Berlin which turned out to be much better than London to Paris as the bus wasn’t full and we were able to secure the back seats as well as a double seat for the two of us, so we managed to get plenty of sleep during the journey.
On arrival into Berlin, we managed to navigate ourselves around the city pretty easy on the Berlin U-Bahn system (underground). We checked in to our Hotel/Hostel early, luckily they had the room ready for us already so we checked in and dropped our bags, showered and got changed then headed out to meet up with Riley Albiston and lunch. We all headed to a local restaurant and enjoyed a jug of beer and our meals, we ended up all chatting for a few hours and the boys finished over a litre of beer each. We then headed off to see the East Side Gallery, painted on part of the Berlin wall. The boys weren’t too taken by it by I really enjoyed checking out all of the artwork done. We then headed to the Christmas Markets in the middle of the town and tried Gluhwein on instruction of one of Riley’s local friends. Gluhwein is hot red wine mixed with cloves and orange. None of us could get through it. We all tried very hard to drink it, but it just didn’t sit right with us. Next up the boys grabbed a bratwurst to try to get rid of some of the taste in their mouths. We then strolled through the markets looking at all of the different stalls selling food, hot drinks, candied nuts, handiworks etc.
The next day Jaime and I set out to check out the city, we visited the Brandenburg gate, Parliament house (were there was an exclusion zone set up around it due to all of the heads of state meeting about the Euro Crisis), the memorial to the murdered Jews, Topography of Terror, just to name a few of the places. The memorial to the murdered Jews was really great, they have put together a large number of pylons in lines and all of varying heights over one whole block. Was really cool exploring. Underneath there was a very sombre museum. Very worth the visit.
Berlin to Prague
The next day we were off to Prague. Prague is such a breathtaking city. It’s so old and so well preserved. We arrived in the late afternoon and it was slightly miserable weather so we just checked in to our hotel and then decided that we would trek into the city centre and have a look around. We found the Christmas markets where we proceeded to sample some of the food. We grabbed some potato with bacon and cheese thing and one with potato and sausages. I really enjoyed the one with sausages but Jaime swears that the one that he got (potato, bacon, cheese) had worms in it. I do agree that there was a funny texture, but I don’t think that they were worms.. Next up Jaime tried a pastry dessert that was sweet pastry wound around a metal rod and cooked over a fire. It was really nice. We stayed and looked around for a bit then headed back to the hotel as it was getting pretty cold.
The next morning I really wanted to go on a walking tour of the city so we got up and headed in to the city for a free walking tour. Karel was our guide and he was a local Czech boy who had studied overseas. He did a quick survey of the group to find out where everyone was from. There were approximately 20 – 25 people on the tour and there were 2 Canadians, 1 European and then the rest were Australian/Kiwi. The tour was just great! Karel was very knowledgable and provided quite a good show. The point of the tour is that you tip at the end if you enjoyed it. I imagine that Karel did make a fair bit of money from the tour because it was great. I (we) highly recommend anyone travelling to Europe to consider visiting Prague and taking a free walking tour. In the afternoon we wandered around the Prague Castle area and looked at shops and sampled more food. It was great to just walk around the streets and look at the buildings and wonder how long they had been there and what they had seen over the years. I honestly cannot put into words how amazing Prague is. You will just need to go and see for yourself.
Prague to Vienna
Next up is Vienna, Austria. We arrived and checked into our hotel. We decided to start with an easy night, so we had dinner and a few drinks in the hotel. Very limited menu that was the same across the 3 different restaurants.
The next day we travelled into Vienna, it was quite a miserable day so we looked around a little bit then jumped on a tour bus which took us to all of the important parts of Vienna. To be honest the weather really didn’t add to our enjoyment of Vienna. It was a nice city, but didn’t really make it stand out for us.
Vienna to Rome
From Vienna we headed to Rome. This was an epic bus ride that had a screaming child on it. The mother didn’t seem to care as she just let the child scream and cry for 14 hours straight. As it was an overnight bus, we really hoped that we could at least get some sleep but it didn’t happen, so on arrival into Rome we were both quite exhausted. We tried to locate our B&B that we had booked but no one answered the door. We tried calling and they refused to let us check in/come up/drop our bags. They offered to try to arrange for us to drop our bags at a local Laundromat, which Jaime and I were not having a piece of. So we cancelled that reservation and went to the local Tourist Information centre. It just so happened that the owner of a local Inn was there as well and had a room available. He walked us to Nicholas Inn which was within walking distance to the Roman Forum and the Colosseum along with many other attractions. The room was so amazing and clean. The owners Melissa and Nicholas were absolutely amazing, and so helpful. They gave us maps, circled the important places to see, gave us business cards of the best local restaurants for us to try and answered any questions that we had.
We checked in and had a little sleep then went to visit the Colosseum in the afternoon. It was such an amazing structure. We could have spent hours wandering around and looking at everything. The sheer size of the place was amazing and the history of what had happened there.
We then walked up past the Roman Forum and around the local site seeing area then headed back for dinner.
The next day we headed out to Vatican City to look at the Vatican, the Basilica and the Sistine Chapel. We climbed to the top of the Basilica, it was a very good view and very interesting, however it is quite a climb, a lot of steps. When you do get to the top you have a great view of Vatican City as well as Rome. We then climbed down and looking through the Vatican Church then headed to the Vatican Museum. We powered through so that we could get to the Sistine Chapel. The only word I have for it is – Perfect – absolutely perfect. The room was so full of people which made it hard to stand and have a good look, but Jaime and I were both blown away but the beauty of the artwork.
Next up we headed to the Spanish steps and then the Trevi Fountain. I actually don’t know how long we spent at the Trevi Fountain, but it was just marvellous. We just sat and marvelled at the size of the fountain and all of the work that would have gone into constructing it. Just beautiful. Also a great spot to people watch.
We found that we ran out of time pretty quickly in Rome and would have loved another 2 days in the city, so we have decided that we will come back some other time.
If you do plan to come to Rome please please please book in advance and stay where we did. http://www.nicolasinn.com/en
Rome to Florence
After Rome we headed to Florence. Neither of us had many ideas about Florence before we arrived, we were just told that we should go. We wandered around and it was great. Another really old and amazing city. Many fountains, squares, markets, cathedrals, bell towers and gelatarias to be visited, not to mention the museums. We went and visited the statue of David, the Ponte Vecchio, Square of Independence, the Duomo (Cathedral Santa Maria de Fiore) but I think our favourite part was the Pitti Palace and exploring the opulent gardens attached to the Palace. We paid 10 Euro to get into the Palace and Gardens and did not expect to find what we did. We walked for hours around the gardens. I do not know how big the garden is or how long it took to build but it really was mind-blowing. It would have taken a lot of money to build what they have. I recommend visiting, and if you’re interested to know more, check out this website - http://www.firenzemusei.it/00_english/boboli/giardino.html
We also visited an amazing restaurant in Florence – Osteria Antico Mercato, Via Nazionale, 78/r – 50129 Firenze (www.anticomercatofirenze.itwww.anticomercatofirenze.it) . This place does AMAZING Fiorentina steak (500g) to die for! Also their Pizza are really great. They have been highly recommended by TripAdvisor 2 years in a row. If you come to Florence, you are doing yourself a disservice if you do not find this restaurant and eat there. It was very reasonably priced!