Friday, April 25, 2008
My family planned a two week holiday to show my cousins some of Europe’s highlights, starting in Amsterdam. I hadn’t ever been to Amsterdam so decided to train up and meet them while they were there. I was apprehensive about going on my own so this was the perfect opportunity. On the train ride up Saturday morning I overheard two American boys talking about doing drugs, women, eating brownies on the plan ride over, and how they’d warned all of their friends they probably wouldn’t email/contact them until after 4/20. 4/20?!?! OMG, I pulled up my sleeve to check my watch and sure enough I was on my way to Amsterdam just in time to celebrate 4/20/2008. Nice. At this point I’m thinking the city would be extra crazy but turns out 4/20 is just an American ‘holiday’ if you can call it that! None the less I was in for a treat.
[Side note] I took a 7:40am train to arrive in Amsterdam at 1:25pm and you wouldn’t believe the amount of alcohol that was consumed on these trains as early as 9am…respectable looking everyday people just drink beer and wine here like it’s water.
We spent the first day at the Keukenhof, which is a flower ‘museum?’ outside Amsterdam. Not sure what it would be called- basically it is tourist central and full of amazing flowers which were blooming all around. There are acres and acres of tulips, daffodils and masses of other incredible flowers.
*Cousins- Tammy and Cora
*Plus Matt in this one...
*My family- Uncle Michael, Aunt Dianne, Cora & Matt
*OMG in heaven again! Just leave me here, actually don't TOO MANY TOURISTS!
Thursday, April 24, 2008
I’ve stayed in hostels all over Europe: London, Paris, Nice, Rome, Barcelona, Vienna, Munich….and the list goes on. But I have never had a night like I did in Amsterdam and hope to never experience anything like it again.
I had heard of the Flying Pig hostels before and when I saw a flyer for it in Munich I decided that’s where I’d stay my last (and only-thank God) night alone in Amsterdam. There are three locations, I picked downtown so I could easily walk everywhere including the train station. So far so good. I checked in Monday morning and deposited my belongings in the luggage room for safe keeping and spent the day lounging at the Vondelpark! It was awesome, lots of biking and walking trails, green areas to chill, and ponds/streams running throughout.
“Too loud to sleep Piggy? Buy earplugs for €1 at the front desk”
and by the breakfast room… “No smoking during breakfast, unless of course, you are on fire”
Back to my room, gross, there is stuff everywhere and the other three beds are occupied already. There are rolling papers and indication of what happened earlier on the table. I’m starting to question the female part more and more now…then I step into the bathroom. Yikes, it’s horrible.
There is literally a squeegee in the shower- I am suddenly transported back to when I was 17 and worked at the community pool where we’d use those to clean the bathroom showers. [Note to Self: Not showering in the morning.] I try to open my locker to put some of my stuff inside, but no luck, its jammed shut. I flop down on my lovely bottom bunk and ponder what to do next. I unload my gear and head downstairs in search of dinner and hopefully new friends. When I got back from dinner I met a nice Australian bloke- Peter. We had a beer at the hostel’s bar and around 11:30pm I turned in for the night.
The real story begins---
I enter my room to discover I am definitely in a co-ed room. There are three guys, two in bed (one practically passed out and the other reading); the third is standing by the window holding something he is getting ready to light. Looks like I’m in for a treat.
The guy at the window turns to me, “You the fourth?”
“Yep, lucky me.”
“Oh, right then, is this ok?” He holds up his joint. I am honestly a bit relieved at first because I hate cigarettes so much that I was going to be pissed if all my stuff got smelly.
“Sure – but it’s the only one, right?”
And they carry on smoking their joint, asking me questions: Where are you from, what is your name, etc. Turns out they are from Paris but I don’t care to ask much more. I’m not sure what to do. It’s too late to ask for a new room and they seem nice enough. I am in Amsterdam and there is no way I’m going out looking for a new place to stay at midnight (if this is what is taking place in my room- who knows what’s going on in the streets).
Now they are high and going to bed. Perfect. What if they later decide they want to get in my bed? I am never around people smoking pot and I don’t know what is going on in their heads. I dig out my cell (like it’s going to do me much good- but just incase), lay out clothes for the mornings so as soon as I wake I can make a mad dash outta here and I miraculously fall asleep. I admit I was a little scared, I felt uneasy about being in a locked room with three high strangers…20 something year old druggies, but I slept until 8am none the less. Thankfully everything turned out fine, I awoke unharmed and was gone before they even stirred the next morning. I am glad to say that was my last hostel for a while, PHEW! Thank God!!
The next night I was sent by someone at the hostel to the row of restaurants by the Waag (an old medieval building) which happens to be on the opposite side of the RLD. I was a little hesitant at first, but eventually I made my way to that area of town as dusk was settling in. This time I was on a different street and when I stopped to see the Oude Kerk (church that is now a museum) by the Waag I realized I was in the wrong part of town. These girls were not hot, AT ALL…they were much feistier and I’d compare one I saw to a bulldog pinned up in the yard. When they guys walking by didn’t want to play she growled and kicked her door with her trashy black boot.. yikes, I had to get out of there ASAP. So apparently the RLD has zone like NYC or any city for that matter, I was in the ghetto of the RLD and last night I had seen 5th Avenue high class shopping. And that’s the RLD in a nutshell!
*The Amsterdam Central train station
*The spot on the canal where you can see under 7 bridges!
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
I arrived late in Munich and checked into my hostel. I had a cute little Canadian roomie who was rushing around, getting ready to go out. Having not gone out in ages, not exactly true, but I’d been traveling alone four days now and really needed to get out, next thing you know we’re on the subway headed for the world famous Hofbräuhaus. It’s very well known but I only heard of it that night! When we got there it was full of rowdy groups drinking and toasting (Prost! -in German) with their 1 Liter (jugs) of beer.
We circled the room looking for seats and settled in with two German girls at a table in the middle of the main room. Later the German girls made friends with a group of British guys and our party kept growing…
I have to admit that I did not step foot in a single museum or tour any of the palaces in Munich. I took a tour one morning but it was so cold, the rain was actually more like sleet, and I had trouble concentrating on the facts (plus it was hard to see all the tall buildings from under my hat and hood!). After lunch and once I had thawed I spent the afternoon wandering the grounds of the Schloss Nymphenburg which was very picturesque. There were tons of locals out jogging and swans everywhere. It was a really nice park that you could walk around for hours taking different trails through the forest and around the ponds. On the way home I decided to stay on the tram around town to see the sights (cheap and warm!)
From the tram I saw a Mexican restaurant and just had to go there! I had already past so a few stops later I got off and transferred to take the tram back in the other direction. After I ordered the table next to me invited me to join them as they spoke English and two of the three spoke German. We quickly hit it off and I had a great dinner and drinks with my new friends! (P.S. by the end of dinner I rolled an RRR for the first time in my life! Ha, thanks guys!)
Back in the city I met up with my new friend Marco and his buddies for dinner and drinks at a sports bar that tourists would never find! I love hanging out with the locals, even if they try teaching me dirty Bavarian slang! Holydeviphe! (no idea how to spell it!)
Basically I used Munich as a home base to take day trips and enjoy the nightlife -it was perfect!
When I left Vienna today I was planning to go to Berchtesgaden, Germany but first I had to switch trains in Salzburg, Austria. As my train was pulling into the city I was taken back by the unbelievable view from my window. You could see the Alps in the not so far distance and it was a dreamlike city that kept drawing me in. I got off the train in a daze I had ten minutes until my next train but never even considered making it.
It was really easy; I just threw my stuff in a locker at the station and started walking. I found the park she looped on the map first and couldn’t believe my eyes! I’m sorry but this city was like a fairy tale for me! I just loved every bit of it and kept thinking about how lucky I was to be there! This park- The Mirabellgarten had a perfect view of the castle above and ridiculously well maintained gardens below.
*The view- from the Mirabellgarten
* This statue was in the gardens…sometimes I feel the same way!
Next I made my way to the river and was so mesmerized that for the first time on the trip I sat down and sketched the city in front of me and the castle above. It reminded me of a painting I did during high school and these towers could very well be the ones I replicated. I finally crossed the bridge into the main part of the city and checked out the churches and shops before starting my hike up the mountain. (I just realized while consulting my map that I totally missed Mozart’s house and she had even circled it! Ha, you can’t see it all.)
*This is what I sketched :)On my way up the mountain there were signs in two different directions and since I wasn’t sure what it meant I started with the sign for the Richterhöhe. Other people kept coming down from that direction so why not, I’ve already made it this far. Turns out it was a spot where you had an amazing (free!) panoramic view of the city below and the mountains in the distance!
Time to see this castle…the Festung Hohensalzburg.
Inside the castle walls I took a tour of the interior (torture room, lots about the history, etc.). On the tour we were led up to a tower for a 360° view of the region. OMG! Again, thank God I stopped here! Haha, really it was that good. Here are a few pics so you’ll get what I’m raving about…
The city below-
After I stopped drooling I made my way back through town to catch a train to Munich!