Saturday, 10 November 2007

Pisa and Cinque Terre

On Wednesday I jumped on the train over to Pisa. There wasnt much in town, so just went across to the Leaning Tower of Pisa to get the obligatory photo infront of it. I didnt know it was the bell tower for the church. After 2 hours in town it was time to continue on to the town of Riomaggiore, a small village on the coast and the starting point for the Cinque Terre trek. I arrived and all the hostels looked pretty full. There was a kiwi girl that was staying with some old guy that had offered his spare room, but she was feeling pretty uncomfortable there so I claimed the other spare room. That didnt stop the old guy from trying to hit on her though. We went to a restaurant for dinner, only to get microwaved pasta for dinner.
The next day the sun was shining so we began the trek. Passing through the five villages which were impressively set on the top of the cliffs. The mountains here dropped suddenly into the ocean. We stopped at Vernazza for lunch at the lookout and then again at the next town for some gelato. Caught the train back and cooked a feed back home. The next day we headed down to the beach where the swell was getting bigger. Enjoyed the sunshine for a few hours and then I jumped on the train to Rimini. This was a gruelling 8 hour trip but I arrived just before midnight and found the Sunflower hostel.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Firenze (Florence)

I arrived to Florence in the evening. I had planned to stay with some guys in a little village out of town, but couldnt get onto them. So after running around town I managed the last hostel bed in town. However could only stay there two nights before they closed it for winter and turned it into a homeless shelter. Went to watch a band playing on the Ponte Vecchio (the famous bridge with houses on it) before calling it an early night. On Saturday I visited the St Maria Novella church, the Duomo cathedral, the Palazzio Vechio which all had lots of famous paintings that I'd never heard of. In the evening I headed up to the Mechelangelo plaza for a great view of sunset over the city and surrounding mountains.
On Sunday I had to change hostels and got there just in time for the free guided tour around town. It visited most of the same places again but was nice to hear some stories about the stuff. Afterwards a group of us retired to a restaurant for some fantastic italian pizza, then went to see the real Michelangelo sculpture of David which was big. We went back to the terrace at the hostel to enjoy a local wine before heading back to another restaurant for more pizza.
On Monday I went with Yvonne to Siena, only an hour out of town on the train. It was an old medievil town with lots of winding streets and a cool plaza with a big tower. We saw the sights and then got away from the centre to find a nice little restaurant and had some fantastic pasta with meat sauce. We went back to Florence and headed back up to Michelangelo plaza for a view over the city, but it was pretty dark by then. Headed out to an irish pub and then on to the disco which was cranking. Bit expensive though.
Today just have a relaxing day with a trip to Fiesole just out of town, walk back to Florence and enjoy the view over the city again. Spent the evening with a few of the guys for a few drinks in the local Florence establishments.

Friday, 2 November 2007


Flew in to Ciampino on Sunday 28 and got the bus and metro into the central station. Found the hostel which is pretty cool with a great party atmosphere. In the evening I went for a walk around the Plaza Venice where there were old roman ruins laying all over the place and around the outside of the Colloseum. At night we went with a big group from the hostel with a few bottles of good Italian wine to drink on the Spanish steps.
The next day it was time to hit up the Vatican. The plaza there was pretty cool, but the queue was enourmous to get into the Museum... took just 20 minutes to walk past the queue to get to the front. The guys at the front had been waiting for 3h, so I formed a new line for Australians and got straight in, followed by crowds of more Aussies. The museum was pretty cool with plenty of painted walls, egyption mummies and fancy paintings and sculptures. The cistine chapel was pretty fancy with some colours on the ceiling and everyone sneaking in some photos. Once they stopped singing in the Basilica I checked that out and also saw the tombs for all the popes underneath.
On Tuesday I visited the Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore, Quattro Fountains, Quirinale which appeared to be the presidential palace, the Trevi fountain, the Tritone fountain and the spanish steps. Rome is pretty cool that you can just wonder around and find these cool places.
On Wednesday 31 Oct I visited the ruins near the Colloseum, and came across the San Giovanni church which had some steps from Jerusalem that Jesus had supposedly walked up. Everyone was trying to get to the top by only walking on their knees. I thought they were all crazy and just walked up some other stairs.
With all the americans at the hostel we decided to throw a Halloween party. We gathered several hundred euros and got ourselves a good stash of drinks before getting into the erasmus (exchange student) welcome party.
Thursday was a public holiday in Italy. I visited the Palatine hill which had more ruins. There wasnt too much to see up here, just the foundations for the old palaces, etc. Then went inside the Colloseum which looked just the same as from outside. I came across some church that had a big statue of a mouth with a line of tourists getting photos of their arm stuck down its throat. Apparently some 'mouth of truth'. The hostel found out at 11pm that they had chronically overbooked, so we all had to share beds, but decided just to head back to Trevi fountain and Spanish steps with some wine and then returned to the hostel with more McDonalds than we've ever seen.
In the morning I had I had lunch in a plaza in Rome and then took the slow train up to Florence.

Sunday, 28 October 2007


On Thursday 25 Oct I got the train from Hilversum over to Utrect. I had a quick walk around town where there was another big church and some nice shopping streets with an old river port running through the centre of town. Then I got the train over to Nijmegen where I checked out the park with the ruins of an old castle but there wasnt much left of it. I met Ewe and stayed at her place.
The next day I borrowed Ewe's bike and went for a ride up to Berg en Daal which must be the only hill in Holland, but is right on the German border. Cruised around some wetlands and then checked out the centre of town. Ewe's mate Christoph came over in the evening to cook up some traditional polish food... was like potato cake but was actually pretty nice. We hit up a little bar in town and found that my pool skills have diminished somewhat.
On Saturday Ewe and I took the car and cruised all over Holland. First stop was Breda so she could do some shopping and I checked out town, we had lunch in a restaurant at Middelburg and then checked out the beach. Drove over some big dykes that stop Holland from going underwater and drove back through Rotterdam to Nijmegen.
The next morning I got the bus over to the airport in Germany for my flight down to Rome.

Wednesday, 10 October 2007


On Sunday I got the train from Trier to Wasserbillig, right on the border, and then the bus over to Echternach. This was a lovely town with a lively market going on in the centre and a great river through town (the german border) which was perfect for a walk along. I met Kevin in the afternoon and went with his family for dinner at a restaurant in Beaufort.

Saturday, 6 October 2007


On Friday I wanted to leave Hiedelberg for Trier. Most of the trains werent operating due to a train driver strike, but lukily the 2 trains I needed were going, although they were packed full with drunk old german men singing and dancing trying to pick up old german ladies.
The trip from Mainz along the Rhine river to Koblenz was really nice with lots of hills and castles - the perfect place for a weekend of cycling. I arrived in Trier about 1400h and had lunch at the palace gardens. I also visited the Jesuit church which used to be the throne room for the roman emperors when they were in town. In the evening I met Raphael and after cooking up a great meal we headed to the Panic Club party for the night.
On Saturaday, Raphael, his girlfriend Julie, his housemate Julia, and I took the tourist train around town. It was a popular town being the oldest north of the Alps. Every construction site keeps getting shut down when they inevitably dig up some more roman ruins. We relaxed away the afternoon with a few beers in the plaza.

Friday, 5 October 2007

Black Forest, Karlsruhe and Hiedelberg

On Wednesday 3 Oct it was a public holiday in Germany to celebrate the reunification of east and west. I left Stuttgart and took the train to Bad Wildbad in the middle of the northern part of the Black Forest. It was a nice place with rolling hills and the sun shining in the resort town of Bad Wildbad. There was a huge queue for the fernicular up to Sommerberg so I walked up instead. It would be a nice place to go walking for a couple of days, but I didnt have time so just got to the top and back down again. Then I got the train to Karlsruhe. It had a huge zoo in the middle of town and on the other side another big palace. It had some nice gardens too full of people enjoying the sun, and even an old steam train driving around. In the evening I caught the train over to Hiedelberg which turned out to be really back on the tourist trail. Walked from the train station along the longest shopping street I have come across in a little university town and found a pub with a spare bed.
On Thursday I explored Hiedelberg. It is famous for a huge castle up on the hill overlooking town, so I went up there. It was nice enough but couldnt get inside. I walked up the hill on the opposite side of the valley for a view across town and went to have a beer at one of the terraces in town. In the evening I went out for a few drinks with some Americans, which turned out like any night out with Americans.

Tuesday, 2 October 2007


On Sunday 30 Sept I jumped on the ICE train from Munich to Stuttgart. I met Christoph at the railway station. First stop was the top of the railway station tower for a view over the city. Contrary to what people from Munich say, it was a very nice town set up in the valley. The World Cycling Championships were being held this week, with the Men's grand final just underway, so we headed up and saw them all wizz past, but didnt hang around to see them do all 200 laps. In the evening I went for a walk around the centre of town. The Schlossplatz and the many gardens in town were really nice to lay on the grass and enjoy a beer.
On Monday I went for a walk out of Stuttgart to the 3 lakes area, Pfaffersee, Neuersee, and Barensee. I came across the little castle of Barenschlossle where everyone was enjoying a coffee in the sun. I also enjoyed the sun as it was the first sun since a whole rainy week in Munich. I continued on to Solitude Castle but it was closed on Mondays, however it was nice enough from the outside. Afterwards I got the bus and old tram up to the TV Tower which is one of the most famous landmarks in Stuttgart. From the top of the 150m tower I had a great view over the entire region of Stuttgart and the black forest.
On Tuesday I took the train out to Ludwigsberg to visit a big palace there. The tour was in German so didnt understand too much, but like all the other palaces there were plenty of fancy rooms, paintings and furniture. One interesting fact was how the Queen went to the toilet. Apparently they didnt have toilet paper back then and you werent allowed to wipe, so after doing her business in a bucket so simply sprayed on some perfume and that was it.
In the afternoon I headed back into town and visited the Mercedes Benz museum. Stuttgart is the headquarters of Merc and Porshe so there were plenty of cars here to see. In the evening I went with Christoph to the Kellar Klub to see a local band do their last performance before going on tour around Australia.

Saturday, 29 September 2007


On Tuesday 25 Oct I got the train from Luzern to Zurich and onto St Margarthen. Here I had a look around town but it was rainy and not much to see. I got the train over to Bregenz in Austria which was a much more interesting place and the rain started to ease up. Lots of old buildings and would have been nice to sit outside for a beer if the sun was out. It is on the shores of Lake Konstance so went for a walk along there, before stocking up on some beers and getting the train up to Munich. I arrived at about 1700 and found the campsite at Thirkichen (Thai Chicken). The place was full of thousands of campers, but the tents all looked like they had been demolished... sleeping bags all in big piles in the rain and tents destroyed, all under a heavy layer of beer bottles. I found a spare spot and put up my $17 tent in the rain, threw my bag inside and headed into the Oktoberfest. Met up with Catt and we made our way to the Lowenbrau beer tent for a couple of beers. Not too big a night since all the tents close at 10:30. The partying continued back at the campsite, and I discovered that my tent was not the most waterproof one around.
The next day I went into Munich to see some sights around town. The centre was quite nice and some big churches and plenty of beer halls around. I caught up with Catt and headed to the roudiest beer tent we could find. The beer tents were very impressive with thousands of people all dancing on the tables. All the locals were dressed in their maid outfits and ledderhosen, and the beer ladies did a good job delivering 8 steins of beer through the drunken crowd. We quickly met some more Aussies and partied on until the tent closed down. Being my birthday, this was too early to finish up with the partying. I headed back to Thai Chicken and along with some more Aussies, we started our new party... security quickly put an end to that but we resumed in the dryness of the toilet block. A busload of Italians turned up almost immediately and started cooking up a huge feed of pasta, and made sure that any girls wanting to go to the toilet were forced to join the party.
On Thursday I visited the Residence Museum which was the old palace for the local kings. It was full of fancy rooms, gold plates and paintings of kings. Called into a couple of the beer tents but decided to not have a huge night.
Friday I visited the Dacau concentration camp just outside of the city. This was the first concentration camp set up my the Nazi's and the only one that operated for the entire duration of their rule. A chilling place with several of the rooms having been reconstructed and the crematorium open for visiting. I then headed back to Oktoberfest but it was too late to get in on a Friday night... all the tents were full and had huge queues. Instead I checked out some of the rides around... one ride was pulling 6Gs and not the sort of thing I would want to be doing after a few drinks. The most popular ride was just an escalator that people had to jump on to get to the top of a slide, but after many drinks they would jump on and end up going head first. This drew a huge crowd and provided entertainment for hours.
On Saturday we knew it would be busy, so along with another few Aussies from the campsite we headed in at 9am. We were worried that all the tents looked full already, with enormous queues, but we quickly found out that the front doors never get opened on the weekend, so we headed round the back and got ourselves a table and a few litres of beer. Unlucky for everyone waiting the whole day at the front door.

Monday, 24 September 2007


On Tuesday we were hoping to head up to the mountains, but the weather had turned terrible with rain so Nadine and myself opted to go on a cruise on the Thunersee. This was very enjoyable passing little villages along the way. The rain eased a little so we got off at the far end of the lake and walked through Interlaken and to the Brienzersee. Returned to Thun to have the traditional swiss dish of Racelette for dinner. This is melting bits of cheese under a special grill and then serving them on potatoes and bacon, etc. Banana, potato, bacon and cheese turned out to be a pretty good comination.
On Wednesday the sky had cleared so I went to the train station only to find that the trains where running 20 minutes late, when I finally got to Spiez to connecting train had also gone, so with a spare hour to waste I checked out the local cast on the lake, then caught the train up to Erlenbach. From here the cablecar went up to the top of Stockhorn. Great views out over much of Switzerland. Walked down to Oberstockenalp, then around Oberstockensee, Vorderstocken and to Chrindi. Took an adventurous route back up to the summit via Chummli.
Thursday the weather was perfect so I got the train over to Grindelwald, and the cablecar just short of First, at Schreckfeld. Walked up to First where there were thousands of old tourists having lunch in the sun, so had to escape quickly. Great views out to Grosse Scheidegg, Wetterhorn and Mettenberg. Got to Backalpsee for the postcard pictures of the lake and the snow capped mountains like a mirror image. Continued up to the summit of Faulhorn (2686m) which offered the most amazing views to the Eiger, Monc and Jungfrau, many other mountains, the lakes to Thun and the middle lands of CH. Walked back to Grindelwald via Bussalp.
On Friday I went for a bike ride with Nadine from Thun up to a nearby lake. We were hoping we would be able to get to the lake, but it was still ina pretty natural state and surrounded by mud and reids. Nice ride back through the forrest. In the evening went over to Murten and met up with another of Nadine's mates. We went for a cruise on the lake to Neachatel which was quite enjoyable with a bottle of champagne, some snacks of salami and dips, sitting on the roof looking out to the alps as the sun was setting. We called past Bern on the way home for some drinks in a cool bar that had been setup in an old gym... complete with basketball hoop still intact.
On Saturday I got the train back to Luzern, but had to jump off in Meiringen for a quick trek given the weather was perfect again. Took 4 cablecars up through Hasliberg to get to the AlpenTower (Planplatten). Great views to titlis and Eiger, also jumping point for skydivers. Walked down through Gummenalp and Hasliberg Reuti to meiringen to get the train back over the Brünigpass to Luzern.
On Sunday I visited the school fete where Timo was hanging out then visited Christine in Zurich with Kurt. Went for a walk by the lake before returning to Luzern.
Today the weather was again perfect so took the train up to Engleberg, and then the cablecar up to Trübsee. Had a magnificent walk up to Jachpass, around the ridge to Schaftal, Tannalp, Tannensee, Melchsee-Frutt and down to Stöckalp and got the PostAuto back to Luzern. Tomorrow catching the train up to Münich for Oktoberfest.