Thursday, August 30, 2007

Czech Rep.: Pilsner, Olomouc, Prague

From reading these posts it may seem I throw the word "love" around quite a lot. Its not that I take the use of the word lightly, on the contrary, I think the word love is one of the strongest words to use when describing how you feel about something. I guess everything has its on degree of awesome-ness that I love, really love. On that note...

I love the Central/Eastern Europe. I love the Czech Republic.

First in Pilsner, the home of Pilsner beer. An alright town, if you like beer. Not much else really, a bit of old stuff and tasty whole chickens sold in a kiosk on the street. Went to BEER WORLD which was a massive brewery with 9kms of cellars under ground. Admittedly the beer was pretty good. I love that they call it Beer World... so subtle.

From Pilsner to Olomouc. The reason we went there was because we found a couch and it wasn't in my guide book. Turned out to be fantastic. Stayed with a neat dude who was also hosted an American film crew who were doing a documentary on CouchSurfing. Had me a fantastic birthday out on the town in cellar bars and played Settlers of Catan. What could be better? Well... how about a visit to a zoo where the monkeys run around you! Man, monkeys are cool.

We then joined the film crew as they were very fun people, and I wanted to be there boom operator (alas they had no boom). Off to Prague we went. I love Prague. Some cities are just awesome, often for no real tangible reason. Perhaps it was the mix of a rich old and modern history...,
...or the contemporary cosmopolitan vibe, or the moving Communist Museum...
... or perhaps just the really cheap beer. But I loved it. Spent 5 days with an Slovakian dude who was, and still is I am sure, super super super awesome. Had some real good times exploring, going to church, seeing palaces, shape cutting, inline skating and becoming a famous actor in the next big thing. Loved it.

From Prague I have sneaked into Poland... I love Poland. It is actually a super cool country, one of my favourite so far... well, you can't compare, but it is super awesome. Currently I am sitting in an Internet cafe in Krakow contemplating my future.... where shall I go? The options are many, and the obstacles few... makes for a tough decision. You can count on one thing though, I want blog the results of my decision till well after I have made it.

Keep it real folks, and I apologise for the lack of wit and charm, but I haven't had any meat today (aside from some patay stuff for breakfast which isn't really meat).

Germany: Constance, Munich, Nuremberg, Gefrees

I spent my first few days in Germany enjoying the fantastic hospitality of Sabine and her family. Ate lots of real good German food, drank lots of real good German beer and baked some Christmas cookies (its summer, so it should be Christmas right?). They live close to Lake Constance which is right at the bottom of Germany and is rather beautiful. I love mums.

From here to Munich for five days. Munich is a pretty neat city, lots of beer and beer gardens. Got me a 1 litre handle which is a challenge to drink, and not as awesome as you would think (volume aside) as it gets a little warm by then end... unless you are speedy. Just chilled in Munich really, took a day trip to a lake, explored the Palace which was occupied by Bavarian kinds (below) and generally got lost in the city, which is the best way to see things. Also went and saw a Brazilian band play, cut some mean shapes.

Hit Nuremberg for a day... thats neat city. Neat old castle over looking the city which had very good views and was fun to explore (the free bits at least... they were asking more than the price of hot street meat for entry...). Nuremberg is also where Hitler started getting big so there is an area where he started building some pretty crazy stuff, notably Zeppelin Field where rallies of 200,000 people where held. A surreal place to be as the history is so recent and has directly effected people I know....

Then to Gefrees. Bet you have never heard of that one. Its where Elisabeth's grandmother lives, a super quintessential German village. Ate heaps of German food. So much meat! I love Germany. I love grandmothers. Spent a few nights sleeping in a super small bed made in 1888 (old stuff is so much older here), doing lots of wandering.... wandering is Germany hiking where you walk for an hour or so then a pub magically appears in front of you and you get a Radler (beer and lemonade... means you don't get too drunk and can still walk home. Those Germans have good beer smarts). Germany is actually super pretty, I am honestly a little surprised... I have fallen for the New Zealand tourist propaganda which tells me that New Zealand is the most beautiful and that nothing compares. Sure NZ is beautiful, real beautiful, but other stuff is too... Such an arrogant kiwi. I love it.

After my first brief appearance I headed East. I will be back there though, starting in Berlin in a few weeks, I am pretty excited about Berlin, I heard you can get kebabs for 1 euro...

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Switzerland: Interlaken, Bern, Lucerne, Zurich

So... as you may or may not have noticed I am a little behind on the old blog updates. Seems I am always apologising about that too, so I will just get straight into it.

After Milan I took a very scenic and tunnel-ful train to Interlaken. I am not to hot on German, Italian or French (or what ever else they speak in Switzerland) but I am pretty sure it means something along the lines of "between two lakes", which it ironically is. Here I spent two nights in a hostel, something I generally avoid but turned out alright. I did some hiking in the Swiss alps which was nowhere near as impressive as the Italian alps due to the low cloud, but it was still very cool and very Swiss. Got myself a hot chocolate with a British climber at some mountain refuge above a glacier.

After Interlaken I hit Bern which, if my memory serves me correctly, was pretty cool. Was old, Swiss and had a bit happening. Cool part was a big concrete pit full of bears. The Einstein museum was pretty neat, seems the Swiss claim any famous person as there own who ever lived in the country for more than a few days (or so some Germans told me).

From there to Lucern which is actually really beautiful. A neat river through the city to a big lake. Lots of cool bridges, old building, city wall with call towers and good chocolate and bakeries.

Then Zurich. Zurich was really cool. I didn't expect much so my expectations were well exceeded. Quite a cool old town, but very new as well. Best part was the night life.... went to a really cool Ska concert in the park then hit a club which had a Icelandic band playing who were absolutely fantastic! No idea what the genre was, perhaps contemporary folk? Had a great night out.

Also went swimming in the river which runs thought the city. It was a hot day and heaps of locals were out. There was a really strong current, so you would jump in one spot then float a few hundred metres then climb out real quick before you got washed away. Good times.

Sorry about the poor descriptions, but it was a while ago and I just want to get something up here. Anyway... next stop was Germany.

Italy: Genoa, Turin, Milan

So now I have a chance to fill you in on my last week in Italy. I spend 4 days in Genoa and I can quite confidently say that it is defiantly in my top three Italian cities. Before I went there I expected a city with some old stuff, and maybe some character. What I got was the perfect mix of raw, real and edgy Naples and pretty, historic, enchanting Florence. It was a very cosmopolitan city with heaps of immigrants (which is also fantastic) and had a really neat historic centre with many old buildings and really cool narrow streets. I love Genoa...

.. the old...
.. and the new. In most parts there were more kebab places than pizza joints.

I did a day trip for a hike along through Cinque Terre which is a national park with 5 quintessential Italian coastal villages. It was really cool getting outside and getting some walking done. Some really neat scenery and olive groves... reminded me a Crete a bit, but there were far more tourists and the track was... well, there was a track.

I eventually forced myself to leave Genoa after two excellent couch surfing experiences (one included a night time scooter tour of the city.. I think I might have to get me a scooter sometime). Enough about Genoa already!

So, it was to Turin next. I stayed there for 4 nights (it was to be two..). On the first night Davide (CS Host) introduced me to Aperitif... ok, check out this concept... you go to a bar, in our case Obelisk, and you buy a drink, in our case a tasty beer and somewhat high Italian beer price... then the most exciting thing ever happens. You can eat as much as you want! Thats right.. all the pizza, pasta, salads, cheeses, breads you want! Not just chips and dips like a normal bar, but they have all this amazing food just spread all over the place! Fantastic.

So anyway, did some exploring of Turin, it is definitely the most underrated city in Italy. I almost didn't go here, but I am very glad I did. It has some neat old palaces and castles, a very cool National Cinema museum (has the original Laurence of Arabia costume!). Also a very gothic vibe with gargoyles hidden in heaps of old buildings.

I took the train up into the Italian alps with Ryan (SC Host no. 2) and did some hiking... holy moly it was beautiful. The photo below hardly does it justice. I was totally blown away by the very bright colours, massive peaks, snow, grass, rivers, trees... dam.

From Turin to Milan. My original plan was 2 days in Milan but due to good times in Turin and no couches available I cut that back to 4 hours.. which to be honest was enough. Milan is just a city really, has a cool Gothic cathedral and... well.. that's about all I saw. Oh, and these!

Two Lamborghini's just parked up on the side of the road. Wow.

That marked the end of my Italian adventure. What was originally going to be a two week peek turned into a 6 week adventure, that about says it all really. Arrivederci Italia. Next stop... Switzerland.