Travel Blog Daniella and Luke's Travelblog

20Sep/10Off

Berlin

It's increasingly harder to come up with a semi-original, mostly unplagiarized, kind-of captivating and half-witted opening sentence to these blog posts. So with apologies to the late Hunter S. Thompson; "Berlin; Buy the ticket, take the ride".

Coming to Berlin I'm not sure what we both expected. Traveling further westerly the border and cultural boundaries seem to become less distinct. People, flavors, styles and experiences seem less bold, less different and more of a dialectical approach to a common theme than something radically different and unique.

Arriving in Berlin we are greeted by the extremely well-designed, clean and functional Berlin Haustbahnhoff - the central railway station for Berlin and hub of what we would later find is an extremely efficient metro system.

After passing the sights of both old and new, east and west Berlin on our way from Haustbahnoff to the station nearest our hotel we disembark, and the change in culture and climate is dramatic. On traveling to our destination, we find that crowd has changed from one of homogeneous metronites to a seedy mix of punk culture in a little over half a dozen stops.

We arrive at our hotel - situated opposite the famous East-Side Gallery, a stretch of the surviving inner Berlin Wall now serving as an outdoor gallery for artists - and check in. Heading out for a meal it quickly becomes apparent that we are in a very heavily student populated district. The punk ethos is palpable.

What seems like a million small-town university's worth of extremely serious and very angsty, first-year arts students who took the whole thing a little too seriously roam the streets. It's only Thursday but every second person is carrying a beer (even those on bicycles, of which there are a lot). Second hand clothes and DIY (esp. haircuts) seem the order of the day.

We head in to Berlin. Hordes of tourists replace the hordes of students although they still remain in smaller numbers. We push our way through the crowds at every spot on the map and take some photos. I'm not going to embarrass myself by attempting to name them so they have vaguely humorous commentary were I could be bothered.

We head out back to our hotel at the end of the day - the beer-drinking situation has escalated. As we walk to a restaurant, Berlin seems to have gotten a little bit wilder as the evening sets in. We eat and watch and are still not sure what to make of it all.

16Sep/10Off

Vienna

Vienna - kind of like a German Paris.

Each street seems lined with exceedingly beautiful buildings, statues and monuments are dotted throughout the city, people are exceedingly fashionable and well-dressed, the historic center of town has more museums, churches, opera houses and attractions than seems plausible.

Vienna is also big.  Very big.  And it seems to take forever to walk anywhere.  We learned this as we walked from the dock to our hotel wearing our backpacks.

Having some time to kill until check-in, we walked past the stunning gothic St. Paul's cathedral.

I can't remember exactly what this building was, but it's located near the central People's Garden.  It's impossible to capture on film or without adjusting levels and contrast in Gimp, but the red flowers on this building were stunning.

Luckily enough, we arrived in Vienna in time to capture the end of an opera/film festival.  The other side of this building held a massive, public outdoor theater screen.

There were also a number of "international cuisine" food stalls (Asian, Spanish, Australian), one of which was selling wurst.

An epic statue of a man punching out a horse.

Parliament.

The National Opera Theater.

Karlsplatz metro terminal - these terminals were famously designed by Otto wagner.

A shot of the open-air theater mentioned earlier at night.  This was a screening of a performance of the Barber of Seville.

And after the show they turned on the house lights.

Lunch at a harvest/food festival that was held on our second last day in Vienna.

Bellevue Manor.

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15Sep/10Off

Trencin

Whilst in Bratislava we took a day trip by train to nearby Trencin, famous as the location of Trencin Castle.

Trencin Castle is very old, dating back to the days of the Roman Empire.  Unfortunately, like most historic buildings and castles we have visited, the appeal of old buildings is a little tarnished by the fact that most of the structures have been demolished and rebuilt several times during their history.

Whilst no one expects a building to last 2000 years without some sort of upkeep, seeing obviously new concrete, plaster and bricks on ancient buildings still takes something away from the experience.

Trencin Castle, perched high above the town.

And some of the older castle ruins from the castle gates.

One of the oldest parts of the castle is the large central tower.

And up we go...

...to the top.

And back down again.

Castle seen, we headed back to Bratislava and walking back to the hotel cam across this mushroom-cloud like monument in a park.

The next day we caught a boat up the Danube to Vienna.  As luck would have it, it had stopped raining by the time we left so we decided to sit on the upper deck.

That sucker was fast.

A slightly better view of the UFO Bridge from a river vantage point.

These castle ruins mark the border of Slovakia and Austria.

12Sep/10Off

Bratislava

I've been a little slack on updates lately due to not having reliable free internet and generally being a little lazy.  However, the bus on which we are now traveling from Vienna to Prague has free wifi, so here goes.

Bratislava is a lot like the other east-European cities we have visited; whilst it lacks the unrefined rawness of Bucharest, or the the opulent grandeur of Budapest, there are still some elements of both reflected in the city.

From the large tracts of uniform socialist-era housing blocks, to the stunning old world architecture and cobbled streets, Bratislava feels very much like a typical east-European city, albeit somewhat cleaner, less staunch and more commercial than what some may immediately imagine.

Bratislava is small.  Much smaller than any other capital we have visited so far and likely much smaller than any other capital we will visit for the remainder of our vacation.  Whilst we didn't bother venturing far into the newer side of town, the old city and city centers are compact and easily traversable on foot.

Also, Bratislava is comparatively cheap compared to it's neighbors.  1EUR buys 500ml of beer and 10EUR buys a large dinner platter for two.  For someone traveling on a budget, it's definitely a city worth a couple of days.   My only complaint would be that the city may be a little too small for anything other than a couple of days stay.  The cheap beer helps offset the boredom, but the sights are so concentrated and accessible that most attractions are likely viewable in a day or two.

The Blue Church.  Much bluer in real life than this image captured, however I don't have the time to adjust the levels in photoshop.

An excellent example of three contrasting architectural styles of spires on a church.

Michael's Gate in the Old Town section of Bratislava.

Bratislava Castle.

The courtyard of Bratislava Castle.

The Slavin Monument on a hill overlooking the city.

The Slovak Radio building - Geelongians may note the similarities to a local government building.

Parliament Palace.

View from our hotel window; in the skyline you can see the UFO Bridge, The spire of St Matthias Church and Bratislava Castle.

Traditional Slovakian fare - duck with red cabbage and potato pancakes, and dumplings with sheep's cheese.  Not pictured is the delicious garlic soup.

UFO Bridge.

And the view from the top.

And the other side showing the large rows of housing blocks.

Linux brand smokes and booze.  RMS would be turning in the filthy pile of soiled clothes that he calls a bed.

I have some more pics from Slovakia from a day trip we took to nearby Trencin Castle, but unfortunately my USB cable is in the luggage hold.  I'll try and post both them and some photos from Vienna tonight if the hotel has internet.

5Sep/10Off

Buda, Pest and Castle Hill

If you're ever planning to use public transport in Romania to meet a connecting flight or tight schedule, then good luck.  Leaving Romania on an overnight train to Budapest (craftily saving the expense of a night's accommodation) we expected to arrive at 8:10 the following morning, we didn't arrive until 10:30.

This worked out OK for us as we had several hours to waste lugging our backpacks around until we could stash them at the hotel after check-in time.  However, making the most of our time we still undertook a fairly good exploration of Pest, locating our Hotel, the Great Synagogue and Parliament before the check-in time.

Despite some initial first impressions of Hungary from rural train stations hinting at some similarities with Romania; stray dogs, border guards with close-cropped blond hair in Soviet-era reminiscent uniforms and some derelict buildings, on walking from Budapest Keleti Pu train station the difference between the two neighboring countries became markedly clearer.

Budapest is beautiful.  Every building, even the large central apartment complexes, are Baroque masterpieces, landmarks sporadically dot the city and everything twists, turns and melts into everything else in a way that a camera refuses to capture.

Something about Budapest seems strangely familiar too.  The small lane ways dotted with stores, the beautifully preserved buildings, the logical layout of streets - at some times it almost feels as if it could be some street on the Melbourne CDB.

After checking in, we headed out to explore Budapest, first walking out to Buda and then heading north to Castle Hill.   Castle Hill is big, very big.  From our vantage point at the memorial in Buda, Castle Hill seemed to house a large palatial palace.  Only after arriving in the mid-afternoon did we find that the Castle complex including the old town and Churches spans about five kilometers.

Parliament, a fantastic example of the neo-Gothic architecture.

State Opera House.

View of Castle Hill from lower Buda.

View of Parliament from Castle Hill.

Matthias Church on Castle Hill.

Fisherman's Bastion.

The following day our luck riding on the coat tails of the warm summer tourist season finally ran out.  Although it had rained a little during our stay at Brasov, we had attributed this to the high altitude, Bucharest still being relatively dry when we returned.  However, waking this morning it was noticeably cold and damp.  Undeterred, we headed out to Statue Park - home of many of many relocated communist era statues of former communist Hungary.

The statue below was clearly the pick of  the bunch.  Film fails to capture the dynamism and sense of movement and energy in this piece.

Comrade Lenin.

Marx and Engels.

Afterwards we caught the Metro out to Hero's Square; erected in honor of Hungary's conquest of the land.

And after that we relaxed in a Borozo - a wine bar in which the wines are served soup style from large steel drums with a ladle like cup for stupidly low prices.

We then strolled down a couple of blocks to find the Grand Market inexplicably closed for the weekend.

After dinner, we took the metro out to view Castle Hill and Chain Bridge by night.  The Metro escalators are incredibly steep and long.