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

Olomouc

After spending a day sightseeing in Prague, we got up early and took a train to Olomouc.  After Prague, Olomouc is the largest culturally and architecturally significant city in the Czech Republic.

Jesus has a lot of nice houses in Olomouc.  The number of churches in what is a fairly compact old city is astounding, if not baffling and the design and decor of the churches spans the scale from austere to absurd.  A little surprisingly, despite rivaling Prague in terms of architecture, Olomouc has far less tourists.  Although we bumped into a couple of large groups whilst walking around, the town seemed far less busy and in some ways, far less tainted.

Rather than elbowing through hordes at every attraction, most places seemed to either be empty or be occupied only by the occasional local.  Perhaps the best example would be the honesty system in place at the entry to St. Moris church tower; a tin box with the entry cost painted on the side is all that stands between anyone and a climb up the very old helix staircase to the top of the tower.  Reaching the top of the helix staircase you find yourself in a very functional bell tower where you climb some more stairs and push open a plastic trapdoor to access the roof.

Other attractions are similar; small signs occasionally indicate that you should exercise common sense (respect the silence of the sanctuary , no dogs, no ice-cream) but are otherwise deserted and charge no admission.  Walking around, you begin to realise that although it sounds a little conceited and selfish, this is the experience you hope for when you travel - you have the sites and experience to yourself.  No noisy tourists, no pushing, no one walking in front of your camera, no getting stuck behind oblivious slow-moving, five-wide groups in narrow alleys.

The largest spire in Moravia at 125m.

An exceptionally Baroque church.

And the interior.

A medieval-era church with enormous bell tower.  We went up.

The very long double-helix staircase.

And the view from the top - possibly one of the world's best drinking balconies.

The Holy Trinity Column in the town square.

A statue celebrating the glorious union between man and dolphin.

Olomouc would definitely be somewhere I would suggest that anyone traveling to East Europe visits.

Day done, we headed back to Prague to scrub up before joining a pub crawl.

16Sep/10Off

Prague

It's hard to pick a city that has more of a intoned mental image in the collective consciousness by name alone than Prague.  And that image was always going to be a hard one to live up to.

Traveling by bus from Vienna to Prague, my first impressions of the city were mixed; we entered through the industrial and commercial districts of Prague where large glass and steel skyscrapers give way to skylines littered with domes and spires.  The streets are busy with traffic, hectic, noisy and the buildings gray with pollution.  Our bus made it's way to the UAN Florenc station through some shabby back streets and once there, Prague begins to seem less like Budapest and more like Bucharest.

For what must be one of the bigger "must-see" cities on any travelers itinerary, Prague seems a little rougher around the edges than would be expected.  It's not the same level of urban decay and chaos that we have seen in Romania, but it's not the polished gem that one would expect for a popular destination.

We check in (to a different hotel as ours has no hot water - long story) and head out.  It's unclear if the crowds on the main street are tourists or locals out shopping.  We see cameras and hear American accents, but we see a lot of what looks like people on their way home from work.

We eat a a small pub out of the way of the tourist routes and retire before heading out sightseeing the next day.  I'm not going to embarrass myself by attempting to name the buildings in these photos, so just enjoy the image dump.


Prague National Museum.

The Jubilee Synagog.

After spending the day seeing the sights, we headed out to see a blacklight theater show.  Blacklight theater is pretty much what the name suggests; a live theater performance in which blacklight is used to create some unique special effects with props and puppetry.

At a special "student" price (I think the cashier made a judgment based on our clothes), we saw Faust.  The performance was quite good and well worth it, if a little heavy on some elements of the story.

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.

Tagged as: , No Comments
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.