Sorry this has been so long coming, I got very behind and then stopped posting completely, but I’m back home in NZ now, so I will endeavour to get them all done before I forget everything.
Started my day with a little passeggiata down Via del Plebiscito on my way to the Piazza Navona
I started the day by walking around the corner from my hotel (literally, about 30 seconds’ walk) into the Piazza Venzia, where I basically nearly died from general wonderment.
The sqaure is a manic mass of cars, bikes and people, with so much traffic attempting to get through it that there was a dude directing traffic – I snapped a picture ‘cause he looked so elegant doing it, like a dancer:
Oh god, this was the day from hell. And thus, it gets its very own devoid-of-photographs post.
It started out like a normal day, aside from the fact that I was awake before 6am. The normal airport-train-taking day quickly devolved into a nightmare of Tom-Hanks-in-an-airport proportions. (I may be exaggerating, but I’m celtic so I’m allowed).
I made it onto the budget airline plane and up into cruising alititude safely, and it was there at 20 or 30 thousand feet that the wheels came off the wagon.
Yep, that’s right, I had my first emergency landing.
A crack appeared in a cockpit window mid-flight, which is really concerning when the lives of everyone on board depend on all the air staying inside the plane.
The train trip was very very easy and relaxing – I saw lots of gorgeous countryside, but the train-window was very dirty and it was a high-speed train, so I didn’t take any pics. My hotel was about five minutes walk from the station and had a shower which was actually in the same place as the bed and wasn’t communal (YES!)
I had a very nice dinner at Lê Lê Nhà Hàng, a Vietnamese restaurant just down the road from my hotel in Vesterbro (what is it with all the Vietnamese food you ask? Not sure, maybe it was in anticipation of the wall-to-wall pizza and pasta awaiting me in Italy).
The next morning I had a leisurely start and wandered along a canal which had a beautiful green walkway beside it:
After a lazy start I ventured into the hippest part of Stockholm (Södermalm or SoFo) for breakfast – the classic coffee (which was excellent) and kanelbullar (cinnamon roll) at this little place just down from the most hipster shop I have ever seen (Grandpa – buy your child a tiny bowtie and yourself an overpriced pair of coloured headphones).
I had a wander around the shops, including Pet Shop Sounds which is an apparently quite famous music shop, where I bought the strangest combination of CDs I have ever got: White Light/White Heat by The Velvet Underground and a two-disc best of the Allman Brothers Band album. The guy at the counter looked at me funny.
After SoFo I ventured to the island of Skeppsholmen to the Moderna Museet – a massive collection of Modern Art which was made famous by Andy Warhol when he covered it in fluoro cow wallpaper. This stuff to be precise:
The flight to Stockholm was entirely uneventful and the express train from Arlanda to Stockholm Central is so easy I could have laughed out loud. In fact I did. Especially when I discovered the free wifi on the train.
To add to how easy it was, my hostel was just five minutes walk from the station.
The hostel was honestly the most hipster place I have ever stayed in. I forgot to get a picture, but the reception area had random old-fashioned typewriters and packing cases perched artfully on every surface. Instead of room numbers, each room was named after an island in the Stockholm archipelago (I was in Djurgården).
After dumping my bag, I went for a little explore around my little area (around Vasagaten) which was mostly shopping, but also a few little parks.
After getting settled into my room I went and had a lovely meal at El Amir (including a glass of wine that cost more than my last entire dinner) just down the road.
The next morning I started the day with a very disappointing breakfast at what I later discovered to be Sweden’s version of Starbucks (bleh) before jumping on the tunnelbana to Gamla Stan – the old town. Bizarrely enough while on my tunnelbana journey and in Gamla Stan I came across no less than three buskers doing Bob Dylan songs.
Gamla Stan is a little island covered in winding cobbled streets with some of the narrowest alleyways I’ve ever seen.
I started my first solitary day (after the initial teary goodbye to my mother outside the hostel) with coffee and smoked salmon scrambled eggs at Blaues Band, while sampling the delights of their free wifi. Mr Super-Kool-Ponytail wasn’t there though.
I managed to navigate the U-bahn and made it to the Jewish Museum, which is worth a visit just for the architecture.
The whole building is designed to represent the history of German Jews, down to the 45º slope of the floors.
The ground floor is divided into axes – the Axis of the Holocaust which leads to the Holocaust Tower, the Axis of Exile, which leads to the Garden of Exile and the Axis of Continuity which leads to the main exhibit.
The Holocaust Tower was originally just a void, which was not associated with the Holocaust at all, but over time the meaning has sort of seeped into it. It was completely silent in there, but a small opening in the roof lets you hear some of the sounds of the city.
We began the day with breakfast at Blaues Band, which lasted rather longer than usual due to their free wifi. The dude who worked there was so Super-Kool with a capital K. He had a little ponytail and smoked cigarettes out on the street as if he was oblivious to the goings-on in his café.
We had a wee explore around our neighbourhood of Berlin Mitte, which is THE MOST HIPSTER place I have ever been. The cafés are so cool they don’t even have names. Everyone rides around on bicycles with perfect hair and platform heels. There was an art gallery next door to us which was housed in three enormous packing crates stacked on top of each other.
Next was a visit to the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag. We managed to avoid the fake Soviet soldiers which were littering the square (how freakin’ tacky is that) and did what East Berliners couldn’t do for 40 years – walked through the Gate.
When we arrived in sunny Berlin, it was in fact, raining.
We made our arduous way on the bus to our hostel (that’s right, is has an ‘s’ in it. Don’t worry no bunk-beds were involved), which we couldn’t check into ‘til 2, so we got on the 100 bus and rode around on it for a bit.
We had a slight drama upon check-in, as we were sent to the wrong room (about a third of the size of the one we booked), but it turned out to be the room of someone with almost exactly the same name. Seriously, what are the chances.
But we eventually made it into our gigantic room (which one or two people could comfortably live in) and had a fabulous dinner at Good Morning Vietnam, the best Vietnamese restaurant in the world. Or at least outside of Vietnam. (Because I’ve been to ALL of them).
The next morning was spent doing laundry (oh, sweet sweet laundry) and after a fantastic lunch at the moderately famous Monsieur Vuong’s, we navigated the initially very confusing s-bahn urban trains (nearly getting caught in the middle of what looked like a rapidly escalating domestic at Alexanderplatz S-Bahnhof – luckily some burly German dudes were stepping in) to Warschauerstraße (tee-hee I love that double-s-symbol-thingy) and to the amazing East Side Gallery.
The East Side Gallery is a 2km stretch of the Berlin Wall, which has been turned into an open air gallery of murals, some of which were done in 1990 and some which were done in 2009 when the whole thing was given a bit of a makeover.
It is an astounding piece of history, and of public artwork.
This post is pretty much going to be the East Side Gallery (also I’m writing this while in my room in Italy which has the slowest internet of all time, so y’all should appreciate just how much waiting time went into this post).
To say that we started the last day off well would be an understatement.
We set out with our local guide Christina (who I think I liked best of all the guides) for the magnificent Alps, ready to go on our excursion to see the Eagle’s Nest, which is kind of like Hitler’s treehouse. Except instead of being on a tree, it’s on a freakin’ ginormous mountain.
Sadly (but not really) due to an accident, the road to the Eagle’s Nest (which is so perilous you have to take a special bus) was closed, so instead, we took the famous ‘Romantic Road’ into the Bavarian Alps, right to the top of mumblecoughberg (I’ve forgotten, OK, it was a while ago now) which gave us a view of not only the Eagle’s Nest, but also Salzburg, and a whole lot of really quite amazing mountains.
But I’m getting ahead of myself, because first we have Part Zwei in the Saga of Cartoon-Character American Tourists (I would like to disclaim that I am only referring to those American tourists. The ones who complain that the coke tastes different in [insert country here]. That actually happened by the way).