We were in Rome for four nights and had four whole days to explore and explore we did. Our hotel was quite frankly amazing; it was the most luxurious place we have stayed in on our trip. We had air conditioning, a fridge, ensuite and a flat screen TV with 400 channels! Wonderful!
Our first day consisted of nothing more than queuing for over an hour for the coliseum and having our first roman dinner. The coliseum is really a sight to behold. I am sure that engineers today would struggle building it and it would probably end up half-finished or three times over budget, yet they managed to do it with no cranes or mechanical aids. Maybe magic?
Unfortunately you don’t actually get to stand in the centre, the floor has been removed to reveal the rooms underneath it so you don’t get that proper feeling of how big it is. But you do get to go the highest tier which feels about 200 steps up, the 40 degree heat we had didn’t help. The view was spectacular and you could almost picture the tiny gladiator fighting the bear all that distance below you.
Having four days in Rome meant that we could visit Naples and Pompeii - the location of the preserved Roman town. What a day this turned out to be! We got an early train from Rome, it was packed! Obviously day trips to Naples are quite popular, so two hours later we arrived in Naples with numb bums – the floor isn’t the comfiest! There is a local commuter train between Naples and Pompeii, but we saw signs for local scooter hire and had second thoughts about the train. After enquiring the price we decided to go for it, a 125cc scooter was ours for the day. European style open helmets securely fastened and we were off.
The only map we had was a free paper one that we got from tourist information and Naples was like a maze. After a few wrong turns, dead ends and non-existent roads we finally hit the A3 towards Pompeii. Pompeii is about 25km of autostradre from Naples or about 25 minutes, the rental shop neglected to tell us about the two tolls we would have to pass through to get there – luckily we had the coins to get through otherwise that could have become a sticky situation!
The ruins that we headed to see totally made the trip. I have never seen anything preserved in such a large quantity so perfectly. It really was like stepping back 2000 years in time, you could even see the painting on the walls, and I doubt you could find that anywhere else in the world. If you ever happen to be passing through Rome or Naples I would highly recommend taking a day and visiting the ruins. If you know the story then you’ll know that nearly everyone who lived there was buried alive by ash, this lead to near perfect preservation of the last position the body was in. The bodies themselves had decomposed by the time the site was excavated but the hollow in the ash was still there leading to casts of the shapes being made. There are some of these on display in the ruins and they are quite harrowing, I know they aren’t actual bodies. But seeing the shape of a boy curled up covering his mouth with his hands is rather sad. It must have been terribly scary! Hopefully nothing as bad as that will ever happen again.
The ride back was far smoother than the ride there, I knew how the bike handled and we knew the route. It was even quite fun! It was so hot that day that the air blowing in our face felt really warm, not quite what we were expecting.
Sunday was our first day of the trip where we did absolutely nothing. Bar myself briefly popping out to get lunch we actually didn’t get out of bed until about 1800! It was just what we both needed; constant exploring and late nights had been draining our batteries so it was more of a recharge day if anything. We did manage to catch some of the Olympics, why do the BBC always show the boring sports such as tennis or gymnastics on BBC1 and the exciting sports on BBC 3 or the red button! We can’t get them out here which sucks. One thing that we have found out here that lemonchello is exceptionally cheap so we managed to sink a bottle of that while we watched the evening’s athletics, lush!
Monday was ‘Rome-in-a-day’. Well I think we successfully proved that you could do the majority of Rome’s major attractions in one very long day with some pre-booking or two shorter days and some queuing. This makes Rome a good destination for a Friday to Sunday weekend holiday, well we think so anyway. We managed to get to the Trevi fountain, Pantheon, the cats square I can’t remember the name, and we managed to get into the Vatican City! We booked tickets for the museum entrance, so we could skip the queue and use the side entrance to the Cistine Chapel. Well, it was interesting; I have never seen so much Religious Memorabilia in one place. The chapel itself was just like a big school hall with some old paintings round the outside. The Pantheon was far more impressive, so I would say unless you’ve booked to skip the queues or you are into your Religious Memorabilia I would spend time in Rome checking out the other sites or sitting down and eating the gorgeous gelato in the sun!
Our train was the evening fast train to Milan via Florence, like the trip down from Venice it was exceptionally quick and super comfy. The train actually didn’t stop between Rome and Florence which was lovely; there were a few extra chairs so we could spread out a bit.
We arrived at our accommodation last night at about 2100 in the dark. Our accommodation for Florence is probably the most basic we’ve had all trip, no plugs, no sink, no air-con. Well we are camping! Our ‘room’ is basically a permanent tent. Luxury…Not!
Sorry about the total lack of photos at the moment. Our tent doesn't have wifi so we headed up to the bar area to get it. Neither of us brought our cameras up. So there you go. Photos later!
Oh, just a note for my Granddad. I drunk the water in Rome from the street water points. If I die, that's why!
Venice is quite frankly amazing when you compare it to Prague or Vienna. The first thing that Sam said to me as we walked from the train station was “wow, this really looks like it’s going to live up to its reputation” and boy did it. The Venice I knew was James Bond racing down the Canals being shot at by the villains (apparently according to research online, the villains henchmen are always Bulgarian, apparently anyway) and opera singers floating around on Gondolas serenading couples in the moonlight. I must say there wasn’t very much of the first, but much more of the second. On both nights did we hear singers being accompanied my accordion players floating down the canals. Quite magical.
Unfortunately Sam and I couldn’t quite afford to be serenaded on our own personal Gondola, its costs 80 euro for 45 minutes, plus another 100 euros for a singer! So we opted for something a little cheaper, a gondola that was used as a ferry from one side of the Grand Canal to the other. Costing only 2 euro each it allows us to say that we have been on a Gondola ride on the Grand Canal of Venice. Not quite as impressive if you tell the full storey on how, but shhhh!
As I write this we are speeding along at about 160 KPH on the Italian Eurostar, let me tell you the French could learn a great deal from the Italians – this is much comfier than their Eurostar service. We have just gone through Florence – maybe we should have stopped on the way through rather than the way back? Who knows? Our destination is Rome, our most southerly point on the trip. It feels odd to be here already, it feels like only a few days ago were we at the top of the Eiffel Tower looking at a little sign that pointed to Rome saying it was 1600km (I think!) away and thinking wow that seems like ages away. It’s weird to think that was our second day of the trip, today is something like day 15 or 16? I have totally lost track of the days!
The forecast for Rome has just popped up on the screen, 35 degrees centigrade for tomorrow, and that’s in the shade! Luckily our accommodation has air-conditioning, well at least that’s what the website says. In that heat we shall definitely need it. You can tell it’s getting warmer too just by looking outside, the rolling grasslands of Northern Europe have turned into dried and yellow grass and olive trees – it looks far more Mediterranean.
The blog has reached 4,000 words. Nothing I have ever written before has even been this long, not even my A-level English coursework. That’s seven A4 pages of typing. Though I am glad that we are doing it, it means in a few years we can look back on it and remember the things that we will probably forget, or un-merge the memories that have already started to merge.
Anyway we are arriving in Rome according to the announcement in the next 10 minutes so I had better go.
Sorry it's late. We didn't have internet last t
So…Vienna…well…shall I move on? According to Sam I should! Well for starters it was closed, for a whole Sunday there was nothing but Kebab shops open! Apparently Austrian law stipulates that unless you are selling fast food you have to be closed on a Sunday. Perfect planning that we happened to arrive on a Sunday! So we decided to try and hire the local ‘borris-style’ bikes and cycle to the local palace – it seems in Europe everywhere has the local palace, it’s as common place as the local supermarket in England.
Vienna, we must say, was a little bit of a let-down. There just didn’t seem like much to do, to quote a local “Vienna is for old people”. We figure that sums Vienna up pretty well.
But leaving Vienna gave us one of the weirdest but most relaxing train journey ever. We boarded our night train with some trepidation about what our 13 hour overnight train could bring. Whether it would be a cabin full of 4 other burly Russian men or 4 Asian school kids or whether it would be just us two. In fact it was none of the above, it was option 3. One girl from South Korea, a couple from the Netherlands and a man from an unknown location that looked like a cross between a hitman and pop-eye, apparently he had just been to see Madonna – on his own! Make your own mind up about him!
Loads of room...
Now just in case you don’t know or haven’t seen the photos, I am about 6ft3ish and almost as wide. The beds seemed to be around 5ft long and 2 and bit wide! Perfect for Sam and any other ‘midgety’ people but far too small for me. If you imagine a ‘harry-potter’ style train cabin and then imagine three small beds either side running to the top of the train that is what a couchette is like. Not the best nights kip in the world, but by no means the worst! The only downside was that Sam and I had the very top bunks, which meant a very precarious climb up a small ladder. Easy when the train was stationary, slightly harder when the train was going round a corner at over 100mph. I guess that just adds to the excitement of train travel!
Our train arrived at 0934, an hour later than expected. We had to change engine in the middle of the night! We aren’t very lucky with our engines on this trip. Our hotel didn’t let us check in until 1400 so we decided to walk to our hotel from the station. Mistake. Venice is made up of 118 islands, and not all of them link to each other, we eventually made it to our hotel an hour after leaving the station after seemingly visiting every one of those islands!
Well we managed to avoid most of the midday sun once we checked into the hotel and are now going to head out and explore more of the 118 islands in the relative cool!
Until next time,
This age old saying, coupled with my heading photos, means that although this is my first blog post, you’ve already experienced 4000 words from me! Despite this, I will be writing the blog today so sit back, relax and enjoy.
Riding on the, as our parents referred to it, “like the olden days” train, from Berlin to Prague was quite an enjoyable experience. The track we were on ran parallel to a river flowing in a valley lined with quaint houses and building, a welcome change from the vast plains of agricultural fields that we seemed to fly past in France, Holland and Germany!
Upon arrival at Prague’s main station we said goodbye to the Brazilian family that had shared our cabin, the mother stating that she wished for us to fall in love with beautiful women, and walked a short way before deciding to quickly stop, beside an information point that was being renovated, and get the map out. Prior to even take our packs off, a queue had formed behind us. As we stepped aside, the group of girls moved forward and began eagerly looking inside the info point only to find a stripped out room. I guess it’s not only the English that will join anything that looks like a queue! After buying our metro tickets and working out the line and stop we required, we waited on a platform that appeared to have the decor of a Dalek’s living room, before stepping on, and then off, the train and finally exiting to the street.
Due to the AA deciding only half the street names are required to create a decent map, we managed to walk a complete 2000m loop before ending up back at the metro exit and feeling rather stupid when realising our hostel was just around the corner! The hostel is quite nice, but as we’re on the fifth floor we decided to take the elevator. After some time, we reached our floor. Having previously ridden Europe’s fastest elevator, we can now safely say we’ve also ridden Europe’s slowest!
Once we had settled in we did some research into places to eat I stumbled across a restaurant owned by an Aussy that appeared to have good reviews. Due to our love of the Australian accent, we figured it would be perfect for us! This led to another quick ride on the Dalek metro, and another walking loop due to a missing left turn on the map, we reached the place and were greeted by a friendly bloke. After a meal, a few beers and glasses of the local Becherovka, we stumbled home.
This morning was a slow starter but we finally got up and went to clean our teeth before being utterly confused by the toilet layout. As the picture shows, it appears to be more of a throne than a loo...
Today consisted of sightseeing in Prague, starting with Europe’s largest escalator! Exciting, we know. To the bewilderment of the locals George filmed the entire thing and as I began this blog post with “A picture is worth 1000 words”, I’ll let the video do the talking!
After this we visited Prague’s, surprisingly, world famous astronomical clock. After staring at it blankly for a few minutes, we moved on to find somewhere to sit and grab a drink. Having decided choosing a random street to walk down was as useful as looking at our AA map we began heading down one that led off not far from the clock. A fairly short distance later we released this probably wasn’t the best street to find a cheap cafe when we started passing Prada, Rolex and Boss... Although, we did quickly pop in to Dolce & Gabbana to grab some essentials (we wish!). Eventually we wondered off a side street and found a quiet place that served us each a well needed litre of homemade lemonade! We then headed over the river to walk among Prague’s impressive castle before finally returning back to the hostel to write this blog!
That’s all for now!
We are Prague bound! I thought I’d leave our last day in Berlin’s blog until today whilst I’m on the train to give me something to do.
What a last full day in Berlin we had, well it was more of an afternoon. We spent the majority of the morning just lounging about and recovering slightly. Oh and yes I did wash my ‘smalls’ yesterday! According to my granddad you can’t drink continental water but it is perfectly safe to wash your underwear, otherwise known as smalls in his household.
Our tour of the Reichstag was booked for 1700 which allowed us the rest of the day to explore the delights of Berlins’ main zoo and what a delight it was! I have never been that close to a rhino with nothing between me and it. Well actually there was a 3 metre deep trench running around its enclosure but I didn’t see that bit at first! Still it looked impressive without a cage around it. Luckily they didn’t adopt the same housing technique for the lions and tigers; that could have been dodgy!
The Reichstag was one of the most impressive buildings that I have ever been in; from the outside it looks old and impressive. Yet the inside is an odd blend of new meeting old, sleek meeting shabby – amazing. The combination of bullet holes from soviet soldiers to brilliant white floor to ceiling tiles that lined Angela Merkels – a seat that Sam got to sit in - cabinet room made it really something special. Our guide, a Doctor who seemed to do nothing but answer questions – seems a waste of a doctorate? Maybe they just give them out in Germany? But none the less he knew his stuff and led a highly interesting tour. The only negative to the tour was the Dome on top was closed, but we knew that in advance.
Our tour around the Reichstag was followed by a trip up Europe’s fastest, but most boring elevator! It was literally your bog standard car park, office or school elevator! It just happened to travel at 8.5m/s! Just slower than the speed that Usain Bolt will run at the Olympics this summer – not that he could do it vertically, maybe he could? Who knows!? The views from the top of said boring yet fast elevator were rather impressive though, looking over the whole city and being able to see 90 per cent of Berlins’ star attractions; worth the 4 euros.
Today’s train is ‘harry-potter’ style with a narrow corridor running down one side of the carriage and 6 berth compartments on the other. This is a god-send today as each little compartment has air-conditioning which counters the 30+ degree heat Europe seems to be getting at the moment! Utter madness I say.
Anyway my laptop is almost dead; we only have a few hours till we hit Prague – standby for the cheap Czech beer to begin flowing!
Wow. What a day! I love Berlin.
The Segway tour was just amazing – if you could do just one thing when you arrived in Berlin I would try a Segway tour. The tour included the majority of the sites that you need to see in Berlin, the Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie, the Jewish Holocaust Memorial and many others. We stopped briefly at Hitlers’ bunker (where he killed himself) what an odd experience that is, it is literally just a gravel car park with absolutely no sign whatsoever that it is even there, we were told that this is to keep the Nazi followers from gathering there. We even got to see the hotel that Michael Jackson held is kid over the balcony of – apparently it’s over 12,000 euros a night for a sweet! I don’t think that our budget will stretch to a night there? Mum any help?
The fact that we have two whole days in Berlin is a relief; we are finally able to get a proper lay-in tomorrow and a lazy morning! It just means that we can wind down and catch up on the ‘house-work’ that we need to do: clean our clothes, tidy the room (it’s a mega mess!) and just sort our bags out so that they are semi neat! My mother would be proud of me washing my own clothes by hand – don’t get any ideas for home though!
Our tour of the Reichstag is tomorrow which should be really interesting, we didn’t actually realise that it was still in use, we thought it was more of a museum/’show’ piece. We tried to go up the observation tower at the Sony Centre earlier but we arrived too late to go to the top so we are going to head back tomorrow – it has the fastest lift in Europe! Should be a lot nicer than walking the 1,600 steps of the Eiffel Tower.
Anyway its 2300 as I write this and we spent five hours on a Segway earlier which really knackered me out! Check back tomorrow for another update of our blog!
We had an early start this morning - we left the hostel at 0530! Why oh why did we decided that getting up that early when we could have easily got the train two hours later? It must have seemed a good idea at the time of booking!
The train journey was a pretty unexciting six and a half hours, apart from the train was rammed full of people - people were literally just sat in the aisle it was chaos trying to get anywhere.
Our hostel in Berlin is HUGE! There is something like 200 rooms, a swimming pool, sauna, bar and a restaurant, oh and there are even two rabbits in the garden! Not something you get in your standard hostel. The local supermarket is a Lidl so we thought we should pop down and see what cheap German bargains and bargains we did get! Three litres of beer for two euros fifty! Woo!
The east side memorial (a one mile stretch of the Berlin Wall) is literally about 250m away from our hostel so we headed down to there tonight to see what it was like. Absolutely massive! There was no way that you could get across that, it was probably 3m tall. It says that you can't deface the wall but there are loads of amazing pieces of graffiti - not sure if that's not defacing that wall? Who knows but it looks cool.
I cannot wait for our tour of Berlin on a Segway tomorrow! It is going to be 'mega' fun! It doesn't start until ten so at least we don't have to get up early - relief!
Not the busiest day of our trip so not lots to write about, tomorrow should be much better!
P.S It didn't upload last night - the wifi here is the only downside with this hostel! It's shocking!
First impressions last night I must admit were slightly disappointing. The red light district just seemed to be full of tacky but expensive shops and was totally rammed with loads of drunk Celtic football fans! Not really my cup of tea, but something else to tick of the bucket list. This trip is a tick creator for my bucket list! The Eiffel tower, Arc du Triomphe, Notre Dame and the Red Light district already!
Today on the other hand has been a much better day and Amsterdam has totally redeemed itself. We had a late start, we are both knackered after some long days and some really early 0530 starts and didn’t leave the hotel till 1200. It was quite nice to be able to get up, do some washing and have a leisurely breakfast – a free one cooked by the hostel worker, a lovely unexpected surprise.
We headed off in search of some old looking buildings that Sam had found out about before we came, these in fact turned out to be some lame looking museum – not the best! So we decided to go and see if we could hire some bikes and what a laugh that turned out to be. On the way to the bike rental shop we came across this amazing street performer who was doing some terrific sleight of hand tricks and even escaped from a strait jacket! Totally awesome.
The bikes were the most fun I have had on this trip yet. It just makes travelling around the city so such quicker and easier. Once we got our bikes we headed up to Brouwerij’t IJ
brewery for some local beer tasting and a tour of the brewary. What beer it was, some of the freshest and strongest beer I have ever tasted - shame they don't sell it anywhere else other than their own bar! Talk about unique.
Everyone here seems to speak perfect English, it is really useful because we can get around easily. But it makes me feel really rude because I can't speak any of the lingo - none at all. Apparently this is because all of the TV channels here are in English, we couldn't get our head around this! I wonder why they don't have their own TV channels?
Anyway, we are cooking our own tea tonight and having an early night as it is off to Berlin at 0600 tomorrow morning!
Waffle in Belgium? Yes please!
Legs were a bit sore after yesterday’s mammoth sight-seeing trek. 1,600 steps up and down the Eiffel Tower - according to the information at the top of the 1600th step anyway. I must say that next time I will be reserving a ticket for the lift instead. Oh and a trip to the Louvre, well in specific a visit to the Mona Lisa. Definitely not what I was expecting! It was about as exciting as some of the art I painted at school, the fact that you have to stand about eight deep from it doesn’t help. A totally overrated and probably overpriced if you ask me! But at least we didn’t have to pay to get in to the Louvre.
I think I may have over used the exclamation mark in the last few sentences!
Today brought our first proper train journey! And what a journey it turned out to be. We almost didn’t make it in time for our first train – the journey on the metro took slightly longer than expected, but hey we made it, just. Our train journey involved 4 changes today and a fifty minute stop in Antwerp – just time to grab a famous Belgian waffle. Our third train of the day seemed to be some sort of scout train and was totally full of little kids screaming and singing dressed in some sort of scout-style uniform, it has to be one of the noisiest train journeys I have ever taken – the MP3 player came into its own for that 50 minutes!
And again with the exclamation marks! I must stop this!
By pure luck we ended up sitting next to two American guys – Sonny and Kasey – who were at the end of two months travelling around Europe and were headed back up to Amsterdam to meet a friend. We ended up travelling with them for the whole journey, we learnt so much about California! Oh and we managed to secure a bed for the next time we just ‘pop’ over to L.A! It also helped pass the time.
Just arrived at our hotel for our time in Amsterdam and it’s like trying to climb the Eiger getting to our room at the summit of the hotel. The staff – the one we have met so far – speak marvellous English and have highlighted the key areas that we need to visit and gave us some recommendations for dinner tonight!
Out for dinner now, will give you an update on Amsterdams finest tomorrow! (< there’s another!)
Just a quick one, last night we headed to the Notre Dame to take some pictures of it lit up and in the dark. While we were in the courtyard at the front these amazing street performers started flinging these fire sticks around! It was totally mad, until fireworks got involved and then it just turned sensational.
We wanted to wait till it got dark last night before we headed off up to the ‘sights’ so we decided to head north up towards the Gare du Nord to see if we could work out our trains for Saturday. It was surprisingly easy – all of the automated machines have about five languages that you can choose from which makes life very effortless! Not so effortless was the journey to the station!
Just off to try and beat the queues for the Eiffel Tower! Check back for an update on yesterday’s sardine like journey!