Five Things: I Learned While Backpacking

Three months straight is a long time to do anything. Some days it seems like a lifetime ago that I left Melbourne Tullamarine, sometimes it seems like yesterday. But in that time, there are some serious lessons to be learned about travelling, especially travelling on a budget.

Always Read The Fine Print

When you’re booking your hostel, or hotel, or whatever, always check your inclusions. I cannot stress how important included breakfast is, or even if it’s a paid extra. A few dollars extra a day will save you a lot in the long run. Because if you’re going out for breakfast, it certainly starts to add up.

Alternatively, book into a place with a kitchen. Occasionally, you’ll find a place that classes having a kettle and microwave as a kitchen, but for the most part it’s solid. But you can’t just assume that every hostel has the same facilities.

It doesn’t just apply to food either. Free wifi, lockers, laundry facilities, 24 hour reception, credit card facilities. None of these things are a guarantee.

Always read reviews. Seeing David almost wasn’t worth it, because the place I was staying in Florence was so bad.

Budget
Keep track of your finances. Don’t just do a basic count in your head. You will screw it up. I thought I had a reasonable handle on it. I overspent in Paris and Amsterdam, but if I just spend so much per day from here on, I’ll be fine… It did not happen like that. I should have set a daily budget and tracked my spending. And, to be honest, I probably should have saved a little more money before I left.

Be Open Minded

Obviously, use your common sense when dealing with strangers. But especially if you’re travelling alone, you should be ready to do things with people you’ve never met, and are never going to meet again.

A night out in Paris with my hostel dormmates? An early highlight. A day at the beach in Palermo with a German girl I met at breakfast? Perfectly relaxing. Ending up on a Stag Do with a bunch of English blokes in Munich? Priceless.

Some of the best parts of my trip have been completely unplanned, and just going with the flow. Things I never would have done otherwise. 

Munich. Not pictured: Anywhere I went on that Stag Do.

Suitcases

You know what’s the worst? Carrying about 20 kilos around on your back. Sure, the idea of backpacking is romantic. And ‘backpack’ is right there in the name. But if you’re carrying as much as I am, get proper luggage. A small backpack, with a few changes of clothes, basic toiletries. Sure. That makes sense. If I only had that much, I’d be fine. Which brings us to the final lesson…

You Can Always Pack Lighter

If you hesitate to put it in your bag, you probably don’t need it.

I carried a sleeping bag around Europe for three months. It’s still there. It has never been taken out of its bag. Because I was operating under the assumption that, like in Australia, hostels wouldn’t provide anything more than basic linens. I was wrong. That sleeping bag is huge, and is taking up about a quarter of my bag..

Sleeping bag saved me a total of three Euros in Zurich. There were already linens on the bed, but the guy at reception didn’t charge me because i didn’t ask for them. I used the linens.

I packed a first aid kit, more for piece of mind than anything else. Not that it would have done me much good, since it just sat in my bag at the hostel whenever I went anywhere. I did open it however, to use the bandaids on my blisters in Paris.
I have multiple notebooks. Nice notebooks. Gifts from people that wanted to give me a travel-appropriate gift, back when I first started talking about making my trip. As you can probably guess, with me blogging weekly about my travels, they have seen exactly zero use.

I probably should have packed an extra pillow though
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Travel Diary 3/7/16

I’m sitting in a London cafe, ostensibly an ‘Australian-style’ cafe, who can’t make a decent flat white to save themselves (or latte, this was a two-coffee diary). My odyssey is over, but the search for good coffee continues.
Anyway, this is dated 3/7, but I probably won’t get to post it until tomorrow, when my hostel fixes their wifi.

Day 89

Switzerland may be expensive, but honestly, the scenery is worth paying an arm and a leg for a cup of coffee. Sorry, coffee on the brain today.

Short of the Queensland coast, Switzerland is probably the most beautiful place I have ever been. The mountains, the cold, blue water. The snow, in the middle of summer. Everywhere you turn it’s a postcard view.

I did take that detour into Liechtenstein. It was nice, I guess. The capital Vaduz is a very small city, because there’s not much else that would fit inside those tiny borders.

Plus they have this cool castle overlooking the town.

Honestly the highlight was driving through the mountains, past those gorgeous lakes and alpine waterfalls. And, turns out driving on the opposite side of the road isn’t that hard. Who’d have thought?

I arrived in Interlaken in the afternoon, it’s a nice little town, situated right in the middle of an outdoorsperson’s dream. In summer, there’s mountainbike riding, hiking, white water rafting, skydiving and in winter, there’s all your various winter sports.

Day 90

But, you probably know, I’m not the outdoorsy type. I was in Interlaken because of its connection to the Jungfraujoch, the highest railway station in the world. I woke up early, at least by my standards. I was the first one to breakfast at my hostel, and I’m lucky the hostel was right next to the train station, or I’d have had to skip breakfast entirely.

From Interlaken-Ost, I caught a train to Grindelwald, which tickled the Harry Potter fan in me. From Grindelwald, it was another train ride to Kleine Scheidegg. And that’s the starting point for the train through the mountain.

The majority of the train journey goes through the mountain itself, in a tunnel hewn out over a century ago. There are two stations inside the mountain itself, before the final destination, these stops provide panoramic views of the mountain and glaciers. The final station, and the complex it is a part of, aren’t actually on top of the Jungfrau, but a ridge between it and a neighbouring mountain. The views from the 3500m+ viewing platform are unparalleled. There is an outdoor section, ‘The Plateau’, where you can walk out onto the snow, which was a novelty for the Australian who has only been to the snow twice in his life.

This is what it looks like in summer. Almost completely unthinkable to this Australian.

Inside the building you can find all the Swiss icons: Lindt Chocolate, Victorinox Swiss Army Knives and Swiss watches. The cafe inside accepts not only the local Swiss francs, and Euros, but Pounds Sterling and Yen as well, although they only give change in francs. Or chocolate. You can guess which option I took.

Day 91

Travel days are so much easier when you have a car. I should keep that in mind, if I ever have the money to stop classing myself as a ‘budget traveller’. You know, when I win the lottery.

I got into the city of Bern at around 10am, found a carpark and dropped my bag at my hostel. I honestly didn’t plan this end of my trip so well, I had no idea what to do in Bern. So I went to my old friend WikiTravel, and saw the words ‘Bern Bärenpark’. For those without my rudimentary knowledge of German: Bern Bear Park.

On the other side of the river from the Old Town, is the Bear Park, a riverside habitat for the city’s mascots: a family of brown bears. Not so long ago, the bears of the city were confined to pits, but in 2009, their home was extended to include a large section of land adjacent to the nearby Aare River.

Bears!

Bern’s Old Town itself deserves a mention. A grid of streets, with identical covered arcade walkways on either side, it is rather striking. 

I also swung by the Bern Cathedral, and the Swiss Parliament, took some snaps and moved on.

By far the coolest sight was the Einsteinhaus, where Albert Einstein lived with his wife and child, while he was working as a patent clerk… And penning his Nobel Prize-winning paper on the photo-electric effect.

Day 92

Another easy travel day, this time to the French-speaking city of Geneva. I checked into my hotel (I decided to treat myself to a private room), and went out into the city.

Something I haven’t mentioned, in Interlaken, Bern and Geneva the Visitor’s Tax that you are charged covers free access to public transport. As far as I know, this isn’t the case in Zurich. 

I admit, I got distracted, and missed what is probably the biggest attraction in Geneva, but I’ll get to that.

Not so far from my hotel was St Pierre Cathedral, so I caught a tram there. Or as near as I could, Geneva’s public transport isn’t great. St Pierre’s is worth a visit, make sure you swing by the chapel of the Maccabees.

 From there, I walked to Lake Leman, where I caught a boat across to the other side, getting some great views of the Jet d’Eau, a pressure outlet for a nearby hydroelectric project that the townspeople liked so much they made permanent.

This is a tourist attraction. It lights up at night.

I caught a bus to the United Nations Headquarters, previously the League of Nations Headquarters. On the way I discovered that I wasn’t going to make it before closing time. But I took some nice pictures from outside the gates.

Day 93

Back on the train like a chump. This time from Geneva to Paris.

I only had a couple of hours in Paris, so I made sure to get somewhere I hadn’t made it last time. Shakespeare and Company is the largest English-language bookstore in Paris, and is world-famous. In 93 days, I have managed to walk past almost every bookshop I have come across, and the few I actually browsed, I managed to not buy anything (Tintin notebook notwithstanding). 

So I decided to treat myself. I’ll probably mail the book home when I read it, rather than risk damaging it in my bag.

From Paris, I caught another train to Calais. Calais seems a nice little port town, but it was raining, so I didn’t really get to look around too much.

Day 94

Of course, from Calais, there’s not many places to go but England. I caught the ferry over to Dover, and from there a coach to London.

The End.

Well, not really. It’s the end of the travel diary portion of this blog. Until the next trip. But it’s not the end of the blog. I’m not going on hiatus. While my focus right now has to be on looking for a job, somewhere to live, basically surviving, I’m not going to be neglecting my adoring readers.

Basically, from here That Left Turn At Albuquerque is going to be a proper travel blog. Travel tips, articles, clickbait links. The usual. So stay tuned, I’m going to try to maintain a weekly posting schedule. Thanks for sticking around this long, be sure to tell your friends, like and share on Facebook and so on. 

Travel Diary 26/6/16

Not quite so much to report this time around, except that I can’t really afford to be in Switzerland right now…

Day 81
Copenhagen is a lovely, quiet little city. I spent the morning walking around, checking out the various sights of the city, including the famously underwhelming Little Mermaid Statue (I did have to come back in the afternoon, as the lighting kind of ruined every photo I took of her). I looked at the various castles and palaces, and it made sense that Princess Mary decided to marry Freddie and leave Tasmania. Although, I can’t blame her for leaving Tasmania.

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I find that if you go in with low expectations, The Little Mermaid statue isn't really that bad.

In the afternoon, I decided to take advantage of Copenhagen’s position and cross another country off my list, crossing over the Øresund Bridge into Malmö, Sweden. Malmö is a thoroughly unremarkable town, to be perfectly honest, but I got to cross Sweden off for the time being. I would love to get a chance to check out Stockholm and Gothenburg some time in the future.

So I returned to Copenhagen, and took another walk around parts of the city, before heading back to my hostel.

Day 82
Another travel day, I ventured back into Germany, but this time to Hamburg.

Day 83
I really wish I had discovered Free Walking Tours sooner. I mean, I knew what they were, but when you get to a city and you’re not sure what to do, they’re really the best starting point.

Which is why I took a free walking tour here. Alas, my favourite Hostel Culture haven’t expanded to Hamburg yet. However, the ever-present Sandemans are. And the tour was pretty great. My group’s tour guide had the cutest little service dog along with her, which just made things a hundred times better.

The thing about Hamburg is: a lot of the historic centre has been destroyed in one way or another. A series of fires in the city’s history, including one in the 19th century have destroyed great sections of the city, and of course, whatever was left didn’t survive World War 2. Hamburg being a major north-western port (second busiest in Europe), it was of course a major Allied target. Around 85% of the city was destroyed during the war.

There are a few older buildings, at least pre-1940s that did survive, including the City Hall and St Peter’s Church, the latter of which was partially built using bricks from the previous St Peter’s Church, which was destroyed in the last Great Fire.

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If you couldn't see the Neuschwanstein Castle/Sleeping Beauty's Castle connection from my photos in Bavaria, try the model version, during the simulated night time. You can hear the Disney intro too, can't you?

The highest-rated attraction in Hamburg on Trip Advisor is Miniatur Wunderland. The world’s largest miniature railway. It sounds kind of lame, I know, but it is pretty amazing. Miles and miles of model railway tracks weave through brilliantly constructed models, through variously themed sections. I spent over three hours there, and honestly, if I ever find myself back in Hamburg, I’ll go again, because they’re constantly building more sections and expanding their railway.

Day 84
I didn’t get up to much today. It was State of Origin back home, so I loaded up the stream and spent my afternoon watching that. After which, I spent the day on Youtube, catching up on the various things I’ve missed.

Day 85
Travel day. This time I travelled to Frankfurt, arriving in the afternoon.

Day 86
I probably should have researched Frankfurt before booking this section of my trip. There’s not really a lot for tourists here. It’s a commercial hub, and a large city, there’s just not that much to see. I spent the day at the hostel, because I really need to save money at this stage in the trip.

Day 87
Travel day. This time I caught the bus from Frankfurt to Zurich. Heavy traffic meant that I didn’t get into Zurich until it was almost dark.

Day 88
Which brings us to today. I found another free walking tour, and it wasn’t really that good. I had the choice between the standard tour and the historical tour, and decided on the historical tour, so I could have some context. Big mistake.

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Nice view though.

I did get to see some nice buildings, but nothing I wouldn’t have headed to on my own initiative. Zurich is a nice enough city, except it is obscenely expensive. I saw places on the street selling kebabs for 15 Swiss francs. Check the exchange rate on a Swiss franc. Go on, I’ll wait… … See what I mean?

So tomorrow I pick up my hire car, and drive to Interlaken. There is a very good chance I’m going to take a pretty large detour to cross over into Liechtenstein, just to cross off another country. I’m a little nervous about driving on the wrong side of the road, so this could get interesting. I also haven’t driven anywhere for about three months.

Travel Diary 18/6/16

Berlin is, quite frankly, amazing. I need to spend at least another week there. At least. But I’ve moved on to Copenhagen now, so I guess I’ll just have to go back… What’s so great about Berlin you ask? Well…

Day 74
Travel day! I caught a train from Prague to Berlin, it was pretty uneventful, which is exactly what you want out of a train journey. Got some reading done, watched some TV shows. A nice way to decompress.

Of course, when I found out that I was staying about two blocks from Checkpoint Charlie, I had to go check it out. I resisted the urge to get my passport stamped there. Good thing, because apparently it can void your passport. It’s a little surreal, this partial military checkpoint in the middle of the city.

It’s a reconstruction, metres away from the actual site, the only original part is the sign warning you that you are entering the American sector. The museum nearby is very interesting, but definitely not worth the €12.50 if you’re on a budget, like I certainly am right now.

Day 75
Berlin Zoo is world-famous, and rightfully so. They claim to be the most species-diverse zoo in the world, and I’m not about to oppose that claim, especially if you count the aquarium on the grounds.

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Fun fact: Three of the species on display can be found in my backyard at home, the Bluetongue Lizard (Skink), the Redback Spider and the Australian (White-Backed) Magpie. It was nice to have a reminder of home, among the more exotic animals.

One small note: Buy the Aquarium ticket with your Zoo ticket, because the reptiles and insects are both upstairs in the aquarium, and, quite frankly, an essential part of any zoo visit.

Also: Despite the huge statue of an Iguanadon, and the Triceratops carved into the top of the doorway, there are no dinosaurs in the Aquarium. I know, I was disappointed too.

Day 76
Today I sought out the Hostel Culture Walking Tours again, since I was so happy with them in Prague and Budapest. I was not disappointed. They offer four free tours in Berlin: the City Tour, Alternative Tour, Cold War Tour and Third Reich Tour.

Since I’m a glutton for punishment, I decided to take all four tours. In two days.

I started out with the Alternative Tour, which took us through the Jewish Quarter, in East Berlin. The tourguide showed us a variety of street art by locals and international artists, while giving us a history of the city, and the artists themselves.

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I followed up with the Third Reich Tour, which was one of those information-rich walking tours. It focussed more on the rise of the Nazis, and the effects on the city, without delving too deeply into the atrocities, which was a nice change from the usual narrative of the events.

Day 77
Aching legs aside, I was ready to go for two more walking tours.

Just quietly, I probably could have skipped the City Tour, as it’s kind of a catch-all tour, that squeezes the highlights of the other tours into one. However, the tour guide was great, and I still managed to learn some things I hadn’t picked up on the others.

The Cold War Tour was a great insight into the life behind the Berlin Wall, the escape attempts, the Stasi’s rule and the general history of the city during the Cold War years. And, without one mention of Ronald Reagan.

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Day 78
After all that walking, it’s time for a quiet day of doing nothing… Right?

Nope. Museum Island calls. Five museums, one ticket. Do not buy a ticket to just one museum, it’s absolutely not worth it, and for just 50% more, you can get the Island Pass. The museums are kind of small when you compare them individually to, say, the British Museum, or The Louvre.

But as a package deal, they’re more than a match. There are extensive building projects going on at the moment, so I couldn’t see the Pergamon Altar. I did get to see the Ishtar Gate though, which was awe-inspiring. No wonder it was once a Wonder of the World (and is still on my list, due to the possibly fictional-nature of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon).

The other major highlight of Museum Island is the bust of Nefertiti, which you’re not allowed to take photos of. And it’s a lot harder to get a good shot with my 42x zoom lens than I thought it would be.

Day 79
Only one museum today, and quite frankly, my favourite. The Natural History Museum. 99% because they have the largest reconstructed dinosaur skeleton in the world. the museum still has it classified as a Brachiosaurus sub-species, but Wikipedia says it was recently discovered that it was a member of another species, the Giraffatitan.

They also have what is widely considered to be the most complete, best preserved fossil of an Archaeopteryx, the earliest known species of bird.

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I could go on and on about the dinosaurs, because I never grew out of that phase as a kid. But I won’t. The museum also has an extensive taxidermy collection, and a section about space, including a 250 kg meteorite, which you can touch.

Day 80
Phileas Fogg can eat it. 80 days is not long enough to see the world. I did, however, spend the day travelling. This time, across the Baltic to Copenhagen, where I am sitting right now. It’s 11.30, and i’m pretty sure there was still light in the sky an hour ago. Also, the internet is fantastic, I have a lot of photos from Berlin (close to 1000, HQ files), and they’re uploading incredibly fast. Of course, Google Drive keeps crashing because of memory issues, so it’s taking a bit longer.

Tomorrow I’m going to check out the city, and the day after I leave for Hamburg. The end is getting closer and closer. Just two weeks or so until I’m in the UK and I have to get back to reality.

Travel Diary 11/6/16

Finishing up my time in Central Europe, on the other side of the Iron Curtain. Sad to see it go, but kind of looking forward to being able to half-understand the language again. So here’s what I’ve been up to for the past week or so…

Day 66
Not going to lie, I actually spent a fair portion of this day watching a stream of the rugby league from Australia. I did, however, go on a fantastic walking tour through the city, starting at St Stephen’s Cathedral. It was at least three hours long, the guide, whose name escapes me, was absolutely fantastic, both knowledgeable and charming. The tour was run by Hostel Culture, who run free walking tours in many cities. It’s a great way to see the sights in the city, especially on your first day.

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Hungarian Parliament

I also made sure to eat proper Hungarian food for dinner at least once. I hit all the classics: goulash, chicken paprikash and a shot of palinka to wash it down.

Day 67
Another slow beginning. I ran out of clothes, and had to spend the morning doing laundry.

I did get time to do another great walking tour, this time highlighting the Communist past of the city. It was more informative than about seeing sights. Another Hostel Culture tour, I can’t recommend it enough.

Day 68
Travel day. I crossed Slovakia on a bus, I saw some gorgeous landscapes on my way into Poland. I really regret not taking an extra day or two in Krakow, it seems like a lovely place. There’s always next time.

But I was in Krakow for one thing…

Day 69
Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II (Birkenau). The sites of the most evil events that have possibly ever occurred. Home to more death and suffering than anywhere else.

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I hate to say it, but it was a little underwhelming after Dachau. Auschwitz I was originally a Polish army barracks, and that’s what it looks like. Auschwitz II has mostly been dismantled, the materials were needed to reconstruct Warsaw after the war, and lush grass covers the ground between the foundations. Compared to the stark greys of Dachau, it just didn’t really have the impact I expected

It’s still a must-see, and I really want to stress how interesting it is, it just doesn’t quite meet expectations.

Day 70
Another travel day, this time from Krakow to Prague. I travelled by Leo Express, and it really seemed like a first-class experience, I was pleasantly surprised.

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i can almost hear that saxophone solo...

Day 71
Every now and then, I have to let my tragic nerd side show. Today was one of those times. Legends of Australian rock, INXS, filmed the video for their classic ballad Never Tear Us Apart in the streets of Prague. I found a map and spent the day walking the same streets as Michael Hutchence and the others. It also happened to carry me past a number of Prague’s main sights, Prague Castle, the Old Town Square, the Charles Bridge and so on.

That night, I watched a short concert by the Parnas Ensemble, a string quintet featuring members of the Prague Symphony Orchestra and other top-level Czech musicians, performing a selection of classical and operatic pieces.

Day 72
Another bucket list item got crossed off today. Unfortunately, the travel time was far greater than the time spent at the location. The Sedlec Ossuary in Kutna Hora, about an hour’s train ride from Prague Main Station.

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That's a whole lot of dead guys.

Of course, the famous Bone Chandelier is currently being restored, but the other decorations in the church crypt, made entirely out of human bones, are still super-creepy.

Day 73
Again, I took the chance to catch a game of rugby from home, before going out and seeing the city. I took another Hostel Culture walking tour. The tour didn’t seem to go far from the Old Town Square, venturing into the Jewish Quarter for the last half hour or so. While it took me to many sights I had already seen, the tour guide shared a wealth of knowledge that really made it worthwhile.

Which brings us to this moment. Tomorrow I travel to Berlin, where I’ll be spending about a week. I’m really looking forward to it.

Travel Diary 3/6/16

I’m writing this on a bus, as it leaves Vienna (although, there is probably a chance I’ll be out of Austria by the time I finish). I’ll post it as soon as I get settled in Budapest.

Day 59
Like I said in the last entry, I spent most of today on a bus. Fourteen hours or so by the end of it. On the brightside, I reached Munich. At like, 1 AM.

Day 60
Munich is a pretty nice place, all things told. I took a walk through the middle of the city. Within minutes of leaving my hostel, I discovered a parade of old fire trucks going through Karlsplatz. At least a hundred of them, from all eras. It was really cool, and totally unexpected.

I couldn’t go to Munich and not see the Frauenkirche, which is, as so many things have been, currently being restored. Inside it is kind of underwhelming, but the outside, with the two large towers, is quite impressive.

The Neue Rathaus is an interesting building, although I’m a little disappointed that I just missed the glockenspiel show. By mere minutes when I came back that evening.

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Missed the last show by five minutes.

I climbed to the top of St Peter’s for the full panoramic view of Munich, which was nice. Well worth 300 steps (I actually remembered to count this time).

I took a walk through the Hofgarten, I went to Odeonsplatz, which is where the infamous Beerhall Putsch took place. I then spent a few hours in the museum at the Munich Residence of the Bavarian monarchs.

That night at the hostel bar, I joined up with a group of English guys on a Stag Weekend, and we went to the Lowenbrauhaus for dinner, and on to a couple of other bars. Because what’s the point of being an Aussie in Munich without a spot of binge drinking?

Day 61
This was a grim day in more ways than one. First up, my hangover kept me in bed past midday. By the time I managed to drag myself onto a train, I didn’t reach my destination until 3 pm.

The destination? Dachau Concentration Camp. The two hours I spent there didn’t do it justice. The atrocities that were committed there still echo through the halls. It’s really moving, and not always in a good way. Well worth the visit.

A word of advice though: Don’t bring your bloody kids. I saw so many families there. There are things a child shouldn’t see, and the photos on display can be fairly graphic.

Day 62
And now for something completely different. A four hour round trip from Munich is the town of Fussen. 3 km out of Fussen is Neuschwannstein Castle. Built in the ninteenth century by mad King Ludwig as his perfect ideal of a medieval castle. It’s like something out of a fairytale. So much so that Walt Disney himself based Sleeping Beauty’s Castle on it.

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When you wish upon a star...

It’s absolutely gorgeous, and an absolute must-see if you’re in Bavaria.

Day 63
Another travel day. Something like ten hours on a bus, with an hour delay. But I got to Vienna at around 10.30 PM. Managed to score a six-bed dorm to myself at the hostel too, so I guess it was a pretty good day.

Day 64
I wish I had given myself more time in Vienna. The city is absolutely beautiful. The best word I can use to describe it is ‘Grand’. The buildings are just gorgeous. I know exactly nothing about architecture, so I can’t really describe what I mean, except that it looks like my idea of a nineteenth century metropolis, and the center of the last great European Empire.

I found my way into two museums. Yet again I found a city trying to pass off one museum, with three distinct sections, as three museums. The Hofburg is divided into the Silver Collection, which is a snoozefest after a while, the Sisi Museum, dedicated to the beloved Empress Elisabeth, and the Imperial Apartments. Apart from the Silver Collection, which does have a few cool pieces, it’s really interesting.

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See? Grand.

As I’ve been discovering while travelling in this region, Empress Elisabeth is something of a legend in these parts. Her apartments at the Doge’s Palace in Venice are on display. She was born in Bavaria, so she is on postcards in Munich. She warrants her own museum in Vienna. And since she was instrumental in having Hungary’s independence recognised, changing the Austrian Empire into the Austro-Hungarian Empire, I expect to find her honored in Budapest too.

I finished my day at the Technical Museum, which is really cool. Obviously geared towards kids in a lot of ways, there is plenty to interest adults. Hands-on displays keep the kids entertained while educating them, while machinery from times gone by is absolutely fascinating.

Day 65
And here we are. On a bus, from Vienna to Budapest. I should get into Budapest in the afternoon, which means I can clean up this diary, including adding photos and fact-checking, and have it posted before dinner.

Travel Diary 27/5/16

I’ve managed to get down to a week between posts. Quite the feat. Last time I posted, I was unwinding in Palermo…

Day 51
Over breakfast at the hostel, I met a delightful German girl, and we decided to check out the Palermo Catacombs. It is beyond creepy. It’s a small catacomb, but the walls are lined with skeletons, in their funeral finery, some still having skin attached… And many of them are held upright, as though standing there. There is also the fully preserved body of a dead toddler from the 1920s. A very, very creepy place.

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Fontana Pretoria, Palermo

We walked past Palermo Cathedral, which is a very impressive and beautiful building, but like I mentioned before, church fatigue has well and truly set in at this point, so I didn’t go inside. We wandered around for a while longer, we looked at a few other churches and palaces and the like, without going in, before heading towards Mondello and the beach, where we spent the afternoon.

Day 52
Another travel day. Unlike in Naples, the owners of this hostel didn’t want me hanging around after checkout, so I took one last walk through the streets of Palermo. Then I hopped on another overnight ferry, this one much more comfortable than the last.

Day 53
From where my ship docked at Civitavecchia, I caught the train back to Rome, before travelling on to Bologna. I wish I’d had more time in Bologna, it seemed a very nice place. I took in the main sights, including another cathedral, but the primary reason I was in Bologna was to taste a traditional ‘bolognese’ sauce, which is actually a meat ragu, served with tagliatelle or tortellini. It was fantastic, although I’m sure I’ve tasted similar at home.

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Another cathedral. This one's pink.

Day 54
Today I took another train, this time to one of my must-see cities. Venice. I arrived in the afternoon, and settled in, uploaded some photos and cooked enough food to get me through a couple of nights. Venice is EXPENSIVE. Worse than Paris or London.

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The view that drew the eponymous sighs from prisoners on the Bridge of Sighs.

Day 55
A major sightseeing day today, I went to the Doge’s Palace, which I would honestly say is actually nicer than Versailles. Entry to the Doge’s Palace grants you entry to three other nearby museums. Well, they say three other museums, but they’re all in one building, interconnected, and only have one entrance. So really it’s entry to the Doge’s Palace and one museum with three themes. I saw the outside of the famous Basillica di San Marco, but the security guard was being arbitrary when choosing who was allowed to carry their backpack inside, and I didn’t much want to get back in line after walking a block to the cloakroom. Plus, what’s another cathedral?

Day 56
Today, it is in fair Verona where we lay our scene. And I’m not going to lie, I was there for one reason. Verona is the city that Shakespeare’s famous tragedy Romeo and Juliet was set. It’s one of my favourites (and the subject of the greatest song of all time, Dire Straits’ Romeo and Juliet. I will fight you.), so I absolutely had to go there while I was in the region. I swung by the famous Roman stadium in the middle of town, like a smaller, pinker, Colosseum. But I had to go to ‘Juliet’s Balcony’, which is apparently the balcony that served as Shakespeare’s inspiration. There isn’t actually any evidence that Shakespeare ever went to Italy, despite many of his plays being set there, but it’s nice to pretend.

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It's much pinker in person.

Day 57
Which brings me to today. Today, I went to the Rialto Bridge, across the Grand Canal. It’s currently being restored, but is still impressive. I then, finally, ventured onto the canals themselves. In a Waterbus, of course, not the gondola that’s on my bucket list. Because a gondola ride costs €80. I wandered the city for a while longer, and decided to relax for a little longer at the hostel, before writing this very blog.

Tomorrow I’m spending twelve hours on a bus or something ridiculous like that. So that will be fun.

Travel Diary 27/5/16

I’ve managed to get down to a week between posts. Quite the feat. Last time I posted, I was unwinding in Palermo…

Day 51
Over breakfast at the hostel, I met a delightful German girl, and we decided to check out the Palermo Catacombs. It is beyond creepy. It’s a small catacomb, but the walls are lined with skeletons, in their funeral finery, some still having skin attached… And many of them are held upright, as though standing there. There is also the fully preserved body of a dead toddler from the 1920s. A very, very creepy place.

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Fontana Pretoria, Palermo

We walked past Palermo Cathedral, which is a very impressive and beautiful building, but like I mentioned before, church fatigue has well and truly set in at this point, so I didn’t go inside. We wandered around for a while longer, we looked at a few other churches and palaces and the like, without going in, before heading towards Mondello and the beach, where we spent the afternoon.

Day 52
Another travel day. Unlike in Naples, the owners of this hostel didn’t want me hanging around after checkout, so I took one last walk through the streets of Palermo. Then I hopped on another overnight ferry, this one much more comfortable than the last.

Day 53
From where my ship docked at Civitavecchia, I caught the train back to Rome, before travelling on to Bologna. I wish I’d had more time in Bologna, it seemed a very nice place. I took in the main sights, including another cathedral, but the primary reason I was in Bologna was to taste a traditional ‘bolognese’ sauce, which is actually a meat ragu, served with tagliatelle or tortellini. It was fantastic, although I’m sure I’ve tasted similar at home.

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Another cathedral. This one's pink.

Day 54
Today I took another train, this time to one of my must-see cities. Venice. I arrived in the afternoon, and settled in, uploaded some photos and cooked enough food to get me through a couple of nights. Venice is EXPENSIVE. Worse than Paris or London.

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The view that drew the eponymous sighs from prisoners on the Bridge of Sighs.

Day 55
A major sightseeing day today, I went to the Doge’s Palace, which I would honestly say is actually nicer than Versailles. Entry to the Doge’s Palace grants you entry to three other nearby museums. Well, they say three other museums, but they’re all in one building, interconnected, and only have one entrance. So really it’s entry to the Doge’s Palace and one museum with three themes. I saw the outside of the famous Basillica di San Marco, but the security guard was being arbitrary when choosing who was allowed to carry their backpack inside, and I didn’t much want to get back in line after walking a block to the cloakroom. Plus, what’s another cathedral?

Day 56
Today, it is in fair Verona where we lay our scene. And I’m not going to lie, I was there for one reason. Verona is the city that Shakespeare’s famous tragedy Romeo and Juliet was set. It’s one of my favourites (and the subject of the greatest song of all time, Dire Straits’ Romeo and Juliet. I will fight you.), so I absolutely had to go there while I was in the region. I swung by the famous Roman stadium in the middle of town, like a smaller, pinker, Colosseum. But I had to go to ‘Juliet’s Balcony’, which is apparently the balcony that served as Shakespeare’s inspiration. There isn’t actually any evidence that Shakespeare ever went to Italy, despite many of his plays being set there, but it’s nice to pretend.

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It's much pinker in person.

Day 57
Which brings me to today. Today, I went to the Rialto Bridge, across the Grand Canal. It’s currently being restored, but is still impressive. I then, finally, ventured onto the canals themselves. In a Waterbus, of course, not the gondola that’s on my bucket list. Because a gondola ride costs €80. I wandered the city for a while longer, and decided to relax for a little longer at the hostel, before writing this very blog.

Tomorrow I’m spending twelve hours on a bus or something ridiculous like that. So that will be fun.

Travel Diary 20/5/16

Slightly earlier than usual, here’s a travel diary. Won’t be much to report this time around, mostly some do-nothing days. All this travelling is hard work, you have to relax sometimes.

Day 43
My last full day in Rome, I figured I should make the most of it. First up I trekked my way over to the Catacombs of St Callixtus, one of five underground cemeteries in Rome. I suggest you take the bus, as the walk from the nearest Metro stop is not as easy as Google Maps would suggest. I got onto the last English tour before they closed at noon (to reopen at two pm, like so many other places in Italy). it was really interesting, however, unlike the famous Paris Catacombs, the bodies have been removed from the publicly accessible tombs, including more than a few Popes.

After taking another ill-thought out walk, I found my way back into the city proper, and went to the Spanish Steps… which are currently under extensive restoration. You can see the steps through the transparent barriers, but I think I’ll save the photos for next time.

From there, it was a short jaunt to the Pantheon, which is quite impressive. Not sure what I was expecting, it’s one of those sights you know you have to see when you’re in Rome, but I don’t know, I never had a coherent picture of it in my mind. But yeah, another big, ancient church to cross off my list.

Day 44
I made the most of my ten o’clock checkout, and slept in. At this point, I want to plug the place I stayed in Rome, Hard Rock Rooms. It’s a tiny place, an apartment converted into a two-dorm hostel. It’s a minute away from the Metro, the staff are incredibly friendly and helpful, and in addition to the standard free hostel breakfast, they provide a pasta dinner every night. It’s almost like a big family dinner, with everyone around the small table. By far the best place I’ve stayed.

Anyway, I took an afternoon train to Naples, found my way to my hostel, and didn’t do much else with my day.

Day 45
A bucket list item got crossed off today, one of the big ones: Pompeii. Getting there is easy enough, despite Italy’s famously poor rail system.

One thing I didn’t know is just how enormous Pompeii is. A lot of it is kind of same-y after a while, and the distance between the points of interest are kind of long, especially for someone of my fitness level. It also rained. But all in all, I’d say a good day. Pompeii is just too cool to be any other kind of day.

Day 46
I decided to have a look around Naples today, I climbed up to St Elmo’s Castle, or at least the square in front of it, for an amazing panoramic view of the city. I then hiked all the way down to Castle Nuovo on the waterfront. I didn’t go into either, because I thought they were impressive enough from outside, and I’m trying to save a little money at this stage in my trip, since I overspent in that first month.

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Don't quite have the hang of the panorama feature on my camera...

I did spend money checking out ancient Greek/Roman aqueduct under the city, which was converted to a bomb shelter in the 1940s. The two-hour tour only cost €10, and was fantastic.

Day 47/48
A couple of do-nothing days, caught up on laundry, uploaded some photos watched some TV and read some comics. Basically just recharged my batteries, before catching the overnight ferry to Palermo…

Day 49
I got into Palermo at around 6.30 am, having got around three hours sleep on the ship. So I found my way to the hostel, which was easy enough, and dropped off my bag. I then proceeded to wander the city for the morning, until I could check into the hostel. I didn’t accomplish much of anything, to be perfectly honest. Too tired.

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I looked a lot like this dude most of this week.

Day 50
I think fifty days is an achievement in itself, and to celebrate (because I definitely knew I was fifty days in), I had another lazy day, this time heading to the beach for a few hours. Which brings us to this exact moment, as I have returned to the hostel now, since it has clouded over a little, and I am relaying my week to all of you adoring readers.

Tomorrow I’ll do some proper sightseeing in Palermo, it’s really a nice city. And maybe some more the day after, since I am once again waiting for a night ferry back to the mainland.

Travel Diary 12/5/16

Terrible WiFi in Florence meant I couldn’t do a photo upload, which in turn meant no blog post, and also a photo backlog. I’ve caught up now, I’m halfway through my time in Rome, so here we are, only slightly later than usual.

Day 32
Primarily a travel day, I left Milan for Levanto. Levanto is at the northwest end of the Cinque Terre, and is a great starting point for any trip into the famed Five Lands. A few of the hiking trails into the Cinque Terre start here, but since I was only spending one night here, and, quite frankly, do not have a body built for hiking, I just went down to the beach to watch the sunset.

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Levanto Sunset

Day 33
Today I left Levanto for La Spezia. Italy’s primary naval port, and a beautiful city, where the ocean meets the mountains, with absolutely gorgeous panoramas. Another perfect launching point for Cinque Terre adventures, which is exactly what I used it for.

Day 34
Always check the difficulty of a hiking trail before you take it. Because just looking at a trail up a mountain and thinking “That doesn’t look that high” is not an accurate way to judge. That’s what I did. Turns out the mountain trail between Riomaggiore and Manarola is one of the more difficult trails. The scenery is absolutely worth the pain, and honestly, if I can do it without equipment, and carrying 100+ kilograms of human, then there’s a fair chance you can too.

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The view is worth the pain.

Many of the trails in the Cinque Terre aren’t in great condition, whether from the 2011 floods that wiped out the famous Via Dell’Amore, or just general lack of maintenance. It certainly makes things more difficult. I also checked out Corniglia today.

Day 35
No hiking today, I learned my lesson. I did check out the remaining two towns in the Cinque Terre though, Vernazza and Monterosso. Monterosso is the only town with a proper beach, so I spent some time down there, while Vernazza has that postcard perfect harbour. Of course, to get that perfect shot, you have to climb halfway up the mountain, and sorry, I’m just not that committed.

Day 36
Another travel day, but with an important stopover. The Leaning Tower of Pisa is absolutely beautiful. But once you’ve seen it… There’s not a lot else to do in Pisa. So I hopped back onto the train and continued to Florence.

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The lean is a bit unnerving at first...

Day 37
Florence’s historical centre is beautiful, like so many other European cities. The Florence Duomo is one of the most beautiful churches in Europe. The Academie di Belle Arti is absolutely worth waiting in line for, because Michaelangelo’s David is amazing. It is way bigger than it looks in photos. Around three times taller than me, and is elevated to make it seem even taller.

Day 38
No trip to Florence would be complete without a visit to the Uffizi Gallery, home to a number of Renaissance masterpieces. Unfortunately, da Vinci’s Adoration of the Magi is currently in restoration, but the gallery’s other main drawcard, Botticelli’s Birth of Venus is still on display, and is still amazing.

Day 39
I arrived in Rome today, and after I’d dropped my bag at the hostel, I made a beeline for the Trevi Fountain, which is probably the highlight of my trip so far. The recent restoration works means the fountain practically shines in the sun. I, naturally, made a wish in the fountain.

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Absolutely perfect.

Day 40
My hostel is situated about ten minutes away from the Colosseum. It’s more than a little surreal to just round a corner and see the Colosseum right there in front of you. While I was there, I checked out the nearby Forum and Palatine Hill, some very extensive Roman ruins, right in the middle of the city, in almost a park setting (if parks had an entry fee).

Day 41
I practically walked all the way around a country today, and crossed the border about six times. Granted, that country was the Vatican City. I saw the Pope… doing Pope things. I don’t speak Italian (Latin?), so I’m not sure what he was saying, but there was a blessing and so on. St Peter’s Basilica is huge, you could practically play football inside (Australian Rules football, not soccer). The Sistine Chapel is well worth the price of entry to the Vatican Museum. It’s very high up, and photos aren’t allowed, which makes it kind of hard to see the detail (or take a sneaky photo). It’s strange to see all these frescoes on high ceilings, so much effort for something barely anyone will see in great detail.

Day 42
Every now and then, on a long trip like this, it pays to have a quiet day. One day where you’re not rushing to get to the next sight, or standing in line for hours. So, today I’m doing laundry and catching up on Youtube. And writing this blog. Tomorrow I’ll see the other Roman sights, The Spanish Steps, the Pantheon, and whatever else I think of between now and then. And after that, it’s Naples, then Palermo. Hopefully it won’t be another week before I post again.