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Eurotrip 2008

a travel blog by lucy3119

So this trip happened a while ago but I want to get it down in writing before I forget everything.
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It started with a bang

Venice, Italy

Yes, okay, technically this was one of those 18-30's holidays that everyone above that age looks upon as a bunch of gap-year students' excuse to get absolutely rat-arsed and irritate 'proper' tourists with their total lack of interest in culture. But Sarah and I booked our holiday with Topdeck with every intention to take in the sights of Europe...not to spend all day nursing a hangover in a dark 'Irish pub' in the middle of Prague, Berlin or wherever. Although to say we never had a boozy night would be a big fat lie. I mean, we went to Munich and Amsterdam!

So, with that out of the way, here comes day one: Venice.

Sarah and I got off the plane in Venice with absolutely no idea how to get to our campsite, where we would be meeting the rest of the group: we would be joining up with a longer tour that was doing the round trip from London. With no sign of the bus that might or might not get us there, we decided to walk as the campsite wasn't far from the airport. 20 minutes later, after dragging our cases in the summer heat next to a busy road with no footpaths, we were wondering whether we'd ever make it to our destination.

Finally, we arrived just minutes before the coach carrying our group did, and watched as, with military efficiency, everybody had their tents up within minutes of disembarking. Tent pitching, we found out, is the most important thing to do on arrival: you never know when it might start chucking it down and putting up tents in the rain and in the dark is a miserable, miserable task! After an al fresco dinner made by our on-board cook and a few introductions we found ourselves introduced to Topdeck life with a bang, as we were presented with a white sheet and told "Toga party!" So although we were pretty bewildered by the whole thing it was a great ice breaker....thanks to the combination of alcohol, drinking games and looking like a fool in a bedsheet.

permalink written by  lucy3119 on August 12, 2008 from Venice, Italy
from the travel blog: Eurotrip 2008
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Lost in Venice

Venice, Italy

Our day in Venice mostly involved getting extremely lost in the labyrinth of narrow streets, canals and little squares that make up the old part of Venice. In between, we were given a walking tour of St Mark's Square and the surrounding area, but it was so hot we were a little preoccupied with scouting out shady spots that would shelter us from the scorching sun. (Now my literary brain is shouting 'alliteration!' after that little sentence). (And that one). We were also given a lace making demonstration by one of the few places that still makes lace in the traditional way and with traditional designs, and also discovered the incredible Venetian mask shops where I bought one of the more affordable items on offer.

We took the obligatory ride on a Gondola which was a good decision as it allowed us to see Venice from a different POV...from the water. And that's the best way to see Venice, in my opinion.

A group of us took a vaporetto along the grand canal, the plan being to make our way back to our campsite...after quite a few minutes, however, we managed to figure out that we were actually heading the wrong way up the canal. We weren't sure whether our tickets would allow us to switch to the right boat, so after a lot of confusion we finally made it back to base, and spent the evening unwinding and bonding in the pool and over a great meal provided by the campsite.

permalink written by  lucy3119 on August 13, 2008 from Venice, Italy
from the travel blog: Eurotrip 2008
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Don't look down

Vienna, Austria

At this point we said goodbye to those who, like Sarah and I, had only come along for half the trip. While we joined for the second half, a few others had come for the first part: it was with a heavy heart that we said goodbye to the majority of the Brits on the trip (ie: four), leaving just three of us to endure the 'pommy' jokes of the Australians who made up most of the group.

We had a day's drive to get to Vienna, so when we finally arrived Prater amusement park was just what we needed: famous for it's very old and slightly rickety ferris wheel, it has everything you could want in an amusement park, and looks great all lit up at night. The group finished the night by commandeering the dodgems for a few rounds of bumper car carnage.

permalink written by  lucy3119 on August 14, 2008 from Vienna, Austria
from the travel blog: Eurotrip 2008
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Vienna, Austria

We started off the day with a walking tour of the city, taking in the immense Schonbrunn Palace. After the tour, Sarah and I decided to wander the streets of Vienna and, despite not having a map (or the slightest idea of where we were going) we managed to stumble across a few interesting sites and even made it back in time for the scheduled visit to the Schnapps Museum.

The Schnapps Museum gave us an insight into the history of Vienna's famous beverage, and the different types available...we even got a free tasting session thrown in. While a couple of the guys headed straight for the absinthe, the rest of us were drawn to the 'gold' schnapps...it's made with actual gold dust, which has some great health benefits (apparently, though the thought of actually drinking gold was enough for me!)

In the evening some of us decided to embrace Austrian culture by indulging in...shnitzel and strudel. Naturally.

permalink written by  lucy3119 on August 15, 2008 from Vienna, Austria
from the travel blog: Eurotrip 2008
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Munich via Mauthausen

Munich, Germany

On our way to Munich we stopped off at Mauthausen concentration camp for a sombre afternoon. It incorporates a museum and memorials and allows you to see all the key areas of the camp first hand, from Nazi offices to the gas - or 'shower' -rooms and the furnaces used to burn the bodies of the murdered. It was an incredibly moving experience, particularly when we walked down a long flight of steps into a beautiful grassy valley only to learn that prisoners were once forced to carry rocks up and down these steps, often falling to their deaths after losing their footing.

In the evening there was a definite change of mood (and weather: it started raining torrentially) as we arrived in Munich and headed straight for sausages, pretzels and beer at the famous Hofbrauhaus beer hall.

permalink written by  lucy3119 on August 16, 2008 from Munich, Germany
from the travel blog: Eurotrip 2008
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Wandering in Prague

Prague, Czech Republic

No time to catch our breath in Munich: we headed straight on for our two days in Prague. We spent some time on the Charles Bridge, which was heavily crowded with tourists and souvenir vendors.

We spent our free day wandering the beautiful old streets and grounds of the castle, glimpsing the red roofs of Prague and seeing an ironmonger at work. We watched the changing of the guards as they marched right past us.

permalink written by  lucy3119 on August 17, 2008 from Prague, Czech Republic
from the travel blog: Eurotrip 2008
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More wanderings in Prague

Prague, Czech Republic

Today we took a tour of Prague, checking out the sights from the wonderfully Gothic Tyn Cathedral, the astronomical clock and the incredible St Vitus' Cathedral, which was worth queueing in the rain for.

Some of us took a chance on the Torture Museum in the afternoon, which was just delightful....!

In the evening we took part in the Topdeck 'tradition' of drinking as much watery Czech beer as possible at Beer Factory: there's a screen on the wall that keeps track of how many pints have been drunk by each table....thereby making alcoholism into a competetive sport! Incidentally, our group beat the Topdeck record, although some members were probably regretting their contribution by the end of the night...and the three Brits left on the tour (Sarah, Hannah and I) apparently started to feel a little bit outnumbered at this point and decided to proudly assert our nationality with the help of the marker pen used to keep the drinks tally.

permalink written by  lucy3119 on August 18, 2008 from Prague, Czech Republic
from the travel blog: Eurotrip 2008
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Berlin via Dresden

Berlin, Germany

Our trip to Dresden was, sadly, more of a lunch stop than anything else, but we did get to see the Procession of Princes mural, one of the few things to survive the 1945 bombing.

Our first stop in Berlin was, predictably, the Berlin wall and Checkpoint Charlie. They were two of the sights on our driving tour that passed the early evening.

permalink written by  lucy3119 on August 19, 2008 from Berlin, Germany
from the travel blog: Eurotrip 2008
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Best of Berlin

Berlin, Germany

We began with a walking tour of key sights linked to the third reich. We stood above the site of Hitler's bunker during WW2, saw the SS and gestapo HQ and the imposing Reich chancellery, and followed the Berlin wall through the city.

In the afternoon some of us forked out on a bus tour of the city, stopping off at the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag and the Holocaust memorial.

In a spending mood, some of us ate at a great steakhouse in the evening.

permalink written by  lucy3119 on August 20, 2008 from Berlin, Germany
from the travel blog: Eurotrip 2008
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Cheese and clogs...it's Amsterdam!

Amsterdam, Netherlands

We arrived in Amsterdam just in time for some demonstrations on cheese and clog making at a farm. The variety of cheeses made on that farm was amazing, and with plenty of free samples to taste I found a new love for Dutch cheese. we even got a visit to a windmill thrown in as well.

In the evening, we experienced another Topdeck 'tradition' and one of the things that defines Amsterdam: a sex show. It had more of a comedy feel to it for the tourists, and some of the guys were pretty pleased to be called up as volunteers...
We spent the night at a bar known for its **completely legal in Amsterdam** special cookies.

permalink written by  lucy3119 on August 21, 2008 from Amsterdam, Netherlands
from the travel blog: Eurotrip 2008
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