Friday, June 27, 2008

Goodbye Touristy Prague

Got a train ride out of Prague in two hours with Adam and James. They are headed to Salzburg and I to Munich (we take the same train, they switch in Munich). From there, things are up-in-the-air. I am faced with a difficult decision of whether to continue traveling with them or heading out on my own once again.

I'm a little unsure as to where I go from here.

I do know that I will be going to Munich on my own, and staying in this place called "The Tent" (check it out if you have time). In a nutshell, it is a park that they turn into a campsite each year, allowing people to set up their own tents (which I don't have) or sleep in 1 of the 150 bunk beds that they have set up. I will be sleeping in one of the bunk beds (all are under one HUGE tent)... we'll see how much sleep I'm able to get.

Anyway, about Prague. The place was much more touristy than I originally anticipated. My hostel had A LOT of Americans, so not the European experience that I was hoping for in my living area. Other than that, the hostel was more than acceptable, and Prague was absolutely beautiful. The architecture here is Amazing, with many of the buildings "pickled in Gothic". Prague Castle was great

...and the view up there was uncanny.

Yesterday, Adam, James and I took a one-hour train ride to a little town called Kutna Hora. In actuality, it turned into a 2 1/2 hour multiple train + busses ride (the tracks were down, or the trains weren't going to Kutna Hora for the day from Prague...the language barrier was tougher here than anywhere). We went from Praha to Kolin, then since the first train left late, we missed the connecting train to Kutna Hora, and had to pay extra for a bus ticket (only 20 czech crowns more, which is about $1.35 American). It was an adventure getting there, but I love that stuff... Being in a foreign country, not speaking the local language, having to figure out how to get from point A to point B. It was just good fun (thankfully I had my two friends to share the experience with. Alone would have been much more stressful I imagine).

The place: It was called the "Ossuary" aka the "Bone Church". Why do you ask is it called the bone church?

"Unique skeletal decorations of the interior are probably the work of woodcarver František Rint. Remarkable masterpieces include a massive chandelier, a cross, chalices, a monstrance or Schwarzenberg coat-of-arms. According to estimates, bones of approximately 40,000 people were used to decorate the chapel, creating this unique ossuary – a reminder of the transience of human life and the inevitability of death."

Well, I must get some breakfast in me before this 6 hour train ride. Last night and the night before I sat outside the main town square to watch the semi-finals of EuroCup 2008 (soccer). The finals are on Sunday, and I'll get to watch Germany play Spain in Munich! That should be a very interesting experience. Time to go, talk with you all soon!

------SEE PICTURES BELOW------ Edited July 11, 2008

Not a great picture, but thats me in the Ossuary...aka the Bone Church (Kutna Hora, Czech Republic)

Adam and I watching the Spain vs. Russia game, outside at the Old Prague Town Square.

And lastly... a top of Prague castle.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Amazing, Amazing, Berlin

Wow did I ever find Berlin to be wonderful. So rich with history, such an amazing walking tour (it was free, too!) and just SO much to see. When I looked up the most frequented / top rated attractions and a list of 50+ came up, I can now see why. Unfortunately my time there was extremely limited. I need to come back for AT LEAST one week to visit all the museums, take a few more tours, and just experience the city as a whole.

So first, this walking tour. Our guide was from Missouri. Yes, an American doing a Berlin history tour (a little ironic / is that used correctly?). He was Great. Definitely would recommend that tour to anybody that visits Berlin. I just really wish we had more time there. Anyway, for the pictures:

From the walking tour of Berlin, this is the Jewish Memorial. Great story behind it - there was a competition to design the memorial and this is the piece that won. The designer has never explained what the meaning is behind all these blocks with no writing on them. He wants each person to be able to decide for themself (leaving it open-ended on purpose). Very very cool.

You can see the memorial more clearly here.

The Brandenburg Gate.

I don't remember the name of this one. I think it is the French cathedral that was built by the ruler of Germany to honor the Frenchmen who helped bring life to the city in the 1800's.

An absolutely beautiful picture taken by James. The weather here has been so incredible since I arrived. It's been blue and clear almost every day (except London of course). But honestly, it is like the nice weather has been following me around from city to city, only raining (rarely) and even then it occurs at night! Knocking on wood...

German sausage at 2:00AM. Nice faces by James and Adam.

And last but not least, me getting a little shut eye at 3:00AM on the S-Bahn. This is the only night that I've really went out late so far in Europe. We tried taking our metro back to Anhauser Bahnhof (where our hostel was located) but the tracks apparently were getting repaired. To make a long story short, we met some German kids, about 18 years in age, who spoke English and took us back to where we needed to.

If it wasn't for these kids we may very well still be wandering Berlin at this very second in search of "Three Little Pigs Hostel". The one on the botton left with the hat was the nicest kid, and biggest help of all. Funny / sad how I will probably never see any of these people again (aside from James and Adam) . That's traveling...

Well, it's 2:30 AM and I am trying to take advantage of this free internet at the hostel in Prague. I probably won't have another chance to do a long entry like this for a few days. Reminder to self, next entry entited "Euro Cup 2008 and new itinerary". Going to Greece it's looking like! More updates in a few days!

Friday, June 20, 2008

In Berlin!

Hey everyone -

I made it safe to Berlin. It was an interesting night to say the least...basically me being stubborn and not wanting to pay for another night at the hostel. So I stayed awake as long as i could and read all night in the lobby area. They caught on and told me I had to call a cab. I stuck it out as long as I could, and eventually took a cab to Amsterdam Central around 430. My train left at 7 so it was a bit of a wait, but everything turned out fine. Long day, though!

Regardless, i traveled with Adam and James to Berlin instead of taking an overnight train alone. Good call on my part I think. One of those decisions that you dont know what could have happened, waiting in a train station from 130 - 500 at night.

As you can probably tell, i am on a german keyboard and my internet is just about to expire. I will update you with pictures and stories regarding what i do in berlin. taking a 4 hour walking tour in the morning, see some wwii memorials, it will be great! Prague next, I cant wait!

Bye for now. will fix pics later!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Right now I am in an AWESOME biblioteek (library) in Amsterdam. For the first time all trip it is raining outside. Oh well. Today is a traveling day (well, it is supposed to be). My original plan was to leave tonight around 11:00PM and take multiple trains that get me to Berlin. I would be going alone, and had a 4 hour layover at one station that was not very big. I wasn't too thrilled about this, being alone in a small station at 3am in Germany, so my plan has changed (i think). I am most likely staying one extra night in Amsterdam and leaving at 7:00AM with James and Adam (two English people that I've met who are on roughly the same path as I am). A lot of people, actually, are going to Berlin next, then Prague, Vienna, Munich, eventually Spain then Paris. It will be neat seeing people that I met in an Amsterdam hostel at a museum /park in another city.

So that's the plan right now - Amsterdam one more night, Berlin in the morning getting there around 1:00PM (direct train with no stops as opposed to three stops, at night, traveling alone). Seems like the right decision.

Now, about Amsterdam. Very 'únique' city... a place everyone should experience. Certainly not my favorite place, but I am glad that I came here. The hostel I'm staying at (StayoKay Amsterdam Zeeburg) is huge. There were a lot of school groups occupying many rooms during my stay here, (lots of younger kids), but this wasn't a problem. The first day I went out exploring (rented a bike) with two students from India who I was rooming with. We ended up getting very lost but eventually made it back to the hostel around 9. Did you know that it stays light till ELEVEN o'clock at night here? Crazy.

Here are a few of my first impressions of this city, which I wrote about in my travel journal.

  • It is extremely diverse here - definitely lot's of tourists from ALL OVER the world.
  • The people here are very tolerant of many things: the loads of coffee shops / smart shops, for example.
  • Seeing the red light district first hand is quite an experience. There was a father walking through this district with his son on his shoulders, old couples holding hands while looking in the windows, and groups of 50 asian tourists all staring in amazement. I sat around and watched all of their expressions, taking it all in. This would never be allowed in The States.
I could go on about my first impressions, but I still have a lot more to talk about. The RLD made me feel somewhat uncomfortable. I didn't exactly connect with the two people I was with, and this definitely was a main reason as to why I felt this way. Amsterdam is definitely a place to be with people you know and trust. I needed to meet some new people in my hostel and I did just that.

End of day 1: Meet James and Adam from England. I was having a beer in the bar / common area of the hostel and began talking with a group of people. We made plans to meet for breakfast and venture out the following day together. Vondelpark would be our destination.

Day 2: Vondelpark was GREAT - by far the best park I've been to in Europe (only seen 3 parks so far.. we'll see how it rates as my trip progresses). The weather was beautiful and we took full advantage of it. Frisbee, picture taking, and walking through markets were just a few of the things we did on Tuesday.

Playing frisbee in Vondelpark, Amsterdam.

On the playground at Vondelpark. Adam on the left.

At night, we went around the corner to a local pub. They had bleachers on the inside, with a huge projection screen set up for the Holland vs. Romania game. Over a hundred people were there rooting Holland on. THEN there were two more TV's set up outside. With well over a hundred MORE people out there. Holland ended up winning the game and I have a great video of an after-goal celebration. If i can figure out how to upload it at my next hostel, I will do so.

Holland vs. Romania (picture by James).

My last night (or so I thought) in Amsterdam was fairly low key. We stayed in the hostel, chatted with some other travelers from Spain and England, played some pool (much different rules than we play here), and talked some more outside. Certainly not the crazy nights that most might expect happen in Amsterdam...but that is exactly what I was looking for.

Thought of the day: It's good to make friends while staying in big cities. Definitely eases fears and makes everything seem a lot less intimidating.

James and Adam standing in a fountain at Vondelpark.

Well, I could go on but I am going to spend some time walking around this massive library and taking pictures to show everyone back home. Hopefully none of you are worrying about how I am doing over here. I've met some great people and I am staying safe by not venturing out alone (and now, not traveling on the train alone at night). I'm looking forward to seeing you all in 6ish weeks, with plenty of amazing stories to tell you.

Time for some lunch (i've eaten way too many sandwiches that I make during breakfast to get me through the day / save money) and then it's relaxing some, maybe a drink or two, bed, and on to BERLIN, GERMANY! Goodbye for now.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Brugge, Belgium

Today is my final day in Brugge. I've stayed in a pretty great hostel thus far (according to some other travelers, it's definitely above average). In about 10 minutes I will make my way across Brugge (it's a small city, 20 minute walk across if you know the right streets to take) to my free hostel (st. christophers bauhaus). I'm not too thrilled to move all my stuff cross-city, but it is free and I might as well take advantage of that.

The people I have met have all left today. It's sad seeing people you meet go their separate ways, but everyone has their own path to take. That's part of living on-the-road. One of the people I met, Adrian, had his Amsterdam plans fall through. His friend who was supposed to house him for a few nights cannot do this anymore. I am now going to be meeting up with him in Amsterdam at the same hostel. I'm pretty happy about that. I leave tomorrow morning at 9:20 and arrive in amsterdam at 13:08 (the trains here are pretty damn good and exact!).

So far in brugge I've seen pretty much everything. Two days here is plenty to see it all. Here are some pictures of what I've done so far. Write to you all in Amsterdam (then Berlin after that).

I climbed this:

The Belfry (the bells rang when we were up there, they play a "melody" but it really doesn'tsound too good).

I took a canal boat tour which was pretty cool.

Above is the only Michaelangelo statue to leave Italy (I think?) Madonna with Child

Lastly, the Church of the Holy Blood. Amazing.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Cheerio England, Hello Brugge!

I made it to Brugge, and not a moment too soon! The burly bearded man (who was one of THREE roommates in a tiny dorm-sized room) snored like the dickens! I couldn't get a wink of sleep last night, even though I was exhausted from traveling and walking all-day.

After the internet cafe, I went back to the hostel to drop off my food and see if any of my other roommates were around. They weren't so I ventured back out alone. The weather wasn't the greatest so I decided to fore-go the double-decker bus city tour (maybe save it for when I come back to England at the beginning of August. I went in St. Pancras church but it was closed so I just read some of the bulletins that were posted in the lobby-area. Then the coolest thing happened. The priest (pastor?) opened the door for a second and I jumped at the opportunity to ask him for a quick glance. He was hesistant but said yes (after about 10 people had knocked in the past 10 minutes, I was the one who got to go in).

Churches, cathedrals, duomos, are SO much cooler in Europe. They have such history and such beauty to them. This church also was very "green". They had a lot of things about cutting carbon emissions, re-using / recycling and being sustainable at all times. Religion + environmentalism = very big potential impact. I wrote down a few things and took a great picture (but this is from a website)

I also found around the St. Pancras area:
  • A lot more signs having to do with "green" (which I am all about)
  • Planet Organic - a really sweet organic grocery store that has 3 locations in England
  • I read some things about wind turbines, pros and cons
  • I found a real old looking university (London Central University)
  • Two parks, which were really cool. There were two people playing music together, a guy (the accordian) and a girl (guitar).

After this, i finally walked back to the hostel and made myself some dinner. Francis (from Hong Kong) was in the kitchen and we had a real good conversation about Green Building and real estate. He was a developer at one time and owns a bunch of properties in different countries. A few years ago he got rid of all his California properties due to the interest rate increasing something like 19 times in a 2 year span. Good old America.

I brought my dinner up to the common room and watched a futbol game with a few other hostelers , mostly older. Austria was supposed to beat Poland, but it looked like Poland would pull it out until the VERY last minute (stoppage time) the ref gave them a penalty kick. Austria tied it with next to no time remaining and the Austrian woman (75 years old i would say) had the biggest smile on her face. I'm sure the pubs were going crazy, but i was too tired to venture out for a third time by myself. Her face made watching that entire game worth it.

This is getting long so I'll wrap it up. Got to St. Pancras at 5:00 this morning. Took the 6:00 eurostar to Brussels, Belgium. Immediately took the next train to Brugge (lucky me it left a bit late) and now here I am at Lybeer Travelers Hostel. Internet is free here but there are always people waiting for it apparently (lucky me again!). I also found 1 pound on the train. WHO SAYS FRIDAY the 13TH is unlucky? Maybe just in America it is.

Here is a picture of St. Pancras International (it is massive).

Pictures of Brugge coming in the next few days.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

London, England

This will be a short entry due to the short amount of time that I have left. Currently I am writing this in an internet cafe. Small little place near my hostel. I arrived around 1:45 into Victoria Station and got to my hostel around 2:30. I navigated my way through the underground, which was not very difficult, but still a confidence boost.

When I got to the hostel, I checked into my room (6th floor) and there were 4 beds total (2 bunk-beds) but nobody in the room. I unpacked a bit and wrote a little in my travel journal. The knob turned right as I was done writing and I met one of my three roommates. He is from the Hong Kong, probably in his 50's, traveling alone. I was on my way and he was ready for a kip (nap), so we only spoke for about 5 minutes. He told me where to find this internet cafe and I set out to find the quickest way to St. Pancras station. I will be leaving London at 6am tomorrow morning, which means I must wake up around 4:45. Yikes!

I will arrive in Belgium tomorrow morning, and check into my Brugge hostel probably around 10 or 11.

That reminds me, I should e-mail them now and confirm my reservation.

Lastly, I bought some pasta, sauce, tomatoes, and mushrooms from a convenient store nearby my hostel. They have a kitchen in the basement and I plan to cook myself (and if I meet a friend) dinner tonight. This totally reminds me of living in the dorms. Cooking might be a great way to meet a friend I am thinking.

More updates coming soon once I can get settled into Brugge. No point unpacking any further today since London is a less than 24 hour stay. Goodbye for now.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I Have Arrived! (Bristol and Bath, England)

I have officially arrived in Europe. The flight departed from Logan a bit late but everything else has gone according to plan. I arrived at 7:45AM England time on Tuesday morning (June 10) and was on the bus to Bristol by 9:15AM. On the bus ride to Bristol I wrote down the following first impressions that I had (and observed):

  • I absolutely love the British accent.
  • Driving on the left side of the road is only done in England and not all of Europe.
  • The license plates are also much different (long, narrow, and yellow in color).
  • The cars (lots of VW's) and trees are very familiar looking.
  • The day was absolutely BEAUTIFUL. Blue sky, sunny, and not humid (I escaped the Massachusetts heat wave at the right time!)
  • The candy was very familiar to me (British Delights, thank you Elisha and family!)
  • The flats looked very much the same, at least from above.
  • The eloquence and the elegance of the spoken word here in England.

John and Simon were waiting for me and I was already jet-lagged by this point. We had a cup of coffee and did some walking around Bristol before we returned to Simon's home which is a recently converted farm house. His living room was used for milking cows in the past - amazing how brilliant it looks now!

Check out the creepy tree in the background (Simon's backyard)

Cows on the farm...

...And England's rolling green hills in the distant.

After having a kip (nap) we met with some of Simon's friends and my first day ended with dinner at an old English pub. I had bangers and mash (sausage and mashed potatoes).


Day 2 began with a wonderful breakfast cooked by Simon and a trip into Bath. Hot springs are present underneath the ground and this is where the term 'bath' came from. "In 60AD, Romans began to develop Bath as a spa and as a centre of Pagan worship around Bath's hot springs." Think about it... that's 2000 years of history in the place I was standing today.

The Roman Baths


Also in Bath, I saw:

The Royal Crescent in Bath - the longest crescent in Europe. It is one of the finest examples of Georgian architecture, anywhere in the world.

Bath Abbey lit up at night in beautiful colors.

Bath circus - we came in on the right hand side and exited at the top (of the picture). It is actually a trio of buildings that together form a perfectly circular structure. I was in "architectural sensory overload" with visual stimuli hitting me from every direction (you can tell that my host has a passion for architecture!!!)


Tomorrow I depart from Simon's and arrive in London. I will be staying at the YHA London St. Pancras Hostel (for a few hours) before I leave at 6:00AM for Brugge, Belgium (on Friday the 13th...). Good thing I am no longer superstitious! Note: This will most certainly be the longest blog entry that I write on this trip. Now comes the traveling alone part of my journey and the sitting in internet cafes to keep you all updated on my trip.

And this last picture is for you, Elisha (Elisha, Elisha, Elisha). It think I still hear it echo-ing

The Pensford Viaduct. I stood under the arch that is second from the left.

First Day Pictures

Sunday, June 8, 2008

My Final Day in the U.S. of A.

Greetings all. Today is my last full-day in America before I depart on my eight-week long journey to Europe. I have spoken to most of you in-person about my two month adventure, but for those of you that are wondering where I will be going, here is my rough itinerary.


June 9, 2008: Depart from Logan International Airport (7:15PM) on Virgin Atlantic and arrive at Heathrow (London, England) at 7:15AM on Tuesday, June 10.

June 10 - June 11: I will be staying in a small town outside of Bristol, England with friends of my mom. I thought it would be a much smoother transition and much less nerve-racking by not jumping right into the hostel lifestyle.

June 12: I will depart from Bristol, England in the morning and set out to St. Pancras train station. I will have all-day to figure out "the underground" (subway) and find my way to the station.

June 13: At 6:00AM, I will depart to "the continent". The Eurostar will bring me to Brussels, Belgium then I will hop aboard a second train to Brugge, Belgium. The first hostel that I will be staying at is called, "Lybeer Travellers' Hostel". The next few days I will spend a lot of my time in museums and sampling the local beer / chocolate.

June 16 or 17 - depending on how much I like Brugge: I will take a train to Amsterdam, Netherlands and see first-hand what the hype is all about. I'm sure I will see some very interesting characters and meet some 'unique' people at the hostel I am staying at. The "Stayokay Amsterdam Zeeburg" is where I will be on June 17 and 18, which is far enough from the action so that I can hopefully get some sleep!

June 19: I will be traveling to Haarlem, Netherlands which is about 15 minutes from Amsterdam by train. There is a festival called Grachtenloop that I'm hoping to catch a glimpse of. All I know is that people play music and run around the canals.

After this my plans are very up-in-the-air. Maybe I will have met up with some other travelers at this point and my route will have changed. However, these are the remaining cities that I am hoping to see (up for change)

End of June: Berlin, Germany > Prague, Czech Republic >Vienna, Austria

Early July: Bratislava, Slovakia > Munich, Germany > Berne, Switzerland

Mid July: Madric and Barcelona, Spain > maybe Lisbon, Portugal

End of July: Paris, France

Early August: London, England.

Depart from England on August 4.


I will miss you all and update you throughout my summer travels. Unfortunately I will not be bringing my laptop therefore I can only show you pictures when I return. More updates coming soon!