Monthly Archives: October 2011

Berlin

We took the train from Hannover to Berlin after buying our Eurail passes. It was an express train which meant it was only an hour and a half. We arrived in Berlin’s HBF (the central train station) and spent fifteen minutes figuring out how to get out of the station and to the hostel we were staying at. Said hostel, despite being named Heart of Gold (firefly reference) was themed after Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, complete with ‘don’t panic’ business cards. We went exploring (a self-guided walking tour) and with a little skill and a lot of luck we managed to find (stumble across) many of Berlin’s iconic sites. We walked through the pretty downtown core of the city and managed to see the Reichstag (parliament building) complete with several protestors, the Brandenburger Tor (the iconic gate), and the Soviet Memorial – and we acted like tourists in front of each. Then we decided to go find the Holocaust memorial before wandering through the university district.

Brandenburger Tor

Our map showed the memorial in the park across from the Brandenburger Tor, and it seemed pretty so off we went through the woods to find said memorial. We walked and walked and walked, happening upon various memorials (such as one dedicated to Goethe) but after about three kilometres of trails, we still couldn’t find this memorial. Eventually we gave up and left the park, walking across the street to this odd sight – a city block of enormous concrete blocks all laid out like an odd maze. So of course we took photos there being smiley and happy. Imagine our surprise when a few days later we learned that those blocks were the Holocaust memorial (signage anyone?) and of course we felt suitably embarrassed for not treating the memorial with the respect it deserved. Whoops!

Statue of Goethe

Holocaust Memorial

That evening we wandered through the university district and saw the beautiful and massive Berlin cathedral. By that point it was after seven and we were both starving so we found a little café and had dinner  – currywurst for Janice and bratwurst with sauerkraut for me! Needless to say that after all that walking, we slept very well that night.

Berlin Cathedral

The next morning however, I rolled over and opened my eyes just in time to see that through the night we’d acquired new bunkmates (including one on top of both of our bunks). The one on top of Janice had already woken up and was parading around the room in his very tight hot pink briefs. A bit too colourful if you ask me! That day we wandered into a tiny German café for breakfast where (unusually) the woman didn’t speak English, so after much signing, we managed to procure pastries and fruit for breakfast. Then we wandered off the see the Wall Memorial (which was interesting but rather stark). The memorial is a little ways away from the centre of the city so we decided to take the metro back into town. The German metro systems is inexplicably complicated considering their love of order, and so on the same metro line there were two stops with the same name – rather confusing. And of course we got on the train going to the wrong one and ended up in the very north of Berlin somewhere in the suburbs. Luckily it was a simple fix – take the same train going the other way! Nevertheless, I now understand why all the Germans on the train were looking at us so strangely!

After we got back on track we visited another Holocaust memorial and then went to the German history museum (which was very interesting, but included an enormous section on the wars and the Holocaust). Needless to say we left feeling a little morose. We stopped at an Indian place beside our hostel for curry and then went back to the hostel to do some errands, such as laundry.

Knight at the German History Museum

The man at the front desk told us to put our money in the machine to make the washer work, but no matter what we did, we could not get the machine to take our money. Strangely enough though, the machine did turn on and after about twenty minutes of fiddling (in which Janice almost flooded the room) the machine actually started to wash our clothes. We encountered the same issue with the drier, but put it on a settling called extratrocken and that seemed to work.

The next morning we headed off to the train station to catch a train to Prague and at the train station had breakfast – more pastries and delicious coffee (have I mentioned I love German pastries?). The one I had that morning was a tart filled with pudding, apricot halves, a jelly glaze and icing. They really do their baking right!

Mmm... German Pastries

Off to Prague, so more updates from there!

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Hannover

We’re in Germany! We flew from London to Munich and then to Hannover earlier this week. Our plane rides were good, aside from being rather delaye. I bought a new bag in Heathrow (gasp outrageous) but my previous bag’s zipper broke and I figured that wasn’t safe… luckily I found one (albeit a very touristy one) for a little under 20 quid.  Once we arrived a very nice German man helped us buy a ticket for the S-bahn to get into the city and told us where to get off. Then we tried to contact Jeremy, but experienced great difficulties with German phones until we realized we needed to add two zeros instead of one to the number. Whoops!

In the train station trying to figure out German phones...

We managed to meet Jeremy under the statue of the King of Hannover (George III of England) and he took us to his home where we dropped off our bags before commencing a walking tour of the city with him as our guide. It was great fun (lots of photo taking opportunities!) My favourite was the statues of the large, colourful fat women we found!

Opera house in Hannover

Hannover Reichstag

Janice and Jeremy

The fat ladies statues. That one was pregnant?

Once we got sufficiently hungry we at a little German pub where I had currywurst and wheat beer (very German of me). Hannover turns out to be a lovely city, despite what seems to be the opinion of most Germans. They seem to think its ugly, dirty and full of weird people. While I can’t speak to most of the resident’s oddness, I certainly found it to be a very pretty city and no dirtier than any other. The next morning Jeremy graciously provided the most delicious chocolate croissants for breakfast before we headed to the train station to pick up our rail passes and take the train to Berlin. A quick stopover, but nice to see a familiar face!

German beer!

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In Nottingham

We’ve been in Nottingham for a few days now and we’ve been staying with a friend of Janice’s (Will) and his family, who have very graciously put us up. They’ve been lovely to us (and such good cooks!). We had duck for dinner one night (delicious) and last night we had the most amazing fish lasagna.  Our first day, afternoon rather, there we mostly slept, and we’ve been trying to adjust to the time difference (which is hard when we’re always up late finishing the wine). One afternoon we went into town (they live just on the outskirts of Nottingham) and saw the castle, which was very pretty but had lots of cheesy robin hood stuff and of course we had to take pictures with the Robin Hood statue.  All the streets have ridiculous names like Maid Marian Way but its such a pretty city and it boasts the oldest running pub in England!

Nottingham Castle

The Robin Hood statue

Janice and Will in Nottingham

Hanging out playing sporcle

We also had the chance to visit the adorable little English village outside Nottingham, which is where Will went to school as a youngster. Janice and I made googly-eyes at the adorable buildings and streets before we went to a traditional English pub (complete with locals wandering through with there dogs).

The church in the adorable village

Also, in other news, because of the strikes and riots and molotov cocktails in Greece, we’ve decided to do our trip kind of backwards which means lots of revamping and last minute plans! I’ll keep you updated, promise!

And one last awesome thing I found…

Pirate water I bought at St Pancras station in London

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Arriving in the UK

We’re here (technically now we’ve been here for a couple of days but I keep getting distracted and not finishing this post – I know… bad.) Anyways, our lovely (sort of) plane ride (at least it was direct!) took about 6 and a half hours (it got in 30 minutes early). It wasn’t too bad despite being one of the old school plans from the 90s that I remember from flying as a child. Luckily the seats were eight across, split into two, four and two. Janice and I sat on one of the ends, so there was no one beside us, and luckily we have no screaming babies or extremely loud snorers to contend with. After leaving at 10pm Ontario time, we arrived at 9:30 in London (the proper one?) which was about 4:30am Ontario time. I managed to sleep somewhat on the plane, but we were both still pretty groggy. We managed to entertain the people in the customs line by pushing our bags along with our feet (we actually started a trend) and got through customs relatively easily, despite the agent having to repeat his questions several times for our slow, tired brains. Our luggage all arrived together (which we were a little nervous about) and then we made our way to the Gatwick train station where we completely failed at knowing what we wanted to get. Luckily the nice man behind the counter was accustomed to useless tourists and helped us by the proper ticket to Nottingham and made sure we didn’t make any silly errors. He told us where to go to catch our first train (which we promptly forgot) and so after wandering around for a while looking lost, we finally found platform 4 and confirmed that it was where we were supposed to be.

Our train was supposed to come at 11:00, but in fact it was very late (a common phenomenon with British trains apparently) and it was very full. Janice and I (with our enormous amount of luggage) made our way onto the train, knocking into people left and right and generally being a nuisance. We were standing for the first while (Janice in the doorway area and me in the baggage area) doing our best to not get in people’s ways. A stop later, an older gentleman got on and once the doors closed he began proselytising about Jesus and the evils of the modern world (particularly television and jeans on women). To be fair, I’m not sure how any of those are related… In good english form, everyone studiously avoided his eye until he got off the train a few stops later. Janice and I sat shortly after that, although we were wedged into seats with our bags on our laps (not too comfortable). Finally we made it to St Pancras station and realized that we’d just missed the train we wanted to take and had to wait for the next one. Luckily the next one was only 45 minutes later and after much confusion over cars and seating arrangements, we made it on the train (luckily the right one unlike the fellow sitting across from us who then missed his flight)

Two hours later and we arrived in Nottingham where Will and his father picked us up and took us to their home (where we both promptly had naps!)

More about Nottingham later! Suffice to say that we have arrived and so far haven’t gotten into trouble!

Ps. I promise that there will be photos next post!

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Flying out

So we’re sitting in Toronto Pearson airport about to board a plane (I might be a little premature, boarding isn’t for another hour). We haven’t even left Canada and all ours plans seem to have changed already!

But first things first. Packing. I own a lot of clothing. And everyone told me how much of a challenge it would be to try to pack for this trip. My baggage allowance was 25kg in any number of combined bags. So I took a backpackers pack and a suitcase (as well as a carry-on bag). So I dutifully laid out my clothing, separating about a third of it for a shortlist and narrowing from there. When my mother saw my pile I clothing she was surprised. I was actually taking a very reasonable amount according to her (6 shirts for backpacking, 2 pairs of pants, etc). So I packed it up in my suitcase and pack (with the help of handy-dandy compression packs) and everything fit without too much difficulty! Until I put it on the scale and realized I had to drop 18lbs. Overnight. And anyone who’s tried extreme dieting knows this is no easy feat! So I unpacked everything, took out some more clothes, narrowed down my toiletries and first aid kit and repacked. I still was 10lbs over. So I weighed my empty suitcase and found it weighed a bloody ton. One new (from the basement) suitcase later, and more discards, I finally had baggage that weighed 2lbs over the allowed limit (but my pack has plenty of extra room now!). So I said screw it and decided I would pay for the extra baggage. So my parents drove me to the airport and helped my unload my luggage. I checked in, put my baggage on the scale and low and behold – it measured 24kg (1kg under)! My bathroom scale is off (which is nice for everyone’s waistline at my house, but very stressful when it comes to packing!

Now I’m in the airport guarding the luggage while Janice buys a few souvenirs for our hosts in various places,  and I can sit and think and write (and hope I didn’t forget anything). Our plans were to stay in the UK for almost two days before flying to Athens on friday and continuing through Greece. But with the strikes (no flights and delays) and rioting, we’re reconsidering our plans. we haven’t quite figured out what the alternative will be, but we’ll have a few more days in the UK (in Nottingham) to figure it out. We’ll keep you updated too!

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Packing/ stress

I leave in four days. And I can honestly say that I am in no way ready. Moving is such a pain… I still haven’t dealt with all the stuff I moved back to my parent’s house and I have to really fricking soon because I leave on Wednesday! Holy crap! It’s so soon and I totally haven’t started packing, the house looks like a tornado hit and I still have so many errands to do. Best of all, since I had my wisdom teeth taken out two days ago, I’ve been kinda out of commission.  Before that, I had friends visiting and before that it was thanksgiving (so I was spending time with my baby brother and the boyfriend). Before that? I’d managed to catch a chest infection (ohhh fun) and was in Kingston, and before that? At the cottage. Why did I leave everything to the last-minute? Because I’m a bad ol’procrastinator. Although this time it’s not just that. Life just got in the way! I swear…

Anyways, stuff has got to get done in the next few days (like buying power adaptors, a new bottle of foundation, last-minute meds and, you know, packing!) But at the moment I still can’t bend over because of the teeth stuff. Thanks goodness my parents get home today and my mother has said she’ll help with the heavy lifting I still can’t do. I know that somehow, it’ll all get done… I still have to sort through some of my belongings from my Ottawa house as well as clear space to store them in my parent’s house while I’m gone. I also still have my closet to go through – deciding what to take and what to leave is a challenge, so little room! I’m gone for a minimum of ten months though, so I need enough clothing to basically get me through most of that. Luckily I have space to store some stuff in the UK while I’m backpacking, but it’s still not a lot of room! We’ll see how I manage.

My biggest fear at the moment is that my teeth will take forever to heal. It would suck to leave and still be on a liquid diet. I’m bored of it already… I want real food!!!

By the way (for visuals) here’s a video I found that lays out the problem with the US economy. Good concise stuff! Now if only people would listen…

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Wisdom Teeth

Yesterday I had my wisdom teeth out. Considering I leave in six days, it’s a little late! I went to the dentist for a regular checkup on Tuesday before I left. My wisdom teeth have been coming for a couple of years and my dentist had wanted to leave them as they were pretty straight and I had the room due to previous extractions. However the teeth haven’t completely come in and sections, especially on the bottom teeth, are still covered by gum. When I had my x-rays, it showed that the areas under the gum where beginning to rot and thus the teeth needed to be removed. But at that point I was leaving eight days, so they scheduled me for two days later.

Unfortunately, my parents are still on their anniversary trip, so I arranged for a very kind neighbour to pick me up afterwards. Luckily since all the teeth had surfaced, I was just frozen, not put under and he removed the teeth in about forty minutes. He did really have to wrench to get bottom two teeth out, and I experienced a lot of bleeding – like a sink full of soaked bloody gauze, which was super gross. Aside from that, the only thing I’m disappointed about is not actually getting to see the teeth (yes, possibly a weird desire) but I was too groggy after the extraction and it totally slipped my mind. Luckily in the morning, the bleeding has stopped and I haven’t swollen much. I’m a little sore, but I’m not in too much pain – although talking and eating still hurt a bit. I’m hoping to heal quickly over the weekend so I’m ready to go on Wednesday! So wish me luck!

My wisdom tooth buddy - I keep bugging her for tips and to make sure my symptoms are normal!

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