Cobblestone

Day 277 (12th of December 2016) – Prague, Czech Republic

We woke up early and with very good reason. It was our first morning in what we had already gathered was going to be one of our favourite cities of the trip – Prague.

With its metro area being home to just over two million people, this relatively small global city is distinctly rooted in its rich history. As the historical capital of Bohemia, this city flourished throughout the Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque eras. It was also the main residence of several of the Holy Roman Emperors, including Charles IV in the 14th century. On first sighting, one would guess that dozens of the buildings in Prague’s historic centre are World Heritage Sites. In fact, the city itself is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The day all started with a hotel breakfast, and a good one at that. It had plenty of gluten and lactose-free options for Aimee, and just about everything else for me.

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But breakfast was only the beginning. Let me illustrate for you what the street looks like upon leaving the hotel.

Turn your head left, and you see this…

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Turn your head right, and you see this…

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Not half bad. We chose to turn right and head up the hill earlier in the day rather than later.

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Not only could you gain a vantage point over the whole city, but you could also peer down individual alleyways.

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At the very peak was Prague Castle, a 9th Century building which is the official residence of the President of the Czech Republic. The castle was a seat of power for kings of Bohemia, Holy Roman emperors, and presidents of Czechoslovakia (which split peacefully into the Czech Republic and Slovakia during the 1990’s).

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The Bohemian Crown Jewels are kept within a hidden room inside it, hence the heavy guarding.

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Inside the compound of what is officially the largest ancient castle in the world, we were able to spot Kohl’s Fountain, Matthias Gate, St Vitus Cathedral, the Obelisk and the Statue of St George.

Walking back down the hill, we passed through some small Christmas stalls just outside of the castle.

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They were bordered by even more impressive buildings. The amazing structures just don’t stop. At first it’s hard to walk past each one without at least learning something about it, but eventually you realise that you wouldn’t get through a street if you treated the whole city that way.

We passed the hotel on the way down and spotted a hidden outdoor area. Aimee figured that we should return in an effort to find out how to get there and call people we know to show them. The plan worked to a point. We found ourselves a staircase to the rooftop, but unfortunately there was no internet to get on a call with anyone.

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Back outside the hotel, we decided to take a left instead and continue down the hill. We were appreciating not being on a timetable or a route to go and tick off any compulsory sites, and instead we found ourselves entering random shops and stopping to buy tickets to unplanned destinations. The gingerbread shop was first.

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And then a church.

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But most importantly, just the streets themselves.

Prague’s historical centre is split into two main sections by the Vltava River: the Old Town (Staré Město) and the Lesser Town (Malá Strana). We were staying in the Lesser Town (I assure you it is no “lesser” than the other districts… in fact I’d argue it’s the nicest), and we decided to walk across the river to see what the fuss was about the Old Town.

The main crossing point is at “Charles Bridge”, a 516m-long bridge whose construction began in 1357. Not only do we know the year that the bridge was constructed, but we actually know the exact date and time. The first stone was laid by Charles IV himself at exactly 5:31am on the 9th of July. Charles was a great believer in numerology and it being able to imbue additional strength on those who harnessed it, and so beginning construction on a palindromic time and date of “1357 9/7 5:31” was deemed necessary.

The most grand feature of the bridge isn’t its length or unusual history, but rather the three bridge guard towers and the 30 baroque-style statues and statuaries lining the structure.

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The bridge gives some of the best views of the Vltava River.

The sun came out right on time.

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From its early existence around the 9th century, the Old Town was laid out of settlements which appeared from the spacious marketplace on the bank of Vltava. Thanks to trade the merchants of the area became rich, and when the King of Bohemia gave them the privileges of township, the Old Town of Prague was formed.

The entrance into the Old Town was very touristy. We realised how thankful we were for staying away from the Thai Massage parlours of the Old Town over in the “Lesser Town”. One such tourist posed for a photo.

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The Old Town became a whole lot more impressive when we reached the Old Town Square.

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It is here that the Prague Astronomical Clock sits mounted on the southern wall of the Old Town Hall.

After seeing the (somewhat underwhelming) process of the clock striking one, we decided to have lunch just outside.

It was here that we learned a little more about this clock’s significance. It was first installed in 1410, making it the third-oldest astronomical clock in the world and the oldest one still operating. The clock face includes an astronomical dial (representing the position of the sun and moon), “The Walk of the Apostles” (an hourly show of figures of the Apostles and other moving sculptures including a figure of Death), and a calendar dial.

Sitting at lunch and watching the crowds gather in front of the clock, we decided that it would be a nice idea to scale the Old Town Hall and watch the chaos from above.

And so up we went.

It was well worth the climb.

You can see the restaurant we were eating at on the far right.

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We also went on a tour of the Old Town Hall after how much we enjoyed the tower. It was equally as interesting, with the best part being going underground to where Prague’s original ground level was before the city was raised to prevent flooding. When Prague was raised, the old ground floor of the Town Hall became a prison.

In the Main Entrance Hall, the early-1900’s ceiling mosaics were particularly well preserved. This was because during the Nazi occupation of the city, the townspeople painted over the mosaics in white so that Hitler wouldn’t destroy them. Following the war, this was scraped off, meaning that they were relatively well preserved during the widespread destruction of the war.

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By the time we had emerged from the Old Town Hall it was getting dark. The Christmas Markets suddenly seemed a whole lot merrier.

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We decided to walk home for a rest before dinner, taking a detour through some of the Old Town’s nicer streets.

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And of course, back over the Charles Bridge into the Lesser Town.

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We were so overfilled from lunch that we decided it would be more economical to have a small snack indoors for the evening. The very dodgy convenience store a couple of hundred metres away from the hotel began to become suspicious when we entered to find products like “Cocaine Vodka” and “Cannabis Coffee”.

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Maybe not tonight…

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Day 278 (13th of December 2016) – Prague, Czech Republic

Our plan for the day was completing a number of things we each considered “essentials” for our trip in Prague. The first destination was one of my personal essentials – the miniatures museum. I had read about a gallery online in which all of the pieces of art were viewed under a microscope, and since it was just near our hotel I wanted to go and have a look.

The walk up the hill in the crisp, 1℃ air was a nice change from the busier parts of the city centre.

Reaching the top, we found a quiet little square containing a monastery and small shops of trinkets.

The museum was… strange.

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Our favourite work was of some camels, all constructed within the eye of a needle.

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Going to this museum worked perfectly, because it gave us easy access to Petřín Hill. This hill provides one of the best lookouts of the city, and after spotting it from our hotel we decided that we would make a morning out of climbing it. Atop the hill is Petřín Tower, somewhat of a lame version of the Eiffel Tower.

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To get there, you must make your way along the ridge of the hill right to its tip.

You have to walk up 299 stairs to scale the almost 65m tall tower, but it is well worth the effort.

We took the funicular down the hill so that we could more easily reach the centre of the Lesser Town. It is here that a few famous sites can be found, including the aptly named “Memorial to the Victims of Communism” as well as the John Lennon Wall.

The first was just at the base of the hill. It shows seven bronze figures descending a flight of stairs. The statues appear more decayed the further away they are from you – losing limbs and their bodies breaking open. It symbolises how political prisoners were affected by Communism.

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After passing a restaurant with gluten-free pasta, it only made sense to delay our visit to the John Lennon Wall until after lunch.

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The lunch was particularly good. We saved the leftovers for the train the next day.

The Lennon Wall was just around the corner. This wall has been filled with Beatles-inspired graffiti since the 1980’s at which time it was a source of irritation for the Communist regime of Gustáv Husák. Young Czechs would write grievances on the wall, and at one point this led to a clash between hundreds of students and security police on the Charles Bridge.

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Though the famous original portrait of Lennon is lost under layers of new paint, the wall is still inspiring in its dynamic state with phrases like “do not lie to yourself”, “wall-free world”, “may the best of your past be the worst of your future” and “straya c**t” (of course an Aussie wrote that).

After the Lennon Wall, we made our way out to Náměstí Republiky for some clothes shopping for Aimee and Vodafone complaining for me.

Snacks at the Christmas markets were particularly relieving after what turned into an afternoon of arguments with Vodafone over failed top-ups and broken promises. I don’t think I’ll ever get along with telcos.

Aimee bought herself some famous Prague Ham.

It still wasn’t enough for either of us, though. We were happy to finally get to the restaurant which we had booked days earlier for what was one of the nicer dinners of the trip.

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Day 279 (14th of December 2016) – Munich, Germany

Good morning everybody.

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Today it was off to Munich, or, as the German’s call it, München. A solid breakfast was needed to propel us through the inevitably hunger-inducing train ride.

We arrived at Prague Central Station bright and early so as to avoid a slip-up similar to that in Berlin. The journey would consist of two trains with the connection being at Nuremberg. That name might sound familiar. That’s because you’ve heard it from the “Nuremberg Trials”, the 1945-46 international tribunal hearings where German officials involved in war crimes and crimes against humanity were convicted. The city was chosen for these trials specifically due to the symbolic value of the city having been the location of the Nazi Party’s Nuremberg rallies and their passing of laws stripping Jews of their citizenship there.

In being a travel day, there really isn’t much to blog about. In fact, much of the day actually consisted of just that – blogging.

It was upon arrival at Munich Hauptbahnhof that things became much more interesting. The streets surrounding it were… rough. It was heavily populated with homeless people, amputees and hordes of people who I assume formed a part of Germany’s recent intake of 1,500,000 war refugees.

Things became even stranger when checking into our hotel. The place was themed in an “Alps” style, meaning that everything was either ski or farm themed. The elevator had TV screens in it meant to simulate that you were in a gondola heading up a mountain. Although it was tacky at times, it actually was pretty cool. We wound down in our rooms for a planned night in, but quickly realised that it was far too early to waste the night and decided to head to Munich’s centre at Marienplatz which was within walking distance.

The Christkindlmarkt in Munich is distinctly different from those in Europe’s other major cities. This one is spread all along the main street going between Karlsplatz and Marienplatz – it isn’t in one square. This makes for a much longer, more relaxed and less crowded walk. Although, probably a less festive one too.

Marienplatz, the main square of Munich since 1158, is dominated by the 1908 New Town Hall (Neues Rathaus) on the north side. Its looming Gothic Revival architecture style dominates the square. I really, really like the Gothic style of architecture. It almost seems a little spooky sometimes, but it maintains the dark feeling of its 12th to 16th century Middle Ages roots.

This building in particular is huge. It covers an area of 9159 m² having 400 rooms. Its most famous feature is the Rathaus-Glockenspiel. This glockenspiel, which consists of 43 bells and 32 life-sized figures, plays to crowds every day and re-enacts two famous fables from the 16th century.

After a brief but unsuccessful visit to Apple to try and resolve a keyboard issue on my new laptop, we called it a night and returned to our room. Leftovers, a Rick & Morty marathon and falling asleep to music made for the perfect lazy night.

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Day 280 (15th of December 2016) – Munich, Germany

A good start to the day. We’ve been demolishing the hotel breakfasts.

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It was only a short walk to the Hauptbahnhof for our regional train to Dachau.

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If you haven’t heard of Dachau, maybe the inscription on the front gate will give you a hint.

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Arbeit Macht Frei – “work will set you free”. You might recognise that one from my blog on Auschwitz-Birkenau. That’s right, Dachau is a concentration camp. It was used as a labour camp by the Nazi Party primarily against political enemies rather than Jews, unlike the extermination camp at Auschwitz which dealt largely with Jews and Gypsies.

I certainly wouldn’t have thought at the beginning of the year that I would be visiting two of the biggest and most infamous Nazi concentration camps in Europe, but I am very glad that it has worked out that way. It’s important to see these places.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana

Dachau was the first Nazi concentration camp opened in Germany. Opened in 1933 by Heinrich Himmler, its purpose progressed from imprisoning political prisoners to eventually include forced labor, the imprisonment of Jews, ordinary German and Austrian criminals, and foreign nationals from countries that Germany occupied or invaded. The camp was liberated by U.S. forces on the 29th of April 1945.

One of the more confronting parts of the tour was undoubtedly viewing the cell houses. It reminded me of the stables at Birkenau which housed thousands more humans than it ever did horses.

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A cell like this looks bad enough.

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But then you realise that these rooms were divided into four as a form of torture. “Standing cells”, they were called, where prisoners were forced to stand for days on end.

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In each cell was also a radiator – turned on during the summer, and off during the winter. Naturally.

Outside the first cellblock were rows of others.

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With that harrowing Nazi watchtower permanently ensuring the cruel imprisonment of them all.

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The mostly destroyed rows were shrouded with a mist in the freezing weather – oddly appropriate, as Aimee noted, for the subject material of the day. It’s even harder to comprehend how these prisoners would work and sleep in these sub-zero temperatures with only a thin, striped-pyjama uniform.

And within, a visual display of the progression of sleeping conditions from single beds at the beginning of the war to platforms which couldn’t fit every prisoner by the end.

And toilets arranged in rows without a shred of privacy, through which thousands of prisoners were expected to pass through in just a few minutes each morning.

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Dachau may as well have been an extermination camp. With Nazi records indicating the death of almost 32,000 prisoners and estimates of many more, it seems that inhumane working conditions can be as effective of a killer as calculated execution. Just look at the crematorium where rows of ovens are lined up to dispose of the piles of bodies.

It was in front of the second row of ovens that three British agents were hanged during the war. A plaque from the British government was placed in the room in their honour.

In the room just adjacent was probably the most daunting part of the whole tour. The gas chamber. Dachau only had one, and there isn’t any evidence to say that it was ever used for mass murder. Ex-prisoners have testified that the gas chamber was used for single executions, though. To think of the unnamed souls who passed in here, thinking they were just there for a surprise shower away from the crowds of their cellblock.

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The memorial site didn’t end on such a harrowing note. It ended with an exhibition on the liberation of the camp and the subsequent ceasing of the senseless murder of thousands. One of the more interesting things which I learned in this final exhibition was of the U.S. Army’s supervision of Dachau town residents who were forced to tour the concentration camp with piles of dead bodies still present.

The weather had descended deeper into the negatives, and back in Munich Aimee was drawn to trying roasted chestnuts for the first time to combat the cold.

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For dinner, I had organised that Aimee and I go and stake out a spot in Hofbräuhaus am Platzl. This is Munich’s original beer hall, and features in the cities famous Oktoberfest festivities. Originally built in 1589 by Bavarian Duke Maximilian I as an extension of the Staatliches Hofbräuhaus in München brewery, this place retains all of its traditional Bavarian culture, and it certainly adheres the century old laws of beer purity.

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Bands of horns played and waitresses in their Dirndls handed our pretzels over the clinking of patrons steins.

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Aimee and I shared a drink over a hearty meat dinner.

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I had always known of Munich’s famous beer-drinking culture, but I certainly hadn’t realised just how embedded it was. As the history section of the menu pointed out, beer has been considered a staple part of the Bavarian diet for centuries. Nothing’s changed.

I enjoyed the experience so much that I even looked into joining the members and getting my very own stein locker. But no, it wasn’t to be.

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Day 281 (16th of December 2016) – Munich, Germany

Our second full day in Munich was, similar to our first full day, not actually spent in Munich. It was spent in Füssen – a small town of 15,000 people in Bavaria, just five kilometres north of Austria. Here lies the castles Hohenschwangau and, most famously, Neuschwanstein.

We boarded our train at 6:30am for the two hour journey, lamenting as students do about missing our valuable hostel breakfast.

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One Harry Potter novel later and we had arrived in frosty Füssen, crusted in a deceptively snowy white.

It was finally looking like the European Winter we had dreamed of. We bought our tickets and began wandering around the Hohenschwangau Village.

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With it being one of the German sausages which she can eat, Aimee couldn’t help smashing a Bratwurst before our hike up to the first castle.

The estimated twenty minute walk only ended up being so because of all of the spectacular views on the way up.

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Aimee in particular was in awe. I just couldn’t stop looking at the mountains in the distance and dreaming of skiing.

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The most spectacular of all the views was undoubtedly Hohenschwangau, the castle which we were heading towards for a tour.

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As we went deeper into the woods, the royal blue of the sky was lost to the frosty white leafless branches above.

After a brief wait, we were showed into the magnificent structure. It was in here that we learned about its history. Hohenschwangau Castle was the childhood residence of King Ludwig II of Bavaria and was built by his father, King Maximilian II of Bavaria. The present day Hohenschwangau Castle was first mentioned in historical records in 1397. Throughout history it has been the home to Lords, a bear hunting retreat, and finally the home of the King.

Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take pictures within the castle, but the highlights can be easily described: an early 20th century wooden hydraulic lift (since the King was in a wheelchair) was installed, and a secret staircase existed between the chambers of the King and the Queen for reasons still beyond absolutely nobody.

Back down in the village, we settled in for a well-deserved hot chocolate. Our break had to end early, though, since it was time to head up to Neuschwanstein Castle for our next tour.  We decided to make a real fairytale entrance. After all, Neuschwanstein is famous for it being the inspiration for the classic Disney castle. One glance makes that very obvious. If only King Ludwig sued for copyright infringement.

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We climbed aboard our carriage for the ride up, but unfortunately it ended sourly only a minute in.

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After cutting into the line in front of us for better seats, a feisty Germany grandmother launched a scathing attack against Aimee and I for grunting at her family’s pushing past us for the front row. We were quickly labelled arrogant pests, and after alluding to us being a “disgrace to South Africa” (she wrongly assumed our nationality), we protested by leaving the cart for the next one. It meant that we would be late and would have to postpone our tour, but it was well worth it for a ride up in peace.

Luckily, the next carriage had no ferals. This would be a proper Cinderella (I think that’s the right one) experience.

The twenty minute ride up the mountain ended with a breathtaking emergence through the fog of the town below.

We made it! To reach what is the top of many people’s bucket lists (including Aimee’s father, it turns out) is incredibly satisfying, especially at the age of 18. There can’t be many Australians our age who’ve come all the way up here.

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The castle looked even more grand from below. And yet, even with its size, its milky white colour didn’t make it seem imposing at all.

From its base we were able to spy a bridge in the distance. We had been told by countless sources that despite the bridge’s shoddy condition and the long walk required to reach it, it was well worth the bravery and effort. We promised to find our way to it after the tour.

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Our introduction to Neuschwanstein taught us that the ostentatious 19th-century Romanesque Revival palace was commissioned by Ludwig II of Bavaria as a retreat and as a homage to opera writer Richard Wagner. The palace was intended as a personal refuge for the reclusive king, but it was never finished after the King’s death in 1886.

As a fan of operas relating to the Middle Ages, King Ludwig II’s romantic interpretation of this historical period was very evident in the grand artworks within the building as well as in the exterior architecture. Of all the parts of the castle, the mock cave representing one of Wagner’s plays was the most impressive. For about 10 metres you had the perception that you were walking through an actual cave, complete with all of its stalagmites and stalactites.

I only snapped one illegal photo in the building.

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As soon as the tour was over, we were quickly off on our search for the bridge. The walk didn’t take too long, and it allowed us to find our way through some stunning thin forests with the fog hanging pleasantly behind the trees.

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The bridge itself was, as we had been told, very shoddy. It was especially scary considering what was underneath the bridge.

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Wooden planks were bending to breaking point as we careful marched our way across the platform, our hearts jumping at each new tourist that walked on. I was surprised at how much more nervous I was than Aimee considering how much better I fare in a theme park.

Maybe you’ll see why we were willing to walk over the bridge once you see the view.

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Take a closer look. The fog makes it look as if the castle is floating in heaven. Imagine hauling all of the building materials up the mountain without the assistance of modern machinery.

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We nervously took each other’s photos while balancing on the bending planks.

And luckily some people passed who could take a photo of the two of us.

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After crossing the bridge, we made the journey back down through the fog into the town of  Hohenschwangau.

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We figured that horse and cart was still a more enjoyable idea than walking.

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A long wait for the bus back to Füssen was only made better by the bratwurst on the train.

We settled in for a much needed early night.

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Day 282 (17th of December 2016) – Amsterdam, Netherlands

Today was a transit day. We were making our way towards Amsterdam in the Netherlands – city of canals, clogs and cannabis. With a late checkout of midday, I was able to spend a couple of spare hours in the morning after our shared breakfast tutoring while Aimee packed.

We moved directly from the hotel to Munich’s central station for our train to the Dam.

The almost six hour journey meant that it was nightfall by the time we made it into this world-famous city. Some initial confusion in navigating their public transit lost us a bit of money, but from there we were on our way to Amsterdam Zuid. It’s here in the business-savvy south of the city that we were staying – out of the chaos of the Canal Ring and in a hotel which Aimee and I had both read about online.

It was called “CitizenM”. They brand themselves as a “new kind of hotel”, offering an intuitive booking process, a wall-to-wall bed promising to be the biggest you’ve ever seen, and a quirky atmosphere. The Apple of hotels is how I would describe it.

This place lived up to its description. Initial fears that we had chosen to stay too far out of the city were quickly allayed when we saw the quality of the hotel and learned that the tram to the centre only took 15 minutes.

Maybe a little video tour would give you the best introduction. This one’s worth a watch.

We settled in for the evening with just a small dinner at the hotel.

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Day 283 (18th of December 2016) – Amsterdam, Netherlands

Our first morning in Amsterdam led us exactly to where you’d think it’d lead us – to the city’s famous canals.

They were a sight to behold. In fact, I was far more in love than I had anticipated. Amsterdam’s reputation had led me to believe that the city would be a little more rough around the edges, but our morning stroll quickly revealed that this wasn’t the case. It was stunningly luxurious.

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You can see by what Aimee’s holding that we were drawn into a shop pretty early on for some of that famous Dutch cheese.

Karla Zimmerman of Lonely Planet sums up the feeling you get walking around this canal district spectacularly.

“I love walking around Prinsengracht in the morning. Houseboats bob, bike bells cling cling, flower sellers lay out their wares. The old merchants houses tilt at impossible angles, and it’s easy to imagine an era when boats unloaded spices out the front. I love how cappuccinos appear and disappear in 350-year-old bars, and how beers do the same in candlelit time warps.”

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It was along this very canal around De Duif that we walked towards a bike hire store to collect our means of transport for the day.

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We found the least touristy bikes that we could and set off.

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It only takes a quick glance at a map of Amsterdam to understand why canals are such an important part of the cities make-up.

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As such, this is where we based most of our riding.

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We stopped for all-important photos, of course. Everywhere from Herengracht to Singel, the Amstel and of course Emperor’s Canal.

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After circumnavigating all of the main canals, we rerouted to Vondelpark – Amsterdam’s inner-city haven of winding tree-lined paths and ponds.

We didn’t stay on the bikes for too long.

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After a couple of hours we were still in Vondelpark. Not only was it bigger than expected, but it also provided some of the flattest and most relaxing riding terrain. It was incredibly enjoyable to be able to cycle next to each other and chat while slipping through the almost meditative arrangement of pathways.

Eventually we brought our time at the park to an end in favour of heading towards Museumplein – the huge public space just in front of Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum.

Along the walk to Museumplein’s ice rink and famous “I Amsterdam” sign, we meandered down the muddy path of the weekend markets. It was here that I found a casual watch to replace the one which was stolen from me during the Shanghai mugging. The markets eventually brought us to the I Amsterdam sign. It was just that. A sign.

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We passed on the opportunity for Amsterdam’s most cliché photo and instead continued past the ice rink into the adjacent Christmas Market.

It was Aimee and I’s favourite of the European Christmas markets which we had visited so far. The warmth of the market’s bonfires and jazz carols were a welcome relief for our fingers and ears which were numb from the cold.

We rode from the Christmas Market through the base of the Rijksmuseum to the some more commercial alleyways of Amsterdam’s central neighbourhoods so that I could buy a much needed jumper for under my coat.

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And at last, just as evening started to fall, it was time to return the bikes. We went back to Amsterdam South to freshen up before the evening’s dinner.

After one of my friends, Dom Codsi, saw a photo which Aimee had posted online of us in Germany, he messaged me asking where we were going in Europe. It turns out that our itinerary clashed with his in one city – Amsterdam. Dom has come over to Europe from Sydney for a few weeks to travel with our mutual friend Rory Nix who was in my house at Riverview. Rory has been on a gap year working at a school just outside of Liverpool in England. He’s using the money he earned there for one last stint of travel before returning home via a short stay in Singapore with Dom. Rory was born in Switzerland, and from his family’s time spent living in Europe, he has a lot of contacts around the place which makes free accommodation for him easier to come by. It didn’t work out in Amsterdam, though. The two of them ended up accidentally booking into a Christian hostel which holds nightly Bible Study in, of all places, the Red Light District.

And so it was here that we all decided to get dinner. Aimee and I made our way to the area from our hotel by tram.

Meeting the two outside a pub on one of the Red Light District’s main streets, the first thing which I noticed was their hair. It seems like I’m the only one who missed the memo that growing long hair after school is compulsory. They both pulled it off far better than I ever could, though.

We made our way down the promenade and poked our heads into a number of different restaurant options before deciding on an Italian place which had a few more options for Aimee.

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The streets of sex shops and condom museums were, quite simply, far less seedy than we had all anticipated. Actually, the whole district was really nice to be in (minus the hordes of raucous British boys half-jokingly accepting solicitations for paid sex very openly). I’d say the gentrification brought by tourism would have helped with this place feeling perfectly safe to walk through.

I quickly put away my camera when we found ourselves in the main canal of the district after dinner. It was here that the brothels exist where women stand half-naked in windows, tapping on the windows and trying to draw you in. It was an odd experience, especially in some of the more narrow alleyways where the stream of people were separated from the women behind the glass by just a ruler’s length.

It was after that walk that the two of us said goodbye to Dom and Rory before heading back to our own hotel. With the main parts of Amsterdam conquered, we were excited for a day exploring a nearby town tomorrow.

Until next time,
Xavier.

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