C is for Colour

 

So yesterday I blogged about our second day in Venice and about our boat ride to Burano, one of the two main Islands you can catch a water bus to for around 7 euros each. I feel like Burano was wasted on my lack of photography skills, but regardless it was somewhere that seems a little bit like a dream now that we are back home.

There was colour around every corner on this little island covered in canals. The windowsills were a practice in the beauty of contrast, its leaning tower pops up over terracotta roofs, and the people found us awe-struck tourists rather amusing.

So if you are ever in Venice, take a few hours to get out to Burano and soak up all the colour.

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G is for Gondola

Our second day in Venice had a lot to live up to, and it didn’t disappoint. We had a pretty restless night in the pretty unbearable Italian heat that was made even worse by the late night discovery that there was a heater in our room that was perpetually on and thus made our room 10x hotter than the hallway outside. Fun times.

Luckily we were too excited by the prospect of spending another day in Venice to worry about the heat or spend much time in the hotel. We had spent the night trying to decide whether to splurge and do a gondola ride for our second morning in Venice. After realising that this could be the one and only time we are ever here (although I have many fingers crossed  that it is not the last we see of the beautiful city) we decided that to save $80 by not taking a gondola ride in the city where boats are pretty much the only way you can see the back streets of Venice, was silly. So our first, wonderful task of the morning was to find ourselves a gondolier and try not to fall into the canals.

We went back to our favourite courtyard spot from yesterday where there was a string quartet playing and a small but happy crowd watching. Now that I am back home in New Zealand, the idea of sitting beside the canal waiting for a gondola with a violins and cellos providing a backing soundtrack sounds  a little unreal. Almost as unreal as sitting on top of Montmatre in Paris and watching the sun descend whilst a little old man performed a puppet show before the crowds. These moments seem so long ago now, but they still bring a very satisfied smile to my face (which probably comes across pretty creepy to everyone around me).

We happened to get an awesome gondolier who not only took us on the best little boat tour of Venice imaginable but also spent his time explaining what we were seeing and also describing the history of Venice and its gondoliers. He made an already amazing experience even better (taking extra special care to point out the palace Angelina Jolie had stayed in whilst filming here, and not forgetting to point out that he featured in one of the takes). Not only was he proud of his stardom, he was in adoration of this beautiful city where he worked and lived, and where his family had all worked and lived. It was the kind of attitude one came to expect in Italy, and especially in Venice. I can see why.

We reluctantly left the gondola, somehow without falling out, and parted ways with our fantastic host. And I have never felt happier about parting with a well spent $80. So my one tip for Venice (well after my other tips of getting lost and eating gelato at least twice a day), my third tip for Venice is take a gondola. It is worth every cent and is a great way to see the parts of Venice that are only accessible by boat, which is a lot of it! From back yard secret courtyards, to giant Venetian palace facades, it was a perfect start to the day.

After getting just a little bit lost, we made our way to the ferry terminal to catch a ride to one of the outlying Islands, Burano. No walk through Venice would be complete without something to distract us from our goal, this time it was our little cat of the canals who we found balancing precariously on a bridge as he decided how best to catch a bird. We named him Giovanni. No judgements please, we obviously have a cat problem. Acknowledging there is a problem is the first step right?

We got off the boat at the island beside Burano where we felt like one of the only human inhabitants (not counting the many sun bathing lizards) until we found the island’s one restaurant which was buzzing with Italians and seemed like the perfect place to grab a cold beer and a big bowl of pasta with beautiful fresh tomato sauce. I don’t think i could live in Italy (a lie, I would live there in a heartbeat) because me plus unlimited parmesan to pour over my pasta is just not a sustainable life plan. Every restaurant we went to set down a bowl of parmesan, undoubtably meant for multiple uses, that together with Edd I managed to decimate. YOLO (cringe).

Full of pasta and parmesan we waddled across the beautiful island and started to catch glimpses of Burano, a vision in bright pinks, purples, oranges and greens. We crossed the foot bridge and immediately fell in love with this little island of rainbows where every house is coloured so that when the boats come up the canals, the houses are clearly defined. It is such a pretty and quaint little island, and quite a beautiful contrast to everything we loved about Venice. It was also a photographer’s dream, with contrasting colours and reflective water around every turn. My favourite part was its town tower, which was on a decidedly adorable lean. Ah, Italians and their leaning towers.

We spent a while in Burano, turning down every side street and admiring every window sill. Kind of like Venice, my words are far to meagre to explain how picturesque this little Island was. So scroll down to the abundance of photos below. They do a much better job. I think my favourite part of Burano was the people, who stood hanging out their washing whilst staring at the weird tourists taking photos of their door ways and window sills. Creeps.

With the afternoon sun beating down on us we reluctantly clambered aboard a busy ferry back to Venice where we wandered for as long as our legs would carry us before starting to say our sad goodbyes to this sweet little city.

Of all the places we went, Venice is the one that sticks in my head the most, as I drift to sleep or as I day dream in front of my work. It is the one where the colours were in abundance, the people were proud, the food was delicious and getting lost was the best idea we ever had. It was the place where we saw people kissing, people arguing, people drinking Prosecco at 10am and eating pasta all day round. It was Italy and it was amazing. I loved all of Italy, but I think I left a little bit of my heart in Venice.

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I had so many photos of Burano that there is no way they would all fit into this post. So to do them justice I will post them up tomorrow by themselves 🙂

L is for Lost (in Paradise)

The question I get asked every time I catch up with someone since we have returned from our trip is “What was your favourite bit” and it is so indescribably hard to choose a favourite place after two months where I saw and experienced so many amazing cities. I have loved 90% of the places we have been to, and people regret asking once I start thinking out loud about what an amazing place Europe is. But, long story slightly less long, if I had to choose one city that really blew me away, one city that I fell head over heels for, it would be Venice. Maybe it was because I wasn’t expecting to love Venice, after so much hype around this little city located on a lagoon I wasn’t that excited. Italy itself I knew would deliver in terms of food, but in general I kind of thought the highlights of our trip were done.

How wrong I was.

We arrived in Venice after a ridiculously long but beautiful train ride and walked in the burning hot Italian sunshine to our little basic room in a suburb just outside of the city of Venice called Mestre. We were exhausted, and without much excitement for Venice we decided to just use the afternoon to look around Mestre and do a much needed laundromat run, whilst drowning ourselves in ridiculously cheap sparkling water to fend off heat stroke (and to think it wasn’t even the middle of summer). We grabbed dinner at a little “Snack Bar” which turned out to be common throughout Italy and are an amazing, cheap way to grab food and drink in Italy.

This little snack bar kind of became our second home in Mestre, mainly because Venice itself is ridiculously expensive and this place did pizza, pasta and beer (aka everything we needed to survive, at a ridiculously cheap price). Plus the people were friendly and it was always stocked with enthusiastic, noisy, gesturing Italians. The people didn’t speak a word of English, and I was struggling to adjust to speaking Italian but somehow, in Italy not knowing the language wasn’t really an issue. Who knew hands were so great for communicating.

Our second day, after spending a restless night in a relentlessly hot room, we caught a morning bus into Venice itself (after a cappuccino with the locals at our new local). We stepped off the bus and immediately headed in the opposite direction to the main street that our hotel had recommended as an easy way to hit the sights. Best decision ever. Who would choose one large street, crammed with tourists and tourist shops over small walkways winding alongside canals, empty of tourists and with little hidden shops and restaurants full of locals. We got lost within five minutes and that was the best part of the day. Every turn, every little path held a new surprise, from peaceful canals, magnificent churches somehow hidden behind a corner, tiny little pizzerias and gondoliers suddenly appearing around corners.

It was breathtaking. I have never been so quickly taken with a city but there is something so utterly unique and characteristic of Venice that we had smiles on our face the entire time. I was drawn into a little shop, almost empty apart from the owner and stocked from floor to ceiling of handmade venetian masks. We ooohed and ahhed at the beautiful masks and the owner who was so wonderfully Italian couldn’t resist telling us all about Venice’s Carnivale where the city packs full of masked Venetians. He donned a cape and a mask and then dressed me up to so that Edd could snap some photos. It would have been creepy if it was anywhere else, but in Italy this enthusiastic attitude just made so much sense. He wasn’t trying to push a sale (my immediate fear) but was so incredibly proud of his city, his traditions and his talent that he wanted to tell us all about it. He was just one countless Italians who made them one of my favourite nationalities to interact with.

We stopped in at the Scuolo Grande di San Rocco where we admired the huge number of works by Tintoretto, concentrated in one beautiful building. They had basic wooden mirrors to walk around and see every artwork on the ceiling without hurting your neck, a detail that was kind of genius. It was quiet, peaceful and full of incredibly religious imagery but it held nothing to the city itself so it wasn’t long before we were back on the streets of Venice, exploring (read- getting lost again).

We ate deliciously hot calzone, stuffed full of fresh tomato, basil and mozzarella whilst sitting canal side as the gondoliers went past, occasionally with a song proudly belted out. We made our way through winding streets in the general direction of Piazza San Marco, but we were drunk on Venice’s charm and a short walk took much longer as  we lapped up the views that only Venice can offer, couples celebrating a surprise engagement over a glass of prosecco, Gondoliers waiting for eager explorers, melting gelato in the hand of every second tourist and those beautiful emerald canals that play host to it all. With no cars, bikes or scooters everyone is on foot, which is great after a month of nearly being run over countless times.

We eventually met up with the many tourists at Piazza San Marco, staying long enough to gaze adoringly at the pink marble of the gothic Ducale palace and laugh along with many others at the pigeons who were more than a little daring. It was busy but the piazza is so grand and spacious that it doesn’t feel crowded until you try to leave, back into the narrow streets. We attempted to follow the Lonely Planet walking tour, and kind of succeeded, catching the main sights such as the Rialto bridge and the ancient seafood market. But no where did we enjoy Venice more than when we took a wrong turn, ended up in some little courtyard and decided to break for either gelato, a spritz (venetian cocktail/wine mixer) or both.

At the beginning of this trip, 8 hours of walking felt like murder. In Venice I could have kept walking forever (well I would like to think so) but eventually we took a rest and sat beside the canal with half a bottle of Prosecco, the Venetian answer to champagne. I tried and failed to blog, too distracted by the beauty of this unique and wonderful city, and its local characters who come along as part of the deal.

I have never fallen so hard and fast for a city. With Venice, I was head over heels from the moment I took a wrong turn.

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My first photo in Venice.

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In our new favourite mask shop

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I won’t caption all of these…because they will all be the same. Take me back

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The Grand Canal, which was a whole other type of beautiful

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Waiting

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Waiting

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Piazza San Marco

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The guy who sang for all of us who watched. It was one of those moments that was so perfect you kind of expected a flaming meteor to come down and kill everyone…just me? Oh.

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I took photos of the canals mainly, but the architecture and churches were also beutiful

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Attack of the pigeons.

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This little girl was braver than most of the adults, just sayin’

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Piazza San Marco

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The Ducale Palace

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Looking out over to some islands

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Walking tour begins

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But soon we were lost and crossing over more unknown but charming canals

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My kind of mask

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From the Rialto bridge

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The Rialto Bridge, prettier to look at, a little too busy to try and walk over

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A Spritz. Prosecco, soda water, some kind of italian liqueur and an olive? I wasn’t paying much attention, but everyone else had one.

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Saying good bye was hard, even though we were returning the next day.

D is for Ducklings

So you probably thought I forgot about you… Not really, I have just being procrastinating blogging like it was the hardest thing in the world. We have been home for a week and a half and in that time I have shamefully avoided blogging like the plague. Partly because it was so time and energy consuming adjusting back to normal, crazy, chaotic life but more so because thinking back to our trip makes life at the moment seem that much more unexciting. And i miss our travels like a hole in the heart at the moment. But I can’t just leave us hanging in the middle of Europe, and worse, I can’t leave this blog without telling you all about my FAVOURITE bit so far. So please accept my apologies for abandoning this blog for so long. Today we return to Europe, on the day that we left Prague on a morning train to Vienna where we were giving the city one meagre day to impress. 

Leaving Prague was hard, but at this point I had learnt that it was hard to leave most of these amazing cities. Each one deserved far more time than I had to give, and each one left me wanting more. Vienna had the worst deal of all, with only an afternoon to get to know the old centre of the city. The train ride was spectacular. With a combination of amazing Czech rugged landscape and incredible huge Austrian mountains I could hardly draw my eyes away from the window. We arrived in the city and caught the metro to our accommodation which was located a handy 5 minute walk from the old imperial city centre. With no time to waste we headed straight into the world heritage central streets. We wandered the long way in, through a beautiful large park that was home to numerous sculptures, groups of people enjoying the afternoon sunshine and a clan of 15 ducklings that almost made me jump into the dubious looking pond just to get a cuddle. It was nice, but we have seen a lot of parks and it wasn’t quite as pristine and beautiful as some of the others. 

The central, pedestrian street led us through a busy thoroughfare of historic buildings housing expensive shops and street performers smiling at the huge number of tourists milling by. It was not as impressive as Prague, too busy and too expensive for my cheap, slightly anti-social socks. But it was still good, I think we were just getting more judgemental as we added to our experience of amazing cities. We stopped in at a large church or two, both impressive and a welcome relief from the busy streets and bright sunshine. We wandered down side streets, tried to avoid accidentally walking into all of the horse carriages and people dressed up like Mozart, saw children running after giant bubbles with big smiles on their faces and watched a street artist create amazing things with spray paint. It was fun and entertaining but my overall thought after leaving Vienna was that the city has so much more to offer that we didn’t get to see. 

We found a late dinner at a cool new Italian place (‘cause Vienese sausages weren’t quite the right meal for us and I was too tired to try and search for anything else that was authentic) where you went up and ordered directly from the chef, who then proceeded to cook your pasta and make your spicy arrabiata sauce as you watch. It was fun, but more importantly it was delicious. We made our home, back through the park which had become my favourite part of the city centre, and settled in for an early night, drunk randoms and all. An 8 hour train at 6 am awaited us…but our next destination was quite possibly our favourite city of all so I think it was worth it.

It wasn’t the most impressive or exciting city, but it was a good pitstop on our way south and now I know that I would definitely return to Austria (granted, I want to go back to 80% of where we have been so far).

I promise that my next post will not be in two weeks 😛

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Ducklings are cute in any country

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Park Life

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Pretty sure there are 15 ducklings there.

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1 candle per prayer

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A church that was so simple on the outside but completely ornate on the inside

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Creepy baby pews

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Train views

 

 

P is for Praha

It was a long but pleasant train ride to our next city, Prague (Praha), helped by the fact that we were booked in and not scrambling for seats and also because we were sitting in a Harry Potter-esque train carriage along with two pairs of travellers with whom we got along with really well. One pair were friends from Belfast and the other were cousins from Ecuador so we had plenty to talk about regarding our travels so far and the countries we all came from. When we arrived in Prague, after experiencing some beautiful Czech mountainsides, we all teamed up to go and buy our tickets for the next leg of our trip and also try and figure out the exchange system (this was the one country, other than the UK, that we were visiting that did not use Euros).

We sadly all split up after figuring out how to navigate the metro to our respective hotels, but it was fun to be in a team for a little while. Kind of like how forming an alliance on the Amazing Race gives you a little bit of extra security. Our hotel was in an amazing location, situated just underneath the Prague Castle on an old cobbled road lined with restaurants and bars. Unfortunately it was also up a rather steep hill, so what would normally only take a couple of minutes took us plus our suitcases at least half an hour, and nearly killed me. The beautiful room made up for the walk, the cheap prices in Prague compared to the other countries we had visited meant we could afford our only 3 star hotel. Living it up!

We soaked up the comfort briefly before eating some very delicious food at a little Czech pub where the only waiter present had the worst service I had every experienced. So much so that it was funny. I had read that people can be brusque in Prague, but this was a whole other level of hating ones job. He even sat and ate cereal whilst people sat waiting for service. It was pretty funny and luckily the food and beer was ridiculously cheap (about $1.60NZ for a pint of beer). I can’t say we left him a tip though.

The next day we started off with an exploration of the huge castle grounds (i still don’t know how to pronounce the name of the castle, Prazky Hrad?) . There was so much to see, from the amazing cathedral to the incredible lane of ridiculously tiny medieval houses. The gardens were also beautiful, and not just because of their incredible views over the city. After the castle we wandered down to the vegan restaurant near our hotel that I had been eagerly eyeing earlier. What followed was one of my favourite meals so far, the most incredible vegan burger and organic beer, with smoky bacon (made of something non balcony), vegan smoked cheese and a soy aioli that was to die for.

With bellies rather full we strolled down, across the Charles bridge to take a look at the old part of the city. We made a slight detour to visit the ginger bread museum, I don’t really like ginger bread but the notion was too cute to pass up. Charles bridge and the old medieval part of the city were beautiful but understandably busy and packed full of tourists. It was good to see but it was a welcome relief to grab a beer down beside the river at a little outdoor bar where a guy was doing a solo gig. I think that was my favourite part of the day, sitting in the shade and watching people in little boats on the river. Listening to a guy try to sing songs in a language he couldn’t really pronounce (but he had a damn fine voice!).

I am only partially ashamed to say that after an afternoon of wandering around Prague we eventually crawled up the hill towards the castle again, to return to the same vegan restaurant to eat dinner…well at least we didn’t order the same food! If we had been there for any longer than a day I am quite confident I would have tried every dish. We ended the evening up at the castle looking out over the castle as darkness crept over and the lights of Prague came on.

Prague is an exceptionally beautiful city, busy with tourists for a reason (not just because it is so cheap!). It was a taste of something different, and I loved it.

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1. Arriving in Prague and loving the view
2. But I wasn’t alone in this
3. Quite possibly the nicest location for a Starbucks
4. The cathedral at the castle
5. And it’s beautiful stained glass
6. Not so bad from the outside either
7. Can’t get enough
8. The golden lane at the castle
9. And yet another view
10. I don’t care of you eat meat or not but if in Prague make sure you eat here
11. Cause this burger may have changed my life. For a moment at least
12. Gingerbread museum was more of a giant gingerbread shop
13. Charles Bridge
14. Riverside beer
15. And the creepiest statues we came across in our trips

E is for Eastside

It was a bit of a mission getting from Amsterdam to Berlin, and a mission that we seemed to share with what felt like far too many other tourists. Our first train went relatively smoothly, we had a seat for one hour and the next hour we had to sit on our bags but there was plenty of space and we had lollies. The second train…well it decided not to show up. So us and about 50 other travellers who had just come from Amsterdam waited for the train until we realized it was a no show and all went to find a replacement. Unfortunately the replacement was not really equipped to have so many extra people on board and it was ridiculously cramped. To the point that when we saw a snack cart everyone who was standing, sitting, crouching in the aisle way just kind of laughed. Until we realized that they were actually going to try and get through. It was terrible and unfortunately it lasted for around 5 hours. Not the best introduction to Berlin but at least we got there.

It was late by the time we got to our hotel and found something edible for dinner so the sight seeing was saved for the next day where we woke up, fuelled up on the hotel breakfast and headed straight for the Brandenburg gate. The area in front of the monument had been set up for the World Cup game that was playing in the park later on in the day, which made the photos far less pretty but the giant marble gate with the chariot on top was none the less rather impressive. We took a brief look at the Reichstag (German parliament) which is far prettier than our own in Wellington (I have yet to see any parliamentary building that is less attractive than our own).

After a short detour through the corner of Tiergaarten, a huge city park (where we spotted our first red squirrel, beautiful albeit a little shy) we came across the incredible Holocaust Memorial, a vision in concrete set against blue sky. There is no way to capture the experience in words, wandering through undulating concrete slabs, as if in a maze of industrial gravestones that weave across an apartment block. It was an experience I won’t soon forget and a highlight of the day in Berlin.

After a brief detour (caused by us getting lost) we found the Topography of Terror, a must do for any one interested in World War 2 and the events both preceding and what came after for Germany. It was a big exhibit with a lot of information to read but I felt like I learnt a lot (which is always a good thing, especially when it comes to pub quiz). It was also located alongside a section of the remaining wall, on top of what used to be an important Nazi site.

After so much war and concrete it was a relief to escape back in to the giant park, armed with a couple of sandwiches and cold drinks. We did a lot of aimless wandering, winding our way through and meeting a few animals along the way (giant crows, tiny mice and another red squirrel who was a bit friendlier and keen to accept a few crumbs). The park is beautiful and large, although be warned that in the southern section Berliners are commonly sunbathing naked. No beach needed, just a sunny spot of grass. Can be a bit of a surprise without some forewarning (consider yourself forewarned).

We left the calm oasis and stopped in at the train station to book our tickets for our train to Prague the next day (we took a while but we had finally learnt our lesson). It was too late to visit the museums on Museum Island properly but we trained there regardless to take a look at the beautiful buildings, the river and the big Berlin Cathedral that is also located on the little island. The cathedral was even more impressive on the inside, large and ornate with marble and gilding everywhere. We also accidentally started the climb to the dome, without quite realizing what an undertaking it would be. After a punishing hike up hundreds of stairs, we stepped out on to the balcony of the dome, to soak up the 360 degree views of the city around us. Well worth the climb, if only to see the magnificent roof of the Cathedral along with its sculptures up close.

Last on the “must not miss” list was a visit to the East side gallery, a 1.3Km section of wall that has been turned into a public display of art and a monument to freedom. It was another highlight of the day (okay, pretty much everything was a highlight) to wander along and adore all the incredible art works, some conceptual, some weird, some controversial and some just plain cool. The only downside was the graffiti that has become a bit of a problem over the artworks, with people feeling the need to sign the wall or write messages over the art. Unnecessary but it definitely didn’t ruin the experience.

After a pretty busy day, we went along to a local bar where the Germany vs Portugal football was on, it felt like a sin to be in Germany and not get involved. The atmosphere at the bar was perfect, not too crazy but still fun. What was slightly scary was that everytime Germany scored a goal (they scored a few) people with weird masks on would come out on to the balconies of their apartments and throw cascade bombs (or something similar) down on to the street below (where we were). It didn’t make me feel particularly safe but the people we were with seemed to just take it in their stride so we did the same.

Berlin was a surprise for me. I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did, mistakenly thinking that it held no history and was too modern for my preferences. On the contrary, although the city has rebuilt to become modern, clean and efficient it still is home to the haunting memories of its troubled past. It was a great contrast to what we had seen for most of our trip and a perfect but brief introduction to Germany and its football loving Berliners.

Ready for a whole load of photos?? Berlin was a little bit photogenic so there are a few, with some captions at the bottom 🙂 x

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1. Brandenburg gate
2. The Reichstag
3. This lion statue made me really sad. I thought it should feature so you can feel sad too 😦
4. Getting lost in concrete corridors and mazes
5. The holocaust memorial, didn’t feel real when wandering through and it doesn’t look real in photos. Pretty amazing spot.
6. A tiny section of the Berlin Wall
7. The section of wall by the Topography of Terror exhibit
8. And recovering from the heavy stuff back in Tiergaarten
9. I named this little guy as we fed him…now I can’t remember his name. Something German … Maybe Gunther? I should stop naming all the animals we come across
10. An urban oasis if ever I saw one.
11. Views from the Cathedral
12, 13 & 14 East side gallery, amazing.

K is for Katten Kabinet

There were a couple of things we had prioritised for Amsterdam, the popular Anne Frank house and the Van Gogh museum. We had heard (and seen yesterday) the big queues outside the Anne Frank museum so got there first thing to avoid wasting precious time. For some reason, at 10 past opening the line was already several hours long and worse than usual (according to a local travel guide who had thought he could skip the worst by coming early). I am very anti standing in line for hours and will do almost anything to avoid it (like trying to buy tickets online, which we had done yesterday but all the online tickets were already sold out) so we decided to post pone.

After a coffee stop next door we decided to move on to the markets that were taking place just down the street, in our favourite Jordaan region. The stalls were wonderful, crowding around in every direction and featuring every possible item, from fresh bread and cheese to beautiful handmade jewellry and prints (with everything else in between). We picked up a few things for dinner as well as some delicious fresh cranberries and dropped them off at home before moving on to catch a bus to the Van Gogh museum (which we had managed to get online tickets for).

Ah, the satisfaction of walking past endless lines and skipping queues for immediate entry is something I greatly enjoy so I savoured the moment as we entered the modern gallery and museum, dedicated to Van Gogh and his incredible art. The museum did not disappoint our high expectations as we spent a couple of hours going through each room and reading about the history behind a very talented but tortured artist. After a quick stop at the gift shop where I picked up a copy of my favourite print to bring home, we took a stroll through the the nearby park. It was fine and parks are always a nice break from crowded concrete spaces, but it was nothing incredibly special (and had the added bonus of cyclists everywhere).

After a ridiculously delicious toasted sandwich (seriously, how can something so simple taste so incredible?!) along with some dutch beer we found something I almost didn’t quite believe was real. On tripadvisor I had located a Cat museum. Yup. This KattenKabinet was something that seemed to good to be true so once we eventually found the tiny sign on the door and paid an entry fee we feasted our eyes on the most weird and wonderous collection of cat related goods. Paintings, prints, posters, sculptures, movies and even a pinball machine. No cat stone was left unturned. There were even a couple of living exhibits who happily let us shower them in cuddles. It was strange but in the best possible way. Why is there no cat museum in Auckland?? I think I could be up to the task.

After one more check and confirmation that the lines for Anne Frank were still ridiculously long (I am still disappointed that we didn’t get to visit) we went to relax in another cafe that featured a gorgeous friendly cat who was available for cuddles. After so long with only a rare sighting of a feline, today felt like we had somehow arrived in cat heaven. Cappuccinos always taste better when you are trying to share your seat with a gorgeous furry friend who doesn’t judge how bad your dutch is (awful just for the record). We realised we hadn’t tried a Dutch pancake so hat was our next delicious task, and covered in chocolate with fresh strawberries it was a good way to end the day.

Another beautiful day in Amsterdam where I only nearly died once thanks to a stubborn cyclist (seriously, the cyclists in Amsterdam terrify me) and another visit to the cheese shop to try something new for dinner. Amsterdam was great, the dutch were wonderful and the cats were cuddly. What more could an eager tourist ask for?

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1. My favourite non-feline character in Amsterdam was this tiny little boy in a suit at the markets, munching on a tomatoes and holding fresh flowers. I think my heart melted.
2. Delicious bread to later match with delicious cheese
3&4. Becoming quite the canal expert
5. Katten Kabinet. Cat Museum. Need I say more?
6. Cat pin ball machine
7. More canal goodness
8. Cafe cat!
9. Mmm pancakes.