Latest information: Hilary flew to Madrid on 23 September and travelled by Eurail around Spain and Portugal for about 3 weeks. She then headed to Venice for a few days then via ferry to Corfu and then Athens with a few side trips. She then visited Thessalonika, Sofia (Bulgaria) and Bucharest and Brasov (Romania), Budapest, Vienna, Prague, Berlin and Amsterdam (all via train). She then went to Brussels and London. She is now safely home!!
What is new on the website: Photos and stories for Berlin, Prague, photos for Vienna. New pages for Romania and Hungary.
Itinerary: Hilary was in Mongolia for 3 weeks in May. Lynda and Hilary were in Japan for 3 weeks until 14 June. Trans Siberian railway to St Petersburg until early July. Stockholm from 5 July, Switzerland from 11 July. Lloyd arrived home on 23 July. Lynda arrived home on 24 September. Hilary is travelling Europe on a Eurail – started in Spain then heading East then North before going back to London. She arrived home on 14 November.
THE ARRIVAL IN MELBOURNE!!
London, Barcelona, Athens, Vienna, Berlin
Travel map for Europe (Hilary solo): http://www.travellerspoint.com/member_map.cfm?itinid=200863&tripid=200863
Photo gallery for the Germany http://www.travellerspoint.com/photos/gallery/users/hazelnutty/countries/Germany/
Walking tour of Berlin, 7 Nov
Oh my gosh. I am never going to visit a city without taking a walking tour again. There is only so much that you can work out for yourself, and understanding things makes such a difference. If a picture tells a thousand words, then a picture with an explanation tell a MILLION words. I'll recount my day as a picture-story guide. (Caption under the photo, will try to get missing photos soon!)
[missing photo – see 80]
24 'Fernsehturm' TV tower, 368m tall structure erected in 1969 , can be seen from just about everywhere... including my street.
25 The Neue Synagogue, just around the corner
26 River dividing at the western end of the 'Museumsinsel', the museum island.
27 Inner-city garden
28 Hello Greenpeace boat!
29 Preparations for Monday (20th anniversary) are already well underway, with the 'wall' of kid's art pieces already set up. The idea is that there will be a massive domino game played, resulting in the 'fall' of the 'wall'. I like it.
30 This wall goes everywhere- it's not where the actual wall was.
31, 32, 33 Groovy huh?
34 Eastern side of the Reichstag, the Parliament Building. A fire here in 1933 allowed Hitler to make the communists look like the baddies and grab power. Better photo later.
35 At the top of the Reichstag, there is a big glass dome, which people line up to see (for free) all day every day. 4 national flags are flown here. A flag was raised here in 1945 to signal Hitler's defeat.
36 Apparently every German city has a 'city forest'; here is Berlin's. I think the park beside it is gorgeous- an open space for people to use as they like, with hardy rows of bushes to give the space a point of interest.
37 Reichstaggebaude, again.
38 '20 JAHRE MAUERFALL' banner, two Australians in foreground. Ha.
39 Hundreds of people were helping to set up for Monday. The imposing Brandenburger Tor at the far end of Pariser Platz. This is where the New Berlin free tour met.
40 Outside Starbuck's coffee, to be precise.
41 Tour begins: This hotel, still in Pariser Platz, was where Michael Jackson hung his baby out of the window. There you go.
42 This 1791 statue was originally said to be of Irena, goddess of Peace. She looked straight down the Unter de Linden, spreading peace over the lands. Then, dear Napoleon had it taken to Paris, placed in the Louvre, as a victory trophy, to Berlin's disgust. The statue of Irena was dragged all the way back to Berlin, but this time, she was to be called Victoria, goddess of war and victory, and one subtle change was made to the statue; she no longer looked down Berlin's avenue, oh no, instead, she had her head turned... to whom?
43 ...the French embassy, just across the Platz. Haha. I don't know how true that is, but it's a good story.
44 Ok. Here is the Reichstag, and you can now see the glass dome on top. The idea is that when people walk around it, who are they supported by? Looking down, they see that the Parliament is beneath them. Then they wonder, 'and who is all of this for?' and looking up, they see... TOURISTS. No, they see the People of Germany.
45 46 47 This is the Holocaust Memorial. It's real name is 'Dankmal fur die ermordeten Juden Europas', the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe', but this name has sparked some controversy - what about the other groups that were discriminated against during the Holocaust, such as homosexuals? Another thing that caused discontent in many people was that it took so long to build a memorial for the Holocaust: This structure was built in 2005. Some people hate it; they think it is cold and there is nothing human here to connect with. Peter Eisenman loosely based the 2711-'stelae' grid on the Jewish graveyard in the centre of Prague, and has given no further explanation than that. I guess he wants it to mean something different to each individual.
51 Eisenman designed the space with the intention of having no rules- do what you like with it, he had said; sun bake on them, have a barbeque here... but, as a war memorial, people weren't comfortable with this, so there are now 25 things that people cannot do here- one being to stand on the stones. This makes sense when you consider the rectangular columns to be graves.
52 I really like the variation of depth experienced as one walks through what initially seems to be a very uniform structure- uniformity or order also being appropriate when Jews were represented by a mere number. It takes the best of both worlds; mourning the loss of individuality experienced by the war victims, while still maintaining that natural element, like a forest, celebrating the undeniable individuality of every being on this earth. It''s cold and grey, but it's intriguing and sensual too.
53 Beneath this car park is the former sight of Hitler's second (bigger, deeper, stronger) bunker. It is from here that the man is said to have lost his mind, ordering around troops that he did not have, and from where he did not rise, except for 2 occasions, for the length of the war. It is beneath here that he took his life with his wife and dog, before demanding the bodies to be burned. He is said to have cried when his dog died, which people consider a tad hypocritical after the ordering the loss of so many human lives.
54 There is a group of graffiti artists in Berlin who try to reach the most unreachable places, by 'sky-walking', or hanging each other off the tops of buildings to paint the walls. Madness.
55 Berlin was built to house 7 million people. Today, it still only holds 3.5 million. Empty empty gardens.
56 I think this was the warmest part of the day. That is, it never got warm!
57 This building was once called the Ministry of Ministries. Seriously. It is from here that the Communist leaders told their people they would have to work more each day, in response to which, the people of Berlin marched in protest, and the scared officials hid or fled, only regaining control when the Moscow tankers arrived. Nice.
58 It seems pretty strange that in the whole war, this building was untouched, while all around it were obliterated...
59 ...many of which are still unused to this day.
There are 3 supposed reasons for this.
1) It is INDESTRUCTIBLE. Not likely.
2) Being a large building, it was used by the bombers as a central
reference point for bombing other things.
3)It was to be used as THEIR Ministry of Ministries once the Germans
were defeated. Dunno.
60 The second largest remaining segment of the Berlin Wall in the background. It's pretty flimsy, but that was the idea. If people broke a big wall, it would be more expensive to repair. Better to have TWO walls, and in the middle, have a Death Zone. That will work, especially, if the snipers risk their own lives if they let anyone cross.
61 We were standing on the line of the other wall.
62 Checkpoint Charlie, Berlin's Disneyland; everything here is fake. The white box in the middle of the street is the checkpoint. The dude on the sign is Charlie.
63 A former checkpoint. You had to be a Military officer, or a foreigner, to be allowed through. There were some amazing escape stories. Or failed attempts:
A couple were dating, one living in East Berlin, the other in West Berlin, when the wall was literally raised overnight. The guy walked around bars for weeks with a photo of his girlfriend, until he found a girl who looked remarkably like her. He asked her out, and a few weeks later suggested a day-trip over to West Berlin, (where his girlfriend was trapped). Partway through the day, he promptly threw the girl out of the car, picked up the real girl, and crossed back over the border, no questions asked. It was a grand plan, except that the substitute girlfriend's daddy was a hot-shot lawyer, so the couple ended up spending 14 years in jail on kidnapping charges. Ouch.
65 Ah yes, this chocolate shop had giant (I mean GIANT) bars of chocolate, buildings and statues, all made of chocolate.
66 Reflection of one of two twin monuments to the French and Berliners:
I don't really remember or understand this, but I'll give it a go. With the Plague sweeping through Germany, Berlin's population plummeted to 20,000 people. At the same time, the French were discriminating against protestants. Germany, being a largely Protestant nation, offered the French people French-speaking schools, French-speaking Protestant churches and 10 years without tax. It was a win-win; the French were rid of their Protestant people, and Berlin's population was replenished.
67 In honour of the French, this monument, a Protestant church, was built in the Platz. The Berliners were jealous, so another, identical Protestant church was built for them, at the other end of the square. It is said that one could fun from one end of the square to the other and hear exactly the same service being sung in two different languages.
69 Memory failing me again. Someone the Great, a stout character who liked kicking women, whacking people with a wooden stick when they were being lazy, and pinching his wife's bum in public, produced a gay son, Frederich.
Frederich tried to flee to England at 18 with his lover, but the couple were quickly caught, and the boyfriend's head was chopped off in front of him. He got the message, and quickly married a girl, whom he ignored entirely, and went about ruling his country. But then came the issue of an Heir. Frederich asked his younger brother to do the deed, which he accepted, and this palace, dubbed the 'baby-making factory' was built as a result. It is now a University.
70 I think this building is a library. Anyway, this square was the site of Hitler's first major book-burning, which occurred in May 1933.
71 A gesture to the Catholics of Germany; 'This is a free country; preach as you wish. To demonstrate our acceptance of all religions, we will even build a Catholic church for you in the heart of our predominantly Protestant city.' Or summink.
72 The first Theatre where common people could afford to experience Opera and Ballet. It didn't have thrones for the Monarchs; this is a place for the people of Germany.
73 Baby factory/University (across the road from Bebelplatz, where the book-burning took place). There are book markets and reading sessions here daily, to celebrate books.
74 This window looks down below Bebelplatz, where there are empty book-shelves, as a book-burning memorial. There was a quote by someone about how tragic the burning of books is. But the interesting thing was that it was said 100 years prior to the Nazi regime; it was in reference to the Spanish Inquisitition. Have we learned the lesson yet?
75 WWII Memorial. A mother holds a soldier in her arms. A Nazi soldier and a Jew are buried beneath the statue, with the message being 'No matter what side of this war you were on, there were tragic losses; war is nothing more than a means of destroying others, and is a loss to all'. I think that's still a bit one-sided in this case, when the Jews hardly fought back..?
78 (On Museumsinsel) Berliner Dom. This Cathedral was built in the early 20th century, with the intention of looking old. People hated it- there was widespread outrage that money had bee poured into something so ugly. During Communist times, the cross was taken off the top, because who needs religion when you're a slave and don't have time to preach? All crosses were removed from places of worship. This cross was only put back on top a matter of months ago, funnily enough.
79 Altes Museum.
80 There was a big deal made when crosses were banned, because the sun makes a cross on the ball. The leader at the time said 'It's not a cross, it's a plus sign for Communism!' I don't know if that's true.
81 Tour ended......freezing bum off waiting to give Ben his tip.
83 View along the side of the Museumsinsel.
84 Some people started playing awesome in the middle of the square and the evening swarmed in.
85 86 87 Market
89 Cute little Berlin pedestrian lights. I can't remember who it was, but apparently this is the only thing from the Communist leader that the city embraced after the fall of Communism.
This is a Communist guard telling the people to stop;
88 this is how the leader demonstrated how to walk across the road; with caution, pride and purpose. He believe that he had taught Germany's children to walk so (as a metaphor for their approach to life), and thus begged that this be the one trace left of his legacy.
Cold to the core and exhausted, I walked around after dark for a couple of hours, before heading home and snuggling up in bed. It was 6pm. Slept like a log, but woke up at 11pm and wrote this; it's now 2:30. Maybe time for more sleep.
Photo gallery for the Czech Republic http://www.travellerspoint.com/photos/gallery/users/hazelnutty/countries/Czech%20Republic/
Prague, 5 Nov
With no Czech money to pay for my hostel (or breakfast, more importantly), I went bankomat-hunting along the mysterious streets of Prague. I didn't find one in 40 minutes, but it was okay, because I was being blessed with the sights of one of the most delightful cities in the world; endless parks and squares dividing well-loved old buildings of the past.
After breakfast I stepped through the massive wooden courtyard door into the shadow of St Nick's Cathedral, an icon that tourists flock to day and night. Wandering two minutes towards the river, I found another Prague icon, Charles' Bridge. Ha. More tourists...nooo...
The view from the bridge is stunning. Back towards my hostel, one can see Prague Castle standing high on the hill, with forests in full blazing autumn colour all along the ridgeline. Ferries glide along the glistening river, while tourists stagger along in wander at the ridiculous scene that surrounds them. Marvellous statues of all different ages and forms stand along the sides of the bridge, guarding all that cross it. Towards the Old Town Square, two old churches watch another day roll by, tourists seemingly forever marching through their doors.
Hoping to escape from the bustle of the main tourist drags, I followed my instinct, which kindly led me into a secluded, vine-covered courtyard, and a photography exhibition, 'Forgotten Prague'; images from the 19th and early 20th century, before the city's buildings fell victim to business-driven demolition. The exhibition was about one quarter of something of the same standard in the centre of most other cities. It was run by two smiley old ladies, who sat at the entrance to a bizarre network of underground rooms, with arched doorways that even little people would have to duck under.
The photos, at first glance, revealed little; the buildings all looked the same as they do now! There was a photo of the square outside my door- beside St Nick's- it looked exactly the same! But notice the people- children lining up for bread, a man selling roasted chestnuts, an old woman grinning with her basket of flowers. There was a photo of Charles Bridge after it collapsed from severe flood damage in the late 19th century, and snapshots of buildings due for demolition in the same year.
I then managed to stumble into the Old Town Square right on the hour, where the little mechanical skeleton on the bell-tower shakes his tiny bell. The crowd below cheered, and a man played trumpet from the top of the tower. The Square is incredible- not a single building could be called less than stunning, each special in some particular way or other, be it adorned with stylish artwork or pretty little window frames, not to mention the grand copper statue in the centre, the tall black steeples that stretch up to the sky and the little courtyard of trees behind the church where people nibble on traditional sausages or pastries.
From the Old Town Square, I wandered down to the National Museum, past Wenceslas Square, the modern centre of town. I ducked into a gorgeous traditional restaurant for lunch, for some Eastern European onion soup. Perfect. Down Sokolska street, I turned right when I hit the park, which is really just a forest, as the hillside is too steep for anything else. After half an hour of being semi-lost, (the fact that the sun was below 40 degrees in the sky at 2pm didn't help my navigational efforts at all!) I finally found the Vysehrad, the home of Prague first royalty. The delightful park looked across the entire city, which made me realise just how far away I was from St Nick's cathedral- and it was getting dark (at 3:30, I might add).
After a few photos of the beautiful park and Gothic cathedral at its heart, I skipped on down the leaf-covered stairs all the way to the river, Vlatava, and jumped on the pedestrian highway bound for home. But no one could walk quickly along that riverbank- Not due to crowding; it was nearly empty- but because the slow-flowing golden water, sleepy old houses and inquisitive swans made me. I sat on the bank and chatted to the ducks, while some old men fished nearby. A lady walked her puppy, a mother walked her toddler, couples walked arm in arm...sigh...
Passing the National Theatre and the river's islands, I headed into the city maze to the Bethlehem Chapel, where a trumpet filled the chapel and surrounding streets. Delightful. Everything is 'delightful'; I'm getting old. As night fell upon the land, I headed, in an around-about way, towards home. Charles Bridge was still bustling, as everyone tried to get 'the shot' of Prague by night. The pubs along my street were firing up, as everyone headed out to enjoy Prague's much-loved beer. Happy world.