Munich you absolute beauty of a city!
I’m friends with a fabulous girl from Munich who I was lucky enough to study with last year. Barbra is just wonderful, so I had a feeling that I might like her hometown of Munich just as much as I like her, and I was absolutely right!
On the way to Munich from Prague, we stopped off at Dechau concentration camp – a sad place where the hurt and anguish literally hangs in the air.
Onwards to our campsite – the first of many that we had to pay for hot water! You can imagine my fury… We headed into town to Marienplatz, and then on to Hofbrauhouse for a delicious dinner of pork, beer and pretzels! And what delicious beer it was!! Wilandri and I both ordered Weise beers, and were not disappointed – they’re a must try!
We headed out to a club that evening but I wasn’t really feeling very well, so we headed back to the campsite and snuggled down for the night.
We went into town early the next morning, and went on a bike tour (I got to ride a beautiful pink bicycle with a basket – total hipster!) we stopped at a number of prominent sites, and also saw a group of people surfing in a river! The strangest thing ever!!
We headed back to Hofbrauhouse for an unbelievable lunch of goulash, more pretzels and of course… More beer!! We stopped by the BMW museum for a visit, which was more interesting than I’d like to admit!
We did a spot of shopping (zara zara zara) and after watching the glockenspiel play it’s hourly tune, went back to our campsite, where we shivered in our tents from the ICE cold weather!
We went back to the campsite and I ended up relaxing in the toasty warm bathroom to escape the cold outside. When I finally dragged my frozen ass to bed, I huddled up in as many warm clothes as I could find and tried to keep warm. That was honestly the coldest night on the entire tour.
Left Munich behind, and headed for Switzerland. On the way we stopped in Vaduz, Lichtenstein, a tiny country where you can pay 2 euros for them to stamp your passport. Ha, fat chance! I bought Lindt chocolate instead.
We began our Swiss experience in the city of Lucerne, where we saw the beautiful lion carving in the rock, created as a dedication to the Swiss Guard who died protecting the French royal family in the french revolution. We also walked along the Chapel Bridge, and went to a store that sells watches and army knives – two things the Swiss are famous for.
We carried on along our merry way and ended up in Lauterbrunnen, a brilliant little Swiss town where Contiki have one of their amazing ‘Contiki Villages’. Our campsite was directly in front of a magnificent waterfall and surrounded by gorgeous snowy peaks. Ben and I took a very romantic walk up to the waterfall – you can actually walk right behind it. We ended the evening going to bed early-ish, and decided to rest our bodies in preparation for the following night’s ‘Swisco Disco’.
The next morning, those of us who had signed up for the Jangfrau optional extra, headed towards the railway station, where we caught a beautifully quaint train, and changed onto a perfect little cog railway further up the mountains. The views were exquisite, and there were cows with bells around their necks! Unbelievable!
It was freezing on top of Jungfrau (which is the highest railway station in Europe). I literally froze, even with two pairs of pants on, and a mass of jackets. We took loads of photos, as it was my first time seeing snow. It was so much…. wetter and harder than I thought it would be! I think I had thought it was going to be soft!
We headed back down, after looking around the viewing station and watching some of our group snow boarding and skiing. Back down in the town of Lauterbrunnen it was a boiling hot day, and I ended up grabbing a pie to eat and posting 2 postcards to my family in SA (somehow they never arrived). I love Lauterbrunnen!!!
That night was the Swisco Disco, and needless to say, it was freezing cold walking to Contiki’s underground bunker, but I don’t remember the walk home. I absolutely loved the little bar. It’s a bit dingy, but it’s so full of 20 somethings dressed up in red and white. The next I was feeling slightly worse for wear, but didn’t regret a thing. Go BIG in the Contiki bunker bar – it’s awesome!
Wilandri literally had to shake me awake the next morning, and aside from running really late on our last morning in Prague, it was the first time we’d literally been the very last to take our tent down. I think I had turned off my alarm about 5 million times… Still, #NoRegrets!!
We had a quick breakfast, and then headed out of Switzerland, back into Germany. We stopped in the gorgeous student town of Heidelberg. I walked around for ages by myself, looking at the people and of course, popping into Starbcuks for a yummy chai latté and a bit of internet usage.
We carried on driving, and ended up at our campsite where we could upgrade! Yay! Ben and I got a little wooden cabin, and we relaxed outside that evening with the rest of the group. It was the first time that we realized that our amazing trip was so close to ending. It had been 26 days of absolute fun for some of us, and those who were on the big chill had been traveling for 46 days in total! That was the last night that Kesh would be cooking dinner for us because our first night in Amsterdam we had to find our own dinner, and the second night was an organized final dinner, so she went all out and bought wine, beers and made a brilliant starter (melon covered in parma ham) and curry for main course. We went to bed early, and felt super rested the next morning.
On the way out of Germany, we stopped in a town that sold Cuckoo clocks, beer steins and most importantly – Birkenstock shoes for a fraction of the price!! Happiness! I bought a pair for myself and a pair for my mom. They are beyond comfortable, fantastic shoes, and I don’t know what I would have worn for the second half of my trip if I hadn’t bought these.
We made it to Amsterdam and set up our tents, before quickly jumping back onto our bus and heading into the city. At this point I was feeling very ill – pneumonia ill. But I more than likely had bronchitis. We walked around the city, into the red light district which was a bit uncomfortable, because I feel strongly about human trafficking and women’s rights, and I think that just because you legalize something like prostitution, doesn’t make it okay or ‘safe’ for the girls doing the work.
We ended up going to a sex show, and then Wilandri and I grabbed chips from a place that was supposed to sell “the best chips in The Netherlands” … personally, I’ve had better. I went home with the bus, along with Ben. I was feeling horrid by this time, and he was lovely enough to come back with me and have an early night.
The next morning, it turned out that some had had crazier nights than others of us. To be frank, a few too many people swallowed things they shouldn’t have and ended up as poster children for bad decisions. We left them behind, and went on an optional extra to Edam, where we took a bike ride to see the dykes and windmills and a cheese and clog making demo. Very interesting!
We spent the rest of the day in the city centre, and I walked around with Blake, seeing the outside of Anne Frank’s house (the line was WAY too long. next time.) and the inside of the Van Gogh museum, which was very inspiring. We ate strop wafels (a must!!), took photos next to the IAMsterdam sign and lay on the grass outside the gallery, while I coughed and spluttered. I was mega sick. We headed back to the campsite, and I sat in my tent packing my bag for the final bus journey to London the following day. Went to bed early, and could;t believe that this was the last night and I wasn’t even well enough to go out… dammit. But it was a better decision to stay home, and Ben stayed with me. It was wonderful to spend a final night together, as I wouldn’t be seeing him for another few weeks.
We departed the next morning, dropping a couple of our group, including Wilandri, off at the airport in Amsterdam. It was so sad, as our time together had ended so soon.. it felt sort of like trying to remember a dream, or like trying to hold onto sand that slips through your hands. But I wouldn’t trade a single thing for the world. We spent all of that day driving through Belgium, where we stopped briefly at a McDonalds (Hallelujah!! French fries and tomato sauce!). We headed across the border into France, and caught the ferry across to Dover. Into London we drove, with each kilometer feeling like it was going by faster and faster… I felt as if I didn’t have enough time to say goodbye. We stopped at the The Royal National Hotel (here’s a tip, book a room for your first night back. You generally drive late and you’re exhausted and sick.). I said goodbye, a slightly teary one to Ben… and headed to my room. I ended up having dinner with my cousin, Marc, in Soho, but headed home early to get some sleep before my 7am flight from Gatwick to Rome the next day, to meet my mom.
(Began this post on the 9th of September 2013)