Monday, 29 September 2008

29 September 2008 - 1 October 2008

Can you see me?

29 September 2008 - 1 October 2008
Rhine Valley, Germany to Amsterdam, Netherlands

29 September 2008
Rhine Valley (St Goar), Germany to Amsterdam, Netherlands

Before we headed off to Amsterdam, we stopped off in St Goar for a beer stein and cuckoo clock demonstration. Left is the largest free standing cuckoo clock in the world.

And then once in the Netherlands we stopped off for a cheese and traditional clog making demonstration where we got to sample the cheese and purchase souvenirs (I love souvenirs!!)

Once checked into our hostel it was time to head into the "red light district" to see the "Moulin Rouge" sex show. What can I say ... it was interesting and entertaining and a bit uncomfortable. After that we had a walk around "skinny alley" which is pretty girls standing in shop windows waiting to be ... brought ... is that the right word? Once that was over and done with we headed to St Christopher's Inn where we spent the night drinking cheap two for ones!!

30 September 2008
Amsterdam, Netherlands
This morning we were supposed to get up bright and early and head out on a bike tour of the city, unfortunately it was pouring (and I was getting sick AGAIN!! and maybe a little worse for wear after the night before) so decided to can it and have a lie in. Once awake and out of bed we headed off to the Anne Frank Museum - Anne Frank gained fame posthumously following the publication of
her diary which documents her experiences hiding during the German occupation of the Netherlands in World War II. Anne and her family moved to Amsterdam in 1933 after the Nazis gained power in Germany, and were trapped by the occupation of the Netherlands, which began in 1940. As persecutions against the Jewish population increased, the family went into hiding in July 1942 in hidden rooms in her father Otto Frank's office building. After two years, the group was betrayed and transported to concentration camps. Seven months after her arrest, Anne Frank died of typhus in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, within days of the death of her sister, Margot Frank. Her father Otto, the only survivor of the group, returned to Amsterdam after the war to find that her diary had been saved, and his efforts led to its publication in 1947. It was translated from its original Dutch and first published in English in 1952 as The Diary of a Young Girl.

This museum was sad but nice to go and see, I have become somewhat fascinated with the Holocaust since my trip away.

After the museum we spent the next couple of hours looking around and having pictures taken and then went back to the hostel to pack, for the last time (weep weep) and then headed off to the floating Chinese restaurant for dinner.

After dinner we had booked a (booze) cruise on the river. We had a great time on the boat drinking to our hearts content and then headed into another bar in Amsterdam where we danced until we got booted out and ... had to pay 50 cents to use the toilet! Ripped!!

Sunday, 28 September 2008

28 September 2008

28 September 2008
Prague, Czech Republic to St Goar, Rhine Valley, Germany Dawn - Rhine River

We left the "city of a thousand spires today" and headed to our castle on the hill in Germany. We travelled along the Rhine River -the Rhine River is one of the longest and most important rivers in Europe at 1,320 kilometres, with an average discharge of more than 2,000 cubic meters per second. The Rhine has been a vital navigable waterway, carrying trade and goods deep inland. It has also served as a defensive feature, and has been the basis for regional and international borders. The many castles and prehistoric fortifications along the Rhine testify to its importance as a waterway. River traffic could be stopped at these locations, usually for the purpose of collecting tolls, by the state controlling that portion of the river. The Rhine was beautiful and we learnt the legend of the Lorelei rock. (different Lorelei than the one in Gilmore Girls!)

We were promised a night in a castle in Germany, this was the castle, I can say I was a tad disappointed. I guess it kinda looked like a castle but it didn't have lots of turrents, or a moat, or anything like that and this is probably the best angle at the back its all wooden and inside looks like a normal hostel.

Friday, 26 September 2008

26 September 2008 to 27 September 2008

26 September 2008 to 27 September 2008
Tyrol, Austria to Mathausen Concentration Camp, Austria to Prague, Czech Republic

26 September 2008

Tyrol, Austria to Mathausen Concentration Camp, Austria to Prague, Czech Republic

Today we boarded the bus to head towards Prague. On the way though we took a detour to Mathausen Concentration Camp - Mauthausen Concentration Camp was one of the Nazi concentration camps that were built around the villages of Mauthausen. In January 1945, the camps, directed from the central office in Mauthausen, contained roughly 85,000 inmates. The death toll remains unknown, although most sources place it between 122,766 and 320,000 for the entire complex. The camps formed one of the first massive concentration camp complexes in Nazi Germany, and were the last ones to be liberated by the Western Allies or the Soviet Union. The two main camps, Mauthausen and nearby Gusen I, were also the only two camps in the whole of Europe to be labelled as "Grade III" camps, which meant that they were intended to be the toughest camps for the "Incorrigible Political Enemies of the Reich" Unlike many other concentration camps, intended for all categories of prisoners, Mauthausen was mostly used for extermination through labour of the intelligentsia, who were educated people and members of the higher social classes in countries subjugated by Germany during World War II.

Mathhausen was one of the many number of camps that were part of "The Holocaust" - The Holocaust is the term generally used to describe the genocide of approximately six million European Jews during World War II, as part of a programme of deliberate extermination planned and executed by the National Socialist German Workers' Party (Nazi) regime in Germany led by Adolf Hitler.

Mathausen was interesting to visit you definitely weren't excited to be there, but glad that you were. My whole trip has broadened my knowledge of the Holocaust and I plan to go to the main concentration camping in Poland.

Prague, Czech Republic
After the camp we kept on going to Prague. Once we arrived we were feed and then went into town
at 10pm for our (painful) walking tour of the city. The city is beautiful at night, and I do love walking tours but we were tired and exhausted by the time we finished at midnight!

27 September 2008
Prague, Czech Republic

Today was our free day to look around the city. So after a much needed sleep in we headed into the city. First up was Prague Castle which was up about, oh, 50 million (ok about maybe 200 stairs) at the top of a hill and when we finally found the entrance was a bit disappointed, it really just felt like an old building with old stuff, not a castle feel at all. After the castle we took a stroll over Charles Bridge - a famous historical bridge that crosses the Vltava river in Prague, Czech Republic - the bridge is full of street stalls and beautiful photos and paintings.

------> Me and Richard

<---- Disney castle church

After lunch, Richard was in town so we meet at the Prague Astronomical Clock - The Orloj is composed of three main components: the astronomical dial, representing the position of the Sun and Moon in the sky and displaying various astronomical details; "The Walk of the Apostles", a clockwork hourly show of figures of the Apostles and other moving sculptures; and a calendar dial with medallions representing the months - basically a fancy old clock thing.

After the hi, how are yous, we headed to the sex museum for a look around (hmmmm) and then back to the hostel for packing as we were heading to Germany tomorrow.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

24 September 2008 - 25 September 2008

24 September 2008 - 25 September 2008
Venice, Italy to Kirkdorf (Tyrol), Austria to Munich, Germany, back to Austria

24 September 2008
Venice, Italy to Kirkdorf, Austria

We boarded the bus this morning and headed to Kirkdorf (Tyrol) in Austria. Austria is beautiful, it reminded me of Switzerland with the big mountains. We arrived in Austia in plenty of time to do our optional extras. I had chosen to do canyoning - canyoning travelling is through a gorge (down a waterfall) using a variety of techniques that may include walking, scrambling, climbing, jumping, abseiling and/or swimming in deep pools.

We quickly changed in togs and headed off. Once there we got suited up in two wetsuits and our harness and after a few quick photos headed off. After a painstaking 10 minute walk up a hill in our outfits (I thought I was going to die) we made it to the waterfall where we started our canyoning adventures.
First, we abseiled down the first part (20m), and then jumped from the ledge about - The Edge - "Fuck Off" (warm up jump) (6m) - into a pool of water. With no hesitation I jumped into this pool, and once I landed my eyes flung open and I started gasping for air. The water was sooo cold, the kind of cold were you can't breathe and you can hardly move (I dread to think what the actual temperature was) once out of the pool and my breathing returning to normal I realised in my shock from the cold water that I had opened by eyes and that one of my contact lens had fallen out. Damm, and they were the only pair I had. I spent the rest of my canyoning trip with one eye closed, sliding down waterfalls, jumping into pools and walking along the rocky waterfall bed.

Once back at the hostel, I had a nice hot shower, dinner and headed to bed early for our day at Oktoberfest tomorrow.

25 September 2008
Tyrol, Austria to Munich, Germany

This morning we were heading to Munich to go and check out Oktoberfest. It wasn't supposed to be included in our trip, but since the timing was right, we were so close and had done our optional extras the day before, we thought why not check it out.

After two hours on the bus we were here. Oktoberfest is more than just drinking steins of beer. There are carnival rides, food, souvenirs and of course, the beer tents. We decided to spend the morning looking around Munich and doing some of the rides before heading into the tents.

Munich is a really pretty little city, unfortunately for us the weather was crapola but still managed to have a good look around.

In the afternoon, after a ride on the Olympic Rings ride, we decided to troop it into the tents. What a mission, everyman and his dog was trying to get in their as the weather was so miserable, fortunately for us, we found a back entrance and didn't have to wait an hour, like some people. The atmosphere in there is fantastic, people everywhere, barmaids in outfits (I wanted to get one, but it was way too cold to get changed) and of course steins full of beer. I don't drink beer, but thought I would get in the spirit of it, I purchased a half beer, half lemonade and managed to drink 2/3's of it which I think it pretty good. At bout 8.15 we decided to head out ad we had to meet at 9pm and we wanted to get some food. First stop, pork knuckles - these were amazing, best pork I have ever tasted - and then chocolate coated strawberries, after a quick stop at the toilet we ventured to the meeting spot about 5 minutes late. There was no one in sight, hmmm, we thought, ok they all must be late, most of them were pretty pissed, after another 5 minutes we thought, hmmm, and I called another girl who said that I was in front of her ok so I looked around, no one so I called again. They had already headed back to the bus, shit, luckily someone came back to us, but they were ready to leave us behind because we were 5 minutes late! Fortunately, for us we didn't get left behind, unfortunately for another person they did!

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

22 September 2008 - 23 September 2008

22 September 2008 - 23 September 2008
Zadar, Croatia to Postojnska Jama, Slovenia to Venice, Italy

22 September 2008
Zadar, Croatia to Postojnska Jama, Slovenia to Venice, Italy

Today we were heading to Venice via the Postojnska Jama caves in Slovenia - the longest cave system in the country. In the caves we had a short train ride through the formations before being taken on a walking tour of the caves.
After the caves we carried onto Venice and after a top deck dinner and then we all togaed up for the toga party!!!!!. This was another super night on my top deck tour and a lot of random things happened, and I have lots of stories, but funnier if I tell them in person, ask me sometime but I will say "we will always have number 21"!

23 September 2008
Venice, Italy

Today was our day to explore Venice, and surprisingly after the toga party last night, everyone was up bright and early to catch the bus into the outskirts of Venice's main square as there are no cars in the city centre and the only form of transport is walking or by boat.

The buildings of Venice are constructed on closely spaced
wood piles, which were imported from the mainland. (Under water, in the absence of oxygen, wood does not decay. It is petrified as a result of the constant flow of mineral-rich water around and through it, so that it becomes a stone-like structure.) The piles penetrate a softer layer of sand and mud until they reach the much harder layer of compressed clay.

The morning was spent going on a gondola ride around some of Venice's canals and a (extremely boring) tour of the city by an Italian guide. Once that was over it was our time to shop, and boy did I shop! Venice is amazing, the city is beautiful and the shopping is great. Venice is famous for its masks and has a lot of murano glass jewellery and ornaments. After we were all shopped out, we walked over the Rialto bridge and took a water taxi back to our meeting point. The night was spent repacking our bags and getting an early night.

Monday, 22 September 2008

21 September 2008

21 September 2008
Herceg Novi, Montenegro to Split and Zadar, Croatia

At 8.30 this morning (which is super early after a punch party) we piled onto the bus - some of us feeling better than others and headed towards Zadar in Croatia. The ride was coastal and extremely windy (how do you spell that?) and there were more than a few people "double bagging" due to car sickness, hangovers and then both combined!

At about 2pm we finally pulled over in Split, another beautiful coastal town in Croatia, for a lunch break and rest stop. Once in Zadar we had a quick dinner and walk around before heading back to our dodgy hostel accommodation.

Giant disco dance floor thing by the waters edge in Zadar!

Saturday, 20 September 2008

19 September 2008 to 20 September 2008

19 September 2008 to 20 September 2008

Tirana, Albania to Herceg Novi, Montenego and Dubrovnick, Croatia

19 September 2008

After a late breakfast at the fantabulous hotel we hit the road and headed towards Montenegro. Our drive took us along some beautiful coastal roads and scenery.

As Montenegro has recently just declared independence - On the basis of a referendum held on 21 May 2006, Montenegro declared independence on 3 June. On 28 June 2006, it became the 192nd member state of the United Nations,[8] and on 11 May 2007 the 47th member state of the Council of Europe - it has very limited accommodation so what they have done is convert part of a hospital into a "hotel". Which means that one side of the building is was a working hospital (or for some, two doors down!) and the other side was a "hotel". There were even old call buttons for the nurses in our room and I can tell you that the food was defiantly hospital food, it was rank, there was a lot of mysterious meat and dessert was a banana!

20 September 2008

Due to our convenient location, in a hospital, I arose bright and early to see if I could see a doctor (was still suffering badly from bus sars). Two doors down from our room I knocked on the door and was welcomed in by a doctor and prescribed some drugs. How convenient and best thing of all, the doctor was free and the drugs only cost euro 3.50 bonus!
After my doctor's visit we piled in the couch and headed towards Dubrovnick in Croatia. Dubrovnick is a beautiful coastal town where the old city is surrounded by walls. After getting some local currency - Kuna - we headed into the old city and for a walk around the walls.

This walk took two hours and gave beautiful view of the city and surround islands. After the walk we caught a ferry to a small island and home to a nudist beach. After seeing some naked men on the beach we headed back to the coach and back to Montenegro for the Punch party.

The tour leader and bus driver had organized a punch party for us, we all payed 5 eruos and in a giant barrel got poured copious amounts of vodka, wine, juice and then some random spirits and it was potent but actually quite good. Had a fantabulous night with heaps of great people and there are many random photos, which you can catch in my photo gallery!
Kiwi girls --->

What better way to cure a hangover then sticking needles in your head!!

Friday, 19 September 2008

18 September 2008

18 September 2008

Plataria, Greece to Tirana, Albania

Today we got off the manky boats yah! After packing and cleaning we got on the coach nice and early and headed towards Albania. After spending ages at the boarder control we finally made it into the country and that was an experience it itself.

Albania is filthy! This is what welcomed us at boarder control.
And there are Mercedes everywhere (apparently, during communist Albania the Mercedes was a sign of success so people used to go to Germany and Italy and steal the cars to bring them back to Albaina) and there are also lots of old bunkers everywhere.

After a brief driving tour of, well not much, we headed to our fantabulous hotel on the hill and I had my own room which was a bonus. The room was so nice (especially after three days on manky boat), double bed, hot water, bath and had a delish meal in the restaurant as well. Just what I needed!

View of Albania from hotel room

Monday, 15 September 2008

14 September to 17 September 2008

Rome, Italy to Bari, Italy to Plataria, Petreti and Corfu, Greece

The least favourite part of my trip!

14 September 2008
Rome, Bari and Plataria

This morning we headed off to Bari to catch our overnight Ferry to Greece. Two things I learnt about Greece:

- 1. In Greece you aren't supposed to flush your toilet paper - something about small pipes - ewww so they have an open rubbish bin you are supposed to put it in - grose!

- 2. In Greece it is acceptable to smoke ANYWHERE including the bathroom at 8am in the morning.

And my time in Greece just got worse from here on in ...

15 September 2008
I am sick, very sick, I have bus sars badly and not only am I feeling crapola its raining in Plataria, it hasn't rained in four months and today it is raining four months worth of rain, brill!

During dry spells we managed to load all our gears onto our manky, poo smelling, leaky boat. These boats were small, they were skippered by people from our tour, some of them having limited experience others having none and got to be captain's on their merits (ie. non-drinking!). Our boat had six girls, five with no experience and the captain with limited, we are all here to tell the tail so she did a good job at keeping us alive!

Weater before we headed out - Me holding onto life ring (as least I knew where that was!)
So as the rain poured horizontal raindrops our sailing leader decided it was a good time to head out sailing. We boarded our boats and prepared for the worst (except for life jackets, you think he would of shown us where they were and told us to put them on eh?). Anyway we headed off into the hurricane horizontal rain, fog and strong winds to start our sailing adventures in the piece of shit, manky, leaky boat. So motor boated out of the harbour and into the hurricanes sea swells.

After a while sailing (and generally feeling miserable) a huge gust of wind hit us, our boat did a 90 degree turn and our motor cut out. Shit, starting to panic now - I was freaking (jumping out of a helicopter is nothing compared with thinking your boat was going to sink in a mini hurricane), we couldn't see anyone through the fog, it was windy, raining and our motor had stopped! Luckily our radio worked and we called for help and explained that well OUR BOAT WOULDN'T START AND WE THOUGHT WE WERE GOING TO SINK! just as the main boat was turning back lucky our engine kicked into life and we managed to motor out of the scary weather and onto calmer seas where I think everyone was feeling a tad seasick.

The afternoon was spent hanging out in port and trying to dry the beds of our piece of shit manky boat and to top off the night I had to sleep on the crappy table bed (did I mention that I was sick!)

16 September 2008
Petreti to Corfu

Slight improvement on the day before

This morning we had a demo on how to put up and down the sails on our boats before we headed out to sea on some much much calmer seas. Today was a pleasant days sailing where we got to put up both sails and could sit down and relax on the boat.

<- Me sailing (also tyring to get rid of tan marks)
Once we docked in Corfu harbour we jumped off the boats as quick as we could and headed into the town to do some souvenir shopping. Once shopped out we headed back to the boat and decided to go for a swim and have some drinks. Some of us having had more drinks than others we headed up the hill to finally have some dinner - some delish 2 euro kebabs where they put the chips in the kebabs, genius!

At the top of the hill we left the others and three of us went down as Camilla (oh so drunk) needed to go to the toilet. The toilets were locked and as she was still in her togs (she had previously been searching for sunglasses that had fallen in the water at night, don't ask!) jumped into the sea. Once done we hauled her out of the water using all the mite that two girls (one who was so close to coughing up a lung) have after drinks but on the way up her jandal (she was Australian before she hoped on the boat with three Kiwi's who converted her - jandals all round) fell into the water which she then leapt in to get, I used every single muscle in my body to pull her dead weight out again. Once out of the water we went back to the boat where she point blanky refused to get back on that manky boat. After some coaxing we managed to get her on the boat but she did not want to get inside. Eventually we managed to tuck her in bed in the boat and all went to sleep. Check out some funny movies here .

17 September 2008
Corfu to Plataria

Today we packed up and headed back to Plataria where we started, yah, I was over sailing and over coughing my guts up. It was really windy today and we were able to put up our front sail for a while, but as it was so windy it was really rocky and was making us feel sick so we put it down again and just motor boated. Once we docked at the port I jumped off the boat as fast as I could and spent the afternoon hanging out on dry land and trying to get antibiotics from the chemist. Yah, its the last night on the manky boat .

Saturday, 13 September 2008

12 September 2008 to 13 September 2008

Florence, Italy to Orvieto, Italy to Rome, Italy

12 September 2008

Florence to Orvieto to Rome

Today we drove to Rome via Orvieto fortunantley this time it wasn't as hot as the last time I went. Once in Rome we picked up some new recruits and headed off on our (very long) walking tour of Rome. It was good though, when me and Debra walked around we had no idea what everything was so it was nice to be able to understand what everything was about.

13 September 2008

Today we had a much needed sleep in before heading to the Vatican City to check out the museum, Sistene Chapel and St Peter's bascilica. In the Sistene Chapel we viewed Michaelangelo's handy work and were told off numerous times by the guards. The guards there are solely employed to say "no photo" and "shhh". In the afternoon we headed for a wander around the Roman Forum - in Rome there are only two sets of train lines because everytime they try and build another line they come across roman remains and have to excuvate which slows down the process - and then we headed into the Colessum.
Inside the Colessum was different that I imagined.

The Colosseum or Roman Coliseum, originally the Flavian Amphitheatre is an elliptical amphitheatre in the center of the city of Rome, Italy, the largest ever built in the Roman Empire. It is one of the greatest works of Roman architecture and Roman engineering. Occupying a site just east of the Roman Forum, its construction started between 70 and 72 AD under the emperor Vespasian and was completed in 80 AD under Titus, with further modifications being made during Domitian's reign (81–96).Originally capable of seating around 50,000 spectators, the Colosseum was used for gladiatorial contests and public spectacles. As well as the gladiatorial games, other public spectacles were held there, such as mock sea battles, animal hunts, executions, re-enactments of famous battles, and dramas based on Classical mythology.

As we all had laundy to do, the night was spent drinking it up in the laundry room.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

10 September 2008 to 11 September 2008
Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland to Pisa, Italy to Florence, Italy

10 September 2008

Switzerland to Pisa and Florence in Italy
This morning we headed off early to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa where we stopped for an hour to get the traditional touristy photos before continuing our journey to Florence.

Once settled in our cabins we headed to the camping restaurant to do the "Duraculi challenge" which involves eating two different kinds of pasta, pizza and gelato followed by a lemon chello shot. As I had only been in Italy a couple of weeks before the site of Italian pizza made me want to barf so I just stuck with the pasta and gelato.

11 September 2008

We headed into Florence today for our Florence walking tour with our Italian guide. Apparently only an Italians are allowed by law to give a guide around any Italian city. After our jewellery and leather demonstration we had free time to explore Florence. As I had been to Florence recently I trotted off by myself and just relaxed. Some of the others went and saw the real Michealangelo David - Can you tell the difference?

That night we all met up for some more pasta and gelato at the House of Sizzle before heading to the club next door for some 1 litre daiquiris and karaoke. We then left the bar and headed back to the discotech at the restaurant where we danced to the early hours of the morning.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

8 September 2008 to 9 September 2008

Paris, France to Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland
8 September 2008

Today was one of the longest (well that is what they told us) driving days on our tour. We passed from France into Switzerland. Switzerland's defences are amazing. All able-bodied Swiss males aged between 19 and 31 must serve, they have bombs at the entrances and tank stoppers . Is such a beautiful place I would defiantly go back again and would recommend it to anyone.

Once we arrived in Lauterbrunnen we were in 4 dorm cabins. In Switzerland we had our own Topdeck chef where we got decent food . . . a novelty on our trip.

9 September 2008

My favourite day of the tour. This morning I woke up bright and early to go skydiving out of a helicopter! The weather today was perfect, after getting all geared up I partnered with Chris and we headed up in the helicopter. The helicopter ride was a novelty in itself Switzerland is amazing and is defiantly somewhere I plan to go back too. When it was time to go I got strapped into my instructor and he leaned me out over the helicopter, one of the most scariest moments of my life the rest from there was easy sailing. After I stopped screaming and took in the scenery it was an amazing ride down! I have a dvd and a photo disc which are a really nice memory of the event.

After jumping out of the helicopter we headed up Jungfraujoch - Jungfraujoch at 3,454 metres is the highest railway station in Europe. The train took two hours to get up there. Once up there we walked through the ice palace and I got hauled into playing a stupid game where if you said "mine" you had to do 10 press ups. Guess who had to do 10 press ups on the ice!

We then went outside and looked at the amazing scenery, this holiday really had all weather conditions. I got to go toboggan riding and play in the snow.

After our adventure at the Top of Europe we headed down the hill and decided to head up another hill behind a waterfall where we drank the water which tasted amazing.