Month: July 2010

Back to Paris to fly out

Back to Paris to fly out

So here’s a real quick recap of the past couple days: My train to Cinque Terre from Sorrento took most of the day and I didn’t get to Vernazza until 4:00 pm.  I checked into my room, and then spent the rest of the night […]

Day 69: Sorrento/Pompeii

Day 69: Sorrento/Pompeii

I left my hostel around 8:30am and took the Circumvesuviana train to Pompeii.  I got there around 9:00am, about 30 minutes after they opened, and had to wait in a line about 50 people long. I decided not to get a guided tour because they […]

Day 68: Florence/Sorrento

Day 68: Florence/Sorrento

Today I finally left Florence.  I checked out of my hotel around 10:00am and then walked to the train station to catch my 11:10am train.  I got to the station in plenty of time, but the train didn’t leave until 11:30am due to a twenty minute delay.
It took about three hours to get to Naples.  Once the train arrived, I had to catch the Circumvesuviana, a commuter train that was more like an above ground subway.  I got off at St. Angello, a small town outside of Sorrento.  The ride lasted about an hour, and despite it’s reputation, I haven’t ran into any pickpocketing in Naples or on it’s trains.
I walked the half mile to my hostel which turned out to be the nicest hostel I’ve stayed in yet.  It has a good bar and lounge area, and all the rooms have cold air conditioning.  After checking in, I dropped my backpack off and walked to Sorrento which was about a mile away.  Sorrento reminds me of Clearwater Beach; it’s a seaside tourist resort complete with palm trees and sunny weather, except its on the side of a mountain and has a lot more scooters.  After seeing how nice Sorrento was, I realized I should have spent one less night in Florence so I’d have two full days in Sorrento, and then use one of those days to go to the island of Capri.
I spent about an hour walking through the small town and taking some pictures.  I made a mistake of not figuring out the bus system so I got stuck walking down a lot of stairs in order to get down to the shore, but it was much worse walking back up.
I walked back to St. Angello and got dinner in the restaurant in my hostel.  While eating, I learned about Pompeii through watching a BBC show that someone ripped and posted on Youtube in anticipation for my trip tomorrow.  I got about halfway through it before deciding to call it a night around 12:30am.  I plan on waking up early and taking the Circumvesuviana halfway back towards Naples, and visit Pompeii.
Day 67: Florence

Day 67: Florence

I woke up early again this morning, around 7:00am, this time to see the Uffizi Gallery.  The Uffizi Gallery holds some of the most influential paintings of the Italian Renaissance.  When I walked in, I bought an official guide book that had detailed pictures and […]

Day 66: Florence

Day 66: Florence

I woke up early this morning, around 7:00am, to go to the Accademia Gallery to see Michelangelo’s David. I was happy I took my guidebook’s advice and made a reservation because when I arrived at the Accademia fifteen minutes before my 8:15am reservation, there was […]

Day 65: Florence

Day 65: Florence

Today ended up being a much better day than yesterday.  I slept in until 11:30am and then went downstairs to sort out the internet and shower curtain issues.

I was greeted by a different receptionist, this time a guy who did speak English.  I explained the situation, telling him that I wouldn’t have booked this hotel if it didn’t have free wifi – not to mention the fact that I still didn’t have a shower curtain.  I asked him if he could do anything to compensate me, such as giving me a few free wi-fi cards, and he said I should talk to the manager who was coming in around 2:30pm.  I ended up purchasing a 24 hour access card from him for €7.50 in the meantime.

I left the hotel and after buying a cone of strawberry gelato for breakfast, I went inside a Leonardo da Vinci museum.  It was small and overpriced, but had neat models of his designs.  I would have posted pictures but you weren’t allowed to take any inside.

I then went back to the hotel, and surfed the internet for about thirty minutes until the manager arrived.  I explained to him my situation, and he told me that it was a problem with hotels.com.  He said that the hotel sent in a request two weeks ago to fix their description on their website, but hotels.com hasn’t changed it yet.  I again explained to him that I booked this hotel because I thought it had free wi-fi and if I knew it didn’t have free wi-fi, I probably would have stayed somewhere else. 

He told me he would contact the company that provides the internet, and asked me to come back tomorrow morning.  He also said that my shower curtain should be fixed by 4:00pm.

I went up to my room, and about five minutes later, I get a call from the manager of the hotel.  He tells me that he talked to the internet company, and that he would give me free internet cards for the remainder of my stay.  I return to the lobby and he refunds me the €7.50 I paid for the internet card, and gives me three new 24hr cards.  Everything has been worked out so far, except the shower curtain.

After talking with the manager, I decided to go back into town and visit the Florence Baptistery, an octagonal building used to baptize people.  It was neat to go inside, but no tripods were allowed so none of my pictures came out very well.  I did manage to set my camera directly on the ground and get a good picture of the mosaic ceiling which I’ll post as soon as I upload it.

I got two more orders of gelato, strawberry and coconut (my favorite so far).  The gelato is kind of expensive, €4 for a small waffle cone, but it is homemade and has real fruit (or coconut shavings) in it, so it’s worth it.  As I walked back to my hotel, I stopped by the Indian internet café I visited earlier and printed out some reservations I made for the Accademia Gallery and Uffizi Gallery, two of the most popular museums in Florence.  The Accademia houses Michelangelo’s David and the Uffizi is home to the most influential art from the Italian renaissance.  I’m going to the Accademia tomorrow morning at 8:15am and to the Uffizi at 8:15am on Thursday, my last day in Florence.  Even though I have reservations, I want to get there early and beat the crowds.

I got back to my hotel, but discovered that my shower curtain still wasn’t put in yet.  So I go back down to the lobby and tell the receptionist (the original one who only speaks Spanish and Italian).  He then makes a call on his iPhone (it seems like everyone has one in Italy) and tells me it will be five minutes.

I wait in the lobby and twenty minutes later, a woman arrives carrying a moped helmet and takes a shower curtain out of her purse.  I give her my key, and five minutes later, she returns it to me after putting in the shower curtain.  Not sure why they couldn’t have done that yesterday, but everything is fixed now so I’m happy.

After taking a shower and getting ready for bed, I happily falling asleep around 11:30pm.
Day 64: Venice/Florence

Day 64: Venice/Florence

I woke up this morning pretty early, around 8:00am, to pack up my things and get ready for my train to Venice. I typed up some blog posts in the morning, went to the train station for lunch, and then boarded my train to Florence […]

Day 63: Venice

Day 63: Venice

Today was much better than the previous day, as far as temperature goes. I left my hotel room around noon and spent the rest of the day walking on the island. Venice isn’t too big, so other than my first day when I took a […]

Day 62: Venice

Day 62: Venice

I slept in this morning until 10:30am and had a great night’s sleep thanks to my air conditioned hotel room. I decided to spend the first half of the day in my hotel room because it was too hot to stay outside all day. I got some lunch around noon, but then went back to my hotel for a couple hours until the sun got a bit lower in the sky.
I took the train from the mainland around 3:00pm, and landed on the island about ten minutes later. I spent most of the afternoon just walking around taking pictures.

The colors of Italy run strong in Venice:

I did find the hospital with the ambulance boats which was pretty neat:

The main streets from the train station to St. Mark’s Square were crowded with tourists, street vendors, and tall black guys carrying an armful of fake purses, which I found really amusing. I found it fun to just walk around Venice, away from the crowds. As Rick Steves says, “80% of Venice isn’t touristy, but 80% of tourists don’t see it.”
I don’t think I ever got lost, but there were times where I didn’t know where I was. The difference being that I still knew where St. Mark’s Square was and the direction I was heading.

Venice is full of narrow streets that no one seems to walk in:

I was going to visit some churches, but they have a strict dress code, and there was no way I was going to wear jeans. I’ll have to see them when I come back on a different trip (not in June, July, or August). It was still hot today, but not nearly as bad as yesterday.
Around 8:00pm, I started to notice something was going on. There were tons of boats in the lagoon, close enough that you could walk from one to another, and there were easily twice as many people than yesterday walking around. I quickly figured out it was some kind of annual festival, but had no idea what it was for. I asked some people, and they didn’t know either, but I did find out there was going to be fireworks starting at 11:30pm.
I killed some time by getting some spaghetti for dinner and then wandered down to the shore to set up my tripod to take pictures of the fireworks. I asked some more people if they knew what was going on, but no one seemed to know why it was happening. (After looking it up later, I found it was the Festa del Redentore, an annual festival given the third Saturday of July to give thanks for the end of the plague of 1576.)

I haven’t had the chance to take pictures of fireworks before, so it’s a shame I didn’t know they were happening, or else I would have looked up some tips on how to get better pictures.

As soon as the fireworks stopped, I quickly started walking to the train station. The last train leaves the island at 12:36am, and the fireworks stopped at 12:10am, so I was cutting it close. I ended up running towards the end, and got on the train with about three minutes to spare. Luckily the train was air conditioned which made the ride back to the mainland so much better. I think when I come back, I’ll stay on the island, even though it will be more expensive, it will be much more convenient.
Day 61: Interlaken/Venice

Day 61: Interlaken/Venice

I checked out of my hostel at 6:30am, in order to catch my 7:28am train to Venice. Problem was, the woman at the front desk gave me my key deposit back in Swiss francs instead of Euros, even after I was assured I could get […]

Day 61: Interlaken

Day 61: Interlaken

Today was my last full day in Interlaken.  Even though I woke up early, around 8:00am, I felt well rested.  I got a much better night’s sleep than the previous night.  It was raining in the morning, so I took the time to write my […]

Day 60: Interlaken

Day 60: Interlaken

On Monday, the 12th, I got to sleep late because the Australian boy kept talking to me in the lobby while I was typing up blog posts.  I was planning on doing a bike ride on Tuesday, the 13th, but decided to wait until Wednesday after I got a better night’s sleep.  Instead, I rode my bike into town to get breakfast at a restaurant inside the local supermarket.

I spent the rest of the day lying out by the pool and taking some pictures throughout the city.

I didn’t get a good nights’ sleep on Tuesday night.  There was an older man sleeping in the 10-bed dorm I was in and was snoring incredibly loudly.  I honestly thought it was thunder at first.  I spent the rest of the night listening to my headphones just to try and drone out the noise.

After getting four hours of sleep (turns out waiting to get a better night’s sleep was a bad idea), I took my bike and spent the morning biking to Brienz, a small town on the other side of Lake Brienz.

Some daisies in a lakeside garden:

I was originally planning on doing the 20 mile loop around the lake, but when I arrived in Brienz, I realized that there was a train that would take me back to Interlaken.  Tired and hungry, I paid the 3.00 swiss francs to carry my bike on board and got back to Interlaken around noon.

When I got back to my hostel, first thing I did was switch rooms to a smaller six bed dorm.  It’s one floor below my old room, so hopefully I won’t be able to hear him through the ceiling.  I spent the afternoon doing laundry (which costs $10 per load) and catching up on some sleep.  I had dinner at a nice Swiss restaurant (at my mother’s recommendation).  I ordered cheese fondue and chocolate fondue – it was okay, but not sure it was worth the $50 I paid for it.  When I’m traveling, food isn’t something I like spending a lot of money on.  Give me a Kebab, and I’m perfectly content.

Tomorrow I think I am going to the St. Beatus caves in the afternoon. The weather isn’t expected to be that good, with rain in the morning, so I’m not sure what I’ll end up doing the rest of the day.

Day 58: Lucerne/Interlaken

Day 58: Lucerne/Interlaken

Sunday was my last full day in Lucerne and I can’t really say I did much of anything. I spent most of the day taking pictures and just walking around. I can just walk around for most of the day and be completely happy – […]

Day 56: Lucerne

Day 56: Lucerne

Yesterday I woke up and decided to go swimming down by the lake. I knew it was going to hot outside so I walked down the street to buy breakfast and sunscreen at the local supermarket. I bought some fruit, a towel, and some sunscreen, […]

Getting to Lucerne

Getting to Lucerne

The wi-fi in my hostel doesn’t work, so this might be only blog post until I can find reliable (and free) wi-fi somewhere else.
So this morning started off well. I set my alarm for 6:00am, so I would have plenty of time to shower and eat breakfast before catching my train at 7:54 am, but I woke up at 7:00 am instead (that’s what I get for staying up late). I quickly debated just taking a later train, but it would take much longer. The next train for Lucerne left at 8:56am (about an hour later than mine), but the trip took an hour longer, about 5.5 hours instead of 4.5. Not only that, but I would have four different stations where I would have to transfer, so I decided to try and make the early train, which has only one transfer in Zürich.
I quickly packed my things and headed to reception about 10 minutes after I woke up. I paid my bill, 111 Euros for three nights, and then took the elevator to the ground floor and quickly walked to the train station. About 15 minutes later, I arrived at the station around 7:25 am, in plenty of time to catch my train. I got a quick breakfast in the terminal and then went out on the platform to wait. I’m disappointed that I’m leaving Innsbruck today – the weather today is incredible with bright blue skies and not nearly as much haze as yesterday. The weather in Lucerne is expected to be good too, but only for the first couple days. Thursday and Friday is expected to be sunny, but Saturday and Sunday it is expected to rain (which is one of the reasons why I didn’t want to lose an hour on a pretty day).
The train ride to Zürich was nice and scenic – and I remembered to sit on the left side of the train, as it would face south towards the Alps as we were heading west. I took some pictures on the way to Zurich, but eventually caught up on some sleep.
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I switched trains in Zürich and rode another 45 minutes until I got to Lucerne. I had the train mostly to myself.
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After withdrawing some Swiss francs from the ATM, I started walking north. I made a rookie mistake and didn’t save a map onto my phone of where the hostel was, but I knew it was north of the train station. I figured pretty quickly that I wasn’t going to find it, so I found the closest McDonald’s to use their wi-fi. Using my iPhone, I found it about ten minutes later.
Problem was that reception didn’t open until 4:00pm, and it was 1:30pm when I got there. I wasn’t going to just sit around and wait, so I got lunch to break a 100 Swiss franc note, so I could use the lockers with a 2 Swiss franc deposit.
When I returned from lunch, I saw reception was open early, so I went ahead and checked in. After paying in advance and putting my stuff in my room, I headed towards the lake to take some pictures. The water is much clearer than I remember from my first visit, and there seems to be a lot more people enjoying the lake (probably because my first trip was in mid-May, and the water was still a little cold).
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I spent the rest of the day taking pictures and wandering around the river.
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The Jesuit Church
The Jesuit Church
I think tomorrow I am either going to Mt. Pilatus or renting a boat to take out on the lake. They have paddle boats and motorboats, but because the motorboats cost more than double (€40 for one hour instead of €17), I’ll probably just rent a paddle boat instead. I’ll be jumping off the boat and going swimming, so I’ll definitely need to find some sun screen for tomorrow. And I’ll probably take my camera with me too, so hopefully I don’t tip the boat over.
Mountains of Innsbruck

Mountains of Innsbruck

This morning started like yesterday by waking up early and getting a big breakfast. The weather today was supposed to be the best I’ve had since I arrived, so I decided to take a cable car and spend the day on the mountain. I walked […]

Bored in Innsbruck

Bored in Innsbruck

I woke up around 7:00 am, as planned, and went downstairs to get some breakfast which had the best selection I’ve had on the trip so far. They had fresh fruit including kiwis, pears, and bananas, and about eight different types of juices. There was […]

Munich to Innsbruck

Munich to Innsbruck

I woke up this morning around 8:00 am, showered (the light worked this time) and packed my things. I rented a locker for my luggage in the hostel after I checked out, and then went to the train station at 9:00 am to take back the bike I rented. I then took the S-Bahn into Marienplatz to buy a bathing suit.While waiting for the clothing stores to open, I went in the Apple store. I’m planning on buying a 15” Macbook Pro later in July, and wanted to check out the difference between the high resolution and matte/glossy displays. I eventually got two laptops, put them side by side, and played the opening sequence to The Dark Knight in HD to see if I could tell a difference. As everyone was staring at me, I decided the colors were pretty much identical, but the matte display looked a lot better without the reflection. I’ll probably end up getting that one.Anyways, I went into a department store and eventually found a bathing suit that fit and wasn’t too short. I then took the S-Bahn back to my hostel and while walking through the station, I noticed that a train was leaving for Innsbruck at 11:31 am in about 45 minutes, rather than the 12:30 pm train I was planning on taking. So I hurried back to the hostel, got my backpack out of the locker, and then walked the two blocks back to the train station. I got on the train around 11:20 am, and eventually found a seat that didn’t have a reservation posted above it.

The train slowly started going into the mountains. Acting like a little kid again, I took a good amount of pictures through the window of my train, but I must have sat on the wrong side of the train because most of the mountains were on the other side. The train finally arrived in Innsbruck at 1:27 pm. I remembered to save a screenshot of a map of Innsbruck onto my phone, so I didn’t have too much trouble finding my hotel after a 15 minute walk.

I checked into my hotel, the Hotel Weisses Kreuz, which was founded in 1465, which is pretty weird – staying in a hotel that is older than the country I’m from. It’s pretty famous because Mozart spent a couple nights here, and you can hear the classical music playing in the reception. It wasn’t too terribly expensive even though it is located right in the middle of the main plaza, near the Goldenes Dachl, or Golden Roof; I got a small single room for 37 Euros a night. It really is refreshing to have my own room – I don’t think I’ve slept in a room by myself since May 15th.

After checking in, I wandered around the city but didn’t go very far because it was raining. I saw the Golden Roof, as mentioned earlier, which was built in the 1490s to ‘cover an oriel window from which the court of Emperor Maximilian could observe the square below’. I took a few pictures of the alpine scenery and a river flowing through town, but didn’t see too many mountains. Most of the good views are northwest of the city, just over the closest mountain. You can take a cable car to the highest point in the region for around 15 Euros, and then there are plenty of trails to hike from there.

I plan on waking up around 7:00 am tomorrow morning, getting some breakfast at the hotel, and then doing my laundry down the street. The weather tomorrow calls for a 30% chance of rain, so looks like I probably won’t go hiking – not too sure what I will do yet. The weather on Wednesday is supposed to be better, with ‘mostly sunny’ skies, so I will probably spend the whole day on the mountains.
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I wasn’t originally too excited about seeing Munich (I actually thought about skipping it, and spending more time in Switzerland), but I think Munich turned out to be one of my favorite cites so far. The English Garden was really good, and the people seemed friendlier than in a lot of the cities I’ve been to. I didn’t get to see as much as I wanted (They have the largest science and technology museum in the world. So big that if you spent 10 seconds at every exhibit, you would be there for 12 days), but it gives me things to do next time. When I come back, I definitely won’t stay in a hostel, and hopefully I’ll be able to stay longer than just a couple days.

Day 51: Munich

Day 51: Munich

I woke up this morning around 8:00am again, and went to take a shower, but the light in our bathroom wasn’t working. The hostel I’m staying at (Euro Youth Hostel) is definitely not the best I’ve been in; the push buttons on the shower last, […]

Celebrating in Munich

Celebrating in Munich

I woke up yesterday around 8:00am and went to the top of St. Peter’s to catch a panoramic view of the city – climbing the 306 steps was worth it. I then went back to Mike’s Bike Tours to rent a bike. I rode around […]

Vienna and train to Munich

Vienna and train to Munich

Yesterday I slept in and then walked around the city. I went back to Stephensdom and they still didn’t have any guided tours, so I had to get an audio guide instead. It was alright, I guess. When you spend over two months in Europe, all the churches and cathedrals start blending together. I took some more pictures of the city, and then spent part of the evening planning what I am going to do in Munich. I also applied to some engineering positions for after I graduate in December 2010.

Overall, Vienna was good, but nothing really stood out for me. I’d like to go back eventually, but it certainly isn’t at the top of my list. I’m really looking forward to Switzerland and Italy, especially the landscapes, something Vienna didn’t really have.

I woke up this morning around 7:30 am, in order to get ready in plenty of time and catch my train to Munich at 10:20 am. The other people in my room woke up around the same time, and asked me if I was talking on my phone last night. Apparently I was talking and laughing in my sleep. They said that I said, “Uh huh….yeah?…Oh that’s….” and then started laughing. Haha – it’s always an interesting experience sleeping in a hostel.

I hurried to the metro and had to transfer lines before I got to Vienna’s main station, Westbahnof. After rushing through the station, I managed to find the train platform around 10:15 am. Luckily, my train was a little bit late, and wasn’t arriving until 10:30am.

I got on the train as soon as it arrived, and found an empty seat that didn’t have a reservation marked on the LCD screen above it. It was good that I got on early, because the train filled up fast. I have a Eurail pass, so I was able to just sit in a seat that didn’t have a reservation, but I’m not sure what would happen if there were more people on the train than open seats. Maybe people have to stand, I don’t know.

The train ride went pretty well. After we passed Salzburg, we started passing some mountains. I felt like a little kid because I probably took around 100 pictures out the window of the train.

I got to Munich around 2:30 pm and checked into my hostel which was right across the street from the station. I found out there was a bike tour starting a 4:00 pm, so I hurried and took the S-Bahn to the meeting point. The tour lasted four hours and took us through the main sites of Munich. We stopped at a beer garden inside the English Garden for dinner, had a couple more stops, and then ended the tour around 8:30 pm. It was one of the better tours I’ve been on, even though it was pretty expensive, around 20 euros.

So far, Munich is probably one of my favorite cities, right next to Berlin. I haven’t been to a city in Germany that I haven’t liked yet. Tomorrow, I think I’m going to rent a bike and watch the Germany-Argentina game. I’ll probably go to a beer garden to watch it along with everyone else in Munich.