Donnerstag, 29. Mai 2014

Interrail - Day 20: Venice /Venedig

The first time I had been to Venice, I was on a school trip, we drove into the city on a water boat and it was like a magical entrance.
But this time (3rd of April) we were entering the city via train. Which was so surreal...
It was like driving over water...

Scenes from Spirited Away by Hayao Miyazaki
 And in a far away distance the city Venice came in sight. It was stunning and at the same a little....well scary? It's not the right word, but I can't think of the right word right now.

We stored our luggage at Piazzale Roma (7€ per piece of baggage, but for 24h storage. Unfortunately it's only open from 6am to 20pm.)We then took the Vaporetto (7€ per person for 1h) and drove as far as possible down the Canal Grande.

Look out for the signs pointing in the direction of famous places!
We stopped at "Giardini" and strolled from there around the city. The little alleys form a labyrinth, but you can't really get lost in Venice, because there are signs to famous places at every corner which point to important places like St. Marcus or the Rialto Bridge for orientation.

The big places of the city were filled with people, mostly tourists. And between the tourist vendors with the "typical" Venice masks. So we decided to look for the perfect mask. I wanted a little extravagant one, but it was hard to find one. I finally fell in love with a cat ear mask, but it was too expensive (38 €)...
But I couldn't resist taking a picture!

We then got a little hungry and ate Pizza and Ice cream afterwards. Those Italians know their food business!
Then the search for the perfect mask continued. In the end I decided for a this mask (ca. 10€):

The whole day floated away, but it was still a beautiful day in Venice. When the night came, the whole city was lighted and the water reflected it beautifully.

But for us, the journey ended here: Our nighttrain back to Germany was waiting. We picked up our luggage and got on the night train to Munich. In the compartement, we sat together with two American guys and a couple with a baby. I don't want to be mean, but babies on a nighttrain are one of my least favourite things... Although I have to admit that this one was the whole night silent, but I still couldn't sleep, because the seats were awful. But just before Munich, the train stopped suddenly and we didn't know yet what exactly happened, everyone said something about an accident, but noone dared to mention the word "suicide". We waited for an hour and a half, stuck in the compartement with the now crying baby. It was hot and stuffy and awful. Finally someone from the train staff confirmed what we had all been thinking: Someone jumped in front of a train and now the way was blocked. We waited endlessly and finally the train began moving again...

In the end we reached Munich and our tour ended. I'll never forget all the ups and downs. The nights with and without sleep. And all the beauty surrounding us.

After this trip, returning to normal life was pretty weird. It felt somehow wrong to stay at one place for more than two days and yet my body loved having his own bed again and getting fed homecooked meals (And I can't tell you how much I've missed the bathtub!). But I'll definitely do interrail again some time... But I'm wiser now, so hopefully I won't make the same mistakes again.

Sonntag, 25. Mai 2014

Interrail - Day 18,19: Pisa + Firenze

On the 1st of April we arrived in the evening in Pisa. We dumped our stuff at our hostel (The hostel was above the store "Zara" on the second floor, I can't really remember its name, but it was pretty alright and the staff was nice. You couldn't lock the room doors and the showers were a little dirty, but other than that: pretty okay.). And we went out to look for the worldwide known Leaning Tower of Pisa.

And of course, we took tacky tourist pictures () and made our way back to our hostel to get some sleep.
On our way, we walked all over town. And to be honest... I was pretty bored of Pisa. Except for the tower the city has nothing for me to offer, but Johanna was so amazed by the "real" Italian town atmosphere so that we walked around longer than necessary.

I sometimes wonder if I'm already numb to the beauty in the world or if my expectations are just absolutely  different from hers.

At a local book flea market Johanna bought herself a cook book. And maybe I should remind her that she really needs to cook sometime real Italian food for me (haha, Johanna, if you read this, start cooking! ).

Back at our hostel we ate together with an Italian guy. He couldn't speak English and Johanna didn't speak Italian as well as he had hoped, but that didn't stop him from falling madly in love with her. He asked us out to a drink. We politely refused, but he didn't want to let it go. We tried to escape his love vibes a second time, but he stayed persistent and wanted to know what we were up to tomorrow. We made an excuse why we had other plans tomorrow as well and snuck out the next day (2nd of April) early in the morning to make it seem like the truth. We ran some last errands for our travel journey (filling up food supplies etc.) and took the train to Firenze (better known as Florence) around noon.

In Firenze we first looked up our hostel and dumped our stuff our room as usual and then took a stroll around town. We had been texting with Nita and Sunshine to find out what they have been up to and agreed on a meeting point. We meet up again with Sunshine and Nita and strolled together trough the town. The city is really beautiful. We walked by the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore and to the Piazza della Signoria and the Palazzo Vecchio (Florence's town hall). On the Ponte Vecchio, which crosses the river Arno, butchers initially occupied the bridge with their shops, but when the Medici family came to power and ruled in Florence for a long time, a duke of the Medici family ordered to build the Vasari Corridor, an elevated enclosed passageway connecting the Palazzo Vecchio with the Uffizi Gallery.The duke moved the meat market away to avoid that the meat smell reached this corridor. He only allowed jewellers and goldsmiths to sell their goods there and the jewellery merchants still occupy the bridge today.

We went through the leather market (best place to buy really nice leather goods like bags and purses) and looked around. We ate in the market place where all the other Italian people ate and cute real Italian "Mama" talked fast with every customer and served the food and bustled here and there to make sure every customer had a seat, food and did pay afterwards. It was fun to watch. The real Italian food tasted lovely, unfortunately it came in really tiny portions... If you're super hungry, better go somewhere else and find some kind of menu-type of restaurant, they offer you starter, maincourse and desert with drinks for about 10€. We had to catch up a little bit on all that's happened and I was glad to hear that Sunshine seemed a little bored of Pisa as well. (I mean it wasn't an ugly city, just not really that exciting). We then went shopping for souvenirs (the classy ones: a bag or leather bracelet in the leathermarket or some "Mafia" ones like cigars).
After this very successful shopping tour, we rewarded ourselves with icecream. And what could be better than lying down, enjoying the sun and eating icecream all frickin' sunny day long? Correct: There's nothing better than ice in the sunshine with friends in a beautiful city like Firenze.
In the evening we bought a little food at a local super market and to dine together with Sunshine and Nita. Their hostel was a little bit more fancy than ours because the building had a roof terrace and seemed to me almost like a nice hotel but it wasn't really allowed to bring visitors to the rooms... Oh well we snuck in anyway. (hihi evilknievel!) We ate together like a happy little family and pretty much just went to bed afterwards.  Pretty unspectacular day, I guess. But if you have to get up early in the morning to catch the next train, you better get some sleep.

Mittwoch, 21. Mai 2014

Interrail - Day 17, 18: Rome

We arrived in the evening (30th of March) in Rome and met up with Sunshine and Nita for a drink. Since they took a flight from Barcelona, they had already checked out the city while we were still in Nice and Milan. But they were so nice to share their wisdom with us: Best icecream near the Spanish steps. Two walking tours starting from the Spanish steps with a very nice and funny guide (one with destination of the vatican state and the other with destination of the collosseum). Furthermore they warned us about the metro. Sneaky thiefs everywhere. They stole money out of their backpack. So we were warned and continued our journey carefully.
The next day Sunshine and Nita would continue their way to Pisa while we just started our adventure in Rome. (But don't worry we would meet again soon )

The next day (31st of March) we walked to the Spanish steps and did the first walking tour. The woman who guided us, seemed totally bored with the stories she told, because she had to tell them everyday and she kind of hated tourists... So just the right gal for the right job! (Didn't seem to be the same guide Sunshine and Nita were talking about...)

Piazza Navona
She did show us the right places (for example Piazza Navona where everything can happen...where simply life happens, sounds silly I know, but that's what it is). But the way she talked was tiring and made it impossible to listen to her for long. 

But nonetheless Rome is a city full of wonders, a city that develops another historic layer every day. And is in itself a history book. In Rome they have exactly two metro lines. The citizens want to expand the underground network, but they can't build more metrostations because they would hurt otherwise ancient roman ruins that lie under the ground.
But the old brings also advantages: The old aqueduct brings fresh drinkable water to every little waterfountain in the city (Dear Backpacker, refill your bottles everywhere for free!).

The tour lead us to the Vatican State. There the first tour ended and we entered the St. Peter's Basilica (the entry is by the way free.) We were overwhelmed by such extravangance of  marble, gold and ivory (wasted on a Church). People don't pray better only because everything's made of gold. The purpose of it is to reflect the power of the Catholic Church being able to afford to live in such luxury. I just hope with the new Pope, things change a little. A little less wealth for the Church and a little more help for the poor. (Believe me, if you would sell all this gold, it could probably feed a whole nation for at least a year...)

 After our tour through the basilica we went to eat real Italian Pizza for lunch and walked a little on our own through the city up to the Villa Medici and looked over this picturesque city for a while. We then lay down in the parks around Villa Medici and enjoyed the sun. 

We returned to the Spanish steps and got ourselves the best icecream ever made. (I loved it so much I now hate the ice cream they sell here...). Sunshine and Nita had told us about it and had mentioned that it's pretty expensive, but  (and I quote) "totally worth it" (2,50 € for 1 scoop of ice cream). We wanted to order, but we realised that it said 2,50€ per ice cream cone on the menu. So Johanna asked in Italian how many scoops of ice cream you get in one cone. The guy was so amazed by how fluently Johanna spoke that he explained with a bright smile that normally you'd only get one scoop of ice cream for 2,50€, but since we asked in Italian we'd get 2 scoops for the same price. So remember people: Ask in the official language of a country and people will be so much nicer to you.

We then participated in the second walking tour and we so hoped for a different guide, but again our lovely lady took the lead and we almost died of boredom. Passing Fontana di Trevi and a building the Italians call the "wedding cake" we reached finally the Collosseum and after an eternity of blablabla the tour ended. We then went shopping for souvenirs and found a jewellery maker who made little name bracelets working on the streets. We watched him crafting a while until we decided to get two pieces of jewellery (a necklace and a bracelet). While making Johanna's bracelet, he totally flirted with her. Johanna was magnet of Italian guys anyway. I wonder what I'm doing wrong...(just kidding, it didn't really bother me :) ha ha).

The next day (1st of April) we went out to get into the Collosseum (the arena for gladiators) and the Forum Romanum (originally the Roman marketplace). It is such an amazing feeling to walk around a place where so many generations before you have walked the earth, where you can imagine what it must have been like, where now so much culture is lost and only the stone tells the stories. And where the grass tries to hide what remains.

In the late afternoon we took a train to our next destination: Pisa.

Donnerstag, 15. Mai 2014

Interrail - Day 16: Milano/Mailand

From Ventimiglia we took a train to Milan and got welcomed in the night by dark and weird people. In the underground station vendors sell iPhone cases, sunglasses etc. But with a real pushy attitude.. Some of the vendors sell roses and put them right in your hand for you to hold them and then they want you to buy them since you accepted the rose by holding it for a second. (Sly as a snake!)

Some other beggars down there help the tourists. They choose the tickets for the metro rides for them and then ask for a tip in return for their help. In retrospect, I actually feel sorry for the poor guy that helped us to find the right ticket, because we didn't give him anything...But we were short on money ourselves...So no luck...

We reached the hostel and fell asleep immediately. The hostel was kind of weird... You were promised a bed in a 6 Bed dorm, but it was the size of a doublebed hotel room stuffed with 6 single beds... Comfy is different... The bath was clean, but it was one bathroom for the whole floor and we couldn't lock the door. So no shower for us either...

You can already tell... This day (30th of March) started badly and only got worse.

At one point on your interrail trip you'll reach the point where you are just so annoyed at eachother...
You spend everyday and every waking hour with them. Literally 24/7. And'll drive you crazy.
Johanna is a lovely girl and I don't mean to be a pain myself, but on this particular day the point was reached. And nerves were pushed over the edge.
I would have loved to scream. At her. At me. At the world. Believe me. I love to think that I'm rather patient with the people around me, but sometimes the line is crossed. Crossed by really little things.

We were still bummed out about the shower thing, so we were both a little moody and then we had a first disagreement about the storage of our luggage. I wanted to leave it at the hostel, I mean we had to check out early, but the storage was free. Johanna wanted to make sure her stuff was safe at a luggage drop-off at the train station and not just lying around in the hostel.
She convinced me (but that day it felt more like she overruled me...) and we managed to store our luggage there, but I was pretty mad at her, because it was so expensive. It would have been fine by me, if we didn't have to pay so much for it, but 6€ per piece for 6 hours...?! Please believe me I usually don't get so pissed at little things, but this time... I was seething with anger. (If I could have seen me back then, I wouldn't have recognized me.)

We went to the Dome in Milan and stood in line to get inside. Security guards checked purses to make sure you didn't take anything inappropriate into Church and were dressed properly. We were sure to get in, but wrong again: They singled out Johanna and told her to stay outside while I was allowed to go inside. I wasn't sure what to do, but I didn't want to let this opportunity go to waste... and I went inside.
This time it was Johanna's turn to be mad. She felt left alone and waited outside having nothing to do (although I have to say to my defense that I did spend like max. 5 minutes inside). I can understand her feelings now, but that day... I have to say I was annoyed and felt like she overreacted. (I don't know if it's of any use to her now, but I'm sorry).

Interrail makes you stick together no matter what, so we had to keep going. And we walked through the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, one of the first shopping malls with shops dating back to 1775. Nowadays brands like Prada, Gucci, Dolce&Gabana etc. control the city and reign in the gallery. 
Be careful: There are a lot of snobs walking around. Better wear something chique or they're gonna run over you with their high heels, like they did with us. (oh crappy, crappy day... and yet the sun was shining brightly mocking us...).

We then walked around the city. But we realised how tired we were and how aggitated that made us feel, so we decided to make us a really slow day. Walking around without rush. Passing time, watching people. Laying down in the park behind Castello Sforzesco.

Everyone seemed to have the same idea to take a day off and make a lazy chill-out session with picnic in the park. Even little Lizards joined us.

The day passed by easily and at the end of the day we made up for all the stupid things that had happend with icecream.

From Milan we took a train to Rome. 

Sonntag, 11. Mai 2014

It's a German Thing... Music!

It's obvious that German has a rather harsh tone, but we tend to think that German has more too offer than commands. Maybe people would like us Germans a little more if we showed them that German can sound soft and nice as well.
Here are a few German Songs that are actually popular in Germany (you might need Youtube Unblocker to listen to some of them, because the organisation GEMA has blocked a lot of German music videos):

Nena - 99 Luftballons [99 balloons] (Click here)
Die Ärzte
- Schrei nach Liebe [Cry for Love] (Click here)
- Rebell [Rebel] (Click here)
- Schundersong [Bully Song] (Click here)
- Westerland (Click here)
- Lasse Redn [Let them talk] (Click here)
- Wie es geht [How to do it] (Click here)
- Fette Elke [Fat Elke] (Click here)
- Monsterparty [Monster party] (Click here)
- Deine Schuld [Your fault] (Click here)
Bosse - Schönste Zeit [Best time] (Click here)
Jennifer Rostock
- Feuer [Fire] (Click here)
- Du willst mir an die Wäsche [You want to get under my skirt] (Click here)
Culcha Candela
- Schöne neue Welt [Brave New World] (Click here)
- Von allein [Without effort] (Click here)
- Monsta (Click here)
- Hamma! [Wicked!] (Click here)
Fettes Brot
- Jein [Mix of Yes and No] (Click here)
- An Tagen wie diesen [On days like these] (Click here)
- Schwule Mädchen [Gay Girls] (Click here)
- Songs für Liam [Songs for Liam] (Click here)
- Ich will nicht nach Berlin [I don't want to go to Berlin] (Click here)
Roger Cicero - Das ganze Leben ist ein Zoo [Life is a zoo] (Click here)
Ich + Ich (Adel Tawil)
- Lieder [Songs] (Click here)
- Vom selben Stern [From the same star] (Click here)
- Du erinnerst mich an Liebe [You remind me of Love] (Click here)
- Stark [Strong] (Click here)
- Whatever (Click here)
- Einmal um die Welt [Once around the world] (Click here)
Tim Bendzko - Nur noch kurz die Welt retten [Just saving the world real quick] (Click here)
Die Fantastischen Vier
- Troy [Pun because of Name of Troy and Treu=Loyal, both words sound the same] (Click here)
- MfG [MfG stands for "Mit freundlichen Grüßen" = Sincerely] (Click here)
- Ernten was wir säen [Literally: We reap what we sow; Meaning: What goes around, comes around] (Click here)
- Das kann uns keiner nehmen [No one can take this from us] (Click here)
- Spinner [Madman/Fool/Nutcase] (Click here)
- Freunde bleiben [Staying Friends] (Click here)
Juli - Wir Beide [Us two] (Click here)
- Symphonie [Symphony] (Click here)
- Das Beste [The very best] (Click here)
- 'Ne Leiche (feat. SDP) [a corpse] (Click here)
- Bilder im Kopf [Pictures in my Head] (Click here)
- Strassenjunge [Street kid] (Click here)
- Schlechtes Vorbild [Bad Role Model] (Click here)
Wir sind Helden
- Denkmal [Monument/memorial] (Click here)
- Nur ein Wort [Only one word] (Click here)
- Aurélie (Click here)
Herbert Grönemeyer - Alkohol [Alcohol] (Click here)
- Mensch [Human] (Click here)
Die Toten Hosen
- Tage wie diese [Days like these] (Click here)
- Zehn kleine Jägermeister [Ten little Jägermeister; Drinking Song] (Click here)
- Alles aus Liebe [All because of Love] (Click here)
- Hier kommt Alex [Here comes Alex] (Click here)
- Bonnie und Clyde [Bonnie and Clyde] (Click here)
- Friss oder Stirb [Eat or Die] (Click here)
- Strom [Electricity] (Click here)
Jan Delay
- Oh Jonny (Click here)
Karpatenhund - Gegen den Rest [Against all others] (Click here)
Lena Meyer-Landrut - Satellite [It's an English Song, but it won the Eurovision Song Contest] (Click here)
Sportfreunde Stiller
- Applaus, Applaus [Applause, applause] (Click here)
- Ein Kompliment [A compliment] (Click here)
- '54, '74, '90, 2010 [years in which Germany won the soccer world cup] (Click here)
- Ding [Thing] (Click here)
- Augenbling [Sparkle in the eye](Click here)
Peter Fox
- Schwarz zu Blau [Black to blue] (Click here)
- Alles neu [Renew everything] (Click here)
- Schüttel deinen Speck [Shake your curvaceous body] (Click here)
Andreas Burani - Auf uns [To us!] (Click here)
Annette Louisan
- Das Gefühl [The feeling] (Click here)
- Das Spiel [The Game] (Click here)
- Eve (Click here)
- Zu viel Information [Too much information] (Click here)

- Depp [Idiot] (Click here)
- Ausgesprochen Unausgesprochen [pronounced silence] (Click here)

A lot of the German Songs are society critical or have a political message, some are just meant to be funny or entertaining (for example the ones about soccer and beer).

Please, listen and enjoy!

Sonntag, 4. Mai 2014

Interrail - Day 15: Nice /Nizza

So far our trip had been working out pretty smooth. Taking one train after another, waking up in new cities every day and booking hostels just the day before arrival. (Yeah I know: risky business...)

But suddenly we seemed to be completely out of luck: We could not find an inexpensive way from Barcelona to Italy. Nita and Sunshine had booked a flight, but we couldn't afford to do that, so we had to find a different option.

It was no problem to get out of Spain, but from France over the Italian border seemed like a huge deal for some reason (at least for the French):
When we were in Paris we asked at almost every train station to get seat reservations for those stupid trains which crossed the border. And apparently the French have a brilliant system where they only have a certain amount of seats for Interrail travellers. And if these seats are used up, you have to buy a ticket for the normal price of the train ride like every other guy inspite of the fact that you have an interrail pass. We then asked if there was a way around this huge load of bullshit they tried to sell us, but they made us believe there wasn't any other way.

On our second try we asked for the way to Zürich (Switzerland) to then be transfered from Zürich to Milan via night train, but again no luck: "fully booked for Interrailers, please pay the normal price".

Normal price, my ass!I mean what did we pay the interrail pass for?!
So we looked on the website of the SNCF (the French railway company) to search for other options and found other trains the guy at the station didn't show us. But it said "reservation compulsatory" again... We got a little desperate... On the website we found an English hotline number to make reservations etc. In hope to be connected to someone who speaks English, so that we could explain them better what our problem was and maybe adress then more politely than in my a-little-out-of-practice-French we called up the hotline. But as expected we were greeted with "Bonjour, avec quoi est-ce que je peux vous assister aujourd'hui?".

When I asked if there was an English speaker I could talk to, they seemed make little chitchat with everyone in the office, just to inform me that there's no one "at the moment". (Oh have I mentioned that the hotline is obviously not free? Just for the record: Taking so long to ask one simple thing might not be the best approach to start a conversation with impatient clients.)

I speak French, so it was alright, but still... why care to have an English hotline if you don't have people speaking English on the other line? Anyway...I asked them if I could reservate two seats on the train we had looked up on the internet. They said yes and my heart jumped for joy! But as soon as I mentioned Interrail, it suddenly became impossible. They apparantly hadn't heard about it. They passed on the phone, so that I could explain to a new French guy what I wanted and then the discussion, if it was possible or if something like Interrail really exists, started all over. It was madness, MADNESS I tell you!! Then they told me to hold for a while, but I could again hear chitchat in the background and not the helpful kind, but the Hey-let's-drink-a-glass-of-wine-after-work-kind of small talk...(Seriously! I heard people laughing - and at some point I got paranoid that they were laughing at me because of my rather bad French...). I wasted another eternity waiting for the guy to come back on the phone and here is what he told me: Please ask at the train station. Words of Wisdom, my friend, words of wisdom... Then I got disconnected.

If it hadn't been Johanna's phone, I would have smashed it by throwing it hard on the ground and jumping aggressively while swearing like a sailor! Oh and thanks, France, YOU WERE NO HELP AT ALL!! We wasted 5 Euro on nothing! (Just writing this down, made me mad all over again.)

We were left with nothing, so we got even more desperate. We scanned the internet again and found regional trains to take us to Nice and then from Nice further over the border. But regional trains are really slow, so we had to plan in an extra night in Nice... but they were our only hope.


From Barcelona (28th of March) we took a train to Perpignan and from there the fun with the regional trains began... Some of the trains were so full of people that they sat on the floor. Almost no fresh air to breathe. I think we had to change the train at least 4 or 5 times. I can't remember. I was much too concentrated on not throwing up because we always had backwards facing seats... It was terrible. One whole day passed just riding the train. Headache...Dizzy...

We finally arrived in Nice and looked for our hostel, lying down for a moment. The moment turned into a night (Giving me enough time to give a short review about the hostel: Hotel Pastoral, a cute little place with a nice and helpful owner and a self-catering kitchen. The included breakfast is not really big, but the rooms are clean and we had a bathroom inside our room for a change, which was really nice.)

Nizza / Nice

The next day (29th of March ) we went to the beach right away. It's about 10 min. walking distance from our hostel. On our way we made a little window shopping. The little boutiques had a cute collection, but nothing that really screamed: "Hey, buy me!" When we finally reached the beach, the sun was blazing and all that was left to do was to surrender the sun and lie down for a while.

The waves crashed on the beach.
The sun warmed our skin.
The sea gulls screached a little, but the sounds didn't really matter anymore.

We had found our Oasis:

Time to chill and just forget the world!

We literally did nothing for a few hours. So we decided to get some food (just a few fries at McDummy) and then decided to walk a little along the beach promenade. It was so gorgeous. A little alley lead us to the famous flower market. Even before we reached it, we could smell the beautiful flowers.
From one paradise to another.

The flower market is a real typical French market (or at least how you imagine it from all the movies). Colourful stands with all kinds of goods: Flowers, Soap, Fruits, Vegetables, Fish, Meat, Cheese, etc. People looking around, chatting and exchanging the newest gossip. Harsh, but very loveable hackeling over prices and discussions over the quality. It's fun to just watch the others, but the smell of these flowers! So amazing! I couldn't get enough of it. I knew right away that I had to take some of it home.

So I bought a little soap right away: Lilac! And some marmelade. (Yummy! )

We then continued our journey with another regional train over to Ventimiglia (a tiny Italian city). 
We finally made it over the border.