A Travellerspoint blog

Munich, Heidelberg and Frankfurt

overcast 16 °C

I have a friend!! YAY! On arrival in Munich, I met a New Yorker, an actress, a crazy lady and I love her...she has a ridiculous amount of personality and so Ive spent a lot of my German time travelling with this other solo female traveller- there are so few of us out there!! Maybe Mary and I will even work together in Spain in the summer.

Mary and I spent a few nights drinking a lot of beer in the very touristy beer halls of Munich and meeting other groups of tourists. There are so many Americans, not so many Aussies or Asians. The Englishgardens was a highlight of Munich, becase despite the temperature (of about 17 deg) there were a couple of naked men just lying on the grass drinking there beer...along with thousands of other clothed people playing games and drinking...a nice, relaxing experience. Munich is another beautiful city, with dozens of huge buildings, but the arcitecture is much simpler than Italian, probably more modern, and definitely cleaner. There is NO rubbish, no graffitti, even the dogs are behaving themselves...its quite crazy. Im getting a little tired of going into every building, so in Munich, Heidelburg and Frankfurt, I have just been walking through and enjoying the scenes from the outside.

I went south to Fussen one day, where there are some MASSIVE castles...MASSIVE and they have massve names... Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein (google their images). These were King Ludwig II...who just loved to be extravagant, so they are decorated everywhere (lots of swans) and just everything is ahead of its time...like the throne which reclines back!! Lazy king!

Next day we visited Dachau, the first concentration camp to be built. More than 200 000 were sent there, much more than 30 000 were killed...but they dont have accurate figures of the murders. At Dachau, it is silent, cold and everything has a horrible feeling. There is dust everywhere, but even outside you can smell a smoke. Interestingly, the crematorium was located just outside the camp where the wind blew in the direction of the camp, so the prisoners could even smell their fate. Everything here is a reminder of the horrors of the Nazi dictatorship, and Sachsenhausen in Berlin was no nicer. Walking through these camps and the museums really made me feel sick and on entering the pathology labs in Sachsenhausen, I just burst into tears...you really cant help it. So while Ive written many pages of these camps in my diary (and you can ask me about them later), i dont want to talk anymore about them here.

In Munich we also went to Olympic Park, which was really nothing special. Although we didnt see it, there was a memorial for the Israli athletes that were killed in the Olympics- I guess what makes Germany so fascinating is all of the recent and violent things that have happened, particularly AFTER WWII (You would think people would have learned some important lessons).

Heidelburg and Frankfurt are nice little cities to walk through, and when it was not raining, thats all I really did. In Heidelberg there is a castel that I explored and (the scientists are going to love this)...there was a musuem of PHARMACY. So it was pretty funning reading how medicine was so intrically associated with the Gods and religion. The highlight though (CDCO'ers...are you ready)...I saw the first centrifuge!!! It was wooden and held 4 large glass tubes in the open (not in a box or enclosure)...and guess what, you HAND SPUN it!!! WOW. So there was a handle to the side which you rotated and it spun the tubes (faster than what the person was spinning but still, not that fast). Can you imagine me spinning blood using a hand centrifuge! HAHAHAHA!!

Heidelberg also has the first universtiy (I think in the world, maybe just Europe). And in the early days the uni was given the right to excercise punishment over the students, so the headmaster set up a prison! If students were caught drinking, "womanising", or making loud noise at night they were asked to go the prison! At first the students hated it and some even quit their degree before going there (they were starved a little), but eventually it became a joke and students happily went there to play cards and get out of class. Its really very bizzare with graffiti EVRYWHERE.

Frankfurt is the only European city with skyscrapers...but it is hard to call them skyscrapers really. I met a guy fom Sweden who told me about the involvement of Sweden in WWII...very interesting. Sweden was neutral, but practically had to co operate with the Nazis...and his grandfather was working on a train stations and were terrified of the Nazi soldiers that came through.

Anyway, Berlin is next and was absolutely my most fascinating city.

Posted by gouramanis 15.04.2008 12:15 Archived in Germany Comments (2)

The nicer pieces of Prague

semi-overcast 18 °C

On a tour we saw the old Jewish cemetrty and walked passed some synagogues. The old town hall is a beautiful old building with a clock that no one really knows how to read and the old town square is gorgeous with great markets everyday, and kids concerts at night. The "Our Lady of Tyn" is a gothic church but since its building, there have been buildings built in front of it...so all you can really see is the two towers- one of which was destroyed and rebuilt with slightly narrower dimentions than the other...some think they were trying to depict Adam and Eve...Adam being bigger and more protective of Eve, the narrower tower and others think that the Czech cant measure.

Charles Bridge crosses the Vltata River- commissioned by Charles IV in 1357, he was a huge advocated for renaissance and science.

Wenceslas square was a place where many protests have taken place and student Jan Palach burned himself to death in 1969 to protest against the soviet invastion. This was also the focal point for the Velvet revolution, so called becasue the protests went so smoothly, with essentially no violence. In 1989, Alexander Dubcek announced the end of Czeckoslovakia communism...but today I think the square has been ruined with Mc Donalds, cabaret performances, beggars, pickpockets, taxis that rip you off, chain cafes...alll things capitalist.

David Cerny is famous for his strange and wacky sculptures...like "good King Wenceslas" mounted on a dead upsidedown horse- apparently how he "sees" Prague...I guess this can be interpreted in many ways.

I really enjoyed the Cubism museum. Cubism is an art form that uses shapes- particularly with sharp edges. Most were paintings of faces, bodies or still life. If they were painted normally, they were very simple...but mostly the images were quite enigmatic. The shapes can be flat, or with shaddow and depth and size and propotion of the object did not really matter. The Czecks are the only ones to have applied this to architecture and furniture and I found the museum building quite facinating...with mirrors and wallpeper with black and white areas making it almost confusing.

On my second full day in Prague I went to the castel- a massive series of museums, palaces and art galleries surrounding the great gothic St Vitus Cathedral, begun in 1934 and finished in 1929. The perimeter of the cathedral consistes of a series of chapels, the most outstanding of these being dedicated to Wenceslas...famous golden doors from the outside lead to this chapel. The old royal palace, St georges Basillica were other buildings of fame and most famous is the Golden Lane...full of tiny houses (now shops). In one building in this lane, you can go upstairs into a huge hallway to see hundreds of medievil amour and helmets with all kinds of crazy decorations. The torture chamber of the Prague castel had a famous prisoner called Maree Katrina (my middle name is Maree)...but I couldnt understand the story.

A black light theater production of Cats was also interesting, but really mostly for kids!! But they used fluoro gloves and elastics to make the cats and the scenery and it was very cleaverly done.

That was my experience of Prague...I would have liked just one more night there, but obviously I felt ridiculously uncomfortable after the first night, so now Im in Munich and I feel so much safer...tell you about BEAUTIFUL Munich soon...

Posted by gouramanis 31.03.2008 13:27 Archived in Czech Republic Comments (1)

Sunrise in Prague

The Golden Sickle Hostel

semi-overcast 15 °C

On arriving in Prague I loved it and went for a giant walk around the beautiful city. Finally I arrived back at my hostel at 11ish and went to bed. Prague is absolutely huge with people wanting to party at night, so backpackers were coming in and out of my room all night. There were two rooms in my section, I was in the first and to get into the second, backpackers had to go through the first, so everytime a group came home, they would stomp through my room, half drunk and I was woken up 5 times that night. The main group of about 10 British 20 year olds came back at about 6.30am. I kept my eyes closed and tried to keep dozing. then two Spaniads came into my room and started having showers. I heard a man whisper in a panicked voice "Where is the key?" and when I opened my eyes a slightly older guy was trying to get into the second room with his girlfriend...so I kept dozing. Seconds later the two English boys in my room who were sleeping bounded out of bed and shouted "Who the fuck are you? And what the fuck are you doing with my phone?" The Spaniads came in and started yelling too then. The robber looked bewildered and backed off, but one of the Spaniard was REALLY angry. The girl with the thief stood close to the door. He kept saying "Im sorry, Im not going to hurt you...Im sorry"By this time the two English boys, the two Spanish boys and I were screaming at them and approaching them. The thief pulled up his pant leg to his knees revealing huge bloody sores and angrily shouted "I came here to use your bathroom to wipe down my legs. This is HIV" Those words saved him, because Im sure the Spaniad was about to hit him, but he backed off then.

"Im sorry" said the thief, "No one was harmed, we will go outside now and leave you", but the Spaniad replied "No. Thats not going to happen".

I found the number for the police and we kept them in the bathroom, while calling. Seconds later, both of them were gone...apparently up the pipes outside the bathroom...which was at least a 5 meter climb!! The police came and the receptionist, who by this stage knew everything that was going on, found someone to communicate what had happened to the police. But because nothing had been stolen, notjhing could be done. Those 4 boys were checking out that day, so I wanted to leave the hostel too, but becasue Id paid, they just wanted to put me into another room- a second room where it would be harder to break in. So thats what I did. I told them Id heard the thief say.."Where is the key?" and the repose was that sometimes they get the keys to the rooms because backpakers lose them when they get drunk at the pub next door...but they would put me in a different section, where chances were the thieves did not have a key. I knew the whole situation was very dodgy, but the Spaniards convinced me that for tonight, this hostel would be the safest, because they would not come back that night. So I took the room. Later that receptionist told me those two thieves had hit the hostel before, and they were heroin addicts, who were looking for things to sell for their next shot. He said that they were harmless though. I was still very uneasy about the whole situation and kept my backpack inside my sleeping bag sheets that night.

When I returned to the hostel for my second night, there were about 5 American backpackers (studying in England) in both the 1st and the 2nd room. One who had been in the first room the night before had had her bag (with passport, wallet and phone) stolen!! She had been fast asleep when it happened though. When she went down to report it to reception (the SAME reception who had helped us with the police) he told her there had been a break in last night, but he didnt know anything about it. He told her it was pointless going to the police and obviously just didnt want to help her. But why? Was it because he was lazy, or was there something more shifty going on. Even now I feel as if the hostel possibly has something to do with these robberies...were the robbers really getting the keys from the pub??

After speaking to lots of people it seems that Prague is just FULL of thieves and it doesnt matter if you are at the cheapest hostel, or the Hilton (just at the Hilton, the maids would be the thieves). I heard of two others that were pick pocketed too...but there is little violent crime. Just desparate people wanting money. This has probably been somewhat caused by the political unrest over the last few years and the swarms of tourists that go to Prague (I read at one stage, Prague had a greater number of hotels than the number of streets!) It seems the police do nothing about the theft and those that live there are largely indifferent, it probably even pays to be a thief in Prague.

The last time these thieves hit the hostel (according to my untrustworthy receptionist) they were caught by one of the staff and beaten up. The robbers left their bags at the hostel while the police took them to the station, and a couple of hours later they were back at the hostel asking for their bags!!

Obviously this has put a massive negative spin on my opinion of Prague, but the city itself is quite lovely...Ill tell you about the nice things next time.

But if anyone is planning on going to Prague, please do not stay at the Golden Sickle Hostel and be very very careful...

Bye for now.

Posted by gouramanis 30.03.2008 12:29 Archived in Czech Republic Comments (0)

Vienna

snow 4 °C

Vienna was INCREDIBLY cold, so the things I saw in the week were a little limited. It gets really hard when there are snow storms after all, and the snow on the ground gets thick and icy...sure its a novelty, but it makes it really hard to see stuff. Actually, the snow changes a lot. It can be the shape of tiny peas, or it can be really large flat flakes, the size of my palm. Anyway, Vienna-

Schloss Schonbrunn, a summer palace that belonged to the Habsburgs, a very famous couple of a duke and his extremely pretty wife, Elizabeth. In the palace, there were several room dedicated to Elizabeth for her preparation for the day...to beautify herself...she was a bit of a weirdo, they served the family a 6 course dinner every night, and mostly she didnt eat anything so she could keep her tiny figure!! She was probably a little sick in the head. There was some beautiful halls in the palace, but the gardens were the most breathtaking.. very precise in the layout of the bushes and just nothing like what we see in Australia. In the gardens they also have the oldest zoo in the world. Some of it was awful, the cages that some of the animals were in were terrible...but otherwise it was a great zoo. They had three species of penguine, including the ones with the yellow feathers coming out of their head and a huge brown fluffy one. The penguines were the only animals that seemed comfortable...evey other animal was inside their home, because of the cold. My favourite animal was the anteater (because Id read about these in Roald Dahls book but never knew if they were real or not!)

Stephansdom was a 13th century gothic cathedral. Honestly, after a while, all the cathedrals seem the same. They are all intensly decorated with stained glass windows and statues of saints and paintings of the Madonna and child. The designer of the cathedral made a statue of himself and put it in the centre of the cathedral, in a stand for the priest...so as to watch over the building. From the tower, I could see most of Vienna and the roof of the cathedral, which is decorated with tiles making up two eagles. There are catacombs here as well (actually there are catacombs all over Europe). These ones stored not only the dukes, but also all of the bones from the people who died in the plague. They were in massive rooms...simply filled with bones. Most of them had a light so we could see inside, but there was one that was pitch black. When a photo was taken and the flash went off it lit up the hundreds of human bones and skulls and honestly it was incredibly frightening.

The neo-gothic rathaus ("rat house") or house for parliament looked like another castel with more beautiful gardens to wonder through. And although I went to the Sigmund Freud museum, it was not very interesting...just spoke about his life. On the other hand I loved the Natural history museum (suprise suprise) which was full of crazy rocks (Mum and Dad- Chris and Mio would have had a ball here because there were simply hundreds of geological rocks). And there were dinosaur bones and other remnants of ancient fish and sea critters.

Enough about Vienna, onto Prague...

Posted by gouramanis 28.03.2008 14:07 Archived in Austria Comments (0)

...more of Salzburg...

snow -16 °C

The "Sound of Music" tour was a really nice experience. The bus took us to a region called Salzkammergut (I think), which is simply exquisite- massive mountains, sparkling lakes...the only problem was it was sub zero degrees, and the snow in my hair and my wet, freezing feet made it difficult. The snow on the Alps is wonderful and on this day people were disappointed that it was not a clear day, like it is shown in the film. But because the clouds are so low on the mountains and snow is covering the trees there was a mysterious feel about it...you couldnt see mountains entirely. Actually it reminded me of the Musical Phantom of the Opera and other productions where they use CO2 to create the effect of water...it was like that, like the mountains were hiding secrets.

So if you want to know some facts about the film (and many people do not want to know these facts) then keep reading..

Do you all remember the scene where the Von Trapp children and Maria are in a boat on a lake and they fall in. This scene had to be filmed twice and the first time, the littlest girl (Lisle) nearly drowned, because the boat was overturned on top of her.

Lots of the scenes in the film used two sceneries, but made it look as if it was the same place. We visited lots of the scenes used in the film, including the mountain that Maria ran down at the beginning of the film. That mountain is 10km away from the town and the abbey (but it took Maria about 3 minutes to run down to the abbey in the film).

The real von Trapp family (the family the movie is based on) actually did not climb any mountains to escape the Germans, the theatre the children sang in was next door to a train statioin...and they caught a train to Italy, then a ship to the USA, and with very little money started a life there. The mountain they are seen to be climbing over in the film to escape the Nazis actually leads to Germany. This lack of realism is why actually Astrians do not like the film. (In fact I met an Austrian boy on the train who had barely even heard of the film!!)

Probably the cutest thing I learned was about the Eldelweisse. (The song has always been one of my favourites!!) An Eldelweisse is a white flower that only grows on the top of a mountain. Traditionally, Austrain boys would climb to the top of a mountain to pick the flower to give to their girlfriends, to show their love. But many men have been killed trying to climb these mountains, how tragic!!

The other main attraction I visited in Salzburg was the Schloss Helbrun Palace, which I learned quite a bit of history there...basically the different people and states that have ruled Salzburg...next for blogging is Vienna.

Posted by gouramanis 28.03.2008 13:31 Archived in Austria Comments (2)

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