Saturday, April 30, 2011

Krakow... and on to Prague

Our third day started off with a trip to the Auschwitz concentration camp, the site of horrid and unspeakable acts against humans during World War II. Auschwitz is in fact three separate camps however one does not remain since it was bombed by the Allies in WWII. Even being here I can barely even begin to imagine life for millions. It's horrible but it remains to remind us of the past. On our way back we were told by our organizer that the Royal couple had been married. I found it funny because every English person I have met on this trip thus far has stated that they don't care about the wedding. They however loved the fact that they had a 3-day work week. After returning we ventured to our new hostel which was fairly small and really nice. We kept it a low key night since the past two nights were... well... yeah, those kinda nights. The next day we had to be up and ready to go since we had a train to catch.

It turns out the train we had to catch was not possible since the train we needed to get there left way earlier than we had realized. What I'm trying to say is the top ticket we had said our train departed at 12:05pm. That ticket was in fact our connecting train and not our original destination. Whoops! Oh well after little hassle we were on our way. After 2 train connections and 8 hours we were in Prague. Our next goal, to get to the hostel. Our hostel is located a ways away from the main train station and we had multiple options for getting here however the easiest and best way was by taxi. We managed to follow some signs that led us to a taxi cab line where we approached three taxi cab drivers. We had been advised by TJ's book that you should ask how much the ride is going to cost so you don't get hustled. One cab driver showed us a placard and said it would cost about 1580 Czech crowns (koruna). With our quick match skills this would come out to be about 100 dollars. Say to hell with that we head back in with one of the other taxi cab drivers following us attempting for us to name our price. Say we would return with money we left hastily. After wondering a bit, finally resting a bit, and realizing I have no cell phone coverage here we made for another taxi cab location to which was WAY better. We approached the driver and gave him the address asking how much it would cost to get us there. He replied about 500 Czech crowns. SOLD! In no time we had made it to our hostel where we now rest. Good night!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Krakow - Part II

So we awoke definitely feeling the affects of the night before. After managing to get moving we headed back to old town to take the other tour which ventured through the Jewish Quarter, ghettos, and Schindler's Factory. We had a new guide but still was a great guy. We traveled along making our way to the Jewish Quarter where we saw the old and new synagogues, famous locations for the filming of Schindler's List, and the Jewish Ghettos where they were forced to live until the liquidation. The guide showed us all the great pubs and places to be (apparently the Jewish Quarter is a happening place). Finally we saw what was left of Schindler's Factory. The factory itself had been destroyed but the business office remained and has since become a museum. The only actual thing that remained was an entrance gate. We also learned here how the movie glorified Oskar Schindler more than what actually took place. But that's the movie business. We finally took a tram home and got back in time for dinner. We ran into Camille and Ben and we decided we go grab a beer later since we didn't want to repeat last night. At dinner we also meet Ryan and Hunter (two Americans, one a Texan!, who are studying for a Master's MBA in Dublin, Ireland. They mentioned they wanted to head out too. So after dinner all 6 of us got on the tram and headed for Alchemia in the Jewish Quarter. All I'm gonna say is it turned into a good night over beer, shots of vodka, and good company. Our tour guide from earlier showed up and remembered us so he joined in. So far the best time has been meeting people from all over and making friends. Before long we headed home since we had an early morning ahead of us.


After arriving in Krakow and establishing ourselves in one of the best hostels ever (in my opinion) TJ remembered of a free walking tour of the city. We decided we hop on over there and check it out. I must say that the tour was worth it. First of the guides are from the actually area, they have to take an 8 month course, and pass a state exam in order to be guides. The difference for them is that they do it for free and you decide at the end how much to pay. So they took us through the old town showing the last standing walls of the castle and the guard towers. We walked down the Royal Road to the town square near St. Mary's Church. We then made our way to the Bishop's Palace where John Paul II lived as was the active bishop during his time. We then headed towards the Royal Castle and the Cathedral on top of Wawel Hill. Our final stop was the statue of the Dragon of Krakow where legend says he terrorized the city. The king offered virgin sacrifices for him to eat. Finally the only virgin left was his daughter but he offered her up as a prize for anyone who could defeat the dragon. All brave warriors came but were killed in their attempts. Finally a poor cobbler's apprentice stuffed a lamb with sulphur and fed it to the dragon. The dragon's stomach became so upset that he ran to the river and drank and drank until he exploded. So the cobbler's apprentice married the princess and lived happily ever after. Anyways that concluded our walking tour which if you are ever in Krakow, Poland I highly recommend it. We returned to the old town and stopped to get some pierogis at a recommended restaurant. Hmmm...they were delicious. While there we met a new friend from South Korea named Garam. She was visiting friends before she had to go home which seemed to be what a lot of people were doing. Once their studies were done they wanted to travel before having to return home. I thought that was neat. That night we ate dinner at the hostel (they prepare it every night but they will soon end it). After a salad buffet, some pasta, and sangria TJ and I decided we would join in on the Polish beer and vodka tasting. So we headed over to the junior hostel where the event was held. We were in a secluded room with 10 other people and they had some music playing and our "guide" informed us we'd be having about 10 shots of vodka. It was also here we made new friends from France, Ben and Camille. Now we were expecting straight up vodka made in Poland however here they have lots of flavored vodkas. We had cherry, raspberry, hazelnut, lemon, mint, and one they called the Maddog shot. It's a shot filled with vodka, raspberry syrup, and tabasco. Now most didn't like it but I thought it was quite unique and tasty. It was definitely something different. After the shots we headed to a bar where they served beer in these tall "pipes" and they place them on stands with taps. We amongst the 13 of us we had two pipes. Each pipe held 5 liters of beer. Once those were done we headed to a club where it was just packed on a Wednesday night. Continuing our fun we left and made our way looking for a bar. We stopped in one place had two shots and left since we felt it was time to go. After stopping for a kebab (I got mine wrapped in a tortilla) we headed back to end the evening.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Berlin: Last Night

This one is a little late but I owe that to the things that were involved. Our last day in Berlin was TJ's birthday so we were going to go out with a bang. Our day began with going to the train station to book a reservation for the train to Krakow, Poland. It turns out our pass only works until the German border than we needed to purchase an additional pass. Nonetheless this part of the trip planning was taken care of. We headed back towards the hostel but not before seeking out some lunch. Our next move was to find a hostel in Krakow to which TJ took on the task and had emailed a place called Greg & Tom's Hostel. We figured they'd have room and would send us an confirmation email by the next morning (more on this later.) We then decided to relax until 6pm when we made reservations at a recommended German restaurant. To our delight it was very delicious and great local brews, especially the hefeweizen. As the night rolled around our hostel was having a free beer special. Basically they would tap a keg and serve it free until it was empty. We made our way down to discover they open up an hour later than what we were told. Therefore we had no choice but to go get our own (luckily a guy just a few shops over had some good stuff.) After kicking back in the lobby of the hostel and talking with a couple from Sweden the bar opened up and down we went. Beer after beer after beer led me to talking to a couple of guys who attend the University of Texas at Austin who were studying abroad. We hung out for most of the night talking and drinking before I came to the conclusion enough had been had. So I called it a night. We woke up the next day still with no email hoping that by the time the train got to Poland (10 hour train ride) we would have something. A call from TJ to the hostel confirmed that they did in fact have his email and we had a room (all this without them even asking his name??? hmmm...) So we boarded the train and off we were for Poland.

Once we got to Krakow we exited and pretty much followed the crowd. Immediately the train station turned into a huge mall and we figured we'd gone too far. After a few phone calls to the hostel we made it there. As we got in they said they didn't see an email but they did have room for us for 3 nights (we planned for 4 so we are gonna have to do something about that later). As they were checking us in they mentioned they still had dinner left if we wanted some. It sounded good to me. Breaded boneless pork chops, mashed potatoes, and salad. The staff here is really, REALLY nice and helpful. They gathered the three of us (a girl named Karif from New Zealand had arrived late too looking for a place) and told about the town and various tours we can take. So after all was said and done we were in Krakow, Poland, we had a good dinner, and we had a place to crash.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Berlin: part 2


Today we started by figuring out what to see and where to go. We headed out to see the Berlin Wall Memorial. This was something to see and learn about. We returned to the hostel to figure out our next move. Luckily TJ had talked to a guy who had mentioned a walking tour of the city. So we decided to tag along. Matt, the tour guide, was an awesome one at that. We started off my heading to what is known as the "Island of Museums" where there are literally multiple museums on an island created by the division of the river. Among other things we saw were Humboldt University, a Nazi book-burning site, old churches, the site of Hitler's "grave", and another portion of the Berlin Wall. After the good 5.5 hour walk we returned to rest only to go wandering about in search of good German food. With both recommended places being packed we settled for a cheap yet good pizza before returning to the hostel.

Saturday, April 23, 2011



Well the day started off like any other. Wake up, shower, and pack. We headed down to the bar/cafe and got the usual hostel breakfast; cereal, fruit, breads, cheese, ham, salami, and hard boiled eggs. Afterwards we decided to take off for Centraal Station to see if we could get on a train to Berlin. The agent said we could however we had to change trains in Hilversum with only a 4 minute window. Luckily our terminal was on the same platform just opposite sides. So from there we trekked on for about 5.5 more hours before getting to Berlin with some stops along the way. Once we got to out stop we headed for the tourist info center we were guided to our hostel and bought passes for the subway. Here's were it got a little interesting. We headed down what we thought was the right platform and got on a train. Common sense never factored in at this point. Before long we decided to get off and figure out what the hell was going on. We realized we had hopped on the wrong thing and now we were "uh-oh" mode. We noticed only one subway went through here and we should take that to get back to where we needed to. However this route was an out-of-the-way roundabout way of getting to our destination. We finally arrived at our stop and found our hostel. We settled in and then headed out to grab some dinner. We looked for a place close by and within reason. We decided on Maya, a Mexican restaurant and apparently Indian restaurant too. Hungry nonetheless I ate the burrito despite it's complete lack of any attempt at some authenticity. But as hungry as I was I took what I could get. We returned to the hostel to crash our. Overall this hostel is really, really nice. Great location with everything brand new yet I believe all of it was purchased at Ikea. A few of the hostels have been that way. One of the drawbacks thus far is the location. In the middle if everything, yes including the noise of the busy street outside.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Amsterdam: Part 2

Well we got up, cleaned up, packed and headed for breakfast. Afterwards we relaxed in the lounge a bit before purchasing some museum and tram passes at a discounted rate from the hostel. The museum passes also let you bypass the waiting line which is great. Our first stop was the Rijkmuseum. This place had a collection of Dutch artifacts and paintings. The artifacts included old musket pistols and rifles, lots of ceramic decorative pieces, etc. Then there were the paintings. The coolest was seeing Rembrandt's work. They were truly masterpieces. After that we headed back tour hostel to relax for about an hour until we could check in to our new hostel. We then set out in search of it. Now when they say this place was brand new I didn't think this new. In fact they are still working on the place. Guys are running around with paint and tools. Alot of chairs and towels are stacked downstairs and there's furniture in the hall ways. The bright side is the beds are new and were made when we got here. There's an in-room bath and shower that is really nice and fancy-like just like one would find in a nice hotel.

So apparently it seems that our hostel just opened today. Crazy and it seems they move fast for setting up. Our roommates are a 54 year old guy who is staying one night to meet up with a friend from Paris and then they will travel elsewhere to see some family. The other guy is from Minnesota (small world I know) who happened to be in line behind us when checking in and saw my driver's license. He is a frequent traveler here before heads to Northern Iraq to visit family. So after some small talk in our brand new room we headed out to the Vondelpark where it is definitely something I have never seen except for maybe at a concert of festival but tons of people just come to the park and chill. Its a crazy sight. Afterwards we grabbed some food and then headed for the Red Light District. Yeah this place is something else. Girls simply stand in the window very scantily dressed and get customers. The coffee shops sale marijuana just as a everything else. We then headed back and after a bit of roaming around to call it a day.


Our last night in Brussels consisted of us going to the Delirium Cafe once again. We made it to the top bar where is more laid back and chill than the ground floor. We enjoyed a few beers before returning downstairs. We got a few more beers and found that the bar wasn't as packed as before. Then we realized that it was a Monday and not the weekend. So we proceeded to finish our beers and head back to the hostel.

We awoke the next day, got packed, and grabbed some of the free breakfast there at the hostel. We then set off in search of the Metro (Brussels subway system) to find a way to the Brussels Mid Train Station. For awhile we were wandering around like a chicken with its head cut off. Finally I found a help desk and they were able to set us on our way after activating our Eurail Passes. All we needed to do was fill in the information and hop on the train, first class! Before long we were on our way to Amsterdam. Minus one train change in Rosendaal we made it. My first thoughts on this place is there are a lot of people. And apparently you are nobody unless you have a bicycle. Yep, a bicycle. They are EVERYWHERE. Oh yeah and there's the occasional smell of pot in the air. Still getting use to the fact that is normal around here. Again wandering around we found the Amsterdam tram and made it down to the hostel. We decided to setup or room and then head out.

We strolled out through Vondelpark where tons of people ride through or kick back  on the grass. It is definitely a chill place to lay down and people watch, read a book, or anything really. We then ventured across the way to where we noticed police had blocked off the canal waterway (there are lots of canal cruises you can take) and there was a diver searching for something or someone. Everyone gathered around and after awhile we decided to leave. By that time they still hadn't found whatever it was they were looking for. We headed over to a largely crowded place to grab a drink and a beer. Afterwards we wandered around the area just taking it in. Before long we headed back to the hostel and meet two Americans from Boston backpacking through Europe like us. Soon I was in contact with our Australian friend Andrew who was in Amsterdam and wanted to meet up. So we told him our hostel had cheap beer at the bar and he said he'd come down. So TJ and I strolled in and grabbed a few pitchers of beer. Before long James and Malena (Americans) came down and we chatted over a few beers. Around 11pm Andrew showed up and we went out. We found a little local bar that was quite happening so we ventured in. They had quarter pint beers for 1.50 euros so we kept them coming. Pretty soon the whole bar was a dance floor mixed with American music and local music with just about everyone dancing. Afterwards we hit up some late night at a kebob shop where we had some fantastic dish that I can't even remember the name but I remember the taste. Afterwards I decided to call it a night and TJ and Andrew headed out elsewhere.

Monday, April 18, 2011


Well it turns out last night was low key. TJ slept soundly and I ventured out to have another mitraillette. Afterwards I returned to the hostel to call it a night.

Our third day in Belgium started out with us checking out of our room again, putting our stuff in the luggage room, and heading out to see the sights. We started off by going to the Botanical Garden not too far from here. It was a pretty neat to see with all the statues and plants all around. Afterwards we made our way towards the Atomium which is considered to be the Belgium Eiffel Tower. It is a statue of nine metal balls which represent an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times. But we could not seem to find it according to the map. When then headed for other sights recommended by our map but for some reason we could not find them. After trying to find them we finally gave up and headed south towards the main tourist area where we stopped for lunch at O'Reilly's Pub. We then set out to find Use It which is a tourist information area. We needed to get a new map since the one we had was ruined with spilt beer. Then we headed for Celtica, a pub where happy hour starts at 1:00pm and beer is generally 2 euros for a pint, the cheapest in town and they show football (soccer for us Americans) all the time on the TVs. After a few beers we set out to find a place called Oldstar Games. This place supposedly has old games from all the old consoles that you can buy. Along the way we figured we had to try a real Belgian waffle and I have to say we don't think we can ever have another waffle again unless it's from here. We made our way down and found the Oldstar Games store to be closed. Disappointed we headed back to a place that was recommend by our prior roommates and the map called Moeder Lambic. This place has 46 beers on tap with some alternating. This place was fantastic. The waiters are walking beer encyclopedias. They seem to know everything about beer especially the beer they serve. I highly recommend this place as well. We had to try a special beer called Cantillon Gueuze. It is brewed locally and only locally, it has a sour taste like champagne, and we found it very good. It was definitely something different but great to the taste buds. After wards we wandered back towards the hostel to get our new rooms but not before stopping to get something to eat. TJ ordered the mitraillette and I got the frites with spicy sauce. The frites or fries are another Belgian delicacy that are highly recommended. So far our plans for the night are to return to the Delirium Cafe.

Sunday, April 17, 2011


Well we made our way out and to our dismay the book that had referenced this place had it in a wrong location. After some wandering around and the use of data roaming (which will come to haunt me later financially I discovered...) we found the Delirium Cafe. Oh man is this bar awesome. Its tucked away in a narrow alley with Floris Tequila next door where they apparently server over 500 tequilas and mezcals. I must say they did have an elaborate selection of tequila. The place right across from the cafe supposedly have hundreds of varieties of Absinthe. Anyways, back to the cafe. Outside there were tables for people to gather at. Inside there was an upstairs room (which apparently has 10 different beers on tap), a downstairs (more beers on tap), and the main level where we stayed. This place was in fact packed when we got there. The decor was awesome. There were some tables that were normal wooden picnic types and some where huge, old keg barrels with high chairs. Some of the booths people sat at where old beer vats. I will have to go back to get photos since I had forgotten my camera that night. Oh well, the hardship I have to endure, hahaha. While there TJ and I got well acquainted with our new roommates. Alan is from Taiwan and has been traveling for about a year and a half all over the world. Andrew is from Australia who is also touring Europe for a few months. So far it seems everyone we've met has been just awesome. I also got well acquainted with the beer here. I have to say that I did not have  one bad beer here. This is definitely the beer capital of the world. I even have to add one to my favorites now called Kasteel Rouge which is an 8% beer that is cherry flavored. Really good in my book. Well the four of us were enjoying our beers and talking about when a random group of three guys from Amsterdam asked if they could join us (we did get lucky and grab one of those old keg tables with 7 chairs around it) and we said sure. As stated earlier we learned they were from Amsterdam and they drove 2.5 hours just to come down for the night. So we all drank the night away. After awhile we decided to call it a night and head back. Along the way we stopped at Fritland and TJ and I split a mitraillette which is a baguette with hamburger, lettuce, grilled onions, fries, and spicy mayonnaise. DELICIOUS! I plan on going back.

The next day we had to be out by 11 since we had to switch rooms. TJ and I grabbed some of the free breakfast here at the hostel. Afterwards TJ, Andrew, and myself set out to find a cafe to chill with free wifi. We stopped at a few places along the hoping for to find free wifi when I recommended a place I read about and so decided to head there. Sure enough we found it and set up shop. During this time TJ and I decided to figure out our next move. In agreement we decided Amsterdam for three nights but we were only able to book one night but we figure we'll worry about the other two later. After a few hours Andrew left (who was headed to Antwerp) and TJ and I set out to see Brussels. We got to sew a few of the old buildings and even the really famous peeing boy statue. We continued our trek and found the market to which you can find quite a few restaurants, chocolate shops, beer shops, and souvenir stores. After relaxing for a bit in the Grand Market ( I think that's what it was called) we head back to our hostel to get our new room and set up. We decided to rest a bit before hitting up Brussels at night again.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

London: Last Night

I apologize in advanced for a lack of details. I'm saving that for a later write-up or stories to share over some beers. If it will help see TJ's blog at

Moving on our last night in London was nothing too wild. After going back to the hostel to rest our feet earlier we had arranged a meeting with our new friends from France. We decided to go out and grab something to eat and get a beer or two at a local pub. However it turns out they had already eaten. So we ventured out afterwards and TJ and I got a quick bite to eat at the local McDonald's. All I have to say is the American McDonald's is better. After that we hauled over to a local pub but found it to be completely packed. This is how the night would be for all the pubs seeing as how it was a Friday night. So luckily after some wandering around we found a pub with a few open seats. So all four of us ordered a beer and talked. After all that was said and done we had exchanged information to keep in contact and Mag had insisted that when we get to France that we give her a call so she can show us around. Soon we returned to the hostel and chilled in the common room and talked more. Before long we decided to call it a night and we headed back to our room and packed up as much as we could since we would be leaving the next morning.

We got up pretty early and got everything in order. We headed out to find our bus station which turned into quite the haul with those backpacks. We found our bus and checked in even after their system shutdown. Stupid Windows software. Anyway, The bus ride would be about 8 hours long. The crazy part was going across the English Channel, or under it really. The bus drove into a train car and each bus had its own car for the 35 minute ride under the channel. Once we were across we made our way to the Brussels station. Here I found quickly you had to pay to use the public restroom and that most people didn't pay and used the restroom anywhere they could. Even right out side! Not being able to use my phone for data really sucks. We weren't sure of where we were when we walked out of the station. We figured our bearings and took off hoping luck was on our side. We lucked out and found the directions google had given me the day before. However the area was shady. The streets smelled of urine, there were homeless people, and there were the prostitutes in the windows along the walk. Then out of nowhere its a busy, decent area. Finally after biting the bullet I decided to use data roaming to find where we needed to be. Soon we found our hostel, a much better place than the last one. However there are more school kids, young kinds, running around and being loud. Anyways, we got our room and met some new roommates who are really cool. I told them about Delirium and their beer and this place I read about and it seems everyone is sold on going there. I'm definitely in!

Friday, April 15, 2011

London: Continued...

After much sightseeing TJ headed for a nap while I headed to the common room. Here I started working on uploading photos and writing for this blog. After awhile TJ came in and joined me to work on his blog. After awhile various people came in and we started to talk with them. During these conversations I was convinced to join everyone at 10pm downstairs to go to some clubs. Meanwhile TJ had decided to hit up the pubs with our new roommate Mike from Colorado. As for the clubs we had a good deal for 8 pounds we got into both clubs for free with limited free shots and drinks. To sum up this night I had a great night. Lots of dancing. As soon as I get a better Internet connection I will start uploading them.

The next morning we had to figure out where we were going next and how we were going to get there. So after some research we booked an 8 hour bus ride and a hostel in Brussels, Belgium. After that we ran to get some breakfast at a cafe around the corner. I told TJ that the day before in the common room we were invited to join some new friends for a tour of the National Gallery (paintings). So we headed off around 11am and saw some very nice paintings. I got to see some of Van Gogh's paintings including his famous Sunflowers painting. Afterwards TJ and I decided to split off and head for the aquarium however the entrance fee was a bit steep. So we decided to rest until we managed to gather enough strength to make it back to the hostel to rest up.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


London: First Night
So the first night in a hostel was definitely an experience. The noise was intense but I've been through rougher times. We met two roommates and had a brief encounter with a couple who came in, made their beds, and never returned that we saw. One guy is American, from Vermont, who is here working and going to school to be a tailor. Apparently he's been in Europe for more than a decade spending the better part of it in Italy. The other guy is a Spaniard named Alvaro who is here for work and to learn English.

London: Second Day
We awoke well rested fairly early and decided that today would we would venture out to see some sights. We started off by me leading us aimlessly around until we figured out bearings and we set out towards Buckingham Palace. We came to Green Park for a small rest and decided to venture to Hyde Park. According to the map the park was huge however as we started walking through it it felt that the map had exaggerated. Turns out I was wrong. After holing up in a cafe to escape the sprinkling and witnessing the Royal Guards paraded around on horses we headed back towards Buckingham Palace. We arrived to find a huge crowd for which we did not know why. According to a policewoman the changing of the guard was to take place soon. So we decided to stick around and watch as well. Afterwards we relaxed our feet a bit in Green Park trying to decide what to do. Something I did not research enough was exactly how we were going to get to mainland Europe since our Eurorail Pass does not work in England. But as our attitude has been we figure we'd look into it later. After a few minutes rest we headed back to our hostel to rest a bit. After a nice nap we headed back out this time to see Westminister Abbey, Big Ben, Parliament, and the London Eye on the Thames River. After seeing those we headed back through the Underground back to our hostel to rest and figure out our next move. The advice I offer from today's adventure is to avoid the telephone booth's here in London. I decided to take a photo in one but quickly found out how much they've been used as restrooms.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Finally! - London: Day 1

When I say finally I really mean to say already? It seems just like yesterday that I was leaving Minnesota southbound for Texas. Well I kinda did. Anyways TJ and I made it to London despite the crowded planes and long lines at the UK Customs checkpoint. We managed to gather our stuff, get an Oyster Pass (a pass that allows for transportation on various English modes of public transportation), and get to our hostel. Hostels really are college dorms without the studying and lots of people from all over. They also weren't kidding when they said that the Piccadilly Backpackers hostel was located in the center of things, noisy too. In any case today has been just a "let's get situated" day since we are both tired from the 10 hours of flight and 1 hour or so of getting to the hostel. So after a day of rest tomorrow promises to be a full day. I'm just wondering how long it will take "trouble" to find me across the pond...