Saturday, 17 December 2011

The land of cheese, clogs and tulips, among other things...

Ahhh the land of cheese, clogs, windmills, bicycles and... other glorious things! The Netherlands! This was our last country to visit on our first tour and what a great one to finish with.

Upon arriving to the Netherlands we hopped on some "granny bikes" and rode through the town of Edam. It was such a nice place to explore but, extremely difficult to control the bike and not end up driving into the canal. Then we went to a cheese and clog factory in a very rural area and shown how both Edam cheese and clogs are made. Then, AMSTERDAM!

We had three days and two nights in Amsterdam to partake in a very WIDE variety of activities. The red light district, the coffee shops, and the nightlife were very, lets say, unconventional, but once I was able to "do like the Romans" it felt quite liberating. That is exactly why the Dutch have allowed soft drugs and prostitution to be legal. They want visitors to feel liberated when they come here, and most certainly do.

Apart from the social life, the history in Amsterdam was very rich as well. Visiting Anne Frank's house was amazing to see. After reading the book and trying to grasp what that family actually went through, being in the Secret Annex put a lot into perspective. Her magazine cut-outs were still glued to her bedroom walls. Again, very hard to wrap my mind around the fact that this actually happened, but being there helped bring it to earth a bit more.

Until Ireland, enjoy the last few from Europe!

-Em :)

Early morning in Amsterdam on the canal.

Love the irony in the graffiti. 

Liked both the color and saturation reduction... humm

A few bike in de Dam, central square in Amsterdam.
Couldn't decide again, which one do you like?

The other side of Amsterdam, there was no coffee served in these coffee shops haha

All about their waffles, pancakes and poffertjes.

We found an amazing cafe on the canal for lunch.

Delicious dutch salad, with real Edam goat cheese!

Friday, 16 December 2011

Through the Austrian Alps to Deutschland

"The hills are alive with the sound of music..." I could literally hear Julie Andrews singing as we drove through the Austrian Alps, not just because of the majestical scenery but because we actually had The Sound of Music soundtrack playing on the bus :)

We did not stop in Austria at all, but had to take in as much as we could through the bus windows. I was sad we did not, but it made me vow to come back to Austria some day very soon. Words could not describe how beautiful the mountains truly were. 

Then onto Germany for the very first day of Oktoberfest!!! How lucky were we to arrive at this very momentous day. I have always wanted to partaking in this glorious beer-drinking, pretzel-eating extravaganza, my dreams were coming true! Munich was a really cool city, but seemed like such a drastic contrast to the previous European countries we had been travelling through. I could say more "Americanized", although I do not mean this in an offense way or want to imply that there was a lack of German culture. The city itself just seemed less foreign compared to the others. I really liked it though, and I loved the beer-halls! :) That was a very cultural experience!

To completely change pace, the next morning we made our way to Dachau. Those couple of hours spent in the concentration camp will always be one of the more important events in my life. Describing how I felt during that raining morning is very difficult. The words "sobering" or "overwhelming" come to mind, but neither do it justice. A mix of "mournful", "eye-opening" and "haunted" are also mixed up in there. Needless to say, it is an experience I feel that everyone should experience. It is easy to learn about the holocaust through books and videos, but when its reality is so far away, time-wise and geographically, the severity can be overlooked. One cannot ignore the massive tragedy when standing exactly where hundreds of thousands of prisoners were tortured and killed.

At this point, I feel that the photos need to keep talking for me.



Austrian Alps.

Can you not picture yodelers and goats here?

Picnic lunch in Munich, "Gluten Frei" bread!

Oktoberfest: "Where even 10 year olds can chug a stein of beer."

The Glockenspiel!

Entrance to Dachau.
"Arbeit Machi Frei" - Work Sets You Free
This slogan was seen on most concentration camps.

Nazi soldier tower.

Ever step along the grounds evoked a new feeling.

Toward the end of the war they crammed thousands of prisoners in these beds.

The majestic Rhine Valley River.

Tasting some Rhine Valley Riesling 

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

I found love in Italia, twice... their names were Pasta and Risotto :)

Ahhhh Italia! I could say almost every place was my favorite for its own unique reasons, but there was something about Italy that was very special to me. It was a place I have always wanted to visit, and maybe due to my Italian ancestry I felt drawn there. Either way, the experiences I had in Florence, Rome and Venice were completely unforgettable and some of my favorites of the trip. I definitely want to go back again and spend more than a week there.

One night, in Rome, I was speaking with a lady and a man who were working at the "Beergarden" in our campsite (yes, camping in Rome was like no camping I have ever experienced, swim up pool bar, mechanical bull and all!). She was saying how being a native English speaker guaranteed you a good job in Rome right now. She said corporations were hiring lots of Canadians and American to teach English to their employees. That sparked an idea in my head... :)

The architecture, history and FOOD in Italy were absolutely fantastic! Not to mention, the sound of the Italian language had to be the most romantic sound to my ears. Most of the time I had no idea what anyone was saying, but could have listened to it for hours on end. Amy can testify that I tried to speak what little Italian I know as much as possible, whether or not I was making any sense at all, haha.

Ok, again, here are the photos of my Italian adventure:

-Em :)

It really wasn't that big... :)

Leaning tower of Pisa!
Beautiful view of Florence as the sun was setting.

Basilica Santa Croce, Florence, Italy.

Ponte Vecchio over the Arno River, Florence.

San Lorenzo Market, beautiful handmade leather and gold crafts.

On our way to the leather factory in Florence.

The stage being set up in Piazza Santa Croce for a George Michael concert! haha

Amy with Lydia and Jaclyn, two awesome Aussie girls we met :)

Statue of Perseus with the head of Medusa by Benvenuto Cellini in Piazza della Signoria, Florence.

Fountain of Neptune in Piazza della Signoria in front of the Palazzo Vecchio.
Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II, Rome, Italy.

Bonjourno Fontana di Trevi :)

Toss one coin for a wish, and a second to ensure your return to Rome, we failed: Amy didn't toss anything, I threw one and it hit someone down below... eeeee

The Pantheon, Rome, Italy.
Our own Roman Holiday :)

The building's exteriors were so beautiful. (Viewer warning: lots of doorways and window photos coming up.)
I could get used to watching the sun rise behind the Colosseum :) Beautiful morning in Rome!

Where it all went down.. "Cake, or death??"
Listening to our tour guide, with a very strong Italian accent, in the Coliseum.

Rubble in the Roman Forum.

Spaghetti Napolitano, mmmmm

My delicious seafood risotto at our entertaining lunch date :)

We loved this restaurant, the staff was amazing and the food was exactly what you'd expect in Rome :)

Heading into the St. Peter's Square, Vatican City.

Sunset behind Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute in Venice.
St. Mark's Basilica, Venice, Italy.

St. Mark's Basilica, St. Mark's Square.
Campanile in Piazza San Marco.

Bella :)

Catching some sun in Venice.

Warned you, doorway.

Getting lost in Venice.

Windows.. haha
Grand Canal, Venice

Hello Venice.

Venetian Beggar.

I love Italia :)