This will turn into a post trip blog actually since a lot of the entries will probably be finished in Shanghai or back in Sydney. The main problem is that China blocks blogger so I won't be able to update.
I sure like many are not interested in my travel exploits after my actual journey but it's a thing of personal prosperity that I finish this project.
I'm in Berlin and heading for Shanghai tomorrow. Hope to see you all back in Sydney in 2 weeks.
Monday, February 4, 2008
This will turn into a post trip blog actually since a lot of the entries will probably be finished in Shanghai or back in Sydney. The main problem is that China blocks blogger so I won't be able to update.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
I got woken up early again by the 2 jap chicks who though waking up at 6:30 would be a great idea. So they got up and decided to turn the lights on and I was like Muthafucka!!!! ARRGH. Anyhoo so I didn't get up till about 8:30, had breaky, finished packing, checked out and some quality internet time. I also realised it was raining and I groaned at the prospect of lugging my shit across cobblestones in the rain. I guess this is when backpacks come in handy.
Luckily once I got to the train station the rain had stopped and it wasn't as arduous as expected, however getting a seat on the train was somewhat more difficult. I entered on the wrong carriage and had to lug my shit through the reserved cabins before finally finding a free seat opposite an old lesbian lady and across from two German skanks, one of which shouldn't be allowed near any more make up but still managed to keep applying it throughout the journey whilst being on the mobile the entire time.
The train trip was nice again, saw a bit of snow here and there, lovely little villages. Makes one all warm and fuzzy until you realise you won't ever fit in the village since a. you don't speak german and b. you're asian.
In the 5min from Vienna West Station to Wombats Hostel I already had the feeling that I was going to really like this city. I had the same feeling in New York. There were heaps of supermarkets, food stores, a Miele shop ...hehehe Miele. I also discovered that Wombats also had a kitchen. I haven't seen a kitchen in about a month and I went nuts. I hit the nearest supermarket, bought some pork, pasta sauce and pasta and went cooking and had a very late lunch at 4pm, but boy was it satisfying. I also had a good chuckle been put in the "Pink Wing"...sigh...ghei4life!!!
I went for a night stroll down Mariahilferstrasse to the inner ring (aahahah, sounds dirty doesn't it but I promise I didn't make it up). Mariahilfer is my nightmare, it is one of the main shopping streets and I got distracted on every block. I went to the sports department to check out ice skates and they also had hockey equipment and ski and snowboard equipment. I was like dude I want this entire store.
Anyways, I make it to the MuseumQuarter which is like this district full of arty people and art and media students (like me) and newish museums and exhibits etc. I guess like Newtown but with class, structure and much better architecture? It rates extremely highly on my coolness factor, but again I was distracted by the gift shop. Have I become a compulsive window shopper or just developed a weakness for kitschy pieces of modern art?
Through the MuseumQuarter I duck into the Hofburg which is a collection of buildings and parks forming the centre of imperial governance and residence and although it was dark it was still freaking huge and awesome and a testament to imperial excess.
Having heard that the Vienna State Opera was one of the best in the world (and yes I do like a bit of Opera now and again) and hearing also that they had cheap standing tickets, I though what better way to enter Vienna than with a night at the Opera. Except finding the opera house took several wrong turns, roads which I couldn't find on my map, a stop at the tourist information office and then the realisation that it was in front of me the entire time.
It was 6:40pm and the performance was at 7pm. I rushed to the standing ticket booth and asked for 1...2 euros please...WtF??????? 2 euros to see the best opera in the world? Is this real? I didn't even look at the ticket I just threw my 2 euros at him and ran. Because I was late I couldn't nab a good spot and instead got stuck right at the top on the left hand side and only managed to see about half the stage. But like who cares, it was 2 euros. The performance I finally found out was Manon, I wasn't familiar but the coolest things this theatre had was small screens attached the railings which had the subtitles in both german and english, awesome.
Manon was one of those tragic love story operas were boy meets girl, they fall in love, get separated, find each other again and then bad things happen. Quite universal really. But the main male lead was just phenomenal and every time he finished a solo, the applause would go on for at least 2-3min and he would just have to stand there. His voice was seriously smooth, had power but full of emotion and unlike a lot of opera singers, he had some pretty awesome acting chops too. Nevertheless it was obvious that the entire female population (and some male) of the audience fell head over heels for him, I know I did.
It was a bit soap operaish and not knowing what to expect I told myself that I could leave at intermission if it got a bit boring or I was too tired. But I found myself really drawn into it the longer it played out and soon I was giving it my own commentary. Cursing the stupid girl and the bad men wooing her and feeling sorry for the guy and his anguish...yeah I'm a sap, sue me.
In the first hour I had a group of dipshit hongkies in front of me, one whose mobile ran mid soprano solo and he just froze, he didn't move or turn it off or walk out the door, and it ran FOUR times, with one of those incessantly annoying and loud repetitive ringtones. He was holding the phone between his hands and thighs probably hoping that it would turn itself off, or he could muffle the sound or for him just to disappear into the ground. But EVERYONE just looked at him and collectively wanted to headbutt him. Seriously I was so close to throwing him out of the door, but he finally moved outside after the 4th ring. The rest of the hongkies couldn't stand, cause obviously standing was too hard for them, Some chick dropped her camera on the ground really loudly (and theatres echo man, you can hear shit from the stage easily). Thank god they left the act before intermission. I was about to move away out of sheer embarrassment.
So the opera finished, and now I'm in love with another opera and the leading man...happens a lot really. I know I'm so going to die old and alone half eaten by alsations, I'm heading towards the solitary female lifestyle expect for the fact that I hate cats.
I walked back to the hostel, took a shower and hit the sack, all mind you without turning on the main light, because I'm highly considerate of my roomates. But then by 12am, some chick in the bunk above me gets in, turns the main light on and proceeds to pack her suitcase for about half an hour, I'm like wTF???? 3 people are sleeping have you no brain at all? I was so close to telling her off.
Friday, January 25, 2008
I was woken up around 7:30 am by the locks going again outside. It is the weirdest locking mechanism and so bloody loud it echoes through the entire house. I got up to go to the bathroom but alas someone was in there. And suddenly there were like 8 people milling about on our level. Seriously weird since my roommate and I thought it was just us and one other couple. Where did all these people come from? Anyway, I tried to go back to sleep but at 8:20 my bladder was begging for mercy so again I trudged out and yay the bathroom was free.
I had the hostel breakfast and again it was really nice. I stuffed myself with the bread rolls and perhaps had one too many but my god it was good having a Nutella roll with a hot chocolate. Mmmmm yummy, too bad outside it was pissing with rain and I realised I had to lug my shit around in the rain again. I was definitely going to miss Fussen, I like small towns and a small town right beneath the alps...heaven, but in the rain it's nearly not as pleasant.
I finished packing, paid, bid farewell and went off to the train station. My train was at 11:05 and like everything in Germany it was spot on time. I made myself comfy for the 2 hour trip back to Munich. Sleeping in the train was nice but I had a freak out moment when I though I was on the train to Augsburg.
I got to Munich around 1pm and I got some supplies, fruit which I haven't had for days and a salami roll from my now fav sandwich store at the station. I passed the chips stand and couldn't stop myself from buying a cone (yeah a cone) of pommes frites. Shitty thing was some evil teenager emptied the tomato sauce container just as I got there and I was left with the mayonnaise. The good thing was the mayo was a bit tangy and more like sour cream so I wasn't overly sick.
I got to platform 11 and the train was already there and boarding. Holding precariously the fries with the mayo and all my luggage I got on the train and settled myself in the short term compartment cause I couldn't be bothered lugging my crap to the proper seats. So I finished my chips whilst and old lady looked on across from me.
The trip to salzburg was another 2 hours because I saved at least 20 euros taking the slower train which stopped at all the small towns. Halfway through it started snowing on the plains which was brilliant. I had my mp3 player on and was having a pretty good time, the seat wasn't that uncomfortable although the passing scenery gave me a spot of motion sickness. about 30min to go I ducked to the toilette mid-station since I thought no one would be able to runaway with my stuff it we're in motion ahaha. But I have to say Germany has been definitely one of the most civil and safe countries I have been to.
I get to Salzburg and make my 10min journey on foot to the youth hostel. Then waited 10min at reception for the girl to finish her phone call. The hostel overall is fine except for the fact that it has no elevators and I was given a room on the 3rd floor. Ouch. But at least it had free wireless, so lots of net time, buzzcocks and much ado about nothing tonight.
I was woken up at 6:30 by the girl below my bunk leaving, but I didn't get up until 8:30. I looked outside the window and was greeted with the fresh scent of snow on the Salzburg rooftops. I had some quality net time in which I found out about Heath Ledger's tragic and untimely death. Really that single event impacted on the rest of my day. Not to say that I was a huge fan or something but realising how mortal we all are, no matter what age or what socio-economic status. The fact that I'm by myself in a foreign country, isolation does weird things to your psyche and today wasn't an entirely enjoyable day.
Breakfast at the hostel was alright I guess, although the supposed Austrian scrambled egg special wasn't that spectacular. I headed for the Mirabella gardens first, and as stunning as they were covered in snow I'm sure they're even better in the summer. I walked across the bridge into the old town and familiar cobblestone alleys greeted me. Soon I walked past Mozart's birth house which I completely would have bypassed if I didn't on the off chance look up to where it said so.
I took a random stroll around and managed to visit about 4 churches all within 200 metres of each other. Seriously Salzburg is just full of churches and shops selling Mozart Chocolates and overpriced souveniers. I was bored and it's really the first time in Europe that I've wanted to leave the city the minute I got into it. Perhaps it was the overwhelming feeling of sober sadness but Salzburg just seemed unseemingly dull and I really needed something to cheer me up.
I sat in the Salzburg Dom for a while, contemplating celebrities who met early and tragic ends. Leslie Cheung's I think still makes me want to cry. It's strange, I'm not remotely religious but I still feel the power and enchantment of places of worship and prayer. It's not necessarily the religion but rather the outpouring of human endeavour, emotion and hope which makes such places extremely poignant and special.
Another wander through the streets and I found a 7 euro Chinese buffet. I spent 3 euro on yesterday's copy of the Daily Mail so I'd have something to do whilst eating. But by far it was the saddest excuse for a buffet I've ever encountered. Minimal amounts of food sat limp and dead and the bottom of metal pans, barely been heated. I feel sorry for Europeans cause damn you gotta really look hard for good Asian food.
After lunch I found some sun on the other side of the river that runs through Salzburg, the name which alludes me. But the sun was nice and made me somewhat happier, the Daily Mail though didn't so I stopped reading it and tried to make my way to the Nunnery featured in the Sound of Music. Oh yeah that movie was filmed here. The locations are everywhere but because I never really paid too much attention I'm not going to the extra effort of seeking them all out.
Salzburg is basically situated on a lake bed and it's surrounded by mountains. The nunnery is on a pretty steep mountain and for the life of me I could not find my way up the mountain. 30min later, a detour to the toilet and another church I finally found the staircase after asking for directions when I was buying a Sprite. The view was excellent. I've decided perhaps I actually like hiking more than museums.
I made my way back to the hostel along the cliffside of the old town. Many of the buildings were actually built into the cliff side. It was starting to get cold and so I got to the other side of the bank visited a supermarket I passed in the morning for some fruit and chocolate and managed to remember the way back to the hostel without the map.
It was a bit of a weird day, perhaps I was still too exhausted from the 12km trek the other day and maybe also because Salzburg has been the loneliest I've been in the last 2 months. I dunno why I managed to pick up random friends really easily the past week.
But at least I've found that some things really make me happy...
1. Brilliant Scenery
4. Mid-Afternoon naps
All this been said, I had dinner downstairs at the hostel and managed to meet some really awesome people. I guess I just need to get off the laptop ahahah.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Day 51 - 20th Jan
The Korean girl from the Munich hostel came with me to Fussen today. It's funny how many new people you meet whilst traveling. And maybe it's a character flaw but I'm generally very trusting of new people I meet, and usually become friends with most of them. After checkout we got to the train station and loitered for an hour. I had another one of those brilliant sandwiches for breakfast, I also discovered to my delight that they put sunflower seeds on the bread....Mmmmm schmeckt gut.
I slept a lot on the train but when I did wake up I was greeted by the yellow-green fields and towns a few streets wide, but then the first glimpse of the alps and I had to pinch myself. Alps...things I have only seen in movies and on TV and here right in front of me are alps rising to the heavens, speckled with white snow...Wow
Fussen itself is right beneath the alps and it's a really quaint village. I adore quaint villages however Fussen also had it's share of juvenile delinquents. One Turkish boy tried to acoster 5 euros from us because he was taking us to the hostel. He spoke no English and I was playing dumb and kept saying I didn't understand German. Same night my Korean friend was mobbed by some girl saying Konichiwa to her, and she got pretty pissed off but I just laughed. Maybe it's small town syndrome where the kids have absolute shit all to do and are bored out of their minds, so of course it's fun to play with the tourists.
The hostel was a bit B & B like. The man running it was very nice and spoke English very well. We were put into a 4 bed dorm which had a balcony looking directly towards Neuschweinstein. Like OMFG, It's so wonderful I don't think I could leave. After a brief refresher we sought out the bus to the castles. And luckily we found out that we could use the Bayern ticket from the trains on the bus as well score.
There were heaps and heaps of asians on the bus, and in Munich as well, especially Koreans to the utter disgust of my friend ahahah. But on the bus we met 2 Americans who coincidentally where staying in our room. Small world. Anyhoo we got to the castles and headed up towards Neuschweistein. The road up was steep and scattered with horse manure from the carriages that were using it. But the view was just amazing, cameras can't capture it at all. When we got to the castle we were disappointed to find that the small route to the Marienbrucke (A small bridge overlooking the castle) was closed off due to ice and snow. The castle itself is actually unfinished both inside and out and it is not nearly as marvelous as one thinks it is. But rather it's position on a cliffside is deeply enviable and solidifies its status in the annuls of castledom.
Back at Fussen we had Italian for dinner which was hilarious. I ordered minestrone soup and it came out as a clear broth with broccoli, cauliflower and string beans. No tomato? seriously? What part of Italy are you from?
Back at the hostel we discovered that the coin draw for the internet station was unlocked and you could get free internet by putting the same coin repeatedly through the thing. At 5 euros an hour, it was kinda awesome that the drawer was unlocked. The 2 Americans had some massive issues to sort out including lost train tickets to Berlin which were needed the next day and so the free internet was cool, until the owner walks in at around 9pm to check up and sees that the drawer is open. Bum BUM!!!!
So obviously he locks it again, but by the time he goes I pop out my laptop and manage to ethernet it straight to the router. Voila...free net again. I really think governments consider free wireless for everyone. How cool would that be?
Day 52 - 21st Jan
I sent off my Korean friend this morning, she was off to Stuttgart. I came back to the hostel and had a nice nap since I was woken really early by everyone in the room getting ready to leave.
I didn't make it to the castles till 11am. At the ticket booth I considered getting a tour to the inside of both Neuschweinstein (The fairytale one) and Hohenschwangau (the one Ludwig II's parents lived in). Supposedly the latter has more interesting interiors and because I wanted to visit Schwangau later in the day I didn't think I'd have time to do both, especially as I wanted to make it up to Marienbrucke along another route.
So Hohenschwangau was nice, but however the interiors weren't all that interesting and the guide had that slightly weird German sense of humour that rarely makes you laugh but more smile meekly. I was kinda glad I didn't get tickets to the other tour, it really wasn't worth another 40min trek up the moutain. The views were still amazing from Hohenschwangau and I spied the Alpsee which I headed to next.
The alpsee is a huge lake and it was mostly frozen over that morning. I squealed in absolute delight. I have a thing for frozen lakes. I took so many pictures I lost count. I saw a guy walking on the banks, getting rocks and flinging them onto the ice. I'd thought that'll be fun too so I found an opening to the bank and beneath my feet were lots of pebbles big and small. When you fling a rock, it skids across the ice and makes a whipping noise which echoes across the ENTIRE lake. Any noise you make echoes through this amazing acoustic hall. It was so awesome. I spent at least 30 min doing this. But the ice wasn't thick enough to really step on although I had a mighty good time trying to break through the layer near the bank. I tend to find amusement in very simple things.
Anyhoo I had to drag myself away from the alpsee so I could start my trek up towards the marienbrucke, because the route was still closed at the top, I had to take the extra long route normally buses and cars take. It was an exhausting climb but the road was wide and not that icy. But again the view was spectacular and this time I didn't have to deal with the smell of horse crap.
I think 35min I got to the Marienbrucke and fucking hell it was scary. It was an iron reinforced wooden bridge across a ravine which had a waterfall underneath and neuschweintein to the left. It was magnificently gorgeous but I didn't like it when the wooden panels moved ever so slightly on each step. Again pictures nor video could capture the feeling of sheer terror and natural beauty.
On the way back it seemed that everyone who got there had taken the small route from neuschweinstein. Obviously big danger signs and barriers didn't stop them. I though okay why not take that way back. 10 metres later down a very very icy slope I end up hanging for dear life on the railing next to the cliff as my legs slide from beneath me. Suffice to say I learnt my lesson and went back the way I came up. I don't really think I wanted to tempt fate by falling down an alp.
I spent some more time at the alpsee and then decided to head for Schwangau. I was originally going to catch a bus but since it was one every hour I'd thought I'd just walk the 2km. The route was gorgeous and I did a lot of it backwards admiring the open fields, then the castles and the alps. I have never seen anything so devastatingly beautiful in my life.
The reason I wanted to go to Schwangau which is like the next village is because it's on the Forgesee. Since I had a thing for frozen lakes I thought why not. So it was 2km to the city centre but another 1km to the Forgess. I was pretty tired already but decided to press on. So I got to the Forgesee and what happens? It's a mud pile. Seriously I was so fricking disappointed after the alpsee. Anyhow I didn't know if I could get a bus back to Fussen from Schwangau and it was a 3km trek back to the castles but only 3.5km trek to Fussen at my current point. So I thought, what the hell I'll just walk back. So essentially I walked a round trip between 3 villages. It was bloody tiring and then it got dark, I started thinking. Are there serial killers or wolves lurking in the Bavarian woods? And every German goes past on their bikes staring at me going wtf is a lone Asian doing walking in the Bavarian woods?
But luckily I got back to the hostel at one piece and my new room mate was a chick from Minnesota, had a similar sense of humour and used to play ice hockey. I was like Ha dude you're like my new fav pal. So we ended up having a great time at an Asian restaurant (note no distinction between cuisines, it's just ASIAN). It was run by a mini Viet lady who was watching some Viet soap on a laptop at the counter. Then we had cheap ice cream at the Italian restaurant last night.
I walked at least 12km this day. Like I'm still surprised I was moving.