Eurotripping – Part I

14 03 2010

Ok, so this is going to be a mammoth task. I am going to blog the trip I took between leaving London in December 2009, to getting to Singapore in mid-February 2010. I crammed a huuuuge number of stops into that trip and if I don’t blog it now, it will be forever lost.

I’ve decided the best way to do this for my poor typing fingers and you, dear reader,  is to break it down into bitesized chunks. For each city I will give a highlight, a lowlight and my favorite photo. Note that clicking on the photo should take you to my Picasa account, so if you are keen and want to look at more photos from somewhere you can do that. Feel free to post questions in the comments section – like any seasoned traveller I am more than happy to talk about where I’ve been and what I’ve seen to anyone who will listen.

And so we begin our journey together…

Moscow

Highlight: Visiting an abandoned nuclear bunker 18 storeys below ground – it was a big steel-clad cavernous space where a whole section of the military as well as important officials could gather if they needed to escape nuclear attack during the cold war. It was creepy as hell.

Lowlight: -17 degrees Centigrade. December in Russia is cold.

Favorite photo: St Basils Cathedral and the Red Square  ‘New Years Tree’ (a hangover from the anti-religion communist era)

From Russia, December 2009

Pskov/Pechory

Highlight: The Russian Banya – basically a sauna where you get whipped with a big wet leafy branch, sweat like crazy, run outside and throw yourself into the snow. Come inside, drink vodka and repeat.

Lowlight: Kicking some kiddies off a small hill they were sledding on, we came to join in and ended up dominating the slope too much, so they went home. Oops.

Favorite photo: The monastery at pechory. We watched the sun creep up as the priests and brothers went about their chores in knee-deep snow

From Russia, December 2009

Saint Petersburg

Highlight: Kunstkamera, the first museum in Russia which was established by Peter the Great. Among other things in the museum was a whole collection of deformed babies in bottles which Peter had collected as a result of his interest in human anatomy and his wish to dispel the belief in witches and dark magic prevalent at the time.

Lowlight: Having my camera stolen! Leaving a pancake shop some dude pickpocketed me and took my beloved powershot with its flip-out screen. Farewell awesome in-frame drunken self portraits.

Favorite photo: A view down the main shopping street in St Petersburg – the lights and the snow and a great Cyrillic ‘Stop’ sign – I had mastered reading Cyrillic by the 3rd day! Amazing how effective total immersion is as a learning method.

From Russia, December 2009

Berlin

Highlight: New Years Eve at Brandenburg Gate with Paul and Linda and Leif. Dinner first at Linda’s friends place where we took in the German tradition of watching ‘Dinner for One’, then a rowdy drinking and eating session followed by a rush to the gate to ring in the new year. The firework display by the revellers was better than the official one organised by the city! Then off to some random small bar where friends of Leif’s had organised a party – back to my hostel by 6am, checked out by 7am and on a train to Munich by 10am. It is possible that having a hostel for that night was not worth the 23 euro…!

Lowlight: The Berlin Guggenheim. 5 paintings. Thats all.

Favorite photo: The gates to Sachsenhausen concentration camp – ‘Work makes free’. About a 50 minute train ride from Berlin central, it was one of the first concentration camps which was not only used by the Nazis, it was also used by the Red Army too. Strange feeling to walk through it – I expected the experience to be a lot more emotional – I wasnt really affected by it until the last stop on the audio guide which was at the infirmary and told the story of Nazi doctors testing different strains of Hepatitis on a Jewish kid and seeing how long/painful death was in order to develop bioweapons. Funny how the hearing about deaths on the scale of tens of thousands doesn’t do much emotionally, but the plight of one kid can reduce you to tears – apparently Stalin is quoted as saying ‘The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic’. Well put.

From Berlin, December 2009

Munich

Highlight: The museums in Munich are incredible, the modern Pinkotech and the Deutches Museum in particular. I liked that Deutches museum tried so hard to make Engineering cool – it didn’t work, but I liked that it tried.

Lowlight: The Swiss kids who were in my dorm room. I had got in to Munich exhausted (see highlight of Berlin…!) and all I wanted to do was wash everything I owned in my Backpack, scrub my hair and skin clean and get into bed and sleep. The kids in my room were smoking and drinking in the room and were so loud – I requested to change room to avoid this and as drinking and smoking in rooms isn’t allowed, the manager came in and kicked them out of the room. Quite clearly they knew that I had told the manager so I totally hid for an hour in the laundry and got back to find all their half full cups on my bed and a radio left on on a top bunk at that other side of the room.

I. Just. Wanted. To. Sleep.

finally the battery died or something in the radio and I drifted off – until about 4am when they all rolled in to the room. The manager came in, got into a yelling match with them and tried to kick them out. That bit sucked – but it’s also what backpacking is all about – you take the good with the bad.

Favorite photo: Couldnt do Munich without doing a beer hall. This is at the brewery – a grosse bier and a pork knuckle. mmm – I had meat AND alcohol poisoning by the end of that.

From Munich, January 2010
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