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Joe & Liz's 2009 European Adventure


ginzo
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This past summer, Liz & I took a three week trip across Western Europe using EU Rail passes. After that, we joined TPR for the Scandinavia Trip. For simplicity, I'll put both parts on the same TR.

 

May 16-18, 2009: London, England: Part 1

May 16-18, 2009: London, England: Part 2

May 16-18, 2009: London, England: Part 3

May 19, 2009: Brussels, Belgium

May 19, 2009: Bruges, Belgium: Part 1

May 20, 2009: Bruges, Belgium: Part 2

May 21, 2009: Amsterdam, Netherlands: Part 1

May 22, 2009: Amsterdam, Netherlands: Part 2

May 23, 2009: Rhine Valley, Germany: Part 1

May 24, 2009: Mosel Valley, Germany: Part 1, Burg Eltz

May 24, 2009: Mosel Valley, Germany: Part 2, Klotten Amusement Park

May 25, 2009: Rhine Valley, Germany: Part 2, Rheinfels Castle Ruins

May 27, 2009: Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany: Part 1

May 27, 2009: Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany: Part 2, Medieval Crime Museum

May 28, 2009: Füssen, Germany: Part 1, Hohenschwangau Castle

May 28, 2009: Füssen, Germany: Part 2, Neuschwanstein Castle and alpine slide

May 29, 2009: Munich, Germany: Old town, English Gardens, surfin'

May 30, 2009: Hallstatt, Austria: Part 1, Dreary Arrival Day

May 31, 2009: Hallstatt, Austria: Part 2, Beautiful Day

May 31, 2009: Hallstatt, Austria: Part 3, Beautiful Day Continued, Boat Ride

May 31, 2009: Hallstatt, Austria: Part 4, Beautiful Day Continued, Funicular Ride, Hike

June 1, 2009: Salzburg, Austria: Cathedral, Graveyard, Fortress, Augustiner Brau

June 2, 2009: Mürren, Switzerland: Travel Day, Swiss Alps

June 3, 2009: Mürren, Switzerland: Schilthorn, Piz Gloria, Breakfast at 10,000 feet

June 3, 2009: Mürren, Switzerland: Hiking In The Alps

 

 

We started off in London, which is a great place to start any European trip as it involves slightly less jet lag than "The Continent" and there are abundant flights.

 

Here we go:

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And this is what's left of 221B Baker Street. No Sherlock, but I bet you can buy a few souvenirs here.

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Welcome to Covent Garden. Number of Norwegians here: 0. Number of drunk Brits: Countless.

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Since we were "going local", we had dinner here. Not. We actually had dinner at a very nice Covent Garden restaurant called "The Crusting Pipe". Thanks to SteveC for the tip.

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This was the only sunny day this year in London.

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Liz in a TARDIS.

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One of the famous Ravens of the Tower. They're real comedians.

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The entrance to the Tower of London, one of the 10,000 or so must-sees in London.

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Priceline.com booked me this really nice hotel.

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A lesson for the ages.

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You stand across the street. That's how. St. Paul's is a very impressive. Many famous people are buried there. You should go there some day!

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Crap, this thing is big. How do you get a decent picture of it?

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And here is Liz standing in front of this very handsome mailbox.

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Coming in the back way to St. Paul's.

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Note the friendly, non-authoritarian tone to this sign. You can tell you're not in the US already.

Edited by ginzo
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Here are some more photos from London.

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One of the very few gas lamp streets left in all of London.

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"Hey kids, Big Ben!"

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It might not be the biggest, but it looks really nice.

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Gravy factory. Seriously.

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Shakespeare's Globe Theatre is the only thatched roof in all of London. And it took an Act of Parliament and a very elaborate sprinkler system to get it approved for construction.

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This hideous building is London's Town Hall. I guess they had too many scrumpies (high alcohol content fermented cider) when they approved this project.

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The British Museum also looks damn nice.

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Some sort of historic artifact inside the British Museum. I have no idea what it is, but it sure looks cool. Fact: The British are history's most successful thieves of important artifacts, which is why the British Museum is the finest museum in the world, period. Also, it's free, which helps in otherwise very expensive London.

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Here we are in the London Eye. An excellent experience. Much better than the super cramped, let-the-gypsies-pick-your-pockets top level of the Eiffel Tower.

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When asked if he did drugs, Dali replied, "I am the drug." Nice.

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There was some kind of Sri Lankan protest going on near Parliament. I have no idea what it was about, but it was a very spirited protest.

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Here is Liz in front of Westminster Abbey. Although it doesn't look like much, it's amazing on the inside. The greatest scientist of all time, Isaac Newton, is buried inside.

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London is one of my favorite cities. Back in 2004, my brother Ward and I stayed in this funky hotel that was run by a bunch of Roumanians, but was located on a street full of Middle Eastern people. Every night, as we walked back to our hotel, guys were sitting in the street smoking hookahs and grilling kabobs on hibachis in front of cafes--a much nicer smell than I've encountered in some other big cities.

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Joe - The Third Reich in its' brief reign certainly tried to challenge Britain's historical thievery supremacy, but the the new Germany had to give everything back.

 

You are right in that the Brits go down as the most successful since they still have the goods.

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This report is a very welcome sight as we usher in the offseason threads. Please keep updating this one, Joe.

 

Fortunately, I have a lot more to work with in terms of pictures this year (go 16GB SD card that I "borrowed" from Liz). So, I should have no problems finishing it.

 

Next stop: Belgium.

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Since London seems to be popular, I'll put up a few more random photos from there before we head over to Belgium.

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This guy was a jerk.

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This looks pre-fab traditional. Does that even make sense?

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Here we are in SteveC-approved Covent Garden. Unfortunately, we got there right as the street performers were closing up shop.

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Another sign with an important life lesson. I liked the one about not letting your children run amok better.

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The traitor's gate at the Tower of London. This is where they brought prisoners in.

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And Mr. Hyde.

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The mild mannered Dr. Jekyll.

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Westminster Abbey at night. Again, it's FAR more impressive inside, which is unfortunate because no photography is allowed.

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You know you want to call this "London Bridge".

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Liz before she's had her morning Joe.

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Obligatory tube shot. Personally, I thought that the London Underground was in pretty good shape considering its age. However, the Olympic Committee did not agree with this assessment. Several lines were closed during the weekend we were in London for repairs.

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Always love these kinds of TRs.

 

Can you tell us a bit more about how you arranged the trip? Did you have everything planned out, or was it more like a backpacking experience? Did some couchsurfing maybe?

How much did you spend during the whole trip (cause I can imagine it being A LOT of money if you always sleep in a lowbudget hotel AND bought a railpass)?

 

Definitely looking forward to the other parts of your TR (and of course the Belgian part )

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^We had all of our hotels booked ahead of time. So, we knew what cities we'd be in on a given day. We didn't plan it that much beyond that though. In each city we had a list of things we wanted to do as well as guidebooks that told us when things would be open, etc.

 

Oh, and we definitely checked the rail routes way ahead of time to figure out when to show up to catch a specific train. Some journeys required reservations, etc.

 

It was very expensive. I have no idea as to the exact cost. I think we were averaging about $40 per person per night for hotel expenses, which is excellent for Europe. I used Priceline extensively and we stayed in several B&Bs as well.

 

And, yeah, we had all our stuff in backpacks and had to find places to do laundry and such.

 

Honestly, we had a fair amount of fails along the way. The main thing that burned us over and over again was local transport. For example, we rented a car in Mannheim, Germany near the train station. I thought I had a map of the area, but could not find it. So, we had to walk around for like 30 minutes just to find the car rental agency.

 

Also, maps from guidebooks can be horrible. It's best to find the TI for every town you visit and buy a real map.

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^We had all of our hotels booked ahead of time. So, we knew what cities we'd be in on a given day. We didn't plan it that much beyond that though. In each city we had a list of things we wanted to do as well as guidebooks that told us when things would be open, etc.

 

It was very expensive. I have no idea as to the exact cost. I think we were averaging about $40 per person per night for hotel expenses, which is excellent for Europe. I used Priceline extensively and we stayed in several B&Bs as well.

 

And, yeah, we had all our stuff in backpacks and had to find places to do laundry and such.

Thanks

I plan on doing a backpacking/couchsurfing trip in East-Europe next year, to keep the cost as low as possible.

I really think that Eurail pass is such a scam cause it's heavily overpriced. Although it's very useful. Too bad that's the only option to actually travel between countries (maybe Ryanair as well, but that you're losing a lot of time for short distances).

 

How often on the whole trip did the train inspectors actually match your Eurail pass with your ID card? And in which countries?

 

Cause my friend used one as well and none of the inspectors actually cared about the pass.

 

 

EDIT: if you ever do something like this again, also check out www.booking.com and www.hostelsclub.com . Very useful sites!

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^Good question about IDs. They NEVER checked IDs. They just looked at the rail passes, made sure the dates were valid, and moved on. That's probably why rail passes get stolen so often. Anybody can use them it seems.

 

As to the value of the rail pass, you just have to see if it's cheaper than buying individual train tickets. Coming from overseas, it's very confusing to try to book train tickets ahead of time in several foreign countries. The rail pass kind of idiot proofs it for you a bit.

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^Good question about IDs. They NEVER checked IDs. They just looked at the rail passes, made sure the dates were valid, and moved on. That's probably why rail passes get stolen so often. Anybody can use them it seems.

I'm seriously considering making a professional fake one, cause these things are SO easy to duplicate if you spend a little bit of money on them. A one day metropass in London is of higher quality than these things!

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After 3 excellent days in London, we took the Eurostar to Brussels. Apart from the fact that the bar car ran out of breakfast food, this was easily the nicest train I have ever ridden on. Very fast, very smooth, and very luxurious. We rode in the cheapest seats on the train (~$70 each) and they were far nicer seats than most first class seats on regular European trains.

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Another shot of random park. I'll be brutally honest: I was a bit underwhelmed at Brussels. But don't worry. We go to an awesome place next.

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Random park.

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See how it's just kind of shoved into some random corner in an alleyway.

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The famous Manneken Pis. A bit underwhelming, frankly.

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Now that's more like it!

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Another shot of the Grand Place.

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Brussels Grand Place. It looked better in the brochure.

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Awesome carved wooden skeleton inside cathedral.

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Cathedral in Brussels.

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The Eurostar drops you off at Bruxelles Midi-Zuid train station. However, we needed to get to Bruxelles Central. Well, here we are at Bruxelles Nord. Our first fail of the trip. There was NO SIGN at Bruxelles Central indicating what station it was. It turned out to be not that big of a deal though. We got back to Bruxelles Central in just a few minutes. Also, note the tagged up train.

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The countryside shooting by at 200 MPH. Excellent way to travel. Much better than flying.

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Thanks for the nice comments everyone.

 

After we left Brussels, we went to the Belgian medieval wonder town of Bruges. Colin Farrell's character in the great recent film "In Bruges" relentlessly ripped on the town. But he couldn't have been more wrong. Bruges is immaculately well preserved. I unconditionally recommend visiting for a few days.

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Where the poor people live.

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Double door fail!

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More medieval magic.

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Back to the canals.

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This is the entrance to the Basilica of the Holy Blood. The holy relic contained within is reportedly some of Jesus's blood. This seems a bit questionable to me, but whatever.

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I think this isn't actually the main square, but a square off of the main square.

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Headed towards the main square.

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As pretty as the canals are, I never got around to taking a canal boat ride. The town itself is the attraction. It's most fun to just hang out and explore.

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There is a definite otherworldly vibe to this place at night. Being super tired from travel only added to the effect.

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After dinner, I walked around the old town and took some photos. They've done a particularly excellent job of lighting up the canals.

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After checking into our excellent B&B, we stopped by for some food and beer. Trappist Westvleteren is not that hard to come by in Bruges. The food in this pub was excellent as well. It was probably the best spaghetti bolognese I ever had.

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Great trip report!

 

Brussels does look like a pretty city...any shots of the Belgian fries??

 

Sorry

 

We did buy fries in both Brussels and Bruges. In fact, I think my lunch in Brussels consisted of a large portion of fries with a Chimay. Not a bad lunch at all.

 

Great report and pictures.

 

In all honesty, I'm 42 years old, have always lived in Belgium, and you have seen more of Brussels and Bruges than I ever did in 42 years time .

 

Your town has been recommended to me by more than one European. OK, they were Dutch and liked the red light district. I'm not sure that many tourists visit, but I heard the food is really good.

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