Wandering Venice

I passionately always wanted to visit Italy, so much of my journey revolved around visiting this country. I ended up spending approximately a forth of my time there; consequently, writing just one post covering all of my travels in Italia would be ridiculous. So, here starts my short series of the country I had so longed to see, starting with Venice.

I rode into Venice on a dark May night. I awoke on the train to find it parked beyond the station with no one else on board, so I went in search of someone to bring the train back to the port. I quickly found a worker several cars down who spoke only Italian. Either I fell into the deepest sleep ever that night, or no one bothered to wake up passengers when you reach your destination.

When I made it back to the station, I needed to figure out which shuttle bus could transport me to the campground which sat across the long bridge from the old city. I stayed at Alba D’oro; the center of the grounds held a swimming pool, bright colored flowers decorated the sides of the tent houses, and from the back of the lot, you could see landscape comparative to the dry flat grounds of southern California. The next full day I spent in Venice, started with blue skies but quickly slid into clouds and drizzle.

Venice is much like being in an amazingly huge maze. The countless walkways in the historic city lead on for miles; even if you buy a map to try to figure a way out, you’ll just get even more lost because the mapmaker’s couldn’t get a grasp of how intensive the layout is. When I tried to leave the confusing walkways, I had to ask least five people for directions (including two policemen); after two hours, I finally found my way out.

The pathways are lined with restaurants, souvenir vendors, and small stores take up residency in old Italian buildings. If you look up along the less crowded paths, you’ll find clothes hangings along the walls to dry. The restaurants set up dining tables covered in bright contrasting colors along the water; such as layering an orange atop a hot pink colored cloth. In the depths of the inter-woven directions to go, you’ll stumble upon a random small area devoted to high-end merchandise such as: Gucci and Louis Vuitton.

I found that all along the water, stairs leading into the depths of the sea and doors opening to one stair or even without a ledge present. If you were to step out these doors, you would probably fall right into the water.

Contrary to popular belief, not all rowers in the Gondolas sing. When walking along the endless walkways, you’ll see men in Gondolas all over the Canals; however, I only heard maybe two out of all of them sing after being near them all day.

My trip to this “Floating City” may not contain exactly what one would expect, but how boring would an adventure be if everything played out as you imagined.

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The Budget Overnight Backpacker in Europe

I am going to take a moment in between countries to talk about sleeping arrangements. Night trains, hostels, and campsites create the cheapest overnight accommodations.

First of all, I used http://www.hostelbookers.com/ to find information in booking overnight accommodations. This became my lifeline for finding hostels; this allowed me to research and reserve a bed as I traveled along. Some require you to book in advance before arriving, however, at many locations you can just show up. I would recommend looking ahead to avoid walking from place to place hoping for something to be available.

I love staying at hostels. The environment conveys an inviting and community feel. I think of them as the traveler’s dorm; everyone’s in the midst of their travels and excited to share experiences, tips, and stories with each other. A lot of hostels provide sheets, cookware, utensils, and internet – many will charge you for such amenities as well. Overall, you can find a large range of prices depending on how private and fancy you want your stay to be. I honestly can sleep through anything, so I stayed in rooms with a lot of bunks to save on funds.

Campgrounds align themselves with hostels based on the cheap factor. I stayed at three different sites when in Italy. One had a pool on site, another had a bar, and the other had an amazing view over the city of Florence. Each charged on average 13 Euros a night (about $20). I’ll talk more about each site when I post about Italy.

Lastly, night trains may not be the most comfortable (with the reclining seat option), but will allow you to kill two birds with one stone. If you roll together the amount you would put down for a hostel room and a reservation fee that you normally have to pay, then this is a great deal! Just pray that your train car has a low occupancy on it, so that you can use the other seats to stretch out on – as long as we are praying… hope for no loud children in your car too.

Austria

The cleanest city of Europe award goes to Vienna. I found this place to showcase such innate details upon their architecture and every building seemed to be well taken care of.

My visit to Wien – the way the city is spelled in Austria – remained very short. However, I spent a lot of time on the train across the country to soak up it’s amazing landscapes. The city showcases what most others have: tall buildings, mass transportation systems, and many stores. Although this is a lovely, well-kept city; I preferred viewing the countryside.

The countryside blooms with the rich shades of greens set among the many hills creating such wonderful sights of natural art. Towns create picturesque scenes when nestled in between the layers of hills. The quaintness of each town leaves one wishing that we could all live in such a beautiful and simple setting. I must say that Austria’s gorgeous landscapes should be on everyone’s must-see list for traveling across Europe.

Deutschland: Home Away From Home

Do you ever go somewhere where you feel like you’ve been before? I definitely felt that familiar feeling with Germany.

I visited the capital Frankfurt, along with Berlin and Hamburg. Hamburg strongly resembled my hometown in Washington state, from the park around the lake, the greenery, to the mild weather that early June day. The landscape of Germany, out of all the European countries, reminded me most of my homeland. Hamburg sits closely to where my ancestors came from. Through the many generations, I find it interesting that from my great great great grandparents to my generation, that we all would chose to live in such a similar environment. I’m sure if many of us researched our family lines we would find that we plant roots similar to those of which we come from.

The architecture of Germany incorporates the old German buildings with the contemporary American style. Downtown Frankfurt has high-rises sitting right next to others that had been built before WWII. I felt that the capital lacked culture and became just another cookie cutter city, and the adult stores on every street corner didn’t help class up the place either. If you think about visiting this town, I recommend passing by.

Berlin had much to offer from their massive forest park named Tiergarte to shopping, history and culture. Make sure to spend at least 3 hours at the park, the sculptures and trails will keep you entertained for a long time. I found the Holocaust Memorial on accident after wandering through the forest like park, there are absolutely no signs describing the monuments to let you know what you were looking at- walking through the site really gives you an idea of how many people died due to the Nazis, the experience is absolutely mind-blowing.

No trip to Berlin can be complete without visiting the Berlin Wall. The feeling cannot be described when standing with one foot on the east and the other on the west when thinking about the history of the what the people had to endure before the wall was torn down. On a train going into Berlin, I met a woman who lived on the west side of Berlin before 1989. She told me about those times and how she had never been allowed to met her grandfather who lived on the other side until the wall came down.

Lastly, how can I talk about Germany without mentioning the people. Out of all the people across Europe, from my experience, the Germans radiate the highest level of kindest, helpfulness, friendliness, and contain a great sense of humor. Whenever I had a question or needed help, they were more than happy to walk me to my destination to make sure I would find it and would go out of their way to even find lodging for the night for me.

Left Picture (On the left of the Berlin Wall sits the urban West Berlin and on the right lies East Berlin, which looks like the East hasn’t changed much in many many decades)

First Stop: Belgium

Brussels, Belgium sits at one location where the Eurostar leads. This is my first destination into using my Eurail Pass. I must say, the cheapest trains with Eurostar tickets leave at 6 in the morning and get more expensive as the day goes on. I decided that since I would be leaving so early in the morning, I might as well spend the night in the St Pancras Station in London. The Station is open all night and some questionable people wander in and out; however, many tourists like me sit around waiting for the super early trains in the station. Luckily, Starbucks stayed open all night.

I learned early on in the trip that I have a strong American accent. This would the first of many times that someone other than a Belgian would tell me such a fact. Funny thing, when you are surrounded by people who sound exactly like you, one never notices that we sport an accent. This is a great part of traveling, your perspective of the world grows and you become more understanding of others.

Now back to Brussels, I only spent a portion of the day in the city. I must say this is where I first had my European pastry. European pastries are of nothing like anything you’ll find in the United States. These delightful carbs erupt with flavor, from being decorated with drizzles of chocolate to fresh fruit; from Brussels onward, I made sure to grab these delicacies wherever I could find them.

The city showed itself to me as a very dirty and tight place. When I mean tight, I’m talking about buildings sitting cramped next to each other and small roads. The day I traveled there the temperature had to be over 75 degrees and construction took up many roads, which may alter what Brussels may be like on a normal day; however, I had talked to the Belgians, and they communicated the fact that they avoid the city, however, their countryside glows with beauty.

These pictures show the close buildings and streets, but also the landscape of the country.