Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Day 3 - Sankt Goar to Munich

We woke up in darkness in a very cold, icy Sankt Goar. There was ice on the balcony, and the view outside was exactly what I imagined waking up in wintery Europe to be. We grabbed some breakfast and then went back to our room to pack our bags, and took a little too long, and almost missed our bus. We just about made it back in time to throw our bags in and find a cramped spot to sit.

We took a ride into town to hear about how beer steins are made, and all bought a stein (myself included, though I've yet to use it). We also bought a little piggy teddy, really cute thing, and looked around at the world's biggest beer stein and world's biggest free-hanging cuckoo clock. After all of that, it began snowing. Our first time seeing falling snow! It was pretty magical, and was really cool to see it in such a little fairy tale town.

The drive to Munich was stunning, the wintery wonderland around was awesome to look at. On the stop along the way we got some sausage and chips - a typical German meal, but delicious. On the bus, each person was asked to stand up and give their name, occupation and a joke to the rest of the tourists. A poor joke was rewarded with a yellow jelly baby from the driver, an average joke with an orange jelly baby, and a good joke with a red jelly baby. I told the joke about 3 testicles (message me if you want to know!) and got a red sweetie! Bonus! We then got to sit and either sleep, watch the scenery fly by, or watch 300 on the bus telly. At this stage I was dying for a pee, and couldn't wait to get into Munich.

When we finally did, I wasn't all that impressed with the city. It's not amazing at first sight, but after we checked into our hotel we were dropped off in the city centre, by the Glockenspiel, for some free time before a walking tour. The walk really changed my mind - Munich rocks! The Glockenspiel is an awesome building. The market there is out of this world - stall after stall after stall after stall, and shop after shop after shop after shop. Stalls filled with nothing but different kinds of cheeses, and ones with breads, and ones with meats, and ones with fruits and veg, the best place in the world!

The girls walking around Munich were also gorgeous looking, and all dressed very well (especially in the wintery weather). We bought a pair of leather gloves for Adi, and after a brief walk around bought a bread roll and a hunk of delicious cheese, which the kind German lady behind the counter cut for us and smushed into our bread roll, so that we could enjoy the best cheese sandwhich I have had to date. Awesome! We also found a shop with petit fours in, and helped ourselves to an absolute delight of one. You might sense the growing theme (and growing circumferences of our bellies) of the tour for us - eat, eat, eat! It was tons of fun.

After all of that fun, we met up with the rest of the tour and the tour manager, Brek, to meet Sam, a local tour guide. Brek called her in a hurry to do us a favour, since we arrived fairly late, and I would think they were perhaps "friendly" in a past life, since she was more than willing to help us out. What a cute, awesome girl she was. She was on a Contiki tour, and when they arrived in Munich she fell in love with it, and never left. How cool! She gave us a great walking tour with tons of history, stuff you would never learn without a tour guide. It was so informative and was such a great thing for us to have done. Super chuffed!

After the walking tour, we got to go into one of my highlights of the tour - the Hofbrau House! A traditional German beer hall. It was tremendous. Great big steins of beer, served by cute waitresses in traditional dresses, with a cute blonde pretzel girl selling giant, salty, amazingly delicious pretzels. An oompa band was playing, and you could see the cages with family steins locked away. The pork knuckles we had were so good, and over all a lot of fun was had (how could it not, with such wonderful beer?). A great evening was had by all. After quite a party, we all headed back to the hotel to prepare for the next day.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Day 3 - Amsterdam to Sankt Goar

We woke to wonderful European breakfast: chocolate spread (Nutella) and nesquick! Awesome. We did a tour of the Anne Frank house - incredibly overwhelming, hectic, but so glad we got to see it. A fascinating place, and I definitely recommend it for anyone in Amsterdam. Outside, we were accosted by the worst smelling sewage in the history of man. Gah! We missed the Van Gogh because the queue was so long, but we walked around the city taking in the sights, eating chocolate waffles, giant pizza slices (best pizza ever, hands down) and did some shopping. The shops are great, there are bicycles everywhere, and it's a very cool vibe. I loved Amsterdam.

We left Amsterdam in the afternoon for Sankt Goar - a little German town in the Rhine Valley. The countryside along the way was absolutely stunning, and we got to see some cool graffiti on buildings as we drove, and also my first experience of sound barriers around the highway. Were we in Europe or something? We stopped at a service station in Germany, and had some schnitzel (Gutentag, eine schnitzel bitte?). We also came into contact with snow! Thick snow on the road and paving at the service station. Awesome! When we arrived in Sankt Goar it was dark, but we could still see some castles and the river. We did a wine tasting in a cellar, the place was hundreds of years old. IT was very atmospheric, and beautiful to see. All 4 wines were very good, some people bought a few bottles, we bought a bottle of eiswein (for our wedding, but Adi didn't know at the time!). 

After that we headed for the hotel where we sampled some local beer, chatted with our manager and driver, and had some meatballs for dinner. It was icy cold, and there was frost on the balcony and snow on the roofs of the buildings around the little hotel. It was such a nice place! We didn't have a late night, and headed to bed to catch some sleep.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Day 2 - London to Amsterdam

On day two we got to meet up with our group in the outside lobby of the hotel, along with our tour manager (Brek, Australian) and bus driver (Gerry, Irish) who both seemed really cool guys. Adi and I sat one row from the back, where most of the South Africans were seated. From the hotel we drove to Dover to get on the ferry at Calais, going through London and some English countryside. It is quite a beautiful country. Along the way, Brek explained the rules and gave us some general info on Contiki, and we did what he called "speed dating". This involves half of the bus sitting where they are, and the other half rotating seats every 2 minutes, and doing a quick "Hi my name is Brett, I am a boring computer programmer from South Africa what do you do?". That kind of broke the ice a little.

At Dover we got on the ferry and had a most awful cup of coffee, and a plain steak pasty. The ferry is mahoosive, with shops and restaurants and a whole lot. Since it's really a big ship on the sea, some people were feeling a little woozy with the rolling motion. Adi felt a little sick, but I myself being big and strong and awesome was fine.

We landed at Calais and drove through to Belgium. France has a wonderful countryside, great to watch out the moving bus window. Belgium, or at least the bit we drove through, has a wonderfully dull countryside, and in fact looks a bit like Hillbrough. Not amazing. After a quick stop in the Dutch speaking part of Belgium (where I sampled some Belgian cheese and paid to use the toilet) we headed on to Amsterdam.

I can't stress how absolutely awesome a city Amsterdam - it was built in the 1500s and yet also has modern elements; it's a stunningly beautiful place. One of my favourite cities! When we reached the hotel Adi and I had a nap, so we missed dinner, but afterwards we joined the group for a short walking tour of the red light district. You can't take photos of the prostitutes (without getting beaten by them, as discovered by an unfortunate Asian on our trip) so I left my camera at the hotel.

The red light district is really cool, it's almost indistinguishable from the rest of the city, it's so "normal" it's subtle. Most of the girls are pretty gorgeous, and the red light does wonders for their skin (as confirmed by the girls on our tour in Florence). Even the girls in the blue lights were pretty good looking. In case you haven't worked it out, a blue light means that they are not 100% girl, and pack a little extra heat. The red light district is filled with weed coffee shops, and sex shops with giant dildos everywhere. At the same time, the buildings are all old and beautiful and there are the canals and cobbled streets, so it's a really pretty place.

After the walk, we went on a cruise boat in the canals. It had free drinks - Heineken on tap - and so after a few minutes of it being a quiet touristy affair looking out the windows at the passing boats and buildings, the trip became a bit of a raucous party with the Aussies and South Africans dancing and singing and drinking much beer. The boat of other Contiki people we passed looked pretty boring, so I think we got a good group. Prost!

After this we went to the "cultural show" at the Cassa Rossa, which is a live sex show. Since we were one of the first to arrive at the venue, we were ushered in to the front row where we got a most excellent view of Jonny D and his rather large talents. It was quite an experience, and you can't really prepare yourself for it, but I must say it was great fun and everyone that went enjoyed it. A few people got called onstage during the stripping acts, and so the whole Contiki group was having fun.

Once the show was done, we headed off to one of sex shops to take a look around. There is some scary stuff in there. I did note that a giant rubber fist will set you back 80 EUR. We also had a puff of a joint in one of the coffee shops where some of the other group were spending their evening / early morning. After that, we made our way back to the hotel for a much better night's sleep than the one previously.