Day 20 – A Day in Vienna – Friday 20th October 2017

( There are problems loading photos again- check the ones out I added to Facebook earlier)

It’s a late wake up, again, but we’ve been going pretty hard with the travelling and sleeping in strange beds and I guess we’re getting a little weary. 

We wander out the front of Pension Nossek, turn right, 3 short blocks down, turn right into Dorothee gasse and a little way up we see a funny looking place and try our hand, it’s Leopoldo Hawelka Cafe, a bloke in his 60’s waves us in, almost like a John Cleese sort of character, a serious look on his face and asks us German what we want (at least that’s what we assume he’s asking?), Genelle says “breakfast “,he says “eggs?” So I end up with a cheese omelette and she ends up with bacon and eggs scrambled in a dish, she with a tea and me with a nice cappuccino. The place is full of locals reading newspapers on sticks, and except for us only German is being spoken. Our waiter does speak English, but he uses it sparingly, I think it’s a ploy to make us feel a bit like wanker tourists in a place reserved for the Viennese. Anyway the food is good, we pay and wander off into Stepehanplatz trying to work out a destination to start exploring. 

Like Dubbo golf course, the greens run downhill to the river, well, so the hill runs down towards the Danube River, or at least a fork of it, the main Danube is about 100 metres away.  We wander into the colossal St Stephens church, it’s huge and spectacular enough to be another collection point for church fundraising, so we pay €0.75 for a candle and light it up, one of the little rituals we do in big churches because the poor buggers are so broke.

We wander down the hill past the shops, the cafes, the theatres, the shops and more f….g shops, I hope the river turns up soon so I can jump into it. We check out the annabranch of the Danube, then wander into another street going back up the hill. Vienna appears to be a place of serious money, very tidy, very opulent, very clean and pretty polite relaxed people. 

We get our Vienna cards organised and head to the U Bahn at Stephanplatz to get a train to Karlsplatz where we are doing a Segway tour after lunch. It’s all pretty easy, we get out at Karlsplatz, and try to find Bosentrasse, I get us lost, not good when Genelle is stressed about how she’s going to handle the Segway, I take my medicine and we find the place early, so we decide to walk on a little further and have a coffee before we start. There is a group of Germans outside the Segway place, they leave no space to walk past so I quietly shoulder one bloke to make space for me, Genelle politely walks through a garage to avoid them ( does something sound wrong here?), I get the evil eye and we walk on. 

The coffee is good, it washes down an apple strudel, we have a little chat to a Sydney couple who are in Vienna on a big cruise boat then hard back to the Segway place, thankfully the Chermans are gone and I won’t have to defend my rash behaviour  half an hour before. Our co tourists are an Austrian Retired fireman and Helga his wife, a Retired  New York gynaecologist and his wife who is an artist, and our leader is a nice bloke named Horst Harriet, divorced for 21 years and a former banker. Horst gets the training going, Helga struggles, Genelle picks it up easy, the fireman is ok, I’m ok, the 2 New Yorkers have done it before ( and let us know!), so we hit the road. It feels really weird first up at pace in pedestrian and push bike traffic as well as trams and cars as we tear along in the bicycle lane single file with Horst leading. Within 200 metres I feel like I’m going to come off backwards and like a good bronc rider I dismount the Segway, land on my feet, the Segway hits the bitumen. How embarrassing, just like dropping the bike while it was stopped in Charleville last year, I try to pick the Segway and get going but something is not right, the centrifugal thingy that keeps it balanced has switched off. Horst gets me sorted, we leave again but this time my face is red and Genelle is sniggering (I can tell she is even if she doesn’t let on) . Anyway the rest of it does go swimmingly, we see right around Vienna in 4 hours, dodging horses, pedestrians, trams, the odd cop, cars who get a little impatient, we go to the Danube where they had a Texan woman run up the back of her husband ( too close behind him) who had crashed into a wall, she speared off into the Danube with the Segway as a sinker, Anyway after the ambulance took her to hospital, and they decided they would change the track and not go so close to the river. 

We return to the Segway base tired with sore feet and legs after an great day. Genelle had really got the hang of it, I think I did too but let’s not too carried away -I was the only accident in our group and it was a small one. The funny thing is that the Chermans on the footpath, the group before us, had 2 major bingles, there is a God !

We stroll back to Stephenplatz, rest the feet and then back to another little restaurant/ cafe called Kein Ruhetag in Dorotheegasse for a great dinner of chicken and pork schnitzel, washed down with a .5 ltr of bier. 

The we walk the streets exploring until 10 pm, until my knees are dusted and Genelle can’t read any prices in windows. Time for bed and blog writing.

Tomorrow it’s the flea  markets at Nachmarkts, a big deal once a week on Saturdays, apparently for some people!

Gute Nacht aus Wien
Paul

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Day 19 – Prague morning then to Vienna for the evening.

It’s a late start again this morning. Breakfast is the usual healthy start, then Genelle makes a couple of phone calls back home using the free wifi. Free wifi is almost a must these days, you hardly need a mobile phone to call home, what you a smart phone for is the data so that you can use Google maps to get you places, the 2 hotels that we’ve stayed in that have the “Handy “phones in the rooms and you can use them locally for data like Google maps while you are walking the streets or working out public transport! as well as international calls are certainly on to a winner for travellers in an unfamiliar city.

We head out and go our own ways, Genelle to look at some other options for shopping and me to walk up towards the castle and the plan is to meet again at the hotel at 12 midday and check out then go again prior to our taxi arriving at 1.45pm at the hotel.

The day is gray, not too cold, not raining, a light fog over the river and the city, the tourists are treating across Charles Bridge to the castle and lots of school kids mixed , on excursions I guess. Not a bad spot for an excursion!

We reconvene at Pod Vezi Hotel at 1.45, our taxi is on time. The hotel organise a taxi to the train station for 350 Kr’s (Czech Crowns) which is about $16,pretty reasonable we think and the price is locked in and we don’t have to negotiate with taxi drivers, we know the rate is ok. Our man gets us to Pragaue Hlavni Train Station in about 20 minutes, in plenty of time as our train doesn’t leave until 2.52pm. The trick is working out which platform, there are 6 platforms with options a,b, s, and f. As out Tain eventually comes on the board, 4 S, we make our way to Platform 4, an old bloke is very helpful and gives us directions but he seems a bit too helpful really, hanging around like a bad smell, and then it falls into place when the train arrives and he rushes to help Genelle on with her bag then asks for €2, which I give him so he’ll piss off. I suppose he was helpful and gave us a bit of confidence we were in the right area and getting on the right train.

We’re on Train 79, travelling from Graz to Vienna, or maybe its to Graz via Prague and Vienna, dunno really but I know it’s going to Vienna and we’re on the right train. We’e going via Brno where they make the rifles’ that’s the only other name that rings a bell on the rail line we’re going on. Other names of the towns we are stopping at are Ceska Trbova, Havlickuv, Breclav, Sessenbrunn, Erzherzon head South East out of Prague through rolling hills, corn being harvested, ploughed paddocks, small villages, it’s green and looks like it’s productive country. It looks like the maximum speed is about 120 to 140 km per hour.

Travelling by rail is easy, and it’s relaxing once you have the right platform and train identified and are actually on the way with bags stowed. There is plenty of space to move around, you always arrive right in the centre of the place you want to go to and in Europe they are fast, go just about everywhere, and are comfortable and readable priced. Although saying that, we find out our train is running 33 minutes late when we get to Brno. Line problems is what we think we heard in Czech and hard to understand English. The carriage is full of locals and I don’t hear a word of English spoken the whole trip except for the conductors fractured English telling us the train is behind time. Mostly it’s Eastern European languages being spoken, not sure what ones but I guess Czech, Russian, and all have a distinctly Russian ring to them, not like the exactness of German or the machine gun sound of Italian. 

We come into Vienna, it’s modern looking but as with any entry into a city via the train lines it’s hard to tell really what it’s like.

Off the train at Wien (Vienna) Hauptbahnof, our taxi we booked in Prague is there to meet us, a black Mercedes van, sort of MI6 or CIA look about it, and for €21 it’s worth every Euro, we would never have found Pension Nossek our funky little hotel right in the middle of the name brand area of town. I can tell Genelle doesn’t like it when she says “Well, I would never have picked this place!”, but the young guy on the desk is great, it’s an old building but a nice big room, good bathroom and in the centre of the old part of the city, hopefully after a good sleep and she’ll see it differently, I think she’s a bit weary.

 We drop our bags in the room and go walking, a) for something to eat, b) some fresh air, c) let Genelle see some shops, it might lift her spirits. We find a little French cafe and have a nice meal, a coffee and hot chocolate and then walk the streets of Vienna reconoitering the shops – but this area is mostly Hugo Boss, Versace, Tag and Rolex watches so I figure I might be on a loser with that too. In future I’ll let her do all the accomodation.

Time to get some sleep, tomorrow morning is a late breakfast then after lunch we’re doing a Segway tour of Vienna. It will be interesting to see if Genelle can get the Segway airborne like her car in our driveway at home in Dubbo.

Gute Nacht aus Wien

Paul

( photos are proving hard to upload so will add them when the wifi is behaving itself)

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Day 18 – Prague, another day in fairyland. Wednesday 18th October 2017


Today is cooler, a bit foggy and the early morning sees few people on the streets. Breakfast is the usual healthy stuff then we head out into the mid morning mist across Charles Bridge, already teaming with tour groups heading up to Prague Castle. The view to the bridges either side of Charles is that grey low light misty look of Autumn that suits colour blind people like me, it’s greys, other shades of grey, white and black and nobody can give me a bollocking regarding what colour I see. 

We drop some of Tim’s ashes into the Vlatava River from Charles Bridge, there are bits of his ashes spread around the world, places I’m sure he would have travelled to and explored if he could have, so this time he’s doing in spirit with us. 

Tim’s ashes go into the Vlatava River, Prague


It’s slow going against the flow and when we eventually get to the old town side we turn left and head to the Jewish Quarter. There are less people than in the main areas, but probably less to see as well.

The Jewish cemetery is packed and the synagogue is very busy so we look at it externally and wander the streets back to the centre of old Prague, it is so bloody busy and ts nearly November, really strange I thought most of the tourists would be gone by now.

We venture past the Sex Machine Museum, have you ever heard or a weirder Museum? Actually, that reminds me that Alison and Dave visited the Museum of BRoken Relationships in Zagreb last week (that’s true!!!)

Genelle at the Sex Machines Museum


A light lunch of honey cake, coffee and hot chocolate at The Grand Orient Cafe is next on the list, Salvador Dahli and his cubist style dominate this up market cafe, the design of the building, the banisters on the stairs all scream cubism and Dahli ( do you honestly think I would know this? Our guide told us this the other day). Although I confess that I’ve seen a bit of Dahli’s work at the Pompidou Centre in Paris and the Peggy Guggenheim in Venice and I don’t mind him although Jackson Polack is my favourite artist, I think anyway. Anyway, back to the food, the honey cake is a specialty of this part of the world, it’s thin layers of sponge, cream, honey and a nutty mix, delicious!

The Grand Cafe Orient stair way – cubist design

Paul at the Grand Cafe Orient


Genelle stocks up a few more Christmas items from the crafts people on the Charles Bridge on the way back to the Castle side( where we are staying), they are all licensed and their prices are controlled and are authentic Czech handicrafts. 

At about 4 we met up with Deb and Tony, the Adelaidians, for a beer coffee etc etc and a yarn, then dinner at the same restaurant as we ate last night. The food and the prices are good but the grumpy waitress hits us up got a tip when the bill is paid even though it’s clearly included on the bill we paid, so I’m outvoted about the action we are going to take and we pay NO tip and leave. I think we’re all feeling a little weary, I know my knee and legs and back are killing me, so it’s time for an early retirement. We say goodbye in lightly misting rain, hope to catch up again some day in the future and then go our ways, them to Budapest tomorrow and us to Vienna, one of the great pleasures of travel is meeting new, interesting and nice people from all parts of the Editworld.

Some things I’ve learned;

  • This country is the Czech Republic NOT Czechoslovakia ( that was communist days and they hate the communists and Nazi’s passionately)
  • Cobblestones are very hard on crumbling busted knees, walk on the concrete or smalller more level pavers and your legs will last longer.
  • The tiled and the builder will be incurring the wrath of Genelle when we get home  – no more work done since we left, and she’s f…g really angry.
  • There are lots of homeless men evident today, a few are beggars but most aren’t. One thing I don’t know is how they will survive a winter in snow and up to -25deg C temperatures? My guess they wouldn’t survive.
  • The cobblestones are dirty, it’s a pretty grubby place, even though it’s beautiful. I think they need to get the Karcher out and give the streets a good clean.
  • Currency is a bit weird here, some people take Euros some take Korunas (Crowns) and some take both. Be prepared with a bit of both currencies. Be very careful of  which machines and currency exchanger you use, a lot are out and out fee rip offs.
  • Taxis – despite what we heard about how they are all crooks, it’s not our experience so far but make sure that you get a price quoted to your destination or get them to turn the metre on.

Tomorrow afternoon we leave by train for Vienna

Ahoj. ( Good bye)

Pavel

Trdlos – a local dessert favourite but not our favourite

Genelle having a cubist hot chocolate

Kafka’s statue – a favourite son of Prague


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Day 17 – Prague – Today Quietly exploring – Tuesday 17th October

A bit of a sleep in this morning. It feels like we’ve been travelling for months, no thoughts of work or other stresses from home, well not much anyway, the only thing I can say is that f….g tiler better get the bathrooms done before we get home or he’s gunna have to deal with you know who! Poor bugger has no idea what she’ll do to him mentally if it’s not done by the time we get home.

A healthy breakfast with some tasty pastries to balance the health bit out gets us going for the day. We explore the craft shops in our hotel area, marionettes, chrystal, glass, and walk along the river towards the next bridge over the Vlatava. There is a girl sitting on a bench under a tree reading, people sitting at cafes sipping coffees, dogs playing in the park, the sun is shining, kindergarten kids skipping along holding hands chattering away, life feels pretty good. We later see the same children clinging over 3 sculptures of giant babies crawling on the grass, in Australia this would be classed as inappropriate and no doubt some do gooding wowser self interest group would be calling for the beautiful sculptures in their parks, many of them nude, some a little, let’s say, risqué to be removed so we don’t corrupt the next generation. Maybe I’m ranting but it could happen.

As we cross the bridge to the main part of Prague, we see lots of little boats being paddled by mostly poor romantically incliddd young men trying to impress pretty girls, the water is sparkling in the morning sun but I bet the poor buggers are regretting their  galant gestures as the current looks to be running pretty strongly. Anyway, like a lot of young blokes  I guess they are thinking of other things.

Prague park today


Following a map from yesterday the first purchase of the day is made, a few pairs of socks for me, then some glass stuff, then lunch in a nice cafe. Genelle has a pea soup and I have marinated pork belly, delicious. Dessert is a potato dumpling with poppy seed, ok but not not the best food we’ve had. After a nice lunch disaster beckons, I discover I’ve lost my cap, I was sitting outside the glass shop resting and got the call “ check this out” I stood  up and I reckon it’s fallen off my knee. Anyway, it’s gone, it’s just a cap, so get over it Paul.

Sculpture in a Prague park

Sculptures in Prague park

Children climbing over baby sculptures, via the rear

Sign on a Prague Street “ Attention – Shopping is banned today”


We wander the streets to Wenscelas Square ( Santa Claus), it’s packed, then down the shopping strip towards the main square wher lots of old men sit under trees in the middle of the street, obviously homeless, some begging, and the area generally smelling of stale piss, with Fendi, Gucci and big name shops either side, is there some sort of contradiction here I don’t see?

Lunch time beers – Prague


As we trudge slowly through the crowd we run into Tony and Deb, the people from Adelaide we met on the Sachsenhausen trip out of Berlin, they arrived in Prague last night. We have a yarn and decide it’s time for a rest and a cool drink at a riverside cafe. It feels like every afternoon is Friday arvo! We then decide to have dinner with them up in the area close to where we are both staying. It’s nice to meet new people while you are travelling, some Australians and also the people who live elsewhere, that’s part of the appeal of exploring new places.

Another long day walking, so it’s finally time to call it a day at 9pm.

Ahoj. ( Good bye)

Pavel

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Day 16 – Prague – Monday 16th October 2017

  Dobří čtenáři.    (Good day readers)

The forecast for today is warm, 22deg C. The forecast of warm sunny weather looks a little off when we get up for an early breakfast, it’s cool and still not very light. But, it was correct, it turned out to be a beautiful warm sunny day, as we were told “unseasonably pleasant”, apparently it had been cold and wet for the previous month. Here they get a serious winter, down to about – 20 deg C and lots of snow, although the river doesn’t freeze up these days because of flood mitigation works up stream on the Vlatava River meaning the water doesn’t get quite cold enough to get sufficient ice to skate on.

The Pod Vezi Hotel staff are extremely helpful and organise a taxi to get over town for our Intrepid Urban Adventures – walking tour of Prague today, 6 hours of walking, a bit of food and bit of beer – Czech Pilsener is the go and as our beautiful young intelligent guide says ” Zee beer is sleeper zaan zee vawta” , sound advice I decide to take.

Tereza gets her group together, 12 of us from the USA, Philippines and 5 Australians ( Dubbo, Perth, Mackay in QLD) and starts to introduce her to Prague. It’s excellent and a nice group of people to walk with. We see the main old town and the new town ( built in the 1400’s), cross the Charles Bridge, have a traditional lunch of beef and dumplings with a cranberry sauce, it’s delicious and even Genelle eats all it! The beer, a local draught pilsener is good, and cheap.

We get a tram up the hill to Prague Castle, it’s free except for the front part of the Cathedral which the Catholic Church controls – dig that eh, I though they were going broke! A fantastic day ends with me hopping down the hill like a geriatric crow while Genelle now feels free to start looking in shop windows. A final yarn with the young coal miner from Mackay who is travelling by himself and has just come in after travelling in a Russia. He said Moscow was beautiful, and cheap, I don’t think he liked Minsk, but he said it was ok as he was in a 5 star hotel in a room as big as his house for about $85 a night, he wasn’t suffering much.

A late afternoon rest turns into a doze and after a big lunch we decide on a walk back over Charles Bridge to the old town and a snack before retiring for the night. We’ve got our bearings now, tomorrow is exploring at our own leisure. 

What did I learn today;

  • I’m not the only one with stuffed knees, 2 of our group struggled more than me on the steps and I saw a few other walkers with sticks that would have been younger than me.
  • English detective tv shows are really weird dubbed in Czech language – we turned the tv on then off quickly.
  • Prague was left relatively unscathed in WWII, but the Czech’s had a fierce resistance movement during the war and there was a Prague uprising at the end of the war when a lot of Czech resistance fighters were killed.
  • Prague is a beautiful city, but after being in Berlin, it’s not as clean or any where as efficient. Still it has achar, and life tomit, music everywhere, jazz clubs, opera, ballet on every night. “A lot of culture in the old f…g town” as Sir Les Patterson would dribble and spit out.
  • The Czech’s hate their current president, Miloš Zeman is very similar to Donna Trump, a classicly inapproapriate speaker and blatantly sexist according to certain people. Not me though, I want to stay here for a few more days.

Ahoj. ( Good bye)

Pavel ( that’s Paul in Czech for you non multi linguists)

Intrepid Urban Adventures tour group for Prague today.

Tereza and our group starting the day

Paul and Genelle from near Charles Bridge, Prague

The crowd on Charles Bridge today

A Guard at the Prague Castle

Genelle and Paul looking over Prague from the Castle

The astronomical clock in Prague

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Day 15 – Berlin to Prague – Sunday 14th October 2017

Last day in Berlin, and our first night in Prague.

A latish breakfast, we have a Vitality Breakfast for 4.90€ each and it’s a good start – yogurt, muesli, fruit, tea/ coffee.

Packing is finished but we leave it to finish at checkout which is at 12 midday, very convenient. I’m not sure that Genelle is confident that I know what I’m doing, so as we leave I get the ” So you know where you’re going?” Sideways head tilt with glasses on the end of the nose. I respond, not showing great confidence ” I think so”, and get the hairy eyeball from her again, and say “Righto let’s head that way” and 100 meters later we’re at the Berlin Wall Memorial, just around the corner from our hotel. I’d walked there on my own last night, but we can’t appear too confident can we, only opens the door to challenges from you know who.

The Wall Memorial is very sobering, our hotel was in the old East Berlin, and it’s all very modern in this area now. We then wander up towards the Flea Markets, Genelle umming and ahhing whether to keep walking, then says bugger it let’s try the markets, what a surprise! It’s a really interesting market, in the old East Berlin, lots of 2nd hand stuff, lots of new stuff that we’ll see in Australia next year or 2, flowers, fruit, food stalls. She buys a few things, all the while mumbling about where is she going to carry it, mumble mumble, its more weight – mumble mumble, but she buys anyway and then says to herself ” that was good buying, I’m really glad we came here”. Luckily there is an M10 tram at the front of the market that takes us back to the hotel in a few minutes, so feet and tempers are saved. 

We head down town on the U Bahn to see The Brandenberg Gate, we have to walk a little way beside the river but when we get there the area is packed, it’s a very popular area at the end of Unter und Linden ( close but not right I know). We walk to the memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe, a geometric area of rectangular blocks, then back to the train and back to the hotel

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

At the Brandenberg Gate


W e drop some of Tim’s ashes into the River Spree, part of the travel ritual now

Some of Tims ashes into the River Spree in Berlin


A coffee and a hot chocolate before we head to Hauptbahnof on the tram with the bags for the trip to Prague at 3.10pm.

The Berlin Wall Memorial area, the 2 pavers go wherever the wall used to be but doesn’t stand any more. It’s still an issue for the locals and listening to them talk it split many families

Cemetery next to the Wall where the East Germans moved the graves to allow the wall to be built. About 1000 graves didn’t get moved and are still under the area where it was built.


The flea market in old East Berlin, even I like this place

“I’m so short of bags sir, would you sell me one?”

We ask a bloke with a cap on, who looks like either a porter or a conductor, which end of the platform is First Class? The advice is that we should go to  the area between A and B, Genelle isn’t confident he’s got it right, she’s checking the train on the other platform and says “There’s no Carriage 262, this doesn’t sound right!”, I respond with ” it’s a different train, don’t worry, it’ll be right?” I get the pursed lips and the death stare for being so impertinent. She reluctantly sits with me and waits for impending disaster that will cause us to miss the train, but it never arises.

 The train leaves Platform 1 of Hauptbahnhof right on 3.07, there is a carriage 262, the ticket says 3.10, the original booking says 3.07, the board says 3.07 which Genelle thinks is early and maybe she would like to challenge, she restrains herself, this time anyway. A Japanese bloke has his bag on our seats 23 and 25, he gets the fu.k off look and words from Genelle and with a bit of a huff him and his skinny wife with a Yoko Ono cap on do fu.k off and find another 1st Class seat to steal or at least squat in. Clearly they got out of home (Japan) because of the fu..k wit in North Korea flying a few test missiles over their island nation and they still haven’t managed to find their smiles again.

The train heads out of Berlin, the country is flat, productive, green, pivot irrigators, small forrests of planted greets that look like birch trees, solar farms, sunflowers ready to harvest. We order honey cake, a Czech PilsenReally beer and Genelle has a coke, the beer is very good and the cake is excellent with layers of chocolate, cream and honey, Masterchef review = bloody yummo. Pretty cheap really about €10 all up.

Thee are wind farms spread through the farming country, as well as the odd solar array, clearly they embrace renewable energy and why wouldn’t they even when they have way less sun than we do. This train doesn’t travel excessively fast, not like the Eurostar or the TGV’s and the Frecciarossi’s in Italy but it’s very friendly. Our waiter is clearly a Czeck girl and is very pleasant, despite Genelle thinking she’d abandoned us with a menu and service. Jeez I’d hate her being my boss, wait, she actually bloody well is you clown Paul!

What did we think of Berlin;

  • It’s a green city, lots of trees and the Germans know exactly how many, they are all numbered.
  • The is lots of space in the city, the traffic is pretty light and lots of people ride bicycles. Not the 16 speed racers with wanker bars on them, practical  solid sit up straight bikes, ridden by blokes, women, kids, at pace in designated bike lanes that you stay out of or face embarrassment or death.
  • Berlin is spread out and so it takes a bit of time to get used to how it is all connected
  • The public transport – the S Bahn , the U Bahn and the trams all work pretty well, and even better when you work out how they all connect up, we got better but didn’t quite master it as well as I’d hoped.
  • The old East Berlin is now pretty modern but there is still a lot of evidence of the hard days pre Glasnost and the Wall coming down, the vacant area where the Wall was located is new funky building, mainly.
  • The Wall is still evident, and where it has been taken down there are 2  cobblestones running along the streets and foot paths.
  • Berlin grew on me. The first day I though this is a barren lifeless place, then I started to connect the dots, get the transport sorted and where things and places with life were located. I am now really liking it and would like to come back and do some things like a lot of the other museums, probably without Genelle – she can go shopping.
  • Germans are very pleasant ( especially the young people) very helpful ( especially the young people) and the Berliners like life, like a drink and food. The Berliners consider themselves a bit above the other Germans, sort of like Melbournians do over Sydney siders.
  • They check train tickets, so make sure you validate you ticket before you use it, normal tickets have  a 2 hour life, we had the Berlin ABC Pass for 4 days €35 each, which gave us all free public transport around Berlin as well as discounted access to museums and the hop on hop off buses. Well worth the money.

Dresden station is at 4.55 pm, mostly modern with some old ones. From what I recall it was an industrial centre and was bombed repeatedly in WWII. A lot of people are getting off the train here, I hope the Japanese bloke and his skinny missus are getting off,  I guess he won’t be game enough to back up here near Genelle.

We head East into the Czech Republic, a loud woman smelling of a week of 40 a day cigarette smoke, wearing a big silver bike type ring on nearly every finger, plus a  weedy bloke comes picking up rubbish to recycle, speaking what must be Czech, it’s not German. I’m not sure if she’s a railway worker or a somebody who sells recycled cans and bottles. As they come back later they carry spare rolls of toilet paper and talking loudly, so I figure they are Czech Railway employees, without any customer service training. Her hacking cough reverberates around the first class carriage, wish I had my face mask and ear plugs. If I ever write a spy novel they’ll be 2 characters that I’d have, clearly as bad eggs operating under cover trying to detect chocolate and jelly bean smugglers  like us, and spreading disease by coughing over western tourists.

The country turns to hills, and a beautiful river on the left hand side of the train with a magnificent bite grey cliff behind it, forrests and green river flats, quite different to the Berlin side. It looks more alpine, with camper vans parked along roads and near the river, no caravan parks like Australia where the wagons are circled like the OK coral every night.

Through the mountains and the fast flowing river on the left hand side we’re back into farm land and now definitively in the Czech Republic, the guard is now a young blonde Czech and our tickets get checked for the 3rd time. There are no border checks or passport checks, just “come on in and spend yer money folks”.

We pull into Praha (Prague) Hlavni train station exactly on time, our booked taxi is in front of Burger King to pick us up ( the hotel organised for €15). Thank god we did, the traffic looks messy and the crowds are bustling around the train station. Our Japanese friend and Yoko are battling with what look like 4 x 30 kg bags and trying to sort cab out, I wish them the best.

The hotel is a brilliant little old hotel (Hotel Pod Vezi) right on Charles Bridge with the castle and the city as views, we also have a roof top terrace with even better views. The check in is a lengthy affair with a friendly informative young guy on reception, very efficient and informative. Our room is on the 3rd floor, there is a lift, the bathroom is very modern and roomy, the bed comfortable, wifi works, 3 restaurants at the hotel that sound good, only 26 rooms all up, very old but very good where as Berlin was very modern and very good – nothing to complain about at all.

We get some money (Czech Koruna’s – 100 = $1 Aud) from a recommended ATM, head hack for dinner in the hotel and then a walk over the bridge. It’s like a Fairy land, the castle, the churches, the bridge over the Vlatava River, the old town and the new town ( built in the 1400’s), and lost of shops. I think we’re gunna be ok here.

Tomorrow morning we’re doing an Urban Adventures walking tour of Prague at 9am, so it’s early breakfast and a cab to the meeting point as we have no idea where to go.

Cheers for today

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Day 14 – Berlin – Sachsenhausen Concentration  Camp – Chapter 2 – Saturday 14th October 2017

So, continuing on about yesterday, before I forget the details.

Our tour leader is Cesar, what we see is he’s a swarthy looking man looks likes he’s Spanish, late 30’s, thick beard, ear ring, English accent. What he tells us is, he has English and Argentinian heritage and raised in Oxfordshire, he’s done a Masteres in Music, a Masters in History and now he’s doing  Masters in the Histriy of Music, he’s very good at explaining the origins of WWII which is pretty much the way I learned it from Greg Valentine in HSC history at Farrer in the 70’s, when the Cold War was going strong and the Berlin Wall was still standing strong with Glasnost a long way off. The difference is that on our way to Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, and hearing about the early days of the Nazi culling process and how they ramped it up as the war got closer and then again when the end started to become inevitable with things like the Sachsenhausen death march which was really a way to cheaply kill all the prisoners before the Russians arrived, the Japanese did similar things at Sandakan.

The train trip out to the camp is confusing, it’s about 1 1/2 hours out of the centre of Berlin but there is some line problems and Cesar goes to a Plan B route with a few changes.

This means “Hard work makes you free”, not sure it actually worked that way in Sachsenhausen

The inside fence, inside this there was another border of about 3 metres where to set foot on her means instant death

The original wall of the camp with a machine gun sentry post behind

Memorial near the gas and other execution area

We met Deb and Tony from Adelaide on the tour, they’re from Adelaide, he’s a just retired cop,and she is still working. They’ve been travelling for 7 weeks and still have another  week and a half to go. There are a few other Aussies in the group.

When we get to The town where Sachsenhausen was set up, its bleak, the cloud has come in. We get off the train at the station that hundreds of thousands of Jews, Gypsies, socialists and other minorities that the Nazi’s could lay the blame on the loss of WWI and the depression and hyperinflation afterwards on, first got off on the way to their way to death either through starvation, execution, hypothermia or torture. We walk the 2 kilometres to the camp that they would have walked, past houses that were then the Nazi SS officers houses, into the administration area and the the camp. The gates to the actual Concentration Camp have the words “Arbeit Macht Frei” on it, which means ” Work will make you Free”, all it did was make most of the incoming people dead. Inside the camp there are testing grounds where the prisoners were made to walk for kilometres testing different boots for different surfaces, if they fell they got shot, but it was important work because after a rifle the most important thing to a soldier was his boots. We see the area where they executed  thousands of Soviet soldiers through a ploy of measuring their height but as the backed into the measuring pole they were shot through the head via a hole in the all behind them, the gas ovens with Zuklon B which ended up being the cheapest and most effective method of liking people came a little latter. They even thought of the stress that the killing would have on their soldiers, it’s all difficult to process.

The return train trip is pretty quiet, we end up back at Haeckersher Markt, and Genelle is happy, the sun is out and the  stalls are still going, so after being a little bored with war and torture stuff ( she’s well versed in all forces of torture anyway), she’s back in her natural environment, more shopping ensues. Then we run into  the Adelaide guys again and have a drink and a yarn about the important things in life – sport and more sport (I’m joking – sport is more than just important!)

We stroll through the market area at dusk and wander uphill towards Invallidenstrase, finding an M10 tram that we think will get us home. It does and we rest back at the hotel for a few minutes before heading to Hauptbahnof to gate our tickets for tomorrow’s trip to Prague. We spot a fish and chip place in Hauptbahnof and have a little grease, potato and North Sea krill for dinner, thank goodness I had the gall stones out a long time ago, but good stuff to line the gut I say, at least the oil is fresh and not burnt.

Haekersha Market


We’re burnt out, I reckon we walked over 7-8 km’s today.

An “art” shot on Invalidenstrasse late Saturday night


Ciao from Berlin for the last time.

Paul

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