Day 29

*A shout out to all my U.S readers, you guys are reading my stuff in crazy numbers! So, thank you, and please continue, I’m still an amateur at this.*

The best thing about having lived in London during my university years is the spectrum of diverse people I met. I’ve managed to stay in contact with the majority of my continental European friends, and have used my travel time as a great reason to visit them. One such place where I got to reunite with old friends was the Austrian capital, Vienna.

Having people from the city take you around is great. Not only will they show you the best and most famous places, but they’ll take you places popular with locals, and you can really experience the vibe of life there.

The first popular spot I was taken to was Vienna aquarium. Packed into a skyscraper, quite oddly, it houses all types of aquatic life that you would expect from the best marines including, my favourites, giant turtles. An annex to the back of the building contains a mini ecosystem, and is a home for tropical birds, lemurs and jungle plants. There’s even monkey feeding sessions, if you can handle the screech of these primates and you’re able to hold live crickets without feeling queazy. These mites are super fast at getting their grub so have your camera for the photo opportunity, you won’t have long trust me!

Once you reach the summit of the building (you may wanna skip the café floors and take the lift to catch a breath) you are rewarded with a panoramic view of the city, as well as the chance to pet some tortoise. The view surprised me somewhat; I was expecting a much smaller, alpine feel to it. Although you can still se the beautiful Alps mountain range surrounding the outskirts, a mixture of old and new buildings in the city spread out in a great metropolis, showing that Vienna is one of Europe’s most historic and beautiful cities.

Of course, with great metropolises comes amazing architecture. Central was full of beautiful buildings, from renaissance to art nouveau. Notable buildings of beauty were the former bank buildings right by the Cathedral, and the City’s grand opera house. For Vienna to be a great city, it needs a memorable Cathedral, and Stephansdom is exactly that.

Stephansdom, Vienna.

Stephansdom, Vienna.

Famous for being Austria’s most eminent Gothic edifice, this cathedral holds a wealth of art treasures, some of which can only be seen during a guided tour. Its location right in the heart of the city likens it to a gothic needle from which the rest of the city spins. Having survived so many wars, the Viennese see it as a symbol of Austria’s freedom.

After a brisk tour of the centre of town, I was whisked off on a subway to the old Royal Palace. Schönbrunn, former home to the Habsbergs and other imperial royals, is a majestic and impressive site, reminiscent of Versailles (read about my visit to there in my Paris post). Built in a baroque style, the palace is regarded as one of the most important cultural monuments in the country. A visit here is enough to make anyone aware of the power the Austro-Hungarian kingdom used to have.

Schönbrunn Palace, a great piece of Austrian heritage.

Schönbrunn Palace, a great piece of Austrian heritage.

Accompanying the Palace are the sprawling gardens, a beautiful place to come for a walk or run. At the bottom of the gardens I found a labyrinth, which I was delighted to explore, having been disappointed at the lack of one at Versailles (every royal palace needs one IMO). The pleasant weather left clear skies, and an amazing view of the whole grounds. Looking down from the Schönbrunn chapel, main picture, at the top of the hill (another royal essential:private place of worship) gives an amazing vantage point to take in this stunning residence.

Like I said, I was being shown around by friends, and they spent plenty of time helping

Putenschnitzel, a traditional Viennese meal.

Putenschnitzel, a traditional Viennese meal.

me explore Austrian cuisine. Our main food of choice for the day was Putenschnitzel, a battered turkey steak and served with potatoes and vegetables.

It was delicious, but i’m surprised everyone doesn’t have sky high cholesterol with this all this fried food. Accompany this meal with a local beer, and you’ll feel truly Viennese!

For something sweet, I was taken across the city to its most famous dessert parlour, Tichy. Opened in the 1950s and with the same interior maintained, and staff in traditional uniform, I felt like I was transported back in time. Here I got to try Viennese delicacies: Eisknödel. Little balls of pastry with ice cream in the centre that are fried and rolled in crumble and nuts, so the centre is gooey and the whole things soft.I went to pastry heaven with all the different tastes, and they are a very filling dessert. it’s worth a return trip to the city just for this place! A little treasure for the locals and not overly popular with tourists, this is a great spot to sit back and watch the local life.

Eisknödel in all their glory

Eisknödel in all their glory

Vienna was a lovely surprise for me. Catching up with friends, and changing my perspective of how this city would be. Rather than the log cabin life I expected, the traditional alpine elements have mixed with modernities, and created a nicely balanced city, full of friendly, harmonious and cultured crowds.

Waltzing around Vienna Day 29 *A shout out to all my U.S readers, you guys are reading my stuff in crazy numbers!

Krakow: A city set poles apart from the rest

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Day 28

As the royal capital of Poland for some 500 years, Krakow exudes a regale elegance.

St Mary's Cathedral, in the middle of the City's main square.

St Mary’s Cathedral, in the middle of the City’s main square.

From the immaculate main square, whose origins are 6/700 years old, to the red brick cathedral of St Mary with its hourly trumpeter, its easy to get lost in its ambience.

Krakow is known as a new hotspot for stag dos. Its easy to see why the city…

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As my german train crept into the czech countryside, I was mesmerised by the  pockets of coloured cabins tucked neatly into the lush green mountains, with evaporation rising from the hills like smoke, eerily reminiscent of Middle Earth from The Lord of the Rings. The odd piece of brutal architecture here and there harked back to a time when the country was on the eastern side of the ‘Iron Curtain’. The indigenous beauty of the rural areas is undeniable, and so evidently superior to the yellower German countryside.

When I reached the city centre and began to explore the parts recommended to me, I couldnt help but be distracted by the stunning mountain range that surrounded the city’s edges. Prague castle, sitting amongst one of these mountains, needs a whole day to explore, with several buildings, a cathedral, and amazing views of the city and

The main town square.

The main town square.

surrounding hills giving you plenty to do. 

Another great spot for views is Vysherna. A little out of the city’s centre, the old fortress and city walls that are left are nice for a stroll, with a number of churches and graveyard to explore. If you want a site that’s not as busy as the castle, this is it.

The castle should be regarded as the number one landmark in the city, but it is usurped by the largely inferior astronomical clock. Waiting amongst the swarms of tourists for the clock to strike the hour for its little ‘performance’ is hugely overhyped. There’s no denying the technology for its age is amazing (its some 600 years old) but its pretty silly that people flock to see it.

Prague has managed to keep its old world beauty and charm because it managed to remain largely untouched by Wold War Two, and it’s nice to see full streets of pre war buildings, and the charm of their use in a modern context.

One of my favourite spots in the City was the John Lennon wall. Once a normal wall, since the 1980s it has been filled with John Lennon-inspired graffiti and pieces of lyrics from Beatles’s songs.

Messages of love and peace can be left on the John Lennon Wall.

Messages of love and peace can be left on the John Lennon Wall.

In 1988, the wall was a source of irritation for the communist regime of Gustáv Husák. Young Czechs would write grievances on the wall, following a movement described ironically as “Lennonism”, and led to tensions between students and Czech authorities.

The original portrait of Lennon is long lost under layers of new paint, but today, the wall represents a symbol of global ideals such as love and peace.

Prague proved itself to be another city for interesting art. Many artists who were suppressed under communist rule in the 20th Century came forward to help with public art in an attempt to recapture its art vibrancy. Up-and-coming Czech artists like Josef Bolf and Daniel Pitin have sculptures dotted all around the city, and they are eye grabbing to say the least.

Another very famous point of reference is the statue of Infant Jesus of Prague. Pious legends state that the statue once belonged to Saint Teresa of Avila and allegedly holds miraculous powers, especially among expectant mothers, and the image is held in very high regard in amongst devout Catholics. It was a lot smaller than I was expecting, but looks in fantastic condition for a 600 year old statue, given its global fame.

The most transformed part of the city, I was told by a tour guide, was the Jewish quarter. Formerly the worst part of the city susceptible to floods and spreading disease,  it has been altered and made higher to cope with river floods. This improved the ghetto and Jews moved back in and brought money to it, where it is now one of the city’s wealthiest areas.

Running down a list of Prague’s attractions seems to cover almost everything you could ever want in a European vacation. From Fairy-tale castles and ornate palaces, to romantic cobblestone lanes, lazy patio cafes and inexpensive food and drink. Throw in the great night life and music, and you have an unbeatable location!

The mixture of histories is evident in the surviving parts of the old main square and wall gates. The Czechs rich monarchial history, combined with its turbulent 20th century (in the last century they have been ruled under 5 different countries) prove that with a legacy so ancient it will continue to flourish and strengthen in its future.

Prague: The Gem of Central Europe As my german train crept into the czech countryside, I was mesmerised by the  pockets of coloured cabins tucked neatly into the lush green mountains, with evaporation rising from the hills like smoke, eerily reminiscent of Middle Earth from…

Berlin: Europe’s Capital of Cool

Berlin: Europe’s Capital of Cool

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Days 24 & 25.

Berlin is buzzing. Having emerged from such a turbulent recent history, its doing pretty well in helping Germany lead the way in Europe and the World.

The best thing about this city is no matter where you decide to wander off to and explore, you’ll find something of interest. My first walk of several kilometres took me to Chrlottenborg Palace on the outskirts of the city centre, a 2…

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Day 23: Amsterdam

What can I write about Amsterdam that hasn’t already been told by someone in some shape or form? World renowned for its legalisation of cannabis and its red light district, the Dutch capital is the perfect place to dance, get off your face/stoned, drunk, laid and basically do all those things that aren’t accepted at home.

The wold famous canals shape the city's flow.

The wold famous canals shape the city’s flow.

On this trip I decided I…

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Day 20: Cologne & Hamburg

Day 20: Cologne & Hamburg

One day. Two German Cities.

One of my trip ambitions was to get to Scandinavia. Because of time constraints, I was happy enough to go as far as Copenhagen, Denmark. My journey to there took me through Germany for the first time, with a couple of pitstops.

Although I was only there for four hours, I pretty much covered the highlights of Cologne. I dropped my bag off at a cloakroom and headed for…

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