Archive for July, 2012

July 31, 2012

Venice by Night

My room mate and I ventured out into Venice last night to experience it when the sun goes down. It was beautiful with all the lamps lighting up, people taking moonlit gondola rides, and people crowding bridges, all taking photos to try and capture its beauty. There were people having dinner by the water with candle-lit tables and floral hanging baskets dotted next to lamps above their heads. We looked at Carnival Venetian masks in shop windows then I ate pizza and she had gnocchi. We sat at a candle-lit table and enjoyed Venice by night 🙂

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July 30, 2012

Around Venice

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I went on a boat ride around Venice today. Just walking to the boat and looking around, everything I could see was beautiful. There were quaint arched bridges, blue water, lots of boats, little shops selling things like masks, shoes or clothes, restaurants, pizzerias and so much more. There were window boxes of colourful flowers and shutters on apartment windows which were often green.
I bought my ticket and got on the boat. It was very crowded but I got a seat after the first stop which was good. I tried to talk English to the lady who docked the boat at each stop but she either didn’t understand or didn’t want to talk. They look very cool in their navy blue uniform and sunglasses.
From my seat on the boat I saw the city on water that is Venice. I believe I passed its famous bridge and a great cruise ship also.
I also passed churches and many more buildings, all lining the edge of the water. In the distance I spied islands which I was excited to see. A great ride, I was a bit too budget conscious to go on a gondola but I took plenty of photos of then from the boat I was on. I love Venice 🙂

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July 29, 2012

In Venice!

I’m in Venice and it is beautiful! There are gondolas, bridges and blue water amongst much more! I just got here today but will explore tomorrow 😀

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July 26, 2012

In Rome, Italy

Last night I arrived in Rome, Italy after a marvellous train journey through the dreamlike beauty of Switzerland with its turquoise blue lakes and towering alps, some of which in the distance were snow-capped despite the summer heat down below anyway. First impressions of Rome were that it was hot, busy and hectic. I couldn´t see much as it was dark so I just caught a taxi to the hostel where I´m staying at. Drivers here are pretty speedy, don´t recognise pedestrain crossings most of the time and constantly beep at each other so be careful out there. I can´t describe how refreshing a cold shower is after succumbing to sudden heat after being used to a cooler European climate elsewhere. It was absolute bliss!
The next day (today) I bought a ticket to Paris for next week as they sell out so quickly, plus return reservations for Venice (where I can use my Eurail Pass). Then I started to walk to the Colosseum with my map of Rome in hand. I also bought a cookie flavoured gelato which was delicious. My first Italian gelato!
I came across a man holding a bunch of brochures and found out he was a Tour Guide on the tour bus company Green Lines Tours. I bought a day ticket to the hop on hop off tour and jumped aboard the double decker open-topped (although some are close-topped) green and silver tour bus. I sat on top of course. Sunscreen and a hat are very important in Italy, especially in summer.
The bus was stopping at many destinations but the ones I got off at were the Colosseum, the Vatican and Trevi Fountain, although I did gaze out at the other sights like the Pantheon and St Maria´s.
Getting off the bus at the Colosseum I was enthralled with the ancient Roman buildings down a path ahead of me, the main one of course being the Colosseum. It is huge! I tried to picture people being punished chased by lions down in the maze-like stones in its centre. Ascending the great stone steps I walked along the inside part and then went outside to marvel at the view, including where the gladiators and people being punished would be in the rocky maze below.

I tried to picture the cheering crowds watching people getting ripped apart mercilessly below. I walked around the whole outside ring, then the whole inside part with informative boards on the Colosseum´s history and so on as well as about ancient Roman artifacts. I also took a squiz in the gift shop just for fun and saw some miniature Roman figures for sale. Then I went outside and got on the tour bus for the Vatican.
What a magnificent building the Vatican is! Flanked by two golden water fountains at the front, plus overlooking statues towering from stone walls on either side, it is a grand sight. It´s tall and domed in one part and white. It´s hard to describe. I saw the balcony where the Pope comes out to greet the ecstatic crowd in the square below.
I sat by both golden fountains and splashed some refreshing cool water over my hands to relieve myself of the heat of the day. I also drank a lemon flavoured lemonade which was delicious. There were loads of people trying to sell us stuff even from the ground when we were on the tour bus and they´re really persistent and will admire your beauty to try to make you buy something from them, giving you a “good deal” so be careful.

I went back on the tour bus and got off at Trevi Fountain where I of course threw a coin in to guarantee my return to Rome. The fountain is absolutely magnificent with white statues on it, including a unicorn and people. It´s very tall and very inviting for a swim with deep looking blue water and water cascading down the fountain that you kind of just want to stand under. However you´re not allowed to swim in it or remove your shirt, as many men may be tempted to do and both women and men to swim. There were police standing guard over the pool and I saw them blow their whistle at someone today to tell them to put their shirt back on. There were people trying to get paid to take your photo or trying to sell you red roses. They´re also very persistent and must be excited about the high summer tourist season. There are certainly a lot of tourists around (like me!) 🙂

Then, after sitting by the magnificent fountain for a while I got on my tour bus again, this time headed home. It dropped me off at Roma Termini Train Station, which is near where I´m staying. I then had my first ever Italian pizza, Pizza Napoli with salty anchovies, cheese and tomato paste, yummy! Then I walked back to my accommodation. What a day! Balissimo! 🙂

July 23, 2012

The Chocolate Museum

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July 23, 2012

The Boat Ride on the River Rhine

July 22, 2012

A Boat Ride and the Chocolate Museum

Today we began a sunny day with a walk to the River Rhine, past the large gothic Cologne Cathedral towering above everything. We decided to first have lunch (it was lunch time) and then catch the next boat ride on the River Rhine. We went upstairs to a German Brewery/restaurant and had lunch. I had spaghetti and sauce with a Sprite 🙂 Then we got seats at the top deck of the boat we had purchased tickets to earlier for our tourist boat ride. The ride was great with first a German and then an English explanation of the buildings and other things we were seeing go by. Kerstin and I ate hot pretzels, yummy! We passed the Chocolate Museum which we would visit later.
We walked off the boat and to the Chocolate Museum which is a kind of giant boat on the River Rhine with great glass windows looking out over the river. We also passed Noah‘s Ark exhibition in the form of a giant ark on our way there to our right and a castle like tower on our left. Once inside the museum we bought our tickets. I was reminded of Roald Dahl‘s famous children‘s book I had read to me in class in year three and later on read to myself “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”. I felt like I was walking into Willy Wonka‘s chocolate factory just like Charlie did along with the other children in Dahl‘s book. The Chocolate Museum gave much information of how chocolate is made, who makes it, their working conditions, how their working conditions are improving with companies like Lindt helping to improve them. I read that most people who make the chocolate never get to actually eat the final product which I think is sad. The museum showed how chocolate is made from the cocoa beans mixed with sweet white pulp to give it the chocolate flavour, after which much is done to it to achieve the chocolate we know so well. My favourite chocolate is milk chocolate, followed by white chocolate and lastly bitter dark chocolate which I believe is most of the time used in cooking. We saw machines making chocolate. We saw Lindt chefs taking the chocolates from machines and preparing them for people to buy. There was a giant golden chocolate fountain out of which a chef was handing bisuits dipped in chocolate to us hungry chocolate lovers. There was also a part of the museum which was set to hot and humid conditions and showcased Cocoa trees and other trees including Starfruit and the flower Orchid which I thought was wonderful. The hot humid climate reminded me of the temperature in Darwin, Australia which I went to for a holiday a couple of times before.
The museum also showed how chocolate was considered a luxury product and was labelled as to where it was intended to be eaten like a train station. There were fancy boxes on display in which chocolate would have been sold in the past.
After the wonders of the Chocolate Museum I, like so many others bought chocolate from the conveniently placed chocolate shop just outside the exit of the museum but still within the building. They even had baskets, but I didn‘t take one. I bought a mixture of different Lindt small chocolates and a bar of strawberry yoghurt chocolate too. Kerstin bought her daughter Norah pink wrapped princess chocolates which was sweet 🙂 Then we walked to a bridge where lovers left locks engraved or written on with both lovers‘ names and a year. There were so many locks spanning probably the whole fence of the side of the bridge we were on all in different colours. Little children felt the locks and read the names and years on them. Seeing all the locks there was so romantic and made me feel there is so much love in the world.

July 21, 2012

The Palace I Saw Today

The palace I saw today: Augustusburg Palace

July 21, 2012

Day Trip to a Palace

Today we did a day trip to the Augustusberg Palace. We caught the train from Cologne (Köln) HBF train station to there and back. The palace looked wonderful from the outside, but wait until you walk inside! They do guided tours but not speaking anything more than at best conversational German, my godmother got me an English audio guide which wasn‘t cracking jokes like our funny German Tour Guide but told me the basics of each aspect of the palace. All I had to do was key in the number in question and hit play. I loved the artwork on the ceilings of angels and other creatures. There‘s no photography allowed inside. I also loved in one section how the statues were built to appear to be holding up a floor. It was great looking out of the palace windows onto the great sprawling gardens coloured with European flowers including snapdragons interwoven with hedges trimmed artistically into swirls and so on. There were great water fountains in the gardens too. After the palace tour we had lunch and went home. I also ate a German pretzel today and I liked it 🙂

July 19, 2012

In Cologne (Köln), Germany

Recently I caught the Eurostar train under the British Channel to Paris where I activated my Eurail Pass and made seat reservations (should have done that sooner: massive line) to get to Cologne Germany. I had to catch three different trains there after the Eurostar but I got there in the end, going through Belgium on my way and gazing at a shop glass window of Belgium chocolates too. My godmother Kerstin and her husband Hop (short for Hubert) picked me up from the Cologne Train Station and from there we walked to their apartment where I gave their three going on four daughter Norah a pretty purple and blue necklace which she loves 🙂 When she isn‘t wearing it it‘s in her treasure box, so sweet! Then the next day Hop, Norah, Hop‘s parents (who Norah calls Oma and Opa, German for Grandma and Grandpa) and I all went to the Cologne Cathedral together. What a magnificent building. It has black looking somewhat spiked towers and is meant to be the tallest cathedral in Europe, so I‘m told. I loved the beautiful tall stained glass windows and the statues of religious figures staring down from the walls. But I especially loved the golden shrine dedicated to the three kings whose bones lie in the very cathedral! Then we dropped Norah off at Kindergarten and went to a church which in one room had human bones halfway up the walls. There were also human skulls in a glass cabinet adorned with cloth in the same room. Elsewhere in the church was a special memorial to victims of the Nazis with dates of births and deaths surrounding a figurine of Jesus on a cross in the centre of them all. There was also a eagle on the sermon holder, which looked very stern. Then later that night we met up with Kerstin who had been working that day and all went to a German Brewery together where I tried Cologne‘s delicious beer called “Kölsch”. Coming from a person who doesn‘t like beer, it‘s delicious, so that‘s saying something. After all they did invent it (Kölsch) so what could be better than the original?