Prague: The place of fairy tales!

After our night of unlimited wine and an attempt to say farewell to Nath (we could not wake him for the life of us) we made our way to Prague.  We had no idea what to expect from Prague but from what people had told us we had some high expectations! We checked into our awesome hostel, equipped with a lively restaurant and bar and thought we would have a decent meal whilst we still had some money left in our wallets (we obviously didn’t plan ahead too well as the following night’s dinner MAY have consisted of supermarket bread and cheese…whoops). Following a good night’s sleep, we began our first full day with a free walking tour of Prague (which I could barely afford to go on) and found that Prague is one of those places that look like it has come out of a fairytale book.  There are some cool little myths behind a lot of buildings and a fair bit of history too.  The old Town is definitely a place to go and visit as you will find the Tyn Church, the Powder Gate, the Municipal House and a lot of funky little shops plus a lot of food stalls.  Just be wary though with the food stalls, they will try and rip you off.  Just make sure you are very specific in what you want and how many grams and that you don’t want anything extra.  We went to one stall that had something advertised as 100grams for 79 Kc and there was nothing else advertised so we asked for that and he has come back saying it’s 250Kc because it’s over 300grams!!  Of course we stood our ground because we are quite cheap but he got a bit annoyed and made it out like it’s our fault.  We had a couple of people experience the same thing where they will give you something extra that you didn’t ask for and then ask for more money.  In saying that it’s only a couple of euro but when you are on a tight budget it makes a difference!

Anyway, another cool thing to see in Prague is the Lennon Wall.  This is a wall dedicated to John Lennon and anyone can go up and graffiti it so this wall is constantly changing because artworks are going over previous artworks.  After the Lennon Wall we made our way to St. Nicolas, the Prague Castle and then onto the Wallenstein Palace.  The Wallenstein Palace is a cool little place to check out as it’s filled with gardens and peacocks plus it is home to the Dripstone Wall.  This wall is manmade and was designed to fit in with nature but at the same time it’s kind of weird and definitely unique!  Also while you are here go and check out the Dancing House.  It’s quite a funky little building to see if you are interested in architecture and buildings etc.

 

OH!  Also if you ever find yourself in Prague, you MUST find the Choco-story! We were told by some fellow travellers that they offer free samples of chocolate so of course we added this place on our list in Prague, who doesn’t love free chocolate! This place has some amazing chocolates in it and hard candies as well that they make themselves and for a small price you can even go watch a demonstration I believe, but as we were quite cheap we just wondered around the store salivating at all the chocolatey goodness awaiting those free samples! We finally struck gold and were offered tastings (no seconds though much to our disappointment) of some of the chocolate they have to offer. I can’t really recommend if it’s any good or not as we didn’t buy anything or only had a tiny yet tantalising taste but it’s worth a visit anyway.

While in Prague we were lucky enough to meet up with our new found friends from Berlin – the Dutch boys and the Canadian – YAY!  Of course lots of wine, beer and food were had over the two nights that we met up with them and the Dutch boys did teach me some dirty words (look out Australia!).  These guys are so much fun and on our second night out with them, following a nice stiff drink of the infamous Absinthe (better enjoyed with coke if you don’t want your throat to burn for a 24 hour period), we decided to check out the 5 storey club which is apparently the biggest club in Central Europe (with a rep like that how could we not check it out?).  This is definitely a very unique club!  The setup of it is kind of like two different mini clubs per floor so you are kind of spoilt for choice as to where to go.  While here we actually decided to try out the Ice Pub and like the name states it’s a pub made purely out of ice!  So you put on your warm big jacket and gloves and go down to the pub that is -7◦ for 20mins.  Definitely one of the most ‘coolest’ things I’ve done (haha get it?)!  Anyway after dancing our butts off, we eventually left and had to say farewell to our newfound friends unfortunately…

Prague is a beautiful city but it’s preferably best visited when you’re not on a 8€ a day budget like myself (yes, it was quite depressing times) but it’s got a nice charm about it and it’s definitely a quirky little city.

Look out for our visit to Budapest where we totally and utterly fell in lurve!

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Berlin: We should have done you more justice!

So after our adventures in Amsterdam we made our way to the fantastic city of Berlin!! On our train ride to Berlin we shared a cabin with a lovely old German lady who couldn’t speak much English but she was more than happy to have a conversation with us and show us photos of her family.  She was even kind enough to give us a block of chocolate for helping her with her bags – it was good chocolate too!  Anyway so after encountering some unhelpful customer service people and working out the metro system we eventually made our way to our final destination – the home of someone we had never met before.  No, we didn’t try couch surfing despite our best efforts but Cuz actually had a friend in Berlin who was more than happy to host us (yay)!  So after we met up with Nath (not his real name for privacy reasons) he took us around his neighbourhood each with a beer in hand – yes, you can openly drink a beer on the streets we found out AND they are dirt cheap!  Unfortunately Nath had to work during our time in Berlin so we were left to our own devices, which was kind of dangerous….  Now, the weather in Berlin was pretty crap – it was cold, wet and just miserable so we didn’t really venture far from his neighbourhood (in other words we didn’t venture off his street – oh dear).  We did however enjoy some amazing Thai food (twice) and we even decided to have a night of Thai food while watching True Blood – yes we were nanna’s in Berlin and we liked it!  As I’m also writing this I’m realising we literally did not eat any traditional German food, it all seemed to be from other countries – oops!

After a couple of days of us being lazy we thought we should probably go out and do Berlin some form of justice considering we were leaving the next day (did I mention that we were nanna’s?).  We were quite determined to see Berlin and decided to do a 6hr long walking tour – yes you read right, 6hrs!  We were a little worried at the start that maybe the guide would bore us to death or perhaps we were too unfit from all our pastries, cheese and Thai but neither was the case!  Okay I’m going to say this right now, if you are ever in Berlin go on a Brewer’s Walking Tour, especially the Brewer’s Best of Berlin tour (which is the 6hr one).  This tour was one of the best tours we have ever done!  Our guide was Asoka and because she knew so much and was so passionate about everything, it just made it that much more interesting!  You tour around Berlin visiting some historic and important spots learning about WW1 right through to modern day Berlin so you really do get a good history lesson.  You will find remnants of the past everywhere around this city if you look hard enough – from bullet holes in walls to buildings that still show signs of damage from the war to the little walking man for pedestrian crossings.

Make sure you keep your eyes to the ground though as you will see sidewalk-affixed plaques at the front of buildings.  These plaques are a little memorial to the victims of the Nazis and are known as ‘Stolpersteine’ or stumbling blocks and represent the people that were taken from those buildings.  The plaque will read ‘Here lived…’, giving the name, date of birth, details about the victim’s fate, and the dates of her or his incarceration and death, if known.  I found this was quite interesting and I probably never would have known what they were if someone didn’t tell me.

Another interesting thing that I shall share with you lovely people is how to tell if you are on the former East or West side of Berlin.  Tram lines run in the former East Germany and buses run in the former West as the West got rid of its tram tracks in the 1960’s, however trams are slowly being reintroduced back into the Western side…. Interesting right?  Another way to tell that used to be effective but not so much anymore is the pedestrian crossing symbols.  If you see a little red or green man in a hat (known as Ampelmännchen or “little traffic light men”) then you know you are in the former East side whereas the former West side has the normal green/red man.  However, due to traffic lights being replaced etc the normal men do appear in the former East side.

Berlin is obviously a city with a lot of rich history so I’m not going to get into the history side of things or list all of the sights you should see because there really is way too much.  There are also a lot of things to see and do that don’t relate to war but once again that’s another looong list – honestly Berlin is the place to be, it has such a great vibe and I actually wish we had of explored the city a little bit longer!

Anyway, after our 8hr long walking tour (yes, our tour actually went for an extra 2hrs because we had a couple of pit stops at coffee shops) we were recommended a place to try out called Weinerei Forum which we went to check out with a couple of Dutch guys, a Canadian and a lovely gal from Chile.  Find this place!!  The wine is quite cheap and good there BUT after 8pm you can have all you can drink wine and all you can eat food and you just tip them what you think is fair.  I know it seems like there must be some sort catch to it, but there isn’t!  Seriously check it out because it made for quite a fun night as well!

So that’s all I got for Berlin, short and sweet unfortunately but honestly I will be back because Berlin is quite a fascinating and nice city to visit and I promise that next time I’ll do it a little more justice!

Keep an eye out for our Prague blog where fairy tales do exist!

Great flying pigs – we’re in Amsterdam!

After we gained 5kgs from the pastries in France we rolled ourselves onto the train for our next destination – Amsterdam!  As soon as we got off the train to try and find our way to our hostel we had someone come up and ask if we needed help with anything – which for us was kind of a shock because let’s be honest, no one really wants to help a lost backpacker.  They actually have information people at the train station to help with any questions or if you need directions etc and I actually think it is a great idea!  They probably have this set up in other cities but it was the first time we had encountered it and we liked it!  We also had someone give us a free drink sample and just from these two things we knew we liked Amsterdam, we probably could have just lived in the train station.  We did eventually drag ourselves away from the train station and technically for our first night in Amsterdam we had no accommodation but we were meeting up with our Moroccan stalkers who had very kindly said that we could stay in their room which was conveniently at the exact same hostel where we had the next 3 nights booked.

Our first day/night in Amsterdam was interesting to say the least.  We got in around lunchtime so we met up with our friends and went to find some food.  Now, for us it was so strange to be in a place where you could openly smoke the green stuff in the streets and buy it so freely.  We were having lunch and there are just people around us smoking and because we come from a country that is so strict on stuff like that your first thought is, what are they doing – they are going to get arrested which of course you don’t.  Still perplexed by the amount of freedom here we wandered around the streets of Amsterdam and found ourselves in the famous Red Light district.  It doesn’t look so bad during the day; however we did come across someone walking the street in a pink gimp outfit… So, anyway we found a nice little bar where we of course immersed ourselves in some local beer and where I tried a rosé beer.  Yes, you read correctly a rosé beer – it was pink and sweet and I’m not sure if you could still class it as a beer but it was pretty damn tasty!  After our exciting afternoon out we got back to the hostel for a quick nanna nap before the real fun started!

We started our night with a really good meal and then wondered down to the Red Light district to check it out at night and it almost feels like you have stepped into another world.  People tell you about this stuff but until you actually experience it and see it for yourself, do you realise that it’s exactly how people described it.  You will see a lot of girls in windows selling themselves and you will also see a lot of men walking in or out and it kind of feels like you have stepped into a large brothel and shouldn’t really be witnessing it but you are.  Just a quick note though, DO NOT take photos of the girls.  They will chase you and in some cases we have heard of them smashing people’s cameras.  A lot of these girls are doing this to pay for university or just to get by and they don’t want their family/friends to know about it so their privacy is quite protected here.

Anyway, after a somewhat interesting night we said our final final farewells to our Moroccan stalkers and had a very quiet day with a bit of sightseeing.  Now, there are a few things to see in Amsterdam but we were quite lazy and didn’t really actively go out sightseeing but if you just wonder around you can find so much to do and see anyway.  Another thing to note is that there are a lot of shops and food places and I mean A LOT!  One thing is for sure, you will not starve in Amsterdam…. Unless you have no money of course, but I’m sure the bins would be filled with half eaten food anyway…  Oh and another cool thing that you will see are Febo shops.  Pretty much its food like hamburgers, spring rolls etc in a vending machine type set up and you just put your money in and grab your food, quick, easy and you don’t have to talk to people!

Now, I’m going to let you guys in on a little secret – Amsterdam is expensive!  You can find cheap drinks and food if you look long enough but generally it’s probably average or more plus transport and accommodation are expensive.  On top of that, if you need to pee most restaurants and clubs will actually charge you to go to the toilet, even though you have just spent money on food and drinks – makes sense right?

On another note, we decided to do a bike tour of the countryside.  This was such a good idea and if you are ever in Amsterdam, I highly recommend doing this especially with a company called Mike’s Bike Tours.  We did it through them and the guys are insanely funny, good tour guides and they generally just make it fun!  To top it off they cycled in clogs, yep that’s right, clogs!  Firstly I’d just like to say, cycling in Amsterdam is chaos.  Cyclists get first priority, over cars, trams, buses and even people and instead of big car parks, there are bike parks, it’s really cool but as a pedestrian you’re not sure which mode of transport you will be crushed by.  So after we made it out of the city alive (just) we made our way to our first main stop which was one of the last few remaining authentic windmills and then we made our way to a Dutch farm.  This farm produces authentic Dutch cheese and traditional clogs!  We of course got a demonstration on how they make cheese and clogs and we even got a few tasters of Dutch cheese…. O.M.G – Dutch cheese is YUM!  If someone said to me I had a day where all I ate were either Dutch cheese or French pastries, Dutch cheese would win hands and feet down!  I honestly wish we bought more, I am salivating like Homer just thinking about it now. Hmmm… cheese…..  SO anyway back to writing… cheese… Okay after our pit stop here we made our way a bit further out in the country and then made our way through the Amsterdamse Bos, Beatrix and Vondel parks.  After 4 hours of cycling we eventually made our way back to our starting point, where we were a bit sad because we honestly could have gone for another 4hrs!

After our fun adventure we went back to check out Vondel park which is appropriately pronounced “fondle”.  This park is actually really nice to check out and it is massive!  We sat and people watched for a bit and saw some crazies come out of the woodworks but everyone seemed to be having picnics, exercising, or just relaxing and basking in the sun.

And on that note I’ll wrap it up!  So, our time in Amsterdam was brief but it is honestly such an amazing place to visit!  I got such a good vibe from the city itself and the people are so friendly and happy and the city just has its own personality it’s really quite cool. The Netherlands is definitely a place I’d love to come back to and not just to Amsterdam but to check out the rest of the country!

Look out for our Berlin blog where we ate Thai food instead of tasting traditional German food – oops.

Frog Legs in Paris!

After a train ride to Milan and running around like crazy cat ladies, we eventually made our way out of Italy (who thought it would be so hard!) and spent a good part of the day travelling through Switzerland (oh yeah we did get to visit here – kind of).  One thing I can say just from passing through and our stopover in Zurich is that it’s a country that I would LOVE to come back to when I have a tiny bit more money.  The countryside is picturesque and it just looks like a place that I’d like to spend a bit more time in.  Anywhooooo… We made our way to Paris and we were lucky enough to be able to stay with one of Renee’s cousins (thank you again!).  Firstly I’d just like to say that Paris has a certain something that you can’t quite put your finger on but it makes you want to stay just that little bit longer…  It could be the charm of decades past that still linger or just the to-die-for pastries but in saying that the charm comes from the city itself and not so much from the people in it (sorry Frenchies but most of you are quite rude).  Cuz was kind enough to show us around the city he now calls home and we saw the bad and the good sights of Paris and I think that’s why we fell in love with the city and it’s pastries (seriously, my mouth is watering thinking about them right now!).  Oh and the second thing is that we were tempted to try frog legs but some other food looked slightly more appealing… Thai curry appealing, which reminds me if you are ever in Paris find this restaurant called Bien Bien!  It has insanely good Thai food at a reasonable price and the staff will take care of you – so make sure you find it!

Okay so after those ramblings I suppose I should let you guys know what we got up to in Paris.  Well in our old age of travelling we have started to slow down a bit and take our time in places so we spent about 5 nights in Paris which I think gave us a really good feel of the city.  Now what visit to Paris would be complete without a trip to the Eiffel Tower!  The Eiffel Tower is quite impressive and until you actually see it in person you don’t really have a full grasp of just how big it is.  I highly recommend either climbing it or taking the elevator to the viewing platforms as the views are just stunning.  As we are on a ridiculously small budget we opted for the cheaper option of climbing the stairs and I think this is the best way to do it because you kind of get a sense of accomplishment AND you can say that you literally climbed the Eiffel Tower!  Now the climb isn’t for everyone as it is 669 steps you have to climb to get up to the second level viewing platform which I think is the best level to get to.  For any exercise fanatics out there and non-exercise fanatics, this will get your butt super toned so do it!

Our next stop was the Notre Dame Cathedral or Notre Dame de Paris if we want to get technical.  The cathedral was one of the first Gothic cathedrals and it is considered to be one of the finest examples of French architecture plus it’s just plain cool.  Now it is free to enter the cathedral and in my books definitely worth a visit (come on its free!).  You can also climb the towers to get a nice view of the area and see the famous gargoyles up close and personal but it does cost money to climb the towers so unfortunately we didn’t get to kiss a gargoyle.

Okay there is way too much to see in Paris!  What was next?  We took a nice stroll down the city’s most famous avenue – the Champs Elysees to see the oh so famous Arc de Triomphe!  This is kind of cool to check off your list of sights to see in Paris, but when it comes down to it – it is just an arch.  Because I’m in a bit of a history mode and I’m only talking about one city I’ll give you a little info here.  So the Arc de Triomphe is Napoleon’s most notable legacy to Paris and was planned by Napoleon to commemorate all of his military successes.  This was completed in 1836 and the names of generals were carved in the top and inside of the arch.  Now you can access the arch via an underground passage and then climb up to the platform or you can decide to be lazy and take the lift instead.  We did neither but we have had people say it is kind of cool to check out so it will be on my list of things to do when I visit Paris again – I’m optimistic that it will be sometime soon!

Something that I think should be on everyone’s list is Montmarte and Sacre Coeur Basilica.  Montmarte is a large hill and is the highest point in the city.  It is a bit of a climb to get up the hill but it is well worth it as you are met by the famous Sacre Coeur Basilica!  If you climb to the top of the dome you will get some breathtaking views of Paris and this little gem is definitely worth the visit.  Around the area you will also find a lot of coffee shops and artists selling their art and it’s actually a kind of funky area to visit.

I do apologise this is starting to sound like a “top sights to see blog” but we only went to Paris so I have to fill the empty space somehow right?  🙂

ANYWAY!  So to get our museum fix we decided to go to the Musee d’Orsay instead of the Musee du Louvre.  I know a lot of you out there are probably going to say that it’s a crime we didn’t visit the Louvre, but from what we heard we thought d’Orsay would be more to our liking.  If it makes you feel any better, we did walk to the Louvre and wandered around outside for a bit and visited the Pei Pyramids which in itself is kind of cool.  For me the Musee d’Orsay is a MUST to see!  It will probably take you a good half a day or more to see everything this museum has to offer and I’ll say it now, it is totally worth the money!  D’Orsay houses the largest collection of paintings, sculptures and decorative objects produced between 1848-1914 and the artworks alone are just amazing.  There is literally no way to describe some of the paintings they are just magnificent!

Another cool place that we went to (because we only go to the “cool” places) was the Pere Lachaise Cemetery.  In your mind you are probably thinking of a creepy little cemetery where zombies will attack you but no.  It’s classed as one of the world’s most poetic cemeteries and it actually feels like you are walking through a park almost but you do get a very calm feel about the place so trust me there are no zombies here (at least I’m 98% sure).  For all of those Doors fans out there this is where Jim Morrison was buried.  His tomb is covered in song lyrics from fans and you are bound to get a small crowd around his tomb every day paying their respects.  Some other famous people that have been buried here are Moliere, Edith Piaf and Richard Wright.  The other most notable person is Oscar Wilde where they have had to put up a plastic barrier around his tomb for fans to write on.  You can’t miss Morrison’s or Wilde’s tombs though because they are the only two that have actual barriers around them to try and stop fans going in.

 

A definite must must MUST see would have to be the Catacombs of Paris.  We waited in line for about 2 hours (we would never usually wait this long but we were told we HAD to do it) and honestly once you get down there you completely forget you were in line for that long so please persevere if it is busy!  The Catacombs are an underground ossuary which are located south of the former city gates and holds the remains of 6 million people.  It’s actually really quite interesting how they came about so I’d recommend reading up on them but it’s not for the faint hearted.  The walk through the catacombs is about an hour depending how fast or slow you go and for most of the time you are walking through tunnels filled to the brim with bones that are hundreds of years old.  If you are walking by yourself (like what I did) you do get a little creeped out when no one else is around as you are walking underground in the dark with millions of dead bodies and the sound of dripping water but at the same time it is insanely cool (I say that in a non-morbid way).

So I’m not ending on a dreary note a oh so romantic thing to check out is the Seine River (well you would see it anyway if you walk around Paris) but also the bridges over the river.  There are a few bridges scattered with the locks of love where couples put a padlock on the bridge and throw the key into the river to show their everlasting love (I know, mushy right).  The most well-known of these bridges is the Pont Des Art bridge which is located near the Notre Dame Cathedral but make sure you take your time to check them out because you will see some unusual locks as well as some really old ones.

One more thing.  For any Australians going to Paris, you must find a Café Oz!  You will not find a more Australian place yet you will probably be the only Aussie there (in off peak season anyway).  This place is really cool and they have the true blue Aussie thing going on with toilets called ‘dunnies’ which I’m sure would confuse a few people, John Howard in heels playing footy on the walls and a lot of other cool Aussie stuff but don’t be put off by the name as it actually turns into a club/bar at night which is very popular in Paris.

Of course with great sightseeing comes a great amount of wine!  We immersed ourselves in the French culture of baguettes, cheese, saucisson and wine – a diet that I could happily live on.  Oh and did I mention the pastries?

Well if you have read this far I congratulate you and hopefully you will stay tuned for our next instalment – AMSTERDAM!!!

 

 

 

 

Our unusual summer fling with Italy…

After our mini holiday from our holiday our livers rejoiced when we left Croatia, however we had high expectations of Italy which in some ways were reached…

After no sleep in our hostel from people making constant noise, we reluctantly got up at 5.30am to catch the train to Vilach, Austria which went through Slovenia! Yep we had lunch here AND our passports were stamped so we can add another two countries to the list. Slovenia and Austria are absolutely gorgeous and after passing through Slovenia, it’s definitely a country that I would love to come back to! Anyway after our pit stop we jumped on our bus to Venice and you can instantly tell the change of countries as vast mountains are soon replaced by vast vineyards. It took us a full day of travelling to get to Venice but it was worth it as soon as we stepped off the bus, then off the water taxi! I would probably recommend staying on the main island otherwise it is a bit of a hassle to get around plus you have Venice at your doorstep.

For our one and only full day in Venice we visited St Mark’s Square and the Basilica (Hot Tip! Cut the queue by either reserving your ticket online or just literally cutting the queue!  We did actually reserve our ticket online but couldn’t print it and there is this other way in which gets you to the main entrance – all legit of course).  The Basilica is quite beautiful to see on the outside and inside and you will spend most of the time with your head to the ceiling in awe. Definitely worth a visit in my books but not worth the 3-4hr wait in summer. We decided to pop over to Murano Island aswell which is famous for its Murano Glass and glass blowing.  We sadly learnt that the glass blowing exhibits are closed during August and open back up in September but it didn’t stop us going on our own mission to find some back street glass blowing operators which failed.  Murano is still quite a nice place to visit and you can check out some important pieces of glass that were produced between the 15th and 20th century.

Our next stop was the Doge’s Palace which you must must must do!! The artwork alone is stunning! We have seen a lot of stuff since travelling and this place just blew us away!  We spent a good couple of hours here exploring every inch and every room impressed us more than the last.  The info guides are quite helpful as well and it’s extremely interesting to read what each painting represents. Anyway after our culture hit for the day we wondered the streets getting lost in Venice (yet we always found the food places) and I stumbled across a nice little mask shop called Atelier Marega. Try and find this place! You actually meet the lady who makes all the masks and she goes through and explains how they are made and what they represent and she will let you try them on too. The masks are all at reasonable prices as well (I may have bought 3 here). We went into a few other places and they seemed a bit more posh and not as friendly but I suppose it just depends what you are after. I may have bought one more on the way home which was a bit more expensive but a collectible one, however thanks to my awesome bargaining skills I actually got it reduced by 50€! After our hectic yet oh so romantic day in Venice we ended the day by watching the sunset over the canals and listened to the streets come alive with music and laughter.

We had an early start today to make our way to Naples and let’s just say it was not what we were expecting at all! Naples itself is a little bit sketchy and we were quite glad that we were staying in a little town 20mins away, however when we caught the train to get to our town we started questioning if this was a bad move.  Basically we stayed in a somewhat ghetto place and this has actually been the first time we were a little bit scared to walk the streets after nightfall.  Our hostel was quite nice but not equipped with a kitchen so we had to get somewhat creative (chicken nuggets in a microwave creative). So, our first full day here we made our way out to Pompeii to see some dead bodies, let’s face it, it’s the only reason people come here.  In seriousness though, I love ancient history so for me it was amazing to visit Pompeii and see such a well preserved city. We did do a little cheeky trespass onto a closed exhibit (we paid 11€ to get in and we were determined to get our monies worth!) and we also saw a lot of other amazing things that didn’t require trespassing.  I would say Pompeii is definitely worth the visit but allow at least a good 4 hrs or so to see everything and take an umbrella for shade and a big bottle of water as it does get hot during summer! There is also a museum where you can see bits and pieces that have been excavated but we are beyond cheap at the moment so we only did one site but have heard the museum is also quite good.  After a massive day we made our way back to the train station to ensure we got back before nightfall (dodgemcdoge I know).

The next day we set out for some much needed beach time as this was our last chance until we head back to Oz! After standing in a unairconditioned cramped ghetto train for over an hour we found ourselves in Sorrento! We jumped off and looked around like excited puppies in search of the beach.  After finding the right direction to go in and climbing down 200 or so steps and then walking a further 5 mins down a windy road, we found the “beach”. The first one is Peters Beach where you pay 5€ just to get in – this does not include an umbrella or a sunbed, just entrance to the “beach”. If you keep walking, you will find the free “beach”, I suggest just turning back now and cutting your losses! The “beach” is dirt or mud, whatever it is, it’s neither sand nor pebbles but some unknown substance.  But hey, we still had hope; maybe the water was crystal clear and sparkling blue. Unfortunately not the case – we were horrified at the dirty, murky water and more horrified by the dozens of people that actually seemed to be enjoying it.  We took one look and walked straight back out.  I have been told that there are some nice beaches near Sorrento and some are accessible via boat (lucky we carry a spare boat around with us) and there are probably other ones that locals know about but we didn’t find any. After that disappointment we decided to make our way to the Amalfi Coast still optimistic!  It does take almost 1.5hrs to get to the last stop which is Amalfi so be prepared!  We only had a small amount of time left before we had to make our way back (before nightfall of course!) so we decided we would spend a couple of hours at Amalfi as it was the most easily accessible.  We have pretty high standards after visiting Greece so for us the beach was okay and in our books not a real beach but it was still quite nice to chill out for a few hours on the Amalfi Coast before making our way back to the ghetto.

After our somewhat interesting times in Naples we made our way to Rome! WOO!  Rome for me was definitely my favourite city in Italy hands down.  I’m not sure what it was but there was something about it that I just fell in love with…  We stayed near the train station and from there pretty much everything is within walking distance (okay it’s a bit of a hike for the day I won’t lie, but it’s still walking distance).  For our first full day we did Rome on the cheap because we are less than cheap backpackers now but we found that you can honestly see Rome for free without feeling like your missing out, I mean they can’t really cover up the Colosseum… or can they?  Anyway our first stop was the Colosseum (actually we accidentally found it) and from there we also saw the Arch of Constantine and Palatine Hill.  We then made our way to the Ministry of Culture and Heritage and on the way you can see parts of the Roman Forum anyway.  You can also wonder around inside the Ministry for free just ignore the intimidating big gates and guys with rifles pointing at you.  From here you can also see the Colonna Traiana and the Mercati Traianei, as I said everything is relatively close and we did a bit of a loop tomake our way back to our hostel in time for a cheap 3€ pasta and wine dinner (the wine tasted like meth and the pasta was… interesting but it’s food).  We decided to be somewhat social tonight and joined a pub crawl (oh dear).  We had to meet them at the starting point so we jumped on a night bus to some unknown destination and wondered the streets to find the Highlander Pub where the crawl kicks off from.  We arrived in time to see people passed out and vomiting on themselves and at this point we thought that this was going to be a great night (sarcasm intended).  The crawl made its way over the bridge and down some steps that lead to the Fiume Tevere river where we were contemplating running as it started to look a bit dodgy and we weren’t even sure if we were on an actual pub crawl but then it opened up to a weird marquee type setup where there are a lot of different bars along the river which was kind of a weird set up but a fair bit of fun in a way…

After that unusual experience we decided to have a quiet day to just chill out and I decided that I wanted to see all the sights at night so I created my own little Rome night tour group as another girl at our hostel was interested to come along too.  The Colosseum was our first stop and here we accidentally ran into someone that we had met along the way since travelling Italy and he decided to join in on my tour.  We also somehow managed to pick up 4 other people while here that were keen to get on board the MT Tours (that’s right, I’m now official).  So my tour group had expanded and I got my first taste of being a tour leader and I discovered that I’m quite crap at it – getting the group lost and not knowing the names of sights don’t really help my case BUT we had an insane amount of fun along the way and met some new people so I can’t really say it was a failure now can I?

The next day we decided to visit Vatican City.  After an extremely uncomfortable experience on the bus which I still feel like I need to disinfect my bum from (a story that needs to be told in person) we made our way to St. Peter’s Basilica.  The Basilica is free to get into (music to our ears) and it is worth the lineup!  Your mouth will be constantly open in awe and you will take a thousand photos that don’t do any of it justice!  It is absolutely stunning and you can easily spend a fair bit of time in here just wondering around.  After a few ‘mature’ photos in front of the Basilica we made our way to the Sistine Chapel and went through the trouble of lining up and going through the security process to find out entrance was a little out of my price range and you couldn’t even take photos inside (which was the deciding factor for me).  We watched a little video presentation that showed the inside and decided that we had seen the Chapel.  We are 100% sure that we will be back in Rome so for us, it will be something exciting to see when we come back not so broke.  Renee and I went our separate ways after this as we wanted to see different things but I wondered around a bit and actually got lost in Rome yet somehow managed to stumble across all the sights that I wanted to see (obviously I have a built in GPS that I’m unaware of).  Highly recommend finding the Piazza Navona which is a funky little place to chill out and have some lunch plus from here you can easily find (or accidentally stumble across in my case) the Pantheon and Hadrian’s Mausoleum.


We had a lazy start to the day and slowly made our way to Florence.  We decided to make Florence a bit of a base as we wanted to see a few things but didn’t really have time to stay at these places.  So, for our first day trip we did a tour of Tuscany which I had been looking forward to so much because I just wanted to see the fields of sunflowers (my favourite flower btw), however I was quite disappointed when I was met with fields of black crispy sunflowers… L The region had been experiencing an extremely dry summer so everything was a little dried up and dead unfortunately, however my disappointment didn’t last very long as the region itself is still quite breathtaking and for me this is the soul of Italy and how I pictured it in my mind.  Our first stop was the medieval town of Siena where we wondered the streets and saw one of the most breathtaking Duomo’s (I know I keep saying that but honestly this one is at the top of the food chain)!  The Duomo is a beautiful gothic cathedral and when you first see the outside it will draw you in to want more and you are not disappointed one bit as soon as you take that first step in.  You will be in awe, you will take five thousand photos and you won’t want to leave.  Firstly this Duomo is quite unusual as every surface of it is decorated, from the floor to the walls to the ceiling and columns.  If I could only choose one Duomo to enter in Italy, this would be it!  This Duomo holds some artworks from Donatello, Bernini and Michelangelo and the cathedral floor is even stunning as its all marble inlaid with even more artwork which took 200 years to complete!  Anyway you can tell that I’m impressed because I’m rambling about it now so we shall moooove on.

After we spent a little bit of time in Siena we made our way to an organic farm called Poggio Alloro for lunch.  We had a guided tour around the farm and got to see their wine making process, vineyards, vegetable gardens and the cattle that they breed for meat.  After our guided tour we had lunch made with fresh food straight from the farm and of course a little bit of wine tasting overlooking an amazing view (we were left with 3 bottles of wine to finish so I think we did a good amount of tasting).  Everyone left a little bit happier and talkative and ready for our next stop in San Gimignano!  Here we found what is apparently the best gelato in Italy (and it was pretty damn good), some wild boar meat and a lot of leather goods (oh oh).  After our pit stop here we made our way to our final destination for the day – Pisa!  Pisa is a beautiful little town filled to the brim with tourists!  We got our token photos with the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa and then chilled out on the grass for a bit of people watching.  After a somewhat relaxed day filled with wine and gelato we made our way back to Florence.

The next day we explored Florence by foot and found the Duomo which is just as stunning as the one in Siena on the outside but on the inside it’s actually quite plain and we kind of just walked back out.  Afterwards I found my way to the Leonardo da Vinci exhibition which showcases some interactive machines that have been reproduced from his codices.  It’s kind of a funky little exhibition to go and wonder about I just wish that they had more stuff so you could stay for longer!  From there I made my way to the Galleria dell’ Accademia.  In my books, the statue of David was probably the only worthwhile thing to see.  There are a lot of nice artworks in there but for me they didn’t really have a wow factor unlike other pieces I’ve seen, but everyone is different.  If David is the only thing you want to see there are a few other fake statues around Florence that you can see for free if you would prefer to save your money.

For our last day in Italy we did a day trip to Cinque Terre and I couldn’t get enough of this place!  If someone was to ask me to choose between the Amalfi Coast and Cinque Terre, Cinque Terre would win hands down!  Cinque Terre stands for five lands in Italian or five towns as it’s often translated to.  You can walk from the first town to the last town and I believe it takes about 5-6hrs to walk all 5 towns (obviously it depends on your fitness levels), otherwise you can catch the train to each town.  As we did this as part of a tour we felt like we kind of did the cheats way a little, so for me I’d love to come back here and walk the whole thing.  We started in Manarola and wondered around the town before taking the train to the next town Corniglia (the road was actually closed here so a train was necessary).  From here we had to earn our lunch and made our way up 390 steps and I can say after sweating out 5 litres of water I think we well and truly earned my lunch!  We had an amazing seafood lunch at a lovely family run restaurant with an amazing view of the ocean (what isn’t amazing?).  After we were well fed and rested we prepared ourselves for the hike between Corniglia and Vernazza.  This was not an easy hike which is why it’s called a hike and not a walk I suppose, but after 3 months of travelling with no real exercise I’m quite embarrassed to say I kind of struggled but when you make it to the next town it is an amazing feeling to know that you made it!  In Vernazza we decided to try out some Lemoncello which the region is well known for and let’s just say that the name perfectly describes this drink.  It’s served in a sort of shot glass but you just sip at it and make a funny face as it tastes like you have just taken a bite out of a lemon.  It would probably be nicer served over ice just to break the sourness a bit but it wasn’t too bad when you get over the initial strong taste.  From here we caught the train the last town Monterosso and then caught another train to the first town Riomaggiore where we chilled out with the group and had a glass of Cinque Terre wine overlooking once again an amazing view.  We ended our trek with a lovely stroll down Lovers Lane to the train station to make our way back to Florence where we ended our time in Italy!

We have had a change of travel plans and decided to cut France short by 1.5 weeks so we could include Prague and Budapest to the list!  But look out for our Paris blog and find out if we were tempted to eat frog legs!