A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: ashneale


365 days ago I got on a plane...

all seasons in one day

So it has been a long time since I added to this so called travel blog. I guess I just felt like my travels had finished now that I have been working for the past 7months. However when I think about the sheer volume of stories that I can think of in that time it blows my mind and so I kind of thought I should commit some (and I stress only some) of the these to paper.

Firstly though how could I call myself a Cantabrian without first saying my heart is with everyone back home as they deal with the earthquake and the now mammoth task of returning to normal. It wasn’t much fun watching from over here and hearing only occasional pieces of information but I cannot even imagine how it must have been to have been there at the time.

So then apparently a lot has happened…

I choose to call this blog FOMO because it is perhaps the best explanation of one of the governing principles in my life at the moment. For those that know what it means you will know just how crippling it can be for those that don’t let me enlighten you.

FOMO or Fear Of Missing Out is a heavy burden and could be construed as either peer pressure or the quest for new challenges depending on whether the glass is half full or half empty. Whatever you think of it it does generate some amazing times and some great stories and memories.

So its now May and I'm now at the end of the first year of my time over here. How it has flown! So a really quick summary of some of the recent past…
- Snows came to London and the place was white! Pretty stunning but pretty cold.
- Spent Christmas in Saffron Walden with Kerry and Brian and the rest 25 years after my parents had done just the same. A proper white Christmas with the country side blanketed in pure white.
- Birthday and New Year passed in Huddersfield / Leeds / Manchester with Nick and chilled out relaxing before a return to work and 2011.
- Work, work, work – recruitment is a roller coaster but it keeps me busy (too busy by my mind and spare time is a premium) and I do enjoy it most of the time.
- Hockey went mostly by the by but I hope to change that next season and am trying to get involved in cricket and summer hockey now the sun is out in London.
- Waitangi Day pub crawl in London is possibly the largest NZ street party anywhere and a far better celebration than what goes on back home. I got to say I reckon it is a must for every Kiwi.
- Oxford vs Cambridge boat race – so much pomp lining the banks near Putney. Got much drunker than I meant to and then the next day continued on with it all by heading along to the Crusaders beating the Sharks at Twickenham in a proper rugby match.DSC07907.jpg

- Went up to Lincoln for a weekend to watch a football match. Walked out of the game with 30minutes still to play but did succeed in visiting every pub in the town throughout the day. Pretty amazing cathedral there as well.
- Went to Romania for a weekend. Bucharest in fact. Messy. Started drinking Friday afternoon at work and get on going in Luton until we got the plane and landed Saturday morning local time. Very eastern European and the people are amazing! Did some site seeing of the old revolution square etc and then went out on Saturday night and each got back to the hotel sometime after 6am. Did it all again on the Sunday. It even started to snow while we sat in the bar before getting on a plane back to London. 4 hours sleep and into work. 5 day hangover from that one. Wouldn’t go back to the city so next time I will take my time to explore the country side especially the mountains and Transylvania and Dracula territory.
- With the hype around the royal wedding I took the chance to get away from London and headed up to Scotland for a bit of a driving holiday. St Andrews, Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Linlithgow, Stirling… all of them a little different and all of them well worth a visit.
- Caught up with the Geordie lads from Tensing days in Newcastle and had a few drinks out with them. Newcastle is pretty unusual – shops and pubs and that’s about it. Oh and bridges as well there are a lot of those.
- Headed then to the Lake District Laura, Han, Rich and Beck and didn’t get much sleep as we managed to pitch our tent in the middle of a tornado zone. A bit windy. A deflating airbed. A sleeping bag that was too thin. And you know what even for all of that I wouldn’t have had it any other way! Saw Beatrix Potter’s house. Climbed Scafell Pike, the tallest hill in England. Pretty much ran up it. Nice to be in the outdoors again! Made me miss Arthur’s Pass a bit.

London remains an absolute minefield and theres always new people and its such a thrill with SO much to do. Old faces coming over as well which is going to be awesome!! Got some hockey coming up, booked tickets to next years Olympics, Sevens, boat cruise up the Thames, Spain trip, the list is never ending.

Its actually really difficult to write about these stories because I cant put all the details in because no one would read it and yet there is so much more to say. Still its good for me to remind myself of just what I’ve pulled off recently!

Anyways, missing home, missing the people, having the time of my life and no plans to board that plane anytime soon.

Posted by ashneale 13:46 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

Real World

All good things come to end but theres always something better just around the corner.

semi-overcast 16 °C

Blog wise I have been a bit slack of late but then again it is technically a travel blog and im not sure I am really ‘travelling’ anymore. Well certainly not in the true sense of the word. Anyways I felt this would be an easy way to jot down some of what I’ve been doing in the past 2 months.

So I have now joined the working class. It’s a challenge and I am only just starting to get my mind back into work mode. The job is a job although its not what I imagined myself doing. Working recruitment, bashing phones in what is essentially a sales job. I never considered myself a salesman but I’m learning and truth be told I’m not too bad.

So the money is once again coming in and I realised this is the first full time job I will hold down during a winter as up to now its always been uni. Long hours and the long travel time of getting around London means that spare time is a premium. Hockey is taking up a bit of that although I’m not playing my best at the moment just not fit enough yet.

It took me until only just very recently to give up my gypsy lifestyle and find somewhere to, I suppose, call home. I lived on the floor in Leanne and Becks lounge for a month which was incredible of them and all I had was my suit and work shirts plus a few other little bits and pieces. My new palace, in Herne Hill in a room where if I sit on the corner of my bed I can reach every point in my room. Perfect.

So I have now moved all the stuff I need into my room. Managed to do it all in a back pack and although I still have a few souvenirs in Kent at Marj and Kens I am now no longer spread out over three counties. I saw of Mark and Trish who headed back to NZ and I can’t really thank them enough for all their help. Got a bike from Mark to and when I get hold of some bike lights I am hoping to start biking to work as well. Just waved goodbye to M&K as well as they head off for two months to India, Thailand (I think) and NZ for Christmas.


London is still as mental as ever and I do love it. As the days get a bit shorter and a little bit colder and Christmas beckons it’s a buzzy place to be. Heaps of people to meet and so much to do. Been to Church a couple of times (not the religious one but the antipodeans’ famous Sunday drinking session / wild party) and seen a few really good live bands in some of the local pubs. Guy Fawkes display in Clapham. Got the idea to explore London by choosing tube stations and looking around each one whenever I can so am working slowly through that. There seems to always be something going on and its just a matter of getting involved!

Well that’s about the most of it. I doubt there will be much to write about in the next few months although I am hoping to get away to Leeds sometime soon. I want to get back to travelling again so just got to save some more coin!

Missing everyone back home but don’t think I will be back anytime soon.

Posted by ashneale 02:58 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

Moments of Europe

I couldn’t quite decide how to capture the last 8weeks so I have tried to do things a bit differently.

all seasons in one day 26 °C

So a journey was begun, one that promised enlightenment, entertainment, emotions and excitement and delivered on all accounts, we are here to honour that journey and to recognise and relive some of the moments that defined the 8 week adventure. To quote Pulp Fiction “it's the little differences. I mean, they got the same shit over there that we got here, but it's just – it's just there it's a little different” it this that makes Europe so surreal. The moments presented here are testament to these differences and the calibre of all is undeniable. So without further ado…

Top 5 Old Things – this award is contested by those sights, and there are many, in Europe that have an age, a past and a history that New Zealand simply can not rival.
5. Colloseum – as far as iconic buildings go this one ranks right up there and the history of the events, games and bloodshed that took place serve to make it a worthy entrant here to start the list.
4. Dubrovnik – this fortified town is breathtakingly beautiful perched at the joining of mountains and seas. Postcard views from the gondola above the town while those at street level are no less stunning. Plus this place pumps at night!!
3. Koln Cathedral – as far as Gothic architecture goes there is nothing to compare with this monster of a cathedral. The city is stupidly proud of it and souvenirs of it are everywhere. It does seem to be perpetually covered in scaffolding, testament, I guess, to the mammoth task of cleaning it.
2. Roman Forum – the very centre and the birthplace of western civilisation. The beginning of democracy the historical ruins cover the entire Palatine Hill overlooking the Circus Maximus and all of modern Rome which in itself isn’t even that modern.
1. Pompei – hands down the most impressive of the Old Things and the winner of this inaugural award. One can spend hours wandering the maze of streets constantly being surprised around the next corner. The bodies of those that died with the expressions of pain frozen timeless and still visible more than 2000 years on are a sight both amazing and chilling.

To the next category as we move from those things that time seems to have forgone to something of a much more immediate moment, the Best Food in Europe. For the majority of the trip I ate only kebabs because it is cheap and easy but there is so much good food in Europe and now I have no fitness left.
5. Kebabs formed the cornerstone of my diet around Europe. Equally healthy and greasy, eaten sober, drunk or hungover; they are a staple. Yet despite sampling kebabs in more or less every city of Europe one rises head and shoulders above the rest. A giant of a kebab in Koln and I struggled to get thru it and was forced to throw away the chips I got with it too full to eat them.
4. Seafood in Croatia. All along the main coastline and then again throughout the countless islands of the Adriatic the seafood is pretty special. Scampi, mussels, blue fish. On pizza, in risotto or with a salad for someone who wouldn’t normally eat a lot of it I… well… I ate a lot of it.
3. Naples. Home of pizza. It is a little mind boggling how something with the simplicity of the margherita pizza at Pompeii can possibly taste so good but it did and so is deserving of its place here.
2. Gelato is everywhere in Italy but almost everywhere accepts they can only ever be second best. San Crispino in Rome (right near the amazingly impressive Trevi Fountain) is without question the best gelato you will find anywhere. Ginger & cinnamon, meringue with choc chips, rich dark chocolate. Mmmmmmmmm. They succeeded in making the banana sorbet taste more like bananas than the fruit itself!
1. Pork Knuckle. Holy Shit. Between massive steins of beer there is little else one could desire more than pork knuckle. The layers of crackling, the tender meat underneath, the gravy, the dumplings… wow.

From the delicious to the disasterous, it is time to recap the Top Fuckups in the trip. This list has received a couple of extra nominees because mostly I just find it funny telling the stories of the shit I got wickedly wrong.
7. My choice to enjoy a sleep in on the last day in Cinque Terre cost me my trip to Lyon. I missed the last connection onwards and so got stuck in Nice. Terrible I know. Slept on the floor in a very crowded hostel but Nice is amazing and I got to see Eze Village and Monaco as well so the degree of fuck up could be debated but it has been included.
6. Finding the hostel in Florence. Relying on a photograph of a google maps internet page is not a smart way to go. I succeeded in walking in pretty much the opposite direction before I remembered I had another map and an hour later arrived at the hostel. Got to say the cobbled streets aren’t ideal with a bag on wheels but Florence is pretty beautiful so again a debateable inclusion.
5. Paris to Florence - with the night train fully booked and no room for the night I pulled an all-nighter in the common room of the hostel hijacking there internet sending delirious emails and talking to others foolish enough to be awake before getting on the train at 6.24am. By the time I got to sleep that evening in Florence it had been something like 40 hours awake, what a battle!
4. I was supposed to pick up the rental car at 6pm in Pula and was supposed to drop it off at 10.30am four days later in Split. I was supposed to do these things but what actually happened was quite different. Becky and I decided to walk to the airport and ended crashing along the side of the highway thru waist high lavender before arriving about 3hours late to an empty airport and having to pay €20 in after hours fees. As for Split, well I was hungover and woke up at 10.25am and then had to do a 50 point turn to get out of the crowded carpark before driving in circles around the city in the rain looking for signs to the airport. Dropped it off about 2hours late, still it was a good car and made for a good trip down the Croatian coast with Becky, Ed and Billy.
3. I made the mistake of thinking that a day of my life was worth a £20 Argos tent and the €100 saving on an airplane ticket and so I bussed from Munich to London. Don’t do this. I was in a good mood though so I just turned it into a challenge and made it to Maidenhead a full day after leaving Munich.
2. Aside from dumb purchases where I have paid too much for something I didn’t really want I haven’t really been ripped off or robbed (touch wood). That is except for Rome where a guy who had stopped to ask for directions proceeded to give me a “genuine” leather jacket. Doesn’t really sound like being ripped off but then in asking for gas he grabbed €40 out of my wallet and bolted. So I was stuck with a lighter wallet and leather jacket I didn’t want. I was furious with myself so went back to the hostel, put the jacket at the bottom of the bag, got out more money and started the day again. Its not all bad now I have a nice warm ‘leather’ jacket for the winter in London.
1. Monchengladbach and the undeniable award winner. There to watch the hockey and constant drinking over 3 days culminated in me losing track of all the Kiwi team at about 2am Monday morning. I then walked the streets for a bit before kipping down in a carpark on a pile of plastic bags for 3hours. Wandered the streets in the morning before finally meeting up with the others and then returning to Dusseldorf and then onto Koln feeling far from 100%. Self inflicted stupidity. :)

From the very ugliest parts of the trip to the most beautiful parts now its time for the Top 5 Beauties of Europe.
5. This list opens with a beauty that differs a little from the rest. With the summer sun glowing strong and the temperatures consistently 25+ I offer thanks to the Gods of both weather and fashion as the women of Europe, locals and tourists alike, were out and dressed minimally. People go to Europe for the art well I did too and saw it all without stepping foot in an art gallery.
4. The little towns that dot the plains under the Tuscan sun are stunning. Siena, San Gimignano, Florence all these places are beautiful in there own right and the countless photos I took are proof of that. It’s a bit of a competition to try and take better photos than those on postcards and actually I think I achieved it in some places.
3. These a lot of things Neuchwanstein Castle is not: old, finished, small, and subtle. This so called Disney Castle is beautiful simply for the fact it is so proud and ridiculous. It’s a tough thing to describe but it is definitely something that catches your eye.
2. Cinque Terre even the torrential rain couldn’t ruin this place. The ferocity of the rain, lightning and thunder seemed in challenge of the dramatic coastline as the waves crashed against the cliffs between each of the five towns. While a landslide meant I never completed the hike it remains a place I hope to return to.
1. The coastline in the south of Italy is as equally impressive as that located in Cinque Terre to the north. Sorrento and Positano sit perched among steep mountains while the Mediterranean laps at there toes. The Amalfi Coast is stunning and sitting in the port at Sorrento with a few beers as the sun set is one of those very lasting memories.

Now, as Monty Python said, for something completely different. This next category is one that has been included because its represents some of the most fun I have had as part of this trip. The Top 5 Big Nights.
5. Again this list starts on a slightly different tact but it is certainly worthy of a mention. I decided, in retrospect, to call in the first Northern Hemisphere Bavhurst. One competitor. Me. I bought a few beers and threw them in my bag and spent the night walking around Paris. Had a few different check points: had to eat a kebab at two different points, chocolate puddings at the Eiffel Tower, had to bargain with a street vendor, Arc de Triumphe, Champs Elysses, Place de la Concord, Louvre and Notre Dame. Needless to say I won.
4. On the second night of the trip in Dusseldorf 6 of us from the hostel (mostly Irish) headed into the Altstadt, the old town, for an unexpectedly big night. 5am back to the hostel and back on Contiki time with only 3hours sleep before meeting Raj etc for the hockey weekend the end of which has already been described above.
3. In a place that ought to be as remote and isolated as Cinque Terre or more exactly Riomaggiore its hard to understand how 10 people could be placed in a hostel and then get along so well. It wasn’t even my room and in truth I never met anyone in my room on the other side of the town but I saw no need when already we had a great mix going on. Two massive nights that included a lot of drinking and me cutting my leg pretty bad trying to pull a boat ashore in the darkness. Great times and already I have caught up with several of the people I met in Riomaggiore.
2. Croatia – Bibinje in the apartment until being yelled at. But really nothing can compare to the 7 nights of Sail Croatia. Pretty much Contiki all over again except on a boat! Hvar – played around on the super yachts in the harbour and talked shit till 6am then I went for a swim and got back to the boat at 7.15 as the crew were just starting breakfast. Korcula – started ominously with Grapa being poured down our throats and ended with the sun rise and a group of us drinking vodka and orange for breakfast at 8.30am. More boat missions including a quick swim in the spa on the boat moored 3 over from ours. The other nights of that week were hardly quiet either: cave bars, cocktails, karaoke, pole dancing, memory blanks…
1. Oktoberfest!!!!!!!! This festival is electric so many people, so much beer and everyone is your best friend. The wenches carrying 10+ of the giant 1L steins and heaps of German oompah music, ferris wheels and roller coasters (not great after numerous beers). It was an awesome 5days and I had a great time and met some even better people.

Before we move to the finale of these awards here is a list of some of those other things that deserve an honourable mention. Despite not making one of the lists each of these contributed to make for an overwhelming, amazing and hopefully repeatable trip around Europe.
- The experiences I had couchsurfing and although I didn’t get to do as much as first hoped because it does take a lot of time and effort to organise I had a great time when I had the pleasure of being hosted. So cheers Dani and Vincent.
- The people I have met and often in the most unusual of situations. Americans, Canadians, Kiwis, Australians, English and Irish - hopefully we get the chance to catch up again.
- Arcachon and the biggest sand dune in Europe. Spent half a day running up and down its slope, reading in the sun, swimming in the Atlantic Ocean and marvelling at the insanity of this towering desert.
- Montmartre, Paris – like four and half years ago I got my caricature drawn even though I think it doesn’t look like me. Also the Dali exhibition was pretty incredible and refreshingly different from the numerous other art galleries and museums I have begun to avoid.
- Chocolate museum (Koln, Germany), Trevi Fountain (Rome, Italy), Pigale (Paris, France), lake cruise (Zurich, Switzerland).
- Venice Historical regatta. By chance I happened on Venice on the annual Regatta Storica and watched from the crowded banks of the Grand Canal as first decorated gondalas and then racing boats made there way along its length.

So we have reached the climax of these awards and now it is with my great pleasure that I present the Most Memorable Moments! These have all combined to produce what has been a truly memorable trip around Europe.

3. Although I am far from religious I have now sat in some of the truly great and iconic churches and religious buildings of the world. Notre Dame, Koln Cathedral, Florence Duomo, St Marks Basilica in Venice all of which are stunning and caused me to think a little too deep at times of all manner of things. Sitting staring up at some stained glass window or statue of JC philosophising on life and whatever else came to my head. The service I sat in one Sunday at Sacre Coeur although all in French was an experience but the Vatican was something else. I went to Mass at St Peters Basilica with Rach and Maca from my hostel who said they weren't religious but while I sat hopelessly out of my depth they stood, kneeled, sat, waved, chanted, sang, danced and turned on the spot in perfect time with the rest of those there. Certainly something I will remember, the building itself deserves a little mention simply for its grandness.

2. It was by chance that I found out about the fireworks display at the Palace of Versailles and I decided to go out to have a look. I confess I nearly piked at the €21 price tag to enter the gardens (normally free) especially when it was dark and so the summer colours of the extensive gardens were lost. They had the fountains dancing in time with the classical music and lights and lasers giving an eerie almost alien appearance to the numerous statues in the place. Then the fireworks started. Classical Sparks, Sparks in the Park you have a lot to learn. It must have been a good 50minutes of explosions and fire all set to music. Insert superlative.

1. I have my number one but I am going to keep it to myself and let each of you in your own time or when you get the chance to discover the most memorable moment for yourself. Sorry for those who have read this far hoping for some gem only to disappoint you with this apparently mysterious comment. Europe is amazing and no one can tell you how it should be done. Take the chance, if you’ve already taken it, take it again and make your own memories of Europe. I guess with that I have reached the end of this mammoth blog and yet so much has not been told.

A return to London and something like a normal life. Love to all. Ash

Posted by ashneale 06:57 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

Detox and then retox then detox again then…

Its another long one so clear your schedule or just simply don't bother to read it.

semi-overcast 22 °C

So after Contiki its fair to say my body was broken. Minimal sleep, a lot of food, even more beer and alcohol is not a sustainable lifestyle. Funny you think I would have learned that lesson properly at Tensing but apparently I needed to be retaught.

So its been a bit more than three weeks since we returned triumphant back to London and once again there is too much to bother recounting every detail but here is a bit of a breakdown of my time spent in London and Maidenhead.
After the tour a few of us stuck around London for a few days. We walked further than I care to recall but already my jandals (bought after the tour) are wearing thin. Watched the World Cup final with Wells and the Contiki family actually have spent quite a lot of time lately in London with the few that still remain from the tour. Its been awesome having people to explore the city with even if sometimes we walk in bemused circles.

Had my share of fun with hostels: wrong bookings, wrong directions, constant changes, hostel breakfast toast where the only option is jam, 10am checkouts, carrying my bags around London, carrying other peoples bags, sleeping in hot stuffy dorms, showering in jandals, combined guy/girl toilets and showers. Like the drinking its definitely not a sustainable way to live.

London Ed’s Club Day. Great to have a run around although my legs hurt for the next two days. As for the hockey I was still in reasonable touch but the sand turf quickly ate my knuckles so have to adapt to that. Good social group and that meant I missed the last train back to Maidenhead. Slept on a pile of doormats in what I think was a church yard for a few hours then found a train. With only a wallet and a dead phone I couldn’t get into M&Ts place so slept on the lawn for a bit then eventually went back to town to charge my phone in a random shop. Eventually got in touch with M&T who had just left for the evening so I went and watched Toy Story 3 in 3D to kill the time before they got home. Good movie I can recommend it. As for my weekend I don’t recommend you try that.

So went in to London on the Tuesday to get my hockey stuff off Ed who had looked after it. Someone once told me that if you stand in Piccadilly Circus long enough eventually you will see someone you know. Its true. 5 minutes after walking off the tube and Luke and Dave from tour walk past. Small world. So spent the day with them and ended up at another Hole in the Wall pub in Waterloo with Leanne and Beck from tour as well. Caught the train this time. Fell asleep on it though and missed the stop at Maidenhead so had to kill 30minutes waiting for the return train from Reading. I think it’s the result of sleeping on the Contiki bus but now any public transport just makes me want to fall asleep. Maidenhead has been my place of rest. M&T know it but really I am so grateful for the chance to relax and detox.

This has got quite long so heres a list of some of the other things I can remember and feel are worthy of a mention.

Speakers Corner – listened to some dude claiming to be an angel but speaking in the voice of the devil and watched some drunk deconstruct the ramblings of the fanatical Christian. Plus a cowboy screaming blasphemy and condemnation on anyone that walked past.

West End – Saw Oliver which was amazing. Huge cast, huge stage and set, huge everything. Even from way up in the cheap seats of the balconies it was an amazing spectacle. Avenue Q the following night was a pretty contrasting performance. Small and simple stage and cast with puppets as well but probably the funniest performance I have ever seen. Bad taste funny but brilliantly hilarious. “In the lift when someone yells ‘Hold the door’. Schadenfreude Fuck off lady that’s what stairs are for”. Some of the best lyrics ever, look them up.

St Pauls Cathedral – Offers amazing views of the city from the Golden Gallery and the Whispering Gallery was incredible once we got the fucking kids to shut up. You talk into the wall and everyone in the 30m gallery can hear every secret. The walls have ears might well be true but these ones had mouth and tongue too.

Camden Market – That place is mental! I can’t think of much to compare it to at home. Its basically every type of market shop you can imagine: clothes, art, food, music, movies, bric-a-brac, tattoos, junk and theres about 100 of each type. Fill the area with as many people as possible. Now cram in more people and more shops. Lots of eccentrically dressed weirdos. There is only so much you can say about Camden, it really is one of the places you have to see to believe. Plus we found an amazing milkshake shop that had over 200 flavours. Mmmmm jelly baby milkshake.

Imperial War Museum, lunch outside Westminster Abbey, walk along the Thames, Hamley’s toy store (played with Lego for the first time in ages, still enjoy it!), National Gallery, Pineapple Lumps from the NZ shop behind NZ House in Trafalgar Square, got a Camden library card, British library, Freemasons Hall, Covent Garden, Kingston …

It’s probably more than anyone will want to read but its not even the start of it. I try my best to put words to it all but words and even pictures are simply not enough to properly recount the experiences.

You want to know what its like?

GET OVER HERE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :)

Anyways now I am fully committed to the next 2months around Europe. Goodbye money, hello stories. It is what I saved for so I plan to do it properly. Leave for the hockey in Dusseldorf on Wednesday and then on the trains and seeing as much as I can. Cologne, Zurich, Cinque Terre, Lyon, Bordeaux, Paris, Milan, Florence, Rome, Naples, Venice, Pula, Split, Dubrovnik, Munich OKTOBERFEST! Hopefully I make it.

Donations to the cause can be made by phoning me on +44 (0) 7746 239345.fundtravels.jpg

To everyone back home miss you all and hope you’re all well.

Posted by ashneale 08:21 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged foot Comments (0)


Contiki Europe

all seasons in one day

I can’t really remember every little detail of what happened the past 25 days it has been a blur. Partly due to being drunk, part to excitement, part to sleep deprivation and mostly because keeping an accurate dairy was about the last thing on my mind with all the fun going on. Plus if I was to be recalling every detail it would take much too long to read.

So in 25 days I covered about 8000km and 19countries. Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia, Croatia, Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Netherlands, Belgium, France, England.

Those of us that joined in Athens joined a tour that had started three weeks earlier in London and combined it meant there were 46 campers with 3 Contiki road crew all crammed on the coach with NO spare seats. People from everywhere: Kiwis, Canadians, South Africans, Americans, Korean, Japanese, English and of course Australian.

The highlights of the trip were so many and so here are some that I considered most memorable for all manner of reasons.

Gallipoli and Anzac Cove – Just the second day on tour and you could see and feel just how important and emotional these places were for all the Anzacs. The slopes up to Chunuk Bair and away from Anzac Cove blow your mind at how they could consider attempting to take them and then more ridiculous is how, in places, they achieved.

Istanbul – East meets West and we wandered around the Grand Baazar which is the most massive and confusing maze of shops I have ever seen. Everyone seems to sell the same stuff as the shops either side of it and how anyone makes money I don’t know. Went to a sheesah bar and had a massive night drinking beer towers, fishbowls and raki finally got to bed at 5am. Saw the Blue Mosque and then had a traditional dinner with belly dancers and all.

“The Pearl of the Adriatic” Dubrovnik is the most amazing fortified town. We walked along the top of the city walls where every photo was worthy of a postcard. The Hole in the Wall bar sits outside the city walls on the ocean and we had a few beers there and jumped the 12m or so to the water below. Awesome fun! Saw Australia beat Serbia in the football world cup which proved popular in Croatia. Went for a cruise to some of the neighbouring islands where, thru a dare, I was made to sing the Titanic theme from the front of the boat. Sing, mumble, yell I’m not too sure. Dubrovnik was crazy. Skinny dipping, random late night walks, museums, beer, buckets of cocktails hopefully I can be back there soon.

Vienna – Arrived and headed to the famous amusement park, Prater Park. Spent a lot of euros on the rides and with the exception of Extasy all the rides were a lot of fun and we had an awesome evening. Went to a schnaps museum and got happy on the free samples. Explored the city and its impressive architecture, found an Australian pub but the beer tasted like feet and then in the final evening some of us dressed up and got cultured at a Mozart and Strauss concert in the palace where Mozart had lived, written and performed.

Prague – Walked around the city and enjoyed the sights of Charles Bridge, Hradcany Castle before a lunchtime river cruise on the river. Played on paddle boats in the afternoon and then went on an epic pub crawl that included a few of us getting lost, drunk, in the streets of Prague. 5 storey mega club with each floor dedicated to a different type of music and then 4am back to the tents for yet another night with less than 4hours sleep. Thank god for travel days and sleeping on the coach!

Munich – Had the chance to see the Glockenspiel in Marienplatz although it was a bit anticlimactic. Headed out to a traditional Bavarian beer hall and the 1L steins flowed freely as we feasted on pork knuckle. It was an impressive double up with the pub crawl the night before and the bike ride the morning after did its best to continue it with lunch in the 2nd largest beer hall in Munich and the world. Dachau most certainly sobered people up though. Walking around and trying to understand and comprehend the extent of suffering that had occurred without any reason. Germany thumped Argentina in the world cup 4-0 so Munich was electric tonight, yet another big one!

Swiss Alps – The drive in was stunning and better yet the chance to get to the roof of Europe. Jungfraujoch the highest station in Europe, 3500m. The 90minute cog rail journey went thru the mountain and climbed more than 2km upwards. Incredible views and we spent the best part of the day up there. It’s the highest I had been and a few people felt light headed at that height. Played in the snow with sleds and all and got back to camp with soaking wet shoes. Saw some base jumpers and some awesome waterfalls as we wandered around our campsite nestled in the Swiss Alps.
Amsterdam – A lot of stuff happened in Amsterdam…

And with that the final very long coach day into London where sadly we said our goodbyes and enjoyed one final drink together. After gypsy-ing all around Europe we had got to know each other and I think we all look forward to a reunion at some point in the near future. Contiki camping is a kick ass way to travel you meet a lot of cool people, eat well, party heaps, see the most incredible sights and just have the best time you can imagine.

I have no idea what I am doing next but I know there are so many activities that I want to do! I bought the official beer stein of the 2010 Munich Oktoberfest (in its 200th year) so I have to go to that now. Ireland sounds cool, Croatia might be back on the cards and maybe Xmas in Sweden, Norway or back in the Swiss Alps??? I will try to keep you all posted but I just don’t know…

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