Monday, June 20, 2011

The Big City

Sorry for the delay in posts, but we have just been busy with several different things, where I have then not properly had time to write up my posts. But I have got a few that just need finishing off, and so will hopefully all be posted over the next few days.

So on the last weekend of May we went to Berlin to visit Stefanie's aunt and her girlfriend. We set off by train on Thursday morning at 10:42, the train journey was to be about 3.5 hours long, and we had brought the mornings sudoku with us to do, but unfortunately nothing else. This wasn't a problem however, as I came up with the idea for us to re-create our favourite game ourselves. So this involved me drawing the board on a piece of paper. However we didn't have a dice with us to play with, so Stefanie set about tring to create one. However as we had no glue with us, this didn't really work, so I just created some numbers on seperate pieces of paper that we would put into the cube she had created and then we would pick them out, serving as our 'dice'. For counters we were going to create them from paper, but then had the idea to actually use coins as our counters, and this worked quite well. Creating the game and then playing it actually passed the time quite well and soon we were in Berlin südbahnhof and changing onto the S-Bahn to get down to where her aunt lives.

Although living in Berlin, her aunt actually now lives in a little town of itself which is called Königs Wusterhausen, so therefore from getting off the train we had to take the  S-bahn for 30 minutes which was quite annoying as the journey is not really that far, but because the train stops all the time it takes forever. But we got there in the end, and waiting for us where Stefanie's aunt and her girlfriends daughter. So we then drove to the house, which is a very nice house. Soon after Stafanie's grand-parents arrived along with Anke. So that evening we then had dinner all together on the patio.

So on Friday Stefanie and I went into the centre of Berlin by ourselves. We got dropped off near to Alexanderplatz, where there is a nice little shopping boutique area, so to begin with we went around there and to look at what all the shops had. They were all independant stores, and so had their own items that you wouldn't find anywhere else, although the prices did tend to reflect this. From here we then walked to Alexanderplatz itself and past the TV Tower, and headed down to the fountain that is there. We knew that we wanted to head towards the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag but were not sure in what direction we really needed to go. But luckily for us there was a sign that actually told us that the gate was 2km away, so we decided that we would just slowly walk towards it, as we did have all day to just do what we wanted to.

So we decided to head off in the right direction with the aim of getting there at some point in the afternoon. We stopped along the way at the cathedral to have a look on the outside and to walk along the river a little before then heading once again in the right direction. As we were nearing the gate we came across Madame Tussauds so on the spur of the moment we just decided to go inside. There were some very interesting figures inside there, especially ones from German history and I will include some pictures at the end of us with some of them. However there was one that made us really think about their decision. They had included a figure of Hitler, although they had put him behind a glass screen and there was a notice asking you to not take pictures of him or with him. So okay, yes he is a very large part of German history and one of the main influential people that many people will think about if you ask them about Germany, so in that sense it was right to include him. But in a place like Madame Tussauds where people go to have their picture taken next to famous people, for them to include him and then have a notice asking you not to take pictures as it may offend people to us was a little strange.

So from here we then walked on further till we got to the Brandenburg gate where we took some photos and then headed round the corner to the Reichstag. We wanted to go onto the grass which is outside of the Reichstag, but it was all sealed off for some reason. We think we remember reading that the Swedish Royal Family were in Berlin or something, so this could have been the reason. But we still managed to get some pictures outside anyway.

We then knew that we needed to get back to Alexanderplaty so that we could a) go to the restaurant that we wanted to and b) take the train back to Königs Wusterhausen, however neither of us really wanted to do the 2km walk again. All day we had been seeing a variety of different ricshaws to ride in. So we found one really quickly and decided that we would ask how much is would be for them to take us to Alexanderplatz. It was a price we were willing to pay, so we got in and enjoyed the leisurely ride back. We were actually amayed that we had walked as far as we had, because on the ricshaw it even seemed like quite a long distance, but it was a much nicer way to travel back, as opposed to walking again.

We then tried to find the Italian restaurant that Stefanie had been to before, although she insisted that every restaurant that we passed was not the one. Before turning back to one which I had pointed out and her saying that she was sure it still wasn't the same one, even though the menu was EXACTLY the same. But still we went in anyway as it did look like a nice place to eat. But apparently it still was not the same place, although they had the exact same waiters. We decided that as it was still a bit early that we would have a drink firs and then order our food course by course. This worked out to be a really good way to eat as it meant that the meal was really spread out. It was not till the bill came along with a card for the restaurant that Stefanie actually admitted that it was the same place, as the pictures on the card looked like what she remembered, followed by going to the bathroom and seeing the room where she had eaten in before. Although to a slight extenet she would still not admit that it was the same place.

So we then headed to the train station to try and take an earlier train that what we were going to as we were now getting tired. We managed to get our tickets and make the train. This time we were actually able to take a Regional express train, which meant we did not stop all of the time and it was quicker than when we had had to travel on the S-Bahn.

On the Saturday we then went on a boat tour through the city. We went with everyone else, which included Stefanie's grandparents, her aunt, her aunt's girlfriend, her daughter and grandmother. The boat trip gave us a different way to see the city, and meant that we could easily take pictures as there was nobody in our way. Although being outside on the top deck did get a little cold at some point because of the wind, so we had to then go down. But after a little bit it had got warmer again so we could go back outside. Whilst inside I had my first experience of curry-wurst and actually really liked it :). After the boat tour which lasted for 4 hours! We then went back and had some dinner.

On Sunday we went for lunch at a restaurant on the water at a different little village near to Konigs Wusterhausen. And then also went for a walk along the river after we had eaten. After our first two days of being very busy, it was nice to then just do something very slowly, but to also enjoy the day. From here we then traveled for 30 minutes in the car to another town. Here we had some cake and ice-cream and also another look around.

On Monday it was then time for us to leave. We had originally planned to take the train back, but as it was Stefanie's Aunt's birthday we stayed for longer and then got a lift back in the car later in the day.

So for the day we went out to a restaurant at a hotel. It was located on a lake, and it was also a really hot day, so it made the lunch really nice. I had some lamb to eat and Stefanie had pasta. After lunch we went down to the water and saw that they had pedalos. So we went up and got the key for one of them, and then took it out on the water. It was really fun, although much harder than it looks, especially when the one we had had a strange rudder that did not match up to the position of the handle to steer it. But we did manage to get going in the end and went out on the lake. As it was breezy we kept on drifting  away from where we were heading, so we took cover in the part of the lake that was covered by trees.

After we had been on the lake for a while, we then headed back to the restaurant for dessert. I saw that they had a strawberry one, so obviously went for that. When it came out on was on three tiers, with ice-cream on top, then strawberry cake and finally actual strawberries at the bottom. I clearly chose the best dessert compared to everybody else.

So it was then time to return back to Erfurt. So we all got in the car and started the 3.5 hour journey back. But I fell asleep, so managed to pass some of the time quite easily.

Outside the Fernsehturm.

On the bridge opposite the Cathedral.

In Madame Tussauds with Barack Obama.

Brandenburg Gate.

Making big bubbles :).


Our Rickshaw ride back to Alexanderplatz.

On the boat.

Great Chocolate Cake.

More amazing dessert.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Ready to go again

We are just about all packed and ready to set off to our new destination for this weekend. We are off to BERLIN! Stefanie's aunt now lives there, so we are off to visit her and also have a look around Berlin. We will probably go to some museums, maybe go up the tour, visit the wall and what ever else we can think of to do before Monday when we return back to Erfurt.

I will fill you all in when I then return again, and will include some pictures with it :)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The ever reliable Deutsche Bahn

So many people think that the German railway is so efficient and much better priced than our English counterpart. However from my brief experience of it it does not seem to be that way.

To start with, there are always articles on the BBC website about how European railways are subsidised so much that it makes them a lot cheaper for the passengers to actually travel on them. However it seems here that a journey is about the same if not more expensive to a comparable one in the UK. Okay, so the Germans do have high-speed railway, but that is not on all routes, and especially not on the regional routes that I have been taking most recently. Yes our upcoming trip to Berlin on Thursday is on one of the high-speed trains. However our return is not and is just on a regular inter-city train. And to say that it was cheap would be far from the truth, it was the price we expected to pay, but it would be comparable to what we may have had to pay in the UK.

And then there was the service we have had over the last few days. On Monday we were meant to go from Plaue to Erfurt, change the train and then go to Jena West. The train journey from Plaue to Erfurt Hauptbahnhof went as it should have done and we changed platform to the one we now needed. However that is when things then started to go wrong. There was an announcement saying that the train had been cancelled and we needed to change platform to take a different train to Erfurt-Bischleben (which was in the direction we had just come from and further away from where we wanted to be) and that when we got there there would be a new train to take us to Jena West. So we got there and one platform was already full with other people trying to get to Weimar or Jena West. There were few announcements and on one announcement they said they had no idea when the train would be arriving or what platform it would be arriving on. Therefore we just decided to give up on trying to get to Jena and to just take the bus back to Erfurt.

We later found out on the radio that night that the problem was all down to a ferris wheel that was being transported and had falled off the wagon or something similar to that and had caused damage to a 200m stretch of the track.

We heard this at about 6pm that evening and so though that it would all be sorted by the time we then needed to take the train the next morning at 10:48. Luckily for us that train was actually running, albeit with a 10 minute delay. However we did pass the part of track that was being repaired and it seemed like they still had a lot of work to be doing. But we knew that we would be in Jena for a few hours and that surely again it would be fixed for our return.

On the way back we got on the train we were meant to, it left on time and all the announcements made seemed to suggest that we would be stopping at Hauptbahnhof. However when the train then left Weimar startion there was an announcement to say we would not be stopping at Hauptbahnhof, but would instead just be going straight through it and stopping at Bischleben, where we would have to take another train back.

To our annoyance there was nothing we could do but carry on, except we did have the idea to pull the emergency stop whilst the train was going through Hauptbahnhof as that would make the train stop there, but we did manage to refrain from doing this. At Bischleben there was much confusion as nobody knew what platform to go to and when the next train would be along. Especially as the train we had just been on, part of it had detached but we didn't know if it would be going to Hauptbahnhof or not as that it usually where it detaches.

Finally the one supervisor who was on the platform shouted over that this train was indeed going back to Hauptbahnhof and that we could all get on it. So we all rushed under the tracks to the platform we had just been on so we could board the train, luckily we were actually able to get a seat. We finally ended up back in Erfurt only about 30 minutes later than we should have been, but the point still stands.

So before fully criticising  the UK railway system next time it is always worth remember that train travel in other European countries is not always as great as the do like to make out.

Return to the Willage

So this past weekend we returned to Plaue, so that we could leave the city again. However we were not sure what we would really be doing as the weather forecast kept changing every day so we could not exactly plan to do anything at a specific time.

But we came here on Wednesday evening after Stefanie had finished university anyway. A friend of Stefanie's aunt called Yvette was staying there also till Friday and Stefanie knew her anyway so in the evening we had a chat with her along with drinking some nice sparkling wine along with my new favourite snack which are salted sticks. Thursday was spent relaxing in the garden as it was very sunny and hot and I will attach some pictures at the end to show you the view that we had. Yvette and I also went to the supermarket to get a few items and outside there was a Bratwurst stand, so of course we had one with senf and it was very, very tasty.

On Friday Stefanie had to go to university again so we went back to Jena on the train to her group meeting for a presentation she had to do. It was then back to Erfurt where we met a friend and had dinner outside. I had some very nice schnitzel which came with spaghetti and tomato sauce. Of course I had a beer to drink and because it was a Bavarian beer it included a slice of lemon in the top, so we returned to Plaue again.

On Saturday we went to her grandparents summer house in another village called Martinroda which is about a 10 minute drive from Plaue. The summer house is very nice as the garden has loads of trees and plants in it. For lunch we had some beef and traditional English dumplings. They taste very much like English dumplings, however they have little bread pieces inside and are very sticky, but still very nice. Whilst here so far there have only been two things that I haven't really liked, and that is cold asparagus salad and I am not so keen on the bread that they have here as it is very heavy.

It was raining on and off on the Saturday, but we still went for a walk in the forest which was very nice. Then the rain went so we played some 'badminton' in the street before returning to Plaue. I have also got a new favourite board game, however I am not sure of the name and it is not the easiest thing to describe by text. So I will try and find out the name and then let you know next time.

Sunday was again spent relaxing in the garden, playing the board game and also Stefanie had some studying to do. So she did that whilst I watched the F1 on TV.

Then on Monday we had to go back to Jena for university. However the train journey was not as simple and easy as it should have been. But I will talk about that in another post.

Below are some pictures that we have taken over the last few days.

The view from our bedroom window

View from the bathroom

Garden, with decking to the right

We decided to be very German for our walk

Walking through the forest


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A weekend in Plaue

Hello All,

So over the weekend (well from Saturday to Monday) we were in a little village called Plaue where Stefanie's aunt has a house and is 30 minutes outside of Erfurt. Stefanie had university during the day, so we left Erfurt at around 7pm to get there. That night we both cooked Spaghetti Bolognese, along with a German wine called Dornfelder. The food was very good, and surprisingly the wine is also actually very good, well considering it is German anyway. Than that night we watched the Eurovision Song Contest right from the beginning till the end. And we both predicted that Azerbaijan and Italy would end up quite high in the points.

In the morning it was very nice to be able to wake up and look out of the window onto the mountains. We both forget to take a camera with us this time though so unfortunately we have no pictures to show. However we are going back again this weekend so we will remember to take the camera with us so that we can show you. We also may go up to the top of one of the mountains, but we have not fully decided on that yet.

The rest of the weekend we just spent relaxing in the house and garden, and also went for a little walk just around the area where the house is to see what it was like. On the Sunday night, Stefanie cooked a very nice meal for me which is called 'Flying Jacobs'. It consists of a Crème fraiche and normal cream sauce, mushrooms and chicken, then add bananas on top and cook for 20 minutes. Then add some peanuts on top and cook for another few minutes, then serve it with rice. It does sound a little strange just from the ingredients, but it does actually taste really good. 

We have now decided that we want to live there as it is so quiet and nobody can disturb you plus the views are amazing. However Mum and Nigel would not be able to visit as the house is not suitable for disabled people. That is unless Nigel just wants to stay on the ground floor in the garage! We also played Monopoly whilst we were there, and unfortunately I lost :( which I was not happy about at all.

Whilst there we decided to not go on our upcoming trip to Dresden as we have now decided to do some other things either in Plaue or Erfurt for the weekend we were going to Dresden, and so will instead go there on another occasion that I am over here. On Sunday I was also offered a proper job at a festival in August however I think I will have to unfortunately turn it down.

Overall we had a very nice weekend in Plaue and are looking forward to returning there again tomorrow night for a long weekend.

So I best get on with actually packing now, or maybe I will just leave that till the morning!

[Updated] I've just been told that I definitely have to sort out my clothes now for the weekend as they need to be packed!


Saturday, May 14, 2011

New and improved


So it has been quite a while since I last posted on this blog, but it has now all changed since then. As you may notice, the actual name of the blog has changed along with the focus for me writing.

The blog will now just be about what I am up to in general as opposed to necessarily one specific topic. However it will mainly be geared towards travel as that is what I am most interested in and am nearly always planning a trip somewhere.

So just a little bit about me to now set the scene for where I am. I have left Bloomsburg after studying there for the one semester. I then returned to Sheffield to continue with my studies for the last part of my second year at university. This is also now completed and I am contemplating exactly what to do next. I was looking to go on an internship, however it has been very difficult trying to find one that I would be happy with. So this is currently on hold at the moment. My current plan is to maybe get a job in the travel industry for a year minimum to see whether it truly is the direction I want to take my career in after graduating. I have some ideas in mind, however they will need to be properly planned once I am nearing the end of my current vacation.

Which leads me nicely on to telling you what the next few weeks have in store for this blog. I am currently living in Germany, a city called Erfurt to be precise. I am here spending some time with my girlfriend as this is where she is from. We met whilst we were both studying in Bloomsburg. So whilst I am here we intend to explore the area surrounding Erfurt and to also spend some long weekends in Berlin where we are going in a couple of weeks time, along with going to Dresden a few weeks after.

So expect many blogs about what I have been up to whilst I am here and what I am planning to be doing next.

Right now I am actually just packing to go to Plaue for the weekend. Where we will watch the Eurovision Song Contest tonight and also going for some walks in the mountains nearby possibly. Therefore my next post is likely to either be Monday evening once we have returned or Tuesday.

So till then, enjoy you weekend.

And remember, planning your holiday is half the fun.