Thursday, May 27, 2010

Aufweidersein Topdeck! Bonjour next stage of discovering Europe!

I have had many many adventure since I wrote last so Im warning you early its going to be a very very long post and probs no photos once again. When I can find a safe computer I will do a upload of photos so you guys have some idea of what im talking about when i talk about beautiful scenery and yummy food and great friends.

At the moment Im back in London after the end of the most amazing 26 days of my life. Everything about the tour was great - the city, the sights, the people, the food, the photos, the drinking, the dancing and the million other once in a lifetime experiences i've had.

First of all let me tell you about Tyrol in Austria. Our adventure afternoon was cancelled due to the snow. Yes thats right I went from lying in the sun by a pool to the next day eating a picnic lunch while snow fell around me. I must say it would have been an amazing experience if i was wearing a bit more then shorts, cardigan and thongs. Once we hit Austria we had a bit of a wander around the town and saw all the cute little thatched roofed houses and running streams. After that we hit the local brewery which was the tallest building in the town of Tyrol (It had a whopping 5 storys). We had a few lazy beverages while trying sourkraut (yuck) and pork knuckle (yum) and watched our fellow crewmates fall from the sky while they paraglided off the snow capped mountains. That night was spent in a cosy little guest house with a poky little bar downstairs where we played cards, Jenga and Connect Four.

The next day we drove to Munich which I was really looking forward to as it meant I was actually in Germany after learning it at school for eight years. On the way we visited the Dachau Concentration Camp which was really interesting though incredibly sad. It really helped me put my life into perspective because here I was complaining about having no clean clothes in my backpack and here was this place where people were dealing with hard physical labour and malnutrition. Its good though because whenever I have a shitty day or a depressive moment I can think about what i've seen there and realise its not so bad. After the concentration camp we headed to Munich where we did a quick walking tour of the main city sights. I also had the chance to have dinner with my German teacher who is now living in Munich. It was so lovely to see her again as it felt like yesturday I was in her classroom gossiping with my friend rather then learning German. It was pretty evident I wasn't the best student when I couldnt' understand a question asked in German and she had to translate for me. Whoops! Together we headed to the Hofbrau House which is the most famous beer hall in Germany (they have the largest tent at Oktoberfest). It was pretty rowdy in there and had heaps of atmosphere perfect for drinking a litre stein of house beer. Hopefully I get the chance to go to Oktoberfest because if is anything like that it will be a wicked time.

Next stop was Prague which quickly became one of my favourite cities on tour. As usual with the tour we did a quick walking tour in the afternoon so we became orientated with where we were. After seeing the spired bulidings, gothic churches, the charles bridges and all its statues we went to roof top bar where we had a Pilsner Beer (which originated in Prague - i think) and looked out over the old town square. That night after a few drinks at the backpacker bar we walked around the corner to a metal bar - and by that i mean both metal music and metal furniture. The whole place was decorated with old parts of motorcycles and cars which were connected up so they all turned and twisted above you. You sat on car seats while headlights flashed in time to the heavy metal music. We didn't last there long because it was way to intense for someone who isn't intersted in that sort of stuff but it was definately worth the sight.

The second day in Prague we had a pretty cruisy day, spending most of it shopping around and checking out all the Babooshka dolls and Swarvoski Crystal. There were a few markets on so we were lucky enough to get some traditional food including bratwurst and cool sprial donut things (which i cant remember the name of). That afternoon we headed to the Prague Beer Fest where we spent the arvo drinking from a choice of 70 beers and eating more bratwurst and another local specialty garlic soup. It was heaps of fun as we ran into more tour crew and ordered a metre of beer. It is 11 beers lined up in a special wooden holder and when you order it two beer wenches have to bring it out and they ring this giant gong. We also had a celloist and acordian player play us waltzing matilda while we drank it.

After a few bevvies at the beer fest we headed back to the hostel and got ready for a bit crew night out in Prague. We met up with 3 other Topdeck tours and went to a 5 story nightclub which definately ensued for a wild night. The nightclub was so so so so so much fun. They had different music on different levels like " dance music", "oldies music" and even the incredibly politically incorrect "black music" for the R&B level. We spent most of the night dancing up a storm and drinking before having a wander to maccas. Yes even in the middle of Europe a late night maccas feed is needed to ward of the potential hangover.

And it wasn't a potential hangover but a full blown one. Spending a day driving between Prague and the Rhine Valley wasn't a fun one as my head, feet and legs all hurt from a night of drinking and dancing (still wouldn't change a thing though). Once we got there we checked into a cute little hotel that actually had a massive double bed and a shower that worked. It was a dream after staying in cabins, sail boats and hostels for the past few countries. After a nice healthy dinner of veggies and beef stroganoff we headed up the road for a wander around the town. Its so good when the sun doesn't go down til 9.30 because it means that even on days where you spend most of the time on the bus you get to see the city you are in. The Rhine Valley was a bit like a few stops on the tour where you know you are only there because the driver can't drive through the night. Even though in saying that it was a nice place to recover from Prague and psych myself up for Amsterdam and the last couple of days of tour.

Every time I visit a new city it almost immediately becomes my new favourite and that didn't change when I hit Amsterdam. Before hitting the main city we visited a clog and cheese farm to see how both were made. The clogs were pretty boring but it was interesting to see (and taste) the cheese. I spent up big in the gift shop and tasted nearly every type they made. We arrived in the city in the middle of the arvo which meant we had a couple of hours to check out the place before heading to a sex show. Most of the time on tour we stay in accommodation that is further outside the city but in Amsterdam we stayed close by the local night club and cafe area. It was also close to a few of the must see's so it was good to be able to walk around and not panic about getting public transport. We spent the arvo having a early dinner at an Irish Pub that was in one of the main squares. It was good because it was a sunday there was a local band playing covers in the square which gave us a bit of entertainment as i hacked into my steak (yum yum yum).

That night we headed to the red light district to check out a sex show. Now im no prude but a sex show usually isn't my thing but i succumbed to peer pressure and went along to check it out. I have one word for it - eeeeeeeeeeeeewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww. The four of the acts were girls stripping, pole dancing then either pulling things out of or putting things in their 'special places' (Now there is something I didn't expect to be writing about on a blog). These things included never ending string, a texta (which got used to draw on someone from my tours chest), a dildo and a banana. The last act was a couple having sex which is just so akward to watch and halfway through one of the girls said to me ' why the hell are we here' and it was a pretty good question. Afterward we checked out the rest of the red light district and walked up and down skinny alley and saw the girls in their windows. Now im no perve but that was pretty interesting as I was amazed at how attractive these girls were and how much they got paid to do what they do - 45 euro for 15 minutes.

On the last full day of tour we did a bike ride through the streets of Amsterdam which is famous for cycling with millions of bikes all over the city. They even have a two story bicycle parking station! We saw the main canals, the rembrant park, the west church and the outside of Anne Franks house. After the tour we went and checked out the Anne Frank house and I am saying it now that if you are ever in Amsterdam you MUST DO THIS. Forget the hash brownies and the red light district this is seriously one sight that you have to do. It was more overwhelming than Dachau and it was amazing to see something that I had read about. It was much bigger than I had imagined but no way would I want to live in those rooms with eight people for two years. Her actual diary was displayed in cabinets and the wallpaper and rooms were the same as they were when she was there (except for the furniture). I bought a copy of her diary so i could re read it and see how I view it differently now i have seen where it was set. That afternoon we did a tour of the Heineken factory which is brewed locally in Amsterdam. It was really fun with interactive stuff like a 4D ride and demonstrations on how the beer was made. The best part of course was the three beers included in the tour which were poured from ice cold taps which is a bit of a change from the hot beers i've been drinking in hostel rooms across europe.

The last night of tour we did some AmsterDAMAGE with a massive massive night out. We started with a dinner on a floating chinese resturant where we absolutely demolished the food. It was so good to have something completely different then what we had been having and it actually included veggies which we were in low supply of. Following the farewell dinner we went on a canal cruise which was all you can drink. We had a great time boozing and cruising and even a bit of dancing. The cruise ended all too soon and we headed to a local bar called Pirates which was heaps of fun. Once there we stayed and spent it like we did in most nights out on tour dancing and drinking for aaaages.

The last day of tour was definately the most average day of all because it meant sitting on a bus for 12 hours hungover and saying goodbye to some new but very good friends. The positive side was that we went through 4 countries in one day! We had breakfast in Amsterdam, lunch in Belgium (where I loaded up on chocolates), dinner in France and a few goodbye drinks in England. It was sad to say goodbye to lots of the new people I had met as I had got used to their company. Luckily for me there were a few of us staying at the hostel I am now at so its not goodbye forever just yet. Even better still my new travelling partner Caroline has met me at the hostel so I will always have some company!

Even worse still was saying goodbye to our tour leader and driver. It was pretty nice having everything organised for me and being told where to go, when to get on and off, what to visit, the history of what im even looking at and overall just having a good crew around you. But from now on its just me and Caroline working our way around cities by ourselves and trying to organise what to see and what to do while we are there! Its all part of the adventure and definately will be a learning curve and a test of will but thats what it is all about!

For now I will chill in london with my bestie and spend a few days back in the village recouperating and recovering from an epic time and preparing for the next adventure!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Im On A Boat...

Yep that song pretty much was stuck in my head the whole three days I was sailing in the Greek Islands. I must say although I didnt get to see much of Greece itself sailing around the islands was a good way to travel it.

We set off from a place called Plateria on board the ERMOINI (which i tended to call Hermione) with a crew of 5 in a tiny little sailing boat. I had never sailed before and our captain hadnt sailed since primary school so I must say it was a bit of an adventure! Although we didnt do all that much sailing we mostly just motored along which was good because it meant even i got to steer the boat! The first day was really rough seas and after about 10 minutes we were all soaking wet and sick of sailing. We thought - " hey isnt this supposed to be relaxing? arent we sposed to just cruise around with a beer in hand?" ummmm noooooo it was not like that at all. It took us 5 and a half hour to do a 4 hour trip due to the rough seas. We sailed to Petriti and once we were on dry land set off straight to the nearest bar to have a drink and calm our nerves. It wasnt until we got there that the owner of the resturant told us that all the fishermen in the village didnt even go into the sea that day because it was too rough. So it wasnt just us rookie sailors struggling with the waves which was a great releif!

That night we ate a delicious greek meal with tsatsiki, greek salad and herbed meat followed by tradtional greek dancing! It was so much fun! At one stage they even poured alcohol on the floor and lit it on fire while they dancing in the middle of it. One man then grabbed a table and picked it up with his teeth and twirled around dancing. We were all pretty impressed and they showed us how to do it so me and one of the other girls had a bit of a go but only lasted about 1 minute. It was a great introduction to Greece and I must say that im completely addicted to their food.

The next day we set of from Petriti to Corfu Town. This day was much better, the water was a lot calmer which meant that we actually got to put up the front sail for a little bit. The highlight of the day was definately stopping the boat in the middle of the ocean and diving off into the clear blue water. It was definately chilly but we had all stocked up on floaties so we just bobbed around and caught up on all the news from the other boats before heading back to our boats and setting sail again. This was the day that we started beer o clock at 11 am so after a swim we had a bit of a snooze on the bow of the boat followed by a few more bevvies before we docked in at Corfu Town.

We wandered in and had dinner in the cute little town before we had a pirate punch party on the quay. It is amazing how quickly people can come up with costumes on short notice! There were stripey shirts, bandanas and lots of eye liner tattoos and everyone scrubbed up well. The punch was deadly - it was one of those ones where you cant taste the alcohol so you think its harmless but about an hour later your legless and thinking its a good idea to go clubbing in Corfu dressed as a Pirate who hasnt showered in two days. But we did it anyways! It was a good night out except for when we got the munchies and spent about and hour hopping from boat to boat stealing chips, more drinks, eating nutella out of the jar with a spoon and basically just all round shennanigans.

The next day we all set off with our hangovers and sunburn back to Plateria. In my time ive tried many a hangover cure but I would have to say the best one yet is diving into cool blue water and floating around on flat water. We stopped off at a little place along the way that had watersports. A few people tried wakeboarding and water skiing but i went for the tame version and did banana boating. It was heaps of fun and we managed to make it without falling off until the very last minute so I got another nice refreshing wake up.

Once we arrived in Plateria it was a bit of a releif as it meant we could have a shower which we hadnt been able to have in three days. It also meant one last nite of sleeping on a smelly boat with 4 other people. I loved sailing but hated sleeping in a tiny cabin with dirty feet. Next time I sail hopefully its on a yacht!

The next stop was Albania which was a 10 hour drive day and all round pretty average. We stayed in the capital Tirana which was interesting to see how it has changed and learnt the history of the past few decades but it was definately only a pit stop between Greece and Croatia.

I absolutley adore Croatia! When we arrived in Dubrovnik we arrived in the arvo so there was not much to see so we decided to hit the town. We caught the bus down to Old Town and walked along the streets which were all lit up then down a side alley into a tiny little bar where they sold buckets of alcohol for 10€. They went down a treat! After one of those it was onto the dancefloor where we spent most of the night except for a side stop to a pizzeria where i had a quater of a pizza for 1€! And i would have to say that the pizza in Croatia by far beats the pizza in Italy.

The next day we did a walking tour of the Old Town and then decided to walk the city walls. The walk was by far the best thing ive done so far because the views were just incredible. To one side there is this crystal blue water the stretches on as far as you can see. Tiny cute little boats sailing the ocean and a view to the islands off shore. Then to the other side you see these little houses and apartments where people live. Their washing would just be hanging out to dry next to a little cafe and their balconys would just be right next to the wall with a view of the ocean. We stopped around halfway and had a beer and just sat and soaked it all in.

After our walk of the city walls we found a little cafe in a tiny side alley and sat down and ate even more pizza (still delicious). We actually ended up eating lunch with the owners daughter who was about 10. She was really cute and spoke really good english so she taught us some Croatian words to use. That afternoon we headed down the beach for a swim. The beach was a full pebble beach and wildly uncomfortable to lie on and stand on so we stocked up on beers and sea food and sat and watched the sun go down.

Sadly it was only a short stop in Dubrovnik and we set off the next day. We had a one night stop over in Zadar we headed to Venice where I have fallen in love with Italy all over again. The night we arrived we feasted on more pasto and antipasto platters. I am very proud to say that i tried everything on it including all the weird cheeses and olives. I even washed it down with a red wine which has never been my drink of choice but is fast becoming a favourite. Following our feast we had a toga party! The place we were staying were kind enough to lend us some sheets and our whole topdeck crew and two other busloads all dressed up in togas and leaves and hit the bar for a toga party. It was my first toga party and I will have to say probably the most epic night of our tour. It was a fun fun night. Spent most of it on the dancefloor (whilst trying not to have my toga fall down) and drinking some random mixed cocktail which was 6 shots of alcohol with a barcardi breezer. There were body shots (which i was not involved in) and table dancing and just all round drunken shennanigans. By the end of the night our white togas were actually brown and covered in alcohol. We managed to have 3 seperate injuries to people on our tour and the stragglers were escorted back to their rooms by security after trying to break into the pool for a midnight dip.

The next day was spent exporing Venice which is a city that is just filled to the brim of amazing sights. We wandered through the alley ways and discovered cute little shops, bakeries and cafes. The highlight was the Gondola ride that took us through the smaller canals as well as the grand canal with a great view of the Rialto Bridge. Afterwards we walked up to the bridge and visited a couple of the shops before heading home to sit by the pool and recover from a hectic night and a busy day.

It is hard to believe that I have only been on this tour for 14 days. I feel like i have known some of these people for years and that paris was about 4 months ago rather then just 12 days. I still have so much to go! We head off to Austria for an afternoon of adventure - some are sky diving i chose mountain biking. Then onto Prague, Munich, Rhine Valley, Amsterdam then back to London. Its going so quickly and while im looking forward to seeing my new travel partner and branching out on my own im going to be a little bit sad to see this tour end. But for now Im off to drink wine and eat cheese and crackers with the crew!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Its been a long road....

Well, things certainly have changed since I last wrote. I left that blog on a bit of a sad note and Im happy to say I have perked up a great deal since then. A really kind, beautiful and sweet person wrote to me and sent me this quote which pretty much made me wake up and realise that I really was embarking on an adventure.

“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” – Jawaharial Nehru

The topdeck tour I am on so far has been incredible. Im lucky enough to have met some really really cool people who will also be living in London so im slightly less freaked out about that. Im also lucky that everyone on the tour has been really friendly and fun and interested in the countries (not just getting pissed - although we do that too). The accomodation hasnt been like the hostel I stayed at in London where i shared with 8 people. Ive had rooms of 2 or 3 mostly with private bathrooms and comfy enough beds.

Since London I have been to 3 countries in 7 days and experienced things I have been dreaming about for years. I promised a shorter post this time so Im going to try and do a summary of all the things I have done however I must say its going to be hard.

  • Did a bus tour by night of all the key spots in the city. Saw the Eiffel Tower light up, drove on the Arc Di Triomph (which is a 12 entry roundabout with no lanes which has a crash on it every seven minites). Saw where Chanel lived at No. 5, the old opera house, and lots and lots of beautiful city sights.
  • Tried to see the Mona Lisa but the Louvre was closed so just had a wander around the streets of paris followed by a 3 hour bike tour where I road on Californian Cruiser bikes with no helmet around the crazy streets of Paris.
  • Had a big picnic with cheese, bread, seafood, salads under the Eiffel Tower. Cracked open a bottle of champagne that cost 1.80 Euro (even though its 2 Euro to go to a public bathroom) then walked up to the second level, then caught the lift up to the top to see the city lights. A M A Z I N G!!!


  • Spent the first night in Switzerland at the bar near our cabins where almost everyone from our tour ended up drunk and dancing on the tables.
  • Stayed in a cabin/campsite thingy that when i woke up i looked outside and could see snow capped mountains, 4 waterfalls, tiny cottages with thatched roofs and shuttered windows and cows with their pretty cowbells on.
  • Wandered the tiny town and bought myself a real swiss army knife. Had a 4k trek down to a feild under a waterfall to have a picnic lunch then spent the afternoon snuggled in a coffee shop eating a swiss chocolate brownie and writing postcards.
  • Hung up a coaster with my name on it in the bar that night and will be back to visit it in about 2 months!


  • Had a big drive day from Switzerland but stopped off at the leaning tower of pisa. I took the traditional photo of me holding it up. We then spent the first night in Italy eating bread dipped in olive oil, pizza, pasta, gelato and red red wiiiiiiiiine. We also managed to score a shot of lemoncello yum yum.
  • The next day we did a walking tour of Florence in the rain. Saw the statue of david (the fake one) and the town halls and cathederals. Also saw a demonstration on how to tell real leather from the fake and had a bit of a browse but couldnt afford anything.
  • Had a massive piece of pizza for lunch and then went to get a sneaky Gelato. Somehow managed to order the super large jumbo size through the language barrier - it ended up costing me 15 Euro. Yes thats right I paid around $28 aussie dollars for ice cream. I was sooooooooo pissed off i barely enjoyed it and it was so massive I barley finished it. After awhile i saw the upside of it but I tell you what i know how to say "Quanto Costa?" (how much?) for sure now.
  • Went out to a karaoke bar and drank a fishbowl full of cocktails, followed by some wine and a 4 hour dance in the campground nightclub.


  • Spent a slightly seedy bus trip to Orvieto where we went up a little train ride to a village on top of the tuscan hills. Had a wander through the streets and sat in a real italian cafe and ordered the best coffee ive ever had.
  • Got to rome where we jumped off and did a walking tour of the Spanish Steps, Pantheon, Colusseum via a gelti shop that has over 180 flavours (this one only cost me 4 Euro).
  • Had a personalised walking tour of Vatican City where i got to see the Sistine Chapel ( it really is as amazing as you hear it is) and St Peters Basillica. Visited the Popes Catacombs and saw many many sculptures from Michaelangelo.
  • Visited the colusseum again to see inside then spent the arvo drinking italian wine that cost me 1 Euro outside our cabins in the sunshine.

So that pretty much sums up the past week. Tomorrow we head off for Greece where we are actually crewing several Flotilla sailing ships around the islands. Mainly Corfu which is apparently beautiful. I have never sailed before and there are only 6 of us on each boat so it will definately be an experience. Im very excited about seeings some sun as i have been in jeans and jumpers for nearly 5 weeks now. After that is Croatia and Albania which I am really looking forward to.

* I apologise for my lack of punctuation and captials. The keyboard Im using has a whole range of funky punctuation marks and a sticky shift button.