A Travellerspoint blog

May 2011

Day 42, Berlin

sunny 30 °C

I woke up under the impression that it was 0700. I got up, changed and started working on the previous day’s post. I made a cup of instant coffee and then saw the time was actually 0600. I forged on, making a map of the places we wanted to eat at still and chatting it up with some family. Shane woke up a few hours later. You’ll recall the 6 euros I said I overpaid the hostel. When I saw the owner there at 0830 I went out to talk to him. I pleaded my case but he was adamant that it was my fault and they had no proof of anything. I won’t get into the details, the internet messed things up. I stuck to my guns, argued my case and got my money back. You would all be proud. It was very scary.
We went across the street to a cafe called ‘Green Eggs and Ham’ and ate a delicious breakfast with yogurt and muesli. We gathered our backpacks and started a journey across the city. We arrived at our new hostel 40 minutes later. It is a grand old house, with tall doors and fancy trim. We were offered a welcome drink and asked to sit down. We got the low-down on the area from a reception dude. They let us store our bags as it was too early to check-in and we left again. We walked through a small part of the Tiergarten, and then over to the Brandenburg Gate. We ate currywurst for lunch and waited for our 1300 tour to start. It was a free tour and well over a hundred people showed up. We broke off into groups and spent the next three hours sweating to death under a hot German sun.
We really enjoyed the tour. It hit all the main sights, the Holocaust memorial, the site over Hitler’s bunker where he shot himself dead and where they burned his body (now a parking lot), Checkpoint Charlie, the site of the burning of 20 000 books by Nazi students and many others. We finished on Museum Island with the story of the political blunder that brought down the wall. We left the tour much more knowledgeable and happy with our choice.
We walked back to the hostel stopping for ice cream and fruit along the way, it was a long walk you see. We checked in to our room, NO BUNK BEDS! It’s so awesome! We showered before we left for dinner, but when Shane came back from his, he was a little red in the face. He had showered without knowing, in the girls shower room! If that wasn’t bad enough, these aren’t regular showers. There are three stalls but nowhere to change or dry off in the stall, the sensor for the water is automatic. So it is very tricky to not be naked in front of the door while someone walks in. Shane was very lucky no girl walked in on him.
There was a donair place recommended to us not to far from here. We heard the lines were worth it. We waited twenty-five minutes before we received ours because they kept running out of meat. I thought they were amazing! Three sauces, feta, crispy chicken, a huge mound of deep fried vegetables sprinkled with soy sauce and seasonings, salad, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers. It was my perfect dinner. We stopped for a beer at the bar downstairs and chatted to the bartender about Chilliwack’s water quality, of all things. By the time we got to bed we were so exhausted we slept soundly until morn.

Posted by s-a 18:52 Archived in Germany Tagged berlin Comments (4)

Day 41, Berlin

sunny 22 °C

We woke up from our long sleep still tired. We phoned down to the front desk to see how much breakfast at the hotel cost. 12 euros each. We headed next door to the same place that shall not be named. We bought the internet for 2 euros to figure out where we were going. Side note: in this day and age is it to much to ask for wireless in the rooms built into the cost and plugs in airports? Two buses and 1h 20 minutes later we were at the the main train station, Hauptbahnhof. The building is magnificent, with trains running overhead and beneath our feet. We were on a mission to book our overnight train tickets to Copenhagen. We had made up our minds to go there way back in San Sebastian and had been trying to book the trains ever since. It turns out we didn’t need to worry and for 76 euros we now have two couchettes each way to and from Denmark! So excited! The Germans have a very smart and comprehensive railway. For example, instead of making one big tickets office with huge lineups (the usual) they have multiple small ones with no lineups. And we've never waited more than 3 minutes for a train at any of the 173 metro stops on 10 metro lines! Yes it's expensive (2.60 euro per ticket, 2 hours, 1 way) but they've got to pay for that level of service somehow.
look how dark his arms are to his legs!
vancouver? nope.
We took the metro to our hostel still lugging our 30 pound packs. We checked into our hostel after some confusion about which room we had exactly booked. When all was said and done we were 6 euros poorer. We ditched our stuff and headed out. We went to Mauerpark to Flohmarkt. On Sundays, the receptionist said, everyone comes out. We trusted him and was he ever right. It was just one massive flea market, with really good food! We ate our first, and far from last, currywurst. We also ate a waffle with nutella. Don’t ask me why, it doesn’t make any sense, but it was good. We watched a huge robot someone had made that jerked around a whole bunch, sitting in a shopping cart that spat water at the crowd. Weird?
We decided that since it’s totally acceptable to drink everywhere here we might as well jump on board. We grabbed two drinks from a corner store. I got a simple elderflower soda (the kind I make at home) and Shane got a radler, half beer half lemonade/soda. Both very good but when we paid for them at the front counter the clerk offered us a piece of candied ginger. Weird? Maybe he thought our breath stank.
purple kolrabi on the side of the road? YES
We were walking through the park minding our own business talking when a German punk guy (there are many of these) walks by and yells at us “Americans Suck!” Seriously?! Shane yelled back at him that we weren’t Americans but that damage was done. We felt insulted. Weird?
sad bear in a tiny little cage
We took the metro “downtown” whatever that means. There aren't really any skyscrapers in any areas. We walked along the river for a while, pausing here and there sitting in the shade and watching locks fill as the boat journeyed up river. We contemplated coffee in this area and decided against it, we weren't feeling all that much like getting ripped off. We started the walk home. Half way there we saw a golden retriever puppy. Shane squealed and hollered, he was so excited. The puppy heard us and came running towards. Luckily his owner was very nice and we chatted for a few minutes about our dog and hers. His name was Anton and he was 15 weeks old. We didn’t want to leave, but we couldn’t keep the lady any longer. We left very excited and sad. We miss our dog so much.
We did some research for dinner and decided on lahmacun, turkish pizza. We went all the way across town for this dinner, even though it is available on every street between here and there. It was delicious!! Its a flatbread pizza topped with herb ground meat and baked until crispy. After it’s baked you add the toppings you want. Salad and two sauces, and in Shane’s case doner meat. Then it’s rolled up into a tube and wrapped. All for 1.70!
picture complete with glare
On our way back home our walk found a us at a local bar. Once we worked up the courage to go in we came face to face with a wall of smoke. We asked for two beers and sat down. The show was in full swing, men chain smoking and playing the slots. There was a Germany/Uruguay football game on the television and we watched for a while. Side note: any ideas on why after the ball goes in the net it wouldn’t be a recorded goal? No one seemed upset by this but I sure was.
When we got back to the hostel we made it just before reception closed. I talked to the guy at the desk and asked him about the 6 euros we overpaid. He told me to talk to the owner in the morning, there had been a problem in the system. I’m sure it will be figured out soon. So far we love Berlin. It's a larger version on Vancouver. It's almost as beautiful, but there is not quite as much green. The population we've seen here is very young and conformity scarce. Everyone seems very independent and accepted, tolerance seems much higher. But what can we say, it's only been one day!
biking and drinking beer...at the same time!

Posted by s-a 07:18 Archived in Germany Tagged berlin Comments (7)

Day 40, Naxos to Berlin

overcast 25 °C

We spent most of the day in transit. Ferry for 6.5 hours. We ate gyros in Athens and frappucinos from starbucks, they were having a promotion. We took the train to the airport, our plane left at 8:45. Everything went smoothly until I basically had a panic attack when our shuttle didn’t show. Turns out he was 45 minutes late. We were starved and in a remote place somewhere in Berlin, with no other food than that we ate. It will remain unnamed. Sleep was welcomed.

Posted by s-a 12:32 Archived in Greece Comments (3)

Day 39, Naxos

semi-overcast 22 °C

The day started off well. We knew well enough to bring a towel to dry off a wet seat, our rain coats to keep us dry AND our bathing suits for potential tanning. We also brought water and two maps. See, we learn from our mistakes. We went to a place with a sign outside that said “1 euro all coffees” We ordered two coffees (instant of course) and planned our attack. When we left to pay the owner charged us 3 euros. We weren’t in the mood for any confrontation so we paid and left. I guess maybe there was fine print in greek that said “50% surcharge for tourists.” We headed north out of town. Up into the hills.
It was a long drive, steep inclines and declines, sharp corners and magnificent views. I felt safe on the ATV though, because I knew Shane would be more careful driving it than he would be in a car. We stopped once for gas and another time at the Church of Drosiani, which I read about once we got home. It’s a very old church with frescos on the ceiling dating back from the 3rd and 4th centuries. In any other country there would have been signs telling the history, and a guide to show you along, but nothing of the sort in Greece, it seems to be commonplace to have ridiculously old buildings all around. The church was a popular place, with locals walking the paths up and down to Moni, a tiny little town built into the hillside. From the look of it there couldn’t have been more than 100 people living there. There were geckos galore (Shane was in heaven) and the wildflowers were in full bloom (they are everywhere, the colours are amazing all over the landscape) and the olive grove was very pretty.
Olive trees and wildflowers in a multitude of colours are in abundance all over Greece. We’ve learned what an olive tree looks like from sight. There are these yellow bushes that prosper in the landscape here, you’ll see them covering everything. It just so happens that they smell A-MAZ-ING! You could say the scent we associate with Greece is the smell of these flowers, they perfumed our drive. We headed from the interior towards the town of Apollon on the Northeastern coast, but along the way we passed Sifnos(?) where for a brief moment I could see both sides of the island, from ocean to ocean, at once.
We stopped at Apollon for a much needed break and some lunch. We wandered the very small town for a few minutes, opting for a restaurant away from the super touristy ones along the water. It still was by the water, but we were the only patrons. I ordered a salt cod dish that came with a garlic sauce. Garlic sauce that was very strong and SOOOO good! We asked him what it was. Minced garlic, fresh bread soaked in water, garlic vinegar, olive oil and salt. We will be making this for sure! When Shane ordered the sausage dish the guy said to us “it’s going to be a while, I have to make it” Of course this made us very excited. A few minutes later we saw an old lady, she must have been in her late 70s or early 80s come downstairs, walk into the restaurant and put on an apron. The waiter (owner) fired up the grill. The older woman took off her apron and went back upstairs. The waiter brought out our meal. The sausage was even better than the day before! We left nice and full, with enough garlic on our breaths to slay a vampire.
We took the coastal road towards Hora (where we are staying) stopping once at Ayia Tower, where my best research can only tell me was a bombed out tower from the war. And once again when we spotted a large amount of beehives, obviously making the amazing Naxos honey.
When we got back into town we stopped at a grocery store where I bought some honey (in a tin so it can’t break) and continued along to Plaka beach from some sun tanning. The sun stayed out for all of 25 minutes before the clouds rolled in and the temperature plummeted. We gave up and rolled home. After showers to get rid of all the sand (it was windy on the beach) we drove the ATV back to the shop and walked to dinner. We ate at the same grill house as last night and had an even better dinner, if that was possible! A roasted chicken, those amazing roasted Naxos potatoes, greek salad, and a soft salty cheese I don’t know the name of. The place has only a Greek name from the outside, but in the letters that look closest in English I see, XAEANOTABEPNA. You (when you go) need to look for the letters in the Greek equivalent.
We walked home and packed, preparing for the day to come.

Posted by s-a 09:40 Archived in Greece Tagged naxos Comments (5)

Day 38, Naxos

storm 22 °C

The day was very bright and sunny as we ate our breakfast on the patio. We chatted about our plans for the day. We were going to the beach. Our swim suits were on and our towels packed. We found the ATV and left for some coffee. We filled up the tank with gas and took off down the road. We went straight to the beach and then rode the dirt roads as close to the sea as possible. We saw beautiful beaches but we kept on going, we wanted to see what it was like at the end. We rode all the way down to Agiassos, the furtherest south you can get. The beaches there were not very nice and a storm was brewing. We didn’t even take pictures, the place gave us an eerie feeling. Most of the towns we drive through are very small, so small that when we see someone we notice. In this town, like most, there was no one around. The clouds were an ominous grey and the wind was picking up, we turned around quick to race the storm.
Cracks of lightening flashed as we sped (safely of course, mom) down dirt roads, flying through potholes and bouncing over rocks. Our goal was to get to Vigla where we would stop and have lunch. We made it just as it started to rain. The restaurant where we dined had only a thatched roof, so we still got a little wet. We ate very well! I finally had my spanakopita, which was so much better than I’ll ever be able to make it, and stuffed tomatoes, loaded with onions, rice and spices. Shane had the best sausage he claims he’s eaten, and I’d agree that it was very good. Service here is incredibly slow (maybe only slow because of what I’m used to) and to get anything here you have to ask. They come to your table exactly twice, once about 10 minutes after you sit down, to grab an order and once to bring that entire order all at once. If you want anything else (including the bill) you need to be very obvious that you are flagging them down, or they will (pretend?) not see you. That said service is very nice, and the people seem to enjoy having us there.
It was still dark when we finished eating, but our only plans for this once sunny day had been to suntan, so we said a little prayer and climbed into the rocks. We found a little cove with enough room for two and laid down our mats. For about 5 minutes the sun came and then, in big, fat, heavy drops of (very cold!) water the skies opened. We tried to hold out, we hoped it would pass. We got wetter and wetter. Shane noticed something in the bushes 8 feet from us. It was a little white dog. Creepy? I think so. It wanted nothing to do with us, and it had clearly been there for a while. So we left it, climbed back over the rocks and rode to Plaka beach.
our beach
From the road I couldn’t see the beach but we knew it was there so we got off and started walking. The beach had coarser sand to it and was difficult to walk down but we made it to a little alcove, a section divided from every other. The sun was coming out and the storm blowing away. We had the beach to ourselves, and we decided that it was then a private beach for us. A nude private beach. The sun here is very intense. When it’s behind a cloud the temperature drops dramatically. When it comes out if feels as though someone is lowering a heat lamp closer and closer to your skin. It is very hot. We tanned for a few minutes and then walked into the water. We worked up the courage to drunk ourselves in the frigid water. 1, 2, 3 - we did it! But now I ask you, why would you? It’s awful! Salt water pains my sinuses. It fills up my ears and stings my eyes and throat. It is a most unpleasant feeling. I did find out that the Mediterranean Sea a higher salt content than the oceans, maybe it’s not as bad at home? I’ve never swam in the Pacific. We repeated the pattern a few more times, tan, swim, tan, swim, before we left. We went back home to wash off the salt that dried white on the little hairs on my arms and legs.
We walked out along the wave break to watch the sunset but mother nature had other plans and it started to rain once again. We tiptoed our way back across the slippery rocks and headed out on the ATV in search of really good dinner. We stopped in at a grill house outside of the tourist area. It had only one couple dining but a spit roasted whole chickens and huge pieces of pork. We feasted on feta saganaki (best thing ever!), tzatziki, a really good cabbage salad, with only carrots, salt, green cabbage, and fruity delicious olive oil. Simple is best I’m telling you! Then we had two plates of pork from the spit and beautifully roasted fingerling potatoes. We were in heaven.
It was another wonderful day in Naxos.

Posted by s-a 09:00 Archived in Greece Tagged naxos Comments (2)

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