Since Knoydart Peninsula, Scotland, I went on a trip around Europe. I went to Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Venice and Geneva. It was a lovely experience.


The train to Paris (from London) was peaceful and easy to arrange and easy, to find and board. I arrived at St. Pancras station from the underground, in good time (as usual) and wandered around the station to get my bearings and collect information. While waiting, I sat down and had a vegetable wrap which was wrapped in an almost invisible sort of edible cling wrap, which was interesting. I also later wandered upstairs and ordered a coffee.

Experiencing the Eurostar train for the first time was perhaps long overdue but it wasn’t a taxing experience and now having experienced the trains throughout much of Europe, I can say that it is not exceptional but rather it is generally as good, useful and efficient as most other long-distance trains in Europe, which is wonderful. I guess the exceptional part perhaps is that we pass through the euro tunnel.

The trains in Paris are also super easy to use. I downloaded a metro map which made finding the terminal stations easy (this is required to know which direction current lines are going). The public transport system reminds me of the transport system in London. I also watched a YouTube video to learn the ins and outs of how the transport system worked and having the internet, google maps and virtually unlimited data has really made my experience so much more informative and less stressful. Information really is key.

I made my way from Garde du Noord train station (the station I arrived at from London) to the underground and found that my stop was on the S2 line (a light blue line) and it was called Colonel Fabien. You can buy single-journey tickets. I bought x10 because I knew I'd have other trips outward and then coming back so I'd have multiple single journeys effectively. I'm sure I could have done something more efficient but when you're travelling, you tend to settle with what works and then get on with it. At the turn-styles, just inserting the ticket into the slot works great and opens up the barriers. You can also use up your purchased tickets on multiple days and, so I kept them in my money bag and used them as I went along. Nice.

I followed google maps to the hostel and then I checked into it (Generator Paris). They couldn't find my booking but thankfully I'd printed all my confirmation emails and train tickets (just in case something like this happens) and presented the confirmation booking details. They said that it was very good that I'd done that as it made it easy for them to allocate the booking (I would have hoped so).

Anyway, I found my room and used the electronic keycard reception provided to enter the dorm, which was an 8-bed room which was reminiscent of a boarding school dorm but you didn't know the other people. I slept on the top bunk. The bottom was an Australian woman and a self-professed Francophile. I found the room very hot.

Thinking about it, one of the things that made boarding school less arduous was having people around that you knew, and who equally had to endure the stresses of new places, routines and the general unfamiliarity of adolescence.  I suppose this is why, we as humans, feel a sense of comfort in a community. Despite this observation, travelling solo did not bother me at all. I think because I've experienced enough, the unknown and unfamiliarity is more interesting than it is unsetteling.

Anyway, the first morning I had scheduled a run with Ahmed, who I had met in Scotland during my most recent trip. I remember mentioning to him and his girlfriend, Lea, while casually chatting in the car, that this trip was something I was planning to do.

We (myself and Ahmed) ran throughout Paris in the early morning and took in the sights. It was really magical. Afterwards, we met up with Lea and we had brunch and went to the park to walk the dog, and I briefly passed Rue Montorgueil, a famous market street, but I didn't stop to peruse it.

I remember setting my alarm for 05:00 knowing that we'd scheduled to set out on our run at 06:30. Ever since I was at boarding school, sleeping in a dorm day in and day out, you get to understand what 'noise' is, the slightest creak, the most minuscule bump are all amplified when there is nothing but silence, so I've gotten used to knowing how to get out of bed very quietly without waking anyone.

Anyway, I did that and snuck out and made my way to the closest metro which is just outside the hostel I was staying at (Paris Generator). The metro station is called Colonel Fabien. The interesting thing about the metro, is that I remember sitting down on the platform and realising that a) I was tired, b) they had vending machines on the platform (we don't have that in the tube in London) and c) I had cellular coverage, which is strange because we were underground - again something we don't have on the tube. I saw some girls stumble in on the other platform, obviously been up all night, and there I was in my running leggings and blue waterproof running jacket. Seeing me, they must have realised it was morning. I must say, I like the Metro in Paris, it's the closest I've seen to the Tube. 

Anyway, I arrived at Hotel de Ville, which is the metro stop, took the escalators up to an exit and realised I was about 30 minutes early. It was cold, so I decided to go for a warm-up. I ran down the street and just kept on running straight until maybe I'd run a kilometre or so, and then I thought I'd turn back before I ran too far and got lost. I ended up doing that again a few times to the amusement of a guy on the bench who ultimately felt compelled to ask if I had trouble finding my was. I said I wasn't and said I'm waiting so somebody.

I did notice a rat run past while I was waiting. I suspect I would see one in London too if I was in the centre and that time in the morning, particularly around the restaurants etc.

I decided to change direction and run down the opposite street and I found that I came out on the main road in front of a grand old building (this I was told later was Hotel de Ville), as opposed to the small long winding street that I'd run through on the opposite side. I crossed the road and found the river Seine, I ran over the bridge and took my first-ever photo of the river. It was lovely to see the early morning lights from the street lamps reflecting on the river. 

Following our epic run, I went to Pont-Neuf, the oldest bridge in the city which has great views of the river Seine.

During our earlier run, we went through Jardin du Luxembourg, which is a nicely kept set of gardens for strolling around. I also saw the artillery museum (Ecole Militaire) which faces you as you cross the Pont des Arts, a particularly handsome Pedestrian bridge with cool statues throughout, gold ones at the top and white/great statues at the entrances. Very impressive looking. I also had a brief glimpse of the Palais Royal from afar.

As part of the run, we ran to and around the Eifel Tower however I never felt the need to go up, so I didn't (and it was way too early). So we ran around the tower. It's surrounded by a protective security barrier made up of walls of glass that enclose the structure. Apparently, this is because of the risk of terrorists bombing the structure. Ahmed lamented that it used to be a whole lot more beautiful when it was just a structure rising from the grounds of the park on which many could sit and have a great time (and take great pictures). The park was still there but it was undergoing some sort of alterations and a lot of the gravel was being moved. It looked a lot like a construction sight really. Not that it mattered, all the business was above ground really. I would say by the time we got to the Eifel tower, we'd run quite a long way, perhaps 7-10 km. I decided that I best take a photo of it, and seeing that Ahmed was there and had taken me on this great run, that we should be in it together and celebrate the beauty that only getting up early and going for the run would have provided. Good on us. 

We ran up to the 'actual' statue of liberty but I'm not sure it's actually called that in Paris, Ahmed chuckled saying that 'we' gave the Americans a 'copy' of the original, which was what was standing in front of us overlooking the river Seine. On the bridge that she was standing on, we took a look back the way we came and saw a lovely view of the Eiffel tower, as we had run past it now and the early morning clouds and blues in the sky and the river. Quite lovely.

We also passed through Jardin de Tuileries which are formal flower beds and fountains, which are pretty particularly without people.

In the afternoon, Lea said I should go to a part of Paris called Montmartre which is an area of Paris which rises up a hill overlooking Paris and has superb views of the city. So I did, and it's a lovely meander up winding roads rising higher and higher to the top, where there is a distinct and imposing church, the Sacré Coeur. It's quite grand being right at the top-most point of the hill. I had a look inside and was met with a stunning interior which would be my first glimpse into the wonders of church decorations and general splendour.

I then made my way to the Ile de la Cite, which is an island in the Seine as Paris was actually founded on this tiny island. I then went to Notre Dame, which is the historic heart of the city and on the island. As part of my walking journey, I also had ice cream in an edible cone, which I don't usually do but which I enjoyed tremendously.

The next day and final morning, I went for another stroll around Paris's streets. I stopped off to visit the Galerie Vivienne, which is a 19th-century shopping arcade.

In the afternoon I decided to see the Arc de Triomphe, so I travelled on the Metro to the nearest underground station. The Arc de Triomphe was nice to see, but I think I saw it more for the fact that I could say that I'd seen it. Then it started raining.

I took a Hop on hop off bus tour of Paris, I saw the sights from the top, it was a good way to travel and see a lot in a short time, and actually more important for me is that I didn't have to walk. It's surprising how much walking I've done. I saw the Arc do Triomphe, Grand Palais, Petit Palais, Eifel Tower, Louvre, Notre Dame, Musee d'Orsay, and Ecole Militaire in short succession and went up and down the Champs-Elysees (main shopping road).

I had already run through the Louvre complex the previous morning, and I particularly enjoyed seeing the lovely surrounding buildings. I did not feel like fighting with the crowds to see the Mona Lisa. I felt very much the same as I did with the Eifel tower. If I never see the Mona Lisa or go up the Eifel tower, I'm not particularly bothered really. I value doing what I want to do more.

It was time to go to Brussels. I found my way to Garde du Noord and waited for my platform number to Brussels. This is where things got interesting.

All trains to Brussels were cancelled due to what I think was a fatality on the line. I stood inside Garde Du Noord station hoping for the situation to change but it didn’t! I waited for hours, and finally, upon realising that the station was going to close (1 am) and in fact, there was no way to get to Brussels, and I needed to do something.

For the first time, I downloaded and used Uber to call a taxi and then have him transfer me to a new hostel in Montmartre, which I'd booked on my phone while looking longingly at the departure board at the station. My original hostel could not take me. The plot twisted some more as when I got to the new hostel, I found out that I'd booked for the following day, not that night! I pleaded my dire situation, and they gave me a bed however I needed to pay cash, which if I didn't have would have made it more difficult or impossible but thankfully I had cash and a place to stay that night. Relief, but still not in Brussels.

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Following the disruption to my plans, I had to stay an extra night in Montmartre, Paris and the next morning, as silently as I got in, I slithered out of bed very early and took the metro back to Garde Du Noord and bought the next ticket (which was expensive) to Brussels but I was finally off!

The first morning arriving in Brussels required a little bit of a walk from the train station, and my first impression of Brussels was that it was relatively worn out compared to Paris however as I would later find this was only because I had walked in this particular neighbourhood near the station, which was heavily under construction of some sort, and that all the cars and roadworks were not in fact a true representation of Brussels.

I reached the Meininger hotel, which was nice, the beds were more comfortable than in Paris (they were firmer and it wasn't so hot). On arrival, I needed to charge my phone(s) and a girl there let me use her USB charger because for some reason my adapter seemed not to work. Nice of her. 

I rented a 24-hour locker at the hostel and put my stuff in a locker, as I arrived in the morning which was not planned and check-in was only at 15:00 and I arrived early from Paris. Now that I'd finally arrived in Brussels, it was time to start my sightseeing.

I set out on finding the Grand Place, which was said to be an unforgettable architectural experience. They were not wrong. It was absolutely wonderful! I still think this might be one of my favourite places I have seen. Towering around you and surrounding a market square are magnificently ornate facades, and I mean elaborately decorated and beautiful. The town hall, the king's palace and various guild buildings make up this lovely sight. It is really impressive, especially the Town hall.


I then after staring at it for ages, decided to go into the Brussels City Museum which holds old maps, architectural relics and paintings and it was so useful and interesting to learn and understand the names of the guilds and houses names in the grand place. This was located in one of the actual buildings in the square, possibly the town hall, I can't quite remember.

The maps were cool and learning about the notion that the top of the ancient city was reserved for all things religious, as this is where the Cathedral is located, while the central and bottom are for the main working parts (the whole city slopes top to bottom). That does not strictly apply anymore because the EU buildings are beyond the Cathedral and at the very top, beyond of the documented old city area - there was a nice model of the city in the museum. I also learnt about the attack of the french that destroyed most of the city.

Also within the museum, I also watched a cool visual colour light projection onto an old standing Gardula Statue (the main patron Saint of Brussels), how interesting I thought and quite entertaining and useful.

I then exited the square and strolled into one of the back side alleys leading to the square to find Manekin Pis, the miniature statue of a peeing boy. I resisted the mayonnaise-covered fries, waffles and Belgian chocolates they pushed at every corner (understandably).

I then wandered further out of the square and surrounding alleys into Galaries St-Hubert, which was Europe's first shopping arcade, with shops, and cafes under a glass roof. Very similar, in fact to Galerie Vivienne in Paris.

That afternoon, I visited Musee Belvue (part of the palace royal ) and explored Belgium's history via Audio Tour. Quite interesting. I also did a tour of the underground origins of the palace which was very also interesting and peaceful. I've started to enjoy these self-paced audio tours.

That evening, and most evenings I didn't plan anything for any of my trips, I just left it open to see what happens. That evening I had a Belgium non-alcoholic beer, which was nice.

I tried to charge my laptop near the bar but surprisingly the charger or the adapter didn't seem to work. I had some kind of pizza/sandwich I ordered from the bar and watched the cycling on the screen above the bar. This would be the first time that I'd happily eat a sandwich (I usually prefer something healthier). The waiter's name was Hippolyte which I thought was interesting.

I headed to bed after my beer. I found out that my charger does actually work in the dorm, and after discussing the problem, my roommate, a guy from Spain, called Amir helped me determine that it was in fact working! I charged my phone and laptop in the dorm. The other dormmate was a Parisian guy along with his cousin who was back from the Berlin partying scene. They recommended techno in Berlin and cycling in Amsterdam. I was not planning to go partying in Berlin but would happily take a bike around Amsterdam (my next destination). The dorm shower was nice, but the standing area quickly filled up with water as it was partially blocked, but I could deal with that.

The next morning I went to the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula (Brussels’s cathedral) and also went down into the crypt, which was quiet but brief and an interesting experience.

Afterwards, Like in Paris, I took a city hop-on-off tour bus and saw the EU buildings, which are industrial looking and what you'd expect from a business district, and I saw the much more impressive and imposing Palais de Justice, which is part of the old town and not the EU buildings which are much newer obviously. I liked the look of the Palais de Justice so much that I decided that I needed to go back there for my run.

In the afternoon I ran to Parc du Cinquantenaire and gazed up at the horse and charioteer which looks like the figure on the Brandenburg Tor (which I'd yet to see). The park and the run were great. A well-maintained and lovely-looking place. I also ran through Leopold park en route to it, which had ducks and a small lake which was lovely.

In the evening, I was pretty tired and wanted to sleep but had a discussion with a roommate and then went for a beer instead (A native from Brussels called Anton). After the beer, I went to bed.

All in all, Brussels was very nice. I'd happily go back.

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I arrived at night, as I left at the end of the last day in Brussels and it was notably cooler in Amsterdam (probably because it was surrounded by so much water), so I could no longer wear shorts (which I could happily do in both Brussels and Paris).

I found initially that I could not exit the station, as there were barriers... I asked an information attendant who kindly informed me that all I needed to do was scan my ticket QR code and it would open. It did - great I wasn't going to sleep in the station. I guess this is how they check tickets because I didn't notice anyone ask for my ticket. Maybe I did scan it in before entering but I can't remember.

I checked into the Flying Pig Downtown hostel in Amsterdam. The bar area doubled up as a bar so it was always busy and loud, but this didn't bother me. There was a pool table, and a smoking room, which is because they can and do smoke marijuana routinely everywhere. I thought the smell would annoy me but it didn't.

The dorm room was just like what I'd experienced in both Paris and Brussels, with the sliding storage locker under your bed which you needed to secure with your own lock or buy/rent one at reception.

The showers and the toilets were downstairs. I found that it was incredibly useful to take my backpack to shower, that way I never forgot anything in the locker and had everything I could need always with me. So I'd take my backpack with me up and down the stairs, and to and from the showers. I never lost or misplaced anything. I liked that the showers were separate from the main dorms. In Paris and Brussels, they were within the room, which meant you could get steamed out. This way I could shower and make noise without bothering sleeping roommates. 

The next morning I did a casual stroll next to the central canal and came across a sex museum (this is home to the famous red light district after all). It cost a few euros and was interesting.

I then took a classic canal cruise through the locks in Amsterdam. It was a nice perspective and I think it is the best thing that anyone who isn't looking for anything specific to do when they visit Amsterdam.

I briefly browsed through the flower market.

In the afternoon I took a tram to the Museumkwartier as I hoped to see the Van Gough museum but they were sold out for the next 2 days. Also tried the Rijk museum to see the Rembrandt but needed to book online (and I'm not really an art lover) and I and the other young guy from DC who tagged along for the trip decided to regroup and we sat out in a park cafe seating area and I ordered a coffee and he went all out and bought a waffle and some cake, and we decided to go the Amsterdam Dungeons, which was actually a fun experience. Very theatrical, with actors and dark spaces and various bloody props and scenes. I don't think I would have gone if I was by myself. Not really my thing. I guess this is the compromise you must make when travelling with someone.

The next morning I went for another stroll and this time decided to rent a bike and give my feet a rest, so I did and cycled all around various parks and canals and ultimately the red light district, which is the most beautiful part of the canals for me.

After this, I bought a ticket to the Oude Kerk, the oldest building in Amsterdam and along with an audio guide learnt about it. The floor was remarkable because each block was an engraved tombstone inscribed hundreds of years ago by families that would have ultimately settled in the Cape and become South Africans!

In the afternoon, I took a self-guided audio tour of the Koninklijk Paleis which hosts state visits and has state apartments which are pretty cosy if you're a diplomat like an American president for example. The rooms are quite lovely and the building architecture is lovely. There are a lot of statues (my favourites) and being told what they were and what they represented was interesting.

I ran to Vondelpark which is a superb park, I had people cycling around me, and there were nice lakes and grass areas for people to sit in as the sun went down were lovely. It was perhaps the best park I've been to so far. By the way, running through Amsterdam central is not fun, it's just too busy.

Amsterdam, on the whole, was great, and like Brussels, I enjoyed it tremendously. One thing I liked about Amsterdam was there was a lot of variety. There are countless options for everything,  food, shopping, and entertainment - It is a busy place and everyone like in Brussels speaks English, which is great!

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I stayed over one more night in Amsterdam as unlike my trip to Brussels and to Amsterdam, which was relatively short transits, the next transits were much longer and I would be spending considerably more time travelling and not sightseeing, so I decided to add an extra travel day instead of travelling on the days dedicated to sight-seeing. This also ended up being a nice time to relax and rest from it all.

The next morning I took a train to Berlin, via Dusseldorf. While waiting a lady asked if I had a pen she could use (she had a travelling diary) and I said yes, I said she could have mine as she looked like she'd use it or need it more than me. She was surprised that I was not Dutch or German and she said that my skin was so light that it didn't make sense to her that I was South African. I have also been told that I have a germanic face, and people did speak to me automatically in me in German, perhaps because of my looks. So, I guess I felt a bit more at home in german speaking places as I looked like a local! Bizarre.

I also was able to work on my laptop for the first time in the station, which was nice actually because I'd not so far. I started working in a Starbucks cafe. Quite cool. Fixed some unit tests etc. Enjoyed that.

On the train, I could also carry on where I left off and used my laptop to make progress in my game code. I sat next in the aisle next to a Berliner who watched a movie on his phone the whole trip. A mother sat in the adjacent aisle seat and tended to her very well-behaved children behind me. A red-haired lady sat in the distance.

I used the barcode on interrail ticket app on my phone to show the German ticket inspector and it worked all well. 

Initially, upon reaching Berlin, it was nice and warm. This was the first time that it was clear that English was not dominant as it was in Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam. I walked from Berlin Hbf (HaupenBaunHof) to the hostel in the warm sunlight towards the St.Christophers Hostel. I noticed The Reichstag building in the distance. 

I decided that while it was sunny and even though this was a travel day, I'd try out the travel system in Berlin. I decided to go and see the iconic Brandenburger Tor (gate). I found the transport system a little more difficult to use. For example, if you follow a sign outside the station or on google maps to a specific line, that line might not be directly accessible at the first platform, you have to walk through passed some other lines before you get to the line originally advertised. You can buy single-trip tickets like in Paris but you also had to validate your ticket before travelling. This was the same in Amsterdam and Brussels but not in Paris. 

The Brandenburg gates were nice to see, I felt the same way about it as I did about the Arc de Triomphe. I noticed the Gardens after the gate and the streets leading to the gate. I went back as it was getting dark now. 

I initially felt that the Germans were a little cold as I ran into a policeman who told me that I was walking in the wrong place - there seems to have been a cordoned-off area that I was not aware of. I just said sorry in English and moved on.

When I got back to the hostel, I bought another non-alcoholic beer (still very beer-like), and I sat and watched soccer and briefly discussed the reasons and plans with another group of friends who had just finished travelling around the Denmark area. After my beer (again not something I drink a lot of), I went to bed.

The next morning I travelled the metro system to Alexanderplatz and ascended the Fernsehturm. Unfortunately, I had to book a ticket online because the machine broke to the dismay of the people waiting in line. I booked online from my phone, but the next slot was only for a specific time which was around 12 and it was 9 so I decided to do some sightseeing before.

So I decided to go and see where my next sightseeing sight was: Pergamon Museum. So went in pursuit of it and found it apparently closed but in the meantime, I found the Berlin Cathedral (Dome) which was impressive so I took some photos and wondered about the green space in front of it. It was not open to visitors at that time.

I also found the Altes Museum which was part of the Museum Island complex, in front of the said green space. I decided to look at the ancient greek artefacts in the Altes museum which I found to be one of the most fascinating museums so far.

Afterwards, I went back for my scheduled viewing time and went up the lift all the way up to the top of the Fernsehturm tower. It was nice to see all of Berlin and took a few pictures, then at the bottom.

I tried the VR experience at Fernsehturm. I enjoyed this because it showed how Berlin progressed from a rural settlement towards its current day setting. VR is useful and this has real implications for 3D gaming experiences.

Having done the Altes Museum (Greek artefacts), I visited the Pergamon museum which wasn't entirely closed, just the main parts. I discovered this while buying my ticket to see the Altes Museum. The main artefact was not available (The Pergamon altar) but I went instead to view wonderful relics from ancient times, such as Cuneiform tablets, the various statues and findings at the ancient city of Babylon which I absolutely loved (I didn't actually think Babylon ever existed!). There was an extra special hall dedicated to the ceremonial procession in Babylon that had lovely depictions of lions whose role was to guide the procession and guard against evil. I followed along with an audio guide. There were various ancient artefacts mainly of the ancient Near East, Iraq, Syria etc).

Afterwards, as part of my ticket, there was a 360-degree panorama of the ancient city/acropolis of Pergamon which included an audio guide. I loved this. Not only was there a 360 reconstructed pictorial view of the entire Pergamon city complex (where the Pergamon Altar was located), it was beautifully described and I learnt so much about it. It was so cool to see the reconstructed picture of the entire city all around you. I spent a long time there. Finally, I went to the cafe which gives you a nice view of a train passing by. I ordered an uncharacteristic cake. I also had a coffee and sat looking at the adjacent and beautiful Bode Museum.

After this, I went back to the Brandenburg gate area to wander along the historic Unter den Linde which leads towards the gate. It is the main shopping district much like Champs-Elysees in Paris. It had wonderful buildings exactly the kind I like, like those found in Paris and Brussels - Impressive, white-stone, classical and towering monuments. 

In the evening, I had yet another non-alcoholic beer but this time included a red bull (again not something I routinely do due to the caffeine and sugar). I had a salad though and watched soccer while eating and drinking in the bar.

When finished, went to my room and had a shower and reflected on the day which was on the whole really great. On the whole, Berlin is good.

The next day, I decided to visit the ruins of Keiser-Wilhelm-Gedachtnis-Kirche but it was closed and would only open in 2 hours' time (similar situation to the Fernsehturm tower the previous day).

I saw a hop-on-off bus and since I'd had a good experience before, I decided to do it again while waiting for the church to open. I saw the remains of the berlin wall, we travelled up and down Unter Der Linden which really has the most wonderful building architecture, especially the university building and finally, I  visited the church.

The church had been partially destroyed in the war but what remained was lovely, I imagine the entire church would have been like some of those in Brussels and Amsterdam, magnificent. Pity about the war.

I'd worked up a hunger and wandered a bit, I came across a nice shopping centre called Center of Europe. I went to the loo after paying my toll. I couldn't find a place where I wanted to eat there so I wandered until I came across the "Little Green Rabbit" and I had a large Quinoa Salad and Orange Juice. It was lovely and exactly the kind of thing I wanted to eat.

In the afternoon, I took a trip to see Schloss Charlottenburg which was unfortunately closed on Mondays so I decided to linger in its Baroque-style gardens, which are lovely. The public residential houses leading up to Charlottenburg Palace are also quite lovely. This was the last day in Berlin and it was packed!

I enjoyed Berlin more than perhaps I thought I would.

The next day was a travel day to Prague. I decided to get up early and go for a run before checking out and travelling to Prague. The run was great, I ran from the hostel which I didn't realise was located very close to the Museum Island complex I previously visited. I ran to Unter Der Linden and up the street to the Brandenburg gates and this time I ran through the Tier Garden I'd seen on the travel day. I ran as far as the Victory Column which I'd also seen on the Bus tour. 

The train to Prague provided some great scenery, particularly from Dresden onwards. I’m glad I used a travel day for the journey. Lots of trees, and we travelled along a lake. It looked a lot like the highlands of Scotland and was vastly different to Berlin, Amsterdam, Brussels and Paris before it. 

Did some refactoring in my game code while we travelled, so I happily enjoyed the long journey to Prague. I also took the opportunity again to charge my devices.

Onwards to Prague!

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When I got to Prague it felt warm as it did when I first arrived in Berlin.

The first day and morning I crossed the Charles bridge to Prague Castle and from the square outside the main castle gates get lovely views over Prague. The city is old and looks like it's been there for ages and it has!

Within the castle area, I then visited St. Vitus Cathedral, a lovely old gothic cathedral.

I then visited the Basilica of St. George, and then Golden lane, which are cottages built for the workers at the castle. Each is wonderfully preserved and you get a good idea of how they lived. These are all lovely buildings, all with the same classical elegance of those medical and gothic buildings that I'd visited in Brussels, Amsterdam, and Berlin so far. So having loved seeing those, I loved the Castle.

I revisited Charles Bridge on the way back (because it is Prague's most famous medieval stone bridge) and I need t cross it to reach home but on the way, I went into the Tower of Church of Saint Nicolas before it closed (19:00), which has lovely views of the central city surrounding the tower. 

The church was closed by the time I reached it so I went back to the hostel. 

Once I reached the hostel, we all met at 20:30 in the common room to meet everyone and play group drinking games! This inevitably lead us to go dancing apparently at the 2nd best nightclub in Prague called Deluxe (but this fun fact is lost on me) and I danced like an electrified monkey either way.

The next morning was a bit slower as I drank more than I usually do, but not too much and all the dancing seemingly metabolised it. I decided to try out a clean shave at barbers and found a lovely one that did a great job and left feeling sparkling new and feeling fresh.

I attended a free walking tour of Prague, which gave me an insightful view of the history of Prague. I also was able to see where exactly Mozard performed and where he stayed on the nights that he performed.

En route to St. Nicholas Church, I entered a market at the foot of the church and as I was hungry I bought vegetable Gualash and a small waffle. I spoke to the shopkeeper who was fascinated that I was from South Africa and we spoke for a long time (I secretly think he was practising his English) 

Then I went to the St. Nicholas Church which I missed yesterday, which is Prague's most ornate Baroque church. It was lovely. I took countless photographs. 

I then visited the Town hall which houses some great rooms showing exactly how affairs and decisions were made in the ancient city of Prague. I loved seeing the murals depicting old 16th-century scenes from the very rooms I was standing in and seeing how little the rooms have changed. The Town Hall is facing out onto the Old Town Square, a parade of baroque facades, a giant statue of Jan Hus (he was executed by disagreeing with the church that people should pay them to have their sins absolved) and of course the interactive astronomical clock which is attached the Town Hall.

I briefly saw Frans Kafka's house, which made me think about my mother as she mentioned him to me from time to time as I child. She is more familiar with him than I am. 

In the afternoon, I strolled through the streets of Prague and found the remains of old Romanesque houses which included a Franz Kafka-inspired art/media (paradoxes and contrasts), among the artefacts unearthed. I must say the media/art went over my head, but I think trying to understand it is not necessary or important.

I then strolled to the Pinkas Synagogue and paid my respects to Czech Jews killed in the holocaust. I visited the Old Jewish Cemetry which is a medieval cemetery, and because of the Jewish law that bodies cannot be disturbed after burial, they have 11 layers of bodies piled up on top of each other. This explains why the cemetery is raised up about the streets of Prague. It was interesting to see all the tombstones bunched up like a porcupine's back.

The sun then came out and so decided to walk beside the river, and saw a sightseeing boat ride so enquired as to the next departure time and seeing that it was imminent, I bought a ticket and hopped aboard. I ordered a coffee and enjoyed the warmth it provided as well as the lovely views of Prague by the river which are only rivalled by views from Charles bridge and/or the castle. It was a quiet, peaceful cruise under various bridges. I decided that I would run across these bridges the next day:

 After the boat trip, the evening was approaching and I then decided to attend an Orchestral & Organ Concert at St. Nicholas Church. This was lovely because it was within such a beautiful place (I had visited it earlier but not so quiet and at night and without the lights).

An interesting anecdote is that I found Prague's population is audible quieter, people do not talk loud, even if it’s busy such as at the train station. Maybe it was because I was relaxed that I felt that way... 

Joomla Gallery makes it better.



I started the first morning in Vienna with a trip towards St. Stephen's Cathedral and while on my way I found that I was hungry, and I had found a nice healthy place to eat. I had porridge and a fruit salad and lemonade, which tasted like the kind of lemonade I made as a child, namely squeezed lemons and sugar. Breakfast was refreshing and tasty.

One of the things that I knew I needed to be careful of getting ill. With so much activity, there is a real chance of over-working oneself so for most of my trip when I was hungry I just eat what was available and what I'd like to eat. So if I was hungry and I saw a nice-looking sandwich, I'd be happy to eat that. Usually, I'd be more selective, preferring not to have bread, cheese etc but this was not the time for that. I felt the same way about alcohol really, I had a few alcoholic beers in Prague and it's cool, I'm on holiday after all!

Anyway, after re-fueling I visited St. Stephen's Cathedral (Domkirche St. Stephan), which is a medieval place of worship. I took the audio tour to each of the sights mentioned in the tour but there was playing a choir/orchestra happening in the church so had to skip some, though I did not mind the compromise and watched and listened instead. I'd seen a performance but this was a choir and an orchestra playing very casually almost like it was practice, which is what I think it was for it to be free.

I took the lift up the smaller North Tower of the church, and then 300+ stairs to the South Tower and sat on the watchman’s bench which is where the watchman would sit. Also at this cathedral, is where Mozart married his wife.

Next, I decided to visit Vienna's, Schronnbrun Palance. This was a bit out of the way, about 30 minutes but unlike Berlin, I found the train system (U-Bahn) easier and actually on par with London, Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam and Prague. 

As mentioned below I wasn't deterred from a sandwich here and there and had a Schnitzel sandwich while waiting for the 60 tram to Rodaun towards Schonnbrun palace. Sandwiches are very nice in Prague and Vienna. Also very pleasant transport experience.

I took the grand tour of the 40 dazzling rooms within Schronnbrun Palance, they are quite something because they are actually where the Hapsburgs lived. In fact, I stood in the very room a young Mozart played as a child for the empress.

The gardens around the Palace are as beautiful and seemingly boundless. You can definitely see why Europe's most powerful family decided to live there.

I walked around the palace gardens, they are so big and I walked my socks off but some of the features that Maria Theresa built were lovely from the ancient roman ruins which were fashionable at the time (albeit not real), including the obelisk and then the marvellous Neptune fountain depicting a romantic ancient roman or greek scene which faces the palace from behind. The Orangerie lies in the background on the hill. Quite a lovely place.

I bought another ice cream. Vanilla, Strawberry and Blackcurrant and wandered the gardens.

I saw that they had a VR experience showcasing the Hapsburg family tree. I enjoyed the VR experience in the Fernsehturm tower in Berlin so I bought a ticket and I enjoyed the story of the Habsburgs equally.

There wasn’t a specific plan for day 2 in Vienna but I definitely felt tired (I wondered if I was coming down with something), so thought I might go and see the Lipizanna performance at the Spanish Riding school. What a wonderful and enriching experience!

The riding hall was pure white throughout from ceilings to walls and columns. The ceiling was adorned with spirals and flowers and various motifs. It felt like the 5 sides of this rectangle were porcelain while only the floor was gravel. A wonderful situation. Classical Music played throughout the performance (we are in Vienna after all). I sat on the upper gallery seat 6. There was another gallery below. We were the highest of the 2 galleries. The riding hall reminded me of the hall I'd seen with my mom when we saw Lipizanna in South Africa. 

After the performance, I went to the Natural History Museum in Vienna, which was interesting and the first natural museum I'd ever been to. I've not even been to the one in London. There was so much to see. Ancient human artefacts, insects, birds, Mammals, reptiles etc. 

The highlight really was the Spanish Riding school. I remember closing my eyes and re-opening them and still being in Vienna and in the world-famous riding hall. An amazing experience.

Before heading to Venice, I went for a run through Vienna. I went back to the NHM area and ran around some parks. Some routes into it were closed and I had to improvise, which was fine: