Tag Archives: train station

Heidelberg

At this point in my trip, I unfortunately caught the European crud:(  Since traveling from Salzburg, everyone around me seemed to be hacking and coughing and sneezing and sniffling and well, it finally caught up with me.  I wasn’t feeling well at all, but had to power through anyway.  The afternoon I got into Heidelberg I first checked into my hostel (Steffi’s Hostel located just a few minutes walk from the train station) then immediately went back to the train station to check out a store I had spotted that seemed to be a mini-mart.  I stocked up on throat lozenges, teas, vitamin C, apple cider vinegar and tissues to care finally get myself taken care of a bit.  I had dinner at the Chinese restaurant located conveniently downstairs and had soup with tons of sriracha in it, just to help sweat out those germs;)

Heidelberg is a huge University town.  Just about everyone I came across and chatted with was somehow involved in the University, whether studying or working.  It’s a lovely little place with a great young energy and I’m just bummed that I felt like such crap the entire time I was there, but I’m thankful that I was able to get better while there.  In my mind it will always be that quaint little town where I got to rest a bit:)

The next day I still felt like run-over dog but thought “I’m here, I better do something!!”.  So I went for a walk to see the Heidelberg castle:)  I even ended up taking a tour of the castle once there, but honestly don’t remember much of it since my brain was mush from not feeling well:(

One bit that I do recall from the tour however was of the story of Perkeo.  Perkeo was a short, red-headed Italian who  didn’t speak German, yet lived at the castle as the keeper of the wine!  Seriously, this barrel of wine in the basement of the castle is absolutely HUGE!!  According to Wikipedia it can hold over 57,000 gallons of wine!!  Anyway, as the keeper of the wine (and being Italian of course) Perkeo was quite fond of wine and drank quite a bit of it.  Because he didn’t speak German and the Germans didn’t speak any Italian, when he was offered wine he would simply say “Perche No?”, which means “why not?” In Italian.  Perche no… perkeo… see the similarity??  He was the keeper for some time and as the humorous yet untrue story goes, one time someone went to play a trick on him.  They offered him some wine (to which he said “perche no?”) but instead gave him a glass of water.  Perkeo took a sip and fell dead in that moment;)  Too funny!

Another cute story revolved around the King and his wife.  King Frederick V was quite the romantic!  In the archway that leads to the entrance of the castle there are lovely etchings of nature and animals sculpted into it.  It is said that each animal is a symbol of love to his wife.  Once it was constructed he simply told her to search the gardens of the arc to find little mementos of his love for her…  Awww!!

Lovers Arc
Lovers Arc

After the castle tour I wandered the gardens, which after having been to Versailles definitely seemed to lack;)  At this point my body and mind were getting severely tired from being ill and just couldn’t do much more.  I headed back through town to the hostel and passed out.

The next day I was feeling quite a bit better and decided to head to the zoo!  I took the bus there and arrived just as it was opening.  I spent the day wandering back and forth from animal enclosure to animal enclosure just taking in all the critters.  It isn’t a huge zoo by any means, but they do have a decent variety of animals and because it was so small, it made it easy to get around to each of the feeding shows .  The sea lion feeding was like many of the sea lion feedings in other zoos where they tell you about the critters and have them do a variety of tricks for the fish.  This one was a bit unique for me however as the feeding was all in German, so I hadn’t a clue about what was being said.  It was still quite entertaining however:)

Some things I noticed about this zoo that was different from others I had been to was first the amount of babies they had.  Baby sea lions, baby camels, baby porcupines, baby monkeys, babies everywhere!  Second, even though they were a small zoo there were staff members everywhere all throughout the day working in one way or another; cleaning, preparing food, moving the babies from the nurseries to the adult pens for some acclimation time, etc.  Generally I never notice zoo staff around, but at this one they were very present, which I found nice!  Finally, of all the zoos I’ve been to, never before had I seen a feeding for the tigers and lions…

Oh my goodness… I can’t describe how amazing it was to see the tigers literally going from “look at that beautiful/cute tiger” to “never in a million years would I ever want to tangle with one of them!!!”.  The wild and the instincts came out in a flash the second the food arrived.  Claws scraped the enclosure bars trying to get a quicker grip on the meat about to be fed to them.  It was just amazing to see such a wild nature so close!

The lions were much more relaxed about the feeding.  It was a group of lionesses and it was easy to see which was the Alpha female.  She got her meat first (quite patiently compared to the tigers) and headed to her eating spot as the others then practically lined up to get theirs.  The order and calm in their enclosure versus the “fear for your life” energy from the tigers enclosure was incredible!  I would go back just to view the feeding again.

After the zoo I headed to the hostel once again and spent the evening plotting how to get to and where to stay in Füssen, Germany.  The “Fairy Tale” castle of “Mad” King Ludwig II, located in South Germany in a little town called Hohenschwangau was a must see on my list.  Thankfully all my plots to get there worked out and after several relaxing days of actually taking care of myself in Heidelberg I was ready to set out once again.

On to Füssen

Back to Europe 

Amsterdam!!!!!

Ok, now I know I’ve said this before about places I’ve been to… But I ABSOLUTELY LOVED AMSTERDAM!!!!!  Honestly if I can find a place with such charm, spirit, acceptance and SANITY as exists in the people and politics of Amsterdam, yet somewhere warm all year round, well let’s just say I will have found home:)  Alas, it does get cold there in the winter so sadly I won’t be able to call it my new home… The search continues, grrr!!!

Moving on… Why do I LOVE Amsterdam so much, you may ask??  The reasons are so numerous I’m getting excited just thinking about the prospect of writing about them!  Their views on sex and drugs, their tolerance for people of different religious backgrounds, races, sexes and lifestyles.  Then tack on the natural and pure beauty of the city itself with the crazy architecture and lovely Venice-like canals running throughout.  So many extremes live peacefully together within a stone’s throw of each other.  Everyone is accepting of one another and though they may not always agree, they don’t bother or use any sort of violence toward another.  They just coexist and go along with their lives and leave what they don’t agree with in peace.  Ah, just wonderful!!  So many places and people could learn a lot from this kind of mentality.

The only warning I will give people about Amsterdam is BEWARE THE BICYCLISTS!!!!  Seriously, they will run your rear over and not even look back if you dare to get in their way!!  Not kidding either… I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stepped into the bike lane or even in the street and had a near heart attack because I was almost run over by a passing  cyclist.  As one of guides during a tour I took said (and I’m paraphrasing here): the people of Amsterdam are wonderful and friendly people.  However something happens to them when they get on a bicycle.  They suddenly morph into crazy homicidal maniacs who will take you out if you get in their way.  LOL!!!

I stayed at the StayOkay Stadsdoelen Hostel a short distance from the train station and just a few blocks from the Red Light District.  The hostel itself was nice and located directly on one of the canals, and even though I was sharing the room with 19 other people, being on the canal gave it a nice view and some charm.

When I first arrived via train into town I have to be honest that I wasn’t impressed at all.  The area around the train station isn’t anything to write home about as it’s kinda dumpy and industrial.  However just a few minutes of walking took me into one of the hearts of the city (the Red Light District) and the cute homes, canals and vibe started to thrill me.  Funnily enough, I had no idea that I had been walking through the Red Light district while trying to find my hostel and only learned later while looking at a map where I’d been.  That just goes to show you how classy the area is.  It’s not “in your face” or intrusive in any way, though it’s there.

Oh wait… I did say I had only one warning about Amsterdam for tourists.  Well… I just thought of one more… Do NOT take pictures of the women in the windows of the Red Light district!!!  This was a warning given to us during the “free” walking tour and the “Red Light District” tour I took later that night.  As it was told to us by our tour guides the women of the district are entrepreneurs.  They are not things to be gawked at or disrespected.  And if they catch you taking pictures and you don’t pay them anything for them, they may come out from their window, chase you down, take your camera from you, stomp it to a mechanical pulp with their 6-inch heels and walk away.  Yes, apparently this does happen quite often… In fact it happened during my tour of the District to an unfortunate gentlemen.  Personally I was so freaked by the prospect of my camera getting stomped to death that I didn’t even take my camera out while walking through the district, lol!

The walking tour I went on started in front of the National Monument just across from the Royal Palace.  It covered the Red Light District, Rembrandt’s house, the Nieuwmarkt, coffeeshops, a little known community of charitable women, the homomonument and we were left just about a block away from the house of Anne Frank.  At this point I had been on several of the “free” walking tours in various cities and what I really appreciate about them is that each is so unique.  Not just because they are obviously about different cities, but because each guide tells the stories that they find most interesting.  So each tour guide will give a different experience to each participant.  Love it!  I paid for a tour of the Red Light District which included stories on the history of the district, a peek on a live sex show, how Amsterdam has come to embrace the district and ended with drinks at a club.

Now I will admit that while I was perfectly fine during the walking tour, I was a teeny bit (fairly plastered) drunk during the Red Light District tour… I do regret that I was so intoxicated during the tour because I don’t recall as many of the stories as I would like to have.  But I guess you could say it’s just another reason to go back:)

In my “defense” the reason I was so intoxicated is because I was thinking about getting a tattoo or new piercing so I would always be reminded of the good times in Amsterdam.  I even went so far as to check out various options.  Turned out to be too expensive and I wasn’t terribly inspired on what to get so I ended up settling on a pair of flip-flops to remember my time by, lol!!!  But after deciding against a tattoo or piercing I had several hours of time to kill before my night tour, so I wandered into a bar…

Turned out it was a gay bar, which didn’t bother me because it had fabulous music, was low key and not terribly crowded at the time.  However as the hours went on, the crowds grew and I had befriended several of the other bar patrons hanging out and the next thing you knew shots were being bought for me, I was buying shots for others, and well, I’m just happy I made it out of there and to the tour at all!!  The shots were a typical (and yummy I may add) shot of Amsterdam called “Heuge Meug” made of cognac, Tia Maria’s and a splash of Bailey’s… YUMMMY!!!  But lethal too, lol!!

As for the walking tour, here are my favorite bits.  The next post on ‘Sex & Drugs in Amsterdam’ are also highlights from the tour, but I just had so much to say on them that I thought it best to put them in a new post:)

Stock exchange: The World’s first stock exchange started in Amsterdam with the establishment of the Dutch East India Trading Company, the most powerful and successful trading company to trade goods out of Asia.  How did they become so good at their trade (pun intended)??  Traders in the Netherlands devised a deal with one another.  Instead of sending separate ships to Asia, one for tea, one for spices, one for pepper, etc. they would send out 20 ships and load 5% of each product on every ship.  That way, if one ship sank during adverse weather only 5% of each supply was lost instead of losing 100% of a supply.  So everyone was able to get their particular product back for trading.  Clever, clever!!  The trading company reigned for more than 100 years but eventually did decline.

World's First Stock Exchange
World’s First Stock Exchange

Coffeeshops & the Red Light District: I write about these bits in great detail in the next post but for the picture below, this coffeeshop is actually where they filmed a scene from Ocean’s 12.  The scene didn’t make any sense and in the next post you will learn why:) Notice the unexpected critter in the shop too… LOL!

Community of Charitable Women:  This community started back in the 1600’s and is alive and well today.  The way it originally began was with a group of women who wanted to take on the charitable responsibilities of nuns without actually having to take all the vows or chastities of nuns.  Hence began the community of charitable women:)  Now this title I’ve assigned is my own title- it’s not what the group is actually called (since I can’t recall specifically) and I’m not even sure where the community is in Amsterdam since I neglected to take a picture of what street we were on when coming to it.  But I guess it’s meant to be that way since it was sort of a secret of the city.  Behind the door in the picture below lay the community of women who simply want to live life giving to others.  That is how the community began and today it is a peaceful and very sought out area of town to live.  This community only allows people who meet the following criteria to live there: 1) they must be female; 2) they must be over 30; and 3) they must be single.  To live in this community is so sought after that women are put on a waiting list.  One story told to us was of a woman whose name was finally called after 10 years of waiting.   When the call came she had been dating a steady boyfriend for several years but she promptly broke up with him so she could move into the community, LOL!!  The picture of the grave below is of one of the original members of the community who died in 1654.  She wanted to be buried in the street so she could feel the rain wash over her.  When she did die however she was buried in a regular cemetary, even though it was against her wishes (If memory serves it was her family who buried her in the cemetary).  One night the women of the community knowing her final wish for her resting place went to the cemetary, dug her up and took her back to the community where they burried her in the street.  Now those are true friends!

XXX: No, this doesn’t refer at all to the Red Light District or anything at all to do with anything X-rated, it is merely at the core of the 500 year old coat of arms of Amsterdam.  It can be seen just about everywhere throughout the city however from the flags to street signs and of course on the coat of arms itself.

XXX
XXX

The Nieuwmarkt: this building is was the old gate to medieval Amsterdam and was built in 1488.  It stood in the canal until 1614 and in 1617 it became a weighing station.  Interesting story told by our guide about this place is that it was also the location of several “human experiements” shall we say…  Doctors and surgeons way back when used this location to perform a variety of disections on human bodies to figure out how they work.  If memory serves it was also the site of many executions that then led to their bodies being taken apart piece by piece to see how they ticked… Today it is a restaurant:)  Steak anyone?? 😉

Homomonument:  This monumnet is made up of 3 triangles, that if viewed above form a larger single triangle where each of the three smaller forms a point of the larger one.  The Homomonument serves as a memorial to all gay men and lesbians who have had to face persecution at any point in their lives because of their sexuality.  To me it once again shows how wonderfully accepting and celebratory Amsterdam is of the people who make their lives there.

 

More Miscellaneous Pictures:

On to Sex and Drugs in Amsterdam

Back to Europe

Areas Not Covered

Once the tour was over I headed out to see the places not covered by the tour.  Granted there really wasn’t much as we covered quite a bit!!  I was accompanied by another single traveler and together we headed toward the eye o f London.   We walked along the river Thames and viewed the Eye of London from across the street.  It is really MUCH more impressive at night!!  I only had the chance to see it in a nighttime view 4 years ago when I had a 16 hour lay-over in in London and opted to speed walk the city at night instead of just hanging about the airport.  So the pictures of the nighttime shots are from 4 years ago just after new year- not during the current trip of August 2014.

The Eye of London is currently Europe’s tallest Ferris wheel and each passenger capsule (which holds up to 25 people) represents one of the London Boroughs- 35 in total!  From the Eye of London we swung inward toward Piccadilly Circus, one of the best known areas for shopping, shopping and more shopping!!!  It honestly reminds me of Times Square in N.Y.C. since the streets are oddly angled in the center and there is a HUGE TV screen with adverts, etc constantly going.

Anyway, since I’m not a shopping fan I really didn’t have much business there… I just went there so I could see it during the daytime:)  Anyway, at this point it was quite on in the day and both myself and my companion were hungry.  So we set off to Brick Lane, which I had heard from several locals that it was THE PLACE to go for Curry.  Getting there was quite interesting however… We opted to hop an underground train which was no problem at all… However once we got out on to our exit we had a humorous time finding the street!  We walked out of the station and headed aimlessly down the road in the direction that the map “suggested” to go down.  I spotted a street called Brick Street and thought, hey, that must be it!

So down we walked… and walked… and walked… and walked…… The sceneries changed, the scents in the air changed and we thought for sure we HAD to be in the area!!  However, apparently we ended up in a Moroccan area and after several attempts to find someone who spoke English we discovered that Brick STREET was where we were and Brick LANE was where we were supposed to be… So back to the train station we went and lo and behold, had we taken a left out of the station instead of a right, we would have been on the correct street in all of 2 seconds flat!  It really was a good thing I had a patient person walking with me, otherwise the detour could have turned sour!!

Once on the correct path, Brick Lane stretched for what seemed like forever with endless Indian food restaurants on both sides of the “Lane” and each place had a huge banner that hung out front claiming they were voted the BEST Indian food from TripAdvisor in 20XX or the BEST value from TripAdvisor in 20XX and to boot each place also had a man standing in the doorway trying to lure each person in their place!  To be honest it was all just a little overwhelming and though we were hungry trying to choose a place sent my head in a tailspin!  We did eventually settle on a place that seemed to offer the best deal but honestly I wasn’t impressed at all.  The place was fairly packed with people who sounded British so I thought for sure that it should have been a good place.  But then again because we were ordering off the “tourist” menu and not off-roading from their full menu, maybe the quality wasn’t as good… who knows… Anyway Brick Lane to me personally was a bust.  Nothing that special and just over the top with restaurants!!

Once done with lunch it was beer time, so we headed back to the hostel for a little break, then to get a drink!

On to Edinburgh: Inspiration from Afar

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