Tag Archives: university

Montmartre

Montmartre is a vibrant city with so much movement and character it’s sometimes hard to know where to look.  Fresh open street markets, stores spilling out contents for sale onto the street for people to rifle through and street performers entertaining crowds on the lawn of the Sacre-Coeur are very common sights.  Yes, Montmartre is alive!  You can feel the culture and inspiration that grew Montmartre into a popular destination to visit.  The home of the Moulin Rouge as well as countless artists (Van Gogh, Renoir and Picasso to name a few) Montmartre became home to the Bohemian Revolution long ago, yet today you can still feel its individuality and funkiness in the air.  It does have an odd nature to it that wouldn’t appeal to everyone and some “squirrley” characters, but for all except one minor episode, I enjoyed my time there.

I stayed in the Le Regent Montmartre hostel just down the road from the World Famous Moulin Rouge.  I must admit I love that movie (Ewan McGregor & Nicole Kidman) and ever since seeing it for the first time, I’ve wanted to get to Montmartre!  Well because of that and a favorite black and white poster I had back in College that I just adored of a couple kissing on the steps of Sacre-Coeur with Paris in the background.

The hostel was actually quite nice.  The location was ideal, the staff (while not overly friendly in person) were very helpful over email in getting me exact information on which trains to take to get there from downtown Paris and the rooms were cozy too.  The hostel used to be a hotel and they have converted each room into a hostel room.  The room I booked was only a 3-person room and each room had its own bathroom (a HUGE plus in my book)!!  The only negative was the breakfast.  It was lackluster and the brioche were a disappointment.  Other than that it was a pleasant stay.

Another thing I enjoyed about the hostel (though it has nothing to do with the hostel, really) was my roommates.  I stayed there 3 nights and it overlapped with each of my other two roommates’ stay as well.  So for the nights I was there I got to get to know my roommates a bit instead of getting new batches of roommates each night of a stay.  Both were young guys who were there for different reasons.  The first was there because he was about to start film school at the University.  He was from Egypt and very kindly gave me a coin from Egypt that I carry around with me.  Unfortunately when I was getting ready to leave he wasn’t around so I wasn’t able to get his info to keep in contact, but I’m sure I will be seeing his name on some films not too far into the future:)  The other young man was in Europe because he had won a photography competition and his work was being featured in a show in Brussels!!!  How exciting is that??  So he was in Paris, well because, why not??  He is incredibly talented and for anyone who loves photography, I would recommend to check out his website at ameasureofmadness.wordpress.com 🙂

My time in Montmartre consisted first of getting to the Moulin Rouge to check out prices and show information, etc.  Unfortunately the tickets were WAY out of my budget, but again it gives me something to go back there for!  I walked all over town checking out the various nooks and crannies, getting lost every now and again or simply stopping for a seat and to watch life go on around me.  I explored Sacre-Coeur and watched the sun set from the hilltop.  And of course I took a walking tour of Paris:)

The only adverse experience I had there was my first morning in Montmartre.  Before walking into Paris to the meeting point location for the walking tour (Place St. Michel) I wanted to get some pictures first thing of the Moulin Rouge.  So I headed in that direction first, finding a little place to stop and get a yummy breakfast along the way.  I sat on a park bench between the streets sipping on my coffee when along came a guy (creep) holding a beer in his hand.  Mind you it’s 8am… He spotted me and came right over and sat next to me.  So I got up and started walking away.  Apparently he thought I was trying to be cutsy/coy because he proceeded to follow me.  When I looked behind me and noticed this I immediately turned left to see if he was actually following me or not.  And when he mimicked my motions, it was time to set him straight.

I stopped to face him and quite forcefully warned him to stop following me.  I was speaking all in English but he got the point as his smile suddenly turned to a frown and he crossed the street away from me:)  I went back to my original bench keeping a keen eye on the guy and once I finished my breakfast I spotted a very tall man who was going in the direction I wanted to go.  So I walked up to him and asked first if he spoke English (thankfully YES!) and then asked if he would mind walking with me for a bit.  He was really nice to agree and we chatted for the next several blocks until it was time for him to turn off.

The area around the Moulin Rouge is somewhat like a Red Light District, but very “in your face” and not at all classy (I hate to say) as the District in Amsterdam.  Every shop turned into one type of sex shop or another the closer you got to the Moulin Rouge.  It literally was like crossing an invisible line which on one side was very obviously the Red Light District and the other very obviously regular life.  I found that interesting…

My favorite random experience while in Montmartre once again happened at the Moulin Rouge.  I had pictures of it in the daylight, but now needed pictures of it at night all lit up!  So after my day in Versailles, I stayed in Paris until it got dark to get pictures of the tower lit up, then headed back to Montmartre and the Moulin Rouge to get night pictures.

So there I was snapping away a ton of pictures.  I was just about to leave when all of a sudden a horse trailer rounded the corner and parked in front of the Moulin Rouge… Two large men in black (bodyguards) then put up a little barricade behind the horse trailer.  On the side of the trailer was painted “Les Petits Chevaux du Moulin Rouge”… Now I don’t speak French or know many words in French, but this phrase I understood!  “Little horses of the Moulin Rouge”!!  Oh this I had to see up close!  I crossed the street and sure enough out came 6 little miniature horses who were promptly escorted from the trailer to a side entrance of the Moulin Rouge by the trainers and over the watchful eye of the bodyguards, LOL!!!  The first thought that went though my mind was “What in the world goes on in there?????”  🙂

On to Paris

Back to Europe

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Berlin

Ah, Berlin!!  So many things to say about Berlin!!  What an awesome energy!!  Hip, cool, a strange mix of modern and older history.  This city is just busting at the seams with a young vibe.  Of course, while it does have a history that extends hundreds of years, in a way (due to being completely destroyed during WWII) it is a new city.  Graffiti can be found on just about every surface throughout the city and there’s a wildness in the air that speaks to a freedom of “come as you are and you will be accepted”.  Such a paradox given the very recent history of the city basically being imprisoned- either during the War or the Wall.  Maybe it is only due to all the turbulence in its recent history, but Berlin also seems confused as to which direction it wants to go.  There has been so much upheaval there relatively recently and I’m curious how it will continue to grow.

I stayed in a super sketchy looking section of town in a hostel called Jetpak Alternative.  To their credit, they advertised that they are in a sketchy area complete with dog sh*t and lots and lots of graffiti.  Across the street is a park that anyone who isn’t looking for trouble or drugs should just stay out of.  The hostel itself was wonderful!  It was a little nerve-wracking walking around the neighborhood after dark at times since people would often come up to you asking if you wanted drugs.  But I felt safe enough and would stay in that hostel again.  The people were nice and informative and it once again had that fun and inviting vibe that I had recalled of hostels while traveling in Central America yet didn’t encounter at all at the hostel in England.  I really wanted to stay another night but wasn’t able to since they were fully booked.  So I took that as a sign to keep on moving!

In the time I did spend there I joined in for a “free” walking tour:)  The morning before the tour walked from the hostel to the meeting point (Parizer Platz) just taking in the sights and stopping along the way for pictures.  I took a quick tour of the Checkpoint Charlie Museum (quick because I didn’t realize I was running out of time before the tour!) which was very impressive and quite moving!  The ways in which people came up with to escape Berlin while the Wall was up was amazing!

We started (as mentioned above) at Parizer Platz, then headed to the Holocaust museum, the Berlin Wall, the now parking lot where Hitler’s underground bunker was located, the real Checkpoint Charlie location, to some churches, a theater and ended in the square where Hitler ordered all books be burned (across from the University).  As I’ve done before I will share my favorite stories of the tour but not all the information below:)

At the end of the tour I took the train back with a guy that was also staying in my hostel (he was also in the tour) since I had been walking about 7 hours at this point! This does remind me though of the train situation in Germany… It really is on the honor system as to whether or not you buy tickets!!  They don’t have any gates stopping you from getting onto the train without a ticket, so while technically one could gamble by hopping on a train for free to get to their destination, I wouldn’t recommend it simply because plain-clothed cops are apparently always present and randomly checking for people aboard without tickets.  And there is a hefty fine for those who do try to ride for free…  Just sayin’ 🙂

Highlights of the tour:

Hotel Adlon: this hotel is THE MOST expensive hotel to stay in Berlin.  It is famous for 2 reasons… the first and most recent event, it is the hotel where Michael Jackson dangled his baby over the balcony railing.  The second (and more historical) is that it is only one of two buildings that was not bombed and was still standing after the war!!  Everything else was destroyed!!  However, years later a group of Russians (as part of an army if memory serves) stayed in the hotel and proceeded to engage in a pastime that is quite popular among many: drink!!  They drank and drank and drank and at some point someone, somehow started a fire that caught and burned down part of the hotel!!  So there is a joke now where the hotel was able to survive a war, but NOT a Russian party, lol!!!! 😉

Hotel Adlon
Hotel Adlon

Holocaust Memorial: it was just so moving.  There is a museum that is part of the memorial that I unfortunately was not able to make it to but certainly plan to when I make it back there!  The artist who designed the memorial did a fabulous job with it for sure!  It was thought-provoking, moving, inspiring and emotional!!  A must see for anyone who visits!  And I may add that it was probably one of the few areas that did not have any graffiti on it at all:)

Hitler’s Underground Bunker: Interesting information here that I’d never heard before about Hitler.  First that he had Parkinson’s Disease and was taking numerous drugs (LSD, liquid cocaine eye drops, etc) to try to keep even keel, so to speak.  It really shouldn’t have surprised me that he was on drugs given how absolutely loony tunes he was, but it did.  The second thing was that he got married!  Eva, his bride married him and agreed to a suicide pact with him.  She ended up killing herself before he did himself in.  Good riddance!  Oh and the underground bunker isn’t marked in any way because the government doesn’t want the crazies out there setting up some sort of memorial in his honor on the site.  Good idea!!

Standing on Hitler's Underground Bunker
Standing on Hitler’s Underground Bunker

Berlin Wall:  this whole idea just fascinated me… Why would a government build a wall then FORCE people to stay on one side or the other in order to build a “stronger” government????  I just don’t get it!!  Anyway, my favorite bit about this part was the clever escape one family succeeded in fleeing East Berlin.  The father worked in a building nearby and managed to smuggle his family in the building before it closed.  They hid in the building until everyone left for the night then changed in all black clothing and went to the roof.  They flung a line from the roof over the wall to the other side where a friend of theirs was waiting and basically zip-lined from the roof to the other side of the wall!!  What’s even funnier is that a guard of the wall saw this activity taking place but didn’t sound any alarm because he thought for sure it was an undercover op going on, lol!!!

Prophecy from 1820:  the below plaque basically translates to “wherever they burn books they burn only people at the end”.  That isn’t an exact translation but I did find it interesting that it was a statement made in 1820 by Heinrich Heine, a German poet, and it was justly posted at the site where Hitler had ordered all books to be burned, just before he really started to come into his power.  And as we all know his reign sadly and very unfortunately did end with the burning of people.

Prolific Wise Words from 1820
Prolific Wise Words from 1820

 

More Pictures from Berlin

On to Potential Controversy

Back to Europe

Munich

Munich is absolutely lovely!!!  I was very shocked on how green the city is!!  Seriously they have so many parks in the heart of the city!!  I figured it would be much like every other city: drowning in nothing but buildings with a token park here and there.  But not so with Munich!  It is individual, full of history, character and very friendly and welcoming people!  There’s the synopsis, now here are the details;)

Before going to Munich, on a whim and on a promise, I shot off an email to Nikki whom I met and traveled with through the San Blas Islands in Panama.  In fact, she was the clever woman who coined “modern day pirates” to describe our sailboat crew:)

I say on a whim because though we had exchanged a few emails, we really hadn’t kept in touch a whole lot (I don’t Facebook) and since it had been so long since I’d emailed her, I wasn’t sure first whether she even had the same email, and second whether she would respond.  I had made her a promise long ago when we parted in Colombia however that if I ever made it to Munich, I would look her up!  So, about a week or so before going to Munich I wrote her an email to let her know I would be in town for the day.

I was humbled to hear back from her and even more tickled that she too had the day off and was able to meet me!!  The good in people never ceases to amaze me and it’s a blessing to know people who, even after years of no contact, extend a hand of friendship!!

I made it to Munich early in the morning and after calling Nikki agreed to meet her at a coffee shop near the Odeonsplatz underground station.  As I made my way out from the underground I could hear the joyous music of Oktoberfest celebrations and once out on the street was greeted by a lovely parade!!  I made my way along the road trying to get somewhere to take some pictures when a very nice group of people offered me a stool to stand on so I could get above the crowd:)  Thankfully one of them spoke a little broken English and I asked where the coffee shop was (all I could see was Starbucks and we weren’t meeting there!!).  Once directed and all the pictures were taken, I headed to meet Nikki.


Seriously it was as if no time at all had ever passed between us!  She looked just the same as she did before: fabulous!  And we had a great time catching up in each other’s lives and reminiscing on the good times we had during the San Blas trip:)  We hung out for a little catching up, then she proceeded to give me the VIP walking tour of Munich!!

First stop was just nearby, a place called Feldherrnhalle, which is where Hitler began the plotting of his Nazi regime before setting up in Berlin.  What is amazing is that as he began to take on more popularity and power, it was mandatory that people walking in front of this building had to salute to the soldiers standing in front to show that they were with Hitler.  If you walked in front without saluting you would get in serious trouble!!  So, for those who opposed Hitler, they would bypass walking in front of the Feldherrnhalle by walking down the street just behind called Viscardigasse.  Down this street today you will find a golden path laid out in bronze bricks symbolizing the path of freedom.  This path was walked by all who opposed Hitler.  It was their way of rebelling Hitler and what he stood for.

Across from this building is the Residence of Munich (Residenz Munchen) where the Royal Family lives and the lions statues guarding the entrance are rubbed by passersby for good luck!

The Residence of Munich leads onto the Hofgarten where there is a lovely little building topped off with a little monument.  Here they have many musicians who come to practice their skills and even monthly they put on a formal waltz dance event!!

From there we headed past the Art Museum and headed to probably the most interesting or at least shocking part of Munich… Surfers!!!  Yes, I typed correctly: surfers!  Apparently some very clever surfers wanted a way to continue to practice their skills and keep in shape year round without “chasing the waves” so they made their own!!  In the Eisbach river, just at the start of it where it flows under a bridge, several stones were dropped to the river bottom and eventually enough were planted in to create a wave!!  And due to the natural fast current through the river, the wave is large enough to basically simulate an ocean wave!  So darn clever!!!

This little surf spot is in a way the beginning of the English Garden (Englischen Garten).  The English Garden is the largest garden in Munich and it is even LARGER than Central Park in New York City!!

We made our way past the Japanese Teahouse (Japanisches Teehaus Kanshoan)

to an area where if you choose you could sit out nude

English Garden Nude Area
English Garden Nude Area

finally to the Monopteros.  This monument was once overrun by drug addicts but thanks to an increased presence of cops wandering the streets, the momument was abandoned by the addicts and spruced up for locals and tourists to enjoy:)

From the Monopteros it was on to the Chinese Temple (Chinesischer Turm) where a little beer garden was conveniently located, so of course we had to stop for a BEER!!!!!  It was here during a bit of a passing thunderstorm where I learned the history of beer gardens… Long ago when there weren’t any refrigerators, companies cleverly decided to put kegs of produced beer under trees that provided lots of shade (hence natural refrigeration).  So much beer was being made that companies would invite people out to these “gardens “with kegs of beer under each tree to drink the beer while it was fresh and cold!  All they asked was people paid for the beer, but otherwise you could bring your own food, etc.  So these beer gardens began to gain popularity as almost a social or fun day in the park so to speak with cheap, delicious beer, your own picnic and tons of other people to socialize with:)

After a few pints we walked our way to the Siegestor, a triumphal arch that has a statue of Bavaria on top leading 4 lions!  It was originally dedicated to the glory of the Bavarian army but today it is a monument and reminder for peace.  Absolutely love it!!

On we went past the University to perhaps my favorite building of all I had seen that day: St. Peter’s Church (Peterskirche)!!  Just absolutely stunning in my opinion and so playful!!  Notice the dragon climbing up the church and the timekeeper…

I could have spent hours looking at the church just discovering new things about it but alas we were getting a bit hungry, so we headed to a great restaurant, had some delicious local food then headed to Nikki’s where she graciously allowed me to crash for the night:)  However, NOT before helping her to fix her anklet!!  We had both purchased one in the San Blas Islands from the Kuna Indigenous tribe but sadly hers had fallen off.  She kept the beads and the strand however so I helped to affix it back on:)  Good times!!!

Repaired San Blas Anklet, yay!!
Repaired San Blas Anklet, yay!!

 

On to Berlin

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