A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: blakeabassett

Amsterdam

sunny 50 °F

Amsterdam was GREAT, mostly because of how low key it was. After Berlin, we were in desperate need of recharging our batteries. After arriving via train from Berlin, we immediately went to check-in at the houseboat we rented. We had an unbelievable setup located right on the Amstel canal, only a block away from Rembrandt Square in the heart of Amsterdam. Much of our time was spent relaxing on the back porch, feeding the swans, and waving at tour boats as they drove by.
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While in Switzerland, an Amsterdam native informed us that the finest straight razor shaves can be had in Amsterdam. After growing my facial hair for about 2 weeks, it was time. We went to a local spot called Haar Barbaar Barbershop. Say that five times fast. At first, I was definitely nervous knowing that a stranger was going to have a razor sharp blade pressed up against my jugular but after the first few seconds it was all good. My face hadn't been that soft since in years.
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After that, we visited the Van Gogh museum which was pretty neat. Crow loved it. There were so many things to do in Amsterdam but we found that walking around the city, stopping at various coffee shops and meeting the locals was plenty enjoyable for us. It was such a beautiful city. Buildings were very well maintained, the canal system is massive and everyone is so friendly. On our last day, we had lunch on top of the Hilton next to the train station with one of the best views of Amsterdam.
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Change of plans. Next stop-- Copenhagen, Denmark.

Posted by blakeabassett 12:22 Archived in Netherlands Comments (0)

Ich bin Berliner

overcast 35 °F

We departed Munich at 10:15pm aboard the night train to Berlin. It was a 10 hour ride spanning across the majority of the German countryside. I was able to sleep most of the way and woke up in Berlin at 8am. Upon our arrival, we dropped our luggage at the hotel and set out on our first adventure. A couple of weeks ago, Crow told me of his time spent in Berlin 6 months ago. He mentioned that while here, he bought a bicycle that he left locked to a bike rack at a hotel. Though he didn't remember exactly where the hotel was, he remembered the general area of Berlin that it was in--- and he was determined to reclaim it if it were still there. Slim chance. We took a tram and two subways to the area where he thought it was. We walked in one direction for about 15 minutes before he realized we were going the wrong way. So we retraced our steps and started in a new direction for another 15 minutes. Lost and feeling as if he was never going to be reunited with his bike, we almost stopped searching. We decided to walk for five more minutes before throwing in the towel, which was a stretch considering how lost we felt. Then sure enough, he saw the hotel. As we approached, he could see he is bike in the same place he left it 6 months ago. COOKIES! We were so pumped.
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Now that he had his bike, it was time for me to get my own set of wheels. We went to a bike shop near our hotel and I rented a bike so that we could navigate the city of Berlin without trying to read their German subway maps. With our bikes, we covered some serious ground. We rode all over the city-- stopping for pictures, a bratwurst, a beer. One of my favorite sites was the Brandenburger Tor in downtown Berlin. A very iconic symbol of Germany that partially survived WWII.
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Another was the Berliner Dome. A beautiful cathedral in the heart of Berlin that dates back to the 16th century. The church itself was so beautiful from the outside, but the best part of it was the view from the top.
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To finish off our Tour de Berlin, we stopped at a chocolatier called Fassbender and Rausch overlooking city square. The chocolate was delicious, but I was more impressed with their chocolate molds. Such as this mold of the Brandenburger Tor.
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While riding back to our hotel, Crow spotted an advertisement claiming that the Berliner Philharmonic Orchestra had a show that evening. I'd never heard of them. He said it had always been one of his dreams to see them since they are one of the best orchestras in the entire world and they were playing Beethoven's 6th symphony, which he studied in a Classical music class in college. So we went! Ended up scalping tickets at the door since it was a sellout. And I gotta say, it was one of my favorite parts of my quest so far, especially knowing that I'll likely never hear as fine of an orchestra as the Berliner Philharmonic. We felt very cultured.
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Enough with the culture, we were looking for some fun. After the show, we had some drinks and went to the most legendary club in Berlin. It's legendary because of its ominous look and the how difficult it is to get in. The Berghain. A five story warehouse, wrapped in scaffolding, door frames covered in razor wire and bouncers who look like the last person you would want to see alone in a dark alley. There's no list, there's no VIP favoritism, females have no advantage over males. You could be dressed like a skater, a frat star, or the President of the United States--- doesn't matter. The world's only bouncer who has an agent, Sven, decides if you get in. And he has no noticed criteria.
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After reaching the front of the line to get into the legendary Berghain, Sven looked at us and said ever so eloquently, "Not tonight." And that was that. But I will get in there someday. I know it. We went to another club after that called Watergate where Crow was able to sweet talk the female German bouncer into letting us in. Her name was Helga, not quite as intimidating as Sven. The windows of the club looked across a river at the Universal Studios of Germany office. Though we didn't get into the Berghain, we still had a great time dancing to house music with the locals at Watergate.
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The next day, we went for a bike ride and stopped at local outdoor market for lunch. I had some fresh fruit, curry wurst and some turkish quesadillas, for a lack of a more acceptable term.
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That night, we planned on having dinner then going to the Berlin Wall Memorial. That was the plan until our waiter at dinner wrote us a letter to give to a bouncer at Kater Blau which was another local Berlin club. After having an -in at another club, we had to scrap our plans, momentarily, to see the Wall. We showed up not knowing what to expect and found that the club was built into the side of a bridge.
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We made some German friends and ended up staying until about 4am. Then we had to make another bold choice, seeing that our train for Amsterdam left at 8am and we still wanted to see the wall, it was time for another ALL NIGHTER. We left Kater Blau, took a cab to our hotel, got on our bikes and rode to the Berlin Wall Memorial at 5am. Normally one of the most sought after tourist venues in Berlin, we were the only people at the Wall when we got there. Stayed just long enough to the sunrise. Bye bye Berlin!
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Posted by blakeabassett 06:23 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

Munich and such

overcast 35 °F

Munich was full of surprises. The first of which was the fact that Crow and I were going to arrive on separate trains and at different times in Munich. Waking up from a nap on our train after a two and half hour snoozer, I decided to hop off at the next train station and grab some grub while Crow stays aboard with our luggage. Hangry-ness was setting in. I hop off the train having five minutes to grab some grub before it leaves Regensburg, Germany bound for Munich. I sprint to get sandwiches, the server takes her time making them, I run to the wrong platform, sprint up and then down 3 flights of stairs to see my train starting to move. The scene ends with me running down the platform of the train, food in one hand and my other hand banging on the window of which Crow is on the other side of trying to open. Should I hand him the food through the window? Should I try another door? Shall I jump on the caboose as it passes by? No and I miss my train. I wait around the station for a couple of hours in the cold German countryside for the next train to Munich. Great start. We were looking back and laughing the moment we were reunited at the Munich Hauptbahnhof train station though! Then the second surprise, we actually rented out a Bavarian Art Studio as a flat to stay in. The place was bizarre but definitely still had style.
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The mannequin at the top of the stairs creeped me out in a major way. There was art everywhere, along with a record player and an accordion. It was in a great location though so it was a great place. The first day we walked around City Centre, snacking on roadies while looking for wifi.
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We ended up stopping at Museum of the Five Continents which had some "culturally enlightening" stuff. I enjoyed looking at all of the ancient weapons and machines. Our second day in Munich was the best. It was the best because it was game day. Callie bought two tickets for Crow and I to see Bayern Munich at their home stadium, the Allianz Arena. She's simply the best. We were ready. Had our new FC Bayern gear and were ready to get our game day started in the original Haufbrauhaus, having beer with all the local fans.
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After enjoying quality German craft beer, we rode the train to the stadium with all the other fans. Then we arrived to see the Allianz lit up in solid red for FC Bayern.
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The seats couldn't have been more perfect.
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Bayern won the game 2-0. Such an unreal experience. All of the fans signing in unison with harsh German accents. Loved every second of it.
The next day we toured the BMW museum and hiked to the highest point in Munich, atop the center of the '72 Olympic Park. One of the most spectacular views I've ever beheld. After that, we headed to the train station to hop on our red-eye rail night train to Berlin.
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Posted by blakeabassett 08:30 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

My Prague Blog

sunny 40 °F

Oh my my, it sure is going to be difficult to top our time in Prague. What an incredible city. Prague is inexpensive, clean, serves fantastic food and is one of the few European cities to remain unscathed following the first and second World Wars. We were very fortunate to have stayed in an awesome apartment in a great location, right next to the St. Charles Bridge. It also had 25 foot gold-decorated ceilings, tons of floor space and a very classical feel-- all for $100/night! Only in Prague.
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Crow really embraced the cultured vibe our flat was giving off as he can be seen here reading up on the fundamentals of Czechoslovakian Oral Surgery from our apartment's study.
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During our first day we took a tour of Prague Castle, which is currently the largest castle in the world! It was an incredible site. Construction on the castle took over 600 years as it began in 1333 and was finally completed in 1989.
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The Herculean Gates guard the entrance to Prague Castle and face Germany, the country's most prominent historical adversary.
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Once inside, the castle boasts a breathtaking view since it is perched on a hill overlooking Old Town Prague.
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The Castle forms a perimeter around St. Vitus Cathedral which stands tall above the surrounding fortress.
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We also stopped at the Peklo Monestary Brewery next to the castle. The entire brewery was located inside of a hill which gave it a very ancient feel. And of course, the beer was delicious.
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One of our favorite stops was Hemingway's cocktail lounge which served all kinds of crazy concoctions, including this Old Fashioned--- served out of an actual Hemingway novel!
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One of our last stops in Prague was the John Lennon Wall, which is a 100 meter wall covered in graffiti. The graffiti quotes included many lyrics sang by the Beatles and other "words of wisdom."
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Prague was a blast. Next stop is Munich!

Posted by blakeabassett 01:01 Archived in Czech Republic Comments (0)

Verbier, Switzerland

snow 15 °F

33 hours. 4 planes. 2 trains. 2 buses. Finally made it to Verbier, Switzerland! We had dinner at a local restaurant called Restaurant. Real original. Being in Switzerland and the menu being entirely in French, we asked the waiter what the best local dish was in an attempt to embrace the culture. He recommended the Fondue, which Callie was clearly very excited about.
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We were pleased with the waiter's choice, until we found out that it cost 50 francs for melted cheese and bread. Welcome to Switzerland, the most expensive country on God's green earth. After traveling for so long, sleep was much needed upon arrival. We clocked about 12 hours before we were able to take in the breathtaking view from our hotel.
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Callie, Clint Crow and myself hit the slopes early on Monday. We skied all morning and stopped for lunch at a restaurant on top of the mountain with one of the best views on the entire mountain. Too bad it was a whiteout! It did make for great powder skiing though. Crow recommended the escargot as an appetizer, which was delicious. Then we had a couple of beers and pizzas before we finished off our afternoon on the mountain. large_90_C588A490A9EDE70DB9D8D4D86E58C633.jpg
That night we had another Swiss dish called Raclette, which was another form of melted cheese with bread. I'm convinced those are the only two foods that the Swiss can make. Once again, victims of not being able to read the menu or understand our waiter's thick French accent. Nonetheless, it was still a tasty meal.
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Callie decided not to ski on Tuesday so I skied all day with Clint and his 7 roommates, who were all seasoned ski instructors. They could shred the gnarly pow pow like I've never seen before, busting backflips and 360's like it was all in a day's work-- which it literally had been for the past 13 weeks. The heavy powder snow, the quality of the Swiss Alps and my squad of professional skiers made for some of the best skiing and the most fun I've ever had.
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We finished the day at the local happy hour spot, Pub Mont Fort, where we met up with Callie and rehashed all of the great moments from our time on the mountain that day. After HH, Crow informed us that Tuesday is the night that all of the Verbier staff go out since everyone has the day off on Wednesday. The bars close at 2am and the clubs close at 4am in Switzerland. We had a shuttle leaving Verbier at 6:30 am to take us to the Geneva Airport for our flight to Prague the next day. Not wanting to miss out on anything during our short time in Switzerland and to continue hanging out with our new friends, our only option was--- an ALL NIGHTER. Following the lead of the locals, we drank Carlsberg and J├Ągerbombs at the bar until 2, danced our faces off at the club until 4, late night sandwich shop at 0430(clutch), bags packed by 0545, and were waiting on our shuttle by 0615 just in time to see the sun come up!
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So long Switzerland, hello Prague!

Posted by blakeabassett 09:30 Archived in Switzerland Comments (0)

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