August 2 2009: From Berlin to Prague


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It was another early morning for us, leaving our hostel just past dawn and making our way to the train station. We were a little early, but that’s far better than being late. Our train would take us directly to Prague without any transfers, so we could relax.

The scenery between Berlin and Prague was beautiful, and our route took us along a riverbank for much of the way (which I believe is the Moldau / Vltava river) which looked something like this:

Another view from the riverside:

Desi caught up on a little sleep and I believe worked on one of her beautiful drawings during this journey. I also spent some time napping, and a bit of time up and around the train car trying to find good photos (like the ones above). The blue skies didn’t last, unfortunately, and when we arrived in Prague the weather was turning against us.

We found our hostel relatively easily (Prague had a great subway system), which didn’t have an elevator; We were had to climb 5 or 6 flights of stairs to get to our room. This was no small feat with the weight of our baggage, but we managed. The hostel was selling postcards made by the receptionist, so we supported the local artist by buying ours there.

By the time we were able to venture around, the rain started. We grabbed a quick bite to eat at a nearby MacDonald’s and hoped the rain would pass us by, which it didn’t. That didn’t stop us completely, as we walked quickly to a nearby church to try and snap another fisheye photo for the series:

This church has signs up saying that photography wasn’t allowed, but it was too much to resist. I grabbed a quick photo as we were waiting for the rain to lighten up a little outside, and headed on our way.

Our next stop would be the Czech National Museum, as indoor attractions were now at the top of our list. When we arrived at roughly 6:30, we learned that the museum closes at 7. This was a mixed blessing however, because the museum has free entry on the first Monday of every month, and that would be August 3rd. We resolved to come back tomorrow, but not before getting a few photos of the streets in front:

As the weather wasn’t improving, we decided to head back to our hostel and call it an early night, one of the first on our adventure. It’s a great thing we did, as the next day would be one of our most tiring. As we were preparing for bed, I took one last photo out our hostel window of the street below:

August 1 2009: From Brussels to Berlin


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Our day started in Brussels, where we woke up early and started our day before the sun was up. We needed to book hostels in both Berlin and Prague, so we wanted to borrow one of the computers to do this. Both were in use, one simply by someone who was sleeping so we woke that person and tried to use it first, but the internet access seemed broken. We asked the other guy, who said he would just be a moment – he had his wallet stolen including all his money and credit cards. Seems like the warnings in the train station were worth their weight! We weren’t able to book anything for Berlin because they needed to be booked further in advance, but we got the names of the hostels and headed on our way.

We arrived at the train station with time to spare, we we wanted to buy some souvenir chocolate but the stores were closed. We found where our train was supposed to be and waited. When it arrived, we still had 10 minutes, and Desi thought we should have some food for the train. A great idea, so she ran off to buy some sandwiches and left the bags with me so she could hurry. It turns out the chocolate shop opened at 7, and it was now 7:05 so she was able to grab some chocolates on her way back and we got on the train with time to spare. So far, the morning was going well! Five hours until we would be in Berlin.

The trip was uneventful but beautiful, and when we arrived we completed our “standard routine” of finding maps and postcards. Once that was out of the way, we grabbed brochures for different hostels we narrowed them down by price and I started calling. We found one that was fairly close and at a good price, so we set off to check in. We ended up walking in circles for about a half hour (a very long half hour with all our bags), but finally found the bridge we were looking for:

We checked in and were given some direction for a few landmarks, the closest of which was the Berlin Wall. The area of the city was a little run-down, and there were some very poor areas that looked almost like gutted buildings with seemingly homeless people spending time there. Still, I think we felt much safer than Brussels. The wall was actually right near the train station and easy to find:

Parts of the wall looked like this, full of graffiti and vandalism. Some sections were fenced off and given to artists to show their art or messages, and was quite colourful:

We continued from here to the Alexanderplatz station, which was close to more landmarks:

The church you see there is the Berlin Cathedral, which we arrived moments too late to enter. I asked politely a few times but was returned with a strict “no entry, come back tomorrow”. Tomorrow wasn’t an option, so we moved on. We did get a passerby to take a photo of the two of us in the area though which I think turned out great:

We headed in the direction of another interesting building, which looked historical. On our way there through an alleyway we encountered a booth for admission – apparently there was an event happening. Music, beer vendors and street food vendors which we decided to check out. I tried a beer here but we wanted something more substantial for dinner so we didn’t stay long. The beer I had was supposed to have two refills, but I instead asked to keep the glass. When I said we were visiting from Canada, the owner came and brought us two more glasses to take home as souvenirs. We were somewhat shocked at the generousity and politeness – a welcome surprise!

On our way to find a restaurant we found a rose garden along the riverside, where we found this little guy:

We ate dinner at a small restaurant with a great outdoor patio and atmosphere. The food was delicious and we left completely full. On our way home the sun had set, and here is a photo from near the restaurant as we departed:

We took the train to the nearest station to our hostel and crossed the same bridge we started on:

We walked a little faster through the poor areas near our hostel as the streets weren’t well lit, but there was no worry. We arrived at the hostel and were both quite tired once again. We settled in for a good night of sleep with our minds reflecting on today and looking forward to tomorrow’s adventure in Prague.

Remember


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It has been a while since I attended a Remembrance Day ceremony, and actually this year marked the first time I attended one by choice. I felt proud of my country in that crowd today; I gave my silence and my applause at the appropriate times. Days like today make me think about how much we have here in Canada, how wonderful this country is, and how wonderful the people that live here are. Some people were crying today, others held their chin up high and still others had a look of hope in their eyes. We have come so far, and still have such a long way to go for peace. I’m confident we’ll find it someday.

I have the utmost respect for those who serve our country, both here and abroad. To these people, you have my most sincerest thanks. To those that have given their lives to protect this country and our ideals, no words could express my gratitude.

Thank you.

[edit] Added a few more photos taken at the ceremony:

July 32 2009: wait, what?


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I have never known about this mysterious 32nd of July, but apparently the French recognize it. I have proof! (lower left stamp):

Yeah, I know, its just a mistake. Still funny though! Imagine if I had been questioned about my travel dates when entering a country, any other border control officer might raise an eyebrow at this.

I also wanted to use this as an opportunity to post the drawings that Desi made during our trip, as many of these took more than one day and I’m not sure about the dates. I do know the order in which they were made, however:

and one of my favourites:

and another one that I’m not sure was finished, but wonderful just the same:

And that’s in addition to the first one that I had posted some time ago, which you can also find in the gallery below.

July 31 2009: From London to Brussels


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We had another early morning in London, to catch a train to a port town called Dover Priory. Dover is where most of the ferries travel to and from across the English Channel, and we had to get on a ship around noon. Everything went according to plan, we arrived on time (just) to board the ferry, and we added another mode of transportation to our travels. Plane, bus, train, and now ship. As we left the port, the barrier walls made for some interesting photos:

And from here, we were off. It had been my first time on a ship like this in many many years, and the first time for Desi. We found ourselves a seat and sat and talked about our travels and what the rest of the day had in store for us. I also briefly went outside to the edge of the ship to take a few shots of the channel:

and of the water trailing behind our boat:

We arrived on the other side of the channel in Calais, France. Our next journey would be by foot – from the port to the train station. With all of our bags, we set out for what would be the most tiring part of the day – a 30-40 minute walk with our backpacks and bags towards the center of town. We got there, yet still didn’t have exact directions to the train station. We did find this nice clocktower, however:

We asked the people around, some were tourists and some locals, but I was pleasantly surprised when we noticed that people were not arrogant here. They helped if they could and if they couldn’t they were genuinely apologetic. Looks like we might go back to France at some point in the future if its only Paris that we don’t like.

Anyhow, we found our way to the train station and got our tickets to Brussels, with a transfer in Lille. The train ride was uneventful, I can’t remember any specific details (this could mean that I slept through it) but we arrived in Brussels at around 7pm that evening.

Brussels was a little scary. We got off the train and noticed signs like “watch for pitpockets”, “keep your eye on your luggage”, “be cautious in crowds”, and so on. Clearly these signs were here for a reason, and it worried us. We left the train station through the metro and arrived at the closest metro station to our hostel. The streets were eerily quiet, you know that feeling you get when you are being watched? We definitely felt that. At one point two men exited a building behind us and starting walking in our direction, so we walked as fast as we could.

In the hostel however, we felt very safe; We thankfully had a private room so we could keep an eye on our bags. We didn’t have much time in Brussels as we were heading out early in the morning, but we at least needed a good meal. We headed out to find the closest restaurant to our hostel (we didn’t feel like adventuring that much), and ate a great meal inside. This is the only place I dared expose my camera, and took this shot:

Belgian beer is really quite good! So is the food, we had a great meal and headed back to our hostel before it was completely dark out. We were tired, and would have a 5am morning on our way to Berlin, so we needed a good night of rest. We would spend just under 12 hours in the city in total, and I wouldn’t have really wanted to stay a minute more. Maybe I’m not being entirely fair, but first impressions are everything.

Stay tuned for more as always. 🙂

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