To recap the last couple days:
July 22 – Innsbruck, Austria
July 23 – Salzburg, Austria and Munich, Germany
July 24 – Brussels, Belgium
July 25 – Amsterdam, Netherlands
July 26 – Hamburg, Germany
July 27 – Copenhagen, Denmark
July 28 – Gothenburg, Sweden
July 29 – Stockholm, Sweden
July 30 – Oslo, Norway
I’ve been traveling around Europe all by my lonesome self. It was very sad at first but I’ve been enjoying the time to myself. I’ve been doing tons of walking around the cities, several miles every day. I’ve had some time to my thoughts and myself and it has been great. I’ve been sleeping in my car every other night and that’s helped me to appreciate the simple things like having a bed to sleep in.
The first stop by myself was Venice, but I wrote about that in the last post. After Venice, I ventured off to Innsbruck, Austria. Innsbruck is a nice town. The towns all start to look the same after some time. Nice painted buildings, statues, squares, outside seating, churches, souvenir stores, etc. but each town has it’s own identity. I was hoping that the weather would be better in Innsbruck so that I could see the mountains, but it was cloudy. Half the fun of Innsbruck is the beautiful mountains around the town and I wasn’t able to see them. Anywhere you see clouds in my pictures of Innsbruck, there should be mountains there.
This is the Goldenes Dachl or the Golden Roof. It was a wedding present from an emperor to his bride, completed in 1500. The balcony was used to observe festivals and jousting tournaments. It was raining out but plenty of people were there to see the Golden Roof. It’s a big deal in Innsbruck.
Here is a view of the town from almost underneath the roof.
I had started off the solo leg of my trip in search of some good value. I wanted to rough it a little more than I was when I was with my lady, so I found the Himal Nepali Kitchen, which was a restaurant that served up some delicious Nepalese food for a good price. I scored a cucumber salad and a chicken masala. The reviews were very high for this place, and the food was good, but there are several Indian restaurants nearby home in New Jersey that could rival or exceed it. As I was in Austria and starting to move from wine countries into beer countries I had to order the Franziskaner Weissbier, which is one of my all time favorite beers. It hails from neighboring Germany.
After dinner I strolled around town. There was some classical music being played in town. I stopped to listen for a few minutes. There has been a lot of live music played throughout the places that I have been and some of it is definitely worth a listen. The clouds started to pull back a little but not much. I wouldn’t be able to see the mountains but I will eventually make my way back into the mountains again on this trip.
The next day I decided to spend a few hours in Salzburg, Austria and then head on to Munich, Germany for the night. Salzburg is a nice town. There are squares and statues and fountains. I’ve been trying to get some good horse pictures for my sister but usually the only horses are off of highways and there is no good place to pull over to get the picture. So you’ll have to settle with this horse fountain until hopefully sometime next week when I finally get a decent picture, lol.
I strolled by Mozart’s birthplace. He was born and lived in Salzburg for many years. Mozart’s body of work includes over 600 pieces, but he would spend his late years broke. He died at 35 and was interred in a common grave in Vienna, with maybe four people attending his funeral.
For lunch I went with the cheese pretzel. Delicious.
They built statues for Mozart after he passed away. He is pretty much immortalized. This is something that happens with lots of great artists. Sure, Mozart was acknowledged during his life. He had performances as a child prodigy at a very early age. But it is not until later that some artists are fully recognized for their work. Many die broke; some don’t get any recognition until after their death.
I had to make one more stop before I ventured off to Munich. I tried to find some of the head honchos at Red Bull Arena in Salzburg to have a talk about the New York Red Bulls soccer team. For those of you that don’t know, there are two Red Bulls soccer teams. The one I root for is from New Jersey/New York, but the Salzburg one is where the global soccer operations are. Actually the entire Red Bull brand is headquartered in Salzburg. I tried to find some of the big bosses to have a chat about the teams progress this season, but they weren’t at the stadium. Actually, I’m pretty certain I wasn’t even supposed to be here. I drove right up to the stadium, parked illegally in some VIP spot and then ventured into the stadium. I was just planning on walking up and seeing if I could see the field or anything but the gate was open as they were doing construction on seats behind one of the goals. I saw the open gate and I walked in. “Act as if.”
The outside of the stadium is pretty lame looking in comparison to the gem of the stadium that we have in New Jersey.
I got out of there before I had to explain what I was doing in there and got on my way to Munich. Munich is a pretty big town that has new and old buildings. The Marienplatz is the city’s main square and has been since 1158. No big deal. Just an 850-year-old meeting place. It’s a nice square.
This is pretty much the longest my beard got.
I decided to grab a haircut and finally found a place that was open. It was a pretty straightforward process. For about a day though I had the sides of my head shaved and had the beard at it’s full grown length. I don’t think I have any pictures of it, which is fine as it was a pretty ridiculous style.
After getting my fresh new cut I ventured off to the Hofbrauhaus, which is a very popular Bavarian brewery. There is a lot of beer served at this place.
The seating inside is pretty beautiful. There was a band playing songs and everyone was in pretty good spirits.
I chose to sit in the outside courtyard, which had maybe the only single seat available in the whole place. I asked the waiter what he recommended and he suggested schweinshaxe, which is pork knuckle with potato dumpling. I’m glad he recommended it because it was delicious. I found out that it is a very typical Bavarian dish.
The next day I was planning on heading to Frankfurt because it was halfway between where I was and Brussels, which is where I wanted to be. I decided to tough it out and make the drive straight to Brussels after hearing Frankfurt was nothing too special. I got to Brussels without any major happenings. I thought I would be a little more tired after the night sleeping in the car but I can drive forever and I wasn’t tired at all. I checked in to the hotel and showered up and chopped my beard off in replace of a mustache that would last for two days.
I stopped by Grand Place or Grote Markt, which is the central square in Brussels. I promise you this is not a picture of the one in Munich. They do look very similar though.
I forgot how many of my favorite beers were from Belgium. Delirium, Chimay, Lindemans, St. Bernadus, La Chouffe. I realized this walking through the city and seeing places like this.
I wanted to stop in but I needed dinner first. I had to get the mussels and fries with a Chimay Blue. Apparently mussels and fries is the official dish of Belgium and I was happy to order it. This is a dish that is not popular in the States but it’s hard to beat a bowl of mussels with some fries and a beer for a meal. After dinner I walked around a little more and then ventured back to the hotel to score some sleep after the long drive.
In the morning I walked around the city some more. I had to get Belgian waffles in Belgium and so I did. They guy said chocolate and cream was the best way to get it. It was delicious, but the waffle itself is tremendously better than any waffle I’ve ever had. I kind of wished that there wasn’t all that chocolate and cream to destroy the subtle beauty of the Belgian waffle but it was delicious regardless.
I got on the road and headed off for Amsterdam, Netherlands. There are a lot of canals in the city. It kind of looks like a more boring version of Venice.
I stopped by the Anne Frank house, which is where Anne and her family hid during World War II. It was weird driving through and hanging out in areas that played influential parts in such major wars. It’s a little hard to grasp that this is in the same location as the coffeehouses that sell weed and buildings that let you pick which prostitute you want to spend the night with. It’s the same place and it’s only a few years later but you could never tell that stories like this happened here if you didn’t know the history.
You could never really tell from looking at the house if you didn’t know it, but this is the Anne Frank house.
I grabbed steak and fries, which seemed to be a popular choice in the city, and it was alright. I was a long ways away from Belgium so my beer choices where pretty much Amstel or Heineken. I went with a Heineken, which tasted less skunky than it does in the States. Nothing special though.
I walked all over Amsterdam, back and forth over canals and down alleyways. I was told that there was great street art or graffiti in the city but I couldn’t find too much of it. I assume it’s more on the outskirts.
I ventured around the Red Light District. Later on at night these booths would be filled with mostly naked women begging the boys passing by to throw their money at them.
There were places offering sex shows and sex shops. People were very drunk and high as you can smoke weed anywhere in the city. I really wanted to find a place that was playing some hip hop so I could do some dancing but I think everyone is too high in Amsterdam to dance and I couldn’t find a place. I scored some good Chinese food at this place called Wok to Walk, which cooks your Chinese in a wok fresh for you to take with you as you stroll around. It was a great late night snack, although I probably was the only sober person eating it.
Amsterdam went kind of how I expected it to go. The city’s big draw is the marijuana and the red light district, neither of which I was really interested in. The city is still worth a visit, and might be fun if you didn’t have a bedtime or manners. One thing I wanted to see but couldn’t because of the hours was the Van Gogh Museum. I’ve always thought Van Gogh’s work has a great appearance, something about those brushstrokes.
Hamburg, Germany was the next stop. It also has a popular square called Rathaus. There was a food and wine festival that was going on, which made for an even better time.
I had to get one of these wursts. I ordered it by pointing and saying “that one.” Pretty much everyone talks English that you come in contact with. Those that don’t you can always point and use hand gestures or whatever to get what you want.
Hamburg also has a famous red light district located along the street called the Reeperbahn. It’s quite a bit smaller, more tame, and less popular and renowned than the red light district in Amsterdam. I wanted to check it out because this is the area where the Beatles played for a couple years before they became mega popular. I realized that Saint Pauli was playing Celtic in a preseason friendly that would have been pretty tremendous to see, a game that was being played only a few blocks away. I could tell by all of the Saint Pauli supporters who were decked out in their punk/skull and crossbones gear.
After checking out the Reeperbahn area, I ventured off to the waterfront at the port. The Port of Hamburg is massive, one of the biggest in the world, ranking in the 15 spot. The waterfront around the port has restaurants and bars and shops.
Copenhagen, Denmark was the next stop. I was following my GPS and it took me to a ferry terminal, so I took my car and hopped on board. Ferries are a way of life in the Scandinavian culture. It’s not the only one that I was on and I still have a couple more planned for the last leg of my trip. The Puttgarden to Rodby ferry was a short ride that got me about an hour and a half outside of Copenhagen. It was a nice change of pace from driving.
Copenhagen has a nice area called Nyhavn, which has a bunch of restaurants along the water.
I decided to go to one restaurant and get lobster bisque and lobster. The lobster bisque was good but had shrimp in it, which was strange. The lobster came with some dill sauce. I miss lobster in Maine. They give you a huge lobster and it comse with butter and you open it yourself. You can’t beat that stuff when you are in Maine.
I strolled around Copenhagen, stopping here or there. I ventured off to the Tivoli Gardens, which I didn’t end up going into because there was a fee, and I have seen enough gardens on this trip already. I walked over to The Little Mermaid, which is a big deal in Copenhagen. It’s a bronze statue that was commissioned by the son of the founder of Carlsberg brewery. He was fascinated by the story after seeing the fairy tale performed at Copenhagen’s Royal Theatre. The statue has been vandalized many times as you can easily get access to it. Although apparently the statue located in Copenhagen harbor has always been a copy, with the sculptor’s heirs keeping the original at an undisclosed location.
Sleeping in the parking deck didn’t work out well. I got a knock on the window a minute or two into sleep and was told I couldn’t sleep there because of safety reasons. The guy tried to offer me a hotel that his friend had. I politely told him no thanks and decided to make the drive out to Gothenburg, Sweden. It was supposed to be a short drive but the GPS took me to another ferry terminal. So it was the middle of the night and I boarded a ferry. It’s just a way of life over here. I made it to Gothenburg as the sun was coming up. I asked to check in to my hotel ten hours early and surprisingly the host said that it was fine. I went right to sleep when I got there and when I woke up headed out to explore the southern archipelago of Gothenburg. There is a collection of islands that you can hop on and hop off on with a ferry pass, which included in the public transportation pass for the city. For a couple bucks you had access to a bunch of awesome little islands.
Since it was a little late in the day I only got off at Branno Husvik (the southern part of Branno) and walked around the whole island and departed back for mainland from Branno Rodsten (the north east part of Branno).
I had an entire beach all to myself.
The ferry ride was great. It seems like hanging on the rocks is popular to do.
I strolled around Gothenburg, Sweden. I tried to grab some food but the place wasn’t serving food so I settle for some kebab sandwich that I was afraid would make me sick by looking at it. The freshness of the place wasn’t near what I thought it would be. When I got back to the hotel, I grabbed some sleep so that I would be rested for the next day.
Stockholm was a nice drive from Gothenburg. I saw a moose on the way but couldn’t get a picture. I think it was a baby moose but it was still absolutely the biggest thing in the world. It was about half the height of a pine tree.
I was told that I had to go to Marten Trotzig’s and get the reindeer. I had a Swedish meal there. It started with a cloudberry martini, which is a berry only found in the Northern Hemisphere. After I had the herring plate which featured blueberry and vodka herring, lingonberry herring, mustard herring and pickled herring. It definitely felt a little Polish with the dill, cream, onion, and potato on the plate. Apparently the Swedish way to eat herring is with an O.P. Anderson aquavit, which is a digestif spirit.
After the herring I had the reindeer, which came with a black currant sauce and some oyster mushrooms. Reindeer tastes delicious just like any of the more exotic meats. I thought the meal was good, but the restaurant gets hammered on Google Reviews with a 2.3 rating. I think this is because the price is high, but a decent price comes from the liquor at this restaurant. If you eat here and don’t order any alcohol I don’t think you can complain too much. I dunno, most of the time I agree with the online reviews but I don’t think I agree with them here.
I spent some time strolling around the Old City or the Gamla Stan as it’s called. I grabbed an ice cream and messed around with some photos. Here’s Stockholm.
And here’s an amusement park that looked like fun. It was way too far of a walk that late, otherwise I was in the mood to stroll around.
I couldn’t sleep so I decided to make my way to Oslo. I made it about halfway before I pulled over and decided to sleep in a rest area. My eyes were a little tired and it was fine because I couldn’t check in until the next day anyhow.
One of the big things to do in Oslo is to get out to the fjords. I chose not to do that because I plan on heading out to Preacher’s Rock or Pulpit’s Rock (it goes by many names) tomorrow. I strolled around town. I went in to a game place and they had some Magic the Gathering cards. This Black Lotus is pretty reasonably priced at $2,500 US dollars, but I didn’t buy it.
I grabbed some dinner at Lokk. It was a three-course meal that was fairly priced, a steal compared to what many of the restaurants charge for good food in Oslo. Cucumber soup with pork, a fish dish, and a chocolate ice cream with custard.
After dinner I ventured off to Frogner/Vigeland Park. It was a decent walk through the city. There were some great sculptures and statues that expressed the human emotion pretty well.
The grounds were also nice. It reminded me a little of the gardens at the Palace of Versailles but nowhere near as impressive.
On the walk back I saw some guy fall off of his bike so I went to make sure he was alright. His name is Chris and he said he was drinking all day and it was the second time on the drive that he fell off of his bike. He said he was heading back to his place to meet up with his girlfriend and some friends and he was going to do some cocaine and then he was heading back out for some more drinks. He invited me out for a beer but I told him I was all good. I got a decent walking head start on him while he was figuring out his bike situation but after a couple minutes he was zooming past me off into the streets of Oslo.
So yea, that’s pretty much been what I’ve been up to for the last week or so. Tomorrow I’m making the drive out to Preacher’s Rock in Norway and tomorrow I should be hiking to it. Eventually I’ll get back into Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, and eventually Italy where I fly out of on August 7th. I have another week left, which I’m excited for but I’m also excited to get back and see everyone and get back to some computer programming. I miss everyone a whole bunch but I’m excited to finish out the trip.