A Travellerspoint blog

Neuschwanstein Castle

The fairy tale castle in the Alps

sunny 45 °F

Wwwwwwwwwwwwwooowwwwwwwwwwwwwwww. Neuschwinstein Castle. wwwowww

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More pictures at the bottom

This is the infamous fairy tale Germanic castle, the baby of King Ludwig II, that inspired the Disney princess castle. It has been on my list, but wasn’t sure how easily / cheaply it could be done. The way it worked out, it was THE BEST value for the money that I’ve found yet. Nikki and Vinny who I met in Cologne, will be pissed, because they wanted to do this, but didn’t think they could do it with their budget. I haven’t yet figured out the economics of it, but getting out to the castle is a 2 hr train ride that costs 23 euros for a single person ticket, but then only 4 euros for each additonal ticket, up to 5. Knowing that, I posted a sign in the hostel trying to find travel companions for the trip out.

As luck would have it, this morning I sat down at breakfast to a full table and quickly met 3 Americans studying abroad in Sevilla, Spain who were planning to head out there after breakfast. I scrapped my plans a latched onto their group. By the time I met them in the lobby, we had also picked up a group of 4 Canadians heading out there as well. With this group, it only cost 8 euros to get out to the castle.

PRO TIP: If you go to Neusch, there is no need to pay the 12 euros for admission into the castle. This isn’t even me just being a cheap-skate vagabond, either. It is just honestly way better to spend the time walking the trails around the castle (did I mention this is up in the Alps?). You can even go into the courtyard and such without a ticket. The ticket gives you a 30 minute walk thru the castle, the inside of which isn’t nearly as cool as the outside. I had gotten this intel from a girl at the hostel who had gone, and the Canadians verified it with what they had heard.

The castle is built right on the edge of the Alps, so the surrounding landscapes are almost as (or in my opinion, even moreso) awe-inspiring as the castle. I’m not sure if I agree with Ludwig’s style, but I’m with him on the location! If you're coming and it's snot yet the summer - make sure to dress warm! I quickly found out that the Alps get a bit chillier than the surrounding lowlands. The tourist info lays out a number of well groomed trails a short ways into the mountains, to get different angles of the castle, and the best part was after the bridge, then exploring off the beaten trail to other existent, but far less traveled ones. You see what I did there?

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The bridge
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View from the bridge

When we departed the trail we were 8, but when I took a few pictures from the best spots, we were down to 3. The rest slowly fell away… not falling off the mountain or anything, but they just couldn’t or wouldn’t make it up some of the steep parts of the trails. Ben, Jeremy, and I got some great pics from the final point we made it to.

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The castle was great, but the day also gave me such zeal to make sure I spent a little more time up in the Alps hiking around. Jeremy was right with me, and was bummed he was leaving the next day, but you’ve got to work with the time you’ve got.

The day in Fussen (the town you train to to see Neuschwanstein) ended with a big pasta dinner and then beers for the train ride back. Most of us passed out for the first part after the hiking and big pasta dinner, until the train filled up near Munich. From there it was happy hour at the hostel bar and then to the famous Hofbrau Haus. I had been there with Nick 4 years ago, but that didn’t make it any less fun this time around. At the end of a long night, I parted ways with the other 7 and wished them luck in Prague, as I prepared for more good times in Munich and the Alps.

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The crew

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Posted by danza 13:53 Archived in Germany Tagged hiking castle alps bavaria neuschwanstein fussen fairy_tale Comments (3)

First 20 hours in Munich

Kickball, bachelor parties, and beer

sunny 55 °F

The Sunday that I arrived in Munich turned out to be a fortuitous string of great luck and happenstance that seems to only truly happen while you are traveling. Days like this make me marvel at how small the world really is sometimes.

I arrived into Munich at 7:30 am after taking an overnight bus from Koln. Though I did sleep a good amount, I knew the day would be a rough one to power thru, but I was determined to. I made my way to my hostel, a short walk from Haupbahnhof, and went to check in. Check in wasn’t available until 2, which was fine, so I bought a ticket for the hostel’s all-you-can-eat-breakfasts - that plus wireless internet was pretty much all I needed at that point :).

As is natural in a hostel, I met a few different people during breakfast, many of whom would play a role in the rest of my day. Ian, a cheerful English guy about my age, was the first person to sit at my table. This was impressive as I learned that he was here as part of a bachelor party. I met a few other members as they filed down for breakfast. In all I met Ian, Ian, John, John, David and Graham, the groom-to-be. I love this idea for a bachelor party - being able to quickly zip over to some other country and spend one last wild week with your closest buds. It sounds like they had been enjoying the beer halls already and we became fast friends. I didn’t feel like starting my drinking at 10 am, so I wished them luck and hoped we would meet up later.

By the time I found out that the 10:45 free walking tour I was planning on was only Monday - Saturday, it was almost 10:30. Knowing I was going to be meeting a CouchSurfing group in the park at 1:30, I set out to just wander and explore Munich with Jeff, a Long Islander working in Sevilla who I met at breakfast. We wandered around the main squares and quickly came to the English Gardens - the biggest city park I believe I’ve been to. Jeff and I took about 25 minutes to walk to the Chinese Tower, a large beer garden in the park, and when I checked the GPS, I was amazed to learn that we weren’t even a quarter of the way thru the park. On the way, one of the coolest sites we saw were the surfers. That’s right, you heard me - surfers in a park in Munich. They are apparently out here every day, rain or shine, surfing this standing wave.

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Goodness the water has got to be cold! I felt it further down the river and it most definitely was. Jeff stuck with me to the beer garden, we had a beer together, and then he headed to his bus.

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While I was waiting around for the CS group, what do I see walk by but a Sagacious Consultants T-shirt. Small world! What are the chances? I start talking to the pair and find that there’s a group of them on their yearly international excursion! I had met up with Trevor Fink in Amsterdam and knew some group of them were over here, but I didn’t realize they would be overlapping me in Munich! I met the group of them, including their CEO, and exchanged travel stories until 1:30, when the CS group formed up to go play kickball!

I love these CS events. For a traveler on a more casual schedule, they are great ways to break up the tourist routine of sightseeing, museums, etc. When I had initially seen it and signed up for it, it hadn’t occurred to me that most Europeans don’t have the slightest idea how kickball is played, especially since most of them have never watched baseball either. Steve, the organizer of this and a fellow Western NY’er from Buffalo, was very enthusiastic about meeting me and excited for another American who knew how to play and could help teach. This was the first game of their 2nd “season” of weekly kickball meetups, so a handful of returners knew how it was played, but the majority of the group hadn’t a clue. This continued to delight me as, during the game, groups of people gathered along the foul lines watching this “foreign spectacle”. The game went on for more than 3 hours before we decided it was time for beer, and back to the Chinese Tower it was.

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They all got the hang of it pretty quick, and it was some great fun. I got recruited to the "team" and heard disappointment when I told them I'd be gone in a few days. They, especially Steve from Buffalo, did a real good job of convincing me that I should just stay in Munich. Not just for the rest of my trip, but beyond that. It's tough not to see the logic in it, but I'll leave that for another post.

As I was enjoying beers with this great new group of friends (2 of them ended up hosting me for a few nights later on), who comes to sit down at the table RIGHT NEXT TO US, but the bachelor party from the hostel! Struggling to believe the coincidence, I finish my beers with the CS folks and exchange info, get a beer with the bachelor party, and decide to join their crew for a night of beer halls and debauchery.

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That's me, then Ian, then one of the Johns (there were 4!)
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Me and Graham - the stag

I will spare you all the details but, after arriving into Munich at 7:30 am, my day finally ended around 3 am, when I finally checked in and got my sheets - haha! It turned out to be one of the more expensive nights that I’ve had after a delicious dinner at an Augustiner beer hall, complete with many beers and shots of pear Schnapps (apparently also a Munich thing?). A kareoke bar, another beer hall, where we got Graham up on the table in his leiderhosen (sp?). All in all - great night. Hope all you English boys got back safely!

Some other pictures from the English Gardens:
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Posted by danza 11:31 Archived in Germany Tagged beer surfing munich beer_garden stag_party english_gardens Comments (0)

Koln (Cologne), Germany

Germany's friendliest cities

sunny 48 °F

Going off recommendations from Germans that I’ve come across, I found myself on a bus to Koln, Germany (or Cologne for the English speakers). Despite not being able to correctly pronounce the name of the city after 3 days (it sounds like Cone, but with an L squeezed in there awkwardly), I have come to really like Koln.

I wouldn’t rank this as a must see for tourists, but more a great place to slow down and meet some people. I’ve found people here SUPER friendly, which I’m told I won’t necessarily find to this degree thru the rest of Germany. Koln is the liberal city in a fairly conservative country, and for some reason it is warm and inviting, with a metaphorical Welcome to Germany doormat.

Although I found friendly folks all over this city, the best example was when I was outside of a Nazi-Socialist museum. I had just left that museum and had my map out trying to figure out my next destination. A kind white bearded man left the museum and asked me if I needed some help. I told him that I wasn’t sure where to go next, and he started giving me his recommendations of places to see. One of his recommendations wasn’t marked on my map, so he ran back inside to get me a better map. While he was inside, another man came up to me and also asked if I needed any help or suggestions on where to go. I chuckled and thanked him, but said I was already being helped. I felt like I was at a store counter being helped by employees, not total strangers.

I’ve also come across some very friendly travelers as well. The budget bus that I took to Koln dropped us off in a random parking lot. I had directions of how to get to the hostel from the main train station, but had no idea where that or I was. I saw 2 other backpackers also consulting phones and such, so I decided that I could follow them, at least to the nearest tram station. After a few minutes of standing around, I realized that they were looking to follow me as well, so I walked up and said hi. It turns out, we were trying to get to the same hostel, haha. So, Nikki, Vinny, and I just picked a direction and started walking. Without WiFi, we were sortof flying blind, but we found a metro stop pretty quick and 20 minutes later we were checking in. Nikki and Vinny were from Australia and New Zealand, respectively. They were a lot of fun and also traveling on a similar (super cheap) budget. The 3 of us stuck together for much of our time in Koln, which was nice. It's too bad we were heading to separate destinations afterwards, but maybe I'll meet up with them again in Europe!

The big tourist attraction in Koln is the Dom Cathedral. The construction of this stretched from the 1200s all the way until the 1860s, taking more than 600 years to complete. I knew where it was on the map, so just took off in that direction. I enjoy using the compass approach of just picking the right direction and heading off, taking whatever random streets and turns look the most interesting. Eventually I’ll take another look at the map and reorient.

Because of this strategy, I wasn’t totally sure exactly where the cathedral was, and I came upon 2 other large Gothic churches where I paused thinking, “Hmm, could this be it?” After consulting the map, I realized I wasn’t there yet, and once I made it to the proper square, I laughed about how foolish I had been. The other churches were quite large, but were laughable compared to this enormous structure. The incredible size was matched by the level of detail etched into so much of the stonework, both inside and out. This is definitely an example of a must-see tourist attraction.

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Here are some shots from further away
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Beyond the cathedral, Koln also has a couple smaller, but unique museums. Traveling around Europe can definitely leave you museumed out, so I was happy to find some different ones here. Given my great enthusiasm for the subject matter, I had to check out the Chocolate Museum. It was interesting to read and see about where chocolate comes from, from the ground up, literally. They walk you thru how cocoa is grown and harvested, and even have a little greenhouse area with real cocoa plants. I was surprised to learn that almost all of the growing and harvesting is still manual labor. This is partially because the areas that grow cocoa are mostly 3rd world, but also because you have to be gentle in many of the steps to keep the cocoa beans in good condition. One very sad fact that I learned is that due to the poverty of the areas that grow cocoa, 75% of cocoa farmers have never actually tasted the finished product :(. I had some fleeting thoughts of traveling to one of these areas to see it 1st hand, and to bring a ton of chocolate with me to share with the workers.

Then you move on to hear about how chocolate is processed from beans into the “Nectar of the Gods” (actual translation in some language). It did not surprise me to learn that this part was almost all automated with very precise temperatures and methods to aerate the chocolate and draw out those magical flavors.

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At the end of the processing section, there was a chocolate fountain where you can get a taste of the goods. Naturally, I circled around and got a few. Finally, you could also pay about 5 euros to get a custom bar of chocolate, with an array of toppings added in. Here’s a picture of mine being made:

M&Ms, tiny marshmallows, bits of pretzel, and caramel bits - MMMMMMMMmmmmm :) Word to the wise - it takes 35 minutes for them to make your custom bar, so you could go to the end and create it, and then go back thru the museum.

Right next to the chocolate museum, is the Sports and Olympics Museum. While it covered sports and olympics all over the world, the obvious focus was on Germany. It had some special exhibitions for the 1936 and 1972 Munich games, both of which were rather historic, not always for the best reasons. It also had a boxing ring with a bag you can hit, a wind tunnel with a bike in it, and a soccer field on the roof:

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Art Cologne
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Walking around Cologne, I saw a number of signs for Art Cologne. I wasn’t sure exactly what it was, but my last morning in my hostel, I chanced upon a jovial Englishman named Kane, traveling around Europe on 2 week military leave. He told me that Art Cologne was a once a year event held over a weekend in Cologne that assembled artists and works from all over the world. Not only did he recommend it, but he also passed on a VIP access card that he received from a French artist who had attended, but then left Cologne before the end of the exhibit. This pass would give me free access the the exhibit and the VIP section! Armed with the pass, I set off to track it down.

Since I was hopping on a bus afterwards, I had my big, heavy pack with me. When I got there, I was relieved to find the coat/luggage check and was even more excited when the attendant said that the backpack would be free because I wasn’t allowed to where it in there. Not one to argue with that, I dispatched with the pack and went inside.

I have never in my life seen such a large collection of art of such varying types before. Everything from traditional portraits and landscapes to frustrating modern art to diaramas suspended from the ceiling, to works with neon lights integrated in it. I gave up very quickly on trying to develop a system of navigating thru the collection and seeing everything, instead just content with wandering. With 2 floors of a full warehouse, with numerous small restaurants or bars spread throughout, the whole thing was gigantic and pretty awesome. Even those that don’t typically lend themselves to art, like myself, could find plenty of things to entertain them. Below are some of my favorites.

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This one I think was my #1 favorite

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I thought this looked like a crazy Where's Waldo? scene, but with a bunch of violence and death instead of guys in striped shirts
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Some other random pictures and moments:
During another CS meetup at a bar, we happened to see a scene happen from some type of German "Cops" show:
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Police pull up right as a fight is breaking out and you suddenly see these cameras and such pop out of the car with the cops. We were all debating whether it was real or staged - the acting was pretty darn good so I thought it was real - but were then disappointed when it all ended and the "drunk jerk" starting the fight is shaking hands and laughing with everyone, cops included.

Was randomly walking around when I see this guy in a pink hat destroy a guitar:
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Never figured out what was happening here

And the Red Bull - Can you make it? challenge! Here's the map:
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And here is "The French Flair" and their mascot along for the ride - Ratatoille:
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Ratatoille was their first trade - a red bull can for the mouse. They built him a little home in a small cardboard box and brought him all around Europe! To find out more about this crazy competition, check out http://www.redbullcanyoumakeit.com/. Click on teams and scroll to The French Flair to see the guys I met.

After that, it was an overnight bus to Munich as the journey marches on!

Posted by danza 09:31 Archived in Germany Tagged cathedral köln cologne red_bull can_you_make_it art_cologne Comments (1)

To be or not to be

The tourist paradox

sunny 56 °F

To be [a tourist]
Or not to be [a tourist]
That is the question

The term tourist is one that I’ve struggled with for a while. The paradox of being a tourist but always striving to be the furthest thing from a tourist has been an ongoing battle on the road. If you read any long-term travel literature, you’ll find a recurring theme of people distinguishing themselves as a “traveler” vs a “tourist”, or analyzing and defining the differences. And I’m no different.

It’s even more pronounced on a long-term, no rush trip like this, but even on my last European tour 4 years ago with Nick, I found myself making conscious decisions to not be a tourist. If an activity fits into a Jeff Foxworthy-like “You might be a tourist if…”, I usually try to avoid it. Like what?
- I typically steer away from many of the “main tourist attractions”. Some for sure are worth seeing, and I try to pick those out, but some are so obviously tourist traps. Ex: The Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen, the famous old clocks in Prague and Munich, “The Heinekin Experience”, etc
Instead I try to find those unique, lesser known attractions
- I avoid any pub named “Euro Pub”, haha, where you will likely not find a single local in there. I much prefer to find those cheaper, less flashy pubs that may actually have a local or two in there.
- My favorite bar in Amsterdam is called “Cafe de Wetering” that Nick and I were brought to by our original Amsterdam host. Every time I’ve been there, I or the people I brought, were the only tourists, and they were so darn friendly and inviting.
- Recommendations from locals always trump what I read in a guide book.
- When renting a bike, I purposely avoid the most popular rental companies that only give you bikes that are bright red (or green or yellow) to label you as a tourist for everyone else to see.
- CouchSurfing is a great way to be this type of anti-tourist traveler. You stay outside of the major tourist areas, dine and/or drink with locals, and you can hit up your host for all of those local, lesser known recommendations for what to see and do.

In many ways, I have a little bit of a snobbish attitude towards “tourists”, thinking of myself as a better and more authentic traveler. This travel style has typically served me very well and made for some amazing experiences. The major problem in this grand plan is that when you’re traveling alone, tourist areas are the best place to meet people.

When you’re traveling, fellow travelers are the easiest people to meet and befriend. Even those traveling in groups are always looking to meet people from all over the world. For a solo traveler, hostels represent the best social structure you could hope to find - an oasis in this new and unknown land.

Likewise, touristy bars have the same environment, with an added in level of chaos that can only come from alcohol combining with groups of people dissociated from their normal lives and therefore free of normal social constraints. All of the 20-somes drinking their way thru European pub crawls, clammering for whatever alcohol they tell you is the local flavor. In many ways, I turn the other cheek to this, knowing that my way is better and more real. On the other hand, those pub crawls are a hell of a lot of fun, haha.

So after traveling for almost 3 weeks, I have made a decision. To really get the most out of this, I’m going to have to start embracing my inner tourist. I’ve been sticking to my guns, stubborn with my approach. I’ve also been CSing much more than going to any hostels. The first 3 cities that I hit (Stockholm, Copenhagen, and Amsterdam) will likely be the top 3 most expensive cities I go to, so I was trying to be smart with my money, but in the end I’ve just be hungry for companions thru much of this. So more hostels and more touristy things! While I’m not abandoning all of my instincts, I’ve got to give that a try as well.

I did get this started at the end of my visit to Amsterdam. Trevor Fink rolled into town, which certainly helped this out. He wanted to see the Red Light District, so right away I broke one of my cardinal rules and went out in the tourist-filled Red Light District. The full happenings of the night got a little hazy near the end, but Trevor did have his umbrella destroyed by a prostitute. I’m still not sure how that happened, but I’m sure he deserved it.

The following day I hit up some of the popular tourist sites, specifically “I amsterdam” in Museumplein. It is actually a beautiful area and found myself just sitting down and really enjoying watching all these different groups of tourists figure out their poses. All ages and sizes, some were content with simply standing in front, while others wanted to climb the letters. Given my nature, I had to top them all:

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While I was sitting there I recognized another solo traveler and introduced myself. When you are one yourself, it gets very easy to spot fellow travelers, even in non-touristy areas. Sporting a backpack or bag of some sort, they are typically taking things slow, trying to drink in their surroundings. And the budget traveler’s always got some cheap snack that he’s munching on throughout the day. Viktor, happened to be chowing down on a banana when I sat down. Bananas, btw, are the best vagabond food. They’re super cheap, nutritious, and naturally come pre-packaged.

We had a good talk, took each other’s classic tourist picture, and then were suddenly approached by 2 cute girls. At first I thought Viktor must just be a chick magnet, but instead they were there from a Dutch magazine, interviewing foreigners about what we thought about Dutch girls. After answering their questions and unsuccessfully trying to get the girls to join us for the day, I made sure to get a picture with them. Chalk one up for tourist traps.

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I even caved and decided to check out the Heineken brewery, even though I really don’t like Heiney. It had always seemed like the classic tourist trap, but given my new philosophy, I wanted to give it a try. Plus its beer, so it can’t be all bad. I made it in the door and saw 18 euros for the “Heineken Experience”. Are you kidding me!?!?! I fell back into my old ways, split that overpriced tourist trap, and instead followed the advice of my good buddy Viktor and found my way to “the brewery by the windmill”.

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Great brewery and fun tour (only 5 euros), so I guess my instincts do serve me well some of the time. Anti-tourism draws even. I will have to try to find the good balance over the next few cities. I know that continuing to take the locals advice is the way to go much of the time.

To be or not to be. That is [still] the question

Posted by danza 04:46 Archived in Netherlands Tagged amsterdam tourist struggle Comments (0)

Abandoning Ship!

And the beautiful city of Amsterdam

semi-overcast 55 °F

So without reliable internet to load pictures, I’ve gotten behind in this blog. This post will combine 2 that I wrote summarizing life on the Valparaiso.
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Yo ho ho! A pirate’s life for me

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A pirate’s life on Valparaiso has certainly been interesting after a couple of days - some good, some bad, but almost all interesting. What follows is my attempt at an honest account of my life thus far on this boat.

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This is me and Captain Ulysses

Here’s what I knew going in: The Captain had room for up to 6 people at present, and liked accepting only people who would be on the ship for almost a week at minimum. As long as you fit in, you’re welcome to stay as long as you want, but if you do, you have to put in 5 hours of work almost every day - mostly work fixing up and pimping out his little converted house boat.

Besides that, I wasn’t sure about anything - whether we’d have electricity or internet, how showers or toilets worked, what the sleeping arrangements looked like. On first impressions, everything looked awesome. On a ship that has held 6-7 people at a time, it was only Me, Colin, and the Captain. Colin is an artist from Romania, drawn to Amsterdam largely for the psycodelics that he feels is essential for art. Everyone on the ship contributes 5 euros a day into the communal food bank, and we share all of the food that we buy. We had steady electricity and spotty internet, there was a nice fire stove for keeping it warm (though it was already quite warm in Amsterdam). We were docked at a small harbor with facilities 2 minutes from the boat for getting more water, showering, or going #2. There was also a cheap grocery store around the corner - big plus - and it was a 5 minute walk from a ferry to bring you to Amsterdam Central.

Just as I was getting to know the lay of the land, my 2nd day on the ship was sailing day! This was a lot of fun - running around the boat to follow Captain’s orders, navigating thru some of Amsterdam’s famous canals, having to duck when we fit under a bridge by a few cms - but also meant having to get used to completely new surroundings and facilities. We had moved to some sort of site with a bunch of old, rusted out boats on land it one big lot. The captain called it “a cool new thinktank group for sustainability projects. Maybe one day but to me it looked mainly like a junkyard right now. I stupidly didn't get any pictures of this new site, but below is when we were sailing

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Out on the open water!

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We struggled to get electricity set up, but after a few hours had managed to beg our way into access from one of the crews there, and didn’t lose everything in the fridge. Internet is all but non-existent and we still aren’t sure where we are supposed to shower or get more drinking water. Not exactly what I had in mind. But it is free I suppose (for both me and the Captain).

I’m not totally sure I’m cut out to be a pirate or crew for the Valparaiso long term, but I’m going to stick it out for a few days. I really don’t feel like a tourist here at all. Considering I’ve been putting in 4-5 hours of work every day, I’m not sure if I even qualify as one at the moment. It’s a bummer that we typically work from 10-3 since many of the things I’d like to see are only open til 5 (but not the coffee shops), so I’m not going to stay aboard during my whole time in Amsterdam. Though after looking at the prices of hostels during the weekends, I think I’ll stick it out thru til Sunday.

There have been some fun, interesting things I’ve done on board thus far. Yesterday, I hacked a hole thru metal to install an easier electricity plug for the boat.

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New experiences with lots of sparks flying! 2 thumbs up from me!

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Well, I did make it thru on the Valpo until Sunday, and then I moved into a super-budget hostel, so reliable internet has still not been found. Thankfully most of the coffee shops rock out some solid wireless, so I’ve been able to get on there (and even watched the first Game of Thrones episode)!

Life on the boat did get better after the hectic first 24 hours. First we found electricity, then clean water, then the next day we worked out some deal with a car repair shop down the street to let us shower there. Not the greatest situation but infinitely better than no shower at all.

I REALLY enjoyed the working part of the past few days. One day we set sail and crewed the ship as we went, another day I hacked a hole in the metal siding of the ship, another day I was rewiring electronics and hanging upside down in the engine room screwing in a ventilator fan. Almost everything was brand new to me or I haven’t done it in 5 years, but it was a fun learn-as-you-go process.

It was definitely a simpler, slower lifestyle. Especially when compared to a normal hectic traveling schedule. It modeled what I would ideally like a WWOOF experience to be like - working hard, learning new skills, getting outside of the urban craziness a little, and getting to know some good people.

The lack of basic creature comforts was the flip side of that. Call me prissy, but I feel like an accessible shower is a necessity. Not when you’re backpacking thru the woods, but when you’re navigating a crowded city, it is no fun to be the only person who hasn’t showered in a couple days. Running water and a working toilet was another “basic comfort” that we didn’t have on the boat. We had a sink that ran water, you just had to fill it up using a big 20 L jug they had. For a toilet we used an outhouse in the work site where we were docked, but to “flush”, you had to fill a bucket with canal water and pour it in - not the best. Once 2 more CSers showed up, it also got very crowded on the small boat. 4 of us essentially slept in the same, very small, room. That was the last straw for me and I headed off to nicer, but more expensive, pastures.

Once off the ship I did get back into the typical travelers routine, altered a bit because it was Amsterdam. I took the free walking tour, which I continue to recommend for pretty much every city. During that they explained to us how land tax in Amsterdam was (or still is?) determined by the width of the building, not the height or depth. As classic, penny-pinchers, this has resulted in very thin buildings, which come with tiny and steep stairs all over the city. Some of these stair cases weren’t far from just being ladders you climbed up.

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This is the narrowest home in the city - no more than 1.5 meters wide!

My favorite fact learned during the tour is what I think makes Amsterdam and those living here so unique and tolerant. It is known as the 3 Criteria for Lawful Exemption. Actually I just made that up, but it sounds good. Anyways, it basically means that if an activity is against the law, but it meets the 3 criteria, the laws against it won’t be enforced. The 3 criteria are as follows:
1) It must be (relatively) harmless to those around you.
2) It must be discrete.
3) It must be good for business.
If all 3 of those are true, they will either ignore the laws forbidding it, or change the laws to allow it. The most famous examples of this are obviously the legality of weed and prostitution. Another example was from the 1600s (??) when the ruling party outlawed Christianity. All of the Christian churches were closed. Many of the rich merchants were Christian, and one of them decided to turn his large attic into a church that housed about 200 people. Neighbors obviously knew what was going on when tons of the merchants showed up to this house every Sunday, but since it met the 3 criteria, they let it slide. I really think that a lot of us could learn a great deal from this philosophy.

Besides the tour, I spent most of my time out of the Red Light District, an area I don’t particularly like, instead wandering around the rest of the beautiful city. I hit some of the tourist things that I missed last time thru, like the Anne Frank House and the Rijksmuseum.

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The back of the Rijksmuseum. I amsterdam is right between the Rijks and the Van Gogh museum

I also made sure to return to a few of the places that Nick and I had loved the last time thru:

The Amsterdam Library! As mentioned before - I'm a big fan :)
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The last one is a good picture from the restaurant/wine bar on the top floor of the library, along with my delicious snack. It was overcast on that day, but that is the best view of Amsterdam from on high (and free!)

Vondelpark - My favorite city park anywhere in the world. IT HAS THE BEST TREES TO CLIMB!
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This last one is me up in a tree. I think I scared some little girls who were also climbing in the tree, only like 20 feet below me. The park is just extremely chill and packed with groups of friends playing football, tossing a frisbee, or perhaps just hanging out with a picnic, bottle of wine, and maybe a joint.

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Cafe de Wetering! Oh man, our CS host brought us here last time thru after we told her how we much preferred locals bars to the touristy ones. As promised, we were the only non-locals in the place, and we received the greatest welcome from Viktor, one of the bartenders, even before we got inside (Viktor - “First round is on me!”). We talked and joked around with so many of the locals in there of all ages, learned what a “headbutt” is (shot of gin and a beer), and had such a spectacular time that we returned 2 more times that trip. When I walked in, I did a double take, because there was Viktor, still there 4 years later. It took him a little while but he freaked out and bought me a headbutt once he remembered Nick and I. 2010 was a long time ago so I was impressed! Another great night at Cafe de Wetering!

Other good pictures from around Amsterdam:

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The Royal Palace at Dam Square
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The NEW Church at Dam Square. The New Church is about 500 years old while the Old Church is around 600.
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Dam Square at night. Love this picture
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Amsterdam isn't known for their beautiful canals nearly as much as they should be
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The entrance to one of Amsterdam's daily markets. I think a bouncy castle would be a great addition to the Madison Farmers Market
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The scene when I walked into a corner bar at 4 pm. This was a stag party of English guys. I befriended them and ended up getting 2 free beers and 2 free shots to help them finish the drinks they ordered. Only downside was they decided that they'd throw the shots into the beers to make it more interesting.
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The Heineken Brewery. Because everyone knows about that brewery, they think they can get away with charge 18 f***ing euros for "The Heineken Experience". I THINK NOT!
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Instead I checked out this microbrewery a quick 15 minute bike ride from city center! Everyone just knows it as the brewery by the windmill
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Sooooo many bikes in Amsterdam!
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Cool graffiti
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Just some great shots of the canals

I will hopefully having another couple posts soon to catch myself up! I'm currently leaving Koln, Germany in a couple hours, taking an overnight bus to Munich!

Posted by danza 10:54 Archived in Netherlands Tagged amsterdam valparaiso vondelpark cafe_de_wetering coffeeshop_little Comments (4)

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