Results tagged “Churches” from Europe 2016

Woke up in the middle of the night for an hour last night. Dunno why. Other than the static electricity I was comfortable enough, just not sleeping.

Breakfast was pretty decent. After breakfast went for a walk down to the river to photograph the Lumberjack Candle bridge.

After breakfast we had a tour of the town of Rovaniemi with a local guide. She took us to the Lutheran church in town and we got a very detailed explanation of the fresco there.

Then we headed up north of town to Santa's "office" and the whole tourist kitsch. It's advertised as being on the Arctic Circle, which I thought was pretty cool at the time.

Except.

It's not.

Not only is it a couple of kilometres south of the Arctic circle, it's not even on a horizontal line to match up with any meridian. If you look at it on your favourite mapping application it's on quite a sharp diagonal.

But I didn't discover than until later.

In the meantime, they gave us some time to explore Santa's village there. We wandered into Santa's "office" where you can have your photo taken with the "real" Santa. Mum wanted to do it so we did. Me, I took one look at the prices and declared it *completely* ridiculous. It was 30 Euro for a large print. 35 Euro for five small prints. Or 40 Euro for a digital copy of the photo.

What. The. F@#k. ?????

How can they get away with charging 40 Euro for a digital file that they don't even have to expend any media on?? It's criminal. Needless to say I was not amused. I said I'd given them 10 Euro for the file. The girl wasn't amused. I'm sure she gets it all the time. I certainly wouldn't be doing that job.

Not only that, but you could tell the queue lasted for hours at certain times of year. They had a whole huge setup for the queuing. What made it so bad was that you went in and sat with "Santa" but instead of just taking a photo he makes all this small talk, which later turns out you can buy as a video.

?!?!

If they wanted more money:
1) charge less for the photos
2) cut out the crap and just churn people through instead of making them wait forever

Anyways.

I'm not cynical at all.

Honest ;)

After that we had a wander through all the little souvenir shops which was fun.

Got back to the hotel and given a small lunch break so I had Subway. Because it was across the road. So sue me.

Then we headed out again for the first of our optional tours for the day.

The first stop was the Arktikum, a museum of Arctic life. We had over an hour with the guide which was good, but then only got twenty minutes of self exploration of the museum. Ridiculous.

The second stop was a "pioneer farm" which was an old family farm house which had been preserved and turned into a museum. That was a great experience too, but again, ended with only a super short time to explore all the stuff there. Frustrating.

Once back in town again there was a couple of hours to kill before dinner, so mum and I went down to the river to see the bridge, then ended up doing the whole bridge to bridge walk. Whoops.

Then we had the next optional tour, which was out to a reindeer farm. We got to see one week old baby reindeer which were so adorable, and got to feed some young male reindeer. Then we headed up to dinner which was reindeer with mashed potato and berries. Quite tasty and quite a lovely evening.

Then back to the hotel to do computer stuff.

As it turns out, we did actually cross the Arctic circle tonight when we went to the reindeer farm.  I saw a sign on the road, and later confirmed it on the map.  So I have actually been to the arctic :)

Slept reasonably well on the ferry. It was super calm so could barely feel the ship moving at all. Except we didn't close the blinds so could see a red glow on the horizon at 2am, and it was super sunny at 4am. Which is when we woke up. Whoops.

Breakfast was more chaos but otherwise pretty good.

Arrived at Helsinki at 10am and disembarked quite easily.

We had a local guide did a bit of a tour of Helsinki, driving around and seeing quite a bit.

We had a short photo stop at the Olympic stadium from 1952.

Then down to the Sebalius monument. Which was quite pretty in the morning sun.

Except. Could not get a clear photo of it. An Indian tour group turned up at the same time and they can't just take photos of things, every single one of them needs to have multiple photos of themselves taken. Which means I couldn't get a photo without annoying people in it. I was fuming by the time we had to leave.

Next stop was the Rock Church, which is a pretty cool church they built into a granite hill and put a roof over the top.

Continued driving around for a little while longer before being dumped in square next to the Lutheran cathedral and told to entertain ourselves for an hour and a half. hrmm. So mum and I went into the Lutheran cathedral, wandered through the waterside markets, and went into the orthodox church before meeting back at the square.

Got taken to the hotel next where we dumped out stuff and I checked out how the local public transport system worked. Decided to go back to the Sebalius monument by bus. Found the little kiosk that sells tickets and got ourselves a two hour ticket for EUR 4.30. Got the bus with no problems.

We had the monument almost to ourselves for a little while and it's quite photogenic. Then another couple of tour groups turned up so we got out of there.

Walked over to the trams and caught one back into town.

Walked around the foreshore a bit, taking photos of the old sailing ships, and then we watched the ferry leave back to Stockholm.

Took another tram up to Central to see the station, then another tram to near our hotel. So three trams and a bus - pretty good value for our two hour ticket!

At the hotel we dumped more stuff then headed out for dinner. Found a Japanese restaurant and had some very nice teriyaki salmon. Then back to the hotel where mum went and used the internet and I reorganised the suitcase and general got myself feeling more in control.

Woke up 5am. But I was stressing about getting washing done and having breakfast before getting into town by 9:15am. So I wasn't getting back to sleep.

So we got up and headed down to the laundromat. Except they must have forgotten to turn the alarm off because this siren kept going off. I was super tired and hungry and the loud noise made my brain explode. We don't think we managed to get any detergent into the machine. Sigh.

Took the dried washing back to the hotel, had breakfast, but I was still super tired and grumpy. Finished getting ready and checked out, leaving the bags and the car at the hotel.

Then walked into town. We got to the Festspielhaus at 9:30, which does indeed tour the Felsenreitschule.

Except.

They don't allow photos. At least at the moment because they're setup for some festival which starts tomorrow. Well I wasn't going to pay 7 Euro to not be able to take photos, especially when it would have taken up an hour of perfectly good sunlight. Maybe next time.

And that's another thing. The damned weather forecasts are completely useless. They predicted rain for today, but it didn't come until much later in the day, and even then not much while we were still there.

So we walked up behind the festspielhaus and over the ridge to the other side. Walked along Nonnberger Hauptstrasse to find where they all had the carriage ride. Then all the way up to Nonnberg abbey. Went into the church this time which I didn't do last time.

Then back down into the old town to all the platzes where various bits of the movie were filmed, and the Mozartsteg.

Finally walked up to Kaputziner Closter to check out the view back to the old town.

Came back down and went to a place where I'd noticed earlier they sold Salzburger Nockerl, which mum had never heard of. So that was lunch (along with some cream of asparagus soup).

Went back to the hotel to pick up our bags, then headed back to Munich.

But with all the roadworks and just general traffic, the trip took about four hours :(:(:(

By the time we'd checked into the hotel, gotten petrol for the car, returned the car, saw about checking into our flight tomorrow and finding something to eat it was after 9pm :(:( So much for an early night :(:(:( Fortunately I didn't manage to bingle the car, so that was a huge relief. Driving on the wrong side of the road is super stressful! Who knew!

The checkin process was super painful. Terminal 2 at Munich airport only has checkin counters for Lufthansa. And its partner airlines in the fine print. So that was a little confusing. So we went to try checking in with the machines, but it both of our names up incorrectly, then refused to let us checkin. None of the human-operated counters showed general checkins, it was all just "bag drop" stuff. We asked the local Lufthansa help and she just said we just had to get in line with the bag drop queue. Really not a very user-friendly process.

By the time we got everything sorted and caught a bus back to the hotel, it was 9:20pm :(

So for once we got a hotel with a reverse cycle air conditioner that actually works!! Hot food options for breakfast pretty limited though.

We were going to go into the old town this morning but the weather forecast was for better weather today than tomorrow, so we decided to go out to the lakes district and the other local Salzburg area sights today instead.

But of course everything was stil cloudy (low clouds covering mountains) and when it wasn't cloudy it was super hazy. So pretty much everything sucked.

We went to St Gilgan first to do a quick photo stop from the lookout.

I wanted to go to the spot in the movie where the little train goes up the hill, and I knew where it was and there's even a road to it, but of course the road is closed at the bottom of the hill isn't it. So that was a fail. (We could have tried to go up on the railway itself, but it would have taken up half the day and we didn't have that much time. Maybe next time. Sigh.)

Next over to Mondsee. Drove along the south side of the lake on the east end where the kids are hanging out of the trees (not really sure which bit exactly though - trees change and clouds covered the mountains). Then along the north side at the east end where they're all on bicycles singing do-re-mi. Again, everything was in cloud.

Continued onto Mondsee town. Went into the Basilica where the wedding scene was filmed (I'd been in there before last time we were here, but got some different photos that I didn't get last time). Then up the hill to the Maria Hilf church - one of the stills in the opening credits.

Next over to Sankt Lorenz. They claim a particular church was used for the opening credits, but the church that's there is different (different steeple). Of course it's possible the steeple has changed - certainly one in Salzburg town has changed. The position looked right so who knows. I was trying to find some other spots there whey they drive along in the car with Max and the Baroness but it was too cloudy and hazy and mum was getting bored so gave up on that idea :(

Finally over to Eugendorf to find another church used in the opening credits. But instead of being on a little grassy hill, it's now blocked by a little forest of trees.

And then back into Salzburg for locations closer to town.

First was the Maria Plain church. It gets about a second of screen time right at the end of the wedding.

Then to places mum was more interested in.

Firstly Leopoldskron for the view to Untersberg. You need to be a hotel guest to get into the gardens though :( Maybe one day we'll be able to stay there.

Then over to Frohnburg. That was pretty cool. And we had a nice view of Untersberg from there as well.

Then to Hellbrunn to see the gazebo. Mum was pretty happy about that.

Tried to go to see Anif Palace but you can't get anywhere near it because it's a private road. So that was a fail.

Brief stop at Elsbethan for a church still from the credits.

And finally to the actual villa the Von Trapps lived in. Again, you can't really go in and see it because it's a hotel now.

So we got back to the hotel around 5pm. The pedometer claimed we'd done 11700 steps so far today ?! I was happy at that point to call it a day, but because the weather forecast for tomorrow was for rain mum wanted to go into the old town while it wasn't raining (just super hazy).

So walked down to find the local laundromat first (at least a fifteen minute walk away :( )

Then down into the old town. Walked along the river for a bit. Then into Mirabell palace. Tried to find the lift up Monchsberg but had trouble finding it. Ended up finding the horse bath first. Eventually found it. Last time we had Salzburg cards so could just go up. This time we had to pay the 2.30. Walked along the terrace and across the top of the hill, which we didn't do last time. Then down next to the theatres. Got photos of the entrance area to the theatres used in the movie, but to see inside you need to go on a tour. Their website says the only tour for the Felsenreitschule is at 9:30am. An advertising board we saw said 2pm. So who knows which is right.

By now it was like 8pm and we hadn't really eaten since breakfast. We thought we'd see if we could find some pork knuckle but of course that's easier said than done when you're tired and hungry. In the end I hacked into a random hotel's wifi and found a place that sold it on the way back to the hotel. But to be honest, it wasn't as good as Zierholz. The meat was ok but there wasn't any crackling (well there was, but it was rubber not crackling). Sad times.

Finally back to the hotel around 9pm. Ridiculous. So fricken tired.

Slept ok with open window.  Had breakfast (turns out they do actually have bread rolls) and got ready and checked out. Went with the group to the airport (got a new coach and a new driver but he was running a bit late). Got dropped off and terminal 1, and walked under to terminal 2 to pick up the keys for our car. Fortunately we were able to get a car with a GPS! Went to the garages to pick up the car (of course it was down the far back corner wasn't it?). But couldn't figure out how to change the language of the GPS to english, or how to even take the parking brake off, so had to walk wayyyy back to try and find someone, which took even more time out of the day. Turns out the parking break is a little switch in the middle. How bizarre! We also couldn't get the GPS to talk to us, but of course by that time we were out on the autobahns so I couldn't stop and fiddle.

Stopped for a pitstop at a rest house, and bought an Austrian toll sticker (8.80 for ten days). Also got the GPS talking to us.

Our first real stop was the closter at Hoglworth. It was also our first trip off the major roads onto teeny tiny roads which was, er, interesting. Of course I couldn't document any of it :(

Drove onto the hotel, negotiating Salzburg streets which was pretty stressful. At least there's free parking. And free internet! But it was quite late by the time we go there, on account of roadworks all up and down the autobahns. I'd been hoping to get here a lot earlier, and the weather was closing in (proving again to me that it's *always* cloudy and rainy in salzburg). The forecast was for rain the rest of our stay, so I thought we should get up the mountains first. But the mountains were mostly clouded over which was pretty sad making.

Anyway, so headed out again. Headed up Mehlweg first, but overshot where I'd been aiming for, so didn't find *the* hill I wanted to see. But I suppose we were close. Except it was so cloudy and rainy you really couldn't see anything :(

Then along the Rossfeld Panoramastrasse. This road is 8EUR and the top of it goes along the Austria-Germany border. But it was all clouded over so couldn't see anything. But luckily the clouds parted a little bit here and there and could at least see the view. Got to pretty close to the ridge the family walks along at the end of the movie, but couldn't find the exact spot (I think it's all covered by trees now anyway).

Then back down and south. Found two of the churchs used in the opening shots of the movie (and the intermission) in Kuchl and Golling.

Then continued south to Werfen. It was getting too late to attempt the Sound of Music walk from the town up to the meadow, so we drove up. I think the actual meadow is on private property, so we just stood at the top of it. It was pretty cloudy and getting dark, so didn't get the best shots, but at least go the idea.

Finally drove back to Salzburg. Went across to the station and just got some sandwiches for dinner which we ate back at the hotel.

Today was meant to be a rest day. I think I did more walking today than any other day so far. *checks pedometer*. Yep, most by far. So I have beer. By myself for now but hopefully others will be down soon.

We also got great value out of a Munich daily transport ticket.

But backing up a little. Slept reasonably well. With the window wide open it was possible to sleep under the doona which was nice.

Breakfast was ok, although the choices were very limited - no salad stuff or bread rolls.

Spent a bit of time after breakfast sorting myself out, although it would have been better if I'd had internet #grunt

Heading out, the hotel is near the end of the #16 tram line. So we hopped on that (we just missed one while we were getting our daily tickets), thinking we'd be able to catch it allllll the way through the city to the other side at Romanplatz.

Except.

This IDIOT WOMAN DRIVER blithley turned left in front of our tram. Tram skidded to a halt but we still smashed into her car. Noone on the tram was hurt (the driver called out straight away), and she was lucky enough to be hit in the rear left door not the rear front door otherwise she'd likely have been hurt. But of course that meant we had to get off the tram with no idea what to do next. Turns out everyone else was walking down to a nearby bus stop. We followed, and jumped on the bus (#154). Only then did we find out where it was going. Turns out just one stop down was the end of the Arabella Park U-bahn line (U4), so got onto that to head into the city. I think it actually beat the tram in terms of time as the trams are pretty slow.

From HBF it was the #17 tram to Schloss Nymphenburg.

We hadn't really thought about going into the palace, but since we were there and it was only 6 EUR to get into just the palace bit, and you could take photos, we decided to go in. It was pretty spectacular. Wandered the grounds for a bit as well before heading out. On the way out we passed eight other people from our tour that were on their way in!

Took the #17 tram back to the HBF, then an S-train to Marienplatz.

Coming out of Marienplatz we looked up and went up the first tower we could see that had people up it. Turns out it was the tower of the Rathaus, and you actually go up by lift not stairs! Pretty good view from the top, although the view from St Peter's would probably have been a little better.

By this point I was tired and hungry and low blood sugar, and you don't want to talk to me when I'm at that point. We went into the Ratskeller because we saw we could just get an appetiser (rosti and sauerkraut) rather than a huge meal (I really did want the pork knuckle but it was 1:30pm and mum didn't want to eat that much food so I sadly forewent the deliciousness). At least the Ratskeller had free wifi.

Next we went for a walk so I could find a post office to send a bunch of paperwork home so I wouldn't have to cart it around for the next part of our trip. On the way found a cute store selling Bavarian traditional dress. They weren't expensive either. Considered buying some (I'd totally fill out a beer wench outfit ;) ).

Walked up past the cathedral and went in briefly. Then down to the Hofbrauhaus to have a look and recreate one of dad's funeral photos from when he was there in 2009.

By this time it was 4:45pm and I was already past the point of wanting to stop and just sit down and have a beer. But we took a tram #19 from Maximillian Strasse to Max II Denkmal, then a tram #18 up to the museum to watch the surfers.

Then another tram #18 back down to Lehel U-bahn station, a train to HBF and another train up to Konigsplatz so mum could see the Tor (it looked pretty cool in the afternoon light).

Got the train back to HBF and I was wondering where I could get a beer in a beer garden. But I didn't know of any places. Got out at Odeonsplatz and took some photos but I was feeling tired and grumpy so just got back on the train and went to Max Weber Platz. I saw a Hofbrauhaus on the map and thought to go for that but mum suggested a tiny little place just before we'd gotten there. So we stopped there but rude German guy pushed in in front of me to get a drink and the atmosphere just wasn't right so had a quick beer then left. And walked right past the Hofbrauhaus that I'd been wanting to go to - doh!!

By this time it was 18:00 so took a tram #16 back to the hotel.

Back at the hotel I downloaded photos and tried to log what we did today, before going in for the final group dinner. The waitress we got tonight was super grumpy about *everything* which just added to the woes of this hotel.

Managed to cool the room down a little bit last night by having the balcony door open. But I didn't like the idea of leaving it open overnight, and the aircon was hopeless, so ended up waking up hot :(

Went into Augsburg first up. Met up with a local guide and went on a walking tour of the city. Had an interesting walk through the Fuggerei settlement, then looked at various buildings, and finished up at St Anna church, where Luther stayed for a while in the cloisters.

Then we got given some free time, so went up the tower in one of the churches, then had a look at the shiny "Goldsaad" - gold room in the Rathaus. Had a bite to eat from maccas (because it was at our meeting place and I knew I could get a small serving of food).

Then we headed to Dachau. Very sad place. Especially the cremetoria. Our guide, Ute, was born in 1938 and had stories to tell about her childhood which was pretty cool.

And finally onto Munich. Our hotel is in the middle of an industrial area, so there's nothing of any interest around. We walked into our room and the first thing I said was "this room stinks". Even though it says it's a non-smoking room on the door, there's an ash tray and matches in the room. We opened the window up wide and the door as well to get some air through which has helped. Others weren't so lucky - they got actual smoking rooms. We were all not very happy at all. And to rub salt into the wounds, they charge ten euros a day for the wifi!!!! Which I flat out refuse to pay given our awful experiences so far. It's worse that we're here for two nights right when I need it for organising the next part of our trip (although for the most part that's mostly organised so not the end of the world). But seriously, what hotel in Germany in 2016 doesn't have free wifi? I think this calls for an uncomplimentary review on TripAdvisor. I went down to reception to start asking questions (like, how can I get into the city? where's the nearest station?). Then moved onto where's the nearest laundromat, which of course he couldn't answer, so I said can we look one up, because I have no resources, to which he said, oh there's a business centre computer I could use. I was hoping for some wifi, but whatevs. Decided it was entirely too difficult to get to a laundromat from here (being in the middle of nowhere and all) so gave up on that idea.

Had dinner in the restaurant downstairs. Ok but very salty. Then back up here to find the desk doesn't have any spare power points. You have to disconnect either the lamp or the tv to get power. So after being spoilt by generally good hotels with all the sorts of services you'd expect, this hotel really ended this particular tour very badly.

Took ages to get to sleep last night. I was just too hot. Probably a big meal just before bed didn't help.

Fairly standard breakfast, then on the road at 8:25. Except one of the guys left his backpack in the lobby of the hotel so we had to go back for it, and didn't get going again til 8:55.

Drove back along Bodensee, and down to the lake to take a ferry across to Konstanz. That was pretty cool, and relatively quick too.

Konstanz is a pretty little town. A lot like Zurich, except with a bigger old town area, and we had a guide for a while in the beginning. So got more out of the day than yesterday. With the guide we saw the main market place, went out to the lake to see the spinning lady, past a building that used to be on the water's edge, through the fish market, saw the "high house", the old rathaus, and heaps and heaps of 700 year old buildings. Went into the cathedral and finished up in the butcher's markets.

On our own, we went out to the Lutheran church, then back to the cathedral to go up the tower, grabbed some food in the markets, went and stood on the border between Germany and Switzerland, wandered up past the station and finished up looking at the spinning lady in better light. Quite a lot of walking.

So then back on the coach at dentist time and headed for Augsburg. But we ended up going allll the way around the western end of Bodensee - back past the hotel we stayed at last night. Not sure why we didn't go back on the ferry. Or why we didn't stay the night a lot closer to Konstanz last night.

Anyways.

Drove most of the afternoon.

Stopped just next to Legoland for a pitstop in the afternoon. I was pretty excited. :)

Mostly finished The Hindenburg book. And we saw several airships today floating around the lake.  Still felt quite strange to be reading that book around that area.

Got to the hotel after 7pm. Quite a nice building - it's in a tower - looks like an apartment complex. We'd settled in but after going to the loo before dinner the toilet started running quite heavily after the cistern had filled. Flushed it again but it did the same thing. Went down for dinner and let them know at reception. But since their maintenance people are off for the weekend they said they would just put us in another room. After dinner the toilet was still running although not as much. Flushed it again but this time it stayed off. So seemingly an intermittent problem. But not the sort of thing you want to be dealing with after bed time, so we decided to move rooms just in case. Have the balcony door open to let some cool air into the room. Maybe I'll be able to get it cool enough to use the doona for a change tonight??

Dinner was in the hotel. A very nice soup, some lovely tender steak, and a dessert which was a cross between ice cream and cheesecake.

Bit of a strange day today.

Didn't seem to get as hot last night. Slept til 6am. Didn't eat as much breakfast this morning either. On the road at 8:30.

Had a pitstop near Berne, back into German speaking territory.

Then onto Zurich. We got taken to the Grossmunster and the Zwingli monument but then we got set loose on the town with no idea what we could do or where we could go or what we could see. So other than going up the tower in the Grossmunster I had no idea what we should do next. So we wandered down to the lake, then back up to the square in the old town and inside the Fraumunster (no photos though). But I was missing the sweetie and I was hungry. Except I only wanted something small but that just didn't seem to be an option. Everything was cafes and I really didn't a big meal. Even found a small food stall but the smallest savoury thing there was a sausage in bread roll - way too much food. So we wandered aimlessly. I thought later that if I'd seen a McDonalds that would have been perfect - at least at maccas you can get a small serving of food. I'm sick of eating too much.

And then we left Zurich and then we left Switzerland. And I never got any fondue. Because the only chance we got for fondue was at lunch, and have I mentioned already that I'm sick of eating too much food? Basically I would have had to have given up one of the group dinners. Which in hindsight I probably should have done yesterday. If I could have convinced mum and Glenda to join me. hrmm. Suppose that means we'll have to come back one day. If I can convince the sweetie to go to Europe with me again one day.

So then into Zeppelin territory. The last time we drove that road was 22 May 2008. Except we had a very grey day and couldn't see across Bodensee into Switzerland. Today we could. We actually stopped at the Birnau church that we only took a photo of last time. It's crazy over-the-top inside.

Before I left home I grabbed a couple of books to read while on the coach. I grabbed The Tower, which I've already finished, and The Hindenburg Disaster, which I'm nearly half way through (in two days). It was a little surreal reading that book on the drive today!

Hotel is nice enough, although sadly our room has no view (facing northwest). It does have a nice desk setup though, including USB charging socket in the wall.

Dinner was in the hotel restaurant. Rockmelon and proscuitto for entree, turkey roll for mains (very salty) and a semolina dumpling with berries for dessert. Have the airconditioning going on full cold. Hopefully mum will go for a walk and get back hot so that she won't mind a cool room.. if it actually gets cool!!

The hotel in Strasbourg was too damned hot. There was no airconditioning, only a heater (that was on when we arrived). Left the window open all night which helped a little. But also in the bathroom there was a hot water pipe heater that kept the bathroom super hot (we kept the door closed to contain the heat - which of course my washing all dried overnight which was a bonus!). Woke up at 6:15, which was a sleepin!

Breakfast in the hotel was also complete chaos an there wasn't enough seats for everyone. We eventually found a table for six, but noone else from our group joined us.

We had a different coach driver today - our previous one (Dorrell sp??) had to have a mandatory break day, and then was going to pick up another tour. The new one had the radio on which was a bit annoying (talk shows and advertising in foreign languages made for just noise. Someone eventually asked them to turn it off which was good.

Had a pitstop north of Basel, then crossed the border into Switzerland. Had to wait about ten minutes at the border crossing.

In Basel we picked up another local guide and went for a bit of a walking tour. Didn't really see that much, just walked past the Fish market, the Rathaus and up into Barfüsserplatz and then it was lunch time and we had an hour off. But we had no idea what there even was to see. So we asked where the tourist information was, and also toilets. But the guide just said go to a cafe to go to the toilet (not much use if you weren't going to any cafes) and pointed at the wrong place for the tourist information. Not a terribly useful guide. Anyway, I saw a big i so we headed for that, and got ourselves a map. Walked past the Münster and down to one of the bridges to look along the Rhine, then headed back. Found a free toilet next to the tram ticket office.

Then the tour carried on. But all it did was take us to the Münster (which we went inside) and the cloisters next door. And then it was raining. Quite heavily. So we tramped down the hill to where we could take a tram up the hill to our hotel, and that was the end of the tour. And at that stage it would have been the end of the day and it was only around 3pm. So it would have been a complete dud of a day.

Except.

The sun came out.

So we headed out again to take advantage of the sunlight.

Took a tram all the way down to the other side of the Rhine over Mittlere Rheinbrücke, then walked all the way back, stopping at many of the things that were in bad lighting earlier, and seeing a couple of extra things too. Added another five thousand steps to the day.

The hotel is fairly nice, with a double-sinked bathroom and toilet with separate door. Although we have a courtyard-facing room so the view is nothing special.

Dinner in the hotel restaurant was quite nice. But even though I hadn't eaten anything more substantial than an apple since breakfast, I still couldn't finish it.

So my day began at ~3:30am when the guttering dude rang. Grunt. Only got a little bit more sleep after than (maybe half an hour).

Breakfast range was even smaller today, but still perfectly adequate.

After breakfast, shutting down the computer, it decided for the second day in a row to install windows updates. Grunt. So had to cart the laptop around because I didn't have time to put it in my suitcase before we left.

Had a morning pitstop near Baden Baden, then onto Strasbourg.

Firstly we had a driving tour of the city, then a walking tour. Quite a pretty little city. Went inside St Thomas Church, had some lunch and some free time, then into the cathedral and up to the bell tower lookout. Afterwards went for a walk back to where we started to get up on top of the bridge gate thingie to look at the towers in the sun.

Then to the hotel. But by the time we'd walked to the coach and driven around the city, we'd actually have been quicker to walk to the hotel. I'd previously looked up local laundromats and found one very close to the hotel, so popped down there before dinner to wash all my clothes.

Dinner at the hotel was ok, but not the best meal so far.

And this room is HOT. They had the heater on when we arrived !?!? so turned that off and opened the window (no aircon at all). But it's still hot.  And the bathroom has these heating pipes going through it that an't be turned off :(:(:( Sleeping tonight might be a challenge.

Slept til about 5:50 this morning - a sleepin!

The breakfast buffet didn't have as much choice as other hotels so far, but was otherwise ok. They even had champagne, go figure, although I tried it and it wasn't very nice. The internet was a bit flakey too - complicated login process, and pretty slow. At least it was included!

Our first activity for the day was Wartburg Castle just outside Eisenach. We had a tour of the main castle building so got to see all the main rooms. Then it was through the museum part and finally the Lutherstube - where Luther spent ten weeks translating the New Testament into German (and defining the German language in the process). Pretty cool stuff.

Stopped at a resthaus for lunch (I just had some stuff leftover from breakfast).

Then onto Worms. We had a walking tour of a few of the sights, which included the Trinity Reformation Church, St Peter's cathedral, the Jewish cemetary, the location of the Diet of Worms, and the big Luther monument.

After the tour finished, we went back to the location of the Diet of Worms (the building was destroyed by the French years ago) and had a little service and sang A Mighty Fortress is Our God.

Then everyone took the coach to the hotel, but Mum and I went for a walk up to see the Nibelung tower over the bridge over the Rhine (didn't find any Rhinegold though).

Walked back to the hotel. The room here is huge. It has a whole entrance foyer thing going on.

Dinner was in the hotel - we had a dining room just for the group which was nice. But Germans just don't understand the concept of tap water. At least two places we've been refuse to even serve it. This hotel did - but only if you asked the right way - we didn't - so ended up with a 2.30 bottle of water. Pissed off about that. If I'm going to spend money on a drink, I'd rather beer or wine. Spending money on water offends me.

Woke up at 5:30 again. Blerf.

Had a lighter breakfast today because we were scheduled to have lunch provided. Packed up and on the coach by 7:55.

I was pretty tired so dozed in the coach between Leipzig and Erfurt. It reminded me a lot of our trip to America in 2004 - just on the go the whole time and not enough sleep. Had a pitstop on the way as well.

In Erfurt we got to go and see the two big churches on the top of the hill.

The guesthouse Luther stayed in was pointed out.

We got to see the university building where Luther studied for his first degree.

Then to the Augustinian monastery where Luther went when he first decided to become a monk.

And then to the Merchant's Bridge, which is a big medieval bridge with buildings on top of it. Super cool!

Then it was lunch. Unfortunately they took *forever* and there was too much food. It mucked up schedule for the afternoon. We'd have been better off doing what we normally do - just fend for ourselves.

Walked across the merchant's bridge, then back through the town streets to the coach.

In Eisenach we started at the oldest JS Bach statue in the world (apparently), which is right next to the Bachhaus.

Walked down past the Lutherhaus, where Luther probably lived for a few years when he was in school.

Had a look inside the St George church.

Then back to the Lutherhaus to have a look inside at the museum.

Finally had a bit of a walk through the town and had a look at the town gates.

Then out to the hotel for a buffet dinner (hurrah, I could eat a lot less than if it had been another three course meal!) .

5:37 wakeup. Blerf.

At breakfast I stocked up on veggies to make up for yesterday's lack thereof.

After breakfast mum and I walked up to the university church to get some photos of it in the morning sun.

Our first stop for the day was Colditz Castle. We had a guided tour of the place so got to see things like the solitary confinement cell, the chapel, and the tunnel some French officers dug through solid rock.

Stopped for lunch at a roadside rest house.

After lunch continued on to Dresden. I was really really missing the sweetie at this point, on account of last being here with him on our honeymoon. We had a walking tour of the town with a local guide, and got to see a couple of things we didn't see last time (like inside the palace courtyard which is now a museum complex, and inside the Church of our Lady). But there was a heap of things we didn't get to see, like even a basic walkby of a lot of the buildings, and we didn't even get to go down to the river to have a look. It really highlighted the difference between doing things on a tour and doing things yourself. It made me wonder what else we've been missing out on by doing tours. In some ways I actually felt quite ripped off that we didn't get to see as much as we should. So that and missing the sweetie made me feel somewhat depressed.

Headed back to Leipzig, and were a bit late for a 6pm service at Thomaskirche. All in German of course, but the organ playing was nice.

Then on to dinner. We went to the Auerbachs Keller which was pretty cool. The food was pretty good. We had a small salad for entree, a very tasty chicken and mushroom dish with rosti, and ice cream and cherry sauce for dessert. The problem was it was all very slow, and by the time they brought out a birthday cake for two of the guys, we didn't leave the restaurant til after 9:30, getting back to the hotel at 10pm :(:(:( Far far far too late when I have so much to do in the evenings. In the end I just downloaded my photos and gps, but left the blogging til the morning.

Slept mostly ok last night (although woke up at 5am). The pillows compress down to wafer thinness so had to use both and keep floofing them up. The sink isn't as good for clothes washing either - quite a bit smaller. The breakfast buffet is quite decent.

Today we headed back north to go to Wittenberg. Martin Luther spent many years there and it was full all sorts of history.

We started at the eastern end of town and made our way west.

So first stop was the little area at the edge of town where Martin Luther burnt the papal bull concerning his excommunication in 1520.

Then into the Lutherhaus which is where Luther lived for much of his life and includes his remarkably well preserved living room and a bunch of paintings by Cranach the Elder.

A couple of houses down is Melanchton's house which has been remodelled on the inside over the years.

By this time we'd reached the main market square and it was lunch time so we had an hour's break. I waited a little while for the sun to come out on the Rathaus, then we went to find somewhere warm and a toilet. Even in the shopping centres you have to pay to go to the toilet here. Wrong. So wrong. Had some hot chocolate and shared a donut and warmed up.

After the lunch break we carried on.

First stop was the main city church.

Then had a look at the outside of the Cranach house.

And finally reached the Castle church where Luther is said to have posted his 95 theses to the door. Sadly the church is closed off for renovations at the moment for the 500th anniversary of the reformation next year, but we could at least see the doors that have the theses in bronze.

The whole town tour went from 10:30am to 3:00pm so it was quite a long day even though we only covered about 1.5km.

Back to Leipzig and we got dropped off at the western edge of town and left to fend for ourselves for a couple of hours. Tried to go up the tower at St Thomas' but it's only open Friday/Saturday. So did a meandering wander up to the Hauptbahnhof, then back through the old town.

Dinner was at a Czech restaurant. Nice enough, but bread-heavy and almost no vegetables in sight. There was a vegetable soup (with just a few slivers of veggies) and bread, a beef stew with bread (only beef, no veggies), and a sweat bread roll with custard and cream. Too. Much. Bread. And not enough veggies.

Then back to the hotel to do the evening routine.

Breakfast as usual this morning, then checked out.

Our first stop was in Potsdam. I'd been here with the sweetie eight years ago. Last time we hired bikes and got around *heaps* of the palaces and things to see. We also had a brilliant day for it. Today it was grey. :(

Our first stop was the Glienicker Brücke - "Bridge of Spies" - for a quick photo stop.

Then onto Sans Souci palace. The vines hadn't come out yet so it was all a little grey. But still quite pretty and there were bulbs already flowering in the gardens at the bottom.

Then they took us into town and dropped us off for some free time. We went into the Nikolai church because that was just there. Then mum and I went off for a walk. Got up to the Brandenburg Tor, then back up Brandenburger strasse to Nauener Tor, back through the dutch village, and back to the coach.

Most people slept on the coach ride south to Leipzig. I stayed awake and talked to the sweetie for a bit. Had a brief toilet stop (by now this is the third toilet I've had to pay for today :(:( ) and continued on, getting here at nearly 3:30pm.

In Leipzig we met a local guide for a walking tour of the old town. Highlights included the Thomas Church, the oldest coffee house in Germany, the market square and the Nikolai Church.

Then to the hotel. Not a bad room, although the view is a little boring - the roof of the atrium!

Went out for dinner tonight to a restaurant in the old town. Had some mushroom soup, some sausage and potato, and this weird (but nice) cake thing with apple sauce.

So yeah, slept pretty well last night.

Breakfast was down in the hotel restaurant. Ate plenty so we woudn't need lunch.

Then we had a local city guide and did a big tour of the city.

First stop was the Reichstag. Didn't go in, just had a look from the outside.

Then walked up to the Brandenburg Gate. The sun started peeking through the clouds by this point.

Then to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Spoilt somewhat kids and other young people screaming and making heaps of noise. Bruce did a little bit of an Anzac Day ceremony there which was nice.

Back on the coach and down to a piece of the Berlin Wall on Niederkirchnerstrasse - something we didn't see last time. Had only a very short time to look at the open air part of Topographie des Terrors (Topography of Terror). Really only got time to look at about a third of it :(

Then onto Checkpoint Charlie. Really just a photostop.

Then Bruce decided we should see inside the Berliner Dom instead of Marienkirche, so they got us there in time for the daily service, which is actually free, instead of something like seven euro to get into otherwise (although if you pay you can go up the dome apparently).

They gave us nearly an hour and a half after that to have lunch and explore, so we went down to the Marienkirche anyway.

Wandered up to Alexanderplatz to find the world clock, and look for snipers on the rooves. And it snowed. Really.

Back to the Dom, and a short walk to the Pergamon museum. Cool place, and we had quick entry on account of being a tour group. Although the entrance foyer is super chaotic. Sadly the altar from Pergamon is closed off at the moment due to renovations. But the market gate and Istar gate and procession way are amazing.

Back on the coach, and onto the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. Turns out you can just go into the new church, so went in there. The blue stained glass is just stunning. The building looks *much* better on the inside than the outside!

At this point (it was about 4:30pm), they were going to head back to the hotel and call it a day. But I didn't want to just waste a couple of hours sitting around the hotel (even if I *did* have a lot of computer work to do), so we went for a wander back down the KaDeWe (via LEGO!!). Lots of yummies to be had on the 6th floor. I did end up getting a couple of macarons, which were ok but not super epic awesome. Then we walked back to the hotel.

Dinner was downstairs, but didn't get back up here til nearly 8:30pm, and there's still gps and photo downloading and blogging to do.  Too tired for this crap. 

Saturday morning I mostly finished packing and organising, and headed for Sydney around 10am. I didn't manage to get any music to listen to put onto my phone, so didn't end up listening to anything.

When I got to mum's, we went down for the village trivia afternoon. We did quite well in the three question rounds (actually we won that part of the scoring), but did really badly in the filler round which let us down so we came second.

Then we got ourselves ready and went and caught the five o'clock train from Kirrawee and caught the train out to the airport.

Checked in (the Etihad signage was a bit bad and it was sending economy to the business class checkin.. fail!!), did the automatic machine thingie for immigration then through security. Had a wander through the duty free store and stocked up on some whiskeys. Then went and found something to eat for a light dinner (since dinner on the plane wasn't going to be for a while), and finally found some of the others travelling together with us.

We had an A380 for the first flight. I still think they're ugly and overrated. And this time I couldn't get a strong enough GPS signal. I finally got it by going to an exit door which gets a lot closer to the sky. But it struggled to maintain a lock. Very frustrating.  So missed out on any sort of GPS track for most of the trip.  The planes so have internet and mobile reception though, so was able to SMS the sweetie from over the Indian ocean and over India :)

I had some pasta for dinner, but didn't eat quite all of it. Watched Slumdog Millionaire which was pretty good. At midnight I attempted to doze. In fact attempted to doze for the next seven hours. I don't really know how successful I was. But the time did feel shorter than seven hours, so probably did get a bit of sleep. Then I watched The Heat (pretty silly), while having breakfast, followed by Star Wars The Force Awakens. But unlike Qantas, they don't allow you to play movies right up to the gate, so missed the end. At least, unlike Qantas, Etihad have pretty good quality screens to watch things on.

At Abu Dhabi we wandered through the security check for transfers, then wandered up to the pretty circular terminal to hang out for a couple of hours before the next flight. We looked around the shops, then had some Scottish Restaurant for our next meal (breakfast had been a few hours ago, and it was still a few more hours til our next one).

Our next flight was an Air Berlin A330.

I finished watching Star Wars. Brunch was a choice between chicken rolls and cheese rolls, so I had a cheese one.

Then I watched The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which I didn't think I'd seen, but part way through I realised I had. Oops.

I got spun out by all the snow on the mountains of Iran and Turkey (they fastidiously avoided Iraqi and Syrian airspace). Flew over Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and Poland, but they were all covered in clouds and couldn't see anything.

I tried watch Maze Runner, but it was too dark to see it (a lot of people had their windows open and it was very bright). So watched The Incredibles instead.

"Dinner", although lunch time Berlin time, was a chicken and veggies thing.

So got to Berlin and parked out on the tarmac and took a bus to the terminal which is always cool. Took ages to get through passport control though - too many people all at once (it was totally deserted after we got through). I suppose most flights there are "domestic" (EU) flights, so they probably don't deal with huge numbers of international flights - they all tend to go to Frankfurt etc I'm guessing.

Met up with the tour guide (Roberto) and our bags were taken to the coach. It was pretty cold, I think they said 6C, but I didn't find it unpleasant. Got driven straight to our hotel.

Hotel is nice enough. Although has the european "all or nothing" setup with the doonas, and we couldn't get the air conditioning to get cold. We dumped our stuff. I had a shower. After forty hours since my last shower, it felt great.  Also reorganised our bags from flying mode to ground mode.

Then we headed out for a wander. Mum wanted to find a Deutsche Bank cause she can withdraw with less fees. We ended up half way to the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, so wandered down there to have a look. Last time we couldn't go in and they were repairing the mosaics on the floors. Now you can go in and it's quite beautiful inside.  Because the hotel was so hot I didn't think to take a jumper.  It was pretty cold in the wind and everyone was all rugged up.  I think I was the only crazy person in a tshirt :)  But didn't get very cold.

Came back to the hotel and had some dinner - a delicious soup, some pork and some nice chocolate mousse with raspberry sauce.

Then to bed. Went to bed around 9pm I think and pretty much passed out. Woke up to pee (and all hot and sweaty cause the room was so hot), then back to sleep (with no doona at all) till quarter to seven. Epic win!