Island Hopping in the Aegean!

Our time in Athens had been plagued with longing to escape. We were only in Athens for our Contiki cruise and if the cruise was no good it would have made our stay in Athens fruitless. Luckily the Contiki tour so far is amazing.

Our first night we all went out to this local restaurant to bond. The price of the restaurant made us cringe a bit at €35 each, which roughly translates to $50 dollars canadian each. The restaurant was in a cozy corner up a long flight of stairs that Gavin and I had missed. The area was so pretty with steep steps lined with chairs tables and lights. We walked into the restaurant and sat down.

Our restaurant featured live music and live greek dancing. Our table was filled with so many different greek appetizers from fried zucchini to pita to greek olives. We were served chicken and pork souvlaki. After our amazing night we went back to the hotel.

A couple of the people from our Contiki tour stayed up and hung out in the lounge while everyone else wanted to get an early night for our super early morning.

The next day we got onto our cruise. The cruise was nicer than what I expected and not as extravagant as what Gavin was expecting. The cruise departed and we were on our way to Mykonos. When we arrived to Mykonos unfortunately it was raining and grey. We walked around the island and had some local crepes.

Today we had a 6am wake up call to go on a walking tour of the Ephesus ruins in Turkey. The ruins were astounding and way more intricate than the ruins of the acropolis. We were impressed by how large the city was. We visited the terrace houses, which were the ones of the wealthy in the town. The Terrace houses were recently discovered.

We then went to a Turkish rug store where they showed us how they made Turkish rugs and how I almost got trapped into buying a five thousand dollar diamond ring that was forced onto my finger by the sales person, and would not come off of my finger for a few minutes….

We bought some authentic Turkish delights which are fantastic!

Tonight we look forward to a toga party with our Contiki tour and Rhodes tomorrow.

Athens < Great

Two days ago we ate a wonderful buffet provided to us by our hotel. The free buffet almost made up for the fact that our hotel charges for wifi…almost. After hitting up the local Starbucks we headed back to Syntagma Square where we hoped to wander by the Acropolis and see the Parthenon. We decided to travel off the beaten path and ended up in a terrifying and sketchy area. The sketchy thing about the area wasn’t the people it was the buildings, everything was decrepit suddenly the sidewalks were motorcycle lanes and everything smelt bad. Buildings were abandoned and covered in graffiti with stray cats and dogs everywhere. We hurried towards Monastiraki Square, (where we were yesterday) and decided to take the train to the Parthenon instead. In the midst of this decision we got approached by a beggar woman with flowers. She gave me a rose and told me I looked like Angelina Jolie (of all famous people in existence she is someone I do not look like) and told gavin he looked like George Clooney (when oddly Gavin looks more like Brad Pitt). The woman told me my rose was free then gave Gavin a rose to give to me. She then said that Gavin’s rose was not free to which we tried to give the roses back to her and she’s says, “I have a baby to feed, I have a baby to feed” we tried to give the roses back and she refuses to take them insisting that Gavin give her money to pay her. Gavin relented and gave her two euros. To which she says one more. So Gavin pulls out a handful of change and he tries to hand her one euro she then digs through the change in his hand and takes at least four more Euros…. Gavin and I were dumbstruck. We got swindled for at least 5 euros from a beggar…. This moment pretty much changed our outlook for the day. We almost ran back to our hotel with embarrassment over what had happened but changed our minds at went to the Acropolis anyway.

The Acropolis is famous ruins on the top of a hill. Unsure of how to even get to the ruins and also not particularily interested in the trek to the top of the hill We went to the Acropolis Museum instead. The Acropolis museum is the nicest place in Athens. There is no graffiti everything is modern, it appeared as if the government poured all of the money they had into this one building. The museum was a detailed look at what the Parthenon used to look like as well as how it was changed into a church and mosque over its 2,500 year history. While we enjoyed the museum we did not enjoy being kicked out at 4:45 because they planned to close at 5:00.

After the museum we tried to see how we would even get to Parthenon and saw a gate to the entrance. What is particular to this gate was that there was well over two dozen feral cats hanging around, I have never seen so many feral cats before in my entire life.

We went to dinner at a local restaurant then headed straight back to our hotel.

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The Parthenon

Yesterday we went back to the Acropolis to see the Parthenon. We were cocky and decided we didn’t need our jackets because the weather had been so nice. As we traveled we noticed everyone wearing down coats and giving us strange looks for wearing t shirts in 16 degree weather. Unfortunately for us as we climbed the Acropolis we got rained on. After the bit of rain we saw the Parthenon and got to see other sites on the hill too. Gavin tried some Greek coffee. It came in a small espresso cup and packed a punch, though was unfiltered so half the cup was just coffee grounds.

We are not pleased to be here another few days before our Contiki tour. This city really has nothing to offer other than the ruins and food and decently warm weather. Unless you are VERY interested in the ruins we suggest you don’t waste your time or money on coming to Athens (especially money it’s more expensive here than in Germany!). I can’t wait to leave Athens And see the Greek Islands. Santorini is supposed to be beautiful, and the others should be interesting. But Athens….not my cup of tea.

After three days in Athens our visit can best be described by the tourist information lady we spoke with: “You only need to spend two days in Athens, one for the Acropolis, one for the park. If you are here longer It’s good to take a bus and see else where.”

Munich and Athens (so far)

Our backpacking trip started only three days ago and so far it’s been pretty exciting. Our first stop was Munich. We took a train to Munich from my cousins home with relative ease. Our train traveled at 200 km per hour. Just when we thought we had the train system figured, the conductor told us we apparently took a slow train and that we should have taken a faster train! We didn’t mind the slow train, we enjoyed the scenic route between Ansbach and Munich. When we arrived in Munich we ate at this lovely little Italian place on the corner of our hostel. I had the most amazing ravioli! We tried checking into the Wombats Hostel (which was next door to the Jäger Hostel that I stayed in years ago and nowhere near the Cocoon Hotel we stayed in last time we visited Munich). Wombats said they were undergoing renovations so we could not immediately go to our rooms so we hung around the hostel and watched Argo until check in time. Check in involved getting a key card that let us get into our rooms and lockers, a free beer pass, and grabbing fresh clean sheets for our beds. We went up and made our beds like good little hostel dwellers then went downstairs and waited at the bar for anyone to talk to us. A few Canadians were at the bar but we found our home with a group who had met earlier in the day (some even met at different cities previously). Understanding that we all would only know each other for the one night we all identified with each other through the names of where we were from. There was Texas, Argentina, Estonia, and three Australians: Sydndey, Melbourne and Adelaide. All of us enjoyed Happy Hour at the hostel before wandering the streets of Munich to the Hofbrauhaus. The beer hall was less busy this time and we all had a great time absorbing the German tourist trap. Afterwards we headed back to the hotel and I went straight to sleep.

IMG_1401The next day Gavin and I decided we would go on the four hour OZ free Tour of Munich, and boy did we make Fantastic choice. Our tour guide Ozzy was the most charismatic and interesting person. Our tour was not just looking at sites with his commentary it was learning about local culture And customs while relating the history of Munich to everything around us. Ozzy was hilarious, insightful, and informative. After the tour he took us all out for a beer at a local beer hall. We laughed at jokes and got to know other people on our tour. After the beer hall we went to another beer hall where we met some of Ozzys friends. Before long a tour that had started at 11am turned into a hang out that lasted until 7pm. After hanging out with Ozzy we went to the hostel grabbed our things and journeyed to the airport where we would grab a shuttle to our airport hotel.

The next morning we woke up at 4am to catch a shuttle to the airport for our Air China flight to Athens, Greece. We expected the flight to be terrible, after all we got the tickets for $123cdn and all the reviews online were unfavourable. Shockingly enough the flight was great! It was two hours, they served us a delicious hot meal, I could watch a tv show, it was good. WAY Better than any American flight I have ever taken and better than some Canadian airlines *cough* Air Canada *cough* .

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We landed in Greece and were immediately given tourist cards that gave us a 50to 20 percent discount in Athens, which despite the economic crisis is expensive. It was strange going from the country with the top GDP in Europe to the one with the lowest. As we were driving into Athens from the airport we noticed every large billboard was in disrepair and that there was graffiti tags and litter everywhere. We arrived at our hotel (which had a nice lobby) and found ourselves a little disappointed after leaving Munich on such a high. We looked out of our hotel window and saw tons of smog, the mountain view was not even enough to bring our spirits up.

After a quick nap we wandered hoping to find a cheap food stand because we could see Athens getting expensive fast. Taking public transit was easy enough, given that the Greek alphabet is shapes and letters that we could neither say or read without confusion. We ended up at the public shopping centre where our spirits started to glow a bit. We saw so many mini markets and exciting food vendors and stores that sold local goods. The shop keepers we spoke to were all so kind taking the time to speak English to us and explain things to us. We ended up at a restaurant where the owner showed us photos of each dish and made suggestions. I ordered Calimari which came back crispy and flavourful whilst lightly battered and free of oil. Gavin got Lamb souvlaki which was juicy and flavourful. We even got a free desert, Semolina. After we went to a fruit stand and bought the juiciest strawberries we ever tasted, juicy tangerines, kiwis and bananas all for 5 euros. We walked around Athens with well treated taste buds and finished our evening with coconut candy. We went back to our hotel wondering what we would do next….

My backpacking trip begins tomorrow!

Tomorrow, March 11 we truly begin our backpacking trip!!!

At this point in time we are planning on hitting up, Athens Greece to do a cruise around the Greek Islands! Then we jet off to Barcelona, Spain where we will visit the Port Aventura theme park, Valencia and Madrid. Followed by a jaunt in the south of France where we will  check out some beaches, up north to Bordeaux for some wine then eat macarons from Laduree at the Eiffel Tower in Paris! From there we may to go to Brussels for Belgium chocolates then to the Netherlands, followed by Berlin and Prague. We will stop by at my cousins in Germany for a bit and then head to London where we will see the cliffs of Dover. This promises to be an amazing 2 months!

Germany 2012-2013 Photos!

Visiting Germany for Christmas was so fun and I was so excited to share the experience and my family with Gavin.  I can’t wait until our backpacking trip and all of the exciting places we get to visit. For now here is a selection of photos and memories from my trip!

Munich Part Two: What We Did!

After checking out of our cool hotel we ventured off to Marienplatz to do some shopping! Unfortunately we kept missing the Marienplatz Glockenspiel , a famous clock in the Munich City Hall that is very elaborate. My cousin and I did a little shopping and bought some jewelry, then we headed off to the world famous centre of Oktoberfest, The Hofbräuhaus. The Hofbräuhaus is a gigantic beer hall which seats hundreds of people and serves them classic Bavarian meals while musicians in liederhosen played traditional Bavarian music (Gavin’s favourite Pork Hocks and Sausage and Sour Kraut for me), as well as one litre glasses of beer.  I ordered a wheat beer with lemonade and Gavin ordered the darkest beer they had. After about two hours Gavin had three litres of beer.

The First Litre

The First Litre

The Second Lite

The Second Litre

The Third Litre

The Third Litre

My cousin had just turned 18 so we wanted to take her clubbing for the first time so we took her clubbing in the world famous Kult Fabrik District which is a huge complex of  30 to 40 nightclubs.  In Germany night clubs open at about 11pm and the night life doesn’t start until 2am. We got to the club at about 1am and after a night of loud music and bright lights we went  back to our hotel at 4:30am.

The next day we went to the English Garden, one of the largest parks in Germany. While we were there  we visited the Chinesischer Turm (Chinese Tower), a 25 meter high wooden tower. Later we went to see the Olympic Stadium and tower from the 1972 Olympics. Afterwards we went to the BMW museum (which is across the street from the Olympic Stadium). The BMW museum was an incredibly huge building.  We sat on sample motor cycles and Mini Coopers, and even got to see Rolls Royce phantoms.

Our trip to Munich was fun and exciting. It was nice to see a different side to one of my favourite cities. I missed out on Ice cream fondue… but I am going back in a month so we shall see….

Munich Part One: Our Hotel

On our last weekend in Germany we decided to do an overnight trip in Munich. The trip was so fun and exciting I decided to write about it in two posts. This post is dedicated to our Hotel: Cocoon Hotel.  Our Hotel was actually pretty cool; cool enough to garner it’s own blog post!

Hotel Cocoon is a post-modern glorified hostel! The rooms were tiny and the decor was kitschy. Despite this, all of the things that made the hotel special really did make the hotel the most memorable hotel I have ever visited.

This was the lobby:

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And this is a gallery of us enjoying the lobby:

 

When we entered our hotel room, which was the size of a dorm room, we were excited to see this cool nook:

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And shocked to see this shower….inside the bedroom….next to the bed…sharing a sliding door with the toilette:

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All in all, our hotel was pretty cool and we were excited to stay there while we were in Munich; stay tuned for what we did in Munich!!

New Years Eve

New Years toast!

New Years toast! (Melissa, Honey, Cata, Gavin)

Originally we had planned to go somewhere fun for New Years Eve, but due to insane hotel prices we decided we would stay in. The last New Years Eve I spent in Germany I had meat fondue  and I figured it would be fun to do again. My cousin called some of her friends and suddenly we had ourselves a New Years Eve party on our hands.

We made three dipping sauces for the meat fondue, one with cucumber and dill, a curry sauce, and a Dijon honey mustard sauce (fun fact: European Dijon is MUCH spicier than Canadian Dijon). Melissa baked some Black Forest cupcakes and she made some tomato and mozzarella cheese as an appetizer. Melissa’s two friends, Catarina (Catta) and Johanna (Honey) arrived and brought the fondue pots, home made chocolate, and two kinds of salad!

The night took a classy note, with our bartender, Gavin, making Strawberry Daiquiris, Melissa’s favourite drink, Caipirinha (which is like a Mojito) and Sex on the Beach.

After some fondue we went outside to light fireworks and sparklers for midnight. In Germany for New Years Eve anyone can buy fireworks when they are 18 and there is no limit and they are cheap. At midnight we heard a nonstop thundering of fireworks from the neighbouring villages for more than an hour.  Gavin bought some tall shooting fireworks, I chose “Lord of the Lights” and Melissa picked a battery pack. Melissa had the best fireworks, the battery was easy to light and pretty to watch, unlike me and Gavin’s fireworks.

Following our firework display we went back inside to have some of Melissa’s Champagne left over from her birthday and open the New Years Eve crackers that were pretty disappointing  The crackers had bizarre orange plastic pieces inside and no hats…The Champagne was a bit tarte but I did not mind it. We then played a German version of “Sorry!” called “Ludo” but it was a drinking game with little shot glasses instead of game pieces.

New Years Eve was a bit quieter than originally anticipated but at the end of the night I couldn’t imagine myself anywhere else having a better time.

Schneeballen

For Christmas my aunt and uncle bought Gavin and I a strange device. At first we did not know what it was until they told us it was a Schneeballen mold called a Schneeballeneisen, (you may recall me gushing about getting schneeballen in Rothenburg in previous posts). My Aunt scheduled a day where her friends would come over and show us how to make the amazing pastry.

Schneeballen is the signature pastry of Rothenburg and is often served at Franconian weddings. Traditionally it is covered with powdered  sugar but you can get it with different toppings.

The main ingredients are flour, eggs, sugar, butter, cream and any kind of  clear schnaps! The dough is then rolled out and cut with a dough cutter into even strips. The strips are then arranged alternately over and under the handle of a wooden spoon. The dough is then dropped into the Schneeballeneisen. Afterwards you drop the Schneeballeneisen into the oil and rotate it to get the circular shape until the ball is deep-fried to a golden brown. After the schneeballen is cooled, dust it with powdered sugar and voila!

Here is a link to the recipe we used.

Here is some photos of our Schneeballen adventures: