A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: CStopero

Gothenburg, Sweden

Marianne and I headed from Copenhagen to Gothenburg, Sweden to meet up with her cousin. Michael and Ulrika picked us up and the train station after a bit of horrible travel. The supposed direct train to Gothenburg had to stop because the tracks were ripped up in a spot. The plan was to bus everyone to a train station past the problem and then continue on. There were not enough buses for the people on the train and of course we did not get a seat. Regardless, after a long bus ride and some more trains we made it there a few hours late.

Michael and Ulrika were great hosts and we had a blast together. They took us into the city of Gothenburg one night which was a lot of fun and then to a old fortress the following day. Carlsten Fortress was built in 1658 on the west coast of Sweden and was a valuable asset due to it being on an ice-free port. The fortress remained an active military installation into the 1990's. The fortress was located on an island called Marstrand. A short ferry ride took you over from the mainland. The small island was a self contained little town with a few summer resort homes, the fortress, and a beautiful ocean front park. Although it was not the high season you could imagine how busy the place would be in the summer.

One of the highlights of the trip was the awesome food that Michael and Ulrika prepared for us at their home. After more then a month of traveling and eating elusively at restaurants, it was amazing to have a home cooked meal. They served traditional Swedish meals and they were perfect.

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Posted by CStopero 04:57 Archived in Sweden Tagged fortress michael gothenburg carlsten ulrika Comments (0)

Copenhagen, Denmark

I arrived in Copenhagen and took the train from the airport to the city center to find my hotel. I got in late and my friend, Marianne was coming in the next day early so after a quick dinner I headed for an early night. The next day I headed to the airport to pickup my new travel partner and we headed back to the hotel. We spent the day walking around Copenhagen and enjoyed the city. Copenhagen is more spread out the many of the other cities I have been to. It doesn't have that true "old city" center, however there are beautiful buildings scattered around the city. The first night we decided to go to Tivoli, which is a small theme park in the center of the city. It was open for their halloween festival so the entire park was decorated for the occasion and featured shows and actors playing halloween parts. After a nice dinner there, we made our way to the haunted house in the park. It was well put together but very predictable as we laughed our way through most of it.

The second day in Copenhagen we again walked around and hit some of the touristy sights around the city. The little mermaid statue, Amalienborg (Queen's Palace), and Nyhavn.

Probably the most notable thing about Copenhagen was the bicycles. Now almost every European city I went to had a lot of bikes and the proper bike lanes and the such, Copenhagen was on another level. There were more people on bikes then walking or driving combined. They had a lane of traffic equal to what cars could drive on and even had their own traffic lights to follow. When you got near a popular area the bikes were parked outside by the thousands, and in typical European spirit, all of them not locked up.

We went to a few pubs along the way and had a great time at each of them. The atmosphere was always fun but laid back and everyone was there to have a good time.

Since Marianne was only in for a week or so, we kept the trip moving along quite fast and headed off to Gothenburg, Sweden to visit with her cousin.

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Posted by CStopero 04:39 Archived in Denmark Tagged copenhagen tivoli Comments (0)

Tallinn, Estonia

From Riga, Latvia I headed out on my first bus trip in Europe, bound for Tallinn, Estonia. The four hour ride was pleasant and on-time. I arrived in Tallinn pretty late the first day, and decided to check in and get to bed early.

My first day in Tallinn, I spent much of the day exploring the city and walking around the old town. As with Riga, Tallinn is a relatively small city, but again the old town is very beautiful. One thing I noted about Tallinn, is that the city is very technologically advanced. WiFi is available everywhere and they use technology to its advantage whenever possible. Tallinn is also gaining in popularity for internet start up's and has a large amount of office space dedicated to helping new ventures. Skype was started in Estonia and its success has fueled the passion.

I spent two full days walking around the old town of Tallinn, as for a small city, the old portion is quite large. There are a great number of bars and restaurants in the old town area all of which had great food and a great atmosphere. One of the most distinctive buildings in Tallinn is the famous Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. The architecture is amazing.

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Another favorite area was the old fortress walls and defensive installations around the old city. Besides being a thriving town, the old city of Tallinn was a major military asset.

The weather got very cold while I was in Tallinn with the daytime temperature around 40 and it dropping down to the upper 20's at night. Although it made walking around at night a little unpleasant, it was not terrible.

The weekend brought a new crowd to Tallinn. The old city is a very popular tourist destination for people from surrounding countries to come to for bachelor parties, for Tallinn's relatively inexpensive nightlife and many adult entertainment spots. Another point to note was that people in Tallinn tend not to get just drunk on the weekends, but completely trashed. Walking home late at night or going to one of the touristy bars late on the weekend was an interesting affair. Never was anyone threatening or did I feel unsafe, but one just has to be prepared for a bit of chaos around them. People falling down walking or taking a quick nap on the sidewalk was not all that uncommon.

Aside from the late weekend nights, the nightlife in Tallinn was a lot of fun. I had to make sure I checked out the famous, Nimeta Bar, or otherwise known as the "Bar with no Name". It is a very popular bar amongst both locals and tourists mainly due to the cheap drink specials. Another favorite I had was the Laboratory Bar which served drinks in test tubes and beakers. The drinks were very interesting and all were made into a work of art.

My plans had shifted a bit at this point as I was now headed to Copenhagen, Denmark to visit a friend that had decided to visit. So off to the airport again.

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Posted by CStopero 03:54 Archived in Estonia Tagged bar tallinn nimeta Comments (0)

Riga, Latvia

I departed my hotel in Vienna, and headed for the airport. I had booked a ticket on one of the many budget airlines in Europe, where a plane ticket costs less then the train or bus. Vienna airport was much like we would all expect and airport to be, however the constant lack of customs or borders in Europe is still very interesting to me. The flight was quick and uneventful aboard a small plane. Arriving in Riga, Latvia however was very interesting. Once the plane landed at the airport, it simply taxied for a few minutes off the runway and stopped. The door to the plane opened and everyone got off the plane not far from the runway. Luggage was simply removed from the plane and placed on the ground alongside it. Once you found your luggage in the pile you walked along the taxiway, passed other planes, and into a small terminal building. There was no customs, border check, or any other security. Simply in the back door of the building, walk a few steps, and out the front door. That was all there was to the airport, but it was quick and easy, so who am I to complain.

Riga is a small city but very beautiful. The old town had all of the European charm that I had come to expect. Two of the main attractions in Riga, which both I enjoyed very much are the Freedom Monument and the Occupation Museum. Much of history has had Latvia being controlled by one large superpower of another. Having been occupied by other baltic states, Germany during the World Wars, and Russia all the way up to 1991, Latvia has a diverse history. Since its independence in 1991, Latvia has began a strong push to establish itself and its identity. Latvia joined the EU and even started recently using the Euro currency. Both the Occupation Museum and the Freedom Monument show the long and difficult struggle that Riga had in history.

The nightlife was very fun in Riga as well. I spent a night at a old Irish pub, which was one of the first bars to open after Riga became free again. People were very friendly and there were a lot of travelers. I made a point to head over to the famous hostel in Riga for a few drinks, and had a great time meeting people from all over the world.

On a side note, I would have posted pictures if I did not accidentally delete all of them off of my camera from Riga. So from courtesy of google I have at least included a picture of the Freedom Monument and Occupation Museum I spoke of earlier.

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Posted by CStopero 03:35 Archived in Latvia Tagged riga occupation Comments (0)

Vienna, Austria

Traveling from Brno, Czech Republic to Vienna was a easy train ride. Vienna is an absolutely beautiful city located in western Austria. It has very much a German feel to the city yet with its own unique identity. Compared to Czech, Vienna brought back the orderly and enjoyable city life. The mass transit and biking around the city made getting around a breeze. The center of Vienna is home to some amazing architecture and buildings. I had to opportunity to visit Schoenbrunn Palace, St. Stephens Cathedral, and the Opera House which were all a sight to behold. The nightlife in Vienna was also very vibrant and everyone I met there was extremely friendly. Vienna is a city where you just want to spend the days walking around and exploring the city. It seems that no matter where you walk or what road you turn down you will quickly run into another amazing building or statue to look at. One of the best parts of Vienna is that although the Austro-Hungarian Empire was destroyed as a result of World War I, neither that war or World War II, had done any real damage to the city itself. Unlike other cities in the region, Vienna's oldest and most historic building remain completely intact in their original form.

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Posted by CStopero 03:08 Archived in Austria Tagged vienna palace schoenbrunn Comments (0)

Plzen & Brno Czech Republic

Plzen, Czech Republic is best known as the home to the amazing Pilsner Urquell brewery. My trip to Plzen coincided with the annual Pilsner Fest which celebrates the long history of brewing beer in this region. The festival was quite small when compared to Octoberfest, but being that it took place on the actual brewery property made it very fun and interesting. Besides the brewery tour which was spectacular, the two day festival had great food, bands, and of course great beer. I was able to try the unfiltered, direct from wooden cask beer that you are unable to get outside of Plzen. The beer is still delivered to bars every morning on horse drawn carts. The beer which is unfiltered and non pasteurized does not last long before going bad but since it is delivered every morning, it is always fresh. It has a much different consistency then regular beer and an almost milky appearance but the taste is truly amazing. And of course in the spirit of Czech, the beer is insanely inexpensive.

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From Plzen, I travelled to Brno, Czech Republic via train. Brno is a small city which is best described as a large college town. The University there is the largest in the region and the town is home to mostly university students and a handful of tech workers employed by IBM and Motorola both have large headquarters there. I was only in Brno for a short two night stay and was able to explore the old city and experience some nice bars and restaurants.

Posted by CStopero 02:57 Archived in Czech Republic Tagged czech republic brno pilsner urquell plzen Comments (0)

Prague, Czech

After waking up in Munich, and having to deal with my first debilitating hangover of the trip, I made it to the train station and settled in for the 6 hour trip to Prague. Arriving at the hotel around 8pm I decided to call it a night and wake up early the next day to start exploring. With 6 days in Prague ahead of me, I felt that this was the first time I did not have to rush around to see everything. I decided to take it slow and move at a relaxed pace.

Prague is the European city that I have always imagined and loved. While most cities have the historical old town city center surrounded by a more modern city, in Prague the entire city is gorgeous. Every street you go down radiating from the old town square is lined with amazing buildings. Even buildings that have been renovated or even rebuilt have kept the old world charm. Prague’s interesting and diverse history has led to its beauty. I spent three entire days just walking the streets and taking in the sights. Just a short few block walk from my hotel, was the old city center Wenceslas Square, the site of the famed Velvet Revolution that brought Prague from out of communist rule.

Also notable was Charles Bridge, a pedestrian bridge from the 1400’s that is lined with amazing statues and offers stunning views of the city and river as your stroll across it. Prague castle sits atop a large hill overlooking the city. The castle is one of the largest in all of Europe. The walk across the Charles Bridge followed by the steep climb to the summit of the hill and into Prague castle is forever memorable.

Against what I had read, the food in Prague was amazing. There was a bar on almost every corner in the city and even in the most touristy of areas, the food was excellent and the prices were very inexpensive. Once you got out of the Wenceslas Square area, into more of the the local spots, a beer could be had for under a dollar. And although I have mentioned it to almost everyone I spoke with, it really is the best beer you will ever have. Everything served in Prague is brewed locally from of three of four major brewers in the Czech Republic. They take the beer here very seriously and are very proud of the product they produce. Outside of a few very touristy spots in central Prague good luck trying to get an import of any kind.

Aside from the sight seeing, I got a chance to experience a bit of the nightlife and even managed to get to a casino in old town (where the fact that they played single deck black jack and very liberal rules allowed me to walk away with some decent winnings). I also got to spend one day taking a train out to the countryside of Prague and visiting a small brewery. The surrounding countryside in absolutely gorgeous with rolling farmland and small rural towns.

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Posted by CStopero 06:22 Archived in Czech Republic Tagged prague Comments (0)

Munich, Germany

Munich is a seemingly much larger city then the previous I have been to. It may just have been the ability to move around so easily but there was a lot to explore. I spent my first day there trying to stay clear of Octoberfest and going to explore the city. I jumped on the U-Bahn and headed for the city center and spent the day just walking around and taking in the sights. The areas of the city I went to seemed to mix a bit of history in with a lot of modernness. Although the buildings were old and had character, it seemed to be a city that was in constant transition. As in my usual tradition, I found a great Irish pub and had a great meal and some drinks.

The next two days were spent at Octoberfest. Day one I spent a great deal of time walking around the grounds and taking in the sights. There is so much going on at Octoberfest, it is difficult to see it all. Outside of the tents, there are great beer gardens, rides, and street side attractions. I particularly enjoyed the horses that were dressed in traditional bavarian garb and had the job off pulling around kegs of beer and delivering them to all of the tents. I was told that there are over 6.4 million liters of beer consumed at Octoberfest, so one can only assume the horses stayed pretty busy. I never made it into the tents the first day as by the time they arrived they were totally closed. I learned that if you did not have reservations than the only way into the tents was to arrive by 10am and fight for a spot. I made it back to the hotel alive after a full day at the festival and was fortunate enough to meet some great people at the hotel. My new friends from America and Amsterdam also happened to have tent reservations for the following day and invited me along.

My final full day in Munich was devoted to Octoberfest. I left early with my new drinking buddies and headed to the festival grounds. It was still very cool to walk on to the train and see everyone in their traditional Bavarian outfits. The tent is well lets say an experience to be had. Thousands of people crammed into a tent at picnic style tables, ten people per. There is about five inches between you and the tables around you. Getting up and making it to the bathroom takes a mixture of serious skill and luck. There are rules one must follow at a table in the tent but you catch on pretty quickly. All rules are intended to make sure that you drink as much as as often as possible. I quickly learned that you should never take a sip of beer until one of the many times you must as not to drink to much to quick. The times one must drink essentially are 1. Anytime you get a new beer for yourself, 2. Anytime anyone at your table gets a new beer, 3. Anytime the drinking song is played by the band (roughly every 15 minutes) everyone says Prost! and takes a swig. Needless to say, the “opportunity” to drink comes along quite often.

After about 6 hours in the tent we emerged intact and headed for a walk around the grounds to get some food, which was amazing. All of the traditional Bavarian fare goes amazingly well with beer. By this time, the beer had started to sink in a bit too much for many people but fortunately, Octoberfest is located alongside a large grassy hill where people can go to take a nap and sleep of a bit of the beer. It is amazing how efficient the workers are of picking up a grown passed out man loading them onto a horse drawn cart, quickly checking they are alive, and dropping the person off on the hill for a bit of rest and relaxation.

Unfortunately, I do not have many pictures from Octoberfest, since neither my camera nor my phone fit very well into my pockets on my Lederhosen. But if you are overly interested go ahead and google Octoberfest, all the pictures you see are pretty accurate.

I managed to stay coherent enough to meet up with my friend Darrell’s sister, Jessica, who is currently living in Munich later that night. She was a gracious host and we had a great night out a local cafe where I learned a lot about the city. My time in Munich was short, mostly due to the crazy expensive hotel rooms during Octoberfest, but I hope to make it back for a night or two more before heading home. I kinda feel if I missed a lot of other things Munich has to offer.

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Posted by CStopero 06:16 Archived in Germany Tagged munich octoberfest Comments (0)

Arriving in Munich, Germany

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I arrived in Munich via the central train station at around 5pm. Getting off the train was a sight to remember. I realized things would be crazy in Munich around Octoberfest but I guess the concept of 10 million people didn't sink it perfectly. Stepping off the train I was in a sea of people wearing Lederhosen and Dirndl walking around with liters of beer. After moving through the crowd I was able to make it to the subway system and make may way a few stops to my hotel. I decided to stay away from Octoberfest for the night and head out into the main city. Munich is a really nice city with a vibrant nightlife and a great transportation system. Of the places I have been so far it most reminds me of New York. The streets are bustling with people and there are plenty of high-rise buildings surrounding you most of the time. I can't wait to see more of the old city square and of course Octoberfest over the next few days.

A note of public transportation....Germany and for that matter Switzerland and I am sure most other countries in Europe got it right. America needs to send over some people and take a look at what they are doing. One ticket is good for trains, buses, subways (U-Bahn), and trams. The stations are located all over the city and the signage, although in German, is easy to understand and follow. Within minutes you can be anywhere in the city and its suburbs while riding on very clean and efficient transportation. For never have stepped foot in this city before, I easily was able to use the subway to get to my hotel, into and around the city, and back with no problems.

More to follow and the end of this leg of the journey.

Posted by CStopero 00:52 Archived in Germany Tagged munich octoberfest Comments (0)

Stuttgart, Germany


View European Adventure on CStopero's travel map.

I arrived in Stuttgart in the afternoon and headed to the Steigenberger Hotel located directly across the street from the main train station. It was still raining so I decided to grab lunch at the hotel and then head out for a few drinks. I had made plans to go to the Mercedes Museum on Wednesday so I had some time to explore the city on Tuesday.

On the train ride I have been reading some info on each upcoming city to get some ideas of what to do. I was a little worried about Stuttgart from reading a lot of the guides. They all made sure to note that Stuttgart did not have the gorgeous city centers of other major European cities, and it lacked the charm and character of those cities as well. Stuttgart suffered a similar past to many German cities and much of their historical buildings were leveled by Allied bombs in WWII.

Tuesday morning I woke up and headed out to explore. As I left the hotel, the modern buildings and construction quickly gave way to the typical shopping and dining street that exists in all cities. Past that, was the city center or Schlossplatz where the New (built in 1740's) and Old Castles (built in 950) are. Both were extensively damaged during WWII and have been renovated since then to bring them back to their original condition. The new castle is currently used as government offices and can not be toured but the old castle is now a museum and I got that chance to walk through.

Behind the new Palace is the Mittlerer Schloßgarten which is like central park. City building and museums surround the outside of the park. At the center is a cafe and the Biergarten im Schloßgarten. The biergarten was great. Pretty much a self service outdoor eating area with some really good German beers. There were a couple of small tents to remind you of Octoberfest. I was told quite a few times by the locals that although most don't know it Stuttgart hosts the second largest beer festival in the world just after Octoberfest with an estimated 7 million visitors.

I spent quite a few hours at the biergarten as the weather had turned perfect and after two days of rain it was nice to just be outside.

Wednesday, I woke up early and headed to the train station to hop the U-Bahn subway to the stop for the Mercedes Museum. The museum was very interesting with a two hour tour of the history of Mercedes and got a chance to sit in some of their real high end race cars. After the tour it was time to get back to the hotel, check out, and head back to the train station to catch the train to Munich.

Octoberfest here I come.

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Posted by CStopero 23:56 Archived in Germany Tagged stuttgart Comments (0)

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