After a very long day on the bus we finally arrived in Amsterdam! We had a cheese and clog tour at a family owned factory. We got to taste the cheeses and watch a clog being made. Our first evening in Amsterdam consisted of going to a local sex show which is a main tourist attraction in The Netherlands.
Our next day started with a bike tour that lasted a few hours. We visited a few of the main parks including one called the Van Gogh park which is 4m below sea level and is constantly sinking, another interesting thing about this park is a lot of people lived there when there was a housing shortage and there was even a mail delivery to the park so people could still receive their mail whilst living there. It is also legal to have sex in the bush at the park (bit bizarre!). We also stopped at the Anne frank house and at a few canals to see the view.
After the bike tour we found lunch at a nice little cafe which claimed to have the best burger in Amsterdam. I have to admit the burger I had was pretty good! Shaun and I were discussing something about the fact I am dutch and the guy started talking to me in dutch…. I have dutch heritage but I can’t speak it!
Then we were off to the Heineken factory which was the first factory for Heineken so being Shaun’s favourite beer we had to visit it. We spent a few hours inside reading about the history, seeing the brewing stations and how it’s bottled, we even got to see the Heineken horses (to this day they still have horses) then we also got to taste the beer of course. Shaun bought quite a few souvenirs at the gift shop including a tshirt, beer coolers, a credit card style beer opener, a rack to stack his beer easier in the fridge and some Heineken drinking glasses.
4 ingredients of Heineken
As it was our last evening with the topdeck group we had a group dinner at a Chinese restaurant called Sea Palace which is the biggest floating restaurant in Europe.
Unfortunately it took us a bit longer to get to Prague then expected as there was a major traffic jam from Friday traffic and rain.
After a good nights sleep we planned a full day of exploring. We caught the metro to the Prague castle. The underground metro used to be communist bunkers so that was an experience in itself. The castle was situated at the top of a hill so that meant walking up plenty of stairs to get to it but the views of the city were beautiful.
We happened to be at the castle for the changing of the guard ceremony, I was astonished at how they can keep such an expressionless face.
It was absolutely freezing walking around the castle grounds so we were pretty happy to find a Starbucks next door, they even had blankets for sitting outside!
After the castle we walked over Charles bridge and through to old town square.
We stopped at the Prague ice bar on the way which is part of the 5 storey nightclub which they say is the largest nightclub in Europe. We went into the ice bar, entry included a free cocktail so we enjoyed a nice cold drink (in a ice cup) in -9 surroundings. Shaun also got an ice cold Heineken and on the way out we bought the most awesome little shot glass moulds so we can make our own ice shot glasses when we get home.
In the old town square we saw the astronomical clock, markets, Tyn church and St Nicholas church. We also had lunch at this nice little Italian type restaurant. It was outdoor seating with heaters under the tables and they provided blankets so we were snuggled up having lunch. We walked all the way to Wenceslas square which is one of the main city squares in Prague.
We found the funkiest bar on the way home which was a scrap metal place – it had a clock outside made from scrapmetal as well as different pieces on the outside.
We also found a shop dedicated to Absinth!!
Prague was absolutely freezing when we were there so would love to go back in Summer.
This trip was another 3 countries in one day. We had breakfast in Hungary, lunch in Slovakia and dinner in Poland.
Once we were in Poland we went for a night time walking tour just around some of the main sights then it was time for dinner. Shaun and I got Moaburger for dinner which is a NZ burger place it was a bit like burgerfuel and the burgers were seriously massive! You could even buy beer there so of course we had a burger and beer for dinner.
The next day was a free day so we started the day by going to Oskar schindlers factory which is where 1200 Jews were saved from being killed during the holocaust. The most interesting part of the factory were the stories of former employees, they had stories written on the walls as well as several videos. We walked around the ghetto, Jewish quarter and the market square. The ghetto was basically just old run down places so it matched the name really.
Pots made at Schindlers factory
Jewish cemetery in the Jewish quarter
The main river
Traditional polish treat – pastry with cheese inside
1 cent coin
For the rest of the afternoon we just walked around exploring the city and we even went for a horse and carriage ride on the most gorgeous horses! It has made me really want a horse an carriage set up at our wedding. The horses took us around the city and after that we went back to the wawel castle where there used to be a dragon who would eat people in the city. There was a great view from the castle quarter as it was on a hill and overlooked the city.
Our last adventure in Poland was auschwitz which was a former concentration camp during the time of the holocaust. Millions of people died at the camps, the Jews were sent from the ghetto to these camps by train. We were told that they were told they were going to go to a nice place and get new jobs etc so they were advised to bring along there nicest clothes and jewels etc. Once on the train there luggage would actually be left behind and the Germans would go through it all and sell it off, the Jews would be shoved into tiny train carriages (about 80 to a small carriage) and they wouldn’t be given food or water during the journey which would take up to a week so many died on the way.
Once at the camps the men, women and children would be split into different sections. They would be inspected and some would be sent to work when others would be sent to the gas chambers to be killed. They wouldn’t know that they were going to the gas chambers they would just be told that they were going to take a shower and to strip off etc they would even be given soap and towels but once in there they would be waiting for water and instead they would get cylon B thrown into the chamber so within a few minutes everyone in the chamber would be dead.
We went to two of the camps within Auschwitz one which housed majority of the women and it showed all the items of those that were killed. After women were killed in the gas chambers their hair would be shaved off and so there was one room which just had piles and piles of the hair and there was even a carpet looking piece that was made out of human hair. I think the most freaky rooms were those that had everyone’s shoes so it was just massive piles of everyone’s shoes and also those that had the children’s clothing/shoes.
After 3 hours in the concentration camps it was time to head to Prague.
Our stop in Slovakia was a quick one as we passed through on our way to Budapest so we only spent about half a day here. We were still able to fit in some activities though.
On the drive from Austria to Slovakia there were the most gorgeous fields of yellow flowers. There were fields after fields of them, stunning!
We explored the streets of Bratislava…
We also did a stop at a castle in Bratislava which was up on a hill and provided some nice views of the city.
On our way out of Hungary and onto Prague we stopped in Duna Valley in Slovakia for Lunch. The village was was surrounded by mountains and in the winter they are all covered in snow. The roads had bridges with timers on them and in winter the roads turn into ski slopes so there is ski races along them.
Our next destination was Budapest which is the capital of Hungary. We stopped in Slovakia on the way for lunch so it was another 3 country day. We had breakfast in Austria, lunch in Slovakia and dinner in Hungary.
Once we had arrived in Hungary we went straight into a driving tour where we were shown all the main sights and we got off at the buda hills to go see the view. The buda hill is the highest point in Budapest so we had amazing views of the city it was seriously beautiful.
We were also able to see the Hungarian parliament building which was definitely impressive in size.
We had been told to try a traditional schnitzel while in Hungary so we found a traditional restaurant to do this. We had been warned that portion sizes were quite large however we didn’t realise how large they really were.. I got a traditional Hungarian schnitzel which was literally the size of a pizza! Delicious by the way..
Tuesday was our full free day in Hungary so we started the day by going to the House of terror which was the building that was used for the headquarters of both the nazis and the Soviet Union. In 1944 the building was the headquarters for the Hungarian Nazis then between 1945-1956 the building was used as a headquarters and holding prison for the Soviet Union, there was also torture chambers as well as a cell where people would be hung to die. It was quite a weird feeling being in the cells that people were kept and the cell that people were killed in. There were a lot of videos around the museum that were of survivors telling their stories and there was a sheet of information in each room so we could understand what the purpose of each room was. There was one room called the hall of tears and it was a dark room filled with small lights and all around the outside walls were the names of the victims who had died, very chilling.
Then onto the local markets where I bought myself another scarf to add to my collection I got from Florence.
We found a Hungarian/Italian restaurant nearby the shopping quarter and believe it or not we found the pizza better than the pizza in Italy! At this point we were loving the food in Hungary.
When walking the streets we noticed alot of places advertising fish massages, we hadn’t experienced one of these before so we were curious and had to give it a go. Our feet were in a little pool with these Thai fish that literally nibble the dry skin off your feet. It was such a strange experience and extremely ticklish at first but it was one of those must do things for us. We also bought some Dead Sea salt from the same place as the guy made us try it on our hands and it made our hands extremely smooth and got rid of any dry skin (even Shaun’s hands were super smooth!).
We found some of the side streets had the look and feel of Ponsonby in Auckland so we felt quite at home in Hungary. There were alot of beautiful food places on the water as well.
Overall we loved the vibe in Hungary. It was a beautiful city, the currency was a bit strange with $200 coins and $10,000 notes etc but the city was great we would definitely come back if we could.
The first thing we did in Austria was go to the Schonbrunn palace which was the summer residence of the Habsburg family. It had amazing gardens and even backed onto a zoo.
We found out that all the shops in Austria were closed on a Sunday so that meant that our free day consisted of walking around the sights and doing a few food stops. We saw the famous opera house;
The hofburg palace (the winter residence of the Habsburg family).
The Spanish riding school
Plus many statues in between including one of Maria who was a very powerful woman and had 16 children in 20 years.
We had morning tea at a cafe by the opera house. Shaun had a famous Viennese ice chocolate and I had apple strudel. We always make an effort to try the local food when in a new place, we found that hot dogs seemed to be a tradition in Austria as well!
Austria is famous for their Snchapps so we decided to visit their famous Snchapps museum where we were able to try ALOT of Snchapps… it was here that we purchased a gold flake bottle of Scnhapps.
We travelled via bus from Switzerland to French Riveria and stopped at a beautiful French perfumery on the way.
The beaches in French Riviera were not what we imagined, instead of sand there were small rocks so I can’t imagine that sunbathing is very comfortable!
We walked up the big hill of French Riviera to a few viewing platforms that gave a Panoramic view of the city.
We found the local markets which were full of fresh produce, flowers, meats and paintings. The size of the produce was amazing and it looked so fresh. We also bought some paintings as they were absolutely gorgeous, oil paintings done on a thin canvas. There was also a guy doing hand paintings on glass, he was literally painting with his fingers and the pictures he were producing were out of this world.
Monaco is super close to the French Riviera so we had a night out in Monaco with the rest of the topdeck group.
We went and visited the castle of the prince of Monaco, the church that Grace Kelly was married in and we went along the Grand Prix race track.
We also went to the grand casino in Monte Carlo, there was so many flash cars there even more so then in Dubai! Unfortunately we didn’t win anything at the casino but it was a bit of fun anyway.