Bacharach, Germany: Day 6 and 7

I find that often the hardest places to get to, offer the most rewards.  Bacharach certainly proved this to be true.  After catching a train from Amsterdam to Köln we hopped on a smaller regional train to take us to Bacharach.  It took us about 6 hours to reach a place that looked so close on the map.

Bacharach is a beautiful old town nestled between the Rhine River and the hills.  It is located in the Middle Rhine area which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

View from Burg Stahleck.

I had booked us into a room at the youth hostel which was located in a castle called Burg Stahleck.  We paid 110 euro for two nights and this included a breakfast.

The castle hosts groups of children and youth and offers them an opportunity to explore the area and a medieval castle.   The excitement and enthusiasm of the children was a bonus.  I thought about how excited I would have been, at that age, if I was able to spend a few days with a bunch of my friends at a castle.   (I was pretty excited at the age I am now!)  Our room was not fancy and the washroom was up the stairs and across the hall, but it had a great view and was quiet and peaceful.  The hostel sold nice wine which was served in a clay vessel that you paid for and kept.  I thought it was a nice souvenir.

Getting to the castle was part of the fun.  From the train we walked down the main street and turned up the hill at the side of St Peter Kirche.   The path to the castle zig zags up the mountain and offers beautiful views of the surroundings.

The path was probably as old as the castle and I imagined people walking up this path centuries before.  Right past the church, on the trail to the castle, are the haunting remains of Wernerkapelle, the Gothic remains left as a tribute to the awful excesses against the Jews.

This area is known for its many castles.  We took a short river cruise, for approximately 25 euro. We saw a lot of castles on the hills on either side of the river, beautiful vineyards and lovely old German towns.

The cruises can be as long or short as you like depending upon how much money you want to spend.  You can hop off the boat and explore a town then catch another boatgoing back.

Two days was not enough time to spend in this area and I was sad to be leaving it so soon.  I would return to this area again and try to give myself enough time to check out some of the many hiking trails in the area.

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Amsterdam, Day 3 to 5

Amsterdam, Netherlands

We walked to the Brugge train station and boarded a train bound for Brussels then Amsterdam.

When I was gathering information on transportation and accommodations for the trip I was having a hard time finding a place in Amsterdam that fit within our budget (around $100.00 per night).  I ended up visiting a site called Better Bidding and bidding on a hotel in Amsterdam.  I wanted to be close to the train station so focused my bidding on that area.  We were able to get the Movenpick, which was a short walk from the train station, for $72.00 American per night.  It was a beautiful modern room with a great view, close to everything.  We found it cheaper to order breakfast from room service than to go to the buffet-and it was much more relaxing.

We purchased canal bus passes for 22 euro each and travelled around the city via the canals.

It was a great way to see the city.  We also visited the Van Gogh museum for 14 euro each.  A lot of our time was spent just walking around the downtown area.

In de Waag cafe looks like a fairy castle at night.  At one time Rembrandt had a workshop here.

I had never seen such large bicycle parking lots. This one, outside the Amsterdam train station is a few stories tall.  In Belgium and the Netherlands there were bicycle parking lots at the train stations.  What a sensible idea to cut down on the pollution and congestion caused by cars in downtown centres.

A visit to Amsterdam would not be complete without a stroll through the red light district.

Or checking out the coffee shops.  The ‘menu’ was interesting.  Laws prohibiting Amsterdam coffeehouses from selling marijuana to foreigners go into effect on January 1, 2013.  I wonder if this will have an effect on tourism.

Brugge, Sept 15 and 16, 2010

Brugge was the first stop in a 6 week tour of Europe.  We arrived by train after a flight from Halifax to Heathrow airport.  We took the underground from Heathrow to Kings Cross-St Pancras.   Then we travelled from St Pancras Station to France where we caught another train to Belguim and a small regional train to Brugge.  I had allowed for several hours to reach St Pancras thinking that customs and the travel from the airport would take a lot of time.  This extra time allowance was not necessary, but we weren’t able to change our tickets for earlier ones.

Our accommodations were already confirmed at Hotel t’Keizershof for 44 euro per night including breakfast.  It was a short hop from the train station…if you departed by the correct door. We soon figured out our mistake and make our way to the hotel.

Hotel t’Keizershof was very clean, in an older building.  Our room faced the street.  I was excited to hear people going past from the train station with their wheeled suitcases; it seemed to match the feeling of being on the road.  It was to become a soundtrack for the next 6 weeks and remained consistent in every country.  There was a sink in the room, but we had to go down the hall to use the bathroom or shower.  A sign in the room told you not to wash clothes in the sink, which was a disappointment to me as I had hoped to do this every night.  The breakfast was served in a bright room overlooking the street.  Our fellow travellers were from all over the world.

We were an easy walk to the historic centre of Brugge.    Brugge comes from the Old Norse, “Bryggja” which means landing stage.  In medieval times Brugge became a centre of commerce.  Its beautiful canals and prosperous merchants earned it the name Venice of the North.  Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000, the city’s well preserved medieval buildings, canals, cobbled streets and market squares draw tourists from all over the world.

Brugge Town Hall

Quiet and peaceful Beguinage.  This monastery housed nuns from the Beguine movement for many centuries.

Along one of the canals in Brugge.

Bell tower Brugge

I have never seen a violin quite like this one before.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Urban

I have to confess, I haven’t lived in an urban area in over 25 years.  The following pictures are from Athens.  I loved this city.

The mix of old and new was amazing.

View of the city from the theatre at the Acropolis in Athens

We stayed in the Monastiraki area and it was great.  On first glance there was a lot of empty store fronts.  But, there were bars with wonderful musicians playing traditional music with the patrons singing and dancing along, the Athens flea market and the food market nearby.

The Athens market

Graffiti:  This is an urban sight.  Some is very good art and contributes to the urban landscape.  Other graffiti is not a welcome sight.

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Wrong

Swans, Red Light District:  AmsterdamSwans in the canal in the Red Light District of Amsterdam.

Swans, Red Light District AmsterdamFlood Platforms, St Marks Square VeniceThis is St Marks Square in Venice.  The risers are put up when the tide comes in and floods the square.  It saves the tourists from getting their feet wet.  I thought it was a kindness to put up the risers but found it wrong-looking just the same.  I didn’t climb on board.

St Marks Square, VeniceSt Marks Square again.  This is just wrong.  The advertisements cover the work that is being done to repair the buildings.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Purple

Purple is one of my favorite colours.  I have many purple flowers in my garden.

Iris

Delphinium

At a square in Nice, near the waterfront,  I noticed a series of plastic men perched atop high poles and wondered why plastic was used for them.  In the evening when we walked by again the men were lit up with colours that kept changing.  It was a pretty neat effect.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside

When traveling what we often see is the outside of buildings.  We walked by this impressive building several times, before we decided to go inside and see what it contained.

It was the Army Museum and

Napoleon’s Tomb.

We were amazed at what we found inside.

There were rooms filled with armour.  There was even armour for children and horses, which must have been hot and heavy to wear.

Napoleon’s Tomb under the dome was beautiful.

An army museum is not something I would venture into normally, especially when there are so many art museums to visit in Paris. This museum was well worth going inside.  For more information on the museum visit their web site at:  http://www.invalides.org.