Our main man Dave, fresh from his best man duties and his crowd surfing exploits, is picking it up from his UK journey.
In this post, Dave tours with locals in parts of France, Germany and Poland. He takes in a little bit more culture than his prior European trek (museums, parks and other historic landmarks).
And it just wouldn’t be a Travel Bug without the obligatory nightlife and social catch-ups (although I have noticed that Dave has toned things down in this trip).
And so without further ado..
Paris, the eagle has landed
Finally it was goodbye to the UK and I was back on the road again.
My first destination was to visit a friend in Paris (and the second stop to visit another friend in the small village of Pronsfeld in Germany). I had met both friends when travelling Australia a few years earlier. These were to be my last visits with friends before I headed back into the world of hostels, this was the second half of my trip.
As you can imagine, Paris is quite loud whilst Ponsfeld is the polar opposite – it’s very quiet.
It was my second time to Paris in and while the city had not changed, though I certainly had. Instead of being there in the cold of winter, drunk rushing around the sights on a Contiki trip 9 years earlier, I was now there visiting French friends and experiencing the culture of what Paris has to offer.
I founds it better to have a guide / friend to show you about rather than an organised tour which was more focused on drinking and partying. The friend I was staying with was living on the Magna – his apartment in the centre of Paris – which was very handy for commuting. It was also cool to be staying in one of the many old historic buildings that make up Paris.
The first thing we saw was the Modern Gallery (Centre Pompidou) which was displaying a collection of post modern art. Some of this was really weird e.g. works by Alexander Calder. His art was full of amazing effects, on peace of art itself looked like it was made from a coat hanger, behind it on a white wall was a projected shadow and it appeared as a face. Unfortunately I couldn’t take photos.
The museum was full of strange pieces like this. I don’t like to generalise but being French, there was a lot of sexually lewd art pieces as well as displays of bodily functions such as an artists impression of vomit. I find post modern art to be quite hilarious.
Another highlight was walking through Paris at night. This is not something I had done before as the last time I was there was winter and as mentioned highly organised, I must say it was truly beautiful and I still think is the most beautiful city I have experienced.
During the day I went up to the very top of the Eiffel Tower for the first time, a truly spectacular view all around the city.
I also managed to take in the Louvre, this being my second time and my favourite museum.
I paid particular attention to statues such as the Statue de Milo, the Mona Lisa (who was pretty ugly by the looks of it) and also various other art works. I also saw artefacts of historical importance from Ancient Rome, Assyrian, Egypt and Greece to Napoleon, it was all very impressive.
The nightlife was also pretty good fun. The first night we went to one of the many parks that overlook Paris, everyone was drinking in the park at a bar. It was good to take in the view even if I couldn’t understand much that was going on around me (I can’t speak French but the vibe was very friendly and there were no expats in the area – the Parisians seemed to favour areas where only locals hang).
We took in a few more bars and then I crashed for the evening (I was a bit sleepy from my trip walking around Paris during the day).
The next night we went to a house party with with other friends and I met a few more people I knew from backpacking Oz. The party I was at considered me to be somewhat exotic which as an Aussie I found hilarious.
I made new friends drank and danced till about 4 in the morning.
My third day I spent recovering from the first two evenings and the fourth caught up yet another friend from backpacking Oz.
In total I was in Paris for four days which passed really quickly and then it was off to Germany.
I hopped onto the TGV (which travels at around 200km’s an hour) and a couple of hours later I was in Luxembourg. I was getting picked up by my German friend who I knew from fruit picking in Mildura. My friend lived in Pronsfeld which is located in an area known as the Eiffel and is about 80kms from Luxembourg in Germany.
Pronsfeld is a town of about 1000 people, the area itself is in the mountains, green countryside with lots of pine trees, winding roads and hundreds of windmills dotting the landscape. It’s not an area I had ever heard of before and it’s popular with Dutch and German tourists that like to travel with caravans. It is not a popular backpacking area however.
I stayed with my friends parents who had a spare room around the corner of her apartment which was handy as I had spent most of my time sleeping on floors, couches and blow up mattresses since arriving in the UK six weeks earlier.
The evening I arrived we had a walk along one of the bush walks that little the area and then spent the evening having a chat.
The second day we went and cycled to the next town, Prun. It was about a 20km round trip along an old rail network which had been converted to a bicycle track. We had some ice cream in the town and I checked out the local Basilica and then that evening we had a barbie which was excellent fun.
My friend’s dad cooked and we ended up getting hammered on a hell of a lot of schnapps, this was much appreciated as German food is my favourite cuisine. My friend spoke fluent English; however her parents didn’t so there was some funny “lost in translation” moments.
It was really good to have a home cooked meal.
The town of Trier
Trier is famous for being Germany’s oldest town, built around 60AD and is known for having the oldest Roman Gate in the world. The city was the home of Emperor Constantine for a while and also was the birth place of Karl Marx, so it had a few historical things going for it.
The local cathedral there was most impressive, something I did notice was the local German habit of rendering old buildings, so a lot of these buildings looked a lot tidier and newer than what they actually were (unlike cities such as London and Paris which were not rendered).
The next day we went back into Luxembourg to look at Vianden castle, it has amazing views and there was an impressive collection of cartoon posters on display, note that it had nothing to do with the castle itself.
In the evening we went to a nightclub. The club had a strange mix of music from thrash metal, a lot of AC/DC and German Irish dance music would be the best way to describe it I had an excellent time there, drinking and dancing the night away with my German friends and local Luxembourg (or Burgers) who all seemed quite mad.
I stayed in Ponsfeld for only three nights and then I travelled up to Cologne – which was where my flight to Warsaw was departing from. My friend of a friend lent me her apartment to stay in which was nice of her (the friend was away) and I spent the day looking at Cologne cathedral, one of the biggest I had seen. Walking around the beautiful city and eating plenty of schnitzel for dinner.
My one regret I guess was I had wished I had travelled Australia before I had travelled the world because of all the quality friends I had made. If I had done this a lot earlier in age I would not have needed to rely on hostels as much as I had and I would of gotten a better feel for the areas I was visiting as I had local guides. This is not to admonish backpacking in anyway but its nice to have options. In saying that however I knew this now and better late than never.
The next day I was heading into Eastern Europe for the first time and it would be back to hostels and meeting new people again.
The following day I arrived in Warsaw without much in the way of expectations, I only really was heading there as a starting point as it was a cheap airline flight. It was not regarded as a top European holiday destination as far as I could tell and didn’t rate in any particular travel guides as a must see. With low expectations, I wasn’t I figuring on being disappointed too much.
The first thing I noticed about the place was the different types of architecture; you could definitely tell that this was once part of Communist Russia, though I’d never been to such a place, ugly grey drab buildings, vacant buildings within parks and statues celebrating Communism as well as the ending of Nazi Germany occupation were littered around the place. The old town was in complete contrast, apparently its fake as after being bombed during WW II, they rebuilt old town to look like it once did. I must say they have done a pretty good job: the palace looks fantastic and the main shopping street kind of looks like something from a fairy tale.
The Palace in the Park which is quite beautiful and most impressive.
Museums in Poland
Other highlights are the museums. The ex military museum whilst closed still had a good collection of fighter planes and tanks from the Cold War. The occupation museum telling the history of the Nazi and Communist occupation of Poland was also interesting.
I also took in the National Museum (big mistake), I had done this a few years ago whilst in Prague and had completely forgotten how bad these museums can be. I suspect a lot of art had been taken due to the German and Russian occupations and the art pieces left over is almost hilarious in how bad it was.
Prague was bad, Warsaw was worse but in a funny way. Maybe I had a bigger expectation after visiting the Louvre. There was a big feature on ghastly depictions Jesus crucifixions which could give children nightmares. There were also paintings by Polish artists of portraits that guaranteed the viewer a feeling of tiredness.
A Polish Reflection
Apart from the hostel which was quiet, I must say I enjoyed Warsaw and from that I learnt not to have any pre conceptions of a place before I got there. The locals working there were quite friendly and I hung out with some funny people.
The nightlife in town was excellent – though I suspect a lot of the girls were not of legal drinking age, maybe they were in Poland but certainly not in Australia where the age as you know is 18. It was an interesting experience: Warsaw, is considered an expensive place to visit though I didn’t find it as such, the locals are friendly and the historic parts are quite interesting.
I do suspect however there are reasons why Krakow is much more regarded as a tourist destination – which I would visit later in my trip – however after three days I was heading to Vilnius in Lithuania, a place I knew nothing about.
The Travel Bug
The Travel Bug is a collaboration project that goes through Dave’s travel journals around the world. We started this series a while back and finished in the UK in our last post. We’ll be back soon in the UK!
He just completed another world trip including stops at Vancouver, USA (numerous cities), Copenhagen, Paris and various stops around the UK, Spain and South Africa.
PC likes getting the job done by day and writes, designs and codes during his spare time. He also enjoys having a drink with Dave and hearing his tall travel tales.
We hope to entertain you through this collection of stories.
[PC: My thoughts and prayers to those that have been affected by the recent events in Paris. One planet, one love – let’s all respect and take care of one another].