Heidelberg 

I arrived in Frankfurt at 5:50 on Thursday morning. I slept the whole ride from Berlin and was a bit annoyed that we’d arrived in Frankfurt. Five Elements Hostel on Moselstrasse is a 5 minute walk from Mannheimerstrasse / am Bahnhofstrasse. This is fantastic because the train and the bus station are very close to the hostel. I knew I wanted to see Heidelberg even before I started this trip. But for some reason I never booked the tickets. The bus line 033 with MeinFernbus cost me €11,50 each way. There are cheaper tickets for €5 and €8 but not if you want to do a day trip.

I took the 7am bus going to Zurich and arrived in Heidelberg at 8:25. I’d already grabbed a bagel and coffee from the Hbf in Frankfurt so my breakfast was sorted. The Hbf in Heidelberg has Cloud WiFi (flashback Cologne) which needs no registration and is free for unlimited time! The Tourist information office is right outside the station and works from 9-7  (Mon-Sat) and 10-6 (Sundays and Holidays). You can pick up a map as well as buy bus and Castle tickets. The single trip ticket is €1,20 and you can get two (one for the return trip). Don’t forget to validate the tickets on the bus. Bus#33 leaves from behind the information center and you have to get off at the Rathaus. The castle ticket is €6 and includes the BergBahn (Furnicular train) ride. There’s a big sign at the Rathausplatz that says “BergBahn Station”. You can’t miss it. There are restrooms here btw. Go straight up and board the mini train. The first stop is the Schloss. You can visit the terrace, the Medicine museum and take a walk around the ruins. There are some good panaroma points here.

I was done by noon and so I decided to go back to the Altstadt. I boarded the wrong train and ended up at Molkentur which is above the Schloss. Instead of just climbing down, I wondered if it’d be worth climbing further up. The words “panaroma” and “picturesque” were too tempting. So 10 minutes later, I was gasping and panting on my way up to Königstuhl. If there is one thing I haven’t learned since Eze village last Februaury it is this: I have shitty stamina. I have a gym membership btw. And I do use it. Sadly, my body just gives me the finger and my brain says – go get a beer. Will I go vegan again? I have sincere doubts on my willpower. It took me 1.5 hours to get up to Königstuhl. The view wasn’t as beautiful as the French Riviera but I was proud to have done the climb. I celebrated with Kartoffelnsalat, Butterbrezel and a Pilsner. Perfect, right?

It was half past three when I returned to the Rathausplatz. My legs had given up on me. So I took a tiny break on a bench by the water fountain. The old bridge is right behind the town square. I think it looks prettier at night. I walked around for a couple of hours, got an ice cream, and ended my day at Peterskirche. Heidelberg is perfect for a day trip. Don’t miss it if you are anywhere near or in Frankfurt. I met a girl on the bus back. She’s travelling to India for a wedding in December and I am helping her plan a holiday in the north!

Berlin

You cannot get enough of this place. This is your Bombay. NYC. Paris. Barcelona. Pick any city that sucks you in and you’ll know what I mean. I was scheduled to spend 3 days here but in the middle of my second day I knew I was going to come back for more.

When I left Prague on Monday morning, it was raining relentlessly. I love rain. I miss rain now that I live in South India. But rain on a travel day is not something I welcome. Especially when I have planned to walk with my backpack. I decided it wasn’t worth reaching the Bahnhof dripping wet and then shivering in the cold. There are trams leaving from Myslikova and Zitna that go to the train station. Now, there are two train stations in Praha. They aren’t very far from each other. But the main one is Hlavni Nadrazi. So be sure to check your tickets. The 90 minute transport ticket cost me 32 krona and I bought it in the supermarket downstairs. You can also buy tickets from vending machines at the stations / tram stops. The tram I took dropped me off at Jindriska which is about 200m from the station. I had started well in advance which meant that I had over an hour to kill. Sadly, the train schedule went up ten minutes before departure and we had to run to reach the platform which as my luck goes – was the last one.

This, despite what the ticket said, wasn’t Deutsche Bahn. I refuse to believe that DB can experience such horrendous delays. I was scheduled to arrive in Berlin at 15:15 and we didn’t reach until 17:00! There were so many random stops on the rail. Thankfully, I slept through most of the ride. The Cat’s Pajamas Hostel is a fantastic place. Sadly, it lists its address as 84, Urbanstrasse. When I checked Google Maps, it gave me simple directions – take Bus M41 from the Hbf and get off at Urbanstrasse. What it didn’t say is that the street is a few kms long! I obviously got off at the first stop on the street and had to walk the entire length all the way to Hermannplatz! It was 18:30 when I sat my ass down to check a barrage of texts that came in as soon as I connected to the WiFi. After a shower I decided that I needed Pommes, beer, and some sleep.

If you are ever in a city that has an Alternative Walking Tour, I recommend that you take it. Berlin has some fantastic ones. The Sandemann Tours leave from Alexanderplatz daily at 11am and 2pm. The meeting point is the Starbucks entrance. Sandemann also has regular walking tours that are more frequent and they leave from the Brandenburg gate. It’s chaotic though and you should get there well in advance to identify which one is yours. You can book your place (it’s free) online for a particular time slot. The Alternative Tour takes you through Kreuzberg, SO 36, East Side Gallery, the tree house of Osman Kalin and ends at YAAM. This is fantastic because you see some terrific street art, understand the artistic explosion in Berlin and also relate to the history that drove this.

I had “tried” doing my laundry on Monday evening. It was midnight when I gave up. Adriana (a Spanish girl I met while doing laundry) and I tried in vain to figure out the dryer. Then we found out it takes 4 hours! So we decided to live with the wet clothes. After the walking tour I went back to check on the laundry and make another attempt at the dryer. Sadly, after two hours it hadn’t worked its charm so I decided to get some sleep.

I had a super long day on Wednesday. I was taking the bus to Frankfurt at 11pm. I wanted to tire myself out completely so that I’d sleep like the dead on the bus. I checked out early and headed to the Brandenburg gate. I reached just in time for the 10am tour but couldn’t find them. So I decided to walk on my own. Put this on your list for Berlin: picnic in the Tiergarten. This is your Tuileries or Fonatinebleau or maybe even Versailles! It’s big and it’s gorgeous. The weather was perfect at 17 degrees. I walked to the Grosser Stern and back to the Brandenburg gate, spent some time at the Willy Brandt Zentrum (wonderful educational gallery), walked some more on Friedrichstrasse before ending at Französicherstrasse. I was meeting an old friend for coffee. The last time I’d met her I was 5 and now she has a five year old daughter! I spent a beautiful afternoon at Adenauerplatz with this little one.

It was almost 8 when I got back to Hermnnplatz. I killed my headache with some Pommes from my SRK loving Turkish friend. It’s a good thing I leave the hostel 2 hours before my scheduled departure. The ZOB is at Messe Nord ICC. I had to take the U8 from Hermannplatz to Hermannstrasse and then change over to S46 going to Westend. At Hermannstrasse I discovered that S46 was plying only till Suedkreuz because of some construction on the line – Scheisse!! A girl at the station suggested I take the S41 to Bundesplatz and switch to the replacement bus – direction Halensee. From Halensee I’d have to take the S-Bahn (ring) to Messe Nord. The 30 minute trip took me 1hr and 30minutes! By the time I reached ZOB at 22:30, I was ready to crash. Mission accomplished.

Aha Praha!

My trip from Dresden to Prague was uneventful. MeinFernBus dropped me off at Florenc as scheduled and my fear of foreign exchange conversion was washed away. It is annoying that Czech, despite being a part of the EU, doesn’t accept euros (there are places where they do, but the exchange rate isn’t in your favour). The moment you get off at Florenc, you’ll see signs directing you to the metro and to the foreign exchange counters. Be prepared to do a little math as you go around in the city.

Mosaic House is centrally located at the intersection of Odboru and Myslikova. It’s quite a fancy place with its own club and bar. I was registered at Hostel Mingle which is in the opposite building that also houses Hostel Moo. The showers are super tiny but I badly needed one after all that running around with my bags. Herbert texted me soon after and the boys agreed to come pick me up. We got some pizza and beer, walked to the city centre, watched an Australian dude attempt to perform some magic tricks, lamented over the European summer and decided we needed ice cream. Later we stopped to check out some souvenirs before heading to Charles Bridge.

We were out till nearly midnight so we didn’t wake up early the next day. We had one thing on our agenda – the Eiffel Tower. Once again we took a long route and walked around the city aimlessly. We checked out the astronomical tower and the boys got some medieval action figures. Knihkupectvi remained our favorite Czech word and we tried pronouncing it every time it appeared on the street. With chocolates, Coca Cola and Pringles, we reached the river. The sun was unbearable and Herbert was tempted by the boats. So we hired a boat for 290 CZK/hour. We had to keep going under the various bridges to avoid the sun but it was a nice picnic. Worn out from all that exercise, we decided to grab a late lunch at 3PM before moving forward. On the other side of the bridge we found Praha Star – a restaurant that accepted euros and that too for a fantastic exchange rate! Food and a round of draught beer later, we found ourselves lying in the grass at the foot of the hill. We napped for an hour and then set about stumbling in the grass, mumbling nonsense. I don’t remember whose brilliant decision it was to not take the elevator. Worst decision ever. It took an hour or more for us to get up there and I could barely breathe when we reached the top. This was despite the fact that we stopped for ice cream on the way! The entry fee to the Petrin observation tower is 90 CZK for adults and the reduced fare is 60 CZK. The boys wanted to stop at the Mirror Maze afterwards and it was a big disappointment for the same fare. There was no maze; just a hall of mirrors. On the way down, we decided to stop at the beer monastery (Strahov) for a quick round of light beer.

I got back a little before midnight. My roommates had changed once again but there was no one around. I woke up at 2am to someone talking very loudly in the window. I muttered angrily at the British voice and went back to sleep. At 5am, the same asshole woke me up, but this time he was in the bed next to mine. When I did finally wake up at 7, I saw three fucktards in their underwear, ugly enough to put anyone off sex for the next month or two. The tiny room was a mess. Beer bottles on the floor, greasy food plates strewn all over and the place stank of stale cigarette smoke. I was hoping to give them an earful but first I needed a shower. When I returned, they were still snoring. The guy sleeping on the bed above mine now started kicking stuff off his bed which began falling on my head. I couldn’t take it anymore. It was Independence Day and I wasn’t feeling very forgiving towards the Brits.

I checked out and agreed to check in again in the afternoon into a different room. Igor, Caio and Herbert, I assumed were asleep because I hadn’t heard from them. I wanted to see Shakespeare and Sons that was listed on my map. It’s a very cosy bookstore! There is plenty of room to sit and read in the basement. I found another Kathy Reichs book and was delighted. I was craving for tea so I picked up some on the way back. It tastes like the tea Fei made in Paris!

My new room turned out to be fantastic. It was larger, had better windows and definitely more promising roommates! There were two Americans (one was half Indian but all he knew about Bollywood was DDLJ) and a Chinese boy. I offered to help the Chinese guy who was traveling to Paris soon after. I repacked my bags, made some toast and called it a night after three cups of tea.

I thought my Brazilian friends were leaving in the morning so I packed some sandwiches and went over to their hostel in the morning. Turns out they were leaving in the evening. So we got an extra serendipitous day together. We decided to walk to the museum and see the tower with the babies. We stopped at park and napped till noon before getting some lunch. I wanted to see the Use-IT info centre so we walked all the way back again. Caio and I tried some local Czech beer before we left. It felt weird to say goodbye. We promised to meet again soon – maybe in Brazil or in India.

Dresden!

I left Nuremberg on Tuesday afternoon. The bus for Dresden was late so it was already 8 PM when we pulled into the town. I met a super fun guy on the bus and we decided to talk about our favourite German words. My favourite word is no longer verrueckt, and is now schaetzchen! I spent all day practising it and I don’t think I have it right yet!

Hostel Kangaroo-Stop is in Neustadt. MeinFernBus leaves you at the Hbf. So all you have to do is catch the S1/S2 to Neustadt. It’s just three stops and takes about 10 minutes max. The single trip ticket costs €2,20. As you come out of the Neustadt station, you step onto Albertplatz. The hostel is 300m from there. I was exhausted from the bus journey. It’s a good thing I had cash on me because the hostel didn’t accept cards! Phew! It’s really a big house that has been converted into a hostel. The WiFi was barely working so I decided to just call it a day.

Guess what!? Dresden has a Use-IT map!  This is by far the coolest thing I know. I used one of these maps in Lille, France last December. These maps are created by the locals of the town. So, what the map does is that it lists all the local favorite places to eat, drink beer and generally have a good time. In Lille, the map suggested a fantastic vegetarian restaurant named Zango and a lovely cafe famous for hot chocolate in the town centre. It was -1 degree and hot chocolate was just what I needed 🙂 Nobody in the town pays to be on this map. So rest assured that you will get some genuine recommendations.
I woke up super early and went out for a walk. I bought a diary for a travel scrapbook and some supplies. There are two beautiful fountains not far from Antonstrasse. I enjoyed a quiet breakfast here on Wednesday morning. There’s a fantastic supermarket right next to Erna-Bergerstrasse and I made a mental note to stop here in the evening. Instead of entering the Altstadt via Marienbruecke, I decided to cross the river a little further down from the Altstadt and then walk right towards the Hofkirche and Schlossstrasse. You cross the Maester’s gallery and some exhibitions here. The buildings are breathtaking. To think that this town was flattened! One look at the Frauenkirche and you will understand fully what rebuilding it after the war must have been like. The entrance to the church is from door D. Be prepared to be awed. This is without a doubt the most beautiful altar. And I say this, despite the fact that my heart permanently resides in Sacre Coeur, Paris. The lower church is a quite zone for prayer. The sculptures are beautiful and thought provoking.

Once you exit the church, you can walk right, past the information point and towards the bridge where you’ll see the Hofkirche. Continue straight on the Schlossstrasse, cross the Hauptmarket, continue further on Seestrasse till you reach Pragerstrasse. This is the main shopping district. On the way can take a detour to the Semperoper, Zwinger, Residenzschloss and Stadtmuseum.  I didn’t stop anywhere expect the church and later to pet the horses behind Hofkirche. 

I returned at 6 with two dead feet. My roommates – Herbert, Igor and Caio had been biking and returned in a state not dissimilar to mine. They had still been sleeping when I stopped by before noon. So we sat down to talk incessantly. Turns out they are also headed to Prague! By midnight we had discussed languages, Indian movies, Brazilian dancing, the French people (our exasperation) and lots more. We are hoping to do some cycling together in Prague!

Doku Zentrum, Nuremberg

if you have been to Dachau or Aushchwitz, Nuremberg is where you get your closure. Home to the Nazi Party rallies and later the Holocaust trials, this is a wonderful town with excellent architecture and lots of history.

The Documentation a enter and Nazi Part rally ground is a slightly outside the city. It takes about 15 minutes by tram from the Hbf. I do not recommend walking this distance. Tram numbers 6 and 9 will take you there. The Doku Zentrum is the last stop so you should have no trouble getting there. The tram leaves you right in front of the building. You can buy the tickets from the electronic ticket vending machine. The Tagesticket (covers all trips for the day) costs €5,40. You don’t need to validate the ticket once you get on the Wag, but do write your name on it. Family and group tickets are also available.

The Doku Zentrum is the largest and I believe the only remaining NSDAP building standing today. It has been maintained beautifully. The ticket for adults costs €5,00 and includes an audio guide. The exhibition is informative and engaging. If you enjoy history and wish to learn more about the Reichstag, I suggest you take 2-2.5 hours to complete the exhibition. At the end of the exhibit is a viewing deck for the grounds.

* The courtroom is in a different part of the town and was closed today but I’d recommend seeing it.

Schloss Neuschwanstein.

I didn’t get much sleep last night. It is 35 degrees during the day and cools down to 29 degrees at night. There are 6 of us in a room with two windows that openly only about 15 degrees. You can’t imagine the rest.

I woke up at 6 and decided to get the laundry done while having breakfast. I knew there wasn’t enough time if I had to take the 9:52 train to Fuessen. But the clothes had to be done. I haven’t had a sip of alcohol since that glass of white wine on the plane. Sadly, it had not done its job of making me comfortable and helping me sleep. I fell in love with beer when I tasted Koelsch last February. You have to try it if you ever visit Cologne. Go to the Frueh Brauhaus next to the Dom and drink a lot! But yes, I cannot exit Bavaria without a drink or two. So I have decided to attend to this detail today. So I got the laundry out of the way to make some time for a cultural drinking experience. Dark beer it is.

I finished laundry at 10:15 and walked to the Hauptbahnhof. The Bayern ticket for one day costs €23,00 and covers the U-Bahnhof / S-Bahn ride to the Hbf. I could have picked up the tickets at Hackerbruecke but I don’t like that station much. I reached at 10:30 to find out that the next train was leaving at 10:41 from Gleis 30. There was no display so the DB attendant printed a Reiseplan for me. Looks like it was the last train to Fuessen for the day. I had to change the train at Bochelau and board another one. Here’s the fantastic thing about Europe travel. They have some fantastic discounts and offers.  Get a Bayern information brochure before you book the tickets. There are multiple options to choose from. Also check the information boards on platforms whenever you travel. These are mostly regular trains and all timings are printed and put up with the stops. So you know you have multiple return timings to choose from.

I reached Fuessen a little past one. It’s a small station and on the right are the buses waiting to take you to the ticket Center. You don’t need to buy bus tickets if you have Bayern fahrkarte. There are restrooms and information Center where the bus drops you off. The ticket Center is a little up ahead on your right. If you have reserved tickets, it will be quicker for you. The reservation didn’t work for me and the only tours available were for 7pm and onwards. The last train to Munich left at 6 so I decided to see just the courtyard. It was too hot to be bearable. I finally gave in and ate a kaesebruzel with a chilled bottle of Desperados. The bus to the top is on the left as you move up. Single trip costs €1,80 while the return is €2,60. After waiting in the line for 45 minutes, I decided to walk down. The bus leaves you at Marienbrucke or Mary’s bridge. It’s temporarily closed for repairs. From there it is a short hike down to the castle. I see why they call it Sleeping Beauty’s castle. Here, have a look:

Schloss Neuschwanstein

It started raining after that picture was taken. The rain was a blessing from the heavens and made my day slightly better. The return bus to Fuessen station leaves from right where it drops you off. It’s a short few km drive but we were stuck in a slow moving lane and nearly missed the 5:05 PM train. ThankfulLy, the train was late as well!

It was already 7:30 pm when we pulled into Munich. I am moving to Nuremberg in the morning so I wanted to rest up. But my Bavarian beer experience was pending. So, I dropped in at the old Augustiner. This is an Augustiner Hell vom Fass. I chugged half a litre easily but then again the minimum standard here is 1.5 litres.

Augustiner

Nuremberg Fort

I just didn’t have the energy to go up to the fort yesterday afternoon. So I decided to have breakfast there today. I am in love with this hostel! The rooms are spacious and they have big windows that actually open! Also my roommates are super nice.

The fort is say maybe a 20 min walk + climb from Frauentormauer. It was nice and windy all the way up. Not a lot of people on the streets. The Hauptmarkt was just setting up.

There are some nice gardens on the top that are open only on specific days. But this view is perfect for a little picnic. I got some lovely strawberries on the way back. I admit it – I have a thing for them. I am going to pack my stuff in a bit and head to the Documentation Center. I leave for Dresden in the afternoon.

Nuremberg.

hello! I moved to Nuremberg this morning. I had a nice paced out start to my day because the Munich ZOB is just 400m from Meininger City Hostel. It is right next to Hackerbruecke train station. You have to enter the mall from the bridge and take the loft down to the bus station. I travelled with MegaBus after nearly 4 months and I was super excited because this is the first time I got to travel during the day. It feels like a total Yun Hi Chala Chal Rahi set up from Swades. In case you need help, there’s an information point at the end. Don’t worry about all the FlixBus banners. The information point caters to all bus companies.

I arrived in Nuremberg a little past noon. After a quick stop for Pommes and Cola, I decided to look for the hostel. So, you go right from the ZOB on the Bahnhofstrasse and reach a Nieemberg Tourist info point. Fro, there on, take the Koenigstrasse for the main city highlights. I had to take a left to Frauentormauer. It’s maybe 500m from the ZOB. Fabulous hostel! I am in love with the facility.

The people here are super nice. I have 4 Chinese roommates who are super giggly and very smiley. I like them. I set out at 2 to walk around the town. It is not big. Twenty minutes from the beginning of Koenigstrasse will get you to the fort. I covered the St. Lawrence church, the Holocaust memorial,Hauptmarket, the Rathaus and the Toy Museum. I couldn’t find the Documentation centre. I will try again tomorrow morning. I found a fabulous Comic store btw. They have awesome stuff.

Salzburg !

My love for The Sound of Music, I now think, is ridiculous. I believe I was only 6 when I first saw the movie. And then Dad got me a cassette that I played in my sing-along recorder. That was the beginning of my life-long addiction to the classic.

Here’s what you need to know about travelling to Salzburg. It is do-able in a day. I don’t recommend staying there unless you are planning to travel further on to Vienna or wherever. A day trip from Munich will do just fine. In fact my Dad did it back in 2002 and inspired me to go for it now. The second thing you need to know if you are a SoM fan is this : do not book a bus tour. You will be disappointed. I booked my tickets to Salzburg before I applied for my visa. The return ticket on the DB website cost me €38,00. There are regular trains leaving from Munich Hbf and the platform will indicate exactly where the coaches will stop. You do not need to reserve a seat when you book your tickets. Like our Indian airlines this costs additional charges. Instead, when you board the train, look for seats without any “reserved” marking. There will be tons of those and you can pick anyone.

The 8:18 train from Munich reached Salzburg at 9:59. The Salzburg Hbf is beautiful. It reminded me a lot of Paris Nord – one of my favourite stations. There’s a nice waiting room and plenty of delis and cafes. Pick up a city map from the information counter near the entrance. Do not bother asking them any questions about where you want to go ; they will tell you they are not a tourist information centre ! They will however redirect you to one but there was no one there when I went. Exit the Bahnhof from the left and keep walking on Rainerstrasse. In ten minutes or so, you will see the Congress House and right after that is the Mirabell Garden. I enjoyed some delicious strawberries while sitting on a bench there. Climb up to the famous SoM gate from the Do-Re-Mi song. The sun was blinding when I got here. Do not judge my pictures.

Straight ahead from the Mirabell garden is the bridge over the river where Maria and the kids are shown just before the song. Cross it and you will reach the Altstadt or old city. The August market was set up when I got there. I bought a very pretty hat with a bow. Totally flaunting it now. Once you are on the other side, walk straight and then take a left. Even with basic map reading skills you should be able to find Mozarthaus. Keep walking on and you should find the famous Horse Fountain. Try not to sing “I have confidence in me”. Then smile shyly at people when you fail to stop yourself from doing so. I bought a superb painting of Mirabell garden here. While I was unsuccessfully trying to click some selfies with the stick, I met a group of German girls.mturns out one was the bride and the others her bridesmaids. They were doing a photo shoot so I offered to help. That and the fact that I spoke German was enough for instant friendship. Here are some pictures.

If you are facing the fountain, just behind it on the left is the way to St. Peter’s cemetery. Remember the scene with Rolf and Captain von Trapp? It was shot in the studio but this is what it was based on. Right next to it is also Frauenkirche. I do not recommend the Katakombs. Go to Paris for those. Please. Not here. You can take the lift and go up to the castle for the view. It was 35 degrees. After finishing two bottles of water, I just didn’t have the energy for it. The view atop is beautiful. Also the place where Maria gave words to the do-re-mi song. You can visit the abbey and rock riding school – the edelweiss performance at the end of th movie was shot here.

I love this blogpost here on the DIY SoM tour :  http://nomoneywilltravel.com/2015/04/13/diy-sound-of-music-tour/

Oh also, just before you enter St. Peter’s cemetery you will see a giant chessboard drawn on the walk leading up to the gate of the cemetery. Entry is free. You can enjoy a nice meal here as well. I decided to go back to the station after this. Thoroughly exhausted, but madly in love with Salzburg!

Doremifasolati-do! so! do!

I am well rested and super excited !! Becauseeeee I am off to Salzburg for the day ! There is one and only one motive here – The Sound of Music. Keep reading to find out about my DIY tour of the classic.