Freitag, 28. März 2014

Interrail - Day 6-8 London



We arrived at about 6:30 am in London(19th of March). We went to the hostel, but check-in was later at 12am. So we asked if we could store our luggage there to take a look around town. As soon as our heavy rucksacks were taken off our backs, we hit the town.

A slow walk through the Hyde Park, a little shopping trip through Primark (yes, a little girly stuff has to be there too.), then a stroll around the Regent's park where we watched birds and squirrels and ate a triple chocolate muffin! (Oh yeah - you heard me: triple chocolate: mokka or dark chocolate pieces, milk chocolate, white chocolate). After that we walked to Camden Town and I showed Johanna the Cyber Dog Store. It’s a clothing store for ravers and techno-house-lac and leather fans. But the inside looks so amazing. There are robots and everything glows in neon colours. In Camden Town there are so many food stands, we almost couldn’t decide what to eat. All nationalities are represented. I was interested in Ethiopian food, but then I chickened out because it looked a little weird. So we chose to eat something less unknown and less frightening. Empanadas, a Spanish pastry filled with meat or vegetables. I took the chicken filling, Veggie-Johanna took the one with vegetables. As it turned out, Johanna disliked hers pretty much, but mine wasn’t that bad. But in total the meal wasn't worth the 5 £ we payed for it. We were a little disappointed.


After lunch we decided to head back to check in our hostel (The Hyde Park Hostel) and the day took a really bad turn. We found out about the horror of this hostel: Our room was tiny and the 24 beds were stacked up to the ceiling. It looked like cages for laboratory rats. We were absolutely shocked. The bathrooms were disgusting and the whole building except for the reception seemed to fall apart. The toilet case was broken and the showers dirty. There were no covers for our blankets, only sheets which were by the way dirty also. The female blond receptionist was arrogant and absolutely ignorant to our complains. For example: When we asked her for the free wifi that was promised on the website, she answered us in a bitchy tone: "It said on the website that we have wifi, but it didn't say it was free." What a hag. Watch out! Everything about this hostel is unbearable. We booked a different hostel and checked-out as soon as humanly possible. (But in case you make the same mistake of booking there, because you were like us seduced by the cheap prices, wait until the receptionist changes to a man and complain again. He will give you the option of getting a new room, maybe you have better luck there. We didn't take that option, because we wanted to get the hell outta there.)


Tip of the Day: Read the reviews at hostelbookers. They help you if you don’t know what to expect of a hostel.

Our new hostel The St. Christopher’s Inn was a pleasant surprise. Clean, free wifi, comfy, friendly staff, great service (washing machines, dryer, roof terrace and included in the low price was a free breakfast). I can’t tell you enough how perfect this hostel is for backpackers. It has it all. Check it out!

Our journey ended with the Grim Reaper Tour ( 13€). A guide took us at night through London’s darkest corners and told us all about the dark times and bloody events in London’s History. Mostly about Jack the Ripper and Prostitutes, but also about the Tower of London. Traitors and criminals were held captive and tortured in the tower until they were executed. Torture methods like the Iron Maiden or a caged rat that was placed on your belly. The iron cage was slowly heated up, so that the only escape for the rat is to eat itself through your body. And when the heat gets unbearable for the rat, it surely will. If you were lucky enough the rat would choose to go up and chew maybe a main vessel or directly your heart kiling you fast, but if the rat chose the other direction the death would be slow and painful. We also were introduced to ghost stories around London which occurred inside the tower or in an underground station where back in the old days was a psychiatry. 


Dark London is really interesting, but you should bring a scarf, thick jacket, gloves and maybe even hot tea. It gets really freezing! We were so freaking happy when we were back at our new hostel and slipped in our comfy soft beds and into long slumber.

The next day (20th of march) we decided to participate in the normal free walking tour around London and at first it seemed like a good idea, because we got a great overview about the main attractions in London, such as the Buckingham Palace, St. James Park, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey. But it was a huge group of tourists following the guide which made it a little hard to hear all the stories and enjoy the tour. But mostly the early tours at 10 or 11’o’clock are held in tinier groups. 



My favourite story was about a homeless guy who broke into Buckingham Palace:
A few years ago a homeless guy snuck into the Buckingham Palace through an open window looking for shelter. At the time they changed the alarm system in the Buckingham Palace, so no one noticed that he was inside. He walked around for a while until he found a bottle of wine and drank half of it. He then left again without anyone knowing, but after a few weeks when he was looking for shelter again, he remembered the nice taste of the wine and simply decided to go there again. But this time, of course, the window was closed, so he broke the window and the alarm went off. But no one of the guards reacted, they all thought the alarm was acting up, because since the installation it didn’t work properly. The guards turned the alarm off without further investigation or at least checking on the queen who was in residence at the time. The homeless guy walked around the palace and at some point reached even the night chamber of the queen. The queen woke up frightened, because some drunk homeless man sat at her bedside and looked at her. She pushed her private emergency alarm, but the guards didn’t react either. After about 20 minutes that the queen and the homeless guy talked, finally the guards decided to show up and arrest the man. But he was only charged for drinking the queen’s wine, because by law the Buckingham Palace is public property accessible to all citizens of the UK. 

After the tour we took the Piccadilly line to Piccadilly Circus. I was a little disappointed; they did street work on the centre of the square, so the whole first impression that I had when I was last in London was tainted. Johanna didn’t get to see what I had hoped to show her. But it didn’t matter we walked further to Soho, London’s Chinatown. There were so many Chinese stores and restaurants, but they all had dead (already grilled) birds in the windows. Johanna, the Veggie faction of our duo, found this barbaric and was disgusted. All I could think about was: Lucky that she wasn’t in a real Chinese market. It's far worse (or better if you like meat). We left Soho and exchanged it for good old BK where I ate a brownie with ice cream and she took a salad (I still think it's weird to order salad at a fast food restaurant, but what else do you order at BK when you're vegetarian?)


In the evening the cold gets far worse because of the wind, so we decided to go souvenir shopping. On our way we walked by Trafalgar Square and watched the usual craziness going on. We love the atmosphere of the city, so we just kept on walking through town. On our way we got the typical London stuff off our tourist list: Taking a picture in front of the typical red bus, inside a red telephone cell, trying to make one of the queen's guard laugh and getting a free newspaper while walking by to your next underground station. We realised what a great souvenir a newspaper or a magazine is for Interrail travellers. It’s light, you can stuff it anywhere and you get a bit more information about what’s going on in a city or country.



After such a long walking tour through London, we happily reunited with our bed again.
On Friday (21th of March) we took the train to Dover and set over to Calais with a P&O Ferry, not quite as luxurious as Stenaline, but it does the trick.
 

Dienstag, 25. März 2014

Interrail - Day 4,5 Edinburgh

This time I'll tell you about my time in Edinburgh.

I'll say right away our stay was very short, but I think we managed to see a lot of the city in this short period of time without investing too much money.



We drove the whole forth day to get to Edinburgh. First we had to find our way to Dublin port. Leaving Dublin made me a little sad, because we were missing the official St. Patrick's Day Parade. (If you want to know what it looked like 2014: click here.) Due to the St. Patrick's Festival every normal public transport didn't work. (No one told us…) Lucky for us, a taxi driver drove us right before the gate and we reached the ferry just in time. On the ferry we wasted another 3 hours to get to Holyhead (but our ferry had a cinema, so we could watch "About time" and "R.I.P.D.") and from there we took the train to Edinburgh.

Johanna has the great ability to fall asleep the minute she sits down on the train seat and wakes up right before we have to get off the train. I'm not blessed with this kind of talent, but I usually sleep as well, but a very light sleep in weird intervalls of 20 to 40 minutes or I doodle in my little notebook. Sleeping on the train might hurt after a while, because at some point you'll have your head or your neck in a very unhealthy position. But Interrail is a process in which you learn to focus on the body parts that don't hurt and keep going or whine about the parts that hurt all the time and keep going anyway. Either way giving up is not an option.

At Waverley Station we were greeted right away by a Scottish man in a traditional (tartan) kilt, it was just perfect. (Although I’m still questioning if he wore underwear…) It's the one thing we didn't expect to happen. 


When we finally reached our hostel in Edinburgh we were really tired and happy at the same time. Malones hostel is above a pub which was full of people all celebrating St. Patrick's Day. People singing, dancing, drinking. Jolly and green, just as we've experienced at St. Patrick's Day in Dublin. Except for the fact that they were all cramped in this one pub. With our heavy backpacks we fought our way through the pub and up to the hostel. To our surprise we got a free upgrade from an 8 bed mixed dorm to a 4 bed room. The owner of the hostel was really friendly and the facilities were comfy and clean! The bathrooms and showers were amazing! Absolute luxurious for a hostel of that price range! We took a shower and felt so fresh and relaxed like never before. Sometimes a hot shower after a long travel day is all you need. And the pub is right there on the ground floor, so just go ahead and have a good time! I know we did. 

The breakfast was said to be included in the price, so the next morning we went down to eat to the kitchen, but the breakfast "buffet" was rather tiny. Nevertheless the kitchen works just fine if you want to make yourself something to save money and keep the budget low. (A Sainsbury-supermarket is just around the corner). 


This particular morning I felt the need to be brave and experiment around. I had to taste "Marmite". Everyone on the internet said it's disgusting, but as usual I wanted to go my own way and find it out by myself before I believe what someone tells me. And let me tell you:

Disgusting doesn't even cover all the feelings of hurling and vomiting I felt...(even long after I had already spat it out). It's vile. I didn't even eat as much as I wanted to vomit. Absolutely awful! I don't know who eats this shit voluntarily (and for breakfast!).

After this little incident, we went on a free walking tour through the city of Edinburgh. This tour finances itself on a tip only basis. That means the tour guide shows you around and you can decide how much the tour is worth to you. If you liked the tour around town, you give a little more. If not, you give less or even nothing. But I thought this tour was really really worth it. Edinburgh itself is gorgeous enough, full of old charming buildings. But thanks to our tour guide we learned so much about life in Edinburgh and all the little details about its history. Where you can drink or eat the best food , what are traditions of the town, typical behaviour of the residents or little inside tips what to do around town. For example, did you know that it exists vegetarian haggis? I can't imagine what's left of the original haggis if you take out the meat parts...which is kind of everything right?



My favourite story from this particular free walking tour was this one:
There once was a woman named Maggie Dickson. She was left by her husband and fell in love with another man. She got pregnant from this man, but under the law she still was still married to her husband. In her fear of being accused of adultery, she hid the pregnancy. The baby was dead by birth and she threw the bundle in the river for no one to ever find it. Unfortunately for her, the villagers found the corpse and traced it back to Maggie. She was convicted, but not for murder nor for adultery, but for an old law that said that a woman is not allowed to hide a pregnancy. (This law seems to still exist today in Scotland and was clearly invented by a man). So they put her on trial and sentenced Maggie to death. She was hanged in town square and the corpse was carried away by a man on a cart. Just as the cart was out of town, she came back to life and the driver of the cart didn't know what to do. He decided that it was best just to bring her back to the market place, where the public wanted to see her hang again. But this time another man stood up for Maggie and explained that you can't get punished for the same crime twice. It made sense and Maggie was free to go, but the death certificate had already been signed which meant she was officially dead and could absolutely start over. Since it said "till death do us part" in her marriage certificate, she was free from her husband as well and could finally marry the man she loved. She opened a cafe "Maggie Dickson's" in town square which is still there today.
 
We stopped at Mary's Milkbar, a cute little cafe where you can get delicious hot chocolate for 2,5 £. We took a selfmade chocolate mixture of milk chocolate with orange and cinnamon. I absolutely loved it! Johanna wasn't that happy with the mixture. We visited the graveyard and found Tom Riddle's tomb. J.K. Rowling would be proud of us.



After this beautiful tour, we went to the National Museum of Scotland (which by the way is very close to the Malones Hostel as well). Mark my words: this is the best museum I've ever been to. I'm not even joking. It has it all: interactive stuff like quizzes, fossils, astronomy, technologies (old and new), information about cultures around the globe. You can try out morse code. Look through a special glass to see like a dragonfly or change the frequency on a special system to hear like dogs, cats etc. You could even drive a race car or move a robot! And the best part is: It's free. You pay nothing and you get the world. It's so amazing. This museum is so underestimated. I hope I can reach at least a few people to travel to Edinburgh and check it out. It's absolutely worth it! Fun garanteed!




We knew we had just a few hours left before our night train would take us to London. So we decided to get souvenirs. We forgot that important travel detail in Dublin pretty much... I was lucky enough to find a green hair pin in form of clover on the floor in Dublin, so that made up for it, but still. Since we are backpackers our tour we decided to get only  small things (or at least light things), so that we wouldn't have to carry around much more. At first I was looking for a kilt, but all the kilts were either too expensive, too heavy or too much looking like a normal skirt. (So as you can imagine the search was quite frustrating). In the end we bought us some earrings. Mine are little oranges, just because I simply felt like it. Johanna bought herself earrings with tartan fabric and pattern. 


At the end of the day we took the night train to London. Thanks to the Interrail global pass we got on the night train without any extra costs. Free ride from Edinburgh to London. Budget spared [check]

Sonntag, 16. März 2014

Interrail - Day 1,2,3 Dublin: Lessons to be learned

Yes, I'm still alive!




We started on the 14th of March and flew from Düsseldorf Weeze to London Stansted. It was a cheap and short flight and we landed in the evening in London. Our plan was to see a late night movie at the cinema and/or party through the night, then sleep on our way to Dublin on the train to Holyhead (that's the little town where we'd take a ferry to Ireland) because our journey would start so very early because of the ferry that we wouldn't really sleep long in a hostel anyway. So making the night to day was the plan. But as always the theory has nothing to do with the reality. We landed safely in London, so good so far... but weren't really in the mood for cinema and too young for partying, so we walked around town, just enjoying the city at first. But it was getting colder and colder, so we decided to look for a hostel instead, but everything was booked out or too expensive. We ended up walking around aimlessly... Then we decided to just go to the 24h Burger King or 24h McDonalds to kill time, but they weren't open. Well okay yeah they were open... 24/7, but I think we Germans have a different definition of "open". They had transformed fast food places into something that reminded me of a drive-thru: They had shut down the sitting spaces and were just trying to get the people out of the way by handing out food and making them leave as fast as humanly possible.

LESSON 1: Just because it says open 24h doesn't mean you can stay there to sit & relax.

We tried to stay at the train station. Just like the kind of people trying to catch a train early in the morning at 1 or 2 am. But we failed miserably as well, because they shut down the stations as well. Fortunately for us they reopened just a few hours later. We didn't know it back then, so we felt a little lost. The cold was unbearable. We had to do something. At least the streets were still full of people. We began to ask some of them if there were other hostels we hadn't found yet or places where you could sit down at this ungodly hour. Most of them were nice, some were just strange and all of them had no idea. We got more and more desperate. The night was cold and long, the backpacks heavy and heavier.
One man send us to a hostel where green light came out the windows and strange deals were made at the front or in the court yard. We still asked for a room at this very odd place because a staff member of another hostel recommended it but even this whacky pit was fully booked. (Murphy's Law at its finest.)
A strange older man said he could help us. He spoke of a hotel that had a place in the back, where you could sit down and wait. And for a moment there was light at the end, because he had even time to show us this wonderful place. But then he told us to follow him  into a dark creepy alley... We turned around immediately and walked in the other direction.

LESSON 2: Be careful whom you trust.

A Hobo came along who had seen us running up and down. He invited us to sit down, drink and smoke weed with him, but we refused. Everything seemed scary at this time of day. He nodded understanding and as if he'd already known what we wanted to know, he told us to take one of those red busses. We would have to pay only 2,40 for no matter how long the distance. The bus'd drive around in circles all night anyway, so that we could sit down and relax and maybe sleep a little and after a while when the stations reopened, we'd be back where we started. It was the first useful advice.
We took a bus and it felt so great to sit for a while. Our tired feet and our back thought so too. When we got off the train station had reopened, we waited for a while more (but this time in the warm waiting room of the station) and took later that day (15th March) the train to Holyhead. We swore to never try to go without a hostel ever again.

At a halt in between London and our goal (Holyhead) we had to change trains and were reminded that we still needed night train reservations for the way from Edinburgh to London. We figured that it would cost probably more than we'd expect, but surprise! It didn't cost a god damn thing! Z-E-R-O! FUCK YEAH!

LESSON 3: Not everything goes as planned, but sometimes the unexpected makes you even happier!

In Holyhead we got on the ferry and finally relaxed. It was such a lovely ride. We had seats in the front of the ship and watched the shimmering of the sun on the water. And then this moment when the island comes in sight: Incredible! I mean yeah to some it is just a ride on a ferry.
But you know that's the great thing about Johanna. She's excited about a lot of things. She hasn't seen much of the world, she might not be experienced or know a lot about life, but she definitely does one thing right:
She values the little things in life and the greater things even more.
For her, a good meal isn't just nourishment. For her, a flight or a ferry isn't just a way to get around. And for her, animals aren't just meat (She's a vegetarian).

LESSON 4: Focus on the good things!  (Really! It might seem like an absolutely idiotic advice, but it's a lifesaver!)

In Dublin we had to look for a hostel as well, because everything on the Internet was totally booked out (believe me, we tried everything even couchsurfing, but around St. Patrick's Day Dublin is just too full) or too far away from the actual event of St. Patrick's Day (the real reason we chose to come here anyway.). So our mission to find two beds began. But it did not only seem more hopeless, but more expensive as well. We didn't want to stay outside one more night. We had sworn that to ourselves. And if you want really something, you'll find a way. And we did. It just did cost more than it was worth.

LESSON 5: Book the hostels before. Really. I know sometimes it will not work, but try anyhow.

On Interrail tour you'll be confronted with all kinds of hostels: the good ones and the worst ones. Until now we have definitely found the worst one. It was super expensive. (ca.40€ per night per person, yes I know...but it was our last hope for that night). The sanitary facilities were dirty. The showers changed between hot and cold. The "breakfast" was cheap, trashy and disgusting (old toasts with marmelade and nothing else. The orange juice and apple juice must have been poisonous, because they tasted so vile. And the rooms were cold as ice. I think it was because of the badly sealed up windows or walls. You didn't even get your own room key! You had to hope that someone was already there. The only upside of this hostel was that it was located in the central of Dublin and that we could finally sleep. (I'll definitely write a longer review when I come back. Watch out! I can be mean when I'm furious! And this time I'm on fire!)

But for this night in which I write this blog post. We booked a lovely hostel: The Avalon House. It might not be absolutely central, but it's not that far either. I really like it, because it's perfectly geared to the needs of backpackers or travellers in general with a budget limit. The staff is friendly and the rooms and bathrooms are clean. There is a real huge kitchen for self-catering, but breakfast is included as well.

Today we went to see the National Gallery of Art and then the National History Museum of Archeology. Both are free, but I recommend the Archeology museum more. It's so interesting and a lot of things are interactive! You can touch a few things or try out some of the old tools and artifacts! The mummies are the best part! (Yep you heard right: mummies!)



We went for lunch and then went out to enjoy the St. Patrick's Day some more. We met very nice people. The Irish are so heart-warming, friendly and jolly people. They love to talk and have this general interest in other people, which makes them very lovable. But all the people celebrating St. Patrick's Day are full of energy and party-loving people. (Although I think the Americans seem to have mistaken the festivities for the last step before alcoholism. All they want to do is drink until they can't remember a thing. And not even the national drink Guiness...no, it has to be stronger stuff like Vodka. Pure Vodka.). We befriended some guys from Brazil and I tried a real Guiness. I think it doesn't taste bad, but not my kind of drink.



I can't think straight anymore. It's getting late and I have to get up early tomorrow to get to Edinburgh.
A few last impressions of Dublin: Greeeeen eeeeveeerywheeere!, Guiness Beer, so many people! Funny, friendly... I get repetative. I log off now.



Sonntag, 9. März 2014

Foodpath 2: Tassenkuchen

I'm sick. And I'm sick of it.

I've been sick for a few days now and
all I do is lie in my bed, blow my nose, drink tea, cough and then take another sip.



I drink so much tea, it's driving me crazy.
One cup after another. 
Really just lots and lots of tea.
It's like I'm trying to break a new record in tea tasting. 
The only catch: I can't smell or taste a thing, because my nose is stuffed by disgusting bodily fluids I'd rather not tell you about. But you get the idea:
I slowly go mental....

That's why I decided to reward my poor sick and terribly whiny self for not going insane yet with...

...Mug Cake!

I think the English instructions are pretty clear and easy to understand. Enjoy!


________________________________________________________________

Ich bin krank und schon das Kranksein an sich macht mich krank.
Meine Mutter behandelt mich wie ein rohes Ei und versucht mich zu verhätscheln. Eigentlich eine nette Geste, aber es macht mich wahnsinnig! Eine liebevolle Tortur! Denn ich komme einfach zu nichts: Ich tue nichts außer herumliegen, in Taschentücher schniefen, Husten und Tee trinken. Es ist als wäre ich vorzeitig ins Altersheim gekommen und könnte dem nicht mehr entkommen.
Ich habe wirklich schon fast jede Teesorte durch: Salbei, Kamille, Pfefferminz, Schwarzen Tee, Ingwer und Zitrone, etc.
Das Traurigste daran ist, dass ich kaum mehr etwas rieche und dementsprechend auch wenig schmecke, wodurch der Geschmack des Tees ebenfalls in meinem Mund zerfällt.
Ich bin kurz vorm Durchdrehen. (Vorallem, da einfach wundervolles sonniges Frühlingswetter draußen ist und ich aber hier festsitze).
Daher dachte ich mir, erlaube ich doch meiner gemarterten Seele eine Kleinigkeit zum Frust-
Naschen, was einem Tässchen Tee recht nahe kommt (Süßes kann man auch ohne Nase schmecken hihi):

Tassenkuchen

Wer mich kennt, weiß wie absolut stinkfaul und ungeduldig ich beim Kochen bin, ganz zu Schweigen vom Backen.
Deswegen gebe ich euch nun ein wundervoll simples Rezept, das in weniger als 5 Minuten gemacht ist und auch kein Können erfordert, sondern bloß eine Mikrowelle:

  Man nehme:
  • 4 EL Mehl
  • 4 EL Zucker
  • 3 EL Kakaopulver
  • 1 Ei
  • 3 EL Nutella (oder jede andere Art Nussnugatcreme)
  • 3 EL Milch
  • 3 EL Öl 
Und mixe das Ganze in einer Tasse oder einem mikrowellenfesten Gefäß zusammen. Dann für 2-3 Minuten in die Mikrowelle und zuschauen wie die Mixtur aufgeht! Beim Rausnehmen Acht geben, die Tasse ist sehr wahrscheinlich glühend heiß. Den Tassenkuchen kann man warm genießen oder aber ein wenig abkühlen lassen - auch bei Zimmertemperatur ein Genuss!
Für besondere Naschkatzen kann man noch extra Vanille- oder Schokoladensoße, heiße Kirschen, Puderzucker, Eiscreme oder Sahne auf den fertigen Kuchen geben! Die Optionen sind endlos und geben dem Ganzen erst den besonderen Kick! (bzw. Zuckerschock... Nicht empfehlenswert für kleine Kinder, die eh schon überdreht sind...)

Ach und seid nicht verwundert, wenn der Kuchen mal ein wenig über den Rand geht, er ist schließlich auch nur ein Nachtisch, er gibt eben nicht kampflos auf, sondern versucht zu flüchten. Genauso wie ich es vermutlich bald tun werde, wenn ich nicht gesund werde...




Viel Spaß und guten Appetit!