September 29, 2004

Last days in Greece

Today is our last full day in Greece, and the last day of our holiday (unless you count tomorrow, of course, which will be spent on an airplane.) It's hard to believe we've been on the road (or, more appropriately, on the tracks) for nearly a month!

I haven't been keeping as close an eye on what we've been doing day to day as I did at the beginning of the trip. So here are some highlights:

We've been here in Athens since Friday ( is Wednesday, so that would be 6 days including today.) We spent a day at the Acropolis and Plaka, a day exploring the Agora (a large, mostly empty area northwest of the Acropolis; there is a tiny Byzantine church, an ancient temple, and small museum there) and more of the Plaka. The Plaka is a neighborhood north of the the Acropolis, mostly filled with souvenir shops, restaurants, and the occasional ruin. We were there on Sunday, when it was unbelievable crowded (think Orchard Street in NYC, 20 years ago) and yesterday, when it wasn't. We watched the sun set on a hill opposite the Acropolis a couple of nights ago and took some fabulous (I hope!) pictures of Athens and the Acropolis at night. We've also spent a good deal of time just wandering around our neighborhood and eating.

We haven't been as adventurous food-wise in Greece as we were in other places, I think mainly due to laziness, so we've eaten at the same places multiple times (a first for the trip!) We had the best eggplant salad in the world our first night here, and I'm hoping we might go back tonight for seconds. Our most frequented place has been a cafeteria called Neon, which serves basic Greek food for not much money. It's cheap, tasty, and a few blocks from our hotel and right next to the metro station. I've eaten eggplant stuffed with peppers, stuffed with meat, fried, and as 3 different salads. The Greeks rival the Italians in their treatment of eggplant, and I've had it every day I've been here but one. My second favorite dish after eggplant has been souvlaki, which is like a shish kabob served with rice with peas and a lemon wedge. Gary's been eating a lot of gyros, but I don't know if that's his favorite or not. I like them, but really just for the cucumber sauce goes with it. For dessert we've had baklava, walnut cake, kataifi (a spongy cake with pastry "hair" on top) and some pastries that tasted like baklava, but in different shapes (rectangular and sideways). It's all soaked in honey, and it's all delicious. I tried some Greek coffee, but decided that it's not for me. (I forget if I mentioned that while in Italy I decided I liked espresso, especially with tiramisu; I expect I'll be one of those snobby Americans who complains that you can't get a decent cup of coffee in the United States.)

One of the most exciting days of the week was spent in the Olympic Complex in the northern part of Athens. The 2004 Olympics ended a day or so before we began our trip, but the 2004 Paralympics started shortly afterwards, and we caught the tail end! The Paralympics are held after each Olympics, in the same venues and with many of the same competitions. It was Gary's idea to go up the the main complex, and I'm so glad we did. We got day passes for 10E, which let us in to any of the events there. We got to see the Olympic torch and the Olympic Stadium (and it looked just like on tv!) We watched part of a wheelchair basketball game (Brazil vs. Iran) and a lot of track and field events (shotput, javellin, discus, and several track final and semi-final races.) During the track events we also saw at least half a dozen medal ceremonies, and we had to keep standing up for various national anthems. There were a few races with Greek athletes (I think they were the cerebral palsy races) and the crowd went wild as they walked to their starting positions. I was initially surprised by the huge crowds, but the events were as exciting as any Olympic competitions. After a couple of hours watching track and field, we decided to check out other venues, and wandered into the tennis stadium in time to watch the end of the men's quad double finals. After the medal ceremony we watched the men's single finals, featuring the number one and number two wheelchair tennis players (Dutch and Australian). The Dutch had a pretty big contigent in the stadium and really got the crowd going. Their man won easily, but it was a friendly crowd and everyone cheered everyone else. The bronze medallist was French; there was a small crowd of French fans who cheered back and forth with him. I've never been a huge tennis fan (or a fan at all, for that matter) but I was as excited as everyone else watching the final match and the medal ceremony.

This morning we went to the main archeological museum, which is just a few blocks from our hotel. We lots of neolithic pottery and other grave finds, and lots and lots of Greek statues. More statues than you could shake a stick at. Unfortunately the rest of the museum was closed, so we didn't get to see many vases or "minor finds." Next time, I guess. This afternoon we're in search of a small suitcase so we can haul all the stuff we've bought back home (it's not much, actually, but a t-shirt here, a stack of used Metro tickets there, and it all adds up.)

Posted by Jen at 05:22 AM | Comments (6)

September 25, 2004

Final Country

We made it to Greece yesterday morning! The trip from Italy to Greece itself was pretty uneventful. We took a train to Bari (south-east corner of Italy) and from there a ferry to Patras, Greece. We had dinner, wandered around the boat, and slept. It was a little like I imagined a cruise ship to be like, except much smaller and toned down. There was a tiny dance floor and bar, a regular restaurant, a buffet restaurant, and several outdoor drink stands. There was a tiny pool and hottub on the top deck, and a duty-free shop and miniature casino. We mostly did not take advantage of these, but we did check them out. The trip from Bari to Patras, took about 15 hours, and that's about as long as I would have wanted to spend on board.

From Patras we took a bus to Athens, where we discovered that our hotel reservations had been changed for us! We were sent to another hotel with the explaination that our travel agent (which we don't have) had made reservations for us at another hotel because the original one was full. Apparently this is a common practice in Greece, or at least in Athens, because the new hotel seemed to understand it pretty well. We have still not gotten ahold of our mysterious travel agent (I made the reservations on the internet) but everything seems to be working out ok otherwise.

So instead of jumping into the Greek scene and going sightseeing, this morning we are doing laundry at a local laundromat and checking our email. I think the plan for the afternoon is the Acropolis, and tomorrow we'll go to the archaelogical museum that happens to be a few blocks from our hotel.

Posted by Jen at 03:08 AM | Comments (1)

September 15, 2004

Leaving Bern

We are leaving for Rome tonight, on an overnight sleeper train. The train doesn't depart until after 11, so we've got a few hours to kill beforehand.

Day 13: The Golden Pass. So far this was one of our best days in Switzerland. There is a train line called the Golden Pass, which goes from Lucerne to Montreux (on Lake Geneva). We reserved seats in a panoramic train car from Zwisimann to Montreux; getting to Zwisimann meant taking a train from Bern to Speitz and catching another train to Zwisimann with a 4 minute connection. Thank goodness Swiss trains are almost always on time!

The panoramic train was terrific. The train cars are almost all windows, and the engineer sits on a second level, so there is an unobstructed view from the front. We did not have seats in the very front, but we still had a wonderful view from the side and part of the front. After several hours of watching the countryside, we arrived in Montreux. The train ride was not quite as spectacular as we had been led to believe (I thought we would be seeing snow-capped mountains) but it was pretty nonetheless.

At Montreux we boarded a paddleboat for the Ch?teau-de-Chillon, a 12th century castle built on an islet on Lake Geneva. I believe the castle was started in the 12th century, but much of the building took place between the 12th and 16th centuries. To us Americans, though, it was Old. Because of the way in which it was built (that is, piecewise over hundreds of years) it seemed easy to get lost. The self-guided tour was very well done, however, and even though I couldn't always locate myself on the map, we knew where we were.

The castle met all my requirements for a Real Castle. It had towers, and multiple courtyards, and a moat, and walls with up-and-down bits (I don't know what they're called, but they're on every child's picture of a castle). There was no drawbridge, but there had been at one time. We had a great time exploring it and deciding which rooms we liked best for ourselves.

After the castle we took a steamer back to Montreux, and then on to Lausanne, where we would take a train to Bern. We had dinner in Lausanne at a delightful Swiss restaurant with an extremely friendly waitress. Lausanne is in the French speaking part of Switzerland, so I could use my French again (which was quite a relief). We had melon and ham for an appetizer and fondue moiti?-moiti? for dinner. No dessert, though, we were too full. And we needed to head back to Bern before the trains stopped running for the night.

The train Gary had picked out for us to go on was a TGV that went from Neuch?tel to Bern, so we had to find a train to get us from Lausanne to Neuch?tel. The first part wasn't a problem, but when we got to Neuch?tel we learned that the TGV only ran on Fridays and Sundays. We did find another, slower, train to get us home, but not before we both worried about being stuck in Neuch?tel for the night. As we were both by now well aware, the trains only run so late in Switzerland, so it's very important to be where you need to be before midnight.

Day 14: Our first trip to the Alps is unsuccessful. The plan for the day was to take an early train to Interlaken and get up to the Jungfraujoch region of the Alps. The goal was to get to the highest rail station in Europe, as well as see a glacier and run around at 11,000 feet. This is not what happened. We got up early and made it to Interlaken in record time. But, the weather was not with us today. In a number of places around Interlaken are television monitors with live coverage of various peaks accessible that day in the Jungfraujoch mountain region. Every single one showed a dark grey foggy screen, with high winds and low temperatures. Not ideal conditions for going to see beautiful mountains. We walked across Interlaken to the main rail station, pausing at these monitors every so often. Not much was changing, and Gary was looking pretty gloomy. We hung around the rail station for about 30 minutes, reading the cable car schedule to see if there was any place in the mountains that would be good to go.

In the end we wound up not going anywhere in the Jungfraujoch. Instead, we went up a small peak north of Interlaken, Harderkulm, from which we could see where we might have gone. It was a pleasant trip after all. We got to take a funicular (a train that is pulled by a cable up a steep incline) to about 4300 feet. And by the time we got to the top, it looked like some of the clouds had cleared. We were hopeful that perhaps we might get to the bottom, rush back to the train station, and spend a few hours in the Alps. But the weather still wasn't really good enough for it, so we had to be content with seeing the mountains from a distance. And even still we got a pretty good view of the glacier.

Day 15: Our second trip to the Alps is unsuccessful. Our original plan for today was to take the train to Brig and then get on the "Glacier Express" to Zermatt to see the Matterhorn (which our friend Cornelia calls "a nice mountain.") We spent quite a bit of time this morning making sure we'd be able to get there and back before our train left for Rome (especially given our experiences with taking the train late at night!) We caught the train to Brig, and easily made the connection to the Zermatt train. It's a special narrow gauge train, and Gary wondered if we would need reservations for it. But the car we were in was practically empty, so we figured we would be fine.

About 5 minutes into the trip the conductor walked through the car asking for tickets. I handed him our EuroRail pass, he looked at it, and told us that it was no good for this train. At first I thought he was joking, because he was smiling as he said it. But it soon became apparent that he wasn't, and it wasn't clear what we could do. Gary showed him our schedule book, which doesn't mention anything about special tickets for this train. The conductor agreed that the book said this, but it was an error. He also said that only his company ran trains on the line we were on, and that we would need a ticket for any of them. We finally got out of him that we could buy our tickets on board, but a first class ticket would be over 100CHF, and that 2nd class tickets would be about 70CHF. Each. He left us alone to make a decision about what we wanted to do. We didn't have that many francs with us, so we got off the train at the next station, Visp.

We weren't sure about what to do next. It wasn't obvious that we could just get off the train at any station without paying something for the train we were just on. Luckily the Visp station had both regular Swiss trains and special "Glacier Express" trains stopping there, so we figured we'd be safe taking a regular Swiss train back to Brig, and then back to Bern. We did have to convince ourselves that we could take a regular Swiss train back to Brig, after having been told that only "special" trains ran in the region. And for the 50 minutes that we waited for that train to Brig, we fully expected the rail police to come find us and demand the money we were sure we owed for taking the first train to Visp. Needless to say, we were pretty relieved to be back in Brig, and even more relieved to be on a train bound for Bern. As two Americans wearing blue jeans and denim shirts, we were pretty certain we stuck out and would be easy to find should anyone want to.

The day turned out not to be so bad. The weather down south was miserable (rainy and very foggy) so I don't think we would have seen much anyway. And we got a nice train trip down to Brig and back. And now we are very unlikely to miss our train to Italy (being worried about catching the last train of the night has become a common theme on this trip.)

Posted by Jen at 08:33 AM | Comments (1)

September 12, 2004

Update from Bern

It's been a slow weekend here in Bern. The town pretty much shuts down at 4 on Saturday, although we didn't realize this until 4:05 yesterday afternoon. :) No shopping at all, even the grocery stores are closed. Luckily the restaurants stay open, so we didn't starve. Today (Sunday) everything remained closed; the idea is to spend time with your family, go to church, and relax. We're taking the time to do laundry, update our notes, and relax as well.

Day 10 (Friday): we went to Lucerne for the day. We took a train to Olten, where we changed for another train to Lucerne. The train station is on Lake Lucerne, so we walked around the docks, looking for a boat trip on the lake. We found a tour that would take us to the top of Mount Pilatus, one of the taller peaks in the region. We grabbed a couple of sandwiches and a bag of chips for lunch. We had bought a box of paprika flavored Pringles on the train from Amsterdam to Brussels, and Gary had hoped these would be similar. Instead, they turned out to be barbeque flavor, not our favorite!

Our tour started with a 90 minute boat ride on Lake Lucerne. This was followed by an incredible cog-wheel train ride up the mountain. At some points we were traveling at a 48? angle! I snapped some great pictures of the Alps from the train, but mostly we just enjoyed the view. It was a long trip, too (40 minutes). A 10 minute hike took us to the top of Mount Pilatus, with breathtaking views. If you ever thought Yosemite was incredible, you should come here. Unfortunately the sky was a little hazy, so the mountains weren't as clear as they could be. Still, it was truly awesome. There are 2 hotels at the top of the mountain, as well as a giftshop and refreshment stands. We watched a hanglider take off from the top (I've no idea where she landed, either!), drank some beer, shared a pretzel, and marveled at the scene. At one point we heard some weird music-like sounds coming from lower on the mountain. We later found out we were hearing 2 herds of cows, one on each side of the mountain from us. The cows here all wear bells around their necks, all in different pitches, but possibly in the same key, that create a lot of noise.

The trip down the mountain was almost as exciting as the trip up. We started with a short cable car ride down, which was neat, but pretty standard. We got stuck in the middle of a large tour group, who all seemed pretty excited by the trip. This was followed by small gondola cable cars down the rest of the mountain. Gary and I shared the car with another couple, who we think were speaking Italian. We passed over a couple of cow pastures, which is how we found out about the cow bells. Finally, a short walk and bus ride bring us back to the center of Lucerne.

After our trip down the mountain we walked around Lucerne. There is a pretty covered bridge that leads from the train station to the old part of town. We wandered around here for an hour or so before finding a place for dinner. We both had some sort of schnitzel; mine was like a deluxe pork tenderloin and frites, and Gary's was similar, except with a mushroom sauce and butter noodles. For dessert I had ice cream in Bailey's, and Gary had apple struddel. By now it was nearly 8, and we decided we should start heading home.

Unfortunately, I decided that I wanted to buy a bottle of water before we got on the train. This caused us to miss the train that goes directly back to Bern, so we had to figure out another train to get. There were several trains that stopped at Olten, so we got on the first one, thinking that it would only take us a little longer than waiting for the next direct train. We were so wrong! We had unknowingly gotten on a local train, and by local I mean it stopped at every single little town and hamlet between Lucerne and Olten! A trip that should have taken us 40 minutes wound up taking well over an hour. In the end it didn't matter so much, but we got a little worried while on the train. The schedule we have doesn't list local trains, and neither does the map. So for much of the trip we had no idea how far we had gone, or how much further it would be until we reached our destination. We did make it home, however, and it was a damn good bottle of water.

Day 11: we wandered around the town of Bern. We started by walking around the large market that was going on in 2 adjacent plazas. The first one was mainly clothing, toys, jewelry, and "stuff." The second was primarily a farmers market. We didn't buy anything, but I was tempted by some yarn that looked hand-dyed. We also walked along Marktgasse, and went into a few stores here. We checked out Coop City, which seems to be the name of a lot of the stores and gas stations we've been seeing from the train here in switzerland. Gary bought a University of San Francisco t-shirt (he couldn't resist) and I bought some shoe cushions. No one ever told me how much better walking around town could be when wearing shoe cushions!

At noon we watched the main clocktower do its special hourly dance. A lot goes on in just a couple of minutes, but it's hard to follow everything. There is a rooster that crows a few times, a series of dancing figurines, and of course a figure that rings the bells for the hour at the top. It was actually a lot less impressive than I had thought it would be, given what I had read about it.

We continued our walking tour of Bern, pretty much following the route the Michelin recommended. We went into a cheese shop that Gary later wanted to go back to (but, alas, it was after 4 when we tried again, and they were closed for the weekend.) We crossed a bridge east of town and found the bear pits. I didn't realize that they still kept bears in the bear pits (I had thought it was a just a historical site). There are two pits, side by side, that house 4 bears (Tana, Pedro, and another she-bear in one, and a larger bear, Urs, in the other). The bear pits are a lot like the zoo, except it is a zoo with only one kind of animal. We watched the bears for a bit, then went inside to watch a short presentation on the history of Bern. After the presentation we watched the bears some more. This time the bear warden was back from lunch, and was selling small cones of food to feed to the bears. After watching all the kids feed the 3 bears in one pit, we decided it would be fun to try to wake the 4th bear and feed him, especially since everyone was ignoring him. As soon as we started tossing food near the sleeping Urs he woke up and wandered over to be closer to us. Bear food consists of fruit (apples, tomatoes, and green and purple grapes) and bear pellets (Purina Bear Chow, I'm sure). He seemed to like it, and was pretty good at catching it in his mouth.

We walked back across the bridge and headed for the cathedral. I apologize for not remembering the names of everything we saw...they're all in German and have very long names! We climbed to the top, of course, and got a terrific view of the city. The cathdral was built in the 15th century, and is rather plain inside. I think this has something to do with the Reformation, and the removal of a lot of Catholic decorations in churches. While we were there a choir was practicing, either for Sunday's service or for an upcoming concert. The accoustics were incredible, and walking around a cathedral that is filled with singing voices is a wonderful experience, despite the lack of ornamentation.

By now it was 4 o'clock, and we thought that rather than eat at a restaurant again, it would be fun to grab some cheese and sausage and bread and have a picnic, either in the hotel room or outside. This never happened, of course, because by the time we made this decision, we also made the discovery that everything was closed. Our Swiss friends had mentioned this to us at some point, and our guide book also says something about it. I feel that any guide book on Switzerland should have in big, bold letters on the front: "All shops close at 4 on Saturday, and do not open until Monday!" Instead we ate at yet another restaurant, and had bratwurst r?sti (sausages over hashbrowns).

Day 12: we spent another day in Bern again. We started by missing breakfast, which put me in a foul mood. It was another "stupid American not paying attention to times" problem: the hotel breakfast was served until 11, but since I thought we had already missed it at 10, we didn't bother to try to rush in the morning. By the time we found out they were serving until 11, it was already too late. Since no stores are open on Sunday, grabbing a sandwich or loaf of bread was not an option. Instead we went to the Bern historical museum, where we thought maybe there would be a museum restaurant. Just inside the grounds there was a vendor selling brats and hotdogs, so we had brats again. The museum had a bunch of games for kids to play, it looked a lot like a renaissance faire. There were horse-and-carriage rides, spear throwing contests, and battles on the grass with foam swords and shields. The kids all looked like they were having a great time, and the adults seemed happy to let them use up some energy before going into the museum.

The museum itself is nicely laid out. They have a small section of historical artifacts from around the world, but the primary focus is Swiss history. Contrary to what I know about them now, the Swiss have not, historically speaking, been a peace-loving people. In fact they seemed downright scary most of the time.

The rest of the day we are spending relaxing and being as un-tourist like as possible. This means napping, checking email (and updating my blog), and doing laundry. We may get to a few postcards this evening, too.

Posted by Jen at 07:53 AM | Comments (6)

September 09, 2004

Made it to Switzerland on time

Day 6: We spent the day in Bruges. Wow! If you only had one day to spend in Belgium, go here! It's about an hour by train from Brussels, and less than a 10 minute walk from the train station to the center of town. The entire town is beautiful. It looks like how I imagine a medieval town to be: the streets are narrow and paved with stones, the houses are quant, and a canal runs through town. We walked around for a few hours, looked in some very old churches, and debated about buying some lace (in the end we didn't.) We were successfully tempted to buy some chocolates (yum!) We took a short canal tour, which was very pleasant. Bruges looks more like Amsterdam than it does Brussels, which makes sense since it's further north. Most of the canal houses were similar in style to those in Amsterdam, except they were shorter (2-3 stories) and wider (3 windows instead of 2). We also didn't see any furniture hooks. At the end of the day we each had several glasses of the local beer (excellent) and a croque monsieur and frites.

Day 7: We walked around the center of Brussels, saw the Mannekin Pis, an art museum, and ate waffles. Brussels overall was a bit of a disappointment. It lacked the charm of Bruges (see below) and the refinement (and charm) of Paris. It's as if no one really felt any pride for the city.

We spent the early evening resting; I read in the bathtub while Gary took a nap. Dinner was at a lovely local restarant recommended by our host at the B&B. So far the best place we've eaten at in Belgium. (And we've learned that when your host says a particular place is good, it's best to follow his advice!) I had a wonderful beer (biere d'abbeye blonde) that tasted almost like honey. It went well with the veal ribs.

Day 8: We decided to go through Luxembourg instead of Paris, and stayed the night there. We didn't arrive until the middle of the afternoon, so there's a lot we didn't see. Our first goal was to find a hotel, which we did rather easily. Gary read about one in the Eurail guide book, and they had an opening. We were smart and left most of our bags at the train station, which made walking to the hotel much less stressful.

We took a tour of one of the casements (original city wall and fortification). It was old. Very old. Over 1000 years old, in fact. As an American, things this old just blow me away. Most of the people wandering around town seemed oblivious to how old their surroundings were. I guess after years of living in Europe, it's just another old church or ancient wall or fortification, nothing special. We also went to a few very old cathedrals (not as old, only 800 years or so) and wandered around the old part of the city.

We found a crowded restaurant for dinner and wound up eating next to a couple from Idaho, part way through a biking tour of northern Europe. My French and the phrase book I had failed me and we ate thinly sliced raw beef for dinner. It was, well, different. Boeuf cru; I should have guessed it would be raw from the word crudites, but I was misled by the menu listing steak tartare elsewhere. We made it up with a wonderful dessert, some sort of chocolate dish with cherries.

Day 9: Today is Gary's birthday, and we have made it to Bern! We took a 5 hour train from Luxembourg. Gary and I were almost separated at the border to Switzerland; the train schedule said the train would stop in Basel for 20 minutes, so when it stopped, Gary went out to find an ATM (euros are not used there) and some food. He returned a couple of minutes later, empty handed, saying there was nothing around except a passport control gate. A minute or two after he got back on the train, we started moving again! Apparently it only stopped at the French passport control track for a few minutes, then moved on the the Swiss track for 20 minutes. Luckily he had his passport with him (and even more luckily he got back on the train before it moved to the Swiss side!)

Our hotel, the Metropole, is very close to the train station (something like 342 steps, but we didn't count.) Across the street is a related hotel with a laundry room (Gary just left to check the dryer) and a few internet terminals. We looked around a local grocery to get some food and were almost trapped inside. In fact, we still haven't figured out how to leave without buying something. We were forced to buy cheese and sausage! How terrible is that?

Posted by Jen at 08:05 AM | Comments (0)

September 06, 2004


We arrived in Brussels yesterday afternoon. We?re staying at a B&B in the southeast corner of the city. The internet cafe (only ?1 per hour, much cheaper than Amsterdam) is around the corner. Unfortunately the keyboard is not the standard American qwerty-type, so Gary and I are both struggling a little with typing.

We had a wonderful time in Amsterdam, although we didn?t hear about eating Indonesian food until today. I guess we?ll have to go back some time.

Day 4 was our last full day in Amsterdam. We went to the Rijksmuseum, which I read had the best collection of Dutch art anywhere. I think must have been mostly closed, as they only had a few galleries open the day we were there. We decided to be super touristy and take a canal boat tour, which was a great way to spend an hour looking around town without abusing our feet. The guide talked about the canal houses (and the furniture hooks) and a bit about the history and geography of the city. And our B&B host, Vlad, told us that the reason the houses are so narrow is because originally they had to pay for them (taxes or rent, it wasn?t clear) based on the width of the property, so everyone built their houses deep and narrow.

We decided on another Dutch restaurant for dinner, and ended the evening at a comedy show called Boom Chicago. They are a group of Americans living in Amsterdam; the show was part improv and part prepared material (primarily making fun of Americans and the Dutch).

On Day 5 (yesterday) we took the train from Amsterdam to Brussels, which was uneventful but still pretty interesting. We saw lots of windmills, fields of flowers, and bicyclists. We have Eurail passes, so all of the shorter train trips (this one was only 3 hours) are free for us. Last night we wandered around the neighborhood, and then to the center of town. There was a large beer festival going on, but it was almost over, so we decided just to watch and not taste anything. Dinner was a big expensive waste on one of the touristy streets (I can?t remember the name right now). We?ll know better next time. We ended the evening at the cinema (Shrek 2, but it was in English, so not as exciting as we thought it might be).

This morning we are doing some laundry at the B&B while we check our email. Then we?re off to Bruges for the day. Most, if not all, of the museums in Brussels are closed on Mondays, so we?ll see a few tomorrow. We still haven?t decided how to get from here to Bern, but it?s looking like it will be a direct all day train trip, instead of going through Paris. The second option is tempting, but we were so hot and tired carrying our packs yesterday that the thought of doing it again through Paris is somewhat unappealing. Yes, we can leave our bags at the station, but we still need to get from the arrrival station to the departure station. And it?s surprisingly warm and humid here.

The laundry should be about done. Time to be a tourist again!

Posted by Jen at 01:06 AM | Comments (1)

September 03, 2004


Greetings from Amsterdam! Gary and I are on Day 3 of our honeymoon, and so far we're having a great time. We have found a local internet cafe, so in the short time I've got here are some notes on our trip so far:

Day 1 was spent waking up super early, packing, and trying to sleep on the airplane. We had a direct flight from San Francisco to Amsterdam, but the airline decided it would be better to keep the lights on US time instead of Dutch time, so we had a difficult time getting rest.

Day 2 we arrive in Amsterdam and take the train from the airport to the Centraal Station. We are staying at the Maas B&B, about a 15 minute walk from the station. Because we had tried adjusting our sleep schedule several days before we left, we actually were able to have a full day in the city. We walked around the neighborhood near our B&B, then to the Anne Frank House. This I found interesting, but very depressing. It was much larger than I had imagined, although for 8 people to be stuck in there for nearly 2 years, it must have seemed incredibly cramped.

We had dinner at a local Dutch restaurant, recommended by Vlad (one of the owners of the B&B). I don't know if we had traditional Dutch cuisine, but it was terrific. After dinner we headed to the red light district, which definitely lived up to its name. We just looked, though. :)

Today we went to the Van Gogh museum, which is about a 30 minute walk from where we're staying. We had planned to go to another museum, but our feet were tired, and there's only so much art you can see in a day. So instead we hung out at Vondel Park, along with hundreds of other people. On our way back home we met up with another guest at the B&B, who commented that it seemed to her that Amsterdammers must not work, they seem to spend all their time biking around town and drinking in cafes.

There certainly are a lot of bikes here. I don't feel confident enough to rent one (maybe next time) but it's definitely the way to get around. Driving is out; the roads are too narrow, and there are too many bikes to want to get behind the wheel of a car. Cafes are also all over, as are coffee shops. There aren't Starbucks; coffee shops are places to get marijuana, either in the form of a smoke or "space cake."

The buildings here are incredible, very typically Dutch. The one we're staying in has extremely narrow and steep stairs, and I imagine they're all pretty similar. The ones along the canal are beautiful, and make all the modern buildings look really weird.

Almost out of time...more on another day!

Posted by Jen at 09:59 AM | Comments (5)

September 01, 2004

On our way

Gary and I head for Amsterdam this afternoon. We've been adjusting our sleep schedule so we'll be less jet-lagged when we get there; this morning we woke up at 3 am! The Netherlands is 9 hours ahead of us, so now our sleep should only be off by 3 to 4 hours, which is much more reasonable.

We spent the morning finishing our packing, getting things ready for the cat-sitters, and generally milling around trying to think of last minute stuff. A lot of time passes between 3 in the morning and noon (which is when our friend is picking us up for the airport).

Our ferry tickets from Bari to Patras were supposed to be delivered to Gary's office this morning, but weren't. Now we'll have to have someone here FedEx them to Europe, probably Switzerland. We've learned our lesson: never leave the ferry reservations until the last minute!

Posted by Jen at 11:44 AM | Comments (1)