Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Venice Queen - Venice, Italy

On the way to Greece, we're making a quick stop in Venice. Just because we're in the neighbourhood, you know? Or maybe because it's a city dreams are made of.

Where we will sleep

Camping Fusina(Campsite)
How long? 2 nights
How much? €30.50 per night (2 adults in a cabin), €2.50 per night for the bike.
Check in? 2pm, but we’ll be arriving around 4pm after riding 6 hours from Munich
Check out? 10am, but we’ll be leaving early (5am!) to catch an overnight ferry to Greece from Ancona, Italy.
Why we chose it? It's on the edge of the lagoon, 20 min ferry to Venice, free wifi. Biggest pull was location.

What we want to see

All my research points to one common piece of advice – get lost in Venice. So that’s what I want to do! We only have one full day in Venice but once we’ve seen the main sights, I want to explore unguided by maps or ideas.

St Marks Basilica – a beautiful Byzantine cathedral, one of the most famous in Italy.
There are strict rules for visiting, which only takes around 10 minutes –
  • Clothes be appropriate for a place of worship.
  • You cannot enter the basilica with luggage. Luggage must be deposited in Ateneo San Basso (Piazzetta dei Leoncini - in front of the Gate of Flowers, north façade).
  • Photos and filming are forbidden.
  • Loud explanations are not allowed, the use of earphones is permitted. 

Admission to the Basilica €0 except Sundays and holidays between 2-5pm. St Marks Museum €4, Pala d’Oro €2, Treasury €3.
Opening Hours for the Basilica 9.45am-5pm, St Marks Museum 9.45am-4.45pm, Pala d’Oro and Treasury 9.45am-5pm.

St Marks Square aka Piazza San Marco – the main public square in Venice
€0 admission
Opening Hours N/A

Ride a Vaporetto – like a bus, except a boat. And rather than paying upwards of €80 per 40 minutes for a gondola ride (the minimum government-regulated price), you can catch the Vaporetto the length of the Grand Canal for €6.50 each. Your €6.50 ticket gets you a 1 hour pass and I’ve heard the ride is the best in the evening.

Doge’s Palace – a gothic palace that also housed a prison.
€18 admission
Opening Hours 8.30am-7pm in Summer, 5.30pm in Winter.

Rialto Bridge – the oldest bridge spanning the Grand Canal.

What we are expecting

I’ve heard all the rumours about the smell and the rubbish. I don’t care. I’m expecting narrow lanes filled with deep doorways and lots of shadows. I’m expecting old ladies that don’t speak English, going about their day as their families have for centuries. I’m expecting huge crowds around the popular sights. I’m expecting nooks and crannies I can claim to have ‘discovered’ – with no tourists around. I’m expecting beautiful buildings. I’m expecting it took look run down. I’m expecting a little bit of magic that just needs polishing up.

Fulfilling an IOU - Munich, Germany

After Schlotheim we will be on our way to Italy. Before we can get there, we need to catch our breath for a night, and Munich is as good a place as any!

Where we will sleep

The Tent (Hostel)
How long? 1 night
How much? €15 per night (2 adults, 1 motorbike). We need cash too - there is no Eftpos.
Check in? Anytime. You're supposed to be there before 5pm but we ticked a box to say we’ll be later than that arriving from Schlotheim.
Check out? 12 noon, but we’ll be off around 7am to try and get to Venice, Italy (6 hours away) by 4pm.
Why we chose it? We're staying in a giant tent-dorm, where everyone bunks in on sleeping mats. It's super cheap and its easy, which is important because we will arrive late after riding from Schlotheim and visiting the Dachau Concentration Camp on the way. The site has a beer garden, free wifi, a laundry, and a bar which serves breakfast and dinner.

What we want to see

Dachau Concentration Camp – Perhaps morbid, but I really want to see Dachau. I think it’s going to be beautiful in a way that the emotion and air of the place will cut deep. I feel like since we are in the area, we owe it to the people who suffered in the war to gain a little more understanding of what they went through. I wanted to go to Auschwitz because, as the most infamous of the camps, it has the best museum. To get there would have taken a day there and a day back because it’s quite far off our track, but Dachau is only 30 minutes outside Munich, where we are staying enroute to Venice.
€0 with a 3 Euro parking fee.
Opening Hours Tuesday-Sunday 9am-5pm. There is a 22 minute documentary that shows in English at 11.30am, 2pm and 3.30pm.

Residenz Palace - €6 for the Museum, Open 9-6pm throughout the Summer. It's unlikely we will have time to go the the museum this time as we're only in Munich for one night. With 100 rooms of history, it's a place I'd like to go back to.

Englischer Garten - A huge public park in the middle of Munich. It's like Central Park in New York except that the lunchtime crowd includes nude sunbathers.

Marienplatz Square - The heart of Munich and the base of the townhall, churches, and the famous Glockenspeil, which performs at 12 noon and 5pm.

A Beer Hall or Beer Garden. It wouldn't be visiting Munich without visiting a Beer Hall, right?

Once again there is a New Munich Tour, at 10.45am and 1pm for 3.5 hours each. As with all Sandemanns tours, it proves very difficult to book, and we won’t have time for it this time anyway.

What we are expecting

From Dachau, I’m expecting to feel something very deep and very different. When I was in New York City, my friends wanted to see Ground Zero, where the World Trade Towers once stood. I had zero interest in seeing it – why would I want to see a hole in the ground? New Zealand had nothing to do with what happened that day, I didn’t know anyone there or even in the states. I had a very negative attitude about seeing it, and a complete disinterest.

Ground Zero was on our way to Wall Street and to see the Statue of Liberty. My friends wanted to stop by it, so we did. I was completely changed the second we got there and I can’t explain why. Most of it was surrounded by construction fencing, with a small gap of wire fencing where you could see through. Nothing special to look at, it really was just a hole in the ground. But I felt different, I felt grief and I felt thankful and I felt changed. I can’t explain the feeling. No one can explain what love feels like until you feel it yourself, right? It was like that, no one could have explained the feeling until I felt it. That’s what I expect from Dachau.

As for Munich itself, we aren’t there for long. I expect it to be cold because I think most pictures I’ve seen of it have been wintery. I expect it to be a lot of brick buildings, not a lot of greenery. I expect a very social, jovial, busy atmosphere. A very loud, very friendly atmosphere, people laughing and enjoying each others company. And beer.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Back into the Thick of it - Schlotheim, Germany

After Prague we head back into Germany to a small town called Schlotheim for the Party San Open Air metal festival.

Where we will sleep

Party San festival (Campsite)
How long? 3 nights 
Check in? The campground opens on 10 August at 10am. We have a 4 hour ride from Prague and we’re planning on arriving around 1pm.
Check out? Not specified. We’re heading to Munich via Dachau Concentration Camp so we will be leaving Prague around 7am to get to Dachau by 12.30pm.
How much? Free!
Why we chose it? It was included free with our tickets!

What we want to see

Again in Schlotheim the main attraction is a metal festival, Party San. The festival is held on Obermehler airbase, which is kind of cool.

Schlotheim is much smaller than Wacken, with only 31 bands playing on 2 stages. Even though I don’t know any of the bands as well as I know those going to Wacken, I think I’m looking forward to Party San more, just because it will be smaller and a lot less daunting.

What we are expecting

I’m expecting something much smaller than the huge fields of Wacken and Benicassim. I’m sure that my vision of ‘small’ will actually still be much, much bigger than anything I’ve been to in New Zealand or Australia. I’m expecting more space and less crowds, but I think that anything in Europe is going to have to be bigger than anything I can imagine. I’m really looking forward to watch Courtney live his dreams and enjoy his favourite bands in forum that we could never even hope for down here in New Zealand.

When Looking Good is Feeling Good Too

There’s been a really crappy bi-product of all this Europe planning. I’ve let myself go. I’m not old, married nor do I have children, but I've still ‘let myself go’.

I’m going to blame the Long Haired Boy, because I can do that and until he reads this, I’ll get away with it. I can blame him because he’s the one who broke my GHD hair straighteners. Sure, it was me that left them on the floor next to the bed but that’s where they always were. And OK, so I was the one that dropped my clothes on them meaning they couldn’t be seen… I still maintain the breakage was his fault. He still has them, 6 months later, two separate pieces joined only by a singular wire, swearing he will fix them. I’m saving extra to buy new ones in Europe, where they’re cheaper. Without GHDs, my very thick, wavy, unruly hair gets put up in a knot. I hate it being in my way, I rarely last an entire day with it out and untied. Unless it’s straightened first, there’s no hope of doing anything with it. But saving for Europe doesn’t allow for new $300 toys.

Around the same time, the Eyebrow Goddess left me. Her name was Lauren, and she was amazing. She did the best tint and shape of my life and I ended up referring a ridiculous number of people to her and seeing her every 4 weeks for the best part of a year. One day, I got caught up at work and completely forgot to walk down for my appointment. A week later, my boss told me she had gone. New owners stood in her place and they just weren’t the same. I unashamedly stalked her on Facebook and messaged her asking which salon she had moved to. I’m guessing she didn’t love me as much as I loved her because she never replied. Without her, my eyebrows grew out blonde (I colour my naturally blonde hair dark red/black) and the few times I had them shaped, the weird $8 wax ladies at the mall did terrible jobs. I could have searched for a new Eyebrow Goddess, but what if they weren’t the same? I really needed to save for Europe anyway.

Last year, I lost touch with my hairdresser, someone who had been a friend before she was ever in charge of my hair, but who my ex got custody of when we broke up. Despite personal differences, she is the best hairdresser I know and will probably ever know. I could tell her to do anything she liked to my hair and it would turn out amazing. One of the perks of our friendship was mate’s rates, and without those I couldn’t afford anyone that would do anywhere near as good a job as her. Out came the supermarket colour boxes. My shower turned red, and my roots stayed blonde a lot longer than they had ever been allowed to before. I needed to save for Europe.

I ran out of moisturiser and didn’t buy more because there was a new bottle packed for Europe and what was the point of buying another one for a few weeks? I needed to save for Europe. My razor is blunt and takes ages so while I’m not so far gone that I don’t use it at all, a blunt razor combined with sleeping in and freezing mornings means I don’t use it as often as I could. The new ones are packed for Europe and what’s the point of buying more before we go? I need to save.

If I won Lotto tomorrow, I would go and get my hair coloured, get a conditioning treatment put through, get it professionally straightened. I’d buy a new GHD and the heat-protectant I’ve never bothered with because I ‘couldn’t afford it’. I’d get my eyebrows tinted and waxed. I’d get my eyelashes tinted, or even better, I’d get extensions. If it was a really big win, I’d get my eyeliner tattooed on. I’d get a make up artist to teach me how to do make up properly, and I would buy every product she recommended. I’d get a facial, deep exfoliation, and then I’d buy every Dr Lewinn’s skincare product on the market. I’d buy the best smelling body wash I could find, not the best value for money. Same with shampoo and conditioner, I’d get the fancy ones they sell at salons. I’d get my teeth whitened. I’d have the most expensive nail tech I could find do my nailsfor me, instead of me doing them for everyone else. I’d get my legs waxed and not worry about shaving for weeks on end. Better yet, I’d get laser hair removal.
I would look my best and in turn, I would feel my best. I don’t at the moment, feel my best. And as much as it is the stress and the tiredness and the sugar, it’s the look. Boys, you probably won’t get it. Girls, I know at least… all… of you know what I mean. I can’t feel amazing unless I at least made an effort to look it. While I don’t need the IPL and the teeth whitening and the whole lot, when I get back from Europe, I’m going to make an effort. The first time I make a profit as a self employed woman, this is what I’m treating myself to - anything I’ve just listed.

I shouldn’t complain. I should do something about it, get over myself and just start making an effort.

Is it wrong that I feel like there’s no point trying until I have a GHD? It’s an obsession.

What makes you look and feel your best?

Living a Fairytale - Prague, Czech Republic

Between the Wacken and Party San Open Air Metal Festivals, we have 5 free days. We could explore Germany, which would be the easy option considering that's where both festivals are. That would make too much sense. Instead we're trekking to a whole other country entirely - the Czech Republic. Prague is calling.

Where we will sleep

Camp Sokol Troja (Campsite)
How long? 4 nights
How much? 430Kc/€19 per night (2 adults, small tent, 1 motorbike) 
Check in? Not specified, but the campsite doesn’t take reservations so I’d say the earlier the better. We won’t arrive until 7pm after an epic 8.5 hour journey from Wacken so hopefully they have room for us.
Check out? Not specified. We will be heading back to Germany for another metal festival, leaving around 8am and aiming to complete 4 hours of riding by 1pm.
Why we chose it? 15 mins from historic centre of Prague, 15 min walk to the zoo, restaurant that serves breakfast for $NZ4, guarded and secure, free wifi, hot showers, drinkable tap water, swimming pool 15 min walk away.

What we want to see

The first thing we noted about Prague, although not a ‘sight’ is that we have to buy a motorway tax coupon (a nalepka) at the border for 100Kc (4 Euros or $NZ8). Without one, there’s a crazy fine. Also, the blood alcohol limit is zero. Fullstop.

The FREE walking tour by New Prague Tours. Their parent company, New Europe Tours, offers tours throughout many European countries, including 13 walking tours through major cities, which are completely free. The tours are apparently very good, as the guides are paid nothing but the tips they receive on the day, so they work for their supper, and they do it well. The Prague tour is 3 hours long and departs Old Town Square at 11am and 2pm. See the website for a full list of the sites you see!

Prague Castle – One of Pragues biggest attractions. It’s free to wander the courtyards and gardens, and there’s a Changing of the Guard ceremony every day at 12 noon.
350Kc (€14) Admission

Charles Bridge – apparently best visited before 9am because the crowds are insane.
0Kc/€ Admission

Staroměstské náměstí – The old town square, which includes theAstronomical Clock, the third oldest astronomical clock in the world (installed in 1410) and the only one still working. Every hour on the hour there’s a show of the figures of the Apostles and various other moving sculptures. 
0Kc/€ Admission

What we are expecting

I’m expecting… not much to do, really. I’ve always wanted to go to Prague because pictures of it are stunning, it looks ethereal, like a fairytale in every way possible. I am in awe of it and I want to be in it. At the same time though, there are no hugely popular tourist attractions akin to the Eiffel Tour or Parc Guell or the West End, things I’ve always wanted to go to and experience. I’m expecting Prague to be amazing to look at, but I really don’t know what activities will fill our 3 days there.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Pilgrimage to Metal Mecca - Wacken, Germany

From Amsterdam, we're off to Metalhead Mecca - the Wacken Open Air music festival in Wacken, Germany. Courts and I have both had this on our bucket lists for many a year!

Where we will sleep 

Where? Wacken festival (Campsite)
How long? 4 nights
Check in? Between 8am-10pm. We’ll be arriving around 1pm after a 5 hour ride from Amsterdam.
Check out? Not specified. We’ll be leaving for our biggest ride yet – 8.5 hours to Prague! We will aim to leave around 7am and reach Prague by 7pm. The place we are staying in Prague doesn’t take bookings so if we pass a campsite and can’t be bothered continuing, there is no harm in stopping half way.
How much? Free!
Why we chose it? Because it came free with our tickets! 

What we want to see

In Wacken, the primary attraction is the Wacken Open Air festival. Wacken is a tiny little village so there’s really not much else to see anyway by all reports.

We’ve picked up a few tips for the festival – 
  • Buy food in Amsterdam and bring it with us. It will be expensive at the festival and in town.
  • Get wristbands from Wacken Plaza along with our Full Metal Bags - gift bags filled with Wacken branded goodies, but only while stocks last!
  • There is Metal Karaoke! At the Headbanger’s Ball Tent, Wednesday-Saturday after the artists perform.
  • There are locker trucks at a yet to be determined location which is great because there is heaps of stuff not allowed on the campsite – eg. Glass and cans. Bye bye deodorant! You’re also only allowed point-and-shoot cameras, no adjustable lenses.
  • Meet-and-Greets with the bands will be announced in July and take place near the locker trucks, or they did last year.
  • You can get Wacken Postcards at the Information Check Point. “Dear Mum...”

What we are expecting

I’m expecting to be completely out of my comfort zone, but in a good way. I really enjoy metal, but not to the extent that Courtney does. He will be much more at home here and I’ll be the tag along like he will have been in Benicassim. There are a few bands I’m super excited to see, and I am going to learn first hand the difference between NZ and Aussie crowds and hardcore German Metal crowds when I try and get to the front for Ozzy Osbourne. I do like a challenge. I'm really looking forward to meeting a blog friend, Steff, who Courtney knows in real life but who I only know through finding each others blogs, completely coincidentally.

Hookers and History - Amsterdam, Netherlands

We couldn't go north to Germany without first stopping in on Amsterdam.

Where we will sleep

Camping Zeeburg (Campsite)
How long? 4 nights
Check in? Before 1pm, which is very important! This awesome campsite doesn’t take bookings, saying there’s ‘plenty of room’ – with one catch – it’s generally full by 1pm. We’ll be aiming to make the 6 hour trek in one go, getting up at 5am and leaving asap.
Check out? Not specified. We’ll be heading 5 hours east to Wacken, Germany, leaving Amsterdam around 7am to be there by 1pm.
How much? €19 per night (2 adults, small tent, 1 motorbike)
Why we chose it? Free wifi, swimming pool next door, 15 min cycle to the city. The biggest pull was that the campsite is surrounded by canals and you can 
hire a kayak to explore!

What we want to see

Anne Frank Huis – The famous house where Anne Frank stay hidden during the war.
€8.50 admission
Opening hours vary but will be 9am-10pm when we are there in August. It is apparently much quieter after 6pm so we will probably go in the evening.

Van Gogh Museum – The man needs no introduction. Hundreds of painting and examples of his lifes work, all in one place.
€14 admission
Opening Hours 10am-6pm everyday and until 10pm on Fridays.

Artis Royal Zoo – Artis is home to the Big 5, an aquarium, underwater views of the amsterdam canals, a butterfly sactuary and gorillas!
€18.95 admission
Opening Hours vary but will be 9am-6pm when we are there in the Summer.

The Red Light District. Because it has to be done.

The FREE walking tour by New Amsterdam Tours. Their parent company, New Europe Tours, offers tours throughout many European countries, including 13 walking tours through major cities, which are completely free. The tours are apparently very good, as the guides are paid nothing but the tips they receive on the day, so they work for their supper, and they do it well. The Amsterdam tour is 3 hours long and departs Centraal Station at 11am and 1pm or National Monument at 11.15 and 1.15pm. See the website for a full list of the sites you see!

What we are expecting

I’m not sure why by I expect lots of huge trees, I expect cloudy skies… I expect cobblestones along the canals and I expect to be completely wrong. I think Amsterdam creates a giant contrast in my head, the place of art and culture and history seems like a completely different place to the one with prostitution and drugs. I’m really curious as to how the two worlds in my head combine in real life.

Are you Living Your Dream Life? Part Six: Nurse B
Who are you and what is your life like now?

I am Berny aka Nurse B, and right now my life is almost how I want it. I am a home owner, I have a dog and a cat, I have the loving man and I am a nurse. Nursing is my chosen profession and I can’t imagine doing anything else. And as you read this I am doing a month long trip through Kenya, Uganda and climbing Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania with a couple of days stopover in Dubai.

What would you do all day, week or year if you were living your dream life?

If I was living my dream life….  I would like to be more self-sufficient and eco-friendly. I’d have a bigger house with solar panels for electricity (Ideally we’d be off the grid). I’d have lots of land so I can have at several dogs, a few more cats and maybe a guinea pig. I’d have a big vege garden, lots of fruit trees, and couple of pigs and chickens (for eggs and to eat eventually, if I don’t chicken out).  

I think I’d keep the loving man, hehe. We’d be married and eventually we’d have a couple of kids. The kids would be taught to enjoy the great outdoors, instead of being stuck inside glued to a TV set. I’d be quite happy to not have a television, but I’d still like to be able to watch movies occasionally. I’d love to have a swimming pool, big enough to do laps (and slightly warmed), and an indoor spa pool to relax in.

The house would have to have a dedicated music room, for my piano (big enough to fit Mum’s grand piano in when she can no longer keep it) and the man’s guitars. It would need a big, well equipped kitchen so I can bake and cook more often, so I would no longer need to buy things like bread and biscuits.

I would take from Mid-December through to Mid-February off every year to enjoy the summer and school holidays with my kids. We’d explore New Zealand and spend all sunny days at the beach or going for bush walks. I’d hope the husband would also be in a position to join us. Also every year we’d take a month off to explore different areas of the world (which month would depend on which was the best time of year to visit whichever country we’d planned on seeing that year).

What would your job be?

I’d still be a nurse because that is my passion. In fact the only true downfall to my job is the long and unsociable hours. Nursing is not a 9–5 Monday to Friday job. Nursing is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year and I have to be able to work any one of those hours and days.

In my dream life I would like be able work only one or two days a week (enough to keep my registration current). The rest of my time I’d spend being a home maker. If I was good enough I’d maybe make a little extra cash by baking bread, cakes and biscuits and making preserves (jam, sauces and relish) to sell at a local market.

Why would it make you happy?

This would make me happy because I would love to watch my kids grow up and discover the world first hand. I’d be able to spend more time with friends and family, go to parties and gatherings without having to clock watch or worry about getting to bed on time for my next shift of work. I’d have more time to do the things I love such as cook, bake, and garden, do handcrafts and listen to music. I’d also have more time to do the other household chores that I don’t love so much, so they would not reach a point where I feel overwhelmed by them. I take pleasure in a tidy, clean home, but at the moment often do not have to time or energy to achieve this.

So what's stopping you?

At the moment we don’t have to money for a bigger house and wouldn’t have to time for the upkeep of the gardens and animals. The area of nursing I am working in allows me to earn a reasonable wage, which is an evil necessity to be able to pay the mortgage and bills and be able to eat. It is reasonably flexible (just as long as I work 7am–7pm or 7pm-7am, 3-4 days per week). It is a good area to be in while I am still young and will probably be a good area to remain in when I have young children, as I’d probably be able to work less days (or work nights) to allow for child care. It offers the opportunity to earn extra money by paying penal rates for night shifts and weekend shift and pays double time for public holidays and allows the opportunity to do overtime during busy periods. This means that if we need a little extra cash for travel or other luxuries it is not too difficult to earn it. 

Thanks so much Nurse B for contributing to the Dream Life series! 

If you would like to participate, I'd love to have you on board. Use the Contact Me tab to email me your answers to the Dream Life questions. I'll reply to get your photos and let you know when you will be published. All I ask in return is that you link back to Dancing in Barefeet on the day you appear.

Are you living your Dream Life?