If you've all been wondering why I've been so quiet lately, it's cause I don't really have that much to say. The last fortnight I've visited Munich, Salzburg, Prague and Krakow. Now that might not mean much for the casual viewer, but my hardcore fans (Hi Mum) will recognise that I visited all those places last year.It's been pretty fun going back to these places - I enjoyed all of them last year so was more than happy to see them again, especially in the case of Prague and Krakow where I lost all my photos thanks to a stupid Wal-Mart employee. Here's a quick run down:
Salzburg: Pretty much the same, spend a night there last year, spent a night there this year. Still pretty, castle on a cliff style. Still has set pieces from 'The Sound of Music'.
Prague: I headed back into Hostel Elf, same place I stayed last year. It was really odd being back at the same place with totally different people. I kept having flashbacks to paying card games in the lounge area, heading out to buy Pearl Jam tickets with the boys and flogging enough breakfast baguettes to last you the entire day. Unsurprisingly the city is the same and still has that unusual streak. I walked past the hamburger stand where I was accosted by the aging, unconvincing drag queen, but she wasn't around which was a bit sad - I would have liked to get a photo with her.
Krakow: What really got me about this spot this time is how much history the place has and how much there is to see. Last year I went to Auschwitz, went to Zakopane and walked the Tatra mountains and explored the old city. This year was just as full, I did a tour that took you round all the significant spots in the history of Oscar Schindler, headed down a salt mine and retook all my Old City photos. I'd say Krakow is one of the most underrated European destinations.
Munich: Oktoberfest take 2. Just the same as last year; noisy, crowded, gallons of tasty beer and roast chicken. We stayed in a hotel as opposed to camping which was so much better. Two blocks from the action instead of 40 minutes by bus and train. Sharing a bathroom with three others instead of 300 noisy Italians mincing round in their bathrobes and hair dryers. Paying ten times as much.... The best part was finding one little part of Oktoberfest not yet discovered by tourists. A local put us on to what I can only describe as the "Spinning Wheel of Death". This guy was telling us about it, how people sit on this wheel and it starts spinning faster and the people on the outside shoot off the edge, then they start throwing balls and ropes at the survivors to knock or yank them off. We thought he was pulling our leg, until we were walking through the park looking for rides to go on and we saw this part that you couldn't see inside, but I noticed a little picture of a wheel above the entrance with 4 people standing on each quarter. We took a punt and went inside. Jackpot! A spinning disk about 20m in diameter filled with blokes in Lederhosen clustered in the centre while a big ball on a pendulum knocked random guys in the face and occasionally one guy would slide out of the centre into the buffers. Comedy gold. There was a stadium around the edge and it kind of reminded me of 'Gladiators' or 'It's a Knockout'. We took a seat and worked out they have different competitions; guys in traditional wear sitting with their feet in the centre, couples with the guy lying down and the girl sitting on his back, boxing matches, kids.... I had a few attempts in the general 'guy' rounds which start off as a massive 'stacks on' and 90% fly off as soon as the wheel start. I'm proud to say I was 2nd last man standing (sitting) - the other guy was surprised a tourist had found the place. The highlight was when Zilla was called from the crow to ref a boxing match - she told the guys she had no idea what to do because she didn't understand German and was from Australia and then once the match started whenever Zilla fell over (not an unusual occurrence) the guy on the microphone would so 'Australien Out!' and the crowd would cheer. You can't beat Europes lax public liability laws.
I was considering flying over all those places I've already visited to meet up with the boys in Lithuania, but really glad I didn't. It was nice to arrive at the main train station and to know which exit would take to the centre and to have your bearings instantly instead of the usual blockies you have to walk to work out what street you're on. Except in the case of Krakow - except in the case of Krakow, where I did a 180 (that's orienteering speak) and took the boys on the scenic route to the old town . At 6AM. At about 1 degree celcius. Sorry lads.