Kraków

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The flight into Kraków was a big deal for me. As some of you may know, I'm a bit of an aviation nerd. A bit is an understatement. Show me a picture of a normal plane and I'll identify it in a second. Is that an A330 200 or 300? I'll know. For me, I'm the kind of person who will book a flight at a certain time because I know that it is a bigger aircraft. Narrow bodies ( those with one aisle) are certainly not my first choice, but I'll take them if I have to. This was different though. We flew to krakow on a bombardier dash 8, often nicknamed the crash eight, due to its tendency to crash. The Dash 8 is a prop jet, meaning a propellor plane but not quite like a cesna.  Boarding the crash eight made even someone who flies as much as me and understands how everything works and how safe it is nervous. It's a very small aircraft, by my standards at least. But I must admit, after a relatively bumpy takeoff out of Berlin Tegel, it wasn't really so bad. Flying into Kraków was amazing. Every whether report I could find said that nowhere on my trip would I find snow. But the approach into Kraków immediately contradicted that, with the entire landscape as far as he eye can see covered in it. I was pretty impressed, and wishing I'd booked the window seat. Kraków's airport is tiny, basically just a big massive shed thing that's converted to look like a properly fitted out place. Think like Melbourne's T4 (where Tiger flies out of) but smaller. The plane just stops somewhere on the Tarmac and you hop out, and walk into the building. Passport control involves two lines. One, for EU citizens, completely devoid of any checks at all, and the other with one man checking passports, but these lines are more like little queues leading right outside. Any foreigner wanting to illegally immigrate could very easily just walk through the EU line with no questions asked. As soon as I stepped off the plane however I was slapped in the face by a full on sense of cold that I hadn't experienced in a long time. -5 it was, and you had to watch every step to ensure you didn't fall over. I swear my thigh muscles must have got the best workout ever, every step used every muscle you had in order to stay upright.

 I took a cab into the city where I eventually found my flat, 3 Krakowksa (pronounced: Krakovska of course) and had a look around. The flat was actually really nice. It was slightly superficial, in that when scratching bellow the surface you realised some of it was a little unpolished, but for the most part it was pretty great. I'd probably give it a 7.75 out of ten. Not quite an eight but better than a 7.5 in my books. The location though was fantastic. The region I stayed in was about a five minute walk from the main old town, clearly defined by its city walls and massive castle. This spot, just outside was the old Jewish quarter that had existed forever. It was beautiful and packed full of great bars and restaurants, on top of the fact that inside a ten minute walk you could be in the main city square. 

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Kraków is without a shadow of a doubt the dark horse of Europe. It is one of the most beautiful cities I've visited. But if I mentioned it to many people I know back home, a lot wouldn't even recognise the name. Warsaw would even be pushing it. But quite honestly, it's simply stunning. Especially in winter. The afternoon I got there one of their heavier snow falls came, which was amazing to experience as I walked into the town centre to find a late lunch. Not yet knowing how to work the Polish restaurant and bar scene, I took a very touristy approach and grabbed some food at the Hard Rock Cafe. I sat inside upstairs by the window watching the snow grow heavier and it was truly beautiful, as the entire landscape grew white and people rushed from building to building in their jackets. After my lunch I came outside and walked through some of the snow to keep exploring. Around the city walls, there's a park that circles the entire old town, which based on the architecture of other old cities was most likely what used to be some kind of mote. Luckily, it was covered in snow, from the trees to the grass to the walkways, which was really quite wonderful. I would thoroughly recommend this city for a winter destination in Europe.   

Admittedly, I came to Kraków for one reason. To visit Auschwitz-Birkeneau. Mentioning this to someone from Poland however is not advised, and in hindsight I should have expected this. Imagine if your country was the victim of unspeakable genocide and someone told you they only visited it to see the place this all happened. My mistake, and I quickly learned and realised. But being honest, Poland wouldn't have peaked my interest otherwise. And I feel genuinely bad for that. Kraków is honestly one of the best European cities I've visited, and I am annoyed at myself for only getting to spend two nights there. The city is amazing. The old town is clearly defined. Circled by city walls (still clearly standing) and wonderful parks on the outside of these, it's a testament to Polish culture and livelihood. I'm going to write a separate post about Auschwitz, which it deserves. I spent the entirety of my last day here so I'll leave this one here. But I have to say again, make Kraków one of your destinations, especially if you're travelling Europe in winter (I'd say there are probably better summer locations). 

Berlin

Time for yet another update. Recently, I've found myself in the city of Berlin, the enormous German capital in the east of the country. It has most certainly been quite an interesting experience. 

I arrived in Berlin somewhat a fish out of water. The crises were rolling in from the very first moment. Firstly, I was unaware of exactly where I had to go from the second I touched down at TXL, and had to determine the address, and explain it to my cab driver (who barely spoke English) without any internet connection. Eventually I arrived, at Esmarchstraße 12, and figured out which button to press for my host to greet me and let me in. Unfortunately however, I was not able to get into the room until 6 (it was currently 3), and my battery and Internet situation was worse than ever. I left my bags and went exploring the city to see what I could find until my room was ready. For about the first hour, problems arose at every turn. My phone had merely 9% of battery left, and was quickly depleting even while being conservative on Airplane mode. I needed to find an Internet connection and a power point at some cafe urgently, but in a relatively quiet neighbourhood this would not be easy. To make matters worse, I needed an Internet connection to top up my bank account (from my main savings account) that was too low to fund a cab fair to a popular tourist place I knew would have places to solve my problems. I was quite stuck. Eventually I happened across a cafe that had free wifi and a seat near a PowerPoint. After about five minutes, I successfully managed to communicate to the lovely cafe owner that I needed to use both of these amenities and I'd buy a coke zero and doughnut if he let me. I could see light at the end of the tunnel. I remained at the cafe until my phone had reached 20% (it got to 1%, that's how desperate the situation became) and I used Internet to ensure enough money was on the account. I found a hotel bar that had power points and an Internet connection, the grand Westin in the city, and directed my cab here. Spent the next hour or two here, charging up my phone and getting back online properly, figuring out transport links home, good restaurants, bars etc. I had always thought to myself "what would I do if I was plonked in a city with no idea where to go, no available money and working phone," and it was very interesting to see that I managed this situation quite well. The drills I'd played out in my head had paid off. 

Once I'd dealt with this emergency, I went to a traditional German bar where I got myself a home brewed Pilsner (was actually quite good) and  a traditional dinner, two sausages with mashed potatoes, sauerkraut, gravy and mustard. It was really quite delicious. 

After this I headed back to the apartment where I was staying, as Angelika the host was about to show me around the place. It was really quite incredible. The ground floor consisted of a lovely bathroom, quite large and nice; a large living area with dining table, couch, great TV and original fire place and finally a comprehensively fitted kitchen, that would have been perfect had I actually bothered to get to the supermarket. The upstairs loft (still featuring full height ceilings) consisted of a queen size bed, and enough floor space to fit a desk and cupboard. The apartment was very impressive, and honestly something I would consider myself to be perfect to move out to next year. Then again, renting something like this in Melbourne would cost you an arm and a leg, completely out of budget. Kudos to Angelika for such a great place (and not listing it as a penthouse, which it would surely qualify as and fetch at least $50 more a night for). 

The next day I decided to head out to the Berlin Wall, which was honestly incredible. There are two main sections of it in Berlin left standing (although there are plenty other areas too). The first part I visited was the art gallery area, which extends a kilometre, and I walked all the way along to the outer parts of the city. This was really nice, the artwork utterly incredible, but was completely devoid of any factual information about the wall itself. I knew a bit but felt I would benefit learning a little more. I got in a cab across town to visit the memorial/museum, which was packed full of information and left as preserved as possible. The most shocking thing about the wall is how recently it was actually a thing. Only around 25 years ago this thing has come down. I know many, many people who have lived through the entire thing, from its erection to its fall. This to me is pretty incredible. This section was very informative and I learned heaps about the entire thing. They even keep a section of it preserved, with the outer wall, inner wall, alert fence and death strip fully visible from a viewing platform. Pretty incredible stuff. 

After a long hard day of cultural experience however, it was time for a beer. I headed to Newton Bar, a small kind of trendy bar in the city. I have mixed feelings about it. On one hand, the slightly wanker vibe and seemingly conceited staff were not the best, but on the other, the good beer, admittedly quick service, extensive gin menu and wall consisting of floor to ceiling photos of beautiful naked women made it actually an alright spot. Jeez that last point makes it sound seedier than one of the top 20 rated bars in Berlin, look at the photos. Following this I went to a cocktail bar that must have been the most 1920s place I've ever been. From the decor to the bar staff dressed in tuxes, to the people (quite legally) smoking at the bar, to the hand carved spheres of ice they used in drinks. It all sounds pompous and over the top, but this had to be the most down to earth and nice bar I visited in Berlin. 

The next day was rough after quite a big night the night before. I didn't end up bothering to leave the place until 1pm, as hadn't had any downtime over the past practically two weeks; Edinburgh was seriously a marathon session from the night I arrived on the 23rd till the night of the first (night before I left). I needed at least a few moments of downtime plus hangover recovery. This day I went out to go to the Reichstag building, but was unsuccessful, appeared you needed to make a booking and I hadn't, plus the security shit you needed to go through before getting in didn't interest me. I guess they just don't want it to be burnt down again.... Ended up visiting a few of the museum areas and walking around the city. Went to an Italian place for dinner and called it a night after a beer or two, my flight out of Berlin to Kraków left very early in the morning, so had to keep it quiet. To my friends judging me for this, I promise you, from prior experience, flying with a severe hangover is possibly the last thing you want to do. I blame you, Melissa J...

Got back to Tegel airport and flew out on a crash 8. More on this in the next post. 

Overall, Berlin was quite interesting. It was a cool city, with interesting attractions such as the Brandenburg Gate, Holocaust memorial, Berlin Wall etc. But I couldn't get past the fact that the city was utterly dead. I know it was the middle of winter, and not the most popular time for people to go out, but the city was one of the quietest I've ever visited. A main shopping and bar street, Friedrichstraße, had probably about five others on it when I was walking around 9pm. Berlin is full of a very rich nightlife. But unless you know the places, are really into clubs, and know how to get into some of the notable ones (it's incredibly hard), then you'll find the nightlife hard to navigate. Then again, the cocktail/beer bar I found was utterly excellent. Find the places that are good and you'll be fine. I just don't think the time I was there was enough for this. But maybe I was just too lazy. 

The UK

//This was written on my iPhone while at a bar and has not been spell or grammar checked. While most should be alright, excuse the glaring mistakes//

London and Edinburgh

I've always loved the UK. It really always feels good to get back there for me. My first stop was London, where I spent two nights and two days in the city. On the first night I arrived, I got up and out of the hotel and headed toward Leicester Square which is relatively near the Doubletree Victoria I stayed at. Was in a very convenient location being literally right next door to Victoria Station, one of London's biggest rail hubs. I was utterly exhausted on this first night though, as the trip over from Amsterdam had been a tiring one and the time zone meant it felt later than it was. Ended up back in the room by ten thirty. The next day I woke up and headed toward Big Ben and the London Eye. I walked from here along the river toward Trafalgar Square, where I sat for a little while determining what I would do next. Ended up grabbing a bite to eat and came back to the hotel, as at 3:30 I headed off to Bromley where some of my family lives. Went out for dinner with them and had a couple of drinks, which was pretty great! By the time I got back to London Victoria, which took ages because of a problem with the trains, it was already half past ten. I wasn't really in the mood to do much so I sat down at the hotel bar and had a couple of beers here. The next day I met up with Nigel, one of my dad's employees in London for a couple of beers and lunch. This was pretty fun, we walked around the winter wonderland at Hyde Park where they have an enormous amount of little stalls, rides, ice rinks, and most importantly, beer halls. We stopped in at one for a couple and then got in a cab back to Victoria station. After this I had to go straight to London Kings Cross, where I took the train up to Edinburgh. 

It would be very hard to report on Ednburgh in as much detail as I just have with London there. In part because I didn't do as specific things, but in part due to the many nights partying and drinking with the Scottish family. Many people will identify as Scottish or English, but usually it was their grandfather or great grandfather who lived there most recently, defining the family origins. Personally, my father was born there and I myself have spent two years living there. This means visiting Edinburgh is always an interesting experience. It's not so much going on holiday, I already know the city (at least in the centre) like the back of my hand. I don't have to go visit the castle or take a picture of every single building and Close on the Royal Mile. Cobblestones aren't new to me, and I have no desperation to visit Mary King's Close anymore (although all of these things are awesome). It's kind of like living in Melbourne and not needing to go up the Eureka tower every couple of months. Therefor Edinburgh is like visiting my old home. With the same family and family friends that I have known since I was a very wee lad. I stayed with my dad's cousin Maureen and her husband Tam, both of which I know quite well from the time I've spent in Scotland over the past 13 years. I can't thank these guys for putting up with me for the ten days I was there enough. They were excellent hosts and seriously helped out on my trip. 

On Christmas Eve I spent the day and night with Neil, Marie, Conal and Maeve, my dad's other cousin (Neil) and his family down in Dunbar, about an hour out of Edinburgh. Had a great time with them! While Marie and the kids went to Christmas eve Mass, Neil and I headed down to the local Dunbar pub and had a couple of beers while waiting for them to finish up. What great pubs they have in the UK, seriously, Australia just cannot match them. Following this we went back to their place and had a lovely cooked dinner that Marie had spent a lot of time on, and it was delicious. We headed back down to Maureen's on Christmas morning, as she was hosting the day's events. 

Christmas Day was the first big one we had, just the third night after my arrival in Edinburgh. Starting off around 2 o'clock, the whole family was around to celebrate. Presents were first, then drinks and nibbles and a lovely Christmas dinner complete with Turkey, gravy, potatoes and the full works was served up by Maureen after toiling away in the kitchen. The night progressed and more and more beer was consumed with many a good conversation. Ended up going right up until 3 in the morning, when we all finally made it to sleep. This was quite the struggle for me, because even though I'd been in Europe for a week, my body seemed to still be secreting melatonin by habit at the wrong times meaning I'd spent the entire afternoon and evening feeling tired as if it was the middle of the night. But was a great Christmas. Was very weird to have Christmas away from home, but it was still really lovely. Was so good to see all the Scottish family, they made me feel right at home. 

The 27thbwas pretty fun, went out with Tam and his mates to a Scottish football match, Hearts v Livingston at Livingston. Got started on the beers around 11am at the pub next to the train station and then continued at Gary's (a friend of theirs who I've known as long as them) for a while before the game as he lives in Edinburgh. As you can't drink in the stadiums anymore due to too much football instantly, we stocked up beforehand and watched the match. Wasn't the best game recently, but the quality was pretty great and was excellent to see proper football being played in front of a big crowd of real, devoted supporters. The big sports in Australia are. *ridiculously* commercial in comparison to he point where this kind of club devotion and community is entirely lost. The only thing I can think of that has the same is the Premier League Hockey, but that's only cause it's such a small sport. Crazy they can hold onto this aspect even while growing to tens of thousands of members. 

Went out again a few times over the next few days, and had another thing on the 29th I think at Maureen & Tam's as all of his side of the family were also over from Australia (Perth). This was great and they were all really nice. Was interesting because this night there were more Australian accents than Scottish, which is probably the only time this has ever happened in Edinburgh... 

Went out bar hopping on the Sunday night with just M&T which was fun, and on the 30th Maureen, Tam, myself and four of tam's family went out and did the same thing. This was pretty good, ended up out till one in the morning. I think cause we were waking up so late every morning the nights finishing at like 1-2 felt not even late. 

Hogmanay (or NYE in Aus) was a particular highlight. I spent this at the apex hotel in the grass market which do a big sit down dinner and ceilidh. Tam, Maureen, myself and a few of their friends all went out and booked a table at this dinner. The food was alright, but drink expensive. We still did though, of course. For those of you who don't know, a ceilidh (pronounced: Kay-lee, it's Gaelic spelling) is a traditional Scottish kind of dance, akin to line dancing or something similar. This is why my dog is named Ceilidh btw, cause we went to one many years ago. As it drew nearer I knew I needed more beer before I could get involved, so I had some more and I eventually got up and joined in (you couldn't really not). It's so fast and full on though, I came back to my table seriously sweaty. This went on for a little while, and then just before midnight a bagpiper came in and played a couple traditional songs (along with some proclaimers) and marched everyone down to the Grassmarket, a historic market place in Edinburgh's old town that the hotel is in, as it has excellent views up to the castle where Edinburgh's massive firework display comes from. I would also encourage everyone to lookup 'Edinburgh Hogmanay street party' and see some photos etc to see how big a deal Hogmanay (new year's eve) is in Edinburgh. Following this we went back into the hotel function space and sang along to songs. I must admit, hearing and joining in with a room full of 150 people loudly singing along to Flower of Scotland is something quite incredible and a nationalistic element Australia's culture just hasn't really developed yet. Advance Australia Fair, despite being developed by a Scotsman, is just not the same thing when sung in any group setting. This enormous sense of national pride and integrity is something Australia will eventually have, but doesn't quite yet. Although if you're Australian and haven't travelled much to places like this, I'll understand if you disagree about this. Following this party we went back to the Athletic Arms, or the Diggers as it is commonly referred to. It used to be a bar that was frequented by grave diggers at the nearby cemetery, hence giving it the names "diggers" and "athletic arms" (a.a because of so much digging). 

Had a few more beers here with the group then left shortly after last call. Ended up getting to bed at around 4AM, which was not too bad cause managed to sleep in until 11 the next morning. 

The following night Tam's Australian family came around for one last night, before they too headed off to a different city in Europe the next day (Prague I think it was for them). This was pretty fun. We drank a couple of beers and had dinner and nibbles. About 15 or so of them were over, which is pretty impressive, getting multiple families of around 15 people total all the way over to the UK from Australia at once is not an easy feat. Ended up being a small night though, and people headed off around 10-10:30 as the Perth Aussies and myself both had to pack and get a shred of sleep in before flights at 7AM. 

Will post again tomorrow with news on Berlin. In the meantime, I hope everyone back home in Australia is well and looking forward to seeing everyone soon. 

Pimps & Hoes: A night out in Amsterdam

The clearest day we've had yet meant for the coldest. A lack of any cloud cover meant even the vague few degrees Amsterdam had been hanging onto were quickly lost to the icy wind that began to sweep through. 

 Leidseplein - a square in  central Amsterdam full of bars and right now, an ice rink. Awesome atmosphere here. 

Leidseplein - a square in  central Amsterdam full of bars and right now, an ice rink. Awesome atmosphere here. 

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After a quick burger dinner, I made my way to the Red Light District, just east of Amsterdam Centraal, one of the most famed spots in Europe. This wasn't even my first time here, in fact I still remembered exactly how to get to district from the centre of the city, as I am fortunately privileged enough to have been able to visit earlier this year as well. 

But this was a totally different experience, one which I have mixed feelings about. The night began bleak. Walking into one of the main streets I was shocked by the total lack of people, it seemed there was about an eighth of the visitors I had previously experienced in June. Granted, this is one of the coldest nights I've experienced since living in Scotland, I was still surprised at how barren everything felt. It wasn't just the lack of people, most windows were shut, the bars were relatively quiet and the lingering smell of pot throughout the region was a fraction of the strength I had remembered. 

But alas, I am still getting over the jetlag. Maybe it just felt later than it really was. This is Friday night for god's sake! I decided to stick it out a little longer, keeping Leidsplein in the back of my mind as a backup. 

My first port of call was the busiest cafe (not to be confused with a coffee shop) I could find that still had at least a seat at the bar. I was immediately greeted by a woman who could only be described as the most hard, far Eastern European wog granny you could imagine. I swear you could feel the heat of the vodka on her breath as she said "hallo, vat do you want?" My pint of Heineken was slammed down on the bar in front of me with the same vigour I'm sure she chopped wood for her fireplace with just last week, and the roaring laughter of her equally tough cousins reverberated through the right side of my body. It was an interesting first stop. But I decided to continue the search shortly after. 

The Red Light District is an interesting place. It is a quintessential tourist attraction. That's what it is. Imagine a really big museum, and each of the exhibits are weird little bars and seedy peep shows. The visitors are all either voyeurs, massive stoners, the seriously drug fucked or gross old couples who seem to love the sex toy stores. 

I kept walking. Did another loop. Things were looking busier but not busy enough yet, I still wasn't ready to call it. Following another loop around, I found myself at Lindeboom, a rather large bar for the area with eight beers on tap and high ceilings with Art Deco light fixtures. It wasn't too bad actually. A relatively large amount of space, good atmosphere, although their house lager left a little to be desired. 

While preparing to move to stop number three however, things got interesting. With barely two sips left of my beer, a relatively older lady comes up to my bench thing and introduces herself as an entertainer. Oh god, alarm bells ringing already. But this is the red light district, not like I'm here often. I decided to hear her out. My original fears were quickly quelled, turns out she was just a weird old lady who performed some style of tarot like reading based on numbers found in your birthdate and name. Through very broken English, I vaguely picked up the gist of what she thought was going on, but it was clear to anyone other than her that she was just talking about numbers and how they meant things about you. I think the bar staff let her float around cause they feel bad for her, or maybe she's someone's mum. "Let me give you an example" "okay, only if that's not gonna cost me any money" "no no no don't worry" "sure then, go ahead." It's not like I was talking to anyone else anyway. In the end, something about me apparently making a good nurse or teacher. Maybe that might be accurate for the Hamish born on 06/02/95.... Time for stop number three. 

In the mean time however, my basic Dutch is coming along rather nicely. I can now say I understand the basics. 'Hij drinkt bier en eet brood' could probably be an accurate description of my very much down to basics, budget diet since arriving in holland. But even those who'd never read Dutch could probably decipher what that says. Ben, Ik, hebt etc etc all come easily now though, meaning signs, menus and more are significantly easier to understand. Serious props to the Duolingo app, it's astonishingly effective. 

I've again spent a while walking to find the third spot. I'm looking for something more exotic, the kind of bar you can only find in Amsterdam. I've already had well too many beers to sample some of the local product tonight myself, but have spent some time on the lookout for something a little more interesting. 

It's 9:54 and I've arrived at the third call in for tonight. Easily the best one so far, extremely chill and eclectic. First of all, they have ADO Den Haag playing some other team on telly, everyone is getting around the football which is always fun. Holland banned smoking in bars in 2012 I believe, but this apparently stops nobody. The group next to me are paying €2 per head to smoke as many cigarettes as they want in here, apparently enough people do that whenever they get busted (every couple of weeks) this fund covers the fine. They just keep paying it every so often. But it gets better. The bar cat just came up and sat on my lap, then took a seat at the stool next to me. He seemed really chill, and was a cool addition to the night for sure. 

Amsterdam is an incredible city. Everything about it is thoroughly enjoyable. But it's not all glamorous. It's a little bit dirty, you can see the oil that helps the cogs turn round every night and keep the city running. Amsterdam can provide the most cultural experience you could expect but also can show you the depths of human depravity. But in a way, that's kind of what I like about it. There's no bullshit in Amsterdam. There's no taboo around sex, weed, alcohol or anything. If you want something, you just go find it and get it, no worries. Amsterdam is the kind of place where somewhere as filthy as the red light district can be surrounded with beautiful cathedrals and churches. It's a truly beautiful contrast, and no matter the problems, I wouldn't change it for anything. The Kofieshops, the cafes, everything. There just seems to be no problems here. 

Amsterdam will always remain one of my favourite cities.
 

Exploring the City

After I got back from the shops having bought my jacket and everything, I came back to the room and hung out a bit (wrote last post) and then eventually decided to go out. I made the decision to go out for dinner then get a few beers. First off went to the Hard Rock Cafe, where they have this whole bar area to the side I didn't even know about. This was pretty cool, had about three drinks there then moved on. Came back to the room very briefly to eat some cheap food from the supermarket (scrapped the idea of eating out) and then headed toward an Australian bar in a big Plein area, kind of like what we had nearby our place in The Hague. 

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This was pretty good, met a bloke from WA in there and hung out for a bit, then moved on to some other bar nearby. 

Yesterday I managed to wake up late again, which was really good because I had struggled with this the night before. Went out and got some food then wondered around the city till about 2 or 3. After that I came back to the room to get some work done and just have a chill out. Went back to the supermarket to pick up some supplies then just stayed in. 

Today I'm planning on heading down to visit The Hague again, as am keen to get back down there and check it out in the winter. Gonna go out for dinner tonight though, sick of shitty meals so that will be good. After this will head into the Red Light District. I haven't yet since being here and am really running out of nights. 

Sorry, bit of a slow day yesterday but tomorrow's post shall be much more interesting 

Arrival in Holland

So I was thinking about starting a blog about my travels and decided now would be a good time to start while I have a little bit of free time! 

Flight Over

 With Business and Premium economy already on board, boarding for upper deck economy was near instantaneous

With Business and Premium economy already on board, boarding for upper deck economy was near instantaneous

Thankfully, my flight over actually went by really way easier than I originally expected. The economy cabin on the upper deck of the A380 exceeded expectations. Entire process went significantly easier and was way less stressful and pain free than it would have otherwise been. Boarding was via the business class jetway that goes to the upper deck, which meant it was easy from the beginning as we boarded faster than anyone else in economy. Cabin crew were only taking care of us and premium economy, which is a really small number of seats meaning we got really fast service the whole way there and they were all very attentive and caring about people's requests. The seats were in my opinion of a greater pitch, meaning in layman's terms that I think they had more legroom than your standard economy class seat. Mine backed up against a wall, meaning really good recline and without any guilt of reclining into someone else. Flight actually went by really easily, even though it's one of the longest non stop routes you can take, at 14 hours. I managed to sleep about five of these (I think) which really helped my case. Other than that played a couple games, watched some tv and a movie. 

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After landing in Dubai, time was way more limited than I originally expected. Had to transfer from A gates to B gates which required getting on the little train thing between terminals. As soon as I came out of this I noticed on the departures screen that EK147 to AMS was already boarding, so I hurried to B15 and basically walked straight onto the plane. This was a bit annoying, was hoping for some time to stretch the legs, get a burger and change out of shorts into pants. But oh well, ended up meaning the trip was relatively short. Boarding on this Emirates flight was also really easy, I was in 48D, which is in the front cabin of the plane and meant we boarded through the front jetway which I believe is used by first class. From here my seat was only about ten rows back from the very front of the plane which was nice. Emirates service was exceptional, hot towels and drinks served pre departure, even in economy was a nice touch. Two meal services, breakfast and lunch, both of which were really quite great, and very attentive staff who always remembered to bring a spare coke if asked for. Also scored big time with a nearly empty flight in economy class, I had two seats to myself, but if I really could be bothered I could have headed further down the back of the plane and taken three of them and leant up against a window. Heaps of people were lying down in rows of four and everything. I'd say it was only about half full in economy. 

Getting In

Landing in Amsterdam was a breeze, got off the plane and went straight to a toilet to change into pants, as you could already feel the cold just in the jetway. Gotta love travelling with only hand baggage, walked straight into the arrivals hall and though the electronic border gates which are only available to those with an EU passport. Scored on that one. After coming out of here I went and got some cash out and topped up my OV Chipkart with €20, also got lucky that there was ten left on it from last time I was here. 

Jumped on the train to Amsterdam Centraal and immediately got ticket inspected, luckily I'd remembered to touch on. The girl next to me got a ticket. Only took about ten minutes to get into the city (train network in Holland is truly xcellent). Once I got in I had to liaise with my AirBnb host about checking in and stuff, and had to look for tram 16. Eventually hunted number 16 down, which was a bit confusing as it was in an adjacent tram terminal area that isn't as immediately obvious after coming out of the station. Eventually found it, hopped on and got off at my stop. By this time the cold was really starting to set into my face, everywhere else was covered pretty well. Luckily my apartment is about a 2 minute walk from the tram stop, so this was really easy. Got in, got setup, picked up some groceries then made myself a toasted ham and salami sandwich for dinner. Povo life. I'm trying really hard to conserve money at the moment. But it's easier than you'd expect when things are so cheap. At the supermarket I bought a pack of like 6 sausages, salami, cheese, bread, two minute noodles and a six pack of heineken (the large European cans that are like 500ml here) for a grand total of €16. This was pretty good. 

This morning I went out and bought a really nice, warm jacket that's capable of handling the cold that Europe is gonna throw at me. Really happy with it. Then I came back to the apartment to chill out for a bit, and right now I'm about to go out and get some lunch cause I'm really hungry, haven't had a proper meal in ages. Tonight I'm gonna head out and get a few beers somewhere. Maybe red light district or maybe somewhere else, not sure at this stage. Gonna try and stay up as late as possible to get into the time zone. All been really good so far! Will update again tomorrow.