Kate's Travel Blog

Monday, June 20, 2005


Friday morning we met up with a History trip from Hull Uni and went around Notre Dame and the Medieval Museum. After we took a metro to our hotel (a hotel!) to drop our bags off before heading to St Denis. We went into the crypt and saw the tombs of Marie Antoinette and Louis VIII, also (disgustingly) the heart of Louis VII. It's a beautiful place and all the tombs are so ornate! Friday evening we all went out for a meal; Wendy had raw beef(!), I tried some but wasn't too keen.

Saturday we took a train to Rouen, it's just like you would imagine a medieval village to be like, so quaint and so many churches (got a bit confused which one was actually the cathedral!). We had lunch outside with the Cathedral in view behind us. We actually went in the Cathedral later on and saw a tomb effigy of Richard the Lionheart (which I found quite exciting - he was smaller than I thought!). We also saw the spot where Jeanne d'Arc was burnt; there is a cross and a memorial garden there now. In the cathedral there is also a stone memorial to her there - she was only sainted in the 1950s!

Saturday evening we went out for a meal and then drink. I left the party at midnight as I was falling asleep in my drink, but the others stayed up until the pubs closed!

Sunday morning Wendy and I had a wander around the Bastille area where we were staying before we set off to Paris Nord to catch the Eurostar back to London.

We had a perfect welcome back to the UK: we were delayed for AN HOUR outside Waterloo as a point had broken! Typical! Once in London though we went for something to eat and then caught the tube to Kings Cross.

19.10 out train left for Hull & my parents picked me up at the station. I have had a fantastic month but I must admit it's nice to be home!


The flight to Berlin was good and it is really easy to get to the city centre on the train. Got very confused trying to find our hostel and ended up outside in a huge thunderstorm!

Wednesday we took a city walking tour which was really good and we realised how close our hostel was to all the main museums and attractions. After the tour we made our way back to Checkpoint Charlie, to go to the museum. It showed many of the ingenious ways in which people crossed the East/West German border, including modified cars so people could fit concealed around the engines, modified suitcases & hot air balloons to mention but a few! There were also more sinister stories of those who had been killed either by gun shots or shrapnel attempting to escape; Checkpoint Charlie is actually marked by over 1000 large crosses, each represents one person who died attempting to escape.

Thursday we spent the morning at the Gestapo HQ open air museum before going to the National History Museum which were both fantastic.

Thursday evening we went on a couchette train overnight to Paris. It was very 'cosy'; 6 of us in a normal sized compartment. I must admit I much prefer the sleeper where Wendy and I had it to ourselves from Hungary to Poland!

Tuesday, June 14, 2005


Had a fantastic time in Stockholm, it's such a beautiful city. Shame we only stayed for two days in the end as there is so much to do, although quite expensive.

On Sunday we spent the whole day exploring the Palace, we saw the royal apartments, changing of the guards (with a Marching Band), the Tre Krona Museum which tell the story of the castle which stood there before and of the people who lived and worked at it. Finally we went to the Museum of Antiquities at the Palace, which is an original museum of one of the kings: had we not had a guide it would have been a room full of sculptures, but the guide told us the story of the king's quest for majesty!

In the evening we met up with Wendy's friend Fiona who is working in Sweden as part of her university course, and one of her friends from Uni, Emily. We all went to a Chinese restaurant (they ordered!) and we had a really good evening!

Yesterday (Monday) we spent virtually the whole day at the seventeenth century ship museum: the Vasa. It was amazing. It told the story of its demise and how they raised it, as well as the objects found on board and the skeletons reconstructed (like at the Jorvik Viking Centre in York) to show what they would have looked like. They also used the objects found around them to distinguish who they could have been. My Dad would have loved it!!

Afterwards we had a little look in the Nordiska Museum, Sweden's version of the Victoria and Albert Museum - really not our kind of thing but we liked the eighteenth century costumes. :)

Our hostel was on a ship which was exciting although you could feel it moving slightly if you thought about it.

Friday, June 10, 2005


The weather on Wednesday was awful, it rained for all of the day - the first bad weather we've had in 2½ weeks, aren't we lucky! We decided to attempt to find Pawiak prison, a prison built during Tsarist occupation and used excessively during Nazi occupation. After spending ages retrapcing our steps from the previous day we gave up and decided to go inside to the Royal Castle (palace) Museum. The palace was lovely, it reminded us of the Residenz in Munich. The only problems there were the hundreds of school kids and not all the information was translated into English which made it difficult to understand everything. Interestingly we recognised several portraits of English/British monarchs, namely Henry VIII, Charles I, Charles II & George III.

Yesterday (Thursday) the weather was much much nicer, although still a little chillier than the other countries we have visited. We decided to look for the prison again and with the sun shining we found it much easier. The guard was very friendly and so excited that we were English that he was showing us all the comments made in English in his guestbook. The prison itself was really good. It told the history of the prison, first as a prison under Tsarist occupation and later Nazi along side the development of WW2. Many personal stories were also told including one prisoner who met Himmler whilst imprisoned there. When Himmler asked him what his crime was he replied that he would like to ask him the same question. To this Himmler responded that the prisoner had betrayed his homeland and the prisoner retorted that he never had. As a response to this 'defiance' Himmler ordered the annihilation of the prisoner's whole family.

We ate lunch in the 'expensive' castle square but everything is soooo cheap here! Wendy is becoming addicted to the Polish delicacy Pierogi, which is a type of dumpling with assorted fillings.

After lunch we visited the Historical Museum of Warsaw which is surprisingly huge! There are many sections from the archaeological beginnings to the Warsaw uprising and concludes with how Warsaw has rebuilt itself after WW2 to the present.

Today we have had a rather frustrating day! We got up early so we could do lots of sightseeing and do some shopping. The weather has been so lovely again that we thought nothing could stop us. We first set out in search of the Gesapo House of Horrors, but on finding the street it was on there was no museum to be seen, so after wandering around for a while (& finding a post office to post our cards) we decided to look for the other museum we planned to see (which incidentally was over the other side of Warsaw). Again we found the street it was supposed to be on, but no museum. So after about 4 hours of walking we decided to get some lunch and ask the staff. They weren't very helpful so we decided to have one last look before heading back to our hostel. Nevertheless, we had a walk around parts of Warsaw which we wouldn't have otherwise seen :)

We fly to Stockholm in the morning and are getting a taxi all the way to the airport as it will only cost us 5 pounds!!!

The hostel here is ironically the nicest and friendliest we have stayed in (even if the maps aren't great and they have no signposts!!). Everyone here is really friendly. Most other guests are travelling alone (and are in their 20s or even 40s!) and are eager to get to know other people. We really have met people from all over the world here: Australia, New Zealand, America, Spain, England (of course), Spain, Germany and even Iran!!! Certainly is an international hostel!

Take Care
Love Kate xxx

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Budapest to Warsaw

Martin was so lovely, he insisted on staying with us until we were on the train and spoke to the guard and sorted our sleeper (not couchette, so we had it to ourselves). Budapest was the first place I felt sad about moving on from and I think most of that had to do with Martin, Ani, Oliver, Ben and Hannah who were all amazing. The sleeper train was wonderful. We were treated like first class. The guard kept on coming and checking on us. He was lovely, he reminded me of Paul Shane in Oh, Doctor Beeching! We were woken for passports at both the borders. But, on the whole, didn't sleep too badly regardless of the bumpy ride. We have been talking to some stocky guys at the hostel and they were telling us they were gassed and robbed on a sleeper from Prague to Krakow - scary - I wouldn't have messed with these guys!

Our hostel here is really really nice. We have met a couple of Australians already who are friendly. This afternoon we went on a city tour and got to know a bit of the history and sights.

Sunday, June 05, 2005


Budapest is a beautiful place. Martin (our mums are cousins) picked us up from the station on Friday evening in his CAR... we haven't been in a car in 2 weeks!! Sorry about the excitement but although European public transport is better than ours it's still not a car!

On Friday night we stayed at Martin and Ani's huge beautiful house. We all sat and ate our tea on the veranda, Wendy drinking beer, looking up at the hills! It was like something out of the movies! Hannah (their 3-month-old baby) is gorgeous and their two boys (2½ and 4) both understand English as well as Hungarian, and Oliver, the elder, is completely fluent. He really was amazing and seriously put Wendy and I to shame!


Yesterday we visited Visegrad's medieval castle where the waxwork reconstructions were brilliant. We got to dress up for a photo - I was the queen and Wendy was the king. I also tried archery and was rubbish, it went about a foot! Wendy had a much better attempt with the crossbow.

In the afternoon we moved into Martin's work's flat in Budapest which is huge! We get our own rooms! Strangely quiet after hostels but nice and peaceful.

Martin and Ani have been lovely (thank you both very very much)!

Today we have been on a city tour and seen all the lovely sites, including the famous Heroes' Square. This afternoon we went to the National Museum where we realised how small Europe has been since Charlemagne and how the Jews are persecuted EVERYWHERE!

Tomorrow we plan to visit Parliament, before leaving Hungary on an overnight train (new experience!) for Poland.

Take Care & Love to all.

Thursday, June 02, 2005




We are still having a lovely time, even more so now the weather has stopped roasting us!! Even seen snow today, but I'll come to that later.

We arrived in Salzburg on Tuesday afternoon and after getting very lost finding the hostel (the directions from the hostel were rubbish) we went for a wander around Salzburg. Very beautiful place, everywhere you look are old buildings, the river and, if you look up, mountains.

Sound of Music

Yesterday we took the Sound of Music tour around Salzburg and the surrounding lake area. It was lovely to see some of the places where the movie was filmed and to learn about the real von Trapps. Incidentally, for any fans out there, the mountain they climb over at the end ironically leads into Germany!

Today we have been on a tour of Berchtesgaden and Hitler's Eagle's Nest. The view from the Eagle's Nest is amazing, it is hard to find a reason why Hitler visited it so rarely!

This afternoon we bravely climbed Festung Hohensalzburg, the local fortress at the top of a huge, steep hill. We were exhausted when we arrived! But the views were lovely and the audio tour told us lots about the history of Salzburg under the Archbishop-princes.

Tomorrow we are moving on to Budapest and are very excited about entering Eastern Europe. It is a 6-hour journey, everywhere is so close together in Europe!

love to all
Kate xxx