A Travellerspoint blog

September 2008

Berlin after the Runners

Post-Marathon Berlin, 29 September 2008

overcast 55 °F

Remember those pictures I wanted a couple days ago?
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Well we took a walk back to the Brandenburg gate to get some of them this am. It wasn’t quite as nice and the back of the gate was trashed from the runners.
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It was nice to see in the quiet of the morning though. Our train left at 1045 so we were in a bit of a hurry to snap some photos and get back to check out of the hotel.
We arrived at home, gloomy home in the late afternoon!

Posted by ErinDriver 23:12 Archived in Germany Tagged events Comments (0)

Berlin Marathon

Running and Running and Running around Berlin - 28 September 2008

overcast 55 °F

Today is the day we have been training for for 16 weeks. The amazing thing is for Curt and I this is our third marathon and they have all been held on the 28th. CMM in Nashville on April 28, 2007, Auckland marathon in NZ on Oct 28 2007 and now this one.
The race didn’t start until 0900 so we had plenty of time to get showered, eat our bagels and get to the start point. Of course it was crowded beyond belief and they even had little stages set up with people trying to lead aerobic type stretches/warm ups. Our start point was letter H which was the last of three start times. The excitement would build each time a group started with clapping, music and balloons then quiet down while we waited. Finally around 0930 we crossed the start point and the rest is a blur. Catherine took off right away but Curt and I were able to stay together thru the half marathon point. There were so many people the entire 26 miles was a wall of bodies. From the start Curt's watch wouldn’t work and mine lost the signal at 6.8 so most of the race I was calculating in km how much further I had to go.
Each time I got tired I was able to eat some candy corn which will forever more be my secret weapon because it was like getting a shot of energy. I eventually started eating the bananas and apples at the stations because lets be serious, we were running during lunch time. I don’t recall passing many monumental sights like I thought we would but it was okay because the route was FLAT!
I finished in 4:18:36 and was happy to cut 12 more minutes off my previous time. The race finished at the Brandenburg gate so that was very memorable. DSC04049__2_.jpg
Directly after you finished you were herded by the people who gave you your medal, a plastic bag to wrap yourself in, water and a bag of snacks. I sat down to rest before searching again for Catherine and Curt. On my way back to the finish I found Catherine and we headed thru the family area which seemed impossible to find anyone in. At the end was food so we waited forever to get some fries and a beer. Those Germans and their beer. By the time we ate it was time to meet Curt so we made our way back to the hotel. This was nearly impossible because the only way to get there was to cross the race. Curt wasn’t there so we decided to head for our default plan which was to meet back at the hotel. By some miracle Catherine saw Curt across the road and we tried to head to the finish and meet. This turned out to be our third directional mistake being that EVERYTHING in the place was gated off and we couldn’t find him.
Finally on the way back, nearly at the hotel we met up. After a soak in the tub and some stretching and telling stories we headed for the tapas restaurant we had seen the previous day near Alexanderplatz. I got goat cheese which we ended up putting on our tortillas (which were like potato pancakes) and some shrimp scampi dish. It all came with bread and was a good time. We turned our weary legs in early for the night.

Posted by ErinDriver 23:08 Archived in Germany Tagged events Comments (0)

Berlin, Germany

The KaDeWe - 27 Sept 2008

sunny 65 °F

This morning we dutifully set off with a double mission – run the required 2 miles in the training plan and scout the site of the race and possible meet up point. It was a gorgeous run with the trees changing colors and absolutely NO crowds, traffic or even other tourists. I wished I had brought my camera because due the roads being closed we had unobstructed opportunity to photo the Brandenburg gate and ring of victory.
Breakfast was a blueberry muffin at Balzac Coffee – apparently a big chain in berlin. The rest of the morning was spent browsing a antique market right outside our hotel.
The Kufferdamm looked interesting yesterday and also has the largest department store in the country, the KaDeWe so we headed that way this am. I stopped for post cards of the famous ampfulmanchen (the cross walk lights) and photos of the Kaiser church. It was a bombed out church from the war that they left as it was.
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We found the KaDeWe and it was HUGE! Our first interest was the floor with the food which is more gourmet but still amazing. All throughout the floor you can eat at different stands or buy and have cooked for you the very food you pick out. We decided on more bratwurst mostly because we were starving and Catherine had a pasta salad. This was mostly what we wanted to see so we headed back to the street. Catherine wanted to go to a shoe store in Alexanderplatz so we made our way back to the subway – not without stopping for some to go Chinese fried rice and DUNKIN DONUTS!!! :)
There didn’t appear to be a whole lot in Alexanderplatz to see – its mostly a shopping area but you can see the tv tower. DSC04036.jpg
So Curt and I took the opportunity to rest our legs for the next day. When Catherine came back we headed to another street market she had found. We also found another pasta restaurant to carb up for the race. Curt and I shared our favorites – pizza and spaghetti carbonara.

Posted by ErinDriver 23:00 Archived in Germany Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Berlin, Germany

The Expo! 26 Sept 2008

sunny 65 °F

We are departing this weekend to enjoy one of the world class marathons in Berlin, Germany. We are going with my friend and training partner while in Iraq, Catherine. She met us at our house with fresh smoothies from her vitamixer on Friday morning and we set off for the train station. Catherine brought the game foodie fight (like food trivia) and sandwiches with cheese and crackers from last weekends bazaar in Ramstein. It takes about 5 hours to get to Berlin and they went by uneventfully.
The website for the Novotel Am Tiergarten hotel had a map which showed the hotel right across from the train station. However when we got out at the zoological garten (unknowingly the wrong station.) we ended up walking around the block to get back to our hotel. It ended up being in a great location – about a mile from the start of the race but was a bit expensive.
I loved the traffic lights in some locations. They are called the Ampelmannchen and are mostly foundin east berlin.DSC04026.jpg
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After quickly dropping our things we were all anxious to get to the expo – Curt and I asked the concierge at the hotel and he told us how to get there – our second directional error of the trip. This guy did not know that after 34 years having the expo at the Messe they had changed the location to the other side of town. We, of course, did not realize this until we rode the train all the way to the wrong place and walked around looking for other runners. Finally a taxi swept us off to the right location, although very slowly due to traffic. After awhile we just got out and walked the rest of the way. The expo was in a series of tents and building and had hundreds of people everywhere.
None of us had been mailed the entrance ticket so we had to wait in a long line for the help desk to get a ticket to be allowed upstairs to the area where we picked up our race packet and chips. With that done we fought the crowd for a bratwurst and then thru the vendors. I was able to get a lot of info on other races in Europe :)
Next was to fight the crowds to buy a subway ticket and get back home. Once again our bags were stashed in the room and off we went for dinner. It was getting late by this time but we set off for the Kuffersdamm which is a main shopping and restaurant street. We settled for a place called perfect pasta which was reminiscent of Fazolis or some other sort of fast food pasta. You placed your order and watched at the counter while they thru it together. The weekend was surprisingly warm so eating outside was still an option. The restaurant was crowded and included a big group of runners from Brazil. We were exhausted but not too tired to stop by Hagen Daus on the way home for some ice cream.

Posted by ErinDriver 22:47 Archived in Germany Tagged events Comments (0)

Ljubljana, Slovenia

A city full of architecture

semi-overcast 50 °F

For the first night in a hostel I slept way better than I expected. IT was cozy up in our little loft area. The only bad part is going down the hall for a shower in the morning. But the stay came with breakfast so we got the same old European breakfast before setting out for the downtown.
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We saw some of the sites around the square like the statue of Preseren with his muse, Julia and the cetromerkur store. Next up was the market where we didn’t find any souveneirs but we did have lunch. I got a pizza burek which is sort of like a stuffed pizza and Curt got the minced meat patty that is like a hamburger. The market is right by the dragon bridge so the camera was whipped out and a few photos snapped. Most of the day was spent coming in and out of shops and seeing the sights along the way.
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Happily at one point we ambled back by the tea house I fell in love with yesterday. I tried peach flavor today and Curt got cinnamon. It’s a great place to stop and rest for the afternoon. A trip by the library was in order which is Plecnik’s best work supposedly. He is the architect who designed most of Ljubljana. It has horse door handles! DSC01502.jpg
The Ljubljanica is the river that runs thru the center and is a beautiful place to walk and take photos.
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After awhile we decided to head back to the hostel and rest up. Dinner tonight was going to be at the hostel which was okay food. Amazingly we got what we ordered because the girl that took our order seemed to have a difficult time with it. I got risotto with shrimp and Curt got curry ravioli. So there we were hanging around the bar area waiting for the cocktail party to start because supposedly from 2000 – 2030 there are cocktails for only 2.50 euro. I guess we didn’t read closely enough to find it was only one cocktail but we each got one and it was very good. It was called 5KA and had rum, sprite and Malibu rum and grenadine. A tasty way to end the trip. Of course much of the hostel stayed at the cocktail party way longer than we did.
So tomorrow we return on the train from Ljubljana to Ansbach via Munich. As it turns out Eastern Europe was not that hard to navigate and aside from a few rude people we came across was very enjoyable.

Posted by ErinDriver 21:34 Archived in Slovenia Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Lake Bled to Ljubljana

Going to Jail!

overcast 50 °F

Ah, A Sunny Day!!! Finally – so we wake up at our hotel and have the breakfast downstairs. So the mission for today is to catch the bus and then hike to Vintgers Gorge. It is supposed to be a mile long walk along a gorge a short way from lake bled. But first of course I must take all new pictures of the lake, castle and swans now that the sun is shining. DSC01426.jpg
We catch the bus for the 30 min ride to the gorge at 1000 and arrive by 1030. Along the way we saw some of the hayracks that everybody is always talking about.
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The gorge was pretty but chilly because barely any light is let in. The pathway is not very wide so a lot of times you are waiting on people to be able to pass. But the water is crystal clear and you can see the fish fighting to swim up stream. At the end of the hike there is a waterfall but you can’t see it very well because the bridge from the gorge is covering it. But we only had an hour and a half at the gorge before catching the bus back. This may sound like a lot of time to make it 1 mile out and back but remember I take pictures of everything these days. So at the end we had to speed walk a little to get back by 1200 and catch the bus. But we did and we made it back to town by 1230 with an appetite.
We found another pizzeria called Pizzeria Rustica. It took a little longer for the pizza today but it was slightly better. So now we are rushing again because we want to catch the 1405 bus to Ljubljana. So we get half our pizza to go and once again race back to our hotel where they are storing our bags then back to the bus station.
We end up there with 15 minutes to spare. As we get on the bus we are told we can’t take our pizza so that is a bit frustrating. But at any rate it is an easy 1.5 hour ride to Ljubljana. We found our hostel Celica, the hostel that is designed like a prison and used to be a military prison. We check in, find our cell which has a small table and cabinet downstairs and a “double bed” upstairs. It has a regular door but then a door with bars also.
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We head towards the downtown and find the Cajna Hisa which is a tea shop. IT is my favorite place here so far. I get cinnamon tea and curt got a combo of blackberry and strawberry.
So dinner is a search for a place called Sokol which is supposed to have soup in a bread bowl. We are stuck on that after San Francisco. It is decorated like a Slovenian pub I guess and turns out to be a fun place to eat. I got a Radler that came in a bottle for the first time. Curt got his onion soup in a breadbowl ad gnocci and I got carbonara with noodles.
After dinner we window shopped on the way to our hostel to settle in for the evening. I traded a book and we tried to use the internet but it didn’t seem to be worth it. Goodnight from Jail!

Posted by ErinDriver 08:56 Archived in Slovenia Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Lake Bled, Slovenia

photographing the lake

sunny 50 °F

On first look out the window it was again an overcast day but atleast not raining. We had breakfast downstairs and it was about the same as the Plitvice breakfast….cereal, bananas, yogurt, bread with meat and cheese.
Our first mission was to begin the 3.5 mile walk around the lake. Our hotel, Hotel Villa Bojana, is actually only about a block from the water so we got off to an easy start. At almost 0900 not many people were up yet so we had it mostly to ourselves and the dog walkers. The lake and island in the middle are just gorgeous and I snapped photos every couple of steps again. We passed the summer residence of Tito and the camp site we would have been staying at if the weather had been warmer and what looked like the finish line for crew races. About ¾ of the way around we stopped at one of the pletna boats and got a ride to the island –only 24 euro. It was a good deal for the rower because he fit us in like sardines. He worked for it though because it was about a 30 minute ride. The sound of his oars on the water was very relaxing. DSC01290.jpgDSC01350.jpg
At the island we made a beeline for the church to ring the bell and make all our wishes come true. We’ll see. We went down the stairs and back up again…I spared Curt carrying me up the steps. DSC01319.jpg
The Slovenes after they get married have to carry their bride up the 94, 98 or 99 (we heard all of them) steps to ensure they are fit for marriage. The island is great for photos again and we were pretty busy our whole 30 minutes here. After that we met up and got our ride back to the start point.DSC01323.jpg
Next mission – Lunch. I read about a cool place,where else but in Rick Steves guide so we headed there. It was called Gostilna Pri Planinca and was a pub downstairs and pizzeria upstairs. You can guess I was going to the pizzeria and we had great margarita pizzas before continuing the day.
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Next was up to the castle for….more photos! It was a steep hike up and then another 14 euro to get into the castle. There was more to it than I thought with the courtyard areas overlooking the lake, a small museum, a video, a herb store and a wine shop. This was the best because team Driver got to bottle their own wine. A friendly monk helped us bottle some white wine from the region. I put the wine in the bottle from a big keg and then put the cork in. Curt sealed it in wax and put the label on. We got a certificate and our own bottle of wine for 10 euros. It was great fun.
Down the mountain we come eager for some of the cream cake that is famous here. The Panorama restaurant is the place to go so we had tea and kremna rezina. It a layer of cream and a thick layer of vanilla custard sandwiched between crispy crusts and topped with sugar. Very light and delicious. DSC01399.jpg
We were on the hunt for the beehive panels so we did a little shopping – the honey house didn’t really have one we liked but the store next door had a simple one with two wedding doves so we got that one. I liked it more than the others where a woman was getting cut in half or similar scenarios. The idea behind them is that the Slovenes would paint their panels on the beehives to help the bees find their way home. Now its mostly just a souveneir.
A nap and showers were next on the agenda and we headed back to the town without much of an appetite after our pizzas and cake. We strolled by some restaurants and walked a bit by the lake but still didn’t have much of a desire to eat. We ended up getting some chicken fried rice from the Chinese restaurant on the corner by our hotel.

Posted by ErinDriver 08:34 Archived in Slovenia Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Croatia to Slovenia

depart Plitvice, arrive Lake Bled

overcast 45 °F

STILL RAINING when we wake up today around 0730. We packed up and showered before heading to breakfast. It was the same as the day before and we got some sandwiches to go also. Our bus was to pick us up at 1100 so by 1030 we checked out of the hotel (141 euro) and headed for the bus stop. The concept is that we stand out there and wait for a bus to come at 1100 that is headed to Zagreb. We buy a ticket from the bus driver and hope there is space for us. As it turns out the bus is on time and there is space but not much so I sit with a nun and curt with another woman. We were bundled up against the weather outside so the bus inside seemed stifling. We lasted the 2.5 hour ride to Zagreb bus station and found out there were no buses directly to bled – you had to stop in Ljubljana first so we headed to the train station – no one was real excited to get on another bus anyway.
Upon arriving at the train station on the crowded tram car we found the next train did not leave for Bled until 1800 and would not arrive until 2130. So disappointing but now we had 4 hours to kill in a city we didn’t much like the first time. After I pouted for awhile we left our luggage in the room with the guy (mistake cause it was 15 kuna each bag) and walked to the square for another strudel like we had the first time. After warming up, we went back to the train station to wait some more.
About 30 minutes before our train was to come we found out it was delayed by 30 minutes – JEEZ! It felt like we may never get to Slovenia. At 1900, about an hour after we were supposed to have left we finally moved away from the train station. We were continually checked, tickets, passports, customs….we spent about 30 minutes at the border of slovenia being checked again. Then once we started moving we had our ticket checked again and were told we were in 1st class. So we had to move back where we belong with the common people. At a little after 2200 we finally were dumped off in the dark, empty bus stop of Lesce Bled. I suppose I am not that good at “winging it” travel because at this point I wanted to cry. We finally realized we needed to be at the bus stop across the road and in a few short minutes a bus came to whisk us the last 4K into Bled.
Then started the hunt for a place to stay in the dark, empty streets of bled. I have to give it to Curt because he was completely calm during all of this. The first place we stopped was not open but luckily only the second place we went had a one room left. This is what he told Curt anyway but when we went to check in he asked us if we wanted a room with one large bed or separate beds?????
Anyway our worst travel day so far had come to a lucky end. The room was reasonable at 90 euro a night including breakfast. We are finally in Lake Bled!DSC01279.jpg

Posted by ErinDriver 07:56 Archived in Slovenia Tagged train_travel Comments (0)

Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

Enjoying the Waterfalls in the rain!

rain 48 °F

So we woke up today to a nice and sunny day!!!....Except not really. I don’t think it quit pouring rain all night! So looking out the window this morning was identical to yesterday. We got up around 0700 and got ready for breakfast. A nice European breakfast was included in our stay. We had tea and coffee with a nice layout of bread, cheese, meats, cereal and fruit. We even made a sandwich for later and took with us.
We went back to the room to wait out some of the rain. I read outside on our balcony and around 0830 it looked like the rain was letting up so we heading to the information center. We bought our tickets for 220 kuna and got a plan of action that would take about 5 hours and get us thru the upper and lower lakes. DSC03991.jpg
To start we had to get on a trolley that took us to the top of the upper lakes. Of course while we were on the trolley it started to rain again so it was a good thing we had bought an umbrella at the store. After about an hour the rain stopped and we were able to stop taking baby steps in order to stay under the umbrella. The pathways are made from wooden planks in most cases and they lead thru beautiful lakes, woods and past waterfalls. The only animals we saw were ducks and fish but the rain made the place look even more lush. The water is a beautiful greenish blue due to the calcium and that there is no algae to turn the water ugly. After about 2.5 hours we hit the boat that would take us across the lake from the upper lakes to the lower lakes. DSC04007.jpg
At this point there is a rest area with bathrooms and a little cafeteria with a fireplace. It was nice to get in here and warm up because it was very cold and wet outside. We shared a sandwich and fries with coffee and hot chocolate. DSC04020.jpg
We continued thru the shorter half which is the lower lakes which I believe were the prettiest. It had also stopped raining so this might be why it seemed better. The bottom half also seemed busier with tourists. But at any rate we passed by lots of waterfalls and beautiful lakes again. We discovered the water was very warm which explains the mist that was rising from the water all day. The end of the lower section takes you up the hill to the trolley again with some great overhead views of the lakes. The trolley deposited us back at the hotel. DSC03986.jpg
Dinner was at the restaurant that was a bit better than last night. We both got pljeskavica which is the minced meat patty with French fries. We capped the dinner off with a tea and coffee. As we walked outside it was STILL RAINING!!!! So we go back to our nice warm room for another movie!!

Posted by ErinDriver 07:36 Archived in Croatia Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Zagreb, Croatia

The capital

rain 45 °F

The Zagreb train station is nice but the TI lady did not know what we were talking about when we asked about a soccer game so we headed on to the bus station. Rick described it as a few long blocks away so we decided to walk. Never listen to me when I decide to walk. It wasn’t that long but we could just have taken the trolley and not had to drag our bags the whole way. It was not the prettiest walk either, all the walls were lined with grafitti art. At any rate we made it there, stowed our bags In a room with a man that gave us a ticket and charged us by the hour.
Since we arrived in Zagreb early things were just getting set up, like the flower market and an arts and crafts market. It was also very chilly here and looked close to raining. We decided to stop in a café for hot tea and coffee. After warming up we spotted a bakery called Pan Pek across the square. I got a great cherry strudel and curt got a pizza pocket. We bought some cookies at the market but it wasn’t fully set up yet so we decided to do Rick Steves walk around town.
This started at the funicular on Ilica street. In 55 seconds and 8 kuna later you are wisked to the top on Zagreb to the old town of gradec. We saw the lanterns that are still lit by someone every night and the church with the tiled roof. DSC01224.jpg
We checked out the home of Ivan Mistrovec (the sculptor) and passed thru the stone bridge which is now a chapel. Its wild because it looks like a regular street but inside the bridge people are praying and lighting candles. We went across the blood bridge and inside the cathedral. The cathedral had a wall filled with script that almost because the alphabet of croatia but never caught on.
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Finally the market was open and ended up getting a small souvenir plate that was handmade on the island of Brac. It is beautifully painted with a white design. We also saw a group of Croatian men and women holding hands and dancing at the square. DSC01241__2_.jpg
Once again we were freezing so wanted tea – ended up at an argentinian café where we both had apricot tea and some cookies we got at the market. Wanting to eat lunch before getting on the bus at 1500 we started searching. Since it was cold I was interested in a place with indoor seating. We wound up at a pub called Medivedgrad Pivnica. I had cavapcicima which is a sandwich with minced meat and what I think was the ajvar (ketchup with a kick)….and of course pommes. Curt had goulash with homemade noodes and we both cleaned our plates.
We found the tram again and headed to the train station to regain our bags and find our platform. We bought bus tickets but had to pay 14 kuna for our bags to go underneath the bus!!! Whatever – atleast we found it. We passed by a lot of houses where you could see shrapnel marks from the war. The ride was 2 hours and 15 minutes. We were shoved off the bus into the rain at the bus stop right outside the park. We shuffled off to the Bellevue hotel but didn’t get there before being soaked.
After our night train ride we needed a nap before dinner. We didn’t get to explore because it was very cold and rainy and we were hoping for better the next day…..
Dinner was at a self-serve restaurant, think cafeteria. Spaghetti Bolognese was chosed by both of us with some fries and bread. It was….cafeteria food.

Posted by ErinDriver 07:05 Archived in Croatia Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)