Saturday, 20 April 2013

Hej Sverige! (AKA Storming Stockholm with Friends)

View from the City Hall (Source - TRGTALP)
I posted a few months back about my impending trip to the Swedish capital, Stockholm with my two friends (see 'Stockholm Syndrome').  I expressed what I knew were going to be completely unfounded fears about travelling with other people.  The three of us had a brilliant time exploring the historical Gamla Stan, trying to be hip and happening in hip and happening Södermalm, wandered the rarefied streets of the Östermalm, strolled the Djurgården and sampled lots of great places to eat across this fantastic Scandanavian city.  We took the free tour (as I always recommend), with our sweet, if a little hapless, guide who told us that, "Greta Garbo was founded in the PUB department store" and that there was nothing of historical importance on the Kungsgatan, but the gym which was the site of the first meeting of the Crown Princess, Victoria and her buff beau, Daniel.
Gustavus Adolphus would be proud! (Source - TRGTALP)
I would highly recommend a visit to this awesome city, but must warn you of two things:
  • Number 1 - Prepare to hemorrhage your bank balance or take a few bars of gold with pay for breakfast.  I had heard about the country's reputation for being pricey and, boy, the people who had warned me were not wrong.  Despite having paid more than double the price for almost everything you would in the UK, I (a tightwad Yorkshireman) still think that Sweden is worth the money.  The quality of the food and shopping, in most instances, make it worthwhile.  Getting round this, might involve self catering in your hostel accommodation for a night or two.  Or, taking advantage of the fixed price, set menus on offer at most restaurants and cafes at lunchtime to fill yourself up.
  • Number 2 - The reputation holds fast...Swedes of both gender are absolutely gorgeous.  The women have legs that go on forever with luscious blonde locks and model-esque cheekbones that could cut granite.  The men are tall modern day Viking warriors, with luscious blond locks, thick beards and model-esque cheekbones that could cut granite.  Do not...I not go to Stockholm if you have a low self esteem.  The Swedes won't remind you of this beauty disparity.  I don't think they even know that they are a supremely good looking nation, but one simple walk down most streets in the capital will render the individual to a lustful mush or speed-dialing a plastic surgeon.
Places I would recommend a visit to:
  • Cafe Gildas Rum - Skånegatan 79 - Great cafe with the best brownie I have ever eaten!
  • Cafe Saturnus -
  • Cafe Albert and Jack - - The breakfast meal deal, service and surroundings at the Gamla Stan branch were impressive!
  • AG Restaurant - A meat feast.  Dress up in your finest gladrags for this one!
  • Le Rouge - A great restaurant in the Gamla Stan -
  • Pelikan Bar in the Södermalm -
  • The Saluhall in the Östermalm district -
  • Scandi design shopping in both Östermalm and Södermalm.
  • A walk round the Djurgården.
So, that's Stockholm!  Until the next journey...hejdå!

Monday, 15 April 2013

Hostel Heaven and Hostel Hell

Having recently stayed in a hostel, I often forget how much I love...and hate them!  Sometimes I think that, for the single traveller, they are a necessary evil and, at the same time, a wonderful resource for fun and friendship.  Faced with snorers, plastic bag rustlers and the strange eating habits of the occasional traveller I am often pleased to return to my own room at home.  So, for the hostel first timer and the backpacking old timer here are a few things you can do to make your fellow roomies trip just as pleasant as yours...

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

German Journeys (A Guest Post by Allana D)

After several posts from yours truly, I can only imagine that regular readers of TRGTALP are growing tired of hearing my thoughts on travel by now.  I therefore, had a brainwave.  I am lucky enough to have met and know so many people that are as passionate as me about travel that I thought I should hand over the reins to them so that they can offer you something fresh, a change from the norm and a different perspective on their travels and how they get the most from their journeys.  To kick us off, I have enlisted the help of Allana D, a wonderful Aussie I met in a hostel last October in Krakow.  I hope you enjoy reading about and are inspired, as much as I am, by her travels through Germany.


Germany has been a favourite country of mine since I first travelled there in 2008.  From the first time, this beautiful country captivated me with its vast and interesting history and beautiful cities.  In March 2013, after having lived in Germany for 6 months, I organised and planned a 3 week solo trip in and around Germany to see more of the places I had been dreaming of since my first visit.

View of River Neckar and Heidelberg Old Town from Heidelberg Castle (source - Allana D)

I chose to travel around Germany using their fabulous (and sometimes, not so fabulous) train system, Deutsche Bahn (DB).  I figured out pretty quickly that the trains are extremely expensive when I started to ‘budget’ on how much my transport would cost me.  However, DB has a great ‘Savings Fare’ ticket – all you need to do is make an online account (it’s free!) and you can book all your tickets online using a credit card and the tickets are emailed to you.  Take into account that DB is notoriously known for their delays and last minute changes! If you can help it, try to book a direct train to any or all your destinations.

My first destination was Heidelberg and due to a delay and track change, I almost missed my 1st connection as I was frantically looking for my next train…which happened to be only on the other side of the same platform.  One of the cities I visited was Munich (a given when planning a trip around Germany, I think J).  I had 5 nights there and it still wasn’t enough for me. It is such a great city to explore for history (both modern and ancient) as well as culture. I did a Sandemans New Munich free walking tour one morning and our guide told us an interesting fact: Germany is the 3rd largest beer drinking nation in the world behind the Czech Republic and Ireland; however, if you were to only focus on Bavaria (the state and region in which Munich is located), it has the largest amount of beer drinkers in the world...astonishing!

One of the most memorable days on my trip was my day trip from Munich to see the Linderhof Palace and Neuschwanstein Castle, both built by King Ludwig II. It was a pre-booked and fully organised tour which, for me, took out the stress of organising every detail myself.  Another thing that made it a great day was to see the Bavarian Alps and cross them off my ‘To Do’ list.

 Neuschwanstein Castle (source - Allana D)

The Bavarian Alps (source - Allana D) 

If you are looking for somewhere different to go in Germany, rather than the main cities like Berlin and Munich, check out Bamberg.  Only an hour train ride from Nuremberg in Upper Bavaria, this UNESCO historic town is a great day trip.  After walking around for about an hour, I finally found the city centre.  My pathetic sense of direction clearly won that day! The River Regnitz runs through the town and the Cathedral and Castle sit on top of the hill which you can do tours in and around.

 Bamberg (source - Allana D)

Allana D with Bamberg in the background (source - Allana D)

Just a few tips which I could have used for my trip...
  • Keep your city maps - Usually if you stay at hostels, their city maps are awesome! I can guarantee you will not remember every church name or building in your photos!
  • Invest in ear plugs when bunking in a dormitoryThey will be a Godsend! I cannot count how many sleepless nights I had due to people who snore like bears!
  • Bring your own towel - All of the hostels I stayed in charged me for a towel! I could have saved a bit of money if I had brought my own. (Other places I have stayed in in Europe were free).
  • Check out a city’s events before arrival - I was in Munich for the ‘Strong Beer Festival’ and also some major football games and didn’t even realise it!

First Class Travel and the Travel Proletariat

The luxury of first class travel (Source:

As previous readers will have gathered, I am a budget traveller.  I aim to travel as cheaply as possible to make sure my money goes further so that I too can go further around the world on my many journeys here and there.  Of the several trips I have taken, one thing has bothered me.  I claim to be a victim of class prejudice in the air, a proletariat of the skies; forever to have my knees round my ears.  My angst?  I have never been upgraded!  I hear tales of friends who have been pushed up to business class from economy and from business to first without the slightest hint of effort.  Why not me?  What have I ever done to the ground staff?!

The closest I have come to an upgrade was during my travels round Australia and New Zealand, when I took a Qantas flight from Christchurch to Auckland.  I passed through the airport as normal, boarded the plane and took my seat.  I soon realised that the two seats next to me were not to be filled during what was a full flight.  Confused, I saw the air steward (the very same man at the check in desk) walk down the aisles from the front of the plane and stop at my row, where he proceeded to ask me if I was happy with my seat.  I replied with the affirmative and then the penny dropped.  I did not realise that when I was checking in, he was checking me out!  I had a great one hour flight and was even treated to extra food from my new friend, while I stretched my legs out, listened to Jack Johnson and took in the magnificent coastal views below me.  All this as the passengers around me muttered in puzzlement as to why I was given so much extra space on such a busy flight.

Of course, I am being utterly ridiculous.  As I said at the beginning, I am a budget traveller.  Long gone are the days when airlines simply upgrade you based on the availability of space in the other, more luxurious parts of the plane.  Nor do they upgrade their passengers on the basis of their attire alone.  Airlines tend to upgrade their big spenders and reward loyalty.  That is why if I am ever to find myself stretching out with a glass of champagne I am going to have to stick with a particular airline and rack up some serious points on their scheme.  Flying low cost carriers such as Ryanair and easyJet will never see me upgraded, simply because these carriers do not divide their plane into business and first class sections.  I have survived this far, so really have no reason to complain about my lot as I whizz through the skies.  Besides, I am most happy about bagging a bargain, rather than a plush seat.

Happy travels...wherever you sit on the plane!