EN ROUTE LETTERS
30.08.2007, Vienna , Austria
International team of travelers under the aegis of "Avalon" went on wandering and searching for adventures in magnificent Austria, close and distant at the same time.
Country, which had presented to the world the apple strudel and lots of genius and not very clever people (think of Mozart and Hitler, for instance), welcomed us with open arms, good weather and music, sounding practically from everywhere. Tired and hungry, we arrived to Vienna at about 5 o'clock in the morning. Crazy high prices for everything (including accommodation, food, entertainment and souvenirs) didn't discourage us, on the contrary, as usually, ready for everything we set out in search of camping. By the way, our tent life afterwards went really good, but we never understood what we had paid money for!
Anyway, after having slept and eaten enough in the tent, we went to the city. According to the itinerary first we went to the famous St.Stephan's cathedral, which serves as a symbol of Vienna and Austria in general. Well, after the visit of the cathedral we got a bit disappointed and once again didn't understand what we had paid 8 euro for! A bit later we went to see the Hofburg - the residence of Habsburg dynasty, reminders of which are at every step in Vienna. The most famous members of the Habsburg dynasty are Maria Theresia, Franz Josef and his wife Elizabeth, known among people as "Sisi" (guess why:)). Being outstanding historical figures, they are deeply respected and are still popular among the Austrians – and tourists, visiting Austria, as well! Indeed, how is it possible not to become interested in the Habsburgs if every third monument or museum is somehow connected with them?!
The Schoenbrunn palace, which we liked very much, is also connected with the Habsburgs. A beautiful baroque palace, a big garden in French style, personal triumphal arch (the Gloriette) and Viennese bakery with its apple strudel show (where they show you how they bake this culinary delight) - these are just some of the things you might want to see during the day at the Schoenbrunn. P.S. Tickets are not so cheap, but it's worth it.
You can also spend your day visiting Sisi museum (no, really, what a strange name for a girl!), going to see the Spanish riding school and its Lipizzan ballet is also a very good idea. The main actors of the performances, held there, are brilliant Lipizzan horses, which are really able to dance. At least people say so… and we didn't have chance to see them dancing, because the horses (as well as many people, including us) had decided to have rest and go on vacation for the whole August :(.
In the evening of the next day we honoured the Music Film festival with our presence. It's held in Vienna annually and is free of charge. That day they showed "Silva" by Imre Calman on a big screen, placed in front of the City hall. And probably this opera (ballet, operetta, whatever … - we're not big fans of classical music and therefore did not really see the difference) was really good, but we were so tired after a busy day that happily fell asleep right on the bench in front of the screen. And in our sleep invisible orchestra kept playing, accompanying loud-voiced singers…Along with visiting different cultural and historical sights of Vienna, we also had opportunity to familiarize ourselves with the local cuisine: famous Viennese schnitzel, sausages of the same name and no less tasty Corden Blue, swallowed up in a funny restaurant called "Centimeter", where all the dishes and drinks were measured in centimeters, seemed really delicious to us. We also spent a wonderful evening in a Viennese coffee shop, although famous cake "Sacher" (Sachertorte) turned out to be not as good and tasty as in advertisements.
The only museum we had a chance to visit in Vienna was "The house of music". We liked it for its originality and self-descriptiveness: we got informed about all the Viennese composers and musicians, found out a lot about the nature of sound and music on the whole, as well as had chance to lead an electronic orchestra (and try our hands at conducting) and make up our own Viennese Waltz. Visiting the museum was really cognitive and interesting: surprising experiments and fascinating games, skillfully twisted with theoretical facts and scientific data, were really worth of spending some euro for the ticket.
In the next morning after taking down the tent and packing the backpacks our team of travelers began the homeward journey. Yet in about 2 days after numerous visits to cafes, aqua parks, poolrooms and shops and a nice party, held in our honour, entertaining, cognitive and culturological expedition "Eurotrip 2007" came to an end…And even if it was not so tragic, we were sad and sorry that our trip had ended.
We've seen, known, bought and tried a lot of interesting things; we've become a little bit cleverer and more famous: now the Europeans also know about "Avalon", even if still don't meet us with balloons and transparencies (what a shame on them!:)). The most important thing is, of course, that we've fulfilled the main goals of every traveler: we've had a good time, relaxed and got a lot of positive emotions and impressions, as well as collected a lot of precious information, which will be useful for other independent and freedom-loving travelers, which consider the word "tourist" itself as a foul language.
If you want to travel and learn new countries and cultures, become acquainted with interesting people and communicate with like-minded persons, experience new emotions and just have a good time – no matter where and when – just as the way we do – you should definitely join us – the company of resilient and indefatigable backpackers, thrown together by a common interest and the best historico-geographical society in the world - "Avalon". If you are interested in us and our society, you can read about all that at www.guide.kz, or even better come to us, call us and write us! We're always happy to see you! And for now goodbye and see you soon! Travel, enjoy the life and may the backpackers’ force be with you!
With best wishes, Oxana Shuptar and Michael Kamper.
24.08.2007, Hanover – Neumarkt – Nuremberg – Munich, Germany
Right after coming back from France, the restless team of Avalon went to conquer the wonderful German cities, which, unfortunately, had already been conquered long time ago… but are still interesting for the travelers all over the world! These were Hanover, Nuremberg, Neumarkt and Munich! Neumarkt is the city we love most of all, but it's unlikely that somebody knows it, so record of it in our reports can be regarded as the advertisement ;)
Our stay in glorious Hanover city - the capital of Lower Saxony left exclusively wonderful impressions in our memories - maybe because somebody (our relatives and friends, naturally) waited for us there, met and took care of us during our stay or maybe just because this was a truly beautiful green city. Well, I guess our stay in Hanover was great due to both reasons! Anyway, the main object of our visiting this flourishing and evergrowing city – "Visiting relatives" mission was successfully fulfilled and even overfulfilled (at least according to the quantity of roads passed, alcohol drunk and confectionery eaten). As for the research, cultural and entertaining aspects of the journey, careful study of all the Hanover sights was done within the bounds of the expedition. We had chance to see the old city hall with a crazy elevator, which is actually running diagonally, a beautiful quay and some interesting churches, squares and a few other more or less old historical monuments, which luckily survived the Second World War. Our team has actually managed to visit all the sights, which are possible to visit for 2 days, and the idea of staying here for some more days was rather tempting. However, we couldn't permit ourselves to do so, because we had to leave for Bavaria – in order to be able to visit a wonderful beer festival by the name Volkfest, held in Neumarkt at that time.
Volkfest, Fruehlingfest and famous Oktoberfest are nothing but varieties of Beer festivals, which are so popular in Germany and especially in Bavaria, famous for its love for beer and sausages. Beer is naturally what is in the centre of attention of these feasts, dedicated to beer-drinking. Different kinds of amusements are also essential for these feasts, namely numerous attractions, live music, dances on tables, chairs and other horizontal surfaces and original masquerade, participants of which are dressed in traditional clothes: beautiful dresses with vests and white aprons for girls and leather trousers (so-called Lederhosen) and checked shirts for boys… and great beer busts everywhere!
It's just impossible to express that unique joyful atmosphere and festive mood, reigning at the holiday. For being able to feel crazy fun, heated up by beer and music, and limitless drive it's just necessary to be there! Therefore next time when you decide to have fun or just to spend a good time, Welcome to the Volksfest! Bright spirits and good impressions without detriment to your wallet are guaranteed. Besides, visit of such a holiday is a great opportunity to familiarize yourself with the culture, customs and traditions of the real Germans. That's how, having attended the Volkfest, our team realized cognitive, entertaining and ethnographical aspects of the expedition or - to make a long story short – we've had a ball!
After going bananas at the Volkfest, we briefly visited the biggest Bavarian cities - Nuremberg and Munich. Seeing of the sights, worthy of note places and other worthless spots ended up with a friendly carousal in one of the most famous German pubs called Hofbrauhaus. The Hofbrauhaus, which status is quite hard to determine (because the former brewery often calls itself as a "Beer palace" or at least a "beer garden"), served us with food and drink, as well as let us enjoy the show. Alongside with various possible and impossible types and sorts of beer, sausages and other German culinary masterpieces the Pub had a charming orchestra dressed in traditional leather trousers and knee-highs. In a spacious hall folk songs and songs about beer sounded. As for the famous word "Prost", I think everyone managed to learn it by heart - even American and Japanese tourists.
The next day we left for Austria - the land of music and apple strudel, horse ballet and perverted grandpa Freud. We made our way for the mountainous country, filled with "The sound of music", images of Beethoven and Mozart, Franz Josef and Sisi, and also lots of pleasant and unknown tastes, smells and sounds. You'll be able to read about our trip to Austria and the Viennese adventures in the next report. And now – goodbye and see you soon!
With best wishes, Oxana Shuptar and Michael Kamper.
21.08.2007, Paris , France
Hello, dear travelers, holiday-makers and workers, supporting us and indifferent to everything, that happens to us! We are happy to inform you that entertaining expedition "Eurotrip-2007" continues and is not going to be over yet. Its participants, replete and contented, are wandering from one city to another, getting new friends and impressions along the way, as well as photographs, souvenirs, food and production of local breweries and distilleries.
Well, a lot of great deeds have been committed by us within last 3 days. First, there was nearly heroic ascension up the slippery stairs to the very top of the Eiffel tower and no less heroic descending from it, then triumphal procession along the Champs-Elysees with entry in no less triumphal Arc de Triomphe and conquest of Montmartre, renowned by Amelie Poulain. Everything this was proceeded with our visit to Notre Dame de Paris, where, unfortunately, we haven't found any Quasimodo. Later on we familiarized ourselves with local gastronomy, culinary and standards of eating everything mentioned above.
The main impression we’ve got from our visit to Paris is, undoubtedly, delight and veneration for the city and people, which had created such exceptional beauty and had managed to save and enhance it as well as build up the atmosphere of "The movable feast" and develop the idea of "La vie en rose" ("Life through rose-coloured glasses"). It would be wrong to say that everything is so perfect and unclouded in Paris: of course sometimes people there also feel low, they experience and overcome the difficulties on their path to happiness and welfare, but at the same time, having looked upon their faces, you’ll never see a sign of anxiety or tiredness. It seems that people are so much pleased with their lives, that they are literally overfilled with the wish to share their smile with those around them and wish health (i.e. to say hello) even to any random stranger, and this is, naturally, very pleasant.
Thus, having convinced ourselves that "Nature has no bad weather", we went to conquer overcast Paris and especially the Eiffel Tower, which metallic tracery frame really impressed us with its size and elusive subtlety of construction. In spite of downpour, there were lots of people who wished to visit the Eiffel tower (and probably had also convinced themselves as we did). There were so many people, that we had to stand in queue for about 20 minutes – just to get tickets for going to the top of the tower on foot. There were even more people who wanted to get there by taking an elevator, so their wait in queue was probably even more enduring and annoying. Anyway, after a time we were already standing on the first platform, and a bit later – after the visit to coffee shop and cinema (which showed only movies about the tower and space exploration) – we were enjoying a picturesque view of evening Paris at a height of 115 metres.
The memorable record "Avalon 15.08.07" was also made here. For some people it may seem primitive and banal (as well as for us), but it was really necessary to make it because if the Eiffel tower knows that "Billy was here", it should also be aware of the fact, that the sacred leg of Avalon (and even 4 of them!) had stepped on its surface.
In the middle of our triumphal descending, during which some great photos and videos were taken, the air became imbued with squeak, scream and squeal. Those were delighted people at Champ de Mars, watching the Tower shine and blink with thousands of twinkling lights. I think, in that very moment lots of people had felt "the movable feast", because the atmosphere reigning in a radius of some kilometers was really festal and unbelievably joyful.
The next day there was Notre Dame de Paris (by the way, it was founded in the 12 th century!), superficial visit to the Louvre and the Tuileries Garden and procession along the Champs-Elysees. Strange as it may seem, but from all the above mentioned places I liked the Cathedral and solemn ceremony held there on the occasion of any Christian holiday most of all. After the walk along the Champs-Elysees, visit of the square of Charles de Gaulle and observation of Arc de Triomphe we've got a lot of warm memories and nice pictures.
The next day's evening was devoted to the Montmartre hill, from the top of which you can observe the wonderful panorama of Paris. Montmartre is a unique and incredibly romantic place, where a beautiful roman-byzantine Basilica of the Sacre Coeur and the Artists' quarter are situated. The latter is called so because a lot of great masters used to live and creat their masterpieces there. Thus, we found ourselves in the Artists's quarter. Surrounded by artists and sitters, easels and brushes we enjoyed hot crepes and great french beer under the name "1664". A bit later we went rambling over Boulevard de Cliche' - sort of local "Red light district", situated in the neighbourhood of Montmartre and comprising the famous cabaret "Moulin Rouge" and lots of "establishments", somehow connected with Love. Yes, Love, there is no misprint. Dear Friends, we're in France! Here even a shop, selling lingerie, vibrators and porno cassettes bears a proud name "The shop of love".
The following days were mostly devoted to walking, shopping, recreation and entertainment. Our team has seen the new business district of Paris – La Defence, which mostly consists of skyscrapers and also includes magnificent Grande Arche, and has visited French restaurant (which was very important for better understanding of the French culture). The last thing we've done during our stay in Paris was a wonderful night boat cruise along the Seine.
By the afternoon of the next day we were already making our way for Germany. This time Hanover, Nuremberg, Munich and other great German cities with rich history, beautiful architecture, hospitable inhabitants and tasty sausages and beer were waiting for us. You'll be able to find out what happened to us in Germany in the next report of our valiant team. As usually, it will be generously delivered in your mailbox (I hope we're not in your spam-list yet:)). And for now – Goodbye! Au revoir! Auf wiedersehen! And Do svidaniya!
With best wishes, Oxana Shuptar and Michael Kamper.
15.08.2007, Gent , Belgium
The next point in our itinerary was Belgium – a wonderful west-european country, inhabited by friendly and cheerful people, speaking top-notch British English, being an island of medieval beauty and romance. At least that’s how Belgium seemed to us, and we built our image of "the Lace Country" on the basis of visiting one of its most beautiful cities – Gent.
Gent – a picturesque Belgian city, which lies at the confluence of the rivers Scheldt and Leie, by its majestic beauty and magnificence of ancient monuments quite deserves to be compared with Czech beauty – Prague. But unlike Prague, it's luckily not besieged by tourists yet. However it's just a matter of time, because such rare beauty of medieval churches, the castle and numerous channels with thrilling touch of the present can not but attract attention of adventurers, travelers and usual tourists. St. Bavo's Cathedral, the Belfry, the Castle of the counts, St. Nicholas' church and the rest of the sights – everything this is worth of spending here some days or even better months. But as duration of our adventurous-cognitive trip was limited, we lingered on in Gent for only 3 days and never regretted that we'd preferred it to Brussels, Bruges and other Belgian cities.
Along with sightseeing and visiting different museums, among which are Museum of Fine Arts and Museum of industrial archeology and textiles (by the way, textile industry is one of the most developed in Gent), we were familiarizing ourselves with specialities of local cuisine. It turned out that unlike their French neighbors, the Belgians are more democratic and unpretentious (or even frugal?) in this respect, that's why French fries served up with different dressings, one of which is cooked on basis of beef and beer, is considered one of the main dishes of local cuisine. Doesn't our common love to potatoes bring us together and even make us relative with the Belgians? :)
We were pleasantly surprised with friendly support of local people, especially that of Young people's tourist office Use-it, members of which haven't only provided us with necessary information and free Internet, but also were so kind to entertain and treat us with coffee. How great on earth it is to meet nice and kind people in a foreign country, people, which will not only help you but also strengthen your confidence in the good and good people in the world! Man may be a wolf to a man, but traveler is definitely a friend to a traveler – we made sure in this over again during our stay in a wonderful Gent city.
Time had glided…and here we are again, furnished with backpacks, sleeping bags, beer and sausages, moving toward the unknown direction…
Although the direction is pretty well-known, it is the city, which Ernest Hemingway was tenderly and romantically calling "A movable feast", it is the capital of the country where the French used to live – a glorious Paris city! You'll be able to read about our Parisian adventures and not only in our next report.
Wait, speculate and conjecture, support us (you can actually send us money, although moral support and enthusiasm will probably be enough:)) and – the most important thing – travel! And never forget that life is wonderful, but life, full of adventures, is even more wonderful!
11.08.2007, Amsterdam , Holland
Overcoming temptation to stay in hospitable Germany for at least some more days, indefatigable team of Avalon left for Holland. Flickering in the shimmer of red lights and swimming in the cloud of sweetish narcotic smoke, Holland turned out to be a no less hospitable place than Germany. Thus, we made our way for Amsterdam – the city attracting travelers from all over the world with its beauty, permissiveness, liberty and pleasures of all kinds, the city which needs no comment. Deluged with tourists Amsterdam nevertheless haven’t lost its allurement, it appeared right in front of us… just the same way as it appears and is imagined by all the people: a busy city, besieged by tourists and tourist industry, which consists of countless numbers of old buildings, channels, museums, squares and - the most important thing – our two-wheeled friends – bikers. Free and happy, with fly-away hair, clinking and cursing, they were driving around tourists and striving (not) to run somebody over. However not only bikers but the city itself and its inhabitants, possessing both freedom of speech and so-called freedom of action and satisfaction, were free. And The Red Light district and countless coffeeshops served as a clear and visual evidence to this.
Thus, in the very first evening our team made a sortie or just went rambling through Dam square and Red Light district, where in spite of temptations of all kinds we managed to lose neither head nor money and camera (the latter was most likely to happen, because girls in windows don’t like photo sessions and their souteneurs like to throw cameras in the channel). A close inspection of above-mentioned territory, namely windows, coffee shops, sex shops and just shops, was conducted. What stuck to our memory the most is prevailing cult of naked body or at least its most interesting parts (guess, what ones:)), as well as cool breeze, filled with scent of marijuana and God knows what other grass, and atmosphere of general happiness and merriment. That evening in the framework of detailed investigation of local culture, morals and manners of the city’s inhabitants, we also visited "The Sex museum" and also "The hash marijuana hemp museum", which impressed us a lot. However, we propagandize healthy life-style, that’s why later we set out in search of Heineken. You’ll probably be surprised, but that evening we never found it, because the sale of alcohol in Amsterdam shops after 11 p.m. is strictly forbidden. At the same time you can buy any type of weed any time you want, isn’t it an interesting intercultural difference in the scale of values?
After the bus tour and channel cruise we went to the Tropics museum – one of the richest museums of the world, dedicated to inhabitants of Africa, their culture, morals and manners. Thus, having traveled around Amsterdam, we haven’t only seen smoked tourists and local aboriginals, but also took a closer look at traditions and customs of people of Tropical countries. In that way we’ve realized the culturological and ethnographical aspects of our expedition.
Yet there were some ancient churches and museums, as well as much beer, herring, tulips and wooden shoes, which, along with weed and vibrators, are considered national patrimonies of one of the most wonderful world capitals – great and free Amsterdam city.
08.08.2007, Neumarkt , Germany
Travel, be in good health and may the backpackers’ force be with you! The valiant team of Avalon comprising the society’s two members Oxana Shuptar and Michael Kamper is delighted to greet you from green and sunny Germany, reeking of beer and fried sausages! The whereabouts of our amateur European expedition for now is a small Bavarian town bearing a proud name Neumarkt, which, translated from German, means nothing else but "new market".
Within the bounds of the town for the past few days our team found a rather ancient historical monument of the 12th century, the Wolfstein castle, which has been thoroughly inspected, developed and climbed all over. As well as many German castles (and they are really many!) Wolfstein has been used for the purpose specified up to the end of the 17th century when enterprising and not very smart citizens of the town has taken the castle to pieces for their own needs. By now everything that is left from the castle is the tower and neighbouring ruins, which have some archaeological value. The society called "Friends of Wolfstein", with the friendly members of which we still didn’t have a chance to encounter (for international bridging, naturally!), is concerned with conservation of the ruins.
In the context of realization of the culturological aspect of so-called expedition our team has also attended St. Johannes’s church, build in the15th century, and some other historical monuments.
As everybody knows, members of our society, which, undoubtedly, is the best in the world, are not used to search for royal road. That’s why even in such a well-trodden and greatly spoiled by tourist industry place as Europe we managed to find some Bavarian towns and villages, where probably no traveler’s foot may tread. These were Thierstein and Konnasreut. Watching the natives and savouring specialties of the traditional cuisine in "White Rose" guesthouse, we almost felt ethnographers, observing life and culture of inhabitants of little towns and villages, no traveler is aware (or willing to be aware:)) of. Nevertheless a smart traveler shouldn’t underestimate the beauty and charm of the countryside, in the very heart of which we could find one more beautiful castle, a splendid basilica and a great number of lovely little houses. It’s also worth noting, that one of the biggest advantages of this idyllic place was absence of tourists, which may be especially important and pleasant for a traveler.
We’re also going to tell you about our visit to a nice student city Erlangen, known as Bavaria’s Bicycle Capital, and you’ll definitely hear more about our stay in "the most UNgerman city of Germany", famous Munich… but only in our next reports! By the way, on the 9 th of August our team goes on a journey to Holland, which means that "Avalon" and its valiant members will be able to hoist our flag (and, naturally, hoist a few beers:)) in the most liberal city of Europe ! Our travel bug will lead us to Amsterdam , known as the capital of sex and drugs, famous for Dutch school of art, diamond polishing industry, tasty cheese and much more…See you soon and good luck with traveling!
With best wishes, Oxana Shuptar and Michael Kamper.