Where We Stayed During Our Travels

One question we get a lot from people planning their own trips to Europe, is “Where did you stay?”

Travelers on a budget will frequently use youth hostels, or couchsurf.  While you can find awesome deals at these places, they do come with many pitfalls, and we’ve decided that paying a little extra for some peace, quiet, and comfort was more to our liking. (Most likely, we’ve grown out of our “party” phase.)

One website we utilized HEAVILY was AirBnb. If you’re not familiar with it, it is a website that allows you to book vacation rentals that can provide you with unique insight into the lives of locals. So instead of staying at an expensive hotel or noisy hostel near the outskirts of town, you could potentially stay in someone’s clean, unoccupied apartment near the city center. Or stay with a host family and learn about their country’s culture, share a meal, and listen to their stories. Prices may vary at different times of the year, but we’ve met some truly awesome people through AirBnb, and felt that our hosts greatly enhanced our experiences. We only had one negative experience with AirBnb (not listed below), and it was primarily because the host was new, and was not prepared to have guests (we were his first customers, so he was learning the ropes). We learned from that experience, and prefer to stay with hosts that have several positive reviews.

Another homestay alternative to AirBnb is to house-sit for someone while traveling.

For hostels and hotels, we used Booking.com a lot.

Anyway, here is a list of all the places we’ve stayed in during our travels. With the exception of Morocco, all these places have been handpicked and researched by us, and were generally booked at least 2 weeks before arrival (or in the case of Paris, 3 hours ahead of arrival!). We favored housing that was close to public transportation (within a 10 min walk) or near the city center. Our budget was $75/night for 2 people, and I think we did a pretty good job of sticking to it. We really enjoyed staying at these places, and recommend you check them out as well.

 

ICELAND

SCOTLAND

ENGLAND

  • London – AirBnb (Philippa & Bill) – HIGHLY recommended, they are a great couple to be around, and we’d love to stay with them again.

FRANCE

MOROCCO
(All housing—except Casablanca—pre-arranged via Naturally Morocco)

MEDITERRANEAN CRUISE
(Bari, Katakolon, Izmir, Istanbul, Dubrovnik)

ITALY

AUSTRIA

CZECH REPUBLIC

GERMANY

  • Rothenburg ob de Tauber – Jugendherberge Youth Hostel Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber – Private bedroom, ensuite bathroom.
  • MunichEuro Youth Hotel – Shared bedroom, ensuite bathroom. (Get a private room if possible, we shared a room with 2 other girls, and one of them had a very loud one-night-stand with a random stranger while we were all trying to sleep.)
  • BerlinAirBnb (Simone & Uwe) – Also HIGHLY recommended, we felt like a part of their family and loved spending time with them.

 

Feel free to leave recommendations for places to stay in the comments!

Surf’s Up!

by Karen

On our way to the Bavarian National Museum (which is pretty neat, with lots of art from the middle ages to the 1800s), we walked by the English Garden, one of the largest recreational parks in Munich.

As we crossed a bridge, we noticed a sizeable crowd gathered on the railing, looking down at the river. We decided to see what to commotion was about, and were rewarded with probably one of the coolest things we’ve seen in Munich:
20131226-191928.jpgSurfers!
20131226-191945.jpgSurfing on a river!

The Eisbach River in the English Garden is a very popular spot for surfers. If you follow the river downstream, you’ll come across several spots where the river crests into waves. The interesting thing is that the government allows it, even posting signs next to the river warning surfers of the concrete barriers underneath the surface.
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The surfers wait in line and wait for each other to fail before they hop on their surfboards. Because the current flows at a constant (very fast) speed, there is hardly any downtime and no need to wait for a wave to rise, when compared to ocean surfing.

So if you ever visit land-locked Munich and have a great urge to catch some waves, here would be a great spot!
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Hofbräuhaus & Beer

by Karen

Hofbräu (HB) is one of six local breweries remaining in Munich today. They had the distinction of being the official royal brewery of the old dukes of Bavaria.
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HB Haus is the former site of their brewery, now turned into a beer hall, and is the most famous in all of Munich. Beer is served in 1-liter mugs–and that’s just for one person!
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When we went there, it felt like we were stepping into a giant banquet hall you’d typically see in medieval-type movies, with customers shouting, singing, dancing, eating bratwursts, and chugging beer. The atmosphere was incredibly festive, with a live polka band playing traditional Bavarian music (even some of the locals sang along). Sure, it was very touristy, but everyone was having a good time, so we decided to have out Christmas dinner there. It’s definitely one of those places where you don’t really come for the food, but you stay for the atmosphere. We ended up getting a Bavarian meatloaf (it’s like eating a giant slice of Vienna sausages from a can) and Alpine Ox Goulash (ehhhhhh).
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Some random facts we learned about beer from out tour guide (hope they are true):

In the past, beer was brewed by either monks or women. Women would add random stuff into the beer, like vegetables, herbs, etc. in order to make the beer taste more palatable. One day, opium was added to the beer, causing death by consumption. As a result, Bavaria passed the Beer Purity Law, which states that beer can only be made of three ingredients: barley, hops, and water (later, wheat and yeast were added to the list). The law is still in effect to this day.

Germany is the #3 consumer of beer in the world, after Czech Republic and Ireland (Czechs drink 180 liters of beer per person per year). However, if you take the whole state of Bavaria, and remove it from Germany, then Germany would fall down to #27, whereas Bavaria would become #1. On average, Bavarians drink 270 liters of beer per person per year.

Munich’s population is around 1.7 million. During Oktoberfest, the population grows to 7 million–and a majority of them are Australians (there is even a specific weekend of the festival allocated for them).

When the Swedish army invaded Bavaria, they held Munich for a ransom of 300,000 pieces of gold. Citizens only managed to cough up 180,000 pieces. The rest of it was paid in beer (“liquid gold”).

Bavarians really do love their beer! (Unfortunately I can’t stand it and don’t drink it, but apple soda is a great alternative for me!)
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An unexpected shrine in Munich

by Karen

While aimlessly walking around Munich’s deserted streets at 6pm (it’s Christmas Eve), we stumbled across a park and saw some statues. We noticed one of the statues had votives, photos, and letters strewn across it, so we assumed it must either be a memorial to someone who died here, or something for Jesus’s birthday.

Upon closer inspection…

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Yup, a shrine to the King of Pop himself. On top of a monument to a Bavarian musician from 500 years ago. Apparently this is a fan-made shrine not supported by city officials. To discourage fans from building on top of the statue and to sabotage the shrine, some city residents dump birdseed around the memorial to get pigeons to poop around it.

You can find this in Promenadeplatz in front of the Bayerischer Hof hotel. Apparently MJ stayed here a lot while in town.

More Info: http://www.thelocal.de/20100409/26447

Christmas Lodgings in Munich, Germany

English: Christmas market at Munich

English: Christmas market at Munich (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Our entire trip is pretty much based around being in Germany for Christmas, since we really want to experience German Christmas markets. Being such a major holiday, we figured we needed to start early and look for housing. As of yesterday, Munich was already 49% booked for Christmas week.

Some of the neighborhoods we wanted to check out were Schwabing, Haidhausen, Neuhausen, and Isarvorstadt. Schwabing is where most of the action happens, and is also the most expensive. But luckily we found a hostel right next to the Hauptbahnhof (Hbf—“central station”), which is their major transportation hub, hence easy access to the entire city.

We also noticed that hostel rates shoot up 2-3x on weekends, and this is true for a lot of hostels. For example, a room costing 30€ during the week can cost 70€ on weekends. Thus, we plan to stay in hostels Sun-Thurs, and do AirBnB for Fri-Sat (since that seems to be a more consistent flat rate). This allows us to see different parts of the city, and it’s nice to meet different people along the way. Because we are in Bavaria for approx. two weeks without a solid plan of where to go, we figured it might also be a good idea to look up castles or monasteries in the area where we can spend the night.

And this is the hostel we ended up booking:
http://www.euro-youth-hotel.de/

Updated Itinerary

Mark & I sat down and re-hashed our itinerary, currently in its 5th iteration. We’ve decided to add more time to Scotland & England, bump Turkey up to post-Morocco, cut Salzburg and Stuttgart, and add some Baltic States lovin’. It’s like we’re playing musical chairs with Europe.

With all these changes, this puts us in Munich for Christmas (which I greatly prefer over Berlin), and Vienna for New Years’ Day (which was highly recommended over Prague).

Mark is worried that we don’t have the luxury of downtime once we come back from Europe though, and it seems like all out major stays — Paris, Morocco, Turkey, Rome — are happening upfront, while our more hectic trips are towards the 2nd half of our journey.