We left Oslo, Norway, on 2 July heading to Copenhagen and then on to Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Munich, Brussels and London. This is the first time we have done a European trip without renting a car – we are using trains between cities.
During planning, we picked Eurail as the supplier of our various tickets. Unfortunately, they were swamped with pent-up demand from all the people who were getting back to travel after Covid. We were part of that demand. However, Eurail was not prepared and didn’t have sufficient support staff available to answer questions and fix problems.
It didn’t help when I didn’t use our full names, as shown on our passports, when I bought our passes (lesson 1 learned). I first realized the problem when I was reserving seats on the Brussels to London segment. There it indicated the ticket/pass/reservation names had to match the passports. After submitting a request to Eurail to change the names on our passes and continuing to receive replies about how busy they were, I cancelled those passes and bought new ones, using the full names. We finally got a refund for the first set of passes.
The passes we purchased were for first class seating on any train in Europe for 10 days over 2 months. I figured we would have no problems from this point on. We did buy reservations for Oslo-Copenhagen, as recommended on the Eurail RailPlanner app. We also got the reservations for the Eurostar between Brussels and London, via the “Chunnel”.
Our train leaving Oslo was cancelled. Since our train was leaving around 06:30, there was no train company office open. I submitted a help request to Eurail, but was greeted with the same reply thanking us for our patience and they would get back to us – sometime. We finally got to Copenhagen, but it took a bus to Gothenburg, bus to Kungsbacka, train to Laholm, bus to Helsingborg, and, finally, a train! It was a very long day and we thank the two ticket people who helped us out, one in Oslo and one in Gothenburg.
In Copenhagen, we stayed in the Hotel Astoria, next to the train station, and only two blocks from Tivoli Gardens. We discovered this last point, in the middle of the night, as fireworks started going off. It sounded like it was right outside our room. The next morning, the front desk told us it happens regularly at Tivoli when it is near closing time.
After breakfast, we were off to the train station for our 09:26 train to Hamburg, and then on to Berlin. As we were sitting in the station, we heard an announcement say that the train to Hamburg needed assigned seat reservations. Prior to this announcement, there was no indication a reservation was needed. We went to the DSB help facility. There was a large line of people and we didn’t get to an agent until 10 minutes after our original train had left. The agent was very helpful and was able to get us reserved seats on several segments to Berlin via Hamburg. We were to arrive in Berlin at 18:30 (original arrival – 16:30). This was our third helpful ticket agent.
- 9-Euro Transportation – When we stopped at the tourist information center in the Berlin Hauptbahnhoff (HBF), we were offered a 9€ ticket, covering all buses, subways and local trains, throughout Germany, for the entire month of July. One of the agents mentioned how crazy the German Government was to offer such a ticket. We were very happy to save a bundle. From that point on, we were never even asked to see the ticket, in either Berlin or Munich.
- Reichstag and the Brandenburg Gate – These two sites are next to each other and were the first sites we encountered on an early morning walk the the day after we arrived. The Reichstag has been the seat of German government since April, 1999. After WWII, the Brandenburg Gate that was completed in 1791, was located in the Soviet sector. In 1961, the Wall was built, and the Gate was put in an exclusion zone and was not accessible to either side of the Wall.
- The Memorial to The Murdered Jews of Europe – This memorial was started in 2003 and opened to the public in 2005. There is an information center below the sculpture blocks at street level, that was closed on the day we first visited. We came back the next day to see the displays in the center. There were several displays that tracked whole families, most of whom died at the hands of the Nazis. Although this is not a pleasant place to visit, it is necessary for understanding. If you go to Berlin, you should definitely stop here.
- Homosexual Memorial – In the same relative area, but across the road in the Tiergarten, is this memorial. Homosexuals were also pursued, murdered or sent to camps, by the Nazis.
- Roma Memorial – Roma people were also rounded up by the Nazis.
- Checkpoint Charlie – When the Berlin Wall was built, and maintained, between 1961 and 1981, there were 3 checkpoints where it was possible to move between East and West Berlin. Checkpoint Charlie became the most famous of these, as the crossing between the American sector and East Germany. We got a geocache across the street from the checkpoint – Checkpoint Charlie [GL17P76NQ]
- Nikolai Quarter – We found a geocache here – Alter Palast am neuen Ort [GL17PE1B7]
- Potsdammerplatz – There is another section of the Berlin Wall here. There was also an excellent vegetarian Indian restaurant, Saravana Bhavan, where we went for a lunch of Dosas.
- Flakturm G Humboldthain – We had seen Flakturm V (3rd-generation design) in Vienna when we were there in November 2019. Flakturm III, this particular tower was built after a British air raid on Berlin in November 1940. Hitler was not happy after that air raid and ordered the towers to be built with thick wall and anti-aircraft artillery on the top. This particular one, although crumbling and partially destroyed, has an air-raid shelter below ground. It is possible to tour the inside on a walking tour that we did not wait around for.
- Train Reservations @ DSB – If we have learned anything about traveling by train, it is that although first class is good, first class with reservered seats is the way to go (lesson 2 learned). This rule should be at the top of the list, especially when traveling during prime season, as we were on this trip. Although we were traveling first class, we had only reserved a few seats, where the Rail Planner app had mentioned the need. Therefore, before the next journey to Prague, we stopped at the Deutsche Bahn Travel Center in the Berlin Hauptbahnhof to see about getting reservations for the rest of our trips. The Center was very crowded, but there was a separate line (much shorter) for Eurail. The person helping this line (there was only one agent), was most helpful and got us reservations for all but one segment (the Berlin-Dresden part of Berlin-Prague). When Pat paid for them, the agent needed to see her passport. When he saw she was born in Ohio, he said he was born in Michigan, although he now lives in Germany!
- Esszimmer Resturant – great food and a waiter who shared the history of the neighborhood with us.
- Brewdog Mitte – We first encountered Brewdog near Camden Markets in London in 2014. Brewdog is one of our favorite breweries. We had dinner along with an Elvis Juice & Tony’s Hopolonely (Pat) and a Double Hazy & Hazy Jane (Ray).
- Schnitzelei Mitte – We were able to get an outside table. When you sit down, they bring you a small beer taster as a welcome treat. I had Jägerschnitzel; Pat, Pikeperch (Zander) filet. We then walked back to the hotel.
- Restaurant Porta Nova – We walked to this restaurant from the train station (Ray said it was a short walk, but it was longer than Pat expected). The food was very good, and so was the service. Unfortunately, on the way back to our hotel, we were caught in a downpour. It seems odd to eat at an Italian restaurant in Berlin but we could only handle so much schnitzel.
- Other geocaches – Close to our hotel were two additional caches for us to find. One took us through a beautiful pathway through garden plots and backyards – Arachnophobie am Beamtenfriedhof [GL17PPX6W]; the other, behind a closed prison complex that was converted into a sports arena – Old Prison meets Skatepark [GL17PQ74B]
The first part of the train trip (prior to arriving in Dresden) was very crowded. Although I can’t verify the reason, I suspect many of the young people thought the 9€ transportation ticket was good for intercity trains. When the train pulled out of Berlin, the aisles were packed and the we were standing in the entranceway. At the first stop, outside of Berlin, the train stopped, the police were called in and the train was mostly cleared, but we still couldn’t find a seat, so we stood for 3.5 hours, until we got to Dresden. The DSB agent in Berlin had not been able to get us seat reservations until Dresden. Thus, we learned that seat reservations are so important.
Once we got to Prague, we had a short walk (mostly, downhill) to the Grandium Hotel. We went out for a short explore and got our first geocache in Prague – PraGeo-Louis Leger Street/Legerovaulice [GL17Q6E94]
- Old Town Square – There are so many things to see in this square. It was so impressive that it brought a tear to Pat’s eyes.
- The Dancing House – Frank Gehry, the co-architect, wanted to call this “Fred and Ginger” as it reminded him of Fred Astair and Ginger Rodgers, but felt the Czech people wouldn’t understand so they renamed it the Dancing House.
- Church of Our Lady Before Tyn – This church was built after the buildings surrounding the square were built. Therefore, the front entrance is down a small alleyway so it has no grand entranceway. When we first stopped to visit the church, we saw signs that there was a concert that night. We bought tickets and attended after dinner.
- Charles Bridge – This pedestrian-only bridge is the oldest bridge in Prague and the 2nd oldest in the Czech Republic. It was build in 1357. During the day several artists setup to draw images of tourists. The bridge is often very crowded.
- Geocache in Charles Bridge Tower (Staroměstská mostecká věž) – The tower at the East end of the bridge provides good views over the city. There is also a geocache located near the top. Entrance to the upper heights, and the geocache, requires purchasing a ticket – Prague Tribute [GL17QA07A]. When we were there, there were very few people accessing the paid upper part of the tower. We also found several other geocaches on some of the other bridges – Prague Bridges 11 – Jiraskuv Most [GL17QJGY1] and Prague Bridges 1 – Kariuv Most [GL7R76K7].
- Prague Castle – We wanted to see this, but weren’t interested in touring the various parts. We seem to be over seeing how the rich exploiters lived. St. Vitus Cathedral, was closed while we were there. However, the Cathedral structure was impressive.
- Olšany Cemetery – This is the largest cemetery in Prague. It was built in 1860 to bury plague victims and is outside of the city limit.
- Jazz Concert in Old Town Square – One day, we noticed a stage being built in the town square. The next day we saw it was for a free jazz concert that evening. We were in the square later and enjoyed part of the concert.
- Bredovsky Dvur – We had our first Prague meal at this restaruant, across the street from the Grandium Hotel. It was was recommended by one of the hotel staff. We both had a draft Pislner Urquell (way better than the bottled version). Then for dinner, Pat had Roasted Pork Knee (Pečené vepřové koleno); Ray, Beef Goulash sprinkled with Onion and Chili Pepper (Hovězí guláš).
- Pivovar U Tří růží – Vídeňské červené / Vienna Red (Ray) and Tmavý speciál / Dark Special (Pat)
- Restaurace Tiskarna – We stopped here for a light lunch (Fresh fried potato chips and a 3-sausage sampler) and beer – Pilsner Urquell (Pat) and Kozel Černý (Ray). The restaurant is located in the old State Printing building, where banknotes were stored.
- Pivovar Staré Město – Staré město ležák (Pat) and a porter (Ray)
- U Kunštátů – Nectar of Happiness 17 New England IPA (Ray) and Mango-Piña-Coco-Sourus (Pat)
- Vinohradský pivovar – After visiting the Olšany Cemetery, we stopped at a yarn shop (wool only, rats!). As we started to walk back to the nearest tram stop we spotted this brewery and stopped to have lunch, and of course, try another beer – Hazy Galaxy Session IPA (Ray) and Vinohradska 11 Pislner (Pat)
- Vinotéka U Mouřenína Praha – This is a wine bar where we went to taste Czech wines (from the Moravian wine region). We tasted 5 different wines – all were good: Bila Frankovka 2021 (Stavek), Rose Trkmanska 2021 (Stavek), Frankovka 2018 (Rajhrad), BIO Ryzlink rynsky 2020 (Gotberg), BIO Tramin 2020 (Gotberg)
On July 12, we took a train to Vienna. We had been looking forward to meeting up with Olessia again. She was an exchange student, from Ukraine, who lived with us in Charlotte in 2012-2013. We have kept in touch, meeting her in London, Paris, Doha, Boynton Beach and Vienna. We consider her part of our family. An added bonus – her mother and brother who live in Ukraine were staying with her for the summer. We also got to meet Olessia’s friend, Valentin.
- Rasoi – We arrived late in Vienna, took too much time trying to find our accomodations and drop our luggage. We walked a short distance from the apartment and found this Indian restaurant. It certainly hit the spot. Good standards: Butter Chicken, Malai Kofta and Naan. We considered going back a second time.
- 7 Stern Brau – Olessia met us here at lunch time. She told us this was where she takes all her visitors, since it has become her favorite brewery. Although the beer was good, it wasn’t a match for the joy of seeing Olessia again. The brewery has some interesting beers and we tried several. Ray had Märzen and Hanf; Pat, Chilli, Wiener Helles and Märzen.
- Waldviertlerhof – This restaurant was picked by Valentin because it is very traditional Viennanese. We had a large group: Valentin, Olessia, Tetiana (her mother), Tymofii (her brother), Pat and Ray. We had a good meal and the best of company.
- The best part of this visit was a “home-cooked” meal Tetiana prepared for us. What a treat!
- Museumsquartier Passages – We often find interesting things to see and do in Atlas Obscura – this was one of the recommendations.
- Geocaching – Looking at our past geocaching, we noticed the last time we were in Vienna, we had not found a geocache. We were going to correct that oversight and were successful – Brauerie in Wein #2 [GL17REXRN]
We arrived in Munich on July 16. I thought I had carefully picked a hotel close to the train station and not far from the old section of town. I was wrong! Our hotel, Holiday Inn Express Munich City West, was a 20-minute local train ride from the main train station. My disappointment for this error was easily matched by Pat’s disappointment. Once we arrived at the hotel, I told her to pick any place she wanted to go for dinner. She found a beer hall a short walk from the hotel, so we headed to it, after stopping to get a geocache – Zuruck zur Natur I Want to be alone for minutes [GL17T0K3V]
The place she picked had lots of table outside and all were packed. A manager asked us if we had reservations. Since we didn’t he told us we would have to eat inside. That was okay for us, since we don’t like smoking that is usual for outside seating.
As we were talking to the manager, he mentioned the restaurant seats 8,000 people in the outside beer garden and only 500 inside. That sounded familiar. It was on Pat’s list of places to visit – Königlicher Hirschgarten.
- Königlicher Hirschgarten – This was a treat for our first meal in the Munich area. One special treat was another item Pat had on her list was a desert – Kaiserschmarren – a sweet pancake cut into bite-sized pieces, then carmelized, covered with powdered sugar and served with applesauce for dipping.
- Gay Pride Celebration and Christopher Street Day – The weekend we were in Munich, the area around the Marienplatz was filled with booths and a stage celebrating Gay Pride and Christopher Street Day. We had a great time walking around and seeing all that was going on.
- Viktualienmarkt – This market a few blocks from Marienplatz, has stalls selling fresh fruits and vegetables, places to eat and drink, and vendors selling souveniers. In the center of the market is a Maypole.
- Peterskirke – We hiked up the stairs to the top of the tower, where we could see views of the city below us. Not an easy walk up.
- Frauenkirche – This church was constructed in 1468. It has been the Cathedral of the Archbishops of Munich since 1821. As you enter the church, you see the “Devil’s Footprint”.
- Asamkirche – This church is a good example of German/Bavarian Baroque style.
- Eisbachwelle – This is the first Urban Surfing site we had ever heard of. Appearantly, there are more around the world. This was so interesting to watch, as surfers would alternate entering from the shore on either side.
- Hofbräuhaus – We felt like we had to stop at this famous beer hall, which has branches around the world. In fact, we have been to the one in Cleveland, Ohio. Pat drank HB Original Lager; Ray, HB Dunkel.
- Wirtshaus Augustiner Kurgarten – This restaurant is near the Königlicher Hirschgarten and not nearly as big.
We left Munich, by train, and went to Brussels, on July 17. We are staying at the Hotel Aris Grand Place. If you want to be near the Grand Place and the Central Station, this hotel is in a great spot. We found a geocache in the center of the Grand Place – Pavage de Bruxelles-Brussels Paving [GL17TV87C]. The next day we were joined by my daughter, Michelle, flying in from Cleveland, and Lara, flying in from Melbourne.
- Le Grand Cafe – This was the restaurant, Pat & I went to on the first night we were in Brussels. We had our fill of mussels, frites, and beer – Orval (Ray) and Chimay Première (Pat).
- European Parliament and Leopold Park – We walked to the EU Parliment and on to Leopold Park where we rested for a short while. This is a pretty park in the European Quarter. The last time Pat and I were here in Brussels, we didn’t make it to this park and didn’t even realize it existed.
- Comic Strip murals/Routes – Throughout Brussels there are murals with scenes of characters from various Belgian comics, such as The Smurfs and Tin-Tin. On our last trip, we found several. This trip we added more.
- Mankin Pis – Although we consider this to be an over-hyped tourist attraction, we did want Michelle and Lara to see it. Also, one of the comic strip murals is located just around the corner.
- Vintage Stores – Michelle and Lara want to visit some of the many shops selling vintage clothing.
- Atomium – This structure, built for the 1958 Worlds Fair, as a symbol of scientific advancement, and was designed to last 6 months. Like the London “Eye” and the Eiffel Tower it remains a major tourist attraction and has become a symbol of Brussels. We got there too late in the afternoon to enter the building, so instead sat outside, drank some water, and rested before heading back to our hotel.
- We all left Brussels on July 20. Michelle and Lara went to Offenburg, Germany, to spend time with someone Lara knew. Pat and I were going by Eurostar to London, via the “Chunnel”. There is a direct train from Brussels Midi Station.
We arrived in London at St Pancras International. However, we are staying at the Park Grand London Hyde Park Hotel, so we had to take the Tube to Paddington Station. Found two geocaches near our hotel – Bishop’s Bridge [GL17VFD24] and Gothic [GL17VQNQB]. It was interesting to read the cache information in English instead of having to use Google Translate.
Our room at the Park Grand London Hyde Park hotel has a sign on the door to please watch our step. We have never had a room with a warning like this. When we opened the door, we understood the sign and had a quick laugh. The room had a small flight of steps down to a landing, where the bathroom was located, then another small flight to the bedroom. Wow!
Michelle and Lara came to London a few days after us.
- The Swan – Cornish Golden Cider (Pat) and Sticky Wicket (Ray)
- The Cleveland Arms – We had dinner here and another beer- Camden Pale Ale (Pat and Ray)
- M. Manze Bermondsey – This is another place Pat and I had been to previously and want to return to. Excellent pie and mash!
- Spitalfields Market – This is no longer the place where you could find meat, vegetables, and fruits. You’ll no longer find butchers, fish mongers, etc. This is now an upscale market with many vendors and shops. I remember buying a leather belt here, several years ago.
- Old Spitalfields Market – It hosts an antiques market. It was fun walking through the stalls looking at the old stuff. We are always on the lookout for a sliderule (I’m especially interested in finding a circular one).
- The Ten Bells – Kingstone Press Classic Apple Cider (Pat) and Roadie (Ray)
- The Pride of Spitalfields – Brewers Gold – Cask (Pat) and Five Points Pale – Cask (Ray)
- Hampstead Cemetery (East) – We had been here before, but I wanted to return. I remembered this cemetery being overgrown and not well maintained. Things have changed. Once again I wanted to see Karl Marx’s grave. While walking around, Pat notices a tombstone with a cup of pens and pencils, a small slip of paper and a can of beer – it was Douglas Adams’ grave, the author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe.
After we left the cemetery, we stopped for a geocache, outside the fence on the way into the nearby town: Gothic [GC1MWMR] (Our photos would be a major spoiler, so you don’t get to see them).
- Slipstich – Pat had posted on social media that she was going to be in London and asked for recommended yarn shops. One of the replies was from a person who worked at Slipstich. Therefore, we took the bus to this shop and met the lady that invited Pat to stop by.
- Prince of Wales – This pub was near our hotel and claimed to server Thai food, so we headed there one evening for dinner. Thai food was good (not outstanding). Mad Goose – Cask (Pat) and London Pride – Cask (Ray)
- Anspach & Hobday – In 2014 Pat and I discovered this brewery. At that time they had only been open for a few months. The parents of one of the owners were there, celebrating the opening. We got to meet them and Anspach and Hobday. On this current trip we definitely wanted to return. The IPA & The Porter (Pat) and London Black & The IPA (Ray)
- Camden Market – Pat wanted to take Michelle and Lara here. We wandered here, bought some things, explored some of the surrounding area and then went to Brewdog Camden for lunch.
- Brewdog Camden – Hazy Jane (Pat and Ray). Hazy Jane is Pat’s all time favorite IPA
- Tate Modern – This was on Lara’s wish list.
- Harrods – This is one of the places on Michelle’s and Lara’s wish list, so we split up with them. After a quick trip through the food area and the toys, Pat and I went to The Bunch of Grapes.
- The Bunch of Grapes – Amstel (Pat) and Ice Breaker (Ray)
- Maharaja – This is where we went for our farewell dinner with Michelle. We all enjoyed the good food.
- Town of Ramsgate – After dropping Michelle at Paddington Station for her flight home, we took the Tube to Tower Hill and walked around the Tower of London, through St. Catherine Docks, then walked across Tower Bridge. At this time we were approaching lunch, so we took public transportation to Wapping and walked to the Town of Ramsgate. This pub, where we had lunch, happened to be the first pub Pat and I visited when we were in London in 2014. Heritage Cider (Pat & Lara) and Sussex Best (Ray)
- Vagabond Paddington – We went here with Lara for wine and snacks. You buy a card with a certain dollar amount and use it to dispense various wines of your choice at the fills you want. We saw Lara off for her flight to Paris and spent our last day in London.
- Leicester Square Discount Theater Tickets – We stopped here to see if we could get tickets to The Book of Mormon. We were successful. We had decided if we couldn’t get these tickets there was nothing else we wanted to see.
- Baozilinn (Soho) – Before going to the theater to “The Book of Mormon”, we wanted to go somewhere in Chinatown for dinner and chose this restaurant.
- Prince of Wales Theatre (“The Book of Mormon“) – We had excellent seats, a few rows back in the balcony, in the center. Introducing ourselves to the neighboring family, we mentioned this was our last night in London before heading home to Salt Lake City. The husband told us he was born in SLC, but had moved out years ago. The show was very funny, although somewhat raunchy. It was a most enjoyable evening.
- BSMT Space – Pat learned about this Dalston street art gallery from a friend in Minneapolis who met the owners at a conference. We road a bus for 45 minutes (the route was crowded and there were repairs being done on parts of the road along the way). We had planned to go out the day before, but a last minute check revealed they were closed that day. Therefore, the next day, our last before flying home, we went there, only to find it was closed. One of the people inside opened the door to tell us they were actually closed that day to set up a new display. We were so disappointed and told the owners who we were and why we were there. Pat had actually knitted a cap for their new baby a couple of years ago. They immediately let us in, introduced themselves as Lara Fiorentino and Gregory Key, and showed us Cranio’s exhibit they were preparing. We had a great time with them. As we left, we asked for a recommendation for a place to have lunch. They recommended The Dusty Knuckle, but after giving us directions, warned us about its location down an alley that normally we might not go down. We did go and had a really good lunch.
Atlas Obscura Links
When planning trips, we always look at Atlas Obscura, to find strange things to see where we are heading. It is a fun site with many things to see around the world. Here are links to the articles on things we saw on this trip and the information Atlas Obscura has written about them.
- Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
- Humboldthain Flak Tower
- Memorial to Homosexuals Persecuted Under Nazism
- Memorial to the Sinti and Roma Victims of National Socialism