The adventures of Jasper part 5.
17.07.2012 - 30.07.2012
Renee: As many of you already know, my parents and brother Bodhi had embarked on their own 3 month European adventure over the summer so of course we organised to team up along the way and share a part of our travels together. First shared stop on our itinerary was Amsterdam… the perfect place to celebrate my 24th birthday!
After our day of Disneyland drama we bid au revoir to Paree and headed north, making a stop in at Westvletern Brewery in Belgium to sample a pint or 3 of their exclusive beers. The beers, brewed by trappist monks, are brewed and sold only as needed to financially support the monastery and community... in other words these beers are super rare and almost impossible to get your paws on. In fact to purchase a carton of their beers you have to phone and reserve it during a short window of time when their phone lines are open then pick up the carton from the brewery itself at a specific date and time, as allocated by them. Joel tried his best at a game of redial but after 3 hours of trying I had to pry the phone away from his hand and make him give up. At least those unsuccessful, like us, can still visit the brewery and sample their beers there.
Anyway I digress... Amsterdam, where was I... after sandwich and a pint it was full steam ahead to the ‘Dam where mum and dad awaited our arrival!
Netherlands (Amsterdam) - Catering to Herbivores
I was super spoilt for my birthday! To make sure we celebrated in style my mum and dad hired a houseboat for our 4 day stay… and what better way to get the true Amsterdam experience!
It’s funny that you can go many months without seeing someone and when you’re finally reunited again it’s like no time has passed at all. Walking onto the houseboat and seeing mum, dad and Bodhi was exactly like that! The only difference being how much Bodhi had grown in the 8 months we’d been away – he’s so tall and very clever now!
We spent our first day wandering through the canals and cobbled streets of the Dam, the funniest part of the day being when we walked past the window of an ‘upmarket’ sex store with a window display of ladies toys and Bodhi points at a hot pink dildo displayed in a mini bath tub (as you do?) and yells “Look! A dinosaur having a bath!” before laughing hysterically at how funny the idea of that was… (oh if only he knew)! I’m not sure if it was more of a ‘had to be there moment’ but it had us all in stitches.
On the morning of my birthday I awoke to Bodhi giving me birthday cuddles in bed before being cooked a pancake feast by Joel! I’d never had a summer birthday before seeing as my birthday is smack bang in the middle of Australia’s winter so I was pretty excited to be celebrating in sunshine and shorts this year! Turns out I’m still yet to experience a ‘summer’ birthday – it rained almost the entire day so instead of venturing into town in the wet we opted for a day on the boat with plenty of birthday cake, the good stuff, and card games before braving the outside world that evening for a bite of Indian and a stroll through the red light district.
Bodhi made me a beautiful little card and even bought me a little present just from him; a windmill ornament with a boy and girl (Joel and me) kissing underneath it, and a wind chime to which he informed me “I was going to get you a different one to this but it had one of those naked girls from last night on it so I didn’t” haha, goes to show he was taking in all that Amsterdam had on show…
Germany – Senf-sational!
Joel: From the Netherlands we crossed the border into Germany spending 2 nights in Hamburg, passing through Luneburg and making our way to Berlin. I don't have too much to say about Hamburg, aside from the countless drunks and homeless roaming the streets… a rather sad sight indeed.
From Hamburg we continued on our way for Berlin via Luneburg, a town known for its wonky and swollen buildings. In an attempt to find ourselves a spot to park, we blindly followed the questionable directions of our GPS and awkwardly ended up smack bang in the middle of a walking street! (Think Hay St, Perth but narrower, longer and with just as many people).
Trying to navigate Jasper through the crowd was stressful and utterly hilarious... well now anyway. People on the street gave us some rather strange looks as we slowly putted past them trying to weave our way around innocent bystanders dining out for lunch. A charity worker approached our window and, thinking she was going to tell me I was in the wrong place and give me some useful pointers to get out of there, I wound down my window only to be asked if I would be interested in donating blood or money… uh really?!
After finally weaving our way out of the walking street we left Luneberg and chugged on to the German capital of Berlin eager to experience its culture and learn more about its troubled history.
Since meeting Renee's parents in Amsterdam we had all decided that travelling is something best shared amongst friends (or in this case family) so we followed them (albeit much slower than Dave's rental car's 160kmh avg.) to an apartment in Berlin where we had a welcoming bed and a place to relax and enjoy each other’s company.
Over the next few days we spent our time wandering the streets of Berlin, visiting Check Point Charlie, one of the remaining stretches of the Berlin wall and taking a trip out to Sachsenhausen, one of the main concentration camps in Nazi Germany. I'd like to say I always felt as if though I had a reasonable understanding of the gravity and size of WW2 however our time in Berlin and visit to Sachsenhausen made me appreciate the scale of the concentration camps and sheer number of people affected. The size of the camp was nothing I could have imagined, even with a large number of buildings removed the place reeks of death. A design so sinister that from a single gun point one man could cut down anyone who dared fall out of line. I honestly don't think any words I have could ever do Sachsenhausen justice, all I can say is the mood was solemn as we walked around and heard the stories surrounding the atrocity.
Renee: From Berlin we headed south spending 2 days slowly winding our way along the 360km long Romantische Straße (romantic road), in Bavarian Germany, passing through old medieval towns and beautiful fairytale-like castles.
Our first night on the straße saw us substituting hotel luxuries for a pitched tent and campervan stay at friendly campground somewhere in the midst of Bavaria so my parents and Bodhi could experience our Jasper the way we had been for the past couple months. Bodhi got to have a sleepover in Jasper which he was most excited about, while the 4 of us stayed up until the early hours drinking wine & Jacks and chatting about life, travels and our dreams before mum and dad retired to their tent for a night’s sleep free of Bodhi’s bed hogging and flailing limbs.
After a failed game of racket ball in the morning (where both Joel and dad managed to simultaneously destroy their rackets and end the fun for everyone), and a breakfast feast of poorly cooked bacon & egg rolls and our van’s specialty, instant coffee (only the best for the best!), it was time to pack up the tent and ol’ Jasper and hit the straße again. We spent the day exploring tiny towns and grabbing a few bargains at a local market before arriving at our last stop along the Romantische Straße only 4km north of the Austrian border, Neuschwanstein Castle!
Neuschwanstein Castle is your ultimate fairytale castle and just so happens to be the very site responsible for inspiring the creation of Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty's Castle! The setting of Neuschwanstein could not be more idyllic, perched high on a hill amongst the alpine peaks. It is beautiful!
Unbeknownst to my parents when booking, they managed to book themselves a room in the ONLY hotel located at the foot of the castle, literally meters from the entrance! With the reservation came special parking privileges and with a small fib and some clever wording dad and Joel managed to score a second parking permit so we could park, (and camp in Jasper), right under the ancient keep. Okay okay, so we sneakily slept outside in a carpark… but it was by far the most unbelievable 'free camp' spot we have ever stayed!
From here we parted ways with my parents and Bodhi, for now, as they headed to the Buddhist summer course for a couple weeks and we made our way towards Munich… bring on the beer halls!
R + J