There has to be some irony, or maybe completeness, when your last travels were cut short due to covid, and then 10 days before you’re due to leave for the next lot Joey gets struck down with it. It was a relief when I then caught it knowing that we stood a chance then of getting over it and getting back on the road.
We did get away as planned and caught the Eurostar to Bruges, arriving in the early evening, this gave us chance to acclimatise, get over the shock of seeing bunk beds (in our private room- what the heck?!) again and have an evening stroll. Bruges is such a pretty city, I must have used the word pretty about 50 times over our two days there. The cobbled streets and the buildings were just so quaint and the perfect place to just walk and admire the scenery.
We’ve become huge fans of getting up and hitting the streets early before any one else and most of the time it works. We can appreciate the true tranquility of a place before everyone else arrives to get their Instagram shot. Joey has coined a phrase ‘we shall have the morning and the fools can have the day’ and this is just how we started off in Bruges.
After two days in Bruges we were ready to hit the next country. It was two short bus journeys to Luxembourg and we had a couple of spare hours in Brussels; plenty of time for a waffle and to check on our favourite pissing statue, Zinneke Pis. Brussels most famous statue of course is the Manneken Pis, but did you know there’s also a woman and a dog?!
We arrived in Luxembourg City in the afternoon, if you didn’t know Luxembourg introduced free public transport in February 2020, which is a godsend for any backpacker! We headed to our hostel and our first dorm of this trip. In absolute classic Becca style I (allegedly) spent a good portion of the night snoring really loudly. I never do this anywhere else other than in dorms so personally I blame the altitude of the top bunk! Most people prefer bottom bunk but in India I got into the habit of bagging the top bunk when I would find myself sharing a dorm with Joey and 6 other men.
We had the next day to really explore the city and I wanted to go to the American military cemetery. Google maps suggested that we take a bus and then walk for about 20 minutes, it looked straight forward enough but Google maps basically set us off walking along the hard shoulder of a motorway with no pavement. It was pretty scary and something we did not want to repeat on the way back. I’m not sure what we were more scared of, getting run over or stopped by the police. The cemetery was absolutely worth it, it was beautifully kept and houses over 5000 graves. We arrived at the same time as three bus loads but they stayed a really short period of time and once they’d gone we had the place to ourselves. There is only one woman buried there, who died shortly after the war in a car accident on her way to be reunited with her sister in Paris. The information contained some deeply moving stories about some of those buried there. After 10am though there’s a shuttle bus back to the city which we hopped on rather than risking our lives again.
We walked around the city again and again we were pleasantly surprised by what a pretty place it was. We would definitely recommend Luxembourg for a weekend break.
Next up was a short train ride over the border to Germany, we stopped in Trier which is Germany’s oldest city, the birthplace of Karl Marx and nestled in the Mosel wine region. Trier again was full of attractive buildings and so many Roman ruins, the Porta Nigra is definitely the most famous of these, but there’s also an amphitheatre and the largest Roman baths outside of Rome. All of these are surrounded by nearby vineyards that you can stroll through. In the town square there’s a wine stand open every day that you can buy glasses and bottles of local Riesling so of course we were happy to spend 6 euros on a couple of glasses to sample the local produce.
Monday was our first ‘homeless’ day. This is the term we use when we’re either catching some form of transport overnight or we’re arriving in somewhere really early and have nowhere to go. Some homeless days are better than others, we had a really challenging one in Hampi, India where we had 13.5 hours to kill. This time we were catching a bus at 10pm to Berlin and checked out of our Air BnB (boujee backpacker alert) at 10am so we set off on an adventure to the fairytale castle of Eltz. This involved a 90 minute train and then a 20 minute bus. The Germans, being as efficient as ever, had aligned these and it was straight off the train onto the bus. The castle dates from medieval times and is one of only a handful in Germany still intact. It’s set on top of a 70 metre high rock spur deep in the German forest. This, alongside its round turrets really add to its fairytale appearance. We took the English guided tour (just ask when the next one is) and then spent about 3 hours exploring the treasury and surrounding forest. We headed back to the station and had a wander round the wine village of Hazenport, a tiny place with nothing much other than some quintessential German churches and a wine bottle vending machine.
We had a couple of hours to kill when we arrived back in Trier so wandered the streets before doing what every homeless backpacker does – hang out in Burger King!
The night bus wasn’t too bad, we managed to bag two seats each so we could spread out a bit and actually get some sleep. We arrived into Berlin around 9am, left our bags and set off to explore the city, we walked around visiting all the famous sights including the Reichstag, the Bradenburg gate and Bebelplatz which was where, in May 1933, students burnt over 20,000 ‘un-German books’. Over the course of the next few days we also spent time exploring the Tiergarten, a beautiful park, the East side gallery, which is one of the longest remnants of the Berlin Wall, and the Topography of Terror. Berlin is a city that has gone through so many different things in very recent history and it’s sometimes a lot to digest and comprehend. We’re not ones to shy away from hard history though.
We were lucky enough to catch up with an old colleague of Joey’s in Berlin who was in town for work and contacted Joey a couple of days beforehand to see if we were heading that way and we were! It’s always lovely to see people while we are away so do hit us up if you think our paths might cross at any stage!
Berlin was our last stop in what we’re defining as Western Europe so now it’s to the east – to Prague and beyond!