When we left Milan we didn't really have a plan just ten days to kill until we were due at the top of Norway for their 200 year anniversary (basically the NZ ambassadors for the occasion). It didn't take long to realise there were only a handful of cities we could still afford en route so we found ourselves back in Munich for a night in the tiniest hostel room to ever hold 12 people and whatever creatures feasted on our arms and legs during the night. "Go backpacking" they said, "hostels are great fun". No some hostels are nice, a few are exceptional and one in five will have you wishing you could be de-loused WW1 style. We revisited our friends at the local kebab store and were back on the train bright and early the next morning. We have to write down on our Eurail pass every time we take a train and including the twenty or so times we were too lazy to do so we conservatively estimated we have taken over 70 individual trips since February - points for that.
From Munich we relocated to Prague for four nights. It poured with rain again here so we spent two hours exploring the city (outdoor stores mostly) before finding a great Taiwanese restaurant to hide out in. Looking for something different to do we were up early the next day to catch the 11am bus to Prague Zoo. Having frequented Orana Park several times in my youth I had high hopes for the place despite it being totally engulfed by the nearby river two years earlier. Apparently one of the otters escaped and swam all the way up river to Hamburg before dying of exhaustion. Poor little guy. The zoo had all the usual stars but we were most entertained by the Polar Bear playing in his pool with a tyre and a fishing buoy. Great stuff until we decided to watch Blackfish that night and got totally convicted about animals in captivity - off to save the whales now.
Prague was beautiful but crawling with tour groups so much that it killed the ambience a little. We did acquire an American girl there who accompanied us to Berlin afterwards. She was studying political science and we spent the good part of a 5 hour trip discussing Obamacare and the finer points of US politics and Sororities. The weather was awesome and we actually got to see more of the city in one afternoon than we had on our previous stop. Berlin was also our first (and probably last) experience with MEGA dorms. 50 beds in one room, why not right? No sleeping was done but it was cheap, very cheap. From Berlin we had two nights in Hamburg which turned out to be a pleasant surprise. We headed down to the waterfront on our first night only to find a festival in full swing along a 3km stretch of walkway. Live music, carnival rides and amazing food in every direction. I had possibly the greatest gourmet cheeseburger I've ever tasted in my life while watching the tall ships sail past up river. Also tried curry wurst for the first time and couldn't believe we had avoided it for so long - highly recommend (Germans do good sausages would you believe).
Our second day was devoted to Miniature Wunderland, a massive industrial building housing the largest model railway in the world. I never thought tiny trains would appeal to me but these guys have created giant replicas of Switzerland, Germany, Norway and Sweden with 100,000's of little people, a working airport and a few thousand model trains.... just Google it. The other highlight of visiting one of the biggest ports in the world was waving all the ferries off on Sunday night - The Queen Elizabeth included. The Germans know how to do architecture and the whole industrial area is full of cool modern loft apartments, office buildings with antique cranes still coming out of them and wrought iron air bridges between buildings. I think New Zealand could learn a thing or two from these guys.
From Hamburg we took a train to Copenhagen which was going swimmingly until said train rolled onto a ferry and we were told to abandon ship - I mean abandon train onto ship. Apparently this is faster than taking a bridge or tunnel. We literally got to our hostel, went to sleep and then walked back to the station the next morning. Well the sleep bit isn't entirely true thanks to the girl who was drunk enough to set her alarm for 5am but not be woken up by it. The other 11 people in the room were however and we were serenaded by Pink for 15 minutes until someone finally shook her awake. It's the little things that make me not a morning person. Unfortunately there was no time to see the city as it was back on a train and off to Stockholm. On a side note I'm sorry to whoever owns the bike I knocked over on my way there - my two packs prevented me from picking it back up again but I swear it didn't look damaged.
Stockholm is awesome and our last night in a hostel was probably the best we have ever had. City Backpackers is amazing if anyone is heading up this way. We had Swedish Meatballs and Swedish Beer for lunch and wandered along the waterfront (very good looking city) for a couple of hours today. Just two more hours to kill before we get on a 20 hour train to Narvik followed by a 5 hour bus ride to Tromso to visit my favourite Norwegian. Last train for the trip - see you in two weeks New Zealand.
Rachael and Jeremy