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The K&M 12-day Super Tour 


Warning: this is long. Best get comfortable, maybe fix a cup of tea.

Most of November was quite slow, nothing to do but go to the occasional class and hope something good was on TV at night.

Fall leaves near the where I lived in Ryd.

My boredom finally came to an end when it was time to head to Europe with my friend Mike from the states. Mike is studying in Birmingham England, he had two weeks off for thanksgiving, I had no vacation. I did miss two weeks of statistics, but after abstract algebra, everything else seems like child's play.

I departed Linköping bound for Paris. Since I have only a limited number of travel days on my eurail pass, I had to cruise all the way to Paris in one shot. 24 hours later, I arrived at the Paris Nord station, dazed but excited to meet Mike. Unfortunately, Mike was no where to be found. After fighting with the French phone for some time, I managed to call his host family in England who said the channel tunnel had burned and to check my machine in Sweden. So after fighting even more with the phone, I got Mike's message to the effect that he was coming over, but didn't know when. I found a room at a cheap hotel and left Mike a message in England.

Eiffel tower and fountains at night (duh?)

Mike found me about 2am, and all was back on track again. We spent the next day in EuroDinsey. It was rainy and cool, but this turned out to be a good thing because the place was almost empty. It was really great, we got straight on almost all the rides. We went on space mountain like 6 times (does a 360 and corkscrew in the dark).

Another shot of the Eiffel at night.

We headed back to Paris, spending two days sightseeing. We went to Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower both in the day and at night. The view from the top of the Eiffel Tower at night is quite spectacular. We saw the Notre Dame cathedral, which unfortunately was covered with scaffolding.

Carving of soldiers on pillar of Arc de Triomphe.

Not bad, maybe I should go into the postcard game...

We had an unlimited metro pass and a museum pass that day, so we really went hardcore all day. We started by going out a bit to Versailles to see the famous Chateau de Versailles and the Grand Trianon. We then went to the Louvre museum to see the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo. It was good fun watching all the people snap pictures of themselves in front of the Mona Lisa's flash proof glass. We finished with a view over Paris at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart.

The gates to Versailles.

Windows of one of the building at Versailles.

Inside one of the building at Versailles.

Garden at the Grand Trianon.

We took the night train to Chamonix in the French Alps. After a couple days in the hustle and bustle of Paris, we didn't feel like another big city. It was great to wake up in the morning on the train, look out the window and see mountains soaring up in all directions.

View from main street in Chamonix.

After following a Canadian who was on advice from a local, we successfully found a very nice hostel that wasn't open yet. The Canadian guy bought us some coffee, interesting guy, worked for 15 years then sold everything to travel. Now he wants to be a travel writer. He was going to try and find a winter job in Chamonix, but when that didn't pan out right away, he up and left for Hungary.

Church steeple as the clouds start to lift.

chamonix_k&m.jpg (96149 bytes)
Mike and I on our day hike in the valley.

Chamonix is gorgeous, right in a valley in with mountains on both sides. Plenty of snow on the ground, the ski season was just starting the day we arrived. We found a new hostel and spent the day around town and watching a climbing competion at an indoor gym. The next day we went hiking up the valley. It turned into a sunny day, big mountain scenery, Mike and I both shot a roll of film.

Snowy ridge of the mountains surrounding Chamonix.

Mountain stream, wow.

From Chamonix, we headed across the Alps to Interlaken Switzerland. This was the only day train we took, but it certainly wasn't a waste of a day. Somewhat overcast, but still the views were enormous. We arrived in the afternoon at the famous (with backpackers anyway) Balmer's hostel. We took an immediate liking to the place as they had continuous Simpon's episodes playing in one room. We must have watched 8 in a row. They had great communal areas, a reading room, game room, movie every night, fireplace. Unfortunately the dorm rooms squeezed 10 people into a closet, we couldn't even get our packs in the room with us.

Piazza on a warm fall day.

Obelisk in Piazza San Pietro.

We night trained it to Rome in search of warmer climes. We certainly got our wish, it was sunny and 15C in Rome. After scoring a nice private room at a hostel (along with an Australian and Kiwi that we met), we set out to see Rome.

View from the top of St. Peter's.

Ceiling in a hall somewhere in the Vatican.

The first day we went to Vatican City, going to the Vatican museum which is full of religious art and the famous Sistine Chapel (with the God touching Adam bit). Point of interest: Vatican City is actually its own country, it has its own post office, currency, and military. Next we went to St. Peter's Basilica, climbing all the way to the top of the dome. The view over Rome was impressive to say the least.

Close-up of the cityscape from the dome of St. Peter's.

Later, we got harassed by these two guys in one of the plazas. They wouldn't leave us along so we finally gave them our fingers and they promptly tied a thread bracelet. Gee, just what I always wanted. So they said, 50 each. Okay what a bargain, here is 100 lire ($1=1500 lire). No no, they say, 50 thousand each. Hmmmm, I'm not a math major, but that seemed like a lot for a cheapo thread bracelet. I said screw 'em (well I actually didn't use the word screw) and they told us to screw off, and Mike and I exited stage left.

One of the many Colosseum cats.

The ruins of the Roman Forum.

The next day we finished off Rome by visiting the Colosseum (more scaffolding) and the Roman Forum. We celebrated Thanksgiving dinner at an Italian restaurant. I had these incredible pasta balls and half a chicken. Topped it off with some gelati (ice cream^10), and then we left on the night train bound for Munich.

We shared a compartment with two guys from Masadonia (former Yugoslavia). Man you think you have problems, talk to these guys for awhile. Apparently it is quite terrible, brother killing brother over there. The one guy was in the military until he was shot by a sniper. They are trying to work abroad, but most countries won't let them in.

We got a rude awakening at 6am by a conductor. We apparently were in Austria and Mike's pass wasn't valid in Austria. Opps, who put that country there? We got kicked off and Mike had to buy a ticket through Austria.

Fence at the Dachau concentration camp.

We reached Munich and went to see our main purpose for coming, the Dachau concentration camp. This was the first Nazi camp, processing over 200,000 prisoners. I think something like over 30,000 (confirmed) died there. There was quite a sobering museum and film. It is one thing to see things on TV about the camps, but it is different to actually walk on the same ground as the prisoners and to touch the crematoriums. I read one letter from a German doctor: "Good news, it finally got below 0 so we could do the rapid cooling (and rewarming) experiments. Our success rate was high (~75%) survived with only loss of extremity function." Sick...

Rows and rows of foundations from the prisoner dorms.

The next day we went to the Deutsches Museum, the world's largest science and technology museum. Man it was big, you couldn't see the whole thing in a couple days. It was good, but most of the descriptions were in German so you had to guess what things were about. Lots of buttons to press which of course makes me happy.

This concluded our trip, we both left on night trains back to our respective countries.

I will be around for the next few weeks, and then I leave on another eurail trip (it is a tough job, but somebody has to do it!). Merry Christmas!

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