Posts Tagged ‘europe’

40 things to do before you’re 40 - Number 21!

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

21. Touch the Berlin Wall

It’s April 1945 and Berlin is a long way from the “utopian” capital of the world Adolf Hitler had planned. Hundreds of thousands of Russian troops surround the bombed-out city preparing for a final attack on the Nazis, which has only women, children, pensioners, and a handful of soldiers left to defend it. Hitler and his wife Eva Braun leave their bunker rarely, but when they do they close the curtains in their Mercedes-Benz to avoid seeing the reality of their shattered city. That same month, Hitler and Braun commit suicide and Berlin falls to the Russians. The Second World War is over - 60 million people have died, and Berlin is left devastated.

Two months later, three of the most important men in the world meet to discuss the future of Europe - British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, US President Harry Truman and Soviet leader Josef Stalin. Over a couple of cigars, they agree to slice Germany into four quarters, each giving themselves (along with France) a piece of a very lucrative pie.

Crucially this story (pay attention here!), Berlin, as well as Germany, was split into four zones. The location of the city is bang in the middle of Soviet-controlled East Germany. This means that the French, American, and British sectors of Berlin were tiny islands of capitalism surrounded by a sea of communism. Check out where Berlin is in the diagram below -

The incredible events which followed are best explained in a timeline:

1948 – Conflict begins between the Soviets and the Allies regarding reconstruction and a new German currency. In response, the Soviets block off West Berlin, trapping its two million residents in their own city. The only way in and out of West Berlin is by air, and the Allies airlift in thousands of tonnes of food and fuel.

1950 – Tensions between the Soviets and Allies worsen – the name “The Cold War” is coined to describe the frosty relationship. West Berlin is prospering under capitalism, while life under communism in the East is grim. Thousands of residents begin moving to the West in search of more money and a better life.

1955 – By this time millions had defected to the West - mainly skilled workers and intellectuals (a so-called ‘brain drain’). In response, restrictions of movement between the two sides of the city increase.

1961 – On the 13th August a barbed-wire barrier was erected overnight between East and West Berlin. The following morning, families wake up separated, mothers split from their children, and workers cut off from their jobs. A few days later, a 91 mile concrete block wall is built. Residents of East were no longer allowed to enter the West - the “Iron Curtain” had fallen.

1963 – American President John F. Kennedy visits West Berlin and declares “”Ich bin ein Berliner” – a much needed morale boost to the residents. The Americans pump millions of dollars in aid into West Berlin. Attempts to flee into the West increase and the Russian guards at the wall are ordered to “shoot to kill”. It is estimated that approximately 5,000 people successfully made it to the West, however, up to 75,000 others were caught and imprisoned, and around 1,000 killed (the last person was shot in 1989).

1987 – Nearly fifteen years have passed since the wall was built when US President Ronald Reagan delivers a famous speech in front of the Brandenburg Gate. 25,000 Berliners cheered as he said: “General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalisation - come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”

1989 - An announcement from the East German government that they’d start granting exit visas to anyone who wanted to go to the West was misinterpreted as meaning the border was now open. News spread rapidly and, within hours, thousands of Germans ran to the wall and starting smashing sections down with tools. East German border guards were unable to stop the rush of people to the wall. Thousands of families and friends are reunited after nearly three decades apart.

After the devastation of the Second World War and the segregation of the Cold War, Berlin has reinvented itself beyond belief since the fall of the wall. It’s now one of the most liberal, tolerant, safe, and hedonistic cities in the world, and one of the best travel destinations in the world. As you walk around this modern, thriving city, there are constant reminders of its unenviable recent history – a sprawling Holocaust memorial, the headquarters of the dreaded S.S. (now a fascinating free museum), and surviving sections of the hated Berlin Wall.

40 things to do before you’re 40 - Number 12

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

12. Go clubbing until dawn in Europe

Everybody enjoys a good night out… but once in a while, a night comes along that’s so epic that you just don’t want it to end – you want to hit the clubs and dance until the sun comes up!

When that you get that feeling, Europe’s the place to be. From Parisian wine bars to Hungarian dive bars, from London’s super pubs to Berlin’s superclubs, this continent is full of amazing nightspots.

Whether you’re an occasional clubber or a serious partygoer, you’ll love the variety of local nightlife on offer. Here are five of our favourite all-night party spots in Europe:

Barcelona – the cool Catalan capital is rightly renowned for its clubbing scene. If you’re after free entry and the latest chart heavyweights, head to Port Olimpic – a buzzing stretch of bars and clubs along the harbour front. If you’re a serious clubber and don’t mind a cover charge, superclubs like Opium, Razzmatazz and La Terazza are well worth a visit too.

Mykonos – this gorgeous Greek island boasts some of the finest dance clubs in Europe. On Paradise Beach alone there are TWO of DJ magazine’s Top 100 Clubs for 2013. Elegant Cavo Paradiso (#13) is perched on a rocky outcrop and has hosted the likes of Tiesto and Sebastian Ingrosso, while its lower neighbour Paradise Club (#33) can boast Avicii, Carl Cox and Bob Sinclar on its CV.

Amsterdam – with a reputation as one of Europe’s party capitals, Amsterdam doesn’t disappoint. Leidseplein is a buzzing nightlife hub with something for everyone; catch a live band in the Watering Hole, dance to chart hits in brilliantly OTT bars, or maybe even go to a gig in legendary venues Paradiso or Melkweg.

Prague – any city which can boast a five story nightclub is not shy about its party credentials. Situated near the stunning Charles Bridge, many a Topdeck traveller has wandered into Karlovy lázn? in the dark only to wander out again as the sun’s rays are coming up! But by no means is this the only spot – Prague is a goldmine of cool underground bars and quirky clubs.

Ibiza – the mecca of dance music, this hedonistic Spanish island has been top of the global clubbing tree for many years. Ibiza superclubs Space and Pacha occupy the #2 and #3 spots in DJ mag’s Top 100 Clubs, while Amnesia and Privilege also make the top 20. The clubs may be pricy, but they attract a who’s who of international DJs each summer (Skrillex, Tiesto, Chase & Status, Armin van Buuren), while indie artists (Bloc Party, Kasabian, Tinie Tempah, Azealia Banks) are also getting a look-in with Ibiza Rocks growing bigger by the year.

So next time you’re in Europe, why not hit the clubs and enjoy a night out to remember? After all, you get to sleep every night… surely you can afford to take a night off?!

Topdeck Top Tip: Don’t head out too early! Many clubs in Europe don’t even get going until midnight, so pace yourself if you want to see the sunrise.

Sebastian Ingrosso at Cavo Paradiso, Mykonos in 2012 (skip to 0.50 for the drop):

Closing night 2012 at Space Ibiza:

One for dance lovers – DJ mag’s Top 100 Clubs list:

40 things to do before you’re 40 - Number 1!

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

Did you know that in 2013 Topdeck celebrates its 40th birthday? How time flies! Since our first trip in November 1973 we’ve spent four decades sharing incredible travel experiences all over the globe with our passengers.

In anticipation of our birthday we’re going to be featuring 40 of our favourite experiences over the next 40 weeks – a travel wish list that has proved virtually impossible to narrow down!

How many of them have you done? And how many would you love to do? Check in weekly to read about some of the most unforgettable travel moments on this amazing planet of ours, and perhaps get inspired for your next travel adventure!

Explore. Enjoy. Share the Experience with Topdeck.

1. See the Eiffel Tower sparkle

What’s the most recognisable landmark in the world? If you answered the Eiffel Tower, not many would disagree with you. This elegant behemoth is beloved by Parisians… but it wasn’t always so. Did you know that for a long time after its construction in 1889, the Eiffel Tower was widely despised by many locals?

Designed as an entrance arch to the 1889 World Expo, the tower was originally intended to be a 20-year temporary structure… but the time came and went while the tower remained standing. Over time even the notoriously picky Parisians grew to love it – as do its estimated 7 million visitors per year!

Already iconic, the Eiffel Tower became even more dazzling (literally) in the year 2000, when a flickering light display was installed for the millennium celebrations.

It went down so well that it has remained in place ever since and the tower performs a nightly spectacle on the stroke of each hour.

For around five minutes the Eiffel Tower glitters above the Parisian skyline, as though the world’s paparazzi have swarmed up to every possible vantage point and started photographing the stylish city on the Seine.

The Eiffel Tower has endured Parisian cynicism, thwarted the ambitions of Hitler, and even survived a sneaky bungy jump from a mulleted young Kiwi called AJ Hackett! It has cemented its place in the cast of the world’s great landmarks and firmly deserves a place on any travel wish list.

Topdeck Top Tip: For a great view watch the display from the Champs du Mars parade ground below the tower, where the symmetrical gardens and tree-lined walkways act as the perfect frame for one of the most eye-catching displays in Europe. What’s even better is that it’s completely free!

Check out AJ Hackett’s bungy jump here:

Have you seen the Eiffel Tower sparkle?
Share your best Eiffel Tower pics and Topdeck memories with us!

Summer Fun + Sailing - Dreams becoming Reality Pt. 1

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

After arriving in London with a hiss and a roar and trying to find our way around on the Underground my travel buddy and good friend, Saatchi and I eventually pushed open the doors of The Clink (our hostel) and the departure point for our 26 Summer Fun + Sailing Topdeck trip around Europe. Little did we know we were about to embark on the journey of a lifetime.

Paris, France

What an amazing city! Paris really is exactly like it is described in the books and movies. On the day we arrived we all tried out the traditional French cuisine of escargot (which being snails and garlic were surprisingly, not as bad as expected!) followed by an amazing ‘city lights tour’ by night where we got to see all the magnificent sights of Paris in all their glory. I finished the evening off with a nightcap at the local pub with some new found Topdeck pals which ended with a heartfelt marriage proposal from the bartender - Paris, the city of love right?!

As our second day in Paris was a free day we had all the time in the world to go and see the sights starting with walking up all 669 stairs of the Eiffel Tower (impressed? - especially after the big night previously), before making my way down to the Louvre with Saatchi and new friends Lea and Dee. Of course we posed for the token tourist photo and saw a little famous painting by the name of ‘Mona Lisa‘; visited the Notre Dame which by standing in its presence alone you could feel the spirituality that surrounded it; and marvelled at the Arc de Triomphe. That night we enjoyed a picnic dinner under the Eiffel Tower and there was an optional activity to watch a traditional French Cabaret show or to cruise the River Seine by boat -which was fantastic apart from the downpour which drenched us all!

I was lucky enough to be standing underneath the Eiffel Tower at 10PM when the twinkling lights display took place. It really was such a magical moment and a memory that will stay with me always.

Lauterbrunnen, Swiss Alps, Switzerland

After the beautiful sights of Paris I was expecting it to be tough for any other country to live up to it but I was proved wrong when our coach rolled into Lauterbrunnen; this little town was breathtakingly beautiful. The scenery was amazing, waterfalls, snow-peaked mountains, little streams running between dainty cottages and lots of green, a perfect setting for a ‘Sound of Music‘ yodelling opportunity. It was also the place where I got the chance to travel to the summit of Jungfrau mountain; otherwise known as the ‘Top of Europe’, where we were able to admire the displays in the ice museum and have the chance to play in buckets of snow; For some of my group this was their first time seeing it. Something I learnt, show a group of 18-30 year olds snow and they will be entertained for hours!

That night our Topdeck group got a bit wild and well acquainted by having a good dance and chin wag in the onsite bar of our cosy cabin accommodation. I can pinpoint this night of the trip where strong friendships were set in stone.

Nice, French Rivera,

This place was BEAUTIFUL! To come from chilly Lautenburren, to blazing hot Nice was crazy; the sun was always shining and the crystal blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea lapped happily on the pebble stone beaches. As soon as we arrived we hit the beach for a sunbathe and cruised the main streets browsing shops and eating some of the world’s most amazing pizza - seriously! That evening we walked the streets in the warm night air and took in the sights and sounds of this busy city; enjoying what a local Irish bar near our hostel had on offer, which in one of my fellow Topdecker Ellie’s case was Irishman Dennis (her heart was left behind in Nice). We finished the night off by enjoying a quick 3AM dip which saw a few of the group lose their clothes- oops!

An evening trip to Monaco found us visiting the famous Grand Casino and rubbing shoulders with some of the country’s wealthiest people followed by an incredible fireworks display that went on for around 30 minutes - put on just for us I am sure!

Florence, Italy

Before arriving in Florence we visited the Leaning Tower of Pisa. I was lucky enough to have visited this tower previously in 2006 and I could not get over how much the building has continued to lean in that time! With the rate that it seems to be moving, I feel privileged to have seen it twice in my lifetime. Our accommodation in Florence, Plus Hostel, was by far my favourite accommodation on the trip. It had a pool and introduced us to the infamous cocktail buckets. It was also the location where our trip song ‘Take Your Shirt Off‘ was determined (and taken quite literally!) on the dance floor.

We did a fantastic walking tour around Florence with a local guide which allowed us to see some of the beautiful architecture (and Italian men!) of this city and admire the famous statue replicas, like David, in Piazza della Signoria square.

Rome, Italy

Ah…Rome. The food; the buildings; the people; the weather; the history - it was just so overwhelming and perfect in every single way! The first night we arrived we were taken on a walk around the city to view the magnificent sights (and we still didn’t see everything Rome could offer in this time!). We were lucky enough to see most of the famous landmarks however, such as Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Santa Maria de Popolo, Monument of Emmanuel, Roman Forum, Pantheon and of course the Colosseum. The next morning was spent exploring the ancient walls of Vatican City and looking up at the precise Michelangelo painting on the Sistine Chapel roof, which can only be described as incredible. We stayed at a great campsite called ‘Camping Roma‘ which was host to the infamous ‘Topdeck Toga Party‘ and this party did not disappoint. Everyone dressed up to the nine’s in their bed sheets, and made head pieces out of flowers picked from the garden (thanks KB!) and for a night we were all Roman gods and goddesses. We danced into the wee hours of the morning, lots of laughs shared and another cheeky appearance from those cocktail buckets!

Rome had so many highlights for me - seeing the Monument of Emmanuel was a highlight, it really is my favourite building! Making a wish at the Trevi Fountain (fingers crossed it comes true!) and the traditional Topdeck toga party - which was one of life’s best parties, no lie!

Flotilla Sailing - Greek Islands,

Where do I start with Flotilla Sailing through the Greek Islands? I can confidently say that this was a huge highlight for not only me but for a number of group members and a major reason why we chose this particular Topdeck trip. This was 3 full days of absolute bliss - floating upon lilos on crystal blue waters, donning Captain hats, docking at small, intimate islands each night that showcased different cultures; learning to sail our little flotilla yachts; sunbathing and water sports fun. We were even taught a traditional Greek dance one night, which taught me one of life’s necessary activities, carrying a table with my teeth! Unfortunately, no plate smashing was involved. A group meal on the first night of sailing erupted with loud, shrill girly screams (and a few teary eyes from the boys - which they are yet to admit) when Tim proposed to girlfriend Jess, and she said YES! It was such an awesome moment to experience and to be a part of, and I wish the happy couple all the love in life!

It was when we were sailing that I can determine the happiest I felt on the whole trip; We had just left the dock, the sun was shining and my favourite song was playing on the radio, when a pod of dolphins came out from nowhere and started swimming next to our boat, I don’t think I have smiled so much in my life!

Please check back next week for Part 2 of Summer Fun + Sailing - Dreams becoming Reality

Catching the Christmas Spirit in Bruges!

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

For her first wintry northern Christmas, Kara travelled to the magical Brugge Christmas Markets for some festive cheer!

If like me you are more accustomed to a warm and sunny Southern Hemisphere festive season complete with beachfront BBQs and long sunny days the thought of a wintery white Christmas is a magical and romantic prospect.

And you certainly can’t get a better northern Noel than with a visit to one of Europe’s Christmas Markets.

In this case, the Brugge (or Bruges) Christmas Market!

Brugge: A Fairytale Town

Brugge: A Fairytale Town

For anyone who has seen, and loved, the movie ‘In Bruges’ (Colin Farrell anyone?), the city holds a certain quirky appeal.

It’s hard to describe Brugge without using a lot of cheesy and romantic words… it’s a beautiful, breathtaking, peaceful and magical, fairy-tale town.

All these description are true – even more so at Christmas time!

With so many ornate buildings, stalls, shops and decorations it was hard to know where to turn next so my friends Kath and Becca and I needed a plan.

Our mission: to soak up as much of the Christmas Spirit as possible!

First we stopped for a look in a Christmas decoration shop. Thousands of handcrafted fairies, elves, Santas and nativity decorations hung throughout the store. The ornaments were pretty, but a bit pricey, but hey, it’s free to look!

So shiny & sparkly!

So shiny & sparkly!

Next we sampled the local mulled wine and made our way through the first of two market squares. A warm beverage is pretty much a requirement to keep warm and feel cheery at Christmas time!

The old town is fairly compact and it doesn’t take long to cover the main area on foot and even if you get a little lost down one of the town’s many walkways you’ll soon get back on track.

The main market is found in the centre of the square in front of the Church of Our Lady. There an ice-rink is surrounded by stalls selling food, produce and Christmas-themed goodies.

My total lack of coordination meant skating was off the cards, so we tucked into some tasty banana fritters instead, followed by a round of Belgian hot chips!

Far too full to climb!

Far too full to climb!

Suitably stuffed from our Belgian delights, we were far too full to climb the famous church tower so spent more time sightseeing and shopping.

My shopping basket was full of mouth-watering Belgian chocolates, locally made honey, delicate ornaments and a mini wooden tree complete with decorations.

You’d have to be a pretty big Grinch not to get caught up in the Christmas Spirit of this town. From the giant Christmas trees in town squares and fairy-lights hanging over the canal to the smell of festive delicacies.

A full on day of shopping, eating and walking really takes it out of you so by early evening we were exhausted.

Christmas cheer is everywhere in Brugge

Christmas cheer is everywhere in Brugge

What a better way to finish the day than with a special Belgian coffee – essentially a shot of coffee with a shot of a local liqueur topped with sweet cream. They also offer a rather tasty alcoholic hot chocolate! Nom!

So wrap up warm, don your best carol singing voice and head to the Brugge for the Christmas Markets!

If you fancy a stroll around Brugge with a hot bevvie in hand, why not join Topdeck’s overnight trip to the Brugge Christmas Markets!

Magical Brugge

Magical Brugge

The Madness of The Edinburgh Festival with Diane Spencer

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

by Kara Segedin

Which festival combines a grand military showcase with music, theatre, fireworks, comedy and the bizarre? None other than the Edinburgh Festival!

Made up of 12 different festivals including the Military Tattoo, International Festival and Fringe, Edinburgh is world’s largest cultural event.

During festivities the city’s main street, the Royal Mile, becomes a Mecca for performers as every bar, restaurant and available space is transformed into a venue for arts of all kinds.

On the back of a 4 star review at last year’s Fringe, British (and one time Kiwi) comedian Diane Spencer will be entertaining the crowds with her latest hilarious (and sometimes shocking) offering - All-pervading Madness.

Topdeck sat down with Di to chat about her experiences in Edinburgh…

How many times have you performed at Fringe?

This is my third annual visit in a row - third time’s a charm they say too. This year better pull something special out!

What makes the Edinburgh Festival so unique?

It’s the largest arts festival in the world, in the hilliest place in the world, which means that you get a fair amount of walking in. Though I wonder how disabled access friendly it is. There are lots of steps and I’ve seen some muscular dudes in wheelchairs pushing the “long way” round up slopes.

Anyway (totally distracted) - the city of Edinburgh is also beautiful, historic - there’s the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, and because this festival operates at many tiers, you can usually find something to meet your budget. You can splash out and go see loads of famous comedians in big beautiful venues or you can plunder through the free Fringe programme. It’s really unique because it’s so large, there’s something for everyone.

Best Edinburgh Fest experience?

That day I got my first four star review. My Mum sent me the text all in capitals with the word “FANTASTIC!” She was really proud, I was so chuffed. It was lovely - because that’s like an end of year exam, or a job appraisal. You’ve been working so hard all year and then you get examined!

Worst Edinburgh Fest experience?

A couple of boys stole my phone and purse from my bag when I was onstage. It was such a violating feeling. Then to have to go to the police station, cancel all my cards, and it was raining of course. You just have to keep an eye on things.

What have been some of your festival highlights?

I’ve seen so many brilliant performances from a variety of sources - some in the theatre, but once, I was walking up the Royal Mile, it was oddly a quiet time of night, and suddenly the sky exploded in fireworks and I sort of just fell in love with the feeling and stood there on the street just being the happiest person on the planet.

Who are you most looking forward to seeing perform?

I enjoy Asher Treleaven, an Aussie Comic. Also like vintage diva Lili La Scala. The Boy with Tape on his Face has a new show too, and he’s a Kiwi. I’ll definitely catch Carey Marx’s new show - I’ve sort of made it a tradition to see his show each year. Oo, and Nick Helm, he’s always good fun.

Where do you go to get a bite to eat?

For the ultimate steak, but obviously at a price, you have to go to the Scotsman Hotel brasserie. Proper HUGE bit of

cow. In terms of amazing coffee - the Wellington Coffee house on George Street. They also do really nice warm scones with jam and clotted cream.

What are your must-see sights in Edinburgh?

Just by walking around this beautiful city you come across really interesting and wonderful items. I did take a trip into the Edinburgh Dungeons one year - that was gruesome but fun.

Why should people come and see you?

Because I am hilariously funny, silly, rude, naughty and funny AGAIN. Also this year I won an award, the Chortle Best Newcomer 2011, and then this show, which I’m performing at Edinburgh now, was nominated for “Best Comedy (Emerging)” at the Adelaide Fringe Awards. So I’m funny now!

Tell us a joke….

I’ll have to invoice you for that if I do.

If you’d like to get in on the Edinburgh action join us on our Tattoo & Festival trip departing 26 August and get 20% off!

Diane Spencer: All-pervading Madness

Venue: Gilded Balloon

Dates: 3-28 Aug (no show on the 16th)

Time: 5.45pm

Gap year travel for Aussies

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009

Just finished school and looking for adventure? Can’t wait to get out into the wide world? Well Topdeck Travel have the Ultimate Gap Year adventures just waiting for you. And of course these are all holidays for students on budget.

Their European itineraries, exclusively for school leavers, are great value trips that offer unique experiences. A cycling tour of Amsterdam, a champagne picnic beside the Eiffel Tower and flotilla sailing on the Ionian Sea are just some of the unforgettable adventures you’ll enjoy.

Each trip has an experienced Trip Leader to ensure you never miss a unique attraction and an “On-Road Chef” to cook up local produce that’s tasty and cheap.

With trips visiting 11 countries costing only $4350 AUD (with just $200 AUD deposit). And with more activities and meals per day than any other operator, you’ll be amazed what you get for your money. So what are you waiting for?!

Hot holiday offers!

Friday, December 12th, 2008

Escape the credit crunch - and get away from the doom and gloom on a fantastic holiday, that won’t cost a fortune, with Topdeck Travel! 

Topdeck offer amazing travel experiences for 18 to 30 somethings, exploring Europe and Africa; camping, skiing, or taking the holiday of a lifetime on a safari or adventure trip.

And the even better news is that right now their good value trips are even cheaper with these hot holiday offers that will help save your pennies.

Early birds can save 10% on Europe 2009 trips, get one night free with the gap trip special or even travel free when you book with nine friends!

Most trips are 12-14 days and it’s only £60 to reserve your place when you book online.

So don’t miss out on getting away in 2009, grab these money saving offers while you can and enjoy an unforgettable experience!

Amazing European Escapades 2009

Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

If you have a spare 2 weeks or more you need to join one of these amazing European tours - Cheap student travel from Topdeck Tours give you the ultimate gap travel experience, exclusively for student traveller!

Topdeck Blog - News and Info about travelling in Europe and Africa by Bus

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008

We know that you need a lot of useful info before travelling. So, we have created this blog for you. If you are travelling in Europe, Egypt, Morocco or Africa you will find plenty of information and unbelievable offers here.