Posts Tagged ‘germany’

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 6!

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

6. Drink a stein of beer at Oktoberfest

Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany, is the biggest and best beer festival on the planet! You’ll never forget sinking a litre of frothy Bavarian beer in a huge tent packed with thousands of thirsty companions. Locals and visitors sing side by side, ‘Oompah’ bands play and everybody clinks steins in a mass public cry of “Prost!”

Until you visit the Oktoberfest, it’s difficult to comprehend the scale. The numbers? 16 days, 6.5 million visitors, 6.9 million litres of beer, 500,000 chickens… it’s absolutely massive!

Known by the locals as Wies’n, Oktoberfest began in Munich in 1810. Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria married Princess Therese and invited locals to celebrate with a horse race in a field outside the city, and from these humble beginnings the modern festival evolved.

It originally started in October, but in later years the beginning was brought forward to September. Today it boasts 14 large beer tents, smaller tents which also serve schnapps and wine, and a huge fairground complete with rollercoasters.

Only local beers are represented, including Löwenbräu, Paulaner, Augustiner and Hofbräu. The tents (more accurately giant wooden halls) all serve hearty food to soak up the beer; think roasted pork knuckles, rotisserie chickens, pretzels, sauerkraut and sausages, while the atmosphere is helped along by house bands who kick off the drinking songs.

All locals and many visitors wear traditional (and seriously cool) Bavarian dress; lederhosen for men (leather trousers) and dirndls for women (cleavage-enhancing dresses). The crowd is an international affair, although locals take the Oktoberfest very seriously and try to attend as many days as possible.

With beers served from as early as 9am it’s no wonder that things get misplaced! Common lost property items include wallets, keys, ID cards and eyeglasses (whose owners were presumably blind drunk)…

In recent years, kindly souls have handed in a lost electric wheelchair, a copy of Playboy signed by one of the centrefolds and even false teeth!

Charles Reinbold, who oversees lost property at Oktoberfest, has seen plenty of the latter. He told German newspaper Der Spiegel in 2012 “I think the adhesive has improved for false teeth. The year I started we had five or six sets of false teeth in, and a pensioner walked in and tried them all on. Unfortunately, his weren’t among them.”

Musical instruments are frequently found at the start of the Oktoberfest when the Bavarian marching bands stage their ceremonial processions and then flock to the beer tents. “They get drunk and when they get home that night they say where the hell’s my trumpet?” Herr Reinbold added sagely.

As all Bavarian men know, too many litres of strong Oktoberfest beer can seriously affect your trumpeting performance!

But pace yourself properly and you’re in for the time of your life. There’s little wonder the Oktoberfest is so adored, it’s a knees-up like no other in a marvellous city. If you ever get the opportunity to attend this amazing festival, make sure you take it. Prost!

Topdeck Top Tip: There are so many for Oktoberfest! Here’s a couple:

  • You must have a seat at a table to get served
  • Always tip your waitress, or else she won’t come back and serve you again
  • Text your mates, don’t call! The tents are far too loud for a phone conversation
  • If you’re not a big drinker, try a “Radler” – half beer, half lemonade

Official highlights of Oktoberfest 2011 from the Munich city website:

A selection of Oktoberfest galleries from the official site:

Summer Fun and Sailing - Dreams becoming Reality Part. 2

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

Following on from last week’s blog -Summer Fun and Sailing – Dreams becoming Reality Part.1. Read the final installment in the series below.

Tirana, Albania

After a big three days sailing the Greek Islands my group were more or less shattered, so there was no better place to be than in the comfortable hotel accommodation in Tirana. With a double bed, air conditioned room and spectacular views spanning over the city, I was in my element! After a deep untroubled night’s sleep we departed the next morning for a bus tour around Tirana. Albania has only recently (May, 1991) opened its borders to visitors so very few people have seen the country and it has remained isolated and untouched by developing western society. It was really amazing to see how the Albanian people live especially the vintage cars, old ladies smoking huge Havana cigars, fashion stuck in the seventies and the beat of the music.

Our departure from Albania was a little time consuming at the Tirana border and there was a short wait for processing. Luckily for us though there was a very affordable pub nearby where we all enjoyed a large pint in the Albania sun.

Dubrovnik, Croatia

What can I say about Dubrovnik? I loved EVERYTHING about it; the beaches, the weather, the shopping, the food, the people and the nightlife. I completely fell head over heels in love with this cool little city and luckily for me we had two days here which allowed plenty of time to experience everything that it had on offer! Our first day started with a walking tour of the Old Town by a local guide and I couldn’t get over what was behind these ancient walls. Crystal clear water at the fisherman’s port (Lokanda Peskarija), shops in little streets filled with amazing knick-knacks (that Dee and I spent most of the day in) churches, restaurants which served the most amazing seafood and don’t let me forget the nightclubs! That night the whole group hit Skybar Club and Revelin Culture Club (which is now officially my favourite club) and partied hard to the sounds of live DJs, bright lights and men on stilts - some of us partied a bit too hard when a pair of very loved (and very expensive) shoes got lost on the dance floor, right Michelle!

We finished the night with the boys each trying their luck on the ‘Lion Head’, found on the walls of the Franciscan Monastery in the Old Town. Legend has it, that if you manage to hop onto the head, keep your balance and take your shirt off while standing facing the wall, luck in love will follow you – Jared, has Katy Perry confessed her love to you yet?

Zadar, Croatia

After experiencing the beauty that Croatia had to offer first hand in Dubrovnik, I was really excited to move onto Zadar - and I was not disappointed. This beautiful walled city on the Dalmatian Coast was on another level. Our whole Topdeck crew, tired but happy, all came together in Zadar to celebrate our lovely Topdeck Trip Leader, Leentje’s, birthday that night down on the main boardwalk. The boardwalk was alive with the hustle and bustle of people and laughter of young children playing, with a street entertainer found on every corner. The major attraction of Zadar is of course the ‘Zadar Sea Organ’ which plays music by way of sea waves and tubes under the boardwalk.

Experiencing the sunset in Zadar with the Sea Organ gurgling in the background and enjoying a glass of wine was just magical. It was a perfect end to a perfect day.

Venice, Italy

Next stop was Venice, Italy! But not before visiting the Postojna Caves in Slovenia, nicknamed the ‘Jewels of Nature‘. These caves were fascinating and dripping with thousands of year’s worth of history. After a short train ride into the middle of the caves we were taken for a walking tour and taught about the creation of the caves thousands of years ago - a definite highlight. We arrived at our Venice accommodation ‘Camping Jolly‘ that afternoon, complete with yet another pool, an onsite bar, air conditioned rooms and everyone’s favourite - the Topdeck food tent, yum! The first night in Venice was insane, not only was it the night of the infamous Topdeck Mask Party, but it was also the trip’s ‘best friend’ , Doug’s, birthday, which only meant lots of laughs, lots of dancing and lots of memories made. I even managed to sneak a little kiss with a dreamy Italian (who spoke very little English but who needs to chat)! Happy birthday Dougie! I truly hope that this was a birthday you will never forget.

The following day with a few sore heads still lurking, we embarked on a walking tour of the ‘The City of Water‘, viewing landmarks like St Marks Square (I have never seen so many pigeons in my life!) the Basilica of St Mark and the Doge’s Palace before heading to a demonstration of lace creation that were shown just for us! That afternoon we all took part in a traditional gondola cruise on the water surrounding the buildings of Venice and took in all the incredible sights and sounds before heading back to Camping Jolly for a night pool party - it really was all go in this city! It was in Venice that we had to say goodbye to my ‘travel sister’ Ellie, who finished her Topdeck trip here.

Munich, Germany

We arrived in Munich a week before Oktoberfest kicked off so it was really cool to see the city preparing for the massive festival. The streets were aglow with decorations, dirndl outfits displayed proudly in shop windows and excitement was in the air. We went on a sightseeing tour by twilight where we were able to see the amazing designs of the Munich architecture such as Marienplatz Square and the New Town Hall. The German culture took full swing that night as we visited the local beer halls and tried the German delicacies like large pretzels and steins of beer. We ended up befriending our waiter who even posed for a photo with us!

A morning trip to Dachau Concentration camp was a hugely reflective moment where I felt a huge emotional attachment. After studying the history of this camp throughout my school years nothing could prepare me for how I would feel when I stood in the middle of the camp courtyard and took in all the surroundings.

Prague, Czech Republic

I was so excited to visit Prague; it was a city that has forever been on my bucket list. So I was really happy when the Topdeck coach bustled into the famous cobble streets of this magnificent city. We were again staying in the Plus Hostel chain - Plus Prague. Prague was everything I thought it would be and more, and don’t even get me started on the mind blowing shops (oh just thinking about them now has set me off on a daydreaming tangent). As we had a free day I spent most of it checking out the recommended must sees in my itinerary like Prague Castle, Charles Bridge, Old Town Square and the Golem of Prague Statue. The first night in Prague was spent celebrating Topdecker Cath’s birthday in the nightclub Duplex, the photo’s from that night are still too embarrassing to look at! Happy birthday beautiful Cath I hope your special night was everything you dreamed it would be!

Whilst in Prague we were lucky enough to party on board a boat on the Vltava River and we were joined by two other Topdeck trips. It was a great night to let our hair down and to mingle with so many different people! Three boys from our group dressed up as ‘Topdeck Sailors’ which was a great laugh.

Rhine Valley, Germany

Onto the vineyards of central Germany and the beautiful castles and villages along the Rhine River! In the Rhine Valley we stayed in the 12th century Stahleck Castle Hostel which overlooked the little city and expansive river below, it was magical! I stayed in a room right at the top of the tower of the castle accommodation (cue my Prince Charming!). That night when we rolled into town we found that the annual wine festival was on; hmm I wonder if they knew we were visiting? Not only did we sample some of the most delicious wine I have ever tasted (and I am a New Zealander!) but we were subject again to another magnificent display of fireworks, a beautiful but sad reminder that my trip was nearing an end.

The next morning we drove through St Goar, a pretty little village on the Rhine River where Leentje taught us about the myths surrounding the Loreley Rock and its mysterious siren before visiting the Beer Stein shop and to see the world’s largest Cuckoo clock, which happened to have a massive teddy bear standing underneath it – of course I had to give it the biggest cuddle.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

What a city to end my adventure in! Amsterdam had it all: history, culture, shopping, architecture, amazing food, great nightlife and do I even need to mention the Coffee Shops (not to be confused with Cafe’s!). I spent most of my time here being a typical tourist; I took a bike riding tour with Mike’s Bikes around the beautiful canals, the crooked little houses, Vondel Park and took in the sights of the ‘I Amsterdam’ sign – a definite recommendation. We visited Anne Frank’s house, studied the art at the Van Gogh Museum, stirred hops at the Heineken Experience (and drank a bit too much free beer), walked through the Red Light District and saw some eye popping things to say the least!

We spent the last night together having our last meal at a Chinese Restaurant on the water, before boarding a canal cruise with the rest of my Topdeck group. The cameras were definitely clicking on this cruise and we finished with a beautiful goodbye toast by KB and Jared which not going to lie made me shed a few tears! We then partied and danced the night away in a nightclub…all in all, it was a great send off to a fantastic trip, and I was very surprised no one ended up with a drunken tattoo! Our final stop was a few hours in Brugge, Belgium where we indulged in the most amazing waffles and chocolate, (although it didn’t meet others expectations –right Bernie?)  and admired the amazing Belfry and Cloth Hall in the City Square.

Final Note:

And that is it, 26 days of the most amazing, magical, life changing experience rolled into 2 parts! I can truly say I have never felt as happy as I did on this trip and I have made memories (and friends) that will last a life time. Just a few people I want to thank who joined me on this journey.

Saatchi, I couldn’t have done this without you and your endless positivity and willingness to give everything a go. I could not have asked for a more perfect travel buddy and friend. Topdeck, Leentje and Alessandro, without you this trip would not even exist just know I will be forever thankful for everything you have done! Doug and Alessio my little brothers, you became my family and made me smile and laugh every day, love you both! Kristy and Ellie, my travel sister’s the adventures we 3 got up to will never be forgotten. Nicky and Clux, I know we will be friends for a long, long time even though you managed to pour your drink on me a number of times throughout the trip Nicky!

Vicki, Elise, Georgia, Georgie, Cath, Em, Dee, Lea, Jess, Keri, Michelle (brownie promise), TJ, Hayley, Maddy (burning up the dance floor) – you girls are ALL amazing, I had so many great nights with you all and I give you all the deepest gratitude from the bottom of my heart for being a huge part of my journeyJared, Bernie, Jayden, Justin, KB, Kieran, Father John, Giggles and Suave Marv the Marvellous Marvel (you beautiful creature) ‘The Boys’, thank you for the laughs, the memories and the good times – hugs and kisses to all.

To the dreamy Italian in Venice – you are a babe.

And to the rest of my Topdeck crew – you became my second family and I will see you somewhere on my adventures in the near future!

Guest Blogger: Let Your Joy Rise

Tuesday, August 7th, 2012

Take a 150 item list, a 24 day Topdeck trip and an ongoing journey of self discovery and you end up with one inspirational adventure.  Join Shanny, the writer behind the blog Let Your Joy Rise, as she crosses no. 2 off her List - travel around Europe (and a few more along the way). Oh, and she manages to set her face on fire!


London, UK

Greetings from merry old England! I absolutely L-O-V-E-D London; in fact, I can see why so many Aussies choose to venture over there and call it their home (well, at least for a couple of years!) After finally finding my way to my hostel, I embarked on a three-day, non-stop spree of sightseeing, shopping, picture-taking, walking, Tube-catching, drinking and laughing goodness! Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, Notting Hill, Big Ben, Leicester Square, Oxford Circus, Westminster Abbey, the Tate Modern, St Paul’s Cathedral, Buckingham Palace, Camden Markets,  West End, The Thames….ahh, so many wonderful sights!

The three days I spent alone in London were some of the best of my life – from sun up to sun down (which doesn’t happen until 10:30pm at night!), I was wandering the streets and catching the Underground like a pro, trying to absorb as much of the London vibe as I could. It was such a refreshing, inspiring and amazing time for me – I’d never felt so free and independent in my life! I met some wonderful people along the way, including lovely girls in my dorm, and some top lads staying in The Clink (my hostel) who had me drinking, laughing and partying the nights away…thanks for the memories, boys!

+ Special moment/highlight: Unexpectedly tumbling into a free West End musical spectacular held in Trafalgar Square, showcasing all the music of current productions – including Rock of Ages, Matilda, Billy Elliott, and Mamma Mia – and singing my heart out to the Journey anthem ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ from Rock of Ages in the middle of a giant sea of people…

Paris, France

Ah, the City of Lights…take me back! Paris was everything I’d ever imagined and more. I’d been waiting to go to Paris since I was seven years old and it did not disappoint me – it truly is one of the most beautiful and romantic cities of the world. Seeing the Eiffel Tower for the first time reduced me to tears and this profound moment unexpectedly helped me to cross off another huge milestone on my list (see No.55 – Forgive him).

From Paris with love x

I also had a ‘date’ with the city, where I spent a whole day wandering the streets of Paris, including the Avenue des Champs-Élysées; marveling at the Arc de Triomphe;  a visit to the Louvre with my new friends Valentina and Paige; eating Ladurée macaroons, baguettes, and crepes; photographing the Lover’s Lock Bridge, adorned with padlocks from lovers around the world; strolling along the River Seine; sending up a prayer inside Notre Dame; catching the Metro; practicing my French with the locals; then all topped off with an afternoon of laying on the grass under the Eiffel Tower, reading Vanity Fair while basking in the summer sun. Paris truly stole my heart that day and I can’t wait to visit this amazing city again soon.

+ Special moment/highlight: I was lucky enough to be standing on the banks of the River Seine at 11pm when all of a sudden the Eiffel Tower burst into a magnificent display of twinkling lights, and in that moment, I felt my heart soar with joy.

Jungfrau, Switzerland

Ok, this place was simply ahhh-mazing!!!! It was like falling into a storybook, complete with snowcapped mountains, rolling green valleys, spectacular waterfalls tumbling down sheer cliffs, and crisp fresh air. I stayed in a cabin in a gorgeous campground located deep in a valley of the Alps and the serenity and beauty of the place took my breath away. The day was filled with a trip to the very top of Jungfrau mountain (the ‘Top of Europe’, as they say) and playing in the snow(lots of laughs were had!), and the nights were spent drinking, singing at the top of my lungs, and dancing on the tabletops in the cozy bar onsite with my new tour buddies. Seriously, this is one place that everyone must visit in their lifetime – simply stunning…

Playing in the snow in the Swiss Alps!!!

+ Special moment/highlight: Meditating in a grassy field of clover and butterflies in the valley between the Alps in the late afternoon, listening to the cracks of mini snow avalanches in the hills, breathing in the purest air I’ve ever breathed, and achieving the highest state of bliss of all time…magical.

Dancing on a bar tabletop with Marti, our tour leader and uber legend, and Conan, tour bro for life x

Nice, French Riviera

The beautiful aqua waters of the Mediterranean Sea, the warm air, the gorgeous people…oh, how I loved Nice! Warm, balmy nights spent dancing on tabletops in Wayne’s Bar with my newest and dearest girlfriends on tour, Lisa and Siobhan; kissing cute French boys (ohh la la!); jumping into the sea to cool down at 3am; people-watching over a croissant and coffee breakfast at a trendy café; strolling the seaside markets filled with fresh produce; sunbathing on pebble beaches;swimming in the Mediterranean Sea; stumbling across France’s best gelato shop for a delicious afternoon treat; a makeshift picnic lunch of fresh baguettes, Brie, figs, raspberries, olives and blueberries purchased from the markets; an evening visit to Monaco; drinking Grey Goose Vodka Martinis in the Grand Casino (a’ la James Bond); eating pizza and laughing with new friends at 1am…tres’ genial!

Partying in Wayne’s Bar (yes, I’m on top of another table…)

+ Special moment/highlight: Becoming close friends with two other female solo travellers, Lisa and Siobhan, a.k.a. my ‘tour sisters’. We were like the 3 Musketeers of trouble! Awesome, amazing, inspiring women who I will always treasure and consider dear friends – lots of love to you both always xxx

Channeling my inner Princess Grace in Monaco…

Florence, Italy

Stopped by the Leaning Tower of Pisa on the way to Florence for a photo (yeah, there’s a tower there that doesn’t stand up straight…that’s about it!) Unfortunately, by the time I arrived in Florence I was quite ill and although I managed to soldier on and go out partying in a karaoke bar in the city that night, I found myself back at the hostel pretty early and in a lot of pain.

Just holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa, no biggie…

The next morning my darling girls took me to a local doctor who, upon hearing that I refused to go to hospital because I had to leave for Rome in 4 hours, cheerfully administered two injections (one antibiotics, one painkiller) to my derrière so that I could indeed make it to Rome. The rest of the morning is a bit of a blur (my memories of Florence are a bit hazy due to the painkillers – wow, those Italians sure know how to make you feel better!), although I was told that I was a delight to be around and quite entertaining…ahem!  So, I don’t have much to report about Florence, except to say that the bars are cool, the architecture is beautiful (i.e. the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, or the Duomo, as it is more commonly known) and the doctors are awesome!

Florence by night

+ Special moment/highlight: Watching the sun set over the Florence skyline from the rooftop of our hostel with my girls…the Duomo glowing at sunset is spectacular!

Rooftop sunset…

Rome, Italy

Roma…ahhh, say no more! The history, the architecture, the people, the food, the language, the gestures…the gelato!!! Rome is everything you think it will be, and then some. Every step you take, around every corner you turn, there is an abundance of history and culture just waiting for you. The Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Santa Maria del Popolo, Roman Forum, Fountain of the Four Rivers, Pantheon, Colosseum, Castel Sant’Angelo, Vatican City…all of it is simply spectacular!

The Colosseum at sunset…

Inside the Colosseum!!!

And the food…ahhh, drool-worthy! Pizza, pasta, tiramisu, Caprese salad…and the gelato, oh, the gelato! My record was six gelatos in one day (over-indulge much?), but I can justify this because the temperature peaked at 42 degrees while I was there – warm!

Trevi Fountain = magic

Add cheap drinks, cool swimming pools, and an impromptu, out-of-control Toga Party to this setting and you have yourself an unforgettable time, filled with shenanigans! Once again, there was a cute boy for me to kiss (a big shout-out to the lovely and handsome Tim from Sydney) and my night was complete. As they say, when in Rome…!

My cute ‘Roman’, Tim xxx

+ Special moment/highlight: Ohh, that’s hard…It is a toss up between standing inside the Colosseum / making a wish at the Trevi Fountain / visiting Vatican City / and having a cute young ‘Roman’ come up and sweep me off my feet on the dance floor at the Toga Party!Bellissimo!

Toga Party with my girls xoxox

Venice, Italy

Was very sad to go to Venice because our dear friend and roomie, Lisa, left the tour as we departed from Rome – there were tears, I will admit. But alas, we were off to Venice, with a quick stop in Verona to visit Juliet’s Balcony (sigh, the romance of it all!) Venice was cool; very touristy, very crowded, and very busy though.  Bought a beautiful black lace/wire Venetian mask which I absolutely adore, ate fantastic food, watched a glass-blowing demonstration, visited a traditional Venetian lace-maker, took a ride in a gondola on the Grand Canal, walked across the Rialto Bridge, and had a great time laughing and getting lost in the alleyways and dead-ends of the streets with Siobhan – Venice really is a maze!

Venice, buddy!

+ Special moment/highlight: Running into my mates, Robert and Joel (who I met in the hostel in London) and partying with them masquerade-style all night! Oh, and showing off my goalkeeping skills in an impromptu soccer game with the boys in a giant sandpit at the campsite – the lads on my tour were impressed!

Getting my masquerade on!

Vienna, Austria

Austria – home of schnitzel, classical music, Sachertorte, schnapps, and Europe’s oldest amusement park, Prater Park. My ‘tour bro’, Conan, and I spent the night running around this park like two children, sprinting and screaming from ride to ride, jumping on the biggest, fastest, scariest rollercoasters we could find (and boy, did we find them – have you ever seen the lights of Vienna while hanging upside down, 10 storeys in the air, with fireworks going off? I have…it’s awesome!)

Vienna, Austria

While in Vienna, I also took myself out for another ‘date’ (i.e. time out for myself to be an independent traveller again, which I craved more than Vegemite!), while the rest of my tour group went to a Viennese concert. I took myself out for dinner, wandered the streets of Vienna, ate delicious gelato (again, I know), talked to locals, then came back to my room and gave myself a mini pamper session (which you need once in a while when living out of a backpack and wearing Havaianas all day, every day!)

I then proceeded to take our tour group out to an ‘Aussie’ pub I had found the previous night and had made a deal with the bartenders that if I brought a crew in, the shots would be on the house. It was great fun until I decided to do a flaming shot, which ended in the bartender accidentally setting my whole face on fire (long story – let’s just say it was like the ultimate chemical peel…) Anyways, so after the flames were put out and the smell of burnt hair stopped filling the room, I splashed some water on my face, assured Sevon (the bartender) that I was ok, assured Conan and Siobhan (who witnessed the whole ordeal) that I was fine (which was met with a resounding, “Your face was on FIRE!!!!” and heads shaking in disbelief), and continued to party on for another hour. Obviously, I had a tremendous amount of adrenalin pumping through my system at the time because I stayed remarkably calm through it all. I finally went back to the hostel where Siobhan took excellent care of me and fixed me up (thank goodness she works in a hospital – I think the Universe paired us up as tour buddies for a reason). I was very lucky – I only had a couple of burn patches on my face, some blisters on my nose and throat, singed eyelashes, and some burnt eyebrows and hairline – it could have been a lot worse. But I learnt my lesson: alcohol + fire = BAD IDEA!

+ Special moment/highlight: Ahhh, setting my face on fire is pretty hard to beat….

Got awarded the ‘Tool of the Day’ vest for setting my face on fire…I debated the honour.

Budapest, Hungary

Ok, I have to admit something to you all: I didn’t actually care about going to Budapest, or Hungary for that matter. It was not a city I had ever given much thought about – even the books I had read about the place hadn’t really inspired me very much. I just assumed this would be the stop on the trip where I would finally just do my laundry and nothing else – how wrong I was…

Looking out over the city of Budapest

I will eat some humble pie now (please pass the whipped cream) and tell you all something very important: Budapest is FREAKING AMAZING!!! This city was the golden gem, the dark horse, the surprise you never saw coming and believe me, I can’t wait to go back for more. I can’t quite put my finger on what makes it so cool, but I think that’s what makes it so cool…It. Just. Is. You want architecture and history? You got it. You want markets and trendy shopping? Tick, tick. You want amazing cafes, awesome (massive!) meals, great beer, fantastic nightlife, a spacious double room in the best hostel in Europe…all at rock-bottom prices? Then this is the place for you!


My favourite day in Budapest was spent on a little date with Siobhan and my tour bros, Conan and Andrew. The four of us enjoyed amazing coffee at cafes, awesome shopping, an amazing Hungarian lunch in the market hall, sharing giant Hungarian donuts the size of my head, and lots of laughing together. That night we headed out to an all-you-can-eat-and-drink (!) buffet restaurant which cost only twenty Euro each (told you it was cheap), followed by a night of dancing and drinking in a few random outdoor pubs found in little side streets just down from our amazing hostel. Seriously, take me back there…pronto!

Budapest market place = epic!!!

+ Special moment/highlight: Spending a lazy afternoon with my darling tour bro, Conan, filled with laughter and meaningful conversation while drinking beers at a sidewalk pub together. Oh, and Siobhan knows what the other highlight was, but she’s not talking…(wink)

Dinner and drinks with my tour besties and family: Conan, Andrew and Siobhan xoxo

Krakow, Poland

Hmmm, what can one say about Poland? It is very cheap (one Polish Zloty is worth about 28 Australian cents at the moment) and full of history, but for me, I only went there so that I could go to Auschwitz and pay my respects at the former Nazi concentration camp. I won’t go more into my Auschwitz experience here, as I’ve already done so earlier, but visiting Krakow after such an emotional and distressing experience was a nice way to lift my spirits a bit.


The town itself is pretty standard, and Siobhan, Conan, Andrew and I pretty much just chilled out in restaurants eating Polish cuisine, wandered the streets, and stopped for coffee in an excellent coffee house just off the main area. There was a random little adventure to McDonalds later that evening (note: ordering a cheeseburger meal in Poland when you don’t speak the language is surprisingly difficult), followed by some shady shenanigans in a giant Polish supermarket/warehouse where the language barrier and difficult currency conversion really became an issue…(sorry, I’m sworn to secrecy on that one!)

+ Special moment/highlight: Besides visiting Auschwitz? Movie night in our dorm (we shared with the boys) to cheer ourselves up after a tiring and emotional day– chocolate, chips and Revenge.

Krakow main square

Prague, Czech Republic

Oh. My. God. Prague…amazing. ‘Nuff said.

Ok, so there’s more to it than that, but seriously, that is how good Prague is – there aren’t enough words to describe its coolness. Even though it is not as cheap as everyone makes it out to be (don’t be fooled, it can be pricey), there are some awesome bonuses – like, the fact that it is cheaper to buy beer (which happens to be the best Pilsner in the world) than it is to buy water…true story. The architecture is breathtaking, the food is delicious, the markets are cool, the shopping is great, the streets are so pretty, the history is interesting, and the people are lovely. But the nightlife….oh, the nightlife!

The Prague Astronomical Clock

What do you get when you mix cheap drinks + dancing on a pole on a bar tabletop + awesome underground pubs with free shots + a five storey nightclub, complete with ice bar? The best night of my life ever, that’s what! Throw in great music, lots of drinks (did I mention the cheap drinks?!?), and a very handsome British stockbroker named George who (literally) swept me off my feet on the dance floor, and there you have it – I was in heaven! I’m not usually the type of person who goes out on benders (I’m too much of a control freak for that), but this trip taught me to let go, embrace every opportunity and just have some irresponsible, guilt-free fun once in awhile – and so I did! Let’s just say that when I climbed into bed at 5am, I was a very happy lady – I haven’t partied that hard in a loooong time! Big love to you, Prague – you’ll be in my heart (and liver!) forever…

Prague’s Old Town

+ Special moment/highlight: Dancing my butt off on a light-up disco dance floor on the third level of the nightclub, singing “I Will Survive” at the top of my lungs with my best tour mates…and being swept off my feet , spun around, and receiving one of the best kisses of my life from a handsome British stockbroker!

Berry goodness from the markets with Siobhan

Berlin, Germany – Part 2.0

Same country. Completely different city/culture/experience.

Started the day with a quick stop in Dresden (beautiful city, by the way – you’d never know it was destroyed in WW2). Berlin is an amazing, eclectic, interesting melting pot of diversity that embraces and celebrates individuality. This seems interesting when considering the fact that this city was not so long ago divided in half by a giant concrete wall, separating – and segregating - people and families. Maybe that’s why Berlin is as cool as it is now – trying to make up for the past? I don’t know. Either way, it is a freaking cool city. So much history, so many touching memorials, and lots of amazing people to talk to.

Playing cute and posing like a boss in Dresden, Germany

This was another city where I chose to go my own way and leave the tour for the day so I could spend some quality independent traveller time with myself – and I’m so glad I did. I met some amazing locals who gave me some amazing perspectives about the city’s history; I indulged in several coffees, stopping at cafes along my journey to people-watch and absorb the energy of the city; I paid my respects at the Holocaust Memorial; I sampled local cuisine at my own pace; walked along the remnants of the Berlin Wall; and finished up at Checkpoint Charlie, where I met up with my mate Andrew and together we tackled the impossible train system of Berlin.

That night we went on a pub-crawl through the city, followed by a drunken train ride back to a nightclub across from our hostel (cleverly planned so that we could literally crawl back to our rooms at the end). I won’t go into the details of that night (they are a bit blurry, I’ll admit), but needless to say it was another epic and rowdy night filled with shenanigans and laughter…I only got 1.5 hours sleep that night, so that is a clear indicator of the fun that was had on my behalf (once again, big props go out to Siobhan for being the world’s best roomie!)

+ Special moment/highlight: Spending the day on my own in Berlin and coming to the realisation that, just like the city, I’m a fierce individual and different to others. I will never be the kind of girl who always says the right thing; wears impeccable makeup like an Estee Lauder model; who can pull off ballet flats, a cardigan, and pearls; and be the darling everyone loves and every boy wants to be with. I’m more of a Havaianas/skinny jeans/black t-shirt/glasses girl who suffers from a severe case of foot-in-mouth disease, is one of the lads, swears too much, and is ridiculously straightforward. I will never be like everyone else and instead of beating myself up about it, I should just own it, be proud of myself, and rock out the way I was made to – YEAH!(cue waving of pom-poms, loud cheering, high-fives in my head)

Part of the Berlin Wall…

Amsterdam, Netherlands

What a city to end my adventure in! Amsterdam has it all: history, culture, shopping, architecture, amazing food, great nightlife, the friendliest people on the continent, a thriving sex industry, and enough legal dope to make any stoner think they’ve died and gone to heaven. Amsterdam is also the gay capital of Europe and was the first place to legalise same-sex marriage (pay attention, Australia – you could learn something here!) The beautiful canals, the endless parade of bicycles, the crooked houses, the fantastic cafes (not to be confused with coffeehouses, which serve somethingcompletely different) – Amsterdam is simply awesome. In fact, I loved it so much that if I had to move to any city in Europe, it would be here (I’m serious – I’ll be looking into teaching positions in Amsterdam schools when I graduate next year). I love how, like Berlin, Amsterdam is so open and welcoming of individuality – I just think that Amsterdam wears its craziness and openness on the outside a bit more…

Amsterdam love!!!

Amsterdam was my big ‘goodbye’ to Europe, so I indulged in everything – pancakes, hot chips with mayonnaise (its delicious, don’t knock it till you try it), coffee, omelets, poffertjes, tea, chocolate, cheese, the works! Siobhan and I spent our last day/night together going from café to café, sampling everything on offer, and laughing and reminiscing about our trip (naaaww, gotta love bonding with travel buddies!). We saw Anne Frank’s house, walked through the Red Light district, saw a sex show (not really impressive, to be honest – I grew up on the Gold Coast, after all), got caught in the rain, shopped, ate, ate some more, stayed up late laughing, took a canal cruise with the rest of our tour group, and then partied and danced the night away in a nightclub…all in all, it was a great send off to a fantastic trip!

Breakfast in the coolest cafe ever! Best antidote to the damage caused by the Amsterdamage…

+ Special moment/highlight: Spending quality time with Siobhan and my friends on our last day together and dancing (and giggling!) the night away…

Giggles and shenanigans on our last night together as tour sisters…love you, Shibby!

My final musings…

Although I wasn’t fazed to leave some people at the end of the tour (in fact, I was kinda glad to see the back of some of them – that’s what 24 days of being crammed on a bus with so many different personalities will do to you!), I found I was genuinely sad to say goodbye to people who had, quite accidently, become my closest friends. I embarked on this trip with the mantra of “It’s me against the world” and an I-don’t-need-to-make-friends-this-is-all-about-me attitude. So it came as a shock when I realised that I had indeed made friends and would miss them very much. As my dear (and shockingly observant) friend Conan remarked to me in Budapest, “When I look at you, I see someone who has had some walls pulled down lately”. How right he was!

Saying goodbye to the people who had played an active part in making my dreams come true, who had witnessed or participated in helping me cross milestones off my list, who had supported me and cheered me on at every juncture of my adventure – those were the ones I struggled to farewell and I even found myself holding back a tear or two. I know I have made some amazing friends along this journey and I would like to take this opportunity to publicly thank them for being a part of my adventure and for all their kindness and support. An especially huge thank you and shout-out goes to Siobhan, Lisa, Conan, Andrew, Valentina, Paige, Katie, Chris, Tim, Charli, Nays, Marti, and Colin – I give you all the deepest gratitude from the bottom of my heart for being a huge part of my journey and for all your continued support and encouragement along the way. Without you, my journey would not have been as epic or meaningful – you truly put the sunshine into my tour life! Big hugs and kisses to you all x

To the other random buddies I made along the way (outside of my tour) – Denille, Mel, Robert, Joel, Dana, Manzil – thank you all for being such cool people and for adding lots of laughter and good times to my travels. You are all legends, and it was a true pleasure to meet you all and spend time with you in different cities. Travel safe, and never stop being the amazing individuals you all are.

To every person in every country that I kissed (and that would be all of them!), thank you for playing a part in helping me achieve another of my goals – No.12 – Kiss a different person in every country I visit. I have not yet finished this milestone (I still have the USA and Canada to cross off), but all of your efforts and willingness to participate in my little experiment is greatly appreciated and will be forever cherished. You were all superb!

Finally, I’d like to thank myself for having the guts to make this journey alone and not succumbing to the ever-present fear that used to occupy my life. I can safely and confidently say that this experience has changed me for the better forever, and that fear is no longer a companion in my life. I am a strong, confident, proud, brave and capable woman who knows that she can handle absolutely anything that may come, no matter what. It is true what people say – “Travel is the only thing you will ever buy that makes you richer”. My world has now opened up exponentially, and I know with a certainty that goes down deep into my bones that I will continue to travel, explore and have adventures for the rest of my life. This is only the beginning…

All my love and joy, forever xoxox


Shanny travelled on Topdeck’s 24 day Spirit of Europe. Join us on one of our epic European adventures.

Topdeck Old School Style

Friday, October 7th, 2011

by Kara Segedin

In 1984, Germany was divided between East and West.

Girls Just Want To Have Fun and I Just Called to Say I Love You were two of the best selling singles.

The first Apple computer went on sale.

And my aunty spent five weeks travelling around Europe on a Topdeck trip.

Things were a little different in those days. Men had impressive moustaches, passengers slept, cooked and cleaned on the bus and trips operated on a flexible itinerary.

Let the adventures begin!

Let the adventures begin!

Despite the changes in today’s trips the spirit of the Topdeck adventure remains the same.

As all good kiwis did (and still do) my aunt Maria was busy working at a pub in Paddington, London.

Once she had settled in and saved up a bit of money she decided to take time out and do a tour of Europe.

“After some research I decided that the Topdeck tour called ‘Central Europe 5 Weeks’ was the one for me. “

Maria thought the idea of travelling around on a bus was fun and knew she would meet like minded people on the trip as well.

Back in 1984 the trip cost £497 which included £85 pounds.

“It was a great itinerary and good value for money,” she says.

Early one September morning the group met at the Enterprise in Earls Court to climb aboard the bus that would be their home for the next 5 weeks - called Platt.

Back then Topdeck travelled on double-decker buses. The lower deck was fitted out with tables, seats, a cooker and sink while the ‘top deck’ had bunks and space for luggage.

“Whisper was our driver (named for his soft voice and quiet nature). He was a safe and reliable driver. The tour leader was an experienced and confident guide.”

While on today’s trips expert Topdeck Chefs rustle up tasty local cuisine, in 1984 everyone had to take a turn at cooking and housekeeping.

Maria buy supplies for her turn as trip cook.

Maria buy supplies for her turn as trip cook.

“This meant we had to go shopping in foreign cities and turn out a meal from the bus’s cooker. That was a fun challenge all by itself!”

As with today’s trips the majority of travellers were Aussies and Kiwis, with a couple of South Africans on board as well.

“I enjoyed the team spirit of the trip - it is still one of the best times of my life.”

The trip went through France, Spain, Italy, Austria, Germany and the Netherlands before returning to London.

“The highlight for me was Florence. I adored it, still do.”

Like today’s trips that pass through Germany in September, Maria’s trip visited Beerfest in Munich.

“It was awesome – the biggest event I have ever been to – cannot believe how many people can get drunk in one place at the same time.”

The hyjinx haven't changed, but the facial hair certainly has!

The hyjinx haven't changed, but the facial hair has! Oh, and you could smoke on the bus!

Maria says the bus was a refuge for anyone who was sick or tired or simply too lazy to go anywhere

“We felt safe leaving our belongings on the bus too which was a bonus. No dragging suitcases around Europe, our hotel came with us!”

“I always tell people to go on a Topdeck trip as they are guaranteed to have a good time.”


Follow the next generation of Topdeck travellers as the Tadpoles crew make their way from London to Sydney in true old school style!

An old school brochure from 1984

An old school brochure from 1984

Oktoberfest - the best festival in the world?

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

by Kara Segedin

One of the largest and best known festivals in the world, Oktoberfest, is nearly upon us.

Topdeck designer Brett shared some of his tips, insights and memories (well, what he could remember) of Munich’s Beerfest.

“I first went in 2006 and then again in 2009,” says Brett.

“The experience was amazing - it was a real party atmosphere.”

The beer tents close around 10-11pm and he says everyone goes back to their campsites or hostels and keeps on partying.

The 16–18 day festival runs from late September with more than 5 million people attending every year and almost 7 million litres of beer is served.

Known as the largest Volksfest (People’s Fair) in the world, Oktoberfest has been held in Munich since 1810.

The festival is right in the heart of the city on a huge ground with rides, food stands and of course, beer.

“The majority of the time is spent in the beer halls because that’s where you get the unique experience,” says Brett.

The Beer Halls at Oktoberfest

There are about a dozen beer tents ranging in size some holding thousands of people.

Only locally brewed, Bavarian beers are allowed to be served at Oktoberfest. Each tent serves one brand of beer, sometimes with variations such as a lager or weissbier.

Brett first visited the Löwenbräu and then the Hofbräu. Hofbräu is possibly the most famous beer hall and is open all year round.

Brett says the best beer he sampled at Oktoberfest was made by a small brewery called Spaten.

“It was just so crisp, it was a really good beer, and it was a much smaller tent and the majority of the patrons were locals and I think that’s where you get the better experience from”

Inside the halls are lined with picnic-type tables with a stage in the centre where bands play music all day long.

“On the hour they’ll play a song to cheers everyone called Prost,” he says.

Brett recommends dressing for all sorts of weather. It can get ridiculous cold outside the tent, but once inside the temperature rises.

The local residents really get behind the event and many Germans (and tourists) get dressed up in traditional outfits.

Brett & a friendly local Bavarian

“The Bavarian women! The outfits! The Dirndl is absolutely incredible. It is one of the sexiest traditional outfits in Europe.”

Like a restaurant, each girl has her own serving section and they come around taking drinks orders.

“You don’t get served unless you are sitting at a table - they are quite strict with that, the beer wenches”

Besides the beer, food is a big thing at Oktoberfest.

A mix of hot meals and snacks, a number of traditional German and Bavarian delicacies are on offer including Würstl (sausages), Brezn (Pretzel), Knödel (potato or bread dumplings), Kasspatzn (cheese noodles), Reiberdatschi (potato pancakes) and, of course, Sauerkraut or Blaukraut (red cabbage).

“The chickens are absolutely sensational, it’s a bit expensive, but it’s some of the best chicken I’ve ever had,” says Brett.

Towards the afternoon and early evening local Germans start arriving at the festival from work.

“That’s one of the best things about Oktoberfest,” says Brett. “ It’s not just drinking the beer, but because you’re on communal tables your sitting with, Americans, Germans, French, anyone and everyone, and it’s such a friendly atmosphere, you end up talking to the rest of the table and cheering and dancing around with them.”

“I’ve done a few festivals before and this is the one I’d keep going back to.”


  • The tents open between 9-10am so get there early to get a seat.
  • Try smaller tents and go in the evening to mix with locals.
  • Eat a lot of local food.
  • Wear layers – outside it can get very cold while the tents get warm.
  • Have fun!

Don’t miss out on Oktoberfest 2011! We have a few spaces left so book now

Seven Ways to Spend Your Summer

Friday, July 15th, 2011

By Kara Segedin

Moping around the office on dismal grey London day (isn’t it supposed to be summer already?) I was wishing for some ruby slippers so I could click my heels together and say ‘I wish I was on the Med, I wish I was on the Med!”

A girl can dream, can’t she?

So I settled for the next best thing - picking the brains of Topdeck’s travel experts for some daydream inspiration!

So here goes - the London Topdeck Team’s ‘7 Suggestions for Summer’….

Sailing in Croatia

Eat, swim, tan, sleep, party and repeat.

Sign up for the ‘Pomalo’ way of life - the Dalmatian philosophy of relax, take your time and have fun. Why hurry, there’s no rush!

Where else in the world can you sit around drinking cup after cup of coffee for hours on end, simply watching the day stroll by.

Fantastic fresh food can be found all along the coast – pizza and seafood to Germanic meals and ice cream!

The best way to take in all the Adriatic has to offer is aboard a sail boat! Visit all the top island destinations including Korcula, Hvar and Mljet as well as the coastal cities of Split and Dubrovnik.

Eat, drink and sunbath until the heat gets the better of you. Finish by rolling into the clear blue waters then dry off and start all over again!

Eat Your Way Through Italy

From gelato in Venice, pizza in Rome, steak in Florence and al fresco dining and wine tasting in Tuscany, Italy is a foodie’s paradise. You’ll be pressed to find a better setting for your meals!

Originally from Naples, the world famous pizza is served throughout the country. Your mission is to find the best!

Pizza in Venice

Adrenalin in Austria

Try sky-diving, mountain biking or white-water rafting in one of the Europe’s most beautiful settings.

Austria’s famous Tyrol region has adventure activities abound.

For the slightly less adventurous hire a mountain bike and explore at your own pace.

Shot Vodka in Russia

Toast the Tsars and Commissars from St. Petersburg to Moscow. It’s your chance to get behind the Iron Curtain - checkout Red Square, St Basil’s Cathedral and the Kremlin. Oh, and make sure you sample the local vodka & caviar!

Star-spotting in the French Riviera

The Côte d’Azur is dripping with glitz and glamour. Yachts, casinos and super cars - live like the rich and famous on the Mediterranean.

The Jolie-Pitts, Johnny Depp, Bono & Elton John are just some of the A-List stars who have holiday homes in this coastal resort.

Get lazy on the beach and stroll the promenades by day then try your luck at the casinos of Monaco at night!

Don Your Lederhosen for Oktoberfest

Steins, pretzels and pork knuckles. Some 6 million litres of beer will be served during the celebrations in 16 beer tents over a 103 acre site. Get your fill at Europe’s biggest festival!

Dating back to 1810, Oktoberfest was first held to celebrate the wedding of Prince Ludwig to Princess Therese. All of Munich was invited to festivities held on fields in front of the city gates called the Theresienwiese – known locally as ‘Wies’n’.

Besides the beer and Bavarian treats, there is a fairground and state-of-the-art rides and roller coasters.

Party Day and Night in Mykonos

The most cosmopolitan of the Greek Islands, Mykonos is a 24 hour party-people paradise! Groove to beach beats with the beautiful people on this amazing island.

Also, there’s plenty of relaxing, eating and shopping to be done when you need to recharge your batteries.

Get in the mood with a romantic sunset of the windmills of ‘little Venice’ or head out to the nearby island of Delos – the birthplace of the sun god Apollo.

Winter in Europe

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

by Jennifer Palframan

As the days start to shorten, winter coats begin to flock into the shops and umbrellas begin to make their unwelcome comeback, the dream of a summer holiday frolicking in the sunshine of Europe’s favourite cities may be slowly starting to disappear…

But instead of embracing the seasonal sadness that overwhelms so many or kicking yourself for not booking your summer getaway sooner - look at winter as a frosted window of opportunity to see Europe as you have never seen it before!


Here are some city highlights to help inspire you on an ever-so-cool expedition abroad this winter!


Why not get swept up in the charm of Paris, enjoy a café au lait in a typical French café or mosey through Montmartre up to the snowy Sacré Cœur. The cool winter setting is ideal for checking out the world’s most famous museums. Wander around Le Louvre, Musée dOrsay or le Pompidou Centre and get your ultimate culture fix without the massive queues!


The festive season in Paris is not to be missed. Check out the window displays at the famed Les Galeries Lafayette, explore the Christmas markets on the Champs-Élysées or be amazed by the glow of the glistening Eiffel Tower. 


Prague in winter is a pure fairytale and even more magical than usual. Take a stroll across famous Charles Bridge and wander through the snow-covered Hradcany (castle district) toward the imposing St Vitus Cathedral. Stop in at local bar and indulge in the some traditional Absinthe or nestle into a wool covered chair (under a heater!) and relax in a restaurant along the Vltava River. Of course a trip to Prague is not complete without a visit to the Astronomical Clock located in the Old Town Square.

Salzburg is your ultimate winter destination as well as being home to Mozart and the setting of the Sound of Music.  Check out the interesting Baroque architecture of the Old Town or the magical Mirabell Gardens that are most beautiful when sprinkled in snow. And for all the adrenaline junkies, there is the opportunity to hit the slopes on an Alpine adventure!


Berlin is the capital of cool and even more so during winter. Visit the city’s most amazing monuments and sights before warming yourself up with a classic pub crawl through this ultra-alternative city.


Or if you feel like getting in the festive spirit, head to Berlin’s Alexanderplatz and soak up the atmosphere of the Christmas markets. Enjoy a warm glass of spicy mulled wine, tuck into a traditional weisswurst or head to the centre of the decorated square for a spin around the ice skating rink.

Snow fights, mulled wine, cosy cafés, villages carpeted in snow, festive markets, minimal crowds, picturesque cityscapes. What is not to love! Be inspired to see Europe this winter!

For full details about Topdeck winter trips click HERE.