24 days to go and preparations are well on their way.
9 Months ago on 18 Sept 2018, the first step was made for this bucket-list adventure...
Flights booked: 18 Sept 2018
Eurail ticket booked: 22 Nov 2018
Accommodation booked: Feb 2019
UK Visas : March 2019
Train Reservation booked: April 2019
Schengen Visas (with drama): April 2019
Tours & Priority Passes booked: May 2019
And numerous other activities - Luggage, clothing, shoes, data roaming and housesitters, to name a few...
2 Months of getting up at 05:00 to walk our 100km to be ready... (only Mom and Dad)
And here we are... leaving for the airport in an hour
(What a team! Total combined luggage weight less than 36kg for 4 people + a daypack person... you guys rock ✊🏼)
Looks like we are arriving in the UK with some hefty rain... time to test out rain coats 🤣
Question is will there be cricket at Edgebaston on wednesday 🤔
So excited for the trip!!
So excited for this trip!!
All packed and ready to go!
So excited for the trip✈️🎉
Looking good Loobies!! Enjoy a well planned trip!
Much nicer to have your family in the lounge than typing away on your laptop!!
Chilling in the Baobab Lounge. Trying out the all-important selfie stick.
Hoped for the new business class layout, but hey.... still an awesome way to fly
The view from the other side of passport control. Having an EU passport speeds up the process, but then it’s hurry up and wait for the poor ZAR passport holders!
On the shuttle from Terminal 1 to Terminal 2 at Frankfurt International Airport.
Addison enjoying the fare at the Japanese Airline lounge at Frankfurt Airport.
We had a shower and met Mary, the most wonderful Ghanaian lady with whom Chris exchanged views on Ghanaian food.
We started the last leg to London.
Chris and Addi enjoying the breakfast on British Airways to London City Centre Airport
We ubered in style from London City Centre Airport to the Waldorf Hilton, which will be our home for the next 3 nights.
The first soldier falls...
Old telephone booths have been turned into WiFi spots. No city can survive without adapting to the ever-changing needs of its populace.
We navigated the underground thanks to Chris and Citymapper. Graydon and Addi were thrilled with their first ride on the underground.
Fish and Chips outside the Tower of London. It cost each of us 50p to go to the loo!
Our Yeoman tour guide at the Tower if London - Andy Merriman (I promise- that’s his actual name!). Beefeaters are part of Her Majesty ‘s commemorative guard, and are actually part of the British Armed Forces. In order to qualify to apply for becoming a Yeoman, a soldier must serve for at least 22 years and must have been awarded the Silver Medal for Service. More people have been to space than have qualified to be Yeomen!
We braved a rainy London to enjoy the Tower.
The Yeomen actually live on Tower Green. The blue door on the left is the doctor’s house. And if his services don’t work, the vicar lives next door!
The view of London Bridge from the Tower of London.
Gold weather vanes on each of the four \240towers of the White Tower. We were told that the Tower is as much a palace as Buckingham Palace is - it has the same status as far as the Queen is concerned.
The White Tower
Addi was amazed by an ornate canon next to the White Tower
The only remaining timber frame Tudor-style house in London. All other houses in this style were burnt to the ground in the great London Fire. The Queen’s representative lives here.
A really terrible bit of modern art designed to be a monument to the place where ten people were executed at the Tower throughout history.
Two members of the Queen’s Guard guard the Crown Jewels. \240Andy, the Yeoman guide, was quite vociferous in telling us to treat these soldiers with the respect they deserve.
The queues to see the Crown Jewels were long and winding, but well worth the wait. We weren’t allowed to take photos of the Crown Jewels, but the door to the room in which they are displayed was as thick as two of Graydon!
London was wet!
The only windows to the outside world in the tower where the prisoners were kept.
The junior members of our party were starting to fade, but were game to learn and see as much as they could.
Spiral staircase up to one of the towers.
Examples of graffiti left by prisoners in one of the Towers. Contrary to popular belief, graffiti is not a new thing! This one was inscribed in the wall in 1570!
More spiral staircases and mysterious doorways.
Sir Walter Raleigh’s herb and vegetable garden, which he used to mix medicines and tonics.
The mechanism for lifting the portcullis
Spiral staircases abound!
Even the light fittings have character!
The tunnel from Traitors Gate to the inside courtyard of the Tower.
Some random people dressed for the occasion.
Three candidates for Yeomen Warders.
The inner wall of the Tower is 28ft High. The outer wall is 24ft thick in some places.
Traitors Gate. King Edward didn’t want to walk in the streets with the peasants, and so he built a direct access from the Thames to the Tower to enable his boat to pull right up to the stairs!
Graydon and Addi and London Bridge.
Taking a break with the Tower of London behind us and the Thames in front of us.
London is a city of contradictions that somehow blend together cohesively. On the left, London Bridge. On the right, the Shard. The old and the new manage to coexist in perfect harmony.
Another example of old and new: the Gherkin framed by the battlements of the Tower.
The most beautiful lavender at the base of the Tower of London. The two white turrets are the entrance to the inner part of the Tower, and were used to great effect when condemned men and women were walked through them and up to the public execution site.
The Waldorf Hilton. Undergoing hectic renovations to its 111 year old facade.
Tower of London - first stop after dropping bags at Hotel
Graydon thinks the underground is the best thing since slice bread...
Addison is like a sponge... detail photos of everything...
London is wet
Whiting of \240wic
We ended a very full first day with dinner at the Giraffe in Victoria. Although we were probably the only people who have probably actually seen a giraffe.
And then on to see Wicked at the Apollo Victoria Theatre in Victoria. It’s the story of the Wizard of Oz from the point of view of the Wicked Witch of the West. It was spectacular! It’s been running since 2006 \240and is still packing the house. And getting standing ovations!
So will we have to support New Zealand...
Or South Africa!!!
On our way to Birmingham... How bloody expensive £260 for return train tickets!!! What!!! Some airplane tickets are cheaper
Below: The closes a South African has been to holding the World Cup Trophy...
After all the forecasts for rain today... I just had to go and buy sunscreen 😳
At least we saw Amla teaching 8000 runs - Respect
Birmingham looks like a interesting city - again the mix of old and new... What a funky Train Station
21:30 - Daylight, but the the long day that started at 06:00 has caught up...
The girls started with the breakfast spread at the hotel this morning. We had a bit of a sleep-in after the boys left for Birmingham to watch the cricket.
Early morning stroll through Coventry Gardens on our way to the tube station. The shops only open at 10:00!
First destination for the day: Harrods. Addi told me she was completely overwhelmed by the store. She saw a dress she liked for £499!
A breather at the Harrods Café.
And then onto our tour bus to take us to Warner Bros Studios to see the making of Harry Potter.
Addi used the two hour drive to the studio wisely.
And the tour at Warner Bros Studios begins...
The Ukrainian Underbelly that lives in Gringotts.
The door under the stairs
Welcome to Hogwarts!
The Great Hall ready for a feast
The drinks table at the Crystal Ball.
A model of the ceiling of the Great Hall.
Throughout our tour, the most noteworthy thing was the attention to the absolute miniscule detail. Nothing was accidental.
Every oil painting was actually painted in oils. No computer generated pictures. This is the marble staircase - the one that kept moving. They made one life sized one and then used a green screen to capture its movement.
The taps in the prefects bathroom
Gryffindor Boys Dormitory
Every single wand in the movie is depicted on this wheel. Every wand is different and symbolic of who it belongs to. Hermione’s wand, for instance, is inscribed with Knowledge Ivy - the more she learns, the higher up the wand the Ivy goes. But it will never reach the tip because she will never stop learning.
Graydon touched the Cricket World Cup. Addi touched the Triwizard Cup.
The attention to detail was especially obvious in Dumbledore’s office.
Every single potion bottle was labelled.
The Potions classroom even had a self-stirring cauldron!
The magical trophies had lids that kept opening and closing.
We had some fun with green screen technology. Addi even flew a broom!
The meeting at Malfoy Mansion
Some examples of buildings used in the movies
The entrance to the Forbidden Forest. The trees were handmade - no green screen tech here either!
Addi on her way to the Hogwarts Express on Platform 9 3/4.
The Hogwarts Express. There was a compartment for each of the 7 movies. Addi observed that they got messier as they got older!
He who shall not be named...
Even Medusa put in an appearance!
The Goblin Gallery.
Continuation Journals. Each character has a special book dedicated to how he/she looks, what he/she wore, hairstyles, jewellery. Nothing is left to memory.
The entrance to Gringotts Bank. Wait for it...
The Invisibility Cloak.
Again, the attention to detail. Even down to Gringotts Bank deposit slips!
The entrance to the vault...
... and what lies beneath.
The door to vault 713 - where the Philosophers Stone was kept.
And the locks actually worked!
The treasure vault.
What was left of Gringotts after the break-in by Bellatrix.
The special effects were incredible.
The behind-the-scenes artistic and technical creativity is staggering.
Every set was first built to scale out of wood. This is one of Hogwarts.
The Owlry even had miniature owl models!
And the piece de resistance - a complete model of Hogwarts. It took 42 days to build. Every brick, crack and crevice has been included.
Addi poses in front of the model of Hogwarts just to illustrate how huge it is!
An epic day in London started at Trafalgar Square. Unfortunately the Square was cordoned off to prepare for a concert that will take place on Sunday. All of the 34 theatres in London will be putting on extracts from the plays, musicals, ballet currently showing. And it’s free to the public.
Spot the South African flag...
Leicester Square. The famous Odeon Cinema is behind Chris and the kids. This is where the London premieres of most movies take place.
The statue of William Shakespeare in the middle of the Square.
No truer words...
At 8am, London is still sleeping.
China Town by day.
East meets West
At the foot of the statue of Eros, Piccadilly Circus.
No matter where we go, there’s cricket...
Old meets new on Piccadilly Circus.
The architecture along Piccadilly is incredible.
Coffee at a Turkish Coffee House
Green Park is ... well ... green.
An appropriate quote, considering we would be spending some of the day at the Churchill War Rooms.
Constitution Road, which leads up to Buckingham Palace.
We arrived an hour before the changing of the Guard. And thank goodness that we did. The crowds were unbelievable. A cabbie told us later that the full changing of the Guard takes place every other day. We were very lucky that we were there on a day where all the pomp and ceremony were present. The regiment involved in the changing of the Guard today was the Gherkins. Every three days a new regiment takes over (there are 5 regiments).
The Victoria Memorial opposite the main gates of Buckingham Palace.
The main gates of Buckingham Palace.
The famous balcony at Buckingham Palace
The prelude to the changing of the Guard
These are the crowds about 30 minutes before the changing of the Guard was due to begin.
And it begins. It takes about 45 minutes for the full ceremony.
Spot the Queen’s Guard...
The crowds during the changing of the Guard. It was crazy!
The Bobbies on horseback were really friendly, and the horses didn’t seem freaked out by the crowds and the noise.
A walk away from the Palace towards the government buildings on the other side of the Park took us through St James’ Park. Buckingham Palace on the one side...
And the Eye of London on the other side.
It’s no surprise that the island in the middle is called Duck Island!
The Guards at the gates of the Barracks at the end of St James’ Park. Even the horse is stoic!
With the race for the leadership of the Tory Party heating up, the security around 10 Downing Street was heavy. So this is the closest we got to the famous black door.
So we turned our attention to a former PM, and spent about 3 hours in the Churchill War Rooms. Every moment was incredible. The museum is truly one of the best ones I have even been through. Any fan of WW II history should come through here. And one of the ushers was a former South African - he spoke Afrikaans with great sentiment! He hasn’t been back since 1987. His first question: is it safe?
The commentary was very interesting throughout the tour.
We watched Darkest Hour before we came to London and that really helped put the various rooms into perspective. This is the actual War Room. The chair in the middle under the map is the actual chair Churchill sat in. In fact, nothing in the entire museum is fake (except the statues of the people) - everything is what was actually found after the War Rooms were opened up post WWII.
This sign was the only indication the people working and living in the War Rooms had of the weather outside. If bombs were raining down on the city above, the board put up read ‘Windy’.
This is the ‘Romper’ that Churchill made famous. Addi pointed out that Churchill made the Onesie fashionable!
The Enigma coding machine.
The closest we got to the door at 10 Downing street. This is the ACTUAL door Churchill walked through after being made PM! There is no key to the door and it can only be opened from the inside. The current door of 10 Downing Street is bomb proof - installed after the IRA bombed the door in 1991.
A cross section of the ceiling. The cinder block is 6 feet thick!
The PM’s dining room is quintessentially British and enabled Churchill and his wife, Clementine, to dine together even during the worst of the Blitz.
Clemmy Churchill’s bedroom. Compare this to Churchill’s bedroom a few photos on.
The Cabinet Room contained a map on one wall where someone had doodled a cartoon of Hitler.
This is a close up of the cartoon of Hitler.
Churchill’s kitchen. The pots and pans are the original ones used. Apparently his favourite dish was Beef Wellington.
The Plant Room. This is the room that regukatedcthe air and temperature inside the bunker.
Despite the fact that their very existence depended on electricity, the men and women who lived in the War Rooms were very electricity conscious!
Lunch at the War Rooms.
This was the telephone operator’s Room. Note the special gas mask in the desk. It was designed in such a way that the operator could still answer the phone while wearing it!
The original keys to every door in the bunker.
The original maps showing the movement of the various troops involved in the war...
Complete with key...
The forefather of the spreadsheet. Every day the spreadsheet would be updated to show the movement of troops, casualties, H1 and H2 bombs and the loss of life after every bomb strike.
The famous Map Room. The men who worked here were the elite and were called the Glamour Boys. In 1987, when a full inventory of the War Rooms was done, they discovered sugar cubes that had been stashed in a drawer. You can see them on the left side of the desk at the front of this photo.
We could clearly see the pin pricks on the maps as tacks were moved as troops moved.
Churchill’s bedroom. He only took his daily afternoon naps here, and only slept three nights in this bed. We learnt that even through the worst of the war, he took two baths a day!
Back on the road, we made our way to Westminster Abbey, but could unfortunately not get in.
I promise that Big Ben is in there!!! The Elizabeth Tower is undergoing extensive construction which will be finished by 2021. Until then, the bell does not toll and only 1 face of the clock is visible.
Crossing the Thames, with the iconic Houses of Parliament in the background.
In true London style, it got cold and wet while we were waiting for our turn on the London Eye.
The London Eye is a remarkable engineering feat! The round trip took about 30 minutes and the views were spectacular!
Back on terra firma, we crossed back over the Thames over the Golden Jubilee Bridge.
And the through a shopping center called The Arches. It was eerie!
Our first ride in a Black Cab. The driver was incredibly knowledgeable and enthusiast about sharing his knowledge. He had a lot to say about the recent visit of a certain Head of State, mostly from a how-it-affected-the-traffic perspective than an actual political one.
Dinner in China Town. We had Peking Duck and DimSum.
And at Addi’s request, drive a circular route past Harrods back to our hotel so she could see the famous Harrods lights. Our cabbie thought we were nuts!
And as an added bonus, we saw Buckingham Palace by night, minus the thousands of tourists!
Trafalgar Square - blocked off for a theatre show this weekend... so no sitting on the Lions 🦁
Leister Square with Shakespeare’ statue. Kids could not understand why we had to go here... until we went back this evening to have dinner... from a peaceful park at 08:00 to a mega explosion of people and activities at 20:00
Sneaky selfie 🤣
Chinatown... early morning
Walk through the Green Park - move 30m of the main streets and you are in this peace oasis
World war 2 - memorial - probably the newest monument in London
Paparazzi storking the Royal Family again...
Changing of the guard crowds were crazy!!! Loco - apparently we were lucky to see a full change of the guard - horses, bands...
Finally away from the massive crowds... crossing duck pond... walking through St James Park
Closes we could get to potentially Boris Johnson’s new residence - 10 Downing Street... way in the background
Churchill war room... cabinet room
Can’t imagine it was fun in these underground “bunker”
The Map Room - probably would be the modern day Business Intelligence Department
Graydon and his war hero...
FInally, photo in front of the original 10 Downing door... No Key and only opens from the inside...🤔 It was replace with a bomb proof door...
room where the generals met
One of the generals drew a picture of Hitler on the maps - Graffiti??
Zoom out of map with hitler graffiti
Inside of the map room
Cathedral no 1 for the trip... Westminster Abbey
On The Golden Jubilee Bridge with the Lond eye, parliament and “ Big Ben” under restoration until 2021 🤬 Luckily we knew about it
Finally, the M&M store - Absolutely crazy to have 4 floors shop celebrating a bop of chocolate covered in candy... back for the OCD people... M&M sorted by colour😳
M&M... the craze continue...
Addison discovering her true M&M colour...
Spot on!!! The machine got Addison as a Dark Pink... for being a True Friend...
Back in Chinatown for dum sim and Peking duck... Awesome meal...
As promised to Addison...we went to see Harrods lights...
Our last day in London started en route to Madame Tussaud’s. We are tubing like locals!
I was last at Madame Tussaud’s in 1999. It has become very interactive and we had a lot of fun Searching for Sherlock Holmes, a 4D Marvel movie and the Spirit of \240London cab ride through the history of London. We met movie stars, pop stars, world leaders, world thinkers, aliens, Jedi and many many more characters.
Addi meets Alfred Hitchcock.
And some famous athletes! Usain Bolt.
Lewis Hamilton. Who is shorter than Tom Cruise!
Graydon and Churchill. Sir Winston was a theme of this trip.
The one and only Madiba! It was interesting to watch tourists from every conceivable country, speaking every conceivable language, line up to take a pic with Tata. I felt very proud!
The Lubbes with Sir Isaac Newton and Sir Charles Dickins.
Because he was there!
Addi and will.i.am colabbing.
Waiting for the Search for Sherlock exhibit. What fun!!!
The original license for Madame Tussaud’s exhibition, and the first admission tickets.
A trip in a black can through the Spirit of London. The ride took us through the historical highs and lows of London - from the Black Plague to Queen Victoria, and everything between.
The one and only Nick Fury. And the Marvel heroes.
Addi and Graydon having some fun with the Proton blasters. What special effects make it look like.
And what real life looks like!
The Incredible Hulk is HUGE!!!
Nothing like love from a robot.
Warp speed in the Millenium Falcon with Cheubakka.
And the ever-present storm trooper
Atilla \240the Hun and Princess Leia.
The dark side vs the force, with the Emperor looking on.
An 11:00 am cocktail at the nearby Metropolitan Bar.
And no trip to London is complete without a visit to Hamley’s. Graydon loved the Fortnite Merch - as yet unavailable in SA, and Addi bought, of all things, a drone! We did not see that one coming!
Addi and Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak. Now you see me...
Now you don’t!
Hagrid out of LEGO.
BB-8 out of LEGO.
Back to the hotel via Carnaby. What a fun place!
St Pancras Station. Farewell London! We loved every moment! Now on to leg 2 of our European adventure: Amsterdam (via Brussels) in the Eurostar.
Traveling first class. There’s no other way to do this!
Arrived Brussels station. We had to run to catch the connection to Amsterdam because the train didn’t stop in the zones it was supposed to!
Welcome to Amsterdam! We walked out of the wrong side of the station and then needed to find a way through to the other side. Sounds simple, but when you need a public transport card to open the turnstiles, it’s not so simple! Eventually a friendly fellow pointed us in the right direction and in 7 minutes we were at our hotel. The smell of weed is unmistakable. Graydon whispered to me: ‘Mommy, I saw a guy smoking but it wasn’t a cigarette, so I deduced that it was weed!’ He was most surprised to learn that marijuana use is completely legal here, and has been for years!
Spuisstraat. The view to the right of our hotel.
It looks like a lamppost fell on two bicycles some time ago. The bikes have just been left there, and so has the lamppost!
Addi jumping for joy! This city is NOT straight! All the buildings seem to be leaning in one direction or another. It’s a hodgepodge of tall, thin buildings that rely on each other to keep them standing. This is not a city for OCD people!
Eating Italian in Amsterdam.
The view from our table. It’s 22:30 and it’s still light!
I ordered tagliatelle with truffle. This is what a R407 plate of pasta looks like! It was delicious!
The other end of Spuisstraat. I can only describe the city as photogenic. There’s something to photograph around every nook and cranny.
I’ve found that I love the early morning in every new city best. European cities are awake until very late at night, and are slow to wake in the mornings. Shops only open at 10:00 (or later), and we struggled to find places to have breakfast at 8:00! I couldn’t stop taking photos of the canal houses. Every one of them has its own characteristics. There’s a surprise everywhere you look. This is my second visit to Amsterdam and I liked it much better this time round. When the sun starts to set, however, the seediness of the city is palpable. I don’t like Amsterdam after dark.
Finally! Dutch pancakes for breakfast (the fact that they were made by Indians didn’t make them less delicious)
The Westerse Kerk.
Here Graydon and Addison pose next to a statue of Anne Frank. We could not get tickets to go inside Anne Frank House (even when we tried to book a month before our trip!).
The Royal Palace on Dam Square. It was originally built as the City Hall, but there was a big debate whether it should be larger and more impressive than the Niewe Kerk right next to it. The debate centered around whether Law is higher than Church, or vice versa.
The Niewe Kerk on Dam Square. It was built when the Dutch Reformed Church became the main religion in Holland and ousted Catholicism.
Some details on the Royal Palace.
Addison chasing bubbles on Dam Square.
The Royal Palace from the other side of Dam Square.
The entrance to the Amsterdam Museum. We spent some time learning about the history of Amsterdam - how it was reclaimed from the sea, how it became the capital of freedom in the 50s and 60s, and how it’s ongoing existence is dependent on the people who come from a multitude of nationalities across the world.
One the left of this picture is Johannesburg at 1600m above sea level. About half way to the right (next to the pyramid-looking structure) is Schipol airport, which is 3,9m below sea level.
I found this very funny. A hoist was invented by a local butcher to fish out various items that had fallen into the canals. The picture depicts what was recovered from the water by the butcher between 1870 and 1884. It was especially funny later in the day when we saw a man trying to get off his boat and fell into the canal!
The carpet in this gallery is made up of 180 squares - each one representing a different nationality living in Amsterdam.
The boys learning stuff!
This little car was known as a White Car. It was built in 1965 by a movement known as Provo. It’s an electric car! Unfortunately the movement to electric cars failed because the city didn’t make enough charging parking spots available for the cars. They are apparently enjoying a revival now and we saw many electrical cars plugged in all over the city.
The Royal Room in the Amsterdam Museum.
The Amsterdam Museum has a wing called the Kinder Weeshuis. It was an interactive exhibit that depicted life in the city orphanage. I reserve judgment on whether it was a terrible place or an oasis for desperate children.
Some scenes of Amsterdam when the tourists are out and about.
We did a canal tour on a boat that gave us a view if the city from the water.
This is the Homomonument - a monument to victims of gay and lesbian persecution.
This building is known as the Eye. It’s a cinema complex. It’s Fugly!
The black object at the top of this building is a swing!
A reproduction of the East India Company Ship called the Amsterdam.
This is the Amstel Hotel. It’s the most exclusive and expensive hotel in Amsterdam (and THAT’s saying something!). It’s where royalty and celebrities stay when they are in town.
Addi noticed that every single pole on every single bridge (of which there are 1700 in Amsterdam) has the XXX that is depicted on the Dutch Royal flag.
Check out the narrow little house between the two buildings! They are all over place and we wondered who lives there and how it came to be built.
The Koeppelkerk opposite our hotel.
The youth collapse exhausted - connected to WiFi!
Drinks at 22:00! We sat and watched people go about their business. It was so far the best evening we’ve had - chatting and laughing. And watching a guy fall into the canal!
I couldn’t resist these two little dogs staring out the window! Although we didn’t venture into the Red Light District (for obvious reasons), we did see some windows that offered the red light wares en route. That sparked a debate about the legalization of prostitution.
Early morning start, after pancakes in a small cafe run by Indians ( if India win... we are invited to a “free” celebration party)
Below is Anne Frank House- it was booked full when we were doing all our reservations... so we just walked passed it
Anne Frank cont...
Westerkerk tower -Rembrandt is buried in this church...
Kaas van die plaas... Hollandse kaas
Dam Square with the Palace and the Nuwe kerk on the right
After the boat cruise through the canals, we ended up eating “as much as you can sushi” close to the flower market... Graydon and Addison made sure we got value for money... we had to roll home (but not before we had to stop at a shoe store...)
Street view of sushi restaurant...
After a great afternoon/evening nap, we headed out for sundowners and tapas at 20:00... below is Graydon posing form our cafe seat (just before we witnessed a”Brit” falling into the water while anchoring their boat... Just awesome to sit and watch life... the kids are growing to quick and both have the most incredible sense of humour - fun traveling with them
On our way from the train station to our hotel, we flew past the Victory Column (known to locals as Golden Lizzie) which was erected to commemorate victory in the Franco Prussian War.
We took a 6 hour tran it was so tryring but we had fun
Another early morning stroll through the streets of Amsterdam.
Thousands of bicycles are parked all over city. Crossing a street is complicated! You have to look out for cars, pedestrians, trams and bicycles. Luckily none of us were knocked over, but it was a close thing!
More skew, beautiful canal houses.
Dam Square before Amsterdam is awake and after a hard night of partying!
Breakfast this morning was coffee and pastries from the corner bakery.
Graydon ordered a Dutch pancake with powdered sugar and Nutella.
Breakfast on Dam Square.
You can’t leave Holland without a picture in a clog!
We spent a large part of the morning in Ripleys Believe it or Not. It was yet another great museum experience with so much to do and experience. The kids loved it!
A piece of the Berlin Wall - appropriate because our next stop is Berlin.
Under the alien laboratory ...
Inside the alien laboratory!
An actual vampire killing kit!
Some fun with the magic mirror...
A giant man-eating clam.
A dinosaur made out of trumpets.
Norte Dame made out of match sticks.
Even South Africa has an honourable mention in Ripleys - unfortunately it’s for a guy who wears sharpened teeth!
A motorbike made out of the bones of animals - cows, mostly, but also some roadkill.
Trying our hand at shooting stuff. Despite the hours of Fortnite shooting stuff, Graydon was not very good at this!
Revolving space tunnel.
Graydon investigating the planets.
A huge robot made out of car parts.
If I didn’t see this for myself, I would not have believed it. A fly on which someone painted Van Gogh’s famous self portrait AND a portrait of Charlie Chaplin.
Given that our next stop was the Van Gogh Museum, I thought it was appropriate to take a photo of his self portrait made out of toothpaste!
And one made from toast!
The British Royal carriage made out of corn starch.
This is a depiction of the Mona Lisa as seen by a computer! How amazing is that?!
Addi being eaten by a Megalodon.
Rowing a Spanish slave galleon.
Addi made her own comic book. Apparently it’s been emailed to her - we shall see...
A view of Dam Square from Ripleys.
Graydon trying his hand at VR.
And Addi couldn’t be left out...
South Africa is still light years behind Europe as far as tech is concerned.
Our first tram ride.
Chilling in the park next to the Van Gogh Museum. I am a huge Van Gogh fan and we loved the visit in the museum. Unfortunately we couldn’t take photos in the museum, but we all wished we had more time to absorb all the stories behind his paintings.
Goodbye Amsterdam! On the train station waiting for our Intercity train to Berlin.
A picnic in our compartment. The conductor found it very funny that we had ‘installed’ ourselves with Dutch cheese.
Traffic jam in the canals
Hamleys was awesome, there were seven stories, wow.
Arriving in Berlin...
Ready to take on Berlin. Although I must say we were all a lot tired today, so instead of walking a lot, we mastered the U-Bahn and the S-Bahn. Even so, we walked 16395 steps today!
The Hollow Tooth in the distance. Although it was on the itinerary, we ran out of time to see it up close and personal today, so we will try take it in early tomorrow before we catch our train to Poznan.
The stop and go men are so cute with their little hats!
On the S-Bahn.
Uber Jump. We think it’s probably a step down from Uber X.
We do love Berlin, but we agree that it isn’t a pretty city.
At the Brandenburg Gate.
Back on the S-Bahn.
As we emerged from the Potsdamer Platz underground station, we spotted these three slivers of buildings.
We spent a couple of wonderful hours at the German Spy Museum. It was a completely immersive experience. Much to my dismay all the quizzes I took indicated that I would have been a terrible spy. Graydon was also dubbed ‘too honest’, but Chris and Addi would have made excellent spies. I have mixed feelings about this...
The first record of using code - for a recipe for ceramic glazing, no less - in 1500 AD!
Addi tested her passwords. The computer hacked it in 0,00025 seconds. Graydon made one up that would take 236 tectillion years. He won’t say what it is.
Graydon trying to crack a code.
The famous Enigma machine
Special ink that allows you to see text through a special magnifying glass.
The spy equipment was almost too fantastical to believe!
Proton - a Russian underwater propeller machine that could travel 6,5km/h for 24km.
Looking for bugs...
The exploding cigarette. Chris was warned to stop smoking...
Hiding a code in a walnut!
And the cameras were tiny!
Looking for hidden messages.
A model of the Bridge of Spies, where many exchanges of spies between East and West took place during the Cold War.
Getting into disguise
Bond. James Bond.
Preparing to save the world. The mission is to disarm the detonator by making your way through a maze of moving laser beams.
Graydon failed the mission.
Addi successfully disarmed the bomb!
Even Chris got into the swing of things in the laboratory.
Probably the highlight of the day was the Berlin Underworlds Tour. We did the tour that highlighted the many attempts (some more successful than others) to cross the Berlin Wall. We could unfortunately not take any pictures during the tour, but here is Graydon standing whether the Wall used to be, along Bernauer Straße. The Berliners have put up an incredible monument to the Wall, and to the people whose lives were changed by its erection in 1961.
Addi posing at a model of Tunnel 29, which was one of about 70 tunnels dug under the Berlin Wall to help people escape East Germany. The tunnel is named Tunnel 29 because 29 people escaped through it, although chronologically, it was the 32nd tunnel to have been built.
This used to be the dead zone between the Wall on the Eastern side of Berlin and the smaller barricade on the Western side of Berlin. Today it is a lovely park where people picnic.
These stepping stones are indicative of the path of an escape tunnel dug in 1962.
A photographic depiction of the erection of the Wall.
The Berlin Wall Monument runs for about 3km along Bernauer Straße.
Addison is standing on the West side of the Wall and Graydon is on the East.
The Wall was built along the front doors of a row of houses along Bernauer Straße. The people who lived in these houses simply opened their front doors and walked from East to West, so the Stasi boarded up the front door and ground floor windows. The people started jumping out of the first and second storey windows, so eventually they were evicted and all the windows boarded up. The facades of these houses actually formed the Wall in some places! These are the excavated foundations of one of these houses, which is a monument today.
I front of where each house used to be is a plaque in the ground indicating how many people fled their homes into West Berlin and when.
The only remaining part of the actual Berlin Wall.
On the ground are brass tracks of where the Wall used to be. grenzmauer means Border Wall.
On our meanderings in search of underground stations, we came across an actual working water pump!
The infamous Checkpoint Charlie.
We took some time to explore the Checkpoint Charlie Museum. It was filled with so much stuff and information that we were completely overwhelmed. The curators of this museum could take some guidance from basically all the other museums we’ve seen to make so much information more accessible to the public.
Some pieces of the Berlin Wall.
The day was just too much for some of us!
A lift from the underground tube station to , literally, nowhere!
The prospect of dinner and putting our feet up put a smile on our faces.
When in Berlin...
Turkish food in Berlin. The world is really just a global village!
TODAY WAS SO FUN AND VERY \240TRYING \240WE WENT TO THE SPY MUSEUM AND WE PUT OUR OWN PASSWORDS AND FOR GANDON WILL TAKE 236 tech till ion years 😱 AND MY WILL TAKE 816 million \240years \240it was really \240awesome 👌
Unfortunately we didn’t make it to the Hollow Tooth, but we did see it in the distance en route to the train station. Next time!
Goodbye Berlin! We’ll be back!
And as a parting gift, we saw the Dom Cathedral from the train. Also on the itinerary for next time!
Graydon entertaining himself on the train to Poznan. I don’t think he noticed a single thing outside the window!
Addi was much wiser with the time on the train and had herself a nap!
Somewhere between Berlin and Poznan is a place called Pczczew. We inherited some agricultural land from my aunt that is situated here, and looks something like this.
Some sights on the way from the main station to our apartment on the Old Square (Stary Rynek). This is the City Hall (called the Ratush) in the middle of the Old Square.
The whole Square is surrounded by these old apartment blocks that were completely rebuilt following WW II. The one we are staying in is called Apartamenty Neptun and is the little dark one right in the centre of this photo.
Of all the places we stayed in so far, this was by far the best. Two bedrooms and this lounge overlooking the Old Square.
The view of the Old Square from the lounge.
The bathroom. Very cute and worth an honourable mention.
Lunch at Bravaria, a restaurant on the Old Square chosen because it was the only one with misters! It was a scorcher today and we were told by our taxi driver that it wa expected to go up to 37 degrees tomorrow!! Holy Cow!
Some other houses encircling the Square.
Addi peeking out from our window.
We took a stroll through Poznan (not a very long one because it was too hot to move). Our aim was a shopping Centre called Start Browar, in which there is a shop that sells these amazing fudge sweets we haven’t seen anywhere else.
This is also a city where old and new coexists. This is a random old building en route to Stary Browar.
And here is a new building. It looks like a metal Crinkle Cut chip.
An old mosaic clock I spotted along the way.
Dinner with our attorney (and friend) on Stary Rynek.
Today was so relaxing we arrived in poznan
Well, of COURSE Europe would be experiencing a heatwave while we are here! We saw one city thermometer that said it was 43 degrees! I have honestly never been so hot in my entire life!
We spent the morning with family friends. Graydon and Addison were also struggling with the heat and snoozed on the way to their house in the air-conditioned Uber.
Look at the size of these cherries! And boy are they delicious!
Piotr and Julia Muth in their incredible garden. We had breakfast fit for royalty!
Back in the Old Square.
At noon every day, the Bells in the City Hall tower chime and then two tin goats emerge from the wooden doors just above the clock and head butt each other 12 times. It drew quite a crowd!
The tradesmen houses next to City Hall. They are completely gorgeous!
Even the pigeons were hot and congregating around the fountain.
You can see the open wooden doors just above the clock.
The legend behind the goats in the clock tower.
A couple of buildings we saw as we wandered around the city (in the shade and VERY slowly!)
There are old and beautiful murals all over the city.
Graydon and Addi doing like the Europeans are doing today - splashing around in the closest fountain. This is a fountain on Freedom Square.
I’m not sure how I feel about the modern architecture in Poznan. It feels as if the more outrageous the design is, the better.
The heat and a touch of flu getting to Chris. He had some much-deserved shut-eye in the train from Poznan to Krakow.
We arrived in Krakow at 23:30 and were ecstatic to see this welcome note when we found our apartment - a little two bedroom place with aircon!
This is a salt bust of King Kaz
The entrance to our apartment, but this photo was taken at 7:30 the next morning when we were on our way out and to the train station to stash our luggage in a locker there.
Some pictures of architecture along the way.
It was so hot (although a little cooler than in Poznan) that a bit of a rest in the shade was called for.
A bronze sculpture of the historical walls of the City of Krakow that are still standing! They were built in the 15th century. That’s the thing about Europe - there is so much history that is not only being preserved, but highlighted and celebrated - the good with the bad. It all form part of what each country is today. It’s something South Africa can learn from!
Breakfast is about to be served!
Back in the apartment waiting to check out. That’s the other thing about Europe - they do not start work until 10:00!!! But then they close shop from 20:00 onwards.
We visited the Wieliczka Salt Mine - the oldest salt mine in the world. The mine is 327m deep, but we only went as deep as 160m under the surface. The first level was reached by taking 378 steps down to 138m under ground. The tour was 3km through a maze of tunnels and chambers, but the mine has about 300km of tunnels. The mine only stopped commercially mining salt in 1997. This is a picture of the stairwell from the top. It was about 14 - 16 degrees in the mine - a welcome respite from the searing heat.
The first chamber we reached was excavated between 1669 and 1689.
Addi checking out the salt walls.
The first ‘tourist’ to the mine was none other than Copernicus- he of the ‘earth revolves around the sun and not the other way around’ theory. The statue is made entirely of salt. He visited in the 15th century.
This scene (all the statues in it are made of salt) depicts the legend of how the salt mine was discovered. Princess Kinga was promised to a Hungarian prince in marriage. On her way to Hungary, she dropped her engagement ring in the mine and wished that all the salt in Hungary was gifted to Poland. According to the legend, her engagement ring was found in the first salt rock excavated from the mine.
This is a salt bust of King Kazimierz the Great.
The steps leading down to the second level of the mine.
A salt statue of a dwarf. All the statues in the mine were sculpted by the miners themselves, which is an incredible feat considering the detail of these statutes and the fact that when they were sculpted, the mine was dark and lit only by lanterns carried by the miners.
Graydon and Addi standing in front of an old tunnel.
The piece de resistance - St Kinga’s Chapel. Everything except the benches is made of salt - the statues, the walls, the floors, all the artwork, and the chandeliers. The chapel is thought to have been excavated in 1862, and was found in 1896.
The biggest chandelier in the chamber is made of 2 500 salt crystals and was list by candles until the mine was electrified.
This is a 3D tendering if DA Vinci’s ‘Last Supper’ in one of the walls in the chapel.
A statue of Pope John Paul II
The floors all along the tour were made of salt, and I wondered who had thought of carving the ‘tiles’ into the floors.
An inside lake in the mine.
Another exquisite chandelier. This one is in a chamber that is 90m high and supported by a series of beams that defies logic.
This is yet another chamber that is 50m high, carved entirely out of rock salt.
Addi and I were squashed into a miners’ lift to the surface. Thank goodness none of us were claustrophobic!
Back on the surface, we made our way back to the Old Square. We crossed the Votive River.
Some buildings on the Old Square.
This is St Sebastian’s cathedral. The two spires are completely different because legend has it that two brothers were commissioned to build them. Being competitive, the decided to see who could build the taller one. Unfortunately the brother who lost threw the winning brother off his tower to his death. We could not go into the cathedral because there was a special mass being held there.
We took a walk to the Wewel Castle, which is built on a grass hill that legend says houses the Wewel Dragon. In fact, the dragon is a symbol of Krakow.
On our way back to the Old Square, we stumbled on the world’s smallest sweet manufacturer and saw a demonstration on how they make their sugar creations. It was fascinating! It starts out as this huge lump of sugar and eventually is formed into these tine sweets that look like orange slices. They have 67 different flavors and each sweet looks like a mini work of art.
Farewell Krakow and Poland! Here we are waiting for the first of three overnight trains we will be catching this trip. The kids couldn’t wait!
Addi and Graydon on their top bunks.
It’s a very small space!
Hello Austria! We arrived in Vienna at 7:00 and decided to take a day room so that we could shower and stash our stuff.
Fresh from the shower, we set out to explore Vienna in 7 hours, an impossible task but we were up for it.
This is the Votive Church - the most beautiful building I have ever seen. This was where we would meet our Big Bus Hop On Hop Off tour.
And so we depart...
This is one of 3 Flak Towers in Vienna built by the Nazis in 1944 during the occupation of Austria in WW II. The walls are 2 m thick and were not demolished after the war because of the cost involved in doing so. One of them has been turned into an aquarium.
This is the world’s oldest (and for a time, highest) Ferris wheel. In 1916, the city obtained a court order to have it demolished but there was never enough money to give effect to the order. It’s since been revamped and is operational as part of an amusement park that was once referred to as the Las Vegas of Europe.