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  • Travel: Live report from Europe – Week 1

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    Paul and I are traveling in Europe this month. We are doing a short land excursion to Berlin and Prague, then an Avalon river cruise, a couple of days in Amsterdam, then an AMA River Cruise and then a week in Switzerland on our own trying out the famous rail system. I thought it would be interesting for readers to know the changes in travel requirements and some of the things we have encountered. Here’s the recap of our first week.

    We flew with KLM from Calgary to Amsterdam and then on to Berlin. We needed to show our vaccination documents as we checked in for the flight, but it was easy with no questions. In Amsterdam, we went through passport control, but they only wanted to see our passports. When we arrived in Berlin, we were required to show our vaccination papers when checking into the hotel. We are not sure if unvaccinated guests would be welcome. In Germany, people wear masks in public transport and indoors. 

    Our first day we had a private tour of the main Berlin attractions. Our tour guide, Roald, was born in the mid seventies and lived beside the wall on the communist east side. It was interesting to hear how his life was then. We enjoyed all the main sites with very few people around. This is a big benefit of travelling now, as normally these areas would be swarming with tourists.  The sites included Brandenburg Gate; Symbol of the city and ancient city entrance, Reichstag; The German Parliament building, 1894 has a stunning dome and observation point. You can go in the dome and sit on top and watch the parliament in action.

    The Holocaust Memorial; A unique memorial to Holocaust victims by Peter Eisenmann with the meaning of the exhibit is left to the observer. We drove past Fernsehturm, a 360 meter high television tower with viewing platform and restaurant. Berliner Dom, A baroque cathedral with famous dome, beautiful mosaics and special organ. 

    Of course we had a quick stop at Checkpoint Charlie, the famous historic crossing point between East and West Berlin during the Cold War. We visited several remaining parts of the Berlin Wall Memorial. At the outdoor vantage point which is a free exhibit, we had to be wearing N95 masks, regular blue ones were not allowed.

    The next day our destination was Prague, Czechoslovakia. We had to complete an online form to be prepared to present when we arrived, but we were never asked for it. On our way we stopped in Dresden, Germany, a beautiful city in the Elbe River about 90 minutes from Berlin.  Spires, domes, and towers abound in this city, which was very nearly wiped off the map during WWII. We strolled through the historic Old Town and saw its most famous attractions: Zwinger and Taschenberg Palaces, Semper Opera House, Dresden Castle, one of the city’s oldest buildings; the “Procession of Princes”, the longest porcelain image in the world.  A quick lunch, and since Paul’s luggage has still not caught up to us, we picked up a few basics to get him through another day and we headed to the highway for a 2 hour drive to Prague.

    We thoroughly enjoyed our 2 days in Prague, referred to here as Praha. We’re staying at the Alcron Hotel which is conveniently located in the heart of Prague and just off Wenceslas Square, the National Museum, and State Opera. The Old Town Square and Charles Bridge are only about a 15 minute enjoyable walk past many shops and restaurants. 

    We had an excellent guided city tour to visit the Hradcany Castle Grounds and St. Vitus Cathedral up on the hill. We saw the very precise changing of the guard and afterwards walked through old town, and saw the fascinating cubist-style House of the Black Madonna, the Jewish Quarter, and the Astronomical Clock as it chimed 12 noon. We wandered back to the hotel via the windy side streets, popped in a few shops before stopping for lunch. There were quite a few school children around, but not many tourists. Again, the perfect time to be visiting!

    Paul met a restauranteur on one of his previous trips to Prague at a pub style restaurant called Fat Cat in Old Town. Although it is now only open on weekends, we were able to meet Honza one of the owners at his newest restaurant “Yalta”on Wenceslas Square. It’s a higher end nouveau Czech style cuisine and dinner was fantastic! We would highly recommend it if you are ever in Prague😊

    This is the end of our leg 1 road trip, as tomorrow we embark on the Avalon Passion in Deggendorf. We can’t wait to be on the river again!

    If you’d like to follow us day by day, you can see our adventures on FaceBook daily. Click here to see our travel log. If you have any questions for us, please email us at pdumouchel@tpi.ca and we’ll do our best to answer on the go. Or, you can read about week 2 next time in the Chestermere Anchor😊