Off they go! To the Athens airport once again and headed to Belgium, thanks to Get Transfers with private and efficient drivers. Hire them to get yourself around Europe!
Di.d you know that Belgium was one of the six founding countries to birth the European Union? Now that this a fun fact is out of the way, let's finish our tale of two Hogz and their two weeks away from Greece!
The Hogz landed in Brussels International Airport in the morning and picked up an Uber to get to their Air BNB. A short 20 minutes later, they arrived! Easily navigated to, with self check-in and a great host with all the instructions to enter, the flat was extremely welcoming and accommodating. A studio overlooking the outskirts of Brussels. What more could you ask for?
As they made their way to the local market, they noticed the town was full of diversity. A rich and vibrant city with a soothing vibrant vibe. They settled in, with a little food in the fridge, then on to what they do best ..... EXPLORE! They found a nearby coffee / sandwich shop with the amazing cliche of "Having a Belgian Waffle in Belgium". They also found the train station for getting into the main town center. The weather was indeed a bit tepid and rainy so the Hogz mostly chose to Uber everywhere for the 3 remaining days and only walked between the down pour.
First stop, Hog #1's dream of going to the Herge Museum or AKA Tin Tin museum. They bought the tickets prior to arriving in Belgium as there are only so many people per day allowed in the museum. With damp and soogy weather, this was the perfect thing to do. TRAVEL HOGZ TIP #60: Always map out your rout prior to arriving. You'll find your trip goes a lot smoother and you'll avoid the lines into museums and on excursions.
Tickets for trains were easily purchased at kiosks at the train stations.. The Tin Tin museum was approximately a 40 minute train ride from the heart of Brussels.
Oh how lovely. Can you say kid in a candy store? Smiling from ear to ear as Hog 1 journeyed through the museum bright eyed and bushy tailed. Another bucket list item checked off for our fellow travelers. This museum was amazing and showed lots of history of how the Tin Tin character was born. His comics touched on the subject of racism of the world and a breakthrough of stereotypes. Granted his humor was sometimes racially demeaning and in some ways it was defending some ethnic groups, but it was still very interesting to see. Over a time line, they learned how the comics he portrayed were actually how the world viewed certain ethnic groups and not necessarily his view of them. This was also present in situations such as war, dictators and other issues that were prominent in the world at that time.
Brussels is not only known for its invention of the waffle and its delicious chocolate, unbeknownst to some, even the Travel Hogz, but for its art. It has emerged as Europe's epicenter for contemporary art. Not only are there various art galleries, as you may see here, but there are comic book galleries spread vastly around the city. If you are a freak for animation, Brussels will suit you just fine.
After a few visits and more research, another fun pace the Hogz highly recommend is the Atomium.
The Atomium is a landmark building in Brussels, originally constructed for the 1958 Brussels World Expo. It is located on the Heysel Plateau, where the exhibition took place. It is now a museum. Designed by the engineer André Waterkeyn and architects André and Jean Polak, it stands 102 m tall. Its nine 18 m diameter stainless steel clad spheres are connected, so that the whole forms the shape of a unit cell of an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times. Tubes of 3 m diameter connect the spheres along the 12 edges of the cube and all eight vertices to the centre. They enclose stairs, escalators and a lift to allow access to the five habitable spheres, which contain exhibit halls and other public spaces.
Next to that....Little Europe! A park of miniature models of different countries in Europe lots of which the Hogz lived and or visited! One word to describe this visit, FUN! Fun paired hand in hand with shenanigans! Once in Belgium, ditch the diet for a day and have french fries and at some point a Belgian Waffle. You must be politically correct after going all that way and you won't regret not one bite! Aside from filling up on waffles & french fries, the chocolate is a must try and die for. Especially the .......sexual chocolate! No, no, no....The Travel Hogz couldn't resist!
After a wonderful three night stay in Belgium, it was time to move on!
Despite waking up early, which wasn't their thing, the Hogz made it to the train station with a boosted level of excitement. A beautiful and dreamy 3 hour train ride from Brussels to Amsterdam was a great choice over flying!
Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands and is known for its unique canals, and having more bicyclists than cars! Cycling and its bike paths is the unique character of this town which gives it its cool and lovely ambiance. You are more likely to be run over by a biker who takes their biking commute very seriously than being hit by a car. So be careful. It's amazing how many people ride to work, school, run errands and just go everywhere on a bike.
The Hogz stayed at a very nice hotel about 15 minutes outside of Amsterdam called the Ammonite Hotel. Breakfast included and a very nice room. However, the Hogz didn't have a desk to work, and upgraded to a suite with a table for workspace. Gotta have that workspace!
Once you are settled in, catch the tram and head into town. The Ammonite Hotel has a free shuttle that will drop you off at a university where you can catch the tram. A quick phone call and they will pick you up from there as well. Once you are in the middle of town, prepare for the wow factor.
Every street has a canal running through it. Lined with tall apartments on each side which give Amsterdam its quaint character. A canal tour with lunch or dinner is a must. The Hogz went on the tour and learned even more about Amsterdam. Did you know that it is home to the oldest Heineken brewery? If you didn't know, now you know. You can visit and taste there as well. Whenever you raise that Heini, thank the Travel Hogz for yet another fun fact.
The museum district houses the Van Gogh Museum, works by Rembrandt and Vermeer at the Rijksmuseum, and modern art at the Stedelijk.The Travel Hogz went and were astounded by the
works of art.
Madame Tussauds was also fun but be sure to stop by a "coffee" or a souvenir shop before you visit. It makes the visit to the museum that much more entertaining. (Giggle).The Hogz did and they were singers, socializing with stars, Dj'ing, comic book characters and an array of many other things after a visit to the "brownie & souvenir shop".
The Anne Frank House will be only a thought if you don't book it months or possibly years prior to traveling to Amsterdam. The Hogz tried but sadly only saw the outer layer. Nothing was available for another six months.
Amsterdam almost heartbreaking to leave, was a great country on the Travel Hog "To Do" list. After 3 nights they were off to the airport to fly into Zurich, Switzerland and adventure to Lucerne!
Off the plane, down the stairs, and a quick snack while figuring which train to catch from Zurich to Lucerne.
Swooping blurred scenery of lavishly green countryside filled the train windows as if you were scrolling through Pinterest posts of Switzerland. Simply beautiful. You could tell the temperature was a little chilly as drops of rain hit the window.
About a 1 hour ride and another 15 minute walk, they got to the Airbnb. All the while the photos on the Airbnb they chose weren't fuel for excitement, they figured it would be ok. Or so they thought. The host greeted them and led them into a building which resembled a dorm scene. Sorry, but the Hogz are not accustomed to dorm living. Strike one of this Airbnb. Nothing personally against the host. The room was stuffy, and stale smoke filled their nostrils as they entered the studio. "Oh God! I can't breath! My nose!" Thought Hog 2 as they followed the Airbnb host into tiny smoky place with a view if the railroad??? EWWW!
Exhausted and knowing everything was about to close they quickly wanted to find the grocery store and stock up. Luckily, it was around the corner. By the way, did you know that white eggs are pretty non existent in Europe? However, they found imported eggs in the store in Lucerne store that were white...hmmmm.
All the hustle and bustle of hopping around made them want to unwind with a shower. Hog 2 stepped into the bathroom to use it, figured she would then shower, but noticed the host had forgotten to replace the toilet paper. "Oooookkkkkaaay??" She thought as she looked under the sink to grab it. To her surprise, the only thing under the sink were the pipes. She then figured "Ok then, I'll just shower to get clean." She turned on the water but there was no shower gel! "Humph!" She muttered as she went to wash her hands. Nothing! She then went into panic mode. Thank goodness for being a travel pro that she was equipped with hand sanitizer and baby wipes. The stores had already closed so no soap, no shower gel, no dish soap and no washer to wash their clothes. Gasp!
Booking a hotel was actually quite simple. They found one a couple of blocks away from the second hand smoked filled, intoxicated Airbnb. Cascada Hotel. The Hogz requested that one of the hotel staff them show them a couple of available rooms, loved them, went back to the college dorm of an Airbnb, and grabbed all their belongings. They checked in without haste! Ahhhh!!! At last! A place to relax and feel travel cozy. So! What did they do about the Airbnb? Nothing...as they did not want to tarnish the host and the Airbnb rating as he was insanely polite. Oh well, sometimes you just have to suck it up.
The next day they were perplexed at how cute this hotel was. A nice buffet breakfast and out the door to explore. Where to? As they walked down the street they spotted an Asian tour group. Welp, they certainly know where all the sights are, so the Hogz followed. Sure enough, a few blocks later, they reached the center of town!
Turquoise waters, a surreal vision, mind blowing cool, clean air, and the Chapel Bridge! A Breathtaking footbridge spanning across river Reuss from one side of town to the other. Backdrops of historical architecture give the feel of a very old but extremely well kept affluent town.
On to the next iconic stop, The Lion Monument. This was a rock relief designed in the memory of Swiss Guards who were massacred in 1792 during the French Revolution, when revolutionaries stormed the Tuileries. Hats off to these brave souls, now on to the rest of the town!
Prices in Lucerne were very high. Food, clothing, and even transportation was higher than the norm. The Hogz weren't used to encountering a pizza and two drinks for $40 USD! $1.50 for tap water.... TAP WATER! At Starbucks, a latte was about $6 Euros. Stop in and grab some delicious chocolates that will run you almost $25 for a pound. If you are a knife fanatic, harness the cliché of getting a Swiss army knife as a souvenir or gift, but be mindful about restrictions with such a commodity on the airlines. These too will run you a chunk of change. Expensive or not, the Hogz say....you only live once, make sure you live only once in Lucerne! It was worth the visit though.
It was time to bid a fair well to the lovely Lucerne and its turquoise view, its mountainous tops dipped in snow, and its mouth watering chocolate. Time to catch a redeye train back to Zurich to fly to Praha....Prague. Stumbling onto the the train, sitting comfortably, but barely awake, they board trying not to think of how early it was. 6:45 am for a 7am bon voyage. Of f they go.
Such wonderful countryside they thought as the train whispered over the rail way.
For some reason Hog #2 felt odd and thought..."Are we sure we are on the right train?". "I think so". answered Hogz #1 with his eyes half open. Feeling uncomfortable after 20 minutes, Hogz #2 asked nearby passengers if they were headed to Zurich. "Nope," said fellow passengers and kindly advised the Hogz to exit at the next stop and go back the other direction. Jumping off with lady luck on their side by leaving early enough that a 20 minute delay wouldn't matter, the Hogz wait another 20 minutes in the eerily quiet train dock. Nothing more delightful than anxiously waiting a train in the cold, in the middle of no where in hopes of not missing your flight while in a foreign country. AWESOME! The problem was that there was one platform with many trains going in different directions at different times. The Hogz never like to travel early because they are still asleep to think of anything else besides coffee! Many locations use this system, but that morning, the fatigued Hogz thought that the train was early and jumped on.
Finally! The correct train arrived, they confirmed and boarded. The Travel Hogz soon made their way into Zurich and onto their flight with time to spare. Most places in Europe have a train station underneath the airport. Thank God for that! Only an hour and 20 minutes and they land in Praha!
Grounded! They hopped off and called Uber. The Uber took them to the Grand Hotel in old town Praha. Here's a Travel Hog fun fact: The Czech Republic is the 13th largest city in the European Union and the historical capital of Bohemia.
Upon arrival they felt this uneasy feeling of Budapest vibes and wondered would the citizens of Prague be? Hopefully unlike those unsavory characters of Budapest. To their hopes, everyone was extremely nice.
Prague is, as most European cities are, bisected by the Vltava River. It has an avatar of “the City of a Hundred Spires,” it's known for its Old Town Square, the heart of its historic core, with colorful baroque buildings, Gothic churches and the medieval Astronomical Clock, which gives an animated hourly show, unfortunately the Travel Hogz didn't do their research on this animation and only took iconic selfies in front of it. Travel Tip: Always research things where you are traveling to prior to arrival to have ample time to reap the most out of your visit! The famous bridge: Finished in 1402, as you stroll along the pedestrian strip of the Charles Bridge you'll be in awe of the statues of Catholic saints that line both sides.
Getting around is easy as slicing a cherry pie. Transportation is abundant, e-scooters are visually available, and Uber runs all around. Then there is the best way to navigate around, on foot and if you know the The Hogz, they opted for the latter. May was still nippy and rainy so be prepared to bundle up, especially if you are on foot. They walked to restaurants, coffee shops and major iconic monuments such as the Charles Bridge and the Prague Castle. Do stop in and have a gelato from Amorino. The Hogz discovered it in Florence, Italy and also discovered they are in Prague as well. Delicious!
Gotta go? We mean GO! Go to the bathroom? The icky feeling of tourists in a foreign country returned. Everywhere you went to use the bathroom, whether you spent money there or not, there was a fee to use the bathrooms. The Hogz didn't carry cash as they never really did so you can image the inconvenience of this. Although the Hogz were brilliant enough to go to nice hotels
When you walk along the cobblestoned streets of Prague you are reminded of an old city. Gorgeously mapped and lots of great architecture to marvel. There's horse and carriage rides if you are feeling nostalgic, good food to take advantage of, and the Hogz happened to run into a very interesting gallery of metal figures! This museum was a home of many notable figurines all made from scrap metal that you are allowed to touch, mount, and sit on. After your tour of the museum, enjoy a cup of great coffee and a snack inside the coffee shop. Oh what fun these mischievous travelers had! Not more than a block away, was a gigantic toy store.... Hamley's! More fun! They walked around as if they were kids in a toy store. HA! Lots to see there. There was a large slide from the second floor to the first floor. If they weren't adults they surely would have done it! So if you're traveling with your kids or you are kids at heart like your two Travel Hogz, drop in to Hamely's . They also visited the The Historical Building of the National Museum which kept them dry while it poured rain and the wind was wild. They would have loved to have visited the John Lennon wall but there wasn't enough time.
The Three days and two nights and they were done with their two week vacation from Greece to four marvelous countries. Time to return in hopes the weather was a bit warmer. It was 43 degrees in May for goodness sake!
On to the airport with luggage in hand along with great memories. Get Transfers private driver (which was a lot cheaper than a limo and close to the cost of an Uber driver. Then why not???) was awaiting with a sign that said "Kevorkians" and, they were couriered back to Voula where the pups were anxiously awaiting them.