Final vacation photo dump: Munich leg

We left Belgium and began our train ride through the German countryside to make our way to Munich. We stopped off on Cologne to check out the insanely large Cologne Cathedral.

Lovingly lifted from my friend Kate.

Religion and I don’t get along, but I have no problem appreciating the architecture and getting a glimpse of the stranglehold that religion had on society back then (not that it doesn’t now). Had the same awe in some of the Irish cathedrals.

And finally, after seven hours on a train, we arrived at what turned out to be the favorite destination of the trip for us all: Munich. We made it to town on quite a special day: The Champions League finals. We grabbed dinner at an amazing traditional German restaurant I regret not remembering the name of and watched the game. Not a big football fan, I was more interested in watching the fans. It looked like we were going to see a victory riot as FC Bayern had a strong lead in free kicks, but Chelsea came back and won. Naturally, the few Chelsea fans in the bar went nuts.

The next day we started exploring the center of Munich. One of our first missions was to find a tower that serves as an awesome vantage point for photos. Check. We spent most of the day venturing in the city center. There was an incredible four-piece band belting out classical music with a modern twists. Guys were really talented. We happened to run across them a second time on the trip and decided to stop and listen yet again. We also discovered an awesome hunting and fishing museum with a couple floors of stuffed game to gander at. But the real attraction for me was upstairs. The museum had about a hundred swords, crossbows and guns used for hunting. The intricate details in the carvings on the handles had me freaking out.

We capped off the day of exploring with a visit to the legendary Hofbrauhaus beer hall. I watched in wonder as male and female bartenders carried around full liter beer mugs six or seven at a time. We all fell in love. The giant pretzels, beer by the liter, and oompah band were so nice, we ended up drinking there twice. I’m sure it’s one of the most noted places to visit in Munich, and it’s well worth the stop. Try the dunkel radler. Half dark beer, have lemonade/Sprite combination. Insanely good.

With a day left to blow on our EU Rail passes (highly recommended), we took a trip to Fusen and Castle Neuschwanstein. They’re situated right next to the Swiss border, with the Alps all up in your face. Our guide told us at the top of a couple of the mountains are border crossings. The extra stamp on the passport might have been nice, but we weren’t equipped for scaling a mountain. The castle we visited was that of Ludwig II. It’s incomplete because he was declared insane not long after taking the throne of his father and was killed shortly thereafter. Being incomplete, only a few rooms in the castle were open, but a bridge constructed above the Pollat Gorge offers quite an awesome vantage point. As we were checking out the alps I think we were all mulling our plans to split a country home in Bavaria.

Our last day in town we took a peek at some more of the architecture and enjoyed our last few beers (I did my best not to cry into them). We packed up and flew to Dublin for a way-too-short final night before boarding our last plane back home. But at least we even got a scenic view on the plane.

As with all the other legs of the trip, you can check out more photos on my Picasa album. Or not. Whatever. But while you’re here go ahead and enjoy your bonus photos.

Vacation photo dump part 3: Amsterdam

My group branched off for a day during our stay in Brussels. Most went to Brugge, but I went with another person to Amsterdam. Our goal was to check out the Van Gogh Museum. Mission accomplished. Well worth the 2-hour wait in line.

The museum has three floors: Van Gogh’s inspirations, Van Gogh’s works and works by those he inspired. The second floor was extremely crowded, and I quickly learned that some cultures don’t understand how lines worked. After a brief sit on a bench to keep me from punching people, I went back and was able to enjoy the gallery.

Everything about Amsterdam was beautiful, even the train station we arrived at.

The sidewalks were crowded as we apparently showed up on an EU holiday. But it was really fun to see all the architecture and, my favorite anywhere I go, street performers.

But if I ever go back, I think I’ll have to try this awesome-looking simultaneous bar/bicycling group tour that we came across

Our time in Amsterdam was short, but the three-hour train ride gave offered us some pretty awesome art to look at.

I think this was outside Rotterdam.

I also ended up amazed by the seemingly great interest on bicycling and public transportation in the Netherlands. I imagine sky-high prices for gasoline there have quite a bit to do with it, but the sheer number of bicycles we saw at the Rotterdam train station blew my mind. It seemed like this line of parked bikes went on for at least a mile. This photo’s not even showing you 1 percent of the row of bikes.

After another night in Brussels, it was on to our last leg of the trip, Munich, which will be featured in my next post. More shots from the Netherlands are up on Picasa.

Vacation photo dump: Belgium leg

After an awesome stint in Ireland, the next stop on our trip was Brussels.

Brussels was primarily an on-foot adventure. We happened upon the Grand Square by accident. We were surrounded by structures older than our own country (easily a theme of the trip). And everything was gilded.

It was mesmerizing how tiny you felt inside the square as you were surrounded on all sides by towering, beautiful buildings. Not even the obnoxious group on an apparent stag could take me out of my amazement of the square.

But no trip to Brussels would be complete without a visit to the Manneken Pis statue (I’m told). Good luck getting close to it.

But I was a bit distracted by the building-side art nearby

Our time in Brussels was short. And we used one of the days to hit Amsterdam (subject of my next post). But what we saw was still awesome, especially considering we planned on treating the city like a brief stop between Ireland and Munich.

Credit my friend Kate for this shot.

And yes, I grabbed a waffle. If you want to check the rest of my Brussels shots, I’ve got a Picasa album up.

Did I crop this out of respect of my friend’s privacy, or because he dwarfs me? I’ll never tell!

BONUS PHOTO: Look whose shiny metal ass made a surprise appearance