We finally reached Innsbruck and got a small tour of it. We got to see the Golden Roof, along with many other wonders of the city.
I went into a few churches, and wanted to go into some of the museums but didn't feel I would have enough time to fully enjoy the museums and the actual city in only two hours, so instead I went to the Hofgarten (yes, the same name as the park in Munich. I don't name them, I'm sorry!).
It was here that I got to watch a very interesting game of chess with two-feet high chess-pieces. I kind of felt like I was in a Harry Potter novel, only the pieces weren't killing each other.
Once we were done in Innsbruck, we headed to the Hotel Dollinger, which was a prime 500-years-old.
On the way to the hotel, Flip explained to us that with Muffin's "allowed" daily-driving limit and the time it would take us to get from Venice to Rome, if we wanted to get to Vatican City, we would have to leave at 6:45 AM. By doing that, we could get to Rome before 4 PM, manage to get in line for the Vatican, and possibly get a tour the day before we were supposed to. However, Flip said, there was no guarantee that we could get there that fast so the suffering of getting up at such an ungodly (pun intended) hour may have been in vain. Because the Vatican would be closed that day, this was our one and only shot to get there. We all agreed.
At the hotel in Innsbruck, we had a complimentary supper that included a creamy cheese and broccoli soup, a schnitzel with fried beans and a mashed potato, and a bowl of chocolate mousse for desert.
During supper, I learned that the girl who had missed the bus had gotten to Innsbruck safely. But she was alone. She didn't know her other friends had gone back to get her. We continued to eat, thinking about the friends that had left the tour, but before the mousse was eaten the door of the hotel opened and there they were! They had gotten back safely as well! As happy as I am for them, I sure hope the tour members start becoming more punctual and start catching the bus on time, especially in Venice. I don't want to miss out going to the Vatican!
After supper, I realized that out of the €850 I brought with me to Europe, I only had €470 left! I plan to be conservative for the rest of the trip and only buy things that I absolutely need to buy! (Note: I also put away one bill of each kind (€5, €10, €20, €50 and €100) for my collection back home. I never intended to spend those.)
We leave early tomorrow for Venice and tonight's big supper is getting to me. I'm going to go to bed, even though it's only 9 o'clock. Sorry today's entry is so boring. I really didn't get a chance to explore Innsbruck in the two hours we had. I promise tomorrow's entry -- about Venice -- will be much better!
Goodnight journal. Talk to you later.
PS: I just re-read what I wrote. It's hard to believe I've been in Europe for a week now. It seems like just yesterday I said goodbye to my parents and girlfriend. I wonder what they're doing now...
And I wonder where the next 10 days will take me!
And, as always, a big thank you to my sweetheart Jessica Nuttall for proof reading a countless number of my articles. I couldn't do any of this without you. I love you.
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Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania shut its doors in 1970. A year later, in 1971, it would briefly reopen and house inmates from Holmesburg Prison after a devastating riot. After the prisoners were returned to Holmesburg, Eastern State would sit empty for over two decades. It would rot, decay and collapse. Trees and shrubs would grow into the structure and a clowder of cats would take residence. These hallowed halls would sit empty, the only noise being the chatter of startled birds and the trotter of feline paws.
The following decades would see various discussions of what to do with the building. Eventually, it was decided to preserve it and turn it into a tourist attraction. Although it officially opened for tours in 1994, attendants would have to sign a waiver and wear hardhats before entering until 2008. They had 10,000 visitors the opening year, a number of tourists not seen in the prison since 1858.
From 1829 to 1970, Eastern State Penitentiary underwent a variety of changes and transformations. This massive, sprawling, 11-acre complex was founded under the belief that solitary confinement was the cure needed to prevent criminals from committing future crimes. It was believed criminals who served in solitary confinement would turn to a higher power to reconcile with themselves for their crimes – hence feeling "penitent". To assist in this process, each cell was equipped with a slit window on the ceiling nicknamed "The Eye of God". It would be the only light source available to the inmate.
Imagine the bustling streets of New York, then times it by ten. Add a dash of Chinese culture, a wallop of nature and half dozen fish balls that don’t actually contain any fish, and you have the beautiful city that is Hong Kong.
At 7.2 million people, Hong Kong is a dynamic city with an incredible history, towering skyscrapers and a unique mix of English and Chinese that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. While Hong Kong has existed for a millennium, it was officially founded in 1842 to solidify a truce between Great Britain and the Qing dynasty of China during the First Opium War. A decade after the British took control of Hong Kong, the Black Death swept into China, killing hundreds of thousands of people. It would remain part of Hong Kong’s life for a century.
During World War II, Hong Kong was captured by the Japanese. For three years and eight months the British-Chinese culture of the city was destroyed, replaced with Japanese text, language and art. The booming city of 1.6 million people was slashed to only 600,000. Japanese occupation was incredibly harsh for the Hongkongese, being the darkest part of their history. Japan ceased occupation on August 6th, 1945, in response to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. For forty-two more years, Hong Kong was controlled by the British, with the reunification between Hong Kong and mainland China finally occurring in 1997.
The Island of the Dolls is in Xochimilco, a borough south of Mexico City. While it would be faster to take a car from Mexico City to Xochimilco, the traffic is dense and the roads are very congested. Instead, if you're going there, I'd recommend taking metro, which is easy and the cheapest in the world. What you gain in comfort, however, you lose in speed, as the train ride takes about 2 hours.
Mexico City and Xochimilco both sit in the Valley of Mexico. Until about a millennium ago, the whole region around Mexico City was surrounded by a massive body of water. Over the centuries due to both climate change and interference by humans, most of this water has dried up, for the exception of Xochimilco. With networks of canals crisscrossing the borough, car transportation is difficult and water transportation is essential. I'm sure there were motorized boats somewhere in the waters of Xochimilco, but I never saw any. Instead, canoes and rafts are common on the water. However, the most popular vessel is a trajinera – a colourful gonadal-like boat that is pushed along the water with a wooden pole.
Xochimilco is known worldwide for their Floating Gardens market, which are essentially canoes floating down the canals, selling wares to tourists on trajineras. These include things like food, drinks, silver rings, trinkets, ponchos and sombreros. Occasionally other trajineras full of Mariachi bands will approach tourists and offer to play beside them on the water.