Why We Love January

January is one of our favourite months of the year. If you ask Natalie the reason is simple, her birthday is in January. However there is another reason we love the first month of the year. In London it means one thing, travel shows!

January is home to two of the biggest and best travel shows in London. Last weekend was the Adventure Travel Show, and in two weeks time we have Destinations, the largest travel show in the UK. If you are looking for adventure and travel inspiration for the upcoming year, these are the places to go.

Just imagine, row after row of tropical island getaways (very enticing in what is normally a dreary and cold month in London), snow capped mountain hikes, world cruises, coach trips, overland truck adventures and independent travel ideas all waiting for you to discover. Any wonder why we love these shows.

There is always plenty of inspiration on offer at Travel Shows

There is always plenty of inspiration on offer at Travel Shows

If you are looking at booking some type of travel these shows are place to do it, with many companies offering special deals and discounts during the shows. If you are planning a trip independently then it is a great chance to chat to passionate people, pick peoples brains or see what many of the expert companies do which can help in the planning stage.

The other awesome thing about these travel shows is they quite often have excellent forums and guest speaker presentations for you to attend. I love public speaking and find it a real buzz, if there was a way I could get paid to stand in front of an audience and talk about my travels I’d be happy man! This weekend we were lucky enough to hear arguably the greatest adventurer of modern times, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, talk. As well as current adventurers Monty Halls and Dave Cornthwaite speak. Destinations has a fantastic line up of guest speakers as well, and we plan to make a bee-line for Levison Wood’s talk.

Travel Show work mode. Getting ready to do what we love most, talk about travelling!

Travel Show work mode. Getting ready to do what we love most, talk about travelling!

In the past few years these travel shows have also quite often meant we have been working. In fact Natalie was on the Oasis Overland stand all weekend sharing her passion and expertise about Africa and South America with would be adventurers. I have helped out several companies over the years as well. Again, standing around talking about travel is almost as much fun as travelling itself!

London is not the only city to hold such shows, with all major cities worldwide hosting something similar. So now its up to you, find out when your next local travel show is, head down, get talking and start planning!

– Dean

p.s. Anyone attending the Destinations Travel Show in London, head down to the Oasis Overland stand on the Sunday and say hello to Natalie!

 

Taking sightseeing to new heights: Visiting the London Shard

Ever since construction was announced, the London Shard has polarised opinions of Londoners and the public alike. There was rumour that it would threaten the UNESCO heritage listing of surrounding London monuments, and its need and worth were questioned. However, rising up like a beam of light towards the sky, the Shard seized the mantle of the UK and the EU’s tallest building. Like it or loath it Londoners, a new icon of the city was born!

There are 11,000 glass panels covering the UK's tallest building!

There are 11,000 glass panels covering the UK’s tallest building!

We (well Natalie more than me) love going up things. TV towers, observation decks, roof top terraces, hills and mounds have all been conquered around the world in the search for the best view. Looking down over a city gives you a totally different perspective. Medieval street plans unravel, order arises from chaos and a better sense of the enormity, complexity and the city surrounds is unveiled from a great vantage point.

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Two photos looking down on a city. The top photo is overlooking the main market square in Marrakech. The bottom photo is a selfie overlooking Budapest

Two photos looking down on a city. The top photo is overlooking the main market square in Marrakech. The bottom photo is a selfie overlooking Budapest

The View‘ was opened in February 2013 and has been high on our ‘Hometown Tourist’ must do list since then.  However other travels and adventures have constantly got in our way, so when a friend gave us two tickets as a gift, it was as if our dreams had been answered. We charged our cameras, picked the day with the best weather and set off to experience London’s highest tourist attraction.

As you would expect, The View follows a similar set up and process as several other observation platforms around the world. Numerous staff are dotted along almost every step (well lift) of the way. As friendly smiles greet you and usher you towards the appropriate queue. Upon entering the ticket hall you a met with various photographs, slide show and time-lapse videos of London sights and sounds (many you cannot actually see from the top of the Shard!). After security there is the compulsory over priced photo, (at around £30 for a photo we are talking seriously overpriced), and before you know it you enter the first lift.

Due to the shape of the shard there are two lifts that you have to take to reach the top. Both have video screens on the roof showcasing scenes from London and the construction of the Shard. After what feels like seconds, the doors open and from the 68th Floor, London unravels before you!

How many iconic London structures can you count in this picture?

How many iconic London structures can you count in this picture?

With a 360º view, the huge glass panels make you feel like you are suspended above the city. London’s icons look like childrens toys that could easily be picked up and moved around. The famous ‘Gherkin’ building of London’s banking district looks small in comparison to the newer additions to London’s skyline. Tower Bridge and the Tower of London, the Eye, Westminster and even Buckingham Palace are all visible and you begin to realise just how close so many of these world-famous structures are to each other.

Looking down the Thames with the sun behind you

Looking down the Thames with the sun behind you

Natalie summed it up perfectly, when you think of London’s iconic buildings or places you tend to think of them singularly, but when you look down on the city you begin to appreciate them as a collective or as a whole.

Natalie explaining her theory to me

Natalie explaining her theory to me

The View offers you two levels, the enclosed 68th floor and the open 72nd floor. The open floor also gives you a great chance to marvel at the architecture and engineering of the Shard. However, don’t expect there to be a glut of facilities at the top. There is virtually no seating for those who get a little weary, and only a Champagne Bar to quench all but the most expensive thirsts (it is however Europe’s highest Champagne Bar we are told). While we are sure they have them we couldn’t even find public bathrooms up the top!  Natalie was denied the chance to use the loo at the top – something she does from every high building!!

Part of the open air viewing platform on the 72nd floor

Part of the open air viewing platform on the 72nd floor

Despite these minor issues, a visit is now a must and we would highly recommend it to any of our friends coming to London. The top tip we could give you is book a morning visit. The sun is in the best position for your photos of all the major attractions and it was slightly less crowded. We were also incredibly lucky, a clear crisp winter’s day with hardly a cloud in the sky made for incredible visibility but from some of the photos we saw, an evening visit would also be very cool.

While the Shard still drums up some opposing opinions, love it or loath it Londoners, The View at the Shard towers over all other attractions in the city.

– Dean

Hometown Tourist: London’s Winter Wonderland

“Sleigh bells ring, are you listening,
In the lane, snow is glistening
A beautiful sight,
We’re happy tonight.
Walking in a winter wonderland.”

– Lyrics from the Christmas Carol ‘Winter Wonderland’ by Felix Bernard (composer) & Richard B. Smith (lyrics)

Christmas is a magical time to be travelling around Europe. As the days get shorter and colder the main squares of many cities turn into stunning festive markets. This is especially the case in Germanic Europe where every village, town and city decks the halls, lights up the town centre and fills it with Christmas Markets.

While many of us dream of jingling around the European Christmas Markets not everyone can make it. Thankfully London has the answer, Winter Wonderland!

Welcome to Winter Wonderland!

Welcome to Winter Wonderland!

Officially opening last Friday night (21st of November), Winter Wonderland recreates the feeling of European Christmas Markets in the middle of Hyde Park and is the perfect place to stoke up the festive spirit.

With carnival rides and games, Winter Wonderland has something for everyone

With carnival rides and games, Winter Wonderland has something for everyone

Winter Wonderland is part amusement park, part traditional Christmas Market and part Oktoberfest celebration, so really there is something for all ages. The grounds were packed on opening night and there was such a fantastic atmosphere in the air. There were various stages scattered throughout the grounds with bands playing to get people in the mood.  There is an ice skating rink for the more adventurous, the only thing missing on friday night was the big guy in the red suit!

Loads of Stalls selling Christmas Decorations

Loads of Stalls selling Christmas Decorations

Row upon row of stalls lead into the heart of Winter Wonderland all selling a variety of handicrafts, Christmas ornaments and food. Hand crafted Christmas decorations, scented Christmas candles and huge drums of Haribo confectionary (typical of German Christmas Markets) can all be found.

Self service Haribo confectionary, yum!

Self service Haribo confectionary, yum!

However, we cannot fail to mention the traditional food and drink! Just like the German markets, nearly everywhere you looked there were stalls selling Glühwein or mulled wine. ‘Glow Wine’ (a very rough translation) is a mixture of red wine and spices including cinnamon, cloves and aniseed, with the potential option of adding a shot of spirits. It is the perfect drink to warm you up and get you into the festive spirit! To complement the traditional German wine, there are enormous bratwurst stalls as well as pretzel stalls, hog roast vans and burger vans. I introduced Natalie to her new favourite German treat, schmalzkuchen, small deep-fried balls of dough covered in icing sugar, whats not to love?!

Hmmm, deep fried badness!

Hmmm, deep fried badness!

For those of you visiting London over the next six weeks and whose adventures don’t take you to the continent, Winter Wonderland is the perfect place to experience both Germanic and British Christmas traditions in one spot. We certainly will be revisiting it a number of times over the festive period, I just have to find where I hid my red suit from last Christmas (sadly the beard is already starting to show some signs of grey so I don’t have to worry about that!) …

Glühwein time! (Check out Natalie's gloves)

Glühwein time! (Check out Natalie’s gloves)

– Dean

*Winter Wonderland is open daily from 10am until 10pm (except Christmas Day when it is closed) until January 4th. Located in Hyde Park, the closest Tube stations are Hyde Park Corner or Green Park.

Hometown Tourist: You Know You are a Londoner when…

I love living in London and have been lucky enough to call the city home on and off for 11 years now. In fact I would proudly walk around the streets wearing a “I Heavy black heart LDN” t-shirt if they were not so commercially touristy! As with settling into any new city, you slowly adopt the mannerisms of the locals. So below are a list of some of the tell tale signs you are changing. Eventually you will know you are a Londoner when…1. You don’t stop at pedestrian crossings.

 Londoners are always in a rush and despite the international reputation that the British enjoy queuing /waiting  it certainly is not the case in London. As Natalie liked to remind me “we are Londoners, we just go!”. A red crossing man is purely a light hearted suggestion to a Londoner. Like a red rag to a bull it just incites us to cross the road a little faster. Buses, lorries (that’s a truck to the rest of the world) and emergency services vehicles will have no influence on our desire to get to the other side of the road as quickly as possible. In fact next time you are waiting for the lights to change watch the locals as they make the dash, many will be shaking their heads at everyone waiting.

2. You will start to complain about all the tourists.

As London streaks towards becoming the world’s most visited city in 2014 the huge increase in tourism means the streets of central London are bulging. Saturday shopping in Oxford or Regent streets can be more like a contact sport and a venture into Primark? Forget it! Despite the need for the influx of tourism dollars, Londoners all secretly wish for the streets to be ours again! Could we really be turning into our arch rivals the Parisians?

Blimey!
Prepare to fight with the masses if you want this shot

Prepare to fight with the masses if you want this shot

3. You know a better curry house than anything in Brick Lane.

While the beloved chicken korma is now considered to be one of the UK’s national dishes, most visitors intent on experiencing British Indian food head down to the famous Brick Lane in the East End. As a Londoner you will proudly state that nothing in Brick Lane comes close to the curry house on the high street around the corner from where you live. To be honest, you are probably right!

A London institution, but you know a better place to go!

A London institution, but you know a better place to go!

4. You hit the parks at the first sign of the sun!
There is no better city in the world when the sun comes out than London. Fact! The city comes alive, the convertible roofs on cars are lowered, everyone spills into the parks (of which London has World class options) or green spaces and the streets in front or behind the local pub become THE place to be. I still find it mildly amusing that people will be sunbathing in the park as the mercury hits a stifling 18 degrees Celsius, but we have to make the most of the sun when we see it! (Maybe I am not a fully fledged local just yet). Oh and often Tesco’s sell out of burgers – sun=BBQs!

5. You will walk 10 minutes past multiple coffee shops to visit your favourite coffee chain.Costa, Cafe Nero and Starbucks monopolise the coffee shop scene in London and most Londoners have their favourite. Sometimes you will drop your standards to the second choice but everyone of us has one of the big three we wouldn’t be caught dead in. Sometimes that 15 minute walk (it would have been 20 if we waited for the lights) was worth it.

Sometimes it is worth the walk to stay loyal

Sometimes it is worth the walk to stay loyal

6. You don’t talk to strangers on the Tube.
Seriously! During London 2012 the vibe in the tube was incredible but as soon as the Olympics finished that spirit disappeared faster than Usain Bolt in the 100 metres! Whether you are on your own, travelling with your friend, boyfriend, girlfriend, wife husband or even kid, most Londoners pile onto the tube in deathly silence. No eye contact is made, a look of disdain will be flashed at the overly noisy tourists and no word uttered until the cone of silence ceases when the tube doors open and you step onto the platform!
The smiles will stop and silence ensues as the train pulls up

The smiles will stop and silence ensues as the train pulls up

7. You don’t catch black cabs.
Sure they look cool and are one of the symbols of the city but do you know how much they cost?! Unless you are a high flying banker where (our) money is no object, most locals will walk, tube or if a taxi is a must, take a mini cab. There are always exceptions but if you do have to take a ride it is never a very long one.
The Black Cab, icon of London but too expensive for most locals

The Black Cab, icon of London but too expensive for most locals

Of course this is not a definitive list. There are numerous other tell tale signs you have evolved merely from living to in London to becoming a true Londoner. Do you have any more? If so, leave a comment below or share with us on Facebook.
– Dean

 

Hometown Tourist: The London Pass Review

 

“Nothing is certain in London but expense”

– William Shenstone

When it comes to sightseeing around London, William was right.  A quick search of “what to do in London” is invariably followed by the gasp of shock and horror at some of the entrance prices.  For visitors, a full day or two of sightseeing around the UK’s capital can easily set you back a pretty penny.

London is set to be the world’s most visited city in 2014.  So we decided to try a cost saving alternative and look for a way for the cash strapped tourist to cover the best London has to offer.

Introducing the London Pass.

The London Pass comes in various formats, from a one day pass (£49) to mammoth six day option (£166) or for an extra cost, a pass that includes a daily travel card on London public transportation. There is a “cap” on how much you can see depending upon the length of your pass and everything is explained in a very thorough and well put together little handbook. For those of you who are a little more tech savvy there is also a great App for your smartphone which we used as we traversed London.  Here you can check out opening times and even favourite certain landmarks as you plan your day.

Skip the lines and save money with the London Pass

Skip the lines and save money with the London Pass

The London Pass gives you access to over 60 different London attractions.  They include everything from the big-ticket sights such as Westminster Abbey, The Tower of London and Kensington Palace to further flung, but equally as impressive, sights such as Hampton Court Palace and Windsor Castle. For sporting enthusiasts the pass also grants you access to Wimbledon, Stamford Bridge (the home of Chelsea football club) and the Emirates (home of Arsenal). Most of the attractions are free with the pass and others offer a discount rate for pass holders.

So armed with our handbook and our App we decided to see just how much we could see of London in a day and the London Pass certainly proved to be excellent value for money. We researched some of the things that should be on every visitors must see list and a couple of off the beaten path sites that appealed to us as Londoners. First on the list, Westminster Abbey.

It is embarrassing to say it, but in 12 years of using London as a base and now calling it home I had never been to Westminster Abbey. We arrived early, or so we thought and joined the queue to enter. One of the bonuses of the London Pass is not having to line up to buy tickets, only for the necessary security check. After having my bag less than thoroughly searched we just handed over our Pass and in seconds it was scanned and we were in!

Lined up at Westminster ready to start exploring.

Lined up at Westminster ready to start exploring.

To say Westminster Abbey was amazing is an understatement. The audio guide poured over the history and after leaving the church we wandered through the cloisters including seeing Britain’s oldest door! After just over an hour we had exhausted the audio guide, wandered the cloisters and it was time to move on. (Attraction value so far for N&D £18, London Pass £49).

Just around the corner from Westminster we decided to visit another attraction that was free on the London Pass and was more up my alley than Natalie’s. The Churchill or Cabinet War Rooms (£17.50) were the underground headquarters of the UK Government during WWII. Left in their original condition the museum shows the former living quarters, conference rooms and map rooms where the D-Day landings were planned and where the British planned the downfall of Nazi Germany. To be totally honest we probably could have spent a little longer there but we had a plan for the day and had to keep moving. This was just a bonus visit – something that you can easily do when you have a ‘pass’ to get you into places!  (Attraction value so far for N&D £35.50, London Pass £49).

Time to go underground

Time to go underground

Now from the Westminster area we had two options, we could have taken a Thames River Cruise, free with the London Pass (normally £18) or Tube down to our third destination, the Tower of London. For the sake of speed and a few other things we wanted to see we chose the Tube. According to tourism statistics, 2 million people visit the Tower every year, or approximately 6,000 a day! No lining up for tickets for us it was straight to security and in we went.

The Tower was packed, school groups galore and every nationality you could imagine (and lots of Australians!). Despite the crowds, there is plenty of space to explore and the only thing we had to line up for was the Crown Jewels. With plenty to see the Tower easily ate up the majority of our time, but luckily enough our next site was only a stone’s throw away. (Attraction value so far for N&D £55.50, London Pass £49).

Selfie with one of the Beefeaters at the Tower of London

Selfie with one of the Beefeaters at the Tower of London

Natalie has always raved about the Tower Bridge Experience, so we thought why not take this opportunity to visit the top of one of the most iconic bridges in the World. Sadly only part of the bridge is open to the public until the end of the month as the other half (with the best views of London’s skyline) undergoes a facelift and new glass-bottomed floor (you heard it here first). That being said it was a great little visit and certainly complements the Tower.  Best of all even when the second walkway is reopened it does not take a long time to visit, so a great inclusion on your pass. (Attraction value so far for N&D £62.50, London Pass £49).

Time to conquer the Tower Bridge

So from the banks of the Thames we decided to finish our day up at the Olympic Park, bur first we made a brief stop at the Monument to the Great Fire of London. After a lung busting 311 steps to the top we were greeted with an amazing vista of…. Cranes! Nestled in the heart of the City of London the view from the Monument dating back to 1677 showed us just how much construction was taking place across the capital. (Attraction value so far for N&D £66.50, London Pass £49).  A short walk to Bank and it was a chance to get off our feet as we Tubed away from the city centre.

The Monument and a crane, something you will see a lot of from the top.

The Monument and a crane, something you will see a lot of from the top.

The Orbit is the UK’s largest sculpture and during the 2012 Olympics it was virtually impossible to get tickets to the top. Natalie had said during the Games, we would have to come back and do it one day. Today was the day. The park was like a ghost town, bereft of the pulsating energy that London 2012 was so famous for. However a few locals strolled amoung the now well established trees and gardens.  We made our way to the entrance and The Orbit itself.  When we reached the top we looked down upon the skeletal remains of the Olympic stadium as it is transformed into a future football stadium. The scene is like something from the run-up to the games, and it seemed hard to believe we sat in the stadium and cheered on our athletes.  Further round we were treated to views across London and inactive displays to help point out what your are seeing.  The experience was great fun, and would be amazing to visit when the stadium was in full swing. (Attraction value so far for N&D £81.50, London Pass £49).

Reliving the good times at  the London 2012 Olympic Park

Reliving the good times at the London 2012 Olympic Park

As we strolled down the circular ramp of the Orbit our day exploring London was drawing to an end. Without a doubt the London Pass worked out to be great value for money. In fact our day full of sightseeing ensured we saved £33.50! Now in all fairness we did have to push a little and your average tourist would have taken a lot more photos in between destinations, but still if you had a plan the one day pass was certainly a great option.

If we were asked by friends visiting the capital, we would recommend perhaps the two or three day pass. You could easily see everything we saw and with the extra time you could add a Hampton Court Palace tour, a Thames Cruise and throw in a Kensington Palace tour as well. For those of you short on time, budget conscious and desperate to see as much as possible then the London Pass is for you. Most importantly, if you are organised, have a plan of what you want to see then, like us, you can prove poor old William Shenstone wrong!

-Dean

The London Pass can be bought online or at the museums/attractions as well as numerous souvenir stands throughout London.  Just look out for the ‘buy the London Pass here’ flag!

Keep  look our for these signs to buy your London Pass

Keep a look our for these signs to buy your London Pass

 

Flashbacks to the inspiration of the London 2012 Paralympics – joining in the celebrations for National Paralympic day 2014

A week ago I was waiting for my tube train to arrive and I spotted a poster – National Paralympic Day 2014. I went home and googled it and that’s it, I was sold!

After a few text message conversations, a friend and I made a (slightly too) early start and headed down to where it was all happening. When we got there a festival awaited.

I had managed to secure some tickets to go into the Aquatics Centre. This was the first time some of a paralympians were in action since 2012 and the atmosphere inside was electric. One of the big things that stand out for me about the Paralympics was watching and cheering on some of our athletes who clearly had hurdles to face on a daily basis. Their courage and determination is incredible, and on Saturday this spirit was on display again. We cheered on our girls and boys and watched some great victories.

Swimming at its best - go Team GB!

Swimming at its best – go Team GB!

After a pit stop for lunch I said goodbye to my friend and continued wandering. The Liberty Festival (as part of the day) was by this point in full swing. I initially went into the Copper Box (dubbed during the Paralympics as “The Box that Rocked”) and saw Team GB beat Belgium in a closely fought GoalBall match. Goalball was new to me, but the level of skill in playing a ball game without sight / blindfolded is so admirable. I was on the edge of my seat!

We won!

We won – taking a bow!

Outside “The Box That Rocked” there was so much going on. Artists were painting with their mouths and feet (better than I could ever dream of!) Boccia England were giving everyone the chance to learn about the intricacies of the sport and wheelchair ballroom dancing was taking place – awesome! I joined in from afar, as did the majority of the audience.

The sense of inclusion for everyone was very special. There was such an amazing vibe during the day. This is the second year the day has been celebrated at the park, and I for one intend going every year from now on. There were visitors there with all sorts of abilities, and all with something special to give. Paralympians wandered the park in their Team GB kit, and whilst they weren’t wearing their gold London 2012 medals it wouldn’t have been out of place if they had have been. With so much going on at times it was hard to know where to look.

GoalBall lessons, Boccia and my favourite, Ballroom Dancing!

GoalBall lessons, Boccia and my favourite, Ballroom Dancing!

As an aside, for me it was the first time I had visited the Olympic Park, now known as the ‘Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park’ since the Paralympic games back in 2012. The changes to (and demolition of) some of the venues plus what was happening to the grounds had been much debated on the London news networks. I hoped I would be as impressed with the legacy of the park as I was with its original form. The park has been open for several months, but it was the first opportunity I’d had to visit, and I can honestly say I was not disappointed. The landscaped gardens and trees are now well established, and large areas of the concourse have been opened up to reveal the waterways below.  It is clear that the stadium is still undergoing its transformation, but the Aquatics Centre is fanatastic and the velodrome the beautiful building I remembered.

So much going on and such a great vibe

So much going on and such a great vibe

Now my closing confession is I do love going round old Olympic stadia. Dean has been marched round the Olympic villages of Seoul and more recently Beijing with me. Whilst both have been amazing, they have lacked a little of the ‘va va voom’ that they once had. I suspect it was way more than the sense of occasion on Saturday that meant that the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park still has that something special. Something that you can’t put your finger on but my goodness, London you still have it! As for the athletes – your courage is amazing and your skill just incredible. Keep up the good work and see you next year for National Paralympic Day 2015!

– Natalie

Our Favourite European Underground Systems

One of the most rewarding challenges of exploring a new city is mastering the local public transport system. In Europe we have them all, the good, the bad and the downright confusing! This week we look at some of our favourite undergrounds from around the continent.

 1. The London Underground

Ok so maybe we are a little biased as it is our hometown, but ‘The Tube’ not only is the oldest underground in the world, one of the most used undergrounds in the world but also regularly voted one of the best undergrounds in the world. All Londoners’ have a love hate relationship with the Tube but without it we would be in a whole world of trouble, just try and get anywhere when there are line closures for maintenance works! In fact it is only when it is shut or not working do we truly realise how much the city relies on it. Best bit of advice, buy an Oyster Card, fares are much cheaper than paying for a paper ticket, oh and don’t forget to ‘Mind The Gap’.

Going underground...

Going underground…

 2. Berlin U-Bahn & S-Bahn

Ever since living in Berlin I have always loved the rail network here. The rickety old carriages rattling along the tracks elevated above the roads below or perhaps trundling through the old ‘Ghost Stations’ from when the city was divided between east and west. When you are riding the Berlin metro it feels like any minute James Bond or Jason Bourne will come bursting through your carriage is some cold war spy drama. Our tip, check out the Mohrenstrasse station, the red marble walls come from Hitler’s former Reich’s Chancellery building, and don’t forget to validate your tickets before jumping on the train it is a hefty fine if you get caught!

One of Berlin's former 'Ghost Stations', closed off during the Cold War and division of the city

One of Berlin’s former ‘Ghost Stations’, closed off during the Cold War and division of the city

 3. Moscow Metro

Difficult, confusing and amazing are just some of the words to describe Moscow’s enormous metro system. Built to showcase the might of the Stalinist Soviet Union, many of the metro stations look like they belong more in a palace than an underground. Finding the right stops can be tricky but rewarding with mosaics of Lenin, space aged themes and a statue of a soldier’s dog whose nose you rub (in the Red Square Metro) but a few treasures awaiting the brave! Our tip, get a good map and learn to read Cyrillic!

Waiting to board the Moscow Metro

Waiting to board the Moscow Metro

One of the many murals showing the strength of the former Soviet Union throughout the Moscow Metro

One of the many murals showing the strength of the former Soviet Union throughout the Moscow Metro

4. Budapest Metro

While not the best metro system in Europe it was the first on the continent, dating back to 1896. The reason we love this underground is the old communist feel when you go underground. Instead of turnstiles ore relying on German honesty, as soon as you validate your ticket at the validation box you are met by a handful of heavy set black clad metro guards demanding to see your validated ticket, (which they have just seen you validate). Then you head to the platform and you can almost guarantee to get checked again or perhaps as soon as the doors of your carriage close a badge is flashed “tickets please” yelled out and you are subjected to another check. Our record? In a three-stop journey we had our ticket checked five times! Better validate that ticket!

Entrance to the Budapest Underground, the oldest underground on the continent

Entrance to the Budapest Underground, the oldest underground on the continent

Do you have a favourite metro or underground in Europe, or better yet do you have a ‘worst’ underground or underground story? If so we would love to hear about it, leave a comment below or drop us a line on Facebook.

 

– Dean