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2 Week in Amsterdam, Munich, Venice, and Rome!

What a trip! I just got back yesterday and as much as I'm ready for getting back to a normal diet and routine, I would love to be able to spend months at a time around Europe. I went with my wife and another couple. We left Salt Lake City on the 9th and flew non stop to Amsterdam and arrived Sunday the 10th.

Amsterdam
We arrived on a Sunday at about 10 am and our first experience in Amsterdam was a bad one. Maybe it was a rough day but the customs line was a complete disaster. No organization, no real lines, just a crowd trying to squeeze through 3 open gates. A total mess but oh well! Once through there I recognized a lot from Rick Steves Europe Travel Skills video. We got our train tickets into Central Station and after a slight adventure finding our platform, we were off. Our first impression was of course the crazy amount of bikes in the city. We spent the first day checking into our apartment and wondering the city. The next day we we started the morning at the Albert Cuyp Market which was right by our apartment. We loved it and started the rest of our mornings at the market. There is every kind of delicious food and all sorts of different things for sale. We then had a bike tour through Mike's Bike Tours and we loved it. This is definitely the best way to get to know Amsterdam. As soon as the tour ended, we rented the bikes for the rest of our trip. I would HIGHLY recommend anyone who visits to rent bikes. You need to have your wits about you because bikes seem to have the right of way of cars and people, but once you're comfortable riding it is by far the easiest and most fun way to get around the city. That night we visited the Anne Frank house. It was informative and cool to see the actual house she stayed in. There are signs and things throughout the whole house so you can learn the story while you're in there. The only downside was that it is always so crowded so it's just like being on a crowded conveyor belt being sent through the house. The next day (Tuesday) we started off the day by going to the Van Gogh museum. None of us are real art loves or have any passion for art but we can still appreciate that magnitude of what Van Gogh created in such a short time. Even though we didn't spend as much time in the Museum as most people, we still enjoyed it. We spent the rest of the day eating our way through Amsterdam and exploring the Red Light District, which is definitely quite the experience. Our last day (Wednesday) we made sure to go to our favorite place Van Stapele Koekmakerij. They only make one thing, and they are the best cookies ever. All chocolate cookies with a white chocolate filling. We also made a few trips to the Metropolitan which has the best waffles with Nutella. That night we took the City Night Line train to Munich. I was so glad we chose to do this. My wife and I had a private compartment with 2 beds and a sink. We slept great and woke up as we were getting into Munich. This took care of travel and lodging at the same time and saved us a day for enjoying the city.

Munich
This was the stop on our trip that I thought my be a bit of a gamble. It was definitely my least favorite of the 4 cities we visited, but I still really enjoyed it. We had no intentions of drinking a ton of beer and partying while there so the fact that the weekend we visited was during Springfest and also an FC Bayern Munich match, we were definitely in the minority. Our first day there (Thursday) we did another bike tour, again with Mike's Bike Tours. This was another great tour and a would also recommend taking the tour when in Munich. We covered a ton of ground and saw all the main sights in just a few hours, and even stopped at a beer garden inside the English Garden. We got a delicious dinner at the famous Hofbrauhaus and it was delicious. Each day seemed based around Marienplatz which is gorgeous but there really wasn't a ton to do there. The market just past the square had a lot of good food (continued)

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Munich
Our second day there we did a tour of the Residenz which was amazing. Every room in there was gorgeous. It is unfortunate that most of the city is rebuilt, but there is still a lot of the original furniture and other items that are still on display. Once again we finished this day with wondering around and finding good places to eat. Our last day (Saturday) we went to the Olympic Park. We planned on taking a tour of some sort but as soon as we got there we saw there the big Spartan Race was going on (an obstacle race that covers about 12 miles). Even though it's not what we came for, it was still fun to watch. The Olympic Stadium was OK, it is definitely old and pretty rundown, but still fun to look at if you're at the Olympic Park. We went from there to see the Allianz Arena where Bayern Munich plays just to get some pictures. That night we took another CNL night train. This time the 4 of us got the 5 bed couchette (paid for an extra ticket so we didn't have a stranger) and it worked out great once again. Although if it wasn't the 4 of us I would never travel in a shared couchette. There was an older couple in the one next to us that had to share with a group of kids that were part of a very young and loud Chinese tour group. Luckily we all had earplugs and woke up rested for our 8 am arrival into Venice.
Venice
This was the city we had the least planned for, and I'm glad. We spent the first day walking around and exploring the city. We walked over 12 miles that day. Luckily we had a great apartment literally on the Grand Canal. We had a small deck we would sit on a night and watch all the boats go buy. It was gorgeous. Our second day we had our tickets for St. Mark's Basilica. This building was absolutely stunning. Every detail was near perfect. This is definitely a must-do if ever in Venice. We went from there to Doge's Palace which was just as cool. Walking through the Bridge of Sighs into the jail is a fun experience. We went to our favorite quick stop pasta place called Dal Moro's for the first of 3 times. Our third day (Tuesday) we explored the Rialto Market. Side note, with the construction on the Rialto Bridge, it was a tourist trap and a mess. I tried to avoid it after seeing that. The market itself though was very cool. Especially all of the fresh seafood. From there we took a trip over to Murano. We watched a glass blowing demonstration which was awesome. They then shuffled everybody into a shop and there were about 10 workers watching everyone like a hawk. It made it pretty uncomfortable so we left. The rest of the island was pretty empty and not much going on aside from shops selling blown glass. We ventured back to Venice and had a great meal on the south side of the island on the water. I wish I remembered all of the places we ate and if I had my Rick Steves Pocket Venice I could, but lets just say it would suggest following Rick's food recommendations. We were never let down. Our last day (Wednesday) we took a 9:30 train to Rome.
Rome
Rome was AMAZING. We had a perfect apartment right by Piazza Navona. We got in and settled in our apartment by 2 pm and using our Ricks Steves Pocket Rome book, we did the Heart of Rome walk. Saw Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, and the Spanish Steps all within a couple of hours. Piazza Navona was great, and we wandered through it countless times in our 4 days since we were staying so close. The Pantheon blew our minds. The sheer size of it was incredible. We walked by it about 5 times during our stay and each time it was just as cool to see. The Trevi Fountain was also much bigger than expected. It was beyond crowded with tourists and men from Bangladesh (we asked one of them where they're from) selling laser pointers and selfie sticks. We went back at night and it was a totally different atmosphere. The Spanish steps were almost completely covered in scaffolding for cleanings and renovations but the far left side was open. (contd next post)

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Rome
Our second day we got up early and met our tour guide (Walks of Italy) outside the walls to the Vatican for our VIP tour. This gave us the chance to get into the Sistine Chapel before it was open to the general public. The chapel was amazing. The artwork inside of there was beautiful. Like I said in the Amsterdam post, we are far from being art lovers, but I could have looked around the room for hours at the amazing paintings. The rest of the Vatican museums were very cool and I would highly recommend doing a guided tour, unless you are an art history major or something. It could be very overwhelming if you don't really know the information behind what you're looking at. Our tour ended in St. Peter's Basilica. This might have been my favorite part of the trip. Seeing the largest church in the world was jaw dropping. I would also suggest going underneath and seeing the resting places of former Popes. It also gives you a view of where St. Peter is buried. The Alter made by Bernini inside the Basilica is massive and gorgeous. For 8 euros (6 to take the elevator) you can go to the very top of the top and it gives 360 degree views of Rome. It was definitely worth it. This tour was long and exhausting, but an amazing experience nonetheless. We ventured back to our apartment and took a short nap. That night we walked to Trastevere and found a good restaurant where we had the best carbonara pasta I've ever had (too bad I don't remember the restaurant name). The next day (Friday) we met at 12:45 for our Colosseum/Forum/Palatine Hill tour. This was also a VIP guided tour so we got to explore the underground of the Colosseum as well as the very top level. Aside from all of the interesting info this provided us, it made for some once in a life time pictures. The Palatine Hill and Forum were awesome, but I think I would rather to them before the Colosseum because they don't quite compare to the Colosseum we by the end we were ready to go back for another mid day rest. We headed back towards the Forum that night to get some cool pictures around sun down. The next day (Saturday) we slept in a bit and headed towards Camp De Fiori and explored the market and picked up some pasta to bring back to the family. From there we went back towards Trastevere and found a little 4th generation cookie shop we heard about and it was delicious. We got 3 bags and instead of bringing any home, we ate them all. We spent most of this day wandering around again, planning our meals, and walking into any church we passed. They were all amazing. We also passed by the Circus Maximus which had events going on since it was Rome's birthday. We planned on visiting the Borghese gallery but didn't plan ahead enough and they were booked for the whole weekend. On our last day (Sunday) we walked towards the Vatican and battled our way through 100,000 people and were able to listen to the Pope. It was in Italian so we didn't understand any, but we wanted to get the experience anyways. Just as the crowds were getting to be too much and we decided to leave, we noticed them all shifting a bit. I happened to hop on a statue to take a peak and saw security moving the crowd back, and suddenly saw the Pope himself coming through on the Pope-mobile. I was almost on top of a guy getting a glimpse but it worked out. We were able to be within about 30 feet of the Pope as he came through waving to the crown. It made for a cool picture and a very memorable experience. Later that day we went to the top of the Victor Emmanuel Monument which gave us a very cool vantage point to see all of Rome. For our final meal, we ate at another Rick Steves suggestion in Trastevere. I can't remember the name but it was delicious and the owner was very welcoming. We finished the trip at our hands down favorite Gelato stop called Frigidarium. It is just west of Piazza Navona and is amazing. Sorry that was so long, but I asked so many questions on the forum I felt obligated to write a report

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Loved your report! Thanks for writing and sharing it. Sounds like your overnight trains worked out well.

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Excellent report. Thanks for sharing your wonderful trip! We've been to Venice & Rome and loved them both. I too could spent a few months exploring Europe.

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Very nice report. My family and I also took the VIP tour of the Coliseum, amazing information.

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Would you mind sharing where you stayed in Venice and Rome and if you'd recommend them? And, where did you find the tickets to St. Mark's Basilica? Thanks.

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No problem Dana. We rented apartments throug Airbnb in each city we visited. Id be more than happy to message you the links to them if you'd like. We purchases the tickets online for St. Mark's. I don't remember the website but a quick Google search will take you there. It's free to enter but costs only a couple bucks to buy tickets that skip the general admission line so I think it's definitely worth it.