I published the blog post on DaWanda Developers Blog.
If you are slightly interested in art and history, Florence is the town to visit!
We used the Firenzecard extensively to explore the many sites of Florence. The card costs 72€ and allows the holder to visit 67 museums in 72 hrs without having to wait in line or make any reservations beforehand.* We tried very hard, but only managed to visit the Duomo, the Baptistery of Saint John, Palazzo Vecchio, Uffizi, Palazzo Pitti with its Boboli Gardens, Basilica of Santa Maria Novella and the David Statue in the Galleria dell’Accademia. The Firenzcard also allows you to use the local bus, but Florence turned out to have the perfect size to be discovered by foot!
The place where we stayed is also worth to mention. Simon found it on AirBnB and it is an apartment on the 4th floor of a medieval tower, which was once owned by a powerful family named Donati. The towers of Donati were mentioned by Dante and had been the home of the dottore of the Medici family during the Renaissance.
The picture above was taken on the tower of Palazzo Vecchio.
*It also promises unlimited Wifi in the city, but the signal was usually very bad and most cafés had free Wifi anyway.
After finishing my diploma last year and working at my new job for a while I decided to finally take some vacation and visit my family in China. And since I have never been to the southern part of China before (which is usually the part Chinese people are pretty proud of because of the beautiful landscapes there), I decided to combine the family visit with a backpack-trip to this area. And of course Simon, the big voyage-enthusiast, was immediately up to it, too.
The big part of my family lives in Taigu/Shanxi, which is a bit north-east from central China. The last time I went there was five years ago, so I was pretty excited to see how everybody has changed and to get to know them again. Especially my grand parents on my mother’s side are still very healthy, but with older folks you sometimes never know… so it was high time to get the planning started!
I found a very good search-engine for comparing international flight-ticket prices. The benefit you get from this web-site is not that they offer you more or cheaper flights, but because the design of the site is reduced to the really important contents and the results are listed in a very clearly way. I always get headaches from the other flight-ticket-search-engines with all the blinking letters, pop-ups and bad search-result-displays. A good ticket price (if you book it some weeks in advance) for a round-trip from Germany to China should cost less than 6oo Euro (we payed 541 Euro each). If you are really spontaneous, you might have to pay more.
As for domestic flights in China, find someone who can read Chinese and book your tickets on an native flight-search-web-site. I don’t really know what the reason is (maybe commission?), but none of the foreign site I visited offered me the same flight to the price from the Chinese site. So use a Chinese site, there are plenty of them, but most of them are as chaotic as the German ones, but I used this one and is was OK.
For a visit to the People’s Republic of China one has to apply for a Visa. This turned out to be more difficult than last time. They changed the policy last November, so just place a cross at the right position on the paper (which asks for the reason of your visit ) is not enough anymore. For visiting your family or friends you need an invitation from them and a copy of his/her Chinese ID-Card or foreign passport; for a touristic visit, either you need a confirmation + your itinerary from your travel-agency or (for self-organizers) your there and back plane-tickets and also an itinerary.
For planning the travel we borrowed the standard backpacker bible “Lonely Planet China”, the 2008 English editionfrom a friend, and consulted the sites Travel China Guide and HostelWorld.com. Borrowing an old Lonely Planet turned out to be a not so good idea. Things are changing every fast in China, especially the hostels and entrance prices became much more expensive during the past four years, and of course the hostel and restaurant recommendations weren’t that up-to-date anymore… a better source was definitely Travel China Guide where you can find good information about lots of Chinese cities, often with a decent city-map, and more importantly the schedule of the town’s long distance bus station and how you can get there with a local bus. It’s also the best English site to check the train schedule!!!
Since we had some nice experience from our last visit on traveling around China by train, we decided to do it again this time. Taking the train is much more cheaper than flying, and there are over-night trains between most of the big cities. And since most of the railway-stations are in the middle of the town, there is no need for a taxi or the airport express to get to the city. Besides, we were somehow craving for the experience of sleeping on a hard sleeper and falling asleep once again by the gently rumbling of the train.