Saturday, November 26, 2011

Land Trip - Europe (Day 55: Berlin, Germany)

24 Sept 2011 (Day 55)
Took the train at 6 plus in the morning. Arrived in the Capital of Germany at 12pm.

When I went to the hostel to check in, I was told that I had to wait a for a few hours later for my room to be ready. Then I asked her to check if there are any rooms available because I wanted a place to settle down a bit first. She said no. Then went I was about to leave the counter, she said that I was lucky because there was a room booking that was canceled last minute and I could have the room! I was a happy boy! She was kinda rude though.
 (Berlin Wall)
Took the U-Bahn to the Berlin Wall, more specifically, the East Side Gallery. The Berlin Wall was a barrier constructed by East Germany starting in August 1961, that completely cut off West Berlin from East Germany and East Berlin. Little is left of the Wall at its original state, which was destroyed almost everywhere.

The remaining stretch of the Berlin is actually quite long. I didn't walk the whole stretch. After walking for a while, I went to Checkpoint Charlie.
(Checkpoint Charlie)
Do you see Charlie there in the big poster above? Ok, that is nonsense. The reason why this checkpoint is called Charlie is because of the phonetic alphabet; checkpoints "Alpha" & "Bravo" were located elsewhere. So this is Checkpoint C, which is Checkpoint Charlie. Get it?

Checkpoint Charlie was a crossing point between East and West Berlin during the Cold War. Formerly, it was the only border crossing between East and West Berlin that permitted foreigners passage. Residents of East and West Berlin were not allowed to use it. This contributed to Checkpoint Charlie's mythological status as a meeting place for spies and other shady individuals.
("You are leaving the American Sector" sign at Checkpoint Charlie)
Went to a famous landmark in Berlin - The Bradenburg Gate. The Gate was commissioned as a sign of peace but when the Nazis ascended to power, they used the Gate as a party symbol. 
(Bradenburg Gate)
 (Bradenburg Gate - 1936)
The specialty sausage in Berlin is the Currywurst. It is a sausage covered in ketchup and curry powder. I knew I had to try it!
(Eating Currywurst at a street vendor)

And you know what? It was soooo good that I decided that the Currywurst was going to be my favorite German Sausage! And it still is.
 (Bundestag - German Parliament building with a spectacular glass dome.)
Took a long walk around the city. And there was a Berlin Marathon going on!
(Marienkirche & TV Tower)
Then walked around a open Market - Hackescher Markt. This is a popular place for eating out with nice bars and restaurants.
(Hackescher Markt S-bahn Station)
Walked a bit more and took the S-bahn back to my hostel. Next morning I was heading to Copenhagen, Denmark!

After visiting the Berlin Wall, MY LIFE WAS NEVER, EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE........................EEEE............................EEVER, THE SAME, AGAIN!!!

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Land Trip - Europe (Day 54: Nuremberg, Germany)

22 Sept 2011 (Day 53)
Continued from the day in Munich.....Arrived in Nuremberg after a short 1-hour train-ride at 9pm. Took a 10-minute walk to the hostel. Checked-in and slept.....

23 Sept 2011 (Day 54)
Woke up in the morning and went to the tourist information center to get some information. Duh....

Then I took a tram to the former Nazi Party Rally Grounds.Soon after they came to power in 1933 the Nazis designated Nuremberg as the place for their annual party rallies. To demonstrate their power, they planned a set of gigantic buildings. Only a fraction of these were actually built, including a colossal Congress Hall and the reviewing stand at hte Zeppelin field. The rally grounds consistes a total of 11 square kilometers.

Hitler used the place for propaganda and to rally the troops. Hundreds of thousands of people attended the rallies every year.  
(Congress Hall - Could seat up to 50,000 people)
(The designed was inspired by the Colosseum in Rome)

(The Great Road)

(The Grandstand at Zeppelin Field - The place where Hitler stood)
The Grandstand had the Swastika blown off in 1945, after Germany's fall in World War II.
Took the tram back to the city.
(In the Old Town)
I didn't know that Nuremberg is well-known for Gingerbread! That is one of their specialty there and I had to try it. Gingerbread is usually eaten during Christmas time but I guess it is so popular with tourists that it is sold all year round. So I ate Gingerbread without the man! 

Another Nuremberg specialty is the Nürnberger Bratwurst, which is thinner and shorter than other bratwurst sausages. It contains a lot of spices and it was delicious! 
After eating, I went to the Imperial Castle. I could see the whole city of Nuremberg from the Castle.
(View from the Imperial Castle)
Walked around the city a little bit more and went back to the hostel.
(My Room!)
Managed to catch up on my blogging that night. The next morning I was heading to Berlin, Germany!

After exploring Nuremberg, MY LIFE WAS NEVER, EEEEEEEEEEEE....................................EEEE...................................EEVER, THE SAME, AGAIN!!!

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Land Trip - Europe (Day 53: Munich, Germany)

22 Sept 2011 (Day 53)

Arrived in Munich at about 10am and I didn't book any accommodation! Well, that was because I wasn't intending to stay over in Munich. And the reason? The Oktoberfest was on and all the prices were crazily inflated. Accommodation rates could go up to more than twice the usual rates! I wasn't going to pay that premium.

So I left my HUGE Haversack in the locker in the Railway Station and went to explore Munich.
(Pedestrian shopping street)

Germany is known for its beer, sausages and pork knuckle. And the thing about German sausages is that each city in Germany has their own special and unique sausage. So different city is known for different types of sausages.

The Weisswurst ("white sausage") is a Munich specialty. It is a breakfast sausage that is traditionally eaten as a late breakfast and available in restaurants until 12 noon. Personally, I think the white sausage was ok only and not something that I will eat again. Just wanted to try their local food.
(I'm holding the bowl of Weisswurst)
(German Pork Knuckle!!! Super yummy!!!)
Took a relaxing walk in the English Garden. The English Garden is huge and very peaceful.
(English Garden)

At the mouth of the artificial stream that runs through the English Garden, there is a standing wave that is produced by the water pumping mechanism. And there I saw something amazing! I saw surfers surfing on this wave!!! The stream is not very wide and it was definitely a sight to behold. I mean, I have seen surfers surfing near the beach but it wasn't anything like this!

After a beautiful walk in the English Garden and after seeing surfer dudes surfing in a narrow stream, I took the U-Bahn (subway) to newest Football Stadium in Europe - Allianz Arena. It was opened in 2005 and was one of the venues for the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany.
The Allianz Arena is the home ground of FC Bayern Munich and TSV 1860 München. It is also the first stadium in the world that has a full changing colour outside. I've seen pictures of the stadium at night and it is really stunning with different colours.

Next up, I went to Oktoberfest! I can't believe that when I was in Frankfurt, the Frankfurt Auto Show was on, and when I was in Munich, the Oktoberfest was on! So fortunate to have such coincidences during this trip. I heard that people actually fly to Munich just for the Oktoberfest! For me, I just happened to be there.
I simply couldn't give up the opportunity to go to the Oktoberfest. This is a once-a-year beer festival that is held in Munich since 1810. And if you have noticed the date that I was there, it wasn't even October yet! It was still 22 Sept. Yes, the Oktoberfest is not held in October!!! What an irony! Ok, to be fair, it usually runs from late September to the first weekend of October. So it does happen during October, although most of occurs during September. 
By the way, this is the world's largest fair, with more than 5 million people attending every year! The festival is held in the city with a land area of more than 100 acres dedicated to beer tents, food kiosks, and fairground attractions. Yes, apart from beer, there is a huge theme park in the vicinity. So if you don't go there to drink, it can be a nice outdoor carnival for the whole family.

I was overwhelmed when I was there beacuase the whole place was jam-packed with people. Drunk ones included! Most ladies were dressed-up in barmaids costumes and the guys wore Lederhosen.

Each of the major breweries has their own beer tent that is filled with traditional musicians leading the crowd in well-known drinking chants, and incredibly strong barmaids hoisting 10 or more huge glass beer mugs! Those 1-liter glass beer mugs are heavy even when empty! Just imagine.

Each beer tent is unique and has a different theme. I was totally impressed when I stepped into the beer tents. The decorations and atmosphere inside the tents were off the charts! I could only say "WOW!"
The tents are usually overcrowded and it is not easy to get a seat. Unless you are there early. As a general rule, you won't be served if you don't have a seat.
I don't drink beer but I wanted to soak in the Oktoberfest atmosphere so I found a place outside the tent and drank Coke! I know, what a joke!

I think the barmaid taking my order was laughing at me. And I believe that I was the only one there drinking coke! Hey, at least I'm not shy to admit it!
(At Oktoberfest drinking coke! That is not Stout ok!)
Ok, stop laughing at me will you! What is wrong with drinking Coke at Oktoberfest?

I was tempted to order all the German food available. There were all types of German sausages, pork knuckle, roast chicken, roast pork, grilled ham, Sauerkraut and more. But the prices were so inflated that I decided not to spend my money there. I could get the same food at a much lower price elsewhere in the city.

After drinking the most expensive Coke in my life, I went back to the railway station. My train was departing Munich at 7:50pm and I was heading to Nuremberg, Germany!

After spending less than 1 day in Munich, MY LIFE WAS NEVER, EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE................................EEEEEE...........................................EEVER, THE SAME, AGAIN!!!

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Land Trip - Europe (Day 52: Frankfurt, Germany)

21 Sept 2011 (Day 52)
Arrived in the business and financial center of Germany - Frankfurt! The city is known for its futuristic skyline and the biggest German Airport. 
(In front of Frankfurt Railway Station)
The first place I went? Senckenberg Museum. It boasts the largest exhibition of large dinosaurs in Europe. Apart from the main exhibit of the skeletons of the T-Rex, Long Neck dinosaur and the Triceratops, I must say that it wasn't worth the money paid for. It was quite disappointing. 
To bring me back from my disappointment, I went to the biggest Auto Show in the World - Frankfurt Auto Show! The best part? I didn't even know that the biennially motor show was going on until I was in Frankfurt.

The Frankfurt Auto Show is definitely a must-see for all car lovers. It is only held once in two years! Can you imagine? Once in two years! And I happened to be there when the show was going on! What a coincidence! Of course, I wouldn't want to miss out on this opportunity and I bought the ticket (which was only 8 euros) and immersed myself in the world of automobiles!
(Look at the dashboard! It is just glass!)

 (Mercedes Benz had one whole building for itself)

So, those are just some of the cars that I bought. What do you think? Nice? Anyway, I thought that I was going to spend only 1 hour in the Auto Show but I ended up staying there for 3 hours! By the time I left, it was evening already.

Quickly went to explore the city centre.
(Euro sculpture in front of Eurotower)
 (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's House)
 (Römer square)
 (Frankfurt night skyline)
Oh, when I was walking around the city at about 7pm, I could hardly see anybody on the streets. The streets were so quiet that it was actually scary. When I was doing some video recording near a Paulaner Restaurant, I witnessed a pickpocketing incident. 

There was a group of Chinese from Mainland China who were having their dinner and 2 locals (I think) walked passed their table and took a wallet and walked off. They didn't even run! They walked away! Then a Chinese man realised what was happening and stood up, walked a few steps and shouted. But by the time, I couldn't see the 2 guys already. The rest of the group still didn't know what was happening. It wasn't the wallet of the Chinese man who shouted that was stolen, it was his friend's wallet. He went back to the table and told his friend in Mandarin, "Hey, your wallet is stolen and you are still sitting here hehe haha.." Immediately, his friend stood up and wanted to chase but it was too late.

So please, never eeeeeeeee.......ever put your wallet on the table when you are eating!

After walking along the river, I went back to the hostel to blog. The next morning I was heading to Munich, Germany!

After seeing so many cars in one day, MY LIFE WAS NEVER, EEEEEEEEEEEEE......................................EEEE......................................EEVER, THE SAME, AGAIN!!!