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Euro Trip 2008

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"It doesn’t matter how masterfully written a book is, reading it year in year out gets a bit boring in the end! So does the places we visit”…. G. Crawford

Photos Posted in this Blog

Auckland, New Zealand

If you come across any of my photos posted here in any other sites aside from my own personal blogs (Virtual Tourist, nzredten4women and cattleclassqueen on blogger and Friendster) please be advised it is possible that it is being maliciously used and that I am not the one responsible for those postings. I have only posted these photos in this site and have linked it in my blogs.

Please advice me if you ever come across any of these photos by leaving a comment in this entry or my blogs. I would be most grateful...

Many Thanks

permalink written by  jorgn_craw on June 9, 2011 from Auckland, New Zealand
from the travel blog: Euro Trip 2008
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LAX - AKL just gladddddd to be back home...........

Auckland, New Zealand

Well there is about 13 hours to kill between LAX and AKL...12.5hours to be exact. I settled into my Boeing seat before take off. I am grateful the two gentlemen from Palmy seated in my row are quite subtle souls. The one seated next to me was the more friendly more outspoken one but I hardly spoke to him due to my coughing and my sore throat and the thought of giving him my European winter bug!

In my effort not to appear standoffish or boring, I managed to exchange a few words with him when he came and joined me and the others at the rear of the plane several hours after take off. I do this regularly during long flights; stretching every part of me that I can still manage to stretch, walking a bit to avoid Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) plus it is also so much closer to a glass of water or cups of hot drinks and some nibbles too! The crew from Heathrow (LHR) are very friendly and so did the crew in this sector.

Before leaving Los Angeles Airport I made up my mind; unless I am stopping in the US of A; I will never transit via the US again if I can help it. I'd say Hong Kong is so much nicer to transit to if going to Europe. You get there and you can just take your time, have a bit of retail therapy, something to bite. Any of these is better than sitting in a room for 2 hours.

I endeavored to sleep, I believe I did snooze for a few minutes. I just hope I did not annoy my seat mate with my snoring if I did snore. He did not show any sign of being annoyed so I hope I did not snore or if I did it wasn't that bad! The remaining 5 hours of the flight were tough on me. My flu was getting worse and by now my bum's starting to ache or feel numb. My shoulders and my neck are killing me and my legs are starting to give me pin and needles on a low intensity. The nasal spray from Dr H which I used as per his instruction "on demand" has helped me tremendously so did the lozenges from his kind and lovely girlfriend.

I get annoyed with myself putting my book in my hand carry bag which is in the overhead locker. I scrambled for the electronic Sudoku MArven's dad gave me supposed to be for warding off boredom during my flight..but that too was in the pocket of my hand carry bag. So I spent quite some time feeding my mind with rubbish from some stupid movies... Okey maybe not so stupid after all it was Luke Wilson's "Henry Poole was here". And another comedy movie...sorry can't remember it now, I must have watched something more stupid that is why I cant remember it. What I can remember though is that my neighbor was watching Mama Mia. I saw him watching Mama Mia after leaving LHR...and almost 20 hrs later I am sure he was still watching Mama Mia from LAX...he must have liked it so much!

I struggled to feel comfortable in my seat as breakfast was served which means we are just a couple of hours to Auckland. Got myself psyched up after my meal and hoped my son or any one of them at home remembers to pick me up.

Then the voice from the cockpit announced we're home in a few minutes. It's my first time to arrive at Auckland International Airport since it was renovated last year, it is good! I took advantage of using the travellator a lot as I didn't have a wheel in my hand carry. So I noticed the lay out is quite different. It allows more time for passengers to go through right in the middle of the Duty Free Shop.

Being in the industry, I realize this could be to cater for and or take advantage of the need brought about by the cabin liquid restrictions/regulations. Travelers are being advised to best buy their duty free at their destination rather than from their boarding point. I spent some time in the shop mainly to get something for Noel.

My baggage came out off the carousel as soon as I got there and I was out in no time into the welcoming overcast weather of Auckland. I was happy to dump my thick and heavy jacket/coat and slowly peeled my onion skin one by one until all that was left was my short sleeved red Ice breaker t-shirt.

Oh Yes...It sure feels loooovvveelllyyyy!!!! And it feels even more lovely to be home!!!


permalink written by  jorgn_craw on December 16, 2008 from Auckland, New Zealand
from the travel blog: Euro Trip 2008
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Los Angeles, United States

Coming out of terminal 5 in Heathrow was not a problem. Had to pick up my luggage and transfer to Terminal 1. Heathrow Express could get me to Terminal 1 for free but I have 3 baggages. In fact, 5pcs including my satchel bag for my notebook and my oversize parcel containing mom's umbrella, Neuchswanstein poster and the original content of the transparent bag, Marven's kite. I thought it was quite thoughtful of him and his dad to search their home for something that can contain my excess/oversized items. I remember him telling me he has used the kite on his trips to the Baltic. I wonder if there is sand in it? Will it show? Will I be able to get thru NZ customs?

Anyway because of these I had no choice but to line up for a cab! Five minutes later and GBP15 poorer, I got to Terminal 1. Typical London weather, gray and wet but there was sunshine in the cab driver's tone!
He talked a bit of what he knew of New Zealand.

Getting there was "no worries" a bit of traffic but nothing major. It took me more time looking for the Air NZ check-in counter which happens to be in section R and not in the main area of T1.

I got 2 leisurely hours before check-in even after my plane being an hour delayed. So I went back to the main area, bought some stamps for my postcards and dropped them off. I also managed to make a call to let my vaxbuddy know I got to Heathrow in one piece. Up on the mezzanine, the restaurants and coffee shops were looking busy. The lift looked like it was working over time. It was the same with the internet corner, also in the mezzanine. It was my intention to go up and have something hot to drink or eat but decided I'll check my email instead. Sent a couple of emails to NZ and DE and then went back to section R.

Checking in was a breeze; had the same story with my oversize item except I did not have to walk several hundred meters as I did in Tegel this morning. Then I went through the immigration and customs security and out into the boarding lounge..

I waited for several hours before our boarding gate was displayed on the big screens. In between my vigil, I went looking for fridge magnets and somethings to get the boys. I was itching to do a bit of shopping with my left-over sterling pounds. Unfortunately I was not able to do that due to my cabin bag, my very heavy bag, which I had to carry around with me at all time due to security reasons. The bane of flying alone, the only other annoying situation of solo flying aside from this is not having enough photos of yourself.

Instead of getting annoyed for my inability to enjoy a bit of retail therapy, I went to the Pret a Manger shop for some food instead...okey for comfort food! I tried to be good though, I had a cup of Miso soup and a few sushi. The guy who served me was a Filipino and he offered to give me a discount which I gladly accepted. I remember his name as Joe (that would be Jose back in the Philippines).

It was a long flight. The transit via LAX didn't take that long. But one can feel the urgency of things and the pressure on the officials trying to have everyone dealt with precisely and quickly.

I took this route for the experience. This will give me more credibility next time I advise anyone about transiting via LAX. The Iris Scan, the green immigration card (now being replaced by ESTA come 12 Jan) and the fingerprinting..talking about these will be more like second nature now that I have experienced it.

The rest of the time during the transit is just spent sitting in a room (drinking water and instant hot drink provided and a few snacks and fruits FOC; the biz class and premium class have a room adjacent to the general pax room) until we re-boarded flight NZ1.

permalink written by  jorgn_craw on December 15, 2008 from Los Angeles, United States
from the travel blog: Euro Trip 2008
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then it was time to say Auf Wiedershen...

Potsdam, Germany

I don't know why we say good+bye when we really do not feel that 'good' when we leave someone or someone leaves us. Was it an effort to give a positive connotation to a rather sad situation?

My time to say "Auf Wiedersehen" was postponed for a further 24 hours. Due to my camera being lost and the need to report it to the police the next morning, Marven ended up suggesting I stay one more night. Which I didn't want to do but knew it would be best to do in that circumstance. Looking back,I am quite thankful for that. I was in my worst with regards to my flu, my whole body was sore, every muscle every joint was in pain. And I still wasn't packed.

Instead of driving to the airport that evening, we drove to Rebrucke. I felt rather uneasy due to my conditions but Marvo reassured it was ok. So I got my chance to say goodbye to everyone and of course to Lopez!

Marvo's mum gave me more goodies to take home and even offered to lend me a bigger suitcase. I am just glad I decided to fly thru the US which allows me the 2 pcs baggage allowance. The only problem was Berlin/London sector as it is on a separate ticket. But earlier when Marvo had my ticket reissued for the next day he managed to upgrade my baggage allowance and paid EUR40 for me to have 2 pcs. I thought that was a better deal. I was out of focus but grateful to have remembered to cancelled my accommodation in London and settled to the fact that I have more than 24 hrs to pack and get my much needed sleep and rest.

Before leaving Rebrucke, Dr H came home with his girlfriend and with them several medications I would need during my flight. I wasn't expecting that. I was just blown away by what this family has done for me and shown me. I know I could never thank them enough nor return all the favour I received. The best I could do was say a prayer for the family. My only regret was I didn't pray with them, I could have done it with them. But I also know that prayers are conversations with God. It is more important that I spoke to the Lord about the kindness of this family for He in turn can touch them!

Having slept and rested I felt much better early morning the next day as we drove to Berlin-Tegel. I was quite teary-eyed yesterday and I think it was due to the fact that I wasn't feeling very well due to lack of sleep. But I know I am going to miss this place so much! The pastries so tempting, the pace of the city, the history overflowing, the people so warm and lovely and hospitable...shame I cannot recommend their sausages and beer (which is a big part of their culture) simply due to the fact that I could not sample them or...

The drive took us about twenty minutes. Tegel is unique, I am sad to hear it is going to cease operation in the very near future when the new airport they are building in Schonefeld opens.

permalink written by  jorgn_craw on December 14, 2008 from Potsdam, Germany
from the travel blog: Euro Trip 2008
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Tegel - Heathrow

London, United Kingdom

Tegel is very different from all the airports I have been. It is in a circular shape or octagonal shape. The check in and boarding areas are configured as a complete independent unit. It is not like the conventional airport where there is just one immigration and customs security area. By the side of the check-in counter sits an immigration officer and another step takes you through the door into the customs security area and then take five or so steps and you are basically at the boarding gate.

British Airways (BA) counter was just opening when we got there. There were just a couple of other passengers before me. Once checked in, we dropped my oversize baggage to Counter 16 (located half way through the building, we ended up doing full circle to return to the same counter for boarding).

Marven never thought of explaining the airport set up or configuration to me. I would have preferred to seat in his company and enjoyed my cup of coffee a wee bit longer had I known that going through the immigration is a matter of taking 2 steps behind the check in counter and another 2 steps from there takes me through the customs...

So I went for a cuppa and hurried to say goodbye to Marvo. I am never good at saying goodbyes. I was not very good at holding back my tears when I said goodbye in Manila early this year so I thought the best way was to just do it cold Turkey this time. Thinking I could window shop or actually shop with my remaining few hundred Euro cash, I was confident there was no time for me to get emotional this time. But that wasn't going to be the case here.

After my 2 minutes Immigration and Customs clearance, I sat there with nothing to do but wish I stayed outside and have a bit more time with Marvo. I tried to keep my mind busy trying to watch the customs officers check the luggages...but anything routine after about 15 passengers and overhearing the officers asking the same questions and pushing and opening bags..my mind started to wander.

So I started to cry. I wanted to see more of this beautiful country but there isn't much time. I am sure I am going to miss this place. I am now seeing the snowflakes falling; snow covered roofs, the S Bahn, the busy but very clean streets, the tree clad parks even in winter...most of them lifeless but I can visualize them during spring and autumn; the grocery shops with the huge variety of cheese, the pastries...the Christmas Markets! These things just flooded my mind and I started to miss the place even before I'm gone! Oh so many things I will miss!

On the other hand; I am glad I don't have the luxury of time or money to stay as long as I would like. If I stayed longer, it will break my heart to say goodbye to the things I like and could come accustomed to here! I cried later on as I was sitting alone waiting for boarding time. Maybe because there was nothing to take my mind from thinking of what I am leaving behind. I am almost grateful I have a very bad flu. I could consider it almost a blessing in disguise! It made me looked like I was just teary eyed due to my coughing feats and frequent nose blowing.

The full plane got a big surprise once we all were settled on our seats. Surely the pilots would have known this before we boarded. Once everyone was seated we were told we might spend an hour or so sitting there before we can take off due to heavy fog in London.

At first I started to feel a bit worried or disappointed. But being aware of weather disrupts especially in winter, I booked an earlier flight allowing myself a lot of time in between. It would mean I will have a long lay over in Heathrow but I'd rather do that than miss my flight.

It reminded me of winter back home and the dozens of canceled domestic flights or rerouted flights due to weather disrupts. The bane of hundred of stranded travelers' and source of their frustrations, grumpiness; disappointment, or even regret for not taking cancellation cover especially with non-interline carriers and or separate bookings for flight sectors.

So I reminded old me to stay calm and just be cool (diplomatic will be too formal a word for this scenario) after all I have allowed plenty of time between this flight and my international flight. I almost gave myself a pat in the back...if only I could easily reach my back without looking "looney tuney" to the rest of the passengers and the crew of course!

Any effort of communicating with the person seating next to me was eliminated due to language barrier...it has been an eye opener for me. The couple of times I went out (not too far) on my own and had trouble communicating with store cashiers or anyone I need to speak to is going down in my learning book! I will always remember now how it feels like to be the one who cannot speak the local tongue! A good almost humbling way to learn.

Forty five minutes later we were told we could taxi(and if you are like me who has very short span of attention and you get bored easily, forty five minutes is like 4.5 weeks) . What a blessed relief! The flight was good, as a Kiwi I'd say "all sweet mate!"

During the flight they served a cold drink and a cheese sandwich which I enjoyed with much gusto. I didn't realize I was that hungry.

permalink written by  jorgn_craw on December 14, 2008 from London, United Kingdom
from the travel blog: Euro Trip 2008
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A Quiet Day - No Photos

Potsdam, Germany

Today, Friday 12 December, is another quiet day! On our return from Cologne on the 10th, I finally given in to this flu-like condition. Dry cough, runny nose and a bit of temperature. So I decided to stay home yesterday amidst the protest of Marvo accusing me of having wasted his time by staying home.

But I knew very well, tiredness has caught up with him too and I will be very surprise if he won't catch the bug I have right now. Anyway, I know my body very well. I don't get sick easily, in fact I hardly do considering the constant lack of sleep and rest I go through. But I realise I have a long flight ahead and I do not want to be feeling very sick while flying. The thought of having a flu during a very long flight just doesn't sit well with me.

In order to not totally waste the day, I started sorting out my stuffs which literally are all over the place. Half of my toiletries will have to stay, I am sure everything will not fit into my suitcases.

Just before midday, we had something to eat and then got ready to go out by 2pm for the Berlin Wall Museum and after that to meet Marven's girlfriend at Potsdamer Platz. I was told it was a good chance for me to use the U-Bahn (U for Underground, but don't take my word for it coz thats just my own interpretation).

Things didn't go to plan. Marven's g-friend decided to change her mind after we have been all over the place trying to get to our rendesvouz point. I told Marven what I think and suggested we should just drop the little pressy for her girl. He agreed but halfway thru my dear friend was reluctant to take me with him to her girlfriend's place and asked me to wait at the Train Station instead. I made it known to him I wasn't prepared nor happy to be left on my own. I'm not happy when people changes plans without conferring with me first.

Anyway, everything was fine, his girlfriend came and met us instead. We had an hour or so together after Marven made sure I got to do this TUBEbogganing (I coined this word myself) in Berlin. I think it was around Potsdamer Platz. I only wished he forwarned me about lifting my bum as I hit the ground. It was sore for a wee while.

Check it out on this link below: http://www.winterwelt-berlin.de/rodelbahn.html

From here we walked into the Christmas Market. I felt Marven's girlfriend's little girl wanted to go on the carousel so I made sure she went on it. I am a sucker for kids, maybe because I missed out on these as a little child I want every child to have all the chances available for them. She was a natural, her mom told me it was her first time but she really enjoyed it.

A glass of hot drink later, and we said goodbye to them as we parted ways at the train station. Marven and I headed towards the Berlin Cathedral to be in time for the opening of the Bach Classical Christmas Concert.

Spent a few minutes contemplating whether we have enough time to go up the Berlin TV Tower and decided we don't. He pointed out the painting on the wall by the lobby of all the great Towers of the world...and kinda hope my Sky Tower is one of them. The painting does not look 100% like the Sky City so I did not notice it straight away. But I was relieved to see it was there!

From there we maneuvered our way towards the Cathedral. Marvo decided to heed the call of nature by the bushes in front of some church. While Marven was taking photos of another Christmas Market, I decided to wander around. Then I heard some noises and my name being called, turned around and saw Marven's parents and aunt. Marven must have known they were coming here. So we walked around the market and had a chance to eat fresh pineapple covered in chocolate... it was YYuuummmmmm!!! I would never put fresh pineapple and chocolate together, but the marriage between these two is sweet and yummy!

Then it was time to head to the concert. Got there on time and found our seats. I have no formal education in music, in fact I can't even read a note. But in uni, we were told to play Classical music while preparing for exams, it is supposed to help or enhance memory retention.

As the choir started to sing, I found it quite difficult to focus and listen due to my very itchy throat. In my effort to forget about the itchiness of my throat, I closed my eyes trying to focus on something else but my throat. I was in this predicament when gradually and gently I started to feel my body swaying, just a tad sway! Then I remembered my grandfather who was the musically inclined person in the family. When he used to play the violin or accordion or even harp, he use to gently sway or nod his head inline with the rhythm he was playing.

Then I felt the music, the voices that reverberated in the air inside the cathedral and I imagined myself starting to float gently towards the dome carried by the wave or waves of sweet voices!

I was in this state when I realised and felt a nudge from Marvo. I bet he thought I was falling asleep. Being aware of my surroundings again, my throat started to feel itchy once again and this time there was no stopping it. Managed to last for the whole concert only with the help of the candy (we call it lollie) from MArvo's aunt.

Check this link for some images and interior of the Berlin Cathedral:

After the concert we went to another Christmas Market, the Weihnachtsmarkt in Schloss Charlottenburg. From here we headed home, took the train back to Babelsberg and then hopped on the bus with Marven's parents.

Five minutes later after getting home, we wanted to photograph something (I can't remember now). We realised the camera or camera bag was nowhere. Checked everywhere, still no camera. Then it dawned in me "No Camera" which means...it is forever gone.

To cut this very long story a tad shorter, we took lots of photos which we will never see as the camera is now lost. With it goes my memories of my last 3 days in Potsdam and Berlin.

permalink written by  jorgn_craw on December 12, 2008 from Potsdam, Germany
from the travel blog: Euro Trip 2008
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A Day in Cologne

Cologne, Germany

Once again, we are off to Schönefeld Airport. EZYjet is not on the menu today, we are having German Wings instead! It's one of the few low-cost carriers in Germany but with a difference: leather seats! My travel buddy told me we don't have to scramble for our seats today like we do with EZY and true to his word, German Wings actually pre-allocate seats.

Just like our trip to Paris, we had to get up early to catch the train. But this time we took the S-BAhn to Potsdam (Central) Bahnhof to catch the one going the other side of city (I believe, going South).
It is about the same distance but have less stops. Here at the Potsdam Haupbanhoff, thre is a very nice bakery with yummy oooohhh so mouth- watering pastries!!!!

Had a quick photo with the German Wings Bear after checking then straight thru to wait for our boarding time. Picked up a few postcards and realised I left my pen at the customs check-in area inside the white plastic tray where I dumped all by bits and pieces. Being use to the slow pace at home where most people are still quite honest, I went back for it but the officer told me it wasn't there.

Feeling disappointed I went back and told my mate... "people are not so honest here" and he agreed. Now I understand why he kept telling me before I left for Germany that he won't allow me to go out on my own or that I should not be to trusting if strangers are trying to be too friendly or trusting. I got reminded with the adaptor I left at our hotel in Schwangau. That was never returned either. It appears like who ever found it did not tell the management about it, and the management did not bother to question their workers even after calling them several times. Anyway, I decided I wasn't gonna let this little thing affect my mood today.

Marvo has kept this trip a secret. It was his little surprise for me. I know he has booked this flight since September and I have pestered him with questions about it but he never gave in. He just kept saying I will like it.

There are only 3-4 places I have in mind taking to consideration the surprise element he mentioned in this trip. I know he is great at picking up hints of things I like or interested at. It could only be Cologne or Heidelberg and the only other cities I could think of are Stuttgard and Frankfurt. Munchen could be another one but we have been that way so my heart is leaning towards Cologne.

Flight was great! Especially after entertaining half of the passengers. I supposed people here are used to flying with Easy Jet so they don't go to their allocated seats or the lady culprit just didn't read the row number right. I realised the seat I was going for was 25A instead of the 24A I have in my boarding pass.

Anyway, last few minutes before take off, a guy spoke to me in German and motioned I was seating in his seat. I told him "sorry I don't speak German" but moved out of his seat anyway. I tried to explain that the lady was seating on my seat blah blah blah! Anyway, the lady vacated our seats and we moved back to the row behind us only this time Marvo was trying to seat by the window. Without thinking I grabbed him by the collar and very loudly and very emphatically told him "No No No, you are not taking my seat Mister!" and yanked him out of the way! Half of the passengers found that quite entertaining and triggered a chain of giggles and laughs and friendly remarks from everyone. If there is one thing I like about Germans, it would be their sense of humour and today proved that even more! And I feel good having helped set a lighter mood for everyone at the start of a gray day!

Of course by this time I already knew we are going to Cologne! Cologne=-Bonn airport is as I have expected. From the arrival area, we turned left to take the escalator down to catch the train. Before that I watched my buddy get our train tickets from the German only speaking machines:-)) They are one of the reasons I have limited myself to just walking around Babelsberg or staying in when Marvo went back to work. They do not cater very well to non-German speaking visitors like me. For a city like Berlin, Postdam or Cologne which would be one of the most visited cities in the world, I wonder why they can't be like the French who has their train info system translated in 5 languages.

I feel 100% more confident in France, a country whose language I too have no knowledge of; simply because every direction, every instruction are duplicated in English. Germany is not the same. I guess eventually they will get there. But for now, non-German speaking individual travellers will find it pretty hard moving around the country. There are very few info centres and the ones available closes very early. In saying that most if not all of the younger ones do speak English or can speak some English!

I would not have a clue how to get myself to Potsdam from Schönefeld Airport if I got there after 8pm. I saw locals hitting the roof simply because even they cannot figure out their own train-ticket disbursing machines.

Anyway, Cologne was great treat! I loved it, the Christmas Market at the base of Cologne Cathedral, the shopping (which reminds me of the crowd in Manila or Sydney); and the made in China items which proliferated in all the shops we have gone to. I fell in loved with a Lacoste bag but fell out of love again when Marvo showed me the label. That was good, I saved another EUR69.00

It would be injustice to go to Cologne without buying some Special Cologne Water! The store where it was first made is still in operation but I bought my Köln-Wasser in one of the souvenir shops by the Cathedral!

Coming out of the train station, Marvo asked me to stop and take a big breath before I take another step. I thought "Gee he is being over dramatic again"...but obliged anyway so I took a long and deep breathe in, breathen out and took the step! I turned to my left and lo! and behold infront of me is the Gigantic Gothic Masterpiece that I have only seen in photos. I stood there for a moment, actually much longer than a moment. I remember way back in UST while doing Art Appreciation papers in uni; Cologne Cathedral was one of the few buildings I found interesting. It would be one of the few reasons I have overstayed at the Library. I use to watch (not read) lots books with photos of European buildings. I never in my life thought I will actually come this close to Cologne Cathedral.

The closer I got the harder it was to believe these were all done hundreds of years ago. The amount of work, planning, expertise, time and lives trapped in this masterpiece is way out of my comprehension. I just gave in to my inner instinct: "if I can't fathom it... swim and go along with the flow".

First we went down to the basement and checked all the bits and pieces there and the ruins and learned all about the family that were buried in that fortress under the cathedral. Then Marven guided me to a bench and started to say.."I am just a bit worried with your foot (I was limping on my left foot, rushing out and jumping from the stairs in one of the train stations from Disneyland Paris whee landed on the side of my foot,it has been so sore and currently a bit swollen) and told me about the Tower! He explained there are 509 steps going up and then will have to come down the same way. "There are no lifts up there and you will have to come down the stairs on foot again and the stairs are very narrow". That was how he explained it.

I thought about it for a moment and decided a sore foot is not going to stop me today. I don't know if I will ever be this way again. So I said "the pain in my foot is only a state of mind" I can think and worry about it later on but for now I am here to experience everything I can in the little time we have. And if I have to climb up 509 steps on a swollen foot to get a 360 degrees view of Cologne and then down again..thinking of Sir Richard Branson's book, I said "Screw it, let's do it!

But first he took me inside the Cathedral, we spent quite sometime there. I needed that to absorb everything I was seeing. I left him taking photos and I wandered around just admiring this masterpiece imagining the kind of people whose hands and minds created and put this awesome masterpiece together.

The details inside and outside...I could not help but compare and convinced myself Notre Dame in Paris pales in comparison to this one.

By the way, the stairs up to the tower I found out is a continous very narrow spiral staircase (I did not count the steps). I forgot about my sore foot, my fear of falling took over and all my focus was centered on not making silly mistake or down I fall continously to the bottom. My only chance of stopping is if any one of the people coming up can stop me. I must say it can be a challenge to people suffering from acrophobia or claustrophobia.


We were early for our return flight but we just stayed at the airport and enjoyed a drink as we watched the sun for the first time during the day...just a glimpse of it as it was setting. Then we found out our flight back to Berlin is delayed by almost an hour.I was quite tired and we spent our time snoozing until our plane arrived. In contrast to the boarding gates in Auckland where you have to walk quite a bit to get to the loo...Cologne Airport has them in every boarding gate!

We got back to Berlin late in the evening which gave us a bit of time to stop in the city to buy a few food supplies from a shop I believe could be the only shop open that time of the night. I bought what I thought was fresh eggs only to be told later they are hard-boiled eggs.

I wish I could be as carefree as this boy on the train...

permalink written by  jorgn_craw on December 11, 2008 from Cologne, Germany
from the travel blog: Euro Trip 2008
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Paris, France

Feeling a bit overwhelmed, I decided to give sleep a miss tonight to make sure I have my bag packed properly for Paris. Somewhere at the back of my head a voice is telling me: Vanity...must look chic in Paris! But in the end I gave the idea up, I'd rather be able to walk fast and cover a wider area than be strutting around looking good with a painful bunion that could spoil my long awaited visit to Paris! Naah I don't want that! So goes both my denims and long coats/jacket and my woolies too into my bag to keep me warm!

We've spent the night at Rebrücke and was a bit silly to have stayed too late. Inspite of forewarning Marven we musn't stay long, we ended up later than we planned. Thanks to Wii...or not! They must have thought I am a dumbed old fart! But then again they've got a lot more practice so I was able to console myself with that!

When I finally managed to convince him it was time to call it a night, my cheapskate friend decided we won't take a taxi as previously planned but instead will walk to the train station. I would say it is a good 2ks from his parent's place in the middle of the night on snowy roads (snow was actually falling that time) and the air was quite chilly!

So I walked with a couple of young boys. Okey, guys but tonight they are acting like little boys! I am glad Tom, Marven's mate, was with us. It was a little bit easier talking to him being a bit sober than Marvo.

After walking for about twenty minutes, they saw a bus and urged me to run as fast as possible. I was puffing but managed to get on the bus on time.

Orly Airport was quite busy. I noticed a group of red Christmas Trees in the Foyer on our way out to Arrival/Departure area. I thought "who would want a Red Christmas Tree?'...HHHmmm... well I suppose...it's Paris after all! Dubbed as Fashion Headquarter...they have a licence to be different even with their Christmas Trees!

Found out how we can get to our hotel from the Airport Information Desk. After giving the details of our hotel the Info Clerk/Staff produced a computerised directional instruction showing which train/bus to take and the distance and travel time also included. I thought that was quite impressive. Marven was gobsmacked by the kind of service too saying "you'll never get this service in Germany!"

Unfortunately it wasn't as easy as it looked. There were no buses, we stood at the platform for ages. I decided to go back for more info. And while I was inside, the military arrived and were in the process of cordoning the area. I just managed to get back to Marven before they completely barricaded the area where we were.

I approached one of the policemen: Pardon Monsieur, do you speak English? He said, little bit! I asked what's happening. He said "airport is close, baggage stolen, no people can leave the airport". I relayed it to Marven and he said "we better find a way to get out of here in a flash!"

We ran to the other direction, our hand carry luggage in tow. We tried to get on a bus, any bus and asked to be dropped to the nearest Metro. From the Metro, same story; I have no French and the lady at the Information Counter had very little English. But she was quite good and actually accommodated our inquiries. She gave us another set of instructions to get to our hotel.

I followed Marven almost blindly after we got our 3 day pass. He is used to travelling by train so my guts told me I'll just follow and he is more often right than wrong. Right now my mind is too tired to even try and figure out where we are going. Several stations later, we came out into daylight! Got a bit disoriented but found the Number 62 Bus Stop that will drop us near our accommodation.

I enjoyed the bus ride just watching the passengers hop in and off the bus while trying to absorbed as much detail as I can of the area we were passing. We counted how many stops to go before the Seine River. I know that once we've crossed the river we are only a bus stop away from our hotel. While in the bus I had a moment of reverie: could not help but miss my Auntie Almie. After all it was her romance novels that I use to read against her approval that planted little seeds of dreams in my heart and longings to one day see these places! And today is that day! From the bus stop, there's about 3 minutes walk to Le Auteuil Tour Eiffel, our hotel.

Checked in, showered and out again in a flash. We have no time to waste. Jack Frost was waiting by the corner ready to nip our toes but we decided to walk back to the River anyway! We walked down to the world well-known river, crossed it over one of it's bridges to get to Eiffel Tower which is about 2 blocks away, stopping halfway to mimick the Parisian version of the Statue of Liberty. The Statue stands in a small island, Ile des Cygnes, in the middle of Seine.

It was lovely even in that cold winter air! After a few minutes of leisurely walk, we climbed up into the Passy Bridge. The Passy Bridge is a double decker bridge: it has a lower deck where the cars and buses run. This deck serves as the foundation that holds the upper deck which is the railtrack for the city train. Passy Bridge, I learned, is the only bridge in Parish that has a roadway, a pedestrian path and an overhead Metro rail. From here you are rewarded by an unobstructed view of the Eiffel Tower.

There were a few couples taking photos here. This is when it pays to travel with a buddy. I watched the others running back and forth trying to make timed exposures to the point of me feeling sorry for one. I asked Marven to offer to take photos for them which he did. And as the saying "what you give you receive"goes... the gentleman offered to take a photo of us too! From here we walked back down to the promenade and walked the length of the block just admiring the views, boats and yatchs and the romantic atmosphere!

I told Marven I am happy I finally made it here. And added "the only sad part is that when I was dreaming of this, I was dreaming I would be walking with the man I love." He gave a dry sarcastic laugh and said..."don't worry I feel the same way".

It would have been lovely or can I use the word romantic(?) if I was with someone who loves me or someone I love...but I was not. Anyway we just laughed about it. Two good mates, both unloved (it seems to be the case at that moment anyway)! What a sad state of mind to be in in Paris, the City of Love!

But for now, I was just happy to soak in the air of fun, grandeur, love, romance, whatever and yeah...the flavour and aroma of croissants.. chocolat croissants and crepes! Yeah, lovely yummy oh so mouth watering crepes!

We stayed out until midnight spending a good hour finding our way back to the hotel. I was bugged by the time we got back.

Next day, we were off to Disneyland, did everything we could do in one day and got back to our hotel again just before midnight.

We realised later on it pays to buy the Zones 1 - 6 days pass rather than the Zones 1-3 we got as the previous allows you to travel outside of Paris City. So we have to purchase an independent ticket to Disneyland.

Then we wasted a lot of time queuing up for tickets because we were silly enough not to prebook it. The queue was very long and must have taken half of our time there. Most popular ride is the Hollywood Tower Hotel (totally different from the Tower of Terror). For me it was the Pirate of the Carribean. Marven made sure we got to ride on all of the rollercoasters.
  • ******Here below are a few more shots we took from Disneyland:

  • Our last day, we checked out early, stopped at a Brasserie for our French Breakfast and headed to Mont Parnasse for a 360 degree view of the city of Paris

    From Mont Parnasse a quick dash in the Metro that took us to Louvre where we got soaking wet due to snow fall. There was a feeling of lightness and somehow I felt like a little child again...carefree, fun, in sync with nature!

    Our last stop was to have another look at Notre Dam. It was lovely when we saw it last night, illuminated in the dark. I actually did not think we had the time but Marvo took us there anyway. Then it was time to head back to Orly Airport.

    permalink written by  jorgn_craw on December 7, 2008 from Paris, France
    from the travel blog: Euro Trip 2008
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    Visit to the Reichstag-Berlin City of Peace

    Berlin, Germany

    Yesterday I had the privilege to visit the Reichstag Building, Berlin's Parliamentary Quarters. This is where the members of Bundestag do their jobs to represent their people and uphold democracy.

    Although this opportunity is available to the public FOC, thanks to Marven's family, we didn't have to go through the long queue of people at the door.
    On a separate entry, we waited for our confirmation to enter the building, went thru security check and then herded into the lift which was jampacked like a can of sardine.

    I have seen the building several times in the net and some photos of it but it is quite an awesome experience to be inside. Epecially sitting at one of the public viewers platform seats overlooking the area where the representatives are seated when in session.

    And way up above them, the funnel shaped structure part of the glass domed roof hangs above us all. This reminds me of the popular Sony Center in Potsdamer Platz whose canopy or atrium serves the same purpose, source and means of controlling light both natural and artificial through reflection and refraction.

    The gentleman (guide) educated us about the building and the Bundestag.
    That was a good 30 -45mins. Then it was time to go back to the lift and up the top to finally experience the spiral walk up to the top of the glass dome!

    Coming out and turning right into the open from the lifts, the building offers a great sight of the city. From here one can see Potsdamer Platz, TierGarten, Soviet War Memorial, Victory Tower. I am still unsure why the Federal Chancellery Building is supposed to be called the Washing MAchine, but from here, I could see the building in full view.

    Straight ahead and to the left was the Soviet Graffiti writing mentioned earlier by the tour moderator and from here I realise I was very close to the Branderburger Gate! The few minutes we had here helped me put the city into its perspective. It gave me an over all view of the city.

    A few minutes to absorb the view and time to take some photos then we headed for the dome. I enjoyed taking photos of me in broken pieces as reflected from the shiny glass parts of the funnel shaped structure of the building.
    The spiral walkway up towards the top and down again is also a great way to see the city and it's fun as well!

    From here we walked down to the Branderburger Gate, walked the length of Unter den Linden thru to Friedriechstrasse where we dropped by at Lacoste in an effort to get my son a messenger bag. Then we capped the day with a visit to one of the Chrismas Markets there.I'm quite grateful for Marvo for the privilege and for taking the initiative to set this day for us. It was also lovely to have the company of his friends, family and his lovely aunt Birgit.

    permalink written by  jorgn_craw on December 5, 2008 from Berlin, Germany
    from the travel blog: Euro Trip 2008
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    Schloss Sanssouci: An Appointment with Frederick the Great!

    Potsdam, Germany

    Was picked up by Marvo's parents this morning. I felt a bit uncomfortable taking so long to get to them. I hate the idea of making them wait but for the nth time I was once again struggling with the door lock. Why did they make it so complicated? In NZ you only need to turn the key once and the door opens. Here you have to turn it clockwise then anti-clockwise and back again but not all the way! Why make such a simple thing complicated?????? Have the Germans over done it this time?

    I scrambled down the stairs and apologized for keeping them waiting. By the way, I made sure I have eaten so I don't get hungry while out with them just in case we are going to be out all day! A couple of minutes later as I settled into the warm cozy temperature inside the Merc, I was told about going for breakfast. I advised them I am okey as I have mine already.

    I read disappointment written in their faces. I'd love to wring that boy's neck for not telling me what his parents' planned for the day. I queried the night before what the order of the day was going to be...so I could dress up accordingly (although I didn't really have much to choose from my limited items). He just said, you will find out tomorrow. Nothing to worry about, just be yourself. So I was just being myself when I went for a full breakfast! He could have at least given me a hint while we were having breakfast! But he didn't; ggggggrrrrr!!!!!

    Anyway, we ended up having a buffet breakfast at Movenpick, quite an upmarket restaurant just across the palace. I tried my best to eat some more but ended up leaving half of my bread bun. My tummy was already full even before I started. Nevertheless I enjoyed the meal and the experience!

    Then we headed out for our Sanssouci Palace tour and later the Botanical Garden. The guide took us in a succession of rooms that we were allowed to view. Marven's mum I believed asked the guide, "where did the King go for a pee" and maybe something else. I believe she was told "in the garden". So Frederick the Great had a big garden receiving a dollop of fertilizer from the very King himself and the rest of the occupants on a daily basis. No wonder the trees have grown big and robust! When I was told about this I could not help but picture someone heeding the call of nature...toilet paper? ...water?...or could it be leaves or twigs? Who knows!

    Few shots taken in Sanssouci:

    We spent a good hour there. The good thing about visiting this time of the year is that you can really take your time to absorb and admire the surroundings! During peak season, this park is loaded with tourists and could become quite overcrowded and noisy. If you are like me who prefers taking time and who enjoys peace and quiet then definitely visit this time of the year! But the only disadvantage aside from the possible minus zero temperature is that some of these places are not accessible after October . We wanted to go to the Tea House today but that is non-operational due to the low season. It was the same with Babelsberg Castle and even the Victory Column in Berlin.

    Anyway from here they took me to a Christmas Market not far from the palace. Had a good look at the place and all the stalls with all their lovely Christmas goodies on sale! I also got a the chance for probably a very hands on introduction to their famous Gluhwein. At the market we went inside a shop where they manufacture crystal glasses and ornaments that I believe are exported around the globe. I had my eye on a piece, pieces rather, a table ornament cum candle holder. Almost bought it for my self but decided I have so much junks at home now and have no place for it. But it was a lovely piece.

    Shots from the Christmas Market:

    Looking for a parking is quite a struggle in Germany. Maybe it is true in most of the European countries. Today was the same, Marven's mom had to drive around for several minutes before she gave up and drove back to a public pay carpark.

    I really enjoyed the day and really enjoyed both their company.

    permalink written by  jorgn_craw on December 5, 2008 from Potsdam, Germany
    from the travel blog: Euro Trip 2008
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