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Euro Trip 2008

a travel blog by jorgn_craw


this blog is just for the purpose of recording memories of my trip and keeping in touch with family and friends in my effort to make a childhood dream come true......
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preppie to my Euro trip...

Auckland, New Zealand


Sunday, 19 October 2008
Counting the weeks….

“I love reading (well I use to when I was younger and while still in charged of my time). A trip or a holiday is like a good book to read! The only reason you want to read it again is if you did not understand it the first time. It doesn’t matter how masterfully written it is, reading it year in year out gets a bit boring in the end! So does the places we visit”…. G. Crawford
As I start the countdown to the first of my (childhood) dream trips, I am feeling rather apprehensive instead of feeling excited! I have always wanted to do this trip even when, as a child, I wasn't sure the place I want to see is real. There was always a possibility this place could have been just a product of the writer's wild and active imagination.
Well, this year has been a year of many firsts for me.

It is the first time since I left home that I have accepted being alone and that I am not scared of it! It is the first I have traveled where I really wanted to go, did what I really wanted to do, saw what I really wanted to see and enjoyed it so much more than all the trips I had in the last thirteen years put together! This year is also the first I am in a job that I can enjoy and which actually gives me some sense of worth!
But most of all, this will be the first time I will be traveling on my own…well, some parts of the trip anyway!

Although it takes me out of my comfort zone and my heart thumps a bit each time I visualise myself alone in a foreign county; I must also admit that it does feel quite liberating! Oh and yes, it is also my first time to fly with AirNZ, New Zealand’s national carrier. They seem to have created a name in the aviation world as per their outstanding “go the extra mile” brand name. Will soon have the chance to prove that!

I have decided to do this blog to keep in touch with family and friends and of course to share with you the excitement, frustrations, fun, adventure, tips, lessons etc, etc I will experience while away. In the past I have invested too many days and sometimes weeks trying to put together photos, videos and notes of our trips; at times staying up until the wee hours creating movies of our trips shortly after our return. Most of the times I take notes but a lot of the details can be overlooked doing it the old way!

This time I know I will not have the luxury to waste sitting in front of my son’s computer (hi Sam…see I let everyone know it’s your computer) for I have to report back to work as soon as I touch base. And for those who have flown with me before…you are well aware I never sleep while I’m on board! So instead of watching every inflight movie available, I will endeavor to put my time into good use by blogging… that’s the plan anyway…

For others, who will randomly come across my page, you can call me Jorgn! I live in Auckland, New Zealand where the human population is dwarfed by the number of sheep in the country.

New Zealand is a slice of paradise in the bottom of the Globe (and aside from just being too close to the South Pole, yes…we do get the Southern Lights or Aurora Australis in the South Island); 100% Pure NZ is populated by down to earth Kiwis, very friendly and open people.

I will throw in a few impressions of New Zealand and a few other bits and pieces as I count the weeks, then days prior to my trip! So folks stay with me…

Before I forget…Thank you Kenneth and Joy for lending me your well travelled super Nikki…I just hope it doesn’t rain all the time so I can take great pics with it : o ) And more Thank You’s for inspiring me and pushing me to go ahead with this trip. I luv you guys… and Jane and Sam…RV and Melissa…of course you are all included… stay lovely and beautiful…inside and out!!!

My only resources for this trip is my huge trust in the Lord for my safety and well-being while I am away; a lifetime of childhood dreams; a burning desire to see different parts of the globe to learn from other cultures; a slowly but definitely growing self-confidence; a pocket not even half-full of cash… and worst…I don’t even have a credit card to cushion me in case the few left over coins in my pocket are spent (hhhmmm….I start to feel depressed when I think of this so I won’t). I am just relying on Luke 12:22-31 and a good friend who reckons is able to show me a slice of Europe on a shoe string… (I hope the shoe is not one of those branded name ones coz I know even their shoestrings can cost an arm and a leg to someone like me with limited resources)….

Just a few impressions of North Shore, NZ

2 days before departure:

I have decided on this Kiwi ornament as a small pressie for my friend. I hope he'll like it.

Now, all I need is a magic wand to help me fit all these in just one suit case!


permalink written by  jorgn_craw on November 20, 2008 from Auckland, New Zealand
from the travel blog: Euro Trip 2008
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From NZ to HKG

Auckland, New Zealand


Finally found some time to blog... first few days I had no internet access but even after getting to Berlin, it has been hard finding time to do this. So youl'' find most of these are not live entries but I made sure I have it in my travel log so I won't forget most of the details of each day... so here I go...

21 Nov 2008
Auckland International Airport
Arriving a quarter hour early for check in, the whanau and me gave in to my niece’s urging for some food. Only this time auntie Kathy was a bit mean as she didn’t want to pay. I thought since I am the one leaving this time, I should give them the privilege to treat me like I always do for them when I am dropping (anyone of) them off.
I was even almost proud of myself for sticking to my guns (which I normally am not very good at)! Had a quick bite then decided to leave them so I could go and chek in. There was no queue, check in went well and the lady at the counter was quite lovely. After 10pm, waived goodbye to the family after going through immigration control. Then I was on my own. Mom actually told me to be very careful as have not travelled alone as if I was a young girl (I guess forgetting that I have spent more than 4 years in Hong Kong on my own before I flew to NZ the first time).

My first AirNZ flight...will be looking at this flight from a totally different angle . AirNZ has just been voted to have the best Business Class Service amongst Star Alliance Group. Unfortunately seating on 66D won't give me a chance to find out what so good about it. One day maybe? Worth keeping my fingers crossed.

The flight to Hong Kong is a breeze. There is constant supply of water being offered by the crew. I didn’t even need to go up to the gulley and ask as I normally do. Having a seat empty next to my seat is also a plus. Twice during the flight I even managed to stretch my back...still curled up but since I am quite short that was enough space for me.


permalink written by  jorgn_craw on November 21, 2008 from Auckland, New Zealand
from the travel blog: Euro Trip 2008
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HKG to LHR

Hong Kong, Hong Kong


Hong Kong International Airport:
Currently sitting (on the floor) at Hong Kong International Airport, congregating with a few others connected to a power outlet for their notebooks. We are boarding in fifteen minutes and from this point on it is uncharted grounds to old me! Sun is shining now.

It was almost 18 years ago when last come to Lantau Island with friends before the airport was built. I was quite surprised, impressed I guess is a better word for it, last year when I first came back to HKG. The old soggy paddies with mosquitoes and flies hovering around us while picnicking are gone. This is a totally different world! The only thing that is constant I suppose is the smog coming from China. The air is never clear...makes me appreciate NZ a lot more!

Back to seat 66D, plane is looking a bit fuller but quite thankful to find out that the seat next to me is still free. Flight is long but it is plain sailing. I noticed a slight difference in the degree of warmth or friendliness of the crew, could be due to more pax and they need to work faster/quicker? But that would not be living up to what AirNZ stands for: the best service possible by a carrier. It's a name the company wants to create and should keep.

Wee hours before reaching LHR, the captain announced us passing through the Netherlands. I took this chance to get up and went for a walk about and later on congregated with a few moms (and dads possibly) by the window next to the lavatories. Managed to take a quick snap of the view below us. From the right side of the plane and looking down at the many white dots that covered quite a vast expanse of the land made me realize these are WINDMILLS ...

Checked the left side of the plane and all I can see is a blanket of white...reality kicks in I guess and the moment the word SNOW...lots of SNOW is formed in my brain...next questions is.. “Oh dear...Will I be warm enough?” Checking the photos I just took I suddenly put two and two together (in this case one and one really) and figured the snow is only on one side because the windmills, hundreds of windmills were on the other side.


Looking at the flight plan showed we were passing my final destination, Germany. It is another hour or so to LHR. Sun was out and once we touched down, I breezed through immigration (although I could have spent a bit more time checking which queue I should have gone to avoid looking like a dork and being told “this queue is for European passport holders only)...to my embarrassment! But lucky enough there were no queues. Once I have collected all check in luggage, I took the trouble of taking out the Kiwi bone carvings with a bit of a feather in it (my pressie for my host) for the purpose of declaring it. I went through the red line but I was surprised and almost feel disappointed to find no one there at the counter. Just a quick turn to my left, I joined the others going through the exit doors into the airport's arrival lobby.

Found my Dot2Dot airport transfer and was told to wait for a few minutes. The drive from the airport was a good introduction for me. With my eyes wide open I noticed the contrast London has with Auckland. Although the city is widespread as Auckland is, especially out in the suburbs...the difference is the colors. Being swallowed into a sea of all shades of browns gives a feeling of warmth and a welcoming spirit!

There were only 3 of us in the shuttle yet I did not get to my hotel until 3 hours later. I was starting to feel very tired but the driver was quite friendly and advised (once the 2 other pax were dropped off) that since it is my first time in London, he will show me around. The service took so long and for people who know their way around in London, the Heathrow Express would be better. But I do not like the idea of pushing or dragging 2 suitcases plus my hand carry in the middle of crowded train. So the shuttle worked better for me this time and the driver was kind enough to actually carry my suitcases to the reception.
The only downside was the long wait at the airport but I guess that is something that can’t be helped as they can’t run the shuttle with not enough pax.

Got to IBIS London City only to find that everyone on the reception are immigrants (I think from Russia) and didn’t understand my KIWI accent. Room is small but quite clean and the bathroom most especially. It is about a hundred meters away from/to the Aldgate Station which served very handy for us. It is also just a block or two away from the London Tower/Tower Bridge.

While inside the airport shuttle I felt quite tired and all I wanted was to drop dead as soon as I reach my hotel bed and sleep for a few hours to recover. But after a quick warm shower I was fine and dandy so we decided to go out.

After all I am only gonna be in London for a couple of nights and every hour counts. I saw this sign at the Victoria Station. I was actually looking for food, I gave up the idea after this.

Few eye openers for me tonight:

Auckland’s streets get crowded but nothing compared to here. I see a lot of people tugging along suitcases in different shapes colors and sizes all over the train, streets and everywhere. Rubbish was everywhere. Walking along one of the main shopping area near Hyde Park, I realized that with the massive number of people the city has to cope with, it is hard to keep everything under control. People rushes around like mad and there are rubbish everywhere on the streets, on pavements...
I even found a shopping cart just across Hyde Park full of rubbish and just left on the side road!

Just a few more photos I took during my first night. This one is at Hyde Park Christmas Market

Taken at one of the main shopping area not far from Hyde Park. And this one is somewhere in Soho..

Marven kept reminding me..."Kathy look after your bag please...you are not in NZ!" Hearing this from him, I remember telling the shuttle driver... "I have just been a few hours in London and I miss NZ already!" We are not lucky in NZ, we are blessed and we don’t even realize it. Yes, even if life can be hard at times back home...the space, the freedom, the surroundings, the friendly people, the simple things in life... I can’t ask for more!


permalink written by  jorgn_craw on November 22, 2008 from Hong Kong, Hong Kong
from the travel blog: Euro Trip 2008
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24 Nov / London to Berlin

London, United Kingdom


24 November / Monday

I was packed and showered by 8am and managed to check out by 9am. We left our luggage at the reception for pick up later on during the day then headed back down to King’s Cross Station. We ended up in Leicester Square to pay for our London Dungeon tickets.

Since we are in London, we should have English Breakfast! Our hunt for a good English Breakfast landed us at the Aberdeen Stake Houses just across the Trocadero in Coventry Street. The restaurant offering a sumptous English Brekkie which we really enjoyed! I can’t remember how much it costs per person but I remember myself saying “it cost just as much as a good breakfast in Auckland”.

A quick walk back to the Red Bus Station had me gasping for breath. The walk was not a problem but it was bitterly cold and I could feel my fingers starting to feel quite numb. Intent to save as much time as we can, we decided the bus was not the best option. With a day pass in hand, we took the tube and in just 5 minutes we found ourselves negotiating our way around the "Labyrinth of the Lost Souls" inside the London Dungeon.

Going through the passages reminds me of “Infinity” in the Gold Coast although I must say “Infinity” is quite superb! I figured out we have been going in circles for the third time and started to think the way I have negotiated “Infinity”...searching for exits.

While busy taking snapshots, I got behind the group I was with and in my effort to get back into the comfort of having others around me, I slammed full on hard onto the glass wall! This gave some of those behind me a license to let out a few giggles and some bold ones actually laughed at my predicament.

Then one of the actors opened a way out of the labyrinth and we are now transported to the days of “Jack the Ripper”! There is quite a lot to see and it is not just to scare kids or even older folks like me...but it gives visitors a good idea of the old London and I suppose the some parts of Europe. It is presented in a light drama/comic cum horror fashion that culminates into a six feet drop as each guests is sentenced and hanged for the crime/s committed... I had a good picture of this drop...so good I don’t want to show it to anyone...he he he!!!!

Coming out of the Dungeon and into the bright busy streets of London, I thought that was a good experience. It was fun, interesting and as always never as scary as they advertise it to be! But yes, I would say for fun seekers like me...I’d say it’s a good way to use 2 hours in London to break the monotony of busy and often noisy streets, the shopping and the shoppers especially at Christmas time and the grey wet weather outside.

After this it was time for a quick afternoon bite and little bit of shopping (or should I say window shopping) and then we were back on to the tube to pick up our luggage and be on time for our train to Gatwick Airport.

Gatwick International Airport is another Eye Opener for me. If you are checking in, forget looking for seats, there are none. If you get there in plenty of time before you are to check in... well, you’ll just have to toughen up and get your big lower bottom sink into the Airport floor! I thought I could not do it but after standing for so long and walking around trying to entertain myself (like checking the electronic
check-in kiosks...I must say AirNZ ones looks much better/modern?), I finally gave in. I was sitting on my butt just like a few other passengers. About 3-4 years ago this is probably something I will not be prepared to do. Sit on the floor of an International Airport munching a hamburger. But I have changed my way of thinking in the past couple of years. It pays to be natural and flexible. This goes better under my skin!

After watching EZY jet on TV for a few years and seing all the possible things that could go wrong, I was praying and asking the Lord to hold our flight in his hands! Remembering the series on TV, they are quite notorious with flight delays! I am hoping this isn't gonna be the case for us today! One more thing, EZY jet had no restrictions on the cabin allowance (I saw one lady with a cabin bag the size of a check-in baggage). Whether this was just a one off or not, I am not sure.

After negotiating the immigration (and yes they do ask you to take your shoes off...so no dirty/stinky socks here please); got to the shopping area and found out our flight is going to be delayed for more than an hour.
Did I not say...notorious for delays????

Instead of moaning I took advantage of my time and bought some postcards and stamps for my folks and friends back in NZ except I found out didn’t have all their addresses. Then the one hour delay became 2hours..so out I went again checking shops and just acquainting myself of the outlay of the airport. I might be of help to others flying in or via Gatwick one day, who knows?

From here there is about 20 minutes walk to the boarding gates. One more important thing (there are no seat allocations with EZYJet) everyone rushes in like mad to get the best seats. Without my buddy Marven, I am sure I would have survived but I would have had no clue on any of these. Our flight, except for being late for more than 2 hours, was fine and the crew were great. Settled into my seat and almost gave in to a comfortable sleep but had to fight it off so as not to put my friend in an embarrassing state. Most of the passengers were drinking a lot of beer, in particular was a man and a young girl in the same row as ours. They got a bit carried away and was talking to each other as if they were on their own. HHHmmm!!!

BERLIN

The aircraft touched down quite safely into the runway of Schonefield Airport in Berlin! Getting off the plane and even with a very quick dash into the waiting shuttle bus to the airport, I was enveloped with an icy air and I gasped and struggled to find my gloves inside my hand bag.

This time I made sure I lined up to the non-European queue at the immigration. When it was my turn, the officer looked at my passport...turned it around and back again. Looked at me and saw him shaking his head. I was hoping he talks to me...normally they asked you questions...but he just kept flapping the pages of my dear passport shaking his head but remaining silent. The other officer asked him something (in German of course) and he said something back... but that didn't seem to help him. I was getting a bit fidgety and was concerned at the line behind me. Eventually a phone call was made...still turning the pages of my passport. I stood there stupefied...hello?....I just came out of London and I came from a country with a visa waiver to enter Europe...but I can’t speak German! Then the phone rang back and I heard him say...Jah!..Aso! (don’t know if I spelled that right)...puts the phone down and stamped my passport. I thanked him and gave him a very warm smile. Really...I could have told him everything he needed if only he asked me questions.

Marven has collected our luggage and was pointing to the door. I waived at the guy standing by the big glass doors in spite of not being so sure if it was his dad or his brother. Another look and realized it was Dr H, his brother. It was kind of him to come pick us up in the middle of the night! He ushered us into his new sports BMmer.

Feeling unsure of the right behavior towards a Deutsche GP, I decided to just do it the Kiwi way...plain and simple and told him I like his car (if I was talking to my son I would have just said...cool Bmmer mate!). The drive to Potsdam was much longer than I thought but Henry and Marven made some friendly I guess funny remarks as he (Henry) showed me some buttons that warms up the seat...and they called it the "p - - - - warmer" which in normal terms they really just meant "seat warmer". I kind off relaxed after that. I have been warned by my Community Evening School Tutor that Germans are quite formal.

My thoughts of London? Wonderful city to visit especially for history buffs and those interested with the Royalty. The bloodline of the city ...the tube allows you to be anywhere in just a few minutes. As bad as the traffic is, the city is kept alive and moving by its interlaced underground tube! For any one who appreciates the beauty of the old interspersed with the new, London is the place to go. And though it is expensive, one can survive London with just a few bucks. I have not spent half of my budget. I am totally amazed and proud of myself...in saying all these... I’ll take Auckland over London anytime!




permalink written by  jorgn_craw on November 23, 2008 from London, United Kingdom
from the travel blog: Euro Trip 2008
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Original London Tour

London, United Kingdom


22 November / Sunday

Previous plan for today was a day trip to Stonehenge. But while enjoying breakfast at the hotel, snow began to fall and rain is looming to follow!

The weather has changed so decided to change the order of the day. First step is to get to Trafalgar Square for our tickets to the Red Double Decker Bus (Original Tour Bus).

We were welcomed by a light shower us we emerged out of the tube into Trafalgar Square. Looking around I could see the rain could not dampen tourists spirit as they walked around the square clicking their cameras, to the south, to the east, west and north of the square! Others are sensible enough keeping their digi-cams under their umbrellas but most seem to not care about the weather.

Well today Joy and Keng’s Nikki is having a day off. I will be working with my water loving cam, my hardy Olympus MU795SW. Little Ollie does not take very good photos but Ollie has been with me under waterfalls, into deep caverns and underground rivers, the wide open spaces of the Pacific Ocean swimming with whale sharks and now in this bitterly cold wet weather of London. Little Ollie seem to work better in not so ordinary situations, I suppose Little Ollie is a bit like me :-)

Buying the Hop on Hop Off ticket (valid for 48 hours) allows you one free river cruise. They also offer Fastract Tickets to other Major Tourist Spots.

Saved a few GBP by buying our tickets to the London Eye/Tower of London/Madam Tussaud/London Dungeon. Saving is GBP4.00 per destination per person (that’s GBP16.00 for me and enough for my dinner and breakfast too!)

Our first stop was London Tower. It took us an hour to walk around the whole enclosure. It is an amazing experience maybe even more to people who knows the value/s of all that is contained in that building. I could not believe those giant golden goblets existed until now.

I was quite hungry by the time we came out of the Tower and headed straight into a shop that sold something that reminds me of home: Fish and Chips for GBP5.00 including a drink...not bad I thought!

Next shots are taken from the London Eye, well worth the money for an unobstructed 360 degrees view of the city.

I also had a chance to meet a few of my idols like these guys:

This is the Jubillee Bridge, a foot bridge and the one on the other side is of course the Millenium Bridge. Walked through this bridge to get us from the Tower to the London Eye of course via the tube.

My intentions of watching a Dinner Show did not happen becoz by the time we have seen all that the Red Bus offered...we were both knackered! A quiet dinner in a buffet place 2 blocks away from our hotel was the end of our second day (and last night)in London. Booked our train tickets to Gatwick Airport before gettingto bed at 11pm with intentions of getting up early to pack and be ready to check out before 9am. This way we can still have almost a full day in London before we head for Gatwick around 4pm tomorrow.



permalink written by  jorgn_craw on November 24, 2008 from London, United Kingdom
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25 Nov 08 / Potsdam.de

Potsdam, Germany


Arriving just before midnight last night meant going to bed around 3am or 4am. I thought that was ok since today is going to be a quiet day. Still feeling short of sleep, I stayed in bed until 9am. I got awaken by a quiet knock on my door followed by the smell of freshly baked bread wafting through the slightly opened door. That smell was enough to get me out of bed.

Snow on the rooftops proved such a novelty to me too! Berlin (actually I am in Potsdam which is half an hour away from Berlin) do not always get snow but today the grounds received a good covering of soft snow deposited just the night before.

I got snap happy with Joy’s Nikki and took every available view from the bedroom window and from the porch. I got reminded of breakfast being ready and the bread getting cold.

Reluctant to leave the terrace but not wanting to disappoint Marven, I slowly headed back to the room and quietly deposited Nikki back to her pouch. I enjoyed my first meal in Potsdam with much gusto including the over baked croissant (okey, he slightly burnt them). A couple of burnt croissant with sun-dried tomatoes and cheese went lovely with the hot drink! Breakfast and a quick shower took most of the morning. Washed some dirty clothes from our stay in London before going out and hoped they'll be dry before we leave for Bavaria!

Marven’s little Golf was covered in snow. He spent a couple of minutes scraping it off his windscreen. I am glad I don’t have to do this in Auckland! From the Stern Centre (the biggest Mall in Potsdam I am told) we drove to the next building (Porta) which is like Spotlight or Freedom or Farmer’s Stores in North Shore only bigger and more upmarket. We ended up with 4 inners for Marven’s cushion covers. On the way to Nuthetal we dropped by at his hairdresser ; I needed a trim and his back hairline is a tad too long.

Then it was time to meet Mr. Lopez!

Spent some time getting to know Mr Lopez, I was quite apprehensive getting too close to him at first because of his size. But he proved to be quite a friendly welcoming young chap (well okey young dog...)

I didn’t fail to let Marvo know Lopez is really handsome and he seemed quite friendly. He came with us while I got shown the garden which is totally covered in snow!

I was then told we were to have dinner there. I know they don’t eat hot meals in the evenings so I was surprise to see them having a hot meal. I thought it was quite nice/kind of them to have me share a meal with them.

I got a bit curious with what was being prepared as a traditonal German meal of sausages(wurst), fried potatoes (kartoffeln) and sauerkraut! I have never before seen these white foot long sausages. Unfortunately they are mostly made of pork so I had to abstain from it but really enjoyed the fried potatoes and the sauerkraut.

Such lovely people, so welcoming and warm. They all have made me feel comfortable in their home. My only regret is failing to learn their language. Marven tries to translate most of what they talk about but of course he can’t translate everything being said. Still I know if I waited until I am able to understand German or speak a little bit, I would be waiting for years before I could come here.




permalink written by  jorgn_craw on November 25, 2008 from Potsdam, Germany
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26 Nov 08 / Bavarian Interlude

Potsdam, Germany


26 November / Wednesday

Our plan was to hit the road by 4-5am today. I had a good sleep, it must be the Memory foam or the weather. Poor Marvo had to give up his good bed and settled in his old extra mattress on the floor in his living room. Got up at 6am and checked my bag and all the toiletries I would need for the trip. My tummy was getting a bit ready for some warm food or drink. I found Marvo still in bed on my way to the kitchen. We managed to have a quick breakfast and left just before 7am. Outside, it was still pitch black!

Another novelty to me is this navigation system which everyone over here seems to have. I thought it was just a gadget that shows directions but it actually speaks to warn you which way to take e.g. “prepare to turn left soon” or “at the roundabout take the third exit”. Plus all the places of interests in a given place are also programmed into it. I thought I might consider looking into this but then again I don’t travel far that often so I guess there is no point really.
We took A9 (motorway), the road was quite dark for a few hours. The sun rises just before 8am and sets in here just after 3pm this time of the year.




permalink written by  jorgn_craw on November 26, 2008 from Potsdam, Germany
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26 Nov 08 / Potsdam To Bavaria

Leipzig, Germany


Quick Stop in Leipzig

I have mentioned to Marven about Leipzig but did not expect him to drop by. It just happened to be one of the very few first places I came to know about Germany from my Psychology papers in uni: others are Potsdam for Potsdam University (I didn’t even know there were castles and palaces in Potsdam until later). From history, Berlin for the Berlin Wall and of course Heidelberg for our Filipino patriot Dr Jose Rizal and the oldest university in Germany. Later on got acquainted about Frankfurt as the main aviation hub. Cologne and Munich too of course!

Leipzig is the Stadt der Musik in Germany! Mr Johann Sebastian Bach, the composer, worked at the Thomaskirche in this city for many years.

The little I've seen of the city as we passed through it is characterised by new art with buildings I supposed built around 1900. I learned the people of Leipzig are also called the "coffee Saxons" due to their love for the black juice! I believe Leipzig also played a very important part of the reunification of Germany. So I am glad my friend took the extra time to drive me thru the city of Leipzig

Marven kept laughing at me taking photos of every windmill along the way. I found them quite fascinating. We would drive a long way seeing just vast sea of ice and suddenly interrupted with a giant windmill or windmills.

Both gives me that feeling of severity or harshness. The the graceful movements of the windmill’s propellers somehow soften the whole image and leaves an impression of gentleness, of balance, of life amidst the harsh, hostile and lifeless frozen surroundings.

I enjoyed the long drive interrupted only by our stop in Leipzig especially after being told off at the Porsche compound that we were not allowed to park or take photos. I was told it was where they test Porsche cars probably before they are released.

We had another stop after Leipzig for a cuppa (I can’t remember the name of the place) and bought some drinks and fruit. I saw Mistletoe here for the very first time in my life!


permalink written by  jorgn_craw on November 26, 2008 from Leipzig, Germany
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26 Nov / Potsdam to Schwangau

Nurnberg, Germany


Another stop was in Nurnberg for their Christkindle Market to get some of their famous Nuremberg Lebkuchen and a good look at the Imperial Castle or Fortress set atop a hill which offers a very good view of the area below!

The buildings leaves me in awe, just imagining the amount of work and craftsmanship put into these buildings and then consider they were made hundreds of years ago. It makes me realise the dedication Germans put into whatever they do. This helps me understand why German technology is where it is today.

I noticed every street or road is always so full of cars parked on both sides on my first arrival in Potsdam. Today it finally dawned in me that this is part of German’s everyday life and would be for the rest of Europe I reckon. There are no parking spaces (or no planned parking places and or garages). That I suppose is the downside of these old established cities/villages. People in those days did not envisioned every family owning a minimum of 3-4 cars centuries later. A lot of them also live in flats or apartments especially in the city or village centres.




permalink written by  jorgn_craw on November 26, 2008 from Nurnberg, Germany
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27 Nov 08 / Neuchswanstein Castle and the village

Schwangau, Germany


The Village of Schwangau:

This I believe is a good area to use as a base to explore Bavaria, Austria and even the upper part of Italy, not to mention Switzerland. All these are accessible from Schwangau in just a few hours drive. Prices are quite a lot more reasonable in Germany. Shame we don’t have time to cross the boarders.

But like I said to myself and to my dear friend Marven who is kind enough to leave work just to show me this castle, “I came here to realise a childhood dream! To step inside the castle where all of my childhood fantasies took place”. For thirteen years I begged my ex husband for us to please holiday in Europe even just once for this very reason. Or at least allow me to go if he is not interested. But he just kept going back to the Philippines mainly to satisfy himself and I had no choice but to do as he wished. But I guess he never realise nor appreciate what childhood dreams are meant to some. Whether he had dreams like these or not I really do not know. So from here on, any other places I see or new things I will experience will be a lovely bonus!

Leaving the hotel, I took photos while Marven prepared the car. Things like putting anti-freeze solution to the radiator (or is it?) and scraping snow off the windscreen and spraying it with anti freeze after. All these things I am thankful I do not have to do in Auckland. Not that easy trying to take photos with glove-covered hands but the air was really cold!

As I hopped inside the car I saw the two banana peelings I left in the car last night, picked them up and found they were frozen hard as bricks! I took a photo of them just for the fun of it, the same thing happened with my water in the bottle. Yes, this is another new thing for me. They drink water with soda, even the ones sold as STILL water has bubbles in it! It took me awhile to realise I have to actually buy one with the words “NATURELLE WASSER” in it if I want real still water like the one I am use to drinking at home.

Click on the photos to enlarge...

Neuschwanstein Castle: After a two minute drive from the hotel to the foot of the mountain, we found ourselves gasping for the magical sights of the two castles!

The outside temperature showed -9 degree centigrade. I don’t believe I have been in a place this cold this long. But like this morning, I really don’t have the time to let my brain register the cold! All my senses are just happy to focus on the visually stimuting sceneries around me!

Before this I have been thinking if all that time spent flying was worth it! Today I know I'd do it again when I get the chance and the money to do it!

Due to the thick snow, no buses were operating today. Instead we had the choice of walking up to the castle or take a slow ride in the horse-driven carts that ply up and down the hills to almost 200 meters close to the Castle’s entrance.

We went for the horses. Always wanting to see as much as I can possibly see, I chosed to sit at the front just behind the horses. We were joined by several Japanese tourists. I tried having some small conversations with the lady next to me but she didn’t speak any English. She smiled a lot though and I smiled back a lot at her too!

We must have sat in the freezing air for another 20 minutes. Normally I wouId be moaning about the cold by now but I remember not saying anything. I was just busy admiring the old Hunter's Lodge which is now transformed into a boutique accommodation and the beautiful Hohenschwangau Castle which sat like a big life-size portrait perched on top of the hill a few meters above the village!

There is something in the air and it isn’t the coldness or harshness of nature. But I was quite happy once the old man decided it was time to go! Cameras came out and I started to hear a lot of ooohhhhss and aahhhsss interrupted with sudden burst of laughter and shrieking from the four of us in the front seat! The horses decided it was time to let out gas...and man did it smell! This happened at least 4 or 5 times for the whole 15 or so minutes journey up the mountain. At one time, I asked the gentleman, in kindred spirit, had he fed his horses with sauerkrat last night? Both him and Marven let out a crisp chuckle!

Then after the horse ride there is an easy 200 meter or so walk/climb to the entrance of the Castle. We took our time as this offers one of the best angle to take a snap of the castle. To our left and below, and I must say just as beautiful, lies the valley of Schwangau which was totally covered in shimmering white! I tried to envision what it would be like to look down into the valley when the fields are green and the flowers in bloom and I know I would still feel mesmerised just as I am now!

Puffing hard and my legs feeling the strain, I pushed on eager to get to the top asap! At the entrance I stopped to once again immerse myself to the gleeming beauty of the village down below! It sure is magical and as I turned around towards the Castle’s gate, the magic carried on!

Once inside I saw several groups of Japanese tourists covered the area between the gate and the Castle’s courtyard. Most of them busy buying souvenirs, some using the loos and all of them clicking cams! Walking around taking snaps and feeling in awe at this place I kinda lost Marven amongst the hundreds of Japanese inside the courtyard who were waiting for their group number to be flashed on the screen by the entry door.

I managed to get myself to the left of the courtyard, I have been trying to figure out where the Marienbrucke would be. I know we have not passed it.

As I surveyed the Alpine Peaks across from the Castle, I realise the bridge was right there infront of me. I failed to see it earlier due to the glare of the sun that happened to be just where the bridge is. I gasped in awe and the few ladies behind me joined me in. I only had my small digital so I went looking for Marven who was also busy taking photos. Urged him to come over and I didn’t have to say a word once he saw the sight I was heading to!

A big group just went in and our number was next. There were 2 other guys who didn’t look like Japs aside from me and my buddy. Managing the 3 flights of a spiral staircase, we soon caught up with the group. There were 2 lines and the empty line read “English” which for obvious reasons we decided take. Four minutes later, the tour guide came and unlocked the door and to my surprise we were asked us to go in before he allowed the rest of the group. It took me a few seconds to figure out how to make the best of the multi-language translation gadget each of us had in our hands.

It will take me several pages if I try to describe everything I saw inside this lavishly and I bet painstakingly decorated Castle of King Ludwig II. I can only say this, most of the time I get disappointed when I see the real thing. This time, it is the other way around. The few photos I have seen of the castle do not justify the grandeur, the pompousity yet detailed in the most minute way possible and the surrealism shouting out of everything that is inside. Thus they call this the Fantasy Castle and the King The Fantsy King for he really lived in a world of fantasy. I just can’t put it to words but yes the Castle is way beyond what I was able to imagine. One has to see it to understand it. So will put some shots inside the Castle to give you an idea why I find it difficult to put my thoughts/emotions into words. It is prohibited to take photos inside the castle by the way. These photos are not mine.

Inside the Castle:


He put so much of his life into building his Castles, especially this one being his last project...only to die before it is finished. None of these managed to alleviate I would presume the loneliness inside his heart. Happiness does and never will be found in the material things around us. It is rooted deep inside us and if that internal well is empty and dry, then so is our whole life! Just as in Ludwig’s life...the majesty, the lavishness, the almost unreal reality of his surroundings...none of these really amounted to anything. He was found dead in the freezing waters of the lake nearby!

Photos taken from and on the way to Mary's Bridge


His subjects remained loyal to him to the end. He lived his life the way he saw and or believed it. Had he not been passionate (to the extent of bordering to madness) about the things he loved, he would have left no legacy to his people. There is a degree of madness in each and everyone of us, the only difference that set achievers like Ludwig apart is he took action! He was not afraid even to the point of being counted as mad! Without passion life can go on but with it one can stretch out and is enabled to do that which is uncommon.



permalink written by  jorgn_craw on November 26, 2008 from Schwangau, Germany
from the travel blog: 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

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