Exploring Scandinavia

It was now Friday the 13th and Melody and I were finally on our way out of Berlin!  We “woke up” at 3:30 AM, though I really don’t believe I truly slept at all since the night before was my birthday and it was a LONG and exhausting night.  Once Melody and I successfully got to the airport for our 7am flight our spirits began to lift.  We chose the correct and direct train to the airport this time, unlike our failed attempts on taking  the same train to the Schönefeld Airport earlier in the week to get to Dresden.  Our flight was quite pleasant considering we were flying on the “budget airline” called Easy Jet.  Our flight was a whopping $54 USD by the way, the cheapest of all our Europe modes of travel!

Once in Denmark, Melody’s friend Adrian (a boy)  met us at the airport and kindly had train tickets all ready to go for us to get back to his apartment.  As soon as I got there I ended up falling asleep for the rest of the morning and early afternoon while Melody and Adrian roamed the city.  I woke up to find an email from Jonas, my Swedish friend I had made beforehand, asking if whether or not I would be visiting him that night. Malmö  is only a half an hour train trip across the water from Copenhagen and since I knew Melody wanted alone time with Adrian, I eagerly packed my backpack and headed out on my own to the train station.  It was very cool because even though Denmark had very little English anywhere, for some reason I found the country very easy to understand in the public transportation sense.  I made it to the train station with no trouble at all and snapped a picture of me proudly standing alone ready to go.

On my way from Denmark to Sweden!

Thirty minutes later I was in Sweden!  I got off the train on the “wrong side” according to Jonas and ended up gazing up at the St. John’s Church.  It looked like a gorgeous church but since it was night I was unable to go inside.  Jonas took me to get Thai food and hung out at his apartment that overlooked the city of Malmö since it was on the 7th story. The next day I convinced him to go back with me to Copenhagen to wander the city with Melody and Adrian.  We wandered around and saw some pretty sights and I got an awesome gray hat.  A hat was one of the main things I really wanted to get on my trip so I was happy to finally find one!  You’ll see this lovely hat in later pictures.  :)  I also got to experience the deliciousness of an actual DANISH.  I wish I had a photo of my own but here is an example of what a Danish bakery looks like:

This is similar to the bakery I went to. They had so many different kinds of goods! It was so popular you had to take a number tag and wait for your number to be called before ordering!

Sunday Adrian took us exploring to the cemetery where Hans Christian Andersen was buried and to Tivoli Gardens, an incredibly old amusement park with some very cool rides and interesting things to look at.   It was about $25 USD just to get in and then extra kroner (Danish currency) for the rides and amusement but I entertained myself just with people watching and taking pictures.  If you’re going to Denmark, I would recommend going there just because of the history and it is a beautiful place just to explore.

Hans Christian Andersen’s Grave… not as spectacular as the ones in Berlin but quite tasteful

Tivoli Gardens opened in 1843 and is the 2nd oldest amusement park in the world!

The only ride I went on was a giant three story tall swing that spun around in a circle.  It was potentially the scariest thing I have ever done in my life and made me continuously scream the whole ride through.  When we got back down the ride operator asked how we liked it and I immediately responded with “I am WAY too old for this!” and trotted off to catch my breath.

The Ride of Doom at Tivoli Gardens

That night we didn’t do much since the day was quite long from the amusement park excitement.  Plus it was super cold that day so it was nice just to lounge around Adrian’s warm apartment and relax.
Monday Jonas invited me out to Sweden again so we could go to the beach and out to dinner.  Going to the coast ended up being my favorite part of the trip because sitting there in the cold sand reminded me a lot of being home.  I have always been very much at peace along water, especially the ocean, so it was really wonderful for me to spend time sitting out and looking at the sea.  It was cool because you could see Copenhagen on the other side.  Jonas took some photos of me and we watched the sun set over Copenhagen in the West.

Swedish sunset overlooking Copenhagen, Denmark

We headed towards a hidden Italian restaurant while it was still dusk and I captured the photos of the Slottsparken (The Castle Park) and had fun feeding the geese and their goslings bit of my trail mix I had made before the trip. Actually I ended up being bit by a duck but thought that was pretty cool as I had never been bit by a duck before.  At least my first bite was from a Swedish duck!  It looked exactly like the standard brown female ducks we have here too!

Slottparken (The Castle Park)

The Italian dinner was the best I have ever had. Jonas ordered a fancy Italian meat plate with mozzarella and bruschetta. It was glorious to finally have meat again since I had been eating so many vegetarian meals with Melody. Plus the waiter was super cute.  I would say that Sweden definitely had a plethora of attractive people but I might be biased.  Germany did too though!  Maybe I just have a thing for tall blond hair and blue eyed men! I tried to proposition Jonas lightly to marry me or come back home with me.  I still try actually to get him to come to California as we are still in touch!  That night we just relaxed and went to bed early.  Staying at Jonas’s house was great because he had his old bed he was about to get rid of, a super soft queen size, for me to sleep on.  It was the most comfortable I slept on the whole trip and I was able to sleep like an “X” – completely spread out.  I had been sleeping with Melody or on small bunk beds previously so it was quite luxurious to have a whole queen size bed to myself.
I left Malmö the next morning after doing some more sightseeing and taking the photos of the city.  I really fell in love with the small city while I was there.  It had such a peaceful nature to it.  The citizens of the city smiled at me and seemed genuinely happy.  It was clean and not over populated compared to the other places I had been in Europe. I am hopeful to return again one day to see much more of Sweden!

Once back in Copenhagen, I swooped up Melody and the rest of my bags and headed out to the airport to leave for London!  And after two hours of being delayed in our plane on the runway while they struggled to “fix communications”, I finally got to actually leave for London!  Woohoo!  Go Scandinavia Air!  (That flight was $97 to London – Gatwick, an airport I do not recommend flying into because of how expensive it is to take the public transport OUT of the airport)

Categories: Copenhagen, Denmark, Europe, Malmö, Sweden, Travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Making the most of Berlin

After a very exciting first day in Berlin, the rest of the week in Berlin was not so dramatic.  Tuesday we wandered the city and shopped at the most amazing thrift store called Humana (http://www.humana-second-hand.de/mode/first-class.html).  I also got to meet up with my brother’s girlfriend, Alison, who had been studying abroad in Berlin for the semester. also took us to the most amazing art store I have ever had the honor of walking into.  I wish I knew the name and while I tried to look it up, apparently Berlin has a ton of giant art stores that make it hard to figure out which one is right.

After our exciting shopping spree we went to dinner at an authentic place called Max and Moritz. I tried beef goulash, an authentic German dish, but after having such amazing vegetarian food all week, it was not as great as I had been eating.

My authentic German dress I got for only $28 USD!

After dinner we went out to a German club that had live music called Wild at Heart-  http://www.wildatheartberlin.de/

The band playing kept on making references to San Francisco so I talked to them to see where they were from.  It was really cool because out of all the places the band could’ve been from… they were from Sonoma County!  Our own home!  They lived in a town twenty minutes away!  It is such a small world!  I was super happy to have some Americans to talk to and I finally got successfully drunk for the first time on the trip. I met a new wonderful German friend named Inga who lives in Bavaria, so now if I ever make it to Oktoberfest, I have someone to stay with!  She managed to capture one of the very few drunk photos of me on the internet.  But since I have no shame, I’ll share it with you all.

A drunk April. Ich trank vier Bier.

 On Wednesday (April 11th)  Melody and I decided we wanted to check out another part of Germany so we bought bus tickets to the city of Dresden, about an hour and a half south of Berlin. Dresden was severely affected by WWII but we still wanted to check it out.  Unfortunately though I didn’t understand the directions on how to get to the bus stop at the airport and we ended up in a town called Potsdam… totally not at all by the bus stop we were trying to get to.  Not even in Berlin, lol.  I ended up having a pretty big breakdown with lots of tears from all the stress and we ended up missing our bus plus having to lose the money spent on the tickets and our hostel ($110).  It didn’t help that I also realized mid-breakdown that it was the anniversary of  my Grandpa’s death and made the tears come even harder… So that was another crappy part of the trip.

 The next day was my birthday and Melody and I decided to finally go see some actual tourist spots and check out the Jewish Museum (Melody is half Jewish).  The museum was quite fascinating and we also got to see some of the other cool places in the city.  As usual, I had fun experimenting with photography.

The Holocaust Memorial Garden at the Jewish Museum

Inside the Holocaust Tower

That night we met up with Alison for dinner. After roaming the streets for hours trying to find this particular 1950’s style diner only to find out they were out of business – we ended up just eating some delicious Turkish food from a FABULOUS roadside stand called Mustafas. ( http://mustafas.de/ ) I got a lamb kebab and it was incredible. We sat on a bench on the street watching all the people from all over the world in line for this great food.  It ended up being a really memorable birthday dinner.  Since I didn’t have cake, we got ice cream bars and they sang to me in the train station loudly as passersby walked by with smiles.

Probably the best birthday meal I’ve ever had – This was from Mustafas

 After dinner Melody and I attempted to get home only to find that many of the trains were under construction. Those damn S-Bahns make it so hard to get around!   After two hours we finally made it back to Sascha’s at 1:30 AM only to have to be awake two hours later to catch a train to the airport for our 7am flight to Copenhagen, Denmark.  But oh well, the night was a fun way to end our time in Berlin!

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My first day in Berlin

The next day was Easter Sunday and we had to leave for Berlin that night.  I was stupidly excited to get on to the next part of our adventure but sad to be leaving such a comfortable place.   I felt really great in Switzerland because of the clean air and clean environment.  I saw not a single homeless person or any trash on the ground.  Everything was just so nice there.  Johnny said the government tries really hard to take care of its citizens and I feel it really showed in the quality of their country.

As soon as Melody and I landed in Berlin, we knew we were in for a whole different kind of ride.  We went to the help desk to see how we go about buying a bus ticket and the man behind the counter was so rude to us.  I had even tried speaking to him in German to ask but apparently that wasn’t enough effort from an American like myself.  We got our tickets and stood confused trying to figure out which bus we were supposed to take to get to my friend Sascha’s house.  After what seemed like a very long time we finally got to Sascha’s.
We got to Sascha’s apartment after being very tired from our day of traveling.   That night he took us out for food (Sascha is a vegetarian too) and I had my first ever veggie burger. IT WAS AMAZING!  I was so shocked by how much I liked it!  After dinner we went and got a disgusting German beer and I witnessed a rat the size of a small dog run down the street.  We walked home through what I would call “the ghetto” but apparently to Berlin people it was just a typical part of the city.  There weren’t criminals… just lots of graffiti and broken glass everywhere.  Disgusting. DEFINITELY not like Switzerland at all.  When we commented on all the graffiti, Sascha said that wasn’t even that much because the government has really cracked down on it.  We were amazed because I had never seen such a filthy city.  I guess because of the Berlin Wall and the war it just left the city in ruins and anger.

The next day, as suggested by Sascha, Melody and I went out to an amazing vegetarian and vegan brunch.  On our way there we ended up getting lost and frustrated with the train system (again) but finally ended up at the right station and met a very interesting older man who ended up giving us an unopened bottle of beer just for the hell of it.  He was very kind and even though we didn’t end up drinking the beer, we were happy to have such a nice gesture offered from a stranger.  We ate at a place called Morgenrot, a restaurant that is now among my favorite restaurants for life. It had the most amazing selection of delicious spreads, pastries, cereals, granola, potatoes… I didn’t realize vegetarians and vegans ate this way!  It completely changed my outlook on vegetarian and vegan cooking.  My favorite spread ended up being a lima bean and lavender spread, Melody didn’t care much for it but I loved it!  This was also the first time on the trip where I felt relaxed and with like people.  My pink hair was not such a shock in this place!  Plus, I finally had the best cup of tea on the vacation  yet!

( http://www.cafe-morgenrot.de/ )

Inside the cafe

After we had our brunch, we set out on another train to see a very old Jewish cemetery .  It was gorgeous and so nicely done… every grave was huge and covered in fresh flowers.  They put a lot of care into the cemeteries there.

Weißensee Cemetery

Now here is where all the excitement started and how I ended up in the German Police Record!

On the train on the way back I managed to leave a cheap cell phone that Sascha had given me.  Once we returned to his flat he informed us that a 13 year old boy had taken the phone hostage and was wanting us to pay 20 Euros to get it back.  Sascha got on the phone with the boy’s father thinking that the Dad would have more sense than to make us pay the money but apparently the Dad wanted the cash too.  Sascha got really upset and called the police because in Germany when you find something and don’t return it to the police – it’s considered stealing.  So they basically set up a sting operation to meet at a gas station to get the phone back.  We got to the gas station and waited quite a while for the man to show up with the phone.  Finally he arrived and Sascha came inside to retrieve the 20 Euros and to stall while we were waiting for the cops to arrive.  While I was fussing with my jacket to collect the money I saw two tall and strong men all in black walking up to the gas station.  I knew right away that it was the police by the description Sascha had told me of what German cops look like.  THEY WERE HOT!  Sascha went outside and immediately the cops went up to the man with the phone and they all started yelling at each other in German.  It was insane so I went back inside all scared of what was happening.  Two more men walked up and I got extra freaked out since I thought the man had brought extra friends as reinforcements but they ended up being undercover police as well.  So there were four German cops, the bad guy with the phone and his friend, Sascha, and myself all over a very old cell phone and 20 Euros.  In the end the man got arrested for blackmailing us for the money but also because he showed up driving his car drunk.  BIG MISTAKE since Germany has a 0% alcohol tolerance for drivers.  So justice was served but it left me with not much faith in Berlin.

Once back at Sascha’s house he attempted to make us feel better by making a delicious  and traditional German drink called Feuerzangenbowle.  It’s made by heating red wine together with fruits like cherries and oranges with spices like cloves and cinnamon.  You then pour 80% proof rum over a sugar cone and set it on fire, allowing the sugar to crystallize and sweeten up the rum.  I was super appreciate of Sascha for making us this treat, it was so good and very cool to taste something so authentically German.

Feuerzangenbowle

Categories: Berlin, Europe, Germany, Travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

From London to Zurich

Wednesday Melody and I got to meet up with my other friend Rob, who had also come with us from the USA.  The three of us continued to roam around London and didn’t do much besides hang out with my friend James at his work called The Cock’s Tavern.  We also tried to go into a pub for lunch but weren’t allowed in because a giant football (soccer) game was happening and they said “Chelsea fans only!”  So whatever, if they didn’t want our money then I didn’t want to go there.  I also got to sit in the original dangling plastic sphere shaped chair from the movie “Austin Powers” which I found to be pretty entertaining.  On our way back to the hostel we decided to check out a store called Primark, which was to be a giant and cheap clothing and accessory store.  Well, giant and cheap it definitely was.  It was horribly disgusting though in the sense that it defined everything that is wrong with consumerism.  Customers rushed through the crowded racks of clothes, grabbing and shoving at everything.  I gave up on the store when I saw a woman with her arms of full of clothes just throw everything down on  the floor in abandonment.  I did end up buying some underwear with the British flag on it and some neon orange fake hair to clip into my hair for when the next San Jose Sharks hockey season would begin back in the states. Ha!

Upon returning to our hostel, we were convinced by Alex the Canadian and Mark the Scotsman to go wander the streets and get a beer.  We ended up at a cool place the Notting Hill Arts Club, a underground bar/club with a nice display of artistic drawings of meat on  the walls.  A live band was playing and it made for a cool dose of British nightlife without being too annoying.

Primark - http://www.primark.co.uk/

Cock’s Tavern – www.cocktavern.co.uk

Notting Hill Art Club – http://www.nottinghillartsclub.com/

The next morning we left our crowded hostel for Zurich, Switzerland where we were excited to have our own guest room waiting for us.  I had made arrangements before the trip through a wonderful website called www.couchsurfing.org that connects travelers with locals so you could hang out with them or even be lucky enough to stay at their house for free!  I connected with a man named Johnny who loved America, country music, and our spacious houses and he had invited us to stay with him.  I felt safe because the website shows you reviews of all the people who he had met before and had stayed with him.  He had over 20 people so I figured he would be safe.  Johnny ended up being the most generous and kind man I think I have ever met!

Melody and I landed in the Zurich airport and were immediately impressed by how clean the airport was. The train in between terminals even had soft nature music and an occasional cow moo!  It was so FUNNY!  Johnny picked us up from the airport which was great to not have to deal with the public transportation again after four days of the stinky London underground “tube”.  On the way home he asked us if we celebrated Easter and I joked about how I was worried that the Easter bunny wouldn’t be able to find us… Well apparently the Easter bunny had come early because we walked into our GIANT bedroom to find he had decorated the bed with chocolate eggs, chocolate bunnies, and a GIANT bunny as well.   He even had Swiss tourist info on the desk for us.  Melody and I knew right away that Johnny was our angel on this trip and immediately felt so comfortable and appreciative for him.  He made us a great first Swiss meal of eggs, potatoes, and pickled purple cabbage.. not something I would normally like but Johnny made the cabbage great! The rest of night was spent drinking the best wine I have ever had,  a 2005 red wine that was in a golden wrapper from Italy, and watching a creepy yet intriguing movie called Perfume.

Since it was Easter weekend, everything was closed.  We spent our next day, which was Good Friday, walking around downtown Zurich and appreciating the empty streets since we didn’t have to deal with the rush like there was in London.  I got to have the BEST SAUSAGE OF MY LIFE along Lake Zurich and also got a taste of Melody’s AMAZING chocolate ice cream.  Switzerland was quickly becoming my favorite country yet!

 

 

On Saturday we went to a small town called Chur, about an hour and a half away from Zurich.  We wanted to visit a place called the Giger Bar, a uniquely designed bar by Swiss artist H.R. Giger.  The bar was probably the coolest I had ever been to and we all got a kick out of sitting in the bone like chairs and admiring the art surrounding us. The drive to Chur was gorgeous and while it was quite cloudy, I still could see some of the mountains… they probably were not nearly as big as they would’ve been without all the clouds on top.  That night we went out to dinner with another friend I had made on the internet beforehand, a Swedish guy named Emil.  Emil is a tall blonde, blue eyed, nice and muscular man who is from Stockholm but had lived in San Francisco and was now living in Zurich.  The two men treated us out to a vegetarian buffet (because Emil and Melody are vegetarians) that ended up costing about $30 a plate… they measured the food by the ounce!  Could you imagine what that would be like in America at Hometown Buffet?  The food was great but still, so expensive!  Emil and Johnny both said that we should not worry about them paying for us because “if visitors have to pay for their things in Switzerland then they will never want to come back because of how expensive it is!”  They were right… I was very happy not to have to pay for that dinner!  Switzerland ended up being my least expensive country too because of everything being closed and Johnny’s generosity with us staying with him.   It was an amazingly beautiful country to visit and I am eager for my chance to spend more time exploring there.

 

At the Giger Bar in Chur

http://www.hrgiger.com/barchur.htm

 

Categories: Chur, Europe, Switzerland, Travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My first few days in London

Our first day in London was spent in the lovely and green Kensington Park.  We were staying at a hostel called Astor Quest (considered to be in the Bayswater/Queensway part of the Underground).   We got there rather early since our flight landed at 10am so we grabbed some food at the Tesco Market nearby and had a picnic in the park.  I was so impressed with how affordable the prices were for groceries in London.  I got a pasta salad, some grapes, and a drink for about 3pounds.  Once it became time to check in, I started to get a heavy dose of jet lag.  I remember standing at the front desk and thinking  there was an earthquake happening but then I quickly realized that I was no longer in San Francisco and London didn’t get earthquakes.  Once in our room (a co-ed room with six bunk beds) I didn’t feel any better.  Laying down only made it worse so Melody and I took to the streets for a walk.  We went out for a mission to find me some lotion for my incredibly dry hands that developed overnight from the plane ride and some cute British clothes for Melody.

This is the first thing I did in London… I laid down in Kensington Park!

Astor Quest Hostel – (http://www.hostelworld.com/hosteldetails.php/Astor-Quest/London/523 )

That night I made friends with some people from Canada, Australia and Scotland while down in  the hostel kitchen.   After my dinner I made my way back up to my room to tell Melody about new people for us to hang out with.  I opened the door to find Melody sitting on her bottom bunk  talking with four young men from Spanish who apparently were our room mates for the next two nights.   They were all quite nice to talk to and quite nice to look at, especially since two of them were topless. It definitely made my anxiety over who I would be sharing a room with go away.  Haha!  Too bad that first night they went out and ended up missing the train back, so Melody and I actually got the whole room to ourselves that night!  I didn’t sleep as well as I figured I would, since I hadn’t been solidly asleep for about 40 hours at that point.  But whatever, I was in London!  I could sleep when I got back to America!

The next day was Tuesday and Melody and I wanted to go shopping.  We were on a mission to the store Vivien of Holloway and ended up getting lost thanks to Google but ended up at a cute pub called Metro Bar and Canteen. ( http://www.viewlondon.co.uk/pubsandbars/metro-bar-and-canteen-info-16030.html )

My delicious meal!

I ordered my first cider – Kingstone Press Cider and my first order of chips.  Cheesy chips! Nom!  Just like home!  Except way better since the cheese was actual cheese instead of some melted oils and a little bit of cheese!  Haha !  The people there were super helpful and gave us directions.  Next we wandered down the street for Vivien of Halloway, a store with 1950’s style clothing.  After trying on an assortment of cute clothes and dresses, Melody made a grand purchase and we slowly made out way back to the hostel to get ready for the Camden Pub Crawl.

In the night we went on the “Camden Pub Crawl” with my new hostel friend named Alex, a nice young man from Canada.  It was pretty fun – we definitely could have saved the 15 pounds and walked on our own to the bars though. We did end up in a really cool pub called “Bar Fly”. I really enjoyed it because they served Sailor Jerry rum and also had Mario Kart and Streetfighter games going on the big screens that the bar patrons could play!

Bar Fly - http://www.barflyclub.com/camden/whatson/WhatsOn.aspx

Club Proud – http://www.proudcamden.com/

Kicking some ass!

I utilized my Streetfighter skills and managed to kick the asses of a few young men and only lost to two – an American and Alex, my Canadian friend who came with us.  It was pretty awesome!  We also went to Club Proud which was a refurbished equestrian (horse) veterinary hospital. They had many separate rooms with stripper poles inside with benches.  It made for a fun very environment!  Melody and I had fun playing on the poles with the other German girls we had met. It hurt my arms!  Strippers have to be strong!

I got to ride the double decker bus on the way home from the bar back to our hostel and met this eighteen year old guy from Australia who blatantly asked us out of nowhere if we did coke.. We laughed and were like “Um.. no…” and commented on how quick he was to ask if we did!  I guess he knew we were slightly drunk so surely we must partake in other harder drugs… It was pretty random but also quite funny because of his accent and that we were swerving  through the streets of London while this was all going on. There were also two hot Italian men on the bus with us chatting it up.  It was a DAMN awesome night.  The men are SO hot in London. Nom.

I also decided that those double decker buses would be an ideal place to turn into a recycled/refurbished home.

We got back to our hostel around 2am and creeped back into our shared room with the hot Spanish boys… They were sound asleep as I went up my ladder on my bunk bed, squeaking and all.  I passed out pretty quick since it was such an exhausting day. :)

Categories: England, Europe, London, Travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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