This is my second post on my newly resurrected blog. As some of you might have learned that I have put this blog into the state of suspended animation for some months.
Continuing my previous post about travel, I want to share my trip to Europe about three years ago in this post. But since it has been three years therefore I have to dig again into my memories and bring it up some things that I still remember.
In July 2007 I went to Europe with my uncle, aunt and 2 other relatives for attending my cousin’s wedding. I took KLM to Amsterdam with one stop at Kuala Lumpur. The flight was not really convenient since we had to sit for more than 11 hours if I’m not mistaken. To make things worse, the seat arrangement was hardly acceptable for leaving almost no space for my feet to relax. The food was also quite disappointing.
But all those drawbacks were paid as soon as I arrived at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam and breathe European air (which basically the same everywhere else, only that it is Europe!). It was 6 am in the morning, so many stores were still closed. However I did enjoy the atmosphere very much where I can see people from all corners of the world mingling in one place. Asian, African, Middle Eastern, European, Mediterranean, Indian and others in one place. I was also excited to see flight crews from various airlines and the airplanes themselves which come from countries such as Portugal, Kazakhstan and other countries which didn’t (or still doesn’t) have direct flight to Indonesia. I had to stay for 3 hours at the airport because we had to wait for our connecting flight to Nuremberg (in German: Nürnberg). Once we got to Nuremberg, my cousin (not the one who’s getting married) picked us up at the airport and brought us to his apartment.
PART 1 – GERMANY
I spent about 10 days in Germany, where I spent my first few days in Nuremberg, in the state of Bavaria (German: Bayern). This city has an intact old town area (Altstadt) where we can still see old medieval buildings and churches. The city itself bears the nickname as the most German city of all. Probably that’s why the Nazi used to build its headquarters there, in Dudzendteich, where they built a temple-like building as their HQ. I went to that place which is now a museum. Strolling in the Altstadt was somewhat enjoyable since there are quite a lot of museums and historical sites sprawling the wall-guarded old town. You can find Albrecht Dürer’s (German well-known painter) house which was turned into a museum. Some other interesting museums are the War museum (which houses the collection of medieval armor suits) and the Spielzeugmuseum (toy museum).
The second German city that I visited was Heidelberg which sits in the state of Baden-Württemberg. It is not a big city hence the atmosphere is far more relaxed than in Nuremberg. One of the unique features of the city (probably the most famous) is the Schloß (castle) which is located just above the hill. To reach there we had to take an almost vertical tram. From above, we can see a beautiful view of the city below. The Schloß itself is very ancient and partly damaged. However we can still feel its glorious days in the past.
The next city is Munich (German: München) which happens to be Bavarian Capital. We went there by car and once we got to the outskirt of the city my cousin parked the car around Olympiapark. From there we can reach BMW’s headquarters and Olympiastadion (where the 1972 Olympics were held) within walking distance. Then we took the Unterbahn/U-bahn (German metro) to get to the city center. Once we arrived at Marienplatz station, we got out and rode the escalator out of the station. When we were out, the view astonished me completely. I was right at the heart of Marienplatz with beautiful old buildings surrounding me. Then we split into three separate groups. I went around with my uncle (I had been doing that ever since I got to Nuremberg) to wander through nearby places.
We also went to Neuschwanstein castle which some said to be the inspiration to Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty castle. The castle sits in southwest Bavaria where pine trees dwell everywhere. The castle was built atop a rock formation which makes it amazing.
Duisburg is other German city that we visited. In fact this is the place where my cousin’s marriage took place. There are not much to see from the city actually since it is not one of Germany’s most attractive cities. But there’s one thing that caught my eyes which is Lifesaver fountain at the city center which was designed by a French sculptor, Niki de Saint Phalle, who also created some artworks in Paris (you can read it in Part 4 – France).
During my stay in Duisburg I also took a train to Düsseldorf with some people coming along. I didn’t go to many places in Düsseldorf. I only went to a riverside bistro along the Rhine (German: Rhein) which serves seafood.
We took the train (a double-decker one) to leave Duisburg for Brussels. In that our last day in Germany we stopped at Cologne (German: Köln) for about three hours and did a little stroll in the city. We went to Cologne cathedral which is one of the world’s largest cathedrals. The spires are so tall so that when I stared on them I merely saw the top. Inside the cathedral the atmosphere was quite dark and somehow dwarfing. Down under the cathedral lies the Treasury which houses an impressive collection of accessories and other religious artefacts.
One thing I forgot to mention earlier, in Germany I experienced how it felt to be in a car running at 220 km/h on a German wide and smooth Autobahn. It was thrilling yet so much fun!
PART 2 – AUSTRIA
I flew to Vienna (German: Wien) from Nuremberg. During the flight I could see the Alps from afar, reaching far beyond the sky which truly was a breathtaking view. Vienna itself is until now my favorite city in Europe. It has so many magnificent and beautiful buildings located within walking distance. One place that did get my attention was the parliament building which is inspired by Greek architecture and adorned with gilded statues of Greek gods and goddesses. Not far from the parliament sits the Vienna University (Universität Wien) which was the place where some of Noble prize winners studied or taught. We also went to some museums afterwards and enjoyed the city’s not-too-rushy atmosphere.
Later in the evening we went to the city hall’s open stage which provided a giant screen as a part of some sort of festival. On the screen we watched some Austrian best philharmonic orchestras playing famous numbers from Mozart, Shubert and other venerable composers. During the festival, there were some food stalls from different countries, but I end up having dinner from a Greek stall which serves fried octopus. I had some chats with the owner and he asked me where I come from. When he learned that I am from Indonesia then he asked me how to say thank you in Bahasa. I also asked him how to answer to someone who say thank you in Greek. Then when I paid for the food, the man said “terima kasih” and I replied “παρακαλώ”. We had a quite short but fun conversation there.
During our stay in Vienna, we also visited some other interesting places, such as Schönbrunn palace, Hofburg palace, UNO city (where some of United Nations bodies headquartered), Karlskirche and some other touristic sites.
PART 3 – BELGIUM
We reached Brussels (Flemmish: Brussel, French: Bruxelles) by train from Cologne. Once I arrived in the city I instantly felt the excitement from hearing some people speak in French. We stayed in an Indonesian man’s apartment who works for the Indonesian embassy. To reach there we took two separate taxis which the one that I took was the later. The driver was a Moroccan immigrant, therefore he speaks French.
Unlike what I imagined before, Brussels has many things to offer and visit. We went to the Atomium (which was rather dull), Cinquantenaire (whose museum was about to close when we got there), the Basilica, Manneken Piss (and also its rather less-known ‘sister’, the Janneken Piss), Tintin museum and some more places. In this city I didn’t miss the chance to taste one of its specialties, the French Fries (which often confuses people with the fact that it originally came from Belgium). One unique thing about the fries is that they’re served with different kinds of mayonnaise.
One more thing I should not forget to tell you that Brussels is the place where I had Indonesian food for the first time in Europe. I had Telor Balado (Eggs cooked in chili sauce) and some other home foods in our apartment, guess what? They were delicious! Indonesian food with all the spices taste much better than anything I’ve ever had in Europe.
PART 4 – FRANCE
Paris, the city of light, the city of glamor. But when I got to this city for the first time it was cloudy. I had already been in Europe for 3 weeks when I went to Paris, hence the fatigue that I felt. Paris is truly one exceptional city with its gigantic museums, artistic buildings, monumental sites and so on. The only problem is that the streets are just too wide for an already-fatigue people like us. Therefore we had to carefully plan our itinerary. Some worth-visiting places that I recommend are Basilique du Sacré-Cœur (situated in Montmartre hill), the Panthéon (the tombs of several famous individuals, notably Marie Curie, J.J. Rousseau, Louis Braille and many more), Eiffel tower (at day and night – see how dramatic the lights sparkle all over the tower at specific hours) and of course, The Louvre (but keep in mind that due to its large collection you might be lost in time for strolling all three wings and also the underground medieval Louvre).
Some other places that I visited were Centre Georges Pompidou (which displays a rather unconventional artworks, including Niki de Saint Phalle’s curiously enigmatic sculptures), the Notre-Dame cathedral and Hôtel des Invalides (which houses Napoleon’s tomb).
PART 5 – BRITAIN
London is a big city which has narrower streets than Paris, which is somewhat relieving so that we didn’t have to walk too far from one place to another. Here are some places which I recommend: the National Gallery (which is free), Covent Garden (not far from Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square, where you can watch street artists performing some cool stuffs), the Tower Bridge and the Natural History Museum (which is much more interesting than the ones in continental Europe).
Other interesting places which I didn’t have the chance to visit were the Parliament Building, Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey, to name some. I didn’t go there not because I got no time, but simply because the ticket for admittance was way too expensive.
The next British city that I visited was Birmingham, where my cousin and her husband used to live. The apartment where they live is only a few minutes away from major places, for instance the National Indoor Arena (where some world bands performed and All-England badminton championships are held), the Birmingham city library and the city center.
Birmingham has many canals, therefore we rode on a boat to went sightseeing from around the main canal. Some interesting places which I visited were the Botanical Garden (which some say more beautiful than the one that we have in Bogor, Indonesia) and the Bullring (a shopping center distinguishable by its curved-wall embedded with metal pins).
During my stay in Birmingham, my cousin and I took the chance to go to a nearby city, that is Coventry. We went to the Transportation Museum. Not only that, before we went back to Birmingham, we also took a little walk around the city’s medieval quarter and found one church which was destroyed during the second world war. Somehow the atmosphere in the ancient streets are much spookier that I anticipated.
Finally, in August 2007, about one month later, we went back to Jakarta also in a flight from Amsterdam.
That is all I can tell for now. I tried to bring back all those memories and squeeze some of them to fit in this limited space. I also wish that I could have more photographs to share.
Some photos are by courtesy of my cousin, Dina.
Feel free to leave any comment or question, and bye for now.
Related Post: 5 Reasons Why I Fell in Love with Vienna