Tuesday, August 18, 2009

9-10 July 2009: Prague, Czech Republic

My Dreamed City in Europe

When i was a teenager, i read the travel column in the newspaper which talked about Prague. i saw the beautiful pictures and from that time, i told myself that, one day, i am going to this place. I am grateful that, we made it here, eventhough i don't feel as impressed as i wanted to. May be, if Prague is the first European country that i went after UK, then i would response in the "wow" way that i thought i would. Never the less, Prague is still one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, like Edinburgh.

In compare with Western Europe, Czech Republic is relatively cheaper.
We stopped at this small border town with Germany and row of shops like this reminded me of those back home in Malaysia.
We bought the 7 days highway vignette (the least day that we would buy) and changed a bit of Czech money (kc).
The most expensive fuel we got was in The Netherlands, eventhough Shell is from there! It was around 1.4 Euro per little, while in Germany, it was around 1.2 to 1.3 per little.
Over here, the fuel is around 1 euro or less per little, so we saw quite a few of the German car bought the fuel in big tanks.

The entrance to Prague Castle near to the old steps. Prague Castle is the biggest castle complex in the world and it feels more like a small town than a castle.

St Vitus Cathedral is a glorious French Gothic structure. Visit to the nave with beautiful stained-glass windows is free of charge.

One of the popular souvenir here is obviously the puppet which move by the strings. Some like this old woman puppet, is not something that you want to hang in your house.

The cheapest thing to eat is probably the street food. We found this hot dog interesting as the hot dog was 'embedded' in the bread. They did not have vege dog though.

This side of the River Vltava is overlooking the old town and seems like a popular place for pictures taking.

Charles Bridge crowded by small merchants, beggars, tourists and street performers.

The old town square and Jan Hus Manument, erected on the 500th anniversary of the religious reformer's execution at the stake.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Berlin, Germany: 8 July 2009

Reunited Metropolis

My impression to Germany are, it is an advanced engineering country and one of the leaders in sustainable living. In the other way, nobody can forget about the legacy of xenophobia and genocide left by Hitler and the Nazi Third Reich. We came to Berlin just for the former Berlin Wall, two decades after the fall of it.
By the way, the no speed limit highway is true. But there are no free toilets any where in the city or highway. Even at the restaurant where you eat, sometimes they will still charge you 50 cents euro.

For decades a barricaded gateway to noway, the Brandenburgh Gate is the powerful emblem of reunited Germany and Berlin. Standing right in the center of the city, today it opens east and west.
There is a quite room nearby, where one can go inside the room and enjoy the peace with quietness.
This is obviously a place for both tourists and street artists.

Student band by the Brandenburgh Gate, at Pariser Platz.

A private tributes to the Holocaust victims at Tiergarten.

The Reichstag is the German parliament building, one of the most famous Berlin attractions. It is the seat of German Bundestag, place where laws are made. “Dem Deutschen Volke” (To the German People) mounted above the western portico of the Reichstag Building.
Tourists queued up to enter the dome in the building.

The memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe.
There are 2711 stelae from flat to the height of more than 4 meter.
There is an information centre underground. A series of texts and pictures shows the development that led to the Holocaust and the process of the extermination of the European Jewry, as well as the persecution and murder of other victims groups.

Checkpoint Charlie was once the gateway for Non-Germans during the Cold War.

The remaining of the Berlin Wall.

We went into the city, Dresden, on our way to Czech Republic. The Allied bombing in 1945 killed 50 thousands people and destroyed 75% of the city centre.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Amsterdam, The Netherlands: 7 July 2009

Freedom... Sex... Drugs... Canals

i always wanted to go to Amsterdam. So that i can buy hash or marijuana legally at the coffeeshops? No, no... That is not my cup of tea. i don't very much fancy the art scene, windmill, tulips or wooden shoes as well. What i wanted to see is just the red lights district. From my typical Asian upbringing, the sex scenes are very intriguing. i wanted to see and feel the kind of openess that people have over the sex and drugs, which are both taboos from where i come from...
We surprisingly found out also, The Netherlands is quite an environmentally conscious country. There are certain town which plastic begs are not allowed. So you have to either bring your own shopping begs or sometimes, you can pick up the packaging boxes of the supermarket to put your groceries. We think this is really a good idea, rather than dismantle the boxes and pill them up behind of the shops.
All Dutch who we talked to, such as asking for direction, speak very fluent English.

Amesterdam is a canal-lined city, which i did not know before.
The country is masterful feat of engineering, since most of it is below sea level, vigorous pumping and many dikes were used to create dry land.
If God created the rest of the world, the Dutch created The Netherlands.

War meomorial near to Damrak and red lights district.
We paid the most expensive hourly parking fees for our Europe trip here, 2 hours for 8 euros.
After this, we never really drove right into the city centre of any country again. The endless one way streets and hefty parking fees are just too much.

Damrak, the street when one comes out from the central station and where tourists buy inexpensive survenirs.

i personally feel that, the red light district is surprisingly liveable (especially if you compare with red lights Geylang in Singapore) and in many ways the area is less outrageous and seedy than i have expected.
Like Clichy and Pigale in Paris, the streets are full with pushers, porn shops and live sex theaters.
There are many kebab shops and Asian restaurant or take away, not to forget, fine cuisine restaurants and bars/ pubs.

i heard that before: The prostitutes displays themselves in the window. They pay tax like any tax payers as well.
Many tourists were attracted by the prostitutes dancing in the window. Some knocked at the door/ window and asked for the price, but we did not see anyone got inside and engaged the service of the prostitutes.

Besides from the aroma of marijuana and the city's infamous sex scene, it is romantic to stroll along endless cobblestoned streets and canals sparkling with lights.