25 June 2012 Monday | 12:55 | 2012/06 Europe
Off we went on 1 Jun. It was the very first time that Chan Brothers Travel and Y.E.S. 93.3FM launched a trip to Europe, finally dispelling the myth that long haul packages are not in sync with the station’s demographics. Compared to the past DJ-led tours, this group was really big on photo-taking. Haha. The cameras were out at Changi Airport, and instantly whipped out again when we touched down in Frankfurt. “But… but… but.. We just spent almost thirteen hours on the plane. You really want a dishevelled image of me?” Some went through a lengthy process at immigration, but I sailed through quickly. A friend had planned an answer for me, should I get delayed there. “Hello? You guys are experiencing this economic crisis. I’m from Singapore. Do you really think I would wanna be an illegal immigrant here?” Nasty.
Question of the Day: Germany is the land of Audis, Volkswagens and BMWs. Why were there so many Mazdas and Toyotas on the roads?
Restaurant recommendation: Brauhaus Em Kölsche Boor
Eigelstein 121 50668 Köln
German fare was served for lunch. The schweinshaxe (pork knuckle) was huge. A dash of mustard with every bite, coupled with some of those mushy potato slices, I was totally satisfied.
Kölner Dom (Cologne Cathedral).
It took them more than six centuries to complete the Kölner Dom. The largest Gothic church in northern Europe is now one of Germany’s most visited attractions. Alex (one of the tour leaders) did a brilliant job in briefing passengers on the characteristics of various architectural styles. I listened intently and was able to appreciate the building once I got down. But erm, I have difficulty regurgitating it right now.
In the two hours preceding the next bus ride, I walked around enjoying the temperature that never went above 19 degrees the entire day. As I mentioned before the trip, I was really paranoid about pickpockets lurking amongst the crowds. I panicked for a split second when a scruffy guy came up to me. He was really direct, “Hey dude, gimme some money.” My mind went into overdrive, “He’s at least 15cm shorter than me. There are people 10 metres on my right. Danger level = Rather low.” I said no curtly, and walked away. I am pleased to report that I didn’t lose any money to the infamous gypsies and other crooks giving Europe a bad reputation. Well, I didn’t talk to any stranger. I ignored every single person who talked to me randomly- asking for directions, time, etc. I know that it was very rude of me, but I was safe! Haha.
Later, I resisted the temptation of walking into the Louis Vuitton store adjacent to the church. “I’d wait till we hit Paris,” I thought, as I sipped my cappuccino in a café directly opposite. I discovered later that two passengers bought something that afternoon, “Paris? There are other stuff to buy there. Besides, there’s no queue!”
I’m good at improvising.
I couldn’t help but snigger when I was handed a bottle of Coke in the middle of the day. G., the coordinator who was with me in Beijing last year was tasked to brief the tour leaders for this trip. I was told that she highlighted my dietary habits, “Oh, he’s easy. Can eat everything and anything as long as it’s not spicy. However, he must have Coke.” There wasn’t a fridge in the hotel room, so I resorted to chilling my drink in the basin.
It began to drizzle as we left Düsseldorf. And it got colder. Gosh, wasn’t it summer yet? When I saw “12 – 20 degrees”, I thought it would only dip to 12 at night. The conclusion is that I never fail to underdress.
Floraide 2012- held once every ten years in different parts of Holland. Apart from showcasing the horticulture industry of the country, foreign institutions were invited to display their stuff.
Surely there must be a Chinese presence!
Unique design by Azerbaijan.
Snazzy multimedia display of Spain’s agricultural prowess.
Plenty of € spent on toilet visits and UMBRELLAS.
Group photo with the passengers from Bus 1.
Sushi in the foodcourt-styled pavilion warmly received by Asians. Not bad.
Restaurant recommendation: Oriental City 海城大酒樓
Oudezijds Voorburgwal 177-179 1012 EV Amsterdam
I couldn’t help but be skeptical upon walking in, as I’d had plenty of lousy Chinese grub in angmoh countries. But I was very impressed with the standards of this restaurant. The group of Hong Kong migrants serve all sorts of vegetable and meat dishes- as authentic as what we usually have in Asia.
Holland is a unique country with a huge part of the land- including its airport- built below sea levels. Notice the high and narrow houses. They apparently have a tax on the width of buildings. Hooks are installed at the top to lift furniture and other big items because they won’t fit through the door.
Their coffeeshop ≠ our kopitiam.
Amsterdam is such a colourful place. It isn’t burdened with the insipidness we see in some capital cities around the world. And it’s amazing how they don’t react excessively to coffeeshops selling marijuana and near-naked women showing off their bodies in glass displays. Mr. Kok, 70, exclaimed in the bus, “You young people shouldn’t smoke weed or look at the women. It’s bad for you. But I’m old enough, so I can!” Hahaha. I guess this is a place where people don’t judge, and are given the liberty to do as they please within certain geographical boundaries and not obstructing the lives of others. I supposed only the most prudish of prudes would hate this city.
With the Chiang family at Zaase Schans. (Where are the photos everyone else promised me?)
The Chiangs spent some time living in Holland previously. They packed two bottles of sauces for me. Very sweet. (Them, not the sauces)
People think of windmills, tulips and clogs when they speak of Holland. There is evidently much more to the country. We, however, had to do the touristy thing by walking into a collection of well preserved windmills at Zaanse Schans and saw for ourselves how Dutch clogs were made. I just imagined myself getting a pair and stomping on people I don’t like. Haha.
Best cheese EVER. I didn’t buy this because I still had more than two weeks of travelling. Is this available in Singapore?
This is really funny.
Situated in the northern part of the country, Volendam is a quaint little town so small that it has to regulate timings for vehicles to pass through the one way street. There are specific timings for people to drive from the left to right, and alternate periods to drive in the opposite direction. There is almost no way to do a three point turn along the main street.
Farmers and fishermen began to move to Volendam after a new harbour was built in a neighbouring city, which explains the abundance of fish in their daily meals. Apart from the usual fish and chips, one could sample cold herring that came with an intense fishy smell. I could only take three bites as the odour was too overwhelming.
I was astonished to be told that my room was one floor below ground level and I visualised a dark and creepy room. It turned out to be absolutely fine. There was a slope outside my window with cars and bicycles hurrying by just above my ceiling. One advantage was that I could receive the WiFi signals in the basement, while those putting up in higher floors had to loiter in the lobby.
After an evening without internet access in Germany, people got carried away after finding out the access codes. While we retired really early the night before, we didn’t put down our devices till at least 10:00 P.M., especially since the sun was still staring down at us then.