Day 10 - Bruges

I wonder about the love you can't find
and I wonder about the loneliness that's mine
I wonder how much going have you got
and I wonder about your friends that are not
I wonder, I wonder, wonder I do

I Wonder - Sixto Rodriguez

I still haven't watched Searching for Sugar Man, the documentary about Sixto Rodriguez *sigh* Why was it not on the plane? I like in-flight entertainment. It often allows me to watch things that I wouldn't usually know on my own, for example on a flight from or to Japan, I watched this very interesting documentary about Herb and Dorothy Vogel. Then on my flight back to Singapore from this trip, I watched Dancer, a documentary about the ballet dancer, Sergei Polunin. I kinda remembered reading an article about him in CNN. Anyway, I'm digressing. Let's talk about my trip. How my vertigo, you ask? I wonder if you're really asking or I kinda just hope one would ask. Most probably you didn't ask, but let me tell you anyway. Well as of yesterday, I was still taking the meds because I still had the attack. It was horrible :( I'm hoping I don't have to take any today, we'll see.

Usually when I plan my trip, I like to schedule all the day trips first to leave me time to enjoy the city last. Unless I have quite a few days in that city, then I may spread the day trips a bit because usually they get really tiring. On the Amsterdam trip, I did all the day trips first and left exploring Amsterdam last. The first day trip I did was to Bruges in Belgium. I kinda know this city from Cloud Atlas (whose movie I actually really enjoyed by the way) and I think it was also mentioned by Casyrn when she was planning her Europe trip years ago. I'm not sure she made it though. So anyway, I had mix feeling about taking the day trip because the review talked about how the group was big and the bus wasn't comfortable and it was quite a long day. I did contemplate if I should do the trip on my own by train. However it's more expensive that way, so due to cost I stuck with the day tour. The travel agent office was packed and all the queuing and the many people didn't really make me excited about the trip. When I reached the bus, there were already many people. I managed to get a window seat, but then a lady sat next to me. The seat wasn't very spacious and I did start to get anxious if I was gonna hate the whole trip. I don't know if a couple thought the same and just left before we started or they managed to find seats in the upper deck, but next thing that happened was there were seats available and the lady who sat next to me moved to sit with her husband and I got to sit on my own. Well that really made me so much more relaxed :)

The ride was long, but since I was sitting alone, it was just fine. When we arrived, it was drizzling on and off. I actually packed an umbrella on this trip but that day I didn't bring it with me. I was thinking how stupid that was. My sweater coat has a hoodie and that kinda had to make do. The guide gave us an option to follow him a bit for a walking tour or we could just explore on our own. I think most of us decided to follow him. I don't know what to expect in Bruges, but from the first few things I saw, I kinda like it.

One of the first stop we made was to The Béguinage or Begijnhof Brugge. I learned something new this trip. I learned about beguines who basically I think are ladies who lived like nuns, but didn't take the oath. The Begijnhof is a compound where they used to live. I don't know if there's like a rule in making the compound but The Begijnhof I saw here and in Amsterdam are kinda the same. The houses are in the perimeter of the compound and in the middle of it there's a open green space like a garden and there's like only one or two small entrances in the perimeter to enter the compound. The houses in Bruges Begijnhof are painted white and I think there's a museum. I like the tranquil feeling in it. I didn't have the time to go back to visit it during my free time and I think it's kinda a shame.

After The Begijnhof, we actually broke for lunch and walking tour resumed after it. There were still quite a few of us following the guide. The sky was getting grayer and the weather made me get anxious and disappointed that it would be a rainy day throughout. Just look at this very cloudy picture of Rozenhoedkaai, a place which is often photographed in Bruges I think.

As we walked more with the guide, it started to rain :( I was getting concerned. We made it to the square and after taking some time taking shelter, the rain went into a manageable drizzle. The guide let us off there and we're free to explore on our own. Since it was still drizzling, I went to the nearby Basilica of the Holy Blood where I don't know for what purpose, there's a group of people who seemed to be practising for a parade of something. There's people playing musical instrument and people walking behind them singing.

I watched them for awhile and the drizzle stopped and the sky actually kinda cleared out as I was walking around. The sky was getting bluer when I walked pass a counter selling ticket for the canal cruise. I had googled about this beforehand and I did want to take it. From googling the ticket counter seemed to be somewhere else, but since I passed one by Rozenhoedkaai and the price was the same (8 euro), I thought why not. I didn't have to wait long and it was a really nice trip. I do recommend you doing this when you're in Bruges. It makes you realize how pretty and photogenic this city is. The unskillful me didn't take good pictures, but even from the ones I have, they're just beautiful. The boat ride is about 30-minute long and they took you around places which you may never walk on your own. I also think the view from the canal itself are quite different as compared to seeing it from the streets.

After that I still had time to walk on my own. Somehow I made it back to Basilica of the Holy Blood. I was only in the courtyard earlier when I saw those people practising. This time around I decided to go inside the church. The guide did talk about the presence of the Holy Blood of Jesus Christ in here (hence the name of the church), but as I often do, I didn't really pay much attention. So when I entered I didn't even remember that. It only dawned on me when I entered and it was quite a sombre serious atmosphere inside and I saw a few people queuing at one side of the altar. There weren't many people and I observed them awhile. One by one they went up the altar, they put a donation and they look at this glass case which was manned by an older priest and a younger one. I think that's the older priest's assistant. Some of them touched the case. I thought I was there, why not, though I did feel inadequate or perhaps unworthy. This would be a big deal for some Catholics or people with strong faith to Jesus. I have to admit that I felt kinda nervous and I tried not to make eye contact with the priests, lest they could see it that this was just a curiosity for me for rather than a faith affirming experience. Also since I felt unworthy, I didn't touch the glass case. Honestly, I would have liked to take my time and see the vial and blood thoroughly, but since people only took a short time, I didn't dare linger. Wikipedia has a picture of the vial, you can see it here. After that I went to the other altar to pray a bit, telling God how thankful I was for the opportunity and the protection in the trip. I think I was the last person to see that vial that day because when I prayed I heard the ringing of bells and when I finished praying I saw that the priests and the case were gone. So they show it to the public at specific time during the day and I was quite lucky to be there at the right time. Whether or not you believe that's really the blood of Jesus Christ, as my guide said, it's up to your faith and belief. You can't take pictures inside the church, so I have none.

After that the plan was to do some chocolate shopping. I didn't really google much about where I should go. There are many chocolate shops in Bruges and all are tempting (obviously!). I started with one just near the church. Got some for me and my landlady. Then I went to Leonidas which I have heard of. I have to say the chocolate prices were cheaper than the one in Switzerland. I got some for me and my parents. Then it was back to meeting the guide and the ride back to Amsterdam. It was really nice visit to Bruges. I'm thankful that the weather wasn't all bad and the sky cleared up that day. I enjoyed it more than I expected. The city is really charming and I actually like it a lot. For pictures of Bruges, you can go here.

:) eKa @ 8:33:00 PM • 0 comments

Day 9 - End of Leg 2 (Leaving Zürich, Onward to Amsterdam)

spirit of my silence I can hear you
but I’m afraid to be near you
and I don’t know where to begin
and I don’t know where to begin

Death with Dignity - Sufjan Stevens

Before I wrote about the trip, let me start about what happened to me this past week. I started drafting this post more than a week ago. In fact if you see my posts recently, the last few regarding the trip were posted within days but the last post I posted is like more than 1 week ago. So what happened was, I got badly sick. Last weekend I had what the doctors term URTI (Upper Respiratory Tract Infection) or for us common people, I had flu or cold. It started very strangely, at least for me. I normally started with sneezing, runny nose, and then sore throat. This time around, I started with fever. At first I didn't think much of it, I thought it was just stress and tiredness, but I was having that fever for like the whole day. My muscles started to ache and I was seriously suffering. At this time too, the throat was feeling funny but it was still bearable. I thought I had no choice but to see the doctor. Dr. Edmond is away for 2 weeks, so I had to go to a different clinic. I suspected the doctor was handsome behind his mask. Anyway he gave me medicine and told me that I was going down for flu and when I told him it started so strangely, he said well it's different sometime. It was a short talk with him and off I went with many drugs. 2 days later I wasn't feeling better, even worse. By now the throat was hurting so badly that I even had trouble drinking. I went to the clinic again. It being a 24-hour clinic means that it has different doctors so this second visit, it was a different doctor. He gave me antibiotic and more meds but I wasn't feeling better. I was thinking this is the bad thing about having to see doctors that don't know your history and I started to miss Dr. Edmond. I had a feeling Dr. Edmond would have straight away given me antibiotic from my first visit because my history showed flu often went down badly with me and I need a more aggressive treatment. I also become more appreciative of the nearness of Dr. Edmond's clinic. While this clinic is better for me financially, but it's further. I need to take a bus and walk a bit to get there. On one of my last visits to Dr. Edmond, I talked about how he works a lot and now he's taking off days and I should be saying good for you, but then since I got sick, it's really sad that he's not around. So anyway even with the antibiotics I wasn't feeling better. I only got better after I bought over the counter cough med and added it into the mix of the multitudinous medicine I was given.

The flu really took its toll on me. I was feeling weak and didn't have a lot of appetite. I don't know if this bad flu is the reason that though I was finally showing signs of recovering from the flu, I was just not able to have my energy back. So this Thursday, I was feeling so bad that the only way I could explain it to mom was that I was feeling I was going to faint and I wanted to vomit. I didn't do either of that, but it was bad that I was so scared that I was going to collapse any time. I didn't understand what's going on. Was my blood pressure low? Was I not having enough sugar? I felt I needed to eat, but it was really difficult that I had to force myself and it took me more than half an hour to finish just over a quarter of my dinner on Thursday evening. I was so sad and scared that I asked myself, do you want to cry. I did and I just cried. It was a full blown mental breakdown. I don't know if it's something that an adult my age is allowed to do (on account we supposedly be mentally stronger), but I'm a girl, so I think we should always be allowed to cry if need be no matter what age we are. I was just so sad that I was alone with no one to support me. Sometime little things can make you sad about living alone, but being badly sick is a definite shove to the edge to make you have a breakdown. I prayed so that God help me and don't let me die here. I really don't want to die in Singapore. Maybe you think I'm dramatizing, but really I didn't understand what's going on with me and I was really sad and afraid. Friday morning came and I woke up, managed to stand. Not feeling well, but then I went on my day, praying to God to help me get through. Throughout the day I was feeling bad. I finally had a word to describe what I felt. It's like I'm having motion sickness but I'm not in a boat on choppy waters. I decided to go the clinic again. This time the doctor was a young female. I didn't know if she would think I was making things up, so I preempted her by saying something weird is happening, I feel like I'm having motion sickness. She said, oh it's most likely vertigo. It's so comforting that she didn't think I was faking it and I didn't have to tell her, no, I'm not pregnant.

The thing is I have had vertigo before. So I didn't think this was it. Vertigo for me usually happened when I woke up in my bed and my head was spinning and things started to go black. The first time I had it, I thought I was going to die, and many people thought the same when they had it, my dad too. When I understood the symptoms, I started to be able to tell myself to be calm when I had a vertigo attack. What I'm having currently was more like stage 1 of vertigo if step 10 is the black out stage. The thing is this step 1 had lasted more than 24 hours so I was feeling more afraid because I didn't understand it. The kind doctor checked my blood pressure and checked my throat and lung to make sure it's not really the URTI again and gave me some meds. She also gave a letter which she told me to take to the A&E (Accident and Emergency services) in the hospital if I'm getting worse this long weekend. The letter recommended a CT scan. So here we are now peeps. We're waiting to see if I'm finally going to get better. I have to say the meds seem to help. It took some time, but gradually I felt like I have my center back. I have clarity. I think it will take some days though before I can stop taking the meds. This morning when I woke up, I wasn't feeling 100% and I did have a bit of difficulty finishing breakfast, but I made it to class which is important for me. Last weekend I was feeling so bad that I couldn't go to class and didn't clean my room. Another thing that I hope can be better as I get better is my ability to eat. The appetite is just not there. On my worse days, it took a lot effort to put the food on the spoon. Then I proceeded to stare at it and it took a long time too to put it to my mouth and then chew. I felt like me in my toddler days who my mom said was difficult when it's eating time. Since I came back from the trip, I have made 4 trips to the doctor in a span of less than 1 month and the last 3 visits were in a span of 1 week. Perhaps I just need time to really recuperate and get my energy level to a more sustainable working order. The sad thing is I don't have that time and hence why I've been breaking down physically and mentally. I really really hope I get out this long weekend feeling much better.

Now we can talk about the trip. Day 9 was my last day in Zürich. Since I wanted to cut cost, my flight to Amsterdam was at 5 pm something. I prefer not to arrive late when travelling, but I also didn't want to pay the hundred of euros for an earlier flight. So I had the morning to explore Zürich. I used the map my hotel gave me for my walkabout. I started by crossing the Limmat river. Took pictures here and there. Made it to Grossmünster church. I don't think you can take pictures inside it because I have no pictures from inside the church. I think it was just an okay church inside. I found the cloister too and I kinda like it there. It's not very big, but there was just me and another guy inside and I like the quietness and peacefulness.

After that I continued on walking by the river. Looking at the map, this river opens up to Zurich lake. At one place near a tree, I saw that there were many swans and ducks. There's a lady feeding them bread (she's so nice). There's a few people too watching this. Here, I saw that there's like a fountain across the lake. It's the small triangle in the middle of the picture below.

I was thinking should I make it there, can I make it there, will it be too far? I decided to just walk and see how far I could go, I had nothing to do anyway. It's a walk passing many boats. At the other side of the lake there's a small park, kinda nice, and there's a dock with more boats. The day being cloudy, I felt the pictures of the boats have a sentimental quality to them. Unfortunately I don't think the pictures came out well :(

After some time walking in the docks, I decided to make my way back. As I walked back, I saw a homeless man bundled up in a blanket sleeping on the grass. It's perhaps quite normal for some people, but I think since I live in Singapore, seeing a homeless person will always be shocking. There are poor people in Singapore, but I have never seen anyone just sleep anywhere. Zurich being a rich city also make it more shocking to me that this city is not immune to this problem. Anyways, I then spent some time watching these kids below fishing. It was a Friday, I wondered why they're not in school and I was thinking if I could I would also prefer going out fishing rather than doing boring adult life on a Friday. They did catch a fish, not very big, the size of my palm. I think 3 more and they would have had a nice lunch for themselves.

I still had some time and as I passed Fraumünster, I finally found the entrance to its cloister and I went inside. The cloister is not as nice as Grossmünster because it's not really a garden. There's painting on the walls and in one of the painting, I thought the blonde lady kinda looks like (a bit) the lady who found my wallet for me and it made me kinda happy to see it. The day was getting darker and by the time I reached my hotel it was raining and kinda cold. I got my stuff and made my way to the train station. Finally I found the nearest entrance to the platform so it wasn't difficult dragging my luggage there. For pictures from Zürich, please go here.

In the airport, I used my last Switzerland Francs to get a small box of Sprüngli chocolate. The flight was okay. I managed to figure out the train too. Arriving in Amsterdam Centraal station, I did have a bit of difficulty finding my direction and the correct exit, but I found it anyway. I felt a bit of a culture shock because Amsterdam felt so crowded, even more so than Vienna and Zurich which felt like a small city and Amsterdam felt like the real big city kind. What I'm trying to say is I felt like a person coming from a village, going to the big city. I almost got knocked down by a person in a bicycle as I was crossing the street. I'm pretty sure it's not my fault because I followed the sign. I was thinking this is so cliche. I think the guy was a bit stunned too that I did see him looking back at me. Arriving in my hotel, I was super disappointed. It's the most expensive in this trip, but the worst. Well, I paid for the location. I only went out to get some water and then just had my Sprüngli liliput chocolate for dinner. Some of them were really good. Some of them I didn't enjoy much.

:) eKa @ 4:57:00 PM • 0 comments

Day 8 - Lucerne & Mount Titlis

I've seen tricks like this before
I've been shaken to the core
and I got over it

When I Wake Up - Lions Head

What's the different between one snowy mountain and another? I don't know. When you're on one, it may not look much different at all. So at first I wasn't sure if I wanted to take a trip to Mount Titlis. Like Jungfraujoch, Mt. Titlis always have snow in them. In the end, I decided why not because this trip that I went to also visited Lucerne in the morning. I felt like I had heard of that city before so I thought okay, let's go, also it's not actually a bad idea to visit another snowy mountain in Switzerland.

On the way to Lucerne, the guide said we're doing really good on time, so we could make an unplanned stop to Astrid Chapel. This is a very small chapel in memorial of Queen Astrid of Belgium who died nearby due to an accident. The chapel is by Lake Lucerne and the view was pretty nice.

Arriving in Lucerne, the first stop was to see The Lion of Lucerne, which is this very sad sad sculpture of a lion to commemorate the death of the Swiss guards during French revolution. There's a little pond by the rock where the lion is sculpted into. I thought the place with the greenery was quite fitting for a memorial. It felt rather peaceful and I think it would be especially so without the throng of tourists. The lion looked so sad that you can't help feeling sad yourself.

Here, I decided to approach the Indonesians who I knew were in the group. There were 3 of them, 2 girls and a boy. I heard them that morning when they entered the bus. They're travelling friends, people who found out each other through travelling and decided to travel to Europe together. They're in my age group, but these days when I think people are in my age group, I'm often wrong. So it's possible they're actually much younger. Upon knowing that I was alone, being the true blue Indonesians that they are, they said let's just hang together. This is so so Indonesian. Somehow the united we stand, divided we fall mentality is so ingrained in Indonesian. I smiled both in my face and heart when I heard them say that. However me having been living in Singapore alone all this time, has just gotten quite individualistic. So throughout the day I just went on my way, didn't wait up for them, and didn't hang with them. I know that perhaps makes me such a snob or dare I say more Singaporean? Singaporeans would hate me saying that! I'm just wired differently now. The Indonesian group mentality where it feels like they have your back (though certain things that happened in Indonesia recently seem to indicate otherwise) is comforting, but I can't deny that they frustrate me sometime too. The need to move together and do things together all the time often feels like a handicap to me. I really think that having have to fend for myself in Singapore all these years has caused me to be quite individualistic.

So anyway in Lucerne, we're given a map and some time to explore the old town. I just went about on my own. I started with the wooden bridges. There are 2 of them, Spreuer Bridge and Chapel Bridge. The Chapel Bridge is the more famous one. Spreuer Bridge was nearer to where we stopped, so I started with that. Inside the bridge there are these triangular panels on the low ceiling that feature drawings which are rather religious.

I walked through that bridge to cross the Reuss river to get to the other side of town. Then I explored that side of the town. Saw buildings with paintings on them, sculptures, and fountains. Then I took Chapel Bridge to get back to the other side. Apparently this bridge was on fire in 1993 due to cigarette. It makes you think who that dumb ass that left the cigarette butt. Due to the fire, many of the triangular panels were destroyed. No more paintings and there's a few where you can see they're just charred black. I just googled the picture of the fire and it was really something.

Overall I think old town Lucerne is quite interesting. I chatted more to the Indonesians again as we waited in our meeting place. They had quite an ambitious itinerary which included The Netherlands, France, Switzerland, Italy, Hungary and perhaps many other places before reaching Turkey and making their way home. They also stayed in hostels, co-ed ones. Upon knowing, I was telling the 2 girls that they're awesome for being able to do so. I wouldn't say I am rich, but since the first time I traveled, I never stay in a hostel. Hence that's why my travelling expense can be obscene sometime for us common people. Yes even for me. Sometime after I tallied all the cost, I was like ... you're insane! It's even more so the past few years when I feel I'm giving myself more and more comfort. Knowing the cost cutting measures that they took, I thought about how I never undergo that kind of hardship and that makes me wonder if that makes me weaker mentally. It's good you know to know you have that ability to rough it out if need be and I wonder if me by not having all those experiences really just can't rough it out enough. I am just impressed with them and their hardcore-ness :) We talked about a few other things. The guy asked me if I know the cost of a taxi ride to the airport in Zurich. They're contemplating that because of the luggages that they had and they weren't staying near the train station in Zurich. One of the girls was saying it's like lugging a small cupboard. I laughed at that and I thought about how this is perhaps the typical mind of an Indonesian who can make such a comparison. I don't get to talk to Indonesian a lot in Singapore and it's really good when I have this kind of conversation and be reminded how silly and funny we can be :D Anyway, I didn't see them again until after we arrived back in Zurich. Well the group was quite big and being the individual me, I didn't make an effort to wait or look out for them.

For pictures from Lucerne, please go here. They're not very good and mostly just different shots of the bridges. By the way, all the photos from this day didn't turn out so good (or perhaps the whole entire trip you say). It's most probably just me and my sub par skill, so just please note that the places look much nicer. Moving on, after Lucerne we made our way to Mt. Titlis. We entered Engelberg region and this is the starting point to take the cable cars to Mt. Titlis. If on the trip to Jungfraujoch we had to take trains, on this trip to Mt. Titlis we had to take 3 cable cars. The sizes went from smaller to bigger and the frequency of the cable cars also got lesser. As you went higher and higher, the landscape changed and the temperature dropped. You went from still seeing green plains to all white. The second picture below was taken from the first cable car.

The weather that day wasn't optimal. It was very very cloudy with strong wind, so it was much colder than when I was in Jungfraujoch and visibility wasn't very good. On arriving, we were left by the guide to explore on our own. I started with the indoor activity first. I saw this sign in Indonesian and I was so so curious. What's with the sign in Indonesian, is it because many Indonesian tourists come here? I don't have any explanation for this.

Indoor, I went to the glacier cave which was not very interesting especially compared to the ice palace in Jungfraujoch. It's kinda dark so you can't really see much. After that I went outside. It was really windy and I had difficulty keeping my eyes open. I think it's the combination of the wind and snow. Only after I put the sunglasses on, it was much better though it made everything darker since it was already a cloudy day. The area to walk on was much bigger than the area I walked on in Jungfraujoch. I found it really really hard to walk in because it was slippery and it was supper windy. I had to pray while walking so that I'd be alright and didn't stupidly fall and hurt myself. Photos from here are extremely cloudy. As mentioned visibility was poor.

Somehow I made it to where the chair lift and the cliff walk started. The cliff walk is this bridge along a cliff. It was very windy, but somehow I decided to just do it. Oddly I felt safer walking there than on the snow despite of the strong wind. First because it wasn't slippery. Then the bridge felt sturdy, it wasn't swaying, also the side of the bridge was high enough that I felt like there's no way I would fall over. It took a lot of effort to walk in it though because it was really really windy and I felt really cold. At the end, I just quickly took some pictures. Met a few tourists and asked if they tried the chair lift, they said they did and I should to. So I went back, thinking if I should really try the chair lift. By this time I was so cold that I quickly took out the gloves that I actually brought. That's when I realized how cold I really was because I couldn't really feel my hand. All was better when I finally managed to put the gloves on.

Now the chair lift connects the area I was on to Titlis Glacier Park where you can play more in the snow, doing things like snowtubing. I'm googling the site as I'm writing this and it looks so fun, but the photos in the site are of sunny blue sky day where the people were just wearing T-shirt. That was not the day I had. I saw some people in the area and asked a group of people who seemed to be waiting. From what I gathered it seemed because of the weather, there's no one allowed to go to the glacier park, but there were chair lifts taking people from the glacier park to our side / the main area. I didn't confirm this with the staff. I just took it as my out of not having to do this. On a better weather, I wouldn't hesitate, but it was super windy and cloudy and doing it alone, well I don't know if mentally I could keep myself composed enough throughout the entire ride. Here's what the chair lift look like.

Do I feel like I missed out? Yes kinda, because I would like to try snowtubing, sure, of course why not. However really the weather and the difficulty I had walking in the snow to get there, I just couldn't. I didn't wait to see if the weather would clear up and people were allowed in the chair lift. I just started my way back. Even going back to the building was as struggle. I actually still had some time and when I saw people walked up a slope, I did think of doing the same. However, logic or perhaps cowardice got the better of me. Me falling in Jungfraujoch really made me more cautious. I thought going up might be somewhat possible, but I really couldn't be sure that I could go down that slope without falling and hurting myself or even more major, other people. Also as evidenced from last year and many other occasions (I am sure), I tend to do stupid thing even on normal ground without slippery snow.

It is perhaps a sad thing that I didn't do much in Mt. Titlis due to the weather, but at least the contrast between this visit and my visit to Jungfraujoch is still a good experience to have. After this visit, I'm more appreciate of the good weather I experienced in Jungfraujoch. Indoor I had lunch, had a Sacher chocolate cake too and I really really like it. Funny, I wasn't aware that it's like a famous thing in Vienna. Only inside Vienna airport did I realize it's a thing when I saw the whole cakes were being sold in boxes. So I was curious and though I didn't try the original version in Vienna, I have to say the one I had was really good and I want more. Arriving back in Zurich, I made a point to wait for the Indonesians to get out of the bus and say good bye. That's the least I could do. I do feel rather sorry that I didn't make an effort to spend more time with them. They had been so friendly and I was such an anti-social snob. For pictures from Mt. Titlis, please go here.

:) eKa @ 9:38:00 PM • 0 comments

Day 7 - Black Forest & Rhine Falls

calling for my demons now to let me go
I need something, give me something wonderful

Love & Hate - Michael Kiwanuka

That song above includes the line you can't steal the things that God has given me which is something that I like to keep faith about. It also includes the lines you can't take me down, you can't break me down, you can't take me down which is sadly something that I can't really drill into my head and heart even though I would very much like to believe it. Fact is, there have been many things that broke me down. However, we're still here, aren't we? These days when I pray, I often don't pray for outcome that would be in my favor, I just ask God to help me be alright no matter what happens. Anyways, let's talk about the trip now.

On day 7, I was taking a day trip that would visit Black Forest and the Rhine Falls. That trip started after noon, so I had the morning free. The main objective that morning was to get all the chocolate shopping that I wanted done. I had googled out the shops that I wanted to go to. However, it was still quite early when I set out so the shops were looking rather quiet and I also wasn't sure if they're already opened, so I ended up just walking the Bahnhofstrasse (main shopping street). I thought maybe I should just go explore the area first and then come back later. I somehow found my way to the park at Lindenhof hill. Not many people were here that I felt I was kinda intruding on the quiet that the people who were already there were enjoying. It being on a hill, you have a view of Zürich below. You got to see buildings by the Limmat river and the bridges.

On the way down, I passed by St. Peter's church which I already passed by on the way up. By the way the map given by my hotel has a recommended walking route and it was quite helpful. Anyways, apparently St. Peter's church has the largest church clock face in Europe. Inside though, it's quite an ordinary church. Perhaps because it was quite early in the morning, there weren't many people or tourists around. By early I mean it's after 9 AM. I guess for tourists, that is quite early.

I then made my way to Fraumünster church. It wasn't opened yet when I was there. There's a bridge nearby that leads to the other side of the river, but I didn't cross it because I wanted to save exploring that side of the river on my last day. I did take some pictures from that bridge.

Nearby Fraumünster, there's a big square with quite an interesting modern kind of fountain. At this time, I wasn't aware that Fraumünster has a cloister which I think opens earlier than the church. I should have visited the cloister to pass the time. Instead I ended up just sitting at the square. It turns out the church wasn't free, but since I didn't know what to do to pass the time, I decided to visit it. If I remember correctly it's 5 CHF. You know how I feel about places of worship that charge for admission, but I guess they need it for maintenance. It's been said that many churches are closing down since there's not enough worshipers anymore. The ticket also include either a brochure or audio guide. I opted for the brochure because you can keep it.

The main attraction of the the church is the Chagall windows. I feel bad writing that because shouldn't the main attraction be Jesus? :D Anyways these big stained glass windows are located by the main altar and they're quite something. The brochure or the audio guide are useful here because they helped you see elements of the glass windows. What's also interesting for me that Chagall was quite old when he started to dabble in stained glass art. He was 80 something when he worked on these panels. This information felt to me like that if you just keep going, you could still do marvelous things even in your old age. You can't take pictures inside the church, so I have no picture of the stained glass windows. I did bought one magnet that features a section of the yellow orange panel because I thought it's quite nice. When I was about to approach the counter to look at the magnets, there were 2 staff who were talking that I had to say, excuse me. This point is important because of what happened after, stay tuned. After I got the magnet, I went to one of the seat to pack my bag. It wasn't cold anymore and I was taking things out so that I can squeeze my coat. I thought I had put all my things in and off I went on my way.

I went to the famous chocolate shop, Confiserie Sprüngli, nearby. They have so many tempting things, but I ended up not getting any. There are 4 chocolate shops on my list that day that I wanted to visit, but somehow I couldn't find one of them and I only visited 3. At the last shop near the train station, I decided to just do all my chocolate shopping there. I picked the things that I wanted and off I went to pay. After rumbling into my bag, I found out my wallet wasn't there. Yes, oh my God! and all the other curse words that came to my head. I was embarrassed and had to tell the girl, sorry, I couldn't find my wallet. I went outside the shop. In my disbelief, I rechecked my bag again and the wallet was really not there. So tracing my way, I thought of the church. I could only hope it's there. I couldn't recall taking out my wallet in the other chocolate shops, but as my brain raced, I couldn't be really sure. I walked quickly and prayed to God to let it be there. I didn't cry and this kinda surprised myself. I also started to calculate the damage. I use a different wallet when travelling so inside that wallet there's only 1 credit card and all of my remaining Switzerland Francs. I had no ID or passport inside. So I thought, worst come to worst, I just need to call the bank about the credit card and then use my other credit card in my other wallet in the safe in the hotel to make purchases in Switzerland.

I finally arrived in the church, asked the lady in the ticket counter if anyone found a wallet and told her my predicament. She said no and she was very understanding of my plight and told me to go inside quickly to check. I went to the seat where I packed my bag and there's no wallet on the seat or under it (just in case it fell). I'm pretty sure my head was filled with curse words, but I did realize I was in a church, so I didn't think I uttered any out loud. At this time, it's like my heart sank and a realization started to form that yes this is happening and I have to deal with it. I made one last attempt to ask the lady in the souvenir counter that I bought the magnet from and she said yes, the colleague she was talking to found it and she's actually walked around to find me. She wasn't in the church at this time and the souvenir lady told me to maybe go to the main door again and see if she's there. At this point, I was just elated, relieved, and plain glad. It was a praise Jesus moment and I kinda can't still believe that God is so kind to me. I went to the main door again and talked to the lady who sells the ticket. She said the colleague hadn't come back and told me, she's sorry that I was in this situation. I said, no it's alright, I was so happy that it's found. At this point, I asked her if she could call the other staff in her mobile phone, but perhaps she didn't know what the number was, that she didn't do it right away. I didn't know how long she would be, so I then told the staff that I'd try to walk around and see if I could find her and if she came back to tell her to wait. I walked outside and though I didn't see her straightaway, I finally saw her. She was young and shorter than me with a blonde hair. She looked to me like an intern. I waved at her when I saw her, wondering if she knew it's me. I think she did. When she saw me, she said she's so happy to find me. I told her, I'm so happy. I asked if she wanted to see my ID. She said no. I think she did notice me back then. I'm so thankful. I'm truly so thankful, even now. After many miles and years I've been doing this, this is the first time something like this happened to me. I was so so stupid, thankfully the good Lord still took care of me. It did give me a bit of paranoia though. In the days after, I was checking my bags frequently to make sure my wallet was there.

I didn't go back to the chocolate shop because by this time, I was approaching the time where I should be going for the day trip. I got a square of pizza for lunch. It was too big, I couldn't finish it, and then I went to the meeting place. The Black Forest is in Germany. As we crossed Germany, the guide told us that things are cheaper in Germany that many Swiss by the border area often do their shopping in Germany. It's like Singaporeans going to Malaysia to do their shopping. Black Forest being a big area, our destination was this touristy village by Lake Titisee. I have to say, there's nothing particularly special in the landscape on the drive there. Arriving in the village, we saw a demonstration of how cuckoo clock is made. I actually like cuckoo clock and one of my uncle had one. As I child, I found it fascinating. I wonder if their family still have it. These are real hand made cuckoo clocks, so they are, as expected, expensive. So I didn't get anything, also because I don't have a house of my own to put it in. The things that I found most interesting about these clocks are the unique scenes that they have on the face of the clock. They're just very cute.

The village itself is quite small and has just souvenir shops and some restaurants and cafes. Overall there's nothing much to do and I got bored. I walked by the lake and decided to take the boat ride along the lake. This being Germany, it's back to using Euro. I think it's 5 euro and the ride is like 25 minutes or so. I knew it's gonna be quite boring, but it was quite relaxing having the wind lulled me under the hot sun.

After that I did the cliche thing. I had Black Forest cake, being that we were in Black Forest. I had a slice of the cake and a glass of orange soda and it cost less than 10 Euro and I began to wonder if things in Germany are cheaper, like compared to Austria for example. So far the experience indicated so, but it could also be because we were not in the big cities. The cake was good by the way. Not mind blowing, but good. After that I went around to the different shops and took pictures of some of the things they sell. I was actually drawn to a wooden sword that little boys would have liked, but then logic won and I didn't get it. There were some other interesting things like these witches.

Since there's not many things to do in that village, I don't have a lot of pictures and I also don't think my pictures are descriptive of what Black Forest is. For pictures please go here. After Black Forest, we made our way to Rhine Falls. It is the largest plain waterfall in Europe. I opted to take the boat ride just like many others in the group. The falls is wide but it's not very tall. The boat ride took us quite near to the falls that we felt splashes of water. There were rainbows on the falls and there was a small island thing at the middle of it. There's a look out there and I saw people. I wonder how people walk there and I think it could be quite an interesting walk. We didn't have time to do it though. The boat ride wasn't very long, but after that we only had a small time before we had to go back to the bus and Zurich. Overall the trip that day wasn't the best I've experienced, but I guess in a way curiosity was somewhat appeased.

:) eKa @ 7:24:00 PM • 0 comments

Day 6 - Jungfraujoch

I feel a little rush, I think I've got a little crush on you
I hope it's not too much, but babe when I'm with you, I hear it
my heart singing La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la

Crush - Yuna featuring Usher

When I began to plan this trip, it was initially to focus more on Switzerland. Switzerland had somewhat been in the back of my mind for some time, but it never came to fruition until now because on researching it always seemed rather expensive and then there are other places that I was more interested in. This time around when I started planning the trip, I thought to just really explore Switzerland. Initially I was planning to stay in both Zurich and Geneva. After more research, that plan made my trip shorter and then that's when I somehow started looking Austria way and so I added Vienna and dropped Geneva. Why drop Geneva and keep Zurich? Well when I was researching, the day trips from Zurich seemed more interesting than Geneva's.

The first day tour that I took in Zurich was a trip to Jungfraujoch with a stop in Interlaken first. By the name, you kinda can figure out that Interlaken is near a lake. It indeed is. It's located between lakes. However in the town we stopped in, the lakes are actually not visible, so that was a downer for me. We're given some time in the town and I pretty much didn't know what to do. There are expensive shops and apparently there are a lot of people doing paragliding in the area. You can see mountains nearby, but honestly I got a bit bored.

The only somewhat memorable thing that happened in Interlaken was when by chance I spotted an Indonesian celebrity. So I was walking and then I saw this lady and she was so well dressed. In my mind, I was like, man you're so well dressed, why, doesn't it take a lot of effort, are you a celebrity? Then my mind somewhat confirmed it to me, yes she's a celebrity. She had jet black hair, I don't know why, my first thought was like, are you a Kardashian? She was holding hands with a boy and girl and then somehow it clicked to me that it's an Indonesian celebrity. I don't know why either that my first thought was Ashanty. Then my brain corrected itself and told me it's Krisdayanti. I was so stunned with the whole thing, about how super well dressed and full make up she was being a tourist and also for the fact that her entourage included at least 2 people with cameras. I guess as celebrity you need that kind of people to make sure good pictures for Instagram and good footage for the entertainment tv shows back in Indonesia if needed or perhaps for her YouTube channel, though I don't think she has one, unlike Ashanty. Ashanty by the way married her ex-husband so perhaps that's why my brain got mixed up. I think her husband was there too. When I was making sense of all that, they were already some distance away that I didn't have time to take pictures of them or ask for a picture. I'm not one who like to take a picture of myself, but I thought it's a good thing to show mom. So yeah, that sighting is perhaps the most interesting thing about my time in Interlaken.

After Interlaken, we made our way to Jungfraujoch which required if I remember correctly 2 train rides. The first one was a smaller train and as we went along, we could see some parts of the mountains. I have no knowledge about these mountains so when the guide pointed this and that, they didn't register with me at all.

The second train was more like the common European train you use to travel between cities. Individually we're given ticket by the guide and there's a train staff who checked it and punched hole in it. We passed tunnels here in this ride so there's not much to see. There were stations and we stopped for like 5 minutes in one of the stations (the one before last I think) and the guide told us we could go out and took pictures from the viewing window in that station and just quickly come back. The view was already looking rather cool.

Arriving in Jungfraujoch, the guides told us to take it easy, walk slowly, and drink more water. Because of the altitude, we may get altitude sickness if we exert ourselves. The guides gave us maps which come with explanations on what we can do there. They told us we can follow them to the Sphinx Observatory first before we go about our way. The group was very big that day and some of us followed them. Upon reaching, I got impatient waiting for the rest of the group that I just wandered off on my own. I wonder if the guides had given explanation on what the mountains are. Maybe I missed an informative information, but oh well, I don't know if I can retain much anyway. Also I was already quite blown away by the view.

Tiny black shapes in the picture below are people. I didn't get to walk this area they walked in because the guide told us if we do that, we may not have time to do other things. Look very interesting though right? That being said, I also don't know if I could do it well. I also did a trip to Mt. Titlis and I found out I suck at walking in snow. Maybe it's because I didn't have the correct shoes. Maybe also because it's a slope. Seriously walking on a slope in snow is hard.

Anyways, as I was walking around the Sphinx Observatory, I saw 2 Muslims girls wearing jilbāb / hijab and they looked Indonesian and straight away I asked if they're Indonesians. When I was in Keukenhof, I did the same thing, but the lady then wasn't Indonesian. She's Malaysian and there I went straight away calling her mbak. She still kindly took my photo anyway :) These 2 girls happened to be Indonesians though and I asked their help to take my pictures and we talked a bit. They're from Jogjakarta and it's just the 2 of them travelling and they've been to so many places which in my old age I admire them for being gung ho. Honestly maybe me in my early twenties could be eager like them too, but I think those days are kinda over. When I looked at my 2011 trip to Europe, I thought it's quite a lot of work. Dragging luggage on and off train, changing hotel rooms after a few days. I realized I may not cut out to be a rock star on a world tour. Changing hotel rooms after a few short days just get me tired thinking of the packing, though perhaps rock stars have people doing it for them. I side track, the girls kinda made me happy that they're doing this and they're girls. It's always a happy thing to see girls be brave and take on the world :)

So Jungfraujoch is also called Top of Europe and there are many things that you can do indoor if you don't want to be outside, just in case you're not properly dressed for the cold. There's the Alpine Sensation area where there's this big snow globe kinda thing which features the mountains. It has moving parts and the lights change colour. It's really cute. By the way, I have to say, I think Indians have a fascination with snowy mountains or Switzerland. There are so many Indian tourists. The place was packed with them. The same thing happened when I went to Mt. Titlis. They're in big groups and sometime I just had to jostle among them to move along or take pictures.

There's also a wall with names of the people who died during the construction of the railways. Most of them were Italians. There's also a section in which we can see the rocks that the miners dig through.

The Alpine Sensation connects to the Ice Palace which is fun to walk in. Fun because I didn't fall while I slid around. If I had fallen, I would be saying differently (--> that if sentence is grammatically wrong, but sounds so right). Inside the Ice Palace, there are different ice carvings and some things frozen in ice, like that squirrel from the Ice Age movie and his acorn.

After that I went to the open area where we can walk around in the snow. It's not very big and there were ropes set as boundary to mark the area. Here in my stupidity, I fell and landed on my ass :( Nothing was broken, by that I mean my camera. I was thinking how kinda lucky I was because it happened near the rope boundary and I didn't go over the boundary. What if I had trundled outside that boundary down a steep slope, would I have died? It would have been definitely embarrassing. It was already embarrassing enough there were people witnessing my fall. After that I became extra cautious. From this open area, we get to see a different mountain.

The guide told us we're quite lucky to have really good weather that we can see a lot of things and enjoyed the outdoor. I didn't realize this was so true until I went to Mt. Titlis. Indeed it's quite lucky, we had good visibility and blue sky that day in Jungfraujoch. The guide also gave us a small red booklet entitled Jungfrau Railways Passport. Basically there's information about Jungfrau railways and things to do in Jungfraujoch. Before I left, I found the stamp and got this passport stamped. The way back down the mountains involved 3 trains if I remember correctly. In the first train down, this is the train that went through tunnels, the train staff checked our ticket again and after that he gave us chocolate. I smiled like a kid :D In the next trains, we could see more sceneries. At first since we're still near the mountains, the scenery was still that of the snowy mountain range and the landscape below it.

As we're moving further from the mountains, it was more of the green landscape of the valley. In this picture below, I don't know if you can see it well, you can see a tall waterfall on the right. I think the water might come from the melting ice and as summer was approaching, there'll be more and more water.

I love my visit to Jungfraujoch. It was a great experience. I had seen snow before this trip, but not this much and not at the quantity in which I can really walk on them, touch them, and make a ball. I still have yet to experience falling snow and I can only hope that God will bless me with that. One blessing at a time perhaps. For pictures from the trip, you can go here.

:) eKa @ 9:49:00 PM • 0 comments

Day 5 - End of Leg 1 (Leaving Vienna, Onward to Zurich)

I don't need to stay when you're away
I don't need to stay when you walked away
I don't need to move when you're in my way

I Don't Care - Rendy Pandugo

Rendy Pandugo is an Indonesian singer songwriter. I found him by chance in YouTube. Maybe he's famous but I have to admit I'm clueless to what are the "in" singers or songs in Indonesia or the world generally most of the time, so for me he's rather unknown. I do kinda like it when I fill my playlist with singers who are rather unknown. That being said, most probably they're just unknown to me, the clueless one. In the real world they're most probably already quite famous. That song above is very nice, I put it on repeat when I first heard it. The accompanying music video, shot in Japan, was also very nice and simplistically visually beautiful. Seriously sometime I find many creative Indonesians that make me rather embarrassed that I am not that creative and sad that I don't have that much talent. The song is a break up song. Relax I had no one to break up with or anyone who broke up with me and if you think my alone trip is due to some depression after a break up, it's not so. It's just something that I do because I'm perfectly lonely like the John Mayer's song which is also in my playlist for this trip. Anyways though the song has nothing to do with me or the trip, I decided to just put it to start this post, because it's nice and it's also nice to put an Indonesian singer. We must support local talent really :)

So day 5 was the end of my first leg. I was leaving Vienna to Zurich, but I still had some time in the morning. At first I planned to visit Hofburg palace, but in the end after looking at the map the hotel got me, I decided to go to St. Stephen's Cathedral. It seemed to be an important church and I was thinking it would be free. Well not quite. You can enter for free, but some parts of the church are accessible if you buy a ticket, like the central aisle, towers, and catacombs. Also it seems you need to be guided on some of places to see it. I was definitely not interested to walk up some stairs in the towers so the only thing I did was visiting the catacombs. I thought that would be quite interesting and I had never visited a Catacombs before. You need to follow a guide to do this and I was early, so I had to wait. I took some pictures and then I spent the time playing games while sitting at one of the seat, which I did think it was quite a disrespectful thing to do. It's a church, I should be more proper, but hey we know I'm quite a sinner.

It was quite a big group to the Catacombs and it was quite interesting. It's colder down there as it usually is with underground chambers. The Catacombs actually have a really old area where there were just heaps of skulls and bones and a newer area where there were sarcophagus and such. A lot of important people were buried there, but again since I have no knowledge of Austrian history and very limited in European history, I don't remember who the famous people were. If I'm not mistaken, the newest addition was one of the late Archbishop of Vienna. That made me think if he agreed to that. It is kinda an honor to have a place in the Catacombs I guess, but not to be buried can be an issue for some people. Side tracking here, for me I would like to be cremated because I think we are running out of space, so I don't see the point of getting buried. I haven't decided though on what to do with my ashes because I think if you like throw it in the sea or something, it's kinda polluting the environment and then the wind may cost some remain of me to be stuck to the person throwing me away and then what that person going to do, go home and shower and some part of me just go down the drain? I kinda like the idea of a family member keeping me in an urn. They kinda can always have me around, but as with some ornamental things, they just tend to collect dust. So I still don't know yet what should be done with my ashes. Back to the Catacombs, one of the more interesting and somewhat disturbing thing are these jars that contain organs of the important people. At that time some centuries ago, they chose to have their organs be spread out to different cathedrals and such. So there are jars of these organs in the Catacombs. The whole visit was interesting for me. I didn't feel scared at all, though I do think if it's proper for us to go walk around as tourists into the resting place of these people. I think you can't take picture inside the Catacombs hence I have none. After the tour, the exit led us to the outside of the Cathedral.

The street that I took to get to the Cathedral is quite a shopping area, so after the visit to the Cathedral I walked there again. There were souvenir shops and chocolate shops. I had lunch at Nordsee which I actually quite like the concept. Then I decided to walk to the Hofburg compound before making my way back to the hotel. The thing I note about Vienna is that things seem expensive there. Anyway the Hofburg compound actually has a few different things in there like the Spanish Riding School (where I think you can see horses) and these are ticketed separately. I was thinking if I had gone ahead with my original plan of visiting Hofburg palace, I may get confused on where the entrance is. So anyway I just walked through the compound, looking at buildings and statues. Ended up at Maria-Theresien-Platz where there's a big statue of Empress Maria Theresa, mother of Queen Marie Antoinette (this much I know). Looking at the statue, I can't help thinking of the Queen Victoria statue in front of Buckingham Palace. Both were accomplished ladies and you can't help feeling proud how girls really get things done in this world.

It was still early enough that I made my way to Karlskirche (St. Charles's Church). I didn't go in though because it's ticketed. Gosh, I don't quite like a place of worship which charge ticket for entry, but I guess they do have to make money for maintenance and such. While St. Stephen's Cathedral is in a gothic style, St. Charles's Church is in the baroque style. I'm not knowledgeable enough to explain this. Anyways so I just walked around the area a bit. There's a small park and apparently there's a university nearby. Took a picture of this kinda cute statue from the park.

Then I collected my luggage from the hotel, took the underground train to Wien Mitte and decided to take the more expensive direct CAT train to the airport. For pictures of Vienna from the last 2 days there, you can go here. I took Austrian airline to Zurich. I thought Austrian airline is a budget airline, apparently it's not so. Since it's a short flight, there's not much to offer in the flight. I kinda like the fact that they asked you if you'd like sweet or salty snack. It's unlike KLM who just gave you sandwich, though their sandwich were perhaps more substantial than Austrian's snack. You know, whenever I go to these Western countries, I just get so bored with sandwich. By the way, I didn't write this before, but on my KLM flight from Singapore to Amsterdam, they didn't give an option for the meal. They just gave you some roll wrap. I was thinking if it's some cost cutting measure they're doing. Thankfully on the flight back to Singapore, there was an option.

So arriving in Zurich, I knew I had to take the train. One of my credit card didn't work. I just couldn't get it to work even back in Vienna. The Visa payWave worked though, so I was glad. Then I got really stupid. Perhaps it's because it's been a long time since I've been to Europe that I kinda forgot how things work. When I got the ticket, it didn't say which train and which timing so I was rather confused. Tried to ask a random lady, but that lady didn't speak English. I was seriously surprised because I thought Zurich being a rich city, everyone would speak English. I had googled about the trains before so I knew the 2 train numbers that would take me to city center and I did see they're listed on the schedule, but I wasn't sure if I could just take it. Do I need to validate my ticket or something. In the end I asked another person, an Asian gentleman, who upon me asking if he spoke English, he said of course. He confirmed that the train would go to the city Center so me, him, and many other people got in. No one checked the ticket so I guess that's how it works people. Just make sure you have
a ticket, just in case someone checks. There's a date on my ticket, so I think I really didn't have to get it validated. By the way, going back to Vienna, there's no gate or any machine to tap / insert your ticket when you take the underground train. I read there sometime can be a random check by officers who wear plain clothes, so just make sure to have a ticket and it's validated. If not, you can get fined. However when I was there, there's no check happening to me or anyone. I guess when your citizens are trustworthy enough or perhaps the country is rich enough to not have to worry about making profit from their public transports, they can be easy going and don't really have to make sure people pay when using public transport.

Back to Zurich. Arriving in the city center train station, it's quite big and complex and I got disoriented on where to go. Finally found a lift up and I thought I just need to go to the street level. A guy in the lift pressed the correct floor for me when I told him I wanted to go to the street level. From there I kinda figured out where my hotel was. In the next few days, it took me some attempts to figure out the nearest station entrance / exit to my hotel. Luckily I did figure it out when I was leaving Zurich in a rainy day. Anyways, hotel room was small because I was poor :P However, there's a good breakfast included in the price so perhaps that kinda balanced it out. I didn't go out much after I arrived, except to get food, in which I lazily settled with Burger King. I was stunned when they charged me for ketchup. At first I thought I heard wrongly and it was a joke, it wasn't. It made me think of each time I go to McDonald's here in Singapore and ask for 5 packs of ketchup. Oh well, these differences in countries, cities, and cultures do amuse you.

:) eKa @ 9:07:00 PM • 0 comments

Day 4 - Vienna

dream on, but don't imagine they'll all come true
when will you realize ... Vienna waits for you?

Vienna - Billy Joel

I first learned of that song in my mid-twenties I think. I was away from my desk, to the toilet I think, and when I came back, a certain Miss had placed this song in my desktop. I can't recall what spurred her to do that, but since it happened in my mid-twenties in which I was surrounded by people in similar age and in a situation that often got us frustrated and depressed, I think she thought the song would be suitable. It is a really good song, really meaningful. Even Billy Joel himself had mentioned it's one of his favorite Billy Joel's songs. Vienna itself was never really been in my life list, despite of me having an Austrian pen friend once. Well I became lazy and stopped writing to her so the correspondence just kinda stopped. I didn't even email her to say that I'll be swinging by her country. I am that bad. So anyways, it was never really in my life list and yet I made it there. Blessed, I say.

Before I get going to write about my day in Vienna, let me reminisce a bit about that time in my early mid-twenties. I will always be thankful that I got out, but that time in my life was also I think the time when I kinda had more people surrounding me. There were many people to laugh with, bitch with and I am definitely missing that support system now. Having someone to bitch with is really important. Especially so for me who's easily swung into the deep dark hole. I have been back for 1 week plus now and already I have returned to restless nights and nights where I don't really sleep. I wrote before that things have been going lousy and on situations like these, I always always always just want to walk away. Then my mind starts to race calculating all the different outcomes, outcome of if I fail, outcome of if I really just walk, outcome of if I really leave and return home. Like Jesus prayed, I wish this cup can be taken away from me. To just get up and get going, I have had to invoke Jesus walking to His death even though He may have the power to stop it. I think every one who's been taught in a Christian school or in a church have been indoctrinated about this part of Jesus's last moment to make us be brave to face something we're afraid of or really don't want to do. Also often time what we have to face is not as hard as what Jesus had to go through, so basically stop whining.

Let's talk about Vienna now. Day 4 was spent exploring parts of Vienna on my own. I planned to visit Schönbrunn Palace and The Belvedere. Too ambitious of a plan perhaps, but I did it. I clocked in more than 20,000 steps that day. To avoid the time needed to queue because I heard these places are popular, I bought the tickets online. Schönbrunn is that popular that you need to specify the timing of your visit. I chose 09:30 AM. I had difficulty buying the underground ticket because damn it, the machine in Karlsplatz station (where my hotel was located) didn't accept 20 euro, aarrgghh!!! It took me some time, but finally I found a random lady and asked her if she has two 10-euro notes. Luckily she did and luckily it seemed everyone in Vienna speaks English. Seriously I didn't have any language difficulty there, though I did think how at a disadvantage I was during this trip. I kinda have a knowledge of 5 languages, but German is not one of them :( Anyways, exiting the Schönbrunn station, I have to admit I may get confused on which way to go if I had to figure it out on my own, but luckily there were many people going there, so I just followed the crowd. Schönbrunn compound is actually free to enter. So if you just want to walk around the ground without entering the palace, you can do so. I saw many Austrian jogging and having a picnic there. When buying the ticket, I opted for the Classic Pass which includes: Grand Tour of the Palace with audio guide, Crown Prince Garden, The Maze, Orangery Garden, and entrance to Gloriette's viewing terrace. Is it worth it? Well, it all depends on your interest, I guess.

Touring the inside of the palace was pretty nice. Having the audio guide did make the whole experience better. You can't take pictures inside the palace rooms, so I have nothing from this visit. It kinda reminded me of the visit to Versailles where the rooms were surprisingly kinda small for kings and queens. I have no knowledge whatsoever on Austrian history so perhaps I couldn't really appreciate much the significance of this palace. There are the bedroom and working room of Franz Joseph I of Austria. He apparently was very hardworking and it seemed he was quite a nice king. Then there's also the room of his wife, Empress Elisabeth of Austria, who is also known as Sisi. Apparently she was quite a beauty and she had really nice long hair. It's quite nice walking through the palace rooms but was I blown away, not really I guess. I think it's because if we're talking about the interior, last year's visit to Windsor Castle just really top it for me. That being said, going inside Schönbrunn palace is quite worth doing.

After that I went to the Crown Prince Garden which is not bad. You have a pathways shaded by climbing plants. There's also a lookout in which you can see part of the palace and its garden below.

Then I decided to make my way to the Gloriette. It's quite a walk and I got to pass a few fountains. They were so so. I have been fortunate enough to visit Versailles and though I'm pretty sure I didn't see all their fountains when I was there, but from some that I saw, Versailles' ground and fountains are the most beautiful I have seen so far. Anyways, in Schönbrunn there's a fountain like this own below. The theme is Romans ruin. It's not a ruin because it wasn't maintained but it was purposely made like a Romans ruin.

Now, a gloriette is this structure on an elevated site. So it was quite a walk up the hill to get there and the day was getting hotter so it's not all that fun, but I made it.

My ticket included entrance to its viewing terrace which means climbing up some stairs up. Truly not fun for me. I hate this type of small enclosed staircase. I even questioned myself if I could make it to the top and luckily I did and didn't faint. From the viewing terrace, you get to see the back of Schönbrunn palace and its garden.

After that I went to the maze. It was somewhat interesting, but when you're tired from walking in the hot sun, getting lost in the maze is not actually anyone's idea of fun. There were some things that you can play with in the maze. I saw some kids having fun with them.

Last was the Orangery garden which was not interesting at all. It's somewhat under renovation so there were not many things to see. Overall I think if you have to choose which ticket to get, perhaps just get the entrance ticket to see the inside of the palace. The rest of the ground you can just freely enjoy at leisure. Before I left, I had lunch. I forget how much time I spent there, but I think it was quite some time.

Then it was an underground train back to Karlsplatz and then I had to take the tram to the Belvedere. I was a bit confused on which stop to take the tram from even though I had googled this. Google failed me on this one or perhaps I'm the dumb one. I crossed the street here and there and still couldn't get it right. I asked another random lady and finally got it correct. The Belvedere is a museum and it's divided into Upper and Lower Belvedere. The upper and lower ground I think come from the fact that one is sitting on an upper ground and the other is lower. Like in Schönbrunn, entering its compound is free. So if you just want to take a walk and enjoy its garden, you can do so. Here's the view of the garden and lower Belvedere.

You can't take pictures inside them so I have only outside view. Upper Belvedere houses the famous Gustav Klimt's painting, The Kiss and also some of his other works. I first found out about The Kiss I think in one of my trip either in Paris or in Rome where I saw those street vendors selling reproduction of paintings. It's kinda strange considering this painting is not even in one of those countries. It is an interesting painting, but I never thought I would finally see it in person. The first time I saw any of Klimt's was in MoMA and even then I already felt quite blessed. To finally see this famous work of his was really quite something and it's pretty impressive. It's quite big, on a wall on its own. Wonderfully golden. On his other works in that room that caught my attention, one was his painting Judith. At first look, it looked so scandalous. Then upon looking more, the head at the lower right just made it rather disturbing for me. In the other room, there were also some landscape paintings that Klimt did and they were also quite interesting.

I kinda forget what else was there in Upper Belvedere. I need to google Belvedere as I write this to remember what else. There was a collection of head sculptures by Franz Xaver Messerschmidt. This was kinda interesting to see because there was once an art series shown on TV which featured head sculptures that show different expressions, but I can't remember if it was from Franz Xaver Messerschmidt too. Anyway, The Belvedere as a whole is not very big, so you won't get overwhelmed visiting it and I think that made for a really nice visit. After I was done with Upper Belvedere, I made my way to the Lower Belvedere. Below is a picture of Upper Belvedere as I made my way down. There are also some fountains in the garden.

The Lower Belvedere is much smaller. There were 2 exhibitions. One was the The Klewan Collection which featured different works as curated by Helmut Klewan. If I'm not mistaken it featured more modern art kinda works. The other exhibition featured Lawrence Alma-Tadema. Never heard of him before, hope I can remember him from now on. One of his work that caught my attention was The Roses of Heliogabalus. It is pretty on first look, but sinister upon looking more and reading the explanation. Another interesting part was a section in the exhibition that showed how Lawrence Alma-Tadema inspired some film makers and it showed some scenes from the films and his paintings side by side. Really interesting. Another interesting find was at Lawrence Alma-Tadema's house, he had these small panels of paintings from other artists. One of those panel featured a Javanese dancer painting. I forget who the artist was.

Before I left, I went to the other side of the Upper Belvedere. It was truly by chance because I almost just walked out to the street. Anyway here, there's another big garden area and a pool, but I was too tired to explore it. There's an interesting piece of installation art and it's The Fat House by Erwin Wurm. Kinda cute, kinda weird. You can go inside it and there's a video inside. I didn't stay long enough to watch much of it.

Before going back to my hotel, I explored the area near the Vienna State Opera a bit. There was a garden with a Mozart statue. Then I passed by Vienna State Opera on my way back to the hotel. The Vienna State Opera apparently has performance everyday, it can be opera or ballet. The nice thing about them is that they have big screen outside the building and people can just watch the live performance inside. It's the poor man way of watching. I doubt many people do this on a bad weather, but I thought it was kinda nice of them doing this and there were really many people watching. When I went by that day, I think the performance hadn't started yet or in intermission, but there were already some people sitting outside waiting. The day before when I passed, I saw a ballet performance, I think it was Swan Lake.

:) eKa @ 9:32:00 PM • 0 comments