Thursday, September 25, 2008

It's time to explore Stockholm

Painted Shadows

We had finished our first ever Europe adventure, and back from Skavsta Airport to Stockholm. Yea, it's time to explore Stockholm while She is still having beautiful day light. (I should write this entry one month ago. Well, time flies and it's already october.)

I never know weather can affect me so much, perhaps I know that I will be here for only a short time, and autumn rarely gives nice sunny weather. Once I see the chance of going out, I would run towards it.

What is there to see in Stockholm? Gamla Stan, for instance, is worth going, although it is just another European old town but what makes it unique is the fact that Stockholm is consisted of islands, should I call them archipelago?

IMG_1882
Tourist traps everywhere, expensive souvenirs which I would only consider buying before I go back home.

We chose the correct day, which was Sunday to go to Gamla Stan. Everyone was crowded over to the royal palace and curiosity told us we have to stay and see what would happen. 12pm, and da dum~~~, the bell rang and a gang of men dressed in uniform marched out from nowhere, sounding the trumpet and playing the woodwind(no music gene, i don't know what are those) and everyone just turned their attention to their arrival. (Nothing special really...)

IMG_1942

IMG_1930
Funny enough, there was no 'static, statue-like' palace guardian here but the guardian will talk to you and if you ask for photograph he will even look into the lens and smile. (I saw them flirting too, lol)

IMG_1901
One of the gate at the arch of the palace? Not sure what is it.

IMG_2054
IMG_2052
The town square of Gamla Stan, with Nobel Museum here. According to an excursion guided tour (from Swedish Society), you can see that church is not here, so it's under German influence. Yet to give a visit to Nobel Museum but definitely must.

After this, we walked to the seaside, took some pictures, weather was good, nice, warm?

IMG_2037
Many many boats/ships or whatever by the seaside. Luxury of owning a boat?

It was time for lunch then, well, you know, Stockholm is so expensive, there is nothing wrong we prepared our lunch and brought it along, right? Therefore, we found a patch of grass and sat down, basking in the sun just like those campus photos we had seen in the brochures, and had our meal!

IMG_2103

Random shoots:

IMG_2100
IMG_2007
IMG_2011
IMG_2091
IMG_2035 IMG_2067
IMG_2088 IMG_2066

Why I keep asking myself questions in this entry...?

Damn Tele2, the internet connection is down again in my room!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Buda + Pest = Budapest

Budapest

Here comes our final stop of Central Europe trip, Budapest.

6 hours from Prague, inside the Student Agency bus, which the bus attendant served us 3 or 4 hot chocolate drinks, as well as movies.

First impression: OMG... the subway was so scary, the carriage was lit up with dim orange light found in those old castle and the train was very old and kept shaking. It was quite a unique experience though. Too bad forgot to take pictures.

IMG_1652
The Nyugati Central Station

We arrived at the Nyugati, which seems to be the central train station of Budapest. No more Czech or German here, we could forget about "Dobry den" that we used recursively in Czech. Finding our way to Carpe Noctem Hostel was a piece of cake. Good comments about the hostel come later, now about the impression again. 4th floor, through an old antechamber with very Budapest-style of stairs and hallways. Basically we were quite disappointed when we first saw the hostel, because it was very small and able to accommodate not many people and we were wondering why such a HIGH rating in hostelworlds.com

What were there to see in Budapest? A lot of things! From the famous Chain Bridge, Parliament Building, Buda Castle, St Stephen's Basilica, Citadella, Central Market etc etc. We did most of our sight-seeings by feet. Couldn't tell how much we had walked in a day!

We first rushed to Chain Bridge, and on our way there, a humongous building that none will overlook stood there, and it's called St Stephen's Basilica. OUCH, photos photos...!

IMG_1817
IMG_1816
The almost-perfect-but-tongueless lion and the Chain Bridge.

IMG_1238
IMG_1659
St Stephen's Basilica stood so big in the center of Pest.

From the Oktogon, we walked along the well-preserved Andrassy Avenue (another UNESCO), visited House of Terror and learned some history of socialism and finally Heroes' Square!

IMG_1520
Group picture at the great Heroes' Square

IMG_1635
IMG_1609
Parliament's Building, just beside the Danube river, the most significant building perhaps, in Budapest (at least I like it the most, more than castle).

IMG_1471
I think it's Rudas Bath. It's sad that we did not take a dip into the thermal bath!

IMG_1482
We visited the 'fake' castle too, and it was nice scenery there.

What to do in the nights of Budapest? We strolled along the beautiful Buda castle district. We found our way to Fisherman's Bastion and the Mathias Church beside it. From Fisherman's Bastion we overlook the whole of Pest county and watch the sky turn from blue to darkness, and lights start to lit up across the city, giving us one of the most magnificent night scene ever. Especially the Chain Bridge. Have to mention a bit of St. Mathias Church here, we got into the church accidentally and guess what, they were having a concert and we just feasted our ears to the free music, as opposed to the 18EUR concert in Vienna.

IMG_1352
Fisherman's Bastion, where we looked upon Pest county in the late evening.

IMG_1354
Interior of Mathias Church.

IMG_1383
Chain Bridge, lit up by the night lights.

Back to Carpe Noem, hmm... Suzy? Yea, and she was such a friendly boss with very interesting staffs as well! They treated us as friends instead of just customers. We were treated to a very suzy-made meal (at the cost of EUR 5), tasted the warmness, and hang around in the hostel too. At first wling was very unhappy with the hostel but this changed her into promoting the hostel. No wonder they got such high ratings in hostelworld.

IMG_1829
Our meal in the hostel.

IMG_1828
Hang around with these guys although there was a very big gap still and Silicon managed to impress everyone with his Rubik's cube.

IMG_1841
After everyone went to pub, we sorta took a group picture in the living room.

More pictures:
IMG_1493 IMG_1504
IMG_1544 IMG_1558

Some little thoughts and conclusion:
We like Budapest. It was not as crowded as Prague despite we were here for the weekends, and the Magyar buildings were so different and nicer(in my opinion) as compared to other big cities we visited. So many landmarks, and their names are still fresh inside my mind while those that we went started to fade away...
Luckily we did not sacrifice Budapest to go Berlin or Krakow.

*note: Rubik's cube originate from Hungary?
*note: Paprika, is everywhere in Budapest.

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Legendary Prague

After the Karluv Most

Been looking forward to Prague since started planning the Central Europe trip in May or June. Received different opinions of Prague. Many people like Fat Seng pour cold water to me, saying Czech is boring, go Austria la. Despite that, Prague was still the most-sought-after place among all the cities. Perhaps, we were all tired, or perhaps, Cesky Krumlov was so ideal for me that I put too high the expectation on Prague, we were disappointed with Prague.

Can just forget about Plus Prague hostel, I don't like it at all! We were there because it was cheap.

This time we did not buy the transport pass instead we bought one-way ticket like those in Bratislava, and proved to be more cost saving, given we did a lot of walking.

Some pictures from Old Town Square:
IMG_0790
IMG_0800
IMG_0778
IMG_0747 IMG_0753
IMG_0762 IMG_0773

Have to agree that old town square was very beautiful. I saw the infamous astronomical clock as well, and people had wedding photoshoots right under the clock.

Next, we continued to the Vltava River (which links to Cesky Krumlov!) and the riverside view, superb! I guess I could understand why people like Prague so much, though to me, Prague was too touristic! Karluv Most, or Charles Bridge did offer us a scenic view of the Prague castle in the distance along the riverside, and also the statues which were not allowed to touch until they had cobwebs all over them.

Karluv Most:
IMG_0879
IMG_0886
IMG_0882
IMG_0914

Then climbed up to the top of the hill to see the 'nothing-special' Petrin Tower.
IMG_0986

Food in Prague were expensive, but at least we found a nice little small cafe near the street which is full of embassies, and tasted their Goulash, and vegetable soup. The staff was so friendly too and the design of the cafe was very western-home style. Seriously recommend this cafe (Cafe Fleur) to drop by for a drink or dessert!
IMG_0937
IMG_0939
IMG_0938
IMG_0957
IMG_0970 IMG_0961

and some misc pictures:
IMG_0862 Picture 056
IMG_0923
IMG_0718

Went to Prague castle, hmm... impressive but we had seen too many castles, ha ha.

All in all, I didn't take as much photos in Prague as in other places.