There’s a common saying in Southeast Asia, often displayed on t-shirts: “Same same but different.” I never really got an explanation as to why, but I think this really applies here.
I spent a year on exchange in Singapore, which concluded five years ago. I remember the first days of after arrival, how overwhelmed I was by everything: the stifling heat, the flashy buildings, the sheer amount of people, the efficiency, the incredible variety of food.
If you told me where I’d be now and who I’d be with way back in January, I’d… I don’t know! But if you asked me in April – well, look at the end of my last entry in my South America blog for a quick hint.
This is certainly not what I was expecting eight months ago, but it’s the most apropos way for me to end this trip.
After ending my South American leg with Oscar and Silvia, it only seemed fitting to end my Europe leg with them again, after we split up in Ecuador to head around the world in opposite directions. At their invitation, I spent 15 days at their home in beautiful Mallorca. Continue reading
Côte d’Azur (France, Monaco)
One last NUS friend to visit! I wasn’t able to meet up with Ivan in his native Serbia, but the Cote d’Azur more than suffices! Unfortunately, there are no hostels in Cannes, where he was staying with his sister. I stayed in Nice, the largest and cheapest city in the area, but a 1.5 hour bus ride away. Oddly enough for what may be the most expensive region in Europe, that bus only costs 1€!
It was five days of heading to the beach, walking around some very pretty Mediterranean towns, experiencing the famed rudeness of people from the region, ogling rich people with their expensive cars and terrifyingly wrinkly tans, and eating way too many pains au chocolat. All that leads to a pretty darn good time. We met up with Olympio in Cannes, walked at least three loops around Antibes, felt centuries out-of-place in the medieval area of Cagnes (which feels more like a lived-in open-air museum), dived head first into giant waves in Nice, and witnessed a double-rainbow framed by both Monaco’s palace and casino. Guess there really is gold at the end of a rainbow.
Oh, and somewhere in all of that, helped carried a grand piano up five flights of stairs.
Given my previous and next destinations, this detour definitely seems a bit offbeat, eh? Plus, I’ve been to Tallinn before on my most recent past visit to Europe, with my family on a cruise/group tour. So why visit again? Well hey, like the rest of most of this trip, a friend (Kaarel, also from my time at NUS) invited me, why else? And even though it’s far…why not? 🙂 It certainly doesn’t hurt that flights aren’t too expensive.
From my impression, it seems that most visitors to Estonia only visit Tallinn (just as I had done previously, around 9 years ago now), which is a shame, because while Tallinn’s famous medieval old town (Vanalinn) is immaculate and really unlike anything else out there, there are so many other sides to this small country that I’m at a bit of a loss how to describe it concisely. Continue reading
For those following along on the map, this is where my trip stops making sense, at least in terms of an intuitive route.
I had five days in Berlin to visit some very good friends of mine from NUS – Johannes, my amazing roommate, who is actually from Berlin, and Peter and Andrea, who are both not from Berlin but are great friends that I travelled with several times. This was really the only reason I came, but hey, it’s Berlin! With Johannes busy with exams, Peter busy with a project, and Andrea coming a few days late but taking slow trains from southern Germany for 12 hours just to see me, I had plenty of time to explore the city – although Johannes gave me a quick but wide-covering tour on my first night alone. Continue reading
In Vienna, I met up with Bernhard. Surreal enough that I’m seeing another NUS friend outside of Singapore. But it turns out that wasn’t the only familiar face around!
A couple days prior, I caught up online with Anthony, a high school friend in Vancouver. Pretty much a day later, he showed up in Vienna, ready to embark on a Europe trip of his own. And who did he meet in his hostel? Percy, another high school friend of ours who happened to be travelling Europe. Hadn’t seen him in years! Continue reading
Karlsruhe, Cologne, Stuttgart, and Munich, Germany
Given the sheer number of friends I happen to have in Germany (all from our time in Singapore a year and a half ago!), I dedicated a lot of time here, and left planning to the wind. (Well, sort of – none of the plans I made in advance came to fruition.) To be honest, I didn’t expect too much other than hanging out, but I’ve had such a lovely time that it almost hasn’t felt like I’ve been travelling. (And the same feeling was for Paris and Switzerland, but I’ve spent almost two weeks in Germany now!)
After taking a mitfahrgelegenheit (a paid carpool of sorts, interesting cause you’re stuck in a car with strangers and end up having pleasant conversations) from near Zurich, I headed to Karlsruhe to meet up with Sabine. My first night in Germany? Heading to a public viewing set up for the Germany/Denmark football match. Also, I had my first beer ever! Yeah, I know that’s pretty hard to believe, but I had never had a beer before coming to Germany this trip. Sabine introduced me to a radler which was pleasant…but since it was my first, I couldn’t quite tell if I liked it yet. Didn’t dislike it though! But this really set the tone for the rest of my stay in Germany – watch football matches (usually in public with a flag-waving crowd), drink beer. Continue reading
The scenery here is incredible. And the fact that I’m here – mainly who I’m with here – is surreal: Marlies and Flo, whom I met in South America! It’s hard to believe that over two months have passed since we said goodbye in Lima. With Marlies at work on weekdays, Flo drove me around various cities and villages around the region, all thanks to recommendations from Marlies’ mother.
Can Vancouver just cede the title of most beautiful city already? Vancouver’s awesome, but we just can’t compete! I mean, come on, Thun has two castles. Two! One by a lake!
Yes, there are the stereotypes: potatoes, cheese, and cows. Rösti, raclette, and chocolate. Delicious, delicious stereotypes. Oh, and cowbells, but you can’t eat those.
But the endless hiking, uncountable mountains, crystal clear lakes and rivers to dip your feet into, giant fields to frolic in, beautiful public fountains that are nearly all drinkable, pretty buildings, stunning valleys, houses perched precariously and in solitary, all just within a stones’ throw…it’s not fair.
Paris is the arguably the world’s most touristed city. You don’t need me to introduce you to it, or to write about the Eiffel Tower or the Louvre or the Catacombs or whatever. All you need to know about my stay is that I had a wonderful time with reuniting with my friends Manon and Damien (non-Parisien, as they are always eager to point out), two people I met from my time in Singapore, and that I ate a ton of pastries and French food (and particularly lost my marbles over a simple, normal, yet memorably amazing baguette). Mmm! Continue reading