Change

 Singapore

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.
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Immersion

Mallorca, Spain

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

High life

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.

Why not

Tallinn, Estonia

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

History

Berlin, Germany

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

Surreal

Vienna, Austria

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

Prost!

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