The Great European Trip

Some of you know that I have been trying to visit one new place each month this year. I’m trying to take advantage of the fact that I don’t have to fly 3 hours in order to get to the nearest country.

This northern summer I was away to quite a number of new places. In 12 days, my mum, my brother, and I started in Copenhagen and then went and visited Malmö, Hamburg, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, and Zürich. We took advantage of the extensive rail network in Europe and took various trains to get from one city to another. We didn’t get rail passes, but went on specific trains. This is partly because mum had to apply for Schengen visa, which required a full itinerary of the places we would visit, including accommodation and transport details, and a list of things we were planning to see. Yes, it’s that ridiculously complicated.

So with those places, my list of new places I have gone to this year becomes:

Jan: London, UK
Feb: Doha, Qatar
Mar: Reykjavík, Iceland
Apr: Rome, Italy
May: Göttingen, Germany
Jun: Hamburg, Germany
Jul: Prague, Czech Republic
Aug: Vienna, Austria
Sep: Zürich, Switzerland

The months in italic denote that the trip didn’t actually happen in that month. So now I’m missing three new places to visit before achieving my goal. In September, I will actually go on a trip to Leverkusen (Germany) for a workshop. I am hoping to swing by Cologne and add that to my list. After that, maybe Oslo or Bergen. I have no idea what the last place would be. Any suggestions?

So, for the Great European Trip itself, there were a few highlights:

  • My brother asking for a non-alcoholic beer in Hamburg, much to our waiter’s disapproval.
  • We had a very friendly taxi driver in Berlin, who almost caused a traffic accident right outside our hotel.
  • A very eventful train ride from Prague to Vienna on a sleeping carriage. All of us hardly got any sleep because the carriage moved around too much. Mum also got motion sickness.
  • We met a lady with a cast on her leg who tried to get to the Gloriette at Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna. She was using a kind of skateboard with handles and a seat that she could rest her broken leg on. It took her a while, but she did it.
  • Me taking a Swiss Army Knife on board my flight from Zürich to Berlin. I didn’t get into trouble because of that, but the security lady advised me to check it in on other flights.

Oh yeah, I flew back from Zürich to Copenhagen with a stopover in Berlin. Flights out of Zürich are ridiculously expensive! In Berlin, I also had a couple of memorable moments:

  • They gave us some a piece of chocolate as we disembarked the plane. I was going to eat it, but then I saw my friend, so I put my chocolate into my pocket. I completely forgot about it. But the time I got to my friend’s place, it had melted and smeared all over my wallet and mobile. It was a really hot day.
  • Berlin having a major work on their train system, so getting to Schönefeld was very difficult. When I got there, I went to security checkpoint, but the security guy immediately said that I had brought two pieces of luggage (I brought my usual backpack and a small carry-on). Other flight carriers wouldn’t normally count a backpack as a luggage, but EasyJet would! So I had to go to the counter and pay EUR 55 to check my carry-on in. But by that time, the check-in window had closed. So I had to bring my luggage myself to the gate. At security, I had to ask people to let me through (which they thankfully obliged). But my security line was very slow. The security lady even started to chat with me, but I said that I had to catch my flight, so she let me go. I basically ran all the way to the gate and made it with about 20 minutes to spare. There were still a few people waiting there who also got caught out by the train work! So we finally managed to board the plane. The really annoying thing was, the flight attendant asked me if I wanted to put my backpack on the overhead compartment, as they had “plenty of space”! Grrr…

Anyway, the photos are still coming. I just have to go through the 1000+ photos (not including the ones that my brother took) at some stage.

Cycling in Copenhagen

Copenhagen is certainly one of the most bicycle friendly cities in the world. It didn’t take me long to get used to cycling here, even though it took me ages until I obtained a bicycle (in fact, I inherited two bicycles).

Cycling is the easiest and fastest way of getting around in Copenhagen. There’s hardly any cars at all in the City Centre. I found it quite unusual that way. Anyway, the first trip I did on my bicycle was to the Copenhagen Zoo. Now, Copenhagen in general is very flat, which makes it very ideal for cycling around. However, the zoo is located on a little hill, which means it was not that easy for someone who hadn’t cycled far before.

Since then, I have cycled practically everyday and thankfully haven’t been involved in any major mishaps. Well, there were two times that I fell off my bike. Each time, it was because of uneven road.

The longest bicycle trip I did was when I went to Farum for a group party at our boss’s house. A couple of my colleagues came with me, even though I told them that I would go on a scenic route. We managed to get to Farum in about 1.5 hours. It was certainly fun, although my colleagues thought otherwise and abandoned me to cycle back alone to Copenhagen at the end of the day.

Anyway, here’s a 7-minute video that shows the innovations in Copenhagen that make it easier for cyclists in the City.