Travel Journal Entry #7: Co$y in $witzerland

Here is a quote you can pass on to the future generations.

No man has lived to the fullest before paying 15,00€ for a happy meal that makes the poor generation sad.

– George Carcain

 If you were wise enough to read between the lines, Switzerland is ugh.. well.. not cheap for common traveler. Hence we decided to spend two nights in Bern.

However if I was a retired CEO I’d might pack my bags and move here. The views are spectacular all around the city of Bern and the Swiss people more than friendly. Various restaurants sprout from the plazas and the architecture reminds of medieval times. There are also bears.

Bern bear saying what’s up.

Yeah, this place has everything. A vibrant city centre that has all necessary services for the citizens and if you’re growing tired of the masses, take a quick metro-train from Bern railway station and you can watch a cornfield grow in peace.

Corn growing next to the Deisswil station.

Just when you thought there might not be anything else to see, perhaps I can mention the turquise-blue river that runs through the city? Oh yes. Heights, camera, action.

Aare river captured from a bridge.

Truthfully it takes about 2-3 hours to scout the city but if you happen to find a captivating spot you can easily forget where you were going in the first place. That is why you need to go to see the Berns famous Zytglogge-clock tower at the town centre.

The clock is ticking..

Before you know it.. it’s time to catch the next train. Tomorrow we happily start the Italy-leg of our Europe tour! Milan, Firenze, Roma, Bologna and other great cities await us! Have a amazing night and stay tuned for Italy!

– George

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Travel Journal Entry #6: Merci et Au Revoir, Paris

I will state it as it is my dear readers, Paris is kept in a high regard in Europe for a reason. Visit the city for at least three days and you will adjust to the rhythm it speaks out loud. Liberté, Égalité, Fraternite – these are the virtues the people of France hold dear.

The architecture everywhere in the city is stunning and the people living here complement the very ambiance of Paris. The way of life here is not the way of life we Finns tend to live in the north but there surely is a certain kind of charm to it. 

I am now obliged to tell you I’m writing this piece while holding a red wine bottle in my other hand and a belly full of croissants mixed with appetizer cold cuts. I call it the French Night Delight. So my current opinion on Paris might be biased at the moment.

Yesterday we woke up early to get breakfest and set afoot to see the Eiffel tower in all of its glory. It’s never a challenging task to find a suitable breakfast place in Paris as the streets are full of restaurants, créperies and coffee shops. However if you’re on a tight budget you’ll soon find out that the global fastfood restaurants here have the best value for money menus. You’ll be amazed what you can get with 5,00 EUR.

After finishing our breakfast we hopped on a bus near the Paris latin quarter and watched the street signs change for a good 15 minutes. Soon enough our eyes gazed on the majestic Eiffel tower from the ground up. To see the whole building as one we had to walk roughly 200 meters away from the monument. The lush park around Eiffel tower smelled wonderful and the amount of tourists wandering around the monument was not too bad considering the popularity of Eiffel tower.

Le Pointy Thing, Eiffel Tower.

The only thing that was a nuisance was the street merchants that were a bit of aggressive in selling Eiffel tower merchandise around the park. We soon found out that best way to avoid scammers, pickpockets and desperate merchants was to inform them we do not speak english.

After we had made our peace with the Eiffel tower we headed out to see the Arc De Triumph. Man the monument was larger in real life than I was expecting it to be. My biggest worry was the car traffic around it and the careless tourists that wandered fearlessly in it to get the perfect vacation picture. 

Joanne D’ Arc De Triumph. Oh, wait, no.

The monument is located on the Champs-Elysee road which is filled with restaurants, fashion shops and bars. We even found an event celebrating the transfer of famous football player Neymar Jr. to the team PSG. If I understood correctly the star player was giving out signed team shirts to fans. We settled for an icecream in nearby shop.

Football hype that I wish I’d understand.

Finishing the Paris experience with some slightly guessed statistics:

  • The amount of croissants eaten: 12
  • The amount of wine bottles enjoyed: 5
  • The amount of Bonjours: ~ 74
  • The amount of Merci’s: ~ 63
  • The amount of trying to act like you understood what the cashier told you: ~ infinite

Paris, you are alright. Next time I will come to visit you will be with the love of my life. Tomorrow we have to pack our bags and the planned destination will be Bern in Switzerland! Have a great night everybody! 

– George

Travel Journal Entry #4: Brussel Sprouts

Yesterday the alarm clock woke us up early for a quick checkout from our hostel in Amsterdam. The morning did not turn so great as the clerk at the Amsterdam train station told that the express train to Bryssels had already been booked full. Lesson to be learned here, kids.

The plan was to take two trains instead of one fast one to reach Brussels Midi station. 1 hour 50 minute trip turned into three hour funride with one change of trains in a city called Breda.

As we pulled into the train departure terminal we received a notice that the express train to Bryssels was canceled. In the end we probably saved ten bucks by not getting seats for the express train. 

Ha haa, you can take a seat somewhere else because we were served some good old fashioned Schadenfreude right there.

Couple of hours of changing scenery to be seen and our train slowly but surely arrived to Bryssels. I do not know why but I had a bit of high architectural expectations for Brussels as it’s chosen to be the capital city of European Union.

Real art on top of modern vandalism.

Our initial experience of Brussels started with a line of army cars and reeking smell of piss. Perhaps we took a wrong turn already at the start but the architecture and the quality of buildings reminded me of Finlands local roughed up neighbourhood (edgy cement block-buildings with no real facade). A lot maintenance going on everywhere and oh god.. the smell of piss.

One thing you could not miss in the city were the armed forces, security personnel and police officers patrolling the city vigorously. Local law enforcement nor the army was not kidding around anymore after the Bryssel airport attacks.

I asked my friend Joonas “Oh Joonas, where have we travelled this time? Warzone?” And then we laughed and kept on going ahead safer than never before. 

Crowd gathering near the plaza

 

After walking couple of blocks closer to the centre of Brussels we found the main street which was pulsating with tourists and locals. Old buildings emerged from the grey facades and exposed the old architecture hiding in plain sight. Street band of three musicians played the latest dance hits with utmost expertise and it was plainly wonderful to listen while exploring the city. 

We ended the first day tour of the city to a busy street cafe that served belgian chocolate and various types of coffee. Iced lattés were served and we headed back to our hostel. The skies opened and sent some rain upon us for a farewell.

The next morning we decided to head north of Bryssels to check the Atom-monument and Mini-Europe tour next to it. We were there roughly 11 AM and the whole place felt like deserted. Eventually more crowd appeared and the ambience of a ghost town disappeared.

Atoms. Atoms, Atoms.

Mini Europe tour was a quirky one, ticket costing you 15,30 EUR (odd amount?) to see various monuments from EU-countries in 1:25 scale. Not sure if the price was justified but where else I can press a button and let Vesuvius mountain erupt smoke and vicious earthquakes on plastic toy citizens.
From Finland the tour included Olavinlinna (also known as Savonlinna) which is one of the many forts our nation built for defence against Russia. Luckily there was a button to spam the national anthem of Finland for other tourists. In Finland we would call this moment of joy “Suomi mainittu, torilla tavataan” (= Finland was mentioned globally, lets go get drunk at the market place).

Cute Russian girl doing recon on our fortress.

Tomorrow morning will be the last one in Bryssels as we pack our bags and relocate to the legendary love capital, Paris. Perhaps we better learn some french quickly? Qui? Now to get some well deserved rest! Have a great night!

– George

Travel Journal Entry #3: Amsterdamned For Life

To be perfectly honest with you readers out there, my first impression of the legendary city of Amsterdam was not the best possible. When you leave one country to enter another, you try to wipe your mind clean to experience everything without any judgement. 

The first few breaths after hopping off the train from Berlin revealed an old station that had cricked terminal floors. Crowded, muggy, unfamiliar. A lot of repairs and warning signs. Just walking outside from the building was a heaven in disguise.

Renovation of the Centraal-building.

The Amsterdam Centraal – station dates back to 1889 and nowadays it is under heavy renovation inside and out. To be completely honest it felt kind of run down at the moment. Hopefully the renovation project will bring out the good ol’ glory back.

The next negative experience was the public transportation ticket machines which had touchscreens that did not work properly. Several tourists stomped the machines in anger and the waiting lines got long. Luckily we found another one nearby that worked and got on the subway to our hostel.

The train from Berlin to Amsterdam took us almost 7 hours so we arrived late and hungry like hippos. Therefore we had to head back to the city centre for a replenishing meal after we had secured our lodgins.

Amsterdam by night.

Somehow the ambiance of the city felt first blatant and bit of unsettling. Cars, mopeds and bicycles were driving recklessly from both sides of the road but that did not stop people from walking through. There were no clear patterns and it felt confusing.

If you’re not already familiar with the smell of cannabis before entering Amsterdam, you will lose your virginity for it shortly. The coffee shops were scattered all around the market place and people were sitting outside enjoying their beverages and herbs.

Atmosphere tilted once again after a short walk forward when we were met with red lights and unseemingly attractive women in sexy underwear. The prostitutes were in open display like barbies in cardboard boxes. Ohh, hello Red Light District. Window shopping at its finest. 

How in the hell we end up in Red Light District in the first 10 minutes in Amsterdam? The only thing we could do after that experience was to laugh in amazement and keep on staring/walking.

The next day we went sightseeing and visited the Heineken Experience. The brewery Heineken sell tickets to guided tours through the original brewery building and at the end of the tour, you get to drink Heineken beer! Quite a deal, I say. Tickets for the Heineken Experience were 16,00 EUR/person.

Message from the Heineken director.

After spending two days in Amsterdam, I understood the city better and how the lifestyle is shaped by the people living in Amsterdam. Rivers, bicycles and relaxed people who drink their beer from 25cl glasses and smoke their herbs out in the open. Nothing here has shame weighing it down. Just jolly ol’ good time.

Windmill doing what it does best.

Just when you have started to appreciate the city of Amsterdam and what it has to offer, we must pack our bags and continue our journey. Next stop the capital city of Europe, Bryssels! See you there! 

– George

Travel Journal Entry #2: Auf Wiedersehen, Berlin

Six days in Berlin came to end today and it was time to pack our bags, leaving me to reminisce the last week. 

On Thursday night one of our finest friends came to Berlin to accompany our adventure for the weekend. It felt absolutely great to see familiar face in unfamiliar place! First stop on Friday was the Europes largest waterpark, Tropical Islands. In earlier post I mentioned that german people are a bit open than Finns in equal nudity in public spaces.

Large ceiling poster at the waterpark.

It didn’t take more than couple of steps to the locker rooms and I was greeted with a beatiful lady with no top on. Not sure if she had bottom on either as I politely did 180° and waited for my turn to use the lockers.
The waterpark did not work directly with normal currency, instead everyone wore electronic watches that kept a log of everything you spent in the waterpark and you had to clear the debt before departing. 

Entrance fee was 42,00 EUR and if you wanted to enter the Sauna & Spa complex, total was 49,00 EUR. In order to get most of the high entrance fee, we decided to spent almost the whole day there swimming and relaxing. 

It was super refreshing experience and I’d definitely recommend it to anyone in Berlin. Please do note that the waterpark is located 60km from Berlin centre so you need to buy train tickets to Brand Tropical Islands-station from Berlin Hbf. Then the free shuttle bus ride will delivers you to front gate.

On Saturday we started to get really thirsty and it was time to experience the 21st Berlin Beer Festival. The festival started near Alexanders Platz in the centre of Berlin and the beer tents kept on going from street to street. All roads near the event were securily barred to avoid any incidents, which reminded us travellers that terrorist attacks have claimed victims even in Berlin.

The event itself was glorious and had breweries from 74 different countries. Luckily we were able to buy 0.2dl tastemug so the alcohol did not totally ruin our day. However we did find one special beer which we had to try out! 

Berlin Bear next to Cannabis Strong 8%.

Although it did not contain any actual THC, it did the trick like any other alcohol. Sunday was all about recuperating, relaxing and spending the last day at the town laughing with my friends. 

Now the train has brought us to Amsterdam, Sin City of Europe. Guess we better soak up the experience and report back to you later! Have a good night!

– George

Vanity Card #53 – The Struggles and Payoffs

VanityCard53TheStrugglesAndPayOffs

Song to accompany the reading experience, performed by Welshly Arms:

 

The Nobel prize winner John Steinbeck wrote a quote about the journey of life that has stuck with me through all these years of soul-searching.

A journey is a person in itself; to two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find that after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.

We humans have a heartfelt tendency to think ourselves as complex demigods, but we frequently tend to perceive others as something transparent.  I have always felt it very troublesome as I am always eager to connect with other people – to find a common ground among strangers. It would be a narrow-minded lie if I said that every single person I connected once upon time with is still in my life. We are on this rampart journey we can only try to plan and hope that most of our dreams materialize into being.

As we are along the subject of becoming something through the journey, all the hardships you have suffered to this breath have made you the person you are today. In classical Chinese philosophy the natural world is on bound together by Ying and Yang, two opposite forces that compliment each other. The duality that teaches that the whole is always greater than the assembled parts. In layman’s terms, what does not kill us makes us stronger.

No matter how good of a strategist you think yourself to be, there will always be a wild card or two among the tall grass. It might be the fact that every single day of our lives, we are being fed by millions and millions of stimulus so in contrast, we have developed a mindset filter to shift through the parts that feel like matter the most. But we are not perfect, the Latin saying errare humanum est stands the test of time. So in the long run, we miss a rough-rugged diamond every now and then.

Nevertheless, my mother didn’t raise no fool, life is a numbers game. Probabilities, chances, uncertainty are all over the board and all we can do is hope that everything will be alright at the finish line. Bargaining is callous part of the deal of owning a self-conscious mind. The only advice I can sell to others is to make sure that you take the ships wheel of life and steer where you want to visit. The only mistake you can make is not to raise the anchor and let the dices roll.

I have a feeling that this time the house does not always win.

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– George