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 #5: Bonjour, Paris


As Brussels did not leave such a great memory in my mind, I was keen on traveling to Paris. We have seen now second class train couches from three different countries (Germany, Amsterdam and Belgium) and god damn the train was sweet this time from Brussels to Paris. 

Even though one has purchased interrail-ticket it does not mean that additional charges do not apply depending on the country you are traveling to/from. Belgium, France and Switzerland at least in our experience are countries which demand mandatory seat reservations. 

This means you have to pay from 9,00 EUR to 35,00 EUR additional to get on the train. We had to pay 20,00 EUR each this time to get our seats. However there is a plus side to mandatory seat reservation as you don’t have to change seats during the train ride (if someone has reserved the seat you’re sitting in, you have to move to somewhere else) which can bothersome if the coach is full.

The train from Brussels to Paris was operated by company Thalys which is known for international high-speed trains. The seats were large and comfy, we got a sweet durable folding table and charger-slots for mobile phones. Best train we’ve seen so far! Probably explains the higher seat reservation charge.

We reached Paris in two hours and the train station was buzzing with people! To keep up with our travel plan, we went straight ahead to book seats to our train to Bern, Switzerland next week. Then off to our hotel to take a small rest and make plans for the first evening in Paris.

We booked a two star hotel for four nights in the Luxembourg-region in Paris, as it was close to church of Notre Dame. The rate per night was also ridiculously cheap. Roughly 500 meters and there it was, Notre Dame! 

Notre Dame + tourists. Photoshoot 247.

After witnessing Notre Dame from all possible sides we went for a dinner and found a pretty swell indian restaurant. Korma chicken and naan bread never disappoints a hungry traveller.

Next morning started with a lengthy stroll through the Luxembourg Park which was built by the Medici family. The park was simply breathtaking due to the variety of plants and trees. In the middle of the park was also a enormous water fountain where the kids could steer toy boats. The air in the park was so fresh and really woke us up! 

Panorama picture of Luxembourg Park.

The exploration day continued with the French version of Pantheon. Basically the french people wanted to have a Pantheon that would outshine the one in Rome. So the architect Soufflot was given free hands and the result was le magnifique. The level of detail in the marble carvings were incredible. I have to compare this Pantheon to the original one when we get to Rome.

Pantheon, Paris version.

To top the day off we decided to head to the Louvre museum and check out the surroundings. There were so many people trying to imitate the Pisa-leaning-picture with the Louvre triangle. Ughh. Get creative people. In the end we decided to mess with the people and shoot photos where my friend was holding the tourists by their head while they were holding Louvre. Enticing.

Louvre. The place where Mona Lisa hides.

The kilometer counter after these local Paris attractions was already over five kilometers and our legs started to send signals to relax, so we headed to hotel and did just that. 

Tomorrow we have a date with the big F tower so I am sleeping like a baby tonight. Have a great one and see you later!

– 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 #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

Europe Travel Journal, Entry#1: Ich Bin Ein Berliner

The human mind is not the known for processing changes in a heartbeat. I complained to my friend at the start of the week that everything felt way too normal, even though I was packing my bags for almost three month trip through Europe. The change did not hit me in the airport lobby, the airplane nor the destination airport. Changing your mentality to vacation mode takes days, or even weeks. Now sitting in Berlin restaurant drinking local wheat beer and eating german wurst sausage and boom, it hits you. You are away from your homeland. 

I am not sure if I’m missing my old habits at the moment, my comfy bed, apartment and the drilling noices coming outside my window at 9 AM. But change is usually inevitable, scary and if you have blessed with introvert genes, it makes you a bit worried. Germany is not a huge change in atmosphere, people are friendly, streets are safe and everything is convenient. The trains work like a clockwork, metro and busses share a lot of similarities with the public transportation in Finland.

But one thing you notice quickly when walking around the city, the alcohol laws are less strict in here yet there is no bad behavior or ridicously drunken people. You can walk to the next possible market and buy 0,80 EUR pint or if you want to sit and birdwatch other people, pay couple euros more and there you have it. 0.5 litre beer from a tall glass and good view of the city.

Only thing that was utmost ridiculous was the shower at our hostel. I’m not going to lie to you, I am a big man and one of the missions for this trip was to lose weight by walking. The german engineering missed it’s mark in our hostel as the I was not able to squeeze myself through the shower glasses to stand under the drain. Even my traveling partner had a bit of a hard time. Perhaps the next hostel will better suited to a large men. I would also recommend anyone traveling in the summer in europe that your hostel has air conditioning in rooms. Makes the sleep better when you’re now swimming in your own sweat. 

The old buildings here, Berlin wall and the culture speaks of it’s history. Today we wisited the East Side Gallery which has a long road and the Berlin wall next to it has been canvas for various talented artists. It was kind of absurb and shameful that we met some kids on our way that were doing the Hitler salute for their parents. The locals looked in disgust the children and we all know the reason. The Holocaust victims and the German people themselves suffered greatly under the rule of Third Reich. The modern Germany is nothing like it’s old shadow. 

Berlin’s own beer festival opens its doors tomorrow in Alexanders Platz and we have planned to visit various breweries during our stay here in Berlin. I cannot highlight the quality of breweries in germany compared to the ones we have in Finland. Most of the beers in Finland are either exported from other countries or they taste like low quality piss. Although the public even in Finland has started to appreciate small breweries and everything is going to right direction that way.

One of our finest friends arrives today to Berlin as well and we have also decided to visit the local Tropical Islands waterpark to relax ourselves from the heat. Hopefully the german folk will hold their wienerschnitzel in their pants as we have heard some rumours that the park has a lot of nudist areas. Not sure if I am ready for that blitzkrieg-shock just yet. 

Pretty sure I will sum up the Berlin experience at the end of this week when we will pack our bags again and start to travel to Amsterdam. Have a great one and thanks for reading!

– George