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

Advertisements

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 #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 #52 – The How You Like Me Now

VanityCard52TheHowYouLikeMeNow

To set the right mood, press play.

The camera slides into focus with a wide lens capturing the whole office room. George sits at his work desk and drums the pen on the keyboard.  The song can be heard through the headphones and it visibly irritates the coworkers. Boss enters the room, assesses the situation and walks to remove the headphones. Dialog begins.

When was the last time you really felt freedom? Like you could do anyone and anything in the world? When was the last time you were thinking about your life and thought to yourself, man, I am winning this game so bad.

An hour later the man in question walks free from the conference room and the days of breathing damp office air are numbered. Tickets have been drafted, plans have been made. No more of this old mess.

I am getting ahead of myself here. There is still 60 days left. In conclusion, I have decided to follow my good friend’s wisdom of leaving everything behind for a while and search for experiences in the open wide world. Many would question my choices – our bloody generation was well tempered into a loop of eat, work and sleep repeat.

Tickets have already been purchased and now the ecstasy of planning enthralls the brain, going back and forth on all the possibilities and places to see. Truth is I have known already for a while my personal calling and during this year I am ready to go through all the hoops, hell and high water to achieve the goals set for 2017.

So all I can do tonight is to play this song over and over and over.

– George

See, I been a bad bad bad bad man.
And I’m in deep, yeah.
I found a brand new love for this man,
And can’t wait till you see.
I can’t wait.

So how you like me now?
How you like me now?
How you like me now?
How you like me now?
How you like me now?
How you like me now?
How you like me now?
How you like me now?
How You Like Me Now – Performed by The Heavy

Vanity Card #51 – The Countdown Sequence

VanityCard51CountdownSequence.jpg

….

… Please…

…Stand by….

The following takes place between January 25th  – March 22nd.

The first three months of 2017 were truly a chaotic hell ride through hoops and high water. At the end of February, the three amigos; me and my two childhood friends; disbanded our shared apartment and we moved to different area codes. It was a fun year and a half, in a one wicked way or another I am going to miss it.

If life ever was a game of monopoly, I am currently residing near the starting line. The retreat from our earlier apartment was a hasty decision indeed and we all did not have a bulletproof plan where to find lodging after February. So I decided to grab my belongings and stash them into a storage space and stay here, at least for a while with my family. Not the perfect escape route I admit, but it’s a rent fee solution, the pros dominate the cons.

When the year changed to four new digits I promised myself that I would cut loose all the strings that had no meaningful purpose in my life and start anew, building a future for myself that I can live with my heart out. The plan has been in the works and now we’re closing on an important milestone. Please applaud my trusty countdown calendar on site!

Oh, now you are struggling to find it.

This is your captain speaking, if you please turn your head up and little to the left you are able to see the engine number two on fire and the sweet countdown sequence calendar.

Cabin crew, please prepare for emergency landing!

So what does the countdown calendar actually mean? Well, I believe that is a mighty fine story for the next Vanity Card, which I will not promise will be shortly published. I am a grouchy slouch after all. All I can say, I am cutting loose!

Enjoy your tick-tock-countdown-calendar!

-George