Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Day 23&24: Copenhagen

Hello fans,

Apologies for late entry. As most of you know, we came back to Finland on the 12th, and since then I've just been lazing about, happy to be at home.

So, our last whole day we spent in Copenhagen. Lovely town and all, but I think it was a bit of a downhill from Berlin, LET ME EXPLAIN: since we had spent lots of time in hostels, then we "upgraded" to staying at friends' and relatives' for two nights, then "upgraded" to a luxury hotel, and then went back to a good old 10-mixed dorm in a party hostel for the last two nights, it was a bit of a... disappointment?

We arrived at the hostel at about 1am, the hostel was the one with ALL THE LOUD PEOPLE in front of it. The reception was also the bar. The staff were lovely and very efficient (apart from giving us a wrong bed), so clearly they managed. I was looking around at all the people and very much wanting to be part of them, here with a big group of friends ready to party... but alas, no. I was shattered, and would be shattered for the next many days, so the load bar downstairs was NOT a plus.
Ready for Danish bread?

The one day we decided we deserve a sleep-in, we woke up to a nearby church clanging loudly at 8.00, 8.15, 8.30 etc etc etc. Oh well.

Leisurely got ready, while CC was comparing hairyness with our quarter-German quarter-Russian quarter-Hebrew quarter-something else roomie. He had been to an Iron Maiden concert in Malmö - Iron Maiden weren't that amazing but Rammstein was. Unfortunately CC had never heard of Rammstein. But in any case, they got along well. Mr Hebrew Rammstein was very bearded.

Then we went out to look for food. It's very difficult in Denmark because the price is so completely different. In the end we estimated that about 25 Danish crowns is four euros. (Just googled it btw - 4 euros is about 29 Danish crowns, actually.) But with that exchange rate everything was VERY expensive... and well, I exchanged 80 euros (much more than I had planned, but it was recommended by the exchange guy), and it all disappeared very quickly. By the evening we were very claustrophobic about our money getting eaten up by Danish expensiveness that we had a very cheap dinner of sandwiches and salad.

Anyways, back to the morning: found a really nice place where we had a very nice (expensive) brunch. Om nom!
They had blankets yay!

Brunch à la Danemark

Then we gradually made our way to the famous Little Mermaid, via the harbour, some fountains, impressive buildings and a nap.

He's looking into the future of us

Afterwards we decided to go to the Guinness Worlds Record-museum as a fun, more relaxing thing to do. It was good fun, showing amazing videos you could control yourself of stuff like a bullet going through a watermelon, or the streets filling up with a riot. And then just normal videos of Guinness world-record stuff. In any case, it was cool.
Longest jump

Largest man
Tallest man
Most popular book/richest author etc
Biggest bakery produces

The thing that bums me out a bit still is that we only went to the Tivoli Gardens in the evening. I especially was very tired but decided in the end I'd make the effort to see this place everyone had been talking about. We got there, but it cost. 95 Danish thingies which means about sixteen euros. Not too bad, I'm sure it's an impressive place but a) it was still money b) we were very tired and probs wouldn't have made the most of it if we did go...

So we didn't.

The next morning had a budget-breakfast of left-over-T-biscuits, left-over-T-chocolate, left-over-T-banana and left-over-bread-roll-stolen-from-Berlin-hotel. Pretty good though, especially when I discovered the banana and sugar bread roll! Om nom.
The bread roll's in the plastic bag

Then off to the airport by train, then by airplane to Helsinki, where my brother was waiting for us, ready to take us HOME. 

And that is the end of our travels.

I will write a summary as a next entry, and maybe any extra bits I think of. Feel free to ask any questions or anything :)

But, for the time being, THANK YOU to everyone who has read my blog, especially you who have commented or let me know about it, it's always so great to hear. :) I loved writing this and hope you guys enjoyed reading!! Hopefully I will get more to blog about soon again ;)


Friday, 12 July 2013

Day 22: Bye bye Berlin ON A TRAIN ON A FERRY

Hej! From the same train, Hamburg-Copenhagen. Guess what is today's most exciting experience: Sat on a train on a ferry. Yup, well I at least found it hilarious. Our train alongside cars and trucks on the cardeck of a ferry from Germany to Denmark. :D

Anyways, this morning, woke up in our luxury hotel room. Had some luxury Cappuccino in a luxury mug, drank luxury water from a luxury water glass and dried my face on one of the many luxury towels. Etc etc etc.

BUT none of that was anywhere near luxury compared tooooooo (ready for it!?) …. compared tooooooooo


Just the choice. You had one aisle of cooked foods (sausage, eggs in three different ways, fried potatoes, beans etc etc), one aisle of bakery produce (breads, croissants, jams etc), and one aisle of other stuff like four different types of muesli, dried fruits, like five different types of yoghurt, fruit salads, a million different hams and cheeses, etc etc.
Fruit salad with mint
Whatever your breakfastal taste, you will have found something there. Day started well.

T had suggested we take a boat ride around Berlin, and even very kindly gave some money to sponsor it as well, so that was our top priority. We took the bus to near the boat place, looked around at the museums (outside), and then found a nice-looking boat which was leaving in 10mins but still had lots of space, so we payed and sat down.
A museum
The one-hour boat ride was nice though increasingly more cold (luckily CC does not feel cold so I got his hoody he had so luckily forgotten to give into bag storage at the hotel), and the guide talking up front was very informative, eager and charismatic. The only small problem was that it was also all in German. So unfortunately I can't tell you too much about all the buildings we saw. I understood a few words, like 'aber' (=but), 'jetzt' (=now), and some numbers, but you can't really get far with those on a guided historical tour...
Oh well.
Lesson of the day: Do not wear CC's hoodie zipped up on top of shorts.
Near by was also the Fernsterum (or something like that), the TV-tower, the symbol of Germany. It looked impressive and I had a nice look through its souvenir-shop, but neither of us felt like spending 12 euros climbing it. I think both of us have become a bit immune to the excitingness of high-up views, unfortunately.
CC kept himself amused
As I mentioned a few entries earlier, we decided we should get reservations for our last trains from Berlin to Hamburg and Hamburg to Copenhagen – don't wanna get left without seats on a five-hour train! So we then went to the train station to get reservations for the 3.30 train, arriving in Copenhagen just after 10pm. After a loooooong queue to the ticket lady (because the ticket machines were not cooperating for a change), she told me the trains are booked. Oh ok. Luckily there was space on the 5.12 train, getting into Copenhagen 19 minutes after midnight. (So here I am now, it's just after 11pm now. And actually, for the last 19 minutes we'll be travelling illegally, since our interrail-pass ends today...)

Neither of us had any idea what to do, so we took the metro to a random stop, where we found a nice area with lots of cafés. I was keen to eat real German food before leaving, so when there was a very decent looking restaurant offering the “Original Berliner Currywurst” (curry-sausage) and fries/potato salad for 3euros, we didn't hesitate. Ridiculously good offer, very nice meal. I even ordered it in German, much I'm sure to the waitress's annoyance... I'm very eager to practise my minimal German by ordering stuff, but usually they respond to me in German, asking a further question maybe, and I am obviously lost. Awkward.
Ein Deutsche OM NOM
Also had to have a German pretzel
Then back to the hotel to get our bags, and back to the station to get the train. Which an hour ago went onto a ferry. But I told you about that already. Otherwise nothing very brain-boggling has happened.
The train leaving the ferry alongside cars and trucks!

Hopefully we won't disturb the rest of the travellers in our hostels 10-bed-mixed-dorm after arriving at like closer to 1am.

One more day, then flying home. EXCITED, tho we've had an amazing time we are both very keen for REST.

Bonne nuit (gonna save embarrassing myself by trying to say it in German)

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Day 21: BERLINnovation

Hallo meine Freunde, Hello from a train Hamburg-Copenhagen. You know what y'aaaaalll, last train ever!!! Am quite relieved tbf, no more stress with trains or reservations etc etc etc ahhh :) It's quite a funny train, once again, because it is obviously long distance (5h), but last I checked it had just three carriages! We are carriage number 82 out of 3, logical of course. Views are getting quite Scandinavian – soon I'm home!!!!

So, day 21, yesterday: We woke up at Wiesbaden, chez T and K. We had a lovely breakfast of German rolls, and T made us packed lunches. (“Do you want this salami or this salami?” she asked CC, offering two different types. “I'd like that salami,” replies CC, pointing to the strawberry jam.) She then took us to the station for the 9.32 train to Berlin! (From Frankfurt to Berlin in every disco I get in... hope you know the song by now)
Ready for our packed lunch à la T om nom
Tho woulda loved to stay at T&K's longer, we had to get a relatively early train because we wouldn't have that much time in Berlin – just the afternoon and the following morning. Our train would get in just before 3pm, we'd take the metro and bus to the hotel, then ideally be free to explore by 4pm.


After we'd finally figured out
a) which floor the S-Bahn (Berlin's metro-equivalent) was leaving from
b) where to find ticket machines and
c) where to find a working ticket machine, the ticket machine took our money. We put in five euros, and it never gave anything back – neither tickets nor money.
Possibly the place we spent most time in Berlin - the TRAIN STATION <3
So, I went down again to queue for the S-Bahn customer service. The bored lady behind the desk informed me that there is an official guy up on the platform who I need to talk to about machines eating money. So I went back up to search for this guy. I went round the platform several times – no one official. There was one small 'building' at the end of the platform but all the lights were off and in any case there was only one tiny, locked door which clearly wasn't meant for the public to go through.

Frustrated, I went back down to talk to the bored lady. The bored lady told me that he's in the little building on the platform. “But there's no one there,” I told her. She half-smiled at me, half-exasperated, half-probably-pitying-this-stupid-tourist: “Yes there is, you must ring the buzzer.”

Fine, ok. So I went back up to the platform, circled the dodgy building again, then went over to press the button next to the tiny door, fellow passengers looking suspiciously at me. Surprisingly, there was a buzz and the door opened. So I tiptoed into this dark room, very aware of the door locking behind me and even more aware of the ideal location of rape or murder this would be...

Inside the room there was an older German man watching all the surveillance cameras. I told him in slow English about the ticket machine, after which he spent at least five minutes facing away from me, making phone calls in German – many of them sounded plainly amical, not businessy, but maybe that's me just used to the French :P Anyways, after a while he gave me a sort of form to fill in, where he had written a few numbers. I was supposed to take it back to the bored lady at customer service.

Hoping I wasn't meant to fill in this completely German-two-paged form before talking to the bored lady, I went back. And, surprisingly, all went well. She filled in stuff, and then voilà I got a fresh 5euro-note. I even got a small good-natured laugh out of the Bored Lady when she asked me at the end, “So, would you like to buy a ticket?”

Ok, cool. So we got the ticket, got the metro then the double-decker bus to our hotel. It was about 4.30ish. So, as I mentioned earlier, I was a bit unsure about the hotel reservation – it's a proper hotel, 4 stars, and the only reason we could afford it was because I came across a special offer on a Finnish Top 10 Travel Offers-fb-page – two people, one night, 79,95 (including brekkie), usually 205euros. And since it wasn't through the hotel itself, I was very aware problems may arise...
So we got to the posh reception (I had purposefully worn one of my only dresses plus also sacrificed my feet into wearing flats to seem more four-star-hotel-guest-worthy than short shorts and dirty trainers), and the lady informed us very friendlily, politely and worried for us, that she can't find a reservation. She went looking for it, didn't find it. Finally she let us use the internet to find my confirmation e-mail, which we then printed out for her. After which she disappeared for a while, came back and gave us a room, hurrah! Apologising too.

THAT is customer service. I am 95% sure it was my fault – I had not finished the booking. I had everything confirmed but hadn't made an actual official booking with the hotel itself? Or something... But still, it was her apologising. Brilliant start.
Our room - bed sheets were smooth tho
Check out the personal greeting ;)
Our hotel room was cool with a big TV showing superexciting movie trailers, I also had a nap, and finally we left the hotel to explore at about 6.30pm.

I LOVE BERLIN. We were near the big Tiersgarden, a huge park with actually normal roads going thru it. We went to see the Siegessäule, a victory monument, then the Brandenburg Tour via a Soviet Union war memorial with exciting tanks.
Soviet war memorial
Brandenburg Tour
The Brandenburg Tour itself isn't THAT impressive, but I liked how big a touristy thing it was – in front of it there were, for example, two guys dressed as military officers from the war, with German and American flags – you could get your pic with them.

We were hungry though, and found the BEST RESTAURANT EVER, may even beat Coyote Café in Heidelberg, except customer service wasn't the amazingest even tho our waiter's name badge said McGyver.
Mine was called "3 classics", and both plates were part of it
 We walked back a different way, discovered some art...
Look forward to the multi-us pic coming up!
 Then past the epic modern Sony Centre, the 'Hollywood Walk of Fame', Legoland Centre... After you've walked past one impressive monument/cool bit of art/exciting bulding/historic site, there's always the next right on its way. Loved it.
Some of the modern bit of Berlin
Sony centre!!
Lego giraffe

Berlin, you are amazing.

Tschüss (still wondering if I'm spelling that right)
PS. Title is unfortunately not my own brainwork – the Berlin Hotel leaflet is full of word plays like that – Berlinnovation, Berlindividual etc. BRILLIANT.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Day 20: The day we learnt to speak German

Guten tag from a funny German train from Frankfurt to Berlin (frooooom Frankfurt to Berlin in every disco I get in my heart is pumping for love, pumping for love....)*. Germans are SO ORGANISED but the one thing they fail at is numbering trains! I am sat on seat 78, CC next to me is on seat 76, in front of me is 77, in front of CC is 75... but then, across from 75 it's 71, and in front of 71 it's 62 and 64 – we have failed to find 72, 73 and 74, as well as 79 and 80 (behind us is 81). Ok, in any case, it's confusing, and people were still stood in the corridor with their suitcases ten minutes after the train had left, desperately trying to find their reserved seats.

Luckily CC was the first on the train so he was able to bag perhaps the only two unreserved seats for us. I like Germany because reservations are only recommended, not required (like in France where, depending how early you reserve, they cost 6euros or 18euros) (I obviously did not reserve early enough). Italy with it's 3euro/10euro reservations are fine too, because you clearly get more quality and speed the more you pay. But Germany is so simple when you don't need reservations. For tomorrow's Berlin to Copenhagen we will try and reserve though – it was VERY lucky that there were two unreserved seats we got here...

ANYWAYS day 20, which actually was yesterday, I'm catching up! (Though this'll probs only be published in a few days... I'm writing this on the 9th) Another good day. We had a very relaxing morning at Maria's – she had class till 12 so me and CC had a nice breakfast, leisurely packing, internetting, etc. 

Then the three of us went off to the town – same bits as the previous evening but much warmer, more crowded and sunnier.  
Germany is too windy for hats :(
We found the awesome Coyote Café to have lunch at where I had the best salad I've had so far, CC had the “best nachos in Europe”, which he gave a 7 out of 10 to (NZ nachos are apparently 9 out of 10) and Maria had an awesome looking burger. And cheap as well! (Anything is cheap compared to Switzerland and France!!) (Literally in Germany you get a shampoo for 1,80euros, whereas in France the same one is usually nearly 4euros!!) (We thought in Switzerland that expensiveness is a must to gave a good quality of life, whereas Germany proves that you can be cheap and still organised and have a working country!) (Enough brackets maybe now...)
OM NOM one of the best restaurants so far, if not the best!
Then a very hurried walk back home, rushing to the bus, and got on the train that left at 17.20. Bye bye Maria, it was awesome seeing you!
Cool Heidelberg church
Only just over an hour in the train this time round, and we arrived in Wiesbaden at half six. T (my relative) was there to meet us, and she drove us to her place, about 10minute drive away.

T is Finnish, but has been living in Germany for 30 years. So she speaks fluent Finnish and German, and very good English as well when she does speak it. T's husband K is German, with very limited English. He is quite old with memory problems so he frequently forgot we didn't speak German, or just spoke a mixed-up language, which was amazing language practise for me! Also T got mixed up with her foreign languages and a few times I had to tell her “the language changed again” when she started speaking German especially to CC.

I was very excited to notice tho how much German I did understand from them. And K having a limited amount of things to talk about really helped me – repetition is the best way of learning the language. The first time he asked me what I studied (French and History) T had to translate from my Finnish to German for him, but the second time he asked I was able to reply, in German, all by myself!

Sometimes there were four different languages going on – Finnish, English, German, and CC's default foreign language, a few words of French. Everyone translating for everyone, it was good fun.

Anyways, we had a lovely dinner, and then we drove off to the Rhone-river (the same river that went through Basel!), where we had yet more icecreams (SNICKERS-icecream OM NOM) and enjoyed the sunset. T explained that just a month ago the ice cream parlour was closed and you couldn't drive there because of the floods – crazy.
Snickers icecream OM NOM
Wiesbaden castle/mansion
The highlight of the day, maybe even the holiday, happened here: We had left K to sit on a bench while we had a look at Wiesbaden castle/mansion. When we came back he had already struck up a conversation with a family of three kids sat on a nearby bench. We came over to them, and within ten seconds the little girl ran over to me and hugged my legs! After she had finished hugging me the little boy followed suit, coming over to hug me for a long time. CC and the dad started discussing money for me and the little boy's marriage.

T had prepared a guest room for us, and I just love it how happy she was that we were there and she could host us. I was told to use the towel she prepared even though I had my own with me. “Saves the towel for your later travels.” She looked sad when I assured her she didn't need to prepare us lunch for tomorrow's train ride, so I said sure, we won't say no, but don't feel obliged... So, now we have with us four home-made sandwiches, two croissants, chocolate, a packet of biscuits, two bananas... I love T :')

And, if I stayed with them for even a month, the amount of German I would learn!! Since I've done a year of German, I have the basics, and I can now see that I could really improve it if I just got immersed in it for even a few months. I feel even CC learnt more German in a day than French in a year. :P
The Rhone river :)
Tomorrow, (well, today), BERLIN! In a four-star hotel... hopefully lol, if the reservations were ok. I really don't know how to work real hotels. We'll see.


*For the less knowledgeable, this is a song by Cascada (I think) which actually goes “From Paris to Berlin”.
Last minute edit: Nope, actually it's by Infernal.