This post is way long overdue. I got back from my 10 day mini-vacation on november 8th, but since then I’ve been pretty busy so I haven’t really had any time to commit to writing. Considering how much stuff happened at each and every one of these places, i’m going to attempt to write briefly about each without managing to forget to include important stuff. here we go:
oh, before i start, i want to put it out there that we had to catch a shuttle to the airport from montpellier at 7:55 am to properly catch our first, and probably most important flight. i of course left the house too late and fucking ran all the way from the house to place d’europe with my super heavy backpack (25 minute run). i was super super wiped even before the trip had even begun, completely out of breath and almost falling over. i couldnt believe i had made, a “running-to-catch-something-very-important” thing once again.
First things first. I have never been to a ‘canal’ city before. I must say that it was like a shocker to me. Beauty beyond words. I couldn’t believe how ingenious the idea was to have created a city where the main form of transport around the city was by canals. It soon became apparent (thanks to peter’s advice; one of the guys i went with who had been to the dam before) that in order to properly find your way around the city, you gotta follow the canals!
we arrived on friday afternoon, and things were moving super super fast in amsterdam. bikers everywhere! i probably almost got run over nearly 10 times by bikers coming out of nowhere at serious speeds in haste to get to wherever they need to go. i felt like a tourist in new york city not keeping up with the general speed of things. i felt pretty silly after the sixth time of a biker yelled at me to get out of their way which of course followed up with the “amsterdam scold” from the biker. however, i found people to be really very friendly in the dam; everybody from the police officer who joked about us paying 60 euro each for forgetting to swipe our train cards to the random people on the street who very kindly directed us to the coffeeshop we were looking for. first day and night in amsterdam passed well, though we had a super tough and very irritating time of finding somewhere to eat for dinner. and then peter and i slept on our hostel ship in our super tiny room where i got the second most uncomfortable night of sleep on the trip.
next morning peter and i had breakfast at popeyes, a breakfast place my good buddy oliver highly recommended i go to. as much as i trust oliver’s opinion of good food, i must say i was not digging the quality of the food there. probably the saltiest sunny side up eggs ive ever had in my life (maybe its because i didnt opt for the popeyes 10 euro grand breakfast) but it was for sure the waviest breakfast ive ever had. then peter and i walked from there all the way to the van gogh museum which was about a 45 minute walk (of course continually consulting my map and following the canals). van goghs work impressed me very much, he has an unbelievable way of making the paintings although still, look like they are moving. it was really amazing. i was blown away at some which i swore i could see the woman’s face and hands in the painting moving slightly as she did the laundry. after having done more and more walking in the museum, we walked to vondelpark nearby as we heard it was really sweet over there, unfortunately we didnt stay too long for us to properly explore the majority of the park but it was really pretty.
that night, peter and i traveled by train to haarlem, which is a city just directly outside of amsterdam where we stayed with a friend of peter’s named tony. tony was extremely friendly to us, he let me stay in his home, he fed us and showed us a really nice time. tony is a 30 something year old guy who has lived in haarlem all this life and speaks about 5 different languages. he suffered from a terrible motorcycle accident a bunch of years ago and was in a coma for two weeks. after that incident, he had a completely different outlook on life and has since then devoted his life to learning. when i stayed with him, he had explained that after a near-death experience you appreciate life in a completely new way. thus on his journey to learn as much as possible, he recently picked up the bass guitar and practices everyday. the really only negative thing that came out of my trip to haarlem was that for the one night i was there, i managed to crack the LCD screen on my camera, which I still to this day dont know exactly how it happened. hence, the ‘blind photography’ of my trip began.
peter and i returned back to amsterdam the next afternoon and we went to the anne frank house, which was pretty cool. i definitely wanted to visit the house, as i felt obligated to do so, but i left feeling not as emotionally touched as i was expecting to be. maybe its because i never actually read anne’s diary. i had seen the movie and all, but i think i would have connected with anne more had i read her diary. i promised myself that one day i will read it. after that, we explored more of amsterdam (lauren, peter and i) going to more coffeeshops and doing more, more and more walking just about everywhere. i was a bit upset because the thing to do there is rent a bike, but the weather and timing just didnt really cooperate with us the whole weekend to rent the bike for the day. all good though. at the dampkring that afternoon, after trying to figure out how to disable the flash permantly without being able to see any display on the camera, i managed to change the setting on my camera to black and white without realizing it (i mean the flash stopped, so i guessed i had succeeded and remember, i cannot see anything on the lcd screen). from then on, all of my pictures were in black in white. so unfortunately, that night, considering that we all didnt book a hostel arrangments due to the super early hour of our flight the next morning, the three of us slept in the airport. that was the most uncomfortable night of the trip. marble floors arent particularly comfy. to top it all off, our plane was delayed so waited even longer in that damn airport. i think at about a little after noon we made it to berlin.
oh the canals. in french amsterdam, amsterdam would be called une ville des canaux.
bikes bikes bikes. so impressed with how ingrained the bicycle is in amsterdam everyday life. i think the bicycle is one of the greatest inventions of all time really.
popeyes coffeeshop/breakfast as per oliver.
super super small room for two aboard ship avanti.
im pretty sure this is the street in haarlem where i stayed with tony. to me, harlem was kind of like a suburb of amsterdam. very similar in terms of how it looked. there were canals there too!
vondelpark. wish i had spent more time there.
me and peter on the left there in front of the I am Amsterdam sign after seeing the van gogh museum. the rest of the kids in the photo are rose’s friends from back home.
we checked in to the grand hostel in berlin. it was a really nice place, very modern looking with comfy rooms and nice showers. definitely a great choice after both the hostel ship and the airport floor. we left the hostel and went for a walk to find food. we were recommended by the hostel to go to ‘curry 36’ a place well known for their great currywurst. this is a very ‘berlin’ thing. its basically a big german frankfurter/sausage with ketchup like sauce with french fries on the side. its not bad, and actually pretty tasty. we then took a walk around that general area and returned back to the hostel to take a well deserved nap. went to see alexanderplatz and got some cheap kebabs for dinner, had a drink at a local pub and called it a night.
the next day, we took the train for free (supposively no one pays for trains in berlin) to see the reichstag and the brandenberg gate. on the way there we saw the sony center and an impressive holocaust memorial. we waited on a line for an hour and half to get into the reichstag. the sky was particularly grey that day so the view of the city was not particularly beautiful looking. however all those crazy mirrors in the reichstag were real swell. then falling into a super tourist trap, we walked along a very touristy part of the city and sort of got sucked into that area. that night we went to see the berlin wall, which proved to be my favorite part of our time in berlin. really cool artwork on the remnants of the wall with really powerful drawings, words and illustrations. we walked all along the east-side gallery. i was real happy lauren convinced us to go there. that night we had a super delicious indian dinner (a 5 course meal!) and then that night tried to find a proper berlin club to no avail, well i mean we found one but it wasn’t too spectacular. a tuesday night in berlin, wasnt expecting too much really. all in all, berlin was nice (and super cheap too!) though i wish i had went there on a weekend and managed to stay away from all the touristy stuff and instead seen the ‘real/cool’ side of berlin. got up super early the next morning to catch our flight to zagreb croatia. was a zombie in the airport.
currywurst mit pommes. this is sort of like a national dish, or maybe its just a berlin thing. either way, pretty tasty.
berlin holocaust memorial. really moving. also really fun to get lost in.
lauren infront of the brandenberg gate.
reichstag. was is worth the nearly two hour wait? i guess so. this super sweet photo here (thanks to becca) shows the main attraction in the building. the reichstag is the german parliament building where they hold massively important governmental stuff. the purpose of this structure (i believe made of 360 finely tilted mirrors) reflects natural sunlight into the parliament chamber below. its pretty ingenious actually. plus you can see the three of in one of the mirrors!
east side gallery. my favorite part of berlin. this was one of my favorite works of art of the wall too. we walked the entire length of whats left. it was really awesome. some of the artwork was pretty farfetched while others had good meaning to them. this one is obviously pretty easy to understand.
Getting into zagreb airport and converting our money. i exchanged 100 euro only to get back 730 Kuna (the croatian currency). seems sweet doesnt it? we got on a bus to take us to city center which cost 30 kuna, which at first seems way overprice for a bus ride, which really only means like 3 euros actually. on the bus ride into the city, from the looks of the buildings, it looked like i was entering into some sort of cold war zone. a bad first impression for sure but that all changed as we got a little closer to the center of the city. we found our way to our hosel (the funk hostel) where we settled in and took a super long nap…we were once again pretty exhausted. for dinner we went to this pub/restaurant place that was just down the street that is considered one of the best restaurants in all of zagreb, it is also a ‘pivnica’ which means that its a brewery as well. to our delight, the beer there was unbelievable. could have been some of the best beer ive had in my life. three different varieties, light, medium and dark each for 15 kuna for a 1/2 liter. amazing. we ordered a ton of food, which mostly consisted of sausages and meat, which proved not to be very tasty, just all very salty. there was a live band that night playing traditional croatian songs so everyone in the restaurant was dancing and singing, it was actually really really nice. that night we met these two guys from sweden and a girl from brazil and we went to the ‘funk club’ were we listened to jazz music and drank more croatian beer. it was fun.
the next day, we took a walk of old zagreb. it was really nice there. old cobble stone streets and small very european walkways like those ive seen in france and amsterdam. we saw the zagreb cathedral and then had a really nice italian lunch (i had tortellini with salmon and peas, it was real good). becca had stuff to attend to so peter and i continued our exploration of old zagreb and kept following signs pointing us to different landmarks and sightseeing areas which proved to be really very wonderful. we saw st. marks cathedral, the local market, the stone gate (the only thing that remained after a massive fire in the city of zagreb) and then we climbed a long spiral staircase of the Lotrščak tower, where we met a really cool girl working at the desk named maya (or maia, i dont know) who recommended things for us to see and explore while in zagreb. we climbed the rest of the way to reach the top of the tower, only to find an amazing panoramic view of all of zagreb. lucky us, the sun was just setting and beautifully brilliant orange sunset was cast all over the city of zagreb. again, not realizing my camera was taking photos in black and white, i did not manage to capture the colorful beauty of this stunning sunset. that night we returned back the ‘pivnica’ restaurant where we ordered more delicious beer, food and bread (i had calamari that night, but it was overly doused in garlic). we practiced more of our croatian, thanks to the funk hostel who gave us a sheet of conversational croatian. bok, mogu li dobiti pivo molim. hvala! “hi, i would like a beer please. thankyou! govorite li engleski? ”do you speak english?”
the next day, we got on a bus that took us 2 and half hours outside of zagreb to visit the plitvice lakes, a national park in croatia famous for its waterfalls. we stayed in a small bed and breakfast (we were the only ones staying there, croatia and plitvice is a popular summer destination spot). after checking in, we quickly got a ride from the owner of the b&b who recommended we see the lower parts of the lakes that day and the upper part of the lakes all the next day. we walked and walked around the route we were told to follow and saw some really unbelievably beautiful sights. waterfalls everwhere! and i mean everywhere! it was like a paradise there. the next day was even more beautiful, full of even more waterfalls, pools and ponds. we saw the tallest waterfall in croatia and just hundreds upon hundreds of waterfalls everywhere you looked. again, a super long two days of even more walking, but a very very beautiful walk indeed. again, to my luck, when i would have wanted it most for my pictures to have been in color, they all came out in black and white, which dont give plitvice justice whatsoever, so i had to borrow some from becca and others.
after spending the two days in plitvice, we returned back to zagreb for two final nights in zagreb. we stayed in a different hostel this time, hostel fullir where met lots of different people. a wacky guy from split, croatia who owned a hostel there (funky hostel, whats up with all this funk-y business in croatia?), two australian travelers who are on a 6 month travel europe tour, two english girls, a weird dude from paris amongst many other people. that day, we visited a cemetery recommended by maya whom we met at the zagreb tower, which was only OK, nothing too special, a massive cemetery nontheless though. on the last night, we all went out to dinner together (along with this super nice guy from zagreb that we met on the train on the way to catch the bus to plitvice who was on crutches due to an martial arts accident i think). it was really nice, again mostly sausage and beer. thats croatian food for ya man. spent the remainder of the night hanging around the hostel with the guys we’d met and went to the main square pretty late at night to take one last good at zagreb and went to sleep so we could catch our flight to paris the next morning.
the market. lots and lots of fruit stands there. super super cheap too.
the main village square/place of old zagreb. kind of reminded me of montpellier a bit.
really really great pivo (beer) at that restaurant. we went there twice. heres a photo of the three types they make there. we loved it so much that we shared a 3 liter vase of the light kind. it was real swell.
as peter and i attempted to explore old zagreb, we came upon this nice overlook of the city. this was nothing compared to the zagreb tower view we came upon just after this.
now this really both annoys me and surprises me, this photo. first of all, as you can all tell, my photos are in black and white, due to a unrealized mishap in amsterdam. i took about 10 photos of the incredible orange sunset of zagreb atop the zagreb tower. aside from all my plitvice photos, i would have really liked for these sunset photos to have been in color. and unfortunately, none of them capture the colorful beauty of the sunset. however, in this photo, there are streams of purple and pink amongst the rest, still in b&w. how the hell did that happen? this photo does not give the sunset justice whatsoever. c’est vraiment dommage.
i did not take this photo. but this is very small portion of what the plitvice lakes looks like. winding wooden paths all throughout the lakes, pools and waterfalls.
this amazing photo, thanks to becca, correctly captures the beauty of the plitvice waterfalls. we saw tons of amazing waterfalls, this being one of the prettiest. can you see the rainbow in the photo? how amazing is that!
another photo grâce à becca! there was a lot of this style of waterfalls everywhere in the park. really beautiful quand même.
this is me standing infront of the tallest waterfall in croatia. i believe its 78 meters tall. thats 255 ft. tall dude! it was pretty magnificient. picture courtesy of becca.
we climbed up higher and higher to get in line with the waterfall. this is the result, but sadly in b&w. it was huge.
originally, i had super hoped that we’d visit some caves in croatia after my life changing experience seeing le grotte de trabuc back in october. although the majority of the super sweet caves were a good distance away from where we were staying, we did manage to find a cave in plitvice. although not nearly as impressive, we did see some pretty bizarre rock formations. we went inside a completely pitch black cave and put the flash on on full blast on our cameras; this is what we saw.
wow. what an amazing amazing trip I had. i felt so worldly. i had yet again been exposed to more foreign languages, more ways of living, more new people and more new memories. it was all really swell. i felt really lucky to have been able to do something like that. plus, id like to add that over the 10 day trip, i think i did the most walking of my entire life. i swear that i think i got a years worth of walking exercise in those ten days.