My Europe Trip - Highlights

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June 17th 2007
Published: June 17th 2007
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After travelling around Europe for 1 month, I'm finally back in Singapore yesterday.

Here is a statistics of my trip.

Number of days: 30 days (5 in UK, 3 in France, 16 in Germany, 6 in Switzerland)

Number of cities/towns visited: 31 (London, Manchester, Liverpool, York, Bath, Oxford, Paris, Lyon, Geneva, Bern, Stuttgart, Munich, Berlin, Hanover, Ilmenau, Eisenach, Arnstadt, Jena, Naumberg, Rothenburg, Würzburg, Zurich, Lucerne, Constance, Schaffhausen, Freiburg, Vaduz, Chur, Bellinzona, Locarno, Lugano) Phew... what a long list.

Number of people on this trip: 2 (me and my army friend Yangzhong)

Number of old friends I met in Europe: 10 (Roy in Paris, Charles in Munich, Ryan in Lucerne, Jeremy in Constance, as well as my 2 former groupleaders, 3 former groupmates & 1 former roommate whom I knew during ISWI2005 in Ilmenau)

Number of new friends I made: Many (including Roy's girlfriend, Charles' Chinese friend, my host in Ilmenau and his friends, my groupmates in ISWI2007, other participants in ISWI2007, etc)

Place where I stay the longest: Ilmenau (because I was there to attend ISWI2007, a student conference)

My favourite places: York in UK. Lyon in France. Rothenburg in Germany. Lucerne in Switzerland. (If I have only one choice for the whole trip it would be Rothenburg.)

Most expensive places: UK (where a typical meal costs 5+ pounds) & Switzerland (where a typical meal costs 15+ francs)

Bargains: Chocolate (100g) in a German supermarket for 35 cents Euro

Number of unpleasant incidents: Many

Top 3 unpleasant incidents:
(1) We were robbed in front of Sacre-Coeur in Paris
(2) I left a bag on the train from Lyon to Geneva and lost it
(3) Horrible weather in Munich and I had a fever

Budget (approx): S$2000 on transport (air ticket + rail-passes), 120 Pounds, 800 Euros & 400 Swiss francs (eating, accomodation, buying souvenirs, etc)

Airline I took: Malaysian Airline (transit in Kuala Lumpur)

Flight time between KL and Europe: around 12 - 13 hours

Weight of my luggage from Singapore to London: 20kg

Weight of my luggage from Zurich to Singapore: 30++kg (suitcase), 10kg (backpack + shopping bag)

Weight of chocolates in my luggage: around 10kg

Brands of the chocolates that I bought: Rittersport, Milka, Ferraro, Lindt, Caillier, etc etc.

Other food that I bought besides chocolates: Hanuta, Knopper, Haribo gummi-bears, instant soup mix (German recipe), ready-to-cook Swiss rosti, "Snow-balls" (a traditional pastry from Rothenburg), etc etc.

Some of the food that I ate in Europe: McDonalds (YZ & I visited Mac in every country), Fish & Chips (UK), Crepes (Paris), Apple Cider (Paris), variety of cheese and ham (Germany), Weisswurst (Munich), Bratwurst (Ilmenau & Lucerne), Bread-dumplings (Munich), Kebab (everywhere in Germany), Chinese food (Paris & Munich), beer (Munich & Ilmenau), cheesecake (Constance), pasta salad (the cheapest food in Switzerland), ice-cream (everywhere in Europe), fresh strawberries (Paris & Potsdam), fresh cherries (Schaffhausen), etc etc etc...

Languages I encountered in Europe (from most frequent to least frequent):
(1) English: official language of ISWI2007 (my student conference), spoken in UK and used in most situations in Europe (The first thing I say to someone is "Parlez-vous anglais?" in France and "Sprechen Sie Englisch?" in Germany & Switzerland... because to me English is my most confident language.)
(2) German: I can read many signs and notices in Germany & Switzerland, and mostly understand the announcements in German & Swiss train stations, but I only understand 20% of a typical German conversation or news programme. As for my spoken German, I only know enough German to order food and ask for directions... (90% of the German I learnt in NUS has gone down the drain.)
(3) Chinese: I used Chinese surprisingly frequently, because I met a lot of Chinese, especially in Ilmenau
(4) French: My understanding of French is only half of that of German. (I learnt German for 2 years and French for only 1 year) My spoken French is so poor that the first thing I ask a French is "Parlez-vous anglais?"... Shame on me.
(5) Singlish: I used Singlish quite frequently, when communicating to Yangzhong and my other Singaporean friends I met in Europe
(6) Italian: I only encounter Italian for half a day when I was in Ticino (the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland). The only Italian words I know are Buon Giorno and Grazie. (I also know some Italian words when learning music theory, but those words are not really applicable in everyday situations.)

Average temperature range during my trip: 15 - 20°C
Hottest temperature experienced: 32°C (in Jena)
Lowest temperature experienced: 8°C (in Munich, with howling winds and pouring rain)


Ok... Here is a summary of my trip. (I'll post the details of the trip in my Travelblog later, with more photos.)

15 May: Last day I can use my university bus concession pass, so I travelled all the way to Lim Chu Kang and took some photos.

16 May: Left my home at 4am Singapore time. Reach my hostel in London at 10pm GMT. (All thanks to long transit time, long flight, and long queue at Heathrow airport)

17 May: Go to Manchester and put down our luggage. Go to Liverpool & explore. On the way back to Manchester we overslept and ended up in Stockport. Wasted one hour to go back to Manchester.

18 May: Explore Manchester. The museum of science & industry is huge, fun and FREE! In the evening we go to York.

19 May: Explore York. Fantastic place with fantastic history & architecture. In the evening we go to London and see the Big Ben.

20 May: Explore Bath & Oxford. In the evening we go back to London to see the Tower Bridge. (For those who still dunno, the famous symbol of London is Tower Bridge, NOT London Bridge. London Bridge is just a plain boring bridge a kilometers west of Tower Bridge.)

21 May: Explore London. Visit Westminster Abbey and watch the changing of guards at Buckingham Palace. In the late afternoon we take Eurostar to Paris.

22 May: Explore Paris. Got "robbed" in front of Sacre Coeur. (I'll tell the details in my Travelblog.) Visit La Defense, Arc de Triomphe, Tuilleries Garden, Musee d'Orsay and Luxembourg Garden. In the evening we have dinner with my army friend Roy and his girlfriend. (Roy is studying in Paris. To my surprise, he found a HK girlfriend in Paris.)

23 May: Explore Paris. Visit Pompidou Centre (with free wi-fi!!!), Notre Dame and Lourve. We also visit a Carrefour hypermart. (Yangzhong has to buy a saw to saw his luggage lock because he lost the key.)

24 May: Go to Lyon and explore. Very lucky to enter the Roman museum for free (thanks to some special event). In the evening we go to Geneva. I left a bag on the train and lost it. (Luckily the bag contains only food and nothing important.)

25 May: Explore Geneva. Visit United Nations, Red Cross museum, CERN (European Centre of Nuclear Research).

26 May: Go to Bern and explore.
Paris: My friend being "robbed" in front of Sacre-CoeurParis: My friend being "robbed" in front of Sacre-CoeurParis: My friend being "robbed" in front of Sacre-Coeur

When you see a guy approaching you with a string, you better run. Once he ties a string around your wrist, you cannot escape until you give him a large sum of money.
In the evening go to Stuttgart. Drag our luggage all the way to our hostel on top of a hill... (It's a long steep climb uphill.)

27 May: Explore Stuttgart. Visit Mercedes-Benz museum and mineral baths. (We didn't bathe. We just soak our hands in the spring water and drink some water from the spring fountain.) In the evening go to Munich. At night we're invited by my junior Charles (doing SEP in Munich) to join a student festival. (Reminds me of Oktoberfest where everyone is drinking and dancing.)

28 May: Explore Munich. Due to lousy weather we only walked around Marienplatz and didn't go further. In the afternoon go to Dachau and visit a former Nazi concentration camp. At night we join my junior Charles and his Chinese friend to have dinner in a Chinese restaurant. (It's a Chinese buffet and everyone keeps stuffing food into the mouth.)

29 May: Horrible weather in Munich. It rains cats and dogs and the temperature drops to 8°C. I have a fever and sore neck. For the whole day we only go to department store to shop, go to hostel to sleep, and go to Deutsches Museum one hour before its closing time.

30 May: Yangzhong called home and realised he has a job interview one week later, so he must change his return flight to an earlier date. In the end he travels to Zurich to change the air tickets, while I visit the King's castles (Neuschwanstein & Hohenschwangau) and Garmisch-Partenkirchen alone. At night we take a night train to Berlin.

31 May: Explore Potsdam and the beautiful Sanssouci park. In the afternoon explore Berlin. Visit the East Side Gallery (former Berlin wall), KaDeWe (largest dept store in Europe), Kudamm (shopping street like Singapore's Orchard Road), Reichstag (long queue due to only one security detector) and Brandenburg Gate.

1 June: Explore Berlin. Visit Alexandra Platz, Museum Island, Unter der Linden, Potsdamer Platz, Jewish Museum, etc.

2 June: Go to Hanover and explore. Later I go directly to Ilmenau from Hanover, while Yangzhong returns to Berlin where he will catch a night train to Zurich. (He's flying back to Singapore from Zurich on the next day.) In Ilmenau I stay with a Chinese student who is studying in the Technical Uni of Ilmenau.

3 June: Start of my student conference (International Student Week in Ilmenau, ISWI2007). Attend the international brunch in the morning, do my laundry in the afternoon, and attend the ISWI2007 opening ceremony at night.

4 June: Start of the ISWI groupwork and discussion. BBQ party in the evening. Go clubbing with my friends at night.

5 June: Another day of groupwork and discussion. Open-air music festival at night.

6 June: Go to Eisenach in the morning. Visit J.S. Bach's birthplace and the legendary Wartburg Castle. In the afternoon go for groupwork and discussion.

7 June: Thuringia excursion day. I join the forest group and we have a nice hike in the Thuringian forest. In the afternoon we visit an ice-cream cafe in the village of Manebach and have some fantastic ice-cream.

8 June: Go to Arnstadt in the morning & explore. Wanna go for groupwork and discussion in the afternoon, but I miss the train, so I visit a supermarket instead and buy lots of chocolates.

9 June: Go to Jena and Naumburg. Jena is famous for its university and optical industry, while Naumburg is famous for its impressive cathedral with some of Germany's oldest stained-glass windows, wooden carvings and stone sculptures... At night I return to Ilmenau to attend the ISWI2007 closing ceremony.

10 June: Leave Ilmenau in the morning and head to Bamberg. The lockers are full in Bamberg station, so I decide to skip Bamberg, go to Nuremberg to put down my luggage, and go to Rothenburg instead. Rothenburg is a well-preserved medieval town and the whole place seems to be frozen in time since the 12th century (except for the presence of cars and camera-clicking tourists). In the evening I go to Würzburg and have a quick and short walk around the old town area. At night I return to Nuremberg to sleep.

11 June: Go to Zurich to deposit my luggage. Then go to Lucerne to explore. Later I meet my friend Ryan (who comes to Lucerne to work for one week) and we explore parts of Lucerne. Along the way Ryan met his science fac juniors who are in Lucerne as part of their graduation trip. (Small world.) After dinner I go back to Zurich to collect my luggage and then go to Constance to meet Jeremy. (Jeremy is my classmate for one module and he's in Constance for SEP.)

12 June: Go to Schaffhausen with Jeremy. Visit the Rhein Falls (the largest waterfall in Europe) and the old town of Schaffhausen. Later go to Freiburg, but it's raining cats and dogs. In the evening go to Titisee just to take a few photos. (I visited Freiburg and Titisee 3 years ago during my German immersion, and this 2nd visit brings back all the lovely memories. Haha)

13 June: Jeremy has to go for lectures, so I explore Mainau Island and downtown Constance alone. (Mainau Island is like Singapore's Sentosa Island. Lovely weather, lovely gardens, lovely fountains, lovely waterfront promenades, etc.) In the evening I go to Zurich, put down the luggage in the hostel, buy food in a supermarket, and have a nice picnic at the lakeside of Lake Zurich while watching sunset.

14 June: It's a crazy day as I cover 5 places in one day (Vaduz, Chur, Bellinzona, Locarno & Lugano). I left Zurich very early and go to Vaduz, the capital of Liechtenstein, one of the smallest countries in the world. After sending a postcard back home (Liechtenstein has its own postage stamps!), I go to Chur, the capital of Graubünden canton and the oldest settlement in Switzerland. After some exploration, I take a bus from Chur to Bellinzona, the capital of Ticino canton. (Being next to Italy, the official language in Ticino canton is Italian.) Bellinzona has 3 wonderful castles classified as UNESCO world heritage sites and I explored 2 of them. (The 3rd castle is too high up in the mountains.) Then I go to Locarno, a beautiful lakeside city, and visit the fabulous Maddona del Sasso (a church up on a hill) and other churches. Later I go to Lugano, another beautiful lakeside city that has a Mediterranean atmosphere. (The place feels more Italian than Swiss.) At night I go back to Zurich to sleep.

15 June: In the morning I take a walk around Zurich and walk past ETH (Swiss Federal Insitute of Technology) and University of Zurich. At 10am I go to the airport and check-in. To my horror, my luggage weighs 30+ kg and I have to open my luggage to take out books and chocolates to make the weight fall to 25kg. (I put the extra 5kg of stuffs into my backpack and a shopping bag.) After a long flight to Kuala Lumpur and another flight to Singapore, I finally come home... After talking with my mum about my trip, I went to sleep from 12 noon to 7pm. Damn. I think I will have serious jet-lag for the next few days...

Additional photos below
Photos: 38, Displayed: 31


17th June 2007

Rothenberg also one of my favorite because the Medieval architecture of the whole town and the beautiful timber homes. Why didn't your friend yell for the police when tied with a string? It was clearly a robbery in broad daylight.

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