Summer in Europe – Ams.Prg.Ber

I can’t believe it’s been a month already. I miss the heat, the shops, the streets. Travelling through Europe is always an experience to remember ❀️

Here’s a quick video:

The Flight feat. Qatar Airways

Overall impression.Β If I had the money, I’d just keep flying Qatar Airways there and back again.Β 

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The last time I flew Qatar Airways, it was 2011 and we were on our way to Spain for the World Youth Day. While QA was fairly awesome back then, I think it’s beyond the charts now. The services, food and facilities are excellent, not to mention all the extra goodies (even when flying economy!). As my mom says, you can barely feel the fifteen hours of flight time.

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We had our pre-flight at the MIASCOR Sky View Lounge, then left Terminal 1 (still an unimpressive airport, unfortunately) at around midnight.

The airport that greeted us at Doha definitely deserves its place in the top ten lists. Hamad International Airport boasts indoor shuttle trains (because it’s so big!), iMacs for the computer stations, and this inexplicable “Untitled Lamp Bear” by Urs Fischer.

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I think I spent most of the time onboard listening to BTS’Β The Most Beautiful Moment in Life, Part 2Β and a bit of EXO’sΒ Ex’Act.Β I spent like two hours watching the Mnet Asia Music Awards 2016. Their inflight entertainment system is no joke.

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Amsterdam

Overall impression.Β Cleaner, more advanced, and more expensive… but still the same.Β 

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I was still in high school when we first went to Amsterdam. Seven (?) years later, I can now recognize the scent of marijuana in the air. I can also recognize the fact that I wasn’t short in Europe because I was young; I’m just really short. I still can’t bikeΒ (despite my best efforts).

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Amsterdam is still quiet and spacious. You can expect a lot of canals, and tall people biking. And living in Amsterdam is still expensive as hell (a bus trip back and forth the centre from the airport will set you back PHP1500).

We didn’t have a lot of time to go around the place. Though the sun set late, shops still closed early. For example, we didn’t get the chance to visit the Van Gogh Museum (thwarted again!)

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But we did have the time to drop by Albert Hejin. This was the start of our love affair with supermarkets.

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Prague

Overall impression. Beautiful and great for a retreat, but a bit too quiet and repetitive for me: the cobblestone streets, the 5-to-7-storied buildings, and even the noisy bars.Β 

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Prague tested our ability to ride the train with all our luggages. I am glad to report we survived.

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What really blew me away about the quiet city of Prague was the beauty of the sky. I never had reason to look up to the sky here in Manila (a fact I have now rectified). The sky in Prague seemed limitless and impressive and really blue.

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Another thing that blew me away: it’s cheap(er). The Czech Republic has its own currency, and it’s a lot kinder to non-European tourists.

We spent minutes walking around the city. Prague is a city you can know with your feet. There’s no need for public transportation or a bus tour (though you might need snack breaks in between stretches).

We followed the Vltava river down to Charles Bridge, then we crossed and went up to Prague Castle. It is said to be the largest ancient castle in the world; our tour guide says it’s become more of a patchwork of architectural styles through the ages. We didn’t have the time or the intent, really, to go inside the structures, but seeing the St. Vitus Cathedral from outside was more than enough.

One of the real highlights of our stay happened during our first night in Prague. We were waiting on top of the Prague Castle for the sun to set so we can get a nice shot of the night cityscape. It took ages. This was the sky at 10PM. TEN PM. Summers in Europe are crazy.

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For our second day in Prague, we braved a Free Walking Tour. We saw the Astronomical Clock (currently being renovated, but said to be underwhelming anyway), Wenceslas Square (with bits also being renovated), and Prasna Brana. We also saw the Estates Theatre, known for being the only theatre left where Mozart performed, and the Rudolfinum.

Pro-tip when you order food in Czech restaurants: don’t eat the pretzels on the table! They aren’t free. Nothing is free They also aren’t that good.

My photos are so warm… It was a pretty hot stay in Prague.

Speaking of food, this street snack (ice cream or whipped cream on top of a cinnamon roll cone) is pretty popular and delicious.

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Our lunch on our third and last day in Czech Republic was also excellent*. We ate in Dacicky Restaurant in Kutna Hora, a town maybe an hour or so from Prague.

We were in Kutna Hora (“a silver town”) as part of a day tour. The highlight of the trip was the Sedlec Ossuary or Bone Church, where four literal pyramids of skulls dating centuries are kept in pristine condition. There were many points in the town’s history where there were massive numbers of people dying (e.g. the plague). According to the story, the land the ossuary stands on was sprinkled with soil from the Holy Land, making the macabre design a (somewhat) sought-after resting place for the dead.

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Another place we visited that day was the Cathedral of St. Barbara (which may or may not be a cathedral…). It apparently took generations and centuries to finish, giving it a quirky history and architecture. The place also has a lot to say about how miners were mistreated socially and professionally back when coins still had to be minted by hand.

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We also visited the Italian Court of King Wenceslas IV. I would say that this day trip (arranged by SANDEMANs) is worth it.

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We ended our trip with a long walk back to our apartel. Along the way, we passed by this giant head of Franz Kafka (he’s from Prague) and this Dancing House.

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This is pretty inconsequential, as far as travel blogging goes. But I really liked this service from Bageterie Boulevard, a pretty famous fast food shop in Prague. After you order, the screen counts down the number of minutes you have left to wait for your food. #Innovation

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Another thing I noticed was the number of Thai Massage places in the area. It’s something I’d notice later on in almost all European cities we visited. From an economics perspective, I’m wondering… how did that demand come about? I’d understand why massages would be attractive for tourists, but why or how Thai Massages in particular?

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*Most other days, we ate food from supermarkets.

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Last personal note: what I liked about Prague best –specific to this trip– was that this was the time when we were still a bit fresh and energized. We had time to talk about things and also really relax and enjoy the new city. A couple of weeks later and we were already exhausted, strangely, by our vacation.

Berlin

Overall impression.Β Drenched in history and not much else, except maybe beer and currywurst. Great if you want to remember why Germans can be so polite today.Β 

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The two German countries I’ve been to –Munich and Koln– gave the vague impression of meritocracy and automated innovation. You’d visit and say, “ah yes, this is the place where BMWs and Volkswagen cars are made”. Berlin, on the other hand, kind of just hits you in the face with history. Most of it from the 20th century.

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Aside: It wouldn’t be intercity travelling if we didn’t take a train. We took a DB train from Prague to Berlin, and we were welcomed by a large central station… and absolutely nothing. It was a Sunday and everything was closed.

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For our first day proper, we took the train to the city center (we lived in Berlin-Charlottenburg) after a quintessential continental breakfast at the small hotel we were staying at.

Our first stop was the Brandenburger Tor, which was also the meeting place for our walking tour. There was a whole story about the Germans and the French and the statue atop the gate, though I can’t quite tell it myself. One of the hotels lining Pariser Platz is apparently infamous for the Michael-Jackson-hanging-a-baby thing. Wild.

The walking tour took us through many places. A few metres away from the gate was the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. The place was sobering, and thought-provoking. You have the freedom to interpret the architecture of the monuments. Our tour guide in Prague, for example, said the differing heights of the stones mimic the structure of an old cemetery in Prague’s Jewish quarter, where people had to be buried on top of each other.

There’s also a museum beneath it that you should definitely visit. There are collections of handwritten letters and other mementos from individuals who were facing certain death, and from families who were torn apart. It was moving and all kinds of saddening.

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At the park (the Tiergarten) across the memorial, there was one specific monument dedicated to the lesbians and gays persecuted under the Nazi regime. You can see a video playing if you peer through the window.

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We also visited the old Nazi Germany Ministry of Aviation, which stands right near a portion of the Berlin Wall. What’s interesting about it is that a family living in East Germany –the Holzapfels– was able to climb to the top floor of the building and zipline over the Wall and to freedom. Nazi Officers allegedly thought they were spies on an approved covert operation, and so they weren’t stopped.

A free exhibit, Topographie Des Terrors, can be found a minute’s walk across the building.

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We weren’t able to go to the East Side Gallery. But portions of the Berlin Wall stand throughout the city. According to our guide, the Wall reportedly –and hilariously– fell because of a spokesperson who mistakenly declared it due for a knock down.

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For our last full day in Berlin, we caught a free lunchtime performance of some members of the Berlin Philharmonic (one of the best in the world). While I am not an avid classical music enthusiast, I found the 45-minute program relaxing (maybe even too relaxing).

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We also stopped by the Reichstag. My pictures can’t do it justice; you can’t even see the large viewing dome on top of the government building. We also passed through a historical museum Β (which had free admittance due to some sort of holiday), the Berliner Dom (which had a 7 Euro entrance fee, so no thanks), and a sign warning people to be wary of pickpockets.

Currywurst stop while walking around Berlin, and ice cream from a cute cart near Brandenburger Tor.

I keep seeing this bear around.

Notes

I missed blogging! I haven’t posted anything ~~substantial~~ in ages (I’m getting way too fond of this ~ symbol, whatever it is). Travel, studies and doing nothing has been keeping my queue empty!

I just finished taking my econ finals, and med school proper starts next week. Hopefully I’ll have the time to finish this series soon.

This is basically my face thinking about econ:

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^I seriously love econ. I like figuring out why something happens. But the whole studying and examining part can be so exhausting. Also: chapped lips, bare face, prague. I recommend (1) lip balm and (2) not waiting for a night skyline shot that will never come.

My sister also blogged about this trip.

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Talk to me in the comments~~ or follow me on Instagram!Β 

One Comment Add yours

  1. Yayyy! Thankfully, you write in more detail. HAHAHA.

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