just reminiscing….

SO AMAZING

Old Town

Not the most creative title ever, but do I really care that much?

Anyways, I would have posted more blogs if I had my camera’s USB connector which I don’t. Therefore, I can’t upload photos meaning I am limited with my resources. 

RANDOM TANGENT. whoo glad I got that off my chest. sooooooo BACK TO OLD TOWN.

By bus, it takes 1.5 hours to get from UCSD to Old Town, which I didn’t know about until halfway through the bus when my suitemate finally decided to check Google Maps on her Blackberry. It was the weekend at least.

Old Town is a historic (pretty easy to tell from the name but OH WELL) part of San Diego and since San Diego is so close to Mexico, Old Town is rich with Mexican and Spanish influence…

like donkeys,

luchadors,

cute kids dancing,

and much more (pictures courtesy of my suitemate’s Facebook page).

We also heard that Old Town has awesome Mexican food. Unfortunately, we went to the most whitewashed one with an annoying waitress (“OH SNAP”) called Miguel’s.  I ordered fish tacos:

It was nothing special, just expensive. I preferred the free salsa and chips. 

I do want to try the other food places though because they smelled awesome and Mexican food is HEAVEN.

Just to wrap things up, Old Town is full of spicy charms that would certainly please everyone. I wish I could have spent much more time (three hours is definitely not enough) and I would love to go again. It IS very tourist-oriented, but it is definitely a place that should not be missed in San Diego. 

On a different subject, who is psyched for I am Singer in Melbourne?????? F*** YEAHHHHHHHHHHH. 

I went to a concert at the Loft (UCSD indie entertainment center; BE THERE) to go see Abigail Washburn. I must say, I heard she was a banjo player and I thought it would be hearing the Deliverance soundtrack live,

kinda like this

and I wasn’t expecting much. Let’s just say it blew my mind, in an awesometastic way.

I think Miley Cyrus says it best:

You get the best of both worlds.

And I did. Washburn’s haunting but lovely voice (as you’ll hear in the video) can adapt to any genre and the banjo goes surprisingly well with indie rock. This video does not illustrate exactly what I saw: at the Loft, Washburn was accompanied by a guy named Kai Welch (I wish I took a video or photo, grrrr) who sang and played keyboard, harmonica, guitar, and trumpet XD. His keyboard effects with the banjo were like peas and carrots and Washburn’s amazingly stable voice carried it all so well. 

This led to us (Tiffany and I) running back to our apartment to get our money so we can buy the CD. The CD wasn’t actually worth it (she is so much better live) but talking to her was so amazing. She was so sincere and inspiring, and had an amazingly smiley face (KAWAI). She told us she took up banjo when she was 21 which frankly gave me hope. 

Like a total fangirl I am, I asked for her autograph on my ticket. WHICH I will show you later, but when she’s a big star, this ticket will be quite valuable. 

Conclusion: $11 well spent. 

Can it be?

Yes, this is the final blog…

About the elder YR and my awesome Europe adventures!

Hopefully, we don’t stop here and continue to blog about life and awesome stuff. Either way, here’s our last view of Europe in the summer of 2011.

But first of all, I didn’t realize we had the actual picture of our Townies. 

Anyways, on our final day (before the morning that we left), we commenced our day with a visit to a widely acclaimed and celebrated destination: Rijksmuseum. Going back a little bit, our tour guide said that this and countless other museums and such were “excuses” for many to go to Amsterdam, a great port city full of other more fun things as you can probably imagine. Despite that, we found the museum to be well-organized and fascinating. We even took a chance on audioguides and I found them a nice (but costly and definitely not necessary) addition to the visit. One disappointment, though, was that the museum, due to reconstruction purposes, couldn’t show us its complete collection and particularly a lot of the Vermeer pieces were missing. 

The rest of the day entailed exploration of Damrak (Red Light District)…,

<Oude Kerk (Old Church)>

<not too far away from the entrance of Oude Kerk>

Muntplein,

and Rembrandtplein.

Amidst this, we had lunch in a place called Van Dobben which is quite close to Rembrandtplein. This place is quite famous for their croquettes and the elder YR had a taste while I had the roast beef.

The food was pretty good but the service was a bit sour. The staff laughed and joked behind the counter, ignoring the customers (mostly tourists) who wanted to order or pay, and they weren’t so courteous when they did their jobs. 

Now about the Magere Brug: Magere brug means “skinny bridge” in Dutch and is a famous draw bridge (is that the right name?) that we crossed many times without knowing what it was. It’s incredibly old and allegedly, two sisters, who lived across the river from each other, built it to see each other more easily. I liked it, not only because it’s incredibly beautiful, but also it doesn’t have cars using it. 

For dinner, we went to an “Indonesian” cafe, the name of which I forgot for a good reason. Let’s just say it was overpriced and just wasn’t good.

Stale apple tart.

What is this???

Bland beer.

Mediocre chicken. 

But not to keep the ending bitter, here’s a picture afterwards…

Down and Dirty

Our day started with budget worries. After days of interminable spending, I thought, Do we have enough? So I left us with two alternatives: rent bikes or buy I Amsterdam cards. 

Like a true Davis-ite, we chose the bikes. 

I don’t have pictures of them, but what I can tell you is that they were Townies from Mike’s Bikes (where we had the tour the day before) and that they were excellent. In case you don’t know what Townies look like…

Pimpin’.

After this, we had a frisky visit to the Sexmuseum Venustempel, possibly our giggliest destination. Most stuff inside, as you may guess, are not exactly PG-rated but yes, it was hilarious.

When we got out, it was raining. A LOT.

This threw off our sense of direction and what was supposed to take us ten minutes, took us at least forty. This led to us being late for our reservation for our visit to Anne Frank House. The worker there looked upon us with pity and granted us access. This was not my favorite destination personally but I guess it’s a must-see for many

Wet t-shirt contest much? This is not the picture of the official entrance to the museum BTW. 

NOTE: Plan ahead and reserve tickets if you want to go. The line is long and the weather is fickle. NOT a good combination.

For lunch/dinner that day, we went to a deli called Rob Wigboldus Vishandel. Herring sandwich for me and shrimp cocktail one for the elder YR.

After this, we visited a place that was recommended by the tour guide from yesterday. He said that he wasn’t too into alcohol but this place had the tastiest around. The place? Wynand Fockink, a distillery of liqueur (what else?) located in an alley next to the famous Hotel Krasnapolsky. I had raspberry and the elder YR had chocolate. They were incredibly sweet but good for the portion. 

Coming soon: Finale.

DOTDOTDOT

is such a clever punctuation mark because people think you’re gonna say something clever. TEEHEE.

Long time no see, Tumblr. I am back to continue my story after a longer break than I anticipated. You see… (hehehe)

I’m in college. Meaning, I’m not at home. Also meaning, I’m busier. HAHAHA.

So why don’t we just get along?

Picking up where I left off, after we chilled at the hotel a bit (and it stopped raining), we went off for lunch. Cheesecake and Sprite for the elder YR, and banana muffin with orange-kiwi juice (good but extremely expensive for a widdle glass). 

After and a bit of window shopping, we hit our first agenda: Mike’s Bike City Tour.

We did plan on doing the Countryside tour (which would cover the city tour and also allow exploration of countryside and include wooden clog making tutorial) but unfortunately, we were too late, due to our struggle with the rain and the tram. 

Nonetheless, I’m glad we took the tour because there’s so much to see in Amsterdam and the tour showed us the stuff that we wouldn’t have the time to go back to. 

Our chill tour guide - an ex-patriate from England who legitimately loves the Netherlands.

The Fish by Picasso at Vondelpark - the height of this sculpture is allegedly Amsterdam’s sea level. 

Leidseplein - one of Amsterdam’s busiest squares. 

West Church - one of many churches in Amsterdam, although Amsterdam might not be the holiest of cities.

With that finished, we went back to have an early dinner at a quality chain restaurant called Burgermeester. The beverages, as usual, were not very cheap.

Coke and baby food, I MEAN, apple juice. 

Ittybitty burgers. Still satisfying to the tummy.

The rest of the evening is not photographed because as soon as we got out of the place, there was a rainstorm with a lightening and all that wonderful magical niceness of Amsterdam weather. Here…

Anyways, we went to Albert Heijn with one little umbrella. This entailed us going in circles asking locals where it is when it was actually quite close to our hotel. 

Let me leave you with what we saw on one of our walks back and forth to and from our hotel. 

This is where the cool Dutch kids chill.

An Honest Mistake

At Hauptbahnhof, I looked at the timetable and didn’t see our time or train number. Strange, I thought and I took a look at our tickets. Here was the mistake: we were at the wrong station. 

I was foolish enough to not thoroughly check our tickets, yet I was wise enough to give ourselves more than an hour before the actual departure time. However, the subways stopped running and we needed to get ourselves back east to a station called Berlin-Lichtenberg. 

Our taxi driver liked country music. This was the last of the Berliner quirk that we witnessed.

Or not: our train was still not on the timetable and no one from the DB (the German commercial train company) was working late. Fortunately, we were not the only ones in this sorry situation and we heard from other Americans that the train number was changed because of an unexpected train change and our train was to be delayed by at least an hour. Our departure time was 11:59 PM and this was ridiculous, but at least we weren’t late.

So naturally, we waited and when we got on the train, we learned that the train was not originally a night train. When we got to our seats, which was in a six-seat compartment, a couple was each occupying three seats. I woke them up by loudly putting my luggage under the seats they were occupying and tapping them to show that they were on our seats. They later left; they reserved two beds (meaning they paid extra) but this train did not have beds and gave them seats, instead. 

After they left, two British girls took their spot which was lucky for them because their DB agent booked them the wrong tickets and they had to rely on luck to get them to Amsterdam. The remaining seats were taken by two Germans: an elderly gentleman who left early, and a girl who was separated from her friend. 

The seats were not very comfortable like those of a night train but this time, I did use the bathroom to brush the teeth. Near the bathroom, though, were young Europeans with bottles in their hands and intoxicated brains. The next morning, I found evidence of their drunkenness in the form of throw-up in the bathroom which I was not too pleased about. 

This is what Central Station looks like, inside and outside:

As you can clearly see, despite its functions, Centraal Station (and no, I did not make a spelling error) is renowned for its beautiful architecture. While we wanted to enjoy it, it was raining and my plan to walk to the hotel was spoiled. 

It took us more than an hour for figure out how to get a tram ticket and get one. 

By the time we got to the Hotel Pension Hortus, we took a break. 

Far East

Berlin is a big city and our stay was too short. This post will summarize our last day in Berlin before our night train to our last city, Amsterdam. But before I get to that, BEARS. What???

Apparently, these bears are a specialty in Berlin. We saw these all over.

For the last day, we stayed mostly around the east part of Berlin, which, as most people know, was occupied by Soviets for a period of time post-WWII. 

After we checked out of our hostel, leaving our room smelling like Angry Chicken, we left our luggage in the Hauptbahnhof and rode the train to Ostbahnhof (East Station). 

The first thing on our agenda was walking along the East Side Gallery. We were facing the sun the whole time (and I was wearing my glasses, meaning no sunglasses when I most needed it), but it was impressive nonetheless. They range from quirky to provocative and is a definite must-see for anyone visiting. Again, there were a lot of tourists, this being the tourist season, but we still managed to get some good pix.

These are not the only street art in East Berlin, however, as you saw from the last post. 

We had lunch at a Chinese place called Chung Asia Street Kitchen where we had happy hour sushi rolls. 

Finished drinks. From left to right: amaretto, cup for Beck’s Lemon, mango lassi, Beck’s Lemon. Meh.

Not too bad.

Afterwards, we made a grand journey to Stasi Prison which is in middle-of-nowhere suburban Berlin for an English tour at 2:30 PM. We were a bit confused getting there, but we did make it to the place with thirty minutes to spare. 

We didn’t take too many pictures because it didn’t really occur to us while we were absorbed in the tour. The price is not too bad (5 euros each for tour) and the tour was interesting. It entailed of the details of some of the prisoners’ experiences, who the prisoners were, etc… Our tour guide (I wish we had a picture of him) was not an actual survivor (the other one was) but I really can’t complain because he was very nice and he seemed to know his stuff. Besides, he was so cuuuuuuute; it was his first time and he seemed nervous because he mumbled and scratched his head a lot. 

kinda like this guy.

Anyways, after the tour, I looked at the map in the brochure and thought the S-bahn station would be close enough to take a walk and I didn’t want to pay for the bus again. This walk took more than an hour and I felt so sorry for the elder YR. OOPS…, at least we had water.

Afterwards we went back to central Berlin to look at the things that we missed on the first day. 

Reichstag (government building)

At right, Brandenburg Gate (the famous Berlin one)

Holocaust Memorial

Fountain in front of a Marriott

We took a break at Coffee Bar right in front of Marriott…

…where the elder YR had an extremely frothy latte…

… and I found Fritz-Kola which comes in an adorable bottle.

100% German-made. TRUE LOVE.

Then, we didn’t know what to have for dinner, so we went back east and found an Indian restaurant called Amrit that had happy hour cocktails.

Flamingo and Long Island Iced Tea with naan bread. Flamingo was so sweet and the Long Island Iced Tea gave me a headache. Naan bread was good though; we ordered another one after this. AND look at the cool leaf dish!

Bean soup called madras shorba. It went amazingly with the naan bread and we should have stopped with this one, but…

… we also ordered chicken curry. 

We basically had huge amount of left-overs that we couldn’t take with us. No regrets about the place though, since the food was good, the price was reasonable, and the happy hour didn’t hurt either. 

Before we went to the Hauptbahnhof, we went to the Brandenburg Gate and listened to live music, watching little kids play with bubbles.

"Without worries" - courtesy of wikipedia.org

I planned for an early train ride to Potsdam but decided that we actually don’t have to, so we slept in for the first time in awhile.

The train dropped us off at the Potsdam Hauptbahnhof, not Charlottenhof (which is closer to our prime destination, Park Sanssouci) like I wanted. We did not have a detailed map and this meant that we had to wing it. The “winging” entailed of me pretending to know where we are going, a brief detour to a suburban fishing clubhouse, and us finally getting there after a fairly nice walk. Some pictures of the city and our detour:

I knew that we were on the right track when we saw this landmark:

Brandenburg Gate, Potsdam, Germany

I had to Wikipedia “Potsdam” to remember the name of the landmark but I learned another fascinating fact: Potsdam is the Brandenburg state capital which I suppose is the reason why they have the gate (?). 

Before venturing to Sanssouci, we strolled through Brandenburgerstrasse, looking for lunch and possible souvenirs. 

And the aftermath?

Apple-vanilla swirl; not bad for a euro. 

Cheesy bread with mushroom and bacon for the elder YR; we shared the coke, though. I had a bite and it was good, but look at the cheese!

Then we ventured forth into Park Sanssouci. It reminded me of Versailles in the way that the former garden was big compared to the castle and both were quite grand. However some things stood out to me: there were a lot more bees (GAHHHH), less maintenance, a lot less people, and the lack of entrance fee to the park. 

The walk made me realize why this place was called Sanssouci which means “without worries”. This wide open space of greenery filled with beauty and innocence must have been refreshing for the royals to be comforted in. This was truly a place for them to roam around, carefree of what’s happening outside. 

Anyways, some pictures of the castle, which wasn’t as big as Versailles, but still immensely beautiful and detailed. We didn’t enter, however, because of the hefty fee and not much people actually going inside. 

View from top of the stairs:

IN YO FACE:

The awesome gazebo right next to the palace where all the people were chilling:

And there was a naked guy in there:

And we saw some Buddhist monks posing with a wide grin on the face and decided to do likewise:

Then we walked to the Chinese House which was super pimped out:

I eavesdropped on some tour guide and heard that the builder of the place wasn’t actually too familiar with Chinese culture or people and the sculptures were based on then-stereotypes and the faces look more White than Asian. As for why it is Chinese, the style (Chinoiserie) was just popular back then (thank you, Wikipedia). 

There were a lot more attractions in the park, none of which we entered, but we enjoyed looking at them nonetheless. 

Orangerieschloss

The guy who built it, Kaiser Friedrich Wilhelm IV, forever immortalized

Bildergalerie or Picture Gallery…

… was under construction.

Afterwards, we got back to Berlin and decided to get some Angry Chicken to eat at the hostel. By this time, our room was empty and we were the only ones there (which was convenient). 

Inside, the guy working was American (or Canadian; either way, he was not German) and he was extremely courteous. We ordered a Friendly Chicken (just crunchy) and So So Angry Chicken (spicier chicken than Angry Chicken) to go. By the time we got to the hostel, the supermarket was closed (note that it was Sunday) and we just bought overpriced beer from the counter.

 

I could tell that the chickens were adjusted to German taste because the So So Angry was not very spicy at all and the elder YR says that Friendly was super bland. Otherwise, it was pretty standard Korean-style friend chicken. My only regret was not eating it there because it wasn’t very hot by the time we got to the hostel, due to the long walk to train station and so forth. 

Here’s my clue for the next day and what we saw on our way back to hostel:

DUUUUUUUUUUUUUDE.

Feels like school again… Berlin

We took the subway and after trying to find the street on the map for ten minutes, we finally found our way to the Cityhostel Berlin which apparently used to be a Soviet hospital. It was also going to be our first dorm experience.

And I really can’t resist telling you, but a funny thing we discovered the next morning next door…

In front of this innocent building next door to our hostel…

Thank god we can read Korean because this is priceless. XD And when we zoomed in?

That was way off tangent. 

Anyway, we arrived at the hostel early in the morning as in around 9 AM, so we left our luggage in their sketch luggage room and went off to do something else. 

I heard many good things about Curry 36 and went to get brunch. 

Our meal was just how we liked it: tasty and cheap. I got currywurst (sausages with mild curry, what else?) and the elder YR got something that was like fried breaded pork (kinda like don katsu?) with curry. We got coke and fries, too. :)

Our next stop was the Jewish Museum which I was psyched for because the architecture is outstanding. 

And next door was the actually entrance…

WHAT???

What I was most struck by was what I encountered in the beginning part of my tour (which got to be longer than expected): a so-called Garden of Exile.

The floor is purposely slightly tilted to make the visitor slightly unsettled and out of place which was subtle but effective in delivering the message of the Jews’ place and their instability in the society. 

Another thing that struck me:

XD 

Anyways, although the primary focus seems to be the Holocaust aspect of Jewish history in the beginning, the museum actually covers what seems to be the entire history of German Jews. 

The audioguide didn’t come free (in fact it was more expensive than the entrance fee itself), but we’ve always had a good experience with it so we decided to get it. We concluded that it wasn’t worth it. 

(even though it came in the form of an iPod, which the elder YR does not know how to operate)

There was an audio commentary for what feels like EVERYTHING and we could have just read the written descriptions which were just as interesting. The museum was so dense that we stopped listening to audioguide halfway through and managed to spend two (maybe three?) hours in the place. 

After we were done with the place, we waited sipping coffee in a nearby Einstein Kaffee, which I later discovered was a chain, and checked in. 

(extremely foamy chai latte and cappucino)

After checking in, we were on the move again, this time to the Museum Island. We had a choice between Altes, Neues, and Pergamon. Pergamon was the closest one to the metro station. 

(on the right)

Museums on the Museum Island are slightly pricier than other museums because of their hefty collections and I understood why as soon as we stepped inside the Pergamon. 

(Pergamon Altar)

Their collection of art from antiquity is impressive to say the least and, shall I say, larger-then-life? LAWLZ.

But seriously, look at these bad boys:

What is scary is that most, if not all, of this collection is authentic. SH*T.

In other word(s), highly-recommended. 

If you’re also interested in artworks and their backgrounds, the audioguides were also worth the money. 

Afterwards, we walked to Berliner Dom which the elder YR wanted to climb. Unfortunately, we were late to get entry, but the outside was still impressive. There was a courtyard in front for us to chill in. 

(Altes Museum on the left)

(up close)

We then visited yet another museum called DDR Museum which was about life under Soviet rule. 

Yes, it was fascinating, but don’t EVER go here in the tourist season. The museum is rather small and there were too much people packed in. We would have took more pictures but we were too annoyed. 

For early dinner, we went to a pizza restaurant called 12 Apostel which had good reviews. My first impression? Waiters CALIENTE. There must have been a tedious audition process for them because they were all ripped and I didn’t mind waiting for the food at all. Maybe I’m biased, but the service was fairly good.

On table? Pineapple juice for me and good ol’ German beer for the elder YR. And we shared a seasonal entree, thin-crust pizza with goat cheese, figs, prosciutto, and some greens with an exotic name that I forgot. 

I personally found it quite yummy, especially when I get a bite with all the ingredients, but elder YR found the goat cheese to be a burden. Oh well.

Thus concludes our rosy and exhausting first day in Berlin. Our feet were too dead to go anywhere at night.