jn82’s Epic Adventure

Day 91 [30 Apr 09] – Copenhagen

Posted in Copenhagen by jn82 on April 30, 2009

*I will be able to upload pictures again! USB controller still malfunctioning, but I can transfer picture files via my travel mate’s computer and wireless networking.*

After a 16 hour overnight train ride from Amsterdam, we got into Copenhagen this morning around 11am. The train ride was better than expected, as we managed to get the upper bunks on the six bed couchettes (three on each side), so we had ample place to leave our belongings above the door.

After a very short walk from København H, the main train station, we got to out hotel. We could not find any hostel accomodation within our price range and in the city, so had to settle for a S$95 per person twin hotel room. Extremely expensive, but so is everything else in Copenhagen as we will find out over the course of the day.

Once we were done with checking in and emails, we headed to Slotsholmen, an island seperated from the city centre by a moat-like canal on three sides and the harbour on the other side. There are supposedly many things to see here, such as Christiansborg Palace (that comprises of the royal reception chambers Slots-og Ejendomysstyrelsen, parliament and the supreme court), theatre museum (museum of royal coaches), Tøjhusmuseet (armoury museum), ruins of Absalon’s fortress, Thorvldsens museums and the royal library. We could not be bothered checking out so many places, so headed for a guided tour of the royal reception chambers only. This is an ornate Renaissance hall where the queen entertains heads of state. unfortunately no photography allowed inside.

Christiansborg Palace.

Exterior of the royal reception chambers.

Entry point of the royal reception chambers.

The Royal Library gardens.

Thorvaldsens Museum.

The interior of the royal reception chambers was very grand, much like many of the palaces we have seen in other cities. The royal family does not actually stay here, nor have they ever stayed here, and it is used strictly only for official functions. Other parts of the palace are used by the prime minister’s office, the supreme court and when parliament convenes.

After the palace, we just walked around the city for a bit before heading back to the hotel.

City hall.

City centre.

After exploring around the city today, I have the feeling that Copenhagen is a city without much character or identity. Sure you have a few token landmarks such as Tivoli gardens and the little mermaid statue and a well known cafe culture, but apart from that, the city lacks the buzz of many of the other cities we have been to. I hope that I will have a different opinion of the city after the next two days of sightseeing coming up here.

Today’s pictures here.

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Day 90 [29 Apr 09] – Amsterdam

Posted in Amsterdam by jn82 on April 30, 2009

Spent the morning resting in the hostel, trying to find a solution for my netbook’s USB ports, but to no avail. At around noon we decided to walk across the street from the red light district where we were staying into the shopping area. Lots of shops here selling your usual clothing, sports equipment, food, souvenirs and marijiana. I think this part of the city is really a very touristy one as there are many souvenier shops here. Nothing realy interesting here, so we headed for lunch at the same 10€ place as we went to on the first day. For 10€, you get a drink, soup and a main course, which is quite reasonable for a Western European capital city.

After lunch, we decided to do a one hour river cruise, since it is one of the must do things in Amsterdam that most tourists have on their lists. After buying the tickets, we still had to wait around 30 minutes for the two tour groups in front to get onto the next two boats before we got on the third one.

Canal cruise boat.

No optical illusion or photoshop here.

I really these places with so many tourists as it does cause us to waste a lot of time, but this cruise operator was the cheapest one at only 8€ an hour, so might as well wait. We went through the city’s canals and saw many of the buildings which were not covered on the walking tour, which is good. Amsterdam is really a beautiful city because of the brick facade of all the buildings which gives them a very old world feel. Add to that the many bridges, canals and trees and that makes a very scenic city. I was surprised at the number of house boats on the canals, as almost at every bank along the canals there were houst boats (and offices). I am not sure if there is still a land shortage in Amsterdam which calls for people to live and work on the boats, or if they just do it because they are used to it and it is part of their culture.

Brick house boat.

More house boats.

DHL!

Along one of the canals.

An hour later and we headed back to the hostel for a short rest and go online. After failing to fix my netbook once again, we grabbed our bags and headed off to the train station to catch our overnight to Copenhagen, out first stop in Scandinavia where we will spend around a fortnight.

Today’s pictures here.

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Day 89 [28 Apr 09] – Amsterdam

Posted in Amsterdam by jn82 on April 28, 2009

*For some strange reason, the USB controller on my netbook is malfunctioning, so I am unable to upload any pictures to my computer. Sadly, I think this travel log will have no pictures for the remainder of the trip.*

This morning, we headed to the Anne Frank House. For those of you that have read the book, this would probably be a must see place if you are in Amsterdam. I had and have not read the book, but still decided to go anyway as this is the location where the happenings of one of the most translated books in history took place. For those of you that have also not read the book, in a nutshell, Anne Frank is a girl who was 14 in 1943 when World War II broke out, and after the Nazis invaded the Netherlands, her father hid her entire family and some family friends in the attic of his jam factory in Amsterdam. During the war, she and her family hid out here and lived their everyday lives indoors, in secrecy from the majority of the jam factory’s employees and the outside world. As an aspiring author, Anne kept a diary which she intended to publish after the war, and in it were all the thoughts and feelings of a 14 year old girl going up indoors during the war. After the family was betrayed and carted off the the concentration camps, only Otto Frank (Anne’s father) returned after the war, and after discovering her diary, made Anne’s dreams of becoming a published author come through.

The Anne Frank House is not really a very interesting place to visit though. First you have to queue just under an hour to get in if you arrive after 11am. Once inside, there is not much to see inside, except for the empty rooms where the family and friends hid during the period before they were betrayed. They did not even bother to recreate the setting of the rooms during the war because after the Nazis came in, they removed all the furniture and after the war, Otto Frank intended for the attic to remain unfurnished as a reminder.

About a 40 minute queue to get in to the Anne Frank House.

Anne Frank House.

After the Anne Frank House, we took a 30 minute walk to the Van Gough Museum. Along the way, we walked down Amsterdam’s most expensive shopping street, P Cornelisz Hooftstr. Almost every single shop along this street is a branded boutique, from Armarni to Zenga. When we got to the Van Gough museum, there was a long queue in the rain. We also realised it cost 15€ to enter, so we decided to skip it, and take another long walk to a micro-brewery which the tour guide from yesterday recommended.

The canals of Amsterdam.

More canals.

Last canal picture.

The boring exterior of the Van Gough museum.

Rijksmuseum.

After another hour of walking in a slight drizzle past many canals and bridges, we got to Brouwerij ‘t IJ, a micro brewery located beside the De Gooyer windmill. The atmosphere there was not very life changing, so we just had a Columbus, which is a 9% alcohol amber beer with lots of hops and alcohol, before walking back to the hostel for a short rest.

Brouwerij ‘t IJ micr0brewery.


Liquid gold.

Once back at the hostel, this is about the time I discovered that my USB ports are no longer functioning and I will be unable to upload any pictures for the rest of the trip! How terrible, but at least I will be able to get a bit more rest each night instead of having to upload pictures.

We headed back to Amsterdam Centraal station around 6.45pm, which was the meeting point for our tour of Amsterdam’s red light district! The tour cost us 8€ each, and was to last for two hours. In hindsight, it was probably totally unnecessary to be on a guided tour of the red light district, as the area more resembles a human zoo for tourists to walk around and stare at the girls instead of an actual red light district like Kings Cross or Geylang. I do not think safety is much of an issue for someone walking around there. As for the sights, there were many skimply attired young girls in their red light illuminated store front windows in all the small streets as well as the streets which faced the canals. The girls generally came in two shapes and sizes: young,multi-racial, mind dazzingly beautiful, flirty smiles and winks with excellent figures, and others that were black, old, fat, bursting out of their lingerie, and looked as if they did not give a sh*t about you. I do not know how the latter catagory survives in such a market, but I suppose they have their own target market. There is a third catagory of “girls”, which sit in windows with blue lights along a particular street. These are girls only from the waist up, if you get what I mean. It was a night sightseeing trip, but nothing more than that.

Yes, this IS part of the red light district.

Movies.

Hardcore gay club.

The Bulldog, Amsterdam’s first “coffeeshop”.

After this, we bought some chinese takeout and headed back to the hostel for a late dinner. Quite a long day today, but we did get to see a lot.

Today’s pictures here.

Day 88 [27 Apr 09] – Amsterdam

Posted in Amsterdam by jn82 on April 27, 2009

We got on the overnight City Night Line 456 sleeper from Prague to Amsterdam last night, and occupied two beds in a four bed couchette compartment. The four bed couchettes are quite spacious, and there is enough space to sit up and read or watch stuff on the laptop in “bed”, so travelling in them has been fine so far, this being the third overnight train in a four bed couchette (Lisbon – Madrid and Rome – Geneva being the other two). From Amsterdam to Copenhagen, we will also be in a overnight sleeper, however this time there was only free space in a six bed couchette, so things are going to get much more cramped.

After a pretty good night of rest, we got into Amsterdam just before 11am, and headed to the hostel to dump our bags. We decided to do the New Europe Tours free walking tour in this city as well, so had a quick lunch before heading to the meeting point at 1pm. The weather was pretty bad, it drizzed on and off and the skies were perpetually grey, so I could not be bothered to take many pictures.

The tour guide is a pretty informative guy, and he told us how the ultra-conservative Christian politicians (with the support of the rest of the country) were aiming to eliminate or drastically reduce Amsterdam’s red light district by 2015. As it stands, from over 2,000+ “shop windows” with girls in them a couple of years ago, there are only 458 now, with that number shrinking every quarter, due to such shop properties being purchased by the government and earmarked for redevelopment. It looks like the government is pretty serious about reducing the amount of “in your face” legalised prostitution, however the future of escort services and brothels is unclear.

On the other side, there is the European Union, which is quite bent on reducing the “legalised” use of marijuana within Amsterdam, so the number of “coffee shops” in the city which sell and serve marijuana are also getting reduced at an exponential rate over time. The guide says that by 2010 or 2011, such “coffee shops” which have existed for many years may no longer exist. This is all pretty interesting because prior to this, the impression I had was that such vice activity was accepted and tolerated by the Dutch people, but it seems only 10% of the population actually really accept such behaviour, while the other 90% are against it.

The walking tour was pretty normal, and we saw some of the important buildings such as the Anne Franke Museum and the royal palace. The differenciating factor when walking around the city centre is because there are over 90 bridges of varying lengths and widths which span over the various canels going through the city.

City with many canals.

Hemp Gallery. There is also a Hemp Museum, Hemp College… etc etc.

Dutch piss deflector.

Former HQ of the Dutch East Indies Company, now a University of Amsterdam building.

The narrowest house in The Netherlands.

We headed back to the hostel after the walking tour ended around 5pm, intending to take a short rest and then do a walking tour of the red light district around 6.45pm with New Europe Tours as well. However, I was very tired after taking a short break, so will only do the tour tomorrow night.

Today’s pictures here.

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Day 87 [26 Apr 09] – Prague

Posted in Prague by jn82 on April 26, 2009

This morning, we headed to the old city centre to join a free walking tour of the left bank’s old city and Jewish quarter. The old town in Prague is really is a very nice, with many old buildings with different architecture styles and colours. My only gripe is that there are way too many tourists here, and it is not even peak season yet. I cannot really remember the buildings and the history behind them right now because I did not listen closely to what the guide was saying, as it got pretty boring after a few minutes where we would just walk from place to place and she would spit our hard facts about each site.

Old town square.

Astronomical clock.

St. Nicolas Church.

Tyn Church.

After the old town square, we continued walking around the streets of the old town, and saw a few churches and other buildings along the way.

Inside Church of St. James.

Tower that was once part of the old city wall.

The Museum of Communism! (entry fee is a very capitalistic 180 Kč)

Wenceslas Square.

Riding the belly of the horse.

The final area of the walking tour was to the Jewish quarter. We were told that less than 1% of the current Czech population are made up of the Jews, and this is due to the happenings of World War II and the mass exodus of Jews prior to that to the USA, Britain and Australia

Synagogues.

Statue of famous Czech-Jewish author Franz Kafka in a dream he had.

Headed for lunch after the tour, and then back to the hostel for a three hour rest as I am writing this now. Heading off on a 16 hour overnight train to Amsterdam in about two hours time.

Today’s pictures here.

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