Friday, 7 September 2012

Madurodam ... or I'm a giant

Just when I was thinking that my next blog is going to be about what to write next since I'm not traveling around that much anymore, and won't be in the future either due to a job change, I get stranded in Amsterdam airport for 6 hours.

And me being me, I couldn't just sit there, had to go see something new. I've always seen photos of Madurodam (you know that miniature city in Holland?) and like a kid always wanted to go, but I knew it wasn't in Amsterdam.

A bit of internet googling and asking train station staff, I found out that was in The Hague, and it takes only half an hour to get there from Schiphol Airport. You say "So what?", I say: "Excellent!", with the amount of time I had, the decision was instant.

It's a bit far from the train station but I walked, there are also trams that go there (No. 9 & 5 :) ). The place is not big but there are so may details that it takes you quite a while to get trough it all.
Miniature Amsterdam most famous buildings with moving cars in the tiny streets, miniature main train stations and both passenger and goods trains circling the city on tiny rails, tiny boats moving through locks. A mini version of Schiphol airport with moving planes, windmills, refineries, power stations, docks, all so artfully done and so nice looking, I was as happy as any of the kids there, maybe a bit more. Took loads of photos and videos and headed back to the airport for a well deserved meal and my next flight.
P.S. All the photos are of miniatures ;)

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Stockholm syndrome: Sunday

Woke up with no plans for the day, no special requests either :), so I suggested a walk to Sodermalm, passed Riddar holmen on the way, which is probably the first isle to be populated in today's Stockholm, and crossed from there to Soder.

If you watched The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, you'll know what I'm talking about, this is where Mikael lived. The old buildings built on the hilly side of that island, with quite a bit of them looking north towards the rest of Stockholm, a beautiful place to live, and a beautiful place for a walk as well.

Now if you walk down from there to the main road on Soder, the whole stretch to your left side once you hit the road is art galleries, the Bohemian bit of Stockholm maybe? But the right side is full of other shops and nice cosy cafes with pretty decent menus and good food.

We walked back from Sodermalm via Gamla Stan to Drottningsgata, I remember that street from last time I was here and it reminded me of an exploded version of Karl Johans from Oslo centrak to Stortinget. But I like it, shops and restaurants, locals and tourists, and always a lot of people there. Then it started snowing over Stockholm, and we decided to start heading back to Norway, we were driving, and it was a snow storm quite a bit of the way through Sweden.
This was a slow and event-less weekend but I enjoyed it a lot, thanks Erik, this was a  great anniversary trip and I enjoyed it a lot.

Stockholm syndrome: Saturday

No, I haven't been held hostage and started sympathizing with the offender, unless you can consider my husband taking me to Stockholm without me knowing where I was going a kidnap, so he's the offender and I def. sympathize with that particular man, so...

My second time in romantic Stockholm, this time with my man, and the city is just as I remember it being. To my surprise we were booked in that nice Radisson overlooking the harbor, I noticed it last time and thought it would be really to stay there. Sweet!

Since I've trodden all over this city a few years back, I didn't have any requests, and since I didn't know where I was going, there wasn't a sightseeing agenda either. So we just took it slow. Got there late on Friday and went straight to bed :).

Woke up next morning, missing hotel breakfast as usual, found it raining, so just lazed out in bed. Out for breakfast in Norrmalm nearby, in a tiny cafe, with glass windows everywhere and quite nice salads. Then walked over to the Vasa museum, now I can't say the walk was very pleasant, because the wind was freezing, but it was OK nonetheless. The Vasa museum houses the Vasa ship, built in the 17th century, as one of a kind, but well... sank in the Stockholm harbour on its maiden voyage, impressive piece though, and take a wild guess whose idea it was to go there :).

My request was to find the little boy in Gamla Stan. A.k.a. Boy looking at the moon is probably the smallest outdoor sculpture in the world. Heard about it once after I came back from Stockholm last time, so we went and found him this time. I have to say, he wasn't easy to find, he's not marked on the maps, briefly mentioned in some tour guide sites, and when you finally find out he's in the courtyard of the Finnish church, you can't find the Finnish church because the streets in Gamla Stan are narrow and tiny and GPS doesn't handle it well enough. It's on the left side from the royal palace if you're facing it, you just have to look closer. And the boy is in the back, nuns and generally people make him clothes every now and then, sweet, eh?

It was cold and so that was the end of Saturday for us, so we went back to relax a bit in our room, hubby got the chills so I forbade us from going out for dinner and had it at the hotel's restaurant Strand (or The Strand, can't remember), but the food was very good, Swedish with a twist.

Monday, 9 April 2012


From all the cities I've visited in my life, there are only a few where the thought "hmmm, I could live here" crossed my mind. This one was exactly one of those. It's been a few months now, I'm sure some place names and details must have faded away but the feeling still remains. The city is beautiful, cosy and just one of those places where you feel comfortable, a place you feel safe even if you got lost.

We were there in early August last year, so I can safely assume the nice weather helped boosting the mood even further, and one seriously positive aspect was that restaurants and cafes are open till late (later than the rest of Europe) and they don't stop serving you food at 8 or 9 either. But since I mentioned that let me also tell you that August is the month most of Vienna is on holiday so service tends to be very, and I mean VERY! slow.

So Vienna is one of those cities with a lot of castles turned into museums and the most famous sites there happen to be exactly that, and to one of those I headed on my first day there.

The Belvedere, your "normal" castle with a summer house, big gardens with fountains, etc... This one is now a museum and contains some famous works of art, and I like paintings, so I enjoyed my time there. The walk to the Belevedere took us throught the Stadtspark and the monument for the Soviet soldiers at Berg platz.

After the Belvedere, we headed to Karlz Platz, the most famous in Vienna and the home of Vienna's most famous church Karlzkirche, impressive piece of architecture, I liked the spiral spires :)

This was followed by a tram ride to the amusement park: Prater. To ride the old Ferris wheel and get a view of Vienna from the top. My idea: I like such stuff :) Then I was tired, got back at the hotel, then a dinner and a quick stroll and coffee around Stephans platz, sadly the cathedral was covered for renovation :( but the place is lively and pleasant to go to and have a coffee and an ice-cream.

Day 2 started with a trip to what seemed to me like the sight number 1 to see in Vienna, Shonnbrunn palace, same description of a palace, but this is far bigger and richer than the Belvedere, with huge gardens and even a zoo! After the big walk around there, we went back to the city center and walked along the Donaukanal and by the MAK and the old buildings around it, plus the fancy restaurant in what looks like an old fashioned green house (with the trees and evertything) back to the hotel. We had a romantic dinner overlooking the city at night (with the same EXTREMELY slow service, but excellent food) and left the next morning to Cairo.

Conclusion: I love Vienna...

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Germany once more: Christmas shoppiiiiing!!!

And there aren't many countries in Europe that are better to do that in than Germany. Which city? Pick and choose, any major city is a good choice. My choice was solely based on comfiness of flights, therefore Munich.

I gave myself close to two days there and very successfully chose a place to stay, by the central station (the train to the airport is one thing you don't want to late for), and as is the case with the other two German cities Ive been in, this was a shopping heaven, added to that all the nice Christmas decorations in the streets and on shopping centers, you got the mood to do the shopping too :).

The difference here is that this city has more to offer, remember that this is also the capital of Bavaria (which is interesting on its own), jokes aside, it's rich in culture, it's a city with more history to it than Frankfurt.

Sadly, as is the case of Frankfurt, I can't tell you much about this nice looking city. Not because of the lack of time, but because most of that time was spent inside various shops. I managed to get a couple of photos for you though :)

Germany once more: Oops! I missed my flight...

Not that I was slacking or anything like that. Actually not my fault at all, my flight from Cairo landed late in Frankfurt to catch the next one to Bergen, the usual business, next flight in 6 hours.

Then the flowchart/autopilot start:
1- How much time I have? 5 hours.
2- How far is the city? 15 minutes by a frequent train.
3- 1&2 sound good, find the lockers.
4- Get on the train.
5- Ta da!

Now if you're expecting this to be anything close to Berlin, you're highly mistaken, this is nothing like it. This is a true business metropolis, a lot of fancy buildings, not much sightseeing, loads of shopping. It's a place where people live and work, i.e. earn their money and spend it :)

It's as neat as any other German city though, it's not a place you need loads of time to visit, it's pleasant to go around, and in my situation was a good way to spend those few hours I had at my hands before my next flight, walk about, get something to eat, a cup of coffee and head back to the airport.

Result: Happy me and one more tick on my map :)