Friday, July 11, 2008

Trains, Small Cars, & Bicycles

I'm a complete newbie to international travel, but after traveling to South American and northern Europe, one notices things.

With $5/gallon gas, our huge gas guzzlers (I'm guilty here), and collapsing economy it was refreshing to see what the U.S. can aspire to.

In Europe the infrastructure is totally different and more catered to handled public transportation. Cities have a more centralized feeling to them, and because cities having a clearly central hub and everyone living close to this center, public transportation is so much more useful and efficient. Buses, trains, and subways are truly more practical and do-able options.

More centralized-structured cities also make biking and walking easier. In Amsterdam for example, bicyclists clearly were the lords of the roads. This leads to another difference between the U.S. and the world. Overall, people are just more healthy--obesity isn't the fashion.

Another noticeable transportation trait is the lack of huge gas guzzlers on the road. The streets in other countries are miraculously void of huge gas guzzlers. You see tons of smaller aerodynamic, and new vehicles. Perhaps gas prices twice as high as the States helped push them to this state. If that's the case, bring on $10/gallon gas prices here!

Clearly America is behind the world, but we have many examples to follow.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Homeward Bound: CPH -> LHR(for a long time!) -> ORD -> SEA (50 Hours Of Traveling, Baby!)

Started off the day checking out of our "5-star" hostel: The Dan Hostel @ Copenhagen City. Asia and Katie headed out earlier to explore more of Denmark with family. I left Ari and Jeremy (they wanted to see more of Copenhagen), to head to the airport to see if I could work any magic and get out of my extremely long trip back home (a whopping 35 hrs with an overnight layover in London). Let's see if my my "eyelash batting" can be put to use! ;)

Well, in a nutshell....I wasn't able to finagle anything! Couldn't do anything in Copenhagen, so spent about 5hrs at that airport. When I pulled into Heathrow, there were no more flights to Chicago, so I was doomed to hang out in London. Well, it wasn't that dire. I made an evening of it.

I ended up taking the Picadilly Tube to the Holborn station, and went to the British musuem (I went to the British Museum on one of the first days of my trip, but I wasn't able to take any pictures of the truly amazing building, because my camera battery was dead! So, I made a trip here just so I could snap some pics).




While taking the Tube in, I saw that there was a Brazilian band and samba lessons and DJ at a Brazilian club near the Holborn station. So, after the British museum, grabbed a bite (Subway), and then went to the club, Guanabara.

What a place. If you like all things Brazil, like me, you'd be in wanderlust here. This place is huge. They have a juice bar downstairs, as well as a listening stations for Brazilian albums, and they also sell Brazilian CDs as well. Up a few flights of stairs you enter the bar/eating area/dancefloor/stage. Man, this place was hoppin! I got there before 9pm, so there was no

video

cover. A DJ was spinning some chill Brazilian tunes and people were chillin to the Brazilian vibe. Shortly afterwards, three women took to the stage and started teaching the crowd some basic samba moves. At one point the DJ played a song w/ straight-samba-drums, and one of the instructors totally jammed. She moved her booty and legs so fast and to the beat--it was amazing.

The 8-piece band, Mandinga then hit the stage. They were pretty cool, and played some cool covers ranging from (The Pink Panther theme song, to Bob Marley's Could You Be Loved, to Stevie Wonder's Master Blaster). They got the crowd jammin--no doubt. I admired from afar; at one point with a fruity caiparinha in hand.




At around 11pm I split,and then went to catch a train to head back to my lodging for the night: The Heathrow Airport's tiled floor. Made it to Heathrow around midnight. This is where I stay until my 7:55am flight--oh fun!Arriving at Heathrow Around Midnight

I ended up not getting too much sleep at Heathrow. I got on a computer for a couple of hours (and wrote the bulk of this blog entry), and then after that I joined the rest of the zombies and walked the hallways of Heathrow looking for a place to crash--finding a nice couch was hard! I ended up finding a nice couch (w/ no pesky arm rests to prevent laying down) eventually. I laid down and tried sleeping, but to no avail. I ended up being too cold! I busted out a newspaper and tried to totally "hobo"---used one section of newspaper as a "blanket", and laid another section on my head. It wasn't enough though. I just couldn't sleep.

So, I slept-walked a bit more. I eventually found a carpeted floor upstairs in this remote section of the airport. It was almost 5am. I laid out for a bit, but then an employee showed up, "Are you waiting for me?"

"Huuuuuh", I mumbled, and then went on my way. By this time, the ticket counter was open, so I went and got my ticket. Boarded my plane later, watched the movie 21 while traveling over the Atlantic and kept traveling home. It was nice to be back in the NW.
Seatac Airport: Home!!

My bro picked me up from SeaTac, and we caught up a bit. I was hella-tired, but I wanted to hang. We went to one of our haunts in Edmonds, Rory's and had some beer and ribs **yum!!**
So much happened since that one night when I was at my brother's and I had all my crap laid out in my room. I had no idea what I was going to be in for. That mystery is always a good feeling. It can be addicting. I just had an awesome adventure, but it's always good to come home!

....until the next adventure.




Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Christiana, and Last Day In Copenhagen


Our last day consisted of me trying to get over my cold...apparently the stuff I took yesterday worked cuz I was feeling much better. Cheers to the quickest cold in history!

We started off the day by heading to an area of Copenhagen known as Christiana. This is an old military barracks which was occupied by some "free-thinking" people decades ago with the hopes of making some sort of hippie utopia. Sounds good, right? This was our destination.



I had thoughts of tons of hippies and women wearing flower crowns, and all that happy, happy, joy, joyness. From what I saw it looked more like a weed haven. You weren't allowed to take pictures, and it was somewhat depressing-looking. It was different though, and in that respect it was nice to experience. Hey, where else can you get hemp beer?




After Christiana we headed back toward Nyhavn, and walked along the canal and all the cool scenery. We'd had a long day, so after all the walking we headed back to the hostel and hung out a bit.



Jeremy/Ari went and checked out a place that wifi access (it also happened to be a pub!). This was a pub across the canal from our hostel. I was on a different mission: to snag a City Bike. These are bikes which are chained throughout the city and are basically FREE to ride. You put in 20 Kroner into a slot and the lock comes off, you ride till your heart's content, find a designated spot to chain the bike, chain bike and watch your 20 Kroner fall back out of the slot. What a cool deal! Unfortunately, it was the peak of tourist season, so these bikes were a bit hard to come by. I walked all over the city to find one, but had no luck, but as I arrived back at our hostel, there was a bike right in front of our hostel! I snagged it and rode across the bridge to Jeremy, Ari, and also Katie. They were hanging outside the pub: Cafe Langebro. I showed them my new ride.


The bikes are alright, definitely not something one would want to climb L'Alpe d' Huez. The tires are solid rubber, and the wheels are solid (vs. spoked), and for some reason the bike was a bit hard to handle....I wonder why?! It didn't matter though, it was nice to have wheels, and to do more exploring.


video

I wasn't too brave. I basically cruised around places with low car traffic. I ended up driving out to the Little Mermaid again, and snapped a few more pics. I then just rode around the city a bit, and got a bit of a workout. I wish we rode bikes more. You can definitely cover more ground---oh well, next time! :)



After the bike ride, we all hung out at the hostel one last time. This was the last "real night" of our trip for Ari, Jeremy, and myself. We went out on the town a little. We went to Cafe Langebro, and had a pint and hung out for a while. We also went and checked out a jazz show which was outside along the canal. I can't remember the name of the singer, but she sang some very good music to watch a sunset to.

We then went back over the canal and headed to Rädhuspladsen, which is basically a big open square downtown. There are some buildings swarmed w/ all sorts of neon (think Times Square).


While in this square we had one of those "W.T.F" moments. We happened upon a crowd of people. We were wondering what they were checkin out--street performers can always be fun to check out. As we approached the crowd we were caught by surprise by what we saw: a pair of dudes dressed up in Native regalia dancing around w/ flutes, and with New-Age-y music in the background! Ari was able to determine that the music they were "dancing" to was the soundtrack to the movie Last of the Mohicans. I personally didn't know what to feel. Ari wanted to ask them what tribe they were. Why were they out here dancing like monkeys with a cup in their hand. I guess people have to make a living, but this just felt wrong. There were a few drunk Danes who were dancing to their own beat (and looked just about as good as these two "performers"). It felt like watching a car wreck. After I pushed my mouth back up (from being open-mouthed in amazement and confusion), we ended up splitting and not wasting our time trying to figure out what the deal was---only in Copenhagen!


video

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Roskilde, Vikings, and Being Sick **cough cough**

Ari & Jeremy are the fuzzy people

Our second day in Copenhagen (my 21st day of the trip), and this is the first day when my body failed me--I was sick. Let's go back a little....

Our second day had us getting up bright and early to catch a train out to the town of Roskilde (where they just had that big music festival) to go to the Viking Ship Museum. Roskilde is a small Danish town surrounded by some nice country. The town centre area was very nice and inviting, but we had a short walk ahead of us down to the nearby water to go to the museum.


At some point during this walk, feelings of weakness & soreness hit me like a train. I immediately felt really tired and sick. It sucked.

We made it to the Museum, and I did what I could to stay with it and be a tourist. There were a few movies about the museum and some recent viking ship trip/reenactments. In one of the theaters I laid down on the floor and assumed the fetal position while watching the cool movie about a recent voyage made on a Viking ship from Denmark to Ireland.

After the museum we had some pizza, and then took a train back to Copenhagen. After this, I don't remember much. I think I spent a good part of the day bedridden. Asia had some cold stuff, so I took a cocktail of these medicines. Miraculously, I started to feel better by the end of the day.

Still Alive! ;)

Haven't been posting for the last few days, because internet cafes have been few and far between in Amsterdam and now Copenhaven. So, have 2 more nights in Copenhaven and then I'm US-bound.

Have had fun. Amsterdam was a blur, and Copenhaven has been great---just very expensive!

will try and post pics and write more later! Ok, time for bed,

c.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Arriving In København (That's Copenhagen!)


Flew into Copenhagen with Asia/Katie, but I ended up hanging out at the airport for a few hours so I could meet up with Ari/Jeremy. Once they arrived we headed out through customs/immigration (man, one thing I don't like about the EU is that you don't get stamps on your passport everytime you enter a new country--lame!). We ended up catching a local transit bus from the airport into downtown Copenhagen; our destination: The Dan Hostel in downtown Copenhagen.

The Dan Hostel is a HUGE hostel (we met someone later who called it the Hilton of hostels). This wasn't a tiny hostel, it was a huge skyscraper, and when we arrived at the lobby, there was a throng of backpackers, punk rockers, and other people swarming the joint. The huge rock festival Roskilde had just ended so tons of people were invading Copenhagen after several days of rocking out and lack of showering.
video


We hung out in the lobby for a bit. Had our first taste of Danish beer (a draft of Carlsberg), and then checked in. We were up on the 15th floor and had a hostel suite. It was a minimalistically-decorated room, and we were happy with it and the view it had. We chilled for a bit and then went to explore.

We headed to Nyhavn (this is the famous area with a canal and colorful building). Now our stay in Copenhagen happened to coincide with a jazz festival. We were able to catch music at various places within the city. On the way to Nyhavn there was a Dixieland band playing (near the Absalon statue. Here we had a Danish sausage and hung out. While here, Ari (barefoot) and Jeremy busted out some of their swing dancing moves. It was very cool, and they ended up stealing a few ovations from the crowd.
From here we then had to go see The Little Mermaid statue (for Ari). To get there we walked along the water and saw several neat things. There was a really neat fountain called the Gefion fountain (with a woman and a group of bulls). Once we made it to The Little Mermaid, we all snapped some pictures, and Ari paid homage to her namesake. :)

Langenilie (angle statue)

On the way back to the hostel we went a different route. We went through Kastellet--a Danish fortress (complete with a cool-looking windmill!). Copenhagen is such a cool city. There are so many cool things to see, and it is so conducive to walking.

In Scottish: "A neh-ul & lay-ee bug" (aka a nettle and lady bug)

\

We had a quick break at the hostel and then set out for dinner. This is when we found out something about Copenhagen: it's expensive here! We walked around several areas too find modestly-priced food and we had a rough time. We eventually found a place which served a popular Danish dish: open-faced sandwiches. I believe mine had liver in it and it tasted pretty good. Ari had one with curried herring, and it didn't agree with her. Oh well---we can't all be vikings! :)

After dinner we walked the streets a bit more. We found a place which served home-made ice cream and we pounced on it. They were playing some Brazillian music here, so I ended up asking the person behind the counter what she was listening to--hey, she was cute! ;)


After our ice cream our mission was to find a Karaoke bar. Asia and Katie had already scoped the place out, so they knew where to go. Sam's Bar is where we went. There were only about 4-5 people in here, but they were singing. So, we decided to stay put. I decided to buy a round of beers...this is when I discovered Copenhagen is EXPENSIVE. With the exchange rate, a pint ended up costing something around $10! Oh man, this was going to be a hard town. We milked our beers and some of us cheered on the Danes who were belting out the likes of Elvis, Elton John, Michel Buble, Ole Blue Eyes, etc. Asia eventually worked up the guts and was brave enough to take the stage. She sang Aretha Franklin's "Chain of Fools", and she rocked. We all cheered her on. There was even a Dane taking her picture with his phone! We ended up splittle a little bit after Asia's performance. While hanging out on the street outside of Sam's Bar, one of the karaoke singers approached us. Turns out he was a New Yorker who had been living in Copenhagen for the last few years. He was pretty funny. I don't know how it came up, but he asked if I was Greenland-ish---I told him I was Indian. We also told him we were staying at the Dan Hostel, and he called it the "Four Seasons" of hostels. :) Anyway, our experience at Sam's Bar was awesome. And it was a good end to our first night in Denmark.

video

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Amsterdam

After Barcelona, the next city was: Amsterdam. Here, I met up with my bro's girlfriend Asia and her sister Katie. We would be here for a long weekend. Surprisingly, I didn't make any entries in my diary while I was here. Looking back, it was all a bit of a haze. I guess that's the charm of Amsterdam.

We met up at the Amsterdam airport. After getting my bag, we took the train into Amsterdam. We walked a little ways from the train station and had some lunch. Here we met a guy who also just arrived and was here for a huge party/concert. Apparently, Amsterdam was going to be taken over by people going to a White Party (everyone dressing in white)--a local futbol stadium was going to be taken over by DJs and white-clad people for an all-night rave. It sounded interesting, but our Maltese friend said tickets would be hard to come by. Oh well.


We ended up taking a canal tour to get the lay of the land and to kill time before checking into our hotel: Hotel Fantasia. Once we were checked in we went to the Anne Frank House. This is a museum which is at the original Anne Frank House. Remarkably, I have never read the Anne Frank Diary. Eventhough I hadn't read it, the museum was very powerful. She was a remarkable young woman, and is a testament to how strong people can be. It was an emotional experience, and I'm glad we went here at the beginning of our stay.


Amsterdam is a city overrun by bikes...as it should be. The bike paths aren't just painted on pavement, they were built exclusively for bikes. The hierarchy is BIKES, autos, and then people. So, you have to always be mindful of bike bells.

Well, while in Amsterdam, you have to make a visit to a "coffee shop". We went to one recommended by a nice Canadian girl we met. This "coffee shop" was tripped out inside with swirling murals, trippy sculptures, and cool music. The "coffee shop" was called Damp Kring.

We also made it to The Van Gogh Museum. This museum was awesome. Several of Van Gogh's top works are displayed at this museum. We hung out here for a few hours. We also strolled around the surrounding park as well (posed in front of the "I AMsterdam" sculpture).

After the Van Gogh Musuem we made it to one of Amsterdam's bigger parks: Vondel Park. There were tons of people here hanging out, picnicking, making out, walking dogs, fishing, pedaling "beer mobiles" (you have to see one of these!), etc. We had a few snacks here and then we went over to an open-air theater. We first listened to an Argentinian pianist (he was alright---very jazzy), and then we listened to a band called Sensual (Brazilian chill band)---they were awesome. video
All in all Amsterdam was ok. Seemed a little too Vegas-y for me, but what were we expecting. I had an almost full Amsterdam experience, but I'm sad to say I never did get a "Royale with cheese"! Oh well! :)