Travel Diaries- Paris

Travel Diaries- Paris

I was in Paris last weekend but I just got around to writing a blog post about it because I was so busy this past week; I had so many submission deadlines to meet. I usually travel in the night while it is dark so I never got a view of the German countryside. This time around, however, my bus departed at 15:15 so I got a proper view of the German countryside and it is very picturesque, like something out of a fairytale (well, most fairy tales originated in Germany, so I get where the inspiration came from). I had to change buses in the Dortmund Central Bus Station, so I can say I have been to Dortmund and Munich (wink wink).

My trip to Paris was somewhat unplanned. I left for Paris on the 10th of June (Friday) but I only bought my ticket on the 8th of June. I tried to buy my ticket (cost: 101 Euros) twice on the 6th of June (Monday) but the transaction was not permitted.  I was going to postpone my trip to a later weekend because I thought if I bought the ticket after the 6th , it would be more expensive than 101 Euros. I decided to try again on the 8th because I really did not want to spend my weekend in Cottbus (I was craving adventure), so I booked the ticket and it cost me 86 Euros (dancing emoji). I wanted to buy a ticket to visit Versailles Palace which cost 15 Euros, so I was able to buy a bus ticket and a ticket for Versailles for the same amount that I would have spent on just a bus ticket earlier; I guess everything does happen for a reason.

I was a bit apprehensive about visiting Paris because I heard that Parisians do not speak English (even when they can), so I was wondering what my fate would be if I got lost and had no access to Wi-Fi. Luckily, that scenario did not occur (dance emoji). I arrived in Paris in the morning and I went to a bathroom to freshen up. After that, I went to the nearest train station where I bought a day ticket that allowed me to travel to all 5 zones of Paris. I bought a ticket for all 5 zones because I was going to Versailles and it is not in the city centre. The rail system in Paris is very complicated (at least compared to the German rail system); there are 3 types of trains, Metro, RER, and T trains and there are at least 6 types of RER trains. It took some getting used to but I was able to find my way around and I really made use of my day ticket (I made about 10 trips with the trains). After I bought my day ticket, I went to the meeting place (Fountain of St. Michael) of the tour I booked. The tour was very informative and entertaining (what else does one want from a tour) and it was about 3 hours long so my ankles were on fire. Halfway into the tour, it started to lightly rain but I was prepared. However, I could not take as many pictures as I wanted because my phone has to survive for at least another year. Paris had the atmosphere of the Euro 2016, there were many fans with their countries’ jerseys roaming around (FYI, Swedish guys are hot, I mean really hot. I am considering moving to Sweden). One of the destinations of our tour was the Louvre and when we arrived there, I became sad. I became sad because they were armed soldiers around the museum and it reminded me of the terrorist attack that occurred in Paris a few months ago, but Paris is still alive and going strong.

After the tour ended, I had lunch and made my way to Versailles. Versailles is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. It was sublime, glorious, and magnificent. The ceiling, furniture, paintings and statues are all awe inspiring. I am rambling but I cannot describe how beautiful it is. However, seeing the grand palace made me realise and understand why the French revolution happened. The monarchs and nobles lived their lavish lives in the palace but it was the commoners that bore the cost of all the excesses. The gardens are just as beautiful and exquisite as the palace. Unfortunately, since admission to the gardens is not free on weekends, I could not enter, but I did have a wonderful view of the gardens from the palace. I cannot talk about Versailles without talking about the Hall of Mirrors. Take every positive adjective I have used to describe Versailles, multiply it by 10, that is how awesome the Hall of Mirrors is.  After my tour of Versailles (I had an audio guide) was over, I went to the Eiffel Tower and then to Notre Dame. The Eiffel Tower is over hyped in my humble opinion; it is just a glorified radio mast. I really wanted to visit Notre Dame because I wanted to see Quasimoto but unfortunately, he does not live there (cry face). Entry into the cathedral is free and so the queue was very long. When I first saw the length of the queue I decided not to enter Notre Dame, but upon further investigation (I just finished an episode of Sherlock, so I am in the zone), I noticed the queue moved very quickly so I would not have to wait for a ridiculous amount of time. The cathedral is really beautiful, when I entered, the organ was playing and the music added to the beauty of the cathedral.

After I left Notre Dame, I made my way to the Arc de Triomphe . The Arc is really intricately designed and beautiful. I did roam around the city for a while after it got dark and I know why Paris is called “ the City of Light”. Paris comes alive in the dark and almost seems magical. After my roaming, I made my way to the bus station where I had dinner in the McDonalds and waited for my bus to arrive. The journey to Berlin was smooth and the most enjoyable I have had so far because no one seating beside me.

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Queue Etiquette in Airports

Queue Etiquette in Airports

This discussion stems from something that happened to me this weekend. I talked about how I helped an Ethiopian lady in Istanbul Airport in a previous blog post. So we were in the queue for the e-visa machine but because we could not figure out how the machine works and there was no attendant at that time, we went to ask for help. When we came back to the queue, we went to the back of the queue because it is generally accepted that if you leave the queue, you have forfeited your spot and if you do return, you go back to the back of the queue.

While we were in the queue for the second time, an elderly lady was standing beside the man that was ahead of us and she told us that she would go right after the man because she was on the line before she left. Now, the person that was ahead of us did not mention that the elderly lady was behind him so we had no idea if she was actually being truthful but we let it slide because “respect your elders”. While the first lady was at the machine, another lady came and stood beside her. When she was confronted by us, she said that she was behind the lady that had just shunted the line but the elderly lady did not mention that the second lady was behind her and again when you leave the queue, you forfeit your spot. I did not have a problem with letting her go ahead because I was not in a hurry, but I did not like the entitled tone with which she spoke to us. Madam, you were not on the line and the woman who was ahead of us did not tell us that you were behind her, instead of asking politely to go before us, you decide to demand it like it is your human right. As far as I know (I just googled it), the right to leave a line and come back to your spot is not in the Human Rights Charter.

The Ethiopian lady was not having it because she was in a hurry to get to the ticket office and get a flight that was leaving to Ethiopia on that day to avoid spending the night in the airport or staying in a hotel, but we did not argue with the lady. When the elderly lady was done, we quickly stepped up to the machine before the second lady could. The second lady told the attendant that she was on the line before us and he asked us if it was true. We said we did not see her on the line and he also said that he did not see her on the line, so we were attended to before her. She started throwing a fit and calling us rude and disrespectful. Now, I am all about respecting your elders, but ‘omo’ in an airport, it is every man/woman for himself/herself and if I miss my flight because of niceness and politeness, nobody would help me get a new ticket out of niceness and politeness. Another advice, if you want to go ahead of someone, be nice and ask politely, if the person is not in a hurry themselves, they may let you go but no one owes you that; it is not your right.

Travel Diaries- Istanbul

Yes, I live in Istanbul but since I came to Germany in October 2015 for my exchange program, I have been to Turkey 5 times for my dentist appointments because I have on braces (yes, make your unoriginal barbed wire jokes; like 20 people made a barbed wire joke to me on my last visit to Nigeria). Finding an English speaking Orthodontist that would accept my health insurance was nearly impossible, so I had to continue with my Turkish Doctors. My most recent appointment was meant to be my last appointment but unfortunately (cry face emoji) one of the gaps between my teeth did not close so we decided to wait and see of it will close with further treatment. I cannot wait to take them off in August and be able to finally eat popcorn again. I am glad I got them, besides finally getting good dentition (dance emoji), wearing braces also helped me develop some good habits. My dental hygiene has improved (I brush 3 times in a day and floss) and I have stopped biting my nails. I hope I will keep the good habits after the braces are gone.

I think my German has greatly improved (naturally). While I was checking into my flight in Germany, the attendant spoke German to me and I understood her very well and was able to give answers (well, one-word answers, but still). I was so proud of myself and no one could tell me anything. On this trip, something about me screamed approachable and nice because I had three instances where people asked me for favours (I have been told that I have a mean face and an unapproachable aura which I don’t mind as long as keeps guys from disturbing me on the street). When I arrived in Istanbul, I went to the ATM to withdraw some money and a lady walked up to me and asked me for a favour. She was supposed to fly from Washington to Addis Abba but she missed her connecting flight from Istanbul to Addis Abba  and so she needed to buy a new ticket. The Turkish Airlines ticket office is after the passport control and so a visa is required to buy a new ticket if someone misses a flight which is a very smart plan in my opinion. She had an American visa so she could get an e-visa to Turkey for a fee of course. She did not have a credit or debit card and cash is not accepted so she asked me to use my card to pay the visa fee for her and she would refund me. I did help her and she was very grateful. After I left the airport, I went to a friend’s house where I spent the night.

The next morning, I went for my dentist appointment and after the appointment, I went to the cinema. I saw three movies that day; Warcraft, X-men Apocalypse and Captain America Civil War. I thoroughly enjoyed all three movies but my favourite was Captain America. I watched Warcraft because I am a huge fan of the Vikings and I was not disappointed but the film does have some drawbacks but it was very entertaining and I hope the sequel is made.

The reviews for X-men were very bad and so I was not expecting much but I was pleasantly surprised at how good the movie was. This movie and Marco Polo (the Netflix original show) are the reasons why I do not trust reviews; people have different tastes in movies and tv shows and what appeals to one will not appeal to another (I know a few people who do not like Inception, how can a person not like Inception?????). Also, James McAvoy is very handsome (new celebrity crush alert). I never noticed how handsome he is; I remember in school, girls used to trip for him, and I just never saw it because I have not followed much of this work. From his appearances on the Graham Norton Show, I thought he was goofy and funny but now, I see the dude is very good looking.

As for Civil War, I am team Iron Man. I can’t stand Steve Rogers’ holier than thou attitude and also Bucky is volatile and dangerous, someone like that should not be a free man. Even though I really enjoyed this movie, I do have one big complaint; we are not given any explanation for why Sharon Carter assisted Steve. Did she believe Bucky was innocent? Even if she did believe he was not responsible for the Vienna bombing, after Bucky broke out of his containment, she should have realised that he is not in a good state of mind. I got the sense that she was helping Steve because she was attracted to him which does make any sense and takes away from her badassery. All in all, I really enjoyed my day at the cinema.

The next morning, I made my way to the airport and I had two other encounters that made my question the effectiveness of my RBF (Resting B***t Face). I was waiting in line for the first security check (summer queues in Istanbul Airport are very long, I advise people to go to the airport at least 3 hours before their flight) and this lady walks up to me and pecks me on the cheeks (Shocked face emoji). She was already late for her flight and was in a hurry, so she wanted to make it seem like we were friends to avoid any protests from the people behind me for jumping the queue. I am a very reserved person and I was shocked at first and a bit hesitant but as someone who has missed quite a few flights (cringing face), I understood her motivation and I let her and her sister go ahead of me. My second encounter was also with a pair of sisters (what’s up with that). When I was in the check-in queue for my flight, two sisters asked me to check in with them (I know that sounds odd but after the explanation you will understand). They had a lot of luggage and would have had to pay extra but since I did not have any luggage, we would check in as a group and my baggage allowance would be allocated to them. The luggage was all under one of the sisters’ names and I was glad about that. My name was not on the luggage tag which was my biggest concern because I was scared of the consequences if they were travelling with something illegal. It all worked out for everyone involved.

Honestly, I must say it feels good to help people but hold your horses; I have no intention of becoming a Mother Theresa. I slept throughout the flight to Berlin and I made my way to Cottbus by train.

Travel Diaries- Hamburg

Travel Diaries- Hamburg

Hamburg was the first city I visited in Germany on my own. Well actually, I visited Berlin first but I do not count Berlin because it is just 1 hour away by train from Cottbus and the trip is free for university students. I visited Hamburg during the Christmas break and it was so beautiful.  It takes three hours to travel to Hamburg from Berlin by bus. When I arrived in Hamburg, I went to the hostel where I booked my accommodation. I stayed in a dorm room with some Turkish-German Girls (their parents are Turkish but the girls were born in Germany). When I entered the room, I spoke English and they did not understand and then they started speaking Turkish amongst themselves and so I told them that I could speak Turkish. They were so surprised because Turkish is not an international language and so very few foreigners can speak Turkish. They were cool girls and I am so glad I got sensible roommates.

That night, I took a shower and went to bed because it was raining and I did not feel like going out. The next morning, I went out to the city centre. I decided to go by foot because according to Google Maps, it is a 15-minute walk from the hostel to Hamburg Rathaus. I went to the Rathaus 2 hours before the free tour was meant to start because there was a Christmas Market there and I wanted to explore it. Christmas Markets in Germany really capture the fairy-tale and magic of Christmas and it succeeded in rekindling my love for Christmas. Living in Turkey, a country where Christmas is not celebrated (I have written exams on Christmas day) for 4 years, made me apathetic to Christmas and also made see Christmas for the capitalist money grabbing scheme that it is. Now, I still think that Christmas Celebrations are over exaggerated and drain excessive amounts of money out of people’s pockets, but I now appreciate the joy that Christmas brings to people. In the Market, I had Gluhwein which is basically warm red wine. There were beautiful decorations being sold, but as you can imagine, they were very expensive.

After I roamed around the Rathaus Christmas Market (there were several Christmas markets), I went to the tour meeting point. The tour guide was very interesting and informative. Unfortunately, half way into the tour, it started raining, but I was well prepared. I had on a pair of Caterpillar Boots, three pairs of socks, two pairs of tights and two pairs of jeans, 4 t-shirts and a sweater and 2 jackets with hoodies (I was ready to battle winter). After the tour, I went on a ferry ride to the Theater im Hafen which means Theatre in Port. There, I saw that there was a lion king musical show. I decided to buy a ticket for the next night but I had to buy it over the phone. After the ferry ride, I went to my room, had dinner and then went to bed.

The next morning, I had to check out at 10am and my lion king show was at 9pm, so I had to come up with ways to keep busy until I had to go to the musical. I decided to go shopping and just roam around the city. Before I started roaming the city, I had to go to the musical venue to collect my ticket. On the ferry ride, I had a ferry ride travel schedule and so I decided to time the journey to test the punctuality of Germans. To my surprise, the ferry arrived at all the stops at the time that the schedule stated (I guess the German efficiency stereotype is actually true). My time wasting plan worked and when it was time, I went to the theatre. Although the Lion King Musical was in German, I found it very entertaining. I have seen the lion king movie enough times to remember the dialogue, so the music, dancing, and stage effects were enough for me and I do not regret it. After the show, I headed to the bus station and had dinner. I stayed in the restaurant until it was their closing time.  After the restaurant closed, I had to wait 1 hour before my bus arrived. I waited in a park that was a few minutes walk from the bus station; it was a bit chilly, but the walk warmed me up a bit. I came back to the bus station 10 minutes before the bus arrived. When the bus arrived, I made my way to Berlin and then to Cottbus.

Travel Diaries-Vienna

Travel Diaries-Vienna

After I returned to Cottbus from Munich, I spent one night at home and was on a bus to Vienna the following night. I arrived in Vienna in the morning. I arrived in Vienna on Whit Monday aka Pentecost Monday (it is a public holiday in most European Countries). Vienna was a bit chilly, thankfully, I checked the weather and this time around, I wore a pair of tights underneath my jeans. I freshened up in the bus station and used their free Wi-Fi for a while and after that, I took the Underground to the city centre. I stopped at the Stephansplatz (St Stephen’s Square) Station.

In Vienna, I did not book a free tour because I did not find any so I was my own tour guide. I  really did enjoy it; I moved at my own pace and whenever I was tired, I could sit down. That is one of the things that I love about Vienna, there are so many parks and places where one can sit and take a break. I felt very accomplished for navigating myself through Vienna without Wi-Fi. I used an app called MAPS.ME. I highly recommend the app for anyone who is planning on travelling to another country without incurring ridiculous roaming charges or buying a new sim card for just a couple of days. Paper maps are also a good alternative to Wi-Fi navigation, but in some cities, the city maps are free while in others, they are sold for 1 to 2 Euros. I was used to using Google maps with Wi-Fi or data and so it took me a minute (a few minutes to be honest) to get used to the old school maps (turns out map reading in geography was not a waste at all).

The most notable places I visited were Parliament, Rathaus, Votivkirche (Votive Church), St Stephen’s Cathedral, Albertina, Hofburg, Sigmund Freund Museum, Spanish Riding School, Museums Quarter and the state opera. The St Stephen’s Cathedral and Vienna Rathaus (Town Hall) are the most beautiful buildings I have ever seen in my entire life. Vienna has very beautiful architecture. I did not see the interior of the town hall because it was a public holiday but I did see the interior of the St Stephen’s Cathedral and it was just as beautiful as the exterior. Unfortunately, due to the weather (it was rainy) and my inability to quickly grasp map reading, I missed the last time slot for the tour of the opera house. Hey, at least now I have a reason to visit Vienna again.

While it was raining, I decided to have lunch. After my lunch, I continued my one-woman tour of Vienna and at this point, I had fully grasped map reading. It was much easier for me to find my way around the city. After I finished my tour, I headed back to the bus where I waited for my bus. Vienna is a really fun city; it is a really calm city (maybe it was calm because it was a public holiday). I really enjoyed Vienna and my journey gave me a new sense of confidence.

 

Travel Diaries- Munich

Travel Diaries- Munich

I was in Munich 2 weekends ago and I am just getting around to writing about my experience. Before I left to Munich, I checked the weather and the predicted temperature was 14 Celsius degrees with a high likelihood for rainfall and so I decided not wear tights under my jeans, which is what I usually do when the temperature is less than 10 Celsius degrees. I did not take my DSLR with me to Munich because my shoulders almost died after Amsterdam and so I decided to reduce the amount of load I travel with. I was glad that I didn’t take it because it is not waterproof and with the weather I got in Munich, I would not have been able to use it. The destination I really wanted to see in Munich was the Allianz Arena which I did see and it was awesome (insert dancing emoji).

I am jumping to the end of my journey, back to the beginning, I boarded my bus around midnight in Berlin and I arrived in Munich in the morning, freshened up and then had breakfast just like I did in Amsterdam. I then walked from the bus station to the central train station which was the meeting place for the tour that I booked. During my walk to the central station, I quickly regretted my decision not to wear tights under my jeans because I was very cold and it was raining. I was wearing a jacket but my legs were shivering. I went to the meeting point, and then the tour started. The tour was very lovely and Munich is a very beautiful city with lots of art and history but because of the weather was not on my side or anyone’s side for that matter, I did not get to see as many places as I wanted to because the tour guide wanted to avoid getting anyone drenched. It was still a very beautiful tour and if I ever get to visit Munich again, I will do so on a very sunny and bright day. On my tour, I got to see the Glockenspiel which is really beautiful. I also went to some of Munich’s most famous beer houses but just like in Amsterdam, I could not partake because I still had to make my way to the arena and back home.

After the tour was over, I made my way to the Allianz Arena, where I had tickets to the Interactive Museum and the Arena tour. The Interactive Museum was so beautiful and I learnt a lot about Bayern Munich, the football club. I had an audio guide so there was no tour guide in the museum. In the museum, I saw the various cups and trophies that the club had won. After I came out of the museum, I went to the meeting point of the Arena Tour. I loved my Arena Tour Guide; the guy was so relaxed, fun and informative. On the tour, I went to the Bayern Munich Locker Room (insert excited face emoji) and other places in the arena, but I was most excited about the locker room. The arena is really beautiful; I hope I can watch a football match there one day. After the tour, I went back to the city centre where I had lunch and just roamed around the centre. I bought a bottle of beer from a famous Munich brewery which I planned on drinking on the bus, that way, if and when I got tipsy, I could sleep it off and wake up the next morning refreshed from a good night’s sleep.

Munich Beer is the best beer I have had so far and probably will be the best beer that I ever have because now that I have tasted the best of the best beer in the world, I can say with all certainty that I am a wine girl.

 

Travel Diaries – Amsterdam

Travel Diaries – Amsterdam

Since I have a visa that allows me to travel freely around Europe but apparently does not allow me to transit in the UK (rolling my eyes), I decided to travel to some cities in Europe. Initially, I planned on travelling to 11 cities but now I have been hit with a strong dose of reality and have reduced that number to 5 (maybe 7, depending on my future financial status). The cities I decided to visit are Amsterdam, Dresden, Hamburg, Munich, Paris, Potsdam, Rome, and Vienna. I narrowed it down to these cities based on what I actually wanted to see and experience. So far I have been to only Amsterdam, Dresden, Hamburg, Potsdam, and Munich; Dresden and Potsdam trips were organised by my host institution. To save cost, I decided to plan my trips like excursions. So I take the night bus to my destination, arrive there in the morning, freshen up and then head to the meeting place of the free tour that I booked. After enjoying the free tour, I then head to a specific location that I really want to see and just roam around the city until I have to go to the bus station to return home. So far, it has been working out perfectly.

 

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Amsterdam Centraal

 

In Amsterdam, I wanted to see the canals and just experience the free spirit of the city. In Munich, I wanted to see the Allianz Arena and try the famous Munich Beer. In Paris, I really want to see the Palace of Versailles and the Eiffel Tower.In Rome, I want to see the Colosseum and because my favourite TV Show ever is Rome, I want to go to the city that the show is based on and in Vienna, I want to see the world famous Vienna Opera House.

 

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Madame Tussad Amsterdam

 

Amsterdam is a very cool city and it also helped that the day I was in Amsterdam, the weather was very beautiful. After exiting the bus, I went to the bathroom to freshen up and all and then after that I had breakfast in the bus station. After breaking my fast, I headed to the Centraal (this is not a spelling error) Station. In the Centraal Station, there was free Wifi (insert dancing emoji) so I was able to find my way to the tour meeting point. The tour started at 10:30 am and lasted about 3 hours (it was a walking tour so my ankles were dying). The tour was very interesting, some of the notable places we visited were Anne Frank House, Rembrandt House, the red light district and other important places. I did not go inside the Anne Frank and Rembrandt houses because the queues were very long and my ankles could not handle it.

 

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Tour Stop: 1st condom store in the world

 

After the tour ended, I had lunch. After lunch I had a tour of my own, I went to the Museum Quarter and to the Heineken Brewery. I saw the Rijk and Van Gogh Museums but I did not enter them because Museums are really really expensive to visit but I did, however, visit the Rijk Museum Garden which is free to the public. I did take a picture with the “I amsterdam” sign which is behind the Rijk Museum. I am really glad I went to Amsterdam even though I did not enter the museums, I got to experience the city. When I become more financially stable and visit Amsterdam again, I will get to visit the museums and houses that I could not visit this time around.

 

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Compulsory Tulip photo in Amsterdam

 

Before anyone asks, I did not smoke weed in Amsterdam because I was travelling alone and there was no one to help me get back to Berlin if I got high, besides, weed is not my thing, I prefer wine.

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