Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Berlin Itinerary

We went two years ago in Berlin, Germany. Berlin is one of the most beautiful and interesting city in the world. It is a haven for artists and freedom of expression. This place is so far the top one in my most loved city destinations.

I want to share our Berlin Itinerary and I hope I could help someone to get an idea about a short 4D /3N stay in Berlin.


DAY 1

1. 7 hours travel time from Utrecht Central Station (ICE) - Duisberg, Germany, from Duisburg to Berlin.
2. Where to stay?
Hotel Berlin Berlin : From Berlin Hbf, take S-bahn S5, S9 of S75 going to Berlin Zoological Garden; then take Metro U2 going to Nollendorfplatz; walk towards the hotel, via de Einemstraße and the Lutzowplatz. The hotel is located at Lutzowplatz 17.
3. Evening short exploration: Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church/Europe Center/KaDeWe. Enjoy the evening!


DAY 2

1. Trip to Tiergarten.
How to get there:
Walk from the hotel north, cross over the bridge (Klingelhöferstraße). You come mainly in the park (Tiergarten), further walk at the crossing Great Star (Großer Stern) where the Victory Column (Siegessäule) lies.
2.  Further walk to Bellevue Palace and from the palace, here are our list, all by foot.
  • German Chancellery main seat, on the other side, The House of the Cultures of the World
  • Bundestag ---> Reichstag Building
  • Brandenburg Gate ---> Holocaust-Mahnman
3. By Metro (Regional Train) to Alexanderplatz
  • Hacke's Market (Hackerscher Markt) / Hackesche Hofe  (Don't ever miss this if you love to shop!)
  • Fernsehtrum or Berlin Television Tower
  • Berlin Cathedral
  • At last dinnertime!

DAY 3

1. By Metro going to Postdamer Platz. Explore the place.
2. Dali-Expo in Postdamer Platz (with discount if you have a Berlin Welcome card)
3. By foot following the remains of the Berlin Wall going to the outdoor museum: Topography of Terror 
4. Checkpoint Charlie, (then with the U-bahn going to Alexanderplatz going to Fernsehtrum.)
5. Television Tower (Fernsehtrum) Visit


DAY 4

1. Trip to Charlottenburg Palace
How to get there from Hotel Berlin, Berlin: 
After checking out in the hotel, walk going to Nollendorfplatz, take U2 going to Bismarckstraße; stop over at U-bahn (U7) to Richard-Wagner-Platz. Walk to Charlottenburg Palace. (with discount if you have a Berlin Welcome card)
Going Berlin Hbf from Charlottenburg Palace
Walk to the S-bahn Station Westend. From Station Westend to Westkreuz. Then take the line going to Berlin Hbf.
2. Berlin Hbf to Duisburg, Duisburg to Utrecht (by ICE)


A Berlin Welcome Card is really convenient, because you get discounts from range of city tours, boat trips, musea and theaters, and other major sights and attractions. You could avail it at the Berlin Info Stores or by the station.


Do you also want to know our travel experience in Berlin? I promise to post our Berlin photoblog soon. I hope you can visit me once again! Thanks!


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

10 Distinct Things About Dutch

When you think about Dutch, you think first about tulips, windmills and wooden shoes. Apart from those when you started to live in this tiny land, seven times the size of the Philippines, you see, you observe, you learn, you adapt to their distinctive culture.

So I write my top 10 list of the most things I noticed on my first year living here in Holland.

1. Dutch greet their friends and family with three kisses!
Very special! But not necessarily only with friends and family, in special moments for example birthdays, graduations, weddings or/and any other occassions you receive also three kisses as greetings from acquaintances, colleagues or someone else. Usually women kiss women, women kiss men, but not men to men, men generally only kiss women. Men usually greet themselves manly by a firm handshake. You generally kiss family and friends when they arrive and when they are about to leave.
 2. Weather is always a part of the conversation.
Just the same as the news over economy, other political issues and football. The weather is always included in the daily life of the Dutch. The weather here is very unpredictable. Being updated with the weather report is essential. So you are ready for any circumstances. Most women watch or listen to the weather news, so they know what to wear for next day.
I learned from my assimilation course that when you like to begin a conversation with Dutch, talking about the weather is a safe topic. It's a universal topic that everyone can talk about. Sometimes a simple..."Mooi weer, hé!" (Nice weather, huh!) turns up the beginning of a nice conversation.
3.  Visiting is per appointment.
Just like in the Philippines that you can come to your neighbor, family and friends any time you want, here in Holland is different. You make not only businesslike appointment but also social appointment.  Dutch are always busy, that is why most people have an agenda book. If you want to meet someone, you have to make an appointment. Of course some moments you can drop by, but not always. Sometimes it can also be an unwanted visit to others, so better just make an appointment.
4. Dutch are polite.
 I love Dutch for this character. It is normal in Holland to greet people, stranger or not, a simple; "Hoi!" (Hello!), "Hallo!" (also Hello!), "Goedemorgen!" (Good Morning!), "Goedemiddag!" (Good afternoon!), "Goedenavond!" (Good evening!) and "Dag!" (Bye!). They are polite and that makes you feel comfortable.
5. Dutch don't normal sing their National Anthem.
Dutch are less patriotic than other races or they show it in other way. Only few people know the complete lyrics of their national anthem, the "Wilhelmus". Students don't even sing it everyday at school. But they do certainly sing their national anthem whenever they achieved medals in sports like Europe Championship, World Cup, Olympics and others.
6. Many people in Holland have no religion anymore.
People living in Holland practice very good their right to choose their religion. Many have no religion anymore. Some choose to stay Catholic and Protestant or reformed from both religions. Some change to other religious sects and cults.
When I first came here, I thought, how is it possible? But sometimes I come to realize that religion makes the world cruel, so it is also better not to have one. After all the most important is that you believe in God.
And because many Dutch are not religious anymore, it's a pity that some churches have been closed and renovated for appartments or for commercial use.
7. Birthday calendar in the comfort room.
It was funny when I saw it for the first time. But it is really cool! Dutch used to hang a birthday calendar in their comfort room. It's a smart idea, because the toilet is the most visited place in the house. The more you visit the toilet, the more you can easily remember who is the celebrant of the day! There is no excuse to forget.
8. The "GRATIS" things and the saving system in the supermarket. 
Dutch love gratis! Gratis means free of charge/ free given/ freebies. But not only Dutch, I think most people love freebies. But of course not all "Gratis" are for free.
Dutch learned from their history. They know how hard to be empty-handed. So Dutch came out with a better solution to save money. They are the first to discover a near-at-hand saving system.
How it works?
Coupons vary per supermarket/stores. Some supermarkets offer coupon for free depending on a certain minimum amount of purchase. Some have terms like for every euro that you spend in shopping  you can buy each coupon for a couple of cents.You get a booklet or card where you can paste the coupons. Once it's full, you can hand it over to the supermarket where you have got it. You get the value of the booklet/card, half full or full. But when it's totally full , you get a premium. The profit you get by saving coupons is usually higher than interest in the bank.
It attracts consumers. You're not actually conscious that you are saving, only in the later time, when you have already a full card or booklet, the surprise effect gets higher.
9. Sunday is  a rest day.
According to Genesis, God created the world in 6 days and on the 7th day He rested and enjoyed looking at all He had made.
This is an old Catholic tradition that is still present in Holland. Sunday is a rest day. But the Liberal Party has made some amendments to the Business Hours Law. Some establishments could open their business on the first Sunday of the month.
Now the establishments are having a petition to let them do business not only on the first Sunday of the month but every week.
As for me, although that chance is realistic that it would be amended. I hope that it would not happen. I like that Sunday remains a rest day. Because it's still  a part of their old tradition. 
10.  Holland is a bicycle land.
When I first came here in Holland, I was astonished and just said, "Wow!". Because there are hundreds of bicycles everywhere. How come?
Because bicycle is a common transportation here in Holland. Rich or poor, professional or not, regardless of status, people of all ages use it. Dutch made bicycle lanes to make sure that bikers are safe. Parking lots for bicycles are also present. Some parking lots have charge and some are free. There are also many bike routes for tourists and they are all good organized. (Being organized is one of the best quality of the Dutch.). "Knooppunten" maps are also available. Surely riding a bicycle in Holland is handy, cheap and eco-friendly.

The first year of immigrating to another country is exciting and on the same time hard. We struggle to find a way to be accepted. You are actually standing between two poles, the culture you have been raised up and the new culture you have to be adapted. Culture differences collide most of the times on the first year. But in a slow process it gets better and you learn that "respect" is the most important ingredient in the society.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Mr. Slakkie, The neighbor


video
Correction: Title Song - Alone Again, Naturally

It was raining one Sunday morning and we were amazed with this little wonderful creature crawling into our window. Then I decided to film him. I kept watching him, astonished with the muscle inside his body that kept moving while crawling.

I was so happy to discover accidentally how the snails crawl. I realized we often neglect simple things, but in fact, if you just take a little time to observe your surroundings,  you will say how wonderful is the world we live in.

Have a nice day! 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Trip to Luxembourg




The story about kings and queens, prince and princess, the graf and grafin, and the dukes and the duchess. Those titles I only read in the books and see in the movies, when I was still in the Philippines are very fascinating. Knowing all these are not only present in all Walt Disney stories, it is nice to know why there are so many titles in a kingdom. I have many questions and one of my question is, what is grand duchy?

As what I've read, grand dutchy is a territory ruled by the duke or the duchess, affiliated by the king in the past. They received a higher rank in the whole territory, but they did not have enough sovereignty just like the king.

Nowadays, there is only one grand duchy that exists. The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. But just like the Netherlands, Luxembourg is also a constitutional monarchy, the duke is head of the state, they are still part of the government, but they don't have political power.


OUR GREAT EXPERIENCE IN LUXEMBOURG

Luxembourg is one of the smallest countries in Europe. It is also one of the Schengen Countries, so going there from the Netherlands is accessible. The capital of Luxembourg, is also called Luxembourg. The citizens speak three official languages: German, French and Luxembourgish.

Our trip was a four-day train arrangement to Luxembourg.

We stayed at Mercure Grand Hotel  Alfa Luxembourg. A four star hotel, walking distance from Luxembourg Station. A very ideal hotel to stay in. We had a nice stay and we were really satisfied with the service. Their buffet breakfast is delish.

Mercure Grand Hotel Alfa Luxembourg

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Lady at the Bus Stop

I was on my way to the town to buy gifts, when a Moroccan lady at the bus stop looked at me. In return I gave her a smile. Then she spoke to me. She was giving me a used valid ticket. She said she had just picked up her child and they have used the tickets. She was again on her way back to her work and she had still the other ticket. She couldn't throw the other ticket away, because it was just used and still valid. So I accepted it and gave her a big thanks! 


I was happy not only because I got a free ride, but because it is telling something that no matter what the color of your skin is, difference in religion and origin, there is always a goodness in everyone's heart.
I would like to give thanks to those people I encountered unexpectedly showing their good deeds in a little way. I thought, writing an entry now on through this blog about one's generosity will express my gratefulness to them.



Saturday, August 04, 2012

Visiting Munich (and a little bit of Austria)

It was autumn of 2008 when we visited Munich. We have a friend living in Andechs and she invited us to come over. It was also our first time to travel together in Europe, since I just arrived a couple of months in the Netherlands.

OUR FIVE DAYS TRIP TO MUNICH

You could travel by car, by train (or night train) and by plane. The first option is not applicable to us, so we chose to travel by train.

We went to the nearest train ticket station for a reservation.  We chose to travel by ICE International. Our travel date was a week after the autumn vacation, because it was already off-peak season. And because of that, we had luck! We paid for the first class tickets the same price as the second class tickets. It was an offer we could not resist!



Thursday, August 02, 2012

Day Out Spakenburg

Last week my mother-in-law had called to invite me to go to Spakenburg. Now, where lies Spakenburg actually?

Spakenburg is a Dutch village which lies in the Province Utrecht and very close to the Ijsselmeer. And because they are close to the lake, most people are fishermen. This fishing village is one of the few places in the Netherlands where some women still wear traditional local clothes.

Last year they went here but I had to work. This year I'm free.