Ah Europe. I miss the days I could book a flgiht/buy a train ticket just a couple of days in advance, hop on a plane (or train) on the Friday of that same week, and in 2-3 hours be in a COMPLETELY different city. As I study and scramble to keep head above the water with all the commitments and insane projects, tests, and deadlines I have in school, I find myself constantly reminiscing about the year that just passed. The time I was on my year abroad in London (read my tips on that here). It has only been only 3 and a half months since i've been back in Singapore, and already the memories from my exchange feel so distant.
Europe in a year. What a wonderful year it was.
From my internship in Paris to living for a whole year in London. I thought being away from home for a year would be too long, and that living in Europe for a year would give me sufficient time to explore the continent or learn more about the region, BUT I WAS WRONG. I could live here my whole life and still be fascinated - just like how after 21 years in Asia, I'm still as excited to go out and explore a different part of the region, and there is still SO MUCH I have yet to see!
Anyway, i thought i'd pay homage to my travels in Europe and come up with a list of 5 cities i'd love to revisit again.
I have been asked countless of times which are my favourite cities in Europe, and I never say just 1 city (the list goes on until I'm sort of telling my life story). So, are the 5 cities below, my favourite European cities (that i've travelled to/toured)? Maybe? But I can't say for sure. There were so many beautiful places I visited in Europe (Italy, Barcelona, Scandinavia - see what I mean about going on and on), and so many OTHER places I want to visit.
These 5 cities could be here because
a) I didn't spend enough time when in the city when I was there and had "unfinished business" or
b) I want to experience everything all over again, or probably both. All I know is, I enjoyed myself in these 5 cities, and would steal ANY chance to go back!
O N E: C O R N W A L L
With places like Cornwall, the pictures itself would make anyone want to go there. Seriously though. That gorgeous skies, the beautiful beaches and, cliffs and bluest of water. Everytime I read a cornish blogger's blog, I ask myself "why am I not living in Cornwall?!" Cornwall is so huge it doesnt really classify as one city. I've only been to west Cornwall, and even then I wouldn't mind going back. But i'd love to visit South Cornwall someday, heck maybe i'd jump on a plane, spend a couple of days in London, go to Cornwall and spend 2 weeks there. Someone please buy me an air ticket!
Cornwall is a place I will not hesitate to revisit if I get the chance to be back in the UK.
T W O: B U D A P E S T
If you saw my post titled Not Enough Time in Budapest, you would have guessed this. Budapest is a city I want to revisit just because there is so much to do, and I didnt get to do all that I wanted to. Also, the Daunbe River is but the most gorgeous thing ever. Walking around the river and looking on to the Buda (or Pest) side of it is something I could do over and over and over again.
T H R E E: I N T E R L A K E N
One of my biggest regret after my trip to Interlaken was that I did not get to go up the Swiss Alps.
Touristic or not, everyone has done it, and it has always been my dream to visit a mountain, experience what its like to see the snow caps of the alps. Learning about the mountains and rivers during geography lessons have only fuelled my appreciation and love for all things nature. Sadly, I didn't have that much time in Interlaken and it was rather pricy, somehow the situation led to me not being able to visit the Swiss alps.
I'll definitely have to visit Switzerland again someday - and Interlaken would be a stop in that itinerary!
To be honest though, one can never get enough of Switzerland. Its just incredibly beautiful! The landscapes are PHENOMENAL. Mountains, Greenery, rivers, the blue skies, it doesn't get any better than that!
F O U R: B E R G EN
I don't know why but despite spending the most time in Bergen during my Scandinavian solo trip, but I still want to go back! Visit the neighbouring fjords - another spectacle that one can see over and over again - climb another mountain, I don't have specific reasons why I want to go back, except... I just do? It's a really lovely, chill, city, if it wasn't that cold (and expensive haha!), i'd totally live here!
I must say though, I wouldn't want to go back alone. I'd love it if I had company so that I can try out the different cafés and food options in Bergen!
F I V E: A M S T E R D A M
Amsterdam...The first city I visited with Jerald, the first city I visited as a tourist, the city that made me fall in love with traveling in Europe! Amsterdam was so much fun, windmills, canals, autumn flowers, burgers, cheese markets, I would relive this experience again and again - I actually do, every time I see an image of Amsterdam's canals.
+ The people in Amsterdam are so nice and friendly, and they are EXTREMELY FLUENT in English - Yay to no language barrier.
Rotterdam is another Dutch city I'd love to visit someday, if I ever do, I'd not hesitate to stop by Amsterdam again!
One other country I loved that i'd want to visit again include CROATIA. Croatia is my ULTIMATE FAVOURITE European country. But I couldn't identify ONE city to revisit, plus, if I ever do go back, I would definitely want to see other parts of Croatia that i've never been to! The nature, clear blue waters, food and PRICE POINT is AMAZING in Croatia.
P.S. If you've never been to Croatia - just forget about the cities listen above and just go. Save up and go to Croatia! You wouldn't be disappointed!
Sadly, a return flight ticket to Europe would cost $1000 and my limited university student budget isn't going to cut it, so for now, it's more of exploring the neighbouring cities, seeing more of Asia learning the different cultures, visiting exotic places in South East Asia, and exploring the place I call home. Hopefully soon enough, I can make such a list for Asia!
Ah, selecting pictures for this post got me all nostalgic about my year abroad.
Explore, dream, discover indeed!
29 October 2015 Europe
"It's about a 2 hour hike. Don't give up!" That's what the hotel staff said when we asked about hiking up Harder Klum in Interlaken, Switzerland.
After my paragliding experience, I met up with my friend and we headed for Harder Klum.
I didn't have any food or water with me (nor my DSLR) because the "smart" me brought as little as possible to the glide. The hostel was not on the way, and Sheryl didn't want us to walk all the way back, and so we headed for Harder Klum. In my head I was thinking, "I can totally survive without water for 2 hours. Besides there is a restaurant at the peak with a view. I can eat and drink there."
And so we began our climb.
Judging from the fact that I brought nothing with me, and thought a "2 hour climb" really meant 2 hours up a mountain of 1322m, you can probably conclude that that was my virgin hiking experience.
At the start of the climb, everything went well. The hike was moderately fun in fact. Walking through trees, gripping on vines and barks to hoist ourselves through the short cuts, and getting an even more amazing view each step we took. It was all novel, and exciting.
Most importantly, my Timberlands was not giving me any problems!
20 minutes later, we stopped for our first rest break and pictures, and were surprised that we weren't even half way through, because it felt like we had been climbing for an hour!
The stopping and expecting ourselves to be near the top repeated for the next hour and a half. Each time getting more agonizing than the previous.
Although it was tiring, I felt fine stamina wise, because of my experience with dance. So I'd expect to be able to make it up within the said 2 hours.
Unfortunately, at the 2 hour mark, we weren't still no where the top, slightly lost with an unreliable offline map, and I had developed 4 blisters on each feet (because my timberlands were wider that my foot - skinny feet issues). It was horrible.
Despite having the stamina to go on, the pain made the climb a lot less bearable.
By this time, Sheryl and I had finished the last drop of water in her bottle and we were both hungry (it was over 5 hours since we last ate).
We decided to look up to googlemaps to see if the restaurant at the top was open. To be honest, we were more interested in how to get ourselves up there because my offline map was being confusing.
That was when it happened.
"It's closed" she told me.
I could have died. And I probably died on the inside more than once.
The hotel staff, my paragliding guide, the lady we asked for directions, none of them told us the restaurant was closed. My glider even said it would be a nice view after all that hard work.
As expected, connection several hundred meters above ground was not good, and we couldn't be sure if the restaurant indicated "closed" was the one at the peak. In addition to that, we were much closer to the top than the bottom; so we decided to just head all the way up.
It took us about another 20-30 minutes to get to the top (but it felt like 2 hours with 4 burgeoning blisters). Finally we made it up.
The view was GLORIOUS. It was magnificent, amazing, and -inserts every synonym for the word wondrous-.
But my heart stopped. Not because of the view, but because IT REALLY WAS CLOSED.
There we were. Dehydrated. Starved. With no sign of any food and water, having to climb back down 1322m before reaching civilisation.
I started looking for a toilet, or a tap, basically any kind of water producing equipment. But there was none. So after a few photos, feeling extremely dejected (and me in pain), we headed back down.
Having blisters makes walking down so MUCH WORSE. It was probably a 100x worse than climbing up. I was in pain to the point Sheryl and I stopped talking and just focused on getting our butts down from that mountain.
Every step over an exposed root, slippery leave covered half cracked rock, or any uneven surface was like a stab in the foot. Seeing as I was starved and dehydrated, I had no energy to utter a complain, because there was no other option but to get down.
At the top of the mountain Sheryl told me "Let's aim to get down in an hour." I said ok, but in my head I was like "Hah! Not happening. My feet are being burdens right now." Much to my surprise, we apparently got down in slightly over an hour! It didn't feel like it, but it was.
At the foot of the mountain we walked through a small village like town, and came to this gorgeous blue river, with a nice modern house on one bank and over grown trees on another. Ducks were swimming happily in the pond, and there were families chilling my the edge of the river. It was a lovely end to the hike.
But of course, the greatest part was drowning out body in fluids and sitting down for an early dinner, whilst discussing about what we had just put ourselves through.
I've always heard stories of how people hike for over 5 hours and I thought, well if so many people can do I'm sure I can... Right? No. Not true.
Here are the 3 lessons I've learned from this hike:
1) Always bring food!
2) Having stamina does not mean being able to hike.
3) Also, I am not Reese Witherspoon in Wild. My feet do not cooperate with Timberland Boots.
Oh and blisters are THE DEVIL.
I have so much respect for hikers after this experience, especially the older people who just climb up like it's a piece of cake (we saw quite a few as we were going up) and I don't know if I'll hike again anytime soon.
I'm glad for this experience... but truth be told, it has probably deterred me from hiking anytime in the near future.
Then again, never say never. Because THE VIEW AT THE TOP, IS BREATHTAKING.
Anyway, if I ever do hike again, I'm going on Nike sports shoes and bringing lots of food and water!
If you happen to be in Interlaken, Switzerland, and you're looking for an adventure, go ahead and climb up Harder Klum. Just don't do it on a Sunday!
Photos taken on my iPhone 6
15 June 2015 Harder Kulm, 3800 Unterseen, Switzerland
If you've read my previous post, you'll know I mentioned about Paragliding in Switzerland. I've always been an adrenaline junkie. Roller coasters? The scarier the better! I enjoy zip lining, cable car rides, anything in the sky. I love flying on planes, especially the taking off part (but I really hate airport security - who doesn't).
One of my bucket list items is to skydive in Switzerland. Or just skydive anywhere. However, when I was in Interlaken, sky diving was a little too out of my budget, and so I opted for Paragliding instead.
My dearest friend didn't want to go on the glide, so I booked a ticket for 1, woke up at 9am, and headed for my paragliding experience.
I was picked up from the hotel by a driver (who could tell I was from Singapore based on the way I spoke! I was really impressed. Not many europeans would ever guess "Singapore"!), and after picking up a couple more passengers, we headed up the mountain. We alighted after a 20 min drive up, and walked for another 10minutes to this wide downward sloping lawn.
I was with a guide called Kusi, and he said "Are you a good runner? I'll clip all these equipment on you, and when I say run, you RUN!! OK?" I know I can sprint pretty fast on the ground, so I was like "Ok!!"
2 minutes later, he said, "ok, 3 2 1, RUNNNN!" I moved my legs as fast as I could, but after 2 steps, the drag force from the parachute was so strong I was literally running on air. It was hilarious. Couple more steps later, we were off the ground!
The view as we were Paragliding across Interlaken was amazing!! It was one of the best landscape views i've ever seen in my life.
Once again I was incredibly touched by how lucky I was to be able to witness something like that.
From the strong winds blowing into my eyes, and being all too overwhelmed by the view, I probably shed a couple of tears.
The entire glide probably took about 15 - 20 minutes. Because it was such a brilliant experience, it felt so much shorter! Before we landed on the big green lawn in the middle of Interlaken, Kusi said we could spin, and so he told me lean on the right, and then WE SPUN. Round and round and round. I'm not sure if we did a upside down loop, but it was way fun! I held on to the GoPro as we were spinning, and the drag force was so strong, It felt like the GoPro would fly right out of my arms haha!
The whole experience with photographs, videos etc. wasn't cheap at all. It was probably just shy of 200 francs, but it was money well spent. DEFINITELY did not regret my decision.
Interlaken has tons of other sports for visitors including group skydiving etc. So, if you're ever in Switzerland, don't skip out on Interlaken! If you're afraid of heights, choose paragliding - trust me its SUPER safe, really enjoyable, and you don't ever feel like you're falling. Plus the fantastic view would take your jitters away immediately!
Here's a video of my whole experience - Hope you like it!
13 June 2015 Interlaken, Switzerland
A place i've always imagined to be special, BEAUTIFUL, peaceful, scenic, and just all around incredible.
In the middle of April, I took a short trip to Switzerland in the name of celebrating my friend's 22nd birthday.
I was not traveling alone, and the point of the trip was not to see as much as possible, but to enjoy some quality time with her, and just chill out (since we haven't seen each other/gone out together in a rather long time!)
However, we did manage to have some fun even on a relaxing slow paced holiday :)
We flew in on an early flight to Geneva from London (Southend airport; which is probably the worst of all the London Airport's I've been to!!), and took a train in to Interlaken the following day.
Many of my other friends who have been to various cities/towns in Switzerland have emphasised that Interlaken is beautiful, and is a must-visit. It was a pretty unanimous decision that Interlaken was their favourite Swiss city. So obviously, it was where I chose to go since I had so little time in Switzerland.
For those few days in Interlaken, Sheryl and I stayed in a lovely hotel called Hotel Bellevue, which was pretty close to the main train station in Interlaken.
The hotel was lovely, and our room had the BEST VIEW.
The room had a small balcony that overlooked the river, and mountains, with birds chirping and the sun beaming in every morning. It was a perfect sight. A landscape like that could have been right out of a real life Disney film. I would imagine being Snow White, standing at the balcony, and singing to the birds flying by.
Not only were the views from the window great, the area surrounding the Hotel was just as fantastic with its green grass, stone walkway, and lovely yellow flowers.
If you've been reading my blog/If you know me in real life, you'd know that I don't stay in hotels whenever I travel when there is a cheaper option of staying in hostels or an airbnb. So being able to stay in a hotel like this was amazing!
I told myself, since i've already paid for it, I had better make good use of it's beauty and take a couple of photos.
What I WoreAfter a couple of hotel backyard OOTD shots, we headed out to explore the lovely town.
Top: Monoprix Paris
Shoes: Charles & Keith
Interlaken was surprisingly quiet, and not as crowded as i'd expect it to be.
Another unusual thing about the picturesque Interlaken was that it had many old, rather victorian-esque looking houses that seemed uninhabited.
For me, the best thing about walking around Interlaken, is that EVERYWHERE you turn, it is scenic. You literally see snowcap mountains at every turn, every angle, every corner. The streets all look unrealistically postcard worthy especially with the mountains in the background.
I couldn't help but feel some sense of inner peace, and joy when I was there. In addition to the great landscape, the weather was awesome when we were there. It was warm, the sun was shining, and the flowers were all in bloom. It met all my expectations of a typical spring day!
I know I tend to say nice things about most of the places i've been to (because they really ARE NICE!) But, I am not exaggerating when I say strolling around Interlaken, absorbing the wonderful sun rays, and just admiring the colourful flowers immediately brightens up your day.
Almost every backyard had a variety of flowers in full bloom. Even the hostels had a distinctive charm about them.
Walking past a backpackers hostel, it looked nothing like a typical hostel. The backpackers villa has such a nice surrounding, especially with those yellow flowers lining its perimeter. Maybe it's my insane love for flowers, but who can deny that those flowers exude the perfect spring happy vibes?
Eventually we headed to a wide green patch of grass to admire the view, sit on the benches for a short break from walking, and watched the paragliders soar in the sky and glide down one by one.
The gliders landed on this huge grass plain (the biggest of the many lush green fields in Interlaken) and people passing by / friends and family for the gliders could wait by the benches surrounding the main field and watch those gliders do their thang!
When I saw people soaring in the sky and gliding down I told myself "I'M GONNA DO IT." And I did (story and video of my experience coming up!) the next morning.
It just seemed like such a carefree thing to do, to be able to float in the air and get a bird's eye view of the city. That night, I immediately went online to research on how I could get the same experience.
Mountains and greenery. Interlaken has it ALL.
After having gone to Scandinavia, more specifically, Norway, I had this theory I wouldn't be as impressed because Norway has been said to be one of the most scenic countries. However, I was so wrong. Interlaken managed to make me go WOW, and marvel at the beauty of nature all over again.
It is probably because the weather in both countries were so different during the time I was there that the vibe they exuded, the colours, sights and sounds, were just totally different, it's hard to compare and say which was better. And that is a great thing. To me, one of the best things about traveling is being able to be impressed time and time again and to be proven wrong whenever I think i've seen it all.