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10 Days Free and Easy Europe Tour (2017) – Day 5 Berlin City Tour

Berlin City Tour

We entered the fifth day of our Europe Tour. When we arrived Berlin from Prague in the afternoon the previous day, we only walked around to nearby attractions from Suite Novotel Berlin Hotel. This day would be spent exploring the city of Berlin on foot via public transport.

As Suite Novotel Berlin Hotel came with all the facilities of a mini kitchenette, we had a simple breakfast with food purchased from a convenience store a day earlier. The coffee and tea were good and we were satisfied with the snacks for the moment expecting to pick up more food during our street pounding later. From our room window, we could see it was a cloudy morning.

We then left our room and went to the lobby preparing to leave for the day tour of Berlin. At the lobby entrance, a coffee machine was setup on a table. Various types of tea bags were available as well together with snacks for hotel guests to grab a quick bite to get on for the day. We had already eaten but I still made a cup of coffee to carry along and then left the hotel.

We realized it was a windy morning when we exited Suite Novotel Berlin Hotel. Moreover, we noticed many people were wearing jackets but we didn’t think much about it. After walking less than two minutes along the street, we decided to return to our room to get more clothes. It was freaking cold on this summer morning. We probably won’t last through the morning with our present attire.

Topography of Terror

With our jacket over our body, we confidently walked towards our first attraction for the day, The Topography of Terror just few minutes walk away. It was already 9.45 am when we arrived. Opening hours start at 10 am. So we waited for a short while and then joined the other visitors to enter the premise of The Topography of Terror.

The first exhibit is the walls around one side of the compound. There are holes exposing the rusted steel bars on the rugged walls. A barrier is erected before the walls to prevent visitors from getting too near damaging what is remaining on the walls of this historic site.

Next we went a level slightly below ground level along the walls to check out the other wall structures inside the compound. A glass shelter is built to protect this part of the exhibit and also to allow visitors to stay longer to read the articles posted on some parts of the inner wall structures. The information was rather sobering, a reminder of the terror that was committed under the Third Reich where this place was once the headquarter of the secret police during that time. Continue reading 10 Days Free and Easy Europe Tour (2017) – Day 5 Berlin City Tour

10 Days Free and Easy Europe Tour (2017) – Day 4 Prague to Berlin

Waking Up to the last Morning in Prague

Waking up early needed no effort at all. The early morning running of trams outside the apartment was our natural alarm clock. In addition, the sun rose so early during summer. We would be heading to Berlin this morning. Our bus ride with Student Agency Bus was 8.30 am.

We had already requested the host to book us a car. The driver would be waiting for us outside the apartment at 7.30 am. So there was no rush at all. Our simple breakfast was those snacks bought from the supermarket the previous day and of course coffee and tea were available in our apartment.

After breakfast, we did another final round of packing, got our bags and then left the apartment. Checking out was very easy. All we needed to do was to leave the keys on the dining table, close the door and leave the apartment.

Transfer to Florenc Bus Station

Once outside the apartment, the street was still quiet. We didn’t see anyone waiting for us. A moment later, a big burly man walked over from across the street and waved at us. He had parked his car over the other side of the street. So we walked with him to his car just a very short distance from the apartment and loaded our bags and got into his car.

Our transport this morning was a nice black sedan car. The car was very new and he drove patiently and safely to Florenc Bus Station. The journey took under 20 minutes even though we got stuck at one of the narrow streets waiting for a small truck to unload stuff. It was a pleasant ride and a nice chat with this friendly driver.

The cost for the ride was just 130 CZK. This saved us a lot of trouble having to take public transport to the Bus Station with our bags, not to mention having to figure out buying tickets from the ticketing machine. Moreover, cost for public transport for three of us would come up to 72 CZK.

Florenc Bus Station

It was just 7.50 am when we alighted and walked into the Bus Station. We should be waiting at Platform 24 for our bus to Berlin. But we were still very early so we entered the ticketing hall for a look. Continue reading 10 Days Free and Easy Europe Tour (2017) – Day 4 Prague to Berlin

10 Days Free and Easy Europe Tour (2017) – Day 3 Prague Historic City

Great Morning in Prague

We woke up to the trams plying the street in front of our apartment very early in the morning. Since this was summer in Europe, the sky was already bright before 5 am . But it would be too early to hit the streets to explore this beautiful city in Prague. All the shops would not be open yet so we lazed around for a while. Forget about the TV though, there was nothing to watch where all the channels were in European languages.

After some time, we made nice aromatic coffee with the coffee maker. We bought snacks from the supermarket at the corner of the street the day before so breakfast wasn’t an issue. The simple breakfast was good enough to keep us on our feet for our adventure later. The host provided a list of restaurants for breakfast, lunch and dinner so we planned to have another round of breakfast at one of the cafes not far from our apartment later on.

Exploring Quiet Prague Early Morning

Once we were ready, we left our apartment slightly after 7.30 am, still very early. The streets were nicely lit up this summer morning, but pretty quiet without crowds on the street like the day before. Instead of turning right to walk towards the church, we turned left to walk towards Vitava River. We would be visiting the castle district across the river first before coming back to shop at the Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square.

Walking along the pretty empty Wenceslas Square all the way, we turned left to locate Café-Café as recommended by the host. We found the café but it was closed. Apparently, we were too early. It would open only at 10 am. We didn’t understand why we were recommended to come here for breakfast. We thought having breakfast after 10 am would be brunch where we could skip lunch. Anyway, we had already eaten something not long ago. It was just curiosity for us to try out breakfast in Prague.

We then walked on enjoying the beautiful morning wandering along beautiful streets. We soon reached the Old Prague House where we had a nice dinner the previous day. The courtyard dining area was closed as well. But we actually enjoyed this peaceful ambiance under the bright summer sun. It was so pleasant here, a little cooling under shade as well. Continue reading 10 Days Free and Easy Europe Tour (2017) – Day 3 Prague Historic City

10 Days Free and Easy Europe Tour (2017) – Day 2 Vienna to Prague

Morning in Hilton Vienna Danube Hotel

We woke up pretty early and found the streets a little wet. There were some light rains overnight. Our bus to Prague was at 8.55 am. The terminal is about 10 minutes walk away from Hilton Vienna Danube Waterfront Hotel. So it wasn’t an extremely early morning bus ride and hence we had a relaxing simple breakfast before checking out of Hilton Vienna Danube Waterfront Hotel. Our breakfast was the carrot cake and muffins we bought the day before and the coffee and tea we made on our own.

After freshening up, we went to the lobby to check out our room and then left Hilton Vienna Danube Waterfront Hotel. We really enjoyed this hotel which was very comfortable and convenient for our purpose. Getting from the airport to Hilton Vienna Danube Waterfront Hotel yesterday was very easy. Going to the bus station to catch a bus ride to Prague this morning was even easier within walking distance to the bus station nearby.

Heading to Stadion Bus Station

We reached Stadion Centre quite easily but along the way, there were police stationed at traffic junctions controlling traffic. Apparently, there was some sports event taking place this morning. There were quite a lot of people outside the stadium. We were still early so we went into the mall to check out what was there. Unfortunately, nothing was open. There were some people inside the mall waiting and also to use the washrooms in the mall. We also visited the washroom one last time before heading out to the bus bay to wait for the bus.

The bus was already there with passengers boarding the bus when we reached the bus bay just outside the mall. It was a very easy process with the bus guide checking our print itinerary and then tagged our bags for storage. We then went up the bus to sit according to seat number on our tickets we purchased online. Moments later, all were onboard and the guide came up to request everyone put on seat belt.

Continue reading 10 Days Free and Easy Europe Tour (2017) – Day 2 Vienna to Prague

10 Days Free and Easy Europe Tour (2017) – Day 1 Singapore to Vienna

Singapore to Zurich by Swiss Air

Our flight to Zurich was a red-eye flight. The flight was almost full. Meal was served shortly after taking off during cruising. It was already past midnight and we were actually looking forward to catching some sleep and not late night supper. Moreover, we are not fans of airline meals. We just ate whatever we felt were more appetizing. To say the meal was fantastic would be a lie even flying great airlines like Swiss Air. We just got the meal over with so we could catch some sleep.

So with meals out of the way, we slept as much as we could. The night was exceedingly long flying east to west. It wasn’t a good idea to stay awake with the onboard entertainment system. We would rather have more energy to explore Vienna when we arrived. Most passengers onboard were civilized so there wasn’t much disturbance and we could sleep most of the time.

Breakfast was served after nine hours of flying time. We found breakfast tasted better than the dinner we had earlier. Maybe we were too tired after midnight and we couldn’t enjoy the dinner. Perhaps we were more enthusiastic as we felt we would reach our destination soon after breakfast. Anyway, the ambiance onboard was pretty fine.

Flight crews also went to rest after serving dinner. Drinks and snacks were provided on a self-service basis located at the corridor near the toilets. This is a good practice for long haul flight so crews could perform their duties efficiently and effectively. As we approached Zurich, the scenery from the air of Switzerland was so awesome. Transfer information was also displayed to prepare passengers to get on to their next destination. Continue reading 10 Days Free and Easy Europe Tour (2017) – Day 1 Singapore to Vienna

10 Days Free and Easy Europe Tour from Vienna to Amsterdam (2017)

We just came back from a 10 Days Europe Tour last week. When Swiss Air launched a promotional fare to Europe in July last year, the offer was too attractive to forgo. We managed to book a flight to Vienna via Zurich and return from Amsterdam via Zurich for only $668. This was a too good to miss trip with such low airfares. In fact, in 2013, we likewise visited Europe flying Swiss Air at around $700. So our flight itinerary for last month was as follows:

Flight LX 179 Singapore to Zurich 23.35 pm6.10 am
Flight LX 1574 Zurich to Vienna 7.10 am8.30 am

Flight LX 735 Amsterdam to Zurich 20.05 pm21.30 pm
Flight LX 178 Zurich to Singapore 22.45 pm5.20 pm

This time we brought our elder boy along for this Europe trip before he begins studying in university in a few months’ time. So we had to decide which cities to visit from Vienna to Amsterdam and where to stay that could accommodate three persons in a room. We had to look for accommodations that are strategically located to minimize travel time and cut down unnecessary transportation cost.

We had visited Vienna with other children a few years back, so we would stay the first night in Vienna for our elder son to enjoy attractions in this city. From Vienna, we would travel to Prague to stay two nights. Next would be onward journey to spend another two nights in Berlin. From there, we would visit Holland before flying home. But the journey from Berlin to Amsterdam would be quite long. So we broke the trip down to stay a night in Cologne before heading to Holland.

Unfortunately, the cost for accommodation in Amsterdam for the three of us for three nights was insanely expensive. It cost over $1000 for three nights’ accommodation somewhere not even very near the heart of Amsterdam. This wasn’t really justifiable considering our airfares were so cheap and accommodation cost was too costly for this city alone.

So our next best option was to stay outside of Amsterdam. We found staying in Rotterdam for two nights was a better option leaving the last night for Amsterdam before flying out of Amsterdam via Zurich to come home. In fact, the cost for staying two nights at Holiday Inn Express in Rotterdam was less than one night stay in Amsterdam. Anyway, we would not be staying in Amsterdam and simply spend time in that city alone for four days. Staying in Rotterdam allowed us easy access to Utrecht and Leiden. In addition, we would be visiting Rotterdam as well.

With accommodations and cities to visit settled, we looked out for opportunity to book train and bus tickets between cities early to enjoy substantial savings. We were eyeing for bus tickets from Student Agency Bus for bus transfer from Vienna to Prague and from Prague to Berlin. Travelling by bus would be cheaper and would not take much longer to arrive. Moreover, this bus company offers beverages onboard as well as onboard entertainment like flying in a plane.

We also booked train tickets from Bahn for transfer from Berlin to Cologne and from Cologne to Rotterdam. Train tickets booked early were pretty affordable. So we booked our bus and train tickets as soon as they were available for booking online. We just needed to print out the itineraries and it was that simple. With accommodations and transfers all booked, it was just waiting to activate our plans for this Europe Tour.

Hence, our itinerary for this 10 Days Free and Easy Europe Tour is as follow: Continue reading 10 Days Free and Easy Europe Tour from Vienna to Amsterdam (2017)

6 Days Central Vietnam Tour (2017) – Day 6 Danang

Catching Sunrise at Pullman Danang Beach Resort

Our king bed was really so comfortable and we didn’t feel like getting up. But we had to catch the sunrise this morning. By the time we opened our eyes, it was half past 5 in the morning. So we dragged our tired body and hurriedly left the room. We walked towards the end of the building and went up to the open balcony facing the beach. We just hoped we hadn’t missed the sunrise over here.

When we stepped out to the balcony, it was still pretty dark. Over the northern coast, it was overcast. The ground over at Premier Village Resort was getting brighter though. Some of the villas had their lights turned on. Perhaps guests were already up like us to catch sunrise this morning. The sky towards the south was slightly brighter than the north. It was nevertheless quite cloudy as well.

The beach ahead was quiet with clouds on the horizon. Beach goers were already out on the beach exercising and waiting for sunrise as well. Last year, we were on the beach as well. But because we woke up a little late, we decided just to come out to this balcony on the top floor to wait for the sun to rise.

It was very windy out here this morning. Due to the overcast sky, the sun seemed to be taking a vacation. We waited for quite a long time and was getting bored and tired but the sun seemed to have overslept. There was little we could do and going back to sleep would have wasted our effort. So we continued waiting. Continue reading 6 Days Central Vietnam Tour (2017) – Day 6 Danang

6 Days Central Vietnam Tour (2017) – Day 5 Hue to Danang Pullman Beach Resort

Great Breakfast at Serene Shining Hotel

We woke up to the last leg of our Central Vietnam Tour. Our train ride to Danang was at 8.56 am. Taxi ride to Hue Train Station was only 15 minutes away. So there was no rush this morning.

This morning, we went to the restaurant for breakfast at 7 am. However, we were not the only hotel guests at the restaurant. It seemed hotel guests were having early breakfast in order to head out for day tours. By now, the waitresses were so familiar with us. It was all smiles again when they served us.

Like the previous day, we ordered quite a lot of food for breakfast. We also collected fruits and watermelon juice. We liked the fruit juice here as they were freshly squeezed and not processed juice. Our food came and our table was filled up. It was another very delicious meal, our last meal in Hue for this trip.

One of the waitresses came and spent some time chatting with us as she knew we were departing for Danang. By the time we finished our breakfast and were about to leave the restaurant, this waitress presented a box of food for us to bring on our trip. The service staff were really great, genuine and sincere. Indeed, Serene Shining Hotel was the right choice for us, a great place to stay. Having thanked this kind staff, we returned to our room.

Departing Serene Shining Hotel

Back in our room, we freshened up ourselves to prepare for the train ride. After a final round of checking this big suite room, we went to front desk to process check out. The final bill for three meals and 90 minutes massage for two of us was just under USD 70.

It was a great stay here even though the location of this hotel was a little further away from the attractions at Perfume River. Nevertheless, walking there wasn’t very difficult either. Front desk staff then helped us call a taxi to the train station. So we left this lovely Serene Shining Hotel in Hue.

Few minutes later, we were on our way to the train station. We passed by the river scene again and like the previous day, the river park was quiet during the morning. Road traffic wasn’t heavy either. In under 15 minutes, we arrived at the train station. It was around 8.20 am when we arrived, still very early to catch the 8.56 am train. Continue reading 6 Days Central Vietnam Tour (2017) – Day 5 Hue to Danang Pullman Beach Resort