Europe city hopping: Dresden

On a whim last year, we decided to go to Dresden – to visit the Christmas markets. On hindsight, visiting a city just for the Christmas markets is probably a bad idea especially when we have a good Xmas market in our own “backyard”, but still it was fun going on a roadtrip with the husband. 🙂

Our German friend (Hi Max again!) strongly recommends us to take the coach bus when traveling, instead of DBahn and so we tried taking the bus for the first time. It took us close to 8 hours on the bus, one way, and thank goodness I fall asleep easily when I’m commuting because Mr Goh was bored to tears. I think I’ll need to pack in some snacks and coloring books for him in future. Haha! Maybe load a few cartoons on the tablet too.

We stayed at DJH since we didn’t want to spend too much. Location was about 10-15 minutes walk from the Hauptbahnhof and relatively near to the attractions like the Zwinger Palace and the Frauenkirche. However we found that the hostel was filled with migrants/refugees, and they were all hanging out in the corridors for better Wi-Fi signals.

The main purpose for the Dresden trip – the Christmas markets – were super crowded and had a lot to offer. Obviously the food was a main draw for us since we do not celebrate Christmas and thus no Christmas tree and no need for Christmas decorations. But we did get a couple of pouches of scented soap shavings as I refused to leave Dresden without a souvenir. HAHAHA! Those scented soaps are now in the wardrobe, gently “infusing” my clothes. I think it’s a pretty good souvenir because I get a whiff of the scent every time I open the wardrobe doors and I get reminded of Dresden.

The weather then was really cold and wet (mid December), and I needed something to warm me up. Having learnt my lesson at Hamburg (I do not appreciate alcohol), I opted to have the non-alcohol warm apple punch drink. We also had a fried Mexican pie (I think they were called empanadas?), filled with spinach and cheese. It was yummy (say it with me: “all deep fried foods are yummy”) but not very good for me since I cannot take dairy products due to my allergy.

It was a short trip that we took since we arrived in Dresden around 2pm on a Saturday, and had to leave at 11am Sunday, so we didn’t have much time to travel around. But if we do have a chance to revisit Dresden, I would definitely do so in a different season (I guess spring would be nice) when the operating hours of attractions are longer, and I wanna visit the Hygiene Museum!

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Europe city hopping: Copenhagen

Since Mr Goh was on forced leave from Christmas to the New Year, we decided to travel over this period. Let’s start with somewhere nearby, we said. So we took out the map, and decided on Copenhagen. Not too far away, and yet it’s out of Germany. It’s about 6 hours by train from Bremen to Copenhagen, with a change of trains in Hamburg. Cost of train tickets were 195 Euros for 2.

I was quite excited about taking the train (instead of the plane) to CPH since I heard that the train boards a ferry to cross the sea and then later continues its way into CPH. A train on a ferry?? I’ve only seen cars onboard ferries but not a freaking TRAIN!

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Train onboard the ferry. We had to disembark the train and go up to the ferry deck while crossing the sea.

TRAVEL
We had bought the Copenhagen card when we arrived, so it allowed us to quite a number of tourist attractions (74 places in total! SEVENTY-FOUR! Wow) for free, and also free public transport by bus, train and Metro. There are 4 different options for the card, depending on your budget, number of places you want to visit, and how long you will be in CPH. We planned our trip around the CPH card and got the 120-hour option. It’s seriously a great option to help save money in such an expensive city like CPH. We broke even on our 3rd day, I believe.

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Tip #1: Remember to check operating hours of places you want to visit. Some attractions are closed on Mondays, some have different operating hours for different seasons.

ACCOMMODATION
Another chunk of our travel expense went to accommodation. Naturally, I checked out Airbnb, our favorite lodging website, but unfortunately nothing within our budget was available. We preferred to have a small apartment to ourselves since we tend to be back early and cook, but most of those available were only private room rentals. I ended up booking Generator Hostel after I saw that it was recommended on the VisitCopenhagen website, it was also available on Hotels.com and I had 2 discount codes for Hotels.com.
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Truth be told, we didn’t really enjoy Generator that much for a couple of reasons.
1) They were more like a hotel, less of a backpackers hostel, so that means they don’t have a common kitchen for you to cook your own meals. Instead they have a cafe near the reception, and you cannot bring your own food in to eat there. You can’t eat in the rooms either. That’s not very budget friendly for backpackers, especially since food is expensive in CPH.
2) The cafe area transforms into a bar/club at night, and when the music is playing, it can get quite loud at night. We were on the 5th floor and could still hear the beats thumping away at 12 midnight.
3) The private rooms faced the main street. Generally I don’t have an issue with noise, but the windows were not soundproof enough so noise from the traffic and rowdy, drunk people kept us up at night (about 2.30am). And there was construction going on opposite the hostel – they started work at 7am. It might also be a bad time that we visited CPH since the holidays meant that people didn’t need to work the next day and could be out till late.

Tip #2: surf around different websites to compare prices and read reviews. Oh, and plan at least 3 months ahead for best prices since December is a high travel period in Europe.

We didn’t want to spend too much money on this trip, especially when Mr Goh’s annoying company did not send us our monthly allowance for December until the 23rd (the money was supposed to come in on the 1st!), so money was tight in December and we told ourselves to stick to a budget of 500 Euros. This amount was to cover food, transport and the cost of the CPH card. It IS doable. (We have already paid for accommodation when we did the booking in October.) We ended up having 1000DKK balance when we ended our trip.

FOOD
I had brought along a small “kettle” so we could have warm/hot water in the room, but I didn’t anticipate the amount of calcium in the Danish tap water. I’d definitely buy bottled water if we were to visit CPH again.

Breakfasts were usually cakes or bread bought from the supermarket (around 10DKK, and the amount could feed 4 people). Pastries from the bakery is about 15DKK each.

We did picnic-style lunches by buying packs of TUC crackers, tubs of tuna/chicken/shrimp salad, pre-washed salad leaves, cucumbers, tomatoes from the supermarket nearby. I had packed tupperwares, cutlery and a small paring knife, so such lunches were possible. Average cost of such a lunch would be 20-25DKK for 2.

Dinners were either pasta or sandwiches or pastries. A Danish hotdog averages for 30DKK, a shawarma sandwich is about 50DKK. The cheapest pasta from the restaurant round the corner from us is 60DKK.

Though on a budget, I’m not saying that we didn’t try any Danish food, but being on holiday doesn’t mean that we have to break the bank. We bought smorrebrod from Fotex Food and thought it was quite similar to the sandwiches we’ve been making for lunch. Haha.

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Smorrebrod

Europe city hopping: Milan 2015

Part 2 of my Paris.Milan trip in Oct was of course, going to Milan! We took Easyjet from Paris’ CDG airport to Milan’s Malpensa airport. It was our first time taking Easyjet and they ain’t that easy… they were really reallllyyyy strict about carry on baggage. One piece, and one piece it is. You can have an additional small tiny bag for your necessities, but a shoulder bag like a Longchamp Le Pliage is considered as one piece. We spent quite a fair bit of time trying to squeeze our backpacks into the large Le Pliage travel bag that I brought, and into our cabin luggage too.

From Malpensa airport, we had to then take a train into the city centre where our Airbnb lodging was located. The train was comfortable and had proper station announcements.

We struggled quite a bit with street names while in Milan because everything sounded alike. Hahaha… but we also had a blast imitating the Italian accent. Not that we are poking fun at it, but it just sounds like you’re singing the opera all the time.

Mr Goh and I took a day trip to another Italian town (Verona), just 1 hour train ride out from Milan since we didn’t want to join my sister at the shopping outlets. It was very fun at Verona, our kind of holiday where we just walked around freely and took in all the sights. We purchased the 24H Verona card for 18 Euro which allowed us to enter quite a number of museums and churches for free.

We didn’t buy much in Milan because we were wary of Easyjet’s luggage policy. We realised that they (Easyjet) didn’t care so much about the weight of your carryon, but rather the SIZE. We later found out why size mattered, because when we were on board the plane, we saw so many other passengers putting their jackets into the overhead cabins, taking up precious luggage space. It kinda irked us because those jackets could have well been on their laps, freeing up space for other passengers who really needed the space for their luggage.

So anyway, I only bought one box of dried pasta because I was in Italy, and of course you buy Italian pasta made by the nonnas, right? We couldn’t buy any liquid stuff because we only had carry on luggage, and even the Nutella that Mr Goh’s colleague asked us to buy was dunked because it was over the 100ml limit. By the way, Nutella in Italy tastes the same as SG or DE version, so no need to buy Nutella specially to try (as what his colleague originally wanted to do).

Day trip to Hamburg

In our earlier days of planning the move, one of the things that got me really excited for Germany was that we will be able to travel around Europe for cheaper. Note that I didn’t say “cheap”, because bearing in mind that we are here on a subsistence allowance, even 10 Euro meals would seem to be a luxury.

However, we could do many day trips over these few years because we are already in Europe, travelling distance and time to other European cities would be much nearer and thus worth it, as compared to flying from Singapore. Case in point, Hamburg.

We did a day trip to Hamburg last Monday because Mr Goh needed to collect his new passport from the consulate there and I made him bring me there as well (or I would spam his phone while he’s away LOL). I bought special DBahn train tickets to Hamburg which entitles us a return trip ticket and also unlimited local public transport within Hamburg, for only 27 Euro. It was 23 Euro for the first person, and additional 4 Euro for each additional person. Cheap right? We likened it to taking a taxi to and fro Orchard from our place, cost-wise. Hamburg is only 1 hour 10 mins away from us, so Mr Goh wasn’t too bored on the train. Any longer, I might have to pack some snacks and coloring pencils!
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As the trip was only one week after our Paris.Milan trip, we didn’t really plan where to go and what to do in Hamburg. We only had 3 places in mind: 1) consulate – to pick up his passport, 2) Longchamp shop – to alter the strap length of my new bag, and 3) Liman restaurant – to have some affordable seafood.
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After we were done with all the errands and lunch, we strolled around a little and checked out the bus route and saw “Singapurstrasse” as one of the stops. Hmmm… interesting! Since our DBahn tickets allowed us unlimited rides on the local bus, we decided to just take a ride and see what’s there!
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I was kinda ecstatic that there was a Singapore street in Hamburg. I mean, Singapore is a small country, so it kinda meant a lot to have a German street named after my country right? We also saw that there’s an Osakaallee, meaning Osaka Alley. I remembered from my German class that alley<street, so I thought “wah Singapore has more importance than Japan in Hamburg”. So I thought. Then I saw the map, and Osakaallee is actually a longer road than Singapurstrasse! What??! Cheh… Then my funny husband had to add “don’t worry la… you see Tokiostrasse… it’s also a street, and it’s a super short street”.

Europe city hopping: Paris 2015

If you follow me on Instagram and/or Facebook, you might have guessed that Mr Goh and I went on holiday last week. We met up with my sister and her boyfriend in Paris and travelled together around the city of love and went to Milan as well before we parted ways.

Now where do I begin writing the blog posts? I’ve been so behind my travelogues (I haven’t even completed my honeymoon posts and now I kinda can’t be arsed to complete them anymore), so let’s just go through them briefly, ya? Anyway, I don’t think you peeps are interested in the nitty gritty details of my 9 day trip.

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