Europe city hopping: Amsterdam

Easter weekend 2016 in Amsterdam (I know!! I’m super late… might as well don’t post right? But I want to look back on my time in Europe and remember what I did, so I’ll still post, hehe)

Each time we get a long holiday, I would request for a trip out of Germany. It revitalizes me when I get to hear a different language other than German (it’s so stressful to listen to German all the time). We went to Copenhagen for Christmas 2015, and decided to go to Amsterdam for Easter 2016. It was convenient with the different travel options from Bremen, but we decided to go with Flix Bus in the end.

Accommodation: ZH had booked us a campers’ cabin at Lucky Lake hostel, and while I usually shun backpackers-style accommodation, I was instantly taken by the place when I saw the photos online. It was definitely a unique choice, even to my Dutch colleague! My verdict: the place is nice but not suitable for families and princesses, though it might be more comfortable in late spring and summer when temperatures are warmer. We were there early spring and the cabins were a little too cold for us still, even though they had heaters within the cabins.

Transport: Our usual modus operandi is to get the tourist attraction card which includes free/discounted entry to various attractions and/or unlimited transportation. It was the same for Amsterdam: we bought the Amsterdam Card for 72 hour period (75 Euro) and planned our trip around the card.
My verdict: the value of the card is absolutely worth it if you plan your trip around the attractions the card has to offer.
We bought the 72H card for 75 Euro.

  • Van Gogh Museum (17 Euro, free with card)
  • Micropia (14 Euro, free with card)
  • Hermitage (17.50 Euro, free with card)
  • Artis Royal Zoo (20.50 Euro, free with card)
  • One hour canal ride (16 Euro, free with card)
  • Amsterdam museum (12.50 euro, free with card)

Day 1

We spent the day around the central station, taking a canal cruise, visiting the Sex Museum and Red Light Secrets (museum about prostitution, admission fee 10 Euro) and just walking the area. The Sex Museum was interesting but very crowded since it was very close to the central station. I felt that the Red Light Secrets was more educational and raised awareness about sex trafficking. Towards the end of the ‘tour’, there was also a display wall with names of the ladies who were murdered in the course of their business. It is really sad that they are so vulnerable trying to make a living.

Amsterdam being a city of canals and waterways, canal cruise companies are aplenty and we enjoyed a canal boat ride with our Amsterdam card (many operators to choose from). It was always fun to enjoy a relaxing cruise because you get to take in the sights of the beautiful city in a short period of time, plus the guides provide insightful information that you may not have read online or in your travel guidebook.

We saw many locals and tourists snacking at Febo, a popular fast food style kiosk, and we couldn’t pass it up. It was quite fun buying hot food from the vending machines! You don’t have to worry about the food getting cold or past its prime. In the short time that we were eating there, we saw a high turnover of items so the food was kept fresh all the time. The sex museum is located just a short walk from Febo, so you can do both together.

Day 2

We visited the Van Gogh Museum early in the morning, to avoid the long queues. Thankfully it was only a short wait as we could join the express queue with our tourist card. I can safely say that I don’t know how to appreciate art. So we decided to skip all the other art museums in our itinerary after browsing through Van Gogh Museum.

DSC01621JPG

We had lunch at Foodhallen which reminded me of Pasar Bella in Singapore. It is essentially a big food court with many food stalls. We enjoyed a variety of food here.

Next, we headed to Begijnhof . You will find the oldest wooden house in Begijnhof, dating back to 1528. Please be aware that the Begijnhof is still an active ‘community’, so there are still residents living in the houses there. Please be respectful and do not create a ruckus.

If you’re interested in the history of Amsterdam city, you will be pleased to visit the Amsterdam museum. There are also special exhibitions from time to time.

DSC01658JPG

The Old Church was one of the places that left us in awe, mainly because of how well preserved it was.

DSC01664JPG

I have read that there is a large population of Indonesians in the Netherlands as Indonesia used to be a Dutch colony and therefore the migration of Indonesians into the Netherlands. The Indonesian food in the Netherlands was also purportedly quite authentic so we had planned to have a ‘rice table’ meal. We came across one such restaurant near the city centre and decided on it. We ordered a set meal for two and the food was quite good. I was still a little greedy after the meal, and ordered a rojak. Now I had thought that the rojak would be similar to the one we have in Singapore but I was sorely disappointed. The rojak did not have the sweet thick peanut sauce and the variety of vegetables was disappointing for the price we paid.

DSC01700JPG

Day 3

If you’re visiting the Hermitage Museum, you might want to be there a little earlier just to walk along the river and view the Schaduwkade. It is not a tourist attraction per say, and you won’t be able to find this on the Amsterdam tourist website. Basically, the Schaduwkade is a tribute to 200 residents living along the canal, who were persecuted because they were Jews. There’s also something similar in the area where I live in Bremen. It still shocks me and makes my heart sink whenever I think of it.

DSC01708JPG

It is not a complete trip if we did not visit the zoo and/or aquarium, so we went to the Artis Royal Zoo and the new Micropia (just next to the Zoo). The Micropia was a new experience for me as it features microorganisms! I didn’t think I’d like it but I did! Maybe I’m a closet nerd.

DSC01719JPG

In the evening, we had dinner with a local Dutch host at his apartment, organized via WithLocals.com. It was our first time using the services of WithLocals and I wish it was available in more locations! I think it allows us to have a better understanding of the local lifestyle since we like to go off the beaten path when we travel. We try to cover “top ten things to do/eat/visit” as recommended online but we like to mix it up a little as well.

DSC01801JPG

Thanks to the wonderful pancake experience we had, I started to have a lot more pancake breakfasts when we returned to Bremen.

Day 4

Our bus back to Bremen was around lunch time, so we woke up early to have sufficient time to wash up, have breakfast at the breakfast bus, pack our luggage and take the shuttle bus out to the train station. As the bus journey was quite long, we tried to find some snacks when we arrived at our bus departure point but there was nothing worth the money as with most convenience stores. I wanted some hot snacks from Febo but there was no Febo available. We ended up having an early lunch at Julia’s, a make-your-own pasta café.

We did not visit the Anne Frank house because 1) we are not history buffs, 2) we read online reviews that the site was overrated – small and nothing much to see, plus there’s always a long queue to enter the place.

Contrary to popular belief, “magic brownies cafes” are not everywhere, or at least not that I can see.

Advertisements

Europe city hopping: Prague (accommodation edition)

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Hotels.com. I have been using the website to book my travel accommodation for a couple of years now and I like that they have this reward system that gives you a free night stay after completing 10 nights on their site. After using the site for 2 years now, I finally received my first free night (oh yeah!) which I used for Prague.

We stayed at Mamaison Riverside Prague on our first night in Prague because the value of my free night was calculated at around SGD150. Being the greedy Singaporean I am, I booked us a junior suite room to maximize the value, and then we moved to another service apartment nearby which was only about SGD60 a night.

The check in procedure at Mamaison was prompt and friendly. Our room was not ready when we arrived so we had to wait for a couple of minutes at the bar. Not a big deal as we used the time to catch our breath and decide where to go next. We were then assigned our room which was located on the top floor. Then the staff told us “the lift is not working now, it is under repair”. I thought he would help us with our luggage, but no. He just turned and walked back to the office, leaving us to carry our luggage up 6 stories. Granted, we had a relatively light luggage (only one cabin piece), but still! At that moment, I was thanking myself that we had packed light for the trip.

Upon entering the room, I was drawn by the view at the balcony. It faces the Prague Old Town and it being located by the riverside, means you get unobstructed views. The rest of the room was huge and modern (except the TV). They had a coffee machine as well. The sleeping area was carpeted so you might want to bring your own bedroom slippers if you’re finicky like me.

Though the lift was under repairs when we checked in, thankfully it was working by the time we left the hotel an hour later to explore the town, so we didn’t have to climb the stairs again when we returned. The location of the hotel was 10 mins walk from Café Savoy, and 30 mins walk to Old Town.


Our second accommodation for the trip was MH Apartments Riverside, 10 mins walk from Mamaison, further away from Old Town, but it was only 300m to Andel subway station. You can also catch the trams to the city centre from outside MH Apartments.

MH Apartments had recently opened its new location at Andel and so everything was new, modern and in working condition. For the price of SGD70 a night, it was excellent value for money. We got a one bedroom apartment which included a living area and a small but well-equipped kitchen. The management had very thoughtfully included a cleaning pack for their guests so you have fresh dishcloths, dish detergent, clothes detergent, and tea towels.

2016-12-19 151957

The kitchen also had almost everything you’ll need for simple meals: pots, pans, cooking utensils, cutlery etc. The amount of cutlery was sufficient for the 2 of us for 3 meals, so we only had to operate the dishwasher once after accumulating everything.

2016-12-19 152115

In the bedroom, there were two single beds put together to form a double bed – this is common for Europe. Gosh I could go on and on about how soft the European pillows are, but thankfully MH Apartments had provided two pillows per person, and with different firmness so I was spared a sore neck for this holiday. Bath towels were also provided, and extras were also available at the wardrobe area, so you won’t need to call them for a change of towels. By the way, there is no front desk at this service apartment chain. Check in is done self-service, via a machine. Super cool!

2016-12-19 151719

The bathroom was nice and cosy, and they had a heating towel rack!! Our favorite because nothing beats warm, fluffy towels after a nice rain shower (toilet fittings by Grohe!).

2016-12-19 152034

By now, you should be able to guess which of the two accommodations is my favorite. MH Apartments wins the award, hands-down, no need to consider and mull over my decision. At only SGD60-70 a night, fantastic location and amenities, it’s a steal!

Europe city hopping: Greifswald

A couple of weeks ago, we rented a car and visited Max in Greifswald. He is now doing his internship there with a firm that builds yachts. Figures, since Greifswald is just next to the Baltic Sea so the yachts can be built and docked at the harbour there.

Greifswald

I’m glad that Max is living there now so that we had the chance to visit the place and take in its beauty. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have come across this beautiful town.

Greifswald is about 3.5 hours drive away from Bremen, and the place is definitely bigger than where I work. Haha, the town I work in is surrounded by fields and greenery, very different from Greifswald.

Max cooked us a lovely German lunch – authentic schnitzel, and we had a BBQ dinner. German style too, with sausages, pork steaks, bell pepper, mushrooms, gyros skewers and German potato salad. 2016-07-02 18.48.342016-07-02 12.35.01

He brought us to the beach, to the harbour and the city centre, plus a large MarktKauf where I managed to find my Alpro “hazelnuss milch”. I immediately bought 6 packs of the plant milk since it’s quite difficult to find it in Bremen and my work town, plus some of my favorite vegan cheese and I tried a new vegan cream cheese.

Such a pity that we only stayed for 24 hours since it’s a long drive home, because I would love to just soak in the warm atmosphere at the beach. It was also nice seeing Max again. Hopefully we will be able to see each other soon again. The lovers (Max and ZH) need to reunite (internal joke).