Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Europe 2010

" Our unpleasant past retards our thinking power, make us weary, drains our energy, suppresses our happiness and make us dull & withdrawn. Let go & move on " 

" Body aches are there to remind you of your age " 

" You can't change the Past, but you can ruin the Present by worrying over the Future "                                                                                                                                                    

" My 40 days solo visit to Europe ( London, Luxembourg, Berlin, Copenhagen, Krakow, Brastilava, Vienna, Bucharest, Sofia, Athens & Rome ) - My 2nd visit to major capital cities of Europe ( 26/4-4/6/2010 ) ; another challenging & a wonderful trip amidst a volcanic ash eruptions in Iceland crippling air travels in Europe and a financial meltdown in Greece.

After my first visit to Europe & Russia in May 2009, I vowed that I shall return to see more of the Europe in 2010. So I started planning in early 2010........

Now That I had taken the journey, I am pleased to share with you my 40 travel days experience in Europe

Volcanic ash eruptions in Iceland, debt crisis and violent demonstrations in Athens, Greece, unusually cold weather in Denmark, presidential plane crash in Poland - these recent adverse news had created a discomfort of feeling to me but had not deterred my spirit from going ahead with my 2nd visit to Europe (26 April - 4 June 2010) to continue my quest in seeing the Great Wonders of the World and major UNESCO sites in Europe. Once again, my mental, physical & spiritual strength was put under a severe test.

For this trip, I targetted the following countries: Luxembourg, Germany, Denmark, Poland, Lithuania, Austria, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, Greece & Italy. The focus of my visit was mainly on the capital cities of these countries and I relied on a 30 day Eurolines bus pass (300 pound), local trains & long distance buses to get to the destinations. Unfortunately, I was not able to visit Vilnius of Lithuania, Tirana of Albania and Warsaw of Poland as originally planned. Guided by the matrix of M + B + F = C ( Motivation + Belief + Focus = Consequence) and coupled with an ambitious mind, I believe a desired outcome can be achieved in all our travels. The end result is that you will be rewarded and abled to see more of the Great Wonders of the World and UNESCO sites.

As for the major UNESCO sites I yearned to see, Acropolis (Athens), Colossuem & Vatican City (Rome), Stonehenge (Salisbury.UK), the Palace of Schonbrunn (Austria), Palaces of Potsdam (Berlin) & Auschwitz Concentration Camp (Poland) were the target places; but I skipped Venice, Pisa & Pompeii (Italy) due to time constraints.

The only set back for this trip was that my Samsonite day pack was mysteriously stolen at a train station in Brussels, Belgium and missing along with it were items like raincoat, umbrella, water tumbler, a woollen long sleeve shirt and my travel info on hostel bookings, maps and direction etc. This happened on the 1st week of my travel, making it quite stressful for me to continue my journey but I was determined to proceed with the journey as all my important documents eg passport, air ticket, Eurolines pass and monies were intact.

I lost a kilo of my body weight after the trip (11 overnight bus/train trips) but had acquired more travel experience and confidence in travelling to this part of the world.

Once again, I had taken the liberty to quote some words of wisdoms expressed by noble statesmen and wisemen on the principles and secrets of life in my travel blog. Please enjoy reading and feel free to leave any comments.

Total expenses incurred in Europe (40 days) : RM7,900  (Euro$1,680)

Travel itinerary:

Kuala Lumpur >London>Brussels>Luxembourg>Brussels>Berlin
Berlin>Copenhagen>Krakow> Bratislava >Vienna
Bucharest>Vienna>Rome>London>Kuala Lumpur

Cost breakdowns:Hostels (27 nights) - 87 Pound + Euro$286
Hostel on-line booking fees (Euro$1.50 per booking) - Euro$30
Luggage storage fee - 4 pound
Eurolines 30 day Pass + admin fee - 304 pound + Euro$25

London / Stansted airport shuttle bus (return) - 14 pound
Train tickets:
Brussels>Luxembourg>Brussels - Euro$41.60
Krakow>Brastilava - Euro$40
Bucharest>Sofia - Euro$30

Long distance bus tickets:
Sofia>Athens>Sofia - Euro$80
Sofia>Bucharest - Euro$26
London>Stonehenge>London - 8.85 pound

Metro/Trolley bus/Trams - 27 pound + Euro$63
Entrance fee:
Stonehenge (day tour inclusive of entrance fee of 6.50p) - 15 pound
Colossuem - Euro$12
Acropolis - Euro$12
Acropolis Museum - Euro$5
Schonbrunn Palace - Euro$12.90
Potsdam Palace - Euro$6
Auschwitz Concentration Camp - Euro$10

Food & groceries (mainly own prepared meals in hostels) - 50 pound + Euro$110
Miscellaneous (internet,umbrellas etc): Euro$20

Lonely Planet (Discover Europe) - 12.80 pound
Air Asia KL>London return economy ticket + meals - RM1,686
Travel insurance - RM200
Exchange Rate : Euro$1=RM4.70; Euro$1=RM5.00

Travel Highlights:

1) Stonehenge ( Salisbury,UK )

2) Acropolis, ( Athens, Greece )

3) Colosseum, ( Rome, Italy )

4) The Palaces and Gardens of Schonbrunm ( Vienna, Austria )

5) The Palaces & Parks of Potsdam ( Berlin, Germany )

6) Copenhagen, Denmark

7) Luxembourg City ( Luxembourg )

8) Auschwitz Concentration Camp ( Krakow, Poland )

9) Brastilava, Slovakia

10) Bucharest, Romania

11) Sofia, Bulgaria

The Secrets of Life: Age is an issue of mind over matter, if you don't mind, it doesn't matter "

D1-3 Mon-Thur 26-29/4/10, Thur-Thur D32-39 (27/5-3/6/2010) London, England

After some months of anxious waiting and 3-4 months of planning, it was time for me to fly off to London to embark on my 2nd visit to Europe. With an Air Asia ticket (RM1,600=Euro$355 return) which I booked in August 2009, I landed in London Stansted airport on 26 April at around 10.30pm local time.

On arrival, I stayed put at the airport until early morning and then took a Terravision airport shuttle bus (14 pound return ticket) to the Victorian Coach station. From there, I bought an Oyster card (3 + 5 pound top up train fare) to Russell Square tube station and checked into Smart Russel Square hostel (9 pound dorm inclusive of a breakfast).

Of the 40 days in Europe, I stayed in London for 10 days and used the city as a base for my travel to central, northern and Eastern Europe.

Since my first visit to London in May 2009, this city has now become a familiar territory to me and for touristy places like Big Ben, China Town, Covent Garden, Trafalgar Square etc, I could walk to these places (20-30 mins) from my hostel instead of using an off peak London Underground day train ticket (5.60 pound) to take me there. But for faraway places like Kew Garden, Buckingham Palaces, Camden Town, I have to take a tube to get there.

While in London, I met my Qigong mate from USJ and his wife and together, we were able to visit some touristy places in central London and had lunch in China Town. The War Museum, Kew Garden & Stonehenge were my first time visit and for places like Camden Town, Covent Garden, China Town, SOHO etc these were my 2nd visit.

Total expenses incurred in London ( 10 days) :
Hostel ( 7 x 9 + 2 x 12 pound ) - 87 pound Underground tube (Oyster card + Day tickets) - 27 pound
Stonehange tour / bus - 24 pound
Food & groceries - 50 pound Airport shuttle bus (return ticket) - 14 pound Lonely Planet (Discover Europe) - 13 pound Miscellaneous - 20 pound 

Eurolines 30 day bus pass- 300 pound
Total expenses: 544 pound

Exchange Rate: 1 pound = RM5.00

Travel Highlights:

1) A cherry tree in full bloom at a Russel Square suburb in London ! My wife and myself were in Japan during the Sakura season from 1 -15/4/2010. This had intrigued me to take some pictures of cherry trees in European countries. Isn't it marvellous to see cherry trees in full bloom in other regions of the world minus a Sakura party in London ?

2) Live exotic flowers & plants from South Africa on exhibition at the British Museum ! So beautiful and fascinating to look at . Without visiting South Africa, I was at the right place and the right time in London to see these live South African flowers and plants - lucky me !

3) London Eye, Westminster Abbey & Cathedral, Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, Downing Street - down the memory lane as I visited most of these places in May 2009 ! My Qigong mate from USJ 11 and his wife were in London at the time of my visit - so together we roamed the central London.

4) Tower Bridge by night

5) Imperial War Museum 

6) British Museum - I spent two full days in this museum and was very impressed with the exhibits on display

7) Camden Town - a tourist haven especially during the weekend

8)Trafalgar Square & National Gallery & Portrait Gallery - I spent a full day to admire the various paintings drawn by famous artists like Giotto, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo & Van Gough in both Galleries

9) Leicester Square & China Town - a favorite place for movie goers & tasty Chinese Tim Sum, roasted pork & duck, eat as much as you can buffet lunch (8 pound). I was taken for a sumptuous roasted duck lunch (5.50 pound) at the China Town and the food was great !

10) Covent Garden - my favorite place to shop for souvenirs and be entertained by street singers and musicians showing their talents for a small money contributions from the audience or crowd

11) St James Park - nearby is the Buckingham Palace; very pleasant for a stroll especially during the Spring season

12) Stonehenge, Salisbury - the mysterious stones with a 5,000 year old story ! my dream of seeing Stonehenge has been fulfilled today. I took a National Express coach ( bus ticket from London to Salisbury return for 8 pound for senior citizen of 60 yrs - 50% discount) from Victorian Coach station. Departure at 11.30am and back to London via Southampton at around 10.00pm. From Salisbury bus terminal , I joined a Stonehenge day tour for 15 pound ( senior citizen) inclusive of admission ticket of 6.50 pound (normal fare is 18 pound). This was the shortest ancient civilization tour I had visited and it was over in less than 30 mins !!!!

" After two visits to London, I have fallen in love with London. Fish & Chips, smoked fish, pizza, natural mixed nuts & raisins, hot dogs & sausages, roasted duck, street music, underground tube, top-notch museums, stone that rocks, botanic gardens, cool weather in Spring - I shall return to London in 2011 !!!

The Secrets of Life - If someone feels that they had never made a mistake in their life, then it means they had never tried a new thing in their life "