Categoryeurope

Stockholm

Last, but not least, Stockholm.

Stockholm used to be just an island, and since Stockholm has expanded outside of the island, the island portion has become the old town, known as Gamla Stan.

Some buildings in the old town have fake windows, because glass was expensive back then (3rd floor middle window).

There’s a random piece of Viking runestone on the corner of a building. And it’s protected by a cannon barrel on the street corner…

The Scandanavian countries really like their royal guards…

H&M sells home products in Sweden! I haven’t seen that anywhere else.

At our hostel, we met some awesome people and went on a bike tour with some of them, guided by a local Swedish fellow. He took us to the top of a hill overlooking the river and Gamla Stan.

Welcome to Earth!!

Our guide showed us this cool snack. It’s herring with cucumber and onions on flatbread.

This is an indoor bike tunnel going under a bridge!!

This was part of the common area at our hostel. They did a good job with that antique look and they even made us take our shoes off when inside.

At the Stockholm Royal Armoury, they showed off a bunch of carriages. Since we are nerdy engineers, we spent a while analyzing how its suspensions worked.

I heard Swedish meatballs are famous.

The Vasa Museum was probably the most incredible attraction. The Vasa was a Swedish warship that sank on its maiden voyage. It was supposed to be a symbol of Swedish military might at the time, but it sank because it was too top-heavy due to the many cannons it had on board and not enough width to counter the tipping of the ship from its weight. It was later discovered that the ship was very well preserved and now it is on display.

What is more Swedish than going to Ikea and eating meatballs? There is a free shuttle that goes to Ikea too!

The best part of the trip was meeting a bunch of cool people in our hostel room! We had a room of 8 and every single person was fun to hang out with as opposed to normally I don’t get to talk to everybody. This time, the 8 of us got to chill in the room having beers and stuff. One of them was from Kentucky who was currently living in Alabama – of course all the America jokes were directed at her. Another was from Australia who had just finished his contract with the ANZAC navy after serving in Afghanistan and Iraq – he was quite open in talking about his experiences and I learned a ton from him! I also learned a nice trick to cooking pasta from one of the Italians: always salt the water before cooking the pasta! He even said that people thought he was crazy when they saw him salting the water. I also got some good hookups in Shanghai from our Chinese roommate – awesome when I decide to go there! It was amazing how well we all clicked and definitely an unforgettable experience in my travels.

That’s it for Stockholm!

Photo album: Stockholm

Copenhagen

The next destination of this trip was Copenhagen.

Someone told me that the pastries were really good, and they were totally correct!!

This is the Danish Parliament building. They also allow a small number of people to go up to the top of that tower for free!! We did have to wait for about 20 minutes though, but I think that was a not so well known destination.

Everybody says that Nyhavn is a must-see destination. It’s definitely gorgeous, but everything around here is super pricey!!

Amalienborg is the home of the Danish royal family. Sometimes people see the Crown Prince of Denmark going in an out of the palace dressed like a normal person. The building with the dome at the back is the Marble Church.

These palace guards walked right by me!! Can’t imagine wearing the full uniform on a blazing hot day…

Next up, was a chill bike ride around the city going at a slow 10 km/h. The weather really cooperated with us! It was a weird change going from wearing a full bicycle kit while riding my roadbike to wearing street clothes and riding this commuter with a basket on top…

Randomly stumbled upon this really cool looking fountain, known as Gefionspringvandet.

We rode through this old school star-shaped fortress that has been turned into a nice greenspace!

North of there was the Little Mermaid statue that everybody talks about. Everybody says it’s a must-see attraction, but the most underwhelming. They make it look so big in the pictures but in reality it’s tiny.

We rode past a military installation and saw this interesting sign… They’re really up to date with this drone stuff.

I was in Copenhagen around the same time as Chester Bennington from Linkin Park passed away. He even left a mark on the people in Copenhagen.

There’s a reason why people say Copenhagen is the bike capital of the world.

The white buildings in the distance is Paper Island – a hipster place to hang out and eat food.

It’s so busy here…

To my surprise, I found an ostrich burger… It definitely had a light taste. I’ve heard it tastes a lot like beef, but I didn’t get that impression.

Next, we went to Freetown Christiania – an area that the people there self proclaim as autonomous. The area was formed by squatters on land used by the military. Today it is a kind of like area where the police in Copenhagen don’t really enforce their jurisdiction (although they can), and it is governed by the people who belong to that community who have created their own rules. All the houses have graffiti on them, the paint on the walls is slowly flaking off, and every house has tons of advertisement posters painted on them. The people in the community are either hobos or hippies and sometimes it’s hard to tell which – and they’re probably all high as a kite. If you’re looking for a wild party, you’ll probably find it here. It’s a shame that I wasn’t allowed to take photos inside.

Inside the city hall, there is an astronomical clock. The fastest gear completes a revolution every ten seconds and the slowest every 25,753 years. I have no idea what kind of information it shows, but I can appreciate the mechanisms as someone who studied mechanical engineering!

This was probably the best meal on the entire trip. A sampler of the most Danish food ever at Skindbuksen. When we went in, we were the only people inside who looked like tourists and everybody else looked local, which was a good sign, but we stood out. The owner of the restaurant came by with a giant plate of delicious food and loudly said to us, “this is what we eat in Denmark, you should try this!”. For a brief moment, our interaction with him gathered the attention of the entire restaurant, while it felt like all the locals were just judging us tourists… It was a tad awkward. BUT the food was absolutely delicious. There was pickled herring, deep fried fish filet, smoked salmon, roasted pork, and pork filet! The other tables were looking at our food with jealousy.

At the bar in our hostel, we met someone who was working in Silicon Valley as a software engineer who happened to be working and travelling. She told me she graduated at UC Berkeley and so I asked her if she had seen the Amazon store there (this). She told me how awesome it was to have something like that there and to her surprise, I revealed that I am actually one of the engineers who worked on it!

That’s it for Copenhagen!

Photo album: Copenhagen

Oslo

Next destination: Oslo. There weren’t a ton of everywhere because a ton of Norwegians like to take their vacations during the summer!

The first place to visit was the National Gallery because it was Thursday that day, and on Thursdays this museum is free. Everything is super #%!*%& expensive in Oslo, so take advantage of all the free stuff when you can. Pretty sure the only reason I went was because of this:

The artist who painted this, Edvard Munch is a big deal around here.  He’s even got a fancy grave.

I certainly didn’t go to the art museum for this. This piece of art literally looks like some little kids just scribbled on the wall.

The food, while expensive as #%&$ was delicious.  Here I had smoked salmon, some shrimp, reindeer sausage, and WHALE!!!  Another animal crossed off the list. Surprisingly it tasted super gamey.

What a beer selection.

The inside of the city hall in Oslo is pretty whack.  This is also where the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony is held every year.

These toilets are clearly made of libery, equality and fraternity.

This is definitely one of the most memorable pieces of architecture I’ve ever seen.  It’s an opera house built like an iceberg!  It’s so white that people must be constantly cleaning it.

There’s even Mormons! They’re everywhere telling people about their most amazing book. Which one is Elder Price and Elder Cunningham?!

Oslo has these palace guards like the ones outside Buckingham Palace too, except these ones are allowed to talk. I asked one of them how he got the position and he said that he has to specifically apply for the job and meet specific qualifications! I had previously thought that having this position to stand guard all day was a punishment as opposed to a privilege!

I paid a lot for this reindeer steak… like $70 USD… and it tasted like a steak, but gamier. And the beer glass to the right, I asked the waiter if I could buy it from the restaurant, but the guy was so chill he brought me a new one and let me keep it.

What are these guys doing here? They kept asking me if I was Chinese and I have no idea why because as a Chinese person, I’d be statistically more likely to have the same negative views towards the Falun Gong.

Vigeland Park is super cool. It’s got a bunch of sculptures representing humans at different stages of their life. This particular sculpture for some reason, is in literally every single piece of tourist info literature about Oslo.

Then there’s this guy hulk-smashing like four kids.

Everyone says this chocolate called “Kvikk Lunsj” is the best, but really it’s just a Kit Kat bar with slightly better chocolate.

The coolest part about this chocolate is that the inside of the wrapper shows off a cool ski route/hiking trail or whatever. I actually don’t even know because I can’t read Norwegian, but it is kind of similar to German though! If I took some literature and had the German and Norwegian versions side by side, I’m sure I could learn a ton of Norwegian.

On the way to visit some islands in the Oslo Fjord, Akershus Festning was in clear view in all its glory.

One of the islands has an old abandoned monastery, which was pretty cool.

Another island has these cool colourful houses and their own private docks! Must’ve been all that oil money that Norway got that made them so rich!!

That’s it for Oslo!

Photo album: Oslo

Dublin, Belfast, and the northern coast

This year’s vacation destination was Europe again!  This time I started in Dublin.  It definitely felt a lot like going to the UK.  I mean it was part of the UK for a while.  I’m sure someone who knows more of the nuances of their culture would think otherwise.

I spent the first day travelling to the coast of Northern Ireland, the Giant’s Causeway and Belfast, and then the next two days in Dublin.

The Giant’s Causeway

Apparently, some scenes from Game of Thrones were filmed here, but I wouldn’t know because I am like the only person who doesn’t watch it!

Cows!

The northern coast of Ireland reminds me of what the northern coast of France in Normandy looked like.  I guess maybe it’s because the Irish part used to be part of the main continent and broke off a long time ago.

Not sure what the big deal of this bridge is, but I guess it was scenic.  Apparently the bridge is famous or something?

The coolest part was definitely the Giant’s Causeway.  Not sure where the giant nor the causeway are, but still cool nonetheless.

It’s pretty amazing how these rock formations formed naturally.

On our way back, we stopped in Belfast for a brief tour.

Belfast

In Belfast, the tour guide took us around to show us the history of the conflict between the nationalists (mostly catholics) and the unionists (mainly protestant).  Even today, there is still a clear separation between the two.

There’s even a wall painting of King William III, who was a Protestant who fought several wars against the Catholic king of France, Louis XIV.

Even today walls still separate catholics and protestants.

That night, we went back to Dublin.

Dublin

What is a trip to Europe without seeing a cathedral of some kind? This was at Christchurch Cathedral.

The coolest thing was the preserved cat and mouse.  The story is that the cat chased the mouse into an organ pipe and got stuck, and was perfectly preserved somehow.

I visited yet another castle in Europe, but I honestly think these kinds of things are really getting old.

Not far from the castle is Temple Bar, probably a giant tourist trap, but it really does have a lot of cool bars and restaurants.

There’s also the iconic Ha’penny Bridge. Not sure why it’s iconic, but it is.

There’s also the Spire of Dublin (in the back behind all the construction garbage), which awesome nicknames like “the erection at the intersection”, or “the stiletto in the ghetto”.

Yet another touristy thing: going to the Guinness Storehouse… and having a Guinness.

… and enjoying the view.

That’s it for Dublin!

Photo albums:

Paris

The last leg of our trip took us to Paris, and we’d be there on the same day as the Eurocup final between France and Portugal! We were all set to fly there until while having some beer at the Hofbräuhaus in München, I got an e-mail saying our flight was cancelled. Luckily, I knew my way around quite well already, so I booked train tickets right away through Deutsche Bahn. Our route had a transfer at my old stomping grounds – Stuttgart. I barely recognized the place since everything was under construction for Stuttgart 21. When I was there, the main train station hadn’t been renovated and people were protesting all over the place about the whole project. The trains also went a lot faster than I remembered – a whopping 319 km/h.

First order of business after arriving: food. The last two times I was there as a poor student, we never splurged on food, but now as working professionals, I can! Frog legs? Okay.

With the Eurocup games being hosted in France and the terrorist attacks that happened in Paris, there were soldiers on the street in just about every place with crowds. If any terrorist attacks were to happen in Paris, it wouldn’t be during the Eurocup games.

Later that night, we met up with one of our friend’s coworkers for dinner. Time for more food. Escargot? Okay.

Beef tartare? Okay. We all had one for ourselves, and if anything bad were to happen, there was only one washroom in our AirBnB. Would have been game over.

The next day, we went to Versailles. Instead of taking pictures of things, I played Pokemon Go instead. It had just launched in USA, and since I had an account from that launch, I got to play. Everywhere I went, there was Pokemon. Never mind that it was a blazing hot day without much shade in the palace gardens. Gotta catch’em all. It was Pokemon Go everywhere I went – there’s even an arena at the Arc de Triomphe.

Make Napoleon great again!

After all the walking around, it was time for more food. Foie gras this time.

The next day was a trip to the catacombs and saw the skeletal remains of a lot of dead people.

And also visited a famous dead guy: Napoleon.

After that, it was time to go to the fan zone at the Eiffel Tower to watch France VS Portugal. All these people are trying to get in through the many entrances. The police guarding the gate were letting women and children go in without lining out while everyone else had to. Chivalry is alive and well in France.

After a long while of waiting we got in. There were so many people walking on the gravel road that it kicked up so much dust everywhere and it was hard to breathe and I was coughing every few minutes. It wasn’t comfortable at all. There were long lineups everywhere and nowhere to sit. But the atmosphere was really good. Lots of cheering and anticipation for a France win.

A friend of ours, who was coming from another location came too late and couldn’t get into the fan zone to meet up with us. After a grueling ordeal of deciding whether or not to stay or go, we left and watched the game from a small restaurant near our AirBnB.

After Portugal won, people still cheered in the streets and set up firecrackers and stuff. I couldn’t have imagined what it would have been like if France won. All the France fans would have lost their shits and the streets would have been even more rowdy.

The next day, it was time to fly back home, thus ending my 3rd European adventure.

Link to photo album: here

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