Day 0 (9 June): Departing Singapore...

It's 9 June, 1.15 am when I updated this blog post... oh yes! The time that I should be "dating" Mr Zhou!
It's been tiring... was trying to clear emails since this afternoon when back from the camp. Well, didn't manage to do much until night, 'cos was spending time to pack my luggage only this afternoon. Haha.. am working towards more and more 'last minute' packing! (I've been honing my 'packing' skills since... LOL)

Zzzz... off at around 9 pm, when trying to vet a document that promised to be mailed out to an external party... ok... thanks to mum who spotted me zzzz.... and woke me up... hm... that cup of coffee (which was the 2nd dose of caffaine of the day) did not quite help... Hope to catch some sleep in the plane... hm... 6.5 hours to Doha, 3 hours of transit, to be followed by another 6.5 hours of flight to Berlin. Hm... Hope can ta-han...

Am bringing my iPad with me this time... ah! Backpack is much lighter now... hopefully can hook onto free wi-fi for updates... :P

Day 1 (9 June): On my way to Berlin...

First time taking Qatar Airway... The initial idea was, probably close to Emirates. True enough, it's close to it... More leg room for the seat, and I guess another 'signature feature' is the range of entertainment. It's more like... hm... the first impression. Probably because of the wider range of passengers flying in this route? Actually, it's also quite natural for us to compare it s service with our very familiar SIA :) Well, I guess the "wider leg rom feature" is the only reason that I could think of, at this point of time, to fly with Qatar again (with the exception that it comes with a tour package).

In Doha, there isn't any aerobridge, so shuttle services are used to ferry passengers to and fro, between the terminal and the aeroplane. This reminded me of Paro airport where passengers have to walk to the plane/ terminal. OK, the difference is... in Paro, we walked from the terminal to the plane whereas in Doha, we were ferried by a shuttle from the terminal to somewhere that was 'far faraway' (the ride was at least 10 min!)

Doha international airport has this unique feature whereby all transiting passengers are to alight at the transit terminal whereas those whose intended destination is Doha will be sent to another terminal. So, all transiting passengers are 'brought' to the 'shopping complex'... There, we had our A&W meal.

This is the boarding pass... from Doha to Berlin. See the yellow border of the pass? That differentiates the transiting passengers from those coming to Doha.

Flight time: 8.45 am Doha time.

Getting connected to the WWW in Doha airport excited me! The airport is also equipped with free wi-fi, where I had a good time surfing the web, updating my Facebook account and twittering. Thanks to SF who helped me downloaded the iPhone version of Facebook so that photos can be uploaded easily.

Day 1 (9 June): Arrival at Berlin...

We arrived at around 2pm. There were 30 people in this group. Not surprise to find so many teachers in the group. Our tour manager was Diana. The tour started off with a city tour of Berlin city centre. The local guide was Walter.

To me, the greatest highlight was the Berlin wall at the East Side Gallery. Indeed, my notion of the Berlin wall was a very thick and heavy wall! To my surprise, it was no thicker than any ordinary wall. Even the top was not lined up with thick barred wires like those of the prison. What's left is only that 1 km stretch, which was turned into an art piece. Interesting. Though graffiti is part of the European culture, the wall is still quite well-maintained! In fact it would be nice to have the time to hang around the area, spend more time to appreciate the art. It's also amazing to learn that it was built overnight, but to be precise completed in 3 days. Amazing, isn't it? On the other hand, it tells how cruelty could be like... Imagine, a family could be separated overnight! Of course, the wall has its political significance. Ok, gonna read more about World War II.

Another significant landmark that we visited was the open air art installation that sits on top of the underground Holocaust museum. A very interesting display, where the uneven heights of the blocks represent the people who underwent the disaster! No wonder the guard went around chasing the youngsters off the blocks.

Another place worth mentioning was Charlie checkpoint. It sounded like there was only one (and only one), actually, there are 8 altogether. What's so special about this place? It was a line that separated the land under Russian and American governance. Anyway, it had become very commercialized.
The last stop was the Brandenburg Gate. Not that spectacular, I think. Of course, it had to be one of the main monument in the country as it's where the nation celebrated it's victory!

More Photos at: 1. Berlin, Germany

Day 2 (10 June): Through Dresden... Departing West Germany...

The highlight of the day was food. Yes! It's the Germany Pork knuckles! Each of us was served a big portion. The meat was tough, and for the first time, I so cleverly able to identify where the nicer (I.e. The tender) part was. Enjoyed that :)

It's something extra next... A tour around Dresden, another town known for its beautiful gothic structures. The town square sat beside the river... The walk around the streets was just a preview to the Prague city, I felt. Well, it's a nice one... At least see the other aspect of Germany, that was the cultural and historical aspects. Strange enough, my impression about Germany was all along - Technology and Science.

 More Photos at: 2. Dresden, Germany

Day 2 (10 June): Arrival at Prague...

The countryside was new to me totally 'cos the last time I came was by flight and straightaway, we went to the hotel. This time, by the road, was tracing in from the outskirts all the way to the 2nd ring, towards the 1st ring. The first seeming familiar sight was the graffiti! Then we drove down the road that we walked down in one of those afternoons... The National Museum. Yes, I remember taking pictures there!

Dinner was in the hotel. It was a 3 course meal... Which wasn't that nice. A asparagus soup, followed by that piece of dry tough chicken... Then a slice of cake. Nowhere to shop, anyway. Hotel was not that well-equipped... Just the basics... (and yes, that was the 1st horror that Chai Noi had in this trip... Want to hear the horror story? Ask her :)

Day 3 (10 June): Revisiting Prague...

It's retracing my footsteps in less than 15 months, though it's of a different period of the year. The day started with the Hradcany Castle, which was a familiar place to me... not only we had the Opening of the 2010 Opening of the Apple Leadership Summit, but also we visited the place on our own in the day too. I was lucky enough to have seen the same place in both day and night :)

It's the familiar cobble road... However, this time, I got the opportunity to the visit the Cathedral of St Vitus. It was beautiful, especially it's the first time to see the projected colours casted by the sun rays through the stained glass windows! Wow!

We walked our way to Charles Bridge... it was busy... very crowded with visitors as well as the roadside artists and artistes!

The old town square was in particular busy as we learnt it was one of those days in the week where couples had their wedding took at the town hall... no wonder we saw so many brides and bridegrooms!

Here's the astronomical clock... we listened to the chimes 3 times: at 3 o'clock, 4 o'clock and 5 o'clock :)
Each time, without fail, it caught the attention of tens of hundreds of tourists at the square.

Saw this at one of the stalls in the open market... that reminded me that the open area was filled with numerous stalls that sold easter eggs around!

Beautiful scenary along the river... 

More Photos at: 3. Prague, Czech Republic

Day 4 (12 June): Arriving at Poland...

We arrived at almost 5 pm... and immediately headed for the Salt Mine Tour, which is another World Heritage site.

It's amazing that the workers turned it into a beautiful underground city with practically everything carved out of salt... for a moment, I got it mixed up... thought of CaCl2 instead of the familiar NaCl... haha... breathtaking view from one 'chamber' to another... oh yes, there were 2 restaurants that were ready to host dinners and special events!

 "Let's check if they sell...."

Day 5 (13 June): At Krakow...

Highlight of the day was the Auschwitz Concentration Camp, the most infamous amongst the 41 known camps in Europe. It's about World War II... where more than one million of people came without leaving the place. One could not imagine why mankind could do such to fellow mankind... where's the humanity?

The 'welcome' message read something like "Work will set you free..." So deceiving!

This was the railway terminal where thousands of people were sent from all over Europe, where they were 'sorted' accordingly to their country of origin, race, etc. Some were sent straight to the gas chamber from here...

These were the 'beds' of the prisoners... for women... each 'compartment' would 'pack' up 7 human beings!

From there, we proceed to the Jewish Quarter in Krakow, where only a small number left (after they were driven out by the Germans during WWII)

 See the signature symbols/ decoration in the external of this cafe/shophouse?

In the afternoon, we proceeded to the Royal Castel at Wawel Hill and visited the Church of Virigin Mary that came with very elaborately decorated - one word to describe ~ lavished!

More Photos at: 4. Krakow, Poland

Day 6 (14 June): Long drive to Budapest

It was an 8-hour drive, crossing Solvakia (for lunch)... and all the way to Budapest... another historical city in Hungary. It was a scenic drive... when the bus climbed uphill in Solvakia and we stopped by a skiing resort for lunch... so cottage-ish... filled with "Swiss" ambience.

The night was 'young' when we arrived at Budapest... It was the Hungarian Folklore Dinner, which was filled with dance and song... enjoyed it...

More Photos at: 5. Budapest, Hungary

Day 7 (15 June): Budapest sightseeing

Budapest, made up of 2 places - BUDA (which means water) and PEST (which refers to cave), where the BUDA side is the historical part that is more than 700 years old whereas PEST was about a century old.

Indeed, the BUDA area, including the Fisherman Bastion was classified under the World Heritage Site, for its significance.

From the River bank...

More Photos at: 5. Budapest, Hungary