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Montserrat Monastery, Barcelona

Having time in my hand, I am sitting on my Ikea Big boss chair, with my big belly writing this blog, with some tiny ticklish kicks from baby.

I am finally writing my blog about one of my favourite place when I was in Barcelona last year, which I have yet to blog about.

As it was my second time in Barcelona, I decided to venture a little further away from the city and taking an off the beaten path trip. After reading many raving comments about this place, I decided to give it shot. Honestly, I was a little scared, as I had to plan everything from the train station journey and all. And the timing must be accurate, or I would miss the ride back to the city. Nonetheless, I gave it a shot.

First thing first! 

How to go to Monsterrat Monastery

You need a full day, in order to enjoy the the place, and the last train back to the city  is 645pm. There is nothing very fanciful in the night, so it is more of a day trip.

I found this website very helpful in helping me plan: http://www.barcelona-tourist-guide.com/en/tour/barcelona-montserrat.html ,just remember that one of the highlights of the place is the famous Basilica choir boy performances of Gregorian chants and other genres of religious choral music. The performances can be heard free of charge in the Basilica at  13:00  daily with the exception of Christmas holidays, July and some other festive periods during the year. So when you decide your train timing, do take this into consideration.

After deciding the time I wish to take the train, which was to reach the Plaça Espanya station at 10:36 am,  I went to the entrance of R5 railway line. Make sure you reach earlier so that you can choose a good seat as its a 1hr journey. The later you go, it will have more people taking the cable and all. Yes, yes, its my Singaporean Kiasu syndrome.

When you reach the Plaça Espanya, you will see a booth that has staff recommending which ticket you should buy. If you have the whole day free for the trip, I suggest to buy the Trans Monsterrat Ticket (26.60 Euros) which includes the following:

1) Return train ride from Barcelona to Montserrat, either with the Cable car ride option to the monastery, or if you prefer the Track Train mountain train ride – but remember you need to specify which when you buy this ticket because they are not interchangeable. You either buy a Cable Car version or you buy the Cremallera version of this ticket. Once you have selected your ticket version you cannot use the other method.

I chose the Cable car option, which means both to and fro would be Cable car rides. You cannot chose 1 way Train and 1 way Cable car.

Trust me, if you are not afraid of heights, Cable Car is the way to go!!

2. The ticket also includes 2 return journeys on 2 different funicular rides (funicular is a mountain train that goes up steep slopes). You catch these funicular rides once you arrive at the monastery and not to be confused with the funicular ride to the Monastery from the train from Barcelona which is called the Cremallera funicular. These funicular rides give you access to different parts of the mountain and you will be able to visit the very top of Montserrat mountain as well as visit Santa Cova cave. You will also be able to go on some mountain walks with amazing views. Normally you would have to purchase the funicular tickets separately once you arrive at Montserrat but with this ticket the two funicular return rides are included in the price.

Make sure you check out the timing as well, dont miss the last train/cable back to the city while you are up on the cable. 

3. You also have 2 free metro rides with this ticket. Each metro ticket costs  €2.15  each.

Super worth it!!! Cover my trip back to the city and for another metro ride. 

There are no discounts for pensioners or children with this ticket because the ticket already offers a discount for the fares. e.g. if you purchased the funicular rides separately (once you arrived at Montserrat monastery) you would need to pay an additional€10.00 (Return) or  return or €6.60 single for the funicular from the Monastery to the top of Montserrat mountain and/or another  €3.20 return or €2.00 single for the funicular ride to Santa Cova Cave from the Monastery.

4.Access to the audio visual area on Montserrat.

Which is a must go!!! You must not miss this!

Although it is possible to walk both of these destinations from the Monastery it is not recommended because it is pretty steep and not an easy walk. And it will take you one night fall to walk the steep path.

Things to bring when you are planning this trip: 

1) Water bottle is a must!!! You can purchase up there, there is a convenience store and a restaurant. But me being on budget, I brought my own.

2) A sandwich or some food, as you don’t want to miss the choir while buying food (which is always long Q), so its better to grab a bite first!

3) Sunglasses or umbrella (its can get really sunny)

4) Camera, of course!

5) Good pair of shoes (walking on pebbles is not comfortable)

Now we are all set, so lets go!

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Caught the cable car ride, super excited to up up into the sky!

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Just check out how far up have we gone!

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And we finally reached the top!!

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Enjoying the beautiful view of landscape, I sat down to have my sandwich which I bought for the trip, which was indeed very gratifying.

After meal, I started exploring the place….By then, it was already 12.15pm, I begin my search for the choir boys!

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And walked towards the direction of the church  (Basilica) and i saw a Q.. my heart sank…

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If you see on the right of the picture, there was a seriously long Q, after waiting for like 15 mins, the Q didnt even seem to be moving, I got a little anxious. The choir boys is gonna be performing at 1pm!! I dont want to miss it! There was a policeman patroling, finally with a little courage, and my broken spanish, I asked him, if this is the Q for the choir. Surprisingly, he understood and pointed the other entrance on the left which has no Q!!! The first q was actually to see the Black Madonna, the Virgin Mary. I didnt want to wait, thus, I gave up on seeing the Black Madonna, and spend more time elsewhere.

I immediately make a dash for it and came to big space…

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This is the entrance of the church hall! I quickly made my way and since I am all alone, I decide to be shameless and provide better picture for blog, I went all the way to the front second row.

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Check out the crowd that is already anticipating the performance! A little background about the Montserrat Choir boys…

They are also known as L’Escolania de Montserrat. 

Montserrat is home to one of the oldest boys’ choirs in Europe. Documents testify to the existence of a religious and music school in Montserrat as far back as the 14th century.

L’Escolania choir school is a children’s choir of sopranos and “altos”. When the repertory requires it they are accompanied by the Montserrat Chapel Choir, formed by old choirboys and by the monks of the Monastery Chapel Choir.

L’Escolania sings every day in the Basilica of Montserrat, often to a great affluence of pilgrims and visitors from all over the world. With their song, the choirboys transmit the beautiful message of the gospels which transcends linguistic, cultural and even religious frontiers. The midday Salve has become, over the past decades, the most visited daily act of the Sanctuary.

Since the end of the 60’s they have ventured further afield than the Basilica of Montserrat and have given concerts in the villages and towns of Catalonia and around the world. The most important in the last year have been with the l’Orquesta de les Nations, conducted by Jordi Savall and their participation in the opera “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” by Benjamin Britten in the Gran Teatre del Liceu, in Barcelona. (credits: http://www.escolania.cat/index.php?md=articles&id=343&lg=3)

Choir Performance schedule: 

From Monday to Friday:
1.00 pm Salve and Virolai
From Monday to Thursday:
6.45 pm Vespers, Salve Montserratina and Polyphonic Motet
Saturdays:
The Boys’ Choir does not sing
Sundays and religious holidays:
12.00 pm Salve and Virolai
6.45 pm Vespers, Salve Montserratina and Polyphonic Motet

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You really wont want to miss it, the beautiful singing and peaceful environment do make you make you feel relax.

After the performance, I was hungry again, decided to have some lunch at a shop that sells you typical sandwiches, hotdogs and all. And even had a chat with an old Russian man who was waiting for his wife.

Started looking for my next cable car ride…

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If you see those small little houses by the hills, those are the starting point to the Santa Cova or the top of the mountain!

Usually there will be a Q, so I only managed to visit the top of the mountain and gave the Santa Cova a miss.

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After looking at this picture, I was thinking this guy behind me in blue checkered shirt, seriously looked like Jon Lovitz. I remembered him from the sitcom, Friends, where Rachel went on a blind date with a drug addict.. Hhahaha they are looked very similar!

Up, up, here we go!

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I can only say the view up here is totally worth it!!! The air is so clean and the view is so magnificent. I think I was 1200m high up in on mountain. If I had known, I would have brought a picnic bag and just sit somewhere and have a meal. I saw a girl sketching when I was at the top too!

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I must warn you, do wear shoes that has very thick soles. I nearly died when I was in Paris and walking with my boots that had very thin soles. The uneven roads and walkways were a killer. These shoes that I wore this time round is my favourite!! It was like 4 cm thick, I was so comfortable walking on the pebbles and rocks. And mind you, the walkway from the beginning to the end was all pebbles and rocks. I bought it at Bugis for just 40 bucks! I was shocked to see this girl wearing heels, totally not advisable if you want to make it out here.

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I must say the whole experience at Montserrat is totally worth the time and not to be missed if you can visit.

Another thing not to forget is the audio visual room when you back at the main area. It would be located together at the gift shop. This is included in the package that I bought at the train station. Why is it important? At the audio/visual room where you would watch this video that shows the whole view of the Montserrat and the choir singing. The song was so mesmerising and the view was indeed beautiful!!! It reminds me when I was young and my parents brought me to Science Centre, where there is a Omni-theatre, the visuals were like touchable! I was in awe…

There is very big gift shop where I think the restaurant is located, I cant remember, which I bought some small gifts and I really liked their diffuser which has a scent that is very special, only in Montserrat.

That’s all! Will try my best to blog again soon!!

A new year! 2014

So I am writing this on Jan 31, first day of Chinese New Year. This is a pre-prepared post as I can only share this when my first trimester is completed safely. Yes, you guessed correctly! I have a little one coming. This is a very nice Christmas gift for us.

Its very interesting how for my first month, which I obviously didn’t know, I was feeling a little strange already. I was so tired that I was sleeping at 1030pm, which is unusual, as I would usually sleep at 12am. And my back was aching more than usual, and my tummy was a little bigger, which I tried doing crunches, thinking I was just getting fat! And even drank cocktail during my cruise trip, which I don’t usually drink since I cant hold my liquor. The good thing is during first mth, all mistakes are forgiven. :) But taking medicine could be a risk, other than that I think its still forgiveable. So don’t be too hard on yourself if u made some when you didn’t know.

Currently in my week 17. I must say, I am quite fortunate, that I do feel nauseas and only vomit once in the morning. Once in a while, especially during weekends, I would puke more, but that’s it. Some are even luckier they dont get anything. But honestly speaking, I rather do have some, as it means the child is growing well. A mummy to be whom I knew of,  didnt feel anything during her first trimester, so she thought it was all good, but the baby was actually not breathing anymore. So I guess, being nauseas and puking is a good sign. But then again every mum has different experience, my friend who is very healthy had very little symptoms as well, but baby is growing well. She didnt even felt it and went on marathon at second mth, of cos, she didnt know. So its always best to speak to a gynae to know your body and situation.

How we found out? 

So back track abit on how I found out. Like I mentioned, I was feeling a little weird during my first mth and was late, but I didnt really think so, as I was not really thinking of having after 2 mths of failed attempt and changed my plans for US trip in the mid year, so this is really unplanned for. But you know when they say, if God give you treasure, you would gladly receive it.

I remembered I was in the toilet testing, as I was late for about 5 days and I am always very punctual, so I thought I was unwell or what. I tested, as I was washing my hands waiting for my result, I stared at the Clear Blue stick. Clear Blue brand is one of the best and most accurate brand which has 2 indicators, first the result, second to show that it is working. I kind of forgot what the indicators meant as I was in a blur stage. I saw a plus sign and a slash. After awhile, I went out to read the instruction box, and OMG!!!! I started shivering and my heart pounding real fast. My hubby was fortunately in the house today, since he always travel. I started calling him hysterically. “Dear dear!!! come quickly!” ” Holding the stick, ” I think, I think, we gonna have!” He was still puzzled, and finally looking at the stick, he started a smile and hug me. I think we were both in state of shock as we werent really prepared but we do know that it was something we had wanted.

So first thing, is to make appt with Polyclinic to be referred to KK hospital.

What’s the difference between private and KK Hospital? 

1)Waiting time

No doubt processing is a little confusing at the start with all the different dept to go to to get things done (such as blood and urine test, scanning, consultation), the waiting period is about the same as private.

2) Appointments Private KK vs Subsidised vs Private Hospital

Private KK and Private Hospital provides gynaecologist whom you can seek to make appointment with and be your doctor in charge throughout your pregnancy. You can ask for word of mouth recommendations.

I had a private gynae at TCM in the past for my menstrual problems and honestly it was really very EXPENSIVE!!!

Subsidised Patient at KK hospital means everything you do during your pregnancy would be subsidised. You may choose to switch half way but provided the gynaecologist you have in mind is still available when you need him/her. But you cannot choose your gynaecologist during your consultations and delivery.

My first visit cost a total of 114 bucks comprising of : Urine/Blood test, Scanning, Consultation and screening.

In private, I believe it would have amounted to a few hundred. Consultation would have easily costs 80 bucks.

Honestly having a baby is expensive in Singapore, but you can always choose a cheaper option but you need to have time and patience.

3)Emergency:  

You may always make a appt with the gynae if you have any problems. KK Subsidised: You need to go to Emergency and wait for your turn, which means can be a long wait or short wait dependent on the number of people waiting. Similar to A&E.

4) Delivery: Well, I have not reached this stage so I cant tell you yet.

Anyway, will update more soon..

Merry Christmas to all!

Received this video from my colleague. Its super creative and really interesting!

BERLIN: Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp

In my previous post, I mentioned that I went joined a tour, there were many tourists from all over the world and all walks of life. Coincidently, when I was at the lunch place introduced by the tour guide, Sophie, I met a Singaporean lady and she introduced me to her daughter, who was tall and pretty. She would qualify as a air stewardess if she wants, but she chose to study in Paris for her degree. I mean, to study in Paris, that’s like really a dream place man!!! She seems a little arrogant at first, but when you slowly warm up to her, she is actually quite friendly.

We started talking and realised that we both wanted to go the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp. But I recalled in the morning, when I was at the meet up point, where I met the Tour guide who told me about the free tour, he mentioned that the camp was closed as they found a dormant bomb near the camp area. So we waited till after the tour and checked it out again. Thankfully, by that time, the bomb was removed and the camp had reopened.

Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp

22 Straße der Nationen Oranienburg, Berlin, Germany

You can take a train S-bhan to Oranienburg and Bus 804 just right outside the train station. As Oranienburg is actually outside of Berlin, the train ride was about about an hour. Do check out the timing before you go. In Apr-Sep its open from 8.30am-6pm and in Oct- Mar, 8.30am-4.30pm. It closes on Mon.

I felt a little sorry to both of them, as I wanted to go to the wash room, but the toilet was so slow in washing, i meant those automated toilet. And it was taking forever!!! In the end, we missed the bus! I felt really bad, that because of me they had to walk. Waiting for another bus would mean we would have to wait another half an hour and would reach at around 515pm. So we decided to walk quite a distance. I was actually surprised meeting them, because many incidences made me felt that God was watching over me. If I had come by myself, I would have lost and not sure how to walk, as it was not as clear cut. And honestly to go so far out by myself, would have been quite lonely. I would share more why later on. There were only us in queue for the bus. Anyway, back to the journey there. Though we had to walk for about 15mins, we chatted alot.

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And finally…. we reached!

 

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The camp was really quiet and calm. It was so unbelievable peaceful at some areas.  It was nearing the closing time, but the sense of uneasiness and fear came not because of this silence. But what this place used to be. I felt at some points, I could hear screams and shouts amidst the silence.

Where I am about to enter sense thrills down my spine. I was actually shivering a little, not just because of the chill but from within and what I am about to see.

As we enter the infamous iron gate that reads, “Arbeit Macht Frei”, which means “Work will set you free”.

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I was greeted with a big empty space, where they would have their morning drills.

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The room shown below is formerly known as the dissecting room. I leave to your imagination of what went on here.

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The picture above is also known as the Medical Experiment room.

“The scope of the often horrific medical experiments performed by Nazi doctors on Jews during the Holocaust is far more extensive than previously known, according to the newly released testimonies of nearly 2,000 surviving victims.

The testimonies revealed that medical experiments were conducted not just at Auschwitz but at 30 concentration camps and ghettos, according to Gideon Taylor, executive vice president of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany. A total of 178 different types of experiments were performed, he said.

“There were a few well-known medical experiments” that were known “but nothing about the whole range of medical experiments” uncovered by the testimonies, said Taylor, whose organization collected the information. “The Mengele twins’ experiments were known, but much of the rest are undocumented and but for this effort the material would have been lost.”

He was referring to Dr. Josef Mengele, the infamous “Angel of Death” at Auschwitz who was known for his cruelty. Mengele weeded out those to be sent to the gas chambers and those to be kept for medical experiments.

The testimonies include the names of other doctors who similarly performed medical experiments, many whose names had been previously unknown, Taylor noted.

“Medical experiments are the least-documented atrocity,” said Eli Zborowski, chairman of the American Society for Yad Vashem. “Some of the information from the testimony of the victims was known, but a lot of it is new.”

Zborowski said researchers from Yad Vashem, Israel’s central Holocaust memorial and research center, and the University of Haifa are now gathering information about the subject and that “the testimony will be a great contribution to their efforts.”

The testimonies were collected as part of the $5 billion German settlement of Holocaust-era claims finalized in January 2000.

They come as checks for $5,400 were starting to be mailed this week to the surviving subjects of Nazi medical experiments or their heirs.

Michael Berenbaum, a Holocaust expert and professor of theology at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles, says the extent of the Nazis’ medical experiments has “been under appreciated.”

“Only the specialists who followed this can appreciate how widespread it was, how it [the experiments] infiltrated otherwise respected medical society,” he said.

“I would say I could count on two hands the people who had all the details…But the details from the victims will make it more meaningful and powerful,” Berenbaum said.

Patricia Heberer, a historian with the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, said the experiments have been known until now largely through court records and “perpetrator” documents.

“In some cases, we know very little, and this can be a boon to scholars, particularly if we can match their testimony with documentary evidence,” she said. “That would be the best. Where we don’t have information because the experiments were conducted in obscure camps…they destroyed the evidence or we don’t have court evidence, this will fill in the holes — we may have only the testimony to go on. That makes it very helpful.”

Most of the survivors are now in their 80s. Many wrote their testimonies by hand, some typed them or dictated them to others. Many asked that their testimonies remain anonymous.

An 82-year-old man wrote that he was 20 when he and a Jewish American were “subjected to medical experiments. SS German Shepherd dogs belonging to the commander of the SS… [and] with a special poison on their teeth” were ordered to run after them and bite them.

“Afterwards, they examined our wounds, the blood,” the man said. “A doctor…ripped the flesh off my legs and examined it.” He said the persecution took place in Rabka bei Zakopane, a Polish village.

A 76-year-old man said his captors at Revier Melk, a concentration and labor camp, cut his arm without anesthesia with instruments that were not sterilized in order to cause an infection.

“At the time, they kept exchanging the bandages with different medicated creams and liquids,” he wrote. “Each time the cut was about to heal, they reopened it and started the whole thing from the beginning. A part of the experiment was also observation, and they also checked our ability to work with the wound…After the release the doctors said that I was very lucky. There are scars until today and pain and limitations.”

A 78-year-old woman who was persecuted in Auschwitz wrote that within a month after being placed in Barracks No. 10, she and other female prisoners stopped having their monthly periods and experienced instead “terrible effects of a rash” that the inmates believed came from drugs placed in their soup.

She said it was necessary to cover the rash when Mengele inspected the women because if he saw “even one sore, our life would be over.”

Taylor said these victims were discovered when they applied for German compensation to former slave and forced laborers. Of these 250,000 survivors who applied for such compensation, 1,897 in 33 countries checked off a box saying they had been subject to Nazi medical experiments. They were then asked to detail the nature of those experiments.

Among the victims receiving the $5,400 checks, 119 have died since applying.

Irene Hizme of Oceanside, L.I., who along with her twin brother, Rene Slotkin, was subject to medical experiments, said the money is no kind of payment.

“Five-thousand dollars is a joke,” she said. “But it’s wonderful to have this information. The historical contribution [of this project] is crucial.”

Eva Mozes Kor, 70, an Auschwitz survivor who founded the CANDLES Holocaust Museum in Terre Haute, Ind., dedicated to recounting Nazi experiments on twins, said the money was welcome for survivors who are in poor health.

Her 1999 lawsuit against the pharmaceutical giant Bayer alleging that it collaborated in Nazi medical experiments on Jews was a factor in deciding that victims of Nazi medical experiments would share the compensation of slave and forced laborers, Taylor said.

“What was done to us was quite scientific,” said Kor. “There was a rumor that the experiments were pseudo scientific, but they were scientifically directed by the most prominent scientific institute of Germany at that time.

“They were studying eugenics,” she said. “The Nazis were very interested in multiple births and they said Jews, Gypsies, the physically handicapped and others were genetically inferior.”

Kor said she was injected with a deadly germ that was supposed to be fatal. She said some of the data from those experiments has been preserved but others, such as the experiments done on twins, disappeared.

Taylor said the CANDLES Holocaust Museum, Yad Vashem and the Holocaust Memorial Museum would receive copies of the testimony.”

Nazi Medical Experiments More Common Than Thought, Stewart Ain,  1/29/2004

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The Gas Chamber

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The Toliets

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The place has left me thinking alot about what life is all about. Precious lives were lost when someone loses his sanity to become a racist. Extermination of a whole population become an obsession.

All of us were a little quiet, not sure if its because of tiredness or because we were feeling a little sad after what we have seen. In any case, I believe we have learnt alot about the history and hope not to repeat again.

Finally finished the tour for the day. I do recommend that you come earlier and have a guided tour to get even more sharing about the place. I am sure the stories will be even more thought-provoking.

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I am pretty excited about my next post, its all about palaces and pretty pictures!!

I am all about the MARVELS

Yes, just as my titles says it, I am all about the Marvels now.

I recently was watching Man of Steel, a movie I heard not so good comments when it came out with at the same time as Iron Man 3 sometime back so I chose Iron Man 3 over Man of steel, thinking it was gonna be just another Lois and Clark show, a tv series I grew up watching when I was younger.

Finally after sometime, I picked it up again and watched the movie, MY OH MY, Henry Cavill took my a little of my breathe away (I cant say my whole breath, in case BB is reading, though, he was the one asked me if we should watched it). If you have not watched, please do.

One of my favourite picture of him.

After this, I started watching Tudors, yes, a reason, pretty obvious, Henry Cavill is in it.

I am not really a fan of American Drama, okay Tudor is not really American but you know, English drama. I am more of a TVB person. (for my readers who are not Asian, TVB is a broadasting TV station that produces many Hong Kong dramas). I quite like American sitcoms, but drama is never in my show menu, until…. some guy friend of mine posted on my Home page in FB, a girl with big boobs running across the some stairs, which was a scene from Marvel Agents of Shield. Okay, I wasnt eyeing at boobs. But, she is really pretty, and she has some asian blood, that spells familiarity to me. So, I decided to give it a try, I was pretty surprise how I actually kind of liked it! It was funny, and plot that is not so complicated, unlike Boss, with too much politics, that even some sex scenes couldn’t keep my attention on the show. And at the same time, I fell ill from food poisioning, and was almost bed ridden for 2 days. Marvel has kind of kept me alive and ease some boredom.

I also started watching Thor again after ep 3, that prompted me to book 2 tickets to Thor 2, which is for movies for the following week!!!! I am really excited!!!!

So…. you can see one thing led to another. I am all about of the Marvels for now. So forgive me for the hiatus.

I am still writing on my Berlin trip, will be up with something soon. Meanwhile, enjoy the trailer of Marvels: Agent of Shield! I hope you will be a convert too.

 

BERLIN: A Step Into The Past

In all history books, one of the most talked about period on world affairs is none other than the World War 2. With better technologies and education, people have evolved to create better strategies, weapons, and even more extreme ways of showing their power over others. The spark of World War 2, begins here, in Germany and also ends here, in Berlin, with the death of Adolf Hitler..well at least in war in Europe, as Japan was still fighting when Germany surrendered.

Well, I like Berlin because of its rich history, and I can identify with it as we have studied much about the course of events that happened during the World War 2. Usually, I would explore places on my own, but for today, what’s better than to join a tour that explains to you the history and places of Berlin. I woke up real early and travelled to Washingtonplatz at 10:30am to join a tour. BUT!!! I missed it by 3mins!!! All the tour groups were so fast, they have all left! And I was there stunned and lost. Then a tour guide who was last to leave asked me if I was here to join a group and I said yes, and he explained to me that they have all left. And his group now is  a Spanish group. Seeing my disappointment, he secretly told me that there is a free English tour that I can join! And I have at least 15mins to rush to the location! I immediately ran for the train!

When I arrived, I found a crowd at the location. I took a number and waited for them to split the groups. There must be like 150 people waiting there! The tour agency is called Sandemans New Europe, apparently they have this service all around Europe, US and Middle East. And the best part is they are free! They actually allow you to give whatever amount you want to give. So actually there are some who will give more and some less, its all up to you, so technically not free la.

But I must say, because of this system, all of them really give their best, cause they can earn more than usual if they are good, and I didn’t regret choosing them, as they were all very dedicated! I also happened to have a very fantastic girl who was so knowledgeable, as she studied history during her uni days and she is also a very good storyteller. She was able to give a great history background of Germany in just less than 15mins, which was not all boring!! Till today, I could still remember parts of what she has mentioned. She is also one of the reason why I like Berlin, she was able to explain to clearly how the place evolved to where is it today. I think her name is Sophie.. Well, if you see a petite, pretty girl, that should be her!

Sandermans New Europe 

Meet up at 11am at Pariser Platz , Brandenburg Gate

The whole tour was about 3.5 hours and a pit stop for you to have lunch. I also went back to some of the place to explore more areas with BB when he was free. So what I am going to share would be inclusive of my own trip..

Pariser Platz

Once you exit the train station S-Bahn Unter Den Linden, you will see the Brandenburg Gate at the Parier Platz!

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After grouping and assigning our tour guide, we started our tour! I feel that before you come to Berlin, it would be good, if you could read up a little about the history of Berlin, then all the attractions would make more sense to you or you would just think it is just a monument. The rich history behind every monument is worth finding out, or like me have someone nicely explain to you so that you would appreciate the liberty that people now enjoy and how the monument stood to remind the people of what it stands for.

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The infamous hotel, Hotel Adlon, known for Michael Jackson dangling his baby outside the hotel window.

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The Bradenburger Tor

Having destroyed badly during World War 2 but was rebuilt again.

A little bit of history here… after World War 2, Germany was divided into 4 parts. Likewise, Berlin, was divided into 4 parts, controlled by the allies, US, Britain, France (West Berlin) and of course the Soviet Union (East Berlin). People were able to access both sides and through this gate, The Bradenburger Tor, to enter East Berlin. East Berliners were able to cross borders to work in the West Berlin, visit their relatives and etc. However, the Soviet Union had plans to drive out the allies and to take over the whole of Berlin, thus the tension between these parts were getting more severe.The East had a very different school of thought, such as communism and the West Berlin was introducing capitalism and democracy and was becoming more prosperous resulting in people leaving the East to the West due to the vast difference between the two living conditions. A good example in today’s context would be liken to North and South Korea.

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And on August 31, 1961 and at midnight, the Berlin Wall was activated. Who would have thought, they would just build a wall to stop people from leaving the city! They got this concept from non other than another country who had the same school of thought, though not for the same purpose, the Great Wall of China.

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You can also visit Topography of Terror to see the parts of the remaining Berlin Wall and read about the documentation the Nazis and more.

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You might think why didn’t the West Berlin retaliate? The politicians actually it thought it solve the problem of the conflict with Wast Berlin and the movement of people, so they left it as it is.

So how did the people react? Well just imagine in Singapore, you stay in Jurong West and you stayed over at your friends place in Tampines. The next morning you wake up, a wall was built and you cannot go home, and God knows when it would be able to see the other side. Friends, relatives, spouses, parents and children were separated. The wall was not that tall but enough to block you from seeing each other.

There were barb wire built on top of the wall and also a few metres from the wall. Soldiers were guarding the wall and had authority to arrest and shoot citizens if they were to cross the barb wire.  As the wall was built hastily, many were connected by buildings of houses, which many quickly made use of the windows to escape. But the East Berlin immediately covered the areas as well. Many managed to escape through badly made barb wire and other methods during the first few weeks since it was built. However, 2 deaths made everyone realised that they may lose their lives trying.

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For 28 years, the government had reconstructed 4 times to make it harder for citizens to escape. What you see here, is the forth generation of Wall that was built.

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After 2 months since the wall was built, finally, US activated their 30 tanks with loaded cannons facing 32 loaded tanks from East Berlin at Check Point Charlie. If any shooting were to happen, nobody knows how bad things might happen. The whole world stood in stand still and held their breath. Finally, after 3 days of the stand-off, the Soviet Union allowed US soldiers to enter East Berlin, but the wall remains and citizens had tough access control.

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The walls continued to be constructed in stronger materials and more layers of “walls were built”. Between the wall and the barb wires there was a death strip which has mines and auto shooting mechanism to detect any people trying to escape. All these happened for 28 years.

However, an interesting story leads up to how The Berlin Wall came down after a spokesman from the East Berlin made a mistake in a press conference to announced that the people were allowed to access across borders and the whole city went into celebration and started hacking the wall down. No one had informed the guards about the news as it was a mistake that was announced and they too were in shocked when crowds were swarming to see their loved ones at the wall.

Finally the Wall came down and here we are today with only parts of the wall remaining.

Now moving back to even earlier in the history of Germany, during Adolf Hilter’s period.

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The Holocaust Memorial

Can you guess what the art represents?

One glance, I felt it looked like a cemetery. And does the different heights in the stone slabs represent the age or the height of the Jews that died? it does looks like graphs that you use in presentations to represent numbers.

The architect, Peter Eisenman, meant for you to experience instability, disorientation and groundlessness, yet in the midst of orderly built stone slabs.

You can still feel a sense of calmness when you are here, though a cloud of solemness could also be felt.

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Ironically, this was built near where Adolf Hitler committed suicide. The carpark area is where he died, of course during that time it was not a carpark.

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We are standing now is one of Europe’s most beautiful square, Gendarmenmarkt, being, the 3 well known architectures are surrounded here.

Gendarmenmarkt 1
10117 Berlin Mitte
Take to U-Bhan Stadmiite or Franzosische Strasse

The Französischer Dom (French Cathedral), Deutscher Dom (German Cathedral) and the Konzerthaus (Concert Hall)

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And the centre is the  statue of Friedrich Schiller, a famous German poet.

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Some other places that we went…

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Finally we ended at Museum Island, which I went on another day on my own, you may read it here, where we parted ways. It was such a good experience and I enjoyed it tremendously. Thanks to Sophie who made it so enjoyable!

BERLIN: Zoological Garden Berlin

One of the attraction and best experience that I would never forget is my visit to the oldest zoo in Germany, the Zoologischer Garten Berlin. One of its best feature is the ability to see the animals so up close and personal. And for the price of Euro 20, I got to visit the aquarium and the zoo, totally worth it!!! The whole area is so huge that I spent my whole afternoon exploring, and one of the best part is that its not in some isolated place like our Singapore Zoo which is in Mandai. It is near the metro, Berlin Zoologischer Garten station and I walked about 10-15mins, and tada!!! I reached Elephant Gate. Strangely, I couldn’t find the Lion Gate, the second entrance/exit at all, so I ended up only entering and exiting through the Elephant Gate, which was near the metro as well.

Well, since this post is dedicated for my visit to the Zoo, so expect lots and lots of animal pictures!!! And I tell you, you don’t want to miss it, as there is also a video to show how close I was to the animals!!!

When I visit a zoo, there is always this element of mystery and danger lingering. I tried not to read about a place too much and try to experience what comes along. So when I went to the zoo, I just walked around and explored like I was in a jungle, although, after walking around aimlessly for about 2 hrs, I bought a book that guided me to see some of the animals I kept missing and the toilets…. the place is so huge that i actually got lost at one point.

When I first entered, guess what was the first animal that greeted me….

I saw this dark tunnel and figured it should be some small animals caged, and since it is somewhat near the entrance, usually it is those welcoming animals….. then I heard a loud ROAR!!!!!!!! that echoed throughout the tunnel, and sent thrills to my spine!!! I couldn’t believe my eyes at how close I was to the beast!!!

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I went back here again the second time, and was glad that I did, as I managed to video a scene not to be missed! The lions were ahem… f***ing. I wont say making love as the female lion was so aggressive after the male was coaxing for more. hahaha…

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Though I feel a little pity that some of the animals that are meant to be in the wild are put away in a cage, unable to release its fullest potential to experience nature, like the lions, it is so boring to just walk up and down.. they probably have another exit to go out to the wider space with more natural setting. Otherwise, it is just plain cruel to cage them here. Twice I came, they were in the cage.

This tunnel was always echoed with the roars from either the lions or the tigers located right at the end of the tunnel. They seem to be communicating, as after the tiger growl, the lion will roar in response. And mind you their growl and roar is seriously loud. I shook a little with fear when I was filming the lions.

All the wild cats were placed in this tunnel, as well as some small animals located in the middle, which I think they are either intimidated or jaded with all the loud roars from one end to the other end. Imagine the little Erdmannchen talking to his other mates, “so freaking noisy! stop all that roar!” or they would be shivering with fear “what the hell is that sound”….. I am pretty sure they are used to the roars, as it would have happened every other day.

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One of the cutest animal, Sandkatze, also known as the Sand Dune Cat was situated in the same tunnel. You might think they are docile animals, but they are animals that hunt birds, hares and reptiles!! They can even survive without drinking water as they get moisture from their prey. They lived in deserts and are active at night. So don’t try to be funny with them.

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Another cute animal spotted! Erdmannchen! Also known as Slender-tailed Meerkat.

Also another desert animal. When they are grouped, they are called a clan or a mob! so cute!!!

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Just randomly walking down the pathway, you would see another type of animals.

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I was only separated by a glass when I stood in front of the white fox.

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This whole stretch of long path, is all the birds of different kinds.

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Finally, stumbled upon the boars. It reminds of the show, Hannibal, where he carried the lead actress from all the wild cannibal boars who were afraid of Hannibal Lector as they can sense he eats human as well.

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Check out the baby ones!

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When grown up, they are not be treated lightly.

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So tired, took a rest and a of course a selfie.

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Another tunnel that I explored, it was all the monkey-like animals.

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Check out the baby monkey clinging to the mother!!!

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The amount of fruits and vegetables prepared for them!!

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The other thing, I love about this zoo, was I came face to face with another king of the jungle. The KING KONG!!!

Okay smaller version, but to me its damn huge!!!!

Its the Big , Black GORILLA!!! I couldn’t imagine, that I could actually see it so up close! And the gorilla has a habit of hitting the glass, and when he does that, the crowd that was trying to come closer to see him would jumped in shock. There was this girl who kept trying to pose with the gorilla behind her and her boyfriend holding the camera. It seems that the gorilla knows that she wants to take a picture of him, so when she back-faced the gorilla, he would hit the glass hard, and she would scream! It was hilarious as it was only her that the gorilla would do that! When the rest of the crowd take a picture, he was perfectly okay. She was so frightened that finally after the 4th try, she gave up!

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After viewing most of the animals, its time for the sea!!!

Not sure why there was such a huge dinosaur outside the Aquarium, but it was very visible, so you cant missed the aquarium.

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Basically the catfish was just smiling at me, so no choice I have to take a picture of it!

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Can you find Nemo?

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Jellyfish is to me a mysterious creature. With no shape, it just happily swims and yet could cause such misery when they sting.

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This fish is not taken up close so that it looks big, it was just this huge!!

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Just check out how the man is sitting beside it and it is as huge as a kid! If this fish is edible it can feed a family of five and still got left over!!!

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After the sea, its reptiles corner!!

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Well, I was about to finish the walk when I spotted this at the end.

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It was really enormous. I am just glad the python was sleeping…It looks like it has eaten something and it was still digesting…Talk about anaconda, this already freaked me out!

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Interestingly this zoo also has a insect level, and I really mean bugs of many kinds. I was not so much of a bug person, so I hastily view and left.

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Well, as I said in the beginning, I went to visit the lions to say good bye, I am glad that they made peace again and was lying down quietly side by side after I sat there for a period of time.

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It felt like an adventure!! I was quite sad to leave, but I was really hungry.. Started to head back to my hotel and wore warmer clothes as it was freeeezzzzing! Headed out to have some spaghetti which was just opposite my hotel, as I was so tired from all the walking….

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What other zoos have you visited? Is there other zoos that gave you a very memorable experience? I would love to hear about it!

Next post about Berlin is what makes me love the place even more… Walk through the history of Berlin!

Love, Wendy