g o , g e n , g o

the persnickety pioneer!

1 note &

Berlin, Germany

image

Berlin is one city I did not expect to love as much as I did. From what people say about it, especially from Europeans themselves, Berlin was cast as an “ugly” city. But I found it to be strange and kind of eclectic—a quirky metropolis built atop and over a war-torn city.

image

image

image

image

image

image

It may not be romantic like Paris or epic like Rome, but in a way, it is a city that has been rebuilt, and is still trying to find its identity, amid the aftermath of WWII.

image

image

image

image

Berlin also happens to be one of the greenest cities in Europe. A large percentage of the city is park area, so you are sure to stumble across a patch or two of trees and greenery wherever you go.

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

We stopped at one of the landmarks of Berlin and of the war: the Berlin wall. A segment of it, at least.

image

It broke my heart to hear about all the stories involving the division into East and West Berlin. But I was fascinated as well with the stories of escape.

image

image

image

Now the wall stands as a memorial of sorts, a reminder.

image

image

Obligatory two-places-at-once shot: one foot in East and one foot in West Berlin

image

image

The remnants of the wall look as pained as its past.

image

After the wall, we drove around more parts of the city on the way to Checkpoint Charlie, another historic point of interest.

image

image

image

Checkpoint Charlie is known for being the gate between the east and west.

image

image

image

Around the checkpoint, souvenir items abound: coins, bags, shirts, whathaveyou.

image

image

image

image

Drove across town to the famed Brandenburg Tor (Gate), another monument in Berlin.

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

The Brandenburg Gate at the end of the boulevard

image

The Gate!

image

It was rebuilt/restored after WWII. And since then it has become a landmark in Berlin—where presidents made speeches and other such acts.

image

Then suddenly, a bear and a soldier.

image

image

image

After we visited the Brandenburg Tor, we drove back through the city to stop again at the Kurfurstendamm or the “Ku-Damm”, Berlin’s main street for shopping etc.

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

I love the Ku-Damm because there are at least 4 H&Ms within steps of each other (lol) and the energy there is just amazing and infectious.

image

image

image

image

image

Simply put, I just love Berlin! It may come across as rough around the edges, not as traditionally European or quaint as a lot of other capitals, but it has its own charm and undeniable energy. Some might say it’s sort of a hipsterish place, and I could agree—from the street art to the eclectic architecture to the youths you see in the streets.. There’s something definitely “hip” (not necessarily hipster) and fresh about the city, and I can’t wait to go back!

Photos: Canon 450D + 10-22mm

Filed under europe europe 2012 europa travel travels 2012 berlin germany deutsch deutsche deutschland wwII world war 2 world war brandenburg berlin wall city european metropolis hipster checkpoint charlie war cold war post war central europe 2012

0 notes &

Dolls by Cappadocian Women, Cappadocia, Turkey

One of my favourite arts & crafts finds in Turkey were these handmade dolls which are some of the main products of the Cappadocian women in the area, in addition to weaving, pottery, etc. They sew and make these gorgeous dolls with their own local fabrics, in the look and style of the typical Cappadocian woman—there are dolls with clay pots, yarn, etc.

Needless to say, I grabbed a handful to bring home with me! They’re pretty affordable, considering that they are handmade, but also quite fragile especially if you get the ones with clay pots (which I did). Outside Sarhatli, this stall sold plenty of dolls, as well as a whole slew of stalls across the street (I so badly wanted to buy at least one doll from each stall but we ran out of time and I was only able to buy from this one).

HOW CUTE are those dolls (not to mention the leaning tower of dolls)!

Photos: Canon 450D + 10-22mm

Filed under travel travels eurasia turkey 2011 turkey turkiye cappadocia crafts arts and crafts arts handmade dolls handicrafts turkish

2 notes &

Underground City of Sarhatli, Cappadocia, Turkey

In an area near the volcanic formations in Cappadocia, there are clusters of underground cities and settlements. One such city is Sarhatli.

These cities can typically go as deep as 13 storeys deep (!), but the safe depth for tourists was up to 3 storeys. It was pretty cool how ingenious the nomads were, burrowing air shafts and everything in the soft rock.

Here is my brother, playing around and going in and out of the carved doorways

The rooms are quite sparse and rough, but it was still so fascinating

We got to go down around 3 levels (not for the claustrophobic!), and the lower we got, the thinner the air was and the narrower the passages were. The steps were pretty slippery because the rock was soft and crumbly.

This is an example of their common room. Back then i think they probably used candles, with the smoke going out through the air shafts

One of the steep passages, now with a metal ladder so tourists can go through

One of the air shafts

Some of the passages were so low and narrow that you really had to walk sideways or duck your head! (That’s my mom down there btw)

Outside, the entrance to the city is blocked with boulders and the natural landscape

You can get souvenirs carved from the Cappadocian soft rock!

The famous Turkish “evil eye”—to watch over and protect you!

Photos: Canon 450D + 10-22mm

Filed under turkey 2011 turkey turkiye sarhatli underground city ruins history site ancient archaeology travel travels cappadocia

1 note &

Anonymous asked: Hello, I'm the same anon as before. I can't seem to find answers online so I thought it best to ask you. :) How are optional tours like for Trafalgar? Cause I've had an experience before where the guide offers a bunch of tours but we all had to vote on it and whatever won would be the tour. I've also been meaning to ask, what are the people like? I mean those you travel with. Cause I'm just a tiny bit antisocial and I don't know how I'd get along with others. Haha Hope I'm not bothering you :D

It’s no problem at all! Haha :) I’m pretty antisocial as well, I’d much rather go off on my own and whatnot. I guess it depends what bunch you end up with, although everyone’s been pretty decent overall. You’re not really forced to join in on everything although people tend to talk and try to get to know each other I guess. There are only very few dinners and usually those are the times that you’re all seated in the same area, although initiating a conversation or whatever is really not an obligation, and most people just pass on some friendly small talk here and there. You’re free to sleep on the bus if you don’t feel like gabbing either :))

As for the optional tours, usually the tour director will go through the list of available optionals at the start of the tour, and then he’ll go around and you can sign up for which ones you want to join. After that, tours without enough joiners could get cut—this number depends. Some tours need a few people only to push through, like five people or something. While other optional tours require more people to push through. Sometimes the tour director (if you get a good one or a more senior one) also offers up additional optionals which he/she arranges (for example in Turkey our tour director arranged an optional hot air balloon ride tour for us, which was not included in the original list of optionals).

For trafalgar though, people are usually game to join optional tours, so it’s likelier for them to push through rather than not :)

0 notes &

Anonymous asked: Thanks for all that! I'm gonna take up your suggestion and look through the Winter brochure. I'm currently thinking of getting the "London to Rome Highlights" package for Trafalgar and "From St. Paul's to St. Peter's" one for Cosmos. They're pretty much the same. My only worry is that one or the other might have hidden costs that will eventually amount to something that's beyond the budget. Thanks again! :)

Aw, you’re very welcome. I’m glad to share whatever i’ve picked up from joining a bunch of these things hahaha

You’ll find that there are lots of parallel tours from each company, the one you’re thinking of is one of those tours. The major additional costs will come from the optional tours and some meals that are not yet included.

Usually all breakfasts are included (buffet breakfast at the hotel—don’t expect too much though it’s not always that good haha), and the brochure indicates how many dinners (ie for a 7 day tour, there will be 7 breakfasts and maybe 4 dinners or so, it depends) are included. Lunches are not included, but you should budget for it because lunch is usually a mid-day pitstop in a town with limited choices, or in the middle of the day while touring, when you’ll probably be more focused on touring and seeing the sights and not on sitting down to eat. Lunch stops are usually 1-2 hours (depending on how much driving you’ll be doing that day), and the tour director will just tell you what time to meet up; eating and sightseeing is basically on your own at this time.

For dinners that are included, they’re usually at the hotel, and sometimes the farewell dinner at the end of the tour is at a local restaurant or something. For dinners not included, it won’t be a problem in major cities, but if it’s a dinner-less Sunday you should be prepared that a lot of places are closed or close early, so buying a sandwich or two ahead of time is a safe bet. You can usually get a pizza toast thing or a sandwich thing at sidewalk cafes for under 5 EUR. Sitting down to eat is more expensive because of service charge. Local supermarkets (like Despar or Sma in Italy) have a pretty good selection of food-to-go and snacks you can buy to bring along, and for cheap.

There are also some optional tours which are meals, or include meals. You need to be careful of these too because they tend to overprice the meals (ie a cruise with lunch can be up to 60eur—but the food will just be so-so and the cruise is actually cheap). Not all tour directors allow this, but you can ask yours if he/she will allow you to go on an optional tour for a lower price to not include the meal. Some places that optional tours cover are great, but become super expensive because they’re packaged with an overpriced meal (ie trip to Burano in Venice is so expensive because they package it usually with a seafood meal—which is usually not that good, or not as good as someplace you could go to on your own). Trafalgar allowed this before, Cosmos did not. But it might also depend on the tour director :) You can also compare the optionals of each company, because often there are similar ones, and a lot of the time Trafalgar’s is actually more affordable, and is less often packaged with meals.

I also usually google the places on the optional tours, just to get an idea as to which ones look worth going to. Sometimes you could be paying way too much for a tourist trap. You don’t need to book these ahead anyhow. The tour director will explain each optional tour and then get bookings on-board the tour bus. If a tour doesn’t have enough signer-uppers, there’s a chance it’ll fall through.

Basically, Cosmos will have a lower base price, but your total cost can be just as expensive as Trafalgar because of all the optional tours. Going on Trafalgar might have a higher base price, but the lower prices of the optional tours (depends) could balance it out with total costs of Cosmos.

I hope these help! Good luck and have fun!

0 notes &

Anonymous asked: Hi, I read one of your posts about the different travel groups and you said in one part that you were planning on joining a Cosmos tour, if I'm right? If so, how was it? I'm a bit torn with Cosmos and Trafalgar at the moment and need some wisdom. haha :)

Hi! Yup, I just went on one earlier this year (Central Europe). It’s actually pretty good. Depending on where you’re going (if it’s a place that both Cosmos and Trafalgar go to, or in some cases only Cosmos goes to certain countries) and who you’re going with (by yourself, with friends, or with family), Cosmos is still a good option.

If there is a parallel/comparable tour in Trafalgar, then you should compare the itineraries, optional tours + cost of each optional tour, and the total cost/number of days ratio. Sometimes Trafalgar can come out cheaper (you can try the winter brochure or the cost saver brochure) because more things are included in the itinerary, whereas in Cosmos you have to add XX Euros to add it to your itinerary. But not always. The best value i’ve found so far is to get a first class tour of Trafalgar but from the winter brochure, because they have regular first class tours at a discount for tours which depart in the winter months (November to early April—we usually go for the last departures in April so it’s closest to being Spring), and these prices can be more comparable to the Cosmos prices.

If you’re going by yourself or with friends, Cosmos is OK. It’s actually not as “backpacky” or cheap as I thought. I was expecting to stay in shady cheap-ass hotels but everywhere was really OK. 3 stars at least, and all have been checked out and accredited by the tour company so at least you know it’s legit. If you’re going with your family, Cosmos is still OK, but my folks usually prefer Trafalgar only because they trust it more, having gone with them more often in the past. But even they were pleasantly surprised with Cosmos, so that’s a good sign.

In Cosmos Tours, you usually have for tourmates: teachers, yuppies, students/graduates, solo travellers and generally i guess younger-ish people in general. In Trafalgar, there is a sort of stigma that it’ll be a bunch of old people, and there usually are a lot of them, but there are also lots of couples, solo travellers, families, and whatnot. Size of the coach is about the same. Both have facilities onboard. I would say that the tour directors in Cosmos seem younger, like newbies, whereas the Trafalgar ones are more seasoned/knowledgable.

May I ask what tour you’re thinking of taking? Maybe it’s something I’ve gone on before haha :) Hope these random ramblings help.

0 notes &

Money shot! Pope Benedict XVI from when we attended the Papal Audience in St. Peter’s Square, Vatican City, Italy, 2010.
Photo: Canon 450D + 55-250mm; Please don’t steal! Taken by my sister Stephanie Go
For the complete post: http://gogengo.tumblr.com/post/31038536351/papalaudiencevaticancity

Money shot! Pope Benedict XVI from when we attended the Papal Audience in St. Peter’s Square, Vatican City, Italy, 2010.

Photo: Canon 450D + 55-250mm; Please don’t steal! Taken by my sister Stephanie Go

For the complete post: http://gogengo.tumblr.com/post/31038536351/papalaudiencevaticancity

Filed under basilica benedetto benedict catholic church christianity church europa europe holy italia italy italy 2010 papal audience pope roma rome vatican vatican city vaticani vaticano viva papa portrait photography people

0 notes &

Climbing the Cupola of St. Peter’s Basilica for the Best View of Vatican City

I am no athlete. The most I’ve done aside from the sporadic trip to the gym was probably a short dance stint back in gradeschool (my Spice Girls and Backstreet Boys years, mostly), high school (school plays and whatnot) and early college. But I am no athlete. So this unexpected trek up the Catholic Church’s largest basilica’s gargantuan dome thing on top definitely knocked the wind out of me.

You can opt to pay EUR5 to ride the elevator up part of the way (which I did, and recommend to non-athletes like me), but alas, the rest of the pilgrimage to the top is on foot.

The roof of the basilica—you can see the backs of the saint statues that line the square!

You get to be up close and personal with the dome interiors—and see the tiny churchgoers and tourists bustling about beneath you!

The walls are lined with gorgeous mosaic—these things last forever!

Now for the rough part of the climb—the walls become narrower and narrower, steeper and steeper, and I swear as you reach the “curves” in the dome, the walls curve with them so you have to walk with your body hunched over or slanted!

I’m not sure if this is a well known thing-to-do at St. Peter’s, but if you haven’t done it, I highly recommend braving the climb…

THE VIEWS ARE WORTH IT!

St. Peter’s square is miniscule from above.

The office of the Vatican—

And there—do you see the Musei Vaticani and Sistine Chapel?

I was out of breath and thirsty as hell, but man were the views so worth the climb.

What seems to be a perfect Italian day~

On the way back down, there are gift shops and cafes in the middle floors/mid-levels

You can even go right up to the backs of the saints that line St. Peter’s square! They’re HUGE in person!

See the big dome? We were at the tippy top of that! This shot was taken by the saint statues at mid-level

You can’t even really see the people who are still up there! It’s so deceptively small, but climbing it was a real challenge!

And finally, on the way down, here’s me and my brother popping some chips for sustenance. Hahaha

Photos: Canon 450D + 10-22mm

(We actually shot a video the whole way up but my commentary is too embarassing hahaha)

Filed under italia italy roma rome vatican vaticano vaticani vatican city italy 2010 europe europa church basilica saint peter's st peter's peter san pietro basilica di san pietro piazza san pietro Architecture catholic church pope holy holy seat