Conference in Budapest, Hungary 6th to 11th of June 2010

Sometimes my job is one of the greated jobs in the world…. especially when I have to organize and host a conference :-D

So in June 2010 I had the chance to host two conferences in one week in Budapest! That meant a lot of prepartation, hotel booking, agenda setting and of course some sightseeing as part of the after meeting socialising program….

I did already arrive on the 6th of June (a Sunday) in order to clear last details with the hotel, check the venue, set up everything, as doing all this on Monday would be too difficult…as I also had to manage the arrival and issues of the participants and prepare myself for the conference moderation… a lot of tasks at once but I love it!

On Sunday also my colleagues from the US (Bruce) and Malaysia (Wendy and Patrick) arrived… so as soon as I finished all my work for the day we went for an afternoon sightseeing! Luckily during the whole week the Sun was there until 9 pm and it was an amazing weather!!!!

One thing that you need to know about Budapest is that it is actually divided into two parts. Our hotel is on the Buda side. From the hotel one can directly walk up to the castle hill. The castle hill has a couple of sights which are worth visiting:

  • The Royal Palace (Királyi palota). The most popular attraction on the hill. Home to the:
  • National Gallery (Nemzeti Galéria). Inside the Royal Palace wings B, C and D houses an astounding collection of paintings.
  • The Fisherman’s Bastion and lookout terrace (Halászbástya). For impressive views across the Danube to Pest.
  • Matthias Church (Mátyás templom, aka Church of Our Lady). Dominant neogothic church crowning Budapest’s cityscape – nowadays is under reconstruction.

During that specific day, but also during the week and our in the conference included sight seeing tour, we only had a little bit of time for sightseeing, that means look at it from the outside….but now time to look at it in the inside (also because of limiting opening hours)… here are the impressions:

map of the area….


old ruins on castle hill, parts of it contain simple markets

Matthias Church:

I like the roof work…. this is known as the chuch where the Hungarian kings were crowned!

One of the most beautiful sights on castle hill is the Fisherman’s Bastion….

The Complex also has some restaurants and Cafés, a bit expensive but give you day and night amazing views of the Pest side :-)

The building which you can see here in the background is the Hungarian Parliament:

I was told that it is a must to go inside, but unfortunately they only have specific opening hours during the morning and only guided tours…so no chance for me…Interesting story that our guide during one of the tours told us was that in earlier years the pariliaments air condition system was actually a huge ice block which was delivered via the sea, and a fan that transported the cool air into the parliament house….

and a beautiful view on the Chain bride:

They say if there is a honest and faithfull woman that cross the bridge, then the lion statues will come alive and roar!

As part of the conference we also had a dinner outside the hotel…. the best place for this are the restaurant boats which are right next to the chain bridge. Well during that days, actually the Danube river was flooded… So the Hungarians built a provisional catwalk, so that people could reach the restaurants… check it out:

from the sign on the right you can guess how deep the water was… the catwalk was not really stable… so not funny for most of my colleagues :-P

our restaurant  boat “Spoon”

on the right you see the actual entrance:

The food was amazing, the only thing disturbing were the mosquitos …their numbers increased due to the flooding… but the best part was of course the view at the lightened up castle:

On one of the evenings I also had the chance to walk around a bit on the Pest side, there you can find most of the Bars and Clubs and also some of the other museums and monuments :-)

Well Budapest is much nicer than I thought and I have to definetely visit Budapest again!!!

PS: I have been in the castle area in total 3 times :-P … well you have to do what you have to do as a host of a conference…

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Trip to Stockholm, Sweden 22nd – 25th April 2010

So,

I celebrated my Birthday in April at Essen with my lovely friends and cooked a great 4 course dinner :-D I think everyone enjoyed!

In March I started my Master program at the University of Liverpool. (Master of Science in Information Systems Management). Thankfully this is a complete distant online learning program. That means I can still work full time and to some extent also have my long weekend trips…. the only thing I had to take care off is to submit my assignments on Wednesdays and Sundays on time…

Who thought that I would stop travelling is wrong…From the 22nd to the 25th of April I went to Stockholm, Sweden. (Country number 22 :-D ). Kind of a birthday gift to myself ;-)

So I got again a pretty nice deal by Ryanair… but the Flight times were kind of bad. Somehow I was lucky these days…. Some of you might remember that during these months there were issues with ash cloudes which came from the vulcano Eyjafjallajokull (almost no one in Europe could pronounce the name) in Iceland. Due to the ash clouds many flights were cancelled all over Europe. But luckily on the day my flight was scheduled, the issues were gone :-D

So I did not even went to bed on the 21st… as I had to get the bus to Frankfurt Hahn around 4 in the morning … Ryanair does not fly directly to Stockholm….that would be way to expensive. The flight goes to Skavsta, which is like Hahn in the middle of nowhere 100 km away from Stockholm. So I arrived around 11 in the morning in Skavsta and took the (expensive) bus to Stockholm. In Scandinavia most things are expensive…

The bus arrives at Cityterminalen, this is the main bus station which is opposite of the Stockholm main train station. From the Stockholm Bus station I directly made my way to the hostel that I booked (roughly 15 minutes walk). Unfortunately I could not find a couch via couchsurfing, so I had to stay at a hostel…. The hostels in Stockholm are, compared to other European hostels, quite expensive…but they also maintain a high standard. My hostel was almost like a hotel very clean (you have to take of your shoes to go to your room), high security, very cosy and comfortable.

Unfortunately the weather on day one was not that nice…. but still I took a map and started my sight seeing tour ;-) Stockholm is known as the Venice of the north (similar to some other Northern cities) this is because the city actually consists of a couple of Islands which are connected with each other…..

The main area were a couple of the sightseeing attractions are is known as Gamla Stan (also known as the old town). Here you will find for example the palace and some other sights. In the area of the busstation you find the main city and shopping area and nearby to the bridge to Gamla Stan also the City Hall (Stadtshuset) where the nobel price function is hold. You don’t need to take the Metro or the bus, you can comfortably walk to the main places ;-)

So I walked around the city, went to the city hall but actually I was a bit too late for the sights, as the opening hours were pretty short and it was already 3 or 4 in the afternoon. But even with the rain my first impressions of the city were pretty good…check it out:

City Hall:

Riddarholm Church (unfortunately closed at that time):

Palace entrance gate (always secured by guards)

So after walking around and with almost no sleep since the day before I became quite hungry and tired after some time.  I walked through the city and everywhere are these lion statues… I guess it is a symbol of Sweden or at least for Stockholm:

So my dinner was not really traditional, the closest place that I could find was a sushi buffet place where I could relax with some Jasmine tea and a good selection of Sushi. From there then I went back to the hostel and relaxed in the hostel own cafe. In the hostel then I met some really interesting people…

There was a couple from Helsinki (Finland). The interesting part is that they of course love Germany! They were on their way to a festival in Germany but could not fly due to the ash cloud. Both like heavy metal and guess how both met? Well the guy is actually Mexican (Giraldo, but he does not look like one at all). His wife is from Finland.  Well and how did both met? Over myspace! Both are musicians and had their site on myspace, started chatting, messaging and then the Mexican guy flew to Helsinki, they became a couple and after some months they got married :-D Amazing story! Then during the talk I learned a lot about Finland, the language, the people, and much more!

After some time I became really tired and finally went to bed!

Day 2 (Friday)

Well the second day actually started pretty well. I got up quite early and the weather was really good! So first thing to do “Breakfast!” Then first thing I do in another country is to buy some postcards for everyone at home….and there you see directly that the Swedish government applies 25% tax on each product…and we thought in Germany that we pay a lot….So I bought the cards, wrote them and send them to home and wow the Swedish Post is really good, the cards arrived already next Monday when I was back to the office, other countries can learn a lot from it!

-        Finally, the sun was shining and it was the first day that I had actually great weather!

      So I went directly to the Nobel Museum. Infront of the museum I first enjoyed some nice ice cream until the museum finally opened its doors.

      At those museums, they offer every hour or twice a day a personal free tour, where a guide shows you around and explains everything. And as it seemed I was the only one for the tour, so I received a personal tour just for me…but to be honest… the tour was not so good…so don’t do it. Its more fun to explore the museum by yourself. So now everyone might think that the museum is about all the Nobel price winner, well here you are wrong. The museum is actually quite small and it is more about the life of Alfred Nobel and his work. Of course you can find also information on one or the other Nobel prize winner. What was really interesting to me, was the fact that there were some individuals which actually did refuse to accept the Nobel prize. Some were forced to refuse but one who refused by himself was Jean Paul Satre… well as a Philosopher he had his reasons… and you are free to google them :-P . But after some pressure by his family and friends Satre changed his mind and decided to accept the price, but he was too late. If you win the price then you have to travel within one year to Stockholm to receive it, otherwise it is gone.

Did some of you ever notice that individuals such as Mahatma Gandhi never received a Nobel Price? Well during his life he was nominated a couple of times, but never one… then when he actually became more famous, he was already dead. Thats another rule, the Nobel Prize can’t be won by a dead person. Another interesting fact is that it was Alfred Nobel himself who decided that the peace Nobel price should be issued by Norway and a Norwegian committee in Oslo. Also one other thing that some of you might not know is that in the initial plan there was never a Nobel price for economics. This price was established much later and fund by the Swedish national bank and given away in the memory of Alfred Nobel. So slightly different procedure then the other Nobel prices.

What you should definitely try out is the cafe in the museum. No not because of the beverages and food… One thing that happened there was that when Bill Clinton visited the museum he took his chair, turned it around and signed it. From that time on every Nobel prize winner came to the museum and signed a chair. I think most of the people who visit the cafe do not know that. Actually this is the main reason that the museum does not have a visitor book for famous visitors. It is kind of mandatory for every Nobel price winner to visit the museum. Well even if you guys are not interested in all the documentation, the museum also offers a lot of multimedia and workshops to inspire people towards inventions, innovation, creativity, etc.

-         After the museum I went to the Royal Palace:

“The Stockholm Palace (Swedish: Stockholms slott or Kungliga slottet) is the official residence and major royal palace of the Swedish monarch. (The private residence of the royal family is Drottningholm Palace). Stockholm Palace is located on Stadsholmen (“city island”), in Gamla Stan (the old town) in the capital, Stockholm. It neighbours the Riksdag, Sweden’s parliament. (Wikipedia)”


even the royal dog get’s a good treatment by the guard…

So during the time when I was in Stockholm, there were three parts of the palace which one could visit: the 3 crowns museum, the royal apartments, and the crown juwels. The combi ticket is a good deal and also in the price included open guided tours. And I have to say here the tours are really good! Especially the tour of the treasury (crown juwels) is amazing! They tell you a lot which you might never know in an other way. Did you knew that the Swedish Royal family actually has a special crown for funerals? This is because the actual crown is passed on to next generations. Nowadays the Kings and Queens of Sweden actually do not wear a crown and are not crowned anymore. This is especially due to the separation of the church and the government.

The 3 crowns museum is in the catacoms of the palace. Well if you don’t have much time then don’t bother to visit this museum… for me it is not really worth the time. Much better were actually the royal apartments. Unfortunately I did not had a good guide for the tour… there was no Audioguide available and the guides who did the free tour actually were talking long stories which actually were made nice with a lot of useless information. So I checked out everything by myself.  Actually here you can see the fusion of an old monarchy with the modern times. There are really old roomes which are bound to a lot of history but there are also newer modern rooms. The key point is that all of the rooms are still used by the royal Family. (The apartments have two floors, they tour only shows you one floor ;-) )

After the palace closed (and also all other museums) I went back and walked around had some nice Salmon (when you are in Stockholm eat fish!!!). The taste was amazing!!!

Then I went back to the hostel and had a really nice and chilled evening with my friends from Finland :-)

Day 3 (Saturday)

My last day in Stockholm I spent with visiting the Stadshuset and the Vasa museum (both I can recommend). The Stadshuset is Stockholms city hall

Stockholm City Hall (Swedish: Stockholms stadshus or Stadshuset locally) is the building of the Municipal Council for the City of Stockholm in Sweden. It stands on the eastern tip of Kungsholmen island, next to Riddarfjärden’s northern shore and facing the islands of Riddarholmen and Södermalm. It houses offices and conference rooms as well as ceremonial halls, and the luxury restaurant Stadshuskällaren. It is the venue of the Nobel Prize banquet and one of Stockholm’s major tourist attractions. Wikipedia” 

So when you plan to visit the city hall, you have to be aware of the fact that you can’t just enter the building and walk around. There are specific tour times where one can join if places are available. The tour is pretty good and the building and interior are impressive:

Just imagine, the whole floor is up to the last inch filled up with seats and tables for guest of the Nobel prize banquette. Actually there is almost no more space available one everything is set.

And here sits the city parliament:

the roof of this room is constructed as the bottom of a viking ship… the background is that the vikings whenever they need to take some time to discuss issues and make decisions, they did it unter the turned ship… so thats why the roof:

In the city hall there is one specific room with quite old wall carpets where people are getting married:

I don’t know why people like it that much but our guide told us that the weddings in this specific room are supposed to be romantic and are booked by couples all over the world in advance. The weddings take there only a couple of minutes, all precisely timed… Crazy!

Each room/hallway has its own purpose… and design….

this golden room is actually where the party after the dinner happens. The figure in the center is actually the guardian of the city. It is all gold around… with many great motives!!!

Another great part of the City Hall is the tower! You can actually climb up the tower…

The way is quite narrow, so nothing for people who are claustrophobic:

On top of the tower is a bell:

and an amazing view over the city:

this round thing in the back is actually a stadium/concert hall, and a lift outside takes you to the top for a great view… (I heard)

and even the park looks nicer in the sun:

From the city hall I went to an island where only museums are located…. in order to visit the Vasa museum…

Vasa (or Wasa) was a Swedish warship that was built from 1626 to 1628. The ship foundered and sank after sailing less than a nautical mile (ca 2 km) into her maiden voyage on 10 August 1628. Vasa fell into obscurity after most of her valuable bronze cannons were salvaged in the 17th century. She was located again in the late 1950s, in a busy shipping lane just outside the Stockholm harbor. She was salvaged with a largely intact hull on 24 April 1961. She was housed in a temporary museum called Wasavarvet (“The Wasa Shipyard”) until 1987, and was then moved to the Vasa Museum in Stockholm. The ship is one of Sweden’s most popular tourist attractions and has since 1961 attracted more than 28 million visitors. Wikipedia”

So actually if one thinks about it, it is quite funny that people are proud of this ship… It was build and did not survived long …but thats exactly the reason why it is so good preserved… and I must say, it is a great ship….and huge!

So afterwards I went to get some food and back to the hostel. At the hostel I chilled a bit at the cafe and then took my backpack and went to the Busterminal… You might think now why??? It is Saturday night???

Well for Stockholm Skavsta the flights are not that great, my flight was scheduled early in the morning and the bus timings were not around the clock…I could of course with the first bus catch the flight, but it’s better to be sure (one bad experience)

So I went to the airport, worked on my university asignment, watched again on a public TV Die Hard 4.0, and slept at a table…. pretty uncomfortable but ok….

Day 4 (Sunday)

So it was an early flight back, at least I did got an Emergency exit… took the bus from Hahn to Frankfurt and first slept for some hours and then finished my uni work!

I have to say it was a really good long weekend.

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Trip to Prague 17th to 21st March 2010

During my last month in the US I was kinda getting nervous…. my trip is going to end and as I am a travel addict, I need to book already me next trip…. Luckily Ryanair again offered some pretty good deals (35 Euros return) :-D

So I booked my flight to Prague, Czech Republic. This was I guess my country number 21 or something…. So far all my travels have been safe but unfortunately in Prague some of my stuff got stolen (annoying especially because also my camera was gone)…. well I guess someday it had to happen….

Anyway before my stuff got stolen I had the chance to visit the charles bridge, the castle, the church in the castle, had great views over Prague, met Rainer a guy from CS who lives in Prague. He took me to a great vineyard nearby the city, where one can enjoy amazing wines, with a beautiful view over the city. I met some cool people at the hostel, walked through the Jewish quarter of the city, visited some Synagoges and of course went to the main places within the city center….

All in all it was a great visit, unfortunately now pictures available to share…. but from incidents like this one learns ;-) If you happen to be in Prague, beware of thefts at anytime and anyplace…. also make sure that you prepare your knowledge regarding the mafia taxis, etc. And always keep copies of your travel documents…. I luckily had both (passport and ID card) with me…always useful!

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Last month in the US… January 2010

So back from my West coast trip I started again with work in Rochester Hills…..

The last month of my stay in the US began… and I decided to stay in Michigan for that month….

What did I do?

  • Well first of all I did a lot of work, but on the other hand I also met a lot of people….
  • CS Brunch with the Michigan/Detroit Couchsurfing Community (was amazing)
  • Risotto Dinner and nights out with my new friends Christina Lim, Dagan and some other people
  • Dinner out with Bruce and his wife Susan, my good colleagues Reid and Ron
  • and I watched a lot of movies, shows, etc. like for example Avatar in 3d at an IMAX theatre

One other cool thing that I did was visiting the Detroit Autoshow and the Henry Ford Museum! Both worth visiting..

Check out the pics:

Detroit Autoshow:

This was the first developed electric car… it just did not survive because gas was way cheaper back then…. I wonder how the world would have changed if they had made an other decision….

Lincoln cars really have a lot of style:

The camaro, love this car!

The future of parking enforcement police looks good!:

nice:

The hottest car at the show Audi R8….my new dream car:

So at one day Bruce and I decided to visit the Henry Ford museum.

“The Henry Ford, a National Historic Landmark, (also known as the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village, and more formally as the Edison Institute), in the Metro Detroit suburb of Dearborn, Michigan, USA, is the nation’s “largest indoor-outdoor history museum” complex. Named for its founder, the noted automobile industrialist Henry Ford, and based on his desire to preserve items of historical significance and portray the Industrial Revolution, the property houses a vast array of famous homes, machinery, exhibits, and Americana. The collection contains many rare exhibits including John F. Kennedy’s presidential limousine, Abraham Lincoln’s chair from Ford’s Theatre, Thomas Edison’s laboratory, the Wright Brothers‘ bicycle shop, and the Rosa Parks bus. (Wikipedia)”

And dude this museum is indeed huge!!!

everything was needed during war times:

The car of JFK, he was assasinated in that one…. interesting fact…it was even used by Presidents after JFK….

This is how the Canadians get rid off the snow on their rail roads… damn its huge….how did they get such a huge train into the museum???

and one of the older Fords…..

The museum is really nice. So if you happen to be in Michigan or near by Detroit you should definitely pay it a visit. Besides the museum there is also a manufacturing sight, where you can see the manufacturing process, an Imax cinema and a village in which the old classic life is live demonstrated!

My last days in Rochester Hills were quite nice… I also got at my farewell a belated Christmas gift with Chocolate and Wine by Nury ;-)

Oh and you can also see the Mountain Dew drink…. this was the drink to get energy by coffein and sugar before Redbull was invented…saved my life in the US many times…

So end of January I left the country, cleaned up my house, dropped the keys, said bye to friends and colleagues, made my way to the airport car rental to give back my ford focus and started my way back to Germany!

The three months that I spent in the US were an amazing experience, especially because of the wonderful people I met there! Especially thanks to Bruce and Reid who really tried to transform me into an American ;-)

I’ll be back!

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New Years resolution for 2010

So while I was celebrating in Las Vegas, I also made my new years resolution…

and the resolution is to visit 5 new countries during the whole year :-D

Challenge accepted!

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Fourth Stop: Las Vegas, Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam 29.12.2009 – 03.01.2010

So I took the bus ride from LA to Las Vegas…. unfortunately I could not get an overnight bus, so I took the bus which runs through the day, which gave me the opportunity to see some of the dessert…actually quite nice, just like in the movies ;-)

So I arrived around 16:15 at the greyhound station in Las Vegas. From there it was not a long way for me to walk to the hostel…well ok it kind of was. Also in Las Vegas it is best that you come by your own car or you rent a limo. Now you guys ask why wasn’t I staying in a hotel? Well I was travelling alone so you meet more and better people in a hostel and around new year the prices for hotel rooms in Vegas are really high!

The hostel is actually not in a nice area…it is surrounded by Motels which surrounded by homeless people and used by some hookers. But who cares, I always put my angry look on with my black beard…nothing can happen :-P

So I arrived at my hostel and around 8 pm then one of my friends from couchsurfing (Adam) who lives in Vegas picked me up to grab something to eat and drink at a local place (Sportsbar) where no tourists are. Was nice to see that people who live in Vegas have actually a live besides the Las Vegas Strip.

How did I met Adam? Well on couchsurfing me and some people were discussing on to travel together to see the Grand Canyon. One polish au pair (Eweline) from San Francisco, a guy from Malta (Ryan) and the US guy (Adam) and me fixed a trip to the Grand Canyon for the 30th of December. We were especially lucky that Adam has a car and offered to drive :-D

The evening was good, but I went early to bed as I had to wake up pretty early the next day to go to the Grand Canyon!!! Yeah!!!

Day 2

So I got up around 4 in the morning to get ready, Adam and Eweline picked me up at 5:00 and then we went to get Ryan…. actually it is kind of crazy, goin on such a day trip with people I have never met before (except Adam the evening before, lol)

Our first stop was the hoover dam

“Hoover Dam, once known as Boulder Dam, is a concrete arch-gravity dam in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River, on the border between the US states of Arizona and Nevada. It was constructed between 1931 and 1936 during the Great Depression, and was dedicated on September 30, 1935, by President Franklin Roosevelt. Its construction was the result of a massive effort involving thousands of workers, and cost over one hundred lives.(Wikipedia)”

The dam is actually right at the border between the states Arizona and Nevada, and there is even a time zone change between those two states. I must say the dam is pretty impressive! We went early in order to have a glimpse on the sunrise and also to escape the mass of tourists… it seems that we were there too early as the bridge/damn is only open for pedestrians by daylight. (Seriously, police is checking and we experienced it!)

We did not wanted to take the tour through the dam. But fact is Las Vegas would not exist without the light that the dam produces. But what you should try out are the toilets which are at the dam. From there you have a really nice view!!! Guaranteed! Also worth to visit is the memorial which was built up for all the workers who died during the project.

We took several stops on our way to the Grand Canyon National Park….

but luck was not really on our side. I would have never thought that it could snow in Arizona! Moreover it was not just snowing…it was a real snow storm! And as many people are not used to the snow there, sometimes because of others our Car got stuck and we had to push the car to get it going!

Finally after some time we reached the National Park, reached the entrance, paid the fee (25$) and again were warned (by the amazing looking femal park ranger) that there is a bad storm and that it would not be really possible to see something. Anyway we came all the way, lets try.

So we went in and it was bad! We had to push the car again but then the car was going and me and Ewelina could not catch it, so for a couple of hundred meters we were walking and the main attraction for the tourist that were comming/going to the Canyon. At the Canyon one could get the idea of how high and large the Canyon is, but one could see almost nothing due to the storm. Anyway it was a great experience, who can at least say that he has been to the Canyon during a snow storm….

So we left the Canyon (Southern Rim) rather quickly, wait we lost Ryan and I had to search him for some minutes, but in the end we found him and went to the IMAX theatre to at least see the Grand Canyon on the big screen…it seemed that many tourists had this idea. The movie is ok, but not really recommended when you have the real thing next door, but can’t see it. What can I say…it was a group decision ;-) But still good to get a bit warmed up, especially for Ryan as he did not had a jacket or gloves.

Then we grabbed some food (Pizza, rather expensive) and made our way back to Vegas. It took us some more time due to the bad weather but it was a fun road trip. But the day was not over yet. I was dropped of the Hostel around 21:30, had a hot shower (this saved my life) some tea, got ready and got picked up by Adam in order to party with the other guys at the Hard Rock Hotel Club (yes the hotel club and not the Cafe)

Apparently Ryan’s host now some people and we got into the Club for free and without queuing. Furthermore it was Ladies night and Ewelina got some drinks for the guys ;-) The party was amazing! A hard rock drummer on stage who played a long to the DJs music, great entertainment by dancers, and the waitress really gave the guests the impression “welcome to sin city”. In the club I also met the Hostel crowed, who happened to also be partying there. So double fun!

Finally I arrived back at the hostel around 5 in the morning, that means I was 24 hours up and running! So I was happy to see my bed! An amazing start into Vegas life!
Day 3 (31.12)

As you might guess, I slept only a few hours… I have far more important things to do then sleeping when I am travelling! So I met a new roommate at the hostel who was from Australia and just arrived to Vegas. So we teamed up and walked to the strip. (a rather long walk, next time we better take the bus). To get to the bus we first had to walk to the Fremont Experience which is close to our hostel

“The Fremont Street Experience (FSE) is a pedestrian mall and attraction in downtown Las Vegas, Nevada. The FSE occupies the westernmost 5 blocks of Fremont Street, including the area known for years as “Glitter Gulch,” and portions of some other adjacent streets. The attraction is a barrel vault canopy, 90 ft (27 m) high at the peak and four blocks, or approximately 1,500 ft (460 m), in length. While Las Vegas is known for never turning the outside casino lights off, each show begins by turning off the lights on all of the buildings, including the casinos, under the canopy. Before each show, one bidirectional street that crosses the Experience is blocked off for safety reasons.(Wikpedia)”

So at the fremont street experience we had a good donout breakfast, passed the stratosphere tower and reached finally the Las Vegas Strip with all the Casinos and Hotels. We saw it all, Treasure Island Hotel, the Venetian, the Belagio, The new york new york hotel (ride)

MGM Lion

New York New York Hotel… amazing!!!

Bellagio Hotel with Fountain

Went to a food court to grab some good burger. Then I called up at 3 in the afternoon my family to wish them a happy new year in Germany (time difference). Was kind of different but it seemed that many people were experiencing this that day. We checked out a shopping plaza with major stores of Prada and other high quality brands…this was crazy! The first time that I saw a mall which had more security than shoppers.

The fun thing about Las Vegas is that this town is all about fun. If you buy a cocktail you get a mega large guitar or can witch a really long straw that you can carry around as it was a bagpack.

So finally we went again to the belagio hotel to watch the fountain show (Amazing with the music, lights and fountain). Then we took the bus back to Fremont street to walk from there back to the hostel to grab some dinner.

Ah it is the 31st of december! So what are my plans for New Years eve? Well I had no plans but the hostel had one so I signed up, ironed my shirt and suit and went down to the lobby! Around 9 pm we all gathered, the hostel organized 3 hummer limosines with unlimited champagne! So we had an amazing ride with lots of cool people to the MandalayBay Hotel (which is one of the large hotels on the Las Vegas Strip) jumped the queue to entry the night club eyecatcher and it was an amazing party!

Just before midnight we all walked out to the strip to see the fireworks (it was nice but to be honest, I have seen better ones) at the MGN Hotel. After the fireworks I went back to the club to continue with the partying! Afterwords it was difficult to get back to the hostel…too tired to walk back home…too long queues for the taxi, so had to wait a little bit longer to get a chance to get the bus…

Day 4

So when I reached the hostel and went to bed it was around 5 in the morning. At 6 I was woken up by a female police officer that was standing in my hostel room. I felt like I am in a drill camp. Well some of us were also thinking that this might be some prank or someone ordered a stripper :-P

But no it was actually the real police. One guy could not get in his room (our room) there was a booking mistake by the hostel and two wrong brazilians were put into our room. The guy was drunk, could not get into his room and therefore called the police. The best part of the police officer was the sentence that she said when she entered “good its hot in here, are you guys baking cakes or what”. Great start into 2010.

Anyway after the police left, I was able to catch some more hours of sleep and got up around 11. Enjoyed my pancake breakfast, had some tea, chilled, talked with some other travellers. Then had a great dinner and went with some people to see the fremont experience lightshow. Wow this is really something that you should not miss when you happen to be in Vegas. The light shows there change regulary.

Then we went again to the Vegas Strip to see some of the other free shows of the hotels. The Treasure Island show with pirates, and many explosions. Then the volcano show at the mirrage hotel also great! The downside is always that the shows have specific timings and one has to wait sometimes until one show starts.

Then I went to the ceasars palace, had a view on the sky painted ceiling, lots of nice statues, went to the Casino, played some rounds and then passed the pussycat dolls club. Again had to wait long for the bus to get back to the hostel.

At the hostel I had again a good time with people from the UK, France and America. Went to bed around 5 in the morning (I guess this became some sort of a habbit) But before I went to bed I said good by to my friends from Santa Barbara with whome I celebrated New Years with.

Day 5
My last day in Vegas. I went early to the fremont street experience in order to purchase tickets for a cirque de soleil show. See another amazing thing about Vegas is that there are plenty of shows that one can watch. And the different cirque the soleil shows are one of the most spectacular and therefore worth seeing.

So I got some tickets, actually quite cheap, as there are stalls who sell last minute rest tickets for much lower rates. (tix4tonight) So after I got the tickets, I went to the New York New York hotel to try out the rollercoaster and also to exchange my voucher for the actual show ticket. The rollercoaster ride was short but good! Recommended!

From there we then went to the MGM Hotel to see the Lions, and from there took the bus to get to the Gun Store. Now many of you will think, what is the gun store about and what is Kawe doing there? Well my friend Bruce told me that Las Vegas has a gun store where one can try out all sorts of gun … and by all sorts it really means all sorts.

So I tried out a classical Uzi and my Australian friend was convinced by the good looking texas dialect speaking ladies to try out a full gun package. The fun thing is that you can pick any target that you want, (I took bin Laden) then you get your ear and eye protection, an instructor and you are ready to go. It was the first time that I shot a gun, especially one like this and I must say it is kind of scary. Why is it scary? Well it was so easy to fire 35 bullets in a couple of seconds and also hit the target… So I don’t want to even imagine meeting a person who has such a gun and is on his way to kill people. It became even stranger when we met an afro american outside the store at the bus stop. He chose as his target the picture of a good looking girl, because he recently broke up with his girlfriend. And guess what he was from Detroit, luckily I live outside Detroit and not in the city.

So after the gun shooting I went back to the NYNY Hotel, watched the show which was mind blowing, it is unbelievable how talented some people are! Went then again to the Bellagio to have one more time a look at the fountain show (can’t get enough). Continued then to the Stratosphere Tower:

“Stratosphere Las Vegas is a tower, hotel, and casino located on the Las Vegas Strip in Las Vegas, Nevada. Its tower is also the tallest observation tower, and the 5th-tallest structure, in the United States, as well as being the tallest structure in Las Vegas. It is owned by Whitehall Street Real Estate Funds, an affiliate of Goldman, Sachs & Co who purchased American Casino & Entertainment Properties which includes the Stratosphere along with three other properties. The sale closed on February 21, 2008 for US$1.3 billion. The property’s signature attraction is the 1,149 ft (350.2 m) Stratosphere Tower, the tallest freestanding observation tower in the United States, and the second tallest in the Western Hemisphere, surpassed only by the CN Tower in Toronto, Ontario. The hotel is a separate building with 24 stories, 2,427 rooms and an 80,000 sq ft (7,400 m2) casino (Wikipedia).”

The rides are worth the money. Well the free fall tower is kinda boring but still you have an amazing view over Las Vegas. The other rides are even better ;-)   Of course you can also enjoy the view without buying tickets for the ride. I was there kind of late so did not had to queue up that long, but I guess during the day one has to wait long.

From the tower I then took the bus back to the hostel, packed my bag, played some pool, meet again many travelars and actually did already checked out as I did not need the bed during that night.

Day 6

at 4 in the morning I then took the shuttle to the airport, met there my Brazilian friend Eunice (remember my roommate from Los Angeles) had a good Starbucks Chai Tea latte and took my flight back to Detroit.

Unfortunately I had a lay over in Minneapolis (from the window I could only see white everywhere). Also during the flight my illness came through (a bad cold) which I pressed down during the travelling. So the stop over was actually good because I could get some medcine. At the airport I had a good lunch and then took my flight and arrived at 5:30 in the afternoon in Detroit. The booked taxi picked me up and brought me back home… finally some rest … well not that much as I had to work again next day…

I must say it was an amazing trip along the West Coast!!!! I just wished I had more time!

PS: If you think that there are some infos and images missing…well I only can say this…

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Third Stop: Los Angeles 26.12.2009 – 29.12.2009

I arrived around 9pm in Los Angeles.The train ride was actually quite nice! I don’t know why people don’t like train rides in the US…

The city has a good metro system, so I took the red line from the station to Hollywood, as my hostel (known as banana bungalow hostel). The place is not bad and I had an excellent roommate with Eunice (au pair in the US) from Brazil :-)

So for the first evening I just took a short walk on the Hollywood Blvd, looked at some of the stars in the ground, went back to the hostel and slept.

Day 2

On the next day I woke up early, enjoyed a small breakfast and took the red line to the universal studios. The entry to the studio was quite expensive with 69 $, for the double rate you can get a priority pass…so that you don’t have to queue up for the attractions. But for me the single pass was enough, as the attractions have also queues for single persons in order to fill up the cars :-D less waiting time for me ;-) Eating and Drinking is also kind of expensive, so bring something or have something before.

The park is actually fun, but it is more some sort of an amusement park and less movie studios. So that was actually a bit dissapointing. But one specific ride shows you some original movie (for example back to the future) and TV sets (TV Show Desparate Housewives, etc.). In the end it was fun and worth the money!

a fun fact is actually that these are actually real houses, so when they shoot the show, they actually shoot outside and inside!

However if someone wants the full movie studio experience, he has either to book a different package, or visit other studios such as the Warner Bros Studios.  Some attractions which were really fun, were the house of horrors, Shrek 4d and the krusty park. Especially for the Krusty park ride it is worth to wait in the long queue!

I almost spend the whole day in the park but still could not take every ride such as waterworld, as there you have to wait for the specific show times. Well at least I got some cool photo clicks in the park:

Outside of the Universal Studios is a artificial shopping area built up known as the citywalk. It is fun to walk around there, with all the lights, fun stuff to buy

in a sweets store where a statue of Marilyn is built up from sweets! Amazing

From the Universal Studios I took again the shuttle back to the metro station and from there the metro back to Hollywood, where I reached around 8 in the evening. Perfect time walk around the boulevard and visit some of the famous sights!

First stop was the Kodak theater with the chinese cinema

“The Kodak Theatre is a live theatre in the Hollywood and Highland retail, dining, and entertainment complex on Hollywood Boulevard and North Highland Avenue in the Hollywood district of Los Angeles. Since its opening on November 9, 2001, the theatre has been the home of the annual Academy Awards Ceremonies (The Oscars), which were first held there in March 2002, and is the first permanent home for the awards. Since 2002, the theater was also the home for American Idol.(Wikipedia)”

When there is no function, it is actually no fun to walk around the complex. There is more fun infront of the theatre, where you can see people imitating celebrities. In that year the most popular imitations where  Captin Sparrow and the Joker (from Batman)

So from there I grabbed something to eat looked at some more stars in the walk of fame

and walked all the way back to my hostel.  There I met my new roommates from France and Sweden and relaxed with a game of pool and some drinks with even more international people (Columbia, Brasil, etc.)  Was a fun evening!

Day 3

So the thing with LA is, it is a very large city. Travelling by metro takes time, and the metro does not go everywhere. It is even worse with the Bus. The thing is I did not have a car in LA…and I realized on day 3 that this was a mistake….

I woke up early and took the bus 704 to the santa monica pier and beach…after all I wanted to enjoy some LA/Californian lifestyle.

on my way I also saw the famous Hollywood sign

As said before, the bus ride took me ages but it was worth it! The beach is really nice and I really envy the people living there. The pier has also some fun rides. Well I walked then all the way long at the beach to Venice Beach (where all the crazy/unusual people are).


I just loved it! And guys it was late december ….

So from that place I again took the bus, passed Beverly Hills and had a glimps on the area where the rich people live ;-) So on my way to Hollywood I had to decide whether I want a VIP tour in a car passing all the large mansions and bungalows or should I visit LA downtown. Well as I dont care that much about VIPs and how they life…I went for some sightseeing in downtown.

I started at Union Station, had a glimpse at the market in Olivera street, found some historical hotels, saw the Walt Disney Concert hall which has an astonishing architecture!

Saw the financial district, went to the staples center (the home of the Lakers Basketball team)

In the end I went back to the hostel, where I had to wash my clothes, as I did not took that much with me.  I relaxed with a good tea and I was somehow k.o. Unfortunately there was no more time to visit sunset trip and it seemed that everyone else around me was also k.o. Maybe it was the after christmas time or also that my visit to L.A. was during the week and not the weekend (Fr/Sa).

So I chilled with some people, packed my bag and went to bed.

Day 4

started off with a good breakfast, took then the metro to union station and there now I was waiting for my bus to Las Vegas!

All in all was L.A. a nice stop over, but only because of the nice beaches and the californian/LA lifestyle! But in the end it is for me too hollywood tourist oriented. Anyway rent a car and you will have a good time in LA!

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Second Stop: Santa Barbara 25.12.2009 – 26.12.2009

So,

I took the overnight bus (Amtrack) from San Francisco to Santa Barbara. Why do I want to visit a place like Santa Barbara? Well my colleagues at work said that it is a must see! It is very beautiful and as it was on my way along the coast line… so why not.

Day 1
I arrived at 6 am at Santa Barbara. The train station, bus station and hostel are all next to each other, directly next to the beach…. So when I arrived, the hostel was closed…it said that it will open at 08:30…so I had to wait (on Christmas Day). Anyway I was waiting for the sunrise and there was actually a coffee shop which opened already at 6:30 so I had time to sit there, enjoy a hot chocolate and talk with a stranger (homeless guy) who chose to be homeless, used to be a successful business man… A great start into the day!

The guy who works at the hostel appeard already at 8, so I could go and check in! So I started off with some breakfast, talked with people from spain and india, rented a bike but before I went on for sightseeing I took an hour nap and shower afterwards to fill up my batteries.

So around 10 I left the place to explore Santa Barbara by bike, and I must say this is really a town where one can spend the rest of his life! Check out some of the beach/shore pics:

One of the best places is the wharf (the main pier):

From the wharf I went to the courthouse which has a large tower that one can climb up for a great view. Unfortunately on this day the courthouse was closed… so better try next day….

So the city has actually only one main street, which is called market street where you find most of the sights, stores and restaurants. So I biked all the way the market street up to the Santa Barbara Mission. This is the place where the city was actually founded. It was a hard ride all the way hill up… but it was worth it…check out the pics:

So from the mission I went back to the hostel. You guys know that I don’t celebrate christmas but that evening I was. The hostel organized a Christmas dinner…good food, nice people it was a really great evening which continued in the famous Sharkeez bar… what an amazing day! I would say it was one of the best during the whole trip!!! So all back to the hostel around 3:30, some more drunk, some less… talking a couple of hours more and then after an last minute snack at 7 eleven every one went to bed.

Day 2

already my last day in Santa Barbara. So had to get up, pack my bag, enjoy some breakfast and start with sightseeing! So I was lucky that the courthouse was open, so I took my bike and went up there… look at the view:

The meeting room of the court house has some paintings which include many mistakes, maybe you will spot them when you visit the place.

So I send some post cards, walked around market street, had Indian food….

Then went back to the beach, watched the sun set and took the train around 6 to my next stop:

Los Angeles….

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First Stop: San Francisco 20.12.2009 – 24.12.2009

The whole tour started in San Francisco…..

This time I did not park my car at the long time parking, as I was going to travel for 2 weeks. So I booked this time a cab ride to the airport.. my flight to San Francisco was routed over Las Vegas (I guess thats why I got the cheapest rate ;-) )

At Las Vegas my flight to San Fran was 2 hours delayed…. and it was already getting late. So late that I almost missed the las Bart (the name of the Metro system in San Francisco) from the airport to the city center/downtown.  Well my hostel was a bit far away from the Metro station… so it meant to walk and walk… and for those of you who know San Francisco, know that the city has many hills…

well after a couple of minutes I reached the hostel (USA Hostels – very recommended) got my bed sheets, went to my room which I shared with people from UK and the Netherlands.

Day 2

The good thing at USA Hostels is that the offer everything so that you can make and eat unlimited pancakes in the morning ;-) which was really good as I was almost starving that morning. Unfortunately the weather on that day was not really nice. Everything was foggy and tiny rain drops everywhere. But that weather of course can’t stop me from sightseeing ;-)

So, after some good fresh pancakes I went out to get a ticket to the famous cable car ride…
“A cable car is any of a variety of transportation systems relying on cables to pull vehicles along or lower them at a steady rate, or a vehicle on these systems (Wikipedia).”

Here you can see a cable car beeing turned at one end station. People use it as a standard way for transportation (besides the bart) but of course it is much more popular with the tourists :-D

The cable car ride took me to fisherman’s wharf

“Fisherman’s Wharf is a neighborhood and popular tourist attraction in San Francisco, California. It roughly encompasses the northern waterfront area of San Francisco from Ghirardelli Square or Van Ness Avenue east to Pier 35 or Kearny Street. (Wikipedia)”

the fisherman’s wharf is really a nice place… sometimes a bit too touristy but still good to hang out. There I directly went to pier 33 where you can get a ticket and ferry to the famous attraction alcatraz!

Alcatraz Island is an island located in the San Francisco Bay, 1.5 miles (2.4 km) offshore from San Francisco, California, United States. Often referred to as The Rock, the small island early-on served as a lighthouse, a military fortification, a military prison, and a Federal Bureau of Prisons federal prison until 1963. Later, in 1972, Alcatraz became a national recreation area and received landmarking designations in 1976 and 1986 (Wikipedia).”

Well when you happen to be in San Francisco and you want to visit Alcatraz, make sure that you book your tickets in advance, as early in the morning there is a long queue. I was lucky, as on that morning the queue was not that bad due to the not so nice weather. Also for a single person it is always easy to get a ticket ;-)

The ferry ride was actually quite fun! Sea gulls were stealing brezel’s from passengers… and the foggy view was actually amazing!

looking back to San Francisco:

and here we arrive at Alcatraz island:

the “Indians welcome” grafitti is actually the evidence for 1969 occupation of the island by Native Indians.

equipped with an audio guide the tour started… and guys I can highly recommend the audio guide! It gives you a really good tour through the facility and the island and also features some good stories of the old prisoners.

Here are some impressions:

It is interesting that the different cellar tracks were named after famous squares or streets… one was also known as the broadway.

the only place were the prisoners could practice some sports, get fresh air…

almost impossible to escape without a boat…

I know what you are thinking… every tourist had such a click… I also had to get one….

and who knows which bridge this is?

look how the fog is covering the bride towers….

and during the ferry ride back, we had again amazing views of San Francisco:

 

back at the pier I went to pier 39, where I tried the signature dish of San Francisco:

The pier has the famous sour dough boudin bakery, which bakes one of the best breads in America. There I tried out a dish called clam chouder (a milk based seafood soup served in a bread bowl) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clam_chowder

This saved my life that day…the weather was really not nice. One other thing that made this day perfect was a visit to the nearby Ghiradelli square. Ghiradelli is the second oldest and the most famous chocolate company of the US. San Francisco has a square where there are many restaurants and of course shops and a small museum for ghiradelli sweets. That desert was worth it!

After that I went back to the hostel, chilled with playing some pool and table soccer.

 

Day 3

started kind of early. Again pancakes for breakfast… and then I started walking as it was an amazing weather outside… I really like the architecture of all the houses:

and I arrived and passed the main cathedral in San Fran:

the inside of the cathedral is not that spectacular but still nice to see… man but walking all these hills is exhausting:

Remembers you of the house of the TV show “Full House”… good old times

From here I started to make my way with the bus to the golden gate park which obviously includes the entry to the golden gate bridge:

In real life that bridge is even larger than I thought….

Amazing view from the bridge:

and I reached after a long walk the other side

Great view on the city:

once reached one end, it was again time to walk back… now I understood why so many people where on bikes…

Great was also one warning which should prevent people from jumping:

From the bridge I took the bus to get to the coast line of the pacific ocean. This was my first time actually at the pacific ocean…

it was windy and the water was damn cold….

on curiosity of the golden gate park are the wind mills:

From here I took the bus back to downtown, where one can see some really nice buildings with kind of different architecture:

and arrived finally at Chinatown (San Francisco is really famous for it, as the majority of Asians living in the US actually live in San Francisco)

There I did some shopping (T-Shirt souvenirs) and also good some really good chinese food! I can highly recommend this to anyone who should happen to be in San Francisco!!!

As the day was pretty exhausting I finally went back to the hostel, attendet a hostel party and then went kind of early to bed…

 

Day 4

Guess what, day 4 also started with pancakes… ok I seriously now need some different breakfast! So again a full day of planned activities. As you guys know even if the city has many hills, I have to walk! So I walked all the way up to the Coit Tower:

“Coit Tower is a 210-foot (64 m) tower located in the Telegraph Hill neighborhood of San Francisco, California. The tower, located in the city’s Pioneer Park, was built in 1933 at the bequest of Lillie Hitchcock Coit to beautify the city of San Francisco (Wikipedia)”

the tower itself was first to monitor all the incoming ferries into the san francisco bay, now it is open for people to climb up and do sighseeing. Believe me it is worth it, not that expensive but on a day with good weather you will have an amazing view!!!

do you see Alcatraz???

It almost looks like in the movie inception…. morphed streets…

Also a great curiosity in the city is Lombard street:

From there I walked pass a couple of churches, went again to chinatown to have some good dim sum and then I walked to the ferry terminal. The ferry terminal has many regional food and drink stalls where you can get great local food and especially wines from the region. Next to the ferry terminal is also the amtrack station where I checked in for my bus ride tickets.

From there I went to the civic center which is the city hall of San Francisco. There one has a great view of the town hall, the opera which is right next to it and other historically designed buildings.

looks a bit like the St. Pauls Cathedral…. and even better when it is lightened up during the night…by the way it is free and worth it to go inside

Then back to the hostel, meeting some people and checking out some bars in San Francisco….

 

Day 5

The last day of my visit to San Francisco. On this day I planned to see something a bit outside of San Fran. I booked a short trip with the hostel to the Muir Woods. The Muir Woods is a national monument which has a some of the oldest and largest trees in the US.

huge trees…

There was even a function of the United Nations was hosted and a first draft of the charter was signed. This location was especially chosen cause it should remind the participants about peace, harmony etc.

From the muir woods, our trip took us to the island sausalito, which lies in the San Francisco Bay. The island is also known as the island of the rich people. It has an expensive yacht harbour and we mostly saw old people :-P But I must say, sausalito is really beautiful! I enjoyed ice cream in the sun

also taking again some pics with the Golden Gate Bridge :-D

The tour bus brought us back to Fishermans wharf where there were still a couple of hours for me to enjoy! So there I could see some breakdance performances and other artists. The highlight for me was actually an innovative beggar. He did not do the standard begging. He was hiding behind some green to scare people passing bay, and others were so amused so that they gave him money for it!

Here is an image of the beggar hiding:

The wharf also has a bubba gump restaurant. You guys might remember bubba from the forrest gump movie… well there is a restaurant chain of this name all over the world. And I had some great shrimp noodle dish! Yumm! The pier is also famous for their seals, but during december they are not there… So I took the cable car back to the hostel, relaxed with some pool games with my friends from new zeeland, participated in a xmas party of the hostel, took a taxi to the amtrack station and then around midnight took my bus to Santa Barbara. The bus trip allowed me to get at least some hours of sleep ;-)

so next station Santa Barbara….

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Holidays – California Trip 20.12.2009 – 03.01.2010

So after my DC trip I had a couple of week to work, meet people and explore the Rochester Hills area… watched some movies such as Avatar, Sherlock Holmes, etc. Met new friends such as Sierra, Christina and Dagan…

But I was also busy with planning my 2 weeks holiday which was planned towards the end of the year:

A West Coast Trip!!

So thats the route:

- Fly into San Francisco (stay there a couple of days)

- Travel by bus to Santa Barbara (stay there one night)

- Travel by train to Los Angeles (stay there a couple of days)

- Travel by bus to Las Vegas

- Have a day trip to the Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon

- Celebrate New Years in Vegas

- Take the flight from Las Vegas back to Detroit…

Actually it was a complete round trip, as I had to fly first to Vegas in order to get from there a flight to San Francisco :-D

So each next blog entry will be on each stop… enjoy!

Kawe

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