Surprising and Romantic Paris

It is going to be a long post, I try to write every details I see, feel, and listen. Please bear with me. 

From Vienna, I took a night train to München. The train arrived at midnight, so I was waiting in Wien Meidling Hauptbahnhof for quite a while. As I told you before, the wait was not too long because I met someone who lives in Worcester, Massachusetts, a town 2.5 hour away by train from Boston.

Wien Meidling Hauptbahnhof

When I hopped on to the Hungarian train, I was surprised by how empty the train was because I was supposed to share a ‘room’ with 2 other women, but I got the whole ‘room’ for myself. I reserved a sleeper for the night, which means, I got a simple bed, including pillow and blanket, in a ‘room’ with washbasin, and even hangers! I thought I would finally be able to sleep peacefully, but it was a train that kept moving and shaking after all. I only got few hours of sleep that night, but at least, I finally tried the night train.

Around 3 AM, I woke up because the train stopped. I opened the window’s blind and peeked outside; it was in Salzburg: the hometown of Mozart. Too bad, I could only see the sign of ‘Salzburg Hauptbahnhof’. Hopefully I will be able to visit and explore the city in the future.

Salzburg Hbf.

I really want to visit Salzburg not only because of Mozart. My father had a chance to explore Germany and Austria in 1980s for his work as a mechanical engineer, when my mother was pregnant of my older sister. There is a small town near Salzburg called Hallein which was really beautiful, and my father decided to name my sister ‘Halleina’. If you are curious, she’s now doing master and professional degree in Universitas Gajah Mada, Yogyakarta.

Back to my Eurotrip. I was really sleepy when I got to München. I was happy to be back in Germany, though, mainly because no-roaming charge for internet, haha. There was also a strange feeling, like being back at home, where everything felt familiar (even though I’ve never been to München Hauptbahnhof before). Maybe because the layout of all Hauptbahnhof in Germany is similar.

Then, I took ICE (German high speed train) to Mannheim, where I waited for another ICE to Paris Est. I swear, my ICE to Paris was the most crowded one I had so far. It was like, Damri (Indonesian public bus), where the aisle is full with stuffs. Usually, when I was on ICE, most people were taking short trips, so they did not bring much stuff. This time, everyone carried at least a 23-30kg suitcase, and there was no enough space for that. The babies were crying; the elders were dragging their suitcases frustratingly because they could not find any space. The interesting thing was, maximum speed of ICE in Germany is about 200kmph, but when this ICE crossed the border and entered France, the speed increased substantially to around 315kmph. I think the French has better railways for high speed train. It was so fast, that I could see the cumulus cloud being 3D instead of 2D.

I arrived at Paris Est in late afternoon, and was surprised by how Paris actually was. There were many immigrants who mostly came from Africa (United States is still more diverse, in my view), and the public place was dirty. The weather was ‘real summer’, too, it was way too hot for me. You could imagine, I was a little bit disappointed at first by this city. No wonder some people told me before, that Paris is a bit overrated.

Well, after checking in and dropping my stuff, I tried to explore my hostel area. I stayed near Gare du Nord, so the closest touristy place from there is Basilique du Sacré Cœur in Montmarte area. It was really crowded, but really beautiful!

The Basilica.
Paris view from Basilica.
Basilica from closer look.

The day after, I visited Musée du Louvre, and the line was already long when I came 1 hour before the museum open! Good thing, I chose to visit this place first thing in the morning. All sorts of art pieces (mostly paintings) from different periods are all exhibited here. I also saw Monalisa painting (which was guarded intensively), and Venus de Milo sculpture. This museum is super huge. Literally. I spent around 3 hours to go to 95% of the rooms and I didn’t even give a second glance to the art pieces there. I really recommend this to be on your top priority if you love fine arts.

Monalisa. You need to push people to be able to see it closer.
Louvre.
Venus de Milo. Again, you need to push people aside.

Near Louvre, there is a bridge called Pont des Arts, the place where the ‘love-lock’ tradition started. The bridge is not as big as the one in Cologne, but at least, the bridge was filled with locks, and there were some lock sellers on the sides.

Pont des Arts.

I also visited a museum of modern art, Centre du Pompidou (finally!). It was really interesting to see all the unthinkable forms of arts, and I definitely enjoyed this place more than Louvre, haha. When you come here, don’t forget to check the special exhibition in the top floor of Pompidou (when you come out of the main exhibition, take the elevator up).

Pompidou.

I also went to Notre Dame Cathedral. The line was super long, and there was no big difference than other cathedrals I have seen before. I also paid a ticket to enter Sainte Chapelle, to see a chapel that is decorated with beautiful stained glass. However, 40% of the stained glass was currently renovated, and the place was dusty and really little. There were not many things to see, so I was a little bit disappointed.

Notre Dame Cathedral.

Then, I also went to see Panthéon, but I was not willing to pay some more Euros and was kind of tired of museum for the day. Paris is really expensive, maybe because it’s a world tourist destination. Eating a proper meal can cost at least 10 Euros, and for the students who don’t study in EU countries, there is no reduction in museum ticket. However, Panthéon is located near Université de Paris Sorbonne, and it was fascinating to see where Ikal and Arai, the characters in my favorite book, Laskar Pelangi tetralogy, study.

Pantheon.
Sorbonne from Pantheon.

I also visited Jardin de Luxembourg and Jardin de Tuileries, where there were many French sunbathed and enjoyed the sun like there was no tomorrow. These two palces were really beautifu, but as I have told you before, the weather was too hot for me, so I just sat down on a bench under the shade, took a little break before continuing my walk.

Jardin du Luxembourg.

In Champs-Élysées, I could see some parts could not be accessed because they were preparing for Tour de France. Some seats were set up, and there were many people selling yellow merchandise to celebrate one of the most prestigious cycling tournaments in the world. Towards the end of this road, there were also some stores, some of them were high-end and created by top fashion designers. Me? I only passed by the street and observed people, haha. Well, I also got some macarons from Ladurée. They were really good (but also expensive, I got a 20 macaron box for 40.80 Euros). At the end of Champs-Élysées road, there is Arc de Triomphe, which was, again, really crowded.

Macarons.
Arc de Triomphe.

In late afternoon (by this, I mean 8:00 PM), I went to Eiffel Tower area. I think this is the highlight of my stay in Paris, regardless several disappointments that I had before because of high expectation. However, Eiffel is different. I was there for about 2 hours, and from the start until the end, it still felt unreal. It was huge and beautiful, of course, but there was something more to it.

If you have seen Eiffel before, you may have notice that there is a detailed part in the tower, where the French scientist names are inscribed, including Lavoisier, Proust, and other names. When you stay there until the sun sets, you can also see that Eiffel is much more beautiful at night. If you wait a little bit longer, you can also see how the lights all over Eiffel blink, which makes it a magnificent show to see.

Eiffel Tower.

It is not only about the tower itself, though. Over 2 hours of my stay there, I observed something really interesting about the place. We need to thank all the immigrant labors who make Eiffel the way it is. They are the ones who are building the image of Eiffel as a romantic place.

When the sun had not set, they were selling mineral water, and other flavored beverages in a bucket half-filled with water to keep the bottles cool. Some of them also had roses ready to be sold. When a couple came, they would give the flower to the woman, and asked the man to pay. Smart move to trick a couple, eh? Just like people who sell toys in a bus in Indonesia, they would give the toy first to the kid. Later on, when the kid enjoys playing it, their parents have no choice but to pay for it.

When the sun set, bottles of alcohol, ranging from beer to wine, were put inside the bucket instead of mineral waters. Then, they would do another round to sell them, because people like to chill in front of the tower while drinking when the sun sets. If they ran out of drinks, their friend would go to the closest Carrefour, buy 10-15 bottles at the same time, hid them in the bushes, and took them out when they needed. I still wonder until now, how much they actually earn from selling drinks (how much the price gap is).

“Satu Euro lima, satu Euro lima. Murah murah, murah murah.” (One Euro for five, one Euro for five. It’s cheap.) I was surprised at first when I heard it. The merchandise seller was definitely not an Indonesian, but he knew that I am. He knew that Indonesians like to buy merchandise for their families, friends, friends of their friends, and so on. That was why they learned a sentence in Bahasa Indonesia, because Indonesians would be more interested to buy it from them. Too bad, my suitcase was already full with winter jackets and clothes, and there was no space for extra merchandise.

It was already dark when I came back to the hostel. Moreover, some RER (regional) trains were shifted and cancelled, so I needed to change subways and trains three times to get to the hostel. Paris at night was really sketchy. Thankfully, I arrived at the hostel safely.

Paris was my last stop before heading home just to be on time to celebrate Eid with my big family. My flight to Amsterdam was early in the morning, so I had no option but to take a cab from the hostel to Charles de Gaulle airport. I knew it should be 35 Euros at the most, but I had to pay 45 Euros for it, sigh.

I was a little sad when it was over, though. Although I am going to the UK for one academic year starting this coming October, it was my last time in mainland Europe for this summer. I definitely learnt a lot and transformed into a more mature traveller. Hopefully, I am going to visit places I have visited before, and more places in the future.

Au revoir, Paris, merci!

The view from Garuda Indonesia plane CGK-JOG.

Vienna: Not Only about Mozart

After spending roughly two days in Prague, I left the beautiful city and headed to Vienna. I was surprised by the Czech train, because it was really empty. I remember when I booked a seat on the train several weeks ago, the train I wanted was already full. So, I booked a seat in the train 4 hours after, and was really happy to get a seat. Well, that was good, though, because I could use the whole 4-seat area next to me to put my suitcase. 

A train to Vienna.

You know what was even cooler?
Although the train was 75% empty, the seat in front of me was also booked, and there was this British man whom I talked to during the full 5-hour journey to Vienna. He lives in London, has his own consulting company that works in human resources area, and was supposed to fly to Vietnam for his holiday instead of Prague. There was a new regulation about Vietnamese visa-on-arrival that he was not aware of, so he needed to cancel his trip on last minute, and decided to go somewhere else because he already took some weeks off. He told me, “Prague is beautiful, so I did not regret it.” I totally agree with him.

He is an interesting traveler. The year before, he went to Thailand, and even took a trip to a less-touristy place.

“You should come to Indonesia. I’ve never been anywhere else in Southeast Asia, but I can guarantee you that Indonesia is more beautiful, well, at least from what I heard.”

“Definitely, I really want to go there. But, if the bureaucratic procedure gives me a headache like Vietnam, then, we will see.”

“Don’t worry, you are a British. Your passport will let you pass the immigration control even without a visa.”

“Haha, sure thing.”

I sometimes looked outside the train as well. I realized how the terrain changed when we passed the border between Czech Republic and Austria. Czech Republic has more hills, mountains, and greenness; Austria is more ‘flat’, just like Northern Germany, and has more farms.

I arrived in Wien Meidling, then took subways (U-bahn, that’s how they called it), and arrived at my hostel. This hostel, was the best one during my whole trips. I shared room with 5 other girls (yes, new lesson, Titan, booking a female-only-room is better, but you need to deal with long line of bathroom in the morning), and the hostel was really clean (with really nice and clean en-suite bathroom).

Yay, clean hostel!

Since I arrived in Vienna late in the evening, and the rain was pouring, I decided to just walk for a little bit and look for dinner. My hostel was near Naschmarkt (night market) area, where they had different types of dinner: Asian, Western, Fusion, and ranging from fine dining to kebab/ fast food. However, since it was raining, it was not too busy. I decided to eat Chinese food, which I did not regret, because it was really good.

The day after, I woke up early, fresh and ready to explore the city. My first stop was Stephansdom, which was a cathedral. I am telling you, it was huge, and its roof had a beautiful pattern. I have seen so many cathedrals in the past two months, and this one is on top of the list in terms of its beauty, after Kölner dom and the one in Prague Castle area.

Stephansdom.

This cathedral was also close to Mozart apartment when he lived in Vienna, after moving from Salzburg. I listen to some Mozart songs (thanks to Nodame Cantabile dorama), but it felt different when I was actually in the room where he composed his best compositions, or where he had a pool with his family and friends, years ago. Knowing more about his private life helped me to understand some of his pieces.

Around Stephansdom area, there was also a long street with different stores for you who is looking for merchandise from Vienna, or clothes from designers. Then, I visited Hofburg palace area. Apparently, Austria used to have king and queen, but they were dethroned years ago. I bought a ticket to enter Silverware Museum to see the collection of silverwares that the royals used to have. They were amazing, from porcelain, to silver and gold-layered one. I also visited the royals apartment to see where the king and queen used to live, and also Sisi museum. Sisi was one of the queens, and her ‘formal’ name was Elisabeth. She was a controversial, but most-remembered queen; she was born and grew up in Bavaria (Bayern) area, before she got married with the king. She used to be a happy and free girl, before all the royal courts and rules tangled her and limited her move. She was quite unlucky; her son commited suicide, and later on, she was killed by an Italian professional murderer. In the last years of her life, because of her son’s tragedy, she only wore black gown and dress with the same color accessories.

Hofburg Palace.

Taking a subway to suburban of Vienna, I found Schloβ Schönbrunn, the royal family’s summer palace to be really fascinating and beautiful. Although it was cloudy and raining, they did not stop me from exploring the palace museum and the garden. This place somehow reminded me of Herrenhauser Palace in Hannover that I visited before.

I also went to Naturhistorisches Museum in Vienna, where they had a special exhibition in Chernobyl photographs, and also Albertina (a painting/ fine art museum), where I saw some Monet’s paintings. The Chernobyl exhibition was my favorite, and I learnt a lot how the tragedy affected the people in Ukraine, and also other European countries. I wish I had more time to explore the Museums Quartier area, since they had a cool Museum of Modern Art there. I wanted to go to one in New York during spring break a year ago, but unfortunately, I didn’t have time (well, I ended up going to one in Paris, which I will tell you more in details in next post).

Naturhistorisches Museum: filled with preserved animals.
Museum of Modern Art. Maybe in the future.

I know, you would rather see the pictures than just imagining what I told you above. Here you go!

Another side of Hofburg. 
Mozart Statue.
The parliament.
Schloβ Schönbrunn view from Gloriette.
Gloriette in Schloβ Schönbrunn.

I took a train to München Hauptbahnhof, to take a train to Mannheim, then to Paris Est, at midnight, so I was waiting for a while in Wien Meidling Hauptbahnhof. Another cool thing was, I met another man who apparently lives in Worcester, Massachusetts! So, we talked for a while, while we were waiting for our trains. Unfortunately, he realized later on, that the last train to Prague for the day already came one hour ago, so he left and told me to wish him luck in finding place to sleep. Well, I hope he actually found somewhere to sleep.

One thing that I realized during this trip was, there were so many travellers around me with their own unique stories and backgrounds. Talking to them is definitely one of many things on the list of what makes me grateful in my Eurotrip. Their willingness to help each other in a foreign country, also made me believe in humanity (faith in humanity: restored). That’s why I think everyone should do Eurotrip at least once in their lives, not only because Europe has rich history and culture, but also because of the travelers’ attitude.

The last, but not the least, place I visited before flying home was Paris. I will post this soon!

The End of My Internship and a Beautiful City Called Prague

Hello, everyone! I think it has been too long since the last time I wrote here (it’s August already, isn’t it?). Just a quick update, after I finished my internship, I traveled for a little bit to Prague, Vienna, and Paris, before I flew home from Paris, just in time for Eid. So, the past two weeks have been a roller coaster for me: experiencing three different cities and their uniqueness, taking three different flights –while worrying about missing my connecting flight because of delay, adjusting back quickly because I came to visit my big family right away in Jogja for Eid, dealing with jetlag and reverse culture shock, and of course, being patient with the limited and slow internet.

Before it’s too late, I would like to say Eid Mubarak to my Muslim brothers and sisters, please forgive me if there’s anything I did/ said that hurt you. Let’s keep up doing good deeds as what we did during Ramadan.

So, I will start slowly. With Prague. A beautiful city in Czech Republic, and so far, there is no city like this one.


On Friday the 18th, I finally finished my internship at Jacobs University. I am really thankful for what they have done to me: allowing me to be a part of their group, sharing with me about Germany and its academic world, and teaching me about supply chain disruption field. On that day, our workgroup had a workshop at Martinshof, with other people from Daimler and Mercedes-Benz, to work on their CSR project. Martinshof itself is a really interesting place. It’s a workplace for people with disability, where they produce different parts for different companies. For instance, they work with Mercedes-Benz to provide a lid for something at the bottom of the car (they were talking in German the whole time, so I didn’t really get what they said most of the time). It was really interesting to see all the modified machines and tools to fit the workers’ needs. High number of production is not their target, but the workers’ feeling of being able to do what ‘normal’ people could do; that they are worthy. After the workshop finished, I got a little farewell present from the workgroup: Bremen ruler, and magnetic thing for fridge (what is it called?) that looks really ‘logistics engineering’.

Luck, power, love, fun, joy, courage, in logistics engineering way.

The day after, I left Bremen-Schönebeck really early, trying to catch my train to Hamburg, then to Berlin, then to Prague. I had a mixed feeling: I couldn’t believe how I grow attached to this place in a relatively short amount of time, eight weeks, but at the same time, I was ready to go home and spend time with my family and friends.

It was a long trip. I was waiting in Berlin for two hours because I missed the train to Prague by 10 minutes. When I arrived in Prague, I was lost. I had oriented myself with Prague map and how to get to the hostel from Praha hlavni nadrazi (central station), but I didn’t know how the city transportation work (and how the tram ticket machine only accepts coins, while at that time I only had some cash from the ATM!). So, I ended up dragging my suitcase and two carry-ons to hostel, which was about 20 minutes away. Thanks to my inability to pack light, and my circumstances of staying semi-permanent in a place. First lesson, Titan, travel light.

My first ever Czech train! Berlin-Prague.

Honestly, it was my first stay at a hostel. The one in Heidelberg doesn’t count, since it was reserved by the DAAD program director. So, I shared a room with 11 other people, of course, since my budget is really tight. After unpacking necessary stuff and locking my important belongings, I walked outside to enjoy Prague.

Prague, is a really beautiful little city. Everything is within walking distance; I literally walked from one tourist spot to the others. There are also so many street musicians who are very talented. Most part of Prague is really old, and the streets are made of cobblestones. I felt like I was thrown to another century, or a bedtime story setting.

I also visited some synagogues (there are so many of them), and even an old Jewish cemetery. Jews used to be a significant part of the city, until Hitler came with his invasive plan of wiping out the Jews. When I visited a ceremony hall near the cemetery, there was a small exhibition of how Jews prepare the deceased before burying them. Their ritual is interestingly similar to Muslims’, and some terms are the same, such as taharah. I also saw Prague castle, and Charles River (I know right, it’s the same name as the one in Boston!). Old Town Square was really fascinating, because there were just too many tourists (and too many interesting artists trying to attract tourists). From expensive Italian restaurants, to giant bubble maker; from segway tour guide, to the smell of roasted pork knee/ knuckle (a Prague must-try food); everything was in this square.

No pork knee for me, instead, this is traditional Czech food that I got. I forgot the name, but it was a mixed of scrambled eggs and toasted dumpling-like bread. It was good, but the portion was too big for me.

On a side note, the hostel where I stayed was really noisy with drunk people. I am a morning person, and I always go to bed early (well, most of the time) and get my minimum of 7 hours of sleep. So, I was really disturbed, but I could do nothing about that. When I woke up in the middle of the night to pray, a girl was approaching me in the bathroom, and she talked to me randomly about how she had a relationship for three years (of course she was drunk), and how she wished her boyfriend would do a Eurotrip with her. Oh, well, second lesson, Titan, there is a reason why Islam prohibits drinking alcohol even for a drop.

When I went to Wenceslas Square, there was an Indian festival, there. It was, really strange, to be in Europe, and saw women in sari, a large offering for Hindu God (I believe it was for Shiva), and naan (an Indian bread that accompanies the main meal) everywhere.

The festival.

Do you know one thing that I really miss from Prague? Its beautiful red-and-blue street sign. Unlike in most places I have visited (Indonesia, the US, Germany), where the sign stand on itself at the corner of the street, Prague street sign is on the wall of a building near the corner of the street. Sometimes, in a busy road where the buildings are not in order, it can take some time to find the sign.

These pictures will tell you better how beautiful Prague is. If you come to Prague, definitely try to sit in the square watching people, tourists, and their tour guides for at least an hour, see Charles River from the bridge, explore Prague Castle, and just wander around Prague alleys and narrow roads, and get lost for a while. You never know what Prague might offer you in one deserted corner; whether it is a fellow traveller who shares the same root as you, a beautiful crystal and merchandise store, an interesting museum, or a really yummy gelato.

Wenceslas Square.
Astronomical clock, one of top overrated tourist spots in Europe. There are so many tour guides willing to take you around this area, though.
Old Town Square!
Charles River, and Prague Castle. I walked from here to the castle. 
A view of Prague from Prague Castle.

Prague, I will come back again, soon!

DAAD-RISE Scholars Meeting in Heidelberg

On Thursday, July 3rd, I went to Heidelberg to attend the DAAD-RISE Scholars Meeting for 3 days and 2 nights. What is DAAD-RISE? As I have told you in previous post, it’s a research internship program in science and engineering in Germany, for American, Canadian, and British college students.

Heidelberg, is a beautiful city in Baden-Württemberg, a state located in southern Germany. So, as you can see, it’s a long way to get there since Bremen is in up north of Germany.

The schedule is pretty packed. We had a welcome meeting in Alte Aula Heidelberg, the oldest hall in University of Heidelberg. Do you know that this university is the oldest one in Germany?

I know, the picture is not super nice, I’m sorry.
A better picture! Thanks to Daniela Wiesen!

It was amazing to see all passionate young scientists and engineers from all over the world (yes, I realized there was a high number of international students, too), and discussed about the project they were working on, or how their colleges were.

I didn’t expect that people would be so surprised when I told them that I go to MIT, though.

I think this was my first time having a name tag with MIT name attached to it.

There was a brewery banquet, with a really nice wine (that’s what I heard from the others), and a nice main dish.

Kulturbrauerei Heidelberg, photo by Daniela Wiesen.

However, since I was fasting for Ramadan on that day, I got a takeout for my main dish and decided to explore the town!

Yes, Heidelberg is full of little hills, unlike other German towns which are pretty ‘flat’. On picture: Schloss Heidelberg, the castle that I visited the day after!
Heidelberg also has a river, called Neckar, that goes through the town. What is so amazing, there is a big park along the river where people could just chill, do barbeque, play beach volleyball, among other things.

The day after, we had different presentations from companies, and Master/ PhD programs in Germany, which was really interesting, and eye-opening. There are so many opportunities to study or work in Germany. There was a little ‘career fair’ as well, but it was less intimidating than the career fair I attended in Fall semester on campus. You should check DAAD website to know more about study, research, and work opportunities in Germany!

Less intimidating career fair. Photo by Daniela Wiesen.

In the afternoon, we got a chance to explore Heidelberg deeper, and with a tour guide. I usually don’t want to pay for one, because I would rather get a kugel of eis, instead, haha. I really liked my tour guide, she knew every little thing about Heidelberg and history pretty well.

One of catholic churches in Heidelberg. Do you know what is interesting? Yes, its color! It’s bright white, which is uncommon for catholic churches in Europe.
To the old bridge that crosses Neckar. 
More Neckar!
Schloss Heidelberg! It was a wedding present from a prince to a princess. They got married when they were 16.
From Heidelberg Schloss, you can see beautiful Heidelberg!
Giant wine barrel inside the Schloss.

On the evening, there was a game between Germany and France, and it was really interesting. I didn’t watch it, though, I was too exhausted from the tour (it was 31 degrees Celsius!), so I decided to take a nap, haha.

We had a barbeque after the game, and a little party to celebrate the 10th year anniversary of DAAD-RISE program. The beverages were free-flow, including beer and soft drinks. So, past ten, I could see some people turning red and getting drunk. Not really cool, but that happened. Germany is known for beer and wurst, but if you drink, that doesn’t mean you can drink as much as you want to ‘immerse’ yourself in a new culture, right? Just my two cents.

10 years of DAAD RISE Program! Photo by Daniela Wiesen.

I noticed one thing, though. The apple juice in Germany is carbonated, meaning, it’s like a soft drink. I have tried to distance myself from soft drink, but I failed because of the apple juice. Not only apple juice, they also have carbonated water (aka. sparkling water), and I find it really strange.

On the last day, after we checked out the hostel, we went to the university to hear presentations from our fellow scholars about their research projects. They seemed to do cool things, and I was inspired by them so much! From an origami concrete building (civil engineering project, you can fold your concrete!), to nanocapsules for targeted drug delivery applications; I felt like I was nothing compared to them.

We also took a giant group picture…

Guess where I am! Photo by Daniela Wiesen.

I have few weeks left in Germany, and I will do my best in my research project. Auf wiedersehen, Heidelberg and DAAD-RISE friends, until next time!

Cologne Is Not Only About the Dom!

Köln Hauptbahnhof

Have you ever wondered where does Eau de Cologne term come from? Or, have you thought that this term is related to a town named Cologne in Germany, but you are not sure? Well, I am going to explain it to you in details on this blog post! 🙂


Ok, this is totally random, but as you can see from the picture above, it was my first time riding on an EC (EuroCity) train, it was a Swiss train, SBB CFF FFS. When you saw the name of the railway company for the first time, you might wonder why the name is so long, compared to, for instance, DB (Deutsche Bahn, the German railway company), or SNCF (Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Français, the French railway company). SBB CFF FFS, according to Wikipedia, stands for Schweizerische Bundesbahnen (German), Chemins de fer fédéraux suisses (French), Ferrovie federali svizzere (Italian), which are in three out of four official languages in Switzerland. The other language is Romansh, but for some reason they don’t use it on the name.

Your next question might be, why are you in a Swiss train? The train actually goes between Hamburg-Altona (in the northern area of Germany), and goes all the way to Zürich. A long, long way, right? The good thing was, the train was empty until we reached Dortmund and Düsseldorf, so it was really nice.

I love empty train!

Back to Cologne. After I arrived in the main station and grabbed a quick breakfast (yes, I’m one of the people who starts her Ramadan on Sunday), I walked to the biggest cathedral I’ve ever seen so far: Kölner Dom. 

Too bad, some parts are being renovated and the sky is really cloudy, so it doesn’t look that pretty.

It’s always interesting to see what the stained glass explains about ritual/ history.
After looking at the Dom, I walked to Rhine River, which is the most romantic river in Europe, well at least that’s what people said. Maybe because it was cloudy and raining, I thought that Charles River in Boston is still my favorite river ever!
Of course, there are ‘love locks’ along the bridge on this river. If you don’t know why people put locks on the bridge, I will tell you the story behind it. Couples who want to make sure their love last forever, may ‘lock’ their love on the bridge, and throw away the key to the river; so, they cannot ‘unlock’ their love, and their love will last forever.
Overrated Rhine bridge, packed with people. If you see the left part, that’s actually a railway that goes to the central station.
Full of locks. I wonder how much all the locks weigh.  
Anti-mainstream: bike lock.
After that, I walked to the Chocolate Museum (Schokoladenmuseum), which was about 20-30 minute walk. When I arrived there, the museum was not open yet, so I needed to wait for 20 minutes. So many people wanted to go to this museum, and the line was really long before the doors were opened.
After that, I indulged myself in the world of chocolate… The God’s food.
Schokoladenmuseum, sponsored by Lindt!
I found Dij Sam Soe in the museum! Hidup rokok Indonesia!
They even have mini size chocolate factory inside the museum.
How they made the chocolate wrapper.

And the robot does the tedious job!

How the chocolate candies evolve (including how the drug store looked like in 1930s -where the chocolates were sold). They were also some old chocolate ads, including the TV commercials, in black and white!
And the real sized purple cow from my favorite chocolate, Milka!
Apparently, Indonesia is also the third biggest producer of cacao, after Ivory Coast and Ghana, but why don’t we have a decent chocolate brand in Indonesia? 
Enough with the chocolate knowledge and sample, I went to the museum store, and I got really excited. It was full of all different kinds of chocolate! Unfortunately, most of them contains alcohol, so I cannot eat it. But I got a really good one, a mango milk chocolate (and I Google Translated the ingredients -no alcohol/ gelatine!). Yum…
My next stop was Farina, Cologne’s Fragrance Museum, the oldest perfume store in the town, where I got a ‘perfume tour’ with a man dressed in 1700 attire. When I walked there, though, it was pouring…
Heumarkt area.
I couldn’t take pictures during the tour, but it was a great tour! I recommend it if you come to Cologne, but you have to book it in advance. 
Farina 1709. The website is: http://farina.eu/.
So, here is the history you’ve been waiting for…
Farina family originally came from Italy, and they settled down in Cologne in 1700. However, for out-of-towners, their job options were limited, so they decided to open a perfume business in 1709. Everything went well, and they had famous customers, like Princess and Princes from all over Europe, also Napoleon! Farina also invented a lighter perfume, because in the past, people tended to use heavy perfume and not showering for months -which made the smell became unbearable. Because of that, Farina’s lighter perfume became a big hit. So, some people tried to take advantage and sold perfumes, with much lower quality, for cheap price using Farina’s name. This was bad for Farina family, because the luxury image of Farina slowly decreased. After 80 year of legal battle, Farina could finally clean its name and be the only one to use ‘Farina’ name. 
What did other perfume makers do? The light perfume was since known as Eau de Cologne, instead of Farina, and it still contains 2%-5% of main ingredients until now.
In the tour, we also saw how the perfume bottles evolve, what the stories behind extracting a certain ingredient, and how Farina had an absolute sense of smell. We even got to see the old machines used to process the perfume, and tried different extracts: from bergamot, sandalwood, mandarin, rose, to jasmine. FYI, jasmine is the hardest one to extract; it can only be extracted before the sunset and only the petal can be used, and you only get 1 kg of jasmine extract from 700 kg of jasmine petals!
Here is the quick recap of my visit in Farina!


Imagining how much a bottle of perfume could cost, I decided to just look around. I still need to survive the next few weeks in Europe before heading home, right? Haha. Luckily, I got a free tester from the man in 18th century attire. Thanks, Farina!

I went back to Hauptbahnhof after that. I was unlucky, my high speed train ICE 1026 was cancelled, so I need to use IC instead, even though it was the first class. At least, I still arrived on time in Bremen and got to go to the market and bought groceries.

Next week, I am going to Heidelberg for my DAAD-RISE Scholars meeting/ DAAD-RISE, again, is the program that I am doing now, which basically sends students from the US, the UK, and Canada, to do a research internship in Science and Engineering in Germany. Hopefully you are as excited as I am to hear my next story.

On a side note, Ramadan has started, and I have to fast for about 20 hours, the longest one I’ve ever had in my life. Insha Allah, it’s going to be fine and I can divide my time wisely. Ramadan Kareem everyone! 🙂

Berlin and Its Long History

I had a chance to go for a day trip to Berlin last weekend, which I kind of regretted it. I am telling you, no one could explore the whole Berlin in one day, the city just offers too many different things, and they are all amazing.

So, I booked the train ticket to Berlin and I was lucky to get a promo ticket for one way (with ICE, the German high speed train!), and get a reduced price ticket for coming back (thanks to BahnCard!).

I woke up really early that day, and it was not good since I went to bed really late the night before to watch Korean drama. I know, it is a bad habit, but I just cannot stop doing it when I found VPN working and I could use my Dramafever account, haha. The weather on that day was not so great, either. It was drizzling, and really cold for summer weather.

Nevertheless, when I arrived, I could tell right away that Berlin is a ‘heavy’ city, compared to other German cities. It bears so much history, hope, and dream. Was it because Germany World Cup match was on the same day? Haha.

My first stop was Museum Island (or, in German, Museuminsel). It’s basically an island with 5 different museums on it. Isn’t it a genius idea, so a tourist doesn’t need to walk too far to go to all the ‘essential’ museums?

The first one, is Pergamon Museum. I never saw people waiting to get into a museum for 1-2 hours before, but it does happen in this museum. Pergamon Museum, is one of the most magnificent museum I’ve ever visited. They basically reconstructed buildings from history in the museum, so people could actually feel how it was to be in that era. They were mostly about Greek, Babylon, and Egyptian history.

I am sorry, my knowledge in history is really limited (I know close to nothing about world history), so I cannot provide you the details about some stuff.

If you go one floor up, there’s also an Islamic Art Museum. It was amazing to actually see Islamic art and how it evolved.

You cannot see the details, but there’s a calligraphy around the shape.

My next stop was Neues Museum. Pergamon Museum was really amazing, that when I entered Neues I was like ‘meh’. However, they had Nefertiti statue (the real one!) and it was amusing to see half of the total guards standing in that room, trying to prevent people from taking pictures. In addition, they also had some creepy Egyptian mummy sarcophagus (which, of course, is real), and other mummy-related things.

Oh, hi, there…

My third stop was Bode Museum, and there were only few people around, which means, this museum is not that popular. Although I went to Museum of Fine Arts in Boston pretty regularly (because it’s free with my student ID), I still don’t know much about fine arts, which is the main thing in this museum. Even though I was just walking around understanding nothing (I need to pay more for the audio guide, unlike in Pergamon), I still enjoyed my visit there. The building, which is basically a castle, was super beautiful.

I was walking on red carpet!

After that, I took the S-bahn and went to Berlin Wall Memorial. Remember that Germany was divided into West Germany and East Germany during Cold War, based on their politics ideology (socialist vs. capitalism)? Yes, you still could see some parts of the wall left in this memorial park.

The victims.

I was really dumbfounded to read the history and walk on this park. Some people who tried to flee to West Berlin was shot dead by the police. Some parts of the wall were built on cemetery ground, and some of the corpses weren’t moved. Crazy, right?

After that, I went to Brandenburg Tor, and Reichstag/ Bundestag. It was really crowded because it’s one of main centers to watch world cup match. I also saw MANY Indonesians. It was really strange to pass by people who talk in my native language, and it was in Berlin, not in Indonesia!

Brandenburg Tor: Berlin’s Icon.
Hyundai sponsored the giant screen for the soccer match that night.
Reichstag. Can you see the dome on top of it? I was going to go there, but the tours were fully booked from last week.

The last, but not the least, I visited Holocaust Memorial. I got goosebumps, when I imagined what happened to the Jews when Hitler tried to wipe them out from the earth.

Each block represents one Jew who was killed/ went missing.
In general, it was a quite interesting piece of art. The height varies, and it felt like I was in a big maze once I was inside.

I didn’t take a picture inside the memorial (the museum? Not quite.) itself. I was so focused to hear, read the stories. A quote on the wall was really intriguing to me, but I don’t remember who said it. It was more or less like, “Why do we need to remember this? Because it happened once, and there is no reason that it won’t happen again.” A really deep quote, which reminds me the importance of understanding history (not just ‘knowing’ it on the surface).

After a high dosage of history and museum, I was strolling around the city and observed how Berliners looked like. Too bad, as far as I could tell, there were more tourists than the residents themselves.

When I hopped on the train to go back, I promised myself to go back to this city at some point, and learned more about its deep history. The weather just got better once I left Berlin 😦

View from the train.

Until next time, Berlin Hauptbahnhof!

The most modern train station I’ve ever seen so far in Germany.

Erlangen and Nuremberg: Friends, Toys, and Beers

Hello! I am going to tell you about my trip to Nuremberg, Erlangen, last weekend. Where are Nuremberg and Erlangen? They are located in the south of Germany, in a state called Bavaria/ Bayern (remember Bayern Muenchen?). Why did I decide to spend 2 days in Erlangen and Nuremberg?

Because I had a little reunion with my high school friends (not UWC, but my Indonesian high school).

From left to right: Ivan, me, Fitri, and Anne. Fitri is currently in an exchange program, she originally goes to NUS. Anne is studying in Erlangen, and Ivan is studying in Hannover.

We were actually in the same class in grade tenth, and I haven’t met some of them in the past 3 years. So, it was really great to see them coping with college well and caught up with what’s happening in their lives.

I was staying with Anne overnight (thanks for giving me some space to sleep, Anne!), and she told me about being an international student in Germany. She is studying molecular medicine (so hardcore, right?), and I took a look at her notes and textbooks. Of course, they were in German, and I really admired her for that. English is hard enough for me, but German is a much more difficult language to learn. She also told me, that although the tuition fee is so much lower than most American colleges, she is getting really good education and learns a lot in class. Then, something popped up in my mind, why couldn’t we have that in Indonesia?

They were all having a break for Pentecost last week. So, they all went somewhere to enjoy it. Anne went to Paris, with her friend. She said that they were a lot of ibu-ibu pejabat (governmental officials’ wives?) who went shopping in Paris, and a lot of other Indonesians. Crazy.

Fitri, as an exchange student, has been travelling a lot. She just came back from her adventure to Budapest, Poland, and Italy. One of her trip buddies forgot his passport, and they were having problems to enter different countries. In the end, everything went well (that’s why she was with us, right?), and I saw pictures that she took, they were all amazingly beautiful.

Ivan, also took a trip to Copenhagen, and later he showed me his tickets, passes, and Danish krona. He was also telling us how the train entered a ferry (just like a bus entering a ferry to cross the strait between Java and Bali) to cross the mainland Europe to Denmark. I just couldn’t imagine, how big the ferry was. He also told us how there was a male mermaid statue, how expensive the foods were, and other things.

We also hiked a little bit to a castle in Nuremberg. It was beautiful (and it was my first schloss, too, in Germany). We also got photo bombed by Japanese tourists (and Australian tourists?). I will put the picture up once my friend post it on Facebook, okay?

Here you go! Thanks to Fitri for putting this pic up on Facebook!
The view of Nuremberg from the schloss.
The view of schloss from the road.

Nuremberg in general, is full of old buildings, typical Bavarian buildings.

A small island in Nuremberg, with old looking bridge.

In Nuremberg, there is also a toy museum, or Spielzeugmuseum. It’s not as big as the Maritime museum in Hamburg (9 floors!), but it was quite amazing to see how the toys transformed.

I could actually hear my roommate’s voice criticizing how sexist the old toys were, although she was not there. Yes, this one goes to you, Katie, haha. But, I would agree with her, while the boys could play with all those cool little trains, cars, or machines, the girls played the dolls, mini kitchen ware, or little house with different rooms, ‘to prepare them to be a wife someday’.
What would you like to eat tonight, Sir?
I didn’t realize it before, but Anne told me after I arrived, “There is a beer festival going on in Erlangen. Would you like to see it?” Of course, I would nod. Apparently, this festival was the third biggest one; the first one is of course Oktoberfest. It is called Bergkirchweih festival.
I was initially scared to see so many drunk people holding a 1-liter beer glass and shouting to each other. After a while, I got used to it, and actually tried to immerse myself in that experience.
Like buying ourselves churros. Thanks for the picture, Anne!
How did it look like? As you can see from the picture, there were so many food stands, not only the beer cafe. You cannot see it, but there were also so many theme park rides, like in Dufan, but some of them were more extreme. 
The festival itself lasts for 12 days, and during those days, Erlangen, which is a relatively small town, is filled with twice of its total population. In the first day, I heard that the beer was free-flow, meaning you could drink as much as you want for free. But, apparently, most Germans are really responsible, so they know how much alcohol they can handle, and don’t drink past that tolerance level.
Well, two things for sure, I can never get used to alcohol smell (it was particularly strong in the festival area), and I had a great weekend! 
So, where should I go next week?