Inovasi di Negara Berkembang: Mudahkah?

Kali ini saya akan merangkum banyak hal yang saya pelajari selama waktu saya di India, tentang inovasi, dan konsep ‘merubah dunia menjadi tempat yang lebih baik’. Mudahkah?

Kalimat macam, “Saya ingin jadi teknisi andal, supaya saya bisa memajukan negeri ini,” terdengar terlalu gamblang dan mudah diucapkan belakangan ini. Ada dua hal besar dalam kalimat itu: teknisi andal, dan memajukan negeri. Berhasil menjadi teknisi andal tidak menjamin proses memajukan negeri, begitupun sebaliknya.

Lalu, apa yang diperlukan untuk mengimplementasikan inovasi di negeri berkembang?

Saya, sedikit banyak, belajar sedikit selama tiga minggu terakhir di India.

Satu: melihat sekitar lebih banyak. Foto ini diambil saat field trip ke perajin tradisional kain sari, kain tradisional di India. Kabarnya benang emasnya terbuat dari emas asli.

Sebagai seorang (calon) teknisi, saya lebih sering memfokuskan diri terhadap apa yang bisa saya lakukan, program apa yang bisa saya tulis, model seperti apa yang bisa saya cetak 3D, juga sirkuit seperti apa yang bisa saya bangun. Padahal, sesungguhnya itu bukan tahap pertama dalam mencari solusi dan membangun inovasi.

Tahap pertama sesungguhnya adalah melihat. Apa yang jadi masalah di sekitar kita? Apa hal yang minta dipecahkan? Apa hal yang orang sering menutup sebelah mata mereka?

Tidak semua masalah cukup penting untuk dipecahkan, dan tiap masalah punya sumber daya minimal agar bisa dipecahkan.

Karena itu, kunci pertama adalah mencari masalah sebanyak-banyaknya, agar kita bisa menemukan masalah yang cukup baik untuk kita pecahkan dengan kemampuan kita sendiri. Contohnya, aku merasa bahwa sistem pendidikan di Indonesia tidak terlalu baik, tetapi masalah ini terlalu umum, dan tidak bisa kupecahkan dengan kemampuan yang kumiliki saat ini. Dalam hal ini, penting sekali untuk mengerucutkan masalah menjadi sesuatu yang lebih spesifik dan lebih kecil cakupannya. Lebih penting lagi untuk menemukan suatu masalah di mana kita bisa merasa related dan personal, karena dibutuhkan energi dan motivasi yang cukup untuk memecahkan masalah tersebut. Kita tak ingin memecahkan suatu masalah yang tidak memiliki koneksi dengan kita sama sekali, bukan?

Tahap kedua adalah ideation, atau mencari semua ide untuk memecahkan masalah yang telah kita pilih. Kadang-kadang kita membutuhkan lebih dari satu masalah untuk melalui proses ini, dan melihat ide-ide yang keluar untuk memecahkan hal ini, untuk melihat mana yang paling feasible.

Dalam tahap ini, semua orang harus mencari ide sebanyak-banyaknya. Sewaktu timku melalui proses ini, tiap orang harus menyumbang 10-20 ide untuk memecahkan masalah ini, dalam waktu yang terbatas, sekitar 15-30 menit. Ide gila selalu muncul dari proses ini, dan tidak sedikit dari ide gila ini yang dapat diwujudkan.

Proses ini biasa diulang berkali-kali, hingga semua orang merasa puas dengan ide terpilih yang akan digunakan untuk memecahkan masalah. Kemudian, kita bisa beralih ke tahap berikutnya, rapid prototyping. Mengapa harus rapid (cepat)? Karena kita ingin gagal lebih cepat, sehingga kita tahu apa yang harus kita lakukan berikutnya, dan apa yang harus diperbaiki. Lakukan iterasi sebanyak mungkin.

Satu hal yang perlu diingat dari proses ini, terkadang, sebagai orang eksak dan saklek (kebanyakan teknisi dan saintis seperti ini), kita ingin semua hal berakhir sempurna dalam percobaan pertama. Hal ini tidak mungkin terjadi dalam proses yang kita lalui, karena itu kita harus siap secara mental dan fisik untuk melakukan iterasi sebanyak mungkin, dan berani salah.

Selesai tahap ini, yang kita dapatkan hanyalah final product, dan hal ini belum termasuk berbagai hal lain yang harus dipikirkan, seperti bagaimana memasarkan produk hasil inovasi kita, dan sebagainya.

Lalu, bagaimana inovasi di negara berkembang berbeda dengan inovasi di negara maju? Di negara berkembang, sumber daya yang tersedia bisa jadi benar-benar terbatas. Contohnya saja, di maker lab tempat aku bekerja beberapa minggu terakhir, terletak di desa kecil. Daya listrik yang tersedia tidak sebanding dengan daya yang kami semua butuhkan. Jadi, kapanpun kami membutuhkan 3D printer untuk mencetak prototipe, kami harus mematikan semua daya listrik yang kami miliki: kipas angin, lampu, pendingin ruangan, bahkan laptop-laptop kami. Selain itu, ada pemadaman listrik bergilir setiap harinya, minimal tiga kali sehari. Belum lagi, biaya internet yang sungguh mahal, sehingga kami hanya memiliki kuota internet yang terbatas.

Kondisi seperti ini, mungkin saja sama dengan kondisi di beberapa daerah di Indonesia.

Jadi, mari kita tanyakan kembali, mudahkah menciptakan inovasi di negara berkembang? Jawabannya mungkin tidak, tetapi hal ini tidak bisa menjadi alasan untuk menyerah, bukan? Saya sendiri pun masih belajar dari orang-orang. Semoga saja hingga akhir program ini, saya bisa belajar lebih banyak lagi.

Selain itu, semoga saja nanti saya bisa menelurkan sesuatu yang signifikan nanti.

Menjadi Turis di Kerala: Boathouse dan Munnar

Masuk minggu kedua di India, peserta program workshop akhirnya mengerucut menjadi sekitar 20 orang. Pekerjaan sebenarnya baru saja akan dimulai, tetapi sebelumnya, kami pergi field trip (dan bersenang-senang) dulu di boathouse dan Munnar.

Ada apa saja di kedua tempat tersebut?

Munnar, diselimuti kabut sore hari. Aku sempat beli jagung bakar di sini untuk makanan berbuka.
Boathouse di Alappuzha.

Perjalanan tiga hari dua malam kali ini tak hanya mendekatkan peserta workshop, tetapi juga memberikan kesempatan padaku untuk mengenal lebih banyak orang. Selain itu, aku akhirnya merasa bahwa musim panasku akhirnya benar-benar dimulai!

Tujuan pertama kami adalah Alappuzha, sekitar 4 jam naik bus dari Chirayinkeezhu, tempat tinggal dan workshop kami saat ini. Setelah sampai di sana, aku ternganga karena boathouse-nya benar-benar paduan kapal dan rumah. 

Kamar di dalam boathouse-nya, mirip kamar hotel, bukan? Lihat handuk yang dibentuk seperti angsa!
Ada ruang konferensinya juga, karena kapalnya bertingkal dua.
Saat membuang sauh, di bagian depan kapal.
Kami menghabiskan waktu di houseboat selama dua hari satu malam, pemandangannya luar biasa indah. Kalau kamu sempat ke Kerala, India suatu waktu, kamu harus naik houseboat di sekitar backwaters. Area ini mirip sungai dan danau dekat laut, yang terbentuk karena air laut yang terdorong masuk.
Matahari pagi di danau besar.
Pemandangan sepanjang perjalanan.
Satu hal yang jelas, makanan di atas kapalnya enak sekali. Walaupun aku tidak kebagian ikan, karena hanya disajikan saat makan siang, tetapi makan malamnya pun tak kalah lezatnya. Ada ayam goreng dengan bumbu spesial yang tidak terlalu pedas. Saat itu aku memang mulai merasa bosan dengan menu kari setiap hari, hehe.
Setelah kami kembali ke daratan, perjalanan kami lanjutkan ke Munnar, sebuah kota di dataran tinggi di selatan India, sekitar 2000 meter di atas permukaan laut. Iklimnya sungguh menyenangkan, sejuk, dan tidak lembab. Benar-benar apa yang kubutuhkan setelah selalu merasa kepanasan di Thiruvananthapuram dan Chirayinkeezhu.
Kebun teh di mana-mana!
Sengaja bangun pagi untuk melihat matahari terbit.
Jalanan pegunungannya benar-benar sempit, mirip di Indonesia. Untungnya aspalnya benar-benar halus dan mulus.
Ada banyak air terjun di mana-mana, di pinggir jalan, dan di tempat lain.
Di Munnar, kami tinggal di sebuah hotel, dan paginya aku sempat merasakan sahur paling enak, lengkap dengan sereal, susu, buah-buahan, sandwich, dan jus semangka. Akhirnya, setelah sekian lama mulai bosan sahur dengan kari, hehe. Jangan dicontoh ya, harusnya apapun yang didapatkan, harus disyukuri.
Saat ini project-ku membuat mold/ cetakan untuk sabun yang diproduksi perkumpulan wanita di desa ini. Project-nya terkesan mirip KKN, tapi aku belajar banyak soal 3D printer dan Solidworks, dan prosedur membuat sabun. Siapa tahu aku jadi pengusaha sabun di masa depan, hehe.
Termasuk akhirnya berhasil membuat ketupat, lewat tutorial Youtube. Siapa tahu bisa jadi packaging yang cantik untuk sabun-sabun yang diproduksi nantinya.
Bulan Ramadhan hampir memasuki 10 hari terakhir, dan seminggu lagi aku pun akan pulang ke Indonesia. Rasanya tidak sabar untuk bertemu sanak saudara, keluarga, dan teman-teman. Semoga saja aku bisa mengerjakan banyak hal selama seminggu terakhirku di India, ya! Semoga juga aku bisa menemukan tempat yang menjual kartu pos, soalnya susah sekali menemukannya, hehe. 

Kabar Pertama dari India

Baru kali ini aku merasakan sulitnya mendapatkan koneksi internet yang memadai selain di Indonesia. Tidak hanya karena kesibukanku yang berpindah-pindah dari satu tempat ke tempat lain, tetapi juga karena aku bergantung pada wi-fi di tempatku tinggal/ workshop/ lab di sini.

Saat ini aku berada di state Kerala, India, berpindah-pindah di antara berbagai kota. Minggu lalu aku ada di Trivandrum untuk TechTop Workshop, saat ini aku berada di Chirayinkil, mulai hari Senin aku akan pergi ke tempat lainnya untuk field trip.
Pantai Shankumugham, Trivandrum. Samudera Hindia bisa kamu lihat jelas. Dari sini aku bisa renang langsung ke Indonesia.
Sebelum aku lanjutkan, aku mau minta maaf jika beberapa di antara kalian yang sudah mengirimkan surel, belum sempat kubalas, karena keterbatasan internet. Akan kucoba baca dan balas secepatnya, mungkin setelah aku kembali ke Indonesia.
Jadi, saat ini aku berada di India untuk program MIT Make in India. Aku dan sembilan anak MIT lainnya, S1 dan S2, current students dan alumni, dari berbagai jurusan, sama-sama berkolaborasi dengan mahasiswa India untuk menciptakan suatu inovasi yang bisa diaplikasikan ke masyarakat luas, terutama di Kerala.
Terdengar berat, bukan?
Bagiku sendiri, ini adalah momen untuk belajar banyak, tidak hanya dari teman-teman MIT-ku, tetapi juga dari teman-teman India-ku. Banyak dari mereka sudah melakukan banyak hal, dan luar biasa brilian. Kadang aku merasa malu sendiri karena aku belum banyak melakukan apapun, dengan kesempatan yang kumiliki selama ini.
Proses menemukan suatu inovasi itu sendiri sebenarnya cukup rumit. Mencari ide yang terkesan remeh dan membawa efek yang besar itu cukup sulit, dan melalui proses yang panjang, salah satunya adalah identifikasi problem yang melalui proses yang sangat panjang. Berbicara dengan orang banyak, adalah salah satu kuncinya, dan rasanya sulit sekali, terutama karena orang lokal Kerala menggunakan Bahasa Maleyalam.
Kerala, secara umumnya, mirip sekali dengan Indonesia. Cuacanya yang (luar biasa) lembab, dan mencapai 32 derajat Celcius. Karena dekat dengan khatulistiwa, tempat ini benar-benar hijau dan banyak pepohonan. Rasanya mirip sekali dengan tempat Mbahku di Yogyakarta. 
Tiap hari, aku makan kari terus. Bahkan untuk makan pagi! Biasanya, bersama kari, kebutuhan karbohidrat dipenuhi dengan chapatti (mirip tortilla), nasi, atau makanan mirip surabi. Karena itu, rasanya aku kangen sekali dengan makanan segar, seperti buah-buahan atau salad. Seperti di Indonesia, suplai pisang di sini melimpah ruah. Di sini juga banyak pohon nangka, pohon kelapa, dan juga pohon singkong. 
Akhirnya makan kelapa muda juga setelah sekian bulan. Terima kasih Dhruv dan Amareesh untuk kelapa muda gratisnya, hehe.

Kecuali saat workshop kemarin, di Chirayinkil kami tinggal di sebuah rumah. Kamar perempuan di lantai bawah, dan kamar laki-laki di lantai atas. Ada warga lokal yang bersedia untuk memasakkan kami tiap harinya. Kadang, untuk membunuh waktu kami akan berbicara panjang lebar, atau bermain apapun. Sayang, tidak terlalu banuak waktu yang dibunuh. 

Rasanya seperti KKN: di tengah desa, lalu internet yang terbatas. Malam-malam panjang pun kami habiskan dengan bermain carrom.
Saat workshop, aku bersama teman-temanku: Daivon, Lincy, Natasha, dan Jaisal, memutuskan untuk memecahkan masalah tentang pasien yang merasa tidak nyaman di dalam ambulans. Ternyata, tempat tidur ambulans berbeda dari tempat tidur kita yang memiliki spring-piston system.
Prototipe iterasi pertama dari tempat tidur ambulans, karena banyak dari tempat tidur di ambulans yang tidak memiliki sistem untuk menyerap getaran dari jalanan yang berlubang. Kali ini kami, tim Ruff Ryders, mencoba sistem suspensi.

Setelah workshop tiap harinya berakhir, kami kembali ke hostel (istilah orang India untuk asrama), untuk tidur dan beristirahat. Tiap pagi kami naik bus sekolah untuk berangkat ke tempat workshop di Mar Baselios College of Engineering and Technology.

Di dekat hostel, sebelum berangkat ke tempat workshop. Aku mengenakan celana khas India, kembaran dengan teman-temanku.

Bahkan kami berhasil masuk koran lokal! Fotoku pun terpampang dengan jelas, haha.

Berhasil masuk ke koran lokal Trivandrum, setelah sebelumnya berhasil masuk ke TV lokal di Meksiko.

Tempat workshop kami di Mar Baselios College of Engineering and Technology. Ada patung Yesus setinggi empat lantai, karena college ini berbasiskan agama Katolik. Bentuknya mirip dengan patung di Brazil lho.

Patung Yesus yang sangat tinggi di college tempatku workshop minggu lalu. Bisa kamu lihat dengan jelas, ada banyak pohon kelapa!

Semoga saja di akhir periode empat minggu ini, kepercayaan diriku sebagai seorang engineer meningkat lebih jauh, lebih dari kepercayan diriku sebagai seorang blogger, haha.

Kerjaanku akhir-akhir ini: membuat prototipe menggunakan 3D printer.
Selain workshop, pada saat yang bersamaan ada juga kompetisi inovasi untuk anak SMA dan mahasiswa di India. Aku datang ke pamerannya, dan aku bisa melihat berbagai hal menarik. Produk mereka semua benar-benar luar biasa!

Aku mencoba berbagai macam gadget saat TechTop Innovation Competition. Device ini berfungsi untuk membantu orang-orang yang buta agar bisa mendeteksi rintangan di hadapan mereka.
Bagaimana, seru sekali bukan? Kali berikutnya, aku akan mencoba untuk menceritakan lebih spesifik tentang project team-ku, atau hal menarik tentang India secara umumnya.
Sampai jumpa! Semoga Allah memberkahi Ramadhan teman-teman yang Muslim, dan semoga di lain waktu, internetku bisa lebih baik. Aamiin.

Different Culture, Different Time Frame

I am not an anthropologist, yet I have been observing different time frame concepts in different cultures. It is just really fascinating, to learn how stereotypes ‘suddenly make sense’ when you find the root of them: cultural difference.

Have you ever wondered why Indonesians seem to be always ‘ngaret’ (rubber time, not punctual)? I have come up with my own theories.


As I said before, I am not an anthropologist, so I am open with any suggestions and discussions with you about this matter. As the biggest Muslim populated country in the world, Islam has influenced Indonesia in many ways. One of them is, how praying time has become an acceptable way of defining time among people.

It is really common to hear, “I will meet you after Asr (in Indonesia this period starts around 3:00 p.m., until the sun sets).”

What this person really means, is right after Asr adzan (the call to do Asr prayer). However, since the time range is really wide, it is normal to see people coming at 5:00 p.m., with the excuse that it is still Asr time.

I need to emphasize that there is no problem with using praying time as a way of telling time; the problem is how people interpret it. The wide flexibility and time range has made people use time in their convenience, without really considering others.

In addition, since Java, as the most populated island in the country has become more crowded, it is not only in Jakarta where the traffic is unpredictable. Although someone promises you to come at 1:00 p.m., the traffic could change everything. You are lucky enough if the person is considerate, willing to head to meeting place earlier, and arrives within one hour of your scheduled meeting time. Remember that it is not always the case.

It is actually even worse, because this time frame characteristic is not only an individual thing, but a systemic thing. You rarely find an on-time public transportation, and it always takes a while when you need to run errands in a governmental office.

That might be why Indonesians are a lot more flexible in terms of planning stuff, and seem ‘slow’. They are slow, because they know that everyone else is slow. So, if they are the only ones in rush, they will be disappointed because they will not make any difference.

Just count, how many things you can get done in a day in Indonesia. You go to a bank, there is a long line, and you need to wait for at least half hour. Internet banking is not really an option, because most people still trust face-to-face transaction better. You go to a market to do some grocery shopping, the traffic is crowded. You go to a meeting by public transportation, the train is late by an hour, and the person you are meeting is also late. Combo.

This reminds me of something. When I came back to Indonesia this year, I was meeting someone. I asked the person what time one could meet me, and this person told me a time range (after Zuhr, a praying time between around noon to 3:00 p.m.). I forced this person to give me an exact time, but this one still told me, after Zuhr.

Another thing, I also had a meeting with others, and I told them that I would be late. By late, I meant 10 minute late. When I came to the meeting place (8 minute late, fiuh!), I was surprised that I was the first one to come. The others came 30 minutes later, without being sorry, thought that they were still within ‘on-time tolerance range’.

These two examples indicate the existence of different time frame that different cultures have. So, how is it different in other countries?

I would not put the United States as the most on-time country in the world. It is sometimes okay to be late for five minutes with legitimate reasons. However, people are aware of how much they need to do in a day, so they do not waste time by being ‘slow’. You can see it clearly from the way Americans walk in pedestrians, and comparing them with how Indonesians walk. Of course, it also depends on which city in the States you are in. New Yorkers are famous with their really-fast-walking, and how their body languages indicate they are always in a rush. New Mexican, for instance, is slower, but is not too slow.

Germans, of course, beat Americans in this matter. No matter how much I have tried to walk super fast, I cannot beat Germans. No matter where it is, in the city, countryside, or suburban, everyone walks fast without showing that they are in a rush.

German punctuality is also on top of the list. They don’t meet in hourly/ half-hourly/ quarterly basis like Indonesians. “Let’s meet at ten,” sounds just as normal as, “Let’s meet at 9:40.” But in Indonesia, if someone wants to meet you at 9:40, for instance, they will look at you strangely. Then, they will say, “Let’s make it either 9:30 or 10:00.”

Just like before, it is also affected by how transportation system works. Bahn (German word for train) can come at 10:47, or 9:23, and people are used to it. 10:47 means 10:47, and 9:23 means 9:23. Although some InterCity and InterCity Express trains may experience some delays, you know how much the delay is by using the real-time application on your smartphone and they will also announce it in the train station, and thus, you can make further arrangement with your plan. 80%-90% of the trains are on time, if not early, though. I also heard rumors that if the train is late by more than one hour, DB (Deutsche Bahn) will need to reimburse the ticket payment.

It is nothing like the Japanese system, though, from what I heard. I met Kyoko, my Japanese friend from UWC, in Bremen, on my second day of being there. Transportation system in Japan, especially in Tokyo, is more punctual than in Europe, and that’s why she gets really annoyed when the train is late just by 1-2 minutes.

Don’t ask about how much things you can get done in these countries. While you are in the train, you can finish your bank transaction through internet banking system, and you can also order stuff online. Grocery shopping can be done on your way home, because some train stations have quite big supermarkets, or you can also ride your car to go to supermarket because there is no such thing as traffic jam. If there is no exceptional thing happening, most meetings are on-time, because you respect others’ time, so do they.

In one side, it is actually nice that Indonesians are more relaxed and less stressed (well, not really, especially regarding the traffic jam). However, if you see time as an asset, then, we have wasted so much time. More than how much BBM (gasoline) we waste.

Don’t ask me how to make Indonesians value their time that they waste unconsciously more. I think it is everyone’s homework.

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!

Seorang Pelancong

Buat dia, cuaca musim panas di Jerman terasa pas: tidak terlalu panas, tidak terlalu dingin. Walaupun hujan kadang tak tahu waktu: deras di saat payung tertinggal di rumah, dan tak berawan, apalagi hujan, sedikitpun ketika dia bawa satu set lengkap jas hujan, payung, dan sepatu boot hujan.

Seminggu sekali, dia akan pergi ke stasiun kereta api, melihat pelancong yang lalu lalang, dan merasa diberikan kekuatan. “Pelancong-pelancong ini, tak tahu ke arah mana mereka pergi. Bagi mereka, kota ini sangat asing; sering mereka salah tram atau bus. Melihat mereka, aku merasa lebih beruntung.”
Mereka belum tahu siapa yang harus mereka percaya.
Dia sendiri, adalah seorang pelancong. Pelancong yang umurnya lebih lama sedikit dibandingkan pelancong-pelancong lainnya di stasiun kereta. Kadang dia masih berpikir, apakah yang pelancong-pelancong lain yang lebih tua pikirkan tentang dirinya? Seberapa berbedanyakah hal-hal persepsi mereka tentang tempat ini?
Baginya, waktu adalah variabel tak terukur. Persetan dengan detik, menit, jam, hari, minggu, bulan, dan tahun. Dia dan semua orang barangkali tahu tentang seberapa fleksibelnya waktu: dia bisa jadi terasa sangat panjang, maupun sebaliknya.
Dan sebagai pelancong, di awal dia merasa waktu terasa sangat panjang. Kini, ketika akhir masa melancongnya semakin dekat, waktu jadi terasa sangat pendek. 
Apakah setiap yang melancong merasa seperti itu? Atau, apakah alam menyambut mereka yang akan melancong lagi dari awal di tempat baru, ataupun kembali pulang?
Walaupun waktu jelas-jelas terasa memendek, satuan-satuan waktu masih digunakan untuk menghitung mundur. Pada jangka waktu itu pun, pikiran seperti memerintahkan, “Ini mungkin kali terakhir kamu berada di tempat ini,” atau, “Apa kamu sudah menyerap semua yang ada dari tempat ini sebelum kamu beranjak pergi?”
Dia, si pelancong, tahu persis, ada tempat lain yang menginginkannya kembali. Dia pun ingin kembali, dan merasa nyaman dengan sekeliling. Tetapi, dia tak ingin melalui transisi yang menguras energi. Bukan, lagi-lagi, soal zona waktu saja, karena dia beranggapan waktu itu tak terukur. Tetapi juga soal jiwa, manusia, langit, dan pepohonan yang berbeda dari tempatnya kali ini.
Dia akan kembali melalui trampoline, merasa dimainkan oleh tangan-tangan tak terlihat, terombang-ambing, karena kombinasi semua perbedaan itu. 
Tapi dia harus melaluinya. Bukan hanya karena itu konsekuensi dari titelnya sebagai pelancong, tetapi juga karena dia ingin kembali ke pangkuan mereka-mereka yang langsung mempercayainya di detik dia menginjakkan kaki di tempatnya kembali.
H-15 kembali ke Indonesia. Bremen, 7/13/2014, 16:25 CEST

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! 🙂