Thursday, March 24, 2011

Europe Trip: Switzerland - Interlaken, Valais Region

If you never been up to Jungfraujoch, that means your Switzerland trip is somewhat incomplete. The Jungfraujoch is a col or saddle between the Mönch and the Jungfrau in the Bernese Alps on the boundary between the cantons of Bern and Valais, inside the Jungfrau-Aletsch Protected Area with a heigh of 3471m.

Despite being called the "Top of Europe" in the tourist literature, the Jungfraujoch isn't exactly the highest mountain in Europe. Going up the Jungfraujoch is fuss-free as compared to Mt Titlis. We took two types of train up the mountain. The scenary that we saw while traveling up the mountain was simply magnificiant. Perhaps it was the snow that further enhances our visual.

The railway.

Before getting on the train. This time round we were more well prepared. We had heat packs, double layers of gloves, wore jeans with thermal leggings, and four layers of clothes including two different types of thermal wear. I couldn't bother with the fact I seemed to gain a disasterous 5 kg in every pictures.

Singaporeans love shopping, and we are no exception.

We were waiting for the second train to go up the mountain. And it was already freezing cold. It should be below freezing point as well.

-9 degree at the top of the mountain.

We experienced mild snowfall.

Everyone was queueing up to take pictures in front of this wall, it is like a de rigueur.

I finally understand the phrase "blow away by the wind" because I almost got blown away. The wind was so strong and I could not proceed further up the mountain because I was climbing up the slope against the wind direction. I had to go back indoor, take a break and then venture out again.

We had Swiss lunch at the restaurant, had my favourite shoe-string fries. Still having ice-cream huh...

We headed to Zermatt and Bern after spending a day at Jungfraujoch.


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Europe Trip: Engelberg - Mt Titlis

Tonight is yet another insomnia night, so must as well continue blogging about my Europe trip.

So, Swizterland is about mountains and more mountains. And in the morning, we embarked on a trip to Mount Titlis, our first mountain for the trip. The Titlis is the highest mountain in the portion of the Urner Alps north of the Susten Pass with the height of 3238m. I got a little antsy since hearing about how tourists got up the mountain and felt like puking and fainting due to the lack of oxygen and whatnot.

Nevertheless, we got on to the world's first ever revolving Rotair cable car that offers a 360 degree paroramic view of the Alps. In fact, we took 3 different types of cable car to reach the top.

On top of the mountain, where Kevin did silly things.

I couldn't recall the actual temperature up there, but definitely it was below freezing point. We encountered piercing wind and literally trembled uncontrollably as we climbed further up to the top of the mountain.

We braved through the coldness and sat on a 4-seater flyer with another couple. The experience was truly mind-blowing as well as mind and body numbing. Gusty cold wind that blew continuously on our faces while we hang in the mid air on the flyer was no laughing matter, especially for Asians who do not usually encounter extreme temperature like this.
And obviously, Kevin and I do not belong to the gung ho type of person and we figured that a hot chooclate would be an excellent idea to end the adventure. So we headed indoor to get some "hot air".

The food we ate on top of Titlis was pricey, Ikea style of food, self service restaurant cost us about SGD60-70 for two.
We ended our mountain trip in the late afternoon and I managed to capture some beautiful pictures on the coach while we head to Interlaken.

In the evening, we had Swiss Cheese Fondue for dinner. I had to say that it was not my cup of tea. The fondue rather was bitter because of the red wine added to it. It tasted very different from the one I had in SG, probably the localized version. However, we had great fun because the owner of the restaurant was fun loving and cracked dirty jokes. All of a sudden, the tour members started to be open to each another.

The day ended early for us because, there wasn't much night life in Switzerland, it seemed that everyone in Swizterland sleeps very early and of course, the shops closed early too.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Europe Trip: Switzerland - Lugano and Lucerne

Just like Italy, we spent about five days in Switzerland. And unlike Italy, everywhere in Switzerland is so picture perfect.

I would say that Italy is a place where you visit the churches and museums and every part of the country is filled with history and each building seems to have its own story.

The breathtaking pictures from the travel magzines were so out-of-this-world that very often we used to scoff at the elaborations thinking that they might be the campaign tactics used by the Switzerland tourism board. However, reality dawned on us when we got an opportunity to stay in one of the non-polluted and yet so perfectly beautiful places on Earth. And this is Switzerland.

The first place we visited in Switzerland is Lugano. I think even the suckiest camera is able to capture postcard-like pictures.

I looked like I was standing in front of a giant painting.

Who wouldn't want to live in this place?

Obviously, we were on high spirits after seeing such awe-inspiring view of the river and mountains.

Lugano provides free wifi even at the park.

And definitely portable water!

The next day, we also visited The Lion Monument at Lucerne. It is an allegory of the defeat of the Swiss Guard during the storming of Tuileries in 1792. As per our tour guide, currently, the only place where we can see Swiss Guard will be in Vatican City. Swiss Guard were known for their bravery and loyalty.


Monday, March 14, 2011

Breaking News - as per Straits Time

Adapted from the most unbiased national daillies... Have to definitely post this because it matters so much to us, especially if you have the chance to choose.

PARLIAMENT on Thursday approved the allocation of an additional $1.25 million to the Civil List, which specifies the salaries of the President, his personal staff, and expenditure.

The amount set aside for the President's salary is $4,267,500, up from $3,376,800. The entertainment allowance remains at $73,000. The amount for staff salaries increases by $471,600 to $4,532,400.

Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said these increases were to cater for an additional staff officer to support the work of the Council of Presidential Advisers, a butler manager to meet the increased demand for butler services at the Istana, and to meet higher variable payments on account of strong economic growth.

The President's salary rises in tandem with that of political, judicial and civil service appointment holders. Meanwhile, the sum for Istana expenses was cut by $25,300 to $2,068,300. The total sum allocated for the Civil List is $11.6 million.

For the next financial year, Mr Tharman said this overall sum will remain unchanged, but the allocation for the President's salary and allowances will drop to $3,782,000 due to lower variable payments anticipated. An extra $610,000 will be set aside for the Presidential Swearing-in Ceremony which is likely to be in late August.

Direct link.


Friday, March 11, 2011

Europe Trip: Italy - Venice and Milan

My mum used to told me about Venice and how much she would like to visit The City of Water one day. So, under my mum's influence, Venice has always been a dream destination of mine.

It was quite a pity that the weather was not too ideal for photo-taking, because it was too misty. We waited quite a while before it started to clear up a little. Well, think of the brighter side, at least we didn't encounter flood, as I know, Venice floods about 4 times a year covering about 14% of the town.

That aside, Venice is world-renowned for Venetian Glass, and below is a picture of a glassmaker making a glass out of some unknown material in liquid form.

We visited San Marco and bought some rosaries that uses the exact marble which they used to build San Marco.

We had lunch at this restaurant that served nice squid ink pasta. I am not a fan of that and so I didn't try and so does Kevin.

They call this Fish Soup. I wondered why, obviously this is a Seafood Soup. Nevertheless, it tasted good. I had seafood spaghetti and Kevin had lasagne.

Some pictures taken during our grandola ride. The ride was exceptionally fun because of the other tour mates who joined us. There were six of us and we laughed throughout the journey, cracked jokes.

They do look posh, don't they?

In addition to Venetian glass, Venetian mask is another tradition of Venice. The baroque style masks are typically worn during the Carnevale (Carnival of Venice). We bought a few as memento.

A picture of me taken at ATA Hotel. The furniture in this hotel are from Kartell for obvious reason, Kartell is an Italian company. In fact, Kartell is one of my favourite furniture brand available at Life Storey and Molecules. The most priceless item we got was our clock.

On the next day we head to Milan, a world fashion and design capital (apart from New York City, Paris and London).

We took a subway to Milan. It is a shoppers' paradise.
In front of Milan Cathedral.

The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.

Kevin checking out the map of Milan.

We left Italy on that day. And next up, posts on Switzerland.