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Sunday, October 31, 2004

Day 10 - Part 2

We continued to drive to Mondsee via Wolfgangsee. This town by Mondsee is one of the major tourist attraction, partly because the wedding scene of 'The Sound of Music' was shot in the Mondsee Cathedral. The town seemed to be more touristy than Hallstatt. And the weather had become better too, although it was still cloudy.

We visited the cathedral where the wedding scene between Maria and the Captain was taken. The altar was beautifully ornamented with intricate details. While we were there, a group of Chinese tourist, I guess part of the Sound of Music tour package, poured into the church. Yes, Chinese started to become a big market for European tourism business.

We also visited the Mondsee palace which was turned into a hotel, spa, and restaurant.

This is the smokehouse museum.

The interior of the smokehouse museum itself was closed for winter, but we could still enjoy the scenery and the exterior. The smokehouse is basically a house that doubles as a place to smoke food in order to preserve it, hence it was designed with minimum ventilation to keep the smoke inside the building. Consequently, all the wooden wall of the house became smoked and hence, preserved. This explains why the wood is blackened. When I touched the wood of the house it smelled like hickory. And the owner used to live there, sleeping with the smoke in their bedroom.

This is the toilet of the house.

Basically the toilet was just a small outhouse with a seat that has a hole in it. The hole was covered with a wooden lid, and if you lift it, you could see and smell what inside the hole (actually it did not smell so strong perhaps because of the cold weather).

We continued to have discussion with Kathy on how people in the olden days used to take a bath, because it seemed that the house do not have a bathroom, or shower. She explained that people showered perhaps once every month or even three months. Everyday, they only wash their face or hands at the horse-drinking area. But once a month, they put up the bath tub inside the house and poured hot water in it, and the same water is used for the whole family for a bath.

Kathy continued to explain that bathing used to be limited to only poor people, while the rich people may not bathe at all, firstly because they think it was unhygienic (what??) secondly because it is identical to the poorer class of the society, and thirdly because they have perfume to make themselves smell nice. Yes, even Versailles palace does not have a single bathroom and toilet. Allegedly, the kings and queens used to just relieve themselves anywhere in the palace floor, and their maids - who always followed them 24 hours a day - would just sweep or wipe the smelly remains. It was not normal to provide a special place to pee or poo.

Anyway, back to the Smokehouse museum, it was fascinating to see how the wooden structure was built. The wooden beams were just laid on top of one another and connected dove and tail. Sometimes, simple wooden pegs were used.

And look, they also have this thing to cultivate bees and get honey out of it.

We continued to drive back to Weyregg because we had to drive to Niederthai, which is three hours drive away. Kathy and Stephan offered to stay for another night in Weyregg, but sadly we had to decline, because we already had a booking. Kathy was really kind to call the lady in Niederthai to notify her that we were going to be late, and the lady gave us the detailed instruction on how to get to her farm.

When we took off at six, it was already dark. Lucky it was not raining. Indi managed to drive really fast. We decided to take the expressway route, but it means that we had to cross the border to Germany before re-entering to Innsbruck area. Luckily, with this Schengen agreement, the border is fully open and crossing it became seamless. The border was just marked by an EU sign saying Deutschland. Before we knew it, our cellphone was roamed into German operator.

The drive along the German expressway was really smooth, while the Austrian expressway had construction and repair every few kilometer. Kathy had mentioned that this is because Austrians prepared for winter earlier compared to Germans, hence Austrian expressways would be less obstructed in winter compared to German expressways. Anyway, all those construction work made us worried that we would arrive late in Niederthai.

Exiting the expressway at Ortz, we stopped at a petrol station to confirm that we were going on to the right direction, and also to buy dinner items. We managed to get to Umhausen, which is the town just before Nietherthai, and then we had to drive up 900m in altitude through a long and really winding road to get to Niederthai. Umhausan was located at around 600m above sea level, while Niederthai was 1500m.

Finally we managed to get to Niederthai, and since there was only one road in Niederthai, it was not difficult to find the farm where we were supposed to stay. Haus Larchenwald was located right at the end of the road.

When we arrived, it was really dark, partly because we were in the rural area and there was not much light around. We could not really tell the scenery around the area. We could only guess, from moonlight the reflection of the mountaintop, that we were surrounded by snowy Tyrolean Alpen mountains.

Sieglinder Leiter, the farm owner, greeted us and showed us to the room, which was really cozy, warm, and really neat. We had semmel bread with smoked salmon and cheese for dinner. We took shower and had a really good and warm sleep.

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Day 10 - Part 1

We woke up in the morning and saw through the window, that the weather would not be sunny today. We still could not get the view of Attersee because of the thick fog.

Kathy and Stephan had woken up before we did, and they prepared a wholesome breakfast. When we saw them at the kitchen they were still wearing exactly the same sleeping 'uniform' that they bought in India (it was a white cotton long panjabi with blue stripes).

After shower, Kathy introduced me to all type of bread they have prepared for breakfast. They are root bread which shaped like root, rye sourdough bread, togurt bread with oat, small bread called Broetchen, and finally, seed bread with spices.

To add to those, they also included many kinds of turkey and meat sausage, liver pate, honey, antipasti, homemade marmalade, homemade butter.

They also have this special type of cheese, which was made by shepherd in the mountain. I don't remember the name, but I remember that the texture was hard, solid, and tasted strong. It was a great cheese.

For the drink, Kathy and Stephan prepared coffee and tea, to be taken with the fresh milk we had the night before. The milk had been thoroughly boiled, and hence sterilized. By morning, the cream floated to the top of the jar, which we then use with the coffee and tea. The cream was really creamy, you can see layer of fat when it was immersed with coffee. Oh, we also had orange juice.

Initially we planned to have a hike at the nearby mountain and see snow. However, after checking with the hiking station, the weather turned out to be quite bad. So we decided to change the plan and head for a driving trip around Salzkammergut instead. But our destination was limited, because most of the tourist attractions (such as the salt mining cave) were closed from 22 October and will not open until spring. Hence we decided to go to Halstatt, a beautiful old town near Halstattsee.

We prepared our lunch sandwich using leftovers from breakfast and went to drive out of Weyregg using Stephan's red Mercedes. It was raining quite heavily, and foggy too.

After about 90 minutes drive we arrived at Hallstatt. Luckily it was Sunday, and the Kurzparkzone is not applicable. We got free parking right outside the city centre. It was still drizzling, lucky that we brought the big rainbow umbrellas.

This amazing little town has been around for 4500 years!

We entered the protestant church right by the lake. We thought there would be a choir singing at the end of the mass. But the mass had just finished and people had left.

We continued to walk along the lake side and enjoy the beautiful scenery. Too bad it was too foggy and we could not see the surrounding mountains.

We hiked to visit the Catholic Church which is built on the cliff of Hallstatt. I can't imagine how difficult to create such magnificent structure at the cliff. Perhaps due to the difficult terrain, the form of the church was different to typical church of the same period. The church plan was not shaped like a cross. And there are two main altars with intricate design and ornaments.

This is how high the church is from the boat dock right near the town square.

You can see that the Catholic Church is at the same level as the tower of the Protestant Church.

This is the view of the Catholic Church tower from the town square.

There was graveyard right outside the church (how did they manage to bring the coffin up to the steep cliff like that?). When we saw the tombstone, we realized that in each grave plot there are two to four people buried each from different period. Even graveyards were recycled!

The weather did not get any sunnier, and the drizzle made us really cold. We decided to take a break for a hot brunch. We went to this Konditorei right at the town square.

We ordered Apfelstrudel, chocolate cake, and strawberry cake. For drink, we had hot chocolate with whipped cream, while as usual, Stephan was having floral tea.

After brunch, we visited the Hallstatt museum that presented the history of the town even from pre-historic age. The town thrived because of the salt mining industry. In an area remote from seaside like Austria, salt became a luxury item and a natural resource to be fought for, just like oil nowadays. The presentation in the museum was really excellent and comprehensive. I became really interested to know how salt is mined and processed; unfortunately, the salt mining museum is closed until next spring.

After the museum, I wanted to know whether the salt crystal is sold for souvenir. The nearest souvenir shop had it, besides all other souvenir items like Mozart chocolate and all kinds of kitchen salt. However, after some thoughts, we realized that likely the crystal would not survive in Singapore, due to the humidity. I managed to get some remnants of the salt crystal and tasted it, salty of course, just like ordinary kitchen salt. It was just funny that the shape is just like clear crystal candy, unlike fine kitchen salt.

We then took some photo in the town square, with the conserved buildings as the backdrop.

We continued to walk back to the parking place and had our lunch in the car. Kathy brought Tyrolean lemonade (I forgot the name) which has a quite unique taste.

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Saturday, October 30, 2004

Day 9 - Part 2

The not-so-nice thing about autumn is that it gets dark really soon. When we reached Attersee we could see the magnificent lake but the surrounding scenery was not very visible since the sun has already set. It took us one hour and ten minutes to drive from Linz to Weyregg am Attersee, and it has been dark when we got there.

Kathy and Stephan introduced us to Richard and Regina, the husband and wife who own the farm. Regina was busy making bread when we arrived. We also met little Kathy, Regina's youngest daughter. This is little Kathy and Richard at the cow stable.

The kids were really amazed with the cows (although the cows were a bit smelly). The cow's tails were all tied up to the ceiling to prevent them being immersed in the dung canal when the cows sit.

Look what happened!

Three calves have just been born in the farm. They were really cute! They're always hungry! when I put my fingers to them, they licked it enthusiastically.

This is how the calves are actually being fed. A bucket of milk is hung at the fence with a plastic hose to simulate cow's nipple.

Regina gave us three liter of fresh milk, fresh right from the cow and unprocessed. She also gave us two jars of home-made marmalade. We immediately boil the milk at Stephan's holiday home. Actually the milk can be drunk rightaway. But for pregnant women it is better boil it, just in case the milk was not totally sterile. When you boil the milk, the thin membrane that emerges is actually protein residue.

The milk was really really creamy! We all drank it before continuing to dinner, and just before Mas Reza's family continued to drive back to Vienna. This is Stephan happily drinking his milk.

Stephan and Kathy decided to treat us for traditional Austrian dinner. We drove down to Familie Kalleitner Bachtaverne in Weyregg am Attersee.

The atmosphere of the small restaurant was really nice and homey (although everybody smoked inside). All the furniture was made from local wood. You could also see preserved deer heads from the hunters hanging on the wall.

For the entrée we had Kreuterfrittatensuppe, which is soup with thinly sliced pancake.

We also had Leberknoedelsuppe, which is liver dumpling soup.

For main course, Stephan was having Knödelgemheimnis, which is yeast dumpling with hidden variety of meat with sauerkraut and potato.

Kathy and Indi were both having meat on skewer with variety of salad. Kathy had Zigeurnerspieß, which is meat with hot gypsy sauce. Indi was having Putenspieß, which is turkey skewer.

Rani was having Hirschbraten, which is roasted upper leg meat of a male deer, with vegetable and knoedel (bread dumpling).

We finished them all! Look how stuffed Stephan were.

For desert, we had Eispalatschinken, which is crepe served with vanilla ice cream, chocolate syrup, and whipped cream.

During dinner, our discussion touched the issue of Schnapps. Kathy went on and explained the history of Schnapps and how it was made. Basically it was just variation of fruits immersed in water and fermented until it is rotten, and became smelly substance that contain high level of alcohol. It is made from fruit or nut, which explains its fruity or nutty taste. Then the fermented substance is distilled into clear alcoholic drink and stored in bottles. People drink it to warm themselves. The St. Bernard dogs rescue people in the Alps from freezing by bringing a small bottle of Schnapps tied around his neck.

Basically Kathy persuaded us to try Schnapps. Since I am pregnant and Stephan would be driving, we ended up ordering only two shot glass of Schnapps for Kathy and Indi.

The chef popped into our table and chatted with us. He asked about the food, and we complimented his cooking.

However, upon seeing only two glasses of schnapps the chef became angry at his employee. He thought it was a mistake that we were given only two glasses while they were actually four of us. He immediately apologized to us and brought us four more shot-glasses of schnapps.

We immediately explained to him that we didn’t want to drink a lot because Stephan is driving. He persuaded us that it is just a small amount and would not affect Stephan’s drinking. Kathy hinted to me that the Chef was very proud of his home-made Schnapps and refusing it would be an insult. Kathy told me that it would not make any difference to explain that I am pregnant, since the Chef would not care and would insist that all of us should drink his proudly made schnapps (as an Austrian, the Chef thought that small amount of alcohol would not harm the baby). We had difficult time to explain to the Chef, since Rani persisted not to drink any amount alcohol. Finally when the Chef was not looking, Kathy took Rani and Indi’s glass and drank the whole thing. When the chef came back, he was proud to see that all of us finished the drink. Thanks to Kathy who saved us from the fury of the proud chef!

We went back and slept in the warm bed in Stephan’s holiday home. The next day would be Daylight Savings Time, so we could afford to sleep a bit longer.

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Day 9 - Part 1

We woke up and drove Mas Reza at 9am to Stadtpark to get his rented car from Budget. He also got VW polo, only it's black and has four doors, central lock, and automatic window.

We spent the whole morning getting prepared for the trip. Our laundry that we did last night was not dry enough, so we decided to create a makeshift laundry hanger in our white VW Polo. We put on a rope between the two windows of the back seat, and hang our clothes there. During our trip, we just let our window open and let the wind breeze dry our laundry. We also put socks and underwear at the air channels of the front seat.

Finally, at 11.30, we took off for Linz. These are the two VW polo while stopping in the resting area on the way to Linz.

This is the route we took to Linz.

All of the adults happened to wear the same upper outfit. Really, it was not planned!

This is Mas Reza with the red ladies.

Mas Indi with the red ladies.

Mbak Icha drove up to 140km per hour.

In our white VW Polo, Indi became the driver while I was the navigator and assistant. My task consisted of determining the best route to go to one place, to navigate way around the town/city, to provide food and drink, and to make sandwich right on the spot when necessary.

The scenery from Vienna to Linz along the highway was a bit plain, because the area lies at the flat land. The Alpen range was nowhere in the sight. Because of its flatness, the area was a bit windy, and we saw some wind powered electric generator along the way.

Finally at 2.15pm we reached Linz city centre (after a small detour at the fringe of the city) where Kathy and Stephan has already waited for us for quite a long time already. We parked at a parking place in Graben, which is quite expensive, EUR1 per half an hour. We then walked towards the Altes Rathaus, and we met Kathy and Stephan at the Hauptplatz, near Linz's column.

We then walked along Landstrasse. We were surprised that the town was actually quite vibrant. I mean, there were not many people at the city square, but along Landstrasse, you can see the vibrancy. For example, we saw this jazz band playing and people were either watching them or just passing by.

We tried to find another café where we can get something to warm ourselves, since the old Café at the corner of Hauptstadt (Kathy's favorite) was closed. We ended up in a café at the corner of Landstrasse, while the kids insisted that they wanted McDonalds for lunch. The service at the café was terrible. Stephan ended up placing the order by himself, and also taking the food out by himself. We swore we will never come to this Café anymore.

But anyway, it was really exciting meeting Stephan and Kathy after more than one year. Stephan and Kathy was very kind to offer farm visit for the kids nearby their holiday home in Weyregg am Attersee. The kids were really enthusiastic and rushed us to drive to Weyregg before it got dark.

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Friday, October 29, 2004

Day 8 - Part 2

After various ride, together we got family ticket to ride the antique Ferris Wheel at Praterstern.

This wheel was built in 1897. In the ground floor lobby there is a diorama museum of the Vienna Prater District history, even from Roman times, middle ages, to the present condition.

This is our carriage.

You can see Viennese landscape from the top of the Ferris Wheel.

The carriage next to ours was the lavish restaurant. It is really exclusive and being rented out for really expensive price. We also saw a carriage which was for business meetings.

This is how high we were from the ground.

This is the whole group (minus Indi) while on the peak of the wheel.

Kaka and Rania took this picture using our Canon 300D. They're really becoming experts in photography.

After the ride, we were given discount card to shop in the souvenir shop but we didn't use it because everything was expensive.

Again, this is the Ferris Wheel, photo taken from the ground.

Mbak Icha and the kids went home while we were heading to Kartnerstrasse to change travellers cheque. On our way, we saw people gambling by guessing where a stone is located among three boxes. It seemed that the dealer made a lot of money. Some people even gamble for EUR50. Indi's guess was always correct, but he did not want to gamble his money.

Right outside Amex office, we saw two girls playing Mozart in flute duet at Kartnerstrasse, and they were quite good.

We continued to take UBahn toward Schonbrunn station

to go to Schonbrunn palace.

Too bad it was already closed. We only get as far as the main hall, where we found hexagonal wooden tiles.

We walked to the Marionette museum and Theater in Schonbrunn. Although we missed the show, we managed to see the Marionette museum to see the various collections and how the marionette was made.

We took the UBahn back to Kagran, where we did a little shopping at Donauzentrum Spar to stock up for our road trip the next day tomorrow. We bought bread, cheese, marmalade, butter, salad, and some fruits.

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Day 8 - Part 1

When we woke up a bit late (because of last night's opera) Mas Reza has been ready to go to his office. Since we were not ready to go together with him, Mas Reza went to his office by himself.

After shower, doing laundry, and breakfast, we took U Bahn from Kagran to Hilton Am Stadtpark to get our rented car from Budget. We got a candy white VW Polo with two doors.

The road in Vienna was not really difficult, although we mistakenly made a detour at Jesuitenwiese. We managed to get home through Praterstern and Vienna International Centre. Luckily we could secure a parking space near Mas Reza's house for free.

Together with the kids and Mbak Icha, we took U Bahn to Praterstern. We were amazed on how courteous Austrian people are. They do not push their way into subway train, bus, or tram. They help mothers to take the stroller into the train. They give seat to pregnant women, and women with kids. The men allow women and old people to enter or exit the train before they do. And of course, we also experienced this kind of courtesy in the Netherlands as well. Why can't we experience similar courtesy in Singapore? What's the problem?

In Praterstern the kids were really happy! They rode Bumper Car.

Earlier today Kaka told me that he was really fascinated by car and wanted to have his own car. He told me that he has already set aside EUR10 every week in order to be able to buy car when he reach 18 years old. Yes, that is ten years of savings! He also did the same thing when he wanted to buy Playstation. Mas Reza and Mbak Icha never gave him money to buy

Playstation, so he save some money from his weekly allowance, and after months of saving, he managed to buy one.

You can see how he's fascinated by car. Kaka drove really fast!

Kaka and Rania also rode a pony in a circular field. It was just like a merry go round, but using a real-life pony. Here's Kaka with the galloping horse.

And this is Rania with her favorite pony.

We also played with falling leaves at the park.

We tried to cover Freiza with autumn leaves.

Then we had lunch at McDonalds, where Kaka was brave enough to speak German with the shop attendant. This is Rania with her Super Size Coke.

We then continued to watch people riding the twister.

On the ground, the twister ride operator doubled as a deejay who made broadcasted funny comments to attract people into his ride. We also noticed these two old man and woman who stood nearby were really amazed with the ride. The man was so amazed he could not close his jaw until the ride finished.

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Thursday, October 28, 2004

Day 7 - Part 2

After lunch, we decided to cancel our plan to enter the Haus der Musik because we find the ticket is a bit steep for such an empty museum. We decided to get cheap opera ticket instead. We headed towards Sacher Hotel to take a break before lining up for Opera. Again, Sacher Hotel was being renovated!

We entered Sacher 'Eck, the small café at the corner of Sacher. I ordered Kleinbrauner (small black coffee), Indi ordered Hot Chocolate with Rum, and for both of us, Sacher Torte mit Sahne. It tasted heavenly. There was no acidity at all in the coffee, indeed it was a high quality coffee. We also experimented by pouring the remaining rum on top of the Sacher Torte and this made the flavour even more heavenly. The waiter was puzzled by our action, and reminded us that the Rum was supposed to be put in the coffee. He did not know that Rum and Sacher Torte could also create a perfect combination.

Outside Sacher, we saw two Gypsy people basking with violin and accordion, playing Gypsy songs.

Then we went to Opera (which is also being renovated), and a five and a half hour Don Carlos opera by Verdi is going to be screened today (it was just being premiered few weeks before). We got standing place at the Parterre for only EUR3.5.

Indi put the bags and coat at the cloakroom and borrowed a binocular from there. It turned out that our standing place is really strategically located right at the centre in front of the stage. The front most standing places were unoccupied because it seemed that it is used by the ORF crew (TV station that recorded the play). Indi asked the ORF cameraman whether we could take that place and yes, he said we can. So we ended up securing the front most row of the Stehplatz, with nobody behind us, so we could lay or sit leaning towards the back wall. The standing place was really nice, they even have subtitle screen at each place. Too bad, two Chinese tourist couple pushed their way beside Indi without even asking permission, and they kept making loud noises during the first act (Luckily they left after the first act).

Anyway, this is where we were located.

This is how the stage curtain looked like before the performance started (scanned from postcard).

This is how close our standing place was from the stage. The black lines behind the chair were subtitle screen. In the standing place we also have those, so we could follow the story in english.

You can approximate how close Indi to the stage from his place.

Rani was also similarly close to the stage, but she decided to play around with the binoculars. You can see the friendly cameraman on duty behind Rani.

The story is a mix of drama, war, and politics of Spain and France in 16 century. A French princess (Elizabeth) and a Spanish infante (Carlos) thought that they were set up for marriage, and ended up falling in love to each other. However, the princess is actually matchmade with the father of the infante instead of Carlos. Then the whole fiasco started. Carlos could not stop falling in love with his stepmother, while another princess (Eboli) fell in love with Carlos. The whole thing creates conflict between Carlos and his father, and seemingly betrayal by Carlos and Elizabeth's friends. For me it is a more interesting story line, albeit very lengthy, compared to Carmen which I have seen few years back.

We were so impressed by the quality of the Opera. It was totally high quality, the singers, the orchestra, and the staging. It was really different quality from the Hawaii Opera that I watched three years ago. The Don Carlos play that we watched is really surreal. The first act was using old costume. The second act was set in a minimalist and cubist stage, using a mix of modern and old costume. The third act, which is 'Eboli Dream Ballet' part, was set in a totally modern typical European house, and created a light-hearted and funny atmosphere.

After 2.5 hours, there is a pause and people went out of the theatre. It turned out that it is not really a pause, but it is part of Act 3 Scene 4 (The party and inquisition scene)! The singers pretended to arrive at the opera house from outside, and they sing both outside the theatre and inside the theatre from the audience seats, while all audience are still roaming around in and out the theatre. Some of the singers are chained, captured and humiliated by the inquisitor team, from the audience seat. It was a really chaotic but exciting scene.

This is Princess Eboli. Beside her is Rodrigue (Carlo's buddy). In front of her are King Phillippe and Queen Elizabeth. They sang part of the act from among the audience. People were confused, they did not know whether it is Pause time or not.

After it finished, one old gentleman audience who sit at the balcony screamed his disappointment of the disastrous act (at least that is what he thought). It seems like a genuine disappointment, however we did not rule out the possibility that this is also part of the act. After that, then there was the actual pause.
Don Carlos
Opera in five acts, in French
Librettist Francois Joseph Pierre Méry and Camille Du Locle
Music by Giusseppe Verdi

Conductor: Bertrand de Billy
King Phillippe II: Alastair Miles
Don Carlos, Infante: Ramon Vargas
Rodrigue: Bo Skovhus
Grand Inquisitor: Simon Yang
Elisabeth de Valois: Iano Tamar
Princess Eboli: Nadja Michael
Thibault (Elisabeth's Page): Cornelia Salje
Un Moine: Dan Paul Dumitrscu
Le Comte de Lerme: Benedikt Kobel
Un Heraut Royal: Cosmin Ifrim
Une Voix d'en Haut: Inna Los
Coryphee: Ion Tibrea

Orchester der Wiener Staatsoper
Chor der Wiener Staatsoper
Bühnenorchester der Wiener Staatsoper
Kinder der Opernschule der Wiener Staatsoper

After finishing the opera, we had dinner at the same cheap Turkish stall. Now we had the cheap spinach pizza. Today, we were really satisfied for the value that we paid compared to what we experienced today.

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Day 7 - Part 1

We woke up at 8. Mbak Icha decided that she would not be able to go to Praterstern today because she has not made her German homework, so we postpone the plan to go with the kids until the next day.

This is the colourful apartment complex where they live.

We arrived at Stephanplatz and Kartnerstrasse at 9.30am, and decided to follow Lonely Planet walking tour route.

First we went to the tourist information office and found a lot of interesting concert and opera, incuding a marionette opera. Nearby, a lady was caught by a policeman for entering a one-way road in a wrong direction.

We also saw a beggar, who was pretty young and able not to be a beggar.

All the shops along Kartnerstrasse are really expensive! As a cheap snack, we had 'Kasekrainer' fried sausage filled with cheese together with bread and mustard (Sold by Turkish people).

We then filled out our water bottle at the fountain, cheaper and healthier than buying soft drink.

We passed by Malteserkirche on Kartnerstrasse where they have a very nice pipe organ. There is an organ concert together with trumpet every evening here.

We entered a church at a small Capuccino church at the Neuer Markt. If we want to light the worship candle we had to pay EUR1. That's a bit steep.

In the Neuer Market we saw this guy who loved his dogs so much, he took them in a ride on his bike. He dressed them with biker's accessories as well.

For the first time we saw the Smart car. Indeed smart people are buying this car for the ease of parking in the European cities, where narrow streets are everywhere.

We passed by the Caviar house near the Neuer Market, where we saw 'Ahmad Tea' being sold there. It's funny when you know that your dad's name can also be a name for a beverage.

Then we arrived at Stephanplatz, just outside Stephandom Church. Facing the church was Haas House, a modern architecture piece which is disliked by the Viennese people. This is Haas House being contrasted with Stephandom Cathedral Facade.

Then there were a lot of 'living statues' who were trying to make a living. This is the 'living statue' getting prepared to work.

Then, the Mozart-dressed people in this area were really annoying; they kept offering us tickets for concert but they refused if we wanted to take photo with them. And they constantly nag us. This is the cheesy and annoying part of our Viennese visit, kind of like Singapore credit card marketer along Orchard Road.

The magnificent church was also being renovated! How come every major landmark is being renovated in autumn, everywhere we go? This was also annoying. Too bad, because it is really a magnificent church, where Mozart got married to Constanze Weber.

We continued to walk towards Graben, the most lavish shopping district in old Vienna. We now already saw two beggars, and both were young in age. I wondered why they need to beg, because even unemployed people will get money from government.

We turned to Kohlmarket, which used to be the place to trade Coals. There we found public toilet from early 20th century, but is still kept clean and retains its original ornaments.

We passed by Demel shop which has various kinds of finely made candy and chocolate, but it was really damn expensive. When we continued to Michaelerplatz, we passed by a woollen clothes shop that sells all kind of hand made woollen wardrobe. Again it is really expensive, but the craftsmanship was really excellent.

We continued to Hofburg, but again, it was being renovated. A lot of construction equipment that disturbed the view. We passed by the Treasury, which stores all the treasures and artefacts from the empire, but we had to pay expensive ticket to enter. It is funny that they exhibit expensive artefacts and treasures, and asked us to pay to view it? They should pay us if they want us to see it! Anyway, when we reached Burgring, we decided to take a photo of ourselves among autumn trees in the city.

When we continued to walk towards Opernring we saw some Austrian riding BMX bike and did stunt on it.

Then we entered the Burggarten, where we saw Mozart Statue playing violin and Goethe Statue. We passed by Steinway House (How Rani wants to buy those pianos!). This is Rani with Mozart.

We had lunch of Durum and Doner Kebab at the same place we bought the Kasekrainer. It was indeed a healthy lunch. Again, we saw a hungry beggar, seen in this picture, he took leftover pizza from the trash bin and ate it.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Day 6

We woke up at 5am and had breakfast of Danish pastry and decaf coffee. Then we took the first Tram 6 to Mariahoeve station. We said goodbye to Noor at the train station. When we arrived in Leiden, the train to Schiphol is just at the other side of the same platform, and so transferring trains was a zippy. We also saw flight attendants in the public train, unlike in Indonesia where flight attendants are picked up by company car.

We arrived on time to check in. When we were about to enter the boarding area, our laptop bag caught attention, as usual. However, the security guards checked the bag that contains clothes instead. Both bags really looked alike, and we placed them into the Xray machine at the same time, and that's the problem. The security guards did not manage to find anything in the clothes bag, of course.

The walk to the gate was a bit far, and then we boarded the flight.

We were given croissant and vollkorn bread (which Indi did not like) for breakfast. Indi spent the whole flight editing pictures in the laptop.

When we arrived in Vienna, we immediately went to S7 train platform (through a big cargo lift). We were almost left by the train, and the next train is not until half an hour later.

Arriving in Floridsdorf we immediately bought the cheapest transport card, which is the 8-day card to be utilised for four days by three people. This is more advantageous compared to the 72 hours card, because 8-day card need not be utilised in consecutive days and can be used by other people as well. Taking the Tram 26, it was pretty easy to go to Mas Reza's house.

After calling Mbak Icha, Kaka went down to picked us up. How he has grown! His skin has become a bit darker, just like his father.

Rania has also grown taller and looked like her mother, although the skin was dark like her father.

Rania gave us her drawing as a present.

Then we met Freiza, who is still a little baby.

Mom and the two daughters.

Their apartment was really nice, a double storey maisonette unit with a big balcony that can be used for barbecue in summer. The kids were also planning to put a bucket outside on the balcony during winter to collect snow and to eat it with syrup.

When we woke up at 4.30pm, we took a stroll to Donauzentrum in Kagran, together with Kaka and Rania. We bought candy for the kids, and bread for Mbak Icha. Kaka is really smart in reading maps, and he showed us where the Cinema is. Both Kaka and Rania really like getting on to rides such as horses or airplanes.

When we got back home, dinner was ready: Sushi and Fried Chicken. There was also Sambal Gandaria, made in the Netherlands. I wondered why we could never find nicely preserved Indonesian sambal both in Singapore and in Indonesia. Before we slept we washed our clothes and hang them inside our rooms

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Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Day 5 - Part 2

We walked back to the Tram terminal to take Tram 1 towards the Central Station. We passed by a horse-stable which is still functioning as such. A horse-stable in the middle of the city!

When we took Tram 1 we dropped by Leidensplein to have Ben and Jerry's ice cream. I had caramel ice cream, while Indi was having another flavour.

We also took photo of ourselves at the bridge there.

While we were taking photographs at the bridge there was a lunatic screaming around at nothing. Near the bridge we found a specialty shop that sells all kinds of marijuana and mushrooms, satisfaction guaranteed.

When we arrived in the Central Station Indi went out to take photos of the bicycle parking place. There's so much bicycles there! While waiting, I just watched the Morrocan taxi drivers parking around the station.

Indi was trying to record people's swift movements in the Amsterdam station. I love the nice blur effect caused by the slow opening of the camera. Too bad the security guard told Indi persistently that taking photos inside the station is not allowed. This is a really weird regulation.

Then we took the train back to Den Haag.

We got off at Den Haag Central and wanted to go to the City Hall (designed by Richard Meier). We wasted our time a bit by going towards the wrong direction (the palace of justice and royal library). Finally we managed to find the City Hall. An exhibition opening of Slovenian folk art was being held at the main atrium. There was also free food and wine! But we decided not to join the crowd and get the free meal. We saw traditional accordion among the exhibited item. We walked around the library and city hall, and thought that Meier's work is OK, but not so very fascinating.

When we walked further to find something to eat we saw the restaurant where we supposed to meet with Noor later on. It was Fat Kee Chinees Restaurant, located at Gedempte Gracht 675, Den Haag.

While waiting for Noor, we had fries and croquette for snack from a nearby Chinese store, then we walked back to Fat Kee. When we met Noor at the restaurant we ordered Chinese tea, crispy chicken, black bean beef and chap choy. It was really good!

Joe and Esther also joined us for dinner later on.

Esther suggested that we look for Poffertjes for dessert. However, Noor knew exactly that the place will close early during fall. Hence we decided to go to Esther's house instead, which is close to Queen's palace. We had tea and cookie while chatting about many things, including how Eurasian people still have a fond memory of Indonesia. In Esther's house, we also found Moesoon Magazine dedicated for Eurasian people of Indonesian origin.

Esther later dropped us in Mariahoeve station, because that is where we were supposed to take the train tomorrow morning. It was a bit far of walk from Noor's house, and this means we had to take the Tram tomorrow morning. I found out that I still have some strips in my Strippenkarte left, and I will just give them to Rina when I get back to Singapore.

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Day 5 - Part 1

We woke up at 8.15am and Noor already left for her office. We had yesterday's dinner for breakfast, and continued to check email from Noor's computer. I managed to settle some office affairs quickly with the email (I know, I am not supposed to work during vacation, but what the heck).

We took off to Den Haag Central Station at 9.30 and got all train tickets to Amsterdam and Schiphol (which was really expensive). We departed to Amsterdam at 10.30 and I called Gimill from the train.

This is the return train ticket from Den Haag to Amsterdam.

I'm seeing double Indi here!

Arriving in Amsterdam Indi wanted to directly go to Nemo. Along Oosterdokade we saw these little boat houses which we'd love to stay in, should we reside in Amsterdam.

We also found this Botel, a boat hotel (EUR80 per night) which is really cute. But the Boat Hotel does not really sail (anymore).

At this area, we also find a Chinese restaurant with its complicated Chinese decoration and colour, which look terribly out of place in the area! We passed by an art museum, probably built in 1950s (recommended for visit by Gimill). To get to Nemo we also need to cross a nice bridge.

It turned out that we needed to pay EUR12 to enter Nemo. Since we had no time, we decided to just circle around the building and took photos of the old boats.

We walked back to the Station and took tram no. 1 to Overtoom. S333's office is at the fourth floor together with other architects in the same building. It was an old building with a car-sized elevator at the back side. Gimill introduced me to Viktorija and Jonathan.

Gimill took us to the rooftop of their office where we could observe Amsterdam's skyline. He explained the planning history of Amsterdam and also metropolitan connection of four cities in the Netherlands (Amsterdam, Den Haag, Utrecht, and Rotterdam).

S333 staff is having lunch in the central table in their office, they prepare their own lunch. Chris, Gimill and us were going to have breakfast at Vondelpark, but it was packed with people. So we decided to have lunch at the Film Museum instead. We had tomato soup, sandwich, and hot chocolate with whipped cream. The place is quite affordable, considering we were served by a waiter, the portion is huge, and we had a nice place to sit. It was just a little bit noisy with small kids running around. Chris said that if we were to have a vacation with small children, it is best to go to Portugal or Spain, where people will be very friendly towards the children. Gimill also told us a story that he has actually known Chris when he was still a little boy in Groningen. Chris almost stayed with Gimill's parents at that time.

When we were back to S333 office we met Burton.

They gave us books on their project and share stories about their redevelopment projects in Bergen, Norway.

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Monday, October 25, 2004

Day 4 - Part 2

When we arrived in Schiphol Rani bought a cheap and good quality waist bag which she really needed to bring her gadget. Noor picked us up at the airport and we took the drain directly to Den Haag.

This is the train ticket that took us to Den Haag.

We got off in HS station, then took Tram 9, then change to Tram 2 to Leisdsenhage in Leidschendam. Noor's apartment is really nice, neat, cozy, spacious and perfectly spotless! We're really afraid that we will make her apartment dirty. She has been living there for 4 years.

We then washed our clothes. I called Yonav, asking whether it's possible to meet him. He was caught up with bad cold, and could not leave his house in Rotterdam. Then I called Penia and asked to meet her after dinner.

We had dinner at Noor's house, together with Joe and Esther. We started the dinner by breaking the fast at 5.32pm with tea, dutch cinnamon cookie, and dates. Then we had the main course of chicken curry, rice, potato with beef and chilli, sambal, and green salad with apple. We called Fauzia during dinner and she was pleased to hear news from us.

At 8pm we took Tram 2 and changed to Tram 1 at Spui, together with Joe. The new underground tram stop at Spui was really nicely done. From Delft Central, Joe said goodbye to continue to Rotterdam while we took a bus no. 60 to Penia's plate.

Penia greeted us at the bus station and served Turkish Sweets, Baklava, and Kebab. We have not met each other for 10 years, ever since she graduated from secondary school. We chatted about our lives and marriage.

Time flies, and we had to quickly return to Amsterdam. We did not want to be too late because Noor had to work early the next day. So we run to Delft Station through Hoornse Weg along the canal. It must be really nice to walk along this small road in a sunny day, to see people's backyard linked directly with the Canal. We arrived just in time for the express train, immediately buy the ticket and jumped on to the train. Luckily somebody was holding the door for us, or else we had to wait for the next rain. It was quite a thrilling experience. We got off the train at Laan van NOI where we bumped into the building designed by Hertzberger. We then changed into Tram 2 from Voorburg. We arrived at Noor's house at 10.50pm, really sorry to arrive so late at home. We were surprised to find that the clothes we washed earlier had been put to dry by Noor. She was indeed really kind to us!

Well here's the picture of local transport punch-card to be used in Netherlands.

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Day 4 - Part 1

I woke up with blocked nose. For breakfast, we had bread with strawberry preserve. Thomas had to leave with early flight for work in Sandefjord. After getting Thomas to the airport, Elok cooked us beef sausage. We also gave Elok our wedding present. Outside the weather was really cold, around -1 up to 3C. There is a thin layer of ice on the grass and leaves, and we had to scrape ice from the car.

We all then went to the Airport since Elok's family would take 11am flight to Bergen, while Tara and we would take 12.40pm flight to Amsterdam. This is Tara killing time by playing his Gameboy (Final Fantasy).

We saw a mobile phone booth in the airport. We assume European need this because they do not like noisy people chatting with loud voices in public. To keep the noise down, booths were provided. Actually, this is a good idea to be implemented in Singapore, perhaps Mass Rapid Trains should have these booth so that loud people can talk freely without disturbing other people.

In the airport Indi got his bag checked because of suspicious content. Of course it would be suspicious, it was a backpack filled with laptop, chargers, USB car readers, camera, lenses, and tripod. It surely will look weird in the Xray scanner.

Today is really a nice weather with a lot of sun. We took a number of photos near the airplane and during the take off phase.

Bye bye Stjordal, Vaernes, and Trondheim! Hopefully we can return (with the baby!).

This is our boarding pass. Rani got the window seat!

We had a great breakfast on board, turkey mustard sandwich, chocolate muffin, juice, and tea. From the airplane window we saw Norwegian mountains with a lot of snow. Two hours later, we started to see the Netherlands with its canals. We tried to recognize the places we visited few days back. We saw the Nemo building from the air, as well as the surrounding maritime museum.

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Sunday, October 24, 2004

Day 3 - Part 2

Thomas drove us downtown to find a place for lunch. On the way, we passed by the road roundabout built by Thomas, and to admire his workmanship, we circled the roundabout three times.

When we arrived at this seaside commercial centre, Indi and I admired the nice scale and workmanship of European architecture. This is how we play around with architecture.

We're also surprised that in Trondheim we did not see any billboard at all. Or at least, any big billboard. We decided to have lunch at Peppe's pizza. The outdoor seats were provided by thick blankets, since the weather was really cold, below 5C degree. We ordered two pizzas for $25 each. The size turned out to be really big, like, 50cm in diameter. Such a big restaurant with only three waiters. When we asked to take away the rest of the pizza, the waiter only gave us the box and we had to put the pizza in ourselves. This does not mean a bad service, but is actually the culture in Norway.

We took the expressway and tunnels to get Ivan to the airport. On the way, we saw farms with cute cows and hay rolls. We arrived at Mjosund House for tea and dinner, and managed to check my email. I found a lot of junk inside my Indosat mailbox. Almost the whole Mjosund household were sick, perhaps because of late night party the night before. Ninni had a cramp, while Mia and Monika (Kenneth's wife) coughed. I played around with Helen (Kenneth's daughter). We had salmon, boiled vegetables and yesterday's soup for dinner. After dinner, we showed the Mjosund yesterday's wedding photos, and it was really fascinating. You can see Rani, Kenneth, Helen, and Monika in the photo

When we returned to Elok and Thomas’ house, we watched 911, the story from inside American Airlines, before going to bed.

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Day 3 - Part 1

The next day we woke up 10.30, and had Swedish bread with salami while watching cross country skiing on TV. Ivan went out jogging while Catherine flew back to Bergen. At 10am, we, Elok, Thomas, and Ivan drove around the area. The weather today was cloudy, raining, and cold. We dropped by petrol station to buy Bumse Mamse, a marshmallow / jelly covered with chocolate, which is Elok's favourite.

We drove to Hell. It is actually a town near Trondheim called Hell. Elok and I took photos in Hell Train Station.

There's a warehouse nearby where it is written 'Hell Gods Expedition' which actually means 'Hell Town Goods Freight Delivery'.

The newlyweds spent their honeymoon in Hell!

Now we can tell everybody that we have been to Hell, and it was not that bad. Here's an advertisement billboard on Hell's tourism. The billboard seemed like offering an enjoyable 'torture service' in Hell.

We then drove to Trondheim taking the old road along the Fjord. In Trondheim, we took photo at the University: Ivan, Thomas, Elok, and Rani.

This is Indi and I on top of the hill in Trondheim University overlooking the city.

We saw a cute and old elevator to take bicycle up to the hill. Then we went to Kristiansen Fort. Here we saw two women kissing each other very passionately. From this for here we could see the view to all Trondheim City. It is funny to see that the canons were actually aimed at the church and the houses, we wondered why...…

We continued to Nidaros Cathedral. I saw a cute dog tied outside the cathedral and played with him.

We saw an interesting sculpture outside the church: a bishop carrying heads of three people. I wonder what is it all about?

Inside the church I threw coins into the well, hoping to come back to Norway later on. There is also a preparation for a concert inside the church. This is the interior of the church.

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Saturday, October 23, 2004

Day 2 - Part 4

We continued to Reception in Skatval Restaurant (Formerly a train station).

There we met Rune (the MC for the event) and his wife Chavanat. Chavanat is also 5 months pregnant like me of her second child.

We also met Nina Mjosund and her husband who went to Bali for their honeymoon. Nina was also wearing traditional Norwegian dress.

The appetizer was fried rice with seafood. Then Ninni gave her speech about Thomas being a very curious boy, for example, sticking his nose to lightbulb out of curiosity.

Then the main course of Moose Steak came, served with potatoes, cauliflower, Brussels sprout, and carrot, served with cream sauce.

During dinner, Nina told us the story about moose hunting

  • A permit is necessary to hunt moose or reindeer, renewable every year upon passing the shooting test
  • A group of around six hunters goes camping in the wood for one week to hunt. They eat moose liver in the camp.
  • The hunter can only kill the male moose.
  • Sometimes dogs are involved in the hunt. The dogs will chase and distract the moose, making it easier for the Moose to be shot.
  • After being shot down, the moose is cut into small parts and brought back to camp.
  • The innards & head are thrown away in the forest
  • The meat (approximately 50kg) is brought home and is enough for 1 year
  • If the moose is old and the meat tends to be hard, the meat will then be roasted over small fire overnight. The result is juicy, red, tender meat

Nina also told us that she is not using her husband's name. All her kids are using her family name instead of her husbands, because Mjosund name is getting rarer.

After the main course, Elok's father gave speech about how Thomas proposed to him to marry Elok in Sydney.

Then Tor Otto gave Thomas 3 envelope containing 3 stories about Thomas. Thomas picked one envelope, and Tor Otto proceeded to read the speech in it. He said Thomas is a really active person, but not in his studies.

Then Nina Mjosund gave speech on how pretty Elok is, and how her children was really impressed seeing Elok's photo. Then the dessert came: caramel pudding, which was really good & creamy, no words can describe it! It was really a heavenly caramel pudding.

After the dessert, Rune asked the guest to help clean up the room for Sungkeman ceremony. Amazingly, all the guests are helping to clean up the room, even the brides and groom too.

The Sungkeman ceremony was really touching. This is where Elok apologized to her parents, and seek acceptance in Mjosund family. Nina was really touched and cried listening to the speech. Oma commented how Thomas has touched her as the “weather man” when she was in Sydney.

After Sungkeman, the guests willingly helped to rearranged the tables for cake cutting ceremony at 10.30pm (we did not realized that almost six hours elapsed since the wedding reception in the restaurant started).

The newlyweds and the cake!

The cakes were really really good! Even the marzipan frosting tasted heavenly. The cakes were served with coffee, tea, cognac, and tia maria. Most of Indonesian guests were already quite exhausted, especially us, who are just arrived the day before. But all Norwegian guests were still high spirited and had the energy to continue chatting until after midnight. We told the story on how Elok has been the one who encouraged us to be together. At 12.30am, vegetable cream soup with bread was served, and the guests continued to chat until wee hours.

We were amazed on how only two cooks and one helper prepared for the meal for 50-60 people! We were impressed how Europeans can work fast and sharp, and still have good social life, not needing working overtime like Asians do.

At around 1.30am I was too tired and Odd was really kind to drive us back to Elok and Thomas’s house.

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Day 2 - Part 3

Elok arrived at 3pm wearing white kebaya looking really beautiful. The bell was ringing waiting for the bride to enter the church. Standing on the right of Elok's father is Merete with her son Isaac.

The father and she looked so happy walking down the aisle with the pipe organ singing the Wedding March.

At the end of the aisle, Thomas greeted Elok and took her to the altar.

Elok's family members followed the ceremony attentively.

In sickness and in health until death do us part…

Blessed by God…

Here comes the ring…

You may kiss the bride! (Finally!)

What a happy couple!

The ceremony was held in Norwegian language.

Let's party now!

And suddenly everybody's taking out their cameras…

After the ceremony, the happy couple took photo with friends & family outside church's door. Here's the Mjosunds.

Here's the Bennys

Here's the Soemardjans, and actually more photos with friends and family are taken but we couldn't put them all in this website.

Then they went on to ride the wedding car, which is a white VW beetle. Tor Otto was having difficulty shifting to reverse gear until Elok's father helped him.

More kiss!

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Day 2 - Part 2

Tor Otto, the Best Man, drove us back to Thomas place to prepare ourselves.

This is Thomas and Elok’s house, in the sunny day of autumn.

Thomas, the busy groom, getting dressed up and helped by Tor Otto. Thomas was always on his cell phone until the wedding bell rings.

Please do enjoy Elok and Thomas's Wedding Website!

Thomas said he's not nervous with the wedding, but he drove quite fast on the road to the church.

The Værnes Kirke was built in 1085, and is said to be the oldest standing building in Norway. We arrived quite early.

Thomas was still always on the cell phone.

This is Thomas, Rani, Indi, and Catherine at the parking place of the church.

Apparently Thomas could not find his wedding shoes, so he borrowed emergency shoes from someone.

Mia Maria, Thomas's sister, wore traditional Norwegian outfit.

He's still on the cell phone until the very last minute!

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Day 2 - Part 1

We woke up 9.15. It seemed that the weather's going to be sunny and nice! This is the view from our room in Thomas & Elok's house.

We were driven to Mjosund's house for breakfast. There we met Elok's parents, brother, and grand mother. We had bread with kaviar, pate, cheese, pickled cucumber, and home made wild berry jam. The temp was 3C cold but the butter managed to stay soft because it's mixed with olive oil. This is Elok's photo when she's having breakfast as her hair was prepared for bridal hairdo.

This is Odd Mjosund with Rani. The temperature was 4C outside.

During breakfast, we learned:
  • Norwegian people don't have lunch
  • Instead they only have a big breakfast late morning
  • For them, lunchtime was just snack
  • Then they have big dinner is at 5-6pm
  • Later, tea/coffee, soup, and/or cake are served at 9-10pm
  • You can leave leftover food outside the house, because it was damn cold (except in summer)
  • Norwegian people like to have long chat with friends and family
  • But they don't like chatting during big dinner & breakfast. Only after that.
  • Norwegian people are very friendly and eager to help friends. In such cold weather and sparse population, good ties with friends and family becomes very important
We went to town centre of Stjordal after breakfast. It's a small town indeed, with only 18,000 population.

We took time in grocery trying to understand the ingredients in products, written in Norwegian language. Asking people are not really effective since they do not really speak English. We saw that orange is translated as appelsin, whereas apple is eple. Finally we bought 3kg of smoked salmon for a dirt cheap price compared to buying it in Singapore. We also bought lamb sausage and reindeer sausage. We found that aside of salmon and sausages, other products are typically 2-3 times more expensive than Singapore. The shop didn't accept credit card, we ended up paying with cash. We had to put our grocery ourselves into the plastic bag, unlike in Singapore.

We went back to Mjosund house to see Elok's getting bridal makeover by her mom. In front of the house the Mjosund put on Finnish flag, because Thomas’s mom is Finnish.

This is the bride in preparation, and her mother.

This is the bride's grandmother. Oma came as far as Norway to give the dearest granddaughter her blessings to the marriage.

I met Merete, the maid of honour, who lives together with Tor Otto (the best man) with their son Isaac (who will join the wedding procession). Merete will be wearing a dress made in Indonesia. This is Merete with Oma.

Again, Elok was doing some final touch-up.

This is the Bridal Bouquet.

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Friday, October 22, 2004

Day 1 - Part 3

After the boat ride, we walked back to the Dam and took the bus from near the Central Station to go back to Tante Peggy’s house. There was a lot of pigeons and horse carriage in the Dam. Tante Peggy helped an old lady whose bike is trapped. When we walked by, we saw so many billboards about Malaysia Tourism, and this ashamed us. Where is Indonesian Tourism advertisement?

At Tante Peggy's house, about 45minutes bus drive from Amsterdam, we met Zicarlo and his girlfriend Jocelyn. Tante Peggy showed us the backyard of her house, which is nice to be used for dinner in summer. She explained that the name van Aalderen was originated a long time ago in Germany. She also told us the story when she debated German Chanchellor Kohl for making a statement denigrating Indonesian in a seminar. Here's a photo of Rani exhibiting her belly to Tante Peggy.

The van Aalderen family was really kind to drive me to the crowded Schiphol airport. In Schiphol, we had vegetarian pizza and sprite for dinner. We boarded KLM Cityhopper flight to Trondheim, Norway.

On board, we struggled to stay awake in flight. When we arrived, the weather was hellish cold. The walk from the airplane to airport terminal was like hell and I was shaking of cold.

Elok and Catherine picked us up at the airport. Catherine is Thomas’s friend who came from Bergen. The town Stjordal, where Elok and Thomas live, is just 5 mins drive from the airport.

This is Stjordal, where we stay. As you see it's quite close to the airport (only 5 minutes drive), and a bit far from Trondheim (25 minutes drive).

We visited Thomas's parents house and met Odd and Ninni. Then at Elok and Thomas's house, we also met Ivan who came from Oslo. We tried Norwegian brown cheese (tasted a bit sweet) and beef salami with Swedish flat bread (like the ones found in IKEA Singapore) for supper. On the picture you can see Elok, Catherine, Ivan, and Thomas.

We were really tired and fell to bed instantly after a nice warm shower. This is the picture of Elok doing the dishes just before we all went to bed.

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Day 1 - Part 2

After lunch, we continued to enter museum Amsterdam History Museum courtyard. Tante Peggy showed us the Amsterdam's Coat of Arms

Indi took over and lead the walk around the neighbourhood he was not familiar with, and he did not even have a map! Tante Peggy was so afraid that we would be lost. We walked further, and saw Indonesian fast food restaurant "Kantjil and de Tijger"

We went to music store, and everything was expensive. Tante Peggy bought strings for Zicarlo's guitar. Then we passed by a book flea market “De Boeken Markt op het Spui” which take place every Friday. We saw a lot of old book about Indonesia. We also met an Old Dutch guy who was born in Indonesia, but had to leave in the 50s. Again, he was caught up listening to our Indonesian conversation. From the market I got GANEFO book entitled 'Tanah Air Kita' issued in 1963 which Tante Peggy managed to bargain down to 15 from 25 euros.

We then took a boat called 'Koningin Beatrix' from Rokin for a ride along the canal to see nice old and new architecture.

This is the ticket for the boat.

This is us in the boat, which is quite hot.

The guide explained that the old buildings have to get stuff inside thru the big window, and this explains the hook and crane located at the top of each building.

We were also impressed in the simplicity of Dutch architecture, with the nice human scale. We noticed that many of the old buildings (built around 17th century) are slightly tilted; this must be because of soft soil. We also saw a lot of boathouses by the Canal. If we were to live in Amsterdam, we would want to live in one of those.

There is a lot of old bridges like the one found in Jakarta Old Town.

There is a building called 'Nemo' shaped like a ship designed by the famous Renzo Piano.

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Day 1 - Part 1

The start of our vacation was hectic. I left my leather boots at home which forced the Malay taxi driver to drive back to 9 km to our house just to get it. Luckily, the taxi driver was kind enough to let us pay $30 only (going back and forth Changi Airport). The taxi driver even had a chance to tell us the story of his life, and how his wife really loves Indonesian soap opera.

After checking in, I realized I forgot to bring the Wi-Fi card for my XDA & Telkomsel GSM card. I became very irritated, because I had prepared to bring those two items. Finally I felt better after Indi opens his Starhub international roaming.

The flight was relatively empty and we could stretch ourselves across the economy class chairs. For dinner fried chicken cutlets or fish curry with rice was served. The dessert was Tiramisu mousse.

We watched Stepford Wives and Monster Inc in the in-flight entertainment centre. Later, we got our breakfast upgraded to Business class menu since we did not want to eat pork. The original menu was bread with cold meat of unknown origin. The upgraded menu was hot omelets and tuna salad.

Our Vienna-Amsterdam Boarding Pass.

We were impressed by Schiphol Airport which was built using seemingly simple material, but in a neat fashion, Unlike Changi Airport that asserts itself with expensive and intricate building materials and often times is not in line with its tropical context. Upon arrival, we immediately checked in our luggage to Norway.

We were picked up by Tante Peggy van Aalderen, who had been waiting for us since 8 am, and took the train to Amsterdam Central Station.

The façade of Central Station is really nice but, it was being repaired, so the square in front of the Central Station was blocked by construction machines. From there, as we strolled along the Damrak we could already sensed the "liberal" atmosphere of the Netherlands. Sex museum displayed itself along main public road. There's also a bar named 'Teaser' that displayed bikini girls.

Tante Peggy introduced us to Dimas, who is a student of University of Amsterdam. He worked in a souvenir shop owned by a tax-fraud. Dimas insisted on giving us some of the stuff for free, since the items sold there are not obtained through an honest way in the first place. We then visited the palace but it was closed. We saw a homeless begging for money outside the palace.

A former KNIL soldier passed by us and cried upon hearing us speaking in Indonesian. He then chatted in Dutch with Tante Peggy, saying how disappointed he was with both Dutch and Indonesian governments, for he felt that he was kicked out by Sukarno in the 50s, and nobody in the Netherlands now recognized his struggle during KNIL period. Tante Peggy debated him by saying that it was his choice to opt for joining the Dutch instead of Independent Indonesia.

When we continued walking, we also saw a barrel organ which played classical songs.

Tante Peggy offered us to rest and enjoy traditional Dutch pancake in De Pannekoekkelder, located near Kalverstraat and Amsterdam History Museum.

We had cinnamon apple pancake and cheese mushroom pancake while drinking hot chocolate with whipped cream. For the first time we were shocked to see European prices. It seems that the numbers are around the same or twice the price in Singapore, but in Euro currency. This means the actual price is around twice or four times Singaporean price.

In the pancake shop Tante Peggy discussed about Minang culture being a suitable culture for the modern days since it elevates the status of woman and made woman independent from men. She also told us her work scuba diving everyday for research, which is the job she chose because she loves diving. She also told us how she met her husband, who was doing research on Minang culture.

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Monday, October 18, 2004


Some of my friends parents claim that they are not racist, but when faced with the fact that their children are dating with someone from different race, they would object. I even know one case where the girl are being slapped by the parents because of it.

I would conclude that the above pattern can be used to prove whether you are a racist or not.

It is as simple as asking yourself:

If you have a kid, and he or she is dating people from other racial group, how would you react. If you object - based on the racial difference-, then you are a racist.

Oh, the same principle also applies for religious difference.

For both question, Indi and I agree that would not object our child be hindered by racial or religious difference. We would object if the person our child is dating is a rapist, a corrupt person, liar, materialistic, hypocrit, etc, etc. Our judgement would not be based on color skin, ethnicity, or belief.

Ask yourself, are you a racist?

And if you are a racist, how pathetic. This is the third millenium, for God's sake!

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Saturday, October 02, 2004

Indonesia for UNSC

As read in Priyadi's Blog, Indonesia requested permanent seat in UN Security Council. More in Channel News Asia. Go Indonesia go go go!

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Singapore's Double Standard

I stumbled across Myrick's Blog , and found two interesting articles:

"Singapore is trying to make itself the centre of gays and lesbians in Asia"

In "Pink Dollar" and "Manazine" articles, Myrick presented Singapore's double standard in facing the Gay issue, summarised as follows:

  • Singapore loves gay people's money, BUT
  • Singapore do not want gay people to openly express themselves

What a hypocritical materialistic double standard!

Gay friends, do not let your money be taken away by Singapore. You've been warned, Singapore wants your money but not YOU!

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