7 More Things I Miss from Past Travels to 7 Cities

My last non-travel travel blog was about the things I miss from past travels, and I’ve dug up some pictures and stories to share so I can put together a part two. If you want to find out the difference between ice cream and gelato, learn about why Rizal wrote a letter to the women of Malolos, and see sculptures of babies with barcodes instead of faces, check out part one first.

Here are some more things I still get nostalgic about from past trips around Europe and Asia.

The Trains in Berlin, Germany

I love the convenience of a sprawling train system. Taking the train is almost always cheaper than taking a taxi or using a ride-hailing service, and sometimes, you get the chance to see more of the city on your way to your destination. As much as I like buying little trinkets from the places I visit, I don’t really collect anything – except for train cards.

We mostly took the train from Hohen Neundorf to Berlin and back, but rail transport in Germany covers pretty much the entire country. The Deutsche Bahn (literally “German train”), which moves about two billion passengers a year, even has lines that can take you all the way to Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, Denmark, France, and the Netherlands.

For our stay, we used the U-Bahn and S-Bahn trains. The U stands for Untergrunt (“Underground”) and the S can mean either Schnellbahn, Stadtbahn or Stadtschnellbahn (“Fast Train”, “Light Rail”, and “City Express Train”, respectively).

Although Germany’s railway network has existed since 1835, today, it is thoroughly modernized. Most steam trains in Germany have been replaced with electric trains, as they have in almost every country that once used them. One thing that stays old school on German trains, though, is that there are no fare gates. You buy your ticket before boarding and hold on to it as a fare inspector might pass by and ask to see it.

Sanssoucci Palace in Potsdam, Germany

Potsdam is about an hour away from Berlin by car. It’s a city rich with history and natural wonders, and the home of the largest World Heritage Site in the country: Sanssouci Palace.

The palace once served as a summer home for Prussian ruler Frederick the Great, way back in the 1700s. His remains are now buried there in a tomb that overlooks the gardens. The name Sanssouci translates from French to “without worries”.

The carvings you can spot from this angle are of atlantes and caryatids. They are not impressions of particular deities or personalities, but decorative masculine and feminine figures that are made to look like they’re holding up the structure – and occasionally, they really are.

Salagdoong Beach in Siquijor, Philippines

Siquijor is an island in Visayas known for its ties to mysticism. Tourists flock to Siquijor every April for the Healing Festival, where faith healers (known locally as “mananambal”) perform rituals and concoct potions for prosperity in business, an improved love life, and general good fortune. For the duration of the festival, there are strict rules: Smoking and drinking are prohibited, as are single-use plastics and styrofoam, and cooking with firewood or charcoal.

Regardless of what you believe or how you feel about the occult, Siquijor is worth a visit even just for the beaches. Salagdoong Beach, found on the northeast side of the island, offers some of the bluest ocean you’ll see. With its pristine white sand and cool ocean breeze, Salagdoong rivals even the gorgeous beaches in El Nido, Palawan, and because it’s the less touristy of the two, it’s also cleaner, and quieter, less crowded.

The Reptiles at Haus des Meeres in Vienna, Austria

Standing eight floors high and housing more than 10,000 creatures, Haus des Meeres (“House of the Sea”) is more than an aquarium – it’s a piece of history. The building once served as a fire control flak tower, designed to withstand bombings and serve as a kind of above-ground bunker for military and civilians alike. It would later be used as a hotel, then a fire station, and eventually the aqua terra zoo that it is today.

Some of its cold-blooded inhabitants include this sea turtle and this chameleon. It’s a common misconception that chameleons have sticky tongues. When they whip out their long tongues to catch insects, they’re actually using specially developed muscles in their tongue to wrap around their prey and capture it. This, combined with their eyes which can rotate independently to give them a true 360-degree view of their surroundings, makes them excellent hunters despite their small size.

The rooftop of Haus des Meeres provides a breathtaking view of Vienna. When we visited, we happened upon some tightrope walkers practicing their balance on a thin, ribbon-like cord. They could have easily had the same setup in a two- or three-story building instead of the eight-floor-high aquarium, but where’s the thrill in that?

Gacha Machines in Kyoto, Japan

My trips to Japan have been extensively documented in this blog (find them all right here), but one of the weird and wonderful things that haven’t come up in my posts so far is gacha machines. These capsule machines offer a wide variety of little toys, and sometimes keychains and games, for just one coin. Depending on the machine, a prize will typically cost between 100 and 500 yen.

These are two of thousands of gacha machines you can buy a toy from. On the left is one that gives out bottle cap cats, which are exactly what they sound like: cats whose heads are shaped like they’ve been stuffed inside a bottle cap. They’re a handy (if a bit odd) addition to any zero-waste household that wants to reuse bottle caps and keep them clean and dry in between uses. On the right is one of the most meta things you’ll ever see: a gacha machine that sells mini gacha machines. I had to have one, and I was not disappointed with my purchase. My mini gacha machine toy came with tiny capsules that actually pop out when you turn the crank, just like the real thing.

I came across these specific ones in Kyoto, but you can find the machines all over Japan, and if you’re in a different country, you may even be able to buy one online.

The Swans at Lake Zürich in Zürich, Switzerland

Lake Zürich looks like something straight out of a fairy tale, largely because of the bevy of swans that populate its waters. Fun fact: When they’re chilling in groups, they’re called a bevy or a bank of swans. When they’re flying in groups, they suddenly become a wedge of swans.

This banana-shaped lake (Take a look if you don’t believe me) touches Zürich, St. Gallen, and Schwyz. Although the water is clean enough to swim in, you’d have to be a skilled swimmer to enjoy it safely. Most tourists choose to picnic by the water instead, or just enjoy the view from a distance.

We opted to relax in a park bordering the lake where a three-piece band was busking. Among the people appreciating their music was a little boy who stopped to watch. He also dropped a few coins in the guitar case before waving goodbye.

Doge’s Palace in Venice, Italy

My first post mentions Venice, Italy twice, and it’s featured here again because I want to show some love for the intricate details of the Doge’s Palace (locally, Palazzo Ducale). It’s been around since 1430, since before Venice was even technically a part of Italy, and has survived three enormous fires.

“Doge” is not the family name of a political clan, but a title for the chief magistrate of Venice. While some scholars translate it as “duke”, it’s argued that a doge neither serves the function of a duke nor fits the definition of a hereditary duke.

With so much time and money invested in restoration efforts, it’s no wonder why the palace, all the way down to the miniscule carvings on the walls and ceilings, is so well-preserved. The shot above was taken inside the palace, with a lot of zoom, in between servings of gelato and pizza.

Read more about my travels as well as events in Metro Manila in the Out & About tag.

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