Ras al Khaima and Dubai 2. to 10. Oktober 2013

View from the rooftop terrace
View from the rooftop terrace

Since our flight was leaving from Munich (sometimes that’s a lot cheaper than from Zurich), we had to take a bus to get to that city in Bavaria. We chose meinfernbus.de a discounter bus which brings you cheaply to many destinations in Germany. The highlight of the journey was when the bus boarded a ferry which brought us from Constance to Meersburg. In Munich, it took us quite a while to get from the bus stop to the airport because the subway trains were completely jam-packed and not on time due to the ongoing Oktoberfest. I wasn’t sad that we were basically next to the Wiesen but not going there. The things there get more and more expensive every year and for the past three years I’ve been there, every time it was more difficult to get inside a tent. There are just too many people.

20131002_123032

After about 1,5 hours (for a ride that should have taken 40min) with our suitcases on the subway among people in Trachten smelling of alcohol (not so pleasant for the people not smelling of alcohol), we finally reached the airport. Our bags were checked in quickly at the Emirates counter and once we figured out that we just had to walk behind the check in counters to get to our gate, we just had enough time to have a small dinner and a well-earned beer.

Flying with Emirates was great! Unfortunately, we didn’t have a window seat but the outdoor cameras on the plane were running the whole time and so we could still enjoy the view outside. The meal was probably the best I ever had on a plane, we received a warm face wash cloth twice and the flight attendants came by with drinks quite often. Plus, there were so many movies, music channels and video games to choose from that I was already looking forward to our return flight when we landed in Dubai. The 38 C that greeted us at 6.30am were a nice change to 8 degree freezing Germany.

20131006_113017

Finally, after more than an hour, we made it through the passport control and were greeted by a driver who brought us and two other guests to the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel in Ras al Khaimah. They know how to welcome people because the first thing we received was a chocolate chip cookie 🙂

IMG_9102

The interior of the hotel was elegant, clean and above all nicely air-conditioned. It has 15 floors and from the top floor you can walk up a stairway to a roof top bar and pool. I always enjoyed that when I felt like cooling off but there wasn’t enough time to go to the beach anymore.

20131004_123337

Breakfast was delicious with a great variety of things to choose from. The hotel also offers a free shuttle bus to the nearest mall every evening, a shuttle to the private beach every hour and a bus to and from Dubai Mall several times a week.

Aquarium at the Dubai Mall
Aquarium at the Dubai Mall

The beach was beautiful with white, shelving sand, so that I actually was able to swim and not just flounder about. There were always enough chairs with umbrellas. So, with the sea, sun and my book I had everything I needed. It’s wonderful to wake up in a place where you never have to ask what the weather will be like today because it’s always hot and sunny.

IMG_9255

We had dinner in a different place every evening since we only booked with breakfast. There’s a Chili’s in Manar Mall but other than that, there are mostly fast food stalls. We did try one with local food though. I liked it but that was before we had dinner in the hotel or on the Bedouin safari. The food there was better, above all at the Bedouin camp. Since the pick-up time at Manar Mall never gave us enough time to do everything we wanted (there is a pretty bay area outside and after being inside the freezing mall it’s quite nice to take a stroll outside or sit on the green grass) we usually walked back to our hotel (about 20 min). I was glad that it was possible to walk at all, since I had read before that there are no sidewalks. However, where we lived there were sidewalks to go to all the important places and even some road bumps to slow down the car. You just have to watch out a little more when you cross a road or walk over the parking lot. Hardly anyone is walking here. Why should they? Everyone has a big car. Mostly white cars, probably because of the heat.

Sunset over the desert
Sunset over the desert

Apparently, there was a Muslim holiday because from Friday to Sunday there were a lot more people in the mall. Groups of men in their white dresses and the females in black. No color variations like in Kuala Lumpur. I tried to cover my shoulders and knees too and just be polite but it still seemed to me that often the employees in Manar Mall (not in Dubai) would have preferred to talk to a man instead of me, for example if I needed to ask something.

Dubai city center
Dubai city center

One day, we rented a car and took a trip to Dubai. I took print screens of every step of the way on google maps, while we were at the Starbucks at Manar Mall. There was no free wifi in our hotel. These pictures were enough to bring us to the city without any detours. There are a lot of cars and some of them are driving horrendously but I still felt save most of the time. It’s quite special to drive on a highway through the desert because the only environment we saw as soon as we left Ras al Khaimah was sand, a few trees, bushes, camels and goats.

Burj al Arab
Burj al Arab

Getting around in the city was a lot more difficult, since all the streets are one way streets and if you take a wrong road it can take you a while to find back to where you are supposed to go. It’s good to have the high Burj Khalifa as point of reference.

IMG_9258

We finally reached the pretty looking Burj al Arab but it wasn’t really possible to leave the car except if you parked it on the other side of the 8 lanes of a two way road. We didn’t want to take the walk in that heat. We drove on to the marina bay and the palm island Jumeirah but that’s probably only interesting if you see it from the air or have a hotel there. I guess we could have saved the gas to go down there and so drove back to Burj Khalifa, where the Dubaj Mall is located.

Burj Khalifa from below
Burj Khalifa from below

The mall is huge!!! Next to many stores, movie theaters and restaurants, there is a whole ice rink (not just a small one) and an aquarium in it. The aquarium looked beautiful from the outside. You can look at sharks and all the other fish without paying anything! However, it looked so impressive that we wanted to see more and bought a ticket for the tunnel and the zoo. It was really cool to walk below sting rays and sharks and see so many fish living in one glass tank without eating each other. I wished I could have stayed in there all day!

Looking down form the highest building on the world
Looking down form the highest building on the world

At 8pm we made it to the fountain show outside of the mall. There you have a nice view on Burj Khalifah and another nice tall building. Again, I thought that a big city looks much nicer at night, when all the buildings let their lights shine.

The fountain show didn’t impress me too much and so we went to check out some more stores. At 10.30pm we decided that it was about time to leave. Luckily, we then walked past the entrance to the highest building in the world and to our surprise they had a free slot at 11pm (at the hotel they told us that we had to book the tickets 2 days in advance plus, directly at the entrance they were a lot cheaper too). We paid the 125 Dirhams and they said that there was also enough space right now and that we could proceed to the elevator.

IMG_9450

Luck was with us again because there were no other people and the lady let us ride the 124 floors alone. It only took 1 minute, my ears popped but I didn’t even get dizzy, as I sometimes do in other elevators. The view from the top was stunning! It’s really worth it to go up there when it’s dark! The fountain show looks much better from up there. Plus, there are free binoculars which also show on a screen how the 360° view would look during the day.

When we rode back down it was past 11pm and there were still quite many people in the mall. Maybe here it’s even lucrative to let the mall open for so long.

Finding back to our highway was a lot easier than taking the correct road to the mall and so we drove back through the desert on the one road leading through it, lit up by a street lamp every 50m.

IMG_0783

On another day we did a desert safari with a BBQ dinner. A driver picked us and another couple up in his big (white) Nissan SUV and brought us to a meeting point 1hour20min away from RAK. It’s probably an obligatory stop to make some more money off the tourists because you could have paid to go quad driving or bought souvenirs and food or drinks. Since we weren’t really interested in any, 20 min later, we sat in the car again. The driver had let out some of the air in the wheels to make the car ready for the sand. I thought we were going in a jeep but apparently this car is good for something more than just asphalt. Racing up and down the red dunes was just awesome! Our driver did a great job because I am sure that if any of us had driven the car, we would have rolled over several times. But this way, it was like the driver said, a great “Achterbahn” ride.

IMG_9566

I was sad when the ride was over and we got back on the normal road. A little while later we stopped at a Bedouin camp slightly off the highway. That place was extremely touristy. You could try sand boarding, make henna tattoos or take a short camel ride. But everything only took 2-3 minutes. There wasn’t much time anyways because then a dance show started and the buffet was opened. The food was even better than the dinner in the hotel!

IMG_9568

When the show was over and the driver saw that we had emptied our plates, we got back in the car and drove back to the hotel via the highway. How boring 🙂

Now, the week is already over and we’re back on the bus to the airport. The weather is still as beautiful and hot as every prior day and I’d love to bring some sun rays back home.

Advertisements

Berlin 7th to 12th April 2013

Very spontaneously I decided to make good use of a one week spring vacation and take a trip to Berlin to visit my friend Simone, who now lives there for half a year because of an internship at an architect’s office.

Unfortunately, I was fighting against a slight flu the whole time and so visiting the sights was quite exhausting on its own, without doing much more touristy stuff like writing post cards. Therefore, this time you have to be satisfied with this entry.

For the first nights, I stayed the “Happy go Lucky” hostel. It’s located right at the subway station Charlottenburg/Wilmersdorferstrasse, from where we could quickly get to everywhere. The outside of the hostel was painted in bright orange and had a few smileys on the wall. The right place for me ;). They have a big lobby area with tables, where we could eat from a breakfast buffet in the mornings for 6 Euro. The room was quiet and I only once was in the shared story bathroom with another girl at the same time.

Happy go Lucky Hostel
Happy go Lucky Hostel

The first night, we had dinner in a cute looking Italian place (Portofino) on Kantstrasse. Pizza and pasta was great but the best thing was the huge salad bowl they placed on our table, because we decided to share something healthy. No way anyone could have eaten that salad alone without already being full.

We bought a 5 day tourist pass for 30 Euro. With this we could ride all public transportation for 5 days and had some discounts for places of interest. First thing, we took the train to the East Side Gallery. 1,3km of the Berlin wall, which is decorated by artists from all over the world. At all these places of history, I could have got a historic stamp for my passport. But of course, I only had the ID card with me.

East Side Gallery
East Side Gallery

Afterwards, we wanted to try Curry Wurst and therefore made our way to Curry36. It’s supposed to be the best and most famous place for Curry Wurst in Berlin. We ordered Curry Wurst with fries and some type of coleslaw. The salad and fries were good and I guess the Curry Wurst also (I didn’t have anything to compare it to, since it was my first one) but they were quite unfriendly at the booth. We took the food and ate it on a bench at the street. I still prefer a delicious St. Galler Bratwurst :).

Curry Wurst
Curry Wurst

It was quite windy, which probably wasn’t so good for my recovery, therefore we went off looking for the next subway station. We had to walk for quite a while and came by a pretty looking park (Victoriapark) until we finally found Yorckstrasse station. We boarded a train to the Brandenburger Tor and firstly warmed up at Starbucks for a while. Then we took some pictures, looked at a monument of the Sowjet Union and walked in direction of the Hauptbahnhof. We had some time before our free visit of the Reichstag at 5pm. At home, we signed up via internet to be able to visit the Reichskuppel. This way, we didn’t have to wait in the long line at the entrance and even made it inside at quarter to five, without waiting. We showed them our confirmation at the entrance, got through the security checks and were ushered to the elevator up to the Kuppel. I was very enthusiastic about the free audio guides. First of all they were free and you could have them in different languages and second, you didn’t have to do anything other than listen. It told you when to walk and where to walk and look and always said the right thing at the right point. Much better than the one we had at the Guinness factory in Dublin, where we had to push buttons to move forward and after a while we would hear the wrong text.

Reichstagskuppel
Reichstagskuppel
Reichstagskuppel
Reichstagskuppel

We walked in circles around the Kuppel to get to the top. The view was really nice and I got to know a lot about Berlin. The Kuppel itself is really cool too. In the middle, there is a big mirror construct. Below the Kuppel, if you look really closely, you can see into the room where political meetings are held. When we reached the top, we could walk down on the opposite side, without ever colliding with the people who were walking up on the other path. You might notice that I liked the architecture of this building :).

When we were back on the ground, I was really tired but since the monument for the Jews was really close, we decided to walk past it. The big place with gray rocks in different sizes is quite impressive. But with the background knowledge why this place is there, I didn’t feel too comfortable walking between the blocks. Otherwise it would probably be a fun place for hide and seek…

Judendenkmal
Judendenkmal

In order to get dinner, we took the subway to Savignyplatz, where we wanted to eat Sushi. However, the place we intended to go to was closed, so we ended up at a Vietnamese place. I had one of these big soups with noodles and lots of other things in it. It was delicious!

On Tuesday, we took a train to Alexanderplatz. We walked around for a while and then decided to go on top of the Fernsehturm (10.60 Euro with the visitor card). The view from 278m is great and luckily there was only a little fog far away. Because I wanted to be healthy again, we shared an expensive smoothie for 7 Euro at the bar in the “ball” of the tv tower. I was disappointed that he only put fruit juice in it and not real fruits…I guess more ginger tea for my throat.

TV Tower
TV Tower

Back on safe ground, we walked for about two hours to get a look at the city on foot. We finally ended up at checkpoint Charlie. I had to laugh a little that the Americans were still standing there and that there was a McDonalds right behind it.

After a short break and more ginger tea, we took a second chance on the sushi place. Sachiko sushi is located at Savignyplatz below the train tracks. This makes the atmosphere of the small place quite special because it’s cute and artistic but everything shakes every few minutes, when a train drives by. There are pictures of the sushi you can order, which makes this process a lot easier and we found what we wanted to eat. The sushi was as delightful as it was described on tripadvisor but it also wasn’t exactly a cheap place.

To get at least a little feel of Berlin by night (as I was always too tired to really go out late in the evening so far, due to my illness), we stopped at another cute looking place below the train tracks and I had a delicious Chai Latte.

The next morning, I finally felt a little better. We had breakfast at Starbucks, where at least I had internet. I had to make sure to purchase a better camera lens and the auction for the object I wanted was due that morning. In the end, I was the lucky winner. Hopefully, it will be what I wanted, so that I can take it to SEA in the summer.

Later, we took a train to Potsdamplatz and had a Dürüm (kebab) with a salad for 7 Euro. In Switzerland, we would pay the same for the Dürüm alone. Then, we felt restored enough to visit “Topographie des Terrors”. Another interesting and impressive place, which revealed something of Berlin’s role during WWII.

Reminder of the past
Reminder of the past

On our way from there to the Tacheles, the idea in me grew stronger, that I should finally dye my hair back to more blond. The hair dressers here seem to be a lot cheaper than in Switzerland.

The Tacheles is a building which was occupied by people without a home for the last few years. The walls are covered with graffitis and many new artists present their work. At least that’s how Simone remembered it. When we arrived however, the building looked quite deserted and closed. When we walked around a little, we saw a poster that said, that we had to walk around a parking lot and then enter through the back. So we did. There were a few shacks in a yard with lots of sculptures. There were a few other visitors but mostly, there were the artists and their friends with a beer in their hands. Music was playing and we chatted a little with one of the guys who told us that over the past years the government made this place smaller and smaller. They already tore down some buildings and their goal is to get rid of all the occupants living there, in order to build a hotel or mall. I think it would take a nice piece of character and culture out of the town.

Tacheles
Tacheles

The next day, we made our way to the Olympic Stadium from 1936. We got our student ticket for 5 Euro and walked inside the big stadium. Since it was raining, I was glad that most of it had a roof.

Olympic Stadium
Olympic Stadium

We did the tour around the building and once we had enough, we boarded a train back to Hackescher Markt. It looks like a nice area with a small market and lots of stores and restaurants. Small refreshment and reinforcement at Starbucks which came as a death by chocolate cake and caramel macchiato. Afterwards, it was my goal to find a place to dye my hair. I still wasn’t entirely sure that I would do it but I thought that now would be a good time for it. We walked into two salons to ask about prices and methods and then returned to the first one because they seemed really friendly, helpful and competent at “Uni Cut”. For 70 Euros two men were working on my head for 3,5 hours. The result was…blond. I’m glad I finally did it but I still get a bit irritated when I look at myself in the mirror.

Then, we were pretty hungry and took the subway to Eisenacherstrasse, where we wanted to go to a Greek restaurant. It smelled and looked delicious but unfortunately there was no empty space for us. The restaurant manager recommended an Italian place to us which was a little further down the street. So, we walked there and from the outside it looked nice and also quite busy. Luckily, we got a table this time. The food was delicious, the portions plentiful and the prices really small. About 4 Euro per pizza or pasta dish and the starters were really cheap too, so that we could take several things and share. Exactly my kind of place ;).

With full bellies, we traveled to the Brandenburger Tor again, to have a look at it by night. I’ve seen prettier places at night but it was still quite nice. Above all, there were hardly any other people there now.

Brandenburger Tor by night
Brandenburger Tor by night

We made it back home on the subway before midnight. Another night in my warm sleeping bag and then the only plan we have left over is taking a full circle on the Ringbahn or walk around the Tempelhof grounds. This is an old airport which is out of use and now people use it as a park to go jogging. Must be fun to take a sprint on a landing strip.

Then, soon it would be time to say goodbye Simone and byebye Berlin. Was a good idea to come here.

A typical girls’ afternoon

My friend Hedi (lenedy.wordpress.com/) often does photo shootings. Last week she told me that she’d like to swap the roles for once and give directions behind the camera with me as a model. I thought, yay, fun, why not?

When I saw the outfit she had picked out for me, I thought that uh-oooh, perhaps I shouldn’t have been that open. I’d NEVER wear anything like that in public except for Halloween and Carneval and since she wanted to do an outdoor shooting, I actually had to walk through the streets of my hometown in that outfit 🙂 Good that I brought my winter coat and could hide at least the top part until we were in a hidden alley 🙂

However, the shooting turned out to be a lot of fun and I’d do something similar again right away!

See for yourself:

sträfling boden IMG_20130929_112232 smile gitter lichtschein helle wand IMG_20130930_113859 IMG_20130930_113532 IMG_20130929_103408 IMG_20130930_112815 IMG_20130930_113133 sitzen sonne

 

Thanks, Hedi! 🙂 Before prom you will have to make some time for me to do my hair again 🙂