Traveldiary: Florence | 13.12.2019

Let’s continue part 2 of my 3 day Italy trip. I arrived at Florence’s central station S.M. Novelle fairly easily by train. First thing which greeted me was not my friend “L” staying here for a language course and my guide for the next couple days but a moody rainy weather being worse than in Bologna. Luckily i brought along a small umbrella and we made our way to our hostel. I immediately realized the tiny pavements which we had to squeeze through and share with other passerbies.

For today we only opted in for the museum galileo which is a historic museum about medieval discoveries around astronomy and physics . To be honest it was an interesting cup of tea but not my cup of tea. From inside the museum i could see how the clouds thin out and the sun set in a melancholic way.

Exhausted by the previous days i immediately sunk into my bed.

The next day began for me as early as 06:30 am leaving the hostel at 07:00 am with the goal in mind to catch the sunrise. The streets already began to be busy with people starting their work in the morning.

I first walked along the Arno river gen West. Although many people already were ready to snap a picture of Ponto Vecchio with the Sun in the back i realized i could not do such feat with my smartphone camera. So instead i hasted the Arno river gen East to be just in time to snap a photo catching the red sky reflecting the sunrise above the bridge.

After my Tuna Panino, which was superb, I proceeded with the main touristic activities starting with the climb on the cupola of the cathedral at 08:30 am. Following the climb of the cupola i of course also wanted to climb the bell tower as well. In my opinion the cupola had a better viewing platform even providing benches, while the bell tower had some kind of checkpoint levels every couple hundred stairs where the bells originally were located. I enjoyed the view on both high grounds especially with that slight fresh breeze in the morning while still feeling the light exhaustion of the exercise. A noticeable advantage of being an early bird is that you can have all the sightseeing spots for yourself (or share it with way less people). The descend of the bell tower at around 10 am already gave me a hard time though since many other tourists started their day now all wanting to climb up the tower.

 

 

After visiting the interior of the cathedral, museum and Baptist i headed to the Oblate Library where my friend would wait for me to spend the rest of the day. This might be a secret spot on its own since you are alleviated to a rooftop level and are able to see the cathedrals cupola from a unique point of view.

We sat down drank a coffee (coffee here seriously is way more delicious and cheaper than in Germany) and made our way to Ponto Vecchio. Fun fact: This bridge did not get destroyed during World War II because Hitler seemed to develop a liking to it. From my point of view it was just a normal bridge though with loads of jewelry shops on it (cultural ignorance intensified). My very first Italian ice cream was purchased at Gelateria Santa Trinita and compared to German ice cream it is indeed worlds apart and super smoother.

No time to lose we headed to Piazzale Michelangelo to arrive in time and look for a spot for the sunset.

In the evening we visited the Christmas market at Santa Croce. Now in comparison to my sweet hometown’s Christmas market this one was just not right.

The next day I already had to say goodbye to Florence getting my bus from Florence directly to Bologna airport taking a bit time off at the S.M.Novella church before hastily grabbing a magnet souvenir and board the bus.

Traveldiary: Bologna | 12.12.2019

It just so happened, that two of my friends were going to live for an overlapping time frame abroad in Italy. So using this opportunity of an exclusive translator and guide i went “out of my way” to visit them both.

My first mistake was to be not enough prepared for this vacation. I just had to power knit my scarf until 4 am and catching my bus from Dresden to Berlin at 7 am was no easy task. I arrived at the city of Bologna were I met with my friend “E”. After unloading my backpack we headed to coffee and the first sightseeing spot – little Venice. There exists 7 secrets in Bologna and this little window displaying a hidden view to the canal is one of them.

At 4 pm we started hiking to San Luca trying to catch the sunset at 4:45pm. Although google maps would suggest a duration of 30 minutes of walking time in retrospective this was way too late to start the hike and i am very thankful for having a friend who kept up with the fast pace without complaining. Unsurprisingly when we reached the top it was already dark and a thick layer of fog obstructed a view of Bologna. Nonetheless we were as happy as hot when we arrived at the church.

In the evening while having dinner i learned a new fun fact. The Spaghetti Bolognese as we all know it has its origin from Bologna and is actually called Tagliatella al Ragu. However since this is very hard to remember it seems that people just shortened it to Bolognese as in the people of Bologna.

Bologna has 3 nicknames. The fat – because of all its delicious food. The red – because of all its red rooftops. And the learned – because its University founded in 1088 is (one of ?) the oldest universities in the world. A high percentage of residents are students and as i’ve been told there are also a lot of exchange students, so called Erasmus students, among them.  It seems that some local residents don’t really like having so many foreign students coming and going to the city, because they misbehave and cause an increase of rent prices.

After staying in the bar Le Stanze we were off to Piazza Maggiore to discover the next 3 secrets. The first one being a hidden message on a ceiling reading Canabis Protecto. The next one is under the Palazzo Re Enzo building. If you stand in opposite corners facing the wall at the cross section and talk towards the corner of the wall you could actually hear each other. My friend explained, that this kind of mechanism has been used  by doctors among others to speak with each other in medieval times when the black plague was going around. The last fun secret is about the Fountain of Neptune which is facing towards the Basilica di San Petronio. Originally the sculptor intended a more extended variant of Neptune’s male reproductive organ. However because it was facing the church, the church made him chop off Neptune’s limb. Furious about that, he seeked revenge. By building the sculpture in a particular way and looking at the sculpture from a particular point of view, Neptune’s finger can perceived as his male reproductive organ pointing towards the church.

Being totally worn out we then proceeded to call it a day.

I had to catch my train to florence the following morning at 10 am but not before i could take a good shot of the leaning towers of Bologna. The smaller and noticeable more leaning one is the  Garisenda tower whereas the taller tower is called Asinelli. You can actually climb up the latter however it shall bring misfortune to students who have not graduated yet.

On my way back to the central station i passed through the Basilica di San Petronio once again. The facade is actually in its original state meaning it has only been halfway finished and left like that for centuries. One of the perks of being up early is that you can enjoy the place without too many tourists around.

There was some trouble finding the right platform. Apparently there are two different companies with separate customer service stationed at the central station and the one from the other company did refuse to give me any info on my ticket and referred me to  another customer service lady who was fully queued. But eventually i found my platform to go to Florence transferring at Prato.

>>>Traveldiary: Florence | 13.12.2019

 

 

 

Diary: Vacation on Okinawa

A day to day diary of our trip to okinawa.

07:30 again the optimistic initial plan was to wake up at 07:00 and to get to the Shurijo castle as ...
Read More
08:00 somehow even though we had plenty of time to sleep it was still a   tough wake up to ...
Read More
08:00 wake up and eating a small breakfast consisting of meatballs and rice from the Konbini. 09:30 returning the rental ...
Read More
09:00 This seems like the norm now. The actual plan was to get up very early and drive to the ...
Read More
09:00 headed to the aquarium. Our initial plan was to even start the day earlier. Although the aquarium opens at ...
Read More
07:00 Day starts after getting home from a nightclub at 03:00 12:00 arrival at the airport and sorting out which ...
Read More

Diary: Osaka – halfday | 02.09.2019

10:00 wake up in Kyoto at a friends flat. He just freshly moved in with his girlfriend. The flat has 2 rooms, looks spacious, is quite centrally located and i think they mentioned they pay the same price as i did in Tokyo with my 6 sqm room. Today i am going back to Tokyo with a friend but before that we would go to Osaka first.

15:30 arrived in Osaka and heading to the Osaka castle. The castle has been rebuilt and although the outside looks quite old the interior is renovated to act as a museum. The entrance fee for the castle is 600 yen and it does pay off. You don’t only get a nice city view but also a very informative museum. A very interesting floor tells the story of Hideyoshi and it goes like this: Hideyoshi was born into a poor family and ended up being a very determined and loyal soldier under Nobunaga Oda – a warlord who wanted to unite Japan. After a revolt Nobunaga was killed and Hideyoshi became his successor in uniting the nation. During his battles he also encountered Tokugawa Ieyasu, first as enemy after that as an ally, who after his death became one of the major influencer on how to manage the country. Tokugawa Ieyasu would then become the man who successfully united Japan.

The surrounding park is also worth seeing and we should have probably planned more time to actually sightseeing this area.

20:00 we were heading to our night bus stop but did make a detour to Dotonbori. It seems like it is the more downtownish area of Osaka. Walking through this area had a very similiar feeling to Shinjuku. There were a lot of people and confusing advertisement lights.

After that we accidentally encountered a 5 story large building dedicated to sex toys.

The last weird occurrence was a cafe called cafe earth. You were not obliged to order anything but could just sit down and use their WiFi. It seemed to serve more as a private club and meeting room than a cafe but the owner was very nice and it was just a good place to sit and calm down for a bit.

23:00 getting our bus to Tokyo.

Diary: Nara – halfday | 29.08.2019

11:00 wake up, breakfast and heading to Nara. The hostel i stayed in for the last couple days was unbelievable cheap still clean with a nice service. The breakfast was free and included even fruits such as grapes, pears and melon. I would have never thought to be so happy about such small things.

11:50 arrived in Nara directly at the Kintetsu Station. Right after i left the station i already saw a dear standing directly in the middle of the street. After the initial surprise though i got used to seeing dears all around the place. The dears learned that bowing results into a treat and they do so very persistently now. At first it is very cute but when a male dear with huge antlers aggressively bows before you to get a treat it can get dangerous very fast. Additionally the dears do poop everywhere and at some places it does smell slightly weird.

The Nara park is huge with temples here and there. I would say you can enjoy at least half a day with just walking around and seeing the sights.

There was one specific sight in particular which i was interested in. It was the biggest bronze Buddha statue in the world at the Todai-ji temple (500 yen fee). Note that the biggest bronze statue is located in India and the biggest Buddha statue is located in China.

16:00 on my way back home I walked along a very beautiful green and oldish path. To be honest that path is what I actually would have expected from the Tokaido trail.

Diary: Tokaido Trail

The Tokaido trail is a historic path connecting Kyoto and Tokyo along the coastline. It consist of 53 stations and was one of the viable routes for Samurais and merchants in the Edo period. However since it crosses a lot of rivers it was not considered to be very safe. Noble people would consider the Nakasendo which goes through the mountain-ish inland (see more and here). Today it is said to be a more easier trail since it doesn’t have a high altitude difference and bridges are well established. There is even a Shinkensen line called the Tokaido line along that path.

How did i decided to do this trail?

So truth be told when i prepared a presentation about Omiyage i just randomly read about the Tokaido trail and instantly thought to myself that i would do this. It sounds like an interesting challenge and a deeper dive into Japanese culture. I am very thrilled to walk the same path and maybe even see the same things as people in the past.

In this post i will document my daily hike:

Some final thoughts: Since this trip was my first actual longer hike i will list my lessons learned in this post. Some might be very obvious to more experienced hikers ...
Read More
Today was not really a spectacular and glory day for me and quite a anticlimactic to end this trip.  I woke up to a measly weather. However the worst part ...
Read More
Today was a Zero day for me because i wanted to go on sightseeing one of the biggest city in Japan. My Hostel was located right in the center but ...
Read More
09:00 wake up I proceeded the morning with planning for the upcoming day and decided to go for Unagi for lunch since it is supposed to be quite fresh in ...
Read More
09:00 wake up 10:40 I left Iwata to go to Hamamatsu station by train and from there directly headed to the Hamamatsu castle. The Hamamatsu castle is quite special as ...
Read More
09:00 wake up I prepared myself and took the train from Shizuoka station to Shimada station. I therefore skipped the Tokaido stations: Mariko, Okabe, Fujieda. 12:30 arrived at the Horai ...
Read More
09:00 wake up At the Eiri juku side I only found this sign as a landmark but that should suffice. Today shall be my sightseeing day. I proceeded to walk ...
Read More
09:00 wake up I really lived far away from the Numazu station and since another interesting sight was on my way to the station I decided to give it a ...
Read More
08:00 wake up, the rain drops splashing on the window and the hauling of the wind don't really welcome to a new day so I snoozed till 9 to have ...
Read More
07:30 wake up but still very tired snoozed until 08:30 I forgot to mention that my hotel was near konomiya station in Sakawa 09:30 let's go... somehow, unfortunately there is ...
Read More
09:00 wake up, I really wanted to wake up earlier today but how to go around Hakone kept me awake up really late yesterday. 11:30 start at chigasaki 12:40 arriving ...
Read More
09:00 wake up 10:30 packing planing for next days breakfast Today I walked through Hodogaya, Totsuka and Fujisawa but because the cities are quite developed I didn't find any milestone ...
Read More
09:00 wake up at the Train Hostel somehow feeling really tired 10:30 breakfast and organizing hostels for upcoming days finished starting to go to the point zero - nihonbashi 10:57 ...
Read More
I am very happy that my former flatmates can still bear with me sitting in the kitchen, doing my chores and cooking stuff up. Today marks the actually last day ...
Read More

Diary: Tohoku Sandai Matsuri | 05.08-09.08

Goal: Visit the 3 great festivals in the Tohoku region – Kanto (Akita), Nebuta (Aomori), Tanabata (Sendai) additionally checking out the two great lakes Tazawa and Towada.

So my feet are actually still hurting from Mt fuji and Nikko but I got some blister plaster, let’s see how things will go. The goal is to visit all 3 great festivals of the Tohoku region within a week.

Google maps was very helpful in planning the itinery since it even had data about bus and boat routes. Once the festival was over i had to stay in another city over night, since the hotels in those cities were already booked or too expensive.

Diary: Tohoku Sandai Matsuri – Sendai | 08.08.2019

19:30 ararived at Sendai the bigest city in the Tohoku region. First stop - the AER building which offers a ...
Read More

Diary: Tohoku Sandai Matsuri – Aomori | 06.08.2019

06.Aug 8:30 lets start the day Blisters are going better now and the breakfast was very welcomed. I woke up ...
Read More

Diary: Tohoku Sandai Matsuri – Akita | 05.08.2019

I arrived at Tazawako station at 07:30 am and can feel that I am in the countryside already. There is ...
Read More

 

Diary: Trip to Nikko | 02.08.2019

08:15 Let’s start the day! I will be going with a flatmate today and we are going to purchase the nikko heritage pass to go to, around and from Nikko back for around 4000 yen. However we are only allowed to use local trains which makes things difficult.

09:33 to 12:44 trainride to Tobu-Nikko. Eating lunch and it starts to rain heavily… so i rushed out to get us some raincoats from the nearby FamilyMart. Boarding bus, riding it for 10 minutes to the Shrine area and oh wonder oh wonder the rain just finished and a clear sky opens up. Right in front of us was the very first attraction – the Shinkyo bridge. It was constructed in 1636 and is “ranked as one of Japan’s three finest bridges” 1. You can actually pay 300 Yen to walk across it, but there is actually nothing special with that.

The world heritage area consists of many seperate shrines which you have to pay seperately. The one which everyone actually came to Nikko is the Toshugu shrine. It is the final resting place of the first Toshugawa emperior, the man who united Japan. (Sitenote: his grave was first located in Shizuoka at Kunozan toshugu which i also happened to visit on my tokaido tour). The shrine for the first emperor was worth its 1300 Yen fee and had some of the most luxurious decorations i’ve seen. The origin of the three monkeys which can’t hear, see and say can also be seen here – right after the entrance turn left and it should be the second building on your left. There was also an interesting story to a building which is locatedon on the left side before the Yomeimon gate. I forgot the building’s role but it had a roaring dragon painting on the ceiling. The reason for it being called roaring was, that you could try to clap 2 wooden blocks anywhere in the building and there would be no effect. However if you clap it within 1m radius of the dragon’s mouth you can hear a distinctive long echo.

Next was a small paid garden/shrine area and the Taiyuinbyo – the mausoleum for the third Tokugawa emperor. It is not as crowded and relatively more humbly decorated. You had to pass three gates all guarded by statues of gods to reach the main hall. Apperently it is common that the shrines faces south however this one faces northeast towards the Toshugu shrine to honor and  respect his grandfather.

16:45 ready to go to the Chusenji Lake.

Short emotional rollercoaster: i read the bus map wrong and thought the next bus would come at 18:15, but then we gave it another look and fortunately it would come at 17:15. Then again we bought some snacks from the nearby Lawson, sat down and “brummmm” hearing a bus rushing past us because he might not see us behind the Lawson advertisement shield where we sat. Short panic drama – however it was just another bus and we finally caught the right one to go to the lake. Arriving at the final bus stop you can already hear a immense roaring sound originating from the Kegon waterfall.

Deciding between just sitting at the lake enjoying the sunset or getting to the famous Hangetsuyama viewpoint. Decided to stay at the lake – was super chill and enjoyable besides for the occasional screaming sounds of my comrade because there were a lot of insects.

20:00 departure from Chusenji Onsen area, arrival at 20:38 in Tobu Nikko and our last train would depart at 20:41. My fault for going to the wrong station  (JR instead of Tobu) making us missing the bus. Alternative would be staying over or getting the Shinkansen, we decidede for the former option.

09:00 start the next day. I stay in the area to try out the hangetsuyama viewpoint while my flatmate will return earlier.

10:30 there is a ropeway leading to an observation platform to view the Kengon waterfall from another angle. This ropeway apperently is only accessible when you take a bus from Tobu Nikko to the Chuzenji lake area but not vice versa. From here you could walk the rest within a 3 hours but luckily i decided not to since dark clouds were already raising up.

12:00 Of course arriving at the bus stop for the viewpoint it rains heavily, returning back to Tobu Nikko. Note to myself: There is a significant weather difference between Tobu-Nikko and the Chusenji-Onsen area because of the major height difference. Additional note: Although the Chusenji-Onsen area has Onsen in it’s name there doesn’t appear any Onsen nearby.

14:10 Returning to the guesthouse getting some stuff back, the owner was so friendly and offered me a  ride to a nearby Onsen i was aiming to – super nice.

The Onsen belongs to a hotel and the security for it is a joke. You are supposed to get a ticket at the vending machine and put the ticket into the basket right next to it. No one actually supervising this. The Onsen itself is quite small no sauna or cold tub, however i had this place for myself for roughly 15 minutes – super nice.

16:30 ready to return back.

Diary: Climbing Mt. Fuji | 31.07.2019

The 31.07 also marks the last day in my sharehouse. Naturally we had a farewell party which lasted until 3 am, which was quiet tiring considering that i had to wake up at 8 to clean up the rest of my room to get the bus from Shinjuku to Mt. Fuji at 10:35.

Arrived at the 5th station – first time I really appreciated a warm toilet seat.

I prepared 1.5 l of water and bought another 500 ml water bottle for 200 yen at the 5th station knowing that the higher it gets the more expensive supplies will be. Additionally i packed 180g of peanuts and 6 toasts buttered with Koshian.

13:25: Let’s go

I feel a light shower but it went away quite fast, the weather is fortunately very clear and friendly (8°C).

On my way to the top i saw a lot of different people: kids, grannys, someone wearing sandals, dogs everyone with the goal in mind to reach the top – how admirable. I feel a slight headache maybe caused by altitude sickness or maybe caused by the leftover alcohol from yesterday.

I also met a very friendly lady who shared with me her candies. In return i gave her some of my peanuts.

 

17:40: Arrived at the Original 8th station where my Hotel is located. Had 2 major breaks and some photo stops midway as well as cramps on both of my legs from the 8th station on wards.

It is just magnificent being on the same level as the clouds. The sky is so blue and the weather still warm to enjoy the view. Going to sleep now after my curry rice topped with peanuts.

02:00: Wake up – i could barely sleep 4 hours. Some final stretching and off we go.

Seems like a lot more people than expected want to see the sunrise at the top of Mt. Fuji. It is more of a waiting line than a climb.

04:30 : Just in time made it. Sunrise is amazing and can’t put into pictures how  this big round object raises and forms from the back of the horizon. No picture will pay enough respect to this scenery – the sun seems so small in every picture.

06:00 meet up with a friend back from my home university who also studies in Japan, but in Kyoto. This  is our first meeting and how epic is it to just meet at the summit of the highest place in Japan.

While i waited for him to reach the top i explored the crater area a bit. There is also a “prove monument stone”-thing to show that you are indeed on top of Mt Fuji however the queue was so long it did took me some patience to wait for my turn. Especially for collectors it is nice to know that there is also a shrine and post office as well as some souvenir shops where you can get an exclusive stamp from the post office and from the shrine.

 

07:30 Starting to descend, i have to hurry because my bus would leave at 11. The descending path is a different than the ascending one. However i really would appreciate the stony slope than this pebble, sand mix something path. I was so angry about the path and my time restriction at times i would run angrily down to fasten the descending process.

10:15 made it in time and even faster than expected. My water supply just ran out, i have nothing left anymore to eat except the dry breakfast Bento from my hotel and boy am i happy to have that for now.

Diary: Nokogiriyama and Nihonji Temple | 22.06.2019

Although right in the raining season we decided to take a chance on Nokogiriyama since the weather won’t stabilize anytime soon anyway.

09:30 starting from Ueno we needed around 2h and 2000 yen to get to Hota station. The train ride was very convenient without many transfers.

12:00 arrived at Hota and the first concern was to get something to eat. Easier said than done since there were only 2 convenient stores nearby and somehow almost no restaurants. Luckily enough we managed to find one which was quite unique.

While we ate dark black clouds did move nearer and it did rain a bit. Nonetheless when we finished our meal it was all good. We needed around 50 minutes from the station to the entrance of the temple area. The entrance fee was 600 Yen.

14:00 Our first stop was the teahouse which is located right after the entrance. For the price of 700 Yen we got served first macha tea then sencha tea. The teahouse looked beautifully old and the teamaster seemed to be an old, peaceful and traditional man. When we took our leave we engaged with him in small talk and turned out the peaceful tea-master did actually study philosophy in Germany and was able to speak german, french, chinese and a bit of Thai – we were obviously surprised even more because even in central Tokyo some people are not even able to speak bits of English, never judge a book by it’s cover.

Afterwards we headed to the first sightseeing spot of this area – The Nihonji Daibutsu. It is a huge 31m tall in stone carved sitting Buddha. It looks just perfect both in height as in detail.

The second spot we were going to was Nihonji Tenbodai also called hell peek point. It is an observation point shaped like a lion head. Unfortunately the lightning was not too good but nonetheless offered an impressive view over the forest and sea. You could even vaguely see Yokohama on the other side.

On our way to that observation deck we also walked through a path which had a lot of mini Buddha statues.Some of them though were beheaded and i remember reading the reason being something during the World War II.

A fourth sightseeing spot was a around 15m tall stone plate standing Buddha. Because it was a little bit hidden we passed by it without knowing and had to backtrack a little bit.From here you could also get another view of the lion head observation platform.

The hike itself was very enjoyable and we had no problems whatsoever although people at Tripadvisor did complain a little bit.

18:40 we finished the trip around Nokogiriyama and even managed to get back to the beach just in time for a magnificent sunset. This trip was actually one of the few perfect trips where everything worked out without any stressful time scheduling.