Europe Travel (Part II)

November 30, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Europe, Europe (Part II) 
{continued from Europe Travel (Part I)}
Day 7 : Friday 25 June 2004    Paris City Tour 


Paris is a vibrant metropolitan city with a large population of 11.5 million. It is the largest city in Europe. Also known as the “City of Lights”, it is rich in history and heritage. Its beautiful, ancient, unique architectural and historical buildings, museums, monuments, cathedrals and other attractions make it one of the world’s major tourist destinations.

A street in Paris, France

When we arrived at Paris, we stopped at a large shopping complex, Lafayette, in Boulevard Haussmann. It offered a wide range of goods, but they were a little bit pricey for us. Later, in the evening, we checked in at Comfort Hotel in rue Regnault.

In the morning, we were ready to tour and enjoy the sights and sounds of the splendid city.

Below are some of the interesting places we visited in Paris:

Eiffel Tower

This beautiful France’s icon, Eiffel Tower, is the most prominent and famous landmark in the city. Built in 1887 and completed in 1889 for the 1889 Paris Exposition, this massive pyramidal-shaped steel structure is 318 m high (including the pole atop the tower). It has three levels: the 1st. level is 57.6m high, the 2nd. 116 m and the 3rd. 276 m.

Eiffel Tower in the background, writer and wife in the foreground in Paris

Long queue at Eiffel Tower, Paris, France

Tour-members waiting to go up Eiffel Tower, Paris

We went up by an elevator to the 1st. level and walked round the viewing deck. From that level, we could see the spectacular and breathtaking panoramic view of the city.

Tour-members waiting to go up Eiffel Tower, Paris

Tour-members waiting to go up Eiffel Tower, Paris

Breathtaking view of part of Paris City as seen from Eiffel Tower;s first level

The Arc de Triomphe

This large, massive arch was built on a big roundabout by Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte to celebrate his victories in other countries and to honour those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary. It is adorned with statuettes and tourists can go up to its top to see the whole view of the city. There are 12 busy avenues converging on the roundabout which is known as Place du General de Gaulle.

A smaller arc, Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, is located near the large one, Arc de Triomphe. This was built by Emperor Napoleon in 1806 to commemorate his victory over Austria and honour his soldiers who fought the wars.

Arc de Triomphe behind writer and wife in Paris

Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel behind writer and wife in Paris

Place de la Concorde

In the vicinity of The Arc de Triumph and along the Seine River is the city’s largest square, Place de la Concorde. At each corner of this octagonal square is a big stone-structure with statues representing one of the eight large French cities: Lille, Strasbourgh, Lyon, Marseille, Bordeaux, Nantes, Brest and Rouen. Standing in the centre of the square is a four-sided stone shaft tapering to a pyramidal point known as Obelisk of Luxor (22.8 m high). It was presented to Louis Phillipe by the Viceroy of Egypt in 1829.

This place is a grim reminder to the Parisians of the turbulent French Revolution days(1789-1799). A French king, King Louis XVI, his Austrian wife, Marie Antoinette, and thousands of other important people were guillotined here.

Fountain of River Commerce and Navigation in the background in Place de la Concorde Square, Paris

A stone-structure with a statue atop with a name, Nantes, that belongs to one of the French cities in the background in Place de la Concorde Square, Paris

Le Loufvre

This is the richest museum in the world as it houses expensive paintings like “Mona Lisa” and sculptures like “Venus de Milo”.

Dome de Invalides

It was built during King Louis XIV’s rule as a home for the invalids who were disabled and impoverished war veterans. Then it was used as a burial site for the country’s war heroes, including Emperor Napoleon’s remains.

Dome des Invalides in the background, a burial site for war-heroes in Paris

Notre Dame Cathedral of Paris

This grand building of Gothic architectural style was built in the 12th. Century. The facade of the cathedral has three portals laden with statuettes. Above them is a gallery of kings. A large rose-shaped window depicting Virgin Mary is right above the gallery of the kings. It almost resembles the one we saw in Reims.

The cathedral houses some statues like Virgin Mary holding Christ’s dead body on her lap, Joan of Arc, the first bishop, angels, saints, the 12 apostles and King Louis XIII

Besides, beautiful and colourful stained glass windows depicting Virgin Mary, saints and the 12 apostles, and Le Bruns’ religious paintings hanging on a wall can be seen inside.

Notre Dame Cathedral in the background in Paris

Seine River Boat Cruise

After the city tour, we went for an hour’s boat cruise on the Seine River which is a busy commercial waterway. As the boat was moving along the river, a pretty, young and smartly-dressed French lady gave us a running commentary on the monuments, historic buildings, bridges and museums as we passed them.

A pretty River Seine cruise-boat commentator, Paris

Norelle Eve Cabaret Show

In the evening, we went for a cabaret show at a small theatre, Norelle Eve. It was a decent show for adults. Nearby, there is another theatre, Moulin Rouge, which also offers cabaret shows but it charges more.

Norelle Eve Theatre offering cabaret shows in Paris

Moulin Rouge Theatre offering cabaret shows in Paris

Writer and wife watching a cabaret show in Norelle Eve Theatre, Paris

Day 8: Saturday 26 June 2004   Brussels, Belgium


After breakfast in Paris, we headed north for Brussels, the capital of Belgium and also the capital of the European Union (EU). Belgium is a small country with a population of 10 million.

Map showing Brussels in Belgium visited by the tour-group

Writer’s wife in a street in Brussels in Belgium

Grand Place

On arrival, we visited the well-known central market square, Grand Place. Surrounding this beautiful square are well-preserved quaint, ornate Baroque Gothic guild houses dating from the 17th. century. It is surprising to see all these buildings having the same architectural style. The largest building is the City Hall.  In the Middle Ages, these houses were given names instead of numbers. Take for example, The House of the Dukes of Brabant which consists of 7 houses each with a different name : The Fame, The Hermit, The Fortune, The Windmill, The Tin Pot, The Hill and The Beurs. In the past, Grand Place was a place for political meetings, execution and receiving VIP”s like emperors, kings and dukes.

Writer and wife at Grand Place, a well-known market place surrounded by quaint buildings in Brussels

Statue of Everard T’Serclaes

At the Grand Place, there is a bronze statue of Everard T’Serclaes underneath the arcades of Maison de l’Etoile. T’Serclaes was considered a Brussels’ hero in the 14th. century. He was involved in a territorial dispute with the Lord of Gaasbeek. Later, he was ambushed by Gaasbeek’s attackers and died at Maison de l’Etoile. Our tour guide told us that if a person stroked the left leg of the statue, it would bring him/her good luck. No wonder the left bronze leg was so smooth and shiny then!

Statue of Everard T’Serclaes at Grand Place in Brussels, Belgium

Manniken Pis / Jenniken Pis

At the corner of Stoofstraat and Rue de L’Euve near the Grand Place is Brussels’ famous icon: Manniken Pis. This black statue of a little, naked boy standing and peeing into a fountain unashamedly has been there since 1619. Surprisingly, there is a black statue of a little girl peeing into a basin at another place near the square. It is known as Jenniken Pis. But less tourists took notice of it.

Manniken Pis, a tiny statue of a naked boy peeing, at Grand Place, Brussels, Belgium

The Atomium

Later, we travelled north to Netherlands or Holland. On the way, we stopped at Boulevard du Centenaire to admire a gigantic modern structure known as the Atomium. Built in 1958 for the 1958 World Fair, it features a huge iron molecule to honour the metal industry and as a symbol of atomic power.

The Atomium is 102 m high and has 9 spheres representing atoms. Each sphere is 18 m in diameter. They are inter-connected by escalators. In the upper sphere, one can enjoy a panoramic view of the Heysel area and have a meal at a restaurant. Expositions are held in the other spheres. Unfortunately, at that time, we were not able to enter the spheres as they were closed for repair.

The Atomium in the background built for the 1958 World Fair in Brussels, Belgium


We left the Atomium and continued our journey to Netherlands.  Dubbed the Land of Windmills, Tulips, Wooden Clogs and Cheese, Netherlans is small and flat . She has a  population of 16.2 million. Three quarters of her land is reclaimed from the sea and a large part of the country is below sea-level.

Map showing places visited by tour-group in Netherlands

Volundam    Our first stop in Netherlands was a small fishing village, Volundam. On arrival, we thought we were welcomed by the colourful bunting and European flags fluttering in the wind. But later we learned that the whole country was in the 2004 UEFA Cup (European Cup) fever as the Dutch team was playing in the well-known soccer game presently held in Portugal. The national team would take on Portugal in the semi-final match on 30 June 2004.

(When we were in London later, we heard that Netherlands lost to Portugal, 1-2. Then on 4 July 2004 the latter was beaten by Greece, 0-1, in the final. So Greece took the 2004 European Championship title.)

Writer at Volendam, once a busy fishing village in northern Netherlands

Writer sitting with a fisherman at Volendam, Netherlands

Located in the north-west of Amsterdam, Volendam is a peaceful and pleasant place to visit. It was a busy fishing village. Now it is a tourists’ place of interest that offers picturesque scenery. One can sit on a bench on the sea-side watching boats sailing at the sea and enjoying the cool and fresh breeze blowing in from the sea. Besides, one can browse leisurely at small double-storey wooden buildings which sell food, beverages, souvenirs, colourful traditional wooden clogs, apparel and other goods.

Writer at Volendam, a small fishing village in northern Netherlands

Writer’s wife at a Volendam shop selling Dutch traditional wooden clogs

Writer’s wife at a souvenir shop at Volendam, Netherlands

After spending more than an hour at the village, we left for Amsterdam. On the way to the city, we stopped for a while at a place to see a large, old windmill which is Netherlands’ icon. Then we headed for a famous cheese and wooden clog making factory.

A windmill in the background, an icon in Netherlands

A Cheese and Wooden Clog Factory    Arriving at the factory, we were warmly welcomed by a factory guide. He showed us round the factory and explained the traditional method of wooden clog and cheese making. After that interesting tour, we continued our journey to Amsterdam.

Tour-group visiting this cheese and clog-making factory near Amsterdam, Netherlands

Julie, the tour-guide, trying on a pair of unfinished wooden clogs in the factory near Amsterdam, Netherlands

Writer and wife trying to look Dutch outside the factory near Amsterdam, Netherlands


Amsterdam is the capital of Netherlands with a population of about 780,000. It is dubbed the “Venice of the North” as it has about 100 canals criss-crossing each other.

Dam Square

The first place we visited in the city was a beautiful square known as Dam Square. It was once a busy market-place.

The large majestic building in the square is the Royal Palace. It was built as the City Hall and was later used by King Louis Bonarparte as his official residence in the 19th. century. This building is now used by Queen Beatrix to receive important dignitaries.

Standing 22 m tall in the square is a national monument which is in the shape of an obelisk. It was erected in 1956 to commemorate the liberation of the city from the German occupation and also to honour the Dutch heroes who fought and died for the nation during World War II.

Writer and wife at Dam Square surrounded by old, well-preserved buildings in Amsterdam, Netherlands

Red Light District

After a visit to the square, we had dinner and then checked in at Ibis Hotel. In the evening, our tour guide brought us to the city’s famous sleazy Red Light District. When we arrived there, our tour guide warned us not to take photographs of the ladies, otherwise, our cameras might be snatched away and thrown into the watery grave in the canal. Fearing that some of our tour members might think of patronizing the ladies, our guide walked past the bars and brothels, quickly. As we were afraid of losing sight of her in that dimly-lit area, we followed behind her closely. That was indeed a lightning tour and we did not get to see much of the place. We went back to our hotel, Hotel Ibis, and gladly retired to our rooms after a long and exhausting day of sightseeing.

Writer and wife at Hotel Ibis in Amsterdam, Netherlands

Day 9 : Sunday 27 June 2004  Amsterdam Canal Boat Cruise

In the morning, while waiting for a canal cruise boat, I noticed many bicycles were chained to lamp-posts and railings and some city-dwellers were cycling. As Amsterdam is on a flat land bicycles are a popular means of transport.

Soon, we were all inside a long, low and broad boat. It had a glass-roof so that we could have a wider view outside. As the boat was moving along the canal, we saw house-boats and narrow, old gabled houses with large windows lining both sides of the canal. These old houses are narrow because during the 17th. and 18th. centuries, house-owners were taxed more if their houses were wider. The windows are large so that it is easy to move furniture in or out of the buildings. We saw the world’s narrowest house on Singel 7a. It is only 101 cm wide!

A cruise-boat on a canal in Amsterdam, Netherlands

Passengers on a cruise-boat looking at house-boats outside along a canal in Amsterdam, Netherlands

Gassan Diamond Factory

The boat also took us round the Amsterdam harbour. After enjoying the 90-minute boat cruise, we stopped at a famous diamond cutting and polishing factory known as Gassan Diamond Factory. A guide led us to watch workers skilfully cutting and polishing diamonds. After that we were ushered into a room where we could buy diamond jewellery at discounted prices.

Tour-group visiting Gassan Diamond Factory, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Famous Diamonds

Amsterdam boasts of 24 diamond cutting and polishing factories. Many famous diamonds were cut and polished here, e.g. “Koh-I-Noor”, the world’s largest diamond, “Cullinan”, which weighs 3,106 carats and the world’s smallest 0.00012 carat.

Eurostar Travel

In the afternoon, we left Amsterdam and headed straight back to Brussels to catch the ultra-modern train to London, Eurostar. It is a high-speed train from Brussels to London via the Channel Tunnel. The tunnel is under a stretch of water, the English Channel, between France and England. The whole journey takes 2 hrs. 20 mins. Eurostar has been in operation since 1994.

Eurostar, a high-speed train from Brussels to London via Channel Tunnel in operation since 1994

Lille Railway Station Incident

When we arrived at the Brussels Railway Station, we boarded a Eurostar train for London. At exactly 6 p.m., the train started to move out of the station. When it stopped at Lille Railway Station, an announcement came over the air requesting all the passengers to leave the coaches with their luggage. No reason was given but the first thing I could think of was a terrorist’s bomb which must have been planted in one of the coaches. As we were walking away from our coaches to the station, another announcement was made telling us to go back to our respective coaches. Obediently, we turned back and returned to our coaches.

When the train moved again, an announcement came apologizing to the passengers for the inconvenience and explaining that an illegal immigrant had been seen boarding the train and was caught. It was a great relief to all of us as it was not a serious matter. The fear of terrorism then was still fresh in everybody’s mind after the 911 New York tragedy on September 11, 2001.

The Channel Tunnel

Soon, the Eurostar entered the Channel Tunnel and took 20 minutes to go through it whereas a ferry would take over an hour to cross the English Channel. The tunnel is 50 km long and 40 km of it is under the sea-bed. Its average depth is about 46 metres.

Map showing places in England visited by tour-group and the Eurostar route

Arrival at London    On arrival at 8.25 p.m. at Waterloo Railway Station in London, we took a bus to Chinatown to have dinner. After the meal, we checked in at Holiday Inn at Docklands.

Writer and wife had Chinese dinner at Chinatown in London, England

Day 10 : Monday 28 June 04   London (England) 

London is a vibrant cosmopolitan city with a population of 7 million. It offers countless historical and modern attractions which require several days to visit all. As we had only one day in London, we could visit a few of them.

At 9 a.m., we boarded a coach. The driver told us he would try to bring us to as many popular tourist spots in London as he could..

Below were some of the places we visited on our last day in London:

Buckingham Palace   

It was built as a residence for the Duke of Buckingham in 1703. Now Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip are living there on their working days. Guarding the palace outside are foot guards in their red uniform and tall, furry, black hats. The changing of the guards at the palace takes place at 12 noon daily in summer and every other day in winter. Lady luck was on our side as we arrived in time to watch the grand and unique ceremony.

Buckingham Palace, Queen Elizabeth’s residence, in the background in London, England

Changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace, London, England

The Palace of Westminister / The House of Parliament

The English Monarchs lived at this large majestic neo-gothic Italian styled palace until the 16th. Century. Now the House of Lords and the House of Commons conduct their sittings here. It has 1000 rooms including the Chambers of the House of Lords and the House of Chambers. Besides, it has several towers. One of them, the tallest (96.3 metres high), has a clock on each face and houses five bells known as the Big Ben.

The Palace of Westminister/The House of Parliament in the background in London, England

The London Eye  

From a distance we sighted the world’s largest and tallest Ferris wheel which was 135 m tall. It is now London’s latest landmark, the London Eye. Located in London’s Jubilee Gardens on the South Bank of River Thames, it was opened to public in March 2000. The wheel turns slowly and takes 30 minutes to make a complete circle. It carries people in glass-capsules to the top to enjoy a breathtaking panoramic view of the beautiful city.

The London Eye, the tallest Ferris wheel in 1999, located on the south bank of River Thames in London, England

Tower of London   

It is a well-preserved building and looks like a castle. Over the last 900 years, it has been a fortress, prison, palace, royal mint and zoo. In 1536, King Henry VIII’s second wife, Anne Boleya, was executed there for committing adultery. The tower is now a home to the Crown Jewels and the Yeoman warders (Beefeaters) who are traditional guards.

Tower Bridge   

This bridge was built over River Thames and opened in 1894. The two halves of it can be raised so that cruise ships and naval vessels can pass through in its middle. Between the two towers are two high-level walkways open to visitors who wish to have a panoramic view of the city.

The Tower Bridge in the background opened in 1894 in London, England

St. Paul’s Cathedral   

This cathedral is located on the Ludgate Hill. It has an impressive dome and a height of about 108 m. It was built in the late Renaissance to Baroque style in the 17th. Century.  Many important services including funerals of famous people like Horatio Nelson, the Duke of Wellington and Winston Churchill had been held at this cathedral. On 29 July 1981, Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spenser were married here. This beautiful cathedral has been used in many movies, like Mary Poppins, Peter Pan, Hands of the Ripper and The Madness of King George.

St. Paul’s Cathedral in the background in London, England

Westminister Abbey    It is a Gothic cathedral which was built in the 11th. century. It has some resemblance to the Notre Dame cathedrals of Reims and Paris. In 1060, the first English king, William the Conqueror, was buried at the cathedral. Later, other kings, queens, poets and other notable figures were also buried there. On 6 Sept. 1997, the funeral of Princess Diana who passed away in an accident in Paris took place at this cathedral. It also holds important marriage, religious and celebratory functions.

Westminister Abbey(western facade) in the background in London, England

Westminister Abbey(northern facade) in the background in London, England

Marks & Spenser    Having visited some of London’s tourist attractions, we went to a popular shopping complex, Marks & Spenser, in Oxford Street. As the English pound was equivalent to over six times our Malaysian Ringgit, most of us did not shop much there.

The City Hall    Located by the Thames River near the Tower Bridge, this building has the most unusual shape: the shape of a huge snail-shell. It is a building opened in 2002 for the headquarters of the Greater London Authority.

City Hall, the headquarters of Greater London Authority, located near Tower Bridge and opened in 2002

Covent Garden

Covent Garden was once a busy market centre until it was relocated to Nine Elms in 1973. It is now a tourist attraction and also a favourite place for London shoppers who can get good bargains here. It offers lots of goods like handicrafts, jewellery, paintings, antiques, clothing, accessories, fruits and vegetables. Besides shopping, one can watch free street-shows performed by comedians, jugglers, musicians and singers. This place was once a film location for a famous movie called “My Fair Lady” in the 60’s.

Covent Garden, a busy market centre in London, England

Madame Tussauds Wax Museum   This is a popular attraction among the locals and tourists alike. In 1835 Madame Tussauds from France opened this London wax museum. It houses wax figures of notorious and notable people. Visitors are allowed to take photos with the life-sized figures of their favourite idols.

Writer with Elvis Presley in Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, London, England

Writer with The Beatles in Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, London, England

Writer with Marilyn Monroe in Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, London, England

When I was inside the museum, I could not resist taking photos with some of the famous figures, like Elvis Presley (the Rock and Roll King), the Beatles (the famous English singing pop group in the 60’s), Michael Jackson (the famous moonwalker), Marilyn Monroe (the sexy and beautiful actress), Kylie Minogue (a famous Australian singer), John Wayne (the husky-voiced and macho cowboy hero), Queen Elizabeth, Princess Diana, and heads of states, like Bush, Tony Blair, Winston Churchill and Adolf Hitler.

Writer dancing with Kylie Minogue, a famous Australian singer, in Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, London, England

Writer with the British royal family in Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, London, England

Writer with two WWII enemies, Adolf Hitler and Winston Churchill, in Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, London, England

Day 11 : Tuesday, 29 June 2004  Journey Home ( Malaysia ) 

At 5.30 a.m., we hurriedly left the hotel, Holiday Inns, in London with our packed breakfast and headed straight for Heathrow Airport. Then at 9.40 a.m. our plane belonging to the Royal Brunei Airlines took off and flew back to Malaysia, our home, via Dubai and Brunei.

Map showing air-route from London to KLIA, Malaysia, via Brunei

Writer, wife and other tour-members stop at Dubai International Airport waiting for another plane to take them home in Malaysia

Well, that was our memorable trip.

We thank you for reading this travelogue and hope it is useful to you.

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Written by: Choo Chaw, Kluang, Johor, Malaysia.

Europe Travel (Part I)

June 19, 2004 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Europe, Europe (Part I) 

Europe Travel I


Europe, one of the five continents in the world, has many beautiful countries.

Its rich histories as well as diverse cultures and traditions lure many interested tourists to the continent. Furthermore, it is a land of splendid landscapes, vibrant cities of stunning old and modern architectural buildings, and lovely people of different nationalities, languages, religions, cultures and traditions.

Map of Europe

European Union

Over twenty European nations have formed an association known as the European Union including France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Belgian, Luxemburg, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Finland, Sweden and Austria. More and more are bidding to join the union and soon Europe will be known as the United States of Europe (U.S.E).

In 2004, my wife and I joined a Europe tour of 6 interesting countries, viz. Germany, Switzerland, France, Belgium, Netherlands and England, in a very short period of 10 days.

Day 1 : Saturday, 19 June 2004   Departure for Frankfurt (Germany)

On 19 June 2004, my wife and I joined  a group of 29 Malaysians at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) . After a short briefing from our tour guide, Julie, we boarded a plane and flew to Germany via Brunei. The long journey was smooth except for a brief moment when we encountered a slight turbulence over the Bay of Bengal.

Writer and family at Kuala Lumpur International Airport(KLIA), Malaysia

Writer and tour-members

Day 2 : Sunday 20 June 2004   Rudesheim (Germany)

After travelling for 12 hours from Malaysia, we finally landed at Frankfurt Airport in Germany in the early morning. Then we boarded a coach and went to our first destination, a small German town known as Rudesheim.

Writer(L) and coach-driver who will bring the group around Europe for a few days

Map showing places in Germany visited by the tour-group


Rudesheim is located in the centre of the Rhine River region which is a Unesco World Heritage. It is a small town of about 10,000 dwellers. This peaceful guaint town is surrounded by low hills with vineyards. It has an old castle which houses a museum and a small railway station where passengers can take a train to Koblenz in the east or Frankfurt in the west. River Rhine Cruise boats stop here for tourists to visit this picturesque village.

Altdeutche Weinstube Hotel, Rudesheim. Germany

Zum Oberstubchen Restaurant, Rudesheim, Germany

A wine shop in Rudesheim, Germany

As it was Sunday when we were there, most of the shops were closed and the streets were quiet. But lots of tourists, mostly Asians, were seen in the town. After spending a short time in the town, we left for another larger German town, Heidelberg.

St. James’ Church, Rudesheim. Germany

Writer and wife at a railway-crossing in Rudesheim, Germany

A passenger train passing through Heidelberg, Germany

Writer and wife on a bank of River Rhine in Rudesheim, Germany


Heidelberg is 80 km south of Frankfurt and has a population of over 145,000. It has a picturesque place which is surrounded by densely forested mountains and has a deep wooded valley where a large river, Neckar, flows slowly. Spanning across the river is an old bridge, Karl-Theodor Bridge, built in 1788. It has an arched entrance with twin towers that are capped by spiky helmets. Near the entrance stands a bronze statue of a monkey. There is a local belief that if one can put his/her head inside the monkey’s hollow head without touching its inside, one will be blessed with good luck.

A scenic view of a village and River Neckar in Heidelberg, Germany

An old bridge, Karl-Theodor Bridge built in 1788, behind the writer and wife in Heidelberg, Germany

Writer and wife with a bronze statue of a monkey at the entrance of the Old Bridge, Heidelberg, Germany

Standing in the middle of the bridge, one can see an old ruined sandstone castle, Heidelberg Castle (Schloss), on a hill overlooking the valley. It was built in several stages from the 14th. century to the 17th. century. The oldest German university is located here.

An old castle built in 14-17th. centuries in the distance behind the writer and wife in Heidelberg, Germany

Heidelberg Square, Heidelberg, Germany

After spending a few hours at the place, we checked in at a hotel, Mercure Hotel, in the downtown. As all the shops were closed on Sunday we retired early.

Mercure Hotel, Heidelberg, Germany

Day 3 : Monday 21 June 2004  Titisee (Germany)

At 8 a.m., we left Heidelberg for a small village, Titisee, in the lush green pine forests in the mountainous areas.


Titisee is a tiny and tranquil village situated at a height of 858 metres above sea-level in the upper Black Forest. It has an oval-shaped lake of clear emerald-green water, Lake Titisee. The lake is 2 km long and 800 m wide. In winter it freezes and offers winter-sports activities like ice-skating, curling and ice-hockey. Surrounding the lake are lush green mountains of unspoilt beauty. Houses with steep roofs (for heavy snow to slide down in winter) are scattered all over the mountain slopes.

A street in a tranquil Titisee village, Germany

A boat of flowers near Lake Titisee, Germany

A cuckoo-clock factory

At Titisee, we visited a famous cuckoo-clock making factory known as Black Forest Clock Center. The kind owner explained to us the traditional way of making cuckoo-clocks. Then he showed us a wide variety of fine hand-made cuckoo-clocks in his shop. One of our tour members bought one at a price of 400 euro-dollars!.

Tour-members learning about cuckoo-clock making at a Titisee factory, Germany

Julie, the tour-guide, telling the members about the prices of cuckoo-clocks, Titisee, Germany

Antique but beautiful cuckoo-clocks for sale hanging behind writer and wife at a Titisee shop, Germany

Then we left the factory and browsed at nearby shops which were selling myriads of goods like dolls, porcelain-figurines, apparels, wooden and plastic cuckoo-clocks and flowers. While walking by Lake Titisee, my wife and I saw some wild ducks swimming in the water. More ducks appeared from nowhere when they saw us throwing pieces of bread to the ducks.

Beautiful dolls in German traditional dresses for sale behind writer’s wife at a Titisee shop. Germany

Feeding wild ducks at Titisee Lake, Germany

Rhine Falls (Bodensee), (near Schaffhausen)  

After the Titisee visit, we travelled to a place near Schaffhausen to see the Europe’s largest waterfall, Rhine Falls (Bodensee). The waterfall is 150 m wide and 23 m high. It is a spectacular sight to see water cascading down the cataracts. Tourists can take a boat close to the waterfall to feel the power of the thundering water.

Writer and wife at the Rhine Falls near Schaffhausen, the largest waterfalls in Europe

On a hill-top near the waterfall stands a medieval castle, Schloss Laufen. In the shallow, crystal-clear water, one can watch large fish swimming about.

Journey to Switzerland

After spending an hour at the waterfall, we left for a long journey to Lucerne in Switzerland. On the way, we saw scenic countrysides, quaint half-timbered cottages, lush green-pine forests and beautiful mountain landscapes in the Black Forest region in south-eastern Germany. Arriving at Basel on the Switzerland border, we passed through an immigration checkpoint without any problem.

Map showing places in Switzerland visited by tour group


Basel is a small Swiss border town. It is a centre of banking and chemical industries. Its port on River Rhine is Switzerland’s only port.

Lucerne (Switzerland)  

Soon, we arrived at Lucerne, a quaint town with many tourists’ attractions, such as medieval squares, frescoed houses, ancient guildhalls, churches and chapels. A river, Reuss, flows from a large lake, Lucerne Lake, through the town. The lake is the 4th. largest in Switzerland.

Lucerne and its lake, Switzerland

Lake Lucerne behind writer, Switzerland

We visited a few attractions there including the following:

The Lion Monument

An injured and dying lion was curved out of a limestone hill. It is a monument to commemorate the bravery and loyalty of Swiss mercenaries who died at the Tullieries in 1792.

Lion Monument behind writer and wife, Lucerne, Germany

Chapel Bridge

It is a covered wooden bridge built across Reuss River in the first half of the 14th. century as part of the town’s fortification. Old faded 17th. century paintings depicting scenes of the Swiss and local histories can be seen under the roof. The drabness of the bridge is cleverly camouflaged by pretty colourful flowers placed along its sides.

Chapel Bridge and Water Tower behind writer’s wife, Lucerne, Switzerland

Water Tower

Near the Chapel Bridge is Water Tower, a 34 metre-high tower. It was built in a shape of an octagon in 1300 as part of the town wall. Later, it was used as an archive, treasury, prison and torture chamber.

Lucerne has some shops selling many kinds of Swiss products, such as army knives, cow-bells, watches, chocolates, porcelain dolls, cuckoo-clocks and beer-mugs.

Writer on a roadside in Lucerne, Switzerland

Summer Solstice

In the evening we checked in at a hotel in a mountainous area near Lucerne. I was surprised that the day was still bright at 9.30 p.m. Then I realized that it was Summer Solstice.

Day 4 : Tuesday 22 June 2004   Mount Titlis (Switzerland)

We left Lucerne in the morning and travelled south to a Swiss mountain, Mount Titlis, which is 3238 metres above sea-level.

A Cable Car Ride

On arrival at Engelberg, we went straight to a cable car station at the foot of Mount. We sat in a cable car and were moving slowly up the mountain.

While going up we were surprised to see national flags of the world painted on cable cars. After ascending halfway, we changed to a larger cable car, Rotair, which goes up a steeper slope to the summit. It can rotate slowly as it ascends so that  tourists inside can have a 360 degree panoramic view of the breathtaking scenery outside. They can see snow-capped mountains, U-shaped valleys, pine forests on mountain-slopes, scattered houses, green pastures and the Engelberg village.

Engelberg Cable-Car Station, Switzerland

A breathtaking view of Engelberg Village as seen from a cable-car ascending to Mt. Titilis(3238 m), Switzerland

Cow Bells

Halfway up the mountain, we heard sound of umpteen bells that became louder and louder as we approached it. Then, looking out of the window of the cable car, we saw below us cows grazing in the meadows dotted with yellow flowers. We realized that the sound was from the large bells worn round the necks of the cows.

Mount Titlis Summit

When we reached the snow-covered top of Mount Titlis(3238 m above sea-level), we shivered as cold wind was blowing strongly. We left the Rotair and took a lift-chair to a snow-field. Standing on the snow-field, we feasted our eyes on snow-capped Alpine mountains and valleys in the distance. The scenery was awesome. Occasionally, visibility was poor when the air became misty and snow was falling.

A spectacular view of a lake surrounded by Alpine Mountains as seen from the Mt. Titilis summit, Switzerland

Writer and wife with Julie(centre) on the cold summit of Mount Titilis, Switzerland

A palm-shaped rock behind writer and wife on the Mount Titilis Summit, Switzerland

Snow-Field Slide

On the snow-covered summit, many adults and children sitting on tyre-tubes were enjoying a short snow-field slide down a slope. My wife and I went for it, too. It was a rough ride for me. My bottom hit the uneven snow-field all the time. Besides, I had a fright when I was going round a sharp bend.

Writer’s wife going for a snow-field slide on the Mt. Titilis Summit, Switzerland

A man on a tyre-tube sliding down a snow-covered slope on the Mt. Titilis Summit, Switzerland

Ice Grotto

On the peak, there is an ice grotto adjoining the cable-car station. Later, we went down the mountain. As we were descending we enjoyed the beautiful scenery of the place. The we left left Mount Titlis for Colmar in France, a town of 100,000 inhabitants.

Writer in an ice-grotto on the Mount Titilis Summit, Switzerland

A beautiful sight of Engelberg Valley as seen from a descending cable-car from Mount Titilis Peak, Switzerland

Map showing places in France visited by writer

Colmar (France)

Colmar has 100,000 inhabitants. It is surrounded by vineyards and well-known for wine-production. This charming town is also famous for quaint half-timbered buildings such as churches and houses, cloisters, balconies with potted colourful flowers, facades with ornate wood sculpture, paintings, gables and edifices from the Renaissance.

Writer and wife in Colmar Old Town, France

Writer’s wife in a street in Colmar Old Town, France

A beautiful half-timbered, quaint building used as a restaurant, Restaurant Pfeffel, in Colamr Old Town, France

The buildings have been well-restored and preserved since the Middle Ages. The streets are narrow and cobble-stoned. One should visit the picturesque small area dubbed “Little Venice” in the leather makers’ district as it has a canal behind colourful half-timbered buildings.

A well-known spot known as “Little Venice of Alsace” in Colmar Old Town, France

Writer waiting for a train-ride in the Colmar Old Town, France

For a small fee, we took a short train ride to see the popular spots in the town.

In the evening, we retired to a hotel known as Novotel Colmar in the town..

Day 5 : Wednesday, 23 June 2004   Verdun (France)


In the morning, we left Colmar for a small French town of 25,000 dwellers, Verdun. Located in the north-east of France, Verdun is the place where the longest and bloodiest battle in world history was fought during the 1st. World War. The battle began on 21st. February 1916 when the German soldiers attacked the French soldiers. They fought for 10 long months resulting in heavy casualties on both sides – 328,000 Germans and 348,000 French. The total number of deaths was a staggering 250,000.

Tour-group visiting Verdun, a historical place, where a long battle was fought in1916 in France

Verdun and River Verdun behind writer’s wife in France

War Hero Memorial Monument behind writer in Verdun, France

We visited the monument in memory of the war heroes near a bridge which is over River Meuse flowing through Verdun. Then we left for Reims.


Reims has a population of 200,000. It is in a large region of vineyards and a famous centre for producing French champagne.

G.H. Mumm & Company

Arriving at Reims, we visited one of its many well-known wine-cellars, G.H. Mumm & Company. A guide of this company brought us to a large wine-vault where barrels of champagne are stored and explained to us the fine art of champagne-making. Later, we were generously treated to some champagne.

In the lobby of the company, we saw some large Formula 1 Race posters. One of them showed Michael
Schumacher and his boss celebrating the former’s victory in one of the Formula 1 Racing Car Championship races. I guessed the company was sponsoring the champagne for the prestigious race.

Writer and wife at G.H. Mumm & Co., a champagne-making factory, in Reims, France

Pictures of Michael Schumacher and Formula One Race on a wall behind writer in G.H. Mumm & Co., Reims, France

A champagne treat for the tour-group from G.H. Mumm & Co., Reims, France

Notre Dame of Reims

Thanking the company’s guide, we headed for Reim’s largest and most well-known cathedral, Notre Dame of Reims. It was built in the Gothic architectural style of the 12th. century. Many French kings including King Louis XVI were crowned here.

Its imposing facade has two 81.4 m tall towers, three portals with statues and statuettes, a large, round window in the shape of a rose (rose window) above the middle portal and a gallery of kings above the rose window. Statues and sculptures of religious figures, stained glass, tapestries and paintings depicting religious themes can be seen inside the cathedral. After spending an hour at the cathedral, we checked in at a hotel, Europe Hotel.

Notre Dame of Reims behind writer and wife, Reims, France

Reims Streets

After dinner, we strolled in some Reims streets and noticed that chairs and tables outside cafes and restaurants were a common sight. One can sit there and have a meal, cup of cappuccino or mug of beer. Besides, one can watch people and traffic passing by.

Writer’s wife at a popular tourist place known as Place Drouet d’Erlon in Reims, France

A street in Reims, France

Writer at Place Drouet d’Erlon, a popular tourists’ place

Day 6:  Thursday 24 June 2004   Disneyland Paris / Euro Disney, Paris

Early in the morning we left Reims for a world famous theme park known as Disneyland Paris (or Euro Disney) in Paris, France. Located near Paris City, it was officially opened in 1992. It offers a wide variety of attractions for both adults and children. The park is divided into 5 areas, viz.

 Main Street USA
Adventureland and

Each area offers some interesting and enjoyable attractions.

An entrance to Disneyland Paris, France

Writer and wife visiting Disneyland Paris, France

As we had a whole day to spend at the park, we chose a few of them that we liked, such as the following:

“Dumbo, the Flying Elephant”  

It is a slow and relaxing train ride. The train resembling Dumbo, the Flying Elephant in a Disney animated film “Flies”, cruises slowly over the Fantasyland.

“Honey, I Shrunk the Audience” 

We watched this short movie with a special pair of spectacles that gave us a 3-D virtual reality experience. The story was about Professor Szalinski who used his new contraption and accidentally “shrunk” the audience. While watching the movie, we felt as though we were involved in it. We could feel mice running around our feet trying to escape from a large, grey cat. We felt uneasy when the cat came out of the screen and stared at us closely for a long time before it disappeared. Later, a huge venomous snake suddenly appeared in front of us and looked at us fiercely. We felt a rush of adrenalin to our brains when it opened its large mouth showing its long, sharp fangs. Then it quickly “swallowed” us up. It was truly a virtual reality and scary experience!

“Star Wars”

We joined a very long queue for a 10-minute flight simulator ride in a “space craft” in the “outer space”. It offered us an exciting intergalactic travel adventure, Star Wars. The most thrilling moment in the adventure was when our “space craft” manoeuvred quickly to avoid the attack by several enemy “space-crafts”.

“Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril”

This is a rough and jerky roller-coaster ride. My wife and I sat together on a hard seat in a “mine-car”. As it moved backwards all the time we did not know what to expect behind us. We felt shocked when it, suddenly, made a complete vertical loop. My spectacles nearly fell off when I was upside down. After the short ride we felt a bit shaky.

“Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril” roller-coaster at Disneyland Paris

“It’s a Small, Small World”    Sitting in a boat, my wife and I cruised round the “world” watching “children” of different nationalities (little pretty dolls in their national costumes) dancing and singing a beautiful children song, “It’s a Small, Small World”. During that short ride, we felt we were children again.

“It’s a small, small world” attraction behind the writer at Disneyland Paris

Hawaiian Children at “It’s a small, small world” attraction, Disneyland Paris

French children at “It’s small, small world” attraction, Disneyland Paris

Mexican children at “It’s a small, small world” attraction at Disneyland Paris

Swiss children at “It’s a small, small world” attraction, Disneyland Paris

“Pirates of the Caribbean”

This attraction shows scenes of pirates’ lives. As we went through the scenes we could hear voices of the pirates and victims. We learned that the pirates were violent and merciless creatures. They attacked, robbed and burnt ships and villages, killed, drank and gambled.

“Pirates of the Caribbean” entrance at Disneyland Paris

Pirates in dungeon enticing a dog with a bone at “Pirates of the Caribbean’ attraction, Disneyland Paris

A drunk pirate at “Pirates of the Caribbean” attraction, Disneyland Paris

Sleeping Beauty Castle

On the ground floor of this large magnificent castle, there is a legendary dragon sleeping in its lair. Occasionally, it wakes up and blows out a big fire. Upstairs, tapestries and beautiful stained glass windows depicting the Sleeping Beauty’s story can be seen.

“Sleeping Beauty” Castle at Disneyland Paris

Princess Parade at Disneyland  

The highlight of the day at Disneyland starts at 4 p.m. It is the “Princess Parade”. During this awesome parade, all the characters in the Disney animated films turn up, such as Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella and her Prince Charming, Sinbad and his pretty lady, Snow-White and the Seven Dwarfs, and many more. They appear on large and colourful slow-moving floats waving happily to the spectators.

Mickey and Minnie Mouse float leading the “Princess Parade of Disneyland” at Disneyland Paris

Snow White and her Prince on a float in the “Princess Parade of Disneyland” at Disneyland Paris

Princess Aurora and Prince Phillip of “Sleeping Beauty” on a float in the “Princess Parade of Disneyland”, Disneyland Paris

In front of the parade, beautiful ladies and handsome gentlemen in striking colourful costumes dance, gracefully and happily, to the tune of a loud music coming from big loudspeakers placed at strategic places. This is truly a colourful and spectacular event no visitor should miss.

Cinderella in a pumpkin carriage in the “Princess Parade of Disneyland”. Disneyland Paris

Aladdin on a float in the “Princess Parade of Disneyland” at Disneyland Paris

Pretty ladies dancing, happily, in the “Princess Parade of Disneyland” at Disneyland Paris

After a day of fun, excitement and adventure at Disneyland, we reluctantly left for Paris City in the evening.

(Continued in Europe Travel Part II)

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Written by Choo Chaw, Kluang, Johor, Malaysia.