Europe Travel (Part I)

June 19, 2004 by · Leave a Comment
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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.