Since the last journal was so old, I might create a new one to bump it off as I have just returned from a 2 month stay in Europe exploring a wide range of countries while over there.
Even though Europe is currently experiencing all those existing social and political turmoils (Greek Riot Dog anyone?), it still remains to be an amazing destination to go and visit. I have found the ability to learn about the history each individual area to be an enormous privilege which I am very happy to have.
For those two months, other than initially Singapore (if you are not into humid weathers, you are going to have a bad time), I went to Amsterdam, Munich, Prague, Berlin, Krakow, Poznan, Berlin, Oslo, Reykjavik, Copenhagen, Vienna, Budapest and a visit Paris at the end to chill out (as I have been to that city in 2009, so no need to visit the attractions this time).
While I didn't have a favourite place, I did enjoy the experience of Reykjavik, Iceland and noticing how all the satellite dishes there were pointing down the street at the horizon. That is what you get for being very close to the arctic circle! The country itself is very strange (in a good way). The people are heavily influenced by the Western culture (especially with the occupation of the American and British forces for the last 60 years until 2005 or so) yet they embrace their historical roots quite firmly, especially their language and the runic characters in their alphabet (þ and ð), whereas the modern day English simply uses "th". I also got to see my first arctic fox while over there, except their fur was brown as it was during their summer season. Will need to come back in winter to see them glowing white! It was also my first experience of watching the sun set at 11.40pm. How nice is that?! Then it rises at 2.20am, so staying up late was probably a bad idea unless you wanted to sleep in daylight at 3am.
One city that really got my attention would have to be Amsterdam as I felt strongly to it. Mind you, I do have some family members there (I am of English root, so I'm not Dutch as they moved there recently 10 years ago) so got to see it more from a social side rather than the touristic side. I hated the tourist section, but loved the rest of the city that is outside of the canal district. Plenty of parkland and stroopwafels! I will have to make my own stroopwafels now that I am back in Australia.
Visiting the countries that used to be veiled behind the iron curtain (if you don't know what it is, then it is a good idea to read on about it, I had a few people ask me what it is... :S ) was also interesting. I have found Poland to be quite clean compared to the Western European countries, they are not like people in Berlin who like to use their Brandenburg gate/Eiffel Tower as a public toilet. :I (or is that "Achievement Unlocked: Leave a mark on a World Heritage Cultural Building"?)
As for Oslo, I have found it to be somewhat familiar to my home (even the price and that can't be a good thing... I think). Yes, Melbourne charges you $6 for a day old sandwich from a petrol station or close to $4 for a bottle of coke. Restaurants usually serve meals starting at $18 and hovering around $22 to $26.. (though the wine in Australia can be cheap, you can buy a bottle of cleanskin for $5 and have it to taste quite decent if you are lucky). It is not exactly a touristy city and that is what I liked about it, it had its own tourist areas of course, but most of the city was more for the residents themselves to enjoy or to utilise. It is a very nice (and green!) city, so if I had to move out of my country, I would pick Oslo. Snoreway? Perhaps, but it is a nice place to be sleepy in.
As for the trip back, let me say that it took me 35 hours to travel home, how is that for fun??? When I finally went to bed in Melbourne, I was awake for 50 hours at that point.