What I learned in China

Also already a standard feature as seen here and here. Here are the lessons I took away from China.

1. If there is a sign to ignore, the Chinese are all for it.

2. Buffet food is a feeding frenzy. Be in time or nothing is left.

3. Main course and desert can go on the same plate. I saw rice pudding put on salad, makes apparently no difference.

4. They are very friendly people and are trying to be helpful when asked. Sometimes when they talk to you they want to scam you, but as proven not always.

5. A little dictionary goes a long way. Still, learn how to say hello, thank you and beer in Chinese.

6. If you smile at their children the parents will be very friendly. Every child is a little prince or princess.

7. The Chinese metros are out of this world. In Chonqing the metro had pull down sun screens for the windows and in Shanghai I saw a metro that opened on both sides in a station. Furthermore they have at least 10 lines or more, taking you everywhere.

8. At all times (but mostly at dusk) you can suddenly come upon a group of people dancing or doing some dance routines. Either in parks or on some broad sidewalk.

10. Everyone carries brewed tea with him.

11. Young Chinese men are quite stylishly dressed. They are definitely not afraid to try a new combination.

12. The Chinese like to talk in very loud voices with each other, one can almost describe it as yelling.

13. Young women will always wear a panty hose or leggings even when it’s super hot. Babsi told me they don’t want to get any tan.

14. The Chinese boyfriend carries the handbag of his girlfriend. Even if he already carries their suitcase and her hands are empty.

15. When the weather is hot Chinese men tend to pull up their T-Shirts and caress their stomachs.

16. I have sent around 45 postcards from China, so about 4 rounds of cards. And each time my family got cards and my friends are put on rotation. I just heard from my brother that he got the first one from Shanghai (which was from the 3rd round). So let me know if you get one from any other place. I really wonder what happened to the rest of them.


Strolling through Beijing

Since Babsi had a strong wifi I used my Wednesday morning to update the blog again. With a VPN connection it was possible to work a bit on it. I had decided to walk that the day through the Hutong, shop for some presents (Babsi offered to take them to Vienna at the end of May) and then slowly make my way to the park across the Forbidden City to climb up that tower that I had missed the day before.

As usual with these planned things it didn’t work out. I sat down for a little Kimchi soup for lunch, and then walked slowly through the shopping street where I tried some Taiwanese frozen yoghurt. It poured on some frost sheet and top with mango and then cut into smaller pieces while it instant freezes. Makes sense? It looked better than it tasted though and it was difficult to eat.IMG_2807 IMG_2813

Walking through the Hutong gave me time to savor the Chinese everyday life. It’s crazy btw and colorful and crowded and just great to watch.IMG_2808 IMG_2810 IMG_2811 IMG_2814 IMG_2815

This furry part in the last picture is the back of a cat that was sleeping in this shop. I really liked these figures but they were astronomically expensive. I had to take a picture though, they were really beautiful.

When I ended up with 4 bags and the metro was nearby I decided to go home and drop the bags, then go back for the tower. Yeah, did not happen. I spent 30 minutes at home, taking pictures of the kittens and relaxed.
IMG_2801IMG_2803 Then I took the metro to meet Babsi. Tonight we were going with her friend Jennifer to a reading from Timothy Garton Ash.

We met her at a tapas bar around the corner from The Bookworm where we shared a pitcher of some Tequila/grapefruit/soda mix (very good, light and refreshing) and some tacos.IMG_2821 IMG_2822 IMG_2823


From there it was only one more minute and we were right on time for the talk of ‘From Berlin to Beijing: reflections of a political writer’. I really enjoyed it, such a completely different program from everything else I have done so far on this trip. And while I will miss one book club meeting while traveling this makes up for it I think.IMG_2824 IMG_2825

But right after the event we left and searched for a taxi. I wanted to be home ‘early’ to finish packing and get some sleep. The next morning I was leaving for Shanghai. Yours, Pollybert

Forbidden City

Momo had stayed home that night, maybe because we put a huge terra cotta pot in front of the garden door. Since there was no rush I had breakfast at home, eating the two tea eggs from Lucy and one of the melons from yesterday. The tea eggs are actually not cooked in tea but first 5 minutes in a soya sauce and water mix, then cracked and then cooked again for 5 minutes. You can according to Lucy add some salt, ginger, chilli or Szechuan pepper. Whatever is your fancy. IMG_2659

In between I updated the blog a bit, using the time to have internet available that was strong enough to upload pictures. All done while using VPN of course. China is definitely not easy for blogging.

Around noon I was ready to go. Since I met Babsi at 6pm for Peking duck there was no need to go home before. I took the metro again and arrived just at the beginning of Tiananmen Square. And right away at the exit of the metro there was a checkpoint. By now I knew that I can’t just politely line up and get run over by the Chinese. I used my elbows to stay in line!IMG_2663

Then it was a very long walk over the square. It was really impressive even with all the checkpoints, it’s just one huge empty square even though it was full of people. It looked still kind of empty. I can’t even imagine how it was on the 4th of June in ’89.IMG_2665 IMG_2666 IMG_2668

Babsi told me not to enter via the main gate since there were a lot more checkpoints but through the garden on the left side. The fee of 3 Yuan was worth it to leave most of the checkpoints behind me. Also it was an oasis of peace compared to the hustle and bustle at the main gate. Walking through the garden I arrived just at the lower end of the ticket office. I think there were at least 30 of them but with queues everywhere.IMG_2669


After I had my ticket I stopped for a quick bite to eat. The restaurant looked a bit depressing but the vegetables were good. Thus fortified I was ready for the Forbidden City.IMG_2673


One more check and then finally I was inside along with hundreds of other people. The Forbidden City turned out to be one hall after another, all called very similar names and none of the halls were for entering. The first one was the most important. This was noticeable by the little guardians on the roof end. The more little protectors were up there the more important the building.IMG_2671 IMG_2675 IMG_2678 IMG_2680 IMG_2682 IMG_2683 IMG_2684 IMG_2686 IMG_2689 IMG_2691 IMG_2695

Therefore the pushing in front of the door with the throne was unbelievable. I thought I would suffocate there. But I did it by pushing as bad as the Chinese I fought for a place in the front row and shot my picture. You judge for yourself if it was worth it. IMG_2700IMG_2699

As it turned out the halls behind the first one looked the same and had also (in my eyes) the same throne. I didn’t notice a difference.IMG_2704

What astonished me was that the place looked dirty and quite deteriorated. The audio guide said that the Chinese government is providing large funds every year for the upkeep plus with all the entrance fees, I was not sure what the were doing with the money. Seemed such a shame to let this all go to shambles.IMG_2712 IMG_2713 IMG_2714 IMG_2716 IMG_2720 IMG_2721Once at the end I turned around and walked back through one of the side alleys and started again with the right wing. Here the treasury was housed. With a little extra entrance fee I was away from the masses and here the Forbidden City was already a lot more interesting.IMG_2725 IMG_2732 IMG_2733 IMG_2744 IMG_2736 IMG_2740 IMG_2741 IMG_2745When I was finally at the end of the city again I climbed up the last hall and had an ok view of the roofs of the city. I saw a tower across the street that seemed to be a lot higher and thought about going there.IMG_2758 IMG_2759

Once out and in front of the park I decided against it. I was tired and needed to walk a lot more to get to the right metro for the meeting with Babsi. This was a very unwise decision since I arrived 30 minutes earlier at the meeting point and from up there I would have had the best view over the Forbidden City especially on a clear day such as it was.

Never mind there was still another full day ahead of me and at the time I didn’t know what I was missing. I walked for about 30 minutes back to the metro, found my meeting point and was happy to see a Baskin Robbins at the corner. That’s where I stopped and waited for Babsi and while doing so I had a small portion of ice cream.IMG_2764

Also very unwise (maybe it was the day for unwise decisions) since the Peking duck was still waiting for me.

But on vacation I am allowed to make mistakes, if not now then when?

So right after I finished my ice cream Babsi was already waiting for me. We walked for a bit to get to the Kerry Hotel in which complex we would have the duck. Actually only me since Babsi is vegan.

In good restaurants the duck has to be pre-ordered and The Horizon is supposed to be one of the best.

Since it was only me for the duck we cut the order in half and I only ate a half. We had a table from where I could see right into the grilling kitchen. I’m not really sure if you call it so since it is done in a wood oven.IMG_2779 IMG_2780 IMG_2781

Since the duck was pre-ordered it was at the table in minutes with the chef carving it in front of me. It is served with buns, pancakes and a ‘set’ which includes spring onions, cucumber, some sauce and sugar. The Chinese like to dip the crackling skin into it.IMG_2765 IMG_2766 IMG_2767 IMG_2774

I then asked the waiter to show me how to prepare it. Always best to ask before making a fool out of me. Really loved the taste and was especially happy that I ordered when I looked at what Babsi was eating. She didn’t look happy at all with her tofu.IMG_2771

After dinner and since we were already around the corner we went to Atmosphere a bar on the 80th floor of the building next door.

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From up there you have a great view all over town, plus they make lovely G&T.IMG_2792 IMG_2795

After two of them we were ready to call it a night. We eventually even found a taxi and were home in no time. Yours, Pollybert

What I learned in Berlin

Being in Berlin for a long weekend made me realize a couple of things. As done by now on several other occasions (see here or here) this is what I learned in Berlin.

1.) When you make a dinner reservation, you don’t get a table for the evening. You only get a time slot for 2 hours. So be quick to finish your meal. They even recall this to your attention if you order a beer 10 minutes before your allotted time ends.

2.) Ask your friends before the trip if they also want to see a certain museum. If they do, reserve your tickets online!

3.) If you hear a fire alarm in your hotel/restaurant/any place, get up and go. It might be a false alarm, but it is definitely not a drill.

4.) And in the above mentioned situation, don’t go looking for your book first. Or call your friend and discuss the alarm. Just go!

5.) I am not twenty anymore. I am old enough to be a possible parent of someone in their twenties (sounds depressing, but will be more depressing for some of my friends in 10 years when they realize that their kids are still far away from their twenties)

6.) It’s good to re-read my advice (aka What I learned in…) before a trip. I brought three pairs of shoes this time.

7.) Berlin is not a chic city. Charming and multicultural, vibrant and hip, but there is no need to dress up.

8.) Don’t use the public trash bin for any kind of bucket challenge.IMG_9931

9.) Everything looks better in color and with flowers. Even if you only sell fabric.IMG_9844

Or ride the metro.IMG_9854

10.) If you avoid German food then food in Germany is amazing! Same is true for the wine.

11.) And once again, traveling with friends is the best!!

Walking in the rain … again

Another day, another rainy morning. So what to do when the weather leaves a lot to be desired?
How about another long breakfast this time already with a glass of sparkling wine. It was a holiday after all and it set the mood for the day.IMG_9017IMG_9018IMG_9023

And then another bus tour, this time on the yellow line though. When we arrived at our station we found out that the bus would take another 45 min to get there since we were station No. 19 on this line. One of the bus hustlers told us to walk a couple of blocks to get to station No. 4 where buses would go every 5-10 minutes. Was so not true, because we ended up waiting at least 20 minutes again. Never mind, we were in no rush at all, just a bit on the cold side.

Finally on the bus we started another tour with annoying music and little information. At least this time everyone had a window seat.IMG_9064

Another round of sights, again from the bus. Please enjoy.IMG_8928IMG_8935IMG_8937IMG_8942IMG_8946IMG_8947IMG_8952Remember this bridge? We were back at the Chain Bridge below the Buda Castle.
IMG_8968Another train station called the west station or something because the trains are coming in from the east.

Near St. Stephen’s Basilica we got off, having decided on the spur of the moment to visit the basilica. Ok, not true at all. We wanted to lángos at the Christmas market but when we passed the church on the way there we decided to go in. It was beautiful inside, impressive and breathtaking. It also shows in a side room the right hand of the saint. The hand or better the “Holy Right” is in remarkable condition, especially when you consider that he died almost 1000 years ago.IMG_8971IMG_8972IMG_8974IMG_8976IMG_8978IMG_8979IMG_8980

When outside we headed directly to the lángos place to try this real traditional dish. It was a greasy as the Austrian version, maybe a bit better and definitely with less garlic. Still, not something to talk about.IMG_8985IMG_8992IMG_8991IMG_8990

From here on we only had one more stop at the supermarket to buy some provisions for the train ride (prosecco and such things), another one at a stall for chimney cake were we bought two right from the griddle (if you can call it that) and then found out the the locals are buying it cooled off. And with good reason because when you buy it hot, it tastes under baked. Another waste of good calories. Culinary wise Hungary was not really abundant, just rich in calories.

Back at the hotel and after a short discussion on how to get to the train station, we decided on the metro again. Quick and cheap, or “slumming” as my friend Tici likes to call it.IMG_9002IMG_9003IMG_9004IMG_9007

And with two bottles of sparkling wine, sweets, chips from the journey there, water and cold chimney cake we were well supplied for our way home. Traveling in style I call that.
Yours, Pollybert