Category Archives: Travels

Visiting Tallinn

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View on Tallinn from the ship

This week we visited Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. As we are leaving Finland soon behind my wife wanted to travel together with her friends from her very early days in this country. They quickly decided on Tallinn as it just 2 1/2 hours away by ship from Helsinki and furthermore so much more interesting than any Finnish town we know.

We had visited the city before many times however for this trip we wanted a more relaxed atmosphere and decided to stay one night in a hotel. We arrived at Tallinn harbour at around 11am and went straight on towards the Old Town to check in our hotel. This hotel was something special for us as it is a historical building construced in 1437, full of small corridors, an amazing layout and you basically feel like in some old castle.

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Being pushed around my tourists

The first day we just spent walking around, finding nice restaurants, a cafe to relax and most importantly for us guys, buying drinks and watching the World Cup at night. Even though I had been so often in this city I saw so many more sights I had never seen before. Sadky, due to utter laziness I forgot my camera in the hotel room and could not take any pictures of those (for me new) interesting areas of the old town.

After a not so relaxing night, full of creaking floors, stairs, music and crying babies we started our shopping tour through the new inner city. I believe that this was the best day for the women and the worst day for us guys. I do not remember how many hours we spent in the shopping malls but I do know that one can get very bored sitting in front of a shop and waiting for the better half to come out. Towards the end we still had some drama coming  up as we went (thanks to me) to the wrong ship terminal and had to run to the other one, arriving just in time before the gates were closing.

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Happy people after eating Thai food

Last year we visiting Tallinn together with my in-laws during summer. Besides that they were amazed why everything was so much cheaper than in Finland they also wondered why there were so many old buildings. “In China something as old as this gets torn down and a beautiful new apartment block is constructed!” – You just go to love those apartment complexes in Chinese cities, enhancing together with the smog the overall beauty.

Here are some links for more information:

Tallinn

St. Olav Hotel

Tallinn Historic Centre

P.S. Old buildings are really noisy, you hear each step taken around you due to the old wooden floor, stairs are creaking non-stop, and you wont get any sleep if there is a baby crying next door however it is still worth the experience

 

 

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Hagenbeck Zoo

Some basics

Its been now over a week that we have been in Germany. I barely had time to read through other great blogs or to even make some drafts for new articles. The past week has been busy with renovation work such as carrying a lot of the previous owner’s furniture out, cleaning the roof in the apartment due to 40 years of smoking inside, ripping the wallpapers of and tiles from the kitchen and bathroom. All this does not appear to be that much but it was each day 12 hours of work. And believe it or not, mother-in-law was helping us pretty much with the wallpapers!

The Zoo

Even though we were so busy we had time to visit Hagenbeck Zoo in Hamburg. It is a pretty famous Zoo which started out 1863 and was officially founded in 1907, furthermore those open enclosures for animals which are often used now were “developed” there. The park is also pretty big for a Zoo which is nowadays within the borders of a big city. It spans over 25 hectares (~62 Acres) with all kinds of animals from around the world. On the premises itself many animals such as peacocks, chickens and the Patagonian mara are running around freely so in some lucky cases you can even touch them.

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Besides the main Zoo there is also the Tropical-Aquarium however we were not able to go there as it took us already nearly 6 hours to go around the park and in the end we just were too exhausted. I would have loved to go to this Tropical-Aquarium as I had heard many good things about but maybe next time, as we will live after this summer only around 40 min away from Hamburg.

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The Animals

It was very nice to go around as you have rarely and cage bars or similar in between the animals and yourself (actually only the bird enclosures have to safety measurements). We had a good view at each enclosure and could see all of the animals. I am saying this as I have been in many Zoos before where I saw in the whole day maybe only a handful of animals.

At Hagenbeck are Tigers, Lions, Bears, Horses, Giraffes, penguins, Orangutans, Elephants and and and, especially nice it was at the Elephant enclosure as most of them were standing at the moats and the visitors could feed them (with food sold near the enclosure, so no bad stuff here) and even touch their trunks. To prevent any kind of accidents several Park employees were standing behind the animals to check that nothing happens or that anyone gives them some bad food.

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Tiger going around
Meet the Alpaca
Meet the Alpaca

My wife also enjoyed her favorite animal, the Alpaca. Especially the Chinese “nickname” for the animals is pretty amusing 草泥马,cao ni ma which made the alpaca famous in Chinese forums. Mother-in-law also found some new friends, the goats. In the Zoo you can enter the goat enclosure and also feed them. As soon as she saw that you can enter the cage she ran in and we pretty much had to drag her out of there to go on…

Mother-in-law and the goats
Mother-in-law and the goats

Our little baby

We were there with the whole family so naturaly little Nathan had to come with us. We left our pram in Finland so I had to use some kind of baby carrier for the chest. Thankfully he is only around 6 kg at the moment so I managed the day relatively pain-free but as Nathan is only 7 weeks old he did not really see any animal. He was more concerned with sleeping the entire time. Later, when he is old enough we will go there again!

What to remember

We were a medium sized group (7+baby) but already this size can get annoying at time as some people prefer walking onwards wheras others want to check out the animals for some longer time.

Furthermore you should eat before going to the Zoo or have something small with you. Not that the prices in the Zoo for food are that high but because there are just too many people lining up to buy food. Besides, lining up for the food and eating it adds up easily to one hour of lost time you could spend going around.

What a cute thing!
What a cute thing!

For some further information check wikipedia or the German website

 

 

The Gao Family Mansion, Xi’an

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Xi’an has much to offer besides the main sites such as the Terracotta Warriors, the Small and the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, Beiyuanmen “Muslim Street” with the Great Mosque and numerous burial sites. Not every attraction is suitable for everyone so you got to choose what you really would like to see in case of a short visit as usually two or three days are just not enough to see much. And believe me, there is so much to see that it takes months just to visit all the places advertised in city guides and other sources.

During all my visits in Xi’an I have probably visited all major tourist spots and multiple locations which are more known to the locals. This resulted during my last visit that I felt kind of empty. I wanted to see more of the city but my wife had no motivation to just go through the streets, she wanted to visit only spots she hasn’t seen before. So I started my research on search engines for some place we haven’t visited yet and after a long day I found it; something called the Gao Family Mansion located in Beiyuanmen. Wait, what? Located at the Muslim street? I had been several times and never ever saw anything like this Mansion nor did my wife or her parents have any idea about it.

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One of the many rooms

Next day we headed to Beiyuanmen (just 5min walk from my parents-in-law’s home) in search of that building. We walked about and down there for around 30min with no luck until we saw a little tourist group going through an entrance between food vendors. We followed them and there it was, the place we had been searching for: The Gao Family Mansion

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As you can see, he did well with in his exams!

Now first some basic information about the Gao Family Mansion:

  • Built over 400 years ago during Ming Dynasty
  • stretched over 2.500sqm (~26,910square feet)
  • 86 rooms of which 56 or so are opened for public
  • Due to a Project of Sino-Norway Historical Districts Protection in 1999 it was completely repaired (Thanks Norway!)
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Lovely Myna Birds

I don’t remember the entrance fee anymore but it was very cheap. Inside the mansion you can spend some more money on a tea ceremony and a shadow puppetry show but we skipped those. I guess we walked around for nearly two hours there, going through the several rooms and floors (my wife loved the talking myna birds because of their compliments to her beauty and I was fascinated by the turtles).

I can only recommend a visit there, it is pretty much in the middle of Beiyuanmen, there is much to see for little money and most importantly it is very quiet there. As long as you don’t look up to the neighbouring buildings you can’t believe that you are actually in the center of bustling city with over 8 million inhabitants.

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Do you have found any wonderful places which are not heavily advertised in other cities?

Some more information of the Gao Family Mansion:

The China Guide

Horticultural Expo 2011

China Highlights

Sino Impressions