Letter from Japan

I love receiving news from friends around the world.  It’s interesting to learn the things people do on the other side of the world.  This one came from my dear Japanese friend who was very ecstatic to share with me her country’s tradition and pride.

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Cherry blossoms

Here is an excerpt of the letter:

It’s the season of Sakura (Cherry Blossoms) in Japan.  It’s 20degC today and the weather is very pleasant.
This afternoon, I had lunch with my friends under the Sakura tree.  It’s a tradition in Japan to have a picnic under the tree.

I am going to the island of Yakushima,  to the Cedar Forest called “Yakusugi” to see the oldest cedar tree  estimated to be 7,000 years old!

Isn’t that fascinating?  I’ve always heard about the most awaited Cherry Blossoms in Japan but i didn’t know about their tradition to picnic there.  And this Yakushima island and the Yakusugi tree, I learned that the island is a World Heritage site and the tree a protected species.   I must go to Japan!

Bratislava

Bratislava.  I was expecting traces of communist past and maybe a sighting of bullet holes on building facades like in Budapest but I was disappointed.

Like other Eastern European cities who found themselves suddenly free from Communist rule, the enterprising businessmen are scurrying around to build chain stores, McDonalds, hotels, commercial and residential buildings with the most uncharming facades.  The old town is still pretty and castle is under renovation, but me, freshly coming from Vienna whose shop window displays are catering to the wealthy, those in Bratislava sport the “Made in China” stuff but at least, I’ve seen the place.  It’s still worth a visit though.

I stayed in a hostel and quite enjoyed it as it’s so cheap, perfect for my budget travelling lifestyle.  I saw their flyer at the Tourist Office, went to check-in, and their bed is 18euros, cool!  I had to pay tax of 1.80euros because I am over 26, no sweat.

Here’s more.  The bed is one among 10 beds in a dormitory which is quite shocking but I guess I have to try it for once in my life.  Sort of experience, so I can tell it here in my website.  But holy cow! as soon as I arrived in the room, there was a man!  It is a mixed-sex room.  But the room is so small:  5 double deck beds.

“Is it a “mixed sex” room?” I asked the Reception.

“Yes!”.  They could sense my discomfort so they changed my roon into a 6-bed all-female. My roomates are okay.  We chatted after dinner.  Great life stories we shared with each other.

Hence, I really recommend staying in hostels if you wish to meet people from other countries.  You get to learn a lot of things from their stories.

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The hostel room I stayed in where I met an Austrian (who doesn’t like Austria), a Danish (who doesn’t want to live in Denmark) and an American who is taking up her master’s degree in London.

Mariadams to the American who hails from Miami): My favorite tv series is CSI Miami!
The American: that’s what everybody tells me when they hear I come from Miami!

This hostel accepts drop-in guests, i.e., no prior reservation.  Towel, bedsheet, duvet cover, pillowcase included.  Five euros deposit for padlock, refundable upon check-out.  Ten euros deposit for room key, refundable upon check-out.  There is a kitchen in each floor so you can cook your noodle soup or make coffee.  You can only get to the room at 1pm but you can leave your luggage in the luggage room while waiting.  Bathroom and toilets are common on each floor, but one for each sex.  I chose to get up at 6am so i can have the bathroom all to myself.

The only negative – it tends to be noisy at night before 11pm owing to chatting guests at the corridor so bring your own earpads.

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Rubberneck or “The Peeper” is the most photographed statue in Bratislava. It is a helmeted man peering from a street manhole.
(corner Panska and Sedlarska streets)
Bratislava, Slovak Republic

No other city in the world has a statue sticking out of a manhole! Rubberneck has already lost his head twice due to careless drivers, therefore the city councilors decided to help him by erecting a road sign to warn drivers.
(from Bratislava Guide)

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Caught a wedding photoshoot at the castle grounds

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St Martin’s cathedral
A 15th century Gothic Church where 11 Hungarian kings and 8 consorts were crowned between 1563-1830.
Ludwig van Beethoven directed his Missa sollemnis here in 1835

Bratislava used to be a part of Hungary. It was the capital of the Kingdom of Hungary under the Habsburg Monarchy from 1536 to 1783.

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Art in the ruins

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Bratislava is growing

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A pub

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Roof tiles in the old town

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Urban windows

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The bad and the good

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Relaxing in the castle grounds overlooking the old town of Bratislava

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If you can’t find the way to the castle, this pub can tell you which way to go

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A heroine

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Ice cream is big business in Bratislava

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The new bridge and the Bratislava castle
The former is also known as the UFO bridge because of the flying-saucer shaped structure. It is the world’s longest cable-stayed bridge in category with one pylon and with one cable-stayed plane.

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The UFO restaurant on top

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The tram which costs 1.70euros a ride

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The main Post Office

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Selling Palm Sunday branches

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The narrowest house in Slovakia and probably in Europe

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Out on a Love Leave

Statues of Bratislava

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A war memorial statue of a man with a gun in one hand and a dead man on the other.

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The Paparazzi statue hiding in a corner of a restaurant called “Paparazzi”

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The Schone Naci is a bronze statue of a man who lived in Bratislava in the early 20th century. It is said that he was slightly mentally ill, passed by the streets of Bratislava in old but elegant suit and greeted every passers-by by taking off his hat and bowing to the ladies.
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A French army soldier leaning on a bench on the Main Square and listens to talks of tourists and patiently poses for photos