Leiden: University, Garden, and sea

During my short visit to the Netherlands, I had a chance to spend some time in Leiden and its suburbs Katwijk.

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Katwijk is a small town just 15 minutes away by bus from Leiden.

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It is situated at the coast of the North Sea,

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Sea is always beautiful, even in nasty weather.

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Leiden’s railway station connects the town by rail with Amsterdam.

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Walking along Stationsweg early in the morning.

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Leiden is a small town known for its old architecture, canals, bridges, and windmills.

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Morning lights and quietness along the Steenschuur canal created a mystical atmosphere.

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Good morning, Leiden.

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A small side street opposite the Botanical Garden.

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Arrived at the Leiden University.

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Campus area. Leiden University is the oldest in the country, dating from 1575.

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Charming rainy street.

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At the entrance of Leiden Botanical Garden, the oldest botanical garden of the Netherlands.

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The Garden is full of visitors despite the cold weather. I stopped my exploration here due to lack of time.

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Amsterdam (2): public library, ferry, and North

Continuing a one-day exploration of Amsterdam end of October.

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The Oosterpark is a chill out place.

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Although honestly, I like Singapore’s parks more :).

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Amsterdam is perfect for cycling. They says there are more bicycles in the Netherlands than people.

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NEMO Science Museum at the Oosterdok.

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Amsterdam Central Library – a public library with an automated lending and returning of books.

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Inside the library.

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From Amsterdam-Centrum to Amsterdam-Noord: taking a free public ferry across the river IJ.

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People bring their bikes and motorcycles on board.

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The central railway station: view from behind.

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Views on the other side.

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This colour stands out in the rainy weather.

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A peaceful forest setting in northern Amsterdam.

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What a twist of fate: I found the location of the company (Albemarle) I used to work for from Budapest.

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What can I say? A nation of cyclists!

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Goodbye, Amsterdam!

Amsterdam (1): bikes, canals, and golden autumn

Welcome to Amsterdam!

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There is a piano right in the foyer of the Central railway station. Great idea.

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Amsterdam  Centraal looks like a cathedral from the outside. It is quite a contrast from the backside – modern and functional.

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Narrow streets on a rainy morning.

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It’s hard to resist a croissant with late in this weather.

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Time to explore the city by the most popular mode of transportainon – bicycle.

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Amsterdam is famous for its intricate network of canals.

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Very beautiful, calm, and romantic.

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Arrived in Vondelpark. I haven’t seen autumn in a while. Marvelous golden leaves were everywhere. 

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A cyclist’s shadow in the leaf carpet (mine).

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The rising sun brings warmth on a cold October day.

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Riding through gold.

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A lift bridge across the canal to pass the boats through.

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Sun over the water.

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It’s very common to see houses very close to the water.

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Cute white pedestrian bridges in a residential area.

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Cruising through a local market.

Bukit Batok Nature Park

I like Mondays.

On Mondays people go to work. Usually.

Not me and my friends.

Us – we choose to travel. Even if we travel within the city.

Travelling is not about the distance. It’s about looking with the eyes that see, listening with the ears that hear.

It’s about being here and now.

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This time we travelled to the charming and tranquil Bukit Batok Nature Park.

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Staring a week with a leisurely stroll in the nature – what could be better?

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“Nature park” means rather a forest than a park. So much the better.

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Saying hi to the birds who aren’t afraid at all.

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“I am the King of the Forest!”

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These guys could work as fashion models.

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Dogs are enjoying the morning stroll too.

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There are beautiful rocks with the lake in the middle of the park.

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I felt like staying there forever.

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The place emanates a surreal serene atmosphere. Or maybe I was just in a meditative mode that morning.

And what about work?

I let the wise Confucius deal with the question:

Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.

P.S. Photos courtesy of my friend Roop. Walking courtesy of my friends Roop and Fedya.

Kyoto (3): Fushimi-Inari shrine and Arashiyama park

In this last post on Kyoto I will cover briefly the magnificent Fushimi-Inari Taisha and the mystical Arashiyama.

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Fushimi-Inari Taisha is one of the most famous shrines in Kyoto. We were taken there at night by a local person.

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I am sure it looks splendid in daytime also, but at night it’s just breathtaking. Inari is the god of rice.

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Our exploration team is ready.

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An important ritual before entering the shrine premises.

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Taking a closer look at the shrine.

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Fox – the guardian of the place.

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The lack of tourists in this hour, the dim red colours and the full moon created a surreal atmosphere.

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The Shrine sits at the base of a hill. These orange torii (traditional gates) form a long corridor till the top. The torii were donated by successful businessmen since Inari is considered a patronage of business.

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A cute lantern.

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Foxes out on patrol.

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Due to the nature of the visit, I did most of the exploration at night. Another place we visited was Arashiyma historic site in Western Kyoto. In the photo above: on the island next to mount Arashi across the Oi river.

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On the bridge across the river.

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A huge red traditional decorative element.

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This looked like a restaurant and a bus station in the back.

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And finally we made it to the Arashiyama bamboo grove. It is said to be one of the most beautiful groves on Earth; wish I could see it in the morning too. Here how it looks in broad daylight.

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Having fun with new friends in the bamboo forest.

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Walking back along the river after a long day full of impressions.

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Time to get back to the airport. Arigato gozaimasu, Kyoto!

Kyoto (2): University, bicycles, and vending machines

Welcome to day 2 in the charming old capital of Japan.

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The day started queuing with school kids for a local bus ride to Kyoto University. 

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Kyoto streets in the morning.

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Kyoto University – one of the oldest in Japan.

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Serene student dormitories with bicycle parking.

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Must be a pleasure to hop on one of these after a class.

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I have never seen stone parking in my life. Very unusual.

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Sunset in town.

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Taking a local bus back in the evening. All the stations are announced in the screen. There are coin changing machines in front of each bus.

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Full of people!

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There are several types of trains in Kyoto: subway, urban (slow), inter-city (express).

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Taking a train ride to Arashiyama – the western outskirts of Kyoto.

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Going home.

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There are plenty of vending machines almost everywhere! Partially this is related to the automation trend, but there are other reasons too, like changes in the demographics and the labor market. VOX made an excellent post on Japan’s vending fashion.    

Day 2 is over!

 

Kyoto (1): Transport, Buddhist temple, and people

This September I had an opportunity to visit Kyoto, Japan.

Although the trip was academic and very short, I couldn’t miss the chance to explore – at least a beat – the old capital of Japan.

My first impression of Kyoto: many temples, shrines, bicycles, and very polite people.

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JR – Japan Rail. Let the journey begin!

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On my way to Kyoto from Kansai airport I decided to get off at Osaka (Shin-Osaka train station).

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In Japan you can find these super convenient automated lockers at train stations. They have different sizes and are easy to operate.

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I left my luggage and went to explore the Shin-Osaka station.

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Japanese people love automation. Ordering food from these screens is normal.

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Simple and enjoyable. I thought the tea in the pot is for drinking, but it turned out I had to pour it over the rice.

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A bookstore at the train station: many colourful books, magazines, children’s books.

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This is what I bought: a study book to learn kanji (Japanese characters). The main character is … Poop :). It is a bestseller for kids in Japan! More about this phenomenon can be found here.

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The modern architecture of the Kyoto train station.

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The Kyoto Tower just outside the Kyoto station at night.

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I didn’t go up, as it seemed too touristic.

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Catching a subway train from downtown. The subway is not to big, and it’s expensive.

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Here is a a subway map. Before entering the station, you can have a look at it to calculate the fare, and buy your from the ticket machine accordingly.  

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In case you you overpaid – either because you entered the wrong price, or got off earlier – you can get your change at these fare adjustment machines.

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The first glimpse of Kyoto: Karasuma street (one of the main streets) with the Buddhist temple and Kyoto Tower in the background.

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A big bird is guarding the temple.

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And another one at the entrance.

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A great place to jump into clam amidst the busy town. The temple is open to public for free.

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Karasuma street near the inn where I stayed. Although this is one of the mains streets, the traffic is not busy at all. Besides, many people use bicycles in Kyoto.

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There are many cyclists, although not so many bike lanes.

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Time to enjoy the dinner of soup, beef dish, and salad.

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This is a very typical eating place with the table going around the room in a square shape.

Good bye, day 1!