Saturday, December 31, 2011

797. Travel Stories - Dresden and Berlin

As the hotels in Dresden and Berlin, Germany don't provide free internet access, I scribbled the following into my laptop and post it today at sunny hot Dubai Winchester Deluxe Hotel Apartment facing the GM on the receptionist table (only one plug here for laptop) at 10.45 am.

Overall, it had been quite a depressing tour - coldness, grey skies and the sadness of Auschwitz in Poland and the Berlin Wall in Germany. I prefer not to visit the "Killing Fields" of Cambodia, the "tunnels" of Vietnam as a person is expected to de-stress not to reflect on man's inhumanity. I had been to another Auschwitz some 40 years ago from London when I was much younger and one visit is enough. There are still atrocities and killings in some countries, even in this modern age and therefore I don't want to pay to see more historical killings.

It is better to write drafts rather than perfect reports as I don't have much time and if I have to publish only "good English" reports of my work and travels, I will not be able to be productive and will produce 10% of what you read.
Dec 31, 2011 Hotel ABACUS Tierpark Hotel Berlin 4.48 am Singapore time 11.48am
No free wireless even in reception space. In Berlin, I believe that most shops do not provide free wireless, including McDonald's. At Starbucks, one has to go to the Starbucks page and click "connect". If not, no free wireless. It was not automatic. I believe McDonald's has same situation for one hour surfing but I could not get into it "Hotspot".
TWO TIPS. Temperature 4 degree C and lower at night
1. This hotel has steam heating radiators. Don't forget to turn the dial as some of them are switched off and you wake up in a cold room.
2. In one Czech hotel, the maid had not closed the window 100%.. As the curtains were closed, I could not understand at first why the room was cold when I woke up and the thermostat did not seem to function.

Yesterday Dec 30, 2011
Berlin Wall - Guide Yoko - Drizzling
Afternoon - Shop at De Ka Wa. LV still popular. Rarely see Chinese national tourists in Belin today but Caucasian salesgirl could speak Mandarin having been to China for study. Her own sling bag (company staff only, not for sale). .
Dinner - Ming Garden Chinese Restaurant. I slipped when my right foot turned as I stepped on a tapering step downstairs to the Ming Garden Restaurant. One in the group disputed that dinner was in the itinerary as the first night, we had no dinner. Finally, we got Ming Garden and Marcus told us his efforts. He handed us the feedback form during lunch at another Chinese Restaruant. Today Dec 31, 2011, at 5 am we would wake up and leave Berlin at 7 am to drive to the Hamburg airport. Marcus would fly back to Singapore (tiring) and we would be in Dubai for two nights (free? accommodation at hotel). Apparently, a 10-hour flight (stopover in Colombo) instead of a 7-hour flight back to Singapore via Emirates. SIA is more expensive and so Emirates with its "free" stay n Dubai had our business for this East European Tour. Global competition for SIA is increasing as for all Singapore companies. Best Chinese dinner was at Ming Garden. Sweet and sour soup, green veg, pork, tou foo with chilli sauce, fruits (grapefruits, pineapples, oranges, apples). It was quite packed. The operator has some ideas on variety and good cooking.

Be frank and proactive and ask for good grades if you want a good feedback from your customers as Marcus had done so. Also he had served his free tea and home-made chilli. He had been extremely hardworking and entertaining. Not an easy job to handle 18 Singaporeans. He is a free-lancer. I gave him a point "5".in the feedback form sealed in a blue envelope. "You can always steam the envelope and open it," I said to Marcus. "Your company would never know." He also used blue envelopes to give tips to the local guides at 2 euros per tourist. Apparently, local guides (probably Gulliver Travels) are paid 200 euros/hour and so they are employed for half a day only.
Not a Japanese car is seen in Berlin's "Orchard Road." More Mercedes. VW

Dec 29, 2011
Prague to Dresden - Guide Sylvia - great story teller, enthralled group more than other guides. Natural. Examples:
1. A stork statute. I could not take a photo fast enough as the bus drove too fast or I was too slow.
"Stocks carry babies," she asked how many of us knew this. Four hands went up. I knew it too. Sylvia said: "In one tour, a gentleman asked what gender the stocks were," she asked us. We didn't know. "The gentleman said the stock was male," Sylvia said. "Female stocks can't stop talking and talking and would have dropped the babies!" Sexist reply? Sylvia said: "I slapped him real hard on behalf of all women."

2. Audi. Sylvia said that Audi was originally named Horsch. "Nobody could pronounce Hor.." she said in a coughing voice. "I want to buy a Hor..Hor.Haw..Haw." Since it was difficult, the prospective buyer would say "Never mind, give me a Benz!". So the name was changed to Audi which is easy to pronounce.

3. "Be careful, there is a dangerous shop there. Don't let the women go in!" Sylvia said as we crossed the road to more monuments. I was wondering whether the shopkeeper was going to scam us. Some foreign exchange shops in Prague would display a good exchange rate and when you enter, the rates would be different and unfavourable. The group paid attention to a small lit jewellry shop called "Lights" or some similar sound. Sylvia said" "It is dangerous for the men's (wallets) as the women would buy all the things there."

4. One luxury VW car shown by her. I took a picture. 65% are produced and sold to China. VW was profitable in 2011. It has acquired other car brands too and Audi is one of them.

5. FEEDBACK AND COMPLAINTS. Sylvia knows how to address any potential complaints by humour. As Marcus handed over his usual blue envelope of tips to her, she pointed to a gold figure on top of a statue and said that it can hear all complaints about her and report to her as this figure is omnipresent. I doubt anyone would complain about her efforts and humour as you can see from one image I took where she captured the attention and evoked the smiles of 15/19 of the group with her pictures of the history and her condemnation of the politicians who tore down heritage buildings in the recent years. "What was not bombed had been torn down by the politicians," she said. "So Dresden looks very modern and new."

Singaporeans seem to be her group. "You may see me in Singapore if I go there,"she told us. She's an architect and had lived in various cities but lived longer in Dresden. When I asked about the horse carriage tours, she said not to take the tour as the guide will not give accurate tour info. A man and a boy was playing an instrument on the road side. "Gypsies from Romania," she told me. "European Union permits free travel for EU citizens." I asked when she said hello to a big man at a stall: "Is the man selling mineral stones a gypsy?" She said: "No."

An image of Sylvia is posted for readers. You can learn much from Sylvia in your working life.

"Be passionate in your work" by research and know how to present in an entertaining relevant manner. The customer can sense or at least smile when you lecture on the dull historical facts. For example, "Ladies will like this handsome king..." We remember her and her presentation in our images and mine and none of the historical kings of Prussia etc. We had a fun time.

You can see my tour manager Marcos also listening to her stories. I was taking pictures as there was no time and did not appear in the picture. Another couple and one other Singaporean were wandering off taking pictures. That is why there were 15/19.

An image of a tour dog. Another tour guide with Caucasian tourists. Asian and Singapore tourists seldom are interested in European history, kings and queens. More into shopping and more shopping. So, the European tour guide may need to entertain rather than inform because arts and culture is not part of the Asian culture compared to the general Europeans and Americans, in my opinion.

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