Wandering Basel: The Tinguely Museum

This weekend has been a quiet one. Chris left very early on Saturday and after another month of back-to-back travel, I figured I was due for a weekend’s worth of hanging around Basel. Next week is the start of the Basel autumn fair, so you can see pieces of the fair being assembled around town, including an enormous blink and it appeared ferris wheel.

Today, I decided to continue my ongoing tour of Basel and made a visit to the Tinguely Museum. In full transparency, I was going to do the zoo, but the penguins don’t come back until December (according to the website). In any case, the Tinguely Museum is dedicated to the Swiss artist Jean Tinguely, who is known for his moving metallic pieces of art.

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You see his art work scattered in different places throughout the city, but this one has many more. It walks you through the history of his work, starting with his biography and early work and ending with the absolutely haunting Mengele – Dance of Death, which is one of his later works.

The museum is also moderately interactive in that there are buttons that you can press to make the machines move. The machines are a little slow to react and don’t always respond. I think that’s intentional so people don’t wear out the machines, but they are pretty fun to watch.

There are also some scattered videos, including footage from the self-destructive machine he made in New York.

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The machines of the museum vary quickly from fanciful to creepy to delightfully steampunk.

The big machine at the center of it all is a giant machine you can walk in and out of. This one did go off when I was in it and it was absolutely delightful.

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Tinguely did a lot of machines where you could attach a felt pen and have it draw something for you. For 3CHF, you can buy a blank piece of paper, a coin, and the two very fun minutes where you get to make the machine move and draw something for you. Obviously, I had to do it.

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The end result looked like a scribble, but it is my Tinguely scribble.

In any case, the Tinguely Museum is a fascinating museum and well-worth the visit.

Exploring Amsterdam

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We had quite an epic food and soccer centric weekend in Amsterdam. When we weren’t eating or watching soccer, we were taking pictures of canals. I have SO MANY pictures of canals. It was quite of amazing. In a strange way, it was also the most Bay Area-esque time I’ve had since I left the Bay. It could be the hyper-millennial brunch of avocados, the craft brewery, boba (!!), or even barcade that made me feel like I was experiencing a bit of home. Also important-esque of note. I’m separating out all of the food stuff we did. That’s worth a post of its own.

We got into Amsterdam late Friday night/early Saturday morning. Our flight was delayed, so we ended up leaving Basel around the time we were supposed to land. Fortunately, it’s incredibly easy to get from the Amsterdam Schipol Airport to the city center, even when you do arrive at 12:30 am. We stayed at the Renaissance Hotel, which was about a 10 minute walk from the train station.

We started our Saturday with brunch, which was across town. While we didn’t get out of the hotel too early, I noticed on this trip that the city center does not wake up that early. Even at 9(ish), the streets were pretty empty. It made for a peaceful morning.

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After our brunch, we went to Albert Cuyp Market because 1) I love markets and 2) there was clearly more food that we had to eat immediately after we ate brunch. There was a little more to the market than just food. There were flowers, clothes, furniture, electronics, etc. While I could have gotten more if I tried (I was drawn to the purse stand), we only really bought Netherlands soccer scarves to add to our ever-growing collection.

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We walked back to our hotel shortly after that for a short break before our walking tour of Amsterdam. We did our tour with FreeDam Tours, who I would highly recommend should you need a good tour of Amsterdam. The tour we went on focused less on the sightseeing and more on the history and culture of the city. This meant we spent a lot of the time in the city center understanding the historical background of the Red Light District and Amsterdam’s permissiveness (not legalization, which I always forget) of marijuana. We also saw some pretty things, though.

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The rest of our Saturday involved dinner in Chinatown,  a post dinner/tour break at the hotel, and the soccer game.

We had a later start on Sunday, leaving after packing up our stuff and enjoying the hotel breakfast buffet. We had a pretty busy itinerary planned for our morning and early afternoon. We started with a walk out through the scenic Jordaan neighborhood to the Anne Frank House. We didn’t have the time to stay in the line to get into the house, but we did see the nearby statue of Anne Frank and the Homomonument (memorializing the LGBT people killed during the Holocaust).

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From there, we did a tour through the Flower Market, where Chris briefly considered buying tulip bulbs to bring home with him.

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We had about 30 minutes before the frites stand we wanted to go to opened, so we went to Rembrandt Square. Our tour guide had mentioned it the day before. What made me want to see it the most was the fact that it’s full of a statues representing his paintings and that people take goofy selfies with them. Probably not the intention of the people who designed a lovely tribute to the artist, but I was sold. For some reason, it got crowded there immediately after we arrived, so we had to do some creative angles to take our pictures.

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Chris had to drag me away from Rembrandt’s Square, but it was fine because we followed it up with the best fries I’ve had in a while.

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Another thing that our tour guide told us about was that there is a barcade in a former Red Light District spot. It was a small footnote of a larger story about how the city has been trying to clean up human trafficking, but he mentioned a barcade and we were all over it. We got ourselves Heinekens (because when in Amsterdam…) and spent the next hour and a half playing arcade games. There was a lot of pinball in particular, but we did end with a throwback to our days playing Bubble Bobble against each other at the Student Center in UCI.

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We ended our tour of Amsterdam with a long walk out of the city center to the Brouwerij’t IJ. It’s a brewery next to the big windmill in the city. In what may have been a throwback to our previous weekend, we had some sausage and beer at the brewery.

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We had to rush back from the brewery because we hit it very close to the time we had for late checkout, but we did make it and had a pretty smooth trip to the airport.

When we went to Amsterdam ten years ago on our backpacking tour, I didn’t really appreciate the city that much. The beautiful canals played second fiddle to the weird feeling that the city seemed a lot more “bro-friendly” than we expected. I guess the fact that we spent the first few hours of our stay waiting in line at the train station for them to figure out how to fix the Eurail pass that Gianni accidentally washed with his pants didn’t help. It could have also been our creepy store friend. Whatever it was, we didn’t appreciate Amsterdam at the time. It truly is a beautiful and fun city.

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Netherlands v. Germany

We knew that we would be throwing some soccer trips into the mix this year. I suppose you could call our Alsace weekend back in July the first one, but now we can actually say that we’ve seen a European soccer game live. About a month before Chris got here, he asked if we wanted to see one of the fall national team games. The European national teams are doing the UEFA Nation’s League right now and after going through match schedules, decided on a weekend in Amsterdam to watch the historic Netherlands v. Germany rivalry. Beyond the fact that this is one of the big rivalries, we figured it would also be cool to see two national teams that are trying to rebuild after pretty big blows (The Netherlands, for those of you not paying attention, also did not qualify for this year’s World Cup). Also, the logistics for this game were the easiest.

The other big thing we needed to figure out was what to wear. We were behind a goal post, which may have meant we were seated in a fan zone. Which one, we didn’t know, so we felt we should dress neutral. For us, that meant wearing our US jerseys. I did briefly think about wearing my South Korea MNT shirt, but thought there may still be hard feelings on the German side.

Getting to the stadium was an adventure. It’s not that hard to get to the Ajax stadium from the city center as it’s along the Metro line. The train, however, was jam-packed with people in Netherlands orange singing soccer chants. Chris was the happiest I’ve ever seen him on a crowded and hot subway train.

Finding the entrance was another challenge. The stadium is enormous and it took us a while to find the right entrance. I will say, even if it’s not my team, it was refreshing to go to a home game for a national team and not be vastly outnumbered by fans of the away team. It’s not something to take for granted, especially in the games against their USMNT’s own rival.

One line, one very invasive pat down, and several escalators later, we did eventually make it to our seats with about ten minutes to spare before the game. As suspected, we were near the German supporters section, but weren’t in it. Other than scattered Germany jersey’s, we were otherwise in a sea of orange and probably didn’t need to stay that neutral in the end.

The game was a lot of fun. The energy was exhilarating. We sat next to some pretty die hard Dutch fans and spent most of half time talking to them about various topics (mostly about the rivalry and the US). The Netherlands got a goal about two thirds into the first half and then scored two more towards the end of the game. We almost missed both because we had considered leaving at the 80th minute to avoid the crowds exiting the stadium. Glad we didn’t. Chris said it’s the first time the team beat Germany in 15 years, which is kind of crazy. The CraleaBump is real.

Getting out of the stadium and back to the city center was also entertaining. There were so many people lined up to get tickets that they ended up just opening up the gates and letting people through. There was also a BTS concert getting out around that time, so the trains were incredibly crowded. Once we got back, we grabbed some late night frites and went back to the hotel.

There will be more soccer trips in the works. Chris had to rearrange his travel schedule a little, which means we may have slightly different game options available to us. At some point, we’ll also do FC Basel.

Exploring Munich

I love Munich. Granted, my memories of Munich from ten years ago mostly consist of the Narnia-like hostel/campground we stayed at, where we ate delicious sausages, played Machiavelli with strangers and sat around a campfire every night. We were such stereotypical backpackers.

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I mean, look those young fools.

Needless to say, despite the fact that we are apparently now too old to stay at the Tent (also, Chris would never stay there), I was very excited to come back. This time around, our tour Munich was planned around Oktoberfest, but we still managed to get a surprising amount of things done. Because hotels were incredibly expensive for the weekend, we stayed at a hotel near the airport. It meant that getting to and from town was a bit of an adventure each day. It wasn’t that hard to get there; it just took a while.
Saturday

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We spent a lot of our time on Saturday at and around Marienplatz, which is the main town square with town hall. We got there just after 11 and managed to just miss the glockenspiel performance. We walked around the square and then made our way to the Frauenkirche (the big church that looks like onions). We didn’t go into the church for whatever reason, but we did make sure that we got a picture of Chris next to the model of Munich that really upset Andrew for whatever reason ten years ago.

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From there, we walked to a small square a few minutes away, where there is an ongoing memorial to Michael Jackson.

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We got back with a few minutes left before noon, so we and many other people waited for the glockenspiel performance to start. As the clock struck, it seemed a little Black Mirror-esque to see many people staring at a clock with their phones up, especially since it took a few minutes for it to start.

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Other than Oktoberfest, we saw a few other churches and stayed primarily around the old town for the day. The first was St. Michaels Church, which Chris was excited to find out was a Jesuit Church.

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The second was a church, Asam church, which we saw much later in the day that was very small but incredibly ornate.

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Beyond that and our failed attempt at doing a walking tour in the late afternoon, our Saturday was more centered around Oktoberfest and recovery from Oktoberfest than anything else.
Sunday

Our Sunday was met with some failures. Despite the fact that we had what we thought was a pretty early start, we didn’t get into the city center until after the 10:45 walking tour we wanted to join left. Our second option was to spend a foodie day and eat our way around the Viktualien Market. Unfortunately, it was a Sunday and most of the food stalls were closed. We had some weisswurst for breakfast and briefly considered, but ultimately did not go to Eataly Munich before deciding to just do our own walking tour of Munich.

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The maypole of Viktualien Market and some Pokemon hunters.

On our way out from Marienplatz, we passed by a small street, which is one of the few things that I did remember from our tour ten years ago and had wanted to find again. It’s a small and unassuming street with a large bronze streak down the middle. The street was a path that people would take so that they would avoid having to give to salute Nazi guards. It is a simple yet powerful homage to resistance.

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From there, we walked to Feldherrnhalle and made our way to the nearby Hofgarten.

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From there, we walked over to Englischer Garten, which is a pretty large park in the middle of Munich. We walked around in the middle of the park a little bit. From my Rick Steves marathoning, I correctly thought that this is the park that people surf in and we eventually did find the surfers. This marks the second time since I got here to Europe that I’ve seen people surf in places that aren’t the ocean.

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We made our way back out of the park and to Siegestor, which is a large triumphal arc, and through what must have been a university area of town before Chris got us to an Alice in Wonderland-themed ice cream shop, which we ate before our lunch.

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We had lunch reservations, so we could actually have a non-Oktoberfest Bavarian meal. Our reservations were at Ratskeller Munich, a historic beer hall under town hall. The food was hearty and delicious. I had the pancake soup and spicy sauces (that weren’t ~too~ spicy, but were still delicious). Chris had potato soup and absolutely delicious pork knuckles. We ate well and were pretty full the rest of the day.

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We left for the airport from there, stopping first at our hotel to pick up our luggage. We somehow made it to the airport with a lot of time to spare. It was enough time for me to convince Chris that we definitely needed a second Oktoberfest beer stein and then to win a free glass of sparkling wine. Overall, it was a fun trip to Munich.

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Oktoberfest 2018

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We survived Oktoberfest. It’s always been one of those annual events that I never thought I’d attend and then quickly became a bucket list item for my year here in Europe.

The first thing I was told when I told people that I was going was that we absolutely had to dress up because it wouldn’t be fun without it. We were also told that most people there would be dressed up. We didn’t believe this at first while we were waiting for the train and no one else was dressed up, but eventually saw that about a third of the people wandering Munich over the weekend were dressed up. I guess the alternative would have been that we would have stood out just a bit.

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After exploring Munich a little in the morning and early afternoon, we made our way over to the festival grounds. Chris was told in advance that Oktoberfest is a “state fair on crack.” I guess what I expected consisted of rows and rows of beer halls. That was there, as well as rides, food booths, souvenir booths, and games.

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We had some time before our reservation, so we wandered around the Oktoberfest grounds for a while. Our ultimate goal was to find a ride that Chris would be able to ride. We were eyeing the Ferris wheel and slowly inched our way towards it. Unfortunately, the line was “miss our reservation” long, so we skipped out on that and opted for the least offensive looking roller coaster. It was fast, fun, and we were a little dizzy at the end.

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After we stumbled off the ride, we made our way back to our tent for our reservation. You can only get beer at a table and those tables get packed fast. You can reserve spaces or try to wing it and get in, but it’s hard to do the later. We were too late to the game to get an evening reservation, which is why we went during the day. Choosing a tent is also apparently a big deal. I knew we would have been absolutely miserable in one of the larger tents, so I looked for a small/medium tent. The one we ended up in was pretty intimate. It couldn’t have fit more than 50 people. It was perfect for us.

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In addition to our liters of beer, we also got some food. We got obzada, which is a spicy bavarian cheese dish and weisswurst (white sausage). The white sausages looked a lot less appealing than they actually were. You eat them with this delicious sweet honey, too.

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We hung out there for about an hour eating food, working on our beers, and listening to music that sounded like German Jimmy Buffett. It was a lot of fun, but we couldn’t do more than one of the beers each. Chris couldn’t even finish his. I had to.

We wandered around Oktoberfest a little while longer and bought one of the heart-shaped cookies that we saw everywhere. We wanted the one that just said “Sorry” but they didn’t have it in the smaller size. Instead, we got the “Alles gute” cookie.

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We eventually left Oktoberfest because we wanted to try to make it back to Marienplatz in time for a 4 pm tour of Munich. I don’t know if many people leave Oktoberfest early to go on an organized history tour of the city, but that is what makes us special. Unfortunately, they capped out of space just as we got there. I think it was for the best, though. I was not wearing the right shoes for all of the walking we had done and would not have been happy at the end of the 3 hour tour of Munich.

Instead, we wandered around the Old Town for a little while. We had dinner reservations for 7, but ended up heading back to the hotel a little earlier than that because we were still not hungry at all and had beer headaches. We ended up dining on the not-Pringles from Migros and spending the night watching BoJack Horseman on Netflix.

Oktoberfest was a lot of fun at the end of the day, but we didn’t end up lasting as long there as we planned. Had I known that we wouldn’t have spent ~too~ much time at Oktoberfest, I would have swapped our Saturday and Sunday and spent our long day touring the city. It all worked out, though. We missed out on the walking tour (but did our own) and, more sadly, missed the Viktualien Market when the food stalls were actually open. We’ll save it for the next time we’re in Muncih.

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The Swiss Life: Reflecting on 3 Months

We hit the three month mark a couple days ago and it’s still crazy how fast time flies. The days are starting to get shorter, the skies are turning more gray and I think the number of people floating down the Rhine has gone down to zero. I guess it’s officially fall.

The past month has been good, with a number of trips both within and outside of Switzerland. Things like the trash system (which should post about at some point) that once seemed so different have become normal. And it doesn’t hurt that I’ve had Chris here for the past couple of weeks.

I’ve been taking German lessons and have been on the painfully slow self-imposed quest of reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone in German.

And yet, despite having lived in a country on the metric system for a quarter of a year, I still cannot do the Fahrenheit-Celcius conversion. Ask me again in three months maybe 🤷

Weekend in Zermatt

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Happy Mean Girls day. We spent the past weekend in Zermatt, which is where the Matterhorn is. That, in addition to the fact that the town is picture perfect, means that we essentially spent another weekend in Disneyland.

We got into Zermatt late Friday night after a three hour train ride from Basel. We got in so late that they had to leave a key for us at our hotel so we could check in. The cool thing was that it was just dark enough that you could see the outline of the Matterhorn even at midnight.
Day One

After waking up to a perfect view of the Matterhorn and the sounds of the Valais sheep hanging outside of our window below and then immediately causing a ruckus at breakfast (99% me), we made our way into town to catch the cogwheel train up to Gornergrat. It’s about a forty minute ride up, during which you essentially make your way up the mountain and winding your way around the Matterhorn. Once you get all the way up, you get spectacular views of the Alps. You’re also high enough that you can see snow. You expect to see it, but it’s still kind of weird.

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We climbed up to the observatory for a little bit to take some goofy Instagram-worthy photos of each other with the great views behind us. You even a get view of what I am now calling my okapi pants.

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After our mountaintop photo shoot was completed, we did a somewhat impromptu hike down the mountain. We weren’t really wearing the right shoes, so we lasted about an hour (ish) of the hike. Chris was wearing worse shoes for the hike than I was (I was at least in running shoes). The views were spectacular and I was sore from this hike longer than I was sore from the half marathon.

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We made it to the next train station down the mountain before deciding that it was time to call it a day with the hike. I saw a lake a little further down the mountain and could tell it was a good photo op, so I made the very painful hike down the mountain while Chris waited up top. I think Chris missed out on the amazing view of the Matterhorn reflected in the lake, but I guess he also didn’t have to hike back up that portion of the mountain and he certainly didn’t almost fall into said lake while trying to take the photo.

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We dragged ourselves back up to the train station just in time for the train to get there. It was almost one by that time and we were pretty hungry. We saw a few restaurants the next train stop down the mountain, so got off there. Unfortunately, those restaurants weren’t open since they were closed for off-season. We knew there was a restaurant at the top of Gornergrat, so we got on the next train up to try to eat there. Unfortunately, the ticket only works once, so we had to turn around and get back on the train down.

We were about one stop away from the starting station but ended up going on a truly impromptu hike. The problem was that I had been reading about some great restaurants in Findeln, which is a little higher than Zermatt. I got the names mixed up and dragged Chris off the train stop at Findelbach, where there most definitely were not restaurants. We decided to just hike down to town instead of wait for the next train. It didn’t look that far, at least. There was a nice waterfall and the views of Zermatt weren’t too bad either.

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Eventually, we did make it down to Zermatt. We were pretty tired and hungry by that point, so we ended up at a pub of all places for lunch (Brown Cow). A lot of people seemed to rave about the burgers there. We both got the Zermatt burger (cheese and bacon), which was quite delicious. Between the burgers, the beer, the fact that they were playing Tallest Man on Earth and the soccer on TV, we were quite happy.

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We dragged ourselves back up to our hotel and recovered from hiking for a while. We also tried out the sauna at our hotel, which reminded me of the height of the summer here in Basel. It felt pretty nice though and, somehow, worked up our appetite for dinner, where we went back into town for Swiss food. We got fondue, of course. I’ve also found out that it’s not gross to eat the crispy cheese at the bottom of the pot (Chris and I call it the cheese nurenji), so I felt somewhat vindicated. At least, that’s what the internet says.

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Day Two

Our initial plan for Sunday was to try out the mountain carts, so we could channel our inner Mario Kart characters. We ate breakfast, checked out, stored our stuff in the train station lockers, and made our way up hill to what we thought was the station that would get us up the mountain to the mountain carts. Unfortunately, we found out when we got to the cable car station that we went to the station on the wrong side of town. We were hit by a wave of laziness mixed with the soreness from the hikes from the day before and just decided that we would take a trip up Klein Matterhorn instead.

The tickets to get up the Klein Matterhorn are not cheap (thanks, Half Fare Card), but half of the adventure is the trip up. It takes a cable car and two very pack gondola rides to make it to the top of the mountain. Along the way, you pass by Gornergrat and realize how insanely high you actually are.

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We were a little light headed by the time we got to the top. We also very much underestimated how cold it’d be on top and were probably not adequately dressed for it. We managed, though. We spent a minute or two in the cinema space, where you can watch videos of the area while sitting in little eggs, before we made our way to the observation deck. Unfortunately, the clouds had come in to cover what would have been a fantastic view of the Matterhorn, but it didn’t cover all the views.

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Klein Matterhorn was a little more focused on skiers, which neither of us are, and the glacier attraction was closed, so we didn’t end up spending too much time on top. We hung around the gift shop and walked around a little more before heading back down to Zermatt.

We made it with enough time to take the train back that we wanted to take, so we grabbed some kebabs from a local kebab shop and made our way to the train station.

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This time around, we got to enjoy the views on the train between Zermatt and Visp that we missed on the way up to Zermatt, which meant more cows, sheep, and mountain views. The downside of the train ride is that it’s a little rickety.

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All in all, our trip to Zermatt was kind of fantastic. The town truly is like a little Alpine Disneyland and things aren’t cheap there (even in off-season), but the views were quite spectacular. It’d be nice to see the area covered in snow, but I appreciated the mild crowds and the bearable weather at the end of the day.

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