All posts filed under: Europe

Berlin: Shopping, Zoo, and Live shows

For the shoppers out there, Berlin offers a plethora of retail therapy ranging from rustic indie shops to international brands like Zara and H&M.  One of the more glamorous shopping districts is französische strasse which translates into “French street.”  As the name suggests, you can find high end boutiques and the giant Galeries Lafayette French department store.  To boast it’s “Frenchness” there is a very prominent Eiffel Tower erected right in the middle of the multi-leveled store.  Another cool shopping district is Kurfürstendamm.  An extremely length strip lined with both high end and lower end stores and everything in between.  You’d probably need a full day to cover all the grounds.  Even if you aren’t a keen shopper, there are things like gourmet food stores, cafes, and architecture to check out in the area. The shot taken below with the two pyramid structures are actually bird cages.  If you look closely, you can see the little canaries sitting inside.  While in Berlin someone recommended checking out the ‘oldest zoo in the city.’  Well… it is …

Berlin: East Side Gallery – the Iconic Wall of Graffiti

One of the coolest attractions in Berlin is definitely the East Side Gallery.  It’s not your typical posh display of art from distinguished artists behind glass frames.  This one is expressionist art in its rawest form.  The best part?  It’s free. The coolest part?  It fuses history with modernity in the most organic way possible.  A 1.3km stretch of the original Berlin wall located on Mühlenstraße along the river spree. The Gallery consists of 105 paintings by artists from all over the world, painted in 1990 on the east side of the Berlin Wall.  The paintings at the East Side Gallery document a time of change and express the euphoria and great hopes for a better, more free future for all people of the world Due to the open nature of the gallery, vandalism and erosion is visible on every piece of artwork on the concrete slabs.  People freely scribble on the walls like it was the side of some high school desktop.   Not gonna lie, my friends and I made a small mark …

Berlin: Popular Tourist Spots

One of my favorite things to do in Berlin was just wandering around aimlessly.  Some of the coolest hidden gems are not plastered all over tourist pamplets, and you have to find them yourself or get locals to show you around.  Here are some random tidbits that I captured around the city.    boxoffBerlin is chock full of cool little gadgets and souvenirs.  Instead of your usual tacky magnet or postcard, their stock has a very distinct Berlin feel which is grundgey, rebellious, and artistic.  If you are looking for Berlin gifts or things to put around your house as decor, this is the place to shop.  Just a few steps away from boxoffBerlin is Checkpoint Charlie, the crossing point between East and West Berlin.  It’s a pretty well-known tourist spot and the guards are really there just for show. You can take a picture with them (for a fee).  Nothing too special.  The monument I pass by all the time near Friedrichstrasse on my way to the library where I study.  As recommended by a …

Berlin: Jewish Museum & Charluttenburg Castle,

Our second excursion was to the Jewish Museum in Berlin.  Most people would instantly think this is a museum dedicated to the tragedy of the Holocaust, but actually it goes beyond the piece of history that we are all familiar with and goes deeper by taking visitors through a chronological journey of Jewish history before and after the Third Reich. The museum aims to broaden our perception of Jews in Germany by educating visitors on their culture, lifestyles, and important historical figures.  The building itself is designed by the same architecture behind the Royal Ontario Museum – David Libeskind.  People who are familiar with the ROM should be able to see some similar styles between the two buildings.  One of my favorite rooms is this gigantic sun room near the entrance.  I remember it being a very hot day and the heat from the rays made this glass covered room feel like an oven.  Did I mention most buildings in Berlin do not have air conditioning?  One of my favorite quotes.  One simple sentence can …

Berlin: Activities & Sightseeing – Flea Markets, TV Tower and mobs

One of the first places I visited in Berlin was a popular flea market in Mauerpark on Eberwalder str. (get off U-bahn Bernauer Str.).  It’s a great place to check out on Sundays when most shops are closed in Berlin.  The flea market is HUGE and complete with a large array of food trucks and every possible object you can imagine.  Everything from clothes to tribal jewelry to lamps and typewriters. Here’s a snack cart that was churning out freshly sliced and deep fried potato chips on skewers Rows and rows of STUFFFF I thought these old school cameras were kind of cool. While most stalls were nicely set up and attempted to be visually attractive, this corner just was the junk pile where one man’s trash becomes another man’s treasure.  I only really glanced at most of the stuff as I always had to keep in mind my limited luggage space but if I had spent more time diligently sorted through the boxes, I think I’d find some real gems. This is the view …

Germany: Good Eats Pt 1 (Street Food & Cafes)

The first part of the Germany Series is, of course, food!  I think there’s no better way to experience a new culture than to delve right into their gastronomy. The majority of food spots I post will be from Berlin since I stayed there the longest. Berlin is a fast moving city, and you especially notice it in high traffic metro stations such as Alexander Platz or Friedrichstraße. As such, they are densely lined with on-the-go cafes and food stops for customers to grab a quick bite. Berlin’s plethora and variety of street food was one of my favorite aspects about the city.   German sausages, called wurst (pronounced vurst), are one of the most popular street menu items and are usually served on a bun.  The most noticeable difference, as you can see, are that the sausages are massively disproportionate to the bun.  But it doesn’t matter because the wurst is the best part.  My first wurst was at a the Mauerpark Flea Market on Eberwalder str.  (get off U-bahn Bernauer Str.) The other …

The Germany Series

I studied in Berlin, Germany for about 6 weeks and within that short period of time, I fell in love with the city.  I learned a lot about Berlin’s history and culture as I experienced it day by day, exploring different landmarks, sampling food, and interacting with the locals.  The history that is intertwined with the rejuvination of modern Berlin is something that I found so fascinating and I want to share all my experiences here for my readers.   I thought carefully about how I should go about blogging my adventures in Germany.  In the end, I decided the best way to do this was to break it down into categories.  Over the next while, I’ll be publishing posts on Germany’s gastronomy, places of interest, sightseeing, and other noteworthy experiences I had during my stay 🙂 Stay tuned!

Sampling Tapas in Barcelona!

Our next stop was Barcelona, Spain.  This city surprised me in so many ways.  Not only was it very clean with a developed subway system, but the it had an uplifting sort of spirit which made me want to bust out patterns, prints and all sorts of bright colors to match the mood.  Our flight arrived at a really awkward time so we decided to join our hostel’s walk about tour to get a feel of the city before we went exploring on our own.   Our first stop was Las Ramblas, the most famous street in Barcelona.  Apparently there’s not much to it except for a fact that all the tourists flock there.  The streets are lined with restaurants and retail stores and some works of art from Gaudi tucked in the corners.     We then went about admiring some of the Spanish architecture      There are two typical things that a tourist wants to try while in Spain: Tapas and paella.  Think of tapas as Spanish appetizers.  The Spanish usually hop …

Santorini Day 2: Sailing, Volcano climbing, Donkey taxis & Sunsets in Oia

We only had two days in Santorini and we were intent to squeeze as much fun out of this little island as possible by signing up for an intense all day tour.  We fueled up at our favorite local cafe with savory crepes, and greek yogurt with muesli.    The crepe was perfectly toasted and satisfying    Our first stop was hopping on board this awesome sail boat and heading towards our first stop… a volcano.  Yes, we were about to climb a volcano.   Pro tip: sandals or flip flops are NOT a good idea.  It was painful enough for me walking up with sneakers, I can’t imagine how bad it would be in flip flops.  Fortunately the air was dry because it was pretty darn hot hiking up these steep rocky hills.    I don’t fare so well in high altitudes so this was quite challenging for me.  But when we reached the top, I was really taken back by the natural scenery.  You only see this stuff on TV and books right?  Experiencing …

Rome Day 2: Vatican City, Sistine Chapel, and the Pope!

We got up at 6am and starting lining in front of Vatican City by 7am.  Vatican City is the smallest internationally recognized independent state in the world, with a population of less than 1,000 and governed by the Pope.  We were lucky enough to be walking distance from our hostel, but even so, we were already greeted by a line up of early birds waiting by the entrance.  Minute by minute the line grew exponentially!  My advice is definitely go as early as possible!  And wear conservative clothes, they have strict policies.   Our main objective was to hit up the Vatican Museum which can also get packed very quickly.   Beautiful collection of sculptures and artwork The Sistine Chapel was definitely the highlight of our trip to the museum.  It is not large by size, but what makes this place famous is the art that sweeps every corner of the interior graced by none other than the Michelangelo himself.  Renown pieces such as The Last Judgement and The Creation of Adam are housed within …