Wanderlust 2017: Built Not on Stability, But Change

We made it to our final stop in Germany, and I couldn’t have been more excited. I kept daydreaming about walking along the Berlin Wall seeing not only historical sites, but the artwork that has been created all over it.

Checkpoint Charlie

For many, when they hear Berlin, “Checkpoint Charlie” comes to mind. Checkpoint Charlie was the Berlin Wall crossing point between East and West Berlin during the Cold War. The only way to describe what it looks like today is gray. The scenery is gray, the streets are covered in gray, and the mood is gray – doesn’t help that it was raining.

The Brandenburg Gate and Victory Column

We saw quite a few historical sites, including Alexanderplatz and Carlottenburg Palace. But the two that stick out the most in my mind are the Brandenburg Gate and the Victory Column.

The gate is built on the site of an old city gate that marked the start of the road from Berlin to the town of Brandenburg an der Havel. It’s located in the western part of the city and is surrounded by embassies and government buildings.

The column, also located in west Berlin represents the Prussian victory against the Danish in the Danish-Prussian War.

Memorial to the Murdered Jews

We had the opportunity to stop over at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews in Berlin. The memorial was designed by Peter Eisenman and Buro Happold. There are 2,711 concrete slabs arranged in a grid pattern. The slabs vary in height and it’s quiet interesting to walk through and look at. It’s very deeply thought out as a stand alone piece of artwork and I recommend everyone to walk through.

The Berlin Wall

The Berlin Wall has many different environments in which it lives. Parts go through memorial parks, other parts aka the East Side Gallery go along the highway and river covered with art, and other parts do not exist and are represented with markings. It’s truly immaculate. Here are some of my favorite parts:

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The Matrix

One of the evenings, we went to The Matrix discotech. It was…interesting. As you walk around the corner of what seems to be an abandoned warehouse, men line the streets trying to sell you basically every drug under the sun. It was overwhelming and I walked really fast out of the fear that for some reason I would be taken…and ain’t nobody got time for that.

When you enter (free coat check), you are hit with a wall of humidity and your eyeline spans across a bunch of fist pumping metrosexuals. Every single man was metro and for me (I like a more manly man), it was the beginning of a nightmare.

But it wasn’t and I was just being dramatic. We had fun, the music wasn’t terrible, and the drinks weren’t very expensive. Also, every hotel has 50% admission tickets, so we paid $6 to get in (most places want $15-20 at the door).

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All in all, Berlin was pretty amazing. Now off to Amsterdam!!!

P.S., those looking for green in Berlin, it’s easy to find. This link describes exactly how to and what to expect. 

Wanderlust 2017: Jewel Box

We were heading back to Germany and I was extremely excited. At this point, I was loving my trip. I thought to myself about how I could easily travel forever – and would love to any day.

Our next destination was Berlin, but first, we were going to take a couple hour break in Dresden, Germany. Similar to the stops in Siena and the Tyrol Region, we had enough time to walk around the city at a fast pace and grab a bite to eat.

So, we obviously ate. We were hours out from Berlin and traveling makes you hungry (literally and figuratively).

But then we saw some sites in the historical city. According to Wikipedia (we didn’t have a tour guide and honestly, this was a city I had never heard of since I never paid attention in history class…oops), Dresden is the capital city of the royal residence for Electors and Kings of Saxoy. The city is known as the Jewel Box because of baroque and rococo city centre – something I can honestly say is gorgeous. Dresden was bombed near the end of World War II and 25,000 people died – mainly civilians.

Here are some pictures from the city – genieBen!

 

St. Pete Beach 

Yesterday I went for a long beautiful walk on St. Pete Beach around 5 PM. In the distance, you could see thunderstorms howling over the Gulf; I couldn’t help but notice how beautifully the sun would shine through the dark clouds despite the fact that a storm was roaring. Definitely put life and humanity into perspective. 

Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

Martin Luther King Jr.

Wanderlust 2017: Czech Yo’self Before You Wreck Yo’self

I totally wrecked myself in Prague. Since I had already visited this city, I had decided that I was going to lay low, rest up knowing it’s about the halfway point of the trip, and take it slow. I did no such thing.

Ice, Ice Baby

The first night in Prague, we went out to an Ice Pub near the Charles Bridge. I may have drank too much, including a shot of absinthe that knocked me on my ass. I may have also danced my life away until 4AM, but first, let me set the stage.

We, as a group, left the hotel to hop on the Metro and walk over to the club. It was downpouring and windy, we were dressed all cute, we were heading to bar made of ice.

Imagine this, a group of about 15 people running in the streets of Prague while it downpours and lightening hits all around us. Also imagine how drenched not only my shoes, but my entire everything was at the time. I was so irritated because it was one of the only times I actually put some effort into my hair – can’t win them all (also, I’m 100 percent aware of how much of a first world problem that really is).

We get on the Metro and ( still driving home the idea that) we are SOAKED we get to the club – or the “disco” as the Europeans say – they hand us mini jackets, then we head into a room made of ice. We get drinks that are in ice glasses. Hair starts to freeze, shoes start to stick to the ground, but it was so much fun.

Once we warmed up by drinking and moving around, we were ready to dance the night away. The bar has five different floors, all of which have a different theme. We ended up on the R&B and Hip Hop floor, which did not play either type of music, but more of current pop. The drinks started to flow, the dancing started unfold, the evening brought together a fun group of people, sweating away and constantly unsticking wet and sweaty clothes from their bodies. I had a blast.

Medieval Times

The next day I was pretty useless as you can imagine. We ran out and grabbed Chinese food, then I napped again. But I had scheduled to attend a Medieval Times-esq. dinner with some of the people in the group at u Pavouka. I’m so happy I had.

We showed up to a dusty basement decorated like a scene from Game of Thrones. We paid $55 for unlimited wine and beer and a five course meal. They brought out breads, appetizers, pork, soup, everything that you’d expect from this time. There was a fire breather, a lady with a snake (ew), pirates who randomly fought over only God knows what, and ladies who swing fire around while belly dancing.

We drank in excess (again), we laughed all night, and we enjoyed the show.

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So, no, I wasn’t the best tourist this time around. I missed the history. I never went back out to Old Town. I didn’t even get a magnet (something I collect from each location I go to), but it was one of the best times I’ve had with the group. I was also excited to have two totally different, yet satisfying experiences in Prague.

Once again, Prague, I love you. I’ll never forget you. And something tells me, I’ll be back again for round three.

Wanderlust 2017: Kenopsia

Kenopsia (noun): The eerie, forlorn atmosphere of a place that’s usually bustling with people but is now abandoned and quiet.

I want to keep this one short, but think it is extremely important to have a stand alone entry. On our way out of Munich heading to Prague, we made a stop at the Dachau Concentration Camp.

Dachau was the first Nazi concentration camp in Germany. It’s located about 10 miles outside of Munich and was built to force labor and imprison Jewish, German, and Austrian criminals, then eventually foreign nationals from countries that Germany invaded. The camp was liberated by U.S. forces in May of 1945.

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Image from Remember.org

I did not take any pictures out of respect for the memorial, but I recommend taking a visit to a concentration camp while traveling abroad. There is an ominous feel at every turn of the camp, as if you can still feel the lives that ended there still lingering.

For more information, check out https://www.kz-gedenkstaette-dachau.de/index-e.html

I had the opportunity to walk around the camp with my friend, Sydney. It was extremely emotional for her because she is tied so closely to her Jewish heritage. As we walked through the gates to head back to the bus, she said “we are so lucky we are able to leave”.

Wanderlust 2017: Work That Lederhosen, Baby

After a long stint in Italy and short stop in Austria, we ended up in Munich, Germany! When looking at the initial itinerary, I never would have thought that Munich would be my favorite location to date (minus the Greek Islands, which all of us agree felt as if the islands were a totally different vacation because we started with them).

Munich lies in the Bavarian part of Germany and is filled with a ton of World War II history.

Marienplatz

When you first get to Munich, you hear about Marienplatz, which is the main square where you can access any and all parts of the city via mass transit – but I didn’t really see much of a reason to leave the area. Anything and everything you could want or need can be found there. There’s also King’s Place, where there are a lot of political buildings and a lot of corporate offices have set up shop there over the recent years (I found my old employer’s Munich office during a tour and had a moment of excitement because it reminded me that though were were far from home, it’s never too far).

When you start to explore, you soon find how beautiful and large Munich really is. And it’s full of rich history and some fun stories – like the one where if you rub the three lion heads, you will have good luck (once again, I had to do this to ensure I was covered).

Not to mention, the architecture is gorgeous. We strolled all around Munich and saw castles, monuments to past kings, and World War II historical landmarks. I loved every second of it.

Hofbräuhaus am Platzl

On our first full day, the entire group went to the famous Haufbrauhaus. For the record, this is a beer I more often than not order when I find it on tap in the States, so I was stoked to see where the beer originated.

When you walk in, all you see are rows of huge wooden tables spanning a huge space and people walking around in lederhosens. We sat down, ordered pretzels (a must), and started our beer tour of Munich. Beer is such an important part of German history and was a way for so many politicians to come together with the people when making decisions that affected all the lives of those who lived in Bavaria.

Needless to say, we had a great time, drank to our hearts content, played with Snapchat filters, and loved our lives.

English Garden

With each city we visited, we had a guided tour that not only showed us the area but provided us with a lot of the city’s and country’s history. When we were done with our tour, our guide left us near the English Garden, which turned out to be a great way to spend our day.

We walked through these huge gardens where a river flowed through the middle. Surfers were shredding waves near one of the bridges, children ran around naked playing in the quay, and people laid along the river side enjoying their day off.

Chinesischer Turm

Then, we made it to the Chinese Gardens. I know it may seem weird that in Munich there are English gardens and Chinese gardens, but it really adds to why I love Munich so much – there’s a good amount of diversity and acceptance.

We sat down and housed a ton of food. And we’re not talking Chinese food; this was authentic German food that beer halls across America strive to replicate. The food and drink were a bit on the pricier side, but we were there for the experience and it was worth every penny.

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This was one of the first days in a very long time when we had time to enjoy the outdoors in a wooded setting. The gardens were gorgeous, the people were friendly, the food was delicious, and I felt at home.

Viktualienmarkt

One thing that I struggled with on this trip was the lack of exercise – don’t get me wrong, we walked close to eight miles a day, but it wasn’t the intense workouts I like to put  myself through. On the day of our tour, I genuinely intended to head to a spin class afterwards, get some laundry done, and just hang out. This did not happen.

We found ourselves drinking at 10AM through 7PM in Viktualienmarkt, which is the city’s gourmet food market. It’s quite a sight; wooden benches everywhere, people drinking early in the AM, people selling gourmet food, knicknacks, beverages, and anything else you could think of.

We drank, played cards, and really started to bond at this point. We were into our second week together – and when I say together, I mean we were ALWAYS together – and we had all figured out, for the most part, that we liked each other and wanted to spend time together. Thisis one of the main reasons why I suggest someone sign up for a group trip as a solo traveler. Munich is where I fell in love with my “fam”.

 

Munich is on the top of my list of cities to which I want to return. I was at my happiest there – the weather was just right, the beer was perfectly chilled, and the people were the people I wanted to be around. I could see myself living there too because the people were so warm and unlike how German’s are portrayed on television. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll learn how to speak German, move to Munich, and Oktoberfest all year long.

Wanderlust 2017: Castle On The Hill

Leaving Austria, we took a few hours to explore the Neuschwanstein Castle in Hohenschwagau, Germany. The castle was built for King Ludwig II of Bavaria, however he died only a couple years after it was finished, so he never had the opportunity to get comfy in the home he funded completely.

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This is the castle that inspired the design for Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle. It was extremely breathtaking and so much fun to experience since I grew up watching Disney as often as possible (and still do to this day).

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When you arrive to the little town below the castle, you have these amazing views  of the surrounding mountains and great hiking grounds. We did decide to hike up rather than take transportation up, since at this point in the trip a lot of us felt as if we were a bit stressed with the amount of travel we had experienced during the first leg of our trip. It was a great way to clear our heads, break a little sweat, and get some fresh air.

When you get up to the top, you are stunned by the beauty of your surroundings. The castle was gorgeous and the weather was perfect.

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Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take pictures of the interior of the castle, but you can check out the website to see the nineteenth century Romanesque Revival art and architecture. Our guide explained to us that Neuschwanstein Castle translates to Swanstone Castle, which made sense since King Ludwig II was known as the Swan King.

The interior had a ton of gorgeous woodwork – including swan designs and structures everywhere, but the part that stood out was the King’s throne room. The ceilings, floors, and walls were all decorated with biblical figures and stories. I remember standing in the throne room and realizing how much of an impact religion had been to the leaders of Europe’s past – something I find to be very different from what we experience in the United States.

After our tour, we hiked back down the hill, grabbed some schnitzel, and had a couple steins of beer. All in all, it was a great day trip on our way to Munich!

Wanderlust 2017: The Mountains Are Calling, So I Must Go

We had officially left Italy and were on our way to Germany! But first, we were going to spend an entire day traveling and stopping around the Tyrol Region in southwest Austria. This was the most exhausting day we had had since the inception the trip, but once we got to the area, it was worth lack of sleep.

Once we parked, half of the group went white water rafting – I normally would’ve been tempted, but I imagined my Austrian experience as one where I sit on top of a mountain in the Alps and drank an iced cold beer. AND I DID JUST THAT. We took a gondola up the mountain, and it was the steepest incline I had ever been on. Normally, I would’ve been freaking out about the angle and altitude, but there was something very relaxing about the experience.

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Once we got to the top, we found cows, goats, and a restaurant overlooking the Alps. Naturally, I spent a good amount of time with them since I prefer animals to people. At the top, we took in every angle, every which way the sun hit the mountains, the breeze, and the serenity that are the Alps. It was nothing short of immaculate.

Our next step was Innsbruck, the capital of the Tyrol Region, which populates around 120,000 people. The town was out of a fairy tale. Cobblestone streets, quaint restaurants, bars, hotels, and shops, and once again, a sense of calmness. There were other tourists, but it was unlike the bigger cities we had visited – it seemed we had all been taken aback by it’s beauty.

We didn’t have much time in Innsbruck, so we sat down, had a beer, then ran over to Cafe Saucher Wein to get their world famous original recipe chocolate cake – it was DELICIOUS! The original cake was made in Vienna, but each morning, cakes are sent over to the Innsbruck location.

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We got back on the bus and started to drive up a mountain, at a very steep angle too might I add, and we arrived at our motel. It was nestled into the mountains in a little town with three restaurants, two of which were closed by the time we got there. I was pooped, so I made a couple phone calls, enjoyed some wine, chatted with the roomies, then hit they hay. I knew we had a short time in this beautiful area, but I also knew I needed to listen to my body and get some rest.

I recommend visiting the Tyrol Region if you are a skier or a lover of the outdoors. The Alps in Austria put the Adirondacks in New York to shame. The mountains are great for hikes and camping, the rivers are great for rafting and fishing, and the fresh air is great for your inner peace.