Author: Sarah (Page 1 of 5)

I might be lost. But it’s worth it.

It’s this period of life. Throwing life up in the air and hoping it comes down in a manner that frames you in the best light possible. I’m taking this pause from lesson planning, job applications and graduate school applications to put down a few words on this blog since I haven’t in, well, years. I feel as if I’m at a the precipice of a future that could turn out to either be great or disappointing — what a great time to revisit an online version of myself from a year and half ago.

This space used to be so close to my heart, a dream finally bursting to fruition. And now, in a world that is overcrowded with travel videos/photos/promotions, it seems more like an escape from the reality of life; the reality of applications and electric bills and trying to fit a yearly visit to extended family into a year with only 365 days.

I’ve reached a point where moving and traveling is more normal than not. If we count all the times I packed everything I owned into a suitcase or car last year, I moved six times. That includes some fun travel, but also a year of feeling stuck in a small town finishing a degree. That just didn’t seem blog-worthy, despite the multitude of experiences it allowed me, not least of all, a part-time job in a custard shop I grew to love.

It’s less glamorous to describe everyday life on a blog, even if everyday life does include good wine and cheese, and the occasional baguette. I find myself surrounded by people here who have the ability to drive through three countries in a single hour, and whose middle school classes go to the UK or Spain. Instead of Florida spring breaks, university students go to Greece or Croatia. I know that doesn’t mean my experiences are any less exciting, useful or valid — but it does mean that it’s more difficult to maintain the “cool” factor of a travel blog. Perhaps I’ve grown out of it. Perhaps I’ve broadened my horizons too much. Perhaps there are simply larger forces in the world that have captured my attentions.

I’ve been living in Metz, France for about four months now, and this place is probably the most beautiful place I’ve ever lived. The view from my cozy apartment looks out over the Moselle river and the edge of the old town. My roommate and I live under the rafters, literally, and we giggle about how we hit our heads on the ceiling at least once a day — but how we wouldn’t change it for the world; we love this charm.

Even on the teensy TAPIF budget, I’ve been able to travel quite a bit. Back to Tubingen for two weeks in October, a quick trip to Triers, a weekend in Cologne. Multiple trips to Luxembourg (it’s an hour away), a few days in Paris, a road trip in Normandy, a day in Munich over the Christmas holidays. Last summer included a stay in Regensburg, Germany, and with it, a multitude of day trips. I visited Prague for the first time and saw pretty much every sight there is to see in the German state of Baden-Wurtenburg. Current travel plans involve a week in London, a few days in Brighton or Oxford, a weekend in Brussels, and hopefully a week in Morocco (or somewhere else outside of the EU) in April. I’m still searching out plans for the summer, preferably something where I could earn some money and professional experience. At the least, something that would allow me not to wallow in my childhood bedroom wishing for public transportation and nights out with German/French friends.

Clearly packing has not gotten easier, even if I am the self-proclaimed packing expert

I’ve stopped doing a lot of things I used to whenever I traveled. I stopped journaling partially since I don’t feel like I’m traveling, partially because now I have someone to discuss how my day went with every night. I’ve stopped blogging — obviously. I’ve finished studying, for the moment. All my reading is purely for pleasure and to keep up with current events! But I have started things too — I travel with more quality and intention as opposed to quick weekend trips. I’ve been learning German and am proudly 130 pages into the first Deutsch Harry Potter book. I work now, though teaching French high schoolers has been far less than intellectually satisfying. I’ve been working on New Years resolutions of dedicating more time to books and yoga, and so far, that’s been successful.

I haven’t decided what to finally do with this space. Perhaps I’ll get back to posting tips. Perhaps I’ll try to keep the world a bit more updated as to what is going through my head at any given moment. Perhaps I’ll let it sit, and come back to it in a year with a totally different outlook on life. On verra, Schauen wir mal, We shall see. Until then,

Do Witzenia,

Sarah

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How To Do It

That’s the biggest question, isn’t it.

I’ve been asked it hundreds of times. By classmates, friends, my parents, other adults who grew up in the age of having to request-by-mail maps and tour guides.

We’re 20-somethings. We’re university students, first-time employees, low-budget and low-time people. How on earth do we find the money, time or energy to travel? How do we make these trips happen? Here’s a few ideas to get you started and inspired.

  1. Don’t let them tell you no. Your school will tell you it’s difficult. Mine asked me to write essays and petition the administration. You might apply to a program and get a “we’re sorry” rejection email. You might get lucky with parents that support you or you might not. Even if it’s not outright disapproval, deep down, there are a whole lot of people out there who think our generation should be saving for the future instead of spending on seeing the world. Whoever they are and whatever the obstacles, believe in yourself and don’t let their “no’s” discourage you.
  2. Dedicate yourself. If there is something you truly want to do, do it. Don’t spend your life re-blogging or pinning future travel sites and then give up trying to go to them with the simplest “I don’t have the (you fill in the blank).” Quietly dedicate yourself to planning your adventures, and don’t loose sight of your plans.
  3. Plan. Planning means using sites like Rome2rio, Skyscanner, Studentuniverse, Holiday Pirate, Hostel World, Airbnb, Hostels.com, Couchsurfing, Eurail, Flixbus. It means looking into programs like Workaway, WOOFing, Interning abroad, every study abroad option out there (there are millions). It will take you forever and often it does get overwhelming. Take a break, then go back to planning. Spontaneous travel is really fun, but planned adventures are more likely to actually happen.
  4. Save. I mean it. Sit down with yourself and think about all the things you want to do and then think about all the things you want to own. Which are more important to you? A huge pet peeve of mine is when friends complain about how they don’t have the money to travel and then show up to class with a new wardrobe and large Starbucks coffee. ‘Work hard play hard’ is much more fun when you’re in the “play” phase, but life can be so cool if you succeed in saving for the play.
  5. Make decisions with your dreams in mind. That means if you want to travel, make sure your university of choice says they’ll allow you to do it. If you want to do one long trip, maybe don’t take that short Spring Break one. Maybe don’t give into your deep desire to have a kitten in your new apartment if you also have a deep desire to spend 6 months in France. Schedule your university courses with travel in mind — maybe take the required ones first so you can take those gen-ed requirements when you’re abroad and it’s harder to transfer back the upper level courses.
  6. Google search like your life depends on it. Read the blogs, follow the travel Instagram. Some of my best discoveries have been made because I saw the sight on a blog or because a hostel friend recommended it. Indulge your dreams but then act on them.

And above all, remember that you are no less of a person if you do not succeed in going abroad or backpacking across the world. Perhaps you find something else that makes you want to stay stable and grounded. Perhaps you realize that you prefer short term group trips to the uncertainty of study abroad or solo treks. Maybe you find that the things you love at home are more important to you than exploring.

While I believe that traveling is important when we’re young, it does not define a person. If the travel bug doesn’t bite or if it just doesn’t work out — the world needs all types of people.


Do Witzenia,

Sarah

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Gifts for the Traveler

I would love to give you a list of the cutest adventure themed gadgets, maybe painted with globes and arrows, the best calligraphy claiming “never stop adventuring” or “not all those who wander are lost.”

But anyone who has ever studied abroad or taken off for an indefinite amount of time knows that living out of a suitcase means living without the flowery calligraphy. We agonize over packing and it only hurts our hearts more when we realize that that thoughtful travel themed gift we got last Christmas is either going to have to stay in a box in our parents attic or end up at a garage sale.

Obviously when searching for a meaningful gift it is impossible to avoid striking out every time. Here are some alternative solutions, something to consider when gifting traveler friends and relatives.

Subscriptions:

Some companies and organizations have subscriptions one can purchase that either allow full use of the service or just allow for discounts and added benefits. WorkAway, a group that coordinates traveling volunteers with hosts who provide room and board, charges $30 as a one-time yearly fee to connect with hosts. WizzAir charges $29.99 to join their “Wizz Discount” club, a title that can chop the price of each flight in half as well as allow for free luggage and seat selection.

Verifications:

Depending on which services and opportunities your traveler takes advantage of, Couchsurfing charges a location- dependent fee to “verify” an account. This verification serves as another safeguard to make sure the person using the account truly is who they say they are. If couchsurfing is a concept your traveler regularly makes use of, this is a one-time fee and can help them find hosts more easily. It’s not the only site that offers verification — the ride sharing service BlaBlaCar does as well!

Gift Cards:

In the digital age, plastic cards in physical sleeves are a thing of the past. RyanAir Airlines (a budget airline in Western Europe) offers digital giftcards that can then be put towards their super cheap fares. With a giftcard in almost any amount, it’s possible to finance an entire round trip (really, flights between Brussels and Hambourg can get as low as 5 euros)! Airbnb, the room-renting service that is taking over the hotel industry, also provides this service and again, your giftcard could mean the difference between an extra night in an incredible place or having to cut a trip off early.

Experiences:

If your loved one is spending an extended period of time in one location, check out the opportunities for their favorite activities in that place. While a gift card to a cinema in their home town won’t do them much good, a ticket to a concert or movie in their new home-away-from-home will give them an experience they’re sure to love. Look for gym memberships, yoga classes, famous theaters, concert halls, ballets, movies, expensive museums, special tours — anything that is typically in the life of your loved one but that typically wouldn’t fit in their tiny travel-budget.


In addition to these, the average backpack, water bottle, external phone battery and empty journals make us smile as well. No matter what the gift, the thought is loved and appreciated. But for those of us who live in a plane and out of a suitcase, sometimes the best gifts received are the ones that allow us to continue our adventures unimpeded.


Do Witzenia,

Sarah

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What is WorkAway?

After hearing about WorkAway from a friend who spent two weeks on a horse farm in northern France with it, I decided to take my chances and spend the remaining 2.5 weeks of my 2017 Schengen visa validity outside the tiny town of Bayonne in Basque Country, France. Nothing like extending a study abroad trip until the very last possible moment…. Although I was initially hesitant, the experience has been incredible – I have met new people and learned new cultures, all well relaxing in the countryside waking up to cows mooing and eating onions pulled straight from the garden. I would return to this location in a heartbeat. In fact, I am writing this post from a brightly colored hammock under a plum tree with a view that overlooks a valley of cows and mountains in the distance. It can’t be beat.

Many people are shocked that for such a well-traveled 20-something, I hadn’t heard of WorkAway until a few months ago. In case you’re like me, here’s a quick run-down of exactly what this program is and why you should strongly consider it, abroad or in your own country!

What is WorkAway?

A program through which travelers can exchange 4-5 hours of volunteer work for free housing and food, anywhere in the world. Hosts can include hostels, farms, even families looking for a babysitter with an intercultural flair. WorkAway is a way for travelers to spend longer periods of time (typically between 1 week and 3 months) learning the culture of one location for almost no cost. It’s also a way for hosts to fill part time job positions requiring few skills that may not be desirable for long periods of time. Hosts experience a cultural exchange and an extra set of hands wherever they may need them.

How is it organized?

The website WorkAway.info lists all of the registered hosts and holds the profiles of all registered workers. The host lists are available to see free of charge, however to message a host and organize a WorkAway trip, one must pay a once yearly $30 registration fee. Couples can pay a reduced rate of $45/year. I promise you, as an extreme budget traveler, this fee is very worth it.

Is it safe?

With the same safety guidelines as Couchsurfing or Airbnb, WorkAway runs off reviews (of hosts and of workers). They caution workers to communicate carefully, read all reviews cautiously and only participate with hosts that they feel comfortable with. Hosts are cautioned the same things and are easily able to say no to any request to work that they feel uncomfortable with.

How do I get involved?

Check out the website! Use a school break to do a short trial run before embarking on your WorkAway trip around the world. Use the site to create a host list of people you might be interested in working for in the future! Find a WorkAway in your own country if you’re nervous about an extreme cultural difference but have a few weeks of empty time.

The only costs involved in WorkAway are the initial registration fee and the cost of transportation to the host’s location. It truly is an incredible way to see and experience the world.


Do Witzenia,

Sarah

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Driving the Croatian Coast

There is something so exhilarating about buying a bus ticket at the station, grabbing a coffee at the station’s overpriced café and then heading down to the bus. You never know what you’re going to find… is this a clean new bus with reclining seats or one with paper towels stuffed in the holes the torn-out lightbulbs have left in the ceiling?

I’ve seen both.

Feeling a little penned-in in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, I woke up one morning needing to just get out of town (which, is a story unto itself – how could a person need to get out of town when they’re only in town for 3 days anyways?). My hostel was booked for two more nights and my official bus out of town was a night bus to Zagreb two days later, so I couldn’t just pack up and move on. Instead, I headed to the bus station and checked a map.

Split Croatia, a resort town on the Adriatic coast, is 160km from Mostar and is typically on the route of backpackers heading through the Western Balkins. Google maps said it was a 2.5 hour drive. I said the magic words “one ticket for the next bus to Split please” and off I went.

For a day when my body needed to relax but my mind wanted to go, taking the CroatiaBus from Mostar to Split was one of the best spontaneous and uninformed decisions I’ve ever made. The only thing I knew about Split was that it was on the ocean and was geographically close.

Contents of my day bag:

-Umbrella

-Sweater

-Water bottle

-Wallet

-Phone

 

Things that should have been in the day bag that weren’t:

-Sunscreen

-Sandals

-Camera

Just FYI, Split is a beach resort town. Chances are, it is not going to be raining and cold. Don’t lug an umbrella 160 km with you if you’re going to Split.

A bus ride from Mostar to Split stops quite a bit and actually ends up taking around 4.5 hours, so my day trip idea ended up only allowing me 2 hours in the town itself. But that was enough to get lunch and ice cream, walk around the old town, crash some tours in English that gave me bits and pieces of historical information, and enjoy the goings on of the ocean and harbor. And despite only having two hours on-location, the ride itself was worth my time and ticket money.

Driving from Mostar to Split is a 4.5 hour trip up a skinny little highway that directly borders the coast. This mountainous, small-town-riddled coastline comes in twists and turn as the bus climbs higher and higher, letting riders stare out the huge bus windows into some of the best views of the Croatian coastline one could find. On the right of the bus are tall mountains and waterfalls cascading the turquoise water only found in this area of the world. On the left of the bus is crystal blue water that stretches on until it meets the blue of the sky at the horizon. It’s almost magical.

I chose my seat placement strategically on the ride back to Mostar that night. As the sun set over the water and the bus moved on, I knew I’d made a good decision. Sometimes a traveler needs a day of relaxation that also involves seeing beautiful things. A bus along the Croatian coastline definitely fit that bill.

If you are in Mostar, or considering a trip to Croatia – I recommend taking your bus trip during the day and making a trip out of the coastline drive, the views are worth it!

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5 Reasons Why You Must Visit Lake Bled

I knew it was beautiful. A friend of mine recommended Lake Bled back in November and ever since seeing photos of his trip, I knew I had to go.

But I didn’t know I would fall in love with the lake and that it would be my hardest goodbye. On my most recent trip, it was easy to leave every place except Bled, and for that reason, I know I’ll be back soon.

With a similar lake culture to the Adirondack mountain lakes in New York or the Wisconsin Dells, Lake Bled is Slovenia’s top tourist destination. Despite this, it’s not overrun by soccer moms in fanny packs, nor is it full of university boys only there to drink. Instead, it’s a small village (so small that I could make friends and say “hey I’ll see you at the lake later” and it be true), full of families and couples there to relax and enjoy nature. Here are 5 reasons why you must put Lake Bled, Slovenia on your travel bucket list.

  1. The Lake. Perfectly clear and warm enough to swim in the spring and summer, Lake Bled provides endless  beauty to the town. While there is technically a swimming area that costs 6E for the day, there are endless spots where it’s free and shallow enough to take a dip — see if you can find the rope swing 🙂 Fishing (with a special license) is also a summer activity. The 1.5 hour walk around the lake is there year round and from every angle the views of the island and surrounding mountains are beautiful. I suggest heading left around the lake — this is opposite from what my hostel suggested, but the path is much closer to the water and better for wading/swimming on the this side. Watch the sun rise or set over the water, check out how it changes when a thunderstorm rolls through, sit and read or write on one of the benches that are found along the path. I could have spent whole days taking my time walking around the lake and dipping my feet in when I got warm.
  2. The gorge. When you get tired of Lake Bled, the Vintar Gorge is just an hour’s walk away. The walk there takes you through another small town and up a mountain (so wear good hiking shoes!). There’s an entrance fee of 6E (4 for students) but then you get to follow wooden bridges that crisscross the gorge that’s rushing with clear turquoise water. Great for photos and beautiful in the sun. The way there is signed well and is one of the major tourist attractions so is on every map. There are shuttles from Bled that go to the gorge for between 5 and 10 Euros, but it is walk-able as well depending on your wish for a day hike.
  3. The overlook hikes. Don’t mistake these for a nice after dinner stroll. Real, uphill hikes take you to breaks in the trees where you can see the whole lake and the island, nestled beautifully into the mountains of Slovenia. Outlook point Ojstrica is the one I hiked and is the traditional view, although there are higher ones and different angles situated all over the lake. Trail beginnings are marked on the path that rings the lake and any tourist map you pick up will have the points marked. These points give you photos that are exactly what you’d find if you googled Lake Bled. Check them out at sunset or sunrise, or in foggy weather.
  4. The “other” lake. Lake Bohinj was actually my favorite part of Lake Bled! A 40 minute and 3.60 Euro bus ride away from Bled (schedules posted outside the only bus station in Bled and tickets bought on board, it’s super easy), this lake is the biggest in Slovenia and has a path around that is about a 4.5 hour hike (although be careful and follow a map, because the river feeding the lake can be hard to navigate around…or through).  Again, perfectly clear — I saw my shadow on the bottom of the lake and screamed because I thought it was a fish — the lake isn’t touristed and when I was there, it was almost deserted. When it’s warm, it’s wonderful to swim in. If you’re in Bled for more than 2 days, definitely spend a day here.

    So clear we drank the water from the fast moving river!

  5. The cake (okay, all the food). Slovenian food is a wonderful mix of meat and potatoes, an eastern European style with some Baltic twists thrown in. Bled is famous for it’s Cream Cake, a pastry almost like a French Napoleon or mille-feuille but in different layers that taste as heavenly as the lake itself looks. A slice goes for about 3Euros and is best eaten with a napkin handy for when the sticky goodness goes everywhere.

    Do Witzenia, Sarah

 

 

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Brokenships : We’re Human

Why am I attracted to crowds? To airports, to libraries? To stories without endings, to ancient grocery lists left in books at flea markets? Why am I intrigued by the anecdotes told off-handedly by people I’ve never met? And why do images — children sleeping on trains; an aging bus driver who carries a photo of his first day of work; a hitchhiker wrapped in a blanket at the end of a day – make me feel something?

It’s got to be the humanity. It’s the realization that no matter who we are or where we grew up or what we have done, we are all part of the same species with the same basic food-water-shelter-love needs.


Over. Done. Finished. Broken.

All the ways one describes the end of a relationship.

As humans, we celebrate marriages, we celebrate anniversaries. Birthdays, funerals, religious sacraments, graduations. All these major milestones are addressed by society and yet the milestone of an ended relationship is ignored and must be internalized by those involved.

The Museum of Broken Relationships strives to change this through a presentation similar to that of the “Humans of New York” (and other “Humans of…”) storytelling. Everyday people from all over the world contribute items and memories to the curators who then have the incredible job of choosing which make it into the museum.

A stiletto heel, a stuffed loon. A red wedding dress, a mother’s suicide note. All accompanied by a story submitted by the one who lost someone important. Some stories are of betrayal, some of death, some of distance, some of love that just simply stopped. All are stories of raw humanity.

The hardest are the ones that remind us of our own lives. A bottle cap that reminds me of the one I kept from that one night back then. A story that hits just a little too close to personal events. A mention of a name or a situation, of something that could have been donated by me.

Because of course, we are all human. As much as we like to share our joys, we like to feel that our pains are personal and unique. This museum brings forward the fact that broken relationships are just as common as a birthday and often they happen in similar ways.

Perhaps this place moves me because it’s a community created exhibit, constantly growing with a “confessional” book filled with scribbles from museum guests. Perhaps I love it because it’s impossible to know whether to feel happy or sad as you walk through. Or perhaps it felt important to me because it highlights a piece of humanity that we all feel but we all like to gloss over. It reminds you why we’re all similar. It reminds you that we’re human.

The Museum of Broken Relationships finds itself both in Zagreb, Croatia and Los Angeles California, with touring exhibits around the globe.


Do Witzenia,

Sarah

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Nothing Was Left : Mostar

Unlike in Sarajevo, there are no buildings marked with bullet holes in Mostar, Herzegovina. No dents in sidewalks from long-ago shells filled in with red paint to cause an emotion filled memory as one walks past. No signs on walls pointing to long-forgotten shelters, no pieces of UNHCR reusable bags left clinging to remnants of barbed wire fences. Unlike in Sarajevo, there are no faults in the concrete outside third floor windows that look like pigeon holes until you remember bullets used to fly here more often than pigeons. But in Mostar, this absence could almost lead someone to wonder whether the civil war of the 1990’s even touched the city at all.

No, Mostar has no pock-marked buildings left from the war because the war left no buildings to be pock-marked. In Mostar, nothing was left.

In Mostar, there are shells of buildings that used to be. More bullet hole than wall, more empty space than building. Trees growing around cement and rebar that resembles in no way the structure that used to stand there. In Mostar, even almost 20 years later, the buildings that were built before the war almost camouflage into the rubble rock that tumbles down the mountains behind them. There are no innocent bullet holes here.

In Sarajevo, the old town has parts where if you look closely, you can see the areas that had to be repaired. The town hall looks almost new, as it’s burning (along with the burning of a priceless library collection) was done as an act of war. But in Sarajevo, the bridges still stand and the majority of the ancient buildings stand, now holding stories of their resilience throughout the siege.

In Mostar, nothing was left to hold onto stories of resilience. Every building and every bridge in the old town has another country’s name on a plaque beside in. UNESCO, Luxembourg, Turkey, Italy, European Union, The World Bank, the list of nations and organizations that provided funds for the reconstruction of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s cultural heritage goes on and on. Because everything in Mostar had to be reconstructed — everything from the bazaar in the old town to the Ottoman bridge crossing the river Neretva to the most basic of buildings on the sides of the streets. The war leveled Mostar and while it looks like the ancient structures remain, they are in fact reconstructions of their prior glory, funded by countries other than the one so wracked by conflict that it could not prevent the atrocity in the first place.

And it seems so right then, that as I sit writing this on a bench beside yet another reconstructed building, the sniper tower looms in the distance in front of me. Once a bank and apartment complex, the height of this structure and its location on the front lines gave it a deadly purpose in the 90’s. For while every ounce of cultural heritage was destroyed by war, the symbol of the war itself remains standing, so much stronger and more imposing than the buildings that now crumble across the street from it. I dare not trespass alone to climb it, but if I did, I know the views would be incredible. Because while the tower hasn’t changed since 1995, the reconstruction of the town has been fast and complete.

Even now, construction is everywhere: bulldozers filling the streets between two hollowed out former-buildings. Men with heavy gloves and neon vests hanging from ropes on bridges that cross the river that moves faster than my eyes can follow. Mostar moves on, but don’t come here looking for bullet holes in buildings and stories of wartime resilience. Those are in Sarajevo. In Mostar, there are no original buildings left for those bullet holes and stories to find themselves in.

 

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Free Things: Berlin

Like any capital city, Berlin can get expensive for the traveler on a shoestring budget. But you can still experience all the city has to offer without breaking the bank – check these ideas out!

Berlin Wall Memorial

This part-outdoor-part-indoor exhibit is located where the northern border of the Berlin Wall used to be and where many escapes from East to West occurred. The exhibit shows the fortifications on the former border and even puts together a replica of what the border would have looked like that visitors can peer into. It also presents stories of the families who lived in homes on the border, a church caught between two sides, and of the lives directly effected by the wall.

East Side Gallery

Along the south eastern side of Berlin is the longest stretch of the Berlin Wall that is still intact. It has been turned into a free art gallery with murals that portray messages of unity and peace. You can walk along it, take shelter in the shade it provides, or enjoy the art while sitting along the river for a picnic.

Berliner Dom

While not free to go inside except for mass, you shouldn’t leave Berlin until you’ve seen the outside in all it’s glory. Close enough to museum island to make the visit easy, you can also sit on the grass in front and eat or rest your feet.

Museum Island’s Architecture

While the museums themselves cost a pretty penny, the combination of the river and the buildings’ architecture is beautiful and worth a photo or two.  Don’t go out of your way to walk through, but if you’ve stopped by the Berliner Dom, you’re so close to Museum Island that it just makes sense to go look.

Reichstag Dome

This is a must do!  For the best free views of the city, reserve your visit online here at least two weeks in advance. Much more views-focused than learn-about-government focused, take  your camera and enjoy.

Tiergarden Park

Located in the center of Berlin and absolutely huge, it is possible (and I have) to spend an entire day hiking around the rivers, statues and fields in this park. Bring your lunch and just lay in the sun and relax.

Berlin Victory Column

In the center of Tiergarden Park and in the center of a huge street circle is the Berlin Victory Column, a monument designed in 1864. Use one of the four pedestrian tunnels under the street circle to access it, it’s much safer that way. For a 2Euro fee you can climb to the top of the 285 steps, but if you stay on the ground, make sure to check out the view all the way to the Brandenburg gate at the end of the road.

Brandenburg Gate

While no museums accompany this one, the Brandenburg gate is a must see of Berlin, and is totally free. Accessible by metro but also within easy walking distance of Museum Island or Tiergarden Park.

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

Between the park and the Brandenburg gate is this impressive expanse of concrete slabs of varying sizes, slanting in a wave pattern. Free to walk through, (though don’t parkor through the slabs), it’s easily found and visited.

Food Markets

Okay, so you’re probably going to spend something here, but everyone has to eat, right? Might as well spend your lunch money on a bratworst and fries, or some strudel from a local baker. Check out Keitzerplats and Heidelberger Platz on Sundays.


Do Witzenia,

Sarah

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48 Hours in Brussels Belgium

The capital of Europe and so much more! Here’s what I recommend for your weekend visit!

Once you get settled in your hotel or hostel, head not to the Grand Place but instead to the Royal Palace – bus and tram stop Royale or the metro stop Trone and walk a block.

Here, you should start at the Belvue Museum which presents an excellent and interactive introduction to Belgian history. It’s perfect for the family who may not already be a Belgium expert and at 7E full admission, 5E 18-25, and free under 18, it’s not too expensive.

From the Belvue Museum, walk around the corner to the Arts Hill. This has one of the best views over the center of Brussels and the hill is also home to multiple museums. Choose one (or more) from the museum of musical instruments, Magritte museum, Museum of Fine Arts and the church of Saint-Jacques sur Coudenberg . There’s typically a yellow waffle truck perched on the top of the hill so you can get your sugar fix in as well.

From the Arts Hill, you can either walk down the hill or continue down the street in the direction of the Palais de Justice (which is easily visible, just look for the massive dome at the end of the street).

If you choose to walk down, note the national library of Belgium on your left and the city-sponsored graffiti wall tucked into the side. Turn right at the end of the stairs and head about two blocks to the Cathedral of Saints Michael and Gudula. This cathedral towers over Brussels and is where the King and Queen were married in 1999 —  check out their wedding photos on the wall!

From there continue on and end your evening with a waffle or coffee at or around the Grand Place. Your choices are endless and it’s beautiful to watch the sun set over the facades.

If you stayed on top of the hill and headed towards the massive dome, you’ll end up walking by the Cathedral of the Petit Sablon. There’s a daily antique market that is held in the front so make sure you walk around and explore it! Before you get too lost in the Sablon neighborhood however, continue on towards the Palais de Justice.

Wander in and through and marvel at its size, then take the panoramic elevator (the glass one, it’s free!) down to the base of the Sablon neighborhood. Here, you’ll find some of the cutest cafés and hipster restaurants and again, an incredible place to watch the sun go down.

For your second day, visit the government sites! The European Parliament has an incredibly interesting museum called the Parliamentarium that can be found at Place Luxembourg. It portrays the history and complexities of the EP in each of the 24 national languages of the EU! Definitely worth a visit for wonks and non-wonks alike.

From there head behind Parliament to Place Jourdan for the best fries in Belgium at Maison Antoine. Hop a bus or tram to the Bourse area and explore the behind the scenes of the Grand Place. If you did this yesterday, hit up the Sablon area that you missed!

Hopefully, this will keep you from spending hours hiking the city aimlessly, and also keep you from getting stuck only in the overly-touristed Grand Place! Enjoy the quirkiness of the capital of Europe.


Do Witzenia,

Sarah

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