How to Get the Most out of Hamburg, Germany (300 Words)

Hamburg will always be a special place for me since I lived/studied here in 2008. I visited a friend here again recently and some things have changed over the past 8 years but mostly it's the same old city I remember. 

Hamburg is a big, busy port city in Northern Germany. 

S-bahn/U-bahn local trains included in Eurail or buy daily pass €6. 

CITY

FREE Walking Tour | Robin & the Tour Guides (yellow umbrellas) 7 days/week.
I enjoyed Rhonda's Historic City Center tour (11:00 - 2:30) so much that I joined the Harbor/Reeperbahn tour (14:00-16:00) as well! 

ALLSTER LAKE


Big body of water between the city and the suburbs. Lots of parks/greenspace on the suburb side; shopping and architecture on the city side. 

HARBOR

Take a walk through the underwater Elb tunnel under the harbor. 

HVV Ferry (Fähre) cheap ride around the harbor, €2.

Discounted touristic rides on Sundays. 

Small St. Pauli park overlooking the Harbor is a great place to watch the sunset.

ST. PAULI / REEPERBAHN 

Abundance of street art concentrated in St. Pauli/Reeperbahn area.

FREE Alternative Hamburg Tour Wednesday - Saturday; see lots of street art! 

See the Beatles tribute: sculptures + round record-shaped discography on the ground. 

Eat at least one Franzbröchen, Hamburg's famous cinnamon pastry. 

 The famous Franzbröchen 

The famous Franzbröchen 

Have a drink (€4-€14) at Clouds/Heaven's Nest downtown for a beautiful panoramic view of the city.

Reeperbahn at night: Red light district
Lots of clubs/bars around Hans Albers Platz offer live music with no cover. 

ART/PHOTOGRAPHY

Deichterhallen
Closed Mondays
Contemporary, Avant Garde Art & Photography
€14 both halls
Tuesdays after 16:00 = €5
Just make sure you check out the current exhibitions online first so you don't get stuck paying to see a bunch of port-a-toilets like I did. -_-

 Art???

Art???

Paris is Always a Good Idea, Except For This One Time (600 Words)

I'm pretty late to the Paris party. Many friends have traveled here before me and most can't stop gushing about the place. In the words of Audrey Hepburn "Paris is always a good idea." 

 ...Except for this one time

...Except for this one time

Except when it was my idea. My timing turned out to be te-rri-ble. 

It all started when I went to reserve my seat on a train from Rotterdam to Paris. The ticket agent refused to book the seat since they couldn't guarantee the train would arrive due to a railway workers strike in France. So I just had to show up at the platform later that day and hope that the train did too. 

Thankfully I boarded said train and eventually met my sister and a friend at Paris Nord. We had a decent dinner. Not the Fall-Out-Of-Your-Chair flavor that everyone raves about but palatable. I like rose wine and cider so I ordered a rosé cidré hybrid but it tasted awful like partially composted flowers and apples. 

Despite it being the beginning of June and supposedly summer, the weather was cold and slightly wet with temperatures hovering around 14°C. 

 The river Seine was too high for the boats to pass under the bridges.

The river Seine was too high for the boats to pass under the bridges.

The three of us did a free walking tour of Paris the next morning. We assumed the media-hyped strike would paralyze all the metros until our guide told us that "No, of course the metros are working. The city cannot just shut down." 

Except the city did partially shut down later that evening. My friend and I arrived at the Musé d'Orsay to find a note taped to the ticket office window announcing an early closure. 

So we headed back to Marais to do some thrift shopping, for all of 30 minutes, because all the shops apparently close at 19:30. 

 At least we got to see the outside

At least we got to see the outside

The next day we were scheduled to visit the Louvre at 13:00 with our pre-purchased tickets. However the top story on my BBC news app announced that the worlds most famous museum would be closed all day while employees moved art & artifacts above ground since the river Seine was on the rise after heavy, unseasonal rains. 

We decided instead to take the metro/train west to the Palais of Versailles. When we went to change trains at Invalides, the entrance to the C-line was blocked with a notice that the line was closed; another precaution due to flood fears since the main line to Versailles ran along the river. 

 Everything makes you feel small in Versailles

Everything makes you feel small in Versailles

We figured out a detour and took at least an extra hour but eventually we arrived at our royal destination. After about four hours wandering the palace and gardens, we walked back to the station to discover there was only one train per hour heading back to Paris due to some combination of striking and floods.

Again it took extra time and effort but we finally got back to the city and climbed the steps of the Eiffel Tower. It was like the final challenge in an obstacle course and we reached the pinnacle of it victoriously despite so many struggles along the way. 

It all seemed a bit surreal because if you went by the media coverage alone, you'd think the streets of Paris were filled with soggy, angry chaos but not once did I see a protest or floods or even moderate rain. 

The transport strikes have been a pain for many people but I know the taxi and uber drivers at least are benefitting from it because I had to pay €81 to get from the city to Charles de Gaulle airport early on my last morning. 

Guess I'm just gonna have to go back to Paris at some point. ;)

Cutting Costs while Traveling Venice/Venezia Italy (300 Words)

Venice is a roughly fish-shaped cluster of islands in shallow water off the Eastern coast of Italy.

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 If you're staying in the islands, take the train all the way to Venezia Santa Lucia.

Buy a continuous ACTV Public Transport pass for the public boat taxis (vaporetto) and busses. €20/1 day, €30/2 days, €40/3 days. Pass activates after the first swipe and will remain valid for the following 24/48/72 hours.

 

All transport costs/entry fees reduced if you are under age 26.

 

City streets are confusing but walkable. Download Ulmon offline map app. (link)

 

Register in advance online for a free walking tour. Three hours rain or shine. Tip your guide at the end. Lots of local insight and information like how to skip the huge queue at San Marco's Basilica. ;)

 

Don't try to see every island - most look the same. Do visit Murano (famous glass products and production) and Burano (a rainbow of architecture).

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Pick three main museums or landmarks to make priority.


Free to go inside the famous San Marco Basilica.


Eat small, inexpensive tapas dishes at an authentic Osterilla.


AVOID all pizza and foods at the most touristic spots (Rialto Bridge, San Marco's Square) and places with huge, multi-page menus, pictures of the food or promoters trying to recruit you.


Watch the San Georgio limestone church (built by Palladio) glow at sunset.

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Buy one thing: Murano glass accessory (jewelry, wine stopper, cuff links, etc) - many options under €10. Street stalls are cheaper than shops and items are usually cheapest on the other islands.


Cool books, postcards and stamps available at Acqua Alta bookstore.

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Touristy Gondola rides are €80 for 30 minutes. Instead take a short trip across the canal in a "ferry Gondola" for €2.

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I really loved Venice and want to come back here to live for a little while someday.

Mini Guide to Marseille, France in 300 Words

Second largest city in France, located on southern coast. 

Ancient; first Greek settlement in France = Massalia. 

Very diverse, at least 50% immigrants. 

Relatively walkable but also a metro, tram and busses. 

City is old, dirty and kinda stinky in some parts but still many diamonds in the rough. 

 

St. Charles = Main Train Station

Vertigo Centre Hostel is super close. Clean and comfy enough. Breakfast (extra 5 Euro) is good if you like bread. 

Vieux Port: Packed with boats and people

Ferry to Chateau d'If around 11 euro

Inspiration for Count of Monte Cristo. I ran out of time before I could do this. :(

 

Le Fort Saint-Jean

muCEM 9.50 Euro but so worth it

Incredible, inspirational collection of Pablo Picasso 

Well executed, educational displays on Mediterranean history

Historic architecture and cathedrals

 

Basilisque Notre Dame de la Garde

NOT the famous/Hunchback one (it's in Paris)

Hike up a hill and lots of stairs, nice architecture and interior decor

 

Cours Julien

The bo-bo (bourgeois-bohemian) community

I serendipitously stumbled into the street art capital of France. 

I spent hours meandering around the streets & admiring many murals. 

 

Musee de Beaux Arts / Musee d' Histoire Naturelle / Palais De Longchamp

The building is more interesting than anything inside. Save yourself 11 euros and just admire the architecture and Longchamp park behind it. 

 

Parc Nationale des Calanques

Beautiful national park less than an hour from the city center. 

It's huge and there are no signs so I highly recommend a map

No entry fee and can be reached by public transport (1.60 Euro each way)

    Metro red line towards Santa Marguerite

    Change to Bus 21 at Rond Point du Prado (walk left out of station, cross street, bus in front of big stadium)

    Ride until the last stop at Luminy (University) and walk past the traffic circle towards the giant rocks and you'll eventually run into the trails. 

    

A Guide to Art, Parks, Surfing & More in Munich (300 Words)

There's fabulous art & entertainment everywhere in Munich as long as you know where to look!

Englischer Garten / English Garden

Huge greenspace (3.7 km) on the Isar River. FREE!

Walk, jog, run, bike, surf. Yes, surf!

Mini Hofbrauhaus: English Garden, No costume necessary. Less crowded and less tourists but many dogs.

I dislike it but I attempted to drink a whole glass of beer but could only finish Half-a-weissen. 😂 LOL

Personally, I do not understand the appeal of beer gardens since I don't smoke cigarettes or drink beer or feast on dead flesh but apparently a lot of other people find it enjoyable.

I walked for several hours during my street art scavenger hunt today. Couldn't have done it without this helpful post/map. Like hunting for buried/hidden treasure as most of the murals are below street level and/or under bridges.

Three street art hot spots on the east side of the river.

Street Art Mecca is located at Burogebaude Viehhof / Outdoor cinema near Ludwigvorstadt-Isarvorstadt. www.viehhof-kino.de

The place was kinda closed and partially under construction but I found a way in anyways. Met a group of local guys about to start a fresh design.

Bikers, sunbathers, picnic blankets and book readers are scattered around the Rosengarten & Frülingsanlagen when the weather is nice.

Schwabing = University & Arts district & my favorite area. 

Pinakotheken / Pinakothek der Moderne = Traditional & Modern Art in four buildings; one of the world's largest art museums.

 Monet

Monet

Marienplatz: Full of tourists but you have to fight the crowds to see the old architecture.

Haus der Kunst | Contemporary Art Museum

Next to Haus der Kunst is the famous city surf spot, Eisbachwelle.

Dean&David: A chain with relatively cheap vegan/vegetarian food.

 

Munich is such a creative city! I hope to come back to paint my own mural here someday!

Much Love,

A Beautiful Bicycle Ride Around Bodensee Lake (300 Words)

Bodensee is a massive, natural lake with shores in three different countries. Here, you can bike through Switzerland, Austria and Germany all in one day. (And you can see Lichtenstein too!)

My sister, brother-in-law and I thought it would be a good idea to go here during a long holiday weekend. Apparently, lots of other people had the same idea.

We took a train from Zurich to Konstanz then biked to a ferry and crossed the lake to Meersburg.

The views include lakeside villages, the Alps, vineyards, forests, apple orchards and roadside gardens. 

Sometimes it felt like we were part of a peloton but mostly it was wide open roads.

It took us at least an hour to find a room for the night and we ended up booking the last two rooms for €160 at a hotel that resembled an old farmhouse called Dorfkrug between the towns of Langenargen and Krossbronn.

This is German territory so naturally there was a bier garten out back. We enjoyed traditional Bavarian dinner and breakfast here as well. 

We stopped in Lindau, Germany for a coffee break and a quick walk around the tiny island. A famous German storybook from my brother-in-law's childhood about a music box maker named Augustin was set here. 

 fairytale tower in Lindau

fairytale tower in Lindau

My brother-in-law departed for a faster and more challenging ride through the hills while my sister and I continued to Bregens, Austria where we had lunch and caught a train to Munich.

In total, we traveled about 60 KM from Konstanz to Bregens which is about 25% of the 256 km of bike paths around the lake. The weather was perfection!

I'd love to come back someday and bike around the whole lake. So glad I got to spend some quality, family time in such a beautiful setting!

Much Love,