One day in Prague

Being in Prague feels like a time machine just sent you back to around year 1800. You have to walk pretty far out of the old city and Mala Strana to see the newer world. The exception is off course the many tourists, content of the shops and so on. You also have many areas without cars, it makes this feeling even stronger. Prague is probably the city I've been in that is most true to the old architecture. 

Having one day in Prague (combined it with a business meeting) I chose to mainly walk around, just taking in the medieval surroundings, taking picture and eating amazing trdelink! The Old city and Mala Strana are the best areas, and Charles bridge! (just make sure to pass it early in the morning, too much people the rest of the day). You can't take the wrong direction in these areas, old beauty combined with candy colored buildings everywhere.

I also went to the part of the city called Vrsovice, named the hipster part of the city. It's not quite Williamsburg, but definitely has it's very cool cafes and all of that. Krafarna is one good choiche.

Do not bother going to the Black light theatre they talk so much about. Not very impressive, mostly strange, I left before the second half started. But you should eat at St Martin, KARE cafe or U Mecanase. My hotel Vintage Sax was very central and pretty cool as well. 

Enjoy medieval times and don't forget to eat that trdelink!

 

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Copenhagen - urban and friendly city for foodies

My trip to Copenhagen last week was much about good food experiences. Copenhagen has been known for great food for a while, Noma being the star. But Copenhagen is also a food city if you don't have the Noma kind of budget. Add friendly atmosphere, cozy areas and an urban feeling (+ great craft beer) - Copenhagen should very much be in your list of city escapes in Europe.

Having one day in the city my visit was mostly about strolling around, enjoying the vibe, doing some shopping and eating great food. This is what I recommend:

  • Go to Nørrebro - this part of the city is multicultural and you find some of the hippest streets here (Elmegade and Jægersborggade). Shopping is great with unique design stores. Colorful buildings and street art makes walking around a pleasure. 
  • Strøget - the main shopping street is very crowded, but worth a visit as an important part of this city. And step by the Round Tower for a great view over the city.
  • Vesterbro - another trendy but relaxed part of the city, and most important (in my opinion) home of Kødbyen - Copenhagen's Meatpacking District. Very cool atmosphere with restaurants placed in old butcher stores and fish halls. Loved it! 

Where to eat, drink and relax with your book? These are the places I loved:

  • Fleich - butcher and eatery. Dinner and lunch.
  • Risteriet - great coffee and breakfast.
  • RETRO Nørrebro - cool cafe with a very chilled atmosphere.
  • Mirabelle bakery - great for breakfast or lunch. They make their own pasta.
  • Cafe Mandela - chilled cafe/eatery with the coolest map covered bar area.
  • Kødbyens Fiskebar - do fish for dinner. Or muslings. Fish and chips was great.

If you are on a budget - the Urban House is the best place to stay. It's been some years since my last hostel stay, but this was a very good experience! 

Thank you for the great food Copenhagen!

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Istanbul: Tradition meets modern hipster

Up and down the streets in and around the Grand Bazaar you see people drinking tea and men running around with treys filled with tea glasses and one sugar cube for each. In the more hipsterish area, Karakoy, you find a more modern form, my mint tea came in a big cup filled with fresh mint leaves and fruit. They take their tea and their tea time seriously in Istanbul.

I love cities where traditions and the modern life blends together. Where you can see the everyday life of the people living there out on the streets, where they manage to be them selves even if the tourists run around and new trends find their way. I loved Istanbul, so vibrant, so much to see! Beautiful mosques and towers, great culture and food coffee and tea. I only had three days, it's not really enough, but this is what I recommend from my days there:

Galata Bridge
Walking over Galata Bridge the fishers live their lives, many stay there all day long, fishing and chatting with each other, the tea breaks are many. Under the bridge you find all the restaurants no one goes to, but they work very hard getting you in there. Instead people eat their fish sandwich by the Bosphorus river. The view walking over the bridge is great!

Bosphorus river cruise
It is really nice to see all the mosques and the beautiful city from the seaside. Take the short two hour cruise, they run from the riverside by Galata Bridge.

Galata Tower
They say it's expensive, maybe not worth it, but I say it is. The 360 degree view is amazing! This is where you get the really great view photos. By accident I was up there just when the Friday prayer was done, listening to the sound of many many mosques at the same time was really something. 

Sultanahmet
The area of Sultanahmet has a beautiful park, many mosques and museums and much more. I didn't have that much time so I prioritized to see Hagia Sophia and The Blue Mosque, both worth seeing!

Karakoy and Hotel Sub Karakoy
I stayed at the hotel Sub Karakoy in Karakoy. A very nice and central area (I could walk everywhere) and so many many cool and good restaurants, coffee shops and bars. This is where the hipsters hang out. And Sub Karakoy is one of the very best hotels I have stayed at EVER. The design was really beautiful, the service was perfect, the roof top bar super cool, the breakfast yummy (every day served with todays traditional dessert) and they even gave me a present when I left and a gift on New Years eve (I was there then). I highly recommend it both for the location and everything else.

The Grand Bazaar, the spice marked and the streets in between
The Grand Bazaar is a must see. A really big old marked where they sell just about everything. I didn't buy anything though, I'm not a big fan of bargaining and too much of the stuff is fake. But, go there early in the day while the sellers have their tea break and chat with each other rather then pushing things on you, just observe! And sit down at one of the cafes and have a tea yourself. Afterwards, walk the narrow streets down to the spice market. In these streets the locals shop just about everything they need. Walking here you can observe much of the culture of Istanbul. And step by the Spice market to. 

Istiklal Caddesi and Taksim Square
Istlklal Caddesi is a long shopping street with no traffic and a old tram passing by now and then in between the street boots selling what food is right for the season. Not exactly shopping like New York, but there are some nice shops. The street ends up in Taksim Square, also worth seeing.


This is what I had the time to do, but there is so much more. I don't think anyone will regret going to Istanbul, it's a lovely city! Bring good shoes and walk, that's when you see the real life of the city.

 

the view from Galata tower 

the view from Galata tower 

At the Spice marked

At the Spice marked

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Galata bridge

Galata bridge

At the Grand Bazaar 

At the Grand Bazaar 

Hagia Sofia 

Hagia Sofia 

Inside the Blue Mosque 

Inside the Blue Mosque 

Tokyo - wow!

Tokyo is all about contrasts. A very tech focused country with so many sounds, so much technology, so much going on. But at the same time you meet a strong culture, politeness rises above all and the traditions are really important. 

You should definitely go there sometime. In all of my travels I have almost never seen the culture so visible in every day life. With everything happening there  you just can't get enough. And all the sounds! If a shop sells something that has a sound, they do not display only one, but many many and all with the sound on. But even though all the people and the sound can be overwhelming, you won't find aggressive sellers like in China or India. The politeness over rules it all.

Sitting at the metro in Tokyo is almost embarrassing, people look down all the time, it's not polite to look people in the eyes. Money, recites etc. are always given to you with both hands, you take of your shoes outside the dressing room and everything you buy is wrapped nicely. 

 

I was in Tokyo for about a week, here are my recommendations:

The food is great
And Sushi is the best. The different kinds of fish you get here is enormous, and it's fresh all the time. You should try different kinds of sushi restaurants for different experiences. Most restaurants are pretty good in Tokyo, the hygiene and the service holds a high standard. I did get tired of Miso soup and rice, and I did eat the worst Pizza ever there, but all in all, it's a great city for food lovers.

Shibuya
The city area where the cool kids hang out, always loads of people. And the place where you find the famous Shibuya crossing. A must see fascinating experience. Many restaurants and shops in the area, amongst them Shibuya 109, my favorite shopping mall. I lived in Shibuya, very central.

The Yoyogi Park and Meiji Shrine
This park is partly located in Shibuya, partly in Harajuku. A huge nice park, a calm oasis's just beside the busy areas. Meiji shrine is located in the park and is one of the largest shrines in Tokyo. I went there on new years day, the same day as half of Tokyo goes there to pray for luck and happiness the coming year. It was a nice experience and thanks to the amazingly well organized queuing they managed to get thousands of people through there that day. 

Harajuku
This is where they stroll, the girls we have seen pictures of so many times. They spend most of their time dressing and putting on make up, and the rest of it walking down Harajuku street to show it off. Harajuku is shopping. Many local designers mixed with vintage stores, other fun stuff and cool cafes and restaurants in Harajuku street. For more mainstream and luxury shopping, it's all about Omotesando street.

Yanaka
A small part of the city that is more traditional. Very nice just walking around there, especially in the nice shopping street. There are many shrines and a fascinating big cemetery. 

Tsukiji Fish marked
The worlds largest fish marked. Fascinating and very fun, one of the things I enjoyed most in Tokyo actually. You should be there around 9.00 when they open.

The view
You have to see Tokyo from some kind of viewing spot, it looks great from above. I did it from Mori Tower in Rappongi Hills. The ticket there also included a ticket to the Art museum,  worth a visit.

Koishikawa kourakuen
Great Japanese garden. There are many, but this one has less tourists, I liked it very much. 

Electric Town
Geek or not, Electric Town is a great way to experience the other part of the teenage culture, the geeky part. The area has buildings filled with Anime and games and the largest electronics shop I have ever been to (loved it).

I also visited Ginza, another shopping area, but I didn't like it that much. But for shopping you should also check out Tokyu Hands and Loft, where you will find tons of things you didn't know existed. Asakusa was another nice area, but the Imperial Palace was not very impressing.

 

Other stuff - Nice to know about Tokyo:

  • Walk! You might have heard that Tokyo is to big, that you can't walk around, but you can. For example from Shibuya via Yoyogi park to Harajuku. You always see more when walking. 
  • Transportation: When you are not walking, take the metro. It works fine. But I never really understood the ticketing system, there are so many systems. But the guards were always very understanding when I made a mistake (guess they are used to it). Taxi is also ok, but bring the street name in Japanese, the nicely dressed taxi drivers with white glows doesn't speak English, but they have gps. 
  • Money: My Visa card only worked in very few cash machines so if you find an international one like Citybank, make sure you get money there. But you can pay with your card most places.
  • Language: Their knowledge of English is very poor, so be prepared. The hotels are normally ok, but not all restaurants and you will often only find the menus in Japanese and maybe pictures of the dishes. So you just have to point and hope for the best:) And all the street names etc. are in Japanese so you will use more time navigating.  

There you go - my take on Tokyo. Please add a comment if you have others tips for travellers.

And - just go with the flow, enjoy it, throw away your map and get lost. You will never be bored in Tokyo.

Shibuya crossing

Shibuya crossing

At the fish marked

At the fish marked


A blissful Berlin experience contains small change and good shoes

I bloged about Berlin not long ago. But the best tips comes from insiders, so I asked Benedikte who used to live in Berlin to tell us what she likes most in Berlin.

Here is what she has to say:

If you didn't already know: Berlin is a patchwork of what used to be tiny, peculiar villages stitched together into a city that is Chaos In Form (btw the name of a hip shop in Falkensteinstrasse). As a consequence, the city has no true epicenter but rather a string of pearls. A long string, too, which is part of the blessing. But unlike the bead string, Berlin had no beginning nor end and sometimes there are stretches between the oases of good stuff. If you don't want to walk yourself silly it's neither complicated to rent a bike nor maneuver around in traffic on one. The Berlin drivers are used to bikes - but be aware: Riding on the sidewalk can get you a ticket. True story, I live to tell it.

Early 2009 I counted my blessings and realized I had visited Berlin 4 times before Easter. So after graduating as a copy writer, I followed my heart and desire, packed my 7 things and aimed for a sabbath year in Kreuzberg. I got everything I wanted (except the sabbatical rest but I never missed it either). And during my days a couple of musts emerged:    

1. Photo boxes - bring your small change. You'll find them with irregular intervals in the hip areas Friedrichshain, Prenzlauer Berg and Kreuzberg. Old school style photos and good fun!

2. Mauerpark - epic flea marked every Sunday paralleled with magnificently organized karaoke in the park. Leave your lunch box but bring your change.

3. The Turkish Market - Tuesdays and Fridays at the Maybachufer. Veggies, fabric, shoppers and tourists. The cacophony of special offers in Turkish mix with spontaneous concerts at the far end of the market. 

4. Park life - large, lush and lovely parks when the hangover gets too rough or you hang out with kids. Some of the parks has impressing playgrounds and/or open air cinemas. (Achtung, nur auf Deutsch)

5. Breakfast - most cafes with some dignity offer a variety of Frühstück right until supper time. You usually get a huge plate with a tower of goodies and a basket of bread to go with it. Weekends there will be excessive buffets at fixed prices. Work up an appetite, get there early and stay until late.

Benedikte Kluge 


Have fun and relax in Berlin

Berlin is fun, it's calm, it has its beauty and is a live history lesson. I love it! Berlin is one of those cities where you just feel relaxed and it's kind of hard to say why because it's an enormous city both in people living there and the size of it. Maybe it has to do with all the parks in between all the city stuff, maybe it's the people. Anyways, I love the feeling.

And Berlin is fun! So many great bars and clubs, people walking down the street drinking beer (and manage to not get to drunk doing it), all kinds of people, a vibrant start up scene and so much more. But Berlin is also one big history lesson, wherever you go there are references from the war, there are tons of museums, historic buildings, places and monuments. Actually there is so much to see and do in Berlin that I recommend more then a long weekend there. Or just go back. I've been there twice, the last time this summer. And I will be back! Here's my top Berlin tips:

 

How to get around?

Berlin is actually one of the cities in the world with the longest distant between the different parts of the city. And there is really nothing you can call the city centre.  I usually recommend walking, to see more different stuff. But you definitely have to move around otherwise in Berlin. And the best way is the subway/metro (or S bahn and U bahn as its called there), it goes almost everywhere and is quite effective. And to see something you didn't plan to see, just hop of on a random station:)

 

What to see in Berlin?

Well there is so much, here's some of the things I have seen and recommend:

  • The East Side Gallery - an international memorial for freedom. It is a 1.3 km long section of the Berlin Wall located near the centre of Berlin on Mühlenstraße in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg.
  • Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg - very hipster cool fun area of the city.
  • The Pergamon Museum - houses original-sized, reconstructed monumental buildings. Actually one of the most impressive museums I've been to. It's located on The Museum Island where you can stroll by many other museums as well.
  • Brandenburger Tor - because of the history, not to hang around the area, to many tourists.
  • Checkpoint Charlie (the museum) - for another history lesson.
  • Parks, I love cities with green lunges, especially in the summer. Just relax and eat a Currywurst.

 

Shopping in Berlin

I think I found one of my favorite shopping streets in the whole world in Berlin this summer; Alte Schonhauser Strasse. The street is filled with cool little shops, a mix of smaller known and unknown designers, lots of fun stuff, vintage shops, cool cafes and restaurants. Some of the streets around it is also great. 

If you are more up for 'mainstream' shopping, go to Kurfürstendam and in Kurfürstendam, KadeWe for more luxury shopping. Great shopping in Berlin!

 

Where to stay?

Stay in an area you think you will like (because of the distance). I loved staying at Michelberger Hotel, very trendy and cool with a great outside restaurant/bar/garden area, not to happy with the food at the restaurant though (except from the breakfast, it was great). It was close to Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg with lots of nice places. And the S and U bahn was just across the street. 

 

You have to to Berlin sometime, I'm sure you'll love it too - everybody does. If you have any good tips yourself, please share them here.  And check out some insider tips from mye friend Benedikte

The back garden at Michelberger

The back garden at Michelberger

People paddle boarding down the river Spree, I want to do that some time

People paddle boarding down the river Spree, I want to do that some time

The East side gallery

The East side gallery

Lisboa

Narrow streets, clothes drying in the sun and colorful or tiled houses. Lisboa is nice and cozy, even though many of the tiled houses are tagged down and you can see that Portugal isn't at a good place concerning the economy at the moment.

Sit down at a cafe in the narrow streets of Bairro Alto, drink an Espresso (coffee is good here) and a cherry liqueur (specialty from Lisboa), wander around the streets, see how people live and eat fish for dinner. 

You should do your research when it comes to dining by the way. Avoid the typical tourist restaurants in the area around Praca Dos Restauradores where the goal is to get you in there, give you some food (not very good) and no service. Unfortunately good service is not a mark I would put on Lisboa.

Stuff you should do In Lisboa:

  • Wander the narrow streets of Bairro Alto - loved it!
  • See the view and take a break at Miradouro De Sao Pedeo. Nice area with trees for shadow and a nice English garden.
  • Take the 28-tram. Nice way to see the whole city and cool old trams. But do not make the mistake I did, take the 28 tram and not the tourist trams driving the same tour for five times the price and you can not get off during the ride.
  • See the great Praca Do Comercio og the triumphal arch. There are some nice restaurants there as well.
  • Visit Museu Mude. The museum for modern design and fashion, a great display on the history of furniture design when I was there. And it's free.
  • Belem and other monuments, churches etc. are all great so see some of them.
  • Walk! My favorite tip for almost all cities, except from when you are going to the top of a hill, there is no reason to not walk in Lisboa. The distance is short around the city and there are nice streets and houses to see everywhere. 

Stuff you don't have to do in Lisboa:

  • Shopping. Lisboa is not a great city for shopping. Except if bags made of cork or stuff with rooster prints is your thing you should go somewhere else to do your shopping. 
  • Bring your high heels. There are cobblestone in all the streets and you have to do a bit of walking to see the nice parts of the city.
  • See Lisboa from the sea. It was a refreshing boat trip but you didn't really see anything special and it was very touristy.

A weekend is enough to see have you "have" to see in Lisboa. Even though it is a nice cozy city it's not on my top list, but if you are going to Portugal to see other places as well and visit beaches in the area it's worth spending a couple of days in the capital. 

More from Portugal: check out my post about surf and yoga in Tipi Valley and Aljezur and the beaches.