Tag: Travel

Mykonos: Magical Alleyways, Aegean Views And 50 Shades Of Blue

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The cutest island local!

One of the best places that I got to see in 2016 was the magical little island of Mykonos in Greece. After staying at an AirBnb mansion in the neighbouring island of Santorini with my high school friends, we thought things couldn’t get any better in Mykonos, but they did. (They really, really did!)

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Mykonos Harbour

Mykonos island was a short ferry ride away from Santorini (about 2 hours) and it all passed by in a blink of an eye, literally. I’d been getting motion sickness really easily recently from cars or boats (I still don’t know why) and we’d been hearing that it could be a bumpy ferry trip if we had choppy seas, so I wasn’t going to take any chances.

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German Shepherd by the water

My friend gave us all anti-nausea tablets to take an hour before boarding time – with the only side effect being that it would make us sleepy…really, really sleepy. I was already nodding off in the shuttle bus on the way to Santorini’s port and by the time we got on the ferry and sat down, I was totally gone.

Little did I know that not only were the others also fast asleep beside me, but one friend (the only one awake) took a hilarious selfie of herself with us all lined up in the background deep in the unflattering stages of slumber. (It was probably the best group photo of the trip!)

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Mykonos windmills and coastline view from our AirBnb

Once we arrived in Mykonos harbour, the sight was everything that we had been expecting from Santorini, but had never gotten, until now. The white washed geometric houses surrounding the clear blue Aegean waters and yachts bobbing along the wharf – this was what we had been waiting for!

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Our amazing AirBnb residence

The shuttle that had been waiting for us at the port took us straight to our AirBnb residence. We were trying to keep our expectations low as we thought we had already struck gold with our awesome house in Santorini, but boy, we should have known Mykonos would do it even better with that first impression at the harbour.

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Our balcony with an Aegean view

The two storey house was mere minutes away from all of the main island action and we could even see the coastline and Greek windmills from our upstairs window. But the best bit by far was our roomy balcony facing the sea, with a huge wooden table and comfy seats that we spent many a night lounging around in – the perfect summer spot!

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Typical Mykonos residence

After settling into the house, we decided to wander the neighbouring streets and get our bearings of the place – but our bearings were nowhere to be found as we were thrown straight into a labyrinth of winding streets and narrow alleyways that all looked exactly like the last.

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Restaurant Katrin

White washed houses, flagstone paths, doors and stairways in fifty shades of blue and turquoise – this was the signature look of Mykonos and we all fell in love with it.

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Eleanna’s

Around every corner were boutiques, restaurants and cute little cafés and every time we went out, we would find another street that we hadn’t explored before.

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Restaurant Familia – one of our favourites

We were in Mykonos around the middle of October and it was lucky that we hadn’t booked our trip any later because the locals kept telling us that we were there for the last few days of the season. If we had arrived any later, all of the shops and restaurants of the island would have been boarded up and closed.

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Mea Culpa

But thanks to the fact that we were there for the last few days of the season, there weren’t many other tourists around and we felt like we had the run of the island to ourselves. I think I would have hated it in peak summer season with all of those tiny alleyways crowded with people, so I was glad that we arrived when we did!

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Island locals

We went out for brunch and dinner at different places everyday with (a lot) of shopping in between and we all spent far too much money there, (more than we would care to admit) but it was totally worth it!

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Residence number 10

Mykonos was also an island of cats – we saw them everywhere and far more often than in Santorini. There were even cats in the tiny island airport that we used to fly to Athens a few days later!

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Another cute local

One night we ventured to Little Venice, which was a strip of bars and clubs right by the waterfront. Mykonos is well known as an LGBTQ hot spot in terms of bars and nightlife, but the bars were also winding down for the end of season so they were pretty quiet.

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Waterfront restaurants

They were so quiet that we got persuaded to come inside the bar that we were at (we were sitting outside) so we could get half price drinks and make it look like there were more people in the bar and thus more lively. (Their grand plan didn’t work though, it was still totally dead inside…plus the drinks tasted awful!).

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Salt & Pepper

On our last full day, we were eager to check out one of the island’s famous beaches, so we walked to Fabrica to catch a shuttle bus to Super Paradise Beach, which was what the locals told us was one of the best. And the name didn’t disappoint! (Post coming soon).

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My Mykonos souvenirs – Aegean blue rose gold bracelet and Mykonos eye bracelet

While we were in Mykonos, I became so obsessed with the Aegean blue colour that was on so many doors and window frames that I kept looking for a jewellery piece that had the same colour, but to no avail. It was only on the plane to Athens that I spotted this beautiful bracelet in the Aegean in-flight magazine that was so perfect that I had to have it!

(It was probably the first and last time that I would ever buy something from the plane magazine…)

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Windmill sunset

Our amazing time in Mykonos went far too quickly of course, but we enjoyed every minute of it. We loved the relaxed atmosphere and beautiful little winding streets, and it was so relaxing that I even quit my awfully stressful job via text while I was over there, but that’s a whole other story!

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Stunning views from our AirBnb

 


So, did you love the Mykonos lifestyle as much as we did?

Have you been there or would you like to go there?


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Passau: Bavaria’s Most Charming Christmas Market And Meeting Adventurous Kate

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Passau Christmas Market

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful time with family, friends, amazing food and presents!

After spending a truly stunning Christmas with my family in the Swiss Alps last year, I enjoyed a much quieter celebration in Hamburg with my Schnucki’s family this time around.

We had a feast on Christmas Eve (this is when Germans celebrate Christmas) and we ate German style Raclette, which is where you prepare ingredients like vegetables and cheese and cook them yourself on tiny pans on a table top grill. The portion sizes are so small that you can potentially eat forever without realising how much you’ve actually eaten! (Our bellies afterwards told us otherwise).

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Handmade candle stalls

To honour my second Christmas in Europe, I wanted to show you my absolute favourite German Christmas market which of course is the one in Passau, where I live at the moment!

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Glühwein stalls with every flavour you can imagine

The Passau Christmas market is held every year for a month from the 24th November to 24th December. The whole city’s streets are decked out with fairy lights leading up to the event and real Christmas trees are put up on every street corner (and I mean literally every corner!)

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Laser cut wood decorations (I snagged a mini version of the Stephansdom one on the left)

Nobody does Christmas like the Germans – they are so good at making a magical atmosphere! Every stall is bursting with handmade wooden crafts, hand knitted scarves, gloves, hats and food…A LOT of food. (Nutella crêpes, German gingerbread and Chinese noodles included!)

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Cute little handmade snowfolk

And of course there is the Glühwein (hot mulled wine) and alcohol free Kinderpunsch (kid’s punch) in every flavour. My favourite was probably the berry Glühwein, but you can also get white Glühwein (which I still haven’t tried). Every stall has their own signature drink with different variations and spices, and it takes a few goes to find the best ones!

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The Simon stall – a famous confectionary shop and cafe in Passau

While the Christmas market was on in December, I also had the opportunity to meet and hang out with Adventurous Kate, who is a famous travel blogger on Instagram. She has been travelling the world as her job for over six years now, and she was one of the first travel bloggers to get really popular online and have a big following.

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Chocolate covered physalis, raspberries and other fruit

Kate was in Munich for a conference and then visiting Bavarian Christmas markets for German Tourism when she posted a photo of herself at the Passau Christmas market.

I was so surprised at seeing her in Passau (a lot of Germans don’t even know where Passau is, let alone American travel bloggers) that I commented on the photo half jokingly that we should have met up for a Glühwein, since I live in Passau right near St. Stephan’s Cathedral. And lo and behold, she commented back saying that she had free time the next day if we wanted to meet up!

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Residenzplatz and St. Stephan’s Cathedral

So I met up with her in front of St. Stephan’s the next day (it’s a strange feeling trying to spot someone that you’ve only ever seen in photos) and I took her to my favourite retro style café close by called Schöffberger. Kate was a super friendly and extroverted person, and we chatted about travels, her life in New York and even some American politics over cake and hot drinks.

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Schokokuss (Chocokiss) sweets with a sweet marshmellow like centre covered in chocolate

After afternoon tea, we perused the Christmas market together and Kate bought some souvenirs and Christmas presents for her family and friends. We walked back along the Ludwigstraße and finally had our promised Glühwein together before saying our good byes.

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Christmas trees in front of Neues Residenz

All in all it was a very spontaneous meeting, but a really fun one! It was great to hear about Kate’s amazing travels and what it’s really like to live a nomadic lifestyle. She also wrote a Bavarian Christmas Market post on her blog about the markets she visited, including the Passau one!

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The half metre Bratwurst – a famous Christmas market delicacy

One of the most famous Christmas market eats might just be the half metre Bratwurst, which is as you guessed, a 50cm long sausage in a bun lathered in mustard or tomato sauce. You may not want to get one of these when it’s really crowded though, because you’ll be prone to hitting someone with it! (Get your mind out of the gutter please).

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My blue Passau Glühwein mug

Another famous treat of the Christmas markets are the unique Glühwein mugs that have different shapes and designs in every town and city. You pay an extra Pfand (bond) whenever you buy a Glühwein or Kinderpunsch (usually 2 Euros) and you get the money back if you return the mug to the stall, or you can keep the mug and forgo the coins.

I’ve collected the different coloured designs of the Passau mugs over the last two years and I have six in total so far!

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The Passau Christmas market crowds at night

I’m always sad to see the Christmas markets go once we hit the new year, but I know that they’ll be back again before we know it!

 


So, did you love the Passau Christmas market as much as I did?

What are the Christmas markets like in your country?


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Innsbruck: My Surprise Birthday Trip Full Of Mountains, Alms And Imperial Gardens

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Innsbruck

My darling Schnucki whisked me away on a surprise trip for my birthday weekend and we ended up in Innsbruck, Austria!

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Innsbruck is the capitol of Tyrol state in Austria. The whole city is surrounded by towering mountains, making it a major hub for winter sports and it is famous for hosting the Winter Olympic and Winter Paralympic Games on more than one occasion.

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Maria-Theresien-Straße

Time and time again Austria has surprised me with its underrated charm and grandeur, and Innsbruck was no exception. We found the Altstadt and inner city easy to navigate and the major attractions were all in walking distance, which is something that I love to see in cities. (My wallet was also thankful!)

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“Please do not lean on the wall!”

The Goldenes Dachl or Golden Roof is one of the most famous icons of Innsbruck, which was built in 1500 for emperor Maximilian I and his wife to look over the town square below and enjoy the festivities from the balcony.

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Goldenes Dachl

The city name ‘Innsbruck’ means ‘Inn bridge’ because of the river Inn that runs through the city from the Swiss Alps. Seeing the Inn was a welcome sight to us because beleive it or not, the river also runs through Passau which is further downstream. We joked about throwing a message in a bottle in the river and how it might reach us by the time we got back to Passau.

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The Stadtturm clock reflected in the windows of Helblinghaus

The Hofburg or Imperial Palace in Innsbruck was once used by the Habsburgs and was considered to be as important as Schönbrunn Palace and the Hofburg Palace in Vienna. It was hard to see much of the Innsbruck Hofburg from the outside, but we did go to the Hofgarten or Imperial Gardens behind the palace, where autumn was in full swing.

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Hofgarten Imperial Gardens

The sun blessed us with her presence on my birthday, so we decided to go up the mountain in a cable car to Hungerburg station. There were also two other stations after Hungerburg that went even further up the mountain, but we (and our wallets) decided that the first was probably enough to look out over the city.

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Pension Alpina

And boy, were we right! The view out over Innsbruck city and the surrounding mountains along with the autumn colours was breathtaking.

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View from Hungerburg station

For some reason I had been expecting Hungerburg to be a village full of eateries and shops to peruse, but I was way off the mark when we got there and found only residential houses and one café by the station that was crammed full of families and kiddies. (It was a Sunday and the Alpine Zoo was located one stop before Hungerburg).

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Hungerburg

We wandered around in search of something else to do and stumbled upon an area map which showed the local Alms in the vicinity. An Alm is typically an alpine pasture with a little hut or house that serves food and drinks on the mountains. We decided to go for the closest one called Arzler Alm and promptly followed the path that lead into the forest.

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Arzler Alm (1067m)

Although it was the closest Alm and the map said it was a mere 30 minute walk away, we were not accounting for it to be a 30 minute steep uphill forest trek, which is what it ended up being! But long last after much huffing and puffing (we were obviously not ready for hiking at all) we came into a clearing with goats, chickens and rabbits and the Arzler Alm.

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Almdudler

“If you go to an Alm, you have to drink an Almdudler,” is what my Schnucki said to me as we were climbing, reminiscing about his family holidays in Austria where they would do just that. Almdudler is a popular Austrian soft drink that is also sold in neighbouring countries like Germany, and it’s a drink that I’ve really come to like since being here. A slice of cake and cold Almdudler really hit the spot after our hot mountain walk up to the Alm!

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Million dollar view from our hotel room window

Although we were only in Innsbruck for the weekend, it turned out to be the most perfect birthday trip! Thank you to my Schnucki for organising it all and I hope we can return in winter to explore even more of the city in its peak season!

 


So, did you like Innsbruck as much as I did?

Any recommendations for Innsbruck winter activities? Let me know!


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Santorini: Blue Domes, Beach Cats And The Famous Oia Sunset

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Fira town (St. John the Baptist Cathedral in the background)

I went to Greece to reunite with my high school friends and what an epic reunion it was! Our first stop in the Greek Islands was Santorini, and we were blessed with blue skies and beautiful weather for the duration of our short stay.

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The classic blue domed churches of Greece

My friends from high school in New Zealand were all doing their individual trips around Europe for different lengths of time and we all managed to plan ahead and meet up in Santorini on the same day. We stayed in an awesome AirBnb house (more like mansion!) in Fira, which was the main town located more or less in the centre of the island.

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Barren landscape of parts of the island

On the taxi drive from the tiny one-room airport to Fira town, I was surprised at how barren and deserted some parts of the island were. With sporadically placed houses and not much green vegetation in sight, it was a far cry from the endless online photos of sprawling white stone towns. But in reality this was to be expected, as Santorini itself is an old volcano and volcanic rock and soil is not the best foundation for plants to grow – it was a landscape that reminded me a lot of Rangitoto Island in New Zealand.

The price tag for the 15 minute drive from the airport to Fira was also a surprise at 28 Euros, since my friends told me that theirs was 20!

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Cocktail smoothies at Koloumpos Beach

Although it was technically autumn in northern parts of Europe, we would have called the balmy island temperatures there positively summery. The locals told us it was too windy to hit the beaches, but we were determined to go sunbathing, so our taxi driver dropped us off at Koloumpos Beach.

It wasn’t the prettiest beach of the island with its stony sand, but we were perfectly happy to chill there for a few hours waiting until it was near sunset.

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Beach Kitty

Another sight we weren’t expecting to see were the number of stray dogs and cats, with kittens even roaming around on the beach. They all looked quite healthy though, not skinny and mangy with matted fur like you might expect. I hoped that somebody was feeding them regularly.

After the beach we were stranded on the side of the road for a while, waiting for a bus that our taxi driver had insisted would come every half hour – but we soon found out that he was talking about peak season, not this time of the year where there were only one or two buses daily.

We subsequently tried to wave down cars or tour buses that passed by, but to no avail. We were losing hope until a friendly Frenchman pulled over and offered us a ride, exclaiming: “Don’t worry, I’m gay!”, as we all gratefully piled into his car.

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Doorways of Oia

The lovely Frenchman dropped us off at Oia, which is the picture perfect town you see in almost all Santorini photos on the internet. With white washed houses, winding alleys full of boutiques and the gorgeous view onto the Aegean sea, this was what we had come for.

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Classic Santorini view

This was also the town where all of the island tourists flocked to. The narrow streets were bustling with people shopping, taking photos and heading towards the tip of the island like we were.

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Church bells over the Aegean

Since we were there after peak season, we had gotten used to not seeing other tourists around as much, but being in Oia was like getting a taste of what it must be like in midsummer.

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Pretty shop fronts of Oia

 The Santorini towns were built on points high above the sea, like Oia which was built more than 100 metres above sea level. A lot of the houses were built into the sheer cliff face, with the magnificent view of the Aegean and caldera spreading out below them.

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Waiting for the sun to set…

Around 6.30pm we headed towards the very tip of Oia along with every other tourist on the island to witness the famous sunset. Tourists were crowding along the streets, rooftops and rocks to secure a good view, with some even in boats on the water below.

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Along with every other tourist on the island!

At 6.45 the blazing golden sun dipped slowly below the horizon, and in a matter of minutes it was gone but the moments leading up to it were pure magic. I can’t remember the last time I watched a sunset, let alone a sunset as spectacular as that!

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The golden sunset of Oia

In our quest to find authentic Santorini souvenirs (not just the tacky ones mass produced and sold in every island shop) we hit up a lot of the local places looking for something unique. We eventually stumbled upon a gem of a shop at the very point where we went to watch the sunset.

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Beautiful Oia hotel

This shop was full of hand made jewellery, paintings and these stunning turquoise and blue bowls. We all fell in love with these bowls and bought a few each, with one of my friends even caving in to buy a magnificent plate on the wall of the same design.

The shop owner told us that her grandfather made these by hand on the island, and no bowl or plate of his had the same design. It was a perfect Santorini souvenir!

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Hand made bowls from Oia

The next morning it was time for us to leave on the ferry to our next island adventure, but we all agreed that we would have liked to have spent more time here, or in Oia at least.

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Super fruit bowl at Pelican

One of our favourite places to eat in Santorini was a place called Pelican, which served huge fluffy breakfast waffles and amazing fruit bowls drizzled in island honey. The tables outside were under grape vines and the atmosphere was just lovely – we ended up going there more than once!

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Our AirBnb porch

So our time in Santorini and our first taste of Greek island life was coming to an end, but we were also looking forward to the next one and what we would find there. We were going to miss our AirBnb mansion, but little did we know that the best was yet to come…

 


So, did you like the look of Santorini? Would you go there?

Click the button below for our next Greek Island hopping adventure in Mykonos!


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Happy Birthday To Me…And My Blog #2

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Looking out over the Parthenon in Athens, Greece

Today is my birthday and it is also the second anniversary of this blog! Yippee!

I can’t believe how fast this past year has flown by, but I’ve managed to do a lot of amazing travelling and artistic projects in that time. Last year I vowed to put myself and my happiness first after a string of stressful and terrible jobs that left me empty and burned out. I’ve worked at two different jobs whilst here in Germany; one that was not so great again but another that was probably the best I’ve ever had.

Now that I’m another year older, I’ve been getting a bit of pressure from others to decide where I want to be next year and what I want to do with this blank canvas called life. I don’t yet know where I want to go next year, but I’ve known for a while now that all I want to keep doing is travelling and making art. These are my top priorities at the moment and if I could somehow spin a profession out of that, then that would be the dream.

My travel highlights of the past year would definitely include the magical white Christmas with my family in the Swiss Alps, our charming trip to Copenhagen, London and Innsbruck with my darling Schnucki and reuniting with my high school friends in the Greek Islands.

One of my greatest artistic moments this year was when I got to exhibit my Kimono Cat Collection at the Kunst Nacht or art night here in Passau, which is one of the biggest events on the social calender. My Schnucki set this opportunity up for me and I am eternally grateful to him – it really was a dream come true (read this post here!).

I am so thankful for all of these opportunities and amazing people in my life and I really do count my lucky stars every day. I hope the coming year will also be full of love and happiness and that I’ll be able to achieve the goals that I am striving for!

P.S. The biggest lesson that I have to keep reminding myself about this year is: stop giving so much of yourself away when you’re receiving nothing back. This applies to work, friends and basically anything else. If you keep putting so much effort and time into people and things when you’re getting nothing in return, it’s time to stop and let it go. Otherwise you’ll just drive yourself into a frustrated ruin. Remember to look after yourself and put your own oxygen mask on before helping others!

 


So, thank you to everyone that has been following and supporting me so far!

Here’s to another epic year of travels, art and happiness!


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Germany: One Year On

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Nürnberg old town

It’s strange to think that I’ve been living in Germany for more than a year now. I feel like this time has flown by in the blink of an eye! But my initial reaction to the country still hasn’t changed – I really love living here and the Germans make life so easy.

Here are some German situations that I don’t even bat an eyelid at anymore:

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Cologne Cathedral

Open invitations

Something that constantly surprised me at the start (and I admit, it still sometimes does) is that I got invited to everything. I must have been used to people being more exclusive and ‘invite only’ with their gatherings, because I found that Germans were the complete opposite – so warm and welcoming.

Dinners, barbecues, birthday parties of a friend-of-a-friend’s, it didn’t matter; I was invited along to them all. Even if the person that invited me was the only person I knew there and I felt like I was gate-crashing the event.

It didn’t even matter that I couldn’t speak German – time and time again I found that the whole group at the gathering would completely switch to English for me, even when talking amongst themselves. I was baffled. And totally charmed. Way to go Germany for making the Hobbit in the room feel completely welcome!

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Lüneburg

Street harassment…or lack thereof

One of the very best things that I have experienced since being in Germany is the lack of street harassment.

The pure joy I feel every day at being able to walk the streets day or night and not be whistled at, honked at, catcalled out of car windows or shouted at by leering men passing by is so damn great. And literally all of these things are what I had to endure on a daily basis even just walking down my own street back home. But this surprises no woman – we have all been through this and continue to go through this public victimisation regularly.

Of course, bigger cities in Germany may be a different story, but this is from my personal experience living in a small Bavarian city. It’s so nice to know that in some places, everyone can be left alone to walk, run and bike in peace.

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Old town of Heidelberg

Jeans are the uniform

If you don’t know what to wear, put on your jeans and you’ll fit right in. This is what I would have told myself a year ago when I was fretting about what to wear to a birthday party that I’d been invited to out of the blue.

In Germany, jeans are the uniform. I don’t think I’d ever seen so many people in jeans until I came here! I would say that everyone dresses in a very practical manner. If it’s winter, you wear jeans and a jacket and if it’s summer, you wear jeans and a T-shirt.

You’ll stick out like a sore thumb if you go out in shorts when it’s only (gasp) 20 degrees…this is from experience. (Although I’d be in shorts even at 15 degrees back in NZ).

I’ve also always been used to dressing up when going out, even just to have a drink at the bar, but here, there is no such unwritten social rule. So jeans and a T-shirt to the bar it is – and I ain’t complaining!

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Oktoberfest in Munich

The customer service is so bad that it’s good

It’s always been said the Japanese and Germans get along well because they have some cultural norms in common, but boy, customer service is not one of them!

If you walk into a shop and get a greeting from the shop person, that’s a good sign, but the majority of the time you will be ignored, or grudgingly served like it is the last thing that they want to do. I’ve been in places where the shop assistants are openly chatting across the shop to each other and ignoring customers. A friend once said to me that his bank bluntly told him that there is no customer service there.

This would normally be regarded as a bad thing…but as an introvert, I absolutely love it.

I’ve always just really hated being spoken to in shops. The worst case scenario was when clothes shop assistants would follow me to the changing rooms and call through my door asking if they should bring another size…and I cringed every time. But here, I’m left totally alone to do my own thing, at my own pace, without the weird pressure they put on you to buy something. It’s a godsend, I tell you.

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The old post tower in Hamburg

Supermarket Master Packer (SMP) status

I never realised that the bag packers at supermarket checkouts were a luxury…until I came here and saw that no such job description exists.

When you’re at a German supermarket, you have to have a plan of attack before you go to the checkout because this is war…a war between you and the checkout operator.

They zap your groceries through as fast as greased lightning and if you’re not ready to bag your items just as quickly on the other side, you lose the fight and hold all of the next customers up, your groceries mixing up with theirs. I know, I’ve been there. The horrors. So here’s what you do:

  1. Load your groceries onto the conveyor belt. Make sure your heavy items go first and your fragile, easily squished items like tomatoes and bread goes last.
  2. Get your fabric tote bags ready and open (come on, you’re not paying extra for plastic bags).
  3. Have your wallet at the ready. Preferably nestled under your armpit for quick access.
  4. Start bagging your items as soon as they get zapped, alternating items between your bags so they will each end up with an even load. (You’ll gain a few extra seconds every time the checkout operator has to weigh your vegetables/fruit and look up the price of the bread you’re getting).
  5. Pay quickly with cash (and not all with small change).
  6. Smile, wish them a good day and walk away with your finely packed groceries and know that the battle has been won. (A big explosion goes off behind you and you keep walking in slow motion without looking back).

 

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Europe’s largest Buddhist temple in Düsseldorf

What do I miss?

As I’ve mentioned before, the one thing I’ve really missed since living in Europe is good (and affordable) Japanese food. And Indian food. And Thai food. And Vietnamese and Korean and Chinese food.

I’ve found that a lot of Asian cuisines tend to get lumped together here, under the umbrella term of ‘Asian Fusion’.  And even then, it’s usually just low quality Chinese food with some Thai curry options and a side of suspicious sushi. If you’re lucky enough to find a proper Japanese restaurant with real Japanese cooks, it’s likely to be upmarket and very expensive. (Unless you go to Düsseldorf. Yes please!)

I just really, really miss these different cuisines! Of course bigger cities will have more authentic Asian restaurants with reasonable prices, but there’s not much hope out here in the smaller ones. It makes me realise how spoilt for choice we are in New Zealand with our melting pot of different eateries on every street corner!

 


So, did you like my post about some of my German experiences?

Any other expats got something to add to the list? Let me know!


 

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Copenhagen: Tivoli, Danish Royalty And The Little Mermaid

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Tivoli Amusement Park

After spending New Years in Hamburg, my family and I headed up to Denmark by bus to visit the spectacular capital city of Copenhagen (København).

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Copenhagen City Hall

The first thing I noticed about the city as we drove through were the neat and tidy geometric brick buildings and the prevalent use of bicycles on the road. Copenhagen is proud to be known as one of the world’s most bike-friendly cities.

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Our hotel was right by the central station, so we went to explore the surrounding area with the help of my mum’s Danish friend who showed us around. There was an eclectic mix of modern and old going on in the centre, like these fancy new buildings under construction near the station.

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Copenhagen Cathedral

The Copenhagen Cathedral or The Church of Our Lady is the national cathedral of Denmark. It looked more like a palace inside than a church and for good reason – there has been many Danish royal weddings and events held here.

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The Little Pharmacy

We had lunch at Det lille Apotek or The Little Pharmacy, which claimed to be the oldest restaurant and coffee house in Copenhagen. In 1720, a pharmacist converted his pharmacy into a restaurant after his unique home distilled spirits became popular with the locals.

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The Round Tower spiral walk

The Round Tower or Rundetaarn is one of the most famous landmarks of the city since 1642. University astronomers used the tower as an observatory and the old Library Hall is used for gallery exhibitions and concerts.

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View from the Round Tower

To get to the lookout at the top, you have to walk up the long spiral ramp which winds seven and a half times around the tower core – so no stairs until the very few at the end!

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Frederik’s Church

Frederik’s Church or the Marble Church is located west of the winter home of the Danish royal family, Amalienborg Palace. The royal mansions surround an octagonal plaza manned by guards – we saw a lot of tourists taking candid photos with them!

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The Little Mermaid

Denmark is also home to famous fairy tale writer Hans Christian Andersen, who penned stories like The Little Mermaid, The Ugly Duckling and The Snow Queen. On Copenhagen’s harbour promenade is a small statue of Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, which is a famous tourist spot and also notorious for being painted over and beheaded twice by artists.

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Tivoli Gardens

On our last night in Copenhagen, we went to Tivoli which is one of the oldest amusement parks in the world. Usually theme parks are far away from the cities, but this one was located smack bang in the city centre next to the station!

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The night was bitterly cold but we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. My brother went on The Demon roller coaster ride in the Chinatown quarter, which looked terrifying but only lasted for under two minutes (the price tag was also terrifying at 75 DKK).

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My dad and I went on the somewhat tamer but more famous wooden roller coaster called Rutschebanen, which is one of the world’s oldest wooden roller coasters still operating today.

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The Rutschebanen wooden roller coaster

Although we only had a few days in Copenhagen, we all enjoyed ourselves a lot – much more than we expected. Denmark’s capital is such an interesting place steeped with a lot of history and there was so much we didn’t get to see this time around, so I hope we can go back for more soon!

 


So, did you like Copenhagen as much as I did?

Has anyone else been here or would like to add it to their travel list?


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Les Diablerets: Christmas Winter Wonderland In The Swiss Alps

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Les Diablerets

In December 2015, my family came over to Europe from New Zealand and we had a magical Christmas together in the Swiss Alps. First we went from Munich to Lausanne and met up with our relatives who lived there, and they took us up to their best kept secret: Les Diablerets.

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Les Diablerets township

Les Diablerets was a small alpine village and ski resort in the canton of Vaud, Switzerland. We got there by a 40 minute train ride from Lausanne to Aigle, and then we switched to the Chemin de fer Aigle-Sepey-Diablerets; a historic little mountain train that took us up to the altitude of 1,160 metres where the village was located.

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The little devil of Les Diablerets

Les Diablerets means ‘the abode of devils’ in French and the symbol of the village was a little devil playing a flute, which was everywhere. The village legend says that when rocks fell down the sides of the mountains, it was the fault of the little devils that were throwing rocks at the Quille du Diable, or the devil’s skittle on the mountain.

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The little devil motif on houses

Besides the little devil, the real charm of the village were all of the old wooden chalets. Every chalet had different designs in the beams, balcony and woodwork and the result was just beautiful – I’d never seen houses quite like it before.

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A typical Swiss mountain chalet

There was already snow on the ground when we got to Les Diablerets, and we had clear blue skies the whole time we were there with an average temperature of about 12 degrees Celsius! I had been dreading how cold it was going to be up there, but we ended up having the best of both worlds – snow and warm days!

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Kids playing in the snow

The township had everything we needed in walking distance: a supermarket, cafes, souvenirs and ski supply shops. My family had been staying in Munich for the past few days and they said it was a relief to get away from other tourists. And they were right – most chalets belonged to Swiss families so everything felt very local indeed.

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Beautiful timber chalet

 

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Local transport

A lot of people were cross-country skiing across the village as a faster means of transport, which amused me because it wasn’t a sight I was used to. There was also a lot of ice skating and ice hockey games going on within the village.

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Symbol of Switzerland – the Swiss cow bells

A lot of the chalets had the year it was built painted on it and some even had the Swiss cow bells hanging from the banisters.

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Chalets up the hill

Our chalet was down in the valley, so we would only get direct sunlight until about 2pm, after that the sun was hidden behind the mountains and we would be left in shade. The chalets up on the hill were placed better and got a whole lot more hours of sun!

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Snow bunny

My cousin and I spotted this cute rabbit hopping around our chalet more than once and it turned out to be the neighbour’s pet. (I would have been quite happy to adopt it!)

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Our humble abode

The inside of our chalet turned out to be even better than the outside with warm wooden interiors with an authentically rustic feel. There were nine of us together in this chalet but there was plenty of room for all!

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Garden view

We went up to the glacier ski field on the mountain for a day, but the rest of the time was spent opening presents, playing games and eating far too much. We even had a classic Swiss dish for dinner one time – a mouth watering cheese fondue!

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So, did you like Les Diablerets as much as I did?

Stay tuned for the next installment of going up to the Diablerets glacier!


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Switzerland: Expensive Wine And Autumn Vibes In Lausanne

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The Lausanne Cathedral

It was my first time in Switzerland last week – we went to the French speaking city of Lausanne!  It was a long nine hour journey from Passau with three transport changes; train to Munich, bus to Zurich and then train again to Lausanne, but my big family event there was so worth it!

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Looking out onto Lake Geneva

Lausanne is the fourth largest city in Switzerland and it is known as the ‘Olympic Capital’ because the International Olympic Committee is located there. The city itself is resting right on the shores of Lake Geneva, which is the largest freshwater lake in Europe and the scenery was just divine.

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Rue du Grand-Chêne

It was the strangest thing to be sitting on the train from Zurich to Lausanne and to halfway through have the language of the overhead speakers and train staff suddenly switch from German to French. I kept going to answer people in German, until I realised halfway through and then proceeded to dig into my old high school French repertoire for (very) basic communication.

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My Dad kept saying how nice it was to hear French being spoken after hearing German for a week and I interjected (I’ve become really fond of German), but I did have to admit after a while that French was a nice language to listen to.

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View from my room

You know, I thought New Zealand and Japan were pretty expensive countries but Switzerland is a whole other ball game. I heard that some people live and work in Switzerland and go shopping in neighbouring countries because it’s cheaper – and I can see why!

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Inside the Lausanne Cathedral

The Lausanne Cathedral is known as one of the most beautiful gothic monuments in Europe and it is famous for its statues that have medieval paintwork still faintly visible on its surfaces.

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Stained glass window of the cathedral

 

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Cully

We took a boat on Lake Geneva from Ouchy over to a cute little village called Cully. The lake scenery really reminded me of Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown (New Zealand) at times.

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This boat had a small French flag flying at the front and this HUGE Swiss flag at the back

The hills around Lake Geneva are covered in vineyards; the most famous being the 14km long terraced vineyards of Lavaux which are listed as a UNESCO Heritage Site.

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Cully was a little village with winding narrow stone streets with a whole lot of charm – I much prefer seeing the smaller places (which have a lot more character) than big city tourist traps with too many people!

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How cute are these window shutters?

I particularly adored all of the unique window shutters on the houses in Cully, they were just so colourful and detailed! (I wish my windows had them too…)

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Falling leaves and serenity by the lake

Although it was noticeably warmer in Lausanne than it was in Germany, Autumn was making her presence known here too. Golden leaves were falling all over the city.

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Window shutters and grapevines

We also went wine tasting while we were in Cully (complete with an outrageous price tag!) but it was a lot of fun, none the less. We’re actually going to be having Christmas in Lausanne with family, so I’ll be back there soon for more!


So, did you like Lausanne?

Is it somewhere you’ve visited or would like to visit?


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Vienna: The Imperial Palaces, Magnificent Museums and Iconic Cafés

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Belvedere

We went to Vienna last weekend for a three day holiday and I was completely blown away by the city. The buildings were magnificent; I’d never seen so many beautiful buildings in such a concentrated area before. Every corner we turned, there was another amazing structure to be awe-struck by – I’m pretty sure we walked around the city centre dragging our jaws along the ground with us!

Vienna or Wien is the capital of Austria and it used to be the imperial capital of the Austrian Empire which was ruled by the Habsburg Monarchy. The city is known for its musical and artistic legacy and is considered one of the most livable cities in the world.

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Upper Belevedere

Our hotel was located near the famous Belvedere complex, so naturally we went to check that out first. The Upper and Lower Belvedere are Baroque palaces that were built as a summer residence for Prince Eugene of Savoy, who was a general in the imperial army.

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Lower Belvedere

The two buildings are used as art museums and have beautifully manicured lawns, fountains and flower gardens surrounding them (look at those perfectly pointy trees!).

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Hall of Grotesques, Lower Belvedere

The Lower Belvedere holds temporary art exhibitions and the Upper Belvedere is home to Austrian art dating back to the middle ages. It is most famous for its huge Gustav Klimt collection including The Kiss. I am still so disappointed that we didn’t have enough time to go into the Upper Belvedere exhibition!

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Karlsplatz

We had perfect weather while we were in Vienna – three days of temperatures over 30 degrees with not a single cloud in the sky! After visiting Belvedere we stumbled upon the fountain at Karlsplatz, which people were swimming in to cool off in the heat.

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Stephansdom

The St. Stephan’s Cathedral or Stephansdom is the most important religious building in Vienna. There is also a Stephansdom in Passau (where I live) which was supposedly built in a similar Gothic style to the Vienna one before it was burnt down in a town fire and rebuilt in Baroque style.

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Hofburg Palace

Hofburg Palace in the centre of the city was the residence of monarchs of the Habsburg dynasty and also houses the Winter Riding School of the famous Lipizzan horses of the Spanish Riding School. I remember reading a book called The Star of Kazan by Eva Ibbotson when I was younger which featured the Spanish Riding School – does anyone else remember reading that book?

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Emperor Franz Josef I and Empress Elisabeth

In the Hofburg Palace we went to the Sisi museum, which showed the life of the beloved Empress Elisabeth of Austria, Queen of Hungary. I found it fascinating to learn about her life and she seemed very modern minded, which was sometimes not taken so well in her own time.

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Sisi was born in Munich to Bavarian royalty and met Franz Josef when she was fifteen, who became infatuated with her even though it was Sisi’s older sister he was there to meet. They married and Sisi moved to Vienna to start her royal duties. Throughout her life Sisi disliked Viennese court life and preferred to travel and do things on her own. She was famous for her beauty which she kept a strict routine of daily exercises and hours of dressing her long hair to upkeep.

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Imperial Apartment tour

The museum also included an audio tour of the imperial apartments where Franz Josef and Sisi lived. The rooms were gorgeous and rich with detail!

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Kunsthistorisches Museum

The Museum of Fine Arts or Kunsthistoriches Museum holds the Habsburgs’ art collection and it was amazing from the inside and out.

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Inside the museum

Marble staircases and gold leaf decorations adorned the main hallway, along with the huge fresco painted on the ceiling.

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Österreichische Nationalbibliothek

The Austrian National Library or Österreichische Nationalbibliothek is also located in the Hofburg and is also another gigantic building which includes four museums and boasts the title of being the largest library in Austria.

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University of Vienna

The University of Vienna is one of the oldest and largest universities in Europe. It really looks more like a palace than a university, doesn’t it?

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Rathaus (City hall)

 

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Austrian Parliament building

 

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Café Central

Vienna is also famous for its traditional coffeehouses, one of the most iconic being Café Central. The café opened in 1876 and famous people of Austria were noted to be regulars there.

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Delectable sweets in Café Central

 

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The arches and columns inside Café Central

A pianist was playing live in the café while we ate and the ambiance was just beautiful.

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Our Vienna Cards (Wien Karte)

When we got to the main train station in Vienna, we went to buy the Vienna Card, which cost 21,90 Euros and it was a great investment for our trip. You can buy the 48 hour card or the 72 hour card (which we got) and it enables you to travel on all public transport for free (buses, trams and subway) and gets you discounts for the main attractions and museums in the city. When every museum or palace costs 10 Euros or more to get in, this card seriously came in handy for a cheaper deal.

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As you can probably tell, there was A LOT to see in Vienna – almost too much! There is so much fascinating history there, especially involving the Habsburgs that what we saw was just the tiniest tip of the Viennese ice berg. Three days was definitely not long enough!

I already have a mental list of things I missed that I want to see when I go back there, starting with the Upper Belvedere art collection, Albertina, inside the National Library, National History Museum and maybe even a show at the Spanish Riding School.

I’m really looking forward to going back there sometime!


So, did you enjoy my Vienna post? 

Watch this space for my next Vienna post about Schönbrunn Palace!


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