"Are you cold, darling?" Kevin, the ticket inspector asked me on our train from Glasgow towards the Isle of Skye, while I was putting on my jacket. I agreed, assuming he was just trying to have a conversation. He then forced everybody in the entire coach to close the windows, while explaining to us which bridge we were about to cross and offering help with our luggage. This was the first of many overly friendly encounters, that almost made me feel like a bad person for not constantly offering help to everybody.
As a result, my friend Ashton (you might remember her from our trip to Laos) and I were in love with the Isle of Skye, before we even set foot on it.
My first travel memories are of the many times my Dad took me to Paris. I was fascinated by the Metro system, loved the abundance of crêpes stands and the proximity to Disneyland.
We always stayed in the same area – the quartier latin – and had a deal with each other that we could both choose the activities for one day each. Mine has always been Disneyland, his was always Versailles.
Judith and I have been travelling together for more than ten years now and are known for the most chaotic and randomly chosen trips. We’ve booked flights after several bottles of wine and ended up in Latvian beach towns and industrial areas in Poland, usually positively surprised but never well planned.
So, when we booked our flights to Budapest, we felt very grown up and reasonable: this is actually a place where people go on vacation!
Hamburg is building a whole new part of town – the HafenCity.
The new subway line U4 connects the HafenCity with the rest of Hamburg and is holding up with the architectural standard of the new buildings surrounding it.
Three stops have already opened and are all worth a visit:
We've all woken up hungover having bought something we didn't need online, right?
This wasn't the first time my friend Judith had brought over two bottles of wine and we ended up booking a random flight. This time we went with the cheapest one we found, which sent us to Katowice, a small town close to Krakow in Poland. To make up for the cheap flight we also booked the most expensive hotel in town, obviously.
What I'm interested in is meeting local people, hearing stories about weird customs and simply walking around looking for markets, small restaurants or street art. The problem is, that it's not that easy to always meet the locals, who are willing to tell me their stories or to show me their neighbourhoods. I guess, they also have something else to do.
Therefore, I was hooked right away when I heard about the Free Original Barcelona Alternative Tour. These guys specialise in street art and Catalunyan culture, which they will show you in the neighbourhood of le Raval.
I'm usually not a big fan of driving, but in Croatia we found so many spots, that are just easier to reach this way, that J and I decided to rent a car for our entire trip.
It ended up being the perfect choice, as we were able to go to secluded places and travel at our own pace. We spent ten days in Croatia, but our itinerary could have been easily spread over two weeks or more.
We were sitting on a bench in front of our hostel in Zagreb, while our new friend Iva zoomed in and out on my phone on Google maps: “The Zeljava air base should be here. Don't accidentally cross the border to Bosnia”. Seeing my confused stare she added “Exits one to three are in Croatia, exit four is Bosnia Herzegovina. Don't take exit four. And bring your ID, the police will come, but you will be fine”.
"Are you going in?” a girl sitting in a lounge chair asked, as I was holding the tip of my toe into the water. It was cold, but I was determined. This was my first time in a European hostel with a pool, and I was going to use it, no matter how cold it still was in May.
An hour earlier, we had arrived at Swanky Mint Hostel in Zagreb. It has been built into an old dry cleaning factory in the centre of the city, which now houses the hostel's rooms, two bars, several terraces and the pool I now was standing next to.
Since Hamburg still excites me after living here for several years, I've put together a list of my favourite spots to visit for a great afternoon and a few likes from your Social Media-friends.
"I found something, that you will like" J told me on our first day in Berlin. "It's a tree house, right where the Berlin Wall has been".
I was expecting an architectural project, reusing the space that had become available after the Wall came down, therefore I was pretty surprised when I was standing in front of a building, that had obviously been built out of scrap wood.
I heard about the Chemin de fer de Petite Ceinture (French for „little belt railway“) a couple of days before I went on my trip to Paris.
This railway from 1852 was a circular connection between the main railway stops and ran within the fortified walls of the city. Abandoned in 1934, the remaining station and tracks are now being developed into cafés, running tracks or simply decorated with Street art.
I only had a couple of days in Romania, which I used to explore its capital city Bucharest.
Being filled with brutalist architecture, quirky markets and a polenta-based cuisine, Bucharest had all I could ask for, therefore I didn't get the chance to visit the exciting castles spread throughout the country (guess where Dracula was from!).
Bucharest was yet another city I fell in love with at first sight.
Giant socialist architecture in between absurd buildings from the 60s, polenta-based dishes with cheap Romanian wine and taxi drivers blasting music, that I still can't get out of my head – how could I not be happy there?
When I first heard about the Banksy Exhibition at Moco Amsterdam, I was outraged, thinking they were showing his pieces, that were literally ripped off the walls.
Only then, I found at that Bansky actually also creates indoor art on canvas, wood and paper. Whoops.
After relaxing days on Milos, I decided it was time to get off the sun chair and I took the ferry to Santorini, where I met my best and oldest travel buddy: My Dad.
He was the one who introduced me to travel as a toddler and who never stopped travelling himself. Since he was on his way to Crete, our paths overlapped in Santorini and we decided to spend two days swimming, hiking, eating tzaziki, driving around the island and petting donkeys.
If you are travelling to Santorini and only have limited time on your hands, have a look at our two days itinerary.
"It's so bright here" I said to Stavros, the manager at Salt on Milos, a Greek island in the Cyclades.
He was walking me to my room while I was squinting my eyes looking at the sun glancing over the ocean on one side and the white suites on the other, feeling pure bliss before even putting down my backpack.
Athens won my heart at first sight with street art, sun and souvlaki.
Ciao from Milan!
I'm super excited to be back in Italy, the country of vino and gelato, while visiting one if the biggest design events in the world!
The Salone / Milan Furniture Fair / Milan Design week /whatever you want to call it is an annual exhibition showcasing the latest in furniture and design.
The Fuorisalone is a massive exhibition taking place all over the city of Milan at the same time, where many shops and galleries open their doors to show their work and where many brands jump on the bandwagon to exhibit their newest products. And I'm here to explore both.
There are a couple of reasons why I picked Hamburg as my home-base and the harbour is definitely one of them. Being able to step out of the subway, overlooking the cranes, the water and even a beach is pretty special for a European city.
aaaalright, sometimes it's raining in Hamburg. Ok, it's raining most days between October and April and also also in between every now and then.
But it's really not as bad as people think. If there is one thing, that's good about Hamburg's weather: The city offers a huge range of activities for rainy days. There are loads and loads of shops, museums and places where you can see the rain running down the window panes.
Returning from Bangkok, I was freezing for the first couple of weeks (think 40°C difference in temperature. Sorry Fahrenheits, I have no idea how much that is for you ) and very happy to have some indoor activities to warm up right in front of my door step.
Hanoi was tough on me. I arrived there after deeply falling in love with Luang Prabang's calm friendliness and cute architecture, with smiling children on the street and with being greeted hundreds of times a day with a charming "Sabaidee".
I just spent a brilliant weekend with friends in Amsterdam, which meant a lot of strolling around, having wine with our feet dangling over the canals and randomly driving the boat over the river.
On our last day we felt like we had to do SOMETHING, that is not directly connected to food or laying in the sun, so we decided to check out the renovated Rijksmuseum.
I had read about the new design all over the internet, so I forced my not-really-that-interested-in-design friends to join me.
There is no way you can see it all at the Expo in Milan. 148 countries are taking part in this giant fair this year, additionally to the theme pavilions like “Sea life” and “Rice”, all spread over the distance of a small town.
We've eaten dumplings from Nepal, have taken part in a very weird Japanese performance and looked at so much amazing architecture that I had to go through my pictures to even remember what I wanted to show you.
As always, my focus was on the pavilion's architecture and design, I guess the different stagings and performances would have been worth a separate post but I had to start somewhere, right?
Milan has two fancy new museums incorporating every architect's wet dreams:
Obviously, on top of our agenda for Italy, there were vino and gelato.
But on a close second for me: The church of bones in Milan.
I had read about it a while ago and was fascinated right away:
Apparently, there was a church next to a cemetery, where they started to build with bones when there was no space left for new graves. This was something I had to see for myself!
"Colour is the very essence of life" – Daniel Libeskind
There it was, right in front of me. And I didn't even look for it.
This massive masterpiece by Case, an artist who's work I've been admiring for ages. This was going to be a good day for Street Art.
I'm not sure what it is about industrial architecture, that I find so exciting. Maybe it's the history of the place, that still comes through. Or the cool materials used. Probably also the massiveness of the spaces.
However, I always try to find exciting industrial spaces, that are now used differently when I'm travelling.
The word "destiny" is too much for the choice of a hotel, right?
Obviously our plans were set and we took off for a weekend in Berlin a few days later.
I bet you have a city, that makes you feel like you're coming home every time you're there.
You've probably lived there for a while and then had to leave for stupid reasons like work, love or money.
Coming from the airport you're headed to the supermarket straight away to buy your favourite cheese, then find a café that has this special kind of coffee you like and then try to see all these places you've always spent your days when you were living there.
Next you're going straight to the area you used to live in and feel like a local again because you know the bus stops and which restaurants to avoid. You change the side of the road, way before you have to pass the smelly fish shop.
Other people are living in your apartment now, which feels unfortunate.
edit 2018: Janno was sold to Emmy, which works the same way.
Are you as thrilled about the new Vespa sharing concept Jaano in Hamburg as me?
In case you haven't heard of it, check out yesterday's post.
Just like with car sharing, you can now sign up with Jaano and then use one all of their Vespas, which you'll find all over Hamburg.
It happened in Indonesia. An old man at a tiny shop handed me a key and pointed at a scooter:
“that's yours”. It was green, heavily scratched and the speed indicator didn't work.
I was freaked out and definitely in danger when I started driving, but I was in love.
You probably know Hamburg's St. Pauli for its nightlife, the red-light district around Reeperbahn or the soccer club.
But if you manage to get up early after a long night of partying, there is actually a lot to see around there and the combination of crazy nightlife and a relaxed area to have coffee with my friends, makes it one of my favourite parts of Hamburg.
I especially love the vintage and neon signs, which you will find everywhere! Let me show you...
Are you as lazy as me when it comes to sightseeing? I get distracted quickly and quite often end up having drinks in the middle of the day instead of looking at all the exciting things I had planned.
Fortunately Hamburg is a great place for people wanting to see a city without moving:
It has two rivers and hundreds of canals running through it, which means you can see most of the city by boat.
This is the second part of the new category on Journey to Design summarizing the best restaurants for people who are into design
and into food, one city at a time!
When I "researched" for the first post about Hamburg (aka forced my friends to have dinner with me at every nice restaurant in town), I realized that there are way too many nice restaurants in Hamburg to fit in one story.
So this is part two of “Hungry for design” featuring Alpenkantine, Altes Mädchen and Elbgold in Hamburg.
Reading about Siauliai on Wikipedia made my heart weep. This was probably the unluckiest town I had ever heard of:
burnt down several times, hit by the plague, plundered by the swedish troops and majorly affected by both world wars, the people there and their ancestors must have seen the worst.
Arriving in Siauliai by bus from Riga, the view made me feel sad again:
due to the fires and the wars, almost all buildings had been burnt down and were replaced by industrialized apartment blocks.
This is the worst way to start a story, but that's just what it was. A moment when I couldn't talk and just looked around me with my jaw dropped, almost forgetting how to breathe.
After my friend Judith and I had spent two days in Riga – one being ridiculously active and one being lazy and hungover – we decided we needed to get out of the city and see what's going on in the rest of tiny Latvia we had already fallen in love with.
And if there is a chance for us to stick our feet into the sand, the decision where to go is pretty much made.
After a day of strolling around in the beautiful traditional Jurmala, a coast town in Latvia just half an hour from Riga, we finally reached Dzintaru Mezapark with its oberservation tower.
You might have seen pictures of Riga's city centre, which is full of Art Nouveau buildings.
There are beautifully decorated houses all over the city, smiling faces looking down on you, floral decorations on every handrail and colourful facades, one brighter than the other.
But then there is a large number of buildings, that seem to be forgotten.
Nature is claiming back its space and you will find trees growing out of windows and entire buildings simply breaking apart.
For me, these buildings are much more interesting than the polished ones you will find in your lonely planet. So this is another Riga Walk:
Places that are dominated by green nets wrapped around buildings, where flowers have found extravagant places to grow and that might look a little scary at night:
The Riga Haunted House Walk.
You know how much I like a good shopping spree for local fruits and veggies, so it didn't take me long to set foot on the market after arriving in Riga.
this is a new category on Journey to Design summarizing the best restaurants for people who are into design and into food, one city at a time!
And what could be a better start for that than my hometown Hamburg?
This is part one of “Hungry for design” featuring the restaurants Bullerei, Witwenball and Marend in Hamburg.
There are a couple of things I consider highly luxurious:
This includes champagne showers, soaking up the sun on a private yacht, anything involving learjets or staying in hotel in the city you live in.
So when Superbude invited me to stay with them in Hamburg, I didn't hesitate for a second, although or just because their hotel is just a 15 min walk from my apartment. I had wanted to look at this hotel/hostel for ages and never really found an excuse: now it was here.
"Who would've thought an island that tiny would be big enough to hold all our old boyfriends?"
Sex and the city "Where There's Smoke"
If you could design a space for the café that makes the best cakes in town and is specialized in decorations, what would it look like?
There you are, standing in front of me. Tall and beautiful. I feel tiny standing next to you.
I've been coming to see you for almost ten years now but you are still playing hard to get.
You have this sparkle, I can see the city reflect in your eyes. On a sunny day they appear bright and blue,
if it's raining it looks like you are crying.
I heard people talk about you. You're high maintenance and we can't afford you they say.
But they probably haven't seen you yet.