I’m Moving to Berlin

It was a Friday. I woke up early, around 8 AM. I jumped up and got in the shower; I was so proud to be getting ready before Maria even woke up. I got out of the shower and made a french press coffee. I was sipping my coffee when Maria came in around 9.

“Good morning,” she said.

“Good morning!”

I felt so comfortable and happy to be there, at Maria’s flat in Berlin. Beevus the pit bull came into the kitchen shortly after Maria and laid his head on my leg. I scratched his head as I read my book and continued drinking my hot coffee.

An hour later, we were on our way out the door. I started to feel sad that this would be the last time we left the house together. As we walked down the stairs, we talked about how much fun we had the last few days. How many places we went, how much food we ate, all the soy chai lattes we drank. How much I wanted to move to Berlin and stay there forever.

We got on the underground at Seestrasse. We sat next to each other on the train and looked out the windows.

When we got to the restaurant, we ordered soy chai lattes and filled our plates with tofu scramble, toast, hummus, fruit salads, bulgur salad, and lots of dipping sauces. We ate slowly and talked about me moving to Berlin. Maria told me that there were flats for vegans. I wondered about what my life could be like in Berlin, living in a flat with a couple of vegans, working and taking the underground and drinking matcha lattes in vegan cafes in my free time. I could write and take pictures and make videos. I could learn German and say tchusse and hallo and teach people english. I could talk to people who feel the same way as I do and I could talk to people who feel completely different than me. I could eat vegan food at restaurants and drink green juices and I could become a part of this culture. I wanted it so bad.

We got on a tram after eating and went to a place that I can only describe as a magical community place of giving. There is a collection of trees, which have shelves carved into them, and plastic flaps over the shelves. People place books into the shelves that they are finished reading, and then you choose a book to take. There are no rules – you can take books without leaving books, you can leave books without taking books. Maria and I each took two books (she left a few and I left one), and brought them home. When we got back to her house, I made another french press coffee and Maria made a soy chai latte.

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We talked for hours. I didn’t want to leave. Maria gave me directions on how to get to the bus stop. When the time came, I picked up my backpack, hugged her good bye, and made her promise to come to California. We had planned out our California road trip already. We were going to rent a convertible and drive from my house to San Diego. I wanted it to happen now.

I patted Beevus on the head and headed out the door. As I was walking downstairs, I felt so sad. It is so hard to say goodbye to people that I have become close with. I love traveling so much; I am so happy that I have the opportunities to meet the people that I do. The people I have met have enriched my life and made me a better person. They have taught me to be happy, to be grateful, and to feel free again.

The Feeling of Berlin

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Berlin has such an incredible energy to it. The people are bustling around, but everyone is so friendly. The city is filled with happy people. It feels safe and creative and inspiring.

I spent my time in Berlin mostly in vegan cafes, stores, and restaurants. My purpose of going to Berlin was not to be a tourist, but to explore the vegan cafes and restaurants.

I did go to the Holocaust museum, which was a little hard to handle. I wandered through the museum, reading stories about the families killed in the Holocaust. I felt so terrified and sad and mad and upset. After I left the museum, I meandered my way to the information center. There was an older couple in there asking about a cathedral. I followed them to the “cathedral,” which turned out to be a room of silence. I sat in the room of silence for about an hour. It was so incredible to be in a room of complete silence, and be able to think and not think. I worked on clearing my mind. I had just watched “Eat, Pray, Love” the night before, so I had been thinking about meditation. If you meditate, please leave me some tips in the comments!!

The next day, I headed to the Berlin wall. The East Side Gallery is the largest intact portion of the Berlin wall that is still standing, and the city asked artists to create murals on the wall. The art was incredible and beautiful.

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Berlin is an incredible city, and I hope to spend more time here someday soon!

One Day in Cologne, Germany

After a short, two-hour bus ride from Frankfurt, I arrived in Cologne. By the time I got here, it was dark, so I headed to my adorable Airbnb and settled in for the night.

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Super cute, ja?

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The next day, I woke up, looked out the window, and saw… rain. I’m only in Cologne for a couple of days, so I had to make the best of it. I put on my rain jacket, and headed out toward the Schokoladenmusem. Yes, the CHOCOLATE MUSEUM.

my favourite fountain...

It was so fun to see the history of chocolate. They had the machines actually making the chocolate, which was really cool to watch. My favorite part – the chocolate fountain pictured above. (Image not mine, taken from here.)  I took quite a few pictures, but it was pretty packed in there. Apparently there were a few schools that were on field trips to the museum, and kids were running around everywhere, screaming and yelling. It was nice to look through everything, but I can’t handle crowds, so I took my leave.

Since it was pouring down rain, I decided it might be nice to get a cup of coffee somewhere. I’ve been trying to go to more local coffee shops, but the only ones I found on my way here were bakeries, which usually have terrible coffee. So I found a Starbucks. Is there any possible way that I could get more touristy than a selfie with a Starbucks cup in front of the Christmas tree? I’m embarrassed.

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I plowed my way through the rain back to the Airbnb, admiring the architecture on the way. The buildings here are so cute.

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I found the biggest Christmas tree in town. It’s all wrapped up!

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It was a short but fun day. It definitely improved after coffee. 🙂

Frankfurt, Germany

Things went a little south in Southern Germany – the home that I was supposed to stay in for a week was WAY too eccentric for me. I’m talking about open nudity (of a 60+ year old man that I had just met) and being spoken to mostly in German (I am trying to learn but so far I only know “hello” and “I’d like to order a coffee”). So I took a train up to Frankfurt for a few days! I am excited to see more of Germany than I originally intended. I booked an Airbnb for three nights, and spent some time wandering through a very foggy Frankfurt. The first day started off a little chilly, about 1 degree celsius. I wandered through the neighborhoods toward the city center.

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I stopped in at a bakery for a cup of coffee. The young man working behind the counter asked me a few times if I wanted anything else, but I’d already eaten, so I just got the coffee. He was telling me about how they make the breads and how great they are, and then gave me a little sample of some pizza bites to try out. They were fantastic!

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Next, I strolled past the University of Frankfurt. I only saw the main building, but it was pretty impressive!

PC080054.jpgWhen I got closer to the city center, I came across the stunning opera house. The architecture in Germany just blows my mind. The detailing is incredible.

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I wandered through yet another Christmas market; this one was selling vegan food!

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Through the park and toward the river we go!

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Finally, I arrived at the river. I spotted another swan, and it spotted me, too. He actually seemed to really like me, and he started making his way toward me.

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He got real close! Just call me the animal whisperer.

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After that bought of excitement, it was off to find the tower that I could climb up for panoramic views. The tower is super tall, so it was easy to find, as I could see the top of it from almost anywhere.

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I climbed all 328 steps to get to the top. And then the fog rolled in. Yay! Perfect timing. :/

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I spent the rest of the day looking around the shops, where it was nice and warm. I also stopped in a Starbucks – the Starbucks’ in Europe have vegan options for breakfast and lunch! No wimpy salads either – I got a falafel wrap which was amazing. It is super exciting for me to know of a place that I can find anywhere and get vegan food. 🙂 All in all, a great day in Frankfurt!

Hamburg, Germany: Part 3

My last day in Hamburg was perfect. I slept in, then Svenja and I had brunch before hitting the town. I had been eating vegan sausages for breakfast every day (weird?), and today was no exception. Vegan sausage + coffee + tangerine = one happy Amanda.

Anyway, we got ready, put on matching hats, took a selfie, then hit the town. Still a little learning to do with the camera.

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Before going into the city, we stopped by the local farmers market. This one vendor was selling apples with little designs on them! She put a sticker on each one, and the sun didn’t brighten the spot where the sticker was. Before she put them out for sale, she took the stickers off. Genius!

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So cool. And, as always, I am obsessed with the flower carts.

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After our walk through, we hopped on the next bus and took off toward the warehouse district. I get most excited about the weirdest things in each city, and in Hamburg I really wanted to find the one building that stands alone in the water. I’d seen it in pictures but I hadn’t been able to find it on my own. Luckily I had my tour guide, Svenja, for the day. Which means we (she) found it, of course.

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Hallelujah!

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I got a nice touristy picture. And then we attempted the selfie mode on the camera again. If anyone knows how to take a selfie using a digital camera without it being blurry, please enlighten me.

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Following the epic stand alone building, we wandered around downtown. We got some coffee, hit up the ice skating park (to watch the kids, not to skate ourselves!), and then wandered down to the touristy shop so I could get a postcard for Jeppe. We walked past a mini castle, and I asked Svenja what it was. I thought it must be some really fancy government thing?

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I was kind of right. It was the police station. A pretty fancy police station, if you ask me. I snapped a quick pic and then we took off, because we were on a mission. One of the things I was most excited to do, go to my first European brewery!

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I got a taster tray, which comes with five little tasters. Luckily I got a couple pictures, because my camera battery died immediately after this picture. I think it was a signal to enjoy the moment!

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The beers were all very good, the IPA was my favorite (no surprise).

It was a great ending to my time in Hamburg!

Hamburg, Germany: Part 2

On my third day in Hamburg, I decided it would be nice to have a more relaxed day. I woke up late, made breakfast and coffee, and took a long shower. I wanted to explore the neighborhood. It was a beautiful day; it had rained in the morning and the sun was slowly trying to come out from behind the clouds. I got ready and headed outside.

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There is an adorable park down the street from where I’m staying.

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I love the little orange play toys.

I headed down to the main street to do some window shopping.

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I am amazed at the flower shops they have here.

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The roses were delectable.

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They even had Christmas bouquets all made up.

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And mini Christmas trees!

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I love the greenery.

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Next, it was off to lunch. I passed the gluwein stand, and was a little tempted to grab a glass.

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But I stayed focused. I had found a raw food restaurant a couple days before that I wanted to try out.

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That’s what I’m talking about!

I got the raw burger with a side of kale salad. It was delicious.

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Next up, kaffe?

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I headed to the grocery store to pick up some vegetables, and miraculously left with a beer.

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How odd! I’m not sure how that ended up in my cart.

I was super excited to find an IPA in Germany. It reminded me a little bit of home.

All in all, a happy ending to a good day! Here I am, being happy.

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Hamburg, Germany: Part 1

I arrived in Hamburg around 3:30 PM on Tuesday. Svenja (my host in Hamburg) was going to meet me at the Central Station when she got off work, so I had some time to check it out. I love train stations. I think they are so cute and I love seeing all of the people hustling and bustling, catching trains and buses. I like to imagine where they are headed off to.

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Since I had some time, I figured I should try a German pretzel and beer! I found a little place in the station serving beer and pretzels, and had myself a seat. I got my pretzel and beer, but – interesting fact – most of the places in Germany are cash only. Since I had just come from Denmark (which uses Danish krones, not euros), I didn’t have any money on me. Luckily the woman trusted me enough to let me go find an ATM. Crisis one, averted!

I met Svenja at Starbucks in the Central Station, and we took off on a bus toward her apartment. The buses in Europe are insanely busy, which meant that there was standing room only. My goal for this trip is to not fall down on a bus. So far, so good.

Once we got to Svenja’s apartment, I threw down my backpack, and we decided to hit the town. She lives a little north of Abenalster lake, so we walked through her adorable little neighborhood and a little bit down by the lake. IMG_8928.jpg

We stopped at a little Italian restaurant and got dinner. I had a gnocchi with vegetables and a glass of Merlot. It was the perfect ending to a long day of travel.

Day 1: Amanda tries to do everything 

The next day, I woke up at 6:30, raring to go. I get so excited when I’m in a new place, I just want to get up and explore. I got ready, but soon realized the sun doesn’t come up until 8:15 AM. I waited until it got light, and then sprinted out the door. I stopped at a little coffee shop on the way to the city center. It was adorable. They had vegan breakfast sandwiches! There are so many vegan options here, it is really incredible.

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I headed back out into the super cold 45 degree weather and started my journey around the lake. It is so beautiful here. There are a ton of people running and biking around the lake. Finally, I got to the city center. It’s adorable!

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I wandered around for a bit, until I found St Michaelis church. There is a tower on top, which of course I went to the top of to get a great view of the city. I attempted a panorama on my iPhone.

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There is a bit of a learning curve with that one.

The view is amazing!

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After the tower, I wandered around to HafenCity, the old warehouse district. It is filled with these beautiful old buildings, separated by canals.

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Super cool!

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One side of the street is old, and just on the other side of the canal, the buildings are new. There are places in Hamburg with older and newer buildings interspersed. This is because a lot of the older buildings got wiped out from bombs in World War 2.

After wandering around the old warehouse district, I found the town hall, which had a massive Christmas market in front of it.

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That is one impressive building! I wandered through the Christmas market for a bit, looking at all of the merchants with homemade alpaca scarves, chocolates, and gluwein for sale. The Christmas markets are the place to be here – they are packed!

I was a little tired after all that excitement, so I headed back around the lake and to the apartment. I found my future home on the way back.

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It will be hard to choose between this one or the castle in Sweden.

When Svenja got off work, she met me at the apartment, and we headed off to get some German gluwein! The German gluwein is totally different than the Danish glogg. They are both equally delicious! Apparently the gluwein in Germany is served to children, and the adults get it with a shot of amaretto in it. I am technically an adult…. so I had to try it.

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Another perfect ending to a great day!

Day 2: The Harbor and Alter Elbtunnel

The next day, I decided to take it a little easier. I like to track my steps to see how far I walk, and I had walked 15 miles the day before! It was a little tiring, to say the least. I slept in a bit, which helped. I got ready and headed out around the lake again. It’s a long walk, but it’s so beautiful that I can’t bring myself to take a train or bus. Plus, I usually prefer walking through new cities. It’s the best way to see the sights!

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There is a little Christmas market on the edge of the lake.

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I decided to head over to the harbor on this day. It was a little cloudy, but the harbor is stunning. These pictures do NOT do it justice.

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The little red boat was all decorated for Christmas.

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All of the little boats on the little canal. So precious.

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I even got another pretzel. No one can hold me back when I see a pretzel for sale.

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After the harbor, I headed over the the Alter Elbtunnel – it’s an underground tunnel that connects HafenCity to the mainland. It isn’t super long, but it was fun to walk through.

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After all of the excitement of the day, I headed back home. I walked through the Christmas market by the lake on the way. You can pretend that random Asian girl is me.

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Svenja and I finished the day with chocolate and red wine. Is there anything better? No.

I am loving Germany so far!