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City Of Night (Berlin)

11 Oct

Just as Prague seemed to be a city living in a fairytale world, Berlin seemed to be living in the horrors of the past 80 years. I was amazed by how openly the city shared its dark past, Holocaust, Cold War, and all. Here’s a portion of the wall that lies near Brandenburg Gate, open for all to see.

Near Checkpoint Charlie lies this extensive Berlin Wall memorial that explains the history of the Holocaust in Berlin from Hitler’s start in politics to the Soviet occupation of East Berlin. It’s incredible how much Berlin emphasized openness about its horrific past instead of trying to simply ignore it.

As an America, I was proud to see that even in the difficult times of the Soviet occupation that America was able to provide the trapped East Berliners with hope.

This marker of where the Berlin Wall used to exist marks the city streets as a reminder to people of how lucky they are to be free. As a tourist, it was amazing to be able to really see how artificially isolated East Berlin used to be within the city as a whole.
By incorporating history throughout the city to teach visitors, Germany plays an important role in keeping atrocities like the Holocaust from happening again.At the heart of the city stands The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, a looming, omnipresent reminder of the atrocities that the German government enabled. The memorial consists of 2,700 concrete slabs in varying heights, enabling visitors to walk through the memorial and feel the weight of being surrounded by darkness.

Just past the Brandenburg Gate lies the commercial district with many museums, shops, cafes, and this very impressive faux Mickey Mouse  entertained tourists on a lighter note.

One of the most exciting thing we did in Berlin was to visit the Reichstag Building where we were able to go inside and walk around the walls of Norman Foster’s breathtaking glass dome. Berlin’s hot new landmark represents the openness of the government with the glass dome, visiting availability, and the view from the inside of the dome into the debate chamber of the German Parliament.bThe central mirrored cone (seen here) filters in sunlight and collects rain water. Make sure to register to tour the building in advance because visiting is free, but reservations are required.

Giant pretzels seemed to be everywhere in Vienna, but they were even more abundant in Berlin, go figure. I love this bicycle vendor selling cheesey and regular pretzels in the middle of one of the parks. I’m not even a big pretzel person, but those cheesey ones were delicious!

 

Mitte, Berlin’s equivalent of Soho, was full of tiny cafes and trendy stores. This is the perfect escape from the city’s more commercial areas. The shops were full of unexpected vintage goodies and unique items that are perfect to bring home as nontraditional souvenirs. Tukadu is an awesome little store where customers can pick their own kitschy beads and pendants to create custom jewelry.

I love the adorable signage for this frozen yogurt place (or maybe it was a cafe come to think of it). The baby pink, bubbly letters, and sweet bear logo all make this a wonderful juxtaposition to the often gloomy atmosphere of the city.

 

Speaking of bears, I absolutely fell in love with this cuddly rose-colored teddy bear at the Steiff Store. As far as designer toys go, no one does it better than Steiff. I was bummed that there was no toy factory to visit in Berlin, but this store was a great way to embrace my inner child.

Here’s my sweet little sister Emmy playing with another one of the amazing animals at the Steiff Store. Something about being surrounded by hundreds of stuffed animals seems to being out the best in everyone.

Check out this sweet pastel cafe setting. The colorful chairs and dainty daisies are a lovely light-hearted escape from the heaviness of the city. 

I love this clever idea of placing potted plants on tables in place of flowers both to serve as decoration and as self-applied garnishes to any meal. I definitely want to start setting my table with useful herbs whenever we entertain instead of wasting money on flowers that will have to be thrown out in only a few days!

The Princess and the Prague

3 Oct

Sorry it’s been so long since my last travel blog recap, but with my first set of college midterms school has been pretty hectic! Well, back to reliving my summer vacation….Here’s the fourth stop from our itinerary, Prague!

No, sadly I didn’t actually eat these heavenly looking meringues, but the crisp white and soft peaks of the cookie were just so beautiful. I hope to whip up a similarly delicious batch soon!

I love how these colorful, storybook-esque buildings fill the city. Their eclecticism and child-like innocence seems so perfectly suited to the city. The rows of vivid colors seem like a European equivalent of San Francisco’s bright Victorian homes.

I love this Art Nouveau statue by Alfons Mucha outside of the Municipal House. The way that the father and son stare down at the people down below really resonated with me. The glass structure that the father holds really elevates this piece from becoming another metal statue.

When I first saw the Hotel Evropa, I assumed that it was just a random hotel in Prague’s more commercial shopping district, but the mustard-yellow paint and art nouveau-style facade make it seem quite noteworthy indeed. Anything yellow automatically catches my eye. But, as it turns out, the hotel is rather famous for its beauty and its interior was actually featured in Mission Impossible and Titanic.

I love the bold colors and mod design of this piece of street art. Its modern vibrancy provided such a stark contrast to a city that otherwise seems stuck in dreams of the past. It is clearly an expression of the artistic population that fills Prague.

Instead of navigating the windy roads up to Prague castle, we decided to take a short cut through the lovely gardens behind the palace. Their Italian-style architecture bears no resemblance to the palace itself, but the gardens provided us with a beautiful, scenic view both of the hilly garden and of the entire city.

From afar, Prague Castle lacks the breathtaking beauty of so many other European castles, but it looks quite a bit like Hogwarts. It rained just moments after I took this photo, so the dark, foreboding sky certainly didn’t exactly make the castle look inviting.

Check out the amazing detailing on this window from Prague castle! The flowery sections and miniature stained glass really show of the Gothic beauty in all its glory. 

 

The area under the bridge (not in the Red Hot Chili Peppers way) is one of Prague’s hidden gems with various smaller artisans and more unique puppets. It provides a nice contrast to the various mass-produced puppeteers and tourist shops the cover much of Lesser Town. 

 

These were my favorite puppets that we saw. The disproportionate bodies and exaggerated facial features reminded me of unconventionally pretty porcelain dolls. They just seem so sweet and innocent, as if all they wanted was to be loved. 

In the same area under the bridge, we spotted these German beer girls taking a leisurely afternoon break. I loved the contrast between their regular, modern behavior and the old-school, touristy costumes. As the German costumes show, Prague appeared to lack a clear image of itself. Without a clearly defined national language, image, or cuisine,Prague seemed to be almost a hodgepodge of its European neighbors.

Frank Ghery’s famous Dancing House. While not as vibrant as some of Ghery’s more colorful buildings, the muted palate serves modernize Ghery’s curvaceous ode to Prague’s fairytale-esque architecture.

This is my favorite photo of Prague! The setting sun serves to perfectly illuminate the colorful buildings of Lesser Town, with the Prague Castle looming majestically in the background. 

I Don’t Want To Be An American Idiot…So I’m Soaking Up All The Culture I Can In Vienna!

14 Sep

Vienna was such an unexpected surprise! Aside from Paris, this may be my new favorite European city. In fact, Vienna is almost like a smaller, German-speaking version of Paris. The culture is so rich in art, literature, opera, and history. From the baroque architecture of the zoo to the classical musicians performing in the parks, it is evident that the people take great pride in sharing their search for beauty with any willing observers.

On our first day there, we had to of course snap a few photos outside of the beautiful Opera house, even if our two days in Vienna didn’t quite give us an opportunity to see one of their incredible performances.

Afterwards we headed over to the Naschmarkt Market for our first taste of Vienna. We skipped the delicious ethnic food restaurants in favor of trying some of the dried fruits and oil-marinated, cheese-filled vegetables at the numerous delicatessens.

The market had such an eclectic mix of people there to pick up their weekly groceries, meet friends for a meal, or simply wander around the market looking for an adventure. I think that this graffiti on one of the closed kiosks sums up the quirky, artsy, youthful vibe of the market itself.

Amazingly, the spice collection at the Naschmarkt Market was even more diverse than the one at the famous Turkish Spice Bazar! Seeing all the exotic spices, fresh produce, and other fun ingredients made me want a kitchen to cook with them, or at least more room in my suitcase to bring the yummy goodies back to my own kitchen.

I absolutely adore this sign outside of one of the vendors at the Naschmarkt Market. Too cute!

These little Viennese Hummel figurines are the sweetest playthings ever! American children with their barbies and transformer toys are missing out on these adorable porcelain figures.

Watching a wave of nostalgia wipe over my mom’s face as soon as the clock chimed and the bird popped out of these cuckoo clocks was one of the highlights of the trip for me by far. It’s amazing how simple objects can bring people instantly back to a specific moment in time. There’s nothing quite like watching your mom become a little girl all over again!

When I first saw the bold mosaic work of this building, my initial thought was that it had to be a Gaudi building, but to my surprise St. Stephen’s Church dates back to the 12th century. While the tiled roof was a post-WWII upgrade after a fire, it still bears no connection to Gaudi.

I love the beautiful details of ancient European churches, and the ornate windows on this Gothic church were no exception.

As we were wandering back to our hotel after an exciting first day in the city, we stumbled upon these talented classical musicians setting up shop to share their art with anyone willing to take the time to listen. The taste and refinement of their music is such a far cry from the goofy street performers back in LA!

This spectacular wedding dress cake outside of Demel made my draw absolutely drop! It looks so real that it is near impossible to imagine anyone ever eating such a work of culinary mastery. It would break my heart to ever cut into a cake as spectacular as this! 

When I saw the perfect little frosting shoes, I knew that we would have to come back the next day to try something from the sweet geniuses at Demel. unfortunately the sweets did not live up to the extraordinary expectations that the dress/cake had ingrained in our imaginations. The Imperial Torte at Cafe Imperial far surpasses the desserts here (or anywhere in Vienna for the matter).

Other than the Imperial Torte, this would have to be my favorite thing that I ate in Vienna. It was perfectly charred pieces of octopus accompanied by tangerine segments and jicama wasabi rolls. Yum! It was the perfect salty-sweet-sour-spicy combination.

Just a short metro ride away from the city was the beautiful  Schönborn gardens. The curvaceous intricacies of the greenhouse and dainty landscape designs made me giddy as soon as we stepped into the park. 

Here’s a close up of the gorgeous architecture!

Just past the green house is the incredible  Schönborn Zoo. They had such incredible animals including Lesser Pandas (such a mean name) and nearly a dozen species of monkeys. Check out the beautiful Victorian architecture of the monkey habitat. It is the most stylish zoo I’ve ever seen!

I love this sweet image of two elephants fighting/flirting. I’ve never seen two elephants interact so intensely, so this was a real treat for me to observe. Don’t they look so in love ?

Even in Austria, german pretzels were all the rage. They sold these massive doughy treats throughout Vienna, so of course I had to snap a picture of this one that’s the size of my head for my pretzel-loving boyfriend!

 Here is the stately Schönborn Palace around which the green house, zoo, running paths, train, and play labyrinths revolve. The cheery yellow and vibrant colors make the place feel so joyous and carefree!

After climbing up the hill for about 10 minutes, we received this incredible view of the entire  Schönborn Palace grounds. So lovely! I simply could sit on this bench and stare out of the beautiful city all day.

Here’s a better look at the incredible view we had of the Vienna skyline. While we didn’t have a full day to travel out to visit the place where The Sound Of Music was filmed, this view seems pretty spectacular to me!

Vienna seems like such the perfect intellectual city. People simply sit around reading parks and cafes. It seems like the most whimsical, carefree way to live. Books beat TV and facebooking any day!

All good things must come to an end, so my Dad and I took a lovely even stroll through Vienna, soaking up all we could of the beautiful city. I love the way that the setting sun reflected off this gorgeous glass Palmenhaus restaurant.

Have you been to Vienna before? Did the city steal your heart as easily as it stole mine?

Exploring a Whole New World in Istanbul-Travel Photo Miniseries Part 2

5 Sep

Yes, I do plan on starting each post in my travel mini series with a fabulously cheesy dong name. Get excited. Well, this brings me to the second stop of our trip: Istanbul. It was nothing like I had imagined.

Despite being sandwiched between the European Mediterranean and the Middle East, Turkey has a very distinctive culture that was a real treat to experience.

Even though we were in Istanbul during the month of Ramadan, street vendors and restaurants were only too happy to fees us with the abundant supplies of roasted chestnuts, grilled (and very salty) corn, and rich turkish ice cream.

I found the amazing condition of the ancient architecture to be absolutely astonishing. 

The towering minarets, intricately carved details, and enchanting color schemes made these breathtaking buildings such foreign delights. 

Of course the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia are absolutely beautiful, but tiny mosques and other random buildings that studded the city rivaled the two famous mosques for their enchanting magnificence.

Depending on the time of day and position of the sun, the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia changed colors so brilliantly that they took on an entirely different feel.

After snapping about a bazillion photos from terribly awkward angles, I finally discovered that the Hagia Sophia was most easily photographed while standing close to the Blue Mosque and visa versa.

We did not go inside the Blue Mosque because unlike the Hagia Sofia, which now serves as a museum, the Blue Mosque is still a religious place of worship where.

Even though we decided not to cover our heads in order to enter the mosque, the courtyard outside the mosque was still full of gorgeous details.

The children begging to wash windows for just a few coins and the abundance of stray, starving cats formed a stark contrast to the magnificent mosques and rich history of the city.

I knew that Istanbul was part of Europe, so I was unprepared for the strict societal restrictions and amount of poverty that we saw. It was heartbreaking, but it really made me appreciate the many conveniences of Western life that I took for granted.

 

The sheer abundance of jewelry, pursues, scarves, tea sets, pots at the Grand Bazar was overwhelming.

After walking around in circles, we figured out that most of the vendors have very similar (if not the exact same product), so the real key lies in finding the vendors who are the most willing to barter.

Even if the goods aren’t all one-of-a-kind, they are still unlike anything you could find back in the States (or almost anywhere else in the world). No one has to know that at least ten vendors were selling my beloved glass tea set:)

 

Everyone was exceedingly gracious and accommodating, from vendors at the Spice Bazar fighting to get to be the one to feed you special turkish delight made from their secret recipe, to the outgoing hotel and restaurant employees who work to make you feel at home.

 

Istanbul is such a unique city that bridges the gap between modern accommodation and ancient beauty, or from a proper geographical standpoint, between Europe and Asia. We felt perfectly content spending only two days in the city, but what we saw in those two days will resonate with me for years to come. 

 

London Calling: Travel Photo Miniseries Part 1

25 Aug

After about a week back home, I’ve finally finished going through all of my photos, editing, deleting, and choosing only the most worthy ones to share with you! I’m going to share pictures and travel tips from each of the cities we’ve visited each week for the next seven weeks. Today we are starting with London, enjoy!

Beautiful statue right outside of Buckingham Palace: This is a must-visit place for any first time visitors. Snapping a shot outside of Buckingham Palace is one of the quintessential tourist activities. 

View of the London Eye from Westminster Bridge: The entire pier around the bridge is surrounded by child-friendly fun, including a London Aquarium and the Namco Funscape.

Aerial view from the London Eye: The iconic ferris wheel is quite pricy at £37 per person, but it’s a great way to see an aerial view of London’s most famous sights.

Giant jack fruit at a stall in China Town: There were a ton of delicious asian restaurants and grocery stores with exciting foreign snacks

Apple Market in Covent Garden: About two dozen artisans set up shop in these rows of stalls within the larger covent garden market. I got a few cute dresses at Joy, a cute, quirky women’s clothing store in Covent Garden itself.

Cute scrabble board at Canteen, a quirky British restaurant: Convent Garden is full of interesting shops and restaurants, like this one.

Beautiful storm drain in the streets of London: I wish that storm drains in America were this pretty! The multiple materials and sweet flower design make the drain as pretty as it is practical.

Sandwiches and tea at the Pret-a-Portea: This is one of London’s most inventive high teas. It’s a special feature of the Berkeley Hotel (apparently it’s pronounced Barkely, which I learned after embarrassingly mispronouncing the name a half dozen times).

Three tiers of mouth watering desserts: Even thought the gourmet sandwiches and tiny spoons of savory deliciousness were surprisingly even more delicious than the desserts, the intricacy and creativity of the desserts was incredible.

More beautiful desserts!

Our super cute to go boxes: And because even sweet lovers like my family and I couldn’t finish off all of the beautiful desserts…some chic to go boxes to take the rest of our goodies home

A sweet storefront in Notting Hill: I couldn’t resist snapping a photo of this store front in honor of my blog!

The ArcelorMittal Orbit Observation Tower: This dual platform tower is London’s largest piece of public art. This gorgeous fusion of sculpture and architecture was constructed to allow views to see the entirety of Olympic Park.

Amazing tea selection at Fortum and Mason: The packaging of everything from rare teas in colorful tins to crab in glass jars was almost as amazing as the incredible array of food in this gourmet paradise.

The incredible Fortum and Mason ceiling decorations: The colorful animal and music cut outs rain down from the top floor all the way to the bottom.

Colorful street celebration in a narrow walking street: The colorful bunting, swarms of people, and inflatable globe capture the spirit and excitement of the entire city of Olympic hosts.

Sweet bathtub set up in Liberty London: London’s most fashionable place to shop is also home to some of the most beautiful advertising displays.

My little sister riding a giant giraffe in Harrods: Harrods is one of the most expensive stores in this already expensive city, and while buying things might be out of your budget, stop by anyways to look around this amazing department that has everything anyone could ever want or need.

Incredible danishes in the Harrod’s Food Hall: While most things in Harrods cost a fortune, most people can afford to enjoy a bit of luxury with an exotic nibble from the extensive market.

Quite possibly my favorite photo of London: This city captures the essence of the city and the fact that it involves the entire city, not the athletes and the Olympic planning committee, to put on an event of this magnitude.