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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!

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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. 

September Likes

27 Sep

10. Check out this wonderful list of 7 trips every woman should take in her lifetime over at The Frisky. As if anyone needed another reason to travel! While a trip may not be in your immediate plan, it’s still a good idea to keep this article in the back of your mind for the next time you’re on the hedge about leaving town.

9. I love this super-sweet heart braid featured on Cup of Jo. It is pretty enough to make any little girl jump with joy, and funky enough to dress up a basic sweater-and-jeans ensemble. No matter who wears this awesome hairstyle, it’s bound to get smiles all around.

8. Check out this incredible DIY pallet bed from Prudent Baby. I can’t believe some of the resourceful recycled DIYs that people come up with! It’s beautiful, it’s eco-friendly, and it costs practically nothing to make! Make it your own with whatever colors and prints inspire you. Besides, nothing will blow your friends’ minds like hearing that you made your own bed.

7. Check out these adorable collard-wrapped mini burritos over at The Daily Meal. They are packed with quinoa, beans, cheese, and veggies. The vibrant color and wonderful size make these a healthy and exciting appetizer for a party or special dish for a Meatless Monday family dinner. Get creative with the fillings and use whatever you like best. I guarantee it will end up costing far less than any commercial fast food burritos and it will be far more nutritious too!

6. For anyone looking to ward off a few pounds prior to donning revealing Halloween costumes or simply looking to avoid the dreaded Freshman 15, check out Slimkicker. The online database and iPhone ap turn health and fitness into a game. Upon accumulating enough points from completing your self-chosen challenges and chronicling your meals and exercise regime, you earn points to advance to the next level, at which time you treat yourself to whatever reward you chose. I love the idea of turning health into a game where you choose how hard you want to push yourself and you set your own goals.

5. All of the nail designs over at nail-fun.tumblr.com are pretty amazing, but these Cath-Kitson inspired floral nails may be my very favorite. The bright blue base and delicate rosettes are enough to make anyone smile when they look down at these nails. I doubt I could ever master the complicated designs on this site, but they certainly provide some great inspiration for the next trip to the nail salon.

4. I can’t get over how adorable this travel-inspired dessert buffet is over at Amy Atlas Events. The sweet map cut outs, vintage suitcases, fluffy meringue clouds, and pretty little hot air balloons make this such a creative update on the typical dessert bar. This seems like the perfect addition to an UP themed wedding to me!

3. I am so excited by this super-simple yoga mat cleaner DIY from Free People’s BLDG 25 Blog. It simply fills a spray bottle with 3 parts water with 1 part Witch Hazel and a few drops of essential oils with antibacterial properties such as tea tree, lemongrass, lavender, peppermint, or eucalyptus. I can’t wait to make it this weekend because my yoga mat doesn’t quite smell like roses…

2. This Ostrich Pillow on Kickstarter allows users to take a comfy power nap anywhere. I love that idea of the creators to design a product that “allow[s] you to create a little private space within a public one, to relax and unwind.” It allows you to bury your head and hands into the soft cushiony folds in order to catch some zzz’s on the go. The architecture firm who designed the product has met its goal with still 20 days to go.

1. This Decorated Cake Roll from Sugar For the Brain is absolutely awe-inspiring. Making any type of cake roll is pretty intimidating, but this beautifully printed cake seems terrifying to make. If you have the guts to try it, I can think of no better way to impress someone on their birthday. Sorry mom, I am not brave enough to make this for you next week…at least not yet. PS check out her Halloween Cake Roll on Best Friends for Frosting too!

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?