Category Archives: Travel

The Magical, Green Island – A Road Trip in Ireland!

Living in Europe has many benefits.   One of my favourites is that you can jump on a plane for a long weekend and escape to another country with a different history, language and culture!  This is totally the opposite of living in Vancouver.  The closest country with a different language and culture is Mexico, and that is still a 6 hour flight away!  I digress.  We decided to use the October ‘extra’ long weekend Berliners enjoyed for the German National Holiday (Oct 3rd) to explore the land of sheep, Guinness and green pastures: Ireland.  The plan was to rent a car in Dublin and explore for 4 days.  Our itinerary and more pictures after the jump!

Dingle Peninsula, Ireland

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What to do on a cold, wintery night in Berlin?

It’s a cold, winter night in Berlin – do you just stay at home, warm and cozy, or do you brave the cold and venture out into the city?  We ventured out last night and what a great evening – from relaxing to underwater music in a warm, saltwater pool to eating Moroccan food in a cave-theme inspired restaurant to dancing it up in a Soju bar, we shivered along the way but still managed to discover a whole new side to Berlin!

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Intellectual Berlin – The Staatsbibliothek!

I finally got tired of trying to work in Cafes in Berlin.  I think people that actually think they get work done in Cafes are kidding themselves.  There are way too many distractions to get any real work done – or you might be productive but probably only at 50% of what your potential is.  Anyway, I digress.  I decided to check out the Staatsbibliothek in Berlin – the only library I’ve ever been to that requires a paid membership and has security guards checking your library card before you can enter!

**Just a note that this is the newer Staatsbibliothek on Potsdamer Strasse – not the one on Unten den Linden.

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Beach, Baltic Sea and Nazi Buildings

We were looking for a quick and easy beach getaway in Germany – super last minute.  Yup, you read right – I said “in Germany“!  Not many people associate beautiful, white sand beaches and tranquil ocean waters with Germany.. but just a hop, skip and a jump away from Berlin, we found our little paradise (and a bit of history – we got to see an eerie, crumbling Third Reich tourist resort)- all on the island of Rugen on the Baltic Sea (or “Ostsee”) in Northern Germany.

Beautiful Beach of Sellin on Rugen Island

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Cool Things to See in Berlin – STASI Museum

Who would have known that a lazy Saturday morning bike tour in the former east side of Berlin would lead us to the heart of all evils in the former DDR (former East Germany)?  The head of the former Ministry for State Security (MfS)— or Stasi, as it was more commonly known as, is located at Haus 22  Ruschestraße 103 in Friedrichsein.  Now the old building has been turned into a museum showcasing the techniques this former secret service agency used to keep a close eye on DDR citizens. Some think that the Stasi was even worse than the Gestapo in terms of oppression of its own people.

A typical office during Stasi time – preserved pretty much exactly in the same condition as it was used in.

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How to Learn a New Language – FAST!

The thing I hate the most is being in a new country and not being able to speak the language.  It’s been two months since I arrived in Berlin.  You may think, “Well, you are in Berlin – you can totally get by in English.  You don’t even need German.”  Although that might be true for people passing through the city (and even then, I think “Travel Etiquette” requires that you should always try to speak the language of the country you are visiting in), I’m not here on vacation.  If you want to actually find a job or work in Berlin in something that you are interested in, it’s pretty imperative that you learn German…and learn it fast! So how the heck do you do that? One trick is to find a TANDEM partner in Berlin!

Okay not my tandem partner – but my friend Lisa visiting from Vancouver – on my new street: Odeberger Strasse!

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Need an Apartment in Berlin? GOOD LUCK.

What We Heard:

We heard mixed things about finding an apartment in Berlin.  Some insisted that Berlin rents were dirt cheap – that you could find huge lofts for a fraction of the price that it would cost you in any other German city.  Some cautioned about super high commissions charged by the real estate agents – costing as high as two or three months rent.  Some warned us that finding an apartment in Berlin wasn’t easy – nice apartments were difficult to come by.   Even when you found something decent, it usually wasn’t in the right neighbourhood.  And finding the right neighbourhood is key in Berlin – it is such a big city that typically residents stick to their area when going out – venturing to the other side of the city for dinner just doesn’t happen as often as it should.  Some warned us about living in Prenzlauer Berg, where the yuppy mommies hang out with their baby bjorns and their strollers.  Some encouraged us to find a place in Kreutzberg – the coolest area in town where the clubs and after-hours clubs kept you partying from Friday night to Sunday morning.  Some mentioned that Neukoln was the next hot spot and to get a leg up on it by finding an apartment there now, even though the area is still a bit dodgy.

Bars/restaurants along the Paul-Lincke Ufer canal in Kreutzberg

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BERLIN – Step 1: Finding an Apartment

We arrived in Berlin on May 21st with a mission: we were going to find an apartment in 11 days.  No matter how hard people said it was going to be, we were going to do it. 

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The Philippines – the Next Hot Spot…or is it already?!

Although I am currently in Berlin, I’m a bit late with my video posts – I meant to put this video up with the Hong Kong video but time just didn’t allow for it!

So, the Philippines – what an amazing place to visit!  I don’t usually look forward to the next time I visit a country, but I definitely look forward to the next time I can explore more of the islands the Philippines has to offer. The video really shows how much fun we had there.  The people were super friendly, kind and helpful.  English is one of the national languages of the Philippines so everyone could speak or wanted to practice.  Most signs were in English which also made things much easier to find.

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Healing Powers of Mineral Water in Stuttgart

In Canada, we don’t necessarily think of a trip to the swimming pool as a healing, therapeutic experience.  We typically go to the spa for our wellness time.  In Stuttgart, however, a trip to the swimming pool means a trip to the natural mineral pools that source the healing powers of 19 mineral sources held in the soil. Continue reading

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