Monday

Travel Germany: Where to Eat Vegetarian in Style in Prenzlauer Berg

The Berlin borough of Prenzlauer Berg is probably near the top of every Berlin visitor's wish list. From the Brandenburg Gate it is a short half hour walk, and you will find all the famous sights on your way there (think Bebelplatz, New Guardhouse, Berlin Cathedral, Red Town Hall, St Mary’s Church, TV-tower). If you don’t feel like walking take the U2 and get off at either Senefelder Platz or Eberswalder Strasse. Somebody has probably told you that it is a bit dull, since it all almost too nice in this part of town, everything is so neat. But when you stroll along tree lined streets, full of beautifully restored period properties, bookshops like Saint Geoerge's, boutiques, cafes, bars and restaurants, you will see that it is actually not too bad, and rather neat in a charming way. 


There are a lot of restaurants in the town of Berlin, more than 6,000 or so. I love to visit ever new ones, but find myself often guilty to go to the same places. It can happen that strangers, often the ones who are carrying a paper-street map, ask me for a restaurant recommendation, and in that instance I recommend my favourite ones over and over again. Read on and find Russian, Asian, French, Turkish, Spanish and German food in Prenzlauer Berg.

Saturday

Travel: This is the truth and nothing else

Squirrel in South Africa


Is the world safe, is Europe in trouble, is Europe on the brink of collapse? These are probably the questions everybody asks right now or has been pondering about for a while. I saw a clip of a local newspaper where a fellow Berliner in his 70s stated that he is so upset because security measurements on Munich Christmas markets are so much better than the ones in Berlin. This guy obviously never travels, or at least he hasn’t been to Munich’s Christmas markets recently. I visited many of them this year and also a few in Berlin, there is no difference in security whatsoever, at least for the untrained eye, I mean I’m no double agent, no idea what goes on behind the scenes. It is all pretty much the same. I wonder where people take these statements from. Who puts these ideas in their heads? Why do they spread information about things they haven’t even experienced themselves? I have to admit, chances are that guy is in the know because he is a double agent.

Travelling is so exciting. The people, the food, the passion, the fun. Nothing is ever only black and white. It pays off to talk to locals and try to understand their point of view, try to understand their way of life, and with understanding them comes empathy. This year I visited South Africa, the Czech Republic, Greece, France, Croatia, Slovenia, Italy, Austria, the Netherlands, Hungary, UK and Denmark. I will tell you about experiences I had this year on my travels. Wherever I go I ask people about the situation in their country, how they feel about it, and about their opinion about populism and the rise of right wing parties. I do things like this a lot and people usually don't mind to have a chat.

Follow me around, to learn where I felt threatened and unsafe.

Thursday

Magical hotel stays - 8 very easy ways to make hotel guests feel at home


This year I must have stayed at roughly 40 different hotels. And guess what, out of all these I only had two unsatisfactory experiences and these happened on my last two stays, each in four star hotels ... I booked directly with the hotel.

I quickly explain what happened on that first occasion, where I had booked myself into a well-established and well known business hotel in a large city. I was put in a non-smoking room, at check-in I had explicitly asked for it. The guy at reception seemed somehow overwhelmed by the whole check-in process, and due to his clumsy demeanour he wasn’t able to make me feel welcome. On entering my room cigarette smoke (and not love) was all around me. On the second day I asked at reception how come my room smelled this off-putting. The same muddle-headed guy from check-in told me that this is impossible since I had been allocated a non-smoking room. In total I stayed for four days at this place. When I checked-out I mentioned they should do something about the cigarette smell. Another very friendly guy asked me why I was so surprised; I had been staying in a non-smoking room on a smoking floor. What was this all about? Needless to say I won’t stay there again.

And here is what happened on the second occasion. I stayed in a UNESCO heritage listed area; the hotel is very modern and trendy. I booked a room with a lovely view, lovely design, and lovely organic cosmetic products. The welcome at reception wasn’t lovely; it seemed that woman had an attitude problem. Never mind, I often experience that people who work in stylish places like this take themselves a bit too seriously. I went to my room and everything was as it should be.

After a few moments my neighbour moaned loudly and constantly. How inconvenient to have to listen to their sex. When they finished the guy asked the other person “How was I?” Interesting entertainment. I felt like an extra in a B movie. I had been given a room with a connecting door and could hear every single word they were saying. Soon after the sex I left for a party and on my way out I asked at reception why I was put in a room that made me feel like staying in a youth hostel on a group trip. The lady at reception was apologetic about the sex noises but couldn’t change anything, the hotel was fully booked. I went to my party and got back in the wee hours. All quiet in the adjoining room. I was fast asleep in my very comfy bed only to be woken up soon after.  6.30am, music playing happily.

Neighbours and their friends were talking about adventures from the previous evening. They also  were planning for the day ahead (I actually really liked their ideas). Later in the morning I told reception again that I’m not happy with that connecting door situation, they granted a 50% discount on the room rate. I would stay there again, since it is such a lovely hotel, in a perfect location and I love that they handled the situation with compassion. This was the first time in all my travels that I received a discount. I felt terrible about the whole situation but accepted it.

These are certainly two drastic cases of mishaps, and as I said I hardly ever find myself in situations like these. And no, I didn’t leave bad reviews on TripAdvisor, I’m not a fan of anonymously humiliating people. It is so easy to make guests feel at home ...