Thursday, August 29, 2013

German Village Fair

Here's another bit from our summer road trip, we drove from Amsterdam to Berlin and back.

We had the freedom of the autobahn while heading home from Berlin and decided it would be fun to stop in a German town along the way. My Dutchman swore there would be a summer festival happening and his idea became increasingly more interesting after getting stuck in traffic for ages. We were long over due for a leg stretch. 

Somewhere in between Hannover and Amsterdam we found Rinteln, a village along the Wesser River dating back to 1150. I got a postcard to send to my Granny and took a lot of pictures to share with you.

Come on, how cute is their town square!? This is the dreamy stuff fairy tales are made of...

No, really, this is the place fairy tales are made of.
Here's a fun fact...
On our way down the hill, into Rinteln, we passed the village of Hamelin, as in the Rattenvanger van Hamelen as my Dutchman said over and over with growing enthusiasm, in a very adorable accent. 
Still don't get it? 
This is the where the Pied Piper lured the rats away. 
Good think I can check that off my list now, ha!

Luckily, a summer fair was happening in Rinteln, just as my Dutchman had promised! 
We wandered the fair, munched on some garlicky cauliflower and mushrooms and rode on rickety, colorful ferris wheel that dated back to 1880s or something of the sort. I'm kind of obsessed with it now.

Then, we had a Greek salad while listening to a German band cover hits of Donna Summers and other 80s disco songs which I guess is just what you do at a fair like this.. Dorky fun is still fun okay? 

Sunset along the Weser and road trip lights heading back into Holland. 
I hope we can take more car adventures soon! It's a lot different kind of fun versus taking the train especially if we can stop in random places (and as long as I don't have to drive).

So tell me, where should we go next? Germany, Luxembourg and France are of course the closest to us geographically... Any suggestions? 

Monday, August 26, 2013

[Snapshots] Amsterdam's Summer Skies

It's no secret that Holland is not known for blue skies.
As a matter of fact, it rains and drizzles an average of 200 days a year here, yikes!

That's why the Dutch (and I) love to complain talk about the weather. When it's bad, it's depressing and when it's good, it's amazing! Let's just be honest, most of the time Holland (even in summertime) is some sort of monochrome, overcast or grey and that easily evokes a bought of frustrations and lack of picnic parties. There's nothing to do but just make the best of it and go for a cold boat ride with a few extra layers and a rain coat on hand, right? 

Thankfully not this summer. This summer has been exceptionally magical when it comes to weather (hoera!) and I've found myself glancing up in awe, both day and night in admiration, more often than expected. On a few occasions, I've even felt obliged to head outside, despite other important tasks at hand, to simply soak up the sun while it lasts. But, I can't help myself from wondering just where those big, grey rain clouds might be hiding... could this be too good to be true?

If you've browsed this blog or my instagram then it's no surprise that practically any bit of cloud break or tiny peak of blue from up above will entice this toothy grin of mine. According to my photo roll lately, it seems I subconsciously felt a need to pay tribute to the sun's almost mystical appearance over the last few months because a lot of sky images have piled up.

One look at these shades of blue and stellar sunsets bring back happy memories of a summer well spent... outside!

Since the summer can't last forever (Florida, I miss you) I'm glad to have these images as a reminder that yes,
the sun will shine again!
And given my handful of recent 'expat life' frustrations, that's a very good thought for me to keep in mind.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

'This Train'

Whatever you're doing, press pause, and take a moment to jump back into history. 

Commemorating the 50th anniversary of The March on Washington and Dr. King's eloquent "I Have A Dream" speech, Chicago public radio station in WBEZ aired impacting interviews of activists while traveling by train. 

The other evening I was enjoying an quiet evening, painting at home and streaming public radio when I got hooked on this special edition programming on The Afternoon Shift and couldn't bare to turn off hearing first hand stories of the Civil Rights movement.

Chicago radio broadcaster Studs Terkel interviewed activists en route from Chicago to DC for a March in Washington. You should also listen to his incredible interview series titled 'This Train.'

There's just something special about listening to someones voice, hearing their emotions and taking in their memory for a moment. It really resonated with me.

In addition to the captivating personal stories, top hits from the Civil Rights era, like Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, Smokey Robinson, James Brown and The Staple Sisters were also shared. If I had't been painting this evening could have easily turned into a dance party! Check out the playlist here.

Bravo WBEZ, two thumbs up, and thanks for airing this kind of enlightening programming. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Road Trip from Amsterdam to Berlin

A visit to Berlin has been on my list for ages, actually ever since I first moved to Amsterdam back in 2009. Time flies and too many things kept getting in the way. Thankfully, not this time!

Remember last summer when my Dutchman bought a boat? Well, this time around he bought a car, to fulfill dreams of taking road trips (which I told him are probably cooler in America). He came home with a car and we left one busy city for another and headed to Berlin! He enjoyed cruising along the autobahn (which we don't have in America) and we made it there in around 7 hours. 

We booked a hostel, packed up the car and headed east towards Berlin without much of a plan. I tried my best to be spontaneous (his way) instead of following a general plan (my way). basically drove me crazy, but hey, I tried.  In the end it was a good thing I had my secret backup list of fun things to do since random spontaneity doesn't always work out ("wait, that museum is closed today?! ha!) Research and planning are parts of what I love about traveling aside from actually taking the trip, duh.

I wouldn't consider Berlin a beautiful city (Amsterdam, you'll always have my heart) but it is so interesting! The industrial sometimes dingy vibe mixed with history weaving in and out of every corner, is almost eerie at times. Berlin, I like you, quite a lot. 

Here are of my favorite Berlin bits and pieces...

It's almost overwhelming to see old pictures of the destruction around Berlin. I couldn't help but imagine 'what happened on this corner?' or imagine living there in the golden 1920s before things got crazy. 

We stayed at the Amstel House Hostel, a simple, clean and fun choice not only because it's named after the river we boat on so frequently but because the backpacker vibe was great and after seven-hours in the car 1.50 beers for happy hour couldn't have been better. When staying at hostels (in a private room, please) you always end up meeting other interesting travelers, it's a great way to socialize and pick up a few last minute travel tips! 

DDR Museum - A museum about, you guessed it, life in Eastern Germany.

Mauerpark Flea Market - As recommended by many friends, this flea market kept us entertained with knick knacks and vintage goodies (a post of its own coming up soon!)

Third Reich Walking Tour - My Dutchman's choice but a very interesting and inexpensive tour offering a peak to some interesting (and eerie) historical sites like theses...

Wandering through Kreuzberg - A fun, random day filled with graffitied squats, the uber-touristy East Side Gallery, a mural covered chunk of The Wall.  We finished off with an evening of remarkably cheep tequila and massive, delicious burritos (more on that, later!)

The Berlin Wall Memorial - Check out what remains of the wall around Bernauer Straße. This is where to go if you want to see real bits of the wall (as opposed to the East Side Gallery, above, that has only modern murals) Plus, there's an interesting open air exhibition on the growing division of the neighborhood. This is there area especially know for people literally jumping out of windows to escape to the western side. It's almost unbelievable.

Can I just say it once more? Berlin is so cheep! 
It's far less expensive than Amsterdam, which was great when we were there and quite disappointing to leave. Two lattes and four or five (big) pastries costs around 8 euros which is the equivalent to just a latte and a muffin here in Amsterdam. Sad.

We found a great bakery in our quiet neighborhood where we gorged on inexpensive pastries and lattes each morning before taking the metro to sight see. Needless to say, I've been eating salads a lot upon returning since my diet was about 99% pastries while in Germany and my new jeans are now a very tight squeeze. Oops!

Following an afternoon wandering around the Kruezberg area our final stop was Santa Maria for happy hour. What a great choice, we had so much fun! For real. Not only because there were plenty of 1euro tequila shots (and 4euro margaritas!) but also the stellar atmosphere and delicious food. 

If you plan to visit, definitely get there early, this place was packed. Friendly staff and even better food, what's better than that? I had a veggie burrito with black beans and pumpkin. Too bad we didn't make it there for Taco Tuesday cause I'd love to go back! 

If you like chocolate do yourself a favor and stop by the Ritter Sport Chocoworld Shop. It isn't far from Check Point Charlie, and a lot more fun that that dorky tourist trap. 

I brought home a big selection of flavors like strawberry-yogurt chocolate and my favorite dark chocolate mind and...cornflakes! Some might say I went a bit overboard but hey, they were a fraction of the price. You can also make your own chocolate bar but I opted not to for fear the summer heat would destroy it. 

Can you guess which ones are true to size? Ha!

As recommend by a friend and Berlin local, we wandered past the Rosa-Luxemburg Platz up to the Schönhauser Allee which is filled with (cheep!) food choices, in search of something tasty on our last evening. 

For dinner, we chose curry at a Vietnamese spot, Wraps and Rolls, before heading down the street to White Trash Fast Food (WTFF) for an evening of rock 'n' roll. A few tequila shots were had in the street, because hey, you can do that kind of thing in Berlin. In fact, one of the most exciting parties seemed to be taking place right outside of the liqueur store, ha!

White Trash Fast Food was a wild spot! Housed in a massive, old Chinese restaurant (complete with all authentic, wacky, old decor), this bar enlisted a rockabilly band upstairs and a DJ spinning downstairs right next to the in-house tattoo parlor. Yup, it was a feast for the senses. The (pricey) menu was full of great sounding Americana food like artichoke dip and giant burgers which would have probably been a great cure for my latest bout of homesickness but I was stuffed from that evenings mango curry.

That's all for now. Our long weekend was pretty action packed but it still seems like we hardly hit the surface. 

I'll share another post soon with some more snapshots from around the city. If you have any Berlin suggestions definitely let me know, I'd really like to go back again one day!