Beer bars and balcony breakfast in Haarlem (the Netherlands)

Just so you know, this post is about Haarlem in the Netherlands, not Harlem in New York (formerly known as New Amsterdam). Harlem (NY) is however, named after Haarlem in the Netherlands. But apart from it all being Dutch at some point in history, those two Ha(a)rlem’s have very little in common.

So, where’s Haarlem?

The city has almost 156 000 inhabitants and is the capital of Noord-Holland (Holland is not the name of the country, but two provinces) – and you’ll easily get there from Amsterdam, as it’s only  a 15 minute train ride away.

What does beer have to do with Haarlem?

Haarlem has a long history of beer brewing – a very important industry in the city. Until the 16th century, the water used for beer, was taken from the canals in the city. But, as the canals got more an more polluted, the water could no longer be used. From the 17th century, water was transported to the breweries from Brouwerskolkje (I bet you a pint you’re not gonna remember that name). The canal that leads to there, still exists and is now called the Brewers’ Canal (Brouwersvaart).

jopenbeer.jpg

What did I get up to in Haarlem (besides drinking beer)?

While my significant other and I were road tripping through the Netherlands, Haarlem just happened to be our destination of choice. Conveniently located near Amsterdam, which is where I celebrated my 30th birthday, the day before visiting Haarlem – and close to Alkmaar and the famous cheese market (went there, did that). And it’s also close to Zaanse Schans, a charming little windmill village.

We went to all of these places – and many more. We followed a busy “to-do” list most of the time while visiting the Netherlands, and frankly, scheduling in two days of downtime in Haarlem was probably the best idea we had, while creating our itinerary. We needed that. And we needed those two nights of self-pampering at Haarlem Hotel Suites.

The suite had the comfiest beds ever, and our balcony was spacious enough for the two of us to hang out in the sun, drink beer, eat chips and dip and just take a breather – and get fat and drunk while doing so.

Waking up to the staff serving us a large, varied and tasty breakfast in the room, just made the experience even better. I felt like a queen. Privileged, spoiled and pretty effin’ fabulous, I dined on the balcony, wearing nothing but an oversized bathrobe and slippers. The sun was shining, the church bells were ringing and my boyfriend was just as happy as I was. If I could do this every day, I would. Hands down.

breakfast.jpg

When we weren’t busy stacking up on calories while relaxing on the balcony or while cocooning on the couch in front of the TV, we visited downtown Haarlem and its many beer bars. Our absolute favorite was the Jopenkerk – a former church converted into a bar, restaurant and brewery. The beer menu was so overwhelming I had to ask the waiter for suggestions. The first beer I tried was slightly too bitter for my liking, but the second one was a very pleasant surprise. When the waiter introduced it to me as a sour (open fermentation) beer brewed with algae, I wasn’t sure what to think of it. It sounded strange, but I trusted his opinion and gave it a try. And to my surprise, it was oh so delicious, and I just couldn’t resist ordering a second one. Ever since that day, I’ve been obsessed with old sour dark beers!

We also discovered a nice – and very instagrammable – little cafe called Native, while strolling along the streets and doing a bit of shopping. As a self proclaimed coffee addict, I am sure I would have ordered a latte or a cappuccino, if it hadn’t been so warm outside. Besides, most of the other guests at the cafe were sipping on lemonade, so I ended up ordering the same thing. An ice cold glass of elderberry lemonade. Tasty and refreshing!

nativehaarlem

Haarlem is more than just beer and lemonade (or coffee), but checking out the bar scene is definitely a must-do while in town. If you’ve already been to Jopenkerk or you’re looking for yet another beer bar suggestion, I’ll advice you to check out Uiltje Bar, Brewery and Taproom . They offer free tours in the brewery every weekend, host events and serve great craft beer and finger food.

And the city, what does the city of Haarlem look like?

It looks like a typical Dutch city. Charming Flemish architecture, nice little canals, quaint town square (Grote Markt) , beautiful churches, busy restaurants and lots and lots of bicycles everywhere.

It was the perfect place to be for two people in need to calm down and throw that itinerary out the window, tune out and just take some time to really appreciate high quality beer and blend in with locals.

grotekerk

haarlem

haarlemcitygrote kerk haarlemhaarlem squaresunglasses


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Hercules’ butt, German humor and lots and lots of food (Kassel, Germany)

Sometimes, I stumble upon somewhat unknown cities completely by default. Other times, I visit the unknown because someone else discovers a completely random place on Google and decide they want to go there for some reason and take me with them. This time I ended up in Kassel in Germany. And the person who brought me there, was my mother.

Because of recent events here in France (and lots of people being paranoid about it), and because flights to Norway are quite expensive, my mother and I figured we’d meet somewhere in the middle to catch up and spend time together. That somewhere usually ends up being Germany. Because nothing says family reunion quite like bratwurst and beer. Am I right?

One Thursday morning in mid-March, I got out of bed at stupid o’clock and got on a train to Mannheim from Paris, before it was even light outside. Mannheim has a Dunkin’ Donuts at its train station. That’s about the only thing I learned about that city, as it’s the only place I went to hang out while waiting for my connecting train. Not because I’m a huge fan of donuts or anything. I like them, but I usually tend to avoid them. They’re too addictive and would leave my body looking like an actual stack of donuts. That would become my body type, I swear. I guess I just needed that one fix, that day. I needed the calorie-bomb that is a glazed donut, so I could sit down and look at it with nostalgia in my eyes, while reminiscing about the year when I was a “legal alien” in Florida and spent all my money on fast food.

On the train from Mannheim to Kassel, I sat next to a guy who had loud, cheesy early 2000’s euro dance music leaking out of his headphones. He was tall, had blonde spiky hair and wore a kitschy t-shirt and was the perfect stereotype of a German techno raver from that era. I hadn’t seen anything like that in years.

In Kassel – a city located on the Fulda River in northern Hesse – my mother was already waiting for me at the train station. She even brought me flowers. Daffodils, in case you were wondering. Based on her summer dress and ballet flats versus my warm sweater, scarf and jacket, it was easy to tell who’s the optimist and who’s the pessimist in the family. The sun was shining, but it was not at all warm. I was happy to be wrapped up in layers of wool, denim and faux leather.

Our mother-daughter reunion was celebrated with a bottle of wine and a nice meal at a classy little restaurant called Die Truffelschweine. This was also the perfect occasion to share some wonderful news with my mother. No, I’m not getting married, and I’m definitely not having a baby. Instead, my boyfriend and I are planning to move away from Paris and start a new life and a new business in the south. My mother was excited about the news and offered to continue the celebration at our hotel – with more wine, obviously!

We were staying at a hotel called Hotel Schweizer Hof , which is close to the train station and also fairly close to the main tourist attraction of the city; the beautiful Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

IMG_20170425_145420

The park is Europe’s largest hillside park, a project that started in 1696 and took 150 years to complete. On top of the highest point sits the Hercules-monument, from which a cascade of water plunges to the gardens far below. However, when we visited the park, the fountain was under construction so the water was shut off, and we couldn’t get close to sir Hercules due to the construction work. I only managed to take a sneaky picture of his butt, from below. Probably the only time I’ll ever photograph a butt from that angle.

IMG_20170425_151502.jpg

When we first arrived at the entrance of the park,  we knew there’d be steep hills and a lot of walking. We just didn’t realize how out of shape we were. My mother blamed it on age. I blamed it on all those hours spent napping on the couch, when I should have been out running, cycling or juicing in the kitchen.

We wanted to see Wilhelmshöhe Castle, and we did. From afar. To see the castle up close, we’d have to walk up an additional hill, and we weren’t in the mood for bonus rounds. Which is also the reason why we didn’t visit the beautiful Löwenburg Castle, which I highly regret now. We completely forgot about that one and only realized that we hadn’t yet seen it, when we were at the top of the hill admiring Hercules’ butt. And the view. With legs feeling like jelly and with pain in muscles I didn’t know I had, even walking to the bus stop to get back to the hotel was a nightmare. Guess I’ll have to return to Kassel and see the Löwenburg Castle another time!

IMG_20170326_121222.jpg

The involuntary workout session had left us feeling hungry and thirsty. I chugged a bottle of Aloe Vera water and shared a pretzel and some biscuits (from Streiter Bäckerei) with my mother, just to keep us going until we found a place to go out for dinner. If only we hadn’t gotten lost, looking for the bus stop. For some reason, hardly anyone in Kassel speak any English at all. Or maybe they do, and just don’t want to. I asked a guy for directions to the bus stop, and he told us to go the complete opposite direction from where it really was. I had a similar experience at the central train station the same day, when asking the people at the information desk which tram to take to the city center. After one hour of searching in all the wrong places, we found the bus stop.

By then, all I could think about was dinner. And cocktails. The trendy restaurant denkMAHL provided me with all of that…but we had only an hour and a half to finish our meal and get out, as the table was already reserved for later guests.

IMG_20170325_213202.jpg

IMG_20170425_151557.jpg

The next day was spent shopping for skincare products, as it’s way cheaper in Germany than back home in Norway or here in France. I have acne-prone, oily skin and end up looking like a greasy pepperoni pizza if I don’t get the right treatment. Trust me, that’s not a good look!

Sadly, none of the products I purchased worked particularly well. I also bought some new shirts for my boyfriend…but they all turned out to be too small for him. I told him to go on a diet and try again. A joke that was not very well received. Ouch.

And what is a shopping-spree without a coffee break? I don’t know about you, but I sure need my daily cup of caffeine delight. We found a place called Coffee Store, which is a spacious coffee shop where you can buy coffee beans to take home, or you can sit down with a friend, your laptop or a good book and enjoy a high quality cup of coffee in a nice environment.

IMG_20170425_150955IMG_20170425_151041

That evening, our plan was to eat traditional German food….but, as usual, things didn’t go according to plan. Our top three options were all fully booked.  I was disappointed and my mother was starting to lose her patience. Which is bad, really bad. Because when that happens, hell breaks loose. We both started freaking out, as if we were running around looking for shelter from a bomb that was about to explode. I was freaking out because I didn’t want my mother to turn into a monster, and she was freaking out because..well..she was transitioning.

And that’s how we ended up at a Cuban restaurant that day (Havana). Good food, amazing cocktails but not quite what we had in mind when we made plans to go out for traditional German cuisine that evening.

Markthalle, Kassel’s market hall, was the first thing on the agenda for the following day. Visiting market halls is one of my favorite things to do when traveling. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; I am obsessed with food. I live to eat, I don’t eat to live. And that’s why Markthalle became such a high priority to me. And I’m glad I went, because I got to try some delicious chocolate flavored egg liqueur (say what?!), handmade chocolates and the most amazing bread ever.

IMG_20170425_151644IMG_20170425_151745IMG_20170425_151831 (1)

Another day, another coffee break. This time at a traditional German cafe instead of a modern hipster kinda place. You know, those cafes with old fashioned furniture, strong coffee and cakes too pretty to eat and too large to fit in your mouth (we skipped the cake).

IMG_20170425_152013.jpg

We started to run out of things to do and the weather had gone from light sprinkles to heavy showers, so we didn’t exactly feel like hanging out outside. At least there’s always the possibility to visit museums and art galleries. Such as Caricatura – a gallery dedicated to comic strips and caricatures. Although I don’t speak that much German, I understand quite a lot when I read it. Honestly, reading German comic strips was something I thought I’d never do. Germans aren’t exactly famous for being the funniest bunch of people out there. But they are. The comic strips were mostly kind of dark, crude, sarcastic and politically incorrect. Which is exactly my kind of humor!

For our last dinner, we wanted to splurge on something fancy. Fancier than what we’d been to the first day. Just because we knew it would be kind of long until next time we see each other again. Busy schedules, busy travels, living in different countries, it ain’t easy. Our last meal together at Gutshof was terrific. We both went for the veggie options and shared a bottle of red wine.

IMG_20170425_152137.jpg

Although we didn’t end up having any bratwurst nor beer;

Cheers to us, to the future, to Kassel!

IMG_20170425_145556.jpg

Photos below are from Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe

IMG_20170317_190525IMG_20170327_164047

IMG_20170318_162357

And here’s from the City Hall

IMG_20170319_164939.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Karlsruhe (Germany) is the perfect short break

In collaboration with Karlsruhe Tourismus – thank you for sponsoring my Karlsruhe Card!

Kalrsruhe. My mother can’t spell it right, I can’t pronounce it right (I think). Some people don’t know where it is, others go there only to change to/from connecting trains – and a lot of people go there because it’s conveniently located on the border to France (40 minutes by train from Strasbourg, 2 hours and 30 minutes from Paris), and it’s not far from cities like Stuttgart (36 minutes by train) or Frankfurt (1 hour by train). 

I was supposed to be one of those people who would get off a train in Karlsruhe, use their public bathrooms, buy a cup of coffee and hang around the train station until my connecting train to Paris would arrive. But my curiosity was too strong to resist the urge to spend a night there instead. No, not at the train station (although that would’ve made an interesting story). I did book a hotel room. A pretty decent one too.

Here’s a guide to what to do/see and where to eat/drink in Karlsruhe.

And my personal experience.

 

So, First… My story

I had just spent three days nurturing the mother-daughter relationship with my mom, while visiting a city called Kassel (more on that in a later post). As much as I love spending time with my mother, I also love my alone-time. In fact, I love my alone-time so much people sometimes worry about me and think I have a problem. Maybe it’s because I don’t look like a stereotypical loner? Maybe I talk too loud to be a stereotypical introvert? I don’t know. Either way, I was ridiculously excited about my 24 hour solo trip to Karlsruhe. I had never explored anywhere in Germany completely on my own, before. I was ready for this!

To get in the right mood for all things German, I made a Rammstein-playlist on Spotify and spent the entire train journey rocking out to “Ich will”, “Du hast” and other classics.

Two hours later, I had arrived. Just across the street from the train station, there’s the Karlsruhe Zoo. I would have loved to visit the zoo immediately, but my luggage was three times heavier than normal, after my mother had filled it clothes, books and food – like she always does. That’s one of the perks of living far away from the family. Gifts.

By the time I’d made it to Karlsruhe, I had completely forgotten which hotel I had booked, what kind of facilities they offered and where it was located compared to the train station. I only remembered I’d found a great deal on Booking.com – and the reviews were great. I don’t even think I noticed while making the reservation, that it was in fact a really nice 4-star hotel (Hotel Santo). Now that’s a pleasant surprise for a goldfish like myself!

IMG_20170405_120920

As I had less than 24 hours to discover everything I wanted to see in Karlsruhe, I didn’t wanna spend more time than necessary in my room. Turns out you can’t visit museums in Karlsruhe on Mondays, and some are even closed on Tuesdays. And when was I there? Yeah, you guessed right. On a Monday and Tuesday.  So, I did a lot of research, studied the city map and the public transportation timetable, took notes, created a schedule – and within twenty minutes, I was out and ready to start exploring.

IMG_20170405_120721.jpg

First stop; the zoo (Zoologischer Stadtgarten). I got there late in the afternoon, an hour and a half before closing time, which turned out to be just enough time for my first ever solo trip to a zoo. I photographed all the lovely animals – and happened to disturb a red panda during his dinner. He gave me a mean look. As if he was trying to tell me something along the lines of “if I catch you taking another picture of me eating, I’ll shove that camera up where the sun don’t shine”. Something like that. At least the cheeky sea lion I photographed, didn’t seem to be bothered at all.

IMG_20170405_120508IMG_20170328_174603

I turned out to be one of those people that theme park employees hate. The ones who hang around until closing time and still don’t get that “we’re closing” means that they’re closing and you should get your fat butt out of there, like five minutes ago. Slightly embarrassed, I power walked my way to the nearest exit.

My stomach was growling. I realized I had barely eaten anything all day. All I wanted was a juicy veggie burger accompanied by fries and mayonnaise. And I knew exactly where to get that.

For a good variety of cool bars and restaurants – and for your ultimate shopping spree, take the tram to Europaplatz, and voila – you’re in the heart of the city center (and right next to Post Galerie Shopping Center). As I was facing the mall, all I could think was “Should I enter the mall just for a little sneak peak? A little bit of window shopping? Maybe even buy a little something to take home?”

My weak personality couldn’t resist the temptation.

The first thing I noticed when I entered this former post office converted into a mall (except from it being a post office converted into a mall) was the large amount of French people – especially teenagers and women in their twenties – carrying enormous shopping bags from Primark and TK Maxx while scouting for even greater deals in even cheaper stores (yes, I eavesdropped on their conversations).

IMG_20170405_121104.jpg

As I had my own French guy waiting for me at home, I thought it’d be kind of a sin if I didn’t join in on the discount shopping and bring him a souvenir. So I bought him a pajama and lots of chocolate – because deep down we’re both still children and enjoy spending time in our pajamas while stuffing our faces with chocolate and candy.

My stomach was screaming for food by this time. Luckily, the restaurant (Bratar) was just a short walk away from the mall. I found it, but I had no idea where the entrance was. I found a door that didn’t at all look like it was the main entrance, but I entered anyway. The room was completely empty and led to another room – which turned out to be the main room. And the main entrance was right there, too. For some reason I’d somehow managed to miss it. I found an empty table and sat down – without using the mannerism that I usually use when going to a restaurant….such as waiting for a waiter to find me a free table. The staff looked confused, but didn’t say anything. It took a while before they eventually handed me a menu – probably because they had been wondering what on earth I was doing, entering the restaurant from out of nowhere and grabbing a table without even asking. And to make things worse, I decided to speak only German to them but had trouble understanding what they said whenever they asked me a follow-up question. So, I told them to repeat everything. Multiple times…only so I could say something that made absolutely no sense and was completely irrelevant to what they were asking. Awkward. Unlike my German language skills, the food was good!

IMG_20170405_121242.jpg

Before returning to my room, I decided to grab a drink in the cocktail bar at my hotel. Not because I’m one of those girls who like to put on their darkest red lipstick and little black dress and sit at the bar and flirt with strange men, while sipping a cosmopolitan and looking all mysterious and edgy. No. I’m that awkward girl who doesn’t want to be noticed. You know, the one who hides in the corner, takes pictures of her drink, eats all the snacks and secretly wants to ask for more olives but is too shy to do so. The girl who becomes red like a tomato once someone looks in her direction. That’s me.

IMG_20170404_125527.jpg

IMG_20170404_125247.jpg

My hotel happened to have an excellent cocktail bar (Santo’s Cocktailbar) and it seems to be very popular among locals as well as tourists and guests at the hotel. They had the largest selection of cocktails I’d ever seen, and everything looked delicious and elegantly presented. It took me an eternity to figure out what to order. I ended up with a cherry margarita.

Tuesday morning, my alarm woke me up at stupid o’clock. I wanted to get up early and seize the day, but neither my mind nor my body was feeling the enthusiasm. But as a blogger, I know the importance of getting up early in order to have time to do everything, photograph everything and make the most of my time before returning to the train station to go home to Paris.

After a large breakfast, I was definitely feeling better. On Tuesdays, there is a farmer’s market starting at 7:30 am at Gutenbergplatz, which seemed like a good way to start the day. Although the  market turned out to be a lot smaller than I’d expected, it was nice. Next time I’m in Karlsruhe, I might just book an apartment instead of a hotel. Then I’ll definitely return to the market and buy me some of that yummy cheese and fresh fruits and vegetables!

IMG_20170405_115145.jpg

IMG_20170405_115002.jpg

Moving on to Karlsruhe Palace. This gorgeous yellow palace is probably the most well known building in Karlsruhe – and is home to the Badisches Landesmuseum (Baden State Museum). I strolled along the palace courtyard and did the entire walk around the garden – which is huge. I wasn’t sure what to do next or where to exit, and I ended up taking an exit that lead me to the Majolika Keramik Manufaktur. Majolica is Italian tin-glazed pottery and from what I’d seen online, it looked pretty cool and modern.

IMG_20170405_113927.jpg

The place seemed quite empty, the door to the museum was closed and the only person in sight was some delivery guy who had just arrived with his truck. I asked him if he spoke English. He didn’t. I tried to ask him in German if the museum was open, but I had no idea what “open” is in German, so I made some weird hand gestures and repeated the word ‘open’ several times. He pointed at an open door to something that looked like a shop.

There was a lady at the counter. She was too busy talking on the phone to even notice I was there. She looked strict and kind of scary, so I didn’t wanna bother her with my questions. I assumed I had walked into the gallery part of the majolica manufacturer and I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to take photos or not, but I did it anyway. The selfie-taking chimp and the three bold lipsticks were too good to miss out on.

IMG_20170405_113356IMG_20170331_175152

Since no one had paid any attention to me at all while I was there, I was left feeling kind of embarrassed. As if I had sneaked into someone’s house or something.

Next on my list was Turmberg, a 256 meter high hill and Turmberg funicular railway – the landmark of Durlach. There were two ways to get to the top of the hill; the historical railway and the stairs, also known as “the witches’ steps”. That nickname alone was enough to put me off from taking the stairs. No-uh. Ain’t doing it. Besides, I was looking forward to taking the railway up the hill.

IMG_20170405_112603.jpg

…That was, until I was welcomed by a closed door and the timetable. So, apparently the railway was closed on weekdays – until April 1st. In other words, if you happen to be there on a Tuesday in March, you better get your butt moving up the witches’ stairs or get out of there.

IMG_20170405_113228.jpg

I hate feeling like a quitter, so I took the stairs. Slow and easy. Granny style. I didn’t wanna exhaust myself before I was even halfway to the top, so I figured nice and slow was the way to go. By the time I had made it to the top, I was so exhausted I was literally gasping for air, like a fish on land. My polyester top and red faux leather jacket was the worst combination of fabrics imaginable, and I was sweating like a pig.

What comes up, must go down, I thought to myself before taking the stairs back down to where I started. As annoying as the witches’ steps were, at least I’d end up with buns of steel after all this effort.

I spent some time hanging out in Durlach before heading back to the city center for lunch. I saw the remains of the ancient ruins of Karlsburg Castle, visited the Schlossgarten (Royal Park) and ran for shelter to the nearest coffee shop as soon as it started raining. One cup of coffee later and I was ready to face the rain again. The tram stop was only one block away, but even one block feels like ten kilometers when you have to run like crazy to avoid getting soaked.

IMG_20170405_112224IMG_20170403_182606

The tram took me kind of close to the restaurant I wanted to visit; My Heart Beats Vegan. Kind of close was not close enough, when wandering around with no umbrella in the rain. When I entered the restaurant I looked like I had gone for a swim with my clothes on. I felt like people were staring at me, but they probably weren’t. And if they were, they were probably just thinking “Holy sh… Let’s get an Uber. I don’t wanna end up like that”.

IMG_20170403_181345IMG_20170405_111546

As I was feeling kind of cold, there was nothing on the menu that tempted me more than the tomato and basil soup. A nice, warm soup. Accompanied by an ice cold iced tea…

That was the last thing I had time to do before returning to the hotel to pick up my luggage. Thank you Karlsruhe. Those 24 hours were enjoyable. Next time, I’ll make sure I’m not there on a Monday or a Tuesday – or in March!

IMG_20170402_142030.jpg

What else is there to do in Karlsruhe?

  1. Visit the classic State Art Gallery (Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe)
  2. Or the modern ZKM Center for Art and Media (ZKM.de)
  3. Feed your brain with useful facts at the State Museum of Natural History (Staatliches Museum für Naturkunde)
  4. When you’re done feeding your brain, feed your stomach with upper regional cuisine (Oberländer Weinstube), regional slow food (Eigenart), steakhouse (DOM) or something from trendy Vaca Verde.
  5. Thirsty? Have a drink with the cool crowd at Guts & Glory, on the rooftop at KINGKARL or with the sophisticated crowd at KofferRaum.
  6. More of a beer person? Check out one of following breweries; Vogelbräu , Hoepfnerbräu or Brauhaus 2.0.
  7. Got a sweet tooth? Have some chocolate at Zuckerbecker or a yummy pastry from Patisserie Ludwig.
  8. Stroll along Südliche Waldstrasse or Kaiserstrasse. Shop, relax, enjoy!

 

More photos from my trip (below)

IMG_20170405_120312IMG_20170330_175240IMG_20170405_113820IMG_20170404_125050IMG_20170405_112028IMG_20170405_112427IMG_20170405_113041IMG_20170405_112821IMG_20170405_113608IMG_20170405_114032IMG_20170405_114218IMG_20170405_114810IMG_20170405_114507

 

 

 

 

How to visit 4 European Capitals in a week

As much as I love my occasional road trips – the longer, the better – there’s one way of traveling I love just as much. Yes, I love sitting in the passenger seat next to my partner, while being in charge of the Spotify playlist, blasting my music out loud, only to get interrupted by the female voice of the GPS, silencing my favorite tunes to tell us to turn left or right in French.

What I love just as much as loud music and road trips,  is interrailing. If you’re not from Europe, chances are you might not be familiar with that term – although you are most likely  very familiar with the concept!

The Interrail Pass is a railway ticket available to European residents. Residents from countries outside of Europe can purchase the Eurail pass. You can purchase your travel pass from Interrail.eu – and yes, it will be cheaper and way more convenient than traveling from one airport to another to visit different cities in Europe. You’ll save time, money and energy – and the possibilities are endless!

You are free to do whatever you want. Whether it’s Scandinavia that caught your interest or you’re daydreaming about French cafes or Spanish flamenco or eating pasta in Italy, the choice is yours and there’s plenty to choose from. Here’s one possibility that includes none of the suggestions listed above, but something a little different – an easy way to start your interrail adventure if you’re a Eurotrip-rookie.

Warsaw (Poland) – Berlin (Germany) – Prague (Czech Republic) – Vienna (Austria)  and if you have 3-4 extra days, add Bratislava (Slovakia) – Budapest (Hungary) to the list.

Side note: Vienna will be the most expensive out of the four destinations, and Warsaw the cheapest, so spend your money wisely.

 

How to spend 2 days in Warsaw, Poland

The central train station is not located in the Old Town, but public transportation is great in Warsaw and it will take you approximately 10 minutes to get to the Old Town from the station. If you’re staying near the Palace of Culture and Science, you’re only a short walk away from your accommodation. Click here for more information about Warsaw Public Transport.

warsaw1.jpg

Where to stay: If you’re a backpacker on a low budget, chances are you’re looking for a hostel rather than a hotel. Hotels are generally not that pricey in Poland, but it’s probably still more than what you’re looking to spend. Hostel Kanonia has good reviews and is located in the heart of the Old Town. If you’d rather pay more and stay at a hotel, you might as well stay at a 4-star one. After all, at Mercure Warszawa Centrum you’ll get a room for 50 euros per night, and for only 45 euros at Novotel Warszawa Centrum. These hotels are not located in Old Town, but a thirty minute walk will get you there (so  will the buses and trams). The hotels are close to the Palace of Culture and Science.

Where to eat: I’m telling you, you have to go to the restaurant chain Zapiecek and try the traditional Polish pierogis (dumplings). You can choose between boiled or fried dumplings, with filling of your choice + sauce of your choice, on the side. Also try the platzki (large fried potato pancakes). If you’re planning to walk the distance from Novotel or Mercure to Old Town, you’ll walk past a Zapiecek restaurant on your way there. It’s just across the street from Louis Vuitton.

Zapiecek is already quite cheap, but there’s one restaurant concept that is even more cheap – and no, it’s not fast food. Nor am I talking about somewhere where you can get yourself a sad little sandwich and some tap water. No. I’m talking about what once were state-run canteens serving cheap meals during the communist era. What has now made a comeback and is considered something retro and somewhat chic. The Milk Bars. Traditional Polish food, generous portions – and yes, it’s actually really good! My favorite Milk Bar in Warsaw is Mleczarnia Jerozolimska .

What to do:

  • Explore the beautiful Old Town and its architecture dating from the 17th and 18th century. Learn the history behind the city that was almost completely destroyed during Word War II, but rose from the ashes and blossomed into the UNESCO heritage site and beloved tourist attraction it is today.
  • At the entrance to the Old Town, there’s the Royal Castle, a castle residency that formerly served as the official residence of the Polish monarchs. Take the “Royal Route” and discover beautiful parks, architecture and learn about the history of Poland – way, way back in time.
  • “The Royal Route” will take you to the Wilanów Palace – a Royal Palace and one of Poland’s most important monuments. Built for King John III Sobieski in the 17th century and later enlarged by other owners.The gorgeous palace and its beautiful garden is as picture perfect as it gets and it makes you wonder what it would have been like to be a Polish princess.
  • Close to the Wilanów Palace, there’s another part of the “Royal Route” worth visiting. The Lazienki Park, the Palace on the Isle, the Myslewicki Palace, the old and the new Orangery, the different temples, the Chinese Garden – this park is full of treasures.Take your time. There’s a lot to see here!

warsaw2

How to spend 2 days in Berlin, Germany

You might wanna study this metro map  and buy yourself a day-ticket, because you’ll certainly need it. That is, of course, unless you wanna walk for hours to get from A to B. Berlin is a big city and there’s a lot to see and a lot to do in the German capital. 

berlin2

Where to stay: So, when I was in Berlin, we rented an Airbnb apartment somewhere on the outskirts of the main center of the city. If you’re traveling alone, you’ll probably prefer something cheaper and maybe less isolated? I haven’t stayed at any hostel in Berlin, but this one, ONE80, seems to have a great reputation and good reviews. Also, it’s located right next to Alexanderplatz, which is right in the center of the city.

Where to eat: PraterGarten for traditional German cuisine – and all that beer. There’s plenty of options for meat lovers as well as for vegetarians. And as always in Germany, the portions are very generous. It will keep you full until the next day. I promise.

If you’re a meat lover, you might wanna try some curry wurst as well. Just go to any hot dog stand and look for it on the menu. It’s a popular, local specialty – and a cheap meal!

When in Germany, don’t miss out on the traditional German bakeries and cafes. In other words; eat cake. Some of the cakes on display are so beautiful to look at, it’s almost a shame to eat them. Others – the rustic pastries – taste better than they look. So if you find yourself craving something sweet, take a trip to the nearest Bäckerei!

What to do: 

  • When in Berlin, you have to see the most famous landmark in Germany; the Brandenburg Gate, an 18th century neoclassical  monument. Stroll along the square and continue to the Reichstag building. The Reichstag building was constructed in the 18th century, to house the Imperial Assembly of the German Empire. It was severely damaged after it was set on fire in 1933, and was not used for its original purpose for a very long time – that was until it was reconstructed and reopened again in 1999. It now serves the Parliament.
  • Opposite direction from the Brandenburg Gate, is the Memorial to Murdered Jews in Europe, a unique monument dedicated to the victims of the Holocaust. And whatever you do, please don’t take selfies there. Yes, the monument makes kind of an edgy backdrop, but no, it’s not cool. It’s disrespectful.
  • Visit the Berlin Cathedral Church, or Berliner Dom as it’s called in German.
  • Take the “7 lakes tour” from Wannsee, a relaxing boat trip where you can sip a refreshing bright green or red beer (local fruit beers) while viewing the gorgeous scenery and enjoying the calm atmosphere.

berlin3

How to spend 2 days in Prague, Czech Republic

The central train station in Prague is not located in the Old Town. Prepare yourself for a 20 minute walk or taking the metro. The train station is located in a neighborhood that is, based on my own experience, completely safe. However, the station itself is like any other central train station in any capital city; a haven for pickpockets – and not somewhere you should hang out on your own, late at night. Here’s a guide to Prague Public Transport.

prague1

Where to stay: When I was in Prague, I stayed at Falkensteiner Hotel Maria Prag – a hotel just across the street from the central station. I paid 99 euros per night, with breakfast included in the rate. It’s neither cheap nor expensive for Prague. It’s average. You can easily find something cheaper if you’re traveling on a low budget. One of the hostels I’ve heard a lot of good things about, is the Hostel Florenc , located next to the central bus station – and only a metro station away from the central train station. The hostel is newly renovated and have special options for vegans in the breakfast buffet. If you’d rather stay in the beautiful Old Town, there’s a lovely hostel only a 5 minute walk from the heart of the historical city center. Ahoy! Hostel has as many returning guests as new ones, and is known for its friendly staff, clean rooms and a lot of special facilities – such as free hot drinks, free Wi-Fi and a fully equipped kitchen.

Where to eat: My favorite restaurant in Prague is located close to the central train station. I first discovered it while wandering around looking for somewhere to go for dinner. A thing that really bothers me in Prague, is that people smoke indoors – everywhere. I remember entering a few restaurants that looked kind of nice from the outside, only to be greeted by a thick fog and the awful smell of cigarettes. After nearly twenty minutes of searching, I was seconds away from Googling the nearest McDonald’s. But I wasn’t ready to give up just yet. I wanted goulash. And just down the street to the left of my hotel, there it was. A restaurant called Sherwood. A restaurant with a non-smoking section with clean, fresh air. A restaurant with delicious food and good drinks – and low prices, unlike the restaurants close to the tourist attractions in the city!

If you’re a beer lover and want a great night out (and can handle heavy cigarette smoke lingering in the air) or just wanna enjoy a couple of draft beers and a pub meal, check out Prague Beer Museum . They have 30 Czech craft beers on tap!

When in Prague, you might want to try the local street food, the sweet specialty called trdelnik. You’ll find it everywhere in the city. It’s dough rolled around a thick rolling pin, grilled on live coal and sprinkled with sugar. Basically a Czech doughnut.

What to do: 

  • Admire the amazing thirty baroque statues situated on the famous Charles Bridge. Cross the bridge and continue to the spectacular Prague Castle – the most significant Czech monument and an important symbol and cultural institution in the country. The castle, dating from the 9th century, is currently the residence of the President of the Czech Republic. It was a seat of power for kings of Bohemia, Holy Roman Emperors and presidents of former Czechoslovakia.
  • Every hour, you will see big groups of tourists gathering in front of the Old Town Hall to see the mechanical performance from the beautiful Astronomical Clock. The procession of Apostles, the music, the moving statues – it never fails to amaze people. If you want to catch the performance, I recommend you do it in the evening. The night sky adds a little extra magic to the experience!
  • Do you like graffiti? Then you might have heard of the John Lennon Wall in Prague. Since the 80’s, what once was a normal wall, has been filled with John Lennon-inspired street art and pieces of lyrics from Beatles’ songs.
  • If the Prague Beer Museum seems like a perfect place for you to hang out, chances are you will either hate or love the concept of a Beer Spa. All treatments are made using beer – and while enjoying your massage you get to drink as much beer as you want. I suggested the idea for my partner, but it was too weird for him. Oh well, maybe next time.

prague3

How to spend 2 days in Vienna, Austria

The central train station is located in the Favoriten district, which is a heavily populated urban area with many residential buildings – but also parks and recreational areas. Many hotels are located here and in surrounding neighborhoods. The station is only a few blocks away from the Museumsquartier, which is the eight largest cultural area in the world. I stayed in this area, and I loved it. The beautiful baroque buildings, side by side with Modern architecture. I assume you wanna see the rest of the city as well, so here’s a guide to Vienna Public Transport.

vienna1

Where to stay: I stayed in the artistic Musemsquartier, at Hotel Viennart. I found a great discounted deal on Booking.com and went straight ahead and booked it. The hotel was lovely and the breakfast buffet had a wide variety of foods. If you’re lucky to find a similar deal, go for it. The regular rate listed on the website starts with 65 euros for a single room, breakfast excluded. A cheaper option in the nearby area is the Kaiser 23 – Hostel & Guesthouse , where you’ll get a private room for 37 euros per night – breakfast included.

Where to eat: My partner and I tried – yes, tried – twice to book a table at a restaurant called Fromme Helene. We never succeeded in our mission and the restaurant seems to be fully booked every single day, so you might wanna send them an e-mail and reserve a table quite early in advance if you wanna be one of the lucky chosen ones. The food there is supposed to be amazing!

When in Vienna, you have to try the local specialty; the Schnitzel, or at least eat at a restaurant that specializes in this and other traditional Austrian dishes. At Schnitzelwirt you’ll find all of that – and a lot of vegetarian options as well.

What to do: 

  • Visit the Historic Center of Vienna and admire its stunning architecture, including the Baroque castles and gardens and the 19th century Ringstrasse (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and the numerous monuments along the boulevard.
  • The most frequently visited tourist attraction in Vienna is the beautiful Schönnbrunn Palace, a former imperial summer residence. The palace itself is gorgeous, but so is the sculpted garden. The garden contains, among other things, a maze (in case you’d like to pretend you’re Alice in Wonderland), an Orangery, a palm house and a Zoo.
  • Take a few pictures of the gorgeous Belvedere Palace, the former residence of the Price of Savoy – which now houses the Museum of Medieval Austrian Art, the Museum of Austrian Baroque, and the Austrian Gallery.
  • Channel your inner Austrian princess and listen to some Mozart while comfort eating some delicious cake. Not any cake, but the local specialty, Sachertorte. Comfort eating, because you’re probably broke by now. And if not… Those classical tunes will sound way better in concert ( Wiener Mozart Konzerte ).  Enjoy!

vienna2