How to stay in shape and avoid gaining weight while traveling

Don’t you ever wonder how some women manage to stay slim and look absolutely fabulous even after weeks, or even months, of traveling while not having access to their local gym and healthy home-cooked meals?

Don’t you ever wonder how these ladies manage to eat their way through each and every country while updating their social media feeds with photographic evidence of themselves stuffing their beautiful faces with delicious brunches, dinners and desserts?

It’s no secret that I travel a lot more often than the average person, and I know many people who travel way more than I do. And we all know the struggle of keeping up a healthy lifestyle while living in a suitcase and hopping from restaurant to restaurant, bar to bar, food truck to food truck.

When you look at me and my social media posts, you wouldn’t think I’m someone you should be taking advice from in terms of weight loss and healthy living. I have a few extra kilos, I love food so much I plan my days around what or where to eat for dinner, and I am not at all a fitness guru or anything like that.

The advice I give is based on my own personal experience and my own journey from reaching the point of feeling disgusted and depressed by what I saw in the mirror, to the point where I am now – which is maybe five kilos away from my ideal weight.

Before I became a frequent traveler and a travel blogger, I lived a life full of routines.

Four years ago, I had a full time job, I had my own apartment, I had a gym membership and I enjoyed cooking healthy food – especially vegetarian food (even if I never considered myself a vegetarian).

Going to the gym at 7 am was absolutely not a problem for me. Nor was spending hours in the kitchen cooking the perfect veggie patties and baking low-fat vegan brownies as “cheat meals” for the weekends. I have never looked as good as I did back then.

But I wasn’t happy with my 9-5 job and what I viewed as a boring lifestyle, so I moved to the US (where I landed a job in Disney World) and started solo traveling from state to state and visited different Caribbean islands with my friends – and continued traveling a lot more after returning to Europe almost three years ago.

Two years and a half ago, I moved to France and started traveling a lot inside of the country and to neighboring countries. By this time my healthy lifestyle had gone completely out of the window and I was left looking like a big fat blob.

I didn’t even realize the seriousness of it all, until I was in Norway, visiting my parents for the summer (two years ago).  There I was, sitting on my bedroom floor, trying on some of the clothes I’d left at their place before moving abroad four years ago. I was completely shocked when trying on all these beautiful blouses and dresses I once used to wear on a daily basis.

Nothing fit me anymore. Absolutely nothing.

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And that’s when I decided to make a lot of small changes in my life. 

While living a freelancer- and traveler’s lifestyle, it’s simply unrealistic to make any drastic changes. While some people manage to do that, most people won’t. Me included.

But anyone can change a few bad habits and add some new good ones to their lives and slowly burn off those extra kilos and feel like a better and healthier person – even while on vacation.

Thanks to those small changes I’ve made while traveling (and while being home, working on my laptop), I’ve lost most of the weight I gained – and I couldn’t be happier!

This is how I stay in shape and avoid gaining weight while traveling

  1. I take the stairs instead of the escalators/elevator.  I know how much it sucks to take the stairs when you’re carrying heavy luggage and feeling extremely tired after a long flight. But you might wanna give it a try, as it’s actually a great cardio exercise. You won’t need the gym when you can carry luggage or shopping bags and run up and down the stairs at the metro or train station instead. Also, when heading to the breakfast buffet at your hotel in the morning – take the stairs instead of the elevator. Staying on the first floor? No problem. You can still walk up and down the stairs just for the sake of burning calories. Consider it your little morning exercise before treating yourself to a nice breakfast!
  2. I stay hydrated with water instead of sugary soft drinks. Put a bottle of water in your handbag or small backpack before heading out to the beach, to the pool or to go sightseeing. We all know how important it is to stay hydrated, and water is so much better for you than any other soft drink. Keeping a bottle in your bag might just prevent you from heading to the nearest supermarket or vending machine and buying a can of soda whenever you’re thirsty!IMG_20170912_143342.jpg
  3. I put fruits and granola bars in my handbag/backpack. Again, this is all about being prepared for thirst and hunger to arrive at some point during the day. Whether you’re gonna explore a big city and visit a bunch of museums, or you’re just planning to hang out by the pool, a granola bar and fruits will be a better option than ordering french fries or churros from some random takeout place, just because you were hungry and needed a snack.
  4. I recently started wearing an activity tracker wristband. My boyfriend made fun of me when I first bought my FitBit, but now he wants one too. An activity tracker is not a miracle worker, but if you’re someone who loves to be challenged, you’ll have a great time using one. It will track your steps and movements, you can create your own calorie/food diary on the application – and the tracker will notify you and challenge you whenever it thinks you should be moving (not during the night, though). It might not work for everyone, but it works for me – and it’s a fun little gadget!
  5. I swim, hike, dance and ride a bicycle whenever the opportunity arises. Planning a trip to the beach to get your tan on? While you’re there, go for a long walk in the sand or jump into the water and go for a swim before getting comfortable on a lounge chair with a book in your hand. Going to the pool? Swim a few laps. Visiting a big city? Rent a bicycle for an hour or two. Staying at an all-inclusive resort? Check out the resort’s on-site activities. Yoga in the morning? Dance classes in the afternoon? Be there!IMG_20170420_220500
  6. I eat exactly whatever I want, but moderately. If you’ve ever been to a really fancy restaurant and enjoyed a three-course meal, you’ve probably noticed that the portions aren’t exactly big and you’ll be able to finish it all. You’re not left feeling like you needed to force yourself, and after you’ve finished eating you won’t feel like a balloon that’s about to explode. Think about that next time you go to an “all you can eat” buffet or enjoy a large pub meal or dinner at a family restaurant somewhere. If your main course is huge, you might wanna skip dessert. Or share one with someone else. And if you can’t even finish your main course, don’t. If you don’t want the leftovers to go to waste, ask for a to-go box and finish it later. It’s better to eat smaller portions of the things you really want to eat, than chewing on lettuce and celery every day and counting every single calorie of everything you eat. Trying local specialties is an important part of traveling. Don’t miss out!IMG_20161027_203337.jpg

 

Want me to publish more content related to weight loss, diet tips and activities to help you lose weight while traveling?

Drop me a comment below if you have any requests!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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…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.

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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.

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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”.

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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!

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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)

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Why I love ChillOut Travel Store in (Oslo/Bergen) Norway – and why you will too

Once just an idea developed into a thesis topic, now a successful business – and my favorite place to hang out while visiting Oslo or Bergen in my beloved country, Norway. Welcome to ChillOut Travel Store; a travel equipment and adventure gear shop – which is also a cafe with a lounge area where you can sit down with a nice cup of coffee and the latest travel guide of your preferred destination or a travel magazine, to inspire your inner globetrotter. ChillOut Travel Store also host seminars and events – and have experienced travel advisers available to help you plan your upcoming trips whenever you’re in need of guidance.

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This place has absolutely everything you need for whatever trip it is you’re planning to embark on. Whether you’re going backpacking through Asia or Australia, hiking in the highest mountains, safari in Africa, or just a short city break in one of the European capital cities.

This is where I buy most of my travel books. This is where I go whenever I’m back in Oslo – a city I once lived in – to daydream about all the places I’m planning to visit and think back to all the places I’ve once been lucky enough to visit in the past. This is where I’d take you if we were friends visiting Oslo or Bergen together.

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Below is my interview with Emilie, store manager at ChillOut Bogstadveien (Majorstua, Oslo). Translated from Norwegian.

What would you say is the biggest advantage of working at ChillOut?

The greatest thing about working at ChillOut is that I am “traveling” every single day. I talk about the world, adventures and gain inspiration every single day. Meanwhile, it feels like we sometimes inspire people to explore the world in a way they hadn’t even realized was possible. Everyone who works here have a common interest: to explore the world – and I believe this work environment is the best I have ever experienced! Whenever people talk about ChillOut, they talk about how “good vibes” we have. I believe the reason behind it is that both our staff and costumers share the passion of traveling.

Where did you go for your last trip, and where are you going next?

I went on a couple of small trips around Europe this summer, but my latest “long trip” was when I went to Nicaragua this spring! Central America has a special place in my heart. I find it unique, exciting and extremely beautiful. For my next trip I’ve actually bought a one-way ticket to Costa Rica. It will be my third trip to this part of the world – and I’m working my way slowly down to South America. I’m hoping to reach Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia as well – but I’m also dreaming about getting to India and Indonesia in time for surf season. And a long hike in Nepal too. But…knowing myself, I’m sure I’ll find myself a bamboo hut somewhere and stay there for three months and just surf and nourish myself on coconuts.

What are FIVE items you can’t travel without?

  • A good backpack is top priority – can’t travel without one. Being able to walk for several hours straight with my backpack is a must, as it’s while doing that you reach the most awesome places. Your backpack is your “life” while traveling. It’s your best friend and your teammate. You’re supposed to fit like a glove, and you’ll discover the feeling of living “simple” – a feeling I hope everyone is looking to discover when exploring the world.
  • Good travel utensils and a decent knife. Personally, I love exploring foreign food cultures – especially all the fruits and vegetables sold locally. Having the opportunity to visit a local market and buying all these interesting things without knowing what to expect in terms of taste or what they look like, is very exciting! Meanwhile, nothing beats a really good pineapple on a beach somewhere – and with your own utensils and knife, you won’t need to depend on someone to cut it for you.
  • Wool clothing. It might sound strange packing wool for warmer climates – especially for us Norwegians who were born and raised into wool clothing. But wool is useful and practical in many ways and everyone should make space for it in their backpack. Unlike synthetic fabrics, wool doesn’t smell of sweat – which is very convenient when there’s a few weeks between each time the laundry gets done. It also dries quickly, will keep you warm at night, flights and long bus journeys during the night.
  • Headlamp. Entering a dark hostel dorm room in the middle of the night is not cool, and even less cool when breaking the unwritten “hostel law” of turning on the light when everyone’s sleeping. In situations like these, a headlamp is fantastic. Meanwhile, certain locations might not have as efficient power/electricity as others, and the power might go off quite frequently while traveling. So having light available is always a good idea.
  • Diary. I never travel without one. I love to write but I don’t necessarily always have the “dear diary” style of writing. I write about people I meet and their stories, about moments I’ll never forget, songs I’ve listened to, dishes I’ve eaten and places that made a big impression on me. Right there and then I sometimes find it exhausting to write about it – but in retrospect, they’re priceless.

What was the last travel novel you read – and what made you choose this one?

It was actually a travel novel about hiking in Patagonia, the fantastic national park in Chile and Argentina. It’s a place that kind of intimidates me but I know I will have to experience it soon! The nature down there looks so wild and I believe a trip there will be a highly unique experience. Thing is, I want to see everything down there, but it’s a very large area spread out in two different countries, something that makes a trip there quite the challenge. That’s something I love and I’m looking forward to completing it!

What does an average day at work look like for you at ChillOut?

It consists of a lot of work sorting all the merchandise, ordering new items and moving merchandise from the stockroom into the store. We also put a lot of work into keeping the shop tidy and looking for new ways to display merchandise to give the store a generally cool vibe. However, our main priority is the costumers – helping everyone and making sure their needs are met. Regardless of what kind of trip they’re planning. We have anything from costumers who are planning to travel the world, to those planning a weekend trip to Prague, family vacations in Spain or Everest Base Camp. There’s plenty of variety!

What is your best travel advise?

This one’s tricky! I get this question quite often, but I tend to give different answers every time. My top three destinations would be: Indonesia, all countries in Central America, and Nepal. And my best packing tip is to bring lots of smooth music to listen to while you’re traveling.

Visit www.ChillOut.no for more information about who they are, their merchandise, upcoming events and where to find them in Oslo and Bergen.

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Why Christmas Markets in Cologne, Germany are simply magical

This year I’ve visited quite a few different Christmas markets. Lovely Christmas markets – by all means – but maybe a bit too much in a short matter of time..so much that I was starting to feel like I’d overdosed on Christmas and worried about coming down with the worst hangover ever. I didn’t want to be the Grinch, but sometimes too much feels like too much. On top of everything, I had caught a cold which made the idea of traveling to visit yet another Christmas market seem rather exhausting.

That was until I went to Cologne in Germany this week.

Spellbound by the charm and the authenticity of the markets located in this wonderful city, I had regained my Christmas spirit and tossed away my inner Grinch.

Each of these six markets has its unique style. Although the one in front of Cathedral Kölner Dom is the most well known of the city’s Christmas markets, there is absolutely no reason for you not to check out the others as well. You’ll be missing out on a simply magical experience!

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The marine themed market by the harbor looks amazing as darkness falls and lights illuminate the bridge connecting the two parts of the market separated by the river Rhine.

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The market by the Cathedral has a layer of little Christmas lights installed above all the stalls – enchanting little lights that make you feel like you’re gazing at a beautiful starry night sky.

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The Old Town market (Heimat der Heinzel) has a spectacular ice rink and lovely decorations, just enough to get you into the Holiday spirit and head to the bar for a glühwein or an eierpunsch – last one being my favorite hot beverage in Germany (hot eggnog).

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Then there’s the market that – in my opinion – is the most romantic one. With illuminated hearts decorating the trees, a cute little Ferris wheel turning in a strangely high speed for an attraction like this and plenty of cute little shops, how can you not fall in love with the market – or AT the market (the atmosphere is there, so why not?).

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The other two markets were lovely as well. I ate well (perhaps a bit too much at times), I drank well, I was in good company with my partner and his family, we laughed, we bought cute little gifts, we sang, we smiled.

Thank you Cologne – Thank you Germany. Thank you for getting me into the Holiday Spirit. I’ll see you again, next year!

Until then, let these photos inspire you.

Photos from the market by the harbor

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Photos from Neumarkt (the market of the angels)

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Photos from the Old Town market (Heimat der Heinzel)

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…and the romantic one right next to that market

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Photos from the Nikolausdorf market

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And let’s not forget the market by the Kölner Dom

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How a Drunk Guy’s Story Brought me to Antwerp, Belgium

Maybe nine or ten years ago, I fell in love with a story told by someone who was very, very drunk. Someone who had fallen in love with the city of Antwerp in Belgium, and couldn’t stop talking about it. “I want to find a nice Belgian girl and settle down in Antwerp. I had the best time of my life there, you know. It’s a beautiful city. And the people there are so friendly, and the beer – oh my God – the beer”, he slurred and took a sip of his non-Belgian beer. “You have to go to Antwerp, you really have to”, he continued. While most other people at that party got fed up with listening to him obsessing over Antwerp and wouldn’t take his drunken slur seriously , I just wanted to know more. I wanted to fall in love with Antwerp too.

And now, many years later, I was finally on my way to Antwerp. My boyfriend and I had decided to go on a road trip to Brussels and decided to spend one night in Antwerp because of my strong desire to go there. And the city was just as amazing as I had expected it to be. I had fallen in love-  just like the drunk guy at the party.

We stayed at the Hotel Prinse, which is an old-fashioned four star hotel set in a 16th century building only a stone’s throw away from the historical center of Antwerp. When we arrived, we received welcome drinks (a glass of wine each). What a pleasant surprise. Cheers to us. Cheers to Antwerp!

The old city center of Antwerp reminded me of how much I love living in Europe. The ancient buildings and narrow streets, the stunning Cathedral of Our Lady and intimate pubs and restaurants on every corner. We grabbed a beer at Paters Vaetje and enjoyed the beautiful autumn sunshine. Tourists of all ages were taking selfies on the Grote Markt (Great Market Square), while others were hanging out drinking beer like us, or snacking on some of the Belgian specialties; chocolate, waffles or fries!

We strolled the narrow streets and tried our hardest to resist the smell of delicious waffles and the sight of tasty chocolate. I wanted to eat it all. But instead of stuffing our faces with calories, we went to see the Het Steen – a medieval fortress, built in the early middle ages. This beautiful fortress managed to get my mind off snacking – at least for a little while – until we both agreed to return to the Grote Markt to buy fries from Frituur Number One, which for some reason has become kind of famous and is always crowded with tourists. Basically, curiosity brought us there. The fries were basic, though. Nothing out of the ordinary. So don’t expect a mouthgasm – unless you already get one from whatever random fries you order anywhere else.

Dumb as we were, we hadn’t made any dinner reservations anywhere and started to panic as we got turned down by one restaurant after another. Eventually we found a nice restaurant called De Bomma , which I think translates to “at grandma’s”, which would make sense as the concept is nostalgic, traditional food –  just like from your grandma’s kitchen…if she was Flemish. The food was good. I especially loved the appetizer; cheese croquettes with fried, crispy parsley on the side. I had never tried parsley prepared in such a creative way before, but it sure was interesting and a lot better than non-fried, non-crispy parsley!

After a heavy meal at grandma’s, we made the clever decision to go to a beer bar to make our already full stomachs even fuller. According to online reviews, Cafe Kulminator was supposed to be one of the best – or THE best – beer bars in the city of Antwerp. My boyfriend was kind of scared to go there, as some reviews said the owners were not very friendly towards francophone’s. I reassured him it would be okay, and I’d do all the talking – as his french accent would give him away. The owners didn’t seem unfriendly, though. And what a fascinating establishment. Random decoration, random furniture and a whole lot of board games everywhere. It looked like my grandma’s attic. Or a flee market. Cafe Kulminator has probably every type of Belgian beer that exists, behind the counter – and the menu looked more like an enormous dictionary than a menu. We gave up on the menu and just ordered what they had on tap.

As I’m not a big fan of the coffee served in hotel breakfast buffets, I was happy to discover that there are plenty of coffee shops to choose from in Antwerp. We visited Caffe Mundi, a coffee shop specialized in roasting high quality coffee. I highly recommend this place if you’re the kind of person who want to know exactly what you’re drinking, as the menu gives you the option to choose between blends and single origin coffee – the very best coffee from different countries around the world.

I finished my coffee and thanked the barista. I silently thanked the rest of Antwerp too. For letting me enjoy this charming city. For letting it be exactly what I hoped it would be.

Thank you drunk guy, for the recommendation. You were right. You were right about everything.

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