Instagram feed

29 December 2011


The last city I visited before arriving in London was Brussels. I had been to Belgium before, but never to its capital.


I had 3 days to get from Berlin to Brussels, which gave me a couple days to hang out and explore Köln (in English, Cologne), the 4th largest city in Germany.

12 December 2011

The €6 Train Ride Across Germany

After successfully traveling across the US for free, and having successfully hitchhiked three times, I prided myself on my ability to travel for dirt cheap. Frankly, for me it was not necessarily about the money (although saving so much money has saved me many worries), but the lifestyle: When you travel cheaply, you have to rely on other people to find your way forward, and that is the best way to travel.

In this vein, I had been searching for the best way to travel from Berlin to London. Then, through Couchsurfing, I found a girl who had a Eurostar ticket from Brussels to London that she wanted to sell for only €40, a great deal considering that I had paid over £150 for a round-trip Eurostar ticket from London to Paris. The ticket was for the 31st of August, so I had to be in Brussels by the 30th. I jumped at the chance to get the ticket. And suddenly, I had a goal, and a reason to get back on the road (or rails) as soon as possible.

I decided to give myself 3 days to get from Berlin to Brussels, enough to give me one last Saturday in the German capital. And it also gave me one more opportunity: The chance to get a train ticket across the country (to Cologne) for only €6. And yes, it was a perfectly legal, valid ticket!

07 December 2011

Last Days in Berlin. For Now.

Finally, some warmth and sunlight arrived in Berlin this summer, even if for only a day or two. I took the opportunity to continue exploring the city.

Dickes B

I returned to Berlin from the Highfield Festival on Monday. Of course I was exhausted.

Highfield Festival 2011

The Highfield Festival is one of the many music festivals that occur every summer in Europe. It also happened to be one that I went to. Awesome!

Hanging Out in Dresden and Leipzig

Day 90: Thursday, 18 August 2011

Dresden was fun. I even got to tag along for a short trip to my friend's band's show at a small underground punk venue in Leipzig. Good times!

Baroquen Dresden

Day 89: Wednesday, 17 August 2011
Dresden is full of attractive historical sights, especially in the old town (Altstadt) and along the River Elbe.

Dresden Street Art

Day 88: Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Dresden. An amazing city. You may know it for its distinctive and historic baroque architecture, which earned it the moniker "Florence of the north"; or perhaps you know it for being heavily bombed and almost completely destroyed by Allied bombing during World War II (Slaughterhouse-Five, anyone?).

Both of these aspects were true, and you experience the surreal historical beauty of Dresden most directly in the Altstadt (old city), in the center on the south bank of the River Elbe. My first impressions of Dresden, however, were that of the Neustadt (new city), north of the river. Here, the buildings are (relatively) newer, and frankly not as "pretty," but the lifestyle is more authentic, albeit trendy. Walking around this part of town, you can't help but notice the incredible levels of artistry bursting through almost every building's stone edifices.

The Kunsthof Passage is a small plaza somewhat hidden in the heart of the Neustadt, just off Görlitzer Straße.

06 December 2011

Hitchhiking Berlin - Dresden

Day 87: Monday, 15 August 2011
I had been in Berlin now for two and a half weeks, and I had become quite comfortable: Sleeping in every morning, browsing the internet, exploring during the day if the weather was nice, and meeting up with friends and couchsurfers almost every evening. Life was good. But I also knew that I had to move. That's the thing with traveling: You can't become too comfortable in one place, even if you're feeling tired and don't want to leave, because all the best experiences and all of the "magic" happens when you're moving.

Well, I wasn't really leaving Berlin today for good: I had plans to go to the Highfield music festival the next weekend, and I would return to Berlin after that with Felix. In the meantime, however, I had 4 days to fill. So I decided to go to Dresden, a beautiful city that I was very keen to discover and where I knew a couple people. And given my past good experiences, I decided to hitchhike.

I started with a goodbye lunch with a new friend from Brazil that I met at Friday's couchsurfing meetup. We shared some amazing (albeit fancy) döner before I left for my hitchhiking spot.

I researched (using digihitch and hitchbase) the best places to catch a ride out of Berlin, and I decided on catching a ride outside of a couple gas stations near Schöneweide. I took the S-Bahn there in the mid-afternoon, walked to the stations and asked everyone politely for a ride. I was politely declined each time. After about 20 minutes of this, I decided to make a sign and just thumb it by the road.

29 November 2011

One More Berlin Weekend

Days 84-86: Friday-Sunday, 12-14 August 2011
Having just had some currywurst, I rushed across the city again to meet up with a group of couchsurfers getting Thai food in the park. It was in the southwest of the city, Kleistpark. There, many women (I think they were all women) laid out picnic setups with lots of home made goodies - noodles, rice balls, sesame sugar balls, spicy cabbage salad, and so on. And anyone can just go there and buy some food from any of them.

I met several couchsurfers there, several from Italy, but I spent much of the time talking with Courtney, from New Zealand, and Joana from Brazil.

About half an our into our afternoon picnic in the park, some extremely dark and ominous rain clouds appeared, and soon it began to pour heavy rain. The entire group ran for cover underneath some of the tent shelters. We then went to Hermannplatz, where there was another meetup going on at a bar. There, I grabbed a beer and met more people, including a guy from Philadelphia named Zach or something. The rain had stopped, leaving an optimistically post-apocalyptic cityscape as I left the meetup.

18 November 2011

Berlin Life: U-Bahn, Music, a Burrito, and Currywurst

Days 81-83: Tuesday, 9 August 2011 - Thursday, 11 August 2011
Traveling around Berlin is pretty easy, once you know the U-Bahn and S-Bahn system. The trains will get you everywhere quite easily. They're also clean and spacious. As a result, there aren't that many buses (unlike London which has an extensive tube and bus system).

I was still tired and recovering from the weekend, so on Tuesday I stayed in most of the day. In the evening, there was a jazz night at a bar called Edelweiss in Görlitzer Park (in Kreuzberg). Stephanie and I went there, and so did a huge group of couchsurfers. It was crowded inside, and there was a €3 entrance fee. Needless to say I wasn't very impressed. The jazz was ok, but compared to what I've heard in New Orleans, it was very underwhelming and frankly overrated. There were a couple of French people there. I met a couple of Australians, but it was unfortunately their last night in Berlin, so I had little incentive to really connect with them. Steph and I skipped out of the bar pretty early.

Wednesday was another lazy day. That evening, I joined Felix after work to have a little planning session with his friends, in preparation for the Highfield Festival. I went to Charlottenburg, Kaiserdamm, and met Felix there. We went to the Apartment, which is shared by Andy, Basti, Tobi, and Daniel (Jack). There was also Mirko and Dana. We ordered pizza, and I had one to myself. The pizza was dry and in need of sauce or something. Luckily, the guys had extra dressing from their salad that they gave to me.

Finally, on Thursday, it wasn't raining! So I explored the city on foot. I walked to the Tiergarten, the big park in the middle of the city, Berlin's equivalent of Central Park or Hyde Park. In the middle of the park is the Siegesäule, a large column commemorating Prussian military victories.

27 August 2011

The Hangover, Sunday Market, and Rainy Goodbyes

Day 79-80: Sunday, 7 August 2011 - Monday, 8 August 2011

I woke up, somehow. I felt significantly better than the day before. There was less poison in my body, that was for sure.

I swore there was a giant bug on the wall. I was afraid to move, so I sat there just staring at it.

Where was I again? Oh yeah, at a friend's place in Kreuzberg. And when was it? It was sometime around mid-day, and the others were already stirring awake.

We needed to get food. Nourishment. We were in the right city for it, and Mika said that he knew of a good place right on the Ufer of the canal. But when we got there, it just didn't seem right for us, more expensive and less of a selection than we wanted. There was a wildly decorated boat right on the canal, though. Very Berlin.

We continued walking, wandering the streets of Kreuzberg. Somewhere along the way Antti and Mika were separated from the rest of us. We sat at a corner cafe and ordered some pizza and omelets. Quietly, we waited. I could hear my inner monologue going fast and sounding peculiarly like Anthony Bourdain. The last few days of debauchery were ones to remember, for sure, but somehow I couldn't remember much.

No need to worry, it was Sunday in Berlin. And Sunday in Berlin means Flohmarkt am Mauerpark, aka the big flea market at the Mauerpark (Berlin Wall park). It's a big outdoor market filled with funky, alternative, vintage, cheap trinkets where you can get some good finds. It is precisely what you would expect in Berlin too: Great, quality, funky apparel and accessories just waiting for the taking.

But that's not all. There's also karaoke! And not just any kind of karaoke, but a huge outdoor karaoke, where an audience of maybe 1000 people watch you sing. It's called bearpit karaoke, and it looks frighteningly intimidating for all but the least stage-frightened. Needless to say I was attracted to it.

One Crazy Weekend

Days 76-79: Thursday, 4 August 2011 - Sunday 7 August 2011
I was feeling a mix of pure awesomeness and misery.

I returned to Berlin on Thursday evening, dropped off in Potsdam, where I took the S-Bahn into the city. It was damp but warm, not exactly pleasant.

Saskia was in town, so we had to meet up! She was out with Stephanie at our Thursday evening spot, Supanova. There was Jojo also. We caught up and chatted amongst the couchsurfing crowd. I was also looking forward to meeting up with Topi, Aaro, and their friends from Finland who were in Berlin for a few days too. I told them to meet us, and they did just as we were walking back to the S-Bahn station.

We circled around on the S-Bahn toward the Ostkreuz, where the train stopped for the night. We had to walk to Warschauer Straße, where we did karaoke for the evening while gulping down beers. It was cramped and uncomfortably hot inside, but fun nonetheless. The girls said bye and I ended up having more Jäger or something back at the Finnish guys' place (which was right by Görlitzer Bahnhof in Kreuzberg by the way). It was half past 6 when I returned home. The early morning commuters were already out as I stumbled home.

It was Friday, and sleeping through the rest of the morning, I awoke in the early afternoon with a strong craving for pho. So I arranged to meet up with Saskia at Alexanderplatz. We then walked to a Vietnamese restaurant that looked good online. The food was good, and really hit the spot, as we sat outside and enjoyed the lack of rain.

There was the Berlin beer festival going on, so we headed over to that to check it out. It stretched on for about a mile, and it was full of many different types of beer and stereotypically German foods (wurst).

We had a nice large beer, though in retrospect, I should have gotten a small glass and tried the many different kinds of beer available. Who cares? The drunk middle-aged Germans dancing in the street certainly didn't.