Holiday tips on the Baltic Sea

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The beach at Glöwe on Rügen

We’ve just come back from a wonderful trip to Rügen, a windswept island in the Baltic Sea (Ostsee) just off the north east coast of Germany. You don’t have to say it … Are we crazy? The Baltic in February? These were exactly my thoughts when my husband suggested it a few weeks earlier, visions of ice chunks floating in the sea. But we went and it was brilliant and I thought I’d share why it was just so good.

First of all – convenience. Rügen is only 3.5 hours drive from Berlin and as an expat family with two young children this is a big factor. We fly so frequently to visit friends and family, so we’d rather not for short breaks, nor do we want to spend hours sitting in the car. For convenient holiday destinations from Berlin, the Baltic coast is a winner. Continue reading

Tag der Deutschen Einheit: a view of Berlin 24 years on

As I sat looking out over the tourist boats on the Spree, drinking up the soft autumn sunshine, I had a flickering insight that this moment encapsulated much of modern Berlin. How fitting, I thought, for the occasion, and returned my mind to the conversation. This was last Friday (3rd October) – Tag der Deutschen Einheit – and 24 years since reunification. As the history of this national holiday has been written about in excellent detail elsewhere on this blog and website, I shall stay in the present. So what was striking about this relatively commonplace scene for a Hauptstadt dweller?  Continue reading

Don’t Get Too Comfortable: a cautionary tale

Admittedly, after six years I felt pretty savvy with the whole expat thing. I had lived in two major German cities (Dusseldorf, Hamburg), spent two years living near Zurich, Switzerland, and had travelled to ten other European countries. I even felt comfortable go at it alone, having hiked nearly twenty Swiss Alpine peaks, solo. I offered newbies advice on how to adapt and stay safe, and had loads of tips and tricks for them, requested or not. I even wrote about expat life here on this blog. Oh yeah, I was a real pro.

And then, it happened. I was ultimately humbled in the most direct, even cliché-like, manner. Like some common tourist, I was pickpocketed on the Reeperbahn in Hamburg.

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Not Käsespätzle again please …

The night we moved to Berlin we drove around in a snowstorm desperately trying to find a restaurant with a kitchen still open at 10pm on a Tuesday evening. Not knowing the neighbourhood, we dashed into the first warmly lit place we saw, hoping not to slip on the thick crusts of ice covering the pavement. What luck – it was a vegetarian restaurant, and they were still serving! My memory may be skewed by the simple relief of satiating my hunger on that bleak night, but the meal has stayed with me as some of the most delicious I have ever eaten. With both of us vegetarian, that the whole menu was meatless certainly helped. In due course, it became our favourite local restaurant; the surefire go to place when we had friends to stay. Such was the quality of the food and the subtlety of the flavours that we knew even the most committed meat-eaters would enjoy it. Continue reading

Beware of the “Mexican” Restaurant

Originating from the west coast of the US, Mexican food has long been a staple in my diet. On my first forays into Europe, I made a few optimistic attempts to find suitable restaurants to satisfy my cravings for chips with salsa, fish tacos, over-sized greasy burritos, and cheesy enchiladas. Just about every single attempt was a complete and utter failure, leaving me homesick and a bit sick in the stomach too.

The first time I tried Mexican across the Atlantic, it was in England. Mind, the English aren’t exactly known for their abundance of spicy food. The salsa was chunky ketchup, the chips oversalted, and the food was unseasoned and tasteless. I was miserable. Continue reading

Meet Freude: More Korean Food in Leipzig

I know that you’ve waited over a month for this follow-up post on Korean food in Leipzig so let’s jump right in.

The family and I went to Meet Freude in the Suedvorstadt neighborhood of Leipzig. This part of town is a quick Strassenbahn ride or ten-minute walk from the city center. With universities in close proximity, it has a fun vibe and this stretch of the Karl Liebknecht Strasse boasts a long row of specialty food shops and restaurants such as vegetarian, Italian, Spanish, and Indian.

When we first drove by Meet Freude, we weren’t quite sure what to make of it. As mentioned in my previous post, it was a cafe and had a tiny menu. With interior colors of light green and white, this place was cute. Little trees and hearts here and there along with two large stuffed animals sitting in the Ikea high chairs waiting for us as we walked in, it reminded us of a cafe that could be in the university quarter of a Korean city.

The streetview of Meet Freude.

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Korean Food in Leipzig

In pursuit of finding decent food in Germany, my family and I tried out two of the three Korean restaurants in Leipzig during a visit to the city last week. It is a high risk undertaking to try a Korean restaurant in Germany as it can be very hit or miss, with a high probability of a miss. Over the years, I have had traumatizing experiences in Heidelberg and bearable ones in Frankfurt and Duesseldorf. Continue reading

When the Swiss Invite You to a “Panorama”

Having grown up on the flat Canadian prairies, not a clear and sunny day goes by that I don’t step out onto my balcony here in Switzerland, look over the bright blue Zurich Sea, toward the glowing green foothills of the Alps, and say out loud, “Wow!” Brandon, my fiance, often asks, “Will it ever get old?” My answer is always the same: “Not even close”. So when some new Swiss friends asked if they could take us up those hills for lunch at a traditional Swiss panorama restaurant, of course I was very excited.

It was an unseasonably hot Sunday in March. It was so warm I decided to wear my new sleeveless dress and some sparkly ballet flats. Brandon put on his Sunday best, a short sleeve collared shirt and dress shoes. We were picked up at 12:30 and as we departed, one friend, Sara, pointed to a lone tree atop a huge foothill and in her best English effort said, “You see this tree? This is where we are going.” I was bursting! After spending so much time staring up at those hills in awe, wondering what the world would look like from up there, I was finally going to find out. Her boyfriend Patrick, in a less successful attempt at English, mentioned that he had made the reservation for 2 pm. Hmmm, that’s strange, I thought, the drive couldn’t possibly take an hour and a half. Perhaps he just has the English numbers mixed up. We drove for a half hour, up through the forested winding roads, getting higher and higher. We stopped and parked at a restaurant. It was 1 pm, and I didn’t see the tree. We were told we would have to walk a little to get there. Continue reading