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Berlin Holiday Weekender Travel Blog

The Berlin Blockade lasted 318 days during which time, 275,000 planes transported 1.5 million tons of supplies with a plane landing every three minutes at Berlin’s Templehof airport. The old airport runway and surrounding fields have now been transformed into a large open park.

Berlin…………city of myth, city of history, city of division, city of rebirth. Whenever a mention of Berlin I can immediately hear in my head the soundtrack to the movie Cabaret, und cabaret, und cabaret, und cabaret, made famous by Liza Minnelli in the movie of the same name. That and Christopher Isherwood who wrote the wonderful novels, Goodbye to Berlin and Mr Norris Changes Trains, all topped off in the background to the smoky husky tones of Marlene Dietrich’s very special brand of drawl English.

Hauptbahnhof Berlin central railway station

I had first planned to visit Berlin as a teenager at the invitation of some Viennese visitors I met one summer in Dublin. They had invited me to join them on a trip to the city to spend Christmas in a Berlin squat. That was in the early 1980’s if memory serves me correctly. In the end they decided to stay in Vienna for the Christmas, so I went there instead. My only other connection with the city, unfortunately, had a more sinister outcome. On a subsequent visit to what was still known as Czechoslovakia, and still at the time part of the USSR, I happened to meet and form a friendship with a guy from East Berlin who was on his annual holiday in the Czech capital, Prague. For people living in the USSR and including East Germany it was basically one of a very limited number of places that citizens of what was then known as  GDR were allowed to visit, as well as being virtually all they could afford anyway. On my return to Ireland we exchanged a number of letters and I, in my naivety at the time, was quite open about how repressive I thought the communist system and the USSR. He, for his part, was quite open about how difficult, depressing and limiting life was in East Berlin, until one day about a year later one of my letters was returned, stamped person and address unknown. That was the last time I heard from him and to this day I still do not know what fate befell him, but I held him in my thoughts as I visited the remains of the Berlin Wall and the East Side Gallery.

Reichstag

Only now, August 2017, have I finally managed to make it to Berlin and these are my impressions of the city and its people.

First things first, Berlin is huge! Probably similar in scale to London, an that is an important factor to bear in mind when choosing the location of accommodation for your visit. It has three main modes of transport for getting around, S-Bahn, U-Bahn, & buses, whilst the old east side still has tram lines, as they were a mainstay of the old GDR. We stayed in the fabulous boutique, but ultra-contemporary, Hotel Ku’ Damm 101 which is well located if you like top end luxury shopping, think Hermes, Gucci, Bentley et al. It also has very good bus links to the central shopping areas, think Piccadilly Circus and Oxford Road, London, all the mainstream big brands like H&M, Zara et al. But then, I don’t visit places to see what I can look at and find at home. To really get a proper look around Berlin and make the most of any visit without feeling rushed I would say you need at least 4 full days to fully appreciate all it has to offer. Even then that’s just about enough to scratch the surface.

Top of my list is the following

The Reichstag Dome, a Norman Foster jewel, set atop the roof affording endless and 360 degree views across all of Berlin. It needs to be booked in advance, due to it popularity and the limited numbers of places per day. Best to book as far in advance as you possible can. Also, if you trip includes a weekday then aim to visit on one of these, rather than a weekend when it will be at its busiest. We booked for a Monday and had virtually no waiting time before entry. Link to booking site is at the bottom of this post.

Norman Foster Dome Reichstag

Contemporary reflections

Following a visit to the Reichstag you are within walking distance to the Brandenburg gate the walk to which takes you past the somber and haunting holocaust memorial to  the Sinti and Roma people murdered by the Nazis.

Memorial to Sinti and Roma victims of the Holocaust with a view to the Reichstag in the background

In need of little introduction The Brandenburg Gate

Following a wander around the Brandenburg gate it is then a short walk to the Jewish Holocaust memorial. Picture further down in this post.

Signs, Symbols & Things spotted on the streets

Bauhaus

Wooden sculpture on high

Barbers shop sign

Window display laughing mannequin

Street Art

Glasses shop window display

I really don’t get what a banana and a woman in a bath has to do with designer glasses, do you?

Symbolic eagle, wall Templehof Airport Wall

Next on my list has got to be the area of Bergmannkiez a great neighborhood to wander with some wonderful local restaurants and cafes and also home to the first vegetarian butchers shop “Der Vegetarische Metzger” I have come across. This is a great place to stop for lunch. I had a crispy chicken burger and honestly it was hard to believe that it was meat free. A short walk from here is the eerily abandoned Templehof Airport.

Mauerpark 

Mauersegler Market

A visit to Berlin should definitely include a Sunday in order to take in a visit to the wonderful Mauerpark. Particularly if the weather is good as this place really needs a sunny day to be enjoyed at its very best. Possibly one of the best, if not the best, markets I have seen anywhere in the world, particularly if the weather is good. It has everything from handmade jewelry, to food, to bric-a-brac. The Sunday we visited it was packed and the atmosphere great!!

Vinatge

A perfect day to display

Vintage camera stall

Hats off to the fall of the Berlin wall and communism

Toy boats

Bubblecious

Poetry on demand

Vase of flowers Supersonico Restaurant Berlin

Wall display Supersonico

Pattern, colour and trees

Railway line

Railway station clock

Doggy bag

Oberbaum Bridge

Following this we head to the East Side Gallery, which basically comprises a preserved section of the Berlin wall. Now transformed into a gallery of works by painters from around the world depicting both the history and horrors that the wall stood for. This was one of the highlights for me and a moving testament to the suffering endured by the peoples of the GDR. This should also stand as testament to the failure of communism and act a wake-up call for any today who might imagine a future under any form of socialist communist regimes.

Sign East Side Gallery

Berlin Wall

Mural portrait of Andrej Sacharow

This mural portrait of Andrej Sacharow  is a tribute to his work and life. Originally a Soviet nuclear physicist, he became a dissident and human rights activist.  He became concerned about the moral and political implications of the nuclear technology he had invented and turned to activism for nuclear disarmament and human rights. Andrej Sacharow died in 1989 a few weeks after the fall of the Berlin Wall

Trabant mural East Side Gallery

The Trabant was an automobile, of sorts, produced from 1957 to 1990 by former East German auto maker VEB Sachsenring Automobilwerke Zwickau in Zwickau, Saxony It is often regarded as a symbol of the defunct East Germany and of the collapse of the Eastern Bloc in general. Nevertheless, it was very sought after in East Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall. In fact such was its status, and being the only available car in the GDR there was reputedly a two year waiting list for one, that is for the minority who could afford one in the first place. Communism, aah the good old days!

Old Trabant Police Car

Potsdamer Platz whilst interesting and certainly worth a look around would not be top of my list for a return as it’s a little to mono global for my liking.

Bahnof Potsdamer Platz

Inset plaque line of the Berlin Wall, built 1961 torn down 1989.

The central districts of the city are worth a wander, with Museum Island a visual highlight. Which brings me to the TV Tower, a Berlin icon and visible for miles around from virtually all parts of the city, it is however somewhat ugly up close. Although I’m sure the views are spectacular from its restaurant, I gave this a miss.

Berlin Cathedral Museum Island

The Fernsehturm TV Tower

TV Tower

Lenin, a delusional idealist and writer with terrible ideas that in no small part led to the murder of millions. If ever there was a statue to be torn down this one would be pretty close to top of my list!!

 

Street performer

 

Holocaust memorial Berlin.

For me the real power of this memorial instillation is fully appreciated when walking in between the oppressive undulation and changing cubes, always grey, but catching sight of the greenery in the distance, a stark frame, yet always beyond the reach of this soulless maze. redolent of gasping for air, a claustrophobic melancholy.

 

Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church

All of the oldest surviving buildings seem to be churches and cathedrals, save for the remains of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, bombed during the second world war its remaining bell tower and hall  now stands as a peace monument.

A place to relax and catch the sun

Sculptural twist

Water feature fountain

Other observations

Berliners are generally very laid back, friendly and approachable, whereas Berlin police are not at all friendly and seem to think you a criminal, or insane, should you dare to ask them a question.

Public transport, and in particular the U and S Banh, are very erratic being a bit unreliable and hit and miss. We had to get off countless trains and catch link buses between stations that were closed. On one occasion the train we caught from the center and was that was supposed to go direct to Potsdam instead terminated in the middle of nowhere without explanation. On quizzing the driver stating the train had said Potsdam both on the front display and on the departures board, he smiled and said, really, oh well, before closing his door and taking his empty train back towards the city.

Berlin also seems to have more south east Asian restaurants than I have seen in any city outside of South east Asia. So if you hanker after Japanese Sushi, or Vietnamese Spring rolls, you will be well served, indeed one of the best meals we had was in a Vietnamese restaurant in the historic inner city Potsdam, more of which in the second blog post focusing on Potsdam, next on my list and a place I wish I had had more time to see and one I would revisit. In fact, I would come back and stay here, hire a car and spend a few days exploring the areas around the palaces, as it’s a beautiful landscape and location steeped in history and wonder.

 

 

Getting there

We flew with Easy-jet from Manchester using air miles collected from Emirates and convertible to EasyJet thus the flights were free. The only negative being the arrival time of just after 11:30pm meaning public transport to the city was very limited

Click this link for info

 

Staying there

We opted for Ku’ Damm 101 as it was mostly pad for using accumulated Avios points. Stills it’s a great contemporary hotel with big comfortable rooms a snazzy bathroom and a wonderful breakfast.

Click this link for info

 

Getting around

We bought Berlin Welcome card which is basically a travel card permitting travel on all public transport. We got the one that included Potsdam for a couple of extra euros.

Click this link for info

There is also the more expensive option of the Berlin Pass which also includes entry to over 60 attractions but it’s very expensive and therefore only worth it if you intend to visit a lot of museums.

Click this link for info

 

Eating out

I wouldn’t call Berlin as a particularly foodie place unless you are a committed carnivore. I found it quite limiting in terms of choice, but I can recommend the vegetarian butchers shop “Der Vegetarische Metzger”

Click this link for info

 

Another great place with a very reasonably priced set lunch menu and close to the Mauerpark is this great new Italian Supersonico. I love the sleek classic Italian décor very smart in that typical Italian way.

Click this link for info

Another was a Tex Mex we stumbled across and just around the corner from

Friedrich Strasse U-Bahn. In fact it’s built into the railway arches below. We visited here a couple of times as the food was consistently good including vegetarian options as well as being reasonably priced.

Click this link for info

2 part post, next post Potsdam

In conclusion what I realise is that I have merely scratched the surface of this great city and its surrounds which beckons a recall at some future date.

End

Europe UK

Sheffield in 24 A Travel bloggers guide to the City

 

Sheffield in 24

An action packed city adventure

 

Guide book to Sheffield

Despite having visited Sheffield twice before in the past it took an invitation from the Mercure “St Pauls Hotel and Spa” for me to truly discover what this oft overlooked UK city has to offer.

I was fortunate enough to be part of a group of travel and lifestyle bloggers to be invited for an action packed 24 hour city visit.

St Pauls Hotel and Spa, being Sheffield’s only 4 * Hotel, is the perfect spot to stay, being centrally located, and as if that wasn’t enough, it also boasts doors leading directly onto the fabulous Tropical Winter Gardens. Having stayed at the Mercure in the past I arrived early, check in is 2pm, in order to take full advantage of the hotels Spa and Pool, free to use for hotel guests, it also offers a range of therapies and massages at an additional cost. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the spa area has had a makeover, with both the steam sauna and dry sauna benefiting from a complete overhaul, this is the perfect way to unwind before heading out for the evening.

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Europe UK

North Wales Off The Beaten Track

Day Tripping North Wales, Walking in Sunshine, Almost!

With the first weekend of proper blue sky sunshine upon us and a bit of heat in the air to accompany, thoughts turn to getting out of the city, even if just for a day and heading into the countryside.

Living in Manchester we are lucky enough to have a host of easy to reach destinations whether traveling north, south, east or west. That said, it is never a difficult one you make in choosing Wales, one of my favorite places on the planet. It doesn’t matter how far or wide I travel this globe of ours I never tire of trips to Wales, where even a familiar landscape causes me to smile as the light shows it in a subtle different and ever changing fresh perspective.

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Austria Europe

Vienna revisited, a travel bloggers view.

The Long Weekender

Vienna (Wien) Austria

 

Vienna is a city that has held a special place ever since I first visited as an 18 year old. I returned after that first visit a few times between the ages  of 18 and 25, but had not returned since. From that very first visit it struck me as a fairy-tale city, full of romance and joy, enhanced given that it was  December, close to Christmas, the ground covered in a blanket of pure white snow, all adding to that feeling of magic. On one of my visits on a Christmas day I made my way to St. Stephens’s cathedral, more out of curiosity than religious compulsion, and ended up with the very good fortune of hearing the Viennese boys’ choir sing. It still stands out as a profound life memory, along with those memories of the friends I made and times we shared. On one such evening a gang of us all met up (me being the only non-Austrian) in the metro station at Opera before heading off into the snow covered streets, snow ball fighting as we went into the night. The memory of that night and many other remain vivid to my recollection. Indeed, such was the impact of my experiences in Vienna it inspired a short story I wrote shortly after one visit, which was published in a well-known Dublin magazine of the time “In Dublin”

Would I feel differently all these years later I wondered?

View from the plane as we come in to land Vienna.

This time there was no snow to greet me, but then on many of my past visits in younger days the snow had long passed. I am happy to say the city has lost none of its charm and is as wondrous and romantic a place now as it was then.

From a practical point of view  it’s also turned out to be one of the least expensive European cites I have visited, even taking Brexit bashing on my pound into account. This is another city where a city pass is an absolute must, called the Vienna Pass, it offers not only free entry into 60+ attractions in many it also allows you to skip the ques and gain easy access to the attraction, a real boon in peak season As if that wasn’t enough it includes the Hop on Hop off City Tour Bus, again a great was to familiarise yourself with the city and it stunning architectural history. If fact it covers entry to so many places you will be hard pressed to visit them all.

Schonbrunn Palace and Gardens Vienna

Schonbrunn Palace and gardens, a place I remembered well from all those years ago.

Tree lined avenue Schonbrunn

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Denmark Europe

Getting down with the Hygge in Copenhagen……..

Copenhagen Dreaming

 

The long weekender Copenhagen Denmark

 

Top Tips and Travel Know How

Frederiks Kirke (The Marble Church)

Sometimes fast sees more than more time spent can find. It is the fleeting glimpse and quick insight, when the light shines in a particular way, illuminating a view, I sometimes think it better to absorb quick and move on. The light here, on this day, told me all I wanted to know and feel.  In this light, with its crisp short span, from dawn till dusk, it is easy to understand the aesthetic and pared back simplicity that is the very definition of our understanding of what we refer to as Danish style. The light at this time of the year is made for photographers, never too high in the sky, rising late and setting early, but I cannot imagine I could stand too many of these short days and long nights of winter. Yet I can only wonder why it has taken me so long to visit this wonderful city and finish by saying I will be back when the sun and day hold for longer.

 

Stroma Canal Tour

Top Tip here, don’t go for the Netto boat as its pretty naf. A better option with much nicer boats and reputed to be the original tour, Stroma Canal Tour Copenhagen. Offering the Grand Tour and lasting one hour (Included with the Copenhagen Pass) you can join the boat tour at either Nyhavn, or Gammel Strand. A guided tour around the harbor and through the idyllic canals with guide commentary will tell you about Copenhagen’s beautiful churches, castles, old listed houses, new buildings and all other sights of interest. (The English speaking guide gave a very good commentary along the way)

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Europe

The Long Weekender Oslo, Norway Part 3

 

Day 3 Oslo 

Day 3 starts early  with the ferry to the Bygdøy peninsula which operates operates between March to October. More info and links for ferry at the end of post
The trip on the ferry is included in the Oslo pass again making this a fantastic investment for any travel to Oslo.
Departure is every 20-30 minutes from Pier 3 by the City Hall. We caught the first fery at 8:55 as this was to be the last day of our visit we wanted to see and do as much as possible.
Leave the ferry at the first stop  Dronningen and taking about 20 minutes to get there its a very pleasant trip across. (Norwegian Museum of Cultural History/ Folk Museum, Viking Ship Museum and Oscarshall).

 

Weeekender in Oslo by DKTravelPix Day 3 (0)

View from the ferry back to City hall

Weeekender in Oslo by DKTravelPix Day 3 (1)

Viking Museum

Weeekender in Oslo by DKTravelPix Day 3 (2)

Viking museum. Fascinating place full of preserved artifacts and Viking boats and things.

Norwegian Folk Museum

Weeekender in Oslo by DKTravelPix Day 3 (3)

For me this museum had to be one of my favorite places to visit as part of my Oslo long weekender. Packed full of fascinating glimpses in Norway’s past, and near past, history all brought to life with full size replicas and originals of the lives and living places of the Norwegians. Fascinating and deserves a good few hours of any visitors time to see it all as the grounds are quite extensive. More info on this at link to bottom of this post.

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Europe

The Long Weekender Oslo, Norway Part 2

Day 2: The Long Weekender

Top Travel Tips; Places to See Things to Do

The day starts with a visit to the magnificent Vigeland sculpture park a must see for anyone visiting Oslo and probably the best collection of sculpture I have ever had the pleasure of viewing. This is the worlds largest sculpture park to be created by one sculptor and i don’t think i have ever seen or heard of anything like it before. Containing over 200 works created over a lifetime by Gustav Vigeland in a mixture of mediums from granite, wrought iron and bronze, it is a truly unique place.  There is also a vitality and life affirming charm to the quality and scope of the works that can but make you smile whilst the park itself is a great place to spend a day have a picnic, if the weather permits, weather was great when I visited in May! I have included a link with more info on the park to the bottom of this post.

Vigeland Sculpture Park

Weeekender in Oslo by DKTravelPix Day 2 (1)A Statue of Gustav Vigeland stands in a landscaped area at the entrance to the park.

Weeekender in Oslo by DKTravelPix Day 2 (2)The wonderful vista from the highest point in the park.

Weeekender in Oslo by DKTravelPix Day 2 (3)Granite sculpture in the park

Weeekender in Oslo by DKTravelPix Day 2 (4)Seagulls take flight from one of the water fountains

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Europe

The Long Weekender Oslo, Norway Part 1

9 Top Travel Tips for Visitors to Oslo, Norway

Or put another way, things you may want to consider before travelling to Oslo in Norway

 

The long weekender a 3 part picture post

Day 1

Top Tip (1) For travelers from the UK It’s very expensive, at probably about twice the price of the UK average for food and possibly 3 times the UK price for a drink with a bottle of beer costing about a tenner

Weeekender in Oslo by DKTravelPix Day 1 (1)

The Museum of Modern Art as seen from the water, with viewing lift in background. Yopu pay a small fee to ride to the top of this free standing lift shaft which offers pretty good views.

Top Tip (2) If travelling on a budget you may be surprised to find buying in  supermarket is generally no cheaper than eating out, but tap water is free and restaurants quite happy to provide it, even adding sliced lemon and cucumber in some places.

Weeekender in Oslo by DKTravelPix Day 1 (2)

Picture of one of the current exhibits in the Museum of modern art, pretty funky place and some very interesting pieces as well as some downright bizarre installation including a gold life size porcelain of Micheal Jackson with chimp and a collection of heads of what is supposed to be Tom Cruise but looks nothing like him!

Top Tip (3) If your flight leaves you arriving late at night from the UK, as ours did with Ryanair from Manchester, there is a bus from the Airport to the City and is the cheapest way to get from the airport to the city, but try and choose accommodation that doesn’t involve a Taxi ride to your final destination. We took a 10 minute taxi ride and paid about £25!

Weeekender in Oslo by DKTravelPix Day 1 (4)

I particularly liked this pieces which is a shelf of books with books made of thin sheet steel.

Top Tip (4) If there is one must see destination for the short break weekender in Oslo and there are quite a few noteworthy places to visit it has to be the sculpture park, it’s unique and outstanding.

Weeekender in Oslo by DKTravelPix Day 1 (5)

To the foreground of this picture is a small beach where locals go swimming when the weather permits brilliant public space so close to the city.

Top Tip (5) Whatever budget traveler you may be get an Oslo pass, worth its weight in gold as it includes all public transport, entry to various museums and attractions, including the ferry to visit the Viking museum.

Weeekender in Oslo by DKTravelPix Day 1 (6)

I loved this tidy and uniform display of Violas against the outside wall of the museum.

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Europe Ireland

The Road To Lough Dan, Co. Wicklow, Ireland.

The Road To Lough Dan

Day Tripping in The Wicklow Mountains

Hidden away and down stony lanes, over grassy hills, banked by screens of bracken fern, walk through the verdant ever changing weather and vista to reach the quiet shores of Lough Dan in Co Wicklow, Ireland.

The Road To Lough Dan, A Picture postcard by David Keegan (20)

Along the path, snatched glimpses of the Cloghoge River catch the eye, until it banks curve and wend to greet you as you arrive at the lake shores and the abandoned and forlorn white house. Meanwhile in the fields below herd of Sika deer pause to look before returning to graze.

 

The Road To Lough Dan, A Picture postcard by David Keegan (2)

The Road To Lough Dan, A Picture postcard by David Keegan (3)

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Europe UK

Sunset in Picklescott, South Shropshire.

Sunset outside The Bottle and Glass Pub in Picklescott, South Shropshire

Sunset outside The Bottle and Glass Pub in Picklescott, South Shropshire.

I took this picture a little while ago whilst visiting Picklescott of horse and rider taking a break outside the pub as the sun went down. Charming village and pub and great place to stop if you happen to be in that neck of the woods.

More info on the Bottle and Glass can be found by clicking this link 

and about Picklescott by clicking this link