I have waited a long time for this, but I have BIG NEWS! I am moving to Australia in less than four months and I am so excited to be able to explore more of the Canberra area so soon. What? Canberra? YES, CANBERRA! Quite frankly speaking: I have never felt so certain about anything in my life! Australia’s been my greatest love since 2010 and I think deep down Australia loves me too.
Why do I want to move? I love Vienna, everyone knows that. But it has always been my biggest dream to move back to Australia one day. When I got off the plane in Sydney last February, it felt so right to be back. To me, it was like coming home to Australia and I instantly knew, I had to come back again for a longer period. I remember my host mum asking me already in 2013, why I didn’t give moving there a try and I remember exactly what I replied to her: I can’t do this to mum, it would break her heart!
I never really got Australia out of my system and when I found out about some major changes at work, I took those as a sign! Australia is happening! Now, I know, this doesn’t solve the mum issue and I’m afraid there won’t be any other way than having to break her heart a little regardless. But I’ve figured, she’s gotta go her way and I’ve gotta go mine. I can’t always be around to protect her. After all, she just wants me to be happy, like any other mother would.
Why Canberra? I know that many of you associate Australia with Sydney’s Harbour Bridge, surf beaches, or kangaroos. But the truth is: There is so much more to Australia than big cities and the beach. So when I get asked why I’m moving to Canberra, my answer is pretty simple: Because I love it there. I’m a country girl as much as I am a city girl and Canberra allows me to be both. Canberra is perfect, it is about two hours from the coast, three hours from Sydney, two hours from the mountains (and the snow!) and there are plenty of kangaroos. Oh and did I mention the wine? There’s vineyards, so basically it’s a lot like Vienna: surrounded by hills, vineyards, it’s the capital city (nope, Sydney is not the capital!), it has great restaurants (more restaurants per capita than any other city in Australia!), oh and they have a flower festival every year, loooots of Tulips! But most importantly: the people! Despite the thousands of kilometers that separate us, I still call some of the people my family and best friends, so it’s really not that surprising that I want to go back to spend some more time with them. I will surely write more about Canberra in the months to come and perhaps even charm you over. In the meantime, Canberra has some fabulous social media accounts that I personally follow and whenever someone asks me ‘Why Canberra?’, I just send them a photo with the caption: ‘That’s why!’.
I know this is a lot to take in and some of you perhaps think that I am a crazy person, maybe I am, but if you have any questions, feel free to contact me, or leave a comment below, I’m happy to answer them, if I can. If this is something you are interested in, please let me know and I will develop further on the moving process and my new old life in Australia.
Has anyone of you ever been an exchange student? That kind where ‘exchange’ actually still meant ‘exchange’? Where you live with a host family, while someone else stays with yours? You attend school, meet great new people and make friends for life? Sometimes it feels just like yesterday that I graduated and sat on a plane to Australia, where I spent a year before going to University. I can’t believe it’s almost been 10 years that I went on this great adventure and perhaps one of the bravest things I’ve done in my entire life. Going away hasn’t been as exciting ever since. Leaving home as a teenager, flying across the globe into a different time and climate zone to live with people you’d only hardly been in touch with before leaving and staying with them for one year turned out to be one of the best adventures of my life, if not the best. I know I’ve only lived in Australia for one year, but it was such a life-changing experience that I still look back at it, as if it were yesterday.
To many of you, Australia perhaps is the country of dangerous animals, great beaches and people with weird accents. To me, it is so much more. I’ve met so many people that I call my family and friends today. Australia’s become my second home and even though I’ve lost the Aussie accent a bit, I’m still proud when people ask me: ‘Do you come from a land down under?’ I’ve never really stopped using my Country Road bag (I’m not even sure that is still a thing), I use my Lucas’ Pawpaw Ointment on a daily basis (wishing I could say the same about my TimTams consumption) and still use the phrase ‘fair enough’ in my sentences, even though I mostly speak German at home (and nowadays French). It’s taken me quite some time to realise it is thanks to Australia that I am now a full on breakfast addict, which proves that obviously Australian kitchen is way underrated. Flat whites are among my favourite things that I associate with Australia, not to mention TimTams, but I’d have those for breakfast, lunch, dinner and a snack in between, obviously. Even my colleagues are now hooked, I did, however, warn them, so I don’t feel guilty.
Last February, I got to go back to this fantastic country to be part of one of my friends’ biggest days of her life: her wedding. Getting off the plane and entering the Australian (Capital) territory felt so damn right. In fact, it felt oddly normal to be back and it surely won’t take me another 6 years to come back! It was an important two weeks because not only did I get to see everyone again, but I finally also got to introduce a mate to my Aussie life and show him parts of the country. We started off in Sydney, which was perhaps the most touristy part of the holiday, as we mainly focused on regional Australia. I love a good weekend city trip, but I honestly believe there is so much more to the country than megacities like Sydney, or Melbourne, Bondi Beach or Uluru (and I am well aware that Uluru is nowhere near a megacity). I might be leaning out the window, right now but I do believe that within those two weeks well-spent in Australia, T got quite the authentic experience of the country staying with my Australian host families, driving around the countryside in a ute, seeing wild animals (the list of animals we saw is long!), attending a farm wedding, walking up Australia’s highest mountain, which is not the one you’re probably thinking of right now, and actually visiting Australia’s capital: Canberra and you know what? It was awesome!
Oh how have I missed the loud, colourful birds, the ‘hey, how’s it going?’ at the supermarket even though you don’t know the person, the smell of the gum trees, cold rock ice cream, kangaroos, the bush, the ocean, a good chicken parmi, speaking English all day, the Aussie accent, hot cross buns, Peter Alexander and of course my friends and family. Australia, I have missed you like crazy and you have been and always will be the greatest love of my life. If we could, we’d already be riding off into the sunset together holding hands.
I had heard a lot about Hamburg before my trip, but it I was not aware of how lovely this city really is until I finally went there. Hamburg is such a photogenic city. For someone like myself who loves to abuse cameras (I take waaay too many pictures) for some ‘serious’ photography, this is the perfect place to be. The city reminded me of a variety of places that I had visited: Rotterdam because of the port, the modern architecture and the brick houses. Berlin because of the public transport system. Brussels because of the resemblance of some of the houses. Vienna again because of architectural reasons and Sydney for some odd reason, I don’t really know why, it was just a feeling I had when I was there. My stay was very short, but I will be back for sure, as I did not manage to do and see all the things I wanted to. I’ve put together a to-do list for photography lovers or any curious traveler like myself.
~ Walk along the Elbe
One thing I love about this city is the water. To me, water – be it a lake, a river, the sea – adds so much to the quality of life of a city. You can walk along the Elbe for ages, watch the boats passing by, gaze at the shipping containers and all that industry and machinery in the water, listen to the sound of the seagulls and take some impressive shots of the port.
When walking along the Elbe, please make sure to cross the Elbtunnel and walk to the other end. You can take an elevator downstairs. Once down, I believe it would be a good spot for some long-exposure shots. If you don’t know how to take long-exposure shots, make sure to go to the other end of the tunnel, go back upstairs (or take the elevator), turn around and go to the viewing platform. It’s a really good spot to take shots of the city and it gives you a nice view of the Elbphilharmonie. I reckon this would be a lovely place to sit in summer with a beer and watch the sunset. While you’re there, make sure to try a typical Fischbrötchen (fish bread). Unfortunately, I have to go back and try one next time!
~ Harbour Boat Tour
Once at the landing bridges (Landungsbrücken), you can and should choose a boat that you want to go on a harbour tour with. Pretty much everyone has recommended me to go on a harbor tour, as you actually get to know more about the city, they take you out to the containers, pass by the Elbphilharmonie and take you back to the landing bridges via the beautiful Speicherstadt. I think you can get quite different ones, so just go there and choose the one that is best for you. Ours was 20€ for an hour, a bit expensive, but definitely worth it. It was one of my highlights and it’s very good for photography. Take care of the waves though, apparently sometimes the water can be wild!
Continue walking to the Elbphilharmonie. It is impossible to miss it. I personally am a fan of modern architecture, not that I know anything about it. Elbie as the locals also call it is unfortunately very overcrowded, as people queue up to get to the plaza. Apparently, in 2019 the government plans charge people around 5€ to get inside and up to the terrace. I didn’t consider it necessary to go upstairs – I’m not a big fan of queuing anyways – as you don’t have the Elbphilharmonie on your photo, which is why I prefer taking my shots from elsewhere.
Take a walk through the Speicherstadt, Hamburg’s UNESCO world heritage site. It is such a breathtaking area with many possibilities to take a beautiful photo. Unfortunately, the light wasn’t as great as I had hoped it would be, when I was there. It sure is worth to just take a stroll and discover new beautiful corners. Many museums are situated in this area and so are cute cafés and restaurants. I personally love the contrast between the red brick houses and the new very modern architecture along the water. It would be a dream to live in one of those apartments.
~ Climb up Michl (Hauptkirche St.Michaelis)
You can find another great viewing platform for photography on top of Michl, the church. You can either take the stairs or use the elevator to go upstairs. The entrance fee is 5€ for adults (students and probably pensioners get a discount) and is worth it, in case of good weather. Like I said, we were really lucky with the weather that weekend, so the view was perfect in all directions, although it turned out to be a bit misty. I also really enjoyed the neighbourhood that the Michl is surrounded by, so make sure to take a walk in that area as well.
~ Jungfernstieg, town hall
The inner city looks very different from the rest of Hamburg, at least this is my opinion. Hamburg has very different areas, some that are poorer, or hipper and some that are very posh. The city centre where you can find all sorts of shops, town hall and different government buildings is very posh and less attractive to me to some extent. It is, however, interesting to walk along the water and cross the little bridges that remind very much of Venice, you’ll see why. We had very delicious breakfast at a French-American place called ‘Atelier F’. They were in the midst of putting up the Christmas markets so the charm sure wasn’t the same, but I was less impressed by the inner city, although it is worth seeing town hall and the Binnenalster. If you have enough time, make sure to also go to the ‘outer-Alster’.
~ Sternschanze / Schanzenviertel
I stayed at a place called ‚pyjama park‘, which is a lovely and very modern/minimalistic hostel in an area called ‘Schanzenviertel’. It is an area with many nice bars, cafés, restaurants, shops and graffiti. Any Viennese person would perhaps compare it to the 7th district of Vienna, although the Schanzenviertel is even cooler in my opinion. Unfortunately, we don’t have a specific area you would go to for good food, clubs, or bars – at least not an area with style. In Hamburg, all this is very concentrated, which I like. Unfortunately, I didn’t really take the time to do some browsing at the shops. Many of them were local stores with fair fashion, which I consider very important.
~ Try a Franzbrötchen
Franzbrötchen is a sweet pastry with cinnamon that looks a bit like a croissant. It is very delicious and I can only recommend you to try one while you’re there. They also have it in different variations with chocolate, apple etc. but it seems to me that the original is the one with cinnamon.
Here’s what’s still left on my list: ~ Reeperbahn ~ Außenalster ~ Nord Coast Coffee Roastery ~ Fish Bread ~ Walk through St.Pauli
Do you have any further recommendations for my next trip? What would you add to my list?
oh wie ich dieses Gefühl des Reisens vermisst hab. Das klingt für manche wahrscheinlich unglaublich komisch, da ich ja erst seit nicht mal vier Monaten wieder in Wien bin, aber selbst so eine Eintagesreise in eine mir unbekannte Stadt (wobei das nicht ganz stimmt) gibt mir so ein Kribbeln im Bauch, so ein Gefühl des Aufbruchs, ein sehr schönes Gefühl. Manche kennen dieses Gefühl vielleicht vom Verliebt sein, ich bin halt sozusagen verliebt ins Reisen. Ich find Reisen einfach so bereichernd und ich würds um nichts lieber austauschen. Alleine die Gespräche über Diplomatie, bilaterale Beziehungen zwischen den Ländern, den Entwicklungen und Tendenzen innerhalb eines Landes, all diese Dinge bringen in mir wieder so ein Gefühl der Motivation und Ambition hervor, das ich oft zur Seite schiebe aus den unterschiedlichsten Gründen. Ich traue mich zu behaupten, dass ich noch nicht so wahnsinnig viel gereist bin, klar, wahrscheinlich schon so einiges mehr als der Eine oder die Andere, aber wenn ich unterwegs war, dann meistens nicht des Reisens wegen, sondern weil ich dort für eine Weile gelebt habe und das ist für mich die schönste Form des ‘Reisens’, wenn man so will. Natürlich kann man eine Stadt als Touristin erkunden, schöne Ecken entdecken und einen Eindruck der Stadt und seiner EinwohnerInnen erhalten, aber so wahrlich viel wissen über das Leben erfährt man in einem normalerweise relativ kurzen Reiseaufenthalt ja nicht. Ich find es so unglaublich spannend, tiefere Eindrücke zu sammeln, die Leute vor Ort kennenzulernen, herauszufinden, wo man denn als Local Frühstücken geht, wie die Leute denn wirklich in dem Land leben und diesen Eindruck bekommt man meist als Touristin nicht. Und obwohl mich Leute immer fragen: “Aber jetzt bleibst du schon mal daheim, oder?” (da stellt sich dann wieder die Frage: wo ist überhaupt daheim und was ist daheim schon?) und ich in letzter Zeit oft das Gefühl nach einem Zuhause hatte und auch noch habe, bin ich immer vorsichtig und antworte ihnen: “Ja, doch schon, aber ich weiß nicht, wie schnell sich das bei mir wieder ändern wird.” Denn meine Erfahrung hat mich das Gegenteil gelehrt. So opportunities kommen halt oft sehr unverhofft, wie mein Traineeship in Brüssel und dann kann es auch richtig schnell gehen. Meine Reise nach Bratislava gestern hat mir einfach wieder gezeigt, dass, auch wenn die Lava sozusagen momentan nicht am Überlaufen ist, irgendwas brodelt da trotzdem ständig in mir, obwohl ich mir so gern mein eigenes Heim aufbauen möchte, aber irgendwas wird mich immer wieder ins Ungewisse, Fremde ziehen und das ist auch gut so, weil ich mir nicht vorstellen kann, mein ganzes Leben am selben Ort und Fleck zu verbringen.
So und warum schreib ich überhaupt übers Reisen wenn der Beitrag ja eigentlich in love with Bratislava heißt? Naja, weil ich vor ein paar Wochen in Bratislava war und diese Reise einfach sehr viele Gefühle in mir hervorgerufen hat. Ich finds immer wieder so beeindruckend, dass man grad mal 60 Minuten mit dem Bus fährt und man in einem anderen Land und Kultur ist. Ich bin schneller in Bratislava, als bei mir Zuhause und das auch noch günstiger! Und dennoch war ich gestern erst zum zweiten Mal überhaupt in dieser hübschen Stadt, dabei verbindet uns so viel Geschichte! Bratislava hat mir schon bei meinem ersten Besuch sehr gut gefallen. Es ist ein sehr gut überschaubares, hübsches Städtchen, das man leicht an einem Tag erkundet hat, also aus einer touristischen Perspektive gesprochen. Trotz des schlechten Wetters (Gott sei Dank, denn diese 20+ Grade und blauer Himmel Ende Oktober machen mir und meinem Gewissen ehrlich gesagt sehr zu schaffen, Hallo Klimawandel!) hatten wir einen perfekten Tag dort mit bisschen Sightseeing und sehr gutem Essen. Jemand, der glaubt, nach Bratislava zu fahren, weil dort alles billiger ist, hat sich ganz schön geirrt. Ich hab dort für meinen Kaffee und Kuchen und Pizza im Hipsterladen genauso viel bezahlt als in Wien. Auch wenn ich weiß, dass am Tourismus sehr viel zu kritisieren ist, vor allem die unendlich steigenden Preise, die oftmals das Leben der lokalen Bevölkerung zur Hölle machen, war es für mich eine spannende Reise, um für einen Tag aus meinem Alltag zu entfliehen. Wir haben eine Freundin besucht, die momentan das Glück hat, für ein paar Monate dort zu leben und richtig ins slowakische Leben einzutauchen. Jedenfalls wollt ich hier ein paar Anregungen für Bratislava mit euch teilen und euch auf ein paar Lokalitäten hinweisen, auf die ich gestern gestoßen bin.
Das Enjoy Bistro haben wir zufällig entdeckt, als wir eigentlich auf der Suche nach einem Lunch-Lokal waren, dann haben wir dieses süße Lokal entdeckt mit unglaublich hübschen und leckeren Kuchen, dass wir nicht widerstehen konnten. Das Gute dran ist, dass man dort auch ‘normal’ Essen kann und nicht gezwungenermaßen Kuchen essen muss. Wir haben dann eine Kleinigkeit gegessen, um den Mittagshunger zu stillen (klassische Kürbissuppe, im Herbst einfach das beste Essen!) und haben dann noch unsere Bäuche mit leckersten Schokotorten (das war dann wohl meine) und veganen Walnusskuchen vollgeschlagen. Der Kaffee und die Limonaden (ich hab die Mango-Ingwer-Limo probiert) waren übrigens auch super lecker. Wir haben glaub ich leicht zwei Stunden dort verbracht und haben gleich mit der Bedienung dort gescherzt, also wirklich unglaublich liebe Leute dort. Noch dazu ist das Ambiente und Interior Design sehr gut! Ich kann euch echt nur empfehlen auf einen Abstecher dort vorbeizuschauen.
Das Urban House haben wir auch eigentlich per Zufall entdeckt, als wir schon mit knurrenden Bäuchlein durch die Stadt geschlendert sind. Das Lokal sah von außen schon so einladend aus, dass wir uns direkt verliebt haben und wir wurden definitiv nicht enttäuscht. Würde ich in Bratislava wohnen, wäre das wohl eines meiner Lieblingslokale, sei’s für Kaffee, zum Tippen am Laptop, Lernen, Essen oder Afterwork. Ihre Spezialität dort ist Pizza und zwar haben sie dort richtig ausgefallene, aber sehr schmackhafte Pizzavarianten. Die Bedienung war ebenso sehr hilfreich und höflich, hat uns seine Lieblingspizza und Lieblingswein empfohlen, beides wirklich sehr gut! Das Urban House war wirklich ein netter Abschluss und war auch perfekt, sich nochmal aufzuwärmen bevor’s zurück zum Bus ging.
Ebenfalls ein Bistro, ich habs selber leider nicht ausprobiert, da ich dann leider doch keine dreimal am Tag Essen gehen kann und wir schon genug Kaffee intus hatten, aber es sah wirklich schön aus und wär vom Geschmack genau meins gewesen, vorallem in die Einrichtung hab ich mich verliebt. Vielleicht hat ja jemand Lust, es auszuprobieren und mir Bescheid zu sagen, wie es denn wirklich dort so ist?
Dieses Lokal hab ich schon 2014 entdeckt und hab mich gefreut, es wiederzusehen. Es hat sehr schöne Erinnerungen an einen Sommeraufenthalt mit guten Freunden hervorgerufen. Da ich eigentlich immer gerne neue Sachen ausprobiere, bin ich diesmal nicht hingegangen, aber ich kann euch versichern, dass die Burger richtig lecker sind dort und es gibt auch eine gute Auswahl für VegetarierInnen und VeganerInnen. Es ist jedenfalls einen Stopp wert.
I know this might come as a surprise for those of you who have heard me say all those nasty things about Brussels, but yes, there are some things about this city that I appreciate. Maybe it’s the flu that’s been bothering me over the past few days, or maybe it’s just that sometimes you need to let a bit of time pass until you see the good things you’ve had when they’re gone. Anyways, after three months of being apart, I do need to admit that Brussels like any other place that I’ve lived in so far has become part of my home and it haunts me like any other experience abroad with never ending homesickness. I wonder if this weird feeling of constant nostalgia – be it for Australia, France, Hungary, Belgium or Austria – will ever end, I have my doubts, but you may prove me wrong if you have made other experiences. I know Brussels will never be my favourite city on earth because well let’s face it, Vienna has taken up number one a long time ago and it’s very difficult to beat, but it’s part of my life journey so I want to share the good things of this city with you. Here comes my number 10 list:
I guess the reason why Brussels was never really on my number one travel list is because well, let’s be honest there are not that many interesting sights to see. This absence of monuments made it quite difficult for me at the start to get an orientation in the city. If I had to pick one major sight and must see when in Brussels, it’s of course Grand Place, perhaps the most beautiful spot in the city. Beautiful Art Nouveau architecture covered in gold, quite breathtaking and worth a visit.
2. The European Union:
The presence of the European institutions and the positive European vibe is definitely something that makes living in Brussels worth it. I don’t think I’ve ever lived in a city with such a positive attitude towards the European Union. I still don’t quite understand why the European founding fathers (sadly no mothers) chose Brussels as the European ‘capital’, but having left quite a big part of my heart in Strasbourg, I still like to see Strasbourg as the real capital of Europe, no offense. I’ve been a supporter of the European project ever since I can remember. I am a proud believer in European values and in the fact that working together as closely as possible makes us stronger. The European Union has brought so many advantages into our lives and I personally admit that I have profited a lot as a typical Erasmus generation stereotype. The EU has made it possible for me not to do just one but two exchanges, do internships in different countries without having to get a visa, pay extra fees, even without having to change my currency. So yes, I have enjoyed the European atmosphere in Brussels, meeting likeminded people and seeing them fight for their career within an EU institution.
Brussels is perfectly connected to many other cities including Paris, London, Amsterdam, Luxembourg etc. It’s so easy to travel from Brussels – be it by train, bus, airplane, perhaps even by bike. I enjoyed being able to do day trips on weekends and I didn’t even manage to tick off all the destinations on my list, including Bruges, no, I did not make it to Bruges. I have, however, managed to visit Strasbourg, Lille, Luxembourg, Ghent, Antwerp, Knokke, Rotterdam, The Hague and Amsterdam, which I do find a lot considering that I only stayed there for five months.
Well, it’s quite unbelievable how much love one can have for a square this hideous. I remember the first time I was at Flagey and Café Belga, I was seriously wondering why my flatmate loved coming to this place, it was not appealing to me at all. But then somehow I always kept coming back, especially on Sundays for Flagey market, which became one of our Sunday rituals. We would first get brunch somewhere nearby and then go for the cheap wine at the market and maybe some oysters, or waffles. Despite the cheap price, the wine was actually tasty, or it might have been the fact that I hadn’t had wine in such a long time because Belgium – let’s face it – is a beer country. No but seriously, beer’s a religion. We would spend hours at this place getting tipsy, joking around, having coffees at Café Belga and just have a good time. I actually spent my last hours at Flagey with my close friend T, that’s how holy this place has become. When I think of Flagey today, I remember all the good times we had there and wish I could go back every once in a while.
When it comes to architecture and art, Vienna and Brussels are two complete opposites. Vienna is this clean glamorous city, where you can still smell the monarchy, even though it ended 100 years ago. Everything is very well preserved and has to look perfect. Well Brussels has its very own way of doing things. There’s not one particular type of architecture you would spot in this city, even though it is quite well-know for its Art Nouveau. It took me quite some time to get used to this variety of architectural styles in one place. You can spot the most beautiful baroque building next to a modern skyscraper. Whilst this would be illegal in Vienna and would probably cost us the UNESCO World Heritage title, it is the most common thing in Brussels.
6. Street Art:
Talking architecture probably takes me to my next reason why to fall in love with Brussels: street art. Well-done street art is something I really admire, as I am not talented at all when it comes to painting or drawing. The colourful wall paintings, particularly of comics, are very typical Belgian, or at least that’s something I was told. To me Brussels is a city of diversity and I think the street art reflects this diversity very well.
7. The people:
Brussels is a very young, dynamic and multicultural city. Of course, this is mainly thanks to the European Union. Many young people move to Brussels to do traineeships (like myself), build a career, or a network, fall in love. If you take a ride on the metro, you will quickly realise that you’re surrounded by a multilingual audience. This makes living in Brussels without speaking a word of Dutch very easy. Even though I speak French fluently, I hardly ever had to use it outside of work, everybody speaks good English, or even German. This city is made of hungry young professionals dying to meet other people for different reasons. I was very lucky to have found friends close like these and more.
8. Waffles, beer, fries, chocolate and again beer:
I once asked a Belgian what his favourite Belgian meal was and his answer was fries. Even though I still don’t consider fries as a real ‘meal’, I guess he had a point, especially given the amount of fries I ate when I was in Belgium. I admit that Belgian cuisine is probably not the healthiest one and definitely not good for your beach body, haha. I have never seen a variety of sauces this big that you can choose with your fries (my personal favourite is ‘Andalouse’), or a beer menu this long. I don’t think I’ve had a beer that I didn’t enjoy, which is probably something my Belgian friends will be very proud of when they read this. I’ve even become very picky with my Waffles and I have caught myself rolling my eyes at Austrian waffles because having had the real deal, I don’t want to have some overpriced, Austrian mock up waffle. It’s like having Nutella and then changing to hazelnut cream. I mean who does that?
9. Parc Cinquantenaire:
Living in Brussels has made me realise how important greenery is to me. I need some sort of park, forest or anything else that is green around me. Living on the other end of Parc Cinquantenaire was one of the greatest things in Brussels. I spent so much free time there running, drinking, eating, hanging out with friends, talking on the phone to mum, or just crossing the park on my way to work. It’s probably my favourite park in Brussels and I have some good memories there.
10. Restaurants/ Bars/ Cafés:
Brussels surprised me with its good choice of places to eat and drink. I’ve had tons of really good food and drinks in this city. If I had to choose some of my favourite places it would be:
My personal conclusion of living in Brussels is that it’s more of a city you go to for the vibe and atmosphere, the restaurants, cafés, bars, food, rather than the monuments that you would expect to see in Paris or London. You need to know your way around in Brussels to really enjoy the city and of course the greatest friends really do make a huge difference as well because as long as you’re with the right people, it doesn’t matter where you are.
I wouldn’t call myself anywhere near an expert on Amsterdam – in my opinion you can’t be an expert on a city, if you’ve only been there as a tourist yourself – but I have picked up a few nice places while I was there and it’s always nice to put them down somewhere in case I ever wanna go back, or maybe someone else would like to try some of them on their next trip to Amsterdam. So here’s where we ate:
I can definitely recommend you to have breakfast at Vinnies. The location was super cozy and it reminded me of France, meaning it was a very lovely place. They have a great variety of food on their menu and one of the best things was the homemade cookies they served with the coffee.
Another breakfast or coffee place that I wouldn’t want to miss when in Amsterdam. It’s a beautiful location, I loved the decent flowers on their tables, the cake was fabulous, the coffee amazing, the staff super friendly and welcoming.
Best pho I’ve ever had. They even serve you beer and let you sit and wait on a bench inside the restaurant since you can’t book a table. Maybe not the best dinner though in case you plan on going out after.
We came across this place by accident. The front yard/ garden was so inviting that we decided to stop for coffee and cake. Even though it’s in a very touristy area, the atmosphere was very lovely and I could see myself go there even as a local, especially in the summer.
This place has probably saved my day after a long night out. Make sure to get there early, breakfast places get super busy in Amsterdam and even though they have a good waiting system, some of them won’t allow you to book a table. Bakers & Roasters really has everything on their menu, there’s nothing more to add.
We came across this place on our first night trying to look for some other place, but we were already starving, so we ended up going for burgers, which we didn’t regret. They serve local beer with their food and I can definitely recommend you to get the Brouwerij’tij Ijwit, a very good white beer. There’s an ostrich on the bottle, just saying.
Price: € Sun – Thu: 11:30 – 21:30, Fri& Sat: 11:30 – 22:30 Van Woustraat 15
1074 AA Amsterdam
It was on a cold weekend in May when L and I went to Amsterdam. Three months later, I am finally ready to tell our story. See, about five months ago, I had never set a single foot to the Netherlands before. Living in Belgium has made it impossible for me not to enter the dutch territory and it was about time. So clean and friendly, bikes everywhere, no to very little litter on the floor, well-organized, gorgeous tall men, breakfast culture, this was my place to be. I had no chance but to say yes to Amsterdam when L asked me out on a girls weekend away in May (which turned out not to be as much a girls weekend as we had expected, since my two fella friends F&F also decided to explore Amsterdam on the same weekend, yay!
Amsterdam is only a very beautiful bus ride away from Brussels with lots of windmills along the way. I was secretly convinced that their windmills were just a myth, like us Austrians living in the mountains, wearing dirndls all day long and knowing how to yodel, well my bus ride proved me wrong! L and I took a gorgeous airbnb in a rather new neighbourhood a bit outside the city centre, as housing in Amsterdam is freaking expensive. We could have taken bikes to the centre, but it was honestly too cold for my taste, as I eventually got sick during our trip. My voice (when I still had one) was about as attractive as a chain smoker’s, some of my friends even begged me to keep that voice! I guess going out the night before and drinking shots didn’t really add much good to it, so all my suffering the next day (yes, the entire day) was well-deserved.
Meeting the boys in Amsterdam was so natural that at some point I had totally forgotten that we’d only known each other for a few months. We got some fabulous takeaway pizza, sat on a bench along the canal and watched ‘Haubi’, the Great Crested Grebe – which was actually a coot, but I guess we don’t know our birds as well as we thought we did – build a nest for him and his future familiy. Haubi eventually got in a fight with another coot, but managed to successfully defend his little boat after all. Weirdly, these birds have followed my every single trip while living in Belgium. It’s become a thing of our friendship with the boys and I’m starting to think that we should all get matching tattoos? I’m joking of course! Sitting at the canal eating pizza was surely a very memorable moment, especially because my pizza basically ended up everywhere since I’m not the most talented person when it comes to eating. A big thank you to Haubi for taking away the attention, so I could eat peacefully without being laughed at for once and for even sending me a text message while I was sound asleep: Hello it’s me, Haubi.
Amsterdam is such a photogenic city, I probably could have stopped in front of every house to take a snapshot. It’s also an unbelievably green city with beautiful flowers and inviting benches in front of people’s homes. I’ve been wondering why we haven’t introduced this friendly culture yet in Vienna. Actually, it reminded me of my childhood. In my neighbourhood it’s very common to have a bench and pretty flowers outside your house. Having a perfect house and garden isn’t only a suburb cliché, it’s also a countryside reality. My grandpa used to sit there all the time, have a smoke and a cold beer on a mild summer’s eve. My grandpa was very much liked in our neighbourhood – which by the way exists of four houses – so almost every night, my neighbours came along with a beer and sat with him on that bench to chat. For us kids, this was something special because it meant that we could stay up late. It became some sort of tradition that is slowly dying out with the growing age of my neighbours and with us kids growing up and moving away from home. Sometimes it really doesn’t take much for a city to make you feel just like home, Amsterdam definitely hit a spot.
L and I managed to avoid the most touristy places for the first couple of days, which is something I realised on our last day when we finally decided to explore the Red Light District since it’s a must do when in Amsterdam. As we tried to find a nice place to have breakfast at, we wandered through the narrow streets of the old city, when all of a sudden a huge drop of liquid landed on my head, hand and camera. I don’t even think I can describe how I felt that moment, but yes, somebody spat right on me from the window. Maybe my red jacket was too provocative? No honestly, I’ have no idea whether I’d become a target, or whether I was just really unlucky to be in that place at that very second. I wasn’t quite sure what to do and started laughing for a bit because of the absurdity of the moment, but then went to the closest bar possible to use their loo to get rid of this disgusting and ridiculous spit. All three bartenders were overtly friendly and helpful and handed me over their soap and disinfection spray and made an effort in cheering me up with some disgusting fun stories they had experienced in the last few days as a bartender in Amsterdam. After some exceptionally weird moments, I still very much enjoyed Amsterdam and would go back any time! An article with recommendations on where to eat will follow. Until then, take care!
Me being a fan of the city of Vienna is not necessarily a secret. Ever since I was a teenage girl, I’ve wanted to move to the capital, live the big city life. Moving away on different occasions has made me realise once again how great this city is and how much it has to offer. It’s definitely not a coincidence that it’s been selected most liveable city in the world for the past nine years and it even beat Melbourne in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Global Liveability Index a few days ago! There is so much culture, art, history, cuisine, architecture to discover that there is no way that a weekend in this city will ever be enough. And what better place to discover the history and people of Vienna than the Wien Museum? I only discovered the Vienna Museum a year ago when I moved near Karlsplatz and my tram station always advertises for their exhibitions. That’s when I started to do a bit of research on it and discovered that on every first Sunday of the month, the museums of the city of Vienna can be entered free of charge! So what are you waiting for?
So it happened that I spent four hours in the museum on a Sunday and if I hadn’t been too cold already from the air conditioning, I probably would have even extended my stay because I really loved their exhibitions. Currently, they have three great ones, each of them very different, but equally good, I reckon. On the top level – apart from the permanent exhibition – you can find a very touching one called ‘What Remains: Traces of Refugees’. There are personal belongings such as a train ticket, or a kids’ jacket displayed and next to it, you will find boards with the story of each belonging on them. It is a very important exhibition as it takes the whole migration debate to a more personal level. The topic of migration has been extremely present in our lives, be it in the media, politics, our local communities and especially for me, having worked on migration topics at the Council of the European Union, it is nice to see it from a different angle. In my personal view, the Vienna Museum always manages to address important current issues, like they did with ‘traces of refugees’.
‘Traces of refugees’ is not the only current exhibition that they have. Marking the 100th anniversary of Otto Wagner’s death in 1918, Wien Museum prepared an exhibition telling the Austrian architect’s life story, career path and displays his designs and drafts that he participated in competitions with and some of which were never realised. Having lived in Vienna for a few years, I am well aware of some of his achievements like the Otto Wagner Pavillon at Karlsplatz, but I had no idea how important he really was in the past (and present) and what a big contribution he’s made to the city of Vienna as it is today. If you take a walk through the city with your eyes wide open, you will discover the many buildings that he designed and recognise the exquisite style that he is known for. At that time, Otto Wagner got many contracts from the Habsburg monarchy and he was considered a forerunner in modern architecture, not that I know anything about architecture, but I still find it very fascinating! Modernising architecture was very important to him, which did not please everyone, particularly not the monarchy. He was a teacher at university and managed to get his ideas spread all over the world. Looking at one prominent Viennese architect and his achievements has allowed me to look at the history of Vienna from a different point of view and has made me realise how much influence one person has had on how a city is built and what is left of it today.
On the ground floor you will find an exhibition called ‘Skin Deep. Hair dressers, barbers, beauticians’. It’s quite fun to see where some of our beauty idols come from and how our perception has changed over time. Be it on pop culture or photography, Wien Museum’s exhibitions are always inspiring and informative. Check out their website for more information on any upcoming exhibitions. Apparently, in October, they have an exhibition telling the story of the transformation of the Monarchy to the First Republic of Austria in photographs. I guess I’ll see you there then in October?
The Wien Museum is open for you from:
Tuesday to Sunday and public holidays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
24 December and 31 December: closed
Closed: 1 January, 1 May, 25 December
General admission is EUR 10,-
Discounts for senior citizens, students up to 27 years of age, persons with disabilities, Vienna Card, groups of 10 or more EUR 5,-
If I had to choose a favourite city in Belgium, it would be Ghent without hesitation. Even though our first visit was rather wet, T and I knew we’d have to come back, it was a feeling we had since the very beginning. I’d done a lot of research before our trip – what a surprise – and I found quite a few cool cafés and restaurants, mostly vegetarian, that I wanted to try, but unfortunately, we were there on a public holiday, so most of those restaurants were closed. However, we managed to find a couple of very interesting markets and places that I wouldn’t have wanted to miss. Generally, Ghent is a very chilled city with many cute local (interior) shops and bars along the river. Ghent was the first city in Flanders (the Dutch speaking part of Belgium) that I visited and it is crazy how you can see and feel the Dutch influence there. From what I’ve heard, Ghent resembles Bruges a lot in terms of architecture, but is the hipper, less touristy version, which is probably why Ghent is my favourite.
1. CRU – indoor food market
We discovered CRU by accident, but were very happy with our discovery, as they have lots of delicious organic food with tasters and the best part was the wine vending machine. We tried two different red wines – one younger, one older – and I’m still not sure, whether the wine was actually this tasty, or whether we were too blown away by the fact that we got served wine by a machine. The machines, however, allow you to choose the quantity of your wine, so it’s perfect, in case you would like to try different ones before you choose a bottle you really want to buy. You actually get a little scanner that you scan the price with and pay at the exit. CRU’s wine machines surely gave a great start to a fantastic day trip, although it’s perhaps not the best place to do your grocery shopping, if you’re short on money.
CRU is open for you from Monday to Sunday from 10.00-18.30. You can find it at Kouter 177 – 178, 9000 Gent.
2. Sunday Flower Market at Kouter Square
One thing that impressed me the most in Ghent was the amount of people that were carrying a bouquet of flowers. Those of you who know me are aware of my addiction with flowers. I think it’s something that is being passed on generation by generation in my family. We regularly send each other flower and pant updates on our family whatsapp chat, no kidding. Truth is, flowers are such an easy way to brighten up your apartment and mood. They make everything look better effortlessly. Usually, I try to buy a bouquet myself, but unfortunately, I haven’t really had the opportunity to continue my flower tradition in Brussels, due to the lack of vases. Also, flowers are quite expensive in Brussels and I didn’t really spend much time at home during those past five months anyways. However, when T and I started our traineeship, we immediately agreed on getting some nice plants for our office to give it a personal touch and make it more comfortable. So the Sunday Flower Market was the perfect location for us to buy two cute little cacti for a very cheap price. It’s impressive how a plant can change the whole atmosphere in a room, particularly an office. I especially think it’s very important to feel comfortable at work, as you spend a lot of time there. And here I am already thinking of how to decorate my new office desk.
3. Chillin by the canal
Living in Brussels has made me realise how much I love having water near me. You may now ask yourself ‘why Brussels?’ since there is absolutely no water in this city and the little canal doesn’t really count. Although I do admit that the area around the canal looks quite impressive in Brussels too. Anyways, Ghent, is the complete opposite of Brussels, as there is lots and lots of water that you can walk along, sit next to, or take a boat ride on! I loved spotting all the (s)coots in the water, building houses for their families, which is the cutest thing ever. T and I just spent all day walking along the canal, looking at beautiful picturesque houses and enjoyed the culinary of the city.
When in Ghent you should make sure to try at least one cuberdon, also known as Gentse neus (Ghent nose), as it is a specialty from the region. You can buy them pretty much anywhere in the city centre, particularly near Groetenmarkt, where they sell them on little wagons. They come in different flavours and colours, but the original is the purple one which tastes like raspberry. From what I’ve heard, you can’t really buy them anywhere else, or in supermarkets, as they make them fresh and don’t last very long, at least this way you can assume that it’s good quality.
5. Holy Food Market
Something that I hadn’t come across before is a chapel that was turned into a food market, aka the holy food market. I admit it’s quite a touristy thing to do, but I think it’s worth a visit, particularly when you’re there for the first time like I was (and the weather is freezing). I chose to eat an Italian Pizza which was amazing, T had Ramen that she enjoyed as well, but was a bit overpriced for a vegetarian soup. Even if you’re not hungry, at least go and quickly check it out.
You can find the Holy Food Market from Monday – Friday from 11.00 – 22.00, and from Saturday – Sunday from 11.00 – 23.00 at Beverhoutplein 15, 9000 Gent.
Additional advice on traveling to and around Ghent:
Get a -50% reduction on your train ticket from SNCB on weekends and public holidays.
Try not to go there on a public holiday, or a Sunday, as most cute restaurants and cafés will be closed, as we found out sur place and made us feel obliged to go back another time.
Take a tram to the city centre (stops are right in front of the central station), the train station is quite far away. However, the walk to the center is also nice and you may come across some graffiti.
A few weeks back, it was adventure time when my two buddies F & F for some reason decided to go sailing at sea. You see, F & F are two inseparable best friends who always have silly things on their minds, which is perhaps why they are so dear to me because they are always a lot of fun to be with. Traveling with these two always turns into epic moments. Also, you perhaps have heard of my passion for pirates – yes, somebody has binge watched Pirates of the Caribbean and yes, I was able to talk along the movie – so of course, I would tag along despite the cold Belgian-type temperatures in June. To be honest, my brain automatically equals ‘sea and beach’ with warm weather, so I had enough reasons to come along the trip, even though I was clearly wrong about the beach weather part.
Anyhow, I hopped on the train to meet up with F & F at the beach in Knokke – it already sounds like a very piratey town, don’t you think? – but when I arrived, it hit me seeing all these people wear winter coats outside, while I was dressed in shorts and t-shirt. Luckily, having lived in Belgium for a while, I’d come prepared because I knew F & F had been enjoying my constant complaints about the weather in Belgium, so I’ve decided to get changed instead and not to let them win.
So when I started approaching the beach, I was once again reminded of pirates, as all the houses and streets were grey and empty, as if a group of pirates had plundered the city and laid a curse on it, but let’s not get carried away. When I finally got to the beach after a nice 15 minute walk, the boys welcomed me with uncountable precious treasures they had found at the beach, or at least they were treasures to some people, particularly to F, as he was clearly very happy to have an old sting ray egg in his hair.
I was actually thinking, you know how Pirates of the Caribbean has an evil monkey? Well, we clearly came across an evil seagull during our picknick. So other F has this thing for soft balls, which he keeps bringing along and loses eventually. As we were sitting in the sand, innocently eating humus, bread and some chocolate cookies, a seagull was watching us. I instantly knew it was hate love at first sight, as F tried to scare it away, but the seagull managed to come close enough to steal F’s soft ball and flew off into the sky with the ball in its beak, very ironic, I know. Clearly not a very successful day for three professional pirates, but nevertheless a historical and hilarious moment being robbed by a seagull.
But pirates never give up, so F & F finally decided to go back to what they thought they could do best, threw on some wetsuits and tried to tame the sea with some (sailing) boat, and man, have they fought hard with the water! For a second, I wished I was a seagull so I could watch them fight from above, but sitting at the shore was enough to see what was really happening and how much they struggled. To be fair, the wind and waves were pretty rough that day. When my eyes couldn’t stand watching them fail any longer, I fought my way back to the train station climbing some dunes and coming across some posh houses that would have been perfect to plunderrr.
Finally, when my train arrived, the earth started shaking – or well, that’s not really what happened, but that’s what would have happened, if this were a real pirate movie – I turned around and saw two pirates running towards the train station. It was F & F! You wonder why they were running and what really happened with that boat? Well, a real pirate never tells, but to be honest, I only found out on the train myself. What I can say is that F & F didn’t disappoint me with their piratey behaviour and even proved their commitment to the pirate community.
Since we couldn’t let this day end like this, we stopped in Ghent on the way back for some nice drinks along the canal and some ice cream. It was not exactly the beach experience I was prepared and hoping for, but it turned out to be quite an adventurous and fun day. My conclusion for the day: check the weather forecast before going to the beach, it is not worth going to Knokke, unless high temperatures and sunshine!