In love with…Brüssel?!

Hi lovebirds,

Ach Brüssel, Hauptstadt Europas, es müssen wohl die Müllsäcke vor deiner Haustür sein, die dich den Gründungsvätern Europas so wahnsinnig interessant erscheinen haben lassen. Oder war es doch die ausgesprochen gute Trinkwasserqualität?! Schwer zu sagen.

Ich jedenfalls liebe es, wenn ich Samstag morgens um 11:00 mit Freunden zum Brunchen verabredet bin und mir auf dem Weg die zerquetschten Tomatenscheiben und übrig gebliebenen Kartoffelschalen vom Vorabend auf der Straße entgegen kugeln und man den Spuren der Bierdosen und dem Hundekot (man hoffe, es sei HUNDEkot) im Zickzack aus dem Weg gehen muss. Was wäre denn ein morgendlicher Spaziergang ohne Hindernisse auf der Straße? Man muss zugeben, du hast schon deinen eigenen, ganz besonderen Charme!

Ach und dabei bleiben mir deine Baustellen wohl ein Rätsel. Manchmal frag ich mich ja, ob sie einfach das ‘Achtung, Baustelle! Betreten verboten!’ Schild einfach vergessen haben, zumindest an so manchen U-Bahnstation, aber das gehört wohl auch einfach zu deinem ganz besonderen Charme. Letztens, am Weg in den Waschsalon (ja sowas gibt es noch und nein, hier haben die Wenigsten Waschmaschinen in ihren Häusern), bin ich doch ernsthaft mitten in der Stadt, durch Sand gestapft, am Gehsteig. Wo kam denn bitte der Sand her hab ich mich gefragt und rede mir noch bis heute ein, dass es bloß ein gescheiterter Versuch eines hippen City-Beaches war, aber für ihre Strände sind die Belgier ja wohl auch nicht so bekannt, aber das kann ja noch werden!

Brüssel ist außerdem furchtbar toll für Menschen mit einer kleinen Blase wie mich. Als wäre es nicht schon angenehm genug, wenn man dringend pinkeln und Schlange stehen muss. Nein. Davon abgesehen, dass sich die meisten Toiletten in einem kleinen dunklen Keller befinden (da sollte ich mich als Österreicherin ja eigentlich wohl fühlen), darf man zusätzlich sogar noch jedes Mal 50 Cent bezahlen. Da fühlt man sich glatt wie auf Durchreise auf einer Raststation, nur dass man dort wenigstens das Geld in Form eines Gutscheins wiederbekommt, den man im Tankstellenshop einlösen kann und hier, hm wie soll ich sagen, das exklusive Gefühl des ‘Rastens’ erleben darf?

Es ist ja kaum ein Wunder, dass Brüssel angeblich eine der grünsten Städte Europas sein soll, wenn man bedenkt, dass Dank des tollen Müllsystems hier vor zwei Jahren rund um das Justus Lipsius Gebäude (dem Rat der Europäischen Union) noch Füchse gesichtet wurden. Naja, als kleines Füchslein würd ich mir das gratis Futter auch nicht entgehen lassen, wenn man es mir schon vor die Haustür stellt. Das Zusammenleben zwischen Mensch und Natur funktioniert also doch! Brüssel ist der Beweis! Und daher wird es für mich, je länger ich hier wohne, umso normaler, dass ausgerechnet Robert Menasse von mysteriösen Schweinchen in der Stadt spricht. Wenn es hier Füchse gibt, warum nicht auch Schweine, right?

Nach beinahe zwei Monaten in Brüssel – oh Gott wie schnell doch die Zeit vergeht – bin ich, wie man wohl bemerkt, noch immer unsicher, was ich von der Stadt halten soll. Man sagt, es gibt zwei verschiedene Arten von Menschen: diejenigen, die Brüssel absolut lieben und diejenigen, die Brüssel hassen. Naja und da ich ja generell ein Mensch bin, der eher versucht, das Positive zu sehen, was mich wahrscheinlich ab und zu zu einem naiven Menschen macht, und ‘hassen’ dann doch ein sehr hartes Wort ist, mit dem ich nicht gerne umschmeiße, bleibt mir nicht mehr viel übrig außer zu sagen: ich überlegs mir noch. Bekanntlich soll Brüssel aber im Frühling und Sommer seine bessere Seite zeigen. Ich warte gespannt drauf, denn immerhin sagen alle: the city will grow on you. Ich hoffe, sie haben recht!

Bisou, M

P.S.: Ich entschuldige mich für den Sarkasmus und werde beim nächsten Mal nur über hübsche Dinge berichten. So wie Frühstück. In Brüssel. Promise.

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A Postcard from Lisbon

Hello lovebirds,

I admit it’s been a while since our last post and it’s perhaps got to do with Lara first heading off to the U.S. and then starting her career as a teacher which means she won’t really be joining me on this project anytime soon. So I began to hesitate whether to keep writing, or to quit living in this abstract, superficial online world where you’re constantly under pressure to produce new interesting content but I finally decided it’s really up to me how I spend my days and I just won’t allow myself to get drawn into this mainstream kind of thing and decided to just continue doing what I love.

But this isn’t really what I wanted to tell you. About a month ago, I visited Lisbon and as I was going through my photos with my dad yesterday morning, I once again realized it would be a shame not to share them with you. Also because I’m head over heels in love with Lisbon and would go back at this very moment if I could. I even started learning Portuguese, so yes, it really hit me this time.

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My expectations of Lisbon were quite high as all my friends that had been there before told me I’d love it for sure so when mum and I left, I actually started having doubts cause I was worried my expectations would be too high. It quickly turned out though that despite all my friends’ comments I did fall in love with this place instantly. The locals were disturbingly friendly, they’d try to help you out even if you don’t speak a word of Portuguese (and obrigada doesn’t count). People were so surprisingly calm and relaxed, the world quickly slowed down and I felt very welcome in this city. It was my first time in Portugal, so I had absolutely no clue about their history, culture, language and I enjoyed my stay so much that I can’t wait to go back there to check out some more places. Porto is definitely on top of my travel list.

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Lisbon – or Lisboa as the Portuguese call their capital city – is built on supposedly 7 hills but apparently there are 8. Since it’s more prestigious to have 7 hills like the Roman capital why not make it 7, right? Anyways, it’s a hilly city with a lot of walking up and down, so if you ever do plan to go there you might want to leave your high heels at the hotel. The good news is that in a city with 7 hills you get a hell good of a view of the city. There is a great number of Miradouros – which means viewing platform in Portuguese -that will reward your sweaty climbing efforts.

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Esplanada das Portas do Sol

On our first night, mum and I went for an evening walk and as we strolled through the ancient streets of Lisbon, we came across a traditional festival with dancers wearing traditional clothing. A day earlier (12 June), the Santo Antonio Festival, patron saint of Portugal, started so we figured this must have still been part of the party that was going on all weekend. The further we went, the more the streets  filled up with people and the smell of freshly grilled Sardines and traditional music. Houses in Portugal are beautifully decorated with colourful tiles that make you want to take pictures of every single one. In the background you can see the Tejo river that very much resembles the ocean but really is a river delta. The architecture and monuments take you back to colonial times when Lisbon was still a rich,  international colonial power.

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Any blogger that has been to Lisbon or Portugal generally writes about how delicious the small little vanilla pastries – pastéis de nata – are, so I’ll spare you that one (but let’s be honest, they really are damn fabulous!). I’ll talk about ginjinha, a lovely cherry liquor, instead that you should give a go while there. I am usually not very fond of spirits but this liquor really is worth giving it a try. It tastes like a cherry popsicle to be honest and you can get it on the streets in Alfama or any local store if you want to take it home.

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Pastel de Nata
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Photo by Pinterest

Here is some advice that might be useful to you, or even to myself when I re-read this before my second trip to Lisbon/Portugal:

  • Transport: It’s best to get a ‘viva viagem’ card at the metro station. It’s a little green card that costs about 1€ and is refundable. Without this card you’ll have troubles getting around in Lisbon. You will need to put some money on the card so you can use public transport. They’ll charge you every time you get on the tram/bus/metro, unless you can get a day pass, meaning that you can get on and off as many times as you wish. ALSO: there is no metro till late in the morning. So if you plan on getting to the airport by metro, please make sure you check the timetable first. This might be helpful: http://www.metrolisboa.pt
  •  Be careful at restaurants. Keep in mind that the starters (usually cheese, bread, olives etc.) on the table are not free, they are usually included in the ‘couvert’ that will be charged anyways.
  • Beware of pickpockets, especially when riding the historical Eléctrico 28! If you’d like to take a ride on tram 28 make sure you get on at Martim Moniz (there’s usually a long queue but it’s worth waiting). End stop is usually Prazeres but you can easily get off at any other stop. Mum and I hopped off in Chiado near the famous Café A Brasileira where Fernando Pessoa, famous Portuguese poet, had a drink every now and then while doing some writing.
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  • My favourite Miradouros: Miradouro da Graça,  Miradouro São Pedro de Alcântara, Largo das Portas do Sol.
  • I always love having a little tour guide on me when I travel. One of my favourites is the Marco Polo one as it gives a nice overview of the city’s history, culture, people, most important sights, usually includes a map. I was very satisfied with the different adventure tours they put together. Every tour is timed and even calculated if you want to visit all their museums they propose. They also planned coffee and lunch breaks where you can enjoy your time in Lisboa.

Hope this was somewhat useful. Have a happy stay in Lisbon!

Bisou, M

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Miradouro Sao Pedro de Alcântara
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In love with…Paris, je t’aime!

Hi lovebirds,

I’m sure you’re all familiar with this feeling when life hits you and you just have the urge to go away and travel. Well that’s what happened to me the other day. Don’t get me wrong here, I do love my Strasbourg but sometimes I really love to get away. As making lists has kind of become a habit, my friend H and I started collecting ideas of places we’d like to visit in the near future. That’s when the brilliant idea came to us to just hop on the bus and head south to the capital city of love. Yes, you are right, Paris! Even though I’d been there a couple of times before, going to Paris never gets less exciting. On the contrary,
I was quite happy to have less pressure to see all the touristy places and couldn’t wait to finally try some nice cafés and restaurants and pretend to be a local Parisian girl. I had read lots about ‘how to be Parisian wherever you are’ (seriously, if you haven’t read the book yet, you should do so, it’s very entertaining and having lived in France, yes, I can confirm that most of what’s in there really is true!) so I was well prepared! As Paris is too great a city to only have one post about it, I’ve decided to put together a little Parisian restaurant guide that will be up here soon. First of all, I’d like to share some places you should visit when in Paris.

Continue reading “In love with…Paris, je t’aime!”

In love with…What the cake?

Hello there lovebirds,

As a true Austrian girl, I do love my coffee house culture and I sure wanna practice it wherever I go. So it’s not really surprising that I went looking for great coffee shops and cafés here in Strasbourg. After living in Vienna (THE place where coffee house culture was born) and Budapest (the city with perhaps the most creative coffee places) my expectations are pretty high! ‘Wow, that was some great coffee’ coming from an Austrian really is a compliment and I mean it. What the cake? has officially become my favourite place in Strasbourg for having coffee or just to quietly read a book. I love the atmosphere, it’s so international there, oh and have I mentioned the furniture?! And the cupcakes? Cheesecakes? And carrot cakes? It’s a vintage-style coffee shop with old silk armchairs and lampshades (and not to mention the flamingos). The milk from your latté comes in an extra pot which is very unlikely in France and the cakes are fabulous too. Their selection is small but that’s what I love about it, as I hate to make decisions. They have all my favourite cakes which doesn’t necessarily make it easy for someone who has a sweet tooth. For those of you who like it vegan, they even have a pretty amazingly tasting lemon cheesecake. Now enough, go there and see for yourselves! Although I’d recommend you not to go there on weekends, especially on cold and cloudy days as you might have a bit of a trouble getting a table! Yes, it is that popular!

Continue reading “In love with…What the cake?”

In love with…a Metz Travel Diary

Hey lovebirds,

a little while ago some friends and I went on a little road trip to Nancy and then continued to Metz. I do admit my expectations were quite high as friends had told me it was such a beautiful place but truth is, I was a little bit disappointed with the city. After all the positive comments, I had no choice but to be a bit upset. However, I discovered at least 4 things that I fell in love with.

Continue reading “In love with…a Metz Travel Diary”

In love with…coming home to Strasbourg

Hey lovebirds,

first couple of days of 2016 are over and I’m back to reality, meaning back in Strasbourg, my second? third? –  I don’t even know anymore how many homes I’ve got – home. I started my new year with a journey, I wanted to do some more traveling after all. It wasn’t easy to say goodbye to my friends in Austria but as soon as I got on the train I was excited to see mes amis en France. Traveling has so many advantages but hardly anyone ever speaks about the downsides of it and yes, I admit there are quite a few as well. Having friends and family all over the world seems like an amazing thing at first and I don’t wanna deny that, but if you have a closer look at it, having friends spread all around the world means that you constantly miss someone and something. I love coming home to Austria as much as I love going home to France, Australia or Hungary even. Or to places I haven’t even been to yet but just the fact that I know someone I love will be there already makes me feel like home. Coming home to such a view of the city compensated the difficulty of leaving Christmassy Austria. I was gone for two short weeks but coming back again made me realize how beautiful Strasbourg was and how lucky I am to be able to do my studies here. L always says Strasbourg and I are made for each other and I somehow start believing it. Even after living here for four months, I am still enchanted by the beauty and the fact that Christmas lights were still up and I could finally take some photos without nasty tourists on them that would make my photos go blurry. Sorry J for having to put up with me that night and for being so patient with me taking thousands of photos. Here are my faves. Hope you like them. Now what’s it like for you to come home?

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In love with…Strasbourg, the Christmas capital!

Hey lovebirds,

once a year, Strasbourg – the capital of Christmas – enchants its citizens with its magic lights and beautiful decoration. Tonight was the night when the Christmas lights got turned on for the very first time this year. One would say Santa lived here if we didn’t know that wasn’t the case. Nevertheless, the city is covered in the smell of gingerbread and other delicious Alsatian food. I always thought there was heaps to eat in Vienna but I guess I was wrong. The cold has finally come to Strasbourg but luckily the French know how to make vin chaud – they don’t have the same variety as we do in Vienna but it tastes lovely anyways and most importantly it keeps you warm. Even though Christmas is my favourite time of the year, it freaks me out a little bit, as I know 2015 is almost over already – or shall I say again? I guess it’s that time of the year that makes you think about what goals you’ve achieved, what you wanna get up to next year, and most importantly what Christmas presents are you gonna get for your friends and family?! As a Uni student, pre-Christmas time is always pretty hectic as you’ve got exams coming up which is a shame. Christmas should be a time of joy and laughter and I’ll make sure it will be, after exams at least. Until then, I will enjoy the beautiful Christmas lights and food and make sure I get to enjoy as much of it as I can!

Continue reading “In love with…Strasbourg, the Christmas capital!”

In love with…Nancy

Hey lovebirds,

I used my recent holidays to discover the area a little bit. Most friends asked me why I chose to go to Nancy or Metz instead of Paris or Lyon but the truth is, I just love exploring small cities. I love the charm and I guess the photos speak for themselves. Nancy reminded me of some kind of San Francisco (even though I’ve never been but it’s pretty hilly there at least compared to Strasbourg), Melbourne and a Roman city. One of the most beautiful French cities I’ve seen. Here are a few impressions.

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In love with… Parc d’Orangerie

Hey lovebirds,

lately I’ve been doubting the weather and been asking myself whether it’s spring already – the Christmas lights told me otherwise…the temperatures are unexpectedly high and confusing. It feels weird not having to wear a parka in November…I’ve already had several birthdays that I spent on my girly bobsled out in the snow (except this one amazing birthday Down Under). This year’s November has been pretty warm and very beautiful with all the trees changing colours. Perfect occasion to explore the biggest park here in Strasbourg – Parc d’Orangerie – quite a romantic place. It’s good to make use of the sunlight as long as we still have it, winter can be dark and depressive enough but I do look forward to all the pretty Christmas markets anyway. L has been cheering me up already to do some Christmas shopping – she’s one crazy (but in a good way) Christmas addict. Unfortunately, we won’t be spending Christmas season together this year but thanks to digital communication, I’m sure we’ll still have our nostalgic moments – it is one of our favourite seasons of the year after all.

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In love with…5 must-sees in Strasbourg

Coucou lovebirds,

oh how have I missed the feeling of being on vacation! As per usual, right after my exams in June I started my internship in Vienna and then headed straight off to Strasbourg with a week of preparation which wasn’t really a holiday to me as you can imagine. So this is basically the first week I have off since, well, February and it feels pretty amazing. Mum and her boyfriend F came up for a long weekend which finally gave me the opportunity to discover the city I’ve lived in for two months now. So I spent a busy weekend as a tourist in my own city and it was very enriching. As someone who had only recently moved to Strasbourg and who spends most of her time at University rather than the city centre (I know, it’s pretty sad, ey?) it took me a little while to find out where to go.

Continue reading “In love with…5 must-sees in Strasbourg”