Frankfurt was the place that surprised me the most.
I had never visited Frankfurt before, but I had been through it several times on the way to Munich so I had already caught a glimpse of the glass buildings and the river. I imagined that Frankfurt was kind of like a huge canary wharf. Upmarket, glassy, rich and a little soulless.
I’m afraid I’ve been lumbered with work for the last couple of days and so I’ve been neglecting this blog. Updating it every day might have been a bit of an ambitious idea, but I’m going to try harder so don’t give up on me!
Today is my last day in Budapest. ?
I’m in this restaurant on my own and the waiter guy was so clearly judging me for going there alone (or more probably being a woman eating alone) which is weird because the whole reason I decided to come in here was that there were two other people on their own. Actually strike that, another lonesome guy just walked in so there are THREE of us now.
I don’t normally eat in actual restaurants alone, I’m more about the food courts, cafes and informal places without waiters, but I’ve been walking for about four hours ever since The House of Terror and if I didn’t eat and drink soon I was going to go mad and/or collapse. To make up for the awkwardness I’m trying to look all sophisticated and writery so they think I’m reviewing this place so they stop judging and start giving me free stuff.
So on with the blog. I’ll get to the beautiful city which is Budapest (or rather Buda and Pest as it used to be) in due course, but first, let’s catch up with the last few days in Prague.
People in Prague really don’t celebrate Halloween. Or rather they do but apparently, it’s on the 2nd of November and is more of a ‘day of the dead’ type thing. So it was a bit weird bring in the hostel and seeing everyone else Halloween photos from back home when I literally just saw one group of people dressed up here and realistically they were tourists, but the night was still quite fun.
I ended up drinking with some Spanish and German people in the hostel kitchen and played an array of confusing drinking games. I also went over the bridge onto the other side of Prague and walked up a very big hill to get an amazing view of the city. The lovely Kavita took me up there as she was somehow already an expert on the entire city (make sure to look at her blog).
1st of November
This was my last day in Prague and I’d finally got to grips with the city (with a lot of help from Google maps, of course, thank God for 02s European travel offer) so I made my way back across the bridge to take a look at John Lennon’s wall. There was a guy playing the guitar and singing his songs and it was a beautiful example of street art.
I accidentally ended up having the healthiest lunch ever mostly because I went into this healthy foods cafe place because I wanted to charge my phone and they had plugs and so I ended up having a meal made up entirely of vegetables. It was really nice though.
I ended up getting a private tour of the Alchemy Museum led by a really hot Czech guy as I was the only one there for that particular time. The Alchemy Museum is pretty cool. You go underground and see these little rooms where they used to make alchemy positions without anyone ever finding out until last century, and you get there through a real life revolving bookcase!
The fumes from the potions they were making used to waft up into the streets and they made everyone so high that they kept hallucinating and apparently they were all convinced that these fiery goats were coming at them.
Apparently, the philosophers stone from Harry Potter was a real thing( or person) which goes back to the BC times (maybe that’s common knowledge, I’m not sure). In any case, the tour was really interesting and I highly recommend it.
Oh, and on my way to the Alchemy tour, I stumbled across this art gallery which was full of neon heads and mechanical legs.
After the tour I met up with my local friend and we went to a bar/restaurant place that did loads of vegetarian options (there is nothing quite like a free burrito when you’re traveling!) and we went to a German bar and this awesome little tiki cocktail place. It definitely helps to know a local who can show you all the stuff you’d miss as a tourist.
On my way to the Alchemy tour, I stumbled across this art gallery which was full of neon heads and mechanical legs.
Prague is a really good place for vegetarians. They price the food by weight, but my plates were pretty packed and they were still really cheap.
Prague is a beautiful city which literally looks like it fell out of a fairy tale. It is a very popular tourist destination (even though I went in October/November it was still pretty rammed) and it’s not as cheap as the rest of the Czech Republic, but it is still one of those places that you have to see to believe.
Check back soon for my entries on Budapest, Brasov, and Bucharest!
The east side gallery is obviously a must-see when you go to Berlin, and it definitely did not disappoint. I am a big fan of street art, but even if you’re not you’ll still love walking along and see all the crazy and colorful pictures.
30th October 2016
I’ve always loved how Germany doesn’t hide from its past but instead tries to subvert it to show things have changed. I saw this in Munich when I went to Haus der Kunst, the former great German art gallery which was built by the Nazis to showcase ‘pure’ Aryan art.
In 1937 there were two exhibitions shown in Munich: one of them was the Great German art exhibition and the other was the Degenerate art exhibition. The Degenerate art exhibition was basically designed as an art freak show and was meant to mock the modern art that Hitler found objectionable, although now the Degenerate artists are still well known and their work is respected whilst the great German artists are condemned to obscurity.
The point is that Hitler hated modern art and the great German art building was created to showcase the kind of art he wanted to see, and that building is now used as a modern art gallery which celebrates everything the Nazis tried to get rid of. Rather than get rid of the building they turned it into a massive fuck you to the Nazis. It’s an amazing gallery which I can’t recommend enough.
The same is true for the east side gallery. Rather than tear down the wall they have turned it into a colorful celebration of tolerance, freedom, and art.
During my alternative Berlin walking tour, the guide said some people want to tear down at least part bid the wall to make room for some fancy modern buildings, that they want to build flats and shopping malls and offices where all this iconic historical stuff now stands.
That can’t happen. The east side gallery is so important. It’s important not just because it looks amazing or even because it is a powerful homage to freedom that has subverted a symbol of impression and restriction into a symbol of tolerance and hope, but also because it is an iconic part of history which shouldn’t be destroyed just so they can create yet another office block or shopping mall or block of flats.
My last day in Berlin totally changed my view of the city.
I went on the Alternative Berlin walking tour, which is an amazing 3.5 hour guided tour where they take you to see some of Berlin’s best graffiti, street art, and alternative neighbors.
I learned so much more about this place. Berlin has such a huge alternative scene and it is full of amazing art, crazy little bars and while streets plastered with graffiti and yet if you didn’t know where to look it’s quite easy to miss.
The tour guide Bas (?) talked a lot about how former Bohemian areas have been torn down to make room for yet another shopping mall or massive apartment duplex no one can actually afford.
Berlin in the 90s sounds amazing. There were (and still are) entire streets filled with graffiti. There were massive squatting communities, crazy neighborhoods, and wild parties.
An alternative, liberal and free lifestyle was the norm. It’s amazing to see how this city responded to their past and all this art and culture is a vital part of Berlin which it looks amazing and makes this city so cool and unique, and yet the powers that be seem set on destroying it.
They keep building expensive flats that no one can live in and more and more shopping centers and office blocks and if it keeps going the way it is then the alternative side of Berlin will keep getting smaller and smaller until it becomes another glassy, corporate and soulless clone.
I can’t understand why they think this will improve Berlin’s economy. When you travel you don’t want to go somewhere that looks just like where you came from. I love England don’t get me wrong, but if you go to pretty much any main shopping area of the U.K they all look pretty much identical. The shops might be in different locations and the buildings may be different, but it’s all the same stuff whether it’s in Cologne or London or Paris or wherever.
We have places like Shoreditch which still have their original shops and awesome little restaurants but you can see the sneaky introduction of these expensive, ‘trendy,’ chains everywhere and whilst these places try to appeal to young people and hipsters by making themselves look alternative their not. They are chains that you can find everywhere.
We still have a lot of amazing places in London, especially if you know where to look, but we are also overrun with chains and talk glassy penis buildings. I don’t know why you would want to commercialize a city which has uniqueness as one of its biggest selling points.
What I love about Germany is how they have all these unique shops, bars, and cafes which are small chains s or one of a kind. In England, you can’t walk down the street without coming across a Tesco local but apart from Lidl, Rewes and Aldi they actually have a lot of their own independent supermarkets and locally owned businesses, much more than we do, and I just hope it stays that way.
The tour meets at the Alexandraplatz Starbucks underneath the TV tower. This is a really nice commercialized part of Berlin, and it’s definitely worth going to see the fountain and taking a few photos before the tour begins.
The tour was really amazing. We went to see one of the last remaining alternative strongholds in Hackescher market.
Then we walked to Kreuzberg and saw some amazing street and learned about a lot of the artists and graffiti laws in Berlin. All of this art is illegal, but the penalties can range from €5 to €10,000 or jail.
This is a portrait of a homeless man. There is an artist in Berlin who draws homeless people and leaves them all over the city as a way to give them back their identity.
This is the tour guide. I can’t remember his name (maybe someone can help me out?) but he was awesome.
The tour ended nearish to the east side gallery by the river opposite a bar/club called Yaam, where the guide told us we could get ‘anything we wanted’. I walked in after to take some photos and ended up staying for hours. I had hot wine (and other substances) and talked to the guys who worked there.
One of my fondest memories of Berlin is at the Yaam where I and a bunch of other people just sat around a table in silent and peaceful companionship.
This place was awesome. They have a fake beach, hammocks and amazing art, there is a really mixed crowd of customers chilling and smoking weed, and the staff were very welcoming (if a bit out of it).
After that, I went to the east side gallery but my phone died just as I got there. Of course, you should be able to enjoy it without the proof and new Instagram uploads but I was still horrified so the next morning I woke up at 7 30 am to go back to the east side gallery before my coach to Prague.
I ended up very nearly missing my coach in the process as there were still loads of rail works and I got all confused and stressed but by some miracle I got to the coach at 10:57 (my coach was at 11) and made it to Prague which is where I am now.
I got a little too trigger happy at the east side gallery and so I’ll be making a specific post for it later on today. For now, I am quite hungover and I haven’t actually been outside yet (which is terrible. It’s 3:38) so I’m going to gather my bones and venture outside for some (hopefully healthy as I do not feel human) food.