Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Exploring Malmö

Malmö is Sweden's third-largest city (not that there are very many large cities in Sweden...), and it's only a 10 minute train ride from Lund! After spending a week recovering from my backpacking trip, I decided it was time to put on my traveling shoes and go exploring. Unfortunately, the soles of my beautiful bronze Nikes literally came off at the end of my trip, so I got a pair of cute Converse at the secondhand store.

Malmö is also where the second largest IKEA store in THE WORLD is located! I had a lot of fun running around it's maze-like displays and reliving my childhood. The food prices were also so cheap, I wanted to cry. Costco-priced things are really not a thing in Sweden...sigh.

My favorite part of Malmö was the famous Malmöhus, a large castle-turned-museum located in the middle of an absolutely gorgeous city park.

Next to the castle was a cluster of other museums and art galleries. I went inside a Technology & Transportation museum, which featured some really cool interactive exhibits on cars, boats, planes, trains, and even submarines (I got to climb inside one!). If I was a kid, I would've thought I died and went to play heaven but my inner child was super excited still.

Working air traffic control like a bo$$
We all live in a...but forreal this is so cool

 I also found BOBA in a mall, which made me sooo happy. The pearls were overcooked but I was glad to have a little taste of home. It's funny how the city blends it's traditional Scandivanian roots with the cultures of the large immigrant population. Here's a windmill from the beautiful Kungsparken:

Malmö is not exactly tourist central, but it is a place well worth exploring. Little squares and parks will surprise you at every turn, and it's international population means that there is food and culture from many corners of the world. I will definitely be back for more!

 Also this is a real concern in Swedish train stations...

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Berliners & Wieners

What can I say? Two weeks later, Berlin's odd charm drew me back. I decided to return because I had a ticket to the "We Are One" music festival, but I also got a deep second look at the city's culture and history.

Mornings in Berlin strike a large contrast with those in Sweden. Whereas the sun comes blazing out at 4 am in Lund, the Berlin skies slowly transform into a light gray...and stay that way. If I could describe the city in one color, it would be gray. This is not as depressing as it sounds, since the city has risen from the ashes of war and transformed itself into a bustling modern city.

This trip started out in none other than the very heart of the city, Alexanderplatz, with Berlin bears and curbside currywurst. Currywurst was invented in Berlin supposedly, so they sell this stuff everywhere.

From there we wandered past the TV tower, into a beautiful cathedral, and then onwards to Museum Island. With little time to spare, we only stopped to snap a few photos before hurrying to the Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg gate) for our "Third Reich" walking tour.

The tour turned out to be an intense 4 hours of walking and standing, but the amount of history and hidden gems we discovered made it well worth the time and money. Our guide led us through the three famous WWII/Holocaust memorials. Interestingly enough, these memorials were designed with a modern, abstract edge that allows the viewer to draw his/her own conclusions about the meaning.

Along the walk, we also stopped by the patch of grass covering what was once Hitler's bunker, the New Synagogue (which survived Kristallnacht but not later bombings), and the little "stumbling stones" (located throughout Berlin and parts of Europe) marking the homes of Holocaust victims prior to their deportation to concentration camps.

That night, our group split in half to experience Berlin's famous nightlife. The two guys went to try their luck at Berghain (the most famous club in Berlin) while me and another girl headed for the "666 Anti-Pubcrawl." Unfortunately, neither party got what they wanted, but the boys ended up having a great time at another big club while we were redirected to a really cool industrial-complex-turned-club-area called "RAW Tempel." These rundown buildings, covered in graffiti and street art, have been converted to individual clubs, bars, and artist workshops. We paid 7 euros (whaat) to go to the biggest club, Cassiopeia, for a night of mainstream (but fun) hip-hop/funk music.

Photo courtesy of

Our whole group knocked out until 1 pm the next day. A trip to the grocery store for some festival pregame material was also mandatory, and we walked out carrying a ridiculous load of cheap alcohol.

The "We Are One" festival was located in an awesome medieval citadel (Zitadelle Spandau). We saw Eric Prydz, Max Graham, and Paul Van Dyk tear up the stage, but the festival ended all too soon by 11 pm.

Not satisfied with just one half night of dancing, we immediately jumped on the subway, got a little bit lost, and ended up walking to the trendy district of Charlottenburg for some drinks. Sausalidos, a Mexican-themed bar, turned out to be one of the highlights of our nighttime adventures. The design was amazing, the music was on point (no dancefloor though...), and the half price JUMBO cocktails were bomb. Also, the other girl in our group turned 21 that night, so jumbo drinks were perfect for the occasion.

We also had a "free entrance" voucher from our hotel to club Q-Dorf, which turned out to be a cool club with an absolute s*** crowd. Not the business...

For our last day in Berlin, we headed for the oceanside area of Treptow. We wandered around aimlessly for a few hours, discovering some amazing street art and the freakin best 1.20 eur ice cream ever.

We happened upon our lunch place by accident, a riverside line of cafes and bars. It felt like we were on the Jungle Cruise at Disneyland!

I asked the waiter for their best beer, and after a moment of thinking, he suggested, "Since you're a girl, I think you'll like this one a lot. All the girls I know drink this!" Well needless to say, I was a little offended but after some backpedaling and explanation, he convinced me to order a Kristall beer.

For the latter half of the day, we walked down the East Side Gallery on the Berlin Wall and visited the Topography of Terror museum (former SS headquarters). The exhibit was well-done, but we were all so exhausted that we could barely walk.

I was all too happy to board the S-Bahn back to our hotel for some Thai food and relaxing. At 11 pm, we were back on the Eurolines coach (business class what what) to Copenhagen, ready for some serious R&R. As exhausted as we were, I am so thankful that I had the chance to see Berlin again with a fresh pair of lenses. It really is a beautiful and incredible city that has quickly climbed near the top of my most-loved travel destinations.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Last Stop - Berlin!

Berlin was definitely a very different experience compared to the other cities I visited on my trip. It was the first time that I really felt lost, alone, and freaked out - but at the same time, I learned quickly how to react to problems and, overall, really enjoyed my time in Berlin.

Exhausted from four nights of dancing, I left Pacha Club in Ibiza at 5 am to catch my 7:45 flight to Barcelona. A short nap later, I touched ground in that beautiful city, but I only had a few hours to collect my luggage from a friend before I was on a plane again. The flight was comfortable and I got a free lunch, but I only managed to catch a few precious hours of sleep. Upon arriving in Berlin, I was given the wrong bus directions by the tourist office and spent 10 minutes running around in the rain before I gave up and called a taxi. THEN a torrent of traffic came and I was locked out of my hotel. I honestly thought at that point I would have to sleep on a park bench because I was just completely at a loss. Luckily, I found another cheap hostel down the street that had 24 hr desk service (thank God!) and settled down. These were probably the most stressful and intense few hours I've ever experienced in my life...

Friedrichschain, where I was staying, was a gray and rather intimidating place at first. The rain didn't really help, and I felt a little on edge as I walked down the empty streets. I happened upon a cafe with open doors, and the manager was kind enough to let me order a "German pizza" even though the cafe was actually closed due to the weather. I had a candlelit pizza dinner in a beautiful cafe, all to myself! I think that's a pretty good deal in any case.

The manager recommended that I walk down the street to see the East Side Gallery, a section of the Berlin Wall that has been transformed by street artists into a constantly changing collection of murals. This unofficial "gallery" was an incredible sight to see.

The next day, I took a whirlwind 2.5 hour walking tour of Berlin. I wish I had gone on more walking tours because this really allowed me to understand the history behind the landmarks and the remarkable story behind Berlin.

The iconic Brandenburg Gate

Holocaust Memorial

Currywurst in Berlin! :)

Bustling city center

Berlin TV Tower!
 As the sun was setting, I ventured out to the Topography of Terror/ Berlin Wall one last time to take a picture before running back in the rain to my hotel.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Great London Museum Crawl

Four days in London went by in the blink of an eye, but the start was a little rough...

A peaceful three hours of "sleep" on my overnight coach went by before we were jolted awake by the driver telling us to all get off the bus. We were shuffled in and out of two immigration offices, asked a bunch of pointless "interview" questions, and shuffled back into the bus. 10 minutes later, we were told to get off again to board the ferry (they told me the bus would go by tunnel! ughh), which was another two hours drifting in and out of consciousness.

We arrived in London two hours later than the expected time, meaning I missed my coach to Bath (a nearby historic city). Instead of booking another bus, I thought I'd give my dream city the time it deserves and set off exploring.

First stop was my most anticipated museum - the famous British Museum. However, it was hot, overcrowded, and pretty overwhelming/disorganized and I didn't really enjoy it.

Sad lion

My favorite museum in London turned out to be the VICTORIA & ALBERT MUSEUM, the largest decorative arts museum in the world. What does that mean? you may ask. Well, you've gotta see it to believe it. They literally had collections of all sorts, from statues to clothing to tapestries. I loved the variety, the fact that you could walk right up to the art pieces, and the air conditioning (hehe). The European casts room was a jaw-dropper - one massive room filled with plaster casts of medieval towers, sarcophagi, statues, and even cathedral gates. I liked the V&A so much I went back for a second day!

 Casts gallery, my favorite
 Bernini & Rodin
Theater & Performance gallery!

Tate Modern was also a pretty cool museum, especially for fans of modern art (obviously). The gallery was converted from a former train station, so it kinda gives it an edgy steampunk feel. The art was intriguing but I was too tired to give it a really good look, but I liked what I saw!