Monthly Archives: September 2011

Exploring Polish Brandy and the Wild Country Side

Once Mallorca came to a close and Ms. Weber and I returned to “life as usual” we were reunited with two more New Yorkers who came to stay, Elise and Christian. They traveled from far far away to see my new life in Berlin, (and maybe do some Euro sight seeing while they were at it.) The day after they arrived we ventured to Poland, thanks to Elise’s friend from home who grew up there and happened to be here at the same time, and went horseback riding through the Polish countryside.

Polish Countryside

It was really beautiful. The only downside was that many of our riders were less than comfortable on horseback and everytime we broke into a trot there was a serious fear we might drop one or two. But alas we made it back to the stables an hour and a half later with all bones in tact and all riders clinging tightly to their horses.

Made it out alive (and in tact)

We were then treated to a delicious meal by a very generous Polish family, (thank you to Elise’s friend Kasia!) Her mother cooked up some delicious chicken soup and wild boar, among other traditional delicacies. My only regret was not taking more photos of the amazing food as we were eating, (as you can imagine my mind was concentrated elsewhere!) But I did manage a nice shot of her father sharing some very appropriately aged Brandy (1985).

Prost, or however you say it in Polish!

So unfortunately we didn’t have much chance to explore Poland in any great way, but it was nice to know how close to the border of Germany it really is (about 45-60 minute train ride,) so I know it’s accessible to venture through again. From the small amount I was able to see I can definitely say there is a marked difference between Germany and Poland – from development of the landscape to the architecture of the buildings, but to say anything else wouldn’t be a fair assessment. Oh, and of course, Polish hospitality seems to beat out anywhere else, easy!

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A Last Chance at Summer in Mallorca, Spain

One thing that is so much fun about living in a new country, is that everyone wants to come visit you! Ok, let me correct that, living in a clean, modern, fun country, in the middle of Europe…because no one seemed to want to visit me in the middle of South America (why does it feel so much less accessible than Europe?)

So over the last two weeks I have been showered with visitors (and happiness!) My childhood friend Ali came out at the end of August for a 2 week stay. We spent her first day eating delicious homemade food, (thanks to A’s genius in the kitchen and our frequent homemade feasts cooking up some amazing stuffed eggplant, delicious meatballs, taboule, stuffed mushrooms, greek salads, roasted beet and goat cheese salads, and the list goes on,) and having a beer.

Just two days later we hopped a (6 am) flight to Mallorca, Spain, where we then took a 1 hour taxi ride to the Eastern end of the island, to Calas de Mallorca. We were immediately deflated when we saw our hotel, and dealt with the rude staff at the front desk, but perked up once we saw the gorgeous coastline and hidden alcove beaches. These are truly some of the most beautiful beaches, and are well worth a day trip, but not so much an overnight stay at the Sol Melia (or any Melia Hotel for that matter!)

Private Tiny Beach near our Hotel in Mallorca

We struggled through days filled with sand, sun, and clear blue waters and then truly struggled through mediocre  inedible “all inclusive” buffet food. After only a few hours we found ourselves another hotel located in Palma, the central city on Mallorca (filled with clubs, bars, beaches, and most importantly – people!) and canceled our last night at Sol Melia for greener pastures.

Last Licks at the Gorgeous B eaches - can't say it wasn't stunning!

On our third day we took an early morning bus to the main city and couldn’t help but feel immense relief (and sharp pains from us kicking ourselves for not doing this sooner) upon seeing the metropolis that is Palma! It was a true European city full of fancy shopping, wide avenues, cafe con leche and tortilla española. And the best part was the gorgeous coastlines scattered throughout the city.

We had some time to kill until our room was ready, so we put on our bikinis and hopped a bus to the beach, (the farthest from the city, but also known to be the most beautiful.) While it was beautiful in the style of all Mallorca beaches, it definitely had more of a “touched” feel than the ones we had just been lounging at the days prior on the eastern side.

Palma Coast

After a couple of hours we made our way back to the hotel for check in and a shower. The room was heaven (compared to the labeled 3 star but really 1 star hotel we had just come from) and was just minutes from the main bus station. Convenience and Style were very welcome. And one of the best parts, they had Air Conditioning! Having lived in Paraguay and then in Germany throughout summer months over the last year, I have missed out on the environmentally destructive beauty and wonder of AC. And even though I shouldn’t say this, (especially not in front of anyone at work,) it was amazing!

We got ourselves together, took a refreshing shower, and wandered the streets of Palma looking for culture, cafes, shopping, and history. We wandered past cathedrals, ruins, brilliant plazas, and down quiet cobble stoned streets stopping wherever we pleased, and all the while wishing we had never left the city we landed in originally!

Very European Streets of Palma

At night we made our way to the famous Paseo Maritimo where I broke my shoe, and we found a nice Italian cafe to enjoy Pizza and Tapas. Once sufficiently sated (or stuffed) we walked a few minutes down the road to Tito‘s, a large and extremely populated club on the main clubbing strip in Palma. We paid our 20 Euro entry for 2 “free” drinks and tore up the dance floor – drinks in hand.

All in all Palma was a success, even Mallorca, save for the first couple of days. It is definitely worth a trip for sand and sun, and can be so cheap to fly out of Berlin, especially off season. Just have to be prepared for lots of German and British tourist roaming about with bright red, sometimes blistering, skin – and then the deeply tanned españolas (and guidas) thrown in the mix!

Over the Rainbow(s) to Cologne, Germany

A and I took a trip a couple of weekends ago by car to Cologne. We rented a POS Chevy Automatic. I don’t know how to drive a manual so the car rental agencies decided to punish us with the worst American car ever made just so we could be tortured driving on the limitless Autobahn not even a remote contender with the Audis, Beemers, and Mercedes that whizzed past us while laughing.

The purpose of the trip was for A to get LASIK eye surgery. The price was much cheaper at the clinic he found in Cologne, as compared to anywhere in Berlin or elsewhere in Germany. So we took the 5 hour drive (in the sun, the rain, and the fog) to get him to better vision.

Cologne is the 4th largest city in Germany, which A aptly compared to Boston, and it has typically German, small, intricate cobble stoned streets winding throughout the city. It’s actually a very nice city, and has largest Cathedral in Germany, (and it’s spires are only second in height to the cathedral in Ulm.)

The cathedral was beautiful as well as surprisingly tall

We did not have the chance to climb up the 502 steps to the top, (despite Aleks’ protests that we should,) but walking around inside was, in my opinion, equally as impressive. The floors were beautifully mosaiced and the stained glass windows were unique from what you typically see in a church.

The only downside to Cologne was walking around near the Cathedral, (i.e. touristy area) at night and seeing the drunk 60 year adults stumbling around the plaza laughing and tumbling to the ground. I guess I shouldn’t be so hard on them, since they were having fun, but it was so disruptive and juvenile…and distrubing! We had much better luck wandering around the Belgian Quarter where “the young people” go  drinking the local beer on an outdoor patio amongst hundreds of people who manage to keep it together.

We had our fun, for our short 2 night stay and headed out back to Berlin, in the pouring rain and scattered sunshine on Sunday. What was meant to take 5 hours (though I suppose this would only be the case in “summer” sunshine and driving at least 200 KPH (kilometers per hour) ended up taking closer to 7+ (see above for rain and scattered sunshine.) We even managed to get in a quick break at Burger King (crazy how German rest stops sometimes resemble American ones…only they have more sausage and gummy bears available!) We also had the opportunity to see the best roadside sign I’ve ever read (if only I was quick enough with the camera!) “Gutes essen, Gute fahrt.” Maybe with Big Whoppers on the menu, they are on to something!

Then we topped of our trip home with none other than A DOUBLE RAINBOW!!! WHAT DID IT MEAN?!

A Double Rainbow on the Autobahn!!

Probably that we would arrive back to Berlin safe and sound. And so we did.

A Day at the Concerthall

Beautiful Rows of Seats in the Music Hall

Parlando, my language school, was offering up free tickets to go see a Classical Concert at the Konzerthalle in Gendarmenmarkt a few weeks ago so I jumped at the chance to hear magic, (for free!)
At 8 PM A and I wandered over to one of the most beautiful plazas in Berlin, Really, you should go check out Gendarmenmarkt if you have the chance, especially at night. Though, be warned because all of the surrounding restaurants and dining are some of the most expensive in Berlin.
The Konzerthalle was beautiful and impressive, with all the grandeur and large chandeliers you’d expect from a National Concert House.
Interior of the Concert Hall

The show we were seeing was the Young Euro Classic. I still don’t fully understand the concept, but it seems there were young composers who had written music for this event, and professional musicians were playing it. I have to admit, the music was very very strange. Some of it didn’t even feel like music, just a compilation of random sounds. I guess that explains why the tickets were free

The musicians did, however, redeem themselves when they spent the second half of the concert focusing on Beethoven (and our auditory pleasure!) So all in all I felt like we got “our money’s worth” out of it. And above all, we had the chance to experience a classical concert in Berlin.

Borrowed Photo of the Konzerthalle in Berlin