A Travellerspoint blog

December 2012

Berlin, Germany

Hipsters, weg beers and street art

sunny 75 °F

We wanted to find a way to drive on the legendary autobahn, but we couldn’t find a sporty enough rental car ;) So, we created an account on Carpooling.org (a carpooling website across Europe) and hitched a ride from Mainz into Berlin! We went just over a top speed of 200 km/h (aka 120 mph) but like all good legends, this one had a hard time meeting our expectations. Newton’s relativity law kicked in and we didn’t actually feel as though we going so fast when everyone else was going the same speed or faster!

Once we reached Berlin, we met up with our hosts Jannes and Seri who live in the hip district of Prenzlauer Berg. They updated us with the local knowledge including the most important “weg beer” which translates to “roadie.” Although it was extremely fun to be able to walk down the street with a beer in hand, it was unfortunate to see all the broken glass throughout the city and made us uneasy on our sweet Prenzlberger orange rental bikes.

Jannes and Seri gave us some good ideas for exploring abandoned buildings including the old East Berlin airport and the Teufelsburg Tower (an old listening post by the English and USA forces from 1950 to 1992. Since they shut down official activities at Teufelsburg, there has been little done with respect to maintenance but major work done by the locals creating some epic street art. We were invited to join a tour by an American (who actually worked at tower) for a group of people from a war museum, and they shared their history stories with us.

The old abandoned airport grounds is a free for all and was totally amazing to ride bikes through. The locals have turned it into a park, where people go to bike, skate, walk, run, and some folks have even started little gardens in the grass between the runway strips.

It turns out that the Doner sandwiches that we had so much loved in Turkey were actually invented in Berlin! One other local delight we enjoyed was currywurst with mayo french fries (they drown ‘em in that shiz), and another (one of Kevin’s favorite dishes as a kid) is called spätzel, so having a spätzel making party with Jannes one night was a dream come true! Berlin is filled with so many different things to do that we didn’t have a chance at exploring everything we wanted and could only describe it as trying to see all of New York including the top tourist sites, museums, the local secrets of all five boroughs and a big whacky event like a roller blading marathon in only 5 days. We loved all the alternative ways to enjoy Berlin and totally recommend it with a big hug and a kiss. . .

Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 07:47 Archived in Germany Comments (1)

The Rhine Valley, Germany

Germany’s wine region

overcast 70 °F

We were surprised to learn that Germany had a wine region that can be compared to that of Napa Valley. In fact, the town of Mainz is listed as one of the nine “great wine capitals” of the world! We started our journey up river in the town of Cologne, famous for its large “Dom” cathedral. We were told by the locals that this building requires so much cleaning that once is finally cleaned, the cleaning process starts all over (sounds like the Golden Gate Bridge!).

We headed down river via train and boats towards Mainz. We went to Oberweissen and then to the small town of Bacharach where we hiked up the top of a hill to a castle called Burg Stahleck that had been converted into a hostel. While walking through the town we stopped at one of the wine shops and sampled a young wine straight out of the tap. It was an early season harvest that is still fermenting called Federweiβer and it was sweet with a yeasty bubbly essence.

Our next port of call was the town of Bingen, where we found a great walk through the vineyards with a view of the famous Mäuseturm on the water just behind the Basilika.

After we reached Mainz we met up with Tom and Leah, where we learned that it is typical to have the Federweiβer with onion cake. Apparently the sweet wine compliments the stringent, sour taste of the onions, and all over the town we saw little kiosks where people stop in for a glass of fresh Federweiβer and onion cake. The typical German breakfasts that we were served included lots of strange meats (think liverwurst) and cheeses; it is very different from the typically sweet breakfasts that we have in the States.

Excited to be in one of the top wine capitals of the world, we were ready to go wine tasting! Unfortunately it was a huge shock to find out that “wine tasting” as we know it does not exist in the city or in the surrounding wineries. The standard thing to do here is to call a winery and set up an appointment or go there for dinner and order a bottle. So instead we opted for the second famous thing to do in the area… skinny dipping! Across the Rhine River from Mainz, is the city of Weisbaden, famous for its Kaiser-Friedrich Therme (German spa). We decided to pay a visit for Kevin to experience his first spa, and to have a little relaxation. Spas are a bit different in Germany in that they are completely naked, with mixed genders. Although a little intimidating, we had a wonderful hour of pampering in saunas, steam rooms, heated rooms, cold pools, warm rooms, and of course, an ice dunk.

Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 23:25 Archived in Germany Comments (1)

Bikes, Bikes, and more Bikes

Our favorite bike pics and videos in the Netherlands

We thought this post would just be some great pics of the bicycles that we saw while in Amsterdam, and a little video that we made to give you a taste of what it is like to ride in Amsterdam.

Don't forget where you parked!

Bike lanes down the middle of the road

We love bikes too!!

The low-profile green rental bike (green color used to warn the locals)

Bike highway signage

Riding through parks

And our little video of riding the streets of downtown Amsterdam

Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 06:50 Archived in Netherlands Comments (0)

Dutch Cuisine, Netherlands

Unusual yet tasty foods

With the help of our Dutch friends, we sampled an abundance of new foods in the Netherlands! We wanted to share just a few of our favorites.

Snacks – not to be confused with ‘a snack,’ this is probably the most unique food to the Dutch mainly because of the way that you purchase a “snack.” It is even faster than fast food joints! The snacks are behind little windows and when you put enough money into the slot, you are allowed to open the window and retrieve your snack. It is like a vending machine for hot food. Snacks come in all different colors, shapes, sizes, and with different fillings – and all are deep fried. Our favorite snack was Bami – which was made of noodles.

Stroop Waffles – these are delicious mini waffle like cookies that were invented in the town of Gouda. A single waffle is cooked and then sliced in half while it’s still hot and then a caramel syrup sauce is spread in the middle.

Fries with “Special Sauce” – the Dutch love their ‘french fries’ and there are plenty of shops that sell only fries. The real treat is in the “special sauce” which is mayonnaise, curry, and raw onions. They also have an amazing contraption that forms mashed potatoes into long tubes that are then deep fried and topped with thick peanut sauce – these look like just like regular fries but have an entirely different taste!

Filet American – we are not entirely sure why this is termed ‘American’ as there is NO WAY anyone in the USA eats this. The spread is made from raw beef… yes, RAW beef. It is bright red, and contains beef, tomatoes, onions.

Raw Herring – the Netherlands has a lot of seafood, as they are close to the sea. One of the favorites is the herring, which has to be eaten in a proper fashion – by picking the raw fish up by its tail, tipping your head back, and eating it. Usually there are some raw onions on the fish. It was described to us as the “Dutch Sushi”

Hagelslag– while Americans only put chocolate sprinkles on ice cream sundaes, the Dutch sprinkle them on top of buttered toast for breakfast!

Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 05:11 Archived in Netherlands Comments (1)

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