Berlin’s best spots for the Cherry Blossom-season

Cherry Blossom in Berlin

What the cherry blossom season in Berlin has to do with the Cold War, how Japan was involved in planting the trees, and where to find the best spots for the pink sea of blossoms – all of this I will tell you in the following blog post.

Every year between mid of April and the begging of May, Berlin blazes in a pink sea of cherry blossoms. The time mostly depends on the weather and how early in the year it is getting warm. In general, the trees bloom between two and three weeks.

💡 Information about cherry blossoms
Cherry blossoms (also Japanese cherry) or in Japanese called “sakura” (桜 ) is the white or pink flower of the ornamental cherry tree and of particular importance in Japan. The blossom of the tree is considered to be the national flower of the country. In Japan, it describes the attributes of beauty, departure, and caducity. In Japanese, it is combined in the non-translatable word mono no aware” (物の哀れ) that describes the bittersweetness of a fading moment of transcendent beauty. The cherry blossom season in Japan markers the peak of the Japanese calendar and the beginning of spring.
The Japanese cherry is only used as an ornamental tree in contrast to cherry trees that are planted for the actual fruit.
A present from Japan

Germany received the cherry blossom trees in 1990 as a gift from Japan. East and West Germany celebrated their reunification on the 3rd of October. Therefore, the Japanese TV broadcast TV Asahi started fundraising for the planting of some cherry blossom trees. They received enough money for more than 9,000 trees, most of them were brought to Berlin.

Exchange of spies during the Cold War

The first trees were planted at the Glienicker Bridge in November 1990. The bridge links Potsdam (former East Germany) with (West) Berlin and was especially important during the Cold War since the USA and the Soviet Union used it to exchange their spies. Until today, the bridge is painted in two different shades of green and markers the borderline (nowadays it is just the borderline between two different federal states). The GDR (German Democratic Republic, East Germany), as well as the FDR (Federal Republic of Germany, West Germany), painted both around half of the bridge. The part of West Berlin is in a darker green shade. Not only because East Germany chose a slightly lighter green but also because West Germany started painting the bridge a few years earlier and therefore, the weather conditions stained the bridge.

The longest cherry blossom alley of Berlin

More than 1,000 trees seaming the TV-Asahi-Kirschblütenallee (cherry blossom alley) on the wall trail (Mauerweg) between former West-Berlin and the GDR (German Democratic Republic, East Germany). The alley is more than 100 metres (109 yards) long. Usually, there is also the Hanami Festival. Hanami (花見) is Japanese and means literally translated “flower viewing”. It describes the Japanese tradition of visiting the first cherry blossoms in spring and enjoying their beauty. In Berlin, the festival offers a picnic, Japanese food, and a cultural programme.

❗️ Cherry blossom ticker
The city of Teltow in Brandenburg has its own cherry blossom ticker (Kirschblütenticker) to check if the blossoms are already blooming at the TV-Asahi-Kirschblütenalle, the longest cherry blossom alley of Berlin. The ticker is in form of a photo gallery with a current photo of the bud of a flower, renewed every second day during the season. You can check out the ticker here (the homepage is in German).
Cherry blossom meets German history

The cherry blossom trees are mainly planted along the wall trail (the former location of the Berlin Wall) and also marker some H#historical places in Berlin. A lot of trees are under the bridge “Bösebrücke” which was the first open borderline between East and West Berlin on the 9th of November 1989, the day of the fall of the wall.

🚌 Where to find cherry blossom trees
📍 TV-Asahi-Kirschblütenallee (Borderline between Berlin-Lichterfelde and Teltow):
Take the S25 or S26 to the S-Bahn station Lichterfelde-Süd, from there you follow the Holtheimer Weg. After around 550 metres (601 yards) you should reach the cherry blossom trees.
📍 Under the bridge Bösebrücke” at Bornholmer Straße (Prenzlauer Berg/Gesundbrunnen):
The Mauerweg with its cherry blossom trees runs directly under the bridge of the S-Bahn station Bornholmer Straße (S1, S2, S25, S26, S8, S85).
📍 Volkspark am Weinberg or also called Weinbergpark (Mitte):
You can reach the Weinbergpark in around 5 minutes by foot from the U-Bahn station Rosenthaler Platz (U8).
📍 Zionskirchstraße (Mitte):
The Zionskirchstraße is just another 5 minutes walk from the Weinbergpark. If you follow the street in the direction of the same-named church you will find an alley of cherry blossom in the middle of the city.
📍 Schwedter Straße at Mauerpark (Prenzlauer Berg):
The Schwedter Straße on the Mauerpark lays between the U-Bahn station Bernauer Straße (U8) and Eberswalder Straße (U2).
📍 Strausberger Platz (Friedrichshain):
The cherry blossom trees are directly at the U-Bahn station Strausberger Platz (U5).
📍 Gärten der Welt (Marzahn):
Gärten der Welt (literally translated Gardens of the World) offer 22 different garden installations. The park costs an entrance fee and is best reachable with the U5 to the U-Bahn station Kienberg – Gärten der Welt.
Click here to visit the official page and to get more information.
There are a few more spots in and around Berlin, especially at the Mauerweg (Wall Trial) where you can find more cherry blossom trees. These are the more famous spots.
The public transport of Berlin is called BVG, click here to find more train connections.

First written on Wednesday, May 12th, 2021, you have read the blog post Berlin’s best spots for the Cherry Blossom-season on My Travel Journal-Blog.

What to do in Edinburgh

Edinburgh

Edinburgh Castle, Arthur’s Seat and Grassmarket – Here is your bucket list for Edinburgh.

Castle Edinburgh

Scotland is one of my favourite countries to travel to and Edinburgh should be definitely on your bucket list for its beautiful architecture and history.

Best of Edinburgh

Edinburgh was one of my favourite places to visit and here is why:

📍 Edinburgh Castle:

Of course, visiting the beautiful castle is a must. It also offers a nice viewpoint over Edinburgh. From Monday to Saturday, you can hear the one o’clock gun – a time signal that was established in 1861. The entrance fee is £19.50 for one adult.

📍 Royal Mile:

The Royal Mile is a famous street full of historic and cultural attractions that stretches from Edinburgh Castle to the Holyrood Palace.

📍 Holyrood Palace:

You can find the Holyrood Palace, also called the Palace of Holyroodhouse, at the end of the Royal Mile. It is the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland. Nowadays, you can visit the castle and the gardens, the entrance fee is £18.00 for one adult or £11.50 for young persons from 18-24 years.

📍 Arthur's Seat:

If you are up for a hike, then you should head to Arthur’s seat. The ancient volcano is with 251m (823ft) the highest point of Edinburgh and allows you a panoramic view over the city. It is located at Holyrood Park, close to the city centre.

📍 Calton Hill:

This is another place for a fantastic panoramic view you should not miss. Additionally, Calton Hill also offers several monuments like the National Monument.

📍 Grassmarket:

Nowadays, it’s a historical marketplace full of restaurants, pubs, and cute little shops. The place was used for public executions until the 18th century, which makes the pub ‘The last drop’ a bit of a morbid name choice. Another pub is named after Maggie Dickson, who survived her execution and after was allowed to live on because her survival was understood as God’s will.

📍 Dean Village:

Also worth a visit is the nearby Dean Village, which offers architecture and gardens from the 19th century in a really scenic surrounding.

About Whiskey, the worst poet and unicorns

Besides:

🥃 Scotland is famous for its Whiskey, so don’t miss to give it a try if you are into alcoholic beverages.

🖋️ The Scottish poet William McGonagall born in Edinburgh is known as the worst poet of all time. You can visit his grave at the cemetery of Grayfriars.
And that the name of the poet reminds you of Harry Potter is also no coincidence. The character of Minerva McGonagall was named after him.

🦄 One more funfact: Did you know that the national animal of Scotland is a unicorn? Apparently, the Scots didn’t know that the unicorn is a mythical creature when they chose it. My tour guide told me that the unicorn has two enemies: elephants (but no one knows why) and the lion (because of England).

Festivities in 2024:

🎆 Edinburgh’s Hogmanay (29.12.23-01.01.2024)

🧪 Edinburgh Science Festival (30.03.-14.04.24)

👶🏻 Edinburgh International Children’s Festival (25.05.-02.06.24)

🎷 Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival (12.07.-21.07.24)

👑 The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo (02.08.-24.08.24)

🔥 Edinburgh Festival Fringe (02.08.-26.08.24)

🎶 Edinburgh International Festival (02.08.-25.08.24)

🎨 Edinburgh Art Festival (09.08.-25.08.24)

📚 Edinburgh International Book Festival (10.08.-26.08.24)

You have read the blog post My favourites of Edinburgh on My Travel Journal-Blog.

12 Mistakes you should avoid in Iceland

Landmannalaugar

Here are 12 mistakes you should avoid – I would have wanted to know before I went to Iceland myself. I share all my tips with you on how to prepare for Iceland and save some money according to your budget. Iceland is super expensive but in my opinion, it is totally worth it – you will collect beautiful memories for life.

Iceland is one of the most expensive countries in the world – so it is even more important to plan a bit ahead and calculate with your budget, to avoid these common mistakes. Or in other ways here is a guide on how to plan your Iceland trip:

Number One: Book in advance

This is a really basic rule for travelling: Book in advance. But I can tell it is especially important for Iceland – whether we’re talking car rentals or accommodations. Keep in mind that Iceland is really expensive for most people and the rule of first come first serve also applies here.

Do I need a car?

In combination with number one, I also want to answer the question of whether or not you need a car. I am a huge fan of travelling by public transport but this time I am afraid the answer is yes. There are a lot of beautiful places in Iceland which are only reachable by car. In addition, public transport is quite expensive compared to other countries I’ve been to, for example, the 188 km from Reykjavik to Vík í Mýdral costs 7,980 kr (approximately 54 € or 57 US$) one way with Strætó.

Another way is to bring your own car by ferry to Iceland. The Ring Road is also cleared in winter and remains passable. Other places in Iceland like the Westfjords or the inner part of Iceland like Landmannalaugar will require better cars (and summer).

❗️Tip: If you can’t or don’t want to drive you can also book plenty of different day tours from Reykjavik or even book a group tour for several days right from the beginning. I did a combination of both.

Number two: Take the cheap flight

Most cheap flights arrive late or go early in the morning. If you can find a good deal at weird times – take it. Unfortunately, public transport is only running from 6:30 am till 11 pm so you may be too early or late to catch the public bus (excuse for number three). But there are shuttle busses leaving after every flight from the airport plus bringing you also to the airport for early flights – so you won’t need a taxi.

Number three: Use public transport from the airport

There are several shuttle buses for tourists and taxis waiting for you in front of the airport but there is a way cheaper option most locals use: public transport. The bus number 55 goes around twelve times a day to the capital Reykjavik (less on the weekend), takes around an hour and 15 minutes and costs 2,280 kr (around 15.50 € or 16 US$). You can pay by card on the bus. You will find a timetable here.

❗️Tip: There are also plenty of car rental places at the airport so it can be also an idea to book the car at the airport and use it to save the cost of leaving and going to the airport.

Number four: Don’t travel by yourself

Don’t get me wrong, I love travelling alone and Iceland is one of the safest countries in the world. But travelling alone is just way more expensive. Try to plan your trip with a group of friends, ideally 4-5 people in total (or as many spots as your rented car has), so you can divide costs as the car rental, petrol, accommodation and food. This will save you a lot of money.

Number five: Do research on the accommodation

You can probably already guess: Staying in Iceland is very expensive as well. Cheaper solutions can be renting a caravan to have a car and a place to sleep in once. Also, camping by tent can be an alternative (at least in summer but you have also to calculate with more expensive gear).

Of course, sharing a dorm room (I paid 46 € / 49 US$ per night for sharing a room with 20 people) can be also an opportunity to save some money. Otherwise, number four also applies here – travel with friends and share bigger rooms with each other.

Number six: Be prepared for any weather

Clothes are another important topic: Especially in summer, you should bring different clothes instead of this one really warm jacket (don’t bring your winter jacket in summer!). The best tactic is to use layers – or as we would say in Germany use the ‘onion look’ (because – you know – onions have layers 😉 ). The weather can switch super fast – in summer you can easily have all four seasons in one day.

Really important regardless of when you travel: Bring a rain jacket and windbreaker plus a hat and gloves. Believe me, even in summer you will need them.  

Number seven: Cook for yourself

In many (Western) countries cooking by yourself can save a lot of money – and it is a main point for Iceland as well. Go shopping in supermarkets (not convenience stores!), the cheapest are Bonus (with a pig in the logo) and netto.

❗️Tip: Honestly, Iceland is not exactly famous for its food anyway. One of the more popular dishes is Fish and Chips. If you want to give it a try but still save some money – give food trucks a try. Locals recommended Vagninn a truck at the harbour of Reykjavik, but it is only open in summer. Also, Hot Dogs (even in Vegetarian and Vegan options) are a popular food choice in Iceland, you can get them at food trucks (for example at Hallgrímskirkja, the main church of Reykjavik) as well.

Number eight: Bring a reusable bottle

You don’t need to spend any money on water because not only the tap water but also the water coming from glaciers, streams and waterfalls is very clean and drinkable. Just bring a reusable bottle and save your money.

Number nine: Use free hot springs

You probably already heard of spas like the Blue Lagoon and Sky Lagoon – the entrance fees are rather high. If you want to save money you can also take a look for free (or way cheaper) hot springs in nature you can find everywhere in Iceland. There is also an App called Iceland Hot Spring Map (but costs money). The hot springs have an average temperature of 38-40 degrees Celsius (100-104 degrees Fahrenheit) which makes it possible to take a bath outside all year long. – And as the locals say here: there is always a place for one person more join the hot spring.

Seljavallalaug Swimming Pool

My favourite hot springs we visited were:

  • Seljavallalaug Swimming Pool, one of the oldest pools of Iceland: H98V+FC9, 861 Evindarhólar
  • Fosslaug Waterfall with hot springs: FJV8+MHM, Varmahlíð
  • Hot Tube in the Westfjords: Bíldudalsvegur, 466

❗️Tip: Did you know that you can also snorkel or dive between the two tectonic plates of North America and Eurasia? Unfortunately, this is the opposite of free since you need special equipment to swim in the cold water. You can find the rift Silfra in the Mid-Atlantic Ridge in the national park of Þingvellir.

Number ten: Download offline maps

This can be lifesaving! Especially in the Highlands and the Westfjords, you can easily lose your internet connection, so make sure to download the maps beforehand particularly if you use Google Maps for navigation.

Number eleven: Leave the Golden Circle

Don’t get me wrong, the Golden Circle has really beautiful sights but especially in summer it is also really crowded since it is close to Reykjavik. So don’t plan too much time on the Golden Circle – there is so much more to see! One underrated and not-so-often visited part of Iceland is the Westfjords.

Number twelve: Enjoy the free nature

This is not really a tip but something that makes Iceland so great. A lot of nature and spots are for free (like the most famous waterfalls Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss). The national parks as well, the only fees you have to calculate are the parking fees. In order to keep it that way, respect the rules, don’t leave any trash (only foodprints) and enjoy this beautiful and unique island.

I hope I could help you with those tips. Are you missing anything? Then feel free to leave me a comment. Have a great time in Iceland!

You have read the blog post 12 Mistakes you should avoid in Iceland on My Travel Journal-Blog.

Free admission to Berlin’s best museums

four museums from Berlin

Berlin has more than 175 museums. I tell you which one you should visit and provide you will all the information on how you can enter them for free

Berlin offers more than 175 museums and therefore has more museums than rainy days (around 106 days) per year. A day in a museum is perfect if you love to explore and learn new things, or also if you are looking for a nice activity inside hiding from the bad weather. Plus there are many museums for free in Berlin so it can also save you some money if you are travelling on a budget.

Museums Sunday for free admissions

Every first Sunday of the month, Berlin invites everyone for free to over 60 (state) museums, for example, all four of the famous museum’s island. Here you can find the bust of Egyptian Queen Nefertiti in Neues Museum (in English “New Museum”) and the Great Altar of Pergamon in the same called Pergamon Museum.

Bode Museum

For most museums, you will need to book a free time slot. You can get it earliest one week beforehand on the official homepage. You should be fast, especially for the famous museums since the time slots are really fast booked out. The best is to already book your ticket directly at midnight the Sunday before. You can book up to two tickets per person (if you want to go with more people make sure someone else books tickets as well) for several museums. A few museums can also be visited without a time slot. Museums Sunday started in the summer of 2021 with the idea of getting even more people interested in the diverse cultural offerings of Berlin.

Museums that are always free

Inside the Bundestag

If you just missed the Museums Sunday – do not worry, there are more than 60 museums and memorials which are always free of charge. Spoiler: Three of them are also on the list of my favourite museums – so this is an absolute pro tip! You can find a list of all museums here (the page is only available in German).

Inside the dome of the German Bundestag
Inside the dome of the Reichstag Building

One other place which can be visited for free is the German parliament. You can book different tours to get more information on how German politics work but also visit the roof terrace and dome of the Reichstag Building. You should book your time slot for the visit beforehand here.

My favourite museums in Berlin:

Jüdisches Museum
Hall of Fame

The Jüdisches Museum Berlin (Jewish Museum) tells stories and the history of Jews in Germany – from the past till today. You will learn more about Jewish people in general, but also as a religion and a culture. During your visit you will get to know famous Jewish people in the Hall of Fame – Did you know that Amy Winehouse was Jewish? Yeah, me neither. The Jewish Museum opens up the history of Jews in Germany as a part of the country. It speaks about traditions as much as pop culture. Also, the Holocaust is just one of many chapters the museum will guide you through.

An interactive exhibition to take part in
Anne Frank and Peggy Gugenheim

The Jewish Museum is one of my favourite museums because it really understands to make its exhibition vibrant and interactive. I wrote my name in Hebrew, put my wish on the welcome tree, transformed myself into a painting, listened to pop music, and embossed a coin of Anne Frank for my pocket. Pro tip: Bring a 5 Cent coin to the museum to press your own.

Advanced architecture

The whole architecture of the building is stunning and the partition of it is really thought through. Two of the most memorable places are the Holocaust-Tower and the installation Shalekhet by Menashe Kadishman.

The Holocaust-Tower is a cold and isolated building. In general, it is dark inside, there is only a splinter of daylight coming through the narrow slit of the tower but especially in winter also the coldness. This experience leaves you with an oppressive feeling, especially in combination with the name of the tower.

The screaming faces

The installation Shalekhet which means translated fallen leaves can be found in the Memory Void. More than 10,000 faces are covering the ground. The masks are made of round iron plates and formed into screaming faces. They are dedicated to all victims of war so they won’t get forgotten.
At first, I was a bit shocked when people just started walking on the faces. But then someone from the museum’s staff explained to us that the idea is to walk over the masks because of the rough ground you have to look down at the screaming faces to not lose your balance and fall. In addition, there is the sound of scratching when you walk over the iron plates. The ulterior motive of the artist is that the visitors therefore will not forget the experience.

Prices and how to get there
💰 The permanent exhibitions as well as the ANOHA museum for children have free admission. Only the changing exhibition can cost an extra entrance fee of 8 EUR (8.50 US$) or reduced 3 EUR (3.20 US$), depending on the exhibition. Some of the changing exhibitions are free as well. The best is you check the official page before visiting the museum. The Jewish Museum is also taking part in the Museums Sunday.

📍 Lindenstr. 9–14 in 10969 Berlin

🚌 You can take the U1, U3 or U6 to the station Hallesches Tor or the U6 to Kochstraße. There is also bus 248 going directly to the bus stop Jüdisches Museum.

Find more information about the museum on its official homepage.

Topographie des Terrors
The entrance of the indoor exhibition

The museum Topographie des Terrors deals with the German institutions of terror that organised the Holocaust. The ground itself was used by even these institutions: The former Secret State Police Office (Gestapo), the leadership of the SS, their Security Service (SD) and from 1939 the Reich Security Main Office.

More than 17 million people, more than 6 million of them Jews, were murdered by the Nazis during the Second World War between 1933-1945. The focus of the museum is taken on the crimes which were committed across Europe by the central institutions of the SS and police in the Third Reich. The museum is located in Kreuzberg and has an exhibition indoors as well as open air. But you will also find a long piece of the former Berlin wall along the museum.

Free audio guide and tours

The museum is mainly a lot of white boards with background information, quotes and historical photos but also old documents. You can get a free audio guide or use your own smartphone to guide you through the museum. I would highly recommend listening to the audio guide. It is available in 17 languages and takes approximately one hour. You can also take part in a guided tour which will be also free of charge.

Why you should visit the museum:

I think this museum should be on your bucket list if you visit Berlin because it is so important to never forget what happened not too many years ago here in Europe and especially in Germany. It shows us where racism can lead us. It also reminds us how important it is to not forget about the people who were killed during the war. Especially now, that the last contemporary witnesses and holocaust survivors die, it is important to not forget about the crimes against humanity they were put through.    

More information
The current special exhibition of February 23

Besides the permanent exhibition, there is also another room with a special exhibit.

If you want to know more about the Nationalism and Holocaust, you can also visit Sachsenhausen, a former concentration camp in Oranienburg. Nowadays it is a memorial and museum and is free of charge.

Prices and how to get there
💰 Admission to the museum is free.

📍 Niederkirchnerstraße 8 in 10963 Berlin

🚌 You can take the U2 or S1, S2, S25, S26 to the station Potsdamer Platz or U6 to Kochstraße or the S1, S2, S25, S26 to Anhalter Bahnhof.

Find more information about the museum on its official homepage.

Urban Nation
The current exhibition in 2023

The Urban Nation Museum for urban contemporary art was founded in September 2017 in Berlin-Schöneberg. Not only the exhibitions but also the housing facades are changing approximately every two years. Therefore there is actually no permanent exhibition. The museum enables a deeper look into urban art, its history, artists, and techniques. The focus is usually taken on up-to-date political and cultural topics. So does the current exhibit Talking & other banana skins which brings together artists from all over the world to get in dialogue with each other. What I love most about the museum is its creative way of bringing contemporary art and modern topics together.

Murals all over Berlin
Mural by Deih XLF

The Urban Nation initiative supports the exchange with the neighbourhood of Berlin – not only in its own museum walls but also with the project One Wall. The idea is to bring five artists to Berlin every year to repaint old house walls and create a colourful Berlin.

Prices and how to get there
💰 Admission to the museum is free.

📍 Bülowstrasse 7 in 10783 Berlin

🚌 You can take the U1, U2, U3 or U4 to the station Nollendorfplatz.

Find more information about the museum on its official homepage.

Berlin Global
The first room of Berlin Global

The exhibition Berlin Global of the Stadtmuseums Berlin (City Museum Berlin) is one of several in Humboldt Forum. It shows Berlin from many different perspectives in the matter of history from wars to the fall of the wall or in terms of culture and music. The glamorous golden Twenties and reunification of the country are just as much a part of the city’s history as the Holocaust and the colonialization. The exhibit offers a lot of different topics which results in the fact that some subjects can be only touched on superficially – But what I think is way more important, it gives you a lot of thought-provoking impulses and the drive to learn more about it. Berlin Global also shows you how many topics are connected and influence each other – for better or for worse.

Take your own part

The exhibition is colourful, varied and gives its visitors the opportunity to interactively shape their visit themselves. In the beginning, you will receive a bracelet that allows you to take part in surveys, which often raises a dilemma: Are borders here to protect you or do they exclude you? Are you ready for change or do you prefer to protect what you already have?
In the end, you can have your decision evaluated to get your personal result. Tradition, freedom, security or equality – which is your greatest asset? Mine were freedom and equality.

Funerals and disco fever
Burial of affordable rents

One of my personal highlights is the installation Begräbnis bezahlbarer Mieten (Burial of affordable rents) by the artists’ collective Rocco and His Brothers. The rent grave was built on a street corner in Berlin-Kreuzberg in 2016 and laments the rising rents in the district becoming unaffordable for the people living there. The topic became even more up-to-date with the increasing rents in recent years.
My other highlight is half huge walk-in disco ball. Mirrors, lights and disco music of different musical areas and genres make you (or at least me) dance and just enjoy Berlin. Overall I loved being so active in the exhibition and exploring the seven theme rooms with completely different stories and focal points. 

Prices and how to get there
💰 The exhibition costs a 7 EUR (7.40 US$) entrance fee but is free for students and pupils. You can also visit it for free on the Museums Sunday.

📍 at Humboldt Forum, Schlossplatz in 10178 Berlin, first floor

🚌 You can take the U5 to the station Museumsinsel.

Find more information about the museum on its official homepage.

You have read the blog post Free admission to Berlin’s best museums on My Travel Journal-Blog.

Little Stories of Berlin  – Short stories, curiosities, and trivia

Little Stories is a category I started on my Instagram channel and where I post short stories, curiosities or trivia. Here you can find all posts about Berlin. #littlestories

#9 Colourful Berlin

What do we love more than colour on grey winter days?

You can find the cutest and most colourful houses at Gartenstadt Falkenberg in Berlin. The housing estate is part of the UNESCO World Heritage and was created by Bruno Traut between 1913 and 1915. All houses have different colours, patterns and were differently designed. Berliners call it Tuschkastensiedlung which literally translated means paint box settlement which also illustrates the many different and strong colours you will find there. The beautiful front yards bring even more colour to the picture.

If you want to visit Gartenstadt Falkenberg just take the S-Bahn to the station Berlin-Grünau.

📍 Gartenstadtweg in 12524 Berlin-Bohnsdorf

 





Follow me on Instagram so you don’t miss any more #littlestories:

 
 
 
 
 
Diesen Guide auf Instagram ansehen
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Guide geteilt von My Travel Journal-Blog (@mytraveljournalblog)

You have read the blog post Little Stories of Berlin  – Short stories, curiosities, and trivia on My Travel Journal-Blog.

Best views and tips for Neuschwanstein Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle

At the latest, Disney made Neuschwanstein Castle world known. Read all about how to get a ticket, what to expect from a tour and find the best viewing points to see the castle in all its beauty.

Neuschwanstein Castle is the most famous castle in Germany and probably also one of the most known in Europe. The castle was also used by Disney as an inspiration for Cinderella’s castle and can be found on the well-known logo of the company itself.

Last summer, I decided that it was finally time to visit the famous castle on my small trip through Bavaria and therefore to cross one of my must-sees from my travel bucket list. I found the perfect viewpoint and will share all my tips with you in this blog post.

💡 Facts about Neuschwanstein Castle

The construction work of Neuschwanstein started in the summer of 1868. The castle was built for the Bavarian king Ludwig II. and was designed as the ideal knight’s castle from medieval times. Nevertheless, the latest technic was used outside as well as inside for the construction work. The castle was even fitted with hot air central heating, running water and an automatic flushing system. The king actually also had a telephone available. If I remember it right he could only call the post with it.  

The king only lived a few months inside the castle because he died in 1886 before the castle was completed. Therefore the construction work was never finished.

Tips for booking tickets

If you want to visit the castle from inside you should book your tickets already beforehand online to make sure you will be able to visit the palace. The tickets are often sold out days before, in summer even weeks before, especially if you plan on going on weekends or holidays. One ticket costs 17.50 EUR (18.60 US$) for adults and one Euro less for students, pensioners, and disabled persons as well as if you have the Gästekarte (you will get the Gästekarte in most hotels if you stay overnight, I even got it on my camping spot). If you want to bring your children make sure to also buy tickets for them, every child – even babies – need their own tickets. Tickets for children from 0 to 17 years cost 2.50 EUR (2.60 US$). The tours are available in English or German but you can also book a time frame to use an audio guide which is available in 19 different languages.

Castle Hohenschwangau

You can also combine the ticket to visit Hohenschwangau Castle and/or the Museum of the Bavarian Kings which you can find right around the corner just a few metres further at lake Alpsee. In case all tickets are already sold out during your stay, you should take a look at the online shop at eight o’clock in the morning. Sometimes you can be lucky and more tickets will be unlocked for the day. You can buy your tickets online in the official shop of Neuschwanstein.de.

In case you missed buying tickets online and you want to check the ticket centre, you can find it next to the parking slots. There is no possibility to buy any tickets at the castle. So do not make the mistake to go all the way up to the castle first.

You should plan around 45 minutes of walking from the parking slot and bus stop up to Neuschwanstein Castle. There is also the possibility to take a bus or a horse-drawn carriage but from both stops, you will need to walk a bit further to reach the entrance.

What to expect from the castle tour

Neuschwanstein Castle was opened to the public only seven weeks after the death of King Ludwig II in 1886. This is a bit ironic since it was once planned as the retreat of the king. Until today more than 1.5 million people visit the rooms of the castle every year.

The inside of Neuschwanstein Castle can be only visited with a tour. The tour itself is actually quite short. I chose a guided tour which took not even 30 minutes in total. The reason is that only 14 rooms were completed before the death of King Ludwig II. Therefore the rooms on the second floor were never finished. Anyways, the rooms which were actually finished are worth a visit.

The view from the balcony of the castle

The picture cycles on the walls are inspired by the operas of Richard Wagner. You will find his different works and the medieval legends, they are based on, in all rooms of the castle. Another recurrent theme is the swan which is shown in different statues and paintings. The swan is also part of the name of the castle itself. Neuschwanstein means literally translated “New Swan Stone” –  the German word “Schwan” is the animal swan. Also the town Schwangau itself in where you can find the palace has the animal in its name. The swan is used as a Christian symbol of purity.

I was most blown away by the Singers’ Hall and of course the grotto. The king let built his own artificial dripstone cave in his castle. It was designed by August Dirigl and had originally coloured lights and even a waterfall. The Singer’s Hall occupies the whole fourth floor in the eastern section of the palace. It was planned as a stage for theatre and musical performances but was never used in this way.  

It is not allowed to take pictures inside the castle but you can see photos of all the rooms on the official page of Neuschwanstein.

Best viewing points around

📍 Behind the castle: If you visit the Neuschwanstein make sure to also follow the path behind the castle. It is really not an insider’s tip but you will have a really nice view of the backside of the castle as well as of lake Alpsee and Hohenschwangau castle.

📍 Marienbrücke (Mary’s bridge): Marienbrücke is only a 15-minute walk from Neuschwanstein Castle. There is also a bus you can take from the parking slot to go up. The bridge itself is very popular and often crowded. It can happen that you have to wait around 30-45 minutes to visit it if you come during the high season. If you want to avoid the crowds come in the morning before or in the evening after the opening hours. I visited the bridge around 6 pm in the summer. It was way less full and in the end, I had the bridge almost to myself. The view is just perfect. You stand right upon the Pöllat gorge with the castle right in front of you.

The bridge can be closed during winter because of bad weather conditions such as ice and snow. You can check it beforehand online on the page Hohenschwangau.de.

📍 Close to Marienbrücke: Also Marienbrücke itself is a beautiful photo motive. If you follow the middle path from the bus stop you will have a quite nice view to see Marienbrücke and the castle without too many people around. There is even a sign that shows you the way.

📍 Your own personal spot: If you want to have a stunning view of the castle without tourists, you should just follow the way up the mountains and use them for a beautiful view down. When I visited Neuschwanstein Castle at midday in summer, the line of people visiting Marienbrücke was endlessly long so I hiked further uphill. There I had the view just for my own. The spot is not really a secret since you can find it on google maps but since you need to walk around 20 minutes upward you won’t see too many people. Follow the spot on google maps and enjoy your own beautiful view. But please take care to not go too close to the edge. Safety always comes first and should be more important than any nice view and photo.

🚌 How to reach the castles by public transport
If you want to travel by public transport you can use a train to Füssen (for example from Munich central station) and from there a bus (bus number 9606 or 78) which brings you to the parking spot and ticket centre of the castles. The bus stop is called Hohenschwangau Neuschwanstein Castles, Schwangau. You can find all connections and buy tickets on bahn.com.

You have read the blog post Best views and tips for Neuschwanstein Castle on My Travel Journal-Blog.

Schwerin – a day trip from Berlin

The castle of Schwerin

Only 2.5 hours takes the train ride from Berlin to the state capital of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania. A town that is often forgotten and somewhat underestimated. Schwerin convinces with its charm and its architecture, such as its famous castle, its old town, and its proximity to the Baltic Sea.

Schwerin is one of these cities which turn out to be a nice surprise when you visit it. We did not really expect too much when we planned our visit but in the end, it convinced us with its charm and beauty. It has a really pretty old town and of course, its wonderful castle which characterizes the cityscape. You can find the palace in almost every picture if you google Schwerin. Palace Schwerin is located on an island surrounded by the same named lake. Therefore you can explore it eighter way from the water by renting a boat or taking a long walk around.

💡 Facts about Schwerin

Schwerin is the state capital and second biggest city (behind Rostock) of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania (in German: Mecklenburg-Vorpommern). It is located in Northern East Germany, approximately 225 km (140 miles) from Berlin. In the other direction, the seaside is not far. Schwerin is only around 30 km ( 19 miles) away from Wismar, a city directly located to the Baltic Sea. Therefore it is a perfect destination for a weekend or even a day trip.

Strolling through Schwerin
Schwerin Cathedral of the Old Town

You do not need a map, Schwerin is small and can be easily discovered on foot. The city also offers signposts to help you to orientate yourself. One other clue is the conspicuous tower of the Schwerin Cathedral which rises 117.5 metres (128 yards) above the old town.

Visit Castle Schwerin

The Palace Schwerin was the seat of the dukes and grand dukes of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. Nowadays the palace is not only a historian but also a political place. Since 1990 it has been used as the home of the parliament of the state of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania. The other side of the castle is a museum and can be visited by tourists. The entrance fee is 8.50 € (8.25 USD) but also offers a discount. Children (under the age of 18 years) have free admission. The park and gardens are also open to the public and can be visited for free. I would definitely recommend taking a walk around the castle.

🚌 How to reach Schwerin from Berlin by public transport
Schwerin is easily reachable by (regional) train or bus.

From Berlin, you can take RE2 in the direction of Wismar, it takes approximately 2:30 hours. The trains leave from many stations, including Berlin-Spandau, Zoologischer Garten, Berlin Hauptbahnhof (Hbf), Friedrichstraße, Alexanderplatz, Ostbahnhof and Ostkreuz. You can find all connections on the official page bahn.de.

If you want to go by bus, you can use for example the bus company Flixbus. They usually offer one direct ride a day which takes around 2:45 hours. Typically the bus is leaving from Berlin ZOB (close to Messe Nord/ICC).

Click here to find more blog posts about other weekend and day trips in and around Berlin.

You have read the blog post Schwerin – a daytrip from Berlin on My Travel Journal-Blog.

Little Stories of Spain  – Short stories, curiosities, and trivia

The pillows of Händlerlogo Palau de la Música Catalana

 Little Stories is a category I started on my Instagram channel and where I post short stories, curiosities or trivia. Here you can find all posts about Spain. #littlestories

#8 What is the best view of Barcelona and its story

Almost every city offers a good chance to see the skyline eighter way from a sightseeing spot, a rooftop bar or a hill. Especially Barcelona has a really nice opportunity to see the city from different angles from above (without paying for it). To me, the nicest and closest one is directly behind Park Güell. Use the serpentines and escalators of the city to arrive at the Turó del Carmel and the Turó de la Rovira (les búnkers del Carmel).
Turó del Carmel is the hill right behind Park Güell. There is a good visited viewing point Mirador de Joan Sales which is very close to Gaudí’s park and therefore a bit crowded. So follow the path upstairs to the peak of the hill to leave most people behind you – this at least worked for us. We found ourselves with a beautiful 360-degree view and meadows full of wildflowers.
Turó de la Rovira is a 262 metres (287 yard) high hill especially known for the bunkers on top. They are the remains of the anti-aircraft guns and were built in the 1930s during die Spanish Civil War to protect Barcelona. It was 2011 renovated and belongs to the MUHBA (Museu D’Història de Barcelona) Heritage Site.
The sites are part of the so-called Balcony of Barcelona and together with Turó de la Creueta del Coll part of Els Tres Turons – The three hills.

Another viewing point is on the other side of Barcelona, Telefèric de Montjuïc directly on the seaside. From there you have the city on one side and the sea on the other. You can also take the cable cars to go on top or just walk the 84 metres (92 yard). In my opinion, the view itself is less spectacular but offers another angle plus the parks on top are nice to visit.
Another famous viewing point is a bit further outside: Tibidabo. The little mountain is 512 metres high and famous for its beautiful church Temple Expiatori del Sagrat Cor on the one and the theme park of Tibidabo on the other side.


Follow me on Instagram so you don’t miss any more #littlestories:

You have read the blog post Little Stories of Spain  – Short stories, curiosities, and trivia on My Travel Journal-Blog.

Visiting Gaudí’s most popular architecture – is it worth it?

Park Güell

Antoni Gaudí (1852-1926) is one of Barcelona’s most formative architectures and is known as the greatest exponent of Catalan Modernism. He designed more than ten buildings in and around the capital of Catalonia of which seven are part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. I visited four of them. Was it worth it?

The staircase of Casa Battló

Back in 2014, I visited Barcelona for the first time. It was love at first sight. Almost no other city offers so much incredible architecture, art, culture and beautiful buildings. A huge credit for this goes to Gaudí. But also back then the entrance fees for its architecture were really pricey and for us as students just too much to pay. We only visited a part of Park Güell which was back then still for free (only the smaller part with its colourful benches and houses had an entrance fee). But I always wanted to come back to take a closer look at Gaudís work, and this year I did.


Park Güell, Palau Güell, Casa Milà, Casa Vicens, Sagrada Família, Casa Batlló, and Cripta Güell are the seven works of Antoni Gaudí which are nowadays part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. I visited four of them. In general, I loved all of my visits and do not regret spending any of the money on them. But in my opinion, two are more worth their money and two you can also skip.

I visited four of the most famous works of Antoni Gaudi: Casa Batlló, Sagrada Família, Casa Vicens, and Park Güell.

Casa Batlló (1904-1906)

Entrance fee: from 35 Euros

Casa Battló is in the city centre of Barcelona and is one of Gaudí’s more famous works. The house itself was already built in 1877 by Emilio Sala Cortés but later Josep Batlló put Antoni Gaudí in charge to rebuild it. Gaudí fully remodelled the house by changing the façade but also the interior. Casa Batlló is neighboured by beautiful other buildings that were renewed in the same time period by other prominent architects. This specific period is called the Bone of Contention.
From the 1950s on Casa Batlló was no longer owned by the family Battló and in 1995 it was opened to the public. According to the official page, every year 1 million people visit Casa Batlló.  

My first impression
The ceiling in a pattern of a giraffe inside of Casa Battló

As in all architecture of Gaudí, I was very impressed by the construction technology. Already the façade of the building is stunning even when I always see skulls on the balconies (I was never sure if it was actually meant to be). Gaudí really knows how to form buildings and use the natural elements, light, and air in favour of his work. The design of his rooms is incredibly well thought out I was really amazed by his sophistication behind the composition and presentation of the house. In case you decide to visit Casa Battló you should make sure to listen to the audio guide. It will tell you much about Gaudís thoughts and plans for creating the different rooms. The house still appears modern nowadays and shows Gaudí as a genius who understood his work. My favourite room was probably one of the first ones with the ceiling in a pattern of a giraffe. But of course, also the whole staircase including its wavy glass front and the roof terrace was beautiful to see. I spent around two hours in Casa Batlló to have the full experience.

On the rooftop of Casa Battló
Is it worth it?

This is probably the visit I have to be most critical with. I visited Casa Battló right before Easter, therefore it was very busy. But to me, there were just too many people. At some point, I realised that I got increasingly exhausted and annoyed by being pushed around by other people, having not one silent minute to actually enjoy the architecture. I was highly disappointed about the organisation and that the employees did not take care that not too many people at the same time can enter. I felt the main goal was not about showing Gaudís incredible architecture and art but just getting as many people as fast as possible inside to make as much money as possible. And this is combined with the extraordinary high entrance fees. Casa Battló was nice to see but way too overpriced.

If you still want to go, choose the mornings, to make sure not too many people visit at the same time. But be aware that you have to pay another 10 Euros extra. The ticket gets also more expensive when you will buy them directly at the cash point so make sure to order them beforehand

Gaudí Dome

There are three different tickets, the blue one, the silver, and the golden ticket. I actually bought the golden ticket because I wanted to have the full experience but honestly, I just really overpaid the whole visit. In my opinion, the Gaudí Dome which is only included in the silver and golden ticket is nice but not worth the extra money you have to pay. The same is with the tablet you get for your visit, the normal audio guide will be more than enough. The original Concierge room is also visible from the normal entrance you just cross it faster but it is also not worth the extra money. All in all, it depends on your wallet and your interest. If you always wanted to do it – go for it. If you are on a budget, honestly skip it since it is the most expensive one.