Reading on the road: Bookish recommendations of the month

October was a very busy month, with many trips and thus, more time to taste good books while filling the long delays of the trains or while waiting my buses.

My travel reading list of the month includes a variety of topics and geographical areas, as usual. Compared to the other months, I had a lot of African related topics which means that I am getting ready to explore new continents the next year.

Baking Cakes in Kigali describes about a slice of life in post-war Rwanda. Angel Turgaraza is a skilful cake baker whose life bears the scars of a complicated geography. The customers visiting her home shop are telling stories and sharing intimate worries while flipping through the photo album of cake models. Even though I did not enjoy the style very much, the stories made me more curious to explore the local histories.

Too many cakes and so little possibilities. I kept the foodie feeling while reading about the secret life of a restaurant, as seen by Scott Haas. Psychologist by training, Haas spent 18 months researching the recipes, power games and management secrets of the famous Boston restaurant Craigie on Main. I was given a complimentary copy that I will review in the next days on my foodie blog.

A different view of a completely different part of Africa is the one shared by Arkadi Fiedler, in The Madagascar I Love. Born in Poznan and a philosophy student, he also loved to see the world. He wrote this book in 1946. In some places, the perspective is too eurocentric for the 21st century reader, but it offers an interesting historical and geographical testimony on the island.

Those who spotted me laughing on my bus back from Bayreuth maybe saw that I was not crazy, but was reading Tony Hawks’ irresistible Playing the Moldovans at Tennis. Only the successes against the soccer players from Moldovan National Team can save the honour of Tony’s unsuccessful achievements as a tennis player. Tied by a bet, he went to Moldova – a country that I hope to see the next year – and after complicatedly ridiculous adventures he wins. Even though understanding this corner of Europe may not come at hand for a Brit, he won also lots of friends and decided to create a charity to help local people.

The train trips can take longer than expected and preventively I have at least one full book in my bag. Thanks to the beautiful autobiography of Mark Twain, I did not suffer that my train from Jena was delayed for one hour. I love Twain’s travel stories that I used while preparing my trip to Heidelberg, and the account of his life was not less enjoyable.

I am trying to plan more travel for the next months and a cruise is always on the back of my mind. The only problem preventing me to do so right now is my extremely bad experience I had till now, due to me being seasick all the time (this was always the case when cruising in the Mediterranean). On a sunny afternoon I decided to have a short lecture in German of a booklet about everything you need to know before booking a cruise. Maybe if I will try to write something similar I will be more focused on writing and less on the shaking ship.

My cruise plans are advancing with the speed of the thought. What about a trip by ship from Haifa to Rhodes? Or from Haifa to Cyprus? Once upon a time I used to dream about going from Europe to America by ship, but when you gather more life experiences, you get used with less. The Lost Worlds of Rhodes made me dream anyway about discovering the last traces of rich cultures. Especially in South-Eastern Europe, the tragedies of war destroyed and alienated cultures and I want to see as many as them before the traces are lost for ever. Rhodes can be a good choice for the next summer. I was given a complimentary copy for an academic review, but I enjoyed sharing the travel inspiration too.


I am very cautious when I pick up political thrillers, but I am familiar with JF Penn’s writing for a while and her novella One Day in Budapest has not only beautiful descriptions of one of my favorite cities, but also a quality narrative and a lot of action that makes a lot of political sense. It is well researched and can be read very easy on the road.

If you travel with teenagers, Poison by Livia Blackburne is easy, short and with a carefully construction of the narrative. Personally, I was expecting more action and courageous characters, but I am not the main target of this book. For those who travel with children between 3 and 7, I strongly recommend the English book by my dear friend Maria Ellis, the Golden Cheese. A beautiful story with beautiful illustrations. I am biased, but when I really love something, I cannot keep only for myself.


Very often in the last months, I wondered myself why I don’t feel happy enough. I have all the reasons to be happy and smile more each day, and usually I am at peace with my lot, but not always as much as I should be. Thus, my curiosity to read Gretchen Rubin’s similar experience. The Happiness project, my favorite book of the month, is about symbolic and practical cleaning of your inner house from all the bothering thoughts and habits that can confuse your understanding of happiness. It takes time to do it – she made a plan for 12 months – but being happy is a reason to life for.

There are some reading surprises for the next month – among which the collaboration with Danielle Hugh for the promotion of her True Stories of an International Flight Attendant . As in one week from now I will be in Bath, my reading priorities for the next days are books by Jane Austen. Right now, I am trying to finish Persuasion, but it is just the beginning.

Till the next month, happy reading!


Chez Hoffy’s


Part of the excitement of going to Antwerp was that I will be able again to go to a restaurant and eat some good meat-based meals. The city has a strong Jewish community and besides the small Judaica bookstores and grocery stores I wanted to check for some special shopping, I had high expectations about the kosher gourmet side of the city. More than once, I was worried that I will not have too much time for a proper exploration of what I was dreaming to find: at least one Indian, one Chinese and one good Israeli food restaurants should be there for sure, waiting for some fair reviews. Familiar with the diversity of Golders Green restaurants, I didn’t have a single doubt that the reality could be different.

Shortly after arrival, I refused to ask any reference about the eating out options and went to discover on my own the foodie part of the Jewish area. I was out shortly before 10pm and there were no shops or restaurants open. One hour later, the long hours of walking in Amsterdam the day and morning before paid their price and I gave up and returned for a healthy sleep.

The next day, I decided to be more cautious and asked friends and acquaintances where can I have a good kosher meal. ‘At Hoffy’s, where else!’ I was told and this was also the answer provided by my ‘Google’ search. Intrigued where are the big or small kosher restaurants in Antwerp, I was explained that people prefer rather to eat at home. Or they can go to London in the morning and arrive 4 hours later, just in time for the lunch, I was thinking.

Without any expectations, we arrived to Hoffy’s ready to be surprised! The big surprise was that I felt like entering a home filled with a lot of heimishe delicacies. The only difference was that I was not at home and I had to chose among more meals than I can usually can cook for 2-3 days. Stuffed cabbage with minced veal that I hated so much as a kid but longing for from time to time now, big portions of grilled schnitzel, kneidelach (matzo ball), liver with onion that reminded me of the tensed moments at home when my mother gave up convincing me to taste at least a little bit, my favourite gefilte fish, latkes (I would like to keep them only for Hanukkah), light pink salmon or the compote and apple kigel .

You order your food at the counter and it will be brought to you in around 10-15 minutes. After a couple of minutes of thinking, I decided to order a big schnitzel (I was tempted by the salmon, but this is something I can easily prepare on my own), with some veggies and a coleslaw. The portion was so big that I could not indulge a compote. I had my dessert a bit later after more walking, a delicious big apple strudel from a kosher bakery in the neighbourhood.


After leaving Antwerp and sharing my experiences about Hoffy’s all my friends were unanimous in appreciating their food and service. The ambiance is very pleasant, with fine Jewish writing on the walls, and a quiet background music. During my 2-hour stay I saw different types of customers, not only tourists, all enjoying the food and always being politely asked if everything is fine or if they want something more. A family business, they are open since 19

As everything in this city, the prices can be unusual, but the food is so good that only my physical limits stopped me to eat more. Even though I was exclusively interested in tasting more meat, there are plenty of vegetarian options as well. The menu also has a fine selection of wines that I promise to taste the next time.

A short coffee ended up my culinary adventure in Antwerp. I did not expect to find such a delicious piece of home here, but the reality can be much better than my extravagant dreams.

Charmed by the hidden Antwerp diamonds



A long visit to Antwerp was on my bucket list for a long time. Every time I’ve been before I did not have enough time to explore the city, but was always attracted by the beautiful buildings and charming streets. This autumn, I finally made. I arrived in the afternoon by bus from Amsterdam and spent the entire evening exploring till late the multicultural quarters around the emblematic Central Station. As I would be confirmed the next day, after dark, there are not too many chances to find many open shops and restaurants and I did not succeed to find a tasty corner.

Hungry for more Antwerp and not only the next day I was up very early for spying the opening of the shops and chocolate counters. Till 10-10.30 in the morning, the small streets from the central area are busy with trucks bringing fresh products. The smell of fresh waffles is addictive and despite the unpleasant rain, we continued by foot the exploration of the city.


Antwerp reminds me of all my beloved corners of Europe. Elegant and fashionable like Paris, distinguished like Vienna and sophisticated like Milan. Plus, the same lavish architecture like London. And the delicious chocolate, as much cherished as the precious diamonds.


I am always curious about the street art and Antwerp has some surprising good works of art, displayed on the walls of the small streets near the central area. This discovery kept me busy enough time till the museums and shops finally opened.


The first ‘must-see’ on my list was the Fashion Museum. Antwerp developed as a citadel of fashion especially at the end of the 1980s. The Museum explains this evolution, outlining the most successful generations of designers through thematic exhibitions. A special musical background and short movies add more action and explanations to the models displayed, many of them real pieces of art that can usually fit an elegant street outfit. The same distinction, at a moderate level, can be observed on the streets. People are well dressed, elegant with style and showing obviously a minimal attention about the way they look. Not because of a special ‘fashion addiction’ but because it is a matter of self-esteem.


Inspired by the beautiful samples admired at the Fashion Museum, I continued my colourful journey by visiting some of the local shops. The list of favourites is very long so any mentions are not necessarily reflecting entirely all my discoveries. I loved very much the green outfits from Talking French, the unique historical jewelry models by Anne Zellien and the young spirit from Scotch and Soda. My friends introduced me the KidsLabFashion, a paradise for children where you can find a lot of wonderful toys and clothing for all ages. For the same age category, there is a Disney Store too. Next on my shopping list: the elegant autumn outfits by Caroline Biss, the Spanish colours brought by Uterque. The wonders from the Huidevetterstraat seemed never ending. How to resist the temptation to enter the beautiful carpet shop of Galery Vrouyr, exploring the interior design displayed by Fja Oeyen or the colourful Gigue fashion shop? What about the Twin-set, by Simona Barbieri or the beautiful old building with the bamboo square where the Issey Miyake shop is hosted?


Enough shopping and luxury! Time for another cultural delight: the Rubens House, with the yard partially set to restoration, opening to the visitor a lot of artistic and diplomatic secrets. The reflection of the coppered walls made me feel I am entering a cave of secrets. Rubens was not only an artist, diplomatic and well respected citizen of the city himself, but also a collector of art. His collection was one of the first and most important in Europe in the 17th century. As the rain stopped, I walked in a relaxing pace touring garden, encircled by modern big buildings. A little oasis.


I returned walking – despite the hours of rain, my favourite transportation during my trip were always my never exhausted feet – to the Central Station area. Diamonds are a girl’s best friend and in the Diamonds Quarter there are millions of little friends waiting to be matched. And so is the good food for the stomach of the exhausted traveler and in Antwerp it has for me only one name: Hoffy’s. Considered one of the best kosher restaurant in Belgium and with a good reputation all over Europe, this place reminded me of the good food from home: big schnitzel, salads of all kinds, compots, soups, strudel and meat balls. The best of the Askenazi cuisine on a generous plate, in a home ambiance where I was repeatedly asked by a polite gentleman if I am happy with the food or I need something else. How could I not like it? But I was too busy to taste every bit of my food to start this time an elaborated discussion about recipes and home memories.


After such a delicious meal, I needed more movement. As planned, I stopped to a book store in the area to purchase some more books and at a grocery shop for a red perfumed bottle of wine, and with more weight on my back, entered the final destination of my trip to Antwerp: the Zoo. It is situated very close to the famous Central Station, but surprisingly enough, I did not hear any trains even though the station was only a couple of meters away and always very busy. The Central Park kind of setting is spectacular and a pleasure to discover in any season. The Aquarium, recently re-opened, is situated at the ground level of a Greek Temple. The directions going to the animals – many of them more active than any other zoo characters I visited before – are passing through rocks and squares with grass and flowers.

I spent here an amount of time hard to estimate: no hurry, pressure or work assignments. My Internet connection was not working so I had enough time to focus on the life of the little animals and birds, to see how the flamingoes are drinking or observing a hungry elephant.


It was getting dark, the next day we were planing to return to Amsterdam and from there back to Berlin, and I wanted to have another coffee somewhere before leaving. It was not easy, again, as most places are closing quite early in this precious town. Café Imperial from the Op de Meir Palace was looking empty, elegant but not enough tempting to try a visit only for a cup of coffee. I only made a little tour of the Palace, admiring some beautiful chocolate construction in what used to be the former kitchen used by Napoleon Bonaparte. The Palace was chosen as its imperial residence and the Empress organized here many of her ballrooms.

Meanwhile, it started to rain again. On the way from a short trip in the port with a little stop at the fortress of Steen, the oldest building in Antwerp and a former prison, I finally found a no-name coffee store, where I rested my tired feet. I was right to want so much to be here. It’s one of those places that will always speak my language.

For more visual insights about Antwerp, have a look at my Pinterest board:

24 hours in Amsterdam



Amsterdam didn’t get my love easily. It didn’t work either the first time or the second time, but on my third visit I was ready to succumb to its charms. Now, it’s sharing my appreciation with Hague, that conquered my interest from the beginning, with its charming boats and mysterious streets. 





We arrived in Amsterdam after a long train ride from Berlin that ended up abruptly in the middle of the Netherlands. Someone decided to take his life by running in the face of the train and our arrival was delayed for over an hour. Welcoming Dutch youngsters helped the lost foreign passengers to find their way to Amsterdam by checking their apps and giving promptly the requested information about connections in English or German. Shortly upon arrival and checking our boat hostel at Amicitia, with a map and a camera we started the late tour of the city. 

For hours, we did not want to do nothing else but wander the streets, look at the colourful architecture, try to get lost without knowing what is the right bridge for passing on the other side of the channel. Of course we jumped several times in the middle of the road trying to take the best picture of a building, bothering terribly the bikes. More than once we were shouted suggestively: ‘You are in Amsterdam’! 




But getting lost in Amsterdam is not a realistic plan. Following the smell of street food and the groups of tourists we arrived in the central Dam square area. After checking several souvenir and many more cheese shops, we had a short look at De Bijenkorf, the beating point of luxury shopping. As the next day we were ready for Antwerp, we preferred to do not create too much jealousy and competition and continued our lonely exploration of the streets maze.




There are so many small and elegant shops inviting with delicious coffee and waffles, open till late in the night with people with big smiles on their faces. The modern colours bring a young life to the old severe red-brick architecture. Don’t try to get things too seriously; buildings, as  humans, may look similarly, but each has a different joyful secret behind the walls. 




It was getting later and we were not prepared for a cultural/intellectual tour. The only museum open at the time was Anne Frank Memorial House that I wanted to visit since childhood and we decided to change the plan. We waited quietly in line and entered the permanent exhibition together with other visitors from all over the world. Anne Frank wanted to be a journalist and a writer. She had so many hopes and dreams and secrets. But instead to go to the library and walk freely on the streets of the city for inspiration, she was hiding for saving her life. ‘We are afraid the neighbours may her and see us’ was her main worry. Her diary, published later by her father, the only survivor of the family, can give hope that the force of words will never be lost. And even in the darkest times of our history, we should never give up hope.




In silence, we found out way back to the boat late in the evening, passing by colourful graffiti. Time for a smoothie and a bit of street watching from a table outside a small coffee near the Central Station. The weather was unusually mild and close to the middle of the night it was still enjoyable outdoors. 




On purpose, I wanted to keep the very busy schedule for the next day. We went up very early and after testing the local subway system on the way to buy our bus ticket for Antwerp, we went back around the central area, on the streets we discovered the day before, hungry for cultural discoveries. We started with the Royal Delft porcelain mini-shop. People of navigators, the Dutch brought back home a lot of influences from the far away lands of the Orient they visited in search of raw materials and spices, but translated in the simplicity of white-and-black paintings. The local unsurprising landscape remained the main source of inspiration, to whom exuberant flowers and exotic birds were added. Note to self: the next time when I visit the Netherlands, Utrecht and Delft should be on the bucket list.




I continued with the flower market, which I expected much bigger and more eventful. Flowers, especially the national flowers, the tulips, are on sale but also bulbs and seeds for the passionate gardeners. The impressive collection of reddish cacti was almost convincing me to bring one back home as a souvenir. I tried to imagine how beautiful my Friday evening tables could be decorated with a different choice of flowers from that market. With the head in clouds, I noticed that I was at the end of the market, in another area with cheese shops. 




During the preparation of the trip, I asked people familiar with the city what I should not miss and was repeatedly encouraged to visit Rijksmuseum. I chose it as the final stop of this Amsterdam trip Amsterdam and I may say it was a rewarding choice. Recently re-opened, it covers not only the history of the Netherlands, but also a good slice of the history of humanity. I am a passionate lover of the Dutch paintings and I was able to see here the most beautiful exponents, including Vermeer, explained in the most comprehensive way for a non-expert. Most rooms are dedicated to the daily life in the country across centuries, displaying impressive collections of lockers and keys, weapons, porcelain, toys or boats, among others. The museum was overcrowded and it was sometimes hard to find the best spot for a good view on a painting, but totally worth the three full hours spent there.

It was about time to run to catch our Eurolines bus. Keen to keep the cultural mood from the museum, we returned to Central Station through Nieuwe Spiegelstraat, the best place to find galleries, antique shops and fashion and jewellery created by local artists.

Good bye fancy green boats with flowers and yellow buildings! You finally have my heart! 

For more visual insights of my trip to Amsterdam, have a look at my Pinterest board:

Hostel Review: Living on Amicitia boat in Amsterdam


Amsterdam offers a wide array of possibilities in terms of accommodation, for every budget and preferences and I wish I had more time to explore at least two more places. However, having in mind a very short stay and curious to try something completely new, I decided to spend one night on a boat. Amicitia Hostel boat. The decision to spend the night on a boat was took considering another travel plan I have in my mind. I suffer of seasick and thus all my cruise plans were a failure. As I am sure it has something psychological too, I should start getting used with boats and life on a boat and on water in general.

The hostel can be reached within 15 minutes maximum from the Central Station. From there, there are a lot of opportunities to get connected to the main city attractions. It situated in an area with other hostel boats, relatively far away from the busy streets so you have the guarantee of an undisturbed sleep. Image

The boat is relatively small, with 16 cabins with 2 single bunks and only 1 cabin with 4. There are 5 toilets and 5 showers, a space for laundry and a small lobby for breakfast and reception. The rooms are relatively small, with a sink and a small closet. When in your room, you better go in your bed and try spending the rest of your evening there as you don’t have where to go. You can easily check your e-mail, as free wi-fi is offered on board. The speed is quite good and I was able to do a lot of work on my small piece of bunk. Due to the very limited amount of space, I am not sure I would have been able to resist too much there, but Amsterdam is not the city where you plan to spend time in your ‘room’.

Everything is relatively clean and during my stay the boat was decently quiet. The residents were people from different countries and ages, single or couples, with or without children. The weather was also good, without too much wind but probably during stormy days, one can have the real shaking sea experience (said the scared seasick me).

Shortly after I made the reservation, a couple of weeks in advance, I received an e-mail explaining the directions and how I can enter in case that I arrive too late. The check-in was very fast, and received a lot of support for orientation through the city, plus a free map.

The breakfast is included in the price, but did not have a taste on it. I had a look early in the morning and saw some cornflakes, jams, fruits juice, a balanced offer.

The next time I will be in Amsterdam I plan to test different categories of hotels as the offer is impressive, so not sure I will return on Amicitia. I can recommend it to anyone interested to spend a short sleep in the city, at a very good price and in a quiet area. Their customer service is highly appreciated.

On the road with MeinFernbus


With the prices of trains sky rocketing from a year to another, the bus transportation is an affordable opportunity in Germany, for long or short distances, for addicted travelers and tourists or for families. Compared with the train policies, the buses don’t offer (yet) discounts to regular customers and it may take longer to go from a place to another, but when the budget is limited and the hunger for trips big, the bus is the easiest way to turn your dreams into travel reality.

In the last years, many bus companies were created in Germany, and operate at regional or country level. MeinFernbus developed an extended network created in around 3 years of service and operates routes more than once the day. Thus, if you want to return the same day, most probably you can do it with a decent timing too. The perfect solution for one-day travelers as me.

The reservations can be done and paid online (PayPal is also accepted as a payment method), and the prices are more than affordable. The average investment is of around 50 Eur. pro person, two-ways. You can eventually find a good price on Deutsche Bahn, but not on a regular basis and for sure not from a day to another. Upon arrival the bus tickets are checked on a nerdy looking electronic device and in case that you forgot to print your ticket, you still can get your place with any identification document. 

During my 3×2 trips with their buses, I loved a lot the warm welcome on board and the polite bus drivers, plus the clean chairs and restrooms. You can use freely the WLAN on board with a good speed. The only problem that may be encountered in some cases is the lack or scarcity of plugs for recharging the computer. Each time I went with a different type of bus. The one from Bayreuth that arrived via Zuerich, for instance, was a double-decker bus, with tables and enough spaces to rest your feet. 

When you buy your ticket, you leave your cell phone and thus, in case the bus is later, you will be announced by SMS at least one hour in advance about the inconvenience. I was lucky enough to be twice earlier back to Berlin than expected though.

I will open heartily recommend to anyone interested to discover Germany by bus, for the technical performances and the green policies and the facilities on board, but first and foremost for the professional customer service. You can also find English speakers to offer a basic help and assistance. 

MeinFernbus kindly supported my trips to Bremen, Heidelberg and Bayreuth, part of my project ‘100 Places to See in Germany’. The opinions are, as usual, my owns. 

The colours of the autumn in Bayreuth



I am not at all passionate about (any kind of) opera, and my knowledge is limited to some experiences as a child being brought to listen to some Verdi. I don’t have any curiosity to listen to Wagner. But I’ve found challenging for my project ‘100 Places to See in Germany’ to discover the branding ideas that puts the city on the map of European culture. I was not disappointed in my researches: As expected, everything is prepared in detail and the steps of the eventually confused visitors are always brought to the right ‘Wagnerian’ destination. All you have to do is to watch the red circles with a stylish ‘W’ in the middle. 

As I already said, I do not listen to Wagner, but I know something about his works and life. The names of his works and members of the family, written in Gotish characters, were assigned to streets and drugstores (Parsifal Apotheke) and restaurants. My first stop of the trip was to the Festspiele, the place where every year cultural and political VIPs want to be seen on the red carpet for the opening of the international opera festival. Together with other groups of tourists, I made a tour around the building, disappointed that the next tour was too late for allowing me to see with my own eyes what is considered the biggest Opera stage in the world. From outside, everything looks modest and if not the good positioning – on a hill that made the building seen from afar – I would not have been too curious to run around 20 minutes from the train Central Station to see it. Near Festpiele, an exhibition ‘Wagner and the Jews’, outlining the careers of the Jews associated with the works of the composer some of them openly anti-Semites. Most of them ended up leaving Germany or murdered in the concentration camps. 

The colours of the (still) green autumn brought more life into the landscape and I was happy to end up my opera exploration with a long walk in the park nearby. I took a longer walk till the center of the city, observing the grey architecture, punctured only by the colourful flower pots and some windows stylish decorations.




The main square was overcrowded with an exhibition of old cars. Many shops were open and people were busy shopping. Besides the many flowers and green corners not necessarily recommended in any of the guidebooks I’ve read while preparing the trip, I also discovered many chocolate and tea shops. From one, I brought home a Mexican green tea, fully flavoured. I did not see too many German restaurants, but many Asian, Turkish and even Mexican ones. 




Another personality associated with Bayreuth is Jean Paul. Originally Johann Paul Friedrich Richter, he chose this city as his residence and source of inspiration for some of his works. At the time, he was considered one of the most creative and imaginative writers in Upper Franconia. Corners of the city are described in many of his works that I would be curious to read one day. A square dominated by his statue bears his name. I went to the small museum dedicated to his work: I got the details about him in the most accessible way; the information are set up in a smart and simple way, without too much emphasis and sophistication. 




The best place I liked in Bayreuth was the Neues Schloss, the former residence of the Margrave of Brandenburg-Bayreuth. Before entering the big park populated with mythological figures I had the chance of a mini-tour of the castle, where I saw not only an impressive collection of paintings, mostly landscapes and works of Dutch masters, but also an old bathtube and a small cave made of small and big shells used as a relaxation space. The main plans of the castle, especially the rococo decorations, are the result of the inspiration of Wilhelmine of Prussia, the older sister of Frederick the Great married with Frederick of Hohenzollern, the margrave of Brandenburg-Bayreuth. She is the one who succeeded to turn Bayreuth into an intellectual capital city of the empire. Voltaire was one of her frequent visitors at the castle that was designed having in mind the glorious Versailles. 





The visit at the castle made me long for more arts and I was given the opportunity to encourage some temptations by visiting the Museum of Contemporary Art, situated in the old 15th century townhall building. I enjoyed some modern arts from the collection of Patrick Ireland/Brian O’Doherty featuring the American art after 1945. A bonus, an exhibition about the history of tobacco, a habit I gave up a couple of years ago, but still interested to explore from a sociological point of view.  

I spent my last 2 hours in Bayreuth continuing the exploration of the local tea shops and observing the busy locals. A colourful autumn sky and the smell of wet leaves made the best of my trip. Such corners of nature are more genuine and easy to fell in love with than a complicated opera. 

For more visual insights about Bayreuth, check my Pinterest board:

This trip was kindly supported by MeinFernbus, but the opinions are as usual, my own. 

Discovering Heidelberg: what you can do when you are not a philosopher

Once upon a time, in high-school I was a bit interested in philosophy for a while and Heidelberg was very often mentioned as one of the most important destinations in Europe for those interested to become experts in talking about wisdom and abstract thinking. I gave up such preoccupations, but the same Heidelberg re-appeared into my intellectual world during my history studies, as an important benchmark in the evolution of universities in Germany.
As for me, years after I finished my non-philosophical academic dreams, I arrived in town with MeinFernbus at the end of a journey of around 8 hours, with a slight headache and a bit nervous after I’ve seen my not very inviting accommodation.


The first thing that caught my eye shortly upon arrival with the bus from the train station was a local festival held in the central square near the main building of the university, with a couple of tattooed musicians singing on a stage a mixture of Celtic/Baroque rock music. I explored the stands with various local products and decided to buy a cup of Moroccan spicy coffee that brought my energy back and help me to get rid of my headache for a while.

The weather was gorgeous and the streets were full of tourists and students from all over the world, shopping or sipping beers or coffees in the front of the open stores or coffee houses.


The city is split by the Neckar river, than brings in towns regularly groups of cruising tourists. On the other side of the old bridge first built in the 13th century there is not too much action: only big classical mansions, some of them research institutes with green gardens and a curtain of quietness. The next day, I would explore this part of the city early in the morning, looking to find the famous Philosophenweg/The Philosophers Walk, a 2km long way preferred by the big humanists for their long discussions about concepts and life questions. Till the 19th century, it used to be an area full of vineyards, but once the population expanded, more constructions were built. Early in the morning, it is the perfect place to do a quiet jogging.


The bridge is always busy regardless of the moment of the day, with tourists taking pictures, or students biking fast from a place to another. The hills were still green in the middle of September, with a fresh air that was not affected by the industry activity in the areas around. The predominant sectors area education and tourism and this is reflected in the big number of hotels that can be found in various locations in town.


After a couple of hours of walking around the city, I started to associate Heidelberg with a strong French ambiance, and this is not only because of the many restaurants and coffees with a French/Parisian even, flair. As in most German cities, you can easily find Indian, Japanese, Thai or German restaurants and bars.
While doing research for this next stop of my 100 Places to See in Germany, I found some old travel memories of Mark Twain, who also visited the city. He outlined though the socialization role played by the different old German breweries – many of them still open till late. What I could not find was the old ambiance, of students ready at any moment to fight their honour or for any other reason in duels. But my imagination was strong enough to imagine where those duels were held, most probably in the dark corners of the small streets from the old city.


After almost 40 places seen in both sides of Germany, I may say that I will always prefer the coherent architecture of the old Western Germany towns. They are more put together and after the war, many were completely renovated and brought close to the former glory. This can be seen very clear in the case of Heidelberg.


Mark Twain said that if you really want to understand Heidelberg, you should walk the old city during the night and to admire the play of light and dark projected by the old castle. I did not follow the advice as I wanted to rest a bit more than usual and fight successfully my headache, but early in the morning the next day I was up and ready to conquer the castle. I always prefer to discover a city early in the morning, observing how the light of the day give life to the nature and buildings, so I think it was a very good choice.
A full tour of the castle can last around 6 hours, but I decided to use the leaflets and my own curiosity and explore it on my own. In the yard, the Pharmacy Museum can be visited, but on Monday morning when I was there, it was closed. A pity, as I would be curious to read and learn more about the history of medicine and pharmacy in Germany.
The castle is intentionally left as a partial ruin. It was erected in the 14th century and was permanently modified since, hence the eclectic style where one can clearly read the whole history of European architecture only watching the walls. Destroyed partially during the 30 Years War, it was never fully restored, but the ruins served as inspiration for many Romantic writers and philosophers.
The castle can be reached too through a small funicular, but I preferred to walk and have a stop in the gardens around, where Goethe also spent some time. He was only one of the many that spend more or less time here. After a while, it is hard to keep the count of the many personalities associated with Heidelberg: from Jaspers to Hegel, Heidegger and Hannah Arendt and Habermas, or even Muhammad Iqbal, Pakistan’s national poet.


After too much history and serious architecture I needed to restore my easygoing spirit. I was ready for some naive art, which is not always the case. Museum Haus Cajeth has a good collection of ‘primitive art’, with works by Albert Schmidt, Pellegrino Vignali or Giovanni Concettoni. ‘The most striking quality common to all primitive art is its intensive vitality’ said Henry Moore. The works I’ve seen there, among them the exhibition of a Polish peasant artist Katarzyna Gawlowa kindly introduced to me by the representative of the museum are not necessarily the work of highly educated artists, but of people with a drive to express their view of the world through colours, even though they can hardly read or write.


More and more tourists entered the center of the town shortly before midday and I was tired enough to have a stop and a big cup of coffee, and some sweet treats for some more energy for the rest of the day. Following a group of English speaking tourists, I entered the inviting Chocolate Company where I was pleased by the best cappuccino of the month and a very good service, with English speaking welcoming personnel. I added on my tasting plate: umani chocolate, a piece of citrus marzipan, a jasmin tea flavour and a piece of salty caramel. The choco lovers can find a diversity of tastes for their chocolates, such as vanilla, ginger, strawberries, pink pepper, energy boost, sweet bubble. If you love more about the sweet side of Heidelberg, you can check when the next choco tour is organized and thus you can have a wider perspective of a hidden sweet local gem.


What can better put an end to a very intense trip than a visit at the local Zoo? My plan was also to go to the Botanical Gardens, situated relatively close, but I was out of time. However, I discovered that at the Zoo there were a couple of botanical selections as well, among which the delicate Hibiscus/Rose of Sharon. It was feeding time when I arrived and many of the animals were busy. The zoo offers a lot of observation points – the elephants, for instance, can be observed closely from a wooden stand, safari-style – and an impressive number of residents from Africa and Latin America. My favourite discoveries were the small clawed otter, the purple glossy starling, the always busy Banded Armadillo, the Madagascar ring tailed raccoon. And many others. Note to self: spend some more time in the natural paradises, not only in zoos.

After this exploration of the animal world I went with a lighted spirit to my bus station, ready to enjoy some more quiet hours reading in the bus. I finally visited Heidelberg, but I discovered much more than I initially expected. Call it another example of the serendipity of travel.

For more visual insights about Heidelberg, check my Pinterest board:

The trip was kindly supported by MeinFernbus, but the opinions are, as usual, my own.

Lessons learned of my last travels

I am happy to be back home, after a couple of days of intensive travel in Europe, discovering by foot and through rain two ‘A’ cities: Amsterdam and Antwerp. I have a lot of travel stories ready to post in the next days, or at least till my next trip, and promise to be a very active blogger the next days.

Till then, there are a couple of cold lessons learned from my last trips, that I want to share:

– Always get in touch with the hotel before arrival, especially if you expect to be there after 3-4 pm. Especially for the small residencies with more locations spread through the city, being sure that you can find someone at the reception will save a significant amount of energy and time.

– When you want to get the special press discounts at museums, you better check carefully the website and drop an e-mail to the people in charge with the press to ask if they will let you in at a discounted price.

– When you arrive late in town and you want to go to a special restaurant, don’t assume it will be open for you just because they were sure that one day you will finally decide to honour them with a ‘hello’.

– When you need to travel with local and inter-country connections, it is better to: 1. know exactly when and where do you want to go at least 4 days in advance; 2. buy the ticket online, for a better price and time management.

– When your train is more than one hour late – and you are left in the middle of the Netherlands due to some uninspired person that decided to jump in the front of the train before you passed by -, you are assigned to request compensations.

– Checking some basic information about places generally considered ‘pricey’ is a smart step to have a good financial planning. Some learn it in primary school, but it is never too late to start learning something new and useful.

– When your wifi connection fails more than once and you are supposed to work at least one hour the day online, you should visit your PC doctor before your next trip. Maybe your firewall policies are too strict, or who knows what you’ve done (again) to your poor computer.

Compared to other occasions, I did not encounter any weather-related problems, especially because by accident, I forgot an old umbrella in my bag.

Keep an eye on my blog for more and more and more travel stories in the next hours and days!

Hotel Review: Hotel Blume, Heidelberg


Recommended as a ‘hip’ residence, the only big advantage of Blume Hotel is the location: close to the Central Station, the center and the Zoo. I cannot say the price or the advantages as for such a price, in more expensive places I can get a much better quality for less. Let’s start with the very beginning.

When you know that some of your visitors will arrive late, or can arrive late, it is a good idea to send them an e-mail and let them know how they can enter if nobody will wait at the reception. Or, at least, leave them a note, with the steps to be pursued to enter in possession of their key. I was able to enter my room only 20 minutes upon arrival, after calling a number mentioned for emergencies on one of the doors. Welcome!


I got into my room after walking a dusty hall, with some artificial flowers – Blume means ‘flower’ in German. The entire building looks like a reconditioned hospital or factory, or something in between. The room was big, maybe too big, but at least one welcoming sign was waiting for me: a bottle of water from a local spring. The sheets were clean, but relatively worn out.

A little desk was hidden in a corner with a cable presumably for the Internet connection, but, surprise, as no one gave me any specific indications about the password and any details, I was not able to use the Internet. Big issue, as the access to wifi was an important reason to consider in booking the room. I was revealed some details the next days, but was too late.


The restroom is looking well, with some soaps and shampoos offered in a little basket.


The room can be a good choice for those travelling with big luggage. It is a lot of improvisation in the furniture, room and lobby decorations, but without too much passion to make things looking good and inviting, even without a significant investment. Everything look cheap and if you like to stay, it’s your choice. In other words, no one invite you to really enjoy the experience of your stay there.


To be honest, the balcony is the best place to spend your time there: big, with a table to take the breakfast in the morning or to read while sipping your coffee.

The next morning, after a self-imposed long sleep and a headache from the evening before, I checked the breakfast facilities. The same impression of things done because should be done, not because there is a pleasure to do it and make other people feel better. The menu: an omelette, a coffee, some fresh juice and cheese. I checked out as soon as possible and went out to save my day in Heidelberg.