Green summer day in Briesetal

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This summer, my travel plans and dreams were strictly limited for a good reason. Which does not mean that I was easily convince to spend quiet weekends at home. Rather the opposite: I just use the opportunity to discover interesting things to do around Berlin. And I was rewarded with a lot of worth to share discoveries. Briesetal, for instance, is just 40 minutes away from Berlin. You take the train till Fronau and from there a couple of stations more a local bus till the city hall. From there, you just need to follow some of the arrows and start walking. DSC01204

We just started the travel day by following the yellow circle sign, leading us from small forests to small lakes with empty boats and white water lilies. Short arched bridges were guiding our steps till the next polite concrete paved path in the middle of the quiet trees. We met many other short time travellers, but we just passed by without not even looking to each other.

DSC01213For a little treat on a hot day, we made a stop at the Boddensee restaurant, a small wooden hotel surrounded by water. Waiters in uniforms welcomed us with a menu whose prices were worth at least a half shining of a Michelin star. Disappointed by the scarcity of our demands, they brought us the cold cokes and smiled when we left.DSC01218

But not for food experiences we were in Briesetal, but for more walking and deep breathing. Just took another 0.6 km tour around the lake Monchsee.DSC01225

There is a little bit more in Briesetal to see. For instance,some spectacular street art decorating the walls of a youth center.

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Or the interesting architecture of the main street, combining old high wooden balconies with modern cubic architecture.

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The shopping opportunities are minimal: the usual food supermarkets and some small local clothes or gardening businesses.DSC01237Without consumerist temptations, I keep documeting the green oasis, tooking just another concrete paved way. You don’t even need special shoes or previous special hiking training. DSC01252The next and last stop was in a small birch forest inspirely located on the Birkenwaldstrasse (birken means birch). The locals cleaning their cars or fixing their yard noticed us with a shy smile, enough to fell us less intruders.DSC01264

The forest continues through a short walk through a newly harvested wheat field. A large area with plain golden roots. On the sides, bushes of wild plants, aparently inspiring enough some street art artist.

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The rest of the trip we slowly walked the streets near Hohen Neundorf. Nothing especially to notice except the big houses with curious eyes not used apparently with expats talking a bit too loudly for this time of the afternoon. The discovery of a gladiola field, at Blumenfelde (flowers’ field) interrupted the monotony. You just need to leave some money in a box and make your own bouquet. I did never appreciate this type of flowers and chose to leave the flowers for someone really in need for some special decorations. In the middle of the overwhelming green, the richness of the colours reminded me how easy is to be happy with your lot, your travel lot,of course.

For more images from Briesetal, check the dedicated Pinterest board

Bikes, castles and the longing for the sea at Senftenberg

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The first time when I wanted to visit Senftenberg was following some short notice read in a newspaper regarding the castle there. As I feel that I neglected this noble side of travel, felt compelled to have this trip in mind for the next one day trip. But time passed and more than 10 days after this first acknowledgement only I was on the road with my Berlin Brandenburg Ticket in my pocket. After too many stops, I arrived at the train station, enoying the sunny Sunday.

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Right from the train station, arrows are heading the tourists to the historical area. As usual, I like to go off the beaten path and thus after I made a short turn from Bahnhofstrasse I ended up in the front of the Theater Neue Bühne, a local cultural institution sharing the building with a local high school, a Bauhaus style construction originally erected in the 1930s. Besides hosting the most important cultural events in the city, it also has a cadrillon (Glockenspiel) donated by the local Greek-German businessman Sokrate Giapapas.DSC00374As a reminder that Senftenberg used to be part of the former communist Germany, recently painted and renovated Plattenbau are surrounding the area.  DSC00376

I return on the main road, heading back to the historical area. Metal billboards presenting in medaillons old images from the city are creating a bridge between the modern present and the industrial past. DSC00381The locals are right now busy in the main square in the front of the historical city hall with an open air celebrations that involves, naturally, beer, a lot of music on the stages organized around and many shopping, including of local products. DSC00388But I do have my own travel agenda and this time I am decided to follow up the plan which has as top priority the visit at the castle. The first encounter is with the art gallery – Gallerie am Schloß – which is closed this time. DSC00392In order to arrive to the castle, I go through some long dark paths bordered by stone arches. Outside, one explore the fortification systems and the Bastion built in the second half of the 18th century. Wonder where a princess can hide here…DSC00398

Back to the light, right in the front of the entrance, there is not a white horse waiting, but an original bike model between two citizens. No prince today,  it seems.DSC00407

Let’s enjoy life then. The castle is hosting a temporary exhibition presenting various models of bikes from the beginning of their history till the communist Germany and beyond. Even not passionate about technique, you still can enjoy the cultural histories told by the bicycles. DSC00406The prototypes, some of them very interesting, especially if we think about the different models produced separately for men and women, are scattered among pieces of local history, many presenting local colourful costumes and interios of the interesting Sorb minority still living in the area. After the war, having a bike was the equivalent of having a horse in the time of the princes and princesses, hence the saying: If you have a bicycle, you are king. (Hast du ein Fahrrad, bist du ein König).DSC00408In a way, this two voices dialogue of various historical times makes sense. Senftenberg was part of the industrial area near Cottbus, providing energy for various industry. A mini-mine, another local activity, can be visited at the museum too. Nowadays, there is not too much of this past left, following the fall of communism and the resettling of the economic priorities. DSC00418The castle, displaying a simple and strict elegance that I encountered in many such residences in the North and Central part of Germany, also hosts an art collection of artists originally from the area.  DSC00422Outside, the gardens are more inviting and the preferred transit areas for the many biking routes across the city and the region.  DSC00430I am heading closer to the sea this time, with a short stop at the Tierpark, which was recommended as a local travel attraction. It can also be visited by bike, otherwise, it has a couple of funny residents, many of them welcoming their guests out of their little residences. If you are patient enough, you can even cross paths with some hurried peacock going fast who knows where.DSC00443With more than half of my to-do-list for the day covered, I am finally free to enjoy the quiet view of the lakes and the shaking boats.  DSC00446The best standpoint is the busy Pier Eins terrace, where I find a nice place near the water and get ready for at least two hours of doing nothing, except having a meal and probably an icecream too. My zen mood is troubled though by a waitress who just refused to take my two orders: a pasta, plus a special home made icecream. ‘Pasta is enough’, she kept saying and I feel like a disgusting hungry animal. After unsuccessful negotiation and the promise that I will pay here everything, she only bring me the pasta at the end, which are not as a huge portion as I might excepted: not too much oil, well boiled, with some interesting spices and the refreshing leaves of ruccola. I order also some fruity icecream after all, from another waitress, which does not have a spectacular taste, but keps me around the shore for the next half an hour.DSC00449For the siesta, I keep my eyes on the boats and walk around the shores. Besides bikes, also Segways can be rented and I promise to myself that one day I will be back in a good shape trying various healthy transportations during my trips too – not only cars, trains and airplanes. DSC00455There is so much nature around in Senftenberg, that I forget sometimes that some ugly former communist buildings are just around the corner.  DSC00460But not everyone is ready to take an aggressive distance to the communist (recent) past. Back in the historical area, the celebrations continue but people are more busy to check the good deals. Among the offers, former books and other popular objects from the time of the DDR, presented on a table decorated with the flag of the former communist Germany. DSC00465

My obligations of travel writer are bringing me to a different part of the city, where I can go only by walking around 20 minutes. No sea or nice sky at sight, only gas stations and some dusty buildings till I am in the garden city from the Brieske area.DSC00467It is a settlement built at the beginning of the 20th century for the workers involved in various industrial sectors in the area. Protected buildings from the end of the 1980s, the complex is considered an example of industrial architecture. DSC00471The quarter was provided, besides the buildings for the new industrial class, with a church, a shop, a school and kindergarden for children and big street whose cobblestones are kept in the original shape. DSC00475Nowadays a quiet residential area that was looking almost empty that Sunday afternoon, it has a strange architecture though, with very small windows attached to big walls and conic roofs that may look with the military metallic hats from the time of the Prussians.  DSC00483

There are regular guided tours introducing the area to the visitors, as well as a small museum that was closed at the late afternoon time of my visit. The anxious feeling of living in a big house with small windows can be balanced by the view of big yards connecting various buildings, a guarantee that some social life was in sight for the busy residents of the area.DSC00490

I keep developing my sociological consideration on the solitary way back to the center and after, on the way back to the central station waiting for my train back to Berlin. Maybe I did not find here a spectacular castle, worthy of a Disney movie, but at least I did enjoy the quietness of the waters and the sunny day and realized how much I am missing the sea. Plus, some party gang of international students dancing in the train. Life can offer funny things sometimes…

For more insights, photography and recommendations, check the dedicated Pinterest board: https://www.pinterest.com/ilanaontheroad/senftenberg/

Travel fatigue? Who, me?

The last leg of my summer trip: Kishinev, Republic of Moldova

The last leg of my summer trip: Kishinev, Republic of Moldova

Yesterday, I finally made it to the Easternmost European point: The Republic of Moldova, where I spent one full day in the company of the lovely young people of Kishinev. The happiness of finally being able to make true an old travel dream of mine was a bit diminished by the reality that my summer travels are done for now. In a long time, I spent an impressive amount of time on the road, that lasted for almost one month and started in the South of Germany, with the Danube city of Regensburg. It continued shortly after with Bodensee and the beautiful island of Mainau and its unforgettable flowers, continued with a little bit of my beloved Switzerland and the encounter with a well hidden secret: the beautiful Liechtenstein.

After a short weekend back in Berlin, I was back on the road again, this time direction Central and Eastern Europe, a region I know quite well but haven’t visited in a long time: after having my morning coffee in the sunny Prague, I landed for late dinner in Budapest. From there, I finally made it to the picturesque Szentendre and Visegrad – an unusual rainy day doesn’t diminish my pleasure of travel – after exploring intensively Budapest where I haven’t been in around 10 years.

The next stage of the adventure followed in Romania, where I’ve been to Timisoara, a city on my travel list for a long time, followed by a visit back in one of my childhood cities, Brasov, and a long stay in Bucharest, from where I am writing right now. From Bucharest, I took the (right) decision to pay a short visit to Kishinev, at the end of a 8-hour bus trip through the beautiful green countryside.

Beyond the accumulation of destinations, there is always a lot of work: planning the routes, setting up a travel schedule for covering topics – luxury and foodie including – of interest for my readers, but not missing the occasion to discover some unexpected locations. The time spent taking pictures and the long hours of later editing. Or moving from a location to another, using local transportation trying to use languages I thought were for long forgotten in my mind. More importantly, finding always time to meet friends and interacting with local people. Not forget about the real summer, with heat and dust, an experience that it seemed I almost forgot about it, after spending so many safe cold summers in Berlin.

Being for so long far away from the place I call right now home – the hectic city of Berlin, created certain discomfort: sometimes the Internet connection was slow – hence the low frequency of posts on the blog – sometimes I realized at the end of a busy day that I only kept myself busy meeting people talking about life without any ‘tourist’ touch of the schedule. I needed to cope with different eating habits – not too much cooking in the last weeks either – while trying to get used with new products and ingredients. But nothing compares with the pleasure of checking on my own the hectic markets, trying to avoid being impressed by all the sellers that invite me with their inspired words to buy their products. At least in the case of huge melons, couldn’t resist often the temptation…??????????Do I really miss my Berlin home? For my whole post-18 yo life, ‘home was where my heart was’, and most probably  this is how my life will always be. There is one place where I feel connected perfectly and permanently with my mind and soul and this is where my home will always be. A place where I am happy to return and whose people always make me smile. But at least for now, for very serious travel purposes, my home of adoption is Berlin and this is where I will return in a couple of days for catching up with writing, with more foodie and the expat life. From there will set up the next travel plans, because I am never tired of too much travel. I am feeling grateful for having the privilege of travel, knowing so many interesting and warm people, learning new languages and about new histories and cultures.

Meanwhile, my travel story will go on and on. Because I feel compelled to share my experiences and lessons learned. There will always be autumn and winter trips after the long summer travels.

 

My pros and cons of solo travel

As a rebel teenager I did a lot of solo travel, especially by bus or car in Europe, mostly in the Western Balkans and Eastern Europe. At the time, I had a very limited budget and going on my own was the only possibility to see a lot, in short time, while having the full control of my schedule.

However, little by little, I give up going on my own – and I also got a full time extraordinary job – discovering that I have enough friends and welcoming relatives all over the world that will always find time to share more or some time with me. Eventually, they will introduce me to more people and will guide me into the secrets of their places. Welcome in the world of social networks! Not too much solo travel left, except the moments of taking off when I needed to carefully set up my to-do-list. But compared with other travellers, I am not that strict when it comes to the planning of my adventures and I want to reserve a generous space to the surprise moments when I find unique corners and places not included in the famous guides or tours.

Nowadays, in most cases, I travel with family and especially during the summer it is lovely to have the opportunity to go together on a trip more or less planned. During the year, everyone of us has something to do and accommodating the free time is not always easy, especially after you’ve been repeatedly told that it is not accepted at all to take the kids out of the school for…a family trip. The feeling of taking your ticket and going in the train but not sure what are you going to do exactly and when you are supposed to go back. Somehow, the drop of adventure that the solo travel is always looking for is always here and I do not need too much to long after the free days when I did not find anyone brave enough to accompany me during my wanderings.

Professionally speaking, there it is always a good reason for me to do not travel solo. When I travel with someone else, I always can have a larger perspective on a specific place. For instance, checking and testing the opportunities offered for children, or finding out the best science museums or how the transportation network is working. I have more priorities on the list and I can discuss with the ‘gang’ what is good and not, what should I recommend and where some improvements would be welcomed. At a certain extent, everyone is involved somehow in my travel adventure and I love the feeling.

However, as a solo traveller – I noticed during my last trip to France, the first solo exploration in more than 2 years – I do have a lot of time for myself, and less constraints to spend as much time as I want doing what I want. I can stay without eating every 4 hours or I can walk 10 hours and explore neighbourhoods instead of succumbing to the pressure of the masses requiring a stop NOW.

And it is more than obvious, that the overall costs of a solo trip are less, from the transportation to accommodation, food and entertainment. 

But where is the fun to share memories and a laugh with someone you know? Of course you can start talking with people on the street and make new friends, especially if you are on a mission to improve at least a foreign language. Don’t forget though that this could be dangerous or you might look a bit lunatic though, especially if you are doing it in a very Western way in very conservative societies. 

As my travel plans are expanding and I love it, I see more solo travel coming up and I am ready for it. Especially because it means that I will feel guilty enough to plan more family and group trips in order to make happier those waiting for me at home.

A happy travel week everyone!

Ready for summer travel?

Many of us can’t wait the gorgeous summer time to plan and enjoy a pleasant time outside the usual schedule. It is time to travel, my friends and the world is big yet small that you can hardly find the time in the next time span of 1,000 years to see it all.

On the other hand, the public opinion is more and more sensitive about improving the quality of our trips. For instance, ecological travel is mentioned when it comes to finding the perfect ways for reducing the level of pollution. Let’s say: instead of flying from Berlin to Munich by plane, I prefer a more ecological solution and take the bus or the train. In this specific case, I will pay at least twice if I want to fly go by train and in addition, I should be ready to spend around 30 hours on the train. When time is precious, you prefer the fastest and cheapest solution, isn’t it?

Plus, when you want to reach far corners of the world, the air plane is not only the fastest, but also the most secure way of transportation. If I plan to go to Africa from anywhere in Europe, the transportation by train, boat or camels will not only require a complicated travel insurance configuration, but also many security warnings, as I might go through areas presenting specific safety risks. 

Long time ago I’ve dreamed about going to America on the boat, repeating the experience of many immigrants from Europe that tried to reach the shores of the New World in the 19th and 20th century. Shortly after a traumatic experience on a boat on the Mediterranean, when I lied sea-sick for hours, I decided that I should give up my Romantic experiences. I also dreamed about going by bike across Europe, but I decided that I should not use all my energy riding and I prefer to find a slow and practical way to see what I am interested.

Does it mean that I do not care about the environment? I do care and I try to reduce my footprint at home and reduce the pollution with simple steps and a healthy life. But I also think that if you love to travel, you should be happy to live in the 21st century, while trying to use this advantage wisely. 

Wish everyone a happy summer of travels!