My “Why” of travel.


I’m in the cab on my way to work as I write this and it’s a typical weekday. The thing about Uber-ing to work occasionally is that that it leaves me about an hour of some thinking space. 

As I sit here, I’m thinking about how any routine can bring with it a sense of mundanity in one’s life, a most typical example being the splitting of a week into “weekdays” and “weekends”. We all know how that goes. Usually for me there is a point where it all becomes way too saturated and I need something to break the monotony.

SO I TRAVEL.

Over the last few years it has become one of the biggest passions of my life. Travelling to me is like a breath of fresh air…it’s my way of meditation. Don’t get me wrong, I like my life. But everybody needs a break every now and then. Travel gives me a way to escape everyday life and enter temporarily into a new world that isn’t my own. There’s something about going to a new place and discovering new cultures and food and people that’s almost therapeutic to me. It feels like my eyes have been tired by pretty much the same sights and are now being treated to a grand buffet!

This is very cliché, but I’m personally very drawn to Europe. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit a significant number of times and I continue to be fascinated by the world that greets me there! I grew up reading fairytales and watching The Sound of Music, and so Europe is like a slice of heaven for me! A world where there are real castles and palaces where real Kings and Queens ruled! A place where small towns are scattered all around with houses that look like they’re made out of gingerbread. Towns have a town square with small and beautiful markets and sometimes there will be carousels and merry-go-rounds that are lit up so beautifully it makes you want to be a 5 year old again!

These kinds of things make you forget your real life for just that tiny window and you can discover some truly extraordinary things about yourself in this new world you have entered. It changes you as a person and leaves you with memories that no material goods can match up to. 

The way of travel differs from person to person but it’s never the wrong one. Whether you’re a party person, or a backpacker or you prefer comfort and peace or beaches or snow: it’s all good! Meet some people along the way and open yourself up to experiences that will change your life in so many ways! 

One can never truly understand the world you live in unless you go and see as much of it as you can. So travel. It’s the best way to let go of your inhibitions and have the courage live your life that little bit more 🙂 

Unconventional firsts — my time in Fairytale Strasbourg! 

First times to a new country are usually at the most predictable entry points, so a little departure from that was definitely something to look forward to!

I recently took my very first trip to France for a quick couple of days to a beautiful city called Strasbourg. Now this was not as a way to diss the usual French travel itineraries, but only because I was accompanying my dad while he attended to some business there. Strasbourg is a city that lies on the border between France and Germany, wherein the border is literally the river Rhine that separates the 2 countries.

Strasbourg lies in the Alsace region of France and is better known as the Christmas Capital of Europe, and probably the world. It boasts the oldest, largest and arguably the most beautiful Christmas markets in all of Europe. Needless to say, the peak tourist season here is from November all through December, when they city is at its absolute best and for all those winter travellers out there looking to hop between Christmas markets, this place should definitely be at the top of your list!

This is a pretty large city with a few renowned universities and is also the official seat of the European Parliament. This city has been like a ping pong ball that has been tossed about between France and Germany multiple times over the years and through the wars. Now officially a part of France, there is a definite and noticeable Germanic influence in the food, culture and architecture of this city.

The old town of Strasbourg known as “Petite France”


The biggest attraction of Strasbourg is definitely the old part of the city or the Altstadt that is known as “Petite France”. It is the old town centre and according to me, the most beautiful part of the city. It is like a page out of a fairytale with timbered 16th and 17th century houses, with seemingly gingerbread roofs and French windows! It bears a striking similarity to the quaint little towns in the Bavarian region of Germany and is the perfect meeting point of the 2 cultures. It is definitely where I spent about 90% of my time.

This part of town is made up of small, narrow lanes and winding cobblestoned streets, lined all the way with the beautiful houses. There is no scarcity of cafés where are you can sample some traditional Alsatian cuisine along with the local wines of the Alsace region. There are loads of patisseries, wine shops, Boulangeries and Fromageries (cheese shops) to ensure you always have your staple French ingredients at a stone’s throw. I would definitely suggest a quick look into a local deli to get a peek into some really good quality wine, cheese and bakes of this region, as supermarkets sell the ordinary everyday stuff.

The beautiful sights that greet you in Strasbourg

Sampling some Alsatian Riesling


Some local specialities of this region include Kugelhopf, a traditional bread in the shape of a crown that is infused with rum, raisins and cinnamon, Flammekuechen, which is a flatbread that is baked lightly with some cheese and bacon or even some vegetables, sort of like a thin crust pizza. Another notable specialty is Pain Episces, which is a dark bread heavily infused with rum and spices like cinnamon, cardamomand nutmeg and it is insanely delicious (definitely gets you into the Christmas spirit at any time :D). The local cheese is Munster, but it does have quite a strong odour and may not be everyone’s cup of tea as it’s quite strong in flavour as well.

Gingerbread, the traditional Christmas snack

Pain Episces on sale in a bakery

Kugelhopf


Alsatian cuisine is not the typical French food you would expect, and has distinctive German influences, like the heavy use of potatoes, mustard and sometimes even sausages. It is quite hearty food and you will usually get some cheese as a side dish with your entrees.

Cod with hollandaise sauce and wild rice

Tomato gazpacho with pesto toast

Duck confit with a savoury custard

Quinoa with shrimp and Rhine salmon

A salad with fried local cheese and mozzarella

Locally cured meats with potatoes and yogurt-créme fraiche


This being France, it goes without saying that there is NO scarcity of amazing patisseries and boulangeries at every few steps you take. The smell of freshly baked bread is intoxicating as you walk through the lanes and every second or third shop is a patisserie with beautiful window displays to lure you in and an even larger selection of the most delectable sugary treats inside. Food is a religion in France and it definitely shows in the way they treat their food and the sheer amount of respect and dedication they have towards it! Please leave your diets and ideas of eating healthy behind because if it’s healthy you are looking for, you’re definitely in the wrong country!

Easter special displays at a chocolaterie

Trying to choose desserts from ALL these choices!

Eclair with a mixed berry compote and fresh strawberry sorbet

Warm crépe au Nutella

Desserts at a local patisserie

French macarons!

Freshly baked bread at a boulangerie


A quick tip here is that if you don’t want to shell out 4-6 bucks on a glass of wine at a cafe, a great way to sample the local wine is to just keep a couple of bottles handy with you to enjoy at your leisure along the river or anywhere else since a small bottle of the local wines will set you back anywhere between 3-7 Euros only! A fresh loaf of bread, and you have your snack with your wine ready to go!

Another not-to-miss attraction in Strasbourg is the Cathedrale Notre Dame, which is also in the old town in the Place de la Cathedrale. It is the second largest gothic cathedral in France, after the Notre Dame in Paris. You can climb up all the way to the top which is something over 300 steps and get some fantastic views of the city, although I didn’t have enough time to do that. The cathedral is a notable work of art, with some impressive stained glass work on display inside. The cathedral is open from Tuesday to Sunday, although it is closed during service for tourists.

The beautiful Cathédrale Notre Dame


Some more sights to definitely see here are the Museum of Modern Art, the Palais Rohan next to the cathedral, the Park á l’Orangerie and for some fantastic views of Strasbourg, the Barrage Vauban. Batorama conducts boat rides on the river Ile daily and it is another great way to experience the beautiful architecture, both old and modern of Strasbourg. The Place St.Thomas has a daily market featuring some homemade Pain Episces, local cheese, cured meats and wines. There are also many weekly markets that you can visit to get a taste of local specialties and I highly recommend visiting at least one.

For anybody headed to France with a flexible itinerary, I would definitely urge you to add this beautiful city to your list of must-see’s. Although Christmas is THE time to visit Strasbourg, it still remains beautiful all year round and will surely make you feel like you are living in a fairytale!

Body or No-body? 

This post will go slightly off-track. I want to talk about an issue that deserves some serious attention. Something that has caused me a lot of pain my whole life. Body Shaming.

I have always had an issue with my weight. Whether it was internal or I was just a food-addict, or both I don’t know. But it has made sure that I have been judged for the way I look every step of my life. 

Usually these things start off when you’re a kid. Initially, people brushed it off because I was young, I was a kid. “Let her enjoy life” my parents thought. I was never obese, but definitely overweight. At a certain point, the occasional comments started coming my way. Nicknames based on weight, comparison with other kids who weren’t fat, “compliments” about how “healthy looking” I was. I never got too affected by it, I don’t know why, it never struck me what was happening was a teaser of what was to come for the next 10-15 years of my life. I was always a happy kid and maybe that was part of the problem. I was happy with myself. I didn’t think I was beautiful, but I didn’t think I was ugly. I’m not going to put all the blame on the world though, it was mostly me. My food choices led to my unusually fast weight gain, definitely. But let me tell you something…

THE WORLD IS CRUEL TO FAT PEOPLE. 

As a rule, fat people are a shunned part of the society just because they’re fat. I started feeling more and more self conscious. This ridicule, almost this sort-of hatred towards your kind, it doesn’t take long to turn into self-loathing. You want to feel better about yourself, but it’s hard, you try to lose weight. You try really hard, you even succeed sometimes, but more often than not, you fail. And the way to get over this failure lies inside a pizza box, or in a slice of cake or an entire tub of ice cream. A lot of times you end up back at square one. It sucks. That food is the only companion with whom, in those gut-wrenching moments, you find some momentary solace. 

When you go out with your friends, people notice the pretty ones. You feel like that ugly thing sitting at the table whose only use is to make everyone else look good. There will come a point when you stop going out, you stop exposing yourself to the world because, well, you feel like an eyesore. Right? Every time you take a bite of food in public,  you feel like the whole world is watching you, judging you. Your closest friends & family will crack jokes at your expense. All this not knowing that it is secretly tearing you apart inside, bit by bit. 

I know the feeling, I’ve had it for my whole life. 

It took me 24 years of my life to get to the point where I realised I wanna get better. And by get better I mean show the assholes who insulted me how wrong they were. When I realised I can’t take the ridicule anymore, and I’m the only one who can change my life. Being fat is not a crime. More often than not, it’s a condition. The only way to get over it is to learn to love yourself. You need to believe that you are VALID. It will change only when you stop hating yourself and when you set a goal for yourself. And when you hit that point, life will change. Life will start to get better. What you need, is someone who will understand your struggle and patiently help you get through it, even when you falter. It will be okay. 

For all the haters and body-shamers, you need to understand what your words of mockery and fat jokes do to people like me. They crush us inside. They make us feel like scum. For everybody who has ever judged and ridiculed someone for their weight, I hope you get to walk in their shoes once in your life. It may sound harsh, but it’s the only way you will ever understand what we go through. The body, fat or thin, doesn’t make the person. But the judgement can sure break them. Please find it in yourselves to show some kindness. 

Experiences.

I am a crazy foodie. When you go through pictures from any of my vacations, you will notice that about 75% of the pictures are of the food I ate along the way. It’s just who I am and I make no apologies for it. 

Food is one of the biggest influences of my life and definitely in my travels. But there’s something more to it, I think. It’s that most of the times, when I see a picture of something I ate when I travelled to a certain place, there’s often a memory attached to it.

Apfelstrudel


Take this picture. It’s a simple apple strudel, the most German of desserts and one my absolute favourites! When I look at this, I think of the time I took off for 3 days to Tübingen, Germany last year. It was amidst an extremely stressful week at work and the small vacation could not have come at a better time. I spent those days wandering about town, along the beautiful winding, cobblestoned streets, strolling through the small open-air markets, drinking hot chocolate because it was 4 degrees, and going for morning walks in the cold which ended in fresh baked German bread and steaming cups of coffee! I remember looking at this beautiful dessert and thinking, there couldn’t have been a better ending to that weekend. So you see, it’s not JUST a picture of food! 

This Nutella crépe reminds me of my day in Stuttgart when it was freeeezing and I wanted something warm to eat! I basically strung together the few basic German words I knew then to talk to the sweet lady making the crépes on the cart. She was so happy she said “I give you an extra spoonful of Nutella! But don’t tell anyone! 😉 ”  I mean, an extra spoonful of Nutella just about makes you day, doesn’t it? 🙂

Everybody has different ways of documenting their travel experiences, be it souvenirs, sketches or pictures of the sights. Mine happens to be through the my food I eat.  I feel like you can really touch the core of the culture at any place through its food and my love of food has helped me gain some beautiful everlasting memories. 

Why Singapore is place to eat. 

10 years ago you probably wouldn’t think of Singapore as a food paradise. You were probably right. But since then it has undergone a cosmic transformation. Asia has become the financial hub of the world   & as a result of this Singapore has seen a wave of immigrants who have come and settled there from all over the world!

Naturally this has brought with it food from every possible cuisine you can think of. You name it, you got it! It’s amazing the kind of options this small city/country offers people  – from the traditional Asian fares to wonderful French bistros, breweries, gastro pubs and even the classics like cheeseburgers and Italian comfort food! Yes, Singapore is also insanely expensive but that doesn’t limit your food options at all.

If you aren’t too fond of Asian food, let me give you a variety of other options to indulge in.

Head over to Marché for a traditional Swiss and overall European experience. Here we have lamb chops with a roast jacket potato


Tha amazing seafood paella at Marché is not to be missed !

 

One of my absolute favourites was getting cheeseburgers and cheese fries at Omakase which is a small outlet in the Wizma mall on Orchard road. It definitely gives a real American burger a run for its money!

 

One of the more swanky and unique places to try is Level 33 which is in the CBD and has a gourmet menu along with an in-house brewery. The biggest selling point though is the absolutely spectacular view it offers!

If you like experimenting with your food, try something offbeat like Escargot! This Picture is from a tiny little French bistro called Bruno’s in Katong . Their food is a must-try for French food lovers

You can always go back to basics like Italian anywhere in Singapore. There is a vast choice of Italian restaurant s serving up delicious food so when you crave comfort food go for a plate of spaghetti with meat ragout like me!

Now coming to desserts!!! There’s so many directions you can go! Top to bottom: these fresh fruit tarts at Fruit Paradise in Vivo City are my absolute favorite thing to eat, then there are your more decadent options like this amazing chocolate lava cake with vanilla bean ice cream, or a twist in the regulars with ice cream flavours like passion fruit, mocha and avocado!

No matter what your food preferences are, I assure you Singapore has you covered. This city is steadily building itself up to be an international food hub, attracting some truly brilliant talent. If food forms a major part of your travel, Singapore should be your next destination! Enjoy!

Roads untraveled: Tübingen am Neckar. 

Whoever you are..no matter where you come from..there will always be a country outside of your own that you will feel an instant connection with. France, Switzerland, Australia and what have you. For me, that’s dear old Germany. 

I first visited it in 2011 and I’ve fallen in love ever since. By some stroke of fate, I keep getting more and more chances to go back! Don’t get me wrong I’m not complaining at all! It’s funny, nobody ever teases you or thinks you’re crazy when you keep going back to Paris, because it’s Paris. So why can’t you experience that connection with another place? Germany is a country that is so friendly, open, diverse and unbelievably beautiful! It has something for everyone and it’s honestly one of the most tourist-friendly places in the world! 

Now I could go on and on about Germany; football matches on  the Fanmeile, Oktoberfest, sausages and all that stuff! But there’s a whole different charm I want to talk about on this post: German towns! 

If you were ever fond of fairy tales as a child, these small towns scattered all over germany are a dream come true for you! I had a chance to visit a quaint little town called Tübingen last year for a couple of days. Tübingen is a small student town in the state of Baden-Würtemmberg and is about 45 minutes away from Stuttgart. It’s the absolute perfect example of what a German town is. 

Mind you, I was going only for a couple of days amidst a particularly stressful week at work, so this trip could not have come at a better time! I went in the last week of September so it was quite cold, about 4-6 degrees celcius. But I kind of loved the cold weather because the pure, cool fresh air takes all of your stress away instantly!

Tübingen is called Tübingen am Neckar because it rests on the banks of the river Neckar. It’s population consists mostly of students as it is a university town. The best part of this town is the Altstadt, or the old town centre. The road leading up to it is full of winding, cobblestoned streets, in true European fashion, and every few steps you will find small cafés, fruit and cheese vendors and tiny little shops to do a quick round of  shopping. 


The Altstadt’s main attraction is the beautiful old town hall and the church that comes just before it. The town square (yes it is!), is studded with local cheese vendors, butcher stands and fruit vendors with the most gorgeous picks of the season 🙂 it’s the town version of a Farmer’s Market! The large number of students has brought along with it stores like H&M and Dunkin’ Donuts. But that’s not why you’re there! 



All 3 of my days started with waking up at 6.30 am for a brisk walk on the Neckarbrücke and ended with a steaming macchiato and fresh baked bread from the cafe across the street just as it was out of the oven 🙂  


If you are a city person, Stuttgart, one of Germany’s largest cities is only an hours train ride away. So you can quickly hop on and go see some of the tourist attractions like the Mercedes-Benz Museum and the Porsche museum and the 2 palaces in the city’s enter Schlossplatz. Also here is the largest shopping street in the city so great yourself! 


My evenings in Tübingen consisted of a nice cup of coffee in one of those cute little cafés and, in keeping with German traditions, a huge slice of the most delicious cakes freshly made each day. Contrary to the size of the town, there are quite a few bars and breweries around so you can have a nice pint to unwind in the evenings. If you feel like doing nothing else, grab a beer and drink sitting on the riverbank at night with the beautiful lit-up town and cool river breeze.



For people who love to vacation in cities and like to have active vacations, you may not want to come here in all honesty! But for all the others, take a trip on the path less traveled and experience a whole other side of Germany that will create unforgettable memories for you for the rest of your life! 

Swiss Bliss.

Welcome to one of the most expensive countries the world has to offer! Switzerland is one of those vacations that will definitely burn your pocket right up! Having said that, it will also be a trip that will leave you dumbfounded by its sheer beauty. Arguably Europe’s most beautiful country, Switzerland seems to be laid out like a picture-perfect postcard from end to end. Not an inch out of place! I’m not saying there’s no place more beautiful, but this will definitely be in the top 5 of that list.

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I’ve wanted to visit Switzerland for as long as I can remember, probably since the time I’ve seen DDLJ 😛 (don’t judge, all you romantics totally get me!). Yes, it’s the perfect honeymoon destination, but there’s plenty to see and do for families as well. While I visited for just about a week, it is very easy to stay for a couple of weeks or a month and still not be bored (if you have the money, that is!).

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DDLJ fields? 😀

The entire country is very well-connected by the public transport, so getting around really isn’t that much of a problem. But if I’m being honest, the best way to really see all that Switzerland has to offer is by road. It’s just easier to travel by car, simply because it gives you flexibility to travel at your own leisure and (now this I highly recommend!) maybe even take a small detour here and there 🙂

Remember all those pictures and movies you saw where you thought that such beauty is almost impossible? I guarantee you will never be happier to admit that you were wrong.

Immensely blessed by nature, the beautiful Swiss countryside is such a treat for the eyes and the soul that it’s very hard to feel anything but bliss when you see it all. Beautiful green pastures spread like a velvety carpet all across the country with its idyllic cottages strewn on the landscape with the magnificent Swiss Alps providing a breathtaking backdrop; it’s like an artist has painted a scenery on a canvas and struck perfection!  Cows graze happily along the lush green pastures will their cowbells tinkling away and every so often, church bells chime gloriously. I swear, there’s a point where you almost feel as if you were in the Sound of Music or Heidi or something, it’s just so surreal!

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The perfect Swiss countryside

For the most part of our stay, we stayed in Engelberg, which is a small town set at the foot of Mount Titlis.We drove to Engelberg from Zurich and took a small detour to Bern, which is the capital city. Bern is one of those cities that will transport you back in time with its old-world charm and stunning architecture and is a must-visit. It’s a perfect location, simply because Luzern and Interlaken are only a short drive away and make for good day trips. We decided to rent an apartment in Engelberg, which is slightly more expensive but it was beautifully placed in the countryside with a view of the Alps from every window in the place so it really is worth it. The best part was that it was a 5 minute-walk away from the cable cars that take you up to Mount Titlis, which is one of the most famous peaks in Switzerland. Spend a day up here as there are lots of really fun sports and activities to do up here.

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On top of Mount Titlis

Switzerland has over 1400 lakes spread out all over the country and each one is a sight as magnificent as the other. They make road-tripping across Switzerland worth your while and are perfectly situated surrounded by lush greenery and those beautiful Swiss houses. You can even take boat-rides along some of the larger lakes. And for all the Indians, there’s a Chopra lake in Switzerland in the Aplenrausch named after Yash Chopra himself because he shot so many times in Switzerland!

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One of the many beautiful lakes


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Lake Luzern and the 14th century Kapellbrücke

And now, let’s talk about the most obvious things everyone thinks about when you mention Switzerland — cheese, chocolates and watches. You can REEEEAALYYY indulge here, except maybe the watches because it might take up the entire budget of your trip and some more! 😛 But the chocolates and the cheese, YES. Being known as the world’s best chocolatiers is a matter of great pride for the Swiss and they take their art very seriously. You can choose from a horde of options – milk, white, dark, semi-sweet, center-filled etc. Swiss chocolates are beyond delicious and make really great gifts too. There are cheese and chocolate factories all over the country and you can take tours almost in all of them and they always end in tasting rooms! Switzerland also produces over 400 varieties of cheese so indulge in a traditional fondue or as an accompaniment with a glass of wine.

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Bern old city center (Altstadt)

I could go on and on! I know it’s really expensive and tends to really scare travelers away, but Switzerland is a plunge you should take at least once in your life. It’s not too often that you get to experience heaven on earth 🙂

 

 

Berlin Essen.

For me, food is one of the crucial components of any good vacation. And Berlin is no exception to this rule! There’s so much to choose from, especially when it comes to street food. For someone like me who lived in Berlin for 3 weeks as a student, budget is a primary concern.

Contrary to what you may think, the German capital is one the most budget-friendly cities to visit in Europe. And if you’re as non-fussy about your food as I am, Berlin will not disappoint!

Now, the obvious first choice here is CurryWurst. It is basically cut-up sausage with a spicy sauce and sprinkled with curry powder. And comes with a side of fries or “Pommes” which you are expected to drench in MAYONNAISE!!  I meaaannnn…..you really can’t go wrong here can you? Yes, this isn’t fine dining or out-of-the-box innovative food, but I can assure you that Currywurst lives in the heart of all Berliners! Also, paired with a cold pint of beer, this sets you back only about 5-6 Euros!

Currywurst

A close second if you want to start with traditional German food would be a Wiener Schnitzel. A schnitzel is actually a traditional Viennese delicacy and is a flattened slice of meat (usually veal or beef) which is coated with breadcrumbs and then fried. It is served with a lemon wedge and french fries, and sometimes with some cranberry preserve as I observed in a few places and makes for a massive and filling meal. Also light on the pocket, it costs about €5-10 per serving and will ensure you don’t eat for the next 4-5 hours!

schnitzel

Berlin has a lot of middle-eastern immigrants and hence the presence of the many Turkish restaurants all over the city and the Kebap carts. One of my absolute favorite street foods to dig into is Doner kebaps. Its basically a pita pocket stuffed with fresh veggies, a choice of sauces and in case of meat versions, rotisserie beef. All this for just  €5! There’s a whole basket of Middle-eastern street food options to try and they’re all delicious.  (Side Tip: These kebaps are the ideal food to grab after you’ve had a few beers or after a big night of partying!)

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Doner kebap

Now, BREAD!!! This is literally why I look forward to go to this country. I have never seen a place more obsessed with bread, and I’m not complaining! Bakeries open at 6.30 am on an average to serve out the freshest most gorgeous bread ever made! Bread is a staple in German cuisine and no meal is complete without the perfect kind of bread to go with it. The bread in Germany is so good it can be enjoyed as is or by slathering it with beautiful, silky unsalted butter and the most amazing jams and preserves to be produced on the planet! One of the best kinds I ever tried was a poppy-seed covered sweetbread. It may look a little un-inviting but I liked it so much that I had to go get another!  FullSizeRender

Surprisingly. Berlin is full of Italian restaurants and they’re all really good! Pizza is slowly beginning to out-do  Currywurst as the “Lieblingsessen” or favorite food of Berlin. There are a number of carts you can find all over the city serving up pizzas to go and at unbelievable rates. A 8-9″ pizza can cost as low as  €4! And it is enough for a meal for one! If you prefer not to eat your Italian food off a cart there are a variety of cute little family-owned restaurants where you can grab an excellent meal with a nice glass of Italian wine for about €15 per head on an average.

“Kaffee-Kuchen” (Coffee and Cake) is a typical German tradition. The portions are generous and prices low. Steinecke is a Brotmeisterei (Breadbakers) chain in Berlin and can be spotted as frequently as a Starbucks in USA. A slice of cheesecake that would be enough for dinner costs just €3! Streets are lined with bakeries everywhere you go, making it an easy snacking option. There is an array of pastries to choose from like custard-filled Danish to chocolate croissants to blueberry strudel kuchen. Some cafes like Einstein offer a treats like an “Irish coffee”, that has a shot of vodka in it as opposed to the traditional shot of whisky. And it goes perfectly with cake or strudel!

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Irish Coffee at Einstein Cafe

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Cherry Cream cake and Apple Strudel

Weekends bring a number of Farmers’ Markets to Berlin. They can be found in about 6-7 areas of the city and are hugely popular. Markets like these bring about delicious treats like crepe carts and homemade gelato and ice-cream stands! Everything is usually homemade and fresh so I would definitely put this on the agenda for the weekend.

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Fresh Nutella crepe!

Outdoor cafes and restaurants are quintessentially European. Summers are the perfect time to sit out and enjoy some good food and chilled beer. Although this doesn’t always classify as budget food, I love to eat this way at least a couple of times. It’s a great way to relax on a sunny day and treat yourself to some good food. One of the best meals I had was a sun-dried tomato and vegetable risotto topped with a filet of grilled salmon! These meals will not cost more than €20-22 per head with a drink included so please go for it 🙂 Another personal favorite was a popular local Berliner food called a “Tarte Flambe”. It’s basically a flat-bread pizza with simple toppings. The first one I tried was one my friend ordered which came topped with cream cheese, smoked salmon and chives. Very simple, fresh and absolutely delicious!

I’m someone who loves to snack on little pick-ins constantly when I travel. And I’m not too picky about what I eat. So my favorites are picking up some fruit from the fruit stands in Germany, especially because the fruits just LOOK so beautiful and inviting. I love snacking on a box of fresh berries (my favorite!) or even the sour cherries. There are pretzel vendors all over the place too for all you pretzel lovers. I once got some delicious natural frozen yogurt with fresh raspberry compote (only €2!) off a small little cart outside a store. berries

#GermanPunts begins!

image1So…BERLIN! I spent 3 weeks in this wonderful city in July of last year in probably what was the absolute hottest month of the year! The German capital is one of the most vibrant, fun, captivating cities to visit in Europe and is a popular destination with students and families alike.

The best time to visit Berlin is from April to the end of July as it’s the peak point of summer and weather conditions are very agreeable to outdoor activities and sightseeing. Berliners are outdoor people and you can find a whole range of outdoor activities here in the summer – from swimming in lakes in and around Berlin to the many outdoor bars or “Beach Bars” as they are known. Not to say that Berlin isn’t a winter destination – it is! Berlin hosts some of the best Christmas markets, or “Weihnachtsmarkts”  in all of Germany. There’s a whole range of activities from the annual Film Festival to the fashion shows in January. Also, Berlin has one of the best New Year’s Eve festivities in all of Germany. Berlin is a plethora of people of various ethnicities and nationalities and has something to offer for everybody. There are multiple food options available throughout the city and the street food will not cost you more that 5-7 bucks per meal per person, and is what I strongly recommend to everyone who wants to travel with a budget.

 

Some top things I recommend to do in Berlin:

Now, the top tourist attractions in Berlin are definitely worth a visit, but here are some activities that will help you feel like a real Berliner:

  1. Take a boat ride on the Spree: This is one of the absolute best ways to explore Berlin, or rather a part of it! The boat tour usually takes about an hour and shows you the historical sights of Berlin like the Berliner Dom, the Reichstag (German Parliament House), MuseumIsland etc                           .dom
  2. Alexanderplatz and the Fernsehturm: This is the largest square in the entire city and is lined with cafes and shopping outlets and is strictly a pedestrian zone. It is also where you can find the famous TV Tower, the tallest construction in Berlin and one of the most popular tourist attractions. There is also a rotating restaurant atop the TV Tower where you can enjoy panoramic views of the city.       IMG_0019-1024x1024
  3. Visit a Biergarten: You can’t go to Germany and NOT visit a Biergarten! That’s like going to Rome and not seeing the Colosseum! Berlin has an array of Biergartens all over the city. I recommend Prater, which is the oldest and most popular one in Berlin but it CAN get crowded and you may not always get a table so easily. Some other popular Biergartens are Golgatha, Bierhol Rudersdorf, Brachvogel etc.    beer
  4. Visit the Mauerpark Flea Market: The Mauerpark Flohmarkt is easily the most popular flea market in all of Berlin, being the oldest and the largest. It takes place every Sunday on Bernauer Strasse form 7 am to 5 pm. Here you can find everything from vintage  furniture to vinyl records, to clothes and shoes to funky jewelry, along with food stalls selling yummy treats to snack on while you explore this market. Entertain yourself with live music and an open-air karaoke that takes place on the field behind the market!                                                    flea 1 flea 2
  5. Take a tour that’s different: Now Berlin offers a variety of tours that are different than the usual hop-on hop-off ones. Bicycle tours are among the most popular with students and there are  variety of different routes you can take on each tour. There are walking tours as well, like the “Little Istanbul” walk that takes you through the Turkish neighborhood, where you can try a variety of Turkish delicacies.
  6. Hang out at Tiergarten: Tiergarten is one of the most popular parks in all of Berlin. Centrally located on the riverbank, it is the perfect place for a stroll or go for a jog or even get in a good game of football.  tiergarten
  7. Beach Bars: Contrary to the name, these are not bars located on an actual beach. Berliners are obsessed with the outdoors and these are bars you can find on the banks of the river Spree. Sit back on the grassy riverbank on a hot summer’s day and soak up some sun while sipping on chilled drinks!    beach bar
  8. Visit Tempelhof Airfield: This is one of the crown jewels of Berlin! In no other city will you find an abandoned airfield which was donated to the city as a picnic spot! Spanning over 300 acres, this is one of THE most popular parks in Berlin. Jogging, yoga, barbecues are some of the many activities Berliners enjoy at the airfield.               110504_1Jahr_tempelhofer_Freiheit_0b20ab195f
  9. The Burgermeister!: Now here is a treat for the soul that absolutely CANNOT be missed. The Burgermeister is a burger stand located at Schlesisches Tor station used to be a men’s urinal in the olden times (sound gross I know but it was really long ago!). This is unarguably the best and probably the most popular burger joint in all of Berlin. It doesn’t pop out of travel guides as one of the must-visit places in Berlin, but believe me, it will be one of the highlights of your trip. The burger of a lifetime will also be light on your pocket, because the most expensive burger with a drink will not set you back more than 10 bucks!    burger

More information to follow in the next post!

Hooked.

IMG_4910I think I always had the travel bug. It all started when my parents surprised me with a vacation to England 10 years ago to celebrate the end of my 10th grade exams, one of the many milestones of the Indian education system. This was really the first time I would be travelling so far away, the only other vacation abroad being to Singapore 2 years prior to this- and let’s face it; Singapore wasn’t then what it is now so obviously, I couldn’t contain my excitement for this one.

I remember that journey so well! My sister and I were travelling with our mother up to London together. 2 highlights of the flight – the wonderfully red – colored orange juice they served on the flight; and a point just about 15 minutes before the flights landed…and my mother turned to me and said “Look out the window…this is your first ever sight of Europe!” I didn’t realized how broad my smile was at that moment myself but I knew this was something special. You never forget that first moment and it was…….

Ever since my first time there, I have been fascinated by Europe and its all-consuming beauty. I have never seen a place so dreamy, like a page out of those fairy tales your parents read to you when you were a kid! I will take every chance I can get to see and travel around as much for Europe as possible. From the beautiful castles in Germany, the Waffle stands in Belgium, all the way to the Tower Bridge in London – there’s something magical that envelops you while walking on those cobblestone streets. It’s a love affair that will last forever and always leaves you asking for more.

That’s the thing about travel…it never ceases to amaze. So many different ways to travel to so many different places, and each time, unfalliably, you come back with memories that will more often than not, last you a lifetime. Of course there are some bad experiences as well, but they ARE experiences nonetheless. It helps shape your personality and who you are, it makes you smart and teaches you the ways of the world. The most important part – you always look amazing when you come back from a good vacation, no matter what the duration may have been. You look happier and de-stressed. It’s basically the excuse I use to travel whenever I can!

Over my next few posts. I want to share my travel experiences with you. I am only 24 years and my travelling days are anything but behind me, but I HAVE seen my fair share of the world and I have been hooked to each journey every minute of the way. This is my outlet to putting words to my memories. Travel is something that has gotten me out of some bad phases in life and given me a whole new perspective of looking at it and I hope it will do the some for you. So take a page out of my book, if it helps and go see the world!