Is Berlin still cool?

I first visited Berlin on a whirlwind Euro-tour, part of my first experience of Europe. It was hot, I was hungover but I enjoyed visiting the sites. We went out that night and from memory it was cool but still felt something was missing… I vowed to return. For some reason I still didn’t feel that I had gotten to know the “real Berlin”.

This time around, I actually made sure I took in the free walking tour that starts from the iconic Brandenburg Gate, which is a must-do.  I was one of those people who asked a random question amongst strangers just to show I was listening. The remaining 3 days were spent discovering the subculture scene: the bars and nooks of East Berlin. The closest I think one could get to “alternative Berlin” as a tourist.

People now say that Berlin is no longer as cool as it used to be. Maybe I’m not the best to make a judgement since I didn’t end up entering the infamous Berghain club that is one of the establishments that gave the city its reputation. In my defence my friends didn’t feel up to lining up at length at midnight in an attempt to get in and going solo didn’t seem an option. I did pass by the Berghain though in the day and from there wandered along a shrubby dirt path that opened up to a skatepark. The path was lined with squatters shunning ordinary life who were graffitiing in broad daylight… this to me exposed a Berlin that is still home to those refusing to confirm to societal norms. For some reason instead of being unappealing, it just seems to epitomise what it means to live on the fringe of society yet in a cool way..

Here are some other corners of Berlin that made an impression on me for its ‘coolness’ and just its amazing vibe in general.

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Do you think Berlin is still cool? What places make it an interesting place to visit or live?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

First World Problems Volunteering in Indonesia

Volunteering in Yogyakarta in Indonesia

 

Photo by Trey Ratcliff

“FIRST WORLD PROBLEMS”

This now everyday and overused saying never had so much significance until I went to Yogyakarta, Indonesia on a university summer program called DREaM (an abbreviation of Disaster, Research, Community Empowerment, and Microeconomics). The topic was ‘alternative education’ and alongside other students from over 30 different countries (all from Asia except for a handful of Australian and Dutch students) we went to the local university Universitas Gadja Madah, the oldest and largest state university in Indonesia, to sit in on lectures about different ways of learning before devised our own projects to apply in rural alternative education schools. We also had the opportunity to go on a number of cultural excursions to the amazing Borobudur and Prambanan temples before ending the internship by staying with a local family in their rural village for four days. The experience was one of the most memorable I have had so far while travelling.

Borobodur Temple Indonesia
Exploring the wonder of Borobudur Temple

Continue reading “First World Problems Volunteering in Indonesia”

Six Months in London

From freezing days and 3pm sunsets to now blue skies and 10pm daylight, a lot has changed over the last six months since I moved to London. Looking back at one of my earlier posts that marked the first month of living in Notting Hill, I realise so much has happened since then, not just with my travels but work (yes I do have a job!) and personal life as well. So I thought it was time to turn my reminiscing into words and put together a bit of a recap for you all.

TRAVEL LIFE

One of the biggest appeals of moving to London was the temptation and ease of travel compared to living in Sydney. Living on Europe’s doorstep and so close to Africa is something that I’ve definitely taken advantage of over the past six months. I’ve listed some of the destinations I have visited below, a few of which I have already written about and others that are still in the works. To be honest, time has gone so quickly and converting my travel journal notes and photos into enjoyable blog posts for you guys can be a bit of a juggling act! The closeness of destinations also means that I’m always thinking about a next trip or keeping an eye on free weekends and flight prices. My next adventure (leaving this weekend!) will be one of my biggest trips yet, taking me transatlantic for a two-week trip to the United States. Starting with a week in NYC and ending with a wedding on the West Coast, can’t wait to share it with you, stay tuned!

Places I have visited:

WORK LIFE

Besides what some people may think, I do work for a living! It just so happens that by a stroke of luck, this role has allowed me to go on two trips to Egypt to plan and host an international conference. While in London, I’ve been based in Mayfair (yes the Mayfair from Monopoly, just as flashy and corporate as you’d imagine) but also spent some time working from home in Notting Hill. I’ve delved into the world of start-ups and its community through friends and colleagues, and also been able to met other Londoners, locals and migrants, all on their own career path that involves facing the crazy peak hour commutes on the tube each day. London seems to be full of work opportunities but you also have to be savvy – and a bit lucky – to find the good ones. Generally, it does not pay as well as Australia either so you need to keep that in mind. Job roles are a lot more specialised here and having UK work experience under your belt really helps with career progression. One of the best things about working in London has been the friends I have made, who I would not have met otherwise working in Sydney. At my current job, our team is very international and in between working on issues related to Africa, my Portuguese colleague has also made sure we find time to search for the best Portuguese tarts in London!

FIT LIFE

One of the biggest challenges while living here has been trying to fill the void left by leaving my beloved fitness routine of F45 in the morning before work. Fitness classes can be pricey in London and finding something you like that fits your schedule and budget can be a little tricky. I have joined my local gym which I try to go to a few times a week (I do mainly pump and cycle classes) and I also play netball with an awesome mixed team on Tuesday evenings (I normally run or cycle to the games which is actually quicker than public transport!). While it’s always difficult to settle into a consistent routine, I did enjoy a trial week at F45 Tottenham Court Road and I’m planning to try Classpass with some of my friends who love it here to get back into it post America (and post all the bagels)!

Other than that, I’m enjoying the chance to try different things and found a new activity that is challenging, both physically and mentally, called bouldering. It’s basically rock climbing without a harness. I did it for the first time when visiting a friend in Norwich a few weeks ago and it was a lot of fun, not to mention your entire body gets a solid workout (you will feel it the next day!). It seems to be rapidly growing in the UK too so there are quite a few bouldering places or similar around London that I’m keen to check out.

FOOD LIFE

So still vegetarian and loving it but after spending much time during my first few months in London eating out and trying new restaurants, I’ve had to tame it back a bit after taking one too many bites out of my bank account! One of the best vegan/vegetarian spots I have discovered though has to be Bonnington Café. Located just a short walk from Vauxhall station, it’s a community café that has been around since the 80s and began as a venue for squatters. While the menu is simple, the homemade food is delicious and well-priced. It’s also BYO with no corkage charge.

Closer to home in Notting Hill, brunch is still one of my favourite things to do but every now and then I turn on the Masterchef mode and head to the Portobello Markets on Saturdays to buy some fresh produce from the local stalls and bread from Fabrique Bakery to create my own brunch. There are many cafés and restaurants in the area but having tried many of them, the best coffee I found is actually in a little café called Sweet Things just off Portobello Road. If you go during the week there’s normally an Australian girl there who manages the place and makes great coffee. The wifi is good with also power plugs on the tables, so I’ve spent a few days working there recently and rewarding myself with their carrot cake.