After our whirlwind trip to Austria, I turned around and hopped on a plane to Amsterdam to meet Ashley for the weekend. And now I have a new city crush—Amsterdam is intoxicating and it has nothing to do with the city’s notorious drug inclinations. Every corner we turned around was picture perfect, with beautiful bridges, canals, windmills, bikes, and gabled houses everywhere. With the seemingly unending supply of cute cafés and shops, plus a very sunny weekend, I couldn’t help but imagine that our next move might be there. It helped that I was armed with some wonderful recommendations, only a few of which I was able to check off in my quick visit.
Back in Berlin we’ve had a unseasonably warm week, and so I am content with simply planning my next trip to Amsterdam, just an hours flight away! In the meantime, I have these scrumptious memories to keep me happy, and recommend to you.
When TH and I did our epic European backpacking trip four years ago, Istanbul was on our list but just a bit too far to travel to by train. We’ve been itching to go ever since, so when friends from New York mentioned they’d be there in October, we tagged along. I was surprised at how modern the city was, full of high fashion, convenient public transportation, trendy bars and cafés, and in many ways — both look and style — it felt a lot like San Francisco. We were lucky to meet our friend’s friends who live in the city and who shared their favorite things to do. Here are some photos — I took so many! — and a few tips on what to do when visiting the Turkish capital.
- Visit a Turkish bath, such as the 16th century Çemberlitaş Hamamı baths designed by Mimar Sinan, who also designed many of the city’s mosques.
- Enjoy a full Turkish breakfast, including the delicious kaymak, the Turkish version of clotted cream, and a scrambled eggs dish called menemen. Van Kahvaltı Evi is lovely, in the cute neighborhood Cihangir, also home to a number of vintage shops and boutiques.
- A visit to the Harem at the Tapkapi Palace is really worth it; the rooms are exquisitely designed and give a real taste of the beautiful Turkish architecture.
- Have a meal of mezzes, complete with a bottle of Turkish raki, an anise-flavored liquor. Sofyali 9 is a charming restaurant in Asmalımescit, where the waiters bring the dishes around on trays, such as pickled chard and grilled eggplant.
- The exhibit space at Salt Galata is small but quite interesting. And the museum, along with a cute café and research library, are in the former 19th century Imperial Ottoman Bank headquarters, a truly impressive building with an extensive exhibit detailing the history of the Ottoman Bank.
- Definitely enjoy a guilty pleasure snack of a wet burger, covered in a thin tomato sauce and steamed. You’ll find them all over the city, especially near Taksim Square.
- Visiting the city’s picturesque and monumental mosques is a must. Entering the Blue Mosque can be difficult to time because it is still used for prayer and is often closed to visitors, but there is no charge to enter when open. Hagia Sophia is beautiful but has a hefty entrance fee and is under extensive interior construction.
- For a fresh fish sandwich snack on the waterfront, head to the Galata Bridge. On one side you’ll see a number of flashy boats docked with cooks frying the fish onboard. On the other side there is a small fish market, with a few stands that cook the fish up. Either way the sandwiches are simple: fluffy bread, lightly charred fish, and lots of onion and lemon.
Last weekend TH and I took a last minute trip to Munich for Oktoberfest. Now last minute trips to Munich for Oktoberfest aren’t generally possible—the city gets over 6 million visitors for its 2 week beer fest, so hotels book up fast, usually a year in advance. But we were very lucky to have a friend of a friend offer to host us, and we found last minute bus tickets, so that was that.
Having lived in the slightly more southern towns of Mainz and Wiesbaden, I was really taken with the Bavarian culture. The Oktoberfest parade was so special; more than two hours of bands, costumes, horse-drawn carts, and performers walking trough the main streets of town celebrating their culture. I snapped so many photos. And although we had been told the fest tents would be packed on the first day and we wouldn’t get in, we were lucky to snag a seat and enjoyed our first massive 1 liter stein in the Löwenbräu tent on the first day of Oktoberfest!