Tech-‘no’ and the Berlin Wall

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We had been anticipating Berlin for some time, but had no idea what was in store for us. We were lucky to be hosted by Luke’s gracious cousin Ariana, in the hip, up-and-coming Wedding area.

We knew that one of the main things we wanted to do in Berlin was to taste some of their famous nightlife. Berlin is home to many techno legends and also to Berghain, a super-hard-to-get-into, cool-kids-only techno warehouse that is known for partying nonstop from Friday evening until Monday morning.

First, we took in a walking tour and tried some of Berlin’s famous dishes. Of course, I wanted to try the Doner and see how it differed from Nova Scotia’s Donair. While both have the same sort of concept, I must say that the taste was completely different. We loved sitting in the street and sampling some of the great restaurants. We also spent the day at the lake with all the locals, sunbathing and cooling off in the water. We enjoyed some meat and bread in a mini picnic before heading home as the sun went down.

In the evening, we all went out for a night on the town, Berlin style. We headed to the club IMG_20150808_031454district and stopped off the subway to grab a drink on one of the stands that sells alcohol. It’s interesting and exciting being in a place where you can drink so freely. A breakout party had started on the street below, underneath a bridge where music was playing and people were dancing. It’s common to pop into corner stores on the way to a club to buy cheaper drinks before hitting your main event.

The following evening, Luke and I tried to get into Berghain. The club is well known, so it does attract a lot of tourists, which the bouncers hate. You can read all sorts of tips, but really, it’s up to the bouncers to decide if you make the cut. No one knows what they look for, but they’re rumoured to prefer you wearing all black, not be too young, preferably single… the list goes on and on. We waited in line for 45 minutes, and finally the bouncers did a string of “no’s” to about 15 people before stopping at us. We waited until it was our turn for judgment to be passed and after a few moments of consideration, we also got the dreaded headshake. For me, it was a huge disappointment (although sort of expected); I had gotten my hopes and excitement up. Ariana was quick to make me feel better, assuring me that she heard that usually only 40% of people who try to get in actually get in, therefore it wasn’t personal. Still, I’m a huge techno music fan and it sucked to get judged by a quick and brief look.

Moving on, we enjoyed walking through the artistic district of Berlin and experiencing the hipster culture. Berlin is so, so cool and has so much life to it. We walked along the Berlin Wall at sunset, which was so mesmerizing. Ariana’s father had been able to pass through the wall back in the day, so it was interesting to hear about his story and think about what people had went through at that time. It really wasn’t that long ago at all that the city was living through such a different reality.

Now that we’re home, I think of Berlin often and feel as if it would be the place I would feel the most at home. There was something so special about it, so unique and perfect, that it’s been calling my name ever since we left.

 

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Nature One: Partying in a NATO missile base

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I may have mentioned it before, but we are huge music fans with an even bigger love of music festivals. When we heard of Nature One, a massive electronic music festival held in a former NATO missile base in the middle of nowhere, Germany, we knew we had to go.

Let’s just say that two major camping festivals one week apart was less than ideal. We were exhausted and tired of camping. Also, it got so cold at night! I was dying for a warm bed. But, Nature One was unique and we were glad we experienced it.

As we were setting up our tent, music was already blasting from dozens of different areas. What makes this festival extra special is that the camping area is a nonstop party in and of itself. People bring speakers, full DJ equipment, lights, fog machines, kiddie pools, scaffolding for the speakers or partiers — you name it. One campsite had a 72-hour non-stop DJ lineup posted.  People go all night and all day. Yes, it’s impossible to sleep. We used our earplugs, but the bass pounding through the ground made sleeping a whole different struggle.

The festival offered free shuttles to the small town of Kastellaun, which allowed us to enjoy the cheap grocery store food and also allowed for a change of scenery. Nature One has the luxury of being very popular but not mainstream, which made for a very chill vibe. Instead of a horde of bros in body paint, we found true fans welcoming everyone with songs, chants and high fives.

Despite the lack of sleep, we were excited to venture through the 19 different stages of dance music. Some stages were on top of the bunkers and some were inside, others were set up inside giant tents in the back, and there were several huge open-air mainstages. We danced to trance, watched people go crazy to hardstyle, and we enjoyed some late night techno. Going into the bunkers to listen to pounding music was definitely a crazy experience. It was amazing to be able to see so many different music fans come together, enjoying one festival despite their different tastes.

Overall, despite being exhausted and camped-out, we loved Nature One and would highly recommend it to true music fans. Bring your tent, a warm blanket, and the best ear plugs and dancing shoes you’ve got.

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What’s not to love about Amsterdam?

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Writing about Amsterdam may be the hardest post to write. We loved it so much there, I don’t even know where to start. We spent a week in Amsterdam and it almost wasn’t long enough. It’s an incredibly romantic city with so much to see and do. It’s so clean with parks, bikes, and walking streets – getting lost is crucial to your time in Amsterdam. Towards the end of our time there, we daydreamed about moving there.

We were excited to go to Amsterdam for a number of reasons, some I won’t say here 😉 The beautiful canals, the people, the things to do, the parks, the food… it’s a little city that has it all.

Walking around was easy, as everything is pretty close together, and using the transit system was even easier. We spent half of our time in a hotel and half of our time in an apartment share we found on MyTwinPlace. This is a website where you can list your place and swap with other travellers for no cost (just a small insurance fee). We were lucky to get a beautiful apartment near the canal for three nights, all to ourselves!

IMG_20150716_113905Like Paris, we spent most of our time eating and having picnics. We loved waking up and getting breakfast at a grocery store to eat next to a canal. Eating in Europe is so cheap (and delicious) if you’re getting yogurt, fruits, and sandwich and salad stuff for small meals. This is one way we save a ton of money on our travels.

On the weekend, we went to a music festival called Electronic Family. It’s an all trance music festival during the day just outside of the downtown area in a huge park. The festival was really well done and we enjoyed seeing some of our favorite DJs. It had been almost a year since we experienced anything on a large scale, so we were happy campers.

IMG_0578We met up with my old friend Tim and his girlfriend and got to check out the Red Light district. The Red Light district is pretty cool to see, however also pretty packed with tourists. I didn’t like hearing people making fun of the working girls, so that was a downer on the experience. I’m not sure why people would go to the Red Light District just complain. We had nothing to complain about – many of the girls were bombshells and it’s cool to see the industry.

All in all, Amsterdam was an absolute highlight, and such a refreshing change of culture, atmosphere and ambience. For us, it would be our favourite city in Europe. Eventually, I would even find out that Amsterdam is where Luke had my engagement ring hand-made and designed, so we can carry our time in the city with us forever.

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A light show in Paris

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Finally, we’ve arrived in Europe! We had planned our Eurotrip for so long, it was surreal to finally touch down.

We had a tight budget for Europe, since a) we wanted to come home with savings and b) we had a lot planned. So, we turned to CouchSurfing for this leg of the trip. CouchSurfing is a website where people basically let you crash on their couch (or spare room) for free. It’s a great way to meet locals and see a different side to each city. Luckily, Kamil accepted our request, so we headed to his house, which was just outside of Paris.

Our first order of business: meat and cheese. As we headed out on day one, we stopped by the nearest bakery for croissants, then stocked up on various meats and cheeses at the grocery store. We had missed eating these sorts of luxuries in SE Asia! We had a picnic outside of the Louvre before heading in.

The Louvre was massive and definitely a bit overwhelming for us. We had no idea what we were doing as we wandered around. The Mona Lisa is a mob of people with selfie-sticks trying to catch a glimpse, which was disappointing. We walked around until our feet hurt and decided to head out for dinner.

We headed towards Montmartre area for dinner and loved walking around the IMG_20150713_183453cobblestone streets and visiting the “Love Wall”, which has “I love you” written in every language. We enjoyed a three-course prix fix dinner (which is a must-do in Paris) and grabbed some gelato for dessert.

At sunset, we headed up the Montmartre hill to see the birds-eye view and the stunning Sainte-Pierre church. There’s plenty of benches on the hill, perfect for relaxing and enjoying the sun go down. Just be careful of the scam artists trying to tie string onto your hands – they want money! And, as always, watch out for pickpockets.

The next day was Bastille Day, French National Holiday. We got lucky, since this meant it was the day they set off the iconic fireworks on top of the Eiffel Tower. We grabbed picnic stuff, a few bottles of wine, and set out our blanket early to get a good view. A orchestra played and there were people selling anything you needed, making it perfect for laying down and relaxing.

The fireworks were spectacular, which was to be expected. The orchestra played two songs synchronized to the fireworks, which was really beautiful. We’re not sure how we’ll ever be able to look at fireworks the same again.

Our trip in Paris was short, but it was the perfect amount of time for us. Walking around, enjoying bread and coffee, was a great welcome to Europe and what was to come for us.IMG_0397

Going out with a bang (and BIG NEWS)

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As our trip is coming to a close, I just wanted to interrupt our normal posts to share some special news.

We spent the day in the sun, wandering from town to town. Hvar Island, Croatia is filled with gorgeous, sleepy little towns all overlooking the water. We found some secluded beaches to go swimming at, and after a cute little dinner we headed up to the castle that’s perched at the top of the island. With a beautiful view of the city below, Luke set up the GoPro on a timer (like we often do). This time, however, I was in for a surprise.

It’s with extreme joy and happiness that I can say we’re now ENGAGED. We wanted to share it with all of our friends and family, and of course, our blog. This trip has been amazing, but if anything, it’s taught us how to live with each other, compromise, and put the other person first.

We’ve experienced so much on this trip and we’re looking forward to continuing to travel and see what this next chapter has to offer.

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We’re in Europe!

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Sorry for the hiatus! We have been travelling through Europe on a pretty tight schedule, which has left us tired and busy. In Asia, we had lots of time to relax and reflect but we haven’t given ourselves much down time during this leg of the trip.

Our itinerary so far has been Paris > Amsterdam > Brussels > Tomorrowland Festival > Germany > NatureOne Festival > More Germany > Prague > Budapest > Croatia for Sonus Festival > More Croatia.

We’ll be touching down in Halifax on September 8th after we finish driving down the coast of Croatia, finishing in Dubrovnic. Luke is excited to pretend he’s a cast member in the Game of Thrones, and I’m just hoping to catch the last rays of sun before the rainy East Coast of Canada.

Europe has been full of good food, best friends, and incredible music. We’re sad to leave, but excited to get home.

Updates soon!