Honeymoon

We left for our honeymoon the Monday following the wedding. We took a red eye direct from LAX to Panama City. The flight seemed to be pretty smooth, but right as we were anticipating landing we were told by the captain that due to weather conditions we’d have to land a little outside the city, wait half an hour and then be able to get into Panama. Four hours later we were still sitting on the tarmac in pouring rain. When we finally got word that we had permission to land we took off, spent less than 10 minutes in the air and then landed. I’m not sure how dramatically weather conditions changed from one location 10 minutes of air-time away from the other, but apparently it did. We were exhausted and little worried about how the rain was going to impact our vacation, but a smooth trip through customs, a quick taxi ride and an early check-in at the beautiful Tantalo Hotel helped to alleviate some of our tension. We grabbed lunch at the hotel which was located in the Casco Viejo district of Panama City and headed out to check the area out. The rain had let up, but it was HUMID. We tried to be good tourists, but were falling asleep on our feet. We headed back to the air conditioned hotel and took a glorious, long nap. That night we had a much more pleasant walk around the neighborhood, grabbed a cocktail at a swanky bar with a view of downtown Panama City and then headed back to the hotel to take advantage of their rooftop bar- also with killer views. It was a long day, but a good start to our honeymoon.
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The next day we decided to check out the Panama Canal before our afternoon flight to Bocas del Toro. The Canal is celebrating it’s 100th anniversary next year and is gearing up for a big expansion. We toured the Canal’s small museum and took in a short introductory 3D film. Most of the big liners don’t go through the canal until the afternoon, but we were lucky enough to witness a smaller boat (loaded with school children and traditional Panamanian dancers) make the journey. It was really interesting to read about the creation and completion of the Canal and we both though the museum literature made it pretty clear that the Panamanians weren’t too happy having the US manage the Canal for so long.  IMG_3986IMG_3985 IMG_4007 IMG_4013 IMG_4022Directly from the Panama Canal we headed over to the small Albrook airport for our short flight to Bocas del Toro. We had some amazing views of the islands from the plane and loved the “baggage claim” which consisted of one guy holding up each piece of luggage until someone claimed it. We grabbed our stuff, walked to the dock in town and hopped a boat over to Bastimentos where we were greeted at our hotel, The Firefly, with a rum punch and a cute welcome sign congratulating us on our marriage. A very sweet touch from the Firefly’s awesome owners, Lauren and Ryan. We checked into our room, had a quick swim in the ocean before the sun set and then enjoyed a delicious meal of fresh ceviche , green curry with shrimp and shrimp in peanut sauce. We were officially in honeymoon mode!

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We booked five nights at the Firefly and spent most of our time hanging out at the beach or reading on the big, comfy deck. On Bastimentos it’s almost impossible to go anywhere that doesn’t require a boat. We hired a boat on our first day to take us to Red Frog Beach and a few days later to check out Starfish Beach. The other days we took advantage of the ocean right outside our door, borrowing snorkels from the hotel or chose to relax on the deck. We wandered into Basti Town a few times, but it was too hot to stray from the water. We did meet and spend time with a few other travelers- we met a fun couple from Houston who we hung out with at Starfish Beach and a fellow New Englander who we caught one of the Red Sox playoff games with at a bar in town serving up American classics and $1 beers. It was a relaxing start to our honeymoon and we loved being in Bocas del Toro, but were excited to head into Costa Rica by the end of the week.

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We found a company called Caribe Shuttle to take us from Bocas into Costa Rica. They drove us to the border, dropped us and had another shuttle waiting on the other side. The border crossing was pretty easy, but a little sketchy. To get into Costa Rica one has to walk across an old, decrepit bridge. The people in front of us kept pausing to take pictures and at one point one of them stepped onto a piece of wood that fell out from under him and his shin had a pretty good gash in it. Definitely the sketchiest border crossing we’d ever encountered (well until Nicaragua, but we’ll get into that later…).

Sketchy Panama to Costa Rica BridgeThe shuttled dropped us off right at our next hotel in the beautiful town of Punta Uva. We stayed 3 nights in what was one of my favorite hotels of the trip, Korrigan Lodge. The lodge has just four private cabins, is located in the midst of a beautiful and wild jungle and is just a few hundred meters from the best beaches in the area. Our first morning in Punta Uva a herd of monkeys went swinging through the trees above us, two toucans flew by and we spotted a sloth on our way to the beach!

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Korrigan Lodge provided us the use of bicycles and we used them to explore the area. We visited the Jaguar Rescue Center and had a fantastic guide who introduced us to a bunch of local animals. All the animals at the Center were brought there by locals who found them injured or tried to raise them as pets and realized wild animals aren’t so easy to domesticate. We got to pet anteaters, raccoons, monkeys, deer and more. The Center was full of mostly uplifting stories, but also a few sad ones. We saw one owl the Center had rescued who refused to eat because her mate had died. They were working to nurse her back to health, but were still worried because this particular breed mates for life. In general we had a great visit. We learned a lot about the local fauna and had so much fun checking out all the animals.

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We logged in a lot of beach time and hammock time those first few days in Costa Rica. We also had some great meals in the area. Our favorite spot was El Refugio, where we had a delicious dinner of steak and octopus. We were initially worried a bit about the weather, but we lucked out. It only rained at night and when it rained it poured– perfect sleeping weather.

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Our time in Punta Uva flew by, but our next stop was just about an hour up the coast in Cahuita, so we had a few more ocean side days before starting our journey inland. We took a local bus from Punta Uva to Cahuita- a cheap and quick mode of transportation. We underestimated the walking portion of the journey however and ended up carrying all our luggage more than 3 kilometers down a dusty, dirt road to our next hotel. Sweating and blistered we were delighted to find a gorgeous pool and direct beach access and spent the rest of the day lounging and swimming.

IMG_0553We spent our final day on the Caribbean coast at Cahuita National Park. We spent the morning walking along the well maintained trails that provided a fantastic view of the ocean and ample opportunities to spot wildlife. We walked right past a sloth making his way down a tree. He was so close we could touch him! Right after that we spotted the famous white face monkeys. We even saw a baby clinging to the back of his mother. After a couple of hours we came to an area with picnic benches and a couple of snorkeling groups eating lunch. One of the guides pointed out a basilisk and a snake to us.  We sat down to enjoy some lunch and noticed that the monkeys we’d seen a little ways back had migrated to the well populated picnic area. Dave was holding a piece of bread in his hand talking to me when all of the sudden one of the monkeys ran up, put one hand on Dave’s knee and used the other hand to snatch the bread out of his hand! Obviously surprised he dropped the the rest of the bread and those bold monkeys kept coming back until every last crumb had been eaten! After our excitement with the monkeys we started our walk back and stopped at the beach for a refreshing swim and some reading. We spent the afternoon chilling by the pool and sipping on some beer. Great last day on the coast.

IMG_4417 IMG_4389 IMG_4398IMG_4380 IMG_4402 IMG_4427Saturday morning we began our trek across the country to the area of Arenal. We spent most of the day driving in the rain and were a little worried the rumors about the rainy season would hold true, but we ended up being pretty luck on the rain front during our stay in Arenal. We stayed at a sustainable rainforest ecolodge called Finca Luna Nueva and were one of the few guests at the Lodge. We spent our first day taking a tour of the working farm, hanging out by the pool and enjoying lots of delicious Costa Rican coffee in the rocking chairs at our bungalow.

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We rented a car for two days starting Monday and drove out to the Arenal Hanging Bridges. We hiked along the bridges, catching some views of the volcano (which until three years ago use to regularly erupt) through the clouds. Along the way we spotted some wild hogs and a couple of toucans.

IMG_4476 IMG_4471 IMG_0404 IMG_0698From the bridges we made our way to La Fortuna Waterfall. The rain was coming down pretty steadily when we got to the park so we debated if we should spend the $10/person to get in, but decided to go for. We were so happy we did. The hike to the waterfall was about 20 minutes straight down and when we got to the falls we were the only visitors at the site. We clambered out onto the rocks, stripped down to our suits and dove into the cold, powerful pool. The waterfall was so powerful that it was extremely challenging to swim away from the pool’s edge. We swam around the pool’s edge, looking up at the falling rain and watching the bats fly in and out of the cave behind the fall. La Fortuna Waterfall turned out to be one of the highlights of the honeymoon.

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The next day we took advantage of having the car and drove a couple hours north to Rio Celeste National Park. When we initially planned our honeymoon we thought about staying at a hotel near the park, but decided against it due to it’s location and price. We were very happy that we opted to visit the area though. The last part of the drive to the park is about 10 kilometers down a  BUMPY, dirt road. We parked and were one of two cars in the lot. The ranger in the information booth at the entrance recommended wearing rain boots if we had them and we were glad we did. The trail is about 7 kilometers roundtrip and even though we lucked out and had mostly sunny weather for our hike the ground was pretty muddy and the trail had a couple creeks you had to wade across to continue. We stopped for lunch a few kilometers in at the waterfall, which was just as gorgeous as La Fortuna, and then continued our hike to the mouth of the river. At the end of the trail you’re able to witness the spot where two rivers join and create the beautiful, misty blue color you see as you hike along Rio Celeste. The color change is due to a chemical reaction between sulfur and calcium carbonate. We stayed awhile to marvel at the natural surroundings before starting our trip back out of the park. Along the way we spotted some steam coming off the water and decided to take a dip in one of the natural hot springs. Our trip to Rio Celeste also made it onto our honeymoon highlight reel.

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Wednesday was our final day in the Arenal area and we decided to partake in a more traditional honeymoon activity by spending the day at one of the upscale hot spring resorts, Tabacon. We decided to kick the luxury up a notch and booked one night at the 5-star Tabacon hotel as well. This was mostly due to the fact that hotel guests get in free to the Hot Springs which are a steep $65 entry fee per person as it is, but it felt pretty nice to live in the lap of luxury for a day. We dropped our bags off in our room, changed into our suits and spent the rest of the morning and most of the early afternoon moving between the different temperature pools and lounging under waterfalls at the hot springs. 

IMG_4488 IMG_4505 IMG_4508 IMG_4495 IMG_4489 IMG_4532 IMG_4536 IMG_4545In the afternoon we headed back to the hotel for a nap and a were pleasantly surprised to find a congratulatory bottle of wine and a plate of fresh fruit waiting for us. We put on fluffy robes, popped the bubbly and toasted to married life. We decided to be decadent and order room service before heading back to the hot springs for a nighttime soak and to catch the World Series game 6 game at the pool bar. Dave was of course ecstatic that the Red Sox ended up closing the series out. It was another pretty perfect day.

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IMG_1026Thursday morning we woke up early to catch the first of four local buses we needed to take to make it from Arenal to the Nicaragua border. We needed to make it across the border and take a 30 minute cab ride to the city of Rivas by 5:45pm to make the last ferry to our next destination, Ometepe Island. We couldn’t believe our luck with the buses since literally no one could find us a timetable before hand, but we made all of them and were at the border just after 2:00pm. That’s where our good luck ended.  We made it through the exit counters at Costa Rica with no problem, but were stopped just inside the Nicaraguan border and told that Dave’s passport was unacceptable for entry. It was RIDICULOUS. The back page is peeling off a bit and the cover slightly frayed, but there was no damage to the photo page or the bar code every other country just scans to prove the passport is authentic. We attempted to argue and even resorted to buying glue from some “helpful bystanders”. The border patrol wouldn’t budge. We thought about trying to wait it out and see if we could enter once the current guards went off duty, but felt a little sketchy and we’d spotted a Tica Bus on the way to San Jose that had just crossed into Costa Rica. Thinking it was our best bet to get the hell away from that border we hurried back, crossed back through immigration and haggled with the bus driver to get a ride back to San Jose and the US Embassy. Six more hours of bus later we made it to San Jose and luckily had a hotel near the embassy reserved by my savior of a sister Madeline. We downed some much needed beers and crashed. The news the next morning from the Embassy was less than helpful however. They informed us that it takes up to 10 days to repair passports and Nicaragua is notorious for rejecting emergency passports. We then spent hours on the phone with United representatives because their website wouldn’t allow us to change our flight and they couldn’t find the same flights we were looking at. They eventually figured it out, but when they tried to book it my credit card was declined because it had already been charged for five $400 change fees coming from the website. Another hour or so was then spent on the phone with my credit card company and then in a three-way call with United. Eventually we figured everything out, were able to change the flights for the following day and able to have one nice afternoon out in San Jose buying souvenirs and walking around the downtown a bit. Needless to say, we’re not huge fans of Nicaragua or United at the moment.

IMG_1086 IMG_1098 IMG_1104 IMG_1108We landed in LA late Saturday night and decided that we couldn’t end our honeymoon on a sour note. We were lucky to find an great deal on a cabin rental up in Big Bear and my parents were nice enough to lend us their car. So Monday morning we drove up to Big Bear (about 2 hours from Pasadena) and ended our honeymoon in Daverian fashion- lots of game playing, drinking our weight in wedding wine, bloody marys and beer and fashioning feasts to devour. The weather difference dropped from 90° in Central America to 28° in Big Bear and we savored the chance to get bundled up, view some fall foliage and do absolutely nothing for a few days.

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IMG_1217IMG_1301 IMG_1298Our honeymoon didn’t turn out exactly as planned, but overall we had a fantastic time. And the most important thing is that we’re married, we’re happy and hopeful about the future. Now if all our recent job searching pays off soon life will be pretty perfect!

Good Bye Berlin

It seems like just Yesterday that we arrived in Berlin, confused, excited, a little scared but most of all ready for a new adventure. In reality it’s been two full years since we touched down at Tegel airport and we have loved every minute of it. There are too many things to mention that we will miss about this great city, but in our last few weeks in the city we tried to hit a few of them. Before we left for our eastern Europe trip, I had finished my thesis and handed it in and Adrian had completed her time at Phorms, so we had a few weeks of free time before heading back to the USA to say goodbye to Berlin properly.

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Dave turning in his thesis!

First, we made an effort to try and hit a few of the tourist attractions in Berlin that we just hadn’t gotten around to. First among them we a trip underground to one of Berlin’s old World War II bunkers. Berlin was very heavily bombed during the second World War necessitating the building of numerous underground bunkers for the citizens to hide in during air raids. Most of these bunkers are no longer accessible, but one near Gesundbrunnen in the northern part of the city is fairly well preserved and there are daily guided tours that take you around the bunker. Some of the highlights were the fluorescent paint that was used to light the rooms in the absence of electric lights and some of the stories about the dangers faced by the average Berliners during the war including the cramming of 100s of people in rooms designed for 20 and using candles at different heights to gauge the amount of breathable air in the facility.

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On the recommendation of Adrian’s cousin Jamie, we decided to check out the Berlin Film museum (free on Thursdays). The museum had some very interesting architecture including one room with mirrors on the ceiling and floor creating a very interesting perspective.

The exhibits were also very interesting as the detailed the history of German film making over the past century. It is a bit surprising to learn how much innovation in Cinema there was in Germany especially during the early 20th century (The film Metropolis is, even today, a remarkable example). Of course, World War II and the Nazi regime put an end to all that; it’s certainly sad to think about how much great art the world has been deprived of thanks to wars and totalitarian governments.

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Another sight we wanted to be sure to see was the Panorama Point nearby at Potsdammer Platz. We took the self proclaimed ‘fastest elevator in Europe’ to the 25th floor and were not disappointed by the 360 degree views we found at the top. We were also pleasantly surprised to see an marriage proposal on the building across the street, happily reminding us of our own upcoming wedding this fall. We hope she said “Yes”!!!

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We also took a trip to Hohenschönhausen, the old East German secret police prison in East Berlin. The Prison is now a museum dedicated to remembering the persecution of the East German people under the DDR government. The East German secret police or Stasi used surveillance and interrogation to prevent the population from trying to escape East Berlin and also to silence critics of the regime. The museum included a tour of some the interrogation rooms and cells and some stories of the different inmates who spent time there. The tour was pretty dark, but learned a lot! Shortly after visiting we watched the film ‘The Lives of Others’ about a Stasi spy which included several scenes in Hohenschönhausen. The film was excellent and really brought to life some of the history we had just learned about at the museum.

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Of course the most important thing we wanted to do was to spend sometime with our friends and what better way to do that then with outdoor barbecues. One of our favorite activities in Berlin was taking advantage of some of the many parks around the city, starting up the grill and enjoying some food and drink with friends. We took advantage of some of our free time by making it out to Plotzensee for a bittersweet ‘farewell’ party with some of our best friends. We were also able to attend a BBQ in Golitzerpark with some of Adrian’s friends from work, a night out clubbing at the Kulturbrauerei, a visit to Bad Saarow with Jon and Paul and lots of time reminiscing over the past two years at our favorite neighborhood cafes and bars. We filled up on food at our beloved Kollwitzplatz Markt and said a fond farewell to Prenzlauer Berg with a trip to Mauerpark and one last Sunday brunch. Adrian was also able to visit the Barbie Dream-house with Saskia and had a great time checking out one of her favorite childhood toy’s homes:) It was a busy last couple of weeks!

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IMG_3662 IMG_3676 IMG_3681Our last Friday in Berlin Dave had to defend his thesis. He was a little nervous (who wouldn’t be?), but he totally kicked ass!! Getting a perfect score on his defense and a 1.3 (1.0 is the top grade in the German system) on his master thesis!! I was so proud of him after all his hard work over the course of the semester and we popped a little bubbly in Kollwitzplatz to celebrate.

IMG_3805 We spent our last weekend in Berlin fervently packing, trying to shove two years of our lives into three suitcases and 4 boxes. We were able to get almost everything done by Monday night so that we could spend our official last day, Tuesday, savoring our city. We took the 100 bus from Alexanderplatz to the Brandenburg Gate. Then we walked through Tiergarten, visiting the Rose Garden and the site of our 2012 engagement. We laid out blankets and spent a few hours reading and enjoying our absolute favorite place in Berlin. We then hopped back on the 100 to Zoogarten for our final trip to our favorite biergarten, Schleusenkrug. We shared a flammkuchen, a pretzel, a piece of Apfelkuchen and of course a slew of beers and spent a few hours reminiscing on our time in Berlin. Schleusenkrug was the very first place we visited when we arrived in Berlin and we thought it only fitting that it should be our last. It was the place we came to celebrate our engagement, my first job in the city and Dave completing his thesis. It’s a really special place to us and we were sad to bid it adieu.

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IMG_3914 IMG_3923Post Schleusenkrug we went home to enjoy our final Berlin sunset (with some späti beers) at the Wasserturm. Then we finished packing up, had a last beer with Matteo and hit the hay. Wednesday morning we got up early, left our keys with the downstairs neighbor and hauled our three 50 pound suitcases and 4 incredibly heavy carry-on’s to Schonefeld airport. 20 hours later we arrive at the Chebuske home in Maine.

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It was incredibly hard to leave Berlin and we miss it everyday, but we’ve been adjusting well to life back in the States and we have a big day coming up in just three weeks;) We couldn’t be more thankful for the two amazing years we spent in Berlin and we hope it won’t be too long before we return. We met so many amazing people, were blessed to visit so many amazing places and fell in love with the most amazing city we’ve ever been able to call home.

Berlin, du bist Wunderbar! Bis bald!

Euro Trip Part I: The Balkans

I’m a bit sad as I start this post knowing it will probably be our last from Berlin, but I’m doing it in two parts so can prolong being an international blogger a little longer:) We got back earlier this week from our awesome “final Euro-trip” through the Balkans, Austria and Germany. We saw so many beautiful places and had so much fun, but are happy to be back home in Berlin. Now we have just two weeks to live it up in this amazing city before we head back stateside. But now onto the good stuff…

We flew to Dubrovnik on Saturday July 27. Only 55 euros/person- thank you EasyJet! We got in late and went directly from the airport to our apartment where we hit the hay early so we’d be fresh for our first full day in Dubrovnik. We woke up early, grabbed some provisions and hopped a bus to the Old City. Once there it was pretty easy to find the Old Harbor and buy tickets for the ferry to the island of Lokrum. Lokrum is just of the coast of Dubrovnik and can only be accessed during the day; the island must be vacated by 8:00 pm each day. It’s covered in hiking trails and houses an old fort as well as an olive grove and hoards of peacocks. Its also infested with cicadas and their roar is so loud you can hear it a few hundred meters away as the ferry approaches the dock. The island  was pretty crowded, but we found a private spot on the rocks by hiking away from the crowds. We had a fantastic morning swimming in the crystal clear Adriatic, reading, napping and trying to avoid the sun (it was 40 Celsius, which makes it around 100 Fahrenheit)!
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We spent the afternoon exploring Lokrum’s hiking trails, swimming and enjoying some ice cream at the restaurant near the dock. We also took the time to find the shooting locations Game of Thrones uses on the island…I’ll let Dave tell you a little more about that:
Last spring/summer Adrian and I got really into the Game of Thrones series and finished off all the books. After we’d both finished with the books we started watching the HBO series and are big fans. If you haven’t seen the show, it’s a fantasy story based upon George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. Part of the reason we were so excited to visit Croatia was that we knew some of the show was filmed there and we wanted to check out a couple of film locations. Turns out, they were pretty easy to find!
Lokrum was a big part of the shooting in season 4 as it served as the location of Qarth, one of the shows key settings. You can tell why they selected it as the islands has an old monastery that looks like something directly out of a fantasy novel. In addition, it has a interesting, almost tropical feel to it with lots of vegetation and palm trees as well as beautiful gardens. Adrian and I were able to spot some places that looked very familiar before later confirming that the were definitely featured on the show. 
Dubrovnik itself serves as the shows version of ‘Kings Landing’, which is the capital city of the fictional nation of Westeros depicted in the series. The city was a perfect choice for this location: just like Kings Landing, Dubrovnik is a walled city that is directly adjacent to the sea. Some of the best, most beautiful scenes from the television show are simply just live shots of the city of Dubrovnik! Take this scene from the show:  
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and compared it to some of the shots above and below that Adrian and I took of Dubrovnik. It’s pretty clear that it’s the same place.
For some reason it is really cool to see film locations in real life and it was no exception in Dubrovnik. If you happen to be lucky enough to visit, make sure you try and check them out!
We ferried back from Lokrum a little after 6:00om and used our trusty guidebook to find a dinner spot. We shared a pizza and a Greek salad at a place called Tabasco  while overlooking the walls of the Old City. Post dinner we checked out the Old City at night and then made our way home to crash.
On Monday we made our way directly to the Old City so we could walk the city walls. The entry price is a little steep at 90 koruna (about $15) each, but the price was well worth it. The walls encompass the entirety of the Old City and were never breached since their creation prior to the 7th century. It takes about two hours to walk them completely if you go at a normal pace and take time for some photos (I probably took close to 100), but it was HOT! Dave likes to “beat the heat”, but I was dying. As soon as we finished the walls we grabbed some popsicles and water and found a place to jump in the ocean. The site of our swim wasn’t as picturesque as the day before given that we went right off the Old Harbor next to the Walls with probably 100 other people, but the water was cool and so salty that we just floated around for a few hours.
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After our swim we decided to do a little more walking and found our way to the top of the St. Lawrence Fortress (free with your entry ticket to the walls). It also had great views of the city and the coast, but way less people. We spent some time checking it out and then headed to the apartment for showers and a quick nap before dinner. We decided to go for a nicer dinner and read some great reviews for a seafood restaurant right in the middle of the Old City. I had spaghetti with mussels and Dave opted for the cuttlefish risotto. We split a bottle of Croatian wine (which only came in liters). Then we spent our last hours in Dubrovnik walking around the Old City and watching the lights of the city from the pier. A very relaxing and romantic way to end our time in such a beautiful city.
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Tuesday morning we were up and at ’em early to catch our bus from Dubrovnik to Kotor, Montenegro. The two hour ride went by quickly and we kept getting more excited as we made our way closer to Kotor. The scenery was fantastic- the mountains literally jut out of the ocean in some of the most amazing views I’ve ever seen. When we arrived we easily found our apartment, enjoyed some ice cold beers courtesy of our host and then geared up to walk our second set of walls of the trip. Unlike Dubrovnik, where the walls simply encircle the Old City, the walls of Kotor head straight up a mountain to a fortress. The walk is about 45 minutes/1 hour straight up. Which would be unpleasant in normal weather, but given that it was again close to 100° it was pretty painful. Luckily the views on the way up helped assuage my heat-induced moaning and we were greatly rewarded for our efforts when we reached the top- Kotor is absolutely breathtaking.
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We repeated our post-wall procedure from the day before, stopping quickly for some popsicles and water before making our way straight into the ocean! We cooled off in the water for awhile, headed home for quick showers and then headed out for dinner and drinks. We found a great roof top bar at a place called Citadella. Cheap beer, Mussels alla buzara and fantastic views only added to our growing affection of Kotor. We watched the sun dip behind the mountains as we enjoyed the view and then finished up the night with a walk and some card playing and wine on the patio of our apartment.
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Wednesday morning we grabbed a quick breakfast in the Old Town before jumping on a bus to the capital city of Montenegro, Podgorica. The two hour ride allowed us to see some pretty awesome views of the Adriatic before heading inland.Montenegro was gorgeous overall, but Podgorica did not strike my fancy. This may have been due to the fact that while waiting for our connection to Foca I realized that I’d started updating the Kindle app on my iPad, but stupidly never let it finish, leaving me without access to my books for the upcoming 5 hour bus ride. It also could be that Podgorica was the first location I encountered the hole in the ground toilets popular throughout Bosnia. Seriously how do you not splash pee on your feet?! I had no reading material and pee on my feet, hence I was hating Podgorica. Luckily we were only stuck there for an hour.

The bus ride across the country was actually plenty pleasant. The bus was air conditioned and about half empty- so pretty comfortable. Additionally just before crossing into Bosnia we started to drive along the winding roads adjacent to the incredibly blue Piva River and Canyon. The view was amazing!
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The bus dropped us off right at the entrance to the Drina-Tara Rafting Club (drivers on the Balkan Express are very accommodating). The staff were so easy going and friendly. They gave us a key to one of the cabins and told us to head to the patio whenever we were ready for dinner. We paid for a two-day/two-night package that included lodging, the rafting trip and all meals. And when I say portions are generous, I mean it! They provided us with SSOOO much food. We had salad, a huge meat plate, meat wrapped in grape leaves, homemade bread, cheese curd spread, roasted potatoes and more! We stuffed ourselves and appreciated the view of the river from the deck. Then we played some cards, threw back a couple of beers and headed to bed.

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The next morning we woke up to another generous meal at breakfast and then had an hour or two to relax in the hammocks before we geared up for rafting. We got our life-vests, booties and helmets and headed back across the Montenegro boarder. We drove for about an hour before we finally unloaded and got going with the rafting. The water level was pretty low- back in June we were told it was 10 meters higher and the trip back to the center (approx: 22 kilometers, 3 hours) took only 50 minutes! Since it was my first time rafting I was glad for the easy flowing water and it gave us a chance to really take in the view. The Tara River Canyon is the second deepest canyon in the world after the Grand Canyon in Arizona and it’s absolutely gorgeous. We stopped a little over half-way for a beer break and a chance to take pictures. The trip was awesome and the freezing water felt great in contrast to the hot sun. Definitely one of the highlights of our whole trip.
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Lunch (a delicious pan of lamb and potatoes that had been roasting underground for hours) was waiting for us upon our return and we had a good time learning about the amazing trip one of the other rafters in our boat was undertaking. He’s a Japanese student studying in the US who’s taking about 4.5 months to bike solo from London to Athens and check out sites along the way. He built his bike himself and had been camping in the woods and people’s lawns along the way. A pretty amazing adventure.
We spent the afternoon napping, reading and walking around the surrounding area before tucking in for our third big meal of the day! We ate with a lovely Slovenia couple we met, Emelina and Dan. The next day we had breakfast with our new Slovenia friends before hitching a ride with one of the staff to the nearby town of Foca where we began the long trek across Bosnia. We took a bus first to Sarajevo, then a taxi to a different bus station in the city, then a second bus for a 6 hour ride (made an hour long from an unexpected maintenance stop) and one final taxi to our hotel, Hotel Kostelski, in the city of Bihac.  The hotel was the most luxurious of our trip with a big fluffy bed, huge shower and spacious balcony. We had dinner at their restaurant and our huge feast (a Bosnian theme?) came out to only 16 Euros! What a deal. The front desk staff were also were able to work out a taxi to take us directly from the hotel to Plitvice National Park in Croatia the next morning- a really great hotel experience at Kostelski.
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The taxi picked up us right after breakfast and took us across the board and directly to our hotel, Guesthouse Sven, in Plitvice, Croatia. Guesthouse Sven is located directly across the street and a 10 minute walk from the entrance of Plitvice National Park. We discovered a “secret” path into the park that let us bypass the entrance counter (and pricey entrance fee), but I’m a goody two-shoes and also wanted to take the little ferry ride our entrance ticket included so we ponied up the cash. We spent the next 8 hours exploring almost every path in the park. We walked the low trails right off the water with the hoards of other visitors and hiked up the high trails where everyone magically disappeared. The views were amazing from both and the water clearer than any we’d seen. The system of lakes pouring into one another through waterfalls is so impressive and we were in awe of the natural beauty all day. We took tons of photos, but really non can do the park justice.
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We cooked dinner at home that night and collapsed, happy to find an English language channel veg out to as we had to be up early for another travel day. Sunday we were up and on the bus to Zagreb by 10:00. When we reached the capital we found that the online bus schedule was incorrect and there were no further buses to Ljubljana that day. Luckily we found a train to Ljubljana, but it didn’t leave until 6:00pm- giving us 5 hours to kill. We decide to explore a bit of Zagreb with the extra time, but the city was dead. Literally no people and nothing open. We eventually found the city’s cathedral to be open (and quite beautiful) then a McDonald’s for some much needed lunch and we passed the rest of the afternoon at a local park, cooling our feet off in one of the fountains. Our train ended up being delayed by an hour and then getting breaking down at the Slovenian boarder, pushing our arrival time in Ljubljana to almost 11:00. Additionally the air conditioner was out on the train and it was packed to standing room only causing the compartments to feel like saunas. A long day to go just about 260 kilometers. Thankfully our hostel in Ljubljana was extremely central and we were easily able to find a spot for dinner and some much needed beers.
IMG_2579 IMG_2584Tuesday we ate a quick breakfast at the hostel and headed back to the train/bus station so we could make it out to Lake Bled. The ride was about an hour and 20 minutes and we spent the morning relaxing and swimming in the crystal clear waters of Lake Bled. The breeze made the bell in the church on Bled Island ring continuously and the sail boats provided a picturesque backdrop. It was the perfect way to unwind after the previous day’s travel complications.
IMG_2594 IMG_2631 IMG_2611 IMG_2605We bused back to Ljubljana in the early afternoon, showered up and headed out into the city. We walked along the river checking out the many bridges (triple bridge, butcher’s bridge, shoemaker’s bridge, dragon’s bridge etc…) and then took the funicular up to the castle. The castle is beautifully restored and provides some fantastic views of the city. There was also a fascinating exhibit about a Slovenian woman named Alma Karlin. She traveled around the world by herself in the early/mid 20th century and her story is captivating. She traveled for 8 years, visiting every continent and writing about her experiences. She’s a great example of a forward-thinking woman with a strong moral compass- read about her!
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We walked back down the hill and found a great bar on the river that served a local beer we’d been wanting to try, HumanFish. We spent the rest of the evening wandering around the city, grabbing some dinner and then ended up in Prešeren square where an impromptu brass band set up and started playing. Ljubljana is an ideal, picturesque European capital. I wish we could have had more time to explore and see the city- next time!
IMG_2720 IMG_2733 IMG_2735 IMG_2743The following morning we were on the 7:30 am train towards Germany, leaving the Balkans behind….which also means that part one of this post is complete! I’m going to get to part two soon, but give you a breather for now. Next time- Germany and Austria.

I love June!

June was off to a rainy start in Berlin. The last two weeks of May were also a little rainy, but with intermittent days of sun. Luckily the weather is turning and we’ve had so much going on the past month there has been little time to be annoyed with the weather!

For those of you who don’t know we’ve decided to officially move back to the US at the end of August. We’ll be spending about two weeks in Maine and then heading out to California to prepare for the big wedding! We’re not sure where we’ll end up post-honeymoon, but are going to look for job opportunities in a couple of our favorite cities, probably staying with my parents for a month or two while we figure out our next move. Hopefully this doesn’t mean the end of our international adventures though, we’d both love to live abroad again in the future and we’re going to miss Berlin and all our wonderful friends here immensely!

Besides buying plane tickets home, figuring out some visa details, planning our departure and full-time work (for me at school and Dave on his thesis) we’ve been able to have a lot of fun since our return from Greece. We’ve taken advantage of sunny days by visiting Berlin’s many parks and outdoor cafes. I signed up for a Japanese cooking course (in German) with my friend Saskia and had a great time cooking and eating Japanese food the last fewTuesdays. Take a look at my homemade sushi plate presentation:)

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I’ve also been able to spend a lot of time with my work-besties. Jon, Irene and I even had a “sleep over” the other week. Our sleep over included wine, martinis, dancing in our pjs and watching Priscilla Queen of the Desert. A few weekend ago they also persuaded me to finally visit a club in Berlin (something the city is known for). And though dancing past sunrise is not usually my cup of tea, I have to admit I had so much fun! Dave and I have also hit up a couple different bars, kept up our promise to try new restaurants and take advantage of all that the amazing city of Berlin has to offer.

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This past weekend for my 28th birthday Dave surprised me with a weekend trip to Munich. We’d both visited the city when we’d studied abroad, but had solely seen the inside of the fair grounds at Oktoberfest. Turns out there is more to Munich than that! Though the beer and giant pretzels still rank pretty high on the list of “things we love about Munich”.

We left early Saturday morning and as soon as we got there we headed to the Augustiner Keller. Maß beers were the perfect welcome to the city and we even got to enjoy some traditional German music. After our time at Augustiner we headed to the English Gardens and enjoyed a great evening exploring everything. We even rented a row boat to see the gardens from a different perspective and then enjoyed dinner at another beer garden inside the English garden.

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Sunday morning brought my birthday and luckily another sunny day! We started the day with some ice coffees (my faves) and then a guided tour of the city (I love history!). From what we saw Munich is a much more “traditional” German city than Berlin. When the city was destroyed (about 80%) in WWII they took pains to reconstruct everything exactly as it had stood prior to the bombings. Everywhere we went we saw locals and tourists wearing lederhosen and dirndl. Munich’s population is about 1.3 million, but it has a little bit of the small city feel. We learned a lot about the city and saw a good chunk of the Old Town.

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After our tour we visited (what else) a biergarten for lunch and to rest our feet. We had a delicious lunch of Weißwurst, pretzels and beer- so German! Unfortunately it started to drizzle a little bit towards the end of our meal. We decided to head back to hotel for a nap and so I could skype with my family. After our rest we headed back out to see the old town at night and to find a spot for dinner. We found a bierhall with a good looking menu and had another delicious German meal (with some complimentary shots!) to celebrate my 28 years. It was a great birthday and I’m so grateful to Dave for planning everything!

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Our last morning in Munich started with a big, traditional German breakfast…we kind of have a theme going here: lots of traditional German beer and food. There was a “Munich Breakfast” on the menu that included a 1/2 liter of beer, but we both opted for coffee instead. We then walked up to the top of St. Peter’s to view Munich’s famous Glockenspiel from above. The rest of the day was spent souvenir shopping, a little more touristing and some last minute beer drinking. Towards the end of the day we ran into the weirdest thing- 2 huge tributes to Michael Jackson and his monkey Bubbles. The pictures don’t quite capture the absurdness of the memorial, but we both thought it a bit creepy. Ahh….people of the world you make us laugh. On the way home we hit some major traffic due to all the flooding in Germany because of the rains and didn’t make it home until almost 3am, but it was worth it!

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The next morning came a little too soon for my liking, but I had an awesome surprise from all my wonderful friends at work. They showered me with flowers, gifts and a delicious homemade cheese cake and made me feel so special! I am still enjoying the cheesecake Sandra made:) Such a wonderful birthday treat.

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IMG_1288 IMG_1289 IMG_1291The first half of June has been action-packed and full of fun. Plus the fact that it doesn’t get dark until almost 10 makes it easy to be motivated and get out and do stuff after work! We can’t believe how fast time is flying, but we’re working hard to enjoy every minute left we have in Berlin and can’t wait to update everyone again soon!

Paris

We returned on Monday from a wonderful 4 day Easter weekend in Paris. We left for the city of lights on Thursday afternoon, landing at Paris Orly just before 6:00 pm. It was an easy ride into the city and we were easily able to find our flat- which we found through AirBnb and turned out to be a great deal in a GREAT location! If you’re headed to Paris in the future let us know and we can pass along the information. Our flat was located in Marais, in the 4th arr. of Paris- smack dab in the center of the city and just a 10 minute walk from Notre Dame. We spent Thursday evening exploring our neighborhood a bit and then dinning on some yummy sushi at one of the many Japanese establishments in the vicinity. We turned in early so we’d be bright eyed for a full day of touristing Friday.

We were up and out of the house before 9:00. Our first stop was the Louvre, but before heading into the museum we took a little walk and enjoyed the most expensive coffee of our lives in the Tuileries.  We saw a few flowers and buds on the trees- it made us hopeful for the end of Winter! It was still pretty cold, but at least it was sunny and we were willing to brave the weather for the prime outdoor seating.

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After coffee we headed into the Louvre and spent the next 3 hours perusing the immense collection. We’ve both been to the Louvre before, but decided we still needed to revisit her most famous works so we braved the crowds to glance at the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo. We also spent a good deal of time in the Egyptian art section- which was Dave’s favorite area.

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Post Louvre we headed over to the left bank (Paris that falls on the south side of the Seine) and wandered through the streets until we came across a grocery store where we picked up our favorite sterotypical French foods- a baguette, cheese and wine. We also popped into a bakery for a meringue and a chocolate tarte. After collecting all our provisions we found a spot in the little garden on the tip of the Île de la Cité.

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IMG_9362 IMG_9373After lunch came the real walking. From Île de la Cité we walked along the Seine taking in the sites as we made our way to the Eiffel Tower. The Eiffel Tower was literally crawling in tourists, but we managed to find a nice quiet spot in the adjacent gardens were we rested up and took a bunch of photos.

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After our photo shoot we jumped on the metro up to the Arc de Triumph and then walked down the Champs-Élysées, window shopping as we went. The streets were absolutely packed the entire trip. I don’t know if it was just the fact that it was Easter weekend or that Paris is always just that crowded- but you really couldn’t escape the throngs of tourists. We finished our evening by walking back through the Tulieries and straight on to our flat- stopping for some groceries along the way. We figured we’d pop in for a breather, eat some dinner on the cheap and then head out again, but were so exhausted from the day we ended up dozing off in our pj’s as we finished up a bottle of wine. So really a pretty good way to end the day.

IMG_9422 IMG_9423 IMG_9429We woke up well rested on Saturday and headed right up to Montmartre for a tour of the district. We met up with our wonderful tour guide, Thomas from Discovery Walks, in front of the Moulin Rouge. The next two hours were spent exploring the renowned, artistic 18th arr. The district was originally located just outside the walls of Paris- literally the street the Moulin Rouge is on was the barrier. It allowed citizens to escape some of Paris’s laws, restrictions and taxes- hence a great place to set up the types of establishments that rose up in the area. Basically the area developed into a haven for artists, revolutionaries and people seeking an open, progressive, ever-changing location. People like Picasso, Renoir, Langston Hughes and many more called Montmartre home and drew inspiration from its citizens and streets. The most conspicuous building in the district is the Sacré-Coeur- which is where our tour concluded.

Following our great tour we wandered around Montmartre a little longer before jumping on the metro and heading out to the famous Parisian flea market- Les Puces. We were a little taken aback when we first got off the metro as the first big sites were a KFC, a Subway and a whole mess of people trying to hawk knock-off Louis Vuitton and Rolex. We walked through hordes of stands selling the same cheap stuff, a little worried that we’d read the online reviews wrong or had gotten off at the wrong stop, but after about 10 minutes of shuffling along we finally found an opening that lead to the most romantic little alleyways filled with little shops selling everything from antique furniture and jewelry to old fashioned keys and silverware. It was a complete 180 from the booths set up outside. We spent awhile perusing the goods (buying just a few little trinkets:))before we decided we’d had enough and were going to pass out if we didn’t find some lunch soon.

We headed home for some lunch and a nap. After resting up we trekked back out to Montmartre for dinner at a great little spot recommended by our friend Max. It was called Au Pied du Sacré Coeur. The food was delicious, the servers friendly and everything came in a great price (for Paris!). We were adventurous and started with the escargot in garlic sauce. I had a steak with bleu cheese sauce for my main and Dave went with the Duck confit- which was the highlight of the meal for sure. We ended with a traditional brulee. Of course a bottle plus of wine was also consumed.  We were stuffed, but we managed to head out to the Grands Boulevards and consume a few more beers at a popular Irish Bar- key word here is a couple. At 7 Euros a beer we were not thrilled to be spending more than double the amount on booze we do here in Berlin. Just to provide some quick perspective- we went out with friends a week or so back to a bar here called Badfish. Beer on tap is 3 Euros for a .5 liter- already less than half the price of Paris. Oh but wait- not only is beer only 3 Euros, on Wednesday night they have a deal that when you buy a beer you get a free shot of Jameson. Needless to say Berlin is definitely a better (or worse depending on how you look at it) place for these beer-loving Americans. Even with the priciness of Paris we still love it and had a great night out!

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IMG_9482He is Risen! We lost an hour for day light savings Saturday night so we ended up sleeping in a little on Easter morning, which was a nice way to start the day.  After waking up and showering we grabbed some breakfast (croissants- regular and chocolate) from the corner bakery and then some coffee from Starbucks (unbelievable, but seriously cheaper than the local shops). We took our b-fast and walked over to Notre Dame to hear the bells chime (Quasi?!?).

We initially planned on trying to attend a service at Notre Dame on Easter morning, but decided the multi-hour wait, the prospect of standing the entire service and the fact that it was delivered in Latin was a little overwhelming. Instead we enjoyed a beautiful view of the cathedral from the bleachers set up outside, while catching part of the service on the big screen and munching on our delicious breakfast. Though it was sunny it was still freezing and before long we had to get moving again.

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Right behind Notre Dame rests Paris’s deportation memorial- their version of a holocaust memorial. After spending a little time contemplating the horrors many Parisians were subjected to we crossed over the Seine and headed up to the Musee L’Orangerie. The museum houses one of Monet’s greatest masterpieces- his Waterlilies. The first floor has two large oval rooms, each covered by the painting. Natural light streams in from the ceiling. The paintings are absolutely gorgeous and mesmerizing  Unfortunately no photography is allowed of the paintings, but no photo could do it justice anyhow. Downstairs contains an additional collection of paintings by artists such as Renoir, Modigliani and Picasso. We loved the museum because of how manageable it was. We were able to see everything and didn’t feel rushed or overwhelmed. Definitely would recommend for future Paris visitors.

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We spent the next few hours walking the streets of Paris, enjoying the sunny Easter day and munching on some mussels, beef bourguignon and of course wine, cheese and baguettes. We walked along the Seine, explored more of the left bank, sat for awhile in Luxembourg gardens and then headed back to the Seine for an evening boat cruise. As the trip to Paris was planned as a gift for Dave’s birthday my parents added to our fun by gifting him a $100 to do something fun with. Dave decided it would be fun to put the money towards a nice dinner (the night before) and spend the rest on the water. We braved the cold with outdoor seats and had a great time cruising up and down the Seine, getting to see Paris from a different vantage point.

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We started to walk home so we could grab some dinner and warm up after our boat cruise, but as we were walking past Notre Dame we noticed that the line had all but disappeared so we decided to pop in and we caught part of what must have been the 6th or 7th Easter service of the day. Even with the service being conducted in Latin it was a powerful experience to be in the cathedral during a worship service and we were lucky to witness some of the amazing choral works.

IMG_9633 IMG_9636Our last evening in Paris was relaxed and low key. We by a happy hour on the way home for a drink and then ate the last of our cheese, baguettes and other goodies at home before grabbing one last bottle of wine and finally taking the time to explore more of Marais. We walked along the streets stopping at the Bastille, admiring Place des Vosges and wishing we had time to visit every cute cafe, shop and restaurant along the way. We saw and did a lot in during our time in Paris, but definitely agree that there’s much more to be seen and we can’t wait to visit again in the future!

We had time for one last walk and stop at the corner bakery in the morning before we had to make our way to the airport. We’re back in Berlin and really, REALLY ready for spring to get here already. Luckily we have our big vacation to Greece coming up the first two weeks in May so we have beaches and islands on the brain…helps you pretend it’s balmy outside:) Hope everyone had as wonderful an Easter weekend as we did and that all is well state-side and with our friends around the world.

Au revoir- Daverian

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Erste Mai

May 1st is a national holiday in Germany, roughly the equivalent of Labor Day back home. Adrian and I took advantage of the day off to take a trip to a huge carnival in Kreutzberg. We had a great time so I decided to put together a little blog post about the experience.

We had been out very late the night before at a friends house… in fact we didn’t make it home till after 4am! The Berliners think nothing of staying up that late, but for Adrian and I, that is about as late as it gets. Incidentally, when we finally made it home to Prenzlauer Berg and got off of the train, the streets were still packed with people so that will give you a bit of an idea of just how nocturnal the Berliners are. Unfortunately, we aren’t ‘true’ Berliners, so we didn’t wake up on May 1 till late in the day, probably about 12:00 noon.

Adrian wasn’t feeling very well, but we knew we would regret not going to Kreutzberg, as we had heard really good things about the festival. Kreutzberg is one of Berlin’s most popular neighborhoods and it is by the city’s most trendy spot. Trendy people can be a little insufferable at times, but they at least know how to throw a good party. Had a quick bite to eat and a cup of coffee and headed out.

The weather forecast was predicting rain, but when we left the apartment the sun was shining and it was nice and warm. I noticed that there were fewer people out and about than normal in our neighborhood and wondered if fear of rain was keeping people in for the today… I quickly found out this was not the case. It seemed everyone in Berlin was headed for Kreutzberg and the festival. The U-bahn train was absolutely packed with people. The closer we got to Kreutzberg also, the more people sardined there way on to the train. I could tell it was going to be a day of crowds (as most days in Berlin seem to be, if you come from Maine).

A quick word about the Erste Mai celebration: as I said, it is the German equivalent of labor day. Thus the left leaning portion of Berliners and Germans use the holiday as an opportunity to rally in support of pro-labor policies. Berlin has it’s fair share of activists, communists, anarchists, and other revolutionaries, but unfortunately, the holiday in recent years has been taken over by “demonstrators” who are looking to cause trouble, not promote social change. The last few years had been especially bad in Berlin with protestors burning cars, smashing windows and indiscriminately destroying private property. To make matters worst, Berlin’s far right groups use the holiday to demonstrate as well, so clashes between the two groups can quickly get violent.

The Berlin Police seemed determined this year to keep things under control, so once Adrian and I arrived, we were immediately struck by the massive police presence. It is fairly rare to see police officers in Berlin in general, so to see literally hundreds in one place was slightly surprising. The officers obviously had a plan for controlling things this year, as they funneled us orderly into the city blocks set aside for the festival.

The main artery of Kreutzberg is a busy street called Oranienstrasse which is crowded on normal days with outdoor cafes, bars and restaurants, but today the street was totally shut down to any automobile traffic and was packed with party goers. There were vendors selling street food every few feet on the side of the street and packed restaurants and bars selling beer and other drinks to anyone walking by with 2€. There was music everywhere, with a different stage literally on every street corner. There were people of all ages dancing, drinking and eating street food everywhere. It was quite a lively atmosphere to say the least!

Adrian and I spent the first hour at the festival just walking around, checking out the different stages and enjoying some of the live music. The festival is free of charge so there were no “big name” musicians playing, but it was cool to see some of the local Berlin groups, who ranged from abjectly awful to passably decent. The most popular type of music in Berlin by far is electronic techno music, with repetitive kick-snare drum beats and some synth layered over it, so that type of music was everywhere, but we saw ska, rock, reggae, punk, folk, rap and even traditional Turkish music. Our favorite was probably the reggae… there something about a sunny day and a little reggae that makes you think you’re on a tropical island.

After wondering around for a while, we stopped for a bite to eat and enjoyed a little people watching. As I said, the streets were packed so it was fun just to watch the different people walking by. Berliners make some interesting style choices to say the least… sometimes I wonder if this country ever made it out of the 1980s. The anarchists and other activist were easy to pick out of the crowd as they general have interesting and colorful hairstyles, as well as more than a couple facial piercing and at least one unfortunate tattoo.

We left the festival in the mid afternoon, hoping to avoid any potential riot and once we arrived at our apartment, it started pouring rain. I felt bad for everyone who got drenched, but felt like we made the right choice on leaving a little early. I heard from a co-worker that nothing happened later that night as the police made sure to keep all the demonstrators under control. Looks like their planning and effort paid off… I was glad to hear no one got hurt!

Outdoor Markets

I’ve mentioned it here before, but Berlin has great outdoor markets everyday where purveyors set up shop in one of the city’s many large squares (Platz auf Deutsch) and sell everything from fresh produce to fine china and silver. I though that maybe it was something that would only last while the weather was nice… well the opposite has proved true. Now that the cool temperatures have moved into the city, the markets have gotten bigger, with even more booths selling even stranger things.

I went to our local market here in Stieglitz to browse around and also because I need a keychain fur meine Schlusseln. The best time to go to one of these markets is early on a Saturday… that is when the most shops are set up and the Berliners haven’t had time yet to pick through all the good stuff.

In all honesty, the real reason I like going to these markets isn’t actually to shop. That’s just an excuse I use so I can go and sample the delicious food that is always for sale. All of it smells so good and tastes even better. The only problem is that I like the Roast Bratwurst so much, I am now hesitant to try anything new! Now that winter has arrived, they have also started selling Glühwein, which is a delicious warm spiced German wine. On a cold day, a hot glass of Gluhwein and a bratwurst at the market? Um, yeah.

Anyways, after a quick stop to sample the local fare, I started to wander around the market. It was packed as usual and curiously, one of the places that was the most busy was a store selling giant stuffed animals, which to me are the most useless things in the world. Apparently the Germans disagree.

Next I noticed a man selling video game systems. He had an old Sega Genesis, a PlayStation 2, a few PS3s that were in there original packaging and a Nintendo GameCube. I used to love playing GameCube back home so I decided to find out how much he was selling that for. I noticed that there were no games or conrollers displayed with it though. I asked him how much for the GameCube: “200 euros.” Well where are the controllers, I asked. “Don’t have any.” Games? “Don’t have any.” What an outrageous price for a game system that is essentially useless to the buyer! I am thinking of having my Mom send over my old GameCube so I can make a few bucks if that is the going rate.

From there I moved on to a children’s shop that was selling various books, toys and other items. Kids books are the best way to learn German, so I thought I would take a look at what they had to offer. I immeadiately was drawn to a Scrooge McDuck German comic book. I started flippping through the pages and was suprised at how simple most of the German was. I figured it would be pretty cheap so I decided to ask.

Before I got a chance to ask the shopkeeper though, another item caught my eye: an Obi-Wan-Kenobi keychain. As said earlier, I needed a keychain and what better than to have Luke Skywalker’s mentor! I grabbed the key chain and headed for the shopkeeper. In my best German I asked:

“Wie viel kosten diese?” How much is this? and held up the two items. He replied:

“Fur das Buch, ein euro funfzig (1.50€), fur der Keychain (didn’t catch the German word he used) vier euro (4€).”

Well needless to say, I thought the price he quoted on the Obi-Wan keychain was ridiculous. Sure, he is a jedi master, but his lightsaber was broker and the toy was clearly used. So I replied again in my best Deutsch with a heavily skeptical tone:

Vier euro?”

Well that turned out to be a mistake… apparently, my best German accent makes people think that I know German, so the man launched into a long speech, of which I understood maybe 2% of the words. I didn’t know what to do, so I just stood there nodding, which I think gave him the impression that I understood what he was saying, so he continued on for a good 2 minutes. I have no idea what he was saying and frankly I can’t imagine what someone could be saying at such length about the price of a used Obi-Wan keychain.

When he finally finished, I nodded at him one more time, furrowed my brow, than thanked him and put down the book and keychain and walked away empty handed.