The Seychelles (Part I): Praslin

Fall is here and days are getting darker – to me, this is the perfect time to escape to warm and sunny memories of our vacation on the Seychelles. We went in March 2018 for about 2.5 weeks and enjoyed the bright colors, stunning beaches and friendly people.

Our Journey to Praslin

Our flight was long and exhausting with a short stop-off at Dubai as we flew with Arabian Emirates. This was a great experience, the service and food were awesome. My personal highlight: The lights on the ceiling gradually changed from sunset to a starry sky when night time approached.

Emirates_Sky

As we decided to spend our first week on Praslin, our journey didn’t end with landing on Mahé. The scenery from the plane already looked like a dream and the big rocks and green vegetation right in front of the airport were stunning. But we only had little time to admire the landscape, as our driver was already waiting to take us to the port of Mahé.

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Little did we know that the worst part of our journey still awaited us. The ferry which connects Mahé and Praslin comes as the biggest catamaran I’ve ever seen. According to the captain, the sea was only a little rough. But only 15 minutes on sea and we both felt sick. And it wasn’t just us – many people even threw up. The crew was well prepared, issued paper bags to everyone who looked suspiciously pale and was always willing to help as much as they could. After the longest 60 minutes of our lives, we finally arrived on Praslin. I still felt shaky and on the way to our hotel, the sickness seemed to increase. Although we arrived around 4:00 PM, I went straight to bed and slept for the rest of the day. I was just too sick to do anything else and even would have skipped dinner if my boyfriend didn’t insist of going there. But luckily, I felt better the other day and our dream vacations could begin.

Ferry

Tipp #1: How to Not Get Sick on the Ferry to Praslin

  1. Upgrade to the upper deck to get some fresh air during the passage
  2. Look at the horizon or close your eyes
  3. Breathe and try to relax (e.g. listen to your favorite music)
  4. Don’t go on board with an empty or full stomach
  5. Take medication against sickness early enough before you get on the ferry

Highlights of Praslin

Praslin is the best place to start your Seychelle vacation. It’s smaller and more laid back than Mahé but still more vivid than La Digue. The bus routes on Praslin are easy and fun to use – so you should definitely take a ride, e.g. when going to Vallée de Mai. Overall, it feels like the perfect place to start with and getting to know the people, culture and spirit of the Seychelles.

Grande Anse

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This beach really deserves its name. We went there totally unprepared and spontaneously on our first day at noon and it felt like getting burned within a few minutes in the sun. Still, this beach was beautiful and felt endless with almost no-one around. I dipped my toe into the sea only to find out that it had body temperature and wouldn’t help to cool down at all.

Tipp #2: Sun Protection
The sun is really strong as the Seychelles are next to the equator. We used the strongest sunscreen (SPF 50+) all the time to not get burnt. During one of our tours, we’ve seen a woman whose back was burnt very badly. I’m not an expert but it looked like a 2nd degree burn. Although we knew the sun is strong at the equator, we underestimated the amount of sunscreen to bring with us. In one of the small supermarkets, we’ve paid about 150 SCR for a really big tube of a brand we didn’t know. Most products are imported from the Arabian Emirates or Thailand – we tried sunscreen products from both countries and they worked pretty well. Western brands like Nivea are sold in tourist shops, but they charge double prices for smaller amounts.

Vallée de Mai

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This is a nature reserve where the famous Coco de Mer grows. It’s also the natural habitat of the black parrot, a small bird which is rarely seen and only lives on the Seychelles. The entrance fee is a little bit higher, but most of the revenues is used for nature and animal conservation. You should definitely book a guided tour as we would have overseen so many things. You learn a lot about vegetation and animals on the Seychelles and after the tour, it’s still up to you to explore the Vallée de Mai on your own. Best is to go at morning or at least before noon, as it gets very humid and sticky later in the day.

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It didn’t feel overcrowded at all, but if you’re looking to a budget-friendly and less known alternative, go to Ford Ferdinand. We haven’t been there ourselves, but many people on Tripadvisor say it’s very similar to Vallée de Mai and are very pleased with their experience there. In both parks is a lookout point, although the one from Ford Ferdinand seems to be a little bit better.

Tipp #3: Mosquitos
Mosquitos haven’t been a very big problem for us on the Seychelles and our bug spray worked much better than on Guadeloupe or Bali. When we ran out of it, we bought some mosquito repellent cream and this has worked as well for us. Mosquitos are mainly a problem at night on the Seychelles, but you might be bitten during the day when you go to Vallée de Mai or similar spots. So we only used it at night or when going “into the bush” and hadn’t got a single bite during our whole vacation.

Anse Georgette

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The name says it all – this beach is georgeous! It’s been the most beautiful beach we’ve ever seen. It’s only accessible by foot or by boat, so this place is never overcrowded. We visited Anse Georgette during a day tour on a catamaran and it was an absolute highlight on the end of the day. It’s also perfect for children as the water isn’t very deep, the shore is gently-sloping and the currents are not that strong compared to most other spots.

Tipp #4: Transportation on Praslin
Getting around with a bus is easy on Praslin as there are only three lines you could take and they all have similar routes. The overall condition of the busses are OK – it’s something completely different than in Western countries and there is now real standard. Some have little fans mounted at the wall, some seats are a little bit unstable and the bus drivers seem to have fun riding as fast as they can on the narrow, steep and curvy roads. If you want the bus driver to stop, just shout “Dewa” loud enough so he can hear you through the chats and laughter of the friendly locals. Compared to Praslin, the buses we have seen on Mahé have been in a worse condition, so Praslin is perfect of getting used to the Seychelles’ transportation standards. 😉 On our way back from the Vallée de Mai, the bus didn’t come and so we ended up waiting almost an hour at the bus station for a bus taking us back to the hotel. It was OK was we didn’t have any other plans and I’m sure we would have gotten a taxi if we wanted to. So when you have to be somewhere on time, e.g. to catch the ferry, you should consider taking a taxi instead.

Accomodation on Praslin: Chateau Sans Soucis

Chateau Sans Soucis Pool

We spent our time at Chateau Sans Soucis and enjoyed our stay. The infrastructure is quite good: There are two supermarkets, a little bakery and a takeaway. Also, there’s a bus stop right in front of the street. Still, it can feel a little bit remote at night, so if you want to go out for dinner you should rent a car or choose another place more at the center of Grande Anse or Cote D’Or.

Breakfeast

The food at the hotel restaurant is great and the friendly staff has made us feel very welcome. Try the local Jambakka (roseapple) jam for breakfast, I found it delicious 🙂 Still, we missed some variety – the same breakfast 7 days in a row felt a little bit dull. But the hospitality and friendliness of the staff made up for it and the dinner à la carte had some great options to choose from. The chef always came for a little small talk to our table and sometimes we got a little surprise as dessert.

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One Important Note about Chateau Sans Soucis:
If you want to spend most of the time at the beach, you should rather go to Grande Anse or Cote D’Or as Chateau Sans Soucis is not located at the beach. You can go to the shore by passing the ground of another hotel, but there’s no beach where you can put your towel and relax in the sun. The current and surge are very strong and although the narrow beach is very steep, the waves are running over the whole area and leave no place where you could put your towel or bags. If you’re brave, you can still have some fun jumping in the waves – but you’ll definitely need neopren beach shoes with a hard sole because of rocks and stones. It felt adventurous and we had much fun, but wouldn’t recommend it for kids or poor swimmers.

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I hope you enjoyed this post and found my tipps useful. On my next post I’m going to write about our day trips from Praslin, so stay tuned and subscribe to be the first one to read it 🙂

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Practical Tips for Milan on a Budget: Transportation, Accomodation and Food

Our Budget: 500 EUR per Person

Although we’ve been warned that Milan is a rather expensive city, we found the prices being not very different from other cities in Western Europe – I’d even guess that in big metropolises like Paris or London, the prices are probably much higher.
We planned to spend less than 500 EUR per person and ended up with approximately 430 EUR in total – so we did a pretty good job of staying within our budget. If you’re interested in how we spent out time, check out A Week-End in Milan: 10 Things You Shouldn’t Miss for more information. 🙂

Getting from Bergamo Airport to Milan

Ryan Air offers cheap flights within Europe to Bergamo. The airport is a one-hour drive away from Milan. During the day, transport is easy and cheap by bus. For only 5 EUR you can book a ticket online in advance and get directly to Milan Main Station. Another company which offers shuttle busses to Milan is Orioshuttle.

If you arrive late, make sure to have a Plan B: Our flight was delayed due to bad weather and all taxis were already on the road – many people had the same problem and waited at the taxi stand. There’s no alternative public transportation to Milan and we didn’t want to get a rental car for our city trip. Luckily, we’ve found an English- and Italian-speaking guy who got a private driver for us. He even negotiated a very good price and we only paid 80 EUR in total for a ride to Milan Central Station. Unfortunately, I don’t have the driver’s number but here’s another possibility to book a private driver online.

If you want to go anywhere else from Bergamo Airport, the official website offers a good overview of transportation to other directions as well.

Public Transportation in Milan

There’s a very good subway system by ATM in Milan: Only four main lines will get you almost anywhere. Plus, the color-coding makes it easy to find your way through the city.  We’ve paid only 8,25 EUR each for a 48 hours ticket – check out the current fares here. You can get tickets at little shops and kiosks which are usually at every Metro station to be found or use the ATM app instead.

Extra tip: Get a free map at your hotel or the tourist office on which you can see all streets and Metro lines at once.

For more information about sightseeing, shopping and transportation check out the official Turismo Milano website.

Where to stay

There are many great offers for every budget and every taste. We found a good offer at booking.com for the Best Western Plus Hotel Galles. It also offers Spa and Wellness facilities – we didn’t use it but it seems like a good option on rainy days. We decided to book without breakfast to stay flexible. On the first morning we tried the breakfast for 12 EUR per person – including sparkling wine for a good start. It was OK but nothing special. For a more Italian experience, have breakfast at one of the lovely cafes and bars all around the city.
Another big plus of this hotel is its position: Directly located at the Lima Station, we only needed a few minutes to the Duomo. This was very convenient and gave us the possibility to get back to our room within in no time for a little rest or changing clothes.

So when you’re aiming for a city trip, ensure that your hotel or appartment is next to one of the four Metro main lines 🙂

Besides the usual alternatives of Air B’n’B, Couchsurfing, Hostels, etc., some people choose to stay in Bergamo because accomodation might be cheaper there. If you only plan to visit Milan for a daytrip and want to enjoy more of the nature around Bergamo, this might be a good option for you. Bergamo can also serve as a perfect base to discover the big lakes in the North or Bologna, Venice or Florence by rental car or train if you’re having more time.

Where to eat

The best way to find good food is by asking some locals. The second best way if you’re not able to speak the language well enough or feel a little bit shy: TripAdvisor
I’ve been using the TripAdvisor app for years to discover interesting places, activities and good restaurants at home and abroad. TripAdvisor prices the best locations of the year with the Traveler’s Choice Award and most winners display their badges at their entrance. We’ve never been disappointed when visiting one of the winners – even when the price was given to them only once a few years ago.

If you’re interested where we enjoyed the Italian cuisine, have a look at my blog post A Week-End in Milan: 10 Things You Shouldn’t Miss.

A Daytrip from Milan to Bergamo: How to get from Milan Central Station to Bergamo Old Town (Città Alta)

When I prepared our Milan week-end, I found it difficult to find detailed information in English about practical organization and especially transportation. So here are a few tips and recommendations – I hope you find it helpful 🙂 If you have any questions, just leave me a comment or send me a mail and I’ll be happy to help you.

Milan to Bergamo: How to get there by train

The different train companies and websites were quite confusing and I’ve only found expensive and no direct train rides at first. The problem is: The different companies and competitors make it hard to find out in advance how to get there the easiest and cheapest way.

But I kept on searching as all travel blogs mentioned that it’s super cheap and easy to go there by train. Finally, I haven’t found any good website about it but the Milan Transit app shows the right connection you need to take: The RE2 offers a direct train ride and gets you within 51 minutes from Milano Centrale to Stazione Ferroviaria die Bergamo.

When you have to buy your ticket at Milano Central Station before departure, make sure to plan enough time for it. We haven’t found a sign to a ticket office or information desk and felt a little bit overwhelmed by different ticket machines of various operators.

We took the main entrance and didn’t manage to get a ticket at the first machines – it seems these are for people with a special customer card. So we headed forward to the big hall and found a row of more ticket machines at the escalators. It was much easier to get the tickets from there. Make sure to use the Trenitalia ticket machines, as this is the company that operates the RE2. We paid 5,50 EUR for each ticket – a very good price for a distance of approx. 50 km.

After you’ve got your ticket, you can pass the guard at the entrance to the platforms. If you get there early (more than 10 minutes before the train leaves), nobody will be able to tell you from which platform the train is leaving. But don’t worry, there are screens that are updated as soon as the platform is allocated.

We were not used to such a system and found it very strange that other trains leaving after our departure already showed a platform while our train still showed none. We asked at the service counter but they just told us to watch the screen. So just be patient, it will show up in time 😉

In the end, everything worked out well and we took place in a comfortable, air-conditioned train via Bergamo.

Bergamo Train Station to Città Alta

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I’m not a lazy person but believe me: The last thing you want to do on a hot summer day in Bergamo is to go from the train station to the Old Town by foot. We knew that there were buses going from Train Station to Città Alta – but again we’ve been a little bit confused while looking for lockers and the right bus station. In the end we found it, so here’s how you get there:

When leaving the train station, go to the front exit at Piazzale Guglielmo Marconi. You’ll notice a big roundabout at the right. Behind this roundabout is a big building – this is where you need to go. Inside the building, you can buy tickets. I recommend to buy the return tickets already then, so you don’t have to search again for a possibility to buy tickets at Città Alta. Alternatively, you can buy tickets by using the ATB mobile app.

Luggage Storage and how to get to Bergamo Airport

On the left side of the building are lockers for your luggage. If you visit Bergamo on your day of departure (like we did), take your luggage with you to the Old Town. There’ll be lockers as well and the bus from Città Alta will take you directly to the Airport.

More information about the shuttle bus, time tables and fares are available on the official ATB website.

I hope you enjoyed this post and have a great time in Bergamo!

A Week-End in Milan: 10 Things You Shouldn’t Miss

Three reasons why everyone should visit Italy at least once in a lifetime:  Food, culture and la dolce vita! 😉 I’ve never been to Italy before and so I was thrilled to make the most out of this week-end and discover the Italian way of life.

Two or three days are sufficient to get a good impression of the city. In advance of this trip, I’ve read here and there that Milan is not a beautiful or at least not the most beautiful city of Italy. In my opinion, this is not true and I feel I have to put in a good word for Milan. Although I can’t compare it to Italian’s more famous cities like Venice, Florence or Rome as I haven’t visited these places yet, I really loved Milan! It definitely allows to wander along the tracks of the Italian culture, discover historic sights and get a feeling of la dolce vita.  Also, people in Milan are said to be arrogant, but we always felt very welcomed and can only say everyone has been really helpful and friendly.

So here’s my personal top ten of what you shouldn’t miss when visiting Milan:

1. Il Duomo: Architecture, paintings and a great view over Milan

Milan_Il_Duomo

This is a classic – when thinking of Milan, the Duomo is the first thing that comes to one’s mind. Although I’m trying to avoid the typical tourist things, this was a great experience and much fun. We decided to go there on Friday morning to avoid the big masses. This was definitely the best decision as on Saturday the whole forecourt of the Duomo was crowded due to a big demonstration.

Milan_Duomo_Square

We had purchased our tickets in advance to avoid the long queues at the ticket counter and luckily payed a little bit more for the elevator option. There are different entries depending on whether you’re taking the stairs or the elevator. Additionally, you can pay an extra fee to book the fast track lane. We went at the Duomo around 10:00 AM and while the queue for the stairs was pretty long, the entrance for the non-fast track elevator queue was almost empty. After only 10 minutes, we stood on the rooftop and enjoyed the view over Milano.

Milan_Duomo_Rooftop_Chilling

Although we were not too much interested in religion, museums or architecture at this trip, it was great to see the Duomo from within – so I really recommend paying a little bit more. I found the high ceilings, colorful glass windows and paintings very impressive and felt really small there.

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2. Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II: Window Shopping and Good Luck To Go

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A nice contrast after visiting the Duomo is the Galleria Vittoria Emanuele II right next to the cathedral. Trust me, you can hardly miss it. 😉 The building has a beautiful architecture and all the big fashion labels can be found here with one artistically designed window shop after the other. Even if these shops are out of your budget or you’re not into fashion, it’s fun to admire those appealing decorations and window displays presented in the most artful way I’ve ever seen.

But don’t forget to pick up some good luck to go: The floor is decorated with mosaic tiles and shows a bull at the center of the passage . Put your heel on the bull’s balls and spin three times around – according to an old tradition, this will bring you luck. So don’t miss this chance to collect some good fortune for this trip.

The_Bull

3. Food, food, food: Pizza, Pasta e Gelato

For breakfast, I loved the Mint Garden Cafe. Super fresh and tasty, nice decoration and a very friendly waiter! This was the best spot to enjoy some coffee and start the day in a chilled and relaxed atmosphere.

MINT Café Breakfast

During the day, we had the best pizza at Un’Altra Pasta. It’s rather a snack stand than a restaurant, but we haven’t found a better pizza anywhere else during our stay. It’s not too expensive (around 7-8 EUR for a pizza). Despite being near to Il Duomo, it’s not overcrowded and in a quiet side road. This is a less touristy spot and we enjoyed our pizza on the second floor next to some original Italian construction workers.

Un'Altra Pasta Outside
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Ice-cream parlors are everywhere and it seems you can’t go wrong no matter where you end up. We had the best ice-cream in Milano at Amorino (Brera quarter). They form it like rose petals – almost too beautiful to eat! But also too good to let it melt! 😉

In Milan, it’s almost impossible to have a bad meal – there are a lot of great restaurants and especially on week-ends you should book a table in advance. Italians go out in big groups and so restaurants become quickly crowded.

Spaghetti alla chitarra ai frutti di mare

For dinner, we were lucky to get a table without a reservation at Platina. They’ve specialized in fresh pasta and I found the Spaghetti alla chitarra ai frutti di mare so delicious. I paid 15 EUR for a good amount and enjoyed every bite. And for dessert, the Tiramisu is a must – no matter how full you are! 😉

Tiramisu and Chocolate Cake

 

4. Palazzo Brera: Heaven for Lovers of Architecture and Books

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When looking for beautiful pictures and places of Milan, you’ll find many pictures of beautiful balconies which look typically Italian. Most of these are taken in Brera, a quarter of Milan located between Parco Sempione and Giardini Pubblici and a little bit north of the Duomo.

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We wanted to see this Instagram photo spot ourselves but had a little difficulty to find it on the map. So we used the Palazzo Brera for navigation without any intentions to have a look at it.

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But we found the balconies and streets of Brera quite overrated (actually, it were just one or two busy streets full of tourists), while the Palazzo was surprisingly interesting.

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The Palazzo’s architecture is beautiful and reminds me of an ancient Roman mansion or palace, although it was built in the early 17th century. We went inside as the entry is free and had a look at the inner court, the corridors with beautiful statues and the impressive Biblioteca Nazionale Braidense.

If you are interested in arts or astronomy, check out the Museo Astronomico and the Pinacoteca di Brera. You’ll also find a beautiful botanical garden there. For more information go to the offical website here.

5. Castello Sforzesco: The Impressive Walls of Milan Castle

Castello (2)

The Castello Sforzesco is a must-see. Pictures don’t really show the impressiveness and size of this building. In advance, I thought this seemed quite boring – just a square building and some old walls. But believe me – standing there is something completely different, so we’re glad we threw a closer look at it when being at the Parco Sempione anyway.

Castello

And for anyone who’s interested in history or just needs to have an alternative on rainy days, there’s a museum you could visit.

But even if you’re not into history, it’s a nice place to be on sunny days: We had a break at the Castello and listened to a street musician – it felt very laid-back and we gained some new energy to continue exploring Milan.

6. San Bernadino alle Ossa: The Church of Bones

Church of Bones

Yes, correct: Bones! And above all, bones from real humans who’ve once lived a few hundred years ago. This place is scary and fascinating at the same time. I couldn’t get enough of watching and imaging the lives behind those bones. People with weak nerves or stomachs might be a little overwhelmed by this sight, but it’s something you’ll never forget again.

Church of Bones (5)

Besides, we were lucky to listen to a guide of a group explaining that death was seen as something completely normal as it was part of everyday life. He stressed that death is nowadays a bigger taboo than in earlier times and that people had a more natural understanding of it in the past. We’ve also learned that these are mostly skulls and bones of grown-ups. In the past, Italians have been even smaller and grown-up man had the size of a teenager nowadays.

7. Torre Branca: 98 Meters above Milan

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Although we’ve already enjoyed the view from the Duomo, this view was still stunning. I don’t know exactly but guess that the Torre Branca is higher than the Duomo rooftops – at least it felt that way. The contrast between the green of the Parco Sempione and the rest of the city is really stunning.

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The entrance was a little bit difficult to find – you have to leave the park to get there. Plan also for some time to wait as there’s only a limited amount of people which can go up together, approximately 15 persons I think. The stay on the observation deck is limited to about 10 Minutes, so you can do the math how long you’ll have to wait 😉 Especially, when a kindergarten group arrived only 5 minutes before you.

8. Relax in Milan’s Beautiful Parks

Relax

Milan doesn’t look that green from above in Google Maps – but still it felt much greener than expected. Except for all the balconies which were all teeming with plants and flowers everywhere, there are two big parks: The Giardini Pubblici Indo Montanelli and the Parco Sempione. We’ve visited both and while the Giardini Pubblici was OK, we loved the Parco Sempione. Due to the Arco della Pace, the Acquario Civico and the Civic Arena it’s more varied than the Giardini Pubblici. Plus, we’ve seen more homeless and drug addicts around the Giardini Pubblici, so we’ve felt a little unsafe when we had to pass these people in order to enter the park.

As we went there to relax, we didn’t take any pictures except for a few selfies. So I gave us some funny emoji heads to keep the privacy of my sister 😉

9. Enjoy the Italian Aperitivo Culture

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Exploring a city makes one hungry – and as mentioned already, Milan offers so many great possibilities to satisfy you. One special and typical Italian thing is taking an Aperitivo to start the evening. When ordering a drink, it’s accompanied by a little composition of antipasti and bruschetta. In some restaurants, they even offer a buffet to which every guest can help himself for free.

I can recommend the restaurant River in the Navigli quarter – for only 10 EUR I got a pint of Heineken and a full plate of great home-made antipasti, crisps and bruschetta. In the end, I was so full that I even had to skip dinner.

10. Bergamo: The Home of Straciatella ice-cream

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Bergamo is a one-hour train ride away from Milan and perfect for a daytrip if you’ve had enough of the city or to fill your day of departure when you’re flying from Bergamo Airport. It’s not hard to get there by train, but in case you’re having difficulties to find out (as we had), read my post How to get from Milan to Bergamo.

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Bergamo itself is divided into an Old Town (Città Alta) on the hill and a modern part in the valley. The view from the hill is beautiful, you can even see the outlines of the Alps rising above the green countryside.

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We’ve taken a bus to the Old Town and besides the big walls and historic alleys, the cute little shops with fancy foods, clothes or other souvenirs are just great. You can spend a few hours window shopping and trying culinary specialties here and there. The main alleys are touristy and overcrowded – go just around the corner and you’ll have the lovely alleys all for yourself.

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If you want to taste the original Straciatella ice-cream, you have to get some at La Marianna (right at the bus station). We found it tasteful and will never be able to enjoy Straciatella anywhere else the way we did before. 😉

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Of course there are many more sights and things to discover in Milan, especially if you’re interested in arts and visiting museums. But this wasn’t something we were looking for on our girls’ week-end. But when coming back to Milan someday, I’ll definitely have a look at one or another museum or gallery.

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Please feel free to share your thoughts and experiences about Italy in the comments 🙂 If you’ve already been to Milan or Bergamo, I’d be happy to read about your highlights during this trip and if you loved the city as much as we did.

Crazy Monday: About Routines and Habits

This morning was nuts: The night before, I couldn’t fall asleep and felt so awake. After only 4 hours of sleep, I decided to get up an hour later and catch some more sleep. But after 15 minutes of rolling around, I knew this wouldn’t happen. So I got up and though the next train to catch would only leave me half an hour for getting ready, I was sure I could make it thanks to my perfect morning routine 😉 With damp hair but in time, I left the house and headed to the train station. Only then I noticed, that I left my laptop and office keys at home. In fact, I forgot the whole laptop bag without even noticing it until I had finished half the way to the train station. Needless to mention that I wasn’t able to catch the train then. How much more ironic could life be: While thinking about routines and appreciating it, I was tricked by them: The only reason I forgot the laptop case and missed the train was that I didn’t put it next to the door in the hallway the night before.

Routines are important in some way: They help us to concentrate on more important things in life. They give a rest to our mind which is full of tasks, challenges and the other things life throws at us.

But routines create a comfort zone. Though there’s nothing wrong with feeling comfortable, we need to be aware that routines shape our mind and create habits. While routines are more about what we do, habits have a big effect on our personalities. I’d even say that habits shape our thoughts, beliefs and actions more than we notice.

Sticking to routines and habits doesn’t bring anything new into our life. Change is only something that would come from the outside. And clinging too much to our habits results in experiencing change as something that cannot be controlled. Depending on which changes come into our lives and how they are perceived, we will rate change as something rather postive or negative. The latter increases the importance of routines and finally might lead to being afraid of change in general.

Eventually, the world as we see it might be a product of our routines and habits. And even the way we see ourselves might be an outcome of what we do, think and experience each day. In other words: Our routines and habits influence our character and what life means to each of us.

The dangerous part about routines and habits: They come without intention or even accidentally into our lives. Without choosing carefully and mindfully which ones we want in our life, we remain victims of circumstances and chance.
Apart from that, routines and habits are not always supportive: There are bad habits that aren’t good for us and that once creeped into our lives unnoticed.

Changing habits requires effort and energy. It means creating new routines and learning to stick with them. It means giving up comfort for some time and adapting to those changes. And that’s why it’s so hard for us to make changes: It adds stress to our lives that are already busy. Days packed with challenges, tasks and appointments become even more demanding when spending more attention and consciousness to things we didn’t notice before. This consumes extra energy and brain capacity.

But in the end, practicing new routines again and again will lead to a change. It’s about wanting it hard enough to start over and over again. It’s learning to deal with discouraging days on which we fall back into old habits. It’s about changing one’s mind and counting the days on which we behaved successfully in another way instead of counting the days we failed.

Besides, my mixed up morning routine due to missing the train offered a new experience: I indulged myself with a big chocolate muffin and a cappuccino at the train station. I really enjoyed to have a look at all the people in a hurry while having some extra time to start my day slowly and consciously. Maybe this has been just another reminder of enjoying the little things in life, staying postive and welcoming any unforeseen changes life offers.

How do you feel about your routines and habits? And how do you deal with unforeseen events disturbing your routines?

Beautiful Bali: Throwback to my best travel experience ever!

Bali is just magical – there’s something special about it that just caught me. We went to Bali from August to September 2015 for 2 weeks and I’m still thinking it was the best vacation I ever had. It’s time to share these special moments here as this vacation is bringing me feelings of joy and happiness whenever I think about it. My heart still carries the spirit of Bali and I think everyone should go once in a lifetime to Bali and enjoy nature, food and especially the hospitality of Balinese people.

Balinese Statue at Tirta Gangga Water Palace

But first: Amsterdam

Our journey started from Cologne. As we booked flights at KLM, the royal Dutch airline, we had a stop over of several hours in Amsterdam. Getting from the Amsterdam Schiphol Airport to Amsterdam Centraal by train is easy and cheap, so we took the chance to have a look at this beautiful city. The weather was bright and sunny, but our hand luggage felt heavier than expected. After only 2 hours, we already noticed how tired we were from getting up early for the first flight to Amsterdam and carrying our hand luggage with us. Still, what we’ve seen from Amsterdam was very beautiful and spending a whole weekend is something we’re going to consider for another trip. If you’re having a few hours before taking your onward flight, you should definitely go and see a little bit of Amsterdam. And if you pack light, you will enjoy it even more 😉

Denpasar to Candidasa

The flight from Amsterdam to Denpasar takes 16 hours with a one hour stop at Singapore. The flight with KLM was very comfortable, but still our legs were quite swollen when we arrived in Bali.

Finally: Our Bed at Rama Candidasa

After we picked up our luggage, we needed to get a taxi to our Hotel Rama Candidasa. Finding a taxi at the Denpasar Airport is pretty easy – just head to the exit, there will be an official taxi counter. But get prepared for all the unofficial, private drivers next to it who are calling tourists to offer them a taxi. We didn’t trust them and went straight ahead to the official taxi counter. This is where I learned the first lesson in Bali: Always check your change immediately – I was given less money back and luckily noticed it early enough. Speaking of cash: We brought some Indian Rupees with us, but there was also an ATM at the airport.

When leaving the airport building to get to the taxi, it felt like running against a wall of heat and humidity. We were really thankful for arriving in the evening and having an air-conditioned taxi. After passing some large religous statues in Denpasar, the road got pretty dark and it felt like never arriving anywhere. Finally and 1,5 hours later, we arrived at our first hotel – falling into a bed has never felt that good!

Candidasa: Getting to know Bali

Candidasa is like a village with some hotels along the coast. It’s located in the East of Bali and we felt it was a good point to start our Bali adventure: It’s not too touristy while many sights can be visited by car in one day. Our 5-day-stay in Candidasa was a mixture of relaxing at the pool, discovering Balinese culture and indulging ourselves in some pretty good food.
Hint: If you love eating hot and spicy, you just have to try the Colo-colo sauce with breaded fish rolls!

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The Hotel Rama Candidasa also offers a free guided walk in the morning and yoga in the afternoon – we tried both and were impressed by the kindness and the personal aura of the people. We’ve never felt so welcomed anywhere else in the world.

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When staying in Candidasa, go snorkeling at the Blue Lagoon – the water is very clear and the reef is teeming with fish. Our snorkeling guide brought some toast and gave it to us –  the fish were eating from our hands and it was such a great experience. This guide is also a unique person: He’s deaf and dumb – but once being in the water, we didn’t notice it at all. His eyes said it all – he was happy about showing us all the beautiful wonders under water and we really loved the trip with him.

There’s much to see in the East of Bali – we made two daytrips and collected so many wonderful moments and memories on these days. All these beautiful temples and sights are worth a separate blog post – so here’s a first overview of what to discover around Candidasa by car:

Taman Gili: Bale Kembang and Kerta Gosa (Royal Court)
Taman Gili: Bale Kembang
Taman Gili: Kerta Gosa
Pura Goa Lawah (Bat Temple)
Pura Goa Lawah Bat Temple
Ceremony at Pura Goa Lawah
Rice Terraces
Bali Rice Terraces
Tirta Gangga Water Palace
Tirta Gangga Water Palace
 Tenganan (Traditional Balinese Village)
Traditional Aga in Tenganan Village
Pura Besakih (Mother Temple)
Entrance of Pura Besakih (Mother Temple)
Taman Ujung Water Palace
Taman Ujung Water Palace

Munduk: Jungle and Waterfalls

After so many impressions, we craved for a little break and it was just the right moment to continue our journey to Munduk. Munduk is a little place in the North of Bali, surrounded by jungle and mountains. The hotel there only had two stars – so we expected no luxury there. The room was pretty simple and the bathroom included some ant trails – still, the view from the balcony compensated that. Also the food was very good and also the people were warm and welcoming. When we arrived, we had some freshly made banana chips from the grill and a delicious Bintang beer. We enjoyed both at the hotel “terrace” – some furniture placed on the grass with an impressive view over the jungle. It felt like one of the best places on earth to us!

We had planned to stay in Munduk to see some waterfalls in the jungle. The most famous waterfalls of Bali are the Air Terjun Gitgit and Air Terjun Sing-Sing waterfalls.  At the hotel, we booked an English-speaking guide who showed us two less famous but at least equally impressive waterfalls which were much closer to our hotel : Air Terjun Labuhan Kebo and Air Terjun Munduk. At the latter one, I took the chance to bath unter this gigantic waterfall. The water was very cold but it felt very refreshing after walking about an hour through the humid jungle. Another point I could finally cross off from my bucket list.

Ubud: Monkey Forest and Taman Kemude Saraswati

Ubud was the next stop on our journey and we were really looking forward to this centrum of Hippie lifestyle. A must see in Ubud is the Monkey Forest – we weren’t brave enough to feed them bananas but enjoyed watching the monkeys play, eat or just relax. Even if you’re not a monkey fan, you should visit this mystical place: The forest itself is very impressive and especially walking over the ancient bridge feels like entering another world.

Another beautiful sight at Ubud is the temple Taman Kemude Saraswati: Although the temple itself was not open for visitors when we were there, it was worth a visit. Especially the lotus pond in front of the entrance makes it a remarkable place – you should definitely visit this temple when you’re around Ubud.

Taman Kemude Saraswati with Lotus Pond

Apart from that, Ubud is very busy, has much traffic and overall seems very touristy – finding inner peace and calmness is something you should seek somewhere else in Bali. We haven’t been to the rice terraces as we had already seen so many of them during our day trips and when getting from one hotel to another. Still, we  had a nice stay at the Rama Phala Resort and Spa and enjoyed the beautiful garden, refreshing pool and our luxurious room.

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Last stop: Sanur

Our journey ended in Sanur, as we wanted a more westernized hotel to get slowly used to the thought of leaving Bali. We chose the Segara Village Hotel which was just the right spot and offered a good mixture of international and Balinese cuisine. We thought of booking a tour to the top of the Gunung Batur, but then decided to go on a snorkeling trip instead. Although the mountain view would have been a great experience, we were happy to opt for snorkeling. Our trip led us to Tulamben and we went snorkeling at the Liberty ship wreck just a few meters from the beach. It was impressive and we saw many different fish species there.

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All in all, Bali has been a great experience and there are still many things left we haven’t seen or tried yet – so we definitely have some good reasons to come back again and discover the rest of this magical island. Maybe next time we’re going to explore more of the West, including the temple Pura Tanah Lot and the Taman nasional Bali Barat. We also haven’t been to the South and haven’t enjoyed the sunset at Pura Luhur Uluwatu yet.  And last but not least, the Gunung Agung still has to be conquered as well 😉

What about you – do you have a favorite travel destination or experienced a vacation that couldn’t be any better?

Happy New Year! Highlights of 2017 and why good resolutions are so hard to keep

First of all: Happy New Year to all of you! I wish you all the best for 2018, may your goals be achievable and dreams come true! Around the turn of a year, I’m thinking about the last 365 days and what I learned from them. Moments of joy and happiness, excitement and stress or just the average days without feeling anything special. In the end, all of these days have passed to quickly and sometimes it feels this time hasn’t made any difference at all. Then, reading about all these people motivated by an approaching new year and their inspiring resolutions, it’s difficult to stay away from this “new-year-new-me” thing.

New Year resolutions lasting only a few weeks

I don’t know about elsewhere, but in Germany, most New Year’s resolutions are broken in the first quarter. You can tell from watching the gym 😉 In January, everyone seems to join and the gym gets quite crowded. But after a few weeks – latest in February when carnival has arrived – it’s usually back to normal. Although I’m really glad to not share the gym with too many people, it’s somehow sad to see so many people longing for a change but failing. The ones making it until Carnival have kept their resolution up for approximately 4-6 weeks. It should have become a habit for them already.

So why do so many people give up just because an event of a couple of days? Because of the all-or-nothing attitude. It’s the same reason why many of us make it 5 days of the week sticking to their meal plan but switching to binge mode on week-ends – just to start on Mondays all over again. By the way, Mondays are usually the days when the gym is most visited in the course of the year 😉 So when making resolutions or trying to build those habits, you should expect to fail. It’s not easy to cope with unforeseeable events when you’re practicing new behavior. And when you have failed and it was all-or-nothing, all the effort you’ve put into your project seems to have been for nothing. But building new habits is learning how to deal with different situations in accordance to your goal. That means you have to develop some habits and strategies how to react to obstacles – because life always gets in the way and often nothing turns out how it’s been planned. Give yourself time to develop those strategies, try out different approaches. Some might work, others not.

How to refresh the new-year-new-me feeling from time to time

Another strategy involves to bring this motivational “new year” excitement down to a “new week” or even “new day” feeling. Little challenges help to dissolve from particular dates and let you find back on track . Depending on your goal and what type of person you are, a personal challenge on your own can work just as good as finding others to join. The only thing that matters is to keep going – and focus on what you’ve already achieved.

Except for the all-or-nothing attitude, New Year’s resolutions also raise expectations. Usually, these expectations are high. On the one hand, expectations create motivation and a feeling of excitement. Expectations are what get us started and keep us going. But be careful to not set your expectations too high. Setting realistic expectations and taking small-steps gets you farther than dreaming big. Little steps add up and will get you anywhere you want – just start walking. This is why I named my blog “Lovely 365” – to remind myself that we are given 365 opportunities each year to achieve what we wish for.

The reason behind good resolutions

The turn of a year also makes me look closer at my current life and recap my values. Values are important, because this is what steers our thoughts, actions and decisions. It’s like an inner compass that tells us what’s right and what’s wrong, what we should do and what doesn’t do us any good. So, how we live our life, deal with others and treat ourselves is should be the expression of our values. Ignoring – or even denying – these values causes pain and discontentment. It feels like living someone else’s life instead of your own – this can even lead to a sense of heteronomy. To me, there’s nothing worse than ignoring this inner compass. In order to live a life against my values, I would have to numb myself from the inside – and if I just live life long enough like that, this would probably leave me with depression or even physical pain. I think the necessity of making resolutions comes partly because we might sometimes (have to) shift our priorities away from our values. So this is a good time to think about our values, take stock of what might prevent us from living the life we really want to live and take a first tiny step to regain balance in our lives.

My personal highlights 2017 and resolutions for 2018

The biggest highlight for me was definitely finishing my bachelor thesis and successfully graduating from university. Apart from that, I noticed the best moments involved being outside – so I hope to spend my time more often out and about. I should also take my camera more often with me – because photography is something I’d like to intensify this year. Spending time with family and friends is another thing that I aim for. I also hope to post on a more regular basis here and share more thoughts and pictures with you. Last but not least, my bucket list is still waiting for me – so there are hopefully many more great moments to come in 2018!

So, after all these heavy thoughts, here are some joyful moments of the last 365 days:

 

What were your personal highlights 2017?  What are your resolutions, hopes and dreams for 2018?

The Struggle is Real: 5 Ideas How to Survive until Christmas

There are two kind of people: The ones who love the Advent season and cannot get enough of it and others who wish from the beginning of December that this month will pass by quickly. Both reactions are understandable – but I think the latter one is just because those people have forgotten about the real Christmas. I have never gotten to know a single child who doesn’t love the bright lights, baking cookies or playing in the snow. Getting older, this joy is often replaced by rushing to the city on the week-ends, making your way through the crowded shops and desperately trying to find the best gifts for your loved ones.

High expectations usually lead to disappointment. Most of us have enough stress throughout the year and especially for all people working in retail, Christmas must be the worst time of the year. But in the end, it’s our decision: We can choose how we think and feel about this time. It’s up to every single one of us if we’re following the hectic crowd or just pause for a moment and think about how else we could spend our time until Christmas.

Here are 5 ideas how to give Christmas a chance and find a way to enjoy it again:

  • Think about what you enjoyed as a child. Pay attention to these things and return to old traditions – but don’t expect it to be the same like before! The more often we experience Christmas, the more we’re getting used to it. Life experience is something valuable but comes at a cost: The magic of experiencing something the first time will be lost the more you know. We should keep this in mind and be thankful for the good memories without desperately trying to recreate the same feelings again.
  • Skip traditions. Really – sometimes we’re holding on to something just because of being used to it. Pay attention about what you think you have to do because it’s Christmas but don’t really enjoy. You don’t have to have Christmas tree if it’s bringing more stress than joy to your life. You don’t have to bake cookies if you suck at it or just don’t feel like destroying the kitchen completely. Alternatively, try out something different and create your own traditions – maybe reading your favorite book during the Advent Season or going ice-skating the day before Christmas.
  •  Take vacation before Christmas. It’s really that simple: Most people around me don’t think about taking vacations before Christmas holidays. And of course, it isn’t possible for everyone. But if you can, take some days off and enjoy the festive lights while making your way through less crowded shops on weekdays. Additionally, you will have more time for all your loved ones who ask for spending some time together. You have also more time to think about what to get for them or even craft personal gifts if you have skilled hand.
  • Give yourself a rest. Even if taking vacation is not an option, don’t stuff your week-ends with musts and shoulds. Take your time – even if it’s just an hour – to calm down. Enjoy a tea or hot chocolate, listen to your favorite music and relax. Think about all the people and things that are important to you and be grateful to be able to spend some time with them during the Christmas season. Thinking about your loved ones and how important they are in your life makes you appreciate them again. Because sometimes in our everyday routine, we take them for granted. Appreciating them again helps also to think about what they would truly enjoy. That brings us to our last point:
  • The best things in life are usually memories related to people instead of stuff. So think about the moments with every single one of your loved ones. What were you doing? What was so special about it? This way, you will get an idea about what to get for them. Although some people might think it’s a cheap way for scrooges to survive Christmas without spending, personal gift certificates are great. Time is a scarce resource for most of us and investing it into others is something that’s done rarely these days. You can craft your own voucher or just buy a nice one that can be personalized. It should be an activity or an event that the presentee really enjoys but hasn’t done for a while (or even never before if you know he’s going to love it). This can be everything from an invitation to dinner or eating out over visiting a concert of his/her favorite band to more extreme activities like skydiving. Just make sure that it’s something you’ll be able to join or at least accompany him/her in order create a common memory.

If you enjoyed this post, please let me know with a like. I’d also love to hear about your strategies how you slow down this Christmas season – just leave a comment below 🙂

Week #2-4 without media consumption: Minimalism is only half of the story

Time is running by and almost 4 weeks are over now. So far, my media fast went pretty good – during the last 2.5 weeks I only watched 1.5 movies with my boyfriend. The second movie didn’t count because I was too tired and overslept most of the time he was watching. I don’t consider it as breaking the challenge, as it was rather quality time we enjoyed together. Because let’s be honest: On some evenings, you just need a little rest and don’t feel like doing anything else. As this media time was mindfully chosen and I knew right from the start that it wouldn’t be more than those two movies (on different days), it is OK for me.

Minimalism got me started

I started this challenge out of several reasons – one of it is related to living a minimalist life: I got naturally into minimalist thinking without even knowing that such a lifestyle existed. But after I found out about the minimalist movement on the web, it really got me. I enjoy reading about it and thinking about minimalism as a way to become more satisfied with life in general. Besides gratefulness and appreciation for what you have, time is an important topic in the minimalist community. Spending your time more intentionally will help you to reach your goals and build the life you are longing for.

Less clutter doesn’t get you closer to your goals

Expectations about minimalism are high these days – the trend of simplicity seems sometimes like an universal remedy to all problems. But let’s be realistic about minimalist lifestyle: Less clutter doesn’t get you closer to your dreams and more time won’t automatically fulfil your dreams when you don’t plan how to use it. Hence, I was curious how I would use my time without any media distraction. I also wanted to get rid of the unrealistic expectations about what social media and advertisements are telling us of what life should be . Finding out about what really matters to me and learning how to actively enjoy instead of consume are important for me to gain more satisfaction. I really don’t want to stay on the sidelines and watch how other people are living their lives. During the last weeks, I often spent my evenings reading instead of scrolling through Instagram or Facebook timelines.

How media fasting improves my financials

During my childhood, I have been a bookworm and read everything I could get a hold on. Over time, I forgot about this passion. Especially during my part-time studies over the last 4 years, I had much to read for university. Although it was somehow interesting, it cannot be compared to the joy of reading books chosen by yourself. Reading became burdensome duty I needed to fulfill in order to write academic papers. After a few months since my graduation, I’m glad to rediscover this joy again. While novels are great for vacations, I recently prefer specialized books and self-help literature to gain additional knowledge or improve my life. Currently, I’m reading about how to increase savings by making passive investments. I got into this topic a short while ago when I discovered the concept of financial freedom. I intend to start investing in ETFs soon – but before doing this, I need to understand in-depth how to create a good portfolio that suits my risk profile and expectations. In the end, the time I gained will pay out twice: Besides increased financial knowledge, I expect to improve my savings significantly by this new way of thinking. Maybe I’m going to share my insights when I’m done with this topic – but currently I don’t feel skilled enough to step into financial blog posts.

Health benefits from reduced screen time

Besides increasing the time and financial aspects, reducing overall screen time has also positive biological effects on me: I got more aware of my body’s needs and go to bed earlier than usual. I even look forward to cuddle up in my bed with some books, reading some pages and noticing how I’m getting tired. I feel more rested in the morning and seem to have more energy throughout the day. Apart from that, a study from Harvard Medical School confirms that blue light from screens can result not only in poor sleep patterns, but also threatens your health by messing up your biological rhythm. Severe diseases like depression and even cancer might be caused by a disturbed circadian rhythm. Additionally, not sitting on the couch or at the PC really helps to get your ass to the gym 😉

Overall effects after (almost) 30 days of media fasting

Summed up, this media fasting is a real win: By spending my time more consciously and using it for more joy- and meaningful activities, my life improves financially, physically and mentally. I also increased my social activities and took more time for my loved ones. After this short period and with casual exceptions from the ban, I’m amazed how a comparatively little change contributes to my entire well-being.

Due to these positive effects, I voluntarily want to keep my media consumption at a low level and am going to avoid all kind of screens (including my mobile phone) at least 1-2 hours before going to bed. In other words, this challenge has already been mastered – I got used to less media consumption and prefer spending my days and evenings media-free. Therefore, I hereby declare the challenge to be over as a new habit has been formed.

What’s next?

I want to use my free time for other goals than just reading books. Since May, I’m refreshing my French language skills – recently, I neglected that a little bit although having more time than usual. I think that might become a topic for another challenge someday! Also, vacation is almost there – so I hope to blog more regularly until Christmas and share some daytrips, pictures and random thoughts with you.

Zurich in 12 Hours: Sightseeing, Christmas Markets and Arts

Switzerland has never been on my bucket list so far. However, I love to explore new places and take every chance I can get to discover the world. A one-day business trip led me to Zurich – so I decided to elongate my time there and stayed for a week-end. As the first day was full of work and the third day was the day of departure, I actually had only one full day to discover Zurich. As Zurich is rather small and you can see a lot by walking around or using the tram, 12 hours are enough to obtain a good impression about life in Zurich.

08:00 AM

I wake up to the sound of pouring rain. The sky is dark and you can tell by the movement of the grey clouds that it’s far from comfortable outside. As Zurich is very expensive, I booked the first time a room at Airbnb. The appartment is small but clean and tidy, Jan is a very friendly and welcoming host. When I get up for breakfast, he has already gone to work. In the kitchen, he left a small chocolate bar and in the corridor, he put out an umbrella for me. It’s my first time to share a flat with a complete stranger, but it doesn’t feel awkward at all. I prepare myself a little breakfast, sit down at the open window and listen to the sound of rain while enjoying a hot tea. Now I’m ready to explore Zurich and am determined to not letting the rain destroy my day.

09:00 AM – 10:00 AM

Rain won’t stop me!

I make my way through the rain to Zurich West – it’s really cold and my fingers hurt due to the cold after just a couple of minutes. Zurich West is a trendy neighborhood with an alternative touch. The Prime Tower, a huge building with glass frontage, looks impressive. It includes a bar where you might have a wonderful view over Zurich. As I just had breakfast and there is so much to see, I leave it behind and go straight to the railway viaduct. It was built in 1894 and looks very impressive from below. Little shops selling exclusive designer items, pricey clothes and gourmet restaurants are built into the bows. A great idea to make use of this old building without changing its appearance too much. At the end of the street, there is a market hall with many different gourmet and high quality whole food stands. If you’re a foodie and are looking for a nice souvenir or just want to try some delicacies, this is the place to go.

10:00 AM – 12:00 PM

From Zurich West, I take the tram to the old town of Zurich. There you can find the Großmünster and the Wasserkirche. For 5 CHF, you can enter one of the towers of Großmünster and gain a wonderful view over Zurich. Even on rainy days, the view is great – you really should go there when spending some time in Zurich.

Großmünster

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The river Limmat separates the old town of Zurich from the modern quarter. Right at the Wasserkirche, there is a small bridge that leads across the Limmat to Fraumünster. This church is famous for its bright windows created by Marc Chagall. But also the other windows of Giacometti and Heaton with its luminous colors are impressive. You have to pay another 5 CHF to enter Fraumünster, but it’s definitely worth it. On such a rainy and cold day, I’m glad to spend some time inside. They even offer free audio guides and although I’m not too much interested into architecture or religion, I spend about an hour listening to the stories and admiring the beautifully shining windows. Additionally, I’m lucky to listen to the choir rehearsal and enjoy the great acoustics. At this moment, I feel very grateful for the rain because otherwise I might not have visited Fraumünster.

Fraumünster Choir
Marc Chagall Windows of Fraumünster
Paintings in the courtyard of Fraumünster

12:00 PM – 03:00 PM

After so many impressions, I’m hungry. Christmas Market stands are everywhere and offer great food. As it’s still wet and cold, I take a goulash soup served in a loaf of bread. At this moment, I can’t imagine something tastier than this and really enjoy the heat that’s slowly spreading inside me.

Goulash soup – yummy!

Afterwards, I strive through the little alleys and streets of Zurich and get to Zurichsee. The bright flowers are a welcome and surprising contrast to this grey and rainy day.

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For a little dessert, visiting Sprüngli is the best you can do. The famous Luxemburgerli – little macarons – are delicious and a particular speciality. It would be a shame to leave Zurich without trying those. There are many Sprüngli shops scattered all over the city. Sprüngli also offers small cakes that look like tiny work of arts!

Another great thing to do in the afternoon is visiting the Giacometti hall: In the 1920ies, the entrance of the central police station was dark and uncomfortable. Giacometti, a renown artist, was engaged to make it more welcoming. He really mastered this task and surpassed all expectations. The painted walls seem to glow on their own – only little light is needed to show the beauty of this masterpiece. Unfortunately, it’s not allowed to take pictures and you better keep to this rule as you have to leave your ID card at the entrance of the police station. This blogger has been more brave than me to break the rule and posted a picture of the hall. Additionally, you can find a 360° view of the hall here.

Giacometti Hall | Picture by dalejniejade.pl

03:00 PM – 05:00 PM

The rain has stopped, but walking through Zurich in the cold gets a little bit exhausting. Therefore, I decide to visit the Kunsthaus. The Kunsthaus is a museum with an extensive exposition of more than 4000 objects. It includes numerous different genres of art reaching from impressive paintings of the old masters to modern installations. It seems impossible to get bored of such a diversified collection. The different styles of paintings are really inspirational and even someone who doesn’t know anything about arts (like me 😉 ) will admire the skills it does take to create such great paintings.  The panorama water lily painting by Monet really caught me. The lightning in the room is perfect and I took some time to just sit down in front of this masterpiece and let its magic work on me.

One of Monet’s famous Water Lily Pond paintings!

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05:00 PM – 09:00 PM

The sun has gone and the festive lights in the streets create a whole new atmosphere. Fortunately, the rain has finally stopped. In this magical Christmas atmosphere, it’s a pleasure to walk around and experiencing another face of Zurich. If you want to enjoy another great view over the city lights, you can go up to the university building on the hill. The sparkling lights and lit buildings create a great panorama. And the best of it: I almost have it all for myself – as it’s already dark, only a handful of others have come here.

View over Zurich from University

Near the main station, there is a special Christmas Market at the Landesmuseum Zurich. The colorful lights are overwhelming and I need some time to deal with it. I can’t stop staring at all these lights and admiring how beautiful it looks. The waffle at the Christmas stand perfects this wonderful moment.

Another really nice Christmas market is at the other end of Zurich on the Bellevue square in front of the opera house. The best thing about this market is that there is enough space for everyone – no pushing from other people, you can go where you want at your own pace. There are many different things to taste. Still, there are also some stands where you can buy great gifts for your loved ones or just treat yourself. The goods are more individual and fancy than on traditional German Christmas markets where everything seems to be repeated after a few stands.

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At the end of a day, I feel really exhausted, but happy. My feet hurt from running around – still, I would do it again!

A few hours more to spend in Zurich?

On my day of departure, I visited the zoo. It’s easy to reach by tram and is another great possibility to spend some hours in Zurich. If you are less interested in arts or traveling with kids, this could be a good alternative to the Kunsthaus. The zoo is divided into different areas and still expanding – currently they are working on “Australia” and “Africa” themed sections. The Masoala rainforest hall is really great – high temperatures and air humidity lets you forget about the weather outside. And striving through this artificial rainforest with flying foxes, birds and chameleons is just great!