A Day in Berlin, more like Brrlin || A Semester Abroad

After partying it up in Amsterdam over New Years, Messy and I continued our travels to Berlin. At first, I found Berlin to be a little harsh and chilling. This was partly due to the to the bleak winter weather, but also the abruptness of the cities architecture. It was very jarring, especially in comparison to the gezelligheid of Amsterdam. (Gezelligheid is a Dutch word that encompasses the feeling of a cozy and friendly atmosphere). But now I look back and revere Berlin.

My most distinct memory of Berlin was the eclectic mixture of architecture. There were many different styles of buildings, and they were all shoved on top of each other. This meant that the city had a very different feel from what I’m used to, there was so much going on. There were these impressive modern buildings, so it felt like a business city.

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When Messy and I first arrived in Berlin we were met with awe. Berlin’s Hauptbahnhof (main train station) left me speechless. I had never seen such a humongous and extensive train system. There were never ending platforms above and below us, everywhere we looked lead to more trains. You’d look over the edge of a platform and you’d see a labyrinth of more platforms set out beneath you. I ended up seeing a number of central stations through Europe, but none of them compared to the set up of Berlin’s Hauptbahnhof.

On top of this modern feeling, Berlin had the normal historical sites of any European city. You could find the old historical buildings, churches and palaces, which gave Berlin that quintessential European charm. In the picture below it’s the Oberbaumbrücke, a double decker bridge.

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But then shoved among the modern and old were these old houses that were still in a state of disrepair. You could see where the buildings had been bombed and ruined. It felt like you could see the scars of the city.

At times this could be a little chilling. However, I quite liked that the buildings were kept the way they were. It showed the history of the place which gave Berlin a certain rawness. I saw buildings with bullet holes in them that still haven’t been covered up.

Then, littered through the city you could see parts of the Berlin Wall. Sometimes the Wall was left bare, others like the East Side Gallery were covered in art.

I believe it was the history that made me feel a chill towards Berlin at first. Prior to here, I hadn’t been to any places that were obviously touched by war. It surprised me by how much I was confronted by seeing the Berlin Wall. It was surprising how thin it was. We spent some time at the Berlin Wall Memorial to better understand the Cold War, so I found it to be one of the more affecting and haunting time of the overall trip.

All of these different styles through out the city made Berlin a really unique place. It felt like you could walk through Berlin for years and still find something you never noticed before. I think that’s what I most respect about Berlin, it is rich historically, but has lots of cool underground things going on.

Messy and I did not spend much time in Berlin yet we still found some amazing places.  We found a coffee shop that was serving a delicious German breakfast. They bought out platters of meats, cheeses, fruits, breads, jams and spreads for us to share. I love sharing food, and German breakfasts, so the combination made me a very happy Jacqui. It was delicious. I’m also quite a fan of outdoor markets we were lucky enough to go to the Flohmarkt am Mauerparkt. We spent a morning perusing the stores and sipping at Gluhwein to keep us warm.

The city had a very distinct feeling, one that I had never experienced before, and have yet to experience again. I’m very excited to return to Berlin and see what more this city has to offer.

 

 

 

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A Semester Abroad || Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam was a city that truly impressed me. We arrived in Amsterdam by train from Frankfurt. During the train ride, we met a lady, Silke, who we spoke to the entire train ride. We bonded over yoga and she tried to teach me some Dutch. She also showed us how to get out of the train station, Centraal. My first impression of Amsterdam was one of my favourites. We walked out of the relative calm of Centraal and into an explosion of the senses. The sun was setting over the canals and the Christmas Lights were out and twinkling. Then the cold air hit us, as had the noise and commotion from the traffic. There were bikes, trams, cars and people all intertwining, lights were flashing and horns were beeping. Tourists were everywhere, all speaking rapidly in different languages. It was overwhelming to first walk into the chaos. Especially since I was still not used to right-hand traffic. I couldn’t remember which way to look, or who to give way to.

Once we had navigated our way to our hotel we unpacked and got ourselves comfortable. We went back right into the mayhem to find some dinner, we chose pancakes. We spent five nights in Amsterdam and quickly fell into a pattern. I would eat croissants for breakfast, we would walk to the city and wander all day and eat pancakes.

It was a nice rhythm, we would walk throughout Amsterdam taking in all its uniqueness and beauty. I really enjoyed the way that Matt and I travelled together. We would pick a place or two that we wanted to visit and walk in that general direction. If and when we saw something interesting we would make a detour. It meant that we had purpose in our wanderings and would see something we wanted to, but enough flexibility that we could stumble across some cool places. I liked walking up to intersections and going whichever way looked the most interesting.

On our first full day in Amsterdam, our goal was to figure out the general layout of Amsterdam and see some of the main sights. I had wanted to see the I Amsterdam letters, apart from the canals they were quintessential Amsterdam to me. I had not done my research, but luckily we stumbled across them when we went to check out the museum’s.

I am quite a fan of climbing, and will generally climb on most things. That was one of the reasons why I was looking forward to those letters. I love that these letters were built to be interacted with. So, of course, I had to climb them. This will be a general theme within these blog posts, me climbing to the top of things.

As I previously mentioned, we would wander to our hearts content. One of the downsides of this is that you don’t know where you’ll end up, and you can’t always find your way back. We had come across some winter markets. We stopped and had a few drinks and tried these delicious cheesy fingers. They were spring rolls filled with cheese that you dipped in sweet chilli sauce. They were delicious. One day we caught up with some Australian’s that I had met back at Splendour in the Grass. We had raved on and on about these cheesy sticks, that we had to find them again to show them.

We all explored Vondelpark together and again climbed the I Amsterdam letters. We spent all day keeping our eyes out for these markets, and as soon as we gave up we stumbled upon them. It was like finding Narnia. We all ate and swapped stories. I am really glad that we had caught up with Elise, Beau and their friend Abbey. I had not seen them for 2 years and travelling had brought us back together.

New Years was the big day. We knew the layout of Amsterdam and we were determined to get a good spot. We decided on one of the main canals. It was flooded with people, to the point that people were standing on the tops of bus stops. Fireworks were a constant, coming from every direction. Bursts of colour twisting through the air. The sizzling and crackles echoed through your body. It gave a feeling of connectedness and warmness within the crowd, despite the cold mask over everyone. I had never experienced a New Years celebration like it, the fireworks were endless. When we were leaving Amsterdam two days later, explosions would set off once or twice every hour.

Amsterdam was the city that I was the most reflective. It was one of the cities that we spent the most time in, so we took it at a slower pace. By this time of the trip, it had hit me that I had left home and that all the trip was ahead of me. Not only was I overcome with excitement at all the possibilities, I realised that parts of this trip will be difficult. This exchange trip had been a dream of mine for over a year, and it was finally coming to life. It was no longer in the future, it was finally happening. It was a bit of shock as I had expected to be distracted all the time. I associated travelling with constantly having new things to do, new things to explore. Whilst this was true to a certain extent, it was not as often as I was expecting. To fill my time I started drawing, something I had not done for a few years. I also spent quite a bit of time determining my ten songs that summarised 2015 for me.

My Travels to Canada, Smithers Edition || Blogutions DAY 4

Today is the final installment on my travels to Canada, where I will be focusing on the largest portion of our trip, in Smithers. Smithers is a town in British Columbia with a population of about 5500 people, about a 13 hour of drive from Whistler. These next photos are from the drive up. It was really weird, not only driving on the other side of the road, but driving on snow. We were very much out of our comfort zone, especially dad who was the driver.

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The reason we went to Smithers was to visit my Dads cousins family. We stayed on their property in a cabin they had built just a minutes walk from there house. In the cabin was a kitchenette, fully functioning bathroom and three bedrooms with a living area. It was all heated by a central fire place, which was something I have never had to do.

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Not only was their house and self contained cabins beautiful, their property was huge and stunning. We were able to cross country ski around their property and into the national park next to them.

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Cross Country Skiing – Achievement Unlocked
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“That’s going to hurt” – Sams thoughts
"Well, I screwed that one up" - Jacqui
“Well, I screwed that one up” – Jacqui

I’m not going to lie, I constantly got distracted by the scenery which caused many trips and tumbles. You can’t really blame me with a view like that.

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These photos below was the view we would wake up to. These were probably the ones days we saw sun in Canada and by then we were missing the blue skies.

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We even travelled to the neighbouring town of Telkwa where we took this stunning photo. It took many attempts to get the photo right, but it worked out well in the end.

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As you can probably tell, with my inexperience of fireplaces and heated pools (that I discuss in my last post) we don’t have particularly cold winters in Brisbane. It might get to 5 degrees some nights but they aren’t very intense. This means that I had not experienced a white Christmas. Christmas for me is a whole lot of prawns, and food, with my cousins having a water fight. Yes I am 19 and I still have water fights with my cousins, every year. My uncles and aunts get involved as well, it’s a family tradition. Moving back to my point, I had my very first white Christmas in Canada and it was everything I expected and more. So here are a few snaps of that festive time.

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Christmas Eve Dinner

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Dad was very proud of his new fridge

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A clear Christmas Day morning

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We spent quite some time building snowmen in the backyard while the turkey was cooking.

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Excited for our turkey dinner!

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Just a little too excited there Jacqui

After Christmas we drove back down to Vancouver, and stayed there for New Years. We were able to walk down the main strip in Vancouver, right in the middle of the road.

New Years Selfie!

New Years Selfie!

We then left for Brisbane on New Years Day and got back on the 3rd of January, which was one of the hottest recorded days in Brisbane. Some areas reached 43 degrees. We returned in the height of summer where it was stinking hot. I then went to a festival the very next day, which is the perfect transition into my next mini series of blogs, music festivals in 2014. I will start these after I finish the Blogging 101 tutorial that you will see tomorrow!

Have you ever had a Christmas in the opposite climate? How was it for you? Let me know down in the comments!

Jacqui xx

My Travels to Canada, Whistler Edition || Blogutions DAY 3

Hey guys!

Yesterday I showed you some photos of my exciting time in Canada. Today I will be focusing on the Whistler leg of the journey. We stayed a week at the Pan Pacific, one of the most beautiful hotels I have ever stayed in.

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My quarters
My quarters
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It looked like a little winter wonderland village. Well I suppose it was.

The week we stayed had very poor weather for skiing, low visibility and not much snow fall and it being over 0 degrees so the ice was starting to melt.

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Despite the poor skiing weather we had loads of fun, we shopped around, saw the Hobbit, had some beautiful food and I learnt how to ski. I have not really enjoyed many sports until I tried skiing, it is such a shame I live in Brisbane, a city that has never seen snow.

Look at me, all excited
Look at me, all excited to be on gondola

After a long day of skiing we’d get back to our hotel where they had a complimentary drinks time. We’d always go and indulge ourselves in a hot chocolate. After our second day we learnt that they had heated pools outside which were amazing for relieving sore muscle aches. I found these incredible, I could not get my head around them. I am so used to going to a pool for a way to cool down in summer, so it was a little unusual for me to be dipping into a pool when I am surrounded in snow.

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"How does this even work??" - Jacqui's constant thoughts
“How does this even work??” – Jacqui’s constant thoughts

We did quite a few walks around Whistler and Blackcomb, giving me the opportunity to try my hand at photography.

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Do you guys know how to ski? If so how old where you? If not, would you ever like? Let me know down in the comments.

Jacqui xx

My Travels to Canada || Blogutions DAY 2

Today, the 2nd of January did not exist for me last year. I boarded a plane on the 1st of January at Vancouver and 24 hours later I landed in Brisbane on the 3rd of January. Time zones and such. Although I like to think of it as time travel.

I thought it would be a great day to share my travels with my family (as though I wrote it on the plane, except one year late). I’ll start off with my time in Vancouver, then the next two days with Whistler and Smithers.

Very bored waiting for the boarding
Very bored waiting for the boarding

After much more travel time then I was accustomed to we landed in Vancouver in early December very stiff and a little jet lagged. We spent a few days recovering and exploring Stanley Park.

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Vancouver wharf
"Jacqui, stop waddling behind to take photos of us walking" - Jacqui's dad
“Jacqui, stop lagging behind us to try and take photos” – Jacqui’s family
"It's so unbelievably cold" - Jacqui's thoughts
“It’s so unbelievably cold” – Jacqui’s thoughts
I think we're a little lost
Guys I think we’re a little lost

We spent a night over at Vancouver Island sampling some delectable treats at the markets.

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We also got to see the Canucks play (ice) hockey (I’m sorry Canadians but it’s called ice hockey where I live), which was an amazing experience. I actually enjoyed watching sport.

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In my dreams
In my dreams

My favourite part of Vancouver was Steamworks, a brewery, which had the best hot wings I have ever eaten. I also loved the Tim Hortons coffee everywhere I went. Another cool thing we learnt that it was very rare for it to snow in Vancouver, and in the few days we were there it snowed the entire time.

To finish off my time in Vancouver I wanted to add in this super cute photo of the first squirrel I had ever seen.

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Let me know in the comments some of your favourite places to travel to!

See you soon, Jacqui xx