What to do in Berlin if it’s freezing?!

I love Berlin
I love Berlin

The first thing that comes into my mind when I think of the trip to Berlin is: avoid visiting Berlin in the winter!! It is freezing and windy. Not the right weather conditions for a city trip.
I was there in the end of November with some friends.

I have never been in Berlin before and I knew that 3 days would just last for a few of the things that I wanted to see, so I expected long walks and a tight schedule. Well, I noticed quite soon that it was too cold to walk around for more than 15 minutes and actually it was already dark at around 4 pm, which is really too early if you do not want to wake up too early in the morning during your vacation.
So here we were, a couple of weeks after the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall on 9th November 2014.

We needed a plan B. And plan B was soon found: Sightseeing tours in double-decker buses!

With a Map for the perfect orientation and the explanations in your mother tongue you can reach any point of the city
With a Map for the perfect orientation and the explanations in your mother tongue you can reach any point of the city

I know – I know, this is not really what is called an adventure city trip, and I am not a fan of these busses neither, but believe me: windy -9° C is definitely too cold to walk around!

We soon found out that there are four tours offered by Berlin City Tour:
– the Classic Tour which includes all the major attractions of Berlin, such as Brandenburg Gate, KaDeWe, Checkpoint Charlie, Potsdamer Platz and TV Tower.

Brandenburger Tor
Brandenburg Gate

– the Wall and Lifestyle Tour, which takes you to the Berlin Wall Memorial, to an original WWII bunker, to Prenzlauer Berg with its countless restaurants, cafes and galleries, to the East Side Gallery, which is the longest preserved part of the Berlin Wall, and much more…

The Berlin Wall
The Berlin Wall

– the Westend Tour with a view of the exclusive residential areas and the famous Ku’damm, the Charlottenburg Palace, the ICC and Radio Tower and the Olympic Stadium.

– the Boat Tour, which is of course a boat cruise on the River Spree to see the most famous sights of Berlin.

Click here for the rates (there is a small discount if you book online).

We booked the Tours 1 and 2 and it was the best choice: a good way to see the city despite of the freezing cold. Of course you have the possibility to go out of the bus at any point and explore the areas you are interested in on your own, and then proceed with the tour whenever you want. This means that you can also just use it as an easy alternative to public transport to get from A to B.

Tour 2 was interesting as we saw parts of ex-Eastern Berlin which kept the flair of 25 years ago, where one can imagine how life was before the fall of the wall.
On this Tour you do not have a recorded voice explaining what you see, but a real guide, which is of course nicer. The guide only speaks German and English, but the real problem was that our guide explained everything very much in detail in German and just spent few words in English, so that the explanation was nearly useless in English.

We went off the bus to explore the parts of the city that we absolutely wanted to see more in detail and got a good overall idea of the city. The Tours stop at around 4 pm, which means that you have the possibility to live the evening on your own.
Berlin Signs

Now I have the impression that I need to go back to Berlin to “live” the city when it’s warmer, but I was positively surprised about how the City Tours Busses saved my trip to Berlin and how I now know what I would love to explore a bit better next time. I am definitely looking forward to my next trip to this unique city!

Potsdamer Platz:
We slept at the Marriott at Potsdamer Platz, which I found out to be my favorite area of Berlin.

Potsdamer Platz by night
Potsdamer Platz by night

Potsdamer Platz is a great mixture between high modern buildings and the historical charm of Berlin. The square was divided by the wall, and after the fall quickly became one of the most exciting “in” places of Berlin.

A piece of Wall at Potsdamer Platz
A piece of Wall at Potsdamer Platz

The square was developed by Daimler and opened on 2 October 1998, with a spectacular architectural diversity and a huge cultural offer due to the Berlinale, the Expressionale, three theatres, a casino, two nightclubs, two health centers, a shopping mall and around 30 restaurants, bars and cafés in addition to offices and apartments.

Marriott Potsdamer Platz:
The Marriott Potsdamer Platz is located inside the Beisheim Center building, which has been inaugurated in 2004. Apart of the Marriott Hotel, it includes The Ritz Carlton, several offices and some apartments which were the first in Germany profiting of the “Five Star Plus Hotelservice”, which means that the inhabitants can use the services and the infrastructure of the Ritz Carlton to live in luxury.

Marriott Potsdamer Platz hotel lobby seen from one of the floors with the hotel rooms
Marriott Potsdamer Platz hotel lobby seen from one of the floors with the hotel rooms

The style of the Marriott is modern and elegant, with a spacious hotel lobby, a very inviting Hotel Bar and restaurant. The room we got was big and bright due to the floor-to-ceiling windows, with a very modern and functional bathroom and a huge fluffy bed.
The Wellness Area includes a beautiful pool and a small sauna. The Fitness room is well equipped.
Staff is very friendly and helpful. It is easy to feel comfortable at Marriott Potsdamer Platz!
Unfortunately I have to mention also two negative points: internet access was not included, which I think is not up-to-date anymore, and we did not manage to heat the room as much we wanted, which was a pity as it was so cold outside and we would have loved some degrees more inside the room.

For Sunday-Brunch lovers:
If you are a Sunday-Brunch lover you have to try out the Sunday-Brunch at the Marriott! It is one of the best I have ever seen! There is a huge buffet with everything a buncher’s heart can desire, delicious fresh pastries and juices, fruits and sausages… and in the middle of it there is an open space kitchen with cooks for the eggs and pancakes.
As we arrived on Saturday afternoon, we did not know about the Sunday Brunch and went to the restaurant the next morning thinking that a normal breakfast awaited us. It was a great surprise and we enjoyed it so much… until we found out the price: 35 € per person!
So, an expensive joy – but I think it is worth it if you appreciate these kind of brunches.

Where to go for a Drink:
A great “in” place to see is the Monkey Bar on the tenth floor of the trendy 25h Hotel. It is a Rooftop-Bar with a spectacular panoramic view over the city and on the monkeys of the Berlin Zoo. It is decorated in a mixture of industrial and jungle style and a new “hotspot” in Berlin. You can sit on the big stairs behind the bar to enjoy the best view and in summer on the terrace. The jungle-style cocktails are said to be good, I just had a tea to warm myself up.

Monkey Bar, trendy Bar inside the 25hours Hotel
Monkey Bar, trendy Bar inside the 25hours Hotel
Rooftop Monkey Bar overlooking Berlin Zoo
Rooftop Monkey Bar overlooking Berlin Zoo

Berlin’s History:
Before my trip I wondered how much the city is still influenced by its division and its history. It soon occurred to me that 25 years is not a long time and the wound are still very fresh. The signs of this city’s history can be seen and felt everywhere and are impressive and very touching.

The Berlin Wall and the signs of the terror
The Berlin Wall and the signs of the terror
Checkpoint Charlie
Checkpoint Charlie was the only crossing point where diplomats and the military personnel of the Western Powers were allowed to enter East Berlin.
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

East Side Gallery:  a segment of the Berlin Wall has been turned into the longest open air gallery in the world.

East Side Gallery
Honecker and Breschnew locked in a kiss of brotherly, socialistic love.
East Side Gallery
Ghost Sitting on the Wall of Berlin


My Warm-Hearted Christmas Travel-Thoughts

Christmas travels
Christmas travels

The Christmas days are now over and I hope you had a great time! I first had the need to sleep many many hours to recover from all these cheerful Christmas celebrations – but I have the feeling I am not the only one who is tired after the last festive days.

Everyone I am talking to tells me how stressful this time of the year is. The organization of all the presents, the Christmas decorations, the food preparation, the organization of the trips to the families…. All this paired with a huge amount of stress at work. I have the impression that every kind of working place gets stressful before Christmas. Everyone feels the need of completing everything before the year ends, as if there would be no tomorrow.

But wait, wasn’t Christmas the festivity of love and peace?

I think that sometimes the pressure of the things you “must” do ruins the special moment of sitting with your family, with your parents, with your friends, and enjoy these days. Instead of thinking about how perfect the dinner must look like or how noisy the neighbors children will be or about the awful present from grandma,… one should think about how special every moment with the grandma is. These family moments together are something that money can’t buy or bring back later and a not-so-perfect dinner cannot ruin. And with family I do also mean friends or anyone you are celebrating Christmas with. This is what I have learned.Christmas Candles

What’s this got to do with travel? Well a lot!

Most of us travel to reach the place where their family is. It is not such a spectacular kind of traveling, so that you will not read too much information about it, but I think it is the most sincere kind of travel. People basically travel to reach someone they love to see. This is the thought that lies behind every kind of trip: see someone or something you would love to see. There are people that only travel to meet their family or friends and people that travel to meet new friends and new families. It is this feeling of warmth that pushes you to travel, a warmth that cannot be found somewhere else.

Here is a nice quote I read today: “We are torn between a nostalgia for the familiar and an urge for the foreign and strange. As often as not, we are homesick most for the places we have never known.”

But please, do not underestimate the (mental and/or physical) trip “home” to your families. Don’t let the stress prevail and try to enjoy the warmth – I will try and do so too!

Have some wonderful remaining festive days and a great start into the New Year!!

Pinkvel 🙂

What did I learn? Pre-Christmas Edition.

What did I learn?
What did I learn?

It is a relaxing weekend and you can already feel the Christmas atmosphere everywhere. It is raining outside and everyone who can enjoys staying in the warmth of home, with candlelight and the smell of Christmas cookies… Ok, you see, I am in the right mood! 😉

Thinking about what I have learned lately, a great Twitter workshop I visited during the IAB Forum in Milan comes into my mind. Among many other things, I have learned the following:

  • Twitter became “The largest couch in the World”. As per a research among Twitter users, 60% have the feeling to watch a TV Show with other people in the room. I found that interesting, as also the TV now has to handle a completely new behavior: a direct feedback and mood that can be read in real-time during the TV Show. I must admit that I am also one of thesepeople that looks at the Tweets in order to see how people are talking about the show I am watching, and I find it quite amusing as people are often very ironic and funny in their comments. Are you tweeting too while you sit on your couch and watch TV?

    Twitter: the largest couch in the world
    Twitter: the largest couch in the world
  • Talking about the interaction between TV and social media: My idea was that the TV advertising is suffering a loss of importance, giving more space to social media advertising. Well, that is wrong: more and more people do not change TV station anymore during the advertising as they use the time to look at their Smartphone, maybe writing some tweets on the TV show they are watching or chatting with friends… while they unconsciously hear the advertising and are automatically influenced. I absolutely recognize myself in that and I am impressed!
  • A great quote that perfectly explains how one should act to be successful with social media: “A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be” Wayne Gretzky

  • I have learned to bake Christmas cookies! I tried for the first time and I think the marine look with the seahorses looks great! (and of course they are delicious too! 🙂 )

Pinkvel Cookies

  • But not only: I have also learned to bake a traditional Engadin Nutcake!! This is a typical case of how tastes can bring you back to far away places and experiences. So I tell you a secret: most of my Christmas presents will have to do with my newly discovered fun for baking! 😉
  • Do you also think that it is impossible to live healthy and make some sport while traveling? Of course some hotels have a fitness room, but not everyone has the time and the discipline to use it (I do not! 🙂 ). The news is that you automatically have your sports done while traveling. Have you ever thought about how much you walk even only to take a flight? Here are the airports with the longest ways to the gates:

– Peking (PEK): 3.20 km, which is 46 minutes walk!!
– Atlanta (ATL), 2,09 km, which is 27 minutes walk
– Frankfurt (FRA), 1,88 km
– Hong Kong (HGK), 1,58 km
– London Heathrow (LHR), 1.22 km
– New York, 1.13 km

Well, imagine this with your heavy luggage and when being late (and I am constantly late).

  • If you’re thinking about living abroad, here is a chart with the cost-of-living index, which I think can also be considered when planning a trip to these cities:
    CostofLiving

That’s all for now. Enjoy the Pre-Christmas time and try not to be too stressed with the presents, put some love in it and it will work out perfectly! 😉

– Pinkvel –

10 things I learned during the Travel Fair in Barcelona

I am a bit late with my posts on the things I have learned, as I was traveling so much in the last three weeks, but here I am – back again!

I have learned so much during the travel fair I have visited, but I fear that going too much into detail would be too boring.

Travel Fair
So here are some fast facts:

1) Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan are the new interesting markets for the luxury travel industry, as there are more and more people traveling with a great budget. This was really new to me. So interesting!

2) Turkey is an interesting market as well. This is not such a news for me, but it was good to see so many interested Turkish travel agencies trying to find some new, luxurious destinations for their clients

3) The Knickerbocker Luxury Hotel will open its doors on NYC Times Square in 2015 and it must be amazing! Stay tuned for it!

The Leading Hotels of the World Stand
The Leading Hotels of the World Stand

4) Barcelona has over 200 hotels and meeting facilities

5) Spain ranks third globally in hotel rooms

6) There are 46 airports and 2 heliports in Spain

7) Five Spanish companies can be found among the top 30 most important hotel groups in the world

Great Flamenco performance during the fair
Great Tango performance from Argentina during the fair

All the other things I have learned in and about Barcelona are listed in my Barcelona post, here are some examples (check it out for more information on these topics! 🙂 ):

8) The best discovery in Barcelona was the most delicious Tapas Bar Cervezeria Catalunya

9) Don’t forget your slippers if you sleep at NH Calderon

10) Do always ask for window seats, but especially if flying to Barcelona

I would like to conclude this post with a travel tip:

Always do the online check-in if the airline offers this service. Flights can always be overbooked, that’s part of the airlines strategy, and if you are unlucky and arrive a bit too late (and this “too late” is very flexible, depending on the cases) your place could be given to another person.
This cannot happen to you if you have already checked-in before.

Have safe travels and… never stop learning!! 🙂 Pinkvel

A Short Barcelona Guide

Gaudi's Casa Battló, Barcelona
Gaudi’s Casa Battló, Barcelona

Back from the EIBTM Business Travel Trade fair in Barcelona, I would like to share some of my experiences with you. I will write a post on the official travel news soon, but first: let me give you some insights in my experiences in this wonderful city, together with some travel tips.

It is not too much information as I literally spent all my days in the fair, but some basics that could be interesting, especially if you go for business and you have a hotel close to the Rambla Catalunya area.

Airport:
What to say about the Barcelona Airport? It is one of my all-time favorites! New, bright, clean, friendly and full of beautiful shops and good restaurants. It is nice to arrive in a friendly environment. On my way back I always count some time more to spend at the airport to do some shopping and eat something. You see… this is a good way to keep the business going in an airport.
Perfect also for layovers.

Transfer to the city:
I took a Taxi. They have a fixed rate to the city center, which is 27 €.

Hotels:
As I have been to the fair before, I knew that it is a bit far away from the city center and for this reason I chose a hotel which is a bit farer away from the fair but in the center, in order to be able to go out in the evening without any problem.
I have been to the NH Calderon.

The location is great as it is on the Rambla Catalunya. The rooms are a bit dark, but functional, especially if you are just coming for a fair. If you are lucky, you can even get a room with view of the Sagrada Familia Cathedral.

View from the room, NH Calderon
View from the room, NH Calderon

I had a little dispute with them as I did not have any slippers in my room and when I asked for them they told me that only Suites and Junior Suites get them. There wasn’t any chance to get some, even by asking to buying them! They just said a cold “no!”.
There are few things that really do disturb me… this was one of them. How can you deny some slippers to a client? How can you deny ANYTHING which is perfectly possible for you to a client? Without even saying that you are sorry! Ok, maybe I am too extreme, working in the hotels business myself, but I guess they had an uncountable amount of slippers and they just denied them to me.
NH Hotels Slippers

So please, if there is any hotelier reading this: tell your staff to at least kindly explain to the guests asking for something why you cannot help them.
And then please: offer slippers in your rooms, at least per request. Slippers mean “come in and feel like home!”.

But to get back to the point: functional, good position, buffet breakfast was fine. Perfectly ok if you are there for business.

A fun business hotel is the Barceló Saints. Location is not as perfect but the metro station directly under the hotel is strategically perfect. It is a strange experience to stay there as it looks like a spaceship and you completely feel like in space. The windows, the furniture, the amenities… it’s just like being in space. Even the welcome note says “Welcome on Board” 🙂

Barceló Saints, Welcome on Board!
Barceló Saints, Welcome on Board!

If you prefer very elegant, traditional luxury hotels and have a higher budget, then I recommend the El Palace. Part of the Leading Hotels of the World.

Leading Hotels of the Worls Cocktail Party at El Palace Hotel
Leading Hotels of the Worls Cocktail Party at El Palace Hotel

Fira Gran Via (Barcelona fair):
My arrival to the Barcelona fair in the morning was easy as the EIBTM organized some shuttles from the hotel, but a taxi only costs 10 € or you can use the metro.

Food & Drinks:
First of all, let me tell you about the best Tapas restaurant I have ever been to: Cevezeria Catalunya (in Carrer de Mallorca, 236). Every day it is full of people and the atmosphere is great. You can sit outdoors or at the bar on the entrance or inside the restaurant and enjoy the best tapas and great cocktails or a good Spanish wine. We asked the waiter to bring some tapas suggestions and after them, we ordered some more!
My suggestion is to reserve a table the day before or you will be put on a waiting list with a waiting time of around one hour that you can use to stroll down the Rambla.
Talking about Spanish wine:
I have been suggested by different Spanish people to drink white wine from the Barcelona region. Often the Restaurants have a house wine. And in fact, the white wine was always great!

Cervezeria Catalunya Barcelona
Cervezeria Catalunya

Cachitos
On Rambla Catalunya, 33. A more stylish restaurant, celebrating the art of food.
The specialty here are the 50 different Sangrias as you can combine different wines, even good Cava wine with different kind of fruit combinations. We had a good Cava with Berries.

Cachitos Barcelona
Cachitos

Mas Q Menos
Nice little tapas bar, perfect to enjoy a good glass of wine with some small things to eat or sandwiches.

Mas Q Menos
Mas Q Menos

Oh one last thing: absolutely ask for a window seat when flying to Barcelona! I had the luck to have a late afternoon flight and saw a wonderful sunset from my window. The view of the Mont Blanc was amazing and when we arrived, the sea was colored in yellow, orange and purple by the sunset and the boats of the fishermen were just too romantic.

View from my window seat, Luftahansa flight to Barcelona
View from my window seat

What did I learn this week?… (15/11/14)

WIL15Nov

It is the end of the week again, and the time has come to write down what I have learned…

liebster-award11) The first thing that comes into my mind is that I have learned what the Liebster Award is, as I have been nominated (read my post!)

2) Thanks to the Liebster Award I got to know many great travel bloggers still in their beginnings. Some of them are really worth following! Check for the Liebster Award!

3) Not only my online friends brought a smile to my face. I have learned that friendship is something really special and does not depend on space or time. Actually, I did not learn that only this week, but it came to my mind again this week. You can be best friends also if you are in two different parts of the world. I love all the technology that allows me to be constantly in touch with my friends, and of course I love my friends! 🙂

4) I am very close to my 1000 followers on Twitter!! It was one of these numbers that came into my mind as a goal when I started the blog. This taught me that I am actually on the right way. I am so happy about that, thank you all!! (If you are not following me: hurry up and help me reach #1000!! 😉 ) Here is the LINK!

5) I have learned that it makes no sense packing the clothes you do not use in everyday life. We all (talking about women 🙂 ) have some “special” clothes we do not wear in everyday life, waiting for the occasion to use them, which could be a trip to somewhere special. Well, forget it! If you loved that pullover so much you would find any occasion to wear it. So, avoid carrying too much useless weight!

6) I am expecting many changes to the city of Milan, due to the EXPO 2015, which is very exciting. But of course one of them is the unavoidable increase of the hotel rates. What I actually found out this week is that the prices have already been increased, not only in Milan but also in the rest of Italy. Bologna is the city with the highest increase. My advice: If you know that you will travel to Italy in 2015, try to already book the hotels, in order not to have a higher rate later on.

7) ESA’s Rosetta mission soft-landed its Philae probe on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, it is the first time in history that something so extraordinary has been achieved. And what are the people talking about? About champagne landing on Kim Kardashian’s huge butt!
I sometimes really cannot believe what I read! -> Here

8) Friends, my suitcase is packed, I will be flying to Barcelona to the EIBTM Travel trade fair! I will be soon reporting about the news in the travel business and, why not, also about some nice places to visit while on a business trip to Barcelona.

I am looking forward to your comments & thoughts! Have safe travels wherever you are!

Pinkvel 🙂

Pink(Tra)vel – Travel & Lifestyle Blog // Follow my adventures around the world!