Turkey Day in Europe – Yay or Nay??

Somewhere inside me, I thought spending Thanksgiving in Amsterdam and Berlin was a great idea….I mean I had the urge to travel, especially when you get two free vacation days. I couldn’t resist. Based on my post, do you guys think it was it worth it – spending thanksgiving in Europe? Please leave a comment – yay or nay?

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Where I visited: Amsterdam
I got to Amsterdam on Thanksgiving day. This was the first time I regretted traveling (I was missing Turkey Day in America). I was craving turkey, mashed sweet potatoes, etc, (my friends were sending me pictures of their meals). So I decided I was going to make this trip worth it.  First stop was good ol Amsterdam 🙂 Coffee shop time 🙂

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Amsterdam oh Amsterdam. I definitely wasn’t expecting such vibe and energy from this city. How stupid was I to think that the coffee shop town wouldn’t be a major tourist haven – no matter what time of the year. It is a very vibrant and energetic city – sun, rain, snow, whatever. Amsterdam reminded me so much of NYC. Everyone is always on the go, riding their bicycles and walking hurriedly….

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Speaking of bicycles – please watch out for them, they have more right of way than cars (they have their own parking lots and decks). But you gotta love the dutch and their bikes – very impressive. I would describe Amsterdam as being a big city in a small city. I did get lost in the city trying to navigate my way around (It’s so weird because I am pretty good navigating, but this city got me all confused). I was literally walking in circles.

Where I stayed:
I stayed at the Flying Pig Hostel (I heard about this place from friends I met in Barcelona). This was a really nice hostel, centrally located, very close to the main train station – Amsterdam Central,  and walking distance to most tourist attractions.  The staff here was really nice and helpful. I only booked 1 night at the hostel and didn’t have a room for the next night but I was able to get a room for my 2nd night. The room was very clean and we had our own private bathroom (yes that’s a big deal in the hostel world lol). I had two roommates from Brazil – they hyped visiting Brazil for New Years.  As we know, Amsterdam is famous for their coffee shops, and the hostel definitely had an area where you could indulge. The hostel organized pub crawls – one of the reasons I chose to stay here :).

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How I spent my days:
I did some tourist activities, but it was so cold, I didn’t do as much as I wanted to. On my first day, I walked around the city. getting lost and finding my way around. I walked to the Red Light District, walked around the streets, just getting a feel of the city and mapping out how I wanted to spend my days. Later that night, I went out on a pub crawl – it was a quiet night- not a lot of tourists at this time of the year (obviously really cold). I still had a great time.

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I met two really tall beautiful girls from Denmark (apparently most Danish people are tall).  We had a good time. After a long night pub crawling, I headed back to the hostel and I was searching the streets for food. I was so hungry but everywhere was closed. I didn’t like this about Amsterdam, the  city sleeps pretty early. At 2am and everywhere was closed, even good ol McDonald’s. I eventually got some chips from the vending machine. (Lesson learned: eat before midnight in Amsterdam).

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The next day, I met up with one of my co-workers from NYC. We went to visit his brother who lived in Utrecht, a city not to far from Amsterdam.  We took the train to there, about a 30min train ride. Utrecht was beautiful, a great place to live or visit if you want to get away from the chaos in Amsterdam. Later that evening, we visited the Erotic Museum in the Red Light District, we went to a bar in the district too (Let’s just saw WOW, no words). I was so exhausted from the day, I decided not to go out that night – I had also planned to do some tourist stuff the next day and I wanted to be energetic the next morning.

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The next day, I went to the Anne Frank House (please do me a favor and read up on it). The wait line here gets pretty long, so plan ahead. Definitely don’t do this in the winter, I stood in line for over an hour (freezing my a$$ off).  The Anne Frank experience was totally worth the wait. I love history and just being in that place is incredible. This is something everyone should experience. Please definitely visit the Anne Frank House when you go to Amsterdam. After a couple of hours learning about history and things that shaped the world, I headed back to the hostel, picked up my bags and headed to the train station. I was off to Berlin  – it was a 6 hour train ride *sigh*.  It actually wasn’t that bad – time went by pretty fast.

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Where I visited: Berlin

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I got to Berlin, Germany at about 8pm. I took the bus from the train station to the hostel where I stayed. Berlin Berlin Berlin, this is one city that took me by surprise. I mean definitely wasn’t the same vibe I got from Munich, Germany, totally different but absolutely great. I wouldn’t have imagined that I’d fall in love with Berlin the way I did. I absolutely loved it in Berlin.  Berlin has a rich alternative culture – definitely wasn’t expecting that – but it totally makes sense to me now.

1-1583East Vs West Berlin (Berlin Wall Graffiti)

The history in Berlin is insane, and being there just made everything real.  Berlin has so much to offer – culture and history. You probably need a week there to experience Berlin to the fullest. There are a lot of free walking tours, a lot of historical sights – Holocaust Museum, Berlin Wall, Topography of Terror, Hitlers Office, and so on. I love love love the fact that arts is so ingrained into the culture. Basically everywhere you go/any building you see is covered in graffiti(very different from the US). If you want a great German experience rich in history and culture, definitely visit Berlin.

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Where I stayed:
I stayed at the Wombats Hostel. The place was nice – the staff was cool, laid back and helpful (they explained a lot about Berlin’s culture).  The rooms were clean.  They have a bar upstairs and they usually have happy hour. I won’t say the hostel is centrally located but it is in a decent part of town – it is close to the train station. Berlin is a big city, you practically need to get on the train or taxi to go anywhere.  My roommates were pretty cool too. I ended up hanging out with this really cool girl from Australia during my stay – she was one of my roommates.

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How I spent my days:
Perhaps I should say “how I spent my nights”. The day and night life in Berlin is intertwined. Good thing the night life in Berlin is 24hours, so you can basically go out all day and night. Even though I arrived at 8pm and didn’t get settled in till about 10pm, I still had enough time to rest and grab dinner before setting out to enjoy the night life adventure. Later that night, about 1am, one of the staff at the hostel took us (a couple of folks from the hostel) to this club called Sisyphos.

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One thing I noticed about Berlin is you want to go out with someone who is from there or who is German (it just makes it easier – I didn’t get that from Munich though).  Our German buddy asked me if I was open to Phunk/Funk or Electronic music, and I was like I guess, not my kind of music but am I am open to it hahah….didn’t know what I signed up for (truth is I’m now a fan of phunk and electronic music)

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Old Versus New Berlin Wall

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Sisyphos was nice – very very different from any club I have been to (apparently  the club is very descriptive of the night life in Berlin). The place looked like an abandoned building with abandoned cars. It had different sections, which were different rooms that played a different kind of  music (but I swear everything sounded the same to me). We stayed here for about 3 hours – I actually started enjoying the vibe of the place. I learned how to dance to electric music, which was pretty cool (It’s easy – just nod your head and move your hands HAHA). At about 4am, we decided to go to another club called Berghain (apparently one of the best clubs in the world).

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My co-worker who visited Berlin told me I should make sure I go to Berghain (a must visit in Berlin). So I convinced a couple of folks from our group, and we headed there. We took the train. As I said, the Germans are very picky about who they let in to these places – fortunately, myself and 2 other folks from our group (friend from the hostel who were on a study abroad program in Manchester) got in, but my Australian roommate and this guy from Finland didn’t make it in (so sad – we really wanted them to get in).  We eventually got into the club at like 6am. The line outside was ridiculous, but it was totally worth the wait and the frozen legs (it was mad cold in Berlin)

1-1489Underground Library where the Jews stored their priced books

Berghain was crazy amazing, the DJ’s were “soo great” – yeah they played the same music the entire night, well maybe not but it all sounded the same to me – but they were great.  Of course, another abandoned warehouse turned into a monstrous dance floor. The experience here was beyond amazing. I really can’t describe the experience, you have to go see yourself – totally worth it.

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Berlin changed my opinion about EDM (so in love with it now).  If you are adventurous and open minded, you will totally love it.  We finally got out of the place at about 1pm….we came out and it was so bright outside – the sun was out and we were just heading back to the hostel (hadn’t partied that hard since Barcelona).

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After a long nap – woke up at about 5pm-  I spent the rest of my day planning out how I’d get some tourist attractions in before leaving Berlin. I went to the Jewish Museum later that evening, and I decided I would do spend the next day doing city tours. The next day, I met up with the Free Walking Tour group for the general Berlin History tour. The tour guide did a great job explaining Berlin’s history. It was very informative – we went to the holocaust memorial, the old Berlin Wall, the checkpoint, among others. (The Free Walking Tour group has other tours asides the Berlin History tour, some of them are free, some are not).

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At the end of the tour, myself and this girl I met from Norway – we met during the tour- went to visit the new Berlin Wall (#2 of one of the seven wonders of the world done).  The history behind this wall is just crazy (who woulda thought a mere wall had so much history). After a long day touring – exhausted and cold – I went to this Vietnamese restaurant opposite the hostel I was staying, and had me some nice Bo Pho. I spent the rest of the night indoors chatting with folks at the hostel. We didn’t go out that night. We were all so exhausted and also didn’t want to deal with the cold rainy night.

1-1432Holocaust Memorial

1-1529The Beginning of the New Berlin Wall

I stayed in, packed my bags for my flight back to NY the next day.  I spent the morning of my travel day at the hostel chilling at the lounge and chatting with fellow backpackers. I took the train and bus to the airport (it was very easy, cheap and convenient).  My best German experience was in Berlin, I am definitely going back to do all the tours and experience the rich alternative culture.

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 And yes at the end, it was totally WORTH IT to me!! As with any other trip 🙂

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