You won’t get bored in Marseille!

If I had to describe Marseille in one word, I would say: Colourful. Colourful in every respect. Streets full of grafiti, that are glowing in the sunshine. Especially at and around „Cours Julien“, doors and walls are painted and every shop has its own touch. And although it is not a touristic city, you can meet people of all colours in the streets. From blank white to dark black, thanks to its many immigrants from Africa.

Marseille is also a very active city: A lot of noises surround you all the time. Cars everywhere, the sound of their horns, people singing or shouting, music in the streets.

What I liked less was the fact that men regularly call after women. Some even followed me and asked me why I didn’t say “thank you” for some stupid “compliment” they made. Just like my cousin, who I visited there, said: “they do not understand that what they do is group harassment.”

However, due to its creativity it in some ways reminded me of Berlin. For sure, those who prefer calm cities, it’s not the perfect place to live. But it’s worth being visited anyway. And better earlier than later : Now, Marseille is some kind of inside tip, but that will change soon for sure.

Green, greener, Ireland

Ireland’s landscapes are so beautiful that not only the “Star Wars” director decided to turn his film there. Many of my friends had also lived on the island for a couple of months and fell in love with it. Those images and my friend’s words in my mind made me dreaming of travelling to the country for a long time. In march 2016 I finally took the plane to start a two week backpacking tour.

 

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Here you can see the way of my trip

My journey began in Dublin on a Monday night; I arrived late from the airport at my friend’s place, Estelle, who I got to know when I lived in Paris in 2012. She and her German boyfriend warmly welcomed me and gave me some advice about the country before I left the next day. Even though I had gotten sick just a day before my flight to Ireland and still not felt very well on my first real travel day I decided not to stay any longer in Dublin. I really wanted to profit from each and every second and not stay in bed sick. And that was the right decision I realized: Travelling makes you happy and happiness makes you healthy.

My first stop was Cork, the second biggest city in Ireland and to many Irish the “true” capital. A nice city, in the south, close to the ocean. I stayed in a hostel which was a bar at the same time, so I could enjoy a life concert in the evening. The next day I visited its cute English market, the city centre, Fitzgerald Park and an interesting museum in that park, the Cork public museum, with free entrance. I must say, it is a cute city but nothing really special. But if you visit Ireland, you probably do not come to visit its cities but its landscapes. And that is why I took the bus the same evening to Killarney – one hour and a half from Cork.

 

By the way, it’s easy to get buses and with a student card they are less expensive. However, they are not cheap at all and prices are organized strangely: From Dublin to Cork it’s three and a half hours for about 15€ and from Cork to Killarney it’s 20€ for one and a half hour bus ride (https://national.buseireann.ie).

In Killarney, a small and touristic 14.000 inhabitant city, I stayed for a couple of nights in a cheap hostel (depending on the city, you normally pay between 10 and 20€ on weekdays and more than 20€ on weekends per night) where I met some really nice girls from Germany and France and also Amy from the US. We both decided to make a trip together to the surrounding villages by hitch-hiking.

However at that moment I did not yet know that this day was going to be one of the best during my trips. The day was filled with amazing views of the country – we discovered landscapes around Dingle and Dunquin – and a lot of interesting conversations as well as lovely people. Amy’s and mine highlight for sure was Keith, who took us from Tralee to Dunquin (about one and a half hour ride) and not enough – he became our personal Irish guide! He showed us great places, made us discover the corner he lives and told us a lot of interesting stuff about Ireland, America, Europe and so many more topics. We had great discussions and Amy and me could not stop laughing since his way of talking was really funny. For example, when he assured us that Dublin was not really a part of Ireland or even its capital: No tourist should go to Dublin when visiting Ireland, but instead visit the “true” Ireland, its landscapes. It was the way he was talking that made Amy and me laughing all the time. Eventually we even fetched his son from school all together and it somehow felt as if we had become something like friends.

 


Some drivers also asked us what we loved about their country – no doubt they wanted to make sure that we felt Ireland is the most beautiful country in the world – and I can somehow understand their patriotism and pride. So of course we mentioned the landscapes, but also the open-minded people, since that was our impression after such a great hitch-hiking day. But then one English woman told us that she has been living in Ireland since a couple of months and had real problems by making friends. Apparently many Irish are open-minded in the beginning, but it’s hard to stay in contact. A characteristic I already know from Brazil…

The next day I went on a trip by my own and discovered the “Ring of Kerry” on a bus tour, which was therefore more touristic than the day before. What can I say? Again great views, amazing actually. Those views you cannot describe by words, which is why I put the photos below.


Although I could have stayed for many more days without being bored, since Killarney and its surroundings really offer a lot of sightseeing tours, I had to leave to my next destination, Galway. So many people had told me that this city was really worth a visit, so I was quite curious.

And soon I realized that they were right. Galway is not a very big city and after a couple of days you won’t need any map no more (except for me since I always get lost). There are a lot of cultural things to see however. Whenever I walked through its city centre, and even on a Sunday, groups or individual people were making music or other activities in its streets. There was a small market in the centre with lots of local products, too. And of course I had to visit Ireland’s famous pubs and get a couple of Guinness, which by the way have different tastes in different Irish cities! I was more than lucky to meet two guys from France with whom I spent a lot of time and with whom I discussed about quite interesting subjects. That’s one reason why I love travelling in hostels: You get to know so many people, you can make friends all over the world by staying in only one place. On our last day together we prepared a big French/German/Irish brunch, it was the perfect way to say goodbye.

Now, Galway is not only popular for itself, but also for its surroundings. If you go there, you cannot miss the famous “Cliffs of Moher” and also Connemara! I visited both again on a bus trip. The photos will prove why they should be part of your “to do” list:


More than once I remembered the wonderful film “PS: I love you” travelling through Ireland and especially Galway, also because of the famous song “Galway girl”. If you do not know the film yet and want to get an idea of what Ireland can offer you, watch this YouTube Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ox6bFObL_A

Another big surprise during this day was when I put on my jacket I hadn’t used for a couple of days and discovered in its pocket a card from a game, it was a heart seven, and written on this card – a phone number! I had no clue who had put it in my pocket and when, but I found it a funny idea.

My last days I spend back in Dublin with my French/German friends Estelle, her boyfriend Jack and his sister Vicky. I am still very grateful for the funny and interesting days I spend with them, when I learned a lot about vegan lifestyle, communism, liberty of speech and many more topics.

And of course we celebrated all together Saint Patrick’s day!! That was why I had chosen this period to go to Ireland. Saint Patrick actually is the country’s primary saint who was active as a missionary during the second half of the fifth century. The 17 march, when Saint Patrick’s day in celebrated, is said to be his day of death.

So we started our day with a Hurling match, a typical Irish sports game where players use a stick (a “hurley”) to hit a small ball and to get it into a net. Of course everyone in the stadium and in the streets, including us, was dressed in green-orange-white colours, with flags and big hats. We made party the whole day and met some of Jack’s friends in the evening. What I realized was different to for example carnival in Cologne: Drinking alcohol in public is completely forbidden and people keep to that rule since otherwise they will get real problems. So they all go to pubs, which probably therefore is one reason why they are so successful in Ireland. People do not seem to care about how much money they spend, as long as they have a Guinness in their hands!


The following days we visited all together a big park, Powerscout Garden, about one hour from Dublin and of course Dublin itself. It was not my first time in the country’s capital, but this time I had the impression to see a lot of new places, which either means that it’s actually a really big city or that I have a short memory. I guess it’s a mixture of both.

Jack, who studies at Trinity College, could make Vicky and me visit its museum with the famous book of Kells for free. Walking through the city, I stopped to watch a really good street artist, I stayed in the crowd of people for at least twenty minutes, laughing and enjoying the moment. And I admired the architecture in Dublin’s city centre, which is different from other European countries. I would describe it as inviting and cosy, but it’s hard to explain.


After my two week journey I realized that I had spent a lot more money than I had planned – although people had warned me before, I wasn’t really prepared to Irish prices!

However, I did not only spend money, but also wonderful moments with great people, which you cannot buy with any currency in the world. The places I visited and the friendships I made and reinforced will always make part of me and of my souvenirs. Thanks to all those who made part of my journey!

Famous Munich

Outside Europe, Munich probably is the most famous German city. And that’s not only thanks to its Oktoberfest, the greatest beer festival in the world. The 1.5 Million inhabitant city in South Germany, capital of Bavaria, is to many like the most typical German city possible – although Germans ironically tend to say that Bavaria is not a part of the country.
Indeed, the city is somehow different to the rest of Germany. The one thing I did not like were the prices – Munich is the most expensive city in Germany: Rents for example are 65% higher than the German average. You see expensive cars and people dressed with top labels everywhere.
Apart from that, Munich is a lovely city to visit and a must for anyone, who wants to know Germany!
Have a look at the photos with extra information about the city and you understand why!

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Bavaria, the largest German federal state, has beautiful landscapes. Except for Munich and Nürnberg, there are not so many populous cities, but a lot of small villages with farms that offer bed and breakfast. Until today, cities and towns preserved their old towns because during war, Bavaria had not been bombed as much as other states.
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“Theresienwiese” is the place of 42 hectare, where the Oktoberfest “Wiesn” and other events take place. It is called after the former princess of Bavaria, Therese.

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One of the regular festivals is “Tollwood” during winter.
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The event focuses on ecological and environmental topics.

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Bands play Jazz and other kind of music, alternative food and clothes are offered.

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At Wiesn you can also admire the most famous statue of the city: “Bavaria”, the patron saint of Bavaria, built in the middle of the 19th century.
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(The sky was so grey that I had to photoshop…)
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Munich has a very nice christmas fair, too. They call it “Christkindlmarkt”.

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Bavarian “Brezeln” with “Weißwurst”, a speciality. The dish allows you to tell the difference between a Bavarian and a tourist: Bavarians remove the skin of the sausage, tourists often don’t know about that.
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German Abendbrot (“evening’s bread”): Germany has the greatest bread diversity in the world! The first thing, Germans travelling abroad miss from their country, is their dearly beloved bread.
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Hofbräuhaus, where beer used to be brewed from the 16th century. Today, you can get typical German supper “Abendbrot” and beer in one litre cups “Maß”.
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You can also listen to German brass band music (“Blaskapellenmusik”).
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Maß is also what they drink at Oktoberfest. During the festival, it is not even possible to order a smaller glass.
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At Hofbräuhaus therer are over 100 “Stammtische”, tables reserved for regulars.
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Barhopping is not so easy, though – I felt like the bars are spread around many parts of the city, there is not one “bar centre”. However, if you know the good places, you will surely have fun – beer is not so expensive and people are open-minded!
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Neuschwanstein castle, by train 2 hours from Munich, is one of the most famous attractions in Germany. It was built from 1869. Its first owner, king Ludwig II. Of Bavaria, is highly controversial until nowadays. He had been declared insane by the regime’s governors at the time and a few days later, died mysteriously. Until today, he is famous for his architectural and artistic legacy.
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Neuschwanstein from behind.
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The castle from inside the court.

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Hohenschwangau Castle is the older, but less impressive and therefore less famous castle of both. I almost felt sorry for the building, since people almost didn’t notice it.
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Around the castle, you can get more German food in typical restaurants. Here, we enjoyed some more beer (what else), Flammkuchen (actually a French/German meal) and tasty sweet Kaiserschmarrn.
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Bavaria, the largest German federal state, has beautiful landscapes. Except for Munich and Nürnberg, there are not so many populous cities, but a lot of small villages with farms that offer bed and breakfast. Until today, cities and towns preserved their old towns because during war, Bavaria had not been bombed as much as other states.

French-German Saarbrücken

If you want to visit a German city but you are also curious about French culture and you don’t have enough time to do both, I have the perfect advice for you: Spend a day or two in Saarbrücken, capital of the German state Saarland.
The 177.000 inhabitant city lies in Southwest Germany about 5km from the French border. And that’s probably the reason for its famous star restaurants and “strange language”: Their dialect has a lot of French influence. For example, they say “I have cold”, just as in French, or pronounce words in a different way to other Germans. On holidays you can listen to at least as much French as German in the city centre: The closest French cities are 70km or more away, which is why so many people from smaller French towns all come to Saarbrücken to do shopping or profit from its nightlife. Another more delicate reason for French men to visit the city might be its status as a prostitution capital: While prostitution in France is illegal, German Saarland offers Europe’s biggest brothel.

Despite the French proximity, few inhabitants speak their neighbour’s language. Both sides are not really known for being “best friends”. One reason might be the city’s history: Saarbrücken was annexed to France twice in the 20th century.
One weekend is definitely enough to visit the city’s city centre with its cute old town, Sankt Johanner Markt, such as its castle and the stone bridge across the river Saar. If possible, try to be there in December to get to know Saarbrücken’s pretty Christmas market. Or extend your stay and spend one more day in Strasbourg, France, or in Luxembourg, which are only about one and a half hour away each.

 

Sunny Málaga

Tapas, sun, friendly people and tasty wine – that’s how my life was like during the last few days. Thanks to my friends Michelle and Ben, who I got to know in Rio de Janeiro one and a half year ago, I had the chance to discover Spain’s lovely city of Málaga.
The sixth largest city of the country lies on the Mediterranean coast, which is why I could enjoy temperatures between 15-20°C by the end of November. Málaga is not only one of Europe’s sunniest-, but makes also part of Spain’s most touristic cities, though not everybody speaks fluent English there. Chatting with the open-minded and helpful inhabitants, I could therefore improve my Spanish.
Málaga has a lot of interesting places to visit and is completely affordable: You find for example good pizza for 2,50€ and Mojitos for 3€.
My conclusion: That surely wasn’t my last trip, I’m more than curios to find out what summer is like in Málaga!

Toulon – Unknown Beauty

When you think of South France, names like Côte d’Azur, Saint Tropez and Nice probably first come to your mind – touristic, sunny places and rich people from all over the world.
Less famous is the 165 000 inhabitant city of Toulon, in south east France on the Mediterranean coast.
Despite the fact that the city is comparatively unknown and although I actually never was a fan of South France, I was however lucky enough to visit the place.
What makes Toulon so interesting is not only its great harbour, where you can watch hundreds of sailing ships and yachts shining in the sun while enjoying fresh fish meals in one of the tasty restaurants. Where you can also pass in front of the huge mountains Toulon offers and talk to people of all ages that are about to fish for their dinner. Or where you can make a tour on a tourist boat where guides inform you about the city’s military harbour, which is the most important one in France.
In all unfairness, the city is not so famous either for its wonderful beaches, natural- or artificially constructed ones, some hidden between big cliffs where people fish for their dinner. Where you can see palm trees and people swimming even in October, because the water is warm enough and the sun still is burning on the blue-turquoise coloured ocean.
Few people also know about the cultural diversity which is reflected for example in the street market every morning in the city centre: Fresh exotic fruit on your left, French fish on your right, in front African tissue and clothing stands.
Former prisons close to the coast that were used especially for North Africans and that are surrounded by canals are now visited by tourists.
Before arriving, I unfortunately hadn’t heard about Toulon’s famous rugby team, yet: In the huge “Stade Mayol” in the city centre, you can regularly watch its team playing, the RC Toulon, that even is the current European champion.
But above all, Toulon is special for its paradoxic structure and architecture. Walking through the centre, you will discover typical romantic French alleys, places with fountains surrounded by trees, people chatting and sitting on benches or tables that belong to bars, restaurants or alternative “culture cafés” – just as you imagine France.
Then, by curiosity turning into another small street, the city suddenly changes: The busy corners and pretty houses are all gone, what remains are dilapidated, old buildings, some almost caved in – for example one just next door to the town hall, completely destroyed. Roller shutters of former bars and restaurants are closed down. The only slightly animated part of the city is represented by builders and small snack bars now and then, with owners who desperately try to reanimate the dead area close to the main streets. However, if you have a closer look at the buildings, you will discover that they are less dead than they seemed to be at first sight: Some windows are open and inside the buildings, letter boxes are labelled, in one apartment I even saw a motorcycle.
Even though I was a lot warned about the closed-minded, suspicious inhabitants of Toulon (and I even got to know a few), I was also lucky to meet some really friendly and interesting people who were happy to show me around or answer some questions about their opinion of their home city. Nobody actually told me he or she would really love it, and no one hated it, either. “It’s okay here, I mean, it’s my home”, is a phrase I heard a lot.
Toulon’s charm is not a typical one: It is not what you expect by a Southern French city. And that’s what makes it so special.