Santorini, Greece

I’m excited to share with you all this post on our recent trip to Santorini, Greece. It is, as you can see, one of the most romantic places in Europe – maybe even the world, and rightfully so. The famous whitewashed cave-houses by the cliffside of this beautiful volcano island, resting in the middle of the blue Aegean are surely hard to resist for all lovebirds out there. And it doesn’t help that it’s in a land known for excellent food and exquisite wine – it just makes me wonder why I had waited this long to come to Greece!

Some time last year, an old friend of Joan’s had told us she wanted to come over to Berlin to visit us and to do a mini tour of Europe together. She had brought her wife, who had never been to Europe before, and they flew in all the way from LA. Their goal was to see Europe so I cooked up a travel plan to let them see as much as possible in the one week they were to stay here. This is where my madness kicked in…

Getting there:

The island of Santorini has one airport big enough to accommodate only a handful of flights a day. I did not find a direct flight from Berlin to Santorini so I took the opportunity to get creative – sending us all over Europe.

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All this from Saturday to Thursday. I told my colleagues about this plan (since the nature of our work involves a LOT of travel planning) and they thought I was crazy. Maybe I was, but these destinations were carefully picked out. Our guests wanted a city break somewhere in Spain so I made that happen, choosing the beautiful city of Barcelona. They left Saturday early in the morning to make the most of the day. I did not join them until Sunday night – before leaving for Santorini – because I had already been to Barcelona two years ago and I did not want to miss work for too long because summer time is always high season in our industry.

So on that faithful Sunday in summer, I started work at 5 AM and from there I went straight to the airport to catch my flight going to Barcelona to meet with my wife and our friends. I got there at 8 PM and realised I hadn’t eaten anything since I woke up at 3 AM. Our flight wasn’t until late, around 11 PM and we had plenty of time to grab a bite and chat. It’s my first time officially meeting them so it was a great time to get to know each other over card games. When we got to the aircraft, I finally got some shut eye for maybe one collective hour until we landed in Santorini at around 3 AM the next day. We picked up our rental car and looked around for food. Good thing we found a bakery nearby – apparently those are open 24h a day.

Since it was still much too early to check into our Airbnb, we all watched the sunrise together at Kamari Beach.

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Most of the breakfast places did not open until 8 AM so we drove around a little bit until then. We chose this place called Galini Café, which we had found thanks to Foursquare. It offered a beautiful vista and a rich breakfast.

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It was not too early for the local desert wine.

We hit the shops after our meal and then it was finally time for our Airbnb, which was located in Fira. So on the way there, we couldn’t help but notice the many ATV rentals and we all decided to rent two of those, one for each couple. For the rest of the day we were driving around on those, forgetting about the small confinement of our car.

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And they’re great for when you want to enjoy the view around you.

Red Beach

We just dropped our stuff off at the Airbnb and got ready for the beach. I must say, the beach is not the highlight of this island. I’ve heard of plenty of great beaches all over Greece but Santorini isn’t the place if you’re looking for fine, white sand. We hit Red Beach, which is black and partially pebbly, but it looks really gorgeous nonetheless.

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Gorgeous.

Though the water did not show any plastic wastes, it had brought a lot of sea weed residue ashore which got in the way of a nice swim in the open water. We decided to go back to Kamari beach later on since it’s also the closest one to home. This beach is very pebbly but the water was clean.

Late afternoon we went back home and had our take-out dinner there. Our Airbnb was at a holiday apartment complex with a private pool so we had a night swim there until we finally called it a day – and what a long one!

Oia

The next day we finally went to Oia – the very place seen on all those postcards, a honeymooners’ haven. We looked for a place that served breakfast at yet another terrace with a great view and it took us to Skiza Café.

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By now anyone would have noticed an abundance of Freddo Cappuccino (iced cappuccino, Greek style, on the right) on the island. Regular Greek coffee is also a yummy alternative to espresso.

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Bougainvillea on plain white houses will only ever remind you of Greece, don’t you think?
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Byzantine Ruins in Oia

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We spent the rest of the day buying souvenirs in Oia, going back to Kamari beach, and having dinner at a Taverna. It was a short stay on this island but it felt like just enough time to get to know it. I didn’t think there was much else to see on the island itself, but there were a handful of excursions to the neighbouring islands, or to the volcano, that are being offered by many tour operators on the island.

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Next stop  Rome!

Donauwelle: Vienna

The second leg of our trip was Vienna. Its city centre is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and it’s pretty obvious why. If you’ve never been to Vienna, you’d be surprised by how many buildings were actually preserved to make you feel like you’re walking in a different century.

July 29, 2016

We left Bratislava today via boat that took us to Vienna. By land, it would have only been 80km away, about an hour drive. You can even take the bus for only 10€. I chose to proceed by boat because I thought it would be interesting. It’s not the cheapest option, but we wanted to actually do something on the Danube as part of the Donauwelle. It was a 90-minute ride, and it took us straight to Schwedenplatz, Vienna. We’ve arrived at around noon and went straight to our Airbnb. We each bought a 3-day ticket, which later on proved to be worthy because we did take public transportation quite often, as it is the best way to get around. Our Airbnb was close to U6 stop Dresdner Straße, and the area was mostly populated by students, not much by tourists.

Airbnb: 145 € for 3 nights
Twin City Liner boat ride 50 € for two – Bratislava to Vienna
72-hour Wiener Linien public transportation ticket: 16,50€ per person

After checking in, we went to the city centre for some lunch. I had my first Wiener Schnitzel, and it was about the size of my plate.

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After that, we went to Stephansplatz to see the famous Stephansdom and just walked around a little bit in the area before heading to Wien Prater. We went on the ferris wheel and it was nearly empty at around 21:00. It gave an interesting view of the rest of the amusement park’s lights from the top. The ride lasted about 20 minutes.

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Stephansdom
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View from the top of Wiener Riesenrad, looking over the rest of the amusement park
Tickets for 20-minute ride on Wiener Riesenrad: 9,50€ per person


July 30, 2016

Today was an extra exciting day for me because we were bound for the Sigmund Freud Museum. It’s located in Freud’s old apartment/practice. This experience sort of brought me back to my college days, back when I was striving for a degree in Psychology and where Dr. Freud has been an important figure in our studies. In case you’re wondering, his famous couch is not part of the exhibit but it can be found instead at the Freud museum in London.

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Entrace fee to Freud Museum: 10€ per person

We’ve walked some more today around the Ring for some of the best sights in Vienna and just sat in the park when we got tired. One of the best luxuries you can have in this city, in my opinion, is peace. I was surprised about how easy it was to to find a quiet spot where you can just sit back and stop thinking about all the things that stress you out.

Back to the Ring, we got lost in all the old buildings. It was hard to keep up with all of them and we really found ourselves not knowing what building we were taking a picture of anymore. But there is one that really stood out, though, and for obvious reasons:

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I mean, how can it still be photogenic despite bad conditions?!

July 31, 2016

A place I wished we had gone to sooner is Donauinsel. In English, it literally means “Danube Island”, and that’s basically what it is, found in between the Donaukanal and Große Donau. There are a couple of places to just grab drinks from, and there’s also a footbridge leading to the mainland. It’s great for people watching and just enjoying the warm weather by the water. The park is also great for picnics.

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Footbridge from Donauinsel leading to the other side of town.

Our last stop was Schönbrunn Palace, a place one shouldn’t miss when in Vienna (or you can try but somehow everything leads to it anyway, so). We didn’t take the tour inside the palace itself for it’s quite pricey and it seemed so crowded (we witnessed the constant stream of tourists exiting the palace). Instead, we just walked around the park and admired the landscape. The park’s entrances can be found on either end of the premises.

All in all, Vienna, for me, has been a nice and short stop-over. Our stay has not been that eventful but, to say the least, it was quiet and peaceful and maybe that’s exactly what we needed. I still haven’t gotten over the price of coffee, though.

Next stop → Budapest!

 

#BerlinForOrlando – Not giving in to fear

“In the face of hate and violence, we will love one another. We will not give in to fear.” – President Barack Obama

Nearly a week after the shooting in Orlando (assuming that you all know what happened there), Berlin has finally gotten itself together to hold a vigil for the victims. And in a beautiful and effective way, too, which of course attracted a lot of people – 6.1K according to the Facebook events page alone. We are only a week short of our move to Berlin but we knew that going was the least we could do for our brothers and sisters who had to meet this horrible misfortune.

Approaching Pariser Platz gave me goosebumps. It was awfully quiet, like when asked for a minute of silence, only it went on for a really long time. Candles were lit in a circle where people were holding signs with the names and faces of the murder victims.

On not giving in to fear

The front of the Brandenburg Gate is an open space. I couldn’t help but wonder how easy it would be to attack a group of people gathered in this very space. Perhaps the others had wondered about that, too, but this is exactly why we can’t give in to fear. Exactly the reason why we were all gathered there was to fight for freedom to express ourselves – this freedom that some are still so threatened by. So, yes, we could have gotten hurt. But like our brothers and sisters at PULSE that night, we would die fighting.

Berlin Pride is next month and I am sure we will be stronger than ever. In the midst of all the partying and glitter and rainbows, we shall be warriors.

My heart goes out to the friends and family of the 49 murdered and wish for fast recovery for the people injured by this brutal hate crime.

Rest in power.