Travel Blog: Berlin (Part 2)

The world I heard most often in Berlin was definitely “rebuilt”.

From the time I spend there, one thing became perfectly clear, Berlin was bombed to ruins during the Second World War. Seriously, go on the “big red tourist bus”; I promise almost every single attraction will have been “rebuilt” after the war.

One of those attractions to have been rebuilt was Berlin Zoo.

Germany’s oldest zoo, it hosts a collection of over 16,000 animals. Rebuilt after the war, it received heavy artillery fire; only 91 of the animals survived the war. I loved Berlin zoo. While I am not entirely comfortable with the thought of a zoo at all, there is no denying that seeing some of the world’s rarest animals is a thrilling experience. The zoo’s separate aquarium is also absolutely worth the money.

After the Zoo, we headed along to the infamous Alexanderplatz; the largest urban square in the whole of Germany. If I am honest with you, we didn’t spent much time in the square. At that time of year (December) it is entirely taken over by a Christmas market and shopping stalls. If I am honest with you, by this point in the trip, we were both pretty much burned out on these entertainment options.

However,  my girlfriend and I spent significantly more time in another German urban square, Postdamer Platz. During the war, Potsdamer Platz was almost completely destroyed (as with most other things…) and spent more than 40 years in a state of wasteland located between the East and West. After the city’s reunification though, Berlin had the unique opportunity to completely rebuild a section of their city centre. They have done well; even the sceptics have had to admit that Potsdamer Platz has been a great success.

My MUST SEE from Postdamer Platz is Panoramapunkt, a stunning viewing platform offering a 360° panoramic view of Berlin. This offers one of the best opportunities for photographs in the whole of Berlin; a must for budding photographers.
An added bonus is the ability to ride the fastest lift in Europe; taking just 20 seconds to reach the top the 24th floor. Stomach churning, but enjoyable!

Checkpoint Charlie was next on this speedy tour of the city. Checkpoint Charlie is the most famous East German-West German border crossing. You will no doubt have heard of/seen it before; this particular army crossing is a favourite for many thriller and espionage movies. One of the reason for its fame is the so-called “tank stand-off” which occurred on October 1961 during the Cold War.
The threat of war was high; but no one fired. It is a really interesting story, if you’re not aware of it, you should look it up.

After all of this walking around the city … we felt we needed a little substanance to fill our rumbling bellies! Pfffft, who needs substanence when you can have sugar!

Fassbender and Rausch is the famous Chocolate producer from the center of Berlin. However, it isn’t just a haven for those with a sweet tooth, it also offers plenty in the way of eye candy: scaled-down (yet somehow still enormous) chocolate sculptures of Berlin landmarks. You can pick a selection of specially made sweets; however, we ended up buying pre-packaged chocolate (which was lovely) after sauntering around lost for a while. We simply couldn’t make our minds up. Far too much to choose from! haha

Close to the Brandenburg Gate in the heart of Berlin is the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Made up of 2,711 concrete pillars of varying heights, the final appearance creates a grid-like structure. The uneven terrain helps with the overall effect, creating a beautiful wave like effect. It’s powerful to see and is a fitting tribute to those lost in such a horrific manner.

Now… last week I promised to talk about the Reichstag Glass Dome.

This was the last thing we did in Berlin, attending on our final night. The Reichstag was redesigned between 1994 and 1999 as a modern Parliament building with an attempt to retain the extensive, historical dimensions.

Part of the redesign was the opening of an accessible Glass Dome. Originally the glass generated a lot of controversy, but has since become one of the landmarks of Berlin. You can see why. It’s a stunning piece of architecture.

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Travel Blog: Berlin (Part 1)

A trip to “visit a foreign city in the run up to Christmas” is an item which has been on my bucket list for a very very long time. Despite this, it has thus far evaded me…until this year, when my girlfriend and I managed to escape the dreary rain of Glasgow and ambushed the beautiful city of Berlin.

We flew in and spent 4 nights in the stunning Ivbergs Premium Hotel; which is located near the Breitscheidplatz area in the heart of the city. Breitscheidplatz is a major public square in the inner region of Berlin. Together with the Kurfustendamm Boulevard, it very much marked the centre of the former West Berlin.

For me, one of the highlights of the Breitscheidplatz Square was definitely the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. It was a strange mesh of very traditional and modern architecture; both of which were equally stunning. The original church was destroyed during a bombing raid in 1943; however, what remains of it still stands today in unison with a new, modern, architectural addition. This was apparently decided by the German people, who voted with their voices that the original ruin must not be torn down. The new church consists of honeycomb-like blue coloured glass blocks which produce an intense blue light inside. I could instantly see why it was such a massive appeal to those who were religious in the area. Not religious myself, I could still feel the calming atmosphere the inside of the building created all on its own.

I was really excited to finally get the chance to see some of the famous tourist attractions which stand in Berlin; including the Reichstag Building and the Brandenburg Gate.

The current version of the Reichstag Building was officially opened in 1999 (good memory eh?) and featured a new roof terrace with a large glass dome which you can see in the photos below. The roof terrace and dome of the Reichstag Building can be visited by members of the public, and we took this chance to witness the spectacular views of Berlin’s sights. More details on this in Part 2!

The Brandenburg Gate is the only remaining city gate in Berlin and was originally used to represent the separation of the city between East and West. Fortunately, the city has moved past this; and now, since the falling of the Berlin Wall, the gate has become the cities symbol of German Unity to the city.

German unity…but of world unity. Unfortunately our trip had coincided with the aftermath of the horrific tragedy in Paris…and a large memorial had been laid out by the people of Berlin as an act of remembrance and unity with those affected. It was beautiful.

 

Back to the lighthearted fun! I had a great time in the DDR Museum!

The DDR Museums is the only museum in Germany that deals exclusively with life in the former German Democratic Republic, a.k.a the East side of the wall. This was an incredible exhibition that I thoroughly recommend any visitors Berlin make the time to visit. It’s interactive, with each piece of fascinating information hidden doors and in drawers. There is also Trabi car available in which visitors can drive through a virtual tour of the area. This was amazing…Grand Theft Auto in East Berlin!!

There was also a stereotypical East German home set up for your to go and experience…we had some fun with that too! 😀

 

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Travel Blog: Dubai (Part 2)

One of the more fortunate things to happen when traveling is knowing someone who already knows their way around the city. We were lucky enough to have this in Dubai; and our hosts kindly offered to drive us around the city. This was an excellent bonus to our trip – showing us areas of Dubai we would not have the opportunity to see otherwise.

We were kindly driven around several of the otherwise out of reach residential area and through the regularly tourist-ignored backstreets of the Downtown area before heading down to the Palm and Jumeirah Beach.

I highly recommend you spend some time down on Jumeirah beach if you make it across to Dubai. A few of the fellow visitors I have spoken to have remained in the downtown area only.

Water Parks are always one of my favourite attractions to attend in any city, and I had been told both the water park at Atlantis the Palm AND Wild Wadi were viewed as being one of the best in the world. This left me with a difficult choice to make …which one to attend?!

We eventually made the decision to show Wild Wadi some love due to its closer location and the presence of the infamous Jumeriah Sceirah slide. You may have seen the Jumeriah Sceirah on the internet. If not, you can check it out HERE.

 

In my opinion, the best thing we did over the whole trip though was taking part in the Arabian Nights Tour though. It truly was a special experience.

We got to experience the fantastic Dubai Sand Dunes, ride camels and taste some fantastic local food as part of a help-yourself meal.

What else could you ask for really?

 

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Travel Blog: Dubai (Part 1)

“If you are going to spend the money to visit somewhere really special – Dubai is not the place to go.”

These are not my words.

This is the strong opinion of Dubai that I received from an acquaintance after announcing that I had finally booked my trip to visit Dubai.
It is the tiny kick to the stomach that everyone wants after parting way with a significant chunk of their own cash is it not?

However … now that I have returned from the city… I can honestly say that I completely disagree with the opinion stated above. I loved Dubai. I would go back as soon as possible …and fully intend to do so!

 

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After initially arriving to the city in the middle of the night, my girlfriend and I decided to take our first day in Dubai city reasonably easy – relaxing by the swimming pool of our carefully chosen hotel, the Mövenpick Hotel and Apartments of the Bur Dubai area. Our chosen hotel was incredible, a beautiful 5-star rated hotel; and with the incredible service we received, it deserved every single star.

We wandered the local area and saw some of the “out of the city centre” gems that I love so much when visiting a new city. Having never experienced any part of the UAE previously, this was a very big culture shock for me. However, as you will no doubt be aware, some of Dubai can be extremely Americanised … especially our chosen dinner venue … CHUCK E CHEESE!

Following this initial full day of R&R, we make the most of the bustling downtown area of city by making our way to the vast Dubai Mall.

The only words I can find to describe Dubai Mall are awe inspiring. Regularly declared as the largest shopping mall in the world and containing over 1,200 stores, this place was vast. A few locals even explained to us that to cover every store in the building would take approximately 3 full days of shopping… without stopping.

This was not a challenge I was particularly eager to undertake.

It is important to note however that there is definitely more to see in Dubai Mall than just restaurants and shops. For instance we took the time out to visit the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo which is actually located inside the centre itself. The main attraction for the Aquarium/Zoo is definitely the “King Croc” … a monster of a Crocodile measuring in over 5m in length. He truly was a terrifying beast of nature.

The highlight of this day which we had cram packed with tourist activities however was definitely climbing the Burj Khalifa to floor 125 and seeing Dubai from the great height. The Burj is the tallest building in the world and in any other city, getting this spectacular view would take a helicopter.

If you are visiting the Burj Khalifa, my advice to you would be book online and in advance of your trip. This method proved to be significantly cheaper and allows you to skip a pretty significant queue. Also, find out what time sunset is expected to occur during your stay; then book your visit time for approximately an hour before. This allows you to see these fascinating views in daylight, watch the stunning Dubai sunset, and then witness the city light up as darkness descends. It truly is an experience like no other.

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Travel Blog: Pitlochry and The Enchanted Forest, Scotland

Those of you who I am lucky enough to have following me on social media (the buttons are there 😉 —–>) may have seen that I recently spent some time in Pitlochry in Scotland.

My girlfriend and I had traveled up to see the areas annual Enchanted Forest show. A multi-award winning vision and sound experience which we had received glowing reviews about from friends and family.

Pitlochry is a town based in the northern Perth/Kinross area of Scotland and hosts some of the more spectacular scenery you could ask for. It tends to be quite a regular area for tourists due to its relatively easy reach from both of Scotland’s main cities, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

From where I live, Pitlochry is only a two hour drive. This was handy as I was not really mentally prepared for an overly long time in the car.

However, after listening to my girlfriend sing for two-hours, the journey seemed to take forever.

We finally reached our destination and initially pulled into the infamous Pitlochry Festival Theatre for a short coffee break before heading out for a bracing walk up to the local Pitlochry Dam and Fishing Ladder.

The Dam itself is not the prettiest of sites … not many working Dam’s actually are; but from the bridge of the Dam you get some fantastic views over the local area. I highly recommend anyone heading to the area to check it out.

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Following our walk, and after warming ourselves by the artificial fire in the wonderfully traditional Mackays Hotel and Bar we finally set off for the Enchanted Forest.

The Enchanted Forest, now widely renowned to be one of Scotland’s premier sound and light experiences, regularly sells out, attracting an impressive 46,000 visitors to their 2014 show.

I missed out on the show last year, I wasn’t making the same mistake twice!

The 2015 show was entitled FLUX

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*Note – This post was in no way sponsored by The Enchanted Forest.