Sunday

Notes from Hamburg

48 Hours in Hamburg - where to eat, what to see where to drink, coffee shops, record stores, bookshops and vegan food. Click through for a free weekend mini guide.
Remember a while ago I wrote about why I don't want to travel anymore? Well predictably, scrap that because a weekend in Hamburg has somehow managed to completely rekindle my love for travel. Normally I dive into a new city armed with pages of plans, lists and itineraries but this time there was no preparation other than a Whatsapp exchange with a friend  who visited a few weeks before us and a brief flick through the guidebook my colleagues bought me for my birthday. 

Normally I like to come away from these trips with my own recommendations and tips to write about here, but on this trip we did little more than visit our favourite coffee German shop chain (Coffee Fellows, of course - try the winter spice punch!) and bulk buy bars of Ritter Sport. My new favourite is flavour is dark chocolate, almond and quinoa which is not only quadratisch, praktisch, gut but vegan friendly too!  

Tom and I are planning to hopefully move back to Germany within the next few years so as much as this was a leisure trip, we were also scoping out potential places to live too. With this in mind it was really nice to shun most of the major tourist attractions and experience a typical weekend in the life of a Hamburger. 

48 Hours in Hamburg - where to eat, what to see where to drink, coffee shops, record stores, bookshops and vegan food. Click through for a free weekend mini guide.


48 Hours in Hamburg - where to eat, what to see where to drink, coffee shops, record stores, bookshops and vegan food. Click through for a free weekend mini guide.
Avoid the Reeperbahn
  
Woah, starting with a controversial one! I expected the Red Light District to be a really cool sex-positive area of the city and to an extent it was, with families just walking down the street together and teenagers going to the Titty Twister with their dad like it the most normal thing in the world. My problem obviously isn't with the clubs but rather that a lot of them don't allow women in. 

It's really heteronormative and the smell of stale beer and sweaty man in the air made it seem really gross and seedy. Maybe if we weren't there on a Friday afternoon or if I were a drunk Brit on a stag do I'd have liked it more.

If you have a while in the city it's an interesting place to people watch and I did like the bright pink sex houses, but unless you're really keen on seeing Beatlesplatz there are better places to spend the weekend. 

48 Hours in Hamburg - where to eat, what to see where to drink, coffee shops, record stores, bookshops and vegan food. Click through for a free weekend mini guide.
48 Hours in Hamburg - where to eat, what to see where to drink, coffee shops, record stores, bookshops and vegan food. Click through for a free weekend mini guide.
There's no place like Sternschanze


Speaking of better places to spend the weekend... Like most people, Sternschanze was my favourite district in Hamburg and was where I spent most of my time. It reminded me a lot of the Northern Quarter in Manchester with lots of cute shops, bars and cafes. There's a tiny photo booth around the back of the Lidl on Altoner Str. which is a lot of fun - especially as it gives no when it's about to start taking snaps of your stupid face. When we weren't having our picture taken we were browsing record and book shops, eating or drinking coffee.

48 Hours in Hamburg - where to eat, what to see where to drink, coffee shops, record stores, bookshops and vegan food. Click through for a free weekend mini guide.
Hamburg is(s)t vegan 

Hur hur German pun I am so witty. I've heard nothing but praise for the vegan scene in Berlin, but as I haven't been since 2010 so I can't confirm that. I can however confirm that Hamburg is the most vegan-friendly city in Europe I've been to so far. There was at least one flavour of vegan Eis at every gelateria we passed and in Sternschanze especially there was a vegan alternative to all of my previous German favourites such as döner kebabs and Bratwurst.
48 Hours in Hamburg - where to eat, what to see where to drink, coffee shops, record stores, bookshops and vegan food. Click through for a free weekend mini guide.


Recommendations

Oma's Apotheke Cosy Kneipe serving hearty German classics accompanied by a choice of beer. A few veggie options, not so many vegan options but dishes like Bratkartoffeln can easily be adapted
Schanzenstraße 87

Boussi Falafel When you have so much choice in the Sternschanze a shopping centre food court probably isn't your first choice for lunch, but Boussi serves some of the best falafel I've ever tried and you can even get it with vegan halloumi (!)
Europa Passage, Ballindamm 40

Mutterland A pot of tomato soup cost 5€ so obviously I wasn't actually going to buy anything from this deli near the Hauptbahnhof but if I'd had more room in my suitcase I might have been tempted by a bottle of Schwarzwald gin. Mutterland has a calm, chilled vibe and would be a really nice place to enjoy a coffee or pick up some cuilnary souvenirs. 
Ernst-Merck-Straße 9

48 Hours in Hamburg - where to eat, what to see where to drink, coffee shops, record stores, bookshops and vegan food. Click through for a free weekend mini guide.Schanzen-Döner We were enticed into this tiny Turkish eatery by the promise of vegan Bratwurst but unfortunately they'd sold out so I decided to be brave and go for the vegan döner meat box.I've never even eaten a kebab wasted at 4am never mind sober in the middle of the afternoon,  but I was pleasantly surprised albeit a bit disgusted in myself. The falafel also looked really good and I'm pretty sure the tzatsiki is vegan too. 
Schanzenstraße 99

Nord Coast Coffee One of my Instagram followers recommended Nord Coast to me and I'm so glad they did because it was the perfect place to unwind in after our wander around the Reeperbahn. We didn't try the food but the Burundian coffee was great.
Deichstraße 9

Slam Records Again, Slam Records made me wish I'd had the foresight to bring a larger suitcase. I could have spent hours (and thousands) browsing through all the albums in here. I managed to restrain myself and was pretty impressed with my copy of The Byrds Play Dylan which I managed to find for 6€!
Schulterblatt 104

I had absolutely no expectations of Hamburg and yet it shot right up to the top of my favourite cities list. I'm already planning my next trip there. Have you ever been to Hamburg? 


Pin it for later:


48 Hours in Hamburg - where to eat, what to see where to drink, coffee shops, record stores, bookshops and vegan food. Click through for a free weekend mini guide.

Like this? You might also like:


(Not Quite) The Paris of the East: Bucharest, Romania
41 (and a half) Hours in Edinburgh 
The Dos & Don'ts of Athens, Greece

Monday

12 Basic Phrases to Learn in EVERY Language {+ free printable}

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from all of my experiences on the road (hah kidding - I've learned loads) it's the importance of language. 

From the time we got overconfident in our linguistic capabilities and ended up accidentally ordering fifteen chocolate pastries in a Montenegrin supermarket to the time Tom managed to convince an old lady in a Tallinn prison that he was fluent in Estonian, trying to master the local language is something that's always been a huge part of travelling for me. 

My love of travel is the offspring of my love of learning languages. Before I moved to Germany on my Erasmus exchange year in 2010 I could count on one hand the number of times I'd left the UK. I've seen more of the world in the last twelve months than I had in my entire life time before then and I know for a fact that had I not had that opportunity, living abroad and travelling are things I would probably never have gone on to experience. 

While we were in Quito we got chatting to an Argentinian couple and managed an entire conversation in Spanish about travel stories and our respective lives back home. It was such a natural flowing conversation and they didn't seem to realise that we were self-taught or that we'd been learning for less than three months. We learned so much from the short time talking with them and we were both on such a high by the end of it, especially as we'd spent time with so many people who'd been travelling for much longer than us who still hadn't even mastered the art of asking for an ice cream in Spanish. Up there with the likes of Machu Picchu, the Uyuni Salt Flats and Colca Canyon that simple moment was one of the high points of our entire trip.

Alongside my passport and camera, a few key phrases in the local language is one of my travel essentials.  Nobody expects anybody else to be fluent in the language of every country they travel to, but everyone should be expected to at least try. Truthfully - for a linguist - I'm not all that good at languages, but I always try and it is never not appreciated by whoever it is I'm speaking with. 

I always find it fascinating to listen to people so animated in conversation in noises that make absolutely no sense to me, but there are some phrases that I always make sure I learn to help me get by in a foreign country. Sure most people speak English, but where's the fun in that? There's also a printable graphic to use on your next trip at the bottom of the post. Where would you be without me? 


12 language phrases you have to learn to get by in any country. If you're travelling you have to learn these phrases. With this free blog printable it's an easy way to learn a new language


Hello / Goodbye - The easiest phrases you can learn. Absolutely no excuses for not bothering to learn these. 

Yes / No - Again, no excuses.
  
Please / Thank you - Unless you like spit in your soup.

Sorry / Excuse me - Are you even British if you don't learn this?

Do you speak English? - Nobody expects you to be fluent in every language, but asking to switch to English in the local tongue is so much more polite than simply assuming and is guaranteed to make even the grumpiest cashier more inclinded to help you.

  I would like  -There is absolutely nothing worse than loud, slow shouting and over-exaggerated pointing from English speakers when they're trying to ask for something in a foreign language. Don't be that person. 

Where is...? - The bathroom, the tourist information centre, the nearest pub... You can't always rely on Google Maps y'know! 

How much does it cost? - Learning the numbers is always handy too!  

A single/return to... - Don't follow in my footsteps and land yourself with a £40 fine for a two minute bus ride you decided to skip the fare on. 

The bill, please - Because I'm all about avoiding awkward situations in restaurants at all costs. 

What do you recommend? - Whether it's a visitor attraction or a restaurant, a great way of finding hidden gems is to shun your guidebook and ask a local to recommend their favourite places to visit or the best dish on the menu.

Cheers! - What's travelling without sampling the local beers, wines and spirits. Drink them like a regular!

Print it: 

12 language phrases you have to learn to get by in any country. If you're travelling you have to learn these phrases. With this free blog printable it's an easy way to learn a new language
What are your most important words and phrases to learn before travelling?



This post was written in collaboration with the GoEuro #travellessons competition where you can win a city trip worth £300. Information on how to enter can be found here.

Saturday

8 Amazing Experiences I Had in South America

I can't believe that today marks a whole year since we flew to Lima to begin our four month long adventure in South America. Visiting Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and Colombia I learned a lot about myself and for all the amazing things I saw and did, there were times when it was challenging and there was nothing I wanted more than to come back home.


I'm so jealous of past Sarah for the excitement and trepidation she was feeling this time year so I wanted to look back on some of the coolest things I experienced on my travels. 
8 amazing experiences to have in south america
 I got engaged at Machu Picchu - I think it probably goes without saying that this was one of the best days of my life. I worried that Machu Picchu would be over-hyped and underwhelming, but it was anything but. We climbed Huayna Picchu - one of the most dangerous hikes in the world - and made it to the top of the mountain just as the morning mist cleared to reveal an incredible view of the citadel from 1500ft up. Then back in our hotel room Tom asked me to marry him! 



8 amazing experiences to have in south america
I climbed Colca Canyon - If we thought Huayna Picchu was a difficult climb then nothing prepared us for Colca Canyon. One of the deepest canyons in the world simply getting from top to bottom was the most physically challenging thing I've ever done, never mind getting back up again. I'm still not sure how we managed it and the experience was mostly pretty horrendous, but the sense of pride at having accomplished it was so incredible. The views weren't too shabby either... 

Read more: Colca Canyon: A Worthwhile Ordeal (Probably)

8 amazing experiences to have in south america
I got lost on one of the most beautiful islands in the world - When we arrived on the Isla del Sol without a map, a plan or any accommodation booked we realised we might have made a slight error. After hours of trekking up hills and across beaches in search of the hostel we wanted to stay in we finally declared ourselves well and truly lost and spent the night in an old lady's hut. It was so easy to feel disheartened until we sat with our legs dangling off the cliffs enjoying the incredible views of Lake Titicaca. 

Read more: Stranded on the Isla del Sol, Bolivia 

8 amazing experiences to have in south america

I explored the Uyuni Salt Flats - Even though I was really ill when we visited the Salt Flats were one of the highlights of our trip. The landscapes were beautiful and often eerie, the sunsets were like nothing I've seen before and the thrill of having no idea where you were in the middle of the desert without seeing a single soul for hours on end was absolutely incredible. I'm not exaggerating when I say that the salt flats don't even feel like they should belong on our planet because they're so alien. 

Read more: Sunset Over Salar de Uyuni 

8 amazing experiences to have in south america
I experienced my first earthquake - Up until our second day in Ecuador I had never felt an earthquake. Tom felt a minor tremble in Arequipa, but nothing could have prepared us for being rocked by a 7.8 Mw in Montanita. Just after it happened we were laughing at how terrified we'd both been, not realising the full extent of what had happened and that while we were lying in bed in the darkness feeling very confused, most of the town were fleeing to higher ground because of tsunami warnings. Maybe calling it an amazing experience is a little inappropriate but it is one that not many people can say they've shared and I feel very lucky that the only scars we walked away with were mental ones.

8 amazing experiences to have in south america


I almost died on a mountain in Ecuador - The Quilotoa Loop is absolutely beautiful and our photos make it seem like we were having the best time ever, but in reality it wasn't always like that. We found ourselves caught up in a flash flood climbing up the mountain, watched lightning strike the ground right next to where we were standing, had to seek shelter for the night in a freezing cold stone hut with no running water or electricity and took a wrong turn that led us perilously close to plummeting hundreds of feet down to almost certain death. I have never been so cold, been so soaked to the bone or felt so scared and downtrodden, but the feeling of reaching the crater and being so taken aback by how beautiful it was made it (almost) worth it. 

Read more: Hiking the Quilotoa Loop (The Disaster That Was)


8 amazing experiences to have in south america


I visited the centre of the Earth - Sure Quito's Mitad del Mundo is super touristy, but being able to say you're standing (or sitting) in two hemispheres at the same time is pretty cool right? 

8 amazing experiences to have in south america
I slept in a cabin at the foot of an active volcano - You might have heard that Ecuador's most famous volcano erupted recently, and the national park surrounding it has only just reopened. Not put off by our near-death experience in Quilotoa we spent the weekend at The Secret Garden hostel trying activities like horse riding and mountain biking in the mornings followed by card games and lots of rum until the early hours. We couldn't access the internet at all for the few days we were there and so got to meet so many amazing people. I was devastated when we had to leave and say goodbye to new friends.


Today I am trying not to mourn and instead start planning the next adventure. The hardest part is just choosing where that will be...