Krampus at the Christmas Market in Munich

Ah, it’s December in Bavaria and the Christmas markets are in full swing. The Alps are shrouded in cool mist and half-timbered houses are decked out in twinkly lights and boughs of mistletoe. Locals are huddled ’round their fires drinking hot glühwein as holiday tunes float through the air.

Suddenly, the sound of synchronized cracking whips break the silence. Groups of Krampus and Perchten, Christmas devils and fur-clad Alpine monsters armed with bundles of twigs, rush into the crowded streets. The fiendish Christmas beasts dance through the crowds chasing rotten children and whipping them with stinging bundles of twigs. Adults laugh and stuff themselves with gingerbread as children run screaming in all directions. Yeah, Christmas in Germany has a bit of an edge. Continue…

Don’t Miss the Berlin Festival of Lights 2015

Berlin Festival of LIghts

The Berlin Festival of Lights just started this weekend and will continue until October 18. Although we aren’t currently in Berlin, we did want to take the opportunity to draw our visitors’ attention to the dates and encourage anyone in the area to hightail it to Berlin to check out one of our favorite yearly events. Photographers will definitely want to take in the 10-day festival… but don’t forget those tripods because all the action takes place after dark.

If you aren’t in the area or you want to get an idea of what the spectacular event looks like, check out our online gallery which is composed of shots taken during the 2012 and 2013 festivals. Very cool.

A Mad Dash to Germany

Thomas' family

Nomadic life has its ups and downs. One problem is that when there is a family emergency, we are often on the wrong part of the planet (although that is always the case for us because we can’t live in Germany and the U.S.A. at the same time.)

So when we discovered that Thomas’ dad was being rushed in for a bypass, Thomas had to catch a last minute Aeroflot flight via Moscow to Germany (when you’re in a rush, you take what you can get.) Due to delays in scheduling the bypass, Thomas ended up staying in Germany for almost a month. Luckily, he was able to stay with his sister Sabine and family, so he had the opportunity for some long overdue quality family time.

Coincidentally, Continue…

Wall on Wall

Wall on Wall Exhibition Israel | Occupied Palestinian Territories

One of the things I love most about Berlin is that every single time we go out for a walk, we discover something cool. The last time we strolled down to the East Side Gallery, we happened upon Kai Wiedenhöfer’s amazing Wall on Wall exhibition.

Kai, a photographer based in Berlin, traveled the world photographing the planet’s most notorious walls. From the DMZ separating the Koreas to the cement barriers of Baghdad to the vast stretches of wall that separate Mexico and the U.S., he’s seen and photographed them all.

But Kai needed the appropriate venue to display his photography. Where better than the world’s most beloved wall-gallery? The East Side Gallery, a living  Continue…

Further into the Reichstag

The Reichstag Dome

The Reichstag building with its massive steel and glass dome designed by Norman Foster is unquestionably the architectural highlight of Berlin. The building is also the ultimate symbol of German reunification and reconciliation as well as a profound architectural statement meant to symbolize the ideal of German governmental transparency. (Something we all need more of, right?)

Today most people make a beeline for the spectacular dome and never realize that there are several options for extended visits which include the interior of the main Reichstag building. Thomas and I took a 90-minute Art and Architecture tour of the Reichstag to delve a little further into this amazing piece of German history. I’ll admit that some of the modern art had me rolling my eyes, but the tours offer an incredible opportunity to access parts of the building that are off-limits to most visitors. Here’s a tiny sample of what we saw as well as tips on how to take an extended tour Continue…

Berlin Festival of Lights 2013

Berlin Festival of Lights 2013

Today marks the end of Berlin’s spectacular Festival of Lights, one of the city’s coolest annual events. Although the 12-day festival was marred by fairly rainy weather this year (that’s always a risk in October), we still managed to get some pretty cool shots. Potsdamer Platz, with its pop art projections, was the clear standout this year. Hotel de Rome’s classical art projections were also quite stunning. There seemed to be fewer animations and more still imagery on the buildings, which was a tiny bit of a disappointment. Don’t get lazy Berlin, get those animations ready for next year.

We’ve added eight additional images from this year’s festival to our Festival of Lights pictorial, so check it out.

 

Cranes Fill the Skies of Brandenburg

Cranes fill the skies of Brandenburg

The first week of October marks the beginning of one of Europe’s great spectacles as the skies of eastern Germany and western Poland fill will thousands of Eurasian cranes (Grus grus) flying from Scandinavia to North Africa. The epicenter of this natural event is Gartz, a small village on the border of Germany and Poland, which celebrates this natural wonder with its annual Crane Week (Kranichwoche in German.)

For a mere 3 Euros, local representatives of the Unteres Odertal National Park lead excursions into the surrounding countryside in search of flocks of cranes. They even provide the wildlife viewing scopes to get a good look at the cranes, which boast a 7-foot wingspan Continue…

I’m Dreaming of a White Easter

Well, we had the gall to invoke the gods of spring in our last post and they rewarded us by dumping six inches of fresh snow on Berlin. The city just might be in for a white Easter. Rather than hide from it, I donned my snow boots, grabbed my camera, and headed out to Potsdam’s Sanssouci to wander around the palace gardens for the day.

The ponds and streams were frozen over and the side trails were covered in deep powder. The deserted back trails and snow-frosted hedges felt eerily reminiscent of the final scene Continue…

Germany: What a Dollar Can Buy You

It’s funny how perspectives can change so quickly. Looking back at our previous What a Dollar Can Buy You posts in Asia, I remember that we were operating on a very different wavelength. I called Malaysia “downright expensive” and I whined that the Philippines could “break the bank.” Now that we’re back in Europe, I only wish we could do so much for so little money.

But I shouldn’t complain. Despite Germany’s economic success (at least that’s what Frau Merkel tells us), prices here are still relatively affordable by European standards. Many other EU countries are far more expensive. And bizarrely, Berlin is one of Germany’s most affordable destinations! Even 24 years after the fall of the wall, Deutschland’s capital is still cheaper than most other cities in the country (or the continent for that matter.) So basing ourselves in Berlin, where we can maximize our experiences while minimizing costs, makes total sense. After all, we are budgeteers at heart.

I have to admit it was a little more challenging to compile this list. Although one-dollar items or services do not abound, there are still some things you can get for 0.77 euro cents Continue…