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We’re funny (usually), controversial (sometimes) and insightful (always!). Our travel experts share their experiences below in hopes of hearing back from YOU. So read, comment and enjoy!

Brrrrr-lin in the Winter

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Berlin is certainly one of the most beautiful cities to explore, but once winter hits, you might find that walking and bike tours are more fitting for the warmer months.  Don’t rule out winter as a time to visit, as Berlin’s charm is still visible, if not accentuated by freshly fallen snow, Christmas decorations, and multiple activities reminding you that wintertime isn’t just for hibernating.

Christmas Markets

With over 50 different Christmas markets spread over the large squares and smaller allys, Berlin really captures the spirit of the holiday season wherever you run into them.  And you won’t be running into the same products over and over again, each market seems to specialize in different areas offering you a wide variety of gifts, gadgets, and goodies to browse through.

christmas-market You can go to the Gendarmenmarkt which features not only local embroidery, woodwork, stonemasonry, and food, but also there are shows which include performances by acrobatics, jugglers, musicians, and artists.  Or if you’re looking for something more low-key (relatively speaking to the glitz and glamour that can take over these markets), you can try the international Market of the Continents which supports social and structural projects from around the world.  When the native, handmade products are purchased from these traders it goes to their community to help their development.  Even better, this market is held indoors so even the snow can’t stop you.

Shows and Ballets

Outside may be snowy, dark, and cold, but what better way to capture the spirit of the holidays than a show by a world-renowned ballet, soothing orchestra, or fantastical entertainment?

candlelight-dinner I’ll be the first to admit that anything with the word “palace” sparks my interest, and this experience wouldn’t fall short of any expectations.  Enjoying a sumptuous dinner by candlelight in the Charlottenburg Palace Orangery, followed by what feels like a personal performance from the Berlin Palace Orchestra couldn’t make me feel better about escaping the cold in the warm and cozy comforts of this palace.

stage-show The Friedrichstadt Palast Stage Show is another alternative, less emphasis on the romance and instead, a complete focus on putting the audience in awe.  It’s safe to say that goal is always accomplished at the state-of-the-art theater where the stage is a show in itself.  With the addition of talented dancers, acrobatics, singers, and musicians, you’re mind will be in disbelief at what is presented in front of you.  Just call it a Christmas miracle.

Who could forget the Nutcracker?  Follow the classic story of a young girl and her doll on a Christmas Eve adventure.  Music by the infamous Tchaikovsky, and performed by the internationally acclaimed Russian National Ballet, this is one show that is sure to put you in the Christmas spirit!

Pubs

berlin-pub Finally, there is no better way to warm up than having a drink at a local pub.  With authentic taverns and numerous choices of drinks at the cocktail lounges, live music and even rooftop gardens over looking the city, there is no shortage to your options.  Berlin is filled with a wide variety of relaxing pubs and lively clubs, but they all give you a taste of the nightlife culture.

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Friday Facts: The Berlin Wall

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This year it’s been 50 years since the Berlin Wall was build. The Berlin Wall separated East Berlin from West Berlin for nearly three decades until it finally came down in 1989.

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courtesy of E. Liparova

This picture was taken last Saturday during the 50th anniversary commemorations, from the Bernauer Strasse where there’s still a section of the Berlin Wall standing.

Quick History

After WWII Germany was divided between America, France, Great Britain and the USSR; Berlin too was divided in four. Soon Germany became a pawn between two world ideologies (Capitalism vs Communism) and the Berlin Wall became a symbol of the Cold War. West Germany’s economy bloomed and many East Germans tried to flee West. The easiest way to this was by reaching West-Berlin, a capitalist island in the communist East.  To prevent a complete exodus the communists erected the Berlin Wall, practically overnight on the 12th and 13th of August 1961.

Facts on the Berlin Wall:

  • After the 1961 wall was built, another one was erected parallel to it but 100 yards further. The space in between was  known as the Death Strip. It was covered with gravel to spot footprints and filled with tripwire booby traps and mines. Guards were also ordered to shoot anyone crossing.
  • Checkpoint Charlie was the third and most famous checkpoint opened by the US; it got its name from the phonetic alphabet. It was the scene of a dramatic stand-off between American and Soviet tanks in 1961 and from 1962 it was the only place where foreigners visiting Berlin could cross from West to East and back again.
  • The first version of the wall was no more than a barbed wire fence. The 1975 incarnation of the Berlin Wall would be the most memorable:  45000 separate sections of reinforced concrete, 3.6m high and 1.5 wide. It had barbed wire, mesh fencing, signal fencing and watch towers.
  • The Fall of the Berlin Wall happened in 1989 when communism already started the crumble. After a new law was made to allow East Germans to travel freely on the 9th of November 1989 thousands East Germans flocked to the Berlin Wall and people were seen hugging and dancing on top of the wall.

bebelplatz_6462_3Berlin has since become a very popular place to visit and is renowned for its art and culture scene. Take a tour in Berlin on a segway and zoom through the beautiful city visiting all the key places of Berlin’s rich history, like the Berlin Wall.

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tripwolf.com – A travel guide on top of the trends

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tripwolf is a free online travel guide that offers way more than what could be just stagnant travel guide pages. It’s truly a one stop shop for travel lovers, dreamers and schemers.  Users or surfers alike can create and plan future (or past!) trips with tripwolf‘s trip planner and then book tours and activities with isango! And, if they’re ready to make those dream trips a reality, they can even book hotels and find flights all through tripwolf! continue reading

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New Hobbies: Photography Tours

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PHOTOGRAPHING EUROPE

 

Who says you need fancy equipment or specialized knowledge to enjoy the experience of photographing your favorite city?

For amateurs and professionals alike, these guided photography tours, led by local experts, provide the perfect platform from which to explore the sights, history and culture of Europe through your own, unique lens.

1. We Open in Venice
Venice is a great starting point for absolute beginners. I don’t think there is one corner of that city that isn’t aesthetically overwhelming! The Grand Canal alone will provide you with enough shots for an entire roll of film. Turn the corner and admire the friendly gondoliers, as they effortlessly coast down one of many peaceful, winding tributaries. Get lost in the maze of picturesque alleyways amidst colorful buildings and quaint cafes. Enter Piazza San Marco, and you are inundated with the largest concentration of pigeons that you have ever seen. It is seriously difficult to depart Venice without some satisfying images!

After becoming acquainted with the city and your equipment, you may want to expand your local knowledge and sharpen your newfound photography skills on the Hidden Venice Walking Tour.

2. History buffs to Berlin
Rediscover the history and culture of this fascinating city through the exciting process of imagining, framing and shooting. You will be led by a local expert through several key sites, including Nikolaiviertel (Nikolai Quarter), the city’s well-preserved medieval square. Enter the mindset of Prussian kings and architects as you snap away in front of the fascinating buildings of Museumsinsel (Museum Island). Explore the legendary narratives of Frederick the Great through your own vantage points.

You will depart with a new, enhanced understanding of this fascinating city along with unique photographs and stories to prove it!

3. Budapest for the Imaginative
This post-communist city has such diverse historical layers and architectural styles that no single visitor will leave with quite the same impression. A guided tour is the perfect way to kick-start your photographic adventure as you wander through the side streets and admire the city’s crumbling history alongside its contemporary reconstructions. One may be attracted to the famous “castle hill,” with its grand architecture, monuments and panoramic views over the Danube River. Another might focus on the worn façades of beige, red, yellow and brown and bits of crumbling detail that serve as a reminder of this city’s turbulent plight.

Though you won’t be able to take your cameras into the Gellert Baths, they are definitely worth a visit as well!

Now, snap away!

Venice Photography Tour

Photography Tour of Historic Berlin

Photography Tour in Budapest – Across the Danube

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