WHOA lansi

francophile, oenophile, logophile, turophile

Tag: Europe Beer Tour

Travel \\ Berlin to Prague Road Trip

For our travel between Berlin, Prague, & Munich this summer, my dad had rented a vehicle. While I love train travel, one of the perks of a road trip is the ability to stop wherever you’d like. We decided to make the most of this, & scheduled a few extra sights along the way. The first of these was Weesenstein Castle, just south of Dresden.

Halfway between Berlin & Prague, it was the perfect spot to stop for lunch & stretch our legs. This impressive castle features beautiful gardens, medieval rooms, & a microbrewery. Due to construction delays on the trip down, food was our top priority, so we headed straight to a cute little restaurant at the base of the castle. They had a lovely patio out back, which we took advantage of. They didn’t have English menus, but our server did a great job of translating for us, despite feeling her English wasn’t very good. (She spoke very well, in reality. & none of us speak German very well, so we couldn’t have been more grateful for the help!)

weesenstein

adorable town across the river

weesenstein

the castle

weesenstein

patio beers

weesenstein

lunch!

weesenstein

I love these homes

weesenstein

After lunch, we wandered up the hill to the castle. Since we’d arrived in the early afternoon, we essentially had the whole place to ourselves. The only downside to driving was that we’d already had beer with lunch, so we didn’t try any from the microbrewery. If you make a stop, save yourself some time to sample them! It’s a very cool spot.

weesenstein weesenstein

weesenstein

Built right into the rock

weesenstein

weesenstein

Beautiful gardens & surrounding forest

weesenstein

weesenstein

Copper tanks & bottles

weesenstein

Microbrewery

The grounds are small enough to tour in under an hour, making it the perfect spot to stop mid roadtrip. Feeling refreshed, we were ready to get back in the car & hit the road for Prague!

Travel \\ Berlin

Berlin was the second major European city I ever visited. In 2005, while I was living in Rennes, I took an overnight train to the German capital to meet some friends for the weekend. It was one of the best weekend trips I’ve ever been on, & left me longing for another visit. Twelve years later, the city is still an eclectic mix of elegant modernity & a certain level of grittiness. Two days definitely wasn’t enough time to experience everything I’d hoped to, but here’s a sampling of what I loved about this lively metropolis. Do yourself a favour & dedicate a few extra days to really explore.

The Street Food

I think this may be my favourite thing about the city. The street food culture in Berlin is like none other; it’s a little glimpse into the vibrant multiculturalism that is such a part of any visit. The best part? You can eat really well on a tiny budget. Seriously well.

Our first stop was thanks to Anthony Bourdain (of course). Konnopke’s Imbiss is a sausage stall beneath the elevated subway lines in Prenzlauer Berg. You can find currywurst pretty much everywhere in Berlin – it’s a cheap & filling lunch, if nothing else – but if you’re going to check out this adorable area, you might as well go here. Afterwards, you can wander the beautiful Oderberger Strasse or grab a beer at Berlin’s oldest beer garden: Prater Garten (or do both, as we did).

Konnopke’s Imbiss

Oderberger Strasse

Prater Garten

If you go to Berlin & don’t experience any Turkish food, I think you’re seriously missing out. Most of my memories of Berlin revolve around doner kebabs. Cheap, delicious, & perfect whether you’re heading out for the night or on your way home. This time around, N & I had two amazing Turkish food experiences. First, we shared an amazing kofte sandwich at Konak Grill in Kreuzberg. Later that same evening, we had the most magnificent doner kebab of my life at a stand on a bridge at Warschauer Strasse S-Bahn. It may have been the beers, but I think I’d honestly go back to this spot if I’m ever in Berlin again (& we almost did on our way home). It was that good.

Tell me that doesn’t look amazing

Neighbourhoods

Part of Berlin’s popularity stems from its global feel. There’s a little corner of Berlin to suit any taste – you just have to find yours.

Mitte is the city’s center, literally meaning “middle” in German. It’s where you’ll find most monuments, memorials, & museums. If it’s your first visit, it’s a good place to start. Check out the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag, & Alexanderplatz. Maybe wander the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe or the Topography of Terror.

Brandenberg Gate

Hotel Adlon

 

The hauntingly moving Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

Hotel Adlon

We did a free walking tour, which I will almost always recommend. Unfortunately, this one was my least favourite & we left disappointed. We just didn’t like our guide, which is the hazard of any tour, free or paid. It really was such a shame as I think it tainted the others’ first impressions of Berlin. (Berlin was actually the first city I ever did a walking tour in & Per set the bar high – it’s still the best tour I’ve ever done.) Museum Island is also undergoing massive upgrades until 2019 & is a little difficult to get around, so budget extra time to see it.

Museum Island

St Mary’s near Alexanderplatz

Checkpoint Charlie at the end of our tour

The Berlin wall cut through major roadways & is memorialized with bricks.

Topography of Terror

Mitte is an interesting mix of modern buildings & old cobblestone streets. There’s fantastic restaurants & more sights than you’ll likely have time to take in. Don’t underestimate Berlin – it’s huge.

We stayed in Kreuzberg, which feels like a different world from both central Mitte & the pristine Prenzlauer Berg. It’s got a bit of reputation. With a huge Turkish population, this is where we found the best street food. It’s a little bit grimy & a lot edgy; it’s got tons of personality. I’m glad we stayed here so we got to experience it a little bit more than we likely would have otherwise.

Görlitzer Park at dusk

Across the Spree River, you’ll find Friedrichshain, known mostly for its wicked party scene & the East Side Gallery: a slice of the Berlin Wall turned open air international mural exhibit. Grab some beers at craft beer shop, Drink Drunk, on your way across the Spree (drinking in public is perfectly acceptable in Germany, & is the perfect way to enjoy the gallery, if you ask me.).

Beers at the East Side Gallery

Go out on the town

Berlin is a city for all tastes, whether it’s a simple evening meal with family & friends or a wild night of bar hopping, you can do it all.

While the street food is second to none, there’s also an incredible restaurant scene happening. I had a hopelessly impossible list. We came nowhere near to making a dent in it. In fact, we really only had one sit down meal, our first night in Berlin. We settled on somewhere near our AirBnB, Café Restaurant Jolesch. We sat on their patio, enjoyed fantastic service, & delicious, extra crispy schnitzel the size of our faces (literally). It was a great meal. If you’re looking for great German comfort food, you can’t go wrong with this spot.

Dinner on the patio

giant schnitzel

Afterwards, we made the trek to Klunkerkranich, in Neukölln. Hidden away on the top floor of the parking garage at the somewhat abandoned-looking Neukölln Arkaden Mall. You’ll walk up the ramp to the very top to find…I don’t really know how to describe it. A trendy hipster bar, with a garden, outdoor tables, & a fantastic view over Berlin? It’s a great spot to watch a sunset, or simply grab drinks at the end of an evening. It’s definitely worth checking out, for its eclectic mix of people & decor & the views. Bring cash, there’s sometimes cover & you’ll need a deposit for glassware (they don’t have anyone to clear their tables).

View from the top!

Outdoor biergarten

funky lights

Berlin skyline

Our second night, we grabbed a few craft beers for the road at Drink Drunk, crossed the bridge over the Spree, & wandered the couple kilometers of leftover Berlin wall that make up the East Side Gallery. Afterward, we grabbed a drink on one of the Riverboats & watched the sun set.

Strolling the East Side Gallery

River Spree

Sunset on a boat

It was a Tuesday night, but we wanted to experience some of Berlin’s famous nightlife, so we headed into Friedrichshain next. Everything I’d read told me this was the place to party in Berlin, but still, neither of us could get over how incredibly lively it was for a weeknight. We marveled at restaurant patios packed with locals enjoying a meal together, & bar after bar with no shortage of thirsty patrons. There were so many charming options (& no shortage of night clubs either, if that’s your jam). Friedrichshain is fantastic!

Wandering Urban Spree after close

We settled on Hops & Barley, one of the oldest craft breweries in the city. It’s a pretty unassuming spot, brewing natural unfiltered beers. They aren’t afraid to experiment a little, so there are some intriguing options. The patio was full, but we managed to find ourselves a little table in the back, amid a funny mix of locals & foreign exchange students. We stayed until they wouldn’t serve us any longer before making the trek back to Kreuzberg for the night.

Our time is Berlin was a little more limited that I’d expected. Picking up our rental car was more time consuming that I’d hoped, & we hadn’t budgeted a lot of time to begin with. The construction on Museum Island also threw a wrench in our plans as it was much harder to navigate than when I’d first visited. If we’d had more time in Berlin, I’d probably have suggested we spend some time in the Tiergarten (a 500 acre park in Mitte) or exploring the Reichstag. There is truly no shortage of things to do in Berlin.

The next morning, we grabbed coffees & hit the road for our next stop: Prague!

Travel \\ Amsterdam

Travel // Amsterdam

Amsterdam was the first stop on our 2017 Europe Beer Tour, as I would jokingly refer to the trip we took with my family earlier this summer. This trip had been on my bucket list for years. Now that it’s over, it seems almost surreal. We saw a lot & covered a lot of ground over the course of our three weeks in (mostly) Northern Europe. Maybe that’s why I’m only starting to post about it now. Or maybe I’m notoriously slow at sorting through all the media & memories after a big trip. The latter, most likely.

But here we are, a little over three months after the fact, ready for some bonafide Europe recaps. Whenever someone asks me what my favourite city in Europe is, I freeze. One city? You want me to name one city in the whole of Europe as my favourite? Nuh uh, no way, impossible! I won’t even entertain the idea. There are so many different cities that hold special places in my heart for different reasons. Three days in Amsterdam was all it took for it to win a place on that list. What makes this city so special, you ask? Let’s take a look.

The Canals

Known as the Venice of the North by some, Amsterdam has over a hundred kilometres of canals. Our first day in the city, we spent most of our time wandering around, exploring the different neighbourhoods. I’ve mentioned before that this is one of my favourite things to do in a new city. There’s nothing like having no set destination or plan & just taking in everything around you.

N & I wandering on our first day in Amsterdam

Wandering the streets in the famous canal ring, or Grachtengordel, is essential to any trip to Amsterdam. I especially loved the bohemian Jordaan quarter, a grid of tiny lanes dotted with specialty shops, restaurants, art galleries, & the incredible Anne Frank house.

Amsterdam Canals Amsterdam Canals Amsterdam Canals

We spent the morning at the Anne Frank House on our last day in Amsterdam, & it was a visit I won’t soon forget. Having read her book as a young girl, it was so moving to be able to put her experiences & memories into a tangible space. They’ve done a really lovely job of preserving the families’ memory in a museum. Tickets sell out early for good reason. (If you have trouble getting regular tickets, the introductory program is only a few dollars more & is usually available for longer.)

The bike Culture

We only rented bikes for a few hours one afternoon & it might have been the biggest mistake of the whole trip (at least for me). I loved biking around the compact city centre & wish we’d rented them for longer. It’s busy & a little bit chaotic, but a lot of fun. We biked through the centre to the Museum Quarter then along the Singelgracht to a great brewery.

Bikes in Vondelpark

Biking around Amsterdam

Afterwards, we biked around Vondelpark, before heading back through town to drop off our bikes. If you’re less confident on a bike, I’d recommend a tour around Vondelpark. Its wide, paved pathways are easy to navigate & there are lots of lovely spots to stop & enjoy the park, or some food & drinks. It’s also a worthwhile stroll if you’re really not sold on biking. Our apartment was a few short blocks away, so we did just that on on our very first day in the city.

Albert Cuyp Market

You’ll find anything from electronics to clothing at this eclectic street bazaar, but as usual, we came for the food. It was herring season, so we went looking for a classic herring sandwich as soon was we arrived. Traditionally, soused herring is eaten with just raw onions, but broodje haring (on bread) is also popular. My dad did not enjoy the texture of the fish at all – it’s a little bit slimy – but N & I enjoyed ours. I’m glad we tried it since it’s one of N’s grandpa’s favourites.

We also picked up some cheese to snack on later that evening.

Next up were stroopwaffles. You’ve probably seen these traditional waffle & caramel cookies before. I know I had. They’re even better fresh. The stall we bought ours from made them right in front of us so they were nice & hot – the perfect way to enjoy them. They seem just a little more special when the caramel is soft & melty from the warm waffles.

Our last market food find was well earned, & probably my favourite. Just as I’d given up on finding kroketten as the Van Dobben store that was supposed to be at the corner of the market had shut down, we found their market stall. Hurray! Kroketten for all! A kroket is mashed potatoes and meat, breaded & deep fried, on a bun with a side of mustard. No complaints here.

Market snacks

There’s lots of different food to try at the market, so it makes a good lunch stop between wandering the canals in the centre & the museum quarter. Snack along the way or pick up some things to eat later, in one of the cities many beautiful parks.

The Museum Quarter

If you’re looking for the “I amsterdam” sign, this is where you’ll find it. If you’re looking for a photo op without a ton of people in it, best of luck. It was extremely busy when we went mid-day, however, we took the last tram back to our apartment one night & there wasn’t a soul in sight. Aim for early morning or late evening for a better chance at some photos without the hoards of people.

Surrounding the museumplein, you’ll find three major museums: the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, and the Stedelijk Museum. My parents went to the Van Gogh Museum & really enjoyed it, but N & I were content to wander the park in this beautiful area.

If you do decide to visit one of the popular museums, it’s a good idea to purchase tickets online first. Even the Heineken Experience gets some crazy lines. An e-ticket will save you wasting time waiting, if you can plan what time you’d like to go in advance.

Enjoying food & drinks on the water

The tilted, gabled canal-side buildings make the perfect backdrop for lunch, dinner, afternoon drinks, or a fun night out beside the water. There are no shortage of places to enjoy any of these things in Amsterdam.

Boat touring

There’s no shortage of great spots to relax along the canals

We found a number of great bruin cafés (brown cafés are laid back bars – you’ll find them all over the city) & restaurants along the canals in every neighbourhood. My favourite dinner was at Gent aan de schinkel near our apartment. We sat outside & watched boats go by on the canal, enjoying a lovely meal together.

Dinner along the canal

I’m a sucker for spending time near the water, & Amsterdam delivered on this. We took a boat tour one day, one of those big touristy ones. Next time, I think we’ll rent a smaller boat for the afternoon & enjoy some drinks & a meal as we tour around the city. Watching others doing just this from our crowded boat definitely made it seem like the better option.

The Architecture

I absolutely loved the renaissance architecture in the center of Amsterdam. The tall, tightly-packed homes sometimes look like they’re holding each other up. On our Free Walking Tour, we were told that residents paid taxes based on the width of their homes. This is why you see these characteristic tall & narrow homes in Amsterdam. Since this makes for tight staircases & hallways inside, they also tend to have have a hook above the top floor to hoist larger items into the home or business.

These narrow, long homes are actually what made Amsterdam the perfect place for the Frank family to hide. From the street, it’s hard to tell how far back many of the homes actually go.

The Red Light District

We visited the Red Light District during the day as well as on a lively Saturday night. It was interesting to see both. In daylight, De Wallen almost seems like any other neighbourhood in Amsterdam.There’s a beautiful church, the Oude Kerk, a market, & many great cafés & restaurants. Even in the morning, you’ll notice a few women behind windows here & there, as you sip your coffee & wander the area. It’s quite the juxtaposition. We did the morning free walking tour with New Europe & had a lovely time learning about the center of Amsterdam & the Red Light District.

The side of the Oude Kerk & the narrow streets of De Wallen

N & I went back late that evening, after dark, & the district seemed to have come alive. The narrow streets were so crowded that you could barely walk down them sometimes. Bars were overflowing. It almost felt like there was some kind of festival going on, instead of just another Saturday night. There were also a lot more windows with women behind them. & many of them were putting on a bit of a show to entice customers, sometimes even knocking on the glass to call them over. The atmosphere at night was completely different than it had been during the day.

The main canal in De Wallen

Heading towards the Red Light District

If you have the time to check it out both in the morning & evening, I’d definitely recommend that. Grab a drink in one of the pubs & enjoy watching the debauchery on a Saturday night. We went back on a Sunday & while it was busy, it wasn’t quite the chaos of the night before.

The Beer

It wouldn’t be a Europe Beer Tour if we didn’t drink any beer. You’re likely already familiar with Heineken, but there are so many other great beers too. & even better, there are so many great places to try them out.

Wandering around on our first day, we took a break for some drinks & fantastic lamb meatballs at De Ysbreeker. Named for the icebreakers that docked in front of the building, it has a beautiful terrace & a great selection of local beers like de Prael. It’s the perfect spot to enjoy a beautiful summer day.

Another spot we came to love was Hoppe. It’s been in operation for over 300 years & has a great selection of beers. Inside you’ll find antique stained glass windows, old gin barrels, & sawdust on the floor. A table on the covered terrace is a nice place to spend a few hours with friends (& maybe some bitterballen to snack on), but more often than not the after work crowd spills out into the bustling Spui square. Come here for the great local atmosphere, & some fantastic beer.

I saved my favourite spot for last: Brouwerij ‘t IJ. We biked to this microbrewery in east Amsterdam, next to the old de Gooyer windmill. Share a long table with other customers on their tree-covered terrace or head inside to their tasting room, lined with an impressive bottle collection. On weekends, they do a brewery tour for 5 euros. Arrive early to sign up – it fills up fast (as we, unfortunately, learned).

The terrace at Brewerij ‘t IJ

With a large selection of interesting (& tasty) beers, it’s a great spot to spent an afternoon. Check it out before 3 pm if you’d like to try a flight. It’s a little bit off the beaten path, so you’re more likely to find yourself amongst locals here, a welcome change after spending a couple days playing tourist.

‘t IJ Flight

Part of the bottle collection

One of the entrances

I could go on about all the great places we saw in Amsterdam (& all the great beer we drank) for a lot longer, but I’ll leave it off here. There’s something about the laidback Dutch vibe that takes all these incredible sights & experiences to the next level. Thanks for a great introductory visit, Amsterdam. I hope to come back again someday.

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