No, with the word I am not trying to say that people in the cities are more attractive than in the countryside. But while many people travel to find they love the laid back, off-grid life that the countryside in many countries has to offer, I find myself falling in love with cities, and not always the pretty and easily lovable ones. My love affairs are with cities that are a little rough, a little run down, are sometimes even neglected in the guide books – but come with a lot of attitude and a certain charme that a cute blonde just won't ever have. I even managed to enjoy Manila, where every street could be a scene straight from Armageddon. Which cities fascinate you?

These are my four favourites:

London, UK


I'm not talking about the tourist London of the British Museum, Trafalgar Square and Madame Tussauds. Anyway, London is not a neglected city by any standard, but still one that people either love or hate. London was the first I fell in love with. London isn't a pretty place in general, but that's it's biggest charm on the other hand – here you'll find it all; the good, the bad, the posh, the chavy, the metered heating and the pampered dog. The only thing you won't find, apart from an affordable flat: boredom.

Osaka, Japan


I lived here for two months and hope to return for longer some day. Osaka was my first impression of Japan, and during the day, there is nothing pretty about it – outside the many high rise department stores and museums, it's grey on grey on grey. It's considered Japan's most dangerous and nasty city,  but by international standards, there's nothing gruff about it. At night, magically, it transforms into a whole different place where every 5 square meter room is turned into a bar and what you can't drink in Osaka at night, you can certainly eat. Add a very healthy alternative music scene in a country that has 48-membered mass produced girl bands and locals that are perfectly happy to be ordinarily Japanese, and I'm a happy girl.


Fès, Morocco

Fès gets trashed a lot by travel bloggers, all the time. They romanticise about the Sahara trip and the souks of Marrakesh, and then they get here and are scared by the maze that the old medina is, by the crumbling houses of the old Jewish quarter, by the fact that English is not getting you anywhere here. Guess what? That's exactly what I love about it. Welcome to Morocco – what you've seen in Marrakesh was just a tiny part of the city that has been turned into your dream of a thousand and one nights because they smelled the money tourists brought in on €20 Ryanair flights. Fès has the oldest still existent medieval town centre in the world, the oldest university, the oldest inhabitants of all Moroccan cities that will do anything to accommodate you – if you dare to see further than the guy trying to sell you a carpet.

Hanoi, Vietnam

While in Ho Chi Minh City aka Saigon you might believe you're in Bangkok or Singapore, this place is not too far from the Chinese border and brings with it a lot of it's own history and culture. While some streets of the Old Quarter are Backpacker Central, it is by no means overrun by tourists. If you are looking for a place where the proverbial east meets west at the moment, this is the place to go – you'll see fruit and veg vendors with traditional hats walking along the streets, dancing the unique Hanoian ballet with a thousand crazy motorcycle drivers and teenagers with iPhones, and a lot of chicken and cats roaming the streets. It's a city that's run by young people and everybody seems to be working 24/7, yet there is a refreshing lack of malls, supermarkets and other chain stores. Let me not even mention the fact that £10 here will buy you a night in a wonderful 3 Star hotel.


What is your favourite city, even though it might not have been love at first sight?


2 Comments

  1. oh! i love this post!!! you're a harsh critic, steffi, but i like it :)

    i've been pondering about cities lately. my main quandary has been over what makes a city: the people, geography, structure, industry...? i'd have to say that for me it's the people and their interests which can propagate individual industries within a city (the music scene in Osaka, for example) that lure me in.

    i loved Hamburg despite its frigid, rainy climate when i visited one summer. i liked it for its vast size, luxurious city center, parks, and strong alternative scene.

    Cologne has always had a soft spot for me with its interesting and open people.

    Liège i found quaint. there was always something to do and even though it was a bit dirty, it also felt youthful and pretty.

    I've always wanted to go to London (for the British Museum, Trafalgar Square, Camden, and also for all those things to see and do), Stockholm because i like the Swedes and Scandinavia has always fascinated me and i figure there would be a good place to start, Tangier because it seems like it's a place where Europe and Africa converge, and lastly Portland, Oregon for food food food and in hoping its more nice than snobby.

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  2. Hehe, it's the German blood, must be critical ;)

    I like cities that have a gay scene apart from shag-and-booze places (boo for Osaka here), an art scene, a good music scene and unpretentious people.

    Hamburg and Cologne are my favourite German cities, too. I would even consider moving to Hamburg if it hadn't turned into the most expensive city in the country! Liege is a bit too quaint for me. Portland sounds exciting, too. Maybe it's a good thing you haven't made it to London - because I'm sure you'd want to stay, too.

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