I'm not sure if I'll be travelling more or less in 2014... I said I'll do less travel in 2013 but still was on the road for more than 2 months, so we will see how this pans out! I managed to visit five new countries in 2013, which sounds like a good and healthy number to me. These are the places that are high up on my
list for the next year:
 

Scandinavia

Northern Europe and its culture has always been close to my heart! I've tiptoed around Scandinvia, and travelled in the Baltics, Northern Germany and Finland, but for some reason never made it there (in spite of knowing a bunch of amazing Swedes!).

I hope to visit Stockholm, Oslo and Bergen (+ surrounding countryside) especially, but would also be happy to explore more of Finland or visit Denmark or Iceland.

Romania

You didn't see that coming, did you? I've heard amazing things about the untouristyness of Romania, and everyone I've met who visited loved it. When my tattoo artist revealed he's from Transsylvania (befitting for a badass metal dude, huh?), I knew fate was tring to tell me something. I have already lost my heart to Southeastern Europe and would love to explore the old towns of Brasov and Sibiu, and am open to exploring castles with or without bluthirsty rulers and brown bears!


Malta

Because it's got sun and amazing history and culture and some the most wonderful, smart and soulful people I've ever met! No further explaniation needed.

Northeastern Japan

The last frontier :) They say Hokkaido is Japan's little Alaska... and while I have very little idea of what Alaska is like, I know that I do love the Japanese countryside, even though I usually hate quaint and remote. I've also never been to Tohoku, the part of Japan that was affected by the tsunami and Fukushima nuclear disaster. Much of the area's mystical forests are now gone, but I would like to see what life is like there now, three years after the catastophe (especially as official information, even within Japan, is very vague). Is it dangerous? I don't know, but to be honest, I don't worry about it. Like the Japanese say, "We have to live". I was born during the time of the Tchernobyl incident and neither my generation nor people in the Ukraine or surrounding countries have sprouted a third eye yet. 

Beijing

Bring on the environmental hazards! If the radiation won't harm me, maybe Beijing's infamous smog will. I've so far managed to avoid Mainland China. I'm sure the country has a lot to offer, but I hear an equal amount of horror stories and am not quite sure I want to support the Chinese government with tourism on top of all the Made in China stuff we all buy, anyway. Beijing, however, is the one place in China I really would love to explore. History, culture and all that!


and maybe... the US East Coast?

Because for over 10 years now, friends ask me to come to NY with them. Yet, the US, like most English-speaking countries, is far far down on my travel list. If I can manage to get a cheap flight, it might happen, though. Amtrak willing, I'd love to travel from Boston to New York to Philadelphia and Washington, DC.

Which places are you planning, dreaming, plotting, wishing to visit in 2014?




a view worth the hike!

The Japanese have a saying that people are either "umi" (ocean) or "yama" (mountain) people - much like you'd say someone is a dog or a cat person. To say I'm not a "mountain" person is an understatement. Growing up somewhere completely flat, I have to admit that I was a bit shocked when I first found out that London, outside the city centre, is full of hills. 

However, in Japan, it's a completely different experience: If I read that there's a hiking path somewhere, or a temple with a thousand or more steps to climb, I'll be the first one doing it. Japan's nature is amazing, but also convenient: paths are clearly marked (and if not, there's always someone nearby to show you the way), often paved, and almost always within easy access of a train station. Hell, sometimes there are even "hiking" or walking paths that lead completely around the foot of the mountain! Perfect for city people on mountain day trips!
One thing I haven't done yet it climb mount Fuji, but I guess someday, I'll have to do that, too.
Yet, if it's any other country or continent, you'd have to pay me handsomely to attempt even the gentlest of hikes. 

Are you a mountain or an ocean person?
easily accessible mountains, yay!





conquering my fear of mountains in 2013
2013 is almost over! Considering that I wanted to "settle down" this year, I still spent more than 2 
months travelling. I visited five new countries, all within Europe, and spent a month in Japan and Korea (which I would love to make a yearly habit!). However, the European explorations have showed me that there is sooo much left to explore on my doorstep.

What else was new in 2013? That I did about half of my travels with my partner, which worked better than expected. I need to admit that I am more of a solo traveller though - it's hard to work on the road, sightsee and spend time with your significant other, and I often felt like I was doing everything half-heartedly.

Another change in 2013 was that I did a lot of travel in my native country, Germany. It's much more exciting and varied than I remembered it, and looking at it through the eyes of a non-German definitely changed my perspective. Travel in Germany is wonderful, but I close with the same as last year: London is where my home & heart are (with Japan as a close contender).

Favourite country 2013

This comes as a big surprise, but it is POLAND! The beautiful and varied cities, the hearty but never greasy food, loads of history and quirky art, but most of all, the amazing, wonderful, jolly, creative, positive people, who don't exactly live in a land of milk and honey, but always seem energetic, try their best and  are utterly soulful.

Favourite city 2013

Krakow! It managed to catapult itself on the place of my 2nd favourite European city. Whether it's ancient history, sleek modernity or alternative culture, the Polish city completely captivates me. Even though the old town is fairly touristy - but luckily, there's no tourist rip off mentality (yet).







Favourite experience 2013


Japan, as always!
There were so many! My favourite, surprising for this low-land dweller, were my trips to the mountains. We hiked around the Ourika valley in Morocco, did a very sporty climb up a lush Bulgarian forest... hiking up Kompira-san, I enjoyed the most serene Japanese temple and one of the best views in the country so far. I'd never thought I'd say this, but hiking in 2013 was amazing!

Best re-discovery

Hamburg, Germany's second biggest city and Europe's major port city! I'm from NW-Germany, but my grandparents and great-grandparents hail from North Germany and the Baltics, and recently I've realised how much these customs and culture have influenced me (for a German, I like my pickled fish, beetroot and dill waaaay too much). Apparently I was conceived in Hamburg, had many relatives there and spent a lot of early childhood summers in the place. The best memory of my childhood is going to the giant Toys'R'us and my uncle buying me all the things, and eating fish rolls and roasted almonds at the harbour fun fair in Hamburg. Twenty years later, the grubby port town has grown into a hyper modern metropolis with a healthy mix of multicultural, German and almost Scandinavian charm. Not too mention there's fish everywhere! I will be back soon!

What were your favourite travel experiences this year? 

an the winner is... Krakow!


eeek, even Eros at Piccadilly Circus is ready for Xmas!

There's no way to sugar-coat it: I simply don't do Christmas. Pretending to suddenly love everyone, or even "spend some quiet days with my family, doing nothing", as some people describe the ideal Christmas, is my idea of hell. I just don't do jolly, and even less "blessed" or whatever adjective you can think of for this season. Christmas turns me into a major grumpy cat. It's not even officially winter yet and I wish spring would be here!


Yet, this will be the second Christmas in a row that I'm spending in London, Europe's capital of holiday capitalism and kitsch. I love Londo for its permanent buzz, and 25 December is the only day of the year that things completely come to a halt here (there's no public transport all day!). 

To emphasize the advent misery, from this Saturday, we're going on a trip to Prague and two German cities, mostly to sample the food and drink at the Christmas markets there. It feels weird to travel somewhere that is definitely even more Christmassy and also colder than where you live! On the other hand, I really really do look forward to see some of East Germany (where I've not been before, except East Berlin) and return to Hamburg after almost 20 years!

I had hope to go somewhere warm this Christmas, somewhere that doesn't do Christmas, but it simply didn't fit into plan and budget. What I know if that next year I'll plan my Christmas escape better, and look for flights to somewhere warm early on. 

My favourite Christmas destination was probably Istanbul, but I can imagine any Muslim country to be a good place for Christmas haters... I have spent Christmas in East Asia before and unfortunately, they also "do" Christmas in most places, and that in its most soulless, superficial and purely commercial form. I'm thinking Tunisia or Jordan or Malaysia for next year... 

What would be your favourite Christmas destination?



Winter is about to begin and a visit to my local farmer's market in London shows that local food in the next months is going to be of the stodgy, dreary type, with some imported citrus fruit thrown in. I've been a bit shocked to see many of the food magazines featuring strawberries as part of Christmassy meals. So much for eating according to the seasons, UK...

However, this brought me back to dreaming of one of my new food discoveries in Japan earlier this year. Convenience stores in Japan offer good and cheap food for travellers, but usually the sandwiches are nothing to write home about.

Until I finally tried this strawberry and cream sandwich, which I always thought sounds disgusting... but when I bought it, I wondered why I hadn't tried it before. It's fluffy and creamy and not too sweet! A perfect pick me up on a warm spring afternoon for about £2. I'm considering turning this into a business at Wimbledon next year... but so long, I can only dream of the warm season...

What's the most unusual sandwich you've tried abroad?




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