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Vegan Food in Amsterdam

Posted by Sas on June 28, 2016

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I have a confession to make. Although I travel solo a lot, when I am travelling with other people I tend to be the one who just follows everyone else. When I was in Amsterdam, as part of a group of 18, I ate a lot of great vegan food but I couldn’t tell you where some of it was from as I don’t know. I would like to say thank you to my non-vegan friends for picking some tasty eating spots though. Here’s what I do remember about eating vegan in Amsterdam:

Vegabond – This tiny shop and café on one of the narrow side streets is a must for any vegan visitor to Amsterdam. They have an impressive selection of groceries to keep you going (including gluten-free beer:) ) and the café serves the most delicious lunches. The open gluten-free sandwich with vegan cheese and pine nuts is delicious, and I washed it down with a refreshing red juice.

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Candy Freaks – I’d seen this shop on Happy Cow but wasn’t going to go there. Then I stumbled upon it by accident whilst I was exploring (ie lost) in the city. This is the most vegan-friendly sweet shop I have ever been in. Most of the sweets are part of one huge pick & mix, and they are all labelled as to whether they are vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free and a whole host of other dietary requirements. The guy running the shop is also super nice, and very keen to direct veggies and vegans around Amsterdam and recommend places to eat. When he told me they also do mail order, including to Wales, I knew me finding Candy Freaks was just going to be dangerous.

Intercontinental Amstel – Most of the recommendations I make on my blog are for travellers on a budget. Just to warn you now, this one isn’t. To cut a long story short, I thought I was going to Amsterdam to celebrate a 30th birthday but the hosts surprised us by getting married whilst we were there! It was a true honour and privilege to have been included as part of their special day, and to top it all off they took us to the 5 star Amstel hotel for an out-of-this-world dinner in their wine room. My friend had informed the restaurant that I am vegan and gluten-free, but none of us expected the meal I got. Every course was as equally thought through and presented as my omnivore friends’. Anything I write here could not do the food justice, and I really appreciate that the hotel staff did not make me feel different or awkward for one second that I was there. This is the first time I have blogged about 5 star luxury, but if you really want to treat yourself I would strongly recommend the Intercontinental Amstel. If you are vegan, gluten-free or have any other dietary requirements, simply let the staff know and trust them to deliver the best meal you have ever tasted.

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Amsterdam

Posted by Sas on June 21, 2016

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At the start of this year, I challenged myself to visit 12 new destinations in 12 months. At the time, I had a good idea of the places I thought I would end up in 2016. I’m happy to say, though, things don’t always go to plan. Just two weeks after my impulse trip to Germany, I was packing my bags again and heading out for a long weekend in Amsterdam. I’d been invited along on a group trip by fellow travellers that I’d met in Alaska last year. Just like Frankfurt and Cologne, Amsterdam wasn’t somewhere I’d expected to visit this year, but I’m so glad that I did.

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There are a lot of cities I’ve visited where I’ve really felt mis-sold. Take San Francisco, for example. The San Francisco you see in all the movies and TV shows is actually just a very small part of one neighbourhood. The majority of the city looked nothing like I expected it to. What I like about Amsterdam is that it looks exactly how I imagined. Tall, wonky houses line  endless canals that are straddled by bridges carrying cyclists. People live on boats, and stopping for a break at one of the many cafes is an essential part of the day. After all, it was Amsterdam’s merchants who introduced coffee to Europe.

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The only problem I had with Amsterdam is that I found it so disorientating. It doesn’t take long for the canals to start all looking the same, and there’s not much difference between the design of the bridges for an untrained eye to tell them apart. At one point we walked down the same street 4 times before we realised we were going round in circles. I guess it all adds to the charm when visiting Amsterdam as a tourist, although I think I’d find it frustrating if I had to actually get somewhere.

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I started to plot my journey through the city by shops. There are a lot of independent shops here, so that is at least one feature you can tell apart. Vintage shops are particularly common, and anyone who loves to shop and hunt out unique pieces would feel right at home here. Serious cycling shops are also popular, which makes me think a lot of Amsterdam residents keep expensive road bikes at home in addition to the city bikes they hurtle around the city on. The bikes, I have to admit, are one thing I was not prepared for. I mean, obviously, I knew that everyone in Amsterdam cycles. And I knew that there are more bikes than cars in the city. What I didn’t know was that those bikes, and the people on them, speed through narrow crowded streets at about 30mph. The only warning you get is a brief ring of a bike bell, and if you don’t get out of the way quick enough, well that’s your problem. I read a statistic that 12,000 to 15,000 bicycles are pulled out of Amsterdam’s canals every year. I suspect most of these are the result of either tourists trying to manoeuvre rental bikes along the narrow streets, or locals trying to avoid the tourists.

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The other fast-moving objects you have to look out for in Amsterdam are trams. If you don’t like the thought of cardio, this is how you get around the city fast. Tickets last for either 1 hour or 24 hours, and the trams operate between 6.30am and 12.30am.

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If you’re after a more romantic mode of transport, there are numerous options of boat trip to choose from. Officially made a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2010, the Amsterdam Canal Ring is made up of waterways that outnumber those in Venice. Amsterdam also has three times as many bridges as Venice, more than any other city worldwide. The canals were built in the early 1600s, after Amsterdam’s population grew beyond its medieval walls and land was drained and reclaimed.

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One of the most famous areas of Amsterdam is the Red Light District. Streets so narrow you have to squeeze past the line of people walking in the opposite direction are lined of both sides with windows displaying women who generate about ∈650 million annually. Prostitution was legalised in the Netherlands in 1810, and brothels became legal in 2000. Only about 5% of prostitutes working in Amsterdam were born in the Netherlands. The red light is supposed to be flattering, but to be honest there were so many red lights in such a confined space I could barely see anything, let alone tell you which woman I found the most attractive. Since 2007, city officials have been trying to clean up the district by reducing the number of Red Light windows. Instead, they are encouraging the gentrification of the area by helping fashion studios, art galleries and trendy cafes to open up. It’s a slow process, as they have to find new attractions to replace the tourists who come to Amsterdam for the sex trade.

I can imagine that, if you haven’t experienced anything like it before, the Red Light District could be a shock to the senses. If it does bother you, though, you can avoid the area. You could still visit Amsterdam and avoid bikes and canals if you really have a problem with them. What you can’t really avoid in Amsterdam is the smell of weed. Although cannabis is illegal in the Netherlands, it is tolerated. And this is what makes it such an attractive destination for a lot of visitors. There are strict rules on when and where cannabis is ‘allowed’ to be sold and consumed. However, the ever-present smell of it in the city makes me think there is more smoked than authorities like to admit to. The only place I couldn’t smell weed was outside the cheese shops, because there the only thing you can smell is cheese. As a vegan, I think I prefer the smell of the weed.

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So – canals, bikes, trams, cafes, vintage shops, red lights, weed and cheese. As I said, Amsterdam was everything that it was sold to me to be. For a lot of the group I was travelling with, it wasn’t their first trip and I can see why. Once you start to learn the layout of the labyrinth of canals and streets, or you stop caring that you’re lost, it’s very easy to fall into the flow of Amsterdam life.

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Vegan Food in Cologne

Posted by Sas on June 14, 2016

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When I was in Cologne, I was travelling with an omnivore friend. I decided the best way to choose where we ate was to pass her the Happy Cow app and leave it up to her. I told her I would eat anywhere listed as vegan-friendly. This is what she picked:

Naturata City – As well as being a handy place to shop for vegan snacks and essentials right in the heart of the city, this organic supermarket also houses a café  They serve meat, with veggie and vegan options available, and it’s self-service canteen style. I found the food labels in the café to be a little confusing, but the girl working behind the counter was happy to explain to me what I could and couldn’t eat.

Osho’s Place – Like Naturara City, Osho’s Place is a canteen-style restaurant. It’s all vegetarian, and the food is priced by weight. I was disappointed that they didn’t have many vegan and gluten-free options. The little I could eat was from different priced dishes, which led to the lady at the checkout getting very annoyed with me because I hadn’t understood their system of what goes in which bowl or on which plate and at whch price. In my hungover state, I told her just to charge me the most expensive price so I could sit down and eat my food.

Past & Future – I was surprised when my friend picked this restaurant because it is 100% vegan, but we loved Past & Future so much that we ended up going back there on our second night in Cologne as well. I’m sure their a-la-carte menu is very tasty, but to be honest I don’t know because I didn’t get past the amazing all-you-can-eat buffet. There are lots of gluten-free options too, and make sure you leave room to try the chocolate avocado mousse for dessert.

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Cologne: Beyond the Cathedral

Posted by Sas on June 7, 2016

DSC_0769Cologne is Germany’s fourth largest city, and therefore bigger than Frankfurt. The layout of the city somehow makes it feel smaller. One thing there is a lot more of in Cologne is tourists, and the main reason for that is the cathedral. The gigantic structure towers over the city. It took 600 years to build, although admittedly for 300 of those years almost no building work was carried out. I didn’t go inside the cathedral, but I was impressed by the detail and skill demonstrated on the outside of the building.

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A great way to see the city is with the Can You Handle It? free walking tour, which meets outside McDonalds in Rudolf Platz every day at 12noon and 4pm. Be aware that it is a long walking tour, and we were with our guide Helgi for more than 3 hours.

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Since it was bombed during World War II, there isn’t much of the old town left. Most of Cologne was destroyed within just 90 minutes of one bombing raid. It is believed that Cologne wasn’t actually the Allied’s target that night, but bad weather forced them to change their plans. It’s bizarre to think that, if the weather had been clearer, the architecture of Cologne would now look totally different.

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Helgi told us about how Cologne was quickly rebuilt after the war, plainer and simpler buildings being more efficient than recreating their elaborate predecessors. I still think there is beauty in these purpose-built structures though, especially when I compare them to the pre-fab buildings that made up part of my middle school in England.

Frankfurt and Cologne have a lot in common. There is a bridge with love locks here too, although the sheer number of padlocks in Cologne compared to Frankfurt suggests that Cologne city council are not so concerned about the potential dangers. In fact, Helgi told us that the locks are more likely to be removed by people scavenging the metal to sell.

Gunter Demnig’s stumbling blocks are also dotted all over Cologne, and their locations give an indication of how the layout of the city has changed.

The basement of the NS Dokumentationszentrum houses an insight into Cologne’s third reich history. It was used as the local gestapo prison where people were interrogated, tortured and killed, executions often occurring in the courtyard. Inscriptions written by prisoners can still be seen on the basement walls, the last one reading ‘I think I can see an American soldier’.

One curious aspect of Cologne that I had to ask Helgi about is the green man signs for crossing the roads. In every other European city I have visited there is one green man and one red man instructing you when it is safe to cross the road. In Cologne, however, there are two red men and one green man. Helgi told me that he had heard various reasons as to why this is, but the most probable is that it saves money. Traffic lights usually come in sets of three, so rather then spend money requesting sets of two lights for the pedestrian crossings the city of Cologne thought they’d save a few euros by bulk ordering.

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Like all good holiday destinations, Cologne has it’s own local tipple. Kölsch is a light and hoppy beer served in 0.2l measures. In a lot of bars in Cologne, you will automatically be served Kölsch upon arrival. When your glass is empty, the server will replace it with a fresh one. When you are finished drinking, you indicate this by placing your beer mat on top of your glass. It seems a bit unhygienic to me, but I guess it avoids having to queue at the bar or attract the server’s attention.

All I need is for the breweries of Cologne to develop a gluten-free version of Kölsch, and it would be a strong contender for my favourite city in Europe.

 

Useful Info

We travelled from Frankfurt to Cologne with blablacar. It was a very last minute decision, and a totally new experience for me. For only ∈9 per person we got an efficient transfer in a nice car with a friendly local, and we also got to know our other travelling companion in the car.

Train one-way Cologne to Frankfurt approx. ∈49.

Can You Handle It? walking tour is free, but tipping is strongly recommended.

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Vegan Food in Frankfurt

Posted by Sas on May 31, 2016

DSC_0714Germany is one of the most welcoming countries for vegans. A search of any German city on Happy Cow will give you a long list of not only vegan-friendly restaurants, but many options for dedicated vegetarian and vegan eateries. As I tend to do when I travel, I booked self-catering hostel accommodation in Frankfurt. This means that, should I have trouble finding vegan and gluten-free food, I always have the option to cook for myself. Self-catering can also work out a lot cheaper, although not always. As there are so many vegan options to choose from in Frankfurt, I treated myself and ate out for every meal. Well, it’s only my duty as a vegan blogger right?:)

Here are all the restaurants, cafes and coffee shops I managed to cram into my few days in Frankfurt:

Elia (Greek restaurant) – This was actually the one place I ate where they had no vegan options on the menu. Once I explained my dietary requirements, though, the friendly Greek staff were more than happy to request a vegan and gluten-free meal from the chef for me. I enjoyed a plate of rice with vegetables that was beautifully cooked and presented and tasted delicious.

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Saftcraft – On the day I arrived in Frankfurt, I sought out Saftcraft because I thought some fresh juice might perk me up after a long night of travelling. The café is 100% vegan and they have a lot of gluten-free options. The staff were super nice and helpful. Their quinoa Bolognese pot is one of the best vegan lunches I have ever tasted. I’m not usually a fan of iced tea, but as their homemade version was part of the meal deal I thought I’d give it a try and I’m so glad I did. It was so refreshing and tasty, and along with the Bolognese pot just what I needed to restore my energy. I loved Saftcraft so much that I went back for a breakfast smoothie the following morning. The first floor of the café is also a really nice place to chill out with a coffee, and I was happy to hang out for an hour or so whilst I checked my emails and caught up on admin. Wi-Fi connection is far from functional in Frankfurt, which I found strange for a business hub. Saftcraft is a Wi-Fi hotspot, though, which is really easy to sign up for and offers better than average service.

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Coffee Fellows – This chain of coffee shops makes a mean soya latte, and seems to hire some of the happiest baristas on the planet. They do also offer vegan sandwiches if you’re OK with gluten, and their ice-cream bar has an impressive selection of vegan options. You can just about make out the list of vegan flavours on the glass in my photo, but the real reason I took this picture was because of the cute step they have in front of the counter so that children can see all the ice-cream flavours. What a brilliant idea!

Vevay – As someone who travels solo regularly, I’m used to eating on my own. It can feel like you are a burden to restaurants, though, as they are missing out on the money from the extra seat at the table you are taking up. I’ve had restaurants admit me only on the condition I eat at the bar, crammed in next to either the glass collection point, the bathrooms or both. This was  far from my experience at Vevay, though. I was welcomed with a friendly smile, invited to sit where I wanted and not pressured at all to rush and vacate the table. I opted for the protein bowl, which had so many components to it I wouldn’t want to list them all here for fear I would forget some and miss them out. Needless to say it was delicious, and totally different from the food I would prepare at home so a nice treat for myself.

Pho Ngon – This Vietnamese restaurant is a hidden gem in the heart of Frankfurt, and I almost don’t want to tell you about it in case it becomes too popular. A friend who works in Frankfurt took me there after it had been recommended to her from a colleague. They have a few vegan and gluten-free options on the menu, and the young man serving us was happy to advise on what I could and couldn’t eat. We shared the vegan tofu summer rolls to start, which can be made with rice paper. They were huge, and I’m glad we decided to share as a whole portion to myself would have left no room for my main course. I opted for rice with fried tofu and vegetables, which was also a very generous portion. The food was delicious, and the restaurant a really nice setting to eat it.

Kuffler & Bucher Asian Restaurant – Frankfurt airport is either the second or third largest airport in Europe after Heathrow, depending on what information you read. Once you get through security, your options for food depend on which departure area you are in. Kuffler & Bucher is one of the options in Terminal 2B, which is where my flight was departing from. There are two totally different sides to the restaurant, which is a surprising but actually very clever idea.  While one side caters to very traditional German tastes, the other side offers all Asian food. Presuming I had more chance of finding something vegan and gluten-free to eat, I went for the Asian side. They have vegan and vegetarian options clearly labelled on the menu, and the lovely waitress swapped the udon noodles for rice noodles to omit the gluten. She also kindly put the chillies on the side of my dish so I could make it as hot as I wanted to. I could not have asked for a nicer airport meal to finish off my trip.

 

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Edible Adamsdown Seedling Swap

Posted by Sas on May 24, 2016

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There are some events I get invited to where I have to double check I’ve heard correctly. ‘Sorry, you want me to go to a what?’

That was possibly the reaction I had when Becca from Edible Adamsdown Community Garden first invited me to their seedling swap (and I apologise to Becca if it was). However, I can honestly say that the event is a brilliant idea and really good fun.

As many of you who read my blog regularly will know, I volunteer in Plasnewydd Community Garden in Cardiff. This is a good point in this post to shamelessly plug the new blog that we have created for the garden, and please click the link and follow us if you feel so inclined to do so. If you do take the time to read the garden blog, you will now also know that we haven’t had the greatest of starts to the growing season this year. Out of all the human errors and natural disasters that I fear may dramatically affect our food supplies, I didn’t expect ants to have such an impact. They have taken over all our raised beds, and are systematically eating everything that we plant. Which is why the seedling swap was the perfect solution to our critter problem.

The way the swap works is simple. Each person brings along surplus seedlings from their garden, they all get displayed together, and then you take other people’s seedlings that you need. Or, if you don’t have anything to swap, you can give a donation instead.

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I must admit, I did feel a bit inadequate when I filled our box up ready to take to the event. All we could muster was a few strawberry plants and some trays of sweet Williams from last year that were looking a little worse for wear. I needn’t have worried, though. The sweet Williams were a huge success, especially when I told people they are perfect for filling in gaps in any garden. And we are one step closer to taking over Cardiff with Plasnewydd Garden strawberries (our strawberries have a well-known history of growing shoots and replanting themselves at an alarming speed).

And what did I get in return? Some purple sprouting broccoli (which was already so healthy I transplanted it straight into the brassicas bed), cauliflower, pak choi and a pepper. Cauliflowers because we’ve never been able to grow them at Plasnewydd for some unknown reason, and the pak choi and the pepper as a bit of an experiment for future seasons.

Josh from the Real Junk Food Project was also there to fuel everyone, and there were a lot of people for him to feed. Aside from the seedlings, it was great to catch up with people, meet other gardeners and swap tips.

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The Many Sides to Frankfurt

Posted by Sas on May 17, 2016

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As much as I love ticking famous landmarks and tourist attractions off my bucket list when I visit new places, I also like to see and experience their other sides. Having grown up in a tourist town myself, I am very aware that what most tourists see is only a small part of a town or city. For the people who live there, life is far from a vacation.

During my time in Frankfurt, I signed up for the Frankfurt Free Alternative Walking Tour. Organised and guided by a group of students, the free walking tour aims to give visitors an insight into the different neighbourhoods of Frankfurt and what it’s like to live there. Well known sights such as the old town, the Iron Bridge and the river Main are included. However, the guides also show you areas of the city that might not be an obvious choice for some.

Like most cities, Frankfurt has its fair share of problems. Unlike most cities, Frankfurt takes a very positive approach to tackling these issues. When drug use became more and more common in the city, moving around from area to area as each neighbourhood was gentrified and addicts were moved on to somewhere else, the city council designated an area where taking drugs is not illegal. Covering about 4 blocks, it is still against the law to sell and possess drugs, but drug users can feel safer in the knowledge they will not be arrested for a being a victim to their addiction. This approach to the problem puts the responsibility on to the drug dealers, not the users, who are after all the people that the police really want to target. There are ‘shooting galleries’ where drug users can obtain clean needles and use a clean, private space in which to inject. These centres also make it easier for people to receive medical attention should anything go wrong, and deaths from overdoses have greatly reduced since Frankfurt initiated  the policy. The acceptance of  drug use in Frankfurt has also led to another loophole in the law. Urinating in the street is illegal in Germany. Just like drug taking, though, the city council and police still know it’s going to happen. Rather than trying to stop people from doing it, they have instead constructed urinals in the streets. The small structures have been tastefully designed, and if you didn’t know what they are you could be forgiven for thinking they are works of modern art. Whilst I was on the walking tour I witnessed one young man crossing the road to use one of the urinals. Having witnessed many men in Cardiff, where I live, peeing wherever they stood, I can’t help but think this tactic would work in other cities too.

Our next stop on the tour was the red light district. Prostitution is something that is legal in Germany, so seeing brothels in the city is not so much of a surprise. Our guide showed us the outside of one of the biggest brothels in Europe. Unfortunately, I was unable to take any photos as the brothel is rumoured to be owned by the Hell’s Angels and they have previously requested that people don’t photograph the building. It reminded me of something you would see on Route 66, with mannequins  in outrageous costumes displayed on the balconies alongside the residents’ drying laundry. The building is huge, and as a legal business they must pay taxes. Apparently, the German government earns millions of euros per year just from this one brothel. Although there are usually no female visitors allowed, Frankfurt has an annual evening where brothels are encouraged to open their doors to everyone. This means you can speak to the women who work there directly and ask any questions you may have about their life and occupation. Just like the city’s approach to drug use, I wonder if this more open approach to the oldest job in the world might work elsewhere.

Usually when walking through cities you are encouraged to look up and observe the buildings and features that you might otherwise miss. In Germany, one artist encourages you to look down. Berlin-born Gunter Demnig is the man behind the idea to place small brass stolpersteine (‘stumbling blocks’) outside where people killed by the Nazis once lived. Once you’ve had one of the blocks pointed out, you realise they are everywhere. And not just in Frankfurt, many cities in Germany and other European countries have joined in with the project. The plaques give the name of the individual, date of birth, date of death and how they died, if that information is available. As you would expect, many of the plaques are in memory of Jews killed in concentration camps. The first group of people to be murdered by the Nazis was actually the gypsy community, and they were soon followed by homosexuals and anyone with physical disabilities or mental health problems. Basically, anyone who did not fit the ideal of the regime was a target. Some people think it disrespectful to remember the victims with these plaques, and don’t believe we should walk over them. The artist’s intention, though, was that we should walk over them. They are made from brass so that, as more and more pedestrians brush over the plaques, the more they shine. The stumbling blocks are a reminder that, as we go about our lives, we should never forget the victims of past mistakes. Modern Germany has accepted its past and the errors made by some of its country men and women. Hopefully, with the help of thinkers and artists such as Gunter Demnig, we will learn not to repeat the same mistakes.

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If you are interested in art, there are lots of examples around Frankfurt. My personal favourite is the spidermen. A group of art students placed 8 models of the superhero around the city. Good luck spotting all 8 of them, though. Our guide told us that, even though they walk around the city every day with visitors, they have only been able to spot 3 of the spidermen.

Drug addicts, brothels and maybe even spidermen might not be on your wishlist when you visit Frankfurt, but I would definitely recommend the Frankfurt Free Alternative Walking Tour. The guides have nothing but respect for all the inhabitants of Frankfurt, and simply want to show a balanced representation of the city. Spending an afternoon with them has encouraged me to seek out other alternative walking tours when on my travels.

 

Useful Info:

The Frankfurt Free Alternative Walking Tour is, of course, free but tipping is strongly recommended. The walk lasts 2-2.5 hours.

 

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The Highlights of Frankfurt

Posted by Sas on May 10, 2016

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As a lot of keen travellers will know, there are some trips that you plan for years. You dream about where you’re going, wondering who you’ll meet and what experiences you’ll have. You save every spare penny, living off instant noodles if it means you’re one step closer to getting that ticket. Then, there are some trips that simply fall into your lap like a gift from the god of adventurers. I’ve just come back from a great city break in Germany that definitely falls into the latter category. A friend of mine is working in Frankfurt-am-Main for 3 months, and invited me to fly out to visit her. Naturally, I said yes immediately

As a local student said to me whilst I was there, Frankfurt isn’t a place people visit unless they have a specific reason to. And that’s true. It’s not a big tourist destination, and there are no attractions that are targeted with luring the visitors in. What Frankfurt is is a busy, business-orientated, working city. If you want to know what it’s really like to live in a European city in the modern world, this is the place to come. I’ll be talking more about the different sides to Frankfurt in a later post, but for now I wanted to concentrate on the highlights of Frankfurt that should be on everyone’s bucket list when planning a trip there.

The fifth biggest city in Germany, Frankfurt is a capital of finance and business. It is home to one of the world’s largest stock exchanges as well as the European Central Bank. Of the 5 million inhabitants, over half are immigrants. Once a Roman garrison town, about 80% of the medieval city centre was destroyed and 1000 people were killed by Allied bombs in 1944.

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It’s really easy to get around Frankfurt. I walked to most places, but the S bahn and U bahn are both fairly easy to navigate. Or you can hire a bike. There are bike lanes all over the city, which actually join up to each other (believe me, anyone else who lives in Cardiff will understand my amazement at this). Be careful if you are on foot, though, as the bike lanes often look like part of the pavement.

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Although the city walls are long gone, Frankfurt does still have an old town. Where the walls once stood is now a strip of parkland, which adds a nice touch of green to the city. Although the old town looks authentically quaint and historical, most of it was rebuilt after Frankfurt was bombed during the war. The one mainly original building is the Alte Nikolaikirche. You’d like to think that the bombers left the church alone as a sign of respect, but alas the truth is that they simply used the church spire as a navigation point and destroying it would have caused them an inconvenience.

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Aside from the old town, in my opinion the other scenic area of Frankfurt is the River Main. Tree-lined park areas line the river on both sides, and are set below street level so you really feel like you’re getting away from the hustle and bustle of the city. There are a few points at which you can cross the river, but by far the most interesting is the Iron Bridge. Following a trend that seems popular in a lot of European cities, couples engrave their names onto padlocks then lock them onto the bridge. They throw the key into the river, supposedly sealing their love for eternity. As has  happened in other cities, the custom has become so popular that the number of padlocks poses a risk to the structure of the bridge. Since an incident in Paris where part of a bridge fell into the water under the weight of all the relationships, Frankfurt council have taken the decision to remove old locks after a period of time. I don’t know what this means for the future of those couples whose locks have been sawn off, but I did spot a few padlocks that had combinations instead of keys so I’m not sure all the couples had so much faith in their relationship in the first place!

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Running along both sides of the river is the museum embankment, where most  of Frankfurt’s museums have been handily condensed into one easy-to-navigate strip. There are lots of museums here, covering history, modern art, Jewish life, film and architecture. Unfortunately, some of the museums were closed when I was there and I didn’t have as much time as I’d have liked to explore the ones that were open. I did manage to get to the German Film Museum, which houses an impressive permanent collection telling the story of every aspect and department that must come together to make a movie. The also had a temporary collection, ‘Zusammen sammeln’, which gave a fascinating insight into our personal relationships with film. The museum asked film fans to lend them their souvenirs of movies, and the range and number of responses they got is incredible. From scrap books filled with ticket stubs to a replica Darth Vader mask used in rehearsals on the Star Wars set, anyone who has ever seen a film will find something in the exhibition that will bring back nostalgia and emotion.

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For a city that’s ‘not really for tourists’, there sure is a lot to see and do in Frankfurt. I could have happily spent another couple of days exploring the city and visiting museums.

 

Useful info:

Return flight Bristol to Frankfurt with Lufthansa: £250 -£300

S bahn Frankfurt airport to Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof (city centre): 4.65 euros one-way

2 nights in a 12 bed dormitory at United Hostel Frankfurt: 34 euros

Joint entrance to permanent and temporary exhibitions, German Film Museum: 10 euros

 

Posted in Places I've Been | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

Fruit Pruning

Posted by Sas on February 16, 2016

 

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In previous years, I have challenged myself to try at least one new activity. This year, I have challenged myself to try 12 new activities, one for each month. Some activities are extreme and adrenalin-fuelled, some come under the banner of arts and crafts and some… Well, let’s just say I’m learning things I never thought I would.

For the past few years, I have been volunteering in Plasnewydd Community Garden in Cardiff. Initially I just wanted to have a go at growing vegetables, but I have gathered such a massive amount of knowledge since I’ve been there that I feel I can now call myself a gardener. Working in the garden has led me to pick up skills I never knew I would need in life – like when I learnt how to scythe back in 2014.

Pruning the fruit trees and bushes is something that has been on our ‘to do’ list all winter. The only problem was, none of us really knew much about pruning. So, when another local garden invited me along to a fruit pruning workshop, I jumped at the chance. Armed with my new pruning shears, I braved the cold, wind and rain to learn all I could about raspberries, apples, pears, blackcurrants, gooseberries, grapes and more. By the end of the two hours we were all so cold that no-one could move their hands enough to operate the shears, but we had a lot of fun and learned a lot. Plus, we also got to use loppers and a saw, which is always satisfying.

Fruit trees and bushes of Plasnewydd – watch out!

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Vegan Skiing

Posted by Sas on February 9, 2016

There are 2 reasons I am not a food blogger:

  1. I don’t have a camera phone, so if I wanted to take a photo of my food I’d have to pull out my full size SLR camera. This can be slightly awkward in restaurants, especially when you’re eating with other people.
  2. On the odd occasion I have managed to take a photo of my food, I’ve always forgotten to take the shot until I’m already halfway through eating it. So, the photos don’t do the food justice to say the least.

With that being said, as a gluten-free vegan who likes to travel, probably the most common question I get asked is ‘what are you going to eat?’ So, I try to include some posts on my blog about what I’ve eaten and where on my trips.

Ski trips in particular seem to confuse a lot of people. I guess they have assumptions about what there is to eat in ski resorts. And, if it’s all pasta, fondue and pastries then I will surely starve!

When I’m the one planning the trip, I tend to opt for self-catering accommodation unless I’m staying somewhere that is specifically aimed at vegans. That way, I have much better control over what I’m eating. Unless I’m staying miles away from the nearest supermarket, preparing my own food is the easiest way to go. On my recent ski trip to Les Arcs and La Plagne, however, I was travelling with omnivores who did all the booking. I made sure to check out our hotel’s website before we left, and I was pleased to discover that the L’Aiguille Rouge serves all buffet meals. This is the next best option for me after self-catering. L’Aiguille Rouge is part of the Belambra chain, and there was plenty of food for me to choose from on the buffet at every meal. Apart from checking the ingredients a couple of times, I didn’t have to make any special requests for my meals. I’m sure, though, that had I needed to ask the restaurant staff for suitable food they would have happily obliged. They were all super nice, and nothing was too much trouble for them. They even had soy milk on the breakfast buffet, so I was able to get my morning coffee!

Out on the slopes, I would recommend the vegetable stir-fry with rice noodles at Le Sanglier Qui Fume in Les Arcs 1600 and Le Chalets de l’Arc at Les Arcs 2000 for their quinoa salad.

 

Posted in Plant-Based Living | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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