Tag Archives: travel

Where Knut Was Once at Home

Remember Knut? He was the cute polar bear, born in the Berlin Zoological Garden, who was rejected by his mother and afterwards raised by his keepers. Knut became a huge attraction, but unfortunately passed away five years later.

Anyway, you guessed it: Lars and I paid a visit to the Berlin Zoological Garden.

Berlin Zoological Garden

It was quite clear from the beginning that some animals do not fear heights, whereas others preferred to keep a low profile.

The Berlin Zoological Garden is the oldest and most popular zoo in Germany.

And it has one of the biggest animal collections of the world.

You can even pet some farm animals, which is fun for small and big kids.

The Berlin Zoological Garden opened in 1844 and currently covers 35 ha.

Lars and I are big fans of these animals: elephants and giraffes.

And then… we felt so sorry for this fellow…

Berlin Zoological Garden

But nothing prepared us for this: the majestic silverback gorilla. Enjoying his lunch…

The colourful orangutans were quite photogenic as well.

Although it was very cold outside, these monkeys did not seem to mind it at all.

The aquarium – for which you have to pay extra – was our last stop. It doesn’t only house creatures from the sea, but also reptiles (which we did not visit, since Lars hates them).

Throwback Thursday – The Durrës Amphitheatre

During our Summer trip of 2015, Lars and I spent one week in one of the biggest cities of Albania, Durrës. Most of the time we enjoyed a lazy life on the beach, but we did make time to visit one of the biggest attractions of the city: the Amphitheatre.

Built in the 2nd century, it was one of the very few amphitheatres in the Balkans and the only one in Albania. It had a capacity of 20.000 spectators and performances took place until the 4th century.

In later centuries, chapels with frescoes and mosaics were added. In the 16th century, the amphitheatre was covered over.

The story goes that in the 1960s, a man grew a lemon tree in his garden that simply did not bear any lemons. He started digging and that is how he discovered the ruins. Today, only half of the amphitheatre has been excavated.

Note how close some of the houses are to the ruins!

You have to pay a small entrance fee and a guide will accompany you during your visit. Wear some good shoes, because you need to do a lot of climbing! And unlike us, don’t visit the amphitheatre at noon: in summer it can be very hot and the light is harsh.

Albania would like to have the Durrës Amphitheatre featured on the UNESCO World Heritage List, in order to obtain more funding for the further excavation and restoration. So far, they have not succeeded.

A Gloomy New Year’s Day in Berlin

If you read our post about Dinant, you know that not every trip or excursion is successful. To be honest, our visit to Dinant was not a huge success due to bad planning from my side and simple bad luck. Well, a lot of bad luck.

On New Year’s Day, Lars and I first decided to sleep in. We got up around 11am and had brunch. Since 1 January is a public holiday, we had limited options for an excursion. A visit to a museum for example was therefore out of the question. Since we stayed close to the Greater and Little Wannsee, we thought it would be a nice idea to go to one of the beaches.

Our hotel was located right next to the Berlin-Wannsee train station and the nearest beach was just one stop away. How convenient! And according to our travel guide, the beach was located quite close to the station. Dark clouds had gathered above Berlin though and when we arrived in the Nikolassee station, it started to rain. A lot.

Our first reaction was to wait. After 10 minutes, curiosity  took over and we ventured outside. And after less than 5 minutes in the pouring rain, we were completely soaked. Moreover, the beach was a lot further away than mentioned in our guide. We turned around and took the first train back. Of course, when we were back at the hotel the rain stopped.

After Lars and I had changed clothes, we decided to go to the nearby small harbour. Not exactly the same thing as a beach, but still a great place to photograph waterscapes. When we arrived there, we noticed that the ground was littered with empty bottles and used firecrackers and fireworks. The whole scene looked gloomy and desolate.

And after the last picture… the rain was back. I think it was a sign from above telling us that it was time to have a nice beer. Which is exactly what we did.

A Sunny Afternoon in the Botanical Garden of Berlin

As you all know by now, Lars and I like to spend the end of the year abroad. This time we chose one of our favourite cities, which is Berlin.

The first day – 31 December 2016 – was a sunny and cold one. Obviously, we decided to spend that day outside and since we were not far away from the Botanical Garden, this spot became our logical choice.

The gardens are not located in the centre of Berlin, but rather in the area of Steglitz-Zehlendorf, It is easily accessible via public transport and the entrance fee is quite small. The Botanical Garden covers about 13 ha and contains amongst others an arboretum, a museum, a small cemetery and several greenhouses.

The staff of our hotel had told us to check out the cute Christmas market at the Garden. Unfortunately, the event had ended before our visit and we could just see some empty stalls.

Anyway, Lars and I had become hungry and thirsty. We quickly found a cafeteria and ordered soup with potatoes and sausages and a beer.

The idea behind the Botanical Garden dates from the 16th century; the current garden was established at the end of the 19th century.

The cafeteria was conveniently located right next to the greenhouses. There are several of them and most of them are connected to each other.

There are greenhouses that feature cacti and others orchids, carnivorous plants and water lilies. (source: Wikipedia)

If you love nature, and especially plants and flowers, we highly recommend this place. This was our last excursion of 2016 and one of the highlights of that year.

Throwback Thursday – A Lazy Day in the Bay of Kotor

On our way from Slovenia to Albania in the Summer of 2015, we decided to stay one day in the Bay of Kotor and explore this beautiful area. But things took a different turn…

Lars and I had calculated that we would arrive in Kotor late in the afternoon. But our GPS stopped working as soon as we crossed the border of Montenegro, which slowed us down a lot. When we reached the bay, it was evening and it turned out we had to take a ferry. We had to pay cash and of course, we didn’t have any cash money with us. And it took us half an hour to find an ATM…

After a short ferry trip, we found ourselves at the other side of the Bay, on a dark narrow road. Lars and I tried the GPS again, but to no avail. We had to ask a lot of people to find our way to the hotel and finally, after 90 minutes, we found it! After a quick supper, we went to sleep.

The morning afterwards, we simply did not feel inclined to spend another day in the car. The hotel owners informed us about a beach nearby and we went there to check it out. It was just perfect: a narrow sandy beach with comfortable sun-beds and umbrellas and crystal-clear water. And a bar-restaurant just a couple of meters away. What else do you want?

Lars and I spent a lazy day on the beach, relaxing in the sun and swimming and splashing in the water. We had a simple but tasty tuna sandwich for lunch. I did take pictures of this happy occasion with my Samsung smartphone, but unfortunately it died in the meantime, and it is simply impossible to retrieve the pictures. Luckily, I do have pictures of our dinner later that day.

Even now, when I think back of that evening in that restaurant, I feel nothing but bliss. It just felt… perfect. There you are, with your most beloved one, just centimetres away from the water, with incredible views around you.

Lars and I had local ham and cheese for a starter and settled for a huge grilled fish as our main dish. A local red wine completed this excellent meal.

There was no more space left in our stomachs for dessert. Instead, we slowly finished our wines and watched a fiery sunset.

Lars and I learned a valuable lesson that day. We don’t always have to explore paradise; sometimes it suffices to enjoy it.

A Walk in Bruges – Part 1

Lars and I had tried to visit Bruges before, but it is quite difficult to reach the centre by car. And it is an even a bigger challenge to get rid of your car. Late in December 2016, we decided to go there by train, because the train station is quite near the city centre.

Upon leaving the station, Lars and I decided to follow the biggest mass of people, assuming everybody would go where we were going. We soon got lost in the cozy cobbled streets.

Then, suddenly Lars and I found ourselves at the Old St. John’s Hospital Site. The Hospital itself dates from the 11th century, whereas the surrounding buildings are from the 19th century. Nowadays the site is home to a museum and is used as a congress and exhibition centre. (Source: Wikipedia)

As soon as we left the site, we stumbled upon a Christmas market. It was a quite small one; I am not sure if this was the one and only market or if it was spread all over the city. Anyway, as you can see on the pictures, it was very crowded.

And then… Lars and I got hungry and thirsty! We also decided to come back another time when Bruges was less crowded. The cab driver who took us back to the station told us that the best time to visit the city is the second half of January. Because of my accident, we had to postpone our second visit. And we will go back as soon as I can walk longer distances again.

A Visit to China Light Zoo Antwerp

First of all, a short explanation for our absence of nearly two months.

On Sunday 22 January, Lars and I went to the canal to take pictures of the sunset and to experiment with filters and long exposures. Everything went well, until I made a nasty fall. Although my foot hurt like hell, we managed to return safely.

At first, I thought I had sprained my ankle and rested for a couple of days. But, when after four days my foot was still swollen and part of it had turned blue, we called the doctor. He sent me immediately to the hospital where after two hours of tests it turned out I had a fractured ankle. Six weeks of rest and half my leg in plaster: thank God for YouTube and Netflix!

But now we are back! At least with blogging. I hope that from next week on I will be able to make some excursions. But I am happy that the worst is over and that I am able to write, to photograph and to edit pictures again.

A week before the accident, a good friend of ours and I paid a visit to China Light Zoo Antwerp. This is what we saw at our arrival at the zoo.

I had bought a combination ticket, which included the train trip and the entrance to the light show for 22 euros. Since Leen already lives in Antwerp, she only had to pay for the entrance, which was about 15 euros. While she bought the ticket, I took a couple of test shots.

Part of the light show was dedicated to Chinese culture, history and events.

Gradually the theme changed and the zoo animals became the stars of the show.

The light installations became bigger and bigger. This was truly an impressive event!

There is no need to rush to the Zoo of Antwerp, because we visited China Light during its last night. A night to remember!