Dusting Off an Old Post: City Hopping in Western Europe (December 2011-January 2012)

Although I’m in Colorado at the moment, it’s time to continue our journey across western Europe. (There will be a couple of posts and plenty of pictures about Colorado later!) In this ‘old post’ we’re going to visit three cities in three different countries: Bruges, Amsterdam and Berlin.

I left you guys in Antwerp last time. Our last destination in Belgium before crossing borders again was gorgeous Bruges. Many of you have probably read about it or seen pictures. It’s one of my favorite cities in the world, if not my most favorite – it’s pretty much a tie with Sydney.

We did what all tourists do in Bruges: walking around, snapping away and eating waffles and chocolate. It’s such a beautiful city, almost unreal, fairytale-like. Let’s go on a photo tour!

Canal in Bruges, Belgium.
Canal and typical houses.

The 'Burg' in Bruges, Belgium.
The ‘Burg’, a former fortress in the city.

Bruges is also known as ‘the Venice of the North’. Some other cities in northern Europe also compete for this statute, but I really do think Bruges deserves it most.

Canal in Bruges.
One of many canals.
Town square in Bruges, Belgium.
Houses at the stunningly beautiful town square.
Church of Our Lady in Bruges.
Church of Our Lady.
The Beguinage in Bruges.
The Beguinage.
Beguinale house in Bruges, Belgium.
Beguinale house.
Canal in Bruges, Belgium.
Another canal.
Belfry and Christmas markets in Bruges, Belgium.
The Belfry and Christmas markets at the town square.
Belfry and Christmas markets in Bruges, Belgium.
Belfry from another angle.
Nightfall in Bruges.
Nightfall in Bruges.
Beautifully lit houses at Bruges town square.
Beautifully lit houses at the town square.
Belfry in Bruges.
Belfry in the evening.

A few days after visiting Bruges, we found ourselves on the Thalys to Paris. We would stay there four days, spend New Year’s Eve on the Champs-Elysées, visit the Louvre and (almost) every other place of importance in this impressive city. I recently wrote a blog post about it, so that’s where you can find the pictures!

Next stop was Amsterdam. This time our goal was not to try and see every famous thing in the city and we ended up spending three days just strolling around. It felt great not to have a plan for a change and explore a cosy and busy city like Amsterdam at our own pace.

Is there a better way to introduce Amsterdam than a picture of bikes and water?

Bikes and canals in Amsterdam.
Bikes and water.

Okay, maybe there is…

Coffeeshops in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Coffeeshops.
Red light district in Amsterdam.
Red Light District.
Canal in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
This is Amsterdam.

When thinking about Amsterdam, four things always come to mind: soft drugs, canals, bikes and the red lights. These are the main features of the city, and the ones that draw the tourists, but of course there’s way more to it. There are a couple of absolutely great parks and museums (the Vondelpark and Anne Frank House for example, both of which we weren’t able to visit at the time, unfortunately).

Magna Plaza in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Magna Plaza, the old post office.
Herring food stall in Amsterdam.
Henk’s Haring food stall. It doesn’t get more Dutch than that.
Clogs and porcelain in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Wooden clogs and porcelain at a little outdoor market.
Red light district in Amsterdam.
Sign in the red light district.
Red light district in Amsterdam.
I don’t think a caption is needed here.
Red light district, Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Amsterdam’s red light district, the ‘walletjes’.
Town square of Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Tram and bikes at the town square.
Little car in Amsterdam.
The littlest car I have ever seen…
Random street in Amsterdam.
Strolling around on the streets.
Amsterdam town square.
Town square.
Coffeeshop/Café/Steakhouse in Amsterdam.
Coffeeshop/Café/Steak House.
Houses near the water in Amsterdam.
Typical sight in Amsterdam.

Two days later we were in Berlin. Berlin was another city I had never been to and to be honest, I didn’t really know anything about it. Good thing my aunt and uncle, who live there, were willing to show us around!

The first day we hopped onto a sight-seeing bus, just like we did in Dublin, to get an initial impression of the city. The weather totally sucked, so that definitely was a good idea.

Potsdamer Platz, Berlin.
Potsdamer Platz.
Sony Center at Potsdamer Platz, Berlin.
Sony Center at Potsdamer Platz.
Potsdamer Platz Arcades.
Potsdamer Platz Arcades.

No US Army checkpoint is complete without a McDonald’s right next to it.

Checkpoint Charlie, Berlin..
Checkpoint Charlie.
Gendarmenmarkt, Berlin, Germany.
Gendarmenmarkt.
Fassbender & Rausch Chocolate Shop at the Gendarmenmarkt.
Fassbender & Rausch Chocolate Shop at the Gendarmenmarkt.
Alexanderplatz in Berlin, Germany.
Alexanderplatz.
Remains of the Berlin Wall.
Remains of the Berlin Wall.
Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany.
Brandenburger Tor.
Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, Germany.
Holocaust Memorial.

The following morning we left early for a big tour of Berlin and Potsdam, with my aunt as a guide.

Sanssouci Castle in Potsdam, Germany.
Sanssouci Castle in Potsdam.
Sanssouci Gardens in Potsdam.
Gardens of Sanssouci in winter.
Orangerie in Sanssouci Park, Potsdam.
Orangerie in Sanssouci Royal Park, Potsdam.
New Palace in Sanssouci Royal Park.
New Palace in Sanssouci Royal Park.
Olympia Stadium in Berlin.
Olympia Stadium, where the 1936 Summer Olympics were held.

This stadium is the place where African-American Jesse Owens won four gold medals, surrounded by a crowd of nazis, including Hitler himself.

Schloss Charlottenburg, Berlin, Germany.
Charlottenburg Palace.
Karl-Marx-Allee in former East Berlin.
Karl-Marx-Allee in former East Berlin.
East Side Gallery in Berlin, Germany.
East Side Gallery.
Rotes Rathaus in Berlin.
Rotes Rathaus.
KaDeWe, Berlin, Germany.
KaDeWe, a massive store.

Perhaps the most interesting place we went to was on Bernauer Strasse: the Berlin Wall Memorial.

Bernauer Strasse in Berlin.
Bernauer Strasse.
Victory Column in Berlin.
Victory Column.
Berliner Dom, or Berlin Cathedral.
Berliner Dom, or Berlin Cathedral.
Bullet holes in museum wall, Berlin.
Bullets holes in the wall of a museum.
Reichstag in Berlin, Germany.
Reichstag.

We finished off a great month in Europe with beer and schnapps in the oldest Stube (pub) in Berlin!

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