Should you visit Bratislava, or stay at home and not bother!

Should you visit Bratislava, or stay at home and not bother!
Should you visit Bratislava, or stay at home and not bother!

So as you know, through the summer I’ve been travelling across Europe.

Yes indeed!

But why, you might ask?

Well, you know.

It’s the summer!

And even though Britain is out of the EU, I’m still European!

I'm the British Berliner - a British European. And I'm proud of it!
I’m the British Berliner – a British European.
And I’m proud of it!

What better thing to do than to travel through one of the world’s best continents – that’s right Europe!

If you want to read about ALL the countries that I’ve visited in the last two years, then just click here!

Oh, the summer!

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It's summer. Drink up!
It’s summer. Drink up!

My challenge was to visit a European city. Every weekend, through the summer holidays.

Every weekend!

For six (6) weeks!

And only to travel.

By train!

"The Tall Young Gentleman" didn't look too happy that for Switzerland, we took the Sparpreis Europa city night line train!
“The Tall Young Gentleman” didn’t look too happy that for Switzerland, we took the Sparpreis Europa city night line train!

So let’s see how we’re doing.

If you as lazy as I am (whaaaat!), I’m going to put the countries that I’ve been to, on Victoria’s Summer European Challenge Campaign below:

DENMARK:

Eat Danish street food or visit Danish farmers' markets. How to visit Copenhagen on a budget. Even though I missed my last connection. Again! ©Ditte Isager
Eat Danish street food or visit Danish farmers’ markets.
How to visit Copenhagen on a budget. Even though I missed my last connection. Again!
©Ditte Isager

I started off with Denmark and hopped off to Copenhagen.

Is Copenhagen a European city?

Yes. Tick!

Did I travel only by train?

Sort of a tick!

Copenhagen was great and you can read all about it below:

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SWITZERLAND:

A few paces away you would find cows in the field gently chewing away, in Lucerne!
A few paces away you would find cows in the field gently chewing away, in Lucerne!

I then went to Switzerland, and bounced into Lucerne, otherwise known as Luzern!

Is Lucerne a European city?

Yes. Tick!

Did I travel only by train?

Yep! Tick!

Lucerne, otherwise known as Luzern was brilliant, and you can read all about it just below:

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LUXEMBOURG:

After that, I went to Luxembourg.

Me in front of the Palace of the Frand Dukes. In August! Luxembourg: A smart guide to the Grand Duchy of one of Europe's smallest countries!
Me in front of the Palace of the Grand Dukes. In August!
Luxembourg: A smart guide to the Grand Duchy of one of Europe’s smallest countries!

Luxembourg was a new country for me, and I had heard lovely things about it, so I was pretty excited to visit!

Is Luxembourg a European city?

Yes. Tick!

Did I travel only by train?

Yep! Tick!

A most delicious Bosso Spätzle!
How to eat cheaply in Luxembourg!

Luxembourg was pretty impressive, and you can read all about it just below:

The next destination was Slovakia!

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SLOVAKIA

A historical castle in Slovakia!
A historical castle in Slovakia!

Slovakia, otherwise known as the Slovak Republic, is a country in Central Europe.

It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Austria to the west, Poland to the north, Ukraine to the east, and Hungary to the south. Slovakia’s territory spans about 49,000 square kilometres or 19,000 sq miles, and is mostly mountainous. The population is a little over 5 million!

The Slavs arrived in the territory of present-day Slovakia in the 5th and 6th centuries. In the 10th century, the territory was integrated into the Kingdom of Hungary, which later became part of the Habsburg Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

After World War I and the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Slovaks and Czechs established Czechoslovakia, and on 1st January 1993, Slovakia became an independent state,  after the peaceful dissolution of Czechoslovakia.

A prime example of how two nations, even after separation, still live together and or are, connected to each other, without hate and strive!

Myself as lovely as Prague!

As you know, I used to live in the Czech Republic and whilst there, I lived briefly in Slovakia too!

In those days, there was hardly any difference at all, so I wanted to find out if it was still true!

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SHOULD YOU VISIT BRATISLAVA, OR STAY AT HOME AND NOT BOTHER!

Should you visit Bratislava, or stay at home and not bother!
Should you visit Bratislava, or stay at home and not bother!

Bratislava, is the capital of Slovakia.

Bratislava, for much of its history, was a three-language town. Its citizens spoke Slovak, Hungarian and German, and was always quite cosmopolitan in nature. Before 1919, Bratislava was known as Pressburg, Prešporok, Prešpurk, Pozsony, Břetislaw, Bratislav, and finally Bratislava!

Slovakia is a small country, so the capital has a population of just 450,000 – the largest city in the country!

Bratislava in southwestern Slovakia, occupies the banks of the River Danube and the left bank of the River Morava. It borders both  Austria and Hungary, and is the only capital city in the world that borders two independent countries, separated by just 66 kilometres!

All three capital cities are connected by the beautiful River Danube!
All three capital cities are connected by the beautiful River Danube!

Bratislava has been strongly influenced by people of different nations and religions, namely from Austria, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Germany, Serbia, Hungary, and the Jewish nation. Not only that, but between 1867 and 1918, Slovakia, Austria and Hungary were parts of the same country, otherwise known as the Austro-Hungarian Empire!

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WHY GO TO BRATISLAVA?

Should you visit Bratislava, or stay at home and not bother!
Should you visit Bratislava, or stay at home and not bother!

Once again, my task?

To visit Bratislava. Sleep in Bratislava. Eat in Bratislava. With young boy tween in tow.

Here we go.

Whoopsie!

TAKE ME THERE?

The best way to travel through Europe is by train!
The best way to travel through Europe is by train!

Bratislava is a small city.

We came in by train.

As you know, Victoria’s Summer European Challenge Campaign is to travel through the summer by train. Being that I live in Berlin, makes it an extremely easy way to travel.

In fact, travelling by train through the European continent is one of the most comfortable ways to travel with ease, from one country to the other. And by far, one of the cheapest!

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Think about your budget, and travel cheaply. By train!
Think about your budget, and travel cheaply.
By train!

The snag is to book tickets with the national train companies, directly. On their own websites, or through the German Rail otherwise known as Deutsche Bahn. Most websites have an English version. Some can be admittedly slightly hidden, but persevere, or contact them directly by calling, or via Email!

The cheapest way to ease into buying train tickets through most European countries (not all), is to actually book through the Deutsche Bahn portal on the local German English version not the UK or USA version! Note that for Germany, Austria, Belgium, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Holland, Italy, Luxembourg, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden and Switzerland, if you’re going by train, I don’t recommend that you do so by InterRail or EuroRail passes, if you’re only travelling to one country, as the prices are ridiculously expensive and children have to be paid for!

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Don't suddenly decide to jump into the first train that you see! How to visit Copenhagen on a budget. Even though I missed my last connection. Again!
Don’t suddenly decide to jump into the first train that you see!
How to visit Copenhagen on a budget. Even though I missed my last connection. Again!

Last year, I bought a twelve-hour direct train ticket from Berlin to Budapest. In first class for €69.00. Second class was just €10.00 cheaper at €59.00! My child was free of charge!

I bought a seven (7) hour train journey (second class) train ticket via the Hungarian Railways or MAV at a cost of 11,780 Ft or €38.40 to travel from Budapest to Prague. Child included in the cost!

I bought a five (5) hour train journey ticket (second class) to travel from Prague to Berlin. In August for just €29.00! And don’t forget, on the German inter-city Deutsche Bahn trains, children under 15 years old, travelling with their relatives, are free and cost nothing at all!

Use public transport. How to visit Copenhagen on a budget. Even though I missed my last connection. Again!
Use public transport.
How to visit Copenhagen on a budget. Even though I missed my last connection. Again!

Our return ticket from Berlin – Copenhagen – Berlin was just €58.00!

For Switzerland, we took the Sparpreis Europa city night line train, and the eleven (11) hour return ticket journey from Berlin – Lucerne – Berlin, including reserved seating in July was just €98.00. My child was free!

For Luxembourg, we took the Sparpreis Europa city night line train, again, and the twelve (12) hour return ticket journey from Berlin – Luxembourg via Cologne and Koblenz – Berlin, including reserved seating in August was €116.00. My child was free!

For Slovakia, we took the Sparpreis Europa city night line train, once again, and the eleven (11) hour return ticket journey from Berlin – Bratislava – Berlin including reserved seating in August, was a mere €59.00. Yes €59.00! My child was free!

In a future post, I’ll be giving you tips as to how to prepare yourself when travelling on a European train!

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IS IT GOING TO BE CROWDED?

A knight in the Old Town of Bratislava. Should you visit Bratislava, or stay at home and not bother!
A knight in the Old Town of Bratislava.
Should you visit Bratislava, or stay at home and not bother!

I wouldn’t say so.

We went to Bratislava in August.

Of course you get the day-hopper tourists from Vienna and Budapest, and neighbouring Czechs, but most people haven’t a clue where Slovakia is. In fact, many confuse it with Slovenia.

Most people don’t know where Slovenia is either!

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WHAT IS BRATISLAVA LIKE?

Should you visit Bratislava, or stay at home and not bother!
Should you visit Bratislava, or stay at home and not bother!

Due to the long train journey, we were there for merely 2 days, but we’re used to that now!

Well, it isn’t Switzerland, that’s for sure, or Denmark!

I mean, Slovakia once used to be a part of Czechoslovakia, and it has a certain charm, but to be honest, it’s not anything like Prague either!

It’s a bit gritty, but not like Berlin.

It’s got that old ex-Soviet Union look, but not like Riga.

In my opinion the Bratislava hlavná stanica‎ - Bratislava Main Train Station - is a national disgrace! ©rail.cc
In my opinion the Bratislava hlavná stanica‎ – Bratislava Main Train Station – is a national disgrace! ©rail.cc

It’s a bit rough-looking, and the Bratislava hlavná stanica‎ main railway station, unlike the main train station in Porto, is a disgrace!

Bratislava has presence, but is not very well looked after!

In fact, “The Tall Young Gentleman” wasn’t in the least impressed, but I’m putting it down to the fact that just the weekend prior, we were in a luxury hotel in Luxembourg, and he was treated like a king!

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I DON’T SPEAK SLOVAKIAN!

The local folk of Bratislava, in Slovakia!
The local folk of Bratislava, in Slovakia!

Not a problem.

Most people speak English, but if you can speak Czech, German, Russian or Hungarian, you’ll be fine!

AM I GOING TO LIVE IN A HUT?

Not quite! Should you visit Bratislava, or stay at home and not bother!
Not quite!
Should you visit Bratislava, or stay at home and not bother!

Nah!

Thanks to Bratislava’s excellent location on the border of three countries, accommodation ranges from quite simple to award-winning boutique hotels, so  it won’t be necessary for you to live in a cave!

I had previously wanted to go the boutique route like I did in Warsaw, but the prices they were asking bordered on the ridiculous, so a hostel it was then!

Book your hostel here!

I’M ON A BUDGET. WHAT SHOULD I DO?

I'm on a budget. I could sing for my supper! Should you visit Bratislava, or stay at home and not bother!
I’m on a budget. I could sing for my supper!
Should you visit Bratislava, or stay at home and not bother!

Whenever we go on a family holiday, I like to mix things up a little in order to experience a wide variety of accommodation possibilities, to meet the locals, and to stretch our budget in a more comfortable way.

In Copenhagen, I decided to book a family friendly budget hotel. In Lucerne, we went for the cheap and cheerful option of a hostel.

I like comfort, and I’m not averse to a little splendour every now and then so in Luxembourg, we went upscale to a very lovely luxury hotel.

But being that we wanted to be smart, we decided to take the simple route of a hostel, once again!

Downtown Backpacker’s Hostel in Bratislava, Slovakia!
Downtown Backpacker’s Hostel in Bratislava, Slovakia!

We went to Downtown Backpacker’s Hostel.

Downtown Backpacker’s is a hostel situated in the historical quarter of the city, and the first hostel in the country!

It’s located 15 minutes walking distance from the main train station, and is one minute from the Presidential Palace!

I had booked a private twin room of course, as I liked the idea of paintings on the wall. We were put on the top floor and into what would have been the best room in the hostel – Mucha – as the private double room also came with it’s own balcony.

No one was able to open our private balcony at the Downtown Backpacker’s Hostel in Bratsilava, so we had to look through from afar!
No one was able to open our private balcony at the Downtown Backpacker’s Hostel in Bratislava, so we had to look through, from afar!

Sadly, no one was able to open it, and so we looked through what would have been our private balcony, with our private outdoor table, where we would have watched our private sunset, whilst I sipped a glass of Slovakian wine as I wrote my blog!

But it was not to be, as the balcony door lock was broken!

Sigh!

Our bedroom at the Downtown Backpacker’s Hostel in Bratislava, Slovakia!
Our bedroom at the Downtown Backpacker’s Hostel in Bratislava, Slovakia!

Our room came with two single bed and bedsheets already laid out, two large wardrobe-like lockers, two chairs, two standing lamps, a glass table, a large private balcony with a further four chairs, paintings, illustrations, advertisements, postcards, and designs, dotted all over the room, and free WiFi.

There were side plugs, but only on one side of the room, so “The Tall Young Gentleman” wasn’t in the least pleased!

The hostel had a large fully-equipped kitchen, a small dining room, a terrace that turns into a garden, a library, a piano, a large common TV, a dryer, a washing machine, and a very comfy large common room, which for some reason, one man spent every night sleeping in! And shared bathrooms and toilets on every floor.

The bathroom on the lower floor is nicer, and larger!

A free shot of vodka isn't a bad thing!
A free shot of vodka isn’t a bad thing!

There’s also a free shot, free tea and coffee, and a really nice paid breakfast with a 10% discount, if you’re a hostel guest!

We paid €50.00 per night.

It was a nice hostel, and the hostel staff were great and extremely warm and friendly. Highly recommended.

Tick!

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I’M LOOKING FOR A BIT MORE LUXURY, IS THERE SOMETHING FOR ME?

Should you visit Bratislava, or stay at home and not bother!
Should you visit Bratislava, or stay at home and not bother!

Most likely!

But you’re going to have to do your own research!

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BUT WHAT SHOULD I DO WHEN I GET TO BRATISLAVA?

But what should I dooooooo? Should you visit Bratislava, or stay at home and not bother!
But what should I dooooooo?
Should you visit Bratislava, or stay at home and not bother!

There is plenty to do Bratislava.

I would even go as far as saying, you should spend at least two (2) days in order to get a real feel of the city.  You can:

Go on a walking tour in the Old Town. Should you visit Bratislava, or stay at home and not bother!
Go on a walking tour in the Old Town.
Should you visit Bratislava, or stay at home and not bother!
  • Go on a free walking tour. We went with a little outfit called Be Free Tours
  • Make your own independent walking tour. Pick up free maps in your hostel and hotel, and just take off! It’s really not that difficult!
  • Explore the history and architecture of Bratislava
  • Get your camera out and take a selfie with Čumil peeking out of the manhole, or Schöne Náci in a tall hat and tails!
  • Put on your walking shoes and climb up to Bratislava Castle and take in the view. They sometimes have a night show too!
  • Wander round the cobbled streets of the Old Town, and just get lost!
  • Go to the Town Hall and visit the most impressive Bratislava City Museum  – the oldest museum in Slovakia!
  • Go to St. Martin’s Cathedral and as many other churches as you can manage!
Take photographs with Čumil and wander at will! Should you visit Bratislava, or stay at home and not bother!
Take photographs with Čumil and wander at will!
Should you visit Bratislava, or stay at home and not bother!
  • Take photographs and buy souvenirs at Michael’s Gate – the only preserved gate left – dating back to the 14th century!
  • Visit the Jewish Synagogue and the Jewish Community Museum
  • Walk by the riverside
  • Peep into every corner, and walk onto every little path that you see. And why not?
  • Join in the summer celebrations
  • Go people-watching
  • Check out the various cafes, bars and restaurants, for a quick bite of rustic Slovakian sausages!
  • Relax , take a break, and have a Slovakian beer!

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WHAT ABOUT TRANSPORT POSSIBILITIES?

Austria, Hungary and Slovakia are so closely connected that you can easily travel between them! p.s. Not by the alpine lift obviously!
Austria, Hungary and Slovakia are so closely connected that you can easily travel between them!
p.s. Not by the alpine lift obviously!

Bratislava is small. Everywhere is walkable, but local trams, buses, and cruises are simple to use.

In the olden days, the capital cities of Austria and Hungary were so close, that they were connected by a tram line!

Sadly, after World War II, the tram line was closed down!

Bratislava, Vienna, and Budapest are connected by the river Danube via a cruise ferry, and there are frequent bus and train connections. In fact, many tourists happily go from at least one of these countries to the other, on a day-trip.

Isn’t that marvellous!

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ANYTHING ELSE?

Even though we're tourists, stop cheating us! Should you visit Bratislava, or stay at home and not bother!
Even though we’re tourists, stop cheating us!
Should you visit Bratislava, or stay at home and not bother!

Prices are extremely cheap, but do double-check your bill.

We had lunch in the Old Town and we were over-charged twice! One restaurant even had the cheek to charge the complete bill of their local Slovakian mates, from the next table!

My suspicions were raised when the bill started with the butter that I ordered, but never received…..!

MY VERDICT:

Should you visit Bratislava, or stay at home and not bother!
Should you visit Bratislava, or stay at home and not bother!

Bratislava is a European historical city, mixed with forgotten reminders of a socialist past.

WOULD I COME AGAIN?

We wouldn't go all out to visit Slovakia, but if you're in the region, why not? Should you visit Bratislava, or stay at home and not bother!
We wouldn’t go all out to visit Slovakia, but if you’re in the region, why not?
Should you visit Bratislava, or stay at home and not bother!

I wouldn’t go all out to visit Slovakia, but if you’re in the region, take a day or two and visit, or go to the countryside, which I hear is amazing!

If you’re on a budget, stay in Bratislava and commute to Vienna instead.

But as always, don’t just read the papers, or listen to hearsay.

Go see for yourself.

Europe is wonderful!

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Quit your job! Don't quit your job! Travel through Europe! Don't travel through Europe!
Quit your job! Don’t quit your job! Travel through Europe! Don’t travel through Europe!

In the coming weeks, I’ll be writing about Slovakian food, art and films in Berlin, travels to the German Baltic Sea, as well as a comprehensive post on how to use the train in Europe!

In October, I’ll be preparing to go to the TBEX ASIA travel conference in the Philippines, and an extra Asian country, but I’m still not sure where, but heavily leaning towards a Chinese-speaking country!

In November, I’ll be travelling to Austria.

Yay!

Book your hotel here!

SHOULD YOU VISIT BRATISLAVA, OR STAY AT HOME AND NOT BOTHER!

The Old Town in Slovakia. Should you visit Bratislava, or stay at home and not bother!
The Old Town in Slovakia.
Should you visit Bratislava, or stay at home and not bother!

This article is not sponsored, and all opinions and the most delicious Slovakian sausage that we gobbled up, are my very own!

STRICTLY STAND UP – The English Comedy Night is going to take place on 21.09.16 at the Quatsch Comedy Club in Berlin.

I’ll also be attending an exclusive GOLUM! Preview Social Meetup at the Jewish Museum in Berlin!

Save the Date!

September is going to be thrilling!

I’ll be there. Will you?

As usual, you can also follow me via daily tweets and pictures on Twitter & Facebook!

If you’re not in Berlin in September, I can’t imagine where else you would be!

Breakfast in Slovakia!

Watch this space!

Note! I never travel without insurance as you never know what might happen.

I learnt my lesson in Spain. And obviously, in countries like Qatar, where technically the risk is higher, I can’t imagine going that far beyond WITHOUT INSURANCE. No siree! You can get yours here, at World Nomads!

Please note that there are now affiliate links (for the very first time) connected to this post. Please consider using the links, because every time some sort of accommodation or travel insurance is booked via my links, I get a little percentage, but at no extra cost to yourself!

A win-win for all!

Thanks a million!

Should you visit Bratislava, or stay at home and not bother!
Should you visit Bratislava, or stay at home and not bother!

Have you ever been to Slovakia? Should you visit Bratislava, or stay at home and not bother? Have your say!

See you in Berlin.

If you have any questions send me a tweet, talk to me on Facebook, find me on Linkedin, make a comment below, look for me on Google+ or send me an Email: victoria@thebritishberliner.com

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My first press or FAM trip ever to Nord-Pas de Calais otherwise known as, Northern France!

My first press or FAM trip ever to Nord-Pas de Calais otherwise known as, Northern France!
My first press or FAM trip ever to Nord-Pas de Calais otherwise known as, Northern France!

I am a lucky girl.

I’ve just returned from that most romantic of countries – France – and to a region unfamiliar to travellers and visitors – Nord-Pas de Calais – or otherwise known as, Northern France.

In the last few weeks, I hinted to you that I would be going to France, but since a surprise isn’t a surprise if you know all about it, I kept it vague.

In a market in Northern France.

WHAT IS A PRESS OR FAM TRIP?

A PRESS TRIP is normally described as a visit to a destination, country, city, hotel, venue etc, organised for media groups. It usually introduces and presents the best bits of a particular itinerary and is usually for a small group of journalists or bloggers, or an organised private trip. Although a press trip could be for a few hours, it usually refers to a trip of a few days.

A familiarization trip, or FAM TRIP as it is better known, is similar to a press trip however, it usually includes a visit to a number of sights, venues, activities, accommodations, or restaurant spots, in one area or region. It is typically organised for travel industry professionals, to give them a better understanding of the regions and products they are trying to sell to their clients. Lots of different activities are included so that as much as possible can be experienced. Sometimes journalists might attend a FAM TRIP too.

The cost is covered except for personal spending and tips. That means no shopping. Awwww!
The cost is covered except for personal spending and tips. That means no shopping.
Awwww!

In both instances your costs will usually be covered, though this will vary depending on the organiser. In this case, I made my own way to Cologne which was where our press trip weekend was to start.

This trip I went on is probably more a FAM or familiarization trip rather than a press trip per se, but since there was another journalist in the group, I’m calling it a PRESS TRIP. So there!

Myself at the E-travel Congress. Hustle! Hustle! Hustle!
Myself at the E-travel Congress. Hustle! Hustle! Hustle!

HOW DID I GET INVITED?

Well, as a blogger who has been writing for just under a year, I have been extremely lucky to be at the right place, at the right time. In May, I happened to be at the Sony Centre in Berlin where I got chatting to a PR person who promised to put me on the guest list of the Berlin Music Video Awards. She did, and even though, I never saw her again, my pro-active activity coupled with an outgoing personality, and a genuine interest to get involved, opened the door to being invited into the VIP section, a glimpse into the media world, and a whole host of people who had a friendly eye and were willing to help me in my quest for knowledge and information.

A press card and a front seat pass at a fashion show during the Berlin Fashion Week also came about because of the simple matter that I asked, and when I undergo to write a piece, I make a thorough job of it.

Let me be clear, that so far, not a single cent, dollar, or Euro has exchanged hands but for now, experience and a representation of a job well done, is all that matters. I blog because I have a passion for life, and where I live, where I go, and what I do. It’s a lifestyle, travel, expat thing LOL!

As far as I’m concerned, all good things have, and will continue to come my way whether it’s in the form of an invite, an event, or a press trip (you know where to find me LOL!)

On the red carpet at the Internationale Filmfestspiele, Berlin or at the International Film Festival, Berlin.
On the red carpet at the Internationale Filmfestspiele, Berlin or at the International Film Festival, Berlin.

Being invited on this press trip.

My first ever press trip, was no different.

In February, I went to the ITB in Berlin. The ITB Berlin stands for the “Internationale Tourismus-Börse” or in English, the “international tourism trade fair” and represents B2B, hotels, tourists boards, tour operators and providers, airlines, transport operators, responsible travel organisers, information technology experts, social media bloggers, and anybody else interested in travel and tourism.

It’s a big deal, as the ITB is the world’s largest international tourism trade fair and is located in my new home-town – Berlin.

If you recall, February was the first time that I had attended the ITB Berlin as a press person and during my networking, I met Claire Beaufromé, a senior professional member of the Comité Régional de Tourisme Nord-Pas-de Calais. We had a chat. She gave me her details, I gave her mine. We sent each other a couple of Emails, and that was that, until this summer when she sent me a press trip invite.

I was surprised but enormously pleased. I met her last Friday again and she told me that she remembered me because of my passion and enthusiasm, and thought that I’d be a fun person to have along, and so here I am!

The Fine Arts Museum in Cambrai, Nord-Pas-de Calais, in France!
The Fine Arts Museum in Cambrai, Nord-Pas-de Calais, in France!

WHERE IS NORD-PAS de CALAIS OTHERWISE KNOWN AS, NORTHERN FRANCE?

A Flemish farmhouse, in France.
A Flemish farmhouse, in France.

Nord-Pas-de Calais is indeed in Northern France. It’s a region located near the North Sea and right next to the Belgian border. Northern France is made up of coastal areas as well as vast countryside, and because of it’s closeness to Belgium is although French, Flemish in style and influence.

WHAT WILL I BE DOING IN NORD-PAS de CALAIS OTHERWISE KNOWN AS, NORTHERN FRANCE?

The point of this press trip is to introduce the region as a cultural place to visit and a short-trip destination for not only France, but Belgium, Germany, and the United Kingdom! In fact, Northern France is that close that it’s extremely easy to not only fly but to travel by train, car, and by bus.

A flight from either the UK or Germany is about an hour and the other means of transport is as follows:

The Deutsche Bahn train.
The Deutsche Bahn train.

BY TRAIN:

Amsterdam – Lille: 2.30 hours.
Brussels – Lille: 35 minutes.
Paris – Lille: 1 hour.
London – Lille: 1.20 hours.
Cologne – Lille: 3.15 hours.
Frankfurt – Paris: 3.50 hours.

BY BUS or CAR:

Brussels – Lille: 1 hour.
Paris – Lille: 2.50 hours.
Cologne – Lille: 3.5 hours.
Frankfurt – Lille: 5 hours.

Travelling to Northern France really doesn't take up that much time!
Travelling to Northern France really doesn’t take up that much time!

This press trip is a long weekend starting from Friday evening and finishing late on Monday afternoon. I don’t have any information as to who is going to be there and what type of industry people will be attending. What I do know is that most of them will be German and French and even though I’m pretty fluent in German, working alongside “real” native-speakers sometimes makes me a little anxious that I’m going to make grammatical mistakes, that I’m going to be shy, or that I’m going to be completely out of my depth and thus, comfort zone.

Yes, I know. Silly isn’t it, but there you have it!

As I said earlier, our meeting point was Cologne so as soon as I had confirmation of the dates, I booked a train with Deutsche Bahn (they’re simply the best) and got a return fare of €65.00 of what is effectively a 6 hour train journey, which turned into a 7.5 hour train journey (OK, not always the best), but that’s another story…..!

Press Trip!
Press Trip!

On this press trip we will be doing the following:

FRIDAY:

• Network and Introduction
• Presentation of the region
• A Workshop about what we’re going to be doing and where we’re going.
• Dinner at the hotel
• Overnight at the Best Western Premier Hotel Park Consul in Cologne.

SATURDAY:

• Early morning departure
• A visit to the Nausicaa (a sort of Seaworld) or Centre National de la Mer
• Lunch in Boulogne-sur-Mer
• A tour and introduction to Béthune
• A brief tour and introduction to Arras
• Dinner in Arras at “Amarine” Restaurant
• Overnight at the Mercure Atria Arras Centre in Arras.

SUNDAY:

• An introduction and tour of the Battle of Arras First World War memorial
• An introduction and tour of the Louvre-Lens
• Lunch in Lens at “Le Pain de La Bouche”
• An introduction and tour of Cambrai
• An introduction and tour of the Matisse Museum
• Dinner in Lille at the “Basilic Café”
• Overnight at the Hotel Novotel in Lille.

MONDAY:

• An introduction and tour of Lille
• Lille to Brussels by train
• Brussels to Cologne by train
• End of Press Trip

My first press or FAM trip ever to Nord-Pas de Calais otherwise known as, Northern France!
My first press or FAM trip ever to Nord-Pas de Calais otherwise known as, Northern France!

HOW HAS IT BEEN SO FAR?

It’s been tiring but marvellous!

As I write this, it’s Saturday night (sigh!), and so much has happened.

Due to technical troubles, I had to abandon my Deutsche Bahn train and got to the arrival hotel with only 20 minutes to spare!

The staff of the Best Western Premier Hotel Park Consul in Cologne were warm and welcoming and I hoped that I would have my own room as I was hot, tired, sweaty, and not yet ready for small talk.

Yes! I had a double room, and yes, it was all to myself. Phew!

The get-to-gether would start in 20 minutes so I just had enough time to drop my stuff (you should have seen the state of the room after I’d finished with it), freshen up, and change into my “work clothes.” This being Germany, this meant a suit. “French Connection” if you must know!

I was welcomed by Claire Beaufromé who worked for the Comité Régional de Tourisme Nord-Pas de Calais or the Regional Tourism Authority, and that helped to calm my nerves. In fact, all the tourism people were lovely, friendly, and funny. We didn’t only talk about the region, but their work, my work, France, Germany, and the UK. It was really nice.

Authentic rustic French food!
Authentic rustic French food!

Oh yes, slices of French flan and French beer were also given out for us to “taste” whilst we got onto the business at hand.

After the refreshments, there was an official workshop, presentation, and video of what the weekend was all about, and what we would be doing or seeing.

There were roughly 20 people who were mainly French or German and myself as the sole British person. 50% were French and 50% were Germans who either lived in France, worked with groups and organisations, B2B, travel agencies, promoters, social media advertisers, one journalist and myself (the blogger)!

Being that this was my first (1st) such trip, and I had no idea who I would be meeting, when, and how, I’d packed for every eventually.

It's embarrassing. I had no idea who I would be meeting, I just knew that I would be going to France!
It’s embarrassing. I had no idea who I would be meeting, I just knew that I would be going to France!

VERDICT?

A professional crowd who dressed casually, but smart. So the boots and scarf stay!

ANYTHING ELSE?

Yep! Our job this weekend was to visit and see the region for ourselves and hopefully, discover the many interests and joys of Nord-Pas de Calais or Northern France, so that other travellers and visitors are encouraged to come and visit themselves.

WERE WE OVERWHELMED BY CRUSTY FRENCH BREAD AND FRENCH RHUBARB BEER?

Find out next week!!!

Have you ever seen such a fantastic crème brûlée? So creamy, so delicious, so....!
Have you ever seen such a fantastic crème brûlée? So creamy, so delicious, so….!

WHAT IF NORTHERN FRANCE ISN’T MY CUP OF TEA?

Don’t make your mind up yet.

Keep reading my blog. There is more to come!

Pictures speak louder than words.
Pictures speak louder than words.

This article is not sponsored and even though I was invited on this trip as a guest of Atout France Deutschland, Comité Régional de Tourisme Nord-Pas de Calais, and Hotels Indépendents Francais, all opinions and the tasty French nosh and booze that I’ll take pleasure in indulging, are my very own!

I have so much to share with you so I will be returning to our adventures in Indonesia, and Qatar, in November.

Next week, I will tell you what really happens on a press trip and also about the Boulogne, Béthune, Arras, Lens, Cambrai, and Lille, regions of Northern France. Oui! Merci!

In October, I will be writing about the British National Theatre LIVE production. The next production coming up at Cinestar Berlin – Original is:

Skylight on: 30.10.14.

Frankenstein – Original Cast on: 13.11.14.

Frankenstein – Reversed Cast on: 27.11.14.

I’ll be participating in An Eat-the-world food Kreuzberg walking tour on 18.10.14. ‘So exciting. Yum!

DANIEL SLOSS – Live! with very special guest Jack Woodhead – is going to take place on 21.10.14 at the Quatsch Comedy Club in Berlin.

In October & November, Berlin will be celebrating and marking the 25th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall.

Following a smash-hit tour of the UK and Ireland, LET IT BE will descend on Berlin with a six (6) day exclusive showing of a celebration of The Beatles from 11.11.14 – 16.11.14 at the Admirals Palast.

October is going to be out of this world!

It's Me!
It’s Me!

Watch this space!

Note! I never travel without insurance as you never know what might happen.

I learnt my lesson in Spain. And obviously, in countries like Qatar, where technically the risk is higher, I can’t imagine going that far beyond, WITHOUT INSURANCE. No siree! You can get yours here, at World Nomads!

Please note that there are now affiliate links (for the very first time) connected to this post. Please consider using the links, because every time some sort of accommodation or travel insurance is booked via my links I get a little percentage, but at no extra cost to yourself!

A win-win for all!

Thanks a million!

My first press or FAM trip ever to Nord-Pas de Calais otherwise known as, Northern France!

Have you ever been to Northern France? Do you know that the largest flea market in Europe actually takes place in Arras, Northern France? Is rhubarb beer the type of beer that you would consider having on a daily basis?

See you in Berlin.

If you have any questions send me a tweet, talk to me on Facebook, find me on Linkedin, make a comment below, look for me on Google+ or send me an Email: victoria@thebritishberliner.com

If you like this post, please Share it! Tweet it! Or like it!

My first introduction to the ITB Berlin: the international tourism trade fair.

Getting ready for a day in social media.
Getting ready for a day in social media.

In the last week I was a busy bunny. I was a very busy bunny indeed. This was because for the very first time I attended the ITB Berlin, not as a member of the public, but as a convention participant, a social media person and a blogger.

Twitter and Travel Massive @ ITB Berlin
Twitter and Travel Massive @ ITB Berlin

Now since my blog started just last year, the media organisers deemed my blog to be too new however the ITB press team were marvellous and gave me complimentary tickets so that I could attend. Thank you so much ITB Berlin!

ITB Berlin
ITB Berlin

 What is the ITB Berlin?

ITB Berlin Press Conference, 2014.
ITB Berlin Press Conference, 2014.

The ITB Berlin stands for the “Internationale Tourismus-Börse” or in English, the “international tourism trade fair.” The ITB represents B2B, hotels, tourists boards, tour operators and providers, airlines, transport operators, responsible travel organisers, information technology experts, social media bloggers, and anybody else interested in travel and tourism.

Asian girls having lunch together.
Asian girls having lunch together.

I am enormously lucky because the ITB is the world’s largest international tourism trade fair and is organised by one of Germany’s most experienced exhibition management company – “Messe Berlin” and is located right here.

In my new home-town city.

In Berlin.

International Cultures at the ITB Berlin, 2014.
International Cultures at the ITB Berlin, 2014.

Hurrah!

  • In an overall space of 160,000 m².
  • 26 halls.
  • Approximately 10,147 companies were represented.
  • 174,000 visitors.
  • 114,000 trade visitors.
  • 220,000 delegates and participants.
  • 200 lectures, discussions and workshops.
  • Representing 189 countries.
  • 2,000 social media, mobile travel, networking events for bloggers.
  • 120 social media, mobile travel exhibitors.
  • Bloggers from 25 countries.
  • Taking place over 5 days within 5th March – 9th March, 2014.
  • Bringing in €6.5 billion to Germany.

The ITB Berlin is a big deal and the partner country for 2014 was Mexico with the motto “Live it to believe it”.

Mexico's Opening Ceremony
Mexico’s Opening Ceremony

Mexico came all out and dazzled participants, delegates and visitors with programmes of entertainment, traditional music, dance performances, authentic Mexican dishes, regional handicrafts, cultural treasures, multi-media shows and therefore a platform to show a modern, sophisticated and diverse Mexico.

Mexican "Riverdancers."
Mexican “Riverdancers.”

This year, the ITB Berlin reported a 4% increase in trade visitors and business and a large focus on travel bookings on smart phones and laptops, innovation, responsible and sustainable travel and an attractive trend towards luxury travel. A welcome growth back towards Greece and Spain and huge popularity in holidays and vacations to Germany and Europe, by visitors from Asia, the USA, and the Middle East.

Iceland at the ITB Berlin.
Iceland at the ITB Berlin.

As I mentioned above, I went as a blogger which meant that I would meet other bloggers who I could bounce ideas from and network with.

Travel Massive ITB Berlin Pre-launch Party
Travel Massive ITB Berlin Pre-launch Party

The first event that I went to was the “Tuesday Pre-ITB Party” co-hosted by a young company called GoEuro and an organisation called Travel Massive. There were over 400 people of whom I was 1, mainly from the travel industry, start-ups, industry partners, writers and bloggers. With a whole list of backed sponsors, the night was a blast.

Everyone at the Travel Massive ITB Berlin Pre-Launch Party
Everyone at the Travel Massive ITB Berlin Pre-Launch Party

I was enormously nervous as this was the first event of its kind that I have ever joined. The location was in my neighbourhood and at a trendy metal box called Platoon Kunsthalle. Thankfully, there was a film presentation to watch about a German explorer couple called Tanja and Denis Katzer who spent 3 years travelling from Germany to Mongolia and spending their time with reindeer nomads. Wow! Theirs was an innovative and inspiring trip.

After the business of the day, it was time to mingle and meet the bloggers there who were great, and with free beer and mojito cocktails, ice-breaking became an easier task. I’m a talker and it didn’t take me long to get into my groove!

Myself and BlaBlahCar at the Travel Massive and GoEuro joint pre ITB Berlin Pre-Launch Party
Myself and BlaBlahCar at the Travel Massive and GoEuro joint pre ITB Berlin Pre-Launch Party

From Wednesday through to Saturday, I spent my days going to seminars, lectures, discussions and workshops and learning a lot. I networked with fellow bloggers, travel industry people and people who had never heard of blogging. I also took the opportunity to eat, drink, dance and attend a Thai boxing session. I’ll talk more about that and what I learnt, next week.

This article is not sponsored and all opinions are my absolute own.

As a last note, if you want to attend the ITB Berlin, next year’s convention is from Wednesday, 4th March – Sunday, 8th March 2015. I’ll see you there!

Have you been to a trade fair? Have you been to ITB Berlin? Are you a blogger, trade exhibitor, or in the travel industry?

ITB Berlin, and a Mexican volkswagen!
ITB Berlin, and a Mexican Volkswagen!

For more information about:

Meeeeeexico!
Meeeeeexico!

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