51 reasons to go to the seaside. In Germany!

51 reasons to go to the seaside. In Germany!
51 reasons to go to the seaside. In Germany!

It’s the 3rd of October in Germany, and that means it’s the celebration of the German Re-Unification. A day that nobody thought would ever happen in this lifetime.

But it did!

Two sides and two periods, of the Berlin Wall. East Germany and West Germany together again, after twenty-seven (27) years!
Two sides and two periods, of the Berlin Wall. East Germany and West Germany together again, after twenty-seven (27) years!

That’s right, East Germany otherwise known as the GDR or the DDR, and West Germany formerly known as the FRG, or the BRD, have now been together as one country for twenty-seven (27) years!

Tweeeeeeenty Seeeeeeeeven!

Isn’t it marvellous?!

On the border between East & West Berlin in Germany.
On the border between East & West Berlin in Germany.

Who would have thought that not only would I be living in this wonderful city called – Berlin, but I would be married to a German bloke to boot!

My husband - The Music Producer - looking gorgeous in Osnabrück, Germany.
My husband – The Music Producer – looking gorgeous in Osnabrück, Germany.

And even though I’m British, I’ve been living here as an expat for years, and it never gets old. In fact, I still feel as if I’ve only just got here!

So was it any wonder that I decided to add Germany onto Victoria’s Summer European Challenge Campaign across Europe.

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

Yay!

But let me be clear, even though my fellow countrymen decided to opt out of the European Union, I’m still proud to be both British and I’m European ‘cos I’m not going anywhere!

We're not leaving!
We’re not leaving!

What better, than to spend the summer travelling 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!

Cricket and a spot of lunch!
Cricket and a spot of lunch!

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!

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:

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:

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!

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

The next destination was Slovakia. I hadn’t been to Slovakia for years so off we skipped to Bratislava.

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

Is Bratislava a European city?

Yes. Tick!

Did I travel only by train?

Indeed we did! Tick!

Bratislava was an interesting mix of charm and historical greatness of yore, and you can read all about it below:

Now let’s get back to Germany.

The Music Producer and The Tall Young Gentleman on the pier! 51 reasons to go to the seaside. In Germany!
The Music Producer and The Tall Young Gentleman on the pier!
51 reasons to go to the seaside. In Germany!

To be more exact – the seaside.

In a place on the Baltic Sea called Usedom!

I like going to the Baltic Sea. In fact, I’ve written many posts about it such as:

Polish fishermen on the Polish Baltic Sea who did fabulously well. :)
Polish fishermen on the Polish Baltic Sea who did fabulously well. 🙂

You see. In many cases, I was actually going to the Baltic Sea. In Poland….! I have been to the Baltic Sea in Germany, but I couldn’t remember the details ‘cos it was winter, and the sea was frozen!

Time to change all that but first, a little history.

USEDOM

On Usedom - a Baltic Sea island in Pomerania, Germany! ©Usedom Tourismus GmbH
On Usedom – a Baltic Sea island in Pomerania, Germany! ©Usedom Tourismus GmbH

We chose Usedom as the part of the German seaside that we wanted to visit.

Not only is Usedom pretty, but it’s also the seaside resort of the people who live in Berlin. In fact, it’s rare not to see your neighbour or your mates at work, running down the beach or leaping into the sea!

Usedom is a Baltic Sea island in Pomerania which originally used to be one single island region but since 1945, was divided between Germany and Poland!

This is what happens to children who don't eat their greens - boiled fish for dinner, and only boiled fish!
This is what happens to children who don’t eat their greens – boiled fish for dinner, and only boiled fish!

About 80% of the island belongs to the German district of Vorpommern-Greifswald in the North German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.

The other side and the largest city on the island, is part of the Polish West Pomeranian Province bordering the German federal-states of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania and Brandenburg to the west, and the Baltic Sea to the north. Its capital and largest city is Szczecin which is enormously easy to get to…!

The Usedom island’s total area is 445 square kilometres (172 square miles). The German part is 373 square kilometres or 144 square miles, and the Polish part is 72 square kilometres or 28 square miles.

51 reasons to go to the seaside. In Germany!
51 reasons to go to the seaside. In Germany!

With a population of just 76,500 people – 31,500 on the German side and 45,000 on the Polish side, Usedom is the sunniest region of both Germany and Poland, and it is also the sunniest island in the Baltic Sea Region!

We were excited to travel to a sunny old beach, and a bit of the sea!

Now that’s done with, let’s get to it:

51 REASONS TO GO TO THE SEASIDE. IN GERMANY!

51 reasons to go to the seaside. In Germany!
51 reasons to go to the seaside. In Germany!
  • Simply put, the seaside is one the best places to go to, in the summer
  • The German seaside is located in the North of Germany in places known as the Baltic Sea or the North Sea. Usedom is on the Baltic Sea otherwise known as the Ostsee!
  • It’s great for families. All you need is a bucket and spade, some sand, water, a bit of sunshine, and kids – big or small!
  • And it’s safe and secure
  • You can be a child again and build sandcastles, collect shells, and explore the beach
The Tall Young Gentleman trying to make a sandcastle! 51 reasons to go to the seaside. In Germany!
The Tall Young Gentleman trying to make a sandcastle!
51 reasons to go to the seaside. In Germany!
  • It’s only 3.5 hours away from my beloved Berlin!
  • You can go by car, by bike, or simply take the train
  • Once you organise your hotel, B&B, or tent, everything else is free of charge!
  • If you’re on a budget, you can camp in the forest, near a lake, or not far from the beach
  • If you’ve got some cash, you can splash out and stay at the many wonderful seaside resorts, imperial villas, thatched houses and exclusive hotels such as the elegant five-star historical Usedom Palace where we stayed – otherwise known as the Jewel on the promenade in Zinnowitz! I’ll write more details about the hotel next week or you can simply book your hotel here!
  • You’ve not tasted ice-cream, until you’ve had it at the seaside!
You've not tasted ice-cream, until you've had it at the seaside! 51 reasons to go to the seaside. In Germany!
You’ve not tasted ice-cream, until you’ve had it at the seaside!
51 reasons to go to the seaside. In Germany!
  • You can have 1,906 hours of sunshine per year making Usedom Island the sunniest place in Germany?
  • You can be Jesus for a few hours, and walk on water on one of the oldest piers in the Baltic Sea area!
  • The German Baltic Sea is 42 kms of fine white sandy beach and up to 70 meters wide, making Usedom Island the longest beach promenade in Europe, if not the world!
  • Germany has five (5) historic wooden piers that lead into the Baltic Sea. The longest pier is in Heringsdorf at 508 meters. The oldest pier built in Ahlbeck 1898, is 118 years old!
On the oldest pier in Usedom - a Baltic Sea island in Pomerania, Germany! 51 reasons to go to the seaside. In Germany! ©Usedom Tourismus GmbH
On the oldest pier in Usedom – a Baltic Sea island in Pomerania, Germany! ©Usedom Tourismus GmbH
  • You can actually walk or cycle the length of the island starting from Germany and ending in Poland, or vice-versa. And since both countries are part of the EU, you don’t even need a visa! But take your passport along. Just in case!
  • There are three (3) imperial summer residences of the previous German monarchy so you can stroll between the villages of Bansin, Heringsdorf, and Ahlbeck, to find them. It’s a lovely walk with many cafes, bars and restaurants, along the way!
  • Everywhere you look is some sort of historical art or architecture preserving the seaside in a unique Wilhelminian style
  • You can admire the wonderful picturesque architecture
  • Usedom used to be quite the bohemian place packed with artists, intellectuals, and the liberal wealthy bourgeoise of the time who would meet for music, art, and entertainment. Very like Bristol or the city of Bath, back in the day
You would find the Bohemian Set, intellectuals, and the liberal wealthy bourgeoise of the time staying in such villas 51 reasons to go to the seaside. In Germany! ©Usedom Tourismus GmbH
You would find the bohemian set, and the liberal wealthy bourgeoise staying in such villas
51 reasons to go to the seaside. In Germany! ©Usedom Tourismus GmbH
  • Usedom is also a nature park reserve with coasts, lakes, marshes, dunes, pine and beech woods, as well as beaches
  • There are eagles on the island of Usedom, and more than 280 species of birds such as Nordic geese, cranes, ducks and woodcocks
  • The world ́s largest beach volleyball tournament in the world, according to the Guinness Book of Records, takes place on Usedom Island!
  • You can be healthy via the power of the Baltic Sea!
  • You can go au natural (Germany!), and go to a spa and pamper yourself with a chocolate massage, a sea buckthorn bath, an algae mousse package or treatments with iodine brine
You can go au natural and go to a spa and pamper 51 reasons to go to the seaside. In Germany! ©Usedom Tourismus GmbH
You can go au natural and go to a spa and pamper
51 reasons to go to the seaside. In Germany! ©Usedom Tourismus GmbH
  • You can stroll on the beach, sunbathe, or just relax with a glass of wine, or bottle of German beer!
  • You can go bare-foot on the beach in the safe knowledge that there’s no garbage or glass lying around. It felt so goooood to have sand between our toes
  • You can go swimming in the sea as the sea is clean, but watch out for the jellyfish. They’re pretty huge!
  • The German seaside is the best opportunity to really get to grips with cycling as you have access to 180 km of cycle tracks, and more than 13 recommended cycling routes, and you can rent bikes at more than 100 rental stations using a mobile payment concept covering the island known as Usedom Rad. In fact, my husband and our son, used this facility quite a bit. I took the train from Zinnowitz to Heringsdorf, and they cycled all the way. It took them about 3 hours but they enjoyed the ride! If you buy a family train ticket, the one way cycle journey is included in your ticket, so you get the bike ride for free!
  • You can eat fairly well, but try to leave plenty of time for dinner as the seaside resorts tend to close early. On our last night, we left things a little late at 21:00, and were lucky enough to catch the chef before he closed the kitchen. Usedom, like the UK, closes it’s restaurants quite early!
A traditional fresh fish lunch at the famous Fisch Domke restaurant in Ahlbeck! 51 reasons to go to the seaside. In Germany!
A traditional fresh fish lunch at the famous Fisch Domke restaurant in Ahlbeck!
51 reasons to go to the seaside. In Germany!
  • You can eat as much seafood as you like. And you should!
  • Because if you haven’t had a fresh herring sandwich, you haven’t lived!
  • You can go fishing. And you don’t necessarily need a licence…
  • You can have one ice-cream or two..!
  • If you like honey, you can go on a Beekeepers Cycling Tour through farming villages often used by bees on the HoneyBee Island! Start in Korswandt, stay on the cycle path, and follow the signs leading to the Bienchen Fienchen where you get to meet two beekeepers and learn all about bee gardens, and how honey is made
Meet beekeepers and learn all about bees and how honey is made. 51 reasons to go to the seaside. In Germany!
Meet beekeepers and learn all about bees and how honey is made.
51 reasons to go to the seaside. In Germany!
The German seaside is extremely close to Poland! 51 reasons to go to the seaside. In Germany!
The German seaside is extremely close to Poland!
51 reasons to go to the seaside. In Germany!
  • We took the local seaside train and it wasn’t a big deal to travel to Poland. Many visitors were doing the same
  • Polish food!
  • Fantastic tankers of ice-cold beer
  • Have I already said beer? Lovely German beer!
  • You can charter a yacht and do your own sailing, or just rent a canoe between the many harbours and marinas of the Baltic Sea
  • You can take a cruise along the Baltic Sea
You're merely a yacht away from Denmark and the UK! 51 reasons to go to the seaside. In Germany!
You’re merely a yacht away from Denmark and the UK!
51 reasons to go to the seaside. In Germany!
  • You can sail to Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Latvia, Estonia, Russia, Poland, other parts of Germany, or to the UK!
  • You can visit many castles and historical buildings such as Fort Engelsburg. We weren’t able to explore it as they had a private function on, but we could climb some of the hills around it, and peep in!
  • The German seaside is ideal for water sports such as sailing, surfing, jet skiing, kite surfing, canoeing, and rafting. And it’s not particularly cold. Or hot. It’s Just about right
  • Nude beaches. Germans are enormously open-minded so the Freikörperkultur, or FKK movement, otherwise known as the Free Body Culture, was set up for everyone to participate in
Germans are enormously open-minded so nude beaches as Freikörperkultur, or FKK movement - Free Body Culture - was set up - 51 reasons to go to the seaside. In Germany! ©Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-1984-0828-411A / Settnik, Bernd / CC-BY-SA 3.0
Germans are enormously open-minded so nude beaches as Freikörperkultur, or FKK movement – Free Body Culture – was set up – 51 reasons to go to the seaside. In Germany!
©Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-1984-0828-411A / Settnik, Bernd / CC-BY-SA 3.0

TAKE ME THERE!

Take me to the Baltic Sea in Geeeeermany! 51 reasons to go to the seaside. In Germany! ©Usedom Tourismus GmbH
Take me to the Baltic Sea in Geeeeermany!
51 reasons to go to the seaside. In Germany! ©Usedom Tourismus GmbH

You can drive to the Baltic motorway where two bridges connect the Usedom Island to the mainland. If you’re flying in, the island is connected by air with nonstop flights from nine cities around Germany, Austria and Switzerland flying into the Heringsdorf regional airport whereby with shuttle buses will get you to your final destination within 30 minutes.

The best way to travel to the Baltic Sea seaside is by the island`s own train – the Usedomer Bäderbahn – which connects all the seaside resorts on the Usedom Island.

The best way to travel to the Baltic Sea seaside is by the Usedomer Bäderbahn train! ©Jens Scheider
The best way to travel to the Baltic Sea seaside is by the Usedomer Bäderbahn train!
©Jens Scheider

You can get to Usedom from Germany with a Mecklenburg-Vorpommern or a Mecklenburg Western-Pomerania ticket for a one day unlimited travel experience at just €23.00 (+ €4 for each person extra, max. 5 people) on any day of the week, when purchased at a DB ticket machine or online! You can also buy your ticket on the train. Valid for just one day from 09:00 – 03:00 and children or grandchildren up to 14, travel free of charge!

You can also travel anywhere in Germany for a day for as little as €40 (+ €4 for each person extra, max. 5 people) on a Saturday or Sunday with a Happy Weekend Ticket, when purchased online or from ticket vending machines. Unlimited train travel across Germany for just one day from 12:00 – 03:00 and children or grandchildren up to 14, travel free of charge!

51 reasons to go to the seaside. In Germany!
51 reasons to go to the seaside. In Germany!

That’s it for now.

Vielen Dank!

51 REASONS TO GO TO THE SEASIDE. IN GERMANY!

Magnificent groynes in Usedom! 51 reasons to go to the seaside. In Germany!
Magnificent groynes in Usedom! 51 reasons to go to the seaside. In Germany!

Even though I was invited on this trip as a guest of Usedom Tourismus GmbH,  all opinions and the wonderful time that we had on the German seaside island of Usedom, are my very own!

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

In a few weeks, I’ll be travelling to the TBEX ASIA travel conference in the Philippines, and revealing the extra Chinese-speaking country. It’s a new one!

In November, I’ll be travelling to Austria and starting a new job!

Save the Date!

October is going to be unbelievable!

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 October, forget it!

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!

51 reasons to go to the seaside. In Germany!
51 reasons to go to the seaside. In Germany!

Have you ever been to the seaside in Germany? Would you like a lick of my ice-cream, or a sip of my beer? Have your say!

See you in Berlin.

If you like this post or 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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11 reasons why you should visit Porto – the city of wine – and why it matters!

Sailing on the Douro River in Porto!
Sailing on the Douro River in Porto!

So last week I wrote all about why I thought Lisbon would be the next top European place to be!

And why?

Because it’s worth it!

And you know what?

After spending three (3) days in the Algarve, and three (3) days in Lisbon, is it any wonder that we wanted to continue travelling around Portugal?

So we did.

We went to the Northern part of Portugal. To a place called Porto.

Porto – Portoooooooogal!

Do you see what I did there?

 PORTO

Porto - Portugal.
Porto – Portugal.

Porto, otherwise known as Oporto, is the second-largest city in Portugal, after Lisbon.

Porto’s combined Celtic-Latin name is known as Portus Cale, and is believed to be the origin of the name “Portugal” meaning “the port”!

Located along the Douro river estuary in Northern Portugal, Porto is one of the oldest European cities in the world and its historical centre was classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1996!

Porto’s settlement dates to as far back as when it was an outpost of the Roman Empire, during the Medieval Ages, and to important artifacts found in the 8th century!

Portugal's most internationally famous export - port wine - named after the city of Porto itself!
Portugal’s most internationally famous export – port wine – named after the city of Porto itself!

And of course, one of Portugal’s most internationally famous exports is the port wine, named after the city of Porto itself!

Truth be told, until a year ago, I had never even heard of the city of Porto!

Yes, of course, I’ve had many a glass of port in my time.

Ahem!

But somehow, it didn’t click that the lip-smacking tipple of port, came from an actual place called Porto!

Until last year!

The BBC Travel Show!
The BBC Travel Show!

I was watching the BBC Travel Show when a feature came up on the city of Porto, and on how parts of it had been forgotten, with many of Porto’s oldest houses either abandoned, or at the risk of collapsing.

Porto was once an important global centre of trade and production for many a century, and then just like Bristol, business moved to the capital of the country, and that was that.

The locals moved away into the suburbs of Porto, the city lost it’s populated buzz, business followed suit, and what was left was the emptiness of a harbour, and the quiet husk of a neglected abandoned building.

I was intrigued!

And so, when I planned our Spain & Portugal Spring Break, I decided to add Porto to the core!

AND YET. I HAVEN’T A CLUE!

And yet. I haven't a clue!
And yet.
I haven’t a clue!
  1. Porto is a lovely city-break destination:

And yet.

Most people have never heard of it! Up until last year, even I had never heard of it!

  1. Porto is an important city steeped in history and river-side glamour:

And yet.

Porto seems to be dying. A little over 220,000 people live in Porto with 1.5 million living in the suburbs! As a result, 18.8% of residential buildings in Porto are empty, with many more abandoned and neglected.  A very untypical story.

Porto is a city of wine!
Porto is a city of wine!
  1. Porto is a city of wine:

And yet.

When most people think of Port, they don’t think of Portugal, but of England, and English companies such as Taylor, Fladgate & Yeatman!

  1. Shopping:

Who doesn’t like to buy a souvenir to take home? Portugal has a reputation of high quality, standard goods.

And yet.

Some shops were raking it in, but many shops and buildings were boarded up, becoming quite the eyesore, not only uncomfortable to see, but also with a hint of “is-it-safe-for-me-to-walk-through-this-street?” feel.

"is-it-safe-for-me-to-walk-through-this-street" in Porto?
“is-it-safe-for-me-to-walk-through-this-street” in Porto?
  1. Bookshops:

On almost every street, you’ll find some sort of bookshop.

And yet.

Outside of the pretty historical few, when was the last time you patronised a bookshop? A real bookshop. Of brick and mortar. Come to that, when was the last time that you even purchased, and paid for a book?

Exactly!

  1. Cats:

I love cats. In fact, we have two lovely twin cats at home and we love them dearly.

And yet.

There were cats literally everywhere! Under cars. On roofs. On walls. In doorways. Everywhere. I can’t imagine that they’re all domestic, looking as skinny and scrawny as they did. Certainly not the type of animal that you would think of stroking.

Or touching, come to that.

There were cats literally everywhere, in Porto!
There were cats literally everywhere, in Porto!
  1. Blue and white tiles:

Lovely, pretty mosaic tiles with pictures of historical or religious images, donned the walls of various buildings.

And yet.

You only have to turn around a corner or a side-street, and you would find a building that was derelict, covered with broken red brick, over-grown with weeds, strewn with old newspapers, bottles and rags, or half-built derelict buildings.

11 REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT PORTO AND WHY IT MATTERS!

The Douro River is famously important, in Porto!
The Douro River is famously important, in Porto!

As always, my number one piece of advice is not to shy away but to visit.

And here’s why!

  1. It’s a river-side city: Porto, like Lisbon, is a city that owes much to the sea. The D’Ouro – meaning gold – is where the river flows into the sea where you can have lunch or dinner on the river side, go fishing or simply sail on a gentle boat or cruise, while taking photographic selfies as you cascade along the rivers and shores of history!
  2. A weekend destination: Porto is a great destination for a short-term stay as most people are young, it’s cheap and with most tourists coming from Spain, from France, Brazil, or Portugal itself, it hasn’t yet attained a reputation of a lager-lout hub!
  3. The architecture: Wow! What amazing colours that you see splashed across the city. Where some cities look dull or have no personality, Porto has a colourful enthusiasm. In spades!
  4. Porto is utterly charming: It has narrow streets and a young, vibrant, cosmopolitan centre.
  5. The wine: Wine fans will want to be in the Douro wine region. We tried to go on a wine cellar tour but we couldn’t find it, and ended up buying a huge amount of port an hour before we had to leave for the airport! Luckily, on every corner and in every shop, a bottle of port can be found in a multitude of forms and sensations such as ruby, tawny, white, rosé, and vintage! Phew!!
  6. Little shops and galleries: A lot of the shops have retained their old style traditional appearance, so that visitors can imagine what things were like in times gone by. In fact, antique dealers and art galleries make a roaring trade!
  7. Antiquarian booksellers: On almost every street, you’ll find some sort of bookshop. The most famous one of all being the Livraria Lello neo-Gothic beauty which was built in 1906, and which many say was the inspiration of the Grand Staircase, or the Hogwarts Stairway in the Harry Potter series, as well as the Flourish and Blotts Diagon Alley bookshop! But be warned, the bookshop has become so over-run with over-excited tourists, that the shop has begun to charge €3.00 for entrance, which you are reimbursed, with purchases made in the bookshop!
  8. Porto is tiny: The city is even smaller than Lisbon with a population of slightly over 220,000 inhabitants, and charmingly walkable, cobbled stones, and hilly steeps!
  9. The train station: Wow! The Estação de São Bento or the São Bento Railway Station looks pretty sexy! Built between 1905-1916, it’s famously known for its tile (azulejo) panels that depict scenes and historical events concerning the History of Portugal. What with its alluring magnificent blue and white tile panels, that reach to up to 20,000, helpful staff, wide-open spaces, and the shell of a Benedictine monastery! It’s no wonder that other train stations just look dull and functional, in comparison!
  10. Historical buildings and artistic monuments: You know how I love a good old building. Well, Porto didn’t disappoint with artistic creations such as the 13th century St. Francis of Assisi Church, the Stock Exchange Palace, the beautiful Porto Cathedral, the Torre dos Clérigos, or the Tower of Clerics, leading to a breathtaking view of the city, the Museu Nacional Soares dos Reis or the Soares dos Reis National Museum and the Serralves Foundation – a cultural institution – making it Porto’s high point of art-deco architecture, and one of the most relevant museums on the contemporary European art circuit!
  11. Because Harry Potter: J. K. Rowling lived in Porto for a little while and so the influence and inspiration of Harry Potter world is right there. Under your nose! Think Salazar Slytherin – an acronym for the authoritarian Portuguese president – António de Oliveira Salazar! Think the Grand Staircase, or the Hogwarts Stairway  – an acronym for the upstairs cafe of the Livraria Lello Bokshop! Think Flourish and Blotts – which is said to be inspired by the Livraria Lello Bokshop too! Think the Hogwart school uniform gown – an acronym for the gowns related to the Praxe Académica worn by the students of Oporto University, and a tradition stemmed from a century ago. Having said that, we have academic gowns in the UK too, but perhaps no longer on a daily basis….!

TAKE ME THERE?

 A type of single carriage diesel railcar used by the Portuguese Railways - Comboios de Portugal.
A type of single carriage diesel railcar used by the Portuguese Railways – Comboios de Portugal.

Getting from Lisbon to Porto was enormously smooth.

This time we took the train. Again, I can’t remember the exact details, but the train the company was called Comboios de Portugal and we bought our ticket just 24 hours previously. It pays to do so a little earlier, as the cheaper tickets went pretty quickly! The cost was something like €25.00 for adults and 25% off for “youths!”

The Portuguese train was clean, smooth and efficient. Some trains are also “quiet” carriages, but it shouldn’t be an issue unless you’re planning to party your way along the aisle lol!

The journey from Lisbon to Porto was roughly 3 hours.

If you’re flying from the UK then Ryanair is virtual proof of the pudding. If you’re on the Continent, then Easyjet and any other airline residing in France, in Belgium or Switzerland, is probably your best bet. If you’re coming from the Americas, then you’d probably need to fly to Lisbon or any other European hub, first.

IS IT GOING TO BE CROWDED?

Is it going to be crowded in Porto?
Is it going to be crowded in Porto?

Nope!

With a population of just 220,000 people, you’ve got the place to yourself!

WHAT IS PORTO LIKE?

We were only there for three (3) days but Porto is on the one hand charmingly young, and on the other, historically old!

I DON’T SPEAK PORTUGUESE 

He doesn't speak Portuguese either! He's a scary water-spout gargoyle in Lisbon!
He doesn’t speak Portuguese either! He’s a scary water-spout gargoyle in Lisbon!

Ho! Ho!

Who does?

English is widely spoken, but there’s nothing wrong with learning a few basic words of Portuguese as a measure of respect!

AM I GOING TO LIVE IN A HUT?

Well no.

Things haven’t quite come to that!

I’M ON A BUDGET, BUT I’M LOOKING FOR A BIT MORE LUXURY AS I DON’T WANT TO ROUGH IT! WHAT SHOULD I DO?

The trendy art Gallery Hostel!
The trendy art Gallery Hostel!

Just like in Lisbon, we stayed at another rather adorable contemporary styled boutique hostel located in the trendy Art Quarter of Miguel Bombarda.

The Gallery Hostel characterizes the new concept of a luxury hostel, and is based in an impressive 1906 building house, blended with a modern décor, infusing neutral and earthy tones, with unique textures and furnishings.

Phew!

We chose this hostel not only because it was family-friendly and family-owned, but because it has it’s own art gallery!

An Art Gallery!

I mean.

An. Art. Gallery!

Yippee!

I like the little luxuries in life, just as much as the next girl!
I like the little luxuries in life, just as much as the next girl!

I’m not going to lie.

I like my luxuries, pampering, and exclusive service.

And let me tell you, when I’m in Asia or Eastern Europe, that is exactly what I go for.

And why?

Simply because I can!

Sometimes, I go for Art Design Hotels and sometimes, I go for a Quirky Bed & Breakfast.

And sometimes, I target luxury boutique hostels.

Just like the Gallery Hostel.

See you next week!

Porto in the sunlight!
Porto in the sunlight!

This article is part-sponsored by the lovely boutique Gallery Hostel, but all opinions, and the delightful glasses of port that we sipped whilst on the riverside quay, are my very own!

Next week, I’ll be focusing on food!

From June 2nd – June 3rd, I’ll be at the Berlin Fashion Film Festival.

From June 28th – July 2nd, I’ll be at Berlin Fashion Week.

Save the Date!

June is going to be fabulous!

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 June, you’re going to miss out on everything!

Watch this space!

11 reasons why you should visit Porto - the city of wine - and why it matters!
11 reasons why you should visit Porto – the city of wine – and why it matters!

Have you ever been to Porto? What’s your tipple of choice – Wine, Whisky, Sherry or Port?

See you in Berlin.

If you like this post or 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’re looking for a cheap holiday. The Polish Baltic Sea is pretty alright!

On the beach pation of the Hotel Neptun, Leba.
On the beach patio of the Hotel Neptun, Leba.

Yesterday, “The Tall Young Gentleman” and I returned from Poland and we had a fabulous and rather relaxing time.

However, the fact remains that when I say that I’m going to Poland, people laugh. The fact remains that travellers and tourists see a million reasons why Poland isn’t on the radar. Yes, it’s true that transport can be a bit of a problem if you’re not familiar with the language, and so I explained how easy it is to use the train and why once you get there, Oh-my-god-Polish-food-is-going-to-kill-you!

I’m here to let you know that if you’re looking for a cheap holiday then the Polish Baltic Sea is indeed, pretty alright! Let’s start with the basics:

WHY GO TO THE POLISH BALTIC SEA?

Fish at the Polish Baltic Sea.
Fish at the Polish Baltic Sea.

As you know, I am The British Berliner therefore, logic demands that I live in Berlin. That being the case, it’s enormously easy to travel anywhere in Europe and one of the countries nearby, is Poland. In fact, the German-Polish border is less than two hours away. Yes, just two hours, so if you’re coming to Berlin in the summer (and you should), why not add a couple of days to Poland while you are here, and cross off that East European bucket-list!

HOW DO I GET THERE?

It’s really quite simple. If you’re flying, international airports in Poland are in Warszawa (Warsaw), Kraków, Wrocław, and Poznań. If you’re taking the international train, they generally connect to Warsaw. However, if you’re coming from Berlin like I did, then Szczecin (Stettin) on the German-Polish border is your best bet.

Book your hotel here!

The Deutsche Bahn train going to Szczecin Glowny/Stettin.
The Deutsche Bahn train going to Szczecin Glowny/Stettin.

There are discount prices from the German Railway Service known as Deutsche Bahn or DB. You can get a one-way single ticket from Berlin to Stettin for €10.00. Reduced tickets for €7.50. If you want to make a day of it, a day ticket would be €20.00 and €15.00 respectively. You could use it for every local transport in Stettin and the ticket is valid until 03:00 the next day! For more information about how to use the trains in Poland check here.

We paid €72.60 or $100.80 on the outward journey for a seaside trip between two countries, and we paid a rather wonderful €41.50 or $57.45 on the way home. This is how we did it:

In the corridor of the Polish Train.
In the corridor of the Polish Train.

€4.00 or $5.20 from Leba to Lebork. €20.00 or $27.00 from Lebork to Szczecin (Stettin), and €17.50 or $24.20 from Szczecin (Stettin) to Berlin.

IS IT GOING TO BE CROWDED?

OMG. You have got to be joking. There was hardly anyone there! I’m used to going to Leba in June or July and for the first time, we decided to go in April. In fact, apart from a German family and a young American couple, we were the only tourists in town!

Nobody coming or going except for us on the Polish Baltic Sea!
Nobody coming or going except for us on the Polish Baltic Sea!

It took us a bit by surprise at first but it was rather nice, and everyone got to know us.

And wave!

It was enormously quiet except for the church bells, and more of the church bells!! Leba is a small town so when we went to the “centrum” it took all of 10 minutes. If you’re looking for a bit of peace and quiet, then Leba in the Spring is an excellent choice. If you’re looking for a bit more “action” then the summer season is probably better.

Book your hotel here!

WHAT IS THE BEACH LIKE?

All alone on the Polish Baltic Sea!
All alone on the Polish Baltic Sea!

The beach is lovely and white. As much as I love my new adopted country, I prefer the Baltic Sea in Poland rather than in Germany. It’s quieter, it’s less crowded, and it’s totally undeveloped! “The Tall Young Gentleman” and I went on a 7 km walk on the beach and apart from an old couple, and a middle-aged couple with a grandmother and a baby, THERE WAS NOBODY ON THE BEACH. We were completely and totally alone.

On our own.

It was marvellous.

We ran around. We made shapes in the sand. We jumped and screamed. Then we got really cold because even though the sun was shining, we were grossly under-dressed as the wind was bitingly sharp and there was no cover. At one point, I got a little worried as we seemed to be walking for miles.

We were, and there were no “land dividers” so that we could go inland and it can be dangerous, as inland is the Slowinski National Park forest, and huge moving sand dunes!

Book your hotel here!

I DONT SPEAK POLISH.

Most people only speak Polish but there will always be someone around who can help.

I’m not going to lie. Most people only speak Polish but there will always be someone around who can help.  If you can speak English, German or Russian. You’re in!

When we tried to buy our train ticket to Malbork, the sales assistant didn’t speak English or German and neither did most people around us, except for one lady who spoke pretty good English. Not only did she translate things for us but I found myself needing 30 zlotys more than I actually had, as that particular train station in Lebork didn’t take EC or credit cards. This wonderful lady who didn’t know me from Adam or Eve, actually paid the extra 30 zlotys that I needed.

Thank you so much Ms. Iwona Wolocznik!

AM I GOING TO LIVE IN A HUT?

Witches and cake in Leba, Poland!
Witches and cake in Leba, Poland!

In the past, we have always been to the same family hotel. We used to stay with a local family that owned 3 houses, restaurants and the gingerbread house that quite aptly sold Paczki, which is a type of doughnut-like sticky bun and Sernik or cheesecake. This time around, I decided to use the services of booking.com and found this wonderful little family run bed and breakfast/pension/hotel.

This lovely place is called Villa Akacja.

Villa Akacja, Leba. In Poland.
Villa Akacja, Leba. In Poland.

The Villa was lovely. I didn’t know what to expect and was surprised at what we received. We had:

Our bedroom at the Villa Akacja, Leba.
Our bedroom at the Villa Akacja, Leba.

An en-suite double room with a quaint dining table and two chairs. A flat screen TV. A fridge. A hot water boiler/kettle so that you could make your own tea or coffee in your room, free fast WiFi and OMG underfloor-heating in the bathroom!

All this for €22.00 per night!

The dining table at the Villa Akacja, Leba.
The dining table at the Villa Akacja, Leba.

We also had a delicious home-made breakfast that varied daily from pancakes, omelette, different types of bread, salads, yoghurt, juice and slices of cake. At €5.00 or $7.00 per day, they were virtually giving it away!

We weren’t sure if we wanted to have breakfast included but we were so glad that we chose that option. You can also choose not to have an inclusive breakfast as there is also a fully equipped guest kitchen, so that you can make your own meals, which we utilised one night when we had pot-noodles for dinner!

Book your hotel here!

Breakfast at the Villa Akacja, Leba.
Breakfast at the Villa Akacja, Leba.

I’M ON A BUDGET. WHAT SHOULD I DO?

No Problem. Pretty much any Eastern European country is quite cheap and is never going to break the bank. If you’re on a budget, you could do worse. Beer is under €1.00 or $1.00. Meals including a starter are about €6.00 or $8.00 and that was for both of us. Not including drinks!

If you’re making your own meals there are a few local supermarkets around and they are very helpful. We should probably have asked them about the milk situation as I ended up buying a carton of yoghurt instead. It made for quite an interesting cup of hot chocolate I can tell you!

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

Yep! There is a historical castle on the beach in Leba called the Hotel Neptun. This castle was built in 1903 and retaining it’s style and elegance of times gone by, has become a charming 100-year-old castle-like hotel.

Hotel Neptun: A castle in Leba.
Hotel Neptun: A castle in Leba.

It’s actually on the beach and in the summer has it’s own private beach section for guests as well as a heated swimming pool. The dining room has a sort of English sea-side style with a fire-place, candles and a huge chess-set in the very simple lounge area.

I had previously contacted the hotel for a reservation and they very generously offered a complimentary dinner (excluding drinks) for “The Tall Young Gentleman” and myself.

The dining room of the Hotel Neptun in Leba.
The dining room of the Hotel Neptun in Leba.

We had been there a few times before, for yummy cake, but let me tell you that our dinner was fantastic. It’s not easy satisfying a demanding, fussy, 12-year old boy, but the Hotel Neptun did pretty well. We had:

A lovely salad of ham, peppers, white cheese and figs, and a traditional Żurek Polish sour soup with horseradish, combined with egg and white sausage, for our starter course.

A fantastic salad. With figs!
A fantastic salad. With figs!

We both had guinea fowl breast with French beans and pureed carrots in red-current sauce,  for our main course.

Guinea fowl breast with French beans and pureed carrots in red-current sauce. Yum!
Guinea fowl breast with French beans and pureed carrots in red-current sauce. Yum!

For dessert we had, Crêpes Suzette – pancakes flambéd in orange liqueur, served with vanilla ice–cream and Szarlotka – warm apple pie with vanilla ice– cream covered in anglaise.

Crêpes Suzette – in orange liqueur served with vanilla ice–cream and fruit.
Crêpes Suzette – in orange liqueur served with vanilla ice–cream and fruit.

The meal was delicious and the service was attentive. Drinks were extra and a glass of wine and a soft drink was €5.00 or $7.00.

Thank you Hotel Neptun!

Szarlotka – warm apple pie with vanilla ice– cream covered in anglaise sauce.
Szarlotka – warm apple pie with vanilla ice– cream covered in anglaise sauce.

 WHAT SHOULD I DO WHEN I GET TO LEBA?

There is plenty to do in the high/full season. You can:

  • Go to the Slowinski National Park. The National Park is a world protected area of lakes, bogs, meadows, woods and forests.
  • Check out the Sand Dunes. These sand dunes are unique in Europe as they split and move. It’s great. In the summer, the sand is so plentiful that you can surf on the sand and the amount of middle-aged men who think they can do so, is plentiful, but you have to be careful though because it hurts!
  • Go to Malbork. The town of Malbork has the largest Gothic castle in the world and is 4 hours away from Leba, but definitely worth going to!
  • Rent a bike, motorbike, or a city-kart. Check thoroughly as on this trip, both the chain and seat of our city-kart broke, and fell off!
  • Go fishing or on a pirate boat ride.
  • Go horse-riding or play tennis.
  • Go to the local cinema. It’s in Polish but very entertaining.
  • Bars, restaurants and discos are aplenty.
  • A fair-ground and a mini-circus are also in town during “the season.”
Victoria on the city-kart in Leba - Poland, before the chain broke and the seat fell off!
Victoria on the city-kart in Leba – Poland, before the chain broke and the seat fell off!

ANYTHING ELSE?

Learn a few words of Polish such as:

  • Dzień dobry: Good Day!
  • Cześć: Hello and Goodbye!
  • Tak: Yes
  • Nie: No!
  • Proszę: You’re welcome or Please!
  • Dziękuję: Thank You!

Most importantly, have fun!

Some of the local Polish girls that we met on the Polish train to Malbork.
Some of the local Polish girls that we met on the Polish train to Malbork.

This article isn’t sponsored and even though we received a simply splendid complimentary meal, absolutely all opinions are my very own!

For the months of May and June, I’ll be writing about summer time in Berlin, and what to do when you get here.

Book your hotel here!

If you’re looking for a cheap holiday. The Polish Baltic Sea is pretty alright!

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!

"The Tall Young Gentleman" and myself, on a sunny day in Leba - Poland!
“The Tall Young Gentleman” and myself, on a sunny day in Leba – Poland!

Would you consider going to the Baltic Sea in Poland? Have you stayed in a castle before? Do you like fish!! Let me know in the comments below!

 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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