Why Germany Should be on Your List

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” -George Santayana

This summer I visited three cities in Germany. I went there for two purposes, see a concert and visit a friend. I’ll admit Germany was never on my list and I don’t know anyone whose list it is on however, after visiting I wish I had gone sooner. If Germany is not on your list, here is eight reasons why it should be…

History

It is no secret that Germany is rich in history. For many of us World War II and the Holocaust is the most memorable. But, I also remember watching when the Berlin wall came down on television in 1989. I was 12 years old and we discussed it the next day in school.

Here are just a few of the historical sights in the three cities that I visited- Koln also better known as Cologne, Hannover and Berlin.

Koln- El De Haus- Former headquarters of the Gestapo. Prisoners used to be held in the basement and people on the streets could hear their screams
Berlin- Checkpoint Charlie- Former border crossing
Berlin’s only surviving historical city gate, this site came to symbolise Berlin’s Cold War division into East and West – and, since the fall of the Wall, a reunified Germany. Brandenburg Gate
Berlin- Memorial of the Murdered Jews of Europe
Berlin- Reichstag building- seat of Parliament
Berlin Wall Memorial
A piece of the wall with a strong message

If the historical symbols around Germany don’t move you, nothing will.

Another piece of the wall that touched me
Berliner Fernsehturm

Architecture

Many European styles are reflected in German buildings, medieval, roman, gothic, etc… There doesn’t seem to be one distinctive style. A lot of the East/West history is reflected in the architecture and there is something different around every corner which makes it’s buildings very interesting to look upon.

Koln Cathedral
House that looks like leggos
The New City Hall- Koln
Old Town Hall, Hannover Germany
The view from Hotel Pestana Berlin- Accommodations covered in moss green, very eco friendly

Cleanliness

Germany is a very clean country. I witnessed this in each of the three cities: Koln, Hannover and Berlin. I don’t know about the rest of Germany but I was pretty impressed by the cleanliness of the streets, public transportation and I need to mention this, self-cleaning public toilets.

Parks, Gardens and Romance

Germany is also very pretty. I found the parks to be very romantic and well-maintained. Speaking of Romance, love is locked-in all over Germany. And to top it all, Koln is where Eau de Cologne originated.

Koln- Farina 1709 Fragrance Museum, where cologne was invented
This Bridge is in Maschsee Park in Hannover, people used to put love locks on the railings but they have been removed.
But don’t worry you can still hang locks in Koln- Hohenzollern Bridge- Lots of Love locks
Us after locking in our love in Koln. This is the third place we have locked in around the world.
Berlin- Herrenhauser Garten
Posing like the statues but I got photobombed
More of Herrenhauser
Herrenhauser Garten Palace
Hannover- Maschsee park
Hannover Maschsee park

Public Transportation

I must mention the transportation system in Germany. We took both buses and trains and both were efficient, timely, easy to navigate and clean. They have sections for strollers and fold down seats for the elderly. They have family transportation passes as well. I don’t know how that works fully but as long as my husband and I were with my friend, whom is a resident, we were able to ride the buses and local trains under her pass. Their transportation system uses an honor system but you should buy your tickets and have them available in case they ask for it. We were not asked to show our tickets but once, and that was on the regional trains.

Beers, Bars, Festivals and Concerts

Germans love their beer and it is a major part of the culture. Germany is the top producer of beer in Europe and follows an old 500+ year old Beer Purity Law -only 4 ingredients can be used to make German beer. You can drink it in public too. I mean it is home to Oktoberfest. Beer gardens are big in Germany and your beer glass depends on the beer type you order. *Word of advice- when visiting a beer garden and there are live bands, don’t talk loudly over the music, you will get shooshed.

Festivals pop up all over Germany and you must try the food at the festivals. (We will get into the food in a minute) Germany is also a great place to attend a concert. I was hesitant about attending a concert in Germany because of things I had heard like -they don’t like to speak English, they don’t like black people. Let me tell you, don’t listen to what people say. You must experience things on your own. I would attend another concert in Germany in a heartbeat. I went to see Pink here. Seeing Pink in concert was one of my dreams, so I took a chance in attending a concert in a foreign country despite neigh-sayers. My husband and I had a blast and we were in good company. We felt very safe and comfortable and even walked back to our hotel afterwards (late at night) which was about a 30 min walk but we weren’t alone because many people walked. The crowd was lively and friendly. Pink puts on the best show!!

No words necessary
One of the reasons I went to Germany in the first place
Festival in Hannover
Oldest Biergarten in Berlin. The day we went it was rented out by a party.
Another Beer Garden in Berlin

Birkenstocks

Did you know that Birkenstocks are made in Germany. I did not, so when my friend took me to a store and birkenstocks were half the going price, I couldn’t help but purchase. And of course the variety is better and you don’t have to worry about if they are genuine because you are getting them from the source.

Food

I saved the best for last. I was in Vegan Heaven. If you are Vegan, you will fall in love with Germany. The food was my favorite part of my stay in Germany. I found great vegan food in each of the three cities: Koln, Hannover and Berlin! I’m not just talking about vegan junk food either. This country had the most variety of vegan food than any other country I have traveled to so far. If for no other reason, this is reason enough to add Germany to your list of countries to visit.

My husband who is not vegan also enjoyed the vegan food. Outside of the vegan food, he was not impressed with the Currywurst, Weisswurst or apple struedel, which are three things Germany is supposed to be known for. But this is because he expected too much. We both enjoyed the Bavarian pretzels, mustard and beer though.

Favorite Vegan Restaurant in Koln, Germany
Inside Sattgrun
Look at all that delicious Vegan food- no animals allowed
Died and gone to vegan Heaven! I usually do not like my food to touch but I’ll make an exception here.
A whole donut shop just for vegans!
Vegan Thai Berlin
More Vegan Thai
Best vegan junk food Berlin Mall
Plant Heaven
YUMMY!

I really enjoyed Germany. I can’t say enough about the vegan scene. Visiting my friend, Reem, her husband and baby girl Rhea, who opened their home to us for two nights in Hannover was a bonus. Meeting up with another friend, Alyssa, in Berlin was fun too. Seeing Pink in concert in Cologne was a dream come true. Even though Germany was never on my list of places to visit, there was one specific moment when I knew Germany would forever hold a special place in my heart. That moment was when Darryl and I got off the airplane in Germany and while walking through the airport we stopped at the supermarket and saw the most Alpro products we had ever seen in our lives. The fact that an airport supermarket had vegan products sealed the deal for me. I’m excited to experience some other places in this world that may not be on my list because you never know ’til you go!

Supermarket – Vegan section !
U.S. Embassy is located close to the Memorial of the Murdered Jews in Berlin
Great time with my friend Alyssa
The other reason I went to Germany- to visit my friend Reem

Questions you may have

Where did we stay and how was the stay? In Koln, we stayed at Hotel Lyskirchen. The room was small but the location was great. We also stayed in the Ameron Koln Hotel Regent on the day of the Pink concert. This hotel was nice and within a 30 minute walk to the RheinEnergie Stadion. It’s restaurant is pricey but the drinks are stiff. In Hannover- We stayed with my friend. In Berlin, we stayed at the Pestana Berlin Tiegarten. This hotel is very nice too but a little far from the sites.

How did we get between the cities? We flew into Koln via Rome. We took a train from Kol’n to Hannover- about a 3 hour ride. We took a train from Hannover to Berlin- about 1.5 hours. We took a plane from Berlin back to Qatar- about 6 hours. As mentioned the public transportation is great in Germany. You can take Ubers and regular taxis within the city as well.

What was my favorite vegan restaurant? In Koln- Sattgrun. Hands down the best vegan restaurant I ate at in Germany. I ate there both days I was in Koln. Others- Hommage (for breakfast). In Hannover- We didn’t really eat out here but I enjoyed shopping for vegan foods in the market. In Berlin- There were many but if I have to narrow it down to one, I would say: Vedang Plant Burger in Berlin Mall. They even had a Mary Jane CBD burger. Others- Dolores California Gourmet Burritos.

How did you find the people? My friend who resides in Germany says she has experienced some racism being from middle-eastern descent and the German people are very prideful, especially the older folk. She told me about an incident where she tried to help this older German woman who had fallen and the women hit her in response. Outside of people providing a service, we didn’t have much interaction with other people. We found the people of Germany to be pleasant, not the most friendliest but not unkind either. They were helpful when asked questions and as African Americans we didn’t experience any mistreatment from anyone. Most people spoke English too and if they didn’t they asked someone who did.

I would love to hear from my readers. What place have you visited that surprised you? What place should I add to my list that may surprise me- has to have good vegan food-?

At Herrenhauser Garten

Visiting Italy: A Dream Come True, Part 5: When in Rome…

There is so much to see and do in Rome it is difficult to know where to start. We spent 10 days in Rome, at the end of June into the first few days of July. We took a train from Santa Lucia Venice Train Station to Rome Termini. The ride was about 4.5 hours. The weather was good outside of the unprecedented heat wave that swept through Italy.

Accommodation

We stayed in Trastevere, which is in the 13th Rione of Rome, on Villa della Scala. It’s located on the West Bank of the Tiber river. We had a 3 bedroom Airbnb to fit our party of 5. The apartment was not the best but the location was everything especially with Donkey Punch- a bar and restaurant, right below us. Trastevere is definitely the place to stay for young adults. It is also a good starting point for seeing the sights. Most of the sights are within an hour walking distance from Trastevere. And even though an hour seems far to be walking, there is much to see along the way to the sights. There is no such thing as boring walks in Rome. Trastevere is filled with party spots, bars, restaurants, and boutique stores. You’re bound to find something different here. During the day, it’s quiet but it comes alive at night.

Sights

We opted to do our own guided tours since we had so much time in Rome anyway. We used Google Maps to plan our trips and map out proximity of each sight that we wanted to see. Sights that were close to each other we clumped together.

On the first day of our walking tour, we visited the Pantheon and 3 squares: Campo De Fiori- a marketplace square, Piazza Navona- a large square with 3 beautiful fountains including the Fountain of Neptune and a large Egyptian obelisk and Piazza Del Popolo- an urban square with the Obelisco Flaminio (a large obelisk) and 2 fountains- many of the tours meet in this square. All three of these squares were on our way to Villa Borghese-a landscape garden with museums and attractions and a killer view of Rome. If you can climb the stairs and there are many of them, you will not be disappointed. After visiting the park, we walked to the Spanish Steps and admired the interesting architecture. But while we sat there taking pictures, I wondered why everyone visited these steps anyway. They are just steps. However, I am happy that we visited when we did because a few weeks later there was a ban placed on people sitting on the Steps due to the damage they were incurring. At the foot of the steps is the Fountain of the Old Boat and some boutique stores and designer shops. A 10 minute walk later, we arrived at the Trevi Fountain. It just kind of appeared out of no where. It’s like it sits right in the middle of everything. It is everything you’ve heard, absolutely beautiful. It’s huge!! For me, it was a highlight of Rome indeed. We couldn’t really enjoy it because it was so crowded. As soon as one person got up from taking their pictures another person sat down. We decided to visit the fountain again, but this time we went at night. We went at midnight in fact, sat a while and had a drink. I would highly recommend this. It was cooler and fewer people. Seeing it all lit up was even more stunning. There was plenty of room to sit and marvel. A wedding proposal happened there that night too. And of course Darryl and I tossed some coins into the fountain together and smooched. A 30 minute walk from the Fountain will put you at the Colosseum. We observed from the outside and this was the only place that I wished we had booked a tour to see the inside. Our 5 hour walking tour on this day cost us nothing except for a cone of sorbet.

On our next day of touring, we headed to the Holy See, which was on the opposite side of the River Tiber than the previously mentioned sights. We saw St. Peters Basilica and had a glimpse of the garden within Vatican City. The Vatican is where we saw the most tourist. And if I could rewind time I would do this visit a whole lot differently. We arrived at the Vatican around 9:00 a.m. and headed for the entrance. What we got instead was a line curling all the way around the corner. It was very hot but we were not about to leave Rome having missed the most holy place of Christian worship. So we stood in line, on one of the hottest days in Europe for almost 3 hours and we were not alone. We paid when we entered the Vatican and purchased the audioguide. The Museum was beyond crowded, too crowded to even enjoy the experience actually. I just kept thinking, this has to be a violation of a fire code. The entire time was spent shuffling through the crowds like we were in a herd. Museum attendants directed traffic. Tour groups and individuals were squashed together. It was not a pleasant experience, but an experience nonetheless. Finally we made it to the Sistine Chapel. Biblical events come to life in paintings all over this room and especially the ceiling. Historical figures painted in their likeness. It is very awe-inspiring, that one man, Michelangelo could create something so magnificent in a short period of 4 years. A work of art that he considered far inferior to his other art forms. Seeing this was worth the time spend in line in the heat. However if you can find and afford a private tour during off hours DO IT!! This way you can enjoy the entire experience and marvel at all of the artwork on display and a lot of the works we missed. [You aren’t allowed to take pictures of the Sistine Chapel but I managed to sneak a few].

My son attends Temple University in Philadelphia and they have a campus in Rome so we went there as well. The campus is very small and if you weren’t looking for it, you wouldn’t even know it was there. We also tried to visit the Museum of Criminology but it is permanently closed.

Outside of Temple Rome campus
The Temple Alumni and student

Other Things to Do in Rome

City touring of historical sights is great and all but I was overdue for some fun in the sun. A 30 min walk to the S. Pietro train station and a short hour long train ride took us to the outskirts of Rome to the Santa Marinella Beach. It’s a nice beach in a small town surrounded by neighborhood shops and restaurants. The water was cool and the weather was perfect. Santa Marinella Beach is a delightful escape from the hustle and bustle of Rome.

On Sunday, we visited Mercato di Porta Portese, a large flea market, where you can shop for some interesting finds. We also participated in a vegan cooking class. You can find the details by clicking here. The food was great but the limoncello was the best we had in Rome.

On some nights in Trastevere along the Tiber River there are festivals where you can play games, make purchases, eat, hang out or like us- people watch.

The only guided tour we took in Rome was out of Rome to Pompeii. It was a long bus ride but I highly recommend others to take a day trip someplace else while staying in Rome. There are many great places that can be visited with a day trip from Rome. Visiting Pompeii and listening to it’s history was a great experiences. After touring the ruins, we climbed Mt. Vesuvius. This was quite interesting since another volcano erupted close by the following day. It was a tedious hike, but provided a wonderful view of the other island in the distance, if you can endure the trek up the steep incline and rocky road. I just kept thinking of the movie Pompeii. City Wonders was our tour guide company.

Eating Vegan

Much of the food we consumed in Rome, we prepared ourselves after visits to the neighborhood markets: Carrefour and Pam. But of course I searched out some vegan restaurants. I really enjoyed eating at Flower Burger and you know it’s good vegan food if the non-vegans enjoy it as well. We tried out the spicy chickpea, cheesy chickpea, and the flower burger. All were fantastic. Another vegan restaurant I tried was Ecru- fully organic, vegan and raw. A little too raw for my taste and expensive. You can also find a few ice-cream shops that serve vegan ice cream, not just sorbet.

Ten days in Rome was enough time to see the sights and really enjoy all that Rome has to offer. I would like to revisit again but next time I’d like to stay on the outskirts to enjoy more of the countryside of Rome. But for a first timer, when in Rome you must: take in the sights, walk around to appreciate the architecture, try the gelato and definitely take a day trip to one of the other famous cities. There is so much to see and do in Rome, on a visit one could never get bored.