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

What to wear to Egypt in April

Imagine mounting a camel, legs spread apart on either side, riding through Giza Plateau in a little blue dress and walking through a crowded souk (Khan Al Khalili) with young women fully covered staring at you and whispering amongst themselves.

When you think of Middle Eastern countries you probably think of desert and heat, and you would be correct.  So when I decided to finally visit a country I’ve always wanted to go, I wondered what to wear.  Since I live in Qatar now, I figured like most middle eastern countries it had a majority Muslim population.  This is correct but what people may not know is that there are also many Christians that reside there.   You are not required to cover your head or your entire body in Egypt, but it is respectful to be modest.

I traveled mid April for Spring break, April 11-15.  The weather was hot during this time of the year but mostly not oppressive in Cairo.   Luxor, however, was very hot especially on the west side where the Valley of the Kings is located.

Here are my suggestions of what to pack to wear for 5 days in Egypt:

Long, thin, black, maxi skirt (versatile and stylish, great for the plane ride)

2-3 pairs of neutral, light colored linen or 100% cotton pants (cool and comfortable)

3 cami’s or tank tops, black, white, tan (cool, small and easy to pack)

2 scarf shawls that you can wrap around your upper body (thin, airy, modest)

1 pretty cotton dress (lightweight and stylish)

Rugged Open toe sandals (safe and comfortable for all the walking)

1 white cotton button down shirt (versatile and modest)

1 pair of comfy sneakers

optional- a few pretty scarves for style and headwrapping

Besides toiletries, a pair of pajamas and undergarments, swim suit, cash, and electronics, this is all I packed.  Everything fit in one Victoria’s secret duffle bag.  I was comfortable the whole trip.  The pants worked out best because there was a lot of flies bothering my son, but I didn’t feel them.

Screen Shot 2017-04-23 at 11.58.42 AMI don’t like the way Birkenstocks look but they are of good quality and are very comfortable. Open toe sandals are better so that you can get the sand easily out of your shoes, and your feet won’t sweat with the heat.  Here is a pictures of the Birkenstocks I wore.

I took a pair of khaki colored linen pants and a pair of white and blue ombre linen pants and one pair of lyocell blue slacks.  I paired these with my tank tops and threw my shawl scarves on top, that I purchased at Bershka.

A white button down is a staple for traveling.  It can be worn with any bottoms, alone as a dress, as a cover-up or over a tank top like I wore mine.

Screen Shot 2017-04-23 at 12.43.48 PMI saved my cotton dress for my tours in Cairo, which wasn’t the best idea.  Imagine mounting a camel, legs spread apart on either side, riding through Giza Plateau in a little blue dress and walking through a crowded souk (Khan Al Khalili) with young women fully covered staring at you and whispering amongst themselves.  I held my head high but inside I was saying, ugh, probably should have worn the pants today.  But it made for great pictures anyway.  I’m kissing the Sphinx in my dress.

 

The point is to travel light, especially if you’re going to travel between cities as I did. Pack cool material items that are ok to be worn wrinkled. Choose light or neutral colors and items that you can mix and match together.  Pack cover ups to respect the tradition of modesty.  Remember comfort over flashiness when packing for Egypt.

More good things to know

Things I’ve discovered along the way.

Get the Metrash App for your phone upon arrival.  After you get your RP go to OOREDOO and register your phone with your RP.  After a few days, try to register on the Metrash app. From what I know so far, because I am still waiting for my phone registration to go through, there are several things you use Metrash for: request an exit Permit for your sponsored family members, find out if you have traffic fines, etc… Check a later post for more details on this. Also find out if the phone companies offer discounts for your company.

Update: I moved from mobile service with OOREDOO to Vodafone because they offered discounts to QF employees.

Update: You need Metrash, download it immediately.

Purchase the Entertainer app. You can also purchase the book but the app is cheaper and more convenient.  It’s $65.00 USD.  It is more beneficial to purchase this closer to the beginning of the year since it is good for the year.  It includes coupons for many things. I used two of the bogo dinner deals in one weekend.  It’s well worth it.  I made my money back in two days. I only wish I had began using it sooner. Update: I used it to book a two night stay in Dubai.  BOGO at the JW Marriott Marquis, a savings of over $200.00.  I am working on a BOGO deal for a room in the Maldives.

I went to the QDC (Qatar Distribution Center) for the first time on Wednesday around 4pm. It wasn’t crowded at all.  It is where you can purchase liquor and pork.  Here is the process (but remember it may be different tomorrow).   You have to request a letter from your employer (employee relations).  The letter basically gives permission for you to purchase liquor and states that they are your employer, and that you are not Muslim and how much you make.  Once you get your letter, you take it along with your RP to Qatar Distribution Company where they will send you upstairs.  Once upstairs they will take your picture and issue you a permit to purchase.  You have to give them $1,000 QAR deposit made through your debit/credit card. You can get your deposit back once you bring your ID back.  Darryl and I both were issued permits.  Since I am his sponsor, we only had to pay one deposit.  At the QDC, I purchased 1 bottle of Martini and Rossi, 6 Coronas, 1 bottle of Jack Daniels Whiskey for a friend, Malibu rum, 2 bottles of Pinot Noir and 1 bottle of Pinot Grigio for a friend, 2 bottles of sweet red wine, and 1 bottle of pink moscato for me, 2 packages of pork bacon for the boys. The total was QAR 736.60 which equals $203 USD.  This after I received a 20% discount for purchasing 6 bottles of wine.  There is a lot of variety.  Not too bad ‘EY’.

Update as of Feb 2017: Now you pay a certain amount per year for your license, no more 1,000 QAR deposit.

Get involved in groups.  Doha Foodies is a good group on FB.  I work with the administrator and she is fantastic.  In this group are many suggestions of where to eat in Doha.  Another good one is Buying and Selling Doha.  Join Qatar Living online.  It is a very informative website and you can find vehicles for sale on this site.

Download Waze for directions.  You will get lost.  Download Uber to take you around. Download Talabat for food delivery services and Zomato for reviews.  Get a good conversion app, for obvious reasons.

Purchase shoes with thick soles.  I brought some flats here with me, but the soles have worn out.  I bought some Birkenstocks recently.  I caught a good BOGO1/2 price but they also offer discounts for QF employees.

You may have to shop at several food markets to get everything you want.  Géant is located across from the Villagio mall in the Hyatt shopping plaza and is pretty good.  Also the Megamart near C ring road, behind the KFC is also really good for finding American brands and vegan choices.  I’ve also heard about a place called Spinneys and Monoprix but I haven’t been to either yet.  Al Meera is close to me, so I go there for quick visits.  Lulu’s is big and sells veggie crumbles.  Also they don’t sell cilantro as cilantro; it is sold as fresh Coriander.