• Police preemptively blocking off Taksim

  • Protesters marching up Iskitlal

  • View of the Bosphorous from our roof terrace

  • Sultanhamet Park and the Blue Mosque

  • View from a window in the Hagia Sophia

  • The Cisterns

  • Inside the Blue Mosque

  • Our view from lunch in Anadolu Kavagi on the Asian side

  • Dolphins came to visit us during lunch

Istanbul, Quick & Dirty

We really didn’t love Istanbul.  It could be because we were all traveled out.  Had enough of sight seeing.  Enough of not being home. It could be because we stayed in an Airbnb that required a 20 minute walk along a busy, ugly street just to get to the trams that would then take us to our destination.  It could be because it was huge and crowded.  It’s probably because we’re just not really into “developing” cities or Muslim countries (see Morocco).  Istanbul has a lot of history and I guess it’s someplace everyone should see once in their life. But really, only once.

We had the added benefit of being there towards the tail end of the Taksim Square/Gezi Park protests.  In our first few hours we saw hundreds of police in riot gear in staging areas near our apartment.  There wasn’t a chant to be heard when we got to Taksim, but the police had lined up and blocked off the square anyway.  We found out why a few minutes later as we made our walk down Iskitlal, the main pedestrian shopping street in Beyoglu.  It was actually amazing to be in the middle of the march and just see people holding up their phones to record.  Phones and flags waving away. 

We did the usual tourist stuff.  Saw the mosques, the cisterns, and Topkapi Palace. We took a ferry up the Bosphorous and had lunch on the Asian side, right where the strait opens into the Black Sea. It was an interesting contrast to all of the European cities we visited, it just wasn’t our cup of tea (or sludge coffee in this case).

what the right to assemble looks like #popo #protests #taksim #direngeziparki #istanbul #turkey #travel #dontworrymomimsafe (at Taksim Gezi Parkı #DirenGeziParkı)

my last Frankfurter Schnitzel mit Grüne Soße #iheartgreensauces #aufwiedersehen #frankfurt #germany #foodporn #thebest 😢 (at Mosebach)

  • The Marble Church. So light and airy.

  • View of the clock tower from City Hall Garden

  • Bride on a boat in the port channel.

  • Copenhagen Sand Sculpture Festival. A perk of DIY touring.

  • The Little Mermaid

  • Copenhagen parking lot.

  • Nyhavn, the most adorable and lively canal.

  • Tivoli Gardens, in the daylight :(

  • An alley of amusement.

Copenhagen on Two Wheels

We made all the right moves while in Copenhagen.  The first was staying at an Airbnb.  It was nicer, more comfortable, and much cheaper than staying at a hotel.  Plus the location could not have been better.  The second was doing Bike the City, a self-guided GPS tour that comes with a full day’s bike rental.  In Copenhagen you’d be a fool not to bike around.  The trouble with biking on your own is that you don’t really know where you’re going, what you’re looking at, or what’s the most efficient way to see the sights.  The trouble with a tour is the lack of freedom (and other people if you’re like us).  Bike the City was the perfect solution.

The bike has a little box on the front where you plug in the GPS device.  There are two routes you can choose from (with more to come in the future), a classic tour that hits all the main historical sights and points of interest and an insider’s tour of Nørrebrø which is a hip, ethnic neighborhood.  With only one full day in the city, we opted for the classics tour.   The GPS guides you to 13 different sights along a 13km route. As soon as you reach each point, the device prompts you to play a short audio clip that gives you details of what you’re looking at.  It’s great because you get the quick and dirty about the place but not any more (tour guides always talk way more about a location than is really necessary) and you’re free to do the tour at your own pace.  You can stop for lunch, take detours.  Along the route we chanced upon the Copenhagen Sand Sculpture Festival and took it upon ourselves to add a really cool stop to our tour.  It’s the best of both worlds. I wish we could’ve done this in every city.  We only have one regret: not going to Tivoli Gardens at night.

For our short few hours on Sunday we hit up Tivoli Gardens, the amusement park slash “pleasure garden” that opened in 1853.  It’s the second oldest amusement park in the world.  It was super cute. As soon as I saw that the whole place was just covered in giant lightbulbs I was so upset I wasn’t seeing it all lit up at night.  That was the only mistake we made.  Copenhagen was really all around awesome.  

The Real Hamsterdam

Watchers of the HBO series The Wire know all about Hamsterdam, but for those of you who still haven’t watched it (seriously, get on that), allow me to explain.  In order to reduce the crime rate, the violence and general awfulness brought into neighborhoods by the drug trade, the cops made a deal with the drug dealers.  If they kept all their business confined to a certain area away from schools and residences, the cops would allow them to do their business free from harassment.  Essentially they would look the other way.  They explained this deal to the drug gangs as being like Amsterdam.  Of course, because they were all uneducated hood rats, they had never really heard of Amsterdam before so the word spread with a slight mispronunciation.  Thus, Hamsterdam was born.  We found the real Hamsterdam in Copenhagen, minus the junkies and murder and stuff from The Wire.

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Copenhagen in One Word: Smørrebrød

Our two lunches in Copenhagen handily land in the top meals we’ve had in Europe.  These Danish open-faced sandwiches they call smørrebrød are amazing.  Expertly pickled herring, smoked fish, and other meats are  draped over a slice of dense rye bread and topped with pickles, onions, or capers depending on the base. There’s also nothing wrong with the tradition of tossing back some aquavit with them.

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Forget Germany, The Czechs Win on Beer

It happened to be the Czech Beer Festival while we were in Prague.  We didn’t go because reviewers suggested it wasn’t a great time and the only size of beer you can get is a liter, which is great if you’re a bottomless beer pit or if you don’t have any interest in tasting as many beers as possible.  We obviously wanted to taste as much as we can, so we decided to visit a few of the city’s pivovars and tankovnas  (breweries and tank pubs) to experience Czech beer the way the Czechs do.

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This is hilarious.  All the outrage from mostly just old people and conservatives about the bike sharing program in NY is just ridiculous.  Of course I have no doubt that the program has not been implemented in the most ideal way and that cyclists pay absolutely no attention to the rules of the road, but the cops just need to start enforcing the laws and shit will be fine.  Frankfurt (and most of Europe) is a very bike friendly city and you get fined big time for disobeying traffic laws, so the cyclists pose less of a threat than NYC cabs do.  

Frankfurt’s bike share program is awesome (and I think it’s the same program in all German cities, run by the DB Bahn train system).  You don’t even need to drop them off or pick them up from a designated station.  There’s an app that tells you where the closest free bikes are.  You can leave them anywhere, using the bike’s self locking mechanism.  In the app you select the bike you want, it tells you the code to unlock the bike and then it charges you for the time until you lock the bike up again.  It’s fantastic.  A subway ride costs me €2.60 and 15min on the bike that gets me to the same point that I would’ve riden the subway to costs €1.28, plus I got to be outside in the sun and got some exercise and didn’t have to wait for the train.  It’s just the greatest thing ever and it’s so funny to me that there is so much opposition to it in NY.     

  • Velvet Revolution Memorial

  • The Dancing House a.k.a. Fred & Ginger by Frank Gehry & Vlado Milunić

  • Man Hanging Out by David Černý

  • Some awesome stained glass in St. Vitus Cathedral

  • Old Jewish Cemetery

  • A street in New Town

  • It stopped raining for an evening!

  • Enjoying the lack of rain and a view of the Charles Bridge

Prague in Pictures

Beautiful Even in the Rain

We’ve been lucky thus far with the weather on our travel weekends.  Of course the first few months were freezing, but Amsterdam was the only place where we had to endure a bit of precipitation mid-exploration.  And that was only snow.  It was sort of charming.  It rained in a few other cities, but only in the morning before we stepped out or in the evening after we had turned in.  It was cloudy and gray in some cities, but never have we had to suffer through umbrella sightseeing.  Until now.

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It’s Been a While

I know, I’ve been negligent in my blogging.  We’ve both hit complete bottom.  No motivation whatsoever to do anything, not even blog.  Things were starting to look up mid-April.  The sun came out, it got warm.  Frankfurt was starting to seem like not such a drab place. Then it was May, the month of long holiday weekends.  It was going to be awesome. 

We kicked it off with a trip to Berlin, seeing friends from home, which was great.  A much needed injection of home that we figured would get us through the last 2 months.  The following week we had 4 wonderful days in Budapest.  But then the weather turned back to shit and the weekdays in Frankfurt started to suck again.  Our third weekend in May was supposed to be 3 days of wine tasting in the Mosel Valley.  We did one day, it was nice, but the forecast for the remaining days was crappy and really, how much riesling does one have to drink?  We cut our trip short, drove back to Frankfurt and spent Sunday and Monday sitting on our awful couch (we love couch time more than anything and it just kills us that our couch here is horrible) We also didn’t have any hot water because in Germany you can’t get anything fixed on Sunday or holidays (NYers would not stand for this).  Our shower happens to be awesome and is the most relaxing thing to come home to after traveling, so the fact that we had no hot water was really just another twist of the knife.  

Then, for our final weekend in May, we were going to spend Saturday afternoon through Sunday in the Black Forest.  There’s a little town called Baiersbronn that is home to 3 Michelin starred restaurants.  We were going to do dinner at one and lunch at another.  Shockingly, the forecast for the weekend was cold rain. We decided it wasn’t worth spending all the money if we weren’t really going to enjoy the Black Forest.  So we made a last minute decision to stay in Frankfurt.

Which brings us to this past weekend (actually 4 days) in Prague, which was lovely, and I will write about it eventually.  But really, all we want to do is go home.  We’re 5 weeks and a day away from being back in NY (Josh is only counting the 3 1/2 weeks until we leave Frankfurt), and it feels like it’s going to go so slowly.  At least the sun has returned and it’s starting to feel like June a bit.  Hopefully that will keep our spirits up for the next 3 1/2 weeks.

Prague stuff to come. 

tobiaswac:

I love tacos. It’s one of these things that is so simple in its purest form: Corn tortilla, meat, cilantro, onions, salsa. But, this basic idea of a taco then spawns a near endless array of different varieties and flavors: Carne Asada or Al Pastor? Or how about Chorizo? What about a fish taco? Maybe Baja Style? Salsa roja or salsa verde? And don’t even get me started on white boy tacos with ground beef. We could go on for days. Point is, tacos are awesome. Finally tacos receive the respect they deserve with the beautifully illustrated La Tacopedia. Currently available only in Spanish, we should all take this as an incentive to improve our hablo español. I think we owe that much to the noble taco.

oh god I miss tacos

(via roadsandkingdoms)

  • Lángos from the food court at Central Market Hall

  • Some túró cake from Jégbüfé

  • House-made black and white pudding with braised onions at pesti disznó

  • Crispy pork shank for 2 with house-made pickles, mashed potatoes and braised cabbage at pesti disznó

  • Coconut, Dark Chocolate, Hazelnut, and Banana at Gelarto Rosa

  • Pistachio, Salted Caramel Butter, Chocolate Chili, and Lavender White Chocolate from Gelarto Rosa

  • Molnar's Kürtõskalacs

Eating the Rest of Budapest

Over our remaining two days in Budapest we sampled as much of the city’s delicacies as our stomachs could fit.  

With a visit to the Central Market Hall and its crowded food court, we tried some goulash (nothing I need to eat again) and lángos, a disc of fried dough topped with garlic juice, sour cream, cold grated cheese and any other toppings you want.  I still prefer pizza, but I’d eat it before or after a long night of drinking.   

We hit up a traditional communist era bakery, Jégbüfé, and sampled some cakes made with the ubiquitous túró (cheese curd).

Serendipitously, while we were there, the New York Times published an article on modern restaurants in Budapest, which called our attention to pesti disznó.  It was described as the Hungarian version of Momofuku, so of course we had to check it out for lunch and eat an absurd amount of pork.

We also had to make a requisite gelato stop.  A quick search introduced us to Gelarto Rosa, where they artfully scoop unique flavors into the shape of a rose. 

Finally, as a treat to take home, we bought the most famous of Budapest’s pastries, kürtõskalacs, also called chimney cakes.  These are tall, hollow cakes made of a yeast dough (very similar to cinnamon buns), that are wrapped around a narrow barrel and cooked rotisserie style.  They are brushed with butter and rolled in a variety of toppings like cinnamon sugar, coconut, chocolate shavings, and honey.

Celebrating 6 Months of Marriage (Just an Excuse to Spend Money on a Meal)

While doing dining research for Budapest, the one restaurant that kept popping up as the hands-down favorite was Onyx, one of the two restaurants in the city with a Michelin star.  It offers an a la carte menu, but the prevailing wisdom suggested that one of the two tasting menus was the way to go.  Yet even with the favorable exchange rate, this place was no cheap meal, so I was glad to realize that we’d be in the city on our 6 month anniversary (not something anybody usually celebrates), allowing me to rationalize the expenditure.  Celebration or not, this meal was totally worth it.

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  • Szechenyi Thermal Baths, outdoor pools

  • Outdoor activity pool at the thermal baths

  • One of the relaxing pools at the thermal baths

  • Hanging out in the sun

  • Pool chess!

  • Bride in Heroes' Square

  • wide angle shot of Heroes' Square

  • tasting some Hungarian rosé at the Rosalia Festival

Relaxing Around Budapest

Even with twice as much time as we usually have in a city, our first day in Budapest was packed tight with sightseeing.  We were a bit lazier on our second day, also our 6 month anniversary.  We didn’t rush out of bed, had a late breakfast, and spent the morning shopping for shoes (it’s a thing in Budapest).  

We took our time getting to the most famous baths in Budapest, the Szechenyi Thermal Baths in City Park.  After hanging around for a couple of hours we walked through the park to Heroes’ Square, then took the metro back to the hotel to get ready for the evening.  Before dinner we made a stop at the Rosalia Festival to sample some Hungarian rosé and listen to some live jazz.  It was a lovely day that could only be topped by an amazing meal.