Food in Istanbul- what to eat and definitely not miss!

Having tried and loved Turkish food all over the world, we were really looking forward to eating the food in Turkey- and it did not disappoint!

From lavish breakfast spreads and super-satisfying street food, to wholesome iftar meals, finger-licking kebabs and desserts worthy of sultans, Turkish food itself is worth the flight to Istanbul!

Breakfast

The spread is very similar to that we saw in Greece, and as tasty! Fresh juicy fruits, home-made cakes, cheeses and olives; its a great way to begin the day!

Turkish breakfast of champions!

Super-satisfying street food

One could easily spend the whole day, eating their way across the city!

Islak “wet” burger

No visit to Taksim square is complete without one (or actually two) of these. Comprising the bare bones of a burger- a meat patty and two pieces of bread soaked in a tomato-based special sauce, they may sound soggy and unappealing, but are delicious and addictive!

Fish sandwich

The Marmara sea is a rich source of fresh fish, and when fried, they make tasty sandwiches!

Fresh fried fish sandwiches

Gozleme

To an Indian, this looked like a thin stuffed paratha. It is made (often right in front of you) by adding stuffings of your choice (spinach, cheese, aubergine, minced meat, sausage) onto a super thin circular piece of dough, which is folded on itself, like a calzone, and cooked on a piping hot iron pan. It is finger-licking good!

Sausage and cheese gozleme

Boregi

More stuffed bread, but this time, unlike the filo dough rolls or the gozleme described above, this had more of a bread taste and consistency. Eaten with yogurt and sauce.

Spinach boregi

Pide

The Turkish pizza, could serve as a snack or a meal, and is delicious!

Mince meat and chicken-cheese pide

Kebabs

They are everywhere, can cost anything from 10-100 Turkish lira (2.50 – 25 USD) and are a must-eat in Turkey! Some of the kebabs we tried and loved include:

Adana kebab

Meat marinated with spices and cooked on a grill- how can you go wrong!

Beyti kebab

A spicy kebab, wrapped in a thin tortilla and grilled, served with yogurt and salad, we could eat them all day (and night)!

Testi kebab

This was new for us- an earthen pot was brought to the table on a sizzling hot iron tray. The pot was then broken open with a hammer and the steaming contents transferred to a fresh plate to be eaten!

Kofte

Marinated, spicy meatballs! They could also be eaten in a sandwich, which was also delicious.

Kofte

Iftar menu

We happened to be in Turkey during the month of Ramadan so were lucky to experience iftar (breaking of the day-long fast at sunset) with the locals. The set menu in most restaurants consisted of a soup, salad, freshly baked bread and kebabs. Wholesome and tasty!

Dessert

Turkish desserts are delightful and leave you satiated and for anyone with a sweet tooth, it is dessert-heaven 🙂

Baklava

Ubiquitous on the streets of Istanbul, we tried the home of the baklava Karaköy Güllüoğlu and would definitely recommend it!

Halka and similar fried sweets

Fried dough, soaked in sugar syrup and whats not to love!

Kunefe and Gullac

Specialties of the Ramadan season, they were also delicious and very different from anything we’ve tried before.

Special tip: Get the Kunefe with ice cream! It is double the delight 🙂

Kunefe and Gullac

Drink

Turkish coffee and tea definitely cannot be missed!

Kahva

Strong, black and served with a glass of water, Turkish coffee really wakes you up!

Kahva

Çay

Turkish tea (pronounced chai) is consumed at all times of the day, and by the end of the week we were hooked too! Served with two lumps of sugar, it is drunk as often as the mood strikes..

Ayran

Ayran is a salty, buttermilk drink and complemented kebabs and wet burgers perfectly! It is one of the most common drinks for the locals – just look around and you’ll see it.

Wine

Cappadocia is a wine growing region and makes very good reds!

Cappadocia red wine

Beer

In keeping with our tradition of drinking local beer, we tried a couple of the beers- one refreshing lager and a tasty stout.

A foodie’s paradise, we can’t wait for the next trip to Turkey (or more realistic visit to the neighborhood Turkish store)!

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2 days in Istanbul: Top 5 things to do

Having flown through Istanbul on our way to many other places, we figured it was time to make Istanbul itself the final destination and explore the fascinating city.

As always, we had about 48 hours to make the most of the city. Here are the top 5 things we would recommend should be included in every itinerary:

1. Explore the neighborhood of Sultanahmet (old Istanbul), visit the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia

Sultanahmet is the old town of Istanbul, where the famous Blue Mosque (known as Sultanahmet mosque to the locals) and Hagia Sophia are located and both are definitely worth a visit.

The Hagia Sophia was originally built to be a church, which was then converted into a mosque with the coming of the Ottomans and now is preserved as a museum. It has beautiful architecture and is a fascinating example of juxtaposition of the two religions. Recommend taking the audio tour or going in with a guide, the stories make the visit a lot more interesting.

Hagia Sophia at night

 

The Blue mosque is probably one of the prettiest mosques we’ve ever seen, from both, the outside and inside. Since it was Ramadan, the area around the blue mosque, also considered sacred and special, was the place to be to break the day-long fast at sunset.

Note: Since the blue mosque is still used for prayers, they are fairly strict about clothing. Men need to be in pants and women need to have long sleeves and must cover their heads. They have a booth that lends scarves, long skirts and gowns to those who need them, free of charge.

Blue mosque grounds at sunset

 

The impressive blue mosque

 

Blue mosque at night, advising against wasting time or money

 

2. Climb Galata tower and get great Istanbul city views

The walk from Sultanahmet to the Galata tower offers great views and involves crossing the Galata bridge which is also an interesting experience. Once at the Galata tower, dont get put off by the line to get in. It normally moves quickly and there is an elevator to get to the top, so no need to climb hundreds of steps. At the top, the 360 degree view is absolutely worth it!

Galata tower at sunset

 

3. Walk along Istiklal street and visit Taksim square (new Istanbul)

From the Galata tower, the long Istiklal street runs all the way to Taksim square. It feels like a completely different world, from that in Sultanahmet. Flanked by new, large malls, shops and restaurants, it is constantly thronged with foot traffic.

The new mosque under construction at Taksim square

4. Smoke a nargile

A great way to unwind after a long day of sightseeing is by smoking one of the ubiquitously available nargile (hookah).

Beer and Nargile- the good life!

5. Eat the local street food and drink Çay (pronounced chai) at every possible opportunity

As with all our travels, food was a very important part of the trip and food in Istanbul should definitely feature predominantly on any itinerary. For more details about what and where to eat in Istanbul, see the separate post.

Overall, Istanbul is a great city- the people are very nice, the food is delicious.. we’ll be back!

Hikes near Zurich: Chli Aubrig

Spring and summer are perfect for hiking around Switzerland. Chli Aubrig is a good, medium difficulty hike 45 min from Zurich. This set of posts will highlight hikes that are within 1-2 hours of Zurich.

Hike details

Approx Time: 4 hours (3 hours 15 min hiking, 45 min break)

Approx Distance: 10 km

Height Gain: 630 m (2066 ft)

Route: Sattelegg – Chli Aubrig – Wildegg – Nussen – Unter Alten – Sattelegg

Sattelegg trailhead

Sattelegg is a 45 min drive from Zurich. Located near Einsiedeln it makes a convenient starting point for the hike. There is a restaurant at the trail head for refreshments before or after the hike. There is ample parking as well to leave your car while you hike.

The trail starts at Sattelegg with a steep ascent from 1190 m (3903 ft) towards Chli Aubrig  1642 m (5386 ft). Very quickly into the hike the views are rewarding- snow capped mountains and a later point, Sihlsee.

Climb to Chli Aubrig

Our first goal was to reach the summit of Chli Aubrig as part of the training to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro later this year. The ascent is steep but paths are clearly marked and it is classified as a T2 hike (according to hikr.org)

Descend to Unter Alten

After reaching the Chli Aubrig summit we descended back down and continued towards Nussen (approx 15 min from Wildegg). Don’t be surprised to encounter goats grazing along the trail! After Nussen starts the descent towards Unter Alten. It is a steep descent and shows you how much you climbed up. The path is through wooded forests and fairly muddy. We stopped at Unter Alten for a lunch break with views of Gross Aubrig.

Back to the trail head at Sattelegg

The final hour of hiking from Unter Alten to Sattelegg is fairly flat and makes for a nice stroll if the weather is good.

2 days in Lisbon, Portugal: explore and eat!

Lisbon or as it is affectionately and officially called, Lisboa, has become one of our favorite cities in Europe. We talk a lot about ‘feeling the vibe’ or ‘not feeling the vibe’ of a city and for Lisboa we felt the vibe, oh yes!

We got to Lisboa early in the morning after our overnight bus right from Algeciras (Spanish port near Gibraltar) via Sevilla (Spain). We got dropped at the Oriente bus station and took an Uber to our hostel, Travellers House.If you like hostels and don’t mind sharing the room with random people, we recommend Travellers House. It has a very cool, chic feel and the people running it are passionate locals who organize daily activities for the inhabitants. They are willing, and more than happy, to help you plan your own trips. We got some great recommendations from them!

We spent 2 days in Lisbon (no surprises there) and can’t wait to go back! Here are the top 5 things to do in and around Lisbon.

 

 

1. Walk the hilly streets of Lisbon

Taking a walking tour is a great way to get a feel for Lisbon and all its neighborhoods.  It helps when you go exploring on your own later to have a basic orientation of the city. And if it involves drinking Ginjinha on the way, ever better!

 

Walking the hilly streets of Lisbon

Every neighbourhood in Lisbon is quite unique, especially the Alfama district which retains it’s old and rustic look and feel

 

2. Visit Belem

Belem is a short train or taxi ride from downtown Lisbon. See the Palace, tower, explorers’ monument (Padrão dos Descobrimentos) and eat pastels!

Palace in Belem, Lisbon

One of the surprises in Lisbon was seeing the Golden Gate Bridge and Christ the Redeemer equivalents! We lived in the San Francisco bay area for many years and on seeing the bridge we felt at home quite quickly. Apparently, the 25 de Abril Bridge is built by the same company that built the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and is named to commemorate the Carnation Revolution (more about the revolution below)

Golden Gate bridge and Chris the Redeemer in Lisbon?!
The famous Tower of Belem
Pastel de Nata at Pasteis de Belem

3. Day trip to Sintra & the Westernmost point of Europe (Cabo de Roca)

A 45 minute train ride away, Sintra is a magical palace with fairytale castles and totally worth a visit. Cabo de Roca is windy and cold, but beautiful and its quite cool to be at the Westernmost point of Europe.

The colorful Sintra Palace
Cabo de Roca- westernmost point in Europe

4. Eat a pastel de nata- for breakfast, lunch and dinner

They’re delicious and ubiquitous! With coffee, they are just perfect.

Manteigaria in downtown Lisbon has awesome pastel de nata

5. Watch/experience a Fado

While if it is performed in a large impersonal setting, a Fado might feel like any other musical performance, in a language you may not understand. But, in an intimate setting, where you can feel the vibrations from the guitars in the planks of the floor below your feet and almost can taste the singer’s tears, it is a completely different experience. The singers normally have powerful, beautiful voices and it is a pleasure to be part of the journey that they take their listeners on.

 

And while you do all of the above, eat some (or a lot of) seafood and drink the cheap, but delicious, local wines!

2 days in Paris: Top 10 things to do

One trip is never enough to explore all of Paris, but if you have a time-crunch (like most of us do) these are the 10 must-dos in 48 hours. In no specific order:

1. Montmartre and Sacré-Cœur 

Wander through the narrow alleys in Montmartre, admire the work of the street artists and finally ascend to the top and visit the basilica.

Busy and colourful streets at Montmartre
Famous steps at Sacre Cours
Sacre Cours
Great views from Montmartre

2. Louvre

Two days are barely enough to explore the entire museum, but even if you can only spare a morning, this museum cannot be missed. With only a few hours, carefully choose the areas of the museum that are most interesting to you, otherwise you can get caught up somewhere else, and before you know it, it’ll be time to leave.

Entrance to the Louvre
The museum area seen from inside the Louvre
Mona Lisa!

3. Eiffel Tower

Opinions of the Eiffel tour seem to vary, some people love it while others think it is a monstrosity. When in Paris though, it is impossible to miss it, you can see the tower from almost everywhere in the city. We really enjoyed our visit, including the ascent to the top and would recommend visiting it, by day and night!

Eiffel tower- the monstrosity of steel
Fantastic views of the Seine from the Eiffel tower
Views from the Eiffel Tower
Eiffel tower by night!
Eiffel tower by night!

4. Notre dame

Another iconic structure in Paris, this Gothic cathedral is awe inspiring! Take the time to admire the work on the doors, the gargoyles all around the structure and the magnificent insides.

Beautiful entrance to Notre Dame
Beautiful entrance to Notre Dame
Gargoyles at Notre Dame

5. Arc de Triomphe and Champs-Élysées, Paris

While there is a similar looking arc in most French cities, this one is special and warrants a visit. Also getting to it could mean walking down the Champs-Élysées, giving you a chance to ogle at all the fancy designer stores in the city of fashion!

6. Moulin Rouge

Made more famous after the musical and film, it is still a Paris landmark. Not just the windmill theater, in which, if you are lucky enough, you should try and watch a show; but also the metro station outside! A replica of the station can be found in Montreal, Canada!

Moulin Rouge http://parisjourney.com/the-moulin-rouge-paris-before-your-visit

Since this is a list of must-dos, and sampling the local food and drink feature prominently on our list of things to do, here are some food recommendations!

7. Desserts at a local patisserie/boulangerie in Paris

While French desserts look beautiful, they might seem small and insubstantial to the untrained eye (like us). However, once eaten, they are just the right size to leave you satisfied and yet craving for a little more!

Dessert at Laduree, Paris

8. Eat Escargot

Not for the squeamish, but in butter and garlic, escargot with basil pesto, is actually quite tasty!

Escargot

9. Drink French wine

When in France, how can you not! Read about the famous Burgogne wines here

Just one of the many delicious wines we tasted in Paris

10. Walk along the Seine and ice cream at Île Saint-Louis

Following the lead of a local friend, we found that this was a really fun experience. Berthillon is quite famous and though the line was long, it was totally worth it!

The famous Berthillon ice cream shop
Walk along the Seine

If you have had enough of the big city, take a day trip to Versailles. Read more about it here

Versailles!

And at the end of it all, come back, with a little more time, to soak in more of the vibe in the city that styles itself as a global center for art, fashion, gastronomy and culture!

2 days in Prague, Czech Republic 

With nothing about the Czech Republic in our trusty ‘Western Europe’ Lonely Planet, Prague was one of the cities we were least prepared for and it took us pleasantly by surprise!

A few things to keep in mind before the trip

1. Currency: The Czech Repubic has its own currency, the Czech koruna. In May 2017, 24CZK = 1CHF, 23.5CZK = 1USD, 26CZK = 1EUR. A lot of transactions are cash only, so it is good to have some local money. Places do take Euros, but often offer a poor exchange rate, so avoid it as far as possible. The worst rate is at the border to buy the Vignette to enter the country- if possible definitely try to buy it in CZK!

2. Language: Czech sounded like, and probably is, a fairly difficult language. Most people do speak at least some English and German, so it isn’t too difficult to get around with no knowledge of the language. They do appreciate the effort though- ahoj (pronounced ahoy) is hello and goodbye, dike (pronounced dee-kay) is the slang for thank you, dobrý den (pronounced doe-bree-den) is good day, and prosím (pronounced pro-seem) is please.

3. Western/Central/Eastern Europe: I think instinctively one would assume that the Czech Republic is a part of Eastern Europe- it is not; Vienna, which is firmly a part of Western Europe is east of Prague! The locals say they are part of Central Europe, and definitely do not like to be called Eastern Europe.

Top things to do in Prague

With that out of the way, Prague is a fun and relaxed city, with cheap food, very cheap and really tasty beer and lots of interesting places to see! With 48 hours in the city, some of the key sights and things to do would include:

Old town square and the atomic clock

Steeped in history, with an interesting story at every corner, the old town square is a great place to admire the architecture (the Old Town Hall, the Church of Our Lady before Týn, the Jan Hus memorial and St. Nicholas church), people-watch and gawk at the atomic clock as it strikes the hour. The food from the stalls smells delectable, but costs at least twice of what it does elsewhere!

 

Stroll along Charles Bridge

One of the iconic and famous bridges of Prague, it is probably one of the busiest places in the city. Walking across can be quite a challenge, but the statues along the bridge, the vendors with their handmade trinkets and the views along the Vltava river, make it well worth the effort.

Visit Prague castle

It is the largest coherent castle complex in the world, with an area of almost 70,000 m², believed to be founded in around 880 by Prince Bořivoj of the Premyslid Dynasty. It feels like a tiny city in itself, and is worth the 3-4 hours it takes to walk around and soak it all in. No tickets are required to enter the castle grounds and gardens, so you can walk around the entire site for free, however individual sights- like the St. Vitus cathedral, Golden lane, etc, within the complex require their own tickets. It is supposedly the most visited site in Prague, so if the Charles bridge was a challenge, this is a lot busier! Tickets can be bought online and looking at the lengths of the queues, that would probably be recommended. We admired most of the structures from outside and watched the 12 noon changing of the guard- which is the bigger ceremony held once a day. Since the castle is perched up on a hill, the views of Prague from it are quite spectacular too!

Fun fact – the castle looks great lit up in the night when viewed from the city, interestingly, a large number of these lights were sponsored by the Rolling Stones! Apparently, when the band asked why the castle was dark during their visit to post war Czech Republic, they were informed by the then President that the country had no funds for frivolities. Ashamed but moved, the band sponsored the lights that stand even today!

Visit the Jewish neighborhood

Most of the Jewish neighborhoods of Prague were spared during World War II and a lot of the synagogues and buildings and in perfect condition. Horrifyingly, this was because when Hilter visited the city during the war, he fell in love with it and decided to preserve it, to be used after the war as a museum of the ‘extinct race’! The Spanish synagogue is ornate and stands at the site of probably the oldest synagogue in Prague. Confiscated properties of Czech Jewish communities were stored in the synagogue during World War II, which was handed over to Jewish Museum after the war and is now open to the public. The old-new synagogue, while small, is the oldest surviving medieval synagogue of twin-nave design and is the oldest active synagogue in Europe. Pinkas synagogue commemorates about 78,000 Czech Jewish victims of the Shoah (holocaust) and has their names on the synagogue’s inner wall. It also houses an exhibition of pictures drawn by children in the concentration camp in Theresienstadt, taught by the renowned artist Friedl Dicker-Brandeis.

The clock in Hebrew above the old-new synagogue

 

Spanish synagogue
The Kafka statue in the garden outside the Spanish synagogue

 

Visit the second statue of Kafka

Located in the new town, getting to this statue is like traveling through a time machine, from the past to today! Located behind the modern, bustling Quadrio Shopping center, the work by David Černý’s complements his other statue entitled Metalmorphosis, installed in North Carolina.


Fred and Ginger (the Dancing House)

This is a non-traditional, modern construction is a stark contrast to the ornate Gothic buildings in old town. Worth looking at just as an oddity!

Lennon wall

Once a normal wall, since the 1980s it has been filled with John Lennon-inspired graffiti and pieces of lyrics from Beatles’ songs. In a state of constant metamorphosis (there was a can of spray paint sitting at the wall inviting wannabe artists), with a musician playing Beatles songs, it lends a very Bohemian feel to the area!

 

As always, food and drink was a big part of our trip. Czech food was quite delicious and cheap, and the beer was really great! Widely available and actually cheaper than water, it complemented every meal, was ubiquitous, a great way to beat the heat and so tasty! Fun fact – The Czechs are the largest consumers of beer in the world, with an average of 142.4 – 156.9 liters (based on which study you read) per person per year! Well ahead of any other contender!

So naturally we had to do our part too, consuming an average of 1 liter per head per day 🙂 Read about it here.

Read about our experiments with and experiences of Czech food here.

Sechseläuten: Spring festival in Zürich, Switzerland

Sechseläuten is a traditional spring holiday in Zürich, one of the first unique Zürich traditions that we got to witness!

Tradition of Sechseläuten and the Böögg

The tradition of Sechseläuten, which directly translates to the six o’clock ringing of the bells, dates back to 1525. The light faded early in winter causing workers to end their days by 5pm. With longer days in summer, it was decided that work should continue until 6pm. The ringing of the second largest bell in the Grossmünster at 6pm, signaled the beginning of spring and the new working hours, and the switch to summer time was the cause for celebrations.

The Böögg, or bogeyman, is said to have ancient (read pre-christian) roots. In Zürich, the Böögg was designed in the form of a snowman, symbolizing winter, and burnt on the spring equinox. Each quarter burnt its own Böögg, independent of the Sechseläuten celebrations. In 1902 the two merged into one tradition and the Böögg became the protagonist of Sechseläuten celebrations.

Modern day Sechseläuten celebrations

Today, Sechseläuten is celebrated on the third Monday of April (unless it is Easter Monday, then it is celebrated on the 4th Monday- they have a rule for everything!). It begins with a parade of the guilds, comprising up to 350 horse riders and almost 3000 guildsmen. They are all dressed in medieval costume, and ends with the burning of the Böögg, filled with firecrackers, at 6pm precisely. Zürich’s inhabitants claim that the Böögg serves to predict the weather in the coming summer, faster the Böögg’s head explodes, the finer the summer will be. The one we watched took 9 min 56 sec – here’s hoping for a really good summer in 2017!

March of the guilds, Sechseläuten
March of the guilds, Sechseläuten

The largest outdoor public BBQ

Remains of the Boogg

Having read this, we arrived armed with toasting forks, sausages and sides, and beer (of course)! From the cordoned off streets, the parade and the big blaze, it wasn’t clear at all how the BBQ would happen. Fortunately most people had picnic bags, so there was hope. What followed was very interesting. Once the parade was completely over, the area around the huge bonfire was covered with damp sand and the barricades were lifted, opening it up to us all. All you needed to do was find a spot, dig a shallow ditch in the sand, bring a shovel-full of hot embers, and voila- the BBQ pit was ready! Fortunately there were enough people with shovels to let us borrow one, and soon we had our own little fire pit, tiny, and cute (we’d like to believe), that it even drew an ‘awww’ from a passerby..!

Note to self: next time bring foil, bacon wrapped sausages and s’mores!

The largest open air BBQ
Cervelas and beer!
The embers from the Boogg burning
BBQ smiles

Satiated, and grateful for the balmy evening, it was a great way to begin a fun-filled, warm summer!

Sechseläutenplatz right by the Opera house in Zurich

Interestingly, it reminded us of the fires lit during the festival of Holi. While the stories behind the festival are different, the underlying motives seem similar. Both symbolize the end of winter and are an excuse to come out and celebrate!

2 days in Madrid, Spain

Madrid is the capital of Spain. It is known for it’s New Years celebrations. 48 hours is never enough in any city, but here’s what to see in Madrid, the city that “really knows how to live”!

Top places to visit

Puerta del Sol and Plaza Mayor

Located at the heart of Madrid, Puerta del Sol is the best place to start exploring Madrid. It is very popular with tourists and locals alike and a good spot to people-watch over coffee and cake.

The Tio Pete billboard proudly still stands, while the brand no longer exists!
The bear and the strawberry tree- the symbol of Madrid

Sol is also the location for the famous new years eve celebrations. Read more about NYE in Madrid here.

New year’s eve celebrations at Puerta del Sol, Madrid

Plaza Mayor lies to the West of Sol was originally the market place for the town with farmers, butchers selling their local produce. Now it is a busy square with restaurants and apartments that can be rented.

 

Cathedral de La Almudena, Palacio Real and Jardines Sabatini

Not one of the spectacular cathedrals in Europe, the Almudena cathedral is still worth a quick visit when in Madrid. Also, it is a short walk from Palacio Real which, with its sprawling grounds is definitely impressive.

Almudena cathedral, Madrid
Palacio Real and its sprawling grounds, Madrid
Not quite Versailles, but pretty Jardines Sabatini

The crypts, which lie a block away from the cathedral are definitely worth a visit- walk around and admire the intricate sculptures on each pillar- every pillar top is different, and marvel at the tombs along the floor.

Don Quixote statue at Plaza Espana

We learnt a lot about Don Quixote and his exploits (as described by (Miguel de Cervantes) during our visit to Madrid. While Quixotic was something we’d heard of before, the real meaning only was revealed during this trip. His larger than life statue in Plaza Espana definitely helped heighten the intrigue!

Egyptian temple Debod

While highly unexpected in the center of a bustling city like Madrid, the Egyptian temple provides a uniquely peaceful spot, and since it is at a height, the views of the city, from  around the area, are quite pretty!

 

Shopping along the swanky Gran Via

While we aren’t shoppers and normally prefer not to waste time shopping, especially when on holiday, the ubiquitous shops along Gran Via called out to us too and we ended up with a couple of shopping bags of our own too!

Saturated with sight-seeing, we now move onto another extremely important and fun aspect of most of our trips- food and drink!

Tapas crawl in La Latina neighborhood

 

There was so much to eat and drink in Madrid, we have an entire post dedicated exclusively to it. Read all about our culinary adventures in Madrid here.

Madrid, we’ll be back!

While we were (mistakenly) convinced that Barcelona was likely our favorite city in Spain and we really liked the people, food and the city, our trip to the north of the country, Toledo, Granada and Madrid convinced us that it is the entire country and its people that we are in love with!

48 hours in Innsbruck, Austria

Innsbruck is a scenic gateway to Austria. While not as big or museum-filled as Vienna, it is a very picturesque city, that should not be missed. It has a historic old town along the river Inn nestled between the Alps on both sides. We spent 48 hours in Innsbruck over Easter.

Here are the top things to do if you plan a trip

Walk around old town Innsbruck

The city has its fair share of pretty and colorful buildings scattered all throughout the old town, giving it a quaint, yet quirky feel.

Building that looks like a Wedding Cake in old town Innsbruck
Easter decorations in old town Innsbruck
St Anne’s column

What took us completely by surprise was the nearness of the Alps- they felt close enough to touch! Also the unexpected sighting at the turn of a street corner, of majestic snow-capped mountains, made walking around even more worth it. Living in Switzerland we thought we were used to beautiful mountains, but these were quite breathtaking!

Old town Innsbruck surrounded by the Alps

Golden roof

One of the most famous things to see in Innsbruck is the Goldenes Dachl or Golden Roof. It is hard to miss- just follow the tourists 🙂 Recommend going to see it at night with fewer people around and a nice effect of the lights.

Golden Roof in old town Innsbruck
Golden Roof in old town Innsbruck by night
Detailed paintings in the Golden Roof, old town Innsbruck

Swarovski World

Even if you aren’t a fan of crystals, a visit to Swarovski world is interesting. Located 15 min driving distance away from Innsbruck, it is easily accessible and makes for a good, short day trip. The entry fee will cost you 19 Euros but it quite interesting, an artistic take on crystals.

The famous Swarovski crystal giant
Us, crystals and the Alps

 

Tirol Panorama and Ski Jump

Recommended by most people, the visit to the ski jump is supposed to be a great way to soak in some more views of Innsbruck and the mountains around. We didn’t go, but can imagine that the panorama, especially from the coffee shop on top of the ski jump, could be quite beautiful.

Walking along River Inn

We visited Innsbruck around Easter, when the weather can be fairly unpredictable, ranging from snow to bright sunshine, but we did get lucky with a couple of nice sunny days, which made the stroll along the river Inn very pleasant indeed. We even scrambled right down to the river banks, though weren’t quite brave enough to take a dip in the water!

 

Eat the local food

And as always, we spent a good amount of time eating and drinking the local fare. The portions, like those in Bavaria and very unlike those in Switzerland, were huge. Be warned- one dish can likely feed 1.5 – 2 hungry people, even the pizza slices were huge!

 

Kaiserschmarren with the local plum sauce

The local hazelnut flavored schnapps was a very pleasant surprise, each warming, delicious mouth-full tasted like liquid Nutella with a little extra… we could’ve easily finished a lot more than we should have!

We also found a very interesting local beer (if you can call something thats 14% ABV beer!). Read about it here.

All in all, a very pleasant 48 hours in Innsbruck, the city named after the bridges on the river Inn. Highly recommended!

 

 

Street art (& humor) in Innsbruck, Austria!

Trash can humor in Innsbruck

The city of Innsbruck asked it’s inhabitants to contribute messages for the trash cans and some of them are just brilliant. To read more about Innsbruck and what to do there, check out our 48 hours in Innsbruck post

Fairly standard in a bar, super funny on a trash can!
😉 the can has aspirations!
As does this one! 🙂

And of course the classic one:

Next time in Innsbruck, take a minute to read what the trash can says.. it might just make you smile!