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Polaroid Of The Week: A Perfect London Summer Day

Polaroid of the week

polaroid of the week england london kensington gardensAfter a week by the sea, I made my way up to London, deciding that I can’t leave England without at least a quick pit stop in my former adopted hometown.

Summer was in full swing when I arrived in Friday (a rare thing for London!) and I spontaneously decided to take some time off work and spend my Saturday like most other people this weekend, and like I used to spend so many of my London weekends: in the park (with a run though Hyde Park in the morning and a picnic in Kensington Gardens in the afternoon, where I snapped the picture above), with a bit of shopping (the madness that is Oxford Street seems less crazy when you’ve been away for a while) and last but not least: with a visit to the West End, where I saw Guys & Dolls, currently starring Rebel Wilson, who always makes me laugh, and it wasn’t any different in this musical. If you happen to find yourself in London before 21 August, I highly recommend it – look for cheap tickets on LoveTheatre.com.

My quick visit in London ended with some bubbles at the Searcys champagne bar in St Pancras with Becki, who I hadn’t seen since the NBE conference in Finland in January 2014, and was the perfect way to conclude a fantastic week in the UK. Next stop: Munich!

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Polaroid of the week: Love lock madness in Cologne, Germany

Polaroid of the week

polaroid of the week germany cologne love locks bridgeIt feels like I’ve been all over the place this week: Berlin, then Dusseldorf, and now in Cologne, where I am spending the weekend. My three days in Cologne were definitely my favorite part of the week – my last two days in Berlin and also in Dusseldorf, it was mostly about work, but I tried to take some time off this weekend to find out if I still loved Cologne as much as I did fifteen years ago. Cologne and I have a special history: I visited the city for the first time with my girlfriends when I was 15 and was instantly mesmerized by the multi-cultural, vibrant city. What a difference from my sleepy hometown it was! I decided right there and then that I was going to move to Cologne one day, and a few more visits during my last couple of years in high school reaffirmed my love for the city, which is why I ended up enrolling in the University Of Cologne in 2000.

I had to leave unexpectedly after only two years, but always thought I’d come back one day – possibly to live there. But life had other plans for me and I never returned – until now, that is. As so many cities, Cologne has changed considerably since I lived here, and I had the best time this weekend rediscovering the place I called home all those years ago. With a good friend in tow and perfect summer weather, I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect time here – from food markets to bike rides along the Rhine River to a night out in Cologne’s thriving LGBT bar scene, I loved every second of it.

Being a sucker for love locks (and maybe even having locked my very own one on a famous bridge) one thing I was excited about was that I finally got to see one of the most famous love lock bridges in the world: the Hohenzollern Bridge. Back when I lived here, there were no love locks on that bridge, but a few years ago I came across an article mentioning that the bridge was covered in more than 40,000 love pad locks. After photographing the love lock fountain in Montevideo, the love locks on the Brooklyn Bridge (which have been removed now), love locks along Italy’s Via Dell’Amore, and many other spots around the world, I can honestly say that I’ve never seen a bridge covered in padlocks to the extent this bridge is covered. It’s absolutely insane! Now that I’ve become a little more jaded rational when it comes to everlasting love and love declarations, I couldn’t help but wonder how many of these couples were still together. There must be far more than 40,000 locks now – apparently, the love locks weigh over 2 tons! Let’s just hope they don’t cause the bridge to collapse like the love locks at the Pont Des Arts in Paris, where the locks have been removed consequently.

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Polaroid of the week: A walk inside Berlin’s stunning parliament dome

Polaroid of the week

polaroid of the week berlin reichstag dome

After a few short days with my family, I returned to Berlin on Thursday for six days – and to welcome two special visitors from New York!

I have to admit that I am slightly exhausted after  sightseeing for days, but I love showing people around this giant urban sprawl that can be overwhelming and hard to grasp for first time visitors.

We wandered the tree-lined streets of Kreuzberg and Prenzlauer Berg, shopped at the Sunday flea market in Mauerpark and listened to people from all over the world belt out their favorite songs in front of 1,000 people at Bearpit Karaoke. We watched an epic sunset from Berlin’s coolest rooftop bar, Klunkerkranich (which even made it in the NYT, as a must-go spot in 36 hours in Berlin) and strolled along the canals. I also managed to get us tickets to visit the Reichstag dome on Saturday, which I hadn’t done in three years  – tickets are hard to get during the summer months, probably because they’re free. Sadly I couldn’t get them for my first visitors a couple of weeks ago, so the happier I was that I was able to show these two Berlin’s best 360 degrees views.

As an architecture geek, I don’t think I’ll ever tire of seeing this stunning glass dome close up, designed by Sir Norman Foster and only added to Germany’s historic Parliament Building in 1999. We lucked out with the time of our visit, which happened to coincide with the time that the sun finally broke through the clouds after a rainy, gray day. And as we made our way up the ramp up to an observation deck at the very top of the dome, blue skies appeared, and we learned all kinds of trivia about the state-of-the-art environmentally friendly features of the dome and about the surrounding buildings thanks to the free GPS audio guide you get when you visit. If you’re heading to Berlin, don’t miss the Reichstag Dome – you can book your tickets online here.

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Polaroid of the week: Cycling through Berlin

Polaroid of the week

polaroid of the week berlin cycle tourApologies for the lack of updates in the past couple of weeks – I’ve finally tackled the big website update that has been overdue for months, but the transition to my new mobile-friendly site design didn’t go as smoothly as I had hoped for. Please bare with me as I am ironing out the remaining glitches, bugs and errors – I have plenty of posts waiting to be published.

After our amazing first weekend in Berlin, we continued our adventures with more street art, more German breakfasts, my visitor’s (and my!) first ever curry wurst (this was the first time I found a vegetarian curry wurst), sunsets over Tempelhof airport (one of my favorite places in the city), and an epic 20 mile bike ride through Berlin. The city is so enormously big that is impossible to explore it on foot, and since it is a really bike-friendly city with plenty of bike lanes, bikes are a great way too see Berlin. Tiergarten alone (Berlin’s version of Central Park) is big enough to spend half a day there  (or longer) walking along the trails.

We were blessed with beautiful summer weather, cycled from Alexanderplatz to Brandenburg Gate to Victory Column on one of Berlin’s main boulevards, along the canals, and all over Tempelhof which is another one of those places that is too big to be explored on foot. We did get our fair share of walking in this week, however, with the free history walking tour (I mention this tour in my quick guide to Berlin with a few other must-do activities) during which our guide brought us to the iconic Berlin landmarks such as Checkpoint Charlie, the Memorial for the murdered Jews of Europe, the Berlin Wall (again!) and the beautiful Gendarmenmarkt Square.

Highlights of the week? Mustafa’s Gemüse Kebap (a Berlin institution, which I put on my Berlin Must Eats in 2013 and it still totally lives up to the hype), the Turkish market at Maybachufer (I went on both days, Tuesday and Friday), Street Food Thursday, and last but not least: watching Germany win against Northern Ireland in the Euro 2016 soccer championship on the ‘Fan Mile’, a public viewing area with a giant screen right behind the Brandenburg Gate. Experiencing a soccer game with thousands of other fans is such an incredible experience – I am definitely happy to be in Germany for the Euro Cup after watching the last two World Cups in New York where soccer is just not as big as here in Europe.

I didn’t make it to all of my favorite places in Berlin just yet, so stay tuned for next week’s Polaroid with another update from Berlin, and my monthly round-up with all of June’s highlights in more detail.

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Polaroid of the week: Breaking Through The Berlin Wall

Polaroid of the week

polaroid of the week berlin wallApologies for the lack of updates in the past couple of weeks – I’ve finally tackled the big website update that has been overdue for months, but the transition to my new mobile-friendly site design didn’t go as smoothly as I had hoped for. Please bare with me as I am ironing out the remaining glitches, bugs and errors – I have plenty of posts waiting to be published.

Hello from Berlin! Just like New York, Berlin now feels like home to me. I spent enough time in the city over the past few years to know my way around, to navigate the comprehensive transportation network (buses, trams, overground trains, underground trains) without getting lost, I have favorite coffee shops and even a co-working space here. And this time, I even found the way to my AirBnb apartment without a map after my Google Maps app stopped working. I’d almost say that after New York, Berlin feels like my second home now.

And just like last summer, I proudly showed off this awesome city to a visitor – my first of two visitors from NYC! And this one is joining me for the fourth time this year, which I am stoked about! We must have walked at least 20 miles all over Berlin this weekend, exploring my favorite neighborhoods, devouring traditional German breakfasts, strolling over weekend flea markets and taking in German history at the Berlin Wall. And the best way to learn about Berlin’s complicated history? In combination with some street art! A walk along the East Side Gallery, Germany’s longest still standing piece of the Berlin wall, nearly a mile long (1.3km) was of course the highlight for two street art lovers, and traveling with a fellow photographer also meant playing with our cameras a little more than I’ve been doing on recent trips, and I was excited to pursue a little Polaroid project that I had been wanting to do for a while – you’re getting a little sneak peek here.

The featured photo, a Trabant breaking through the car by artist Birgit Kinder, commemorates the car that was ubiquitous in East Germany as well as the opening of the wall, and is one of the most iconic murals on the wall which was painted by artists from 21 different countries. Each artist expressed his or her reaction, thoughts and visions after the historic changes in 1990 and the painted wall was made into an open air gallery, the East Side Gallery, which is now one of the most visited memorials in Berlin. This is the first time ever that I’ve seen this and other famous murals not being covered in silly scribbles and drawings by tourists eager to immortalize themselves on the Berlin Wall – usually it looks like this. But this year, I happen to be in town while the wall is getting its annual clean-up and renovation. I am curious to see what the freshly cleaned murals will look like in a couple of weeks when I am taking my next visitor there!

Follow my Berlin adventures in real time on Snapchat: mariposa2711

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Polaroid of the week: Street art in Bushwick, Brooklyn

Polaroid of the week

polaroid of the week usa new york city bushwick street artWhen I arrived in New York last week, I was told that I had brought summer with me. Apparently, it had been cold and rainy most of the spring until the weekend of my arrival – and hearing this made me feel reassured again about having spent all of May in Austin (in case you haven’t noticed yet – I’ve got a major case of FOMO and ‘scarifying’ a month in New York for four weeks in Austin wasn’t an easy decision for me to make!). To be honest, I was considering extending my stay in Austin for another three weeks (yes, I loved it that much – more on that to come next week) but then my travel plans were changed by circumstances beyond my control (more on that soon).

And that’s why I ended up spending only eight days in my adopted home. Knowing that my time in New York would be short and sweet, the goal was to make the most of it. This meant: make sure to have a decent New York bagel (check), have a pizza at Roberta’s (check, and it was so worth nearly missing my flight for it! Still my favorite pizza spot in NYC.), see some new street art in Bushwick, go to Smorgasburg for some street food, see the spring blossoms in Central Park, catch up with friends. Well these were all the things I that I managed to fit in – my actual list was, as usual, much more ambitious than what I could actually fit into a short week, but I also managed to fit in a daily run in Prospect Park, bike rides through Brooklyn, I checked out a brunch place I’ve wanted to go to for a while (Cheryl’s Global Soul, thumbs up). It felt amazing to be ‘home’, to see my friends, just to be part of life in the Big Apple again.

What else did I get up to? I checked out a few new ‘coffices‘, had two wild nights out, soaked up the sun in Madison Square Park, made time for a stroll through the West Village (one of my favorite neighborhoods), and I even ended up at Dominique Ansel Kitchen (unplanned, which made it even better), which is a pastry lover’s dream, and where I last went for a birthday treat last winter, for a chocolate nutella swirl croissant (just as indulgent as it sounds) and scoped out a couple of Middle Eastern places I hadn’t been to yet (thumbs up for both Taim and Kulushkat.

The last two got me excited for my next destination: the next Polaroid Of The Week will be coming to you from BERLIN (where I’ll be stuffing myself with as much Middle Eastern food as possible for eight glorious days and welcome a very special visitor).

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Polaroid of the week: Sunset over Austin, Texas

Polaroid of the week

polaroid of the week usa texas austin sunsetI have to apologize if I’m getting on your nerves with my constant ravings about Austin – I’ve already sang the city’s praises here and here – and if that’s not enough, here are 33 things I love about Austin. I can’t stop gushing about Texas’ quirky capital. I arrived in New York last week and have been enthusiastically talking about how great Austin is ever since my plane touched down here, almost forgetting that I’m in my favorite city in the world.

But my last week in Austin was a great one, and I finally got the local introduction to the city that I had hoped for: from someone who had lived in Austin for many years and knew the city inside out. Together, we hit up some of East Austin’s coolest bars (including the fabulous Weather Up bar, which I learned had a branch in Brooklyn’s Prospect Heights neighborhood, just around the corner from where I lived two years ago – not sure how I had missed that place back then!), I was introduced to the magic of pinball arcades (I need to bring them to NYC – so much fun!), finally watched a movie at the Alamo Drafthouse while enjoying craft beers and a surprisingly tasty meal, wishing I could always enjoy restaurant service and booze in a movie theater (apparently Brooklyn is getting an Alamo Drafthouse in a few weeks – I am excited!), and had a midnight diner meal at the Magnolia Cafe which came to fame thanks to the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.

And then my last night rolled around, and my love affair with Austin came to an abrupt end. It ended on a high note, however: after the weather had been pretty bad all week, with lots of rain, thunderstorms and even flooding, the sun came out again for my last evening in town. I went for my usual evening run along the Colorado River and was rewarded with this sunset – making me feel all fuzzy and warm inside. Austin, I’ll definitely be back – thank you for the amazing time!

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Polaroid of the week: Street art in Deep Ellum, Dallas

Polaroid of the week

polaroid of the week usa texas dallas deep ellum street artI love it when I visit a place without any expectations and end up being pleasantly surprised. And I happened to visit one such place this month. A place I never even thought I’d visit: Dallas. In my head, Dallas was a big, personality-lacking, dull, corporate kind-of-city.

Instead, I found a city filled with interesting attractions, a fantastic restaurant scene, great bars, street art (even more than in much more alternative Austin!).

To be honest, I didn’t even plan to visit any other Texan cities while I was in Austin, but as so often, the opportunity to go up there for the weekend arose suddenly, and I jumped on it, because.. Why not? And I already began to think that I should’ve allocated more time to exploring Dallas when I, upon researching cool stuff to check out in Dallas, came across this list of 50 free fun things to do in Dallas of which I wanted to check out over a dozen! All I got during this brief weekend trip was a teaser of the city, and the desire to come back for more (which is luckily extremely likely to happen if I get to spend more time in Austin in the future, which I’d love).

I didn’t fit in much more than wandering around the Arts District, some of the historic downtown, Thanks-Giving Square, Fountain Place, Klyde Warren Park, and finally spending an evening of bar and restaurant hopping in Deep Ellum, but this was enough to make me realize that Dallas is much cooler than I thought it was.

Especially Deep Ellum, a trendy, young neighborhood filled with street art, great eateries and cool craft beer bars, impressed me, and I learned that the former warehouse district is also the epicenter of Dallas’ live music scene. The name Deep Ellum is an adaptation of southern black dialect for ‘deep Elm Street’ and you find 42 music venues here, ranging from blues to jazz to alternative music, thanks to which the neighborhood got the nickname ‘Little New Orleans’.

Thanks for surprising me in such a good way, Dallas, and I hope I’ll see you soon again – I promise, I’ll bring more time!

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Polaroid of the week: Wonderfully weird Austin

Polaroid of the week

polaroid of the week usa texas austin graffiti parkOh, Austin… I don’t even know where to start.. This city has swept me off my feet the minute I got here! Over the years, I’ve been told by several people that I should go and check out Austin because I’d like it and it was ,my kind of city’ (and that’s what piqued my curiosity and made me eventually come here!). And yes, they were absolutely right!

So what’s ‘Dani’s kind of city’, you’re asking? A green city. A city known for its giant food truck scene. A city filled with craft beer bars, some of which have over 100 (!!) beers on tap. A city with more live music venues I could possibly visit in a month. A dog friendly city where dogs have their own little beaches along the river. A city that has wonderfully weird celebrations such as Eeyore’s Birthday (an annual hippie festival that takes place on the last Saturday in April). A city where apartment complexes don’t only come with communal swimming pools and BBQ areas, but also with kayak parking lots and their own docks on the river. A city where there are more kayaks and SUPs on the river than cars on the road (who am I kidding, the traffic in Austin is definitely something that we need to work on.. but still: on weekends, there are so many kayaks and SUPs on the river that it seems like half of Austin is out on the Colorado River). A bike friendly city. With a bike sharing system, even! A city with a forest filled with hiking trails inside the city limits. A city with great weather – year-round! (New York, I still love you, but I sure could do without your winters…). A city with impressive art museums. A city with a thriving coffee shop culture. A city with a giant store dedicated entirely to hot sauce (help, I’m spending all my money here!). A city with a winery and a whole wine country nearby. A city with enough mouthwatering food to make me gain five pounds (and I’m not done yet!). A city where you people gather in a dive bar on Sundays to play chicken shit bingo. A city with hipster bars that make me think ‘Am I in Austin or am I in Brooklyn?’ A city with speakeasy bars. A city with the most decadent doughnuts I’ve ever seen. A city with street art.

Okay, about the street art: there is by far more street art in other cities I’ve been to, but pictured above is the Hope Outdoor Gallery, sometimes also referred to as Graffiti Park, where it is legal to spray graffiti. Every time I went there, I saw young girls practice their skills, couples working on pieces together, experienced graffiti artists adding a new mural. How many cities do have an area like this, where people can simply come and do graffiti work? In terms of being a ‘gallery’ – it’s a gallery where the collection of art changes constantly. And in addition to being an outlet for artists, this place also offers fantastic city views of Downtown Austin, especially when the sunset skies paint the buildings in warm golden colors.

Yes, it’s official: Austin, I’ve got a huge crush on you.

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Polaroid of the week: White Sands, New Mexico

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polaroid of the week usa new mexico 2016 white sandsFor my road trip from Tucson to Austin I was stoked about the two stops me and my passenger would make along the way: Big Bend National Park in Texas for the Santa Elena Canyon hike, and White Sands in New Mexico, which I had already visited during my New Mexico road trip a few years ago, and which I loved. That shouldn’t come as a surprise – White Sands is a desert after all, and as many of you know I love deserts. White Sands with its bright white dunes is truly special, something I’ve never seen anywhere in the world (not even on photos of deserts around the world, but tell me if you know of any other white deserts so that I can add them to my travel wish list!).

I was excited to go on another hike in White Sands – and this time in a bit cooler weather (last time I came here it was over 100°F /38°C and we actually had to turn around before finishing the trail). Even though dune after dune might seem repetitive, no dune is like the other, and every time you climb up a dune, you have yet another sweeping view ahead of you. Most of the desert is unvegetated, but there are some desert flowers in White Sands which remind you of the fact that what you are walking on used to be the bottom of a massive lake covering 1,600 square miles during the last ice age. The contrast between the bright blue skies and the white sand makes for some great photo opps, and I ended up with over 600 photos of my day at White Sands, even though it was my second time there!

It was, however, my first sunset – something I really wanted to photograph. We watched the sun go down behind the mountains from the top of a dune, slowly coloring the white sand in a soft glowing pink, and quickly leaving us feeling cold. It might be over 100°F during the day, but the desert sure gets cold at night. We ran back through the dunes to the parking lot, now understanding why so many people get lost here, despite the posts that stick out of the sand in regular intervals to mark several ‘trails’ in the dunefield. In the dark, we could barely make out the posts (which are already hard to spot in bright daylight sometimes) and got a bit nervous if we were following the right direction. In the end, we made it back to the parking lot though and finished our day in White Sands with a picnic in one of the futuristic picnic areas.

I felt lucky that I got to visit this remote place not only one, but two times – and I wouldn’t mind returning for a third visit.

For more photos of White Sands, check out my photo essay: New Mexico’s White Desert: The bright and beautiful White Sands

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