Eating the city: Berlin, Germany

It’s not all beer, meat and potatoes… well, I mean, there is a lot of that, but there’s other stuff, too.

Potato dishes

Why get it:
Germans do potato particularly well – there’s a lot more to it than mashed potato with meat. Dishes like this one from Zur Rose make it a kind of replacement for pasta, without making it exactly like gnocchi.
We got ours from: Zur Rose, Weinbergsweg 26, Berlin 

Goulash and potato dumplings

Why get it:
When you’re travelling through Germany in winter, you want warm, hearty comfort food. That’s goulash with the aforementioned mashed potato. It may look like dog food, but the meat is fall-apart-in-your-mouth soft, the sauce is rich, the sauerkraut is the perfect food to cut through the richness of the goulash, and mashed potato is always a welcome addition.
We got ours from: Georgbräu, Spreeufer 4, Berlin

 

A cured meat and cheese breakfast spread

Why get it:
It’s not all rich, hearty food – places like Alpenstück are breaking the stereotype with some really basic but delicious options for the modern traveller. Everything is so fresh and simple, it’s the perfect change from the typically heavy meals you’ll eat later in the day.
We got ours from: Alpenstück Bäckerei, Schröderstraße 1, Berlin

 

Pork knuckle

Why get it:
For that heavy meal later in the day, you can’t beat a crispy-skinned pork knuckle. This is the quintessential German plate of meat: juicy, soft pork under a crispy, salty layer, sitting on yet more sauerkraut with a side of yet more mashed potato. Sounds like it’d be getting repetitive, right? Wrong.
We got ours from: Weihenstephaner, Neue Promenade 5, Berlin

 

Traditional German sweets

Why get it:
After all that meat and potato, you’ll be wanting some sugar to balance things out. And Germany does sweets just as well as they do meat and potato. Some delicious options to look for are strudel biscuits – basically a jam covered butter biscuit with ‘crumble’ on top, and nussecken, an absolutely delicious nut/apricot jam/chocolate concoction that you really have to try.
We got ours from: A tiny little café that I can’t remember the name of… sorry!

Asolo, Italy

I’m really lucky to have parents hailing from opposite ends of the same country. The north and south of Italy are quite different, and I’ve had wonderful opportunities to see both. Mum’s side of the family are from the north, up near Venice, so I really wanted to show some of the little towns and villages in the area that most people who visit Venice never get to. While the island is obviously incredible, I wonder how many people would kick themselves if they knew what they were missing on the mainland…

Asolo is one of those little towns up in the foothills of the Dolomites that you picture when you think to yourself “how gorgeous it must be to hire a car and just drive and explore little medieval cobblestoned villages.” Dating back to pre-Roman times, Asolo has been around for a very long time, and hopefully won’t be going anywhere soon. And getting there is as easy as leaving the Venice islands for the mainland and hiring a car.

With cobbled streets, creeping greenery, delicious food in windows, remainders of medieval buildings, and seriously stunning views, it’s easy to see why so many artists and writers find their way there. Dame Freya Stark, explorer, traveller and writer, was one of those – she visited Asolo for the first time in 1923, eventually retired there, and passed away a few months after her 100th birthday there. That’s her villa in the photo below…

Asolo is one of those towns that managed to retain all of its old-world charm while Venice was being slowly commercialised and destroyed by tourism. They don’t get a heap of visitors, comparatively, and it’s so much more beautiful for that (so if you visit it, please do so respectfully!) – it’s the sort of place you want to find a little table balanced on cobblestones to sit at while you drink wine, a place you’d want to visit with a sketch book and pencil, even if you can’t draw. The fact that there isn’t a heap of big tourist attractions to see and do there is what makes it such a great place to visit as a break from the chaos that can be Venice.

Charles Bridge, Prague

As one of the most well known sights in Prague, you’ve the probably seen the Charles Bridge in many an Instagram picture, flooded with tourists. Read plenty of blog posts advising you to get there early to avoid said crowds. Heard that the best view is to be gained after climbing the tower at the end of the bridge. You’ll have read dozens of Facebook captions about just how amazing it is. I want to give you a bit of a different post about Charles Bridge.

I’m a bit of a history nerd. Before I travel somewhere new, I like to read up on the place’s history. One of the books I found on Prague was ‘The Story of Prague’ written by one Count Francis Lützow in 1902. I imagined in a city as old as Prague, there probably wouldn’t be a huge amount of differences in the city’s basic structure since Count Lützow wrote his book, and thought it’d be interesting to see parts of the city under his 1902 guide. I’ll write more about his walking tour that we followed, but for now I thought I’d share some of his words on Charles Bridge, along with some of my images, taken 115 years after he wrote about it…

… there has been a bridge on or near the spot where the present edifice stands from very early times. Ancient chroniclers write that when, in 932, the body of St. Wenceslas was conveyed from Stará Boleslav, where he was murdered, to St. Vitus’s Church at Prague, those who carried the body, ‘hurrying to the river Vltava, found the bridge partly destroyed by the floods.’

When, in 1157, the floods had entirely destroyed the wooden Bridge of Prague, Queen Judith, consort of King Vladislav I., caused a new stone bridge to be erected at her own expense…

In the winter of 1342 the Bridge of Judith was destroyed by the floods, and for a time a temporary wooden bridge, partly founded on the remaining pillars of the stone bridge, alone connected the two parts of Prague. This bridge naturally proved insufficient, particularly after Charles IV. had founded the new town of Prague. In 1357 that King undertook the building of the present bridge. It was… only completed in 1503.

We first pass under the bridge tower of the old town, which is decorated with statues of the Bohemian patron saints and with the coats of arms of the countries that were formerly connected with Bohemia as well as that of the old town itself.
The statues that now ornament the bridge formed no part of the original structure. As can be seen in ancient engravings, a crucifix only stood on the bridge at first. Rudolph erected statues of the Madonna and of St. John, and the others were gradually added, principally during the period of Catholic re-action in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Top 10 Things To Do in Barcelona

1. Get stuck into the markets!

Where? There are SO many! Try Mercado de Santa Caterina (Av. de Francesc Cambó, 16), Mercat de la Concepció (Carrer d’Aragó, 313-317), and of course La Boqueria (La Rambla, 91).
Why go? Because there’s no better way to get to know a city than by visiting the markets! You can get a taste of the food, the people and the culture all in one hit, as well as some more unique souvenirs than what you’ll find in stores.
How long will you need? As long as you can spare. At least an hour per market is ideal.
Cost? Depends how much you’re planning to eat and buy! They’re pretty well priced, though, so you won’t have to blow a heap of cash to come out with a full belly.

 

2. Stroll La Rambla with a gelati in hand

Where? La Rambla, a large pedestrian walking street.
Why go? Back in the ‘old’ days, people used to go out and promenade of an evening; basically, walk up and down the street, seeing who else was out, enjoying the fresh air. La Rambla is perfect for an afternoon or evening promenade, because not only is it beautiful and always busy, but there are lots of little gelati stalls lining the walk.
How long will you need? How much gelati can you eat?
Cost? A few euro will be more than enough for a gelati.

 

3. Enjoy a Gaudí day

Where? There are perfectly preserved sites all over the city – a few favourites are Park Güell, Casa Batlló, Casa Amatller, Casa Milá, Casa Vincens
Why go? You don’t need to know anything about architecture to appreciate Gaudí’s work. These sites are all magnificent, all marked by that distinct, colourful mosaic tile work people so often associate with Barcelona. Walking through these places feels like a stroll through a movie set, and while the designs all have similar elements, they all feel so different. Maybe you’ve heard of Gaudí before, but after you visit, you’ll get why he’s such a big deal.
How long will you need? At least 2 hours for the bigger sites that require tickets.
Cost? Anywhere between free for places like Casa Amatller, where you can admire the façade free of charge, to around  €25 person for a fast pass entry to Casa Batlló.

 

4. Explore the Gothic Quarter on foot

Where? Stretching out from La Rambla to Via Laietana.
Why go? This is the best part of the city, for my money. The streets twist and wind in no real order, and there is SO much to see if you’re ready to spend the time getting lost there.
How long will you need? Spend at least half a day wondering the Quarter. But once you’ve been there, you’ll want to head back again.
Cost? Walking and window shopping are always free!

 

5. Eat tapas and drink sangria at Mesón del Café

Where? Carrer de la Llibreteria, 16
Why go? Tucked away in the heart of the Gothic Quarter, this is the perfect place to indulge in one of the best Spanish pastimes – the tapas are freshly made and the sangria is the best in the city.
How long will you need? Spend at least an hour to slow down and enjoy the time out.
Cost? About  €5 for a glass of sangria and a few euro per tapas plate.

 

6. Get an education at the Barcelona City History Museum

http://ajuntament.barcelona.cat/museuhistoria/en/
Where? Plaça del Rei
Why go? Not only is this an incredible museum with fantastic exhibits, it’s also set in a palace. And it’s a palace that contains the remains of one of Europe’s largest Roman settlements below ground level, which are all part of the exhibit and open for you to see!
How long will you need? A couple of hours to see it properly.
Cost?  €7 per adult.

 

7. Do a little people watching in one of the parks or squares around the city

Where? There are more options than you’ll cover in a few days, ranging from the big, popular ones like Plaça Reial and Plaça de Catalunya , as well as lots of smaller and quieter ones like Montjuïc and Parc de la Ciutadella.
Why go? There’s a lot to do in Barcelona, so it’s nice to take a step back, sit in one of the beautiful public  spaces and take it all in.
How long will you need? As long as you need to rest and recharge.
Cost? Free!

 

8. See the Sagrada Família, inside AND out

http://www.sagradafamilia.org/en/
Where? Carrer de Mallorca, 401
Why go? I’m not a religious person, but this building took my breath away. While it may never be finished,  what is there is the most spectacular building you’re ever likely to see.
How long will you need? A good 2 hours.
Cost? Basic tickets start at  €15 per person.

 

9. Visit Camp Nou

https://www.fcbarcelona.com/tour/buy-tickets

Where? Carrer d’Aristides Maillol, 12
Why go? Even if you’re not a football nut, the team means a lot to the city, and it’s a pretty impressive stadium and museum. It’s also really well set up for non-football fans, so even if you don’t know the first thing about the game, it’s still worth the visit!
How long will you need? Half a day.
Cost?  €25 per adult.

 

10. Take in some shopping & architecture on Passeig de Gràcia

Where? between Avinguda Diagonal and Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes
Why go?  If you’re a shopper, you’re going to love this area. Ditto if you love some good architecture – buildings like Gaudí’s La Pedrera are on every corner!
How long will you need? Spend a few hours exploring and looking and shopping.
Cost? Free.

Eat here: S.Forno Panificio, Florence

S.Forno Panificio
Via Santa Monaca 3r, Florence
http://t.ilsantobevitore.com

My auntie is a wonderful artist; she often travels to Italy to paint, which means she has plenty of opportunities to find some real hidden gems. When I told her we’d be visiting Florence again, she told me I had to go to S.Forno. She was right.

The beautiful little bakery looked like it’d be more at home in Fitzroy or Collingwood than a wonky cobblestoned street in Florence, but the retro decor and feel isn’t just fabricated to be reminiscent of the past. This actually is an old bakery that’s been rescued by an enterprising  group of people…

The space has been a forno (bakery) for over 100 years. For the past 40 years, baker Angelo has walked into the store every morning to prepare freshly baked bread for the local Florentines. But something happened lately. After years of 7-day weeks and 18-hour days Angelo needed time beyond the bakery business and local restaurant team behind the successful Il Santo Bevitore came to the rescue. Partnering with Angelo, they have brought the business, but kept the baker, to ensure its place in the neighbourhood is secure for the future.
                                                                            – Lost in Florence

The daily offerings are written up on a chalkboard behind the counter, and baskets filled with loaves of bread. The front counter’s display case is filled with a mixed bunch of cake trays topped with an assortment of sweet treats, and the air smells like freshly baked bread. Heaven. We were told the food was delicious and it didn’t disappoint; we ate cauliflower quiche and a prosciutto-topped slice of foccacia for lunch, and they were divine. While we ate, we watched customer after customer come through the door and leave with arms full of fresh bread.

We weren’t ready to leave after lunch; the atmosohere and people watching was too good. Sitting in there felt like total immersion in Florentine life, and we couldn’t have been happier to be sitting in the middle of it. Also, the sweets looked too good to leave without sampling.

Just to be clear, this is not a coffee shop. There’s no fancy espresso machine or 2 page coffee menu. The focus is on the dough. But they are kind enough to offer some self-service, stock-standard American coffee and boiling water for tea, so we grabbed some of that and chose two typically Tuscan desserts – a baked rice cake, and a piece of castagnaccio, made from chestnut flour, rosemary, pine nuts and raisins.

Don’t be fooled by the nondescript façade; the service and atmosphere are both so warm and welcoming, and the food is some of the best in the city. It seems that they’ve arrived at the perfect balance between old tradition and new innovation, and that should earn them a visit when you’re next in Florence.