Category Archives: World & Travel

It’s not about the money

We all know this problem: the desire to discover new places in the world, see as much as you can, but without much cash. So what do most backpackers do? They save their money on food: fast food, instant noodles or sandwiches. Anything that‘s easy to prepare and that fills your tummy.

But when I was in Sydney, I discovered a place where you can get really good restaurant food, even on a small travel budget. Lentil as Anything is a non-profit-making organisation which runs six pay-as-you-feel restaurants in Australia. Their philosophy is that everyone should have the opportunity to eat out and be social, regardless of their financial situation.

When you enter the restaurant, it’s a warm and welcoming atmosphere. The furniture is simple but modern, designed with much love and creativity. The walls are covered with paintings and other artwork. Every table has a menu that offers breakfast, lunch and dinner, depending on the time of the day. You might expect that the low costs mean it’s automatically self-service, but I was more than surprised that after a few minutes a friendly waitress came to our table to take our order.  We felt like guests at her house and she was inviting us for dinner.

The people working in Lentil as Anything are all volunteers or long-term unemployed. Or backpackers. For two weeks of helping out in the restaurant, backpackers can get free accommodation and, of course, a warm meal. And the meals are not only more nutritious and diversified, but also much healthier than a Big Mac Menu at McDonalds.

One aim of the restaurant is to promote multiculturalism, which is also reflected in the food. It’s basically a mix of everything. One customer is having Indian curry for breakfast, while at another table people are having scrambled eggs with bacon. And, of course, there are vegan meals too. And if you‘re still hungry, you can order the banana pancakes with syrup (which I can only recommend!). Before you leave, you can think about how much money you want to spend and put in in the box. And if you want or if you can’t spend anything at all, then you simply don’t put anything in the box.

Now you may be asking the same question that came to my mind after visiting this place: how can the place survive? Can, in today’s society, such a model make enough money to pay the rent, utilities and stock? Apparently it is. The philosophy has been working for over thirteen years now and in the last five years three new restaurants have been opened.

Surprisingly, people who visit the restaurant are not only homeless or backpackers, but also families with a normal income, who get the chance to take their children to a restaurant to enjoy good food more often. And that‘s how donations are collected.

So, for your next trip remember that a small travel budget does not necessarily have to mean that you can’t afford to eat out in a restaurant – the pay-as-you-feel philosophy is becoming more and more popular in all parts of the world, and who knows, maybe there‘s a similar place at your next destination 😉

Author & pictures: Carina Lamb

Airbnb – there’s no better place to stay

Low-budget traveling has been cool for a long time. The most popular way to go on holiday without much money Airbnb1is certainly staying at a hostel in a dormitory with four to fourteen people. But honestly – is this a “holiday“? If you want to hear your roommates snoring or you want to discover more of their bad habits, you should definitely spend your time there!

However, let me tell you about another, for me personally more comfortable, nicer way of going on a journey. In any case, a very well-organized, practical website to book your accommodation, in any case is Airbnb. You may have heard of it yet: it’s an online platform where people from all around the world offer you a place to stay. The community was founded in 2008 in California to give people who have a free bedsit the opportunity to subrent it, as well as providing an alternative to low-cost booking websites such as “couchsurfing“.

Users can either provide a private room or a whole apartment. Using the website is quite easy. Just choose the city you want to go to and the date, and thousands of hits will appear, from expensive to cheap. The offers are very diverse and, of course, reliable. Airbnb guarantees booking security so you can check in advance whether your host has a good rating or not. A further advantage is that you’re able to pay online, so there’s no need to carry lots of cash with you during the trip.

As a Airbnb2passionate traveler I have already visited eight different places with Airbnb, so I’d like to share one experience with you:

Probably the most adventurous, extraordinary place I’ve been to was a wooden bungalow in the middle of the jungle in the southern Thai province of Krabi: imagine…35 degrees and no air conditioning, sharing your daily shower with frogs, lizards and cockroaches, getting bitten by thousands of mosquitos. Even though this doesn’t sound like a relaxing holiday at all, if I look back now, it’s just a really funny, unforgettable memory which only cost €9 per night.

Anyway, Airbnb has simply everything. It‘s a precious opportunity to explore so many different places, and get to know interesting people from everywhere. Simply unmissable!

Author and Pictures: Isabelle Zint

Ready to go crazy? The weirdest New Year’s Eve traditions

Germans like to celebrate New Year’s Eve with a sip of chilled sparkling wine, a rich fondue and the annual recurring appointment with the adorable Miss Sophie and her scatty butler James. However, apart from the widespread tradition of watching “Dinner for One”, we Germans don’t have any weird customs for the largest global celebration. But no worries – the rest of the world offers a wide range of strange traditions…

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First Stop: Ecuador

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It’s the end of December. The sparkling snow is falling and the air is cold but very refreshing. So it’s the perfect time to take your empty suitcase for a walk. No, I’m not crazy and I know that you can walk your dog, your cat and, okay, maybe your hamster, but your suitcase? Yes it’s true, at least in Ecuador. If the Ecuadorians are planning a trip sometime next year, they take their suitcases for a stroll. The tradition says that people who are dreaming of a holiday next year should take their empty suitcases for a little walk, so their dreams come true. But I’m not very convinced that this tradition could catch on in Germany. Nevertheless, please feel free to try it out: get your suitcase, go out, get some fresh air and try to ignore the gazing people.

Next Stop: Spain

You’re not a fan of fireworks at midnight and you really hate the emotion which comes with the New Year greetings? But what else could be done? Here’s the answer: just eat 12 grapes quickly, one with each chime of the bells at midnight. For the Spanish, each grape symbolises good luck for each month in the following year. And it wards off bad spirits! But be aware, it sounds easier than it actually is; some Spanish even practice beforehand. So let’s start practicing – New Year’s Eve is close. But don’t forget to chew – it might get a bit tight in your mouth.

Third Stop: Denmark

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If some of you would like to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Denmark, then please don’t call the police if your friends start throwing old dishes at your door. After all, they’ve been collecting Granny’s old china with difficulty all year. So please show a little respect and feel flattered! Why? Smashing old plates at your friend’s door is a special New Year’s Eve tradition in Denmark, and is a measure of your popularity. The more your door gets hit by a broken plate, the more likely friends enjoy being with you. There’s a heap of broken dishes at your doorsteps? Congrats, you’re a terrific friend!

Last Stop: Puerto Rico

A different kind of “bucket challenge” exists in Puerto Rico. The Puerto Ricans throw buckets of water out of their window. And they clean their homes before the New Year arrives. In this way, they clean out the old year and all the evil spirits and welcome the New Year.

The end of the journey has arrived and I have to leave now. I’m very busy because I still have to walk my suitcase, eat some grapes and… well no, actually I’m just going to watch “Dinner for One”, enjoy the fireworks and drink some sparkling wine. Maybe I’ll try out some of the proposals next year, or maybe not, we’ll see! Cheers, Happy New Year to all of you!

Author & Pictures: Julia Huss

How about a chat with Angie?

Our author Franziska spent three weeks as intern in the Bundestag. In her letter from Berlin she talks about her experiences so far.

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It’s Saturday and I’m reflecting on the past five days: Last weekend I arrived in Berlin with a three week practical in the Bundestag ahead of me. I am studying neither politics nor law, so I wasn’t prepared at all for what was coming and I have to admit I was a bit scared. I would work in the office of the Member of the Bundestag Waldemar Westermayer, he is on two comittees, the commitee for alimentation and agriculture and the commitee for economic cooperation with Latin America.

On my first day, I was very close to freaking out. I had a lot of silly concerns like: Were my clothes alright? Would my political knowledge be adequate enough to get along in there? Would they mind if I spoke dialect? So I arrived at the Paul-Loebe-Haus, which is the building on the left side of the Reichstag, and at the entrance I was checked by an airport-like security control. Then a really friendly secretary came to pick me up, and I took my first ride on a glass elevator. They are great! Really fast and well cleaned, and from in there you have a great view of the building’s seven floors. Funnily enough nobody else seems to share my enthusiasm, so if there’s stuff to get from an other floor, they let me get it. 😉

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But I don’t want to get ahead of myself. So I got a warm welcome and an introduction to the building (I’m still getting lost though). After a few phonecalls they even found me another trainee so I would have someone to have lunch with. All this effort that was put into making me feel comfortable blew away my concerns and I became more confident. The office I work in consists of Waldemar Westermayer and his three assistants. Westermayer himself wasn’t in Berlin for the whole week, but that gave me a chance to get used to everything.

I got to do and see a lot of things. Besides the usual office work like organising or copying papers or getting the mail and answering the phone I get to answer letters and e-mails, which means I have to read up on all the political topics that are talked about. This is really interesting as I have access to all of the protocols of the conferences and to other internal information. I also get to go to conferences, where I have to minute what is being said and decided. Moreover, there’s a special programme for trainees that allows us to visit different museums and take part in discussions with well known politicians like Wolfgang Schäuble or Volker Kauder. That’s for now, and I’m really excited about what is yet to come during the next two weeks.

Now a few things about everyday life in the Bundestag. As soon as you get your house ID you can go anywhere you like. I haven’t met even one unfriendly person, quite the opposite, the cantine staff seems to smile 24 hours a day and it’s actually kind of creepy how accurately they arrange the food on your plate. I’ve already told you about the elevators, and there’s really nice and comfy seating-arrangements all over the building. And you can actually wear casual clothes, but not many people do, so I’d feel kind of weird walking around wearing a hoodie, jeans and sneakers.

The most important thing I’ve learned so far is that politics isn’t as untransparent as I had thought, and politicians are humans like everyone else. If there’s anything you don’t understand, you just have to ask, and there’s so many possibilities of informing yourself, I think most people just can’t be bothered to do so. I have to admit I wasn’t really into politics before, but as soon as I got an idea of how it works I actually enjoyed it!

I’m really looking forward to the next two weeks, maybe I really get to have a chat with our chancellor, but if I don’t, never mind, there are so many other things to do and see!

Text & Pictures: Franziska Leichte

A letter from Atlanta

Dear readers of eMAG,

Being complimented on your clothes, hairstyle or something else by random people when you step off the airplane, talking to strangers at stores and everybody saying a nice “how are you” before asking if they can help you – that definitely sounds a lot like the US and very little like Germany.

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As I’ve been in the region called The South for more than a month now, I thought of sharing some experiences I’ve had with you. This actually is the first trip to the US for me, and I’m amazed at how different it is from what I expected.

atlanta 2Atlanta, the city that was burnt to the ground during The Civil War by Union General Sherman on his March to the Sea through the Confederate States, has a lot to offer. After having been to some of the typical sights like the Coca-ColaMuseum, the Georgia Aquarium and the CNN headquarters, we went to some of the small cities outside of Atlanta. One of them, Sandy Springs, has quite some history to offer. If you’re interested in the American Civil War, I can highly recommend the Heritage Sandy Springs Museum, which perpetuated original letters and quotes of especially women of that period, personal stories of pain and survival.

Another small city that I spent a lot of time in is called Dunwoody. You’d probably call it the city of banks, as there are almost more banks than restaurants. Every Thursday this city offers the so called “Food Truck Thursday.” The food offered is never the same and tastes delicious. Food Truck Thursday will definitely be something I’m going to miss when I’m back in Germany.atlanta 3

I fell in love with North Georgia because of its nature, vast scenery and vintage feeling of freedom. Moreover, Lake Lanier, which is about 153 square kilometers, has wonderful spots for going water skiing or jet skiing. The diversity of the lake is breathtaking. Depending on where you are, you can find swamps with snakes on one part of the lake, beautiful waterfront houses with their own docks on the other. No matter where you are, you’ll definitely find your perfect spot to relax or have your own little adventure.

If you thought that the US only wastes energy and causes air pollution, you should go on a trip to Georgia with its richness of forests, meadows and wide, free scenery. If you look hard enough, you might even see “Bambi” walking around in the neighborhood. With the woods around, you can discounter some of the most beautiful, old plantation houses that you could ever imagine. Some of them hide between the trees, others in plain sight. No matter where they are, one thing is clear: they’re gorgeous.

Do gentlemen still exist? While they seem to be extinct at other places around the world, the South still has some to offer. Apart from that, you might find the Southern dialect a little bit odd, rather sounding like mumbling. Anyway, let me explain some of the most common phrases and words so you‘re armed for your trip to the South:

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Moreover, the general rule that Germans learn at school “Bei he, she und it, das ‘s’ muss mit.” don’t apply here – sorry, doesn’t. So don’t be confused when somebody talks without making use of the third person singular ‘s’.

The US, as sports nation number one – at least when watching sports – provides a lot of different opportunities for being supportive fans at events. Fascination for sport doesn’t start in adulthood; it’s encouraged in childhood and grows as the person grows up.

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That being said, it doesn’t matter if the event is at high schools with around 1,000, colleges with up to 100,000 or the professional  league with around 60,000 attendees. Before the game there is a get-together in BBQ-style called ‘tailgating’. Why it is called like that – no idea, but I’d guess because it takes place at a parking lot with a lot of cars and grills filled with food and booze in cups. Yes, you heard right. Alcohol in Georgia is not allowed to be consumed in public if it’s obvious that it’s booze. That’s also where the famous brown bags come from.

So if you’re romantic and looking for a holiday destination that might not be everybody’s first choice, you are welcome to the South! I’ll definitely miss a lot when being back in Germany, but at some point everybody has to go home,

Susi

Author & Pictures: Susann Vogel

Berlin Experience Extraordinaire

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Travelling is a great way to spend lots of money. It doesn’t always have to be super expensive though. One way of saving money while travelling is to start by exploring your own country. Germany has a lot to offer, among others my favourite city: Berlin. There’s so much to do there that it can be hard to decide what to do first. So here’s a list of my favourite things to do in the capital.

Berlin’s oldest secret: Don’t ever take one of the tourist buses! Seriously, don’t take one unless you enjoy wasting money on things no one needs. Take the bus #200 from Alex to Zoo and the #100 back and I swear you’ll see everything you need to see and more. And if you already have a day ticket you don’t even have any extra expenses. You won’t have anyone telling you when the Reichstag was built or how tall the TV Tower is, but if you really want to know all that, check out a Berlin Guide from your local library and spend the money you saved on food or books.

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Dussmann
berlin 3Everyone who knows me, knows Dussmann. Why? Because I talk about it pretty much 24/7. It’s a bookstore made of five floors of awesomeness. You need the Latin edition of Harry Potter? Go to Dussmann. Or are you looking for your favourite band’s latest album? You’ll find it at Dussmann. Maybe you prefer it as vinyl? Dussmann is your place to be. The best thing about Dussmann, though, is the English bookshop which you’ll find at the very back on the ground floor. I am pretty sure it’s the biggest English bookshop in the whole of Germany, and definitely worth a visit!
http://www.kulturkaufhaus.de/


Wonderpots/Friedrichsstraße

berlin 4The best frozen yogurt in town! Wonderpots has three different locations in Berlin but the one on Friedrichsstrasse is without a doubt the coolest one. The frozen yogurt is super yummy but it’s also a really great place to just hang out. You can enjoy your froyo sitting on a garden chair or if you like it a bit more comfy on one of their sofas. My special tip: Choose one of the seats outside. You’ll have a perfect view of the Humboldt University Library and let’s be honest: there is something awfully satisfying about knowing that students inside are studying for exams or working on their thesis while you’re enjoying the food of the gods.
http://www.wonderpots.de/

Burgermeister                                                   berlin 5
A burger joint in an old school restroom may sound a bit strange but the burger at Burgermeister is seriously one of the best I’ve ever had. Judging from the long line that will await you there, I’m not the only one who thinks so.  Their choice of burgers isn’t huge but there’s still a burger for every taste. They are fresh, super tasty and surprisingly cheap. So if you don’t mind eating your burger while standing squeezed in between two relatively busy roads, you should give Burgermeister a try.
http://www.burgermeister.berlin/

Author & Pictures: Katrin Bottke

A trip to the Aran Islands

Leabharlann – that’s the one Irish word I learned and can remember from my recent trip to Ireland. In one part of the country my group and I went to the Irish language is still spoken by many: the Aran Islands in Galway Bay. You can only reach Inisheer, Inishmaan and the largest island, Innishmore (Inis Mór) by boat or plane. If you take the boat and you’re lucky, the weather will be fine so you can stand on deck and try to spot dolphins. During our boat ride to Innishmore it was raining, but it cleared up almost as soon as we arrived, and the sun shone for the rest of the day. Sadly, there were no dolphins, but we saw a few seals along one part of the coast, so our daily dose of cuteness was filled!

aran islands 5Once on the island, you can rent bikes, or if you’re a bit on the lazy side like we were, you can choose a minibus that comes fully equipped with a driver (in our case, a Que sera, sera-singing driver). If you’re romantically inclined, you might want to go for one of the horse-drawn carriages waiting for business at the quay. In any case, when you’re touring the island, you’ll see many of the typical stone walls, which mostly function as enclosures for cattle and which are astonishingly resilient (the walls and cows, just look at them!). There are some green fields that farmers have had to cultivate with seaweed and sand because the island doesn’t have naturally fertile soil.

Innishmore is home to about 900 residents, who mostly live in villages that, to me, seemed more like loose clusters of a few solitary houses than anything else. You can still find a few of the traditional thatched cottages, too. Many families used to live off fishing, but now tourism has taken on a major role. The island’s past and present have been connected cleverly, though. The knitwear from the Aran Islands is widely renowned. You can buy sweaters, scarves, and many other garments sporting traditional patterns. Every fishing family has developed their own pattern, for a rather gruesome reason: sometimes fishermen went missing at sea and their bodies would be washed ashore days later. They could only be identified from the pattern on their clothes. So a Jennings sweater looks different from an O’Flaherty or a Sheehan sweater!

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Like on the mainland, you can find church ruins and a lot of ancient history on Innishmore. One stone fort, called Dún Aengus, was especially impressive. It dates back to prehistoric times and was built right on a cliff with a 60m drop to the sea below. Lying on your stomach and looking down to where the sea is crashing against the cliff is an amazing feeling!

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But a one-day trip is definitely not enough to explore all there is to see on Innishmore. Like me, you’ll probably want to go back and give your calves a work-out biking across the island in order to discover its many stunning sights! Oh, and btw, Leabharlann means library :).

Text & Pictures: Lena Schwarz