Vienna — Culture, Christmas, and Comfort Food

Culture and Lifestyle, Travel

By Sophia Obrecht

Vienna, the undisputed capital of culture. Overflowing with history, art, and music, the city is full of galleries and museums to discover. At Christmas the Austrian Hauptstadt also has a festive edge with a Christmas market on every street corner. For me one of the best parts of visiting the city is getting to fill up on all my favourite Austrian foods, from desserts, to hearty main dishes, there is no end to tasty comfort food on the menu. So sit back, relax, and read on to find out how to make the most of your time in Vienna.

Admire the Architecture

If you’re looking to explore the city’s architectural gems then look no further than Vienna’s Ringstrasse, built between the 1860’s and 1890’s. The boulevard, located in the first district, is the best place to admire a host of building without having to move from one end of the city to the other. The buildings on the Ringstrasse were built during the period of Historicism: a style which encompasses different architectural styles from previous ages used to evoke bygone eras. As a result of this form of architecture the Ringstrasse is a space which looks as though it was built up over hundreds of years, instead of the space of 30. From the state opera, the Vienna stock exchange, the university building, or the Museums of fine art and natural history, you can’t help but be impressed.

Get up to Speed on Austrian Art

No trip to Vienna would be complete without seeing some of the country’s most famous artworks. My personal favourite is Klimt’s painting ‘The Kiss’, housed in the Belvedere, if only for the purity and beauty of the painting. While you’re there be sure to check out some of Gustav Klimt’s other famous works, including Judith or Adam and Eve. For a more striking and arguably disturbing approach to art Egon Schiele’s works are a stunning exploration of sexuality, self-image, and raw emotions. Other famous artists include Oskar Kokoschka and Friedensreich Hundertwasser (check out the famous Hundertwasser House in Vienna’s third district for a lesson in art, mosaic, and architecture)

Find the Perfect Breakfast Spot (on a Budget)

There are of course no end to cafes and breakfast spots to enjoy in Vienna. But from one friend to another check out the rooftop restaurant located in the furniture store Leiner on Mariahilfer Strasse for the cheapest breakfast in town. The food is basic, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad, and for less than 3 Euro for breakfast and a coffee, it’s certainly the best spot for any students on a budget. The best part of the dining experience, is however, the view. A local secret, this rooftop restaurant offers a fantastic vantage point of the inner city with domes and spires as far as the eye can see.

Indulge in the Coffee Culture and Taste Every Dish on the Menu

Famous for its coffee culture, in which locals order their famous Melange (a Viennese cappuccino of sorts), and sit for hours in their favourite cafes, you too can experience the true Viennese lifestyle. Of course there are the classic coffee houses of Café Central, or Café Landtmann, where the intellectuals of the 19th century would gather and discuss theories of philosophy, art, and politics. Just be aware that these places tend to be slightly expensive and full to be brim with tourists, nevertheless the classic cafes are still worth a visit. So cameras at the ready and make sure to get that perfect shot of a classic apple strudel and coffee for your Insta feed.

While you’re in the city make sure you try some classic Austrian dishes, from Schnitzel, to Kaiserschmarrn, or my personal favourite Marillenknödel, the traditional food is just too good to resist!  

Explore the Christmas Scene

If you happen to find yourself in Vienna during the festive season take a stroll through the famous Christmas markets, from the Rathaus, to Karlsplatz and even Schönbrunn Palace, there is a host of markets to see. My personal favourite and a low key event, is the market at Spittelberg, with stalls lining the narrow streets there is something especially cosy about this Christmas market.

On the other hand, if you’re hoping to explore Vienna during the summer months, head to the famous film and food festival at the Rathaus. There is literally every type of food stall you can imagine and a huge cinema screen right in the city centre screening opera and ballet performances! How much more cultured can you get?

How to Leave Home Behind

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By Kristina Eventov

Whether you’re moving for school, work, or just because, moving away from home can bring with it extreme highs and lows. Though you might hope to “find yourself”, you can just as easily lose yourself along the way. Until you’ve actually done it, it can be hard to imagine what exactly moving away will mean for you. As a student, it has been made easier knowing that there is a plethora of people in my position who understand exactly what I am going through. After my first few months of living abroad in Munich, Germany, here are some of my tips on how you can leave home behind, in search of a new adventure.

1. Bring Memories with You

Scrolling through Instagram/Facebook etc. can make it easy to keep up with friends’ lives from a distance. Nowadays we’re all well aware that everything is not always as it seems, but this can be hard to remember when you see countless posts of everyone seemingly “living their best lives”. Rather than letting this get you down, reflect on your own memories you and your friends have made. Whether this means printing out photos or taking mementos with you, don’t allow your own memories to be overshadowed. Especially in your first days away, it can be comforting to have familiar items with you to remind you of happy moments you’ve shared.

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2. Do Your Research

Contrary to popular belief, the internet can actually be a great place to put your mind at ease. By finding out as much as you can about the destination that you’ll come to all your new home, you can feel infinitely more prepared for any eventuality that you may encounter. Whether that means researching your new accommodation, or finding a club you can join, it always helps to be a step ahead. Personally, I skimped out on this step. I definitely could have done more research on where I was going to be living and what I was going to be doing. But this was okay for me, as I like the feeling of the unknown and being able to discover things for the first time on my own. However, if you are feeling especially unsure, finding out what amazing things your new destination has to offer can make you infinitely more excited. I know that for my next adventure I will be joining lots of local Facebook groups so that I really know what there is and how I can get involved.

3. Bite the bullet

Travelling the world and getting to explore different cultures is a luxury not available to everyone. If you have the opportunity to leave behind what you know, take it — if you keep postponing, you’ll miss out on so much. Especially whilst you are young, it is more “socially acceptable” to take time out to travel and explore. As a languages student, I am able to have a year abroad where I get to live in different countries and work, study, or both! I cannot emphasise enough the benefits of doing a placement year. It’s basically a taster of real adult life, where you’re encouraged to ask questions, to learn, and allowed to make mistakes. Even if you’re scared, it is better to just throw yourself into it, rather than live not knowing what could have been. Many people sit around waiting for the “right time”, but it never seems to come. You can always find a reason to stay no, that it’s not the right time, but just remember all the amazing reasons why you should go: you’ll meet new people, experience new things, become more independent, and the list goes on. As the famous Nike slogan goes “just do it”.

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4. Allow Yourself to Miss Home

Despite what you may think, everyone will miss home at some point. It is impossible not to miss having comforting and familiar surroundings, where you know everyone, and everything. As seductive as the idea sounds, a life lived in comfort is a decidedly boring one. Allow yourself to feel these “negative” emotions, but don’t let them overwhelm you. While you may miss home, there are bound to be things your new place has that you didn’t have before. This can be anything from a new class, to new friends; every new place has something new and exciting to offer you. Living in Germany has definitely had me missing home a few times; arguably most important, I never realised how much I appreciated (and relied on) shops being open on a Sunday or past 8pm any other day…(In Germany this is not the case!)

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5. Don’t Look Back

If you are constantly looking back and replaying what once was, you’ll never be happy with where you are or where you could be. It is important to keep looking forward and keep your chin up. Even if you are having an amazing time wherever you are, it can always get better! On the other hand, every seemingly “negative” experience will always help shape you in some way and allow you to grow from it. I have had an incredible time in Germany so far, and it can be scary to think that my next adventure might not be as exciting or fulfilling. That doesn’t mean that I won’t still try. If you approach your new beginnings with an open mind, you can make of it exactly what you want.

There have definitely been times when I’ve missed the UK and wished things here were the same as back home. However, I’ve also made some incredible memories, with some incredible people, that I will cherish forever. By leaving what you know and going somewhere new, you can expand your horizons and encounter things you never would have otherwise. Give yourself a chance, and leave your comfort zone.

5 Tips for a Super Trouper Stay in Stockholm

Travel

Hold tight and get ready for some ABBA puns! Stockholm,Sweden’s capital has so much to offer, even in the depths of winter. From meatballs,to hipsters, to the classic ABBA experience, there is no time like the present to explore this fantastic city! So if you’re thinking of taking a trip to up to Sweden, here are my five tips for a super trouper stay in Stockholm.


Throw Yourself into the ABBA Fun

Stockholm, every ABBA fan’s dream! From ‘ABBA – The Museum’,to the Mamma Mia experience it’s true that in this city you can never have too much ABBA!

The ABBA Museum is a truly interactive experience! You can record your version of some of ABBA’s top hits, or perform on stage with a hologram of the band singing along with you! Just be prepared to relive the experience when you download your creations from the museum’s website…let’s just say not everyone is meant to be a star, and hearing your voice back screaming out Dancing Queen is a highly cringeworthy experience… but still a hell of a lot of fun!

If you are as ABBA crazy as me and my chicas then there is also the option of the Mamma Mia experience, a live cabaret show of sorts. The show is set in a Greek taverna, complete with a delicious menu of Mediterranean foods. Be warned though, unless you are planning a trip in July or August, the show is performed in Swedish (except for the songs, of course). This proved a  surprise to us and made for a very funny evening of trying to figure out the plot of the show….However, even with this minor inconvenience the night was fantastic and highly entertaining! So be be sure to take a chance on this wonderfully eccentric ABBA experience!


Explore the Old Town, Camera in Hand

There is no better way to explore a new city than to take a stroll through the streets, taking in the atmosphere, architecture and the people around you!

Have a walk through the old town or Gamla Stan, its medieval architecture makes for some great photo opportunities. With the Stockholm Cathedral as well as the Royal Palace there is a lot of Swedish history to discovery. In the run up to Christmas we stumbled across a small Christmasmarket — the frost covered ground and clear blue skies were enough to get us into the Xmas spirit, even in mid-November.


Bring the Money, Money, Money!

One thing to remember is you will need a lot of money to get about in Stockholm! Alcohol is notoriously expensive in Sweden so be prepared to pay over a fiver for a simple pint of beer and more than £10 for a glass of wine…Public transport in the city is also pretty pricey so make sure you take into account all those little extras, such as getting to and from the airport, as well as public transport during your stay.

Not only is Stockholm a costly city, the city and country,is also largely cashless. Get ready to pay for most things with card. I certainly got few funny looks when I got my sorry wad of Swedish Krona out of my purse, ready to pay for the most expensive hot chocolate of my life, only to find out the café did not accept cash! It’s a good idea to get yourself a cash travel card to avoid any fees on foreign transactions on your usual debit or credit card!


Get Some Meatballs in Ya

If you love the humble Ikea meatball, well then you’re in for a treat in Stockholm! Think mash potato, creamy source, and a dollop of lingonberry jam. Make sure you sample this Swedish delicacy, because believe me, the real thing is one million times better than the Ikea version (although I would never turn down a plate Ikea meatballs, let’s make that clear!).

Cinnamon Buns are also a traditional food in the Scandinavian city, so make sure you get yourself to a bakery and have taste of this sweet treat!


Get Your Hipster On in Södermalm

Of course the mainstream ABBA appeal of Stockholm is only part of the city’s attraction. For all the hipsters out there, or those looking to maintain their Insta aesthetic explore the island of Södermalm. It’s known as the alternative area of the city. With a host of cafés and shops each catering to the hipster crowd, there will be no shortage of brunch plates and chai latte’s to feature on your social media platforms.

Check out the area of Hornstull the perfect place to find a cozy café, as well as some cool bars and clubs for evening entertainment…or check out the outdoor market (Hornstull Marknad) for vintage clothing, one of a kind deals, and a food truck scene for all you foodies out there!

York: A Saturday to Explore

Travel

York, a gem tucked away in the North of England, nestled not far from the East coast of the country. The pearl of North Yorkshire, some might even say, the city has been the centre point of many historical tales — from the Vikings to the War of the Roses, and later Rowntree’s chocolate empire  — York’s beauty lies in its varied architecture and its reflection of its rich past.

The minster stands tall in the centre of the old town, protected by what were once the city’s guard walls. With intricate patterns, illustrations, and carvings, the limestone structure whether set against a clear blue sky or malicious grey clouds,remains majestic, towering over the sea of tourists below, each equipped with smart phone in hand.

The winding streets that lead from behind the sacred site echo a treacherous time in English history: the War of the Roses and Tudor England, a period of violence,religious reform and civil unrest … all seems peaceful now until the whistles begin to blow and a wall of voices fill the streets. Protesters declaring “Bollocks to Brexit” wave flags and smile, they still have hope that others may come to their senses. As we watch,some of us with pride, others in awe, and some with unwavering cynicism, we drift down the side streets.

Further awayfrom the protest we come to the Shambles, a street distinctly mystical in its make-up.The oldest shopping street in Europe or so the guide book says, the shops todaylook to a different world to entice their customers: a magical world and afamous boy wizard. Fans seem to come from far and wide to take a stroll downwhat many claim was the inspiration for Diagon Ally. Looks of wonder and joyfill the faces of those who spent their childhood under J.K Rowling’s magicalspell.

Across town the station is busy with commuters and tourists, some rushing to catch their next train, others staring up idly at the large departures board. Just next to the old Victorian structure stands a museum filled with trains from every decade: a train spotter’s delight, and a Grandfather’s favourite destination to show off his niche knowledge. Some children sigh as the wonder why they’re spending their weekend learning which engine fits in to which train, they would rather be in the realm on Instagram, some lean in eagerly, “maybe this place isn’t so boring after all?” they think to themselves.

Outside it’s getting dark and people make their way into the centre of the city. Whether an evening meal spent with friends, a few drinks at the pub, or a couple of cocktails on an awkward first date, the city flickers with energy as the night is set in motion ready for the next day to dawn in the historical city of York. 

6 Ways to Explore Munich Like a Local

Travel

Munich is a city that welcomes millions of tourists every year  and is known as city of beer, pretzels, and German tradition. But there so much more to Munich than meets the eye, especially if you’re just in the city for a flying visit. From venturing into the mountains, to experiencing the alternative nightlife, here my 6 tips for exploring Munich like a local.

The Isar

An integral part of Munich life, especially in summer, is relaxing by the Isar. Whether you choose to BBQ or grill along the Flaucher, or lounge on the riverside by the Reichenbachbrüke, make sure to bring a couple of beers along with you (well, you’re in Munich after all). The location is perfect for meeting up with friends for a chilled afternoon or evening, or just sitting reading, writing and clearing your head of all that stress.

In the summer months the main section along the Isar which runs close to the city centre tends to get pretty packed with everyone trying to get a little piece of the Isar action. To avoid the crowds just try walking further along the river past the Tierpark to the west, there is no doubt you’ll find a perfect spot to unwind and enjoy all that mother nature has to offer … along with the few canoe boats and inflatable dinghies that may even pass you by.

Coffee, Cake, and Ice Cream

Caffeine and sugar what’s not to love? Munich has a host of independent cafés and ice cream parlors. The area around Universität has streets full of coffee spots, including a British themed tea room. Throughout spring to late autumn tables and chairs line the streets and in the winter the cafés are all the the more cozy yet chic.

If you’re crazy for ice cream, well Munich is for you. Check out the Der verrückte Eismacher for some great ice cream and some truly unique flavours … did someone say beer flavored ice cream or maybe even a scoop or two of brie flavoured ice cream if you’re feeling brave! So if you want to fit in around town make sure you designate some time to explore the local coffee scene, have yourself a slice of cake and find your favorite ice cream flavor!

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The Alternative Scene

Munich has a pretty cool alternative scene going on. From an abundance of techno to some new funk and disco, the bars and clubs in Munich will not disappoint. Take a look around Sendlinger Tor for some great bars, one for every mood and group.

If you’re looking for some funky beats there is no place like the Goldener Reiter, it’s chic yet edgy with a bit of grunge thrown in. Forget the pretentious PI or the mainstream clubs like 089, the Goldener Reiter has something different to offer, and with no cover charge (at least last time I checked), what have you got to lose?

If you’re ever in Munich and looking for memorable night out be sure to check out Bahnwähter Thiel, a hub for techno located in a series of shipping containers… complete with an ubahn carriage in the club’s outside area. Even if you’re not a techno fanatic, hey not all of us are, this spot is still worth a visit! The atmosphere here is always fun and the design of the venue is truly unique, it’s almost like an adventure playground disguised as a club.

Hit the Mountains

If you’ve ever been to Munich you’ll know that on a clear day you can see the Alps from the city and if you want to explore the Munich and the surrounding area like a local then you should take a trip to the mountains. If you love skiing or hiking, or just looking at some truly stunning scenery then what are you waiting for? For the child inside all of us the Rodelbarns (best described as tobogganing tracks for the summer months) scattered throughout the hills, are the perfect weekend treat.

The best part of any trip into the mountain (apart from the views) is of course the Alms (hilltop restaurants) on the side of the mountains. Traditional in every way, this is the best place to sample some the area’s delicacies. My number one recommendation has to be Kaiserschmarrn — chopped up pancake usually topped with apple sauce and icing  sugar.

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Museums on Sundays

On Sundays a number of museums in Munich lower their entry fee to just 1 Euro. Shops are closed and the city has a distinct calm about it. The Alte, Neue, and Moderne Pinakotheken offer the chance for art lovers to view some of van Gogh’s  most famous masterpieces and well as a very vast collection of chairs (ok, maybe the chairs were not the most exciting part of gallery). Other museums that are just 1 Euro on Sundays include the Museum on Egyptology, Museum Brandhorst, and the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum.

Enrich your mind and spend the day gazing at some of the art world’s most famous masterpieces.

Move Over Oktoberfest

Ok, so we all know that Munich is famous for its Oktoberfest, and don’t get me wrong you should definitely  pay the word’s most famous beer festival a visit if you get the chance, but be aware of the masses of tourists that swarm the city during the final weeks of September. For a more authentic experience it’s worth spending the day at Frühligstfest, held towards the end of April.  Although there tends to be a fair amount of young sixteen year-olds, and fewer tents, there are far less tourists, and the atmosphere is a little more easy going.

If you’re looking for a true traditional beer festival it’s worth exploring the smaller festivals in the surrounding towns and cities, from Friesing, Rosenheim to Dachau, there is no better way to experience a true German beer festival.

Just make sure you take your Tracht seriously and buy yourself a traditional pair of Lederhosen or a genuine Dirndl…fancy dress costumes are not welcome here!

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7 Ski Resorts that Bring the Hype

Culture and Lifestyle, Travel

Winter is coming…and so is ski season! Whether you’re a snow boarder, a skier, or just love the snow (who doesn’t!?), the perfect ski destination is waiting out there for you. But winter sports are about more than just hitting the slopes, the Après-ski and nightlife are key to any ski resort! So here are 7 top ski spots for the best high altitude vibe!

Tinges/Val d’Isère

The resorts of Tinges and Val d’Isère are super popular amongst the Brits. Why you ask? Well, because we love a good party and these resorts do not disappoint! From the famous La Folie Douce, the coolest most extravagant Après-spot on the side of the slopes (complete with live shows, flying champagne bottles and some amazing costumes), to the laid back a vibe of La Queue de Cachon, these resorts have something for everyone! Be sure to check out the town of La Lac (2100m), which has a tonne of cool bars and clubs. The Loop Bar is a favourite with tourists and locals, offering live bands and a theme parties.

Take a visit to Bananas on the Val d’Isère side of the resort or Cocorico with its skilled DJs, live music, and late night parties.

Of course Tinges and Val d’Isère offer more than just some amazing nightlife options — the pistes are also top quality. With over 80 lifts and 300km of runs, the ski resort is great for beginners but offers enough challenge for all you winter sports experts out there!

Whistler

One of the biggest ski resorts in North America, Whistler, which is linked to Blackcomb with a new gondola, is world famous, offering great international vibes in the beautiful setting of British Colombia.

This Canadian ski destination is also a top spot for the Après-ski life as well as general nightlife. Whistler village provides a vast array of bars, restaurants, and party options: from Garfinkel’s, with its own mini ramp in the bar, to the Moe Joe’s Nightclub a popular spot where you can expect to find live bands and international DJs!

In April the Whistler World Ski and Snowboard festival (WSSF), takes place. A week of ski and snowboard competitions as well as art, music, and culture, the hype is not to be missed!

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Verbier

Expect a great Après-life, excellent pistes, and high prices… well it is Switzerland after all. End your ski day at Bar 1936, located just on the side of the piste, this is a good place to chill in a deck chair and enjoy that alpine sun. Big Ben Pub (they like their British themed bars on the Alps) and Pub Mont Fort are also worth a visit.

If it’s clubbing you’re looking for Casbah, may be for you, but be prepared for some good old rock and pop. Another option is of course Farm Club, but be warned, prices here are through the roof. Take a rich relative, marry a prince, or put your car on sale, long drinks will cost around 20 CFH and if you happen to be rolling in it, you can purchase a lovely bottle of champagne for a meagre 220 CHF!

Livigno Italy

Looking for le Dolce Vita? Take a trip to Livigno in Italy. Alegra is one of the most popular Après-ski locations in the resort and is not to be missed, while Kosmo is a great low-key option — it’s most popular in the late afternoon.

In the evening look to Daphne’s pub for the perfect chill evening, or if you’re looking to really live it up stop by Micky’s Disco Club, popular throughout the week with a variety of different music on offer. If you are feeling particularly adventures why not explore the resort on an organised bar crawl. Well, we all love a bit of organised fun!

The resort itself is located in the Alta Valtellina region in Lombardy Italy. Its 115 km of slopes providing varying levels of difficulty. What more could you ask for?

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Kitzbühel

Synonymous with downhill racing, Kitzbühel hosts the famous Hanenkamm race, one of the most famous ski races in the world. The route, known as the Streif, has gradients reaching 85% and jumps of up to 80 metres, and sees racers hit speeds of up 140 km/h.  No wonder this is one of the most challenging and demanding courses on the racing circuit. If you find yourself in the area on a race day, lucky you! Not only is the atmosphere described as electric, watching the racers test their skills and the boundaries of speed is a true privilege. Post-race parties are of course always an added bonus, although many  events will no doubt be VIP only, given the prestige associated with resort.

Never fear Kitzbühel caters to the every-man as well! There are three main clubs in the town – The Olympia, the Royal and Club Take 5 (you’ll have to overlook the name…). Other popular spots include the Mockingstube, the Londoner, or the Highway Bar.

Les Deux Alpes

Les Deux Alpes has a total of 47 lifts and 222km of pistes, with guaranteed skiing during any winter thanks to the glacier and the top altitude of 3,568 m.

When it comes to the Après-ski life there are a number of bars and clubs on offer. From the token British pub, Pub Windsor, with an impressive choice of beer, to the mountain top Le Pano Bar, the perfect day drinking affair. L’Avalanche Club is a good clubbing option although the town itself has a number of different bars to explore, which means there is always a lively atmosphere!

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Obertauern

Obertauern offers more than 100 km of pistes, as well as its very own Après-ski vibe. The setting for the Beatles Help! video, the area is very popular amongst Austrian and German tourist given its perfect location close to Salzburg and Munich.

If you ever find yourself in Obertauern, be sure to explore the Edelweissalm Chalet, an afternoon delight — get ready to dance on some tables and get down to some classic euro-pop. Then stop by Monkey’s Heaven or the Lürzer Alm Ski-Hut as the evening progresses!

Why not check out the Krampuslauf in early December? The event which is followed by evening parties, sees hundreds of people dressed as Krampusse (a devil like creatures who comes to punish naughty children) descend on the town. It’s a great way to experience traditional Austrian culture and will make for some great photos!