Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Should you visit the Fernsehturm?

As former Seattlites obsessed with our needle, it's a bit funny that we ended up in another city with a fondness for a futuristic tower.

The Fernsehturm (TV Tower) hardly towers at a mere 368 meters (1,207 feet), but in a city this flat you can see it from most points in Berlin. It is actually the highest point in Germany and much taller than our beloved Space Needle. Its like welcoming an old friend when you look up from a place you've never been and - there she is! - you see the tower. One of the major selling points of our apartment is that you can see the Fernsehturm from our loft bed, living room and front balcony. There are few things I like seeing more in the morning. 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

2 Weeks in Manchester

2 Weeks in Manchester
We first spent a weekend in Manchester for a wedding and were charmed by its unique architecture, character and history. In a good mood from the festivities, we weren't sure if it was just these rosy personal feelings or if the city really kicked ass. Especially after we agreed to a house trade that had us spending 2 weeks of summer break in this industrial northern center and locals first question in response to our plans was a polite "Why?".

Lucky for us, we did enjoy. A lot. Staying in a place for longer than a night or two allowed us to gain a insiders' perspective and explore the greater north (including York, Edinburgh, Port Sunlight, Liverpool and Chester - watch this space for posts!).

And much like the vacation to Ischia (but in a less island paradise kinda way), one of our primary goals on this vacation was to relax. The baby is coming and a whole different, slower and hopefully just as fulfilling way of traveling will be necessary. Let's consider this a successful test run into our new life.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Nazi Rally Grounds in Nuremburg

Germany Travel Front Page
Working for as the Germany Travel Expert has me seeking out new places in Germany and dredging up all sorts of posts and pictures from my travels. Sometimes this makes for a great new post for the site and sometimes they may have already been written about, but I still want so share.

In light of my lax new postings on this blog (due to the growth) and exploring the Germany Travel archives - how about a hybrid? On our first year exploring this country (and unintentionally falling in love) we tromped all over Germany. On one of these cross-country trips we found ourselves in Nuremburg and Ian's love of all things WWII history guided us to...

Monday, September 8, 2014

Pregnancy Hiatus

I keep thinking about this blog.

I love tracking our adventures in Berlin and beyond here and have a stack of posts on our recent trip to Manchester and northern UK in my head, but have failed to get them to the page in any kind of timely fashion. Like many bloggers, life seems to be interfering.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

The Ideal Island Vacation: Ischia, Italy

Best Italian Island vacationIn early June, we realized Ian had some vacation days and sometime - sometime soon - I was going to be far too big and uncomfortable to travel. Thus, our usual brand of spontaneous/half-planned travel was born. But where?

There are few place we won't go. Bucharest in August? Why not. Copenhagen just for a day to pick up a parent? Or course. Idaho? Let's do it!

But given our poor trip planning, flights to just about anywhere were more then we hoped to pay. So I got creative. Thought outside the box. I looked at packages. Rarely the best deal for us bargain-basement globetrotters, I found that easyjet delivers some pretty enticing cheapo deals. I found one such combo (just over 400 euro for a flights & hotel for 2 for 4 nights) to the island of Ischia, Italy. After we fell in love with the area during a trip to Naples and the island of Procida two years earlier - we couldn't resist going back.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Where to Take Your Parents for German Castles

My parents never intended to go to Germany. They certainly didn't envision spending so much time in Berlin. They really never thought they might have to watch their future grandchild grow up speaking German (hopefully).

So when we can make concessions, we do what we can. On their last visit to see us in Europe we put in some time to see one of their favorite things: Castles!

Note: Not all locations have been tested on our parents, but I feel pretty certain recommending them after our visit.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Top 14 Tweets of the Brazil v. Germany World Cup Game

It is impossible to ignore that the World Cup is happening right now. And Germany is winning.

News of the tournament is all over social media, I've covered where to watch in Berlin on EasyExpat and Where to Watch in Germany on and every night there are fireworks announcing each goal. While our stamina is sadly sub-par to watching all the games, we've rallied around the US team (before their loss to Belgium) and worn our Germany colors proudly around town.

Last night's game between Brazil and Germany was a slaughter. Total annihilation. A complete, unbelievable joy to watch for Germany fans like us. Enjoyment was elevated even more when I tuned in to what people were saying on Twitter.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Lost Pet in Germany

How to find your lost cat in BerlinI've written about our cat, importing pets from abroad and adopting the bunnies - I never wanted to write a post about a lost cat in Berlin. But there we were on Monday, preparing for my 21-week pregnancy check with our power still out in the kitchen (a German apartment story for another time) realizing the cat wasn't in the house. Catastrophes never happen at a good time.

As we live on the 6th floor attic apartment (dachgeschoss) with nowhere for the Bellatrix to go but out the window, we could guess what had happened. Hot days and nights have us cracking the windows to coax in a nighttime breeze and a strong wind must have opened the windows enough for the cat to take a cool rooftop stroll. I was already close to tears, but Ian comforted me by telling me her only recourse was to go into one of our neighbor's apartment. We would put up signs all over the Hof (courtyard) and entrances and when a neighbor found a furry surprise visitor they would give us a call.

(The last few days have been traumatic and I go into detail here, but rest assured we have a happy ending. If are just looking for tips to find a lost pet in Germany scroll to the end.)

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Where to Take Your Parents in Alsace-Lorraine

Where to Take Your Parents in Alsace-Lorraine
Colmar, France
In typical PorterBall fashion, we packed a lot into my parent's last trip. After trying out Swiss life, we swung through the Alsace-Lorraine region of France on our way back to Berlin. I wanted to give the P's a taste of French life - even if it was German flavored.

The Alsace-Lorraine region (or Reichsland Elsaß-Lothringen if you're feeling especially Germ-y) has been tossed back and forth between Germany and France several times. Though it currently is in France (and has been since 1922), this mishmash of cultures has resulted in some of the best of both sides.
  • Must Eat: Flàmmeküeche - basically a very thin crust pizza, typically with lardons (bacon), white onions and a cream-based sauce.
  • Must drink: Wine, of course! But Germany's influence means you won't get sniffed at for ordering a beer. Sadly, I could have neither. Another apfelshorle s'il vous plaît.
  • Must see: Serious cuteness. Hubsch. Mignon. No matter how you pronounce it, this region is filled with towns straight outta a Disney set.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Berlin by Boat

Even with Berlin’s wonderful transportation options, the city can be a monster to traverse. Walking is inevitable no matter your mode of transport, a fact that becomes abundantly clear every time my parents are in town. They bravely put on their walking shoes, but a jaunt between major attractions can rack up quite the miles (or kilometers if you're being European about it).

Luckily, there is an easier way to check out Berlin's top sites and save your parent's feet/sanity. We joined one of the popular boat tours with a departure point around Berliner Dom to get a fresh perspective on Berlin's most impressive tourist sites.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Getting all Willy Wonka in Berlin: Ritter Sport Bunte Schokowelt

Make your own chocolate in BerlinMy parents were on their third visit to Berlin and though we'd had a great time checking out baby stuff and traipsing about Switzerland, I was determined to show them more to love in my adopted home. After all the war memorials and major tourist sites, I thought chocolate might be the easiest way to charm them.

But 5 minutes away from the Ritter Sport Chocolate Shop we were forced to turn back by thundering rain and hail. HAIL! Oh, April weather. Brave Northwesters that we are, we were ultimately undeterred and found our way back to the site of one of Germany's most famous chocolates.

Officially called Ritter Sport Bunte Schokowelt (Ritter Sport Colorful Chocolate World), I had heard that you can make your own chocolates there. I knew it could be gimmicky and touristy, but this was my chance to be Willy Wonka and there was no way I was passing that up.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Funkhaus Nalepastrasse Tour

This city is full of nondescript, even decrepit-looking buildings that hide a world of Berlin history. So we weren't put off when we arrived in the middle of nowhere (technically Oberschoeneweide) to what looked like a never ending waterfront of abandoned factories.

We had been invited by a friend to take a tour of Rundfunk der DDR and really had no idea of what to expect. But as we're usually ready for anything, a tour of an East Berlin radio we would do.

Funkhaus Nalepastrasse Tour

Friday, May 9, 2014

Where to Take Your Parents in Switzerland

Swiss Alps with cloudI never thought I would go to Switzerland three times in just over a year, but cheap flights from Berlin to Basel and family near Zurich has made it a top destination lately. When my parents visited it was off to see the cousins - and more - in Switzerland.


On this second trip out to the cousin's place I brought the whole crew of mom, dad and husband. The cousins were once again disappointed in the weather and it was quite drizzly, but for a bunch of northwesters this was hardly a problem. This suburb about 20 minutes south of Zurich, the town sits along Lake Zurich and offers close proximity to the highly regarded Zurich International School. It is also, according to wikipedia, sometimes called "Wädi". Hubsch.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

German Fruit Wine Festival

Werder Baumblütenfest As an avid fan of alcohol, I knew it was going to be hard saying good-bye. But for the sake of the little person we don't even know yet, I have. And - shockingly - it hasn't been nearly as hard as I thought it would be.

While I love my beer (and Ian has continued to enjoy in my absence), I don't really feel like I am missing out. I have indulged my fair share and in this latest adventure I feel like I will take any step necessary to make this a success. I have avoided out beloved spätis in Berlin, abstained on our latest adventure through France and skipped beers in my favorite brewery city in Germany.

But this weekend I will be tested again. The Fruit Wine Festival (Baumblütenfest) is back.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Babies and parents and instagram - oh my!

Pregnant in Berlin
The night of the test. We think this is...good news?
After sitting on the news for a whole month - a record for us - we finally told everyone what is up with my not drinking. Preggers.

Though initially terrified (seriously check those faces), we are getting towards the wildly excited end and are doing our best to figure out how to have a a baby in Germany. I am freaking out and keeping the US family informed on a tumblr of random at In Berlin, Baby. If you too find yourself interested in why we have considered the name Clovis for our offspring or what movies we are watching to prepare (movies are the new books, right?) - head on over.

On the other end of the spectrum, the parents are coming! Once again, my brave parents are trekking over the ocean from the American west coast and this time landing in Copenhagen. I will be meeting them up there where we are sure to cry and be fools saying hi again for the first time in almost a year. Ian will meet us the next day in Hamburg and then we will finally show them our new home in Berlin. Thought they've seen it on TV, this will be their first viewing in person. I hope they like it, and will forgive us the stairs.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Day trip to Pfaueninsel

Pfaueninsel (Peacock Island), GermanyOur first year in Berlin we traveled all over Germany. We loved train travel and getting to know small-town Germany. This time around, we have discovered the wonders of budget air travel and have been able able to go a bit further afield (but still just in Europe).

But a little bit of cash poor means that we have shrunk our circle of travel to day trips around Berlin. This isn't a bad compromise considering there are hundreds of places within just a few hours of Berlin. We've been canoeing in the Spreewald, to a "tropical island" and a Berlin Garden House. Next on the list: the rural attractions of Pfaueninsel.

In my new gig as Germany Travel Guide for, I was disappointed to see the site was already written about by the previous guide. I need to make these fun times count people! But really, there was little to be disappointed in. The weather was brilliant, we were enjoying one of our last days with an expat couple that have become our best fiends abroad and Pfaueninsel was the perfect place for an almost springtime wander.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Berlin's Allied Museum

Allied Museum in Germany
We hadn't planned on visiting the Allied Museum. It is located by the American embassy all the way down in Dahlem and we had never even been that far south except on the U3 Ublau.

But then a friend visited at Christmas, was surprised by his wife at the airport, and promptly lost his passport. It was a bit of a roller coaster.

Impromptu visit of the American Embassy at Christmas time!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Berlin's Asian Market: Dong Xuan Center

Berlin Asian Market
Sometimes called Berlin’s ‘Vietnamese mall’, the Dong Xuan Center was originally run and frequented by East Berlin's expat Vietnamese community. It is now a recommended Berlin destination complete with guided tour groups.

The internet had promised us that this compound of warehouses would fulfill all of our Asian food needs on the cheap. As Seattleites, we are used to a high level of Thai and Vietnamese food and Germany's attempts (although infinitely better than when we arrived in 2007) are generally disappointing. We hoped the (fun-to-say) Dong Xuan Center would offer us the tools, ingredients and cheap eats we were looking for.

We stepped off the bus with really no idea what we were getting into. As we approached the gates, I realized we were in for something so much weirder than a shopping trip.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Day trip to Brandenburg an der Havel

Day trips from BerlinOur conflicting issues of never ending wanderlust and near poverty mean we make a lot of compromises. While we dream of trying not to break ourselves on the ski slopes of the Czech Republic, we settle for a day trip anywhere out of Berlin. And if anywhere looks like this ---------------->
we have no right to complain.

Brandenburg an der Havel is a medieval town located about an hour away from Berlin (about 60 kilometers west) by train and lies in the state of Brandenburg on the River Havel - hence the name. A quiet village with a rich history and many historical sites, the town was the ideal day trip from Berlin.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Berlin Photo Booths

Berlin Photo BoothsLooking for something to do on Valentine's Day is always a challenge. Not one for fine dining or flowers, I am usually on the hunt for something more unique, or even a little weird.

This year, while I was contemplation my options and lack of funds, I came up with a semi-genius idea: a self-guided tour of the nearest Berlin Photoautomats. Cheap (2 for a 4 shot pic strip), a chance to explore the neighborhood and some ridiculous keepsake photos. I love a random Berlin adventure.

And Berlin is littered with Photo Booths (or Photoautomats), which is hardly surprising given the high hipster density. I had no idea how many until I asked the all-knowing Berlin Twittersphere,

Monday, February 3, 2014

The U2 UBlau

Once again, we took to Berlin's UBahn to drink and rate our way through an entire line's stations, simultaneously horrifying and amusing our fellow passengers. It's fun for everyone.

Drinking Tour if Berlin UBahn

Friday, January 31, 2014

10 Things Berlin has Taught Me

If I got you down with my last post - sorry about that! I've been feeling down while looking for work and seriously felt my love for this amazing city wane a bit. But - sorry parents - that doesn't mean we're going home.

We came to Berlin to chew bubblegum and kick ass, and I'm all out of bubblegum.

10 Things Berlin has taught me
Our kiez: Wedding*

Monday, January 20, 2014

Falling out of Love with Berlin

Hipster Europe
Usually I look at the "Berlin Hates You" signs and smile grimly, happy to have made it this far in a tough city to call home. But lately the message has been feeling a lot more personal.

We originally moved to Berlin with something that can only loosely be called a plan. No jobs, no friends, no place to stay...we were young and dumb and thought it would work out and miraculously IT DID. We found jobs, Ian as a teacher and I wrote expat guides. We made friends. We traveled. We were happy and the city was our oyster.

Monday, January 6, 2014

We Ate the East End: Eating London Food Tours

Eating at St. John Bread and Wine Spitelfields East London
We were a bit of a disaster. A hectic September with multiple trips to Manchester left us comatose for as long as life would let us until suddenly I was in London on a work trip with Ian set to join me for the weekend. What should have been a fun-filled outing was stressing us as we couldn't decide on a plan of attack and were completely overwhelmed with options. We've been here before, and clearly I am in that place again as it has taken me months to talk about one of the best things we've ever done in London!

We were saved from our indecision by an answer from heaven (or more specifically from twitter). Travels of  Adam connected us with the Eating London and just like that - we had a day of eating planned. As I said, heaven.

We're Back in Berlin Ja!

We're Back in Berlin Ja!
ebe & ian at Yak-toberfest 2008