Berlin …as I see it!

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One of the green sites inside the Hackesher Markt in Berlin

After 2 years of living in Germany, I finally have the chance to see Berlin! 

Why it took it so long I also don’t know. Perhaps because, we never had the chance or there are wayyyy to many beautiful cities and places in Germany , including Berlin of course to see and visit. I am living in the Southern part of Germany (Bayern) and Berlin is up in the north. People greets you with “Hello ” or Moin Moin up there, something that is totally not a norm in Bavaria. The Bavarian culture is definitely so much different from Berlin I realized that now. One thing for sure, I couldn’t find a decent Bretzel like our favorite, there’s no one wearing Tracht–Lederhosen and Dirndls and nobody greets you “Servus!

Yes, with so many things to do, life can be busy, so we are taking our time, sometimes unplanned things leads to bigger adventures. This gives me opportunity to look for fascinating Manholes and of course, some of  Berlin secrets!

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The Reichstag in Berlin ( or Deutscher Bundestag)

Coincidentally  that I am doing my Orientierungskurs ( Leben In Deutschland ) , it heightened more my curiosity about Berlin.Everyday we learned about the country’s  political system, history and  everyday living. Imagine my excitement seeing the things from the books I am reading and now with my own eyes. Over the days, I become so engrossed with  World War II history and related events so I busied myself reading a lot and watching German movies. It’s unbelievable for myself that I can now watch German movies with comprehension! I’ve read about horrific stories and I can’t even imagine it happened. I just realized how little I know about Germany. As someone who grew up in Asia, I had zero knowledge about Holocaust and what happened to Berlin during the war, totally out of touch & not having a grip on world History. I think if I didn’t live here then I wouldn’t be able to learn so much about this country like this. Integration in a foreign culture is really the key.

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Holocaust Memorial in Berlin

 

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Little hands, little traveler

 Another thing, it also happened that my cousins from 2 different side of the world arranged to meet with me for the very first time here in Europe and our meeting point is Berlin. My daughter and her second-generation cousin met also for the first time! Both Expat children! There’s no other better place of course to meet up, because they had participated in the Berlin42 Marathon  and that’s what makes it even more exciting. I haven’t seen them for almost 3 decades so imagine our excitement!

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Out and about into Berlin’s colorful streets

So here’s how I find Berlin as a first time visitor!

Berlin is BERLIN !

Berlin is one of the famous city in Europe and beside the capital of Germany, you should visit Berlin because–it is BERLIN. Something about this place stands out from the rest. I also don’t know why. You need to personally experience it!  Maybe because of the vibes, its alive, free-spirited, artistic aura and world-class travel destination it became over the years. I think you can’t be in Berlin without thinking about the past, the Cold Warthe Nazi and Hitler WW II and the Berlin Mauer (or wall). Germany has a fair share of dark past and it plays a great deal of what is Germany now and its people.It’s an appendage of the city’s history. But in fact, Berlin is not a typical, traditional “German” city. When I say, “traditional”, then it must be “Bavaria“! Apart from the utilitarian “Box- type” buildings which influenced by the Communist time and cold-war era, I learned that Berlin is still on continuous repairs. It was severely bombed during WW II so almost all of the city’s relics were restored or rather renovated. During the time of our visit, the other section of the Berliner Dom is still undergoing some repairs .Berlin is still repainting, rebuilding, restoring and its history is just yesterday’s news!

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Colorful art Grafitti in the streets of Berlin
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UNESCO World Heritage Site,Museum Insel in Berlin

Berlin is very International

Well, Berlin absolutely left an impression on me apart from it being a busy metropolis. I love this wonderful, international city! It is a home for all people around the world. For a minute, I was shocked to hear so many people are speaking English, which totally surprised me because in Bavaria, I barely hear people speaking in English. So when I heard it, I was really jolted. “Wow, I feel at home! “. Berlin is so diversified, relax, busy, multi-cultural and naturally very touristy.  Over the weekend, Berlin was flocked with tourists because of the Marathon so it’s really not surprising to see lots of people visiting.

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Inside the Cupola Dome of the Reichstag /Parliament Building in Berlin
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The magnet for visitors : The Reichstag Dome where the Bundestag (Parliament) sits in Berlin

People of different skin flooded the streets. Tourists from all over the world flocked over the Brandenburg Tor  and the Reichstag Building. People are super carefree and very welcoming. You can wear whatever you want and dress up to whatever style you like.  While taking the  U-Bahn and S-Bahn, I observed people.People from different walks of life come in and out of the train and chasing every second. People are kind and one time in a busy S-Bahn,  someone even gave us a seat.

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The Berliner Dom (Cathedral)

Berlin is Green

Berlin is often called Green metropolis. I can imagine that in summer, parks and green spaces are full of people relaxing under the sun. Another thing is that it’s  bicycle-friendly . I was surprise to see rental bikes all around but I don’t really know how does it works. Although Berlin has an excellent public transportation,tourist can explore the city by renting a bike as well. Berlin has another  unique Green feature as well–it’s Green Ampelmännchen, or the  pedestrian crossing traffic lights. In 1924, the first traffic lights in Berlin were ceremonially put into service on Potsdamer Platz.It was a surreal experience to saw the old traffic lights that still operates up until now.

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Fascinated with the Ampelmännchen in Berlin

Berlin is a home for Artists 

Berlin is very artsy, the graffitti Artwork is unbelievable! Art  is in every  corner and that’s what makes it so unique. With so many beautiful Architecture all around to ponder, you are left with many choices.It’s not the lack of high rise buildings, but the sense of modernity that blends with lots of historical artifacts. From the Berlin’s classic S-Bahn from Friedrichstrasse Station to the modern Aqua Dom in Radisson Blu hotel up to the Fernsehen Tower (TV Tower), Berlin has the mixture of both the past and the present.

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Graffitti Art, the more , the merrier
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Call me please…

A Walk through  History

If you wanna explore Berlin, then you need to do a lot of walking.Berlin is like a big treasure hunt place. If you are in search of something without knowing where it is, then you are into a threat, maybe you’ll stumble upon a great secret! That’s how we did it.Walking through the paths of historical sites, starting from the Brandenburg Tor,and tracing the marks of the traces of the Berlin wall, up to the Postdamer Platz and the Holocaust Memorial, you feel some kind of significance. You will be grateful about the life you are having considering the tragic stories behind these memorials. After a quite morning at the Museum Insel where we saw the Berliner Dom, Alte Museum and Pergamon, we walked straight to the Bebelplatz, and wondering why people are flocking there. It took time for me to realized what they are staring down to the ground–a squared-looking glass directly showing the   empty bookcases. Bebelplatz is the place directly in front of Humbolt University, the oldest university in Berlin and which has had famous professors, including  Albert Einstein, Karl Marx, and the Brothers Grimm. The same place where the Nazi burned the writings and all the books of the Jews about Jewish faith occurred in 1933.It was not a grand memorial, it was in fact a void.If you don’t see it closely and reflect, then you are just wasting your time. It was considered a voided memorial because the books burned that night in 1933 can’t be replaced, but the void for them can be, hence the empty rows of bookshelves.

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Bebelplatz Book Burning Memorial in Berlin
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Walking can lead you to details of History

You feel invincible knowing that great men and women have walked there, also people lost their lives on these memorable places, just like the story of the Kindertransport. I have learned much about German history just by walking through the city. Walking through a new city can be life changing as well.

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A Nostalgic shop in Heckesher Markt

Berlin is cheap…or rather affordable.

For budget travelers like me, I find Berlin affordable.In Berlin, you can do many stuff without spending much money. With almost all of the key landmarks which are situated close to each other, from Museums to clubs, to tourist spots and tours, you can easily find whatever suits your tastes. I find it easy to navigate on its busy streets.We had a nice hotel along Tiergarten with a very good buffet breakfast for only 8 Euros  and we can’t complain anymore! Because it’s very international, food is  no problem. I find it actually hard to choose what to eat because there are so many choices to choose from. From well-known fast foods,to dominating Turkish döners, Lebanese Koftas, Indian currys, Thai, Korean, Arabic dishes and of course, the native German delicacies served in Biergartens and restaurants, you can never get hungry in Berlin, never! Almost every corner has a Currywürst mit Pommes as well. If you want to spend some quiet time, then head to the line of restaurants on the banks of the Spree river and watch the boats passed by! The only thing that will bother you is the sound of street musicians trying to amuse you. One thing through, beer is cheaper than water in Berlin !

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Art mania or what?

Berlin has a place in  world history and always a special place in Germany.There are places being known because of its natural beauty or something that originates from it, or it’s just cheap to visit. For me, Berlin is a place to remember, either you visited it for leisure, business, or visiting a family or just plain navigation.

It has something that can never be bought from the souvenir shops–it’s enigma and it is really priceless!

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Watching shadow cast in Berlin

I could write so much more about this experience but I guess its all up to you to make your own experience and story about Berlin.This is a small part of how I saw Berlin.We are already looking forward for our next visit in Spring and see the city turns into pink paradise from the cherry blossoms! I am sure I will have another versions of how I see this city!

How about you, have you ever been to Berlin? How was your experience?

 

 

 

 

Lost in the forest

The forest is filled with magic and secrets.

What do I feel?

I am thrilled yet excited to be in the forest.I can feel the nature embracing me, in a big warm welcome.Trees that are reaching the skies, dwarfing over me. A silent spell was cast.

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Adapt the peace of Nature.Her secret is patience..

What do I see? 

I open my eyes and see green all around me, mostly trees and algae rotting the bushes.The grass beneath my feet are breathing out life.Gasping for knowledge. Only the grass knows who have set a journey in the same spot I am standing on.

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Steep rows of pine trees in the valley

What do I hear?

I hear the birds chirping, the frogs croaking, and other mysterious nature sounds. They have an orchestra here,a myriad of tunes & melodies in harmony. Did you know that the earth has music for those who listen?

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Nature is not a place to visit…It is Home.

What do I smell?

I smell the earth, the scent of the fresh blue sky,its rays piercing through the pines, the leaves have an intoxicating scent that goes in and out of my nose.

 

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What do I taste?

I taste the flavor of the beauty of nature.The rain nurturing the leaves. The dew that kissed the shrubs. Its pungent.Its all raw.

All my senses are alive. It got lost in this paradise. It got revived and my soul finds healing.I want to leave all my fears behind.Its only in the still silence of nature that one will find true bliss.

This is my Day- 4 humble take on the challenge posed to me by Stella of the Blog SimpleDimple in response to her 7-Days Nature photo challenge. Stella  has always been bubbly &, spreading warm love in the great community here in WP. If you have time, please do pass by her page & get to know her through her soulful posts.

Stella, Thank you once again for  mentioning me in your post and giving this challenge.

*The rule of this challenge is quite simple: Post a nature photo and nominate someone else per day for 7 days.

For today, I wanted to pass on this Nature photo challenge to one of my inspiring friend, Liz of Little house in Missouri. She is one of the few Expat Mamas out  here that I can totally relate to and have given enough encouragement in my posts. She has been posting powerful content that really comes from deep insight on raising her 3 multi-racial kids.She is very passionate about well-being, women’s issues, social justice,homeless/food bank & the arts. She also enjoys nature & embracing the changes of being an Expat family.She have been a great inspiration on her take on parenting as well.  Even without this challenge, I would always look up to her page and would recommend for you to give time to check her awesome but relatable Blog.

To Liz, I know time is precious in our world, but if you would take on this challenge, I would appreciate it so much.If not, I still want you to know how much I appreciate you.

Thank you and I hope you have fun & enjoy the next 7-days writing about nature.

 

 

The mills of Kinderdijk (A Dutch icon)

Do you know the old  tale about the windmills in the famous Kinderdijk in Holland?

The name Kinderdijk is Dutch for “Children dike”. In 1421, during the Saint Elizabeth flood of 1421, the Grote Hollandse Waard flooded, but the Alblasserwaard polder stayed unflooded. It is said that when the terrible storm had subsided, someone went on to the dike between these two areas, to see what could be saved. In the distance, he saw a wooden cradle floating on the waters. As it came nearer, some movement was detected. A cat was seen in the cradle trying to keep it in balance by jumping back and forth so that no water could get into it. As the cradle eventually came close enough to the dike for a bystander to pick up the cradle, he saw that a baby was quietly sleeping inside it, nice and dry. The cat had kept the cradle balanced and afloat. This folktale and legend has been published as “The Cat and the Cradle” in English

[ Excerpt derived courtesy of Wikipedia ]

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Cycling in Kinderdijk

This is one of the fascinating things I have learned about mills & Kinderdijk  when I explore Netherlands. Seeing these original, iconic & wonderful windmills for real and up close  is really a great experience with my daughter & our  family. This is absolutely a top family destination, definitely a place for young & old to enjoy cycling, biking, hiking or just have a lazy stroll while learning about the mills’s history. It has complete amenities such as tourist vessels, water buses, group tour arrangements, restaurants, museums, restrooms & souvenir shops. I am  sure your kids will thank you for exposing them to world-class  sights such as these.

If you come during winter, they have a special threat to warm you up. In the souvenir shop “De Molenhoek” of Kinderdijk you always can eat or drink something you like plus
they will  serve delicious warm pea soup. This is the time to experience another Dutch gastronomical delight, the typical Dutch pea soup.

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Dutch Pea soup  (Photo courtesy of Kinderdijk)
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UNESCO World Heritage Site , Kinderdijk in Holland (photo courtesy of Kinderdijk)

When it comes to beauty, the 19 polder draining windmills of the Kinderdijk are top one. Kinderdijk is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a masterpiece of water management in a typical Dutch landscape. In 1997, the windmill complex of Kinderdijk was added to the prestigious UNESCO World Heritage list because of its unique character. UNESCO considers the polder area with its dykes, boezems, mills and pumping stations to be proof of human inventiveness in reclaiming and protecting the land.This is worldwide recognition of the fact that this unique area must be preserved for the future.

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A journey through time with the mills.

The nineteen (19) mills in Kinderdijk  were constructed around 1740 as part of a larger water management system which prevented floods. Now they’re a symbol of Dutch water management.

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Old photograph of the mills in Kinderdijk (photo credit : Kinderdijk)

We got inside the Museum Windmill Nederwaard and we are so grateful that we did because we learned a lot how a real Miller works, let alone seeing a REAL one!  There is a short film about the history of it and inside it was a full-blooded miller and we are able to explore the mill, which has been preserved in its original state, from the inside and from the outside. If there is sufficient wind, the mill might even be set in motion! Fortunately my daughter was just busy tumbling down the chairs and doesn’t mind the loud noise from the movie. It was dim inside because of the film so we were not able to took some photos. There is a distinct motor sound that would really identify a working mill. I could still hear it in my ears. When we got inside the real windmill in the Museum Mill, we are able to see what’s  in an authentic Windmill which can be traced from 1950’s. There is a steep ladder going to the top, and I was able to climb only up to the 2nd floor because I wear my baby in a sling & I find it difficult to enter the small passageway with other people trying to get in. The original bedspace areas, or called “Bedstede” (alcove bed ) was still preserved. We were even lucky to see the local Miller, and he’s wearing Dutch clogs of course!

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Old, yet still standing through time: Kinderdijk Mills  (photo credit :Kinderdijk)

I have dreamt of seeing a windmill someday. When I was young, I used to daydream that I would be able to visit Holland and see a real one. My dream came true. Finally, seeing it for real is even more meaningful because I have learned an important culture of the Dutch people. Before I only see it as a landmark, I have no clue that it has an important function, Re: preventing floods. When I knew about this, my mind was opened and appreciate its beauty even more. I have great respect for the pioneer who engineered these masterpiece.

There is so much more to say and write about Kinderdijk and mills, but its all up to you to see it for yourself and create your own story.A visit to the Netherlands won’t be complete without seeing this. If you wanna know more about Kinderdijk and how to explore this place, they have a wonderful website with all the information such as the tickets, opening times, location etc that you need to know. You can check it Here.

Do you want to experience the life of a Miller?

If you are adventurous enough , then in Kinderdijk  you can have the chance to  get an exclusive look into the construction and maintenance of windmills. You will also get to know more about the profession of a miller such as how to build a windmill,maintain it or what is it a day in a life of a Miller? You can really be in a real threat because It’s an unforgettable experience in a typical Dutch environment.

What’s in your Bucket List?

What was the last Unesco World Heritage Site you’ve visited?

Hope you have a wonderful time making your dreams a reality just like I did. Thank you for reading & Safe travels!

 

 

House of Mirrors

“You know a creative art when you see it. It doesn’t matter what is its form but you know the genuine talent that comes with it. One thing for sure , a masterpiece always come with hardwork..lots of it.” [ Personal Quote ]

I found a gem in Kuwait which i wanna share with you. It’s called the “House of Mirrors”. It is a MUST-SEE for someone who’s in K-town or a visiting tourist. Meeting the Artist itself is a thrilling experience.

Up Close & Personal : Meet the Artist

Lidia Al-Qattan is one of a kind. Like a rose in a desert. She is an Artist , Sculpture , Painter , Jewelry -Maker , Writer  & Author , Baker , An Art Enthusiast , and a Mother. She makes the most amazing orange/honey/ginger /cinnamon juice mix to die for . Until now i couldn’t forget  the scent , taste & warmth as she opened the glass-adorned doors that allows us to enter her world. She is full of energy and very enthusiastic vibe. You wouldn’t even believe that she’s in her 70’s already. She is a great Host.

Ms.Lidia Al Qattan is  an Italian living in Kuwait  and widowed since 2003. She’s warm , Lovely ,talented , Outspoken & wonderful person. As soon as she opened the doors of her house , you will be transported into a different realm , into a world of magical House of Mirrors. A myriad of beautifully designed house of small pieces of broken glass panels. Her house and her work is an opt of physical metaphor of her own life and her new found home , Kuwait.

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The Living Room..where the magic begins.
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A patchwork with Lidia’s name

Bad things that turned into something Great 

Because of the attack of Termites  in her house in Qadsiya, Lidia transformed her house into a Mirror House. ALL BY HERSELF . She showed us her photos in overalls , doing the work. At first it was to repair an ugly scribbling on the wall made by her daughter. She repaired it by covering it with broken pieces of glass panels .But soon termites infest through the walls. It started in her living room , then off to another until the whole household was transformed. She sticked small panels of mirror forming a creative patch over the walls. She incorporate a unique mosaic ,inscriptions and patterns to her work .

Creating with a Vision

Lidia creates  with a vision in her mind. Using glass & its reflective properties , she created a reflection of what is close to her heart. She is passionate about what she do. Every patchwork has a story , a significance , a theme , a symbolic image of her life and her interests . The walls  are adorned with intricate Arabic writings . She have made one room with Astronomical images and being in that room is so dreamy that I could stay there for hours.In the bathroom is another amazing experience .I did not go there to pee , i just stared at the beauty of it for quite sometime.

 

Diversity at Large

As she ushered us from one room to another ,we are brought into somewhat different dimension. This house is full of insane creativity , uniqueness & wisdom . She has one room full of her artwork as a painter . She has a gallery of her  finest paintings and craft things. In another room is an interactive room  she called “Art Theraphy “. I remember the magical chants she played in the “Nucleus of the Galaxy ” and the surreal feeling of the whole experience while we watch the lights  images shown in the ceiling. It was awesome.

 

There’s so much more to say about this lady  but my words will not do her justice because she is just a legend &  i consider her one of the greatest artist I have ever met in my life. If you want to visit the House of Mirrors , you need to set up an appointment first .

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Exquisite Beauty inside the House of Mirrors

Travel Tips !

Try to go with a bunch of friends to ‘House of Mirrors’ since it’s an experience that should be shared. The more the merrier .There is a small fee for this tour ,It costs  3 KD  on weekends and 2 KD  per person on weekdays.There is a  fine gallery of Mrs. Lidia art on sale, and those who are impressed by her work are free to make a purchase, towards the end of the tour.Try to be game & join her game for you might win one of her beautiful crafts.

I love everything about this place. I highly recommend it !

Thank you for reading !

 

 

Why I fell in love in Moselle

“You’ve got to see this!” This is what this post all about.If you are thinking of going to Germany & wants  a place to have some serious adventure, or maybe a planned escape with friends ,with serene, and yet fulfilling experience  away from the hustling city life vibe , then  Moselle is the perfect trip for you. Germany is not only famous for its Oktoberfest and  castles, It is also renowned for its lovely river Landscape Nature. For my daughter’s first international trip , we brought her here. Who says you can’t have fun with a baby ?  Here’s why ,Moselle wine region ranked # 34 for Top Places to go in 2016 .From my personal experience, This should be in your Bucket list.

The Views are simply Breathtaking

Nature at its best. The River landscape of the Moselle is seen as one of the most varied in the whole of central Europe. There is a folk legend that says that the Devil once visited the area with a large sack which He gradually emptied, thus forming the many different castles and fortresses along the area. The Moselle is the largest left-handed tributary of the Rhine River with a length of 544 km. It stretched from West to Northwest in large loops. Below Trier,the most beautiful landscape of Moselle begins. Its bank s are covered with vineyards , quaint houses,small romantic wine growing communities and medieval looking fortress towns.The Mediterranean flair is inescapable.

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View of the Moselle River and beautiful villages  from Landshut Castle

 

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The River Moselle ,viewed from a luscious vineyard in Bernkastel-Kues

Hop on a bike , or just spend lazy times walking is the best way to make the most of your Moselle journey.The streets are stroller friendly. You can let your baby nap beside the banks of the river while you admire the calm beauty of the Moselle or simply,feed the ducks.My daughter took a nap during our hike up to the Landshut castle and while enjoying the view above. How many babies napping with a castle view and surrounded with vineyards? You need to make memories in your journey.

Architecture that surround the whole region

There’s so much detail in every structure that I see. One example is the Lieser castle.It was built in the previous century by the Baron of Schlorlemer in a middle of a feudal park.Nowadays this building serves as a luxury hotel.As you step out of it,20 meters away and you can gaze at the banks of the River Moselle.We had a morning walk here,and although the weather is slightly gray, it was worth the stop.

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The Castle of Lieser
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Lieser Castle : Fairy Tale Hotel along the River Moselle

Just Let loose and be charmed in the Market Squares.

Its like being transported into a frenzy Jumanji . History come alive.Everywhere you look, creative pubs,quaint little shops,of beautiful Half-Timbered houses,fountains and Hauptmarkt (Main Market ) makes the city a fascinating metropolis.You can admire the unique,ancient historical monuments that were of significant testament  to the importance of this time. Some fountains were adorned with small ogres and mischievous monkeys.My daughter loved the play area near Saint George’s fountain. Children flocked to the area with flowing waters which they could play, stomp their little feet and running around and just shrieking with delight,  while their parents are munching on warm pretzels and people watching.

 

The best glass of Wine

You can always enjoy a good glass of Beer in Germany, but in Moselle, you simply need to try the Riesling wine ! Even if you are not a Wine Enthusiast like me, you will surely love their wine.We have stayed in an apartment which has their own Weingut and from the moment we arrived, we have sampled their wine. It was really good.There’s no better way to enjoy it than just sitting back in the balcony &  enjoying the view. Prost!

 

Don’t forget to try the local food.We love the restaurant along the banks of Moselle in Bernkastel Kues,The Hotel & Restaurant Cafe Rosi.It has a Beer Garden,River Banks, and a Hotel.Imagine feeding your gastronomy delight with a view of the Landshut Castle and feeling the typical air of the region.Well, in Germany,enjoying Eis ( ice cream ) is a typical sight and of course we tried it.But unfortunately I am not so fond of Ice cream with liquor.It tasted too strong for me that the chocolate flavor was overpowered by the liquor.If you have a thing on this,they probably you would enjoy their Eis.

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Ice cream or Eis with liquor
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A Wine Ship Monument in Trier
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The steep vineyards along the streets of Osann-Monzel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Timber frame houses

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I am already looking forward to go back and explore the other parts of Moselle.There’s so much more to see and explore. All in all,it was a great trip! and of course ,we brought home some fine wine !

 

Thank you for reading !