Category Archive: Europa

The Great Wiener Experience Of all my Euro travels, this one stands out as my favourite. Not only had this city got me spellbound, but the whole Wiener experience in the so called cultural capital of Europe was just unforgettable. Thanks to Wolfgang our German colleague turned travel planner, we got to try out some popular local treats and appreciate the Wiener way of life, even for just a day and a half. Wiener Schnitzel, Sachertorte, Kaffeehauser, Huerigens, Mozart Balls! Yummmmm. That I got to do it with my dear friend Dads all the more made it one heck of a holiday. Too bad I had to lose my laptop where I stored my hi-res photos of the trip. I still can’t forgive myself for it, though I was able to salvage a few from Multiply. Well at least. But still, it sucks man.

Anyway, just some bits about the Austrian capital. Vienna’s German name Wien was derived from the Celtic word “Vedunia” which means “ river in the woods”. It served as the capital of the Habsburg Empire for several centuries and so traces of its imperial past are evident in the magnificent structures all over the city. I swear it’s like a big open museum which will drive suckers for arts and history totally over the moon. City of culture. City of music. City of art. It’s also Mercer’s No. 1 Most Liveable Cities in the World for 2010. As the web campaign goes, Vienna, NOW or NEVER.

The 7-hour train ride from Fft Hauptbahnof to the Vienna Central Station almost passed by like a breeze, obviously because we were both wide-eyed with excitement. We had a map, courtesy of Wolfgang, our itinerary and a list of must-trys according to him, who spent his university days in Vienna.

While our spirits were high, our stomachs were actually grumbling when we reached Vienna past lunchtime. From the train station we decided to head straight to the first recommended café of Wolfgang, the Figlmuller which he says serves the best Wiener Schnitzel in the world. Hmmn. We’ll see about that.

It’s located near the city centre, so on the way there it’s hard to miss Austria’s most renonwed Gothic masterpiece, Stephensdom (St. Stephen’s Cathedral). Wow. A big, gasping wow. It’s a humungous piece of architecture, Romanesque and Gothic in design, the original church built in the 12th century but in 1359 Duke Rudolph IV, laid the foundation of the main body of the church with its two aisles– South Tower & North Tower. The south tower which stands at 136 meters dominates the Vienna skyline. You can climb the 343 steps to the top where there’s a viewing platform that offers a good view of the Innerstadt. One trivia goes that the composer Ludwig van Beethoven discovered the totality of his deafness when he saw birds flying out of the bell tower as a result of the bells’ tolling but could not hear the bells.

Though starved we couldn’t help but make a stop and marvel at the exquisite piece of architecture. The temptation to snap some shots was just too strong to resist.

Anyway, our lunch was superb. Wolfgang definitely wasn’t lying when he said we shouldn’t miss it for the world. Vienna is famous for Wiener Schnitzel, a cutlet of veal that is pounded flat, coated in flour, egg and breadcrumbs, and fried in clarified butter. Figlmuller claim to have the biggest schnitzel in the world! True.. If we only knew we could have just shared one plate.

After lunch we checked into our hotel, Derag, from the same family as the hotel we’re staying at in Frankfurt. Feels just like our room back home. Charming and homey but rather remote from the city centre, hence I wouldn’t recommend especially if you’re on a tight schedule like us.

Parliament
After check-in, we set off to explore the rest of the city center. Our first stop was the famous Ringstrasse (also called as “The Ring”), the circular road surrounding the old city built on the original city walls in the late 19th century. Our first sighting was the Parliament Building which is where the two Houses of the Parliament of Austria conduct their sittings. The design is definitely Greek, from the pillars of the main entrance (which is said to be a copy of Athen’s Erechtheion) to the 15th ft statue of Athena in front of the building, to the marbles and Greek statues on the walls.

Rathaus
This is Vienna’s city hall, the seat of the mayor of Vienna and the city council, built in the late 19th cenutry. There was an ongoing fair of some sort in front of the Rathaus when we went there so we weren’t able to get a good photo of this neo-Gothic piece of work.

Burgtheatre
The Hofsburg theatre (Burgtheatre) is the Austrian National Theatre in Vienna and one of the most important German language theatres in the world.

Burggarten Park
This is the garden of the former Imperial Palace with an area of 38,000 square meter and is one of Europe’s most beautiful gardens. It houses some very famous monuments, perhaps the most famous being that of W. A. Mozart.

The Hofburg Palace
This glorious and massive edifice was the principal winter residence of the rulers of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and served as the seat of the Austrian Emperor and a home of the Habsburg dynasty up until 1918. In the modern days this is the official residence of the President of Austria.

From the Ring Boulevard we headed back to the Inner Stadt to visit some of the nearby churches names of which I unfortunately already forgot. I managed to get some photos though.

We stopped by a Turkish pizza stand (very common in Vienna) and each had a giant slice of Turkish pizza. No exaggeration (hehe, perhaps a little), it was one of the most unforgettable pizzas I have ever had!

Souvenir shopping
In between sightseeing we did some souvenir shopping. There’s an abundance of souvenir shops surrounding the Stephensdom. We made a note to buy the famous Mozartkugel or Mozart balls, an Austrian sweet originating from Salzburg and named after Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. We also explored the Graben, the main shopping street in Vienna in search of the popular Sachertorte, . Wolfgang gave us a list of cafes that sell this famous Viennese culinary specialty. The one from Sacher Hotel is world famous but we didn’t really get to try it. We ended up in Zanoni & Zanoni Gelateria where we had cake and coffee.

The cake consists of two layers chocolate cake (traditionally a sponge cake) with a thin layer of apricot jam in the middle and dark chocolate icing on the top and sides. It is traditionally served with whipped cream without any sugar in it. Yum.. Divine..

Coffee is a must try in Vienna as well. The city has a reputation for having an excellent coffee culture. Another speciality is that at typical coffeehouses a coffee is always accompanied by a glass of cold clear water. And there is a law that in any restaurant you can get a glass of drinking water for free with any order, just specify tap water (“Leitungswasser”).

Day 2 reminded me of our Berlin trip, another Amazing Race kinda thing. We barely had the whole day to go around the other sights in our list.

Riesenrad
Our first stop would be the Belverdere. On the way, we passed by the Prater Park, and had our photo taken with the Riesenrad (Giant Ferris Wheel) as the background. The Riesenrad has become a well-known symbol of Vienna and offers a spectacular panorama of the city.

Belvedere
This is the summer residence for Prince Eugene of Savoy and located outside the city walls. It’s a very vast complex, beautifully designed with Baroque flair and has lovely French gardens.

Albertina
Once a palace, it is now one of the most popular museums in Vienna, mainly for traditional modern art.

Schronbrun Palace
This was our last stop before we headed to the wine tavern and I must say this is my favourite of all the sights in Vienna. I’m not surprised that this became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. The massive expanse of grandiose structures and beautiful gardens gave me my ultimate palace experience. This was the summer residence of Austria’s emperors. It was built by Emperor Maximilian II in the mid 16th century. The name Schönbrunn (meaning “beautiful spring”), has its roots in an artesian well from which water was consumed by the court. We weren’t able to explore the rest of the complex as it was just tooooo big and we were toooo crunched for time. Too bad.

Mayer am Pfarrplatz
Lastly we tried Mayer am Pfarrplatz – Beethovenhaus another recommended spot from Wolfgang’s list. After a busy day, the ideal place to unwind among Viennese are the Heurigens in the suburbs, a sort of a beer garden except wine is served instead of beer, which are the only places licensed to sell new wine. New wine is made from the first pressing of the grape and can appear a little cloudy and is a bit stronger. Mayer am Pfarrplatz (where Ludwig van Beethoven lived in 1817) is one of the best known wine taverns in Vienna. The Mayer family pays only wines from their own crops and offers guests a delectable cold buffet with homemade Viennese cuisine. It’s the ultimate chill out spot for me – warm, cozy and friendly ambience and one of the best wines in the country.

The most unforgettable part of our trip was our buzzer-beater race to make it to our train in time. Our train bound for Frankfurt is supposed to leave say at 2pm (can’t remember if it’s 2 or 3 pm). And we got in at around 1:57 pm, out of breath, sweating and almost dying (the last one’s an exaggeration obviously hehe). Talk about something tougher than the Amazing Race! We even did jaywalking er jay-running if there’s such a term in front of a local polizei. We were too lucky that we didn’t get fined or jailed or anything. It was just the sweetest 7 hour trip back home.

Cheers to one amazing trip and an amazing travel buddy!


Bern, Baby, Bern! This was our very first trip out of Germany hence our spirits were just soaring in anticipation. I’ve considered Switzerland when I was making a list of places I wanted to visit in Europe (with my eyes quite fixated on its capital, Bern for its impressive medieval architecture) and so when opportunity presented itself, I couldn’t have been more thrilled!

One of our colleagues who had a best friend living in Bern invited us to spend the weekend in the scenic Swiss Capital. This, unlike our Berlin trip that was pretty much history-loaded, was more like a weekend getaway meant to visit our colleague’s friends, unwind and get a peek of the city where my favourite Toblerone is made. The trip was quite anti-climactic but the city was certainly a revelation.

Bern as you know is the capital of Switzerland and the seat of the Bundeshaus (Houses of Parliament). It was founded by Berchtold V of Zähringen in 1191 on and around the River Aare and he allegedly named it after a bear (Bar in German) he had killed.

From Frankfurt Hauptbahnof it took us about four hours by train. We left at around midnight so it was still dark (and cold!) when we reached Bern Bahnof. We were met at the station by “Basti”, our colleague’s kind Swiss husband who took us to Hostelling International Hostel (a youth hostel just about 1 km from the central station) which will be our camp for the weekend. It was our very first hostel experience and so I had mixed feelings about it (one part excited about finally living my backpacker dreams; the other part a bit uneasy at the thought of sharing a single room with a dozen of strangers!)

I remember when we got to the hostel, the lights were out and people where in deep sleep so we had to grope in the dark to find our beds. They were all double decks and I, being slim then and therefore lighter had to be the one to climb to the top. The beds were positioned so close to each other that it felt like I was practically sharing a bed with a complete stranger. Spooky!

Then our bathroom encounter. My friends and I were wrapped in our towels and were quite careful with changing clothes and all when suddenly a middle-aged European woman just undressed before us. As in naked, nude, totally exposed! You could see culture shock written all over our faces! It was embarrassing, but we just had to laugh it off.

The hostel wasn’t bad. It helped that it was conveniently located near the old town and had a wonderful view of the River Aare. For 33 francs, our stay already included a simple breakfast of cereals and bread which is better than nothing really. I loved the patio garden where we had our breakfast while breathing in the fresh, sterilized Swiss air.

My first impression of Bern was actually formed upon my first sight of the River Aare as I took a stroll towards the river banks after breakfast. From where I come from, rivers are supposed to be brown, polluted and stinky, but I was absolutely dazed staring into the clean, clear, emerald green waters of Switzerland’s longest river, the River Aare. It’s no surprise that it’s one of the top 10 cleanest cities in the world, and among the most liveable too. I found this city very serene and the people very temperate.

From our hostel we headed to the old town to meet our colleague’s friends who would take us to see the main attractions and also do some souvenir shopping as we were told that the shops are closed on Sundays. As we moved along the city center, the picturesque old town came to view. No wonder it earned itself a place as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s incredible how over the centuries it has managed to preserve its medieval townscape, from the sandstone buildings, the fountains, the clock towers and cobbled lanes. It feels like I have travelled back in time! Though the transport system in the city is very good, it’s still best to explore the old town by foot.

On the way to the old town we passed by the House of Parliament but unfortunately it was going through some kind of construction works so it was barricaded. There was a flower /veggie market at the square (usually held on Tuesdays & Saturdays) which caught my fancy. The flowers in all their vivid colors were just lovely!

From the square we walked the cobblestone lanes towards the shopping arcades referred to by locals as “Lauben” which stretch to 6 km and makes them one of the longest covered shopping promenades in Europe! Souvenir shopping! Swiss knives, magnets, mugs, postcards, plates for my collection and Lindtt chocolates! Precious!

Further north stands one of the most popular sights in Bern, the medieval clock tower called the Zytglogge (Bernese German for Time Bell) tower that has puppets that pop out before the hour and perform a little skit.

We passed by the famous house of Albert Einstein who lived in Bern at the start of the 20th century.

Münster Cathedral is Bern’s 15th century Gothic cathedral, topped by a 100 meter tall tower making it the highest Gothic cathedral in Switzerland.

The Münster-Terrasse, a square in front of the Cathedral, has been a famous meeting place over the centuries. The Munster gives a breathtaking panorama of the the Aare River and the old town.

The Bärengraben (The Bear Pit) houses live bears since the 16th century. Cute, furry bears I wish I can hug them! There’s also a souvenir shop nearby.

Our kind hosts invited us to their house for lunch where they served halabos na hipon and sinigang, two classic Filipino dish that were very good and totally filling! In the afternoon we met the rest of the Filipino community in the public area of the River Aare, just a few minutes from our hostel. It was Julius’ birthday (our colleague’s best friend’s friend) and he was having a sort of a barbecue by the river. I couldn’t stop being amazed at how the river managed to become sooooo clean and pristine. It was frigid too (as it comes from glaciers), so like a very big freezer, the beers and sodas were just left in the water to cool. I wonder how the locals are able to swim in there.

At night beer flowed, fireworks got us all fired up and the moon added drama to the night sky. Interesting experience, that’s all I’m allowed to say. =)

We spent the next morning at the Gurten, a hill near Wabern which is the already at the southern suburbs of Bern via the funicular called Gurtenbahn. It offers a magnificent view of the city.

And need I mention, photographic opportunities galore!

From here we head back to the train station to wait for our ride home. Then it was time to say goodbye to a city full of charm and beauty. Bern, baby, Bern!


Hallo aus Berlin! When I learned that I was going to Frankfurt for a project I decided straight away that Berlin should be our first destination in our weekend trips. I’ve always been fascinated with Germany’s rich, and quite dramatic past and how it significantly changed the rest of the world and I thought if given the chance I will definitely make a visit to the so called center of politics and culture of Germany and one of the most influential cities in the EU.

Prior to our trip, our German colleague, Wolfgang gave us a refresher about the Pre-reunification period of Germany which even roused our interest to see the places where history unfolded. It was quite a moving story, from the time the four victorious powers (US, UK, France & Soviet Union) of World War II split the city into four zones, to the founding of the Federal Republic of Germany in West Germany and the Democratic Republic in the East, to the erection of the Berlin Wall, to its fall and finally the reunification in October 3, 1990.

He also gave us a list of places worth visiting and a map which came in very handy especially that we were pressed for time. I had fun becoming the navigator! =)

And so off we went to the famed capital, the largest and perhaps the most popular among the German cities. It was a very enriching trip (it was like every corner you went to, you’d feel history staring back at you!) but time was just too short. It’s a shame we only booked a day tour. We were able to go to most of the known landmarks but not without all the running & sweating, Amazing Race – like kind of thing. It took us 4 pretty long hours via ICE train from the Frankfurt Hauptbahnof. We reached Berlin Hauptbahnof at around 10 am. Full house, tourists everywhere. I guess every one of them is intrigued about this city just as I am.

Anyway, this is how we spent our 7 hours in Berlin: (I have forgotten the exact times so I am just gonna present our itinerary)

Harry Potter
First stop, bookshop. Nothing much to say except that our Berlin trip happened to be the same day the last Harry Potter book was released. I am not exactly a fan but I found myself queuing for my own copy.

Reichstag
From the terminal, we walked towards our first destination for the day, the popular and historic Reichstag Building. From afar I could already see the impressive facade and the lush greens surrounding the building. It was built in 1894 to house the Reichstag (Parliament of the German Empire). It was heavily damaged during the war but after its reconstruction in 1999, it became the seat of the Bundestag, the modern German parliament.

As with any other popular tourist spots the queu could get very long, but thankfully we were not far behind. There’s a lift that would take you to the building’s rooftop but you can also walk all the way up via a spiral walkway.

I was impressed with the Reichstag dome, a humungous glass dome at the top of the building. It provides a 360-view of the wonderful Berlin cityscape.

Bradenburger tor
Standing very close to Reichstag is the Brandenburger Tor, pretty much a common sight in Berlin postcards. Seeing it finally in the flesh sort of gave me goosebumps, my mind was suddenly flooded with the many sad stories about the great divide. It was originally built in the 18th century as a symbol of peace. During the Cold War it became a symbol of division of the East & the West (it’s said to be part of the Berlin Wall, that served as the main entrance to the city). But since the fall of the Berlin wall it has become the symbol of a reunified Germany.

Sprawled all over the area were souvenir shops selling Berlin memorabilia. I bought a collector’s gold city plate and a few touching post cards.

Checkpoint Charlie
As with the Bradenburger gate, this too became one of the significant symbols of the Cold War and the separation between the east and west. When the Berlin Wall was built in 1961 by the East, President JFK ordered the construction of three checkpoints through which diplomats & allied forces could enter West Berlin. Checkpoint Charlie, named after the American alphabet, became the most famous. It’s located in Friedrichstadt and has become one of Berlin’s top tourist attractions.

There were gallery walls around the area telling poignant stories about escape attempts, the stand off between the Soviet and American tanks in 1961 and the significance of this checkpoint in the Cold War. It’s worth spending a little more time (it helps that the Berlin summer sun wasn’t unkind) to read and see photos from the past. I read about a boy who while trying to escape was shot and killed in a snap. It was just sad.

Schloss Charlottenburg
After the heavy drama from all the remnants of the 20th century history, our trip to Schloss Charlottenburg was simply refreshing. Though it was a bit outside the city center, it was nevertheless worth the trip. It’s actually a palace built by King Friedrich Wilhelm as a summer house for his beloved wife Queen Sophie Charlotte. It used to be called Lietzenburg Pleasure Palace but after the Queen’s death it was named after her.

It was simply amazing to get a glimpse of the life of the royalty that once roamed in this grandiose complex, way back in the early days of the Prussian Kings. The remarkable collection of porcelains. The grand artwork collection. Both exteriors and interiors were exquisitely designed, with that enchanting Baroque architecture, exuding an air of opulence and power. I was just in awe.

Being the largest palace in Berlin, we clearly did not have the luxury of time to be able to explore the compound. I managed though to get my photo taken with the statue of the Great Elector, Frederick William of Brandenburg, founder of the State of Brandenburg and Prussia in the courtyard.

Alexander Platz
From the palace we travelled back to the heart of Berlin. Our first stop was Alexanderplatz, a large public square in the city centre, near the river Spree named after Russian Tzar Alexander I. From here we walked towards the direction of the Unter den Linden. We passed by several landmarks that I think are worth mentioning (promise it’s gonna be a quickie!)

Fernsehturm
Also known as the Tele-spargel (toothpick), the TV tower is one of the tallest structures in Europe with a total length to the top of the spire of 365m or 1197 ft. It’s said to have a revolving restaurant (Telecafé) at 207m and a viewing platform at a height of 203m which offers a view of the city. This we didn’t get to try, again due to time issues =(

Rotes Rathaus
Rotes Rathaus is a German term for Red Town Hall. It got its name from the red bricks that make this building quite a standout, apart of course from its elegant architecture reminiscent of the Notre Dame in France. It’s the town hall of Berlin, situated in Rathausstrase near Alexanderplatz and serves as the residence of the governing mayor of Berlin.

Berliner Dom
Next stop was the majestic Berlin Cathedral which reminded me of the St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome (it is said to be the Protestant counterweight to the Catholic’s St Peter’s). The Berliner Dom as it is called is a baroque Cathedral built between 1894 and 1905. It is located on an island in the river Spree, also known as the Museum Island.

Unter den Linden
After the Dom, we strolled along the prestigious boulevard leading to the Bradenburg tor called Unter den Linden. In English it translates to “Under the Linden Trees”, a name it earned from the rows of linden trees that were planted centuries ago by order of King Friedrich Wilhelm to keep the route more shady for his travels. There’s quite a number of architectural sites along Unter den Linden which have either been restored or renovated over the yearsl, to name a few: Humboldt University, the Zeughaus (German Historical Museum), the Staatsoper, Altes Palais, Staatsbibliothek and the Schloßbrücke (Palace Bridge).

Gendarmenmarkt
Our last stop was in another famous square in Berlin, the Gendarmenmarket, a name it got from the Regiment Gens d’Armes who had their stables here from 1736 to 1773. It’s surrounded by three landmark buildings, the Französischer Dom, Deutscher Dom and the Konzerthaus. The Französischer Dom and Deutscher Dom are two seemingly identical churches opposite each other.

The Französischer Dom
This is the French Cathedral, a bit older than the German one, was built between 1701 and 1705 by the Huguenot community.It was modeled after the Huguenot church in Charenton. In 1785, Carl von Gontard added a few enhancements to the building, which actually turned the church into a twin sister of the Deutscher Dom. The Französischer Dom contains a Huguenot museum, a restaurant on the top floor and a viewing platform.

Deutscher Dom
This is the German Cathedral, the most southern building at the Gendarmenmarkt, designed by Martin Grünberg and built in 1708 by Giovanni Simonetti. It was destroyed by fire in 1945, was rebuilt in 1993 and reopened in 1996 as a museum with exhibits on German history.

Wow. Look at that. Berlin in 7 hours. A bit exhausting (well that is such an understatement) but it was a really fulfilling and learning experience. I just wished we stayed for even one more night.


At home in Frankfurt There’s no better way to start my Eurotrip chronicles but with what has so far become my home for my more or less 6 month-stint in Deutscheland’s financial capital, Frankfurt. I know it’s eons ago already but it would just be too unfair not to write about a business trip which we managed to turn into the Euro Trip of our dreams!!! 11 countries, 18 cities, 18 plates that I’ve collected from each city—-either I must have been wronged pretty badly or been damn good at one point in the past to deserve this good karma =)

Anyway, Frankfurt isn’t like my dream city or anything like the touristy places, say, Paris or Rome, but having lived here for almost 6 months, this dynamic yet at the same time peaceful city has definitely grown on me. I wasn’t surprised that it was among the top 10 most liveable cities in the world for 2010. It so deserves to be in the list.

If you’re wondering where it got its name, Frankfurt owes it to its location, being situated in an ancient ford on the river Main during the early Franconia. The German word for ford is “furt” and the settlers that time were called “Franks”, hence the name which literally means “Ford of the Franks”. It’s commonly called as “Frankfurt am Main” which translates to English as “Frankfurt by the Main River”.

It is the 5th largest city in Germany and for centuries has been its financial center, being home to a number of major banks including the Bundesbank (Germany’s Central Bank), European Central Bank and of course Deutsche Bank to which I owe the pleasure of this trip.

There are heaps of things I adore about this place and if I go on I might be hearing snores somewhere hehe. Hence I’m just giving you the top 10 things that make me say “I heart Frankfurt” (in no particular order, just because I can’t decide which ones I love the most hehe).

1. Romer / Romer Square

I already lost count of the number of times we’ve been to this old central square that offers a view of beautifully-restored 15th-century houses, churches & museums. I love taking a stroll along the cobblestone streets, “people-watching” and enjoying those divine scoops of eiscreme!!! It is especially lovely in December when it is magically transformed into a Christmas market which you’ll read about later.

Romer is actually the German term for “Roman”. It was once a Roman settlement and has been the city hall or “Rathaus” for 600 years. In modern days it’s been turned into a tourist’s landmark, with an assortment of souvenir shops, cafes and ice cream bars and many, many more! Your Frankfurt holiday is never complete without a visit to this place.

From Romer you can catch a glimpse of the historical landmarks such as the Paulskirche (St. Paul’s Church) which was where the first democratically elected German parliament convened and the Kaiserdom (Emperor’s Cathedral) which was where Franz II was crowned.


2. River Maine
As with the Romer Square, this too is a favourite spot, not only because of its proximity from where we live (though it helps of course) but simply because for me it’s an ideal place to spend a lazy Saturday especially during summer. Biking along the riverbanks is perfect unfortunately the bikes were too big for me, so I was pretty happy with just taking a walk. We did jogging once & even had a picnic under a tree.

The Eiserner Steg (Iron Bridge) offers a wonderful view of the Frankfurt skyline both at day and at night.

I also love the flea market every Saturday morning where I was able to score really rare finds for a few cents!

I also enjoyed the annual Museumsuferfest (Museums Riverbank Festival), one of the major cultural festivals in Germany held on the last week of August on both sides of the Main Riverbank. It features museums and special attractions like live-bands, dance shows, a collection of booths for crafts, clothes and good fooood!!! We had a blast doing salsa in one of the dance booths! The amazing fireworks display was the night’s highlight. I was misty-eyed when they played “Forever Young” while the skies & the bridge were magically swathed in lights!

3.Shopping!!!

I am a certified shop-a-holic and The Zeil is my haven! When we were based at the DB Twin Towers at Taunusanlage, the Zeil was simply a few walks from the office so after lunch all roads lead to the Zeil. It’s Frankfurt’s major shopping district , often dubbed a the “5th Ave of Germany”. It’s a long stretch of shops both retail & upscale and also has an array of cafes, bars & restos to suit your taste. This is where I first fell in love with H&M (Hennes & Mauritz) a Swedish brand that offers fab fashion at good prices! Another shopping area is the Nordwest Zentrum which would require a li’l bit of travelling but is also worth the trip.

4.The Christmas Market (Weihnachtsmarkt)

Germany’s largest Christmas market and the tallest Christmas tree is found right here in Frankfurt. It’s right in the historic Römer Square and also stretches out along the banks of the Main River & the Zeil shopping street. The market offers a variety of Christmas merchandise such toys, figurines, candles, wood carvings, marionettes, and a plethora of food treats! I loved the strong aroma of gingerbread biscuits and licorice candies. This is memorable for me, coz this is where our wonderful colleagues from the bank threw us a sort of a despedida before we left for Manila. They bought us the popular Glühwein (or mulled wine, a traditional beverage drunk in Christmas markets, usually prepared from red wine, heated and spiced with cinnamon sticks, vanilla pods, cloves, citrus and sugar) & grilled sausages!

5.Schweizer Strasse Festival

This was the very first festival we’ve been to in Frankfurt so you can guess our excitement! This is a one-day fair in summer days, around June where the Schweizer Strasse (Swiss Street) in Sachsenhausen, which is reputed among gourmets for its overabundance of deli restos, bistro’s apple-wine taverns, cafe’s and pubs, is even more crammed with food stalls that offer delectable gastronomic treats! This is also where we got to experience our very first bratwurst (pork sausage) and our first taste of the German Weissbier (White Beer).

We had the chance to get some photos taken with the locals in their traditional costumes!

6.King Kamehameha

The night scene in Fft is a bit subdued if you think about Manila but it was good enough for my taste. We tried The Velvet disco & The Living (a high end disco bar near the European Central Bank) but I found their choice of music quite ancient. My favourite though is the posh King Ka (King Kamehameha) on club band Thursdays, where I celebrated my birthday with my DB colleagues. One performance I absolutely loved was the band’s cover of James Morrison’s You give me something. Gosh, while writing this, I am still moved.

7. The Frankfurt Skyline

It’s written that the skyline of Frankfurt is the most spectacular of Germany, being home to the 2 tallest skyscrapers in the EU. I can only nod. Frankfurt is the only German city with quite a number of skyscrapers (buildings at least 150 metres tall). The skyline is even marvellous at night with all the bright lights! Our colleagues from DB took us to the Maintower observation deck (200 m high) where we had a breathtaking view of the city dubbed as “Mainhattan”.The DB headquarters (currently under renovation) is also among the tallest buildings in Fft at 150 m.

Coming from a city where the transportation system is more like a mayhem, I was in so much awe at how efficient the public transport is in Frankfurt! Talk about precision! When you say the bus is scheduled at 7:37, then 7:37 it is. Well sometimes that’s an exaggeration but most of the time, I’m simply stunned. I also won’t forget the U-bahns (Untergrundbahn is German for underground rapid transit) & S-bahns S-Bahn refers to suburban metro railways) & the Hauptbahnof (Frankfurt Central Station,) which is the busiest railway station in Germany and link to the different countries outside Germany simply because they made travel seem like a breeze! If only we had these in Manila!

9. SnooooowwWWw!

My first snow encounter! I forgot the name of the place, but it’s some highlands farther north. I can’t say more except that it really made us all jump in joy for that overwhelming feeling of finally seeing snow in the flesh!

10.Derag: Home Sweet Home

I will forever remember this place, where we lived for almost 6 months, and shared real happy memories with our friends (sniff, sniff). Guess I should get back to business before this turns into a crying spree. Derag Appartements Johann Wolfgang caters specifically for long term stay, especially for business travellers as in our case. Nestled in a hushed residential area over Sachsenhausen and conveniently situated outside the nearby center, it has over 240 fully equipped serviced apartments and duplexes (with kitchen or kitchenette). I can still vividly remember the fun times I’ve had with my colleagues turned friends and every recollection brings big smiles to my face. Truly a home away from home.