Category: Travel

5 Great Things About Visiting Germany

5 Great Things About Visiting Germany

With 2 Germany trips within a few weeks from each other I’ve neglected this blog quite a bit, sorry to the 3 people still reading! πŸ™‚

I got back on Monday so it’s time to get on with the blogging. Here is my Top 5 of why visiting Germany was awesome.

1. Seeing Family and Friends

Obviously the best part of visiting. I forgot to take pictures because I was having too much fun. So thanks to my sister for making us take that one πŸ™‚ And yes, that’s a castle in the background. When in Germany …

2. Butterbrezeln, Maultaschen und KΓ€sespΓ€tzle

There are 2 Paulaner and a couple other German restaurants and I’ve never been to one of them (with the exception of the Christmas market and a cheese fondue event but that doesn’t really count as German food). I don’t really miss German food in Shanghai that much, there is a lot other great stuff to eat. So far I’ve really craved Maultaschen once, and then we just made them ourselves. However, when I’m home I love eating my way through all the delicious regional food we have and the goodies my mom makes.

3. Driving

Flying down the Autobahn at 100 mph is fun and somehow very relaxing. I wouldn’t want to drive in Shanghai but I love it in Germany. Unless you’re stuck in a massive traffic jam around Stuttgart of course πŸ™‚

4. Drinking the tap water

Back in Germany we almost never bought water, just drank it straight from the tap. It’s super easy, tastes good and is almost free (important for me as a Swabian πŸ˜‰ ). In Shanghai we don’t even use the tab water for cooking, so it’s just a nice change.

5. Long summer nights

The sun doesn’t set until 9:30, so I never noticed how late it was getting. These extra 2.5 hours of daylight are fantastic and something I miss here. Eating ice cream in the dark is also fine if there’s no other option πŸ™‚

And I guess views like this also don’t hurt:

Though my trip was great, I’m happy to be back in Shanghai now, especially since I was greeted with perfect blue skies and relatively mild temperatures (only 33Β°!) and low humidity. I’ll back in Germany again a couple more times this year so until then I’ll be eating dumplings, meeting Shanghai friends and enjoying this crazy city that has become our second home.

Surprise visit!

Surprise visit!

I just got back from a Germany trip this morning at 7 am. Why I thought it would be a good idea to fly all night and then go straight to the office I will never know πŸ˜‰ But it was definitely worth it!

The visit was to surprise my sisters who celebrated their birthdays together last weekend. I managed to plan a visit almost 2 months ago and to keep it a secret until I arrived … which was pretty hard! To sum it up, they were definitely very surprised when I showed up πŸ™‚ We were very busy having fun but manged to take one slightly blurry picture together.

Besides the birthday party I also met up with friends and old coworkers and we invited both my grandparents over for a barbecue – they didn’t know I was visiting either :). Last Monday was Dragon Boat Festival so I used the chance to hang out with my mom all day, eat ice cream and stock up on summer clothes – today it was 35 degrees in Shanghai.

Also on the agenda: Butterbrezel, Maultaschen, KΓ€sespΓ€tzle, Hefezopf, Pizza from my favorite place and berries and cherries fresh from the garden πŸ™‚ The weather was great too, I got a good fix of blue skies, sunshine and fresh air.

Time went by so quickly and now I feel even less ready for Shanghai summer. Especially not for this getting dark at 7 thing. I guess it’s good I’m going back again for business trip in a couple of weeks!

Moganshan: Bamboo, bamboo and more bamboo

Moganshan: Bamboo, bamboo and more bamboo

Last weekend it was outing time! Our company here gives each employee a budget and an extra day off to go on a trip, aka the outing, with coworkers. Thorben’s department always does something pretty fancy:Β  Japan last year and Vietnam this year – I’m still bugging him to finish his blog post. My department wanted to take it a bit easier so we stayed in China. Our destination was Moganshan, which is a 3-hour drive from Shanghai.

Moganshan or Mount Mogan is both the name of the mountain and the village we spent 2 1/2 days in. Our hotel was located on the edge of the town and – as everything in this area – was surrounded by bamboo. Besides lunch and dinner we didn’t have any planned group activities. The weekend can be summed up in a few words: Relaxing, reading, hiking and eating. Many of my coworkers brought their spouses and kid(s), so you could also call it “31 Chinese and Marina in a bamboo forest.” πŸ™‚

On Saturday and Sunday we got quite a bit of rain, so when I ventured outside the air was pretty misty. I joined some colleagues on a little hike to a waterfall on Saturday and then on a bigger one through the bamboo forest and up the hill for some good views on Sunday. Sadly, just because there is bamboo doesn’t mean there are pandas. They prefer a different he climate, so I’ll have to wait a bit longer to see some.

Monday morning we had beautiful weather but unfortunately our bus already picked us up at 10:30am. I took advantage of the sunshine for as long as I could and took lots of pictures. If anyone asks, that’s what Moganshan looked like the entire time πŸ™‚

Overall, it was a very relaxing weekend (especially after all the kids returned to Shanghai Sunday after lunch πŸ™‚ ) in beautiful surroundings.

Nanjing or why not to travel in China during National Holidays

Nanjing or why not to travel in China during National Holidays

Today is Labor Day in China. As May 1 falls on a Tuesday this year, the office was closed Monday which meant that Saturday was an official working day. I have to say I’m not a fan of the 6 day work week … but definitely a fan of the 3 day weekend πŸ™‚

To take advantage of the extra day we’d planned to spend 2 days in Nanjing and then relax at home (read: do laundry) on the holiday. The fastest train was sold out but we managed to get there in less than 1 1/2 hours. Gotta love train travel in China.

We didn’t do as much as I had wanted to because it was a little too hot, too crowded and the air was quite polluted. This is what we managed:

Nanjing Massacre Museum

Sunday morning we headed to the Nanjing Massacre Museum, or the “Memorial Hall of the Victims in Nanjing Massacre by Japanese Invaders” as it is officially called. Just walking inside and seeing the sculptures is really depressing but I’d still recommend going. The exhibition inside is very well done, with lots of pictures, artifacts, information and videos.

Fuzimiao or Confucius Temple area

Next, we headed to Fuzimiao, the pretty area around the Confucius Temple. There are lots of shops, mostly tourist traps, and because of the holiday it was really busy. From the pictures I saw it looks beautiful at night all lit up but we didn’t manage to go back when it was dark.

1912

For dinner we headed to 1912, a little walking district with lots and lots of bars and restaurants. There are many western places but we had dinner at a Chinese restaurant and tried a local specialty: Nanjing Salted Duck.

Purple Mountains

Trying to avoid the crowds a little we got up early on Monday and went straight to the Purple Mountains. Looks like everyone else had the same idea and when we got to the Sun Yat-sen’s Mausoleum a little after 9 it was already very very busy.

Thorben said that when he went to the Purple Mountains during a business trip a few years ago it was a really nice peaceful place. To get some room to breathe and escape the picture taking (not many foreigners in Nanjing), we decided to skip the main sights and exlore the smaller walking trails. This worked pretty well and we didn’t see too many people after that.

After a quick shower at the hotel we decided not to head back into town for the afternoon but take an earlier train home. The heat and bad air quality combined with the huge crowds and long queues everywhere kind of killed our sightseeing mood. And our air conditioned and air filtered apartment just sounded way better πŸ™‚

Overall, Nanjing is a nice place with lots of great things to see – but like many people said, it’s best to avoid public holidays. From now on I’ll just keep doing what we did before – leave China when there’s a public holiday (or hide at home).

Tokyo: The Food Edition

Tokyo: The Food Edition

Here is the run down on all our Tokyo food experiences:

Sushi

We started and ended our trip with sushi. On our first day we headed over to “Umegaoka Sushi No Midori”, which was highly recommended online. The place was really popular, even on a Thursday at 2:30 pm we had to wait for 45 minutes to get a table. The sushi was very pretty and yummy though πŸ™‚

On our last day we went to Sushizanmai, a big, popular chain. At 10:30 am we already had the first sushi in front of us, no wait on a Monday morning πŸ™‚ The place was pretty empty, so we sat at the counter and watched the masters work.

Making our own Sushi

Another Airbnb experience: a sushi class with a Japanese sushi master. We met Nori and 2 other participants at a grocery store where he showed us all the necessary stuff to make sushi. We then went to his apartment and made nigiri and maki sushi. He was really strict about the technique – a real sushi master has to train for 8 years after all – and made us practice on playdough first πŸ™‚ I didn’t take many pictures because of fishy hands but thankfully our host was on it πŸ™‚

Tsukiji Fish Market Food Tour

The Tsukiji Fish Market will be relocated in October so we were lucky we still got the see the old building and craziness happening inside. I booked a tour through Ninja Food Tours that included lots of tastings and it was really fun! First we had a chicken, egg and rice dish and then really started the tour. The market also has a big wholesale vegetable and fruit portion and we had some yummy strawberries there. Pretty fruit is considered a nice gift but we passed on the 50 USD cherry box and 60 USD mango πŸ˜‰

We also checked out all the crazy fish and sea food of the inner market and then had ate at the outer market. The place is huge and busy so I’m really glad we went with a guide who knew what he was doing. We had sweet omelette on a stick as a palate cleanser, then an amazing tuna bowls, pork dumplings, some matcha drinks, tried some dried fish candies and finally had a mochi strawberry dessert.

Kobe Beef

For Thorben’s Birthday we went to a kobe beef restaurant and indulged in a dinner with 8 courses, 7 of which included beef. We ate it grilled, baked, fried, marinated, raw, inside a dumpling … It was delicious πŸ™‚