24-hour City Guide: Berlin, Germany

Sights to see in Berlin, Germany. Photos by Katrina Sklepowich
Sights to see in Berlin, Germany. Photos by Katrina Sklepowich

What to see and what to skip if you only have one day in Germany’s capital, Berlin

Hey wanderers!

This is your 24-hour city guide for one of my favourite German cities – Berlin! This post is a quick reference for what to see if you’re short on time – when I was in Berlin back in 2012, we really did only have two days to see everything. We spent one day visiting Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp and the other day seeing all the city had to offer. Of course, my first recommendation is to extend your stay past 24 hours if possible, because this city has so many cool things to see…but if you only have a day, here’s what I recommend you check out.

IMGP4194Don’t forget to grab that hostel reservation

Berlin is relatively affordable for backpackers and travellers, and there are a lot of great options for accommodations. Just remember to book ahead – Berlin is a pretty popular tourist spot. We opted to stay in a suburb and it was amazing. Don’t be afraid to stay on the outskirts of a big city – you’ll get more exposure to local culture and have a more authentic experience. We still had excellent access to train stations and bus routes, so getting to and from the city centre and all the hot spots was no problem. Another great thing about our hostel was that it offered free walking tours. And, as you’ll have read in Kaeri’s post about Seville, walking tours are often the best way to see a city!

What to see:

Whether on a guided tour or not, here are some sights to see while you’re in the city:

IMGP4202Brandenburg Gate (Brandenburger Tor)

A historic staple, this giant and gorgeous gate is a natural meeting place and offers a great photo op. This is where our walking tour started and it really introduces you to the city and its history. Damaged during the Second World War, it’s now fully restored.

IMGP4226Checkpoint Charlie

A relic of Berlin’s tumultuous past, Checkpoint Charlie is the best-known Berlin Wall crossing point between East and West Germany. Decked out with retro insignia and soldiers in full dress, this army checkpoint will take you back in time. Here, you’ll learn a lot about the Wall that separated East from West, Soviet-occupied Germany from the Western Ally sector. It’s a pretty crazy story.

IMGP4214The Berlin Wall 

You can’t miss out on seeing the remnants of the Berlin Wall – it was so weird for us to see sections of the wall still intact. The deconstruction of the wall represents a defining moment in Germany’s (and the world’s) history. Although much of the tourist spots in Berlin are a reminder of the World Wars and everything that followed, the Berlin Wall, now, is more a symbol of the movement that brought down the Iron Curtain.

IMGP4213The Holocaust Memorial

Located in the centre of Berlin near the Brandenburg Gate, the  Foundation Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is a moving reminder of the human cost of the Second World War. It’s super sad, but also important to go see. The memorial consists of a Field of Stelae (the concrete blocks pictured) and an Information Centre. It also memorializes the Sinti and Roma, as well as homosexuals and others who lost their lives under the National Socialist regime.

IMGP4196Ritter Sport Bunte Schokowelt 

After experiencing Berlin’s fascinating history, you will be in need of some delicious German chocolate. Stop by Ritter Sport’s Schokowelt (Chocolate World, my friends) and make yourself a custom chocolate creation, or just stock up on hundreds of amazing chocolate squares. I can’t tell you how worth it this stop will be! We each brought home several bags of mini Ritter Sport chocolate bars – they make great gifts (and are tasty snacks whenever you need a guilt-free pick-me-up). Always finish your day on a positive!

What to Skip:

Honestly, I can’t think of anything not to see in Berlin. My best advice is to take it all in if you can. I should also mention that there are great day trips to make from Berlin, like traipsing about Schloss Charlottenburg, the largest palace in Berlin, or taking a train out to Oranienburg to visit Sachsenhausen – if you have an extra day or two, I suggest doing both.

What else do you recommend seeing in Berlin when short on time? Is there any spot you love that I missed? Comment below or send me a message on Facebook – I love hearing from you!

As you know, this travel blog has been part of a school project – let me know how I’m doing by filling out this quick survey! Thanks for your help and for checking out this post.

Until next week, stay well!
Katrina

Great Expectations

Hey there wanderers!

One of my favourite things about traveling is that no two trips are the same. You can visit the same place over and over again and experience something new every time. You can go at a different time of year and have a completely different experience, or go with a new group of people…all of these factors can have an impact on what you do and see. And I love that. Like I’ve said before, traveling is what you make it! When you go on a trip, it’s totally okay to expect the unexpected. It’s often even more fun that way!

I visited Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany for the first time nine years ago. Two summers ago, I got to go back! It was raining and gorgeous on both occasions.
I visited Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany for the first time nine years ago. Two summers ago, I got to go back! It was gorgeous (and raining!) on both occasions.

After writing my city guide for Venice last week, I got some great comments from a few of you. What I loved most about your feedback was finding out how we had both common and vastly different experiences! What happens to your friends may or may not happen to you. Your favourite thing about Paris may end up being the very thing your sister dislikes. It all depends – and that’s the beauty of traveling.

Even though doing research before you head out on an adventure is important  (it really is!), take what you find out with a tiny grain of salt. Ask friends and family for advice, check out Pinterest for travel inspo, and hit up the travel section in your nearest bookstore for information, but keep in mind that while being informed is smart and necessary, your expectations might not be met…or they might be exceeded!  Information might be outdated (we all know how quickly situations can change) or based on one person’s experience – all of this can create positive or negative feelings toward a place before you even get there.

My best advice: keep an open mind and roll with it. Due to different circumstances, you might end up having a less than ideal time in any given place you visit, but with the right attitude, you may end up liking a place more than you thought you would! When I was traveling around Europe two years ago with my mom and cousin, we ran into some bad luck in Rome and had a few misadventures. I was kind of sour about it – I had expected more from Rome! But it wasn’t Rome’s fault that we had a few run-ins with bad luck and it certainly wasn’t personal – once we all got over taking an illegal taxi (true story) and having no power or water in our apartment for a few days, Rome really wasn’t so bad. In the end, I kind of loved it there and am looking forward to going back this summer. It really is all about your state of mind.

Until next week, stay well!
Katrina

Planes | Trains | Automobiles – Part 3

autos planes trains

Hello wanderers!

It’s here – Part 3 of the Planes, Trains, and Automobiles series, and it’s all about cars, busses, and all the fun stuff in between. Like I mentioned previously, I usually end up taking a variety of transportation systems to get from place to place when I travel, and while driving may not always be the quickest way to travel, sometimes all you need is a good road trip!

From the autobahn to the backroads of rural Zambia, and safari jeeps to a tiny little tuk-tuk in India, I feel like I’ve seen it all.

From top to bottom, left to right: The Rempels and a Sklepowich in a tuktuk in New Delhi (photo by Margaret Stefels), going 260km on the Autobahn in Germany (yes, that is super fast), a typical dirt road in rural Zambia, and a safari truck convoy at Disney's Animal Kingdom in Florida (not in Africa! But I have been on game drives in India, South Africa, and Botswana)
Four Rempels and a Sklepowich in a tuktuk in New Delhi (photo by Margaret Stefels), going 260km on the Autobahn in Germany (yes, that is super fast), a typical dirt road in rural Zambia (bumpy), and a safari convoy at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Florida.

bridesmaidsThere’s nothing like a road trip to take in the scenery and enjoy your company. Driving somewhere gives you more time to appreciate where you are, where you’re going, and who you’re with. I love road trips with friends – we usually end up talking for hours about random topics, laughing until we’re crying, dancing to the most ridiculous music, and snapping fun pictures. Road trips are also optimal for good naps and a ton of reading (if you don’t have motion sickness issues). Vehicles that come equipped with DVD players and screens are also king for long trips (or you can just use a tablet or laptop!). If you opt to take a road trip (check out this amazing list of road trip routes!), just remember to take some breaks to stretch, and split time between drivers (safety first!).

Screen Shot 2016-02-12 at 5.26.15 PMThis summer, I’m heading to Europe with two friends, and we decided to do a bus tour (operated by Topdeck Tours) for the first two weeks of our trip, taking us from London to Rome.

Some of the benefits of taking a bus tour when traveling internationally is that you don’t have to worry about getting from one place to the next on your own, and generally accommodations and food (if not all, some) are included in your trip costs.

Screen Shot 2016-02-12 at 5.25.24 PMWe used TourRadar (an amazing travel site) to search routes and found one that matched what we were looking for in terms of price, route, stops along the way, types of activities, and age (our tour is for 18-39 year olds – some tours range from 10-70 year olds, so if you don’t want to travel with little kiddos, it’s best to keep your eyes out for that). I’ve done short day trips on busses in Europe but I’ve never done a long tour, so I’ll let you know how it goes! I’m very excited not to have to plan every step of our trip – it’s vacation, after all!

There are so many options when it comes to travelling and transportation – you can rent a car, hop on a  bus, hit up the metro, or fly to your heart’s content. When it comes to planning your trip, anything goes because it’s your trip. I hope these tips have been helpful!

Don’t forget to post your #WanderlustWednesday posts on Instagram over the month of February. Tag your pic with #WanderlustWednesday, #hopelesswandererblog, and @katrinasklepowich – you have a couple of weeks to participate and each picture posted and tagged is an entry to win an awesome travel prize pack (details coming soon!). And keep your eyes out for mini cards in all of your favourite travel guide books and accessories.

Enjoy the long weekend, dear wanderers.

Until next time,
Katrina

On the Road Again

2008-graduation-with-banner
Beckie, Kaeri, and I at our high school graduation! I used to have really curly hair!

Hello wanderers!

It would seem that about every two years, I get the itch to go on an adventure. Usually, these trips line up with a milestone in my life – a graduation, a major birthday, etc. And every time, I justify each trip by saying “it’s probably my last chance…”

I think it’s important to say yes to opportunities as they come along –  if you have the chance to do something you’ve always wanted to do, or go somewhere you’ve always wanted to go, then why not say yes? But I’ve also come to realize that it’s never really your “last chance” to do something – so many of my trips in the past have been motivated by the “well, it’s probably my last chance” justification, but I’m beginning to think that if you want to do something, just make it happen (duh, right?).

Here’s a recap of my “last chance” trips over the years:

  • When I was in university, I had opportunities to do some extraordinary travel for school – real “once-in-a-lifetime” trips that I couldn’t pass up (I promise they were educational!). I got to go on a UN Study Tour to Ottawa and New York and sit in on incredible workshops from speakers around the world, as well as a real Security Council assembly (to this day, this was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had).
  • Following the UN Study Tour, I took a course in South Africa, came home for a month, and then hopped back on a plane to Africa – this time, to Zambia (remember that story about borrowed pants?! Yep, same trip). It was the craziest, busiest summer of my life, but I had the best time and all that travel just got me hooked on adventuring. To be honest, I thought going to South Africa would be my one and only chance to go to Africa – it’s funny how things work out, because I certainly didn’t expect to go to Africa twice in one summer!
  • When I was about to finish my degree, I thought my traveling days were coming to an end – my best friend and I planned our India/Spain/Germany extravaganza, thinking it was “our last chance to travel together”. I thought I’d return from our trip and jump right into a job and be an adult for real. However, post-grad life didn’t turn out quite like I thought it would…
  • Within a year of graduating, I knew I wanted to go back to school. I worked to save up for my studies and got my travel on!
    • I went to Osheaga in Montreal because it was “my last chance to see Mumford & Sons” (I hope that isn’t true!).
    • The following summer, right before I began my CreComm journey, I dragged my lovely mom and cousin Hayley across Europe because I thought it truly was “my last chance to travel”. I thought CreComm was it. Once done, it was adult time for real.

Well, dear ones, with another graduation on the horizon (only a few months to go!), this summer really does look like “my last summer to go on a major trip” (I can seriously justify anything!)…so I decided to take this summer off and go on another adventure!

I’m so excited to be traveling with two of my favourite people – my best friend and travel buddy Kaeri (who gets bitten by the travel bug as often as I do!), and our friend Beckie (this will be her first time across the pond!). We’re starting things off in London and then trekking it across Europe for 5 weeks, just 3 girls and some backpacks. I can’t wait!

beckie kaeri and katrina at rempel wedding
Beckie, Kaeri and I at Kaeri’s sister’s wedding a couple of years ago. I’m so incredibly excited to be traveling with these girls this summer!

As our travel plan starts to emerge and solidify, I’ll keep you all updated on where we’re going and how we plan on getting around – follow along for some great tips!

Thanks for following me on my planning journey – 2016 will be an exciting year.

Until next week, stay well!
Katrina

What not to do: when travelling with someone

blog collaborationHi all!

It’s week three of the Wanderlust + Heart and Hopeless Wanderer blog series, and this week, Elizabeth is exploring what not to do when travelling with someone. Make sure to check out her post – she’s got some great tips on what not to do!

Solo travel can be super rewarding – it’s a great way to find out more about yourself, and also push your boundaries and try new things. There are also benefits to travelling with others – all of my favourite trips have been shared with friends or family (and sometimes, complete strangers!). I like having people to bounce ideas off of, and make memories with! It’s also great to have someone with you in case things go off course (missing flights, getting lost, losing luggage – it’s so much easier to deal with mishaps if you have a friend to help you out). It’s also more fun!

Chad, Kaeri, and I in Barcelona. I love this photo!
Chad, Kaeri, and I in Barcelona. I love this photo!

If you’re on the fence about travelling with a buddy or flying solo, take some time to think about what you want to get out of your trip and if going it alone is going to work better or make you lonely. Then, if you decide you want a buddy or a group to join you, choose those companions with care. While you won’t always get along 100% of the time,  if you choose people who know you well (and love you unconditionally, even when you’re being a total troll! It happens to the best of us!), you won’t encounter many situations where you won’t get along. Travel can certainly bring out the worst in you, especially when you’re tired and stressed out, but having great travel companions can make things a whole lot better.

Here are some snapshots of some of my favourite trips – from Spain to Germany to Disney World with my family, all of my best times have been shared with my favourite people.

Kaeri and I visiting our German Exchange Students, Sümi and Kathy, and some other friends, in Munich.
Kaeri and I visiting our German Exchange Students, Sümi and Kathy, and some other friends, in Munich.
Kaeri, Kathy, Ramona (another friend we made while on German Exchange), and I in Friedrichshafen.
Kaeri, Kathy, Ramona (another friend we made while on German Exchange), and I in Friedrichshafen.
Kaeri and I celebrating a birthday in India
Kaeri and I celebrating a birthday in India
Me and my fam in Florida! The biggest kids at Walt Disney World.
Me and my fam in Florida! The biggest kids at Walt Disney World.
Chad, Brayden, Kaeri, Jerras, and I at the Metropol Parasol in Seville, Spain.
Chad, Brayden, Kaeri, Jerras, and I at the Metropol Parasol in Seville, Spain.

Make sure to check out Elizabeth’s tips about what not to do when travelling with a buddy, and then start planning your next trip!

Next week, I’ll share some tips on what not to do when you arrive at your destination and adventure awaits. Get excited.

Until then, stay well!
Katrina

 

I wonder, I wander

Hello, all!

I just finished watching this week’s episode of Amazing Race Canada (hilarious, amazing, I’m in love) and I’m suffering from a major case of the travel bug. There’s nothing like a good backpacking trip with a friend or family member – I’m honestly considering signing up to compete next season. Anyone want to partner up?

There are so many reasons to travel – I can’t name all the virtues of traveling in one post but I hope to cover as many as possible throughout the year. You find out so much about the world and about yourself, and you get to encounter so many new things. I’m not very spontaneous or adventurous by nature, but the more I travel, the more open I am trying new things. I’ve been out of my comfort zone in quite a few situations (you can look forward to future blog posts on this) and it’s so incredibly true that those situations make for the best stories. My advice: get out there and go on an adventure!

Travel Snapshots
From top, left to right: Chobe National Park (Botswana), Taj Mahal (Agra, India), Victoria Falls (Zambia), Neuschwanstein Castle (Bavaria, Germany), Colosseum (Rome), Arc de Triomphe (Paris, France), the Golden Temple (Amritsar, India), Metropol Parasol (Seville, Spain), the Grand Canal (Venice, Italy). All photos my own.

How did I get bitten by the travel bug in the first place? My parents are big travellers – we did a lot of family road tripping, summer camping, and winter vacationing to tropical places when I was a kid. Later, I went on trips through school, including a 9-week exchange to Germany when I was in eleventh grade. Living in Germany was a game-changer for me – after exchange, all I wanted to do was travel!

I continued to travel throughout university, going to Ottawa, New York, South Africa, and Zambia on school-related trips. But what I really wanted was to go on a trip with my best friend – something we’d been talking about for years but had never acted on. Both of us had done some significant travelling since our German Exchange experience, but we hadn’t gone on any trips together. It wasn’t until my last year of university that we finally committed – we went on an amazing trip to India, Spain, and Germany right after I graduated (best grad gift ever!). My obsession has started to rub off on my family members, too, so last summer I took my mom and younger cousin, Hayley, backpacking through Europe. I’ve never laughed so hard in my life.

Now, it’s safe to say, I’m addicted. I can’t stop. All I want to do is go on another adventure! I’ve made it a habit to visit one new place each year, whether local or international (because it’s also fun to be a tourist in your own city, province, and country!). I don’t know where I’m heading next, but I have a growing list of destinations I’d like to visit.

If you’re looking to plan a trip in the near future, the best way to get started is to set goals. Trust me, setting goals doesn’t take the fun out of anything! Write down all the places you’d like to visit (write it all down – landmarks, cities, countries, etc.), and then set some budget goals. Set aside some funds, look into flight discounts and deals, and dream a little dream. The more you consider where you want to go and what you want to do, the more serious you’ll get about heading out into the great wide yonder. Soon, you’ll be packing that backpack (tips coming soon!) and hopping on a plane.

Where do you want to go next? Send me a tweet @KatrinaSklepo or comment below.

Stay well,
Katrina