Munich

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Munich (“Home of the Monks”) is a perfect rendition of all our typical German stereotypes. In stark contrast to Berlin, Bavaria brings to life charming market squares, the Alps, pretzels and men in lederhosen. With a history rich in kings and castles, the architecture is both Gothic and Baroque in style and reminiscent of yester-year. Cobblestone streets and misty mountain air add alluring charm to the city. The perfect place to enjoy litres of local beers and soak in the tales of a Benedictinian time, München and neighbouring town Fussen are must-sees when in Bavaria.

Quick Facts

Country | Germany
Language | German & English
Location | South East Germany
Closest Airport |MUC (35km)
Currency | Euro
Days Needed | 3-4

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Getting There

From Munich Airport: The S1 and S8 S-Bahn trains depart from the airport to the city centre (Marienplatz) every 20 minutes and the journey takes about 45 minutes.

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Stay

We stayed at an Airbnb near the Münchner-Freiheit S-Bahn stop. The city is well connected with the underground, so getting around is very easy. This area has lots of little cafes, is clean and safe.

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Sights

Walking Tour

Once again, I would highly recommend doing a free walking tour(s) when in Munich. We went with Sandemans, which meets at Marienplatz in the city centre. Our guide was a local Munich resident, hilarious and really well informed on the entire history of the city, giving us an authentic and in-depth overview. On the tour you’ll walk around the picturesque city and visit Viktualienmarkt, The National Theatre and Opera House, Mary’s Column, learn about the origins of Oktoberfest and see Hitler’s Beer Hall. The tour ends at Hofbräuhaus, one of the most famous and historic beer halls in the city.

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Marienplatz

The main square of the city, right in the city centre is called Marienplatz. Founded in 1158, the history is tangible. Outside of transferring here on the S-Bahn, the square is alive with shops, eateries and tourists soaking in the stunning architecture. This square is home to the Glockenspiel, a giant cuckoo clock that chimes every day at 11am (12pm and 5pm in the summer as well). The figures in the clock re-enact two historical stories, complete with jousting and dance, with a golden bird chirping at the end. You’ll see a large crowd gathered at the base of the clock, faces tilted upwards, rain or shine. For some charming Bavarian folklore, definitely check this out.

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Viktualienmarkt

Famous for its beer gardens, a must-see in Munich is the charming Viktualienmarkt, just around the corner from Marienplatz. When the weather is good, locals and tourists alike all flock to this lively market for some beer and pretzels. Browse the many stalls for artisan-made handicrafts and local farmer’s fare before settling in for a hazy afternoon in the garden. Surrounding the tables, are beer and food stalls along with leafy chestnut trees – a languid afternoon spent sitting at communal picnic tables has never been more alluring. You’ll catch many glimpses of local men wearing their lederhosen and alpine hats, an image we usually reserve for Oktoberfest, but one that is commonplace here.

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Neuschwanstein Castle

Located just outside of Munich, in the endearing town of Füssen, lies one of the most famous castles in Bavaria and the world, Neuschwanstein. Made famous by Disney for basing Sleeping Beauty’s castle on this architectural masterpiece designed by King Ludwig II, Neuschwanstein is truly a thing of beauty. Rather than signing up for a guided tour, get yourself to Füssen for a more economical and independent visit.

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Board a Füssen bound train at the Hopbanhauf in Munich (München Hbf). The journey takes about 1 hour and trains leave every hour (no reservation required). This is a delightful ride with rolling green hills, farms and the Alps in the distance. Once you arrive at Füssen station, busses will carry you forward. Take RVA/OVG 78 towards Schwangau. This is a short 8 minute bus ride and costs about 2.30 euros. At your stop, Hohenschwangau, you can walk to the castle, which takes about 30 minutes.

We didn’t go inside the castle and therefore didn’t require an entry ticket. The tours aren’t that interesting and seeing as the castle was a work-in-progress and was never finished, there isn’t much to see inside. You can go as far as the inner courtyard without a ticket, which was plenty to get the full scale of the place. The walk up itself is a meandering road through a thick forest, and the views of the town from the castle are stunning. Don’t miss the misty lake at the base of the castle – perfect for pictures and glimpses of swans.

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Dachau Concentration Camp

Another must-see when in Munich, Dachau Concentration Camp is both eerie and fascinating. For purveyors of WWII history, seeing the model camp of Hitler’s Final Solution is a textbook brought to life. I would recommend signing up for a free tour with Sandemans – you’ll get a guide who can share a wealth of information with you. The tour begins at the München Hbf. You’ll take the train to the town of Dachau and your guide will take you through the camp. With much of it replicated, some of the buildings are still original, giving you a firsthand experience of the atrocities that occurred there. Your tour will end back at the München Hbf.

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holocaust-memorial-sculpture

Eat & Drink

Hofbräuhaus

The oldest beer hall in Munich, one that is next to impossible to get into during Oktoberfest, is highly recommended, especially after the tour.  This three floor hall dates back to the 16th century, and was restored and rebuilt in 1958 after the WWII bombings destroyed most of it. Inside, you’ll find a massive hall with hundreds of tables, and an elaborately painted ceiling. Traditional German barmaids serve litre beers in giant glass steins, alongside sausage, pretzels, schnitzel, and spätzle. While not the best place for a vegetarian to hang out, the carb overload and delicious beer make for an afternoon well spent.

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Additional

Eataly – Italian Restaurant and Upscale Grocery Store
Escobar Cantina Y Bar – Veggie Friendly Mexican Fare
Brotraum – Authentic German Bakery and Cafe
The charm and allure of Munich is representative of traditional Germany. Go for the famed festive of Oktoberfest, or in the calmer off-season for a more relaxed visit.

Check out my travel post for more photos.

xx

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Berlin

Brandenburg Gate

Berlin is one of the coolest cities you’ll visit. With such a recent, tumultuous history, the city is vibrant in culture, street art, and realness unlike anywhere else. With the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the city began to rebuild itself, but many of the distinctions between East and West Berlin are still apparent. With the famous East Side Gallery and street art, the underground music and party scene, and the Holocaust Memorial recently opened; Berlin is rich in history and revolution.

Quick Facts

Country | Germany
Language | German & English
Location | North East Germany
Closest Airport | TXL (9.2 km)
Currency | Euro
Days Needed | 3-4
Best Time to Visit | April-October

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Getting There

From Berlin Tegel Airport: Bus connections right from the airport into the city centre (every 5 minutes) and takes about 15-20 minutes.

From Schönefeld Airport: Directly connected to the regional and S-Bahn rail. You can take the S-Bahn into the city (departs every 10 minutes). The Regional Railway Airport Express (runs twice every hour) will take you directly to Berlin Hauptbahnhof (the main station) and takes about 30 minutes.

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Stay

We stayed at an Airbnb in Kreuzburg, one the best-known areas in Berlin. Easily walkable to the club district and with close connection to the S or U-Bahn. There are also tons of hostels within the city if you’re looking to meet people and experience a more relaxed, backpacker vibe.

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Sights

East Side Gallery

Not needing an introduction, the famous East Side Gallery is 1316 metres long, and is an international memorial for freedom.

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Holocaust Memorial

Designed by Peter Eisenman and Buro Happold, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is not one to be missed. With an abstract design, it speaks volumes and can be interpreted in many moving ways.

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Walking Tour

I highly recommend doing a walking tour(s) when in Berlin. Beginning with the Holocaust and working your way up to present day, it’s the best way to get an overview of the city’s history, as well as see the sites. Sandeman Tours is highly recommended. Depending on the tour you choose, you’ll see sites such as the Brandenburg Gate, Holocaust Memorial, Checkpoint Charlie, The Berlin Wall, the Opera, etc. The Alternative Walking Tour gives you the background on the squatters and the art scene.

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YAAM Berlin

If you’d like to relax a little bit, spending some time at YAAM is ideal. A chill spot next to the river, you’ll walk into a sandy area resembling a Caribbean island. With a bar fully stocked and tables and recliners to relax on, YAAM is a great way to spend an idle afternoon.

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Party

Pub Crawl

The best way to meet new people and check out Berlin’s pubs and bars, is a pub crawl. You can choose from the Original Pub Crawl or an alternative one (or both), and drink your way around the city.

Clubs

If you’re a party person, it would be sacrilegious to come to Berlin and not check out their famous clubs. Deep house and techno are the soul of the city and you can spend all day, night or weekend in their warehouses of sound. Berghain is said to be the Church of Techno and the most exclusive club in the world to get into. Tresor is the most respected and first techno club of the city, one that gave birth to techno and Berghain.  Check out this list on Berlin’s top clubs and their door policies.

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Eat & Drink

Neni

A garden high in the sky, Neni is Berlin’s place to go for Mediterranean/Middle Eastern fare. A delicious meal and beautiful surroundings, you can’t ask for better.

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neni-monkey-bar

House of Small Wonders

As cute as the name suggests, House of Small Wonders is a cozy spot, perfect for a casual brunch (and yes, definitely Instagrammable). They only take cash though, so come prepared.

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Silo Coffee

Totally hipster with a raw, wooden interior, Silo is a great little cafe for a light brunch, coffee, or to just hang out.

Burgermeister

There’s nothing quite like sitting under a rail station and having a burger. Burgermeister is a fun, casual take out spot in Kreuzburg to enjoy a burger and fries. Sit at the communal tables or take yours to go. And yes, they have a veggie option!

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Additional

Kebab Shops | any in the city

Berlin is truly unlike anywhere else, and it’s best to visit when you’re young and looking for culture mixed with partying and relaxing.

Check out my travel post for more photos.

xx

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Bath

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Quite possibly one of the most romantic and picturesque cities you’ll visit. Established as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987, the history of Bath extends back to the time of the Romans. During their stay in the British Isles, the Romans established Bath in Somerset, England as their spa and rejuvenation place,  centered on the natural thermal hot springs found here. Popularized by Jane Austen, the 19th century writer spent time here, and based many of her plots in this Georgian city in the hills.

Quick Facts

Country | United Kingdom
Language | English
Location | 2 hours (185 km) from London
Closest Airport | BRS (32 km)
Currency |  GBP
Days Needed | 2-4
Best Time to Visit | May-September

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Getting There

From Gatwick Airport: Take the Gatwick Express (every 15 minutes) to Victoria Underground Station (this will take about 30 minutes), and then from Victoria Station take the tube (every 5 minutes) to Paddington Station (this will take about 15 minutes). Buy your ticket to Bath Spa (every 30 minutes). It is cheaper to buy your tickets to Bath in advance. Journey to Bath from Paddington Station is about 1 1/2 hours.

From Heathrow Airport: Take the tube (every 5 minutes) to Paddington Station (this will take about 15 minutes) . Once at Paddington, you can buy your ticket to Bath Spa (every 30 minutes). Journey to Bath from Paddington Station is about 1 1/2 hours.

From Bristol Airport: Take the Airport Flyer Express to Bristol Temple Meads Train Station (this will take about 30 minutes). From here, board a train to Bath Spa (every 30 minutes). Journey to Bath from Bristol Temple Meads Train Station is about 17 minutes.

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Stay

We stayed at a charming, family run B&B called Pulteney House, run by Steve who makes a great English breakfast. Walkable to the city center and on a nice, quiet street.

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Sights

Roman Baths

Made famous for its thermal spas, a visit to Bath isn’t complete with a tour of the Roman Baths located in the city center.

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Bath Abbey

The Abbey Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, commonly referred to as the Bath Abbey is located just beside the Roman Baths and worth a visit. Founded in the 7th century, rebuilt in the 12th and 16th centuries and restored in the 1860s, the Abbey tour can be completed after a visit to the Baths.

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The Circus & Royal Crescent

For history lovers and cultural enthusiasts, the Circus and Royal Crescent are classic Georgian architecture. Having been completed between 1754 and 1767, the Circus was a popular stay for many of Jane Austen’s characters, with residents still living there today.

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Shop

Meticulous Ink

As an avid paper enthusiast (hello Owl and Oak), a stop at Meticulous Ink was a must. A gorgeous paperie with beautiful letterpress and gold foil designs, this print shop had me at its aqua ampersand.

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Topping and Company

With Belle’s bookshop in mind, a visit to Topping and Company didn’t disappoint. Complete with rolling library ladders and hot tea, we each picked up a book for our trip here.

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Eat & Drink

Bertinet Bakery

It was hard to keep me away from this tiny yet delicious bakery. With authentic pain au chocolat and quiche, it’s a great place to pick up a snack or light lunch while ambling the cobblestone streets.

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The Huntsman

A relaxed yet old English pub in the middle of the city, the Huntsman is perfect for an evening drink. A great selection of beers and a cool vibe, either on the patio or in their two story building, it makes for a perfect spot to spend the night.

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Colonna & Hunter

Winning coffee shop, Colonna & Hunter is a great, airy spot to grab a coffee with friends. Camp out here with your laptop to get some work done with their free WiFi, or stop in for a taste of their specialty beers.

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Additional

Tagine Zhor | Moroccan Food
The Pig & Fiddle | Pub

I’d highly recommend a visit to Bath when in the UK. Realign your energies, take some quiet time to reflect and appreciate beauty in new places, and indulge yourself!

Check out my travel post for more photos.

xx

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Beer Fest

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Holocaust Memorial – Berlin

After a few days in London, we made our way into Deutschland, where the beer is always pouring, the partying unreal and the history tangible.

Our first stop was the capital, Berlin. Upon arriving, I couldn’t believe how different it was from what I expected it to be. While the history is amazingly interesting, the people the coolest I’ve ever seen, and the graffiti unprecedented, I can’t say the city is architecturally attractive. With the coming down of the Wall in 1989, it seems as though Berlin and locals alike stayed in the 90s – punk, goth, and a unique edginess are what define the city.  After having seen European cities that were mostly very picturesque, Berlin is truly its own – a mix of communist architecture, Eastern European facades, and an underground pull. We did walking tours in order of the vibrant past, starting with WWII, the Berlin Wall and the more recent graffiti and art scene. Standing on top of Hitler’s Bunker, visiting the hauntingly beautiful Holocaust Memorial, soaking in the East Side Gallery and Squats, I soon became enchanted with the stories that live within the city. The clubbing scene is said to be among the best in the world, and it didn’t disappoint. Giant warehouses turned into multi-level arcades of raw sound – I was in deep house heaven. Ending our nights (or rather early mornings) with a halloumi wrap from one of the many Turkish kebab shops that line the city streets, it’s an easy life I could fast get used to. Berliners have a reputation of not only being super chill, but choosing to party between the hours of 10am and 6pm seeing as anything we’d consider normal (11pm-5am) is too “touristy”. Many of our tour guides were from different European nations, all originally planning on coming to Berlin for a month or so, and ending up staying more than a few years. For a city with such recent political instability, it has drawn and accepted anyone who wants to be themselves in the truest form of authenticity. #nohashtag

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Beer Gardens – Munich

After Berlin we landed in Munich, and felt like we’d flown to a different country. Locals here often refer to themselves as Bavarians rather than Germans, punctuating the distinction that is evident the minute you set foot in the city. Having attended university in Kitchener – Waterloo, Ontario, where the biggest Oktoberfest celebration occurs outside of Munich, everyday life here felt like the 2 week festival we so eagerly awaited as students. If this was commonplace, what was actual Oktoberfest like? In all the beer halls and gardens, men in leiderhosen and alpine hats loitered, enjoying their beer and twirling their long, snowy white mustaches. The city is beautiful, tucked away near the Alps, with cobblestone streets and festive scenes.  Every day was a carb overdose with litre beers, pretzels and potatoes. Having all their own local beer and nothing imported, we were able to taste Bavaria’s finest – Augustiner, Hofbrau, Hacker-Pschorr, Lowenbrau, Paulaner and Spaten.

A day trip away from Munich is the town of Fussen, nestled right in the lap of the German Alps, only an hour from Austria. Here, among the rolling hills and misty air, is Neuschwanstein, a castle made famous by Disney. Enchanting to say the least, Sleeping Beauty’s castle makes every fairy tale lover’s dreams come true with towering turrets, gorgeous white stone, and views overlooking all the land.

On a note of a different degree, we visited Dachau, a concentration camp not too far away from Munich. While the eeriness and sheer horror are tangible, the history is undeniably fascinating. With quite a bit of the camp still in its original structure, it wasn’t hard to imagine what atrocities occurred there…

After Munchen, we made our way to Freiburg, this time traveling by bus between cities. The German countryside is stunning, with greenery, trees and cute cottages

Black Forest - Freiburg
Black Forest – Freiburg

dotting the grassy expanse. We entered Toy Town, as Freiburg is affectionately called and spent the day in the Black Forest, hiking and trying traditional Black Forest cake, which sadly kept up with its unfavourable reputation.

Our last stop was Cologne, where the cathedral is the biggest attraction. Immense and Gothic, the towering heights and intricate stained glass and carvings are truly awe-inspiring.  A friend from my Lille days was living in Cologne, so we had a fun last night, drinking local Kolsch and catching up on life the past 6 years. Downing beer in an old VW bus converted into a bar was probably the most German thing we could have done.

We bid Germany auf wiedersehen, with promises to return with vegetables to feed their vegetarians.

Victory Column - Berlin
Victory Column – Berlin
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Those who tried to escape over the wall – Berlin
Holocaust Memorial - Berlin
Holocaust Memorial – Berlin
Brick Decal - Berlin
Brick Decal – Berlin
East Side Gallery - Berlin
East Side Gallery – Berlin
East Side Gallery Wall - Berlin
East Side Gallery Wall – Berlin
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You Are What You Eat – Berlin
Art Scene - Berlin
Art Scene – Berlin
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Anne Frank – Berlin

 

Graffiti Everything - Berlin
Graffiti Everything – Berlin
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Squats – Berlin
Artists Commune - Berlin
Artists Commune – Berlin
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Hanging Out – Berlin

 

Subway Burgs - Berlin
Subway Burgs – Berlin
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Airbnb Views – Berlin
Marienplatz - Munich
Marienplatz – Munich
Farmer's Market Finds - Munich
Farmer’s Market Finds – Munich
Neuschwanstein Castle - Fussen
Neuschwanstein Castle – Fussen
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Castle Lake – Fussen

 

Hohenschwangau Castle - Fussen
Hohenschwangau Castle – Fussen
Fairy Tale Lands - Fussen
Fairy Tale Lands – Fussen
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Sleeping Beauty’s Castle – Fussen
Courtyard - Fussen
Courtyard – Fussen
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Neuschwanstein Castle – Fussen

 

Kingdom - Fussen
Kingdom – Fussen
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Romanesque Revival – Fussen
"Work Makes You Free" - Dachau Camp
“Work Makes You Free” – Dachau Camp
Dachau Concentration Camp - Dachau
Dachau Concentration Camp – Dachau
Black Forest Lake - Freiburg
Black Forest Lake – Freiburg
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Black Forest – Freiburg
Sunset on Toy Town - Freiburg
Sunset on Toy Town – Freiburg
Cathedral - Cologne
Cathedral – Cologne
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Cathedral – Cologne
Locks of Love - Cologne
Locks of Love – Cologne

Bath Time

Bath Spa
Bath Spa

Bath – inarguably one of the most romantic cities I’ve visited, made even more so by the wedding we were there to attend.

Utterly enchanting, and surprisingly hipster, this picturesque town 1.5 hours from London is my new place du jour.  Gothic architecture sprinkled with tea rooms and hidden passages, it’s easy to envision the 1800s high society life that burgeoned here, and before that, a countryside retreat for the Romans.

Having no shortage of literary masterminds, England is a physical bookstore, with Bath being an appropriate homage to Jane Austen. After ambling down those cobblestone streets, it’s no wonder her mind and her pen made even the most cynic amongst us slightly more zealous with the notions of love.

Outside of the wedding, we had languid, sunny days of coffee, pain au chocolat and sightseeing. Our B&B was the ultimate in English charm, with rose-covered walls and warm homemade breakfast. The pubs, great selection of beers, and variety of cuisines take Bath from historic tourist town to liveable and eclectic. For a city that was first established as a spa, the feelings of relaxation and wellness are abundant throughout.

The four days flew by and I find myself wishing I was back there, croissant in hand, transported to a time where dreamers dreamed, writers wrote, and Romans bathed.

Pulteney Gardens
Pulteney Gardens
Iconic Bridge
Iconic Bridge
Garden Wall
Garden Wall
Floral Abundance
Floral Abundance
You Can Stand Under My Umbrella
You Can Stand Under My Umbrella
The Circus
The Circus
Alleyways should always be like this
Alleyways should always be like this
The Abbey
The Abbey
So Goth
So Goth
Abbey Road
Abbey Road
Abbey Views
Abbey Views
The Spa
The Baths
Rejuvenation
Rejuvenation
Relaxation
Relaxation
Windswept Sky
Windswept Sky
Bath
Bath

Himalayan High

What are men compared to rocks and mountains? – Jane Austen, Pride & Prejudice

DSC_00034205 meters above sea level – where birds drift on wind currents, the air is charged with energy reverberating from surrounding monasteries, and the only sound you can hear is your own breathing…

Our last minute trip to Spiti Valley in Himachal Pradesh, India, found us snuggled in the lap of the Himalayas, with nothing but rock, glaciers, and the rawness of Mother Nature as our companions.

With no expectations going into this trip that was planned two days prior, every minute managed to amaze me. Each day we would ascend higher and higher, leaving civilization, along with plentiful oxygen, behind. Hiking along the border of India and Tibet, dipping our feet into roaring rivers of ice cold glacier water, riding shaggy yaks, visiting the highest village and highest post office in the world, driving along the most treacherous road in the world, and getting our fill of delicious momos was just the tip of the mountain top.

Our guide, familiar with the entire region, and friendly with the monks, took us to heights reaching beyond altitude. His trained eye helped us spot the rare “blue sheep”. Living high in the Himalayan crests and seldom coming down, they are almost impossible to find. Legend says that upon seeing one, your kismet will be great and luck will be yours.

We visited 8 monasteries, each in its own style and size. While some were tucked away on the tip of a cliff, others were in the valleys – simple structures that had been there for thousands of years. The monastery in Komic was eye-opening and amazing. Set up in the passes, with the snow-capped Hindu Kush as the backdrop, the monks here shared a brotherhood that lasted from when they all arrived at the monastery at 10 years of age. Completely in contrast by their flowing red robes topped with ski jackets and sunglasses, these monks were the ultimate in cool. Joking around with us, offering orange pekoe tea and asking about life in Bombay, the peace that surrounded their behaviour was so alluring. Kaza Monastery was new, colourful, and captivating. Arriving just after the sun rose for the first Morning Prayer, we witnessed the tiniest monks, aged 5 and up running to the balconies of the temple, blowing into a conch shell, signaling prayer time. The prayer itself was unlike anything we’d ever heard before, talkative chants, with the lama leading the verses. We were given Tibetan butter tea, rich and salty to help keep us warm. At Pin Valley Monastery, we were warmed with tea, prayers, and the smiles of female monks, blending into the room with their shaved heads and crimson robes.

With the landscape changing from green foliage, to brown rock, we truly felt like we were on another planet. Trees were non-existent, and instead we found small shrubs and fish fossils from the days the mountains slept under the sea. With absolutely no network, and often no electricity or hot water, we were totally removed from the world. Save for the comforting presence of our driver, the three of us were immersed in a beautiful cadence of rock, river and self-reflection. And while on this road to reflection, I thought about so many things. How personal traveling is, especially to indigenous areas, and at home, how distant we are from reality. No cell phone service and we were cut off from the “real world?” No. This was the real world. Raw and unforgiving. Alone, we wouldn’t stand a chance. While I continue to partly feel guilt at commodifying culture, I recognize that photography is visual storytelling, and these photographs are just a recount of my experience.

If being a product of your environment is true, then peace surrounded my soul. Stars, mountains, and meditation – ten days in the Himalayas was barely enough.

(For tour information, visit Incredible Spiti)

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Lama at Lalung Monastery
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Roadside veggies
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Phone Line
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Morning reflection
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Serene
Mini monks with the shell
Mini monks with the shell
Morning Prayer
Morning Prayer
Details
Details
Kaza Monastery
Kaza Monastery
Rock Walk
Rock Walk
Spiti River
Spiti River
River Read
River Read
Key Monastery
Key Monastery
Devoted
Devoted
To the monastery
To the monastery
Well wishes
Well wishes
The highest village in the world
The highest village in the world
Construction worker's carry on
Construction worker’s carry on
Of the mountains
Of the mountains
Proceed with caution
Proceed with caution
Breathtaking
Breathtaking
Revered blue sheep
Revered blue sheep
Upper crust
Upper crust
Sea shrubs
Sea shrubs
An offering
An offering
Sky high views
Sky high views
Solitude
Solitude
Post man's son
Post man’s son
The highest post office in the world
The highest post office in the world
Getting schooled on littering
Getting schooled on littering
Cliff bar wonders
Cliff Bar wonders
Mountain crew
Mountain crew
Langza Village
Langza Village
Nomads
Nomads
Nirvana - not yet
Nirvana – not yet
Break time
Break time
Shepard
Shepard
Mountain cricket
Mountain cricket
Evening game
Evening game
Night fall
Night fall
Golden peak
Golden peak
Female monks
Female monks
Tibetan butter tea
Tibetan butter tea
Full house
Full house
The yak I rode
The yak I rode
Unreal
Unreal
Proof
Proof
Life
Life
10km to China
10km to China
Tibetan Prayer Wheel
Tibetan Prayer Wheel
Rock
Rock
Road trip
Road trip
Thupka preparations
Thukpa preparations
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Monastery with a view
Intense
Intense
Farmer
Farmer
Himalayan flowers
Himalayan flowers
Beauty
Beauty and baby
Tabo Monastery established in 990
Tabo Monastery established in 990
Tabo Monks
Tabo Monks
Mirror me
Mirror me
Julley! (hello)
Julley! (hello)
Curious
Curious
Nako
Nako
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Border of Tibet and India

 

Granite
Granite
Trees
Chitkul
Last village before Tibet
Last village before Tibet
Road to Tibet
Road to Tibet
Vertical orchards
Vertical orchards
Goat town
Goat town
Shimla monkey
Shimla monkey
Pit stop in Jaipur on the way home
Pit stop in Jaipur on the way home
Hawa Mahal
Hawa Mahal
Keeping watch
Keeping watch
Screen printer
Screen printer
Spiti Valley
Spiti Valley

 

Dhobi to Dharavi

Bombay nights
Bombay nights

Bombay – the bustling Indian city by the sea, the one that never sleeps. The one where there are only two seasons – sweltering humid heat or intense monsoon rain. For the past five months I’ve called this city my home, and every day continues to fascinate me. A car ride isn’t just getting from point A to B, but offers snippets of a culture that juxtaposes modernity with tradition. Bullock carts weave in and out of traffic pulling supplies while the owner sits atop checking his cellphone. Five star hotels catering to the rich are nestled in between chawls, while the slum dogs look on. A city of oxymorons and constant wonder, half a year in and I’ve barely lifted the veil.

With the internship I came here for finished in 4 months, my current freelance schedule has allowed me to take time to explore the areas of the city that intrigued me the most. First was a trip to the buzzing Crawford Market. Everything and anything you need is available – from buckles to plastic sheets, to imported food, to fairy lights. Men walk around with large circular baskets for you to put your packages in, so you can continue to shop while they follow you around lugging the load. With this being the first foray into the interior life of the city, we were overwhelmed and thus marked tourists with our poor bargaining skills. Next was Chor Bazaar, or the Thieves Market – a dwindling bazaar that was once the place to get antiques and knick knacks. The famous Mutton Street where only a discerning eye can tell antique from replica is lined with tiny shops and their Muslim proprietors.

Dharavi has been named the most densely populated place in the world, as well as Asia’s largest slum. These two facts were enough to both intrigue yet intimidate me. The thought of venturing into the slums always conjured up images of claustrophobic alleyways, suffocating heat, and sketchy people. The visit to Dharavi was enlightening, not to mention humbling. The alleyways provided shade from the unyielding sun, and rather than being cramped, they were relatively cool and easy to walk through. The production that takes place is amazing –everything from baking and fabric dying, to printing presses and clothing for export. Despite this being a slum, tea and beverages were kindly offered to us, in the classic way Indians are so hospitable and good-natured regardless of their circumstances.

My most recent and that too solo adventure was to the 140 year old Dhobi Ghat. Deemed the world’s largest open-air, human powered Laundromat, the Dhobi Ghat is lined with cement troughs and washing basins, where the washers or dhobis beat the dirt out of Mumbai’s soiled laundry. The washing basins are lined with the houses of workers, making the entire expanse feel like a big joint family, with children running in between hanging shirts, and men taking a bath beside the spinning machines.

I’ve recently felt conscious of my camera and have hesitated greatly in using it. The things that I find fascinating are the everyday norm for so much of the city’s population, and that too a norm that is a harsh reality. In trying to capture this, I’ve often felt like I’m objectifying them and further intruding on their privacy, something which they as it is, have very little of. I struggled with finding the balance between being a photographer who takes unreal photographs, and being a humanitarian who is understanding. I missed some great shots with this internal battle, but as I continued to venture around with my camera, I realized how open many people were to my taking pictures, and how it was a source of excitement and fun, especially when I showed them the snap after. I took a picture of a woman washing shirts, and her friend joked and said she would be famous. She said “Good, the world should know how hard we have to work to eat.” So world, here are the people of Bombay, the labourers, who work behind the scenes, barely being noticed but whom this city could not do without.

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Crawford Market
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Fabric Street in Crawford Market
House Boat
House Boat
Worli Sea Face
Worli Sea Face
European-esque
European-esque
Inside Dharavi
Inside Dharavi
Cow leather everywhere
Cow leather everywhere
Bros
Bros
The paan guy
The paan guy
Chill zone
Chill zone
Dyeing
Dyeing
Slum chai
Slum chai
Alleyway
Alleyway
Dharavi Market
Dharavi Market
His Bollywood pose
His Bollywood pose
Gorgeous eyes
Gorgeous eyes
Broom maker
Broom maker
Pottery
Pottery
Guns of steel
Guns of steel
Tin tin
Tin tin
Developing nation
Developing nation
Break from laundry
Break from laundry
Watching her man work
Keeping an eye on things
Dhobi Ghat
Dhobi Ghat
Joker and the one who works hard
Joker and the one who works hard
Inside Dhobi Ghat
Inside Dhobi Ghat
Cement troughs
Cement troughs
Cutie
Cutie
Shower time
Shower time
Working from home
Working from home
Inside Dhobi Ghat
Inside Dhobi Ghat
Rows of troughs
Rows of troughs
Morning ritual
Morning ritual
Relaxing in the bath
Relaxing in the bath
Hung to dry
Hang to dry
Ready for delivery
Ready for delivery
Denim for days
Denim for days
Speedy delivery
Speedy delivery
Break with baby
Break with baby
Handwash only
Handwash only
Normal cycle
Normal cycle
Overflow
Overflow
Big bro takes care
Big bro takes care
View from the top
View from the top