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Port of Hamburg: Photo Essay

Sorry Philadelphia, but I’m having a love affair with Hamburg, Germany.  I love its old traditions balanced with a spirit of new ideas, its humble, working class beginnings, and this port city’s seafaring feel.  Where Philadelphia’s shipping history was almost snubbed out because of America’s highway system (in recent years, there’s been a huge push to revitalize it), Hamburg’s is still thriving 826 years later.  Honestly, a life at sea is not complete with a stop at Hamburg Harbor. This past winter, I took a trip back to visit Hamburg and was welcomed by unseasonably beautiful weather.  As a result,

Heini Hiltunen Timo Kaukonen, left, sweats it out at the Sauna World Championships.
From ESPN "Sports from Hell"

That Time I Almost Died in a German Sauna

There are two types of people in this world: there are those who go to saunas for relaxation.  Then there are those who turn relaxation into a competition.  Yes, there are literally people who go to saunas to challenge one another on who can stay in a sauna the longest.  Back in 2010 I read a story about that Russian guy who died in a sauna competition in Finland.  The relaxation aspect of it I can get, but I think it’s a bit crazy that people take it to a whole new level and put their bodies through stress just

dall sheep

Have You Seen the Dall Sheep?

Alaska is teeming with wildlife.  In fact, Denali National Park & Preserve is home to 39 species of mammals, 169 types of birds, 14 fish, and 1 amphibian.  Amongst them are wild bears, moose, coyotes, wolves, eagles, and other creatures worth excitedly wiping out your camera and accidentally dropping it for.  But no animal in Alaska gets the older male tourist population more pumped than the Dall sheep. When compared to the other majestic creatures that you encounter in Alaska, the Dall sheep are simpletons.  You can usually observe them far off in the distance, hanging out on the peaks

Sun Rise

From the Darkness Comes Light

Hey there readers, On A Travel Broad, I tend to focus only on the positive and exciting side of my life and travels.  I share with you pictures from my time living in Germany and stories of my jaunts through Europe and North America in hopes of inspiring you to go out and experience the world for yourselves.  But I hardly ever discuss the difficult times I sometimes face.  Some of these challenging times are by my choice because I love traveling and sharing my travels with you gives me purpose.  In the 5 years since I’ve started this blog,

deutsche bahn

How to Navigate Germany When Deutsche Bahn Train Drivers Go on Strike

If you want to tick off a group of Germans, tell them that the train is going to be fifteen minutes late. But if you tell them that none of the trains will be running due to a strike? Utter chaos! Hundreds of thousands of travelers depend on the Deutsche Bahn to transport them to airports, cities and neighboring countries in Europe. But as Deustche Bahn train drivers prepare to go on strike tomorrow through Monday, these travelers, many of whom will be converging on Berlin this weekend for the 25th anniversary of its fall, are scrambling for an alternative.

roma kids

Playing with Roma Children

Below Acropolis in Athens, Greece, Roma children work as street performers, playing accordions, drums and the bouzouki, a type of Greek guitar, for money.  They purposely target marketplaces and tourist areas, knowing that that’s where the cash flows the fastest.  There are several levels of aggressiveness when it comes to begging.  Some casually perform on the street corner — in fact, the older kids are very talented at playing folk music, turning street corners in to concerts.  Then there are others who go from cafe table to cafe table playing music while simultaneously begging for money. Some get creative by

favorite place in the world

Answer to the Infamous Question, “What’s Your Favorite Place in the World”

“What’s your favorite place in the world?”  It’s often the first question that everyone asks when they learn that I’m a travel writer.  In my younger years, I often answered with a place I had recently gotten back from, mostly for the sake of conversation.  “Oh I was surprised how much I loved Denmark” or “I loved Barcelona for the food”. But the more I travel, the more I realize that there is no definitive answer to this question.  People sometimes expect me to pick a favorite place because of the sites (“isn’t Paris the best because of the Eiffel

York Post

York: England’s Most Haunted Town is Actually Charming

York: England’s most haunted town.  Seems like a bold claim, but when you look at York’s gruesome history of the Black Death, murder, poverty, war, and genocide you can kind of see where these ghost stories come from.  As a result, many businesses in York are cashing in on things that go bump in the night.  Nightly ghost tours take upwards of 75 thrill-seekers at a time to go ghost hunting at famous sites, hotels offer premier rates to stay in their “haunted suite”, and pubs have banners and signs claiming York’s most haunted pub, not because of any quantifiable

cats of athens

The Cats of Athens

People often talk about how many dogs are roaming around Athens, but let’s take a moment to enjoy the cats. With the picturesque views and the natural coyness of cats, I have enough photos to do a 15-month “Kittehs of Athens” Calendar if I wanted to.  Here’s a few of my favorite felines so far.

tips

6 Things I Wish I Knew Before Road Tripping Alaska

This past September, my roommate and I embarked on #RoadTripAlaska.  We flew into Anchorage, rented a car and hit the road with only a vague idea of what we wanted to accomplish.  I must say, that given the minimal planning, my roommate and I did a phenomenal job going with the flow and making it up as we went along. But after the journey, I had a dose of retrospect.  Looking back there are things that I learned on the journey that I wish I had thought of beforehand — but I guess there’s always next time! 1. Bring toiletpaper

Montreal in the Fall

Bixi Bike Montreal

Bixi Bike!

Earlier this fall, I went up to Montreal, a Canadian gem just north of the border in French-speaking Quebec.  On my first day there, I decided to check out the historic sites.  But before I could satisfy my hunger for history, I had to satiate my need for breakfast.  After renting a Bixi bike, I rode to a little joint called Bagel Expressions.  After talking to locals and asking other travelers about the city, everyone kept telling me that I had to experience a Montreal Bagel and breakfast on day one was an opportune moment to do so.

I enjoy a good bagel.  Hell, I live in South Philly where some of, in my opinion, the best bagels are born.  Thick and gooey dough blobs of dense warm love.  That’s my type of bagel!  I’ve been to New York, and yes, those bagels are also pretty fantastic, but the bagels in Montreal are good for a different reason; they make the perfect bread for sandwiches.  Their outsides are crusty and flakey while the inside remains airy and fluffy.  Bagel Expressions was a small cafe whose chefs were masters at making some pretty killer sandwiches.  I decided to feast on one of my favorites; cream cheese, salmon and capers!

Bagel Expressions

Killer Bagel nom nom times

Bagel Expressions

Chefs at Bagel Expression, Montreal – making art in the shape of crepes

With a full belly I went to the heart of Old Montreal.  I first took a stroll along Vieux-Port de Montreal where there were penty of bike paths along the historic ports of Montreal.  It was a pleasant park with cool views of the city making it a nice place to chill and gain my bearings on my surroundings.

Basilique de Notre-Dame, Montreal

Notre-Dame Jump Shot

Next was a must-see in my books; Montreal’s Basilique de Notre-Dame!  It was absolutely splendid.  It reminded me a lot of the churches in Europe, especially the Notre-Dame in Strasbourg, France.  The only difference was that this cathedral was slightly more modern and detailed with vibrant colors and textures that brought depth to the walls.  Statues of patron saints surrounded the alter as well as tombs to past bishops and priests from Montreal.

Here’s where I nerd-out and provide you with some killer history of this magnificent structure.  The village of Montreal was founded in 1642 and was first known to settlers as Villa-Maria.  Like many churches throughout Europe, Notre-Dame took several centuries to become the massive structure that it is today.  Originally, Notre-Dame was just a small wooden chapel completed between the years of 1672 and 1683.  It wasn’t until the 1800’s when the plans for a large, Gothic style cathedral were drafted.  By 1843, Notre-Dame Basilique had its two iconic towers which are lovingly named La Persévérance (Perseverance) and La Tempérance (Temperance).  La Persévérance is home to “Jean-Baptiste,” the great bell of this church that weighs about 11 tons, while La Tempérance houses 10 smaller church bells.

Basilique de Notre-Dame

What a beaut

Rue de Amable - La Cour

It’s like Narnia… only Canadian!

After taking in the sights of Notre-Dame, I continued towards the city hall.  It was an uphill trek, which, by the way, Montreal is a surprisingly hilly city for it being an island!  Anyway, before approaching city hall, I stumbled upon Rue Saint-Amable, also known as Rue de Artistes.  It was a narrow pedestrian street with plenty of artists selling paintings, photographs and other artisan crafts.  In the center of the alleyway was a small archway leading into a tiny alley called “La Cour“.  Passing through the threshold, the tiny passageway opened up to a neat little market tucked away under the canopy of tall maple trees.  Most of the vendors were selling handmade jewelry, each piece very unique and intricate.  It was a neat find.

Montreal also has plenty of nice parks.  After biking and trekking all day I decided to take a break at Parc La Fontaine, which ended up being a Montreal Hipster Haven.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but if there’s anything that I’ve learned about traveling is that the hipsters in NYC are the same as the hipsters in Philly which are equivalent to the hipsters in Scotland which look a lot like the hipsters in Hamburg which have a striking resemblance to the hipsters in Asheville, North Carolina…. the list goes on.  Anyway, it was at Parc La Fountaine where I stumbled upon the First Saturday Free Market.  Because of laws in Montreal, citizens are only allowed to have yard sales on the first Saturday of each month.  So, as a way to get rid of old belongings, these cool kids scattered their things on the grass because, hell, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.  I found a lonely sweater and a few coasters that I brought home.  Sometimes the best things in life are free – and also make for the best souvenirs.

Parc La Fontaine

No Hockey in Canada

No Hockey allowed at Parc La Fontaine, eh?

That evening I ventured to Crescent Street, one of Montreal’s party districts.  I had heard from several sources that I should check out a little place called Brutopia, and thank you to all those on Twitter, Facebook and Gogobot who suggested it to me.  I grabbed a drink on the ground floor and went upstairs to watch some live music.  The stage was small and could hardly fir the three man band.  The band was a Canadian Country group singing songs by the Rolling Stones and Neil Diamond, along with a few of their own original songs which were mostly centered around the logging and trucking industry of the Great White North.  These fellows were your quintessential truckers complete with trucker baseball caps, flannel shirts, boots and jeans and mutton chops.

Brutopia live music

Canadian Trucker’s Delight

I tried a few of the local beers they had to offer.  I’m not into beers that are too heavy, but that’s all that they seemed to have.  I asked for their lightest beer, something close to a lager or pilsner and was given something called a Honey Brown which was thick and dark and tasted purely of molasses.  For shiggles, I tried a Smoked Porter which was blacker than the blackest black times infinity. It was so dark that light could not penetrate its surface.  Truly, truly, truly a black hole of a beer.  Drunk and happy and way past my bed time I hunted for some Poutine, one of Montreal’s local delicacies.  At this point, I had not yet had poutine and was scolded by many a local and blog followers (you guys).  Basically, Poutine is french fried with chunks of cheese melted by hot brown gravy – deliciously unhealthy.  But it was 1pm and nothing decent was open.  The only place was some fast food joint called “Harvey’s” which was a bad idea.  Right after ordering, I was handed a pile of luke warm french fries covered in some kind of watery gravy with chunks of gritty, unmelted bits of cheese.  I still ate it because I was a bit drunk, but it was a bad first impression of Poutine.

So that was my first full day of Montreal – I know – quite eventful… I still have another action packed day to discuss!

 

TO BE CONTINUED!

If you want to see more of the places I saw on my trip to Montreal and read some helpful reviews check out my Gogobot Guide to Montreal!

 

 

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