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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,

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

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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

Ways the Barcelonian Sense of Community Surprised Me: Part 2

My plan for Barcelona was that there were no plans.  I rolled in and just let Barcelona happen to me.  Let’s just say that I was not disappointed.  Yes, the sights were mighty fine, but it was the spirit of the people that surprised me the most.  To them, community was the most important thing and it showed in almost every aspect of their culture.  Here’s a continuation of Part 1:

4.) The Happiest Happy Hour

On our travels, we met a couple of guys who wanted to meet us at a place called La Xampanyeria that served sparkling cava, a drink similar to champagne, for about €1.  We walked by La Xampanyeria three times before we realized that it was a tiny garage in an alley.  The only reason we were able to spot it was because the after work crowd started piling into the narrow space causing the commotion to spill out onto the street.

1781920_10101147922021917_112863573_nThe interior was tight but people did not mind cozying up to strangers.  Above the counters were dead chickens, sausages and other unknown meats hanging from hooks from the ceiling.  I’m a tall lady, so I had to duck underneath the hanging meat to order my cava.  They had two to choose from: rosa or blanca – pink or white.  Nicole and I decided to start off with pink.  He poured two glasses of pink cava and wrote the cost on a tiny slip of paper — €1.70.  I decided to get the first round and gave the man €2.  He immediately gave us change which we left on the counter as a tip.  Confused by the meaning of tip, the old bartender put the slip of paper with the cost and the change on a plate and pushed it towards us.  We said “no no – for you!”  He was so thrilled and treated us like the only customers in the bar for the entirety of our stay!

1902780_10101147922026907_2084356986_nEventually, our new friends joined us for cava and Spanish snacks (bacon, cheese and foie-grass roll).  We decided that a great before-dinner-activity would be to buy bottles of said cava and drink by the waterside.  So we grabbed a bottle of pink and a bottle of white (€5 each – can’t beat that deal) and did just that.

5.) A Universal Understanding

I relied heavily on Nicole’s Spanish speaking skills, which were primarily used to get us coffee and find bathrooms. Even though we didn’t quite understand the language, we felt no language barrier.  Locals were patient with us.  They took their time to try to understand Nicole and I and didn’t make us feel like we were wasting their time.  Pointing, hand gestures and facial expressions were all accepted forms of communication.

20140301_160200There were several cases where locals refused to take “no hablo Español” for an answer.  For instance, when Nicole and I visited the CNT bookshop (read more about the CNT here — the story is incredible), the older revolutionary running this Anarchist shop used flags and political stickers to communicate the history of the CNT and his mission for the store.  Before leaving Nicole purchased both a CNT “Bandana” and “Bandera” after the store owner communicated their historical importance and current uses in political resistance.

We also ran into a handsome young man on the subway who really wanted to welcome us to his city.  Though he didn’t speak English he did speak German, which we used during our subway ride as our way of communicating.  Even though German was both of our second languages and we both struggled with an accent (you can take the girl out of Philadelphia, but you can’t take the Philadelphia out of the girl) we both enjoyed hearing about each other’s travels and what we both loved about our respective hometowns.

6.) Barcelonians are Happy

I am most surprised by how moved I was by the overall disposition of the people in Barcelona.  They are truly happy.  And I’m not talking about the joy that comes from a good day or from good news.  There’s something about them that reflects their inner peace and positive attitude — and how did I notice?  For one, people whistle and hum little tunes to themselves.  Not an hour went by where I didn’t stroll past someone who was whistling or humming a song.  A little bit of happy music seemed to give them an extra pep in their step.

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A nap could strike at anytime.

Another hint that makes me believe that Barcelonians are an overall happy bunch of people is that everyone says “hola” as you pass.  I will never forget one elderly man in particular who passed Nicole and I at an intersection.  He walked with a cane but as he approached us tossed it up so that the handle was at eye level.  He then used his cane to give us a little “tip-of-the-hat” gesture while cheerfully saying “hola”.  It was not flirtatious but a greeting that made us feel like he’s known us for years and that we were part of the community.  His borderline vaudeville skit with his cane was by far one of the most adorable things I’ve ever seen and I will never forget how a little bit of kindness from a stranger can be remembered for a lifetime.

We carve into trees, but love and friendship is engraved in cactus in Barcelona.

We carve into trees, but love and friendship is engraved in cactus in Barcelona.

Overall, I got the impression that Barcelona is a city that brings together people from all different backgrounds under the revolutionary ideals of Catalonia and the old CNT: that no matter who you are, we are in this community together. So why don’t we put all differences aside, love one another and work together towards creating a happy city where everyone has a sense of belonging!

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