Archive for the ‘Tour: Cosmopolitan North’ Category

Avantgarde and culture

School of sophisticated drinking bookBerlin always has been and always will be synonymous for a culture and society in motion. Artists – then and now – flock to the city to express their art and somehow make a living. Entrepreneurs with a gung-ho mentality open up boutique nightclubs, cafes, bars and whatever else they think might make a buck. Or they have a mission: bringing back the old feeling of underground rebellion, bringing back quality instead of serving the masses a quick rehash of the old favourites. Which is what the owners of the Victoria Bar set out to do when they opened their cocktail bar in 2001. Within two years they had established themselves as connoisseurs of traditional cocktails and set up the School of Sophisticated Drinking.

Spirits and their history

victoria bar berlinOnce a month the school offers with a fixed menu and price the opportunity to find out more about one particular bar spirit. For three hours the participants will be able to enjoy drinks mixed with the topic in question, accompanied by some consolidating finger food and increasingly humorous anecdotes relating to it. So far the ‘classes’ are held in German, but due to their popularity, they have finally published an English edition of their “text book’. And as every proper school does, they even offer school trips and field days!

If you find yourself spending some time in Berlin and you’d like to find out more about the history of your favourite tipple have a look at their schedules or just pop in to enjoy a good old fashioned well-made cocktail.

Bottoms up!

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens



Read Full Post »

Historic warehouses and offices in Hamburg protected

"Chilehaus Hamburg 2013" by Sebastian Warneke - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Chilehaus_Hamburg_2013.jpg#/media/File:Chilehaus_Hamburg_2013.jpg

Chilehaus Hamburg 2013 by Sebastian Warneke

We are proud to announce that another destination on our tour ‘Cosmopolitan North’ has been declared worth protecting and became a UNESCO world heritage site. The distinct brick warehouses and offices along the canals and inner city of Hamburg’s ‘Speicherstadt’, ‘Kontorhausviertel’ and ‘Chilehaus’ have been deemed relevant as symbols of the rapid international growth of trade of the 19th and 20th century. In earlier articles we have already introduced other items of interest in Hamburg, here’s a bit more about the ‘Speicherstadt’ now.

Money talks, even then!


To be able to accommodate the need for more storage and processing space in the harbour, over 20.000 people had to be relocated and over a 1000 buildings levelled before building on the new warehouses and office blocks could begin in 1883. Workers and labourers found new homes in the new high rises in Barmbek and Hammerbrook, while other home owners converted their summer batches along the Alster or Elbe into the main family homes.

Bricks, bricks and some more bricks

"Chilehaus (Hamburg-Altstadt).Detail.5.ajb" by Bild: © Ajepbah / Wikimedia Commons /. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 de via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Chilehaus_(Hamburg-Altstadt).Detail.5.ajb.jpg#/media/File:Chilehaus_(Hamburg-Altstadt).Detail.5.ajb.jpg

Chilehaus (Hamburg-Altstadt).Detail.5 by Ajepbah

From a New Zealand perspective these buildings must seem utterly incongruous: as far as the eye can see beautiful dark red brick buildings with ornate fronts and highly detailed and decorated rooflines. An earthquake conscious engineers’ nightmare! Their designs are classic examples of Gothic Revival architecture and as such represent the revived mercantile attitudes of the entrepreneurial Middle Ages. Show of wealth was in, so bigger, taller and prettier was the motto of the day for the architects. Photos can give you only a limited impression of these distinct buildings, so come and join us on our two tours discovering the mercantile and architectural history of Germany’s northern cities.

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens



Read Full Post »

Creatures of the night

Berlin does have a reputation for providing habitats for all sorts of creatures of the night and today I would like to introduce two species: the nocturnal seeker of foxes, bats and owls and the nocturnal connoisseur of architecture, music and wine!

Sounds of the forest

fullsize_waldmuseum_gudrun_rademacher_1The first one can be found on selected nights in the Grunewald surrounding the Forestry School. During a “Voices of the Night” hike the ‘seekers’ will be guided to recognize the sounds of the various nocturnal animals that can be found in a suburban forest. The museum itself offers hands-on experiences regarding forest life, conservation and forestry.

The sound of music at full moon

640px-Belvedere_auf_dem_PfingstbergFor connoisseurs of European architecture and music there’s a once in a blue moon opportunity to see the Belvedere Castle near Potsdam in a different light: the moon light! From May through to September on every Friday closest to the full moon The Friends of the Pfingstberg organize an evening of music and canapees around the gardens of the Belvedere Castle. After a tour of close-by Sanssouci with us you could come here and watch the moon reflections in the pool, listen to the muted flight of the bats while ambling amongst the colonnades of the castle enjoying a nice glass of wine, canapees and music.


Does this sound like the kind of experience you would like to have while going on your special holiday in Europe and Germany? Then let us know and we will make it happen for you.

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

Read Full Post »

Opposites and alikes

BUGA_Fuenfsindeins_Dahlie-e66edbbaIn New Zealand this year the end of daylight savings coincided with Easter Sunday, which meant a lot of people had an hour more to do their autumn garden shopping in those garden centres that were not abiding the law and risking a fine. And, as every Easter, a lot of voices could be heard regarding the pros and cons of changing this particular law. Take heart that this is not just an issue in New Zealand. In Germany the federal laws for the protection of the workers, Sundays and public holidays (all individual laws and amendments) prohibit trading on Easter Sunday! But just as their antipodean counterparts, the German garden centres and hardware stores find ways around these rules or just plain risk getting fined as well. Especially as this is the beginning of spring and after the long and dark winter nights everyone is keen to put seeds and bulbs in the ground to brighten up their world.

BUGA time again!

Erkenntnis_am_Havelufer_Hansestadt_Havelberg-559b24d6Two years ago we introduced you to Germany’s obsession of big time gardening: the BUGA, Bundesgartenschau, the federal garden show. And in an exciting twist, this year’s show will not be hosted by only one state and one city, but by two states and five cities. What do they have in common? They are all situated along the river Havel. This year’s federal garden show is a joined effort to revitalize the region and bring national and international visitors to this beautiful region in the north east of Germany. And just as an example of their commitment, they even have an English web site!

The countdown has started

BUGA in der HavelregionOnly 13 days to go before parks, installations and sculptures are ready to be enjoyed. With our Cosmopolitan North tour going to Potsdam (situated at the Havel) and ending in Berlin, this would be a fantastic opportunity to take a trip down the river and see what modern German landscape architects and artists have come up this time. Or, arrive a couple of days ahead of the Active in Eastern Germany tour and get started on appreciating man-made and natural treasures.

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

Read Full Post »

Gulliver’s travels

miniaturk00What would you expect to see if you were to go to a park called “Gulliver’s World”? If you were of continental European descent, you’d expect to see miniature versions of famous and infamous buildings from around the world. But what about the rest of the world?! Well they’re all taken care of now, as of the beginning of July Gullivers Welt has opened in the north of Germany.

More than old neighbours

A while ago two Polish friends, who grew up and went to school and university in Germany together, decided to build something new and different in the northern part of Germany, near the Polish border, on the island Usedom.

Haus steht kopfDuring a holiday trip in 2001 in the USA they had a pitstop at an upside-down house and over a couple of beers discussed the possibility of building one at home! A Schnapsidee i.e. booze-fuelled idea, which after some serious consultation with the local council and building inspectors in 2006 became reality and opened to the public in 2008.

Building a neighbourhood

Full of energy and with an enormous zest for action they continued with the establishment of the Welt der Erfindungen museum, the only museum in Germany dedicated to inventions. Having established a reputation for creative ideas that would improve the economy and lifestyle of the region, made it easier to get the new project up and running by 2009. While mainly showcasing past inventions that have had a practical impact on everyday life, they also want to give present inventors the opportunity to present their ideas. And to encourage future inventors – meaning getting kids inspired – by making the exhibits accessible.

Getting in touch with the neighboursGullivers Welt auf Usedom

And the finishing touch to their adventures, so far that is, is a park with Gulliver to look at and climb over! In contrast to most miniature parks this one is from the Lilliputian point-of-view. And the sculptures, even though not all of them are finished yet, are all there to be touched, climbed over and got up close to.

Beach time after city life

The island Usedom is located in the Baltic Sea approximately 100 kilometers north of Berlin. Due to its picturesque location, fine sand beaches and sunshine hours it is a popular holiday spot for Germans and Polish alike. Why not take a few days after your tour of the Cosmopolitan North and escape to the beach here? And enjoy the quirky establishments while you’re there?!640px-StrandDüne


Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens



Read Full Post »

Summer activity in HamburgFahrrad ausstellung

Winter in New Zealand means summer in Germany! And Germans, like many Kiwis, like their bikes to get around the cities quick and easy. Fittingly, this summer a wonderful exhibition started at the Museum der Arbeit in Hamburg: “Das Fahrrad”.

The museum specialises in exhibitions on industrial, technological and social history in Hamburg and Germany. This particular exhibition not only showcases the history and technological development of the push bike but also its changing status in society. Through a range of exhibits, films and activities you can get a thorough understanding where the bike came from and where it might be heading in the future!

4571121182_9a99b0b6cd_zWhat’s in the future?

A couple of exhibits should prove rather intriguing: “Autos zu Fahrrädern” (‘Cars into Bicycles’) by Folke Koebberling and Martin Kaltwasser. And the slowest Porsche in the world by Hannes Langeder. While the intentions behind each of the projects differ, they are sure to make you look twice and re-think some of the concepts developed for modern cities!

Real action

penny farthingAnd for those of you visiting Hamburg with our tours, who want a real life experience: every second and fourth Sunday of the month you can choose between trying out a Penny-farthing in a secure station and riding on historic and current models along a course in the museums’ court yard.


Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens




Read Full Post »

Culture to the maxLNDM_logo_2014_rgb

Every once in a while an opportunity arises to do one’s favourite thing and do it all day long! Mine is the International Film Festival every year in Wellington, what’s yours? If you’re into all kinds of art and you happen to be in Berlin on Saturday 17. May this year, you should put this in your event calendar: The Long Night of Museums.

Art All Night Long

ComputerspielemuseumSince 1997 an increasing number (around 80 at the moment) of museums once a year open their doors at 6pm and stay open through to 2am! From historical displays through to ‘traditional’ art exhibits and performances to modern themed topics like the gaming culture you can experience the history and art of the world in general, and Germany in particular, all in one night.

FernsehturmThey’ve organized it that the ticket price includes a shuttle service which will take you to each and every participating museum. And this year, to participate in the International Museum Day on 18. Mai, the ticket price will also give you entry to all the museums on that Sunday!

While in Rome, do as the Romans…

…and while in Berlin with one of our tours, do as the Berliners do. Download the printable program, have a browse and get excited!

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

Read Full Post »

“I Want To Ride My Bicycle”

You like riding bikes and love getting dressed-up for an occasion?

Then this might interest you: the Tweed Run has made it to Berlin and is on its way of establishing a lovely tradition there.

Tweed_runThe Tweed Run originated, as to be expected, in London and is the cumulative result of people enjoying the simple pleasures of an era gone-by. Cyclists all over the world are enjoying a casual ride on their modern or antique bikes, getting dressed in period clothes, Tweed of course the preferred material, and having a proper afternoon tea at the end of it.

Their enthusiasm for their fashionable pastime has led to an increase in clubs organizing events throughout the year and groups meeting on the internet to spread the word.

Tweed around the World

Nowadays the world traveller can spend the whole year following the good weather and having a jolly good ride in some very interesting cities. As the rides are not competitive, there’s plenty of time to admire the parks and architecture during the trips.

Just like being on a tour with us, you get to see the highlights and sights at a leisurely pace and off the beaten tracks.

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

Read Full Post »

Cultural hot spot in Europe

Ever since Berlin rose to European metropolitan heights in the 18th and 19th century, it has been a centre for the arts. As the city and its creative inhabitants grew in numbers, it not only attracted traditional musicians, painters and architects, but also the anarchic alternative elements in politics and the arts. Very quickly they established a network of cafes, galleries and music clubs, discussing and formulating socio-economic criticism and alternative lifestyles. By now the city’s reputation of being a centre of sophisticated and refined arts has moved towards pushing the boundaries of the arts.

The Passenger

David-Bowie-e-Iggy-PopFor many visitors to Berlin, who are interested in the alternative styles of music of the 20th century, this is its signature song. Recorded by Iggy Pop, with background vocals by David Bowie and loosely based on a Jim Morrison poem it embodies to a lot of people the perception of social outcasts (Punks for example) and the desire to change modern life and its restrictive discriminating views.

As some Kiwis might remember, in 2009 Iggy Pop recorded it again together with kiwi musicians who had auditioned online. This was part of an advertising campaign for a broadband internet provider and everything, from the initial auditions to the final recording was done through the net.

Interesting how fringe art becomes main stream after a while!

It’s hip to be hop!

Nowadays Berlin is again known and loved for its cutting edge position in the music market. As a development from the Krautrock era, all variations of electronic music can be explored and audio- visual boundaries pushed. This article explains very eloquently why Berlin has never lost its allure to the musically minded and attracts a lot of kiwi musicians as well.


Got time? Plenty to do!

On any given day of the week, there are enough gallery openings, music shows and all sorts of live acts in small and larger venues on offer in Berlin to keep anyone busy for a month! If the guided tours through Berlin with the Cosmopolitan North tour have left you with energy to spare, ask your tour guide for help to browse through one of the local newspapers or entertainment magazines and advise what’s on offer on the day.


Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

Read Full Post »

Edible Berlin!

Throughout the centuries, as the largest city in Germany, Berlin has enjoyed continued popularity amongst visitors and immigrants to Germany. Immigrants brought their traditions, culturally and culinary, with them and have created a multi-faceted society that nowadays offers world cuisine on a plate.

Photo by Andreas Fucke

Photo by Andreas Fucke

During your stay in the city on your Cosmopolitan North tour you will have plenty of opportunities to sample the local cuisine.Spreewald cucumbers

That may be classic Prussian delicacies of Eisbein auf Sauerkraut (pork knuckle on sauerkraut) and Spreewälder Gurken (gherkins from the Spreewald region south of Berlin) with a glass of Berliner Weisse mit Schuss (wheat beer with a shot of either raspberry, lemon or woodruff syrup).

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAOr go to the local beer garden and enjoy some bites of Rollmops and Buletten with a Molle! Marinated Herring, chunky hamburgers without the bun but with hot mustard and a glass of pilsener made by one of the local breweries!

Strolling through the city you will also find lots of hot dog and kebab stalls selling you hot food to go! Deutsches Currywurstmuseum

While the hot dog stalls will serve you a range of variations on the classic Currywurst, the kebab or döner ones will tempt you with the full range of their Turkish delicacies! As the Turkish community in Berlin is the largest one outside of Turkey, you will find that there are about 1300 Döner/Kebab stalls registered in Berlin, more than in Istanbul, and more likely to be one on every corner!

Whichever way your taste buds are inclined, you can be sure never to go hungry in Berlin. If you have any concerns during your tour with us regarding allergies or preferences, please make sure to let us know.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »