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January 2013. The annual recurring event of picking our next holiday destination has arrived.
‘Where to travel this year? Cambodia maybe?’, my wife asks.

You shake your head; an intuitive reaction. I mean, traveling with our kids to Thailand was easy and really perfect, but Cambodia?

‘Why not? Why are you doubting?’, she asks, not wanting to give up that easily.

I am thinking about why I thought Cambodia would be a challenging destination for our family. Is it the gruesome history of the Khmer regime? The lack of train routes which we liked so much while traveling in Thailand? Or just a fear of the unknown?

Travel to Cambodia with children

Fast forward a couple of months. I am so happy we decided to travel to Cambodia and to bring our kids on this exciting journey. It has been a trip that none of us will ever forget. The beauty of the Angkor temples, the kindness of the people we met, but also the impressive (and indeed, sometimes gruesome) reminders of the past. Travel isn’t always fun only, it’s an education as well.

“The world inspires but it’s important to know its truth. The world’s truth can bring us to tears or make us smile. We want our children to encounter different cultures and people early in life.” – from: Texture of a good travel life.

Your next trip to Cambodia

To help you make the right choice I have collected all our Cambodian travel stories. We took our children to each of these places, including the Killing Fields and the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. That is one part of Cambodia. The country also offers a relaxing rural experience in Battambang, some of the world’s most stunning temples at Angkor, and just an overall inviting and friendly atmosphere. Here is an overview of all our stories. Just click on the blue colored title to read it.

1. Faces of Cambodia

This post is a tribute to the people of Cambodia, young and old. Wherever we went we encountered smiling faces. Some we photographed and I am happy to share them in this post.

2. Five essential things to do in Battambang

At first glance it seems like Battambang is a sleepy, rural city with not really much to do. Luckily there is more to Battambang than first meets the eye!

3. Bamboo train in Battambang

A train without a particular destination – just a bumpy ride up and down a 12km track passing beautiful and lush green Cambodian sceneries. Please do check before you travel there as rumors have it the Bamboo train has been closed.

4. Killing fields

The road from Phnom Penh to the Killing Fields: a normal road with the regular traffic chaos, roadside shops and little foodstalls. But driving towards the Fields I found myself starting to feel uncomfortable. This is our story including tips for bringing your children along.

5. Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

Some people ask me about our trip to Cambodia and whether we were confronted a lot with the cruel part of its history. Everywhere in Cambodia you will encounter evidence of this terrible period. You can escape it by closing your eyes. But closing your eyes to me equals denial. Therefore, please do visit this museum.

6. Our favorite Angkor temples

Our local Siem Reap town guide called Angkor a “Masterpiece of humankind”. And it is. Angkor offers you the impressive remains of the Khmer Empire and therefore is one of the most important archeological sites in South-East Asia. This is an overview of our favorite temples!

7. Magnificent Angkor Thom: a city within Angkor

Faces of Bayon, Terrace of the Elephants, Baphuon, Gate of the Dead, Terrace of the Leper King – after reading these names on the map we were so ready to visit Angkor Thom! And we spent hours; it’s magnificent.

8. Trees and temples: famous Ta Prohm

Ta Prohm is unbelievable. It is famous for the temples that are overgrown and covered by trees. Ta Prohm has been left as it was found, showing exactly what the jungle can do when it takes over control.

Ready to visit Cambodia? Thanks for visiting Act of Traveling.

The post Why travel to Cambodia – Complete guide for all traveling families appeared first on Act of Traveling.

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Winter in Tenerife, but the temperatures rise to a comfortable 21ºC. I am close to Teide volcano, the third highest volcanic structure in the world. I only had one day of free time to spend on the island of Tenerife and upon asking some friends for suggestions they all told me the same thing: ‘Visit Mount Teide National Park, that’s a must.’

So, without further ado I am going to show you why you must visit Teide National Park too.

Teide tour from Santa Cruz

I started in the city of Santa Cruz de Tenerife and ended up at the Tenerife South Airport by the end of the day. What actually is the best route coming from the north and where to stop for viewpoints?

When you start early morning in Santa Cruz, first make a short drive to the town of San Cristóbal de La Laguna. It’s considered to be the most beautiful town in Tenerife. Park you car and enjoy a short walk and a good coffee. The historic city center is beautiful with lots of (coffee) bars and restaurants. The town is actually a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Leaving La Laguna, I follow the signs indicating road TF-24 towards Teide. It’s an easy route, you can’t miss it. The first part takes me through forest area. Hairpin bends bring me higher and higher. After a while the first of many viewpoints (mirador) appear. When I get out of my rental car, I feel the strong sunlight. On this altitude and with clear skies I wish I brought my sunscreen -.

Mirador de Chipeque

After 30 minutes a road sign suggests to turn off the main road. It announces two viewpoints: Mirador de Chimaque and Mirador de Chipeque. Go for it. It’s only a couple of minutes-drive towards the best one: Chipeque. Teide itself is still 30 kilometers away, but this view already was beautiful. My very first view of this majestic volcano, wow.

La Tarta

Pick as many viewpoints as you can but don’t miss out on La Tarta. The sharp curve in the road marks the famous multicolored layers of lava. They date of different eras and resemble a slice of cake (so they say -). The closer you get to Teide, the rougher and more volcanic the landscape becomes. The rougher, the better, right? I am amazed by the diversity of landscapes. I did not count, but probably I have gotten out of the car at least 30 times.

At some point you pass Mount Teide. There is the option to go up with a cable car. Some say you should buy tickets online ahead of your visit as it can become very crowded. Did I go up? No. Honestly speaking I lacked the time because I needed to catch a plane -. On the other hand, I also read that the views from afar are just as impressive. Have you been up the volcano?

Garcia Rocks

Don’t end the trip at Mount Teide to turn around and drive back. Continue (at least for a bit) to enjoy the famous Roques de Garcia (Garcia Rocks), a spectacular rock formation. Just around the corner of Garcia, Mirador Boca Tauce offers again a wonderful view of Teide with the Garcia Rocks in front of it.

How long did the tour from Santa Cruz actually take? From Garcia Rocks I continue my tour driving further south towards Tenerife South Airport. It’s quite a steep descent but I enjoy guiding my car through all kinds of curves and bends. Everywhere there are cacti along the road, in all shapes and sizes. I left La Laguna around 12.30h and arrived at the airport at 17.00h. Count in many stops and a quick lunch.

Should I book a tour or go for a self-drive? Take a rental car, if you can. I definitely didn’t want to be inside one of those big tour busses. On a road trip like this, the traveler decides when to stop and for how long. And you should aim for the same; you will have so much more fun.

I am sure Tenerife has a lot more to explore next to this Teide tour from Santa Cruz. For sure I need to go back someday. Have you been Tenerife? What place would you recommend? Leave them in the comments below, thanks!

The post Self-drive: Teide tour from Santa Cruz de Tenerife appeared first on Act of Traveling.

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I’m the first person to be alone on an entire planet – Mark Watney

They say once you grow crops somewhere, you have officially colonized it. So, technically, I colonized Mars. In your face, Neil Armstrong! – Mark Watney

Who am I to talk about loneliness? – Mark Watney

Arriving at Wadi Rum is like arriving on a different planet. Mars, that is. It’s not without reason that I started this post with quotes from the blockbuster movie the Martian, starring Matt Damon as the astronaut / botanist Mark Watney. That movie was shot in the Wadi Rum desert.

Movie locations in Jordan

Jordan has its fair share of movie locations. Lawrence of Arabia, Zero Dark Thirty, Prometheus, Rogue One – a Star Wars story, and of course Indiana Jones have all been (partially) shot in Jordan. Not only in the Wadi Rum desert, but also in the capital Amman and the famous site of Petra (one of the new 7 Wonders of the World). Petra…..who hasn’t seen pictures of that famous temple facade carved out of the mountain? Ever since I saw the blockbuster movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, I wanted to visit the archeological city of Petra. 

Like Indiana Jones, I wanted to be amazed by the first sight of Petra’s Treasury facade. Petra is truly stunning (more about it later on this blog), but honestly speaking the Wadi Rum desert made my heart beat even faster! This desert reserve in the southern part of Jordan is known for its red sands, mountains and natural arches. I trust the pictures in this blog will answer the question why one should visit Wadi Rum.

Why visit Wadi Rum?

A visit to Jordan is not complete without a visit to the Wadi Rum desert. I was blown away by the amazing views. The red-colored rocks and plains make this place look surreal. The only regret I have is that I didn’t stay longer. Wadi Rum offers various places to spend the night. An example is Captain’s Desert Camp (see picture) where we enjoyed a traditional Jordan meal called Zarb – a Bedouin barbecue where meat and vegetables are cooked for hours in an underground pit: delicious! Next time I will be discovering the Wadi Rum area for at least 2 or 3 full days! Book a guide with a comfortable 4WD and off we go. Sleeping under the stars in Wadi Rum is an experience in itself. Captains seem to offer reliable tours and overnight stays.

Before reaching the Wadi Rum visitor center you can stop at a train station to photograph some abandoned trains. There seems to be a possibility to board the old steam train for a trip into the desert, but please check with your guide. And if you can’t board the train, you will probably ride a camel, the ship of the desert…

Wadi Rum from Aqaba

We visited Wadi Rum after staying in Aqaba for 4 days. In Aqaba we trained to receive our PADI Open Water diving certificate. The Red Sea near Aqaba offers great diving opportunities, from coral reefs to shipwrecks. Read all about our family diving adventures in my recent post on this blog. From Wadi Rum you can reach the world-famous Petra site in about two hours. All in all, I think that Aqaba makes a great hub to visit some of Jordan’s most popular (and must-visit) sites, next to offering diving adventures and a relaxing time on the beach. Stay tuned for one more post about Jordan: Petra!

The post Why visit Wadi Rum? (these pictures will convince you) appeared first on Act of Traveling.

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Hi there, nice to meet you. Let me introduce myself: I am your future diving instructor. You can call me Captain. The port city of Aqaba in the south of Jordan is my home. You were wondering if Aqaba is a good place for diving? No problem, I will show you. Actually, have a look at the adventures of this Dutch family who recently traveled to Aqaba for their first open water dive ever! Let’s hear what they have to say.

We are back from a wonderful and intense trip to Jordan. We ticked off 3 things from our family bucket list: open water diving (in the tropical Red Sea), visiting the Lost City of Petra and exploring the red-colored Wadi Rum desert. And we have done all of that in 8 days. I know, it sounds crazy but it worked out pretty well. During the first 4 days we trained and studied for our PADI diving certificate. Work hard play hard. After our diving experience we drove up north to visit the other sights Jordan is famous for.

Here is your future diving instructor again ready to take further questions! You want to know if it is really possible to receive your PADI certificate within 4 days. Well, it is possible! Let me show you how I helped this Dutch family. They managed without any preparations or previous experiences. This is their story.

Looking through the airplane window we see a desert landscape intersected by straight roads with tiny cars that shimmer in the sunlight. We arrive in Aqaba on an early morning flight from Amman. Clear blue skies, 30 degrees Celcius, and no wind. “Good day for an open water dive”, our fellow travelers tell us. Excuse me? Are we really going to dive on our very first day? We look at each other, cheerful for actually being in Jordan but at the same time a bit nervous about our upcoming dive challenge.

How to win an all-inclusive scuba diving trip?

We actually won this trip in a competition organized by Aqaba tourism. No kidding. The competition requested us to sing an original Jordan fisherman song and tape it on video. Life can pose tougher challenges, so we went for it. After two months the long-awaited email showed up in our inbox: “Dear Family van den Boomen. Congratulations! You have won an all-inclusive trip to Jordan!” We jumped in excitement: Jordan! And we were going to dive in the Red Sea! Minor point of attention: we never dived before…

And here we are, in Aqaba, Jordan. Right after our arrival we are taken to the Sindbad Dive Center, south of Aqaba. The sea is quiet and reflects the light of the morning sun. Soon we will discover the world underneath that shimmering surface. Check out the video below showing you what to expect when diving in Aqaba.

Diving in Aqaba, Jordan - YouTube

Hi, it’s me again. Captain. Here is the family putting on their weight belt for the first time. Quite a struggle in the beginning but if you and your diving buddy help each other there is no problem. I will teach you the tips and tricks.

Getting your PADI certificate in 4 days

Our diving instructor kicked off by explaining about our diving gear and showing us what we needed to study in order to get our PADI certificate. We looked at each other; study? Oh yes, we had to understand a lot about diving practices and how our body would behave while underwater. Safety is important. I think we spent 50% of those 4 days studying and talking about all the aspects of diving. But our instructor promised us it would all be worth it once we laid our eyes on the beautiful marine life.

One serious note from me, Captain. During those 4 days it is not only having fun with diving gear and staying underwater. You also have to study! The family had to study the PADI Open Water Course book and watch 2 videos. At the end they all did the exam and passed! Four more diving enthusiasts went home. I love my job.

Underwater skills

On our first day we already went underwater. Breathe in, breathe out. Not too deep of course, only 1 or 2 meters. We needed to get used to breathing underwater with compressed air. Underwater skills are essential so we practiced and practiced: clearing your mask, clearing your regulator (the piece you breathe through), etc. Maybe not the most exciting stuff, but important for all new divers to get acquainted with the gear.

Every day we got more comfortable with staying underwater, clearing our ears, mask and regulator. We went for two shore dives a day, a bit deeper every time. Man, were we impressed by the coral reefs and the marine life. Beautiful! On day four we were ready for our final dives! After all the hard work our instructor promised us something really special…

Wreck diving in Aqaba

We went on a boat, jumped into the sea and went down 18 meters to the Cedar Pride shipwreck, an army tank and an enormous Hercules C-130 aircraft! They have all been sunk off to not only create a unique diving site but also a new (artificial) reef. Click here and watch the video where you see how the aircraft was sunk off.

After we return ashore the official PADI exam was waiting for us. We passed it where the Sindbad team could now officially hand over our PADI certificates. Big smile. I look at our diving instructor one more time. His name is Mohamed and he is quite a guy. A man who impresses due to his physical size and direct approach, but who quickly became a friend. It’s great to work with an instructor who will never lose patience, who will do his utmost to make you feel safe and comfortable. And as important, who will make sure you will have a lot of fun exploring the marine life. Thanks Mohamed!

Captain here (for the last time). You know what made me so proud after these 4 days? I own almost all diving certificates that you can think of, including Technical Scuba Diving, but still I love to instruct first-time divers. The Dutch family’s mother was a bit afraid at the start. Luckily, I could comfort her and I was proud that after 4 days she also dove to a dept of 18 meters! I took a picture with her in my office. Hope to see you again in the future.

From Aqaba to Wadi Rum and Petra

Reminiscing. The great thing about our trip is that we combined diving with the highlights of Jordan: the world-famous Lost City of Petra and the desert of Wadi Rum. Aqaba actually makes a great hub if you don’t want to travel the whole country. From Aqaba it’s only a 2hour drive to Wadi Rum and one more hour to Petra. More about these attractions soon here on Act of Traveling.

How to get to Aqaba?

From the capital of Amman it’s a short flight to Aqaba. Meantime EasyJet and Ryanair have also started direct flights into Aqaba. Check their sites for the latest updates.

During our stay in Aqaba we spent 4 nights at the Intercontinental hotel. The hotel has a lot to offer but you can imagine we had a lot of other things on our mind…

I want to take this opportunity to again thank the sponsors of our trip big time! Aqaba Tourism, Duiken magazine and Wild Water diving holidays: thank you. You have given us an experience that we will not forget. On top of that you have made us wanting to see more of Jordan.

Text and photography by: Emiel van den Boomen
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The post Diving in Aqaba (Jordan) appeared first on Act of Traveling.

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Exiting the Reichshof hotel Hamburg and turn right you enter a colorful yet relaxing neighborhood. A church, a diversity of restaurants (we had a burger at Otto’s Burger) and an overall small-town atmosphere.

Exiting the hotel and turn left you enter into the natural habitat of tourist bus drivers (and their ticket vendors), homeless people hoping to get thrown a coin or two and thousands of people who flock together to catch a train: Hamburg central train station.

Landmark hotel

Right in the middle between these areas your find Hamburg’s beloved landmark: the Reichshof hotel. The hotel originally opened its door in 1910. At that time, it was the largest and most advanced hotel in Germany, and one of the largest ones in Europe.

The hotel underwent many renovations (for sure after being partially destroyed in World War II) with the most recent one in 2015 when it re-opened with a new name: the Reichshof Hamburg, Curio Collection by Hilton.

Art Deco architecture

Almost everybody in town knowns the Reichshof. Not only for its history, but also for the Art Deco architecture that has now (after the recent renovation) been mixed with modern comforts. Immediately upon entering the hotel you understand why people love this hotel: the overarching feeling of grandeur. Stunning marble floors and pillars and decorative chandeliers. It feels like you are stepping back in time but without turning into an old-fashioned traveler. Classic design with a modern twist, but all beautifully balanced.

The lobby is a wonderful place to just sit down and watch travelers passing by. A great place to relax after a long trip. The hotel’s central location cannot be beaten. No need to spend a long time finding your way into town (which can sometimes be a real pleasure!).

The rooms

What I liked the best about the room is the big and (extremely) comfy bed! Exclamation mark. Not kidding, never have I slept that well in a hotel. I want such a bed at home too! The breakfast room (restaurant) with its wooden panels is impressive. It really feels like you are on a luxury cruise ship.

Consider a stay at the Reichshof hotel because it is the best central hotel in Hamburg. Check this more extensive review from fellow-blogger Matt Long. If you are interested in details of the design, read this post on architonic.com.

This trip was part of the Come to Hamburg promotional initiative. I would like to thank the city of Hamburg, the Gute Leude Fabrik and the team at the Reichshof hotel for our pleasant stay. Of course all pictures and opinions are my own.

Text and photography by: Emiel van den Boomen
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You are in Crete and the only thing your kids want to do is visit the beach or chill by the swimming pool.

Crete has dozens of beaches with some of them quite spectacular. You know they are actually reason no. 1 to visit this Greek island. But you also know that Crete has so much more to offer: monasteries, temples, churches, historic towns!

Your plea for doing ‘something cultural’ however seems to fall on deaf ears.

But on that one morning you find yourself driving your rental car. Your lovely wife sitting beside you, smiling and always willing to accompany you on those cultural trips. The kids are enjoying themselves by the swimming pool, happy to be left alone for a while. Teenagers…

Windows down. The smell of a dry and long summer enters the car. We drive through tiny villages and olive groves. Roads full of hairpin turns take us to 500m above sea level.

Sometimes it feels like time is not on your side. You’re on holiday but with hardly enough time to visit all those interesting (“must-visit”) places. The only way to get time on your side is to focus on one specific destination and enjoy that one to the fullest.

Arkadi monastery

Time picked the Arkadi monastery for us. I was fascinated by a picture of Arkadi’s façade, a beautiful example of Venetian architectural style. But there was more.

Behind this striking façade there was an important story waiting to be discovered.
The monastery played a crucial role during the Revolution against the Turkish (Ottoman) domination in 1866. A revolution that changed the course of the island of Crete.

Not knowing that the monastery is actually a symbol of self-sacrifice, freedom and heroism, we entered the gate.

During the 1866 besiege of the central Rethymnon district around 1,000 people (many of them women and children) found shelter in the monastery. When the Ottomans managed to enter the monastery after days of fighting, these people collected all ammunition, gathered in a former wine cellar and blew themselves up (taking hundreds of Ottoman soldiers with them). Death rather than surrender. An ultimate sacrifice. The Holocaust of Arkadi Monastery is a tragic symbol of the struggle for Cretan independence, something that was finally achieved in 1898.

Bullet tree

The dead tree on the premises is a silent witness of the great battle of 1866. A white arrow indicates a bullet in its dead bark, fired by one of the Ottoman soldiers. All these stories make this place a special destination, it creates better understanding of Cretan history, and for us it was the perfect cultural trip. Time well spent.

Next up: Cretan beaches.

The post Crete beyond beaches – visiting Arkadi Monastery appeared first on Act of Traveling.

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Leipzig is the undiscovered, hidden gem in the east of Germany. The coolest city in Saxony. The new Berlin. At least, that is what ‘they’ say. But you know, even Germans themselves usually don’t consider Leipzig to be the no. 1 place to visit. Germany has so many great cities to visit (Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Heidelberg), what is so special about Leipzig? What is it about this upcoming city and what are the things to see and do in Leipzig?

We recently spent 3 days in the city and I am now looking at the collection of pictures that I took. They all remind me that Leipzig is way trendier than I expected. For sure the city doesn’t need to be hidden anymore!

10 Things to see and do in Leipzig

We are back for another blogpost about our stay in Leipzig, Germany. You can click here to read part 1 first, but no worries if you want to dive right into this list of things to see and do.

One of Leipzig’s residents told me that Leipzig is not a perfect city and it will never be. The city will always be unfinished where people will keep on building and restructuring. True. World War II and the resulting German Democratic Republic (East Germany) left its scars. But Leipzig has an enormous history dating back way before that. Nowadays, the city is clearly on its way to become a settlement for artists, design-lovers, and (nomadic) creative entrepreneurs. All in all, reasons enough for us to travel 7 hours by train from Amsterdam and visit Germany’s 10th most populous city. Here are 10 things to see and do in Leipzig!

1. Trabi Tour

They are not environmentally friendly. They do make a lot of noise. You can’t drive them without proper instructions. But man, was I eager to drive a real classic Trabant car! And in Leipzig I got the opportunity to take a spin around town which I took with both hands.

The Trabant (or Trabi) was an exceptional car, produced in East Germany between 1957 and 1990. Trabant means companion and the car indeed played a substantial role in the daily life of the East German citizens. Waiting time for a new car was anywhere between 10 and 16 years (!), so when you finally got one you didn’t easily let it go again…

With its headlights that look like two cute, innocent eyes you easily fall for its charm (as we did!). You can book a Trabi tour (with the company Trabi Erleben (Experience a Trabi) and discover the whole city of Leipzig. This tour was one of the highlights of our stay; it really is an adventure driving a Trabant. Pedestrians and fellow drivers smile while tourists take pictures. It’s quite a task to move around with the Trabi in modern traffic, but you will have so much fun!

2. Museum of Fine Arts (MdbK)

While doing some research to prepare for our trip, I was attracted by this imposing modernist glass cube right in the city center. The cube is home to the Museum of Fine Arts (MdbK). A must-see not only for its art on display (modern as well as paintings from the 15th century to today) but certainly for the interior design: a material fusion of concrete, wood, glass and limestone. Beautiful!

3. Spinnerei

Leipzig’s art scene enjoys an excellent reputation worldwide (with the artist Neo Rauch at the heart of it). Center of attention is the Spinnerei, a former cotton mill now home to galleries and ateliers. The Spinnerei should be high on your list of things to do. Within the city of Leipzig the Spinnerei is actually a mini city on its own, full of art. This old, revitalized factory complex has survived the war and the combination of industrial architecture, and (modern) art makes it a unique place in Leipzig. Tip: just wander around, open doors and have a look inside the abandoned factory!

4. Biking in the Leipzig region

Are you a cyclist? The Leipzig region is very popular amongst (fanatic) cyclists. Bring your own bike (or rent one) and go on a day trip. It’s common practice to board your bike on the train out of Leipzig. You have so many options, check out the Leipzig travel website.

Our plan was to take the train all the way to Leisnig and bike from there back to Grimma (following the so-called Mulderadweg). Not every village or town has the same level of picturesqueness but for sure you will bump into some nice views. On the way out from Leipzig we already noticed many cyclists hopping off the train at Grimma. After we finally made it back to this little town on the Elbe river we finally understood why! Grimma was a pleasant surprise, a colorful and historic town with a slower-paced life compared to its neighboring cities. The perfect place to enjoy a cool German beer while resting your legs! Mind you, the station is situated on top of a hill and it’s a steep way up from Grimma center back so be prepared!

Lipzi tours in Leipzig offers not only bike rental but guided tours as well. If you can, make sure to also have a bike available in Leipzig itself! The city center can easily be covered by foot, but further out a bike comes in handy (or a Trabi for that matter!).

5. Historic city center with unique courtyards and arcades

Leipzig city center is dominated by dozens of arcades, courtyards and trade fair palaces. The city used to be at the cross section of trade between all regions in Europe. Building a whole network of passageways protected traders from wind, heat and rain, and even carriages could pass through easily. Leipzig was trade fair mecca!

The inner-city system of arcades and passageways is unique in Europe and still very much alive in Leizpig. Check out the famous Mädler Passage or the impressive Speckhof. The system has determined the urban planning where next to preserving the historic arcades, new ones are also being added. The city currently has around 30 arcades, 20 of which are historical. Old trading places and courtyards from the Renaissance, Baroque, Art Nouveau blend harmoniously with modern buildings.

6. Karli and Karl-Hein street: the alternative side

I always love to discover the alternative or less polished side of cities. People told me I could not leave without checking Leipzig’s alternative side, surfacing mainly at the Karl-Heine street and the Karl-Liebknecht (or Karli) street. There we were, mid afternoon, wandering around and wondered where the fuzz was all about. Of course, I actually should have visited during the evening and not in the afternoon! That is when the bars and restaurants on these streets come to live. Luckily for me the area offers great street photography opportunities, also during the day!

KarLi is one of Leipzig’s best-known streets. Especially during summer months where one can enjoy numerous outdoor seating areas. In KarlLi, you will have to go and check out one of the few neon ads of former East Germany. A relic of another era, this 40-by-20 feet (12-by-6 meters) sign was an advertisement for a company producing canned food called VEB Feinkost. The sign shows a family enjoying a bowl of soup around the dinner table. The local nickname is Löffelfamily, or Spoon Family… In the evening it gets lit!

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They call Leipzig ‘the New Berlin’. Some even go as far as calling it ‘the Better Berlin’. Is it really an upcoming alternative for Berlin? In this post I will give your reasons to travel to Leipzig. Whether Leipzig is better than Berlin is irrelevant. Leipzig has a unique history and is clearly on its way to become a settlement for artists, design-lovers, and creative entrepreneurs.

In an upcoming post I will show you the best things to do when in Leipzig. But first I want you to get a better picture of this city in eastern Germany. Whether you decide to visit only Leipzig or in combination with for example Dresden, that’s is up to you. The history of Leipzig (whether it’s classical music, art, trade, or just general leisure) is interesting enough to consider paying this city a visit.

In order to make it more digestible, I will focus on couple of characteristics and use a lot of images. If all this does spark your interest, click through soon to part 2 covering a list of Leipzig travel highlights!

ALSO READ:
Checklist for first-time visitors to Hamburg

Listen to Leipzig

Leipzig is an interesting place on multiple levels. Let’s explore the music, art and history to get a better understanding of this city.

When you listen to Leipzig you hear music.
You will find many tourists (especially from Asia) visiting Leipzig for its music history. It indeed has a very rich musical heritage. Leipzig is connected to famous composers like Bach, Mendelssohn, Schumann and Mahler. They all studied or worked in Leipzig at the University of Music and Theatre, the famous Gewandhaus (picture below), the 300-year old Opera or the St. Thomas Choir. If you are into this you can follow the Leipzig Music Trail, a 5km long route in the center of Leipzig that connects the most important sites. Just follow the curved steel elements embedded in the street!

When you listen to Leipzig you hear the call for creativity and art.

People visiting Leipzig for its musical tradition will most of the times not show up at the sites where (alternative) art, design and creativity emerges. Leipzig’s art scene does however enjoy an excellent reputation worldwide (with the artist Neo Rauch at the heart of it). Center of attention is the Spinnerei, a former cotton mill now home to galleries and ateliers (like the beautiful porcelain studio by artist Claudia Biehne – see picture). The Spinnerei should be high on your list of things to do. Within the city of Leipzig the Spinnerei is actually a mini city on its own, only full of art. This old, revitalized factory complex has survived the war and the combination of industrial architecture and (modern) art makes it a unique place.

On the other side of the spectrum the Museum of Fine Arts (MdbK) offers art in an extremely modern landscape. The material fusion of concrete, wood, glass and limestone impresses the visitor and sends a clear message: Leipzig is not only about revitalizing history but also showing its perspective on modern times.

When you listen to Leipzig you hear the influence of history
On 9 October 1989 Leipzig paved the way for the fall of the Berlin Wall. Being part of former East-Germany, as early as 1982 people started to gather to demonstrate for peace. These demonstrations concentrated near the St. Nicholas Church (of which the interior is a must-see!). On the 9th of October 1989 about 70,000 people came together in the streets of Leipzig calling out “We are the People” and “No violence”. The white spots in the streets are a symbol for the candles people were carrying. Only one month after these peaceful demonstrations the Berlin Wall fell.

Leipzig the new Berlin

Leipzig was affected by both World War II as well as its East-German heritage. But on the streets, you can sense some kind of acceptance. All that has been achieved was achieved by the people. This has been their own achievement and together they feel satisfied. With all its scars, Leipzig is not perfect and it probably will never be. It will always be unfinished where people will keep on building and restructuring. But they keep building upon a foundation of historic and architectural wealth. All together that creates the charm of this unique city.

Stay tuned for part 2 where I show you the best Things to do in Leipzig! We will go on a Trabi tour (!), visit the impressive monument Battle of the Nations and hop on a bike to explore the region around Leipzig.

We have been invited by Leipzig travel to explore the city. We thank them for this opportunity and for arranging our stay. All the pictures and opinions are my own.

Text and photography by: Emiel van den Boomen
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The post Leipzig on its way to become the New Berlin appeared first on Act of Traveling.

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I have one of the best hotels for you when staying in Hamburg: the elegant AMERON hotel Speicherstadt! This hotel is situated right in the center of the red-bricked warehouse district called Speicherstadt. Speicherstadt is one of those places that for sure will be on your wish list when visiting Hamburg.

Of course, this was not the only reason why we loved staying in the AMERON hotel for two nights. Next to an exceptional location, we were also impressed by the interior design which was clearly inspired by the 50s and 60s. The rooms have a very cosy and elegant atmosphere. Check this post for more images of the design of the AMERON hotel rooms.

The hotel opened in 2014 but the building goes back way longer than that. AMERON is located in the Kallmorgen building, a protected historic monument that used to function as the Hamburg coffee exchange! The hotel actually uses two different parts of the coffee exchange. The previously existing office building is now used as the hotel, where the restaurant and event center for AMERON is located in the actual former coffee exchange. Although the Speicherstadt area is much older (dating back to 1880), the coffee exchange buildings were designed and built in the 1950s by Werner Kallmorgen, one of the most important architects in post-war Hamburg. The converted coffee exchange was named one of the three “Buildings of the Year” in 2015 by the Hamburg Association of Architects and Engineers.

Hamburg is a harbor city and it grew rich from the coffee trade. Check out this Lonely Planet story about the connection between coffee and Hamburg. Being Germany’s most important harbor city, the mural in the hotel entrance of a sailor kissing his girlfriend fits perfectly with the overall atmosphere…

Rooms at the AMERON hotel

Rooms come in Standard, Comfort, Premium and Junior Suite variations. The Comfort rooms are the same size as Standard rooms (23sqm) but offer that great view of the (Brooksfleet) canal and the old Speicherstadt warehouses (I really recommended those ones). For us the 23sqm offered enough space and personally I really loved the rainshower douche cabin. Great after a long day of city tripping!

For breakfast you have to cross the canal via a historic iron bridge to reach the hotel restaurant. You have perfect views of the canal and the warehouses from both the bridge as well as from the restaurant itself. You can even sit outside, having breakfast at one of the most unique places in Hamburg!

The restaurant also offers this beautiful combination of 1950s and 1960s style with modern design and architecture (just look at these stunning Vertigo lamps designed by Petit Friture).

The hotel owns a Vitality Spa and a fitness and wellness area, situated on the top floor. From there you can enter the roof terrace with great views of Speicherstadt. Don’t leave the hotel without having a look from this rooftop area, also at night! It was a bit chilly when we visited, but I am sure you will enjoy laying down on the sunbeds enjoying the sights and sounds of Hamburg.

The lobby is not that big, but the beautiful seating booths in the adjacent lounge provide again a unique Speicherstadt view. The lounge also has a cosy bar.

UNESCO Speicherstadt

Speicherstadt (the Warehouse District) is one of the destinations that has made Hamburg a popular destination (check out Instagram #Speicherstadt). Explore this area full of red-bricked warehouses and streets intersected with canals and bridges: the Venice of the North some call it. Many of the warehouses were built around 1880 where some of them are still in use. Check an earlier post on this travel blog about the Speicherstadt area.

I believe that AMERON is actually the only hotel right in the center of this historic warehouse district (UNESCO heritage by the way), making it the ideal place from where to explore Hamburg.

We enjoyed a wonderful stay at the AMERON Hotel Speicherstadt. Definitely not your regular hotel but an elegant retreat where every detail is the result of attention and great design thinking. Sometimes when we stay in hotels I feel sorry for not having enough time to enjoy the hotel and all the amenities it offers. When booking a room at AMERON, make time to enjoy the view, the rooftop and the restaurant. I am sure you will have a great time in Hamburg!

This trip was part of the Come to Hamburg promotional initiative. I would like to thank the city of Hamburg, the Gute Leude Fabrik and the team at AMERON hotel Speicherstadt for our pleasant stay. Of course all pictures and opinions are my own.

Text and photography by: Emiel van den Boomen
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The post Elegant AMERON hotel Speicherstadt in Hamburg appeared first on Act of Traveling.

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