48 hours in Madrid – A guide

Okay, confession: We had a bit more than 48 hours, but the things we did can easily be squeezed into 48 hours, so here we go 🙂

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When I stepped out of the plane in Madrid, I noticed that I hadn’t been in Spain for around 8 years. And that’s when I was in Barcelona my first ever time in Spain. Which means: My trip to Madrid in March 2019 was my second time in Spain ever. Crazy. That’s also why I didn’t know what to expect so I was even more pleasantly surprised by how cheap everything was, how absolutely delicious the food and wine was and how stunning everyone looked!

So here we go with the tips. Spoiler: I didn’t find any Matcha Latte. So if you’re from Madrid or know your way around, please tell me about the best Café to satisfy my addiction for my next visit!

I arrived in Madrid by plane and took the subway into the city. It cost around 6€ and you had to get a card (which is basically like an Oyster card in London but didn’t cost anything) that you can top up. Make sure not to put anything else than the fare into the city on it though since Madrid is small enough to walk everything. It would just be a waste.

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Plaza Mayor

We stayed at Mad4You Hostel which is located in Malasana, the hipster party area of Madrid (so definitely check that out, if you feel like having a night out around town). The hostel itself was fine. It had a nice courtyard and included breakfast in the price of around 30€ per night. Only downside: They only had two bathrooms (at least those were the only ones we found), so you might have to queue for showering or even using the toilet.

The first night we went to a bar called Macera, a Gin Bar in the middle of Malasana. It was insanely busy and it took a while to get to the bar but it was worth it. Since I don’t speak Spanish I can’t explain the whole concept of the bar to you, but they have a lot of different variations of Gin on the menu which you can choose from for your Gin & Tonic. My Gin was a berry-based Gin, which tasted delicious!
The area around the bar was super busy all night and I loved every bit of it!

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All the Gins at Macera

In the morning we had reservations at a place called Perrachica. The restaurant was breathtakingly beautiful, with wallpapers at the entrance, comfy couches everywhere, lots of candles and so many more details to discover. The food was very tasty, even though I was still hungry afterwards. That might be me though, so I wouldn’t count on it to be true for you as well. The place also serves dinner and I’m pretty sure it’s just as good as brunch.

After that we started to explore. Puerta del Sol, Plaza Mayor, El Retiro Park… On a sunny day like we’ve had, it was the best way to explore the city. If you’ve got time, make sure to take a little break at El Retiro park. It was so full of life with people having picnics and playing games and just soaking up the first rays of sunshine.

We then ventured towards Plaza de Santa Ana, where we had Tapas at Lateral. Lateral is a chain that you can find all around Madrid. The Tapas were – as always – absolutely delicious and I’ve had some of the best wine there. And all for very little money. Definitely pay that restaurant a visit! They don’t do reservations, so make sure not to get there too hungry. We arrived around 5pm on a Saturday and had to wait only 5 minutes to be seated outside on the terrace.

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Chilling at El Retiro Park

Because Madrid is famous for its rooftops we decided to visit one of the rooftop bars for a drink after dinner. The decision wasn’t easy, because we had a list of 5 or so bars that might be worth a visit. In the end we chose Gymage Terrace which is located on top of a Gym. We got there around 7ish, maybe a bit later, and people were queuing already. It took about 20 minutes for us to get inside and a table. The drinks weren’t the best I’ve ever had (they were very sweet cocktails) but the view was pretty cool!

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Gymage Terrace

The next morning we had breakfast at a small café just around the corner from our hostel: Toma Café. And I didn’t just like it for its world map on the wall 🙂 The café offers different types of breakfast, such as avocado bread or granola, but also sweet stuff like Banana Bread. Because it was so convenient, we also went there on Monday morning. One suggestion for improvement: Matcha for their Menu. Other than that, I really enjoyed it.

From there we headed right to El Rastro, the legend of the flea markets in Madrid. I sometimes get a bit frustrated when I read about “cool flea markets” in cities I visit and in the end it’s basically a market full of the same things – hippie dresses, jewellery, jeans jackets, all from distributors and not private people’s closets. To top it off, the market was extremely packed by the time we got there around 11/11:30 am. There was one thing I loved though: The antique interior stuff. I wish I could have brought some of it home in my suitcase.

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One thing you shouldn’t miss in Madrid: Eating Churros! We decided to check out San Ginés, the most famous place to try Churros with chocolate. I’m not sure if Churros are really my thing (I didn’t really expect them to be) or if it was just hyped to much, but I wasn’t overly excited about them. Which doesn’t mean I didn’t finish them though. Because I mean, I broke lent for that AND they are covered in chocolate. But if I came back there, I would maybe just try them in some nice looking café around town rather than making my way to San Ginés. Maybe.

Very close to San Ginès, there’s Mercado de San Miguel, a food heaven. It’s a big market hall full of food stalls selling different Spanish foods. There’s sandwiches with Iberian ham, Empanadas, Calamari and anything else you could think of! Food is definitely more expensive there than in any restaurant, but the experience is pretty cool.

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Empanadas at Mercado de San Miguel

At the end of the trip we chose to do a Free Walking Tour around town (yeah, I know, maybe we should have done that in the beginning…). There are two tours a day by Madride, one at 11am and one at 5pm and both cover different sides of the city. We chose to 5pm one, which took around 2 hours and brought us around the major Plazas, told us a bit about the history behind the buildings and ended at the Temple of Debod for sunset. We didn’t have time to stay there for the whole length of the sunset, because we had a dinner reservation but from what we could see, it’s really a breathtaking view for that time of the day! (If you don’t mind sharing it with a view hundred people.)
Also: It might be called “Free Walking Tour” but obviously have some money prepared in your pocket as a tip for your guide. They are really good, so they deserve it!

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The sunset around Temple of Debod

For our last supper, we made reservations at Inclan Brutal Bar. We tried to book online, which didn’t give us any tables after 4:30pm, so we walked past there on Friday and booked for Sunday night. So don’t give up, if online booking doesn’t work for your preferred time. Because the food is so worth it! We tried two different tapas as starters and shared a Paella at the end. We though we had to get a Paella, since we were in Spain, but in hindsight, we should have chosen a few more Tapas instead. They were just too good! And again, I had very tasty wine with it.

All in total it’s safe to say that I will come back to Madrid one day. Not only because I stepped on the plaquette at Puerta del Sol. (There’s a plaquette marking the exact middle of the country Spain and rumour has it, if you step on it during your trip, you will definitely come back to Madrid.) The city is so vibrant, full of colour, beautiful people, good shopping and delicious food&drinks. What more can you ask for? (Mabye a few less people. But I’ve been told that’s never really possible there. And it’s not bad enough to keep me away either…)

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You can always learn from your mistakes – New Year or not.

As crazy as it is, 2018 is over. And I’ve had a year full of ups and downs. And still, I would say it was one of the best ones so far. Why? Because I learned to learn from my downs. To use them for my advantage.

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There weren’t many years in my life so far that I’ve met so many new and wonderful people like this year. And on the other hand, some friendships started fading a little. But that’s how life goes – you lose things and you gain others. And the losing part does hurt but I know if it’s meant to be a forever friendship, we’ll find our ways back to each other. And otherwise I know how those people influenced my life and my way of living. And I am thankful for that.

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When it comes to love (the romantic one this is) I wasn’t lucky. I met men I liked and lost them again. And I suffered from it, that’s for sure. But I also learned so much from it. I now know even more, what I am looking for. That I have to put myself first. That I have to listen to my inner alarm clocks, because no matter how great someone looks on paper or how much you want to find the right person, when you don’t feel it 100%, chances are that your feelings are right. And I am proud of myself in a way. Because I have friends who struggle with being alone because they never had to be. And here I am, rocking the single life and being (mainly) happy with it.

I also learned how important me time actually is. I have to schedule more of it in the future. Just a night during the week, where I can work out, take a bath, put a mask on or just watch x episodes of my favourite TV show. It’s the best medicine for your mental health. And your body tells you, whenever it needs it.

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But the main thing I learned throughout this year – resolutions don’t have to be made on January 1st but should be a list you add new things to throughout the whole year. Because let’s face it, January 1st is just another day on the calendar but you and your life changes on 365 days a year, not only 1. So make sure to not procrastinate on your resolutions (even if it’s simple things like quit smoking or losing weight) until the New Year starts but turn your life around whenever the opportunity presents itself – that way you learn and grow day by day and not year by year.

P.S.: I still made some resolutions for 2018 (you can read about them here) and I will continue to follow them throughout 2019. Because all they do is making my life more fulfilled and happy. And who doesn’t love to plan more trips all together?

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In 9 beds around Japan – Part 2

Well, since there’s a Part 1 of this series, there has to be a Part 2. With 5 more beds I slept in around Japan. Enjoy!


#5 Kyoto – Hostel Niniroom

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This hostel was very cute but also very lonely again. When I first found it on Hostelworld, I was hooked because oft he common area downstairs with a café and bar included. It somehow reminded me of Citan Hostel in Tokyo. So it must be good. Unfortunately, I didn’t meet any people there. During my stay, there were only Asians and like mentioned before, they are more a quiet and reserved bunch.

But since Kyoto was such a cool city, I didn’t spend much time around the hostel anyways. The first night I arrived, it was dark already so I only had a little glimpse of the beauty that’s Kyoto. We walked around the little allies and had some dinner and I was amazed by the hustle and bustle around the streets and the river.

What else is there to do around Kyoto?

  • Fushimi-Inari: One of the most famous sight around Kyoto – the orange gate path. It’s obviously not called that but it might give you an idea on what it is. You have to take a train there and then walk for about 5-10 minutes. When we got there around 7, the amount of people was just right – and the light was perfect for photographs! So try to get there early, by the time we got back down around 10am, the place was packed. And who doesn’t want a nice photo underneath the gates.
  • Nishiki Market: If you want to try another fish market, head here to have some delicious snacks that aren’t too pricy! But don’t go here on a weekend, it’s too crowded and definitely not enjoyable.
  • Tea Ceremony: I love Matcha (in case you haven’t noticed), so one of my plan for Japan was to take part at a traditional Tea Ceremony – which I did at Ju-an Tearoom in Kyoto. I really love the atmosphere and enjoyed getting to know about the ritual behind my favourite hot drink!
  • Higashi Hongan-ji: A temple that I discovered on my way to the Tea Ceremony – and it was beautiful!
  • Kinkaku-ji: This is probably one of the most famous temples around Kyoto but I was a bit bumped when I got there. The area around it is so crowded that you literally get pushed through it and barely have the opportunity to take any nice photos. So if you have enough mornings, maybe do this as early as possible as well.
  • Philosopher’s Walk: Just a little walk along the canal, lined with trees. It might not sound very interesting (and it isn’t really) but it was a pretty good way to relax. And if you feel like drinking a coffee or having some food, you will find whatever you desire here!
  • Arashiyama: Who doesn’t know about the bamboo forest in Japan? And yes, it’s in Kyoto. We tried to go there at night first but trust me, not a great idea. I mean, it was fun but it was more of a Blair Witch Project experience than what Google images might suggest. So I decided to give it another try on my last morning – definitely worth it! The forest isn’t big and taking photos without anyone in it is almost impossible (even at 7am in the morning) but the park around it was pretty nice to walk around in as well!

#6 Nara – G is Good (1 night)

One of the coolest places I stayed in around Japan. I was lucky with the people I met as well, but there were a few things I enjoyed about it. Not only the interior was cool, laid back and very rock’n’roll, they also had a bar downstairs that offered one free drink per night to all their guests. The nice thing about it was, that they invited everyone downstairs for it at the same time, so we all met in the lobby at 7pm to „have the cheers“ as they called it. After we all introduced ourselves, we were able to drink and chat away. It sounds a bit like summer camp (and it felt like it as well) but it made it easy to start a conversation. And the best thing about the hostel: It has a roof top!

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Nara itself was pretty cool too – and probably one of the places I walked the most. It’s famous for its deers that walk and lie around all the temples and the whole area around them. So all I basically did was walk around, take photographs and walk some more. For me, the deers weren’t THAT exciting because we have them at home in Germany as well, but I liked the whole feel and look of deers walking around temples. If you want to, you can also buy some crackers for 150 yen to feed to the animals – a perfect photo opportunity.


#3 Osaka – Ark Hostel (2 nights)

Ark Hostel was one of the few hostels in Japan that offered free breakfast. Just like expected, it was toast, jam, cereals and tea or coffee, but after eating 7Eleven food for breakfast every day, it was a good alternative. The hostel was pretty clean and even though on my booking it said something about a 18bed dorm or so, I only had 6 beds in my dorm – win! They also had a bar and restaurant downstairs but since it was in a rather quiet street of Osaka, I barely saw people there.

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Osaka was one of the two places (besides Tokyo) that I split up into two parts, separated by a night in Koya-san.
I was pretty tired on my (almost) last stop in Japan and all I wanted was to just relax and not having to take in too many new sights. So the first day I got there, I just spent with a friend I met in Tokyo, sitting by the water, drinking cans, eating 7 Eleven food and chatting. We then ended up at a pretty cool Izakaya called Waramasa which I would totally recommend to anyone (It’s located around Namba, so pretty central)! The only obstacle was, that there was no english menu and the waiters didn’t know a word of English either. We managed to order through photos and didn’t get disappointed at all!

Another thing I just did around Osaka: Shopping. It has all the cool stores, mixed with little Japanese shops and loads of souvenirs. So don’t fill your bags up in Tokyo if Osaka is your last stop – you can find some treasures here as well.


#4 Koya-san – Hongaku-in (1 night)

Koya-san was truly special. It’s a little town full of temples and one of the coolest cemetery I’ve ever seen! (Another pretty cool one is down in Australia along the Coastal Walk btw.) Through a friend who lived in Japan, I found out that there was an opportunity to sleep at an actual temple for a night (or more) here. You just have to apply at shukubo.net and they find the right temple for you. I paid around 100€ for the night, but it was really worth it! Not only did the temple serve delicious vegan breakfast and dinner, but it also offered the opportunity to join the monks’ morning ceremony at 6am. It was such a cool experience to see them chant and pray and just follow their rituals. I would totally do it again!

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The room was once again a very typical Japanese room with a futon, that was set up while we had dinner. Dinner started around 5pm, which made this the earliest night I had during my trip. It was really relaxing to just stay in and listen to some podcasts, read, write my diary. The next morning I joined the ritual, which took around 45 minutes, followed by breakfast. We all had our meals in a joined room, facing each other (at this point there were 3 other people staying at the temple) and it offered a really nice atmosphere to chat to each other. I then headed out to explore. Unfortunately this was the first (and only) day we had rain during my trip so I had to seek shelter in a café to have some tea and cake while the thunderstorm happened outside. But once the sun came out, I had a blast. Exploring all the temples, walking around the cemetery (Okunoin) for ages – it all had such a cool vibe to it. Even though there were a lot of people around.

Some people tend to do Koya-san as a day trip from Osaka, but since it takes over 2 hours to actually get to the center of everything (and it’s really worth exploring), I would recommend to just stay there for a night. Even if it’s only because of the inspiring morning rituals you can be a part of.


#5 Osaka – Bike & Bed (2 nights)

Another pretty cool hostel in Japan. Since I only stayed the for two nights and the second night I had to get to bed early to catch my plane in the morning, I didn’t really enjoy it as much as you probably could. The staff was really cool and the common area seemed crowded most of the time. So probably a pretty good hostel to meet people, I reckon! And the best thing: You can rent bikes to explore Osaka – for free!

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The last day I spent in Osaka (and in Japan), I visited a few things that were still on my list.

  • Osaka Castle. The Castle is another impressive piece of architecture in Japan. I didn’t want to spend any more money on entrance fees, so I decided to just stroll around the park surrounding it and taking a few photographs. I’d say it was enough.
  • Fish Market. Apparently there are different ones around Osaka, but the one I went to was close to Namba Station. It had all the deliciousness a fish market has to offer minus all the people that crowded the Tokyo fish market for example. Definitely a relaxed way to try some new things.
  • Cup Noodle Museum. The last thing on the list was Cup Noodle Museum. Weirdly enough, I couldn’t find ANY backpacker that hadn’t been there – so I had to go as well. The museum itself is a room, with all the different cup noodle flavours displayed on one wall and the hut, where the whole concept was invented in it. The coolest part about the museum is, though, that you can make your own cup! You can draw on it, you can choose the flavor and ingredients you like.. and all that for only around 2,50€. Perfection!

All in total, I have to say that my two favourite places in Japan are Tokyo and Koya-san. They couldn’t be more different but they both made me feel like I was in the real “Japan” – in their own way. And if anyone’s wondering: I’d go back to Japan in a heartbeat. So much more to explore!

I know all the beds somehow look the same. Hostels in Japan all have similar concepts, inspired by capsule hotels. Every bed has its own curtain with enough room in it to take your personal belongings with you. Definitely one of the countries with the best equipped and cleanest hostels around. 

In 9 beds around Japan – Part 1

My “In 8 beds around Vietnam” post was such a success, that i decided to do the same thing for Japan. Also because it’s best to split my tips up into two parts and areas I’ve visited, cause there are just too many.

So let’s start with the first part.


#1 Tokyo – Book and Bed (3 nights)

I HAD to stay here during my visit to Tokyo, simply because I’ve seen so many videos about it and I am madly in love with books. So it was a given.
The place itself was great (I stayed in the one in Ikebukuro), but it’s definitely not a social hostel. (Then again, not many hostels in Japan are..) It’s still very clean and the staff is super friendly!

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Tokyo definitely didn’t disappoint me as my introduction into Japan. It might not be at all like the rest of Japan but it is one of the most vibrant, colorful, crazy cities I’ve ever been to. It’s true, it’s overcrowded sometimes but I gotta say that I haven’t had a day where I got home, wrecked from all the people and the hustle and bustle of the city. It still had areas where I could just breathe for a bit. I definitely fell in love with Tokyo and would go back in a heartbeat!
Here are a few suggestions on what to do there (but only Part 1, find the second part below):

  • Meijishrine. It’s located right behind the Harajuku station and is a shrine surrounded by a huge park. It’s nice to walk around a bit before or after walking into the madness which is Harajuku. The main park there has an entrance fee but there’s so much more park area around it, so you can easily save yourself that money.
  • Asakusa. Even though it’s a pretty touristy area , I loved it around there. One of the main reasons for that is definitely Sensoji, one of the most beautiful shrines in Tokyo! There are plenty of little shops around, mainly with souvenirs and local foods to try, but the atmosphere feels like a small town. In a way. So I’d definitely recommend it!
  • Jimbocho. I walked around Jimbocho for quite a while, strolling around all the book stores and the book market, that happened to be on the weekend I was visiting. It’s really cool and interesting, especially when you are into books, mangas or old movieposters and magazines. Most of the books are Japanese, which makes it hard to really shop there but it was pretty cool to see. And it shows once again how Tokyo is structured: Every district has its purpose.
  • Roppongi. The nightlife district of Tokyo I guess. Even though Shibuya has loads of bars, especially the Golden Gai area (even though I found it a little bit dogdy around there), Roppongi is the place where all the (international) locals go to, if they are looking for a night out. There’s not much going on during the week, but it’s packed on the weekends. We went to three different bars (shame on me, I don’t remember any of them) which they all played similar mainstream music, a little mixture of everything. So if you want to party in Tokyo, definitely head there!

tbc below.


#2 Kusatsu – Kiyoshigekan (1 night)

Kusatsu was one of the place, where I was most lonely. The reason was, that I decided to stay at an actual hotel, since the only hostel in that area that still had rooms available had really bad recommendations on Hostelworld, so I decided to treat myself and stay in a hotel for a night. The place itself wasn’t too bad and it also included breakfast, which I really enjoyed – especially since I haven’t had a typical Japanese breakfast at that point. It had a typical Japanese room and a private Onsen as well.


The area around Kusatsu is beautiful and exploring it by foot is the best way to do it! It’s actually well-known for its Onsen (=naturally hot pools of water, basically like a hot tub), but with my tattoos I wasn’t allowed in them. (Tipp: Research Onsen that allow tattoos, I found out that there actually are some. Just too late.) I also wasn’t very keen on visiting one either though, because even though I love tubs, I get bored in them after maximum 10 minutes so I guess it wouldn’t have been worth the entrance fee. If I ever go back with someone, I’ll make sure to visit a (tattoo-friendly) Onsen for sure though!

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#3 Tokyo – Citan Hostel (1 night)

Back to Tokyo. Because Tokyo has so much to offer and I had enough time to stretch out my trip a little, I decided to head back to Tokyo for one more night.
Citan Hostel was one of the coolest hostels I stayed in in Japan – it had a coffee shop downstairs, which was also accessible for not-Hostel-guests and a restaurant/bar in the basement. The prices for both might have been a bit high compared to other places around Japan, but it was a good place to meet fellow travelers.

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I already started with a few things to do in Tokyo above, so here we go with the second part.

  • Tsukij-Fishmarket. A while ago the fish market was separated into the outdoor fish market, which is Tsukij, and the indoor area Toyosu. As a tourist, I guess Tsukij is enough, since you can try loads of different fish dishes and specialities. If you are looking for a great sit down meal (especially Sushi), you should head to Toyosu. And even though it might sound weird to any western person: Be there VERY early. So 9 is ideal so you definitely get a seat at one of the better restaurants. My friend, who lived in Tokyo for a while, recommended Sushi-Dai to me (寿司大) but unfortunately I tried to go there twice and I was too late both times. So, be prepared to be there in time and to wait for at least 30 minutes – the place is tiny!
  • Akihabara. I didn’t stay here for long because it’s not really something I’m deeply interested in, but this is THE area for everything electronic and anime – and it’s definitely worth looking around. Also because it’s another example of the diversity of Tokyo. This is also the best place to go to, if you are looking for a maid café.
  • Go shopping (and exploring) in Harajuku. It definitely has a lot of typical “Harajuku-Girl” clothes, but you can also find great vintage stuff around there. Just stroll off Takeshita Dori and Omotesando (the two main streets) and you’ll run into plenty of them.

#4 Hakone – K’s House Hakone (2 nights)

First of all about the hostel itself. K’s Hostel is located a bus ride (or a walk up a steep hill) away from the main train station. It was super easy to find everything (this includes the train from Tokyo to Hakone itself) and everything went smooth at arrival. The rooms are once again very typical Japanese guestrooms with Futons that you can fold out when you’re sleeping, all laid out next to each other.
The hostel itself was super clean, offered an Onsen and had a kitchen, which I didn’t see in many hostels around Japan. Even though it had a (very cozy) common room, it still wasn’t very social unfortunately. I really haven’t figured out what it is about Japan, but it doesn’t seem to be the place to chat away in common areas of hostels. Maybe it is the fact, that Japanese (or many other Asians) are pretty reserved themselves and travelers don’t want to step on anyone’s toes. Whatever it is, it led to me exploring Hakone by myself.

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How to explore Hakone though?
Depending on how long you plan on staying there’s either a Two-Day-Pass or a Three-Day-Pass (around 45€/50€), which you can both buy in Tokyo or at the trainstation in Hakone. They include all the different means of transportation around Hakone, such as the Gondola or the train.
My day started in Hakone with a train- and gondola-ride up to Owakudani, which is an active volcanic zone. It’s pretty interesting to see but to smell surely makes you not want to stay for too long. I then took the gondola back down to Lake Ashinoko and boarded the “Hakone Sightseeing Cruise” across the lake to Hakone-Machi. It’s not a very buzzing place, but it offers a beautiful walk along the lake with a beautiful view of Mount Fuji – definitely worth it!
Somewhere along that trip I lost my 2-Day-Pass (yay me!), so I decided to instead of taking the cruise I’d just walk to Moto-Hakone. One of the most famous Insta-worthy places around Moto-Hakone is the torii of the Hakone-Jinja Shrine that’s built into the lake. It’s just a short walk from where the cruise stops. Bring some time if you really want a photo in front of it, because the queue for it is crazy! (I didn’t do it, in case you were wondering.)
Since I was really bumped about losing my ticket I just headed home afterwards. There were a few more things I would have liked to do and see, such as a little hike around Owakudani or stroll around another cute town, but I guess I gotta do that the next time.
With your purchase of your ticket(s) you will get a little leaflet that gives you ideas of what else you could do and see, which was super helpful!

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Things to know before visiting Japan as a solo traveling girl

Japan – It’s been on my list for quite a while and this October/November, I finally made it there. During the weeks leading up to the trip, I had so many people coming up to me telling me how difficult it is to travel Japan because of language barriers and how much of a challenge it will be. I got so anxious about it that I couldn’t even get excited anymore.
My main four questions were:

#1 How will I get around?
#2 Will I really spend a fortune over there?
#3 Will anyone even understand what I’m saying?
#4 Will I meet people along the way?

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I definitely have some answers to those questions now. Not all positive, but the trip was definitely one of the coolest things I’ve done and I’m proud of myself for doing it.

But first, let’s start with the normal preparations I took beforehand.

First of all, I planned my trip in advance. I normally try not to do that, but because of my anxiety beforehand, I really wanted to have my whole itinerary laid out already. So I booked my hostels, I checked the distances and I wrote down things I definitely wanted to do and see. I also ordered my Japan Railway Pass and my Pocket WiFi in advance, which made my trip so much easier.
Good to know about the Japan Railway Pass: Once you order it, you get a letter and a form by mail. With that, you need to go to a JR station and exchange it into the actual pass. You can either do it right at the airport or just go to one of the big stations (Ikebukuro, Shibuya or Akihabara for example) and do it there. Don’t forget your passport though! You can choose the starting date of your pass as well.
[There’ll be a separat blogpost about my itinerary and my travels within Japan.]

#1 Transportation

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Trains around Japan

By accident I stumbled upon this app called “Japan Official Travel App” and it kind of saved my life. It has a section “Routes” where you can find the easiest routes for you to take in order to get to your next destination. Google Maps is also a huge help when it comes to that, but the app even tells you how much the ticket is and which platform the train leaves from.
In Japan, subways are all private, which means there are different providers. Therefore, you can’t just go to any machine and buy a ticket, you have to make sure it’s the right machine for the train you have to take. (That’s where the app comes in handy.) If you want to avoid that struggle, you can also get an IC card, which covers all subways around Japan and works like an Oyster card in London – you charge it with a certain amount of money and just tap it at the subway entrance.
The subway system in Japan’s big cities isn’t that hard to handle, once you figured it out. The stations have numbers, so if you are worried you might mix up the station names (sometimes they sound similar), you can just remember the number. Once again, the app helps you with that. That system also helps, when you are not sure if you are going into the right direction – if you are traveling from station number 18 to 24 for example and the next station is 17, you are clearly on the wrong train. On top of that, it really helps that the trains are ALWAYS on time. If you ever sit on a train that leaves a few minutes before or after your schedule told you, you might be on the wrong one.

So in conclusion: Get an app, that helps you with routes, remember your station number, get an IC card – and you’ll be good to go!

#2 Costs

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If you want to save money, definitely don’t go shopping in Harajuku!

As you might have guessed, Japan is pretty expensive. But I think that the main costs are the ones for transportation – both within the cities but also across the country. When it comes to living costs, you can definitely find some ways to safe money.

  • Stay in Hostels. That might be a given, but it really is a way of saving money. Hostels are around 15-20€ a night, which is totally fine, considering they are the cleanest I’ve ever seen and most of them even have hair dryers and bodywash+shampoos in every shower.
  • Walk more. I’ve walked around 200km throughout my two weeks there. My legs hurt like crazy, but I definitely saved some money on trains. And I got to discover areas, I might have not seen otherwise.
  • 7Eleven is your friend. There are not a lot of places around the world, where I would easily eat anything at 7Eleven but in Asia, it seems to be very common. And in Japan, 7Eleven definitely offers enough choices for you not to get sick of it. You can for example get Onigiri (rice wrapped in seaweed and filled with different things, such as tuna mayonnaise, beef & egg or salmon) for around 130Yen a piece (=1€) and two of them are enough to fill you up for a meal. They also have pre-made Japanese dishes with rice and meat or fish – if you are looking for a bit more and have access to a microwave. Those dishes are around 300-400Yen (so up to 3,50€). So if you choose 7Eleven for one meal a day, you can save up some money for sure!

#3 Communication

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I guess that was one of the first things people who’ve been to Japan (or know people who have) warned me about: No one in Japan speaks English.
I don’t necessarily think that’s true. And if it is, it’s not as much of a burden as you might think. I’ve never been in a situation, where I was became desperate because no one could help me. The “experts” (hostel employees, subway employees, etc.) can always answer the basic questions. If it comes to more complex things, you might have troubles, but since I had my Pocket WiFi, I just googled things, if people couldn’t answer.
We once had a situation at a Izakaya (a restaurant) in Osaka, where literally NO ONE spoke any English and they didn’t even offer an English menu – but we managed. We just showed photos of food we wanted or used Google Translate to get us where we wanted.
So it’s definitely doable and since Japanese people are super helpful, they try their bests to help you out with any enquiry. 

#4 Meeting people

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Yes, that was an issue, I’m not gonna lie – it was the “loneliest” solo travel I’ve done so far. Which isn’t as dramatic as it sounds – I enjoyed having the opportunity to do everything I wanted to whenever I wanted to do it. In a country like Japan, that has so much to offer, that’s definitely worth something! But still, it got lonely sometimes. I mainly stayed in Hostels, but the atmosphere in them is so much different than what I’m used to from South East Asia for example. Even if the hostels had their own bar or common area, you rarely find people chatting up there. 80% or more of the hostels visitors are Asian (Japanese, Korean, Chinese) and they are a very quiet group of people. Maybe it’s their lack of knowledge of the English language, maybe it’s them being shy, I don’t really know, but there was no way of ever talking to any of them.
So I had to get out of my comfort zone a few times to just talk to people in very quiet surroundings, without having spoken to anyone for a whole day.
But don’t get me wrong: I did meet some great people that I loved spending time with, just not as many as I am used to. But you always learn and grow from experience, so I’m happy it happened that way! 

And now some more random facts about Japan:

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  • There are toilets EVERYWHERE. Every train station has them, most sights have them and sometimes just random street corners as well. And they are mainly clean and free – every travelers dream!
  • Japan is generally a very clean country – even though there are almost no trash cans anywhere. So either bring all your garbage back to your hostel or just carry it around with you, until you found one. Convenience stores usually have one.
  • People don’t eat on the streets. It’s just not common. There are barely any street vendors around and if there are, there’s a crowd of people in front of it, eating what they just got. So if you get anything at a convenience store or a café to go, make sure to sit down on some park bench or anywhere else to eat it. It’s not forbidden but you’ll definitely get some weird looks when eating on the street.
  • There might be no trash on the streets, but Japan is definitely one of those countries that produces a shitload of it. Every little thing is wrapped. Ever apple is wrapped. There are croissants, breadrolls and other baked goods wrapped in plastic. Onigiri are wrapped in plastic. It’s insane. They do recycle though, which makes it a little less bad, but it still made me furious at times.
  • There are vending machines with drinks on every corner. Fancy a coke in the middle of nowhere? There’s definitely a vending machine just around the corner.
  • And the most important thing for me: MATCHA EVERYWHERE. 

Cafés to work from in Hamburg, Germany

Hanging Out Café, Grindelviertel

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Matcha at Hanging Out Café

It’s Bali in Hamburg! Well, not fully obviously, but it’s close. With bamboo chairs hanging from the ceiling, plants all around and acai bowls on the menu, this café definitely gives away a holiday vibe though. That’s why it offers a great atmosphere for working from there. The WiFi is fast and the food & drinks are also cheap enough for you to stay for a bit and order a few things from the menu. And a plus for me? They have Matcha Latte!

 

 

 

Public Coffee Roasters, Winterhude, Altstadt or Neustadt

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Avocado Bread at Public Coffee Roasters

The interior of this café is basically a co-working space in itself. Big tables offer a lot of room for laptops and also meetings, if necessary. When I got here early on a Wednesday morning, there were already around 8 people with laptops gathering around the tables, drinking coffee and fulfilling their work.
They don’t have a lot of options for not-coffee-drinkers like me, but since they had plenty of juices and lemonades, that wasn’t too bad. Unfortunately the WiFi didn’t work for me though. It might have had something to do with our VPN, since everyone else seemed to have no problem. So, for me it wasn’t a great place to work from, but I know a lot of people who use this as their home office, so if you are not connected to any company’s VPN, definitely go check it out!

Nord Coast Roastery, Speicherstadt

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Avocado&Eggs at Nord Coast Roastery

A place that offers not only coffee, but also very instagrammable (and delicious!) breakfast, such as bowls or Avocado Toast. The WiFi worked perfectly for me and my colleague. But I guess you gotta be quick – we got there on a Tuesday around 9:15am (after it opened at 9am) and a lot of tables were taken already. But with that view I didn’t mind sitting on one of the smaller window sill-seats.

#wirsindmehr – We are more than that

I believe this story made its way all around the world but for anyone who might have not heard about it: A few weeks ago a man was killed in a city called Chemnitz, which is located in Germany’s east. The accused men are from Iran and Syria, so they are refugees. This case started a whole crazy movement with Nazis and other right-winged people who started protests against refugees and any type of foreigners for that matter.

This is something that makes me embarrassed for my country again. It reminds me of our history, of events we should have learnt from rather than them nourishing hate against foreigners. But there will always be people who don’t know better. People who grew up with families, who supported Hitler all the way and still don’t want to admit that what happened was extreme bullshit. And wrong. And that’s probably the worst part. None of the people on the streets – the ones that say Germany needs to be German again and all the foreigners should be kicked out – are FORCED to say that. Our grandparents were on the other hand. They didn’t know better. And even if they did, at one point, they didn’t have a chance anymore. But we do. And we should use that chance.

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“Nazis are more annoying than wasps”, found here.

That’s why it  makes me extremely proud to see the movement that started as an “Anti-movement” to the Nazis. Thousands of people who go to the streets and protest – for a more “colourful” Germany, for a more accepting, understanding and forward Germany. On Monday, there was a concert with some really big names of the German music scene. Kraftklub, Marteria, Casper, Beatsteaks, Die Toten Hosen – they all came together to protest in the best way possible: with music. With people coming together, celebrating together, no matter what race, colour or religion they have. 65.000 souls that just felt the music as a union. And that’s what we should continue to do. Celebrate, live, mourn as a union not as two groups fighting each other (verbally, physically, in any way).

And I hope that the rest of the world can see, that Germany is more than those stupid, uneducated people on the streets. That the majority of Germans want a united and safe Germany, for everyone who lives here. For those who were born here, those who chose to live here and those who are forced to come here.

P.S.: A little fun fact about the murder that started all this bullshit in Chemnitz: The man who was killed was half Cuban. And his friends say, that while he was still alive it was those people, the Nazis that are triggered by that murder, who they had to fight against and were hurt by. This shows once again, how stupid and not reflecting the Nazis really are.

Cover photo found here.

7 Things I still haven’t done in Hamburg

You know how you live in a city and you always say “Look, you can do this and that here, we should defo do it!” – and you never do? This still happens to me in Munich  but it also happened during my time in Hamburg. Which might be even worse, because I don’t live there anymore so it’s harder to tick them off the list. Oh, the struggle of being lazy and “comfortable” sometimes.

Anyways, here’s the 7 things I definitely still want to do in Hamburg. One day.

#1 Kayaking on the canals – or SUP it.

I love water. And I love doing things on the water. But somehow I never got around to rent a Kayak and float around the canals.

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🌾 #hamburg #alster

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#2 Go to the fish market – sober

The fish market… It’s a weird place, where people, who survived a night out at Reeperbahn mingle with people who set their alarm at 4am to stroll around the market. I always belonged to the first group of people while I lived there. Maybe one day, I’ll be one of the reasonable ones.

#3 Visit the inside of the Elbphilharmonie – preferably at a concert

The Elbphilharmonie is probably the most discussed building around Germany ever. (Okay, the Berlin airport is worse…) It took way more time and money than expected to build this thing. Nevertheless, it’s an impressive piece of art that makes Hamburg even cooler than it was before. And even though I’ve seen the outside of it, I can’t wait to go to a concert in there one day.

#4 Sing Karaoke at Thai Oase

I don’t even know why this is on the list, but somehow I feel like I should do it. Maybe I should sing Karaoke more often in general.

#5 Bike through the “Alter Elbtunnel

I’ve walked through it. But I always felt like biking would be the right thing to cross it.

#6 Watch a St Pauli match

St Pauli is not only the area, where Hamburg’s nightlife takes place but also a soccer team. And they are (for me) the more loveable team in Hamburg. And I feel like the St Pauli fans definitely know how to have a good time. So yeah, watching one of their matches in the Millerntor Arena would be pretty cool.

#7 Take a ride at Hamburg Dom

Another thing to do in St Pauli. I know the Hamburger Dom is seen as a bit trashy from everyone who lives in Hamburg but somehow everytime I pass it I feel like I should jump on one of their rides. Preferably the ferris wheel so I can have a wonderful view over Hamburg. One day, baby, one day.

The Power of Color – Streetart around the world Part IX: Norway

Yeah, I know, I normally post street art photos from one city in particular, but somehow I found a few great pieces around Norway that I wanted to share but they were just not enough to split them up into single city-posts. That’s why I give you a little mix of streetart from around Norway (mainly Oslo and Bergen though..)

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Bergen

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Bergen

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Bergen

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Bergen

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Bergen

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Oslo

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Oslo

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Oslo

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Oslo

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Oslo

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Oslo

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Oslo

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Oslo

10 Songs I can’t live without: Roadtrip edition

Like you already know, I’ve recently done a roadtrip around Norway for a few days. And I’m already planning my next one for next summer.

There’s no feeling like the one you get, when you drive down a street through the most beautiful landscape with your best friends (or alone) listening to music that instantly erases all your emotions and stress and just let’s you be in the moment. These are some of those songs.


#1 Arcade Fire – Ready to Start

Arcade Fire is iconic. If you’ve ever seen them live, you know what I’m talking about. But not only their live show, also their songs are great and worth listening to – especially on the road.


#2 Mogli – Wanderer

You might know the documentary “Expedition Happiness” (it’s on Netflix, at least in Germany) where a couple travels through North and South America in a converted school bus with their dog. This is song from the soundtrack (and by the talented girl in the documentary) and I feel like it’s kind of THE soundtrack for roadtrips. Isn’t it?


#3 Angus & Julia Stone – Paper Aeroplane

Angus and Julia Stone has been mentioned in this list before. When listening to their music, I instantly get transported back 8 years to when I was traveling Australia. Not only because that’s when I was introduced to their music but also because their songs are so peaceful and harmonic – perfect for a day at the beach.


#4 Train – Drops of Jupiter

When I went on my around the world trip I was obviously a bit nervous. Before I left a friend sent me this song and said for her it was the perfect travel song. And ever since it is for me as well.


#5 Jamie xx – Loud Places

Have I mentioned this song in one of those lists before? I don’t know. Do I care? No, not really. Just because it’s so good.


#6 James Bay – Pink Lemonade

In my opinion, his new album is perfection. All of the songs are. But this one in particular. Happy mood on.


#7 The Kooks – Seaside

This doesn’t really need explanation. Also, after seeing them live for the first time this year, it just had to be added to the list.


#8 Philipp Poisel – Im Garten von Gettis

This is for the Germans especially. It’s still a great song, but when you understand the lyrics, this song gets even better. My favourite line? “There are many times in life, but these are the good ones”. Life Motto, right?


#9 Jain – Alright

This is quite a new song but it just makes me happy and that’s the main emotion you should feel when being on the road.


#10 Tracy Chapman – Fast Car

No remix, just the plain old Tracy Chapman hit. Wonderful.