Oktoberfest Pilgrimage

Hello anyone still out there. Its been a while, but I am alive and well (and still living in Berlin, it’s been over a year now!). I’m not going to  bother making excuses. What can I say life got in the way. But it turns out I miss this here blog so I decided to give it another crack!

So much has happened over the last 6 months I’m not even going to try to break it down. Many more travels from a small Island on the Baltic, to California, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Munich, Prague! Wow writing it down I makes me realise how much we did!

I don’t even know where to start so lets start with Oktoberfest just because it was pretty much the most awesome weekend ever.

oktoberfest traditional clothing couple

I swear half the fun was the outfits. We splurged and bought traditional ones, best souvenir we’ll ever buy.

We decided last minute we just had to make Oktoberfest happen so booked a rare decently priced hotel hotel and car and made the 6hr drive Friday night after work. We could not have lived in Germany for over a year and not made it to Oktoberfest. Australian’s and American’s plan their Europe trips to include Oktoberfest. Nobody would ever let us live it down.

Oktoberfest is exactly like you imagine, except bigger. We got there at 9am and managed to not only make it in one of the main tents, the Hacker-Feltzet Tent, but also squeeze on a groups table! They had been there since 7:30am so we felt pretty fortunate to get a spot.

Oktoberfest Hacker- Festzelt munich

How magical is it?! Like all of your Oktoberfest dreams come true

giant pretzel oktoberfest

Giant pretzels for breakfast on the way in. Big mistake, always eat a proper breakfast before a day of heavy drinking.

Oktoberfest outside dirndl

Oktoberfest leiderhosen traditional

Isn’t he handsome?? You could say he felt pretty awesome in his leather leiderhosen

From there the day went in typical Oktoberfest form. Start drinking at 9am, drinking games, more pretzels. Every so often someone would stand up on the table and down a beer while the entire crowd cheered them on (or booed if they failed).

beer couple Oktoberfest leiderhosen Oktoberfest food inside tent

When the band started playing at midday thats when the festivities really took off! Everybody stood up on their benches and started singing and dancing. We barely sat down again for the rest of the afternoon. As people became looser so did the once exclusive tables, suddenly everyone is friends wrapping their arms around each other singing ‘Ein Prosit’.

Oktoberfest friends fun beer oktoberfest fun beer girl munich oktoberfest beer tent munichlowenbrau oktoberfest munich

It is truly the biggest high to be a part of the festivities. You look around and everyone is smiling and cheering. Of course a lot of beer consumption helps to. And boy are they strong.

3 very large beers later and we were done. We took ourselves home around 5pm and crashed for a couple hours before rounding off the night with some all curing schnitzel.Oktoberfest crowds leiderhosen dirndl

giant schnitzel munich leiderhosen

Giant schnitzel truly is the way to a man’s heart

Sunday we had a more low key day and enjoyed exploring the festival grounds. It was less crowded so we managed to get into almost every tent to check out different atmospheres and decor. By the end of the day the grounds were filling up with Germans dressed in the fanciest, traditional outfits ready for the final night.

Oktoberfest gril dirndloktoberfest aerial rideaerial view above Oktoberfestleiderhosen oktoberfest beer cart inside hofbrau tent oktoberfest Oktoberfest munich

It was one of the best weekends, even if we did get a speeding ticket on the autobahn. Who knew that was even possible?!

Nuremberg- Castle Road pt 1

Nuremberg-Germany

Well its official, I suck at consistently blogging. Turns out it’s much harder to find motivation to blog when you’re staring at a computer screen 8+ hours a day, not to mention we’re lucky to get home before 8pm. From there the night just seems to disappear. But enough excuses! Here, finally, is the first part of our Easter Long Weekend Bavarian Road trip!

If you missed (or forgot since it’s been so long) we planned our Easter long weekend trip literally a week out, so we bought mystery flights as they were the only affordable option. Low and behold we ended up going to Nuremberg. We weren’t super psyched until we discovered there is this great road trip called ‘Castle Road’. Stretching from Nuremberg to Heidelberg it stops off at all of these old castles and medieval towns.

First stop Nuremberg! It was so much prettier than we expected. We just had a day in Nuremberg, but really this was the perfect amount of time to explore and wander the entire city (I’m so glad we discovered castle road instead of spending 4 days in Nuremberg!). Like so many European cities Nuremberg has an old town surrounded by the modern day city. The old town though is so picturesque, its like stepping back in time. Surrounded by stone buildings, Tudor style houses, canals, cobbled streets and many little intricate designs all over the place if you look closely enough. Of course like any old European city it also has a castle with fortified walls that reach out like arms to surround the old town.

One of the nicest things about Nuremberg was the relaxed, almost slow motion, time there. It was so relaxing. It felt like time had just been paused and we had endless time to wander the winding lanes and sip coffee by the canal. It might have also helped that it was Good Friday so none of the usual retail stores were open, but it made for feeling like you had entered an older world.

But really what I loved about Nuremberg was that it reminded us that Germany, unlike Berlin, can be beautiful. Berlin on a whole is an ugly not an attractive city. It is so unlike the rest of Germany in so many ways, so it’s nice sometimes to be reminded of just how beautiful the rest of Germany is.

Nuremberg-canal-cafe

We had breakfast at that little cafe right next to the canal

Nuremberg-entrance Nuremberg-catchedral town-square-nuremberg

They had these adorable grass thatched Easter Bunnies everywhere!

They had these adorable grass thatched Easter Bunnies everywhere!

Nuremberg-cage-statue Nuremberg-cathedral tudor-houses-nuremberg corner-wall-statue-nuremberg gold-sign-nurmeberg tudor-gold-house-nuremberg Tudor-street-nurember rooftops-nurembergabove-view-rooftops-nurembergchurch-rooftop-nuremberg castle-entrance-nuremberg castle-grounds-nuremberdaniel-nuremberg tree-canal-nuremberg Nuremberg-canal-under-building canal-mouth-nuremberg arch-bridges-nuremberg corner-wall-statue-nurember

Smokey Bacon flavoured, it doesn't get more manly than that!

Smokey Bacon flavoured, it doesn’t get more manly than that!

cathedral-nuremberg Nuremberg-fairylights-tree

One of the strangest things we noticed about Nuremberg though were their creepy statues and figurines all over the place! Sorry about the slightly disturbing pics below but seriously this was a statue in the middle of a square with children playing around , so creepy! The gnomes below were a kind of disturbing window display. We couldn’t help but stare and laugh!!

 

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Spring is (Almost) Here

drive now car convertible berlin berlin-sun-grunewald berlin-grunewald-paulander-beer-picnic berlin-grunewald-picnic

Spring is finally here near. We are starting to have some nicer weather in Berlin. Today is a cold rainy day, but the last few weeks have had majority sunny days and sometime even slightly warmer temperatures! It’s enough to make you think wow, this winter may actually end one day. Ok, ok, maybe a little dramatic, but as we arrived in Berlin mid-September, we’ve pretty much only seen Berlin in the winter. September is technically not winter (not even close) but since their fall weather here is like Sydney’s coldest winter to me it feels like one endless winter, that just got increasingly worse.

I absolutely cannot wait for summer! I have only heard amazing things about Berlin in the summer-time. Apparently people go a bit wild and it’s just like one, big, 3 month long festival filled with outdoor concerts, barbecues and street parties. Bring it on because I’ve had just about enough gloomy grey winter as I can handle. That is why last weekend, when it was finally going to be a beautiful sunny Sunday, we decided to get out of the city for a bit and take a day trip to Grunewald forest on the outskirts of Berlin.

I think the best part of the whole day was the 20min drive there. We signed up for drive-now, a car-sharing service, when we moved and had some minutes we needed to use up, so grabbed a mini convertible and had a joy-ride through the streets of Berlin. Unfortunately we got a little too excited about the sun and forgot that it can still be cold. We spent pretty much the whole day freezing. Oops. But the forest was certainly much prettier with sunshine and it was nice to soak up a little vitamin D, even if it didn’t last long.

When we got home I jumped straight in a hot shower and then curled up under the quilt the rest of the afternoon, trying to warm up. I can’t wait until spring is actually here, but for now I’m just loving the days we get sunshine!

Are We Out of The Woods Yet?

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything, to anyone still out there reading hello! I’m sorry it’s just been crickets around here. Life just got too hard and too busy for the last 6 weeks to find time for sleeping and breathing, let alone blogging. It’s been probably the most trying and tumultuous few weeks of my life but having come out on the other side, it was 100% worth it. You might have a vague idea of what’s been going on if you follow me on instagram but basically it’s been an emotional roller coaster ride of apartments, jobs and visa dramas. It all started getting crazy when we ended up apartment-less but I mean really the craziness started when I began working 12 hour days. So much big news I don’t even know where to begin so I guess I’ll just flash back to the end of January when things started to take a turn for us. As you might know, Daniel had landed a job back at the end of October but hadn’t worked a day yet as he had been waiting 3 months for his work visa to be processed. Good old German efficiency. Well, it turns out his visa had been ready since Mid November, the Alien’s office just lost it. The plus side to the whole situation was that it gave him plenty of time to apply for other jobs (he really didn’t want the other one but had no choice since he needed a visa). Well mid- January a miracle happened and he landed an amazing 1 year contract with an online marketing company. This was right before we needed to find a new apartment since our temporary accommodation was about end. We really wanted to find a long term place so we didn’t have to move a third time in 4 months, however it turns out we way underestimated how hard it is to find an apartment in Berlin. Three days before we had to be out of our apartment we really started to panic.

apartment search desperate berlin

I knew we’d hit rock bottom whenI had to post this in every single Berlin apartment search facebook group, but it worked!

We’d left it too late to even find another AirBnB. By Thursday night (we had to be out Saturday) we booked an emergency hotel a few blocks from our apartment. During this same time, other big things were happening. When Daniel had gone in to his new work to sign his new contract they told him that even though he was one of 5 who had been selected out of 350 applicants they still wanted 5 more people. This is when Daniel learned that they were doing a second round of interviews. So, he told them about me. Long story short, the Friday before we had to be out of our apartment (11am Saturday) I was in a 6 hour intensive interview and testing day at Daniel’s company applying for the same position. We got really lucky and, that afternoon, someone who had seen my desperate facebook ad contacted us. She told us she was going overseas for a month on Saturday so we could rent her place while she was gone. After the long interview day I met Daniel and went straight to her place to secure the apartment. Unfortunately, we couldn’t move in until late Saturday and we had to be out of our apartment early Saturday. So later that night we moved into the hotel… in the snow.

His face pretty much sums it up. I wish I could say that was all our stuff, but no this was one of 3 trips. The best was when we had a clothes drying rack perched on a suitcase with a dish drying rack attached. A very classy moment. I"m pretty sure everyone thought we were homeless. I guess we were at that point.

His face pretty much sums it up. I wish I could say that was all our stuff, but no this was one of 3 trips. The best was when we had a clothes drying rack perched on a suitcase with a dish drying rack attached. A very classy moment. I”m pretty sure everyone thought we were homeless. I guess we were at that point.

That weekend we moved twice. First to the hotel Friday night/Saturday morning then to the temporary place Saturday evening/Sunday morning. We had accumulated quite a lot of stuff by this point as the apartment didn’t have everything, so it took us 3 trips back and forth to move all of our stuff in suitcases and plastic bags on the public transport system. I think it’s safe to say it was one of the worst weekends of my life.

The next few weeks were just one giant sleep deprived blur. Daniel was super lucky and his new company helped him resubmit his visa with an agency so it all went through in a couple weeks, with only the slight hiccup of him almost getting deported when his extension visa ran out before his work visa had come through. My lunch times were spent either going to different governmental offices to get all the necessary paperwork to apply to apartments or continuing to interview at Daniel’s company. One of the biggest decisions but also the most exciting I had to make was when I got offered a permanent position to stay on with my company and become a manager or to take the new position at Daniel’s company I managed to secure! After a lot of consideration and back and forth I took the new job! I am now working at the same amazing online marketing company as Daniel in the Social Media Marketing team and having now been there a week and a half it was definitely one of the best decisions I’ve ever made! It was a gamble because I was already well established at my old company and I was on a fast-track management path but in the long run I will be much better off with my new company. Not to mention I no longer work 12 hour days! The environment at the new place is just so perfect, it is so much more than we knew when we took the jobs and we are so excited to be there.

We also got really lucky and after viewing and applying to so many different apartments and getting nothing (not even a response) we managed to land an apartment a thousand times better than I ever thought we’d end up with. We are in the exact area we wanted, one of the nicest in Berlin, surrounded by cafes and bars, 5 min walk to a shopping centre, main train station and 15min tram ride to work. But the best part is that we are on the top floor! We get a lot of sunlight (which is rare in Berlin) and we have an amazing view from our balcony. It was a struggle to get a place but we couldn’t be more happy with where we ended up.

We are obsessed with the view from our balcony, can"t believe how lucky we got.

We are obsessed with the view from our balcony, can”t believe how lucky we got.

Apartment-view-berlin

Best part is we get sunshine, a rarity here in Berlin.

Best part is we get sunshine, a rarity here in Berlin.

All in all it’s been a complete emotional roller coaster and a real struggle. Yes we got lucky, but in the end we worked really really hard for this and I feel like we are finally truly settled and set-up for an amazing life in Berlin for however long we decide. Next step, it’s time to travel Europe on the weekends.

And if you made it to the end of this crazy long story, thanks for following along. Everyone’s support has meant so much to us (and I swear next time won’t be a crazy long monologue!). Here’s to finally being stable in Berlin.

German Efficiency- Fact or Fiction?

We all know the stereotype that Germans are known for their efficiency…. well guess what, its a big fat lie. Germany has to be the most inefficient country I have ever been to, or at least any of the governmental systems. It’s like it’s some great big sham that’s really quite impressive how far it’s gone, I mean the whole world knows about German efficiency. They had some good marketers I’ll tell you that!

I have had numerous Germans comment “that’s German efficiency for you” and roll their eyes! It’s a complete and total farce and they are all well aware of it.

Everything you do goes through multiple people/departments, is full of paper work and will take weeks months.

The Germans looove their paper work and they love their lines. Everything you do involves getting there early, to get in the line then waiting at least an hour before it opens then probably another half hour to get a waiting number to then wait at least another hour to be seen.

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Now you might be thinking ‘come on Hannah you’ve only lived there 4 months’ how can you possibly know about German efficiency. Well if you really want to see how a country functions become an expat and move there. I have never had to jump through so many bureaucratic hoops or deal with so many different facets of governmental institutions. I mean, obviously I wouldn’t need to in Australia being a citizen and all but I seriously doubt it involves as much as Germany. I mean when Daniel moved to Sydney he got a one year working holiday visa…before he went… Online.

Not in Germany!! Nothing happens online, it all involves face to face with lots of waiting in lines and lots of paper work (and usually people who don’t speak English, even though literally everyone else including homeless beggars can).

Fortunately I recently discovered the best way to get what you need when they don’t speak english and refuse to help… keep looking confused and asking the same question over and over again… oh and look like you might cry at any second.

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You want a tax ID required for work? You’re going to have to wait in line for that.  You want to register your address? You’re going to have to wait in line for that.You want to apply for a visa? You’re going to have to wait in line for that. 7 times if you’re us, a record so far, we’re yet to meet anyone who took over 3 visits to lodge their visa application. I tell you by the 7th time of waking up at 4am to wait 4 hours all bets are off and social decency/being lady-like goes out the window. When the doors opened I ran up the stairs elbowing people out of the way… I’d do it again not my best moment.

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Oh yeh, did I forget to mention you have to register your address every time you move? Yeh every time. Even if you’re living in a hotel, because anything else you want to do requires that precious piece of paper.

The magic rule for calculating how long anything will take, times it by three.

They say the line will take an hour? It will take 3.
You order something to be mailed to you they estimate to take a week? It will take 3.
You apply for your visa and they estimate the processing time to be a month? It will take 3.

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The only area they are efficient is in the supermarket checkout. You feel like you’re on a game show where the slowest bagging shopper gets eliminated. The cashier will have swiped your stuff, taken your money and started swiping the next customers things into your pile before you’ve even managed to open the bag.

how  its feels bagging your own groceries

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One things for sure, after tackling all of these obstacles you feel pretty darn good about yourself.

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Disclaimer: This may all be because we live in Berlin, aka East Germany. I have been told the West is nothing like this, but these opinions are purely based on my personal experiences.

Budvegas- Budva, Montenegro

budva tivat montenegro

Things as you might have heard have been a little hectic here what with working 12 hour days and crossing other expat milestones so I still haven’t finished recapping my travels from when I first arrived in Europe a whole 4 months ago! I can’t believe how fast time has gone, especially the last month.

So we if you’re new here or can’t remember where we were up to in that amazing first month in Croatia and the Greek Island we last left with the scariest jeep ride ever from white water rafting in the Tara River Canyon, Montenegro to one of the Adriatic’s oldest cities, Budva.

After crazy few weeks of non-stop partying and activity at Yacht Week and white water rafting we were in serious need of some R & R. Budva was the perfect place for it. Its quite cheap and besides visiting their Old Town and many bars there isn’t really that much to do besides go to the beach and chill out. Couple that with the fact its still outside the schengen zone (European visa area you can only be in for 90 days). Its a great way to extend your European vacation and relax. Not to mention is was super hot!

A big thing Budva is none for is its clubbing scene. There are all sorts of bars and clubs (fairly trashy of course) on just about every street, hence we dubbed it Budvegas.

We pretty much our few days in Budvegas eating cheap seafood feasts, and drinking cheap cocktails, catching up on sleep and lazing at the beach.

Old town Budva Montenegro Budva Montenegro beach DCIM101GOPRO DCIM101GOPRO Budva Montenegro seafood Budva Montenegro seafood waterfront

About a half hour taxi ride is the town of Tivat. Even though its only a short distance from Budva its like you’ve stepped into a completely different world (and a much more expensive world). Its mostly made of up a very large super yacht marina with an outdoor mall of designer stores and fancy restaurants. All very beautiful and classy, unlike the rest of Budvegas. But also unlike Budva, it almost a complete ghost town! It might have been because it was the middle of the day and so it was very hot outside or perhaps because we were there at the tail end of the high season. It was a great place to get away from the semi-chaos of Budva for the afternoon and spend it sipping on delicious cocktails and lounging by the giant harbour.

Budva Montenegro harbour swim

please ignore my terrible cankles, my feet and lower legs were soo swollen for weeks after yacht week. They just couldn’t handle the serious heat, alcohol and lots of walking

Budva Montenegro Budva Montenegro Budva Montenegro superyacht Budva Montenegro cafe Budva Montenegro mall budva-montenegro-harbour

After a few days of detox and recovery we decided to one of Budva’s most famous attractions, Top Hill. Top Hill is a 5000 person nightclub on top of a hill (creative naming) that overlooks the whole city of Budva. After watching some youtube videos of it we had high expectations. Well like any night with expectations it turned out fairly crap. I don’t think I have ever been more bored on a night out. The club wasn’t even close to full so had virtually no atmosphere. Plus if you had a table (which everyone did, like a standing table) you could only order from a waiter which not only cost more of course but he was also never around! It might be better in the middle of high season, but it was not worth the taxi ride that night thats for sure.

Budva Montenegro top hill

All in all I wouldn’t call Budva a must see destination by any means, but if you need to extend your time in Europe by getting out of the Schengen zone or are looking for a cheap beach destination to chill out and save some money for a few days Budvegas is not a bad place for it.

 

 

A Week of Expat Milestones

The first week of 2015 was a big one for us. It was probably our busiest and most exhausting week since we arrived in Berlin. But some big expat milestones were crossed last week!

I got a German Bank account

Finally after living here almost 4 months I have a German bank account! I finally had to get it asap on Friday so work could pay me this week, talk about incentive. I cannot wait for my EC debit card since almost no shop (including grocery stores) will accept my visa or mastercards.

I got a German tax file number

Also needed to get paid but I’m an official worker in Germany now! It was another fun experience with German bureaucracy. The first lady said she couldn’t help so I took another number and tried the next person. She didn’t want to help me either but I have recently discovered if I just keep begging and looking confused and like I might cry they end up deciding it will just be easier for them to do it for me to get rid of me. The key to German bureaucracy!

Berlin Snow expat excited

Daniel got an amazing job offer

So Daniel got a job a while back but hasn’t been able to work a day there yet because we are STILL waiting for his visa to come through. But in the meantime he has been applying to other jobs that are more what he’s looking for and he managed to score an amazing traineeship with a really impressive company. They had the most intense interview process ever narrowing the applicants from 350 to 35 before inviting the remaining to come to an all day interview and testing day, we’re talking 12 on 1 interviews! But he made it through and couldn’t be happier. We’re just praying his visa doesn’t mess it up for him.

Daniel made it on a water polo team

This is probably the biggest news. In case you’re a new reader, one of the main reasons we came to Berlin was so Daniel could pursue professional water polo. It’s a hard sport to get into as you really need to know someone as it’s very hard to find information. By some miracle a few weeks ago our lovely friend invited us for dinner with her flat mates and would you believe it they have a friend who plays on the team. What are the odds?! So they put Daniel in touch with him last Monday and by Tuesday he was already training 4 days a week with them. It’s been a very trying week for him as he’s been out of the pool so now he’s not in top form but he’s giving it his absolute all to get back into it

waterpolo strike UNC

This is from his old team but I can’t wait to see him do this again. Can you believe I’ve never actually seen him play?!

Daniel played in his first professional water polo tournament!

That’s right after less than 4 days on the team Daniel played his first ever pro water polo tournament! Poor guy had to play 5 games over this weekend which is pretty rough when he hasn’t played in months. But I think to be able to say he had a pro game versing prague on the weekend makes up for it.

It’s been a long road but it’s exciting seeing things coming together more and more. It’s nice not to be stuck in limbo between being tourists and belonging. I feel like we can officially say we live here. It’s a pretty nice feeling.

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Other expats what were your significant milestones?

Exciting News!

So I’ve been a bit quiet on the internet front the last week, but thats because… drum roll…. I finally got a job!! *fireworks* *celebratory trumpets* *tears of joy*

It was a long and sometimes rough process but I have an awesome job at the company I wanted (read: spammed their HR with applications) It came completely out of the blue, the called me midday Friday and asked if I could come in in 3 hours for an interview with an MD (this never happens, I’ve had numerous Skype interviews with their HR for other jobs). I literally spoke with him for 10min before he asked me to start Monday! Things move fast here! The position is even in Marketing position like I wanted! (I was previously in sales and trying to transition to this so yay for not being stuck in sales the rest of my life). Its great I’m doing social media management so I literally spend my entire day on Facebook (I used to get in trouble at my last job oops). But I think I’m going to get sick of Facebook very quickly.

upper east side berlin freidrichstrasse

Yep I’m working on the Upper East Side…Berlin not Manhattan. I still felt cool.

Its a really cool company, it feels like university meets real world. Only downside is 12 hour days are the norm. Sounds like fun no? People stay until 8, 9, 10 just as a standard! My first day at about 6pm I was like “soooo… what time do people leave…” Its going to take some serious getting used to. Luckily I have the most amazing boyfriend who has had dinner ready and the apartment spotless every night when I got home. Sorry ladies, he’s taken. He does have an identical twin though… jokes (but seriously he does).

After not working for the last 4 months its a bit of an adjustment but I’m so glad to finally be more stable and to have some income so we can do what we really came here for, travel!! We’re planning on celebrating by taking a day trip to a smaller city, Dresden, a couple of hours away. Its supposed to have great Christmas market so we don’t want to miss that! So far we’ve been to 3 different Christmas markets in Berlin and are not even close to being sick of them. How could you ever get sick of festive cheer! And lots of yummy food and gluhwein of course. We have learnt through trial and error with some guidance from our German friends which foods to eat (and a few we wont be trying again). We ate this weird looking dumpling thing on the weekend that we never would have picked but our friend told us it was her fave, and it did not disappoint. It was certainly an odd creation though, think berliner (jelly filled donut) cross asian dumpling cross bread and butter pudding. Confused yet?

Well here’s to making it through my first week of work and actually earning the weekend! Happy hump day everyone!

5 Budget Friendly Ways to Christmas-fy Your Home Away From Home | A Travellers Guide

hotel christmas decorations on a budget

Away from home from the holidays? Us too. That doesn’t mean your ‘home away from home’, be it a hotel room or temporary apartment like ours, has to be cold and grinch like. It also doesn’t have to cut into your valuable traveling budget.

I know I didn’t think it could be done either, its not often you hear budget and christmas in the same sentence. Its hard with Pinterest absolutely exploding this time of year with stunningly decorated houses full of Christmas cheer. All I desperately want to do is make our apartment look as glorious as them. However since we’re not sure how long we’ll be in Germany and the fact we tend to move apartments every couple of months we didn’t want to invest in a bunch of Christmas decorations and items. We also didn’t want to spend a bunch of money on decorations as we’d much rather spend it on travels and experiences. So we had to get creative.

Here are 5 easy and budget friendly ways to Christmas up your home away from home

1. Candles

Candles are the easiest way to instantly make your home feel warm and cozy. We found Christmas lights didn’t really fit in our budget so candles worked out as a better way to have some lovely twinkling lights around the room. Whether in a line or tea candles in mason jars they make a world of difference. Make sure you have at least one scented one, the red one in the second photo below smells amazinggg, its cinnamon & maple. Straight up smells like cinnamon roll aka heaven. Its a steal too at only 1 Euro from Primark.

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2. Hanging Ornaments

Some cheap ones like these from IKEA won’t break the budget and work great hanging in the window.

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We couldn’t find fishing line to hang these with but I snagged some free string from IKEA (in their packaging section) and then just frayed it to get thinner pieces

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3. Homemade Ornaments

We had a great night filled with Christmas carols, paper ornament making and wine. Must have wine.

Christmas-Decoration-makingDIY-christmas-tree-topper DIY-gold-brown-paper-ornaments

4. Pine Needle Branches

There is a florist selling Pine Needle branches on just about every block here in Berlin, but our apartment block has some pine tree in the courtyard so I sneakily just trimmed off the ends of a few of those branches. They’ve been a great way to make it feel (an smell!) a lot more Chrismasy since we decided not to get a proper tree.

DIY-pine-needle-garland DIY-Pine-needle-window-corner-decoration

5. Mini Tree

Speaking of not getting a proper tree we debated over whether or not to get a tree. We went out to a few Christmas tree seller pop-up stands and the local supermarket who sold some too. In the end we opted not to buy one. If we wanted a decent tree it was going to cost at least 30 Euros which was more than we wanted to spend (especially since we’d then need a tree stand which cost around 15 Euros). We’d rather spend that money on a nice Christmas Eve dinner (we’re thinking fondue!). So instead we have this adorable miniature potted tree we bought on whim from IKEA weeks ago for 1.29 Euros. We just added some decorations and bam its christmas ready. I actually love it, its super cute and doesn’t take up precious space in our studio apartment!

DIY-Christmas-mini-tree-ornaments

One important thing to do though is buy a special ornament from the country you are in. Daniel’s Dad was kind enough to buy these beautiful (and very German) ornaments for us that will be so special to have each Christmas to remind us of our Christmas in Germany. We hope to continue to add to the collection!

German-ornaments-christmas-decorations

A cuckoo clock and a gingerbread house, does it get more German than that?

Now the place really feels Christmasy and ready for constant Christmas Carols, Hot Chocolate and snuggly nights in watching Christmas Movies

Ugly Christmas Sweater selfie rudolph primark

What Christmas post would be complete without an ugly Christmas sweater selfie

What DIY Christmas decorations have you made? Any other expats/travellers have any other budget Christmas ideas?

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All I Want For Christmas… An Expat’s Wishlist

I love being an expat, but sometimes there are certain comforts from home or particular Australian things that I would do just about anything for. Its funny how your perspective on things you need let alone want really changes when you don’t have things you used to just take for granted.

Some of these items aren’t necessarily stuff we can’t buy in Germany but they might be outside our budget or not necessary enough to justify purchasing and the having to lug with us from house to house (especially when at the moment we’ll only be here a year).

So without further adieu heres a list of random items I would love the big jolly fat man to carry down our non-existant fireplace and place under next to our adorable miniature christmas tree.

Expat-Christmas-Wishlist

 

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1. Vegemite

Come on, I’m Australian, you can’t be surprised. I don’t care how cliched it is. Oh sweet Vegemite how I miss you so. Both Daniel and I brought a small thing of Vegemite and they are already gone (by gone I mean they are still in our fridge waiting to be cut open and scraped clean). Ahh damn Daniel for being the only American to actually like Vegemite, I should never have weened him onto it, now I need to ween him off!

2. A pot large enough to hold pasta

So annoying all we have are these little bitchlet pots that I’m like, who even buys these?? All we can do pretty much is boil eggs in them. I had to cook pasta sauce across 2 pots the other night, its just such a pain.

3. Sushi

Sushi. Oh glorious sushi, what I wouldn’t do for sushi train right now omg. Next time I’m in Sydney I’m just going to stuff my face with sushi until I never want to look at it again. Germans right now are probably like ahh we have sushi all over the place. This is true, but it is so expensive!! Its like 8 Euros for a tiny, snack size amount of very plain looking sushi that wouldn’t be enough for anyone expect maybeee a child. Thats $12 Australian, for like 4 small pieces, I just can’t bring myself to do it.

4. A store that accepts Visa and Mastercard

So many places only take EC cards (Some kind of Euro credit card) and won’t take my visa or mastercards! What is going on?? Its not like I even have American Express, these are Visa and Mastercard! On Thanksgiving we were buying our groceries for our feast, we get to the front of the line, have scanned and bagged all our items then when I go to pay on my card we find out they don’t take either. We had to hand almost everything back since we only had a small amount of cash on us at the time. So embarrassing with a giant line behind us. Then we went to the supermarket next door and had the same thing happen. Not fun. Now we make sure we always have cash on us, and coins because the tram ticket machines only take coins! I hate coins.

5. Toaster with a cancel switch

Our place has the cheapest toaster, every time I want to pop my toast up early I either have to risk burning/electrocuting myself or pull the plug out so it pops up. The struggle is real.

6. Clothes Variety

I am SO sick of all of my clothes. Since we weren’t sure how long we’d be here and we plan on doing quite a bit of traveling all I brought was one backpacker pack and one carry-on size suitcase worth of stuff. Not going to lie it was quite a challenge and they were literally stuffed to the brim (thank god for space bags). I’ve bought a couple things here but really only just a couple warm things I needed since I was freezing, but I try not to buy much else since we have to move it from place to place. Its so hard though especially with H & M and Zara on pretty much every corner just begging me to buy all the things (my friends and family know I’m just a bit of a shopaholic).

Hannah-expat-suitcases

I’m still pretty proud of myself, a whole walk-in wardrobe condensed to only this

7. A Dryer

At home in Australia I don’t use a dryer (for Americans reading this, we have them we just rarely use them), but here I feel like it should just be a given that you have a dryer, yet our place doesn’t have one. Trying to squeeze all of our clothes onto one tiny IKEA rack that is then placed in the middle of our studio apartment where it takes like 3 days to dry is getting old fast. Don’t even get me started on when we try to wash sheets, its anything goes at that point, hang it on a door? why not. Across 2 chairs? We’re getting serious now. Not to mention the whole lack of clothes thing I mentioned before means I have to be strategic what I wash and when so I don’t end up with no dry shirts again (turns out I like white, which means they all end up in a whites load).

8. Sunshine

Sunshine is a rare gift here at the moment. Most of the time it is permanently grey and dreary and most likely foggy. Yesterday it was so foggy you were damp after being outside for 10 minutes. It wasn’t raining but you still got wet. Coming from Sydney (and Daniel from California) we are really used to a lot of sunshine so this has been a major adjustment for us. So when the sun does come out its like a big happy surprise. I’ll wake up to see sun streaming behind the curtains and get so excited I’ll leap out of bed and just throw the curtains back. before getting outside ASAP.

9. A magically refilling fridge and Pantry

Ok this might be a bit unattainable but I miss the (usually) full fridge at home living with my parents. Man I had it good (I’m sure my parents are getting satisfaction reading this, hi guys, yes I appreciated it!). I also miss being able to just drive up the road to the supermarket and drive back. Here when we do our weekly grocery shop its like an expedition of walking a few blocks, catching the tram, cramming everything into our backpacks and bags then tram and walk back. I swear it takes forever! Not to mention planning our weeks meals and list writing before so we stay on budget. Then by the time the Sunday rolls around we somehow always seem to be out of something like milk and we didn’t realise before and of course all the supermarkets are closed Sundays. Oh well grocery shopping will forever seem like a breeze one day, when we have a car in the US or Australia and where we won’t have to spend ages trying to translate an ingredient to make sure its what we think it is.

10. SNOW!!!

When it comes down to it, all I really want is snow. All we really want is a White Christmas. I’ve had one other white Christmas and Daniel has never had one. We cannot wait for it to snow here, its going to look so beautiful from our apartment windows looking out over the park below. Everyday I check the weather forecast and its constantly changing. Earlier this week it predicted snow for today, but now we have the most beautiful sunny weather today. Then it said Monday, now it says Wednesday. So I’ve given up, it will just be an exciting surprise one day when it finally happens.

What’s the most unconventional item on your Christmas Wishlist?