My sunny life in Aix-en-Provence

I’ve lived in Aix-en-Provence for the past two years and each day I love this little city more and more. Aix is a charming little town in Provence, in the South of France near Marseille. It is famous for its rich cultural heritage, as it has been renowned for its thermal baths since the Roman Empire. Aix is called the city with a hundred fountains. It is a touristic place and also an important center of teaching and research in Law, Literature and Humanities. The University of Aix was founded in 1409.

As a resident, there are many things I like here; places and activities that pace my everyday life. So here is my personal list of all the stuff I love doing in Aix-en-Provence:

  • Taking a walk in the Mazarin neighborhood

The Mazarin neighborhood is filled with mansions, beautiful old buildings and fountains. What I particularly like is taking an evening walk there in summer. I am the kind of girl who drags her boyfriend from the couch to go for a walk at 11 pm and this neighborhood is great for a romantic walk.

This part of the city is also absolutely lovely during the day. If you are looking for a place to stay in Aix, I would recommend this neighborhood. It’s in the city center, but it’s a calm, peaceful and beautiful place.

 

It was the first restaurant in Aix that I went to with my boyfriend. I remember the evening perfectly. We spent it enjoying the twilight, talking about our day and discussing our dreams and projects.

It’s probably at that moment that this restaurant turned into one of my favorite places. Since this day, we celebrate all the important events of our life there.

The place is very festive, the food is good and their sangria is outstanding. You can share your plates. It makes the experience friendlier and more fun. On Sunday, they serve a great brunch.

 

  • Enjoying the patio on the Cours Mirabeau

The Cours Mirabeau is the main avenue in Aix, where the famous “La Rotonde” fountain is located.

The street is full of restaurants, hotels and shops. We love having breakfast with croissants and “pains au chocolats” at the Bastide du Cours patio.  There’s no better way for me to start my day than by having my morning coffee under the sun here.

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In the afternoon we love having  ice-cream on the same avenue. I can definitely recommend Giovanni Gelateria. They have a large selection of ice cream flavors and there is a terrace (which is quite rare for an ice cream parlor here) where you can take a break while enjoying your delicious snack. They also offer refreshing smoothies.

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  • The happy hour at the Cardeur square

Having a drink with my colleagues after work is a more common occurrence than we would like to admit. Most of the time, we have a drink on the Cours Mirabeau because it’s closer to our work, but I far prefer enjoying a glass of wine on the Cardeur square. The square is packed with restaurants and bars where you can enjoy this very important moment of the day called “apéro.” I particularly like being there on late afternoons because it stays sunny until late.

We often go to the Cutback bar, the happy hour is great and they also serve charcuterie and cheese platters.

 

What I like about the therms is that I get that vacation feel ten minutes away from home.

The best time to go is on Sunday during the summer. This is because they serve an amazing brunch with a large selection of fresh food, from croissants to meat, from fruits to fish. During the summer, you can enjoy the brunch outside by the pool.

You can still visit the Spa in the wintertime. There is a Jacuzzi, a Hammam, a sauna and sensory showers. Try the tropical one: when you close your eyes, you will feel as if you are in the middle of the jungle.

It’s a perfect place for a girls’ night out or a romantic day with your significant other.

 

  • Spending time at the Apple Store

The Apple Store is a great place to catch up with the latest technology while taking a break.  I love everything there:  the design, the location and of course the store itself. As a huge Apple fan, I love having a store in my city.

I love admiring the sunset from the inside. You can see the vermilion colored light all over the store with a perfect view on La Rotonde.

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Spending time in the store, enjoying the atmosphere, connecting with other people or apple fans is always a great experience. Now it will be even better with Today at apple.

  • Having a picnic at La Torse park

I enjoy jogging in this park with my boyfriend late afternoons. Sometimes, after our run, we stay for a dinner picnic. The park is quiet at this hour, which gives us a chance to enjoy the beautiful sunset.

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From time to time, we also go there for lunch.  The mood is much more lively, but it’s still very nice. Many people play, run, do yoga, or just lay on their towels to get a tan during these hours.

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Most of all, I love this place because this park combines different landscapes: there are two large grassy areas; a cute river; a little lake with some ducks and carp; a path lined with bamboo trees that resembles a Japanese garden; and even a sports field. The park is near the city center, only ten minutes away from the famous cours Mirabeau.

  • Having a Starbucks drink in the modern neighborhood

If something is missing in this city, it’s definitely a Starbucks coffee shop. Hotel Renaissance does have a Starbucks corner, which helps.

The great thing is that the hotel is in the modern part of the city. This gives me an opportunity to enjoy modern architecture and sculptures while enjoying a beverage. I find this place beautiful and inspiring, but you can judge for yourself:

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Going to Cannes is a great idea!

I wanted to congratulate my boyfriend for his promotion and celebrate his birthday, so I surprised him with a two-day stay in Cannes including spa, mojitos, beach time… all the things he and I love.

There are many incredible places in the world and Cannes is one of them. Here are some reasons why I enjoyed it so much, and why it’s a perfect destination for a weekend with your significant other.

  • The incredible views

In Cannes you’ve got many rooftops and terraces overlooking the sea. Most of the time they are hotel bars or restaurants. We were staying at the Radisson Blu Hotel, and it offers two great view points: the first one was a bar restaurant with a panoramic view on the beaches and the port.

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The second one was the rooftop pool and Jacuzzi that we enjoyed a lot in the afternoon. It was not as high up as the bar/restaurant but it was my favorite part of this hotel.

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  • The window shopping

We took a walk on La Croisette, the famous promenade overlooking the beach, and gazed at the luxury shops windows. I loved the atmosphere of this place, with the sunshine, the palm trees and the palaces surrounding this beautiful avenue. I also enjoyed looking at the Chanel’s, Dior’s and Yves Saint Laurent’s new collections with dreamy eyes. I fell in love again with the Michael Kors shop, which is a bit more affordable, and I am now coveting this pair of sunglasses.

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  • The private beaches

While on vacation, I particularly appreciate having lunch or dinner at the beach. Cannes is full of really nice private beaches that make you feel like you are on a paradise island.

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We went to a few beaches, my favorite was the Cristal Beach on the West side of the port. I loved the menu and the decor with the banana trees. We rented lounging chairs for the afternoon. It is so enjoyable to take a nap lulled by the sound of the sea.

  • No need for a car

When we arrived, we parked the car and did not move it until we left. It’s a real pleasure not being stuck in traffic or having to look for a parking spot for 20 minutes while on vacation. Cannes is a small city where you can get to almost everything by foot.

  • Being there in the low season

Going to the French Riviera in May has its advantages. We were there at the perfect time, ten days before the Cannes film festival. In May, the weather is great most of the time.  The temperature allows you to enjoy the pool or lie on your towel and get a tan. Because the tourists have not yet arrived, there is always an available lounging chair on the first row at the beach, or available tables at restaurants, and the sidewalks are not yet crowded. We are used to planning and booking everything in advance, so it was quite relaxing to choose our activities at the last minute without having to worry that it may be overbooked.
To end this article, here is a little Vlog.

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TRY ON HAUL #01

Hi guys!

Today I’d like to show you my very first haul video. I am very excited to share my last shopping spree with you all!

Hope you’ll like it and excuse me in advance for my language skills. I am sure you will be able to witness my progress along this blog adventure.

Here are all the links for the items I shared with you:

  • The white top is available here
  • The off the shoulder top is here (I couldn’t find the same color as mine on the website, but I linked the same model)
  • You can find the blue dress here
  • The scallopped short is available here
  • The tulip short from Ivyrevel is here
  • The bikini is available here

 

Tips for traveling alone

Last month, at almost thirty years old, I took a trip by myself for the first time. I was a bit nervous, because I had never done things like eat at a restaurant by myself or be alone in an unknown environment.

It wasn’t so much that I was worried about my safety. I fly alone frequently and I have traveled quite a bit. It was more that I was uncomfortable appearing alone in public places, or being alone with my thoughts for days! When I told some of my friends about it, I received very mixed reactions. Some of them said that they could never do it, while others seemed surprised and even made me feel silly for feeling weird about it at all. Only my friend Christine told me that while she dreaded it at first, she ended up loving it. She was right. Traveling alone was exhilarating. Here are some tips that definitely made my life easier.

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Fossil Passport Holder (similar)
  • Plan ahead

This seems like a no-brainer, but when you are alone, you want to avoid getting lost or ending up in potentially dangerous situations. I recommend mapping your itinerary and doing some research on places to visit and where to go. I asked my friends who knew DC for recommendations and used Google Maps to chart everything before heading out of the hotel. I also made sure I researched the restaurants I went to, to ensure I could sit at a bar, since I didn’t want to be alone at a table. I hate waiting so this was definitely one of the perks of the trip: when you are alone, you can do things you want at your own pace.

  • Bring books (or magazines, or your tablet)

I used to love reading and would spend most of my vacations as a kid going through books. Unfortunately as a gown-up, I often don’t have time to read and I waste too much time on social media to be able to pick-up a book at night. This was a welcome opportunity to catch up on some books I had been meaning to read and I loved being alone in my bubble enjoying a story.

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This is also great if you feel anxious at the idea of being alone and awkward in public, and so much more refined than being sucked into your phone! If you don’t like to read, you can always get a magazine, play games or watch movies on your tablet.

  • Get ready to talk to strangers

I am a fairly sociable person, and decided that the best way to not feel awkward, when being alone in places like bars, was to strike up a conversation. (In this case, you should probably drop the book). Usually, people tend to talk to you more if you look like you are alone anyways. As long as you seem open to it, you can end up meeting really interesting people along the way. Some of them are also be traveling by themselves. As grown-ups we don’t really get many chances to randomly meet new people, so why not enjoy it?

  • Prepare a playlist

Since you do not have anybody to talk to, I recommend making a playlist, which will set the mood of your trip. I personally was into my Big Little Lies phase (seriously, if you haven’t watched the series, you should!) so I played this. It kept me company as I walked, and I know this is silly, but I almost felt like I was starring in my own movie! So pick something you like that makes you feel good and get going!

  • Treat yourself!

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Although I mentioned it briefly in some parts of this blog, I think this last point is worth having its own paragraph: since you are alone, you can do whatever you want! So pick the type of food you love, take long walks if you love to walk, or take a taxi if you hate walking. Have your favorite drink, watch a sunset, sit out in the sun or go for a run. Just do things for you. You don’t have to compromise with a friend, significant other, work schedule, or a family request. You made it alone all the way here, so enjoy yourself!

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Our hair care routine

May: When I was a teenager I used to torture my hair! I went through many colors and hairstyles, used many chemicals and totally damaged my hair … I even bleached my  hair blonde… Seriously, don’t ask what was going through my head! Thankfully, reason came back to me and today I take very good care of my hair… It is my way to ask for its forgiveness.

Laura: In this hair matter, I am actually quite different from May. I have always had healthy, naturally thick hair and I have always been paranoid about damaging it, so I never really had a “bad hair phase,” if you discount the red streaks I had in 9th grade. But even then, I got them done professionally and it never really damaged my hair. My hair routine has been set for many years and it is pretty consistent.

  • Good habits

May: Just like for your skin, having great hair is not only about great products, it’s also about great habits.

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The first of them is to not over wash it. In my case I wash my hair two or three times a week and I only shampoo once and use one conditioner. You don’t need to shampoo your hair twice if the first time is effective and your hair is not too dirty. Before applying the shampoo I twist my hair so the shampoo is less diluted and more effective. The more you wash your hair, the faster it will become greasy.  If I really need to I also use dry shampoo, but it is pretty rare.

You should also rotate your shampoo and conditioner. Your hair has different needs depending on the season, your lifestyle, your diet and the state of your health. Changing shampoos means switching cleaning bases and giving your hair the care adapted to its evolving needs.

Laura: As far as washing hair goes, my habits are pretty similar as May’s above. However, I will add that if I have sweated a lot during a workout for example, I have no qualms about washing my hair twice, usually with two different shampoos.

I also try to avoid using heat whenever possible. I usually let my hair air dry, except in the winter. Remember, I live in Chicago! When I do use heat, I am careful and use products to protect my hair. I also try to vary my hairstyles and not leave my hair up all the time to avoid breakage with elastic bands. In a nutshell, my rule is to leave my hair as natural and free when I do not have anywhere to be to compensate for when I have to style it.

  • Natural Products

May: I have my very favorite shampoos. I wanted to try natural products and I fell in love with a shampoo by Lush; a shampoo bar, to be more specific. I love it because it foams and washes well, and it is very economical. I was a bit skeptical when the teller told me one shampoo bar equals three bottles of shampoo, but it actually does. Well, at one condition: you have to place it in a little container (you can buy one at Lush) to protect the shampoo from the water of your shower when you don’t use it. Of course you can reuse the container every time you buy a new shampoo bar.

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My other big favorite one is Repaire-me.Wash by Kevin Murphy, it makes my hair so smooth, and I love the smell.  On top of that it’s paraben free, sulfate free and not tested on animals. For their products they use a lot of essential oils and natural extracts.

As far as conditioners go, my favorite of the moment it 3 minutes miracles from Aussie. It’s one of the most efficient conditioners I have ever used. It repairs and softens your hair in 3 minutes.

Laura: I usually alternate between Aveda shampure™ shampoo and conditioner, and (MALIN + GOETZ) peppermint shampoo and cilantro conditioner. I like the latter combination when my hair feels a bit dryer. Lately, I noticed in pharmacies the Whole Blands brand by Garnier, which is not new at all for me because it has existed in France for years under the name Ultra Doux. I used to love this line by Garnier when I lived in France, so I gave the Whole Blends Olive Oil a try. I like that it is silicone and Paraben free, and the smell always reminds me of home.

What’s important to me when I select a shampoo and conditioner are the components, but also how my hair feels after a wash. I hate it when it feels heavy as if it has some greasy residue. I like to use the same brand of shampoo and conditioner because they are usually designed to work in combination with each other.

I also love using Argan oil on my hair. Usually I use the spray by Organix, especially when using hot tools or if my hair has been exposed to sun or salt. In the midst of summer I also love to use Tahiti Monoi from Tiare flower. I love the smell and apply it on my skin and hair for hydration and smoothness. Can’t wait for the beach!

  • More

May: Caring for your hair is not limited to the kind of products you use in the shower. Every day I apply a nut of oil on it (I alternate between different ones such as Orofluido Elixir , Silk Infusin or Nuxe Sun during the summer)

Once every two weeks or once a month I give my hair a home treatment. It helped a lot when my hair was burnt due to over bleaching.  I apply olive oil and leave it on my hair at least an hour. My friend told me she sleeps with it. It makes for better results, of course, but it’s complicated since you have to wrap your head in saran wrap so that you don’t stain your bed. Some people also mix olive oil with honey… why not?

Laura: I have made a crazy discovery: there is a hair care caviar product line! I got samples at Sephora, and fell in love with their CC Cream. It really does the ten things it promises, and my hair feels amazing after it. Full disclosure: I am conservative about the amount I use and only apply to the tips up until half of my hair length. It can weigh your hair down if you use too much of it.

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Things to do in Washington D.C.

I was just thinking that this blog is starting to look like a travel blog between May’s trip to Berlin and this trip to D.C. but these trips were purely coincidental!

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As it turns out, I had to take a last minute trip to Washington D.C.  It was my first time in the city and I had to travel alone, which was scary at first, but made it even better because I was free to do what I wanted for a couple days. I was fortunate enough to have friends who were familiar with D.C. to advise me on where to go and what to do, so I want to share some of my adventures.

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The night tour of all the Memorials

The part of Washington D.C. that everyone is familiar with is the National Mall. This is the area with the Washington Monument, the White House and all the Memorials.  I was advised to tour the monuments at night because they are lit up and it makes for a unique experience. It took me about an hour and thirty minutes, but I am a pretty fast walker. I started my tour at dusk at the Lincoln Memorial and walked around the Tidal Basin . The memorials emerging from darkness gave out this eerie, almost surreal impression. Even as a foreign national, I felt a great amount of emotion and significance emanate from these monuments. Standing there, you definitely feel the importance of the people who have shaped the most powerful country in the world.

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Georgetown and walking by the Potomac River

With its river walk and pretty homes, Georgetown is probably one of the prettiest neighborhoods in D.C., although it may be a bit preppy for some tastes. I had lunch at Tony and Joe’s Seafood Place by the Potomac River on Sunday and loved the relaxing atmosphere. It was a warm sunny day and a lot of people were boating, walking around, or simply sitting at the restaurants’ terraces. I ordered crab cakes since it is a local specialty and enjoyed basking in the sun. I highly recommend a walk in this area!

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The Museums

Since my trip was very last minute and quite short, I did not have the time and flexibility to efficiently plan my visit. I read that the second most visited piece of art, after the Mona Lisa, was the Hope Diamond at the Smithsonian. I have already seen the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, so I felt compelled to go see the Hope Diamond. One thing worth noting is that most museums in Washington D.C. are free. This is great for obvious financial reasons, but also because it makes people flow through the museums faster since there are no lines at the cashier. The Hope Diamond is located at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. I am not a fan of watching stuffed animals or volcano formations, so I headed straight to the gems and precious stones area. They have some truly magnificent pieces, but I have to admit, I was a bit disappointed by the Hope Diamond. It is so big and bulky, and does not even seem real!

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If you enjoy art, I recommend visiting the National Gallery. The lady at the information kiosk was one of the kindest and most helpful people I have ever encountered in a museum! She basically created a personalized itinerary based on my taste and what I told her I hoped to see. The collections are really good and I really liked the modern East Building with its great architecture.

I thought I had managed my time well enough to be able to see the Newseum, the museum of the press. Unfortunately, I showed up an hour before closing time and was turned away! Just a cautionary tale: buy the tickets in advance or plan ample time for a visit.

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The neighborhoods

The center of Washington D.C. feels a bit surreal with the National Mall, the museums and official buildings. As soon as you get outside of the center, you feel this homey, almost European neighborhood feeling. I loved the row homes in the Dupont Circle area for example. The city is so green, especially in the spring when the cherry trees are in bloom. Adams Morgan is great if you like animated neighborhoods and going out to bars. I got breakfast at Tryst , which is super famous, and it did not disappoint. I highly recommend just walking around and stopping by any cute place that strikes your fancy, as there are many of them.

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Enjoying a glass at the POV, the W Hotel’s rooftop

After a hectic day on Monday, I decided to reward myself and celebrate my last night in D.C.  with a glass of wine on the city’s most famous rooftop, the POV Bar at the W Hotel. There is a panoramic view of the Washington Monument and the White House.  It is not the type of spot where I’d spend an entire night out, but it is most definitely worth stopping by for a glass or two. Take pictures!

Overall, I really loved the city and wish I had had more time to visit, as I have a long list of things I still want to do! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

 

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Things I discovered in Berlin

Hallo Leute!

I just came back from a three-day stay in Berlin with my mother and it was so much fun. We went to very popular and touristic places such as the Brandenburg gate, the Bundestag (German Parliament) and of course the famous Checkpoint Charlie.

Berlin has surprised me in many ways and that’s what I want to share with you in this article.

The wall is everywhere in the city

Of course you can’t go to Berlin without seeing the wall. I was so moved to be in front of such a huge part of history. For the record, the wall circled West Berlin from 1961 to 1989, it was 154km (96 miles) long with 302 observations towers.

In my imagination, the wall was only visible in some specific places in Berlin. I didn’t expect to see parts of the wall displayed everywhere in the city. I even saw some parts of it in shops or on display in some streets. Basically, the wall was chopped in pieces and these pieces were placed in different parts of Berlin as small memorials.

Today, only a few small stretches of the wall remain at the original Berlin sites. There is the famous East Side Gallery, which is the longest standing wall section (1.3 km/ 0.6miles). One hundred and eighteen artists from 21 different countries painted on the wall, making it the biggest street art exhibition.

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I was most interested by the last intact part of the wall, near Bernauer Straße. You can clearly see the “no man’s land” between the two walls, where nobody was allowed to be. Human presence there was considered a legal offense: any intruder was to be shot down by one or other of the factions.

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The history of Berlin is so interesting, you can click here to find out more about the wall.

The polemic during the work of the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

Near the famous Brandenburg gate is this very powerful memorial honoring the 6 million Holocaust victims. It is made of 2711 concrete concrete slabs on 19 000 square meters and no two slabs are exactly the same. The place made a strong impression on me, even though it is very simple and modern looking, it is very solemn. There is also a museum about the Holocaust under the memorial.

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When the memorial was being built, a scandal broke out. The supplier of the anti-graffiti coating applied to the slabs is no other than Degussa, the same company that produced Zyklon B, a gas used in Nazi extermination camps. In the end, the company’s important involvement for the conservation and tribute of the tragedy since the end of the war contributed to end the polemic.

Don’t worry about public transportation

While preparing my trip, I asked my German friend for information about Berlin. When the transportation came up she told me “Oh! you don’t have to worry about it in Berlin” and she changed the topic. It’s only when I arrived that I understood. All the lines, buses, trams, metro are so well organized and frequent (we never waited more than five minutes) and very cheap on top of it (7€ for an unlimited day-pass).

Speaking about the price, I was surprised that there were no turnstiles and you can board the subway without any control. I really appreciated that German people rely on trust.

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In fact, I discovered that everyday, all the tubes and buses together travel about the same distance as eight times around the Earth. The subway in Berlin was inaugurated in 1902, and although some stations look really old, everything is very clean.

One of the highest towers of Europe

At a height of 368 meters, the Berliner Fernsehturm (Television Tower) is the tallest building in Germany and one of the tallest constructions in Europe. I was so surprised to find out that the Fernsehturn tower is higher than the Eiffel Tower.

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It was built between 1965 and 1969 by the government of the German Democratic Republic (GDR). The Tower was a symbol of the party, it was built to display the superiority of communism over capitalism, it was intended to show that the East was working to create a better future. Also, the shape of the tower was supposed to mirror the shape of the soviet satellite Sputnik.

Forty percent of the city is underground

The city is almost double the size than it appears thanks to a huge underground railway station and many of the World War II bunkers, escape tunnels, sewers and brewery cellars. Tourists can visit the underground world of Berlin. The association Berliner Unterwelten organizes different tours of the various bunkers.

I was so excited to go on one of their tours, but unfortunately they take place from Friday to Monday… and we were in Berlin from Tuesday to Thursday.

Ruins as a memory of the war

Berlin underwent 363 Allied air raids during World War II, so the city was in ruins. If nowadays Berlin is a beautiful city, some buildings and monuments are still in ruins. However, in most cases, Berliners made a conscious decision to keep them that way so that they never forget what they overcame.

The most emblematic and most relevant of all is the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, built in the 1890’s and badly damaged by bombing raids in 1943.

Although a large majority of the building was renovated, some parts of it remain damaged by the bombing, like the statue in ruins at the entrance for example.

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