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“I can put you on the waiting list – could you walk around and come back in around 30 minutes?” the waitress asks. The restaurant space of Shiso Burger in Berlin Mitte is too small and cramped to wait, and there's already a crowd of half a dozen people waiting to even be put on the waiting list. It is 3 pm … When we come back it takes another 5 minutes before we are parked neatly into a tiny slot near the entrance: We have to draw the small table into the aisle, arrange Natascha and our coats and bags on the bench and push the table back towards her. The next table is less than 10 cm away, and nearly all the other customers are foreign tourists. We order edamame as a starter, the two vegetarian burger options, veggie burger and toad burger, and a home-made shiso lemonade. … Continue reading
Posted Jan 14, 2017 at Westwards
Actually, we hadn't even thought that far - our intention was to have some sort of tent in case there is no accommodation (and without rain, you don't need the heavy outer tent). But looking back, those "hotel" rooms are exactly what we would recommend to take a tent for.
Well, the sightseeing was our main reason to visit Sudan in the first place, especially with our (professional) interest in Pharaonic Egypt. And to be honest, apart from the historical sights, it's not a country we would recommend visiting. Desert and beans ...
Tenerife is not exactly known for cultural tourism, but there is one UNESCO Cultural World Heritage Site on the island: The historic quarter of San Cristobal de la Laguna – or short La Laguna. Being a World Heritage site, it caught our attention and we decided to visit it on our way to Mount Teide, at 3718 m Spain's highest mountain and a UNESCO Natural Heritage. As the whole old town is part of the UNESCO Heritage we just walked through the cobbled streets, took pictures of the beautifully carved balconies (Moorish influences!) and peaked into several attractive historic courtyards. La Laguna was founded in 1496 … Continue reading
Posted Jan 3, 2017 at Westwards
We wish you all a very happy and successful Year of 2017! As always around this time of the year we do a little recap of the last year and will give you some ideas what we are up to in 2017. 2016 has been a busy year: we spent almost nine months on the road travelling and working. Back in Berlin, we usually had to write like crazy to meet our deadlines. But on the other hand it was a very productive year, too: We wrote a new guide book for Tyrol/ Austria, which will be out in the book stores in late spring. And we revised three other guidebooks … We visited Qatar, Sri Lanka and Sudan, spent many weeks in Tyrol, did an Alpine climbing course, got around terrorist attacks and drowning, and generally ate well … Continue reading
Posted Dec 31, 2016 at Westwards
Wir wünschen euch allen ein fantastisches Jahr 2017! Und wie immer gibt es an dieser Stelle einen kleinen Rückblick auf das vergangene Jahr: Wo waren wir unterwegs? Was hat uns besonders gut gefallen? Auf was hätten wir verzichten können? Und vor allem, was bringt das neue Jahr 2017? Insgesamt waren wir 2016 fast 9 Monate unterwegs. Wenn wir zwischendurch einige Wochen oder Tage in Berlin waren, stand viel Schreibarbeit an. So konnten wir einen brandneuen DuMont-Tirol-Reiseführer fertigstellen, und drei weitere, nämlich … Wir waren in Qatar, in Sri Lanka und im Sudan, sind Fluten und Anschlägen entkommen, haben einen Alpinkletterkurs gemacht und gut gegessen … Continue reading
Posted Dec 31, 2016 at Westwards
The Pyramids of Meroe are visible from afar, a dozen or so triangles made from stone bricks sticking out from the hills like a row of broken teeth. The Sudanese passengers in our crowded overland bus are dozing in their seats, curtains drawn, they are on their way to Khartoum and don’t care for the views outside. “Please stop here,” we shout to the driver in Arabic, or at least we hope we do – anyway he gets the point and lets us get off into the desert. From the road we have to trod just about 500 m across the sand towards the ticket office of the huge pyramid compound, but the souvenir sellers and the lone German tourist resting in the shade with his guide and driver are speechless for a moment … The pyramids belong to the ancient Kushite capital of Meroe nearby and served as a royal cemetery from the 8th century BC until the 4th century AD. … Since the Kushite kings of Meroe saw themselves as legitimate heirs to the Egyptian Pharaohs – the 25th Dynasty had been from today’s Sudan, Meroe controlled some important temples, and Egypt itself was meanwhile under the control of foreign powers – they continued to build in a super-Pharaonic style. They built (smallish) pyramids ... Continue reading
Posted Dec 27, 2016 at Westwards
Thanks, Dennis. Good for us that most of their food is vegetarian anyway...
We travelled overland from Abu Simbel in Egypt to Khartoum in 15 days / 14 nights in November 2016. Travelling in Northern Sudan may not be easy and comfortable, but it's rather straightforward and the opportunities for spending money were quite limited. Altogether we spent a little more than 800 €, not including the bus in and the flight out of Sudan, but including all other fees and visa costs. Nearly half of that amount went directly to the government, covering visa and similar fees and sightseeing. Accommodation, food, and transport on the other hand were almost negligible.... Accommodation - On average we spent 11.65 € per night on accommodation: ... Continue reading
Posted Dec 10, 2016 at Westwards
A hot desert wind is sweeping across the sand dunes as we walk towards the pyramids in Nuri in Northern Sudan. White animal bones and skulls are bleaching in the relentless sun, while in the distance someone is leading a group of camels. There are about 6 or 8 stone pyramids, smaller but still similar to the Old Kingdom Pyramids in Gizeh/ Egypt. The largest of the pyramids is so eroded and weather-beaten that it might be mistaken for a very peculiarly-shaped hill; but it is the pyramid-tomb of Taharqa, the greatest Nubian king and Egyptian Pharaoh of the 25th Dynasty. By the 8th century BC, the might of the Egyptian Kingdoms had waned and the Nile country had seen several divisions and foreign rules. On the upper reaches of the Nile, in today's Sudan, the Nubian Kingdom of Kush grew stronger – and the Black African Nubians, who had once been colonised by Egypt and adopted the Egyptian gods, customs and civilisation, felt as the appropriate heirs to revive the Pharaonic Kingdom … Continue reading
Posted Nov 26, 2016 at Westwards
Girls are walking in groups up and down Aswan's Corniche in the early evening light, sporting colourful headscarves and daring knitwear jackets that cover only the back part of the hips. Even those accompanied by stern older women in textile-intensive black garb and who are wearing black as well, manage to accentuate their waists or let some strains of hair come through the headscarves. The fashion-conscious young women talk to us freely, asking us a lot of curious questions, and they also interact with men quite normally. The surprising thing about this is that Aswan, far in the South of Upper Egypt, is one of the more conservative places in Egypt. At our last visit in 2012/13, at the height of the Mursi administration, people had been timid and depressed … It seems to us that by far most Egyptians appreciate the newest change of government: … Continue reading
Posted Nov 17, 2016 at Westwards
Thanks, Sarah - we have managed half-way so far ...
We had started before nine am from Cairo in order to reach Hurghada by the early afternoon. It was supposed to be an uneventful, boring bus ride of a few hours through the desert with glimpses of the Red Sea and the Sinai Mountains beyond, and we had brought a sweater against the air-con in the bus but nothing to read or work. After dozing for three hours, the lunch break seemed unnecessary... Oh had we skipped the break! Half an hour later we are among the first to be stopped in a roadblock near Ras Gharib, a small town at the Red Sea coast ... The onward coastal road is closed, nothing unusual, it seems. “Due to the bad weather”, our hotel in Hurghada confirms when we call to say we are delayed. “A few hours,” assures the bus driver when we have relocated to a small cafeteria at the edge of the town. “No, not tomorrow,” he laughs at Natascha's suggestion. Meanwhile it has gone dark, and heavy rain has set in. ... Continue reading
Posted Nov 1, 2016 at Westwards
The plate is heaped with deep-fried vegetables and squares of manioc, various pastes made from pulses or aubergines, salads and crispy ta'miya balls, garnished with a generous amount of peanut sauce and served with a small flat Arabian bread. There's a lot of cumin in the ta'miya (like falafel, but made from beans), and spices we don't recognize in a fried lentil stick they call "nile fingers". In the run-up to our planned Sudan trip in November (we'll still need to get the visa), we test another couple of Sudanese diners in Berlin. There are quite a few of them, but taste rather alike, and … Having attended to the basic needs, we went to see Sudanese culture in Berlin – or rather: archaeological finds from Sudan. The New Museum's Egypt collection … Continue reading
Posted Oct 17, 2016 at Westwards
Thanks for your kind words - and I already bought a new bike. Hopefully I can pick it up today....Natascha
Time is flying or so it seems, and autumn has arrived. The last three months again were a very busy time for us, and we didn't have much time for updating the travel blog. At the end of June we came back from the one-month research trip for the new edition of our Uzbekistan guidebook and in mid-July we left again for Tyrol in Austria. And that is where we spent the best part of the summer – in the mountains of the Alps, doing research for a brand-new guidebook on Tyrol. Seven fun- and action-packed but exhausting weeks. One of the absolute highlights was a five-day Alpine climbing excursion … Continue reading
Posted Oct 6, 2016 at Westwards
We had been warned by the locals - every time we mentioned the Drau River Cycling Path, they frowned and murmured something about "the Italians". But nevertheless we stuck with our plan of cycling the first leg of the Drau River Cycling Path. Our one-day cycling trip begins in the small town of Toblach in Northern Italy, and by the time we reach Innichen … later we reach Sillian, a somewhat nondescript small town and yet home to one of the best chocolate makers around, perhaps in the whole of Tyrol: Pichler chocolates. We had already come across their fabulous products … Continue reading
Posted Sep 24, 2016 at Westwards
We are still writing, but with different priorities ...
“The trail is not easy: After passing ladders and iron clamps, you finally have to draw yourself up a rock face to stand upon a narrow ridge”. That's anyway what Natascha remembers having read about the "Klamml Steig" (ravine track) in the Eagle Trail booklet detailing our trekking tour through the Kaiser Mountains. Being in the mountains for three days, we do have some luggage and it is quite foggy today – so she's nervous. … Only when we climb some particularly high rock steps, and stand on a small trail with meadows falling off to the side, we realize that this must already have been the difficult part! … The "Wilde Kaiser" Mountain (lit. “wilde emperor mountain”) doesn't relate to one of those Habsburg emperors of which the Austrians – and the Tyroleans for that matter – had quite a few. The term denotes … Continue reading
Posted Sep 10, 2016 at Westwards
Apparently they haven't yet reinstalled any exhibition inside the castle building - so if there are crowds (which can happen in the tourist seasons in spring and autumn) there's not really a point in going inside the main tower. From the gardens and side buildings you get the best views, whereas from inside you see mostly the town of Himeji from above, which is not really worthwhile. But the whole layout of the walls and structures, yes, that's the castle to visit in Japan.
In a guest house in Samarkand we met Ben from Young Pioneer Travels, a travel agency that specializes in budget trips to North Korea and strange former Soviet places in general. He told us about the solar furnace north of Tashkent and a few weeks later, coming from the small town of Parkent, we see a huge and rather indefinable building on one of the foothills of the Chimgan mountains: A somehow pyramid-shaped tower in metallic white and yellow – a type of building we would otherwise associate with a weird religious cult, but we are in Uzbekistan and that's clearly out of the question. ... Continue reading
Posted Jul 23, 2016 at Westwards
Some of the hotels at Lake Akanko Display moss balls in water jars in their Lobby.
Yes, and it's easy to organise and a brief day trip from Berlin.
Half of the year 2016 is already over and it is time for our second quarterly review: We both spent April travelling in Japan doing tour guiding work for different German tour operators. Everything went rather smooth, and with nice guests and interesting itineraries we had a good month. In mid-April, several earthquakes hit the area of Kumamoto, …We spent the bigger part of May in Berlin, with writing assignments for travel articles and the preparation of several upcoming research trips for our travel guidebooks. In between we went to Tyrol for 12 days to check out … Continue reading
Posted Jul 7, 2016 at Westwards
„The historical guided tour will start at approximately 1 pm sharp“, roars the guy at the ticket counter at 12.58 – maybe he thinks himself funny. Around 70 people have gathered for the tour of the Teufelsberg spy installations left from the Cold War area in the southwestern part of Berlin. Fifteen minutes later, the ticket seller is still commanding visitors to sign their names and addresses into a list. Several people comment on his rudeness and the bad vibes he is emitting, so we are glad as the actual guide arrives. Continue reading
Posted Jun 25, 2016 at Westwards