France, Day 1: Avengers Assemble

Nothing much really on this day because half of it was spent for our train travel from Cologne to Paris. My friend, M, had a later time schedule so we waited for him at the station.

APRIL 28, 2019

Nothing much really on this day because half of it was spent for our train travel from Cologne to Paris. My friend, M, had a later time schedule so we waited for him at the station.

We took some rest in M’s place then decided to watch Avengers: Infinity War Part II. Thankfully, there were cinemas in Paris that showed non-dubbed version. We had crepe for dinner in one of M’s favorite creperies.

Germany, Day 6: Cologne Cathedral

Our last city to visit in Germany! I was so excited to see Cologne Cathedral in person because even with just pictures, both the exterior and interior were beautiful.

APRIL 27, 2019

Our last city to visit in Germany! I was so excited to see Cologne Cathedral in person because even with just pictures, both the exterior and interior were beautiful.

I requested my sister to braid my hair for a change in hairstyle during this trip. Hehe.

COLOGNE CATHEDRAL is a display of Gothic architecture and considered as a UNESCO Heritage Site. Its two towers make it an icon both for the church and for the city. Also, Cologne Cathedral survived the bombing during WWII even if it sustained some damage.

I was trying to get a good shot of the whole cathedral just like this picture from TripSavvy…

However, it was raining and it was so cold that day that I could not bear to stay too long outside. I also tried putting far distance but my camera could not just capture it.

Here are some of my favorites inside the cathedral:

We had brunch in FRÜH AM DOM, which was just walking distance from Cologne Cathedral. All of us ordered the same thing – sausage and Kölsch, which is a style of beer unique to Cologne. Not that I can taste the difference but I must say, Kölsch tasted good.

Before we continued our itinerary, we went back to our Airbnb to put on additional layers of clothing because the temperature dropped to winter-like (below 5C).

Germany, Day 5: More Berlin Sights

There was not much in our itinerary so we decided to wake up late and start with a Curry 36 brunch. The place is famous for its currywurst, which is my sister’s favorite. I ordered one serving but ended up ordering another one because it was good and I was really hungry.

APRIL 26, 2019

There was not much in our itinerary so we decided to wake up late and start with a CURRY 36 brunch. The place is famous for its currywurst, which is my sister’s favorite. I ordered one serving but ended up ordering another one because it was good and I was really hungry.

First stop was CHECKPOINT CHARLIE, a former border crossing during the Cold War and division of Berlin.

Next stop was EAST SIDE GALLERY, a more than 1-km remnant of the Berlin Wall with series of murals painted on it. One of the prominent themes in the murals is the call for peace.

We still had time before leaving for Cologne so we went to DER EISLADEN IN BERLIN MITTE. My sister got her favorite coffee drink in Germany, Eiskaffee while I got the Apfelstrudel.

Germany, Day 4: Berlin Sights

We first visited Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg Gate), especially because the other locations we want to visit were walking distance from there. It was originally a symbol of the division during Cold War but now, it has become a national symbol of peace and unity.

APRIL 25, 2019

We first visited BRANDENBURGER TOR (Brandenburg Gate), especially because the other locations we want to visit were walking distance from there. It was originally a symbol of the division during Cold War but now, it has become a national symbol of peace and unity.

A short walk from there was the MEMORIAL TO THE MURDERED JEWS OF EUROPE. It was constructed as a memorial for the Holocaust victims but at the same time a grim warning to not repeat the mistakes of the past.

I was annoyed though by a few tourists who kept on taking pictures of themselves with the place – either selfies or IG/blogger pose. Talk about being insensitive.

While passing by the Tiergarten going to Reicstag Building, we saw the MEMORIAL TO THE SINTI AND ROMA OF EUROPE MURDERED UNDER NATIONAL SOCIALISM. The stones on the ground had every concentration camp carved into each. There was also a pool at the center where the triangular-shaped stone symbolized the badge worn by prisoners. According to articles online, a fresh flower is placed on the stone everyday.

When we reached REICHSTAG BUILDING, we found out that there were no more open time slot to visit the dome even for the next day. If you want to visit it, I highly suggest that you reserve online months before your visit.

We went to MUSTAFA’S GEMÜSE KEBAP for lunch and we were lucky that there were just 2 customers when we visited. My sister got the chicken döner while I ordered the chicken dürüm. The only difference was that she got it in a sandwich-like format while mine resembled a shawarma (pita bread).

Our last stop for the day was BERLINER DOM (Berlin Cathedral).

The exterior was being renovated at that time and we could see that some of the statues were already worn out. However, when we got inside, we couldn’t help but be in awe on how grand it looked like. The most striking part for me was the altar and the dome above it. The area with the organ was also majestic.

After we explored up until 2nd floor, we found an exhibit dedicated to Johann Sebastian Bach. We stayed there for quite some time to listen to the musical pieces highlighted in the exhibit.

There was an option to climb about 400 steps to reach the rooftop and we took on that challenge. By the latter half, my legs were shaking seeing the steps and imagining how high we were already. The view though was so rewarding that I eventually forgot my fear.

We went back to our Airbnb to rest then had dinner at SAHARA IMBISS, as recommended by M’s friend. I ordered the chicken and falafel sandwich, and it was delicious!

Germany, Day 3: More München Moments

I was excited to see MUNICH RESIDENZ as it is the formal royal palace of House of Wittelsbach and it is considered as the largest city palace in Germany. My favorite part in the palace is seeing all rooms lavishly decorated with gold and chandeliers.

APRIL 24, 2019

We took some time trying to find the entrance to Munich Residenz because of the pin in Google Maps but that allowed us to explore this area nearby…

Apparently, we already passed by the entrance the previous day during the free walking tour. I was excited to see MUNICH RESIDENZ as it is the formal royal palace of House of Wittelsbach and it is considered as the largest city palace in Germany. My favorite part in the palace is seeing all rooms lavishly decorated with gold and chandeliers.

Before getting our luggage from J’s place, we grabbed some lunch at STEINHEIL 16. My sister and I shared one order of schnitzel and one order of Käsespätzle. Good decision because the serving size was too big for just one of us to finish. Both were really delicious and sad to say, I haven’t found any schnitzel or Käsespätzle in PH that can rival Steinheil 16’s.

Off to our next stop – Berlin, Germany!

Germany, Day 1: München Moments

When we arrived at the central station, my high school friends (J & M) picked me up. Since J was staying and working in Munich, he was in charge of touring us around. We first went to Englischer Garten (English Garden), one of the largest urban parks in the world.

APRIL 22, 2019

When we arrived at the central station, my high school friends (J & M) picked me up. My sister headed off to Heidelberg to see her best friend. We ate breakfast in a nearby bakery before dropping off our stuff in J’s place.

Since J was staying and working in Munich, he was in charge of touring us around. We first went to ENGLISCHER GARTEN (English Garden), one of the largest urban parks in the world.

The place was really huge that we had to use Google Maps to find our way to CHINESISCHER TURM (Chinese Tower). When we reached the place, we ordered the following for lunch: Käsespätzle (cheese pasta), Schweinshaxn (pork knuckles), Bratwurst with Sauerkraut, and Weißwurst. I also ordered Apfelschorle which looked like beer but it’s just apple juice + sparkling water. I was so happy that I was able to meet my high school friends because they made me feel like I was back home.

We did not have anything planned in the afternoon so J recommended a free walking tour that would start in MARIENPLATZ. We went there and it was a nice 2.5-hour tour to get familiar with some of the famous spots nearby such as Glockenspiel, Frauenkirche, Hofbräuhaus.

M left our group for a dinner with another friend so J brought me to another park – WESTPARK. I envy Munich for having large parks where you can stroll or run around for workout, without fearing death by pollution or cars.

As it was Easter Monday, a lot of restaurants were either closed or closing early. J brought me to one of his favorite burger places, FIVE GUYS. I got the cheeseburger and it was huge that I could not finish the whole thing. As a burger lover, yes this one was actually good.

Italy, Day 10: Venice

Our last stop in Italy! We stayed in an Airbnb near the central station of Venice as the price was much cheaper. From the Airbnb, we hopped on a bus going straight to the popular area but we woke up early to beat the crowd.

APRIL 21, 2019

Our last stop in Italy! We stayed in an Airbnb near the central station of Venice as the price was much cheaper. From the Airbnb, we hopped on a bus going straight to the popular area but we woke up early to beat the crowd.

Our first order of business was supposed to be a gelateria but it was closed. So, we went to the bakery beside it – MAJER. We ordered a pizza slice and tried the arancini with prosciutto and mozzarella.

That arancina was super good that we had to order a take-out for our dinner onboard the overnight ÖBB train to Munich. 🤣 When we were done, we were surprised to see that GELATO DI NATURA was not closed for the Easter Sunday. They just opened later than usual. I ordered panna cotta and dark chocolate flavors, and both were really good.

Overall, Venice was nice but quite difficult for me to enjoy because of the insane amount of tourists during our time of visit.

We passed by RIALTO BRIDGE but we were not able to get good shots because of the crowd.

After a lot of walking, we finally saw ST. MARK’S CLOCKTOWER, which was a sign that the basilica was nearby.

We bought Skip-the-line tickets online for entry to ST. MARK’S BASILICA. At first, I was nervous if we bought legitimate tickets because we could not see any sign of the seller. We thought that maybe we were just hours early for the ticket. We decided to just explore the area first.

When it was 30 minutes before our entry time, we checked out the front of the basilica and was glad to find that the booth had been set up for those who had online pass/voucher (click here). I have no picture to place here because photography was not allowed inside the basilica. A few tourists violated this rule though.

Since the gondola price was too expensive to share between just me and my sister, we decided to ride the vaporetto (water bus) as a cheaper option to pass through the Grand Canal.

It was still quite early so before we left the area, I told my sister that I wanted to visit CHIESA DI SANTA MARIA DI NAZARETH, which was just near the central station. I was glad to find some peace and quiet in here because there were only a few people around.

If you’re in Venice, this should be a must-visit because the interior is really beautiful. It’s a small church so it will not take up too much of your time.

At past 21:00, we finally left the central station to head to Munich. Our ETA was around 06:00 the next day so we had time to catch some snooze.

Italy, Day 9: Milan

We left early the next morning to visit Duomo di Milano even if our tour was still in the afternoon. We went around the church to admire its exterior… it was so huge that it took us some minutes to finish going around.

APRIL 20, 2019

Despite being almost-victims to a scam, we had a good night’s sleep in our Airbnb thanks to our lovely hosts and their free snacks. We left early the next morning to visit DUOMO DI MILANO even if our tour was still in the afternoon. We went around the church to admire its exterior… it was so huge that it took us some minutes to finish going around.

For lunch, we first stuffed our tummies with the famous panzerottis from LUINI. We got the pomodoro e mozzarella and prosciutto e mozzarella – both were really delicious! We were lucky that there was not a long line when we got there because by the time we finished ordering, a long line started to form.

Since we opted to have half of our orders to be our dinner on our journey to Venice, we decided to get pasta from PIZZERIA DI GENNARO.

We went to EMANUELE VITTORIO MALL afterwards, with still an hour to kill before our tour. Most of the shops were for premium / luxury brands so nothing for us to see. Haha!

Finally, it was time for our tour! We booked a tour with Veneranda Fabbrica del Duomo di Milano (click here), the organization responsible for the construction, maintenance, and restoration of Duomo. I highly recommend that you book your tour with them because they are the only ones allowed to skip the line (both for inside the cathedral and rooftop).

Milan Cathedral is the 5th largest church in the world and it took more than six centuries to finally complete it. After the tour, I can say that this is my favorite church so far! It made the trip to Milan worthwhile despite being almost-victims to a scam.

After Viktor toured us in different parts of the duomo, it was finally time to go up the rooftop. Again, because we booked the tour with VFDM, we were the only group that was allowed to skip the line.

Seeing the spires up close was a treat and we had to walk slowly to take in all the details around us.

Viktor bid us goodbye at the end of the tour but he pointed that we could still go up to see the Madonnina spire up close. According to him, Madonnina represents the heart and soul of the city that’s why it is respected and held in high regard by Milan citizens.

We had to hurry back to our Airbnb hosts after the tour as we had a Trenitalia train to catch up going to Venice. If you haven’t been to Milan, I’d say go there once just to see the duomo.

Italy, Day 8: Florence Cathedral

As it was our last day in Florence, we wanted to make sure that we visit Florence Cathedral, a UNESCO Heritage Site. We lined up for more than 2 hours before we were able to go inside so it was a battle between boredom and fatigue from standing. When it was finally our turn to go inside, it was somehow underwhelming.

APRIL 19, 2019

As it was our last day in Florence, we wanted to make sure that we visit FLORENCE CATHEDRAL / BASILICA DI SANTA MARIA DEL FIORE, a UNESCO Heritage Site.

We lined up for more than 2 hours before we were able to go inside so it was a battle between boredom and fatigue from standing. When it was finally our turn to go inside, it was somehow underwhelming. Not sure if it was a function of the altar and majority of the front section being off limits for that day… I read up about this cathedral before going in and sad to say, I was not able to see Giorgio Vasari’s frescoes of the Last Judgment.

We were contemplating if we wanted to go up the cupola designed by Burnelleschi but that would require another round of lining up so we took a pass. There was a basement section where the remains of a 7th century church could be seen.

Before going back to our Airbnb to check out, we had Florentine steak and carbonara for lunch from TRATTORIA DALL’OSTE. One order of the steak was good enough for me and my sister to share.

When we got our stuff from the Airbnb, I just had to make a last trip to our favorite gelateria nearby. I got the triple gelato flavors and no regrets!

It was finally time to travel to Milan (via Trenitalia), where we almost got scammed in one of the elevators in the central train station. Good thing we were alert enough to see them trying top open the zipper of our handbag! The same thing happened the next day when we were leaving Milan but a different set of scammers doing it.

Italy, Day 8: Palazzo Vecchio

Initially, we wanted to go to Uffizi but the line was already very long even before its opening hour. We decided to check Palazzo Vecchio and to our delight, there was no line at all. Palazzo Vecchio is the town hall of Florence and considered to be the city’s main symbol of civil power.

APRIL 19, 2019

Initially, we wanted to go to Uffizi but the line was already very long even before its opening hour. We decided to check PALAZZO VECCHIO and to our delight, there was no line at all.

Palazzo Vecchio is the town hall of Florence and considered to be the city’s main symbol of civil power.

There were a lot of Renaissance chambers, paintings, and sculptures to see even with just the first area in Palazzo Vecchio.

In a small corner of the room was Studiolo di Francesco I. There was a sign beside the entrance that access would be momentarily suspended during the Secret Passages tour, and that just made us regret it all the more that we did not know about the tour before going here.

We were able to spot the secret passage entrance that was cleverly hidden with a painting and the key camouflaging the color of the painting’s frame and wall.

The next part of our visit was seeing tons of rooms that were absolutely beautiful and magnificently decorated. We read that some of the rooms were even done by Michelangelo and Donatello.

It took us more than 2 hours to finish going around and in the last part of our visit, we found out that they had an exhibit set up to showcase some of Leonardo da Vinci’s works, letters, and sketches.

The last area we visited was the Hall of Maps, which showcased maps and Mappa Mundi, a 6-foot tall globe from centuries ago.