Where Past Meets Present, Where Shopping Meets Food – Bikini Berlin

Berlin is my ultimate favorite city. Having lived there for over two years, I used to live in different neighborhoods but I finally settled in Wilmersdorf – in a charming side street off Kurfürstendamm. I used to catch an S-Bahn at Zoologischer Garten or U-Bahn at Kurfürstendamm, and in front of my eyes I saw how the nearby area got slowly revamped.  I moved away for work, but I tend to return to Berlin whenever I can; during my recent visit I stayed near Breitscheidplatz where I once lived – it was nice to witness how the area slowly revived.

Complex the Zentrum am Zoo (Centre at the Zoo) at Breitscheidplatz – once a symbol of Berlin’s City West – built in 1957 by architects Paul Schwebes and Hans Schoszberger, is one of the few still preserved contemporary reminders of the eventful history of post-war Berlin. The centerpiece of the complex was the legendary fully glazed Bikinihaus – the name affectionately given by the locals in the 1950s. Abandoned during the Cold War, Zentrum am Zoo transformed into Bikini Berlin in 2014.

Bikini Berlin became a concept shopping mall with carefully curated selection of unique boutiques and a rich gastronomical offer. It offers relaxed and warm ambiance where one feels warm and welcome.

An additional highlight of the Bikini Berlin is its freely accessible rooftop terrace – resembling New York’s Highline Park and Paris’ Coulée verte René-Dumont. It also offers spectacular views onto the neighboring Zoo.

I applaud this transformation of the Zentrum am Zoo, and I can only hope that other European cities will follow this example.

Magical Mediterranean Apartment

Unforgettable vacation in the former house of one of the oldest Yugoslav actresses of the 20th century – Ita Rina

No matter how many times you visit the Balkan side of the Adriatic coast, you will never get enough of it. It is magnificent with its world-class beaches, multi-faceted architecture, and delicious food.

Budva in Montenegro is the perfect place for anyone wishing to explore Montenegro, Southern Croatian coastline, Herzegovina or Albania. Mountains, lakes and other natural beauties are just within hours of reach. Budva itself, a small resort town on the Adriatic coast, has beautiful sandy beaches and a splendid nightlife. It is one of few places that we always return to.

For all of the above reasons, Budva gets crowded in Summer. But we have our perfect getaway – magical Mediterranean apartment, Villa Janina. The apartment is located on a slope just above the city center. Thus, even if you don’t like spending your days on nearby beaches, don’t fear. Villa Janina has a tranquil garden and a relaxing terrace. The apartment is ideal for someone who wants to be in a city center and yet likes to seek refuge on hot Mediterranean days in a private oasis

The apartment has two double rooms, bathroom and a kitchenette. It is surrounded by a large terrace that has a beautiful mountain view and a pleasing side sea-view. Steps lead down to a typical Mediterranean garden with old olive trees, palms and other local flora.

Having two  rooms, Villa Janina accommodates up to four persons. It provides a much needed rest, relaxation and comfort that will fully soak visitors in during their stay. Each room has a unique design.

Practical Information

When is the best time to go there? The season lasts 4 months, from early May to late September.

If you are there in late August or in September, you will have a chance to observe how delicious organic grapes ripen slowly above a terrace – you can pick them by hand and enjoy their fresh taste.

How to get there? The quickest way to get to Budva is to fly to one of the nearby airports: Tivat, Montenegro (20km away), Podgorica, Montenegro (65km away), or Dubrovnik, Croatia (71km away). Then you can take a taxi – recommended if you are coming in July or August, as you will not stress in holiday traffic – or rent a car – recommended for anyone arriving in May or September.

How to book? The advised method of booking is through VRBO or AirBnb. Contact information via Facebook Page.

Photo Diary: Wintertime in Cracow

Kraków (Cracow) is the second largest cities in Poland. It is also one of the oldest ones. This city, situated on the Wisła (Vistula) river, has been one of the leading centers of academic, cultural, and artistic life in Poland for centuries. As such, it is a must see for urban travelers, architecture lovers, or history buffs.

  • Throughout the history, Kraków was the capital of numerous Polish states, entities and regions. Today it is the capital of the Małopolska (Lesser Poland) region.
  • Before the World War II Kraków had a large Jewish population. During the war its Jewish population was forced into a walled zone, known as Kraków Ghetto.
  • Jagiellonian University, one of the oldest surviving universities in the world, was founded in Kraków in 1364.
  • Karol Wojtyła, Pope John Paul II, was born in the nearby town of Wadowice. He moved to Kraków for his studies where he lived and worked until he was elected the Pope in 1978.
  • In 2000, Kraków was the European Capital of Culture.
  • Entire Old Town of Kraków is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

We recommend going to Kraków during summer months; however, if you are prone to cold, Kraków is magical during winter months too. All you have to do is to bring your warm clothes and to sip a hot glass of mulled wine every now and then. For now, enjoy the photo diary below.

Kraków’s Rynek (Main Square) is one of the largest medieval town squares in Europe. Sukiennice (Cloth Hall) and Kościół Mariacki (Saint Mary’s Church) are the focal points of the square.  On every hour, a trumpet signal – Hejnał mariacki – is being played from one of the Saint Mary’s towers;  the tune abruptly stops to commemorate the famous trumpeter, who was shot in the throat while alerting the city about the imminent attack. The town hall has not survived to the present day.

Mały Rynek (Little Main Square) is another jewel of the city. It is located right behind Saint Mary’s Church.

Wawel is a fortified complex erected atop a rock on the left bank of the Vistula river. It consists of many buildings and fortifications – the best known are the Royal Castle and the Wawel Cathedral.

At the foothill by the river there is Smok Wawelski (Wawel dragon), a mythical beast who ate virgins…

Have you ever been to Kraków, let us know what you liked the most. If not, have we sparked your curiosity?

Photo Diary: 24 Hours in Belgrade

At the beginning of October I visited Belgrade. It was a quick work-related trip; I did not have a lot of time for roaming around the city except on my free and very chilly Saturday. Thus, 24 Hours in Belgrade.

As a kid I frequented the capital of Serbia. At first I loved it, but as the times changed on the Balkans, Belgrade became heavy, gray and depressing. This time around, I fell in love with Belgrade again – the city is still grey, but with many hip and colorful developments. Some of which are highly controversial e.g. Belgrade Waterfront. Belgrade is a modern European capital, which will not disappoint you.

All the snapshots below have been taken with my then IPhone 6.

Belgrade streets on Saturday morning and always elegant Hotel Moskva.

Even on early morning, Kalemegdan was buzzing with life.

It was a freezing day; thankfully, Belgrade has many cool cafes and restaurants, where one can seek refuge from the cold, enjoy a good cup of coffee, or indulge in a tasty meal. All of the places that I have visited offered a good service, quality coffee and tasty food. But my favorite was Kafeterija – I visited their 2 locations and I loved both – for their hip interior.

Belgrade is a city of contrasts and many call it Europe’s “new Berlin”.

Let us know how you liked it or if the above photos inspired you to visit Belgrade one day.

Flanders: Reading Between the Lines

Belgium gathers some of the greatest artists that create the most impressive public art. From giant murals to interesting structures, Belgian public is actively engaged in an active dialogue in public spaces where public art is located.

This ten meter-high church – Doorkijkkerk, or Reading Between the Lines – made of 100 layers of steel palettes is located in Belgian province of Limburg. It represents a church when looked at from the right angle. This see-through chapel merges landscape, heritage, and religion in an art installation that is 90 percent air.

Reading Between the Lines was part of the Z-OUT project by Z33, which aimed to bring art into public spaces. Creators are young Belgian architects Pieterjan Gijs and Arnout Van Vaerenbergh.

Photo Diary: Monschau in Summer

The town of Monschau is located in the narrow valley of the Rur river on the border of Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. Monschau was historically known for its cloth-mills, today popular mainly with tourists. Picturesque, narrow streets have remained nearly unchanged for more than hundreds of years. Perfect location for a weekend getaway and for overindulging in cuteness.

Below you will find my favorite selection of images that showcase Monschau during a summer day.

Best of Paris: Canal Saint Martin

Canal Saint Martin has been on our Paris bucket list for some time already. Recently my Parisian colleague confirmed that this gentrifying, 19th century waterway  is a great summer hangout.

Namely, in recent years, this shabby-chic area in northeastern Paris started drawing trendy crowds. Iron-footbridges, cosy restaurants, cute shops, and interesting architecture make for a picturesque district in 10th and 19 arrondissements. Once a working class neighborhood, the area is quickly changing into a picturesque and trendy neighborhood as young Parisians move in because of cheaper rents.

On Sundays and public holidays, the quays along the canal are closed off to traffic. We went there on a weekend of August 15th, which is a long weekend in France, and we had the canal to ourselves. Many cafes, boutiques and stores were closed; nevertheless, we loved experiencing empty Paris. However, rumor has it that  on a warm spring or summer evening Canal Saint Martin buzzes with locals who bring their own booze and sit somewhere along the canal. Just along the canal, Bassin de la Villette buzzed with summer outdoor activities. Have a look at the video below.

Paris’ Elevated Park: Coulée verte René-Dumont

What today feels like an urban oasis 10 meters above the street level were once rail tracks, which linked Place de la Bastille with Varenne-Saint-Maur since 1859. The Coulée verte René-Dumont, also known as the Promenade Plantée, was converted into the world’s first elevated park walkway in 1993. At that time most residents thought that redevelopment of train tracks was a waste of money. Today this is a place enjoyed by many – city panorama across Parisian rooftops and terraces is spectacular; however, still some people down on the streets don’t even realize that the walkway exists just above their heads.

During our recent visit we discovered just a small part of this 4.5km green belt – the part above the Viaduc des Arts. The other parts are definitely on our bucket list for the next times we visit Paris.