Author: thealternativeatlas

Feeling Festive at the Berlin Christmas Markets!

Berlin is one of the most culturally diverse and artistically relevant cities in the world and there is so much to say about this global capital, but we are gonna save all of that for later… because right now we need to focus on the Christmas markets! This city takes its holiday festivities very seriously, and there are a wide range of Christmas markets for every taste.  We visited a few of the markets, and our favorite is the WeihnachtsZauber at the Gendarmenmarkt, located between the famous Konzerthaus and the French Cathedral.  Our most feverish holiday expectations were met with joyous Berliners occupying pristine stalls selling Glühwein (hot mulled wine), handmade ornaments, gourmet holiday treats, and everything Christmas and Hanukkah themed.   Make no mistake, Santa Claus is definitely coming to this town! ^^^The holiday spirit abounds at this magical marketplace, and we were delighted to see so many festive wares on display in the square.  We spent the entire afternoon perusing the stalls and checking out the goods. ^^^We took a break for lunch …

Bratislava in Contrast | The Alternative Atlas

Bratislava in Contrast

This city is undoubtedly on the way to being named a “must-see” trendy European destination in the near future, and the charming old town will make many visitors feel like they’ve stepped directly into a fairy tale (we posted a few images here).  What lies under the surface is the otherworldly contrast that is seen between the grey Communist blocks and the playfully ornate art deco and Austro-Hungarian buildings outside of the tourist stomping grounds. An embarrassingly quick history of this gritty Eastern European capital: once a part of Czechoslovakia, the city of Bratislava was under the control of the USSR following WWII and it fell behind the iron curtain during the Cold War with the United States.  In 1993 the nation was split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia, with Bratislava becoming the capital of the latter.  Slovakia is now a free nation and is a part of the E.U., but the Communist influence remains. ^^^Sights like these make for an interesting landscape: the infamous Blue Church (of St. Elisabeth) sits directly beside a …

Bratislava or Bust! | The Alternative Atlas

Bratislava or Bust!

After months of traveling and exploring many of Europe’s major cities, this impossibly charming little place remains one of my favorite capitals in the world.  The word hidden gem only begins to describe the allure of this city.  We visited Bratislava on a whim while staying in Vienna, and we were mesmerized. Bratislava is the capital of Slovakia, and is located along the border with Austria and neighboring Hungary.  We took a one-hour bus ride from Vienna (only 37 miles way!) and arrived in the center of the sunny 18th century old town without any idea what to expect… and the blanks filled in quickly! The old town is adorable and full of little passages and cobblestone side-streets.  Wandering around those little alleys is so much fun, and it is common to emerge from a dilapidated passageway into a bright and spectacular backstreet… ^^^…shared only by the nuns attending their errands. The contrasting nature of the buildings in Bratislava offers a feast for the eyes and makes for an unbelievably photogenic city.  The graffiti-covered walls, Communist …

Frankfurt Photo Tour

Frankfurt is a huge city.  It’s a major transportation hub, hosting one of Europe’s busiest airports and is the largest financial center in continental Europe.  Frankfurt’s famous skyline comprised of high-rises is often referred to as “Mainhatten” and has a rebuilt Old Town that is impossibly cute. It is extremely affordable to visit with easy public transportation, cheap beer, good food, trendy art galleries and street markets. Plus, there are so many old dudes here that LOVE blasting Rammstein while driving down streets packed with pedestrians, and I’m obviously really into that.  With so much to offer, Frankfurt hardly makes it onto any travelers list.  Most just pass through onto the next destination.  Why?  Frankfurt’s charm and attraction is not so obvious and requires a little digging. We ended up in Frankfurt after accepting a house-sitting gig there for two weeks, and were initially planning to take it easy and use our time to regroup after a solid 2 months of backpacking through the UK, Ireland, Scandinavia, France, Belgium and the Netherlands.  Our idea was …

Alternative Zurich

The Fraumünster Church is an icon of the city which dominates the skyline and features stained-glass windows designed by Marc Chagall.  The presentation is gorgeous and similar to the Chagall windows at the Art Institute of Chicago, but at the church there is absolutely no photography allowed.  We payed a quick visit here during our stay in Zurich and left after wandering around the dark and somber church for a few minutes.  We had no idea that we would be returning the following evening when the space would be transformed into a shining performance space by art collective Baushtellë and be confronted by a program of thought-provoking contemporary work. Members of Baushtellë from Prishtinë, Beograd and Zürich participated in the complete transformation of the Fraumünster Church.  I love what they did with the space… coincidentally it was my first time seeing an artist perform semi-nude inside a church.  And this time, photography was encouraged! At the heart of this collective is an exploration of a system of beliefs, so I found it very appropriate that the exhibition was held …

How to Visit Switzerland Without Going Completely Broke

Switzerland has a big reputation, and rightly so if you’re into stunningly beautiful landscapes and picturesque snow-capped Alpine mountain ranges.  After arriving in Zurich we subsequently discovered that we had unwittingly plopped ourselves down into the middle of one of the most expensive places in the world to visit.  I quickly realized that there needs to be another element added to that big reputation: the price tag. Our decision to visit Switzerland was a rash and impulsive one, and I remember my thought process being something like yeah, I’m into mountains, I’m into trains, I’m going there!  Needless to say, the bank account is still recovering from these delusional ravings.  I’ve decided to supplement the typical “Check Out How Beautiful Switzerland Is” post (which we shamelessly did right here) with something more practical for traveling on a budget.  These are our tips for visiting Zurich without breaking the bank. Plan ahead.  We had taken a bus to Zurich from Germany, where affordable prices for just about everything are perfect for budget backpackers like ourselves.  Imagine my dismay upon …

Zurich in Living Color

As a leading financial center and renowned global city, Zurich lives up to it’s well-earned hype.  It is widely regarded as one of the best places in the world to live (commonly ranking first in quality-of-life indexes), and it is an esteemed hub for business as well as the arts (one of Christopher’s best friends owned an art gallery there for years).  This was our first opportunity to visit Switzerland, so we made a spontaneous decision and took a bus into Zurich for a few days to see what all the fuss was about. We quickly learned that Zurich’s vibrant old town is surrounded by a stunningly beautiful natural landscape, and surprises awaited us around every corner. ^^^Swans everywhere!  This elegant pair are part of a much larger population that calls Lake Zürich home. ^^^We spent an afternoon lounging in the sun at the one of Zurich’s waterfront parks.