Friday, May 30, 2014

My Guest Post on "Will Travel for Vegan Food" - Germany’s Vegan Paradise + Tips from Expert World Travelers

I am very excited to have a guest column on the fabulous Will Travel for Vegan Food, a wonderful vegan and travel website. The website started as a project chronicling Kristin's 2 year epic vegan trip that took her to 48 states, 547 restaurants and 39,000+ van dwelling miles.

My guest blog is a summary of all the amazing vegan dining and shopping we experienced during our April 2014 trip to Berlin, Germany. Check the article for great tips, reviews, photos and insider tricks on travelling with ease:

Germany’s Vegan Paradise + Tips from Expert World Travelers

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Entering the Gates of Hell

We’ve been back from Germany for a few weeks now. It has taken me this long to be prepared to reflect on our visit to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, now a museum and memorial, located 35 kilometres outside of Berlin. We felt it was important to bear witness to the persecution, imprisonment, torture, and murder of Jews, Romani people, people with disabilities, gays and lesbians, and other groups, under the Nazi regime. “Recent estimates, based on figures obtained since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, indicate some ten to eleven million civilians and prisoners of war were intentionally murdered by the Nazi regime” (Source: 

We took the train to Oranienburg and walked for about 20 minutes to the gates of Sachsenhausen.  “Sachsenhausen ("Saxon's Houses", German pronunciation: [zaksənˈhaʊzən]) or Sachsenhausen-Oranienburg was a Nazi concentration camp in Oranienburg, Germany, used primarily for political prisoners from 1936 to the end of the Third Reich in May 1945. After World War II, when Oranienburg was in the Soviet Occupation Zone, the structure was used as an NKVD special camp until 1950” (source: 1936 and 1945 over 200,000 people were imprisoned in Sachsenhausen.

As we entered the gates we saw the expansive grounds and several buildings. There were barracks, a mortuary, crematory, guard towers and assorted buildings. Some were original buildings and some re-built, all housing written and visual histories of the camp and its’ prisoners. There were stories told of unimaginable terror, abuse, murder and stories of resilience and survival. The stories, photos and artifacts were overwhelming. There were stories of medical experimentation, castration of gay men, starvation, torture and murder. One artifact was the gallows where many lost their lives by hanging. The inscription read “There is nothing that injures humans feelings so deeply as being forced to watch a fellow human being executed” - Heinrich Lienau, a German political prisoner, in Sachsenhausen,1939-1945. 

I recall a story of remarkable bravery, in which a prisoner working in the woodworking shop,  falsified records so he could order in additional linseed oil which was used to oil the wood. He ordered more so that he could feed the linseed oil to other starving prisoners. Another story was of Frieda B. who snuck bread to some of the 200-300 prisoners who marched through town on their way to forced labor making aircraft parts at the Heinkel Factory in Germendorf.

In one area we came upon a large pit and my stomach immediately knotted up and my eyes brimmed with tears, which gave way to uncontrollable sobbing. The pit was used to execute groups of prisoners by shooting. Another building housed barracks, a latrine and small closet like room. As I read the inscriptions I learned that the closet was stuffed with prisoners to the point of death by suffocation and that people were drowned in the latrines on the whims of the guards. I was overcome by the feelings, the smells and the claustrophobic space and had to leave in tears. As I write this I am crying again thinking about the heaviness of this place.

Public remembrance of WWII and The Holocaust, is evident throughout Berlin in museums, monuments, and memorials. In addition to the Sachsenhausen memorial and museum, we also spent time bearing witness and learning more about this history at the Topography of Terror, and The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out-- Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out-- Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out-- Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me--and there was no one left to speak for me.”

By Martin Niemöller, a German, Anti-Nazi, Luthern Pastor, and prisoner at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Walking a half marathon in Berlin

We have walked 28 kms over two days of adventuring in Berlin!

Yesterday we spent the day checking the area near a portion of the Berlin Wall called Eastside Gallery, which is a 1.3km international memorial to freedom. We plan on renting bikes and checking out more of the wall later on. Near this portion of the wall we checked out the fantastic vegan grocer, Veganz, the adjacent vegan cafe, Goodies, and the upstairs vegan shoe shop, Avesu, and finally the upscale vegan restaurant Mio Matto. What a day in vegan paradise!

We also spent quite a bit of time in this large abandoned/repurposed warehouse complex. Some portions are empty while others have breathed new life with coffee shops, a skate park and a crossfit studio. It's interesting to see a few businesses sprinkled among abandoned buildings, squalor, broken glass, and extensive graffiti. I have mixed feelings of the epidemic of graffiti in Berlin. I enjoy photographing the very well done pieces, but do not agree with the vandalism. It is particularly sad to see sculptures, murals, and heritage buildings vandalized, and generally done so by "taggers" with no aesthetic appeal.

Today started the morning with breakfast of tofu quiche and bagel at the vegan cafe No Milk Today. We also purchased one week metro passes, which cost about $28 euros each, and explored further afield. We went to the Hamburger Bahnhof Contemporary Art Museum. They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and perhaps I've been spoiled by so many other fantastic museums, but I was not moved by much of the exhibits. I did enjoy the Marx collection which included some Andy Warhol pieces as well as the sound installation by Susan Phillipz.

Ah if we could only spend everyday strolling, viewing art and enjoying wonderful food...

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Monday, April 7, 2014

Ferret kisses and other adventures

We arrived in Frankfurt on Saturday April 5, 2015. The hotel I picked out, Neue Kraeme was perfectly situated to interesting architecture, public transportation and a 30 minute walk to the vegan grocery store, Veganz. We spent the first afternoon getting a lay of the land, wandering the nearby streets. We picked up a SIM card for my iPhone for about $30 euros which comes with 3GB of data. Having a phone with internet has totally changed travelling! It's so convenient to use maps/GPS, metro apps, and to find sites and restaurants.

Sunday we woke very early in Frankfurt and wandered the streets for a while checking out a large square and a bridge covered in lovers locks.

We made it to a quaint vegan bakery, Edelkiosk before heading to the train station for our trip to Berlin. At the station we chatted with a homeless man with two ferrets. After giving him some change I had intended to snap some photos of the ferrets scurrying around on the floor. However, the gentleman excitedly insisted he place them on my shoulder for J to take a photo. The photo was not flattering as I looked both perplexed and fearful as one of them starting kissing/tasting my face. You will just have to use your imagination.

We were pleasantly surprised to find vegan labelled lunch options in the train station, although we had packed snacks just in case. (In a previous trip to Bhutan, the tub of peanut butter we hauled around had been a life saver). We purchased our tickets online (after correcting my first mistake of buying tickets from Berlin to Frankfurt instead if the other way around). Using the very helpful we deciphered our tickets as car 2 and seats 25 & 26. Unfortunately the big 2 I saw on the outside of the train was for second class not car 2, which meant I inadvertently roused a sleeping woman who was "in my seat". She was thankfully nice when we realized the mix up. With our backpacks on, we then weaved up and down the bouncing and lurching train, through the dining cart twice, until we finally found our seats, probably moments before J would become sick. Settled in, we made the 4 hour trip and arrived in Berlin Sunday evening, to our lovely studio apartment on the fourth floor of a typical German walkup apartment. We used AirBnb which allows you to rent vacation rooms or whole apartments around the world. We like it as it is more affordable than a hotel, you can have a kitchen, you get to live in a local community and the great mapping features allow you to pick out a rental according to the area amenities you desire. This one is 500 meters from a yummy vegetarian restaurant, Yellow Sunshine, where we ate great vegan burgers soon after arriving. We again got the lay of the land by wandering several blocks before going to bed.

For my photos check out

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Thursday, April 3, 2014

Off to Germany!

We arrive in Frankfurt on April 5 and stay one night before departing on the train for a 4 hour tour of the countryside to Berlin. We will spend 11 nights in Berlin in an Airbnb vacation rental apartment before coming back to Frankfurt for our final 2 nights.

I've been preparing for the trip by reading the English Berlin magazine; The ExBerliner, chock full of articles on events, dining, shopping, entertainment and culture. Another helpful guide is Timeout Berlin, with great tips on attractions and museums.

So why Germany? So many reasons! It is a direct flight; no exhausting transfers or lay over. Berlin is full of amazing history, architecture, art and museums. We also adore vibrant cities and just spending time wandering the streets snapping photos, window shopping and checking out the local cuisine. Ah the food; Berlin is becoming known as a Vegan Mecca. This is a great article on the many vegan offerings Travel Guide: Vegan Berlin. And of course the always helpful HappyCow, the worldwide vegan friendly listings, has lots of suggestions for Germany. There is even an all vegan grocery; Veganz.

Adventure awaits!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Grenada so far

We arrived in Grenada a week ago and are staying at the marvellous Vegan Lodge. Each morning we start the day with a big bowl of lovely local fruits; banana, star fruit, mango, passion fruit, etc, toast, smoothie, and muesli. Each evening we enjoy an inspiring meal of homemade soup, salad, a creative main dish and finish with sorbet!

After breakfast, we depart for the day on a local mini bus which is about $1.00 each to St George's. Once in St George's we either stay there or take a second bus to the Grand Anse Beach area. So far in St George's we've wandered the streets taking photos of boats and buildings, sipped a piña colada by the waters edge, had a vegetable stuffed roti, and toured the tiny museum. Other days we head to the beach area and laze about under an beach umbrella and float in the ocean. We pick up snacks at the nearby IGA at the Spiceland Mall and grab lunch of either vegan sushi or pasta at restaurants next door. 

We took a special trip to the Grenada SPCA and dropped off the medical supplies we hauled from home and a cash donation. They were happy to receive it all. They have a very caring and clean facility. They provide spay and neuter to the homeless dogs and cats as well as low cost vet services for pets. A common surgery is leg amputation for dogs who have broken legs from accidents. While we were there we saw one dog post this surgery, a litter of abandoned pups, and a few other dogs and cats. 

Today we went on a snorkelling trip aboard a beautiful catamaran. It was crewed by three wonderful guys who took us to Flamingo Bay and the underwater sculpture garden. The sea was not kind to J so tomorrow we shall enjoy the water from the shade of our beach umbrella. 

Friday, December 13, 2013

Off to Grenada, Caribbean!

We are about to embark on a 2 week stay on the lovely Grenada Island in the Caribbean. A little background from wikipedia "Grenada is an island country and commonwealth realm consisting of the island of Grenada and six smaller islands at the southern end of the Grenadines in the southeastern Caribbean Sea. Grenada is located northwest of Trinidad and Tobago, northeast of Venezuela, and southwest of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Grenada is also known as the "Island of Spice" because of the production of nutmeg and mace crops of which Grenada is one of the world's largest exporters. Its size is 344 square kilometres (133 sq mi), with an estimated population of 110,000. Its capital is St. George's. The national bird of Grenada is the critically endangered Grenada Dove." 

Obviously the Caribbean is a lovely place to visit in the depths of a Canadian winter but why did we pick this island? We first became aware of Grenada via the media coverage of the unique Vegan Lodge, a vegan bed and breakfast located in the interior jungle area of the island. This lovely oasis is run in a very ecological manner including carbon offsetting (a tree is planted for every guest), onsite fruit orchards, harvested rain water (for drinking and the small pool), solar heated hot water, and vegan meals etc. We look forward to relaxing in the jungle and walking or taking the bus to the beach and town areas. Check out some lodge photos here; Grenada was also named a top spot to visit in 2013 by National Geographic!

Grenada is known for it's spices and chocolate and also offers some exciting activities. We are looking forward to hiking to the many waterfalls, visiting the picturesque town of St Georges, relaxing, and snorkelling from the many shore accessible sites. We have our gear all packed and ready to go. Grenada is also home to the world's first underwater sculpture garden, which we look forward to snorkelling through!