Frankfurt in Five Hours

In the life of every frequent traveler there comes a time when you’re left waiting at a layover airport for most of the day. No matter how carefully you align your flights it’s the only affordable or available option and you make the purchase. There isn’t enough time to commit to a full day at your pit-stop destination and the delay is too long to stay in the airport.

Two months ago I found myself in this same situation. Despite careful planning I had to take a seven and a half hour wait in Frankfurt. Instead of sleeping away the time in the airport lounge I seized the opportunity to sample my third German city of 2018. I’d like to share my experience exploring the best of Frankfurt in just over five hours, whilst spending less than thirty Euros.

Transport

Regardless of your destination getting from the airport to the city center is usually pricey via public transport, . Before you’ve even reached your location a large chunk of the budget has already been eaten. Fortunately, Frankfurt offers affordable deals in order to get you around the city. A same day return to the airport cost around fifteen euros. This ticket also allows you full access to the tram system. Overall, this is a great deal, it saves you time mapping your way to destinations, whilst encouraging tourists into the heart of the city to enjoy the attractions and businesses available.

 

Food & Drink

I’m always astounded by the food prices in Germany. If you are frugal with where you shop than you can feast for a surprisingly small amount. This doesn’t mean sacrificing the quality of your meals for quantity. After all, one of the fundamental pleasures of travel is another country’s cuisine but scaling yourself back to street food may be the answer. Like every other German city Frankfurt seems to have mastered easy eating. On every corner there is an option: curry-wurst; kebab or falafel. It’s hard to walk past bakeries without being drawn to the bargain price and enticing smell of freshly baked bagels. To accompany this German beer and regional soda is ridiculously cheap. Just don’t drink and eat too much, you want to be comfortable on the flight later.

 

Attractions

If you’re like me then you will have blown your budget on food and have little left for sightseeing. Thankfully, Frankfurt has plenty of things to explore for free all within a few hours walking distance or a quick hop on tram away. In your few hours you can enjoy the botanical gardens, the Euro Tower or Borse. If the weather is in your favour then I would head straight to City Hall Square. Here you will be greeted with iconic German architecture and witness the Römer– a medieval structure that has been Frankfurt’s city hall for around six hundred years. The square also houses an impressive statue of Lady Justice. This bronze figure enhances the calm and and inspiring atmosphere, especially when the town bells are ringing.

 

 

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The Best of Dublin

Over the summer break I visited five cities in four countries: Edinburgh; Dublin; Stockholm; Frankfurt and Munich. One of the major drawbacks of flitting across the continent every few weeks is that your bank balance rapidly depletes. In an ideal world every visit would include sampling the country’s best cuisine and embracing every excursion they have to offer.

Unfortunately, we can’t all afford the jet set lifestyle. Sometimes we have to take a budget flight and just experience what a country has to offer. This was my experience of Ireland. I booked cheap air travel and saved my money for the city itself. Whilst I would highly recommend everybody journey to the  Emerald Isle  at least once, I have to confess that it isn’t Europe’s most inexpensive city break. So, in order to help you save a Euro or two I’ve compiled a list of my three favorite attractions in Dublin.

 

Dublin Castle

If you want to know the history of any city you need to find where the rich people lived. They decided how the economy ran, dictated the direction during times of war and enforce the ebb and flow of culture. Dublin Castle is a proud example of this. For over eight hundred years the building has been a monument to the lives of Irish people. It’s walls echo a history of religion and bloody conflict (predominantly with the English).

Part of the building is free to the public but the best experience is a guided tour. For a reasonable fee you can explore the stone underbelly of the keep, wander the ballrooms as well as reflect in the chapel. The guides are engaging and full of facts, turning an few hours visit into what feels like an afternoon stroll through history.

Oscar Wilde’s Home and Statue

Located in the scenic Merrion Square if you’re a bit of a bookworm then Oscar Wilde statue is worth a visit. If the weather is in your favour the you can amble around the picturesque gardens, visit the home that that nurtured Wilde, before taking the ever important selfie with the statue. There are small pillars with inscriptions of Wilde’s wittiest quotes and the positioning and visitors give you the feeling of a pilgrimage. You may need to bring an umbrella on a rainy afternoon because it is a bit of a tourist spot and there tends to be a small queue for a photo. At this point I would like to include my own photo. Unfortunately, my shaving was a little lackadaisical that day and the shadow gives me the look of Charlie Chaplain.

Guinness Storehouse

It’s an unwritten rule that when your are in Ireland you should sample a Guinness. The best place to experience your pint in the Guinness Storehouse.Essentially, the excursion is an interactive advert for those who have never had the drink or a mecca for beer lovers. As you explore the many floors you are educated on the brewing process, the history of the brand and get several opportunities to sample the product.

Every visitor gets a free drink token, which you can spend in several locations depending on your tastes. If you’ve never pulled a pint of beer before then you can use your token to do so or if you prefer to sample Guinness’ range of brews then they offer you many smaller samples. Personally, I would recommend climbing to the top of the building, towards the Gravity Bar. Up here you can reward yourself with a cold glass of the good stuff, whilst enjoying the 360 degree, panoramic views of the city from the glass walled bar.

 

Berlin on a Budget

A city break is an affordable alternative to a major holiday. It should be a weekend away to break up the monthly cycle and recharge your batteries. But all too often these mini vacations can be devastating to your bank balance. In the excitement to fully experience a new city we indulge our appetites a little too much  and only once we are home begin to realise the cost. To celebrate a recent birthday I decided to visit Berlin. It was the first trip I intended to be thrifty with my cash. Overall, Germany’s capital isn’t the most expensive city in Europe but with a bit of extra attention I managed to make the most of my euros.

Being Careful at the Cash Machine

When it comes to paying your way around Berlin remember that cash is King. I was completely shocked when an affluent bar didn’t accept any card payments at all. It appears as if the German people prefer to take make their purchases in physical euros over a card transaction. This is a little irritating if your country doesn’t use the same currency but a secret blessing in disguise. As we all know, your bank will charge you for each transaction you make abroad. At the end of the end of a trip your card can accumulate a sizeable pile of overseas charges and currency conversion costs. The same applies to ATM withdrawals as well.

The solution is simple but effective. It’s best to convert your cash before you go. The benefits of this are twofold. Not only do you avoid charges for spending your own money but you immediately have to budget your spending. If you have a set amount to purchase with then you value every time you hand over your euros. Having a fixed sum in cash should make you a little more careful as you see your stockpile dwindle.

 

Food and Drink without a Fortune

My favourite part of any city break is always the food. The majority of my plans are made around meal time and whilst it is nice to spend an evening in a fancy restaurant it isn’t the cheapest option.  Fortunately, Berlin responds to this with its fondness of street food. Currywurst and Kebab vendors can be found on every other corner-particularly handy if your walking across the city and are in need of tasty fuel. And it’s no surprise with chain restaurants like Vapianos that the Germans rank in the top five pizza eating countries in the world. However, if you’re in need of supplies then I would highly recommend finding a nearby Lidl. The prices are astounding. Four beers, a tub of hummus and a pack of Kettle Chips totaled less than five euros.If Berlin has imparted any lesson then it’s to ditch the Martini at the hotel bar and go to the pub instead.

 

Walk Your Way Around

There’s a temptation with a new city to take transport everywhere. Simply getting from point A to point B is  probably the largest expense after food. In the age of smart phones when there is always a map at our fingertips there is no longer an excuse to not explore the city by foot. At first this seems a little daunting but it is especially rewarding in a city as historic as Berlin. Every street discloses another secret of the past. The effects of the wall are evident on how the city was shaped over the last century. It’s surprisingly simple to spring from Checkpoint Charlie, to Parliament and then to the Brandenburg Gate. Just as Venice is the city of canals, Berlin is the city that  wears the history of the twentieth century.

 

 

Hey there Copenhagen

If you have read any of my previous posts or know me in real life, then you’ll be aware that when I take a weekend break it’s almost always in Sweden. In the last year I have been to Stockholm over a dozen times. I’m found in the Swedish capital for festivities such as new years and Midsummer; events like Eurovision; or when I just really need a sugar, cinnamon Kanelbullar fix.  Of course, I visit other countries and cities too but Stockholm is my favourite and has started to feel comfortably like home.

I broke my mini-break tradition last weekend and went to a country southward: Denmark. Scandinavian Airlines had a ridiculous sale and I managed to score return flights to Copenhagen for less than £70. A bridge connects Malmö (situated in Southern Sweden) to the Danish capital. Originally, it didn’t seem like a brave choice to go to the islands next door to my normal destination but I’d never been so far south in Scandinavia and the cultural differences are striking.

Food is arguably the most important aspect of any trip. Before I arrive at the airport I’ve scoured menus and reviews of the most recommended places to eat. Once I’m off the plane my time is mapped around meals. In Copenhagen this meant one food: The Danish Smørrebrød. Smørrebrød is an open sandwich with a rye bread base used a plate for various toppings. This was particularl a challenge because Danish food relies heavily on fish and I am a vegetarian. Unfortunately, the first restaurant didn’t have any non-meat Smørrebrød but I would recommend it to meat eaters with their wide range of fish dishes and red meats that ranged from beef to fresh liver. The carnivore only dishes was a little disheartening but I drowned the disappointment with deep fried, breaded Camembert.

The second Smørrebrød restaurant I tried was much better. After stepping inside from the sea air that wraps the city, Rabes Have had exactly the welcome we looked for. The lady who ran the lunch restaurant was incredibly friendly and  created the relaxed air against the cold outside. Initially, she believed that we had been before and queried our return to the city, which only enhanced the friendly feel. The food was the best I had all weekend and there was plenty to choose from the chalk board menu. Carnivores could range from Steak Tartare to pork belly and I opted for one of the traditional Danish cheese dishes. The server warned me about the strength of the cheese but feeling brave I determined upon the Smørrebrød. I had be forewarned correctly. The Danish variety was stronger than most English cheddar but had the waxy texture of a dutch cheese. The flavour punched my taste buds and was strengthened by the suggestion that I top the sandwich liberally with rum which the server presented with the dish. Rum on a cold cheese sandwich seemed an absurd suggestion. At first I thought it being offered as a local side aperitif of so some sort. However, I would highly recommend the alcoholic accompaniment as it both breaks up pungency of the cheese whilst simultaneously strengthening the impact on the tongue. It was a shame to leave Rabes Have. I’d have sat the day away, drinking schnapps and eating the cheese menu. I would definitely recommend dining here and when I’m in Copenhagen  again I’ll be having the chocolate cake as well.

Naturally, the whole weekend was spent stuffing my face with cheese sandwiches. The city is an interesting exploration as well. If Copenhagen had two proceeding themes they would be water and  Hygge. Being a coastal city it’s impossible not to spend some time gazing at the water, either as you cross the bridges that connect the capital together or wander around the harbour. Once you have emerged from your hotel room your vision will be filled with ocean and estuary. The prevalence of water on the lives  Copenhagen residents can be epitomized by “The Little Mermaid”. Hans Christian Anderson’s creation is depicted in numerous sculptures and paintings, demonstrating the city’s appreciation for his work and the sea it was born from.

Like the water, the concept of hygge permeates the city. Walk past any cafe and the locals are rolling away Saturday with a small smile on their face. They pass the hours  drinking beer, smoking too many cigarettes and grazing at Smørrebrød.  A walk down Nyhavn is the perfect combination of water and relaxed Danish lifestyle. The canal is reminiscent of Amsterdam with the colour palette of Swedish buildings. As you stroll down the path you’ll see the Danish people unwinding into the weekend as the bright shops and houses pass slowly like the water you walk along. Once you reach the end of Nyhavn and embrace the wide sea again, you’re calmed and ready to embrace the city.

 

Paris without the Price

In June this year I wandered for several days around Paris. Between the hotel, flights and sparkling drinks my card whimpered in my wallet all the way home. My bank balance shall forever wear the scars from the champagne deficit of 2016 and the month sized chunks it devoured. More money was poured into crystal flutes than the gross domestic product of Malta. However despite the drinks being slightly pricey, excursions around the city were fairly inexpensive but the visit could have been considerably cheaper if I’d been more thrifty in my bubbly haze.

The first thing to have been avoided was climbing things. For some reason there’s always a charge for a decent view of Paris. Photos end up costing nearly £5 a snap because of the excessive entrance fee and by the time you’ve scaled your way back down a monument you feel deserving of another drink. Next time I’ll avoid the Eiffel Tower. Yes, it’s beautiful to survey the city from phallic scaffolding and an effective way of burning off the morning’s croissant but it’s also pricey, even if you don’t take the lifts. Perhaps my experience felt underwhelming because only three stories were accessible to the public that day. If all the floors were open there would have been less unfit American’s blocking the stairways further up. I’m certain that the view from the utmost platform would be breath taking. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case, it would have been better to save the entrance charge and picnic nearby; devouring cheese and wine, pitying those willing to take excessive exercise.

Cathedrals like Notre Dame and Sacre-Coeur are normally free to explore but come with seemingly inexpensive extras that quickly accumulate into a price larger than the Eiffel Tower. I’d like to be able to wander around these places without the guilt to pay but the glares from the stained glass apostles and the brass depictions of crucified Jesus can break even Ebeneezer Scrooge. By the time I’d finished ambling through Notre Dame and Sacre-Coeur I’d prayed for the first time in my life, lit four candles for the Virgin Mary, deposited in several donation boxes and bought tickets to every exclusive staircase. Visits that were originally intended to be a free option to while away an hour in between Kir Royals somehow turned into a fund-raising spree for the Catholic Church. That being said, both buildings are absolutely worth the visit, especially the staircase of Sacre-Coeur. The view from atop the Cathedral is superior to that from the third platform of the Eiffel Tower and several euros cheaper.

Another expensive mistake I made in Paris was dining. Every restaurant was fantastic and I never chose a course I later regretted. Waiters were always accommodating and through their practiced charming natures led me to excess. On the first evening meal I asked for a wine list and was instead offered the waiter’s recommendation. Maybe sitting on a Paris street, somehow toasty beneath the restaurant canopy despite the rain, infected me with the romance the city perfumes. I accepted his suggestion only to later realise that the bottle was costing a euro per drop. Despite the price, I will never regret that wine or the whole cheese boards I thought acceptable as a main course. There’s something in the atmosphere (perhaps the extreme air pollution) that fogs the everyday senses. Thus transforming everyday caution into a craving for opulence. Even when waiter’s explain a meal is too large for one and reminded me that the cheese board’s traditional function is as a savoury sharing dessert.

My favourite aspect of the trip was the Pantheon which was free because I’m under 25 years old. It’s best described as an ‘atheist temple’. It has huge paintings of French history, photography exhibits and a marble laden crypt of prominent French figures such as Marie Curie, Voltaire and Alexander Dumas. I can’t sell this place well but it’s the highlight of my trip, along with the adult grape juice. For only a few days I’d recommend squeezing it in for a few hours.

It seems that I’ve grumbled over the price of my visit and now sit, scanning over bank statements, in miserly regret. In truth, I cherish my visit to Paris and even though I wasn’t particularly enamoured with the Eiffel Tower, I’m glad to have walked part way. One day, when it’s fully accessible, I’ll climb the structure again. Hopefully it will force me to regret what I have just written and readdress my opinion. Even if it doesn’t, I’d encourage everyone to visit the city regardless and any money you spend there is well spent. I shall return if only to make my way around the Louvre, but until my return I’ll always have my hazy memories of Paris.

EuropeanEconomicArea and CO2 rankings

Being a bit of a hippy I’m often drawn to those lists that rank the world’s  nations according to their degradation of our environment. The USA, Russia, China and India most often occupy the seats as the planet’s worst CO2 emission offenders. The United Kingdom being a bit further down the lists (admittedly not much further down) allows me to remain smug in the knowledge that my fair island isn’t one of the top contributors to global warming. However, one thing that does snag as unfair about the environmental shame tallies is that countries that produce the most CO2, more often than not have some of the largest populations. This prompted me to attempt to construct a new list. Rather than the countries studied being ranked based on their total emissions I have compiled a ranking based on carbon and CO2 contribution relative to their population, namely per 10,000 people. The equation used is embarrassingly simple: Total CO2 from greenhouses gases/population from year of study x 10,000. Given than I am no statistician it’s safe to assume that the maths is far too basic to provide an accurate picture but I hope it does produce a rough guideline.

When I first embarked into this waste of my free time I intended to cover every nation. This proved unfeasible because countries that produced the least CO2 tended to have fairly undeveloped economies. In order to rectify this I placed a number of filters in place such as United Nations membership; whether the country was placed on the United Nations ‘Least Developed Nations’ listing; and whether they fit within the top 70World Bank and IMF GDP lists. The issue with these filters is that they often excluded larger economies from Asia such as India, whilst allowing very small countries such as Liechtenstein into the study.

Eventually, I concluded to start with a much smaller sample of countries: those within European Economic Area (henceforth EEA). My reasoning for this was that the countries are fairly close together but produce very different amounts of emissions. Furthermore, their are large differences in populations e.g. Iceland has a population of less than 500,000 compared to countries such as Germany and Italy with a population exceeding ten million. This will allow for future examination into population size and possible links to greenhouse gas emissions. Finally, seeing as all these countries are within the EEA they will have fairly similar capitalist based economies with varying GPD and social policy which will allow for study into finances, politics and taxation and their correlation with environmental degradation.

The following lists are taken from two studies.The first is from the World Bank (2012) which highlights the world’s nations by “Total greenhouse gas emissions (kt of CO2 equivalent)”. The second study is from the Carbon Dioxide Analysis Center (2013) which ranks countries by “total CO2 emissions from fossil fuel burning, cement production and gas flaring expressed in thousand metric tons of carbon”. I utilised the data from both investigations to examine contribution of each EEA nation for an average of 10,000 people. The total populations were taken from the World Bank website. Liechtenstein was removed from the rankings due to the countries exclusion from the World Bank 2012 study, possibly due to the low level of inhabitants (less than 45,000) and the negligible CO2 contribution. Links to the sources will follow the tables below.

Table 1:

Country Total Population (2012) to nearest 10,000 Total greenhouse gas emissions (kt of CO2 equivalent)2012 World Bank data Greenhouse gas emissions per 10,000 people (kt of CO2 equivalent) approx
Malta 419,000 1,921 45.85
Denmark 9,520,000 53,703 56.41
Romania 20,100,000 121,762 60.58
Hungary 9,920,000 62,988 63.5
Cyprus 1,130,000 7,431 65.76
Switzerland 8,000,000 54,108 67.64
Latvia 2,030,000 13,944 68.69
Portugal 10,500,000 72,524 69.07
Sweden 9,520,000 65,768 69.08
Croatia 4,270,000 30,421 71.24
Spain 46,800,000 348,257 74.41
France 65,700,000 499,147 75.97
Italy 59,500,000 482,634 81.11
Slovakia 5,410,000 46,301 85.58
Greece 11,000,000 100,571 91.43
United Kingdom 63,700,000 585,780 91.96
Bulgaria 7,310,000 67,943 92.95
Lithuania 2,990,000 29,442 98.47
Slovenia 2,060,000 21,075 102.31
Austria 8,430,000 90,460 107.31
Poland 38,100,000 414,607 108.82
Netherlands 16,800,000 195,874 116.59
Germany 80,400,000 951,717 118.37
Belgium 11,000,000 133,374 121.25
Norway 5,020,000 63,537 126.57
Finland 5,410,000 69,073 127.68
Czech Republic 10,500,000 138,957 132.34
Ireland 4,590,000 62,433 136.02
Iceland 321,000 5,515 171.81
Estonia 1,320,000 23,293 176.46
Luxembourg 531,000 12,611 237.5

Table 2:

Country Total Population (2013) to nearest 10,000 total CO2 emissions from fossil fuel burning, cement production and gas flaring expressed in thousand metric tons of carbon(2013) total CO2 emissions from fossil fuel burning, cement production and gas flaring expressed in thousand metric tons of carbon(2013) per 10,000 persons approx
 
Latvia 2,010,000 1,931 9.61
Romania 20,000,000 19,290 9.65
Croatia 4,260,000 4,830 11.34
Hungary 9,890,000 11,301 11.43
Lithuania 2,960,000 3,447 11.65
Portugal 10,500,000 12,616 12.02
Sweden 9,600,000 12,088 12.59
Switzerland 8,090,000 11,003 13.6
France 66,000,000 90,862 13.77
Spain 46,600,000 64,622 13.87
Cyprus 1,140,000 1,622 14.23
Malta 423,000 605 14.3
Bulgaria 7,270,000 10,789 14.84
Italy 60,200,000 94,019 15.62
Iceland 324,000 537 16.57
Slovakia 5,410,000 9,184 16.98
Greece 11,000,000 18,859 17.14
Denmark 5,610,000 10,381 18.5
Slovenia 2,060,000 3,938 19.12
United Kingdom 64,100,000 124,754 19.46
Austria 8,480,000 17,019 20.07
Ireland 4,600,000 9,535 20.73
Poland 38,000,000 82,447 21.7
Belgium 11,200,000 25,530 22.79
Finland 5,440,000 12,626 23.21
Germany 82,100,000 206,521 25.15
Czech Republic 10,500,000 26,905 25.62
Netherlands 16,800,000 46,352 27.59
Norway 5,080,000 16,263 32.01
Estonia 1,320,000 5,431 41.14
Luxembourg 543,000 2,771 51.03

Sources

Table 1:Greenhouse Gas Emissions Data-

http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/EN.ATM.GHGT.KT.CE?name_desc=false

Table 2: Carbon from fossil fuel burning etc Data-

http://cdiac.ornl.gov/trends/emis/tre_coun.html

Table 1 & 2: Population Data-

http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.POP.TOTL