Saturday, June 28, 2014

Marking 100 Years Since The Trigger of WWI

Site of the assassination and new museum devoted to the story.

Today marks the 100th anniversary since Bosnian Serb Gavrilo Princip shot Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and his wife in Sarajevo.  Little did the teenager know his shot would plunge Europe, and indeed the world, into war, crumbling empires and laying the foundation for a century of conflicts in Europe and the Middle East. 

Opinions differ on the role Princip played in the war, with Serbs considering him a national hero as opposed to the terrorist label he typically receives. It's just one example of the tensions that still remain in Bosnia following the Dayton Accord that ended the "ethnic cleansing" of Bosniaks. 

Check out the BBC's 10 Interpretations of who started World War I here.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Along the Croatian Coast

iPhone shots along Croatia's Dalmatian Coast

Old port at Hvar, the largest town on the island of the same name
 After flying into Split and taking a brief look through the old town, I boarded
a ferry bound for the island of Hvar for two nights.

 Sunset on Hvar 

Church in old town Korcula

One of seven delicious courses at Vila Koruna, Mali Ston

 View of the Adriatic from Hotel Rixos Libertas, Dubrovnik

  A cable car takes visitors up the mountain for an incredible view of Dubrovnik

Friday, June 13, 2014

Hotel 25hours Berlin Bikini: Stylish City West

I love the 25hours brand. Each one is unique, stylish and incorporates some aspect of the city in their design. Their new location at the renovated Bikini Haus with rooms overlooking the zoo is helping to reinvigorate Berlin's City West after two decades of (understandable) focus on the former East Berlin.

Now, Berlin has no shortage of great places to stay for all types of budgets, from the famous luxury Hotel Adlon (site of Michael Jackson's baby dangling episode) to a pension in the former home of a silent film star. I've twice stayed in private apartments so I could, at least temporarily, live like a Berliner. So, why here and why 25hours?

You're just steps away from Zoo Station, once the city's main hub before the new Hauptbahnhof was built, smack in the heart of West Berlin. This was the glitzy showcase of capitalism during the Cold War. While Mitte and Prenzlauerberg took the post-reunification spotlight, this district has quietly been putting itself back in the limelight. From the rooftop there are great views of Berlin, including the Kaiser Wilhelm church right in front.

Its NENI restaurant is a concept by Haya Molcho from Vienna, and is a fresh culinary blend with flavors that extend from Germany to Russia to Persia to Morocco. Breakfast here is fresh and flavorful, though you can also pick up freshly made rolls and brioches with hand-made jams at the bakery. (Though the onsite ovens didn't quite work out, so they're actually just for show - at least for now.)

You can get free bicycle and even Mini Cooper rental.There's a DJ area that's become quite popular among locals and guests, and a sauna overlooking the zoo. But, what about the rooms?

149 rooms in six categories reflect Berlin's sleek style. Half are so-called "Jungle rooms" because they offer views of the Apes and Elephants in the Berlin Zoo next door. Inside you'll find unique decor, such as vintage globes and stereos. Shower stalls are small, but sleek, and the bath products smell wonderful. My room was a fairly open concept, with only the toilet having it's own private space. While I seem to barely sleep when I'm in the city, it's nice to come back to a plush pillow in the 25hours jungle.

Budapester Strasse 40
10787 Berlin

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Croatia's Second City: Split

The view from the plane coming down into Split's tiny airport was a great introduction to Croatia's breathtaking coast and the dramatic mountain backdrop. After a quick pass through customs, a driver was waiting to take me through the modern part of the city towards the docks and old town.

Since weather forced me to depart for Croatia a day late, I missed a full 24 hours in the city. Luckily, the entry to the old town is just a five minute walk from the docks where I'd catch my boat to Hvar. This allowed me to get a brief look at the old town, built within the remains of the palace of Roman emperor Diocletian. I passed through an unassuming entry and down to underground passages filled with jewelry and trinket stalls before heading up to tight cobbled lanes that eventually opened up to charming squares that exposed ruins of the old empire. Time permitting, it would definitely be a place worth getting a little lost.

While it is a great gateway to the islands, don't let Split be a city you just pass through. Allow at least a day to soak up the best of what this port has to offer.