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Nørrebro|Happy Place: Wander Aimlessly

These photos were taken while wandering aimlessly and exploring the side streets of Copenhagen by bike. There’s just something very satisfying about getting lost and stumbling on tucked away corners of beauty and colours while finding my way around. It sounds like a paradox but sometimes just wandering and not knowing exactly where you’re going could be the best way to know a new place more intimately. Alone and with a camera in tow, the curious kid in me gets a kick from exploring these backstreets and unlocking hidden gems scattered around the city. These little pockets of discoveries are my little happy places.


 

Nørrebro

If you’re looking for something more colorful, a little more shabby and high up on hipster quotient in Copenhagen, I cannot recommend Nørrebro highly enough. Being the cheapest district in the capital, Nørrebro is the most culturally-diverse area. The burly bearded Dane on his fixie bike, the young abaya-clad Arab women going about their shopping or the group of kids expertly whizzing up and down their skateboards – people watching in this part of the city is a treat. The multicultural vibe of the area is so prominent, you can see and smell it in the wide array of shawarma shops, Asian kiosks, vibrant nightspots, thriving food hubs and hip urban spaces dotted around the district.

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Nørrebro Skatepark | Nørrebroruten, 2200 København N I wasn’t riding the ramps and ledges, I  can barely balance myself on a bike with no hands, let alone attempt to skateboard :) I found this spot while walking around,  taking photos of urban wall murals around the area. Nørrebro has some of the coolest and they got plenty!

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Queen Louise’s Bridge |Dronning Louises Bro, 1371 København The bridge that connects the city to Nørrebro is fun hangout spot especially during the summer months. Sit by the ledge or on the benches surrounding the lake, preferably with friends and a beer in hand, Here you can hang out and enjoy the stunning views of the lake. After dark every night, you can catch the the iconic egg-laying chicken neon ad shine over Peblinge Sø. 

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92 Nørrebrogade, the most iconic graffiti art in the district: One man’s trash, another man’s treasure

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Superkilen, Heimdalsgade Superkilen is a huge urban park that celebrates the diversity of the local district. The idea behind is to create a unifying space across ethnic, language and religious boundaries. If you’re amodern architecture  fan like me, you’ll be pretty pleased to know that Danish starchitect Bjarke Ingels was the genius behind this project.

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Superkilen | Black Market White curving lines on dark asphalt make for such a visually appealing space.

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Superkilen | A part of the Red Square

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Jagtvej 69 | The dove wall mural by Shepard Fairey on the site of Ungdomshuset. Ungdomshuset had served as a site for music and acts, as well as a notorious rendezvous point for left-wing activists. The place was eventually torn down in 2007 leading to aggressive riots in the area.

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A cute balcony

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Woman on Bike Mural on Norrebrogade-Ravnborsggade | This has got to be my most favorite street art in Norrebro as it reflects the strong bicycle culture of the city. 

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Kebabistan | Nørrebrogade 162 Nørrebro is home to the best shawarma shops in the city. A long day of exploring or a booze-infused night-out in town calls for the perfectly slow roasted slab of meat basted on its own fat, stuffed into some pita bread along with chunks of veggies, slathered lovingly with chili. This is good stuff! I recommend lamb dürüm at Kebabistan – best of the lot!

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Happy Place.”

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Stella Polaris Festival

Last summer, Fredriksberg Have was filled to the brim with thousands of revellers enjoying the hypnotic tunes and blazing sunshine at Denmark’s biggest annual electronic chill concert, Stella Polaris.  The park transformed to the perfect chill-out area with bean bags, picnic blankets and umbrellas strewn across the lush grass, from which visitors savour the beats and sounds wafting from the several stages in the venue. The lineup includes some of the most exciting international acts in the chill-out genre like Kelela, Jimmy Sommerville, Museum of Love and Lulu Rouge. Since its humble conception in Aarhus in 1997, Stella Polaris has grown to become the one of the biggest and most anticipated summer event, attracting ever-great numbers in the cities of Sønderborg, Kolding and Odense, Aarhus and Copenhagen.

In response to this week’s challenge: Happy place

Why happy? You can’t help but be all smiles in a place like this – there all the joys that to be expected from upbeat music, beautiful nature, good weather and great company! What’s not to be happy about? :)

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Maintaining Boundaries

Last Saturday, I joined a group of fellow shutterbugs – pros and hobbyists alike, for the annual Scott Kelby’s Worldwide Photowalk Day.

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Photo credit to Ollé Marc Schirach

The venue was at Hjerl Hede, an open air museum that recreates life and the surroundings of an old Danish village. Here, you can see and experience how Danish rural life was like hundreds of years ago. Among the many interesting things that you can find here are furnished village houses, farms, stables, flour mill, a convenience store and craft shops. Every element was set with great attention to detail to foster an authentic experience. The museum covers a large area so you can easily spend a whole afternoon here going in from house to house. In the summer months, the place comes to life with actors in costume playing as local villagers going about their daily routines. Sadly, there weren’t any actors when we visited since it’s officially autumn now in Denmark – although I could swear that it did feel quite like summer last weekend. I am not complaining! :)

Below are some of the photos I took on location.  I already saw most of the photos that the other photographers took and it was really interesting to see how we all had very different takes on the subject. It’s always inspiring to see how others see the world. Overall, I had a great time. It was nice meeting new interesting people and catching up with a few whom I haven’t seen in a while.

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In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Boundaries.”

Sometimes photography blurs the boundary between photographer and subject.The boundaries aren’t always explicit like in some of these photos but there is almost always a barrier between me and things that I photograph. Barriers that are either of a physical or metaphorical kind. Camera, fences, feelings, fear, distance.

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Off the Grid: Freetown Christiania

In the summer of 1971, squatters in Copenhagen moved in on the abandoned military base, forming the autonomous freetown of Christiania. The hippie anarchic enclave is infamous for its controversial tolerance for hash and marijuana. On a short stretch called Pusher Street, you can find stalls and booths where cannabis-derived products are openly sold. Mainly due to the hash dealing on this street, photography and running is strictly prohibited.
Besides its notoriety, Christiania is a delightful place to explore. The place is brimming with many pleasant bars and cafes, colorful homes, cool murals, eclectic artworks and an atmosphere that you cannot experience anywhere else. It’s really amazing that a place like this exists within the clean crisp confines of Copenhagen.

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The Social Media Mistakes That Could Hurt Your Job

Social Media is now so woven into our lives so it’s very important to be mindful of what we share online. These are the mistakes that you should avoid making at all cost.

1 Complaining about your job
You probably heard too many horror stories of employees who got fired for bad-mouthing their bosses on social media. Tempting and satisfying as it might be to take a dig at your annoying employer, never, ever, vent anger and frustrations about your work, colleagues and boss online. Keep in mind that nothing is really private on social media and that these posts can easily backfire on you. Anything you post can go public in no time by just anyone “liking” retweeting, tagging or sharing it. Remember that these seemingly petty social media rants can raise a red-flag with your current and prospective employers. Even complaining how bored you are at work can damage your professional image and hurt job prospects.

2 Posting wild party pictures
While it is debatable if it is indeed unfair how private behaviour unrelated to work can sabotage job prospects, it’s no secret that employers do scour social media to find information about you. It is completely okay to post fun, read: tasteful (aka G-rated) photos of your night-out with friends but keep in mind that excessive feeds like these can easily label you as the party animal job candidate. Your online photos could affect how employers determine if you are the right kind of person to represent the company as your character can be judged by your photos’ appropriateness. Even if it is “all in good fun”, trust me, your photo lying on the curb drunk does not represent you in the best way possible.

3 Making typos and grammar errors
It may seem convenient to use texting language on social media but you are really better off with spelling everything out! A 2014 survey conducted by Jobvite reveals that 66 percent of recruiters are turned off by grammar and spelling errors on social media. It may appear harmless but these errors communicate a degree of sloppiness and employers believe that this can translate to your job output. Mind the grammar, spelling and punctuations as these things tie into your ability to communicate effectively and professionally at work.

4 Not Googling yourself
Have you googled yourself lately? Reports claim that up to 85 percent of recruiters “Google” candidates to learn more about them. Go ahead and try it now. Put your name in quotations and hit search, for example, “Sheryl Oben”. Be sure to take a critical look at the results and take advantage of the fact that you can see and actively optimise what employers are viewing. This is what many aptly call “Defensive Googling”. You may notice that the top results are your social media pages (Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, Google+ ) so make sure that your online profiles give you a chance to shine for employers.

! What if you found unflattering content linked to you?
Fortunately, with a little work, you can have some control and push negative information down. The trick is to produce new positive and relevant content associated with your name at a high volume to push back negative ones farther to the search results. Popular approaches in cleaning up your online image include building your website and/or portfolio with your name included in the domain; guest posting for relevant sites and joining professional groups online.

5 Not managing your personal and professional social media properly
It is very apparent how social media blurs the line between what’s personal and what’s professional. In most cases, it is always better and safer to keep personal and professional separate. Keep in mind however that adding positive tidbits of your personal life can be beneficial for your online reputation as it humanises you and gives a better sense of who the person is behind the words on the computer screen. With this point in mind, you have to ask yourself two important questions: 1) What areas in your professional and personal profiles do you want to intersect? 2) How do you want to be perceived overall online? By knowing the answers to these, you can begin to take the steps to manage your social media persona more effectively.


Originally written for SurveyBee
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Monday Madness

If the weekend just started and you are already dreading the start of the workweek, you might be suffering from a serious case of Monday blues, even tough you are going to be working from home. Your overall attitude towards Mondays can influence the rest of your week and may also have a negative impact on your productivity..

The Case of Monday Madness

Researchers from the University of Vermont show that people feel unhappiest on Mondays and Tuesdays, based on a study of what people are tweeting. Similar studies in the US, Japan and the UK show that suicide rates are highest on Mondays than any other day of the week.

Interestingly, a research by consultant firm Mercer also reports that more than a third of all sick leaves in the UK are taken on a Monday. And if you can’t wipe off the grumpy look on your face on Monday mornings, take heart, you are not alone in this. A study by our beloved Marmite in 2011 shows that the average Brit does not smile on a Monday until 11:16 AM – how glum!

Luckily, we have helpful tips on how to turn this around! And yes it is only Friday but it is never too early to plan for a great Monday, where you’re going to have a productive work-from-home day.

Beat the Monday Blues:

Have fun over the weekend

Doing something fun over the weekend is one of the best ways of beating the Monday blues. The positive feeling from the weekend can transcend to your Monday and spill over the rest of the week. Go for a walk downtown, hangout with your friends, have a lovely dinner with your loved one, enjoy the sunshine if you can – whatever it is that can make you feel happy and revived during the weekend should do the trick. Don’t spend your Sunday night partying until the break of dawn. Check in early so you will feel more ready to work from home on monday morning.

Detox!

Right on the topic of weekend fun, the reason you might be suffering from terrible down days once Monday hits could be the wild lifestyle you have over the weekends. Excessive consumption of alcohol can lower the level of serotonin – “happy hormones” in your brain, thus resulting to that cranky and sluggish mood. Since alcohol is a depressant, plus that nasty hangover can get your motivation for the work week sapped, it might be a good idea to cut back or even stop altogether to check if your mood improves and you will be more productive when you are working from home.

Turn up the music

Shake the blues away by listening to your favorite music. Not only is it proven to increase your productivity, it can also improve your overall happiness. Researchers at the McGill University revealed that dopamine (“the pleasure chemicals” in your brain associated with the rewards system) is released whenever you experience or anticipate thrilling music. Even better yet is singing along to your favorite song to get that rush of freedom and exuberance. So put on your favourite song at home and get to work!

Prepare

By taking the time to go over your to-do list and planning out the tasks that await you for Monday, you will feel more in control and less anxious of the start of the work week. What makes Mondays extra stressful for some are the tasks that have been piled from the previous week. My advise is to get most of the dreadful tasks done before the weekend – it will make Mondays less stressful and more tolerable. It may be tempting to suck in every last second of your weekend freedom, but taking a few minutes to get organised and mentally prepare for the week can help you beat the Monday blues.

Bonus tip:

If these tips are not enough to overcome your Monday blues, the study by Marmite also reveals that a surefire way of getting over the bad Monday feeling are by doing one of these top 5 ground-breaking activities: (1) watching TV (2) sex (3) shopping online (4) chocolates or make-up and (5) holiday planning.

So whatever floats your boat, do it! I wish you a great weekend and hope your Monday will be a good one!


Originally written for SurveyBee

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Take a break

Have you been overworking? Are you feeling all exhausted and the evidence is everywhere? Well my friend, it may be time to take a break.

We have stressed time and time again the importance of taking frequent breaks to boost productivity while working from home. It may sound counterintuitive to equate productivity with taking breaks, but when you are constantly draining yourself of energy due to stress and fatigue, you become less and less effective at what you do. Turns out that the secret to being at your most productive and effective self at your work at home is not in putting in long hours without letup but in getting enough breaks throughout the work day.

According to research, our brain needs to refresh at least every after 90 minutes of work. There are also studies revealing that mental fatigue sets in after a three-hour continuous work. We just simply aren’t wired to focus for 8-hours straight since our brains run on limited juice hence regular refueling via breaks is an absolute prerequisite to productivity.

Before you start hammering away to check your Facebook notifications, sorry to break it but idly scrolling through your newsfeed may not exactly be the best way to make the most out of your precious breaks. The good news is, there are many ways on how you can spend your break time to rev up some energy and improve your brain functioning at home.

Look away from your screen for 20 seconds

If you are constantly staring at a computer when you are working from home, you can help reduce computer-caused eye strain by following the simple 20-20-20 rule. The rule suggests that every 20 minutes, you have to look away from your computer for 20 seconds and look at something 20 feet away from you. If a mere twenty seconds do not seem enough, proceed with our next tip.

Look out the window and seek green for 40 seconds

A study from the University of Melbourne shows that glancing at a green landscape for a mere 40 second break can boost your concentration and productivity. The research was conducted with a group of participants that were asked to do a boring, attention-sapping task.

Midway through it, they were given a 40-second microbreak where half of the group viewed a flowering meadow roof while the other half looked at bare concrete roof. The experiment revealed that those who had a view of nature performed significantly better on the second half of the task with less errors and more concentration compared to those who just viewed the concrete roof.

The implication of this study is self-explanatory. If you are lucky enough to have greens in your line of sight while working from home, doing something as simple as looking out the window to see nature for less than a minute can help refresh your attention span.

Watch cute cat videos for 10 minutes

Rejoice internet cat lovers! Science backs up that looking at cute kitten memes can benefit your workflow! Yes, you read it right. A 2012 Japanese study reveals that looking at pictures of cute animals has positive effect on your productivity.

Think fluffy puppies, baby pandas and LOLcat posters. The report concludes that harnessing the power of “kawaii” – Japanese word for cuteness, not only makes us happier but also stimulates our behaviour positively. We suggest having Edinburgh’s panda cam on bookmark for your daily fix of cute things.

Be a yogi for 20 minutes 

According to a study from the University of Illinois, a quick timeout for yoga can boost your brain functions. In the research, participants were either asked to carry out either a yoga class or an aerobic session. After a cognitive assessment, those who did yoga actually performed better. The mindfulness component of doing mini yoga breaks as a routine not only improves your productivity and focus but also balances your body and clears your mind.

There are easily some good yoga exercises that you can do from your desk at home, even while sitting at a chair. We recommend watching this video for some yoga moves inspiration that you can do on your chair. Stretch away and get the energy flowing again!

Hap a midday nap for 45 minutes
For years, people who doze off on duty get a bad rep for being slackers until recently when there have been scientific evidences pointing to the benefits of midday napping. Rather than fighting off the drowsies with sugar burst or a caffeine fix, take comfort in knowing that it is scientifically-proven healthier to just give in to your urge to your snooze. Benefits such as mental alertness, positive feelings, improved creativity, productivity and overall health are reasons not to feel guilty about napping when and if you need it.

A Harvard study reveals that learning and memory can be improved by five-fold with a 45-minute nap. Taking naps improve our hippocampus, an area in our brain in-charge of storing new information into our long-term memory. Interestingly, even the anticipation of a nap is lowers blood pressure, according to a British study. So if you are feeling tired and sleep -deprived, sneak an eye shut and power through the day- and it’s much easier to do when you are working from home!

Eat proper lunch for an hour
When you are working from home, it’s so easy to just grab whatever’s available in the fridge. You also tend to just eat while working at your desk when you’re too engrossed with a project – or worse, skipping the meal altogether. No matter how busy you are with work, don’t skip a midday meal. Food is your fuel and remember that what and how you eat can determine how more or less productive you are for the day.

Multitasking (aka stuffing yourself while working) may seem like a productive strategy, but a recent research about multitasking reveals exactly the opposite. Solely focusing on eating (the right food, mind you) not only nourishes you but also makes you become more efficient with your tasks.

The whole idea of a break is to do anything but work. From now on, make a commitment to take your breaks and the results could surprise you.

Is it not time to take a break yet?


Originally written for SurveyBee 
 

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San Pietro in Vatican

Some in-depth thoughts on my trip to Vatican

I had mixed feelings being right there in the Vatican last year. While I’m in awe of its beauty and grandeur, I had a hard time reconciling the disparity between the teachings from my strict Catholic upbringing – of compassion and social justice, and the overt decadence and immense wealth of this palatial structure. Such is institutional hypocrisy at its grandest scale, in my opinion.

Yet, setting aside religious precepts, Vatican is definitely enjoyable and worth-visiting for its art and cultural heritage. If you happen to be there, you wouldn’t want to miss the cupola.The harrowing climb up the St. Peter’s dome is vertigo- inducing and strenuous even for the fit (all 550 steps of it by foot, 320 by lift) but it was, by all means, all worth the trouble as we were rewarded with a magnificent 360 degree view of the eternal city.

In light of the Pope’s recent visit to the Philippines, I hope the country remembers his heed against corruption, citing it as a legacy of sin on one of his homilies. Seeing that the rock star pope has more star power and reach than the brightest local celebrities and mass media combined, I wish his message reaches the poor uneducated masses, most especially, and awakens everyone to challenge corruption and champion transparency.

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The view from the top of St. Peter’s Basilica. It was worth all the huffing and the puffing

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The basilica’s facade and a few of the 140 saints on the colonnade

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A view of Rome from the top of the dome

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Michelangelo himself designed this dome. Breathtaking!

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St. Peter’s Our Lady of the Column Dome

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St. Peter’s Basilica dome, conquered.

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This was on my way to the cupola and here’s a view from the fenced area of the dome’s base. Look how tiny the people are. To give you an idea of how big this structure is, the letters are twice as big as me.

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Statue of St. Paul infront of the basilica

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The pictures just don’t give justice to the size and beauty of this place. For example, this structure looks small because it’s dwarfed by the ginormous dome but this baldacchino is actually 96-foot-tall. It’s said that the bronze that makes up this stucture were taken from the Pantheon. Hence the epigram Quod non fecerunt barbari, fecerunt Barberini : What the barbarians did not do, the Barberinis did

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An elaborate air vent on the floor of the basilica that leads to the underground crypts, presumed as St. Peter’s final resting place

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A closer look at the dome. the latin inscription is translated as “To the glory of St. Peter, Pope Sixtus V in the year 1590, fifth of his pontificate”

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Lights shining through the windows of the basilica, lending a reverent mood to the place

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Group picture infront of the basilica

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A Swiss guard in its colorful drab

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Swiss guard on duty

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Michaelangelo’s Pieta

In response to the weekly photo challenge: depth

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Philippines!

It’s been over five years when I was last home in Manila so I am just really glad to have finally been able to spend the Christmas holidays there. It was really nice being able to spend time with family and friends for a long overdue catch up. We had always wanted to visit these past years but our work and school schedules had always gotten in the way. But at last, we finally managed to squeeze in a three-week trip to the Philippines and I couldn’t be any happier. This was also the hubby’s first time to visit so I was very excited to show him around the country.  Despite the hassles we had with the long flights, the holiday chaos and delayed baggages, the sun warming our faces and just being able to frolic in flipflops have made every bump along the way worth it. It has been such a welcome change from the usual gray and bitter cold winter that we left in Denmark. Imagining everyone home freezing while we enjoy the white powdery sands and turquoise waters just couldn’t help me from feeling so decadent and delightfully guilty! It has been an amazing trip –  we had so much fun and we will be back sooner than later! :)

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One happy viking

The Christmas tree at my parents' house, all lit up for the holidays!

The Christmas tree at my parents’ house, all lit up for the holidays! Plastic but fantastic! :P

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Another day, another beautiful sunset in Boracay island

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Seafood – as fresh as it gets

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How incredible that we chance upon Danish friends in this tiny island. Goofing around with the locals in the limobike :)

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Gorgeous amber sky at sunset

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We could get used to this – our feet buried on the sand, butts plunked on bean bags, faint reggae music in the background as we enjoy a good meal served with ice cold beer and a view of the moonlit sea

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What’s for lunch

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Greetings from the tropical paradise

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Bamboo lanterns like this adorned the coconut trees at night

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Plenty of fish , indeed.

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Enjoying the sun, sea and sand!

 See other entries for this week’s challenge here

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Hallo, Berlin!

These are some photos that I took from my trip in Berlin last week. I believe that these shots reflect the rich culture, painful and darkest pasts,  as well as the dynamic and contemporary landscapes of the city.

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I was lucky to be there for the Festival of Lights, a ten day event that happens annually every October where many of Berlin’s famous landmarks and monuments are lit up with colorful light projections each night. This one of the Brandenburg Gate is my favorite! Everyone at the square stood in awe as we watched the structure awash in different colors and moods.

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This marks the memorial for the book burning by the Nazis in Bebelplatz. In 1821, German poet Heinrich Heine wrote, “Where they burn books, they will in the end also burn people”.

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In its heyday, this avenue was once the hedonists’ paradise, known to cater to the who’s who who got a penchant for kinky sex, drugs and booze.

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This metal plate inscription marks where the wall once stood. It is almost surreal to think of how people can now freely walk between what used to be East and West Germany and that not so long ago, it was almost impossible to imagine that the Wall would ever fall.

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Yes I do!

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The iconic Ampelmännchen or the little traffic man, arguably one of the most recognizable icon of Berlin

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I went to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp along with some new friends I met from the hostel. For some of us, it was our first time to visit an actual concentration camp and I can say that it wasn’t something that we were quite prepared for. The experience was so gut-wrenching and emotionally-draining that we didn’t even manage to take many pictures from this place. Pictured is the gate that greets the doomed souls with the infamous words “Arbeit macht freit” or roughly “work makes you free”.

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Just walking between the concrete slabs of the memorial

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The Berlin Cathedral bathing in the glow of sunset. This was the last picture I took from my week-long stay in Berlin before catching the midnight train back to Denmark.

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The “Mother with her Dead Son” is set under an oculus, allowing snow, rain and sunlight to fall unto the sculpture. Must be a sight to behold in winter, I could imagine.

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Gendarmenmarkt, my most favorite square in Berlin

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East Side Gallery

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Just because I like taking pictures of windows with people sitting by them

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Gotta love autumn sceneries like this when the ground is adorned with splendidly coloured leaves!

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Humboldt University, the very institution that produced Marx, Einstein, Engels and Heine. Pictured is the imposing facade of the Faculty of Law

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Passing time on the train ride en route to Oranienburg station with my hostelmates from Spain, Australia and Austria

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Random quote on a cement block

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Admiring the golden domes of the Neue Synagoge

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The Berlin TV Tower

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Playing hide and seek with a photographer

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Remembering the millions of lives lost during the Holocaust

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The beautiful Berliner Dom, a baroque cathedral designed by Karl Friedrich Schinkel.

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The memorial was intended to be passive and rather abstract, where interpretation is left to the viewer. What do these blocks mean to you?


Travel Tip: To those visiting Berlin for the first time, I highly recommend the free walking tour offered by Sandemans New Europe. The tour gives an excellent overview of Berlin, its history, insider tips and the places that you can further explore on your own. Please note that although it is free, guides only earn on a tip basis. Rest assured that the tour is worth more than every little penny that you tip! Whenever possible, I always start my trips with a Sandeman tour. I have used them on my first visit to Rome, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Brussels – they never disappoint! :-)