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Kate Wirth

Berlin, Germany

www.solesatisfactionblog.com

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Spreepark Berlin

Berlin
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Spreepark Berlin, Berlin, Germany
A final look at an abandoned Berlin amusement park going extinct
The excitement at learning Berlin's iconic abandoned amusement park was now open for weekend tours could only be dampened by the fact that the re-opening of these doors was to be a short-lived endeavor. With years of back taxes and millions owed to banks - not to mention an unanswered eBay listing for its sale - the city finally stepped in and bought the place, running tours through the finalization of the sale (end of April 2014). While the park's future is unclear, there is much speculation that like so much open land in Berlin, the city will get its money's worth and respond to the demand for more affordable housing. It seems like a crime to dismantle such an iconic piece of Berlin's history, the park's inception dating back to the GDR in 1969, but progress it seems is inevitable. Even those who were once up for hopping the fence and risking arrest for a little unofficial sightseeing will be out of luck. It appears this Berlin landmark is about to go as extinct as the fiberglass dinosaurs littering its grounds.
A final look at an abandoned Berlin amusement park going extinct

Il Massimo Del Gelato

Milan
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Il Massimo Del Gelato, Milan, Italy
Best gelato I've ever had, bar none
I consider myself to be a gelato connoisseur, at least in the sense that if I see a gelateria, I will go. It is my very favorite indulgence. I have enjoyed gelato all over Europe and in many cities around Italy, but this was far and away the best. It was so good, I very nearly cried, not to mention almost went back for seconds. From the traditional - like lemon and melon - to the more exotic - decadent, rich chocolates with flavorings like candied oranges or cinnamon and chilis - enjoying a cup of Il Massimo's gelato is like a little taste of heaven. And arrive prepared - I hear that peak seasons and times mean lines around the block. But not to worry - it's worth the wait!
Best gelato I've ever had, bar none

Restaurant Zum Anker

Rüdesheim am Rhein
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Restaurant Zum Anker, Rüdesheim am Rhein, Germany
Not the same old Schnitzel
Living, or even just traveling, for awhile in Germany can result in quickly tiring of traditional German cuisine and the same schnitzel offerings at every restaurant. The 'Schweinesteak Melba' at Restaurant Zum Anker in Assmannshausen blows all that out of the water. A refreshing change, this thin, grilled pork steak, baked with peaches and cheese on top, then smothered in creamy sauce and served with fries is one my favorite alternatives to the ubiquitous Wienerschnitzel and Jägerschnitzel. I wait all winter for the weather to turn nice enough to enjoy this delicious meal and some local Riesling on their patio situated just across from the Rhine River. The restaurant is also perfectly situated to stop at for lunch while on The Romantic Tour (starting the next town over in Rüdesheim am Rhein).
Not the same old Schnitzel

The Romantic Tour

Rüdesheim am Rhein
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The Romantic Tour, Rüdesheim am Rhein, Germany
The best way to take in German wine country
This is the tour for people who don't like tours. A stunning and inexpensive way to see this beautiful part of German wine country, this self-guided 'tour' starts in the picturesque town of Rüdesheim am Rhein with a ride over the vineyards in an enclosed chair lift (wine and souvenir glasses to enjoy on the way up optional). Then a light hike through a forest with notable lookout spots and sights throughout takes you around to a chair lift back down the hill, then a boat ride across the river for a tour of castle Rheinstein perched on the hillside, and finally, you take a leisurely boat ride back to where you started (more wine and snacks available to order on the boat). An entire day of being outdoors and enjoying sweeping views of the Rheingau for under €20. In a word: Amazing!
The best way to take in German wine country

Queen of Tarts

Dublin
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Queen of Tarts, Dublin, Ireland
Irish Tea, Baked Goods and Light Lunch
This little cafe is fantastic for breakfast, a light lunch or just a snack in a very Irish kind of way. The scones come with clotted cream and jam, the tea comes with milk and everything is served on beautiful china. There are two locations, and while I believe the Cows Lane spot offers a bit more food, the Dame Street location sits directly across from the lovely City Hall building, which is a nice view while enjoying your tea and morning paper.
Irish Tea, Baked Goods and Light Lunch

Clontarf Castle Hotel

Clontarf
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Clontarf Castle Hotel, Clontarf, Ireland
Stay like Modern Royalty
While this little gem is a bit outside of Dublin's bustling city center, it is well worth the drive. Winner of the 2009 Prix Villegiature Award 'Best Hotel Interior Design in Europe', this hotel marries old world castle and modern amenities in the most unique and beautiful way. The staff was stellar, the Fahrenheit Grill was good for an amazing meal (dessert is a must!) and the ambiance was one of a kind. Definitely one of my favorite places I have ever stayed!
Stay like Modern Royalty

Stück vom Glück

Berlin
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Stück vom Glück, Berlin, Germany
Perfect marriage of great coffee and delicious baked goods
This new little cafe in Pankow has all the makings of a favorite hangout: the cozy couches and benches, the mid-century accents, the pop of hot pink in the decor. But what really makes this place a standout is not only its offerings of really good coffee (too often a rarity in Germany) and really excellent baked goods - from the perfectly sweet and crunchy blueberry tart to the warm and flavorful quiches - but the warmth and genuine friendliness of the proprietors. The beautiful, tea party-worthy plates don't hurt either.
Perfect marriage of great coffee and delicious baked goods

Beechers Handmade Cheese

Seattle
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Beechers Handmade Cheese, Seattle, Washington
It's a Cheese Paradise!
World-renowned macaroni and cheese, grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato and basil, not to mention the tomato soup topped with—you guessed it—more cheese at Beecher's should be on every foodies list of things to eat. True to our gluttonous ways when it comes to good food, we ordered one of each thing to share and went into a cheese-induced coma of pleasure while watching them make even more of this award-winning goodness inside the glass-walled cheese-making kitchen. While the "world's best" mac 'n' cheese might be one of Oprah's favorite things, I think the flagship grilled cheese sandwich might be one of mine.
It's a Cheese Paradise!

The Arctic Club Seattle - A DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel

Seattle
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The Arctic Club Seattle - A DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel, Seattle, Washington
Our favorite hotel, bar none
We booked our stay here after reading an article about the history of the club, the landmark building and its Polar Bar, but nothing prepared us for how impressed we were with our stay here. When we visited, Hilton had only recently acquired the property, so the signature warm DoubleTree cookies were a very pleasant surprise at check in (and by request on a few late nights...). Our room was warm, cozy and had probably the most comfortable hotel bed I've ever slept in. Drinks at the Polar Bar felt like being transported back to the times of the club, complete with an abundance of bourbon cocktails and a bar seemingly inset with blocks of ice. Really a unique and beautiful place to stay.
Our favorite hotel, bar none

Harbour Public House

Bainbridge Island
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Harbour Public House, Bainbridge Island, Washington
Beautiful spot for a meal or a cocktail
After biking around the island, we stopped here for lunch on account of its stunning views and promising menu. The cucumber cocktail I had while waiting for a table on the patio was phenomenal and the sweet potato fries at lunch were divine. Great food, delicious drinks and a spectacular view - you can't go wrong!
Beautiful spot for a meal or a cocktail

Mora Iced Creamery

Bainbridge Island
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Mora Iced Creamery, Bainbridge Island, Washington
Might just be the best ice cream. Ever.
I consider myself to be a bit of an ice cream connoisseur, never passing up an opportunity to try something new - even in the sleet or snow. The cones (yes, I went twice in one day) from our trip to Bainbridge Island were some of the most fresh, delicious, downright amazing flavors I had ever had. Not to be missed!
Might just be the best ice cream. Ever.

Dole Plantation

Wahiawā
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Dole Plantation, Wahiawā, Hawaii
Touristy pineapple plantation offers hidden gem with its gardens
Sure, it's a bit touristy, but meandering around the beautiful grounds here - not to mention the pineapple soft serve! - make it worth the trip. The giant pineapple maze is pretty fun for kids, or kids at heart. Don't forget to pick up a box (or two) of the white chocolate pineapple crunch at the gift shop. It's heavenly!
Touristy pineapple plantation offers hidden gem with its gardens

Turtle Bay Resort

Kahuku
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Turtle Bay Resort, Kahuku, Hawaii
Ultimate relaxation: Outdoor massage overlooking the North Shore
It doesn't get better than having a massage in a hut overlooking the North Shore, with the sound of the waves crashing beneath you and the sun warming your body. Spa Luana at Turtle Bay Resort offers this little piece of heaven, and I can't recommend it highly enough!
Ultimate relaxation: Outdoor massage overlooking the North Shore

Koko Crater Botanical Gardens

Honolulu
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Koko Crater Botanical Gardens, Honolulu, Hawaii
Easy Hike and Cool Cacti on Oahu
Looking for something low-key and different to do on one of our last days on Oahu, we found the Koko Crater Botanical Gardens. While the 'hike' was really more of a walk, the impressive crater ridge and amazing assortment of some seriously crazy cacti made for great scenery and an enjoyable afternoon outdoors.
Easy Hike and Cool Cacti on Oahu

Kualoa Ranch

Kaneohe
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Kualoa Ranch, Kaneohe, Hawaii
Best Time on Oahu: ATVing at Kualoa Ranch
While vacationing on Oahu with my parents and husband, we decided on a whim to go ATVing—and had the best time of the whole trip! The entire park the ranch is on is incredible, with incredible scenery and ocean views. Being on the ATVs felt a bit adventuresome while offering quicker access to multiple spots on the ranch. So much fun!
Best Time on Oahu: ATVing at Kualoa Ranch

La Degustation

Prague
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La Degustation, Prague, Czech Republic
The most impressive meal of my life
Let me just say up front: We are foodies, but are not the type to spend half our rent on a single meal when we could eat something just as delicious at a taco truck or back alley bakery. For some reason, this place just spoke to us when planning our trip to Prague, so we took the plunge for the most extravagant dinner we'd ever had - and ended up with the best meal of our lives. The food was beautiful, delicious and inventive, down to the multiple amuse-bouches that arrived between courses. The wine pairings were so perfect, it was hard to believe they were not specifically made for each other. The staff was the most attentive, thorough and kind I had ever experienced. All this, and not an ounce of pretentiousness. The open kitchen to watch the magic happen only added to its surprisingly laid-back, foodie vibe. If you are in Prague and looking for a life-changing meal, this is your place!
The most impressive meal of my life

Luini

Milan
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Luini, Milan, Italy
The Best Fast Food You Will Ever Have
There is a reason the locals line up down the block at this place come lunchtime: the pomodoro panzerotti. It's a perfect little pocket filled with fresh, warm, gooey mozzarella and local tomatoes. I tried several other sweet and savory items here, but nothing held a candle to this little pocket of perfection. I ate several during our five-day stay in Milan and still daydream about making it back for more.
The Best Fast Food You Will Ever Have

Dolores

Berlin
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Dolores, Berlin, Germany
SF Burritos in Berlin
Burritos are a staple of the California diet, and we've missed them greatly since our move to Germany. Dolores in Berlin allowed us to satiate that need, and then some! The burrito options—and sizes!—are overwhelming, from choice of meat to all the fixings, our favorites being the chicken mole and the adobo beef (we went a few times on our visit...). The chips are thick and homemade, and the guacamole is seriously impressive. Not to mention the San Francisco maps all over the walls and tables that reminded us of our old home. I will be anxiously awaiting another trip here. Yum!
SF Burritos in Berlin

Tempelhofer Freiheit

Berlin
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Tempelhofer Freiheit, Berlin, Germany
Former Airport Makes for a Unique Park
An abandoned airport sounds like a strange setting for a park, but Tempelhof is much better in person. With long runways perfect for biking, skating, or running (and skiing in winter!), nature preserves for rare and endangered birds, and designated areas for barbecues and off-leash dogs, it practically offers more than a regular park. The airplanes that still hang out near the terminal building just make it that much cooler.
Former Airport Makes for a Unique Park

BABANBÈ

Berlin
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BABANBÈ , Berlin, Germany
The Banh Mi Deli (& coffee bar)
We stumbled on this light-filled, modern spot on our way to another recommended place for lunch (which happened to be packed) and since I'd never had the pleasure of a Banh Mi, I was excited to try one. Not only was it fresh and delicious, but the salads and house-made tea and lemonade were as well. We enjoyed it so much, we stayed for coffee and a mini Crack Pie (made famous by Momofuku Milk Bar in Brooklyn, NY), which were equally enjoyable. A great place for a break from the traditional, heavier German fare.
The Banh Mi Deli (& coffee bar)

Santa Maria Mexican Diner

Berlin
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Santa Maria Mexican Diner, Berlin, Germany
Authentic Mexican in Berlin
Coming from California, we often miss the plethora of amazing Mexican food that can be had just about anywhere at home. After a friend's recommendation, we found this authentic gem while visiting Berlin: Santa Maria on Oranienstrasse. Standouts are the tacos and chilaquiles. While the Micheladas (usually one of my favorites) left something to be desired, the margaritas were stellar.
Authentic Mexican in Berlin

Lichtenstein Castle

Lichtenstein
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Lichtenstein Castle, Lichtenstein, Germany
The coolest, lesser-known castle in Germany
I stumbled upon a photo of this castle on Pinterest from a fellow expat and was stunned at how, well, stunning it was - and that it was only a few hours away from where live! So on our latest road trip, we made it a stop and were not disappointed. From its vantage point at the very top of a ridge, this small castle seemingly carved right out of the rock it sits on overlooks everything in the impressive valley below. Definitely my new favorite castle (of which there are countless here in Germany)!
The coolest, lesser-known castle in Germany

Trdelník stand

Prague
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Trdelník stand, Prague, Czech Republic
So much better than Starbucks
Trekking across the Charles Bridge and up the hill towards the Prague Castle called for a little snack. We happened upon this little stand, just behind the St. Nicolas Cathedral and right across from a giant Starbucks, and were intrigued. We watched as they rolled dough, wrapped it around a cylindrical spit, baked it and then dipped into sugar and nut mixture. I was sold. A fresh, warm Trdelník and cup of mulled wine was the perfect thing on a cold, snowy day. I watched the hoards of tourists filing into the Starbucks and wondered - why?
So much better than Starbucks

Kostnice Sedlec

Kutna Hora
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Kostnice Sedlec, Kutna Hora, Czech Republic
The famous Bone Church
The Bone Church is decent train ride (and trek into town) away from Prague, but worth the trip out to see this truly unique sight. Surprisingly, it was not as creepy as we thought it would be. This sight needs only an afternoon to see, as it's not very large, not to mention that the surrounding town has little to offer.
The famous Bone Church

Tier- und Pflanzenpark Fasanerie

Wiesbaden
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Tier- und Pflanzenpark Fasanerie, Wiesbaden, Germany
Animals in their natural habitat
This lovely animal park is actually tucked right into the forest and the caging/fences are minimal (aside from the bears), so it feels like actually being out in nature with these animals rather than in an unnatural zoo setting. The animals seem pretty happy about it too. The trails in the surrounding forest are abundant and also worth exploring.
Animals in their natural habitat

Erfurter Weihnachtsmarkt

Erfurt
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Erfurter Weihnachtsmarkt, Erfurt, Germany
A gem among German Christmas markets
After three Christmases and countless holiday markets since our move to Germany, the Erfurter Weihnachtsmarkt has definitely become one of our favorites. Whether it's for the impressive Dom overlooking the main part of the market, the Medieval section with its ratty tents and rustic fare or the amazingly delicious Hungarian Lángos (offered somewhere in the middle), it is worth the trip to this lesser-known and far less crowded Markt.
A gem among German Christmas markets

Innsbruck Cathedral (Domkirche zu St. Jakob)

Innsbruck
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Innsbruck Cathedral (Domkirche zu St. Jakob), Innsbruck, Austria
It's what's on the inside that counts
With every city in Europe having a massive cathedral, it's easy to feel that once you've seen one, you've seen them all. Sitting in front of the rather plain facade of the Domkirche in Innsbruck, I was happy to soak up the sun outside rather than tour yet another cathedral. At the urging of my husband, I finally went inside - and boy, am I glad I did. Just goes to prove that you can't judge a book - or a cathedral - by its cover.
It's what's on the inside that counts
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