Looking back: my trips in 2017

2017 has been wonderful for me, both professionally and personally. And it was a year of many, maaany trips. Thinking about it, I’ve been to 13 countries only this year (yes, THIRTEEN!!), including 3 times in Italy and 4 countries for the first time: Uruguay, Argentina, Scotland and Ireland. It was more countries than months. Still, it was by far the most productive year of my PhD.

In 2015, I traveled every month of the year and in 2016, almost (only 1 month got away). This year was different: the vast majority of my trips was concentrated in the first semester, when most of the long weekends and spring/summer take place, but there were one or two trips per month. It was so much coming and going between January and August that I must confess that even I got a bit tired. 😀

JANUARY: Rio de Janeiro / Uruguay + Argentina

As always, I spent New Year’s in my beautiful city, Rio de Janeiro.
And, finding it absurd to have visited so many European countries but only Brazil in South America (and still, not even the whole country), I finally decided to change that. I traveled with my dad through Montevideo, Punta del Este and Colonia del Sacramento (in Uruguay) and, after crossing from one country to the other by ferry, Buenos Aires (in Argentina).

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Montevideo, Uruguay

FEBRUARY: Switzerland

My second time in Geneva and third in Switzerland, this time to celebrate the birthday of a dear friend, who even took me to eat lots of cheese and to visit CERN’s particle collision detector. I also visited Montreux, Vevey and Lausanne, which comprise French Switzerland, or Swiss Riviera. A gorgeous scenery with snow-covered mountain tops.

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French Switzerland

APRIL: Scotland / Ireland

Easter holiday exploring Scotland for the first time with a friend from the Master’s and a childhood friend from Rio who met us there. We visited Edinburgh and Glasgow and went on day trips to Loch Ness, the Highlands, Stirling, Loch Lomond and a whiskey distillery.

And I visited my 27th country, Ireland, on my 27th birthday, over the long weekend of Labor Day. I stayed with a friend from the Master’s who was an amazing hostess. I visited Dublin and went on trips to the Cliffs of Moher and Howth and the Galway Bay. Despite Scotland and Ireland’s  reputation of being quite rainy, those were beautiful and sunny spring days!

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Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

MAY: Alicante (Spain) / Turin + Cinque Terre + Pisa (Italy)

No time to catch a breath: the next day I arrived from Dublin I flew to Alicante for a conference for Neuroscience PhD students. The resort where it took place, by the beach, the presence of friends, and the hot and sunny weather made it seem as if it was purely a leisure trip.

At the end of May, I went to Italy with my best friend. He wanted to visit Turin (a Juventus fan!) and I, Cinque Terre: the 5 villages by the sea, with beautiful colorful houses on cliffs. So we did both! And even Pisa too, since it was so close by. Such stunning sights!! Amongst my trips in 2017, this one gets the award of best destination.

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Manarola (Cinque Terre), Italy

JUNE: Paris / Amsterdam

My third time in Paris, visiting a friend from Rio de Janeiro over the weekend, in the heat of summer (and how warm indeed!). We visited what was missing for both of us two to see around there: the Palace of Versailles.

I also spent a week in Amsterdam, where I was kindly hosted by a friend from the Master’s, to attend a fantastic BioBusiness course.

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Palace of Versailles

JULY: Göttingen (Germany) / Leuven (Belgium)

I went back to the German city where I lived during my Master’s, Göttingen, for a week of work, surrounded by friends. And later I headed to Leuven (my second time) for the wedding of a dear friend. What a special and wonderful weekend!

AUGUST: Kenilworth (England)

Another weekend to celebrate the wedding of another dear friend, this time in Kenilworth, England. There was a lot of love, a lot of sun, blue skies and caipirinha. It was truly amazing!

OCTOBER: Venice (Italy)

A super romantic trip with my boyfriend (our first trip together, and our first time in Venice!). I wrote a post about what to see over there beyond the main island: Burano, Murano, Torcello and Sant’Erasmo.

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Venice, Italy

DECEMBER: Rome / Rio de Janeiro

Heading from Berlin to Rio with a friend who was on the same flight, we had a 7-hour layover in Rome. Although it wasn’t our first time there, we went to the city center and walked around the streets covered in Christmas lights. It seems that Italy didn’t want to let go of me this year.

And 2017 ends where it began: in Rio de Janeiro. 🙂

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Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

I can barely wait for 2018 and the trips that will come! Happy New Year everybody!!!


My trips in 2016

My trips in 2015

Answering the question “How do you manage to travel so much?”

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The islands in the Venice lagoon: Murano, Burano, Torcello

Venice is a beautiful destination that attracts thousands of tourists every day. Before visiting it for the first time, I was aware of the risk of it being overrated, but personally found it to meet the expectations. Maybe a key decision was to follow the tip of visiting it during autumn, when the weather is still nice but the crowds are a lot smaller.

The main island of Venice is rather small and can be well explored in 1-2 days. It’s only 4 km long and 1 km wide. So if you have an extra day there, you can go island-hopping in the large Venetian lagoon.

Boats (or vaporettos) are really the main type of public transport in Venice – just like buses or subway trains in any other city. There are 24-, 48- and 72-hour tickets valid for unlimited boats trips, which are usually worth the money (plus, there’s a big discount on the 72-hour ticket for people under 29 years of age!). For more information, check here under “public transport”.

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Burano

This was my favorite island in the lagoon, after Venice. The bright colorful houses along the canals heading towards the lagoon compose an extremely photogenic scenery. The island is known for its lace, which is sold in shops on the small streets. It’s a 30-minute ride from Murano and 40-minute from Venice.

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Torcello

Honestly, this island is better known for its history than for its attractions. It’s quite small and there is not much to see. There are a couple of churches you must pay to visit and a small museum. We decided to check it out since it’s so close to Burano – so if you’re feeling “why not?”, then do it. But know that – at least compared to the other islands in the Venice lagoon – it’s not so charming.

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Murano

While Burano and Torcello are near each other and further away from Venice’s main island, Murano is quite close by (about a 10-minute ride). And just like Burano is known for its lace, Murano is famous for its glass products, hand-made on the island. You can watch artists in action making the small glass figures inside shops.

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Sant’Erasmo

The calm and peaceful island of Sant’Erasmo is not a tourist must-see – BUT it’s a great option to stay overnight while visiting Venice. We found the cute Hotel Il Lato Azzurro to have excellent reviews on Booking.com and a ridiculously better price than hotels on the main island of Venice. I was a bit worried that it might be too far (location is a priority for me when booking accommodation), but the 25-minute boat ride from Venice didn’t feel very long (plus, we had a ticket for unlimited trips). The charming hotel compensates for the distance with balcony rooms overlooking the lake, nice breakfast, friendly staff and free bikes for guests to borrow whenever they want. Note: I was not sponsored by the hotel in any way to recommend it. 🙂

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Other islands

We also walked through Mazzorbo, a residential island attached to Burano – very quiet and not exactly a place that can’t be skipped.

San Michele is a small cemetery island located between Venice and Murano.

We did not visit Lido, on the southeast side of the lagoon, but it’s also an island where some tourists head to when visiting Venice.


So there is clearly more to Venice than just its main island. But one thing is a constant: water transportation, being it by gondola or vaporettos. You can’t (and shouldn’t) miss it.

The odd feeling of having two homes

Sometimes it’s as if I live in two parallel universes. The two worlds are extremely real, complex, mine, but very different.

One keeps my family, my oldest friends, my past, my memories, my base. The other one is my present, my daily life, my routine, my novelties, my most recent friends (not that recent anymore), my ‘right now’.

I have an address, a bank account and a phone number in each of my worlds. Material things that give us the impression that we’re anchored in a certain place.

When the two worlds happen to mix (not so often in my case), my brain short circuits. It’s as if characters from two separate clusters of a movie suddenly meet. It’s like watching the Jetsons in the Flintstones’ setting. What is my dad doing here in the Berlin subway? How come my childhood friend, who belongs to the ‘over there’ world, is on my same visual field as my friend from the Master’s, who belongs to the ‘over here’ world? It feels a bit like that movie, ‘Inception’.

Usually I’m the one who moves between the two worlds, but even then it’s confusing. When I go to Brazil, am I going home, or to my parents’ home? And when it’s time to leave, am I leaving home, or going home? I feel like the answer is: both.

For every departure, there is an arrival. It depends on the point of view.

When my flight or train arrives in Germany, back from a trip, I automatically get that feeling of ‘I’ve arrived home’. And when I’m traveling in another country where the language is not German, but I suddenly hear a group of tourists speaking German on the street, that sounds familiar… To me, it sounds like home. Weird, right?

I’ve lived in Brazil until I was 22 and now it’s been 5 years since I came to live in Europe. Considering as an adult someone who is over 18 years of age, I get to the surprising conclusion that I’ve already spent most of my adult life in Germany, and not in Brazil.

Moving to Europe was a big landmark in my life, a true turning point, for the reasons listed here. It was when the portal to a whole new dimension was opened. And now the sixth year of this era has begun.

I feel at home in Rio and in Berlin. I’m a proud inhabitant of two worlds, in a multidimensional life. I have homes in two cities, each one a world of its own.

Berlin travel itinerary

Most of Berlin’s main tourist attractions are located in the central region, Mitte. Here, I put together an itinerary to see all of them in an efficient order and on foot. It’s doable to visit all the tourist spots in Mitte in 1 day, but it can be tiring. Depending on your pace, this itinerary can simply be paused and resumed the following day. Let’s begin:

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Attractions in the city center (Mitte):

Start at Alexanderplatz (1), with the TV Tower (Fernsehturm) and the world clock. There are many stores around – including the bargain ones, Primark, Decathlon and TK Maxx – and the Alexa shopping mall near by.

Walk by the Rotes Rathaus (2) until you reach Unter den Linden – the long central avenue.

Keep on Unter den Linden: right after the river on the right is the Cathedral (Berliner Dom) (3) and the Museum Island (5 museums, one next to the other).

Continue on Unter den Linden; see the ‘Neue Wache’ memorial, walk by the main building of the Humboldt Universität (4) and keep on the avenue until reaching the Brandenburg Gate (5), one of the main landmarks of Berlin.

Walking through the gate: there is a long avenue ahead with the Victory Column at the end and a large park, Tiergarten, around.

Proceed to the right towards the German Parliament building (Bundestag or Reichstag) (6). You can visit the terrace of the parliament and have an audio-guide completely for free. But you have to book a time slot in advance through this website (‘Visit to the dome’). The building and the view are beautiful. Highly recommended!

Going back towards the Brandenburg Gate and walking straight ahead, you will find the Holocaust Memorial (7), a labyrinth of concrete that looks like a cemetery, with a very striking effect. Walk through it showing respect. There is also a free exhibition underground.

Walking towards the same direction as before, you will arrive at Potsdamer Platz, with the Sony Center (8), a giant and modern dome with restaurants and a cinema inside. Close by is the Mall of Berlin shopping center.

Go on to the Topography of Terror (9), another memorial about nazism, and then to Checkpoint Charlie (10) – a spot that symbolizes one of the former checkpoints between East and West Berlin while it was divided by the wall. But be aware that the checkpoint is not located on the exact spot where it used to be and today is only a tourist attraction.

Finish the route at Gendarmenmarkt (11), a lovely square right in the center of Berlin.


Outside the city center:

The East Side Gallery – the part that is left of the Berlin Wall, covered in colorful graffiti, is a must-see. Get off at the S-Ostbahnhof station and walk by the wall until its end, arriving at the Oberbaumbrücke bridge. It’s also worth it to explore at night the cool / alternative / hipster districts of Berlin, Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain, which are connected by this bridge.

Other tips:

In Berlin on a Sunday with good weather? Don’t miss Mauerpark! And check out the memorial about the wall, on the same street.

Staying 3 or more days in Berlin? Consider going a bit outside the city to visit the Sanssouci Palace and its gardens, in Potsdam (about 1 hour southwest of Berlin), and/or the museum of the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, in Oranienburg (about 1 hour north).

Want to go shopping? Besides the shopping malls in the city center already mentioned (Alexa and Mall of Berlin), a great option are the Tauentzienstraße and Kurfürstendamm (also known as Kudamm) streets, in the district of Charlottenburg. There, one can also visit the main zoo of Berlin and the Gedächtniskirche: the ruins of a church that was bombed during WWII and whose main tower is broken in half until today.

Going to be in Berlin during spring or summer? Here is a list of the coolest things to do around here in the best time of the year!

Want tips on what and where to eat in Berlin? Check out this post.

Interested in staying longer? Here’s an insider’s view on what it is like to live in Berlin.


I hope you will love Berlin as much as I do! 🙂

weloveberlin

10 things you can’t miss in Berlin in the summer

There’s nothing like spring and summer in Berlin. The city completely transforms itself. As the leaves turn green, people get especially cheerful and make an effort to spend as much time as possible outdoors. Open-air festivals and events start popping up in the calendar like crazy. It is definitely the best time to visit the German capital.

There are a lot of cool things to do in the Berliner summer. Here is a list of my favorite ones:

1) Going swimming in a lake

Believe it or not, Berlin can get quite warm. The temperature reaches around 37 degrees on some summer days. And with the lack of air-conditioned places, nothing beats dipping yourself in water to cool off. Although the city is not by the sea and therefore has no beaches, it luckily has MANY lakes. Most of them have a Freibad, an area you can access for around 3-5 euros, with sand to lay down on, toilet facilities and food kiosks. Some even offer the possibility of renting paddle or rowing boats, kayaks or stand-up paddles. Definitely a must-do in Berlin in the summer!

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Müggelsee lake

2) Open-air cinemas

In the warm months, the city offers several open-air cinemas (in German, Freiluftkino). There is practically one in every neighborhood. Movies displayed include both old classics and recent ones straight out of Hollywood. But if you’re not used to it, beware: popcorn in German cinemas is usually sweet.

3) Rooftop bars

There is a number of different bars on top of malls or buildings in Berlin, where you can have a drink outdoors while enjoying the view and the sunset. Probably the most famous one is Klunkerkranisch in Neukölln, followed by Deck 5 in Schönhauserallee and House of Weekend in Alexanderplatz (which is also a club).

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View from Klunkerkranisch

4) Thai Park

If you’re up for some nice, authentic Thai food, you should definitely head to the Preußenpark, also known as Thai Park. Everything you need to know about the Thai Park is in this post about the top places to eat in Berlin.

5) Badeschiff

Badeschiff is literally a swimming pool inside the river Spree! For a small fee you can get inside the beach bar area, which also has lockers and bathrooms. From inside the pool, you get a great view to the Oberbaumbrücke bridge linking Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain, the big metal sculpture Molecule Man on the river, and to the people passing close by on stand-up paddles or boats. One of the coolest and most different things you can do in the summer in Berlin.

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Badeschiff

6) Having some beer at a Biergarten

Drinking beer is a must in Germany, and in the summer this is done outdoors. Meaning: Biergarten season! There are dozens of options around the city, some near green areas such as parks, and some at actual breweries, offering amazing locally-brewed tap beer.

7) Going strawberry picking

This is quite a different activity you can do as a day trip from Berlin. There are different fields in the outskirts of the city, about 1 hour away, where you can pick strawberries, raspberries and blueberries. In some of them there is a small entrance fee, and in others you can enter for free, pick the fruits and only pay if you want to take some home. Check the calendar of the appropriate season to visit and how to get to some of the fields on this website (only in German).

8) Monbijoupark

This is an area near Hackescher Markt where people sit on the lawn by the river Spree while having a beer and overlooking the cathedral (Berliner Dom). It’s a great place to chill outdoors and also a nice photo spot. Around the corner following the river on the opposite direction to the cathedral there is a bar where you can dance salsa or tango outdoors in the evenings of warm months.

9) Having a barbecue with friends

A common passion that Germans share with Brazilians – besides football – is having barbecues. As soon as the sun starts coming out, you can see grills and smoke everywhere around the city. Having a nice barbecue is something quite typical in Berlin, and can be done in someone’s yard (or even balcony), or in one of the several public parks, which usually have designated areas for grilling.

10) Mauerpark

You will find this tip in every guide to Berlin – and that’s because it is a must. If you’re in town on a Sunday during spring or summer, you need to go to Mauerpark, the hipster epicenter of Berlin. There, you’ll find a famous flea market, food stands, several street artists and musicians from all over the world surrounded by a crowd of cheerful young people enjoying the sound, and lots of people chilling on the grass at the small hill overlooking the park. Also, my favorite part: the open-air karaoke. The park has a small stage with stands around it, where, on warm Sundays, an open-mic karaoke session takes place. Whoever wants to sing gets the microphone, while the crowd and passers-by watch and cheer. There’s just something special about the vibe in Mauerpark.

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Mauerpark karaoke

Hope you enjoy the summer in Berlin!

The Obersee (Königssee) lake at the Berchtesgaden National Park

Most of the scenic locations that are tourist destinations look quite nicer in the Google images than in reality. There you can see the best pictures, by the best photographers, on the prettiest days, and sometimes also with a little help of Photoshop. So I try not to expect too much when I go visit one of those places. However… the Obersee lake was an exception. Surprisingly, it somehow managed to look even nicer live than in the photos I had seen.

It is a crystal clear mirror lake surrounded by the Alps which makes the water reflect the image of the mountains and the sky. Sounds like paradise? And it is.

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obersee01

Lake Obersee can be found at the end of the Königssee lake, in the Berchtesgaden National Park, in the extreme southeast of Germany, literally at the border with Austria. The Alps mountains that surround the lake delimit the border. Despite being located in German territory, the closest city (and airport) to the park is Salzburg which is also gorgeous! Therefore, I would recommend visiting Salzburg for a weekend (long or not) and go on a day trip from there to Berchtesgaden quite easy to do, even by public transport.

The Berchtesgaden National Park also offers many other activities, such as several trails for trekking and viewpoints. One of them is where the Eagle’s Nest (Kehlsteinhaus) is a house that was given to Adolf Hitler for his 50th birthday as a teahouse for diplomats. Berchtesgaden, by the way, was a place Hitler really enjoyed visiting. But don’t let this discourage you! The sense of peace that nature provides in this park really doesn’t deserve to be associated to that gloomy figure of the past.

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How to get there

Take the bus number 840 in Salzburg to the final stop (Berchtesgaden Hbf, the train station). The journey takes only 45 minutes (same by car). From there, take another bus that goes to Königssee. Everything is quite easy to find, also because several other people will be going along the same route. To go back, you just need to take the same buses in the opposite direction.

From Munich, you can reach Berchtesgaden by train with a change in Freilassing, but each journey leg takes around 3 hours (around 2 hours by car).

Arriving at the entrance to Königssee, walk to the ferry dock and get a ticket for the boat ride that goes across Königssee all the way to Obersee. On the way, a guide will explain a bit about the park, indicate a few beautiful waterfalls, and show the echo effect on the lake. The boat first stops at the St. Bartholomä station, where you can get off to visit the chapel and then take another boat (included in the ticket) to the Salet station. From there, a short path of a 5 to 10-minute walk leads to the Obersee lake.

On the other side of the Obersee there is a little house and you can walk there, around the lake along a path on the right (quite easy to walk), and then back. The view from the other side is also amazing! And this house is actually a small restaurant, where you can also find toilets.

Swimming in the lake is not allowed (although some people can be seen stepping in the water by the shore).

When to go

I believe the lake and its reflexions look especially stunning during the summer, on a sunny day. I went in June 2015 and it was a beautiful day, and not very crowded.

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St. Bartholomä chapel by the Königssee
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Obersee seen from the opposite side to the entrance path

For more photos of this destination, click here.

I hope you enjoy this delightful visit to the Berchtesgaden park and its lakes, Königssee and Obersee! 🙂

Fun facts about Germany (part 1)

There are so many facts and habits in Germany that are funny/odd for a foreigner that this will have to be a series of posts, rather than just one! lol

For those who have lived here for a while, like me, these things have already become completely normal and nowadays go unnoticed. But those who are not so familiar with the German culture usually find these facts quite confusing or weird.

Let’s start with 5 of them:

1) At the cinema, you’ll find sweet popcorn

They do have salty popcorn here, but the ‘standard’ popcorn, the one you can usually buy in stalls, is usually sweet. Going to the movies and not even having the option of eating some salty popcorn? How come?

popcorn

2) Academic scores are from 1 to 6 (1 being the highest)

In Germany, the grading system doesn’t range from zero to 10, or from zero to 100. They don’t use the A-B-C-D system either. It works like this:

1 = very good
2 = good
3 = satisfactory
4 = sufficient
5 = insufficient
6 = very insufficient / zero

You need to get at least a 4 to pass an exam or course. Universities often don’t even mention grade 6, as any number higher than 4 already means ‘failed’. The grades also have one decimal place, usually with odd numbers. For example: 1.3 – 1.5 – 1.7 (1.3 being a higher score than 1.7). For Germans, a grade ‘2’ is better than a grade ‘3’. Totally counter-intuitive.

The first time I received a grade in my Master’s, the email said ‘1.0’. I almost had a mini heart attack. 😀

3) The second floor is the first one

In Brazil, the ground floor is usually considered the first floor, the floor above is the second, and so on. But in Germany, the ground floor is ‘floor zero’. And the first floor (number 1) is the one that comes above the ground floor. This causes newcomers a lot of confusion. ‘Meet me on the first floor’ – in the beginning my brain was trained to automatically think of the ground floor, which is the first floor on which you step. In many elevators or in the large department stores here, you can see the digit ‘zero’ on the screen referring to the ground floor (and sometimes -1 and -2 for underground floors).

4) When entering a German house/apartment, you must take off your shoes

This is perhaps the most typically German habit of all. Each and every German person takes off their shoes as soon as they step inside the house, still by the door, and puts on a pair of ‘house shoes’, or walks around in socks. They do the same when they go visit someone, and expect it from you when you visit them. Since I’m not a huge fan of walking barefoot, I have to remember to check that my socks don’t have any holes before I go visit a friend around here! lol

The goal of this habit is to preserve hygiene and to avoid bringing dirt from the outside into the house – which is quite understandable. But this habit is so embedded in the DNA of Germans that they follow it strictly even when it doesn’t make any sense. Like in the case of house parties, for example. Parties always cause a bit of a mess, and the apartment will have to be cleaned later anyway. What difference will it make if the guests take off their shoes? 😛

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“Shoes off” = how to get a German house party started (note: there were a lot more shoes that didn’t fit in the picture)

5) Germans love fizzy drinks

Did I say ‘love’? I meant CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT. In Germany there are not two, but three options of mineral water: Still, Medium e Classic. Imagine a tourist or newcomer in the country who just wants to quench his/her thirst and finds 3 types of bottled water for sale. Which of them should be the one without gas? The one that says ‘Classic’, right? WRONG. Classic in Germany is fizzy water. Go figure… Still is without gas, and Medium with a bit of gas (as you can see, they take this very seriously).

Tap water is safe to drink around here – and still, some Germans prefer to buy sparkling water in the supermarket (even having to carry all that weight home). You can even get a ‘sparkling water maker’ appliance for your home to transform normal water into fizzy water yourself! The addiction is real.