Opinion

Biking around Berlin

On our recent trip to Berlin we decided to embrace the nice weather and explore the city by bike. It was easier than we thought and it was quite convenient,…

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On our recent trip to Berlin we decided to embrace the nice weather and explore the city by bike. It was easier than we thought and it was quite convenient, too. It just all happens at your finger-tips (literally) because all you need to do is download an app on your phone, unlock the bike – and off you go. There’s a variety of apps (and pricing models) available. We decided to use ‘Donkey Republic‘ due to its conveniently located stations. With prices ranging from 1,50 € for half an hour to 12,00 € for a day, this is certainly a reasonably priced option to get around the city.

This being our second time in Berlin, we didn’t go to all the ‘main’ attractions, as we have already visited the likes of the Brandenburger Gate.

We started off our trip at the Ostbahnhof station, headed to the famous Berghain (a day and night nightclub; just to take a look) and took the main roads straight to Alexanderplatz.

Strausberger Platz

Drei Mädchen und ein Knabe

Altes Museum

We cycled down Alexanderplatz and continued to the Berlin Cathedral where there is also the statues of Drei Mädchen und ein Knabe (three girls and a boy). The area was quite busy giving it was a Sunday. It is perfect to sit down and eat or just have a drink. Next stop was Checkpoint Charlie and the Topography of Terror (both located about the same corner), which again was very busy with tourist trying to take a picture.

We finished our little bike trip having a sandwich and home-made apple strudel with vanilla sauce at Café Einstein Stammhaus.

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24 hour in Blackpool

I had the opportunity to spent my 26th birthday in Blackpool and I must say it was one of the most nicest birthdays I had. First of all, I spent…

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I had the opportunity to spent my 26th birthday in Blackpool and I must say it was one of the most nicest birthdays I had. First of all, I spent it with my lovely people (Jannik, my mum & my crazy cousin ?) so that is always a winner. Secondly, we had a fun day planned.

Our first stop was at a games room which we stumbled upon whilst walking. It brought back some lovely childhood memories (I’m looking at you Baystreet, St Julian’s games room). We spent a good hour and half in there and we also managed to get enough tokens to get a dominos and some sweets.

We then headed to the Blackpool Tower. We had purchased the tickets online beforehand so we avoided the ticketing queue. The Tower offers stunning views of the Pier. Stepping out of the lift at the top of the tower, you find yourself faced with a glass floor and the decision if you want to go for it and be brave or chicken out and stay on the ‘normal’ floor ?

There is another part of the Tower which goes further higher and which is in open air. To access this you need to take the stairs as the lift doesn’t go up to that part.

By the time we were done from the Blackpool Tower, it was past lunch time and given that it was a Friday all the restaurants were very busy and had a wait of up to 30minutes to get a table. Luckily, we had a car so we drove a little out of the centre to find food.

We then returned to the centre to go to Madame Tussauds. We have also purchased the tickets beforehand online. As for the tickets, purchasing them online saved us 30% off the price. The website offers different combinations of tickets of different places you can visit (including SeaLife, the Ballroom & the Dungeon’s). We opted for the Eye (Tower) + Madame Tussauds, as a group of 4 which was £80 in total.  Madame Tussauds offers a great opportunity for amazing photos and gives you the chance to be silly and let loose.

We ended the day with a walk by the promenade and an ice-cream (yes even though it was cold ?). Have you ever been to Blackpool? If so what was your favourite thing about it?

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5 brunch places in Edinburgh

Loudons Cafe  Situated in the Fountainbridge area, a short walk away from the city centre. Usually very busy, especially if you go on the weekend (we had to wait around 20…

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  1. Loudons Cafe 

Situated in the Fountainbridge area, a short walk away from the city centre. Usually very busy, especially if you go on the weekend (we had to wait around 20 minutes for a table) but oh it is so worth it. We tried the French toast (with bacon and maple syrup) and the American Style Pancakes – which were both delicious.

2. Mimi’s Bakehouse

This one has three cafes around Edinburgh (we’ve been twice and we have always been to the same one!). They take table bookings which I recommend (it’s super easy to book online). Both times we had their special Beforenoon Tea, which is served only on Saturday and Sunday. It includes flavoured cheese and chive scones (to die for!), a piece of waffle, a little muffin and cinnamon swirl, a yogurt and bacon butties (which they have a vegetarian option and are served with eggs instead of bacon). This is a definitely a personal favourite.

3. Grand Cafe

Certainly, a winner for its beautiful decor. It is part of the Scotman Hotel right in the heart of the city. We tried the Sourdough Toast (with mushrooms, poached eggs, and truffle oil). I had the impression that the prices would be rather expensive, however, this was not the case. We went during the week and it was not busy. Given its posh-y feel (and the fact that it is part of a four-star hotel) the service can definitely be improved, other than that definitely worth a visit.

4. Di Giorgio

We came across this one by chance and we were not disappointed to have given it a try. It is in a really good position to visit the Royal Botanic Gardens after a scrumptious breakfast. Service was very good and the staff was friendly. We tried the potato scone (toast with potatoes, eggs and mushrooms) and the asparagus (bacon with poached eggs on bread topped with hollandaise sauce).

5. The Corner Cafe

A bit off the path from the centre. But a perfect stop when doing the Water of Leith walk. We had a simple toast from here, but they had other appealing foods on the menu. The staff was so lovely and smiley, we would really like to visit this one again.

 

 

 

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Review – Turkish Airlines – Malta to Munich

I’ve been avoiding Turkish Airlines for quite a while now, not because I believe that they offer an inferior service, but because I had certain objections against flying via Istanbul…

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I’ve been avoiding Turkish Airlines for quite a while now, not because I believe that they offer an inferior service, but because I had certain objections against flying via Istanbul and about their safety record – which while it still isn’t the greatest, they’ve been trying to improve massively in recent years. [1] [2]

However, for the lack of other reasonable options, I ended up booking a Turkish Airlines connection from Malta to Munich via Istanbul as part of a recent business trip that I did together with Joanne.

Booking

As a web developer I must say that the Turkish Airlines website is one of the better ones on the market. It’s fairly simple, very well designed and works flawlessly. We didn’t have any issues checking-in online, booking and managing our flights. Only downside is, that the website sometimes reacts rather slowly and that I wasn’t able to check-in multiple passengers simultaneously, even though we were on the same booking. Unfortunately the mobile app didn’t work that well, it’s also anything but intuitive – there I still prefer the much more simplistic mobile apps airlines like Lufthansa, Ryanair and easyJet offer.

Out of 10, I would probably rate Turkish Airlines a 7 in this category.

Check-in and Boarding

We arrived at the airport pretty much exactly two hours before departure. Check-in desks were open and we quickly managed to drop off our luggage at the check-in desk. What’s great is the 30kg luggage allowance which, for two short flights from/to a European destination, is quite generous – especially considering that even the once full-service carriers such as Air France/KLM, Lufthansa and British Airways are nowadays charging extra for luggages.

A330-200 (TC-LNA) in Istanbul

Our flight started boarding rather early (approx. 10am, for a departure of 10.50am) – and with an aircraft that was just barely 50-60% full, boarding was finished quickly and efficiently. Unfortunately, even though technically the aircraft was ready to depart, a single passenger arrived late for boarding and thus we had to wait another 15-20 minutes before we eventually departed (then with a delay of 15 minutes). However, this is certainly not the airlines fault – and the decision to close the gate and unload the luggage would probably have taken the same, if not more time.

9 out of 10 for the timely boarding and generous luggage allowance.

The Aircraft(s)

On our first flight, from Malta to Istanbul, Turkish Airlines regularly deploys one of their Boeing 737-800’s. We were lucky as the 737 used for our flight (TC-JZG) was delivered end of September 2016 and thus is just two years old. The newer 737’s of Turkish Airlines feature the Boeing Sky Interior with larger overhead storages and a generally more spacious-feeling cabin. The aircraft was very clean and modern, way more than expected. Seats were comfortable and appropriate for short to medium distances. (10/10)

View of the cabin on the 737-800

Seat space on the 737-800

On our second flight we weren’t that lucky. Our flight was operated by one of the older A330-200’s (TC-LNA) – delivered approx. ten years ago – and unfortunately very worn out (which is not related to the age of the aircraft, rather to bad care). Some of the seats were ripped and the last cleaning wasn’t anywhere as thorough as on the 737. There has been a fair amount of dirt all around, especially under and next to the seats. The IFE wasn’t working and outdated as well. (4/10)

Seat space on the A330-200

Comes down to a total of 7 out of 10 for the aircrafts.

Crew

There isn’t much to say about the crew on these flights. They’ve been absolutely professional and friendly, though definitely not one of the most friendly crews I’ve witnessed on my flights so far.

8 out of 10 for a solid, friendly (but not outstanding) service.

Amenities

I’ve already mentioned the 30 kilo luggage allowance. It’s also fair to say that even on both flights, MLA-IST and IST-MUC they served a, given the length of the flight, quite sumptuous inflight meal. They also offer a quite extensive selection of drinks. On both flights we had inflight entertainment systems, one top-notch, the other was quite dated and remained not functional for the whole duration of the flight. Unfortunately no wi-fi though (on either flight).

IFE on the 737-800

Turkish scores 8/10 in this section. While there are other airlines with similar offering, I’m not aware of any that offer significantly more than what I mentioned (on intra-European flights in Economy) – the only down-side (hence the missing points) are the lack of wi-fi and the non-working IFE on the second flight.

Meals and Beverages

Unlike most of their competitors (on intra-European flights), Turkish Airlines served a full hot meal on both flights – quite decent considering that both flights last barely over two hours. They offered different options (including vegetarian) and generally speaking I liked the food on both flights. Without going into too much detail, I’d easily give Turkish 9 out of 10.

Meal (vegetarian option) on the first flight MLA-IST

Meal on the second flight IST-MUC

Performance

I can’t say anything bad about the general performance at all. Our first flight left just a few minutes late but arrived well on time. Our connection went without any issues and smoothly – and our second flight arrived a decent 20 minutes ahead of schedule.

10 out of 10 – easily.

Conclusion

Unfortunately the connection through Istanbul means quite a detour on most flights from Malta to other European destinations, otherwise I might’ve been tempted to use Turkish Airlines more often. I’m not sure yet whether I’d use Turkish for long-haul flights, as the experience on their A330 was in stark contrast to the prior flight. Overall Turkish is offering a very solid product that can very well be recommended especially for flights to central/northern Europe. However, I think it’s fair to note that the review is heavily boosted by the experience on the first flight – looking at the second flight separately, the rating could’ve been lower.

A short disclaimer: I try to review in comparison to similar flights/airlines – so this flight can be seen as a comparison to other full-service carriers on intra-European flights rather than a comparison to intercontinental flights or intra-European low-cost carriers. The same meals and amenities would likely score lower in comparison for a long-haul flight due to the difference in competing airlines.

Section Rating
Booking 7 /10
Check-in and Boarding 9 / 10
Aircraft(s) 7 / 10
Crew 8 / 10
Amenities 8 / 10
Meals and Beverages 9 / 10
Performance 10 / 10
Total 8.29
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