Best of Bonn

July 11, 2011

It’s been almost 18 months since I moved to Bonn, Germany and I realised there’d not been much mention of that here on Bolsoversion. I shall now make amends by accumulating the know-how gleaned in the last months into an insider’s ‘best of’ list. 

Disco time at Cafe Blau

Best beer garden – Alter Zoll, Am Brassertufer, Zentrum (U-Bahn Uni/Markt). Just a quick stroll from the Hofgarten park and the University, the Alter Zollhas a great position overlooking the Rhine. Perfect on long, warm evenings or for drinking away a sunny Sunday. You can play boules on the adjacent gravelled area, or sit on the grass and have a barbeque.

Best bars – The best place for a concentration of good bars and pubs is to head to the Altstadt. Pawlow (Heerstraße 64) has curious decor, but draws an interesting, arty crowd, Lichtblick (Dorotheenstr. 2) is normally pretty packed with students at weekends due to its music and decent drinks prices and Maya (Breite Str. 72) does one euro tequila and alright Mexican food (as Mexican food in Germany goes). If you’re in the Uni/Markt area, I like Cafe Blau (Franziskanerstr. 9), as it’s basically a swimming pool cafe, but in a trendy way. (That’ll make sense if you go.) It has a big drinks list, a discoball and someone there really likes New Order. For a more grungy drink, check out Zebulon, opposite Ichiban on Stockenstrasse. Heading further south, I recommend Mausefalle (Weberstr. 41) which is easy to miss as it’s underground. Great music selection and a bit of a hidden gem. Stays open late. A slightly dated website can be found here.

You can find all sorts at a fleamarket

Best fleamarket – Third Saturday of every month during spring and summer, the Rheinaue park in the south of the city is taken over by hundreds of stalls for a giant flea market. Come early if you want to find the best stuff, but it goes on until mid-afternoon if you fail to wake up. There’s normally an amazing collection of tat, but as with all German outdoor activities, you’re never far from a beer and a bratwurst.

Best restaurants – Depending on what food you’re into I can recommend Ichiban (Stockenstrasse) for sushi (although claims they are watering down the soy sauce need to be verified), there’s Tusculofor giant pizza (two locations – Karl-Kaiser Ring, Nordstadt and a new one in the city centre near Maredo), May May (Am Hof 24, Zentrum) for Vietnamese, or for traditional German there’s several places around Friedensplatz where you can get giant schnitzel. To be honest, I’m still looking for a restaurant that blows my socks off. These are all cheap, friendly and yummy, but I’m still on a cuisine quest.

Best cake – Cafe Kleimann, Rheingasse 18, Zentrum. This place is stuck in a magical time warp from its last revamp in the 1970s. Enjoy the velour kitsch surroundings and join the geriatrics for some delicious kaffee und kuchen.

On safari at Museum Koenig

Best museumHaus der Geschichte, Willy-Brandt Allee 14, (U-Bahn Heussallee). Comprehensive look at German post-war history, although more enjoyable if you can read German. There are regular exhibitions often focusing on issues of pre-reunification Germany. And it’s freeeeee. Honourable mention also goes to Museum König where you can pretend to be on safari with the stuffed animals.

Best Irish pubThe Quiet Man, Colmantstr. 47, Zentrum (U-Bahn Hauptbahnhof). As a so-called ‘international city’ and home to the UN, Bonn boasts several Irish pubs. I can name at least six, and I’m sure there’s more. I avoided this place for a long time as I didn’t want to be that ex-pat stereotype. However, after six months I had to concede that the pub is really fun, the staff are amazingly friendly and whatever your sporting preference, they’ll probably put it on tv for you. Beware, you can go in for one drink and leave several hours later having spent a little too much on your tab. Facebook page here.

Best cocktailsMohito’s, Königstr. 9, Südstadt. Does a good daily happy hour with different offers each week. No watery cocktails like many of the places in the centre of town, plus a slightly older clientele (ie not 17).

Best döner – I’m more a falafel fan myself, but I have it on good authority that Döner House (Heerstrasse 119, Altstadt) is one of the best. Does live music some nights, and has a beer garden out back. Bit smarter than the average Imbiss.

Best late night drinking hole –Nyx, Altstadt. It gets to 1am, you’re still going strong but can’t face one of Bonn’s many dubious clubs (nor are drunk enough to end up in the meat market that is Blow Up) then you should head to Nyx. Fridays and Saturdays often boast alternative, Britpop, 80s kind of themed events, and there’s the ever popular World Beat Party.

It's an all you can eat brunch, so pace yourself

I’m still not sure what this was, but there were several men with their shirts off. It’s not normally like that at Nyx. Prices are good, there’s a good mix of locals, the music is decent and they don’t kick you out when it gets late. Good for watching football too, but it does get smoky.

Best brunch – Miebach’s cafe, Marktplatz, Zentrum. You may not get the greasy goodness of an English fry up, or the buttery treats of a French croissant, but the Germans do a hearty and deliecious breakfast. Sundays and bank holidays often cetre around a big brunch which consists of cold meats and sausage, cheese, eggs, bread, fruit, and muesli. At Miebach’s you pay around 8 euros for an all you can eat brunch, which also includes pancakes, bacon, toast and other bits should you want it. Outside seating in the Marktplatz available on nice days, although service can get pretty slow when it’s busy. Don’t try rushing brunch.

I think I’ve exhausted my know-how. If you have any tips for me, or suggestions for places that should have made the list, feel free to let me know!


The view from Fukushima

March 28, 2011

Following the terrible tragedy in Japan and having a big soft spot for the country and its people, I thought I’d re-post something my good friend Becky Dokmanovic recently wrote. She’s been living in Japan for the last four years and has fallen head-over-heels in love with the place. Naturally the devastation caused by the earthquake and tsunami has touched her in ways those of us looking in from the outside will never know. Her words really moved me.

*****

It’s 3am and as usual, sleep is just beyond my reach. As I lie in bed, eyes wide open and staring blankly at the ceiling, a thousand thoughts race through my weary mind.

At present I live in Fukushima, Japan. It’s a quiet, pretty and rather unpretentious prefecture, located north of Tokyo in the Tohoku region. Up until a few weeks ago, this was a name that didn’t register with too many people. After the events of March 11th all that changed, as this beautiful place that I have called home for three years was dragged under the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.

The day that the 8.9 magnitude earthquake struck Japan, I was working at a school in Koriyama city-just a few kilometres away from my apartment. As the teachers and students crouched down in the open grounds in front of the building, no-one could have imagined the sheer scale of the devastation that was occurring on the coast at that very moment. As I clung to a few of the smaller school children, desperately trying to reassure them that everything was going to be fine, a deadly tsunami was hungrily tearing its way through the coastal villages of eastern Japan.

Nobody saw it coming. Nobody stood a chance. Read the rest of this entry »


Japanarama – Part six: Kobe

October 2, 2010

A three week adventure chasing the cherry blossom in Japan. Part Six.

A short train journey outside of Osaka, Kobe is probably best known for its expensively delicious beef. While I am more than happy to flash the cash for a good steak, alas the Bolsover budget did not stretch to one of those pampered bovine bad boys. But there’s more to Kobe besides the beef.

We only had just under a day in the city so tried to make the most of it in a short amount of time. We started to explore the downtown Marina area on foot and what struck me is how European the city felt. OK, I may have read this in the Lonely Planet first, but it really did have a slightly different feel to other cities we’d been to so far.

At the harbour we walked around (rather – climbed over and slid down) some mosaic art pieces and just wandered aimlessly, not really sure what we were doing.

We stumbled across the memorial to the 1995 Kobe earthquake, which is a preserved strip of pavement that is all cracked up and shattered from the quake. A really striking memorial, and very interesting. I also picked up an admirer who insisted on taking my picture in front of the memorial every few metres or so. I now have a collection of photos of myself looking slightly perturbed in various bits of the walkway.

Still lacking any kind of direction we ambled towards the downtown area on the hunt for food. Our Western stomachs were craving sandwiches so we tried to find a shop selling rolls or something. This proved to be tricky and we settled on a teashop-looking-place which was in a covered shopping arcade. The Japanese don’t do sandwiches well and we should have known better. A plate of eggy?fruity?meaty? sandwiches later, we set out again. We ended up in the Chinatown area which was bustling with people, street entertainers and delicious smelling food stalls. We bought meat dumplings, fried balls of something covered in sesame seeds and little pots of creamed sweet potato. The later was truly delicious.

We returned to Chinatown for dinner and picked a big restaurant on the corner of the main square. It was good, but also slightly forgettable Chinese. Could have been in Chinatown in London, New York or Sydney really.

We were all flagging but decided to find a bar listed in one of our guidebooks as a genuine German beer hall. Being a Germanophile (is that even a term?), I was quite excited by the prospect of a stein or two of Bavarian ale. The place was underground, near a department store and quite hard to find. It was also NOT in any way German. The pictures on the wall were those sepia pictures of Dublin streets in the 19th century you see in every Irish bar and the beers on tap were Guinness and Heineken. Disappointing. Guide book FAIL.

The next day we had a quick peep into one of the Sake distilleries near our hostel, but didn’t really have time to take much in, or sample the wares. A quick obligatory visit to the local supermarket then rounded off our Kobe visit before getting our rail passes back out and jumping on the next train.

Next stop – Osaka.


Japanarama: Part five- Koyasan

August 12, 2010

A three week adventure chasing the cherry blossom in Japan. Part five.

Leaving behind the beautiful temples of Kyoto, we jumped on a train, and another train, and another, and then a cable car and then a bus, and eventually arrived at the mountain spiritual retreat of Koyasan.

It is a small, peaceful temple town which is the centre of Shingon Buddhism, a sect introduced by Kobo Daishi. I knew nothing about this particular branch of Buddhism, and was just blindly following my friend who suggested we experience a night in a Buddhist temple. It was a truly brilliant experience and one I recommend even to people who don’t feel particularly spiritual.

There are around 50 temples you can stay in at Koyasan, and I think they are all reasonably similar in the experience on offer.

When we arrived, we were greeted by monks who took us into their office to sort our booking. There was something slightly incongruous about having these orange-clad monks photocopying our passports and asking for our credit cards, but I guess these monks have solid business sense. Read the rest of this entry »


Quiz in my Pants (Edinburgh Fringe)

August 8, 2010

Hello folks. It’s that time of year again – the Edinburgh Fringe is upon us once more!

Out of guilt that I am in Germany and can’t actually go, I am urging all and sundry to take in my sister’s show ‘Quiz in my Pants‘. As I understand it, the show has a quiz theme, with regular captains Laura Lexx and Dan Carter-Hope being supported by various comedian guest panellists. You know the kind of thing, they’re on the beeb all the time. My younger sibling, Nicola Bolsover is the glamorous compere. According to their Facebook page – “Guest comedians, songs and improv galore!”

Runs from 7th to 28th August. AND IT’S FREE.

@Dragonfly, 52 West Port (Venue 63)


The cut-throat world of table football

June 6, 2010

It's serious stuff in the competitive world of kicker.

This is a link to a piece I recently did for Deutsche Welle – the German international broadcaster. I visited some table football (foosball/kicker) teams in southern Germany to immerse myself in their competitive world. I also met a man who has built a robot that can play kicker better than most humans. Read it all here – http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,5646121,00.html

Shameless bit of self-promotion over.


Japanarama: Part four – Kyoto

May 10, 2010

A three week adventure chasing the cherry blossom in Japan. Part Four.

Arriving into Kyoto on the bullet train was slightly underwhelming after all the hype, but there’s no doubt that the trains are fast, clean and impeccably timed.

Kyoto is Japan’s second city for tourists and offers a taste of old Japan – temples, traditions and the mysterious world of the geisha. It is the former capital and still retains an element of old world style and beauty.

After a very pleasant stay at K’s Hostel in Mount Fuji, we decided to check out their Kyoto branch too. As hostels go, these places are pretty fantastic, with nice rooms, plenty of bathrooms, reasonable internet access and lots of space for chilling out.

It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the choice of over 1,000 temples in Kyoto and just have no idea which ones to visit. Having now been to the city twice, here’s a quick guide to the ones I’ve seen and what you can see:

Fushimi Inari Taisha – Famous for its trail of red torii gates leading up the mountain. A beautiful, but hilly walk takes you through thousands of these red gates, up to a shrine and series of cemetaries in the mountains. Beautiful, yet eerie. (photo above).

Ginkakuji (silver pavilion) – A great example of a classic Japanese garden, with immaculately kept gravel shapes, blossom trees and waterways.

Kinkakuji (golden pavilion) – One of the most popular temples, due to its glistening gold leaf covering. Very pretty, although not much more than a photo opportunity. (photo right).

Nanzenji – Located on the ‘philosophers’ path’ which links many temples in Kyoto. The temple houses several large gateways and then a series of quarters (Hojo) where you can see beautiful 16th century wall paintings.

But Kyoto isn’t just about temples. As Japan’s oldest city, it is rich in all sorts of cultural bits and pieces. If you’re interested in Japanese art, calligraphy, the tea ceremony and other traditions, then Kyoto or nearby Nara are your best bet for getting involved.

The allure of the Geisha is another reason tourists flock to Kyoto. If you’re lucky, you may spot a Geisha or the apprentice Maiko walking around the xx area of the city, often around sunset. We spotted one walking around, who was then chased by a group of teenage Japanese girls down the street who squealed and snapped cameras. It was like watching the paparazzi in action.

Kyoto is a beautiful city, and as we arrived the cherry blossoms were just coming into bloom which gave the place an extra special feel. Thanks to the efficient nature of the Japanese obsession with sakura, wherever you stay in Kyoto should be able to advice you where the best places are to view the blossom if it’s in season. Although having also returned to Kyoto in Autumn, I think I actually prefer the fall season to the Spring… Controversial.

Just a quick mention on food in Kyoto (I do like my food). We followed the Lonely Planet’s advice for a cheap sushi place in the shopping district which was great, and I also very much enjoyed a restaurant on the top floor of a department store (possibly Daimaru, but I’ve forgotten) which served burgers but with a very Japanese twist.

Next stop – the mountain temples of Koyasan.