Reasons for you to visit Berlin Buzzwords

2012-01-15 19:59
I've heard of several people who are not quite sure yet whether they should visit Berlin Buzzwords or not - in particular when having to travel far and cross 9 time zones to attend. My general recommendation is to plan to spend some more days in Europe. The conference is conveniently scheduled on Monday and Tuesday which gives you one weekend before to explore the city and the whole week afterwards to go and see more either in the city or around.

In case you are wondering whether the city is a worthy destination when travelling with children - below is a list of things to do and places to go I sent to someone recently. Hope it helps with your decision as well. In general the city is pretty green, there are several locations specially amenable to a visit with kids - so treat the list below as what it is: An incomplete listing of some of the most obvious locations that might be of interest collected by someone who knows a few parents and their children. Also in case you speak German make sure to check out one of the many guide books for Berlin with children available in local book stores - Dussmann and Hugendubel generally have the largest selection though Chatwins is my preferred one for anything about travelling.

In the city

In case of good weather:

For bad weather:

  • If your kids like tech go to Technik Museum (it features one of the first computer (the one built by Zuse that is))
  • If you kids like nature go to Naturkunde Museum
  • If you are interested in science - make sure to be here for the long night of science (web page may need google translate unless you speak German.)
  • For a city tour check out the following scribbles - they also include some interesting parts of the bus line 100 and 200

Close to the city:

If you have some more time to spend make sure you also explore the closer surroundings:

  • 80km north: rent a canoo and explore Mecklenburg
  • 200km north: visit RĂ¼gen, spend some time swimming, some time to see the amazing chalk cliffs, some time to see the isle by bike
  • 250km south: go hiking or rafting in Elbsandsteingebirge
  • 80km south: rent a canoo and explore the canals in Spreewald

Recommendations from friends

  • Dawid Weiss: Badeschiff - a pool-on-the-river thing. It's not something you get in any ordinary city :)
  • Steve Loughran: My son's favourite part of a trip to berlin (age 9) was actually the Bauspielplatz: Smaller kids get a play area where they can use the sand + water to build streams, dam them and generally make a mess, while the 8+ get a playground where they actually help build it under adult supervision. They also run a good open air waffle/pancake/coffee shop. They're open in the afternoons.

Hope to see you in Berlin in June. If you need more information or recommendations don't hesitate to ask.

Being in San Francisco

2011-11-06 04:47
I spent the last two weeks together with Thilo in San Francisco - and neighboring areas. I had asked beforehand for recommendations on where to go and what to do, had purchased a "Rough Guide to California" as well as a "Lonely Planet guide for San Francisco". In addition I shared my arrival and departure times with a few people I know here. As to be expected our schedule quickly grew until it exploded, so we ended up doing greedy optimisation stuffing things in and putting them out again while we went along. Result of all that: An amazing two weeks that went by way to fast and the conclusion that we do need to return and bring way more time next time around.

A huge thanks for the warm welcome, for shared local knowledge on where to go, invitations for lunch or dinner, as well as fun hours at the Castro during Halloween. Special thanks to Datameer who when asked for accommodations recommendations kindly offered to host us - it makes such a big difference to get the chance to stay in a local neighborhood and avoid hotels altogether. All in all it's amazing to fly across an ocean, cross multiple time zones and arrive in a city that almost feels like being home.

Following a brief overview of what our final schedule turned out to be - happy to share pictures we took privately. After getting our car on Sunday, we went over to Berkeley to see their impressive campus - and got to see part of the Berkeley occupy movement.

Day one was reserved for sports

After biking the bridge we went down to Sausalito. Got some delicious food at fish - a restaurant serving all sorts of healthy and tasty fish dishes. After that we went out on a canoe from Sea Trek Kayaking, taking a closer look at the house boat community and a brief tour over to the Sausalito ferry port. When back at the shore we cycled to Sausalito and took the ferry to SFO.

Day 2 was booked for Highway #1 to Santa Cruz

We headed down scenic Highway#1, past the cliffs at Half Moon Bay. Went out for a hike in Butano park to hug some Redwood trees and take pictures of a fairy-tale like forest. Then headed over to Pigeon Point Lighthouse - even if you are not into staying at hostels you should stop there: this place is great for a nice view of the ocean and the lighthouse itself. Finally we went down to beautiful Santa Cruz.

Day 3 Muir woods

Not much to be said here: It's always impressive to walk underneath huge Redwood trees and go hiking in the mountains around to get a better view.

Weekend for Yosemite

Took the route via Highway 140 - the drive itself was interesting already as it took us to quite a different country side than what we had seen until then. Got through Mariposa in the end over to Midpines. We stayed at friendly Bug Rustic Mountain - classified as Hostel, features a spa with sauna and whirlpool. We were lucky enough to arrive on Friday before Halloween to get to see the screening of "Rocky Horror Picture Show" - including a printed transcript with tag lines to be shouted at the screen for those who do not know these already.

On Saturday we went hiking in amazing Yosemite park. Only then I realized how close different landscapes can be: It took us only half a day by car to go from coast and ocean over to high mountains. We chose to hike to the upper Yosemite fall - returning after 7m of rather steep trails on a sunny but fortunately quite clear day we were absolutely tired.

Day 7 Halloween

We spent Halloween morning over in St. Helena and went to the Francis Ford Coppola Winery. Hard to believe, but several tasty types of Californian wine do exist - at least that's what Thilo confirmed when in St. Helena.

Evening was booked for dressing up and going to the Castro, though presumably more calm than in past years the area is still a must-go for Halloween if you are into watching people walking around in impressing costumes.

Day 8 for Alcatras

Not much to be added here - don't miss if you visit SFO.

Day 9 for China town

After several busy days we only went to China town that day and tried to recover for the rest of the afternoon - and went out for Dia de los Muertos in the evening.

Day 10 for watching whales

Happy I took sea-sickness pre-cautions on that one. It was a bit of a rough ride with the catamaran. But in the end we got to see whales close to Farallon Islands. The naturalist did a great job explaining not only the life of the whales but also provided some background on the islands.

Day 11 for Point Reyes and North Beach

In the morning we followed the recommendation to get to see North Beach - if you like Friedrichshain/ Kreuzberg in Berlin or Dresden Neustadt - do not miss North Beach in San Francisco.

The afternoon was reserved for driving over to Point Reyes Lighthouse. Though we did not spot any whales in the water, the landscape already was amazing by itself.

Day 12 - final walk through SFO

We took some time to walk along Hayes street, through the Golden Gate park up to Cliff House and went back with a Muni bus to the city - just too long to walk right back.

Thanks again to Stefan, St.Ack, Jon, JD, Ted, Ellen, Doug, Anne, Johan, Doris, Jens, Lance, Felix, Markus and everyone else who helped make this trip as awesome as it really was. Sorry to everyone who I did not manage to meet or get in touch - hopefully we can fix that next time I'm here - or next time you are in Berlin.

Dear lazy web: Travel recommendations

2011-10-21 21:21
Finally getting to spend some days of vacation in the bay area soon - so I thought I might try to leverage the lazy web on recommendations on what not to miss while there. So far on our list:

  • Rent a canoo in Sausalito
  • Take a tour to Alcatras
  • Get to drive down along the coast towards Half Moon Bay
  • Spend one or two days strolling through the city to take photos
  • Do one of these touristic bike trips across the Golden Gate bridge
  • Spend a day or two to get hiking in one of the red wood tree forests
  • Got a recommendation to drive up to Lake Tahoe for two days
  • Get to see Napa valley
  • Spend a day on whale watching

So that already makes up for ten days - however if you spot anything important and beautiful missing, please let me know. If you have any recommendation on where to spend Halloween - please also get in touch. If you are up to meeting for a cup of coffee or dinner and talk about Mahout, HBase, Hadoop and friends - we certainly can fit that into the schedule somewhere.

Teddy in Portugal

2010-07-08 20:32
During the past two weeks my teddy was on vacation. As destination he chose to fly to Portugal. One day was reserved for a visit to Lisboa, the capital city of the country. He also took a few really nice pictures there:

On his return, he was no longer alone. Seems like he found a cute little portugese girl friend:

In addition he brought the following image. However he promised that he was not in California, but explained that the bridge actually does exist in Lisboa, being constructed by the same company according to the same blue prints that already were used for Golden Gate bridge:

Bye, bye Germany

2010-06-20 15:27
... for the next two weeks: I'll be on vacation with strict internet interdiction. Will be a tourist exploring beaches and maybe a few hiking tracks in the next few days, so don't expect to read anything here apart from what was scheduled already ;)