Bamberg – a secret diamond in the heart of Bavaria

For our first stop during our travels we visited Bamberg which is a small town in Bavaria. A lot of cultural and architectural sights are found there including world heritage. Especially the old town with its medieval and baroque buildings are worth a visit. You can stroll through the streets and around every corner are new, lovely and spectacular things to discover. When you walk through Bambergs old town you should look out for the little streets and alleys. A lot of wonderful small architectural details are to be found.

The world heritage center in Bamberg is a must-see. In its exhibition Bambergs’ material and immaterial cultural heritage are explained. Futhermore the exhibition is designed very interactive and with easy to understand information for young and old. Also two young women who take a voluntary year gave us a guided tour around Bamberg and showed us its most beautiful spots and sights. We visited the cathedrale which was founded by emperor Henry II. and his wife and empress Kunigunde. We not only saw the material world heritage but we also learned that Bamberg has immaterial culture such as smoked beer or liquorice which was a very important commodity for many centuries. Altogether Bamberg has 1340 monuments which is a variety of churchs, palaces or other architectural sights. Besides the cathedral we also visited the Rosegarden or the Obere Pfarre. The Obere Pfarre is a very beautiful catholic church which is firstly namend in an document in 1140.

During our visit we not only saw the old town and the sights but we also went to a lot of Museums Bamberg has to offer. Our Highlight was the Gärtner- und Heckermuseum which is a very small museum but its exhibition is made with love and care and is resident in an old house form the 18. Century which belonged to gardener family. Today it tells the story of living and working as such a family. In the backyard is a very gorgeous garden filled with flowers, herbs and vegetables. We can recommend a visit there.

All in all Bamberg is a very beautiful town with a great variety of cultural sights and immaterial culture and is definitely worth a visit.

Quebec City: Part 1

What makes Quebec City Quebec City? It is the combination of the castle, the maple leaves, hundreds of years of European history over 450 square kilometers of land. But for someone who was born and raised here, it’s the food, the outskirt of town, the épiceries around street corner, the experience of interacting with tourists from all over the world (well, aka, us).

I am never a fan of sugary things: the guilt and the thought of having to do a 10-minute workout to burn all the calories off keep me away from cakes, pies, and candies. However, when I came to Quebec City, everything changed. I can’t move my feet when it comes to pastry shops. One bite down the croissant, I immediately have the biggest smile on my face. The warmth of indoors and the long-forgotten joy from sugar make me want to just stay in this moment forever.

For some Quebecois, this moment of sweetness is part of their daily routine — midday break, head off to coffee shop right next door, get a block of sugar (yes, something like 200 calories of nothing but pure sugar), the spend the rest of the afternoon at a park with a copy of daily news.

I love taking picture of couples here. (No wonder “Guardian: The Lonely and Great God” was shot here). The romantic atmosphere overtakes me as I stroll along the street – just look at people going in and out of the Christmas shops. This is the city where Christmas starts in October and do not end until late January. It is a sugary winter wonderland.

Is sugar something that is deep rooted in QC? Well, we have the next few days to find out.



(to be continued… )


Warsaw destruction and The National Museum

On our three days in Warsaw, we visited the Museum of Warsaw and the Heritage Interpretation Centre. We learned that the city of Warsaw was destroyed in 1944,  85% of the city was bombed by the Germans in retaliation of the 1944 Warsaw uprising.

Efforts from several architects and the state after the war created a plan of reconstruction. From 1945-51 the old town place was reconstructed, however not exactly as it was before, creating a more spacious city centre. Our lovely guide Marta took us around and showed us the history of the reconstruction and the UNESCO recognition.

Later we went to the Warsaw Museum at the old town place where we learned more about Warsaw’s history and population. We walked around through the old town and enjoyed the nice weather.

The next day we went to see the National Museum of Warsaw were our lovely guide Mr. Glowacki, who works at the curatorial department told us about the history of the museum at the time of the war. We found that the museum was almost completely looted by the Nazis, with paintings such as a Young Man by Rafael never returning. We also saw efforts from the Ministry of Culture of Poland to track paintings lost during that time which we were able to see at the museum.

Lastly, a nice story about a important symbolic painting for the Polish people. A massive war painting by recognised artist Jan Matejko. The great scale art work was dismounted by the staff and hidden, first in Warsaw and later buried in Lublin. The staff wanted to avoid the Nazis burning the painting as the topic of the work was the defeat of the German army to the Polish army in the 1500.

We found Warsaw lovely, filled with life and great food! We will be back once more! This is the end of our journey so thank you readers and to the next adventure!



Hidden Gem: Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting and Their Turrell Skyspace

For someone who has lived in Pennsylvania, United States for two years, the only Philly-authentic thing I’ve familiarized myself with is their Philly Cheesesteaks and Wawa, our beloved local minimart chain. The one thing I have been curious about ever since I saw Penn’s mascot, the Quaker, is exactly that: Philly’s Quaker community.

Quakerism emerged from the English Civil War in the mid 1600s as a sect of Christianity and, ever since the 1800s, Philadelphia has become a home for many Quakers and their Religious Society of Friends. For Quakers, their core belief is that a piece of God is present in every person and that that “Inner Light” can speak to them directly.

One historic meeting place, the Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting, is located twenty minutes outside of Philadelphia. Once a week on Sunday mornings, the members of this community come together for one hour of silent worship in a meditative and beautifully designed space.

Although it might not look like your typical cathedral, the design of the space is impeccably well thought out. The interior is a serene palette of white walls, wooden floors and furniture, and aquamarine accents.

The generous sprinkle of windows that line the room allow natural light to flood the space and not only that, it welcomes the chirp of the cicadas and the children’s laughter to echo the room.

A gentle breeze occasionally enters, and the space is decidedly the perfect meditation haven. The coolest part yet is the “skyspace” located on the ceiling:

After asking what inspired the beautiful light piece, I was told that it was in fact done by the renowned contemporary artist, James Turrell (whose work you might recognize from Drake’s Hotline Bling music video, but trust me, he’s much more important than just that). The small square of light is projected unto a false ceiling, which opens up to the sky.

The Skyspace actually welcomes visitors, and you can sign up for a tour of it online. It’s on my bucket list to go back there at least once to really enjoy it in its full glory.

I could go on for a long time about its architecture. Did I mention its beautiful local Philadelphia field stone-covered facade?

On that note, I should probably also mention that I’m an Architecture student, hence the geeky perception towards the building’s smallest details. Having been a student in Philadelphia for over two years now, though, I’ve always been curious about the state’s Quaker roots. I’m really glad that I’ve finally cracked that mystery and can now appreciate a new way to pursue religion.

Can I offer you a friendly tip? If you’re curious about something, bring a friend along and explore – you’ll never know unless you try it.

Special thanks to Sarah for being the absolute best guide, and Vian and Nelson!

– Gaby


The address to Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting is: 20 E Mermaid Ln, Philadelphia, PA 19118. They hold worships every Sunday at 10:30 – 11:30AM.

About Us

Hi there!

Our names are Ellie and Gaby. We’re two Penn students who study Art History and Architecture. As fate would have it, we met in an Architectural Art History class.  Two years later, we’ve become best travel buddies through our shared appreciation of food, photography, and getting lost in alien places.

Our philosophy of travel is simple: traveling doesn’t need to take you far across the oceans or into another continent. Traveling is simply the curious and adventurous mindset of experiencing a place in a new way, be it through its cuisine, culture, traditions, history, fashion, or otherwise.

For our Young Traveling Scholarship, we’ve chosen to travel across North America, namely: Philadelphia and New York in the United States and Quebec and Montreal in Canada. We’ve decided to title our blog “Gems and Hidden Gems,” because some of the best experiences hide out in plain sight!

Philadelphia has been our hometown for over two years, but we decided to challenge ourselves to become tourists in our own city and dig for unique experiences that regular city-hopping tourists might miss. New York, the concrete jungle where dreams are made of (thank you, Jay-Z), is absolutely bustling with life and therefore hidden gems. Finally, Quebec is the crown jewel that neither of us have been to before – a fairytale town awaiting our arrival. Stay tuned to experience these three cities through our eyes!

Ellie & Gaby