conscious traveling, Covid-19, greta thunberg, tourism, vegan

From Greta to Covid-19: What Can We Learn as Travellers

Just a little intro of mine before I get to the point: while this post will be very honest, I am afraid that some readers might find it a bit negative or offensive. Please keep in mind that some parts of this post will be an honest outpouring of my thoughts and feelings and are no way meant to attack anyone or show any lack of appreciation, while other parts will be based on science and facts that no one can deny.  Now that we made it clear, without further ado, let’s get to it.

As some of you might already know, I was born and raised in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. Thankfully, I was privileged enough to get a decent education, which, unfortunately, happens to be one of the major struggles that my country is facing. I will not go in to detail what the Georgian approach is to some worldwide issues that we face every day, but to talk about my personal experience that matches the topic of today’s blog post, I will share one thing that bothers me the most – not taking climate change seriously. I was traveling quite a bit during my student years (not too long ago) with my friends. We would go on one week trips to Austria, Hungary, Spain, etc, but traveling for such a short period and with a group of friends never really led me to anywhere on a deeper level, meaning, getting to know the real, local culture outside the touristic centers. It was more of trying new delicious food and taking ten thousand pictures at Gran Via or Stephansplatz. Overall, traveling to any extent is a great experience, and you can have a lot of fun with your friends, it also helps you get to know them much better. But my real traveling, the one that started making some profound changes in my personality began in 2016 when I first went to Lisbon all alone to learn the beautiful language and culture of Portugal. At the university, it was the first time I had met so many people from different parts of the world at the same time. I learned how much we have in common, and how different we are in some matters. I realized how much I have to learn and evolve. It was also the very first time – since we never recycle in Georgia – that I started recycling. Not a big deal right? Most of Europe had been doing that for years already, but that was my very first experience in getting a bit closer to a conscious way of living. Then step by step I met new people, got new friends in Portugal, some of them were vegan or vegetarian and that was my very first contact with veganism. I got more involved with this eco-friendly style of living and finally, and not too long ago I turned into a vegetarian, strictly. But “cheese was still too good to quit” until the very beginning of 2020, when coincidentally with the COVID-19 outbreak, I happened to go fully vegan.

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Miradouro de Santa Luzia, Lisboa, Portugal

The turning point in my life was definitely Greta Thunberg’s TED Talk, where she was speaking about climate change and how we are running out of time to save our planet. Of course, just as a lot of people out there started questioning Greta just because she is young, and female, I did the same too in the beginning. Of course, my doubts were not coming from Greta’s age or gender, but from a completely different reason: NO ONE has ever mentioned a word throughout my school or college years in Georgia about climate change and how we treat our planet. So, after Greta’s speech, I did some research and came to the conclusion that the young Swedish lady is talking 100% truth. This was science that no one can argue with. It’s a fact.

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@thedailyshow with Trevor Noah

Another huge role played in my approach to living a more conscious life was me moving to Sweden in 2019, where I spent an amazing and evolving one year. Living in Gothenburg, the city that tops all the rankings in sustainability, turned me into a more eco-friendly traveler. Alongside fish or meat, I gave up on traveling too much by airplane and instead started traveling more by train or bus. I would take trains to anywhere in Sweden, even all the way up to the North, and to the neighboring countries like Denmark or Norway. On top of that, I stopped supporting the chain brands that have a horrible impact on our nature.

No one likes to take eight-hour bus or train ride all the way from Madrid to Barcelona, for example, but as one of my friends told me during one conversation, sometimes it feels like the more we rush through things, the faster we destroy our planet.

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Gothenburg, Sweden

I, of course, do not believe the world will go vegan in a minute. My point is that if we at least try to be nicer versions of ourselves, get more educated and don’t take our planet for granted, maybe the world would be a better place to live in. Also, I would like to highlight one fact, since it has been a huge deal of discussion with my friends and dearest family. Whenever I share something vegan, I kind of get attacked by non-vegans saying “What about the air pollution? Why do you only attack meat-eaters who are not the major problem of climate change?” With all due respect, I am never attacking anyone or judging even. All I am doing is trying to become a better person for the environment, and I do realize that I have yet a lot to learn and change, so WHO AM I to tutor you on how to live. However there are some things that we can all work on together. Veganism doesn’t only include giving up on meat and dairy for good. The whole idea of veganism is to live a conscious lifestyle, and to have the least negative impact possible on our planet. This includes leaving animal exploitation behind, decreasing the number of unnecessary travels by airplane (if possible), recycling, second-hand/vintage shopping, and using cruelty-free cosmetics, to name a few. We take bikes instead of cars or trains instead of airplanes whenever we can, and soy milk instead of cow milk because we are not baby cows 🙂 Of course, no one can avoid traveling by airplane, it’s 21-st century and we do travel a lot, but the whole idea is to find a balance between what’s urgent and what can be done differently. I think the time has come to finally change our approach to things.

Zoonotic diseases cause a lot of trouble to our planet, including HIV, H1N1, and the very recent COVID-19, which is not the first, nor the last coronavirus outbreak we are going to face. And this is not my personal opinion, this is science and you can easily get information by googling it, or click the link and watch a very informative TED TALK about why COVID-19 happened and how can we prepare for the next outbreak.
Do you remember when Greta told us she wanted us to panic? Well, she was right, because we are running out of time.
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As for some good news, I was reading a Georgian fashion blogger’s very recent blog post about the future of fashion, where Tako aka Takeau shared some promising news from the Fashion world. My favourite story comes from Copenhagen Fashion Week, through a recently-launched sustainability action plan that “presents how the event will transition to becoming more sustainable, for example by reducing its climate impact by 50% and rethinking waste systems in all aspects of event production, with zero waste as the goal by 2022. Importantly, the plan also focuses on the bigger picture by outlining how Copenhagen Fashion Week will implement sustainability requirements and set new standards for participation to push the industry toward necessary, comprehensive change.”

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the sad truth (credits to the owner)

While some big companies starting to re-think and re-shape the business world, we as individuals also have our own part of the responsibility. If we try not to consume too much of anything, be it meat or clothing, the business will also adapt according to the customer. The key point here is finding moderation in things we do, use, or eat.

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Poster from Canva

Now to finally get to the tourism part, I do believe what the COVID-19 should teach us is to be more eco-friendly and to support the brands or companies that have less of an environmental impact. I do understand that eating meat, drinking milk, taking an airplane and buying a Louis Vuitton bag is a personal choice, and we all want to live in an environment where free choice is supported, but we need to think twice about our personal choices if they end up destroying the planet. Our choices are causing deforestation, child labor, and creating too much waste, that has a horrible impact on Climate Change. We should not forget that all the harm we do to our planet will backfire in forms of new pandemic outbreaks and climate change. And it will soon be too late to react.

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Credits to UN.org

As we look at some business trying to adapt to the new reality that the pandemic left for all of us I was thinking how would the future of tourism be, what would be the most acceptable approach in my opinion that the tourism sector could take. Especially, coming from a very mountainous country of Georgia, I have always been interested in why mountain sustainability was not supported or promoted in my country. I believe it could solve so many problems of poverty, habitat destruction and will push our new-born tourism to another level. In my opinion, Georgia investing in a sustainable mountain development could solve a lot of problems that the country is facing nowadays financial-wise and would also have less of a negative environmental impact on a global level. I have thought of some examples that we all could learn from the parts of the world where sustainable mountain tourism is well supported already. We all know that mountains are an important source of water, energy, and biological diversity. The sad news are that mountain ecosystems are changing rapidly and struggling a lot, including soil erosion, loss of habitats, and widespread poverty among mountain inhabitants, just to name a few. As a result, most global mountain areas are experiencing environmental degradation, not to mention the current condition of Georgia. All of these added up to the recent problems of pandemics, climate change and a financial crisis that the world is facing now, I do believe that investing in sustainable mountain development is the right path to take.

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Kazbegi, Georgia

The very first inspiration about sustainable tourism I got was in Sweden when I visited a place called Roslagen, close to Stockholm. They describe it as a place where “the inner archipelago meets the outer one”. In this tiny part of Sweden, kayaking and canoeing are very developed and there are companies that have special excursions to different islands and archipelagos around Sweden.

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Stockholm, Sweden

There are already so many great examples to follow, including one of my favourite countries Austria, that have sustainable tourism as a priority. Even if you visit only Vienna, you will see that the consciousness of the country is really on another level, but the Austrians are also experimenting with long-term sustainable projects. For example in Vorarlberg construction of passive houses are being pioneered. “The concept is that passive houses are built from local, sustainably managed wood, which itself is a natural store of carbon and a weapon in the battle against climate change.” Austria is such a great example on so many other levels including the cities of Graz and Salzburg converting their public transports to bio-fuels. Even high up in the Austrian Alps you will find solar panels for heating, with low energy light-bulbs being used etc. Also, one more thing that I LOVED during my trip to Vienna in 2019 is that hotels and restaurants are supporting the local agriculture to the fullest. In most places, you will be served locally procured organic goods. This approach, of course, promotes and supports organic agriculture. Us, as travelers, can support sustainable mountain tourism and organic agriculture in two ways: directly by visiting the places itself, or non-directly by supporting the business that prioritizes a conscious and sustainable approach and helps the local agriculture to the fullest.

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Belvedere Palace, Vienna

My final note is that, whilst it is impossible to fully cut airplane travel or a meat-based diet (for most people), the main idea is to decrease the amount of non-ecological stuff we do on a daily basis. Trains instead of airplanes, plants instead of a diary, recycle, do not litter, go vintage shopping, support the local small business, go for the cruelty-free products (seriously it’s 2020, wearing dead animals on your skin is uncool and unethical) and step by step you will play your tiny but important role in changing the harmful environment that we all created and was born into throughout these years.

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TV Series @thepolitician on Netflix

As a P.S. I hope you are all staying safe during the pandemic. It has been challenging for all of us and I am really looking forward to sharing my new travel stories with all of you once the lockdown is over. Meanwhile, let’s let the scientists do their job, and we can do our job by becoming more environmentally friendly.

With love,
Ani

Useful links:
Earthling ED
Greta Thunberg
TED Talks – Climate Change

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Austria, Cannes, culture, Czech Republic, food, France, history, Hotels, Italy, Milan, Nice, photography, Prague, SPAIN, Stockholm, Sweden, The French Riviera, travel, Trips & Other Stories, Uncategorized, vegan, Vegetarian, Vienna

Going Places: My 2019

As 2019 is coming to an end and we are moving to a new decade, I decided to write my traditional yearly travel recap and highlight my travels from the year 2019. Unlike my last year’s edition of Going Places, this year I stayed within Europe, but I visited more countries than last year, in total nine of them.

February: Sweden

2019 started very well for me since I moved to one of my most favourite countries – Sweden. I was based in Gothenburg, which now proudly is in my top three cities in the world, but meanwhile, I also discovered almost the whole of Sweden. I visited so many cities I even stopped counting after a while. I went from Stockholm all the way up to North and experienced wintery-snowy weather during May in Boden.
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April: Italy

To run away from the Scandinavian winter and super cold Spring even, I decided to treat myself with a nice Southern-European trip. Visiting Milan in the beginning of April was extra busy due to the Milano Design Week. It was my first time in Italy and I still miss my morning walks at Brera and stopping by at GOD SAVE THE FOOD for my daily dose of croissant and cappuccino, my evenings at Dry Milano. You can see my Milanese trip in a nutshell here.
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April: France

After Milan, I decided to take a weekend trip to the French Riviera. It was also my first time in France, and since one of my most favourite things to do is watching tv series, I was lucky enough to attend the Cannes Series Festival. A true highlight of my trip to Nice was where I stayed. You can see a full article from my French weekend trip here.

I stayed in Nice and discovered the city on foot, took a little swimming in the sea and enjoyed the warm April days. I took a train to Cannes where I spent one whole day to attend the Cannes Series Festival. Since I was super busy with the Series Festival, I didn’t have much time to discover Cannes, but I still managed to sneak out and to see the most iconic places that were close to the beach.
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April: Belgium

As a chocolate geek, I am still surprised why Belgium wasn’t my very first travel destination. But better late than never, I finally visited the European capital this year to try the most delicious chocolate and waffles in Europe. If you trust Google and queue for the most traditional and oldest waffle cafes in Brussels, you might spend the whole day in the queue. So my advice would be to discover Brussels on foot, check out the city’s popular vintage stores, and in the evening, try the Belgian waffles outside the touristic center, skip the queues and enjoy your daily dose of endorphins without waiting for your order forever.
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May: Malta

Being already a bit fed up with the almost never-ending Swedish winter, in May, I decided to treat myself with a one-week getaway to warm and sunny Malta.

Malta was one of the most unexpectedly beautiful countries I have been to this year. If we ignore super uncomfortable transportation and traffic in the streets, Malta is definitely an amazing destination to swim, enjoy the sun, eat delicious food and discover the historical parts of the country.
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July: Czech Republic

You already know from my Instagram that I am an architecture geek, I love taking pictures of beautiful buildings. And speaking of architecture Prague was the highlight of my European trip in 2019.
You can check out my more detailed and eco-friendly guide to Prague here. But let me once again highlight how unexpectedly beautiful and cheap the capital of the Czech Republic was. Also being very well located between Austria and Germany, you have quick access from Prague to Vienna (one of my most favourite cities in Europe), or to Berlin – every hipster’s dream to find. And yep, don’t forget to try the Czech beer or every dessert lover’s favourite Chimney cakes.
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August: Austria

Vienna is one of my most favourite cities in the world, so, while visiting Prague this July, I could not help myself but go on a weekend trip from Pague to Vienna in August.

Vienna was named as the most livable city in the world for several years in a row for a reason. I can talk about thousands of reasons why you should grab a suitcase and go to Austria right now: like Mozart, Viennese coffee, Gustav Klimt, Sigmund Freud and etc. But you will not fully get what I am talking about until you visit the Austrian capital by yourself. You can check out my article about my Viennese trip and find some inspiration about where to stay or go in order to make the best out of Vienna in just two-three days.
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September: Catalonia

Barcelona is one of the most iconic cities in Catalonia, we all agree on that. But this year while stopping by in Barcelona for two days, I decided to discover more local and less touristic cities in Catalonia.
Even though Catalonia and Spain are quite cheap, one weirdly expensive thing there is regional trains. So in order to stay within your budget, I would highly recommend you to use the BlaBlaCar app and go to almost any city for around ten Euros.

From Barcelona, I decided to go to Montserrat, Lleida, and Tarragona. Even though Lleida is not as touristy as the other cities mentioned above, I enjoyed my stay there the most, getting to know the local culture, people were super friendly and welcoming. There were a lot of vintage-hipsterish hang out places where mostly locals or Erasmus students would go.

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December: Poland

I took a quick trip to the capital of Poland from Sweden in the middle of December. Warsaw turned out to be a very beautiful city with loads of veggie-friendly places and vintage stores where you can also find rare Soviet-era souvenirs.
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For 2020, my goal is to go out of Europe and discover at least some parts of Asia. You can follow me on Instagram and be the first one to see what’s up for the next year.

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL OF YOU!

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breakfast, brunch, fika, Hotel, Hotels, photography, Stockholm, Sweden, travel, Trips & Other Stories, Uncategorized, vegan, Vegetarian

An Instagrammable Guide to Stockholm

As you might have noticed from my Instagram, I am living in Gothenburg for almost a year already. Last Summer, when I visited Scandinavia for the first time, I surely highlighted my trip to Stockholm, which made me come back to Sweden for a much longer period because of coffee shops, a healthy lifestyle, Fika, people, and eco-friendly culture.
Since then, I have visited Stockholm five times, and as an architecture geek, I am falling in love with the city more and more every time.

Here’s my very Instagram-friendly guide to Stockholm.

Where I Stayed
The most important thing for me while booking a hotel is the location. It is crucial for me that the hotel is budget-friendly, centrally located, but in a calm area. On top of that, it is also my concern that, as a conscious traveler, the place I am going to stay is eco-friendly. That’s how I found a perfect match for all of my needs and wishes, which happens to be Hotel TegnĂ©rlunden right in the heart of Stockholm.

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Hotel Tegnérlunden is located at Tegnérlunden park, where you will meet a statue of the iconic Astrid Lindgren. A lot of bars and restaurants are within walking distance.
The hotel has many options for breakfast (including vegetarian & vegan options), the breakfast venue is located on the 6th floor, which means that you will have an amazing view over Stockholm city center while having your daily dose of nutrition.

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The iconic Gamla Stan
The old town of Stockholm is full of 17th, 18th-century buildings, narrow colorful streets, modern Nordic and international restaurants, cozy cafes and a lot more attractions like the Royal Palace or Storkyrkan Cathedral. Make sure to discover the old town on foot!
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And in the evening you can enjoy nice cocktails in modern bars full of local and international people.
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Where to Fika
Fika is probably the most Swedish thing you will ever experience: a coffee/tea break with something sweet like Swedish chocolate balls or cinnamon buns. You can fika (it is also being used as a verb) with your friends or even on your first date.
If you are a coffee lover like me, Stockholm will also be your favorite destination. You have cute little coffee shops almost everywhere, that serve very delicious Swedish desserts. My favorite fika places change almost every month, but one place that always tops my list is Rosendals TrÀdgÄrd where you can go for plants shopping right after your coffee break.
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My other fave fika place around Sweden and especially Stockholm is Johan and Nyström. They serve hands down one of the best coffees in the country. The minimalistic Scandinavian interior design makes the coffee shop a great place for meetings, and even for work.

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There are also various cozy coffee shops around Gamla Stan that you definitely need to check out. For your best breakfast & brunch experience, you can also check my previous blog post about Stockholm.

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3edf41e5-7cc5-45e1-b35d-92e9d7061bd9Even though I have been to Stockholm several times, this was the first time I visited the Swedish capital during wintertime. It might indeed be colder here than in other countries in Europe, and it gets dark pretty early, around 3pm, but I would still suggest you visit Stockholm during late November/early December just to enjoy open-air ice-skating, Christmas flea markets around the city, and a lot of mulled wine while walking around the city.

Here are some pictures I took while discovering Stockholm by foot on Skeppsholmen, Södermalm, and Norrmalm.

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I hope you will enjoy your stay in Stockholm and make sure to share your favorite destinations with me on Instagram.

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Austria, Bar, breakfast, brunch, cocktails, food, Hotels, photography, travel, Trips & Other Stories, Uncategorized, vegan, Vegetarian, Vienna

25 Hours in Vienna

In 2019 Vienna was named as the most livable city in the world for the 10th year in a row by the Mercer Quality of Living Survey. So this August, while visiting Prague, I decided to go on a weekend trip to Vienna and to revisit one of my most favourite places in Europe.
One of the main reasons why I always wanted to go back to Vienna since 2015 (when I first visited Austria) was a bit more than just famous museums or outstanding architecture. More and more travellers like me are seeking more of a sustainable approach when it comes to travelling. So if a conscious holiday sounds right for you, then Vienna is definitely a place to be. Starting with an enormous amount of green areas in the city, a lot of vintage stores and sustainable fashion designers, the city is also very pedestrian and cycling friendly.
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Now let’s talk about the city itself and where to stay there in order to make the best out of your vacation. To be honest, I spent way more than 25 hours in Vienna (around 72 to be exact) but soon you will realize why I decided to name this very blog post “25 Hours in Vienna”.image2 (3)

25 Hours Hotel in Vienna (Museums Quarter)

I mean, be prepared to have an architectural WOW factor in Vienna, especially the old town is full of amazing buildings. Absolutely every facade is a solid architectural masterpiece. And yes, this architecture is extremely beautiful and all, but sometimes… all you need is something just a bit quirkier than your standard hotel. So that’s exactly why I decided to spend my weekend in 25 Hours Hotel in Vienna.
Located right in the heart of the Museums Quarter (MQ), 25 Hours will be not only your favourite hotel but your favourite hang out place in the city. Their open bar has one of the best drinks, music, and sunsets in Vienna. I think nothing shows the true spirit of the Viennese life more than this crazy hotel: creative, artistic, fun, vintage & different. Their sustainable approach to the zero-waste and eco-friendly environment is one out of many other reasons why I will definitely go back there!
The hotel features a circus theme and the illustrations in the rooms are made by a Berlin-based artist Olaf Hajek. And the outstanding interior design is made by Dreimeta.
In order to make your trip even healthier, you can attend the Yoga sessions that 25 Hours Hotel offers three times a week, or simply relax in the spa area with a steam bath and sauna!

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25 Hours Hotel in the Museum Quarter, Vienna

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View from 25 Hours Hotel Terrace

My favourite thing about mornings at 25 Hours Hotel was breakfast. As a vegetarian, sometimes I struggle to find the right nutrition on some hotel breakfast buffet because most of the hotels go for meat-based dishes. But not at 25 Hours! Just like their logo says “come as you are” they really are aware of the diversity of their visitors and this place makes sure everyone will feel equally welcome here.

After a decent breakfast, you also have a lot to discover in the Museum Quarter by itself: two of the most important museums MUMOK and LEOPOLD are located there, where they also run temporary exclusive exhibitions from all over the world.

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If you happen to visit the Austrian capital in August like me, be prepared for the heat. But once again, Vienna is a place with a lot of options. You can either join the locals on a hot sunny day and get refreshed at the Danube Island, or chill out in one of the many parks that Vienna has to offer. My favourite park in the city center is Stadtpark, which is very close to the old town. You can also visit Burggarten or Sigmund Freud park in front of the Votivkirche. And if you want to go to a more peaceful place head to Prater, or visit my all-time favourite park Pötzleinsdorfer Schlosspark on the 18th district.

And if you are a museum person and want to see the most iconic Kiss in the world, you should definitely check out the Belvedere Museum. The palace was built in the 18th century as a summer residence for the Prince Eugene of Savoy (what a lucky guy, don’t you think?).
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For your historical Viennese coffee and Sachertorte experience head over to Demel, a famous pastry and chocolate shop founded in 1786 that once served the Royal court. After Demel, you can have a luxurious shopping experience at the Golden Quarter. BUT if you trust me and go for more eco-friendly shopping, you will have a lot of options in Vienna! Places such asGreenground andZerum offer modern fashion made from organic materials. You can find super trendy vegan bags all from recycled polyester and more.

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Graben, Vienna

The food scene in Vienna deserves a completely separate post because, with a lot of Austrian traditional cuisine, this city is also one of the most vegetarian & vegan-friendly places I have ever been to. You have an enormous amount of options to try the most delicious vegan and vegetarian food from all over the world. And here’s a special shout out to CafĂ© Mendez for finally satisfying my cravings for the Mexican food with the most delicious vegetarian burger!

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Cafe Mendez, Karlsplatz, Vienna

Make sure to follow me on Instagram for the latest updates and be the first one who will hear the news from me! 

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