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Aug / Sep 2011
Urban Quirks

Writer: Emily Holman / Illustration: Gina Abou Hamad

Thanks to the wonders of the internet and cheap, speedy travel, the world is smaller than it has ever been before. But, however compact the world seems, there is no denying that some cities are simply more distinctively exciting than others. Urban metropolises have conceived, constructed and consolidated the world’s best landmarks: pieces of history that other countries are forever seeking to emulate. That is why we decided to go beyond the usual suspects to bust out some less conspicuous, but equally must-do, experiences in three of the world’s most special cities.

Berlin is repeatedly being reported as the latest, chicest hotspot, not to mention the most artsy. And we don’t disagree. New York might have the Statue of Liberty, but Germany’s tallest structure is just as nifty. The Fernsehturm, or ‘television tower’ in Berlin is an impressive 368 metres high, making the Statue of Liberty’s mere 93 metres seem quite puny in comparison. Built in the late 1960s as a symbol of what was then the German Democratic Republic, the Fernsehturm is the fourth tallest freestanding structure in Europe, and a cultural landmark to boot. But in our opinion, what makes the Fernsehturm really stand out is its spinning restaurant. After all, can you order a three-course meal atop the Statue of Liberty? Positioned a floor above the observation platform, at over 200 metres in altitude, this eatery revolves every 30 minutes, offering unbeatable views across the city. It may not be suitable with those who have vertigo, or a weak stomach either.

Montreal is a city of fusion and stark contrast: snow and sun, North America and Europe, extreme nightlife and extremer sports. Perfectly poised as an island city, it combines the delicate charm of Europe with America’s addictive buzz. Montreal just seems discontent with being just one, plain old city. That would be much too ordinary. Rather, the Canadian metropolis holds another city in its depths: the underground city. Spread over 30 kilometres, this city includes everything you could possibly need (ever), from shopping malls to hotels, and it attracts over 500,000 daily visitors in the winter season. It even has banks, universities and metro and train stations, not to mention the Bell Centre amphitheatre and arena. Believe us – go. Oh, and one more insider tip: for the secret delight that every true Montréalais goes for, please stop off at Aux 4 Mains, where one can wile worries away with a deluxe Montrealesque four-handed massage. Winter never felt better.

Barcelona may be the city of architecture, jazz and romance, but has more than art on offer, nestling in its haphazard, narrow streets. Filled to bursting with museums, there is one specific tour that visitors will not want to miss. A Museum of Chocolate. Don’t be thrown off by the sumptuous chocolate that comes as a gift with your ticket, for this building provides more than sweets for your taste buds; it is a genuine educational experience. You can learn the history of chocolate, including how it became a European delicacy despite the cocoa bean originating from South America. You can also discover every step of the manufacturing process, from the cocoa bean to the chocolate bar. Best of all, you have the opportunity to sample xocoatl, a chocolate drink popular with none other than the Aztecs. This museum is also packed with specimens of art - art in the most indulgent sense, replete with sculptures made entirely out of chocolate, from Tintin and Asterix to Minnie Mouse. One tip for as you walk through this feast for the senses: make that chocolate token last a long time. You will not perceive your chocolate cravings in the same way again.

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