Our Germany Travel Wish Lists: A Link Up

A few weeks ago, the lovely Cynthia over at adventurings did a great post about places that she’d like to visit in the Czech Republic if (in this whole weird world we now live in), the borders remained closed but domestic travel was possible. I thought this was a great idea, and it certainly encouraged me to think a bit more about the places we might want to go if we can travel. Sure it might not be as far as before, but what was still possible? 

 

The two of us decided to make this post a link up, so I picked a few places, she picked a few places, and we thought it’d be fun to choose which of the other person’s was our top choice. As a side challenge for myself, I decided to avoid the Alps. There are still places there that I haven’t been, for sure, but at some point I should probably branch out, right? 

Having said that… my picks are after the jump! Click on…

1) Hamburg

Hamburg has to top my list as 1) I’m pretty sure it’s the opposite of the Alps, and 2) I have yet to hear anything bad about it. I’m intensely curious about what a German city with a Scandinavian vibe could be, and the maritime history, proximity to water, and the ready availability of fish stuffed into bread (for BV), definitely don’t hurt. I’ve also heard many a tale of the musical scene (Hamilton auf Deutsch, what?) or the Miniatur Wunderland, but I think I’d prefer to wander along the waterways, look up at all those brick facades, and then have to chase down BV every time he gets a whiff of grilled fish.

2) Sächsische Schweiz 

Aka, the Saxon Switzerland. We’ve spent a weekend in Chemnitz, and a day in Dresden, but more time in the wild, rolling hills of Saxony sounds like a great idea. While it lacks the high peaks, the incredible rock formations can be seen all over ze Instagram travel feeds. I still remember the first time I took the train between Prague and Berlin, and the way that the train rolled through the hills along the Elba, rock formations popping in and out of the greenery… I could kick myself for still not having explored that area more. 

3) Sylt

Ummm… rumor has it that Germany has beaches? And having seen those Strandkorb all over gardens and in the garden furniture section of the OBI for the last nine years, I think it’s time I saw them in their natural habitat? Personally, I’m a big baby when it comes to cold water so I’m a liiiiitle nervous about the possible temperatures at the North Sea, but look at that beach! I’ll probably live, even if I can just lie out and read a book or ten on the sand. 

4) the Triberg Waterfalls

The very first trip that BV and I ever took together was to Freiburg and the Black Forest. It was a quick weekend getaway, and though we’ve driven through, and stopped in Freiburg since then, I feel like it’s only a drop in the bucket. I’m especially interested to see the place that is billed as having “Germany’s highest waterfall.” It seems that it isn’t really, but it’s relatively easy to access, so that helps? Either way, it looks lovely, and I do think that I really need to revisit the Black Forest as the first time we were there, we went to the highest mountain and got to see this…

At the Feldberg summit, 1493m.

Ah yes, the good old days when I hiked in beat up sneakers and jeans. It did clear up a tad, as the day went on. But I need to see more! Preferably, of the falling water variety.

At the Feldberg.

5) Aachen

Sitting right near the border with the Netherlands and Belgium, Aachen is rumored to be another city with a great mix of culture and history. Though Charlemagne is long gone, his influence remains. I’d love to have a poke around the cathedral and its treasury, or spend a day walking the Route Charlemagne. And if you’re not in Germany, you can do it virtually

If you missed the link up at the top, Cynthia’s posts can be found right here, and as for me, I’m adding the Spreewald to my list. Berlin is always worth a visit, but I’d love to see where the Berliner’s go to escape the city life. We might even get crazy and rent a kayak. Who knows? 

Second choice goes to the Baltic coast, as the unexpected beachfront continues. Being able to smell the sea air on Rügen, as opposed to just seeing postcards of it or hearing about it, would be a welcome change of  pace. 

And you? What’s on your Germany wish list?

 

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Quelle Surprise!

Who doesn’t love a good surprise when traveling?

Most of our visit to the Auvergne region of France was fairly surprising, mostly down to the fact that I’m not a huge pre-trip planner in general, plus my crazy new work schedule last spring that left little to no spare brain space to plan for our trip anyways. I’m sure at some point this laissez-faire approach will bite me in the butt, but so far, I’ve done okay. Auvergne worked out fairly well for us, with a fantastic variety of activities, and an extremely helpful host at the holiday apartment that we chose for our five days in the region.

On our first full day, he advised us to head towards a few villages that were about an hour away from our location, and so off we went. However, on the way there, we saw something that made us say “WHAT IS THAT?” and a few minutes later we pulled the car over into a helpfully placed viewpoint parking lot.

So what did we see? Click on for details…

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Norwegian Road Trip 2017: Getting Historical in Oslo

While in Oslo, we decided to take advantage of the Oslo Pass deal. Since we had three days, we went with the 72-hour option, which costs about €76. As I said in the previous Oslo post, we didn’t have a huge agenda while in town, but thought that this would give us enough free and discounted admissions to decide things fairly spontaneously… a good choice given the unpredictable weather! Additionally, we were staying outside of the city center, but this gave us full access to the public transportation system and I do so love riding a tram. Want to see what we got up to? Click on!

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Norway Road Trip 2017: 3 Days in Oslo

Our last few days in Norway were spent in Oslo. We spent one night at an Airbnb close to the airport, then said goodbye to our rental car and hauled all our luggage into the city on the train.

Our next Airbnb was a little bit different to our previous rustic and Hytte choices, but this was exactly the kind of Scandinavian cool I wanted to come home after a day in the big city. I mean, who doesn’t want to be greeted by a sassy Barbie when they walk in the door?

Well hi to you, too!

The whole place was colorful, cool, and fun of fun touches. We sadly didn’t meet our hosts as they were on vacation (and spend most of the summer on their boat on the Oslo Fjord anyway, which sounds like a fairly decent life), but they left a binder full of recommendations for the neighborhood, as well as the very-cool nearby area of Grünerløkka and the rest of Oslo.

I was very into my morning coffees on the balcony, and especially out of this mug. Granted it’s probably more applicable on the average workday than mid-vacation, but when in Rome (Oslo). 🙂

I didn’t have a huge to-do list for our time in the city, but the most important thing came first. I had been carrying around a fairly large box in my suitcase for our entire trip, as I had very unwisely tried to send my friend ECS (of the gorgeous Fjord wedding) a package riiiiiight when they moved house. At least it had come back to me*, and we’d have the chance to hand-deliver it to their snazzy new apartment.

They were heading out of town to the family Hytte the next day, but after a coffee and a tour of the new place, we strapped the baby into the stroller and she walked us all through the city center and harbor area. Neither BV nor I took a ton of pictures, considering we were busy chatting, and still had a few days when presumably we’d see the palace again (we didn’t), but oh well. If you want to know where the Norwegian Royal Family lives, Google away!

So what did we see?

A very moody-looking harbor

A fairly colorful food truck set-up next to the moody harbor.

A sauna boat.

A highly-questionable statue (note the reflection if you’re confused).

A dramatic square.

More colorful buildings… a favorite anywhere.

After the baby reached his wind tolerance, we parted ways, and BV and I headed back towards our apartment. E had recommended a few places in our area as well, and since we had worked up a thirst in all that fresh air, we swung by a microbrewery for a drink (or two).

Schouskjelleren Mikrobryggerei

I wish I could tell you exactly what we had, but a year later, I’m afraid I’m out. I can tell you that the bartender at Schouskjelleren Mikrobryggerei was knowledgeable and helpful, and that the patrons at the bar were eager to quiz a real-live German on what German beers he’s had, so that’s something, right? It was a nice place to rest our feet and enjoy some local beverages… so if you go, take better notes than I did. Which were zero notes. It’s a low bar.

Our second day was mostly museum-focused as we had bought an Oslo Pass, and I’ll have a post about that coming shortly, but we did do a bit of wandering around our neighborhood as well.

I particularly enjoyed this store nearby our tram stop. I can’t even tell you the number of times I’ve stopped to buy flowers and lamented the lack of jeans available!

After we filled ourselves up on culture and history, we decided to take our host’s advice and visit Lille Herbern. In the information that they left us, they described it as “one of the true pearls of Oslo,” and I really couldn’t agree more.

For starters, this is how you get there…

After we left the Viking Ship Museum (which itself is a bit out from the city center on the Bygdøy peninsula), we walked a few minutes in search of this pier. Shortly thereafter, a small boat appeared and for a few krone we hopped on board for a 1-minute ride to another island. The boat shuttles back and forth all day, and he deposited us on the other side just as enormous rain drops started to plop down on our heads.

We sprinted to the buildings in front of us and found more boat shelters, and, a bit wetter than we planned, the restaurant.

The Lille Herbern restaurant from the other side of the storm.

We only planned on a drink because we were saving our meal out in Oslo for our last night, but I regretted that a bit because everything smelled (and looked) pretty great. We enjoyed our drinks on the patio, safely undercover from the weather blowing in and out, and watched all the boat traffic.

It was late afternoon when we arrived and it filled up quickly. Next time, I shall be eating. But eventually we ceded our table and stretched our legs for a few photos before taking the boat back to Bygdøy.

BV getting those water and rainbow shots.

Old boats, new boats, all the boats!

We did very nearly lose our heads to some seagulls while walking around because we were so fascinated watching a guy prep his boat that we didn’t notice how close we were to nests and baby birds. We avoided incident, but if you go, watch out for the little guys! And eat dinner and let me know if it tastes as good as it smelled!

Back on the peninsula it was back on another boat that runs between the harbor and the Bygdøy museums. The weather continued to blow around dramatically and the Oslo harbor architecture is really built for that contrast. It was dripping and blowing like crazy so we don’t have too many pictures, but believe me, a stormy day is not always a bad thing.

En route back to our apartment we decided we were hungrier than we thought (darn you deceivingly long Nordic summer days), and stopped off at a brew pub that we had noticed this morning. As it turned out, after we ordered drinks we learned that their chef was sick, so it was just another drink this time. Oh well, it was another cool pub with a snazzy-industrial interior and all kinds of interesting things on tap.

And now that I’m googling this again, it seems the food reviews aren’t great anyway. So I guess it’s good that we just picked up pizza on the way home?

For our last morning, we decided to again take our host’s advice and walk down the river all the way to the city center. Piles of cool cafes with great coffee, parks, and literal waterfalls made this so different to any other city walk I had ever taken before.

I really cannot emphasize enough that THIS IS IN THE MIDDLE OF A CITY. It’s wild.

We also managed to find the most insane antiques store on the way. All the bars, restaurants, and shops that we’d seen thus far were chock-full of very cool old furniture and I guess this is where they all shop?

Please especially don’t overlook the giant moose head in this last picture. Slightly blurry as I was trying poorly to be sneaky.

I also wanted to stop by the Mathallen, as I love a good market. We got there at about 12:30 though, and it seemed most of the stands were already closed. The larger ones and restaurants that were serving lunch were still open, but since we mostly wanted to browse and not sit, it was kind of a wash. That’s what I get for sleeping in. Next time!

Mathallen Oslo

At least the area was interesting. Please note the motivational message on that back building.

When we reached the city center we did a bit more museum-visiting (again, more later), but then indulged in our vacation tradition of waiting until the last possible day to purchase, write, and mail (what feels like) 75 postcards. We popped into a souvenir store for the cards in question, then chose a fancy cafe with good foot traffic and healthy pours of wine to fill them out.

Get fancy in the city center on your last day!

Outside the train station.

Cards written, we headed for a busy square full of restaurants in Grünerløkka for dinner. The meal itself was fairly unremarkable but we enjoyed people-watching and meandering home through the still-bright evening. Luckily that great light meant that I didn’t miss this festively colorful bike display.

As I said, I had no major agenda for this city trip. That’s really not how I travel, but also it’s not like Paris or Rome with checklists of sights to see and must-dos. We managed to completely miss the famous sculpture parks, and didn’t even go into the new opera house to use the fancy restrooms (yes, that was really a recommendation that I got).

I’d love to have a little more time to get lost in another neighborhood or two, or to take the T-Bane out of town to where my friend likes to cross-country ski around the city when there’s fresh snow. I hear there’s a glorious lodge in the forest with a giant fireplace that’s heaven in winter, and being able to reach that kind of place from the capital city has to be such a treat. But since I’m also not the kind of traveler that says, “welp, I’ve already been there, no need to go there again,” I would hope that I can make those things happen sometime. Soon.

 

*For once. I have terrible luck with sending mail.

Norway Road Trip 2017: Gausdal

They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Sometimes they are wrong.

Back when we first started thinking about this Norway trip, one of my first steps was to check out overnight options on AirBnb. We had no exact itinerary at that point, so I just scrolled around the map, clicking on anything that looked interesting. This extremely specific and technical search method brought us to Gausdal.

Evening in Gausdal

A little bit of background: the first chapter book I ever read was Little House in the Big Woods. It didn’t take long for me to collect the whole series, and I can’t tell you how often those books got reread. They’re all still in boxes at my parents’ house, in fact. When the new and snazzy annotated edition of Pioneer Girl came out a few years ago, yep, got that one too (thanks, M&D). I was fascinated by those books, by that life.

Luckily for me, I also grew up quite close to Old World Wisconsin, a most excellent living history museum run by the Wisconsin Historical Society. It was built as part of Wisconsin’s bicentennial project, and basically involved a bunch of hippies driving around Wisconsin in the 1970s knocking on the door of old farmhouses and asking if they could take their buildings. Eventually about 70 historic structures made their way, piece by individually labeled piece, onto nearly 400 acres in the Kettle Moraine forest. Going there as a kid was as close as you could get to pioneer life, and I loved it. I even went to work there, post-college. It’s very much one of my favorite places in the state.

At this point you might be asking yourself what in the world pioneer life children’s books and a museum have to do with a Norwegian road trip. Fair question.

This is a very long-winded way of saying that I saw a picture, fell in love, and decided that I would do my damndest to work a stay at this beautiful place into our trip. Which is exactly what I did. Behold…

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31-Day Challenge 2018: Day 13

Everything begins with…

an idea. Sometimes it’s a good idea, sometimes not so much. This writing challenge began with an okay idea. I did have full intentions of carrying on with it while we were in South Tyrol, but that ended up not happening, clearly.

Though the weather was a mixed bag, we were out most of every day hiking, and evenings were spent cooking or eating out, reading, and going to bed relatively early every night due to all that fresh air and activity. Also, we’re now old.

The best day to do any writing would have been the first full day we were there. It rained most of the day so we only ventured out to the village store and back, and then I spent the rest of the day so wrapped up in A Little Life (the book I mentioned back on day 7) that I was incapable of doing anything else. Poor BV had to cook us dinner and everything. I didn’t finish it that day but the next, because at 12:30am I still had the last part to go, had been through several tissues, and was emotionally wrecked. Read it, is basically what I’m saying.

The rest of the days were much less teary, but all well-spent. I thought about writing some, but to be honest, right after finishing that book writing about anything in my silly world felt absurdly trite. I needed a refractory period before resuming this challenge, or something. Mountain air and movement was helpful to the recovery, exhausting or not.

It was a really excellent week, and coming home was legitimately rough. As much as I do love Nürnberg, it’s pretty hard to compare my usual village walking route with what could be possible living in the mountains. And I know, I know… when you LIVE in a place, it’s different. You don’t go out all the time, we wouldn’t hike every day, you still have to you know, earn some money and all that kind of thing. It’s not all fun and games. But no matter how far I walk around here, it doesn’t get me anywhere that’s this gorgeous, even on a rainy day. Maybe someday it will.

*****

Editor’s Note: This is part of a 31-day challenge series for the month of May, which will possibly now extend into June to compensate for the vacation gap, in which I aim to spend at least 15 minutes writing about whatever strikes my fancy. Results may vary.

31-Day Challenge 2018: Day 9

*Sweet sigh of relief*

I love May. Tomorrow is yet another public holiday, in this case Ascension Day/Father’s Day, and officially my first day of a 12-day break. We started the party this evening, with an assortment of Italian meats and cheeses for dinner, with a hefty bottle of Teroldego to get us ready for next week in South Tyrol.

BV has got a day up on me though, as he had today off too. Since we finally had all the cats (CATS) out of the way, he got started on a couple of things that we need to do which are basically impossible with a pet. Before my parents visited several years ago, we laid down some pressed wood in the hallway, after we had a water incident and had to toss the laminate. However, we put it down just a day or two before they arrived, and didn’t have time to properly seal it. And with the cat, we nearly never had more than a day or two with her out of the house to take care of it. So that was step one. BV sanded the wood, and sealed one half of the length. Hopefully tomorrow it’ll be ready to seal the other side, as we do need to able to walk on at least half of it to get around the house.

It was also a good opportunity to open up all the windows and get some air circulating in here. I plan on some fairly intense vacuuming, which is easier without cats flying in every which direction. In a perfect world, I’d drag out the piles of stuff that I want to put up for sale online, but I feel like that’s a multi-day, preferably BV out of the house task. I’ll settle for a decent deep clean of the pantry and some bathroom tile scrubbing, in the meantime.

Then it’ll be the usual ritual of pre-trip laundry, and the packing of stuff. The forecast for our week isn’t looking too hot, so it’s going to be a lot of layered hiking gear, and a pile of books in case it really does rain all day every day. Cross fingers and press thumbs, if you don’t mind.

*****

Editor’s Note: This is part of a 31-day challenge series for the month of May, in which I aim to spend at least 15 minutes writing about whatever strikes my fancy. Results may vary.

Five Thoughts From London

Last month, BV and I popped to London for a short city break. I’ve been dying to do a quick trip somewhere that involved just a backpack, as opposed to our usual “everything but the kitchen sink” packing trips, and this was perfect. We had a great time and my enthusiasm for the city remains. This post is a collection of my various thoughts on our short and sweet visit. Read on!

L.O.V.E.

Thought 1: This is a City

Nürnberg is a city. It is Stadt Nürnberg, not Dorf or Markt Nürnberg. But arriving at London’s Liverpool Street station at 9 o’clock on a Wednesday morning made me want to pat the “city” of Nürnberg  on the head like a small child. “Oh yes, you’re getting to be such a big boy!”

Why? Well, not wanting to be those jerks with backpacks trying to make our way through the Tube, we took advantage of the sunny day and walked through the city. People in suits hustled pasts us left and right. They clutched travel mugs and to-go cups, most of them speaking authoritatively into their phones about Very Important Business.

Via Giphy. I think about this scene a LOT. While working. And discussing BUSINESS.

Or if you prefer…

Via Giphy.

Even when we reached the more tourist-filled areas, it was still easy to see the locals. More men in suits boldly crossed the street at a red light, as a group of tourists waited patiently curbside behind their guide and his flag. Joggers wove in and out of people with iPhones and selfie sticks clustered around a red phone booth. It was truly, most excellent and varied people-watching. A sure sign of a City, capital C intended.

Trafalgar Square, with the crowds behind us.

Thought 2: It’s an Oddly Familiar Place

I have only spent 8 total days in London between this visit and my last one in 2012. I have, like most Americans, a drop of two of blood from some long-gone UK relation, but I can’t say for certain if they were English or Scottish or what else. However, a lifetime of reading, and a particular love of historical fiction revolving around the British monarchy, meant that nearly every turn showed me a name or a place that I already vaguely knew. Movies and TV contribute to this too, as if there are enough British accents in something, I will watch it.

A glance at the map in Hyde Park led to us making a quick detour on our route through Kensington Gardens to see the Peter Pan statue where Lady Mary dumped Lord Gillingham on Downton Abbey.

Sorry, Tony.

Shortly after that, we spotted and swung past the nearby Albert Memorial, though sadly there was no picnicking Dowager Countess of Grantham in sight.

Albert Memorial.

As far as ACTUAL history goes, I would’ve been perfectly happy to tour the Tower of London on this trip, even if I already did it. BV and I are currently watching (rewatching for me) The Tudors, though we’re only in Season 1 and shit hasn’t really hit the fan yet. Since there’s no way he’s going to read all the books I’ve read on the subject, maybe after we finish the series (before the next trip hopefully), he’ll appreciate the creep factor of the Tower properly!

Thought 3: Look What You Did

The history of colonialism is everywhere in London from monuments of various wars to the elephants and camels around the aforementioned Albert Memorial. The oddest reminder of it, however, we happened upon by accident. My friend A used to play darts at a Mayflower Pub in San Rafael, CA. While in London, one of the few things he really wanted to do was to go visit their sister pub and so off we went. A few steps away is this statue which, since it dates from 1991, seems shockingly appropriate to the current state of affairs. Though, if the artist wanted to update the statue, he would probably have to give the figures smartphones in lieu of the magazine. Lord knows, I’ve opened Twitter and had that similar expression on my face fairly often recently. Turn back while you still can, pilgrim!

Thought 4: So Many Pubs, So Little Time

We didn’t necessarily set out to do a pub crawl on our visit, and yet we managed to hit eight of them, plus a bar and cafe with outdoor seating, aka a beer garden if you drink a beer. Which we did. I wonder if any intrepid Londoner has taken on the task of visiting all of them, which ought to earn you some sort of award from the Queen.

Keeping in mind that we live in the customer service wasteland that is Franconia, it was shocking how friendly most people were. Bartenders, patrons, the whole lot of them… it was definitely not what we are used to. From the bartender(s, it happened multiple times) who let BV sample the various choices on tap so that he could make an informed decision, to the couple who chased me outside so that they could give us their cozy nook booth when they saw us searching for a spot, it was an excellent breath of fresh air.

The Mayflower.

If you’re curious about our favorite pubs of the trip, look out for a post on that subject coming in the next few days. 🙂 Update: here!

Thought 5: The Joys of Easy-Going Friends

As alluded to earlier, we weren’t entirely on our own for this trip. We arrived on Wednesday, and on Thursday evening we met up with my old college pal A, and his lovely wife, J. We hadn’t seen them since they made their way around Germany back in 2014, and it was great to catch up. They’re fairly frequent travelers, so when they saw a good deal to London, they jumped on it and happily it worked out for us to fly up and meet them.

A and BV checking out the view from above Tower Bridge.

Anyone who has tried to travel with friends will tell you that travel style differences can be a major challenge, but this felt fairly simpatico. We stayed in different hotels (frankly, we couldn’t afford their place but its lobby was gorgeous), and met and separated as it suited us. We all had a few ideas about things we’d like to do, but no one had a checklist or a do-or-die schedule. Everyone seemed content to hang out, eat good food, see a sight or two (also from above), and wander around as long as the weather was good enough to do so. Hence our pub -> short walk to Buckingham Palace -> back to another pub on the last day. Darn you drastic temperature drop and snow!

The Tower and Tower Bridge from the Shard. A most excellent view.

All in all, it was a great, short city break. We could’ve had more time (so many more free museums filled with treasures!), but since Ryanair can get us there from Nürnberg for a reasonable price, hopefully we’ll get around to it again sometime.

Norway Road Trip 2017: Vikøyri

The second stop of our Norwegian trip was a short but sweet night in and around Vikøyri, a village on Sognefjorden. The main reason for our visit was sheer logistics, as my original plan to drive to Bergen went out the window when we saw that the short distance on the map would take us nearly nine hours. Instead, we opted for a projected four and a half hour drive from Sæbø, which ended up being closer to eight in reality.

Why so long? Because driving in Norway is winding, twisting, up, down, and SO RIDICULOUSLY PRETTY THAT YOU WILL STOP FOR PHOTOS CONSTANTLY.

Don’t believe me? Click on to continue the tour!

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