140 miles walked.
A few more selfies than my cooperative husband would like to remember.
We're back from our European adventure!
The laundry is going upstairs (no thanks to me;) and I'm closing in on answering all 413 emails that I received while I was away. But before the post-vacay glow officially wears off, I'm excited to share a recap of our trip!
Oh, sweet Munich! The amount of love I have for this city was one of the biggest surprises of our trip. Charming streets and some seriously warm and welcoming people made our stay so memorable. I'm already planning our trip back to Germany to keep exploring!
Thanks to recommendations from a friend from Munich, Tamara of Tamara Gruner Photography, we enjoyed some awesome local spots, plenty of sausages and jugs of beer. You've got to love a city whose history is so tied to beer, including the fact that it helped end the 30 Year War! Our touristy indulgence was one of my favorites of the trip - dinner at the Hofbraeuhaus, the old state brewery from the 1500's.
We also spent some time in the darker parts of our history, learning about the rise of the Third Reich in Munich and visiting Dachau, the first concentration camp started just a few months after Hitler's reign began. It was incredibly sobering, to say the least. I'm thankful for a city that's willing to have hard conversations, be honest about their past, and help open our eyes to the responsibility of ensuring history never repeats itself.
We wondered how things could get much better than Prague. Every day I thought, "This has got to be the best day of our trip!"
After getting settled into our AirBnb, we went around the block to Old Town Square. That's when our jaws dropped, and they stayed that way for the next three days. Prague is one of the most aesthetically beautiful places in the world. The gothic architecture got me at just about every turn. Layers of turquoise upon black upon white upon peach... the city is amazing!
I ate my way through the Czech Republic and loved every second. I mean seriously there was this potato, bacon, sauerkraut thing and I almost died.
The big winner of our time in Prague (and in every city, actually) was our Sandemans walking tour, thanks to a recommendation from my friend Ashley of Ashley Kidder Photography. Prague's tour in particular was fascinating - a country that was communist when I was born, revolutionized by heroic acts of young students. So good.
In college, I spent a summer in Italy and took a weekend trip to Paris. I fell in love with the city then, and have been hoping to go back ever since.
Our time in Paris did not disappoint. There was cheese and wine under the Eiffel Tower, the delightful streets of Montmarte, a night cruise on the Seine, and some incredible food (are you noticing a theme?). We walked about 15 miles/day in Paris - through all of the beautiful white streets, St. Luis Island, to the Arc de Triumph, Louvre, Latin Quarter, Tuileries, and back again.
Brussels / Bruges
Dear Brussels and Bruges!
I have to be honest, we were a bit weary and a bit cold once we hit Belgium. We got off the metro and were greeted with sideways hail about the time we oriented ourselves for a mile walk to our Airbnb. I failed to check the umbrella I packed for the trip, and it was a bit... broken. But whatever, it was pink and Scott is handy at fixing things.
Anyway, then we saw Brussels. It's gold and ornate and fantastic. And hilarious. The people in Brussels have such a light and genuine sense of humor. The country was passed around for many centuries - they were Spanish, then French, then Dutch, then German. Because of this, they have a pretty comical outlook on things. Case in point: their national symbol is "manneken pis" -a peeing boy statue that can't be more than 18 inches high. He has something like 300 outfits that are changed out twice a week. I think it's this spirit and outlook that helped the people of Brussels respond to the recent attacks. The people we met claimed that humor is helping them through. I was so impressed with their strength!
We ate awesome stuff in Brussels, too - my favorite thing was Stompf - vegetable mashed potatoes. Also, fries! Apparently people from Belgium think that they created the french fry, not the french. And, waffles!
We took a day trip from Brussels to a small city called Bruges. I could not believe what my eyes were seeing, and I couldn't comprehend that a place like Bruges is real. Bruges was a main trading post for centuries. When the Americas were discovered and ships started becoming larger, merchants could no longer navigate to Bruges and the city was abandoned for 200 years. It became occupied by a small group of single women and nuns who made a living off of making lace. This lace slowly started drawing attention back to Bruges, 'Venice of the north' - A city saved by lace!
Amsterdam / Zaanse Schans
It's safe to say that I have a new favorite city in Europe, and I wouldn't really even call it close. I almost permanently unpacked in Amsterdam!
Where do I even begin with the things I love about Amsterdam?!
First, the people. They're a tall, gorgeous, and incredibly warm breed of humankind in Amsterdam. I loved the entrepreneurial and practical spirit of the people, and how that shines through in both their history and present day. The country is about 80% below sea level, and in its first days, the people of Amsterdam worked together - all classes - to pump out water to make the land livable. They say that God made the world, and the Dutch made Holland. Love it!
I was taken by the canal lined streets, plethora of cheese, bikes galore, and generally incredible culture.
Quite by accident, we ended up being in Amsterdam for King's Day. As we traveled throughout Europe, we quickly learned that many people were making their way to Amsterdam for this weekend - there was a par-Tay in store! The best comparison we could come up with is Mardi Gras in New Orleans... although I seriously doubt anything really touches King's Day. The entire city - canal upon canal upon city block - was one giant party. Everyone was decked out in orange, hopping from one band stand to the next, and just pretty much loving everything about life. So naturally, I bought a neon orange lei, pretended to be a local, and danced my heart out.
We also took a half day trip from Amsterdam to Zaanse Schans, a village of windmills, a cheese factory, clog factory, and general delighfulness. Tulips were blooming and it felt like a magical fairy land.
Until next time, Amsterdam!
Our trip ended in Reykjavik, and forevermore I will end trips in Reykjavik. We estimated that we walked an average of 10 miles a day on our trip, and The Blue Lagoon was the perfect way to treat our aching legs to some TLC.
Now... back to those emails!