Great München

I am horrible! I’m so sorry, but I really suck as writing these in a timely manner.

Munich was a place where I have wanted to go for so long. I have been to so many different place in Germany, but Munich was one I never got to. I had some pretty high hopes for it.

I was only in the city for two nights so I didn’t get as much of a chance to really explore it all, but I did get to do two amazing things that I think are extremely important and vital to the full Europe experience.

On my full day in Munich, I woke up early and went to Dachau Concentration Camp. It is only about 30 minutes away from the city center and is free to go in and tour. It is also extremely moving. I read a few travel blogs about going to one of the concentration camps before I went so I could kind of have an idea of what to expect. It can only prepare you a little bit.

I went in and it was pretty quiet. Everyone who was there had a very respectful attitude. I got an audio guide that takes you through the first part as if you were entering the camp yourself starting with going through the gate they all walked through too.

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The camp was a lot smaller than I expected. Then when I found out the there were about 33,000 here when the camp was liberated, and thousands had already been killed in the gas chambers and the death marches in the months prior to liberation, it made me tear up. I couldn’t imagine what it was like to live in those camps and with that torture. I didn’t take very many pictures. It was a really sad and heavy experience, but I am so glad I did it. I think it is a really important thing for everyone who can to experience because it teaches you about history, but it’s one of the darkest moments in history. The only way we can move forward is to understand the past.

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I went back to the city and I was already pretty drained. It is a heavy thing going to a concentration camp, but I only had one day in Munich so I had to try to carry on. I went on a free tour of Munich, but of course, a major part of Munich deals with a lot of the same subject matter as the concentration camp. Still extremely important though!

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It was really busy in Munich so it was a little difficult to get around, but the tour guide did a really good job keeping us all together. He not only took us on a walking tour to see the sights, but he also told us a lot about the history. Since this was where Hitler got his political start, he walked us by some former Nazi monuments, all of which have been taken down, and told us about what happened along his rise to power. Again, it’s important to understand what happened in the past in order to move forward.

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I had a little bit of a rough time in Munich because my hostel was a nightmare. I really am thinking I should write a post about hostel etiquette. Make sure you do your research and read a lot of different reviews for the hostels you choose because that could honestly put a huge damper on your trip. All in all, I’m really pumped that I finally got to go to Munich. It is an absolutely gorgeous city and has so much history and GREAT food and beer, which is really the most important thing in choosing a place to visit.

 

BerlIN Love!

After an extremely long and painful bus ride (8 or 9 hours I think?) we finally arrived in Berlin. I expected to be right in the center of the city, not too far from my hostel since we were arriving at the central bus station. Nope, not even close. In fact, I was 40 minutes by train from the U-Bahn station where my hostel was. Thankfully I could read all the signs, but if I didn’t know German, I would have been so lost. Also, the hostel directions weren’t very clear, but I found my way there eventually. I was expecting the worst when I got to the very busy hostel, but my room was actually pretty nice and I had decent wifi which I am learning is not easy to come by in hostels. The rooms were clean and there were only girls in this dorm so no naked men!

I spent my first day in Berlin doing something really incredible. I was able to go to the town where my grandmother grew up. It was about an hour and a half train ride to Burg. My grandmother had given me a hand drawn map, including a row of chestnut trees, that led me to her house from the train station. Everything was correct, even the chestnut trees. It’s a small town and a quiet town. I was surprised that not many people were out and about and not many shops were open. It was a little weird since it was the middle of the day on Wednesday. I still spent a couple hours here wandering around and imagining my grandmother growing up here. It took up almost the entire day, but that’s ok because I made sure I had another day in Berlin.

It’s also important to note that I have been to Berlin before. Ten years ago (almost to the day) I went to Berlin for the first time with an International Choir as one of our many stops through Europe. I could tell this time how much it had changed in the past ten years and it was much bigger than I remember. Since I had spent time in Berlin before I didn’t feel as much guilt not spending as much time out in the city as possible.

The next day however, I found a free tour that took up most of the day. The tour was actually really cool, even though it was like four hours long. It started at Museum Island and I was just expecting a regular tour with the highlights of the city. This tour actually went in to explain the stories behind things, most of them revolving around the last 110 years or so. My tour guide told us stories about WWI, WWII, and Cold War Berlin. We were even able to see the patchwork done to the buildings damaged during the war from bullets.

It was a little bit of a heavy day but it was really cool for a history nerd like me. I spent so much time studying European history in school, but it is a whole new experience walking around the town and seeing the things you read about being bombed. It is cool that a city like Berlin that has been ripped apart and nearly completely destroyed can come together and rebuild itself and still acknowledge the bad things that have happened there.

(Amster)DAM Adventure

Amsterdam was always on my list of places to see. I’m not sure why exactly, but it looked like a really beautiful and unique place to go. Turns out it was one of the weirdest and funniest adventures so far.

I had one hell of a time getting there! I have originally signed on to take three separate trains from Bruges to Amsterdam. First train ride went just fine from Bruges to Antwerp. Everything went fine and was on time. The second train was set to leave about 45 minutes later. I followed the boards using my train number…first mistake…then I didn’t really notice where the train was going…second mistake. I mean, it was the right train…but it wasn’t going to Rotterdam where I needed to be. Instead, this train was stopping in Breda. It took me 30 minutes to figure this out because I don’t speak Dutch and could not read the signs so there I was typing in all the words I could into Google Translate. Once I figured it out, it was too late to go anywhere else, so I got on the train. Then I’m using all my data and battery power on my phone to figure out where to go next. So we get to Breda and I find the train that goes to Rotterdam. It apparently also goes to Amsterdam Central, but I’m an idiot and decided to get off the train in Rotterdam, then rush over to catch the original train that went to Amsterdam from Rotterdam that I was SUPPOSED TO BE ON. I mean, I got there, but after hours of lugging my backpack and myself around to four separate trains trying to navigate the various Dutch speaking train stations.

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I did make it to Amsterdam and I decided to walk to the hostel since it wasn’t very far. I just had to walk down a canal, make a right and then turn right again on the third street. So I start walking and everything is fine, bikes are flying past, narrowly missing the planet that I am when I have both backpacks on, but once I made that first turn a certain smell hit me. I think you can all figure out what it was. I figured out that this smell isn’t everywhere in the city, but just right on the street where my hostel was. So I walk through the weed cloud to the street where my hostel and notice the very odd placement next to about four “coffeeshops” that only got weirder when I left to go explore and turned the corner into the RED LIGHT DISTRICT. Literally there were naked girls right next door. It was interesting to say the least.

However, I did get to have some fun. I found a pub and had a local beer and Bitterballen which are the drunk food of the Netherlands, deep fried gravy essentially. Delicious! But since I had worn myself out from traveling so much, I decided to call it an early night. The next day, I had to whole day to explore the rest of the city.

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I took it easy that morning. but I still found plenty to do. I went on a canal cruise. The canals are a huge part of Amsterdam and I was really excited to see Amsterdam from the water. A huge bonus was that I booked a tour that started in the same place where the boat tour ended. It was cool having the tour guide on the boat tell us stories about Amsterdam and added some personal stories in too. The tour only last about an hour, but it was worth it and I highly recommend doing a canal cruise when you’re in Amsterdam.

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Next came my tour, with a guy from Sweden as the tour guide! He was very funny and knowledgable about Amsterdam. He told us mainly stories about how Amsterdam has been so tolerant and why it is. Of course, it mainly started with the churches. No surprise there. I actually had a lot of fun on this tour and he took the time to speak to each person on the tour and find out something about them, which I really admire.

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I ran to the grocery store and a restaurant for dinner after the tour since I was starving at this point (a common theme with me) and then once again called it a fairly early night. I am not keen on going to clubs and bars very much while I’m doing this for two reasons. First, it costs a lot of money that I would much rather spend on an experience and not on a few drinks. Second, I am aware that as a solo female traveler, I’m already kind of a target. I would rather not make myself more vulnerable. I’m not saying that I haven’t had a drink or two over here, but I personally feel better not doing those things. I have gone to get dinner in a pub which is similar, right? Well probably not, but still I don’t want to be vulnerable and I definitely don’t want to spend up to 8 euros on a drink.

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Brugge

I was so ready to get out of Paris and move onto Bruges, but I didn’t think about the temperature difference. It was a solid 65 degree Fahrenheit when I got to Bruges, but honestly, it was so welcome after two weeks of overheating.

I opted for a smaller Belgian city thinking maybe it wouldn’t be as stressful and I was right. Bruges was calm and easy going. My hostel had a bar and restaurant in it so when I got there and decided I needed food over anything else, so instead of immediately going out and exploring the city, I recuperated after a long day of traveling and had a nice Belgian beer and some hearty food. The people were all very friendly and all spoke multiple languages. It was cool to see the people asking what language before starting to speak to that person in their native tongue. The people of Bruges were all very friendly and welcoming as well.

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The next day was the only full day I had in Bruges. I woke up and wandered down the street to the grocery store and realized quickly it was the only thing open that early on a Saturday morning. I grabbed some Belgian chocolate and some water before going back to the hostel to research some things to do for the day. I decided on a free walking tour of the city, as I always do, and I was once again not disappointed.

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My tour lasted two hours and took us around to all the famous sights. The guide also was able to tell us some lesser known stories of Bruges, but it was really interesting to hear about how important this city was about 700 years ago. He also talked about the famous movies, like In Bruges and Monuments Men, and their impact on tourism in the city. I loved the movie Monuments Men and all I wanted was to see the Bruges Madonna which is the only Michelangelo sculpture to leave Italy. It is housed in the Church of Our Lady in Bruges and let me tell you, it’s beautiful.

The guide also told us that in the past couple hundred years, a lot of the buildings and bridges in Bruges fell apart or collapsed. Instead of using a new style of building, they tried to make everything look like it was way older than it was which really adds to the charm of this city. If you’re into architecture, Bruges is worth a visit. Everything is very intricate and detailed, adding to the beauty of the whole city.

We ended our tour by getting a coupon for the waffle truck in the square, so of course, I had to have one. It was by far, the best waffle I’ve ever had. It was so fluffy and light, but sweet at the same time. Plus the melted Belgian chocolate and bananas I got on it didn’t hurt! There are lots of waffle shops around the city and are a great snack that will hold you until the next meal.

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I still had some time to kill so I went to the Bruges Beer Experience. For someone who loves beer, this place was awesome. It showed all the different steps in making beer, the different types of beer, and also one fun fact about beer. For example, did you know that brewing beer used to be a task designated for the women in the household?

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The tour ends with a tasting, which is more like three half pints, of some delicious Belgian beers. For something that was just a time filler, this was amazing. I highly recommend this for any beer lover.

All in all, I thought Bruges was great! It’s a charming city that isn’t big but is still accessible for tourists. It’s a great place to visit for a day or for four and you can find something for everyone there. I didn’t expect to like Bruges as much as I did, but it was awesome!

 

La Ville Lumière

The first time I went to Paris, I hated it. It was freezing cold (one of the coldest weekends they had ever had) and most of the people I was with were sick. When I was planning this trip, I was hesitant in booking another trip to Paris in fear that I would spent four days in a place I didn’t like. Well, Paris may be the favorite of many people, but I just am not one of those people. I did enjoy it more than the first time and I can appreciate it, but if I never go back I think I’ll be ok. I do think everyone should experience it at least once though because I have met a lot of people who love Paris and I think you just need to make the decision for yourself.

The first day I got to Paris I spent in the hostel waiting for my bed to be ready. Because of the overnight bus, I didn’t get any sleep. I think I drifted in and out of sleep that morning, but since we had to be awake to go through French border patrol and ride the ferry, I was awake most of the night. I feel bad that I didn’t spend much time doing anything that day, but I would have fallen asleep on a park bench or something. Plus, my ankle was killing me so I was happy to rest it. Once my room was available, I immediately went upstairs and passed out.

The next day I woke up feeling refreshed and happy to go out. I was also starving so I went and did what you should do in Paris and got bread for breakfast. I hopped on the Metro after finishing my delicious breakfast and went down to Notre Dame. I’ve been here before, but I thought it was as good a spot to start as any. I didn’t have any real plan for the day, so I figured I would find one as I went.

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I ended up finding and city tour that went around to a bunch of monuments and areas of Paris. My ankle was already killing me so I decided this was the best plan for me. It was perfect, honestly. I was able to see all the major spots in Paris without having to take a bunch of different Metros or busses to get there. I saw some familiar spots like the Louvre and the Arc du Triomph, but this time I got to hear some history on them through the guide that was given with the tour.

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I ended up staying in the next day because my ankle was killing me and I was tired from traveling already. My sleep schedule was finally starting to return to normal so the exhaustion of traveling was catching up with me. Since I’ve already been to Paris and done a lot of the touristy things, I didn’t feel too bad about taking a day to myself. Especially since the next day I had to rest up for Versailles.

I have wanted to go to Versailles for a while, but it didn’t fit into our quick weekend trip before so I wasn’t able to go. I dedicated an entire day to it this time so I could go and explore the Palace and the gardens surrounding it. It does not matter if you pre-book your ticket or if you get your ticket there, the line is impossibly long. I waiting in line for an hour before getting into the Palace and man, it was hot! Versailles is actually not that difficult to get to, but in Paris, I found that there are fewer directional signs than what I’ve seen elsewhere. Once you figure it out, it’s easy but before that you feel like you’re a little in the dark.

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All of that aside, though, Versailles is gorgeous. The Palace itself is incredibly ornate and holds so much history and art. It is set up so that you first learn about the history of the palace and then you dig in deeper to the different kings and their contributions. It’s really fascinating to see how it built up over time and then all of a sudden stopped when the monarchy ended in France. It’s got tons of rooms, including the famous Hall of Mirrors and the Room of Battles with artwork depicting every French victory in their history, ending with the French Revolution. It was cool for a history major to walk through that room and know what some of the paintings were for.

The palace is great, but the gardens are immense. It’s like a maze walking through the tall hedges and then the pond is a fun place to have a picnic, feed the ducks or fish, and take a boat ride. My ankle was clearly swollen and throbbing but I didn’t care because this was so beautiful and peaceful. There are also statues all over that are impressive works of art and are worth a look.

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In my opinion, Versailles saved it for me. I wasn’t having an amazing time in Paris, but now I’ve got a much better attitude toward it. I still don’t think I would go back again, but I do think everyone needs to go and make their own decisions about Paris. I think it affects everyone differently. While some of my friends adore Paris, some of them hate it. I think I’m somewhere in the middle now.

Traveling is also starting to take it’s toll. I’m exhausted and my ankle is constantly swollen and hurting, but how many times do you get to do something like this?

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London, My Love

It’s no secret that London is my favorite place in the world, so when given the opportunity to come within 1,000 miles of this beautiful place, I have to go back. I’m so happy I got to spend a week here, even though I’ve been to London a lot in my life.

First day, I took the train down from Edinburgh and that took up most of my day. It is always a beautiful ride, no matter what the weather is. It’s so pretty in the British countryside. The train arrived at Kings Cross around 3pm and I could walk the two blocks to my hostel pretty easily…even with the 70 pounds of luggage. It was shocking how quickly I fell back into the rhythm of the city. It was almost like I never left. The hostel was…interesting.

I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it was a shock to me. I was in a room for 18 people, so there were nine bunk beds that were literally connected to each other. There was no space between each bed at all. I was on a bottom bunk so it felt like I was in a tube to sleep. The only way to get out was to inch your way down the end of the bed. It was a little bit freaky when you suddenly touched your neighbors feet in the middle of the night too.

I had to roll with the punches so I got my stuff situated and headed back out. I was meeting a friend at Liverpool St. Station since it was a lot easier for me to meet her there than for her to find her way to me. So I wandered around looking for stuff to do in the five or so hours until I would meet her. I walked down to where my first flat in London was, then took the tube to my second London flat and then wandered along the river. I loved doing this when I lived here, but it is a whole lot nicer in the summer when there is a heatwave going on and the entire city feels like is 100 degrees. I found a little riverside pub that I thought was cool until I walked up to it…

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Saw this sign and got way too excited! Founder’s is a brewery in Grand Rapids, Michigan where I used to go to school. Founder’s was one of my favorites and their beers are still my go to’s. It ran inside was told the bartenders, who were not interested unless I was buying a beer. So I got my All Day IPA and went to the river and took it all in.

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I made my way over to Liverpool St. and found another pub where I could plug my phone in and waited patiently for my friend who was on the train from London Stansted. We called it an early night once she got there since we were both tired from traveling all day and we were talking about all the things we were going to do the next day.

Day two involved a lot of walking. First, we took the tube to Baker Street and walk down to Hyde Park. We talked about life while sitting on a bench by the pond in the middle of Hyde Park and also discussed what I hadn’t done in London, which was a very small list. We decided eventually on doing a bus tour so that we could see as much of the city in the two days she was with me as possible. It was fun and I think I found my calling as a London tour guide! That history degree was really coming out to play during the tour. Along with this tour, we also got a boat ride on the Thames. After we got some classic fish and chips, we ventured out onto our river cruise. It was so hot in London that being on the river and getting the breeze in your face felt so nice.

The boat cruise took us from Parliament and Big Ben down to the Tower of London, where I just had to say the fun fact about how the King used to keep his animals in the Tower, including his polar bear which was allowed to fish in the Thames. Why did I say this? I don’t know, but everyone around me thought it was great so I’ll roll with it.

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By the time we got back to Westminster, it was about 7pm and we were exhausted having been out and about for roughly 11 hours already, not to mention we were so sweaty and hot that all we wanted were cold showers. We headed back to the hostel and called it a day.

Day three was just as busy as the day before. First we went off to Hogwarts via Platform 9 3/4, then we channelled the Beatles and crossed Abbey Road, and pretended we understood cricket while walking by Lord’s Cricket Grounds. All of this before 10am! I wanted to show my friend one of my favorite places so we hiked up Primrose Hill and soaked in the sun while gazing out over the city. It was hot, but there was a little breeze at the top making it slightly more bearable. We then wandered through the gardens in Regent’s Park before getting a light lunch near the pond there. She was leaving a little early that day so we tried to pack as much in as we could, but after two days in the hot sun, we were pooped. We headed back to the hostel and said goodbye as she left for the airport.

It’s also important to note that an old ankle injury of mine started acting up again and I was having trouble walking. I didn’t mind the rest that came a little earlier that night. I was able to meet and old friend for drinks nearby which was awesome! It was so good to see him after four years. I met up with him again on Thursday night for dinner and we were able to catch up even more.

The next day was really just a catch up with old friends day for me. I got a chance to write a little bit down by the river and then meet a friend from my time studying in London for lunch and then wandered through Borough Market. After we split, I found another place to write a little closer to my hostel and spent my afternoon sipping tea and writing. It really felt good to have a day to do this since every day had kind of been non-stop since I started. I think it is extremely important when you’re traveling like this to take some slower days and have a break every once in a while. It gets exhausting really fast and it will hit you like a brick wall if you’re not careful.

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Friday finally came around and I was dropping my big bag off for the European leg of my tour. Family friends on the Isle of Wight were kind enough to hold onto my bag until I came to get it at the end of August. It was refreshing to get out of the city and have actual breeze. It was beautiful out too and the sea was fairly calm so the crossing on the ferry was pretty relaxing. I, of course, got a sunburn while visiting them even though I put on sunscreen that morning! At least I don’t look too pale anymore…

The next two days were calm. I didn’t spend too much time exploring because I know this city so well. I spent it relaxing and preparing for the next few weeks of adventures and tried to figure out some activities in the other places I was going. My bus to Paris was late on Sunday night, so I was able to relax a little during the day so that I could prepare for an overnight bus ride….which I didn’t end up sleeping on…more on that with the next post. I love London, but there wasn’t really any need to explore more right now. Plus, I’ll be back the first weekend of September! It’s still my favorite place in the world, and the calm days there where I could just write and take in my surroundings were good for the soul.

Until September, London!

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Scotland the Brave!

Hey everyone!

I finally am taking a relaxing day and reflecting on my time in gorgeous Edinburgh. First, the reason I was going there was for my friend’s wedding, so this was not a big exploring stop.

I got to Scotland and it was absolutely pouring rain. While I was so happy to be back, I was becoming aware that my rain coat is not in fact waterproof. Since I’ve been here before, I’m familiar with how to get around Edinburgh. There is luckily a bus that goes directly from the airport to central Edinburgh, but it goes to the bus station…which is at the bottom of the big hill I had to climb up…with 70 pounds of luggage with me. I was really close to shelling out some money for a cab or an uber, but of course since it was raining, there were no free cabs. Basically, the world was telling me to suck it up, buttercup so I just dealt with it. It took me about 40 minutes, but I finally made it to my hostel on the other side of the castle and the Royal Mile from the bus station and it was awesome. The room itself had about 17 other people in it but it was a cool room and the hostel had free coffee and tea, so I was pretty content.

It was still a pretty rainy day so I spent some time inside uploading some photos from Iceland and ran out only to get my SIM card and dinner. The pub I went to was actually a recommendation from my dad. The Last Drop is a small pub on Grassmarket (just on the other side of my hostel) and it is located next to the site of public hangings in the 18th century. Think about the name again….how Scottish is that humor?

All jokes aside, this place was great and the bartenders were so fun to chat with and hang out with. Definitely try to check this place out for a quick drink or bite to eat!

Since I hardly slept the night before, I called it an early night which resulted in me checking every social media outlet for four hours. But I had a couple big days coming up so I needed to be at 100%.

The next morning, my two friends were flying in and we were relocating to an Airbnb just off the Royal Mile. When they got to Edinburgh, we had such a great time. Lunch, naps, and then a free walking tour with an inappropriate history of Edinburgh. We took a free walking tour with a guy named Dougie who was the snarkiest and funniest tour guide and it was kind of a refreshing change from the classic free walking tours I’ve been on. They meet right outside of St. Giles Cathedral if you ever find yourself in need of a fun walking tour of Edinburgh.

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We had an early night since the wedding was the next day and we knew it would be a long day. I don’t necessarily want to get into too many details about the wedding since it isn’t exactly something that needs to be public, but it was beautiful and I’m so happy for my friends and they had great weather for such a special day.

Then came the next day. I woke up feeling awful with a cold that seemed to hit me overnight. We found a nice little brunch spot at Deacon Brodie’s Tavern on the Royal Mile, but I made it about another hour or two before I had to go lie down. Once I took some medicine and took a nap, I rallied and went out for another fun tour. My friend found a tour that went down into one of the old streets of Edinburgh that had been closed off.  Mary King’s Close was a really interesting tour that gave you a good look into what life was like in Edinburgh in the past. I highly recommend this tour for anyone! It’s family friendly too!

I know this was a short post and it seemed like I didn’t do much while I was there, but it wasn’t a big exploring stop. The main reason for going was for the wedding and everything else was just a happy adventure. I love Edinburgh though and I hope that everyone can go there some day. Every time I go I find something else I love about it. It’s an absolutely beautiful place and it takes my breath away every time.

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The Smoky Bay

Let me first explain that Iceland was a wild ride, not because it is a crazy place, but because I am fairly certain I didn’t sleep at all when I was there.

The plane landed at 6am in a surprisingly busy Keflavik airport and I had barely slept on the flight. I am really good at sleeping on short flights, but long flights I tend to stay awake the entire time. The airport itself is about a 45 minute drive to Reykjavik, so you have a small opportunity to see the country before actually getting a tour. The buses left the rather flat peninsula where the airport was and as soon as you start heading toward Reykjavik, you can see the mountains off to the right and the ocean to the left. I’ll admit, I didn’t have high hopes at first sight, but this view was pretty spectacular.

The city of Reykjavik itself is situated on a bay and as you drive in, you can see the bay and the mountains across it. The buildings are not the skyscrapers you would find in an American city, but they are brightly colored and add a character to the city that silver skyscrapers can’t replicate. Arriving at the hostel I was staying at was seamless as most of the coaches from the airport will take you directly to your accommodation. I got there around 8:30am and wasn’t able to get into the room I was satying in until 2pm so I dropped my bags and made my way into the city.

First, I started strolling down Laugavegur, which is the shopping street in Reykjavik. I was expecting some kind of hustle and bustle here, but hardly any of the shops were open and there are no people. I know the population of Iceland is small, but I thought there would be at least one person on the street. Next I ventured up to Hallgrímskirkja. This is the big church you often see if you were looking up Reykjavik or things to do in Reykjavik. The church stands atop a small hill in Rekyjavik giving it a vantage point that is unbeatable. It costs about $9 to get up to the top and I’ll let you determine if you think that’s worth it or not, but it was incredible from the top.

While hanging out in the church and seeing the city from the top was fun, it only lasted a short time. I needed to fill a lot of time. It was now about 10am and I had another four hours so I walked down into the business section of Reykjavik and grabbed myself a coffee to warm up with and use some free wifi to finds something to do. I stumbled upon CityWalks tours with their offer of a free tour of Rekjavik. I think this was one of the best city tours I have ever been on. You have to pre-book so they make sure their groups aren’t too large, but trust me when I tell you its more than worth that little bit of effort.

I met the guide, Eric, outside the Parliament building and gathered with a group of people from all over the world as he told us about some of the history of Reykjavik and Iceland. I highly recommend these tours! Eric was fantastic and funny and really knows his stuff!

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By the time to two hour tour was done, I wandered back to the hostel and attempted to check in again. Once I was able to get into my room, I crashed. The lack of sleep from the night before and busy morning caught up with me and I desperately needed sleep. I was prepared to sleep in until the next day, but when I woke up in the idle of the night, I thought it was morning. In Iceland in the summer, it doesn’t really ever get dark. I was also there just days after the summer solstice so the days were still very long, and when the sun did set, it was more like dusk for a couple hours before the sun rose again. I drifted in and out of sleep the rest of the night continuously confused by the light coming in through the window.

The next day was one I had been looking forward to for a while. I booked this tour back in March and I was so excited to finally be going on it. Since the hotel pick up wasn’t scheduled until 10am, I wandered around my neighborhood of Reykjavik. The harbor was at the end of my strret so I took a short walk there and had my first breathless moment of the trip. The water was completely flat and across the bay, the mountains shot up into the clouds. It was one of those moments where you just stand there in silence and take it in as much as you can.

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The tour started from the Harpa Concert Hall that is a staple in the cityscape of Reykjavik and we started the 45 minute journey out to a national park where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet. The geology/geography nerd in me was thrilled with this! I wasn’t really sure what to expect. My initial thought was that it would be a giant crack in the earth where it went down for miles, kind of like a cartoon version of it, but in reality it was like a giant valley. We started on the North American side and looked across the 2km wide valley to the Eurasian side.

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We clambered back onto the bus and drove off to the Eurasian side (yes, you can across drive across this rift even though it is constantly moving and quaking) to go to Geysir where they have hot springs similar to the ones you see out in Yellowstone in the United States. There is also a geyser here that erupts pretty much every 5-10 minutes. We were there for about half an hour so I got lots of chances to see this eruption. It is important to note, if you’re ever thinking about traveling to Iceland, which I highly recommend, there is a smell of sulfur whenever you take a hot shower or go visit the geysers and hot springs. Why? Well, Iceland relies on geothermic resources and the hot water comes from the hot springs that are found all over Iceland. Pretty cool, right?

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From Geysir, we traveled to one of the most famous tourist spots in Iceland, Gullfoss. This waterfall is petty spectacular, but it was raining really hard, even for Iceland. So once our group got their pictures and walked up to the waterfall itself, we found ourselves completely soaked. Lucky for us, we were going to the Secret Lagoon next! The most famous lagoon is of course, the Blue Lagoon, but the Secret Lagoon was beautiful. They try really hard to keep these clean, because they are natural and they want to keep them as long as possible. You have to take a shower with soap and everything before you get in, and you have to do it completely naked. Literally everyone does it, so you shouldn’t feel nervous or self conscious. You then put your suit on then head into the waters. It’s pretty cold before you get in but it makes the descent into the pool that much better. They also have a bar where you can get Icelandic beers and other beverages, but like everything in Iceland, they were pretty pricey.

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After about an hour in the Secret Lagoon, we boarded the bus for the 90 minute journey back to Reykjavik. Since we were all pretty relaxed, a fair few of us took a nap on the way back. I grabbed a quick sandwich from a grocery store and made my way back to the hostel. Since I was getting up fairly early to make my way to Edinburgh, Scotland the next day, I passed out and drifted in and out of sleep until my alarm went off at 4am to get the bus to the airport.

 

I know I’m a bit behind in posting this since I left Iceland on Thursday and it is now Monday, but the weekend was filled with a very joyous celebration so I didn’t take the time to post anything. Bear with me! I’ll post something about Scotland soon!!