Saturday, October 15, 2016

Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg

There are few things more romantic to me than Southern Germany.

You weren't expecting that were you?! 

But it's true. Everyone who knows me knows I have a soft spot for Deutschland, specifically anything in the southern portion of the country. Of course Bavaria will always hold a special place in my heart (and I'm sure you'll get a chance to hear me go on and on about it quite a bit), but Baden-Württemberg {with the bordering Schwarzwald} will always remain one of my earliest and fondest memories of Germany.

A few weekends ago, I had the chance to show Dan around the area and give him a chance to see some of the things I first did in Germany. This included the very picturesque and romantic city of Heidelberg. It sits on the bend of the Neckar river and has a beautiful medieval castle atop a hill overlooking the Altstadt. We had Schnitzel, Spätzle, Maultauschen, Bier, Cappuccinos and everything else nice to eat. We had lovely weather and experienced the transition season of chilly yet sunny fall.

The castle ruins are some of my favorite ever. While overlooking the city and the river you feel like you've stepped back in time.

The BEST Käsespätzle from Schnitzelbank

We also visited the town that I visited in high-school as part of an exchange program that helped shape my love of travel, learning, German, and world-wide cultures. We had dinner with my host-mom and it was lovely to have Dan experience something that was so integral to my story. It was like visiting home.

Although it was a quick trip, we will be back, Germany!!

P.S. I included a few snaps below from 2006 {that's 10 years ago, folks!!} See if you can spot some of the similarities!

All in all, pretty much how I left it before! ;)

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Land of Fire and Ice: Day 4

After waking from a long overdue well rested night, we slowly made our way down the mountain to get on the road toward the north-western edge of our journey. Although not as long as Day 3, it was still another long day of driving through even more varied terrain. Both Dan and I were surprised at the shift in weather patterns once we got to the northern side of the island. It was so much warmer in the north than it was along the southern coast. We didn't have as much rain, and actually used the air conditioner for a while! It didn't require as many layers, but could still turn cold/rainy at any moment. Iceland sure kept us on our toes, and with our jackets always within easy reach.

We drove through the sunny and clear northern coast to arrive at our final camping site of the trip, near a small fjord in the off the ring road in the west.

It was the first time we had arrived at a campsite with a few hours to spare before the sunset {granted, sunsets were always so late!}, and we used the time to hike around the area.

It also happened to be a campsite that had a hot spring on the grounds, and it felt like something straight out of a storybook. There was a small hut in which you could change/leave your clothes and the the natural hot spring was at the base of a pretty cool small mountain with a waterfall. Dan and I first hiked up the mountain to get a better look at the waterfall, and then relaxed afterward in the hot spring! One thing they don't tell you about natural hot springs is natural hot spring in the ground = a TON of mossy algae that just LOVES to get stuck in your swimsuit. The clean up was super fun...and very green.

From our experience the night before, we knew we wanted to try and see the northern lights again tonight, and knew relatively when they might be visible, if there was clear weather. So after the hot spring, we made dinner and took a nap. When the time came to get up and see if we could see the lights again, I was exhausted, but Dan jumped right up and went back to the hut and hot spring from earlier. I stayed near the van to watch while Dan ventured off to get some shots from the spot we had staked out earlier. This evening was even clearer than the previous night and the lights were even brighter. As with the night before, the sky was just so active with the aurora-dancing. It flowed effortlessly before our eyes from one shape to the next. I just kept thinking "the sky's awake, so I'M awake!" Anna, gets it.

Overall, it was an awesome way to spend the final night in our camper.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Land of Fire and Ice: Day 3

By Day 3 we were considering ourselves experts at this whole camper van thing! We had made it along the southern side of the island by this point and Day 3 was dedicated to a lot of driving to get us up north to Akureyri, Iceland's second largest city.

We woke up before dawn from our campsite in order to make it back to the ice beach before sunrise to capture some moments when the ice was fresh from the tide.

After soaking it all in again, which never got old, we got back on the road for a long haul. This day of driving was harder because we had to make it further than we had any of the other days but there was still amazing scenery everywhere. So although we had to be more selective on our photo stops, it was such beautiful and varied scenery...again!

We jammed out to road-trip tunes and drove through the day up to the north part of the country. We saw an active volcano, Leirhnjukur ('Mud Peak'), which is located to the northeast of Lake Myvatn. Its last eruption was from 1975 to 1984 and you can hike through the lava flow, which is surrounded with mud pools and steam vents.

We then drove around Lake Myvatn, explored the cave from GOT, and then watched the sunset from Goðafoss before making it to Akureyri.

Jon and Ygritte's cave from GOT
More rainbows and waterfalls....of course.

Finally after the day of driving and exploring, we made it to Akureyri and camped up on a hill overlooking the city. It was by far the best campsite of our whole trip - it was picturesque, had a fun obstacle course, not to mention indoor heated showers! Akureyri was an amazing town that I wish we had more time to explore. It is definitely on the list to visit again on our trip back {whenever that might be}!

We arrived quite late and made a late dinner, and although we were exhausted from the day we decided to try to capture some night sky photos. It was a fairly clear night - and around midnight or so - and what looked like wispy white clouds dusting the sky, turned out to be the beginning of a aurora light show!

Now this was something that neither of us expected to see on this trip since it was still the summer season and so early for the northern lights. But it was easily one of the best surprises ever! We watched and shot pictures for about an hour before it ended and we called it a night.

Psalm 19:1 has never been more true: "the heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands." As we watched the night sky dance, this rang clear. It was amazing to witness this in person, and these pictures couldn't properly capture the awe, surprise and excitement we both felt. We would have been happy if that was the only time we got to see them, but in fact the next night was even clearer and more stay tuned for Day 4!