U.K.

A Quick Stop in London

It seems like a lifetime ago that I left home to travel to different parts of the world and see new things, but here I am at the end of my trip. Tomorrow I fly home and conclude my six month(ish) travels. My last stop was a quick visit back to London where I went on a tour of Westminster Abbey, checked out the National Gallery, and saw a musical in the city.

Somehow on my last trip to London I managed to miss Westminster Abbey. It’s one of the biggest things in the city to go see, so I had to catch it on my return to this amazing city. I’m so glad I got to, because I’d forgotten how amazing it is inside. Unfortunately, photography inside the magnificent building is forbidden, but it really is incredible. Not only are there beautifully carved vaulted ceilings, sculptures, and decorations all over the walls, but there are memorials and tombs of some of the most famous and influential people in history in the Abbey. Isaac Newton, Paul Dirac, Michael Faraday, and Charles Darwin are just a few of the famous scientists there. Shelley, Keats, Lord Byron, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, and a memorial to Shakespeare make up just a fraction of the Poets corner. Henry’s and Edward’s and Mary’s and an Elizabeth contribute to some of the royalty buried there. It’s absolutely incredible, and I’m glad I got a chance to stop by.

The National Gallery was another big site to check out in the famous Trafalgar Square of London. It’s quite the overwhelming art gallery, with famous Da Vinci works, Raphael paintings, Botticelli works, and more. I actually got lost for a minute or two in there, there is really an incredible amount of artwork and it’s too much to see in just one trip (unfortunately for me).

Overall, it was a full and fun day in London, and a great last day of my travels. Up next: home!

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Netherlands

Biking Around Amsterdam

My trip is winding down and my second to last stop was here in Amsterdam! This city is absolutely beautiful and while it has earned a reputation for being a party city with an infamous red light district, it has so much more to offer for visitors. The streets lining its various canals are gorgeous, the buildings are all varying heights with different decoration and colors, some of them lean (sometimes quite significantly) forwards or sideways due to design or rotting foundation, and altogether it makes for an absolutely unique and beautiful city.

Talking to locals, most of them seem to say the same thing: they’re sick of the reputation they have for being a party city, the USA is more progressive than they are with respect to certain drugs (this could obviously be debated all day, but alright), and their city has more to be famous for than a red light district and drugs. Of course, they are all right about that, the city is beautiful and full of different interesting sights and museums. There is a Vincent Van Gogh museum that gives viewers a chance to see almost all of the famous painter’s work in one place, there is the famous hiding place of Anne Frank and her family, there are other museums in beautiful buildings, expansive parks, and the of course the gorgeous streets.

The two most memorable aspects of the city for me are the streets along the canals, and the fact that absolutely everyone bikes all over the city. There is literally a parking garage for bicycles near the main train station, and there is bike traffic at stop lights or busy intersections. The bikers are madmen (and madwomen), zipping between pedestrians and cars all over the city. It’s craziness and it’s a ton of fun to be a part of (but difficult in a big group).

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As for our time here, we went on a bike tour, visited the Anne Frank house, went to a nearby town and castle, and spent lots of time walking around and admiring the streets of Amsterdam. It was a great stop in one of my favorite cities in Europe, and now I move on to London and then home!

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Germany

Back to Germany!

Over the past week we have returned to Germany, going back to Hamburg and Berlin with a few more things to see before leaving the country. We spent a few days in each city, revisiting some of the highlights and seeing a few sights we had missed previously.

On return to Hamburg we had missed two big things: going to the top of the St. Michaelis Church, and Miniature Wonderland. The second of those sounded like a pretty silly thing to go see (which is why I had skipped it on my first visit), but people insisted that it was worth a visit. Turns out, they were all correct. Our bike tour and church tower visit weren’t uniquely interesting or noteworthy, but the miniature wonderland exhibit was really a fun visit. It is the largest small railroad in the world, and has mini versions of Hamburg, “Middle-Germany”, parts of America, an imaginary town, an airport, some of Sweden, and other little cities or countries that they decided to include. We probably spent an hour and a half just marveling at the mini world with it’s trains, planes, cars, boats, and people filling the little world.

After returning to Hamburg we returned to Berlin! We didn’t get to spend a lot of time in Berlin on our last visit, but there weren’t that many more sights for us to look for on our return. We had already done a tour of the city and seen famous memorials, so this time the big highlight was the fact that we were able to see a Germany game of the Euro 2016 competition while we were there! We went to the Brandenburg Gate, where the city has closed down all nearby roads and set up a massive viewing area for watching the Germany games of the competition. It was really cool to see something like that in a European country. Apart from watching a lot of soccer while we were there, we also did a bike tour and visited the top of the Reichstag building. The bike tour was the first time that someone pointed out the bullet holes in the city to me. Many buildings have bullet holes from the Soviet push through the city, and most buildings have left them unfilled. It’s a very interesting remnant of the Second World War in the city.

Overall, it was a fun return to a couple of great cities, and now we look on to Amsterdam as our second to last stop!

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Spain

Beautiful Barcelona

We’ve just finished with a very brief stay in Barcelona, and I’m glad we got a chance to visit! The city is full of beautiful buildings, parks, and monuments, and two days certainly wasn’t enough to see it all. Still, it was a lot of fun to stop by the Sagrada Familia (of course), some other Gaudi work, and wander through the streets for a couple days.

Our first stop in Barcelona had to be the Sagrada Familia. This famous cathedral has been under construction for over a hundred years (should be done by 2026 apparently), and is completely unique in its design. The interior is designed to look like a forest, the windows are some of the most colorful and richest stained glass I’ve ever seen, the exterior facades display different religious scenes in different artistic styles, and every detail has some significance or natural inspiration. It all comes together to form a building that is unlike any other in the world, and really has to be visited to be fully experienced.

To see more of Gaudi’s work, I visited a palace that he designed in the city. It occupies a small city block, and was one of his earlier works. Even so, his style is still evident all over the building. The stairways, arches, chimneys, windows, fireplaces, everything is so weird but still so cool to look at. It’s fun to see his work, because it makes such creative use of spaces that you would never expect to see in a building or in stone. It’s hard to appreciate in a photograph, you really have to be there to see how weird and clever it is.

Finally, we spent a few hours just wandering around look at the beautiful streets and parks. The city has so much to offer, and even without going to the tourist sites or the famous buildings, you can appreciate the city just by walking around and seeing it all! I had a great time in the city, and only wish I’d had more time!

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Croatia

Split, Plitvice, and Dubrovnik!

My time in Croatia is now coming to an end, and I’m glad I had a chance to see how varied and beautiful this country is! As the end of my trip is coming up in less than I month, I had assumed that I was finished with landscapes and nature walks, but Plitvice proved me very wrong about that. It was one of the most incredible places I’ve ever been, and if you like waterfalls then you have to visit someday. Apart from the park, I visited the city of Split (where I spent 11 hours on a boat, alternating between burning, freezing, and reeling) and the old town of Dubrovnik.

Split itself is quite a large city, but we really only spent any time in the old town. Similar to Lisbon, the streets are tiled with limestone (quite slippery when wet) which is always cool to see. It also looks a lot like an old Italian town, apparently because it was owned by the Venetians in the 1300s and the Romans before that. The old buildings and streets are beautiful and offered plenty of pleasant strolling, but not a lot to really do in the town. So we took a day to see some nearby islands, which meant sitting on a boat for 11 hours. Quite the adventure for our family, which is prone to motion sickness. The islands we got to see were very pretty, and the famous “Blue Cave” (so called because… well it’s blue) was quite rewarding. It didn’t exactly make up for the 10-11 hours of painful boating, but we made a game of predicting when the boat would crash on the water and send shivers to our skulls, so at least it was entertaining.

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The Plitvice national park was the real highlight of Croatia. It felt like the landscape just kept rising and falling and producing more waterfalls all around us as we walked for a few hours. It’s almost an excessive number of waterfalls, and after walking for a few hours people generally stopped taking photos or clogging up the walkways, and would just keep on strolling past some a magnificent view just because they’d already seen a dozen just like it. Again, I’ll have to point you to my Flickr album for more photos, since there are just so many from that day and they’re all of different incredible sights.

The last stop for us in Croatia was the Dubrovnik old town. Apparently it’s where some Game of Thrones is filmed, and some of an upcoming Star Wars movie, but honestly the coolest part was just seeing the preserved old town as it was. We took an hour walk along the walls, and looking out over the old town was just so cool! The old city walls, the closely packed old buildings with red tile roofs, the steep and narrow alleyways in and out of the city. It was all so fun to walk around and see (even if we got caught in a rainstorm without a functioning umbrella), and I’m glad we had time to visit!

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Norway

Norway in a Week!

I’m actually in Split, Croatia at the moment, but I’ve just finished with a week in Norway! I spent three days in Oslo, then a day touring through the fjords, and a couple of nights in Bergen before moving on to Croatia. It was a beautiful country, and I’m very glad I got to stop there for a while.

Going in, I assumed Oslo would be pretty similar to Reykjavik. Nordic, cold, small, and easy to get around. I ended up being very wrong. The city sprawls out over a few miles, and was incredibly hot while we were there! It did share ridiculously high prices with Reykjavik, so at least that was familiar. The city had a medieval castle, a few museums, and plenty of beautiful streets to keep me occupied for a few days, and I really enjoyed my time there. Perhaps most importantly, I met up with the rest of my family!

Reunited, we all went off to see the fjords for a couple of days. We took trains over to the town of Flam, and set out on a six hour boat ride along the coast towards Bergen, with absolutely beautiful views all along the way (check out my Flickr album to see more of them). On arrival, we spent a day wandering around Bergen and finally made our way down to Split, where we are now! More on that to come!

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Germany

Hamburg and Berlin!

So it’s been a while since I’ve posted and that’s partly because I sort of forgot about keeping up with my travels online. Whoops. But it certainly hasn’t been for a lack of new places or experiences!

We’ve spent the past week or so in Germany, first in Hamburg and then in Berlin. After a couple of weeks in hostels, we had our own apartment in Hamburg which was pretty amazing. Finally getting to sleep was quite a treat! We spent two days going through Hamburg, walking through the beautiful streets and into some of the sights of the city. Hamburg is a really interesting blend of old and new architecture, with nice waterfront parks and tree-lined streets around the outskirts of the city (where we stayed). It was a really nice city, and while there aren’t many activities to pursue around the city, it is very nice and just walking through the streets is a good way to spend a few hours.

After Hamburg, we took a three hour bus over to Berlin. We had two days to spend here in Berlin, and the city is just as beautiful as Hamburg. It’s absolutely full of fascinating history. We took a walking tour that lasted a few hours, and we really only got an introduction to most of the city. There’s too much to see in a couple of days, but it was still a great time! I even got to meet up with a friend from Tech who happened to be in the city for a few days at the same time I was there. Overall, I can’t wait to come back to Berlin, there’s still so much I didn’t get to see!

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