So it’s my birthday…again! This time of the year seems to come around faster and faster every year. (It’s freaking me out, but more on that later.) It’s also the third anniversary of this blog, which means it’s time for the annual let’s-stop-and-see-where-my-life-is-at post.
The Big Move. I left my heart behind in my beloved Passau at the start of this year and made the big move back to New Zealand, after being overseas for more than two years. It was a devastating and triumphant homecoming in equal measure. Devastating because I was leaving my other half behind on the other side of the world, and triumphant because I was coming back to do something that I loved, something that I felt was in my very bones.
My bones turned out to be dead on: coming back to study was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, and I took to it like a duck to water. The only side effect was that I missed my Passau life so much, much more than I’d ever let on. Passau was where I lived in a place where I didn’t know the language or people and I built up my life there from scratch. I grieved that life for months after coming back, it took a while until I wasn’t crying every other week. But it did get better.
This time last year I was celebrating my birthday in Innsbruck, Austria. What a trip that was! I miss travelling around Europe too, the ease of it, the different countries at your fingertips. But I’m determined to go back very soon! Japan, Taiwan and Australia are on the cards for me this year and I’m especially excited about exploring Taiwan – a new realm for me.
Thank you as always to you, for reading this, for taking an interest and thanks to my family, friends and darling Schnucki for the constant love and support! I am truly blessed to the moon and back to have everyone that I know in my life. Let’s keep striving to be the best that we can be and keep chasing bigger dreams!
Thank you again to everyone that has been following and supporting me so far!
Here’s to another epic year of travels, art and happiness!
One of the best places that I got to see in 2016 was the magical little island of Mykonos in Greece. After staying at an AirBnb mansion in the neighbouring island of Santorini with my high school friends, we thought things couldn’t get any better in Mykonos, but they did. (They really, really did!)
Mykonos island was a short ferry ride away from Santorini (about 2 hours) and it all passed by in a blink of an eye, literally. I’d been getting motion sickness really easily recently from cars or boats (I still don’t know why) and we’d been hearing that it could be a bumpy ferry trip if we had choppy seas, so I wasn’t going to take any chances.
My friend gave us all anti-nausea tablets to take an hour before boarding time – with the only side effect being that it would make us sleepy…really, really sleepy. I was already nodding off in the shuttle bus on the way to Santorini’s port and by the time we got on the ferry and sat down, I was totally gone.
Little did I know that not only were the others also fast asleep beside me, but one friend (the only one awake) took a hilarious selfie of herself with us all lined up in the background deep in the unflattering stages of slumber. (It was probably the best group photo of the trip!)
Once we arrived in Mykonos harbour, the sight was everything that we had been expecting from Santorini, but had never gotten, until now. The white washed geometric houses surrounding the clear blue Aegean waters and yachts bobbing along the wharf – this was what we had been waiting for!
The shuttle that had been waiting for us at the port took us straight to our AirBnb residence. We were trying to keep our expectations low as we thought we had already struck gold with our awesome house in Santorini, but boy, we should have known Mykonos would do it even better with that first impression at the harbour.
The two storey house was mere minutes away from all of the main island action and we could even see the coastline and Greek windmills from our upstairs window. But the best bit by far was our roomy balcony facing the sea, with a huge wooden table and comfy seats that we spent many a night lounging around in – the perfect summer spot!
After settling into the house, we decided to wander the neighbouring streets and get our bearings of the place – but our bearings were nowhere to be found as we were thrown straight into a labyrinth of winding streets and narrow alleyways that all looked exactly like the last.
White washed houses, flagstone paths, doors and stairways in fifty shades of blue and turquoise – this was the signature look of Mykonos and we all fell in love with it.
Around every corner were boutiques, restaurants and cute little cafés and every time we went out, we would find another street that we hadn’t explored before.
We were in Mykonos around the middle of October and it was lucky that we hadn’t booked our trip any later because the locals kept telling us that we were there for the last few days of the season. If we had arrived any later, all of the shops and restaurants of the island would have been boarded up and closed.
But thanks to the fact that we were there for the last few days of the season, there weren’t many other tourists around and we felt like we had the run of the island to ourselves. I think I would have hated it in peak summer season with all of those tiny alleyways crowded with people, so I was glad that we arrived when we did!
We went out for brunch and dinner at different places everyday with (a lot) of shopping in between and we all spent far too much money there, (more than we would care to admit) but it was totally worth it!
Mykonos was also an island of cats – we saw them everywhere and far more often than in Santorini. There were even cats in the tiny island airport that we used to fly to Athens a few days later!
One night we ventured to Little Venice, which was a strip of bars and clubs right by the waterfront. Mykonos is well known as an LGBTQ hot spot in terms of bars and nightlife, but the bars were also winding down for the end of season so they were pretty quiet.
They were so quiet that we got persuaded to come inside the bar that we were at (we were sitting outside) so we could get half price drinks and make it look like there were more people in the bar and thus more lively. (Their grand plan didn’t work though, it was still totally dead inside…plus the drinks tasted awful!).
On our last full day, we were eager to check out one of the island’s famous beaches, so we walked to Fabrica to catch a shuttle bus to Super Paradise Beach, which was what the locals told us was one of the best. And the name didn’t disappoint! (Post coming soon).
While we were in Mykonos, I became so obsessed with the Aegean blue colour that was on so many doors and window frames that I kept looking for a jewellery piece that had the same colour, but to no avail. It was only on the plane to Athens that I spotted this beautiful bracelet in the Aegean in-flight magazine that was so perfect that I had to have it!
(It was probably the first and last time that I would ever buy something from the plane magazine…)
Our amazing time in Mykonos went far too quickly of course, but we enjoyed every minute of it. We loved the relaxed atmosphere and beautiful little winding streets, and it was so relaxing that I even quit my awfully stressful job via text while I was over there, but that’s a whole other story!
So, did you love the Mykonos lifestyle as much as we did?
Have you been there or would you like to go there?
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful time with family, friends, amazing food and presents!
After spending a truly stunning Christmas with my family in the Swiss Alps last year, I enjoyed a much quieter celebration in Hamburg with my Schnucki’s family this time around.
We had a feast on Christmas Eve (this is when Germans celebrate Christmas) and we ate German style Raclette, which is where you prepare ingredients like vegetables and cheese and cook them yourself on tiny pans on a table top grill. The portion sizes are so small that you can potentially eat forever without realising how much you’ve actually eaten! (Our bellies afterwards told us otherwise).
To honour my second Christmas in Europe, I wanted to show you my absolute favourite German Christmas market which of course is the one in Passau, where I live at the moment!
The Passau Christmas market is held every year for a month from the 24th November to 24th December. The whole city’s streets are decked out with fairy lights leading up to the event and real Christmas trees are put up on every street corner (and I mean literally every corner!)
Nobody does Christmas like the Germans – they are so good at making a magical atmosphere! Every stall is bursting with handmade wooden crafts, hand knitted scarves, gloves, hats and food…A LOT of food. (Nutella crêpes, German gingerbread and Chinese noodles included!)
And of course there is the Glühwein (hot mulled wine) and alcohol free Kinderpunsch (kid’s punch) in every flavour. My favourite was probably the berry Glühwein, but you can also get white Glühwein (which I still haven’t tried). Every stall has their own signature drink with different variations and spices, and it takes a few goes to find the best ones!
While the Christmas market was on in December, I also had the opportunity to meet and hang out with Adventurous Kate, who is a famous travel blogger on Instagram. She has been travelling the world as her job for over six years now, and she was one of the first travel bloggers to get really popular online and have a big following.
Kate was in Munich for a conference and then visiting Bavarian Christmas markets for German Tourism when she posted a photo of herself at the Passau Christmas market.
I was so surprised at seeing her in Passau (a lot of Germans don’t even know where Passau is, let alone American travel bloggers) that I commented on the photo half jokingly that we should have met up for a Glühwein, since I live in Passau right near St. Stephan’s Cathedral. And lo and behold, she commented back saying that she had free time the next day if we wanted to meet up!
So I met up with her in front of St. Stephan’s the next day (it’s a strange feeling trying to spot someone that you’ve only ever seen in photos) and I took her to my favourite retro style café close by called Schöffberger. Kate was a super friendly and extroverted person, and we chatted about travels, her life in New York and even some American politics over cake and hot drinks.
After afternoon tea, we perused the Christmas market together and Kate bought some souvenirs and Christmas presents for her family and friends. We walked back along the Ludwigstraße and finally had our promised Glühwein together before saying our good byes.
All in all it was a very spontaneous meeting, but a really fun one! It was great to hear about Kate’s amazing travels and what it’s really like to live a nomadic lifestyle. She also wrote a Bavarian Christmas Market post on her blog about the markets she visited, including the Passau one!
One of the most famous Christmas market eats might just be the half metre Bratwurst, which is as you guessed, a 50cm long sausage in a bun lathered in mustard or tomato sauce. You may not want to get one of these when it’s really crowded though, because you’ll be prone to hitting someone with it! (Get your mind out of the gutter please).
Another famous treat of the Christmas markets are the unique Glühwein mugs that have different shapes and designs in every town and city. You pay an extra Pfand (bond) whenever you buy a Glühwein or Kinderpunsch (usually 2 Euros) and you get the money back if you return the mug to the stall, or you can keep the mug and forgo the coins.
I’ve collected the different coloured designs of the Passau mugs over the last two years and I have six in total so far!
I’m always sad to see the Christmas markets go once we hit the new year, but I know that they’ll be back again before we know it!
So, did you love the Passau Christmas market as much as I did?
What are the Christmas markets like in your country?
My darling Schnucki whisked me away on a surprise trip for my birthday weekend and we ended up in Innsbruck, Austria!
Innsbruck is the capitol of Tyrol state in Austria. The whole city is surrounded by towering mountains, making it a major hub for winter sports and it is famous for hosting the Winter Olympic and Winter Paralympic Games on more than one occasion.
Time and time again Austria has surprised me with its underrated charm and grandeur, and Innsbruck was no exception. We found the Altstadt and inner city easy to navigate and the major attractions were all in walking distance, which is something that I love to see in cities. (My wallet was also thankful!)
The Goldenes Dachl or Golden Roof is one of the most famous icons of Innsbruck, which was built in 1500 for emperor Maximilian I and his wife to look over the town square below and enjoy the festivities from the balcony.
The city name ‘Innsbruck’ means ‘Inn bridge’ because of the river Inn that runs through the city from the Swiss Alps. Seeing the Inn was a welcome sight to us because beleive it or not, the river also runs through Passau which is further downstream. We joked about throwing a message in a bottle in the river and how it might reach us by the time we got back to Passau.
The Hofburg or Imperial Palace in Innsbruck was once used by the Habsburgs and was considered to be as important as Schönbrunn Palace and the Hofburg Palace in Vienna. It was hard to see much of the Innsbruck Hofburg from the outside, but we did go to the Hofgarten or Imperial Gardens behind the palace, where autumn was in full swing.
The sun blessed us with her presence on my birthday, so we decided to go up the mountain in a cable car to Hungerburg station. There were also two other stations after Hungerburg that went even further up the mountain, but we (and our wallets) decided that the first was probably enough to look out over the city.
And boy, were we right! The view out over Innsbruck city and the surrounding mountains along with the autumn colours was breathtaking.
For some reason I had been expecting Hungerburg to be a village full of eateries and shops to peruse, but I was way off the mark when we got there and found only residential houses and one café by the station that was crammed full of families and kiddies. (It was a Sunday and the Alpine Zoo was located one stop before Hungerburg).
We wandered around in search of something else to do and stumbled upon an area map which showed the local Alms in the vicinity. An Alm is typically an alpine pasture with a little hut or house that serves food and drinks on the mountains. We decided to go for the closest one called Arzler Alm and promptly followed the path that lead into the forest.
Although it was the closest Alm and the map said it was a mere 30 minute walk away, we were not accounting for it to be a 30 minute steep uphill forest trek, which is what it ended up being! But long last after much huffing and puffing (we were obviously not ready for hiking at all) we came into a clearing with goats, chickens and rabbits and the Arzler Alm.
“If you go to an Alm, you have to drink an Almdudler,” is what my Schnucki said to me as we were climbing, reminiscing about his family holidays in Austria where they would do just that. Almdudler is a popular Austrian soft drink that is also sold in neighbouring countries like Germany, and it’s a drink that I’ve really come to like since being here. A slice of cake and cold Almdudler really hit the spot after our hot mountain walk up to the Alm!
Although we were only in Innsbruck for the weekend, it turned out to be the most perfect birthday trip! Thank you to my Schnucki for organising it all and I hope we can return in winter to explore even more of the city in its peak season!
So, did you like Innsbruck as much as I did?
Any recommendations for Innsbruck winter activities? Let me know!
I went to Greece to reunite with my high school friends and what an epic reunion it was! Our first stop in the Greek Islands was Santorini, and we were blessed with blue skies and beautiful weather for the duration of our short stay.
My friends from high school in New Zealand were all doing their individual trips around Europe for different lengths of time and we all managed to plan ahead and meet up in Santorini on the same day. We stayed in an awesome AirBnb house (more like mansion!) in Fira, which was the main town located more or less in the centre of the island.
On the taxi drive from the tiny one-room airport to Fira town, I was surprised at how barren and deserted some parts of the island were. With sporadically placed houses and not much green vegetation in sight, it was a far cry from the endless online photos of sprawling white stone towns. But in reality this was to be expected, as Santorini itself is an old volcano and volcanic rock and soil is not the best foundation for plants to grow – it was a landscape that reminded me a lot of Rangitoto Island in New Zealand.
The price tag for the 15 minute drive from the airport to Fira was also a surprise at 28 Euros, since my friends told me that theirs was 20!
Although it was technically autumn in northern parts of Europe, we would have called the balmy island temperatures there positively summery. The locals told us it was too windy to hit the beaches, but we were determined to go sunbathing, so our taxi driver dropped us off at Koloumpos Beach.
It wasn’t the prettiest beach of the island with its stony sand, but we were perfectly happy to chill there for a few hours waiting until it was near sunset.
Another sight we weren’t expecting to see were the number of stray dogs and cats, with kittens even roaming around on the beach. They all looked quite healthy though, not skinny and mangy with matted fur like you might expect. I hoped that somebody was feeding them regularly.
After the beach we were stranded on the side of the road for a while, waiting for a bus that our taxi driver had insisted would come every half hour – but we soon found out that he was talking about peak season, not this time of the year where there were only one or two buses daily.
We subsequently tried to wave down cars or tour buses that passed by, but to no avail. We were losing hope until a friendly Frenchman pulled over and offered us a ride, exclaiming: “Don’t worry, I’m gay!”, as we all gratefully piled into his car.
The lovely Frenchman dropped us off at Oia, which is the picture perfect town you see in almost all Santorini photos on the internet. With white washed houses, winding alleys full of boutiques and the gorgeous view onto the Aegean sea, this was what we had come for.
This was also the town where all of the island tourists flocked to. The narrow streets were bustling with people shopping, taking photos and heading towards the tip of the island like we were.
Since we were there after peak season, we had gotten used to not seeing other tourists around as much, but being in Oia was like getting a taste of what it must be like in midsummer.
The Santorini towns were built on points high above the sea, like Oia which was built more than 100 metres above sea level. A lot of the houses were built into the sheer cliff face, with the magnificent view of the Aegean and caldera spreading out below them.
Around 6.30pm we headed towards the very tip of Oia along with every other tourist on the island to witness the famous sunset. Tourists were crowding along the streets, rooftops and rocks to secure a good view, with some even in boats on the water below.
At 6.45 the blazing golden sun dipped slowly below the horizon, and in a matter of minutes it was gone but the moments leading up to it were pure magic. I can’t remember the last time I watched a sunset, let alone a sunset as spectacular as that!
In our quest to find authentic Santorini souvenirs (not just the tacky ones mass produced and sold in every island shop) we hit up a lot of the local places looking for something unique. We eventually stumbled upon a gem of a shop at the very point where we went to watch the sunset.
This shop was full of hand made jewellery, paintings and these stunning turquoise and blue bowls. We all fell in love with these bowls and bought a few each, with one of my friends even caving in to buy a magnificent plate on the wall of the same design.
The shop owner told us that her grandfather made these by hand on the island, and no bowl or plate of his had the same design. It was a perfect Santorini souvenir!
The next morning it was time for us to leave on the ferry to our next island adventure, but we all agreed that we would have liked to have spent more time here, or in Oia at least.
One of our favourite places to eat in Santorini was a place called Pelican, which served huge fluffy breakfast waffles and amazing fruit bowls drizzled in island honey. The tables outside were under grape vines and the atmosphere was just lovely – we ended up going there more than once!
So our time in Santorini and our first taste of Greek island life was coming to an end, but we were also looking forward to the next one and what we would find there. We were going to miss our AirBnb mansion, but little did we know that the best was yet to come…
So, did you like the look of Santorini? Would you go there?
Click the button below for our next Greek Island hopping adventure in Mykonos!
Today is my birthday and it is also the second anniversary of this blog! Yippee!
I can’t believe how fast this past year has flown by, but I’ve managed to do a lot of amazing travelling and artistic projects in that time. Last year I vowed to put myself and my happiness first after a string of stressful and terrible jobs that left me empty and burned out. I’ve worked at two different jobs whilst here in Germany; one that was not so great again but another that was probably the best I’ve ever had.
Now that I’m another year older, I’ve been getting a bit of pressure from others to decide where I want to be next year and what I want to do with this blank canvas called life. I don’t yet know where I want to go next year, but I’ve known for a while now that all I want to keep doing is travelling and making art. These are my top priorities at the moment and if I could somehow spin a profession out of that, then that would be the dream.
My travel highlights of the past year would definitely include the magical white Christmas with my family in the Swiss Alps, our charming trip to Copenhagen, London and Innsbruck with my darling Schnucki and reuniting with my high school friends in the Greek Islands.
One of my greatest artistic moments this year was when I got to exhibit my Kimono Cat Collection at the Kunst Nacht or art night here in Passau, which is one of the biggest events on the social calender. My Schnucki set this opportunity up for me and I am eternally grateful to him – it really was a dream come true (read this post here!).
I am so thankful for all of these opportunities and amazing people in my life and I really do count my lucky stars every day. I hope the coming year will also be full of love and happiness and that I’ll be able to achieve the goals that I am striving for!
P.S. The biggest lesson that I have to keep reminding myself about this year is: stop giving so much of yourself away when you’re receiving nothing back. This applies to work, friends and basically anything else. If you keep putting so much effort and time into people and things when you’re getting nothing in return, it’s time to stop and let it go. Otherwise you’ll just drive yourself into a frustrated ruin. Remember to look after yourself and put your own oxygen mask on before helping others!
So, thank you to everyone that has been following and supporting me so far!
Here’s to another epic year of travels, art and happiness!
It’s strange to think that I’ve been living in Germany for more than a year now. I feel like this time has flown by in the blink of an eye! But my initial reaction to the country still hasn’t changed – I really love living here and the Germans make life so easy.
Here are some German situations that I don’t even bat an eyelid at anymore:
Something that constantly surprised me at the start (and I admit, it still sometimes does) is that I got invited to everything. I must have been used to people being more exclusive and ‘invite only’ with their gatherings, because I found that Germans were the complete opposite – so warm and welcoming.
Dinners, barbecues, birthday parties of a friend-of-a-friend’s, it didn’t matter; I was invited along to them all. Even if the person that invited me was the only person I knew there and I felt like I was gate-crashing the event.
It didn’t even matter that I couldn’t speak German – time and time again I found that the whole group at the gathering would completely switch to English for me, even when talking amongst themselves. I was baffled. And totally charmed. Way to go Germany for making the Hobbit in the room feel completely welcome!
Street harassment…or lack thereof
One of the very best things that I have experienced since being in Germany is the lack of street harassment.
The pure joy I feel every day at being able to walk the streets day or night and not be whistled at, honked at, catcalled out of car windows or shouted at by leering men passing by is so damn great. And literally all of these things are what I had to endure on a daily basis even just walking down my own street back home. But this surprises no woman – we have all been through this and continue to go through this public victimisation regularly.
Of course, bigger cities in Germany may be a different story, but this is from my personal experience living in a small Bavarian city. It’s so nice to know that in some places, everyone can be left alone to walk, run and bike in peace.
Jeans are the uniform
If you don’t know what to wear, put on your jeans and you’ll fit right in. This is what I would have told myself a year ago when I was fretting about what to wear to a birthday party that I’d been invited to out of the blue.
In Germany, jeans are the uniform. I don’t think I’d ever seen so many people in jeans until I came here! I would say that everyone dresses in a very practical manner. If it’s winter, you wear jeans and a jacket and if it’s summer, you wear jeans and a T-shirt.
You’ll stick out like a sore thumb if you go out in shorts when it’s only (gasp) 20 degrees…this is from experience. (Although I’d be in shorts even at 15 degrees back in NZ).
I’ve also always been used to dressing up when going out, even just to have a drink at the bar, but here, there is no such unwritten social rule. So jeans and a T-shirt to the bar it is – and I ain’t complaining!
The customer service is so bad that it’s good
It’s always been said the Japanese and Germans get along well because they have some cultural norms in common, but boy, customer service is not one of them!
If you walk into a shop and get a greeting from the shop person, that’s a good sign, but the majority of the time you will be ignored, or grudgingly served like it is the last thing that they want to do. I’ve been in places where the shop assistants are openly chatting across the shop to each other and ignoring customers. A friend once said to me that his bank bluntly told him that there is no customer service there.
This would normally be regarded as a bad thing…but as an introvert, I absolutely love it.
I’ve always just really hated being spoken to in shops. The worst case scenario was when clothes shop assistants would follow me to the changing rooms and call through my door asking if they should bring another size…and I cringed every time. But here, I’m left totally alone to do my own thing, at my own pace, without the weird pressure they put on you to buy something. It’s a godsend, I tell you.
Supermarket Master Packer (SMP) status
I never realised that the bag packers at supermarket checkouts were a luxury…until I came here and saw that no such job description exists.
When you’re at a German supermarket, you have to have a plan of attack before you go to the checkout because this is war…a war between you and the checkout operator.
They zap your groceries through as fast as greased lightning and if you’re not ready to bag your items just as quickly on the other side, you lose the fight and hold all of the next customers up, your groceries mixing up with theirs. I know, I’ve been there. The horrors. So here’s what you do:
Load your groceries onto the conveyor belt. Make sure your heavy items go first and your fragile, easily squished items like tomatoes and bread goes last.
Get your fabric tote bags ready and open (come on, you’re not paying extra for plastic bags).
Have your wallet at the ready. Preferably nestled under your armpit for quick access.
Start bagging your items as soon as they get zapped, alternating items between your bags so they will each end up with an even load. (You’ll gain a few extra seconds every time the checkout operator has to weigh your vegetables/fruit and look up the price of the bread you’re getting).
Pay quickly with cash (and not all with small change).
Smile, wish them a good day and walk away with your finely packed groceries and know that the battle has been won. (A big explosion goes off behind you and you keep walking in slow motion without looking back).
What do I miss?
As I’ve mentioned before, the one thing I’ve really missed since living in Europe is good (and affordable) Japanese food. And Indian food. And Thai food. And Vietnamese and Korean and Chinese food.
I’ve found that a lot of Asian cuisines tend to get lumped together here, under the umbrella term of ‘Asian Fusion’. And even then, it’s usually just low quality Chinese food with some Thai curry options and a side of suspicious sushi. If you’re lucky enough to find a proper Japanese restaurant with real Japanese cooks, it’s likely to be upmarket and very expensive. (Unless you go to Düsseldorf. Yes please!)
I just really, really miss these different cuisines! Of course bigger cities will have more authentic Asian restaurants with reasonable prices, but there’s not much hope out here in the smaller ones. It makes me realise how spoilt for choice we are in New Zealand with our melting pot of different eateries on every street corner!
So, did you like my post about some of my German experiences?
Any other expats got something to add to the list? Let me know!
After spending New Years in Hamburg, my family and I headed up to Denmark by bus to visit the spectacular capital city of Copenhagen (København).
The first thing I noticed about the city as we drove through were the neat and tidy geometric brick buildings and the prevalent use of bicycles on the road. Copenhagen is proud to be known as one of the world’s most bike-friendly cities.
Our hotel was right by the central station, so we went to explore the surrounding area with the help of my mum’s Danish friend who showed us around. There was an eclectic mix of modern and old going on in the centre, like these fancy new buildings under construction near the station.
The Copenhagen Cathedral or The Church of Our Lady is the national cathedral of Denmark. It looked more like a palace inside than a church and for good reason – there has been many Danish royal weddings and events held here.
We had lunch at Det lille Apotek or The Little Pharmacy, which claimed to be the oldest restaurant and coffee house in Copenhagen.In 1720, a pharmacistconverted his pharmacy into a restaurant after his unique home distilled spirits became popular with the locals.
The Round Tower or Rundetaarn is one of the most famous landmarks of the city since 1642. University astronomers used the tower as an observatory and the old Library Hall is used for gallery exhibitions and concerts.
To get to the lookout at the top, you have to walk up the long spiral ramp which winds seven and a half times around the tower core – so no stairs until the very few at the end!
Frederik’s Church or the Marble Church is located west of the winter home of the Danish royal family, Amalienborg Palace. The royal mansions surround an octagonal plaza manned by guards – we saw a lot of tourists taking candid photos with them!
Denmark is also home to famous fairy tale writer Hans Christian Andersen, who penned stories like The Little Mermaid, The Ugly Duckling and The Snow Queen. On Copenhagen’s harbour promenade is a small statue of Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, which is a famous tourist spot and also notorious for being painted over and beheaded twice by artists.
On our last night in Copenhagen, we went to Tivoli which is one of the oldest amusement parks in the world. Usually theme parks are far away from the cities, but this one was located smack bang in the city centre next to the station!
The night was bitterly cold but we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. My brother went on The Demon roller coaster ride in the Chinatown quarter, which looked terrifying but only lasted for under two minutes (the price tag was also terrifying at 75 DKK).
My dad and I went on the somewhat tamer but more famous wooden roller coaster called Rutschebanen, which is one of the world’s oldest wooden roller coasters still operating today.
Although we only had a few days in Copenhagen, we all enjoyed ourselves a lot – much more than we expected. Denmark’s capital is such an interesting place steeped with a lot of history and there was so much we didn’t get to see this time around, so I hope we can go back for more soon!
So, did you like Copenhagen as much as I did?
Has anyone else been here or would like to add it to their travel list?
While we were staying in Les Diablerets in Switzerland, we went up the mountain for a day trip to the Glacier 3000 Ski Field…and what a breathtaking experience it was!
We took a shuttle bus from the Les Diablerets village to Col du Pillon and from there we went up the mountain in two massive cable cars which could fit more than one hundred people in each. We were packed in like sardines into the cable cars, along with people in full ski gear – helmets and boards and all (we stuck out like sore thumbs).
Once we disembarked the second cable car, we were at the Scex Rouge (‘Red Rock’) station which had a fancy restaurant with panoramic views, a self-service canteen and a souvenir shop. It also had the Peak Walk by Tissot which was a 107 metre suspension bridge to the Scex Rouge peak itself, at an altitude of 2,971 metres above sea level.
The bridge walk was free and offered a breathtaking 360 degree view of the surrounding Swiss Alps – we could even see the famous Mont Blanc and Jungfrau peaks from there!
After we’d clambered down from the bridge, it was time to start what we’d come all the way up the mountain to do, which was the Glacier Walk. As you can guess, the Glacier Walk entailed going across the TsanfleuronGlacier, most of which is used as the Glacier 3000 ski field.
We went down the ski lift from Scex Rouge onto the ski field itself, and then walked the three kilometres across the glacier to the Quille du Diable. When I’d heard we were doing the Glacier Walk, I’d been imagining perilous heights and rough terrain, but the whole walk was surprisingly flat and very easygoing (with amazing views to boot!).
Our end goal was the Quille du Diable, which was a famous rock formation resting on a sheer cliff face, where the Refuge L’espace Cafe sat directly in its shadow. My cousin and his father (who were snowboarding on the ski field) met us there for lunch and we all enjoyed hot meals (scrumptious beetroot soup) and stunning (if rather terrifying!) scenary.
We had unseasonably warm temperatures while we were in Les Diablerets, so a lot of the ski routes on the mountain were closed, but with more snowfall it’s possible to ski or snowboard all the way from the peak to the very bottom of the mountains. They also have the world’s highest Alpine Coaster up at the Scex Rouge station which runs in the summertime.
Although it felt rather strange to be walking on a ski field rather than skiing on it, the Glacier Walk was an easy expedition and well worth it – especially with those million dollar Swiss Alps views!
This was definitely a top highlight (haha so punny) of our family holidays and I can see why people harp on about the Swiss Alps so much now. Maybe next trip there’ll be time for some skiing up there too!
So, did you like the Glacier 3000 ski field as much as I did?
Is this somewhere you’d like to add to your travel list?
When I told people that after Switzerland, we were going to Hamburg via two nights in Düsseldorf, people scoffed: “Düsseldorf. What are you going to do in Düsseldorf?”
They couldn’t believe we would use precious family holiday time in Germany to stay in Düsseldorf for two whole nights. But we knew something they didn’t. We had a hidden agenda with Düsseldorf…a hidden Japanese agenda.
Düsseldorf is located on the Düssel and the Rhine rivers and was a city long known as an international business and financial hub. Something that is less known about the city is that Düsseldorf has the biggest Japanese community in Germany (about 11,000 residents) which is also the third largest in Europe – after Paris and London.
It is also home to the biggest Japanese Buddhist Temple in Europe, with an adjoining study and event centre called the EKŌ House of Japanese Culture. After getting a little lost in the sleepy suburb of Niederkassel, with some local help we finally found the front gates to the place…only to find them locked.
My family were disappointed, to say the least, after coming all of this way and finding it closed. As they started walking away, I obnoxiously pushed all of the buttons on the gate intercom in frustration. A loud buzzing sound suddenly came from the gate and we blinked in surprise as the doors swung open. We were inside – with the whole place to ourselves!
The whole complex was built in 1993 and is well maintained as they host a number of Buddhist festivals, tea ceremonies and events every year.
Düsseldorf also puts on a Japan Day every year around May or June and it is the largest festival of its kind in the world – attracting more than a million people. They have Japanese food stalls, kimono fittings, Japanese musicians, calligraphy and always finish off with a fireworks show. (I’m determined to go to this year’s one!)
Since the 1950’s, Düsseldorf has housed more than five hundred Japanese companies and the workers and their families include both temporary and permanent residents.
The main Japanese quarter in the Düsseldorf city is called Immermannstraße, a long road lined with Japanese book stores, restaurants, bars, supermarkets, bakeries and even a Japanese hotel called Hotel Nikko. Before going there, I was envisioning a typical China Town sort of street overflowing with tourists, food stalls and noise but this ‘Japan Town’ was completely different. If you didn’t know about it, you wouldn’t even realise it was there.
This Japan street came alive out of necessity to the Japanese business workers, so everything was practical and functional – not a tourist trap at all. Walking the streets and hearing Japanese people go past made me feel like I was back in Japan. We had lunch at a ramen place called Takezo, which had the best ramen I’d had in a very, very long time.
The problem with living in a tiny town like Passau is that there aren’t many Japanese people living here, which means I can’t get my hands on Japanese food or products – something I was used to getting easily in New Zealand. So I’ve craved for Japanese food since being in Germany. Like really, really badly. So badly that my mum has had to send me Japanese food products like udon and curry packs in the mail from NZ!
Düsseldorf also has a Japanese school, supplementary school and even a kindergarten. I really wonder what it would have been like to grow up in the vibrant Japanese community of Düsseldorf. I went to Japanese supplementary school when I was younger too, but that was in Christchurch where we don’t have a fraction of the Japanese population!
Even though people doubted our choice in going to Düsseldorf, we were so glad we did. We all had the best Japanese food and shop experiences that we’d had in ages and it was most definitely on our list of travel highlights! I want to go back just to eat there!