Exploring Northern Germany

16th March 2016

With a trip to Hamburg in the works for next month, I thought I would share more from my time in Northern Germany last summer. I had originally also intended to visit Hamburg, Germany’s second largest city, but decided to cut it out to see a friend who was going to be in Copenhagen around the same time as me. Instead, I visited Bremen, Bremerhaven, Borkum, and Lübeck with the hopes that I would be able to return sometime soon. Here are some of the highlights from those places!

Bremen

My summer trip began after saying goodbye to my home on the Rhine and travelling north to the small German city of Bremen. I’ve blogged previously about how the city quickly won me over thanks to the Viertel neighbourhood and its extensive street art and graffiti (for more on that, see this post!), but I haven’t yet shared Bremen’s other sights.

The German word “viertel” translates to “quarter”

Though the weather was fairly rainy during my time in the city, I didn’t let that deter my exploring. In addition to checking out the Viertel’s street art, I also wandered Bremen’s Altstadt (old town), took a walk through Burgerpark, and visited the tiny medieval Schnoor Viertel, in which the oldest houses date back to the 15th century.

Marktplatz

Rathaus (town hall)

St. Petri Dom (St. Peter’s Cathedral)

I had to have my photo taken with The Town Musicians of Bremen because during my year as an au pair in Germany, I read the Brothers Grimm story to the kids often. The story goes that a donkey, dog, cat, and rooster escape the clutches of their unkindly farmer and run away together. They hope to make it to Bremen where they plan on being musicians (though they never do make it there!).

Bremerhaven

While in Bremen, I took a day trip to Bremerhaven to visit the Deutsches Auswandererhaus (German Emigration Centre), which I touched on in my first weekly recap. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to see much of Bremerhaven due to the major downpour of rain that characterized the day of my visit!

Borkum

After my time in Bremen and Bremerhaven, I spent a weekend on the North Sea island of Borkum. I’ve already written a post specifically devoted to my time on the island (see here), so instead of saying much, I’ll just share a few of my favourite photos from my visit.

Lübeck

I remember my time in Lübeck as a bit of a rushed disaster. I only spent one night in the city and was staying in a disappointing hostel. I explain more here about why my time in Lübeck wasn’t the greatest. Instead of complaining some more, I’ll just finish the post off by sharing some photos of the city. Also, I should clarify that I don’t blame the city — Lübeck is a beautiful place and I wish my time there wasn’t so short.

Though I knew before I visited that it would be different from the rest of the country (just like Bavaria is different from Berlin which is different from the West, and so on), Northern Germany surprised me in a lot of ways. Like a lot of my trip, I didn’t have many expectations going in, but I  completely fell in love with the architecture and the vibe of the region. With that being said, I’m really looking forward to finally seeing Hamburg next month!


Have you been to Northern Germany? Did you enjoy it? Any tips for my upcoming trip to Hamburg?

Linking up with BonnieChristyAnna and Diana for Travel Tuesday

Life Lately or Two Months of Dutch Life

11th March 2016

The other day while chatting with a friend, it really sank in that two months have passed since my return to Europe. Naturally, this prompted a bit of reflection. Looking back, I’m not surprised to see that I’ve had countless positive experiences and made some incredible memories. These experiences are the reason I came back. I already knew what Europe could offer; it was just a matter of taking the leap and buying the one-way ticket. Again. Of course, there have also been a few lows, including one disastrous trip to France that had to be cut short. Thankfully though, the good far outweighs the bad, and I’ve truly been having an awesome time here despite a few hiccups along the way.  It’s no exaggeration to say that I jumped head-first into my new Dutch life as soon as I arrived in January. And despite high hopes that blogging would once again become a priority, the reality is that finding the time has been difficult. Which brings me to this post. Lately, I’ve really been trying to get into a better routine with blogging (and life in general), so hopefully things will stay a bit more updated around here in the future. For now, though, here’s an update on what I’ve been doing during my first two months of Dutch life!

Driebergen after a rare snowfall

January

I arrived in Amsterdam on January 10 and spent the next week or two getting acquainted with everything: my new town of Driebergen (I only got lost once!), my new host family, fellow au pairs in the neighbourhood and elsewhere in Holland, and the job itself. I’ve been really lucky because I almost immediately had a friend base here. I met up with an au pair in my neighbourhood on my second night and we clicked instantly. It was the first of many wine nights/hang out sessions, of which I have no doubt there will be many more. She’s been a fab adventure pal and I’ve been able to meet so many people thanks to her. 

During one of my first weekends, I visited the cute, but touristy, town of Volendam for the day with a bunch of other au pairs. I also spent an afternoon in Utrecht catching up with some Dutch friends I met in Gdansk during my summer trip last year. We had tea and cake at one of Utrecht’s many cute cafés and also hopped from second-hand shop to second-hand shop, searching for used treasures.

Utrecht

Another weekend involved a fun night out in Haarlem, which is a really cool city that I hope to see more of. One of the au pairs I’ve met has access to a relative’s empty apartment there, so five of us had a really fun girls weekend. We made dinner, had a night out in the city, and slept at her aunt’s place. The next day one of the girl’s and I took a really cool alternative tour of Amsterdam. I learnt a ton about how the city came to be so liberal and it even inspired me to buy a book on the subject! 

Eat the rich. Spread social revolt. #Amsterdam #thenetherlands #graffiti #streetart #urbanart

A photo posted by Sara (@adifferentpieceofsky) on

February

February was a bit of a crazy month, and I think that’s part of the reason I’ve been craving some routine and normalcy in my life recently.

The month started out with a trip to the southern city of Maastricht to celebrate Carnaval. The unicorn “costume” from last year’s Karneval in Germany made a comeback, and though the weekend was fun, it was also exhausting. A few of the other au pairs from town and I Couchsurfed and though our host was nice, he also thought having sex with his girlfriend while we were trying to sleep in the same room was acceptable hosting behaviour. Not cool, bro. Needless to say, I was happy to be heading home on Sunday.
De wortel met de wortelen

The following weekend I decided to join my friend Aly in Nice, France, for a full-on Galentine’s weekend. We ate French pastries, took in the sights, decided to avoid the city’s Carnival, and had two really strange nights at the local backpacker bar, where we couldn’t seem to meet anyone remotely normal. On our last day we also took a short bus ride to Monte Carlo, Monaco. It could have been that we were both sleep-deprived and hungover, but we found Monte Carlo pretty underwhelming. And I suppose being on an au pair budget and visiting Monaco doesn’t help much either.

Monte Carlo

I may look contemplative, but all I’m really thinking is “I wish I hadn’t drunk so much last night”

Just over a week later, I was off to France again. But this time to the Alps. Specifically to the little ski town of Morzine to visit a friend and attempt snowboarding, which I did. Though I had planned on staying five nights, I decided to bail after two. I hate to be vague about what happened, but frankly I’m not willing to explain all the drama on such a public forum. I’ll just say that my feelings were hurt in a big way and it was not a healthy environment to be in, so I got out of there as quickly as I could.

In place of being in France, Aly and I decided to make the most of the weekend. We had wine and a sleepover the night I got back, then ventured off to explore Delft the next day. In the evening we met up with another au pair friend and her sister in Rotterdam for dinner and drinks. 

Rotterdam’s way cool Markthal

March

As I mentioned before, March has been more about getting into a routine than anything else, though the weekend trips to Amsterdam and Utrecht remain a constant. I didn’t really touch on those above, but I usually end up in Amsterdam and/or Utrecht at least once a weekend. Most often, nights out are spent in Utrecht, because I find it cosier than Amsterdam (read: incredibly less touristy) and it’s closer to home. In Amsterdam I’m usually discovering new neighbourhoods, visiting museums and galleries, taking walking tours, visiting cafés and restaurants (I recently tried Indonesian for the first time, and I am hooked!), and I’m a sucker for the occasional afternoon visit to Brouwerij ‘t ij for some delicious craft beer.

Thrift shopping in Amsterdam

Cute cafés

Can’t resist the occasional photo op in Amsterdam

Coming Up

I’ve got lots of exciting adventures coming up. First off, I’m headed to Belgium in a few weeks to visit the lovely Kerri! I can’t wait to check out more of the country, as I’ve only been to Brussels. Then in early April I’ll be traveling to Germany to catch up with my host family there (and take back all the stuff I left at their place, heh). The end of April marks another holiday; I’ll have two and a half weeks off and am hoping to visit Groningen and Hamburg before celebrating Konigsdag (King’s Day) back in The Netherlands. Then I’ve got a flight booked to Lithuania, with a return flight from Latvia 10 days later. I’ll be exploring the two countries, and maybe also Estonia if I can make the time! As always, if you have any suggestions, I would love to hear them!

And that concludes my lengthy update of what my life has consisted of these past two months. They’ve been busy, exciting, and almost exactly what I’d hoped they would be.


What have you been up to lately and what are you excited about that’s coming up?