Archive for the ‘travel’ Category
Ok. We did this adventure in July. I know. I’m slacking on this blog thing.
You’d think that a country bordered by eight other countries didn’t have much space left on its border line for a coast, but this is Europe and there’s room for everything here, even if it is just a little squeezed in. So one July weekend — possibly the best July weekend to choose to do such a thing — we packed ourselves into our friend’s car and headed for the coast.
It was an island really. Rugen joined to Germany by a 3.2 kilometre bridge (that we inadvertently drove over three times on our way to the coast) and it’s where you find the seaside town of Binz. To say its charming is an understatement. Even though I’ve never been to the southern U.S., Binz made me want to want to fan my face with my hat and say “I do deh-claaare.”
It was originally built up as a seaside resort in the 1890’s. When the First World War hit Germany, it started to fall into neglect. Then the Second World War came and with its resolution, Binz with its charming white hotels found itself well behind the East German border. It fell into a deeper state of neglect until a few years after reunification. The sandy beaches became littered with Strandkorben or beach baskets once again and their hotels restored to their former glory, complete with stained glass balcony dividers.
A trip to Binz on the Island of Rügen is like a little trip back in town. You expect people to be there in 1920s-style bathing outfits to be sunning themselves in the beach baskets, but all you get is the usual European speedo. Nonetheless, it’s charm isn’t lost on the families that populate the public beach area in front of the baskets. The pier let’s you wander far out into the water while keeping your shoes dry, but the temperature is fine for swimming if you need to cool off. That weekend, we definitely did. Even though we escaped Berlin’s blazing 34-degree temperatures, we were still sunning ourselves in 27-degree heat, which is my perfect seaside temperature.
The restaurants on the promenade all offer local sea fare and you can tell which is the good bakery by the line-up of visitors it has in front of it at 8:30 a.m.
And if you’re in the mood for a little GDR mode, you can walk down to the end of the beach and check out the remaining life guard tower. Built in 19638, it was one of two, but the second is no longer with us. Now, you can book your civil wedding ceremony to take place on its sand-covered floors.
We didn’t get a chance to see the white cliffs of Rügen up close, but our little weekend in Binz left us wanting to go back again. With our group — two couples, one pregnant and one engaged — we decided we would definitely have to come back again next summer with and put our little families under a beach tent.
Do you know how longs its been since I’ve sat on a beach? I’ll admit I miss Vancouver’s beach access, but those beaches don’t really compare to the ones Josh and I were soaking up on last week.
A year after our first foray into Italia, we were back, but with the other side of the family. After an exhausting five days touring my mom and her three friends around Berlin, we all went to the island of Sardinia, just off Italy’s west coast, for some much needed Vitamin D infusions.
We planned a one-week holiday in the northeastern corner of the Island and flew into Olbia, where we met the Cologne contingent of our holiday group (Oma, Uschi, Helmut and Olga). The area is very new, having mostly been developed just in the 1960s as a luxury resort. Its been used as location for James Bond and was the where Princess Diana enjoyed her last vacation.
It was just what we needed. The weather cooperated every second day, and without fail, we sat on pristine sand beaches and swam through the perfectly turquoise waters to cool down. The rest of the time? We were doing what we do best abroad: eating.
We didn’t have quite the same cooking lesson as we did when we were in Tuscany with the Devins clan, but we certainly took the menus to the limits.
While we stayed at the Hotel La Rocca in Baia Sardinia, the rest of our group stayed at La Murichessa, a bed & breakfast in the Sardinian hills run by Annalisa. Despite our “non-guest” status, we were invited to dinner almost every night. She and her assistant Radika cooked up nightly feasts that always included antipasti, a salad, home-made pasta, a regional meat specialty and dessert. It was amazing.
But its not always about the food.
After lazing about the edges of the sea for five days, we hopped aboard the Due Lune catamaran captained by lawyer-turned-sailor Claudio to explore the sea itself. It was a beautiful day, with temperatures that lured you into the sea. We motored out just past La Maddalena Island and then Claudio let the sails rip and turned the engines off.
We puttered just past a beach that is now closed to the public because too many people had taken jars of its pink sand as a souvenir and anchored at another beach. We waited for lunch sunning ourselves in a boat-access-only beach and enjoyed a simple lunch that the sea air made us really hungry for.
And then, despite not waiting the fabled 30-minutes-after-lunch, I slowly went into the water (I’m sure it took me about 30 minutes to get into the water anyway). I swam all around the boat, adding another “done” thing to the list of Baby Devins: swam in the Mediterranean.
To cap the day off, we settled in about an hour away from the dock that the Due Lune calls home to watch a round of the Louis Vuitton regatta. It took a while, but the race finally began and we were stationed right by the buoy that the two ships had to go around. It was amazing how fast it went.
After eight hours at sea, the Due Lune finally docked and we took our even-browner selves back to the Murichessa for one last dinner with the family.
We came back to Berlin, just in time to be greeted by summer weather and a city gripped in World Cup fever…
In the not-so-distant past, as the gray skies still hovered over Berlin, I wanted a warm, sun-soaked holiday for Easter. We got on the websites, looked for deals and where did we come up with? Budapest, Hungary (pronounced Budapeshd, we learned).
Not at all tropical, but we did enjoy 24 C weather the whole weekend.
Looking at maps, we were worried we were going to be visiting Prague 2.0 — a city that disappointed us. There is a river that the city centres on, a castle on a hill, bridges everywhere. Fortunately, geography is all these cities have in common. Budapest is an amazingly beautiful city, gritty streets running alongside the glamourous ones, full of historic sites with a truly western feel. Not at all what we were expecting from a former Soviet state.
The trip started out well: we checked in late but got upgraded to business class. We were there by noon and made our way up to the castle. Whenever we go to a new city, we start off somewhere high up to get a panorama of the place, get a feel of where we are, what we want to see. We walked around, snapped photos, strolled through market stalls peddling handmade lace and enjoyed the sunshine.
Budapest was originally three cities: Buda and Pest make up the city centre, while Obuda is the northern outskirts. Buda is hilly, while Pest is flat. Here is Fisherman’s Bastion, Castle Hill, in Buda.
Our trip included no visits to museums or guided tours, but we still felt that we saw a lot and learned a lot. Budapest is an open city, with many of its historical sites, like cloister ruins and the castle, open to the public to wander around for free. It’s a small city centre, and getting around is easy with the three Metro lines, including Europe’s oldest underground rail line. Yes, the oldest Subway is not in London, but Budapest.
Like Berlin, Budapest had repurposed it’s Christmas Market Stalls for Easter. In a few squares, we found delicious food and Hungarian entertainment. In a square near our hotel, there was even a Jazz and Wine Festival, where visitors could enjoy the concerts for free and sample famous Hungarian wines for cheap.
But our first night in Budapest was the best for food. We went to M., a restaurant recommended in our guide book, and, thus, it was full of tourists with the same book. But the restaurant was in the book for a reason and that reason is delicious. It’s a French-inspired Hungarian restaurant that has a constantly rotating menu, based on what the chef got at market that day (for us, it was duck). It was delicious. We ate so much. We washed it down with wine from Villany — the famous wine region. We went to bed in a food coma that night.
Josh was really looking for some relaxation so we went to the spa on Saturday, but were thwarted by an early closure. Instead, we rented an electric vehicle and rode around the park. We returned Sunday morning fsaw us dipping into the many pools of Szechenyi Baths — one of the largest complexes of its kind in Europe — and even getting massages for 13 Euros. The spa culture in Budapest goes back 2,000 years and all of the city’s pools are fed by natural hot springs.
As it was Easter, Great Market Hall was closed, being the one disappointment of the weekend. We filled the rest of our days visiting St. Stephen’s Basillica, which held the first king of Hungary’s mummified right arm. We spent an afternoon wandering around the Danube’s Margaret Island, finishing our last evening in Budapest on it’s west bank, watching the sun set behind the hills of Buda.
We did a lot of walking, ate a lot of street food and saw a lot of sites. It was still a relaxing trip for us and we were delighted that Budapest was far from being Prague 2.0.
This is happening.
I’ve always wistfully said that I wanted to live in Europe. And now we’re doing it. We’re moving trans-Atlantic with in months. You could almost even say weeks.
Oh, and did I mention our upcoming wedding?
We are Josh and Sabine. I, Sabine, will mostly be writing this, with some contributions from Josh.
After dating for four years, Josh proposed in front of the gothic cathedral in Cologne. It was a rainy, wet and miserable Monday afternoon. I said yes, of course, and now, we’re five weeks away from our wedding and three months away from being jobless and in the process of being homeless.
Josh and I have been living together for almost three years. We’re getting married on the fifth anniversary of our first date, which we spent the afternoon on the floor of my then-new apartment listening to David Bowie and the Cars. Since, we’ve grown together to who we are today. I was 20 then and am now 25. I can’t imagine I’d want to know what my life would be like without Josh in it. No thanks.
Well, to celebrate our first year of marriage, we’re doing something different. We’re saying “I do” on October 11, 2008. And instead of settling into the life we’ve known for the last three years, we’re packing up. We’ll be selling the Ikea college collection and the rest will go into storage. We’ll find ourselves in the arrival area of a European airport with two suitcases each, tired, hungry and restless to start the next step.
It’s going to be an anxiety-ridden step, but it’s going to be exciting. We’re hoping for a year that we can grow together, an experience that will bring us together that really will be, for the rest of our lives.
The location is still TBD and we’re three months away.