12/19/2018 Take Off: MSP to Amsterdam
After 8 months of planning, Brendan and I finally went on our trip to traverse Europe with only what we could carry on our backs. Our two-week itinerary brought us to Amsterdam, Netherlands; Cologne, Germany; Heidelberg, Germany; Interlaken, Switzerland; Innsbruck, Austria; Munich, Germany; and Reykjavik, Iceland. We traveled on planes, trains, the occasional boat, and cable cars.
12/20/2018 - 12/22/2018: Amsterdam, Netherlands
Arriving in the Netherlands felt like a dream. We couldn’t believe that all our planning has come to fruition, and that we were actually there, on our first international trip together. We quickly gained our bearings and wandered through the beautiful canal streets and became acquainted with the pace of life in Europe. We toured the Anne Frank House and the Van Gogh Museum; saw Rembrandt’s The Night Watch at the Rijksmuseum; experienced the Amsterdam Light Festival from the canals; and visited the only windmill left in the city that has become a brewery. Of course, we couldn’t leave Amsterdam before trying a stroopwafel (or two).
12/22/2018 – 12/24/2018: Cologne (Köln), Germany
Our second stop was Cologne, Germany. As we learned on our walking tour of the city, during WWII, about 90% of this city was decimated. What’s amazing was that the massive twin spire gothic cathedral (Dom) was spared only to serve as a navigational beacon during the war. Thankfully, its survival allowed us to be able to admire the architectural beauty that it is. Because we were here so close to Christmas, we were able to enjoy the large tradition in Germany of the Christmas Markets! We wandered through hundreds of vendors stands selling their handmade wares while sipping on hot glühwein and enjoying the scents of roasted nuts, bratwursts, and raclette. We also managed to tour the chocolate museum and sample some chocolate from a Willy Wonka worthy chocolate fountain!
12/24/2018 – 12/26/2018: Heidelberg, Germany
Christmas in Heidelberg was spectacular. In Germany, Christmas Eve is the day that is most celebrated for the season. We managed to get a reservation for an exclusive four course meal at a nearby restaurant which started with a gathering in the courtyard to mingle and sip some glühwein. On Christmas day, we awoke to the church bells ringing throughout the whole town. We got up and explored the Christmas market, collected our glühwein mug (since every market has their own mug that you can collect every year), and roamed the streets with the rest of Heidelberg, peering into the shops that were closed for the holiday. On the 26th, the Heidelberg castle opened again for tours, so we trekked up the hill to learn more about the remains of a once fabulous castle that was destroyed in 1689 by the French.
12/26/2018 – 12/28/2018: Interlaken, Switzerland
12/27/2018: The day that I answered the easiest question of my life and agreed to marry my best friend! The day started out as a slight disappointment as we found out that our night sledding excursion was cancelled due to icy conditions, but ultimately, we were alright with not sliding down an icy mountain in the dark! As we were making up plans on the fly, we were just exploring the old part of town, including a historic lock in the river between the two lakes. Brendan was setting up his GoPro and I assumed that he wanted to do yet another 360˚ video of the area. I was distracted by a couple of ducks swimming and Brendan came up to me and gave me a hug. He looked at me and told me that he loved going on adventures with me and asked if I would go on adventures with him for the rest of our lives. Then he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. Of course, I said yes! To celebrate, we decided to vacate the fog that had settled over Interlaken and took a train and cable car up to Grindewald-First to spend the day on top of the Swiss Alps. Taking in the beautiful views of the mountains and sipping a beer from Bern in the sun was the perfect way to spend our engagement day. We even found an authentic swiss fondue restaurant for dinner. A day that I will never forget!
12/28/2018 – 12/30/2018: Innsbruck, Austria
Another day, another mountain! Because the weather continued to be so nice, we decided to take on the Nordkette. On our way to the train, we decided to walk through the old town of Innsbruck and see the Golden Roof (Goldenes Dachl) which was built for Emperor Maximilian in 1500. The same square housed what was left of Innsbruck’s Christmas Market, so we collected our glühwein mug and also found out that Innsbruck is the home to Swarovski. To get to the top of the Nordkette, we took a train and a cable car. On top of the mountain, we enjoyed some goulash, sausages and hot cocoa. The top was rather windy, so we decided to go down to the stop just below that was a very popular stop for the skiers. Here, we found an Ice Bar and some lounge chairs perched on the edge of the mountain. We decided that this would be the perfect place to take in the magnificent views with a beer in hand. We didn’t stay out too late in Innsbruck because we had to catch a very early morning train to Munich, Germany in time for our day trip to the Neuschwanstein Castle.
12/30/2018 – 01/01/2019: Füssen and Munich, Germany
We woke up at 2am on the 30th in order to make our 7-hour journey to Füssen, Germany to see the Neuschwanstein Castle which was built by “crazy” King Ludwig in 1869 as a tribute to the Romanesque castles of the past. The castle was tragically never finished due to the king’s untimely death but has since been open to public viewing and, further, was the inspiration for Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle. Since that was such a long travel day, we took our time in Munich to meander around the old town. Here, we saw the famous clock tower and made our way to the Hofbräuhaus for some classic Bavarian brews and fanfare. It was quite the celebration for New Years Eve! We managed to stay up and watch all the fireworks in town from the rooftop terrace on our hotel. It was a magical way to ring in 2019!
01/01/2019 – 01/02/2019: Reykjavik, Iceland
Our final 24 hours was a stopover in Iceland and only 4 of those hours had sunlight. Our first night, we went to a local restaurant right off the wharf where we enjoyed steak, lobster, and mink whale. It was surprisingly delicious. In the morning, we went to the Blue Lagoon and enjoyed the thermal spa in darkness. We roamed around the lagoon, sipped on our complimentary beverages, and indulged with luxurious silica and algae mud masks. By the time out lunch reservation rolled around, it was finally daybreak and we were able to appreciate the harsh landscape of lava rock and moss. Prior to our trip, Brendan had bid to get first class seats for the flight home, and thankfully he won the bid! It was so nice to be treated to a little extra comfort as we chased the sunset all the way back home to St. Paul.