I think back to the start of this trip and can hardly believe we’re halfway done. Since we left last June, we’ve visited seven countries in Europe and have released 32 stories, all of them inspired by places we’ve stayed, festivals we’ve experienced, foods we’ve eaten and people we’ve met. I don’t think one can ever predict what they’ll get out of something like this trip – I certainly had no idea. Much of it has been very different than what I envisioned, much of it has surprised me, but I can honestly say I’ve learned more than I ever thought I would – about family, about other people, about myself, about what’s important and of course about so many beautiful places.
I was asked the other day what the highlight has been so far. It was a hard question to answer. When I think about the highlights, my first thoughts go to things like:
- Breakfast every morning together with my kids and husband. No rushing in the morning!
- Playing Sleeping Queens sitting at a cafe on a beach in Spain.
- Not having a lot of stuff (to clean, to pack, to worry about, to clutter our space)!
- Getting lost in Granada, wandering the streets and then turning around to see the most stunning view of the city.
- Countless walks as a family through forests with our dog, while talking about both nothing and everything.
- Starting Around the World Stories and working together with my husband (and kids too!) to create and share stories about the countries we visit and the people we meet.
But that’s not what most people mean when they ask, so I thought about the actual places we’ve visited, talked with Matt and the kids, and we came up with a list of our favorites.
Our bike trip along the Moselle River was most definitely a highlight of our time in Germany so far. We spent 11 days riding our bikes with only four panniers for the five or us. We biked in the rain and in the sunshine (strangely one of my fondest memories was in the rain). We got lost, we fed the swans, we rode through vineyards and swam in the river. We visited castles, read stories about kings from long ago and spent an unforgettable day at the Cochem medieval festival. We stayed in the most wonderful little rooms along the way and met some of the kindest, most open Germans I have known. And being outside all day every day was just a huge bonus.
We love Copenhagen. It truly is an amazing city with some of the absolute kindest, friendliest, happiest people on earth – I’m convinced of that. But I’d have to say our highlight in Denmark was visiting Odense. It’s the birth town of Hans Christian Andersen, and we had a fabulous couple of days walking the cobblestone streets, visiting Andersen’s birth house, learning about him and reading his stories. We’re obviously pretty big story lovers and H.C. Andersen was a master. Learning about him, his life and his city was a very special experience for all of us.
Walking around the Old Town in Prague, exploring my dad’s hometown and seeing the Bohemian countryside were all wonderful. We had so many fabulous days there, but we all voted and decided our highlight had to be water zorbing by the Charles Bridge. All five of us tried it and had an absolute blast. We’d take a break from gerbil running to look at the beautiful Charles Bridge, the castle and the gorgeous buildings of Prague all from the inside of a giant plastic ball.
Austria is definitely one of my favorite countries. But then again, I keep saying that about so many of the places we visit. Just spending time in the mountains and hiking was my favorite. Watching the kids running down the mountainside wearing their dirndl dresses made me feel like I was in my own little Sound of Music (minus all the bad stuff and not quite as much singing). For our girls and my husband the highlight was paragliding for sure. Hard to believe they let kids as young as 4 years old jump off a cliff and whip around in circles through the breeze. Our 7 year old says it was her absolute favorite moment of the trip so far. Our 13 year old now says she wants to go skydiving. Hmmm… maybe it wasn’t such a brilliant idea after all.
I had read about and seen pictures of lavender and sunflower fields many times as we were planning for this trip. I thought seeing the fields in person would be amazing, but I honestly wasn’t prepared for the unbelievable beauty, the scent in the air and the peace I felt just looking at them. It was something that I will always be grateful to have experienced. I sometimes imagine what our house will someday look like when we do finally settle down – it’s full of Spanish tiles, a balcony with colorful flowers pouring out of the flower boxes like they have in Germany, a huge lavender field in the front yard and just steps from a small town with cobblestone streets filled with Parisian style cafes. And of course the neighbors will all be as friendly as the Danes. Sounds reasonable, right?
We spent a few days on a little farm near Maienfeld to visit Heidi’s hut. We weren’t there for long, but it definitely left an impression. The little farm where we stayed was so picturesque and was the perfect way to see the Swiss Alps. The death-defying midnight drive in the rain and fog along an unguarded cliff was certainly not my fondest memory, but it was worth it. (Although next time we’ll drive during the day when the tunnels are open). The hikes and views were incredible, as was seeing Heidi’s home. Then at night we’d read Heidi in front of a wood burning stove. Our kids’ favorite part was playing with the two Swiss girls who lived on the farm where we stayed. No common language, but tons of fun for all of them. They taught each other games running around the fields past the chickens and cows. They laughed a lot about the misunderstood rules and then just kept on playing a very different version of the original game.
Pretty much everything about Granada, Spain was a highlight. We spent two days there and loved every minute of it. Okay, maybe not the tough drive getting to our apartment in Granada, as the GPS took us down a street so narrow we were literally scraping both side mirrors against the buildings. Apart from that, everything from the cobblestone streets to the amazing tapas and sangria, the stunning Alhambra, the views and most definitely the flamenco show we saw there was pretty close to perfect.
As I plan these next six months — visiting six more countries and writing more stories as we go, I am going forward with a very thankful heart and an open mind to what this journey will teach us next. Thank you so much to all of you for sharing it with us!