An island of ice and rugged landscape. That was what we expected. And that is what we got. Iceland welcomed us with a bang. Just fifteen minutes before our landing, the volcano erupted. Warnings where send on our mobile phones and locals told us about it. Now, we being adventurers, wanted to see that spectacle. And so we made a not-so-little detour on the first day to get as close as possible. In a 2WD that is. It led us through a unique vulcanic landscape in shades of grey, brown and white. We did not see the volcano, though. It was too far away and we did not climb high enough. But the earth was marred with little craters filled with bubbling mud. And the small creeks in between steamed and gave off the smell of rotted eggs. An odor that would follow us throughout the whole trip.
Our four wheels took us all around the island. It is called the ring road and winds its way along the coast. Unlike in Norway, we planed the daily drives shorter this time. Not only because of nappy change stops, but also photo stops. The sight in front of us changed every so often. Cliffs where the sea splashed against. Old lava fields in grey and black. Farmland with more horses than man can count. And small cottages in the shadow of a waterfall. Mathilda faced the drives bravely…. for maybe the first twenty minutes. Then she strongly demanded attention our distraction. That is how we discovered the little cartoon Duck and Goose. Now all three are fans of it
Speaking of waterfalls. There are a lot of them in Iceland. So many, in fact, that they must be half of all marked sights. We only visited the most famous ones. Pingvellir, Gullfoss, Godafoss, Gljufrabuifoss. And one escaped our eyes. Dettifoss. That was on day seven when the skies declared against us. The world turned grey and at times we could not see further than a few meters through the fog. But we faced the cold and walked towards the roaring sound of falling water. Unfortunately to no avail.
But the other waterfalls were impressive. Escpecially Seljalandafoss was gorgeous. I dared to walk behind and under it. There are no photos of the shower, though. The camera withstood the rain. But the droplets made the photos unusable.
But the country has more to offer than just waterfalls. Geysirs, tall mountains, and large glaciers. The last where impressive and even reach the ocean. The Jökulsarlon glacier has formed a lagoon where icebergs slowly float through and gather on the black sand beach. The guide books are right. This is a top spot for holiday photos. Mathilda was more interested in the little black sand stones, though.
Speaking of icebergs. Swimming in the ocean was not on our bucked list this time. But, and that is a strong bud, Iceland offers many natural hot baths to soak in. Sophia enjoyed two; while me and Mathilda only one. Swimming in hot water when it’s only fifteen degrees outside is relaxing. Just mentally block the rotten eggs smell.
Good thing that this smell did not make it into the food. We ate a lot. Fish, lamb, fish, then lamb again, then lamp and then, for a change, fish with chips. Local cuisine seems to abhore vegetables. Except potatos in fries form. So we ever so often opted for cooking ourselves. Vegetarian Spaghetti Bolognese, …… And the occasional Cinnamon bun. On our next trip we will look for accommodations with a kitchen again.
Reykiavik is nothing to write home about. Despite being the biggest city, it lacks the attraction and sights of other capitals. Even the main thing, the big church, disappointed with an absolut minimalistic interiour. But the Whale Museum was great. Seeing those huge creatures, though not in real, but in real-life size, is impressive. We all stood in awe. Well, not all. Mathilda was busy running around trying to tough and tear at as many things as she can.
Two weeks are over quickly. Now we are back home and back in summer temperatures. Time to plan our next trip. Until then. Please enjoy the gallery and our short video.
While central Europe suffered a one in a century heatwave, we celebrated our big wedding up in the mountains. There the weather was stunning and the temperature simply perfect at 20°C. After a wedding there comes a honeymoon. And where to go with a toddler? Not to far but somewhere exciting. We chose Norway.
It all started with a slight hickup. Six days before departure our flight to Oslo got canceled. Shock! Horror! I spend thirty minutes in the loop of the helpline and alas, at least the returned flight could be saved. The new flights, though, cost more than double. What a bummer. But what can you do to save an adventure.
Against all worries Tilly didn’t bother flying at all. That makes us confident for future trips abroad. The flights did not go perfectly smooth, though. We expected that our stroller would be handed to us during our stop-over. But it was checked in all the way to Oslo. Not knowing that, this misunderstanding cost us an hour of our lunch-break, waiting in vain for that stroller. Next time we know and check.
My first impression of Oslo was that this city makes driving a challenge, parking in tiny garages a nightmare and the pedestrians are fearless. More than once I had to brake rather strongly. We knew that our day in Oslo would be one of the sunniest of our entire vacation. So we used it walking all over the city ticking off all the major sights. The opera house, the harbor and the Fram museum. The last one was particularly interesting. The museums was build around the original ship that was used to travel first to the south pole. And huge screens all around simulated the ship being on the see, in a terrible storm and between icebergs mind you. Wow!
The next day we drove for the first time in our rental car. From Oslo to Kristiansand. A mere three hours drive turned into a five hour drive. Tilly made us stop more than once. Who can blame here. Sitting in that tiny baby chair for such a long time is torturous. Not to speak of here appetite. But overall we were pleasantly surprised how good it wend.
If we had reached Kristiansand a bit earlier the big park right next door to our hotel would have been a blast. But our late arrival hindered us of exploring it. So we made the best of our short stay and ate a delicious dinner and tried to swim in the outdoor pool. That did not happen though. It was too cold. But hey, there were more pools to come.
Next was Stavanger. On our way to there we made a quick stop in Sogndalstrand. That is a small town on the coast that is famous for its wooden houses along the small river. It is very picturesque. And we got to see Salmon jumping out of the water. Something we had not seen in our life before. That alone made the little detour worth it. We also quickly stopped at a small historic world war two site. The history was not as interesting as our efforts to survive the cold, heavy wind and and rain. Tillys stroller moved alone pushed by the wind, we had to hold on to our hats, and in the end we returned soaked and dirty to the car. We laughed at our unpreparedness and moved on.
Stavanger was not all impressive. But the next day we made our first ferry ride. I never used a ferry with a car before. So a little anxious we drove up to the spot. But the process turned out to be a breeze. Norway sure knows how to make their ferries as easy to use as humanly possible.
In Bergen we made a longer stop to recuperate. The hill right next to the city, Mount Floyen, provided us with the opportunity to walk in the sun and get a small sunburn. In case you do not want to walk up, alternatively there is a cable car. It is one of the «attractions» of Bergen. Well, in a country where there are not many cable cars, that might be. For us it was a rather common experience. We enjoyed waiting for the queue to become shorter in a small cafe right next to it and ate on of many, many cinnamon buns.
Also from Bergen we made our biggest hike of the whole honeymoon. Because we could not visit the famous Pulpit Rock we opted for a smaller version instead named «Slottet». It means castle in Notwegen and also overlooks a fjord. It is rather off the beaten track. Only a small side-spot along the road and a tiny sign show you the start. The hike up was cool. Sophia carried our yellow backpack with food and more necessities for us and Tilly. And I carried Tilly in the Manduka. Up up and up we went through lush green and on a muddy path. To our surprise we were not the only hikers on the rock. But soon we had it all for ourselves. Of course the stop was desperately needed to change Tillys nappies and give her lunch. The walk down was easier, if we had not lost our way at the beginning. We soon realized that we had missed the right junction and had to back up a little before heading straight down on the muddy path again. And walking down ist always harder than walking up. But the prospect of another delicious dinner with desserts kept us going.
Driving and driving through the wilderness of Norway, we often diverted from the motorway to cruise on ocean roads and over mountain passes instead. Often that did not take much longer but giftet us with some spectacular views. Despite all those warning signs along the roads we did not get to encounter a Moose.
Forde was only a one night pit-stop. The tiny motor-in was not the most luxurious. But we meet some interesting guests and the breakfast was out of this world. Those small chit chats are what makes traveling memorable.
Alesund was the second last stop on our road-trip. The hotel was probably the best of the whole holiday. Big room, huge breakfast buffet and a reception hall with the tallest chimène that I have ever seen. Because it was our engagement anniversary we booked an hour in the spa with two hot water bathtubes looking straight on to the harbor. Tilly joyned us quickly and we splashed in the water together. And that evening we sat at a reserved table in the hotels own restaurant. We knew that it was a bit more fancy than usual. That was the idea. It was an anniversary after all. But it turned out to be a very high society, exquisite, fancy restaurant. The waiter explained us the origin of every wine and the composition and every intricate detail of our meals. And we sat there, taking turns to entertain Tilly, letting our meals go cold and leave our wine untouched. We skipped our intention to ask for some warm milk to prepare and give Tilly here dinner. It was an embarrassment. But in hindsight it is a funny story.
Then the longest drive of our honeymoon was due. Six hours long would the journey to Trondheim be. At least so told us our digital map. But nevertheless we had to face this long tedious task. This time we came prepared. We stocked up with food in order so we did not need to find a cafe or a petrol stations to eat. We made more stops. We used the last two ferry rides to stretch our legs and relax our tired eyes. And I, feeling the wight of heavy eyelids, took a nap on a bench just to be safe. In the end it was not bad and the drive did not feel that long.
Trondheim was our last stop before boarding our boat to the north. It is a pleasant city. But with few sights. Sophia and I alternated in looking after Tilly so that each got some own-time to explore. Sophia went shopping; with reasonable results. And I said goodbye to our car. Together we delved into the selection of cool restaurants along the harbor. Savory meals and tasty beer was our reward of having come this far.
And now it was time to finally tick off one life-goal on the bucked list. Gliding on a Hurtigruten ship to the arctic. We found ourselves on the ship Vesteralen, the tiniest and oldest ship of the fleet. In two nights time we would be further north than we had ever been. It was an exciting moment for Sophia when we crossed over the arctic circle. I, on the other hand, slept through it. Much of our time we walked up and down the deck gazing at the ocean and the fjords passing us buy. We did pass through some fjords on the way. The Trollfjord was particularly impressive. It was in the middle of the night. But despite the late hour it was not pitch dark. Rather the whole scenery of the steep mountains left and right looked eerily in the cold glow of the barely settled sun. This will be something to remember.
The short stops along the way only gave us two opportunities to venture out of the ship. Once in Ornes and once in Bodo. In Ornes we used a short guides walk along the arctic coast to dip Tillys feet into the ocean for the first time. Her feed quickly retracted upwards once her toes touched the icy cold water. Who can blame here. Most of the time the water was calm because we went along the coast. But twice we traversed the open sea and the boat started to rock. Back and forth, left to right. We did not get seasick. And neither was Tilly. But I cannot say that my stomach was all too happy about it. We pulled through safe and sound and could eat a hearty dinner anyways. Barely that is.
Everything comes to an end. Two nights after we had boarded the Hurtigruten ship it was time to leave. Tromso is considered to be the gateway to the arctic part of Norway. And it shows. Max temperature was 13°C. And that felt even colder when the wind blew and it drizzled. No wonder that there are many shops selling outdoor equipment and especially rain proof clothing of every kind and size. The weather forecast showed only one sunny day. The day we arrived. So we threw our luggage into our hotel room and off we went to the hill right next to the city. A short cable car ride to the top and we could look over entire Tromso. The ocean surrounding the island city with the snow covered mountains as a backdrop was beautifully to behold. Having spend so much time confined on a ship we decided to walk back down. It took us longer than expected because in certain places it was very steep. But to our joy we met many friendly locals for a quick chat. On was carrying his mountain bike up the hill. What the..? He smiled and said «Sometimes I ride the bike. Sometimes the bike rides me.». Now that is serious exercise. On our last days we visited the iceberg church, the local souvenir shops and the northern most brewery Mack. Later we enjoyed their beer of the year 2021. A banana milkshake beer. It tastes better than one would expect.
Sadly, every honeymoon comes to an end. We said goodbye to Norway, the arctic and the nice cold temperatures to fly back to hot Switzerland. But we said to ourselves. This will not be the last time in norther Norway. We will come back in one of the coming winters and seek the northern lights.
If you want to see more pictures, head over to the gallery.
Rainy, it would be. Cold and windy, the websites said. We knew it would be off-season with all its ups and downs. The weather is hit and miss. Many restaurants and shops would be closed and even some excursions might not be going.
But the desire to travel abroad at least once in 2021 was stronger. Our choice fell on Zakynthos. A mid-size island in the Ionian Sea. The flight was quickly booked. Our temporarily home not so. It took us ages to find the right lodging. Too far from the beach, too far from a town, too big, to touristy… but almost like happenstance we found the Fiore Beach Studios at the Kaminia beach. It was a good choice.
Flying during a pandemic is not that difficult after all. A proof of vaccination or a negativ test was easy to get. And the PLF for Greece was no obstacle either. It is just a little more paperwork.
After dumping our luggage in our room we checked out the restaurant. Lumped together in our warmest cloths and raincoats, we sat at the table watching the water slowly creeping in the enclosure. But the owner and we were happy to eat together. And this was the first encounter with greek cuisine. Meat and potatos. No vegetables. More of that later.
The next day was already better. Sunny and balm. We explored the town up the hill, collected ideas for the upcoming days and booked a tour. We even dared to enter the ocean for a quick swim.
The following days we visited all the top spots on the island. For example Laganas beach where all the tourist go. There we tasted great juices in a cafe watching the waves and got reminded that not everything you see on the internet is true. The small island right off the beach, which should be accessable through a small wooden bridge (very photogenic), had no bridge anymore. Haha!
Of course we also went to the blue caves and the shipwreck cove. The best part about that was getting off the boat at the shipwreck beach. You literally had to jump off the front onto very soft sand. Many fell. And so did I. Sophia on the other hand glided gracefully off and walked away as if it was no biggie. Of course it was one big photo shoot around the wreck. But the best pictures can be taken from the outlook above the cove. One of those photos is the newest addition to my best-of selection.
As mentioned above greek food as its idiosyncrasies. Much Feta cheese and olive oil. Both ingredients have a reputation of being healthy, are almost always combined with meat, fish and potatos. Fried, grilled, mashed. Potatos everywhere. Is almost appears to be the only vegetable on the island. We dearly missed other vitamin laden pieces on our plates.
Overall we spend a good week on Zakynthos and enjoyed every hour. It has gotten our travel spirit back in gear and we cannot wait to go on a big trip again next year.
Please check out the gallery and stay ready for more blogs in the future.
Our first, and only, trip abroad in 2020 was a tour through Marocco. We decided on a wimp because we could not decide on any other destination that was further away. But sometimes the good is not well thought out, but rather a lucky strike. To make things easier we opted for a guided tour by Intrepid. That too turned out to be an excellent decision. The group was awesome, consisting of fellow travelers from England, the USA, Australia, Germany and Canada. A lovely bunch that was always up for a good laugh.
We started in Casablanca and dipped our toes in the local culture. Hectic, loud, exotic, a perfect place to start exploring. The city was much more modern than expected. Highrise office buildings interchanged with smaller homes, shops and a brand new small train gliding through on the main street. But we didn’t come here to see familiar things. We wanted to experience the exotic.
The Medina was what we were looking for. Medina is the name for the old-town part of a town. It is here that you can buy food, cloths and everyday items instead of international brands. The narrow alleys invite to be explored. There is something new and unexpected around very corner and we thoroughly enjoyed our first stroll.
In the distance, a tall building pierced into the blue sky. It is the seventh largest mosque in the world with the second tallest minaret tower. Named after King Hassan II, this building is huge. A short tour gave us a rundown of its history and amazingly the whole roof can be opened to cool the interior. What an amazing combination of architecture, art and engineering.
Later the same day we meet your group and our guide; Mohamed. We got briefed about what awaited us for the coming two weeks and then left for our first dinner in Marocco. Pizza and burgers. Why? Because, and rightly so, we expected to eat many more maroccan dishes in the coming days.
The first stop in the capital, Rabat, wasn’t too exciting. But the stop after in Meknes was. The impressive wall surrounding the old-town was an invitation to make a lot of photos. So did the bright white and blue painted houses inside those walls. Outside Meknes we wandered through ruins of a roman settlement. Amazing to think that the roman empire reached this far. It is here that we got our first Tajine, the local traditional dish.
Fes is a total different animal. It is much more traditionally build. The Fes el Bali looks like in a medieval painting. And the old dying pots in the center are a must-see for any visitor. Highly recommended.
For the evening we managed to buy wine. Yes you do get alcohol in Marocco. But it is only sold in special shops that have a license to sell it to foreigners. And of course or seasoned guide Mohamed knew exactly where to look for it. To make it complete we got our hands on some camel burgers too. Although later we found out that there are no camels in Marocco. Just dromedars. Makes you wonder what we ate…
The next stop Midelt was a normal small town. But the drive there was what impressed us. The wide, dry landscape was outworldly and we asked our driver many many times to stop to jump out of our minivan to get that perfect shoot.
Then it was time to see the dry dessert in the far west. That afternoon we got to ride camels (wait, dromedars) through a patch of the Sahara. Riding them was easy. Climbing up was more of a challenge. But not falling off as the dromedar went down on its knees was the really tricky part. Sue decided to abandon her steed and walk back on her own. Here sense of direction is flawless. The struggle was worth it, though. The sunset over the sanddunes was breathtaking as every grain turned brightly orange and then to a dark red. Unforgettable. That night we stayed in beduine tents between the dunes, drunk delicious tee and even danced a bit to drums.Was there some spirit in that tee? We will never know.
Out of the Sahara we drove through rugged terrain and the Todra Gorge and stopped to explore old castle like towns. Apparently the different tribes used to fight a lot and decent walls needed to be erected to keep the neighbours away from your grain and cattle. But the highlight was a hike up to a beduin camp. It was nothing more than a circle of pilled up rocks with a rugged sheet of tapestry over it and a tiny cave. The little kid, not older than five years, played in the dirt while his mother made wool with a comb. The man was very hospitable and offered us tee. We would all have liked to chat with him but the language barrier was unbreachable. What a pity.
Our last stop was the ocean town of Essaouira. It is not big but a well know place amongst artist and, now, tourist. Even Jimi Hendrix stayed in this town. If you listen to the locals it would seem that he lived here. Other sources tell that he came for a few days… I tend to believe the second. Nevertheless the town is pretty and strolling through the market is fun. Of course most shops nowadays cater more for the tourists. But here and there you can see remnants of the past. For example camel stables (here we go again) fed and slept while their owner probably negotiated for a good deal to transport goods across the desert. John, Hugh and me managed to organize an ad-hoc surf session in the Atlantic. Despite our drivers assuring us that they had prober boards, in the end they didn’t. But we hit the beach anyways and braced the crushing waves. It was more paddle training than surfing. But John and Hugh showed off their skills and rode some maroccan waves.
But all good things must come to an end and everyone made their way home. The Covid pandemic was just starting to kick in and for some the way home proved to be another adventure. Sophia and I hope for a reunion somewhere once traveling and flying is not a far dream anymore. We all have to make up for a few missed trips.
As some of you must have noticed by now, my website for the big trip was down. Unfortunately some virus forced me to delete the whole page. But do not worry as the old page has been saved to old and reliable paper.
And even better this disaster gave me the opportunity to overhaul the entire design. As this site will grow more and more features of the new wordpress version will be incorporated. So you can look forward to fancy galleries, interactive maps and, maybe, even a extended comments section.
In the coming months I will put up some posts about recent trips. Especially Marokko in early 2020, which we enjoyed just before Covid-19 (Corona) hit hard. Hopefully the restrictions on traveling internationally will be liftet in foreseeable time and more exotic destinations will be available. Until that happens me and my wife will explore Switzerland.