This summer, The Husband and I decided to explore more of Europe. I've always been fascinated by Scandinavia, I've always wanted to "go back to my roots" in Holland and I've always wondered about the history and culture in Russia. After much consideration, we decided to spend four nights in Amsterdam, followed by an 11-day Baltic cruise and end our trip with three nights in Copenhagen.
I'm still trying to process everything I've seen; 9 cities in 8 countries in 19 days. To be honest, it's all still a big blur of colorful facades, cobblestone streets, fantastic ceilings and majestic cathedrals. I took so many photos that I couldn't choose just a few to add to this post. So I've decided to post a separate photo diary which I'll be sharing with you in the next few days once I've sorted through my favorites.
Amsterdam was our first stop and it was everything I thought it would be, and more! Absolutely beautiful, bustling with bikes, people and trams, perfect summer temperatures and oh-so-good food. I immediately felt at home because I could understand everything; I can't speak Dutch, but I can understand and read it, because it's so similar to my native tongue, Afrikaans.
Our four days there were jam packed. We walked everywhere (the city is actually quite small) which gave us plenty of opportunities to take pictures and "take everything in". We went on a cruise of the canals (wonderful and relaxing!), ate way too many stroopwafels and pannekoeken (absolutely delicious!), visited the Van Gogh Museum, The Royal Palace and the Rijksmuseum (stunning!) and visited the Red Light District (somewhat awkward). We also went shopping on Kalverstraat and had a picnic in Vondelpark with our friends from Germany who decided to join us for a day.
In general, I absolutely loved Amsterdam. I wish we had more time to see more of The Netherlands, hopefully one day! I felt an affinity with the locals, maybe because I understood the language, or maybe it was my Dutch ancestry. I'm not sure, but I could definitely see myself living there. By the way, we stayed in a wonderful Airbnb apartment, I highly recommend it. It was right by Museumplein on a quiet street, walking distance to the city center, and spacious.
After our four days in Amsterdam, we hopped on a plane to Copenhagen, where we boarded the Regal Princess for our 11-day Scandinavia & Russia cruise. We were so happy that two of our best friends from Taiwan decided to join us. They were the perfect travel partners and we loved sharing this incredible journey with them. During our cruise, we visited six countries; Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Russia, Finland and Sweden.
I could go into detail about each country, but this post would become a short story. Overall, I enjoyed visiting each place, as each had their own vibe. I loved the architecture in these countries (especially in the older parts of the cities), and learning about their history. Highlights for me were exploring the beautiful Old Town of Tallinn in Estonia and Gamla Stan in Stockholm, seeing Peterhof, the incredible Hermitage Museum, and going inside The Church of The Saviour on Spilled Blood in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Of course, our time on the Regal Princess was fantastic! (We've cruised with Princess before when we cruised the Mediterranean in 2012). The ship is huge and offers so many activities, we couldn't even do all of it. We really enjoyed the evening shows, the endless buffets and meeting wonderful people from all over the world. We had a blast!
We ended off our trip with three days in Copenhagen, Denmark. Again, we were lucky to have perfect weather with not a cloud in the sky. We spent our days there exploring the city, visiting the famous sites like The Little Mermaid statue and all the palaces. We also strolled around the colorful Nyhavn and climb to the top of The Church of Our Savior for a magnificent view of Copenhagen. We went shopping on Strøget and also visited Freetown Christiana.
This trip really exceeded my expectations and I'm so happy we decided to see these countries for ourselves. Also, I got to celebrate my 30th birthday while we were in Europe, which made it extra special. What a way to enter the next chapter of my life!
I hope each of you had a great summer, too. "Where to next?", you might be asking. I think we're done with traveling for 2015 (unless we make a quick spontaneous trip somewhere close to Taiwan), but next year we're planning on visiting Dubai and the States again to spend time with our families, which I'm beyond excited for!
Have a great weekend, friends!