Europe

swinging in after a leave of absence

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We have been M.I.A for a while but we are back… for now at least 🙂

Checking in from: Copenhagen, Denmark

We arrived this morning at 6.30 am, after 24+ hours of travelling. The flight and transit was great. We arrived feeling rested and fresh: the first time EVER on a long-haul flight.

After a VERY quick freshen up at the hotel, we hit the town. We walked and walked and walked….

We will leave you with a photo from today which really sums up Copenhagen: Nyhaven.

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our visit to trakai castle

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So here we are in summer (supposedly – but let’s not talk about that) in Sydney. And it seems like the Northen Hemisphere has been snowed in of late. Our Facebook newsfeed is filled with photos of places covered in snow. Whether it be because of this winter or previous ones, we can’t be sure… but there are plenty going around. Trakai Castle in Lithuania was one of the ones that we came upon. Such a beautiful castle and even more magical and elegant in snow.

We saw it a couple of summers ago now and it was a stunning blue sky kind-of-day. What we saw and what it looks like at present is no doubt very different.

We do have a fascination with castles… Lured to them when we travel to old countries. Lifestyles of the rich and regal.

Trakai Castle is one of these castles we fell in love with from the outside. There is something so ridiculously “magical” seeing a castle out on an island in the middle of a lake, Lake Galve to be exact.

IMG_1169The castle was built in the 14th Century and was updated in the 19th Century. And no doubt has a colourful history like most castles do.

To reach the castle, we had to walk along a wooden bridge before entering the main gates.IMG_1174 IMG_1177Once inside, it is as if we are stepping onto a movie set, half expecting knights or lords or ladies to poke their heads out and jeer at us. IMG_1176 Exploring this castle is much like any castle – there’s a left wing, a right wing, Chapels, spiral staircases  up into towers or down into dungeons.

Here is David (red top:LEFT) looking around in awe as we sat and appreciated the Chapel and its architecture (and to rest our feet).IMG_1189Back up on our feet, we walk through doorways, and hallways and balconies. Up, down and around….

IMG_1200 IMG_1202Artefacts from archeological finds are displayed in the different rooms and we always love looking at things like that. To think how old some of the objects are simply blows our minds. And even more surreal when we are able to stand in the room that the royal families used to sleep in. Who would’ve thought! IMG_1193 IMG_1197And it’s not only within the city walls that visitors can explore. We walked around the island outside the city walls.IMG_1210Seeing too many castles whilst visiting Europe can happen but even so, we love visiting them.

So much history, so much intrigue and how humbling that we can catch a glimpse into what life once was like.

 

6 memorials that made an impact on us

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The world has had a tumultuous history. Along with all the beautiful landscapes, the amazing architectural feats, and incredible people and stories that have been… the world has had its fair share of heartache and heartbreak and gut wrenching stories of war and/or natural disasters. Memorials are sometimes set up to mark the lives lost. We always find these memorials very haunting and moving.

But memorials are not only for sad events, they also mark important people and events. In this post, we’ve rounded up the memorials that we have visited that made an impact on us. Not that any of the others were less notable or less important, we particularly wanted to share these 6.

And in no particular order,

1. The Hill of Crosses in Lithuania, we’ve previously shared a photo essay of it and still get goosebumps thinking about this place. The information around its history is a little hazy but in essence it is a memorial to lives lost. The number of crosses erected in this place is unknown but is estimated to be around 100,000. We’ve never seen anywhere else quite like it.

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2. The Memorial Cenotaph framing the peace flame and the A-Bomb Dome as part of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Japan. The park itself is dedicated to Hiroshima, the first city ever to suffer a nuclear attack, in memory of the victims.

The A-Bomb dome that you can see in the distance, is what remains of the former Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall. This building was at the centre of the where the bomb exploded. IMG_1111

3. In 2011, a 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck Christchurch in New Zealand, killing 185 people. This is a temporary art installation commemorating the lives lost on that February day. There was 185 different chairs painted white, each marking one of the lives lost.  IMG_1179

4. Seeing the one in Christchurch, reminded us immediately of the one we saw in Krakow, Poland. Thirty-three chairs on deportation site, each one representing the 1,000 Jewish victims of the Krakow Ghetto during World War II. IMG_1578

5. The Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC, USA is something we had only ever seen in TV shows and movies. This statue is probably one of the most notable things that we wanted to see during our visit to DC and it certainly did not disappoint. Honouring the 16th President of the USA, it stands at about 5.8 meters. The walls inside the monument are inscribed with Lincoln’s inaugural speech and Gettysburg speech. IMG_3256

6. And possibly the most significant one for us as Australians was the Memorial by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk at Anzac Cove, Gallipoli in Turkey.

“Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives…
You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours…
You, the mothers, who sent their sons from faraway countries wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace, after having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.”
– Ataturk, 1934

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What memorial have you visited that made an impact on you? 

camino de santiago: top 10 most memorable

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It’s almost been a year since we embarked on the journey of a lifetime.

Before we started the Way of St James (also known as The Way or the Camino de Santiago), we had no idea what impact it would have on us; almost 365 days on, we can tell you.

Each and every day since we returned, we still think about our time walking the 790-odd km from the south of France to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Anything related to the Camino still pulls at our heartstrings and stirs up the urge for us to return.

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We may have completed it but it never leaves us, not even for a moment. Today we read an article over at Camino Adventures where the author shared his top 10 things about the Camino de Santiago. And maybe it’s because we are almost celebrating our Camino anniversary that we shed a tear.

We were inspired by that post to share our 10 most memorable things:

  1. Fellow pilgrims – hands down – our Number 1 most memorable! Being on the Camino is like being on an alternate world. A world where kindness is normal and so is sharing blister stories. The camaraderie along the way is like nothing we have experienced before. People do the Camino for all sorts of reasons, come from all different backgrounds and have different beliefs and values yet on the Camino everyone can get along. The tales of friendships and generosity are not myths.
  1. Sunrises – waking up and starting the walk before the sun came up meant we were able to witness some striking sunrises. We were always sunset fans but after the 40 days of walking, sunrises mean so much more to us.

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  1. Crossing numerous medieval bridges to enter and leave the villages – we are big FANS of anything historical so to enter a village looking for the basics, usually food and water, we felt like pilgrims from back in the day. It truly felt like we had been sucked into a time warp. The bridges also proved to be stunning structures for photographs.

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  1. Burgos and Leon Cathedral – as we pass through so many villages and towns, we see plenty of churches. Most are part of small villages or towns and are rather modest. Burgos and Leon Cathedral, on the other hand, are the complete opposite. They are lavish and are the centre pieces of their cities. The constructions of these cathedrals would be a history lesson in themselves. Plus the added bonus of seeing Burgos Cathedral on our wedding anniversary is a memory for us for always.

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  1. Beautiful countryside – not a day went by where we weren’t in awe with the scenery around us. Every single day we would soak up everything around us. We captured what we could on camera so we could relive it afterwards. We do that often still to this day. There were mountains, rolling hills, green fields, fields of sunflowers and vineyards. There was NEVER nothing to look at.

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  1. Feeling free and humbled – it was just us and the path. Our biggest concern was when we would eat next. Other than that, we had no worries and nothing to stress about. We did a lot of soul searching and reflecting. We learned a lot about ourselves and about life. We were so humbled to think that we were walking in the footsteps of millions of pilgrims from hundreds of years before us. We were also walking on ancient Roman roads. It really put lots of things into perspective.
  1. Little surprises along the way – we went rather unprepared for the Camino. We trained little and we read very little because we didn’t want to experience the Camino before the Camino. When we stumbled across fiestas, we were excited. When we stumbled across the many different snails, we were excited. When we stumbled across a yellow rubber ducky race, we were excited. There was plenty along the way that we will never forget. Camino12Camino3
  2. Clam shells and arrows – these were creatively displayed along the way to point out where we were to go. Sometimes they were found in the most unassuming places. Seeing a shell or arrow during our lives before this long walk meant nothing, but seeing them nowadays means a completely different thing. It immediately serves as a reminder of our time on the Camino; that we are never lost and that we should always look for the signs, that we should have faith in ourselves and what we are capable of doing.

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  1. The hills – crossing the Pyrenees was meant to be the hardest day of all the Camino; 20-something km all uphill on Day 1. It was unforgiving and brutal but we would do it again in a heartbeat. You see the Camino does this to those who have walked it. It keeps drawing us back no matter how hard it felt. Every day felt like we had a hill to climb up or down with varying gradients. They’re not all hard but they did test our endurance! But yes, we will go back to climb every one again.

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  1. Entering Santiago de Compostela – after 40-odd days of walking through dramatic scenery, a maze of streets, roads and “civilisation” welcomes us. It’s nothing like we imagined where the clouds open up and sing “Hallelujah”. The feeling of arriving at our destination; the cathedral of St James is one we can never truly describe. It was one of sheer disbelief that we walked almost 800 km. It was one of pure happiness and such a sense of achievement. It was also a feeling of the reality that our journey had come to an end. With this much overwhelming emotion, what does one do? One cries! And that is what we did: we hugged each other and cried!

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This journey helped us grow in so many unimaginable ways. We are different because of it! We see life and the world through different eyes. We will go as far as to declare it our BEST travel experience ever. We will walk it again some day.

If you are interested to see any more of our photos from the Camino, check out our photo essays: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

Have you walked the Camino? What would your top 10 be?

Leave us your comments.