Europe

we would go back to iceland

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It’s early October and the long summer days are no more. The chance of spotting the northern lights increases while the temperature decreases. The days are getting shorter and the blue skies are fighting to be seen.

Iceland is like nowhere else we have been. It is “out of this world” without sounding too cliché.

Our romance with Iceland was ignited when we were welcomed with nature’s light show on the evening of our arrival. We couldn’t believe our luck when the day we flew into Reykjavik there was not a single cloud in the sky. It was only the night before we arrived, the auroras were so fierce and strong that the mayor switched off the lights in the city for the phenomenon to be experienced by all, not just the over-zealous aurora-hunters.

Our number one travel wish list item was finally ticked off.

We know we are very fortunate to have witnessed the aurora borealis in all of her dancing glory. The following 7 nights, Aurora became shy and only appeared briefly or poked out occasionally behind dense  clouds.

How do we begin to describe the sheer beauty of this country?

Jam-packed in its modest 103,000 km2 are massive glaciers and mountains sprawled across the horizon; waterfalls gushing loudly and proudly; thermal activity performing on cue. Even the knowledge of the volcanoes impatiently rumbling nearby with the earthquakes increasing in frequency and strength didn’t hamper our spirits. This country was truly something special and in a league of its own.

Every time we stopped to get that little bit closer to nature, we were greeted with harsh winds wanting to leave our cheeks numb and our teeth chattering. It didn’t matter though, we were easily distracted by what we saw.

Maybe we’ll just show you a little bit of what we saw.

Aside from the beauty of the country, the people are welcoming, friendly and frank. The food is also great but we might leave that for another post. And well, the language and pronunciations had us equally fascinated!

Our experience in Iceland was unforgettable, although we do wish the prices were forgettable. Ha! Thus is travel… One of these days we will be back for those long summer days, expensive or not!

Have you been to Iceland? What is your opinion? 

Feel free to leave us any comments here.

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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?