We Discovered The World Together – RTW Family Travel 20 Years Later

I was 11, tall for my age, lanky, a bit shy, and perpetually curious.  I wasn’t a huge fan of school and found the whole thing awkward but, I had my core group of friends and powerful interests.  I was introduced to travel before I could walk – carving long furrows in the golden sands of Puerto Penasco’s pristine beaches while joining Dad in our inflatable Sea Eagles for light boating.  That relationship to travel persisted as I grew up first in Colorado, and then moved at the age of six to Sedona, Arizona. We’d camp, we’d hike, and when not making trips to Puerto Penasco, Mexico we’d spend time in the San Juan Mountains in Colorado.

It was a great childhood, and yet, I was far from outdoorsy. My passions and interests were equally dedicated to our computer. I spent as many afternoons and evenings as I could hogging the computer, and later as we got access to the web, the phone line as I battled through the nail- biting sounds of an old dial-up modem.  My folks were concerned that my social growth might be impacted or that I was rotting my brain – luckily, they’ve come around and in the interim made sure there was ample non-digital stimulation to keep things balanced.

So it was with some shock and disbelief that I received the news that we’d be renting our house and leaving everything behind for 11 months.  There wasn’t much warning. I didn’t really know what to expect, and at the age of 11, I’m not sure you even really properly understand what a trip 11 months long could possible entail. I vaguely remember thinking it was the end of the world and a grand new adventure.  At a certain level I think it felt like I was moving, more or less never to see my friends again.

Use Exciting History Podcasts To Revolutionize Your Travel

Exciting history podcasts. That’s right. I used those three words in one sentence without a hint of sarcasm or satire. They’re few and far between, but they do exist and holy smokes will they surprise you and revolutionize how you understand world history and the destinations you’re visiting.

Unless you were a history major (and even then), chances are good that you haven’t done a deep dive into a specific region or civilization’s history since you were a kid.  The history you got as a kid was useful, but also likely full of holes and deeply biased. Upon landing in a new city, it’s common to do a very shallow and cursory dive into the city/country/region’s history but that rarely goes beyond “This wall was built by the Roman Emperor Hadrian in 122 AD.”  Who was Hadrian?  Where does he fit in the greater Roman history?  Why was he building a wall? Who the hell knows. For most of us those are the mysteries that are lost to time – both in the sense that even if we did know the answers we likely forgot them, and if we didn’t …. well, time is precious and even those of us with a desire to read historical texts like Meditations or in-depth period histories rarely find (or make) the time for them.

2014 – A Year of Travel In 65 Color Photographs

As 2014 comes to a close it is time to look back over the year and to highlight some of my favorite photography. In 2014 I traveled less far-afield than during previous years but simultaneously spent more time familiarizing myself with the intimacies and breadth of texture present within Denmark. The image above is of the the Sand Buried Lighthouse, Rubjerg Knude, in North Jutland, Denmark. I’ve started this post with it because it embodies the spirit of this post; the re-discovery and excavation of memorable photos that might otherwise get lost beneath the persistent march of the sands of time. With this post I’ll be dusting away the sand and re-visiting highlights from a gorgeous year. I hope you enjoy the photos.

Pure Beauty in Berlin – Weekly Travel Photo

Berlin - Beautiful Marbles

One of my favorite things about Berlin is Museum Island. It embodies the type of cultural dedication to art and history that I wish all cities, cultures and nations shared and emulated. For those unfamiliar with it, it is essentially an island in the heart of Berlin which has a number of Berlin’s finest museums situated on it. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. Each has its own architecture, collections and focus.

This photo comes from the Alte Nationalgalerie (Old National Gallery) and is of one of my favorite marble statues. Not just favorite from the collection, but favorite among all of the various marbles I’ve seen around the world. There’s just a beauty and elegance to her that I find enchanting. The piece is titled the Seated Victoria, Throwing a Wreath and dates back to the early 1830s. The sculpture was carved by Christian Daniel Rauch.

If you make it to Berlin, definitely set aside a day or two to explore the island completely. There’s a lot to see and it is well worth the time!

Would you like to see previous Friday Photos? View past travel pictures here. This photo was taken on a Canon T3i (600D) Camera using a Canon IS 55-250mm lens.

Berlin’s Dramatic Contrast Explored Through Art

Berlin is famous for a plethora of reasons.  Of those one of the most well known is its character.  It is a wild city of contrasts both within the city limits and when explored alongside greater Germany as a whole.  In August I had the chance to re-visit one of Europe’s most famous cities.  Instead of detailing the experience in words I’ve decided to mix it up a bit and to explore it through art and color.   The photos in this post were taken at the various museums on Museum Island, at the Berlin Wall and Hackescher Markt Station.

TRADITION

 

Berlin - Beautiful Marbles

Berlin - Beautiful Marbles

Berlin - Beautiful Marbles

Berlin - Beautiful Marbles

Berlin - Beautiful Marbles

Berlin - Beautiful Marbles

Berlin - Beautiful Marbles

Berlin - Beautiful Marbles

HISTORY REBORN

 

Berlin Wall - Graffiti

Berlin Wall - Graffiti

Berlin - City Graffiti

Berlin - City Graffiti

Berlin Wall - Graffiti

Berlin - City Graffiti

Berlin - City Graffiti

Berlin Wall - Graffiti

Berlin Wall - Graffiti

Berlin Wall - Graffiti

ANCIENT HISTORY

 

Berlin - Beautiful Marbles

Berlin - Historic Artifacts

Berlin - Historic Artifacts

Berlin - Historic Artifacts

These are only a limited slice of all Berlin has to offer. What are your own personal favorite parts of Berlin?  Have anything I absolutely must visit next time I return to Berlin?

Why Denmark – Ask Alex – Travel Question Wednesdays

Ask Alex - Travel Question Q and A every Wednesday

This post is part of the Ask Alex, Travel Question Wednesdays weekly series. To see previous questions click here. To submit your own; tweet it to @AlexBerger, ask it in a comment on this post or send it in by e-mail.

This week’s travel question is from Lindsay who asks,

Q. “Alex, why visit Denmark over England, France, Germany? Make your case.

A. – That’s a difficult one!  Over the last 10 months I’ve fallen in love thoroughly with Copenhagen, and the parts of Denmark I’ve seen.  However, it’s a relatively small country and geographically fairly uniform.   You won’t find the awe inspiring fjords, clifftop castles, or the soaring spires of the alps. What you will find are beautiful cities awash in vibrant colors which are populated by wonderful, friendly, happy and sincere people.  As most of my time spent here in Denmark has been in the late fall/winter I’ve stayed on the island of Zealand where the capital city, Copenhagen is located.  It will not be until later this spring that I have the opportunity to head to the mainland (Jutland) and the country’s many smaller islands to explore Denmark more completely.

The Danes have a rich history and heritage.  Their flag is the oldest flag in the world.  They were the launching point for the Viking explorers, raiders and conquerors that explored the globe and left a lasting mark everywhere they visited.  More recently they have invested heavily in alternative technologies, education and culture.  All of these elements come together to create a landscape that is distinctly Danish.  Danish artists, architects, musicians, and intellectuals have been incredibly influential on the international stage for hundreds of years – an incredible accomplishment given Denmark’s small population and challenging geography.  Each of these factors shapes and crafts the Danish experience and what you will find when you visit the country.

That said, I would not necessarily call Denmark an exclusive destination country.  It is possible to visit England, France or Germany as the sole destination for a 2+ week trip and leave feeling like you still missed a lot.  With Denmark I think you would find it to be a wonderful, rich, experience but one which might lack the diversity and fast-paced stimulation that you typically want out of a 2-3 week trip.  I believe a good illustration of why this is the case is Copenhagen.  As I mentioned earlier, I’ve fallen in love with the city.  It is beautiful, it is charming, it feels cozy, and it has a lot to offer.  However, it’s what I would call a 4 day or 8 week city. The primary tourist attractions in Copenhagen – Nyhavn, the Opera House, Tivoli, the Little Mermaid, Christiania, etc. – can be seen fairly easily over the course of 2-3 days.  A week or a week and a half would be far too long for a casual visit. However, for those who have several weeks to spend and who want to immerse themselves in Copenhagen, the city has a lot to offer.  Copenhagen has an amazing music scene, wonderful festivals, an incredible outdoor, park and BBQ lifestyle in the summer, charming coffee shops and a wealth of small stores and quirky side streets that draw you in and leave you hankering for more.  In summer it is a wonderful cafe city with its ancient cobblestone streets, a young, gorgeous population, vibrantly painted multi-colored buildings, bikes everywhere, and a wealth of outdoor cafes.  The city’s numerous canals and lakes also give it an Amsterdam-like feel, but in a uniquely Danish fashion.

So, to answer your question – I would suggest Denmark, but I would suggest it as part of a larger visit.  Round trip flights to Copenhagen from Berlin, Germany can often be found for less than $70 USD.   Flights from England and France are often only slightly more expensive making it hard to justify not including Copenhagen in an itinerary.

Would you like me to elaborate on an aspect of this response?  Let me know!

Have a question of your own? ASK IT! Want to see previous questions? click here.

Revisiting 17 of My Favorite Photos From My 2007 Europe Trip

September 11th 2007 I caught a plane to Europe with a one way ticket and and the butterflies of uncertainty fluttering away in my chest.  What followed was a three month trip that started in Scotland and wound its way down through Europe to Crete before looping back up to fly home from Athens on December 12th of that year. At the time I shot on a Canon Powershot G6. I was recently looking back through some of my old photos and decided to touch up the color on a few of the shots and re-post them.  Here are 17 that made the cut.  Enjoy!

Glencoe

Number 1 – Glencoe Valley, Scotland

Scottish Castle

Number 2 – Eilean Donan Castle, Scotland

 Scottish Waterfall

Number 3 – Unknown Scottish Waterfall, Scotland

Big Ben in London

Number 4 – Big Ben, London England

German Fairytale Castle

Number 5 – Neuschwanstein, Fussen Germany

German Foggy Forest

Number 6 – Woods Near Neuschwanstein, Fussen Germany

Swan Lake in Germany

Number 7 – Swan Lake near Neuschwanstein, Fussen Germany

Plitvice Lakes Croatia

Number 8 – Plitvice Lakes, Croatia

Plitvice Lakes Croatia

Number 9 – Plitvice Lakes, Croatia

Plitvice Lakes, Croatia

Number 10 – Plitvice Lakes, Croatia

Plitvice Lakes Croatia

Number 11 – Plitvice Lakes, Croatia

Rome

Number 12 – Roman Cathedral, Rome Italy

San Marino at Dusk

Number 13 – San Marino Castle, San Marino

San Marino

Number 14 – San Marino Castle, San Marino

Florence

Number 15 – Ponte Vecchio, Florence Italy

Cinque Terra

Number 16 – Cinque Terra, Vernazza Italy

Cinque Terra

Number 17 – Cinque Terra, Manarola Italy

Always fun going back through old photos and posts and remembering past adventures and magical places!  I hope you enjoyed the shots!

It’s Good to Have Friends

Stave Church, Oslo, Norway

As you’ve probably noticed if you’ve been reading my Scandinavia trip posts, it was one heck of an adventure.  One filled with great food, amazing natural scenery, beautiful cities, fantastic cultures, and wonderful people.  I’d like to dedicate this post as a thank you and as a wonderful illustration of the value and power of social media as a way for coordinating meet-ups and maintaining international friendships.

While I met a lot of great people during my trip and will be keeping in touch with many of them, there are four in particular I owe a huge thank you to.  They opened their homes, treated me to meals, introduced me to their culture, shared their friends and set aside large chunks of time to show me around their cities.  The time spent with each was special and something I hope to reciprocate in the future.

Friends in Oslo

Hildur and Sten – I’ve known Hildur for a number of years and met her initially while she was at Arizona State University getting her undergraduate degree. As school wrapped up and we graduated she headed back to Norway and settled in Oslo. Which worked out great, as Oslo was my gateway to Scandinavia and first real taste of Norwegian culture. Upon my arrival Hildur introduced me to her boyfriend Sten – an awesome guy who volunteered to give me the premier local’s walking tour of Oslo.  Make sure to check out my blog posts from Oslo for an idea of what we covered during my visit.  From Viking museums to Palatial parks we hit them all.

The two really made my time in Oslo special.  They introduced me to a number of amazing local foods, taught me several park games, introduced me to a bunch of great people, and really shared a much better understanding of the city with me.  They also hosted me in their guest room for the duration of my stay.  Thank you!

Kevan in Copenhagen

Kevan – I met Kevan just under a year ago during my Central America trip.  At the time he and another friend where in Mexico to celebrate the New Years.  I rolled in to the hostel fresh off the bus from Guatemala, grabbed a beer and got to know everyone as the New Years festivities wound up. When Kevan noticed I was heading to Denmark/Copenhagen on Facebook he volunteered to show me around and set aside a day and a couple of evenings to introduce me to the town via a great walking tour, his group of friends and a fantastic tour of Copenhagen’s local watering holes.

A gracious and generous host, I really enjoyed the insights Kevan had to offer both into the history of the city, the local culture, and the general history of Denmark as a whole.  It’s an amazing place populated by an incredible people and somewhere I’m eager to re-visit and explore in great depth.  Believe it or not, I even learned a bit more about English as a result of our conversations.  Thank you!

Hamburg Friends

Philipp – Another friend from my Central America trip, I originally met Philipp in Playa del Carmen.  We met at the hostel during my first visit when four of us teamed up to rent a car and then set out to snorkel Dos Ojos, visit Tulum and look for turtles in Akumal.  With just over a day to properly explore Hamburg, Philipp stepped up and took me on a fantastic tour of the city.  The walk was a real kick – from underground tunnels to old Nazi fortresses and golden sand beaches we covered a ton of ground and history.  I was also introduced to a regional Germany drink I’d never had before and had the opportunity to dive into local German fare.

A great guide, he really went out of his way to show me around the city and share some of the more obscure elements of the city’s history with me. While I knew some of Hamburg’s history, I had no idea just how interesting a city it was, or how major a commercial player on the national scene. The tour was great, the food good and the company exceptional.  Thank you!

Bergen from Above, Norway

While still possible, most of these connections would have been nearly impossible to maintain without modern technology and infrastructure.  Without tools like facebook, IM and e-mail I probably would have all lost touch shortly after meeting.  Instead, we’ve been able to maintain our friendships and connect when opportunity permits. That’s an incredible thing, and one I really value and relish.

Each of the four I mentioned in this post showed fantastic hospitality and kindness.  They set a wonderful example and serve as a constant reminder for me, of how important it is to strive to pay-it-forward.  To host, and help travelers and friends when the opportunity presents itself. It’s a wonderful reminder that the little things are sometimes some of the most powerful.

So, on a closing note – thank you all once again!  I can’t wait to see when and where our paths cross next.