What I really enjoy about the European Union is being able to travel without passport from one country to another. I still remember what is was like when you had to show your ID and pass a border simply for traveling through a then-devided Germany. We must never go back.
What is more, thanks to the Euro, you don’t even need a different currency when you travel from Germany to France, for example. I just recently enjoyed the beautiful landscape, cool castles, and picturesque villages of Alsace.
View of the Drachenfels with the castle from Bad Honnef
We have a saying in Germany: Why travel far? If you look closely, you can find the best close to home.
While I like exploring foreign countries and places, I also enjoy hiking in my current “backyard”. The hiking trails of the Siebengebirge start literally just up my street.
The Siebengebirge, or Seven Hills, is a mountain range next to the Rhine River, and of volcanic origin. The highest is the Ölberg (461 m, 1509 ft), so I guess I would not really speak of “mountains”. But they nevertheless make for a nice hike, especially if you start at the bottom and do not drive half way up.
I love the lush greens and quite solitude of the trails and the forest. There are so many different hiking trails, that even on an Easter weekend, you don’t run into too many people.
Yesterday, I finally got to hike up to the Ölberg – and the view was spectacular.
There is a cute little restaurant on top of the Ölberg. It is very popular, so for a Sunday brunch, you would have to make a reservation. In the afternoon, though, I had no problem finding a table.
Exactly at this time a year ago, I spent a few days near Edinburgh, Scotland. I didn’t have time to do a lot of sightseeing, but still managed to get around a bit and take in some beautiful views of the city.
There is, first and foremost, Edinburgh Castle, sitting in the middle of Edinburgh on a hill. You have a nice view of the city and beyond from up there.
Of course it was packed with tourists, so I didn’t go in – but the ice cream sold at the truck on the square in front of the castle was super tasty.
Since I also like to go off the beaten path a bit, I took a bus to Inverleith and walked to Inverleith Park. It is a place where people play all kinds of sports, or walk their dogs, or have fun with their kids. Plus, you have a nice view of the city as well.
Cherry Blossom, Washington, DC, 2013, Jefferson Memorial in the background
It’s the time of the year when people have something special in mind when they visit Washington, D.C.: the cherry blossoms. In 1912, the Mayor of Tokyo gave the US about 3,000 cherry trees – after the first batch of about 2,000 trees from Japan turned out to be infested with insects.
The trees were planted around the Tidal Basin and are blooming every spring.
It was writer and National Geographic legacy Eliza Scidmore who originally had the idea of planing the cherry trees in the new park that was built at the end of the 19th century, to the West and the South of the Washington Monument.
The Spanish moss was my favorite in Savannah, Georgia. You can see it hanging from the trees in Forsyth Park (pictured above), but also, most beautifully, at Wormsloe Historic Site. Not far from Savannah, this is the place where the first settlers arrived from England in 1733. A “Spanish Moss Avenue” is leading to the ruins and a little museum, where you can learn more about life in the 18th century.
I only spent two nights in Savannah back in April 2016, but really loved the place, having never been to Georgia before.
There is a lot to explore in the city itself, with its beautiful houses, parks, and a lot of restaurants, some of them featuring Southern cuisine. (Yes, I did try fried okra, but have to admit, I am not really a fan.)
On a must-see-list of the US is, of course, Mount Rushmore – the “majestic figures of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln” carved in a mountain. It is definitely worth a visit, but there is much more to see in the “Mount Rushmore State” South Dakota I realized when explored the area in 2013.
Another impressive mountain is the Crazy Horse Moutain, where in 1947 Chief Henry Standing Bear and sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski started an undertaking that is still going on today: Carving the likeness of the Lakota Leader Crazy Horse into a mountain.
You can take a tour close to the mountain, and I would also recommend attending the Legends in Lights laser show in the evening (from Memorial Day through September). It is quite the spectacle, when the mountain becomes a giant screen for a laser show.
And then there are, of course, the Badlands , a spectacular mountain range you can explore hiking.
The view north from the 7th floor of what actually is the city hall, overlooking the historic district of Innsbruck.
If you have a chance to spend a few hours in Innsbruck, Tyrol, Austria, here is what you can do: Have lunch overlooking the city (featurephoto) at the Lichtblick Restaurant . The food is awesome, locals eat here, and the view from the seventh floor of the building (that actually is the city hall) is spectacular, even if the clouds are low. If you look south, you can see the Bergisel ski jump.
The 360° Cafe next to the “Lichtblick” has an even better view, but smoking is allowed there, so I preferred to have lunch in the restaurant.
From there, it is just a short walk to the famous Golden Roof (Goldenes Dachl), the symbol of the city of Innsbruck. It is tiled with 2,657 fire-gilded copper shingles. Currently, you can only admire it from the outside, since the museum is closed until Feb. 19, for preparations for the 500th anniversary of the death of Emperor Maximilian I.