Wednesday, February 18, 2015
This is most likely going to be the last proper travel post on the UK that I'll be writing for a long time and I'm not quite sure how to feel about that. On the one hand, it's a pretty good feeling to see my list of places that I'm long overdue to write about start to dwindle down. But on the other hand, it does feel like a chapter of my life is coming to an end. I have a few more posts to write about Norway, but once they're published I'm done writing about my year studying abroad and I guess to me that means that this adventure will be over.
The last time I visited my boyfriend in London, we went on a little trip to Brighton. We had talked about going together for ages, but it wasn't until the very last possible moment that we managed to get ourselves down to the sea. Brighton is about an hour south of London and pretty much the stereotypical example of what you imagine an English seaside town to look like. Brighton is pretty rough around the edges, but it definitely has its own unique charm and it exudes a quirky vibe unmatched by any other place I love in England that makes it refreshingly down-to-earth.
Monday, February 16, 2015
Last week, we drove up to Frankfurt to visit my parents and used the occasion to go on a little walk in the Taunus mountains. I'm not in the mountains a lot anymore and so going on a hike again was a great break from the study-intensive few weeks before. The Taunus is a low mountain range just north of Frankfurt and a popular recreational area for people of the region. We used to go there a lot when I was a child, but back then I definitely failed to appreciate the beauty of the German mountains or rather the appeal of their hiking paths and it had been years since I properly had visited the last time.
We took the underground (that is actually an overground for more than half of its route) right to the foot of the mountains and set out on a lovely little tree-lined path. It was a gorgeous day with air that had that sort of clarity that is so characteristic for a bright winter's day and the light of the sun was kissing the sparse tree tops. After weeks of grey, uninspiring skies that made you detest winter and long for spring, it was a revelation to feel the sun lift our spirits and we weren't the only ones that were out and about to make the most of the day.
The trees along the path quickly grew denser and with the sun hiding behind thick clusters of branches, the light quickly started to disappear and soon we found ourselves in one of the dark fairytale forests of our childhoods in which you suspect trolls hiding behind rocks and witches tracking your moves to put a spell on you.
The path rised gently and with every meter that we climbed there seemed to be more snow on the ground. We had had no idea that there would be any snow at all and so we were very delighted to have the opportunity to escape to a veritable winter wonderland at least once during this season.
With the snow, there also came the people. We were passed by sleds occasionally - more often ridden by adults than by kids! - and I
After an hour of walking we finally reached a mountain ridge where the trees started to clear a little bit and the sun illuminated the pure freshly fallen snow. Is there anything more beautiful than snow shimmering in sun light? I can't think of a lot things!
While I was furiously snapping away at the beautiful scenery - it's been a while since I felt that inspired by photography and the insane amount of pictures in this post is only a little collection of all the photographs I really took that day - I was reminded of this beautiful shoot I had seen a few months earlier and it kind of made me wish I would have brought a ball gown up to the mountains: Wouldn't this be an absolutely stunning scenery for a fashion editorial?
My boyfriend remarked that the landscape looked more like an advertorial for winter vacationing in the Alps than what you would expect to find in Central Germany and I definitely had to agree. Unfortunately, the Taunus isn't always this prettily covered in snow - in fact, snow is probably the exception rather than the rule - but that made the timing of our visit all the more special.
We took a little break at the Fuchstanz, a mountain pass and the highest point of our walk, and treated us to a cup of hot apple wine, a local speciality, in the hopes that it would warm us up a little bit. It also seemed like we were joined by half of Frankfurt as walkers kept on pouring in from the other paths.
We started to descend on the other side of the mountain and eventually spotted a clearing between the trees. Curiously we strayed off the path (I know that Gandalf told us not to, but the magic of Mirkwood was too strong!) and suddenly a beautiful overlook of the landscape opened up in front of us:
We found our way back to the path - no enchanted rivers or creepy spiders for us - and continued to follow it down the mountain. The amount of snow started to decrease again while the signs of the closest town became more and more apparent until we found ourselves in our final destination, Kronberg, just as the sun was setting and hopped on a train back to the city.
The mountains of Central Germany may not be the mountains of Norway, but a day spent outside in nature is always a good idea!
Do you get a lot of snow where you're living?
Friday, February 13, 2015
I haven’t exactly tried to keep it a secret on this blog that I love the UK. The first trip I ever blogged about was an epic two-week whirlwind through Scotland and ever since then I’ve been going on and on about how I believe that England and Scotland are two of the most beautiful places on earth for me (haven’t been to Wales yet, so I can’t weigh in on that).
One of the things that continues to astound me about this love is just how much it extends to smaller cities: Oxford and Bath are both towns that I've visited time and time again, while York had my heart from the moment I first laid eyes on its medieval architecture - I've never felt this way about small towns in Germany! So it should come as no surprise that I though that Cambridge was very lovely as well.
I had been to Cambridge once before, but back then my aim had been to check out the university and not to do sightseeing and so I was definitely due for another visit. The university - or rather, the individual colleges - are obviously a big part of what makes Cambridge so attractive for visitors, but only having to appreciate the outer beauty of a place is definitely a different experience from trying to figure out if a place could be right for your further education.
We took the train from London - an easy 45-minute ride from Kings Cross - and after strolling through the Cambridge city centre for a bit made our way to King's College. King's College is one of the most iconic colleges of Cambridge and was founded over six hundred years ago by King Henry VI, one of the tragic figures of English history. Its most prominent feature is a Gothic cathedral that almost seems more befitting as the main sight of a town and not the grounds of a university college and so there was no question that we wanted to have a closer look at the college grounds.
The visitor entrance was directly by the cathedral and when we entered, an orchestra and a choir were in the midst of rehearsal. The music followed our steps as we walked through the House of Prayer and it created a special atmosphere in which we pointed out different old royal insignias to each other.
From the cathedral we stepped into a large courtyard that was rimmed by historic buildings of the college on all sides. It was almost hard to remember that people actually live, work and study on these grounds and that the main significance of the college didn't stem from its looks, but from the academic achievements made there since its establishment.
My favorite thing in Cambridge were the large amounts of green spaces all over the city: I'm a country girl at heart, so I love a good park - it makes every city less stuffy. Every college seemed to have its own perfectly immaculate green space (what else do you expect in England?) and they added a great countryside feeling to a place otherwise made completely of stone.
We exited King's College at the river Cam, watching other visitors on their punting tours as we were crossing. Punting is a popular activity in Cambridge and we contemplated going on a little boat tour ourselves, but it was a chilly day and we were feeling cheap and so we decided to postpone it to some other visit.
We had a look at Clare College, King's College's next door neighbor, but quickly headed back to the river where a path following along the stream eventually led us to glorious Trinity College.
The sun finally decided to make a proper appearance and seeing the amount of colorful little crocuses that had started to bloom felt like a revelation to me after the long and dark winter in Norway. With the blue sky and the puffy clouds, the setting of the college was incredibly peaceful and we admired the architecture that seemed so very British to me.
We kept on walking until we eventually found a bridge that led us back to Cambridge's city centre - don't understand the difficulty of finding a way back over the river: Everytime you need a bridge, you probably won't find one. We grabbed some sandwiches and I narrowly escaped a handbag purchase at the Cambridge Satchel Company which I now sorely regret: They had a pretty good outlet collection of bags with tiny flaws that are very nicely reduced. Just a little heads up to all the fashionistas out there!
Thinking that we could do with some more culture, however, we headed to St. John's College whose grounds we had already spotted from across the river at Trinity College. Visiting St. John's is a little bit like taking a walk back through time. In comparison to many other colleges, the buildings represented many different architectural styles: Some were constructed in the Tudor style, others in the Georgian and there were even some modern buildings. Needless to say, the most modern ones where also the least remarkable.
We passed the Bridge of Sighs that was modeled after the original one in Venice and reached the college's green space just as the sun began to set. The golden light was illuminating the yellow stone of the buildings and knowing that the evening was soon upon us, we started to walk back to the train station.
I have to admit: Cambridge is beautiful and very well worth a visit. But when it comes down to it, I probably prefer Oxford a little bit more - but maybe it's just because of Harry Potter! ;)
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