S: Europe 2012
1: Germany | Iceland | Switzerland | Sweden
2: For three weeks, from May 11 though May 31, 2012 we were fortunate enough to explore four European Countries. Why? Because Joy chose to get married in the beautiful mountains of Switzerland! Needless to say, there were family and friends that required visiting. Oh yeah, and a long time desire to visit Iceland to fulfill. Would we go back? In a heartbeat!
3: So the journey begins, both of us looking tired, bedraggled yet enthusiastic. The cats, not so much - they were very upset with us.
4: Keflavik, Iceland We spent one day and night in Keflavik on our way to the rest of our European adventure. While not the most exciting city on our tour, it was interesting none the less.
5: Top: Early morning arrival, no sleep and a strange language . . . what could go wrong? Bottom: Iceland Air, our flight of choice for our adventure. The blankets were the highlight! | Left to right: The sleepy town of Keflavik, we were the only ones awake. Dairy looks very different here. Someone knows what their heritage is . . . long live the Vikings!
9: Frankfurt, Germany No visit to Germany can be complete without visiting at least SOME family. Luckily we were able to find one day that Verena was able to host us. Being as this was Mike's first European trip an extended walking tour of the City Centre ensued - in spite of Kirsten being horribly sick! Frankfurt has always been, and will alway continue to be one Kirsten's favorite cities, and Verena will always be a favorite cousin :)
12: Top: Kirsten and Verena on the River Main Bottom Left: engraved locks on the bridges crossing the river (better than graffiti and space for everyone :) Bottom Right: Statue of Struwell Peter
14: Swizerland The whole purpose of this trip was to attend Joy and Cam's wedding. Two days were spent in the beautiful Swiss Mountains with friends, beauty and happiness. Of course this would be the few days in which taking a trip to the Hospital was considered (should have, but never did) . . . Kirsten eventually recovered anyway. Interlaken and Lauterbrunnen, two of the most beautiful towns!
15: Interlaken: town of lakes, mountains, beauty and paragliding
20: The big event! Everything was amazing, from the venue, to the food and everything in between. Joy was radiant, Cam was obviously excited, Mike and Kirsten were happy (albeit getting sicker) and Ansley and her Mike were our constant companions.
21: Kassel Our next stop was the city of Kassel and more of Kirsten's relatives, Michael, Petra and Nicole. Thank goodness for them, the amount of medication they plied K with was amazing, suddenly there was a little more energy and life to be found. We explored, chatted and Kirsten got the opportunity to show of her German skills as Michael and Petra don't speak any English!
22: The Hercules monument is located in Bad Wilhelmshhe, and looks down on Schloss Wilhelmshhe. We drove to the top, hiked down and then discovered that Kirsten was unable to climb back up. After an intense run to the top Nicole and Mike came to pick her up!
24: Oh the wine and food prices in Germany - bottles of wine for just a few Euros!
25: Berlin Not only the capital of Germany also a vibrant and exciting city. We spent a wonderful four days exploring the city, learning the history, and visiting the zoo. Berlin was also one of very few stops in which we didn't have friends or family to visit and we set out with no agenda. This is a city we will be visiting again!
26: Looking out of the TV Tower, in front of the parliament building, the Brandenburg Gate, and looking at the TV tower (in the former East Germany)
28: Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe: A memorial in Berlin to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust. consists of a 19,000 square metres site covered with 2,711 concrete slabs or "stelae", arranged in a grid pattern on a sloping field We both found it to be place for silence and refection.
29: A Marker from the Berlin Mauer (Wall). Mike is half in the East, half in the West! Of course the wall was not as thin as this line, that would have made it to easy to get into the West. | Checkpoint Charlie - the third check point to get into Berlin when the country was divided. I can only imagine the fear every time you drove through the old DDR (Deutsche Demokratische Republik)
32: Berlin Zoo: Berlin is one of the only cities in the world with two city centre zoos - after all, both East and West Berlin had to have one! We spent a great day exploring the West Zoo.
34: Sweden Over the years Kirsten had managed to stay in touch with Annika - a Swedish friend from first year university. So almost 10 years after Kirsten and Annika had last seen each other we were able to stay with Annika, Mats and their little boy Emil! Welcome to Sweden Mike!
35: After we were picked up at the Stockholm International Airport we went over to Annika's parents for lunch with the entire family excluding brother Peter. In the afternoon Annika and Mats took us to Drottningholm Palace. This palace is still the Summer home for the King and Queen of Sweden. They weren't home, so we were able to go to all areas of the gardens. If they'd been home sections would have been closed off to us.
37: We made a little pit stop at the museum café to enjoy each other's company and the antics of little Emil.
38: Stockholm City A city surrounded by water - it is a whole bunch of islands after all! We spent the day wandering through Old Stockholm and for lunch we stopped in a square. We then made our way over to the new parts and eventually made it to a café for sweets and coffee/tea.
39: City of narrow alleys, hidden nooks and busy cobble roads!
42: Let's be honest, Emil must have been the cutest person we saw the whole trip! What a sweet and happy little boy.
43: Reykjavik The last city on our whirlwind adventure was the Capital of Iceland, good old Reykjavik (try saying that five times fast!). We had a 5 day stay, but of course managed to get out of the city as well. We wandered, shopped, explored, ate, found a great pub (and watched Sweden win Eurovison), and just had a great time. The weather was grey and cool most days, but Kirsten still managed to get a sunburn!
44: Exploring the city of Reykjavik.
45: The Reykjavik waterfront.
48: Hallgrímskirkja What a building! Hallgrimskirkja is built from concrete (as are many buildings in Iceland - they don't have their own wood for building). It is the largest Church in Iceland and you can see the entire city of Reykjavík from the bell tower. It was such an impressive building and makes a great landmark, as long as you know where the Church is, you can find your way back to your accommodations :)
50: Horseback Riding and the Blue Lagoon One of the day trips we decided to take was a combination of two half day trips. We started our day riding the beautiful Icelandic Horse and then soothed our tired bodies in the healing waters of the Blue Lagoon.
51: The Icelandic Horse is a small breed, that is very hardy and long-lived. They have a unique gait called the tolt, which is a four-beat lateral ambling gait. We had a great time riding thought the lava fields of Iceland.
52: Catching some sun and warming up. The water was super warm - in some places you had to be careful that you didn't burn! It was this afternoon that was the cause of Kirsten's infamous Icelandic sunburn!
53: The waters of the blue lagoon really are a milky blue - this is due to the silica found in the water. By the time we left we both felt relaxed and refreshed.
54: The Golden Circle
55: One of the things we really wanted to do was to see the area known as the Golden Circle. Most tourists do it, and with good reason. You get to see Gullfoss, Pingvellir, Geysers, Crater lake, the point of separation between the North American and European tectonic plates and a Steam Power plant. All in ONE day! Early in the morning (okay, 8 am) we loaded onto a bus and started driving. We hiked, explored and were amazed. The cameras were out most of the time and we saw tons! We were lucky enough to hike through the lava fields and from a distance observed a geothermal power plant (later we got to go in one!). Everywhere we hiked you could smell sulfur from the hot water being piped to the cities (they add Sulfur to prevent the pipes from corroding) where the water arrives still hot. In Reykjavik you never have to wait for hot water, it arrives at your house hot!
56: Pingvellir was the established site of parliament in Iceland from 930-1789. Apparently all people would meet once a year to work out disputes amongst them selves. They also set up the rules for everyone to follow. It was quite interesting learning how the Icelandic parliament was run and to see the separation between the tectonic plates all in one stop!
59: Gullfoss (Golden Falls) is a treat to the eyes for as one first approaches the falls, the crevice is obscured from view, so that it appears that a mighty river simply vanishes into the earth. The power of Gullfoss is astounding, even to someone who grew up near Niagara Falls! The rushing water, the illusion of it just disappearing and the mist permeating everything. What an experience!
60: Geysers As part of our tour we got to see Geysers, both inactive and active. Perhaps one of the most interesting historically is Geysir, the one that all other Geysers are named after. Geysir erupts very infrequent now, sometimes even stopping for years at a time. When Geysir does erupt, the column of water can go up to 70 m high! | Even though we didn't get to see Geysir in action, we did see several eruptions from Strokkur. Strokkur erupts about every 4–8 minutes 15 – 20 m high, sometimes up to 40 m high. Even after several eruptions neither Mike nor Kirsten stopped being impressed. Where ever we were, we'd stop and turn to watch!