BC: Dear Customs, It is with deepest regards that we send this letter of apology. In going through the large number of photos from our visit to Europe, it turns out that we might have forgotten to mention something on our customs form. You see, we might have actually come in contact with a farm animal or two. We might have even stepped foot on a farm (and even some farm equipment, and maybe even the actual field where the potatoes are grown). But, you see, with all of the stresses of traveling in a foreign country and being sleep-deprived, and thoroughly entranced from the wonders of our nine day vacation, well...the mind can sometimes forget things, rather conveniently I might add. So, again, we regret to inform you that we just might have forgotten to mention that important fact to you upon returning to the U.S. Let's just let sleeping dogs lie, shall we? Or should I say, sleeping cows, chickens...ahem, um, nevermind.
FC: EUROPE 2009 5 countries, 9 days, 2 great traveling companions | Kalmar, Sweden 2009
1: Favorite Places | Apoteket-=Pharmacy | This book is dedicated to my eyes. They came. They saw. They oozed. They itched. But they did not for a moment cease to behold the wonders of Europe. "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes." Marcel Proust
2: The trip began on July 13, 2009. Mya and I met at Dulles airport and took a 6 pm flight. We arrived 7.5 hours later, 7:30 am Belgium time, on July 14. Angela was our welcoming party, having arrived a few days earlier to stay with family. We quickly exchanged some money, rented a car, and headed north towards Denmark, via The Netherlands and Germany.
3: This was our first impromptu stop on our VERY long drive from Brussels to Copenhagen. We made a point of looking for something "off the beaten path." you know, not so touristy. Turned out to be the quaintest little hometown, equipped with an authentic windmill and a darling little sweets and coffee shop. Denekamp, The Netherlands.
4: A few hours later we took another detour from the highway and ventured upon one of the oldest castles in Germany | d | Had we arrived a few hours earlier, we would have been able to eat a fancy lunch inside the castle walls.
5: But instead, we wandered down the street about a half mile and found what I thought was going to be a not very impressive European style hotdog joint. I took a gamble and ordered what the guy in front of me was having, which looked amazing, but I had no idea what was in it (little did I know this would be the way of ordering things during the whole trip, considering most menus were not in English). Turns out, what I ordered was a Doner (Turkish gyro), and it was a little piece of heaven...every bite! Angela and Mya enjoyed their sausages nearly as much (pictured in the middle below).
6: COPENHAGEN, DENMARK | One of the best ways to see a port city is by boat, of coarse! For only about 20 dollars, we took a 90 minute tour of the canal area, taking in the centuries old architecture and locals lounging on their lunchbreaks.
7: Our tiny little hostel room. The only thing you can't see in the picture is the bathroom (just barely big enough for a toilet and "shower"). | There was an icebar that we wanted to explore, but it was too expensive. So, we took a picture and then sat in the posh outdoor patio area which was perfect for our tired little feet.
8: One of my absolute favorite times of the whole trip to Europe was at Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen. Admission to the park was grossly overpriced (kind of like paying to go to Epcot Center in Florida only so you can turn around and pay big bucks to eat in expensive restaurants inside the park). However, the free pantomime show at the outdoor theater made me forget all my complaints. I was in awe at the magical performances of the actors.
9: Smorrebrod a popular Danish dish, essentially an open sandwich topped with cold cuts (meat or fish), cucumber, boiled eggs, thinly sliced cheese and tomato. I had one topped with shrimp salad (not pictured) | After skimming the menus of each of the dozen or so restaurants serving Smorrebrod along the waterfront, we finally settled ourselves at the one we felt offered the best for our money and enjoyed the delectable dish. Though the service was less than hoped for (we waited an hour and a half for our food), we did at least find ourselves in the perfect spot for enjoying the traveling musicians who set up camp just outside our dining area.
10: We saw this cute little guy for sale among the street vendors in Copenhagen's touristy shopping district. | After grabbing some ice cream for a mid-afternoon treat, we sat on the edge of the seawall and relished in the tranquility of the day. | Copenhagen: One of the most expensive places we visited, but definitely full of good times! | Trying on Viking gear in a fun little AIR CONDITIONED store. For some reason, much of Europe is not chilled indoors. | Here we are showing our "Congressional Spirit"...after all, we do all work together at a FABULOUS school:).
11: Malmohus, Sweden We stopped at the Malmohus castle on our way from Copenhagen to Ranarp, Sweden. It was built in 1434 but underwent major reconstruction in the 16th century. We were so excited that visitors could walk through the castle rooms and corridors, free to photograph and get up close and personal with the artwork on display, including actual 15th and 16th century furniture once used in the castle! Denmark's coins were minted here in the middle ages. Crowne Prince Frederick held wild parties here in the 16th century, and prisoners were beheaded in the courtyard during the 19th century! What a true piece of history to behold! It even had a mote!
12: We took a walk down the road to have dinner with Sven Arne's sister on the Nilsson family farm, in operation for many generations. | We had some tasty Swedish desserts while overlooking the Black Sea from Sven Arne's house. | For our first two nights in Sweden, we stayed in the house of Mya's second cousin, Sven Arne. | Ranarp, Sweden | We saw this sunset on our walk back to the house after dinner. | The second day, after a surprisingly informative tour to several ancestrial sites connected to Mya's famly, we had an amazing lunch and then returned to the house for late afternoon treats. Yes, that's an antique wagon and a real sleigh bed. Sven Arne has a bit of a museum set up in part of the house. No joke!
13: Dinner on the farm was quite an event. It was our first real taste of Swedish home cooking, and it put most American restaurants to shame. We were served wild salmon with creme fresh and roe, dill potatoes, and elderflower juice made from elderflowers picked straight off one of the trees on the farm! This was the beginning of one of our favorite sayings for the rest of the trip: Everything is sweeter in Sweden. Truly, it was like visiting the Garden of Eden.
14: While in Ranarp, we visited a shoe store where clogs are made and sold. I got a pair of patent leather pink clogs! | Sven Arne and his family took us to a really nice restaurant for lunch. The food was amazing! I had a burger, but Angela and Mya had a more traditional dish of baked potato topped with shrimp in a cream sauce. | That evening we went out with Sven Arne's niece, Josefina. | We had another terrific meal, saw a bit of the Swedish Open, walked the streets of Bastad, and had the most delicious virgin drinks I've ever tasted while overlooking the docks.
15: Pukeberg was the funny name of a little town we visited on our way from Ranarp to Kalmar, Sweden. It is situated in the center of the Kingdom of Glass in Smaland, Sweden. Again, our luck was with us, as we really had no idea where to stop. All we knew was that there were dozens of signs advertising glass shops. However, we didn't just want a shop, we wanted to see real glass blowing. As you can tell by the pictures, we happened to find just what we were looking for...artist on duty and all!
16: Kalmar, Sweden Such a beautiful place. We were invited to have dinner with Rolf Muller's family and several others involved with the Climate Pilots program like Mya and Angela. Dinner was a fantastic array of eco-friendly food. We even took time afterwards to do some recycling (receptacles were just down the block in the neighborhood...hmmm what a concept!). Afterwards, our new friends, Adam, Tove and her boyfriend took us out for a night on the town!
18: Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip... | That started from this tropic port aboard this tiny ship... Well, ok, so we weren't really in the tropics or taking a 3 hour tour. But, we did take a ferry from Trelleborg, Sweden to Rostock, Germany. A ferry ride that we thought would take 5 hours but after boarding discovered it took 7.5! Alas, we settled into a very reasonably priced cabin, expecting to sleep for most of the ride, but instead had some very stimulating conversation. Then, hours later, headed to the midnight breakfast buffet!
19: We said goodbye to Sweden when we boarded the ferry, but our stomachs had their final Swedish farewells a few hours earlier while partaking of some authentic Swedish meatballs, something we'd been hoping to try but couldn't seem to find on any menus. At least none until we were on our way out of the country! They were so good that we ordered a second plate to share! Everything we wanted and more! | Hamburg, Germany Who wouldn't want to have a hamburger in Hamburg? Well, you can. But, be careful, because you might not get what you expect. Thankfully, our waiter was kind enough to explain the meal beforehand so that there were no surprises. You'll see in the picture that it's not meat on a bun. It's meat ground with potatoes and beets served with a fried egg atop. I didn't think I would like it by the looks or sound of it. But, oh my, was it good!
20: Amsterdam, The Netherlands | The hostel | The friendly bus driver | Drinks in the city | Bikes galore! | Cute boathouse | Best of trip: Anne Frank House
21: Our trip did not end uneventfully. On our last day, we packed up the car and headed south into Brussels. On the way, we stopped at what we think was Europe's version of Virginia Beach. Mya ordered a Pina Colada and unexpectedly received a shot of some yummy concoction instead. Our next stop was going to be at a restaurant that Angela had visited on her last trip to Antwerp, Belgium. It was closed, but we ended up somewhere much better just a few doors down, The Pelgrom. It is set in authentic 15th century cellars, originally used by merchants as a storage place during the two major annual fairs in Antwerp. It's located on a narrow cobblestone street in the old part of town about a 100 meters from the cathedral. Had we another week, I would have stayed in Antwerp. I was drawn to its history and romance.