Berlin & Munich in snapshots

Breathe in, breathe out, release. 
Phew. So after writing my piece on Monday about how much of an emotional (but of course amazing) experience Berlin & Munich was due to the absorption of different museums & memorial sites, there of course is some joy that also needs to be shared. 
Travelling is like anything else in life and needs to be carefully balanced, because after all, what is joy without pain, love without hurt and excitement without fear. We need to experience the bad sometimes to enjoy the beautiful moments in life all the more, which is exactly how we did Berlin & Munich. 
Even though I sobbed for hours at a memorial concentration camp, I then laughed and squealed and spun like a giddy school girl that night when Morgs & I were walking through the magical Christmas markets, and even though we both left the SS headquarters museum with heavy hearts & drowsy heads, we still got out to marvel and explore the beauty that Berlin also had to offer. 
We found love and excitement and beauty all around us in both cities we visited – we had the light stuff with the heavy stuff and the joy with the sadness, we were balanced. 
So here is that balance, the joy, the fun, here is us, in Berlin & Munich telling our story through photos – because after all, a picture truly does tells a thousand words (or in my case, 2,000).
Berlin
Walking with no particular plans and no desire to ‘have to’ be anywhere or see anything leads you to the best parts of a city … we stumbled upon the impressive parliament .. the man candy isn’t too bad either huh!!

Smiling even though it was about -4 and we’d been out most of the day … with Christmas markets to explore though we couldn’t go home just yet …
Morgs FULL of excitement with his first German beer on our first night in Berlin …
Cities by night are always such a beautiful sight & Berlin was no different, we stumbled upon Brandenburg Gate which is where the Berlin wall ran in front of to seperate West Germany from East Germany…
Munich 
On the train, music on, WOWED & SO excited at the first sight of full on snow. One minute it was paddocks of green, then moments later, we were in snow territory. Fun train ride indeed…

Exploring the main square in Munich, on the hunt for the perfect pork knuckle (& sight seeing of course) .. p.s we found the perfect pork knuckle.
We have really, seriously, reallyyyy eaten our way around Europe..& it has certainly been no different in Munich / Germany in general. Morgs sampling the goodies from the many many market stalls
Having the time of my freezing life at the Christmas markets in Germany, this country sure does Christmas markets well, and by well I mean extraordinarily well.
Last night in Germany what else would we do but drink beer .. (& eat pork knuckle of course) 

The crazy beautiful mess & mayhem that is the Christmas markets in Munich..

Emotions in Berlin + Munich

{ Touching a piece of history – The Berlin Wall }
{ Wondering all the stories and secrets this particular piece of wall held – Berlin Wall }
It’s been a little quiet around here for a week but there’s a good reason for that… Germany needed my full and undivided attention, and, when we were done for the day of complete & utter living & being in the moments, I would curl up with Morgs at night and need to have a red wine, watch a movie, journal or read something inspirational, I couldn’t sit & write. Why? Because Germany was so immensely emotionally intense for me. Not in a bad way either, in almost a necessary, it was always going to be that way, kind of way.
This trip, I was by far most excited about my dream destination Santorini, and then my be all and end all country, Spain. However, there has been excitement and anticipation for every day and city along the way also. Every city we have visited we have adored, loved, lived it up, drank it down, belly laughed, explored till our feet hurt and just totally and utterely vibed off the different energies each city has offered – all different, unique & amazing energies at that. But Germany was always going to be a little different for me. Morgs was really, really excited for it, and I was totally as well – for me though, it was alllll about the history, the same can be said for Morgs but he was also excited about the food & beer – understandably. Even the cities we picked in Germany were to make sure we got the most out of what we wanted which was to learn about this countries rich rich history, and oh, oh my did we get just that.
The two most energy zapping, emotional days for me on this whole trip by far came from Germany. Day 1 was in Berlin visiting the Topography of Terror, which is the site where the SS during WW2 had their headquarters and gave the most terrifying orders and tortured people in holding cells. Today it is a well laid out museum that goes through the history of what exactly went on in those inexcusable years through the war (& before) and names and shames the men behind the orders, torture & terror that went on. We thought we’d only spend an hour or so but ended up there all afternoon and in to late evening and heading back to our hostel that night we talked and talked about how could any of this truly have happened.
The second and most emotional day for me however came in Munich when we visited the Dachau concentration camp. It was here that thousands and thousands of innocent men died from execution, starvation, disease and even sick medical experiments. There were moments walking around the site the energy almost felt too strong, too horrifying that it made me have to stop to catch my breathe, or focus all my might to not vomit. There was one particular spot I became so overwhelmed and nauseous and covered in goosebumps I had to leave the area. It came as no surprise moments later reading plaques and information boards around the area I discovered it was the place that 90 Soviet Union prisoner of war men were shot  dead execution style. 
The videos, photos, feelings, and buildings still standing you can walk through today made me sob like I had lost a loved one, the heartache was that bad. I couldn’t understand how man had inflicted such torture and terror upon his fellow man all in the name of … of what? 
There is some good to this story though I promise and it came in an unsurprising manner. 
This is the part where I tell you what was so remarkable to me though, which gave me goosebumps of a different kind, which made my soul soar and heart leap that good did triumph over evil after all. Amongst all that terror in the camps, all the prisoners suffering and pain and inhumane treatment, I saw solidarity amongst prisoners. I saw smiles in photos when the men would gather in what tiny free time they had. I saw brotherly love. I saw men risking their lives for fellow prisoners, picking them up when they’d fallen from exhaustion and carrying them when they had nothing left to give. I saw a fight in their eyes. I saw a determination to not give in, no matter what, even with no rights or dignity. I saw and read of hope, that it would end for them and what they went through wouldn’t be for nothing. 
I saw the human spirit in its most rawest, extraordinary form in every one of those prisoners who supported their fellow men and fought against the indignity.
So I left each of these days, feeling sad and regretful for what had been and what they suffered but inspired that against such evil and injustice there was still freedom in the mens minds to hope and support and hold on. 
With every experience comes lessons however which is the beauty of experiences themselves, no matter how emotional or amazing they are…, and this is what I learnt – I learnt that even though I couldn’t and can’t understand how it was man inflicting terror upon man, soldiers against prisoners, I also saw that it was man who supported man and got each other through. And that was a beautiful thing I got to take away from each of these days. I learnt that it’s so important to have a strong mind, to believe, to hope, to keep human spirit alive even in your darkest days and hours.
I learnt more in those days at the museums and memorial sites than I have ever absorbed from a history lesson in school or test or book or movie and as heavy and committed I got emotionally, I would do it again to further honour the lives that were taken and absorb even more. 
But that’s where I’ve been .. relaxing and recovering from an intense few weeks in Germany, learning in person about our worlds history. It’s been draining but amazing and necessary and I will take away what I felt & learnt and remember it forever. 
I am sharing such honesty and stories with you today because throughout every museum we went too, but particularly the concentration camp the message was clear and the story was the same from the men who died or survived – “we will get through this and when we do, it won’t have been for nothing”. And they did, and it wasn’t. I am sharing my experience to always look back on my opportunity to visit these sites and in my own way, honour & remember the lives lost in both the camps and for our men women who fought the war outside of the camps for freedom. 
With all of that said and done however I have this final thing to say … Even with all the sad things you can learn whilst travelling the world I still say … 
Here’s to traveling…. for the uplifting moments, the sad moments, the extraordinary moments .. and every other moment in between.
{ The gate that prisoners walked through that is said they never knew when they would exit it again … “Arbeit macht frei” – Work will set you free … It was sick but Hitler & the Natzi’s said that concentration camps were ‘protective custody camps’ & ‘re educational camps’ … }

{ The tunnel that was in between the two blocks of prisoner blocks … the pictures of prisoners chatting and hanging together in this exact path is what gave me hope. It is where the prisoners spent their tiny amount of free time keeping each others spirits high }

{ The massive courtyard area in which every prisoner had to stand for hours and hours at a time twice a day for ‘roll call’, even the dead would be dragged out to make sure their numbers were correct. The sick would be marched through here once a day, mainly naked, even in -20 degree weather to ensure their dignity stayed lost, and they stayed sick – tormenting to even think about how horrific this all was }

{ A photo of a packed prisoner block of where they all slept. It was documented that the prisoners had to keep their beds spotless – no spots of blood, sweat, nothing, for that would incur discipline such as being hung on a stake for hours on end in freezing cold. It’s said the level of cleanliness the prisoners had to upkeep in the camp was a form of torture in itself}

{ Standing in one of the rooms, overcome by emotion trying to fathom just how horrific it really was, the view from this window back in 1938 – 1945 was of a concrete wall, as the next prisoner block was just outside the window. There are only 2 blocks standing today with concrete slabs to indicate where the others had gone in a row }

{ A watch tower off in the distance that would shoot to kill any prisoner who crossed in to the escape zone. Where the snow starts and goes for about 5 metres is the zone. If prisoners couldn’t bear the terror any further its documented they’d run in to this zone to be shot deliberately. The other atrocity was that soldiers would throw prisoners hats in to the zone and make them ‘go and get them’ knowing they’d be shot dead’ }

To Paris, with love

Dear Paris,

Wow.

Just wow.

What a remarkable, beautiful, magical, inconceivable, extraordinary city you are. Where do I even begin? 
We arrived by your rail system when the sun had set so got to experience exactly just why you’re called ‘city of lights’ from the minute we arrived. Coming out of the subway and having the Eiffel tower in front of us, lit up like it was is something I will remember forever. 
I can’t quite explain just how you made me feel… it was like it was Christmas eve and I was 7 years old again not able to sleep as I knew how many presents I got to open the next morning…except, I’m not 7 and it wasn’t Christmas eve. I’m 24, it’s November, and there were no presents, just pure & utter exhilaration & adoration for your parks, streets food & sights, the whole city was ours to unwrap and I literally couldn’t sleep from excitement. 
You have this romantic vibe to you that is undeniable, I connected to the energy like it was nobodies business, in fact, you probably saw Morgs & I stop to steal a kiss at one too many of your sidewalks or cafes but I’m sure you’re already used to that. 
I feel like the Champs Elysees & I had a connection, like a real connection – of all the beauty and all the sights and all the wow that you have to offer, I just couldn’t stay away from this street. The Christmas Markets were running along them, which admittedly could have only strengthened the connection. Walking the stalls and stopping every second or third to try a new piece of chocolate, marshmellow, nutella crepe, ice cream or churros really had me adoring the whole experience. 
Oh & don’t even get me started on the ice skating. I sent you such loving vibes after Morgs & I were walking home hand in hand after our night of ice skating. You probably saw me pinch myself more than once, literally, it just didn’t feel real. I adored Morgs did it with me, I think you had something to do with that however, your magic vibe is inescapable. 
I couldn’t name a highlight, no siree, all that we did and all that we saw was so so so amazing and special in it’s own right. Night one, we hadn’t even been in your city 2 hours and we were sailing the Seine River on a luxurious boat, dining on 4 courses of delicious food & too much wine. The whole experience was totally and utterly unforgettable, cruising on a glass boat seeing all the monuments lit up, live music cooing in the background with the wine flowing, it was just too perfect for words. We were also utterly flawed by the live Moulin Rouge show we took in with the champagne flowing a plenty of course. The whole show start to finish had me gasping and oh my god’ing – you really do know how to put on a good night of entertainment. 
I don’t really properly have words to describe my awe, love & fascination with your mighty structure that is the Eiffel Tower. Morgs & I made sure to visit a few times to really soak the whole experience and atmosphere in properly. One of my favourite evenings happened when we decided after a solid 8 hours of exploring your streets and museums that we’d just ‘quickly’ go across the street to visit it again. We ended up sitting there together for about an hour at the base of it just watching everyone get excited that they were there (along with us), and basking in the amazing loving energy all around. The sun set and it lit up right before our eyes. We kissed, laughed and planned future travel right there and then, so thank you from the bottom of my very heart for providing us with that experience. Lets not forget taking the elevator to the very top, my god was that another pinch me moment. There we were, up the top of your magnificent tower literally among the clouds, looking down on Paris falling more in love than ever. It’s one of those stories I will take joy in telling future grandchildren. We were so so lucky to have found an apartment quite literally across the road so took major major delight in going to sleep and waking up with the Eiffel tower right outside our window.Like I said Paris, you are Magical with a capital M.
We climbed your Arc De Triomphe, visited your Louvre, walked through your magnificent parks, ate in your dimly lit, incredibly sexy restaurants….we got exactly what we wanted in all that we did, ate, saw & felt. 
We vibed with you, loved you and just wanted to thank you…for being who you are, and giving Morgs & I some of our most unforgettable memories on what truly is our trip of a lifetime. 
With a heart full of thanks & utter joy & awe,

Anna x







EVER LASTING MEMORIES


Affairs of the heart with San Sebastian

As I’ve mentioned previously, putting in to words just how much we loved Spain and all that it offered up to us is truly hard to put in words and the same has undoubtedly applied to specific towns along the way. Whilst a dream came true in Madrid – I lived the Spanish moment I’d always wished & dreamed for, San Sebastian was equally beautiful in providing us peace, laughs, beauty and relaxation. I thought as an ode’ to this magnificent sleepy town I would list all the things that made San Sebastian so unforgettable.
I loved the beautiful sunshine peaking out from behind the clouds from the moment we arrived.
I loved walking to the apartment in the warm afternoon sun with the man by my side reflecting on how much of an amazing time we’ve shared together so far.
I loved the wonderful surprise of getting to our gorgeous apartment & it being so luxurious. 
I loved exploring the beautiful tree lined streets with bursts of Autumn colours surrounding us everywhere from fallen leaves.
I loved strolling slowly slowly through the small town stopping whenever it pleased us for dessert for lunch, hot chocolate for breakfasts and hot wine to warm us from the inside out.
I loved stumbling upon old town and getting lost in the tiny ally ways for hours and hours.
I loved walking through the old fisherman bay watching the men dock their boats for the day and show off their catch & tend to their tangled nets.
I loved just happening to get to the highest point in San Sebastian by chance right as the sun was setting over the ocean and being able to watch the beautiful sunset and taking the time to plan our next adventure on a whim.
I loved bar hopping in the old quarter to find the best tapas on offer – fact: there are no such thing as ‘the best’ in San Sebastian, it’s alllll delicious. 
I loved sitting on a ledge on the beach for who knows how long with Morgs watching the surfers catch wave after wave. 
I loved being able to go for a pre dawn run along the river and coast and perfectly timing the sunrise on my run home. 
I loved we found churros like we hoped & got to tick ‘eat churros in Spain’ off our list.
I loved sitting on the beach watching the turquiose water break calmy on a warm sunny day. 
I loved that I expected the town to be so much bigger and got a wonderful surprise when it was actually quite small and sleepy.
I loved we packed a delicious picnic and got to nap for a few hours after a plentiful lunch in the warmth of the sun the green grass at our feet in an empty park. 
But most of all?
I just loved San Sebastian. 
Spain, we will be back – thank you for the most extraordinary times and memories that will last the ages.
{ So excited by so many leaves to crunch, luckily I have a loving bf who totally understands my love of leave crunching and allowed this to go on for at least 5 minutes }
{ Walking blissfully around San Seb }
{ San Sebastian by night – beautiful any time day or night }

Dreams coming true in Madrid

I have a confession to make, a confession which, if you are familar with the blog, you will know from previous admissions, but I am a self confessed Control Freak. 

That’s not the confession though. The confession is that somewhere along this big beautiful trip, I let go. I seemed to stop being a control freak. In fact, not only have I relaxed more & given in to whatever goes, well, goes, I have actually loved plans that change or don’t always go according to plan. 
Which is exactly what happened with Madrid.
The booking all along was to fly from Mallorca to Porto in Portugal (then on to San Sebastian), but two weeks out of said flight, we were emailed from the airline saying the flight was cancelled, they could instead get us to some remote part of North Spain (not even in the same country as our original destination!) We said thanks but no thanks & cancelled the booking.

Now. Old Anna would have had a mini break down. Considering how badly I had initially wanted to go to Portugal and were now being told it was impossible from where we had the flight from & time permitting I normally would have been super super upset. Possibly even stewed over it for a day or so. The new me however literally just shrugged my shoulders, and admitted clearly we were just not meant to get there this trip around and the universe has something far greater planned for us…

Cue Madrid. 
For whatever reason, it never got on our original list but with 3 days now available we booked a flight to this unassuming city with a feeling that we were just meant to go there specifically – and as beautiful as hindsight always is – aren’t we glad we did!!
Madrid is truly hard to sum up. Just like I had always imagined San Sebastian to be bigger (post on that to come tomorrow), I had always imagined Madrid to be smaller, but it’s anything but. Not only is it ginormous in size, the city literally has something beautiful to stop & marvel at, or walk through or explore around every single corner, and I truly mean, every single corner. The moment we got there we both knew we just wanted to tread our own path. We stayed away from trip advisor suggestions, tour guides and hotel reccommendations – Madrid was ours and ours alone to explore & take our own incredible memories away from.
We walked, and walked, and walked & walked. We stumbled upon the palace, beautiful botanical gardens, Puerto Del Sole square, humongous shopping streets (la la loved the shopping in Madrid!), and huge squares to sit & drink Sangria in to people watch. There were street markets we got lost in for hours on the Sunday, getting caught up in the hype of shopping among hundreds of spanish people, flicking through old records of 80’s metal – for Morgs of course, and watching old men barter over old basketball cards. 
And then, there was the Flamenco. 
When putting Spain in big bright bold colours as a place we absolutely wanted to see, the way I had always envisioned it was sitting in a small bar, Sangria in hand, with my lover (cue Morgan!) the lights dim with a magnificent Flamenco show going on in front of me, and up until Madrid, a city we weren’t even meant to be in, I hadn’t gotten my Spanish moment. 
For those who aren’t aware, like I wasn’t until we accidently ended up in the city (& Morgans mum who had taught dancing for 30 years telling us) Madrid is actually the heart & soul of Flamenco in Spain…
Let’s just say, I got my Spanish moment. We by beautiful fate found a bar that did shows each night and the night we wanted to go just happened to be the night an award winning Flamenco dancer would be performing. It happened! It really happened just like I always imagined it, without any effort at all. There we were, in a small bar, dimly lit, with Sangria in hand, my lover by my side, and the most incredible performance of Flamenco in front of us and it was in that moment, I cried. I sat there without an embarrassment or care in the world tears streaming down my face. I don’t know if it was gratitude, or the feeling of pure & utter joy from the inside out, or feeling like another dream had just come true, but I didn’t care. I was happy & beautifully living in the moment.
So Madrid, I thank you from the bottom of my heart, not just for being an incredibly beautiful, remarkable city, and not just for the delicious and amazing food on offer, but for giving me my Spanish moment I had always dreamed about. 
But most of all? For solidifying for me once & for all that sometimes when things don’t go exactly to plan, there is always something greater for you waiting.
With a heart of happiness & love,
Anna x
p.s If you ever go to Madrid and want to see a show, this is the one we went to. There are 3 or 4 main ones in Madrid (tonnes more but 3 or 4 main ‘the best’ ones) and Cardamomo is one of them. We chose this one as it wasn’t so commercial and offered a more intimate traditional experience…and obviously I can’t recommend it highly enough!

A day out in Country Spain

You know when you have those days when you’re traveling that you never could have planned for, no amount of money would justify how special it meant to you and you can’t believe it really happened? Yes? Well, Morgs & I were so blessed to have had one of those days just gone by in countryside Valencia.
We had rolled in to Valencia late evening (after booking a late train to extend our time in our beloved Barcelona) & had no idea what we wanted to do the next 4 days in this city we had barely even googled. One thing we did both agree too though, is that we were c.r.a.v.i.n.g some nature. After 3 solid months in big ole cities (Greece & Croatia withstanding) we were ready to re visit Mother Nature & spend some quality time among her trees & fresh air…. however we could. After literally the quickest Trip Adviser check, an email to the tour guide & literally picking the first tour that came up without even reading reviews (how hardcore I know), We were booked in with a tour called “Do Valencia!” and were officially off in to the countryside the next day.

Excitement Plus. 

Not sure of what the tour entailed exactly or what we could expect, we stayed true to our adventure spirit  and were getting picked up by our friendly local Spanish guide ‘Migeul’ first thing the next morning & were on our way.
Holy mother of all things holy though – our day was remarkable. Not only was it exactly what we needed – some quality time with nurturing mother nature, it was FUN & provided us with what we’re always craving every new city we go to which is…an authentic experience. 
We visited waterfalls, swam in the most gorgeous crystal clear hot spring waters and climbed down hills to explore rivers & rocks. My favourite part of the whole day though was lunch time (does that really surprise anyone?) when Miguel took us to this tiny out of the way ‘hole in the wall’ restaurant in the smallest country town. The owner, a gorgeous old Spanish man treated us like family & from the second we walked in I knew I wouldn’t want to leave! We ate the most delicious traditional Tapas I have ever eaten (& probably ever will), drank local homemade wine from a goat bag, and sipped cinnamon homebrew spirits as the owner explained how he made the wine, spirits & food (all in Spanish whilst Miguel translated in English). I tried Snails for the first time (I actually really liked them! They reminded me of lamb) and we did shots of green something’ something’ where first we had to dip our finger in it & the owner lit it on fire. Outrageous I know but I haven’t laughed like I did in that restaurant with complete strangers (others from our tour) ever. 
It’s days like that, almost unplanned, with complete strangers & no expectations that make me realise why I love travel so much … they say travel is the only thing you buy that can make you richer and yesterday was a true testament to that. 
I am rich in every way possible through all that this trip has given to me in the way of life experiences, laughter, love & lessons and I will remember most of my days lived over the past 3 months (+ 5 weeks to go) till the day I die. Whether it be a quiet coffee with the man I love in an empty cafe, swimming in freezing water just because it was too beautiful not too, eating strange foods in strange countries, bike riding through snow capped mountains, crying as I embark on the walk of the Cinque Terre just because I’m that happy I was there I have realised one thing. I am RICH, happy and fulfilled beyond my wildest expectations…& I have travel to thank for that. 
The best things in life really are free and it’s been the moments and experiences I’ve had on this trip that make me realise how beautiful life really is and how lucky I am here to be living.
All it took was some of natures beautiful scenery, a small bar, some snails, strangers & the love of my life to make me realise it.
With a heart full of love &  a belly full o’ gratitude,

Anna x