As a new year starts, full of possibilities, I thought I’d take a look back on 2018! I’ve been enjoying reading other bloggers’ 2018 travel highlights, so here are mine.
This year we went to three weddings and none of them were in Berlin, so that was a good excuse to do a bit of traveling. When I have to travel for work I also try to take a weekend before or after the meeting to make the flying more worthwhile. And of course, when possible we also try to get to the mountains to do some hiking or skiing, since Berlin is located in a flat part of Europe. Here’s where we went in 2018.
Rokytnice, Czech Republic
We welcomed in the new year on a weekend skiing trip to Rokytnice in the Czech Republic. We only had one good day of skiing as it started raining on the 31st December, but our New Year’s celebration was great anyway as we each cooked some dishes in a multi-course New Year’s Eve meal in our wooden chalet accommodation, ran out in the snow to watch the fireworks and have snowball fights at midnight, and then stayed up till 3 or 4 in the morning playing board and card games.
A year is not complete without a visit to this winter wonderland, only three hours from Berlin. A friend from my German class hadn’t seen snow before so four of us went there to do some winter hiking and a bit of cross country skiing.
We decided to try the new fast train to Munich to head down to Bavaria, and visited Spitzensee for our first attempt at ski touring. That weekend there was an incredible another of snow, and just across the border in Austria the avalanche risk was 5!
In February I traveled to Les Diablerets, nestled in the Swiss Alps, for a work meeting. I’m always happy to be in the mountains.
Mpumalanga, South Africa
Later in February we flew to South Africa, visiting a friend in Johannesburg before heading to Cape Town. We went for a weekend hiking trip to Mpumalanga, a province I’ve never visited before. It was an amazing trail, filled with rocky landscapes and waterfalls.
Next we headed down to Cape Town. There’s a lot to see in and around Cape Town, so every time we go I try to show my husband something different. But of course one of the things he’s always keen to do when we’re there is head to the beach, especially since we’re always coming from the middle of winter in Europe.
While in South Africa we took a one week road trip around Kwa-Zulu Natal and visited the neighbouring kingdom of Lesotho, high up in the Drakensberg mountains. The Lesotho Highlands are a must-see for the beautiful scenery and glimpse into the traditional village life.
Another highlight of our trip to South Africa was visiting the majestic Drakensberg mountains, a true hiking paradise.
This year we spent the Easter weekend in Denmark. We were surprised to wake up on Easter morning to a thick layer of snow! While in Denmark we visited Copenhagen, Malmö (a Swedish city just over the border), Roskilde and Zealand, tried delicious food, learnt a little about the Viking history, explored fishing villages and searched for giants.
April also saw a work trip to Heraklion in Crete. A colleague and I took a day before and after to enjoy some sightseeing before the meeting. It was pre-tourist season so some things weren’t open or had shorter opening hours, but the good thing was that there were less crowds and the locals were still relaxed prior to the crazy tourist season and had time to chat to us.
May is full of holidays in Germany, and we used one of the long “bridge” weekends to head down to the Alps on the border of Germany and Austria for some hiking. I think they are even more beautiful in spring and summer than when they are snow-covered.
Using another public holiday in May, we did part of the Spreeradweg, a cycling trail that follows the Spree river from its source near the Czech border all the way to where the Spree river meets the Havel river in Berlin.
We went to visit some family who live on the other side of Germany, in Wachtberg. Unfortunately the only cold week of summer arrived at this time, but nonetheless we enjoyed a nice walk in the Wachtberg countryside on the Sunday.
Summer is not summer without at least one canoeing trip. This year, six of us headed to Pritzerbe to do a weekend canoeing trip down the Havel river. Brandenburg looks totally different from the water – if you haven’t done this, try it!
It’s possible to get to the Baltic sea in about 2 and a half hours if you go to Usedom, so if you are craving that seaside feeling you can even go for a day trip. Many of the coastal towns have similar seaside resorts with piers, promenades and seafood restaurants, and as soon as you arrive you feel like you’re on holiday, even if it’s just for a day or a weekend.
Making the most of the good weather, we spent a fun weekend biking, camping and swimming around Parsteiner See, a lake in Brandenburg. This lake is perfect for families as it starts shallow and gets deeper very slowly, much like a giant swimming pool. It was a steamingly hot weekend, which also meant some big thunderstorms. The countryside in Brandenburg is really beautiful and makes the perfect weekend escape from Berlin.
In July we drove to the Groningen region of the Netherlands to meet up with some friends. We had fun riding bikes around to check out some of the Dutch countryside.
My birthday present from my sister in law was a boat day trip from Dečin to Dresden and back. We had a great time watching the Elbe scenery unfold and spent the next day exploring the amazing palace in Dečin and doing a few small walks in the area to admire the mystical sandstone formations.
To head to a wedding in Tirol, we flew to Venice, and spent a day exploring this famous city on the water before driving north to the mountains. Venice gets crazy with crowds at this time of year, but we had a peaceful walk around in the morning before the day-trippers arrived.
We went to a wedding in Obergurgl, a village in the Austrian Alps. The alpine countryside scenery was so picturesque that friends seeing our photos commented that it looked like a movie set!
While in the area, we also visited the neighbouring town of Sölden, and took cable cars up to view the amazing glaciers, which you can see better in summer when they are not covered in snow. Walking around at these alpine heights was incredible.
In the height of summer we did a spontaneous trip with a friend to Mallorca, to have some relaxing time at the beach. On a previous trip in autumn we did some hiking, but this time it was very hot and we spent most of our time swimming, relaxing on the beach or enjoying fresh local food for lunch.
Lago Di Maggiore
Flights to Milan from Berlin are quick and cheap, so I used Malpensa airport as my gateway to Italy for a work meeting. We spent the weekend exploring Lago Di Maggiore, a lake in the pre-Alps with several islands in the middle. I mentally labelled this place “the most beautiful place I never knew existed”, because the palace and gardens we visited on the islands and around the edge of the lake were simply spectacular, and the views of the lake from the surrounding hills are wonderful.
This year summer was long and autumn was warm, and when we visited the isle of Rügen in north Germany, we were still lucky enough to have warm, sunny days, and could ride bikes around the island. The magic of Rügen that first captivated me in the spring of 2013 was still there in autumn.
Sächische Schweiz (Saxon Switzerland)
In the last days of autumn, we did a weekend hiking trip to Saxon Switzerland, a national park famous for its sandstone formations among forests. I have been there a few times before, but there are always new “stones” to explore (this time we went up Lilienstein) and I never get tired of visiting the ancient fortress of Bastei.
We were invited to a wedding in Bangalore, and with the last days of our leave we managed to stay for 11 days in India (plus a day to and fro for traveling). What a great experience! The wedding was beautiful, and we also enjoyed our sightseeing in Bangalore, Mysore, Hampi, Badami and Aihole. For sure we’ll go back to explore more of India in future, and once we’ve sorted out all the photos I’ll write a bit more about it!
Hejnice, Czech Republic
After Christmas we headed to the Czech mountains to do some cross-country skiing. We had all sorts of weather (rain, mist, snow, blizzards, wind, sleet, hail), but as always we enjoyed the fresh air, snow and exercise!
Český Krumlov, Czech Republic
Finally, we ended our year by visiting the charming town of Český Krumlov in south Bohemia. It’s reputation as one of the most beautiful towns in the country is definitely well deserved. What better place to celebrate the New Year?
Where will we go in 2019? Apart from the usual trips to our respective homes (South Africa and Czech Republic) and no doubt some short trips within Germany, we don’t have any fixed plans yet. Let’s see what the year holds! Happy New Year!