For us, 2014 was a year of (mostly) slower travel. We planned less than before, we were more flexible with what we saw (and not disappointed that we didn’t see everything), we spent more time walking, and we gave ourselves adequate time (be it days or weeks) to explore certain cities and areas. Though we spent a good portion of the year at home, with normal routines and work lives, we really relished our time away, and because of that, our travel experience overall was a positive one, full of places both new and old. So without further ado, here are my top five favorite travel memories (presenting in alphabetical order).
For my 30th birthday in February, my wish was to—in lieu of getting presents or celebrating with anyone other than M.—go to Poland. Surprisingly, in spite of living only an hour or two from the border, I’d never been. So he took some time off work and booked tickets on the express train between Berlin and Warsaw, and off we went on my birthday weekend.
It was the winter, which made it a great time to see the city and not deal with loads of tourists. We stayed at a hotel in Stare Miasto (Old Town), and packed our days full of walking around to see the historical sites, monuments, parks, and museums, as well as checking out the local coffee and vegan food offerings. In our 72 hours there, we didn’t feel rushed or overwhelmed, and I feel like we covered a lot of ground and both have a good feel for the kind of city Warsaw is.
When talking about our honeymoon, the suggestion of Italy was thrown out in the beginning, but I wasn’t really committed to much of anything. At some point, M. suggested Portugal, where he had been years before (though mostly in the South), and so it was settled. Though we got married in August 2013, our vacation time for the year had already been spoken for, so we opted for a springtime excursion to Portugal.
For three weeks, from April to May, we traveled through Portugal, spending about 10 days in Lisbon, 7 days in Porto, and 5 days in Lagos. There were day trips to Sintra and Braga and Sagres, but for the most part we really just loved getting to know these bigger cities and exploring their various neighborhoods and quirks… and we loved them all for different reasons, like the architecture, and the Atlantic, and the unexpected vistas, and the warm people, and the tiles… in fact, the only downside to the trip was that the avocados in Portugal are terrible, and it’s hard to find good veg food. I would go back there in a heartbeat.
For our one-year anniversary, I wanted to do something special to celebrate, preferably not at home. I thought about going out of town because of some flight specials, but figured that would be a hassle with only a normal-ish weekend. I momentarily thought of a night at one of the fanciest boutique hotels in Berlin, but with a two-night minimum and something like €300 a night, it was out of the question. After a bit of searching I came across Strandhaus, a four-star luxury hotel and spa located in the Spreewald region of Brandenburg, less than an hour away on the train, and knew it’s where I wanted to go.
I didn’t tell M. where we were going and only requested he take a half-day off so that we could come back on a Monday morning. So on the Saturday the week after our anniversary, we made our way out to the town of Lübben, where I was able to surprise M. Our weekend was super lovely, in part because of the low-key and stress-less nature of our travel arrangements, but also because of what we did. Lübben is a small and quiet city, and although it gets tourist-y in the summer, it wasn’t too excessive for us. We spent our days exploring the city and the biosphere areas, eating pickles, reading in bed, going in the sauna, and taking a Kahnfahrt. All in all, it was just what we both needed, to get away from Berlin and just chill, while seeing something different/new.
For the past five years, visiting Sweden has become a “once every 18 months” kind of affair. So when late December 2013 rolled around and it was nearing that point (our last trip had been April/May of 2012), and round-trip flights between Berlin and Gothenburg were less than €100 each, we jumped on the prices and booked six days. Also, we kind of wanted to get out of Berlin for NYE, because it’s the worst. So we flew out on the 31st and spent the first five days of 2014 with family.
There was no snow in Sweden (which I was not-so-secretly hoping for), but it was still pretty magical. We took lots of walks outdoors, went to the Universeum, stuffed ourselves full of Swedish Christmas treats, enjoyed strong coffee and good wine, played with the kids, and laughed and laughed and laughed.
Visiting the states is something I wish I could do on a yearly basis, but I can’t really justify the money spent, nor do we have the flexibility of vacation days to do so. But after being particularly sad last Thanksgiving and missing home, my dad generously offered to fly us to Tennessee for Thanksgiving 2014.
It turned out to be a wonderful trip full of surprises, such as my best friend flying in from California to see us, spending more time with my parents and brother, and meeting up with old friends all over. In addition to our week in Tennessee, we spent a day in North Carolina, then headed up the Pennsylvania and New York on the second leg of our trip to explore. While the 4.5 days in Philadelphia and NYC didn’t feel like enough, we did see a lot and had a really memorable time catching up with friends and eating tons of delicious food. Though I haven’t blogged about this yet, I am looking forward to sharing photos and stories over the coming months.