A global pandemic canceled our wedding. Twice. I should be getting married today. Instead, I’ll be taking a day trip close to Hamburg, hoping to commemorate this day together with the Prince.
I’m not really sure where to even begin. I’ve been MIA for the past 8 months – no blog posts and very few social media posts on my blog channels. I’m not going to sugarcoat it, it’s been a very hard, stressful, and sad past 8 months (even before the world went into lockdown). I cried to my Dad a few weeks ago that these have probably been the worst 6 months of my life.
6 years ago, I started this blog as a way to keep my family updated on my travels and musings while living in Heidelberg, Germany for graduate school. I assumed I would finish graduate school in 18 months and move back to the United States. Nothing prepared me for meeting the love of my life at a ball overlooking the Heidelberg Castle.
When the Prince and I went to Hawaii last summer, our number one non-negotiable was visiting Pearl Harbor. We’re massive history and political nerds, and we have an equal fascination with anything and everything to do with WWII. Both of his grandfathers fought on the German side during WWII. I’m so intrigued by their stories and how Germany moved on following WWII (I took an entire class during university on post-WWII Germany). However, the Pacific front is not studied as much in school. I remember that my father took us as kids to the Iwo Jima Memorial in Washington, D.C. when we were living there and explained how the USA fought island-to-island. Additionally, it was common to have debated in middle school and high school for/against dropping the atomic bomb. It’s always been a bucket list item to visit Pearl Harbor and I’m so grateful I had the opportunity to do so last summer.
Last year, my siblings and I had a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Big Island of Hawaii. With my brother and his girlfriend living on the Big Island, it was the perfect excuse for me and my siblings to all meet-up. We came from all over the world – me and the Prince from Germany, a brother from North Carolina, a sister from Atlanta, a sister from Washington, D.C., and a sister from Seattle. At this point in our lives, it’s quite rare if we can all get together for more than a few days of uninterrupted time (or even at all)! I will say, the days leading up to Hawaii were a bit of a nightmare. The Big Island was facing its largest hurricane in decades, and the Prince and I had a 30+ hour journey ahead of us. We ended up missing our flight from San Francisco to Kona due to disruptive passengers on our plane as well as a bomb threat at the airport. However, it was great to have a “bonus” night in San Francisco to take the Prince to my favorite Chinese restaurant in the entire world (House of Nanking), show him some of the sites (minus the Golden Gate Bridge that you couldn’t see due to fog!), and meeting up with my sorority Little and her husband (who spontaneously met us with a 2-hour notice). After making it successfully to Kona the next day, the Prince and I had 7 days in Hawaii. Here’s the perfect Big Island Itinerary for 7 days to take advantage of everything there is to see and do!
If you put me on a scale of types, I’m even more Type A than your average Type-A person. My apartment is always clean, my bed is always made, my closet is color organized, my daily planner is colored coded, and I’m obsessed with making sure everything has a “place.” It should come as no surprise then that my travel habits mimic my Type-A lifestyle. Thankfully, the Prince is just about as much Type A as me, although maybe less high strung and a bit more relaxed! However, having a travel partner that likes to be as organized and as diligent about the details as me makes traveling stress-free for the two of us. So here are 20 signs that you might also be a crazy Type-A traveler like me!
It’s no secret that I absolutely love Eastern Europe and the former Soviet countries. I can thank my class “Politics in Post-Soviet Countries” during my junior year of university for beginning my love affair with the region. I even managed to live in Zagreb, Croatia and Sofia, Bulgaria for 7 months while interning at the U.S. Embassies in those cities. I’ve been lucky enough to travel to most of the Balkan countries and absolutely adore the region. However, the Eastern European countries have been a bit more tricky. Even though Romania borders Bulgaria, it took me several years after moving away from Bulgaria to finally visit the country. In my quest to visit all European countries, Moldova was next on my list and I was able to combine it with a trip to Transnistria. Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard of Transnistria – crickets. To be honest, I’d never heard of Transnistria until my friend asked if I wanted to join her for a day trip. Never one to say no to a new and unusual adventure, I booked my flight and joined her on a day trip from Chișinău to Transnistria.
Then why are we so profoundly affected by the burning of the Notre Dame? In retrospect, the outcome is better than expected – the main facade and towers are still standing, most of the artwork and relics were saved, and the rose windows are all intact.
What a year! I feel like a broken record but every year seems better than the last! I’d say that 2018 was easily the best year for my blog, the best year career-wise, and my best year personally with the Prince. Additionally, I finally feel settled in Hamburg – I’ve joined a few different organizations and have a solid friend group here. I always feel like my travels will never live up to the previous year. Yet, it seems to get even crazier! I might not have visited many new countries, but I felt like I was able to return to a lot of my favorite places as well as explore Germany more deeply.
A few hours south of Hamburg are the lush wine regions of Germany. While Germany might be known for its beer, it’s the wines that have totally stolen my heart. With 13 major wine regions and the majority in southeastern Germany, there are endless options for tasting, buying, and exploring. I was lucky enough to be invited by BottleStops a few weeks ago for a lovely winter wine trip from Mainz to the Rheingau – one of my favorite wine regions in all of Germany!
I’ve now lived in Hamburg for 2.5 years and I fall more in love with the city every day. Even though it’s Germany’s second-largest city behind Berlin (yes, even larger than Munich), it’s still an under-the-radar destination for many people outside of Germany. I’m always singing the praises of Hamburg to everyone I meet. I really do think Hamburg has it all – yummy food, excellent beer, great coffee, lots of water, family-oriented neighborhoods, historical locations, efficient public transportation, and a work-life balance. The Prince and I are really lucky to call this city home, and I’m excited to highlight Hamburg’s musical past, present, and future.
Before making it big worldwide, the Beatles made their debut in Hamburg. Even today, their legacy continues to exist through a dedicated Beatles-Platz (Beatles Square) as well as the quotes and stories from the Beatles themselves and those that knew them while in Hamburg. However, the Beatles aren’t the first or last band to make it big in Hamburg – the Reeperbahn Festival, founded in 2006, has been producing well-known artists since its inception. Artists that performed at the Reeperbahn Festival before their big breakthrough include three of my favorites – Ed Sheeran, Bon Iver, and Milky Chance.