Round-the-world flight tickets generally have only 16 legs. While that may get you around the globe, it gets you to relatively few of the world’s 196 countries! So while we are living in Berlin, we are taking every opportunity to travel in our own backyard so that we can save those precious flights for more distant destinations. In Germany, summer vacation is shorter than in the US (only 6 weeks), but in exchange, kids get at least a week off during fall, Christmas, spring, and Easter breaks, which has made it possible, bit by bit, to discover magical places a short bus ride or flight away from us.
There’s no way I can do justice in a single ‘catch up’ post to everything we’ve seen since we moved to Germany in late 2013, but here, at least, are some of the highlights:
We celebrated Christmas 2013 with relatives in lovely Prezelle, a tiny village northwest of Berlin near the Elbe River with only 501 inhabitants. For the first time in her life, Elise experienced the excitement of lighting real candles on a Christmas tree!
In January 2014, we visited Prague, where we’d lived for a year when Elise was two. We checked out the Christmas Market and shared a Trdelnik, a cinnamony-sweet, tube-shaped pastry, in Old Town Square, wandered our old neighborhood including the playgrounds of Letna Park, had dinner in Prague Castle, and visited with Elise’s adorable four-year-old buddy Stella.
Spring 2014, we toured Munich, where I had studied my junior year of college. We strolled through bustling Marienplatz, sampled fresh smoothies and shishkabob at Viktualienmarkt, and wandered nearly all 5km of the dreamy English Garden, where Elise threw blossoms into the creek.
…and visited cousins in Heidelberg, at Lake Constance, and at Hegelbach Organic Farm…
…and spent time in Milan with my friend, opera singer Renata Vitova, and her son Kuba, Elise’s old pre-school buddy.
In the summer of 2014, Elise’s Gran generously invited us to accompany her on a Scandinavian cruise. Highlights included Oslo’s Vigeland Park with its massive stone statues, the picturesque towns of Tallinn, Stockholm and Helsinki, and the Russian ballet in St. Petersberg.
Later that summer, we spent a week with friends at Lake Balaton, Hungary. Elise absolutely loved coming up with ways to jump off the pier, including cannonballs, holding hands with her friend Vica, spinning, on floats, etc. The lake is gloriously undeveloped for great stretches, with reeds lining the shore instead of glaring hotels. Seeing the kids splashing in the clean water as swans swim by evokes a feeling of wholesomeness and timelessness.
In summer 2015, we explored Paris and Salzburg. Elise was beside herself the day she was to see the Eiffel Tower for the first time, yelping with joy at her first glimpse through the train window, and literally running to the observation point. She also fell in love with macaron, which she shared with her My Little Ponies. Other highlights included the Louvre (though we had hopelessly little time to explore it), the Pompidou Center, an interactive exhibition at Palais du Tokyo, where participants steered boats through ominous dark waters, breakfast every morning at Le Pain Quotidien, dim sum at Galleries LaFayette, and uncannily delicious fries at a cafe near Sacre Coeur.
Salzburg highlights included Gran’s christening of Elise at a fountain in Mirabellgarten, meeting old family friend, Norica (the person who inspired Elise’s middle name), and dashing barefoot through fountains.
In 2016, we celebrated New Year’s in Budapest, and visited the town of Martonvasar, where Beethoven composed “For Elise” (the inspiration for Elise’s first name). In Martonvasari Park, classical concerts are held summer evenings on a magical little island in a lake that’s a stone’s throw from Beethoven’s villa.
In the spring of 2015, we traveled to the Czech Republic, where I did a couture wedding shoot in Prague, picked out beads with Elise in Jablonec nad Nissou, and went skiing with her in Vrchlabi where we stayed at the cheerful, family-friendly, and sparklingly clean Pension Andel, which is only one kilometer from the slopes.
Over Easter 2016, we visited Barcelona and the Portuguese islands of Madeira. I adored the winding alleyways of the Gothic Quarter, where we stayed, as well as Park Güell, high above the city. For her part, Elise loved the playground next to the amazingly imaginative Sagrada Familia more so than the temple itself, lol.
In Madeira, we thoroughly enjoyed a toboggan ride down the hill (screaming the whole while!), as well as a jeep safari through picture- perfect valleys and mountains and along dramatic coastlines, and the 9km sandy beach of neighboring Porto Santo island.
Aftwards, we traveled by ship with Elise’s Gran to Malaga, Cartegena, and Rome. We saw amazing fortresses and ancient ruins, as well as inspired artwork at the Picasso Museum, but, more than anything, Elise loved the gelato in Rome where they drizzled a bit of vanilla sauce into the cone, added 2 scoops, and topped it off with whipped cream.
It is a priviledge to be able to travel this much. We are grateful especially to Elise’s Gran, who’s invited us along on two cruises. We also live very modestly in Berlin, trading certain comforts for more travel time.