Northern LightsJanuary 23 in Norway ⋅ 🌧 1 °C
After our early morning flight to Kiruna from Stockholm, we picked up our car and ventured to the world renowned Ice Hotel! I’d been hearing about this place for a little while and definitely wanted to pay a visit if we were in the area. There is an Ice Bar, Hotel (amazing but not sure I’d like to pay 460 Euro a night to sleep in a constant -5 degrees C on a large piece of ice and reindeer fur) and my favourite part, the Ice Sculptures. The hotel was slightly warmer than outside which was a frosty -10 C. I’ve never seen ice sculptures before and they were fascinating. A few shots to give you an idea :) We checked into our cute Swedish Lapland cottage afterwards and definitely had our share of snow!Read more
We caught the overnight ferry from Turku (Finland) to Stockholm while we slept, and as you hear in the video by the little noises she makes, Lauren was quite impressed with the cabin. Stockholm is a pretty and neat city, surrounded by ocean strewn with tiny little islands. You can understand why these (not so) little sea-faring medieval pests gave mainland Europe a few touch-ups a wee while back.Read more
After our Helsinki experience we jumped on a 2 hour train to Turku, which is a city on the southwest coast of Finland. It is the oldest town in the country and there is quite a large amount of history to explore there! We had a beautiful Airbnb quite close to the town centre and were able to see quite a bit in our 48 hours there.
Our first afternoon was spent wandering around the town - we seem to like doing this in every new city we go to. We went to the Cathedral, Porthaninpuisto park (which is next to the Old Town Square) and to the old Market Hall. As the sun goes down so early over here, that was about all we had time for.
Another beautiful Finnish sunrise on our second day - Ed never gets to see these as he likes to enjoy his 10 hours of sleep every night haha. We decided then to explore the Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova Museum . Aboa Vetus ‘Old Town’ is the ruined town quarter from the medieval period which in the 1990’s they actually found buried underground and now sits under the Rettig Palace which also houses the contemporary art musuem (Ars Nova). Long sentence there! You can walk through the old medieval street and looking through the items they discovered during their archeological excavations was really fascinating.
One of the artists works on display upstairs in the Ars Nova caught our eye and we took a couple of pictures of his stone sculptures. I believe his name was Sakari Peltola and his works of granite were really entertaining. I’ve uploaded a shot for those interested :)
We headed down to the Ferry Terminal on our last day to put our luggage in storage in preparation for our overnight trip to Stockholm. We were able to walk to the Forum Marinum which is a combination of the Turku Maritime musuem and Finnish navy museum. There was lots to see and we could of spent longer had we the time! Our final stop was the Turku Castle which has been around since the 13th century and houses a musuem which tracks the castle’s history from medieval fort to renaissance palace. We nearly had the castle to ourselves as it seems like no one wants to visit the castle in winter, in the dark at 5pm.
Our last stop before jumping on the ferry was the Seaport pub for a Guinness and meal. I highly recommend Turku as a place to visit in Finland - it was nice to get out of the usual touristy spots too. Info on the Viking Line Ferry to come!Read more
Our 3 days in Helsinki were pretty relaxed - our Airbnb had great views on the water and we were spoilt by a perfect sunrise upon waking on our first morning. We spent our first day exploring the city and some of it’s interesting architecture. Our first stop was the Sibelius Monument (a sculpture dedicated to the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius and unveiled in 1967). Ed was pretty keen on the creation of the artwork as it was all welded steel pipes and weighs a solid 24 tonnes. The park was frosty and quite pretty to wander around in too. We then headed off to the renowned ‘Temppeliaukio Rock Church’ which was completed in 1969. It is an amazing church built into a rock wall and covered in a huge copper dome. They even have concerts and performances in there due to the excellent acoustics.
We continued our church tour and headed to the ‘Kamppi Chapel’ (also known as the Chapel of Silence). It is a very interesting building, placed in the heart of the city for people to enter and have a moment of complete silence and/or prayer throughout their busy day. We spent about 15 minutes in there and Ed counted a total of 6 seconds of complete silence amongst people entering and exiting. It’s amazing how loud winter puffer jackets can be in a heavily acoustic environment. It was still an experience nonetheless!
Our Airbnb was walking distance to a local pub so we headed in there for a beverage after dinner and found ourselves in the middle of a Finnish karaoke night. I think we heard about 6 or 7 Finnish pop songs (quite catchy really, and was a great way to learn some Finnish!) before we felt too awkward and headed home. A video is attached for your viewing pleasure ;)
We headed out early on our second day to visit Market Square (not much happening though!) and the National Museum of Finland for a bit of history. We then headed to our pre-booked 2 hour public Sauna experience at Löyly which is a traditional wood fired sauna on the water. I had found this place on Instagram earlier in the year and dragged Ed along to experience a traditional Finnish sauna. It was great and once you imagined being back in Brisbane on a hot Summers day, you got used to the heat haha. The best part about the experience is once your skin is boiling, you head on outside in your togs and climb into the Baltic Sea (a crisp 1-4 degrees at this time of year). I am proud to say we both climbed in about 3 times and Ed left the water with steaming skin. I have attached a video of proof. Censor alert for the end of the video for any youngsters watching. A great way to spend our last afternoon in Helsinki! Off to the oldest town in Finland tomorrow ‘Turku’ for a couple of nights.
Missing you all. Signing off for now, Lauren XXRead more
We had pretty crappy rainy weather in Copenhagen but I like this city. It’s our first city (not including the Swiss Alps) off the tourist path after the peak(ish) season had finished, so it was relatively chill, and the Danes are pretty relaxed, friendly...and generally quite good looking. I felt bad finding myself having a cheeky glance at a few of the Scandinavian babes, but then I caught Lauren doing the same with the blokes, so then I didn’t feel so bad...Read more
Not too many photos from our last couple of days in Prague as we went to some museums and galleries where you weren’t allowed to take photos - understandably. Day 2 took us to the Museum of Communism which was really interesting and I’m really pleased we decided to go. I’m not a big history buff but the exhibition was so informative and well set out with lots of memorabilia from the last 100 years of Prague’s history. Highly recommend! We wandered through the Jewish Quarter of Prague which was fascinating too.
For our final day in Prague, I wanted to spend some time exploring some interesting art galleries so we started at the Musuem of Miniatures which features the tiny works from Anatolij Konenko. It was mind blowing. He has created artwork like nothing I’ve ever seen before working on small surfaces such as poppy seeds, a strand of hair or a grain of rice. Ed managed to get a couple of photos on his phone looking into the microscopes (go Galaxy S8 for skill!).
We went for a walk around the area of the Strahov Monastery and as it was getting pretty cold by this point, we ended up heading into the Monastery Beer and Wine Cellars which have been used for over 800 years. The restaurant down the bottom was fantastic and I got to try their freshly brewed Cherry Beer which was amazing. Of course I made Ed sample the food so he had some amazing looking (and tasting I’m sure!) black sausage stew. No complaints from him haha!
We had a couple of hours to kill before heading to the airport so decided to head to the National Gallery which is in the Fair Trade Palace. A lot of local Czech artists featured in there and a few Picasso and Matisse as part of the collection. Was a good little stop over! Then off to the airport for our flight to Copenhagen. Chat in a few days :D
Lauren xxRead more
So we set off towards the Old Town on our first day in Prague and I was pleasantly surprised to see the Christmas Markets were still going strong! I think Ed had seen enough Christmas Markets to last a life time and the poor vendors must’ve been over too although they all would finish up on the 6th January so only one more day. And nothing beats the smell of Christmas spices and roasting meats while you explore the city. The astronomical clock is beautiful and our photo doesn’t do it justice as the sun/shadows weren’t in our favour.
We decided to get a view of the famous Charles Bridge before walking over it and Ed got a great shot of the size and amazing architecture. We wandered up to the Prague Castle and spent a couple of hours exploring its interesting history. The Cathedral in the Castle grounds is a wonder to behold! I also had to include some photos of Ed’s amazing lunch up at the restaurant. My fresh ginger tea was also amazing :)
On our way down from the Castle we found the famous Stredoveka Krcma (Medieval Tavern) and headed down into the eerie stone pub which has been open daily since 1375. That was an experience!
Our walk home took us over the Charles Bridge and we had some great views looking over the city (once you manoeuvre around the thousands of tourists and their selfies!)
A day well spent and some sore legs to put up by the end of the day! Lauren XRead more
Just a short stay in Vienna so we didn’t get to see as much as we’d have liked to, but packed a few sights into our 2 days. We started off at St Stephen’s Cathedral where we followed the hoards of tourists into the church and took the 343 step spiral staircase 67 metres up the South Tower to take in a bit of a view of the city. A few claustrophobic moments heading up as expected! The Cathedral had an amazing tiled zigzag roof which you can see in Ed’s photo. We had a wander through the Heldenplatz with some amazing Baroque architecture and gardens. Back to the Airbnb for some homemade Weiner Schnitzel. Yesterday we did a guided tour of the Concert Hall built in 1870 which was very grand! Wish we could of seen a concert as I believe the acoustics would be amazing to hear. A bit of a dreary weather day outside but we went for a walk in the gardens of the Schonbrunner Schlosspark next to the Schonbrunn Palace. I made Ed visit the big Greenhouse with me that was built in 1882 called the ‘Palmenhaus’. So many Australian plants and trees in there - makes you realise how fortunate we are with the native flora we have back home. Off to Prague in the morning :)Read more
Again we’ve been a bit slow on the posts over the last few days. Probably not a bad thing as it must mean we are busy or too relaxed haha. Salzburg was lovely and I would definitely go back there again if we ever return to Austria! Although I feel like we covered a bit of ground in the time we were there. We visited the house where Mozart was born and spent the first few years of his life (was fascinated to hear about his very talented sister who I believe was overshadowed by her brother!), went to Mirabell Gardens (a little bit more colourful in summer I assume but very pretty!). We saw a fantastic interactive exhibition about some historic musical instruments, caught the funicular up to the Fortress Hohensalzburg and then walked everywhere else we could. The NYE vibe was a bit tamer than Amsterdam 3 years ago although there were still fireworks going off everywhere. We had a great view of the festivities from one of the pedestrian bridges on the river. The weather was perfect and we felt like we had a chance to relax a bit on the last day of our stay. Staying healthy and been cooking up some delicious meals in our Airbnb’s :)Read more