The Christmas Markets in Munich

The last time I went to Munich was for Oktoberfest, which is a big tick on the bucket list, but Munich as plenty to offer during Christmas time – the markets around central Munich would take days to visit completely, especially if you need to try everyone’s gluhwein.

the New Town Hall in Marienplatz, Munich

The weekend we were there was almost as warm as an Icelandic summer. With sun and temperatures around 10 or 12 degrees celsius, the Christmas spirit was certainly not so cold or white, but the spirit was there nonetheless. Thousands and thousands of people, cramming every main street and square that had been turned into an outdoor mall, with roasted chestnuts and freshly made gluhwein on offer at every corner. The regular food markets and bars nearby were overflowing with people, but with such good weather, noone really wanted to stay indoors so the streets remained packed.

riding in the Bavarian countryside

Munich is also a destination for horses and food, so both had to be enjoyed. We ate at the Michelin Star restaurant Showroom one night, and I thought Iceland was expensive, but this place still surpassed my expectations. My friend Michael lives in Munich and boards his horse a short drive away, so I had an English lesson under his german instruction and came out with an open wound on the inside of my leg after trying to sit his horse’s trot.

the sunset being counterbalanced by the pink lights at the Pink Christmas Market

The weekend was short but sweet, and the highlight for me was simply the light. In the shortest days of an Icelandic winter, a German December day with 8 hours of daylight and warmth from the sunrays was like an exotic, faraway vacation. It was everything I needed to get through the next 3 darkest weeks in Iceland.

Big City hopping

Backpacking or roadtripping in Europe is something I haven´t done a lot, and started doing late in my travels, since the budget for a month in Europe can go a long way in Western Africa or Southeast Asia. Its also nice to visit Europe in the summer, which is prime work time, but early autumn or late spring is really the perfect time to visit. I got the excuse to go to Europe for 2 days of work, but extended it into a week long overland trip of big city hopping so I could try and justify my carbon emissions from Iceland and back.

Vor Frelsers Kirke

I started in Copenhagen, where I wanted to visit a dear horse-backriding friend Ditte, but that very same weekend she went to Iceland to ride so I borrowed her summer cabin for me and my favourite German riding friend. Michael had a bad knee so we didnt ride the Icelandic horses nearby in the town of Nykobing but we enjoyed the beaches of Sjaelland by bicycle and the weather was even good enough to barbeque dinner.

Copenhagen canals

We stopped in Copenhagen for a night to overlap with Ditte for one city bike ride and some touristic stops, and the next morning I flew to Hamburg, where I´d be meeting yet another horse friend Jana, for her birthday! We celebrated by scooting around town, day drinking and taking public transport ferries with roadbeers for a cheap booze cruise. We dined with some friends and sniffed some stuff that gave me a head rush, and the next morning we were finally off to ride. We rode Icelandic horses at a friends breeding farm called Bockholts-Hoff and rode thru a German forest on horses that had just arrived from Iceland. I wore my new yoga/riding/hiking pants that were a little too tropical for the rainy weather, but they must have been the reason the sun finally came out.

riding Icelandic horses in Germany

Next I was off to Rotterdam, via flight to Amsterdam and dinner with a Dutch horse friend, who rode those very Icelandic horses with Silke and I a few weeks earlier in Iceland. A short and sweet date before I checked into my Backroads hotel and was given a Backroads van to drive to Provence early the next morning.

Dijon

My ´work´ roadtrip took me 1,099km thru Holland, Antwerp and Belgium, then Luxembourg and into France. I drive past Moselle, Metz, Nancy, a bit of Champagne region, Dijon and spent a night in Beaune. Then I drove the Bourgogne trail, past the gastronomic capital of Lyon, along the Rhone and into Provence. We ended in Carpentras, where we keep our vans, and I spent a day bike touring thru Aubignan and Sarrians.

good thing our bikes have built in wine racks

Another day was spent traveling by train back to Paris, eating some moules frites on the streets of Montmarte, and left feeling like I had taken in an overwhelming amount of sights, tastes and culture from so many different corners of Europe. I had also managed to get a tan and feel the sun, so returning to a chilly fall in Iceland was very welcomed, especially since it was one of the first times Iceland was really experiencing a truly autumn season.

Stopover Berlin

Traveling from Reykjavik to Bishkek isn’t so common, but you can get there in a pretty straight line as long as you have enough time for stopovers. I spent less than 24 hours in Berling but managed to visit two Icelandic horse fanatics (both Germans who I met on tour in Iceland) and their extensions (boyfriend, father, child, mother, horse). I got to ride a pony and a big horse, and I have to admit I missed the tolt a little.

Riding with Jana

I drank some German beer and ate a bratwurst, as well as some amazing Indian food, and the highlight of my trip was an interview at Fritz Radio in Potsdam. Here’s a link to it (it’s in German and English), you’ll find my name under interviews.

https://www.fritz.de/sehen-und-hoeren/audios/fritzaktuell/fritzaktuell-feed.html

Next stopover is Istanbul, but only a few hours in the airport, and then a weekend in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

The Real Berlin

I had never been to Germany but have had enough German friends, roommates or classmates to have a few expectations. I kind of chose a bad time of year to visit Berlin, with short days and temperatures dipping below zero almost all day and night. But in some ways it was refreshing to be there in the ‘off’ season, surrounded mostly by local Germans and Turks. In fact I probably met more people from Turkey in my week there, eating a kebab atleast once a day and couchsurfing in the Neukölln neighbourhood where the joke Berlin is the capital of Turkey really rings true.

to the right of this beautiful cathedral you can barely make out the bottom of the TV Tower, disappearing into the fog

Other stereotypes I enjoyed playing on was Germany’s great reputation for delicious sausages and amazing, abundant, cheap beer. I couchsurfed with three different hosts and two chinchillas, who lived with my last host affectionately nicknamed ‘the little nut’ since his last name is Nuesslein.With all three we made a point of sampling some of Weißbie (hefeweizen) and also great white wines from the region – namely Rieslings and Gewurtzraminer. With my host Bjorn in Potsdam we also grilled up some bratwurst sausage and potatoes, eating swiss chocolates for dessert. It was no Bocuse d’or meal but Im always happy with the rich foods and delicatessen culture in European dining that Iceland doesn’t as easily afford.

the central train station, big and grey

My Icelandic friend Bjorgvin met me in Berlin and we spent one day taking the metro and double decker buses around town seeing all the must-see sights and tourist attractions. Every once in a while we had to duck into a store or coffee house to defrost but we made it almost all day running around Potsdamer Plats, Brandenburger Tor, Museum Island, the Holocaust memorial and the great maze of Hauptbahnof (the main train station). We tried to see the TV Tower but the low cloud line meant you couldn’t even see it when you were standing right under it.

The Tacheles gallery, an open, free alternative art space in an otherwise abandoned, unlivable 5 storey building

One our last day we took up the offer from our host, the little nut, to give us the non-touristy tour of Berlin, what he called the Real Berlin. We started at the eerie Tempelhof airport, visited the Tacheles art gallery, went to East side Gallery to visit a part of the old Berlin Wall, and ended at the best veggie burger restaurant I’ve ever been to. We followed up with dessert from Mustafa’s kebab stand – the best veggie meal and rightfully most famous kebab stand in Berlin.