Weekend Coffee Share 7/16/17

If we were having coffee, we’d be sitting once again in my local coffee shop.  It’s busy for a Sunday–but, then again, Sundays have been more and more busy lately.  Don’t worry about finding me–I’m the girl by the window with the laptop.

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve joined in the coffee share.  I’ve been neglecting WordPress lately… I don’t think I’ve even opened the site in over a week.  How is everyone doing?

This weekend is our annual summer festival in Lindstrom, one of my hometowns.  Karl Oscar Days is one of the highlights of the warm months.  The festival is named for the protagonist of a book series about Swedish immigrants by the author Vilhelm Moberg, who stayed in our area while writing the book.  The community is obsessed with its Scandinavian heritage.  Downtown Lindstrom is peppered with Swedish flags and dala horses.  I’m half Scandinavian, so I find it quirky and charming.

Anyways, I had a friend come up from the cities and we joined in the festivities.  We wandered all around town, exploring the vendor booths, and chatting with people.  The town is perched between two lakes, so we borrowed some kayaks from a family friend and spent a few hours going around the lake.  In the evening, we lined up for the annual parade.  We ended up walking away with an enormous mound of candy, courtesy of our screaming at every float that came by.

Continue reading

Literary Pilgrimages

I am a pilgrim, a wayfarer, an adventurer.  I am a sojourner, making my way through lands real and imagined.  I travel by multiple mediums.  My feet carry me across continents familiar and strange.  My imagination soars through the minds and hearts of people who have gone before, ferried by the pages of a book.

 

I am a reader.  I am an explorer.  Sometimes, the two combine and I become a pilgrim.

Merriam Webster dictionary defines a pilgrim as “one who journeys in foreign lands”.  Traditionally, pilgrims journey towards a sacred, often religious place.  One of the most famous pilgrimages in literature is Chaucer’s band of characters telling tales on the road to the cathedral in Canterbury.

I am a lover of pilgrimages.  My journeys, however, are literary in nature.  In them, I travel to a place that holds bookish significance–the house or grave of a writer, the location of a beloved text, the place that inspired a famous text. Continue reading

A City that Demands to be Seen: Thoughts on Vienna

When one travels for an extended period of time, certain aspects of foreign life cease to leave you in wonder.  Cobbled streets, castles, and cathedrals blend together.  It’s just another city, just another place to walk, just another destination.  Your feet become weary and your heart longs for home.

And then… out of nowhere, a city sneaks up on you and gives you a sucker punch to the gut.  You’re absolutely breathless and it’s a little painful because it came when you didn’t expect it.

For me, Vienna was just a place on the map–a grand capital to check off my list, a place to become a little more cultured.  I didn’t expect the city to move me.  I didn’t expect to fall in love. Continue reading

Day Trip to the Northwoods

This past weekend, my family took a day trip to Northern Minnesota.  It was the first time we’d been together in six months and wanted to celebrate.  We gathered our belongings, grabbed coffee at the local shop, and drove two hours to the port city of Duluth.  After a brief picnic lunch on some boulders at a little park along the shore of Lake Superior, we continued along the North Shore–enjoying views of the lake through the pine forest.

Our mission?  Hiking.  We did a 6 mile loop on the Superior Hiking Trail along the Split Rock River.  The trail was muddy and nearly impassible at points.  After attempting to skirt around the edges, I gave up and slopped through the mud.  It reminded me of the footpaths in England and wished I had a pair of trusty Wellies.  By the end of the day, my legs were crusted in a layer of slime. Continue reading

European April: A Video Memoir

Traveling alone is, in many ways, a liberating adventure… but like anything, it’s got it’s challenges.  Being able to come and go as you please is a blessing, but what is the point of experiencing beautiful places if you without someone to share it with?

Encouraged by my L’Abri tutor and several friends, I took footage throughout my month-long journey aiming to make a video.  Doing so helped me through the loneliness that can come with solo travel by giving me a way to bring others into my adventures.  As I travelled, the thought of making this video really did help me during the rough days.  Instead of feeling sad and mopey about being alone, I was so focused on and excited about capturing my experiences in a creative way that negativity was driven from my mind.  The idea kept me going. Continue reading

The Final Stretch

After being on the road for a month, living out of a suitcase and staying in hostels, the thought of going home is strange.
It’s bliss to imagine all the comforts of home: Understanding the language, sleeping in the same bed for more than a few nights, not having strangers coming in and out at odd hours while I sleep, actually eating regular meals… The list goes on. Continue reading

Hiking in the Alps

I’ve spent the past few days staying with friends in the city of Innsbruck, Austria.  It’s a stunning city, located in a wide valley in the middle of the Tirol Provence.  Unfortunately… my first couple of days were rainy.  Most of yesterday was spent enjoying the city center–sitting in cafes and wandering into beautiful Baroque churches.  I knew there were mountains (after all, I’ve been here before!), but couldn’t actually see anything.  That is… until today.

This morning, I had the opportunity to go hiking with my friend Anna and her mother.  Thankfully, I’ve been traveling in a pair of heavy-duty boots and was well prepared for the climb. Continue reading

Couch Surfing in Konstanz

Staying with strangers is odd.  You spend a couple of weeks emailing back and forth with a person you’ve never met, making arrangements.  But, the whole time, you’re never really sure if it will work out… will it be a total disaster?  Will we get along?  Will I be in the way?

I’ve spent the past few days in Konstanz, Germany staying with a friend of a friend.  I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but it’s been a really positive experience.  My hosts have been incredibly kind and accommodating, giving me a room of my own to sleep in, a bike to use, and a spare key so I can come and go as I please.  They even invited me out with their friends for an all-you-can-eat and drink meal of what they called “German pizza”.  (I don’t know what the real name is, but it looks like pizza, only with no sauce and different toppings.)

After a few weeks of exploring big cities and cultural centers, it feels good to be off the beaten path.  Konstanz is a tourist town, but most of the tourists are either German or Swiss.  It’s located on the shores of Lake Constance (the largest lake in Germany) at the intersection of three countries: Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.  On a clear day, you can see the Alps from across the lake.

On my first full day, I biked out into the countryside.  I spent the morning among rolling hills, vineyards, and blooming fruit trees.  In many ways, it reminded me of being home. I visited a nearby island filled with small, independent farms and old churches.  My afternoon was spent wandering around Konstanz, exploring the old town and harbor. Compared to some of the grand old cities I’ve explored, it wasn’t anything to write home about, but still nice.

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One of the old churches on Reichenau Island (near Konstanz) that I biked past.

On day two, I took a day trip.  I pulled myself out of bed bright and early, found my way to the bus stop, and an hour later, I was in Zurich, Switzerland.  Most of my day was spent wandering around, exploring whichever narrow, cobbled streets caught my fancy.  Sadly, I didn’t do any traditional Swiss things.  No new watches or fancy chocolates for me… Switzerland is expensive and I’m on a tight budget.  I did spent a couple of hours in the city’s art museum, delighting in their national collection.  I lingered on the shores of Lake Zurich for a long, long time, soaking in the Alps and enjoying the fresh air.

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View of the Alps from across Lake Zurich

On day three, I did absolutely nothing. I mean that literally.  I stayed in bed almost the entire day, reading and binge watching Call the Midwife on Netflix.  Travel is exhausting!  It sounds weird, but it’s sometimes good to take a vacation from vacation.  I did venture out to the supermarket in the morning, along with a short walk around the neighborhood in the afternoon.  Besides that… the day was all rest and relaxation.

It was a bit awkward because my main contact was away from home during half my visit.  She returned to her hometown to help a friend shop for wedding dresses, leaving me alone with her male roommates.  I felt a bit out of place, but they were nice, and I mostly kept to myself.

Now, I’m on to the next chapter of my adventure.  After a great week in Germany, it’s time to turn to it’s neighbor: Austria.

Stay tuned.

Traveling Solo: Thoughts From the Road

I’m about two weeks into my European adventure… and boy, is it going fast.  It feels like yesterday that I was preparing to leave L’Abri and now I’ve been to Scotland, Holland, and Germany.  There are so many posts I want to write, but every time I sit down, I’m too exhausted to find the words.

(On a side note, if you want more frequent updates, I post photos regularly on Instagram.  My username is ameliab648.  I keep my account private, so send a request.)

Maybe some day, I’ll tell you about the two days I spent in Utrecht with my Dutch friends, Jorijn and Petra.  Maybe someday, I’ll tell you about wandering the beautiful town of Heidelberg, Germany.  Maybe someday, I’ll tell you about all the footage I’m taking on my phone for videography projects.

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Heidelberg, Germany
Today, though, I’ll tell you that traveling alone is hard, but it’s not as bad as I thought it would be.  After months surrounded by people all the time, it is sometimes comforting to be alone. Sometimes, though, it’s not.  It’s lonely and, at points, I long for someone to share my adventures with.  Often times, I’ll go a full day without having a single conversation.  When I come to stretches of my journey where I’m staying with people, I find it hard to stop talking.  All the words that have been building rush out.

So far, I have only had one emotional meltdown and that was because I forgot to take care of my basic needs.  When you haven’t eaten or slept for a long time, your body tends to shut down.  In order to pay for all the museums and castles (and ensure that I’ll still have money when I get home) I’m keeping myself on a tight budget, so most of my meals have been supermarket food–sandwiches, yogurt, bananas, salad, nuts.  It’s healthy food and keeps me going.  I do like to splurge once in every country to try an authentic meal.

I’ve learned that half the battle is the hostel.  When living on the road, it’s important to feel secure in the place you sleep.  No matter where I am, I see my bed as a safe place, a refuge from the chaos of the world.  My bed is my temporary home. In it, I can relax, breathe, and have peace.  There are other things, though, that make or break a hostel: cleanliness, locker space in the rooms, plugs by every bed, good wifi, and a self service kitchen.  It’s important to know that my laptop and phone will have a place to charge, that my belongings will be secure when I am gone, and that I can cook a hot meal for myself.

As I journey from place to place on busses, trains, and airplanes, I usually pass the time with a book.   I’m reading That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis, the final novel in his Space Trilogy.  It’s a pretty heavy book, so I’m taking my time with it. Being in the Scottish Highlands put me in the mood for Susanna Kearsley, who writes historical romances.  I’ve finished The Winter Sea and am close to the end of The Firebird.

Another important part of any adventure is the soundtrack!  Music helps me stay sane as I wait out long bus rides and navigate strange cities.  Since its release on Friday, I’ve been listening non-stop to The Lumineers’ new album, Cleopatra. Here’s the title track:

I wish I could write more, but I’m off to catch my bus to Nuremberg… Until next time!

Edinburgh: City of Light and Dark

I’ve spent the past couple of days exploring Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland.  Now, this isn’t my first visit.  I was here a few years ago while studying abroad… but a weekend just wasn’t enough.  The historic city stole my heart and I knew I had to come back.

I spent two full days in the city and was easily able to see all I wanted, and then some.  I Now, I decided to avoid paying for things I’ve already done, which means I didn’t go into Edinburgh Castle or take an underground tour.  I learned about the turbulent, divided history during my bus tour, so I skipped doing a walking tour.  Sightseeing in Edinburgh is easy and my hostel is well positioned on the Royal Mile, which means everything was a short walk away.

During these two days, I did all sorts of things.  I climbed Arthur’s Sat, the volcanic mountain in the middle of the city.  I toured Holyrood Palace on a whim and was swept away into Scottish history.  I spent hours in the National Museum of Scotland and Scottish National Gallery.  This morning, I attended church in the historic St. Giles Cathedral.  I went for evening strolls up to the castle in the rain.  I walked up Calton Hill and visited all the monuments.  I lingered in coffee shops, cafes, and pubs.

Some of my favorite time, though, was spent lingering in quiet places–sketching the city on Arthur’s Peak, reading poetry in the Princes Street Gardens, wandering solo through narrow streets.

I feel as though I’ve drunk my fill of the city, but I’m sure I’ll be back someday.

It’s time to move out of English speaking waters.  Next stop: Amsterdam!