Switzerland Reflections

Switzerland Reflections

Nearly six months have passed since my summer travels. I regret not completing my blog post about the places I visited while I was actually still in Europe. I wish everything was still fresh on my mind, though I do have many photographs to jog my memory. Since being back in Texas, I have reflected most on our time spend in Switzerland.

After Dublin, Ireland (which was detailed in my last post), my friend (Emily Hannon), my fiancé (Jasper), and I flew to Geneva, Switzerland. Upon landing, we rented a car and drove to the small village of Huémoz. My oh my, the view was just breathtaking as we drove through the mountains. Huémoz was quite small and tricky to navigate, due to it resting on the mountainside and the roads being awfully narrow and winding. I cannot stress how small of a village Huémoz was. Bellow is a photograph I captured of Huémoz one early morning when hiking.

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Huémoz, Switzerland

The community we stayed with during our time there, L’Abri (www.labri.org/swiss), was the heart of the village. I heard about L’Abri through an old friend of mine, Bethany, who actually lived there for about a year or so.

Never had I experienced such rest, serenity, and acceptance as I did there. L’Abri is a fellowship, which is difficult to explain or even put into words. It is a safe place for individuals in all walks of life who have questions they want answered, or maybe who are struggling and need a place to focus on healing, or perhaps just are seeking a few days of rest. Although founded on Christian beliefs, the community we interacted with there was a tapestry of stories and truths, unique to each person. It was a pleasure to meet people from around the world and learn about their experiences and what led them to L’Abri. Some, like us, visited for a few nights, while others had stayed for a few months or even a year. Everyone though, participated.

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L’Abri is structured a bit like the coops’s here in the states. It is very affordable to stay there, and in return for the cost being so low, everyone pitches in with the cleaning and cooking daily. Those who pay to stay at L’Abri are referred to as “students” of the community. There are also “helpers” who stay for a term or a year and choose to assist in keeping the place operating. Half a student’s day is spent cooking or cleaning, and the other is spent studying or meditating/reflecting. The L’Abri in Switzerland is comprised of two main houses; Chalet Bellevue and Farel House. Chalet Bellevue is where students lived, and Farel House is the library where we’d go during study/down time.

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Inside of Farel House
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The living/commons space in Chalet Bellevue

 

One of my favorite task was cooking. Shocking for me to say that, because back here in the states I rarely cook. Although, there was something special about cooking alongside friends, and preparing a meal for the community of us all to sit and share together. When Katrina (one of the helpers) decided to teach me how to make bread I was thrilled. It was such a warming experience. I selected a braided swiss bread recipe for that meal and it turned out great.

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The mornings there at L’Abri were my favorite part of the day. The sun rose so perfectly up from behind the mountains, and the air was so still and fresh. Oh what I would give to be back there, sitting on the front porch with a cup of hot tea and the morning sunrise.

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Sunrise in Huémoz

 

We stayed at L’Abri for three nights, then, as recommend by some friends we made during our stay, we decided to head to Interlaken, Switzerland for our next adventure.  For now I will end here, and hopefully soon will post about Interlaken and all of the hiking we did.

Cheers,

Emily

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An Irish Breakfast in Dublin

An Irish Breakfast in Dublin

Our trip ends today, I type sadly. This past month has been incredible and eye opening. I am grateful for everyone (family and friends) who made it possible for Emily, Jasper, and I. Currently I am in the Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam waiting to board our flight back to the States. With a heavy heart I say goodbye to Europe, for now. Though, I am eager to see my family back home as well as my friends and pets. The day after we get back I will be heading off to Langtry, Texas  for a two-night astrophotography class with my favorite photography company, Azulox. Although our trip has come to an end, I still have many photos to edit and sort through, as well as most trips/places we visited to blog about. I’ll be slowly catching up on all of that.

For 3 nights, from June 30th to July 3rd, we stayed in Dublin, Ireland. Dublin ranked itself pretty high on my list of favorite places we’ve traveled to thus far. The people were friendly, the prices were reasonable, and the city was lovely. Our stay there was fairly laid-back. We only had two full days and spent one at Howth hiking, then the other in the city sightseeing.

Our first morning there we ate a full Irish breakfast at a cute little cafe close to where we were staying (another Airbnb place). It was delicious but probably very fattening, ha.

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Afterwards we headed over to Howth, which some friends of ours who had visited Dublin a few days prior recommended. Howth is a peninsula a bit north of Dublin that was just beautiful. The train system took us straight there and wasn’t much of a wait. Here Jasper caught Emily and I having some sort of interesting conversation I’m sure.

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We hiked for a good part of the day around the cliffs the found a path and ventured down to the shore line as well. The Irish Sea was cold and refreshing. We even spotted sea-lions from the shore! They kept popping their heads up our of the water and looking around.

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The next day Jasper had schoolwork to do so Emily and I slept in some the explored town. We visited a few gorgeous cathedrals as well as the Dublin Castle. I loved the gothic architecture and the intricate stained glass windows of many of the buildings.

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I know this post is quite short in comparison to my others, but I am simply tired and sad to leave. I wish that we could have traveled longer, there are so many more wonderful places I’d love to visit. Though, I also am looking forward to my own bed and house after being away for so long. I am grateful for this experience and blessed by all of the amazing people we have met along the way. More blogging to come but for now, a long flight home.

Cheers,

Emily

Our Copenhagen, Denmark Experience

Our Copenhagen, Denmark Experience

It’s 4pm here in HuĂ©moz, Switzerland and around 90oF outside. I’m currently sitting at a table in the lounge/common room at L’Abri fellowship, but will be posting this a bit later because we do not have wifi here. I must say, I have never seen a place quite like this. The mountains are magnificent. Just breathtaking. For now though I’ll be posting about our stay in Copenhagen, Denmark from June 26th to the 30th.

We arrived to Copenhagen by train from LĂŒbeck, which took around 4 hours. It was very interesting, the ride there. We were on the train when all the sudden they had us all get off but leave our stuff on. We were a bit confused, but as we left the train I could smell the ocean, and quickly realized we were on a ferry! The whole train had drove onto the ferry and was crossing the ocean to Denmark. Such a neat experience it was.

In Copenhagen we stayed at another Airbnb place. It was a spare room in a family’s house which they rented out. There was another renter/person staying in the other spare room next to us as well. Our first night there Ross was still with us, so we decided to do some exploring the day we arrived before he had to leave. We walked from our Airbnb over near Enghave, past Tivoli, through Nyhavn, and to the area along the sea where the little mermaid statue was. Many other tourist were there visiting the statue as well.

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Along our walk, I noticed many colorful buildings. It gave the city quite a bit of character and liveliness.

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We walked through the park for a bit, then decided to grab a bite to eat at a local restaurant. Our waitress was so pleasant and helpful! She even let us taste some traditional Danish vodka for free. Afterwards we did some more exploring and stumbled upon a large park that was hosting a free music festival. For awhile we walked around and listened to the music. In the middle of the park was a beautiful, 17th-century palace/castle called Rosenborg. DSC_0027 DSC_0030

After our walk we took the train back to Enghave.

The next morning Ross was leaving, so we all rode the train with him to the airport to see him off (as I discussed in a previous post). After saying goodbye, Emily, Jasper, and I took the metro over to Amager Strandpark which is the beach. It was a gloomy/cloudy day, but still nice and peaceful to walk the coastline. There was a nice pier there too that we got to venture out on and plenty of wind turbines to spot as well.

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The next morning, Jasper and I woke up quite early, so we decided to venture out to a local bakery called BrÞd. It was such a lovely, quiet time of the day. Mornings are just the best time to enjoy company and food I feel. We picked up some bread, a carton of milk, and drank/ate on the walk back to our place.

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That day, Jasper had some work to do, so he hung back and studied while Emily and I visited the botanical gardens. They were so sweet and interesting. My favorite area of the gardens was the succulent greenhouse which housed a variety of succulents.

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While in Copenhagen, we also had the amazing experience of getting to visit the National Museum of Photography where photographer Joakim Eskildsen’s work was on display. DSC_0140 DSC_0159 DSC_0172

One section/project on display was titled ‘American Realities’. Joakim had taken the time to photograph Americans, learn their stories, then write about it. He focused on the sad, fallen, reality of the “American dream” and how for many people, this dream is nothing but a dream. The story among them all that stood out to me most, was the heartbreaking one of a Native-American woman named Ramona. Below is her story if you care to read.DSC_0177

After the photography museum, we decided to spend the evening at Tivoli Gardens, which is one of the oldest amusement parks in the world. It was lively, colorful, and exciting. They had a light show that evening at 10:30pm too which was neat. Though we did not ride any of the rides because of the additional costs that would have been, it was quite a fun experience.

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Well, that was Copenhagen for us. From there we took a flight to Dublin which I’ll be posting next. Till then, enjoy!

Cheers,

Emily

Town of Lubeck, Germany

Town of Lubeck, Germany

It’s 4:40AM here in Dublin, Ireland and our flight to Geneva, Switzerland leaves at 8AM (hench why I’m awake). We are all VERY excited for our stay in Switzerland. We’ll be staying at a fellowship (L’Abri) in the village Huemoz, which is situated about 1.5 hours away from Geneva. An old friend of mine lived there for awhile, and recommended we stay there during our visit. It’s in the Alps, which I cannot contain nor describe my excitement about. For now though, I’ll catch you up on our travels…

A few days back, we stayed in the somewhat-small town LĂŒbeck in Northern Germany. It was such a quaint, relaxing, pleasant town. The architecture there was just beautiful, with a bit of a medieval touch.

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Here is the street we stayed on while there (another Airbnb place). The houses were all so cute and colorful. It was inviting, as were the people.

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The place we stayed had this wonderful cherry tree around back that we had the opportunity of feasting from. It produced such plump, flavorful, juicy cherries! Mmm.

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On our first full-day there, we toured the town and visited the old churches/cathedrals. Here is a view of the town from the tower of St. Petri…

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Another marvelously designed church we visited was the LĂŒbeck Cathedral. It had such high ceilings inside and was just simply stunning. The legend about the founding of the church begins in the 8th century. According to the story, Charles the Great laid a gold chain in a deers antlers at that time. Hundreds of years later, a hunter, Henry the Lion (founder of LĂŒbeck), desired to build a church but lacked funds. Then one day he was alone walking, when he found the deer with the diamond encrusted cross in its antlers and shot the deer believing it was a sign from God. He then used the money from the cross to build the church.

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On our second/last day in LĂŒbeck we visited the botanical gardens. It was relaxing and gave me a chance to play around some with taking photographs. Our walk there was very lovely as well.

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Here is one I shot of my engagement ring at the gardens…

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Well, I apologize for the rushed post today. We have to leave here in 10 minutes so I best get going. At L’Abri we will not have wifi, so just a heads up for those trying to contact me. I’ll try and find wifi in town, but mainly will be focusing on relaxing and enjoying our time in the mountains while there.

Cheers,

Emily

Berlin by Train

Berlin by Train

In the past 7 days, Jasper, Emily, Ross, and I have traveled from Amsterdam (Holland) to Berlin (Germany), to Lubeck (Germany), and now are in Copenhagen (Denmark). Yesterday morning we said farewell to Ross though because he was returning back to the states. It was a sad goodbye, that awkwardly lingered, but we do intend on seeing him again back in the states. I’ll update you on Berlin, Germany for now.

So, first stop in Germany was Berlin. We took a train from Amsterdam there which was about 6.5 hours long. On the train we met a couple our age from Holland, Mathijs and Felie, who were taking a weekend trip to Berlin. We all hit it off and ended up visiting a lot during the ride. Once in Berlin, we found our way to the hostel we were staying at (Baxpax Downtown), checked-in, and grabbed some dinner. Most all of us were pretty tired, so we took that evening to rest and settle in. The next day though, we were all up bright and early. Breakfast at the hostel was fairly inexpensive, so we just grabbed a bite there before heading out.

Our first stop was the Reichstag Building. Along the way though we also passed a beautiful modern building, which after googling it, I discovered was/is the German Chancellery. Pretty neat!DSC_9499

After walking past the German Chancellery, we arrived at the Reichstag Building. Not seen in this photograph (because I was too short to capture it unfortunately) is the roof terrace and dome which people can schedule to visit in advance. Due to late planning, we had not scheduled to visit it, though I find it neat that they allow people to do so!DSC_9519

Next stop was Brandenburg Gate. From reading wikipedia I learned that this arch is an 18th-century neoclassical triumphal arch and is built where a former city gate once stood. DSC_9535

After that, we walked through the park a bit and came upon a Soviet War Memorial which stood tall. In front of the memorial were beds of gorgeous red flowers that we couldn’t resist taking pictures with.

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My handsome fiance, Jasper, in front of the Soviet War Memorial in Berlin.DSC_3931

From there we then headed over to The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (aka Holocaust Memorial). This amazing piece of artwork/architecture was haunting and beautiful. Each slab, slightly imperfect, yet still so precisely placed.DSC_9555

By then we were all pretty hungry, so we snagged food and found an ATM, then headed off to the Topography of Terror. The Topography of Terror consist of both outdoor, and indoor, exhibits telling the history of Germany, their involvement in WWII, and of the tragedy of the Holocaust. Going through the museum, was a difficult read, because of how terrible and saddening all that happened is, but it was very educational and informative.

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From there we ventured to the Jewish Museum, which I enjoyed quite a lot. It was another educational experience, but with more exhibits and interaction with it.

Here Jasper is trying to get a nice photograph of Emily in the Garden of Exile, while Ross and I jump in spontaneously.

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The name of this exhibit slips my mind, but it was Jasper’s favorite. Beautiful images.DSC_9657

This was the most moving, and haunting exhibit for me. It is called Shalekhet – Fallen Leaves by Menashe Kadishman and was located in the Memory Void section of the museum. On the floor laid over 10,000 open-mouthed faces coarsely cut from iron. Ross mentioned to us he had read somewhere that the concept is that if you were to try walking across them, the screeching sound of the iron faces rubbing against one another would be too much to even handle, which is intended to resemble the screams of those murdered in the Holocaust.

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We all spent some time in silence in the Holocaust Tower as well. It was very eerie in there, yet gave such perspective on life and provided a deepened sense of appreciation for life. The one spot of light shining through I believe to resemble hope. DSC_9608

While at the Jewish Museum, guess who we ran into! None other than Mathijs and Felie, the friends we had made on the train ride. So, we all decided to exchange numbers and met up for dinner the next evening then strolled the town some. It was nice to visit with such a lively, and energetic couple. They brought new stories and excitement to our group.

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The next day (after touring the city) we spent hiking through Grunewald Forest. We hiked somewhere around 10 miles that day. It was so refreshing to get out of the city and away from all the business. Just enjoying nature, was serene to say the least. We hiked completely across the width of the forest, from one side, to the edge of the other which ended at The Havel (a river there in north-eastern Germany).

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We came upon this tower, still unsure what exactly it is or why it’s there, at the edge of Grunewald. Beneath it though had a restaurant, which we were relieved about after having not eaten in quite some time.

DSC_9714Though, before eating we took the trail down to the beach. It was a glum day, so my photos from it aren’t all that great. At the head of the trail there was a sign we were unable to read because of the language difference. To my guess, it warns pedestrians to stay on path and watch out for snakes. I say this, because we went off the path, and to our bad-luck, stumbled upon a large dark-green snake. Though, we just slowly turned around and went back the way we came.

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So, that was Berlin summed up. Now to wake Emily and Jasper, who are napping, so we can head to Tivoli Gardens here in Copenhagen.

Cheers,

Emily

Paris with Good Company

Paris with Good Company

Just an update on our Paris trip a few weeks back. The weekend of June 12th to the 14th we spent in Paris, France the from there went to Mol, Belgium the 15th to 16th.

Beginning with the 12th…Jasper arrived in Amsterdam and I met him at the airport! I was thrilled to see him after nearly a month apart. Here he is upon our arrival in Delft. The weather was just perfect that day. DSC_9052

I gave him no time to rest though unfortunately, because soon as he arrived we grabbed lunch with our good friend David then headed off to Paris. Not sure if I’ve mentioned this before or not, but just in case I haven’t, David is the brother of Jasper’s best-friend from highschool, Ondrej. He’s also going to be the officiate at our wedding!

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After lunch we grabbed our stuff and headed straight to the train station. The trip in total was around 4hrs long to get to Paris from Delft. Though long, the family next to us along the way made it quite enjoyable. The wife was from Australia and her husband from Holland. They had two charming little girls, Lilly, around 5 years old, and Gracie around 1. Lilly chatted away any time there was even the slightest moment of silence. Jasper and I didn’t mind it at all though because she was just so pleasant and well mannered. Their dad apparently is a top-notch polo player for the Dutch team, which was quite interesting as well. We really did luck out though, because with two young kids on a long train ride, it could have easily gone bad. Jasper took some nice photos during the trip as well that I thought I’d share.

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In Paris, it was go-go-go. Emily had arrived a day before us so she already had a grip on some of the inter-city traveling and was able to give us advice. She luckily had a friend there in Paris as well, Emir, who showed us around and was of HUGE help. While there we went into Petit Palais, toured Palace of Versailles, saw the Eiffel Tower, walked by the Louvre, visited Notre Dame, passed MusĂ©e d’Orsay, spent some time at Arc de Triomphe, and much more. It was lovely and exciting. Here are a few of the highlights.

This is the Petit Palais. Jasper and I were walking past it when we noticed people going in, so we joined in line. To our surprise and joy, we found out it had free entry so we toured around it for a bit.

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The Eiffel Tower of course was/is a ‘must see’ amazing piece of architecture.

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While walking around we passed by the MusĂ©e d’Orsay, which was a neat thing to see. Though the line to get it was quite long, and we had other things we wanted to see that day, so we skipped on going in.

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I really appreciated all the detail in the gold designs on the front of the Palace of Versailles. DSC_9234DSC_9254

The inside of the Palace of Versailles was just absolutely stunning (as seen below).DSC_9235

Then there was also the Arc de Triomphe which looked so small from far away, but was massive when you got up close.

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Of course, with all of our shenanigans, we had to have a bit of fun at Notre Dame. There is Emily on the far left, I am to her right, then there is Mallory (aka Mal-gal), and of course Ross the boss at the far right. It’s been such a joy, and so much excitement, traveling with these unique individuals. I have been so lucky having the pleasure of being surrounded by intelligent, witty, and outgoing travelers.

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Well, that was Paris in a nutshell.

Currently we’re in Copenhagen, Denmark. We will possibly hop over to Malmö, Sweden for a day before heading off to Dublin, Ireland on the 30th. Other than Copenhagen, so far we’ve been to Berlin, and LĂŒbeck, both in Germany. Those will be in my next post/blog! Much more excitement to come. Thanks for hanging in with me and my rambles about our travels.

Cheers,

Emily

Amsterdam Open Air

Amsterdam Open Air

Since I’m a bit behind on post, this’ll be a short one. Currently, I’m sitting at a hostel in Berlin, Germany. Classes ended yesterday. It was difficult to say goodbye to everyone and part ways, but I know we will all see eachother again back in Texas.

Today I’m going to catch everyone up a bit about our Amsterdam weekend back from June 5th-7th. We went to the friendship football (aka soccer) match between the US and Holland as well as attended the music festival Amsterdam Open Air.

The football/soccer match was so energetic and a lot of fun! To our surprise, the US won the match. They were down for a good part of the game, then right near the end made several goals that brought them into the lead. During the game, I couldn’t decide who to cheer for, so I just cheered for both teams the whole time, ha. It made things fun because either way, the team I cheered for won. My friend Emily was rooting for Holland, so she was pretty upset when they lost. Either way though, the game was a blast.

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The next day, Saturday, Amsterdam Open Air begun. Emily and I were very excited because there were several bands, such as Zeds Dead, that we wanted to see. The amount of people there was just amazing. I really was taken back by the numbers and the energy that everyone brought. It was lively, colorful, and energetic. We got to see Zed’s Dead as well as several other bands. There was so much to do/see there as well. There was a painting area too, which of course, I just couldn’t pass up. The decorations were all so interesting and fun as well even, it all added to the vibe of the festival.

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So, that was Open Air. Next post will be about our Paris trip, given that I can get the photos edited! Yikes I have a lot to catch up on. We’ll be in Berlin until Tuesday, then it’s off to Lubeck, Germany for a few days. Hope to be able to update y’all more soon!

I want to brag a bit about our family and friends back home, watching over things for us. We have some amazing family friends that are watching our dogs for us which we’re very grateful for. Also, in honor of Father’s day, shout out to my Papa and Granddad for being so supportive and loving. Thank you to both of my grandparents on both sides of my family for all that y’all do. Love you!

Cheers,

Emily