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66degreesNorth

Iceland

snow 0 °C

Hvar sem fjandinn er par hafur hann sina (A wise man changes his mind, a fool never will).
Emanuel Strauss

Iceland. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I would be boarding a plane, crossing the North Atlantic Ocean, heading towards Reykjavik. However four days ago, this is the exact position I seemed to find myself in.

Many people asked me, ‘why Iceland?’ and my response was ‘why not?’ This fascination with this little country with a population of 320 000 stems back to the start of this year. A guy I met traveling was heading there in search of the Northern Lights, and I never really thought anything more of it. Another friend of mine headed there in Summer where it’s light twenty-four hours of the day, again, I didn’t give it another thought. Then, whilst I was planning, booking and researching my end of year travel, Iceland made her way into my mind. I began looking into the wild idea of actually going, where I became hooked to my computer screen at the captivating images of this magnificent country. Then, another friend went to Iceland and I thought, that’s it, I’m doing it. So that brings me to Reykjavik in the middle of winter.

As we descended through the clouds, I was breath taken by the rugged, barren and untamed landscape before me. The bus ride into town was pretty majestical, I listened to Sigur Ros’ album Valtari, and my senses were overloaded. I was captivated by the dark mountains blanketed ever so delicately in snow, the mysterious sky swirling with grey clouds to such a brilliant album was truly such an amazing experience.
I stayed at the KEX hostel which is one of the best hostels I’ve ever stayed in. It used to be an old biscuit factory which is now converted into a retro, funky hostel. That night I had some beer at the bar with our little KEX crew, people from England, Germany, America, Canada, Taiwan, Malaysia, Holland and of course, Australia.

My first day in Iceland was spent relaxing and lazing around the Blue Lagoon. Whilst steeply overpriced, it was so worth the money to be in such a warm, beautiful place. The hardest thing about these geothermal pools is the pain staking run from indoors to the water. And I’ve never run faster. Once submerged in the cleansing waters, all of life’s troubles were forgotten. We watched the sun rise over the mountains, witnessing the darkness disappear to golden hues. I had my underwater camera so we took some pretty awesome photos, the only issue now that I believe some of the sediment made its way through the cracks and now I’m experiencing technical difficulties, but the photos are fine so that’s all I need. After a few hours of heavenly bathing in nature’s goodness, we headed back to the city.
That afternoon, we trudged our way around the town, and that is no exaggeration. I have never been in wind so strong. Your face stings, coat is flapping everywhere and your words are lost to the roar of the skies. In hind sight, it’s all hilarious but at the time, ever so painful. We saw the renowned Viking statue and walked up to probably one of the strangest churches I’ve ever seen. The main street is so cute and lovely, with Christmas decorations still swaying above. That night I enjoyed a long hot shower, some awesome cheap food and more beer from the bar before completely passing out in my little cocoon of a sleeping bag.

A very early start to the day as I embarked on a journey around the Golden Circle. At 66°N, the sun doesn’t rise until 11am so the first part of the day was spent napping. The Icelandic Highlands are absolutely incredible. Words cannot describe the vastness of the place. How people managed to inhabit the land hundreds of years ago is beyond me. Our first stop was Gullfoss waterfall, and I thought Reykjavik was windy, oh wasn’t I mistaken. The hurricane strength winds flew off the icy earth and whipped across my face like knives. I literally could not feel my nose and occasionally reached my hand up to check that the wind had not swept it from my face. We were walking across the ground which was dangerously covered in ice so people were slipping and sliding in all directions. However, the view was worth the numbing pain. The waterfall was such a vivid cold blue, as the edges of the earth were frozen the water plummeted down. I took my photos, took it all in and then retreated back to the bus to defrost.

The next stop was the Geysir, which as we arrived was spurting high into the air. Here was much less windy and they sky was a rich blue with the sun actually showing its face! Afterwards we stopped at the tectonic plate boundary between the Eurasian plate and North American plate. The Rift Valley was amazing and having studied environmental science at school and being a mega nerd about it all, I was fairly excited! The view over the valley was incredible and difficult to take in. On the ride back to town I was listening to Of Monsters and Men, another great Icelandic band, and let my mind wonder beyond the mountains and clouds.

That night there was a jazz band playing in the bar so we found a corner complete with a cool swinging chair and lots of beer to enjoy each others company, the music and my last night in Reykjavik.

Iceland was such a beautiful surprise, a gem hidden in the middle of nowhere. I really didn’t have many expectations but I can tell you they were all exceeded. Despite the pricy nature of the country, it’s so worth getting up hours before the sun rises and exploring this mostly untouched land. I would love to return one day, maybe in the summertime, but who knows when I’ll next be 66°N again? I met some absolutely lovely people, drank some really awesome beer, saw natural wonders like glaciers that I may never see again. And in an environment that is so fragile yet fierce, it really got me thinking about the immense power of nature and how it can influence our mind, spirit and body. Iceland, you were absolutely magical and I couldn’t have asked for a better way to end my year abroad.

Xxx

A

Posted by missadelaide 04:00 Archived in Iceland Tagged waterfalls beer unique friends beautiful love amazing geysers windy cold iceland arctic reykjavik Comments (1)

A Wee Trip To Scotland

Make It Count

overcast 12 °C

Challenges are what make life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful

- Joshua J. Marine

Somewhere between place and time, day and night… OK somewhere between Edinburgh and Newcastle, I sit staring out the window of the train with vivid memories of the past week flashing across the emerald horizon.

Scotland… you have delivered once again. 10 days is definitely not enough time to embrace all you have to offer, I’m not sure if a lifetime is enough. From your wee village of Largoward, mysteries of Loch Ness, the pristinely untouched Isle of Skye, ruins in St Andrews and the incredible cobblestone streets of Edinburgh… you are such a gem that will forever have a strong hold over my heart and fiery red hair.

My year abroad is rapidly coming to an end, and with only four weeks until I return home, there is some much needed travel to be done. I decided to revisit Scotland for two reasons; to spend some time with my UK family and to get one last encounter with the beauty of Scotland. At the beginning of the year, Edinburgh was the first destination I journeyed to purely alone. I believe this was a life defining moment for me. To be in another county, alone, no idea where I was going or what I was doing, but knowing that there was something there for me, is a pretty remarkable feeling.

If you can’t be inspired by Scotland, then I genuinely don’t know what can. Everything from the people, the architecture, culture and the breath taking scenery is screaming to be captured in a photo, painting, book or (on a more amateur note) blog. I had such a lovely time relaxing in rural Fife. Sleeping until the afternoon, playing dress ups with ‘the wee pest,’ drinking red wine and Prosecco, and just chilling was such a nice change to the routine, dreariness London offers. I completely understand how so much great literature has come from Scotland, and I hope to be published one day as someone who was ever so inspired by this country.

Returning to Edinburgh, that feeling hit me again. Walking the familiar cobblestone streets, I felt a sense of home. Edinburgh is definitely somewhere I could see myself living, which says a lot. I checked into my hostel (High Street Hostel) and was immediately told about the free pub crawl that night. For any of you looking for accommodation in Edinburgh, look no further. Really cheap, awesome kitchen/lounge area (pool table and all) Thursday nights they have the free pub crawl and Fridays are burger nights which are wicked. Anyway, the people in my room were so cool and friendly. From all over the world, they invited me to join them for dinner and drinks… who could say no right? We got some vodka and lined our stomachs with amazing pasta, to kick off the start of a memorable night.
Before we go any further, vodka redbulls for 1.75… enough said.
The drinks went down, we danced and sang the night away, I think, with some cool and very attractive locals.

Night 2 was very similar to the first, though we were at a slight disadvantage due to our hangovers. Nonetheless… we carried on. The second night I met up with some of the locals we met the previous night and ended up at a house party drinking rum and eating home-made Tiramisu, before heading to a club in the city to dance the night away until 4am. What a night!

The next afternoon as I was walking down to Waverly Station, a strange feeling overcame me. Maybe it was a mega hangover from a big weekend… but it was some sort of closure. That Edinburgh had done its job. Saw me arrive as a young, naïve, girl and leave as a (still young) open-minded, strong, confident, slight alcoholic, young lady who knows I can achieve anything. Cheesy I know, but I guess that’s one thing that will never change.
I know I will return to Edinburgh one day. It is no doubt one of my favourite cities I’ve experienced, each time meeting new friends, having different adventures, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol and creating new memories which will last a lifetime.
So to Edinburgh and your beautiful country, thank you.
Peace
Xxx
A

Posted by missadelaide 11:01 Archived in Scotland Tagged food rain beer winter scotland home history travel adventure friends life beautiful old uk amazing drinks vodka cold cobblestone Comments (0)

This Is The Rhythm Of The Night

Brilliant Bavaria

overcast 3 °C

=="Rhythm is a dancer, it's the souls companion"==

Sometimes, all you need is a breath of fresh air to re-ignite that passion, motivate your actions and clear your mind, and what better way to escape than jet setting across Europe to the traditional and beautiful city of Munich.

I tend not to write about my travels, however, the past 96 hours have been so revolutionary, mind blowing and incredible that there's no way I couldn't... and now I am back home, exhausted from a very full on weekend eating pretzels, bratwurst, drinking steins and diving into the culture of Munich, I realise just how lucky I am.

So, Thursday morning, my travel buddy and best friend, Jess, and I embarked on our journey. Tube, bus, plane and we were in Munich, Germany!
Thankfully Jess speaks and understands German, whereas I on the other hand know, [i]hallo, ja, nein, danke,[i]... and that's about it, but I was ready to take it all on.
Our hostel was right near the main train station, The Euro Youth Hostel, which I would highly recommend to anyone travelling to Munich. They have comfortable beds, large rooms, hot showers and an awesome bar which we got much too friendly with.
After a quick unpack and gaining our orientation we burst out onto the cold street in search of food and adventure.
Only a quick stroll to the Marienplatz, we were in the centre of the city where Christmas was lingering in the air. Beautiful lights flooded the street and we wondered down the cobblestone path to the Rathaus, a spectacular building with a glockenspiel and clock tower. I bet the Germans play a game called spot the tourist infront of the Rathaus, as we eagerly anticipated the chiming of the bells and movement of the figures in the tower as the clock struck 6... little did we know it only goes off once at mid day, so after a few minutes we awkwardly put our cameras away and kept walking. I swear some guys behind us shared a giggle amongst themselves.
We walked up and down the Marienplatz in search of reasonably priced food. As we were almost about to give up hope, we found what seemed a hidden restaurant. Behind a heavy iron door and down some stairs was the bustle of a cute restaurant/drinking hall which our stomach's couldn't ignore. Sharing a table with a cute elderly German couple and old sleazy Austrian men, we had beer, pretzels, bratwurst and saurkraut. Oh, and believe it or not, the Austrian men pulled the classic German joke, "ah, you are hungry for German sausage?" We awkwardly laughed, finished our drinks, said Auf Wiedersehen and left.
The icy air chased us back to our hostel and we took refuge at the bar. We were both extremely tired so we ordered two soft drinks before two
Australian's (seriously I swear we're everywhere) questioned our choice of beverage and before we knew it, we had downed 2 cocktails and 2 bottles of prosecco between us. Whoops!
We stumbled to bed and knew that this weekend was going to be amazing!

We woke on Friday, slightly hungover, extremely hungry and even more adventurous... so we downed some water and manned up to face the day. Now where else do you go in search of hearty German food in Munich but the Hoftbrau Haus, and boy did that deliver. I had some Ox Goulash which was absolutely amazing and we tried to have a stein but our stomach's were still slightly unsettled from the previous night, so we settled for 1/2L Radler (beer with lemonade) which I still couldn't finish! =( At least I tried haha
Extremely satisfied we retreated to the hostel for a nanna nap = pure bliss
After our much needed sleep, we got pumped up for BASTILLE!
[Quick side note* For those of you who don't know Bastille, go and download their album right now. It will be the best thing you've ever done for your ears. Oh and the lead singer, Dan, we're engaged, he just doesn't know it yet]
We headed out to the venue where we befriended a cute German couple, Tom and Christine who helped us with directions and we hung out with during the show.
Words honestly do not do it justice. They were AMAZINGINGLY INCREDIBLE!!!! His voice is literally hyptnotising.
As soon as he played the opening chords to Overjoyed, my favourite song, I literally broke down crying. It was so moving to experience such musicality and passion coming from one person's mouth/heart. By far they are a million times better in concert than on their CD.
Also, the fact that we made friends with people around us, really does determine how music brings people together, where language isn't a barrier and together we are unified through incredible music.
On a massive adrenaline/emotional high, we headed back to the city, contemplating life as one does after experiencing something so moving, before crashing into bed.

Saturday was an absolutely miserable day, cold, windy and raining, which was fit for our destination, Dachau.
All throughout school I have studied WWII and the Holocaust but no amount of notes, facts, stories or videos could ever prepare me for the pure sickness I felt walking through the gates thousands of Jews walked through 70 odd years ago.
Even as I write this, I feel sick, reminded of the complete emptiness I felt. Tears flooded from my eyes as a pure emotional response to being there, unlike anything I had ever experienced before. I won't continue, you know what's there and what happened, but even still I just cannot possibly imagine what it would have been like.
The strangest thing was the contrasting beauty of the surrounding area. The trees were beautiful oranges, reds and golds and leaves smothered the earth and alongside the perimeter is a beautiful stream. I guess that's Mother Nature's way of reminding us that there is still beauty in the earth despite all the horrendous acts mankind inflicts on one another.
I feel like I will never forget my time there, I never could.

Upon our return to the city, to lighten our spirits, Jess and I did the most joyful, childish, happy thing one can do in winter in Munich, we went ice skating! Ah! We had an absolute ball! Although I somewhat resembled a baby giraffe taking its first steps, I managed not to fall over and actually make it around the rink whilst children zoomed past. After the biggest work out we've had in a long time, we skated until our legs shook and our cheeks ached from laughing, we engaged in some apres ski tradition.
We met up with a friend of mine who took us to a local pub where I finally did it... drank 1L of beer!!! Ta DAAAAA
And devoured an amazing dinner. We drank, ate and chatted for hours before we were given a first class guided tour of the back streets of Munich before getting lost and saturated by the icy rain.
After a lovely meal and drinking sesh we called it a night.
Emotionally and physically drained we slept like logs.

Which brings me to now. Back in London. Same old house, same old room, but definitely a different me.
Munich really is an incredible city which has so much to offer. The thing I love most about it is the vibe. It's not like other big cities, London, Paris or Rome, still bustling but in its unique way, maintaining a strong Bavarian traditional flavour making you feel as though you are experiencing the true Germany. The combination of incredible food and beer, music, history, culture, friendships and adventure was perfect and really made me open my eyes and heart, changing something within me.
I had one of the best weekends of my life and with only 2 weeks left of work before my next adventure, I am hungry for more.

xxx
A

Posted by missadelaide 09:17 Archived in Germany Tagged beer winter history germany music love europe adventures amazing ice_skating cold munich bavaria bastille dachau pretzels steins euros understanding weekends best_friends life_changing Comments (0)

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