MY TOP 10 TRAVEL GOALS

A beautiful field

If I could pack my bags right now and travel the world, I would 🌎 Sadly the responsible adult in me consistently reminds me that I have other things on my plate that I need to take care of first. But as the semester winds down and I have this summer break ahead of me, I cannot help but dream about the traveling I could do if I didn’t have those adult commitments holding me back.

So here are my top 10 places that it is my goal to travel to, by let’s say… 30? 🤔 That may be pushing it, but a girl can dream, right? Let’s dream together and get on with the list!

Map of the top 10 places I want to travel too!

1. GREECE

Greece has been at the top of my list for years! I cannot wait to get there one day. Ideally, I would have time to travel to places like Athens, Delphi, Santorini, Crete, Thessaloniki, among many of the stunning places Greece has to offer. The history of these places is so incredibly rich. And to be honest, I would love to relive some Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants moments! Oh and the food… I cannot wait to have authentic Greek food! 😍

2. UNITED KINGDOM

The UK has also been on my list for a while! London holds the first position in the list of all I would like to see while there. I would obviously have to try and get a peek at the Queen and her family! 👑 I was one of those girls who got up at 4 a.m. to see the royal wedding a few years ago, just to give you an impression of how much I enjoy royalty. I also have dreamt of getting a pair of Hunter Boots, straight from the source. Then I would meander through the English countryside wearing them to see some true English estates! And of course, I would be on the hunt for the best fish and chips! I would finish up my UK trip with a tour of Scotland with all of the insider tips from my lovely Scottish aunt!

3. IRELAND

A Guinness, an authentic Claddagh ring and seeing the Cliffs of Moher would make for a great trip to Ireland. Here too, ideally would be able to travel around the country and explore the countryside, experience true Irish pubs and read some books in a cozy B&B. Luckily, it looks like seeing the Cliffs of Moher and maybe getting an authentic Claddagh ring are not too far away as I have a dear friend studying abroad in Galway this fall! As a weekend trip will not suffice, I will most likely have to drag Jonathan back to come explore more with me! 🤗

4. NEW ZEALAND

The distance alone makes New Zealand so far away, but also the wildlife and nature make it seem even farther away because it is something I have never ever seen before. And for just those reasons, I cannot wait to travel to New Zealand. This trip is actually happening in February, together with Jonathan for a conference that he is attending and I am SO excited to see this part of the world. I have seen many documentaries about the country and look forward to experiencing both the North and South Island!

5. ALASKA

I love experiencing nature around the world. Yes, big cities are stunning too, but I cannot get over the beauty Mother Nature created for us. Each and every one of these places I crave to travel too is a stunning masterpiece of  Mother Natures creation, but I think Alaska could take the cake.

A friend of mine, Frank (check out his Instagram his pictures are amazing!) is currently spending his second summer in Alaska and I blame his stunning photos for my desire to go explore this beautiful state! I envision this trip All-American style – a big pick-up truck, loaded with camping supplies, a map and all the time in the world to appreciate the beauty in front of me 😌

6. ITALY

A glass of wine, a plate full of pasta and gelato for everyone! With all of the history, Italy has to offer, it is hard to imagine that I could cover Rome, Vatican City, Pisa, Venice, Florence, the Amalfi Coast, Cinque Terre, among all of the other stunning places in one trip. Plus my pants would probably combust if I were there so long eating so many delicious things 😂 I see a few different trips in my future, covering various regions of Italy. At the top of my list at the moment is the Lake Como region. In the future, I would work my way through the boot and you bet your bottom dollar I will ride a Vespa through the streets of Rome and make a wish at the Trevi Fountain (Lizzie Mcguire anyone?!) 😍

7. FRANCE

Since moving to Europe, it has been my dream to spend New Year’s Eve in Paris, and Jonathan and I agreed to make that a goal for 2017-2018! The fireworks and the Eifel Tower together seem like one majestic combination. I also want to experience the art, the history and a croissant or 20. I have never been somewhere as chic as Paris and would love to explore the city. And one day when I am in need of a glamorous vacation to relax and recharge, Southern France will be calling my name 😘

8. HAWAII

Ask Jonathan where he wants to travel too and he will say Hawaii, and I agree. Sitting on a beach somewhere sipping a fruity cocktail and hearing the waves crash against the shore… That would be so lovely! But, Jonathan and I are not ones to just waste an entire day away. We would quickly find ourselves hiking to a volcano or taking surfing lessons. And exploring the Hawaiin countryside while driving around in a convertible would be pretty dang amazing too 😃

9. SOUTH AFRICA

After coincidentally making friends with 2 wonderful ladies from South Africa, Carla, and Nadia, I have been even more curious to explore this seemingly beautiful country! At the top of my list is Cape Town. But, from my understanding, South Africa also has an incredible wine country! And you know I want to test that out. I will also be sure to make a list of all of the insider tips Carla and Nadia give me! 😉

10. ICELAND

A day relaxing at the Blue Lagoon, seeing Icelandic ponies running in the wild, finding the perfect Icelandic sweater, and hiking through the wonders of Iceland’s nature… That would make this the perfect trip. This too would be a trip with a simple list of sights I want to see, but no schedule, because I just don’t want rush from place to place, but instead see as much as I can!

Traveling is something I want and need to take advantage of throughout my life. I love getting to see new sights and interact with new cultures. This world has so many incredible hidden corners and I cannot wait to explore some of them!🤗 And you know that as soon as I explore somewhere new, I will take you along!

If you could travel anywhere right now, where would it be?

With love,

Lena Marie 💕

EXPLORE WITH ME | ZUGSPITZE

Mountains

The Popp family took on another adventure last weekend, this time to the Zugspitze! The Zugspitze is the highest point in Germany and most definitely worth a visit.

You may be wondering how the heck we have had the time to do all of this and the answer is public holidays! The state of Germany that we live in, Baden-Württemberg, has a whopping 12 public holidays a year. Several are based on the church calendar. This is great for everyone in the workforce, like my parents, because within the last 6 weeks they have only had to work one full work week. How crazy is that?! But, this opens up a great opportunity to go sightseeing!

Prior to going to the Zugspitze, you need to decide which side you want to go up on. Since it straddles the German, Austrian border you can either ascend on the German or Austrian side. Both sides have pros and cons. We ended up going with the German side because we did not want to have to deal with toll roads. There is also a stunning lake, the Eibsee, on the German side that I wanted to visit. Conveniently there is a train station by the lake from which you can ascend the mountain. So German side it is!

You can find all of the train station information to plan your trip here

On Saturday, May 27th, we piled into the car at 6 a.m. and started the 4-hour drive to the Zugspitzbahn Eibsee (train station near the Eibsee). From the moment the sun started peaking it was clear that we picked a stunning day for this trip. As we neared the train station the mountains jutted into the horizon and suddenly it became apparent how little we people really are.

Around 10 we made it to the train station. The Zugspitze was looming over us and I could catch my first glimpse of the Eibsee through the trees. It was nice and warm out, but we knew it would quickly get cold as we ventured to the top, so we changed out of our sandals into hiking shoes, packed up our sweatshirts and I grabbed my camera.

We had informed ourselves ahead of time about ticket prices, and they are definitely not cheap. But, at the moment they are building a new cable car, they are renovating the look-out platforms at the top, and they obviously need to ensure the safety for everyone. That costs big money, so the tickets, in my opinion, are justifiable. Off we were to wait for the next train to come through.

Ticket
Waiting for the cogwheel train to the top!

The way that it works is that you take the cogwheel train to the Glacier Station and from there you can get onto a cable car to ascend to the tippy top.

Train
The cogwheel train that takes you to the Glacier Station!

The train came, we found ourselves spots to hang onto and off we were! Unfortunately, the majority of the train ride is through a tunnel. We did not get to see much of how the environment changes the higher you get. BUT, in December they are opening a new cable car to the top from the Eibsee Station where you will be able to see it all!

A quick tip – the ride to the top is about 30-40 minutes and obviously, it’s steep! There are train stations ahead of the Eibsee Station which meant that all of the seats were already taken. If you want to ensure yourself a seat, especially in the busy season, I would recommend getting on the train earlier than we did. 

Cable car
One of the cable cars going down the Austrian side!

We arrived at the Glacier station and walked to where the cable car departs from. After waiting a couple of minutes the next cable car arrived and we squished into it with what seems like 30-40 other people. It is a little nerve-wracking since we are literally hanging from a cable, but thankfully it’s a speedy trip of maybe 7 minutes. Upon getting the top we had to find our way out of the building and when we did… wow.

Summit of the Zugspitze
The gold cross represents the tippy top!

We could not have chosen a better day to take this trip. There was not a cloud in the sky, you could see for miles and miles on end, the temperatures were mild, the sun was pounding down on us, and it was just breathtaking.

Birdseye view of the Eibsee
The Eibsee from the top!

We spent a while wandering around all of the platforms and appreciating the view from each and every angle. Funnily enough, you can actually cross the border and venture over onto the Austrian platforms too. And from there you have a killer view of the Eibsee! By now we were pretty famished. The Austrian side has a self-serve restaurant where we got ourselves a hearty meal. Bratwurst, french fries and apple strudel for dessert! Basically a heart attack in one meal, but this was not an everyday experience!

Standing on the glacier in a tank top
Standing on the glacier!

After lunch, we kept walking around and then took the cable car back down to the Glacier Station. Here you can ski, sled, whatever you want. The temperatures were so warm, that I was in my tank top while trampling around in the snow! The view was just absolutely insane.

After seeing everything that we wanted to see we headed back to the cogwheel train and headed down. This time we were able to snag some seats, which made the ride much more comfortable. At the bottom, we changed back into our summer shoes and ventured down to the Eibsee.

Lake
Eibsee, nestled in the mountains!

It is a beautiful lake nestled in between the mountain peaks. As the weather was so nice there were people paddle boarding, paddle boating, swimming, and basking in the sun everywhere. The water was definitely comparable to Lake Michigan temperatures, but SO rocky! I wanted to swim, but there was nowhere to change, we needed to get back on the road, and there were just so many people. So yes, the lake is gorgeous, but I could not find the secret spot the Pinteresters know for a photo!

Ice cream cone
An ice cream cone was a must on a hot day!

After an ice cream cone to “cool off” we piled back into the car around 4:30 and headed back home. We made it home in time to catch a TV show we all wanted to watch, eat a more nutritious meal and get a good nights sleep.

Family
So happy I don’t even care about my double chin!

It was an amazing day trip, and definitely a place you should visit if you can. We could not have chosen a better day for this adventure and I am so glad that my parents and I could do this together.

So 2 things to take away from this post:

  1. Take advantage of days off and go explore the place you call home!
  2. The Zugspitze is stunning and totally worth a visit if you are in the area!

Now I can say I have been on the highest point in Germany AND the Northernmost point.

What do you like doing when you have a long holiday weekend?

With love,

Lena Marie

EXPLORE WITH ME | SYLT

Sunset on Sylt

A little over a week ago my family and I returned from a weeks vacation on the island of Sylt. Since then I have been trying to get things done for school, dealing with computer issues, and have not felt the urge to write! But today, I would like to share my families week away with you all! I hope you enjoy it! 🙂

Family is everything, and if you have the chance to get away from reality for a week with your family, you make it happen. That is exactly what I did! Nestled in the very north of Germany is an island in the North Sea, called Sylt. This island is like the Hamptons of Germany. It is a place that many wealthy people like to retire too, this is obvious from the homes, cars and various toys you see around the island.

BUT, the island is also an amazing place to visit as an “average” family or individual. There are many vacation rentals and hotels, restaurants galore, bike-rentals up the whazoo, and tons of other awesome activities. Water sports, a horseback ride along the coastline, you name it! It is an absolutely stunning place.

I experienced Sylt the first time in January of 2016, at a time in my life that things were far from perfect. The vacation was great, but I can remember the way that I felt at the time and that was not great. I am so happy to have been able to reexperience this lovely island in a much happier state of mind and today I wanted to take you with me 🙂

DAY 1 – SATURDAY
Kafaya's Hamburg
Breakfast at Kafaya’s!

At 2:10 a.m. we were off. While driving through the night is strenuous, it was entirely worth it. At 8:30 we made it to our first destination of the day, my city of birth, Hamburg, Germany! We met up with our old neighbor for a delightful breakfast at a little corner café called Kafayas. It was the breakfast of champions that powered us through the rest of the day. The breakfast was made with so much love, the café is gorgeous, and the company made it perfect.

After a few hours break, it was time to hit the road again. With about 2 hours to go before we got to the car-train to Sylt, our vacation was in reach. If you are traveling by car, your destination is a town called Niebüll where you then drive your car onto a train and then are chugga-chugga-choo-choo-ed on over the North Sea for 40 minutes until you reach Sylt.

Upon arriving we headed to our home for the week, the wonderful Ferienhaus Ines. We stayed here once before and loved it so much that we had to return! Not only is the house centrally located, but it has everything you could need and more. A small fenced in yard, a kitchen with all of the must-have utensils, 3 cozy bedrooms, and a lovely host, Ines, make it a wonderful place to stay!

We couldn’t take being on the island and not go to the beach, so we quickly ventured to the coast on a lovely mild and sunny afternoon to breath in the fresh sea air. It was the perfect way to start off a wonderful week.

DAY 2 – SUNDAY
Baby sheep standing at a trough
Baby sheep at the Lister Ellenbogen!

We were very tired from the long trip, so sleeping in was a must. The sun was shining, so we soaked it up a little before heading to the Lister Ellenbogen, the northernmost point of the island, picnic in hand. We walked along the beach, enjoyed our picnic and took in the view. With sheep and bunnies roaming freely and tons of dune grass, you cannot complain!

Our next stop was a cute restaurant called the Alte Backstube for tea and a sweet treat! We finished up our outing for the day at the Uwe Düne, the highest point of the island. While the view was insane, the wind had gotten nippy and we were ready to return to our lovely house. We cooked up a delicious meal, watched a movie and called it a day!

DAY 3 – MONDAY
Rotes Kliff, Kampen, Sylt
View from the “Rotes Kliff” in Kampen!

Finally, we were fully rested and ready to tackle the day. We rented bikes for the day and did a little tour around the island. We rode from Tinnum to Munkmarsch to Kampen, into the dunes, back to the Uwe Düne, walked to the Rotes Kliff, biked to Wenningstedt, where we stopped for a bite to eat, went to Westerland and then headed home. All in all, it was about 12ish miles, which is not terrible, but factor in the major winds we were battling and it was tough!

DAY 4 – TUESDAY
Lots of sheep walking around!
Sheep at the Rantumerbecken coming out of their shelter after the rain!

From the moment we woke up, dark clouds were hanging over the horizon. We waited to see if it would pass, but eventually just dared to head out on our way. We took a long walk to the Rantumbecken. Just as we arrived the clouds decided to burst, which was perfect timing because there was a shelter for us to stand under. When it seemed as if the rain had let up we started walking again. We passed sheep, cows, horses and all sorts of birds. My dad saw a sign for a café along the way, so we thought we would check it out!

Turns out it was the cutest place ever! It is called Hofcafe Klein’er Kuhstall and is a really cozy, beautifully decorated farmhouse, with tons of outdoor seating, but also plenty of indoor seating. We went in and sat down and as soon as I saw the menu, I knew this cafe was my favorite place! The menu had one or two meat and cheese platters, but otherwise, you could only order tea, coffee and from a selection of their homemade cakes and tortes. I ordered a green tea and a piece of Eierlikör Torte, both of which were amazing!

After our sweet treat, we headed back home and then hopped into the car to get some groceries. In addition, my mom bought me a lovely pair of earrings and we found some beautiful postcards before going home.

DAY 5 – WEDNESDAY
Shells in my hand
Shells I collected as we walked along the beach in Hörnum under stormy skies!

Not every day can be go-go-go, so we relaxed all morning before visiting Hörnum, the southernmost point of the island. The weather looked pretty iffy as we left, but we were prepared.

Upon getting to Hörnum we knew the rain could start any minute. We started marching along the coast anyways, determined to enjoy ourselves. The sky, although stormy, was beautiful, the seagulls were flying all over the place, and the beach provided the perfect backdrop for some lovely photos. And then the rain started. Hoods up, bodies leaning against the wind, we found the path back to the road and trekked back to our car.

A stay on the North Sea is not possible without seafood and after that walk, we needed a little energy replenishment. We found a little bistro in the harbor that sold rolls with all sorts of smoked fish. We took a few to-go and feasted on them in the car. Our next stop was Fisch Blum where we found some great filets to grill up for dinner.

Our host, Ines, came over this evening with her 3-year-old son, Paul, to check in on us. She told us some great facts about the island, like how it is to get medical attention on the island, what the school options are for kids, and other island challenges. It was really cool hearing a person who lives on the island full time talk about it!

DAY 6 – THURSDAY
Cliff views in Morsum
Looking out over the “Morsum Kliff”!

A hearty breakfast was all we needed today before going to the bike rental place and taking off on another adventure. The sun was shining and the temperatures were mild – ideal for a bike tour! We hopped on and biked to Morsum, which is a town on the point closest to the German mainland.

It was a beautiful bike ride through the countryside of Sylt. The only unpleasant thing was the wind trying to blow us back to where we came from! But we fought against it until we reached the trailhead at the Morsum Kliff, a dune landscape made poignant by one large, gorgeous cliff. There is a lovely trail that takes you up onto the cliff, down to the beach and around the other side of the cliff back to the trailhead. Post hike we got back on the bikes to find a café for a sweet treat.

After regaining our strength we road towards the coast to take the coastline back home. On the way, we saw so many cute sheep, particularly cute baby black sheep, and finally were met with the still waters of the North Sea to guide us home. The sun reflected so strongly off the water that I turned back into my high school tennis girl self with the cutest shoe tan lines ever.

Sunset between pieces of dune grass
The sunset at the “Rotes Kliff”!

We arrived home and cooked up another delicious meal, but the day was not over yet. We were determined to catch a Sylter sunset. At 8:45 we piled into the car, drove to the Uwe Düne, walked to the Rotes Kliff and watched the sun dip below the horizon. What a stunning way to end the day.

DAY 7 – FRIDAY
View of the beach in Westerland
Our last walk along the beach in Westerland!

We woke up feeling very bitter as it was our last full day on Sylt. We enjoyed ourselves so much that going home did not really even feel like an option. The original plan was to leave early Saturday morning, but I suggested leaving Friday evening and we decided it made the most sense. Imagining waking up Saturday with the long drive home ahead of us was daunting and could have made me cry.

Instead, we rode the bikes into Westerland one last time to get some souvenirs and walk the beach. It was another mild day, so I took off my shoes to feel the sand between my toes and splash through the water. Just as we got back on the bikes to head home it started pouring. It was as if Mother Nature knew how bummed we were to leave.

We packed up, returned the bikes and stopped by one last time the Hofcafe Klein’er Kuhstall. We freshened up a bit and then got into the car around 7 to begin the long trek home. I took the first leg which included going on the car train, over the North Sea, over the North East Sea Canal, under the Elbe River, and through Hamburg. After getting coffee and tea, my mom took over.

DAY 8 – SATURDAY
Sunrise skies!
View of the sunrise out of the car window as we neared home!

My mom’s leg included an hour and a half long traffic jam in the middle of the night. After finally getting through that we took another pitstop where my dad took over. As the sky lit up and the countryside began to look familiar we knew we were close. Around 6 in the morning we made it home. We quietly unloaded the car in our still sleeping neighborhood and walked back into our apartment. We were home again but felt very bittersweet. After naps and the Saturday grocery shop was over we prepared ourselves for a new week.

A little over a week later and we still catch ourselves daydreaming of this lovely week and wishing we were still on Sylt.

This was my first vacation with my Nikon D5300 in hand and the photos turned out great. In my amateur opinion, that is. You can find them in full here, and I hope they give you a brief getaway from reality.

I will definitely be back one day <3

What is the one vacation spot that holds a special place in your heart?

With love,

Lena Marie

 

EXPLORE WITH ME | ULM & BLAUBEUREN

Growing up internationally has not always been easy. Especially the last few years where half of my heart is on one side of the ocean and the other half on the other side. Initially, when we moved to Germany I would throw myself a pity party often. And while I still do that every once and a while, I have learned an important lesson – take advantage of your opportunities! I could spend my time pouting about how much I miss Jon, about being a broke college student, about not being done with college yet… And granted, I do every once and a while, but for the most part, I don’t, because when am I going to be 21 again living in southern Germany, with my family, with sight-seeing opportunities right outside of our door?  Never again.

So, that leaves only one option and that is to GET OUT THERE! And that is exactly what we did this past Saturday. We took the time to go explore 2 towns about an hour or so from where we live, and I took you all with me! I hope you enjoy reliving this day with me 🙂

At 5:25 on Saturday morning, my mom knocked on my door and woke me up. As a common German saying says, “first the work, then the fun”. So I rolled out of bed, got ready and by 6:30 my mom, my dad, Tobi, and I were in the car leaving the house. With Easter the next day a round of grocery shopping was necessary. After ensuring we had all of the Easter goods, we stopped by the bakery for some fresh rolls.

Fresh rolls for breakfast!

By 7:30 we were sitting at home eating our fresh rolls to fuel up for a big day! Next stop: Ulm! Ulm is a city of about 120,000 residents and home to the church with the highest steeple in the whole world! Our goal was to visit the minster, climb the steeple, and gather an impression of the city.

The Ulm Minster from afar

We arrived in Ulm after a little more than an hour and could already spy the minster. With the steeple peeking up over everything, our walk to the heart of the city was made easy. The minster is located in the midst of our favorite stores and cafes. But on Saturday’s and typically one other day a week, the farmer’s market sets up around the impressive building.

Coffee at Henry's

After waking up so early,  I was falling asleep on the car ride, so we figured a coffee stop was necessary. We found a nice place, called Henry’s. I ordered my favorite coffee drink, a Latté Macchiato, and a water. After draining our cups and gathering some energy, off we were to the minster!

Ulm Minster - Outside

Ulm Minster - front

Ulm Minster - back

The Ulm Minster took over 500 hundred years to complete. It is built in a gothic style and has incredible stained glass windows. We were talking to a tour guide in the church and she said that throughout the wars the windows were actually removed and then reinstalled! These pictures don’t even show 1/4 of all of the windows, plus they are HUGE! The amount of detail in old churches always amazes me and the Ulm Minster did not disappoint.

Ulm Minster - tower climb

Dad and I on top!

View of Ulm

As an adrenaline junkie and someone not afraid of heights, I was not scared for our next challenge, the 768 step climb to the top of the 530 foot (161.5 meters) church tower! There are 3 platforms throughout the climb, which we did not know before beginning. My mom, dad, and I made it to the first platform together, but from there my dad and I continued to the top on our own. Thinking we had reached the top, my dad and I made it to the second platform. In the photo above you can see me leaning against a tower, and that my friends was the final part of our climb.

Up until the second platform the church has two stairwells, one for people going up and one for people going down. But the third and final climb is one stairwell that is barely big enough for one person, let alone traffic from people going up and down at the same time. There are also open windows, big enough for a small child to fit through, all around the tower. The higher we went, the windier it got! When we finally reached the top we went around the viewing platform once and then started the descent. The platform too was barely one person wide, so if you got scared and wanted to turn around – tough luck!

The view was entirely worth it. Ulm is beautiful from above, especially with the Donau River flowing through the middle of the city. Sadly it was not the clearest of days, because apparently when it’s clear you can see the Swiss Alps in the distance! Nonetheless, the climb paid itself off as soon as we reached the top.

Ulm Minster - tower climb

The trek back down was much easier, but still so dizzying! As you can see the stairwells spiral and by the time you’ve gone up 42 stories and down 42 stories (according to my Fitbit), the world is twisting and turning a bit!

Farmers market flowers

We met back up with my mom and walked around the farmer’s market before we stopped for lunch. The market was starting to wind down for the day, but there were SO many beautiful flower stands!

Lunch at Henry's

We ended up back at Henry’s for lunch where I had a delicious chicken burger. Those fries were also the best fries I had had in a long time! Upon finishing lunch we did a little bit of window shopping before heading to the car. Our next stop was Blaubeuren, a small town not too far from Ulm. It is known for being home to the “Blautopf” which literally translates to “blue pot”.

Blue Pot sign

We parked as soon as we saw a spot and followed these cute little signs until we reached the Blautopf.

Blautopf

So chances are you can guess why it is called the “blue pot”! The water here is insanely blue! According to good ole Wikipedia, this “is the result of physical properties of the nanoscale limestone densely distributed in the water”. The boldness of the blue color also fluctuates with the weather and temperature. At its deepest point, the spring is 21 meters deep. Swimming is not permitted, but even if it was, you could not get me to swim in such deep water!

Half-Timbered house - yellow

Half-timbered house grey

From there we meandered through the streets of this interesting little town back to our car. So many of the houses have such intricate detailing! And look at that curve in the structure of the house with red shutters! This little town made me feel like I had gone through a time machine. The local electronics store is totally outdated, you could just tell how old the homes are, and even the locals we saw seemed removed from our modern world. While I find that so cool, it did give me the creeps a little bit too!

After this, we piled back into the car and drove home to enjoy the rest of the day. It was really cool to go see something new. That’s the cool thing about Europe, you never have to go far to experience new things!

I hope you all enjoyed this post and felt as if you were a part of this day too! I hope that you all get the opportunity to come explore these wonderful places yourselves 🙂

What are your bucket list travel destinations?

With love,

Lena Marie

SPRING IN STUTTGART | MY COLLEGE TOWN

Sitting on the steps of the Königsbau in Stuttgart

Have you ever taken a step back and thought, “I live here, but I haven’t really LIVED here?” I recently realized that it has almost been 4 years since my family moved to the Stuttgart area, but that I have not yet visited some of the staple sights, or just appreciated this unique place!

Flashback to almost 4 years ago. I did not want to be here, I was in denial! I spent 13 formative years of my life living in a sheltered small town. If I wanted to go somewhere I needed a ride or I did not go. Now I was in a city of over 600,000 residents, trying to improve my language skills ASAP, learning to navigate the labyrinth of subways, streetcars, buses, and adapt to hearing 10 different languages in 10 minutes. It was hard!

Flash forward to February. I had just learned I had been accepted to study at the Hochschule der Medien in Stuttgart. Since that initial move back in 2013 I traveled back and forth to the US frequently, at times staying for several months to work, moved out of my parents and learned who I am. Jonathan and I were not looking forward to transitioning back to long-distance, but we were fully aware that we could handle anything. So, we decided, that even though we were going to be apart, that we needed to take advantage of all of the opportunities thrown our way.

On Monday afternoon I did just that. After morning classes I headed into the heart of Stuttgart to meet a friend, who until then I just knew through social media! Carla and I met at the Schloßplatz, along with one of Carla’s friends, Keelie! The Schloßplatz, literally translated, the Palace Place, is a grassy area in front of the so-called, “New Palace.”

Laughing in front of the New Palace

Sitting in front of the Jubiläumssäule in Stuttgart
At the center of the Schloßplatz is the Jubiläumssäule, a column that was built in honor of King Wilhelm I. of Württemberg. This column can be seen peeking into the sky all along the Königstraße, King Street, the main drag of Stuttgart.

The Schloßplatz is a popular destination, among locals and tourists alike, particularly once the weather warms up! It is surrounded by several cafés, but many people make themselves comfortable on the grass to nap, read, or drink a beer. Carla and Keelie had found a spot on the grass where we soaked up the sunshine while chatting away.

Taking a photo of a Magnolia in bloom

As the day petered on, Keelie had to get going and Carla and I ventured around the square. The trees were beginning to bud, some to bloom! There were so many people out and about that we asked each other if it was really Monday!
Looking over the Schloßplatz in Stuttgart

Sitting on the steps of the Königsbau in Stuttgart

Before we both headed home, we stopped by the Königsbau. This building borders the east edge of the Schloßplatz. This building is home to many shops and cafés, particularly my favorite café, the Königsbau Café. Throughout all of the years that we vacationed in Stuttgart to visit family, we always went to the Königsbau Café. It has outdoor seating, as well as a dining room on the 2nd floor (1st floor for my German friends 🙂 ) that has the perfect view of the Schloßplatz. Unfortunately, they renovated the dining room a few years ago. It used to be traditional, white table cloths, red velvet upholstered chairs, and a red carpet running up the stairs. You automatically felt like a princess walking in, picking out your piece of cake and ordering your afternoon tea! Now, it is cold, stark and contemporary, no more princess feeling 🙁

We ended our afternoon by venturing down to the subway heading out separate ways. I could not have had more fun laughing, meeting new people, and enjoying the spring day. I look forward to continuing the explorations around this unique city and finding the best-kept secrets of the city.

Stay tuned to see more of this city, among the many other destinations I hope to explore throughout my time in Europe.

If you are from Stuttgart, what is your must-visit spot? Otherwise, what are your must-see spots around the world?

With love,

Lena Marie

5 REASONS I LOVE NORTHERN MICHIGAN

As my time in Northern Michigan comes to a close, yet again, I cannot help but reflect on the amazing memories that I have had while living here, with Jonathan, the past 8 months. One of the most common questions I receive after telling people that I am half German and half American is, what do you like more; Germany or America. While I will never be able to give an explicit answer to that question, I can give you reasons why I love both places dearly.

To start out with, I have 5 reasons why I love one of the most special places in the world, the place that is called Northern Michigan.

REASON 1: NATURE

In Michigan, there are 4 distinct seasons, no seasons blend into one another. Whether spring, summer, fall or winter, mother nature never ceases to amaze me. Budding trees, immaculate sunrises and sunsets, stunning fall colors or the crisp white blanket the first snow causes, you just need to dress right to get outside and enjoy yourself. And all Michiganders have their own ways of enjoying natures bounty. From cooking with the produce that is in season, eating out at a local favorite restaurant with a scenic view or going for a run along the beach as the sun rises to greet the new day, Northern Michiganders know how to appreciate the truly beautiful area that they live in.

REASON 2: FOOD

Northern Michigan is not necessarily home to a true ‘big city’, but we do have the food amenities that you would imagine to find in big cities. Traverse City and the surrounding region are home to several fantastic restaurants and cafes that cater to all different tastes and ethnicities. Choosing a place for brunch, a business lunch, or date night can truly take a while because there are so many great places to choose from! For Jonathan and I, we typically end up at the same places over and over, because choosing someplace new is so hard because there are so many choices!

REASON 3: EVERYONE IS ACTIVE

A common stereotype about America is that everyone is obese. Yes, there is an extremely alarming rate of obesity in this country, but the community of Northern Michigan is one filled with many people who make staying active their hobby. On an early summer morning you might spot someone doing paddle-board yoga or running along the bay. In the winter fat tire bikes are rather popular and the ski slopes are busy as can be. There are also countless gyms and fitness studios that offer everything from classic weight training to spin and yoga classes. We also live in an area surrounded by countless trails for hiking, biking, snowshoeing and more. The list of ways to stay active around here is endless and with so many active people around you, you have great sources of motivation to get out there too!

REASON 4: ALL OF THE AMENITIES

Northern Michigan is home to Traverse City, the place where I grew up! Traverse City is a wanna be big town, but when it comes to the population it is clearly a small town. But, Traverse City is still home to all sorts of amenities. Looking for Starbucks? Got it. Looking for a small local coffee shop? Got it. Looking for an organic co-op? Got it. Looking for Walmart? Got it. Looking for Target? Got it. Looking for an eclectic boutique? We’ve got that too. My point is, Traverse City and its surrounding area is home to everything you will need. And having everything you need in the most beautiful area, SCORE!

REASON 5: NEVER A DULL MOMENT

In Northern Michigan there is no telling what is going to happen next. This morning I woke up and headed to work on what seemed like a freshly zambonied ice rink. For all I know I could wake up to a foot of snow tomorrow! This past summer Jonathan and I were driving home and were so confused what the colors are in the sky, turns out the Northern Lights decided to make an appearance. What seems like a boring summer Saturday can easily turn into the best day ever when someone decides its the perfect night for a bonfire. There is always something to be excited for around here and I sure love living life around here.

It is so very bittersweet that my time here has come to a close yet again, but it is so great knowing that the worlds best kept secret will be waiting for me when I come back. The memories I have made here are ones I will never forget and I look forward to everything else this wonderful place has in store for me!

Do you love your hometown? What makes it the best place ever?

No matter what, I will be back NoMi, don’t you worry <3

With love,

Lena Marie