this is the archive for the ‘traveling’ category:


the new year’s get-together

organising a new year’s get-together for friends was on the new 101 list, and 2016 was the year it got done! new years are usually a bit of a dread for us… by the time the end of the year rolls around, we’re still recovering from the xmas family extravaganza, and craving peace and quiet. so this year, we poked a few friends spread around europe and decided to find a quiet place where we could all stay for a few days. we found a cozy airbnb in a tiny town in south germany which seemed perfect for our needs (somewhere central in europe, quiet, near cheap airports, dogs allowed)… so we put on our winter jackets, loaded the suitcases with board games, and off we went!

turns out, we lucked out big time! lienzingen is a charming little place, the kind that you imagine from brothers grimm’s fairy tales. it’s full of half-timbered houses hundreds of years old, carefully restored with love and german precision. we stayed in one of them, and boy, was it pretty!

img_6204

the weather was chilly but mostly dry, with soft rime on trees and even a bit of snow on the last days. together we chatted, cooked, played games, explored a unesco monastery, cuddled dogs, munched on warm laugenwecken, stoked the fireplace and discovered the local maultaschen.

it was the perfect start to the new year: low-key, unrushed and in great company. here’s hoping it’ll become a new tradition! :)

molten rock

having spent a couple of months going over daniela’s geology lessons in preparation for her national exams a few years ago, it all came rushing back to me in iceland. first, the black stones and sand that adorn residential gardens in reykjavik, and then later, out on the road.

the first lava field we drove by was a thrill of recognition, its spiky edges talking of semi-viscous, slow-moving a’a lava. then came the familiar slopes of old volcanos, the ropey waves of fluid pahoehoe lava, the neat geometrical columns formed by the quick cooling of basaltic lava…

all so familiar in theory, and yet, so foreign in practice.

volcanoes in iceland

volcanoes in iceland
volcanoes in iceland

volcanoes in iceland

volcanoes in iceland

volcanoes in iceland

volcanoes in iceland

in a different life, i think i could have been a geologist!

iceland, we meet at last

so… iceland. as we flew high above europe on our way back from 2 weeks there, i tried to gather the words to write about this place that so thoroughly charmed us. but how do you convey awe and speechlessness and magic, all wrapped into the same breath? the words i have keep coming up short of the quiet rush at every road turn, every snow-capped mountain peeking in the horizon, and at the sunset reflected on black pebbled beaches, crunching softly underneath our feet.

pebbles

it’s… magnificent. it feels as if you’re suddenly rendered insignificant, part of something much much bigger, a tiny speck on miles and miles of tundra without a single tree in sight. and so words fail me. iceland defies labels, it’s just breathtakingly beautiful.

the boy

going to iceland is also like finally seeing something you blindly believe in — a sort of secular confirmation of a geological faith, if that makes any sense. we spend years learning about vulcanos and tectonic plaques, geothermal energy and how rocks and mountains come to be… but for the most part, it’s all so slow as to give us the illusion of being static. but in iceland… well. if seeing is believing, a field trip there should be a required part of the school curricula.

volcanoes!

there are many little things to share about iceland, from the scenery to the food… and i do miss writing. now that our post-easter influx of visitors has ebbed, i’m hoping to catch up on my thoughts and have a little quiet time with the blog. so — more on iceland soon!

one second everyday — september 2015

september was a very exciting whirlwind of activity!

our month started in lovely prague, launching the czech postcrossing stamp. after that, we returned to portugal for a short week and then it was time to fly to berlin! the streets, the beautiful autumn days, all our friends and their babies… it’s all still so cozy and familiar, it felt as if we’d never left. the two weeks we spent there passed in the blink of an eye.

oh! and last but not least, the boy ran his first marathon, covering 42km in a super speedy 3 hours and 12 minutes!! not bad for a first-time, eh? :D

the steiff museum

sorry about that, i didn’t mean to leave you on a cliffhanger for so long after the last post! so here you go, my favorite part of april’s roadtrip was…

steiffpolaroid


…the steiff museum! :D museums are usually not my thing but this one… boy, was it good! it had a great story, interaction, big cuddly stuffed toys, and even a slide! i don’t even know how to write about it without gushing!

first, some context. margarete steiff was born in 1847, in giengen, a small town in the south of germany. when she was just a baby, she got high fever, and ended up being paralyzed. her parents were distraught, but margarete persevered. her siblings took her to school on a hay cart, and she learnt how to sew and worked with her older sisters as a seamstress. and then, in 1879 she made a small stuffed elephant as a pin cushion…

stuffedelephant

and the tiny elephant was so popular, she started doing more, selling them at fairs… and pretty soon the steiff brand of soft toys was born. but it wasn’t until 1902 that a really popular bear came along, and they named it “teddy bear“, after theodore roosevelt, president at the time. the bear, designed by richard steiff (margaret’s nephew) had movable arms and legs and cuddly mohair plush, and was such a hit at the leipzig fair that an american buyer ended up ordering 3000 of them… the rest, as they say, is history!

ok, enough of that, let me show you the museum! :D

55pb

it’s as immersive and interactive as they get. you step into steiff’s workshop to be greeted by 55PB, the bear that started it all. he’s the one who narrates the story for you, as you are transported into a series of different worlds where all the characters are cuddly plush toys…

sea_steiff

i don’t want to share too many photos of this part to avoid spoiling the surprise, but you dive into the deep sea, trek the arctic, float in space… and when you reach the apotheotic end of your journey, you’re presented with… more plush! plushes big enough for you to cuddle and climb on, which all the kids and grownups do… and a slide! oh, it’s magic!

one floor lower, you can see the masters fixing really old and beloved teddy bears, and learn more about the history of the company. did you know that all their toys have a little button on their ear? that’s their trademark! :)

fixingbears

and of course, the exit is through the gift shop, where you can buy all the plushes you want!

plushies

oh, and as if big cuddly bears weren’t enough, take a look at their original factory, with its translucent glass curtainwall facade:

steiff_factory

this remarkable building is from 1903! let that sink in… 15 years before bauhaus came along (and those guys were already way ahead of their time), richard steiff just wanted a building with lots of light to increase productivity and so, he made one, by removing the walls and replacing them with glass. it’s still there, over 100 years later — and it’s exceptional.

bigbear

ok, that’s it! i hope i’ve convinced you to go there — you won’t regret it! :)