Ten Things I Loved About Our Europe Trip
Leanne and I had the opportunity to head to Europe for the first month of my Sabbatical.
We flew to Frankfurt (Germany), rented a car, and then drove to (and stayed in) Cologne, Ghent (Belgium), Utrecht (Netherlands), Berlin, Erfurt, Bamberg, Rothenburg, and Rust.
It was an amazing trip, and we are incredibly thankful for the opportunity to travel like this and be freed from our resopnsibilities at Timberline Ranch (where I have served as Executive Director for the past 18 years).
We experienced so much, but here are ten great things about our trip (in no particular order):
I know it’s a little weird, but I love transit systems and figuring out how to navigate them. I love the trams that move almost silently through crowded streets, subways that pop you up wherever you want to go, and trains that speed you into the city center. Oh, and big train stations are pretty cool, too! Finally, I have to say that I was thankful for a fairly powerful car (2023 VW Passat) that was able to move us along the Autobahn at whatever speed we needed. Fun!
#9 War History
In four of the cities we visited (Cologne, Ypres, Berlin, Haarlem), we took time to visit museums that specifically taught some aspect about the world wars in Europe. It was amazing to learn about these things from a European perspective. I think what stood out the most to me was seeing the results of those wars all these years later in those cities that were bombed or demolished and how the wars have molded those societies today. In North America, our people fought in those wars, but those who survived came back to their old homes and lives. Not so for those in Europe who fought and then had to rebuilt for much of the rest of their lives. PHOTO: Checkpoint Charlie, Berlin.
Let’s face it, canals make for great photos! I loved walking through cities with canals, especially Bruges, Ghent, and Bamberg. PHOTO: Bruges
#7 Walled Cities & Fortresses
Okay, so Rothenburg is my new favorite walled city (sorry, Carcassonne!). It is amazing, and you can walk along the wall almost all the way around the city (without charging an arm and a leg - looking at your Dubrovnik!). Anyway, Erfurt was also pretty cool with the big fortress and medieval look, but Rothenburg, well, you just have to go there. PHOTO: Rothenburg
Although we did, of course, visit the touristy places in many towns, some of my favorite times were just walking through neighborhoods, going off the beaten trail, shopping in little grocery stores, or even going to a laundromat. It was fun to experience the different cultures and meet lots of interesting people.
Although we cooked most of our suppers where we stayed, packed lunches, and ate simple breakfasts (mostly muesli cereals, though even these often had chocolate bits in them!), we did sample many different things along the way. This included fries (which are huge in Europe, especially Belgium, and are normally eaten with a little bamboo fork), Belgian waffles (“liege” are the absolute best!), several kinds of wurst (usually in a bun), many snacks you only find over there, and so on. The few outdoor cafes we ate at were also quite wonderful! PHOTO: Bamburg
#4 Martin Luther History
Okay, I geeked out a bit when I saw the church Martin Luther served in (and hung the 95 Theses on) and the cell where he wrote the German New Testament! But we also toured where he had been a monk, saw the house he grew up in and so on. Pretty cool, considering how all of western culture was radically transformed in many ways because of his obedience to God. PHOTO: Wartburg Castle
#3 Castles & Cathedrals
Yes, Europe has castles and cathedrals! To be honest, we tired somewhat quickly of seeing yet another amazing cathedral, but castles, well, they’re all so different and special. Not that we visited many (or I suppose we could have tired of them, too), but wow, the architecture of both cathedrals and castles, especially where they have served 800+ years, was simply amazing! PHOTO: De Haar Castle, Utrecht
#2 Theme Parks
Okay, so who goes to Europe for a month and visits three different theme parks, spending five of their thirty days going on roller coasters? That would be us, for sure! We absolutely loved Phantasialand, Efteling, and Europa Park. What a blast! PHOTO: Europa Park, Rust, Germany
#1 Time Together
Finally, I’ll just say that despite often being tired, feeling unwell, or struggling with navigating a new city, Leanne and I had an amazing time together! It was so great to enjoy unrushed, uninterrupted time and remember why we married each other. There is nothing like exploring Europe with your best friend!