Hello Fellow Travel Lovers,
Over the last week, I spent time in Germany and experienced a brief taste of Iceland, which I've love to share with you below.
First, a quick sneak peek from Iceland...
Yes, the water really is that color. This photo was not edited or doctored at all!
Before I get to Iceland though, here's the time I spent in Germany...
Day One was spent in Bad Homburg with my marvelous friend, Dali, and his warm and welcoming wife, Ricarda.
Dali and I have been close friends for about 8 years now! He was the first friend I made when I moved to Germany back in early 2014. We crossed paths in an English-German Meetup.com group, both of us in the same boat as newbies in a country not our own, and on the search for friends.
After a couple of times going to the meetup group, I realized he seemed like someone I'd like to possibly befriend. He came across as warm, open, easy-going, and kind. I sent him a message on Meetup.com asking if he'd like to hang out, acknowledging I knew he had a girlfriend and that this wasn't that kind of inquiry, but that I was merely interested in friendship. He responded with an enthusiastic yes, and we've been great friends ever since!
During the four years that I lived in Germany, we must have hung out a few hundred times.
We went to museums, had tea and coffee, had lunches and dinners, I went to their apartment to celebrate Dali's birthday with his friends and Ricarda, and he even asked me to stand up and speak at their wedding! I was so shocked and honored by this.
And since I returned to the U.S. four years ago, we've stayed in close touch. We talk on the phone once every week or so.
So I was thrilled to see him again in person, to spend time with him and Ricarda!
The below photos were taken while wandering the city that Dali and Ricarda live in, Bad Homburg.
Dali and me! :-D
The following photos are all ones I snapped of random houses throughout the city. Isn't the architecture just gorgeous? So ornate, intricate, and eye-catching. I love it.
Check out the balconies, the vivid gardens arranged on said balconies, the carvings and design on each home, the colors, etc.
Now, the photos below are when we ventured into the downtown area of Bad Homburg.
We paused for tea, coffee, and dessert at a French cafe that Ricarda had told Dali he just "has to take Brooke to!" Thank you, Ricarda, for thinking of me! You were right. It was so delicious and right up my alley.
During our time sitting, drinking, and eating, Dali and I also had an engaging, interesting, fun conversation. It was a grand time indeed. I loved it. (By this point, Ricarda had split off to head back home, so Dali and I could have some one-on-one time, which was generous and wonderful of her).
Day Two- Visiting my fantastic friend, Bhakti.
We met while working as the side-by-side head teachers of an international school in Frankfurt.
Bhakti is one of the most open, sweet-natured, easy-going, kindest people I know. I love spending time with her.
On this day we spent together during my visit, the two of us walked all over a rolling, quiet, lush apple orchard and green hillsides for a couple of hours, talking and laughing. I'd gone to visit her in Bad Soden, the town she and her family moved to recently, just outside of Frankfurt.
We talked about our relationships, our families, books, life in Germany versus the U.S., personal growth each of us has experienced over the last couple of years, and more.
Then we stopped at a cute little cafe for some tea and cake. We shared a pudding cake, which was excellent. (I only had a few bites, since I was trying to be sparing and choosy about my wheat splurges, but it was so tasty!).
Below are the photos from our walk and time together.
With Bhakti <3
The below are the views Bhakti has from her home. How gorgeous is that!? I took these photos while standing on her balcony.
Day Three- Hanging out with Melissa and Judith.
Melissa and I met while working at the same international school that Bhakti and I worked at together. Melissa worked in a different classroom, though, so we didn't cross paths often and I didn't really know her then. Towards the end of my time working there, Melissa approached me and asked if I'd like to get tea and coffee sometime. I was surprised and flattered and said yes. Before that, because we'd hardly spoken, I hadn't necessarily thought we'd ever become friends. When we met up, though, I loved the time with her, and our friendship bloomed quickly from there.
During the last 1.5 years or so that I lived in Germany, Melissa and I hung out a few times each week. Frequently, I went to her home and spent time with Melissa, Davor (her husband), and then Vanja when he arrived (their son, who was born during this time). I loved this. We ordered food, talked for hours, relaxed, watched Friday Night Lights, and then checked the clock to find it was three or four hours later all of a sudden.
Melissa and I have stayed in close touch since my return to the U.S. four years ago. We talk on the phone almost every week. She's a great friend to me and is one of my closest.
Judith, along with Dali, is one of the first friends I made in Germany, so we have also been friends for nearly 8 years now. Judith and I hung out a couple times a week over the entire time I lived in Germany. We traveled a ton together. We went to Edinburgh, Scotland together (my favorite trip we took), Italy (Siena and Florence), and all over Germany.
I've met her family, we celebrated birthdays together, experienced heartaches and breakups as close friends, have talked about everything, had hundreds of lunches and dinners, we've laughed and gotten super silly on countless occasions, and more.
Judith is one of my dearest friends.
Me and Melissa <3
More with Melissa :-D
And then the next several photos were taken when wandering Frankfurt. Again, check out the gorgeous architecture and atmosphere of it all.
One of my favorite cafes ever, Iimori. They have an AWESOME green tea torte.
Oh my gosh, was this cake awesome. Creamy, light, fluffy, it was a ricotta cake with pistachio and something like a ladyfinger as the top layer. Way more delicious than I thought it might be. This was at another of my favorite cafes, Bitter Und Zart.
Then the following photos are a few Judith and I took together when hanging out at her place, being silly, and just having fun.
PS. There was one other person I was able to see when in Frankfurt. Valerie, a lovely friend of mine who I met through the meetup group that Judith and I started together in Frankfurt called Sweet Meets (via Meetup.com).
Valerie and I had dinner together one night, which was great fun. Really interesting, engaging conversation. I loved catching up with her. We had a really nice connection when I lived there and hung out maybe once every few weeks. Since I've been back in the U.S., she and I have spoken on Skype maybe two or three times, so we have not kept in close touch, but I still think of her as a good friend. Thus, it was wonderful to see her. Unfortunately, we didn't snag a photo together during this visit! I'm regretting this now.
Now, onto Iceland, where I must have seen at least 10 rainbows in 24 hours, no joke!
Within my first hour there, we spotted one of them. See below!
The following photos were taken as Rachel and I wandered downtown Reykjavik, Iceland.
Yes, the sky really did look like this (see below).
Again, no editing or altering of the photos was done.
There was a ton of eye-catching, colorful, way cool street art adorning a bunch of buildings all over the downtown area.
Me and Rachel <3
In a lot of the photos below, check out the sky, and the background. You can often see snow-capped mountains and ocean in the distance, from almost anywhere you wander through the downtown streets, either in residential areas or where the shops are. It's lovely.
The photos below are from a nature walk that Rachel and I took.
A lot of the landscape throughout Iceland looks like the photos below. Kind of strange and difficult to describe, but quite eye-catching, unique, otherworldly, and pretty.
Check out the gorgeous scenery below.
Love these photos of me and Rachel <3
So, Rachel and I met roughly three years ago, in Boston, in a group I created on Meetup.com called Brunches and Books. Within a few meetings of her attending, I suspected she was someone I could be great friends with. I asked if she might like to hang out sometime, just the two of us? She said, "Yes, we should totally be friends!" I found this charming and lovely.
And sure enough, we've become quite close over the last 3+ years.
Interestingly, since she moved to Iceland almost one year ago as of now, we've grown way closer.
Pretty fascinating story about her: Rachel is married to Gudmundur, who is Icelandic. Interestingly, the entire time I've known her, she has been terrified that he was going to try and pressure her to move to Iceland at some point. She wanted none of this. Her life is in the U.S., she said insistently. Her family, her work, and just, the feeling of being comfortable.
She told me this was a dealbreaker. That if he ever tried to really push her to move to Iceland, their relationship would likely end because of it.
Then COVID hit.
Maybe four months later, she and Gudmundur went to Iceland for their usual summer visit, for about one month. During this time, she took an Icelandic language course and formed a few budding social connections she quite liked. She really enjoyed this visit in particular. She also told me upon returning, in shock and awe, "They don't have any COVID there, Brooke!"
Because they were incredibly strict about COVID rules from the start, their numbers were so low that people didn't need to wear masks anywhere anymore. They were essentially living normal lives again. This is all while the U.S. was drowning in COVID and had never once gotten it under control since from the start because Americans made COVID a political issue rather than a science and health one.
I asked Rachel jokingly, "I don't get it. Why don't you just move there? God, if I had a spouse who had a visa to an awesome country, I'd get the hell out of here."
She looked at me then, appearing slightly sad, and said, "Actually...I have to tell you something. So...I'm moving to Iceland."
Turned out, she had such an awesome time there and learned a lot of compelling things about how much better life can be in other countries outside the U.S., that she decided to take the leap after all. (For example, they pay higher taxes there but will never see a bill for any medical care, she will get paid some money from the government when she has a child plus will get several months of paid maternity leave, and her employer puts a ton of money into her retirement fund, just to name a few things).
She's been there for a year now and is incredibly happy.
She doesn't know if she'll ever come back to the U.S., she says. "I just realized it can be so much better somewhere else," she's told me. "People are way better taken care of here than in the U.S."
And it's funny, because Iceland, for years, was the dealbreaker in her marriage.
And now, she lives there and is way happy.
I'm both, quite sad she's gone since she's become a close friend and now I will rarely see her in person anymore, but also, very jealous of and happy for her. I think she made the right decision ;-)
Again, none of the colors in these photos have been doctored or edited. This is what it actually looked like. How pretty is all of it!?
Just a random, painted building. This was common throughout the downtown. Loved it.
Oh my gosh, these pastries were SO good. The cinnamon roll pictured below was the better of the two. The poppyseed roll was nice but rather plain.
The texture of both was awesome, though. A pastry texture I find hard to stumble upon in the U.S. with pastries. In Europe, it's much easier to find.
This was one of the better cinnamon rolls I've ever had.
Rachel took me to one of the oldest bakeries in Reykjavik, which is where we got these.
The below photos are from our lead-up to the Blue Lagoon.
Again, no photo doctoring was done. This is all the real color of everything.
The blue lagoon is a pale, baby blue that looks almost slightly milky. It's gorgeous. I loved this. The whole thing was a unique experience. Touristy, but worth it and way cool. The water was super warm, wafting steam from its surface. Surrounding you while you float around in the water are all sorts of black, craggy, towering mountains of volcanic rock, all there naturally.
The one downside of the experience was so many people were floating through the water of the blue lagoon staring through the lens of their cell phones.
Many were recording, a few people were even face-timing for god sake.
Very few people were fully present. Most were recording, snapping photos, posing, and posturing for social media posting and a future audience. They stared blankly through their screens, moving through the water, gazed fixed on their devices while trying to capture the images and video to show to their audiences later for a reaction to "look what I did!"
I found this to be a slight deterrent to the ability to fully enjoy it, with all the glowing screens floating around me.
Rachel and I discussed this at length. It's like, no one can just fully enjoy anything anymore, without recording it, without posturing and sharing it with others as they go. It's like nowadays, to feel like they are enjoying an experience and that it's worthwhile, they must record it live as they go, and be letting everyone know along the way what they are up to. Otherwise, they feel it isn't as good. This is very odd.
I posed the question: what did people do before phones and social media? We agreed, they just lived the experience, without the recording, posturing, and staring through a camera lens, and then told people about it later. And interestingly, there was less depression and anxiety throughout our culture back then. Hmmm...I wonder...
We wondered about all the face-timing and social media posting, and how pointless it might be since no one can get a real idea of the blue lagoon through a flat-screen image or photo anyway. If they aren't there with you in person, they are just not going to understand it or experience it the way you did, since they weren't there and are just seeing it on a screen anyway. So, in a way, and in that sense, all the posting seems relatively pointless...
That aside, we had a great time bobbing around for two hours, talking, putting on a clay facemask made from the natural clay that forms alongside the lagoon anyway. It was a really cool experience.
My visit to Europe and Iceland was awesome. It was rich with fulfilling, fun, and wonderful social interactions. I loved getting to eat some of my favorite sweet treats from Germany that I can no longer eat since I'm back in the U.S., and it was great walking around Frankfurt again. Very nostalgic inducing and exciting, reminding me of all the wonderful moments and experiences I had while living there for four years.