Hot Spots for Kyoto Cherry Blossom Viewing

We loved how the entire nation of Japan comes together around the beginning of April to celebrate Sakura, the coming of spring. It is the prime time to be in Japan to see the cherry blossoms in full bloom. When we booked our flights to Japan for Kevin’s 30th birthday celebration, we had no idea we would be arriving right in the heart of Sakura. 

Because timing happened to be perfect, we hopped on our bikes and headed out to view the cherry blossoms around Kyoto. Here are some of the hottest spots for viewing the blossoms all around town. 

1. Heian Shrine

A great introduction into seeing Cherry Blossoms in Kyoto is at the Heian Shrine. It has all the quintessential elements of Japan in one; beautiful orange painted wood, green tile roofs, and cherry blossoms welcoming everyone around. This picture perfect Shinto shrine is just the beginning of cherry blossom viewing. What lies beyond the shrine will take your breath away.

2. Gardens of Heian Shrine

For some of the best cherry blossom viewing in all of Kyoto step into the gardens that wrap around Heian Shrine. The entry ticket is 600 yen ($5.25 USD) and is worth every cent. The moment we entered the garden, we were transported into a wonderland of cherry blossoms surrounding us at every turn. Bamboo supports are erected, lifting the branches and allowing the blossoms to float right over our heads. IT was truly magical.

3. Kamo River

Kamo river runs right through the heart of Kyoto making it a central feature of the city. The riverbanks are the perfect place to stroll along the pedestrian path and see the cherry trees that flank both sides of the river. There are many restaurants that overlook the river, so we had to stop and grab a coffee and enjoy people watching with a spectacular view.

4. Philosopher’s Walk

Tree-lined perfection is what we called the Philosopher’s Walk. We spent hours strolling along the pathways, allowing ourselves to get lost in the shades of pink all around. We first heard about this part of Kyoto when watching AbFab’s “Joanna Lumley’s Japan” special on BBC. Thank’s Patsy for this wonderful recommendation! 

5. Maruyama Park behind Yasaka Shrine

We stumbled upon this by complete accident while exploring around the Gion area of Kyoto. After looking at traditional teahouses and geiko (geisha) we saw the beautiful Yasaka Shrine shining in the night sky. We explore inside the temple grounds and noticed a celebration was happening behind the temple in Maruyama Park. Come to find out, this is THE place for cherry blossom viewing in Kyoto by the locals. People pay by the hour for tables just to dine beneath the beautiful trees. The true jewel of the park is the spectacular weeping cherry tree. 

6. Fukushima Shrine

This shrine is known for the thousands of vermilion colored torii gates that span across the hiking trail up Mount Inari. While there are no cherry blossom viewing as we hiked up the trail, there were fantastic blossoms at the shrine located at the base of the mountain. This for sure set a happy tone for a beautiful spring hike. 

7. Kiya-machi Dori Stream

Right in the heart of Kyoto, one block from the Kamo River, is a stream that runs alongside Kiya-machi street. What makes this the perfect place for feasting your eyes on those famous blossoms is the fact it’s accessible and picturesque both day and night!  Additionally, there are many restaurants on the river and bridges spanning the stream, making for some great photo-ops.

8. Kimono Forest

The Kimono forest is located at the Arashiyama train station. What we loved about this area was how the perfectly purple train and kimono wrapped columns complimented the shades of pink seen all around from a sprinkling of cherry blossom trees. This was the jumping-off point for viewing more blossoms around this part of town. 

9. Tenryu-ji

Tenryu-ji is also located in the Arashiyama neighborhood, just a few blocks from the train station. It is a Zen temple that houses a beautiful garden with flowers of all type. We were greeted with a Zen rock garden as we entered and treated to wonderful blossoms thereafter. Once we were done with the flowing buds, you exit right into the famed bamboo forest. Perfection. The entrance fee to see the gardens is 500 yen ($4.30 USD).

10. Katsura River

Another hotspot in the Arashiyama part of town is the Katsura River. We decided to take a breat for the temple scene for the day and sit riverside, listening to the flow of the water and watching the branches of the cherry trees blow in the wind. The entire bank of the river on both sides have some of the most beautiful blossoms that bloomed around us at eye level. A great spot to end of day of sightseeing around Arashiyama.

The one thing we figures out after viewing the cherry blossoms all around Kyoto is that these hot spots are not the only places to see the world famous blooms. Everywhere we looked, weather rain or shine, we saw fantastic buds blossoming as spring swept over the city and that was the cherry on top to an already fabulous time in Japan. 

We are two en route for viewing more global hot spots

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Angkor Wat in Detail

The Angkor temple complex is massive. To be exact, it is the largest religious complex in the world. When we first thought of Angkor, we only thought of the quintessential image of Angkor Wat, but to our surprise, there was so much more. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is the largest religious monument in the world and easily provides 2-3 days of exploring!

We wanted to share some of our favorite spots from our couple of days exploring the Ancient City of Angkor.

1. Angkor Wat

This is the quintessential image when you think of Angkor Wat, which makes sense because this is the temple named Angkor. We got up at 4am in order to get the the temple for the sunrise. We were so excited to get a front row seat to see such a wonderful site. 

 Angkor at sunrise was picturesque.
Angkor at sunrise was picturesque.
 A lot of people show up to sunrise! We were so glad we got there early.
A lot of people show up to sunrise! We were so glad we got there early.
 We came back later in the afternoon. It was the perfect selfie lighting in front of the lake. 
We came back later in the afternoon. It was the perfect selfie lighting in front of the lake. 
 Beautiful details. 
Beautiful details. 
 We could look at the bas reliefs for hours.
We could look at the bas reliefs for hours.

2. Bayon

We call this the temple of faces. There are 54 towers around this temple, all with  4-sided bodhisattva faces as the tower top, representing the divine observation of Cambodia’s four directions. It was for sure a temple that got even more interesting as we took a closer look.

 From afar it's hard to tell there are 216 bodhisattva faces. 
From afar it’s hard to tell there are 216 bodhisattva faces. 
 Up close bodhisattva
Up close bodhisattva
 No matter where you stand, someone is looking at you.
No matter where you stand, someone is looking at you.

3. Ta Prohm

The ruins of Ta Prohm was one of our favorites. It is known as the “tree temple” because it is covered in Knia trees which have overtaken the temple ruins. This is what was so attractive to us. Everywhere we looked was a photo op we did not want to miss. We can see why parts of Tomb Raider was filmed here. 

 Knia tree growing over the temple.
Knia tree growing over the temple.
 Kevin between the Knia tree roots.
Kevin between the Knia tree roots.
 Is this a stegosaurus?  
Is this a stegosaurus?  
 This Knia tree was insane! 
This Knia tree was insane! 

4. East Mebon

Our tuk-tuk driver, Mr. Chee, called this the Elephant Temple. We loved it because #elephants! This temple is not very big, but the guardian elephants scattered throughout the temple are impressive and make it worth a look. Additionally, we noticed the stairs were huge and found out this is because ceremonies with elephants would happen here and elephants have a big step. 

 Khmer style symmetrical architecture.
Khmer style symmetrical architecture.
 Very large steps!
Very large steps!
 One of the guardian elephants.
One of the guardian elephants.

5. Neak Poan

Neak Poan was fascinating! First, we took a stroll across a huge lake to get to the Buddhist temple. The mirror lake was perfectly still and you could see every reflection. The clouds felt like there were all around us. Once you get across the lake, you get to see a quaint Buddhist temple sitting in the middle of a smaller mirror lake. Scerene indeed.

 Kevin in front of the mirror lake.
Kevin in front of the mirror lake.
 Stump and cloud reflections.
Stump and cloud reflections.
 Buddhist temple in the central pond.
Buddhist temple in the central pond.

6. Preah Khan

Because Preah Khan is located at the far end of the Angkor complex there were almost no tourists when we were there. This nearly forgotten temple is tucked away in the jungle and reminded us a lot of Ta Prohm. We took our time and got up close and personal with this temple.

 Overgrown knia tree
Overgrown knia tree
 Brad through the window.
Brad through the window.
 Kevin exploring the small corridors. 
Kevin exploring the small corridors. 

7. Terrace of the Elephants & Leper King

When the Khmer armies came back from battle victorious, the terrace of the elephants was where the celebration would happen. The large scale carvings of elephants were unreal. Just past the elephant terrace we came to the Terrace of the Leper King. It is said this is where the king’s concubines lived. What was impressive to us was the entire structure, both inside and out, donned intricate carvings, mostly of women. 

 Terrace of the Elephants.
Terrace of the Elephants.
 Terrace of the Leper King
Terrace of the Leper King
 Terrace of the Leper King carvings.
Terrace of the Leper King carvings.

8. Ta Som

The far end of Ta Som was the East gate. From the front it looks like a normal ruined gate, but one we passed through to the other side, we noticed it was completely covered in a knia tree. Tucked underneath the tree roots was such a wonderful carving. 

 Run-down looking gate.
Run-down looking gate.
 Carvings hiding under the knia tree.
Carvings hiding under the knia tree.
 Knia covering the entire gate. 
Knia covering the entire gate. 

9. Royal Palace of Phimeanakas

The Royal Palace was another part of Angkor that seems to be overlooked by most tourists. It was the perfect spot for a rest. The palace is not overly impressive compared to many of the other more notable spots in Angkor, but once we made it to the top and looked down, we appreciated what the Royal Palace was in its hay-day. 

 The doorways at the top.
The doorways at the top.
 Column remnants.
Column remnants.
 Corridors around the Royal Palace.
Corridors around the Royal Palace.

There were so many more structures, temples, and ruins around the Angkor temple complex than shown in this post. It would be nearly impossible to write one post covering every nook and cranny. Angkor was full of surprises at every turn and we are so happy to have encountered this ancient Khmer civilization up close. 

We are two en route for more detailed travel encounters.

 At the end of days of exploring, our feet were rightfully filthy! 
At the end of days of exploring, our feet were rightfully filthy! 

Exploring Jodhpur, the beautiful Blue City

From getting lost down dead ends while wandering the winding streets to spending hours exploring the fort that towers over the entire city, Jodhpur, Rajasthan’s second largest city, is one of those places you can fall in love with at first site, and we did.

Mehrangarh Fort

This impressive fort is the largest in all of India. It is also the defining feature of the Jodhpur skyline. It was built in 1460 and remains one of the finest examples of Rajasthani architecture. 

The Blue City from Above

A quick hike up to the Mehrangarh Fort and you get to appreciate the city of Jodhpur from above. The blue houses are striking from all angles up here. It’s intoxicating to see such a beautiful site. 

The City up Close

Many theories from religious reasons like honoring the god Shiva to practical reason like beating the summer heat, it is still a mystery as to why the city is painted blue. 

Stepwell

One of Kevin’s favorite spots in Jodhpur was the Toorji Ka Jhalara Stepwell. It is an engineering marvel full of character from around the 6th century. We spent a lot of time relaxing around this area because their is a fantastic cafe called, you guessed it, the Stepwell Cafe. The perfect place to grab a beer and enjoy the rooftop views of the city. 

Jaswant Thada Mausoleum

Built in 1899, to honor Maharaja Jaswant Singh II, this tomb is a great place to sit and relax with the locals. The mausoleum is carved out of white marble. I havebeautifully carved lattice screens, perfectly manicured gardens, and a portrait gallery inside of the former Rantore rulers of Jodhpur. 

Umaid Bhawan Palace

This is considered the last great palace built in India. It was build in 1944 and is still home to the royal family of Jodhpur as well as a high end hotel. We were able to tour a very small part of the palace featuring a history of the Maharaja Royal Family, vintage clock collection, and vintage car collection. 

Clock Tower and Old City Markets

The hustle and bustle of the old town is in the market and around the clock tower. Their of many vendors selling everything from fruits and vegetables to trinkets and clothing. There are also a number of antique shops around the square with a lot of fantastic finds. 

Visiting the Locals

One day we took a trip out to visit the various tribes around Jodhpur. A few of the places we visited were a potters house to made potter, a rug weaver to see how flat weaves are made, a textile factory to watch the women hand embroider fabrics, and a local man making opium water (we did not try it). It was so fascinating to get to meet and interact with the locals and get a better understanding about what rural life is like in India. 

Mandore Gardens

On the outskirts of town is a great garden filled with locals playing games, going for a stroll, and having picnics. It was such a local feel walking around and being the only non-Indian in site. Throughout the gardens are ruins of old temples. Too bad they are not properly maintained, it could be a much more beautiful site to see. 

Most of the blogs and guidebooks recommended to spend only a day in Jodhpur. We are so glad we didn’t listen to them and spent three full days getting to know Jodhpur on a more personal level. It turned out to be our favorite city in all of India.

We are two en route for more love at first sight cities. 

Discovering the Ancient Ruins of Polonnaruwa

Sri Lanka has been full of surprises. It was never on our “must visit” list of countries. However, when taking a gap year to see the world we knew we would have to be open to going where the cheap flights, busses, boats, trains or cars would take us. We are so glad that one of those flights landed us on this special tear-drop shaped island off the Southern coast of India. 

One of the major highlights of our trip to Sri Lanka was getting to explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Polonnaruwa, we know, it’s a mouth full to try and say. Polonnaruwa is a city in the North Center Province of Sri Lanka. At one point, like many other cities in Sri Lanka, it was the capital of the country. In fact, it is the second most ancient capital. Today it is a mass of ruins crawling with cute little monkeys and travelers like us exploring the past. 

We decided the best way to explore this city was by our favorite means of transportation, the bicycle. We would recommend this. For only 300 lkr per person (about $2 USD) we set off to explore the ruins…or so we thought. At the entrance we were turned away because we did not have a ticket. It turns out that you have the by the tickets from the Archeological Museum 1km back into town. After shelling out 3750 lkr ($25 USD) each, we biked back to the entrance and started to discover the 5 areas of this wonderful ancient site. 

1. The Royal Palace Grounds

This part of the city contains the Royal Palace, Council Chamber and the Kumara Pakuna (bathing pool). They say first impressions are all you get and we were wowed. 

The Royal Palace was thought to have been a 7-story high palace in it’s time but now only stands as a three story ruin. Records saw there use to be up to 1000 rooms in this grand palace. A fantastic way to start our exploring.

The Council Chamber was where the King’s throne use to be. As you walk the few flights of stairs you are greeted by two stunning carved lions.  

We would not suggest taking a dip in the stagnant bathing pool, however, it was awesome to see the remnants of how this civilization would gather in communal bathing. 

2. Quadrangle 

The Quadrangle was one of our favorites. The entire area is sacred ground so we had to remove our shoes and hats. Shoulders and knees are not supposed to be shown either, so out of respect, people will wrap a scarf around their waist or throw a shawl over their shoulders. Sri Lanka is a hot country and the ground you are walking on is stone and gravel, so at times we would need to find a shaded spot to cool our feet off. 

The vatadage in the Quadrangle is an 18 meter round relic house. Their are four entrances that lead to the central chamber which houses four Buddha statues. At the base of the northern entrance is a moonstone that is the best in all of Polonnaruwa.

The Thuparama Image House is one of the few buildings where you can see a roof still intact. This building has survived for over 900 years and takes some maintenance to keep up appearances. 

Atadage Dalada Maligaya is where the Tooth Relic of the Buddha was kept in Polonnaruwa. This would have been a very sacred place where people would have come to worship and meditate. The Velikkara pillar of inscription tells the story of protection of the Relic of the Tooth. 

Sathmahal Prasadaya is the most popular square shaped stupa in all of Sri Lanka. It’s seven-stories high and is a defining structure in the Quadrangle. 

Nissanka Latha Mandapaya is a building featuring fine stone carved pillars shaped like a stork topped with a lotus flower. They are a fun and unique feature in Polonnaruwa. 

Gal Potha is the “Stone Book” which tells of King Nissanka Malla (1187-1196). It describes his life as the ruling king and why he was eligible to be king of Sri Lanka. The stone is 26’10” x 4’7″ and weighs around 25 tons. Pictures is the side showing a beautiful carving of two elephants showering the Hindu goddess Lakshmi. 

3. The Outskirts

These few sites were a little off the beaten path but we had bikes so it was not a problem hitting all the spots. 

Shiva Devale No. 2 is the oldest structure in Polonnaruwa and is virtually unchanged from when it was constructed.

Manik Vehera is one of the oldest stupas (a domed shaped structure erected as a Buddhist shrine) in the ancient city. It is small compared to the other stupas in Polonnaruwa but still packs a punch. 

The Pabalu Vehera stupa is one of mystery. It is unknown when and who built this unique shaped building. Traditionally stupas have only four image houses surrounding them, however, Pabalu has nine.

4. Northern City

The largest area in Polonnaruwa is the Northern City. Here is where you will find notable sites such as Rankoth Vehera, Kiri Vehara, Alahana Pirivena, and Lankatilaka temple.

Ronkoth Vehera is huge. It’s a 54 meter high stupa whos name translates to “Golden Pinnacle Stupa.” It is one of the most iconic stupas in Polonnaruwa.

Lankatilake temple houses a colossus size carving of the buddha. The power of it’s grand scale is matched by the remaining walls surrounding the sacred ground. Across are the monastic ruins of Alahana Pirivena where the monks would have lived.

Kiri Vehera, or “the milk stupa,” is only 30 meters tall but is hundreds of years older than the more recognized Rankoth Vehera. It is estimated to be from the 6th century BC. 

5. Gal Vihara

The final area of the ancient royal ruins of Polonnaruwa was a site to be seen.

Gal Vihara is a buddhist rock temple with four buddhas carved from a single piece of granite rock. It is considered the best example of carvings from it’s time. 

Not knowing what to expect as we rode the bus from Dambulla to Polonnaruwa turned out to be an awe inspiring experience. Even though the day was scalding hot and at times we felt exhausted by the sun, we had a fantastic time in Polonnaruwa. 

We are two en route to more ancient discoveries

Guide to Visiting the Pyramids of Giza

Today we were reflecting on our day spent at the only remaining wonder of the ancient world. Some people would say that an entire day is entirely too long to spend seeing the pyramids, we beg to differ. Our approach was to take our time, explore every nook and cranny we could find, and soak it all in. Here is our guide on how to visit the Pyramids of Giza. 

Where to stay:

 View from our hotel room. Giza, Egypt 2016
View from our hotel room. Giza, Egypt 2016

The current climate of Egypt can be worrisome and because of this we recommend staying in a western owned hotel as close to the pyramids as possible. We stayed at the Le Méridien Pyramids which is a Starwood property so we knew we could rely on staying there. Most hotels near the pyramids will run you between $45-$75 USD/night. 

How to get there:

You can get to the pyramids by many forms of transportation. We recommend Uber. It’s the safest and easiest way to get there and will only cost you around 130 EGP ($7 USD) each way if you are staying in Cairo. The plus side is you do not have to deal with haggling a price with a taxi and then feeling pressured to tip or navigating the hectic public transit routes. However, if you are wanting to take the bus find the 355 or 357 route and if you are taking the Metro, Line 2 will take you to Giza and from there you would need to walk a few kilometers or hail a taxi. 

Cost to visit:

 Pyramids overlooking the city of Giza, Egypt 2016
Pyramids overlooking the city of Giza, Egypt 2016

The cost to visit is dependent on what you want to do. The general admission into the complex itself is 80 EGP (Egyptian pounds) per person, roughly $4.50 USD, a steal in our opinion.   You will also have to decide right then if you want to go inside the Great Pyramid of Khufu. This will cost you 200 EGP per person ($11 USD). There are some other sites you can purchase tickets to get into at the ticket counter, however, they were not open to enter when we went. We did some asking around and it turns out their is nothing inside of them anyway. The only one worth going into is the Great Pyramid of Khufu.

Getting around inside:

 Kevin navigating the Pyramid complex. Giza, Egypt 2016
Kevin navigating the Pyramid complex. Giza, Egypt 2016

Once inside be prepared to be harassed relentlessly by people claiming you have to show them your ticket (which you don’t), vendors trying to sell you post cards or souvenirs (which you don’t need), guides selling their services to take you around the complex (wikipedia knows more then them), and men on camels trying to sell you a camel, horse or buggy ride around the complex (maybe later). 

 Solace from the peddlers trying to sell us nonsense. Giza, Egypt 2016
Solace from the peddlers trying to sell us nonsense. Giza, Egypt 2016

After shaking off all of the people, we decided to first explore on our own by foot. We are both in good shape so taking on the task of walking the very large area of the pyramid complex was not intimidating. This also gave us the opportunity to get away from the crowds hitting the “hot spots” and the vendors that accompanied them.

 Horseback riding around the Pyramid of Giza complex, 2016
Horseback riding around the Pyramid of Giza complex, 2016

Other ways you can get around are by camel, horse, or carriage. At one point we ended up taking a ride on two Arabian horses for the experience. It was the best way to get back to the beginning of after we had walked across the entire complex. The cost for any of these forms of transportation should be 50 EGP ($2.75 USD) per person. Never more! The ride will usually include a stop at some photo destinations along the way. Of course we tipped the guide afterwards to thank him for a fun experience.  

 Hanging out at the Sphinx. Giza, Egypt 2016
Hanging out at the Sphinx. Giza, Egypt 2016

5 Dos and 5 Don’ts:

It is easy to fall into the tourist trap so here are the dos and don’ts to follow when visiting. 

THE DOS:

  • DO bring food and water. The pyramids are in the desert which means you will dry out quickly. With all the people who will pester you through the day, none of them are food vendors so be sure to pack a lunch or bring snacks for when hunger hits and water for the thirst.
  • DO wear a hat or sunscreen. Unless you want to hang out in the shadows of the pyramids all day, you will encounter a lot of sun. SPF is your best friend for a long day at the pyramids.
  • DO go inside the Great Pyramid of Khufu. Climbing inside the inner chamber was a fun experience. This is the only time you may be at the pyramids so be sure to enjoy every moment.  
  • DO ride a camel, horse, or carriage. It seems touristy (and it is) however, the guide will take you out to the best photo spots and you will enjoy the wind blowing through your hair. 
  • DO take lots of photos! 
 Brad from inside the Great Pyramid of Khufu
Brad from inside the Great Pyramid of Khufu

THE DON’TS:

  • DON’T under any circumstance rush your visit. It’s easy to take a few pictures from the vantage points and say you have seen the pyramids, but truly experiencing them will be an everlasting memory to cherish.
  • DON’T climb on the pyramids. There are no climbing signs everywhere but people ignore that and crawl all over them. Respect this world wonder so they can be around another 4500 years.
  • DON’T let the harassers peddling stuff ruin your experience. As long as you do not say anything back to them and walk away, they will not bother you any longer. It felt like they had their own “turf” and once we got a certain distance they would stop following. The also are very intense near the entrance, as soon as you get away from that, they are fewer and farther between.
  • DON’T talk to anyone other than who you are traveling with. Usually you will be asked 1000 times “Where are you from?” The second you answer, they will continue to talk to you and give you advise, information and directions. They will expect a tip even after giving you information you did not want.
  • DON’T ride a camel, horse or carriage if it looks like the animals have been mistreated. We know it’s hard to tell sometimes, but when it is an obvious situation of mistreatment, find another person with a better treated animal. 
 Hieroglyphics from a tomb in the Pyramids complex. Giza, 2016
Hieroglyphics from a tomb in the Pyramids complex. Giza, 2016

At the end of the day the most important thing to remember to to enjoy the moment. Let the fact that the pyramids you have seen on TV, watched in Movies, and read about in books are within arms reach.  

We let our time at the pyramids wash over us and soak into our memories forever. We hope that they will be here for our grandchildren to see and enjoy just as we have. 

We are two en route to soak in life’s most amazing moments

 

Biking Berlin: How to See Berlin in 6 hours!

We love Berlin! There is relaxed vibe that draws you in and keeps you wanting more. With such a relaxed vibe you could spend weeks taking your time to explore every nook and cranny of the city. However, when wanting to see the world in a year, spending weeks in one city is not an always option for us and usually not an options for others as well. To help see more of Berlin, a city filled with so much unique history, we decided to take a 6 hour bike tour through Fat Tire. We had never used Fat Tire Tours before and thought, “what the heck, let’s try it out!” We are glad we did. 

 Biking through a park on the way to the beer garden
Biking through a park on the way to the beer garden

We were able to see Most of Berlin’s highlights during this tour. You may be thinking, “6 hours of biking, that seems like a lot.” We thought the same before taking the tour, however, there were so many breaks when our guide gave us amazing information about the sites that we never felt tired. We even took an hour or so to relax at a German Beer Garden. Prost! If you only have a day or two in Berlin, this will be the best 6 hours you can spend. To maximize your Berlin experience, we suggest taking the 4pm evening tour. 

Here are some picture from our amazing 6 hour adventure around Berlin.

 Berliner Fernsehturm (TV tower with observation deck)
Berliner Fernsehturm (TV tower with observation deck)
 Us at the Brandenbourg Gate
Us at the Brandenbourg Gate
 Our stop at the Memorial to the Murdered Jew of Europe
Our stop at the Memorial to the Murdered Jew of Europe
 Learning about the Nazi book burning 
Learning about the Nazi book burning 
 Checkpoint Charlie
Checkpoint Charlie
 Victory Column 
Victory Column 
  Bundeskanzleramt (German Federal Chancellery) 
Bundeskanzleramt (German Federal Chancellery) 
 Taking time to relax and learn
Taking time to relax and learn
 The  Reichstag building
The Reichstag building
 Berliner Dom on Museum Island
Berliner Dom on Museum Island

We could not have asked for a better time biking around Berlin. We will for sure take more biking tours when we can. It is a great way to see the sights and learn more about the city we are exploring. 

We are two en route to bike more cities

 

 

5 Ways We Prevent Homesickness

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One of the fears of being abroad for a year is coming down with a bad case of homesickness. Prior to us leaving for our world tour we had not spent much more than 2-weeks away from home at one time, which really isn’t enough time to get homesick. However, when Kevin was 15 he spent a month in Germany visiting family and remembered at about week three he started to miss home. Well, lucky for us we surpassed three weeks and now start our third month homesick free. Here are five things we find ourselves doing often that we believe are preventing us from catching the homesick bug.

1. Texting

Before we left our home in Dallas, we changed our cell phone plans to Google Fi which offers free texting in over 130 countries around the world. It’s great not worrying about being charged every time we want to send a text to loved ones. It is the quickest and easiest way for us to connect. We just have to remember which time zone we are in.

2. Video & Voice Chats

Sometimes texting doesn’t cut it and we turn to Skype. Skype allows us to have voice and video calls for free over WiFi and allows for a good excuse to stop for a cup of coffee when we see a “free WiFi” sign in the window. There is nothing like hearing Mom and Dad’s voice or laughing with a friend. Skype has become essential for scheduling video dates with our friends and family.

3. Social Media

We do not know about you, but sometimes we love taking some time to scroll through social media. Whether it is Facebook stocking our besties or mindlessly reading news articles of what is happening back home, social media has kept home connected to us and us to home, so keep sharing photos of your lunch, we enjoy seeing it.

4. Meeting Friends Along the Way

While texting, talking, and video chatting with friends and family is good prevention for homesickness, there is no better cure than a hug from one of them in person. Being travel bugs ourselves it is only natural that we have other travel loving buddies. Along the way it has been nice to meet up with friends from back home and make new memories together abroad.

5. Each Other  

We decided to take this trip together. Not only is this a trip to see the world, it is a journey of discovery. We will have our moments of happiness and joy, we will have our moments of fear and frustration, and we will have our moments of relaxation and quiet. Whatever those moments may be we must always remember that as long as we have each other we are home. To us, this is the most important prevention to homesickness. Home is where we are when we are together, regardless of where that might be.

We are two en route for a homesick free journey