2018: My European Travel Year

2018: My European Travel Year

Review of the travel year already in October?

Yes, because we are expecting the birth of our baby within just a few days. Our travel year 2018 might already be finished, but there will be other completely new, exciting experiences that we are looking forward to. Of course we hope to continue our travel experiences next year together with our baby. This year was special and different due to my pregnancy. We would have dared to go on a long-distance trip, but we both wanted to travel to the Mediterranean in summer so much that we decided on the latter. We traveled to many destinations in Europe this year. Some we had seen before, but we also discovered a lot of new places. Most of the time I traveled with my husband Chris. I also did a few trips on my own, because maternity leave gave me the chance to be more flexible in terms of time. At the beginning of this phase, I still felt strong enough, even though I had to step back a little during my trips.

What Europe means to me as a travel destination

In 2018 I have been to 12 European countries in total. Latvia, Lithuania and San Marino were new to me and I couldn’t remember the Vatican because I was only two years old when I first visited it with my parents. The travel year 2018 showed me once more that Europe is an incredibly diverse and fulfilling travel region. Therefore it is a pleasure for me to participate in the inspiring blog parade “#SalonEurope – Europe is for me…” of the Museum Burg Posterstein from the perspective of a travel Blogger. As a Europe travel fan I feel very much addressed by the topic. I would like to inspire others to discover their own continent more deeply. At Hiddentraces, deeper discoveries belong to the core themes together with less known destinations.

Salsa and Merengue in Tenerife: the year begins

At the turn of the year we had already planned a baby. To be on the safe side, we did not consider a too exotic trip and a too long flight. We had decided for the Canary Islands, because you can enjoy some sun in winter there and the flight route was moderate for us. After one chilly week in the way of the so-called Turismo Rural on La Gomera, we spent the last few days exploring the neighbouring island of Tenerife – beyond the resorts. We stayed in the cool surfer village El Médano in the south, not only because of the better weather in this part of Tenerife, but especially because of the New Year’s Eve party we wanted to attend there. The Canary Islands inhabitands like Latin American rhythms. In El Médano they dance Salsa and Merengue on the Plaza on New Year’s Eve. We had spent the previous New Year’s Eves mostly in skybars in Asia and were happy about the new experience and celebrated and danced eagerly.

Ricarda at Teide Tenerife
In Teide National Park, Tenerife

Winter Short Trips – Venice in Carnival and Latvia in Snow

In February we again visited my aunt in Treviso and spent some time in nearby Venice. On this trip to Venice we went to the Dorsoduro district to visit a mask shop that does traditional handicrafts – in contrast to mass imports from Taiwan. We had a great day. In Dorsoduro we enjoyed wonderful peace and picturesque corners and later the carnival flair around St. Mark’s Square. It was a lot of fun to photograph our soft dog “The Lovely Dog” with the costumed people. A visit to Caffé Florian is not a bargain, but it is always inspiring, especially when there are so beautifully costumed people. All in all I can really recommend Venice in winter. Fun fact in retrospect is that I was already pregnant in Venice. I didn’t know anything about it yet.

The Lovely Dog at Venice Carnival
The Lovely Dog at Venice Carnival

We took another inspiring weekend trip to Latvia. Here we spent the night in the historic SPA town Jurmala with its Scandinavian looking picture book wooden houses near Riga. After we had taken walks through the cold, but architecturally very worth seeing Riga, we  could not have enjoyed all the hot steam more then we did. But it became really cold (minus 16 Degrees Celsius) on the following day, when we walked on the long forest-fringed beach of Jurmala. The people next to us even did cross-country skiing. So our weekend became a real adventure.

Very cold Jurmala Latvia
Very cold Jurmala, Latvia

Shortly after the weekend in Latvia we learned about my pregnancy and felt extraordinarily happy. No wonder that I found the trip very beautiful, but also a bit exhausting. This was probably not only due to the cold…

Spring – diverse experiences in the West, North and East

Our spring holiday took us to the Netherlands. We visited a good friend in Groningen and spent some nice days on the island of Texel in a boutique hotel with a heavenly SPA. That was very pleasant, because the winter did not seem to end and instead of flowering tulip fields a lot of cold wind awaited us on Texel. But that didn’t stop us from cycling and hiking on the North Sea island. Nevertheless it was all a bit more exhausting for me due to of my new situation. As “hyggelig” the vacation on Texel was, for the rest of the year I did not want to spend any more vacation in the cold. At some point it was enough.

windmill on Texel
Windmill on Texel Island

In spring we also did two trips to the Czech Republic, spent a wonderful weekend in the historic SPA town Mariánske Lázne and went on a day trip to Czesky Krumlov, which we enjoyed visiting again because of its beautiful medieval flair. In Mariánske Lázne we enjoyed relaxation between columns and marble in the old SPA house, but I liked the ambience better than the treatments themselves, which rather felt like mass processing.

Historical SPA Marianske Lazne
Historical SPA Mariánske Lázne

At the end of April / beginning of May we went twice to Franconian Switzerland. The idyllic region with its rippling streams, romantic castles and mills as well as many orchards is especially beautiful in spring and one of my most important new discoveries this year.

In May we visited Lithuania for a weekend. We were excited about the capital Vilnius, its architecture and flair and its idyllic surroundings. At the end of the month we returned to Alsace for a long weekend and once again visited the romantic small town of Colmar and also Strasbourg. We made new experiences by heading for smaller towns on the Alsatian Wine Route and getting to know Basel as well as Mühlhausen (Mulhouse), which is rather atypical for Alsace.

Early summer – Babymoon on the Cyclades in Greece

Certainly a highlight of the travel year was our two-week babymoon with island hopping on the Cyclades. In Greece we had dream weather all the time. In the middle of pregnancy women generally feel best. I was no exception. It was even possible for me to hike a little on Santorini. I liked both Santorini and Mykonos very much in their own way. Also the side trips to the ancient island Delos, where we spent our third wedding day, and to the idyllic and relatively Little touristy Tinos, were beautiful. As a babymoon this holiday was planned to be something special and we had a really good time. The vacation in Greece was a real pleasure and full of inspiring experiences.

Happy on Santorini
Baby bump still small on Santorini

Summer – great weekends

The French region of Lorraine and especially the city of Nancy with its magnificent baroque architecture are among my most beautiful discoveries this year. In the summer we also had the opportunity to hike again and visited the Wimbachklamm in Berchtesgaden, which is thundering with waterfalls. That was a cool tour for the summer, even though it was already almost too exhausting for me at that time. In general, the heat, which I like actually very much, really hit me this summer. Pregnancy makes some differences.

It was also very warm during our weekend trip by train to Trento in northern Italy. I wanted to get to know a less touristy destination in northern Italy and it was absolutely worth it. Trento, which I had only ever passed before, impressed us with its beautiful frescoes, a great castle and wonderful views, including typical Italian flair.

We spent another very nice weekend in Vienna and surroundings as well as some hours in Hungary. In Vienna we visited friends and drove together to the beautiful vineyards. This was not our first visit to Vienna, we like it very much. This year we saw a very new aspect of this attractive city. We also took the time to go to the beer garden of a cosy wine tavern in Grinzing with our friends. During a visit to Vienna, of course, our traditional visit to a coffee house was a must. We also spent some time at the Naschmarkt market. The following day we were lucky to be able to observe a stork nesting on a roof at close range. This happens quite often at Lake Neusiedl. Then we visited the great Roccoco castle Esterházy in Hungary, which captivated us by architectural beauty and pretty parks. For me it i t’sa real Hidden Gem that I can recommend to you. We concluded the beautiful weekend with an open air concert by Kraftwerk at the Roman quarry Neusiedler See, a venue with spectacular scenery.

Esterházy Palace in Fertöd
Esterházy Palace in Fertöd, Hungary

Mediterranean Late Summer – A Last Trip for Two

Our travel highlight 2018 should be the Babymoon on the Cyclades. The trip to Greece was wonderful, but I have to say that the late summer road trip to Switzerland and Italy was not inferior to the June trip either. Maybe it was also because we knew that it would be the last trip in the usual constellation of two. Within one week we saw and experienced incredibly much. Since I enjoyed this trip so much, I will describe it and our route in more detail.

The reason for our road trip was the wedding of my aunt in Treviso, Italy and in the dreamy (Prosecco) vineyards of Valdobbiadene. We drove south via the great mountain passes “Oberalppass”, which reminded me of the moon landscape of Tibet, and the “Gotthardpass” first into Italian Switzerland and spent two days in theTicino Region at Lake Maggiore. From Ascona we also visited the Italian part of the lake and visited Lugano and Montagnola, the former residence of German writer Hermann Hesse. The further way led us to Liguria, Italy. Not far from Genoa we lived in a small villa on a hill with a sea view in Camogli near the Portofino peninsula. I love this area. It’s green there and smells of herbs. And the sea, and the steep coast… simply a dream! In Liguria we visited Cinque Terre and Portofino. Cinque Terre is overcrowded, but incredibly worth seeing. I personally find the Portofino marina rather unspectacular, but the landscape around it with its beautiful gardens is fabulously beautiful.

From Liguria we made a long journey to San Marino. On the way we spontaneously drove to the picturesque small town Brescello in Emilia-Romagna, the place where the old and among Europeans well known Don Camillo movies took place. Afterwards we stopped briefly in Bologna. In the Republic of San Marino we lived in a beautiful stone house in the smallest village of the miniature country. I found it worthwhile to spend two nights there, as by doing so we had the opportunity to see the small country without the daily stream of summer tourists. As expected, we quickly saw the most important things there. Therefore, we made a trip to the Marches, to Urbino. I especially liked the old town with its winding alleys, modern Student flair and fine Renaissance art. The road trip through the hilly Marches also led us through beautiful, lonely landscapes. In the evening we drove towards the Adriatic Sea to Rimini. I had a certain idea About Rimini, and not a very positive one. But since I always want to see everything for myself, I wanted to check my clichés. But I have to say that Rimini is more than the longest seaside resort in Europe, which is less my taste. The lively center of the university city of Rimini really has flair and offers a great, contemporary gastronomic choices next to monuments from Roman times.

Our next stop was Valdobbiadene, the place in Veneto,  where my aunt celebrated her wedding. On the way there we admired the great Byzantine mosaics in Ravenna. At Valdobbiadene we spent the nights again in a small village in a small stone house in the middle of the Prosecco vineyards. I immediately fell in love with the area. But we did not stand still and paid Padua a visit. The breathtaking Giotto frescos in the Capella degli Scrovegni were worth it. We also drove to Conegliano, the second famous place in the Prosecco region, which at first sight is rather unattractive, but then surprised with a pretty old town with frescoed houses. After the wedding it was time to say goodbye to travelling together and a great last trip as a couple. Chris drove back to Germany, I traveled on to Rome.

Manarola in Cinque Terre
Big Love: Liguria

Travel Final 2018: The Pregnancy Solo Trip

With the beginning of the legal maternity leave I was given time. Since I still felt fit enough, I used the first weeks to travel. I was lucky that I still had a lot of flight miles and train bonus points left, which enabled me to travel pleasantly within Europe. Otherwise I wouldn’t spend much money on business class or 1st class trains and would rather book a second trip, but on the other hand the comfort was a great thing during pregnancy and the additional space for my legs was only healthy, because pregnancy increases the risk of thrombosis. In this respect, everything suited very well. Also in terms of my hotel bookings I took care to have certain amenities, e.g. the possibility to lie down at the pool after exhausting sightseeing. This turned out to be a good idea, as I was usually very exhausted in the afternoon that I could no longer walk well. When choosing the destinations, I made sure that they had a good maternity clinic and that Chris could fly to me quickly if necessary. Of course, I was aware that there was a certain risk involved. Fortunately, that didn’t happen.

The first part of my journey took me to Rome, as I mentioned earlier. In Rome I had only been as a toddler. I learned Latin for many years. In this respect it is actually strange that I had never visited at all these monuments. Now it was the time to finally see them. Apart from the antique sights, I paid a lot of attention to the Vatican and the great urban squares with the lush baroque fountains, staircases and so on. Rome was sometimes stressful, because it was quite hot and also high season. On the other hand the impressions were breathtaking. I didn’t regret to have a bit of discomfort. In addition I had luck. Because of my pregnancy I didn’t have to queue at the Vatican museums, for example.

The second trip took me by train to Marseille. I also only knew southern France from my childhood and only one other region. Marseille is a city with a bad reputation. There are indeed quarters you should avoid, but usually as a traveler there is chance you go there. Marseille was culturally incredibly inspiring, a diverse city with a lot of flair that I can recommend to everyone as a travel destination. An excursion by ship to the turquoise bays “Calanques” was an excellent addition and for me as a pregnant woman a very pleasant type of excursion.

Le Panier in Marseille
Marseille: excited about the oldest quarter

Part number three of my solo trip took me to Mallorca, the favorite island of the Germans, which I had actually never visited before. From Palma I made half-day trips to Port de Sóller and Port d’Andratx. A very well developed bus system made it easy for me to move around the island as a non-driver. I liked the capital, the towns and the landscape very much. But I didn’t like some tourists who showed rude behavior. Nevertheless Mallorca is beautiful enough to come back any time.

I came home briefly between the destinations to meet Chris and to see the doctor regularly. If I had traveled one week longer, the traveling would have become too exhausting for me, since the pregnancy became strenuous. I would not have been able to walk longer distances. Apart from that I would not have been taken along in the airplane any more. I actually flew until the last moment possible.

For me it was exciting to travel alone again. I hadn’t done that for a long time, because I prefer to travel with Chris. If I would feel the same fit, I would do the same again in this situation any time. It was simply wonderful to extend the summer in this way. After a month of travelling with only short interruptions, it is now much easier for me to stay in Munich for a while. Of course we are looking forward to traveling again next year, but our main anticipation is now for the Baby.

Transparency: The naming of destinations is based on our voluntary decision. 

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Travel Highlights in Europe








7 thoughts on “2018: My European Travel Year

  1. Wow, such a stirring year 🙂 Congratulations on your Baby, it will be the greatest adventure you’ve ever had! 🙂

    1. Ricarda Christina Hollweg

      Thank you so much Gabriella. We are still waiting for it. 🙂 This year was really exciting but also highly enjoyable…

  2. Wow you had such a great year travelling to so many places in Europe..I really wish to visit some of these places. Hope to get a chance soon. Wish you all the best for new role of momma soon

    1. Ricarda Christina Hollweg

      Many thanks for your kind wishes, Madhu. I hope you will manage to travel to Europe soon. So much to discover here…

  3. Congratulations. You have enjoyed the year well traveling, now enjoy welcoming your baby. God Bless!

    1. Ricarda Christina Hollweg

      Thanks a lot, Anuradha 🙂 I’m sure I will. It’s so exciting.

  4. Wow, what an exciting year you’re had! Such amazing adventures… I had no idea Tenerife was so lovely!

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