We’ve had the incredible fortune to enjoy some truly amazing adventures over the past twelve months! Somehow we managed – in spite of terrible work schedules, T.’s badly broken bones, and our little pup’s legendary fear of roadtrips – to visit 12 phenomenal countries across Europe. From some of our most beloved travel mainstays to new and exciting destinations, please enjoy our favorite journeys of 2016 (in no particular order)!
LONDON (United Kingdom)
While London is a familiar place for both of us – particularly B. – we were thrilled to return to England’s capital city for T.’s birthday in late November, after a three year hiatus. Although our visit was short, we managed to explore several great sights, new and old, including the Tower of London, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. We also took in a handful of trips on the Underground, a meal of fish and chips and steak and ale pie, and an amazing home win at White Hart Lane with B.’s favorite football club, Tottenham Hotspur.
We visited Zugspitze – Germany’s highest peak, at 9,718 ft (2,962 m) – during a trip to Garmisch-Partenkirchen to celebrate B.’s birthday in February. Upon our arrival in southern Bavaria, we found the town – and the mountain – engulfed in low, dense cloud cover, boding ill for our journey to the summit the following day. We could not have been more excited (or surprised!) to wake the next morning (on B.’s actual birthday!) to beautiful blue skies and incredible views across the snow-capped peaks to Bavaria, Austria, Italy and Switzerland. Best birthday ever!
PRAGUE (Czech Republic)
We enjoyed a handful of epic roadtrips in 2016, including one to the beautiful city of Prague in late May. With only one full day (which was not nearly enough!) to explore the romantic Czech capital, we made a quick circuit of the city on foot, visiting the Charles Bridge, the banks of the Vltava River, Prague Castle, St. Vitus Cathedral, Old Town Square, and the Josefov.
This charming Belgian city – aptly described as “a beautiful f*cking fairy-tale” in the dark comedy In Bruges – certainly lives up to its cinematic reputation. Between its labyrinthine canals, stunning medieval architecture and amazing chocolate-covered waffles, Bruges was a no-brainer for our first annual list of favorite destinations. Check out last month’s post on the city’s canals for more photographs of breathtaking Bruges!
Our journey to the tiny Swiss village of Mürren – perched on a soaring cliff above the breathtaking valley of Lauterbrunnen – was, hands-down, the best of 2016. While plans to return in the summer months for hiking and exploring were curtailed by T.’s injuries, we hope to journey back to this charming hamlet – with miles of trekking routes and expansive views of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau mountains – for more adventures in 2017!
T.’s HONORABLE MENTIONS
We love Strasbourg so much, we visited three times in 2016! Between its soaring cathedral, picturesque Grande Île, and delicious cuisine (including T.’s beloved picon bière), this lovely Alsatian metropolis was – not surprisingly – the very first journey we featured on this blog this past September.
The Dutch capital has long been one of T.’s favorite European playgrounds, but we made our first journey there as a family this past August. A canal cruise, visit to the Van Gogh museum, and sobering tour of Anne Frank’s hiding place made this trip to Amsterdam a truly memorable experience.
CAVES OF HAN-SUR-LESSE (Belgium)
We became cave junkies after visiting Slovenia’s spectacular Postojna Cave in 2012, and couldn’t pass up a journey through the colorful underworld of Han-sur-Lesse, Belgium during a roadtrip through the province of Namur in April. While less expansive than the karst caverns of Postojna, the Caves of Han were no less spectacular – and the fun train ride to the entrance was a great surprise!
ORVAL ABBEY (Belgium)
The beautiful ruins of this Cistercian monastery were another wonderful surprise on our April roadtrip through Belgium. Located directly adjacent to a new monastery of the same name (its occupants still engaged in the production of Trappist Orval beer and cheese), the ruined abbey – originally constructed in the mid-14th century – is now a hauntingly lovely reminder of this religious order’s past.
ELTZ CASTLE (Germany)
Eltz Castle – or Burg Eltz, as it’s more commonly known in our neck of the woods – is a “must-see” destination for most of our visitors to Germany, making it a frequent stop in 2016 (and the subject of this recent post). While we’ve not yet experienced a guided tour of the interior, we highly recommend a meal and beer on the castle terrace – the food is delicious, the staff lovely, and the views can’t be beat!
B.’s HONORABLE MENTIONS
THE BLACK FOREST (Germany)
Our journey with B.’s parents to the Black Forest in late September was one of our very best in Germany. Between beautiful sunrise hikes, the ubiquitous chime of cuckoo clocks, and a visit to the nation’s highest waterfall, we were thoroughly impressed with everything the region had to offer!
This adorable French village – nestled between lush vineyards along the famed Route des Vins d’Alsace – is one of our favorites in Europe. Its main street – lined with caveaux des vins, boulangeries and chic boutique hotels – is one of the most picturesque we’ve ever wandered. Indeed, we half expected Belle or Gaston to emerge from one of the colorful half-timbered structures between the old town wall and historic Hotel de Ville! A second visit in early December (after our initial journey in April) was well-rewarded with beautiful views of holiday lights and a charming Christmas market.
Very few journeys in 2016 surpassed this extraordinary hike to the Seceda plateau in early October. Located above the small village of Ortisei in the Italian Dolomites, this popular ski and snowboard destination is a hiker’s delight in the late spring and summer months, with sweeping views across the Val Gardena to Passo Sella and Alpe di Siusi.
TOLMIN GORGE (Slovenia)
This stunningly beautiful gorge – located at the confluence of the Tolminka and Zadlaščica rivers on the southern edge of Slovenia’s Triglav National Park – was a wonderful detour during an October roadtrip with B.’s parents. Special kudos to B.’s mum, who navigated the more than 500 steps on this hike without a single complaint, despite aching feet and a very sore hip. The views were well worth it!
ROTHENBURG OB DER TAUBER (Germany)
We visited Rothenburg ob der Tauber – a well-preserved medieval town in Middle Franconia – for our third wedding anniversary in August. While the weather was often poor and T. stuck in the hotel recovering from surgery, we instantly fell in love with Rothenburg’s romantic charm, abundant historical sights, and colorful atmosphere.
Thanks for joining us on our favorite journeys of 2016! Cheers to more adventures in the New Year! – T. & B. June
Next week’s journey: Topkapı Palace Harem – Istanbul, Turkey