Looking back on 2017

Letter 119

What a year 2017 has been! I would go as far as to say it has been the best year of my life, but I’m looking forward to 2018 even more. In this letter I’ll recap 2017 the best way I can and look back over my favourite letters.

Letter 56

The year began in the best way possible – travelling. I visited one of the most fascinating countries I’ve ever been to and enjoyed it more than I ever thought I would. Iceland. Land of fire and ice – and boy was it incredible. While it is an extortionate country to travel in, I managed a week for £538 including everything, which you can read about here. We based ourselves in the cityof Reykjavik for the week but ventured out every day on trips which took us around the Golden Circle, to the middle of nowhere to see the Northern lights, to the Blue Lagoon (at night), to a frozen botanical garden, to an outdoor swimming pool and to beautiful parts of the colourful capital. Check out all of my Iceland posts here.

Letter 73

In February I was lucky enough to combine my course with my love and spent 10 days in beautiful ItalyIn that time I visited Rome, for the second time, Turin and Milan. I loved the diversity between these cities and leisurely enjoyed architecture, food and sun. What a wonderful way to escape Scottish winter?! You can check out all of my letters about Italy here.

Letter 85

March was a month I actually really enjoyed as spring had finally sprung in Edinburgh and I spent a lot of time out enjoying my city. I visited the botanic gardens, walked the various hills and enjoyed relaxing in the sun that had been hiding for a few months. Who says you can’t travel at home? I wrote a few random letters in March – check them out here.

Letter 89

In April I did a little more travelling around the UK as my birthday came about which included visiting my best friend in Cardiff and spending the night up in Fife, north of Edinburgh. Amidst all of my uni work it was good to take some solid time out. I also celebrated 1 year of aletterfromlou!! I honestly thought I would’ve had more letters by this point but alas, I’m proud of what I achieved. April was also when I booked my first fight of the summer – the beginning of my biggest adventure! Check out my April updates here.

Letter 95

May saw the completion of my second year of university and my summer trip begin. I spent the last 2 weeks of May in Spain, 1 with my boyfriend relaxing in Nerja, the second exploring Malaga, Cordoba and Sevilla on my own. I love Spain and my Spanish definitely started to improve! If you’re interested you can check out either my May letters here or those about Spain here.

Letter 99

June was busy. I spent a few days holidaying in Portugal on the Algarve with one of my friends, followed by a few days in Lisbon on my own before meeting up with my mum in Porto for a week’s holiday. I then flew over to Budapest to meet my boyfriend, spend a couple of days there, and then travel down to Zagreb in Croatia. I then spontaneously decided to go to the music festival with some people I met and had the best time. My boyfriend and I then headed to the beautiful spot of the Plitvice Lakes and it was stunning. Afterwards, we continued on to Pula in northern Croatia for our last days of holiday. When he left I embarked on my 4 week solo trip to round off the summer. What a busy month June was?! Check out all of the letters: Portugal, Budapest & Croatia.

Letter 104

July was a month of beaches, old towns, hiking, islands, new friends and smiles. I loved this month as it saw me travel down the coast of Croatia and spend 2 weeks in Montenegro, now my favourite country. I had the most incredible time and loved getting to travel without planning in advance and changing things at the drop of a hat. What an amazing month. Check out letters about Croatia here and Montenegro here.

Letter 109

August puts up a fight for the toughest month of the year, but also one of the most fun. I worked Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival at an awesome lego exhibition and was incredibly proud of the work I did. It was long hours and stressful days in a packed city but it was worth it. What a great thing to do!

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Letter 111

I’m going to roll September, October and November into one here because I actually don’t have any posts on these months – because I did very little other than uni work. However, as usual, I still spent time exploring my city but didn’t have time to write about it. I also went to Loch Lomond for a weekend which was stunning – but no time so here’s a quite picture anyway!

loch lomond

Letter 118

Although the last few months of 2018 may have been somewhat ‘cloudy’ I did finish on a high note in December. I flew over to Berlin for a few days to see my friend who’s now living there and had the best time. I stepped straight back into travel mode and loved every second. What a fantastic city and I can’t wait to explore more of the country – hopefully in 2018! I then spent time with my family, friends and boyfriend over the Christmas period, cherishing relaxation time before heading back up to hell uni.

berlin east side gallery 1

Thank you 2017. It’s been a great year, especially for travel. I visited Iceland, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Hungary, Croatia, Montenegro and Germany. Quite the list! I can’t wait to see what 2018 brings, I have a feeling it will be a good year.

Happy New Year folks! I wish you all the best.

From Lou

About Me

 

 

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Warming to Berlin at Christmastime

Letter 118

Berlin is a striking city of edgy art, modern architecture, friendly culture and unfortunate history. It is different to any city I’ve ever been to and it actually might be one of my favourites. It doesn’t have the consistent perfect terracotta roofs of Florence or the quaint cobbled streets of Kotor, it doesn’t possess the great ruins of Athens or the skyscrapers of New York, but what it does have is a unique unapologetic character of its own and I would like to introduce you to my new friend – Berlin (at Christmastime).

My first impressions of Berlin were at 3am and consisted of a bleak night and scary train system. Thankfully I was staying with a good friend who now lives in the city so she came to my rescue and I stayed with her. I quickly realised the train system is actually very simple, as are the buses, and I had no issues here on out. I had 4 full days in Berlin, which I feel is perfect for this time of year, but in summer I feel I could stay much longer. I read a statistic that Berlin is 46% green space or water of which I explored only a tiny part of due to December temperatures and foggy skies.

Parks, airports, galleries and markets

On my first day, my friend and I ventured out into the city and began in Victoria Park. I can imagine this would be stunning in summer (as would most of the places I went so I will only say it this once) but it was lovely when we went as well. We walked up to the Prussian National Monument for the Liberation of Wars which had lengthy views down the streets leading to the centre and also down what I believe would be a waterfall. It was foggy but lovely.

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We then walked to an abandoned airport. Yes – that’s the kind of stuff you’ll find in Berlin. This monumental Tempelhof field, which was once used by the Americans to transport supplies to those in need in the city, is now left to runners, dog walkers and wildlife. The curved terminal building remains empty and looks onto a green square with a memorial to the Berlin airlift. This was my first introduction to the history of Berlin. (Took no photos so you best go visit…)

As the weather was less that ideal we decided to take cover in an art gallery, and chose the Hamburger Bahnhof for the occasion. The modern art exhibits are situated in this 19th century railway station which is both bizarre and wonderful. I really loved this museum and considered returning – but there’s too much to see in the city for that. We sat watching a film about a family running an illegal abortion clinic in Austria for an hour (called The Impossible Picture, by Sandra Wollner), saw some impressive metal structures that we didn’t understand, walked around a life size house seemingly constructed using scraps, entered a recreation of a South American shopping mall by Sol Calero and watched a strange Latino TV show. It was a very cool museum.

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In the evening we headed out to get Christmassy. We went to Gendarmenmarkt, which is sandwiched between to stunning churches (which I only appreciated fully when I returned in daylight) for the huge Christmas market, but stopped on the way when a littler one caught our eye. Wow. Berlin knows how to do Christmas. I can only imagine what the markets are like in other cities, like Frankfurt and Cologne. We scowered the stalls and leisurely drank prosecco and mulled wine around a wood burner listening to festive tunes. What a lovely Christmassy evening.

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Berlin wall, colourful streets, Christmassy malls and the river

My second day began at the East Side Gallery, one of Berlin’s top attractions – and for good reason. The whole area is eye opening and beautiful in the strangest way. However, the art begins way before the wall does, from the other side of the stunning bridge actually. Public art installations grace both sides of the river bank and then the long stretch of the dividing wall of 20th century Berlin begins and is a complete beauty.

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I then decided to wander to one of the main roads of Friedrichshain called Karl-Marx Allee, known as a socialist boulevard with striking architecture of the 50s. I walked most of the way down enjoying the massive amounts of space and the towering tenements either side of the lanes.

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I then veered off to the more residential parts of the area where I came across colourful apartment blocks, cosy cafes and small tree lines squares.

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Even with the dull weather I took a stroll around Friedrichshain Park which surprised me a great deal. It had some pretty ponds, more public art and a lovely path steeping up to a vantage point (where I could actually only see trees). Fog and cold can’t dampen my spirits.

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As it was lunchtime I did a typical ‘budget backpacker’ meal and popped into aldi to pick up supplies and then headed into a shopping centre near Alexander Platz to sit down and eat. Germany do shopping centres right and have plush comfy seats amongst sparkling surroundings of Christmas trees and decorations (note: do not expect this in summer – go sit in a park).

berlin alexa shopping centre

After a couple of hours sitting, reading and shopping (for chocolate) in the shopping centre I ventured out again to have a last wonder around Alexander Platz before meeting my friend. The markets here were charming and a short walk led me to the very picturesque riverside (which I returned to the next day). I loved the smaller streets and squares and it felt like an alien part of the city compared to what I’d experienced so far.

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The last stop on this jam-packed day was KaDeWe, an enormous department store. One of my favourite things to do in London is wander around Harrods, so I was excited about this. It exceeded expectations with it’s beautiful festive decorations, indoor Christmas market and spellbinding food hall. We spend a while in this particular part of the store.

berlin kadewe

So that was my first couple of days in Berlin. I found this city so different to anywhere I’d been before and was excited to see more. It has a way of slowly revealing itself to its visitors and making you want to understand the history and the people. At first I thought it would be a tough place to crack but it quickly warmed on me. I began to love it – and this was only the start of my trip!

Stay tuned for days 3 and 4…

From Lou

About Me