I've once read somewhere that you should never start a blog post by apologising. I can't remember the reason for it, but I think it was about not drawing attention to the fact you've been AWOL.
Well, today I'm bending the rules a little bit. I won't apologise but I'll give you an explanation for my absence... holiday.
For the first time in eight years, Paul and I have been on holiday. Every time we've traveled back home in the past few years it was to attend a special family event. We both love spending time with friends and family but we always end up very exhausted trying to squeeze too many people into our tight schedule. Sound familiar?
And while we still made time to see our loved ones, we also managed to sneak away for twelve glorious days. Just the two of us.
Now you're probably wondering why you should be interested in any of this, aren't you? Let me enlighten you... we've seen some new and very exciting and beautiful places. So if you're looking for ideas for your honeymoon or a nice getaway for your anniversary, this post might just spark some inspiration (and yes, I admit I also didn't want all the pictures I took collecting dust on my phone).
(PS: We've seen a lot of places so I've decided to split this post into two parts. I'll release part two - St. Petersburg, Helsinki, Bruges - next week.)
(PPS: My name is Katha and I'm a very selective eater. Paul and my mum would probably call me fussy, but I prefer selective. Therefore I'll leave restaurant recommendations to people who really enjoy food and know what they're talking about.)
Our first stop was Oslo, the beautiful capital of Norway.
I've never been to Oslo before, but as a big fan of Scandinavian crime novels, I had a clear picture in my head after I started reading the books of Norwegian author Jo Nesbø. I recognised many street names and places, but Oslo didn't quite match the picture I had built in my head. Not in a bad way though, it was just smaller than I expected.
Despite its relatively small size for a capital city, Oslo never felt crowded (or maybe everyone else enjoyed a cup of hot coffee inside somewhere while laughing at the tourists braving the rain that day).
First, we walked along Oslo's main street, Karl-Johans-Gate, towards the Royal Palace, which looks lovely and much less dreary than many other palaces in Europe.
The neighbourhood of Aker Brygge is also worth a visit. Aker Brygge is a waterfront development at a former shipyard and one of the most visited places in Oslo. It's a very popular place for tourists and locals alike due to its many shopping, dining and entertainment facilities.
If you're a big fan of architecture and/or classical music, I can recommend a visit to the Oslo Opera House, which looks truly spectacular. If you walk up to the roof you'll be rewarded with amazing panoramic views of Oslo.
Lastly, we went down to the beautiful harbour and booked a two-hour boat tour to see the Oslo fjords. Cruising through the little islands with their pretty summer homes (be prepared for some serious house envy) was my personal highlight and really made me want to come back one day and explore more of Norway's stunning landscape.
Sights we didn't have time to explore but that were highly recommended: Akershus Fortress, a medieval castle located close to the harbour and the Botanical Garden located in the neighbourhood of Tøyen.
Next up was Copenhagen and I think I fell a little bit in love with the gorgeous Danish capital.
Copenhagen had such a ridiculously large amount of sights to choose from that we had to make a choice before jumping on the bus. (Paul and I were on a cruise so we only had about six hours to explore each city.) So with a heavy heart, we picked three sights from our endless list. But we will be back to see the rest of it. Promise.
First up, we went into the city centre to make our way to the oldest functioning observatory in Europe, Rundetaarn (or Round Tower). Sounds a bit boring but bear with me for a second... if you go all the way up, you'll be rewarded with the most amazing panoramic view over the old part of Copenhagen.
On the way down check the library hall for the latest exhibition. We caught the strangest art exhibition ever. I'm still not sure what it is exactly that I've seen. Or why. But it was interesting nevertheless and very amusing. Paul and I shared a few good laughs.
If you're a fan of Scandinavian furniture design you may or may not want to visit Illums Bolighus, a three floor home goods store in the city. I've sat down in chairs I only know from magazines and had always told myself were super uncomfortable. Well, they're not. Unfortunately, the ones I've tried were very comfortable and now I feel the need for a Hans J. Wegner Signature chair in my life. (If you like to contribute to the chair fund, you can book my services right over here. Thank you very much my sweet, wonderful and most amazing friend.)
Our next stop was Nyhavn, a very pretty and charming 17th-century water-front district most famous for its brightly coloured houses and wooden ships. I've been forewarned that this was a very touristy area, but I still ended up being a bit overwhelmed by the large crowds.
And last but not least... the Little Mermaid. I'm not sure why I was drawn so much to this sight, but I knew right from the start that I wanted to see her. She sits in a very lovely spot but, yet again... talk about crowded. You can actually get very close to her (who knows for how long though, the statue has been vandalised so many times that officials are talking about moving her further out into the water), but it'll take some patience to set up a good shot. Although I did find that most people were rather mindful of each other.
Sights we didn't have time to explore but that were highly recommended: Tivoli Gardens, the Botanic Garden, Copenhagen Zoo and the Ny Carlsberg Museum.
Our next stop was Tallinn, the very charming capital of Estonia. Over the past few years many Eastern European countries such as Estonia or Latvia have been gaining in popularity as holiday destinations and I now I know why.
Tallinn was the biggest surprise, probably because we just didn't know what to expect. Or maybe we expected too little.
But Tallinn was really lovely with its cobblestone streets, old houses and little market places. Definitely have a stroll through the old part of the town, it is very pretty.
We returned to the ship after a short exploration of the historic city centre, because we had a bicycle tour booked. While all of the bus tours on offer went to well known historic places and old churches, the bicycle tour promised to take us on a tour of Tallinn not frequently visited by tourists and it totally delivered on that promise.
Exploring Tallinn by bike was pretty cool and seeing all kinds of different neighbourhoods was very interesting.
Interested in discovering Tallinn's art and design scene? Then I highly recommend a visit to Telliskivi Loomelinnak (Telliskivi Creative City). Located in a former industrial complex, it is now the heart and soul of all things creative in Tallinn. The wall murals alone will keep you entertained for ages. I regret that we didn't have more time to explore this vibrant place.
I enjoyed cycling along the beach very much and it was quite funny to see locals flocking to the beach when the temperatures were a mere 18 degrees. Here in Oz we don't dip our toes in the water unless it has been over 30 degrees for at least a week. What can I say? We're very spoilt.
Unlike many of the other cities we've visited I hardly remember the names of the places we've seen and I also didn't take as many pictures. But not because Tallinn wasn't worth it. Quite the opposite. Cycling around kind of forced me to leave the camera in my bag and really be present.
I'd definitively recommend this charming and (surprisingly) green city. It's a quiet, unassuming place with lots of character and natural beauty.
That was a lot to take in, wasn't it? But there's more to come. I'll be back next week with part two, which will take us to St. Petersburg, Helsinki and Bruges. Follow me on Bloglovin for fast and easy access to all future posts.
Did you like this blog post? If the answer is "Yes. This was inspiring. I'm already booking my trip." it would mean the world to me if you'd share it with a friend who will find it as helpful as you did.
Have you been to Oslo, Copenhagen or Tallinn yet? What are your impressions? Do you have a favourite? Let me know in the comments.
Thank you for reading my friend.