The 2015/16 European adventure – our itinerary (part 1!)

You may have noticed it’s been very quiet around these parts of late. I posted a few weeks back about the constant stream of sickness…… well not much has improved in that regard. At least for poor Miss Astrid.  Sick kids has been partly to blame for my blogging and absence.  We’ve also been neck deep in travel planning, leaving very little non-kid-wrangling time for blogging and photo taking.  My poor camera is feeling very unloved!

I posted awhile back about our plans to head to Europe over Christmas and New Year.  We had a few good suggestions on how to best use our time.  Over the past few weeks I’ve had a lot of people asking how the plans are coming along, and we are finally at the stage where the itinerary is set. Yay!!! Of course, there is still a lot of behind the scenes booking of accommodation, trains and flights but we are a fair chunk of the way there now.

About 6 or 7 weeks ago we booked our flights to and from Europe (into Copenhagen and out of Paris, 7 weeks later).  It’s taken a lot of work to figure out the middle bit!  So many options, so many places we’d like to see, and limited time and money.  We of course can’t do everything, but there will hopefully be many more big trips in future years.  Our last Europe trip we based ourselves in Paris in an apartment and did short trips to other countries.  This time we are going to be constantly on the move, with only a few days in each location.  Again we are heavily relying on the excellent European rail systems to get us around.  It will be a totally different style of trip (we will also have 2 kids with us rather than just an Astrid, like last time).

As we were going to be away for Christmas and New Year we thought we’d see if any family wanted to join our adventure.  Anto’s brother (otherwise known as ‘fun Uncle Mikl’) and my Dad (aka Gramps) have decided to tag along.  Bravely (or stupidly when 2 small children are involved) for the entire 7 weeks.  This gives us a huge advantage of 4 adults to 2 children – the odds are back in our favour, right?  It does mean coordinating plans and accommodation for extra people, but so far it’s all good and we’ve come up with an itinerary that has everyone happy.

When travelling with small children, something always goes wrong. At some point our plans will be thrown into disarray by sick kids, tired kids, grumpy kids, and tantruming kids.  Being Winter in Europe the weather is also likely to cause havoc.  We’ve had more than the odd day or two ruined by inclement weather when travellling (Zurich and Luxembourg take the titles for worst weather on the last trip).

Weather and children contingencies have been built into our plans, and we know things will be missed and altered as we go along.  Type A personality planning has taken over though, and we have a 20 page google doc spreadsheet itinerary, with sunrise and sunset times , historical weather conditions, linked train and flight details and all activities with cost and time information cross tabulated.  I won’t bore you with all the (in my opinion necessary, but probably not very interesting) details and give a quick rundown of where we are going and what we hope to do and see in each city.

Bye-bye Australia
On the 10th of December we are hopping on a small jet-plane and departing Canberra for Copenhagen (via Melbourne and Dubai and on much bigger jet-planes). Twenty-eight hours after flying out we will be in sunny (?) downtown Copenhagen for the start of our big adventure.


Copenhagen (Denmark)
We have 6 nights in Copenhagen, our longest stay in any location. Primarily because we know we are going to lose a couple of days to jet-lag, shopping for our additional cold weather gear/snow boots, and we are also very limited by the amount of daylight we will have available. Being pitch-dark at 3.30pm makes it hard to fit in all your sight-seeing! Nevertheless, we are planning on visits to the Frederiksberg Castle and gardens; Amalienborg Palace; Christiansborg Palace; the Royal Stables; Rosenberg Castle; Botanical Gardens; the Rundetaarn; Kastellet and a few other notable fountains, statues and churches.

We are also planning a bike tour of the city, a canal tour, possibly a visit to the zoo and an aquarium, and to see the Vikings exhibits at the National Museum.  Being so close to Sweden we are also hoping to ‘pop over’ and visit the nearby Swedish cities of Malmo or Lund and see the Oresund bridge that connects Denmark to Sweden.

One of the most anticipated activities in Copenhagen is our visit(s) to Tivoli Gardens, an amazing amusement park that is apparently a ‘must-see’ during the Christmas season, with it’s beautiful light displays and Christmas markets.  There might be some rides the kids (and adults) enjoy too!

Stockholm (Sweden)
We are then off on the train (our longest train trip of the whole trip) up North to Stockholm. We will here meet up with our friends ‘The Bjorn Man’ and his family. Bjorn is an old school friend of Anto’s and we met up with them on our last European adventure, when we stayed with them in their former home in Northern Sweden.  This time it’s a pre-Christmas catch – up for a couple of days in Stockholm, and then off to their new home in Gotland.

We visited Stockholm on our last trip, but only had 2 half days there, so were more than happy to go back.  This time we have 2 (very long) nights and 2.5 (very short) days there. The light (and cold) situation is even more dire in Stockholm so we have a few ‘after-dark’ activities planned. It will completely dark at 2.40pm, so pretty much after Soren’s nap!  On our last trip we went to the excellent Vasa museum, and are planning a return.  The Vasa is a Viking ship that has been restored and has been made into a museum. It’s awesome, you all have to go!

We are also going to try and visit the Skansen, an open-air zoo and historical museum, and explore the Djurgarden, the Old Town and visit the excellent Christmas markets and see the changing of the guard at the Royal Palace (again, last time the annoying tourists kept blocking our view!).

Visby (Gotland, Sweden)
Bjorn and family have recently relocated to the town of Visby, in Gotland. Gotland is an island off Sweden, much like Tasmania (but colder and darker in Winter).  We are going to fly from Stockholm to Visby to spend a few days with them and check out down-town Visby.

Visby is a walled city, so there are the old city walls and ruins to check out and some reportedly good caves, cliffs and gardens.  There is also more Viking exhibits to be found at the museum and yet more Christmas markets. I’m sure will also have some other activities planned for us, or at least provide us with more excellent Swedish gloog (mulled wine).

Berlin (Germany)
Bjorn & Co will be heading off to spend Christmas with family and we have decided to have a German Christmas.  Even though snow is not guaranteed (roughly a 30% chance) the lure of awesome Christmas markets, festivities and concerts and a convenient location made us select Berlin as our Christmas destination.

We are flying to Malmo Sweden, and then catching the (very short) train to Copenhagen to fly to Berlin.  Annoyingly this is the most time-efficient and cost-effective way of making it to Berlin from Visby.  We have 5 nights and 4 full days in Berlin.  Berlin has an advantage that aside from the afternoon of the 24th, very little is closed over the Christmas period (and even then plenty of free activities will be available) so we aren’t limited with what we can do with our time.

We are planning another bike tour of the city, this will hopefully cover off a lot of must-see sightseeing like the Brandenburg Gate, Check-point Charlie, the Wall memorial, Museum Island, Tiergarten, the Berliner Dom and a host of other city sights.  We are also scheduling a visit to the Budestag (Reichstag) building and hoping to visit the Holocaust memorial, the Palace of Tears and Topography of Terror museums. A few of these are not kid-friendly. Well at least not little kid friendly due to the nature of the exhibits, but luckily there are plenty of kid friendly activities we can entertain them with while we alternate at museums.

Berlin has around 60 Christmas markets, so there will be no shortage of market fun (and food). The market at Potsdamer place reportedly has an ice skating rink and toboggan rides. The market at Shloss Charlottenburg (another palace worth visiting) has a specific kids market, a petting zoo and a ferris wheel. I think the kids will have a ball!

Part of one of our days in Berlin will be used to visit the nearby city of Potsdam.  Potsdam has an excellent old town and the Dutch quarter is known for it’s coffee shops.  Potsdam is also known for Shloss Sansoucci, the former Summer Palace of Frederick the Great, King of Prussia. The Gardens of Sansoucci are also meant to be amazing.  If we aren’t palaced and gardened out there is also Shloss Cecilienhof and the surrounding Neuer Garten Park.  Weather permitting we may even see some of these palaces and gardens on bike.

Dresden (Germany)
After departing Berlin we are heading to Prague, but conveniently the beautiful city of Dresden is both on the train line and roughly 2 hours from each city.  Dresden was famously bombed (and mostly destroyed) in World War II, but is known for it’s beautifully restored buildings and churches and it’s lovely and interesting Old town.  Sitting on the river Elbe, there are plenty of bridges, churches and palaces to walk around and take a photo or two of.

Prague (Czech Republic)
After our day in Dresden, we will trundle down the train line (at high speed) for a further 2 hours until we are in Prague.  We have planned 4 nights and 3 full days in Prague. No one in our travelling group has been to Prague before so we have plenty of exploring to do.

The Old Town and Town Square have plenty of city buildings, churches  and an astronomical clock for us to admire. The city is also known for the Charles Bridge, so there will be plenty of photo opportunities around the Bridge, along the Vltava River and walking the Old Town and Lesser Quarter.

Prague Castle (yes, we will be over Castles by now!) is seemingly a must-do, by day and night. You can supposedly see it from pretty much anywhere in Prague. We’d better go check it out….

If we run out of food or shopping options there are yet more Christmas markets (that conveniently run until New Year’s).  Our schedule in Prague is deliberately light to allow for plenty of eating and wandering time and catching up on some rest before we ring in the New Year!

That takes us up to the end of December and is more than enough prattling on from me for one post, so in the next post I’ll cover off our planned January wanderings.  The first 3 weeks are very full of Castles, Palaces, Christmas Markets and Old Towns.  The second half of the trip will feature lots of cold (yes we are going to get even colder) and lots of snow……

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