My first German sauna experience

Saunas are a popular winter pasttime in northern Europe. The steam and heat are the perfect antidote to the darkness and the cold, which sap your energy and leave you tense and shivering all the time. Though many of my friends spoke fondly of their sauna experiences, I had somehow never been invited to one, and I was too nervous to go on my own. But when a dear friend from the U.S., Kel, came to visit me in Hamburg in November, it was the perfect opportunity to try.

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The sauna called “Kaffeestube” (coffee shop) at Holthusenbad.

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Skiing in the Austrian Alps

Having grown up in the foothills of the Pacific Northwest Cascade mountains, I was spoiled when it came to skiing. My hometown was less than an hour’s drive from one of the larger ski resorts in Washington, and my Saturday mornings as a child were marked with ski lessons instead of cartoons. I’d never done a proper ski holiday before, unless you count a brief stay in the Czech Republic in 2012, so when a friend invited me to go skiing in the Alps this winter, I said yes.

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My friend Sebastian sits at the top of Glattjochbahn at the ski resort Brandnertal in western Austria. Perfect weather made for gorgeous mountain panoramas of the Alps.

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Exploring Hamburg’s various Christmas markets

One of the biggest draws of Germany in the wintertime are the different Christmas markets that spring up in almost every town, and Hamburg is no exception. Germany’s second-largest city has dozens of different Christmas markets, all with unique themes and styles, and there is scarcely time to see them all in the six weeks leading up to Christmas.

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The entrance to Hamburg’s largest Christmas market located at the Rathaus (City Hall). The market opens and turns on its lights well before dusk. Photo: Alison Haywood

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Berlin in der Nacht (Berlin at Night)

A couple weeks ago I took a weekend trip to Berlin to visit my old friends and enjoy the city I fell so deeply in love with just over two years ago.

The famous Fersehturm (TV tower), visible from nearly everywhere in the center of the city.
The famous Fersehturm (TV tower), visible from nearly everywhere in the center of the city. View from in front of the Rotes Rathaus (red city hall) at Alexanderplatz

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University Park in Winter

I was cycling back from the university the other day and noticed that the university park pond, which in warm weather has ducks swimming in it, had frozen over. I happened to have my camera with me, so I took some photos of the eerie landscape. This winter day in Denmark was equal parts beautiful, haunting and dreary. Most days it’s just dreary.

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