Elna in Europe – Roma

copyright Elna SchutzOh man, Rome. How do you even.

I have to confess, dear blog reader, that I wasn’t impressed in the beginning. My first 24 hours in the iconic capital were, in internet speak, completely meh. I walked for ages through an ugly industrial area in the rain and wind, before getting introduced to the Roman bus system – possibly the most confusing piece of trickery I have yet to see. That’s when I decided to rebel and walk… in the wrong direction, as it turned out almost an hour later. *universal facepalm*

Was my honeymoon with Italy really already over?

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That evening I gave Rome a second chance by buying one of those tiny bottle of wine by Trevi Fountain and exploring the historic centre. Since my only travel companion was my trusty old Nikon, I took my time with some long exposure night photography (which you might remember I enjoy far too much) and portraits of people on the Spanish Steps.

Now this is what I love about traveling solo. You take a couple shots of strangers and before you know it, you’ve made a new friend and are ditching the overpriced tourist spots for a hidden local pizza place and stuffing your face, traditional Naples style.

copyright Elna Schutz My time in Italy was filled with the feeling, that around every corner, something unexpected might be waiting that you will definitely like (and probably be able to eat). Rome, despite my strange start, was the epitome of this. You could get dizzy from a head filled with beautiful things.

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What makes it even more fascinating is that this city truly is an amazing crossroads between old and new. Brand new stilettos clatter over cobbled streets as cars speed by ruins of an ancient time of Roman splendour. Layers upon layers of history, with modernity running right through it.

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Enough rambling, Elna. People should just go to Rome already.

For another of my adventures in the Italian capital, jump to this entry on World Nomads.

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*copyright to Elna Schutz 2014*

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ElnaInEurope – Marburg

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There they were. My people, around me once again.

Five years ago, I lived and worked in a Christian community in a team of 14 young people. In the middle of the Black Forest in a tiny village, it can easily feel like you’ve built a world of your own. Inhabitants: us.

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While not everyone could make it, the reunion meant so much to me. It’s amazing to think I have people on the other side of the world that with one hug and a laugh can feel like practically family again. We played cards, explored the city and spent a lot of time shaking each other, saying ‘you’re here! How are you?’
At least it felt that way to me.

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After Marburg I spent a couple whirlwind days in Kassel, where for some weird reason I didn’t touch my camera once. That one will just have to stay my memory’s secret I guess:)

As much as blogging up this trip has been a great way for me to work through the experiences, I’m not a journalist for nothing. I’ve spent enough time studying what audiences want, to know that loads of detailed travel blogs may not be the most interesting thing to someone who is not me or my mom.

So, I’ll try blast through the rest with some choice pics and random descriptions. If you want more, you can just holler my way.
Deal? Ok.

**copyright to me, yes.**

Elna in Europe – Geneva

copyright Elna Schutz 2014Here’s a little secret : I’m not actually in Geneva. Shhh…

I’m back at home in South Africa, sifting through thousands of pics from my Europe trip, which isn’t the same thing unfortunately. Since things got crazy busy (as they should on wonderful travel adventures), I didn’t keep up with documenting my trip and have decided to just do it in hindsight.
So, get ready for lots of little bursts of pictures and stories. Go!

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The three multiple-personality spires of the Geneva cathedral, home to Calvin.

My uncle lives a hop across the French border away from Geneva, so I’ve spent quite a bit of time there. While house sitting for them a couple years back, I used to spend days getting lost in the streets of this odd-ball city. Thanks to the UN headquarters, there’s an incredible mix of people, which is a sight in itself. Men in every kind of traditional dress stride past elegant French ladies on unspeakable heels who cradle Louis Vuitton in the crook of their elbows. I loved it.

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copyright Elna Schutz 2014This time we took a day trip to the quaint ski village of Chamonix and it being my first real trip into the Alps I was thoroughly wide-eyed and impressed. Well, impressed by the view, not the fact that I forgot my camera battery at home. Genius!

Regardless, even through a cellphone lens these mountains are truly magnificent. If the Alps were a band, I would be their fangirl.

 

 

In a valley above Chamonix you can walk into France’s biggest glacier, which made me feel all kinds of kid-like wonder. The smooth walls of ice are oddly mesmerizing and the mere feeling of standing inside an age old place is peaceful (if you dressed warmly enough, otherwise it’s just cold.)

It’s days like these that wake up a little part of your brain that fell asleep somewhere between being stuck in traffic and doing your taxes.
You suddenly remember how beautiful and mysterious the world actually is, and that somehow you’re supposed to fit into that. Surely we were meant to be constantly in contact with and in awe of nature (and for me, the heavenly architect of it all).

At least that’s what I think of when standing in a big frozen water dome.

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Geneva was also a good chance to be with family and relax in front of a fire with a dog named Uelki.  This was a holiday after all.

More on the Alps soon.

**don’t be that guy who ignores photo copyright. thank you kindly**

El

 

Elna in Europe – Stiftsquerheim

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The third stop on my trip was a quick one, spending two nights in the rural Stiftsquerheim, not too far from Guetersloh. This one was all about the people not the place.
The family I was visiting used to live in Pretoria and work as youth pastors for my hometown church, so I share quite a lot of memories with them. Now that they’ve returned to lives in Germany it was great to catch up with them.

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My short stay was completely filled with chatting to each of them, so there isn’t much to show and tell. Still, it’s such a privilege on this trip to reaffirm old friendships and spend time just reminding people they are important to me.

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In more general news, my hopes of catching some fresh falling snow are fast declining with each new patch of chirpy spring flowers popping up. Everybody’s saying this winter never really got white and magical (the best bit!) and it probably isn’t going to change its mind just because I came to the party.

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Since complaining has never changed the weather, i’m accepting the Schneegloeckchen and blue skies like I wanted them.
*El

Elna in Europe – Guetersloh

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Gütersloh historical houses. Welcome to fairytale land.

Gütersloh is like many smaller towns in Germany. Suburbs, malls and modern life continue growing around a small historic center that wears the past on its sleeve. Old houses in the traditional style of the area are renovated, sometimes even relocated, but keep you feeling like you just turned the page in a fairytale book. I wouldn’t even have flinched at seeing Little Red Ridinghood.

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Houses in Bielefeld, Germany

I happened to be in the area on Rosenmontag, which is the last day before Lent and of course the time for Karneval. Originally the Catholic farewell to meat and indulgences before fasting, it’s now mostly just a big party and an excuse to wear that sexy octopus costume (Jokes, that really doesn’t exist).

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While the crowds are entertaining all by themselves -giant cupcake costumes included – the actual reason to stand in the cold for hours is the parade. Every club and group in town who is remotely able to build a float or stand on one does, whether the theme is penguins and polar bears or cows and butchers (true story).
Shouting a celebratory ‘Helau!’, they throw sweets in every direction, to delight the kids and make photographers like me protectively jerk away their lenses. All good fun.
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Other highlights of exploring the area included Bielefeld, a pretty student town. I was inspired and impressed by a neighbourhood called Bethel, which is a community for people with disabilities and difficulties to live and work in. In the animal park outside Bielefeld I felt like a kid again, seeing European animals like wolves and snow owls for the first time. Too bad the badgers and otters decided to hide!

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While all of that was great, my time in Guetersloh was special because of the family I visited there, that spoiled me endlessly. The long conversations and peaceful times at their home are more memorable than seeing another Fachwerkhaus or museum.
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I know these blog posts are hardly adequate to describe my trip thusfar, and I always find it difficult expressing on the internet what is really important. Maybe my barely-edited photos will give you an idea of what it feels like to be here. It’s a start.

*El
— all copyright to me, surprise —