I have been wondering for a while now how I could possibly get back to writing in this space after taking a break of several months. Then Gwen Bell opened the Best of 2009 Blog Challenge, and I thought: well, thanks, universe. And thanks Gwen Bell, of course.
Number 1: The best travel experience of the year.
For me, that would have to be the Baltic coast.
There is something about the Baltic, about its unpretentiousness, its calm and quiet movements, that I used to hate. I used to even consider the Baltic the least of the oceans available. It doesn’t even have a tide, so it’s basically a lake, I used to think.
Be that as it may, I have come to appreciate the lack of large waves, not only as a mother of small children, but also as a counterpoint to all the business in my life. The white sands of the Baltic’s beaches are an often unexpected and in their beauty frequently underestimated feature of the Northern coast. The lack of the tide turns the water into a gigantic calm(ish) mirror of the Northern sky, which is spectacular regardless the weather.
So when we were thinking about where to go shortly before my due-date (which ruled out flying) and not too far away (big belly + small car = not comfy), we quickly decided we’d stay close to home and drive to Gelting, which is about 1,5 hours northeast of Hamburg. Actually, this had probably been decided over a year earlier, when we were visiting the town and walked by the most beautiful holiday home we could imagine: A small brick house, from the 19th century, with dark wooden beams inside, low ceilings, a fireplace, and a terrace and garden (including our own blue-white roofed wicker beach chair) with direct view on the Baltic. So when the house turned out to be available in late August, we didn’t hesitate.
The way up north is always a pleasure for me, personally. I have only realised this a short time ago, but large portions of my life have gravitated towards the North. I grew up in the farthest West of Germany, near Aachen, near the Netherlands, near France and Belgium. I could have stayed closer and studied in Cologne, but for some reason I felt that Hamburg, a city I had only visited once before, was the place for me to be. (This was back when I was listening to my guts, as you can see). It should turn out to be the city where I found my education, work, and, more importantly, love. This is the city where I had my children, the city we are building a house in. It’s home, and it has been for longer than I can imagine.
Anyways, I digress. So the way up north is beautiful, since the landscape is slowly changing from urban to suburban to rural, from inland to seaside beauty. Trees are being substituted by dikes, cattle by sheep, streets by bridges – even the sky is changing the closer you come to the water. And the way to Gelting was no exception, with the added excitement of driving to our little holiday home, which sits right inside a nature reservate, which means no cars, no lights, just nature and a few visitors.
We spent our days on the back porch, gazing onto the water, watching a flock of swans slowly drift to and fro. We picked wild plums from nearby trees, and berries from the bushes. We went to the beach, took a daytrip or two, and spent the nights in front of our fireplace, reading, talking, listening to music. It was beautiful, relaxing, and grounding.
It can all be summed up by the look on my son’s face – he had just turned two the week before – when we left the car and he set eyes on the Baltic for the first time. His face lit up like a candle with pure, wide-hearted joy. Priceless.