When I wrote this blog post about my travel plans for 2019 a little bit than one year ago, I would have never thought that I wouldn’t only take one, but two larger trips last year. But even if my two travel destinations are both geographically located on the Asian continent, the contrast couldn’t have been greater. In March, my boyfriend and I flew to the Maldives, where we spent a week cruising through the South Malé Atoll in a small, traditional Dhoni boat. In September, I fulfilled another long-term dream and travelled through Iran for fifteen days. Moreover, I spent two days in Brunswick, Lower Saxony in Northern Germany at the end of May and the beginning of June and a weekend in Leipzig in November, two German cities where I hadn’t been before.
The Maldives – Cruising the South Malé Atoll on a traditional Dhoni
Already during the approach to the Maldivian capital Malé, we saw numerous palm-lined atolls and islands that emerged like little swabs from the turquoise-blue sea. For one week we cruised the South Malé Atoll with a small, simple traditional Dhoni (boat) that can accommodate a maximum of eight passengers plus five crew members. However, we were only three passengers. My boyfriend and I were very lucky with our fellow traveller from Switzerland and with our crew, as with our whole trip. We visited sandbars, small uninhabited and inhabited indigenous islands and relaxed onboard. In the late afternoons, we anchored in bays, where we also spent the night. I haven’t travelled that relaxedly in ages. It was my perfect Slow Travel Highlight.
Dreamy Beach in the Maldives
Our Dhoni in the South Malé Atoll
Sunset in the South Malé Atoll
Twice a day we headed on extended snorkeling trips together with our local Maldivian guide and the local captain of our Dhoni. We didn’t only see countless colourful fishes, crabs, and lobsters but also turtles, octopuses, dolphins, sharks, sting and even manta rays which are rather rare in this region. It really was a unique Natural Highlight.
Dolphins in the South Malé Atoll
Turtle (Photo: Bengt Langer)
The Underwater World of the Maldives (Photo: Sujau Stiler)
Our South Indian chef prepared delicious food for us three times a day and also provided us with fresh fruits, cakes, tea, cocoa, and coffee in the mornings, in the afternoons and in the evenings after dinner. So this trip was also a real culinary Highlight.
Dinner on the Dhoni in the Maldives
Iran – Mosques and Palaces like from a Fairy Tale
Just like the Maldives, Iran has been at the top of my travel wish list for many years. Actually, I had planned a trip there for this year, but the situation in the Persian Gulf last summer caused me to rethink and not to postpone my trip, but to move it forward to September 2019. I was thrilled with all the places that I visited, but I was particularly fascinated by the cities of Yazd, Shiraz, and Isfahan.
The Ali Qapu Palace in Isfahan
The desert city of Yazd impresses with its unique location on the edge of the deserts Dasht-e Kavir and Dasht-e Lut. In the narrow, winding streets of the ancient town I felt as if I was following the footsteps of the historic Silk Road and from the roof terraces of the historic center I had a breathtaking view of the whole city. But the Friday and the Amir Chakhmāgh mosques and the towers of silence, which are located in the desert landscape outside the city, also cast a spell over me. Since I was in Yazd during the Shiite Ashura festival, many sights, cafes, and restaurants were closed but it gave me the opportunity to attend a performance and a parade on this important religious holiday.
Over the roofs of Yazd
Old Town alleys
The highlight of my stay in Shiraz was probably my nightly visit to the Shah Cheragh Shrine with its interior mirror decorations, the fountain in the courtyard and the filigree decorations. In the Vakil Bazaar and the Vakil Mosque, I felt like in a fairy tale from 1001 nights. I also loved the Naranjestan Garden, the Zinat-ol Molk House, and the Nasir al-Molk Mosque.
Shah Cheragh Shrine in Shiraz at night
Vakil Bazaar in Shiraz
The highlight of my trip was the visit to the city of Isfahan. I was particularly enchanted by the Sheikh Lotfollāh and the Shah Mosques, the Ali Qapu Palace and the arcades around Imam Square. But the square itself, with its fountains and green spaces, where the locals picnic and spend their free time, had a unique appeal on me. I particularly liked the Si-o-se Pol Bridge, the Chehel Sotoun Palace and the Vank Cathedral in the Armenian quarter of Isfahan. My trip through Iran was my cultural highlight in 2019 in general.
Sheikh Lotfollāh Mosque in Isfahan
Brunswick – beautiful Architecture in Northern Germany
Another highlight of last year was my extended weekend in Brunswick. This gave me the opportunity to spend time in Northern Germany and visit a German city that I didn’t know before. In addition, Max, the organizer of the weekend taught us search engine optimization (SEO). Together with him and four other travel blogger colleagues, I got a very good insight into the history and architecture of the city on an excellent tour with our local travel guide Rainer Feuge.
Castle Square from above
Old Town Market
The following day we visited the city individually, each of us with a different thematic focus. I particularly liked our canoe tour on the Oker, the Castle Square, the Old Town Market, the Brunswick Castle, the Happy RIZZI House as well as the views from St. Andrew’s Church, the Town Hall Tower, and the Quadriga. The weekend in Brunswick was definitely my architectural highlight of 2019.
Happy RIZZI House
Brunswick Cathedral and Brunswick Town Hall Tower
Leipzig – 30 Years of Peaceful Revolution
I was thrilled when I heard that the Travel Blogger Barcamp 2019 would take place in Leipzig. Since I had written my master thesis on “The Communication Strategies of Hans-Dietrich Genscher” who was our Foreign Minister from 1974 to 1992, I was all the more pleased that I got the opportunity to attend a very interesting thematic tour of the city called “30 Years of Peaceful Revolution”. As part of my master thesis, I had researched intensively about Germany’s path to German Unity which had started in Leipzig. I particularly liked the Nikolaikirche and the view over Leipzig during the welcome meeting of our bar camp.
Nikolai Church during the blue hour
View of Thomas Church and the University Skyscraper
View of the new Town Hall
I was also happy to see many travel blogger colleagues that I knew again and meet others for the first time. It was also nice to exchange ideas and learn something new during the actual bar camp. Since I wanted to make the most of my time in Leipzig I spent one extra day there. That gave me the opportunity to see more of the city and to visit the Stasi Museum where I learned more about the reign of terror of that regime. The weekend in Leipzig was definitely my historical highlight of the year.
Protestant Reformed Church
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