Winter season brings out the romance in me. I just love the holiday season. This year I discovered a true fairy tale in Lenzerheide, Switzerland.
The Zauberwald Lenzerheide is one of the most magical Christmas markets I have ever seen. You get to enjoy pretty cool art and light installations, live concerts, even some poetry and traditional Christmas booths with hot cider, local food and craftsmanship – surrounded by the majestic mountains of Lenzerheide.
Right now it is my favorite Christmas market, EVER. I got goosebumps, happy tears and could really feel the magic of the trees – breathtakingly beautiful and peaceful.
How to get there
It is pretty close to Munich. Hence, I took the Flixbus to Chur (a three-hour ride from Munich for 15 EUR) and from there I hopped on the PostBus to Lenzerheide – a 40-minute ride from Chur. If you prefer a little road trip, it only takes two hours and half from Munich.
I recommend to stay for a whole weekend. Lenzerheide is just so pretty. I can really picture myself living there. You find many great deals online. I stayed at the Hotel Sarain Active Mountain Resort, which was all I needed. My recommendation for the Zauberwald Lenzerheide: book a priority ticket online. This saves you a lot of hustle. If you start early at around 5 p.m. it is not too crowded, either.
All in all, I spent 150 EUR for a whole weekend, including entrance fees, accommodation, bus fares and food expenses.
Tis the season. Winter magic, hot punch, lots of powder action and simply taking it easy. It is my favorite season. Hence, it is also a bit more quiet around here. I just love to spend these magical times with my beloved ones, enjoying the holiday season in Seefeld & Davos.
Tyrol is just a short drive from Munich and one of my favorite winter sports destinations. I am not a huge après-ski fan and always try to avoid the crowds. Hence, I know exactly which routes to take in order to have some peaceful moments and high-quality alone time, appreciating nature and the great outdoors.
Well, it is no secret that I have lost my heart in Davos. For the first time, I will spend New Year’s in Grison and I am looking forward to trying out new things. Maybe I will go night sledding at the Rinerhorn on New Year’s Eve, try air boarding at Pischa or will go on a romantic horse-sleigh ride.
So, apologies that it is going to be a bit more quiet around here till the end of December. But I will definitely keep you posted afterwards, sharing my highlights and new training goals.
Till then, enjoy the holiday season with your loved ones and don’t get too stressed. Just relax and live a litte.
The Grand Hotel Kronenhof is one of the most splendid hotels in the Alps. This heritage-protected luxury-class establishment is located in the heart of the idyllic Engadine village of Pontresina, only six kilometres from St. Moritz. The only 5-star superior hotel in the village, it boasts some 112 spacious rooms and suites as well as the large and well-equipped Kronenhof Spa and several very notable restaurants.
I was cordially invited to stay one night at the hotel in order to explore charming and elegant Pontresina. It was the beginning of my personal Swiss fairytale and I could not wait to get out of my hiking gear, changing into one of my pretty dresses.
Historic architecture that dates from 1848, elegant light-filled rooms and suites, one of the finest spa facilities in the world and a superb location in the heart of the Swiss Alps – this unique mix of the magic of times long past, modern comfort, and the beautiful natural world all around is what makes the Grand Hotel Kronenhof so special and unique. After a comprehensive renovation in 2007, this landmark neo-baroque building that is an alpine architectural treasure is now also one of the world’s top luxury and wellness hotels.
The Grand Hotel Kronenhof belongs to a tradition of hospitality that began in 1848. Today, the Grand Hotel Kronenhof is among the best-preserved 19th-century grand hotels found anywhere and is, at the same time, one of Switzerland’s top luxury and wellness hotels.
The Mountaineering Village of Pontresina
Pontresina is situated in a wind-sheltered side valley at 1,805 metres above sea level. The village is very close to the Bernina Massif with the two most famous peaks of the Engadine: Piz Palü and Piz Bernina. Standing at 4,049 m, the Bernina is the highest peak in the Eastern Alps. The region offers visitors action and variety as it also offers peace and quiet.
Guests first arriving at the historic mountaineering village are immediately captivated with the village itself. The charm of the traditional Engadine houses and the elegance of the Belle Époque hotels quickly transport you to a more tranquil former age.
My opinion: I find it much more charming and relaxing than St. Moritz (no offense).
Staying in Style
With 112 rooms and suites in different categories, the Grand Hotel Kronenhof in Pontresina blends modern comfort with grand hotel elegance and atmosphere. The hotel is ideal for families, especially as most of its stylish rooms can be connected, but also for couples or singles.
Honestly, I was pleasantly surprised by the interior design of the rooms and their rates as well. Since I mostly travel alone, I always have a closer look at the single rooms. The cozy Deluxe Single Rooms and Superior Single Rooms all exude an alpine elegance. All rooms have a small seating area, and the luxurious bathrooms feature the finest granite and amenities.
During high winter season, prices start at 400 CHF for a single room, which I think is VERY fair. – All rates are in Swiss francs per night and room, and include a gourmet package (half board) as well as free access to the 2,000 sq m Kronenhof Spa and to the fitness centre.
Guests can also benefit from free Wi-Fi, free use of the Kulm Golf St. Moritz and Kulm tennis courts in summer and of the natural ice rink in winter (until the end of February). In addition, the hotel provides a free shuttle service to and from Pontresina train station, and a free ski shuttle to the Celerina/Marguns and Diavolezza mountain railways. Service charges, tourist tax and VAT are also included.
In comparison, Deluxe Classic Double Rooms are located in the main wing, on the South side of the building and feature a view of the magnificent St. Moritz Mountain range. Furnished with cherry wood furniture and light-grey/red granite bathrooms, these rooms offer both functionality and comfort. Some rooms were recently renovated and redesigned by star architect Pierre-Yves Rochon. Prices start at 715 CHF.
Compared to other 5-star superior hotels in the world, this is an EXCELLENT package!
Guests at the Grand Hotel Kronenhof can enjoy culinary variety in three restaurants. Diners can relish the decor in the magnificent Grand Restaurant, sample a fine gourmet meal at the Kronenstübli, have lunch at Le Pavillon in the legendary Kronenhof Bar & Lounge, or alternatively, dip into Swiss fondue and Raclette at the cosy bowling alley. There’s no doubt that every stay at the Kronenhof is a culinary discovery trip.
Believe me, you will be deligthed to dine at the Grand Hotel Kronenhof: first-class service and excellent cuisine! I strongly recommend to dine at the Grand Restaurant when you stay at the Kronenhof.
In the splendid Grand Restaurant with its neo-baroque vault dating from 1872, guests can experience a wide culinary variety as well as a sense of history and of elegance. Here, breakfast and dinner are really served in style. Swiss culinary specialties combined with international creations and local products all play a part in dishes that are a synthesis of the culinary arts – accompanied by a wine selection that leaves nothing to be desired, of course.
Wellness Heaven for Dreamers
Have you ever tried floating before and can relate to this feeling when you reached total relaxation? Then you know, what I am talking about – an unforgettable experience.
The Kronenhof Spa really is a place of relaxation – for those who enjoy, relax and dream. The unique wellness and fitness offer on 2,000 square meters is one of the most impressive in the Engadine. And it is also available to non-resident guests.
Next to their beauty, body and wellness treatments, they now also offer a oneday mental coaching session, where you can Change your life sustainably, gain clarity and mental power. Currently one of the most renowned Swiss psychologists and mountain guides, Thomas Theurillat, sets the course for success and satisfaction with the Kronenhof guests.
Awaken the Dreamer in You and remember: All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them. This is exactly how I felt when leaving the spa area.
A new Favorite Luxury Retreat?
Just a little side note: I once did a trip with my mom along the east coast in the USA and we stayed at the Ritz Carlton Central Park in New York and simply pampered ourselves. Up till now, the Ritz Carlton has been my all-time favorite Luxury Hotel in a Western Country/City because of this special memory and these positive, warm vibes.
Seriously, this has now changed. This warmth and peacefulness at the Grand Hotel Kronenhof just got me right from the beginning when I stepped inside. At the Grand Hotel Kronenhof I really felt like I could just be myself, refuel my energy, bring things back into balance and simply fall in love with the surrounding mountains. I had one of these fairytale moments that are really precious. And I will never forget it.
Are you ready for breathtakingly beautiful fairytale-like moments? Then make sure to find your way to the Grande Dame of Pontresina. – My German readers will find a lovely interview with the Reservations Manager below. Enjoy!
photo credits: Grand Hotel Kronenhof, Munich Mountain Rebel
Badrutt’s Palace Hotel, in the center of St. Moritz, has been synonymous with glitz and glamour since the resort opened as the Palace Hotel in 1896. This landmark luxury hotel overlooks Lake Saint Moritz and offers views of the surrounding Swiss Alps.
Every guest can feel it. The St. Moritz magic at this hotel. The feeling when you enter the Le Grand Hall is indescribable. Like a spell, far from the daily routine. The history of this luxury hotel in St. Moritz draws you in again and again into its enchantment. This is what St. Moritz looks and feels like!
It all started in 1856 when Johannes Badrutt took over the 12-bed Pension Faller in St. Moritz and upgraded it into a hotel with the name Engadiner Kulm (today’s Kulm Hotel).
This was followed by the legendary bet: Caspar Badrutt (1848-1904), son of Johannes Badrutt, purchased the St. Moritz Hotel Beau Rivage, built in 1872 by C. Rungger. He charged the renowned Swiss architects Chiodera and Tschudi with the remodelling of the hotel. The hotel was also renamed Palace Hotel.
Johannes Badrutt won a wager and brought the first English tourists to St. Moritz for winter sports. He built curling rinks and the world’s first toboggan run and, in doing so, invented alpine winter tourism. And that was exactly the time, when the magic began.
The official opening of the Palace Hotel was then on July 29th, 1896.
Alfred Hitchcock first came to St. Moritz in 1924, and returned here two years later for his December honeymoon with Alma Reville, staying at Badrutt’s Palace Hotel (these days, locals just call it “the Palace”).
Back in the day, Alfred Hitchcock was a regular here, staying in Badrutt’s Palace Hotel annually for 50 years. In the picture above, you see the Hitchcock Suite at the Palace.
Rooms & Suites
They have a total of 157 rooms, 37 of which are suites and junior suites. There are four room and seven suite categories ranging from CHF 490.00 to CHF 20’230.00.
I stayed in a Double Room Deluxe with lake view on the 5th floor. Spacious, individually designed, soothing colors. Only the best materials are used, such as Italian marble in the bathroom. My opinion: At the Palace, it is all about details. Very charming and your home away from home!
My friend Milos stayed in a Junior Suite Deluxe on the 2nd floor. The Junior Suite Deluxe meets the demands of a modern man or woman who knows exactly what he or she wants. Guaranteed lake view. Own balcony. Spacious and enough storage. Noble materials – and everything stylish.
My favorite suite is the Hans Badrutt Suite. This suite with lake view is like a catchy tune: it stays on your mind. A marble entrance hall. A cosy library. The princess-like bathroom with make up mirror. From the Jacuzzi the princess overlooks the mountains. The dressing room provides ample space for all treasures. Simply magical!
Restaurants, Bars and Night Club
IGNIV@Badrutt’s Palace: A new restaurant concept never seen before in St. Moritz. IGNIV@Badrutt’s Palace by Andreas Caminada opened on 21st December 2016 in the rooms of Le Relais. IGNIV means »nest« and for Andreas Caminada, the 3 Michelin starred Swiss chef, stands for sharing values, social exchange and comfort. Caminada’s innovative finedining-sharing-experience focuses on time spent together, sharing menu components served on platters and in pans.
La Coupole/Matsuhisa@Badrutt’s Palace: in the 2014/15 winter season the Japanesese star chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa (»NOBU«) opened his premier brand Matsuhisa in the former tennis hall, which was once Europe’s first. The Martin Brudnizki Design Studio in London designed the unique interior of this 108 seat restaurant where original classic elements are skilfully combined with modern style. One such example is the original studded steel girders of the former tennis hall which now support a glass dome. This affords guests a view of the legendary hotel tower and also acts as both the landmark and namesake of ›La Coupole‹. The restaurant incorporates a cocktail and sushi bar as well as a private dining room. Japanese Peruvian cuisine; only open in the winter season.
Le Restaurant: The Grande Dame of Badrutt’s Palace Hotel’s restaurants. Guests enjoy glamorous nights in a unique setting for a classic dinner, candlelight dinner or a cultural event. This venue seats 300 people and features International and French cuisine. During the winter a harpist entertains guests for breakfast. A set dinner is served daily throughout the summer and winter season. Dress code: From 07.30 pm jacket required, tie desired.
Le Relais: The Le Relais restaurant offers French cuisine for lunch daily (in winter). The restaurant offers a cosy atmosphere with its colourful décor in the Belle Epoque style and large windows with stunning views over Lake St. Moritz. It can be divided into two dining areas as well as a separate area for small to medium sized private events. In summer the breakfast buffet is served here.
Renaissance Bar – Vintage Cigar Lounge: Smoking allowed – in particular fine Cuban cigars! From 3rd December 2016 the Renaissance Bar will become Europe’s first »Vintage Cigar Lounge«. Pure indulgence. The décor oozes comfort and encourages lounging. An exclusive choice of cigars. Paired with drinks and cocktails mixed by Andrea Delvo, Manager of the popular bar.
Le Grand Hall: The legendary lobby of the hotel with its stunning views, extravagant décor and fantastic architecture is known affectionately as the »living room of St. Moritz«. Guests can enjoy the hotel’s glamorous atmosphere over High Tea, champagne and caviar with live piano accompaniment.
La Diala (Rhaeto-Romanic for »mountain fairy«): The latest of Badrutt’s Palace Hotel’s restaurants. Situated within Palace Wellness, the restaurant offers a light Mediterranean cuisine with a wide selection of salads and sandwiches. The family friendly restaurant with its terrace opens daily from 09.00 am to 08.00 pm.
Chesa Veglia: One of the oldest farmhouses of St. Moritz (built in 1658). Chesa Veglia is a hideaway for the rich and famous and its restaurants are among the favourites in St. Moritz. It features three restaurants and two bars: The Pizzeria Heuboden for original Italian pizza and pasta, the Grill Chadafö for elegant dining with classic French cuisine and the Patrizier Stuben for Swiss and International specialities. The Polo Bar and Carigiet Bar are the perfect place for a get-together, as well as for pre and after dinner drinks.
King’s Club: All party animals and fans of sophisticated nightlife are on tenterhooks. The new King’s Club has been revealed in its new outfit during winter season 2016/17. Tantalising afresh in shimmering red and glittering gold. Sizzling with life and energy, on fire. Mirrors, sparkle and light elements galore make the club and its future clubbers shine bright. The new King’s Club celebrates the beautiful things in life: combining the joy of live music and famous DJ stars with an elegant, relaxed atmosphere and a tempting list of signature drinks and irresistible urban street food. Open only during the winter season.
Treatment Centre with ten individual treatment rooms including two luxury Spa Suites, private Hair Spa, Pedi Spa, Solarium, one room for facial treatments and four rooms for body treatments, Wet Zone/ Palace Spa with two Saunas, Ice Room, Mist Room, Aroma Therapy Room, Salt Steam Room, Massage Shower and Rain Shower
Fitness Centre with latest fitness and cardio facilities
Private sun terrace
Outdoor tennis courts managed by professional tennis coaches (summer only)
Natural outdoor ice-rink with instructor (winter only)
Kids’ Club Palazzino with professional day care
Gallery with designer boutiques and elegant jewellers plus shopping guide: Bulgari, Rebecca Ardessi, Church’s, Embassy Jewel AG, Louis Vuitton, Cartier, De Grisogono, Les Ambassadeurs, Trois Pommes, Miu Miu, de Nicola, Gübelin, Four Emotions, Santoni, Snow Sports St. Moritz, Tom Ford, Gucci, Bottega Veneta, Giorgio Armani, Harry Winston, Lucia Pieri, Fabio Caviglia and Galerie Gmurzynska
Palace Ski School in winter
In-house ski service, shop and rentals in winter
Ski pass included
Kids’ Club Palazzino‹ with professional day care included
Free laundry service for children until 12 years
24-hour Room Service
24-hour Concierge Service
Butler service for all rooms and suites
Free use of refreshment bar, movie channels, WiFi Internet access in all areas and free newspaper
Limousine service and car hire, including Rolls Royce transfers
Shuttle service to/from Zurich, Milan and Samedan airports on request
Free use of all fitness facilities
Free access to ice-rink
Events & Guest Relations Team
In-house fitness trainer
In-house bridge hostess
Baby sitting service
Coiffeur Hair Spa
To sum it all up: Tradition and quality endure. So it says daily in the ads. If the sales arguments are still the same almost 90 years later, it seems like tradition, quality and innovation were actually proven – and the St. Moritz glamour-factor is still there.
As promised, I put together my travel highlights from my trip to Alaska. After screening all 1,962 images, it was pretty tough to pick my top four. The state is just so incredibly beautiful. You can tour a whole year through Alaska and still wouldn’t be able to see everything. Just three words: magical, endless and adventurous.
My personal Alaska highlights
Just a little side note before I put together my highlights. Alaska is worth a trip for you if you love the great outdoors, are up for adventures and have some camping experience, not being afraid of the wilderness. If you are looking for a wellness destination or some nice city trips, this is nothing for you.
Denali National Park
Well, this one is obvious. One of the most magical places. However, there are several ways you can explore Denali: by a touristy bus tour, staying at a cottage and going for daily hikes or by camping.
There are soooo many cruise tourists coming to this place, it can be pretty annoying. Thus, I would recommend to explore Denali on your own. Take the train from Anchorage to Denali: it is a beautiful 8-hour train ride through the whole state where you can spot wildlife and get to learn about the history of the state, exploring some of the most magical spots. But only take a one-way ticket. Either finish your trip at Denali or go to Fairbanks afterwards. But don’t book a tour where you have to take the train both ways only staying for one or two nights. You should schedule in at least five days for Denali – in my opinion. It’s a real paradise for outdoor lovers. Also, make sure to compare prices. Sometimes you find cheaper tickets with Gray LineAlaska or when you buy a coupon book at the visitor center so that you get a 2 for one train ticket special. You can save up to 150 bucks.
If you are not much into camping or backpacking and prefer to stay at a little cottage, just going on daily hikes, I can recommend the McKinley Chalet Resort. From there you have some pretty cool bike and hiking trails directly into the park.
You should definitely check out the Visitor Center at the park to get an idea of all your options. Whether you are looking for trail recommendations, wanna join a guided tour or need a permit for the backcountry – this is your place to go to.
IF you wanna explore the backcountry going backpacking, then you do need a permit. You have to get a proper briefing from one of the rangers, they need to make sure you are prepared for the wilderness. But, I need to be honest: only do it when you have some camping & outdoor experience.
You need to have good outdoor equipment, you need to be prepared that it can snow at any time. It gets really cold at night. You will see wild animals: bears, wolves, moose, maybe even a lynx.
They do show you a safety video and tell you what to do when you see a bear or a moose, but there is just so much more to it. AND: don’t do it alone. Just don’t do it like Christopher McCandless! Be prepared and be aware of your surroundings and changing weather conditions.
Check out the offical park site for more specs. Unfortunately, I did not get to see the famous bus from “Into the Wild” – there was no way I could cross the river and the weather conditions didn’t allow it. But that was okay. It was still one of the most magical places.
Alaska is a paradise for mountain bikers. BUT: things are different over here. Don’t expect these awesome prepared trails you know from Bavaria, Austria or Switzerland. Alaska is WILD – so are many trails.
For Downhill & Bike Park fans, I can recommend Alyeska. If you need a rental bike, check out the Trek Store in Anchorage. They have the latest bikes and can help you out with almost anything.
Whatever you pick, even if you wanna explore the wilderness on your own, just like I did – you will never forget these rides. Just one little tip: be prepared to get muddy, especially in September. I totally LOVED it.
Heli Fat Biking
If you are up for a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, save some money and book a heli fat biking tour. Don’t book it in advance because you won’t be able to cancel it last-minute. Contact the local aviation services two to three days before you wanna do it. Either call or send them an email with your date options. Since the weather conditions need to be pretty good to fly out on a glacier, you do need to be flexible.
I personally can recommend Alpha Aviation. If they cannot help you, they can hook you up with other local services. Just don’t make the mistake and book the first package you find online or at the visitor center. Make sure to compare prices. Flightseeing experiences vary from 150 bucks to 450 bucks. So, here it is worth to make some research. Also, if you meet other bikers or backpackers, ask them, if they would be interested as well. Sometimes it gets cheaper when you have a little group of three or four.
Honestly, I wish they would offer it in Switzerland. Heli fat biking in Switzerland must be so freaking awesome.
Knik River Lodge
I admit after spending a lot of time out in the wilderness and doing lots of biking, hiking and exploring, you should definitely schedule in some time to relax and unwind. But don’t do it in a hotel or at some touristy location. Either book a nice cottage via Airbnb or pick a location far out where you have everything you need: a nice little cottage with a fireplace, access to food and water and then nothing but the wilderness. Just like the Knik River Lodge.
I loved watching the helicopters come and go from the Knik glacier, checked out the nearby trails as well as the river and could have just sat there for hours, simply reading my books and enjoying the most magical views. Their Perch Restaurant is a little food heaven: traditional burgers, parmesan fries, fresh scallops, really good craft beer and excellent wine – literally 7th heaven. An excellent place to refuel your energy.
My recommendation: stay there for three nights, then your chances are also pretty good you will get to see the aurora borealis.
What else have I learned
Well, as I mentioned earlier, there is no way you can see it all in such a short period of time. Plan at least three weeks to explore this state and pick a focus. Make sure to enjoy the highlights and don’t try to rush through everything just like these crazy cruise tourists. Also, don’t book a package. Travel on your own. This way you are far more flexible. Here are more things I will remember:
Anchorage (as well as other cities): totally overrated. You feel like you are stuck in a time capsule. In 1964 Alaska was hit by a major earthquake. This explains the landslide, the peculiar ripping hills and slumping effects in some areas. Naturewise, pretty impressive. But regarding infrastructure and architecture, you feel like you are stuck in the ’60s or ’70s. Only schedule in an overnight stay if you need it, but don’t spend more than one day in any of the cities. Anchorage itself has some pretty mountain views as well as beautiful views of the ocean, but the city is extremely ugly. And not safe between 11 pm till 6 am. NOT SAFE at night! So, if you wanna travel the country on your own, rather stay in little cottages in between your stops than in the major cities. Not worth it.
Wilderness: They teach you what to do when to see a bear and how to hide behind a tree when you see a moose, but that’s about it. But there is so much more. Make sure to learn about animal tracks, how to react when seeing a lynx or meeting wolves a night. What fish are safe to eat, what river areas are safe and how you can protect yourself. I am honest: when traveling through the wilderness, you should consider taking along a hunting weapon. There were two situations where I would have felt safer. And, to be honest: don’t travel alone. Just don’t.
Weather: Yes, Alaska is a wild and rough state. Bad wild fires, extreme heat, heavy rain showers and snow. I saw it all. Always be aware of your surroundings and the changing weather conditions.
Moose steak and reindeer burger: The meat over there is delicious. Go to local farmer markets and always buy local food or eat at restaurants where they serve local food. You should definitely try moose and reindeer. Sooo good.
Wednesdays and Fridays are usually cruiseship days: make sure to plan your touristy activities around these two dates. Believe me, you will regret it, if you don’t.
Alone as a woman: Well, as I already mentioned several times, Alaska is rough and old-school. And for a woman, it can be dangerous. There are areas that are not safe. When traveling the state, you mostly meet animals, but there are occasions where you meet other people. And believe me, sometimes people are more threatening and frightening. Once I took a wrong turn and ended up on a private ground near the river. Wow, they immediately chased me through the woods. Literally! Not fun at all. So, again, always be aware of your surroundings and not too trustworthy.
Don’t make too many plans: Alaska is the largest state in the USA. Hence, don’t make too many plans in advance. Take it easy, enjoy life and simply go with the flow day after day.
Glaciers: Yes, there are many glaciers and many excursions. They are all impressive: Knik Glacier, Portage Glacier, check out my list of recommendations.
Well, I hope this gives you a little overview of my adventures. If you wanna know more, just drop me an email or DM on my social channels. You will also find more images on my Facebook page.
About 5 percent of Alaska’s area is covered by more than 100,000 glaciers — that’s about 29,000 square miles (75,000 square kilometers), or more than the entire state of West Virginia. While a few of Alaska’s large glaciers are advancing, 99 percent are retreating, the book, “Glaciers in Alaska,” states.
True Magic in Alaska
“Certain things catch your eye, but pursue only those that capture the heart.”
A true saying from a Native American. Alaska is treating me well. Almost seven months after my mountain bike accident I feel good again. Happy and peaceful. I don’t have a big itinerary or major plans, I simply take each day as it comes, just following my heart.
And there it was. This pure beauty! For a moment, I was holding my breath, got goosebumps all over. Breathtakingly beautiful – simply magical. Honestly, no words can describe this experience. Untouched nature. One of the most gorgeous and impressive scenery I have ever seen so far. But see for yourself.
Glacier Sightseeing in Alaska
Alaska’s melting glaciers are losing 75 billion tons of ice a year. According to a recent study, Alaskan glaciers melt 100 times faster than scientists previously estimated. One could write a whole book on glacier melting, its causes, climate change and so on.
But right now I just want to share one of my most magical moments with you. It is true what people say: “Alaska is too big to see in one lifetime, even for a resident. But there are wild pieces that can be explored from different angles – riding in a helicopter, standing on a glacier, and of course vista gazing from a big wide deck with a fresh Alaska grown meal.”
Best glaciers to visit in Alaska
As I mentioned earlier, there are about 100,000 glaciers in Alaska. I went on a little glacier expedition, learning about some of them. In Alaska there are several glaciers that calve icebergs that do not move very far from their source. So, that is pretty cool to watch.
Below I put together my personal recommendations.
Matanuska is one of the largest glaciers, but it’s also the largest glacier accessible by car in the United States.
Just a little side note: Blue ice occurs when snow falls on a glacier, is compressed, and becomes part of the glacier. Air bubbles are squeezed out and ice crystals enlarge, making the ice appear blue.
If you are specifically looking for glaciers you can walk on, these are my favorites:
Exit Glacier (near Seward)
Matanuska Glacier (near Anchorage)
Mendenhall Glacier (near Juneau)
Worthington Glacier (near Valdez)
Childs Glacier (near Cordova)
Portage and Byron Glaciers (near Anchorage)
Middle and Explorer Glaciers (near Anchorage)
I will leave you with these tips and will keep exploring this beautiful country.
photo and video credits: Munich Mountain Rebel, unsplash.com, pexels.com
In Alaska Aurora Season is from August 21 to April 21. The best time for seeing the aurora during Alaska’s winter is 11:30 p.m.–3:30 a.m. with the peak at 1:30 a.m. During Alaska’s spring and fall (September and March), the best time to view the aurora is 12:30 a.m.– 4:30 a.m.
Although Fairbanks is known as the best place to see the Northern Lights in Alaska, you can also get a pretty good show in Alaska’s largest city, Anchorage.
You may need to get a bit outside of the south coastal city to see the lights, but it is worth it. In my opinion, you don’t need to book a guided tour for that. Simply download one of the aurora apps, set the alert and then hunt them down on your own. It’s fun.
My brother and I attended this year’s Super Bowl in Atlanta. And as it turned out, it was an awesome brother-sister weekend. Nope, not because of the most boring football game in history. There is so much more to Super Bowl Weekend. Read all about my personal tips and highlights.
Hyundai Super Bowl Experience
The Super Bowl Experience Driven by Hyundai is the NFL’s interactive theme park celebrating Super Bowl. For me personally, this was the best day during the whole Super Bowl weekend. My brother and I bought tickets for Saturday morning so that we had all day. We bought them online to skip the line at the entrance.
Man, this interactive theme park was huge and had it all. History of American Football and all the sports legends, interactive football games, photo ops, live shows and broadcasts, a live auction, shops, interviews and meets and greets with players and so much more. All in all there were about 43 different stations where you could earn individual badges and win some football stuff. As you can see in the pictures below, my brother and I had a great time. Simply download the official NFL Super Bowl App with the fan mobile pass and have fun.
One of my personal highlights: I met Nelson Agholor from the Philiadelphia Eagles, Robby Anderson from the NY Jets and Corey Coleman from the NY Giants. My brother and I even got our footballs signed and ended up in their Instagram Stories. We will never forget this Saturday afternoon.
I can definitely recommend this sporting event and would do it all over again. It only costs about 50 bucks and is something for the whole family. Lots of fun and action guaranteed.
Just one little tip: Don’t get too excited buying something from the official NFL store on site. Make sure to compare prices online first. And wait for the day after the game, when everything is 50% off. It’s worth it.
Super Bowl Festivities
There is so much going on during Super Bowl weekend. So many side events, different parties, concerts, lots of free stuff. This year there were several big pre-concerts happening: Bruno Mars, Cardi B., Aerosmith and the Foo Fighters.
Always watch out for the DirecTV Super Saturday Night concert and buy your tickets in advance, since they sell out fast. This year it was the Foo Fighters who were rocking Atlanta, streaming the whole concert live getting the party weekend started.
But if not one of your favorite bands is playing at a concert, check out the official event calendar and look out for free events.
Super Bowl Sunday
My brother and I were so excited. I mean, he has been dreaming about attending the Super Bowl for quite some time and now it got real. Cheering for the G.O.A.T. live in Atlanta. Yes, we are Patriots fans. Get over it! We wanted to experience the whole thing and first went to Walmart picking up our breakfast and buying some camping chairs for the pre-game tailgate party. I am always up for a great barbecue.
A tailgate party is a social event held on and around the open tailgate of a vehicle. Tailgating, which originated in the United States, often involves consuming alcoholic beverages and grilling food. Tailgate parties occur in the parking lots at stadiums and arenas, before and occasionally after games and concerts. Also, it is part of the whole Super Bowl experience.
There is one official tailgate party from the NFL with lots of celebrities and famous players. The tickets start at around 700 bucks, just for the pre-game party. No stadium entrance included.
My brother and I thought we would simply hang with locals and ended up at a CRAZY block party. Binge drinking, drugs, gang bangers… Wow. That was something. I will spare you the details. Just one side note: been there, done that, no need to do it again. NEXT!
Honestly, it is not difficult to get tickets, IF you are willing to pay a lot of money. Regular ticket prices started at around 2,300 $. I don’t support this money-making business and rather save up for a mountain bike. But if this is your big dream, I got one tip for you. Prices drop rapidly right before the game. This time they dropped to 800 $. So, wait for it and then buy them at stubhub or a similar trustworthy source. Don’t buy them on the black market or from some dealers near the stadium. They are mostly fake.
Well, yeah, we were lucky to see the Patriots. But darn. What an awful, boring game. Even the parties inside the stadium and afterwards were pretty lame. Was it because of the Pats, because Brady got his 6th ring, because of the dull game? I don’t know. Or was it just Atlanta? Even Pats fans outside the stadium were like: “Oh yeah, they won. Let’s go home.” SOOOO strange! My brother and I certainly know how to party and decided to celebrate back at our cottage, enjoying the moment, having fun.
All in all, an awesome weekend! We did not meet any foreigners, though. It was mostly Americans and locals, except for some sports journalists. For my brother it was a dream come true and I just had the most amazing football afternoon at the Hyundai experience. That, I would always do again. The Super Bowl itself: a liiiittlle overrated – too much money business. But we were there when Brady made history! In the strangest after-party atmosphere…
After receiving so many questions about how much money we spent, how we managed to get there, I put everything together for you.
It is actually just all about planning. I planned one year ahead. As soon as you find out where the next Super Bowl will take place, simply book your accomodation with a chance to cancel it for free. The next one will take place in Miami.
So here is what I did: I looked for a nice little cottage in the suburbs, did not book a hotel in the city center, since I thought it would get crazy. And that was right. Directly at or near the stadium, it was insane. Roads were blocked, construction works, security and extremely crowded – not relaxing at all. Hence, I went for a quiet neighborhood and just rented a nice little cottage in Decatur. Just a 20-minute ride from Downton Atlanta.
This was our home away from home and I simply rented it for a whole week and spent about 600 bucks. A whole cottage for ourselves, breakfast included; a nice little neighborhood where I could go running, supermarkets and restaurants just right around the corner as well as public transportation.
I booked it one year in advance and did not regret it. We did not spend a whole week there, but it was a great deal anyways. Our host Betsy was very accomodating. She would have even driven us around and even brought us some fresh fruit from the farmer’s market. Definitely a sweet home away from home. I always recommend spending your vacation in a local home, just for the whole experience.
We booked our flights about six months in advance. You will find pretty cheap deals on skyscanner. Since Atlanta was just a short stop during our longer trip in the US and Canada, we booked several flights. One important thing, though: make sure to compare prices. Very often a one-way ticket to the USA is more expensive than a round trip. Hence, my brother and I simply booked a round-trip ticket to Atlanta and back for about 300 EUR.
The flights in the USA and in Canada itself are pretty cheap. We spent 100 bucks to travel in between places. If you travel with Delta Airlines, be aware that you cannot book any luggage beforehand, only when checking in. One suitcase costs about 50 bucks. If you book a long distance flight, I cannot recommend Delta, though. Not very much legroom, pretty old planes, not the best service.
I had great experiences with KLM, Air Canada and Lufthansa. But you make your pick.
Well, this one is tricky. Of course, the NFL recommends to use public transportation, but seriously, it was insane. Way too crowded. So my brother and I checked for any road blocks and took a Lyft.
This way, we were much more flexible and avoided the big crowds. By the way, very often Lyft was a lot cheaper than Uber. So make sure to compare prices as well.
All in all, we spent about 800 EUR per person for the Super Bowl weekend: flights, accomodation for a whole week, transportation, food, local events and stuff we bought. So, if you ever think of booking a Super Bowl trip, the festivities are definitely worth it and you can have a great time even when you aren’t inside the stadium.
And one day I will take my brother to a regular football game.
During our trip to the USA and Canada, we also spent some time in Toronto – the capital of the province of Ontario. Thus, I put together my personal tips and highlights for you.
I know, I repeat myself, but when traveling on a budget I love staying at local homes, cottages or Condos. Especially when staying longer. For Toronto I can recommend the iHost Suites Ice Condo in the Entertainment District on York Street. The location is excellent: you can walk anywhere in the city, have a grocery market across the street, Union Station around the corner, a great shopping mall, the lake, the CN tower, almost everything nearby.
We booked the one with Michel on booking.com and had no complaints. We spent about 450 EUR for six nights. So, 225 EUR per Person. You have to leave a deposit of 300 Canadian Dollars, just in case for any damages, but will get it back after your trip.
Michel himself was very helpful and accomodating. The check-in was easy and uncomplicated, everything worked out just fine and the condo was exactly as desribed. Two bedrooms, two bathrooms, lake view, amazing view of Toronto’s skyline, well furbished, clean, towels and extra blankets and pillows. We could even use the fitness and spa area inside the building. I say: an awesome deal!
At the supermarket across the street, Loblaws, we did our shopping for the whole week and spent about 100 Canadian dollars for groceries including fresh fruit and everything you need. I would always come back and am actually thinking about going there during spring or fall season next year so that I can combine it with mountain biking. Man, I really miss my bike.
Shopping in Toronto
I gotta admit: normally, I hate shopping. Anyways, I still went on a shopping spree with my brother. He usually isn’t into any kind of physical activity and rather takes the easy and comfortable way. However, when it comes to shopping, he could win an ultra-marathon. Five hours and he still wasn’t tired. I just love him!
But I am honest. I could not resist either. Man, for Europeans it is a shopping paradise. Even though you have to add 13% tax on clothes, it still is pretty cheap. I bought two pyjamas and underwear at Victoria’s Secret for just 37 EUR. Can you believe it? I say: Thank you Valentine’s Day sales promotion.
My four favorite sights in Toronto during winter season
Well, I can only give you some tips for winter season. I wasn’t able to check out any trails or parks. Due to the frozen rain and ice storms, you had like 1-2 cm thick layers of ice everywhere and with the wind chill, it got really cold.
Probably something you might not think of when visiting Toronto, but it was really cool. The Graffiti Alley is a nearly one-kilometer stretch with massive pieces of street art. If you are into the skating scene or modern street art, you should really check it out.
Harbourfront Center: Waterfront Trail
The dynamic and exciting city of Toronto is a major urban gateway on Lake Ontario. It is home to tourist attractions such as the CN Tower, Royal Ontario Museum, the Art Gallery of Ontario and major theatre productions. Still, there are many quiet, natural places to enjoy along the waterfront.
The waterfront trail was my morning running path. It can be divided into three sections: Etobicoke (west), Toronto (central) and Scarborough (east). The trail surface is largely asphalt, routed along quiet residential streets. I admit, not my favorite, since I am not a road runner, but I take what I can get.
Surely worth a nice walk, checking out the ice skating ring, CN tower, Aquarium or Rogers Center nearby.
Nathan Philips Square
Nathan Phillips Square is a vibrant, active space in the heart of the City. Every year, over 1.5 million visitors attend a variety of community and special events hosted at the square. Here you will find another ice skating ring. One of 113 indoor and outdoor ice pads, natural rinks and trails for leisure skating year round in Toronto. Also, a great starting point to explore more sights of the city, as you can see in the images above.
Ice Hockey Hall of Fame
I don’t know that much about ice hockey, but it is huge in Toronto. Alright, to be honest, I don’t even know the rules of Ice Hockey. I once dated a hockey player back in High School and attended one game in Davos, Switzerland, but I never got excited about this sport. However, the Hockey Hall of Fame was pretty impressive. It is home of the Stanley Cup and the finest collection of hockey. Pretty cool!
All in all, with its 2.7 Mio inhabitants, Toronto reminded me of a teeny-tiny version of New York, with a little influence from Boston. I really loved it and totally digg the relaxed, laid-back Canadian style and attitude. For a short city trip, so worth a visit.
For me as an outdoor person, I would prefer West Canada or Northern Ontario, though. But I definitely wanna come back, combining it with a mountain bike tour during fall or spring season.
And also on my list: a three-months tour through British Columbia and Alaska. What shall I say: there is just so much to see and so much to love. Once you have been to Canada, you always wanna come back. And this is also true for Toronto.
Due to the recent weather conditions, I got a little extra time working on my stories. When exploring parts of Ontario, Canada, I basically had no expectations. What a beautiful province!
In total, there are 10 Canadian provinces, with three territories to the north. The provinces are, in alphabetical order: Alberta,British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, and Saskatchewan. The three territories are Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Yukon.
Winter in Ontario
Ontario is Canada’s most populous province, comprising 40 percent of the country’s total population. It is also home to the federal capital of Ottawa and the unofficial financial capital of Toronto. It is best known for Algonquin Park, the Niagara wine region, Bruce Trail (the oldest and longest continuous public footpath in Canada), and the many beautiful forests and lakes. And oh boy – I had no idea it can be so beautiful.
I admit there was a time when I missed the mountains. But do you know this feeling when someone says the right thing in the right moment? Amin reminded me that you can’t have everything all the time and within a split second I realized how stupid my thoughts were. I could have hugged him for this. If I could pick someone I would get lost in a snow blizzard with, it would be him. It would be fun and safe at the same time.
Seriously, who was I to complain? I was in Canada enjoying the great outdoors, making one of my dreams come true. So, after this stupid split second, I was very grateful that all my hard work paid off and was just living the moment.
The Great Outdoors in Ontario
Initially, my brother and I had totally different plans, but due to the weather, our itinerary changed on a daily basis. Snow blizzards, freezing rain, ice storms, you name it. But this is nature. You just have to go with the flow. That is actually something I love about the Great Outdoors. And I was prepared for any kind of weather out there, even for very cold temperatures.
I had never experienced this kind of freezing rain before. Freezing rain is the name given to rain maintained at temperatures below freezing by the ambient air mass that causes freezing on contact with surfaces. Unlike a mixture of rain and snow, ice pellets, or hail, freezing rain is made entirely of liquid droplets.
This means: When the freezing rain hits your windshield, it freezes immediately and makes it very brittle. Pretty dangerous, actually. When the freezing rain gets in contact with your face, it feels like tiny little needles hitting you. If you then add this crazy wind chill, temperatures felt like -25 degrees Celsius or colder and you really needed to cover your face to avoid frost bites. But I loved it anyways. Even went running – not for long distances, though, but I did get out there.
Snow blizzards and ice storms were nothing new to me. Since I live pretty close to the mountains and have been to Finnish Lapland during one of their coldest winters, I am used to these kind of weather conditions. For me, it even can be somewhat romantic and adventurous at the same time. Love it. My brother: NOOOOOT so much.
A two-hour drive, north from Toronto, there is a little holiday resort called Blue Mountain. Some people call this area “Little Switzerland”, but I would not go this far. They just have one tiny hill up there. Elevation gain: 650 m. So, no offense, but you cannot call it “Little Switzerland”.
However, it is very picturesque and beautiful. Regarding the atmosphere it sort of reminded me of Whistler Village. And yes, pretty touristy, I admit. If you are into winter sports, you might be a little disappointed, but if you just wanna chill and relax with a little exercise, you will love it. I took skiing lessons, since I am currently not sure, if I should switch.
When I went snowboarding, I started to feel the pain from my severe hip injury last year. Not sure, if it’s my technique. But I think I will take more skiing lessons back in Munich so that I am more flexible when choosing my winter outdoor activities. This weekend I will probably go cross-country skiing, working on my general fitness.
Wow, just WOW. I had no idea that you could see Northern Lights in Ontario. With all the snow and ice storms, I did not expect any kind of magic. But then there it was. I just wanted to go for a walk, still had too much energy. LOL – I think sometimes my brother was annoyed of my inner adrenaline junkie.
So, I went outside and started to see little shadows on the sky. First, I thought it was just wafts of mist, but then, after a while, they turned green. – I still have this Northern Lights App on my cell-phone from my visit to Finnish Lapland. Hence, I turned it on and then: holy cannoli. It was going crazy. So I went back, put on my warmest clothes and went hunting the lights. And there they were. There I stood. Me alone at the lake in Canada. And this magical moment. Goosebumps and tears in my eyes.
I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and was just happy and grateful. Priceless, beautiful. The most magical gift!
So, this was my time in Ontario. I will definitely come back checking out more places during different seasons. I don’t know what and when, yet, but I surely will. Canada, you are pretty awesome!
But for now, I am looking forward to go back home and honestly cannot wait to be back in Davos. I miss it and also cannot wait to see my dearest friends again…