Europe 2017 – Reykjavík

And now, finally, the last stop on my trip, Reykjavik. This was my first time in Iceland and it seems like it’s been all the rage in the last few years for people I know, so I was pretty jazzed for it.

The basics

My flight from Berlin didn’t land until nearly midnight on a Thursday night so it had been a long day, but the trip from the airport to Reykjavik itself takes another 45ish minutes so it wasn’t over yet. That, of course, is after you get your bags and get on a bus. By the time I arrived at my Airbnb, it was nearly 2am and I was beeeeeeeaaaaaat 😴😴😴😴😴😴. Luckily, it was easy to find from where the bus dropped me off and the key to get in was in a lockbox outside so there was no issue getting in. I crashed immediately.

The Airbnb was super centrally located in downtown Reykjavik, within 5-10 minutes walking distance from almost everything I did while there. And my window gave a beautiful, though partially obstructed, view to the north. The room was very tiny, but it was more than adequate for my needs.

Not a terrible view.

One of the first things I noticed was the hot water smelled strongly of sulfur. I didn’t know this ahead of time, but this is because the it’s naturally heated in Reykjavik—though, some other parts of Iceland heat the cold water instead. The cold water is very crisp and clean, though! Still, the sulfur-smelling hot water is very safe to use for showering and such.

Downtown Reykjavik is pretty small so getting around on foot is very easy and most of the things to see in the city are right there for you. Anything outside of the city requires renting a car or taking a bus tour.


Thanks to nice, cool weather, in the 40s and 50s, running in Iceland was great. I felt strong and fast, despite how exhausted my body was.

My first run was 10k-ish based on a couple routes I had found on sites dedicated to running in Iceland. I ran along the water on the northern part of the city and up to Harpa, then up through part of the city and around Hljómskálagarður and its lake, Tjörnin, and Reykjavik City Hall. From there, I ran up to the domestic airport and did a loop entirely around it, running along the beaches there and by one of the hot springs. There were so many amazing views from here! Finally, I looped back towards Hljómskálagarður and finished up there.

This was such a fun route to run!

A quick photo op with Sun Voyager on my run.

On the other side of the airport, this was the view.

A little beach with a hot spring.

My second run was the Reykjavik Half Marathon. Since I already wrote about that separately, I won’t go into much detail, but it was a great race and a ton of fun! I can’t wait to go back one day for the full marathon.

Before the half marathon, I did a four mile warm up to make sure I’d hit my 17 scheduled miles for the day. This run was mostly along the northern shore of the city. I ran east first, and up along part of the course, and then turned around to head back to the west and around Harpa again before turning up to the start of the race.

The half marathon!

And my four mile warm up.

In general, Reykjavik felt like an amazing place to run. Though, I can imagine it gets pretty tough in the winter.

I love this little medal for the Reykjavik Half Marathon! I'm a fan of smaller medals.

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Let’s race!

The food

I had SOOO many places on my list to check out for meals. I knew I wouldn’t be able to hit them all up, but I wanted to do my best.

I’ll note right off the bat, eating in Iceland is expensive. You probably have heard this before, but this is coming from someone who lives in Jersey City / NYC. Meals were quite not cheap!

First up was The Laundromat Café for a late breakfast / early lunch. This place was super yummy with a great atmosphere and friendly staff. I followed it up with my first of two trips to Valdís for ice cream. Did I mention that I ate ice cream every day of my trip? Well, I did!

So many photos of laundromats on the walls!

Ice cream!

Late lunch / early dinner that day was at Lemon, a juice bar and healthy style sandwich place. Their menu had so many great options and I wanted to try them all! I ended up going with the Pescado (tomato, mozzarella, avocado, and pesto) and a Good Times juice. Holy shit that sandwich was amazing! It was so simple, but so fucking good!

This sandwich had no business being that good.

After Lemon, I met up with my brewery “tour” to go to Ölgerðin Egill Skallagrímsson ehf. I put tour in quotes because this was less a tour and more a drowning in beer. The tour part was very short, about ten minutes. The rest was sitting in a bar at the brewery while learning about the history of beer in Iceland—it was illegal until 1989!! Ölgerðin is Iceland’s oldest brewery and actually opened 1913, two years before prohibition went into effect. They survived by producing soft drinks and such.

Icelandic beer.

Just a couple of the brews we tried.

The moment we walked into the brewery, we were handed pints of beer and told those pints would be endless. They weren’t kidding! As soon as you’d finish, they’d fill it back up. We also tried a number of their other beers, including their Pride beer which they were very proud of, and a brew that was a collaboration with Cigar City brewery in Florida. Each beer we tried was about 6oz each. Considering I was running a half marathon the next morning, this was not the smartest way to spend my night, but it certainly was delicious!

Gay pride beer

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After the tasting, I went to Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur for hot dogs with some of the people I’d been chatting with at the brewery. Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur was recommended to me as pretty much the best place for hot dogs in the city, which is already known for its hot dogs. Their menu is basically…hot dogs and a few topping options. That’s all they do. And they were fantastic!

The next morning, after the half marathon, I got a danish from Köku Kompaníið and then hit up Kaffitár for coffee. From there, I was off to the Secret Lagoon where I enjoyed a fish and chips after my wonderful soak.

Dinner was at Sushi Social. Sushi Social used to be called Sushi Samba until Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes went there and led to them being sued by an American restaurant of the same name. The atmosphere was like a fancy lounge kinda vibe and it was quite busy still, even though I was rolling up around 11pm. I ordered a chef’s special prix fix option from the menu to try a few different things. The menu didn’t say what would be included, just that it would be chef’s selections. However, the menu did include minke whale and whale was not something I wanted to eat.

When the first course came, the server told me what it was, but I couldn’t hear her. It looked and tasted like beef, but what she said didn’t sound anything like it could have been “beef” or “steak.” Still, I didn’t think anything of it until two courses later when what I was served was definitely beef (which I clearly heard her say). Now, I don’t know what whale tastes like, but it is a mammal so I’d expect it to taste similar to land-based mammalian meat. And it’s unlikely that two of the courses would have been beef. Though, I guess it’s also possible it was horse meat, but I don’t remember seeing horse on the menu and I also really don’t want to eat horse. Sooooooo yeah, I think I ate 🐋 and I’m kinda not too happy about it.

My next meal was at the Black Beach Cafe while on a Southern Iceland tour. This was mostly like a tourist kinda stop, but the soup and sandwich I had were both pretty good.

For dinner, I hit up Noodle Station for a GIGANTIC spicy noodle bowl with a couple of people from the tour. It was delicious! And then we followed that up with my second trip to Valdís for ice cream.

On my last morning in Iceland, I stopped at Brauð & Co for a delicious cinnamon roll to nom down while on my way to the airport.


I packed my first day in Reykjavik with a bunch of things and really had to hustle to see them all. First up was Whales of Iceland. This is a museum exhibit thing dedicated to all the types of whales found around Iceland. It was a nice learning opportunity, but if you don’t know what it is ahead of time, it could be easy to be disappointed. Because I knew it was mostly plastic (I guess?) molds of whales hanging from the ceiling with displays telling you all about the species, I was properly whelmed with what I expected. The molds are all life size so it really does give you a good sense of scale.

A blue whale.

After the whales, I went down into the Icelandic PUNK Museum. This was an interesting but cool experience. The guy who runs it (or at least the one that was there when I went) is this old crusty punk rock guy who clearly hasn’t changed his aesthetic in 40 years. He was super friendly though! The museum walks you through the history of punk bands and the scene in Iceland in the 70s, 80s, and 90s and was much like reading books like Our Band Could Be Your Life and The Replacements: All Over But the Shouting. It was also really interesting to see, in addition to the stuff that was internal, the influences from US and English punk scenes that affected their scene. And I should also mention the museum itself is in an old public restroom and…well, yeah, it’s obvious because the toilets are still there. The whole place is crusty and dirty and punk af. I was into it!

The Icelandic Punk Museum is literally an old public toilet.

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The entrance to the PUNK Museum.

Headphones in a toilet?

Next I hit up the expo for the race and then went to the Icelandic Phallological Museum. Yes, this is what it sounds like. It’s a penis museum. This was weird, but really cool at the same time. Basically, you walk in and there are dicks all over. The cocks are a mix of actual animal penises in jars (hundreds of them), molds of penises, penis art, and penis paraphernalia. There are a lot of dicks here, including molds of the penises of the entire national handball team.

Taking selfies with a narwhal penis, as you do

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More penises.

Handball player penis, anyone?

The next day, after the half marathon, I rented a car and drove part of the Golden Circle, mostly hitting up the highlights.

I started off with about an hour and a half just soaking and enjoying the Secret Lagoon and getting my hot spring on. After 17 miles, this was a nice bit of recovery. That is, after I actually got into the water. I was completely unaware that the locker room and changing area was just one big open space without any private changing rooms. At gyms, I always go into a private space to change because, as a transgender woman, changing out in the open is terrifying. The reality of it wasn’t that bad, though, as I changed quickly and just sort of kept to myself. Anyway, the lagoon itself was relaxing and everything I wanted it to be.

Ahhhh so relaxing!

From there, I hit up Strokkur and Geysir. I was able to see Strokkur erupt 4 or 5 times while walking around the geyser park here. From there, I went on to the magnificent Gullfoss waterfall.



This waterfall is crazy!

Following up Gullfoss was Thingvellir National Park. In the park, I hiked around for a good couple of hours and checked out Öxarárfoss waterfall and Almannagjá, where the North American and European tectonic plates meet. Coming out of Thingvellir, I nearly hit a herd of while sheep on the road!

Just, you know, the edge of the North American tectonic plate. NBD.

Walking between two tectonic plates. Normal stuff.

So many waterfalls to see!

Last up on my self-guided tour was Kerið, a volcanic crater lake. I really only just made it before the sun started going down, but I’m glad I did. I did a lap around the top of the crater and then went down into it for a lap around the lake.

The lighting here was *really* starting to wind down, must more so than the photo makes evident.

On my last day in Iceland, I took a guided tour of South Iceland. This tour picked us up in Reykjavik and drove us down through Selfoss and to the southern coast. Along the way, we stopped and made friends with some Icelandic horses and laid on the mattress-like moss covering old lava fields. I would have never guessed that moss could be so soft and comfy!

Bed made of moss.

I made a horse friend

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The first of two waterfalls we saw on this tour was Seljalandsfoss. This is the waterfall you can walk behind and see THE BACKSIDE OF WATER! While really neat, it was also cold and wet. The second waterfall was Skógafoss, which is another beautiful waterfall and typically has a double rainbow in front of it.

Ladies and gentlemen, the eighth wonder of the world, THE BACKSIDE OF WATER!!!

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Yeah, uh, this guy was in his underwear.


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At Skógafoss.

Next up on the tour was Reynisfjara, the black sand beach. Now, here, what was most important to me was to see some fucking puffins. I was ready to throw a fit if I didn’t see any puffins while in Iceland, but luckily for everyone, no fit was needed! There were hundreds and hundreds of puffins flying around. I didn’t get to see any up close, but it was still pretty cool to see so many of them.

You can't tell, but there are hundreds of puffins in this photo

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Look at all the puffins!!

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Black sand beach and puffins. The best place on Earth?

The last bit of the tour was a hike on Solheimsjokill Glacier. This was a guided tour walking around on the ice and seeing some of the features of it while also learning about the glaciers themselves.

Hanging on a glacier

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I’mma hike the hell out of that glacier back there.

After the tour, I grabbed dinner with a couple of the other people from the tour and we were lucky enough to see the Northern Lights! Typically, August is too early so I didn’t expect to see them on my trip, but apparently they were out a bit early. Now, here’s the thing, when you see photos of the Northern Lights they look super saturated or you see time lapses where they’re moving and such. In reality, that’s not quite what they look like. I fully expect they look more intense later in the season, but mostly it was just a light glowing in the sky. It was still awesome to see, but it wasn’t life-changing or anything like that.

Northern Lights! TBH, this photo is a fairly accurate representation of what we saw. There was some light pollution where we were, but it wasn’t much more than this.

Other bits

Iceland is great! I’d love to go back and see more. There are so many different things to see and the time of year you go can really change the experience of those things. All the people I interacted with were incredibly nice.

I made a new friend today

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Below are my check-ins on Swarm. Some of them aren’t places I went into, but instead were just places I was at or walked by. Some places I was just stealing wifi or using a bathroom. And some, I checked in multiple times as I passed them more than once.



Europe 2017 – Berlin

Berlin is, by far, one of my favorite cities on the planet. It’s just so damn good in so many ways. I’ve been saying for years I want to move to Berlin and when shit goes to shit in the US, Berlin is where I want to go to.

Hello Mr TV Tower!

The Basics

I arrived in Berlin to Schonenfeld Airport in the early afternoon. I remember when I was in Berlin in 2012, the new airport was supposed to be open, but it was delayed and still isn’t open yet. Anyway, I hopped on the train to the city and got off at Alexanderplatz. Google told me to transfer to another train to get to my Airbnb, but I decided it was a nice day out and I’d walk the mile or so instead, even with my heavy backpack.


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When I arrived at my Airbnb, my host’s cleaning lady let me in. The apartment was on the 21st floor and provided an amazing view of the city from both the kitchen and my room. My room was absolutely huge, much more than I needed for just myself. Since I was feeling pretty gross thanks to not showering before leaving Edinburgh, I took a quick shower before heading out for the afternoon.

The view of the TV Tower from my Airbnb.

I didn’t actually end up meeting my host until the next morning after my run, but she turned out to be a sweet old German woman who had lived in East Berlin during the Cold War. She was very friendly and offered me breakfast every day and was eager to sit and talk with me. She also insisted on doing my laundry for me after I asked her how to work her washing machine—it was entirely in German and I can’t make heads or tails of it.

My Airbnb was very conveniently located in Mitte, within a reasonable walk from most things I wanted to do. It couldn’t have been much better. However, next time I’m in Berlin, I might stay in the more northern section of Mitte, closer to more of the nightlife.

Getting around Berlin, well at least Mitte, was pretty easy from memory so that was helpful. And the U-Bahn and S-Bahn are easy to navigate with Google Maps to tell you where to get on and off.


I did three runs while in Berlin. When Danielle and I were in Berlin in 2012, we had plans to run in Tiergarten, but never ended up doing it because we were exhausted. I wasn’t going to let that happen this time.


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My first run was five miles along the river. A lot of cities have paths along their rivers, but the section of the Spree I was running along didn’t have one so I was running on the sidewalk next to the river. This left me with a lot of street crossings to contend with, but for the most part they were small enough to cross without having to stop. I ran just into the northern section of Tiergarten near the Reichstag and then turned around to head back. My legs were pretty exhausted for this run, but it was still an enjoyable. Mostly, I was just happy to be in Berlin and going for a run!

First Berlin run!

My second run was supposed to be a morning nine-miler. Unfortunately, my clothes were…MIA. My host had taken them to wash as she said she would, but I guess they weren’t dry yet and I had no idea where they were. She also either wasn’t home or wasn’t awake when I woke up. So I just went about the rest of my day with hopes of fitting my run in later. And if not, I had a little flexibility to move things around for the next few days.

A quick mid-run selfie in Tiergarten

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I ended up squeezing it in later that evening. I was debating if I’d have time to do it before it got dark and how safe it’d be if I didn’t finish before the sun was down. My tour guide from a tour earlier that day said it would still be very safe for me to run even if it was dark so I decided to go for it. I quickly changed and took off towards Tiergarten. Once I got there, I felt right at home along its paths. It was the perfect place to run. Despite being dusk, there were tons of other runners out. It was glorious and my legs were feeling amazing. I was crushing mile after mile and looping all over the park. I was feeling so good I decided to throw a tenth mile in before finishing up. This run literally couldn’t have been better and I finished up before it was completely dark out. Wins all around!

So much Tiergarten! Look at that blobby mess of my just running little loops and stuff in the middle there.

The next morning, less than twelve hours later, I woke up and knocked out my third Berlin run. This was a simple four-miler that just looped a bit into Tiergarten and then back to my Airbnb.

More Tiergarten goodness!


Food is one of my favorite things in Berlin. There’s just so much good stuff to eat!

One of my main goals was making sure I had currywurst. The best I had was at Dom Curry, but I also had it a couple of other times while walking around the city. Yum yum!


The fanciest meal I had in Berlin was at Lebensmittel in Mitte. This is a delicious German restaurant with a 9.2 rating on Foursquare. This wasn’t on my list before going to the city, but I had trouble finding the place I was trying to find one night and ended up picking another one on Foursquare nearby. Unfortunately, Foursquare didn’t tell me you need to have a reservation here, but they were nice enough to sit me at a table outside anyway. The menu was all in German, but I was able to make enough sense of it to order my meal and a beer. It was fantastic! Highly recommended. I followed this up with ice cream from Bandy Brooks on my walk back to the Airbnb.

Ice cream from Bandy Brooks.

The morning that I couldn’t run because of my MIA clothes, I decided to take a long walk to find Bonanza Roastery. It’s a coffee roastery and is most excellent!. I stayed for a couple cappuccinos and a pastry for breakfast. Bonanza has a great atmosphere and they require people sitting with laptops to only be at certain tables so as to make sure there are still tables for other people.

Bonanza flat white and pastry that looks like poo, but tasted like awesome.

Check these mini cupcakes from Tigertötchen.

A repeat restaurant I hit up from when I was in Berlin in 2012 was Chipps. This was our favorite place on that trip so I wanted to come back for breakfast one day. It was as good as I remember! And it’s in a convenient location to start off your sightseeing day.

Breakfast from Chipps.

On my last day in Berlin, I went a bit overboard trying to hit up some places before leaving. I had lunch at Shiso Burger and ordered the bulgogi burger. It was 👌👏. From there, I went around the corner to The Barn for a coffee and then continued walking around. I walked over to Zeitgeist für Brot for a coffee cake with pie filling. It was so fucking good! And then from there I grabbed another coffee from Five Elephant because it looked cool when I walked by, but it turned out to not be that great in reality. Can’t win them all, I guess. My last stop before heading off to the airport was at Rausch Schokoladenhaus for some chocolate.

Bulgogi burger from Shiso Burger.

Chocolate Reichstag from Rausch Schokoladenhaus.

Some chocolate from Rausch Schokoladenhaus.

My pastry from Zeit für Brot.

Going back to my first night in Berlin for a second, I went on a beer tasting tour. Unlike the pub crawl in Edinburgh, this was much more about actually tasting beer and learning about the history of beer in Germany. We started at Weihenstephaner Berlin which is a restaurant run by the world’s oldest brewery still in existence. We sampled a few different brews there before moving on to Brauhaus Lemke. Part of the tour also included buying some beers to walk around the streets with, as that’s legal in Germany 🍻🚶‍♀️🤤. We ended at Kaschk, a fantastic craft beer bar which was had also been recommended to me before my trip.

During the tour, I made friends with an Australian couple who was in the middle of a four week European trip. They were great company to have while drinking.

Some beer tasting glasses at Weihenstephaner Berlin.

Tasting that beer!

Fantastic German pretzels for the beer to wash down.

A map of all the different types of beer.

Beer bottle chandelier

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Like the rest of my trip, I packed my time in Berlin.

In 2012, we took an amazing free walking tour from SANDEMANs that we loved. Our tour guide, Sam Noble, was incredibly passionate and knowledgeable and you could tell he just straight-up lived for giving tours and sharing history. At the time, he was working on his PhD at Humboldt University in Berlin. Fast forward to a couple weeks before this trip and I found out he was still giving tours and listed his Instagram on his bio on the SANDEMANs site. I decided to be a little creepy and send him a message asking him if I could request to be in his tour group. He was kind enough to send me his schedule and I made sure to book for when he was doing the tour.

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To my delight, he was as great as he was five years ago. His tour had evolved a little, but it was still superb. He was no longer pursuing his PhD and is now giving tours full time so he really puts his all into it. It was such a great time! This tour included Pariser Platz and Brandenburg Gate, the outside portion of the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, Führerbunker, Bundersministerium dear Finanzen (the old Luftwaffe HQ), the Berlin Wall Monument, Checkpoint Charlie, Konzerthaus Berlin, Französischer Dom, Bebelplatz, and The Memorial to the Book Burning of 1933. And, of course, more history than you could possibly hope to remember.

This was the Luftwaffe HQ during WWII. Now it’s the tax office.

Konzerthaus Berlin.

I also did the SANDEMANs Third Reich tour with Theo. This tour was an interesting deeper dive into some of the WWII portions of the free tour. Theo was good, but not as good as Sam. This tour included some of the same stops as the free tour, but also Tiergarten, the outside of the Reichstag, the Memorial to the Sinti and Roma Victims of National Socialism, Soviet War Memorial, Memorial to Homosexuals Persecuted Under Nazism, Potsdamer Platz, Stiftung Neue Synagoge Berlin, and Jüdischer Friedhof Berlin-Mitte.

The final guided tour I did while in Berlin was a tour to Sachsenhausen concentration camp in Oranienburg. This was, obviously, a somber and heavy tour, but it felt necessary to squeeze it into my trip. Our guide, Rob McCracken, took us on the train to Oranienburg and then on the same walk from the train station the prisoners of Sachsenhausen would have been forced on.

The main watch tower at Sachsenhausen.

The tour was extremely well done and Rob did a great job of telling the history—a lot of which I had zero idea about—and also going deep into the societal, political, mental, and emotional aspects of what happened at the concentration camp and in the town around it. He constantly posed the question of what the German people really knew about what was happening at the time. And he repeatedly urged us to think hard about what each of us would have truly done at the time. It’s easy to look back on something like this and say what you’d have done, but it takes a lot to think critically about yourself and what you would have actually done when faced with that same situation. This should hit any American who takes this tour hard right now.

Some of what’s remaining still at Sachsenhausen. The tower memorial in the back was actually built by the Soviets when they took over the concentration camp after liberating it from the nazis.

Despite being emotionally intense, I’m glad I went and I’m even more glad I did so as part of a tour. The tour added a lot more than I would have gotten doing this on my own. I learned more and got a much greater sense of context in which all of the atrocities here happened. At the same time, the tour also allowed me to experience everything with other people and to have a little reprieve from the gravity of it all. On the tour, I made friends with woman from DC whom I chatted with the entire time. I don’t want to say this dulled impact at all, but it helped to give frequent and well needed emotional breaks.

The remains of the crematory ovens.

I took a lot of photos while at Sachsenhausen, which is something I felt a bit weird about. It’s one of those things where you want be respectful and you don’t want to make light of anything. But on the other hand, it’s something you need to remember. It’s something no one should ever be able to forget. For me, it felt important to have those photos in my phone’s camera roll. Not because I’d purposely go back and look for them, but because they should be there when I scroll back looking at other photos. They should be there to be stumbled upon as a reminder. For me, taking photos was a way to take it all with me.

Prisoners of Sachsenhausen would have to sleep three across in each of those little beds.

Aside from my tours, I did a lot of exploration on my own. I spent some time walking around Mitte and enjoying the street art and walking through Haus Schwarzenberg and Hackenscher Markt. I also walked around Michaelkirchplatz and Kreuzberg on my way back from Bonanza Roastery.

Good street art at Haus Schwarzenberg

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Leave it to me to always find a Doctor Who reference.

After the free walking tour, I went back to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe and actually went down into the memorial. I didn’t even know about this part of it when we were in Berlin in 2012. This was, by far, the most emotional part of my trip. This memorial focused very closely on the Jews who were murdered. One room had parts of letters and postcards sent doing the Holocaust. Most of them were little more than recovered fragments. Few were full letters. I cried while reading many of them. This room in particular, to me, was the most real of everything in Berlin. It was the most personal and put more of a human face on Holocaust then even Sachsenhausen did. It was more than a gut punch. It was a pummeling.

The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. The meaning of the design is meant to be open to interpretation and the number of blocks is not representative of anything, it’s just what fit there. For reference, it’s okay to sit on them, as approved by the Jewish architect of this memorial. It is not, however, okay to stand on them.

The next room told the story of more than a dozen families. Each family had a section talking about where they were from, the members of the family, what they did, and other personal stories. It then went on to detail what happened to each member of the family during the Holocaust. This was another really tough section to get through.

From there, I decided to keep things heavy for a bit and went over to the Topography of Terror. In 2012, this was one of our favorite parts of Berlin. By favorite, I mean it’s very well done and we learned a lot from it. It’s obviously not fun, but it’s a really great museum to spend some time at.

The largest remaining section of the Berlin Wall, sitting between the Topography of Terror and the Bundesministerium der Finanzen.

Some of the Berlin Wall.

Other bits

As I’ve mentioned, I really love Berlin. There is a lot of great food to eat, a lot to see, and a lot to experience. It’s the kind of city I could come back to every year. My only real complaint about Berlin is that Germans don’t serve tap water. It’s harder to get water than it is beer in Berlin. When you go out to eat, you have to order bottled water and if you ask for tap water, they won’t give it to you.

I like this guy

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Good bear

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Not ready to leave this city yet, but the time has come

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My time in Berlin was incredibly surreal, as this was during the height of what was happening in Charlottesville. Being in Germany and visiting the places I did while white nationalists and nazis were holding rallies in America was a strange experience. But the thing about Germany is they’ve dealt with their past. They don’t pretend it wasn’t a problem and they learn from it. Learning from it is a deeply ingrained part of their culture and education. Rather than try to forget it, they keep reminders of it out in the open. This is something America still has not done with racism and slavery. We need to deal with our past the way Germany has. Everything happening in our country now is because we haven’t dealt with it and refuse to.

An important quote from the Topography of Terror that all Americans should think about.

Below are my check-ins on Swarm. Some of them aren’t places I went into, but instead were just places I was at or walked by. Some places I was just stealing wifi or using a bathroom. And some, I checked in multiple times as I passed them more than once.


I don’t know how this happened, but apparently two checkins at the Führerbunker is enough to make you mayor. I guess no one wants to check in there. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯



Europe 2017 – Edinburgh

Unlike London, this was my first time in Edinburgh. I didn’t know a lot about the city before this trip, but I’d always heard amazing things about it.

One thing I definitely didn’t know was that during August there is a huge (like really huge) arts festival called Fringe. I had never even heard of it before my trip and only found out what it was the day before leaving London to head up to Edinburgh. What I found out after getting there was that Fringe is absolutely wild and intense. There are constantly dozens and dozens of shows happening at any moment and in all kinds of venues, many of which are makeshift venues like coffee shop basements and restaurants. And the shows are all over the map, they are musicals, improv, standup, poetry, comedy, one-person shows. All kinds of stuff! Fucking wild, I tell you!


I arrived by train after 10pm and was exhausted. I had made the most of the day in London before getting on the train and was ready to go to bed. Unfortunately, it took me a little while to find my Airbnb. It was very conveniently located in Old Town, but it was just down a weird two level street that I totally didn’t understand at all.

The streets were quite busy when I got in thanks to Fringe!

When I got to my Airbnb, my host was hanging out in the kitchen with one of the other guests, a German woman from Berlin named Claudia. She really wanted to go out and see some live music and have a beer. The two of them convinced me to go with them and off we went. I didn’t want to stay out long, but I figured it’d be a nice way to experience nightlife stuff, especially since my time in Edinburgh was limited.

We hit up a music venue with a Scottish ska band playing (yeah, ska) and grabbed some beers. From there, we went over to a standup show around the corner. This was a man and a woman each doing sets. The woman, Megan Shandley, was very funny. The guy was also funny until he made a transphobic joke and then I over him.

The ska band playing at Stramash the night I got in.

Getting around Edinburgh was very easy on foot. Everything I wanted to do was walking distance from my Airbnb. And it’s a very beautiful and old city to walk around so it was perfect.

I only had two full days in Edinburgh (aside from the unplanned late night my first night there). Had I known about Fringe, I would have probably wanted to stay a full week. At least. There were dozens of shows I wanted to see, but I could only do so many in my limited time there.

My Airbnb was kinda not amazing. I mean, it was located in a very good location for seeing stuff and the host was really nice, but it felt a bit dirty and the apartment reeked of a place where smokers lived for years and years. It served its purpose though.

Arthur's Seat from my Airbnb

My Airbnb did have this *amazing* view of Arthur’s Seat from the window in my room, though.


I had two runs planned for Edinburgh, but thanks to being out late the night before, I missed the first one. Luckily, that was just a four-miler so it wasn’t too big of a deal. And this was pretty much the only planned run I entirely missed without making up throughout my whole trip.

The second planned run for Edinburgh was the one I was most worried about during the trip because it was a long run of 15 miles. I knew I had to get it done, though, so I made sure nothing stopped me. The day before, I went on Strava and joined an Edinburgh running group for women and asked if anyone would be interested in making a new friend and running with me. To my delight, someone actually did! I was really excited for this!

We met up for an afternoon long run. Edite and I ran about 11 of my 15 miles together. We started around Holyrood Park and ran around Arthur’s Seat while climbing the tough hill there. Then we made our way down to the beach, where I would have never thought to go on my own. It was a nice mix of scenery. After heading back from the beach, we made our way around another park before we split ways. I finished up with a couple laps around the park to round out my 15 while trying really hard not to shit my pants because my body decided it HAD to 💩 and this was going to be non-negotiable.

Edite and me at the end of our 11 miles together.

Overall, it was a really nice run besides the poop stuff and I was so happy to have a made a new friend for it!

Edinburgh running route

It was a great route!


I think out of all the places on my trip, I had the most places to eat saved in Foursquare for Edinburgh. There were so many restaurants, pubs, and coffee shops I wanted to try.

My breakfast at Hemma.

My first real meal was breakfast at Hemma. It was superb and just what I needed after my hike of Arthur’s Seat. The food was great and so was the atmosphere. For an afternoon snack, I stopped at Shakeaway and got an amazing milkshake to enjoy while walking around the city. I followed that up with tea and a sandwich and scone from Forsythe’s Tea Room. The tea was good, but the food was pretty meh. To be honest, the experience was a little too kitschy old Scottish grandma for me. For dinner, I had a burger and fries from The Holyrood 9A and washed it down with a delicious beer.

This yummy burger from Holyrood 9A.

How cute is this afternoon tea?!

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The next morning, I started my day off with coffee and avocado toast from Brew Lab Coffee.

That evening I did a pub crawl and mostly just had a random sampling of bits of food throughout. The pub crawl was fun, though. I made some new friends and drank a ton of beer. I think we went to six pubs and nightclubs. Each one gave us a free shot and then had drink specials. By the end of the night, I was quite drunk. So much so that I was still drunk when I woke up the next morning for my flight to Berlin. Awesome. LOL.

The crawl started at The Inn on the Mile and then we went to Pilgram Bar, The Whistle Stop Barber Shop, Frankenstein, Sneaky Pete’s, and The Hive. Frankenstein was a bit more wild and crazy than I’m into these days, but the karaoke was at least entertaining to watch. The Hive and Sneaky Pete’s were more like nightclubs which is definitely not my thing, but I still had a good time dancing with my new friends and having some really interesting political conversations with people from all over there place. The Pilgrim Bar and Whistle Stop were both more my speed, though. I’d definitely go back to those places.

My avocado toast from Brew Lab.

A bit drunk at Frankenstein.


As I mentioned above, hit up a standup show my first night. The show was at Just the Tonic in one of their smaller rooms in the back. It honestly was just a cave, hence its name, The Cave. It was kinda neat though! The ska band I saw right before was at Stramash which is basically next door.

The morning of my first full day in Edinburgh, I slept in much later than planned. This was thanks to my late night. I had planned to run up Arthur’s Seat. However, that plan was made before I actually knew what Arthur’s Seat really was. It’s a very old dormant volcano! I ended up hiking up it instead and, to be honest, I’m glad I didn’t try to run. I don’t think I would have made it. There were some people I saw who did run up, but it was wet from the rain the night before and extremely slippery. Definitely didn’t feel like running would have been safe. Just hiking it felt super sketchy. On my way done, I chatted it up with an older couple. The woman lived in the UK for the last 30 years, but was originally from the US. She ended up being great company for the hike back down. The view from the top was truly beautiful, though! And I was also lucky enough to get up and down just before the crowds started coming out.

While I missed my run, the hike absolutely felt like it more than made up for the four miles I had planned.

Looking up at Arthur’s Seat from the beginning of the hike.

Check this view from the top of Arthur’s Seat.

Given my luck with banana peels, I'm going to avoid this one being that I'm at the top of a volcano.

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There's a castle back there, I promise

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Next up for the day was the free SANDEMANs walking tour. This was a fantastic tour of mostly Old Town, including Grassmarket, Greyfriars Kirkyard, Flodden Wall, and a bunch of other stops. I learned a ton about the history of Scotland and Edinburgh. The tour guide also pointed out some of the graves in Greyfriars Kirkyard that JK Rowling used as inspiration for Harry Potter. He pointed out the inspirations for Hogwarts as well. One thing the tour guides had been asked to stop doing was taking people to the grave of Tom Riddell, but he had no problem telling us where to find it after the tour.

The view of Edinburgh Castle from Grayfriars Kickyard.

Yeah, I rubbed David Hume’s toe. It was weird, but apparently it’s a thing?

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This owl!!

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This is Greyfriars Bobby. You should read about him. What a good boy!

The grave of Tom Riddell.

From the end of the tour, I made my way down to New Town to explore on my own. On my walk over that way, I walked around Edinburgh Castle and stopped for a few minutes to watch a street performer playing songs for a small crowd. He asked where I was from and I replied that I was from New York (easier than saying Jersey City). From there, he went into two great anti-Trump ballads for me. This was a recurring theme from my every city of my trip, Trump and the USA are a terrifying af joke.

I walked around West End and Multrees Walk. I also went up into the Scott Monument. This was really rad, but also a little scary because of how tight and steep the spiral staircases were. There was only one way up and down and it got a bit crowded at points where it was hard to pass people without being afraid you’d slip and tumble all the way down. Still, the views were great and every time I thought I was all the way up, there was another staircase to discover to go up even higher.

You wouldn't know from the outside, but the climb to the top of Scott's Monument is kinda wild

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Squishing castles

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After this, I was handed a flier for a small improv show happening nearby. I decided to check it out since I had some extra time. And I’ll just say this, it was bad! It was three dudes who were not good at improv at all, but it was at least entertainingly bad until they made three transphobic jokes in rapid succession.

Last up for the day was the SANDEMANs Dark Side Tour. This was a exploration of Edinburgh’s more gruesome past including murder, people being buried alive and coming back from the dead, grave robbing, torture, witches, hangings, body stealing, people being crushed to death by falling coffins, and all kinds of other morbid stuff. Personally, I loved the tour and thought our guide, Sarah, was amazing. She was animated and passionate and an amazing storyteller. This tour also made for a great companion to the free tour earlier in the day as it went into more detail for a few things that were only briefly mentioned.

I started my second day off with a nice long walk to Summerhall. On the way, a guy was out front of a cafe handing out fliers for his poetry reading, and because I wanted to take as best advantage of Fringe as I could, I stopped in to check it out. Unlike the improv show the day before, this was really good. The reading was in the basement of the cafe with just a handful of people, nice and intimate. The poet’s name was Ben Ray and not only was his poetry good, but his reading of it was light and entertaining.

From the poetry reading, I made my way to the start of another guided tour. This was a tour of Edinburgh Castle. The tour included the obvious history and a nice overview of things at the castle. I absolutely got more out of my time in the castle than I would have without a guided tour. Afterwards, I hung around a bit to explore before heading out to go meet my running partner for our run.

The inside of Edinburgh Castle.

After my run, but before the pub crawl, I stopped in for one more show. This was again at The Caves at Just the Tonic. This show was called Tracey Tracey and was a one woman tragi-comedy by Nicola Cross. This show was super weird, but highly entertaining with just a bit of crowd interaction. I enjoyed it a lot.

Final bits

For just two days in the city, I feel like I really packed a lot in. I was non-stop running from thing to thing and on the go without much rest. I really wish I had had more time to go to more Fringe shows. I ended the weekend there with probably three dozen fliers for shows, a good half of which I’d have liked to have seen.

I will absolutely have to go back for longer some tine in the future.

Below are my check-ins on Swarm. Some of them aren’t places I went into, but instead were just places I was at or walked by. Some places I was just stealing wifi or using a bathroom. And some, I checked in multiple times as I passed them more than once.




Europe 2017 – planning

As anyone who follows me on social media has been able to tell, I took a little trip recently. After I was laid off from my job, I knew I needed to take advantage of having a little bit of time and having received a generous severance package. So, enter a two-week solo trip to Europe!

My itinerary was London, Edinburgh, Berlin, and Reykjavik, in that order. Two cities I’ve been to, two I haven’t. And my first backpacking trip. I was super excited!


Planning was highly stressful and a lot of work. Normally, my wife and I travel together which means we can split some of the planning. She typically handles figuring out where we’ll eat. I typically handle travel and accommodations. Activities are a joint effort. Doing a solo trip meant it was all on me to figure out. Not only was it all on me, but I only planned the trip about five weeks ahead of time. And, of course, most of my time in those five weeks was taken up with job interviews and such. So there was a lot to plan with not much time to do it.

The first thing I did was pull up every list of half marathons in Europe in late-July and August. Because of course I’d be running a race on this trip. Of course! Because it’s summer, there weren’t many in the major cities.

I had a rough list of cities I was considering for this trip so was able to match up the races I found with the cities I wanted to travel to. This left me with either Berlin or Reykjavik, both on the same weekend. If I could have done both, I would have, but without at least a full day between them, it wouldn’t have been possible pull off without race day packet pick up.

I ended up going with the Reykjavik Half Marathon between the two. I enter the Berlin Marathon lottery every year so sooner or later, I’ll be running a race in Berlin anyway. (Spoiler: after the trip, I feel like I need to go back to Reykjavik to run the full marathon some time.)

With that decided, I knew Reykjavik would be the last leg of my trip. Given geography, it had to be either first or last and with the race being August 19th ending there was the only real option.

At this point, I opened up Kayak and Google Flights and just started trying out different flight options and moving cities and dates around to see what happened. Given that train travel costs don’t vary the way flights do, I knew it would be the flights that would decide things. This is how I ended up with my exact cities, dates, and order.

After finding a few flight itineraries that felt reasonable, it was time to pull up Airbnb. I didn’t want to do straight up hotels, but I also don’t feel comfortable with staying in hostels as a trans women. Having been to London and Berlin before, I already knew roughly where I wanted to stay in the city so it was easy to find a few options there. A few Google searches helped me figure out what parts of Edinburgh and Reykjavik to stay in. Edinburgh Airbnbs were surprisingly expensive, but I later found out why (look for my Edinburgh post for that).

Eventually, I found the right combo of everything that fit a reasonable amount of money to spend and started booking stuff. Once I started, I flew through the bookings and did it as quickly as possible to make sure nothing filled up while I was in the process of booking (which did happen for one of the Airbnbs I had picked).

With flights and accommodations done, I just had to add train travel from London to Edinburgh, but that was quick and easy. I now had four flights, one train ticket, and four Airbnbs booked.

Next, I focused on the whole backpacking thing. I’d never done this before, I’d always taken a regular suitcase traveling with me so I wanted to spend some time reading tips and advice for doing this successfully. The Savvy Backpacker was great for this!

With some research done, I started making purchases—many of which I agonized over which options to go with. I bought a new backpack that was just a bit bigger than the largest one I had. I also got a ton of packing cubes—holy shit, why have I never actually used these before, they’re a game changer! I also got a bunch of little things like a travel umbrella, a packable day backpack (I already had packable bags, but not a backpack), TSA locks (I usually don’t bother locking my suitcases because if someone wants in, they’ll get in, but the locks were more for when I’d be walking around with my bag on my back), and a travel towel (just in case, since I wouldn’t be in hotels). We travel a few times a year, but this was the first time I had to really think about each and every thing I was bringing with me.

I later figured out a much better way to pack things than this.

Finally, I started actually looking at what I’d be doing in each place. I’m terrible with this part of planning trips and always leave it to a few days before I go. In London and Berlin, there were some things I already knew I wanted to do, either because I liked them a lot previously or because I didn’t get to do them when I was there last. Still, I Googled for a lot of articles about traveling to all four cities and asked on Twitter and Facebook for recommendations. And I heavily scoured my friend Ashlea’s blog A Globe Well Traveled.

With lists of stuff to see, places to eat, and things to do, I got to work plotting where things were on the map and figuring out what I could logistically fit in. I booked all my tours ahead of time, and there were a lot of them), and added everything else to both Google saved places and Foursquare lists. I downloaded each city for offline use on Google Maps and Google Trips even though I knew I’d have data on my phone thanks to a T-Mobile plan that includes (very) slow international data for free.

I made rough itineraries for each day in my Google Calendar, but I didn’t want to get too serious about them because things never go according to plan and you don’t usually know how long most things will take. Tours and things that were booked in advance were easy to put on my calendar and I just filled in spaces between them with the things that seemed most interesting to me while keeping everything else on my list easily accessible while on the go.


Lastly, I had to make a meticulous packing list. I’m always a last-minute packer, but I make up for it with detailed packing lists so I can just grab stuff and throw it in a bag. Needing to pack as light as possible meant having to really think about every single item. I only brought stuff I knew I would need or wouldn’t make sense to buy while on go. I looked at weather forecasts and packed as much versatile clothing as possible. Layers that could be reused and combined (especially necessary for Iceland) were a big key. With the exception of one dress and one romper, all of my clothes were picked out so that anything would match with anything.

This part actually wouldn’t have been hard at all if not for needing my dilators, needing warmer layers and hiking shoes for Iceland, and being a runner. I knew I’d be able to do laundry in every Airbnb I booked so I packed with that in mind. I really only packed five-ish days of clothes (with extra underwear and socks). Running stuff, I packed the bare minimum with the plan of being able to wear each of my two pairs of shorts and two sports bras twice before washing. Still, needing walking, running, and hiking shoes is what killed me the most. The running shoes were obviously non-negotiable, considering I had 10 runs planned during my trip. And the glacier tour in Iceland required hiking shoes so those were non-negotiable as well. As for my walking shoes, I like to explore places on foot and it’s not abnormal for me to walk 10-15 miles a day while traveling. Good shoes are a must.

I did, in fact, run Mitte

I debated bringing my DSLR at all and, if so, which lens/lenses to bring. I have a Canon 6D which is more on the professional end of things and weighs a ton compared to smaller DSLRs that are more common. I decided I’d really hate myself if I didn’t bring it, but compromised by only bringing a 50mm lens, the smallest and lightest lens I own. Of course, the focus ring on my lens got jammed on the first leg of my trip and I couldn’t fix while on the go so I spent most of my trip lugging around a heavy camera that I couldn’t use.

I think that about covers planning stuff. I’ll be, hopefully, writing up posts recapping each city for next week!