3 Day Trips Less than an Hour from Copenhagen, Denmark

While there are plenty of things to do walking distance from Copenhagen’s city center, there are also a few gems just a train ride away. If you are looking for more to do in your time in Copenhagen, consider one of these three day trips:

1) Frederiksborg Castle in Hillerod (45 minutes by train from the city center)

Built in the 1500s under King Christian IV, Frederiksborg Castle now houses the Museum of National History. The 85 rooms in the castle show a chronological history of Denmark starting in the 1500s up until present day. Another feature of Frederiksborg Castle is the grounds. The baroque style gardens are beautiful and easy to walk through providing amazing views of the castle. Once you’ve explored the gardens there are trails through the woods to find the Bath House Palace, the King’s Spring and Christian IV’s stone.

2) Roskilde  (25 minutes by train from the city center)

Grab a map at the tourist center then take the short hike to the Viking Museum on the waters edge. The museum houses five 800 year old Viking ships. During the warmer months you can sail out on replicas on the salvaged ships. There are tours and demonstrations throughout the day to learn the tools the Vikings used to create their vessels.

Also in Roskilde is the UNESCO World Heritage site the Roskilde Cathedral. For over 1000 years there has been a church on the site of the current cathedral. It holds the world record for most royals buried in a church with 39 Danish Kings and Queens calling Roskilde Cathedral their final resting place.


3) Kronborg Castle in Helsinger and the Louisiana in Humlebaek (45 minutes by train)

Kronborg Castle, also known as “Hamlet’s Castle” is the setting for Shakespeare’s famous play, Hamlet. Shakespeare was allegedly inspired by the lavish banquets Frederik II held at the castle in the 1600s. When I visited the Renaissance Fair was going on on the grounds for their autumn break from school, you can read all about it here! On a regular day you can tour the interior of the castle to see Frederik II and Queen Sophie’s bed chambers , the King’s intricately woven tapestries and the underground tunnels called the Casemates.

Just a few train stations away from Helsinger heading back towards Central Copenhagen, is the Louisiana Modern Art Museum in Humlebaek. The museum features both an outdoor sculpture garden and indoor exhibits. Just note it is a modern art museum, so nudity was a part of many art pieces.

While there is so much to see in Copenhagen’s city center, these jam packed day trips were well worth the trip!

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9 Things to do in Utsunomiya, Japan!

For my work trip to Japan we stayed about 75 miles north of Tokyo in Utsunomiya. Utsunomiya is the capital of the Tochigi prefecture and served as my home for two weeks. While Utsunomiya was a perfect home base for day trips to Tokyo and Nikko, here are the main things I found to do and see in Utsunomiya!


Dinner with new friends in Utsunomiya

1. Hachimanyama Park– The large park located a 30 minute walk from the JR train station, includes a large play area, Utsunomiya Tower, a suspension bridge and more! I had no idea that it was more than just a park when I set out to find it, read about my adventure here.

2. Utsunomiya Futaarayama Shrine– The shrine just off the main road was founded about 1,600 years ago and the city of Utsunomiya was built around it. By the steps up to the main shrine area there are many smaller shrines. One funny thing pointed out to us was the shrine dedicated to liquor was larger than the shrine for medicine!

3. Lalasquare – This is the Mall near the train station with many stores including a giant toy store on the top floor. It was fun to go through the mall noting the differences from our malls back home. There are also quite a few restaurants on the ground floor.

4. Orion Dori – There are lots of little shops, restaurants and bars along this street to find souvenirs and night life. There was one store in the strip our Japanese friend called a mini Akihabara (the anime filled district from our Tokyo trip) for any anime souvenirs.

5. Eat Gyoza– Gyoza is a Japanese dumpling usually made with wonton wrappers and stuffed tith pork and cabbage. Utsunomiya is the gyoza capital of Japan with over 200 different gyoza themed restaurants.


6. Attend a Festival! – Ok, this one is completely based on what time of year you visit but we happened to be in town for Miya Matsuri. The streets, lined with food carts, filled with traditional Japanese clothing watching and participating in a parade like celebration!

7. Hot Springs/Onsen in Bell Mall– Just a 10 minute bus ride away, we visited an onsen, or Japanese bath house, located in Bell Mall. This nude hot spring was quite the experience, read all about my Naked and Afraid experience!

8. Visit a cat café! – If you are a cat lover like me, there is a cat cafe in Orion Dori. You pay a small amount for the amount of time you stay and play with the cats, plus they have food and drinks available. The best part is that all the cats are up for adoption!

9. Castle Ruins Park – Now a small city park, this was once the site of Utsunomiya Castle before it burned down in the Boshin War. Some of the torrents and walls have been restored and are free to explore. When we went, the entire park was filled with Pokemon Go players!

While these 9 things in no way encompass all that Utsunomiya has to offer, they were my favorite aspects of the town. Let me know if you have any other recommendations!

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5 Things to Do in Cartagena, Colombia

On our whirlwind trip to Colombia, we had the chance to visit Cartagena, but we didn’t have much time to see and do everything the city has to offer. However, here are the top things we recommend from our time there!

Visit the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas – Construction on this Spanish fortress began in 1657 and proved to be impregnable. Though there were many attempts to take the fortress, the fortress’s complex tunnel system helped to ensure the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas was never taken. The tunnels were designed to connect key strategic points of the fortress and reverberate noise long distances both for communication and to hear the enemy coming from far away. You can climb to the top of the fortress and still walk through some of these tunnels today!


Walk the Walled City– Visit the heart of Old Cartagena by exploring the Old Town surrounded by the walls. Meandering through the streets you’ll find the 16th century catholic church named Iglesia de San Pedro Claver, a street lined with peddlers of Colombian sweets known as Portal de los dulces and el Torre del Reloj or the clock tower.


Visit Las Bovedas or “The Vaults”– Built in the late 1700s, “The Vaults” served as armaments storage for the walled city and then later as a prison. Currently, the area is a thriving artisans’ center and a perfect place to look for handcrafted souvenirs!


Explore Getsemani – Getsemani is another neighborhood near Old Town. We wandered the quaint winding streets saying hello to everyone we passed. The neighborhood was full of friendly people and lots of very impressive street art!


Visit the beach– While we aren’t typically beach goers, there was no way we could visit the coastal city without visiting the beach. The area we visited was very crowded with people as it was a Colombian holiday weekend. Also beware when visiting a public beach… according to our tour guide, women wander the beach offering to give massages (we were approached within 5 minutes), if you do not want a massage, do not accept a free sample. Supposedly the free sample lasts for maybe 20 seconds and then with the help of a large man they make sure you pay for the rest.


While this is no way all the things to do in Cartagena, Colombia, these were the highlights of our short trip there. During our time in Colombia we also visited Colombia’s capital city, Bogota. Check out the 9 things we recommend doing there!

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Celebrating 100 Blog Posts!

As we reach the beginning of February the novelty of the new year starts to wear off, but here at It’s a Schmahl World, we are celebrating a blogging milestone! Today we are posting our 100th post! When we started this blog to write about our travels, we didn’t expect to be where we are today. In this post, we’ll look back at how our lives have changed from being two young professionals working full time to a Peace Corps volunteer and an engineering graduate student.



Back to where it all began, our first post It’s a Schmahl World after all… published in February of 2016. Both Kim and I were working full time saving up all our paid time off to travel. We went on trips with our family to Washington DC for the 4th of July and a quick trip to Colombia for our first time in South America! Kim was able to go to Europe with her college roommates, 5 years after graduation! Highlights of their two week trip were hiking through Plitvice Park in Croatia, visiting the baths and ruin bars in Budapest, exploring palaces and the opera house in Vienna, and wandering the narrow streets and canals of Venice.



Occasionally I was lucky enough to travel for work, one time all the way across the globe to Japan for two weeks. For my first time in Asia, I got the chance to attend a festival the small city of Utsunomiya, wander the temples of Nikko and explore parts of Tokyo for a day. I even reached waaayyyy out of my comfort zone to experience a Japanese onsen (or a naked bath house).



September of 2016 came with an exciting road trip around Iceland’s Ring Road for Nelson and I. We snorkeled between the tectonic plates, hiked on a glacier, saw some amazing waterfalls and last but not least we got engaged! While planning is still in the works over a year later, Nelson and I are finally going to tie the knot in July of 2018.



Kim was the next to have a major life change when she decided to join the American Peace Corps to teach high school math in Liberia. Before she left we went on one last family vacation to Florida. We made the most of our limited time together exploring Key West, Disney World and the Ringling Museum.



In June of 2017, Kim packed her bags and began the long journey to Liberia. After a bit of training in Washington DC, they received 3 months of training in the of Kakata, just an hour outside of Monrovia, Liberia’s capital. Currently she has been teaching at her site for the last 5 months and learning the ins and outs of her community. See all of her updates about living in Liberia here!



To wrap up our life changes through 100 posts we’ll look at a recent big change in my life. I left my full time job and my first order of business was to go on an amazing week long 10 year friendaversary trip to Tuscany, Italy with two friends from Girl Scouts. I traveled solo for the first time to Copenhagen, Denmark and now after my sabbatical I have started going to school full time to get my masters degree in Mechanical Engineering!



When we began this blog, we never would have guessed where we’d be now, after 100 posts… who knows where we will be after the next 100 posts, but we are excited to continue the journey!



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Visiting Roskilde: A Day Trip from Copenhagen, Denmark

During my week in Copenhagen, I had a little time left on my 24 hour train pass from the trip to Frederiksborg Castle the day before so I decided to hop on the train from Copenhagen Central Station for the 25 minute ride out to Roskilde. When I arrived I stopped in at the Tourist center for a map of the city then walked around the outside of the Roskilde Cathedral. I opted to tour the inside later since there was a service going on, be sure to check the schedule posted by the door!

After a bit of a hike I made it to the Viking museum. Situated on the waters edge, the Viking Museum houses 5 original Viking ships excavated in 1962 from the Roskilde Fjords. The ships had been decommissioned by the Vikings, filled with rocks and sunk in the water to block the easiest route to the city. Only someone familiar with Roskilde’s waterways would be able to find their way to the city. The ships are all different types ranging from the second longest Viking warship ever discovered to a small simple fishing vessel. The exact history of these ships is difficult to know for certain since not many Vikings were literate. There are tours throughout the day covering the history of the salvaged Viking ships so ask at the ticket kiosk or note the signs around the museum!

The Viking Museum also has an outdoor areas where workers work in the open and in small workshops to create replicas of the salvaged ships. The process to recreate the ships is as similar as possible to how they were originally built by the Vikings. the wood used in the boat is carefully chosen from branches that are similar in shape to that part of the ship and Viking tools such as axes are the only ones used on the recreations. During the summer months you can ride out into the Fjords on the recreations. While that is not an option in the winter, I was able to climb around on the warship replica.

The Viking Museum has a cafe for a lunch break and picnic tables outside to enjoy the (hopefully) nice weather. After refueling I walked along the docks enjoying the gorgeous views across the water and looking at other small viking boat replicas moored along the docks.

Retracing my steps, I headed back to the Roskilde Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The entrance fee is usually 60 DKK (~10USD or 40DKK, ~6.50USD, for students) but I accidentally got there 30 minutes before the cathedral closed so they let me in for free! Thirty minutes is definitely not enough time to explore the massive cathedral but I did my best. For over 1000 years a church has stood at that location. The cathedral also holds the world record for number of royals buried in a single church with 39 Danish kings and queens laid to rest there.

After a little time exploring the town square I hopped on the train back to Copenhagen’s city center. Only 25 minutes away, Roskilde was the perfect trip for day filled with history.

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Visiting Frederiksborg Castle: a Day Trip from Copenhagen, Denmark

To start off my weeklong trip in Copenhagen, I hopped on a 40 minute train ride to the city of Hillerod to see Frederiksborg Castle. The castle was built in the early 17th century by the Danish King Christian IV, and you can see it from all angles walking around the surrounding lake. The castle grounds include a large baroque style gardens, big enough that I was able to explore and take pictures for an hour! There were so many places to get a good view of the castle.


A devastating fire in 1859 destroyed much of the original castle but after the restoration headed by J.C. Jacobson the owner of Carlsberg Breweries, the interior was transformed into the Danish National History Museum.  Eighty-five different rooms chronologically display Denmark’s history through portraits and historical paintings from the time periods. The museum catalogs history starting in the 1500s up until present day!

Entrance to the museum costs 75DKK (~12 USD or 60 DKK, ~10 USD if you have a student ID!). One of the first rooms you enter is the chapel, which was celebrating its 400th anniversary. This is one of the only rooms spared from the fire and all the furnishings are original. During the years Denmark had an absolute monarchy (1660-1849) this chapel was used for royal coronations. Every room in the castle was dedicated to a specific time period in Danish history with portraits and pieces of art from the time period. Luckily most rooms also had a laminated informational papers to peruse, providing insight into what happened during the time periods.

After touring the castle, I decided to explore the grounds a bit more. When looking at a map I noticed something marked “Christian IV’s stone” and my curiosity won out. After a few wrong turns I stumpled upon the Bath House Palace, which is occasionally used by the royal family for hunt lunches according to the Visit Copenhagen website. I reoriented myself then finally found the trail to the stone. What I found was a stone that looked like a throne, so naturally I sat in it and took way too many pictures!

With my exploring complete I headed back around the lake via Hunter’s Hill for one last view of the castle. I found a picnic table, the perfect place to have a snack with a view before the train ride back into the city. This was the first of three great day trips out of the city and I was able to save some money by getting a 24 tourist train pass which I used early the next morning to head out to Roskilde!


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Update from Liberia: Happy Holidays!

It’s been a month and a half since my last post from Liberia so it’s time for an update! Here’s what’s been going on this holiday season…

In Liberia, they have Thanksgiving but they celebrate it the first week of November instead of the last week. Here though, the holiday has nothing to do with pilgrims or Native Americans, it is a day to be thankful for your family and friends and everything you have in your life. They don’t have the same tradition of a big thanksgiving dinner here, in fact besides having the day off of school, it felt like any other day.

On America’s Thanksgiving day, my school cancelled classes to have their traditional Old vs New Students day. It was a complete coincidence that it fell on Thanksgiving, but a nice distraction from thinking about the celebration I was missing at home! Though my school has grades 1 to 12, it is the only government high school in the area so many students begin in the 10th grade after finishing middle school at a different school—enough that the students who’ve just come to the school this year can make up the New students team that plays against a team of returning students.

Boys playing football

The day began with a drama (somewhere between a long skit and short play) put on by the 10th graders and then the competitions began. First was quizzing, where the two teams competed to answer trivia questions on different topics from math to geography to current events! Then we went outside for the sports games: boys’ volleyball, girls’ kickball and the grand finale was boys’ football (soccer). I joined in for a little bit of volleyball, recruited by the new students team since I’m a new teacher. It was a fun day, getting to spend time with my students outside of the classroom setting!


Girls playing kickball

Even though I didn’t celebrate on Thanksgiving Day, I still got my Thanksgiving dinner the weekend after! A group of us Peace Corps volunteers living nearby all got together for thanksgiving dinner in Kakata (the city where we had pre-service training) on the Friday night after. We had some traditional thanksgiving staples: fried chicken (no turkey here), mashed potatoes, corn, garlic bread, pumpkin pie and apple pie turnovers; as well as some local additions: watermelon, papaya (or paw paw as they say here!) and pineapple. It was delicious! And fun to get together with other volunteers…it was an exciting weekend for us in my group because the first 3 months we weren’t allowed to leave our sites for more than just a day trip, so we had just been at site long enough that could stay overnight in Kakata!



The next morning, we took a day trip to Harbel where the new Farmington Hotel had just recently opened across from the airport. It’s a very nice hotel and the draw for us is the restaurant and the swimming pool. As long as we bought lunch while we were there, they let us swim for free. So we spent the day relaxing at the pool and eating foods that we can’t get at site—I went for the pizza! At the end of the afternoon I went back to my site, it was a fun Thanksgiving weekend!

Pool at the Farmington Hotel

Farmington river

Then we had the last couple of weeks of the second marking period at school. After testing week, I went back to Kakata for LR-7 reconnect training. Everyone in the group that arrived in Liberia this past June was back together at Doe Palace for a week of additional training. We talked about how things are going at our sites, our successes and challenges, both in and out of the classroom. We also had sessions about different projects we can get involved in like malaria, gender, literacy and grant writing. Besides being in sessions, reconnect was a great time to catch up with everyone! I hadn’t seen most of the group since we’d left for our sites in August. I also was able to visit my host family that I’d stayed with during PST!

After Reconnect training, I headed back to site for one last week of school before Christmas break started. It was a quiet week at school, many students (and even several teachers) chose to start their breaks early so by the end of the week my classes were pretty small.

Some of my 11th grade students

For Christmas, I had planned to celebrate Christmas day in my community before heading to the airport to fly to Brussels on the 26th for a week. But just a couple weeks before, it was announced that Liberia’s presidential election runoff vote would be on the 26th. Not wanting to be traveling around during the election, I ended up flying out on Christmas Eve instead. My mom and sister met me there a couple days later for a fun week! More to come about our trip but the highlights include day trips to Bruges and Ghent, exploring Brussels and Belgian waffle and chocolate making workshops!

Now I’m back in Liberia and back to school, getting back into the swing of things here!

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5 Charming Airbnbs in Iceland

For our 8 day trip around Iceland’s Ring Road we spent 5 of our nights in Airbnbs. Airbnbs were a great option for us since there weren’t a lot of hotels/guesthouses for us to choose from along our route. Sorted by city, below are the fantastic Airbnbs we stayed in!
Vik – For our first night outside of Reykjavik, we stayed in a cozy cottage just outside of Vik. The cottage had two rooms and was the perfect size for just the two of us! Our host, Kolla, was very friendly and came by in the morning to see how we were doing and if we needed any help figuring out our days activities!

Eidar – For our 4th night in Iceland we decided to stay near Egilsstadir in north eastern Iceland. Our cabin in Eidar was just 10 minutes from the town and had a nice outdoor sitting area. Our host Gudrun had Icelandic horses that grazed right outside the cabin!

Akureyri– Of all of our Airbnbs the tiny house we stayed in in Akureyri had the best views. Situated just across the water from downtown Akureyri, we had a view of the city and beautiful oceans views. The house was two floors with everything we needed.

Borgarnes – Our stay in Borgarnes was actually at a small campground. We rented a “pod” for the evening. The pod was essentially a higher quality tent. The campground had a restaurant and little kitchen area to cook your food. One unique thing about this campground is the owner wrote a children’s book about trolls and his story is told through large troll figurines throughout the property.

Laugarvatn – After our day going around the Golden Circle, we decided not to head directly back to Reykjavik but to stay the night in Laugarvatn. Margret’s guesthouse was our favorite Airbnb of the trip. The cottage was cozy and full of personal touches by Margret including fresh eggs for breakfast and adorable decorations. Our favorite part of Margret’s place was definitely the hot tub. At night we were able to go out in the freezing temperatures and try to spot the northern lights!

Our trip in Iceland was our first time using Airbnb abroad and it definitely won’t be our last! It allowed us to break up our road trip itinerary to stop where we wanted instead of having to drive further to find a hotel, and we got to stay in some charming places.

For tips to plan your own Iceland Ring Road trip, including how to find your Airbnb, check out our post here!

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Our 4 Day Ireland Itinerary

For our short time in Ireland, we decided to take a tour by  Brendan Vacations (the Irish Jaunt) rather than plan our own vacation itinerary. While we love the freedom to do anything we chose with a do-it-yourself vacation and the lower price tag that usually comes with it, the ease that came with our Brendan Vacation was hard to beat! While the tour we took is no longer available (at least I couldn’t find it on their website), here is how we made the most of our 4 full days in Ireland!

Day 1: Dublin

Our first day in Dublin was full of jet leg, we didn’t have the time or the energy to do everything we would have liked to do in Dublin. That being said, we were still able to see St. Patrick’s Cathedral and wander the courtyards at Trinity College. Trinity College is the home of the 8th century Book of Kells! The Book of Kells is an artistic wonder. It was created over 1,200 years ago and illustrates the 4 gospels of the Christian Bible in medieval fashion. At the end of the day we had drinks with the rest of the people on our tour who we would later explore Killarney and Limerick with!

If we had more time in Dublin we would have loved to visit the Guinness Storehouse. Others in our group went and learned the proper way to poor the perfect glass of Guinness from the tap!

Day 2: Dublin -> Blarney -> Killarney

We left Dublin, made a pit stop for coffee in Cashel before heading to Blarney Castle. Blarney Castle is home to the infamous Blarney Stone. Kissing the stone gives anyone the gift of eloquence or never being at a loss for words. Read our post on Blarney Castle here!

We ended our day in Killarney leaving plenty of time to explore and hit the pubs to try true Irish Guinness and my new favorite Bulmers, an Irish cider!

Day 3: The Ring of Kerry

For our third day we started and ended in Killarney. Our bus took us around the Ring of Kerry stopping occasionally for photo ops along the way.

Next we stopped at Killarney National Park. The park is 26,000 acres (or ~40 square miles) so there was no way we could see everything in such a short time. However we were able to see the Muckross House and gardens. The house was owned by the wealthy someone and someone Herbert and they originally started the gardens in preparation for the a visit from Queen Victoria. Another highlight from Killarney National Park was the almost 80 feet tall Torc Waterfall.

Back in Killarney, we went to dinner at Molly Darcy’s Pub and Restaurant and got to see some traditional Irish barrel dancing while we ate!

Day 4: Killarney-> Cliffs of Moher -> Limerick

For our last full day in Ireland, we went to the Cliffs of Moher, which were simply gorgeous. There are paths to walk along the cliffs that are easily accessible as well as an information center with a restaurant close by. Even if you don’t know the cliffs by name, many people will recognize them from the movies Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince or the Princess Bride!


We stayed in Limerick for our last night, eating dinner downtown then enjoying the night life with friends we met in our tour group.

We flew home on our fifth day in Ireland. Although we weren’t in Ireland for very long, we were very happy with all the things were were able to fit into such a short time. We can’t wait to visit again, hopefully with a little more time!

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Kiss the Blarney Stone: Cork, Ireland

On our quick trip to Ireland a couple summers ago, we stopped in Cork to visit Blarney Castle,  home of the Blarney Stone! The Blarney Stone is also known as the Stone of Eloquence and rumor has it, anyone who kisses the stone will never again be at a loss for words and will have an exceptional gift for flattery. The exterior of the castle and the grounds were simply gorgeous and included something you don’t see every day, a poisonous plants garden! In the surrounding area there are shops to pick up any souvenirs from your trip.

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In order to kiss the stone you have to stand in a fairly long line.  Luckily, the line doesn’t seem as long since it takes you winding throughout the castle interior and there are informational signs along the way. If you are on the taller side like me (~6ft), beware! The castle was not built with tall people in mind. There was a boisterous group of older ladies in front of us who also supplied some entertainment during our wait. They even exclaimed “Good thing we aren’t six feet tall!” as I was crouching through yet another low doorway. There were plenty of photo opportunities along the climb as well, both of inside the castle and of the Irish countryside.

After making our way through the winding torrents, it was finally time for the kiss. This kiss is a lot more of a struggle than you might expect. In order to get the gift of gab, you have to lay down on your back, hold on to some bars attached to the castle side and scooch backwards until half your body is hanging upside down looking at the ground far below! Once you get past the height concerns, you’ll notice that the Blarney stone is right in front of your face. Lean in for the kiss then you’ll get helped back up!

Blarney Castle was one of our favorite stops on this trip, something we knew we had to do while we were in Ireland!

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