The Largest Freshwater Lake in the World: Lake Superior

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One of my favorite places in the world is the North Shore of Minnesota on Lake Superior, the largest fresh water lake in the world (by surface area). This lake is pretty impressive with it’s islands, rocky shores, and incredibly deep waters. Not only is it incredibly beautiful, but it dates back to the early history of earth, about 4.5 billion to 540 million years ago. Magma forced its way to the surface creating intrusive granite that made up the North Shore. The area was laden with minerals and valuable metals that were deposited during a process that created the Great Lakes Tectonic Zone. The mountains then steadily eroded depositing sediments that compacted and became limestone, dolostone, taconite, and shale. There were several other processes that took place changing the landscape that then led to the Wisconsin Glaciation about 10,000 years ago when ice covered the region at a thickness of 1.25 miles. The shape of the land was created by the advance and retreat of the ice sheet. (Information obtained from Wikipedia)

(Read more about the history of Lake Superior)

The average temperature of this giant body of water is around 45 degrees, and people actually swim here. I remember when my sister and I were young we would have contests of who could lay in the water the longest, we didn’t go very deep because it was just too cold. We rarely made it past 10 seconds. My mom, my sister, and I came here almost every summer on vacation to camp in the state parks along the shore and spend the days hiking. You can walk for miles and miles along the shore across all the large rocks. In between massive rock formations there are rocky beaches for relaxing and soaking up the sun. Lake Superior always has a breeze, kind of like the ocean, so sometimes you need a light jacket even in the sun. In the summer temperatures are normally in the 70’s, but sometimes don’t get above 60. There have been days in the summer, middle of July, when it was 45 degrees and poured rain. We would be stuck in the tent playing cards, reading, and napping. My family loves the outdoors, so we would get a hike in campsite. There is a parking lot for your car and hand carts to put all of your stuff in. The campsite is then about 1/4 of a mile away from the parking lot, has port-a-potties and sometimes steep (and often slightly dangerous) trails leading down to rocky beaches.

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The North Shore isn’t just for those who want good hiking and some beach time, there are all sorts of extreme sports taking place throughout the parks. People rock climb, surf (yes, that is correct), white water raft, and some are brave enough to sailboard. We just happened to look over the edge of this cliff and see this guy climbing. When I was young I was a very brave soul, not much scared me and I wanted to try climbing. Needless to say, as I got older I realized all the things that could go wrong and I haven’t been climbing in a long time.

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We usually stay at Tettegouche State Park or Split Rock Lighthouse State Park as they are closest to Duluth and the shortest drive. Gooseberry Falls State Park is also another good one, if the area got a lot of rain in the spring it can be particularly fun because the falls will be very full. All of the State Park’s have regular campsites where you park next to your site with full service bathrooms including showers. They also have their cart in sites where you hike in to your site. In the summer all of these campgrounds get packed, and I mean PACKED. If you don’t reserve a spot or get there on a Thursday during June, July, and August you will most likely not get a campsite. There are national forests near by for those who can’t find a site, but they are more primitive and tend to only have outhouses. However, if you prefer more privacy and less of a crowd the national forest or a cart in site are your best options.

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Graffiti, Churches, Streets, and Food

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As I look back on my time in Vienna I feel more and more nostalgic. The city itself is amazing, the architecture, the history, and the food all captivated me. It had this effect on me that made me want to pick everything up and move out there. All of these photos were taken on different days while wandering the streets in search of good eats and good conversation (even though I don’t speak a word of German).

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Saint Stephens Cathedral is one of the most popular cathedrals in all of Vienna, located right in the 1st District it’s in one of the best areas for shopping and sightseeing. Going inside the cathedral is a must, adorned with gold and fancy pulpits; this church was made good enough to satisfy the needs of any saint.

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Street art is really popular along the canal in Vienna and there is a wide variety ranging from dramatic to inspiring to down right weird.

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Cafe Glorietta is located at Schonbrunn palace and has the most decadent deserts you could ever dream of. It’s not limited to deserts either, you can get coffee, tea, wine, and other crazy concoctions. I would recommend ordering a variety and all sharing since I ingested about a months worth of sugar that day.

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Blue Waters, Green Mountains, and Fresh Flowers

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Some places are so beautiful you wonder how they even came to be, and how do the locals feel about where they live? Do they know they live in such a divine location? Or, perhaps, they feel similarly to how those feel when they visit for the first time. Lake Bled, Slovenia is one of those places. The bright blue waters, the idyllic mountains in the background, and lush greenery that surrounds it all, it’s everything a person could ever want. The town itself is quaint and has some cutesy shops, but the majority of the town revolves around the beauty of this lake. My father, sister, and I decided to come here after we spent some time in Salzburg and Lake Hallstatt, Austria. We wanted somewhere quiet and close to town, my dad hates noise and loathes anything even related to motorcycles and loud radios. We were lucky and found a house to rent that was only 3 blocks from the lake, a local guy rents it out and his father lives in the house next door. The house smelled a little musty, but all in all it was clean and exactly what we were looking for. Peace and quiet. Minus the roosters.

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The guy who rented us the home off Air B&B told us that the most iconic photographs of Lake Bled included the castle on the top of the mountain in the distance and the church on the island. So, naturally I took about 30 pictures including both, I didn’t want to miss any angles. The color of the water changed dramatically depending on the time of day, however it never changed temperatures; the water was absolutely freezing.

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There are two ways to get to the island, either rent your own boat or pay one of the oarsmen to take you. The oarsmen aren’t simply men who row boats for a living, they pass down a specific technique for future generations to learn the trade. These men are greatly respected within the town and it is seen as a career path vs. just a job. These oarsmen are incredibly strong, they spend all day rowing (standing up rowing) boat loads of Japanese tourists to and from the island. We opted to rent our own boat, we’re a frugal family, and that way we had the opportunity to explore the lake a little on our own. The island in the middle is definitely worth the trip, you can pay to visit the inside of the church and ring the bell for luck or check out the cheesy gift shop for funny little knickknacks and wine. I went for the wine.

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Random Memories in Austria: Belvedere Palace to Salzburg


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Sometimes all you need is a good beer. And a good view. Stiegl is one of the most popular beers served in Salzburg, Austria and you can find almost any local or tourist drinking it. After walking around the castle for a couple of hours you really work up a thirst. My dad, my sister, and I all sat at a corner table so we could enjoy 180 degree view of the mountains and the city below. Before being to Austria I had never been to a castle before and was completely amazed at how they could construct such an intense structure without any modern day machinery. The history will impress even the most cynical and the beauty will encourage even the most down and out.

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This picture was taken wandering around the streets of Vienna, there are all these little staircases and random walkways leading in between buildings creating secret passages within all the greenery. It was so fun to explore the these areas just to see where they lead, sometimes you find yourself in a quaint neighborhood with tall trees or a bustling city street with trams and cars everywhere. Since Vienna has such amazing public transportation it was easy enough to get wherever you wanted to go, even if you didn’t know where that was yet.

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Everyone knows about Schonbrunn palace, it’s an icon and highly visited palace in Vienna. The day we visited the sun finally came out, but the wind was blowing at about 20-30 mph, it was quite difficult to get any selfies taken and virtually impossible to spend any amount of time outside. We opted to go have some coffee and deserts at the cafe located inside the building pictured above. Over half this building was destroyed in World War II, but was restored at a later date to include the windows, bathrooms, and the cafe. One thing that is very unique to Vienna is that there is a large amount of historical buildings and landmarks that weren’t destroyed in the war. There were also many buildings, like this one, that were only partially destroyed and then later reconstructed either to mimic the old architecture or completely redone to include ‘modern’ touches.

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This photograph was taken out one of the window’s at the Belvedere Palace located in the museums quartier right in the heart of Vienna. This museum is especially known for housing the famous Gustav Klimt piece called The Kiss. We did, in fact, get to see that particular piece (which was amazing by the way) however, they have a very serious guard who keeps watch over the piece in case anyone tries to sneak a photo of it. I pulled out my cell phone to try to get a picture when they walked into a nearby room, but was quickly caught and asked to put my phone away before I could even open the camera. They don’t play around in this museum; take illegal pictures, get thrown out. They are also incredibly strict about wrapping up any wet umbrellas and anything else that might drip, it was built in the 1600’s so I kind of understand where they’re coming from.