March 24, 2017

Merry Christmas!

Wishing you all  a very Merry Christmas!

Happy Christmas, painted by Johansen Viggo

Happy Christmas, painted by Johansen Viggo

 

And to many new adventures in 2013!

A German Tradition I Love!

When it comes to food, some people prefer savory flavors and others move more towards the sweet side. Although I haven’t written many posts about food, looking back there is one thing missing in my food posts – dessert!  While I’ve talked about the Goulash Soup or the Schnitzel I love, I’ve really not talked much about sweets.  To be honest, most of the time I’d rather have another glass of wine than dessert 🙂

You see, I’m a savory kind of gal!


Now this doesn’t mean I don’t like sweets, oh no! In fact there are times when that is all I want and that leads me to the point of this post.

During my last trip to Germany I noticed people enjoying sweets every afternoon.  It didn’t matter which city I was in or the day of the week, every afternoon cafes were full of people enjoying Kaffee und Kuchen or Coffee and Cake!


So when in Rome. . .


Can you think of a better way to wait out the rain than enjoy wonderful Kaffee und Kuchen? Café Schmidt is well known in Freiburg and since I was in the Black Forest I opted for the Black Forest Cake 🙂

Black Forest Cake Freiburg Germany

Thank goodness my feet were tired in Rostock! This meant I had to have a wonderful piece of Apfel Strudel so I could rest, right?Apfel Studel Rostock Germany

I love traditions, so while in Wiesbaden I had to stop at famous Café Maldaner, a Viennese style coffee house that has been in Wiesbaden since 1859.Kuchen in Wiesbaden GermanyCafe Maldaner Weisbaden Germany

Although I thoroughly enjoyed having my afternoon Kaffee and Kuchen, my experience with sweets didn’t stop with cake.  No sir!  I’ve already told you about the super delicious macarons I found in Wiesbaden but while in Erfurt I was introduced to a wonderful small shop that makes its own chocolateGoldhelm Schokolade is on the Krämerbrücke and is famous for its thick and rich hot chocolate! I do highly recommend a stop as the hot chocolate is A-mazing but if you prefer ice cream theirs is to die for!Goldhelm Schokolade Erfurt Germany

Are you a savory or sweet person?

These photo’s are part of Travel Photo Thursday.
For more great pictures, check out Budget Travelers Sandbox.

Maybe I’ll see you there!

A Sunday Stroll in Mainz

With a history dating back to the 1st century BC, Mainz is one of the oldest cities in Germany. The history of Mainz starts with the Romans who built a fort here and commanded the west bank of the Rhine River.  During its history Mainz was also part of France and is where Johannes Gutenberg invented the movable printing press.

I arrived in Mainz late on a beautiful Saturday afternoon and was met by a ton of people spending time in the old town enjoying the weekly market and wine festival.

 

It wasn’t until the next morning that I was able to roam the streets and alleys of Mainz and truly see the beauty this city offers!Houses along Marktplatz Mainz Germany

I took the tram to Gutenbergplatz where I started my Sunday Stroll first meeting the man himself, Johannes Gutenberg.  This is also where I enjoyed a lovely glass of wine and amazing carrot soup the day before.Market Fountain Mainz Germany

Wandering I came to Markplatz home to yesterday’s bustling market.  On this Sunday morning, it was peaceful so I was able to enjoy the sites like the Marktbrunnen or Market Fountain a grand example of a Renaissance fountain complete with Madonna on the top.Gutenberg Museum Mainz Germany

The old houses lining the street are equally magnificent and include the Gutenburg Museum which is housed in a fine palace known as Zum Romischer Kaiser (At the sign of the Roman Emperor).Overshadow by Cathedral Main Germany

This area is the center of the inner city and is overshadowed by the very large 1,000 year old Cathedral of Mainz.  Any stroll in the area will pass St. Boniface who was the first Archbishop of Mainz.Rhine view from Mainz Germany

Following the streets you will reach the Rhine River with its views across to Weisbaden!Lovely Old Town Mainz Germany

Crossing back to the streets of Mainz led me to the Old Town. Strolling along Augustinerstrasse, which used to be the “main” street of Mainz, took me by beautiful half timbered houses and through an area that was once cherry orchards.  They call this area a strollers delight and I definitely could see why!Facade Augustiner Church Mainz Germany

Continuing my stroll along Augustinerstrasse brought me to the fabulous Baroque façade of the Augustiner Church.  Dating back to 1768 and surviving World War II, the inside is as wonderful as the front.  Take a look at the amazing frescoes!Inside Augustiner Church Mainz Germany

It was time to head up to St Stephan home to the famous Chagall blue stained glass windows.  As I twisted and turned my way up the hill, I was sure I was lost but then I saw the Gothic church peeking through an alley way.  The church itself simple but attractive on the outside but once you enter you’re met by a wonder calming blueness.  The Russian Jewish painter, Marc Chagall, made the windows from 1978-1985 and they are truly stunning!Chagall Windows St Stephans Mainz Germany

Now it was time to head back to my hotel to get ready for dinner at Weinstube Hottum.  But before I stopped wandering, I strolled through Schillerplatz where I ran into the man himself along with the Carnival fountain, which is full of symbols and figures from the Mainz Carnival.  Schillerplatz is also lined with some beautiful buildings from the 1700’s – the Baroque Osteiner Hof and Bassenheimer Hof are two great examples of the architectural style of the day!Houses on Schillerplatz Mainz Germany

When I first arrived in Mainz, I wasn’t too sure how I felt the city.  By the time I finished my Sunday Stroll, I had fallen in love with this beautiful city on the Rhine! Mainz is a wonderful German city full of life and vitality.  It is also a short 30 minute train ride to Frankfurt airport so it would make a great beginning or ending to any trip to Germany.

 

Have you been to Mainz?

Many thanks to Historic Highlights of Germany for organizing this trip and to the wonderful people with the Mainz Tourist Office!

Visiting Zurich

Besides being in one of the most beautiful countries or having an excellent airport to fly into, why should you visit Zurich?  Here is a sponsored post that will shed a little light on Zurich Switzerland!


Located on the North Western tip of Lake Zurich is Switzerland’s most prevalent city, Zurich.  The history of Zurich dates back over 2000 years when the city was called Turicum. Today Zurich is a global leader and one of the world’s top financial centers, with numerous companies setting up research centers to take advantage of the low tax rate.  Zurich has been named Europe’s wealthiest city, with the world’s highest quality of life.  These elements in addition to the cities pristine location make it a truly extraordinary place to visit.

The Lake

With its illuminating blue water, and sprawling shore line this lake is a natural gem. The lake has a number of public beaches giving tourists easy access to the water. This is a bonus during the hot summer months as you will always be able to take a quick dip in the water to cool off! The lake also offers an array of different options for water sports. So if you are interested in sailing, water skiing, paddle boating, tubing or kayaking you will be able to do it on Zurich Lake.  For sail boat rentals close to the city of Zurich check out Zimi Sailing.

Zürich Switzerland and its lake

Zürich and lake Zürich by MadGeographer

Exploring the City

Zurich’s ancient history gives the city a special feeling. Take the time to explore Zurich by foot, as there are numerous historical sites and points of interests that should not be missed! Strolling along the Limmat River to the lake is a wonderful way to spend time.  Zurich also offers many museums, art galleries, theaters, churches, parks and exceptional shopping!  Of course, there are a variety of cafes and restaurant’s within the city that provide endless amounts of mouthwatering food that has to be tasted! For traditional Swiss food you might want to try a river side restaurant like Haus zum Rüden.

Augustinergasse in Lindenhof quarter, Zürich Switzerland

Augustinergasse in Lindenhof quarter, Zürich (Switzerland) by Roland zh

Chocolate

Swiss Chocolate has a world renowned reputation and for good reason! It is a must that you treat yourself to at least three different chocolates while visiting the city ;-) There are a variety of different choices of chocolate to pick from and a chocolate shop on every corner (or so it seems).  But if sweets are your passion, you don’t have to stop at chocolate.  You could opt for a traditional Luxemburgerli which is a special macaron. In addition the Lindt factory, only fifteen minutes from the city center, offers tours of the factory and discounted chocolate is sold!

Confiseur Läderach Zurich Switzerland

Confiseur Läderach by bigbirdz, on Flickr

Finding a hotel in Zurich

Switzerland is known for its high prices whether it be for food, souvenirs, or hotels. To help keep costs down, while getting a true feel for the Swiss culture, try staying with a local! This can easily be done through Wimdu who offers an online private rental platform with 50,000 listings worldwide. It is here that you will be able to find trendy city center rooms or quiet apartments just outside the city limits.

 

What is your favorite way to enjoy a day in Zurich?

Rostock – Devastation to Rebuilding

Originally founded in the 11th century, Rostock has seen many ups and downs in its history but none more traumatic than WWII.

While in Rostock I had a wonderful guide named Klaus (he actually reminded me of Bela Karoli).  As we toured the Neuer Markt and main shopping street, Klaus told me that during World War II Rostock sustained severe damage from Allied bombing.  In fact, most of the area we were standing had been destroyed by bombings.

While this impacted me at the time, it wasn’t until I came across this photo of Rostock from 1945 that the devastation really sunk in.  It was hard to believe the beautiful square had once looked like this!

The Neuer Markt is the heart of Rostock and seems to be a very well preserved Baroque square.  One side is bounded by these beautiful gabled houses.

While on the other is the Rathaus or Town Hall which has been standing here since the 13th century. Originally built in the Brick Gothic style found in the region, during the 18th century it was remodeled in this lovely Baroque style.

Leading from Neuer Markt is Kröpeliner Straße the main shopping street.

But all this beauty ceased to exist when horror struck in 1942 and 1944.  The proximity of 2 aircraft manufacturing companies made Rostock a prime Allied target.  (An interesting side note, one of these is the Heinkel plant which is where the world’s first jet engine airplane was produced.)

After the bombings, only 6 of the original gabled houses survived.

Today the city center has been rebuilt in the original style and maintains its historical character.

The devastation of this war has been felt in Rostock for years. A little paint and plaster helped repair the devastated buildings but it wasn’t until 1989, when Reunification took place, that the last reminders of WWII were finally erased.

 

These photo’s are part of Travel Photo Thursday.
For more great pictures, check out Budget Travelers Sandbox.

Maybe I’ll see you there!


Many thanks to Historic Highlights of Germany for organizing this trip and to the wonderful people at the Rostock Tourist Bureau!  To learn more about Germany off the Beaten Path, please visit the Historic Highlights of Germany

Prehistoric Questions from England & France

As a child I was not interested in history at all.  What was once my least favorite class in school has now turned into a fascination.  History can answer many questions we have about our past but it also leaves many questions unanswered.

One of the periods that has many unanswered questions is the Neolithic or New Stone Age. There are many questions surrounding the Neolithic period but none as interesting as the questions about the Megalithic monuments in Europe such as the stone circles found in Stonehenge and Avebury England or the menhirs and dolmens found in Carnac and Locmariaquer on the Brittany coast of France.

Stonehenge at Sunset England

Stonehenge at Sunset England by Jeffrey Pfau wikimedia

England is home to many prehistoric monuments but two of the more famous are found at Stonehenge and Avebury.

Avebury Stone Circles England

Avebury Stone Circles by Rxfelix

Avebury, the largest stone circle in England, was built around 2600 BC and contains three stone circles.  While we are not sure what the original purpose of the structure was, archaeologists believe it was most likely used for some type of ceremony.  Over the years, many archaeologists have suggested the ceremonies took place to make the “gods” happy.  Today the site is sacred to Pagans and New Age religions who believe the stone circles offer some type of psychic power.

Stonehenge England

Stonehenge by garethwiscombe wikimedia

Also in the Wiltshire County, Stonehenge is probably the most famous prehistoric monument in the world. The standing stones of Stonehenge are arranged in circles with stones that weigh up to 400 tons.  Again we are really not sure what Stonehenge’s purpose was but it is widely believed it was a type of calendar keeping track of the movements of the sun, moon and stars.  As with Avebury, Stonehenge is popular with New Age religions.  In fact, one New Age belief is that the stones, which came from Wales, were levitated to reach today’s location.  Leave it to engineers to throw water on this belief by saying they were probably rafted on rivers and then rolled on logs.

Dolmen de Kercadoret à Locmariaquer France

Dolmen de Kercadoret à Locmariaquer byJean-Charles GUILLO

France is also home to its fair share of prehistoric monuments dating from the Neolithic period which includes the menhirs and dolmens located along the Brittany coast in Carnac and Locmariaquer.

Carnac - Ménec Allignements Brittany France

Carnac - Ménec Allignements under Dark Clouds by Drriss, on Flickr

Carnac is home to about 2700 menhirs, dolmens and stone rows that are among the oldest found in Europe. Unlike the circles at Stonehenge, the menhirs in Carnac stand upright in a row stretching over a mile in length.  Near Locmariaquer are three sites dating back 7000 years and include the Grand Menhir brise and the dolmen La Table des Marchand.  A dolmen is a tomb that is made of standing stones with a stone slab for a roof.  As with Stonehenge and Avebury, the purpose of these are not known but are thought to have been built for astronomic or religious purposes.

Table des Marchand Locmariaquer France

Table des Marchand Locmariaquer by Myrabella Wikimedia

While history can tell us these monuments all date back to the Neolithic age, it hasn’t told us why or even how they were built.  I don’t know if we will ever know the real answers, so for now we’ll be happy to see them and wonder about all the possible answers!


Why do you think these prehistoric structures were built?

Wiesbaden – That Second Look!

A short distance from Frankfurt International Airport is lovely Wiesbaden, the capital of the German Federal state of Hessen.  If you’re not familiar with Wiesbaden, I am a little surprised because there has been a settlement here since Neolithic times and records date a Roman fort back to 6 AD which means Wiesbaden has been around a very long time!

Initially drawn to Wiesbaden for the thermal spas, this city along the Rhine later became popular with Kaiser Wilhelm II when it became known as his summer residence.  Prussian and other nobles along with wealthy business people were lured to Wiesbaden too.  Today the remnant of this wealth can be seen in the many villas lining the streets and the upscale shopping along Wilhelmstrasse.Villa Clementine Wiesbaden Germany

I have been to Wiesbaden before and recently had the chance to give Wiesbaden a 2nd look. I was able to revisit the lovely Kurhaus.  This beautiful building still maintains the glamorous style of the Belle Époque and is home to many performances and the city’s Casino.Kurhaus Wiesbaden Germany

There are still remnants of the thermal water which originally drew people to this location. You can actually drink the water, which I did, but I don’t think it tastes very good.  At one time there were 26 hot springs in Wiesbaden but today only 14 still flow.Thermal Water of Wiesbaden Germany

The parks are absolutely beautiful!  I can see why so many people spend time just lounging in the shade.Park in Wiesbaden Germany

The Heathens Wall is the oldest remaining structure in Wiesbaden dating back to Roman times! And its right down the street from a little bakery whose macarons will shame Ladurée!  Sorry Ladurée buts it’s true. I highly recommend stopping by L‘Art Sucre.  Try the caramel macaron, you won’t be disappointed!Heathen Wall Wiesbaden Germany

The streets and squares of Wiesbaden abound with cafes, restaurants, history and amazing shopping. Wandering the streets will lead you past the City Palace, churches, many monuments dedicated to those who are important in Wiesbaden’s history, old markets and surprises galore!Lampost and Church Wiesbaden Germany

Yes Wiesbaden is very definitely worth a stop.  But before you leave don’t miss seeing the World’s Largest Cuckoo Clock!Worlds Largest Cuckoo Clock Wiesbaden Germany

 

These photo’s are part of Travel Photo Thursday.
For more great pictures, check out Budget Travelers Sandbox.

Maybe I’ll see you there!

 

Many thanks to Historic Highlights of Germany for organizing this trip and to the wonderful people at the Wiesbaden Tourist Office!  For more information please contact either organization or visit their websites.  Even though my trip was paid for by these organizations, all opinions are my own.

European Villages Discovered-Saint-Cirq-Lapopie

A few years ago I was able to spend a few days in the Midi-Pyrénées region of France, specifically Cahors and Rocamadour.  I remember being amazed at the beauty of my surroundings as we drove through the countryside. As my eyes fell on beautiful village after beautiful village I found myself wondering why the area is not more popular with American tourists.  I also vowed I would return one day to spend more time exploring this beautiful region of France!

Today we’re discovering a European village from the Midi-Pyrénées region, Saint-Cirq-Lapopie! 

Saint-Cirq-Lapopie France by Adam Baker

Saint-Cirq-Lapopie France by Adam Baker

In an area known for chateaux, prehistoric caves, scenic villages, truffles, lazy rivers and the almost black Cahors wine you will find Saint-Cirq-Lapopie.

Restaurant Saint Cirq Lapopie France

Outside restaurant Saint Cirq Lapopie by tristanf, on Flickr

Known as one of France’s most beautiful villages, Saint-Cirq-Lapopie rests precariously on a rocky outcrop high above the river Lot in Southwest France.  Its situation along the river offers stunning views but also provided a great defense protecting the village from many battles that have taken place in the area including an unsuccessful attack in 1199 by Richard the Lionheart.

Lovely Alley Saint-Cirq Lapopie France

Saint-Cirq Lapopie: Alley View by Nick Dimmock, on Flickr

During medieval times, Saint-Cirq-Lapopie was home to four important families each of which has left their mark on this beautiful village. This is also the reason there have been many chateaux and churches in the village.  Remaining today are 3 chateaux and a Gothic church, dating back to the 15th century, with an amazing view over the Lot river valley.

Saint-Cirq Lapopie France Church and Rooftops

Saint-Cirq Lapopie: Church and Rooftops by Nick Dimmock, on Flickr

Like Rocamadour, Saint-Cirq-Lapopie is on a pilgrimage path leading to the Santiago de Compostela which is also the reason for its popularity during medieval times.  Today, the entrance to the village is still via the medieval stone wall and gate.

Saint Cirq Lapopie France

Saint Cirq Lapopie Panorama by TwoWings

Wandering the village visitors will see houses dating back to medieval times many of which still bear the steep tile roofs.  Some are made from stone found in the region and others are constructed in the half-timbered style.

River Lot View Saint-Cirq Lapopie France

Saint-Cirq Lapopie: River Lot View by Nick Dimmock, on Flickr

Arriving at Saint-Cirq-Lapopie is almost as wonderful as the village. The road meanders along the Lot River before rising up to display the pastoral countryside of the region.  The surroundings of the village are as dramatic and beautiful as the village which makes Saint-Cirq-Lapopie dazzling no matter which direction you look!

 

Do you enjoy wandering small European villages?

Thanksgiving & Beaujolais Go Together!

Something wonderful took place last Thursday and to most of us it went by unnoticed.  This year’s Beaujolais Nouveau was released and is now available for purchase! Traditionally released on the 3rd Thursday of November, Beaujolais Nouveau is a wine whose release is celebrated across France.  I think it is so nice of the French to release the most wonderful smelling wine ever (in my opinion) just in time for Thanksgiving, and it goes wonderfully with the popular meal of the day – Turkey!

Beaujolais Nouveau France Wine

Est arrivé by theogeo, on Flickr

But where do these grapes come from and why should you visit the Beaujolais region of France?


Lying north of Lyon in the Rhone-Alpes and Burgundy regions is the home of Beaujolais.  Often forgotten by tourists, this region is known for its green hills, flowery villages, interesting geology, architecture, wine and over 1500 km of walking trails.  Wandering Beaujolais you will find delicious and affordable wines and vineyards dotting the gorgeous countryside.

Here are some of the reasons you might want to add the Beaujolais to your next visit to France!

The Stone

The scenery of the region is quite varied.  In the north you will find dense dark forests of fir trees while the south starts to shine as soon as the sun rises!  They say this part of the Beaujolais has the feel of a Tuscan village and if it’s true, its largely because of the StoneEverything from houses, chateaux and churches are built in the golden colored stone of the region. The contrast of the gleaming stone against the green countryside is amazing.

Oingt Beaujolais Region France

Oingt by peg, on Flickr

The Wine

The Beaujolais region is covered by vines along its 34 mile length. Between the red wines from the Gamay grapes to the white Chardonnay, there is something for every taste.   Beaujolais Nouveau can be found in the southern part while the other 10 crus are more in the northern portion.  A great way to experience the region, including tasting the wine, is to follow the Beaujolais Wine Route.   In fact, there are 7 GPS audio-guided tours to help you discover the Beaujolais region, its villages and wines!

Chateau de Bagnols Beaujolais France

Chateau de Bagnols by Corona Mejora Tu Vida, on Flickr

The Hameau Duboeuf

Speaking of wine, there is an actual theme park dedicated to wine and vine especially of this region!  The Hameau Duboeuf takes visitors on an exploration of winemaking’s 2,000 year history.  You can explore the ways trains helped transport the wine, understand how geology and grape varieties affect the tastes, learn about corking, discover how to make wine and, of course, taste some wine!

Beaujolais France

Beaujolais by welix, on Flickr

The Villages

From Beaujeu, in the north, the historic capital of the region with an oil mill to the medieval beauty of Oingt in the south, this region’s villages will not disappoint!  Visiting the Beaujolais region you will find charming hilltop villages offering panoramas which will delight everyone.  Traveling the region, you will also come upon many Chateaux including the Chateau de Bagnols which is now a world class hotel.  Near Romaneche-Thorins there is a 17th century windmill with amazing views of the Saône.  Yes from drawbridges, local craftsmen, ancient chapels and river valleys, the villages of Beaujolais make for a very peaceful, beautiful and delightful experience!

Romaneche-Thorins Beaujolais France

Romaneche-Thorins from wikimedia

Those are a few of the reasons to visit the Beaujolais.  Now go out and grab some Beaujolais Nouveau to personally sample a little of the region!


Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

Dreaming of a European River Cruise

The other day I received an email from Viking River Cruises that got me thinking.  The subject of the email was “Where would you go?” and now I’m dreaming about which European River Cruise I would most like to enjoy!

I’ve never been on a river cruise for more than a day but have to admit I am intrigued by them. The friends and relatives I know who have taken river cruises have all returned with rave reviews.  Without fail they have enjoyed the educational and cultural aspects along with the views and social camaraderie!  One of the things I’ve enjoyed most about the day cruises I’ve taken on some of Europe’s greatest rivers- Seine, Rhine, Thames and Danube – are the spectacular view you get from the river.  What could be better than arriving in Europe’s cities in the same manner as the discovers of yesterday?

So where is my dreaming taking me. . .


Portraits of Southern France 

Saone river at Lyon France

Saone river at Lyon by Jack

Gliding along the Saône and Rhône rivers from Chalon-sur-Saône to Avignon includes beautiful vistas, wonderful medieval villages of the Burgundy region and the splendor that is Provence. I’ve never been to this part of France but when you combine medieval villages, Roman ruins, history, cathedrals, cobbled street and scenery that has inspired artists like Van Gogh, well how could you go wrong?!  Add in the wine and cuisine this region is known for and you’ve got a winner.

Portugal’s River of Gold

Porto Portugal

Porto by Benjamin Dumas, on Flickr

Slowly floating along the dramatic Douro River in Portugal would offer a unique glimpse into this wonderful region. After having a chance to visit Lisbon, the cruise starts in Porto which, in my opinion, is one of the most picturesque cities in the world.  The cruise offers an opportunity to view a region that some say is still unspoiled!    Along the way glimpse vineyards set on steep hills, castles, Baroque architecture, UNESCO Heritage cities and sites as well as Gothic cathedrals.  Oh and don’t forget the food and drink the region is known for including Port and regional wine!  Yes, I think the magical Douro would be a perfect setting for my first river cruise.

Vineyards & Vistas 

Aschaffenburger Schloss along the Main River Germany

Aschaffenburger Schloss along the Main River by Carschten

The Vineyards & Vistas cruise sails along the Rhine, Main and Moselle rivers in wonderful Germany! Yes I’ve been along the Moselle and have enjoyed day cruises on the Rhine.  I’ve even been to Bamberg, Rudesheim and Trier, so why would this cruise interest me??  I LOVE the Moselle and crave to return so I can further explore this river and the surrounding small villages that are bursting with the wonderful wine of the area. Dotting the banks of the Main River are small quaint villages such as Miltenberg, which is a city that calls me! All of these rivers are full of castles, cathedrals, medieval towns, Roman ruins, history and Baroque palaces.  Plus there is also the German cuisine I love so much and cities famous for their Beer!

If I were going on a River Cruise, it would be one of these three options.  Now it’s your turn …

Where would you go on a European River Cruise?