April 29, 2017

Picking a Favorite

Do you ever get asked what your favorite destination in Europe is?

I do.  People ask me regularly what my favorite place is and as I’m about to reply I start thinking what about location A or what about location B?  It’s kind of like asking me to pick my favorite child!

Berchtesgaden Bavaria Germany by Eric Sorenson

Berchtesgaden Germany by Eric Sorenson

I could easily say my favorite place in Europe is Bavaria. I find myself drawn to this part of Germany time and time again.  But by picking Bavaria, what does that say about all the other wonderful places I’ve been?  I mean who couldn’t love the French Basque region? Or Normandy? Or what about InnsbruckLast summer I visited Innsbruck and fell in love. So just because I haven’t spent as much time there means it’s not my favorite?  How do I know it wouldn’t become my favorite if I spent more time there?

 

View of Innsbruck Austria

View of Innsbruck Austria by Leo-setä, on Flickr

And by picking a favorite, where does that leave all the places I dream about visiting? Dordogne, Croatia, Costa Brava and Black Forest are just a few of the places I long to visit.  Will one of these replace my current favorite?

Dordogne river france

Dordogne by Jos Dielis, on Flickr

What makes you label a place as your favorite? Is it the people?  The food?  The scenery? Or is it a sense of peace you get just by being there?  Like love, no words need to be spoken you are just filled with an overwhelming sense of comfort.  Just like an old pair of shoes, this special place fits you like a glove.

Peaceful Lautersee Mittenwald Bavaria Germany

Peaceful Lautersee above Mittenwald Bavaria Germany

If I’m honest, that is exactly how I feel when I visit southern Bavaria. I love the people, the food, the scenery and the ambiance.   It just seems to fit me like a glove and makes me feel warm and comfortable.  This part of Bavaria is also a sentimental favorite since I spent most of my time here during my very first European trip.  So . . .

Grounds of Linderhof Castle Bavaria Germany

Grounds of Linderhof

If I asked you right now to name your favorite place in Europe, what would it be?

Honoring Heroes in Budapest

Monday we celebrate Memorial Day in the United States.

Originally began as a day of remembrance for fallen Union soldiers from the Civil War, today it is a day to remember and honor all those who have died during military service fighting for our freedom and independence.

While thinking about Memorial Day I thought about European countries I’ve been in and their memorials to service men and women.  This reminded me of Budapest and Heroes’ Square.

Millennium Monument Heroes Square Budapest Hungary by Paul Manniz

Millennium Monument Heroes Square Budapest Hungary by Paul Manniz

In the center of Heroes’ Square is the Millennium Monument.  This grand monument depicts various historical elements of Hungary and honors those that lost their lives fighting for freedom and independence.

Collonnade with War Heroes Square Budapest Hungary

Colonnade with War

In the back and to each side are colonnades that form a semi-circle.  Each is adorned with figures from Hungarian history.  On the inner edges and opposite each other are statues depicting War and Peace.

Column at Heroes Square Budapest

Column with Gabriel at top

Moving towards the front is a column with the Archangel Gabriel on top.  Gabriel is holding the crown of Hungary’s first king, St. Stephen.  At the base of the column are a group of mounted figures representing Magyar Chieftains who helped found Hungary.

Magyar Chieftains Heroes Square Budapest Hungary

Magyar Chieftains

At the front is an empty tomb that is dedicated to the heroes of Budapest who gave their lives fighting for freedom and independence. 

Chieftains and War and Peace at Heroes Square Budapest

Chieftains with War and Peace on each side

 

These photo’s are shared as part of Travel Photo Thursday.
For more great pictures, make sure to look into Budget Travelers Sandbox.

Maybe I’ll see you there.

 

Italy, Czech Republic & Craft Beer

Craft beers come from small independent brewers and are shaking up the beer world.  Their desire is to make a great beer using traditional ingredients while at the same time creating very different tastes and sensations.  Since last week was Craft Brewers Week in the US I thought it only fitting to take a look at the Craft Beer craze that is crossing the oceans into Europe!

Beer Italy Czech Republic Europe

by MicroCosmi, on Flickr

Here are two countries, Italy and Czech Republic, that are feeling the affects of the Craft Brew sensation.

Italy

I know, Italy is known for its wine but it is also becoming known for its beer.  In fact, over the last few years craft breweries in Italy have grown tenfold! So next time you’re in Italy you might just want to stop by a few brew pubs to get in on all the action.

Tipopils Italian Craft Beer

Tipopils by mediaviking, on Flickr

  • Sitting 60 km south of Turin is tiny Piozzo.  Making quite a stir in the craft beer world is Birrificio Le Baladin where the beers do not necessarily hold to normal beer protocols.  Try a Nora which is flavored with myrrh and ginger or maybe their unusual barleywine.
  • Moving to the Lake Como area is Lurago Marinone and the Birrificio Italiano, the oldest craft brewery in Italy.  Besides the standard brews, this brewery is famous for its unfiltered Pilsner known as Tipopils.  Tasting this cloudy pilsner is a must if you’re in the area.
  • If sours are your favorite then you must stop by Birrificio Torrechiara!  Although the brewery is known for its wine barrel-aged beers it is the Panil Bariqueé Sour which has made it famous.  If you’re in Parma, this is another “must have” beer!

Czech Republic

While Pilsner and Budweiser are king in the Czech Republic it is the craft brew that is making the most noise today!  Yes the number of taps is growing in the Czech Republic.

Berounský medvěd Czech Republic Beer

Berounský Medvěd by jagro

  • Near Plzen is Modrá Hvezda Dobrany.  This small independent brewery has a long history of beer making.  Beer has been brewed here since 1378 but this brewery didn’t enter the craft brewing world until 1998.  Those in Dobrany say the water here is better than in Plzen and we all know “It’s the water”!
  • A short train ride from Prague takes you to Berounský Medvĕd home to small craft brewery offering superb unfiltered beer, tours and food.  The beer tradition at Berounský dates back to 1295.  Beer was brewed here until 1978 and after a 20 year hiatus, Mrs. Mayer reopened the brewery that is today known for its good beer!
  • Southwest of Prague is Pivovarsky Dvůr Chýnů a young brewery known for its unfiltered and unpasteurized beer.  Well known by beer lovers, Pivovarsky Dvůr Chýnů not only offers a light and Amber beer but their Ale and Ginger beer are also a favorite.

    Czech Republic Beer

    Czech Republic Beer by Podzemnik

 

What are your favorite craft beers you’ve found in Europe?

Above it all on Mt. Pilatus

Tending watch over Lucerne sits the brooding Mt. Pilatus.

There are many mountain tops in Switzerland offering amazing views and one of these is Mt. Pilatus.

Steeped in legends that say there is a dragon living on the mountain or that Pontius Pilate is buried here, Mt. Pilatus offers views of meadows, mountains and lakes.  In fact, this 7,000 foot high mountain boasts views of 70 peaks and 5 lakes!Mt Pilatus Lucerne Switzerland

Your trip up the mountain can start with a boat ride on Lake Lucerne continuing with a journey on the worlds steepest cog railway.  After you’re finished exploring Mt. Pilatus, your trip down can be the same way or by a combination of aerial cable car and panorama gondola.Mt Pilatus Lucerne Switzerland

At the top there are 2 hotels, 7 restaurants and many options for your day!  These include a toboggan run, tubing, walks and hikes for every level, mountain climbing, biking and paragliding.  During the winter there is snow biking, minibob and more.Mt. Pilatus Lucerne Switzerland

Today I’m sharing a few of my favorite pictures from the top of Mt. Pilatus.  Yes, Pilatus is famous for its views but on this cloudy October day the weather wasn’t cooperating.Mt. Pilatus Lucerne Switzerland

But I feel the clouds just add to the mystique of this legendary mountain, don’t you think?

These photo’s are shared as part of Travel Photo Thursday.
For more great pictures, make sure to look into Budget Travelers Sandbox.

Maybe I’ll see you there.

 

Catalonia – Spain’s Best Kept Secret?

Sitting in the north east corner of Spain is Catalonia. Home to a varied landscape that offers many surprises, Catalonia is a well kept secret that is waiting to enthrall you with all its charm.

Barcelona is the capital and most well known city of the region but there is so much more to be found.  A land of contrasts, Catalonia offers a rugged coastline, mountain peaks, lakes, rivers, forests, and surprises around every corner.  The villages are as lovely as the natural environment. Sights range from Romanesque architecture to Arab remnants and from prehistoric relics to avant-garde art.

San Mauricio Lake Catalonia Spain

San Mauricio Lake by Gligan


Here are 5 reasons to visit Catalonia!


Natural Wonders

You are surrounded by nature in Catalonia. The countryside varies from coastline to mountains and includes wetlands, rivers, valleys, lakes, plateau, forests and even volcanoes.  All of this beauty combines to offer a multitude of options for outdoor activities.  You can find something to do whether your time is spent on the snow-capped peaks or on one of the majestic beaches. In one trip you can enjoy the Pyrenees and then find yourself lounging by the Mediterranean!

Boi Valley Catalonia Spain

Vall de Boi: Boi and the valley by David Domingo, on Flickr

Outdoor Activities

The options for outdoor activities are as vast as the landscape.  Ranging from gentle easy hikes to canyoning or enjoy an easy glide down a river or the intensity of white water rafting!  Your days can be spent on horseback or quads.  You may choose to explore the region from the heights of a hot air balloon or from a seat on a horse-drawn carriage.  You could even visit a Natural Park made of salt to feast your eyes on salt stalagmites and stalactites!

Kayaking in Catalonia Spain

kayak by miuina, on Flickr

Culture

The historical and artistic heritage of Catalonia is also very diverse. Catalonia’s cultural treasures include cave paintings, ruins of great civilizations both Greek and Roman, Romanesque architecture, medieval castles, Gothic cathedrals, Jewish quarters, modern buildings and great art.  This is the land of great artists such as Dali, Miro, Picasso, Gaudi and Pau Casals.  A visit to the museums, houses and scenes that inspired their works can be enlightening!  If this isn’t enough, enjoy one of the many concerts, performances or local festivals the region offers.

Village of Cruïlles Catalonia Spain

Village of Cruïlles by Vincent van Zeijst

Cuisine

The world famous cuisine of Catalonia uses all the resources of the region from the mountain, sea and farm. In fact, people travel to this destination solely for the cuisine.  Traditional favorites include Pa amb Tomaquet (bread smeared with tomato and drizzled with olive oil), Escudella (a meat and vegetable stew) and Bacalla amb Samfaina (Cod with a ratatouille).  But also of importance is the modern cuisine found by renowned chefs and Michelin rated restaurants.  Learn about local cuisine by enjoying a cooking class, visiting a local fresh market, gastronomic museum or at one of the many festivals and fairs.  Catalonia also produces great wine and Cava.  The wine production in this area dates back to Roman times and has been growing since.  Visit museums related to the wine industry or enjoy tastings at the vineyard.

Barcelona Cuisine Catalonia Spain

Barcelona by George M. Groutas, on Flickr

Wellness

Spas seem to have grown in popularity lately but wellness has been important to Catalonia since the Roman era! In Catalonia there are 18 thermal baths found in natural surroundings including at least one Natural park.  The spa towns can be found spread throughout the region.  Other wellness centers can be found in resorts near the coast and other inland areas.  Each offers a variety of treatments including mud treatments, paraffin baths, massage as well as facial and beauty treatments.

Tossa de Mar Catalonia Spain

Tossa de Mar by Gordito1869

 

Whether you want to spend your time on a bike, at a spa, on the golf course, touring the historic sites of a city or on the sea, you’ll find an abundance of options in Catalonia!

 

Why would you visit Catalonia?

Charming Mittenwald

Mittenwald is that quintessential Bavarian village we’ve all dreamt about visiting.  This tiny town located in southern Germany at the Austrian border is full of charming people, quaint buildings festooned by traditional Lüftlmalerei, great food and history all ringed by majestic mountains.

Yes, Mittenwald is too charming for mere words.  I was lucky enough to visit Mittenwald last summer and for Travel Photo Thursday I”m sharing some of my favorite photos that tell the story of why Mittenwald is known as one of the most beautiful and charming Bavarian villages.Charming Mittenwald Bavaria Germany

Trough in Mittenwald Bavaria GermanyWater trough in Mittenwald Bavaria Germany

 

 

Lüftlmalerei is defined as a tradition of painting the facade of a building and Bavaria is famous for it.  These murals depict village life or carry a religious or hunting theme.

 

 

Beautiful Bavarian Buildings in Mittenwald Bavaria Germany 

Violin Museum Mittenwald Bavaria Germany

World Class Violins can be seen at the Violin Museum

Water Canal Mittenwald Bavaria Germany

Lovely canal running down the main street

Between the mountains and the lovely canal running through the streets of Mittenwald, it is important you look up and down while visiting Mittenwald!


These photo’s are shared as part of Travel Photo Thursday.
For more great pictures, make sure to look into Budget Travelers Sandbox.

Maybe I’ll see you there.

Architectural Gem in Budapest

Even though Budapest left me feeling Bleh, there were some amazing architectural gems I found in the city by the Danube.

One of these is the State Opera House. 

Budapest Opera House

Budapest Opera House

Built as part of the Hungarian millennial celebration of 1896, the Opera house was designed by one of Hungary’s most important architects, Miklos Ybl.

The building itself is a Neo-Renaissance beauty that also exhibits many Baroque elements.  Across the top you will notice many statues of the world’s great composers including Beethoven, Mozart, Verdi and Tchaikovsky.

Liszt Budapest Hungary Opera

Liszt

Adorning the front are wrought iron lamps and 2 sphinx statues that seem to be guarding the entrance.  You will also notice a statue on either side of the main entrance.  These are two of Hungary’s most famous composersFranz Liszt is on the right and the first director of the opera, Ferenc Erkel is on the left.

Sphinx Statue Budapest Hungary Opera House

Sphinx Statue

With all the detail in this building, you can see why it took almost 10 years to complete! 

Side View Budapest Hungary Opera

Carriage Way

These photo’s are shared as part of Travel Photo Thursday.
For more great pictures, make sure to look into Budget Travelers Sandbox.

Maybe I’ll see you there.

Gorgeous Gorges du Verdon

Located in Southern France is Gorges du Verdon a natural phenomenon similar to the Grand Canyon in the US.  A mere 2 hour drive from Marseilles is one of the most beautiful areas in the Provence region!

Gorges du Verdon by bibendum84, on Flickr

Gorges du Verdon by bibendum84, on Flickr

Over the centuries, the blue-green water of the Verdon River has carved the many faces of the gorge leaving visitors awestruck at the dramatic scenery as the canyon descends to the floor.  The cliffs will grab your attention since they are as beautiful as they are dramatic.

Gorges du Verdon Southern France

Gorges du Verdon by bibendum84, on Flickr

The Gorges du Verdon are known for being an outdoor enthusiast’s delight.  Here you can walk along the river, hike in the mountains, enjoy white water rafting, fish, camp, water ski, scale the cliffs or horseback ride.

Gorges du Verdon Southern France

Les Gorges du Verdon by Josef Grunig, on Flickr

But the area is known for so much more. The twisty turning road flanking both sides of the gorge passes 43 villages, many lakes and picturesque turnouts great for viewing.  While driving along the gorge you will pass medieval towns such as Trigance, green meadows full of cabins and wildflowers, abbeys offering concerts of Gregorian chants, fig and olive trees, chateaux and more.

Moustiers Ste Marie Provence near Gorges du Verdon France

Moustiers Sainte Marie by ialiangGao

Moustiers Sainte Marie near Gorges du Verdon

Moustiers Sainte Marie from Wikicommons

Medieval Moustiers Sainte Marie is one of the villages worth a stop. The village hugs the hillside and has a spring flowing out of the cliff creating a waterfall in the middle of town.  The looming Notre Dame de Beauvoir monastery sits on its perch high above the village.  Moustiers, known for its pottery, sets a beautiful picture.

Panorama Tourtour near Gorges du Verdon

Panorama Tourtour by Greteck

Aups near Gorges du Verdon Southern France

Aups from Wikicommons

Yes whether you want to be active or just enjoy the scenery, the Gorges du Verdon has it all!

 

Would the Gorges du Verdon be an interesting addition to your next visit to southern France?