October 20, 2017

Exploring the Alps via National Parks

One of Europe’s greatest mountain range is The Alps which stretch 750 miles from Slovenia in the east through Austria, Italy, Switzerland, and Germany before ending in France in the west.  These mountains are known for their towering peaks, expansive glaciers, green meadows, wildflowers and wildlife.  There may be no better way to experience the Alps than in one of the protected National Parks.

Here are six National Parks you’ll find while exploring the Alps!

Lake Bohinj with church Triglav National Park Slovenia

Lake Bohinj with church by Rosino

Known for its scenery, hiking and skiing is the Triglav National Park in Slovenia.  This area is full of picture postcard moments including craggy mountains, glacial Lake Bohinj, Soca and Sava Rivers, wild flowers and waterfalls.  Experience the park through the Slovenian Alpine Museum or its hiking and biking trails.  Mountaineering is also popular.

Nationalpark Hohe Tauern - Krimmler Wasserfälle Austria

Nationalpark Hohe Tauern - Krimmler Wasserfälle by thisisbossi, on Flickr

Crossing into Austria you’ll find more amazing mountains as you enter the Alpine region.  One of Austria’s National Parks is the Hohe Tauern National Park.  Covering 708 square miles the park is the largest nature reserve in the Alps and home to beautiful glaciers, valley’s, tundra, clear lakes, gold mines and waterfalls.  The mountains, lakes, rivers and meadows are home to chamois, alpine ibex and golden eagles.  Enjoy the park on one of the wonderful hiking trails or by a guided tour which are offered during the summer.

Valle Imperina Dolomati National Park Italy

Valle Imperina by Andrea Omizzolo, on Flickr

The Dolomiti Bellunesi National Park in Italy is most known for the varied hiking, flora, wildlife, cliffs, ravines and stunning mountains.  The park is home to springs, two lakes and streams full of trout.  The Dolomite’s are some of the most beautiful and dramatic mountains in all of Europe.  This park located in the south east Alps and is also home to many Karst formations including the largest cave in Italy.

Autumn in Berchtesgaden National Park Germany

Autumn in Berchtesgaden National Park by springm / Markus Spring, on Flickr

On the border with Austria is the Berchtesgaden National Park.  The southern corner of Germany is home to one of the country’s tallest mountains, the Watzmann, which shadows over stunning Lake Konigsee.  The park is full of wonderful hiking and cycling trails both in the valley and at high altitudes where you may see ibex, eagles and marmots along with beautiful wild flowers.  Berchtesgaden National Park is known for its stunning alpine scenery and there is no better place to experience this than taking the Jenner cable car up to the edge of the park!

Swiss National Park Switzerland

Swiss National Park by Hansueli Krapf

The Swiss National Park is known for its hiking trails and alpine scenery.  The only national park in Switzerland has over 21 hiking trails spread over 50 miles.  The routes range in difficulty from easy to Alpine trails requiring technical equipment.  While enjoying the park keep your eyes open for golden eagles, bearded vultures and chamois.

View from the Roc du Tambour Vanoise National Park France

View from the Roc du Tambour by Matthieu LIENART, on Flickr

One of the most popular outdoor areas in France is Vanoise National Park.  The beautiful mountain scenery is splendid during any season. The park is a haven for skiers during the winter while summer is a delight to hikers.  While in the park you may see alpine ibex, chamois and other animals.

Would you visit a National Park in the Alps?

This post is being shared in celebration of Earth Day as part of a Nature Travel roundup. Check our more “Natural” adventures at the Green Global Traveler!

Tenerife A Climate to Suit all Holidays

This guest post is brought to you by Jenni from Jet2holidays.

If you are one of those people who like to go on a summer holiday every year, you will know all about the excitement that overcomes us as the warmer months approach. There is something magical about the anticipation of a vacation in a sun-kissed paradise, especially if the preceding few months has been particularly difficult. In many ways, this annual ritual represents a far cheaper and significantly more convenient form of therapy!

Tenerife Canary Island Spain

One issue that seems to be a little contentious in many households is the choice of destination. Each individual member of the family may have their own opinions about which resort would tick all the necessary boxes, so it could be some time before a firm decision is made. There are some holiday locations, however, which have something to suit everyone, and many seasoned travelers would agree that Tenerife falls into this rather select category.


An Enigmatic Island

This enigmatic island is one of the Canaries and is located off the west coast of Africa. Despite its location, however, it remains resolutely Spanish in atmosphere. Tenerife has a number of highly impressive sandy beaches which are simply perfect for families with young children, and in the town centers there is plenty of fun-packed nightlife which will appeal to anyone who’s looking to have some fun after the sun has gone down.

Walking in Tenerife Canary Island Spain

The center of the island is home to a dense forest, and there are a number of hills and mountains. Because of these features, Tenerife has a special appeal for walkers and hikers. The fact that it’s a volcanic island and on the same line of latitude as the Sahara Desert means the temperatures can fluctuate greatly from one location to another. This microclimate is often a little unpredictable, but most visitors would agree it’s never boring.

Tenerife sea front Canary Island Spain

If you are yet to discover just why the Canary Islands provide the perfect vacation for all ages, it’s high time you made the trip. There are so many good reasons to visit, and with Jet2holidays offering cheap holidays to Tenerife there has surely never been a better time to go. All you need to do to find the ultra-low fares is log on to the web and make a booking. In these days of financial hardship, it’s good to know there are still some great deals that are just waiting to be found.

 

Would you spend your holiday in Tenerife?

All photos are property of Jet2holidays

#FriFotos – Symbols

If you’ve traveled in Europe, I know you’ve seen the many Guild signs adorning the streets of most cities and villages.

Guild signs were traditionally a way for store owners to let the non-reading public know what kind of wares they sold.

While visiting Bamberg Germany you will most likely visit the Schlenkerla Brewery for some of their world famous Rauchbier (smoked beer). 

As you enter, you’ll see this beautiful Guild sign sitting out front.

Guild Sign Schlenkerla Brewery Bamberg Bavaria Germany

At the end of the sign, you see a six-pointed hexigram most of us call the Star of David. What you may not know is this symbol is actually a Brewing star!

So next time you see this symbol you might just be outside a brewery!

European Beer from Germany and Belgium

In Europe, beer seems to be a culture.  To understand this, all you have to do is visit a European brewery, English Pub or German beer garden!

Let’s briefly explore two countries that receive a lot of travelers seeking out their beer!


Belgium

Belgium is known to have many varieties of beer, by most sources, they have the largest selection of varieties in the world. The repertoire of beers found in Belgium include Wits, Dubbels, Tripels and Flanders and range in color from white, brown, red to golden.  The best known beers from Belgium are Lambics, Saisons and beers brewed in Monasteries.

Lambics are beers fermented with a special blend of yeast and bacteria or allowed to spontaneously ferment and then aged in oak barrels for years in some cases.  These beers tend to be sours and often contain fruit from the region in which they were made.  Lambic beers are specific to the Brussels area.

Frahan Belgium Ardennes

Frahan Belgium by Jean-Pol Grandmont

Saisons are another popular beer from Belgium and are also known as farm beers.   They have a distinct clove and banana flavor that comes from the type of yeast used.   As for the overall character, Saisons also have spices added to the mix which are known to include orange peel and coriander but the exact mix depends on what farm the beer comes from.

The Abbey of Chimay Belgium

The Abbey of Chimay by harry_nl, on Flickr

The last and most popular are the Dubbels and Trippels which are traditional beers made at Abbeys and Monasteries. Chimay is the most well known of these types of beers which is brewed with candy sugar and a good dose of malt and hops.  The result is usually a crystal clear, highly carbonated, balanced golden to amber beer with above normal alcohol (8-11%abv).  Travelers need to keep in mind many Trappist ales are not available outside of Belgium, so planning your visit is more important if you want to get a chance at tasting them.

 

Germany

Most people think Pilsner when they think of German Beer. Sure it was a German that started this style, in an area that is now the Czech Republic, but there are many more varieties from all over the country. In Germany, over 5,000 different types of beer are created by 1,250+ breweries which include well known styles such as Bock, Helles and, of course, the Pilsner.

Bock beers are usually dark, very sweet and malty beers while Helles and Pilsner are the lightest offerings differing in only their hop usage.  Helles beers are all about the malt but may have some subdued hoppyness to them.  Pils are balanced more to the middle of malty and hoppy but sometimes move over to the hoppy side.   Both are very light straw colored and brilliantly clear.

There are several other styles that are less known, but equally delicious!

Kolsch is ale from the Cologne region and comes from a time before lagers.  It is fermented warm and aged cold like a lager resulting in a malty, slightly hoppy and fruity Pilsner like beer.

Cologne Cathedral and Hohenzollernbrücke at Night Germany

Cologne Cathedral and Hohenzollernbrücke at Night by Nietnagel, on Flickr

Another similar style, the Altbier from Dusseldorf, is like the Kolsch in that it is fermented warm and aged cold, but it is darker and maltier than the former.  Altbier is usually copper in color, with some fruity notes that are given by the yeast used.  Did you know there are more than 200 pubs in a one square mile section of Dusseldorf’s Old Town?

The last and probably most unique beer is the Rauchbier found in Bamberg Germany.  This beer is a lager, fermented cold and aged cold, but what sets it apart is the use of malts that are dried in the traditional way over a fire.  This imparts a smoke character to the grain that is carried over into the beer.   Keeping the flavors in balance is the trick but they have it down in Bamberg a medieval town known for its 9 breweries!

Basing an itinerary around beer will take you through beautiful countrysides serving up castles, local history and great regional cuisine all while sampling some of these great local brews!

 

 

Would you enjoy a holiday based around beer?

Art Around Town – Statues & Fountains

I’ve got good news for those of you that don’t like museums!  To see art you don’t have to enter a museum.

Walking around a town you will run into all kinds of interesting and beautiful pieces of art.  As with all art, they can and do evoke all kinds of feelings and are a great way to learn a little history including who or what is important to the citizens.

I’ve found Statues and Fountains  wandering Europe that . . .

Honors Brave Deeds as the the Girondist column and fountain in Bordeaux France!  This beautiful column celebrates a small group of revolutionaries who banded together to save the republic.

Girondist Column Bordeaux France

Added to the peace and beauty of a garden as do all the statues and fountains found in Mirabell Gardens.  These Gardens are one of  the most popular places in Salzburg Austria and the artwork really adds to the beauty of the gardens (IMO)!

Mirabell Gardens Salzburg Austria

Told a tale of unrequited love depicted in the lovely Matthias Fountain found on Budapest’s Castle Hill.  The Fountain depicts a hunting scene where the young King met and fell in love with a peasant girl.

Matthias Fountain Budapest Hungary

Honors a beloved ruler like  Kunigunde.   King Heinrich and his wife, Kunigunde, made Bamberg their home and are one of Bamberg’s favorite rulers.

Kunigunde Bamberg Germany

Impressed me with the artistic ability of the craftsman.   At the southern entrance to the Hofburg Palace in Vienna Austria are statues depicting “The Labors of Hercules” by Lorenzo Matelli.  I found them all to be amazing and this is just one!

Labors of Hercules Vienna Austria

Even add a lighthearted feel to a city street.  Look who I ran into on a corner in Potsdam Germany – The Green Family! No clue what the significance is, I just found it interesting 🙂

Green Family Potsdam Germany

Even if you’re someone who doesn’t feel they like art, I think we’ve all been impressed by some of the Statues and Fountains we’ve stumbled into while traveling.

 

What Statues and Fountains have impressed you?

 

These pictures are part of Travel Photo Thursday! For more great pictures,make sure to check out Budget Travelers Sandbox.

Unnoticed Architectural Gems of Europe

While traveling I find myself amazed by all the gorgeous architecture. Whether we know it or not, I think most of us enjoy architecture while traveling.  We may not know it’s Gothic or Rococo or Baroque but we know we like it!

I think it’s also safe to say, we all can name some of the more famous architectural buildings in European cities. Notre Dame in Paris, Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany or the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Spain are a few examples of well known buildings.  But I love exploring those beauties that seem to be unnoticed.

Here are three lovely architectural specimens that may not make it on your
travel list but may be worth taking the time to see!

Majolica House, Vienna Austria

Majolica House Vienna Austria

Majolica Haus (1898-1899) by loungerie, on Flickr

Vienna is full of architectural gems including St. Stephens and Schönbrunn Palace but don’t miss out on the other architectural stars of the city.  Majolica House is one of those we may overlook.  The building was designed by Otto Wagner who was a prominent architect in Vienna and member of a group of artists that rebelled against the older traditional styles.  Built between 1898 and 1899, the façade of Majolica House is actually painted ceramic tiles made in a technique called Majolica.  I think Wagner’s use of modern materials, color and traditional decoration has created a very lovely Art Nouveau building.

Majolica House Vienna Austria

Otto Wagner - Majolica House by pioilo, on Flickr

30 St Mary Axe, London England

30 St Mary Axe London England

30 St Mary Axe by Kadellar

I think from its shape you can tell why this building has the nickname “the Gherkin”. Sitting 591 ft tall in the financial district is one of London’s newest and most controversial symbols.  The skyscraper at 30 St Mary Axe was completed in 2003 in a modern style of architecture.  The diamond shaped light and dark glass help make the building appear to be a spiral.  This new building is very modern looking but I’m not really sure how it fits in with London’s other architectural treasures like Big Ben or Buckingham Palace!

Wiblingen Abbey and Library, Ulm Germany

Rococo Wiblingen Library Ulm Germany

Wiblingen Library by Enslin

Between Munich and Stuttgart lies Ulm Germany. Besides being the birthplace of Albert Einstein, Ulm is also the home of Wiblingen Abbey and Library.  While the abbey was founded in 1093, the current buildings date back to 1714 and are examples of the late Baroque style of architecture.  Even though the abbey itself is very beautiful, it is the sunning library that must be seen! Finished in 1744, the frescoed ceilings, columns, statues and other ornamentation combine to make one of the finest examples of Rococo architecture.  Ulm itself is not on the normal tourist track but maybe it should be if only to see this lovely library!

 

What other unnoticed architectural gems should be added to the list?

Neroberg, Wiesbaden’s Mountain

There are a lot of reasons to visit Wiesbaden Germany including its thermal spas,  casino, glamorous Belle Epoque buildings,  Roman wall, beautiful churches, shopping and lovely parks.  But did you know Wiesbaden also has its own mountain?

Well, depending on where you’re from, the 800 foot mountain may actually be a hill but no matter what you call it, Neroberg is a great place to spend a day!

Neroberg Train Wiesbaden Germany

I’d suggest starting off by taking the Neroberg Mountain railway, Germany’s oldest water powered railway.  Built in 1888 the trip is definitely worth taking and offers spectacular views on your way to the top of Neroberg.

Neroberg Ropes Course Wiesbaden Germany

Once at the top, you’ll find you’ve been transported to another world that seems far away from the city. Once off the railway you’re in the middle of a forest that is home to the Neroberg Nature Trail and a climbing course.  Wander till your hearts content taking in the different views of Wiesbaden and the region below.

Russian Church Neroberg Wiesbaden Germany

Don’t miss the Russian Orthodox church of Saint Elizabeth!  The church is a beautiful memorial that Duke Adolph Nassau had built for his dead Russian wife who interestingly was the niece of Tsar Alexander I.  St. Elizabeth’s church is spectacularly beautiful inside and out (unfortunately no photos were allowed while inside the tiny church) and houses the crypt of the young Russian princess.  Around the corner is a Russian cemetery.  Even though it didn’t seem as well kept as other cemeteries, it contains the  graves of many princes and princesses from the 19th century!

Russian Cemetery Neroberg Germany

Before you end your stay at Neroberg I highly recommend enjoying al fresco dining in the restaurant located at the Opelbad. You can’t go wrong as the food is as delicious as the views!  You’ll also be able to see the Neroberg’s own little vineyard which produces some very nice wine.  I suggest savoring a bottle of the Wiesbadener Neroberg wine to go along with your meal.

View of Wiesbaden Germany from Neroberg

When your visit to Neroberg is over, you can enjoy the walk down or make your way back to the railway!  Either way is splendid.

 

These pictures are part of Travel Photo Thursday!
For more great pictures,make sure to 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 I was a guest of these organizations, all opinions are my own.

Experiencing Fairy Tales in Germany

The image that comes to your mind when you hear the words Germany and fairy tale is probably the oft pictured Neuschwanstein Castle and it’s no wonder. This spectacular castle that sits deep in the countryside of Bavaria is a photographic gem and truly leaves me awestruck every time I see it.  I have often heard that Walt Disney used this castle for his image of Sleeping Beauty’s castle and while I can see the resemblance there is more to Germany and Fairy Tales than you may know!

Neuschwanstein Castle Bavaria Germany

Neuschwanstein Castle by Valerio Bruscianelli

Many of the fairy tales we grew up with were written by the Grimm Brothers who were born and raised in Germany. The areas where the brothers lived is also where they gathered the inspiration for their famous tales.  Since the Grimm Fairytales have been published in 160 languages you do not need to visit Germany to enjoy them but if you want to experience them a journey on the Fairy Tale Route is necessary.

Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm Monument Hanau Germany

Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm Monument by Renftel courtesy of Deutsche Marchenstrasse

The Fairy Tale Route has been one of Germany’s Scenic Drives since 1975 and stretches 370 miles from Hanau, outside Frankfurt am Main, north to Bremen, a major port city on the Weser River.   It is in the medieval villages along the Fairy Tale Route where you will see these tales come to life through re-enactments, costumed characters, parades and puppet shows.

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm were born in 1785 and 1786 in Hanau Germany. Today Hanau is home to a monument of the famous brother, an annual Fairy tale Festival and the lovely Baroque grounds of Philippsruhe Palace.

Bad Wildungen Panorama Fairy Tale Route Germany

Bad Wildungen Panorama by Asio Otus

Steinau is where the brothers spent much of their childhood. You can visit the Brothers Grimm House which was over 200 years old in 1791 when they arrived in Steinau, wander cobblestoned streets lined with half-timbered houses and visit Steinau Castle.  Originally designed as a medieval fortress and later renovated in the Renaissance style, the castle is home to a Grimm museum full of personal effects of the Grimm family including the family Bible and a copy of the original Grimm dictionary. If you spend time in the woods surrounding Steinau you may find Little Red Riding Hood or Hansel and Gretel!

Marburg on the Lahn Fairy Tale Route Germany

Marburg on the Lahn by Matthiahess

Rising up from the Lahn River, Marburg is where the brothers went to law school.  You’ll want to wander the old town full of alleys, old buildings and tons of charm.  Other highlights include a spectacular castle on top of the hill and St. Elizabeth’s Church which is the oldest pure gothic church in Germany.

Hercules Monument Fairy Tale Route Germany

Hercules Monument by MalteRuhnke on de.wikipedia

The brothers lived in Kassel for 30 years and worked as librarians at court of Jerome Bonaparte, Napoleon’s younger brother.  Main sights to see in Kassel include the Brother Grimm Museum in Palais Bellevue which possesses a personal copy of the fairytales with annotations by the brothers, the Schloss Wilhelmshohe home to the Staatliche Museen housing the 2nd largest collection of Rembrandts in Germany, the stunning Herkules Monument and the collection of medieval armor and weapons during a visit to Lion Castle.

Sababurg Castle Fairy Tale Route Germany

Sababurg Castle courtesy of HA Hessen Agentur GmbH

Above are the main cities associated with the Brothers Grimm.  Continuing along and in between is the medieval Castle of Trendelburg which was the setting for Rapunzel and the 650 year old Castle Sababurg where Sleeping Beauty slept for 100 years. A visit to the Schwalm region allows for a hike through the dark forests where Little Red Riding Hood’s adventure took place.    The legend of the Pied Piper can be relived in picturesque Hamlin and Bremen is home to the Bremen town musicians.

Forest Sababurg Fairytale route Germany

Forest Sababurg by Michael Fiegle

Yes there is an over abundance of sights and events related to fairy tales but there is much more to be found here. The Fairy Tale route crosses medieval villages with preserved city walls, romantic old towns, ruins of a fortress belonging to emperor Barbarosa, 15th century witch towers with dungeons and forests that are part of UNESCO World Heritage.

Edersee Fairy Tale Route Germany

Edersee from wikimedia

I think it’s fair to say the Brothers Grimm have made an impact on all of us. Even if you’re not directly familiar with their fairy tales you’ve experienced them through other books, movies, cartoons and cultural icons like Disneyland.   December 20, 2012 marked the 200th anniversary of the first edition of Grimm’s Fairy Tales and Germany will be celebrating the brothers during 2013.

So let’s all give our thanks to the Brothers Grimm and if you’re in Germany, why not stop by!

Would you enjoy a trip on the Fairytale Route??