April 26, 2017

Humorous Gargoyle of Freiburg

Anyone traveling in Europe has seen Gargoyles staring down at you from high atop cathedrals like Notre Dame in Paris France.

Gargoyle Notre Dame Paris France

Gargoyle Notre Dame Paris France

They do have a menacing look to them and, in fact, part of their lore says they protect the churches from evil spirits. In actuality, they have a very useful function. Gargoyles are water spouts which keep rainwater away from the sides of the building where the forces of water would damage them in the same way rivers carve canyons.

Gargoyles on the Munster Freiburg Germany

Different types of Gargoyles look down on you in Freiburg!

Although we usually associate Gargoyles with medieval time they were used during other times until architects started using gutters. We also usually associate Gargoyles as being scary and grotesque but some Gargoyles depict monks, animals and some are even very humorous.

Horse Gargoyle Munster Freiburg GermanyHuman Gargoyle Munster Freiburg Germany

I ran into a humorous Gargoyle while visiting the Munster in Freiburg Germany.  As I was looking up at the church, I noticed many Gargoyles dotting the sides.  Then I ran into this one.  After a double take, I realized I was right.  This Gargoyle seems to be mooning everyone!  Since it rained while I was in Freiburg, I actually got to see it work too : )

Humorous Gargoyle Munster Freiburg Germany

Look closely at the Gargoyle on the left, it is mooning you!

Have you seen a humorous Gargoyle?


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

Slovenia: Tiny but Beautiful!

From the Adriatic coast to the mountains of the Alps, tiny Slovenia is one of Europe’s most impressive countries and yet one of its best kept secrets.

Wedged at the crossroads of Austria, Italy, Hungary and Croatia, Slovenia is a unique blend of each country. Roughly the size of New Jersey, the surprises waiting for visitors include beaches, rolling green countryside, quaint Alpine villages, interesting architecture, snow-capped mountains and a multitude of outdoor activities.

I’ve never been to Slovenia but here are 7 reasons I would visit Slovenia!

1.  Beautiful coast along the Adriatic

Sitting on a beach in Piran you’ll feel like you could be on the French Riviera or Italy but you’re actually enjoying the beauty of the Adriatic from Slovenia! Piran is home to lovely views, rolling vineyards and a wonderful Italian cuisine but not the hordes of people, yet!!

 

Piran Sailboats Slovenia

Piran Sailboats Slovenia author: Ubald Trnkoczy from Slovenia Tourist Board

2.  Wine

The hills near the Austrian border are full of vineyards producing wonderful Slovenian wine! The last few years have seen a huge growth in the quality and quantity of wine produced here. At the same time, tasting rooms and Vinoteka’s have popped up all over Maribor’s streets.

3.  Fairy Tale Castles

There are hundreds of castles in Slovenia. Some rest on hills overlooking towns, cling precariously to the side of a mountain, sit in the middle of lakes and rivers while even others are linked to underground caverns.

 

Predjama Castle Slovenia

Predjama Castle Slovenia by Ayack wikimedia

4)  Cities

The cities of Slovenia are traditional and charming. Ljubljana, the capital, is a blend of Old World charm and contemporary energy. The picturesque medieval city of Skofja Loka is nestled amongst green rolling hill, Piran still has its town wall and Ptuj is the countries oldest city.

 

Skofja Loka Slovenia

Skofja Loka Slovenia from wikimedia

5.  Alpine Mountains

The Julian Alps are a mountain lover’s paradise full of hiking, climbing, skiing and other outdoor activities.  It is here you’ll find inspiration in Triglav National Park home to the highest peak in Slovenia, Mt Triglav ( 9,396 feet).  The lakes, rivers, mountains, villages and flowers of the Julian Alps create a picture perfect spot to unwind and enjoy nature.

 

Alpine Valley Slovenia

Alpine Valley Slovenia by Matijap wikimedia

6.  Caves

Not only is Slovenia beautiful above ground but it shines underground too! With over 8,800 caves, Slovenia has more than its share of caves. The world’s longest cave, Postojna Cave, will take your breath away and the underground canyon in Skocjan Cave is amazing. But these two caves are just the tip of the iceberg!

7.  Rivers and Lakes

The rivers and lakes of Slovenia only add to its charm. Famous Lake Bled is probably the most photographed place in the country but is still a tranquil spot especially since motor boats aren’t allowed. Bigger Bohinj Lake is pristine and surrounded by stunning mountains and some say the Soca River is Europe’s prettiest. The emerald water of the river allow for great rafting, kayaking and fishing while the lakes are great places for hiking and biking.

 

Lake Bled Slovenia

Lake Bled Slovenia author: J. Skok from Slovenia Tourist Board

 

 

What do you think, is Slovenia worth the visit?

Forbidden in Potsdam

The history of Potsdam Germany includes its glory days as the playground for the rich, famous and Prussian Kings, the years spent behind the “Iron Curtain” and today where it is experiencing a rebirth.

One of Potsdam’s darkest hours started at the end of World War II and ran until the fall of the Berlin Wall. During this time this once vibrant and beautiful city suddenly developed spots that were forbidden.

Crossing the Glienicke Bridge Potsdam Germany

Crossing the Glienicke Bridge Potsdam Germany

Sitting at the west side of Berlin, Potsdam was cut off from the capital city once the Berlin wall was erected. The Glienicke Bridge, which spans the Havel River and connects Potsdam to West Berlin, was closed to citizens from both sides and earned its nickname, Bridge of Spies, by being the location where many captured spies were exchanged. Today the bridge is open to traffic but in the dark days it was a forbidden spot in Potsdam.

The Havel River from the bridge Potsdam Germany

The Havel River from the bridge Potsdam Germany

When the Soviets came to power, one neighborhood within Potsdam became forbidden. This area was walled in and became known as the “little Soviet Union” because the Soviets took over the beautiful villas in the neighborhood moving the KGB in and residents out.

Belvedere on top of Pfingstberg Potsdam Germany

Belvedere on top of Pfingstberg Potsdam Germany

Potsdam’s highest hill, the Pfingstberg, is a wonderful place to hike and has amazing views over the region. But during the occupation, it was closed to the public and became known as the “Forbidden City”. Those views the public loved so much happened to include KGB headquarters and other sites important to the Soviets!

Reflecting Pool Belvedere Potsdam Germany

Reflecting Pool Belvedere Potsdam Germany

The views were also the reason this hill was selected by Frederick Wilhelm IV to be the home for the Belvedere. Designed after Italian Renaissance castles, construction began in 1847. The Belvedere was to be part of a larger castle project which never came to fruition. Today the Belvedere has been restored and still has its gorgeous views but is also a peaceful place to wander the Roman style building, hike or attend one of the concerts held on top of the hill that was once forbidden to all.

Columns inside Belvedere Potsdam Germany

Columns inside Belvedere Potsdam Germany

 

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

Three European Festivals during June

Now that we are mid-way through Spring, its time to look forward to Summer! With summer comes warmer and longer days which brings people outside. While everyone is enjoying leisurely bike rides, picnics and the wonderful fruit and vegetables that only summer brings, Festivals start happening too!

And in Europe there are an abundance of Festivals.

Today I’ll introduce you to 3 Unique Festivals taking place during June.

 

First we’ll head to the Czech Republic where we’ll get to experience history over the Summer Solstice weekend.

Royal grandstand at Five Petalled Rose Celebration Cesky KrumlovCrowds at Cesky Krumlov's Five Petalled Rose Celebration

Cesky Krumlov, known as one of the Czech Republic’s prettiest towns, is full of Renaissance era buildings, cafes, pubs and a wonderful castle. This Bohemian village is also home to the Five-Petalled Rose Celebration which takes place each year over the Summer Solstice. This festival will take you back to the Renaissance when the town was ruled by the Lords of Rosenberg. Enjoy taking a step back in time as you watch Knight’s tournaments, enjoy medieval music, wander craft fairs and meet the famous people from Cesky Krumlov’s history! The Five-Petalled Rose Celebration takes place June 21-13, 2013.

Welcoming Royalty at Royal Silvering of Kutna Hora Czech RepublicKnights on horseback Royal Silvering of Kutna Hora Czech Republic

Medieval Kutna Hora relives its history every year during June. You’ll be whisked back 600 years during the Gothic Royal Silvering in Kutna Hora. Welcome King Wenceslas IV and Queen Sophia of Bavaria while watching Knights ride into town, jousting tournaments and dancing to Gothic music. Later take part in the Silver Mass at the lovely Cathedral of St. Barbara. The Royal Silvering in Kutna Hora will bring history alive to all those in attendance and takes place June 22-23, 2013.

Battle of Wine in Haro La Rioja SpainCelebrating the Spanish Wine Battle Haro Spain

For the last festival we’ll head to Spain for the La Batalla del Vino or the Spanish Wine Battle! In northern Spain is the Rioja wine region and the town of Haro where every June 29th there is a battle.This isn’t a normal battle but you will want to be armed! Attire for the battle is white adorned with a traditional red scarf tied around your neck. Your morning will start with a group climb up the Cliffs of Bilibio for mass and then all kinds of crazy gets going. Armed with squirt guns, super soakers or bottles filled with wine, attendees start squirting everyone! Then around noon, the wine soaked group makes its way to the center of town for more celebrating and maybe a Bull fight, if you’re so inclined!  Make sure you bring a change of clothes!

 

Would you attend one of these Festivals?

 


Photos of both festivals in Czech Republic are used courtesy of Czech Tourism.
Photos of Spanish Wine Battle by bigSus on wikipedia

Rome In a Day – Or Three

This guest post is brought to you by Jenni from Jet2.com.

 

Rome is one of those cities that everyone feels they have visited, even if they haven’t.  And they should.  Many times.  While it’s perfect as a city break, and flights to Rome are easy and cheap to come by, the sheer number of attractions and iconic buildings it has to offer can seem overwhelming for a first-time visitor.

Of course, the city puts the Rome into ‘romantic’ and is perfect to visit with a partner.  But if you are visiting with a good friend, you might be more interested in the ‘antic’s than the romantic.  The city is ideal for both.  Airlines such as Jet2.com provide excellent links to the city of Rome from many UK regional airports.

Forum in Rome Italy

Forum Rome by Stevan Bauer

 

As many of the well-known attractions can involve queues, pre-booked tickets and crowds, lots of visitors prefer to spend their first Rome trip sampling the general feel of the city: many buildings are stunning enough from the outside and can be enjoyed from a seat at a piazza cafe, in the sun, accompanied by Italian wine and local olives. Once the sun begins to set, there is a vibrant nightlife in the city and lots of unusual places to hang out.  Freni e Frizoni means ‘brakes and clutches’: you guessed it – it used to be a car garage.  Now, it draws a creative, studenty crowd, provides a grand buffet decorated with flowers and candles, and serves cocktails, as well as wine and beer.  A glass of wine is reasonably priced and the buffet is free until 10.00.

Alle Fratte di Trastevere Rome Italy

Used with permission from Alle Fratte di Trastevere

 

For a more formal meal, the AlleFratte di Trastevere is a cheap and cheerful trattoria.  Sitting outside in summer, with mozzarella and freshly baked bread, and with meals between £10 and £21and wine at €10–€11, you wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.  Oh, and you can stay there too.

For an authentic Rome experience without the queues, there are lots of lesser-known attractions. Palazzo Valentiniis the headquarters of the province of Rome but what makes it intriguing is the state-of-the-art technology which has been used to reconstruct the ancient Roman houses which once lay below the building which stands there now.  The ruins of a bath are brought to life with sound effects and lasers, and under one part of the building was found – and is now all lit up and displayed under your feet – a first-century road next to a second-century wall.  Tours can be booked online, and in English.

Afternoon Boat Ride Villa Borghese Park Rome Italy

Afternoon Boat Ride Rome - Villa Borghese Park by David Paul Ohmer, on Flickr

 

If you can squeeze more in before your flights home, a wander to Villa Borghese Park can soak up plenty of relaxation time.  A beautiful green space in the city, there is a courtyard where you can drink coffee and watch the world go by. The park also hosts the Villa Borghese Art Gallery and the National Museum of Modern Art. Or perhaps you could save these until your next visit.

Because there will be one.

 

What would you do with one day in Rome?

Warnemunde – A Baltic Beach Resort

While I don’t make it to many beaches in Europe, last fall I did have the opportunity of visiting the lovely fishing village of Warnemunde Germany which is also home to a very beautiful beach!

Sand Dune Warnemunde Germany

Sand Dune Warnemunde Germany

Historic Warnemunde sits on the Baltic Coast at the mouth of the Warnow River just outside Rostock Germany. Strolling through the small village you’ll run into timber-framed houses, quaint squares, restaurants, shopping, pubs and a neogothic church where after visiting you’ll understand just how deep the maritime history goes!

 

Votiv Ship hanging inside church Warnemunde Germany

Votiv Ship hanging inside church Warnemunde Germany

 

The Beach

A long stretch of sandy beach straddles the river Warnow. During the summer the beach is full of people strolling at waters edge, children playing, kites soaring high and even some brave souls swimming! They say the water is very cold but it really didn’t feel colder than the water at home in the San Francisco Bay area.

 

Beach Chairs in Warnemunde Germany

Beach Chairs in Warnemunde Germany

 

Lined up on the beach are “strandkorben” or wooden chairs. These chairs were actually invented in Warnemunde to protect visitors from the coastal winds. Strong sea breezes create a perfect venue for sailing, windsurfing and kite boarding.

 

Beach in Warnemunde Germany with Teepott and Lighthouse

Beach in Warnemunde Germany with Teepott and Lighthouse

 

Along the edge of the sand sits the Teepott, an example of East German architecture with a restaurant and museum, and the lighthouse dating to 1897. Climb to the top for impressive views of the Baltic, Warnemunde and surrounding area!

 

Boats lining Alter Strom Warnemunde Germany

Boats lining Alter Strom Warnemunde Germany

 

The Harbor

Warnemunde is a fishing village so it’s no surprise that the harbor is not only lined with shops, restaurants and the famous fish market but also beautiful fishing boats. Walk along the Alter Strom (old channel) all the way to the end of the Westmole for amazing views, see the lighthouse at the end or just sit on the rocks and watch the boats come and go!

 

Boats by Mole in Warnemunde Germany

Watching Boats by Mole in Warnemunde Germany

 

Boats heading for Baltic in Warnemunde Germany

Boats heading for Baltic in Warnemunde Germany

Like most beach towns, Warnemunde is active and relaxed at the same time!

 

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

Tips to Riding the Rails in Europe!

There are many methods of traveling around Europe. You could decide to drive, fly or take the bus but one of the most sought after modes of transportation in Europe are trains.

Riding the train in Europe is often seen as a romantic way to travel. I’m sure we’ve all dreamt about seeing church spires peak out from the fog or the Alps from the comfort of our train seat, and yes it is beautiful and can be romantic but only once you’ve found your seat and are able to relax 🙂

From Glacier Express Switzerland

Here are some tips to help make riding the trains in
Europe easier and more relaxing!

I won’t get into a debate on whether it’s better to use point-to-point tickets or rail passes because I think it depends on the cost. Just remember, no matter what type of ticket you have it doesn’t mean you have an actual seat reserved unless you pay extra for a seat reservation.

Europe Train Belin Germany Station

First tip, Use websites for information on trains. My favorite site for researching European trains is the Deutsche Bahn website. This website offers all kinds of information including countries other than Germany. You can check the schedule, get connecting train information including arrival gate and departing gate, buy tickets and seat reservations. It’s important to remember to use the local name for cities, i.e. Wien=Vienna and München=Munich. Also keep in mind Europe uses the 24hour clock (1400 is 2 pm) and dates are day/month (11/03 is March 11).

Rail Ticket Vienna Austria to Budapest Hungary

From the reservation above you can see my train was leaving from the Wien West station and going to Budapest Keleti.

Which leads me to another tip – it is very important that you arrive at the correct station. Most large European cities have many rail stations.

From the reservation, you can also see the ticket was for 2nd Class (klasse) and departs August 31 at 12:49 pm. The train number is 49, car (wagen) is 22 and my seat is number 86.

Seating Chart at train station Salzburg Austria

Next tip, arrive at the station early! Some of the main stations in large cities are huge. The main station in Berlin even has multiple floors. Arriving early will allow you time to check the boards to confirm your train is on time and find the right platform. Once you’re at the platform use the seating chart (example above) to see where you should stand. Using the information from your reservation, this guide will show you where to stand making it easier to get on the right train car. If you don’t have seat reservations, confirm where the right class train is and stand at the appropriate spot.

Berlin Train Station Germany

PACK LIGHT! No matter what, you’ll be toting your bags. Usually there are stairs getting under tracks to your platform then more stairs getting up to the platform and even a few steps climbing aboard the train. Of course, once on the train you’ll be hefting your bag up to the baggage rack above your seat! Today a lot of stations have elevators (but not all) but many times I find it’s easier just to grab my bag and use the stairs than wait for the elevator to arrive.

Using the train for travel is a great experience and one I recommend everyone have! The best tip I could give you is to ask questions if you’re unsure about anything which is another reason arriving early may actually be the best tip anyone could give you!

 

What’s your #1 tip for making riding trains easier?

Colorful Buildings in Europe

With a history dating back thousands of years, its no wonder Europe is full of villages and cities whose streets are lined with colorful buildings.

 

These colorful buildings line rivers,

Bamberg Colorful Buildings GermanyBamberg Germany

Dress Up Old Town’s,

Mainz Colorful Buildings GermanyMainz Germany

Or are as colorful as their past!

Erfurt Colorful Buildings GermanyErfurt Germany

Some villages are even known for their beautifully painted buildings.

Mittenwald Colorful Buildings GermanyMittenwald Germany

 

No matter the reason they exist, the colorful houses found in Europe delight us all and help keep memories of our visit fresh in our minds.

Lucerne Colorful Buildings SwitzerlandLucerne Switzerland

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

Albarino Wine Led Me To Galicia Spain

Exploring Europe through its wines can lead you to some wonderful adventures. That is why I love trying different European wines even while home.  I recently had the opportunity to try a wine made from a grape I’d never heard of, Albarino.  Once I discovered it was from Spain I had to learn more about the region producing Albarino wine!

This led me to the rugged Northern coast of Spain, Galacia.

Galacia is not on the normal tourist track and since it is separated from the rest of Spain by a mountain range, it has a very different feel to it.  In Galacia you’ll experience a different language and a strong Celtic influence especially in its music which still uses bagpipes.  Set along the Atlantic coast, the region also boasts a very strong seafaring tradition.  Inland the region is full of rugged and wonderful mountains.

Here are 5 reasons you might want to explore Galicia!

1. Albarino Wine
One of the wine worlds best kept secrets is the Rías Baixas area, home to Spain’s Albarino grape.  The grape has been growing in the area for 900 years and produces a crisp white wine that pairs well with seafood.  The wine region is mainly centered on Cambados where you’ll find a bodega in an old castle and an annual wine festival.

Vineyards in Spanish Wine Region of Galicia Spain

Vineyards in Spanish Wine Region of Galicia by Enrique Dans

2. Santiago de Compestelo
The most well known city in the Galicia region is also one of Spain’s most beloved.  In the center of town you’ll find Plaza de Espana which is bordered by the Baroque cathedral, a Romanesque college and Neoclassical city hall. The cathedral has been the goal of pilgrims for hundreds of years and is known for its Baroque façade, a Romanesque sculpture and the crypt of St. James.

Santiago de Composteleo Cathedral Galicia Spain

Santiago Cathedral by Luis Miguel Bugallo Sanchez

3. Beaches
The coastal area of Galicia is full of scenic, windy and sometime treacherous shoreline.  Take time to explore some of the estuaries and enjoy the beaches.  The many resorts are full of wonderful streets with Gothic arches and churches as well as miles of sandy beaches and beautiful clear water.   The beaches are so inviting you’ll want to grab some bread, cheese and wine for a wonderful seaside picnic!

Beach along coast of Galicia Spain

Playa de Catedrales, Galicia Spain by AndyRobertsPhotos, on Flickr

4. Quaint Villages
The quaint fishing villages, gorgeous scenery and sandy beaches of Galicia are the heart and sole of the region.  The list of villages include La Coruna which is Franco’s hometown, Lugo is known for its Roman wall, preserved ramparts and shellfish festival while Baiona is a chic resort known as the first town to know of Columbus’ discovery and its medieval architecture.

Plaza do Ferro in Ourense Galicia Spain

Praza do Ferro in Ourense by Jose Luis Cernadas Iglesias

5. Varied outdoor activities
Galicia is also known for its outdoor adventures.  While the coastline adventures revolve around water sports including sailing and surfing, the rugged hills entice the hikers and walkers.  Other adventures include hot air ballooning, golf and horseback riding.

Inland scenery Galicia Spain

Galicia Inland by OndasDeRuido, on Flickr

 

Is Galicia calling you?

#FriFotos – Blooms

It’s a lovely spring Friday here in the San Francisco Bay area and the theme for today’s #FriFotos is Blooms.  Blooms and Spring seem to go together, don’t they?

As I was looking through some photo’s, I came across some lovely Blooms I discovered on a recent trip to Freiburg, Germany.

Flowers are one of things I love about Europe! They seem to be everywhere and one of my favorite places to see blooms are window boxes.  Freiburg’s New Town Hall had these lovely windows teeming with Blooms!

Freiburg Germany New Town Hall Window Blooms

When traveling I spend a lot of time just wandering aimlessly.  I found these simple but pretty table decorations wandering the streets of Freiburg’s Old Town.

Freiburg Germany Blooming Table Decorations
Another one of my favorite stops when traveling are the farmers markets!  A lot of markets not only have fresh vegetables, cheeses and fruits but other wonderful surprises which usually include flowers.  Freiburg has a lovely and historic farmers market every day!

Freiburg Germany Blooming Farmers Market

 

For a look at other Blooms, check out #FriFotos on Twitter!