May 30, 2017

Visiting Neuschwanstein Castle and Alpine Bavaria

When people visit Germany it almost always includes a stop in Bavaria and, with good reason, this trip will include a visit to Neuschwanstein, just one of King Ludwig’s castles. Perched high atop a hill deep in Bavaria, near the Austrian border, sits Neuschwanstein castle. The castle combined with the dramatic scenery created by the jagged peaks of the Alps equal a beauty that is unsurpassed.

This impressive castle, built in the medieval style, creates a dreamy fairy tale vision that also exemplifies the feeling of this southern portion of Bavaria. It’s no wonder the castle is so popular!

View of Neuschwanstein Castle Bavaria Germany

View of Neuschwanstein Castle from www.schloesser.bayern.de - Bayerische Schlösserverwaltung

I recently had the opportunity to read a new guide to visiting Neuschwanstein and her sister castle Hohenschwangau. Written by Edd Morris, Neuschwanstein Castle 2013: An ‘Exploring Castles’ Travel Guide would be a great read for anyone visiting the castle for the first time. The author not only gives tips to enhance your visit of Neuschwanstein but also includes nearby hotel recommendations, not to miss excursions, ways to save a few euros on your visit and some interesting history on King Ludwig and the rooms in the castle. Also included is a discussion on the various ways you can reach the castle.

Alpsee Bavaria Germany

Alpsee by Nicholas Even

The close proximity to Munich enables visitors to reach the castle on a coach as a day tour from Bavaria’s capital city. My first visit to Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau castles was on a coach trip from Munich. There are many pros and cons to this type of trip and while I thoroughly enjoyed my bus tour and could recommend it if you only had one day to experience King Ludwig’s castle, it’s not my preferred way to visit Neuschwanstein and her environs.

My favorite way to visit Kind Ludwig’s castle is by personal car spending multiple days in the area to fully experience the Bavarian Alpine countryside.

Why? Let me tell you just some of the reasons you should explore the region!

Oberammergau Bavaria Germany

Oberammergau by Oberau-Online, on Flickr

  • Visit villages that are famous for their painted buildings, violin making (Mittenwald), wood carving (Oberammergau) and organ music (Ottobeuren)
  • Fresh air, green meadows and National parks
    The Alpspitze and Waxenstein as seen from Garmisch Germany

    The Alpspitze and Waxenstein near Garmisch by Octagon

  • Enjoy a picnic in one of the meadows listening to lovely Alpine music from the bells around local Cows necks
  • Make cheese from the milk produced by these Happy Cows!
  • See storybook villages complete with chalets and window boxes overflowing with color
  • Hike up the Tegelberg mountain or around Germany’s highest mountain, Zugspitze
  • Swim, sail, canoe or walk around the many lakes in the area including Alpsee, Forggensee or Obersee
  • Drive along the Alpine Road stopping to visit other castles like Linderhof and Herrenchiemsee
  • Visit beautiful Wieskirche or the Baroque Abbey in Ettal which dates back to 1330 and is famous for its beer and schnapps
  • Ettal Abbey Bavaria Germany

    Ettal Abbey from wikimedia

    What do you think? Would the Alpine Scenery make for a wonderful holiday?

     
    While I did receive a copy of Neuschwanstein Castle 2013: An ‘Exploring Castles’ Travel Guide for free, all opinions are mine.

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?

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?

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??

Whimsical Salzburg

One of Austria’s most popular cities is Salzburg. The city known for Mozart, the Sound of Music and marionettes has a fun and whimsical side that can be found at Hellbrunn Palace.

On my last visit to Mozart’s city I purchased a Salzburg card which included free use of the busses and many discounted or free entrances to Salzburg’s sights including Hellbrunn Palace and Trick Fountains.  So I hopped on the bus and a short ride later was at Hellbrunn.

Grotto Dining Table Hellbrunn Salzburg Austria

Hellbrunn Palace is a Baroque villa built by the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg as a summer house and a place to hold outrageous parties.  Built in 1612, in the Italian style of architecture, Hellbrunn is one of the best examples of Renaissance architecture north of the Alps. The beautiful grounds hold the Palace, park, gardens and the popular trick fountains.

Hellbrunn Fountain Salzburg Austria

Your ticket includes an audio tour of the palace which can be done either before or after you tour the trick fountains. While the palace is interesting, it is the trick fountains that attract most visitors!

Dining Table Hellbrunn Salzburg Austria

During your time at Hellbrunn you’ll see elaborate grottoes, sculptures, statues, ponds, fountains and the fabulous trick dining table.

Getting Wet at Dining Table Helbrunn Salzburg Austria

Touring the trick fountains you’ll come across a miniature theater and water.   Lots of water which will be coming at you from every direction even from the occasional deer head!  Keep this in mind, you will get wet!

Deer Head and Pond Hellbrunn Salzburg Austria

The whimsical trick fountains are funny and quite an architectural and engineering feat for the 1600’s!

Grotto Statue Hellbrunn Salzburg Austria

Upon exiting the fountain tour you’ll be able to enjoy the beautiful gardens full of flowers, ponds and statues. They’re also a great place to enjoy an ice cream or picnic before getting back on that bus headed back to town.

Statue Hellbrunn Salzburg Austria

Hellbrunn is a fun and peaceful adventure not far from Salzburg’s Old Town and one that is enjoyed by young and old alike.


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!

Castles Along the Vistula

The rivers of Europe wind their way through the heartland of the continent. Historically, cities were established along rivers because they offered drinking water and transportation.  Today we admire the old-world cities, historic villages, beautiful countryside, medieval cathedrals and enchanting castles found along the banks of Europe’s rivers.

Along with the Thames, Seine, Danube and Rhine rivers, the Vistula is one of Europe’s great rivers.

Vistula River near Torun Poland

Vistula River near Torun by Pko

Traversing Poland from south to north, the Vistula is the largest river in Poland traveling 651 miles before reaching the Baltic at Gdansk.  Although the river passes many of Poland’s greatest cities it also flows past near picture perfect mountains, foothills, enchanting cities, grassy banks full of flowers and castles.

Here are some of the castles and palaces you’ll find along the Vistula.

Wawel Castle Krakow Poland

Wawel Castle Krakow by Eigenwerk

Wawel Castle in Krakow


Standing 150 feet above Krakow is Wawel Castle.  Built in the 10th century and starting out in the Romanesque style, the castle today is a mix of Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque styles.  Wawel castle remained the home of Polish royalty for 500 years and is known for its elegant rooms, galleries and tapestries.  The grounds also include a cathedral which houses the royal tombs.

Baranow Sandomierski Castle Arcade Poland

Baranow Sandomierski Castle Arcade by Jerzy Strzelecki

Baranow Sandomierski Castle Poland

Baranow Sandomierski Castle by Jerzy Strzelecki

Castle of Baranow Sandomierski


This beautiful castle, also known as “Little Wawel”, sits on the east side of the Vistula river.  It was built from 1591 – 1606 in Poland’s Mannerist style.  The Mannerist style usually has ornate attics, side towers and arcades and was replaced by the Baroque style.  Today this castle serves as a museum, hotel and conference center.

Janowiec Castle Ruins Poland

Janowiec Castle Ruins by Piotr J


Janowiec Castle


The castle was originally built during the 16th century and today is mostly in ruins although there are renovations taking place in an attempt to bring the castle back to life.  This impressive castle and grounds are worth the short hike and include a museum on Royal Interiors.

Pałace Wilanow Poland

Pałace Wilanow by A. Osytek


Wilanow Royal Palace


Wilanow, a suburb of Warsaw on the left bank of the Vistula, is home to a Royal Palace that was built for King Jan III Sobieski as his summer residence. The Baroque 17th century palace is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful buildings in Poland.  The interiors are said to be exquisite as are the lawns and Italian style gardens.

Royal Castle Warsaw Poland

Royal Castle Warsaw by sfu

Royal Castle Warsaw Ballroom Poland

Royal Castle Warsaw Ballroom by Marek & Ewa Wojciechowscy

Royal Castle in Warsaw


For centuries this Royal Castle was the residence of Polish Kings and the Seat of Parliament. In fact, Nicholas I of Russia was crowned King of Poland here in 1829. This 15th century Gothic castle has a commanding brick façade but is best known for its spires.  At the center is the Sigismund Tower with clock which has become one of the symbols of Poland’s capital.  Many of the rooms have been restored including the Royal apartments and Houses of Parliament.

Pieskowa Skala Castle Poland

Pieskowa Skala Castle by Marek & Ewa Wojciechowscy


Pieskowa Skala Castle


The position of this castle really lends to the fairy tale feel you get when visiting Pieskowa Skala.  Dating back to the 14th century, the castle sits on a limestone cliff and is part of a series of castles built to protect the area during Medieval times.  Pieskowa Skala castle is inside the Ojcow National Park and was built in the Renaissance style.  While visiting make sure to see the beautiful courtyards and visit the renovated rooms and artifacts from the local area.

 

Well that’s just a taste of the Castles along the Vistula!

 

Have you been to Poland and any of these castles?

A Summer Residence Fit for a King

Sitting just outside Berlin, Potsdam is the perfect place to escape the city, which is how Potsdam became the playground for the Prussian Royal family and explains why there are so many palaces in this one city!

Looking Back at Sanssouci Palace Potsdam Germany

Longing to get away from all the rigors of royal duties in Berlin, Frederick the Great had a beautiful Rococo palace built in Potsdam between 1745 – 1747. Sanssouci Palace became the kings summer residence and has been likened to Versailles outside of Paris.

South Side Sanssouci Palace Potsdam Germany

The Palace has 10 main rooms on one floor which are open to the public. The rooms are very beautiful and contain many memorabilia to Frederick including furniture and art.

Chandelier Gold Room Sanssuci Palace Potsdam Germany

The walls themselves are pieces of art!

Beautiful Room Sanssouci Palace Potsdam Germany

Amazingly, and luckily, the GDR maintained the Palace and grounds during their occupation. Once reunification happened many of the statues, books and art were returned to Sanssouci. Also at this time, Frederick’s wish to have his body interred on the grounds was granted.

Potato King Tomb Sanssouci Palace Potsdam Germany

The tomb of the “potato king” sits over looking the beautiful gardens. It is said Frederick the Great introduced potatoes to Germany. In fact, it seems he enjoyed them so much he served them at state dinners and handed them out when visiting other towns. True or not, people still adorn his tomb with potatoes!

View from park Sanssouci Palace Potsdam Germany

At the back of the palace there is a beautiful terraced hill leading down to a fountain and further into the park. The park is very colorful and beautiful as well as full of amazing views back up to the palace!

Fountain and Statue Sanssouci Palace Potsdam Germany

Sanssouci means “without concerns” and seems to be a very fitting name for this lovely palace. Even with the all the tourists, the palace and park feel peaceful and relaxing.

Flower Room Sanssuci Palace Potsdam Germany

Both the palace and the park have been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1990.

Fountain Sanssouci Palace Potsdam Germany

As I’ve stated before, I love visiting castles and palaces and prior to leaving for Germany was very excited to visit Sanssouci. But it was the park that grabbed me. On my next visit, I will spend more time wandering the different gardens, statues and palaces that are inside the boundary of this wonderful park.

 

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 PotsdamTourist 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.

Discovering Ireland!

Last month I wrote a post about my European travel dreams for this year. I still haven’t made any plans yet but as I go over my European dreams I’ve been asking myself, what is it that draws me to Ireland?

In no particular order, here are 6 reasons Ireland is calling me!

Dramatic Landscape
Ireland is known for her spectacular scenery, varied landscapes, cliffs tumbling to the sea, seascapes, lakes, and many shades of green. I want to experience the translucent lakes of Killarney, see the masted boats in Kinsale harbor and picture perfect towns like Inistioge and Adare. In the southwest, the Beara and Iveragh Peninsulas are full of wild and gorgeous scenery while the Dingle peninsula is known for its harsh but beautiful land and seascapes. Ireland is also home to many prehistoric sights including the eerie megalithic tombs, ancient huts and rock formations found in the Burren. And then there is the excavation at Ceide Fields which is home to settlements older than the pyramids!

Cliffs of Moher Clare County Ireland

Cliffs of Moher by Shannon Development

Pubs, Music, Beer, Whiskey & Tea
Ireland seems to be synonymous with Guinness but besides this traditional beer, I’d also like to enjoy many of the ales the country is known for. Even though I’m not a whiskey fan, a tour and taste of this locally distilled beverage will make it on my itinerary! One of the things Ireland is most famous for are its pubs and it’s the pubs that are probably on the top of my list. I want to experience traditional Irish music and have conversations with local folks, which will be the best souvenir! Afternoons of tea and dinners of traditional Irish food will top off my culinary discoveries.

Jameson Distillery Dublin Ireland

Jameson Distillery by the Jameson Distillery

Lodging options
Ireland is known for its hospitality and one way to experience this is through the many different styles of lodging. From farmhouses, cottages, country houses to Bed & Breakfast’s and elegant castles there is a vast array of choices and I want to experience many different types including a Castle! Dromoland, Ashford and Adare Manor are some of the more famous in this category but there are other Castle hotels, such as Ballynahinch Castle, that are not as well-known.

Ballynahinch Castle Hotel Galway Ireland

Ballynahinch Castle Hotel by Manor House Hotels

History, Castles, Cathedrals and Fortresses
Anywhere I travel, one of my joys is learning about the local history. To say Ireland has a vast and varied history is an understatement. Ireland’s history dates back to 8000 BC and has seen invasions of Vikings, English, Normans and others. The tumultuous history includes wars for independence and other rebellions which have all left their mark on the country but have also made it what it is today. The remnants can been see in the many castles, fortresses and cathedrals dotting the land. “The gift of gab” will be mine after visiting Blarney Castle and its very famous stone. There are Bronze Age forts, monastic sites dating to early Christianity, Viking walls and Georgian estates strewn across the land. Waiting is Charles Fort, which has stood since Norman times, James Fort, Bunratty Castle, Kylemore Abbey, medieval Trim castle and the well preserved Cahir Castle.

Kylemore Abbey Connemara Ireland

Kylemore Abbey by Chris Hill 2006

Outdoor Activities
Normally I prefer sailing in fair weather but would make an exception to sail the waters near Ireland. Sailing is such a peaceful endeavor and when it comes with amazing views, I just don’t think I could pass up spending some time on the seas. With all the wonderful landscape I’ll find in Ireland, hiking seems like the perfect way to see and experience parts most people miss. I grew up fly fishing and wouldn’t miss a chance to drop a line in one of the pretty rivers traversing Ireland.

Killarney Lakes Kerry Ireland

Killarney Lakes by Tourism Ireland

People
When I visit Ireland, I want to take the time to really experience Ireland and a big part of this will be its people. I have long heard about the wonderful people in Ireland, in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever heard a negative thing said about the Irish! The Irish are known to be friendly, relaxed, funny and kind. A fellow travel blogger, Jeremy Branham said in an article on Irish Central “. . . the Irish people are the friendliest I’ve ever met.”

American Folk Park - Bluegrass Festival Omagh Ireland

American Folk Park - Bluegrass Festival by Geray Sweeney

For a small country, Ireland seems to have more of everything. Each turn of the road displays more green, more history, more soul, more beer and I want to experience it all!

Why would you go to Ireland?

All images are courtesy of Tourism Ireland.

Romance – European Style

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, romance is in the air!

There are cities like Paris that are known as romantic but to me romance is in the eye of the beholder.  With romance in the air, I thought it would be fun to look at a few European destinations that are romantic.

Here are three European locations that have the glamour, enchantment and fairy tale feel to them to bring out the romantic side in me.

Lucerne Switzerland

Lucerne Old Town Switzerland

Lucerne Old Town along River

What isn’t romantic about scenery like this?  Lucerne and her lake have to be one of the most beautiful and romantic places in Europe! Everywhere you look you’ll be rewarded with beautiful mountain views.  Enjoy a romantic stroll through the old town marveling at medieval buildings or along the river.  Another romantic adventure is a steamer trip on the lake maybe even stopping off at one of the villages along the shores.   Splurging on one of the romantic lake side hotels will cap off the romance of the city!

Salzburg Austria

View from Hohensalzburg Salzburg Austria

View from Hohensalzburg Salzburg

The storybook quality of Salzburg is palpable and oozes from every corner. Salzburg is a beautiful city full of gardens, history, architectural gems, music and other cultural events.  The views from atop the Hohenbsalzburg will take your breath away and leave you feeling peaceful.  A visit to the many Sound of Music locations will bring back fond memories and a smile to your face if not a song in your heart plus they are some of the most beautiful and romantic locations in the city. A leisurely stroll through the Altstadt after dinner is a wonderful way to end the day.  It is truly a serene time of day and the darkening sky will certainly put you in a romantic mood.

Ludwig’s Castles & Small Villages of Bavaria Germany

Neuschwantstein Castle Bavaria Germany

Neuschwantstein Castle by BAYERN TOURISMUS Marketing GmbH

If you find mountains, castles, charming villages and beautiful vistas romantic then this part of Southern Germany is for you! The well known Neuschwanstein Castle will not disappoint those looking for a romantic retreat. The castle’s fairy tale feel has been sparking romance for eons.  After spending time at the castle, I suggest a walk in the mountains or visits to the many nearby traditional Bavarian villages.  Explore their streets lined with painted houses and buildings adorned with window boxes overflowing with flowers.  Enjoy learning about traditional crafts like wood working or violin making. For romantic lodging, experience a traditional Bavarian guest house!

 

What European city or area brings out your Romantic side?

This is my entry for Carnival of Europe hosted by Aleah Taboclaon at Solitary Wanderer. This months theme is “Most Romantic Places in Europe”.

European Dreaming in 2013

Now that the pages of the calendar have slipped into a new year, it’s the time of year to reflect back and dream forward (and start back to the gym!).  I’m not going to rehash the places I visited in Europe during 2012 but just need to say, if you’ve not been to Germany you must put it on your list for this year.  Make sure to cover the touristy areas such as Munich, Ludwig’s Castles and the Rhine River but also leave time to explore the country’s lesser known jewels as this is where Germany shines!

Make sure you visit those small Bavarian villages, be amazed by the wines Germany offers, taste beer  fresh from the keg, follow Luther’s footsteps into Erfurt and beyond, travel along the many scenic routes like the Romantic Road, explore the beaches of the Baltic and North Sea for a taste of sea side Germany and don’t forget the diamonds in the rough that were once part of East Germany.

But now that we’re a few days into January, I’m dreaming of my travels in 2013. I have not made any travel plans yet but I am dreaming of where I’d most like to go and have narrowed down my list to these 5 areas.

Canoeing Dordogne River France

Dordogne by Jos Dielis, on Flickr

Dordogne Valley France

Small villages, rivers, canoes, hot air balloons, wine and prehistoric history all combine to make the Dordogne Valley call to me. I could see myself spending time driving from village to village enjoying the lovely markets, wines and cuisine along the way.  Adding in days lazing in a canoe along the Dordogne river or visiting the national parks and gardens.  There are many castles and churches to be visited  too!

Adare Manor Ireland

Adare Manor Ireland by Jerzy Strzelecki

Ireland

When I think of Ireland I see green rolling hills, smiling people, lochs, fog, turbulent oceans, pubs, beer and music…  and castles waiting to tuck me in at night! Along with general sight seeing, I’d most like to enjoy evenings in those famous Irish pubs drinking the local brew while humming to wonderful Irish music.  I’m not a huge whiskey fan but I would enjoy touring a whiskey factory and sampling this distilled wonder.  I’ve always thought I’d probably like whiskey if I was drinking it in Ireland J Besides this, I’d love to drive around the country gazing at the scenery and learning about her history while spending of my nights in some of the many bed and breakfasts that dot the countryside (when I’m not staying in a castle, of course!).

Karlovy Vary Czech Republic

Karlovy Vary Czech Republic by Bobak Ha'Eri

Czech Republic

I’ll admit it, pictures and movies talk to me!  So as I was watching “The Last Holiday” before Christmas I was reminded of how much I’d love to visit Karlovy Vary and even stay at the Hotel Pupp! But that would just be a start to my visit of the Czech Republic.  Of course, I couldn’t leave without visiting Prague but I really want to visit the areas outside the capital city.  Plzen for its beer would definitely be on the itinerary along with the castles, forests, gorges, mountains, caves, architecture and history that Bohemia and Moravia are known for!

Dolomites in Sud Tirol Italy

Dolomites in Sud Tirol Italy by Alesvp

Sud Tirol Italy

I’m a mountain girl and those gorgeous and jagged peaks of the Dolomites have beckoned me for years. I would love to stand in an amazing green meadow surrounded by the soaring mountains.  Of course, I’d also love to sample the local wine, enjoy the cuisine, learn about the history and legends and visit the small villages that sit so cozily at the foot of the Dolomite’s.  There will also be time for a little hiking which would only make the trip complete.

Berchtesgaden Germany

Berchtesgaden Germany by Eric Sorenson

Germany

You didn’t think I could make a potential travel list without including spots in Germany did you 🙂 There really is so much of this country I haven’t been to but I think I’d really love to travel along the Alpine Road into Prien visiting Chiemsee, Berchtesgaden and any number of small lovely villages along the way.  Or maybe I should finally break down and visit those lovely Christmas markets!

Boy this is going to be a tough decision!

 

What are you European travel dreams for 2013?