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.

To Market, To Market

Farmers markets that is!


There are a lot of reasons I love summer but one of the best things (in my humble opinion) is the bounty of summer fruits and vegetables. And the best place to buy these goodies is at a Farmers Market.

With Summer officially beginning next week, its time to get out and spend some time wandering a local Farmers Market. . .  no matter where you are.

 

There is not a better place to enjoy a Farmers Market than in Europe!


The longer days and warmer weather of summer combine to produce a feast for your belly and eyes!  It seems each town in Europe has their own Farmers Market offering up a beautiful array of colorful fruits,

Farmers Market Bamberg Germany Fruits

Fruits in Bamberg Germany Farmers Market

Delicious vegetables,

Farmers Market Freiburg Germany Vegetables

Vegetables at Freiburg Germany Farmers Market

even some I’m not familiar with!

Farmers Market Freiburg Germany Carrots

Who knows what the long red vegetables are??

Plus a rainbow of colors from vibrant flowers!

Farmers Market Freiburg Germany Flowers

Colorful Flowers at Freiburg Germany Farmers Market

Farmers markets are a wonderful place to grab some snacks or items for a picnic lunch plus strolling the market is a great way to get out with the locals!

 

Do you visit Farmers Markets in Europe?

 

 

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

Less Crowded Options for European Summer Travels

School is almost out which means summer vacations are right around the corner. If you’re able to vacation any time of year, you might not choose summer to visit Europe but many vacationers only have summertime for a European family vacation.

So how do you beat the summer crowds in Europe?

In my local Sunday paper I found a list of travel options that are less crowded than the more popular destinations. Here are their suggestions for quieter summer destinations in Europe!

Budapest Hungary instead of Paris France

Danube and Parliament Building Budapest Hungary

Budapest by ** Maurice **, on Flickr

Paris is probably one of the most well known travel destinations in the world so it’s not surprising Paris is crowded during the summer! While Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, Seine River, the Louvre and the Champs Elysee bring people to Paris, Budapest also has its well known sites. People come to Budapest to see the Fisherman’s Bastion, Parliament Building, the grand boulevard Andrassy Ut and its Spas. Some even say Budapest is the most beautiful city in Central Europe and with the beautiful views over the Danube River I can see why Budapest has earned this label. Budapest and Paris both have long and tumultuous histories, grand architecture covering a vast array of time periods, beautiful cathedrals and gobs of cultural opportunities!

Korcula Croatia instead of Corfu Greece

Panorama of Korčula Croatia

Panorama of Korčula by Zupec on wikimedia

Korcula and Corfu are both stunning islands that offer warm weather, crystal clear waters and beautiful beaches but the comparisons stop there. Sitting off the coast of Greece, Corfu has been the playground for the rich and famous for eons. The island also has a rich heritage dating back to 1300 BC and is full of historic monuments and museums displaying archeological finds from the temples and ancients cities on the island. If you’re looking for a quieter vacation centered on water and beaches, then Korcula may be the perfect place for you! Relax on one of the beautiful beaches, kayak around some of the other islands or snorkel in the clear cool waters of the Adriatic. Korcula also offers great views back to the Dalmation Coast of Croatia!

Baltic Coast of Germany instead of Bavaria Germany

National Park Jasmund on Rugen Island Germany

National Park Jasmund on Rugen Island by Thomas Wolf on wikimedia

If Germany is your destination, you really can’t go wrong visiting either Bavaria or the Baltic Coast.  But if you’re looking for a quieter seaside trip, then the Baltic is an excellent option. When I wrote Warnemunde – A Baltic Beach Resort the number one comment I received was people were surprised Germany has beaches. Yes Germany has glorious beaches and Warnemunde is just one of them! The Baltic coast had been a popular resort area with the aristocrats for years and since reunification, this coastline is gaining in popularity but is still a peaceful respite from the summer crowds found in the more popular tourist destinations. Germany’s Baltic coast is full of long sandy beaches, rugged cliffs, sand dunes, popular resort islands, nature reserves and quaint seaside towns with centers that are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The Baltic coast still maintains a very definite maritime feel and is a great place to relax while watching sailboats or enjoy a walk or bike ride along the miles of sandy beaches!

What other less-crowded European destinations can you suggest?

Six Reasons to Visit Badenweiler Germany

I love reading and enjoy books that whisk me off to wonderful places in Europe. If you’re like me, you’ve spent hours traveling through European cities in books like The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown, London and Russka by Edward Rutherford or even Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes.

If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you know how much I love visiting Germany. So it was with great glee I purchased the book Badenweiler Waltz by SW Kroeker which is a book about a young woman diagnosed with a fatal disease who decides to spend her last days in Badenweiler Germany and also maybe find a cure in the spa village. While the book wasn’t a barn burner, I did enjoy visiting this small village in the Black Forest through the eyes of Elizabeth Kurz, the main character.

 

Panorama over Badenweiler Germany Black Forest

Panorama over Badenweiler by Wladyslaw wikipedia

I was enchanted by the people and sights she found in Badenweiler and decided to discover more about the village.

 

Here are six reasons I’d visit Badenweiler Germany!


  1. Badenweiler is a spa resort known for its curative treatments for tuberculosis, arthritis, osteoporosis and other cardiovascular diseases. Along with the main character in the book, the spa has been attracting the ill for a long time including Anton Chekhov who spent his last days here. The city’s spa, Cassiopeia Therme, is set in a wonderful garden which helps make the spa a great place to rejuvenate your body!

    Spa at Badenweiler Germany

    Spa at Badenweiler Germany by Jayjay P, on Flickr

  2. Wandering the streets of Badenweiler Germany visitors will find ruins of a Roman Bath and Castle plus a church which stands on the grounds of an ancient Roman temple. Today St. Paul’s Church is an example of neo-Romanesque architecture but its grounds have been sacred for many decades dating back to Roman times. The well preserved Roman Baths were discovered in 1784 and can be explored while the ruins of Baden castle, first mentioned in 1122, loom over the village and offer breathtaking views.

    Vestiges Roman Baths Badenweiler Germany Black Forest

    Vestiges Roman Baths Badenweiler Germany by Wernain S. wikimedia

  3. The Black Forest is a great place to hike and Badenweiler is no exception! There are short day hikes surrounding Badenweiler which bring you to wonderful forests in a very short time. If you’d like longer hikes, these can be found too.

    St Pauls Church Badenweiler Germany Black Forest

    St. Pauls Church from wikimedia

  4. The rolling hills surrounding Badenweiler are full of vineyards where visitors can explore wines of the region. You could opt to enjoy a hike through some of the vineyards or even a lovely bike ride. The orchards and vineyards in the area can also be explored by driving the Baden Wine Route
    Aerial view of Badenweiler Germany in the Black Forest
    Aerial view of Badenweiler Germany courtesy of Badenweiler spas and Touirstik GmbH / Erich Meyer
  5. Badenweiler is in a great location to not only explore more of the Black Forest but also neighboring countries. A quick 17 mile drive will bring you to Basel Switzerland and an even shorter 7 mile drive finds you arriving at the French border ready to explore the amazing vineyards and villages in the Alsace region Badenweiler is also only 19 miles from Freiburg Germany another quaint and wonderful city in the Black Forest.

    View over Badenweiler Germany Black Forest

    View over Badenweiler by Wenain S. wikimedia

  6. This enchanting village is known as a sanctuary for relaxation. Adding to the dream like feel of Badenweiler is the warm weather the area is known for. In fact, you may find that you come under the spell of Badenweiler and succumb to the most wonderful German tradition – Kaffee und Kuchen each afternoon!

 

What books have inspired you to learn more about a destination?

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.

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.

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.

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.

#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!

 

The Grandeur, the Fall and Rebirth in Potsdam

To experience the grandeur, the fall and rebirth of Potsdam Germany one only needs to visit the Old Market Square.

The square is the historical city center and was part of the City Palace complex for years.  The City Palace was originally built in 1662 as the winter residence of Prussian Kings beginning with Frederick the Great.

To bring a Roman feel to the square, a reconstruction began in 1745 adding the Old Town Hall to the east side and an obelisk in the middle.

Old Town Hall Potsdam GermanyOld Town Hall

Even though there has been a church here since the 1300’s, in 1837 the classical St. Nicholas Church was added and today dominates the square.

St Nicholas Church and Obelisk Potsdam GermanySt Nicholas Church and Obelisk

For hundreds of years the square was the regal hub of the city.  Then came WWII.

 

Not much of the square survived World War II intact.

City Palace Potsdam Germany after bombing 1945City Palace 1945 by Max Baur/German Federal Archives

After the war the square struggled, as did Potsdam. The City Palace was heavily damaged during WWII and was demolished by the Russians in 1962.  It wasn’t until 1979 that the Obelisk was returned to the square and St. Nicholas’ Church didn’t reopen until 1981.  But without the City Palace the square just wasn’t the same.

Restored Fortuna Portal on Old Market Square Potsdam GermanyRefurbished Fortuna Portal

Although not always looking her best, the City Palace stood on the square for 300 years. Today there is a major reconstruction effort going on in Potsdam which includes rebuilding the City Palace bringing the square back to its glory.

Reconstruction of City Palace Potsdam GermanyCity Palace being rebuilt.  Recognize these pillars?

The effort to restore the Old Market Square began with returning the Fortuna Portal tower and reconstruction is continuing at a feverish pace.  In an attempt to add authenticity to the palace, during reconstruction builders are using as much of the historic façade and other original pieces as possible. Once completed, the restored palace will become the new Parliament House of the Federal State of Brandenburg.

Reconstruction City Palace on Old Market Square Potsdam GermanyMore reconstruction of City Palace

It has been a long struggle but it seems that Potsdam is finally about to reclaim her glory.

 

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

 

 

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.