June 25, 2017

9 Reasons to Visit Le Mans France

Over the weekend my husband was watching the 24 Hours of Le Mans car race. He’s the race fan, so while he was giving me a little education on the cars and watching the race, I set out to discover more about Le Mans itself.

 
Le Mans France is situated about 113 miles south west of Paris in the Pays de Loire region. Sitting along the banks of the Sarthe river, Le Mans dates back to Roman times which gives the city a vast and varied history including ties to the Plantagenet royal family. Geoffrey V. d ‘Anjou (Plantagenet) was born in Le Mans during 1113, married Mathilda, daughter of Henry I of England, in Le Mans and his tomb is here too. The marriage of Geoffrey and Mathilda gave us Henry II a future King of England.

Here are 9 reason to visit Le Mans!

1)  All car enthusiasts will be interested in visiting Le Mans. There are 2 race courses in the city but the most famous race is the 24 Hours of Le Mans which has been taking place since 1923. A visit to the Musee de l’Automobile is enjoyable for everyone.

 

Gallo Romaine Walls Le Mans France

Le Mans Gallo Romaine Walls by OldLion

2)  The fortified Old Town is surrounded by Gallo-Roman walls which were built during the 3rd century to defend the city and are some of the best in all of France. A stroll through the Old Town is delightful as you pass many cobbled streets and half timbered houses.

 

Cathedral St. Julien Le Mans France

Cathedral St. Julien Le Mans France 080804 467 by juergen.mangelsdorf, on Flickr

3)  The Cathedral St. Julien rivals the magnificent cathedral in Chartres. Visitors are quite taken by the cathedral’s Gothic flying buttresses, Romanesque portal and stained glass windows. The oldest part of the cathedral dates back to the 11th century. The cathedral is also where Geoffrey married Mathilda and the resting place to the wife of Richard the Lionheart.

4)  The Sarthe River cuts a beautiful image through the city. Overlooking the river is Le Menhir, a monument to Celtic beliefs that has been looming over the town for 5,000 years.

 

Palais des Comtes du Maine Le Mans France

Palais des Comtes du Maine and brithplace of henry II Le Mans by Benchaum

5)  Today the city hall is in the Palais des Comtes du Maine which is the birthplace of Henry II.

6)  The Tunnel was built in the 19th century to make access to Le Mans easier but it also has some interesting lighting and landscaping along with a monument dedicated to Wilbur Wright.

7)  Besides the Roman walls, there are other items attesting to Le Mans’ Roman heritage including the Crypte Archeologique des Thermes Romains. In other words, remains of the Roman baths have been discovered near the river and are open to visitors.

 

Abbatiale de l'Epau near Le Mans France

Abbatiale de l'Epau by Benchaum

8)  Just at the edge of town is the impressive Cistercian Abbey of l’Epau. Founded by the wife of Richard the Lionheart, the medieval Abbey is situated along the Huisne River and offers a sanctuary for those seeking peace and calm

9)  Le Mans is home to many museums. Museums full of natural history, Automobile history, aquariums, Egyptian artifact and art. But to learn more about Le Mans and its history from Roman times through the 15th century, don’t miss the Museum of Archaeology and History of Mans on Plantagenet Square where you’ll be able to explore the vast history of the city dating all the way back to 50 BC and its Roman settlement.

 

Old Town Le Mans France

Le Mans, France by Sue Elias, on Flickr

Looks like there’s much more to Le Mans than cars! No wonder it has also been the site of many movies including Cyrano de Bergerac, Man in the Iron Mask and The Three Musketeers.

Next time I’m in the area I’ll be stopping by,

Will You?

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?

Royal Crypts – The Burial Places of European Monarchs

One of the reasons I love visiting Europe is its vast history. I am always awed by the depth of European history. This history is definitely intertwined with the lives of European Kings and Queens and I not only learn by visiting the places they lived but by seeing where they rest today.

This is one of the reasons I enjoy visiting cemeteries and royal crypts.

If you’re like me and enjoy visiting royal crypts, here are 6 that you may find interesting.

Speyer Cathedral, Germany

What Clovis I began in 1030 is today a symbol of Imperial power. Between this date and 1308 the cathedral became the burial site of 8 Emperors, Kings and their wives. The UNESCO World Heritage site is known as one of the most important Romanesque sites in Germany and the crypt is actually the largest Hall Crypt in Europe.
Speyer Cathedral Hall Crypt Germany

Speyer Cathedral Hall Crypt by Mussklprozz at de.wikipedia

Church of Our Lady in Laeken Belgium

This neo-Gothic Catholic church contains the Royal crypt that is the final resting place of the Belgian Royal family including the first King and Queen of Belgium, Leopold I and Louise-Marie. In fact, it was King Leopold I that originally had the church built in memory of his wife, Queen Louise-Marie. Built during the 19th century, today the Royal crypt holds the remains of all Belgian Kings.

Imperial Crypt Austria

The Imperial Crypt in Vienna has been the main burial site for the members of the Hapsburg family since 1622. It was Anna of Tyrol who, in her will, gave the funding for the crypt. Today it is one of the most visited places in all of Vienna. As I mentioned in The Hapsburgs: Living Large in Life and Death, this is the final resting place of 12 Emperors and 18 Empresses. The sarcophagi range from rather plain to very ornate and the amount of decoration seems to correlate to the importance of the person.
Crypt Charles VI Holy Roman Emperor Vienna Austria

Crypt of Charles VI Holy Roman Emperor

Roskilde Cathedral Denmark

The Roskilde Cathedral was constructed during the 12th and 13th centuries and is located on the island of Zealand. Besides being the main burial site of Danish Royalty this is the first Gothic cathedral to be built of brick. There are many burial chapels within the cathedral containing the remains of Danish royalty.
Roskilde Cathedral Crypt Denmark

Roskilde Dom by Fingalo

Westminster Abbey England

The oldest part of Westminster Abbey dates from 1050 and until 1760, this mainly Gothic church in London, was the burial place for English and British monarchs. The monarchs are buried inside the chapels of the church while other significant persons are buried in the cloisters and other areas on the grounds. Queen Elizabeth I and Bloody Queen Mary are among the monarchs buried in the Abbey.
Tomb Effigies of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York Westminster Abbey London England

Tomb Effigies of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York by lisby1, on Flickr

St Denis Basilica France

Located near Paris, this medieval Abbey was a burial place of French Kings and their families from the 10th – 18th centuries. In fact, all but three Kings of France are buried here many in “cadaver tombs”. These double-decker tombs have the person’s effigy on top and a decomposing effigy underneath. Among those buried hear include Clovis I and what remains of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.
St Denis Cathedral France

St Denis by Roi Boshi

Do you visit Royal Crypts?

Catalonia – Spain’s Best Kept Secret?

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

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

San Mauricio Lake Catalonia Spain

San Mauricio Lake by Gligan


Here are 5 reasons to visit Catalonia!


Natural Wonders

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

Boi Valley Catalonia Spain

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

Outdoor Activities

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

Kayaking in Catalonia Spain

kayak by miuina, on Flickr

Culture

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

Village of Cruïlles Catalonia Spain

Village of Cruïlles by Vincent van Zeijst

Cuisine

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

Barcelona Cuisine Catalonia Spain

Barcelona by George M. Groutas, on Flickr

Wellness

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

Tossa de Mar Catalonia Spain

Tossa de Mar by Gordito1869

 

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

 

Why would you visit Catalonia?

Mont St Michel – Touristy but Necessary

There are certain cities and sights that are touristy but still necessary to visit.  One of these is Mont St. Michel.

Located along the English Channel in the Normandy region of France, this Romanesque masterpiece is a sight to see.  Driving towards it, you start getting a glimmer of something in the distance and wonder “Is that it?”.  With each mile you drive the abbey seems to grow right before your eyes until you are face to face with one of the most amazing sights.Mont St Michel France from a distance

Built into the rock the Mont started out as a fortification defending the coast from invaders before becoming a monastery in 708 AD.  This beauty has been around a very long time and has seen its fair share of history from the Norman Conquest, Hundred Years War, French Revolution and World War II.Magnificent Mont St Michel France

At one point, the monks had moved away so the government turned Mont St Michel into a prison for its political prisoners.  Around 1836 there were calls to restore the mount to its glory.  It was during 1874 that it was declared a historic monument and in 1979 Mont St Michel was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list.

Yes Mont St Michel can be very touristy but passing along the cobblestoned path, passing the shops as you wind your way up the more than 900 steps to the abbey is worth it! The architecture is stunning and dramatic while the views are amazing from all angles.

 

What other touristy spots are “must sees”?


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

Maybe I’ll see you there.


A Year at European Travelista

Today is the first anniversary for European Travelista!!!

It’s Been a Year and What a Year It’s Been!

As I looked back at the year, I discovered that during this time I’ve written 134 posts which received 2,868 comments.

Together we’ve visited 18 of Europe’s countries!

The countries we’ve visited include France, Germany, Austria and Switzerland.  Along with those we’ve also touched ground in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Holland and even Estonia.Views walking up the hill to Gruyeres Switzerland

We’ve looked at food, aperitifs and experienced European wine beer and beer festivals!

Our journey has been by train, feet, bikes and post bus crossing rivers, bridges and scenic routes. We’ve taken a look at the awesome waterfalls in Europe along with some festivals, even if they are a bit crazy!Budapest and Danube River

Because I had a hard time telling the difference between Baroque, Gothic or Romanesque, we spent some time learning a bit about all that wonderful architecture found in European capitals.

I’ve shared my love for Germany and in particular Bavaria.  Heck one of my first posts was titled “Bavaria, Bavaria How do I Love thee?”.  That should have been your first clue 🙂

Hohenschwangau Bavarian Castle

View from Hohenschwangau

Together we delved into my passion for those small little quaint charming picturesque mountain villages.  Yes you know that I am a mountain girl!

We’ve spent time in castles, feasted our eyes on jewels, taken drives and just dreamed.

Cesky Krumlov Castle Czech Republic

Cesky Krumlov Castle by Docsj

Yup it’s been quite a year!

And it’s not going to stop yet!

I have many more adventures lined up for 2012 but I also want to include some of your interests.

Where do you want to go?

How do you want to get there and what do you want to do once you get there?

Where or where in Europe shall we go during 2012?  Help me out by leaving suggestions in your comment!

 

Before I go, I want to send out a BIG thanks to you all for making 2011 such a great year!

Gracias.Köszi.Merci.Takk.Grazie.Obrigada.Danke.

 

The 6 EST’s of Europe

What is the largest, longest or biggest in Europe?  Come on a journey with us to find out the best-EST and most-EST that Europe has to offer.

Largest Castle – Prague Castle

In fact, Prague Castle is the largest castle in the world and not just Europe.  Dating back to 870, the castle is home to the Bohemian crown jewels, the National Gallery, Toy Museum, Czech history museum and a gallery displaying the history of the castle.  Over the years, the castle has been remodeled and, therefore, you will find representations of every architectural style including Gothic St. Vitus Cathedral and Romanesque Basilica of St. George.  No visit to Prague is complete without taking a tour of the castle or spending time in one of its many museums.

Prague Castle Czech Republic

Prague Castle by Adam Zivner

Tallest Mountain – Mount Elbrus

At 18,510 feet this inactive volcano stands above the rest in this part of the Urals.  Located near the Georgian border, Mt Elbrus’ permanent ice cap feeds 22 glaciers which in turn feed into the Baksan, Kuban and Malka rivers.  Legend has it, this is the place where Zeus had Prometheus chained to a rock!  This mountaineering area will be hosting the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Mt Elbrus and the Caucasus Mountains

Mt Elbrus by Jialiang Gao

Largest City – Moscow, Russia

The capital of Russia was first mentioned in 1147 and is the most northern city to have a population of over 10 million people.  Sitting along the banks of the Moskva River, Moscow has seen the history of Russia play out before its very eyes.  To say that Russia’s history has been stormy is an understatement but Moscow has been the capital through the Grand Duchy of Moscow, Tsardom of Russia, Soviet Union and today’s Russia.  With the fall of the Iron Curtain Moscow has become quite a tourist destination and no one does not recognize the famous architectural style, the Onion Dome.  Sites to be seen include 2 UNESCO World Heritage sites, Red Square and the Kremlin, a zoo, museums, art galleries, 96 parks, 18 gardens and the world famous ballet.  One of Moscow’s newest claim to fame is it has the most billionaires (79) than anywhere else beating out NYC!

Red Square Moscow Russia

Red Square Moscow by Christophe Meneboeuf

Northernest City – Hammerfest & Honningsvag, Norway

Seems there is a little disagreement on what constitutes a city which is why there are 2 claimants to the most northern city in Europe.  Norwegian law says that to be a city there needs to be a population of at least 5,000 people.  Hammerfest is south of Honningsvag but Hammerfest is the only one that meets the city population requirements.  Both cities are important fishing and hunting areas with histories dating to prehistoric time.  Strange as it may seem for the most northern city, but the ocean off Honningsvag is ice free!  Hammerfest has a huge migration of reindeer during the summer.

Hammerfest Norway

Hammerfest Norway by Clemensfranz

Honningsvåg Norway

Honningsvåg Norway by Luca Boldrini

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Longest River – Volga

Ending in the Caspian Sea, this 2,194 mile long river skirts its way through Central Russia after its humble beginning in the Valdai Hills about 200 miles south east of St. Petersburg.  Even though the Volga freezes for most of its length for 3 months of the year, it has played a very important role in the movement of people from Asia to Europe during decades past.  The Volga estuary, the largest in Europe, is the center of the caviar industry and home to many species of animals including pelicans, flamingos, lotuses and beaver.  The river has also endured many wars, much strife by its people, pollution and the destruction of towns to make way for dams.  As with other great rivers of the world, if only they could talk the stories we would hear!

Volga River Russia

Volga River by Evgeny Pavlov

Oldest Amusement Park – Tivoli Gardens

Tivoli Gardens is in the center of Copenhagen, Denmark and was opened on August 15, 1843.  At this time it was actually outside the city limits but as the city grew the park became one of its central points and is right next to Copenhagen’s central station.  Legend says that Walt Disney decided to build Disneyland after visiting Tivoli.  The park is best known for its wooden roller coast, which was built in 1914, but today has many other modern roller coasters containing loop-to-loops and zero-G’s.  Inside this beautiful park there are performing art theaters, including one dedicated to Pantomime, concert areas, parades and gardens.  The park is spectacular at night where it sparkles under the many lights.

Tivoli Gardens Copenhagen Denmark

Tivoli Gardens by Tbmurray

 

These are few of the -ests of Europe.  I’m sure there are many more.

What other -ests or do you know?

Classic and Powerful: Neoclassical Architecture

A few months ago I started a series on the different architecture styles travelers usually come across in Europe.  So far we have covered Gothic  (Gothic Architecture of Europe), Romanesque (If it’s Tuesday, it must be Romanesque!), Baroque (Baroque: The Emotional Style), and Rococo (Rococo – Flirty & Decadent).

Continuing with this series, today’s post will delve into discovering Neoclassical architecture. This style came to prominence during the mid-18th century to make a symbolic statement against the extravagances of the past age.

Arc de Triomphe Paris France

Arc de Triomphe by Benh LIEU SONG

You could say Neoclassical architecture is the antithesis of Baroque and Rococo!  These styles were seen as over-the-top, shallow and the styles of aristocrats.  With the end of the French Revolution came a desire to move away anything having to do with “the regime” and towards a pure style, that of Ancient Greece and Rome.

Neoclassical architecture is very similar to the classical structures of Italy and Greece in its simplicity, symmetry and functionality.  Even though the style is the complete opposite of Rococo, it still is evocative and picturesque but in a self-restrained way.

Structures from the Neoclassical time will include most (if not all) of the following attributes:

Tall columns,

Vilnius Cathedral Lithuania

Vilnius Cathedral by Juliux

Clean basic lines replacing curves,

Prado Madrid Spain

Prado Madrid Spain by Fanghong

Shape is symmetric,

Marynkas Palace in Pulawy Poland

Marynkas Palace in Pulawy Poland by Ghalas

Domed roof, and

Lutheran Cathedral Helsinki Finland

Lutheran Cathedral Helsinki Finland by Purpy Pupple

Triangular pediment.

Pantheon Paris France

Pantheon Paris France by Kpjas

All of this together reflects the virtue, philosophy and harmony of ancient Italy and Greece.  In this style, the emphasis is on enriching and influencing lives instead of frivolous aesthetics and can be seen in libraries, schools, banks, capital building and monuments.

The imposing structures convey a feeling of superiority in an intimidating manner.  This commanding presence was seen as way to demonstrate state power and was one of the reasons Napoleon used it so widely in Paris.    Taking it further, Neoclassical architecture was the favored style of Hitler and the leaders in communist Russia.

Ostankino Palace in Moscow Russia

Ostankino Palace in Moscow Russia by Ghirlandajo

Even though you may not have known the name of this style, I know you have seen it in Europe and across the world!

 

Do you have a favorite Neoclassic building or monument?

Bavaria + King Ludwig = Castles

If you asked people for a word that makes them think of Bavaria, I bet castles would be a popular response.

The castles of Bavaria draw millions of people to them each year. Three of these castles were the creation of one person – Ludwig II King of Bavaria.  In fact, one of them is the most visited spot in all of Germany!

Swan King, Fairy Tale King, Mad King Ludwig and Crazy King Ludwig are all nicknames for Ludwig II.  Flamboyant, eccentric and extravagant are words used to describe him.  Whatever you call him or think about him, he built 3 amazing castles that are still attracting visitors to his beloved Bavaria today.

King Ludwig II of Bavaria Germany

King Ludwig II

Ludwig II was born into aristocracy and rebelled against it from an early age.  He disliked large public functions preferring visiting and talking with townspeople in the countryside of Bavaria.  He was passionate about the arts and it would be easy to say that Richard Wagner was his favorite.  Whether he actually was crazy is much disputed but his gift to art and architecture is not.

Ludwig’s castles are a sight to behold and are examples of Romanesque, Rococo, Gothic and Baroque architectural styles.

Neuschwanstein Castle Bavaria Germany

Neuschwanstein Castle by Taxiarchos228

Neuschwanstein is a dramatic castle sitting high up on a hill.  Even if you don’t know the name, you have seen pictures of this awe inspiring castle.  The Romanesque beauty was the first castle Ludwig II commissioned.  The towers, turrets and spires give homage to medieval times.  Ludwig’s affection for theater, led him to have the castle modeled by a set designer and not an architect.  In fact, many of the walls are painted with characters of Wagner’s operas.  This much visited castle was never finished and remains so today.  As evidence, the Byzantine throne room has no throne because the king died before ordering one.

Neuschwanstein Throne Room Bavaria Germany

Throne room at Neuschwanstein by LoKiLeCh

The setting of Neuschwanstein could not be more idyllic!  Every way you look is a feast for the eyes.  It truly is a beautiful building and it is easy to see why you may feel as you are living in a fairy tale while visiting.

Linderhof Castle Bavaria Germany

Linderhof Castle by Softeis

The smallest of King Ludwig’s castles is Linderhof, just a short distance from Neuschwanstein, and is also the only one to be finished.  The king fancied himself as King Louis XIV of France and designed this castle in his inspiration.  The ornate Rococo style castle is truly an over-the-top example of extravagance.  This glistening dream world has colorful walls, painting, gilded decorations and amazing furniture of the period.  The Hall of Mirrors is the most extravagant room in the castle.  The white and gold paneling coupled with the mirrors offers an illusion of largess.  But this castle also offered innovative engineering with its dining table that rose to and from the kitchen!  The garden areas of the castle are just as eccentric and ornate as the inside.  The over-the-top theme keeps going with the cascading waterfall, Moorish kiosk and the Venus Grotto!

Linderhof grotto Bavaria Germany

Linderhof Grotto by by Softeis

Linderhof Castle is a true contrast of styles: exaggerated on the outside and extravagant on the inside but you will love it!

Herrenchiemsee Hall of Mirrors Bavaria Germany

Herrenchiemsee Hall of Mirrors by digital cat , on Flickr

The third and final castle built by King Ludwig II is surrounded by beautiful mountains acting as a stunning setting for Herrenchiemsee sitting on an island in the middle of lake Chiemsee near the Austrian border.  This never completed grandiose castle is quite impressive and was modeled after Versailles.  From Prien, you will take a boat to the island where you may take a horse drawn carriage to the castle.   It is said, the most spectacular room is the Hall of Mirrors but the Grand Staircase is equally impressive.  The rooms of Herrenchiemsee offer some of the best examples of 19th century interior decoration still in existence today.  The collection of porcelain is exquisite.   In this castle you will find many brilliantly painted ornate rooms, a bathroom with a small pool for a tub, another table that rises to and from the kitchen and the same type of formal gardens you come to expect from Ludwig II.  The gardens at Herrenchiemsee offer a park like atmosphere complete with pools and fountains!

Herrenchiemsee Garden Fountain Bavaria Germany

Herrenchiemsee by Sir Gawain

While visiting Ludwig’s castles, we can still dream, wonder and be in awe of his vision while enjoying some of the most amazing countryside Bavaria has to offer!

 

Have you been to any of Ludwig’s castles?

Which one is your favorite?

Burgundy France – Land of Plenty

Burgundy is known for its wine and food but there is much more to Burgundy which makes it a great place to explore.  The never-ending list of “must see and do” includes unknown landscapes, cobble stoned streets in medieval villages, rivers and canals, art, history, Chateaux and, of course, the wine.

Semur en Auxois  Burgundy  France by OliverMartin, on Flickr

Semur en Auxois Burgundy France by OliverMartin, on Flickr

What is it that makes this region of France so attractive?  Here are 6 reasons:

Wine

Set between the rolling hills are the magnificent vineyards of Burgundy.  This region produces some of the best wines in the world mostly of the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes.  Principally divided into 5 wine regions:  Chablis is the most northern and produces dry white wines with a fruitiness to them;  Cote de Nuits is mostly known for it’s outstanding reds and is home to the oldest vines;  Cote de Beaune has both red and white wines but it is the white Chardonnay that reigns here; Cote Chalonnaise is a small region producing both red and white wines that are known for their affordability; Maconnais is a region known for its white wines from the Chardonnay grapes.  Learn while tasting the wines produced here either at cellars or vineyards or both!

Burgundy, France by Megan Mallen, on Flickr

Burgundy, France by Megan Mallen, on Flickr

Culinary Delights

Food might not be the correct term to describe the culinary reputation of Burgundy.  Gastronomy is a better description as this region is known world wide for the exquisite foods that you will encounter.  Whether you enjoy picnics or grand meals with white table clothes, you will find it in Burgundy.  Fresh fruit and vegetables can be purchased at local markets, fish stew, Bresse chicken, local cheeses, Beef Burgundy, Coq au Vin, or even Escargots can be found here.  One can not forget about the mustard with the same name as the largest city in the region, Dijon.  Make sure to bring some home!

Medieval Villages

Burgundy is full of villages that can be labeled “most beautiful villages in France”. Whether you are looking for fortified towns, half-timbered houses, turreted towers offering a fairytale feel, medieval fortresses, arches or cobble stoned streets, it is all here in Burgundy.  Take a walk in villages with names like Semur-en-Auzois, Montreal, Flavigny-sur-Ozerain and Brancion.

Vezelay in Burgundy France from afar by Fred Hsu, on Flickr

Vezelay from afar by Fred Hsu, on Flickr

Rivers ,Canals  and other outdoor activities

The lakes, rivers and canals of Burgundy are part of what sets this terrain apart and enables the soil to produce the wonderful grapes.  You can enjoy the countryside from a canoe, barge or river cruise.  You won’t be disappointed as you float pass hilltop villages or castles.  The Marvan Forest is a nature lover’s paradise full of birds, wild boar, and deer.

History

The history of this region is vast and varied.  Burgundy is a center of prehistoric art and has some of the oldest cave paintings in the world.  You can visit caves with chambers and subterranean lakes, ancient shrines and sites of worship during Celtic times.  The Romans share a history here and you will find many Roman ruins.  While in region make sure to save some time to visit the museums illuminating this amazing wealth of history!

Chateaux

Everyone loves Chateaux!  The chateaux of Burgundy delight those interested in decorative arts, interior design, gardens, history, architecture and military history.  The landscape  is dotted with chateaux containing the history of the region.  Usually set in park like settings, chateaux contain collections of grand paintings, sculptures and art. Many even come complete with intact towers, ramparts, turrets and moats.

Le Château de La Rochepot by John Picken, on Flickr

Le Château de La Rochepot by John Picken, on Flickr

Hopefully this brief description of Burgundy has whetted your appetite to learn more.  This is the first in a line of blogs I will post on all that Burgundy holds for its visitors.  Hopefully you’ll join me as we journey through this amazing region and discover all it has to offer!

 

 

Have you been to Burgundy?

What was the highlight?