Auschwitz I & Auschwitz II-Birkenau Concentration Camps

***Disclaimer at the beginning of this post , there may be content in here that is painful to view . Please be cautioned***

We recently spent a morning visiting Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II-Birkenau in Poland. This was our third concentration camp (fourth overall site as we also visited Lidice), we had done Dachau Concentration Camp and Kaufering VII, a Dachau subcamp. Visiting Auschwitz was different from the first due to its history and the information we learned after the liberation. Similar to my previous Concentration Camp posts, I don’t truly have the words for what this experience was like. There is nothing to truly do it justice, so instead of writing a whole bunch of words that will not come close, I am going to let the pictures tell the story. Maybe I’ll share my personal thoughts/experiences/tips in a later post. 

A quick note on our visit before anything else. We went early Sunday morning (an 8:30AM tour time) and took a guided tour. While I would recommend visiting in the early hours, as it is emptier and quieter, whether you take a tour or not is completely your choice. As someone who is Jewish, was raised in the faith and still maintains the faith (to an extent and for another post entirely), I am incredibly familiar with The Holocaust and the concentration camp history. My husband is familiar with the history as well. I don’t know that I learned any new information, BUT the guide helped put things into perspective and really walked you through the barracks and locations. The tour guides (at least ours) do not mince words. Everything is in exacting detail, which can be something to take note of. We did take our boys (aged 4 &3) and they were incredibly respectful throughout our entire visit (I don’t know that I am really going to talk about this decision- to each their own in this instance). 

If you do choose to visit, please note that the two camps are not truly within walking distance of each other. Auschwitz I does have a bus that runs between the camps OR you can drive. If you take a tour, you will start at Auschwitz I and then take the bus over to Auschwitz II-Birkenau to continue. Both are necessary to visit. 

I’m going to start with some brief history of the camps before I get into the photos. This will brief, if you are wanting a full breakdown, I would suggest any of the many books and survivors’ experiences (I find that a combination of both will be best). You can also see the Auschwitz website here for an introduction, however I would highly encourage you to do some reading in addition. It will allow you to get a true feeling for the time, the life, the camp. 

Auschwitz was established in 1940 (the first transport to arrive was actually mid Jan 1940) in the suburbs of a small city called Oswiecim. This city was annexed to the Nazi’s (The Third Reich) and later the residents and city was relocated as a way to hide what was happening within the camp. The original reason the camp was created was to house the Polish prisoners who were being arrested in large numbers. It was initially intended to simply serve a similar purpose to those the Nazi’s had already been setting up since the 1930’s (such as Dachau). True to its’ initial plan, Auschwitz did remain in this function of prison camp, even with the addition of the extermination centers. Auschwitz is actually 3 different camps. Auschwitz I was the “main camp” and held around 15,000-20,000 prisoners. The second was Birkenau, later known as Auschwitz II-Birkenau, which was the largest part of the complex and the main center of the Jewish population of the area, as well as the main extermination camp. The Nazi’s built up this second camp in 1941 (and this was when the residents were relocated) and, in 1944, it held over 90,000 prisoners.  The final camp was created from the largest sub camp (of which there were 40), Buna with 10,000 prisoners. It opened in 1942 and is not able to be visited (I believe it no longer exists).

In total, 1.3 million were sent to Auschwitz (across the board), within 1.1 million of those people dying. While the majority of the deaths were Jews (of the 960,000 that died, 865,000 died upon arrival), there were also Poles (non-Jewish), Roma, Soviet POW’s, and others. If the prisoners were not sent to the gas chambers, they died of starvation, disease, medical experiments, or from many other causes to include individual executions. The camp was liberated January 27, 1945, a day now commemorated as International Holocaust Remembrance Day, by the Soviet Red Army.  Auschwitz has become a symbol of the Holocaust and all of its atrocities and the location was named an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. 

Most people know about Auschwitz and Dachau (and Treblinka or Bergen-Belson or some of the other known, but smaller camps). As I said with visiting Dachau, it is one thing to read/hear/talk about these places and the atrocities that occurred, but it is something wholly different to walk them. To walk these paths. To see the tons of shoes, or suitcases, or hair (so much hair) taken from the victims. To walk from the rail car to the chambers. To feel the weight of those who came and died before you. I am not going to mince words; you don’t need words. You need images. So, I’ll be giving you the general gist at the start of pictures (and you can hopefully see the captions under the pictures to tell you what’s what), but nothing more than that. 

***PLEASE NOTE THERE WILL BE IMAGES THAT ARE DISTURBING TO VIEW. PLEASE BE CAUTIONED***

So, as I’ve already mentioned, we started our tour at Auschwitz I. It’s important to note that this particular camp was for polish prisoners, military/command barracks, and was used for Nazi propaganda. This is not a camp that the Jews or…well anyone who wasn’t a polish prisoner, or a consumer of the propaganda would see. 

Within Auschwitz I there are displays set up to show not only how certain aspects of the camp were run, but also in memorial of the victims who were murdered. 

You are also able to walk through the gas chamber and crematorium of Auschwitz I. These were not the main locations of the mass extermination, just temporary. These are the only chambers and crematoria that you are able to see as the Nazi’s destroyed the main complexes. 

From Auschwitz I, we headed over to Auschwitz II-Birkenau. This was the main camp for the Jews, Roma, and anyone deemed “undesirable”. This was where they were brought (again, they didn’t see Auschwitz I, just this). Those that lived through transport were then selected for either the gas chambers, hard labor, or medical experiments.

The two main gas chamber and crematoria complexes were exploded by the Nazi’s as they attempted to hide these atrocities, but the remains are here (and you are able to see how they were operated above).  

Finally, at Auschwitz II-Birkenau we were able to walk into one of the barracks that would have been used during the camps operation.

The one that we walked in was actually used for isolation of women prisoners who were selected as unfit and were to be sent to the gas chambers. If this barrack was full, they would be placed in the yard and the gate was locked until they were taken to the gas chambers. 

“For the dead and the living, we must bear witness” – Elie Wiesel

Round The Kettle Ep. 28: An Anniversary

October 18, 2014. A day that marked the next step in our lives. The day we pledged ourselves to each other. In sickness and health, for richer or poorer, as long as we both shall live. And now here we are. 6 years, 2 kids, 1 domestic and 1 international move, and countless adventures later. Still as madly in love as we were the first day we met. 

I remember the day that I met my husband. It’s funny because looking back…oof there could have been so many things to be wary of, but for us it worked. We had been chatting for a little while, but finally getting the chance to meet in person. It was a gray, drizzly day and our original plan was to go for a hike together, but the rain wasn’t clearing so we had dinner instead (then the rain cleared, we went for a hike, and it was all very romantic and cheesy- I’ll spare you). 

I remember the first time he told me he loved me. It’s funny because of my response. Walking home from a friend’s house and he just stopped us in the middle of a bridge. He says, “I love you” and me? I say, “Are you serious?”, followed by “I love you too”. I was in such a state of shock that my brain, heart, and mouth completely stopped communicating with each other. 

I remember the day he proposed to me. It’s also funny because it also happened to be the day I snapped at him about dropping hints but not following through (ya’ll- it had been MONTHS of teasing about proposing…I was over the teasing ha-ha). I remember him being extra paranoid about the weather (rain and gray skies again- starting to see a theme). We hiked up to a natural bridge and he got down on one knee. I remember the flurry of butterflies, the choked-up feeling of saying yes, the thrill of sharing our happiest news. 

I remember the day we got married. Gray skies again, which seemed to bode well for us, but a beautiful Autumn day, nonetheless. I had never been happier (and I think the same could be said for him). The entire day was spent as if in a dream and a feeling of such joy and love I thought I would burst. I remember the little details about the day that most would forget, they are implanted in my mind. I remember the feeling of my hands in his, the feeling of sliding the rings on, lighting the candle, and being introduced as Mr. & Mrs. And, since the funny bits still seem to follow us, I remember my husband spending the entire morning of our wedding day in the woods hunting, while the girls and I were in the hotel room watching Harry Potter and getting our hair and makeup done. 

I never truly expected where our life would take us, that we would be celebrating this anniversary in Germany, drinking alcohol we purchased in Italy, watching our two little boys play and grow and learn. I love this man more than I did all those years ago, and I know that love will continue to grow and change as the years continue. I love the family and life that we have created for ourselves. And, most importantly, I can’t wait to see what is next for us, for our family, for our lives together. 

Interlaken-Oberhasli District, Switzerland – A Long Weekend

We recently just spent a long weekend in Switzerland. Ok, I need a moment already, just from typing those words. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would utter that sentence. Never. 

Ok, shock over. We recently spent a long weekend in Switzerland, and it was glorious. Where do I even begin? My husband’s only requirements for the trip was to be able to see/be at the top of the Alps, so we picked a spot right near Interlaken, in the heart of the mountains and lakes. With COVID-19 restrictions we were restricted from traveling to some of the major cities, and we wanted to be a bit…off the way. When a local friend posted about a hotel she stayed at right on Lake Brienz, I knew that was where we needed to be. 

One little, teensy, note to make about Switzerland before we get into the meat of this post. If you know anything or have heard anything about Switzerland it is that it is an expensive place to visit. This is not an exaggeration. You will need to plan accordingly for this visit and budget if you need. There are certainly ways to make it a “cheaper” trip, but it will never be inexpensive. For us, I knew that this was going to up towards the more expensive trips we took on our time here and I was 100% ok with that. It was more important to me that we did what we wanted to do and enjoyed our time without worrying about the cost necessarily. With that being said, there were a couple of things that we DID NOT do, which I will get into later. 

Before we got to Switzerland though, we made a stop at KZ-Lager Kaufering VII. This is a European Holocaust Memorial in Landsberg Germany and is the largest remote area (sub camp) of Dachau Concentration Camp. There was a total of 11 of these sub camps of Dachau and this one has the actual remains of the tube style barracks. In total these camps saw 30,000 prisoners, with at least 14,500 prisoners dying over the time the camp was open. Exact numbers are not known as the records do not match up (one study found upwards of 44,000+). The camps were intended to put prisoners to work on an armament project, without any consideration by the guards for the health and safety of the prisoners. During the war crimes investigation, it was discovered that these sub camps were the worst in Bavaria and the prisoners came to refer to them as “cold crematorias”.     

We were not able to walk inside the camp and see the buildings and cemetery up close, but you could still get a feel from outside the fence. This is the second concentration camp we’ve been to (Dachau Concentration Camp being the first and hopefully a visit to Auschwitz soon) and I will never be able to fully verbalize the experience. So, once again, I will let pictures say what I cannot. 

After that, we headed off on our Switzerland Adventure. We stayed at the Hotel Seiler au Lac. Not only is the hotel itself incredible (you can request a lake front room, all of which have balconies looking right out to the water- swoon), but the staff were incredibly helpful and went above and beyond our needs. We opted to have breakfast at the hotel (included), which was handled excellently with COVID restrictions. We did also opt to have dinner at the hotel restaurants (one night at each- two restaurants attached to the hotel), and both meals were delicious. This particular hotel is located in Bonigen, Switzerland, a quick distance away from Interlaken (you can walk or take a bus- passes were offered by the hotel), and only a 20-30 minute drive to either Lauterbrunnen or Grindelwald (Berne is about 45 minutes away if you want to go there as well). 

Our first evening was mostly spent wandering around Lake Brienz before settling into our hotel and grabbing dinner at the Pizzeria attached to the hotel. 

We set off late the next morning to head into Interlaken. 

Here is where I am going to clarify some of our choices in activities. There are a couple of things that I base “what we do” on, the biggest factor being the weather. It was a wet and rainy morning in our area of Switzerland, so we knew going to Jungfraujoch (the top of Europe- aka the highest point of Europe) was going to be hit or miss. The second factor, less so than weather, is cost. This is really only specific to Switzerland as things are, generally, more expensive in the country. We made the decision to pass on heading up to Jungfraujoch as the potential for bad weather combined with the cost was not worth it for us. Instead we chose to top some of the smaller peaks, and this was just as incredible as anywhere else we could have stopped. 

So, back to our day. Chances are, if you’ve tried to take a train or summit one (read: many) of the Swiss Alp peaks, then you’ve gone through Interlaken. Not only is Interlaken the central city between Lake Brienz and Lake Thun, but it is also a main transport gateway to the Alps in the region. You’ve got the two lakes, then the River Aare which flows between them (and therefore between the city). There has been a city in this location since the 12th century, but it was originally known as Aarmuhle (changed to Interlaken in 1891). It started out as the home of a convent and monastery, but as it continued to grow, it became a large city. It started to become known as a resort town in the early 19th century, with a railway opening in the 1870’s (and more following in the next 20-30 years). 

We spent most of the rainy morning walking throughout the town seeing all the beauty that is offered in the valley. I think one of the best things to do sometimes is to just walk around the streets. We didn’t have any “set ideas” of spots to see until the weather cleared, so we just walked. We stopped in for a light lunch and during that, the weather started to clear out. Faced with breathtaking blue skies, snowcapped peaks, and a new look at Interlaken, we decided to head up to Harder Kulm. 

Harder Kulm is the top of Interlaken. Rising 1,322 meters above Sea Level you are able to get an incredible view of Interlaken, the peaks around the city (opposite), as well as the two lakes, Brienz and Thun. There is a viewing platform that you can stand on for a truly breathtaking experience. You don’t even have to worry about hiking up if you don’t want to (though you certainly can), there is a funicular that takes you to the top in just under 10 minutes. You are also able to go up top in the evening, and I believe there is a hotel located right above the restaurant if you would like to stay. 

We finished out the day at an indoor playground for the kids. Most of our travel is not necessarily based on our kids in terms of places we visit (maybe I’ll talk about different traveling styles in a blog post?), but we saw that there was a neat kids play park and we had a bit of time to kill between finishing up in the center of Interlaken and heading to dinner. So, we let the kids go a little wild and run off all the pent-up energy for a little while. They really enjoyed it and it was nice to be able to do something just for them on our trip. 

Our second day we decided to go over to Lauterbrunnen. It was a tough call as to whether we wanted to go to Grindelwald of Lauterbrunnen, you can’t really go wrong with either option, but I wanted to be able to see the waterfalls that Lauterbrunnen is known for. Honestly, I don’t think you could really go wrong with anywhere in this particular region, so explore it all if you can!

Lauterbrunnen as an area is first mentioned in the 13th century, with the name Lauterbrunnen being mentioned in the beginning of the 14th century. It has an early history of battles and rebellion between the villages and the Interlaken Monastery, ending in the 16th century. The villages that make up Lauterbrunnen were actually very poor. The area started out as a mining area, but all of the profits went to the noble families, and the working-class people remained below the poverty line. It got so bad at one point, that most villagers moved away, joining regiments and emigrating to the United States of America (settling in the Carolinas). At the end of the 18th century, Lauterbrunnen started to gain more traction when mount climbers would start expeditions in the town, and once the road was built from Interlaken to Lauterbrunnen, tourism exploded. Lauterbrunnen has inspired many a writer and film maker (with Goethe and Tolkien both referencing it in their own works, and the 1969 On Her Majesties Secret Service being filmed in the city). 

Lauterbrunnen is really known for its waterfalls and mountain peaks. It is one of the largest nature conservation areas in Switzerland and easily one of the prettiest spots we’ve ever visited. The valley is home to 72 waterfalls, the largest being Staubbach Falls which are one of the highest free-falling waterfalls. Another set that you can visit up close are Trummelbach Falls, which are a natural waterfall phenomena situation behind the rock face. 

We started the morning off hiking through the valley to get to Trummelbach Falls. You are able to park right at the waterfalls if you’d like. HOWEVER, I would highly recommend parking in one of the bigger “in town” parking lots and then walking through the valley to the falls. It was an incredible semi sunrise hike (it definitely wasn’t sunrise, but the light still hadn’t reached in to the valley when we started walking) and you see so many more of the waterfalls this way, as well as get the chance to see some of the local cattle life and ranchers (we got to see a minutes old baby cow on our way back from the falls as well as buy local cheese from a little self-service booth). It’s all flat ground and we really loved being able to soak in all of the natural beauty. 

So, we started at our furthest out point, Trummelbach Falls.

Trummelbach Falls are the largest subterranean water falls in Europe and can carry up to 20,000 tons of meltwater from the glaciers of Jungfrau. They are incredibly loud (thundering loud), cause the mountain to almost tremble at the power, and are the most incredible thing mother nature does. If you’ve read my Garmisch-Partenkirchen post, you’ll recognize a pattern of water going through rocks makes me just swoon and feel overwhelmed with amazement, and Trummelbach Falls was no different. We were lucky with our timing as we were able to see all 10 chutes of the falls (at a total height of 200 meters), whereas during certain times of year you are only able to see the top chutes. They do not recommend this activity for younger children (in fact they don’t typically allow children under the age of 4 in) and I would be careful walking through the paths- it can get very slippery. 

From there, we walked back towards town with a stop at Staubbach Falls.

Staubbach Falls has a height of almost 300 meters (297 to be exact) and , in addition to being the highest in Europe, are the most famous of the waterfalls in Lauterbrunnen. The waterfall inspired Goethe’s poem, Song of the Spirits over the Waters and disperses water as if it were dust. You are able to climb a portion of the rockface to be “under” the waterfall; HOWEVER, I would not recommend this for young kids. I was the only one who went up the rockface and, once I reached the end, was glad my boys did not head up. It is a really cool experience though, and if you can, I would recommend it for adults.

The entire valley is one for the nature lovers and reminded us just how incredible the world around us really is. So much beauty and a place I’m glad we spent a whole day in. 

From the falls, we decided to head up the mountain towards Murren. From the base of Lauterbrunnen you are able to take a gondola up the mountain to Schilthorn, then either hike or board a train towards Murren. We chose the train (much to the boy’s excitement) and were treated to a narrow-gauge railway and breathtaking views.

Murren is a traditional mountain village at 1,638 meters above sea level. From Murren you are able to see Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau mountains around you. I think this is a great alternative, if you just want to get up in the mountains, but don’t necessarily want to do the Jungfraujoch. There is an element of “off the beaten path” and an actual look at what life is like up in the alps, even though during the summer this is one of the more popular alps spots.  

We finished out our day in Lauterbrunnen with a hot chocolate made in a local coffee shop before heading back to our hotel and our dinner reservation. 

And that wraps up our long weekend in Switzerland! Easily one of the most incredible places we’ve visited, and it definitely makes my top 4 places we’ve traveled. I’ve used a lot of words in this post (2319 at this point to be exact), but none really can come close to what this region was like. 

A Cuppa Cosy Reads – September 2020

September has come to an end and that means it is time to talk about the books that I managed to read throughout the month. I won’t lie, I struggled a bit reading in September. I felt like I only read a couple of books that I really enjoyed and everything else was a bit…average. That then leads to not wanting to read as much, which then just leads to a general “meh” feeling in general. However, it did pick up a bit and I did have a few books that I loved, and, now looking back, I did end up reading quite a bit. I read a total of 9 books (8 physical, 1 audio) and gave an average rating of 3.6. 

Let’s talk through them, shall we?

Sex & Vanity by Kevin Kwan 3 Stars (Purchase) This was a bit of a surprising disappointment for me. In Sex & Vanity we are following our young protagonist in a coming of age novel. What I loved about this novel (and what I think Kevin Kwan does best) is the witty commentary and banter that is written into the story. His writing will keep you going when you aren’t jiving with the story. What I didn’t jive with was the timeline (maybe there was a better way to do this?), and some of the self-denial (which upon reflection, we are supposed to get frustrated as our character is dealing with a lot of self-growth). 

Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas 3 Stars (Purchase) A book that I don’t even know how to begin to talk about. Catherin House is one of those books that you need to read and experience rather than hear reviews on. It’s strange, it’s unnerving, it’s…interesting. I heard a comparison to Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro and while I see that, this isn’t as…good as that?

The Allow of Law by Brandon Sanderson 4 Stars (Purchase) This is the first book in the Wax and Wayne spinoff series in the Cosmere of Brandon Sanderson. This trilogy takes place quite a while after the Mistborn trilogy, but the nice thing is that you already have an understanding of the world. There are minor extensions to the world and to what we understand, but the vast majority of the book is devoted to the current situation, rather than building the entire world from scratch. 

The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner 3 Stars (Purchase) This is a historical fiction novel about a group of people trying to save and restore the legacy and home of Jane Austen. At its core it’s a story about the impact Jane Austen (and literature) can have and how people can come together through a story. However, it also deals with grief, loss, love, resilience, and how to stand for yourself. Overall, I found the book to be OK, a bit average, with beautifully written moments. 

Mobituaries by Mo Rocca NR (Purchase) How to even describe this book. Mobituaries are Obituaries that Mo Rocca writes for people/things/places/events that he feels didn’t get the homage they deserve. This started as a podcast (that I want to continue to listen to) and has turned into a book. I listened on audio (Mo Rocca narrates it himself) and found myself not only learning new things, but laughing at moments at the different quips. 

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah NR (Purchase) I really enjoy Trevor Noah and his commentary on current events. I feel like no matter which party side you fall into; he will speak right to you. He has such a unique insight and perspective on life, given his childhood (being born under apartheid as a mixed child will teach you some major things from a young age) and I found myself gaining even more insight. This is one of those books that will educate you in more ways than you think, and I highly, highly recommend it. 

Majesty by Katherine McGee 3.5 Stars (Purchase) Alright, next I read the sequel to American Royals, which I found to be slightly above average. We follow up closely after the end of the first book and our characters experience some harsh truths and new challenges as their roles begin to change. I enjoyed the character development (as there was a lot) and I enjoyed seeing the arcs of the story, HOWEVER my big discrepancy was that the “end” (as this was supposed to be a duology) seemed more of a beginning than an end. At the same time though, the book isn’t necessarily strong enough to be a solid second book in a trilogy (as I understand the author would like to write a third book). 

The City We Became by N.K. Jemison 4 Stars (Purchase) Where do I begin? I’m not going to really try to summarize this book for two reasons 1) I can’t and 2) the best thing about N.K. Jemison’s’ books are letting her lead you into the story. Letting her reveal exactly what she wants to as she wants, and you just being lost until the story envelops you. This was an ambitious, weird take (I think even more so than The Broken Earth Trilogy- which I enjoyed), but it was masterfully done, and I really enjoyed this first book. 

Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson 5 Stars (Purchase): I had a couple of days before the end of the month, so I decided to pick up the second book in Sanderson’s Wax & Wayne trilogy and I found what is, so far, my favorite Sanderson book. I finished this in three days and just knew, when I put it down late at night that I had just read a favorite. This had everything, it tied the first trilogy to this side story perfectly, had a mystery that unraveled in the perfect pace, ended on a note that I won’t quite get over for some time. Now, last time this happened, I had to pick up the next book immediately, but I am not…I’m going to try and draw it out for a while. 

I’m looking forward to switching things up a bit in October and trying out some spookier reads to get in the spooky season. I’ve got a rather ambitious stack, but I’m hopeful I can get through them. 

Round the Kettle Ep. 27: CAtching Up

Hey! Hello! Long time no chat! 2020 has been a year (as we all can attest to at this point) and I’ve been shifting things around throughout all aspects of life. However, that means this little catch up post I like to do twice a month has kind of “check in”, how are things style, has slipped from my radar. And maybe that was wrong, because I think right now is when we need this type of thing the most. However, that is all changing now and I am back to doing these chatty posts twice a month. I’ve changed my posting schedule ever so slightly, only posting once a week on Wednesdays in the hopes that that will be a bit better all around.

So, how are you? How are you really?

I’m OK. In the grand scheme of things, things are good. Colton is in school (in person, with masks and mask breaks) and loving it, Andrew and I have a good little one on one time while he is at school, doing school or walking or independent play, I’ve been reading, and we’ve been traveling. Things seem, in a way, back to normal. However, there are also moments of melancholy, moments of burn out, moments where it just feels like an endless cycle of “run on empty”. I’m trying to focus on making the most out of these last months of 2020, even when it seems like sometimes everything is falling down around us. 

Let’s be honest, things are a bit of a mess right now. 2020 has been quite the year and I’m sure there is more to come. I can only encourage you to look ahead, to look above, to try and find the bright little moments, and to make sure, above all else, that you are taking care of yourself in whatever way that looks like for you. I think 2020 has shown us the power, and resiliency, of human beings. We’ve been tested in so many ways and it’s been a real show to see how we react, respond, and handle everything going on in the world. 

So, what have I been up to? Apart from traveling (safely following our strict regulations), I’ve been doing quite a bit of reading, a lot of walking, and have even watched some new shows and films! We recently watched Wild Wild Country on Netflix, which was insane, but good to watch. We also finished our re watch (start to finish) of Big Bang Theory on Netflix and started Brooklyn Nine Nine as our next comedy. I watched the Enola Holmes film with a close friend and loved every minute of it. I also, much like everyone else, watched Selling Sunset (and peaked at Carole Baskin on Dancing With The Stars- oof). In terms of reading, a few stand out favorite books from the past month or two have been Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson (I just finished this- might be my favorite Sanderson yet), Born A Crime by Trevor Noah, and The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan. 

What have you been up to???

Finally, I have a bit of a hairbrained idea that I’m thinking about…

When I am doing research for blog posts, I often times have “extra” information that doesn’t make the cut for the post (for many different reasons). I also gleam tidbits of information with podcasts, internet, and reading. All of this random information I get just chills in my brain waiting for a moment that I can share it. I was kind of thinking about doing a post maybe the last Friday of the month with just a list of bullet points of the random tidbits that I find interesting that I’ve learned throughout the month. Would this be something you would be interested in? Let me know because this are things that I would like to share, but don’t know if you would be interested in reading…

And that is all for this Sunday Afternoon. I hope that you are holding your head up (at least somewhat) and doing alright. 

A Long Weekend in Garmisch – Partenkirchen

We recently took a little trip “to the mountains”. The Garmisch- Partenkirchen area is an area on the Austrian border in the Bavarian Alps. This area is a great one for hiking, mountain climbing, skiing, and just feeling right in the heart of the alps and nature. It has something for everyone. We took a quick weekend getaway and explored some of the top sites. 

Garmisch and Partenkirchen were two separate cities for quite a long time, up until 1935 when they were forced to “merge” for the Winter Olympics in 1936. Partenkirchen is the older of the two as it dates back to Roman times and A.D. 15. Garmisch was not mentioned until 800 years later. The two cities have quite the history between the land, the plague, and the witch trials. Not to mention, the Winter Olympics of 1936 (the first year Alpine Skiing was competed) and then World War II when the town held a major hospital for the German military. The towns have distinct differences, with Garmisch being more “modern” of the two and the area is now referred to as Garmish-Partenkirchen OR GAP (although many people try to simply say Garmisch).

So, upon our arrival to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, we decided to start with a trip up the mountain, to the highest peak in Germany, Zugspitze.

The highest peak of the Wetterstein Mountains, this is one of the most incredible viewpoints in the region. The German/Austrian Border runs right through the peak, so you can head for lunch at the peak in Austria (or Germany) and see the beauty all around. The peak was first reached in 1820 by Josef Naus, Maier, and Johann George Tauschl. If you choose to climb, you have three routes to take, however if you’re like us, you can also choose from three different cable cars to “ride” up to the top. We took the Seilbahn Zugspitze up which provided us with some incredible views both on the way up and down. 

Once we came down, we walked down to Lake Eibsee. Lake Eibsee is one of those lakes that I feel like are beyond words. Created by a rock fall, the water is crystal clear, the deepest, prettiest shade of blues and greens that you could dream of, and provides the peace and clarity that only being by the water can provide. It is actually considered one of the purest lakes in the Alps. Similar to Alpsee at Hohenschwangau/Neuschwanstein or Forggensee in Fussen, this is a level of beauty that just seems to need to be seen (and then can’t be captured perfectly because you need to see it in person) and just held in your soul. We walked around a bit of the lake and found another little “hide away” lakes that was also incredibly gorgeous.

From there we headed in to town and over to our Hotel. We stayed at Reindl’s Partenkirchner Hof and I would highly recommend a stay here. The hotel was beautiful, and the room was incredible. They had offerings throughout the day, could arrange several activities for guests, and the location was great. From check in, we wandered over to the site of the Winter Olympics Ice Rink. Fun fact about me, I was a competitive figure skater for about 12 years. Seeing the history of the ice rink was awesome and seeing the location was really cool. We headed more into the Altstadt side of town and found a little restaurant to eat some dinner. We ate at a restaurant called Zum Wildfchutz and the food was delicious. I got a bread/pizza concoction and my husband got a meat dish. We also sampled the 2020 Oktoberfest beer from the Hacker-Pschorr brewery, which was also delicious (I think I’ve just decided that German beer is the only beer for me- especially the Oktoberfest brews). 

After the massive meal, we felt like walking a little bit longer (to walk off a bit of that delicious meal) and found ourselves in a church, Pfarrkirch St. Martin. This is one of those gems that you could very easily miss just by not walking in. I find churches to be some of the most incredible stops to make when traveling as they are all different in unique ways. Yes, the structure and such can be similar, but each church is still incredibly unique. And this church was breathtaking.

This particular church is first referenced (and an initial church was built) in the 18th century, with mentions going back to around 750. The current church was renovated starting in 2007 to repair the entire building (from the roof to the flooring). The ceiling paintings were painted by Matthaus Gunther. When we walked through an organist was playing the organ, which only added to the special feeling that we were experiencing. That was the perfect end to our day. 

The next day we spent our entire day in the Partnach Gorge area. In its most basic (read: I am not a geologists and I don’t understand a vast majority of that) sense, the Partnach Gorge is a 702-meter-deep gorge that has been incised by a mountain stream. In some places the gorge is over 80 meters deep. The gorge was initially used by locals in the 18th century as a way to transport firewood, as well as a rafting stream (until the 1960’s). In 1912 the gorge started to be developed for tourists to visit and has undergone changes as the landscape changes (there was a rockfall in 1991 that changed the path), and the walk is…incredible. 

Sometimes we experience, or visit somewhere that we cannot put into words. Somewhere that just connects with every fiber of our being, and the experience of visiting that place just transcends everything else. That was Partnach Gorge for me. It was just incredible. The rush of the stream, the rockwall all around, it was an experience that I will never forget. Not to mention, the actual water itself was a gorgeous blue/green that you think only exists in highly edited photos. 

However, to back up for a minute (I got a little excited and ahead of myself), we started the day at the Olympic Ski Park. We didn’t climb the stairs to the top of the jump, but rather stopped on our way to the gorge (as you have to pass through to get to the walking path for the gorge). So, the Olympic Ski Stadium.

The 1936 Winter Olympics were only the fourth Winter Olympic Games and set quite a bit of records and history. You are able to climb to the top (although we did not do this) and you are also able to see what the skiers would have seen (and still do- there are two annual competitions held in this stadium). If you are into the Olympic sites and history, you are also able to visit the bobsled track which held the “most dangerous track” title for quite a long time. 

Now, after the Stadium and after you walk through the gorge, there are two different routes to get back to the gorge entrance (I’m actually pretty sure there are more than two, we just chose between two that we mapped out). We let our older son Colton choose the route, and he chose the “road less traveled”.

This path meant climbing partially up the side, then back down, and back up again. It was quite the hike, but so well worth it as the scenery of the Alps is unparalleled. Not only do you get the views within the Alps, but you are also able to see the gorge from above (though you can see this whichever path you choose- there are definitely easier paths to take). It was quite the way to spend our day and I loved every minute of it. 

Our final day on our weekend was our “head home” day, but we incorporated one final stop on our way home to Schloss Linderhof (or Linderhof Palace). Now, I’ll devote an entire post to Linderhof (just like I will for Heidelberg Castle, Cochem Castle, Burg Eltz, and all the rest- they ARE coming I promise), but I’ll give some bare bones here to hold you over till that post.

So, Linderhof. Ludwig II was quite the dreamer and builder. He commissioned a lot of different monuments and statues (Walhalla, Liberation Hall, Neuschwanstein, and many, many, more) and he turned these ideas into realities fairly quickly. Not long after redesigning rooms in his Munich residence and laying the foundation stone for Neuschwanstein, he started plans for Linderhof (all of this took place 4 years after he crowned King). His initial plans didn’t come to fruition, however what did was incredible. The original building was the Foresters house, which was used when the King (Ludwig’s Father, Maximilian) and Crown Prince would go on hunting trips. The palace was remodeled and rebuilt in various stages, but ended up being the only palace Ludwig II saw completed in his lifetime. 

This palace easily jumped to almost the top of my favorite castle list (it’s battling up against Hohenzollern Castle if you’re wondering) as both the building itself and the location is perfect. Ludwig II loved the concept of the French palaces (and Versailles in particular) and this most definitely reflected that love. It’s ornate, it’s incredible, and the attention to detail, to making smaller rooms appear larger, while still trying to keep them “cozy” is just wonderful. Not to mention the garden and the exterior and something to behold as well. What a way to end our weekend. 

Bamberg – A Day Trip

Recently my friend Kim and I went for a little day trip to the nearby city of Bamberg, Germany. Bamberg had been a city I had set my sites on for quite a while, not only for the fact that it’s your typical old-world German town, but also because of its history. We spent a day walking along the streets, seeing the Altstadt Rathaus, the bridges, a never-ending antiquary (old, used books- seriously the coolest), and the churches. We didn’t do everything we could have done, but we had a lovely casual day wandering around.

A little bit of history on Bamberg…

The first mention of Bamberg dates 902 as a mostly Slavic settlement. In the early 11th century, the Holy Roman Emperor (Henry II) made it a family inheritance and a separate diocese from Wurzburg. Once all the border details were sorted out, Henry II ordered the building of a new cathedral AND a Benedictine abbey for the training of clergy. With their involvement, Bamberg became a center point for the Holy Roman Empire; the Pope had visited several times, consecrated some of the churches, and thus, both Henry and his wife, Kunigunde, are buried in the Bamberg Cathedral. 

Through the centuries, the city started to expand and change, going through the reformation and land changes. In the 17th century, the witch trials came to Bamberg and claimed around 1,000 victims. The 17thcentury also ushered in the University of Bamberg. Finally, it 1803 Bamberg became part of Bavaria after losing its independence the year prior. Bamberg has also played a role in the political landscape of Bavaria- being a safe place for the state government in World War 1 (after a communist uprising), the location of the passing of the first republican constitution of Bavaria, and then the venue for the Bamberg Conference, a conference convened by Hitler to stifle dissent within a young Nazi Party. 

In 1993 Bamberg became a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its authentic medieval appearance. 

One final fun fact: Bamberg is known in some places as a “Franconian Rome” as its geography extends over seven hills. Each hill has its own church at the top, overlooking the city. 

We started our day off walking the Obere Brucke, which is one of the bridges connecting the lower town to the hills. Halfway across this bridge is the Rathaus (town hall). The legend of the town hall is quite typical of the time period: the bishop did not grant the citizens approval to build a town hall, so they took matters into their own hands and rammed stakes into the river and create an “island” on which they built their town hall. The frescoes painted on the town hall are quite incredible, giving it a 3-D appearance- although there are a couple spots where it isn’t just an appearance.  

From the bridge we wandered through the streets, stopping in the Antiquariate Lorang. I’m mentioning this mostly because it was basically a store of old books that never ended. If you’re a book or bookstore lover, it’s one of those stores that you dream of going to at least once a week. Filled floor to ceiling with any and all books (and some notebooks), most dating quite far back it was just a dream to walk through and look at everything. It was a great start to our day. 

We wandered the streets a little bit more, then started to climb up on of the hills towards the Church of Our Lady (Obere Pfarre). This church is Bamberg’s only purely Gothic church.

Planning of the church started at the end of the 13th century, with construction starting at the beginning of the 14th (the foundations date 1375). There were quite a few additions and rebuilds to the church, including damage done by an aerial bomb during World War 2. Walking inside the church was breathtaking. I don’t know if I have the words to truly do this one justice, so the pictures will have to speak for me. A few bits- the paintings are from the 19thcentury by Adolf Riedhammer, with some repainted in the 1930’s by Hans Bayerlein. There is a walnut portrait of Mary with Child which was from a school in Cologne dating around 1250. There is an incredible painting of The Ascension of Mary by Tintoretto that you can view as well. Overall, this was one of those churches that you really just have to walk through. 

From the church we headed over to the New Residence. To get to the New Residence you go through the Old Court. The Old Court was originally the Castrum Babenberg and then the palace of Henry II. It then became the Bishop’s residence and it features an incredible gateway from the square to the inner square. Now, the Old Court is a historical museum and a small chapel for civil wedding ceremonies. It was really neat to see (I love Timber Frame anything ha-ha) and there was actually a wedding reception while we were there!

We walked through the gate and on to the main square of the New Residence and Bamberg Cathedral. The Cathedral Square is at the top of one of the seven hills and is the heart of the city. Before we went into the Cathedral, we went over towards the Library, Residence, and Rose Garden. The New Residence served as the seat of Bamber’s prince bishops. There are 40 magnificent rooms filled with artwork and lavish furniture. You are able to tour the inside of the residence which not only takes you through a few of the rooms, but shows you a large Bavarian State art collection. We elected to head over to the Rose Garden in the inner courtyard and take a little rest and relaxation moment. 

Designed by Friedrich Karl von Schonborn, the Rose Garden contains around 4500 roses, along with several sculptures, a fountain at the center, and an absolutely incredible view of Bamberg. We stopped at the café in the garden pavilion and had a lovely treat of a pear/mint lemonade and light food. In the summers there are musical performances in the garden and the entire area is so enchanting.

After a refreshing pick me up, we started to head out, first stopping real quick at the State Library. 

Let me tell you, some of our American libraries can learn a thing or two. The little glimpse we got to see inside was just incredible. The vaulted, painted ceilings, the quiet peace that comes from the library, the pristine collections, it was incredible. Not only that, but the library contains quite a few manuscripts dating from 1000, as well as 3 Reichenau manuscripts that are listed on UNESCO’s World Heritage documents. We only got a glimpse, but it was a pretty neat spot. 

Finally, it was time to make our way to the Cathedral. St. Peter’s and St. George’s Imperial Cathedral is the legacy of Henry II.

The cathedral was completed in 1012 (after only 10 years of being built!), however it took 3 different constructions to get the current cathedral due to fires. Now, when we visited there was quite a bit of restoration and reconstruction being done, so we weren’t able to see the Bamberg Horseman and the alter and such were tucked back in the construction. We were able to see the tombs and the overall look of the cathedral. The thing that makes cathedrals so special in ways, is not how incredible they are on the interior (though they can be) is just the sheer craftmanship it takes to craft and build a cathedral (and most built before our modern engineering and technological advances. 

Our last stop of the day was to head down to Little Venice.

This is a former fish district of the Island City. The river way is lined by half-timbered buildings that date back to the Middle Ages and each has a little tiny garden. The homes are right next to each other, holding each other up in some cases, and sets quite the little backdrop. It is absolutely adorable and was the perfect picture of Bamberg to end our day with. 

The only thing that we missed that I wanted to do would have been St. Michael’s Monastery. This is the home of the abbey that Henry II commissioned. I would have loved to see the monastery and walk its walls and church buildings (and garden), however it is currently closed due to restoration work. If you do get the chance to see it, do!

And that was our day in Bamberg! It was the perfect little outing and day trip for us. 

Autumn in Bavaria

I’m interrupting all of the travel content for this very special post…

Ok, maybe it’s not that special, but I wanted to do a post acknowledging two things:

1) This is my 300-blog post published to A Cuppa Cosy. 300 posts. While my content has bounced all over the place, it is still crazy to think that I have written and published 300 posts in this little corner of mine. And for my 300th post I wanted to focus on something I love, something that just kind of perfectly coincided with the timing of this post and everything else and that is…

2) Autumn. Specifically, Autumn in Bavaria. 

Autumn officially begins next week, but we’ve been officially welcoming it since September 1st (as we do every year) and I think this year, given everything, there is nothing wrong with celebrating the changing season a bit early. 

I’ve lived a fair amount of places that have had beautiful Autumnal Seasons, and a couple that don’t really get an Autumn at all, but it is my personal opinion that Bavaria just takes the cake (at this time, I’m sure in the coming years that may change, but I don’t know that I’ll ever forget the incredible season here). Between the weather, the festivals, the leaves, it just creates the best of the best of Autumn. 

Let’s start with the weather.

If you know me, you know that Autumn has always been my favorite season. I’m really kind of obsessed with the two transitional seasons- Spring and Autumn, but Autumn takes the cake. I’ve loved Autumn before it became the “basic girl” thing to love. Something about the heat fading away, the days slowly going shorter, the start of the school year, the crisper air moving in, and the leaves changing colors just made me feel so alive. And I know I’m not alone in that feeling.

I’m a massive rain fan and Autumn in Bavaria has its fair share of rainy days. This isn’t necessarily the hard rains of spring and summer storms, but rather that soft, sometimes mist like, rain that just peppers the ground and bounces gently off the roofs. The overcast nature of many of the Autumn days gives the perfect backdrop for the bright red and oranges that the leaves turn throughout the months before falling to a damp ground. The air starts to slowly turn crisp with the cool crisp air settling just in time for apple and pumpkin picking. Don’t worry though, it’s not always rainy and cool, there are those brilliant sunny days peppered throughout the 3 or so months that encompass the changing season. Those sunny days are full of life and joy and somehow…always happen on festival days. It’s a time where you may have to pack up the shorts, tanks, and summer dresses, but you can still wear t-shirts and such for a little bit longer. Same for sandals and boots, you get a great chance to wear both throughout the month of September. 

Let’s briefly talk leaves. 

I mentioned the fall colors, but something about the vibrance here in Bavaria makes a difference. Maybe it’s the rolling hills and alps that are just peppered with trees. Maybe it’s the balance of the “evergreen” trees and the changing leaves. Maybe it’s the fact that the sky has just always seemed a bit bluer and clearer in Bavaria. Whatever it is, the changing leaves are absolutely incredible here. You get a real range not only in color, but in timelines as well. It takes a full month to month and a half for the full process of changing colors and falling leaves and it is EVERYWHERE. You don’t have to drive far to get just the simple beauty of the season, you can walk right down the road. You don’t need to take any random country back roads or make a special trip (although you certainly can do that) in order to get the real pretty views. And you can get everything range of colors at any times, from the lighter green, to yellow, to the fiery reds, and brick oranges, all peppered against a brilliant blue sky or overcast gray. It’s truly incredible. 

Finally, let’s talk ambiance. 

Autumn is all about getting cozy. It’s about family, friends, changing weather, and the upcoming holiday season. It’s full of celebration and nobody does celebration better than Bavaria. Autumn, at times, almost feels like, after the grueling heat and harvest filled months of summer have ended and everything can take a deep breath again. Not only can you breathe, but you can celebrate, and Germany sure knows how to celebrate. 

***Obviously celebration will look drastically different this year due to Covid-19. I haven’t seen much about how some of the festivals that we attended last year will happen or not happen this year, but I am looking to see what I can find, and, in the meantime, I have linked a couple of posts from last year.***

The season kicks off with Almatrieb, which is a festival to celebrate the cattle (and sometimes sheep too) coming down from the mountains in anticipation of the colder weather. The cows are decorated with floral crowns, given massive bells, and then paraded on their route to pasture. It’s a massive party, which you can read about HERE. Everyone knows about Oktoberfest, the biggest party in Germany (which actually occurs in late September-usually ending the first week in October). We attended Munich’s Oktoberfest last year and had a blast (you can read that post HERE), but there are also a lot of smaller versions of Munich’s AND there are a multitude of other festivals throughout Autumn. One that I went to last year was Ertedankfest (you can read about that weekend HERE), which is a celebration of the harvest, complete with dried hops decorations. There are also the obvious, plentiful, markets in every town. 

Overall, Autumn in Bavaria is the perfect combination of sunny crisp days and grey rainy days, celebration of the changing season and getting cozy in our own homes. I don’t know that I’ve experienced the perfection of Autumn until I’ve been here. Maybe it’s just the changing season, the sentimental nature of who I am, or just the love I have for Bavaria, but I have truly found my happy spot of the year. 

A Girls Weekend- Heidelberg

After months and months, I finally was able to do my little girls’ getaway! Back in March I was supposed to go on a girl’s weekend to Prague. This was something that we had planned, booked train tickets, an Airbnb, and some things to do while we were there. Then everything shut down in Europe and we had to cancel the entire trip (and any hopes of doing any girls things at all that weekend-even locally). In the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t that bad, but it was definitely a bummer for us, and I’ve been waiting since then to be able to do a little get away. So, when a free weekend popped up, I took it and one of my best friends, Kim, and I headed out to Heidelberg.

Heidelberg is a university town in south-west Germany, right on the Neckar River. The city itself has been designated a “City of Literature” and has quite a scientific hub as well within the university. The city also serves as the site of the remains of the earliest signs of human life in Europe ( a jawbone was found in 1907 dating back 600,000-200,000 years ago). Heidelberg as a region dates back to the 5th century BC, with the Celtic people and then the Byzantine/Roman Emperor Valentinian building homes in the location. In the 1st century AD a Christian church was founded inside the Celtic Fortress, with a Monastery and Abbey being added in the 12th century.  The actual founding of Heidelberg is considered to be in 1196. Heidelberg then went through two changes of “rulers” first the house of Hohenstaufen, then the Duke of Bavaria, Ludwig I acquired the city. In 1386, Heidelberg University was founded and, finally, of the upmost importance to me, Heidelberg’s library was founded in 1421, making it the oldest (public library) in Germany. So, a lot happened in the town’s history, long before our more modern history.  

A couple other random facts about Heidelberg, before I get into what we did on our 24 hrs…

Heidelberg went through quite the religious battle (as did most of Europe at one point or another), concerning Lutheranism and Calvinism. In fact, it played a leading role in the conflict, hosting Martin Luther shortly after his Ninety-Five Theses. Heidelberg was also a key player in the beginning of the Thirty Years War, after Frederick V was overthrown in 1621 by the House of Habsburg. Heidelberg has seen several different countries invade, including Sweden and France. And, during World War 2, Heidelberg was a stronghold for the Nazi Party (the NSDAP-National Socialist German Workers Party). The local populace was very much on the side of the Nazi’s and the university served to build an amphitheater and hold rallies during Hitler’s rise. While Heidelberg wasn’t targeted by bombings or other air raid actions, the old treasure bridge was destroyed (3 arches) by Germans fleeing in March of 1945. One final note, Heidelberg has one of the largest American communities outside of the United States (and I can definitely see why), along with an overall large population of expats from around the world. 

Ok, so now that we’ve got the history of the city out of the way (seriously- that was much longer than I had originally intended), let’s talk about what we did. We basically spent 24 hours wandering the Altstadt (Old Town), just reveling in being in an old German Town. The fact that it’s home to so  much history gives it a certain…feel and we just wanted to soak that up. 

We started off at Heidelberg Castle. I’ll be doing a full castle post on it, but I’ll touch on some of the basic information in this post.

The castle was first mentioned in the early 2nd century when the Duke of Bavaria (Louis I) received it from the Hohenstaufen Emperor. From that point on, the castle became two castles, upper and lower. The Upper castle was destroyed by a lightning bolt in 1537. The present castle was expanded in 1650, to then be damaged by war and fires, before another lightning bolt struck in 1764. It was incredible to walk through the walls of the castle, then along the ramparts overlooking the city, and finally just outside the main walls along the side of the complex. It has a real feel of history and tells a multitude of stories. 

From the castle, we checked into our hotel, and headed to the Old Bridge. The Old Bridge is actually the Karl Theodor Bridge, an arch bridge that crosses the Neckar River.

The current bridge is actually the ninth built and is dated back to 1788. The bridge location has a storied history (it had to have been with Heidelberg being on its’ ninth bridge) of bridges being destroyed by mother nature and wars alike. The medieval bridge gate on the Old Town side of the bridge dates back to the original town wall, however the tower helmets were added with the new stone bridge in 1788.  

A fun fact, on the gate side of the bridge there is the statue of a monkey (it’s ok if you don’t see the monkey until you read that it was a monkey- we originally thought it was a cat) which has quite the story attached.

The original monkey dates back to the 15th century and was placed within the tower to represent mockery against the tower’s representation of fear and respect. The monkey had a mirror in one hand (to encourage critical self-reflection) and his other hand on his…rear end. This was turned so that his rear end was facing across the river towards Mainz; which in turn was how the people of Heidelberg told the Bishop of Mainz that he had no power in Heidelberg. The 15th century version of an…eff you. The current bronze statue was installed in 1979 and legend says that if a visitor touches the horns, they will return to Heidelberg, the mice will provide fertility, and the mirror will provide wealth or good luck.

Our hotel was right at the Altstadt side of the bridge, so we were on it…a lot. We walked across to the other side of the Neckar and wandered down the water a bit before heading back over. We got some dinner right off the bridge and then wandered down and around the main street of the Altstadt. It was fun to just wander the streets and take in everything. 

Our final stop of our trip was a stop into the Church of the Holy Spirit, a church that dominates the main square of the Altstadt (and the steeple dominates the entire city).

The first mention of a church on this site is from the 13th  century, then in the 14th century another Gothic Church, and finally this church during the 15thcentury. The construction took around 150 years to complete, however it was interrupted for a period of time, and has been rebuilt once due to being set on fire by the French. The church did have the Palatine Library; however, the collection was taken during the Thirty Years War to the Pope and are now, on the whole (only about 885 manuscripts were returned) in a dedicated section at the Vatican Library. 

One of the things that I really liked about the church was how there was a little market set up on the direct outer walls of the church. Market stalls were set up within the walls of all different varieties, which reminded me of something straight out of a Ken Follett novel. The church itself was incredible and not what we were expecting at all. The walls and ceiling had a pink hue to them and the church itself had a simple elegance to it. 

The only thing that we did not get to do, but wanted to was walk up the Philosophers Walk. This is a walk (or hike) that offers scenic views of the old town from the opposite side of the river. It was a tradition of the philosophers and professors at the university to walk and talk along the path. If you hike a bit farther up you can see the ruins of the Monastery, the amphitheater, and the Celtic fort.

Overall though, we had such a wonderful time and I really recommend a trip over to Heidelberg. It, once again, reminded me just how much I love Germany and the German Old Towns. There is not a bad choice to make anywhere within the Altstadt and even just sitting along the river is incredibly peaceful. 

A Cuppa Cosy Reads – August 2020

August has ended and with it, Summer has gone (that’s a whole separate post though). August has always seemed to be a hit or miss reading month. Much like July, we usually have some family thing going on, then school prep (this year at least), and just an overall sense of those “lazy summer days”. I usually blow all of my reading plans out of the water, or fall somewhere in the low end of reading. This year I seemed to blow all my reading plans out of the water. I read a total of 11 books (10 physical, 1 audio), and gave an average rating of 3.8. What a good reading month! 

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley (PURCHASE) 3.5/5 Stars: If you are looking for a classic Agatha Christie “Whodunnit” style mystery with quite a bit of atmosphere and a fast pace, read in a day writing style, then Lucy Foley is a good place to look. In The Hunting Party we follow a group of friends as they ring in the New Year in a resort in an isolated part of the Scottish Highlands. 7 friends check in, but only 6 check out. Overall, I very much enjoyed this mystery, the atmosphere was fantastic, the book kept your attention from start to finish and was very fast paced. My only real problem with this book is there is a bit of a side mystery that comes into the storyline towards the end that was unnecessary. 

Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (PURCHASE) 4/5 Stars: I think Madeline Miller is going to become a new auto read author because man…can she write. The Song of Achilles is from the Greek Mythology of Achilles and Patroclus. Similar to Circe, you don’t need to know anything about Greek Mythology to enjoy this book and the beautiful story. I smiled, cried, got angry, and just experienced all the feelings that this book brought on. This is just a “young adult” (but not entirely) Greek tragedy we didn’t know we needed. 

Celebrations by Maya Angelou (PURCHASE) NR: This is a collection of Maya Angelou’s poetry that is placed in sections for different “intentions”. I read a section each morning as I started my day and I found it to be such a beautiful way to start the day. 

The Royal We by Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan (PURCHASE) 4/5 Stars: Ah, a royal fan novel, this was the perfect lighthearted story that I needed after the tragedy of Achilles, and the chill of The Hunting Party. In The Royal We we follow Rebecca Porter as she heads to England for what will turn out to be a life changing adventure. Loosely following William and Kate’s love story, this was a fun read that quickly wrapped me up in our characters emotions and stories. It’s not the next piece of incredible literature, but it was fun. 

The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (PURCHASE) 4/5 Stars: I honestly just adore everything that Chimamanda writes. This is a collection of short stories and every single one held something special in it. Honestly, I just love her writing, I love how she handles important topics, and the way that things are presented in her stories. I am looking forward to reading more of her work. 

House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City) by Sarah J. Maas (PURCHASE) 3.5-4/5 Stars: Ah, Sarah J Maas…you either love her books or you love to hate her books, and this is most definitely the case for her most recent release. In House of Earth and Blood we are following two unlikely hero’s (and a third just as important characters) who are trying to solve a mystery. I’m not going to give you much more than that because honestly, there isn’t much more to give that wouldn’t ruin the reading experience. I think it’s important to have your expectations set at, what I refer to as, “SJM expectations”: you aren’t going to get anything amazing, but a fun…ride. And that’s exactly what this book was, a fun ride.  

The Heir Affair by Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan (PURCHASE) 3/5 Stars: This was the sequel to The Royal We, and while I gave it a 3-star rating, I don’t know that it needed to really exist…? In this second book we pick up directly following the first and watch as our characters battle new issues in just about every sense. While I enjoyed seeing our characters again and I do like that they talked about certain topics that are incredibly important (mental health and infertility), it just didn’t have the same feel as the first book. So, if you felt like The Royal We filled your royal need, then you don’t need to read this one. 

Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall (PURCHASE) NR: This is a collection of essays that talks about various issues plaguing our world today and how they relate to feminism. It calls out feminism as a whole and shows how a multitude of problems that exist (gun violence, hunger, poverty, education) relate directly to feminism and the fight for equality. This was a good, interesting read that contained some good nuggets. I found that the essays had me thinking about some issues and correlations that I hadn’t necessarily seen and had me nodding along at others. 

The Prince of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (PURCHASE) 4/5: One of my closest friends picked up a first translated edition of Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s first published book (EVER) and I about died. I immediately picked it up and read it in two days. Carlos Ruiz Zafon is my favorite author and this book was special. This is a middle grade novel set in Spain leading up to World War 2. A family moves from the city to the beach and sets events into motion that will change their lives. Even though this is intended for younger audiences, I still didn’t see the twist coming (although that could have been because I was just loving the writing and storytelling) and the overall story was just charming to any age. 

Stalling For Time by Gary Noesner (PURCHASE) NR: This is an FBI Negotiator’s memoir of his time in the FBI. Gary Noesner was part of the introduction of negotiating as an active choice in crisis situations. He was part of the Ruby Ridge incident, the Waco disaster, and the DC Sniper, and gives the history, incident, and both the positives and the negatives across the board. I found his insights to be very interesting and overall a good read. (I listened to the audio book, which Noesner narrates).

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (PURCHASE) 4/5: I finished this book a few days ago and I still just don’t know what to make of it. That’s the honest truth. I don’t even know how to describe it, what to say about it, really anything about it. Obviously, I enjoyed it, I just don’t really know how to talk about it (which seems to be pretty common?). I think if you want something unnerving, almost dream like in a way, but quick to read, this is the book for you. 

I’ll say it again, what a reading month! I’ve highly enjoyed just about everything I’ve read, and it’s definitely set a very high bar for September. Any of the above catch your eye? What was your favorite read of August?